you guys may not have noticed this but it is by far my biggest pet peeve.
2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 450
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East: Red Sox
WC: Rays vs. Rangers
WC: Pirates vs. Reds
I think the Dodgers will overtake the Diamondbacks... *cough* homer pick *cough* still worried about Kemp & Crawford though.
Would be interested to see everyone's midseason awards. AL MVP: Miggy or Crush? AL Cy: Felix? Scherzer? Sale? NL Cy: Kershaw? Harvey? NL MVP: Molina? Goldschmidt?
The most boring sports days of the year are upon us...
NL MVP - Wouldn't get an argument from me for either CarGo, Cutch or Yadi.
AL CY - Toss up between Felix and Max
NL CY - I'd probably lean Wainwright but would have no issue with Harvey or Kershaw
Speaking on this Davis stuff, I love how everyone just goes ahead and assumes Maris has the "real" record
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Coming in a few hours, we’ll introduce the first five players — well, I guess, technically the last five, since we’re working in reverse order — and we’ll do ten players per day all week, culminating in the top five on Friday afternoon. However, before we get into the guys who made the list, I figured it would be worthwhile to do a post on the guys who just missed the cut. This was a tough list to crack, and there were a lot of high quality players who just ended up on the outside of the bubble for one reason or another.
Rather than turning all future posts into a discussion of guys who haven’t yet appeared, this post will hopefully answer some questions as to why a player won’t appear on in the rest of the series. And it isn’t because I hate your favorite team. I promise. In fact, a lot of the guys who just missed the cut are personal favorites of mine, and most of them made some previous iteration of the list before I finalized the order. But, with only 50 spots, someone had to just miss the cut. Here are the guys who didn’t quite make it.
The Last Cut
I went back and forth on Scherzer a lot. He’s developed into a legitimate #1 starter at 28-years-old, and is probably the odds on favorite to win the AL Cy Young at this point. His walks are down, his strikeouts are up, and he’s even pitching deeper into games now that he’s become more efficient with his pitches. There’s nothing to not like here.
Except for his remaining years of team control. Or year, really. Unless the Tigers can get him signed to a now very pricey contract extension, Scherzer will be a free agent after the 2014 season. Teams would absolutely love to acquire Scherzer, and they’d pay through the nose to get him, but the trade returns of previous players traded with just a year and change left on their deals isn’t so great. As free agency grows this close, teams begin to balk at surrendering elite young talent for what amounts to a slightly longer term rental.
Scherzer’s dominant 2013 season is going to put him in the catbird seat this winter. He’ll either be able to extract a mint from the Tigers, or he’ll be just one year away from hitting the open market. And that would be enough to scare teams off from trading any of the 50 guys who will appear on the list for him. As good as Scherzer is, the looming free agency would do a serious number on his trade value, and pushes him just off the list.
The Middle Infielders Who May or May Not Hit
Brett Lawrie, Matt Carpenter, Josh Donaldson, Andrelton Simmons, Jose Iglesias, Didi Gregorius, Everth Cabrera, Brandon Crawford, Howie Kendrick, Jedd Gyorko
This is a mixture of different kinds of players, but in the end, I couldn’t convince myself that any of them were definitely going to hit well enough going forward to be consistent impact players in the future. All of them have shown the potential to be terrific all-around players, playing skill positions while also contributing offensively, sometimes in a big way. A few of them are among the absolute best defensive players in the game, and don’t even need to be good hitters in order to be fantastically valuable.
But, as I noted on Friday, this is the kind of player that I was probably a little too aggressive in ranking a year ago. Lawrie, Mike Moustakas, and Alcides Escobar were all representatives of this “they’re great if they hit” group last summer, and since that list was published, we’ve seen all three really struggle at the plate.
These guys are mostly high floor, low risk players because of what they can do to help a team win even when the offense isn’t there, but the future of their offensive performance is really what would drive them to be high value players, and in each case, it’s a question that hasn’t been fully answered yet. I’d imagine that several of these players will keep hitting well over the next year and prove they belonged all along, but picking out which ones will hit and which ones won’t is not an easy job. There’s a lot of valuable players here, but there’s offensive question marks as well, and I think those questions would — for now — limit their value until the track record is a little bit stronger.
The Under-Powered Corners
Freddie Freeman, Alex Gordon, Kyle Seager
These guys are very good players who probably would have made the list if they had accumulated their value in a different manner. They’re all very good players, but they each play a corner position, and they get a lot of their value from non-HR events. The traditional mindsets about power at the corners is still persuasive in many front offices, and teams are less interested in giving up value for doubles, walks, and defense from a position where they’ve been trained to look for long balls.
Eventually, these predetermined roles for positions will fade away, and players will just be viewed for their overall contribution rather than how well they conform to a mold, but trade value reflects the market as it is, and the market still puts a significant premium on power. Freeman and Seager are young enough to think that perhaps they might develop more as they get older — and to be fair to Seager, he’s already showing more home run ability in the first half of 2013 — but I can’t quite see them getting commanding a king’s ransom with their current set of skills, even as those skills make them very good players.
Get On Base, Then We’ll Talk
Domonic Brown, Adam Jones, Jay Bruce, Yoenis Cespedes
Just because the market values power doesn’t mean it doesn’t penalize you for making a lot of outs. These are four of the most dynamic outfielders in the game from a tools perspective, and each of them have shown tremendous raw power. It’s easy to dream about what all of them could be. It is hard to overlook what each of them is at the moment, and that is a power hitter who simply doesn’t get on base enough to truly be an elite offensive force.
As a center fielder, Jones doesn’t have to be a top notch hitter, but defensive metrics have never loved his defense and he’s only getting older. Given that he now has a pretty nice paycheck, the bar is higher for Jones than others, and offensively, he’s not quite clearing it.
Brown, Brown, and Cespedes are cheaper, but come with their own warts. Brown’s big league track record is very short, and as a corner outfielder, his .320 OBP doesn’t cut it. Bruce, now 26-years-old, hasn’t really improved in the last four years, and is starting to reach the stage where he looks like he is what he is. Cespedes has regressed from his dynamite rookie season, and only has two years left on his contract before he hits free agency, as he negotiated an early out in order to sign with the A’s. Teams would love to have any of these four players, but their various warts push them just outside the top 50.
Pitchers Give Me Trust Issues
Jordan Zimmermann, Derek Holland, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Mike Minor, Doug Fister
These guys are terrific young pitchers. They’ve all pitched at near-ace level for a while now. But man, pitchers. They get hurt. Their stuff goes away. They forget how to throw strikes. They’re all one pitch away from being worthless. The house is sparkly, but the foundation is grains of sand held together by leftover Elmer’s glue. I’d love to have all of them, but I don’t trust any of them as long term building blocks, and I think Major League teams would rather not pay a premium for not-quite-elite pitchers either.
I Have No Idea What To Do With You
Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp
Last year, these guys ranked #6 and #7 respectively; this year, I’m not putting either one in the Top 50. I’m sure there are teams out there who would gamble on Braun avoiding suspension and Kemp’s shoulder healing, but I have no idea what they’d pay in order to take those risks, especially considering that both of them have over $100 million in future commitments still coming their way.
Maybe in a year, BioGenesis will be behind us and Kemp will look like an MVP again, and omitting two of the games premier talents will look stupid. Right now, though, I just can’t imagine a Major League GM having the stones to give up serious talent in order to acquire either of these guys. It would take some kind of serious conviction that their present problems are temporary, and I just don’t know how you have that conviction from afar. So, this year, with their issues currently front and center, both fall short. What the future looks like for these two, I just don’t think we know, and given their contracts, it just seems like too much to ask a team to absorb that kind of high priced unknown.
Others Who Fell Off The List
Jered Weaver, Mike Moustakas, Justin Upton, Joey Votto, Dylan Bundy, Ian Kinsler, Mark Trumbo, Pablo Sandoval, Matt Wieters, Johnny Cueto, Starlin Castro, Matt Holliday, Ben Zobrist, Robinson Cano, Alcides Escobar, Matt Cain, Yovani Gallardo, Elvis Andrus
Votto was the only one of this group that was particularly close to making it, but since the 2012 list was published, he missed most of last season’s second half with a knee injury, has hit for less power, and had the most team friendly part of his contract expire. The rest have either had performance or injury issues over the last calendar year, or in Cano’s case, gotten so close to free agency that their trade value has been significantly diminished.
How Close Ben Revere Has Come.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Because of what Revere’s doing, or not doing, I like to make periodic check-ins, the way I do with Joey Votto‘s rate of infield flies. I just confirmed to myself that Revere hasn’t gone deep in 2013, over 330 trips to the plate. For his career, he’s six away from 1,400 plate appearances, and he’s got not a single dinger. He’s tried for a few inside-the-park home runs, but not only are those different — thus far they’ve been unsuccessful. So, I knew this morning Revere hadn’t homered in 2013. That made me wonder how close he’s come.
It’s not an easy thing to research, and I can have only so much confidence in my results. For example, I don’t know if Revere has hit a home run just a few feet foul. I have to go off the MLB.com batted-ball location data, and that’s fairly imprecise. It also tracks not where the ball was hit to, but where the ball was fielded, which becomes an issue with doubles and triples. After examining the records, I went to the video to watch Revere’s doubles, triples, and suspected deep fly outs. Below is what I believe to be the closest Ben Revere has come to hitting a home run in 2013, not so much by quality of contact, but by distance from clearing the fence.
We rewind to May 19, when the Phillies hosted the Reds. Recently, Homer Bailey threw a no-hitter, but on May 19 he very much did not throw a no-hitter, as Ben Revere got him for a hit in the bottom of the first. It was a one-out, line-drive double, and you can see it here:
That’s Jay Bruce that the ball sails over, and right about here is where the ball hit the ground:
On one hand, that’s deep on the track, and Revere just about hit the fence on the fly. That’s a very long batted ball. On the other hand, this was a fairly low line drive off the bat, and it wasn’t that much of a dinger threat. With a few more feet of distance, this could’ve become a physical souvenir, but instead these images are your intangible souvenirs of the moment that was almost a different moment.
Said the Phillies broadcast:
That’s one of the hardest balls he’s hit in a Phillies uniform.
Said the Reds broadcast:
[nothing relevant or interesting]
Coming into the day — the day being May 19 — Revere was batting .237, and he was slugging .263. Revere was supposed to be a major Phillies acquisition, so he was getting some questions about his early slump, and Revere curiously and interestingly said around the time that he was working on his power swing. Of most note was that Ben Revere claimed to possess a power swing.
“I went back to look at what I like to do. I looked at things in the minor leagues to see how my set-up was because I had more power then. Now it kind of faded off.”
Revere has a career minor-league isolated slugging of .078. But, no matter — players can work on what they want to work on, and it’s not their job to explain themselves with great detail or accuracy. Since May 19, Revere’s hit .346, and he’s slugged .408. He’s been the player the Phillies wanted, and while he still hasn’t hit a homer, he’s at least hit more fractional homers, which is an unpopular synonym of “hits.”
And, for the record, Revere has technically hit a ball into the outfield seats:
So, is Revere ever going to do it? He knows what’s going on, and he gave an interesting quote to Zack Meisel:
There is the lack of forgiveness from his former home ballpark.
“In Target Field, you have a big right-field wall,” Revere said. “I don’t know how many times I hit the middle of that thing.”
Based on my previous investigations, I think the number is zero times. The number is, at most, a small number, if we’re talking about hits on the fly that aren’t during batting practice. Revere sounds a little frustrated that he still hasn’t gone yard in the bigs, but he knows what his skillset is, he knows what he needs to do to succeed, and he figures it’ll happen eventually. Stick around long enough and you’ll do all kinds of things that would’ve been unlikely in any single given at-bat.
Here are some things we know for certain. Revere has the ability to hit the ball pretty far, even in the majors. Below are a couple 2013 fly outs to center field, and these balls flew farther than some home runs:
I mean, this is an actual home run that Billy Butler just hit in New York. That’s embarrassing, but it’s also evidence of how easy it can be to hit a home run sometimes. Revere would be capable of that. Everybody in the majors would be capable of that. That’s a lazy flare, for four bases.
When I wrote about Revere last September, a FanGraphs commenter noted that Revere has gone deep before in batting practice. The comment was left by a Target Field usher, and while batting practice isn’t the same as a game situation, provided you aren’t facing the Padres, it provides proof of concept that Revere has the necessary bat speed and strength to leave a major-league stadium.
Going even deeper, here’s video of Revere pulling a home run in the minors. That’s from May 2011, and while it’s not an impressive home run, it’s a home run in a real ballpark against a real pitcher, and as we’ve discussed, home runs don’t need to be jaw-dropping to count as home runs. What would a Ben Revere major-league home run look like? It would probably look a lot like that video, which is proof that Revere can do this.
And maybe the most important point is that Munenori Kawasaki hit a home run. He has a career HR/FB% of not-zero percent. Kawasaki, most of the time, appears laughably weak, a harmless sprayer of flare singles, but one time he ran into one, and if Kawasaki can do it, anyone in the majors can do it. Ben Revere can do it. Of that there’s no doubt in my mind. It’s simply a matter of getting opportunities, and Revere does enough other things well to pile those opportunities up.
Odds are, some day Ben Revere is going to hit a home run. One that doesn’t require him to sprint at full speed around all of the bases. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s the probability, because Revere is young and good and teams desire athletic center fielders. So far, he still hasn’t come particularly close, and in 2013 he hasn’t hit a ball off the wall on the fly. But there’s probably a curtain call in Ben Revere’s future, at least so long as he goes deep at home. And if and when that finally happens for him, I’m personally going to care about Ben Revere a lot less. I doubt that he’ll mind.
Zack Cozart, Todd Frazier, and #2 Hitters.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
“You’ve got to learn some kind of way,” Baker said. “Someday, he’s going to be an excellent second hitter. We’re teaching guys how to hit at the big league level. There’s a difference between swinging and hitting.”
The original plane was to hit Brandon Phillips second. He was moved to cleanup after Ryan Ludwick was hurt on Opening Day. Choo (7), Chris Heisey (7), Derrick Robinson (6), Cesar Izturis (5) and Xavier Paul (3) have hit second.
“You can’t hit everyone down in the order,” Baker said.
Baker has dismissed the idea of hitting Joey Votto second, so Cozart it is. Baker had Cozart in the his office early Thursday afternoon to talk hitting.
“He’s got to stay out of the air, No. 1,” Baker said. “There’s nothing up in the air but outs. He had it for a while. But this is the nature of the game. Nobody’s up all the time. He had dug himself a pretty big hole to start the season.
“He’s hit some balls hard and got nothing. In my mind, hitting the ball hard is not struggling.”
Cozart hit .246 with a .288 on-base last year.
“Every year’s different,” Baker said. “They call it sophomore jinx. I think it’s sophomore adjustment.
While there’s a decent case to be made for hitting Votto second, there are some disadvantages. Having Choo and Votto back to back would make it very easy for opposing managers to deploy their LH specialists in high leverage situations without forcing that pitcher to face any right-handed bats in order to get both. While the traditional mindset of what a #2 hitter should be is mostly foolish, there is some value in putting a right-handed hitter between Choo and Votto. And so, here’s my question; why isn’t Todd Frazier at least getting some consideration?
He’s not a high OBP guy either, but outside of Choo and Votto, the Reds don’t really have any high OBP guys. Relative to the rest of his teammates, Frazier kind of is a high OBP guy. He’s also right-handed, and has enough power to make lefty specialists pay if they come in to face Choo and try to stick around long enough to face Votto.
Here are their 2013 numbers, side by side.
Name PA BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Todd Frazier 340 10% 23% 0.159 0.292 0.241 0.332 0.400 0.323
Zack Cozart 367 4% 15% 0.126 0.252 0.231 0.261 0.356 0.267
So far this year, Frazier has basically been Cozart with an extra 70 points of on base percentage. Cozart actually has 27 extra base hits to Frazier’s 26, so you can’t really argue that Frazier’s power would be wasted in the #2 spot while hitting Cozart there. In actuality, Frazier’s power might be getting wasted in the #6 spot, where he’s most often hit this year.
Here are the amount of baserunners each of the Reds first six hitters in the line-up have had when they came to the plate this year:
1. Choo, 173
2. Cozart, 241
3. Votto, 250
4. Phillips, 288
5. Bruce, 277
6. Frazier, 214
You might think having Frazier hitting 6th is useful to drive in the middle of the order guys and keep rallies going, but in Phillips and Bruce, the Reds already have two moderate-to-low OBP guys who drive in a large percentage of their baserunners and don’t really leave much for Frazier. Note the giant drop-off from Bruce to Frazier; this is the residue of hitting behind a guy with a .323 OBP who also has launched 18 home runs.
The only real advantage Cozart has over Frazier is in contact rate, which is one of the traditional methods of deciding who hits second. Managers have been putting high contact slap hitters in the #2 hole in the order for decades, as they liked the ability to put on a hit-and-run without fear of the batter swinging through the pitch and getting the runner thrown out. They also prefer to have a #2 hitter who can hit the ball to the right side to get the leadoff hitter from second to third and setup a sac fly for the #3 hitter; they call this “playing the game the right way”, even though it’s really making two outs and having a rally end with just one run scored.
But, here’s the thing: Cozart hasn’t even really been any better at this kind of situational hitting than Frazier has. Cozart has hit with a man on second and nobody out 24 times, and has moved that runner to third on 15 of those 24 opportunities, good for a 63% “success” rate. Frazier has had 19 opportunities to do the same, and has moved the runner to third 12 times. 12 out of 19 is — drumroll please — 63%.
What about the speed aspect? Some managers like having a distraction on the bases in front of their big hitters, hoping that the threat of a stolen base will lead to more fastballs or less concentration from the pitcher when facing a hitter who can make them pay. Well, Cozart has 141 opportunities to steal a base this year, and he hasn’t run once. Of the regulars, Cozart is actually the only Red who hasn’t attempted a steal this year; Frazier is 5 for 7, if you’re curious.
I know that Dusty Baker is never going to be a big fan of FanGraphs, or our way of thinking about baseball, but hitting Todd Frazier in the #2 spot instead of Zack Cozart isn’t that radical of a suggestion. You’re still using a right-handed hitter to break up the lefties. You’re still putting a guy near the top of the line-up who isn’t a primary run producer. He’s not slow, so he’s not going “clog the bases”. He draws walks, which Baker clearly sees as valuable from his leadoff hitter, since that is Shin-Soo Choo‘s primary skill.
If you want to point to Todd Frazier’s strikeout rate as a disqualifier, I’ll simply point out that the difference between Cozart’s 15% K% and Frazier’s 23% K% would add up to about 25 extra strikeouts over the remainder of the season, and that’s if you believe that Cozart won’t regress back to something closer to the 18% mark that he posted last year. Instead of striking 25 times, Cozart will instead make 25 in-play outs, some of which will result in a runner advancing and some of which will result in a double play. Cozart’s additional contact skills won’t actually add much value to the Reds.
But Frazier’s massive advantage in OBP would. Right now, the difference is 70 points. The ZIPS/Steamer forecasts project a 30 point advantage in Frazier’s favor of the rest of the season. Even of just half a season, that would add up to about 10 extra times on base for Frazier compared to Cozart. 10 extra times that Votto comes up with a man on, or that instead of having Choo at second with one out and first base open, now there are runners at first and second and they can’t pitch around the Reds first baseman.
In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t the end of the world. Batting order doesn’t make that big of a difference. The Reds can make the playoffs with Zack Cozart hitting second. But, really, for a team in the playoff race, they should be taking advantage of every opportunity they can find to improve their chances of winning, however small those improvements might be. I get that hitting Votto second is too radical of an idea for Baker, but hitting Frazier second isn’t quite as crazy sounding, and it would make them better too.
Bobby Parnell: More Than Captain Fastball.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Some things — like that gas — stayed the same throughout, but there are a few aspects to his game that have weaved in and out of his game as his career has progressed. Now that he’s getting comfortable at the big league level, it’s all coming together.
One thing that has been true of Parnell throughout his career is that he’s paired strikeouts with ground balls. Only 19 qualified relievers have struck out more than eight per nine and given up more than 50% of their contact on the ground since 2009, and Parnell has the third-most innings in that group. “I’ve always considered myself a groundball pitcher,” Parnell told me before a game in San Francisco this week, “I don’t want to give up a mistake up.” He agreed that those mistakes are home runs, so it’s no surprise that he had the fourth-best home run rate in that sample. He rushed to knock on wood when I pointed out he hadn’t given up a home run yet this year, though.
But the first thing that comes to mind with Parnell is the gas. Sometimes called Captain Fastball, he’s hit triple digits on the radar gun often. His average fastball velocity since 2009 (96 mph) ranks eleventh among qualified relievers. Parnell admits that “in years past, it’s been all about velocity.”
“I didn’t pitch in high school,” he told me. “I didn’t pitch when I was little. I played a position. Went to college, and I pitched for three years. All I knew was I threw hard. Didn’t really know what was going on. Got drafted because I threw hard.”
Now Parnell is finally comfortable at the big league level: “I feel like I’m just now getting to who I am day-to-day, and know what I need to succeed and be who I am, and not worry about what’s going to get me to the next level,” he said.
That comfort has allowed him to to slowly branch out beyond the fastball and the velocity that got him to where he is today. Once he only had the fastball, he admits. Then Jason Isringhausen taught him the knuckle curve, and that gave him a second weapon. Now he’s using a split-finger that he hasn’t thrown regularly in two to three years, and it’s giving him another look. The pitch moves away from left-handers, and at 91, offers a third speed for the hitters to think about.
Here’s Parnell throwing the pitch to Pablo Sandoval on Monday. Parnell didn’t think Sandoval even knew he had a splitter.
Getting comfortable with his routine, and his secondary pitches, has also allowed Parnell a different focus on the mound. When asked why he used to come out and throw at a lower velocity for two or three batters before hitting his stride, Parnell disagreed that it was about his warmup routine. Sort of. “My routine was to throw hard,” he said, but added that “I’d come out of the pen throwing hard, but I wouldn’t really know where it was — I’d start placing the pitch with the first batter, and as I found the strike zone, expand from there.” Now? “This year and last year, I don’t worry about my velocity nearly as much. I go out there and get strike one. I try to stay smooth more than anything.”
By the numbers, Parnell is showing his best first-strike rate, and he agrees that’s a focus for him. He’s also finding the zone the most, while retaining his ability to get ground balls and swinging strikeouts. Some of that is thanks to the velocity and down-ball focus he’s always had. But some of that is also due to the comfort he’s found on the mound and in the big leagues, and his ability to branch out beyond the gas that first made him Captain Fastball.
Oliver Perez: Pitcher You Want.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
I’m here now not to offer another alternative to Papelbon, but to just highlight a good reliever who’s available. In case you haven’t been paying attention, Oliver Perez has been pitching really well, and though he’s probably not reliable closer material, Perez throws hard with his left arm, and the things that used to plague him seem to be history. Perez is a lefty reliever on a bad team in his contract year, and if he gets traded — and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t — his new team should end up pleased as punch, whatever the hell that means.
It was last year that Perez re-emerged, stunningly, gaining velocity and throwing strikes out of the Mariners bullpen. But it wasn’t that Perez was amazing; it was that it was amazing that Perez was anywhere and pitching somewhat effectively. He was sort of like last year’s version of this year’s Scott Kazmir, in that he was forgotten until he came back and flashed big-league ability. Perez put himself on track to extend his career. But this season, Perez has stepped it up. This season, Oliver Perez is legitimately good.
For one thing, he’s still throwing in the low- to mid-90s. He’s among the league leaders in first-pitch-strike percentage. He’s among the league leaders in zone percentage. It’s almost inconceivable that Perez would develop into a reliable strike-thrower, but here we are, and this is our universe. A few years ago, Perez threw strikes like he thought strikes were balls. Now he has the same strike rate as CC Sabathia. This is a sport that we try to predict.
It goes beyond that, though. Perez threw strikes in 2012, and he was only all right. Now he’s improved his ability to miss bats. In all, 303 pitchers have faced at least 100 batters in each of the last two seasons. From 2012-2013, here are the five biggest drops in contact rate allowed:
1.Casey Fien, -11.0 percentage points
2.Oliver Perez, -10.1
3.Manny Parra, -9.3
4.Luke Hochevar, -7.6
5.Cody Allen, -7.4
Perez has been allowing the same rate of contact as Ernesto Frieri, Craig Kimbrel, and All-Star reliever Steve Delabar. He’s not altogether far away from Aroldis Chapman. He’s beating Yu Darvish. As an obvious consequence, Perez’s strikeouts have shot way up, as he’s already more than doubled last year’s total in just 6.1 more innings.
Because Perez is a lefty with a slider he likes, it’s hardly surprising he’s had good success against lefties. He’s struck out a third of them, throwing 69% strikes and limiting other damage. If you watch Oliver Perez, you come away thinking “that guy should dominate left-handed hitters,” and that’s pretty much what he does. He follows the same patterns you’d expect, throwing a bunch of sliders down and away.
But here’s the really shocking part. Perez’s strikeout rate against righties is better than his rate against lefties. As a matter of fact, here are the top strikeout rates against right-handed hitters for left-handed pitchers, with a 50-PA minimum:
1.Oliver Perez, 37.7%
2.Glen Perkins, 37.1%
3.Aroldis Chapman, 36.3%
4.Alex Torres, 35.0%
5.Andrew Miller, 32.9%
Perez has walked three righties intentionally. Of the remaining 77, he’s whiffed 29, giving him basically the same strikeout rate against righties as Crain and Trevor Rosenthal. His contact rate is 72%; his strike rate is 65%. That’s a bunch of numbers, all to say: though Oliver Perez doesn’t look like a righty-killer, and though he doesn’t have the profile of a righty-killer, he’s been something of a righty-killer, throwing with his left arm.
Armed with a straighter fastball, a sinking fastball, and a slider, Perez has pitched well against both lefties and righties alike, and as much as we’re dealing with limited samples, it’s hard to completely fake Perez’s accomplishments. He seems to have figured out a way to turn a sweeping slider into a weapon against opposite-handed bats, and this .gif is a working demonstration:
And, for the hell of it, here’s the heat:
Because of his style, Perez ends up allowing a lot of fly balls. He’s one of the game’s more extreme fly-ball pitchers, and fly-ball pitchers allow home runs, and Perez probably isn’t going to be a closer for this reason. He likes to throw his fastball up, and those pitches can get punished. There are costs and benefits to Perez’s pitching approach. But after coming back to the majors a year ago, now Perez is back to being highly successful, such that he should be in demand at the deadline as contenders look to boost the backs of their bullpens.
Almost every contender wants better relief. Almost every contender likes the idea of more left-handed relief. Every team in baseball likes the idea of a lefty reliever who can pitch to righty hitters. Perez is there, readily available, and because he’s Oliver Perez and not Jonathan Papelbon, he’s not going to cost an arm and a leg and the rest of a real talented young body too. Perez, probably, is affordable, and probably underrated on account of his name. He might scare some teams off, teams that don’t trust him to be what he apparently is.
If your team is playing for something, it’s probably making calls about available relievers. Perez is an available reliever, and he’s a better reliever than you probably thought. This here is a weapon, and one wins the World Series by force.
The 2012 Trade Value List, in Retrospect.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Let’s just start with the list itself.
Ranking Player Position Team
1 Mike Trout OF Angels
2 Bryce Harper OF Nationals
3 Andrew McCutchen OF Pirates
4 Evan Longoria 3B Rays
5 Giancarlo Stanton OF Marlins
6 Ryan Braun OF Brewers
7 Matt Kemp OF Dodgers
8 Stephen Strasburg SP Nationals
9 Jason Heyward OF Braves
10 Jose Bautista OF Blue Jays
11 Troy Tulowitzki SS Rockies
12 Buster Posey C Giants
13 Jered Weaver SP Angels
14 Justin Verlander SP Tigers
15 Brett Lawrie 3B Blue Jays
16 Clayton Kershaw SP Dodgers
17 Felix Hernandez SP Mariners
18 Miguel Cabrera 3B Tigers
19 Madison Bumgarner SP Giants
20 David Price SP Rays
21 Gio Gonzalez SP Nationals
22 Mike Moustakas 3B Royals
23 Justin Upton OF Diamondbacks
24 Matt Moore SP Rays
25 Jason Kipnis 2B Indians
26 Joey Votto 1B Reds
27 Carlos Gonzalez OF Rockies
28 Jurickson Profar SS Rangers
29 Dylan Bundy SP Orioles
30 Ian Kinsler 2B Rangers
31 Chris Sale SP White Sox
32 Mark Trumbo 1B/OF Angels
33 Austin Jackson OF Tigers
34 Dustin Pedroia 2B Red Sox
35 Pablo Sandoval 3B Giants
36 Jay Bruce OF Reds
37 Wil Myers OF Royals
38 Matt Wieters C Orioles
39 Alex Gordon OF Royals
40 Johnny Cueto SP Reds
41 Starlin Castro SS Cubs
42 Yu Darvish SP Rangers
43 Adam Jones OF Orioles
44 Matt Holliday OF Cardinals
45 Ben Zobrist 2B/OF Rays
46 Robinson Cano 2B Yankees
47 Alcides Escobar SS Royals
48 Matt Cain SP Giants
49 Yovani Gallardo SP Brewers
50 Elvis Andrus SS Rangers
Players Whose Stock Has Fallen Significantly
Braun (#6), Kemp (#7), Weaver (#13), Lawrie (#15), Moustakas (#22), Upton (#23), Bundy (#29), Kinsler (#30), Trumbo (#32), Wieters (#38), Cueto (#40), Castro (#41), Escobar (#47), Gallardo (#49), Andrus (#50)
There are basically two types of players on that list (with Braun and Kinsler being the notable outliers): pitchers who got injured or have seen their stuff decline and young players who just haven’t hit much since the list was published.
Pitcher injuries are a fact of life, and short of just leaving out every hurler, I’m not sure there’s much to be learned from there. Jered Weaver’s contract probably got too much weight in pushing him ahead of younger pitchers with better stuff, but Weaver had been terrific in the first half of the year, and there’s only so much we can do to forecast future pitcher health.
The young hitters, though, might tell us something. In pretty much each case — Trumbo excepted — they are guys who could be terrific players as long as they hit at even an average level. They played up the middle positions or were terrific corner defenders, and they were almost universally elite prospects who showed real offensive potential in the minors. They were at a point in their aging curve where improvement could be expected, and they were already good players who looked like they could become great ones if the bat took a step forward.
Instead, the bats have either stagnated or gone backwards, and this group is a reminder that young players don’t all improve at the same rates, and a league average hitter in his early 20s is a league average hitter because he’s showing some kind of offensive deficiency, which may or may not improve. There’s a reason that hitters are the hardest things to scout, because there are a lot of things about hitting that aren’t physical, and only become apparent with experience.
This year, I’m probably going to grade players of this type a little more conservatively. The best players in the game are those who can play premium positions while also hitting, but it also can be difficult to look at young players at premium positions and figure out just which ones are indeed going to hit.
Players Whose Stock Has Risen Significantly
Posey (#12), Hernandez (#17), Gonzalez (#27), Sale (#31), Darvish (#42)
This is inherently a much shorter list, because time erodes a player’s trade value by taking away a year of team control — which is often at a well below market salary — and moves the player closer to free agency. Most players on the list are going to lose trade value every season unless they show real improvement over the past year, or sign a new contract that is far enough below the market price that it improves their value as an asset.
Posey and Hernandez both signed long term deals that bought out a bunch of free agent years, and while both extensions were pricey, they’re now elite players under team control for many seasons, with free agency no longer looming as a potential escape route. Sale signed a much cheaper extension, since he wasn’t anywhere near free agency, but also continues to dominate. Gonzalez, at age-27, is having his best season yet, while Darvish has shown better command and has pitched more like the #1 starter Texas expected than he did in the first half of last year.
Beyond that, though, the big jumps come from guys who didn’t make the list last year. We’ll talk more about those guys next week.
While you’ll always look back and wonder why you missed something that seems obvious in retrospect, overall, I’m fairly happy with last year’s list. The most significant change in the evaluation process was to penalize star players on big contracts much less than I had in previous versions — all the money flowing into the game has made these players much more valuable — and in general, I think those guys have held their value pretty well. With most Major League teams now having access to decent sized revenue streams and the rise of the long term extension for elite players, it’s no longer so easy to purchase high quality talent in free agency, so trading for an impact player with long term control — even at high salaries — is more appealing than it used to be.
Of course, guys like Matt Kemp show the downside of this kind of player. A year ago, he looked like one of the game’s very best players, signed to a below market deal that covered most of the seasons which he should be expected to produce at a high level. A year later, he’s costing the Dodgers $20 million per year to play like the replacement level outfielder when he’s not on the DL. Kemp’s value has plunged over the last calendar year, to the point where a guy who almost made the top five last year is on the bubble for this year’s list.
Basically, there is no such thing as as a risk free asset. Everyone gets hurt, and even great players can stop playing like great players with little or no warning. When evaluating a player’s trade value, teams have to make the best bets they can, but the failure rate of even the best assets reminds us how unpredictable baseball really is.
Yankees Trade for Derek Jeter.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Whenever a team gets a player back from injury this time of year, someone will refer to it as a midseason acquisition, and that’s basically what this is. After not having Jeter for more than three months, the Yankees now have him for the stretch run, and in his first at-bat on Thursday, he swung at the first pitch and singled. Granted, it was an infield single, weakly struck, but a hit’s a hit, and Jeter took his familiar sprint to first base. The Yankees just don’t feel like the Yankees without Jeter in the order, so now, if nothing else, there’s more excitement. And there’s not nothing else.
This is just an image so many people had been waiting for all season long:
Jeter, of course, received a standing ovation. He was missed, badly. People missed his on-field value, they missed his off-field value, and they missed his name value, as the Yankees were forced to get by with a whole host of inadequate shortstop options. Without Jeter, Yankees shortstops have ranked 29th in average, 25th in OBP, and dead last in slugging. The Yankees acknowledged that Jeter is up sooner than they planned for him to be, but they also said they’re simply better with him on the roster, and there’s little question this’ll provide a boost. The most important question is how big of a boost.
See, there are two separate issues. One is how much the Yankees have missed Jeter so far. The other is how much they might miss him were he out the rest of the season. The second issue is more important today, but we might as well touch on the first, since the season’s more than halfway over.
The good news is that, according to the metrics, the Yankees’ shortstops have been just about average or so in the field. It’s the same with their baserunning, so there’s not much there to discuss. But, as a group, they’ve posted a .248 wOBA. That’s a .248 wOBA, in Yankee Stadium, where this was a home run. That’s a better offensive performance than any National League pitching staff, but position players aren’t supposed to be compared to pitchers with regard to hitting, and the difference between the Yankees shortstops and the Dodgers pitchers is slight. The situation has been dreadful, and shortstop is a big reason why the Yankees have struggled to score runs on any kind of consistent basis.
What might Jeter have done? Well, Steamer projects him for a .324 wOBA. He was at .332 over the three previous years, and now he’s the oldest he’s ever been. The difference between .324 and .248 over 357 plate appearances is more than 20 runs, and though Jeter wouldn’t have gotten every plate appearance, he would’ve gotten the majority of them. Odds are, Jeter would’ve given some runs back in the field, as is his “thing”, but we’re talking about a substantial difference. And last year, Jeter’s wOBA was .347. Here’s a simpler way of putting it: to date, Yankees shortstops have been a little below replacement level. Jeter’s lowest WAR ever is 2.0, and the Yankees have probably missed him by between one and two wins. That’s more than the difference between them and the Orioles.
But that’s all looking back, and there’s nothing the Yankees can do about that. Now what matters is how much Jeter is likely to help. This is complicated, because we don’t know how Jeter is going to perform after his injury and setbacks, but we can at least develop some ideas.
Without Jeter, the Yankees would probably give the bulk of their shortstop time to Jayson Nix and Eduardo Nunez. Though they’ve under-performed, they’re projected for a combined .287 wOBA the rest of the way. Jeter, again, we find at .324. Nix appears to be a below-average defensive shortstop, while Nunez appears to be shockingly dreadful. Jeter is Jeter and I’d really just rather not talk about his defense. As a shortstop, he’s closer to Andrelton Simmons than he is to you, but that’s mostly because you suck.
Jeter’s the best of the shortstops, obviously. Over, say, 250 plate appearances, he projects to be about seven or eight runs better at the plate, and I don’t know if he’s much worse in the field, given the Nunez factor. So if you wanted to round, you could say Jeter’s return should be worth about a win over the remaining stretch. That’s just taking the projections at their word, and this is a casual approximation. There’s also some value from putting Jeter higher in the lineup, and from leaving Nunez and Nix available to offer support elsewhere.
But the projections don’t know what Jeter’s coming back from. For whatever it’s worth, on his first-inning infield single, he made it down to first base in a hair over four seconds. He wasn’t running awkwardly, but he wasn’t running at 100%. If Jeter isn’t quite himself now, we don’t know if he’ll turn into himself later on, and that could have an impact on his offense and clearly on his defense. Jeter can’t afford, defensively, to give up much in the way of lateral mobility. Even this version of Jeter is probably better than the alternatives, but it remains to be seen how much better. It won’t be a tremendous boost if Jeter has to spend a lot of time at DH. It won’t be a tremendous boost if Jeter seems even more limited than usual in the field.
There’s the potential for Jeter to struggle, somewhat uncharacteristically. But on the more positive side, if he looks more or less like himself, this is a major upgrade in a fairly tight division. Teams that are looking to make midseason splashes are usually looking to make themselves better by one or two wins over several weeks. Seldom is there the opportunity to upgrade by more than that. Jeter might make the Yankees a win better, and if he hits like he did in 2012, it could be even more significant. There’s a lesson to be learned from the fact that, despite all the injuries, the Yankees remain in the race. But Jeter ought to make the Yankees look more like themselves, and in a close playoff race, every win counts.
The Mets and Twins Should Remember Joakim Soria.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Mets might do a similar thing with Bobby Parnell. He has also been excellent (2.16 FIP, 3.16 xFIP) since moving into their closer role, and as a 28-year-old under team control via arbitration for the next two seasons, the Mets are apparently disinclined to trade him. Neither team wants to send the message that their rebuilds are going to take years, and both are showing a preference to retain their young, cost controlled assets and simply move older pieces on larger contracts instead.
Here’s the problem. Closers — relief pitchers in general, really — are simply not worth building around. Today’s asset is tomorrow’s liability, and the Twins and Mets should learn from the mistake that the Royals made with Joakim Soria.
From 2007 to 2010, Soria was one of the game’s true elite relievers. He became the Royals closer in 2008, saving 42 games, and the Royals had the foresight to sign him to an extension in May of that season, getting him under team control at bargain prices and getting several team options that gave them cost certainty without the risk of guaranteed salaries. Combined with his performance, Soria’s contract made him highly valuable as a trade chip, but Kansas City preferred to build around him. As Ken Rosenthal tweeted in 2010:
#Royals getting calls on Soria. No plans to move him. Affordable club options 12-13-14. Likes KC. Great exmple. Anchor for young staff. #MLB
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 20, 2010
During their period of rebuilding, the Royals put some bad teams on the field, but they had a dominating closer to finish out the games they did manage to win. In 2011, Soria regressed, seeing his strikeout rate fall while his hit and home run rates jumped. In the spring of 2012, doctors examined Soria and found that he needed Tommy John Surgery, which sidelined him for the entire season. After the year ended, the Royals declined their final two options on Soria’s contract, making him a free agent. When he signed with Texas, the Royals had nothing to show for letting Soria leave besides the memories of some good saves for some bad teams.
Soria is not the exception. Soria is the rule.
Let’s just look at where the top 10 under-30 relievers from the 2010 season are now, just for fun? Remember, this is good young relievers, most of whom were under club control for many years.
Carlos Marmol, +2.8 WAR: DFA’d, traded in salary dump, in minors
Brian Wilson, +2.5 WAR: Surgery, hasn’t pitched since start of last year
Hong-Chih Kuo, +2.3 WAR: Surgery, inability to throw strikes, out of baseball
Neftali Feliz, +2.0 WAR: Surgery, hasn’t pitched in 2013
Sean Marshall, +1.9 WAR: Has pitched 7 innings this year due to sore shoulder
Joakim Soria, +1.9 WAR: Surgery, hasn’t pitched since 2011
John Axford, +1.8 WAR: Lost closer job, pitching middle relief, likely non-tender
Daniel Bard, +1.6 WAR: Lost strike zone, sent to AA, now on DL
Jonny Venters, +1.6 WAR: Surgery, out for the season
Juan Oviedo, +1.4 WAR: Surgery, out for the season
This isn’t a cherry picked list of guys who were good and then washed out. This is the top 10 under-30 relievers by WAR just a couple of years ago. There isn’t a single pitcher on that list that has any real value in 2013. The Brewers are likely to trade Axford for a pittance, as some team takes a shot on him finishing strong as a setup guy, but everyone else is either rehabbing or trying to get back to the big leagues in some form. John Axford is the success story of the group.
Relievers, even really good young relievers, should be viewed as ripe fruit. They are great for a while, but you don’t store ripe fruit for the future planning on having a healthy snack later. You consume it now or waste it.
I get that Perkins is a very popular player in Minnesota. He’s a local boy who pitched at the University of Minnesota. He’s a former first round pick who has turned himself into a really great reliever, is extremely active on Twitter, and is a great representation of the Twins franchise. He hardly costs them anything to keep around, and he helps them win games.
But he’s also their most valuable trade chip, and there’s a real opportunity cost to not cashing in that chip. The same goes for Parnell in New York. If approached by another club about swapping a prospect from their system for a bullpen upgrade, both teams would immediately say no thank you. Retaining Perkins and Parnell is the equivalent of making a prospect-for-reliever trade, as they’re choosing the closer over the young player they could get by putting them on the market.
It’s almost certainly a mistake. As good as Perkins and Parnell have been this year, they’re not likely to keep this up for much longer. Relievers just don’t last. They are depreciating assets, and while their cheap contracts might look appealing, those assets can turn into liabilities very quickly.
Perkins and Parnell are good, they are young, and they are cheap, but they are not pieces to rebuild around. Both the Twins and Mets should cash in while there is still something to cash in.
Think he will, too much pressure with the hometown thing going on.
The fact that Lincecum threw the first "no-no" at PetCo is kind of amazing since it's such a pitcher friendly park.
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Laughable statement. What about AJ Burnett's where he walked 9 batters? What about Edwin Jackson's no hitter where close to 50% of his pitches he threw were balls (something like 75 total balls thrown ). What about that no hitter in the 60s where the team lost the game?
To call Timmy's no hitter, where he struck out 13 batters, the worst no hitter of all time, is absolutely idiotic.
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Gonna go with fielder tonight. Either way it should be a great derby to watch. I am really interested into seeing what Davis will do
Remind yourself. Nobody built like you, you design yourself !
IG : PIZZO23
Remind yourself. Nobody built like you, you design yourself !
IG : PIZZO23
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But either way is fine by me