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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 706

post #21151 of 72836
Thread Starter 
If I can't get cash, I'd expect reps from the Braves fans since I probably single handedly turned Gattis into Albert Belle laugh.gif
post #21152 of 72836

there u go good sir 

post #21153 of 72836
Cueto rolled the Bucs today. Nò shame

From Smith to Friedman, we know what's up

Official Member of the Steeler Nation

From Smith to Friedman, we know what's up

Official Member of the Steeler Nation
post #21154 of 72836
That underhand throw to Cano and then the wild pitch by Rodney laugh.gifeek.gif

Wow, hell of a comeback by Texas. Can't believe they won that game
post #21155 of 72836






post #21156 of 72836
Originally Posted by lakersreppa008 View Post

You can spell however you want when you're in first place....Giants 10-5. The NL West is clearly a two horse race and the Dodgers are going to have a difficult time without Kershaw.
post #21157 of 72836
Giants taking 1st 2 Series from those Bums from LA pimp.gif
post #21158 of 72836
Lose on a walk off frown.gif

But finish the road trip 7-2 pimp.gifpimp.gif
A T H L E T I C S | U C L A | L A K E R S | R A I D E R S

A T H L E T I C S | U C L A | L A K E R S | R A I D E R S

post #21159 of 72836
Brandon Moss is raking right now eek.gifpimp.gif

Good to see him do well
post #21160 of 72836
Evan Gattis is on fire

Julio Teheran is pitching like the ace we expected him to be and what we desperately need in the playoffs smile.gif

All of the Braves starting rotation are pitching like aces even Harang laugh.gif I don't know what they'll do when Mike Minor returns shortly from the DL
Edited by mfreshm - 4/17/14 at 12:57am
post #21161 of 72836

This Puig story is sounding like something straight out of Breaking Bad :{


The space between her ears is greater than the space between her legs....

The space between her ears is greater than the space between her legs....
post #21162 of 72836

native latinos or any of them native carribean island mogs who live that life aint nothing to **** with (not vouching for Americanized ones)  :lol


seems like everybody who had a hand in helping puig get over here wants a large cut......also it seems like some took the money and didn't split it with the others

post #21163 of 72836
Originally Posted by Mr Marcus View Post

native latinos or any of them native carribean island mogs who live that life aint nothing to **** with (not vouching for Americanized ones)  :lol


seems like everybody who had a hand in helping puig get over here wants a large cut......also it seems like some took the money and didn't split it with the others

The story is wild from what I'm hearing. I want to read the article in it's entirety. 


The space between her ears is greater than the space between her legs....

The space between her ears is greater than the space between her legs....
post #21164 of 72836
Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

They really left Lee out there for 128 pitches laugh.gif


Originally Posted by Jewbacca View Post

11 hits and 13ks 😂


it was a weird *** game...


the weather made the ball do funny things



post #21165 of 72836
Originally Posted by mfreshm View Post

Evan Gattis is on fire

Julio Teheran is pitching like the ace we expected him to be and what we desperately need in the playoffs smile.gif

All of the Braves starting rotation are pitching like aces even Harang laugh.gif I don't know what they'll do when Mike Minor returns shortly from the DL


don't forget about Gavin Floyd...


Braves went from panic to surplus....

post #21166 of 72836

You whole crew's ravishing, team's untouchable
In the jungle banging Nas, Mobb Deep and Wu
"My Ohhh My"
You whole crew's ravishing, team's untouchable
In the jungle banging Nas, Mobb Deep and Wu
"My Ohhh My"
post #21167 of 72836

#BaetLA smokin.gif
post #21168 of 72836 .

You whole crew's ravishing, team's untouchable
In the jungle banging Nas, Mobb Deep and Wu
"My Ohhh My"
You whole crew's ravishing, team's untouchable
In the jungle banging Nas, Mobb Deep and Wu
"My Ohhh My"
post #21169 of 72836
Thread Starter 
George Springer, Archie Bradley & The Service-Time Dance.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Houston Astros added outfielder George Springer to their major league roster on Tuesday night and batted him second in the lineup in their game on Wednesday against the Kansas City Royals. Springer had an infield hit in five at-bats plus a walk in his debut.

Astros fans — indeed, fans of young baseball talent — have been pining for Springer’s call up since last season when he batted .301/.411/.600 in 589 plate appearances with 37 home runs and 45 stolen bases between Triple-A and Double-A. That followed his successful 2012 campaign in Double-A and high Single-A, when he posted a .302/.383/.526 line in 581 plate appearances. In February, Baseball America ranked Springer as the 18th best prospect. My colleague Marc Hulet put Springer at No. 14 on his Top 100 prospect list.

Yet Springer remained in the minors, without even a whiff of the big leagues last September, when the Astros expanded their roster. And he was sent back to Triple-A during spring training, with no place on Houston’s 40-man.

Then we learned from Ken Rosenthal that the Astros had offered Springer a seven-year/$23 million contract last September, which Springer turned down. That led to reports that his agent was in discussion with the MLBPA on whether to file a grievance against the Astros for improperly manipulating Springer’s major-league service time because Springer had turned down the seven-year contract offer.

After Rosenthal’s report, Dave Cameron looked closely at the CBA and explained that claims of service-time manipulation are quite difficult to prove. That’s because the CBA says players are entitled to free agency after six or more years of major league service time, with one year of service time defined as 172 days on a major league roster. A typical season lasts 183 days.

In recent years, as Dave noted, few rookies have broken break camp on their team’s 25-man roster — whether highly-touted prospects or otherwise. The Rays, for example, didn’t call up Evan Longoria — Baseball America‘s No. 2 prospect — until April 12, 2008. That left Longoria with 157 major league service days at the end of the season, 15 shy of a full year. And it didn’t hurt the Rays in the standings. They played in the World Series in 2008. The same was true with Buster Posey and the San Francisco Giants in 2010. Posey toiled in Triple-A until the end of May, and then led the Giants to their first World Series Championship since moving to San Francisco. Both Longoria and Posey were Rookies of the Year in their respective leagues.

The Astros don’t expect to compete for a spot in the postseason this year, or next. They are in the midst of a well-known tear-down and re-build of the entire organization. Their minor league system is stocked with well-regarded prospects but the major league roster is still a work in progress. Heading into Wednesday’s game against the Royals, Astros outfielders were hitting .184/.245/.374, good for a 73 wRC+. Even if George Springer produces for the Astros this season the way he did for the Double-A and Triple-A affiliates, he’s not going to carry them into the 2014 postseason.

By waiting until Tuesday night to add Springer to the 25-man roster, the Astros didn’t act entirely in their own interest. They could have waited longer, into July, when Springer wouldn’t have been able to accrue enough service time in 2014 to qualify as a Super Two. Typically, a player doesn’t become eligible for arbitration until he’s accrued at least three years of major league service time. Players with two-plus years of service time in the top 22% among the two-plus group earn Super Two status and become eligible for arbitration in the winter between their second year and third year. If he stays in the majors the rest of 2014, Springer will be eligible for arbitration after the 2016 and become a free agent after the 2020 season.

If Springer ultimately pursues a service-time grievance against the Astros, he might have support from Jon Singleton, another well-regarded prospect in Houston’s system. Singleton is the Astros’ first baseman of the future; the question is when the future will arrive. He had a tough 2013 at Triple-A with a .220/.340/.347 slash and suspension for marijuana use. But, like Springer, he’s knocked the leather off the ball at Triple-A this season. By comparison, Astros first basemen were hitting .168/.240/.295 for a 51 wRC+ through Tuesday’s games, the worst in the majors.

So why wasn’t Singleton called up with Springer? Singleton is already on the 40-man roster and is in Triple-A on an option. As Astros beat writer Evan Drelich explained, if Singleton spends fewer than 20 total days at Triple-A, those count toward major league service time. After 20 days, they don’t. So to keep Singleton from accruing a full year of service time in 2014, the Astros aren’t likely to call up Singleton until at least April 19.

Roster machinations, for sure. Improper under the current CBA? Probably not, and difficult to prove even if the Astros violated the spirit, if not the letter, of the agreement. But in no event will the delays in bringing up Springer and Singleton change the outcome of the season for the Astros.

The same cannot necessarily be said about Archie Bradley and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The D’Backs are off to a dreadful start. At 4-14, they’re 10 games under .500 less than three weeks into the season. It’s a stunning turn of events for a team that was expected to contend in the National League West — if not for the division title, at least for a wild card spot. Even after expected Opening Day starter Patrick Corbin suffered a tear in the UCL of his pitching elbow and was lost for the season, nine ESPN baseball experts (including our own Dave Cameron) picked the D’Backs to make the postseason.

The offense hasn’t been a problem. Through Tuesday’s games, Arizona had scored 65 runs in 17 games with a team-wide 107 wRC+. The problem — the really big problem — has been the starting rotation. In 89 1/3 innings through Tuesday, the Diamondbacks starters had allowed 76 runs — the most in the majors and 24 more than the Rockies’ starters. Randall Delgado‘s already been replaced in the rotation by Josh Collmenter. But that still leaves four starters all with ERAs over 5.00.

Enter Archie Bradley. Or rather enter his agent Jay Franklin, who’s raised questions about why the Diamondbacks haven’t called Bradley up to the majors to try to stabilize the rotation.

Bradley is No. 9 on Baseball America‘s Top 100 prospects list, the highest ranked pitcher not named Masahiro Tanaka. Marc Hulet has Bradley at No. 5. The right-hander is 21 years old with an ERA below two since the beginning of 2013. But he has just two starts above Double-A in his career and they’ve both come in the last two weeks. He struggled with command in spring training.

D’Back’s GM Kevin Towers moved Collmenter to the rotation and called up Mike Bolsinger this week. Towers told reporters before Tuesday night’s game that Bradley’s service time clock has nothing to do with the decision.

“I think he needs more time down there as well as I don’t think it’s a proper environment,” Towers said. “With what’s going on with our ball club, throwing him in here, he would be viewed as the savior. I don’t think it’s the right time. If we were playing a little better baseball, maybe. But right now I don’t want to put that on him. That’s not to say he couldn’t come up here and perform like we hope Mike does, but we don’t like the environment based on who he is and what people will think once he comes here.”

Bradley’s agent Jay Franklin has a different view, as D’Backs beat writer Nick Piecoro reported:

“Archie Bradley has proven to the Diamondbacks organization that he has deserved that opportunity by keeping his mouth shut and letting his numbers speak for his chance to pitch in the major leagues.”

With Springer’s potential grievance in the news, it’s no surprise to see an agent saber-rattling over service-time issues with a top prospect. It’s also no surprise to see a GM be cautious with a prized young arm — whether that caution stems from his concern for the pitcher or for the team’s pocketbook.

But are the D’Backs ready to just throw in the towel on the season? Is the atmosphere so negative that’s it’s not even worth the risk of a few major league starts for Bradley to see what he can do? See if he can help settle things down. There’s no obligation to keep Bradley in the majors for the full season if it doesn’t work out.

As with Springer before his call-up, Bradley isn’t on the 40-man roster, so the D’Backs would have to make room for him. (The Astros released Lucas Harrell and optioned Robbie Grossman to Triple-A). Corbin and reliever David Hernandez, both out for the year after Tommy John surgery, have already been placed on the 60-day disabled list. The fear of losing a more experienced player off the 40-man may be another reason the D’Backs aren’t ready to bring Bradley to the majors.

Indeed, as long as the service-time/arbitration-and-free-agent clock structure remains in place, GMs will always be able to find a baseball reason for delaying a prospect’s major-league debut. Pitchers are always working on their stuff, their command, their location. Hitters are always trying to perfect their swing, make adjustments, find more power. If the players’ association wants to stop teams from using the current rules to their advantage, it should bargain for better rules in the next CBA.

The A’s Low-Risk, Reasonably High-Reward Rotation.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
There are a couple of very broad ways for pitchers to keep the opposition off of the scoreboard. One is to impose your will, maximizing K’s and minimizing BB’s – in most cases, pitchers excelling in those areas possess obvious, in-your-face tools and skills that are very easy to see. The other way is much more subtle – to manage contact, optimizing the batted-ball mix allowed and minimizing the authority with which the ball is impacted. Sometimes, pitchers more skilled in this area fly beneath the radar a bit compared to their more dominant counterparts. If you can accomplish both, however, you’ve got something. Based on the very early returns of the 2014 season, the Oakland A’s might have something.
While a pitcher’s upside is more accurately defined by his ability to dominate with K’s and missed bats, and minimization of free passes, his foundation is comprised of his ability – or inability – to manage contact. Even the most dominant pitchers allow contact the majority of the time. If you can do both and your best stuff begins to fade, you’ve got contact management to fall back upon. We’ve only gone three full times through rotations to date, but let’s take a look at the pitchers with the best batted-ball mixes allowed so far.

R.Ross 8.0% 72.0% 20.0% 10.0% 64 17.3% 10.7% 81
Ventura 6.3% 53.1% 40.6% 23.1% 65 27.1% 6.3% 57 Y
Cosart 9.8% 64.7% 25.5% 15.4% 69 20.3% 8.1% 75
Scheppers 14.0% 56.1% 29.8% 23.5% 76 14.5% 6.6% 89
Straily 10.2% 40.8% 49.0% 20.8% 79 21.7% 5.8% 77 Y
Peavy 8.5% 40.4% 51.1% 16.7% 81 26.0% 13.0% 85
Hutchison 12.8% 48.7% 38.5% 13.3% 85 23.8% 12.7% 92
Nolasco 12.7% 52.4% 34.9% 9.1% 85 11.3% 8.8% 112
J.Chavez 15.1% 56.6% 28.3% 6.7% 87 28.6% 2.6% 64 Y
Skaggs 19.6% 60.9% 19.6% 11.1% 88 15.8% 1.8% 87 Y
Weaver 6.1% 38.8% 55.1% 7.4% 88 22.7% 9.3% 90
Kazmir 14.0% 48.0% 38.0% 10.5% 90 26.0% 5.5% 76 Y

Leake 12.9% 67.7% 19.4% 0.0% 74 17.1% 6.1% 82
Cingrani 12.8% 41.0% 46.2% 22.2% 79 29.0% 13.0% 78 Y
Cashner 16.0% 60.0% 24.0% 8.3% 81 27.5% 8.8% 74 Y
Eovaldi 12.5% 51.8% 35.7% 10.0% 81 24.7% 1.3% 65 Y
McCarthy 18.8% 63.8% 17.4% 8.3% 82 13.1% 3.6% 93
Haren 13.2% 54.7% 32.1% 5.9% 83 20.8% 2.8% 77 Y
A.Simon 11.6% 51.2% 37.2% 6.3% 83 17.9% 3.6% 84
T.Ross 16.0% 56.0% 28.0% 7.1% 85 20.3% 12.7% 101
B.Anderson 18.5% 59.3% 22.2% 8.3% 85 7.7% 7.7% 118
Garza 14.8% 50.8% 34.4% 9.5% 86 20.0% 4.7% 85 Y
T.Wood 16.1% 51.6% 32.3% 10.0% 87 32.1% 7.6% 67 Y
T.Hudson 16.7% 54.5% 28.8% 5.3% 88 19.1% 0.0% 79 Y
For each qualifying major league starting pitcher, actual average 2013 MLB production by BIP type was applied to actual 2014 BIP totals, and then translated into run values, compared to MLB averages, and scaled to 100. It is way too early to put too much stock into actual batted ball authority data, but general batted-ball mix tendencies are already beginning to take shape. Many of the pitchers above, as you might expect, have kept line drive rates down to levels that will prove to be unsustainable, but many are also beginning to show the ground ball and pop up tendencies that make them who they are. The 24 pitchers above – 12 from each league – have allowed standard production on all BIP of 90 or better thus far in 2014. We’ll call that number their “contact management score”. The lower the number, the better the batted-ball mix, the lower the overall risk level of the pitcher. Of these 24, half of them have K and BB rates good enough to drive their standard relative ERA based on all batters faced even lower than their contact management score. These players are marked with a “Y” in the right-most column above. Three of those 12 pitchers are Oakland A’s – Dan Straily, Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez.

Are these guys the best pitchers in baseball thus far in 2014? Hell, no. Felix Hernandez and Yu Darvish, to name just two, say hi. Those 12 are simply the pitchers who have excelled at both contact management and K/BB ratio maximization thus far – they receive the best “technical merit” scores so far, while Felix, Darvish and a few others ride their superior “artistic impression” scores to the top of the overall pile. Darvish’s 2014 contact management score based on batted-ball mix alone is 99, while Felix’s is 109 – but the latter’s 30/2 K/BB ratio drives his overall standard ERA+ to 64, better than all but one of the pitchers listed above.

Let’s look at these same numbers on a team-wide basis to date:

Reds 17.7% 50.7% 31.6% 10.1% 89 21.4% 9.4% 93
Brewers 18.0% 49.1% 32.8% 9.9% 91 24.4% 6.4% 82
Diamondbacks 20.0% 48.3% 31.6% 10.0% 94 18.7% 9.5% 105
Dodgers 19.1% 48.4% 32.5% 4.5% 97 25.5% 8.8% 89
Marlins 19.9% 47.4% 32.7% 6.3% 97 20.2% 8.8% 102
Pirates 21.5% 49.4% 29.0% 6.7% 98 21.3% 8.0% 98
Nationals 19.3% 39.2% 41.6% 11.6% 99 27.5% 8.1% 85
Giants 22.3% 45.9% 31.8% 9.2% 100 21.9% 4.9% 93
Padres 21.4% 45.9% 32.8% 6.1% 101 20.9% 9.2% 105
Rockies 23.1% 48.7% 28.1% 4.5% 102 18.3% 7.7% 109
Mets 21.6% 43.7% 34.7% 7.2% 103 19.5% 8.5% 108
Cubs 23.9% 44.0% 32.1% 10.5% 104 20.4% 10.1% 110
Phillies 24.0% 46.7% 29.3% 4.7% 105 18.7% 9.5% 115
Cardinals 25.8% 40.5% 33.7% 10.4% 110 23.1% 7.3% 102
Braves 25.7% 39.7% 34.7% 5.8% 114 24.7% 8.9% 105

Rangers 17.4% 51.9% 30.6% 15.3% 88 17.6% 8.5% 96
Twins 18.2% 44.4% 37.4% 14.3% 95 16.3% 9.8% 109
Athletics 17.3% 45.1% 37.6% 11.5% 95 23.1% 7.0% 87
Astros 20.7% 49.9% 29.4% 10.7% 97 18.7% 10.0% 106
Indians 19.2% 43.9% 36.9% 13.0% 98 25.2% 10.6% 92
Red Sox 19.5% 45.8% 34.8% 10.2% 99 21.8% 6.5% 92
Yankees 19.3% 45.7% 35.0% 9.6% 99 23.8% 6.1% 87
White Sox 21.3% 47.3% 31.4% 11.6% 100 18.6% 10.7% 110
Rays 20.5% 46.0% 33.5% 9.1% 101 19.0% 8.0% 104
Angels 18.8% 43.1% 38.1% 8.1% 102 24.3% 9.4% 95
Blue Jays 21.5% 41.8% 36.7% 13.8% 103 22.6% 9.3% 99
Mariners 19.7% 41.4% 38.9% 7.4% 105 22.8% 8.9% 100
Tigers 21.6% 41.3% 37.2% 11.0% 106 21.2% 6.4% 99
Royals 21.4% 43.1% 35.5% 8.3% 106 20.5% 8.2% 105
Orioles 23.1% 40.9% 36.0% 8.0% 111 15.5% 6.9% 120
Both tables are sorted by standard BIP ERA+ – the team contact management score allowed, based on each club’s actual batted ball mix, without adjustment for batted ball authority, 14 of the 30 clubs have a contact management score better than 100 – these are your relatively “low risk” pitching staffs. The identity of many of these clubs is not surprising at all, but the Marlins and Astros, to name two, are on the list. When you think about it, it’s less surprising, as Jarred Cosart and Scott Feldman‘s significant ground ball tendencies help the Astros, while Jose Fernandez and Nathan Eovaldi‘s contact management abilities aid the Marlins.

Of these 14 teams, however, only half possess strong K and BB rates that push their overall standard ERA+ on all batters faced even further in a positive direction – the Brewers, Dodgers and Nationals in the NL, and the A’s, Indians, Red Sox and Yankees in the AL. These then, would be your low-risk, potentially high-reward staffs. Others, like the Giants, barely miss meeting the criteria, but will likely do so soon. Among this group of seven, however, only possesses more than one starting pitcher who meets the contact management and K/BB criteria set forth in the first player table above – the Oakland Athletics, and they have three such pitchers.

It should be noted that this group of three A’s starters do not include Bartolo Colon, their 2013 ace, or either A.J. Griffin or Jarrod Parker, likely their second and third best starters last season. It doesn’t even include their most talented 2014 incumbent starter, Sonny Gray, who currently has a 112 contact management score thanks to his currently line drive-laden batted-ball mix. This group is composed of Dan Straily, Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez. What do these three – plus Gray – bring to the table, and should we expect them to continue to burnish their low-risk, high-reward credentials?

Straily, 24, made 27 starts for the A’s in 2013, and was far from a lock for the 2014 rotation before the spring training attrition set in. His stuff seems rather pedestrian – his fastball averaged 90 MPH in 2013, and is down a couple pegs to 88 MPH this season. His slider was his most effective pitch in 2013, and as a result he displayed a significant platoon split (120 OPS+ vs. LH, 80 vs. RH entering 2014). His changeup has been a more effective and more heavily utilized pitch in the early going this season, and he has tightened up his platoon split a bit as a result.

Straily’s most notable BIP frequency trait is his ability to generate popups (93 percentile rank in 2013). This is partially due to the ample amount of foul territory in Oakland, but this is a true skill that Straily carried through the minor leagues. He ranked near the bottom of MLB starters in ground ball rate (8 percentile rank in 2013), so fly ball authority management is pivotal for him moving forward. His K and BB rates were both higher than average in 2013 (56 and 79 percentile ranks), but his BB rate is down so far this season. Despite his relatively ordinary stuff, he has run consistently high swing-and-miss rates (11.1% in 2013, 13.2% thus far in 2014, 3rd among AL qualifiers) due to above average deception. His high-K, high-popup, improved command package qualifies him as a relatively low-risk, at least moderate reward pitcher going forward.

Kazmir, 30, qualifies as a big free agent splash for the usually cautious A’s, signing a two-year, $22M deal this past offseason. 2013 was obviously a massive comeback season for Kazmir, essentially a replacement-level pitcher since 2008. His average fastball last season was 92 MPH, and it’s been down a tick to 91 thus far in 2014. Though his fastball remains his most effective pitch, he has mixed in his changeup quite a bit more this season. He has always maintained a fairly substantial platoon split, but it must be noted that righties are only six for 50 against him so far this season, a breakthrough that, if sustained anywhere near that level, brings him to another plane as a pitcher.

Kazmir’s K and BB rates were both above average in 2013 (89 and 42 percentile ranks) and he is off to an even better start in that area this season. His swinging strike rate of 11.9% thus far in 2014 is up from an already strong 10.1% in 2013, and currently ranks seventh among AL qualifiers. In the past, Kazmir has been a fly ball pitcher adept at generating popups, with his percentile ranks in that category ranging from 66 to 88 going back to 2008. So far in 2014, however, his ground ball rate has spiked – though this may turn out to be nothing more than a blip, it does bear watching. He’s a little riskier than Straily, with a less clear path to contact management success, but his ceiling is certainly higher. Another attractive risk/reward balance.

Chavez, 30, was discussed at length by Carson Cistulli earlier this week. Chavez has basically been little more than a journeyman reliever to this point in his career, carrying a career 78 ERA+ into his next start. The A’s, however, appear to have carefully molded him into some sort of secret weapon. Once a mid-90′s guy who didn’t get anyone out, Chavez’ average fastball velocity declined to about 92 MPH in 2013 and is down another tick to 91.5 this season. He now relies heavily on a cutter averaging about 88 MPH, which has developed into a successful pitch for him. His changeup has been a breakthrough pitch this season, giving him an arsenal of weapons capable of navigating through opposing lineups multiple times. His swing-and-miss rate of 9.5% is respectable, and in line with career norms.

Chavez had never been much of a ground ball generator prior to this season, but he currently has the fifth highest ground ball rate among AL qualifiers. Last year, in limited work, he was a popup machine. And, oh, by the way, he currently has a 22/2 K/BB ratio. Chavez is evolving as we speak, and has a puncher’s chance to be really good. Even in a more likely mid-range scenario, he appears to be a low-risk type with sound contact management skills, with a moderate upside, possibly the AL version of Marco Estrada.

Then there’s Gray, 24, the most talented of the lot. He dazzled at Vanderbilt, with both a fastball and curve that flashed plus-plus. That fastball velocity is no longer there – it averaged 93 MPH in 2013, and 92 MPH thus far this season. The 80 MPH snapdragon curve ball is still around, and it’s his most effective pitch by far. He had a fairly significant normal platoon split in 2013 (111 OPS+ vs. LH, 82 vs. RH), but has been much better vs. lefties so far this season, so he possesses a diverse array of weapons. His swing-and-miss rates in 2013 and 2014 are identical at 9.5%, the same as Chavez.

Gray has displayed a pronounced ground ball tendency in both 2013 and 2014, but his line drive rate is a very high 30.8% through three starts this season, negatively impacting his contact management score. No matter – he has a shiny 0.95 ERA to date despite all those liners. There’s some good fortune in that ERA number, but there’s also some bad fortune in the liner rate. His upside is likely the highest of these A’s hurlers, and while there is some risk, it’s not as significant as his early contact management trends might suggest, and it’s perfectly acceptable given the potential reward.

All around the baseball world, pitching attrition continues unabated. UCL’s are tearing, shoulders are stiffening, and organizational pitching depth is being tested. The A’s have been affected as much as anyone, but they aren’t complaining – instead, they’re taking the talent they have, and are maximizing and optimizing it. The samples remain admittedly small, but the A’s appear to have developed a bottomless rotation that minimizes risk while still possessing solid upside. In this year’s Parity Gone Wild American League, superior roster construction, effective risk management, and efficient utilization of resources might be all that is necessary to propel a team from the middle of the pile to the top. The A’s just might have the field lapped in this regard.

Prospect Watch: George Springer Edition.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
George Springer, OF, Houston Astros (Profile)
Level: MLB Age: 24 Top-15: 2nd Top-100: 14th
Line: 61 PA, 14.8% BB, 24.6% K, .353/.489/.647 (.455 BABIP) [Triple-A]
Super athlete. Superstar? Springer showcased his skills during a stellar debut last night.

The Minute Maid Park crowd probably hoped George Springer would produce more than an “Infield Hit,” to Jeremy Guthrie for his first hit, but that sequence embodied many of the characteristics that define of Springer. As he waited for Guthrie’s offering, Springer stood tall in the batter’s box, making use of his long athletic frame. The vicious swing, a Springer trademark, had the 24-year-old off balance. His legs were only partially underneath him when he made contact. As the ball dribbled up the third baseline, Springer composed himself, hustled out of the batter’s box and beat Guthrie’s throw to first in roughly four seconds.
Springer is an elite athlete who posseses power, speed and an advanced understanding of the strike zone. Through 1264 professional plate appearances his strikeout rate was 26.4% due to contact issues, not a propensity to expand the strike zone. Due his long swing, Springer will always struggle to make consistent contact, but he has improved in that regard. At University of Connecticut, Springer’s rear (right) knee would routinely be firmly planted in the dirt after a hack. Since Houston drafted him 11th overall in 2011 however, he has improved his balance and shortened his swing. It’s still one of the most aggressive cuts in the Major Leagues, but his patience/pitch selection will prevent him from becoming a liability on offense.

There was understandable excitement surrounding his debut, but Springer isn’t going to save Houston alone. At 24, he is an older prospect but he still has room to develop, especially at the plate. While his career minor league OPS is nearly 1.000, the adjustment to the major leagues could be rough early. Springer can decimate heat, but Major League off-speed offerings could cause him trouble. I expect the ferocity of his swing alone will tempt pitchers to test him with breaking balls and changeups.

Regardless of his initial contact rate, Springer’s other attributes will provide value to the Astros even if he struggles initially. Springer’s approach indicates he will post a league average or better walk rate from day one, allowing him to utilize his speed. He was picked off in his debut, but Springer’s natural instincts will be an asset on the basepaths.

On defense, he has a reputation as an average or better center fielder with a very strong arm. With off-season acquisition Dexter Fowler in center, Astros Manager Bo Porter started Springer in right field for his debut. Springer should be far better than his peers in right field, so the shift along the defensive spectrum will be partially, but not fully, negated.

Simply put, Springer is an exciting player. He possesses a combination of power, speed and athleticism rarely found in Major League Baseball. Be wary of expecting overnight stardom, but his talent should shine through on the highlight reel more often than not.

Brandon McCarthy Is Bulking Up.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
When we last talked to Brandon McCarthy, he was looking for a change-up. He didn’t find it. But he did find what he hopes will be the key to a successful — and full — season this year: Bulk.

After an offseason that included some work on the change, the pitch was still one McCarthy “could get beat on,” he told me last week. It’s still something he’d like to include if can figure out “a way to unlock it.” But it’s hard to work on that sort of thing during the regular season, which means he doesn’t anticipate this year will be the year.

Could he throw the sinker, which has arm-side run, at different speeds, to replicate a change-up? After says Trevor Cahill can do that sort of thing, McCarthy thought it was too tough for him to manage because of the modulation of his arm speed. “Kids in rookie ball struggle” with maintaining arm speed, McCarthy said, “but you just train them out of it.” You can tell those pitchers to throw a change in every 1-1 count, or fine them if they don’t throw enough of them. In the bigs, when all you’ve got are side sessions and bullpens, “you’ve got to work on what you’re good at, not some side project.”

For now, the curve will be his change-of-pace. It’s almost a round-house curve, after all, and those have smaller platoon splits. And consider this: Since 2012, McCarthy has gotten a higher whiff rates (10% versus 8%) and ground-ball rates (60% versus 45%) from his curve when he’s used it against lefties (according The pitch also has a higher foul rate from lefties, which doesn’t surprise McCarthy. “Typically, you’re trying to back-foot it, bounce it right there so that he pulls it.”

About that Colorado thing real quick. “That was the first time I let the visuals of not seeing your pitch do enough get to me,” McCarthy said of his disaster at Coors Field. His two-seamer wasn’t moving in the bullpen so he tried to throw it harder and mucked with his grip. “Instead of me going the other way and thinking I’m just going to go down and stay under the zone, I artificially tried to create sink,” McCarthy said. “ It didn’t work out.

But take a look at McCarthy’s velocity and you’ll see a change. His velocity is up to the highest we’ve seen since we started tracking velocity, and three starts in, the data is fairly sturdy. Everything works better with gas — 2 mph of velocity could be worth anywhere from half-a-run to two-thirds of a run per game off the ledger.

How did the pitcher manage this? “I just tried lift a lot; a lot heavier,” he says. And the change won’t remain in the offseason as he eats his way through a bag of Cheetos between starts. He’s upped his in-season training regimen, too.

The velocity is nice, he’ll admit, but this wasn’t about his velocity coming into the season. This was about stamina, and about the wear and tear of a season. Listen to him talk about what a year in the majors does him:

“You can feel your body weakening. You can wake up and feel you lost three pounds overnight. That same belt buckle doesn’t work. You’ve lost that feeling of power. It screws with you mentally. By the end, it was just a flickering light, this is all I can do.”

This is what that flickering light looks like. See the last few games last year, when he barely cracked 90 mph?

There’s a near-yearly occurrence for McCarthy over his career: the trip to the disabled list for a shoulder issue. Frustrating is the fact that MRI exams aren’t showing anything. “It’s always just a slow build, it’s an accumulation of fatigue,” McCarthy says. He’s hoping his bulk, and his new in-season regimen, will help him get past that lull this year.

When McCarthy talks about his current physical and mental strength, of course the line-drive to the head factors in. But it’s not about flinching when he lets the ball loose. Once again it’s about weight and stamina, in this case, weight and stamina lost due to time he spent in the hospital. “I spent a month on my couch,” he said of 2012′s fall. “Usually it’s within three weeks that you’re back in the weight room.” By the time he got out of the hospital, off the couch and back up to speed, he’d lost almost two months of lifting time. That meant he wasn’t “playing with any surplus” in 2013, and he was done by the season’s end.

The season is a slog. It wears down the toughest and the strongest baseball players. Add in a major injury and screw up an offseason training regimen, and it’s not surprising McCarthy had one of his worst seasons last year.

The good news is he spent his offseason building up that surplus, and he has a plan to avoid wearing down. All it took was time. Time to get bigger and stronger.

The Strike Zone is (Still) Getting More Consistent.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Not long ago, I pointed out a couple hilarious game strike zones called by Sean Barber and Clint Fagan. Both umpires called balls on pitches well within the usual zone, and both umpires called strikes on pitches somewhere around the shins. They were awful displays of umpire judgment, but after that, Barber called a much better zone in his next game, and far more importantly, both Barber and Fagan are Triple-A umpires and not regular major-league umpires. The regulars are better than the prospects, just like we see with the players.

And about those regulars — I’ve pointed out in the past that they seemed to be calling more consistent strike zones. One of the neat things about a post like that is that it can be updated, and now that we’ve got a few hundred games finished in 2014, I come bearing some further encouraging news.

I don’t intend to get into too much detail — the numbers can mostly speak for themselves. We’ll look at this in two ways. One leans on a homespun metric I’ve written about before that comes from the FanGraphs plate-discipline leaderboards. We know how many strikes and pitches there have been, league-wide. We know the rate of pitches in the PITCHf/x strike zone, and we know the rate of swings at pitches out of the PITCHf/x strike zone. What this allows for is a simple calculation of expected strikes, which can then be compared to the number of actual observed strikes. In the table below, you’ll see a couple meaningful columns. The first is the difference between actual strikes and expected strikes, per 1,000 called pitches. The second is the difference between actual strikes and expected strikes, per game.

Season Diff/1000 Diff/G
2010 -31 -5.0
2011 -24 -3.8
2012 -16 -2.5
2013 -13 -2.1
2014 -5 -0.8
Per full game, five years ago, there were five fewer strikes than you’d expect based on the PITCHf/x strike zone. So far this year we’ve got a difference under 1, and the table shows a steady improvement. There are still fewer strikes than the automated zone wants there to be, but the gap now is practically nothing, relative to what it’s been.

Now, that doesn’t say enough on its own. What if umpires are calling way too many balls in the zone, and way too many strikes out of it? What if the mistakes are just balancing out? By the second approach, we’ll use data available at Matthew Carruth’s StatCorner. Carruth determines a strike zone as it’s actually called by the league-average umpire. Let’s look at the year-to-year rates of balls in the zone, and strikes out of the zone:

Year zBall% oStrike%
2010 15.2% 7.9%
2011 15.3% 7.3%
2012 14.5% 7.2%
2013 14.0% 6.9%
2014 12.9% 7.6%
In the early going, oStrike% has picked up a bit, perhaps because of an increased emphasis on catcher pitch-framing. Or perhaps because of something else. It’s a small increase, and it represents a return, for now, to a range it’s occupied before. Look over at the zBall% column. Umpires have called fewer balls in the zone than ever, and the improvement from last year, for now, is more than a full percentage point. I’m sure some of this is noise, because some of every sample is noise no matter how big, but we’re talking about a couple hundred baseball games. Just because it’s too early to say anything conclusively doesn’t mean it’s too early to be encouraged.

Even with the improvement, there are a lot of balls called in the zone, and there are a lot of strikes called outside of it. You’re never, ever, ever going to get strike-zone perfection, not as long as it’s up to people, particularly a lot of somewhat older people. But if you accept that there are going to be mistakes, you should be happy with any signs of improvement, and the strike zone now seems to be more consistent than ever. The best alternative to a perfect strike zone is a consistent strike zone, and though what we’re talking about is incremental, most of the umpires in the big leagues have been doing this for eons. It’s a little amazing they’ve collectively been able to make these adjustments, probably in part due to PITCHf/x feedback.

And there also might just be better catchers, who are better and thus more convincing receivers. Over the course of the season, we’ll monitor that oStrike%. But if better receiving makes for fewer balls called in the zone, it can’t be that much of a bad thing. Those who dream of an automated strike zone won’t find much to be happy about in this. One mistake might be one mistake too many. But home-plate umpires are evolving, and even if they never evolve into pitch-calling robots, this is far better than no growth at all.

Time of Game and Instant-Replay Review.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
There was a variety of reasons for why certain people were opposed to instant-replay expansion. It was certainly an affront to baseball purists, who’d already had to deal with replay on boundary calls. Replay reviews would serve to disrupt the flow of the game, irritating observers and players alike. But maybe most importantly, replay threatened to slow down a slow game. Baseball doesn’t exactly fly by at a dizzying pace at the best of times, and the game hasn’t been in need of additional minutes of nothing. Baseball was thought by some a boring sport before agreeing to sometimes spend several minutes stopping the game to look at the same play over and over.

It’s the middle of April and we have some early results. There have been nearly 70 challenges, and those games have lasted an average of 197 minutes. If you’re not super good at mental math, that’s three hours and more than a quarter of another hour. That’s too long, considering baseball is supposed to be maybe three hours of programming. The easy assumption, then, is that replay is to blame. But while the current replay system could use a little bit of polish, there’s also a lot more that needs to be said.

For one thing, it seems like replay is going to be selective, in part, for longer games, since longer games include more events, and more events means a greater overall likelihood of there being a challenge or two. Maybe what we should care about more is the overall league average. This year, games without a challenge have lasted an average of about 184 minutes. Games overall have lasted an average of just over 188 minutes. A season ago, games overall lasted an average of just over 184 minutes. Right there, you see an increase of four minutes, and the temptation is to blame replay. Without question, replay has been a part. But then, how do you explain what came before?

Between 2012 and 2013, average game duration increased by four minutes. Between 2011 and 2012, average game duration increased by nearly four minutes. Between 2010 and 2011, average game duration increased by nearly three minutes.

A quick aside: a week ago, I was watching a game between the Dodgers and the Tigers. The Dodgers were starting Josh Beckett, and at one point early on he locked horns against Victor Martinez. Martinez and Beckett squared off for a nine-pitch plate appearance, and in total the plate appearance lasted something like eight minutes. So it was nearly a pitch per minute, and though there was a runner on base, that’s not a full excuse. It was the first inning, and it’s April, and both Beckett and Martinez were wasting an awful lot of time.

Below, a chart, covering the last 20 years of major-league baseball. You’ll see the average game duration, in minutes, as well as the average number of batters per game. One of those has barely changed, and one of those has fluctuated.

In 2000, the average game lasted 181 minutes. From there it went down, reaching a minimum of 169 minutes in 2005. Since then, the average game duration has increased by 11%, while pitches per game has increased by 3% and batters per game hasn’t changed. If you ignore this season, then between 2005 and 2013, duration increased by 9% while pitches per game increased by 2%. The message is simple: replay has contributed to baseball slowing down, but baseball was already slowing down before expanded instant replay.

By coincidence, Ben Lindbergh wrote today about a similar thing. He mostly focused on Pace, which we have available here on the FanGraphs leaderboards. We only have reliable Pace data going back to 2008, and since then, starters have slowed down by a second between pitches, while relievers have slowed down by about a second and a half. I don’t know the explanation for this, but there are a few added minutes right there, considering the number of pitches thrown in your average ballgame. It’s cute and colorful that some batters are superstitious, and it makes sense that some pitchers might work more deliberately than others, but when you put it all together the players themselves aren’t helping the game speed up.

The players make it slower. The replay makes it slower. Commercials and assorted other breaks make it slower. How do you speed the game back up a little bit? Figure there’s nothing much you can do about ads. Replay isn’t going away, and it can get only so much more efficient. Remember, the goal is just to get the calls right, and correcting a wrong call is worth a few minutes’ delay. You essentially have to focus on the players, perhaps by enforcing current pace rules, and perhaps by introducing others. Baseball doesn’t have to do anything dramatic. It’s perfectly fine as a three-hour ballgame, but it would be a good idea to start enforcing some things to try to offset the replay delays. It would be easy enough to trim 5-10 minutes. It would be harder to trim another 5-10 minutes, but those minutes don’t necessarily need to be trimmed.

And, of course, some people don’t think pace of game is a problem in the first place. Those people are the easiest to please. It was inevitable that replay was going to slow things down, and that’s what we’ve observed in the first few weeks. The system could be made to run smoother, and there are improvements I expect to be made in time. But the game hasn’t slowed dramatically because of replay, and the slowing down we’ve seen only fits a pattern that, before, had nothing to do with replay at all. At issue is a question of efficiency. Instant-replay review is new, and it could be more efficient. The same could be said of the gameplay, which goes on a lot longer than a challenge review does.

Terrible Months in Good Seasons.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Even good hitters go through a cold streaks at some point. If they want to avoid fan panic, though, they need to make sure and save those week or month-long slumps for later in the season. When slumps happen at the beginning of the season, they sandbag the player’s line, and it takes a while for even a good hitter’s line to return to “normal.” Most FanGraphs readers are familiar with the notion of small sample, and thus are, at least on an intellectual level, hopefully immunized against overreaction to early season struggles of good players.

Nonetheless, at this time of the year it is often good to have some existential reassurance. Intellectually, we know that just because a cold streak happens over the first two weeks or month of a season it is not any different than happening in the middle of the year. Slumps at the beginning of the year simply stand out more because they are the whole of the player’s line. One terrible month (and we are not even at the one month point in this season) does not doom a season. Rather than repeat the same old stuff about regression and sample size, this post will offer to anecdotal help. Here are five seasons from hitters, each of which contain (at least) one terrible month at some point, but each of which turned out to be excellent overall.

[A quick note about the query parameters: I searched for seasons in which a hitter had at least 500 plate appearances on the year and at least 80 plate appearances in the month. The minimum seasonal wRC+ was set at 140. Thus, these are the five worst months (of at least 80 plate appearances) by any hitter with 500 or more seasonal plate appearances and a final wRC+ of at least 140 since 2002.]

Chase Utley is off to an amazingly hot start this season, which carries its own warnings. Now in his mid-30s, Utley has still been a good player the last few years. It simply pales in comparison to his prime. From 2005 to 2009, Utley was one of the best players in baseball, combining tremendous defense at second base, outsanding base running, and bat that would have played on a star level even if he had been a defensively-challenged first baseman.

In September 2009, Utley had a terrible month at the plate in just about every respect, hitting just 64 wRC+ (.193/.290/.325) in 131 plate appearances. Yet 2009 turned out to be a great season for Utley overall, perhaps his last truly great year. He finished the regular season with a 141 wRC+ (.282/.397/.508) in 687 plate appearances. Perhaps a foot contusion was giving him problems, but that problem was reported already in May (when he had a 138 wRC+), so it may have been an issue all year. Saying he was simply out of gas by September does not really work, either, as Utley went on to destroy opposing pitching during the Phillies’ playoff run to the World Series, hitting .296/.424/.648 (178 wRC+) in 64 post-season plate appearances.

Alex Avila was a very pleasant surprise for the Tigers in 2011. Even for those who expected regression, he looked like he was on his way to be something more than just a stopgap. Although has bat has still been good enough for a catcher the last two seasons, it has been a bit of a comedown for Tigers fans, especially last year. In 2011, though, Avila pretty much tore the cover off of the ball. Sure, some of that was his .366 BABIP, but he hit for power (.211 ISO, 19 home runs in just 551 plate appearances) and took a plenty of walks. He finished the year with a 140 wRC+ (.295.389/.506).

If Utley was a star who had a bad month in a great year, Avila was a player one might think of as having a “lucky” season out of whack with is true talent. Whatever the case, it is not as if Avila was luck the whole season. In July, Avila had just a 63 wRC+ (.197/.345/.239) in 87 plate appearances. His walk rate stayed high, but his BABIP and power just disappeared. It happens, which is sort of the theme here. Still, a month of bad plate appearances did not ruin his season. Avila was back at it in August (213 wRC+) and September (126 wRC+), though a knee problem is likely at least partly responsible for his poor performance in the playoffs.

Vladimir Guerrero won the American League MVP in 2004, his first year with the Angels, and in 2005 he was almost as good. His final line for the 2005 season was .317/.394/.565 (148 wrc+), including 32 home runs. Guerrero was in his age 30 season, and although his decline would start to show the next season, even that was gradual. Guerrero had been a bit better (and healthier) the season before, and had had better seasons with the Expos, but this was close to be right of there with them.

Guerrero managed this impressive performance despite not just one, but two lousy months at the plate. After getting off to an incredibly hot start in April (165 wRC+), he put up only a 87 wRC+ in May. Guerrero went on the DL for a shoulder problem (which may have been part of the problem) at the end of that month, but came back even stronger in June, putting up a 238 wRC+ in 66 plate appearances. But things fell apart again in July. It was not a short month (relative to other months) of plate appearances for Guerrero, either. In 110 trips to the plate, Guerrero managed to make his May look like an offensive showcase, sporting a July line of .208/.264/.376 (61 wRC+). Guerrero was struggling with health issues during the season, and maybe those were worse at some times than others, but the reports are from through the year, and he put up monster months in both August (163 wRC+) and September (171 wRC+). I doubt many Angels fans complained in the aftermath.

Josh Hamilton was smoking the ball this year before he hurt his thumb sliding into first base. It was just the first couple of weeks (which is sort of the point of this post). Who knows how he will perform when he is back in the summer? Hamilton was last good over a full season in 2012, his final year with the Rangers. Of all the players discussed in the post, Hamilton probably has the greatest reputation for being streaky, and his 2012 illustrates it well. He ended the season with an excellent overall line: 141 wRC+ (.285/.354/.577). It was enough to reassure the Angels that he was worth a five-year commitment despite a questionable plate approach.

The season was not without bumps, though. After murdering numerous baseballs in April (209 wRC+) and May (204 wRC+), Hamilton began to flail in June, as his strikeout rate went over 30 percent, and his BABIP was only average. But it was in July that Hamilton seemingly hit rock bottom. In 91 plate appearances, he hit just .177/.253/.354 (50 wRC+). The power was down, but not terrible (.177 ISO). His strikeout rate was a bit high, but the main problem was that the hits were not dropping: just a .175 BABIP. Hitter BABIP varies more than that for pitchers, but it is still subject to far more randomness than, say, home run rate or strikeouts. These issues need not be rehearsed here; anything can happen over a month, especially with BABIP. Of course, pretty much everything went poorly for Hamilton in July. It drew a fair bit of attention then, can you imagine what would have happened if he had opened the season with that performance? As we have seen, though, his overall line for the turned out to be very good.

All of the previous examples are germane to the point about one bad month not dooming a season, but none of them are April. That is not really a problem, although it may appear to be since a player starting the season with a really bad line is usually more noticeable as it more visibly sandbags his line as people follow it from game to game. Just to round things out, our last and most extreme example does come from April.

Leading up to 2009, Derrek Lee‘s previous five years with the Cubs had been varied. He had played on a superstar level in 2005, hitting .335/.418/.662 (170 wRC+) and having a career-best 6.8 WAR. On the other end of the spectrum, although he hit decently in 2006 when he was on the field, he missed most of the season due to a broken arm. The other pre-2009 seasons he displayed a mix of good hitting and good fielding to be a solidly above-average palyer. Most years he was a decent, above-average player. He had not been bad in 2008, but his overall offense appeared to be declining, particularly his power. His 111 wRC+ was his worst performance in years.

Thus, in 2009, in his age 33 season, one might reasonably expected Lee to play on a somewhat average or just above-average level. Perhaps another couple of years of full-time play before becoming a bench player or even retiring. During the first month of the 2009 season, though, Lee looked absolutely done. In 93 April 2009 plate appearances, Lee had just a 35 wRC+ (.189/.253/.284). If you have gotten this far in this post, you know how things turned out. Lee was not done. He absolutely demolished opposing pitching the rest of the season. Lee’s lowest monthly wRC+ after April was a 150 in June. He finished with the second-best season of his career, hitting for a 150 wRC+ (.306/.393/.579) in 615 plate appearances. A number of factors might have been involved in Lee’s problematic April, for example, there were reports of neck spasms. But reports of Lee’s neck problems also came up later in the season when he was absolutely aflame at the plate.

All of these cases are germane to the point, but if you need just one example to get you through a bad first month by your team’s star hitter, Derrek Lee’s 35 wRC+ in April of 2009 is the one to assuage your fears through the rough times. Naturally, there are no guarantees, so go ahead and squirm a bit.

If this post offers some reassurance, an upcoming post will do the opposite: dashing hopes by looking at great months in otherwise poor seasons.

Should We Start Worrying About Billy Butler?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Earwigs are weird little bugs. They’re long, they have pincers on their butts and they have these weird little membranous wings they rarely use. Some species of earwigs have been traced back to the Jurassic Era, and they live on pretty much every continent. You know where they don’t live? Anyone’s ears. The term earwig is a bit of a misnomer as, at least according to the infallible Wikipedia, one would rarely find them in a human ear.

The term has also migrated to mean something that is found in the human ear, at least sort of. Songs, tunes and melodies can also be termed earwigs — referring to a tune that gets stuck in one’s head. I’d list some popular choices, but I don’t consider myself to be that mean of a person and I shudder at the comments if I were responsible for the quickening of some readers’ descents into madness. I do have to mention one, though, or this won’t have anything to do with baseball.
My recent earwig came when I read Mike Petriello’s piece on Adrian Gonzalez from Monday. That post referenced an older work by Russell Carleton that we re-ran on this very site. The title of that article references a song from the musical Rent, a musical I don’t particularly care for and haven’t heard in many years. Yet, the reference to the song Seasons of Love caused that tune to be stuck in my head. To be honest, just the “cuuuuups of coffee” part was stuck there, since these are the only lyrics I remember. So as I roamed the house softly singing “cuuuuups of coffee, cuuuuups of coffee” I started thinking more about Carleton’s piece. There’s a bunch of great stuff in there, but something about ground ball rate stabilization piqued my interest. It did so because between whole stanzas of “cuuuuups of coffee,” I also had Billy Butler running around in my head. Not literally of course, that would be impossible. He could only jog around in my head at best. That seemed unfair, in retrospect.

Billy Butler hasn’t been doing much as of yet. He hasn’t been getting on base, he hasn’t recorded any extra base hits, and he only has six singles to his name. He does happen to be walking at his normal rate, but when he’s swinging, not much good is happening. Much of it could be nothing to worry about, really. But something about Butler’s early season could be seen as disconcerting for the Royals.

Carleton’s work shows us that ground ball rates for batters start to stabilize quite early in the season — at around 40 plate appearances. Butler has logged 49 plate appearances as of this writing. His ground ball rate as of this writing is 72%. Carleton makes a caveat which I’m pasting here in case you are too lazy to read the whole thing:

… The minima listed below do not mean that the statistic in question stabilizes at ___ PA for an individual player, but that it stabilizes in a sample which includes all players with___ PA and above.

I’m pointing this out so no one thinks that now that Butler has crossed the 40 PA line, his ground ball rate is stuck where it is. It almost certainly isn’t, and you shouldn’t take the word “stabilize” to mean that it requires no regression. Carleton’s numbers are the points at which you “only” regress a player’s in-season performance 50% of the way back to the mean; that still means you’re expecting it to regress by a good amount. I’m not saying the sky is falling. However, I am saying the plaster on the ceiling might be flaking onto Butler’s shoulder a bit.

Ground balls have always been a part of Butler’s game. Basically half of all the balls he’s put it play over his career have been grounders. But he saw a six percent jump in grounders from 2012 to 2013, and early indications are perhaps he might stick above the 50% threshold. High ground ball rates aren’t great in any situation, but especially for a player with below-average speed like Butler.

Player Year GB%
Derek Jeter 2010 65.70%
Ichiro Suzuki 2004 63.68%
Luis Castillo 2002 63.60%
Derek Jeter 2012 62.46%
Elvis Andrus 2010 61.15%
Norichika Aoki 2013 60.41%
Derek Jeter 2005 60.00%
Ichiro Suzuki 2011 59.87%
Derek Jeter 2006 59.42%
Juan Pierre 2010 58.83%
Derek Jeter 2008 58.28%
Juan Pierre 2003 58.11%
Michael Bourn 2009 57.80%
Luis Castillo 2003 57.63%
Ichiro Suzuki 2008 57.49%
Ichiro Suzuki 2010 57.36%
Elvis Andrus 2012 57.12%
Derek Jeter 2009 57.01%
Ryan Theriot 2008 56.61%
Ichiro Suzuki 2007 56.32%
These are the top 20 players with at least 660 PA in any given season over the past 10 years (Butler had 668 in 2013, hence the cutoff). While it’s true that Jeter and Ichiro have lost a step or three, they are still speedier than Butler. The only way to make these high ground ball totals work is if you can beat some out for hits. Or, you could be the un-benchable face of the franchise, I suppose. Anyway, back to Butler.

This is him doubling in 2012:

This is him grounding out earlier this year:

I am not a swing coach, not would I ever claim to be. And maybe it’s the different camera angles, or maybe it’s the different locations of the pitches, but there does seem to be a little difference. Here are stills of the same videos:

In the first photo, his arms appear to be coming in at a bit of a lower angle, where his hands seem higher in the second photo. Again, these are just two examples, and could be attributed to many things, but if Butler is coming at the ball from a higher angle, it could partly explain his recent penchant for driving the ball into the ground.

It could also explain these zone maps. These were taken from, and show where Butler’s groundouts were located in the strike zone. The first is from 2012, the second is from this year. The first shows a lot of groundouts coming from the middle and bottom of the zone, which is to be expected, pretty much. The second is sparse due to the newness of the season, but the top right corner is something to look at. These are pitches that are high and away to Butler (the map is from the catcher’s point of view). It’s been only a couple weeks, but Butler has already managed to swing over three pitches high and outside — half the total of his entire 2012 season. This could be noise, and he hasn’t grounded any pitches high and inside yet, but he’s on pace to pound a lot of high and away pitches into the ground right now, which could also point to him swinging over many pitches coming his way.

Again, Carleton’s words are to be taken seriously here. Forty plate appearances is not a magic “this is the type of hitter you are” number. Butler could certainly tweak something in his swing or just get a little luckier on balls in play and this could all be moot. But ground ball rate — a rate that saw a fairly big jump last year — is a thing that doesn’t take as large a sample to denote a real change, and so Butler’s sample isn’t as small as if we were discussing something like batting average. That said, it’s extremely unlikely it will stay at 72%. It’s not something to panic about, but it is something to observe for the next few weeks. If Butler has gotten into a groove of swinging over pitches, he could be creeping toward a ground ball rate in the high 50s. This is the realm of speedier guys, not plodding first baseman. It may be nothing, but for the next few weeks it will on my mind every time I fill a new cuuuuup of coffee. Oh man. I may need help.

The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Fringe Five is a weekly regular-season exercise, introduced last April by the present author, wherein that same ridiculous author utilizes regressed stats, scouting reports, and also his own heart to identify and/or continue monitoring the most compelling fringe prospects in all of baseball.

Central to the exercise, of course, is a definition of the word fringe, a term which possesses different connotations for different sorts of readers. For the purposes of the column this year, a fringe prospect (and therefore one eligible for inclusion in the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above both (a) absent from all of three notable preseason top-100 prospect lists* and also (b) not currently playing in the majors. Players appearing on the midseason prospect lists produced by those same notable sources or, otherwise, selected in the first round of the amateur draft will also be excluded from eligibility.

*In this case, those produced by Baseball America, ESPN’s Keith Law, and our own Marc Hulet.

In the final analysis, the basic idea is this: to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

Adam Duvall, 3B, San Francisco (Profile)
One is compelled to liken Adam’s Duvall’s defense-independent numbers at this point in the PCL season — if not either bananas or coconuts — then at least to some other manner of tropical fruit. After 54 plate appearances (through Tuesday), the third baseman has recorded a 6:6 walk-to-strikeout ratio whilst also hitting six home runs — which is to say, the most home runs (by two) of all PCL hitters. It should be noted, none of the skills which Duvall has demonstrated thus far is very unprecedented: since beginning his professional career in 2010, he’s generally made contact and generally exhibited some manner of plate discipline and certainly produced impressive home-run totals. Never, of course, has he done all those things at once and to such a considerable degree. He’s not a prospect-prospect, Duvall, because of his age (25) and also probably concerns about his defensive skills. Still, demonstrating every batting skill while simultaneously playing a reasonably difficult position — this has value.

Josh Hader, LHP, Houston (Profile)
Hader appeared last week on the season debut of the Five owing to a four-inning start over the course of which he produced a 10:0 strikeout-to-walk ratio against just 17 batters. Since then, the 20-year-old has recorded two more appearances, and, while he’s failed to scale the same high heights, the results have been also impressive. Regard, for example, how many batters he faced during those two appearances: 33. And now regard how many of those batters he struck out: 10. Finally, consider this third number, which is how many opponents he walked: 1. Unfortunately, a thing that one can’t regard or consider at the moment appears to be footage of Josh Hader from any of this first three appearances. In lieu of that, the author has embedded below video of Bill Hader as the President of Hollywood — which video, if nothing else, should help the reader distract him- or herself momentarily from life’s manifest futility.

Robert Kral, C, San Diego (Profile)
A thing that always happens in literature is, first, an author writes a novel or whatever that receives almost no critical or popular attention and then, second, that same author dies without money and covered in dirt before, third, that same novel or whatever he wrote becomes a critical and popular success following his death. The modern reader, years later, thinks to himself, “Unfortunate, isn’t it, that this fellow — so talented and ahead of his time — died without money and also covered in dirt like that.” Yes, it is unfortunate. Robert Kral is not unlike this impoverished, filthy author-genius. A recipient of one of Steamer’s most optimistic preseason projections, Kral has recorded only nine plate appearances (through Tuesday) despite what appears to be satisfactory health. Or, satisfactory for now, that is. Someday, he’ll be dead, however, with probably only, like, an Atlantic League MVP award to show for it.

Jace Peterson, SS, San Diego (Profile)
The prospects who fall outside the notable preseason top-100 lists tend to belong to one or the other category. They either (a) have produced compelling numbers but exhibit a lack of physical tools, or (b) possess those same physical tools but have failed to translate them into on-field success. (There is, of course, a third category of prospect: one noted neither for his production nor his tools. This is the sort who, for example, becomes a weblogger.) Curiously, Jace Peterson belongs to neither of those categories, and yet was absent from the aforementioned preseason prospect lists. Age relative to level, is probably one reason for that omission. That he split time at college between baseball and football, is perhaps another. In either case, he’s been excellent since his debut last week among the Five, recording a 5:1 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 23 plate appearances during that interval.

Because the author will likely only be showering praise upon Peterson in future editions of this column, below is a GIF of the latter making an error on Tuesday. “Probably make fewer errors,” is sound advice for Jace Peterson.

Tsuyoshi Wada, LHP, Chicago NL (Profile)
Last week, the author included Philadelphia minor-leauge catcher Cameron Rupp among the Five, accompanied by the caveat that, insofar as he (a) was already 25 and (b) had never exhibited anything even approximating the sort of numbers he’d produced through the first week of the Triple-A season, that Rupp was unlikely to appear on future editions of the Five. One observes, in fact, that Rupp’s second week was decidedly less impressive and that his name is absent from the present document. A similar disclaimer applies to Tsuyoshi Wada’s appearance this week among the Five. Originally signed to a two-year deal out of Japan by Baltimore before the 2012 season, Wada almost immediately required Tommy John surgery. Upon his return, he recorded competent, but not excellent, numbers at Triple-A Norfolk. Signed by the Cubs to a minor-league deal this offseason, however, the 33-year-old Wada has been excellent over his first two PCL starts, producing an 18:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio over just 13.1 innings. Nor is it entirely clear how he’s done it.

This, for example, is Wada at is best, inducing a swinging strike by means of the changeup against Memphis’s Xavier Scruggs:

But here’s Wada somehow throwing a fastball by Scott Moore, who has recorded hundreds of major-league plate appearances:

And also somehow by Greg Garcia, who has routinely posted strikeout rates below 17% in the minors:

The Next Five
These are players on whom the author might potentially become fixated.

Andrew Aplin, OF, Houston (Double-A Texas League)
Brett Eibner, OF, Kansas City (Triple-A Pacific Coast League)
Bryan Mitchell, RHP, New York AL (Double-A Eastern League)
Darnell Sweeney, MI, Los Angeles NL (Double-A Southern League)
Aaron West, RHP, Houston (Double-A Texas League)

Fringe Five Scoreboard
Here are all the players to have appeared among either the Fringe Five (FF) or Next Five (NF) so far this season. For mostly arbitrary reasons, players are assessed three points for each week they’ve appeared among the Fringe Five; a single point, for each week among the Next Five.
Jace Peterson Padres SS 2 0 6
Josh Hader Astros LHP 2 0 6
Robert Kral Padres C 2 0 6
Aaron West Astros RHP 1 1 4
Adam Duvall Giants 3B 1 0 3
Cameron Rupp Phillies C 1 0 3
Tsuyoshi Wada Cubs LHP 1 0 3
Andrew Aplin Astros OF 0 1 1
Billy Burns Athletics OF 0 1 1
Brett Eibner Royals OF 0 1 1
Bryan Mitchell Yankees RHP 0 1 1
Chris Taylor Mariners SS 0 1 1
Darnell Sweeney Dodgers MI 0 1 1
Edwar Cabrera Rangers LHP 0 1 1
Tim Cooney Cardinals LHP 0 1 1
Tommy La Stella Braves 2B 0 1 1

It pays to invest in young stars early, but Padres' moves don't add up.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Being a good young baseball player right now is a little bit like going on that famous episode of Oprah: "You get a long-term deal, and you get a long-term deal, and you get a long-term deal!" On Monday, Jedd Gyorko became the latest youngster to land a big contract, signing a six-year contract with the San Diego Padres; the deal guarantees him at least $35 million and includes a team option that could push it closer to $50 million over seven seasons. The league is enjoying record profitability, and instead of chasing aging pricey free agents, teams like the Padres have chosen to take their newfound wealth and use it to keep their best young players around for six or seven prime years.

These deals have historically been big winners for MLB teams, as they've traded on young players' desire for financial security to hold down salaries for future superstars like Evan Longoria, Andrew McCutchen, Paul Goldschmidt, Chris Sale, and many others. The return on investment has been so consistently positive that teams are now racing to get similar deals done with every player who shows that they might have the ability to be a core building block for the future.

From 2008 through the end of the 2013 season, there were 47 contract extensions that covered at least four seasons, and most of them were in the six- or seven-year range, especially if you account for the team options that the players gave up in order to get their first big paycheck. As I noted in that analysis of those contracts, only a half dozen or so of those contracts have ended up not working out for the organization. The success rate on these deals has been extraordinarily high, especially when compared to the minefield that is free agency.

However, if there's one team that hasn't reaped the benefits of the recent extension craze, it's probably these very same San Diego Padres. Two of the half dozen or so deals that haven't worked out in the team's favor have been signed by the Padres: Cameron Maybin's five-year, $25 million deal and Cory Luebke's four-year, $12 million contract, both signed in March of 2012.

Since the start of the 2012 season, Maybin has managed just 618 plate appearances and hit a meager .235/.300/.339, racking up just 1.7 Wins Above Replacement in the process. Things have been even worse for Luebke, as he's managed just 31 innings over the last two years, and he's going to spend all of 2014 rehabbing from a second Tommy John surgery as well. Neither Maybin nor Luebke are making big money on the deals they signed, but they combine to represent just a little less than 10 percent of San Diego's 2014 payroll. It's unclear if the Padres will get any value from either one this year.

Even the more minor deals the Padres have done haven't worked out particularly well of late. That March 2012 contract-palooza included giving a three-year, $9 million commitment to catcher Nick Hundley; he proceeded to hit .157/.219/.245 that year and played himself right out of a job. Even with a decent rebound season last year, the Padres certainly didn't save any money by giving Hundley a multi-year deal right before he fell apart.

The Padres haven't really hit a home run with a long-term extension since they re-signed Adrian Gonzalez on April 1, 2007. Including the team option that they eventually exercised, the Padres signed Gonzalez for five years at a ludicrously low total of just $15 million. Not per year; for the whole five years. By the time Gonzalez turned into one of the league's best hitters, he was making about 20 percent of his market value. That kind of deal is why teams are giving players with short track records big guaranteed paydays. If you get just one Adrian Gonzalez, the savings from that one deal alone can pay for a bunch of guys who don't ever get any better.

But there's a difference between signing Adrian Gonzalez and signing Cameron Maybin or Cory Luebke. If we know one thing about the baseball economy, it's that power-hitting RBI guys get paid ridiculous amounts of money. Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Joey Votto and Prince Fielder have all landed contracts totaling north of $200 million in recent years, while Adrian Gonzalez's long-term deal with the Red Sox totaled $154 million. Mark Teixeira got $180 million. Ryan Howard got $125 million. Freddie Freeman, who was three years away from reaching free agency, got $130 million just a few months ago, and his career high in home runs for a season is 23.

Maybin was a speed-and-defense center fielder whose value came in posting a decent batting line once you adjusted for the pitcher's paradise of Petco Park. Those guys are valuable, but they certainly don't get paid like cleanup-hitting first basemen. The same goes for Luebke, a pitcher with an average fastball who was never considered a premium prospect in the minors, and didn't have the kind of stuff or durability that teams look for when giving huge paychecks to starting pitchers. These guys are solid contributors when healthy, but neither had the kind of credentials that lead to huge arbitration awards or eventual free-agent bidding wars. The upside of signing a player like Maybin or Luebke was always a bit limited, simply because they didn't possess the same potential for huge future earnings like Gonzalez did.

And I think the same can be said of this deal for Gyorko. He's a nice, young player with decent power for a middle infielder, but it's not entirely clear that his long-term future remains at second base, especially with incumbent third baseman Chase Headley likely to leave as a free agent after the 2014 season. If Gyorko slides back over to third base, his power becomes unremarkable compared to his peer group, and he's never going to hit for a particularly high average or steal a bunch of bases.

In many ways, Gyorko as a third baseman might be comparable to a guy like David Freese, the now-Angels third baseman who was a playoff hero for the Cardinals back in 2011. After a couple of very productive years in St. Louis, he was awarded $3 million in his first trip through arbitration, and then got a meager raise to $5 million for the 2014 season. Guys who hit .270 with 20 to 25 home runs, don't steal many bases and aren't defensive specialists just don't really command significant salaries before they get to free agency, and even when they get within a year of the open market, Gyorko can ask Chase Headley about the Padres' willingness to spend big bucks to keep him around.

Gyorko is a good player, just like Maybin was a good player and Luebke was a good player. You want to have these guys on your team. It's not clear, however, that any of them were headed for the kinds of big paydays that make buying their futures in advance a good idea. When you sign a young player to a long-term deal, you take on the risk that he'll get injured or just never develop into more than what he already is. To make the deal work for the team, you want to try to lock up potential superstars before they become superstars so you can keep them around at non-superstar salaries.

The Padres, though, haven't developed any superstars since Gonzalez, and so they've ended up giving their long-term deals to injury-prone role players. Even if Gyorko avoids the health problems that his predecessors have faced, it's still not entirely clear to me that he has the kind of upside that will turn this contract into a huge bargain for the Padres. That doesn't make it a bad contract -- $35 million in today's baseball economy is a drop in the bucket, even for the Padres -- or even one the Padres will regret, but until San Diego starts developing real franchise players again, these early career extensions won't work out as well for them as they have for the rest of the league.
post #21170 of 72836

post #21171 of 72836



The 34-year-old allowed one run on three hits in one inning of work, and he threw nine of his 15 pitches for strikes.

McGrady is a non-roster invitee, so he has to impress in order to make the team. The Skeeters currently have 34 players on their roster but have to trim it down to 27 by April 24.

post #21172 of 72836
Originally Posted by trueprada View Post


McGrady is a non-roster invitee, so he has to impress in order to make the team.

I dont mean to argue with you, because I know it is not you who actually wrote this....but I dont agree.  These kind of teams are DYING to have a buzz (no pun intended), around their team.  Keeping McGrady on the roster would likely boost attendance and interest in the team.


I think if he looks like he could be serviceable, and the last roster spot came down to him and a small handful of pitchers who were marginally more talented, they would choose TMAC.  Its smarter business.

post #21173 of 72836

i agree sir 


if they smart they should keep the guy 


even for just pr

post #21174 of 72836
papelbum in lets see if he closes this one out

Edited by xxpizzo - 4/17/14 at 12:39pm


Remind yourself. Nobody built like you, you design yourself !





Team T.A.N   







Remind yourself. Nobody built like you, you design yourself !





Team T.A.N   





post #21175 of 72836
I live 10 minutes away from the Skeeters stadium, I hope t-mac actually makes the team lol
post #21176 of 72836

yea that be dope to check out

post #21177 of 72836
Originally Posted by Jewbacca View Post

I live 10 minutes away from the Skeeters stadium, I hope t-mac actually makes the team lol

you gotta go see him play



the puig story is pretty crazy..yall think its true or there just putting something out there for likes/clicks?

Team Cleveland OG member #5
Team Cleveland OG member #5
post #21178 of 72836
Yankees just had a gorgeous triple play
post #21179 of 72836
Originally Posted by Ballerific703 View Post

Yankees just had a gorgeous triple play

Solarte and the infield were hype laugh.gifpimp.gif .
New York Yankees | New York Jets
New York Yankees | New York Jets
post #21180 of 72836

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