Tulo is far and away the MVP of everything right now let's see how it plays out throughout the year though. Because his home and road splits are still really skewed. That's why I always had a beef with people calling Cargo a star player.
I'm just glad we can enjoy both of them being healthy for a change.
The 2014 MLB Rule 4 draft is four weeks away, and the first round is more muddled than it has been all spring thanks to a series of injuries and setbacks to pitchers in the top 30. The draft remains deep, particularly in high school right-handed pitchers, but is weaker up top than it appeared to be in March, and it's light on position players in the middle of the field.
This is my first ranking of the top 100 prospects for this year's draft, and reflects some significant changes from my top 50 ranking in mid-March, due to the aforementioned injuries as well as changing industry sentiment on players who've played well or poorly in front of scouts. As always, this list attempts to rank players on expected pro baseball ability and value, without any consideration for the players' signability (bonus demands or expectations) or which teams are likely to take them. I'll update this list one more time right before the draft, after the various Division I conference tournaments.
As always, I use the 20-80 grading scale in these comments to avoid saying "average" and "above average" a thousand times across 100 player comments. On that scale, a grade of 50 equals major league average, 55 is above average, 60 is plus, 45 is fringy or below average and so on. Giancarlo Stanton has 80 raw power. David Ortiz has 20 speed. Carlos Gomez is an 80 defender. An average fastball for a right-hander is 90-92 mph, with 1-2 mph off for a lefty.
1Brady AikenSCHOOL: Cathedral CatholicHT: 6-4WT: 200POS: LHP
Analysis: Aiken has the weapons -- fastball up to 95 mph, curveball, changeup, even a cutter he plays around with -- the frame and the polish to project as a No. 1 starter, and he's been judiciously handled over the past year to try to keep him healthy.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 1 | PLAYER CARD
2Carlos RodonSCHOOL: N.C. StateHT: 6-4WT: 235POS: LHP
Analysis: Rodon has been better over the past month than he was over the spring's first six weeks; the stuff is still inconsistent and the command is stubbornly below-average, but it's a 70-grade slider most outings now and he's hitting 95-96 mph more frequently.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 3 | PLAYER CARD
3Tyler KolekSCHOOL: Shepherd High SchoolHT: 6-5WT: 250POS: RHP
Analysis: Kolek has the size and the best fastball among starters in this draft, touching 101 mph, but he's still something of a work in progress with everything else, and actually lost his playoff outing last week, giving up four runs, because of erratic command.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 2 | PLAYER CARD
4Nick GordonSCHOOL: Olympia High SchoolHT: 6-1WT: 170POS: SS
Analysis: Tom "Flash" Gordon's son just keeps moving up boards, thanks to a broad base of skills that has him as the draft's best position player prospect and a true shortstop with a good chance to hit. His season ended May 6 with a playoff loss.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 9 | PLAYER CARD
5Bradley ZimmerSCHOOL: San FranciscoHT: 6-5WT: 205POS: OF
Analysis: Zimmer is one of the top performing college bats in the draft this year, bringing size and athleticism to center field as he grows into more power.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 12 | PLAYER CARD
6Alex JacksonSCHOOL: Rancho Bernardo High SchoolHT: 6-2WT: 210POS: C
Analysis: If Jackson sticks at catcher he has more upside than most prep bats in the draft because he has the ability to hit and hit for power if he can keep his lead elbow from dragging his bat uphill.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 7 | PLAYER CARD
7Grant HolmesSCHOOL: Conway High SchoolHT: 6-2WT: 200POS: RHP
Analysis: Holmes didn't hold his 95-98 mph velocity all spring but was at 92-94 by the end of the season, with good command and feel but little projection left given his mature frame.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 5 | PLAYER CARD
8Erik FeddeSCHOOL: UNLVHT: 6-4WT: 165POS: RHP
Analysis: Fedde is one of a handful of college arms to miss a start recently, skipping the nonconference series at Clemson this past weekend and already has been pushed back to Saturday this week. But unlike the other pitchers in question, Fedde is reportedly fully healthy. He's athletic with an above-average fastball-slider combo, but his slight build has some scouts questioning whether he can hold up as a starter.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 44 | PLAYER CARD
9Sean NewcombSCHOOL: HartfordHT: 6-4WT: 240POS: LHP
Analysis: The draft is very heavy in right-handed pitching but light on lefties, with Newcomb the next-best option after Rodon among college southpaws. He's a good athlete who's been up to 96 mph but has below-average command and has faced weak competition all year.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 15 | PLAYER CARD
10Aaron NolaSCHOOL: LSUHT: 6-1WT: 180POS: RHP
Analysis: Nola's the "safe" guy among college arms, with three years of solid, predictable performance in the country's best baseball conference; he has an unusually low arm slot for a right-handed starter, but repeats his delivery and has plus command.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 14 | PLAYER CARD
11Derek HillSCHOOL: Elk Grove High SchoolHT: 6-2WT: 170POS: OF
Analysis: Hill's father, Orsino, reached Triple-A and scouts Northern California for the Dodgers, and Darryl Strawberry is his cousin, so his bloodlines are strong. He's also one of the most explosive athletes in this draft class, a plus runner who's already a 65-70 defender in center, and has a simple, balanced swing. He needs reps to work on pitch recognition, since he moved to California from Iowa just over two years ago.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 36 | PLAYER CARD
12Michael ConfortoSCHOOL: Oregon StateHT: 6-1WT: 215POS: OF
Analysis: Conforto is the Aaron Nola of college position players this year -- safe, unexciting, but with a lot of probability of playing in the big leagues for a long time. He's a polished hitter for average, with the highest batting average of any player in the big four conferences of college baseball (SEC, ACC, Big 12, Pac-12), and leads all of Division I in OBP at .558. He's limited to left field and may not have the power to profile as more than a solid regular there.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 13 | PLAYER CARD
13Touki ToussaintSCHOOL: Coral Springs Chistian AcademyHT: 6-2WT: 195POS: RHP
Analysis: The right-hander was more carnival act than pitcher before this spring, throwing in the mid-90s but never knowing where the ball was headed; this year, however, he's cleaned up his arm stroke and is throwing strikes with a better curveball and even showing a feel for a change.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 39 | PLAYER CARD
14Tyler BeedeSCHOOL: VanderbiltHT: 6-4WT: 215POS: RHP
Analysis: Young Beedah came out of the gate very strongly, but his command hasn't lasted and he's struggled against SEC opponents and whenever he's away from Nashville. However, the fact that he hits 93-95 mph with a plus change has to appeal to a lot of teams in the 11-20 range.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 4 | PLAYER CARD
15Jacob GatewoodSCHOOL: Clovis High SchoolHT: 6-4WT: 190POS: SS
Analysis: An all-or-nothing prospect: Gatewood has huge raw power and very little present feel to hit, but if it clicks, you might have a 30-35 homer third baseman or right fielder who hits in the middle of your lineup. The risk that he never gets out of Class A, however, is real.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 19 | PLAYER CARD
16Braxton DavidsonSCHOOL: T.C. Roberson HS, Asheville, N.C.HT: 6-3WT: 215POS: OF
Analysis: Davidson has one of the better swings in the draft class, a smooth left-handed stroke that has produced intermittent power. However, a mediocre recent showing at the NHSI tournament in Cary, N.C., in front of national scouts has hurt his stock.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 22 | PLAYER CARD
17Derek FisherSCHOOL: VirginiaHT: 6-3WT: 215POS: OF
Analysis: Fisher is among the best athletes among college position players and has looked good coming back from a broken hamate bone he suffered in March. He's a plus runner with BP power but has struggled on defense, even in left field.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 24 | PLAYER CARD
18Monte HarrisonSCHOOL: Lee's Summit WestHT: 6-2WT: 200POS: OF
Analysis: The Nebraska football commit (as a wide receiver) should never catch a pass for the Huskers, as he's first-round material, a tremendous athlete who can run and hit for power but is likely a long-term project with the bat.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 34 | PLAYER CARD
19Brandon FinneganSCHOOL: TCUHT: 5-11WT: 190POS: LHP
Analysis: Another entry on the M.A.S.H. list, Finnegan was pitching himself into the top 10 with outstanding control and two above-average to plus pitches, but a sore shoulder has sidelined him and added to concerns about his short stature and high-effort delivery.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 23 | PLAYER CARD
20Scott BlewettSCHOOL: Baker High SchoolHT: 6-6WT: 235POS: RHP
Analysis: A projectable right-hander with limited mileage on his arm because he lives just outside the Arctic Circle, Blewett has been sitting in the low-to-mid 90s this spring but needs work on refining his secondary stuff. That may come once he gets stretched out in pro ball against guys who can hit his kind of velocity.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 28 | PLAYER CARD
21Luis OrtizSCHOOL: Sanger High SchoolHT: 6-3WT: 220POS: RHP
Analysis: Ortiz missed time with a forearm strain -- let's face it, that's so often code for "sore elbow" that the phrase has lost all connection to its literal meaning -- but came back hitting 95 mph again with little effort. If teams are comfortable with his medical reports, he could go in the top 15.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 8 | PLAYER CARD
22Trea TurnerSCHOOL: N.C. StateHT: 6-1WT: 171POS: SS
Analysis: Turner's a 65-70 grade runner who has the actions and arm for short, but an unorthodox swing and well below-average power raise questions about his profile if he ever has to move off of the position.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 20 | PLAYER CARD
23Max PentecostSCHOOL: Kennesaw State UniversityHT: 6-1WT: 190POS: C
Analysis: The draft's best pure catching prospect, Pentecost has a plus arm, above-average glove, and is a plus runner, but has no power and needs some mechanical help with his swing to profile as an above-average regular.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 21 | PLAYER CARD
24Kyle FreelandSCHOOL: EvansvilleHT: 6-4WT: 185POS: LHP
Analysis: Freeland has video-game numbers -- seven walks and 106 strikeouts in 80 2/3 innings -- with a tough fastball-slider combination that reminds some scouts of the major league version of Chris Sale. Freeland hasn't faced great competition, however, and he's used the slider heavily, so he may have to overhaul his approach to be a pro starter.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. NR | PLAYER CARD
25Jeff HoffmanSCHOOL: East CarolinaHT: 6-3WT: 190POS: RHP
Analysis: Hoffman will have Tommy John surgery next week, ending his season and probably ending his status as a top-five prospect in this draft class. The success rate of TJ is high enough that Hoffman will likely still go in the first round, much as Kyle Gibson (who had a forearm fracture) and Sean Manaea (a hip labrum injury) did in their draft years, but won't be able to pitch competitively until next April at the earliest.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 6 | PLAYER CARD
Prospects Nos. 26-100
RANK PLAYER POSITION SCHOOL
26 Kyle Schwarber C/1B Indiana
27 Michael Chavis 3B Sprayberry HS (Marietta, Ga.)
28 Marcus Wilson OF Junipero Serra HS (Los Angeles)
29 Jake Bukauskus RHP Stone Bridge (Va.) HS
30 Sean Reid-Foley RHP Sandalwood HS (Jacksonville, Fla.)
31 Michael Gettys OF/RHP Gainesville (Ga.) HS
32 Foster Griffin LHP First Academy (Orlando)
33 Chase Vallot C St. Thomas More (Youngsville, La.)
34 Justus Sheffield LHP Tullahoma (Tenn.) HS
35 Spencer Adams RHP White County (Ga.) HS
36 Michael Kopech RHP Mount Pleasant (Texas) HS
37 A.J. Reed 1B Kentucky
38 Mike Papi OF Tunkhannock (Pa.) HS
39 Ti'Quan Forbes SS Columbia (Miss.) HS
40 Gareth Morgan OF Blyth Academy (Toronto)
41 Mac Marshall LHP Parkview (Ga.) HS
42 Alex Blandino 3B Stanford
43 Bryce Montes De Oca RHP Lawrence (Kan.) HS
44 Dylan Cease RHP Milton (Ga.) HS
45 Jakson Reetz C/OF Hickman (Neb.) HS
46 Kodi Medeiros LHP Waiaka HS (Hilo, Hi.)
47 Cameron Varga RHP Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy
48 Grant Hockin RHP Damien HS (Pomona, Calif.)
49 Spencer Turnbull RHP Alabama
50 Zech Lemond RHP Rice
51 Daniel Gossett RHP Bynes HS (Lyman, S.C.)
52 Nick Burdi RHP Louisville
53 Luke Weaver RHP Florida State
54 Matt Imhof LHP Cal-Poly
55 Brett Graves RHP Missouri
56 Matt Chapman 3B Cal-State Fullerton
57 Jeren Kendall OF Holmen (Wisc.) HS
58 Bobby Bradley 3B Harrison Central HS (Gulfport, Miss.)
59 Nick Howard RHP Virginia
60 Matthew Railey OF North Florida Christian Academy (Tallahassee)
61 Sam Travis 1B Indiana
62 Cole Tucker SS Mountain Pointe HS (Phoenix)
63 Mitch Keller RHP Xavier HS (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)
64 J.D. Davis RHP Cal-State Fullerton
65 David Peterson LHP Regis Jesuit (Denver)
66 Chad Sobotka RHP South Carolina Upstate
67 Taylor Sparks 3B UC-Irvine
68 Trey Supak RHP La Grange (Texas) HS
69 Alex Verdugo LHP Sahuaro HS (Tucson, Ariz.)
70 Jake Godfrey RHP Providence Catholic (New Lenox, Ill.)
71 J.J. Schwarz C Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) HS
72 Casey Gillaspie 1B Wichita State
73 Forrest Wall 2B Orangewood (Fla.) Christian
74 Dylan Davis OF/RHP Oregon State
75 Chris Ellis RHP Ole Miss
76 Grayson Greiner C South Carolina
77 Garrett Fulenchek RHP Howe (Texas) HS
78 Keith Weisenberg RHP Osceola (Fla.) HS
79 Keaton McKinney RHP Ankenny (Iowa) Centennial HS
80 James Norwood RHP St. Louis
81 Carson Sands LHP North Florida Christian Academy (Tallahassee)
82 Cody Reed LHP Ardmore HS (Athens, Ala.)
83 Austin Slater OF Stanford
84 Milton Ramos SS American Heritage HS (Hileaea, Fla.)
85 Jacob Nix RHP Los Alamitos (Calif.) HS
86 Heath Fillmyer RHP Mercer Community College
87 Trace Loehr SS Putnam HS (Milwaukie, Ore.)
88 Jack Flaherty 3B/RHP Harvard-Westlake HS (Studio City, Calif.)
89 Jake Stinnett RHP Maryland
90 Wyatt Strahan RHP Southern California
91 Austin Byler OF Nevada
92 Jordan Luplow OF Fresno State
93 Jacob Lindgren LHP Mississippi State
94 Michael Cantu C Carroll (Tex.) HS
95 Casey Soltis OF Granada HS (Livermore, Calif.)
96 Dillon Peters LHP Texas
97 Justin Steele LHP George County HS (Lucedale, Miss.)
98 Mitch Hart RHP Granite Bay (Calif.) HS
99 Adam Ravenelle RHP Vanderbilt
100 Andrew Summerville LHP Lakeside HS (Seattle)
When discussing a prospect, you often hear scouts refer to where a player's "ceiling" or "floor" is. Simply put, the terms refer to the best- and worst-case scenario for said player; the ceiling is what you could expect if everything goes right in a prospect's development, and the floor is what you can expect if the development were to stall or not happen at all.
Here's a look at the prospects we believe to have the highest ceilings of the players available for the 2014 draft, with the highest floors coming next week.
Highest-ceiling prep bat: Michael Gettys, OF, Gainesville (Georgia) HS
Georgia has produced some of the best prep talent in the past two drafts, with Byron Buxton, Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows all coming from the Peach State and becoming top-10 picks. Though he's unlikely to be drafted that high, Gettys could be the next in line.
In terms of pure athleticism, there is no better player in this year's class than Gettys. The right-handed-hitting outfielder has plus-plus speed (on the 20-80 scouting scale) and arguably the strongest throwing arm of any outfielder available. Add in above-average power from the right side and you have a potential star in center field -- if the hit tool is good enough for him to play every day. That's still very much in doubt, but if a team can fix some of the mechanical deficiencies in his swing, he's got a chance to be the best offensive player to come out of this class.
"There's definitely three tools there," an NL Central area scout said. "And if you wanted to say there are four with the power, then I wouldn't argue with you for too long. I just don't know if he's going to be able to put those tools to use because there's so much work to be done with the swing. Nevertheless, the athleticism is so much better than any other prep bat in this class -- you have to consider him one of the highest-ceiling players available this year."
Also considered: Jacob Gatewood, SS, Clovis (California) HS; Monte Harrison, OF, Lee's Summit HS (Missouri); Marcus Wilson, OF, Serra HS (Gardena, California)
Toussaint has been a "famous" prospect since fall 2012, when he showed electric stuff -- a fastball that got up to 97 mph and a sensational curveball with plus spin and depth -- at the Jupiter Classic. That stuff hasn't shown up consistently since that event, but he's shown flashes of brilliance over his senior year, and, as an athletic right-hander with potentially two plus-plus pitches and a solid/average changeup, the sky is the limit for the Vanderbilt commit.
"In terms of pure stuff, Toussaint is the best prep pitcher I've seen this year," an NL senior scout said. "When he's going right, he's got two 70-grade pitches and a 55[-grade] change, and I'm not sure I've seen a high school kid who has anything close to that for 2014. He's going to need to show he can throw strikes on a more consistent basis, but the command doesn't have to be elite for him to be a No. 2 starter. It just has to be average."
Also considered: Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd (Texas) HS; Grant Holmes, RHP, Conway (South Carolina) HS; Brady Aiken, LHP, Cathedral Catholic HS (San Diego)
Highest-ceiling college pitcher: Carlos Rodon, LHP, NC State
You were expecting someone else? Even with all of the controversy he's caused with his inconsistent results and (incredibly) high pitch counts, Rodon's pure stuff is unmatched by any other collegiate hurler in the class, with a fastball that flashes plus and one of the best amateur sliders we've seen over the past 10 years.
"If you see [Rodon] on his best day, you see someone special," an NL West scout said. "That slider is unhittable when he gets ahead of hitters in counts, and even though the velocity isn't elite, it plays up because it gets on you so quick. If the fastball command was better or the change was consistently above average, we'd be talking about a once-in-a-generation talent. Even without those things, he's the best college pitcher in this class, and I'm not sure that it's close."
Also considered: Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina; Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt
Highest-ceiling college bat: Bradley Zimmer, OF, San Francisco
The brother of Kansas City Royals 2012 first-round pick Kyle Zimmer has seen his stock rise over the 2014 season as one of the few collegiate bats who has consistently performed. He has shown above-average to plus-tools across the board in the process. There are concerns that he might have to move over to right field because of his size (6-foot-5, 205 pounds), but he has more than enough arm strength and should hit for enough power to justify the move if necessary.
"There's a lot to like about Zimmer," an NL scout said. "But the biggest thing for me is that he's putting the tools he showed as a sophomore to use now. No one ever questioned the talent of this kid, but we've seen lots of talented kids not put it together this early, or at all. If he can stay in center field, I think we're looking at an all-star."
Also considered: Kyle Schwarber, C, Indiana; Derek Fisher, OF, Virginia
From the time the Braves added brothers Justin and B.J. Upton to a lineup that already included Dan Uggla, Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman, they seemed like a science experiment built for this question: How many strikeouts can one lineup generate while still being successful?
The Braves racked up 1,384 strikeouts in 2013, most in the National League, and they also finished second in the NL in victories, with 96. The parts fit together.
Here in 2014, Atlanta hitters are still striking out a lot; their 297 K's are tied for the fourth most in the majors. But what has changed significantly is this: Braves hitters have stopped drawing walks, which often are a companion to strikeouts.
In 2013, Atlanta drew 542 walks, second most in the NL, which helped the Braves finish fourth in the league in runs scored. This year, however, the Braves are 12th in walks and next to last in runs among all teams; the only club with fewer runs is the San Diego Padres.
It's an unusual development, because for the most part, the lineup is the same. Brian McCann departed as a free agent, which has meant more at-bats for Evan Gattis, who is unquestionably a more aggressive hitter. But McCann drew only 39 walks in 402 plate appearances last season, so it's not like the Cincinnati Reds losing Shin-Soo Choo. The collective patience at the plate for the rest of the Braves hitters is down almost across the board.
Pitches Per Plate Appearance
Player 2013 2014
Justin Upton 4.09 4.26
Dan Uggla 4.14 3.74
Jason Heyward 4.07 4.01
B.J. Upton 3.86 3.82
Freddie Freeman 3.81 3.99
Chris Johnson 3.75 3.52
Andrelton Simmons 3.51 3.24
Evan Gattis 3.44 3.55
The Braves have just one player among the top 45 in pitches per plate appearance (minimum 25 plate appearances), and as you can see to the right, some key members of the Atlanta lineup have seen a regression in the number of pitches seen.
You can strike out a lot and still score a lot of runs. No team is striking out more these days than the Chicago White Sox, who rank second in runs scored. Last year the Boston Red Sox finished eighth in the majors in strikeouts, and yet scored 57 more runs than any other team on their way to the 2013 championship. Oakland's offense could be a mirror of what the Braves should be: big power, high strikeouts, high walks.
The big strikeout totals without the walks, without consistently getting deep into counts and wearing down opposing starters and getting into the bullpens, now that's a serious problem, and it's showing in Atlanta's production.
Justin Havens of ESPN Stats & Information dug this out: The Braves' opportunities for damage have been slightly limited as well. In 2014, 24.8 percent of the team's plate appearances have reached a 2-0, 3-0 or 3-1 count. It was 28.0 percent last season.
One more statistic to pass along about the Braves' offense, courtesy of Katie Sharp from ESPN Stats & Info: As we headed into the week of play, 54.5 percent of the Braves' runs this season (54 of 99 runs) have come via home runs, the highest rate in the majors. Second on the list are the Giants at 48.1 percent.
Around the league
• On Wednesday's Baseball Tonight podcast, Jason Grilli discussed the first walk-off replay challenge, and Nolan Arenado talked about learning to play third base and the Rockies' growing confidence. Arenado then extended his hitting streak to 27 games Wednesday night, and the Rockies rolled, again.
• Richard Griffin doesn't think cheating could be worthwhile for Melky Cabrera. From his story: "He has a defender in Jose Bautista, the Jays' best hitter and the man who currently bats after Cabrera in the lineup. Bautista, Cabrera's friend and fellow Dominican, was once victimized by similar innuendo in 2010, when allegations of PED cheating put a damper on his breakout 54-homer season."
[+] EnlargeMelky Cabrera
Veteran outfielder Melky Cabrera is set to become a free agent after this season.
Bautista weighed in as well: "What bothers me specifically about Melky's situation is that he's a free agent after the year, and those types of comments can really affect his status as a free agent and his ability to negotiate. That story can get picked up by somebody else, and it can get expanded and blown up into whatever they want, which could be detrimental to his negotiation."
More from Griffin: "Clearly Cabrera is the wrong guy to pick on in trying to make a case that cheating is worthwhile. Down the road, with that suspension in his background, he will likely never get the huge deal he might have expected if the stats were clean. See Nelson Cruz with the O's."
I'd respectfully disagree, and I know a whole lot of current and past players who would, too. If any player takes PEDs and gains an unfair advantage over his union brethren, that means he's holding a position somebody else should hold, and making money somebody else should make. Just because somebody doesn't make as much as Ryan Braun doesn't mean cheating isn't worthwhile, and it's hardly a stretch to suggest that Cabrera made extra cash through his past transgression.
In fact, it's almost certainly a lock that he already has benefitted from cheating. He made $3.1 million as an extra outfielder with the Braves in 2010 and had such a mediocre season that he was cut free; the Braves agreed with the Yankees' assessment that he was essentially an extra outfielder. He signed with the Royals for $1.25 million in 2011 and became a star, at a time when he reportedly became a client of Biogenesis. He was suspended in 2012 while playing for the San Francisco Giants, and the Blue Jays then signed him to a two-year, $16 million deal before anybody knew about Tony Bosch and Biogenesis.
And if all that information impacts the market assessment of Cabrera, well, too bad. These are all plain, simple facts, and while Cabrera served his suspension, that doesn't mean his history is whitewashed. His peers in uniform, in fact -- who know something about the risk/reward equation -- decided that a first offense shifts a player into another level of scrutiny, that of a potential two-time offender. It's because of Cabrera's case and others in the past few years that the union ramped up penalties for PED cheats.
• Jeff Samardzija doesn't want the Cubs' front office to monitor his pitch counts. From Gordon Wittenmyer's story: "The Cubs' lame-duck ace didn't call anyone out by name, but he made it clear he wasn't happy with the front office for raising eyebrows over his career-high 126 pitches during a nine-inning gem Monday against the Sox."
"No. Absolutely not," Jeff Samardzija said when asked if he understood upper management's potential concern, "because this is an on-field issue for uniformed personnel. That's all there is to it. I'm a grown man. I'm 29. I'm not a prospect or 22. I feel good, and I'm grown up enough and responsible enough to understand when I can go out and when I can't go.
"I've earned my right in athletics to be able to understand my body and where I'm at."
• More on the Braves: Jordan Schafer told manager Fredi Gonzalez he wants to play more. Gavin Floyd is going to stay in the Atlanta rotation, and somebody else will be dropped. Mike Minor was hit hard Wednesday.
• Speaking of that Cardinals-Braves game Wednesday, it's hard to imagine a more difficult matchup for the Braves, given their offense's struggles, than Adam Wainwright: a Georgia native pitching against his former organization and coming off a subpar outing … good luck with that. Wainwright was outstanding, as Rick Hummel writes.
• The Astros are 10-24, on pace to win 47 games and finish the season with a run differential of minus-309. Houston has lost five straight, and counting.
• Paul Konerko crushed the Cubs on Wednesday.
• Derek Jeter ended a streak of 161 straight at-bats without a home run, and he got a huge reaction from fans in Anaheim following his homer, No. 257 of his career. It's too early to write him off, writes Mike Lupica.
Meanwhile, Brian Roberts is starting to thrive, writes David Waldstein.
From Wednesday's games …
1. Stephen Strasburg had a strong outing. From ESPN Stats & Info, how he won:
A. He threw a season-low 43.9 percent of his pitches in the strike zone. However …
B. He got a career-high 26 swings at pitches out of the strike zone and tied a career high with 15 chases on his off-speed pitches (changeup or curveball).
C. Hitters were 1-for-15 with 5 K's in at-bats ending with a pitch outside the strike zone, and Strasburg had only two walks.
D. He induced a ground ball on 72.7 percent of the balls in play, the third-highest rate in his career.
2. Meanwhile, Cliff Lee had a bad day.
3. The Indians got to frolic.
4. The Reds' loss was a second-guesser's delight, says manager Bryan Price.
5. The Red Sox are back at .500.
6. Mark Buehrle was dominant again. He has been outstanding so far.
7. The Mariners split a doubleheader.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Travis Snider hit leadoff.
2. The Rangers added Scott Baker.
Dings and dents
1. Omar Infante is hurting.
2. The Reds' injuries are mind-numbing.
3. Matt Wieters won't need elbow surgery, and Caleb Joseph, the pride of Lipscomb University, was promoted to the big leagues.
4. Yasmani Grandal's knee passed muster, writes Scott Miller.
5. Michael Cuddyer is not concerned about his hamstring.
6. Ryan Cook and Coco Crisp both got hurt.
• You can't stop the Marlins, you can only hope to contain them.
• The Mets left the cupboard bare, writes Mike Vaccaro.
• Kevin Frandsen is impressed with Anthony Rendon.
• There's a new twist to the Gregory Polanco watch.
• Oscar Taveras could be doing better in Triple-A, writes Bernie Miklasz.
• The Brewers' offense is in a slide.
• Bronson Arroyo is a guy who wins, as his manager, Kirk Gibson, notes.
• Tim Lincecum really struggled. I watched a lot of this game, and his stuff was really flat.
• The Dodgers' long trip came to an end.
• Jake McGee is surprised by his early-season velocity.
• Will Middlebrooks found a way to get it done.
• The Orioles dig the long ball.
• James Shields didn't think his stuff was at its best.
• The Tigers' win streak is at eight games.
• Outfield inexperience cost the Twins.
• The Rangers have been pummeled by the Rockies.
• King Felix didn't record a strikeout in his 6 1/3 innings Wednesday.
• With the Angels, it's just a matter of perspective, writes Mike DiGiovanna.
Manny Parra was a phenom-turned-bust with the Brewers. The top-rated pitching prospect in the Milwaukee system in 2008, he battled injuries and inconsistency while logging a 5.12 ERA over five tumultuous seasons. Then he signed with Cincinnati.
Parra has been a reliable reliever since joining the Reds 15 months ago. The 31-year-old southpaw appeared in 57 games last year and struck out 11 batters per nine innings. He’s on a similar pace this season. Health is a big reason for his turnaround, as is a repertoire change. On the suggestion of Bryan Price – at the time the Reds’ pitching coach — Parra ditched his curveball in favor of a slider.
Parra’s relationship with his curveball was every bit as tumultuous as his tenure in Milwaukee. In many respects, it was the curveball that ditched him.
“I lost the feel for my curveball in late 2008, early 2009,” explained Parra. “That really hurt me, because everything else I threw was hard. My fastball was hard and my split was pretty hard. I had nothing to differentiate with, so hitters could get their timing going. If they saw the ball up, they’d let it fly.
“The more I struggled with my curveball, the more I was told to continue throwing fastballs. They said to just trust my fastball, but the more I threw it, the more I got hit. What happened is my lack of command got exposed. I threw enough strikes, but at this level it’s about command and I never had great command of my fastball. I’d always kind of relied on keeping hitters guessing. When I first came up in the minor leagues I was called a 90-mph thumber because I liked to mix it up. Losing that really left me lost.”
Losses followed. Hitters punished Parra, who saw his WHIP balloon to 1.83 in 2009. It was only marginally better in 2010 and 2011. His relationship with his breaking pitch was in serious need of counseling.
“There’s nothing mechanical that’s not also mental,” agreed Parra. “Every move you make starts with your image of it. To me, the two go hand in hand. I feel like I tried everything. A lot of people tried to help me and I worked my butt off to figure it out, but the more I tried the worse it got. Basically, I lost the identity of how I even used to throw.”
Upon divorcing the Brewers, Parra met someone who helped him find a new identity. The result was a parting of ways with his curveball.
“Last year, at the end of spring training, Bryan [Price] and I were talking,” said Parra. “He said he noticed that I accelerate my arm really well, but didn’t really do a whole lot of the manipulation with my curveball. A lot of guys will really try to get around the ball, but when I did that I would get messed up. He wanted me to stay behind the ball and throw a slider, which is mostly like a fastball, only you kind of just throw the outside of it.”
Prior to Price’s intervention, Parra flirted with a pitch similar to a slider. He took a liking to it, but it wasn’t a match made in heaven in the eyes of his old club.
“I started throwing a cutter, but that got axed pretty quick,” explained Parra. “Not by me, but by outside influences. In 2009, I was facing the Pirates and gave up a double on a cutter. I was told not to throw it again.”
Five years later, he’s thriving with the cutter’s cousin. The southpaw is quite fond of his new pitch – he’s throwing it over 40 percent of the time – but memories die hard.
“What’s funny is that my slider looks like a curveball once in awhile, depending on how I release it,” said Parra. “There are times I’ll go. ‘Man, that’s like my old curveball.’ I still have a slider mentality, though.”
A couple days ago, the Orioles and Rays played an ordinary, nine-inning baseball game. The Orioles won, 5-3, and the official time of game was three hours and 36 minutes, excluding a short delay. In the low minors on Wednesday, Clinton and Burlington played an extraordinary, 12-inning baseball game that Clinton won 20-17. The official time of game was three hours and 28 minutes. That could make for a story in and of itself, but with the particular game in question, such a story would kind of bury the lede.
By now, you’ve probably heard about what happened, because what happened has shown up on news sites and television shows across the country. And when something from a minor-league baseball game goes viral, you know you’re not dealing with just any other game. In part, it’s just crazy how many total runs were scored, but the real story is about the sequencing — host Burlington scored 17 of the first 18 runs. Clinton scored the remaining 19, erasing a 17-1 sixth-inning deficit. These aren’t teams that play in the California League. It was classic minor-league insanity in a way that wasn’t really classic at all, and whenever you see something like this, you always want to check out a win-expectancy chart. Or, I do, anyway.
A problem: the game was at such a low level of the minors that I haven’t been able to track down a play-by-play log, like the kind of thing you just take for granted. But I do have a box score and a partial radio call from Cheyne Reiter, and together they provide enough information for an estimate. I made some assumptions about the run environment — the wind was blowing out, strongly — and then I plugged away into a win-expectancy spreadsheet. The result is not exactly correct, but it’s far more right than wrong:
(background image from the Clinton Facebook page)
You remember when the Indians rallied from 12 down to beat the Mariners. Baseball-Reference has a chart for that game. At their worst, the Indians’ odds were just about 0%. More recently, in July 2009, the A’s beat the Twins 14-13 after falling behind 12-2. Here’s that chart:
They’re always going to look the same, more or less, because overall they tell similar stories, but the Clinton Lumberkings didn’t rally from down ten, or down 12. They were down ten and then another six, and while their odds were obviously never 0%, they were effectively 0%, and then they won, which tells you this is the sort of game that happens once in countless thousands of opportunities. Or maybe hundreds of thousands, or millions, but “countless thousands” doesn’t have an upper limit.
One of the interesting things about the chart is how little it responds to additional runs, at first. Clinton’s odds slipped below 1% around when the score was 10-1. They didn’t return to 1% until the score was 17-10, and entering the top of the ninth at 17-12, their odds were just about exactly 1%. When the leadoff hitter made an out, that dropped to 0.2%. But then there were four straight runners and a grand slam, and the tying grand slam was the biggest play of the game, with a Win Probability Added of about 36%. Even still, at that point, Burlington was the favorite, but when Marcus Littlewood left the yard to knot it up 17-all, I suspect Clinton no longer felt like the underdog.
The eventual miracle allows recaps to include hilarious lines such as:
[Clinton manager Scott] Steinmann was equally confident in his club when it was down, 17-1, heading to the top of the sixth.
If you listen to Steinmann, after the fact, he had a sense things were going to turn awful early:
“I tell them to keep competing and have professional at-bats and I just stay out of the way and let them do it. That’s all them,” he said. “We start to string together a couple of little hits in the sixth and you could kind of feel it turning. That’s when it was really exciting.”
Of course, a tie game still needs to be resolved, and nobody scored in the tenth or 11th. Clinton managed to plate three in the top of the 12th, a big insurance hit coming from infielder Lonnie Kauppila, and then Kauppila himself spun a 1-2-3 bottom half to seal the victory and the history. Kauppila, a college product, had most recently pitched in high school. He pitched against the 3-4-5 of the Burlington order.
Here’s an interesting side effect of the comeback. Just last Saturday, against Wisconsin, Clinton rallied from down eight in the sixth. They turned a 12-4 deficit into a 16-13 barnburner, once having reached a win expectancy in the neighborhood of 1%. That comeback was incredible on its own, but now not only is it almost forgotten — it sounds almost insignificant, the same team having now rallied from a deficit twice as large. So that’s another way to think about this: it’s really rare for a team to rally from eight back. Clinton rallied from eight back and another eight back, with less than half the nine innings to play.
Yeah, the circumstances were unusual, with such a strong wind. Yeah, the wind was a factor in some balls blowing out to or beyond the wall. But the circumstances were mostly unusual for one team falling behind by 16 and then ending up the victor. Official attendance was 558, and official attendance for the comeback might’ve numbered in the double digits. The priority in the minors is never about winning. It’s always about personal development, in order to try to get the players to higher levels. The teams down there don’t operate like the teams in the bigs. But those teams are every bit as capable of the improbable, if not more so, because baseball is ultimately a complicated sequence of beautiful dice rolls, and sometimes the dice just get hot.
Gregory Polanco is one of the very best prospects still in the minor leagues. He’s currently hitting .395/.444/.613 as a 22-year-old in Triple-A, and he was a consensus top prospect before he lit up the highest level of minor league pitching. The Pirates have a hole in right field, and Polanco could easily fill it, but he remains in the minor leagues instead.
GM Neal Huntington told Jon Heyman last week that the Pirates will call Polanco up when they deem that he’s ready for the big leagues, and are determined not to rush him too quickly.
“Our evaluation of a player’s readiness mentally, physically, fundamentally and personally to compete and thrive is what drives the decision to call that player up or not,” Huntington said. “My job is to do everything in my power to help our people succeed. It is my hope that most will understand that those within an organization will have a better feel for a player’s readiness than someone in the media who likely has a limited background with the player whom he is voicing an opinion or some scout who works for a different organization and sees the player for five days a week and proclaims the player ‘ready.’”
Huntington added, “I trust our people and when we deem a player is ready, we will look to promote that player.”
One could reasonably argue either side of Polanco’s readiness. On the one hand, ZIPS projected him to be a +3 WAR player before the season even started, and his ridiculous performance in Triple-A would only improve the forecast, but on the other hand, he has less than 150 plate Triple-A plate appearances, and he only racked up 286 at Double-A last year. We’re talking about less than a full season’s worth of playing time above A-ball, and while the talent and performances are obvious, the Pirates haven’t exactly slow-tracked his development. Getting a few hundred more at-bats in the minors probably won’t hurt his development.
Of course, while the Pirates will downplay this aspect of the decision, there’s a financial consideration to his lack of presence in the Major Leagues right now. If the Pirates promoted Gregory Polanco tomorrow, he’d finish the season with approximately 140 days of service, and would likely qualify as a Super-Two arbitration player after the 2016 season, granting him four trips through the arbitration process rather than the standard three. If the Pirates wait another three weeks or so and get his service time below 120 days for this year, they’ll likely avoid that extra arbitration trip and potentially save some real money over the next seven years.
The Pirates were willing to avoid this entire waiting game, however, as they offered Polanco a long-term deal during Spring Training, a deal that would have covered his first seven years of team control and given the Pirates team options for each of his first three years of potential free agency. According to reports from Jeff Passan and Jon Heyman, the guaranteed portion of the deal was worth about $25 million, while the total value of the deal could have risen to $50 or $60 million if all three options were exercised. Polanco passed on the offer, and so he remains in the minors; it is likely that if he had taken the deal, he would already be in Pittsburgh, as the Pirates would have reduced incentives to keep him off the roster.
Rather than rehash the argument over whether or not teams should manipulate service time this way — people will do what they are incentivized to do, and the rules incentivize teams to do this — I’m interested in the valuation that the Pirates put on Polanco’s first seven years. $20ish million seems to be roughly the current standard offer for a player’s pre-arbitration and arb. years if they sign with very low levels of service time: Chris Archer ($20M guaranteed, two team options), Yan Gomes ($23M guaranteed, two team options), and Jose Quintana ($21M guaranteed, two team options) all signed for something in this range at the end of Spring Training, while fellow top prospect George Springer reportedly turned down $23 million from the Astros on a similar kind of offer to the one the Pirates made Polanco. This is basically the template guarantee from teams to low service time players right now.
But is it a match for, or at least close to, what Polanco should expect to earn during his arbitration years? Predicting future salaries is difficult, as you not only have to predict future performance but also how the arbitration market is going to go, and how much inflation we might see in the future. So, instead of looking forward and making guesses, let’s look backwards and see what other prospects in Polanco’s range made during their first seven years of team control.
Using Baseball America’s All-Time Top 100 list, I looked for three prospects ranked essentially in the same spot as Polanco over the five year period from 2003 to 2007. Polanco ranked #10 on their pre-season list this year, so to look for similar level of prospects, I pulled the first seven year earnings (from Baseball-Reference) for the #9, #10, and #11 prospects in those five years, dropping down to #12 in a few cases where a player would have otherwise been double counted. This gives us 15 similarly rated prospects who have finished out their years of team control, and we can look at their earnings to get an idea of what a prospect of this stature has earned recently. Here are those 15 players, and their earnings during their first seven years.
Player Season Rank First 7 Years
Justin Upton 2007 9 $36,721,666
Andrew Miller 2007 10 $10,880,219
Tim Lincecum 2007 11 $81,055,000
Lastings Milledge 2006 9 $2,189,500
Matt Cain 2006 10 $31,744,666
Prince Fielder 2006 11 $57,914,500
Andy Marte 2005 9 $1,601,500
Hanley Ramirez 2005 10 $39,668,000
Dallas McPherson 2005 12 $382,500
Grady Sizemore 2004 9 $23,101,631
Scott Kazmir 2004 12 $30,897,000
Adam Loewen 2004 13 $1,783,000
Gavin Floyd 2003 9 $16,546,000
Francisco Rodriguez 2003 10 $31,069,166
Miguel Cabrera 2003 12 $54,410,623
Note that Andrew Miller and Adam Loewen’s totals were slightly inflated due to MLB contracts signed out of the draft, which guaranteed them higher-than-minimum pre-arb payments.
Overall, this is a pretty successful group. Milledge, Marte, McPherson, and Loewen busted, but there are some pretty impressive names on the successful side of the ledger, and some serious money was made by the guys who didn’t bust. Lincecum’s $80 million in earnings is basically unheard of, as he got four trips through arbitration and set records all the way through, but even the other more reasonable outcomes still show the earning potential of a prospect of this stature. The average earnings for the group was $28 million; the median was $31 million.
So, that’s where these $20Mish offers are coming from, right? Take the average earnings of comparable players, then knock a few dollars off because of the fact that the team is guaranteeing the money up front, taking on greater risk than if they went year to year. There are a few issues, though.
For one, we’re comparing 2003 to 2007 dollars to 2014 dollars. MLB is swimming in money, and there has been some serious inflation in MLB over the last decade. That Grady Sizemore earned $23 million does not mean that we should expect Gregory Polanco to earn $23 million; we have to adjust these totals upwards to account for the shifting pay scale. If we inflate the $28 million average/$31 million median at five percent per year over the last seven years, the new average would be $39 million, and the median would be $43 million, and that’s just today’s dollars, not accounting for even future inflation in the arbitration market before Polanco gets there.
Realistically, given Polanco’s pedigree, he should probably be forecasting his team controlled earnings in the range of $40 million, and if he develops into what prospect analysts and forecasting systems think he could be, he’s probably looking at something north of $20 million per year for his free agent years. In other words, if he goes year to year, a reasonable forecast for his income over the 10 years the Pirates sought to buy out is in the $100 million range. The Pirates offered him half of that, basically, with only the first half of that half guaranteed.
Certainly, a player signing a long-term deal shouldn’t get the full value of his expected future salaries, as he is selling a lot of personal risk, and the value of the first few million to a player is substantially higher than the value of the 70th or 80th million, but the discount the Pirates were asking for here is nutty. $25 million for the team controlled years is a pretty decent discount in and of itself; adding three team options is just being greedy.
Of course, getting the free agent years is the reason why teams do these kinds of deals, and basically every player who signs long term has to give up some free agent rights in order to get early guaranteed money. But the price the Pirates were offering justified delaying free agency by maybe a year or two; the third is noxious, and would serve to delay Polanco’s first bite at free agency until after his age-32 season.
Teams are venturing into new territory with these long term offers to players with no major league experience, and certainly, it’s a significant risk to give guaranteed money to a guy you’ve never even seen face big league pitching. But let’s not overstate the risk of players with Polanco’s pedigree; the majority of similar prospects have turned into quality big league players, and failure is the exception, not the norm. Polanco is worth more than $25 million. If the Pirates bring him up and let him show what he can do, he’s only going to get more expensive. Lose the third year option, or give him $10 or $15 million more in guaranteed money; the Pirates will still come out ahead. Don’t pinch pennies when it comes to keeping franchise talents. Once Polanco starts accruing service time, the Pirates will be wishing they had him signed.
To put it mildly, the 2014 season hasn’t gone exactly the way the Cleveland Indians would have hoped. As play began on Wednesday, the Indians stood in last place in the AL Central at 14-19, 7 1/2 games out of first. In this year’s 14-car-pileup-plus-Houston that is the American League, they are far from buried, but the clock is ticking. All it takes for a club to have a chance in this year’s AL, it would seem, is a singular clear team strength. At least on the surface, it doesn’t take long to find what appears to be the Indians’ forte, as their team FIP of 3.40 entering Wednesday’s games is over a half-run lower than their ERA of 3.97. What’s going on here? Do the Indians have markedly better pitching than the traditional numbers indicate, or is something else afoot?
At first blush, the Indians’ staff appears to be truly unlucky to date. Their overall ERA ranks 7th in the AL, and is closest of any club to the overall AL average of 4.11. They lead the AL in strikeouts (287), and along with the Nationals are one of only two clubs in baseball to strike out over a batter per inning, a remarkable feat for a staff to sustain over about one-fifth of a 162-game season.
Breaking it down between the starters and relievers doesn’t add much clarity – the Indians’ starters rank 9th in the AL in ERA (4.31) despite easily leading AL starters in strikeouts (193). Only four AL bullpens have logged fewer innings than the Indians, who are one of only four pens in the AL to strike out over a batter per inning (94 in 93 1/3 IP). They rank third in bullpen ERA at 3.28.
One explanation for a substantially higher than expected team ERA would be sequencing, or the ordering of events, in this case from the pitching team’s perspective, in a suboptimal manner that would yield more runs than expected based on the actual plate appearance events that took place. This might take the form of an unusually large number of big innings alongside a high number of relatively clean innings, instead of a more normal dispersal of runs. That doesn’t appear to the case here, however. The Indians have allowed a .327 OBP and .382 SLG thus far this season, which in the current AL run environment translates to a 4.00 ERA, which is much closer to their actual 3.97 ERA than their 3.40 team FIP.
If you strip away all of the K’s and BB’s and assign each Indians’ starting pitcher a “contact score”, scaled to 100 and base on the run values of the events occurring on all of the remaining plate appearances, the Indians’ starters as a group would have a relatively poor 116 contact score, with the individual numbers breaking down as follows: Zach McAllister 85, Justin Masterson 97, Corey Kluber 115, Carlos Carrasco 123, and Danny Salazar 197. Yes, Salazar has allowed hitters making contact against him to bat .437 and slug .736 to date.
One can certainly not blame the batted ball mix yielded by the Indians’ staff for their apparent ERA underperformance to date. They have the highest ground ball rate in the AL at 48.6%, and the lowest line drive rate at 17.2%. If all grounders and liners were created equal, and each resulted in league average performance for their batted ball type, the Indians would have allowed the least amount of damage on batted balls of any club in the majors this season – a 92 relative production figure on a scale of 100. Their exceptional K rate would lower that figure to 86, also best in the majors, once all K and BB were added back.
What is the problem then? Team defense must at least be taken into consideration. UZR doesn’t like the Indians thus far in 2014, ranking them next to last in the AL at (11.3) runs per 150 games as a team. In this admittedly small sample, the UZR figures aren’t good all around the diamond for the Indians, with Nick Swisher‘s (29. runs per 150 games at first base and Jason Kipnis‘ (22.3) at second base the low points. This isn’t something new, as the Indians ranked 13th in the AL in team UZR/150 in 2013 at (4.5), with Asdrubal Cabrera‘s shortstop play – (16. UZR/150 – grading out the worst among regulars. While the evidence does suggest some culpability on the part of the Indians’ defense, particularly in the infield, it is always challenging to determine where the pitchers’ credit/blame ends, and the defense’s credit/blame begins.
It would seem that the quality of contact being allowed by the Cleveland pitching staff has to be at the very least a significant part of the problem. Though Salazar’s “contact score” of 197 is somewhat breathtaking, it can be explained fairly easily. He is a fresh out of the oven power pitcher prospect, who misses a ton of bats and dominates at times, while catching a ton of the plate and being dominated the rest of the time. Contact management is often the last piece that falls into place for a power arm – it’s still not a particular strength of some of the game’s very best starters, like Yu Darvish or Stephen Strasburg. Some big arms, like Brandon Morrow, never figure it out, and fail to reach their potential. Salazar might never be a contact management god, but he is sure to advance from his current low level. Carrasco isn’t even worth discussing, as Josh Tomlin has already seized his rotation slot.
We have plenty of data to properly discuss the other three, however. Let’s look at their plate appearance outcome frequency and production by BIP type data from 2013 to get a better feel for the quality of contact they allow:
Masterson AVG OBP SLG REL PRD ADJ PRD ACT ERA CALC ERA TRU ERA
FLY 0.292 0.755 104 91
LD 0.674 0.798 96 97
GB 0.209 0.216 75 78
ALL BIP 0.298 0.422 78 75
ALL PA 0.216 0.292 0.305 73 72 3.45 2.83 2.77
— — — —
Kluber AVG OBP SLG REL PRD ADJ PRD ACT ERA CALC ERA TRU ERA
FLY 0.337 0.827 130 132
LD 0.682 0.882 106 97
GB 0.210 0.227 78 93
ALL BIP 0.353 0.538 117 118
ALL PA 0.269 0.309 0.409 100 100 3.85 3.85 3.88
— — — —
McAllister AVG OBP SLG REL PRD ADJ PRD ACT ERA CALC ERA TRU ERA
FLY 0.276 0.724 95 97
LD 0.641 0.826 94 98
GB 0.236 0.264 102 105
ALL BIP 0.316 0.508 98 103
ALL PA 0.255 0.319 0.410 103 107 3.75 4.00 4.16
For those of you who have read my previous columns here, you know how much I like Justin Masterson. His 2013 plate appearance outcome frequency data paints an accurate picture – he is an extreme ground ball pitcher (95 percentile rank, career low ground ball percentile rank in five qualifying seasons is 89), who with improved command can be a star. His ability to limit line drives – 2013 percentile rank of 5 – appears to be a true talent, as it has never exceeded 37 in his five qualifying seasons.
Kluber, on the other hand, owes whatever success he experienced in 2013 to his strong K and BB rates. While he also limits fly ball contact (2013 fly ball percentile rank of 12), he allowed a ton of line drives (97). This may very be a true weakness of his, as his liner percentage was similarly high in his abbreviated 2012 MLB debut.
McAllister’s K and BB rates were both below average in 2013, and he unlike the other two is a fairly extreme fly ball pitcher. On the positive side, he developed a fairly significant popup tendency (80 percentile rank) last season, but like Kluber allowed plenty of line drives (75). Also like Kluber, this elevated liner rate has been an ongoing issue for McAllister at the MLB level, though it’s not nearly to the same extreme.
Now let’s look at their production by BIP type tables. The “REL PRD” column indicates actual production relative to the league, scaled to 100. The All BIP line item in that column is essentially each pitcher’s overall contact score, as referenced previously. The “ADJ PRD” column adjusts that figure for ballpark, team defense, luck, etc., in an effort to make the separation between the pitcher’s true talent and the context surrounding him.
Masterson’s unadjusted contact score is 78, over 20% better than league average. Not only does he allows lots of ground balls, he also happens to allow very weak ones, while also allowing slightly lower than MLB average batted ball authority on fly balls and liners. After adjustment for context, his contact score drops to a 2013 AL-best 75.
Kluber and McAllister are far different animals with respect to contact management. Kluber’s overall unadjusted and adjusted contact scores are 117 and 118, respectively. His adjusted overall score ranked higher than all 2013 AL ERA qualifiers. Though he is a ground ball pitcher, he gets hammered on the fly balls he does allow to the tune of a 132 adjusted fly ball contact score. Only Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders among qualifying AL starters had higher 2013 marks.
McAllister was a bit better with 2013 unadjusted and adjusted overall contact scores of 98 and 103, respectively, with his batted ball authority levels in the league average range on all batted ball types. If your glass is half full, you might say that McAllister lacks a single glaring weakness, but if it’s half empty, he has no single strength to carry him through when things are not going well, in any of the bat-missing, command/control or contact management departments. Plus, his risk level is high because of his high fly ball rate – an upward move in his fly ball contact score to even a few points above 100 could deal a crushing blow to his overall performance.
Thus far in 2014, these three hurlers’ outcome frequency fundamentals are about where you’d expect. Masterson is second in the AL to Dallas Keuchel in ground ball percentage at 62.0%. Both his K (21.8%) and BB rates (8.5%) are down a bit. Kluber’s K (24.5%) and BB (6.1%) are again both solid, and his ground ball rate (48.9%) is comfortably above league average. McAllister’s K (21.7%) and BB (7.8%) rates are slightly improved, and his grounder rate continues to be well below league average.
These guys are who they are. Masterson has ace potential, but Kluber’s contact management issues likely limit him to a #4 starter with a #3 upside, and McAllister’s lack of a singular go-to ability and high fly-ball based risk likely casts him as a garden-variety #4 who could easily become a #5 or worse with the slightest breakdown of any of the very average links of his chain. If his 2013 popup spike wasn’t real, he’ll likely have near-term issues.
The Cleveland Indians’ 2014 pitching staff is better than its 3.97 ERA, but not as good as its 3.40 FIP. Like many clubs, they are likely to take a carousel approach to their #5 starter spot, and while their #4, Salazar, has big upside, he is unlikely to reach it this season. Two of their top three starters, Kluber, especially, and McAllister, have clear contact management limitations that make it very difficult to pitch up to the levels suggested by their peripherals. Their team defense likely isn’t as bad as the early UZR numbers project, but there certainly are not plus defenders lurking in their infield – and if any team could use one or two, it’s this one, considering the quantity of grounders they generate. The Indians’ pitching is the strength of their club, but it’s not good enough to save the day for that mediocre defense and an offense currently ranking 12th in the AL in runs and OBP, and 15th and last in SLG.
At the request of Major League Baseball Advanced Media, Apple removed several baseball-related podcasts from iTunes on Wednesday. HardballTalk broke the news Wednesday morning when Aaron Gleeman, one of HBT’s lead writers, learned that his Minnesota Twins-related podcast known as “Gleeman and the Gleek” had been taken down by Apple. By midday, the list had grown to include another Twins-related podcast “Talk to Contact,” a Yankees-themed podcast on the site “It’s About The Money, Stupid,” and the Cubs-centered podcast on “Bleacher Nation,” among others. Awful Announcing catalogued the reaction on social media, which was swift, fierce and uniformly negative.
MLBAM publicly released the letter it Apple after news of the podcast takedowns spread. HardballTalk published it:
As we have done in the past, yesterday we notified Apple about certain podcasts on the iTunes Store whose titles and/or thumbnails include infringing uses of trademarks of Major League Baseball and certain Clubs. And, as we have done in the past, we asked Apple to have these trademarks removed from the podcast titles and thumbnails. Although we did not ask for or seek to have any podcast removed from the Store, it has come to our attention that Apple removed them. Given our many years of experience in notifying Apple about trademark issues on the Store, we trust that removing the podcasts was an oversight, and ask that you please look into this matter as soon as possible.
Thank you for your cooperation.
This is nonsense.
Like many trademark owners, MLBAM and the 30 MLB clubs do not like to see their name or logo or other distinguishing feature used by a third party. They claim that such use infringes or dilutes their registered trademark. But legally, a reference to MLB or an MLB team doesn’t infringe a trademark unless it’s used in a way that is likely to cause confusion. And dilution occurs only when a nationally-recognized mark is tarnished when used by a third party for its own purposes.
Also, under the fair use doctrine, courts have consistently held that third parties can use a trademark in their materials as a reference if avoiding the trademark name isn’t easy or realistic. In other words, it’s perfectly fine for “Gleeman and the Gleek” to describe their podcast as about “the professional baseball team that plays in Minneapolis” but that gets cumbersome pretty quickly. So the law says it’s okay to describe the podcast as relating to the Minnesota Twins.
MLBAM is bullying these fan-driven podcasts because it has the resources to do so, even if the law doesn’t support its claims. Apple’s decision to take the podcasts down — as opposed to notifying the podcast creators that MLBAM had raised a claim of infringement — likely speaks to the strong business relationship between the two companies. MLBAM’s At Bat app is one the ten highest grossing iTunes apps of all time.
Whatever the legal issues, however, MLBAM’s effort to crack down on fan-created podcasts flies in the face of the league’s efforts to attract and keep new and younger fans. We’ve all seen the numbers. Baseball fans — folks who watch games on TV, listen to games on the radio, and buy tickets and merchandise — tend to skew older than fans of other professional sports. That’s why MLB launched the Fan Cave — to give baseball a hip, edgy look and feel that would attract younger fans.
Leave the podcasts alone, MLB. Even if you win, it’s short-gain for long-term pain.
Over the past several seasons, the Royals have been a conflicted, desperate team. Their futility has been embodied by Mike Moustakas’ on-field performance. Since his debut, the former top prospect has been a below league average hitter and his wRC+ has been among the worst in the league at his position. Through 29 games, the Royals sit a game below .500 and have second to last in runs scored per game. Moustakas’ wRC+ of 51 isn’t entirely to blame, of course, but the Royals could do with an upgrade.
Assuming, for the sake of the piece and Royals fans’ sanity, the Royals do not entertain a trade. Cuthbert is a nice in-house option. Cuthbert could offer the Royals passable defense — he has a strong arm, but isn’t very agile — while Moustakas tries to figure himself out in Triple-A. Cuthbert isn’t highly regarded, so there shouldn’t be service time constraints.
It’s probable that Cuthbert isn’t worse than Moustakas, but if a minor league stint doesn’t fix Moose than at least the Royals will be certain they need to acquire at least a stop-gap third baseman before the July trade deadline. On the off chance Cuthbert performs well or Moustakas rectifies his issues, such a move would not be necessary.
Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates (Profile)
Level: Triple-A Age: 22 Top-15: 1st Top-100: 17th
Line: 131 PA, 7.6% BB, 18.3% K, .392/.443/.608 (.467 BABIP)
Gregory Polanco is very good. Jose Tabata is not. Make this happen Pittsburgh.
The Gregory Polanco crusade has begun. If the Pirates want to increase their playoff odds, it would be wise for them to get on board.
Well they are, sort of. The Pirates want Polanco to be there everyday right fielder, but only on the condition that he accept the team’s $25M, seven year contract offer. Unlikely the Astros, who called up George Spinger shortly after he rejected a similar offer, the Pirates are yet to indicate their plan for the young outfielder.
Surely, Polanco would provide the team with an upgrade over their current right fielder, Jose Tabata. Tabata is a serviceable outfielder, but he shouldn’t be a starter on a playoff contender. His power numbers are light, his walk rate is in decline and defense is poor. Polanco, however, could be a star. A consensus top prospect, Polanco has no more to learn at Triple-A Indianapolis. He’s 6’4″ but a plus runner and an above average defender. At 22 years old, he’s yet to tap into his power, but it will come, as indicated by the natural lift in his swing.
Opine as you will about Polanco’s decision to turn down the Pirates offer. Personally, I am surprised he didn’t accept the life changing money after signing for a mere $150,000. But, you should disappointed in the Pirates decision to keep him in Indianapolis and his clock stopped for a few extra million dollars.
Plate discipline is easy. You’re supposed to swing at hittable strikes and lay off of everything else. Two-strike discipline is also easy. You’re supposed to swing at basically all strikes and lay off of everything else. The problem is pitchers have conspired to throw baseballs both wickedly fast and wickedly darty, because they are the hitters’ very opponents, and this makes the ideal theoretical discipline impossible to achieve. But when you have two strikes, you definitely don’t want to get caught staring at a third. That’s a pitch a hitter should’ve swung at. It’s an inevitability that called strikeouts happen, and that’s even inevitable for Victor Martinez, But for the longest stretch, he was clean. For 641 consecutive plate appearances, he was clean.
Understand what we’re talking about: Over just about a full season’s worth of plate appearances, Martinez didn’t strike out looking. His streak started on May 22, 2013, carried through the playoffs and ended on Monday. Now, this isn’t always necessarily indicative of success. Last year, Endy Chavez struck out looking once, and he was bad. Josh Phegley struck out looking once, and he was bad. This year, Alex Presley has yet to strike out looking. Back in 2012, the lowest ratio of called strikeouts to swinging strikeouts belonged to Delmon Young. If you swing at everything, you’ll never watch strike three. But the same numbers can be different indicators for different players, and for Martinez, this seems like an accomplishment to celebrate.
The easiest place to begin is with the beginning. Or, with the plate appearance immediately preceding the beginning. On May 21, 2013, Martinez faced Matt Albers in the top of the ninth.
Not really any question. Clean strike three, with no visible disagreement. That was Martinez’s eighth called strikeout in 2013. He ended with eight called strikeouts in 2013, and he stayed at zero in 2014 until he faced Jarred Cosart in the bottom of the first on May 5.
Once more, no question, clean strike three. Martinez felt something a little different, but any frustration would’ve been with himself because the call was right. I don’t blame a hitter for not swinging at a pitch thrown by Jarred Cosart, but the thing about keeping a streak alive is you make no excuses or exceptions.
Between called strike threes, those 641 plate appearances passed by, bringing with them 647 two-strike pitches. Not one of those was taken for a strike; 468 were offered at, or 72%. As best as I can tell, the league average is that 4.4% of two-strike pitches are taken for third strikes, while 61% of all those pitches are swung at. Clearly, Martinez was aggressive with two strikes, and it makes you wonder: Was he too aggressive? Was he going after too many balls simply to avoid watching a pitch in the zone?
Here now are some maps, with approximate strike-zone reference boxes:
There are a lot of swings at balls. There are a lot of swings at obvious balls. That’s not a great thing, since Martinez is such a good contact hitter. All this really demonstrates, though, is Martinez wasn’t genuinely perfect during his streak. What we do know is he posted a 133 wRC+ overall. During the streak, with two strikes, Martinez batted .264, with a .100 ISO. The league mark with two strikes is a .177 average, with a .090 ISO. Martinez might’ve cost himself a few opportunities for walks, but he came through with a number of hits and an appealing batted-ball profile. During the streak, overall, Martinez had a 26% line-drive rate. With two strikes, it was 24%.
You have to wonder something about a streak like this, though. Were there pitches Martinez took that should’ve been strikes, but that were called balls? If you look at the images above, the answer is, no, not really. He covered the zone almost literally 100%. There is that one blue dot, with Martinez batting righty:
That’s from September 24. The camera angle sucks, but the pitch was close, and it easily could’ve been a called strike. But then, the count was 0-and-2, when the zone is its very smallest. We’re also talking about a low breaking ball thrown to a Twins catcher. Probably more often than not, that’s ruled a ball. Here’s the closest non-strike with Martinez batting lefty:
That’s from June 29. Again, you can see how the call could’ve gone the other way, but again, the count was 0-and-2, and the pitch was on the low border. There was nothing obvious about it, except it was a terrific 0-and-2 pitch. For Chris Archer‘s sake, the next delivery made Martinez go away, swinging. But what we can conclude is that Martinez put together a streak that didn’t really rely on very much luck. A hitting streak tends to feature its fair share of seeing-eye singles and bloopers between defenders. A shutout streak will feature its fair share of rockets hit right to gloves. Martinez was completely responsible for protecting his own plate, and while he went out of his own zone to swing at a number of pitches, he still produced at a high level so the aggressiveness didn’t meaningfully bring him down.
Said Martinez, after Cosart put him away:
Between the time Matt Albers [...] struck out Martinez in the ninth inning May 21 of last year at Progressive Field and when starting pitcher Jarred Cosart caught him looking in the first inning Monday night — a span of 154 games, including 11 postseason games — Martinez did not take a called third strike.
“Had I known that, I would have swung at the pitch,” Martinez said of the pitch from Cosart after Monday’s 2-0 victory.
The interesting thing about Martinez’s two-strike aggressiveness is that, under other circumstances, he’s pretty patient. Over the years he’s run below-average swing rates, and he’s swung at about four of seven pitches in the zone. That’s including what he’s done with two strikes. He’s a patient hitter until he can’t afford to be one anymore. And while that’s true to some degree for many, Martinez has taken it more to an extreme. The streak might’ve caught him at his most aggressive, but Martinez is always difficult to put away, if a pitcher can get him in a two-strike count in the first place. There are two versions of Victor Martinez, and both of them appear to be above-average hitters.
Even Martinez didn’t realize what he was doing, but for basically the equivalent of a season, he didn’t strike out looking. Not even once. You can argue it’s a meaningless, insignificant streak, since Martinez himself wasn’t aware of it. I’d counter that pitchers have frequently been unaware of their own developing no-hitters. It’s up to the players to play to their best. It’s up to us to freak out about what’s recorded. I can’t recall hearing about a streak like Martinez’s, and it’s hard for me to imagine another one. In fact, it’s hard for me to come to terms with this one.
I know you’ve got pitch-framing fatigue, and I know this isn’t going to help. I know that some of you are going to skip right over this, and that’s fine. But this post isn’t about a leaderboard, or a specific pitch or pitch sequence. This is about an acknowledgment of the role of the skill, from one of the people we figure catchers are trying to convince. A lot of the time, when a post goes up here about framing, someone chimes in in the comments all skeptical-like, claiming that umpires aren’t influenced by the catchers catching the pitches. The very fact that framing numbers hold up season-to-season suggests strongly that they’re measuring something. There’s also a little something from Tuesday, as brought to my attention by @AaronBell80.
The Dodgers beat the Nationals 8-3, in Washington. The biggest story of the game, probably, wasn’t the start by Blake Treinen. The biggest story about Blake Treinen, probably, wasn’t about his called strike zone. But, Treinen started and threw to Jose Lobaton, with Paul Nauert behind the plate. When the game was over, Lobaton passed a little something along to the media.
I’ll cite a few sources. From Mark Zuckerman:
“I think it’s the first time I’ve seen a guy with that sink,” catcher Jose Lobaton said. “It’s not easy to hit, and it’s not easy to catch.”
Lobaton laughed as he recalled a conversation he had with plate umpire Paul Nauert, who informed the catcher he might get a few more borderline calls if he held Treinen’s pitches a little better, not letting the natural movement pull his glove down.
“I’m like: ‘It’s not easy,’” Lobaton said. “‘It’s 97-98 with sink. I’m trying, but it’s not easy.’”
From Dan Kolko:
Catcher Jose Lobaton was impressed with Treinen, as well, and relayed an interaction that he had with home plate umpire Paul Nauert, who was trying to tell Lobaton to hold Treinen’s pitches at the bottom of the strike zone a bit longer if he wanted them to be called strikes.
From Byron Kerr:
Lobaton said home plate umpire Paul Nauert was telling him to hold the pitch a little bit longer.
Here is at least a brief part of the Nauert and Lobaton interaction, in the middle of an at-bat:
It doesn’t really matter what calls Treinen was and wasn’t getting. Sometimes, he wound up with borderline balls:
Sometimes, he wound up with borderline strikes:
This is more about the message, and the fact that it was delivered to Lobaton by the guy responsible for making the calls on taken pitches. We’ll have to make an assumption that Nauert isn’t unique in this regard, that he’s representing the whole of professional umpires. Maybe that’s dangerous, but anyway.
It’s not the easiest thing to interpret the words. The first thing I thought was that Nauert was almost making a threat, like, “I won’t give you borderline strikes unless you catch them better.” That interpretation might still be correct, where you have a guy consciously, deliberately responding to pitch-framing, as opposed to being subconsciously influenced by it. I don’t think this is the case, though — if Nauert were to have a decision in mind prior to the ball’s arrival at the glove, there would be no reason for him to take the glove’s behavior into consideration.
Upon further reading, I think Nauert was just asking Lobaton to give him more of a chance. When it comes to a pitch on the border, it seems like umpires are conservative, with “ball” as the default unless they’re given good reason to go the other way. Maybe this is simply because a walk is four balls and a strikeout is three strikes. Maybe something else. Nauert wanted Lobaton to hold the spot, so he could make a better decision. And so what we have is an umpire telling a catcher, look, what happens is at least partially dependent on how you handle the end of the flight of the baseball.
There’s no getting around that conclusion — Nauert was responding, at least a little bit, to how Lobaton caught. He knew it, too. Nauert knows as well as anyone that, in theory, the only thing that should matter is where the baseball is in front of the glove, but even the most highly-trained humans in the world struggle to see and precisely locate small baseballs flying right at them at an angle, with all kinds of unpredictable movement. Then there’s the matter of the invisible, three-dimensional strike zone. When the catcher has the ball is the only time the ball is still, and the catcher’s glove can provide some reference point of where the baseball was just before. It’s a subtle thing, but Nauert gave Lobaton in-game confirmation that he needs to mind how he’s catching.
Not that catching is easy, and not that catching a hard low sinker is even close to easy. Hard low sinkers might be the most difficult pitches to get called strikes on, because they’re probably the most difficult pitches to catch and stick. You need to anticipate the movement, and you need to have a strong, responsive wrist. Because a hard, moving pitch is so hard to track, it’s also the kind of pitch where an umpire might rely the most on the backstop, which could be how we came to yesterday’s events.
In a sense, this isn’t anything new. It was demonstrated years ago that framing was a thing, whether people liked it or believed it or not. Catchers knew about it. Coaches knew about it. Organizations knew about it, and are actively teaching it. But I can’t immediately recall an instance in which an umpire admitted to the influence, and gave in-game advice as to how to get a more favorable zone. I’m not saying it hasn’t happened, but it at least hasn’t happened often. We don’t hear a lot about those on-field conversations, so this anecdote stands out.
Tuesday, Paul Nauert wanted Jose Lobaton’s help. Umpires want to be kinder to pitchers, I really believe. They just need to have some evidence. It doesn’t matter if that evidence comes after the ball is done flying. It can be mighty hard to see the ball fly.
You’ll often hear of a pitcher “wasting” a pitch. Up 0-2 in a count, for example, the pitcher fires off something well out of the zone, hoping the defensive hitter will hack at it, missing or putting the ball in play weakly. The cost here is minimal – the cost of that pitcher having thrown an extra pitch and the change in count from 0-2 to 1-2.
Count AVG OBP SLG
After 0-2 0.167 0.196 0.250
After 1-2 0.179 0.227 0.271
0-2 0.151 0.159 0.216
The value there is pretty clear. Enticing a batter to swing 0-2 means little chance of damage being done, while the cost of the count shifting more favorably towards the batter is small.
But do pitchers only waste pitches in these unique situations where the cost-benefit trade-off is so obvious? And how effective are they in actually coaxing swings?
Thanks to the wonder that is Daren of Baseball Savant, even someone without database skills (like myself) can sift through all of the league’s pitch data and (eventually) get a grasp on the league-wide usage of “waste pitches.”
The parameters I’ve set for waste pitches are shown in the chart below, and you can see right away that the “usable” pitch zone is wider than the strike zone and slightly higher. Pitches outside of this second box are called balls 80 percent of the time and called strikes just 0.7 percent of the time, so it’s roughly the area in which any non-swing is going to be called a ball.
I can tell you off the bat that batters still swing and miss at pitches out of this second zone 9.5 percent of the time and are particularly susceptible to low waste pitches (a 15.1 percent swinging strike rate despite just a 0.2 percent called strike rate).
So, looking at everything together, we know right away that these waste pitches go for balls 80 percent of the time, meaning a pitcher is improving his situation just once in five tries. But not all of these are created equally, of course, so it’s necessary to filter down by count – knowing how often these pitches are thrown in each count will give us an idea of how often pitchers are actually wasting a pitch and how often they’re just missing wildly.
The data below is for 2013 and the 2014 season so far (I had hoped to go beyond that, but Excel tops out around a million rows):
Count Total Pitches # Wasted % Wasted # Wasted Swings % Wasted Swings # Wasted Called Strikes Wasted Called Strike %
0-0 222923 68770 30.85% 7011 10.19% 1278 1.86%
0-1 109580 42674 38.94% 8798 20.62% 202 0.47%
0-2 54031 29444 54.49% 8209 27.88% 44 0.15%
1-0 88599 26003 29.35% 3799 14.61% 501 1.93%
1-1 87652 29699 33.88% 7050 23.74% 229 0.77%
1-2 79421 37368 47.05% 12208 32.67% 87 0.23%
2-0 30777 8613 27.99% 1010 11.73% 170 1.97%
2-1 45177 12497 27.66% 3105 24.85% 151 1.21%
2-2 67706 25473 37.62% 9104 35.74% 99 0.39%
3-0 10267 3280 31.95% 39 1.19% 108 3.29%
3-1 18543 4376 23.60% 819 18.72% 63 1.44%
3-2 40098 10654 26.57% 4061 38.12% 55 0.52%
The numbers are actually quite striking – it turns out that over 2013 and 2014, pitchers have wasted more than half of all 0-2 pitches and nearly half of all 1-2 pitches. In return, defensive batters have swung at these wasted pitches more than a quarter of the time. Particularly in 2-2 and 3-2 counts, when the incentive for the batter to stay alive is stronger, batters appear to be much more defensive, creeping up to nearly a 40 percent swing rate on bad offerings. Chip something fringey away and hope for a juicier offering on the next pitch.
It’s also worth noting that the data here backs up previous research on umpire trends, in that umpires are far more likely to call one of these wasted pitches a strike in a 3-0 count than in any other situation, and they have hardly called them as such at all in 0-2 counts.
But not all pitchers are created equally, of course. We know this because the O-Swing rate for qualified pitchers over the past two seasons ranges anywhere from 25.3 percent to 39.9 percent, and the qualified Zone rates range from 38.4 percent to 53.5 percent. Different pitchers are going to approach these waste pitches differently, either due to a lack of command or an assumed ability to coax more swings on them.
The table below shows the qualified pitchers (for this season) who have “wasted” pitches most and least often over this season and last:
Name Pitches Total Wasted % Wasted # Wasted Swings % Wasted Swings # Called Strikes % Wasted Called Strike
Roenis Elias 699 300 42.92% 76 25.33% 20 6.67%
Hiroki Kuroda 3874 1543 39.83% 378 24.50% 14 0.91%
Masahiro Tanaka 631 251 39.78% 94 37.45% 3 1.20%
Yovani Gallardo 3742 1454 38.86% 255 17.54% 14 0.96%
Drew Hutchison 665 256 38.50% 62 24.22% 4 1.56%
Yu Darvish 4063 1558 38.35% 337 21.63% 14 0.90%
Francisco Liriano 3109 1192 38.34% 313 26.26% 11 0.92%
Edwin Jackson 3599 1374 38.18% 296 21.54% 9 0.66%
Wily Peralta 3676 1366 37.16% 283 20.72% 19 1.39%
Tim Lincecum 3924 1454 37.05% 326 22.42% 7 0.48%
– – – – – – – –
Mike Leake 3595 1130 31.43% 244 21.59% 4 0.35%
Hisashi Iwakuma 3183 995 31.26% 295 29.65% 7 0.70%
Jose Fernandez 3316 1027 30.97% 269 26.19% 4 0.39%
Bronson Arroyo 3482 1075 30.87% 237 22.05% 18 1.67%
Travis Wood 3817 1171 30.68% 244 20.84% 4 0.34%
Jhoulys Chacin 3048 934 30.64% 164 17.56% 5 0.54%
David Price 3450 1048 30.38% 228 21.76% 21 2.00%
Chris Sale 3699 1105 29.87% 251 22.71% 11 1.00%
Bartolo Colon 3449 922 26.73% 173 18.76% 11 1.19%
Cliff Lee 4090 1024 25.04% 241 23.54% 7 0.68%
Roenis Elias, what the heck are you doing? I guess since he’s been getting more called strikes in this waste zone than anyone else (more than twice as often as the next highest pitcher), perhaps he’s just really good at nibbling (note: not really). This does bring up a good question though, as to which pitchers are most effective at getting swings on these offerings.
Name Pitches Total Wasted % Wasted # Wasted Swings % Wasted Swings # Called Strikes % Wasted Called Strike
Masahiro Tanaka 631 251 39.78% 94 37.45% 3 1.20%
Hisashi Iwakuma 3183 995 31.26% 295 29.65% 7 0.70%
Clayton Kershaw 3619 1306 36.09% 379 29.02% 41 3.14%
Felix Hernandez 3968 1382 34.83% 375 27.13% 19 1.37%
Eric Stults 3787 1341 35.41% 363 27.07% 5 0.37%
Homer Bailey 3996 1364 34.13% 368 26.98% 11 0.81%
Cole Hamels 3713 1195 32.18% 322 26.95% 6 0.50%
John Lackey 3583 1130 31.54% 302 26.73% 11 0.97%
Francisco Liriano 3109 1192 38.34% 313 26.26% 11 0.92%
Jose Fernandez 3316 1027 30.97% 269 26.19% 4 0.39%
As it turns out, your list of “guys with filthy stuff” appear here, as do a few somewhat surprising names and then Eric Stults. Note that the correlation between the percentage of pitches a pitcher wastes and the rate of swings he gets on them was weak (R-squared=0.036), so this isn’t necessarily a case of guys widening their target zone because they’ve had success in doing so.
On the flip side, there are a handful of names I suppose you could call “ineffectively wild,” pitchers who rarely coax swings when they miss or try and induce a flaccid swing.
Name Pitches Total Wasted % Wasted # Wasted Swings % Wasted Swings # Called Strikes % Wasted Called Strike
Yovani Gallardo 3742 1454 38.86% 255 17.54% 14 0.96%
Jhoulys Chacin 3048 934 30.64% 164 17.56% 5 0.54%
Bartolo Colon 3449 922 26.73% 173 18.76% 11 1.19%
Mark Buehrle 3982 1352 33.95% 260 19.23% 19 1.41%
Ubaldo Jimenez 3795 1368 36.05% 264 19.30% 14 1.02%
Jeremy Guthrie 4104 1300 31.68% 251 19.31% 10 0.77%
Kyle Kendrick 3478 1166 33.53% 233 19.98% 14 1.20%
C.J. Wilson 4465 1619 36.26% 326 20.14% 8 0.49%
Gio Gonzalez 4008 1415 35.30% 285 20.14% 6 0.42%
Chris Tillman 4223 1463 34.64% 299 20.44% 21 1.44%
As for the hitters that swing at the most of these garbage pitches, well, I doubt many of the names will surprise you:
Player Total Wasted Swings Wasted Swing %
A.J. Pierzynski 815 316 38.77%
Adam Jones 1135 409 36.04%
Evan Gattis 628 222 35.35%
Alfonso Soriano 1133 374 33.01%
Pablo Sandoval 1166 382 32.76%
Alexei Ramirez 877 285 32.50%
Wilin Rosario 676 216 31.95%
Nolan Arenado 797 253 31.74%
Erick Aybar 833 259 31.09%
Delmon Young 535 165 30.84%
I mean, is this really fair?
Johansen has premium size and arm strength, with enough supplemental skills to make him very interesting.
The 68th overall selection in the 2013 draft, Johansen blitzed through the NYPL after signing with a 1.06 ERA, but his superficial statistics have taken a dive in his first full season. I saw him throw yesterday afternoon, though, and he put together an extremely impressive outing, taking a no-hitter into the fifth inning and dominating the Hickory lineup with a premium fastball and three offspeed offerings that were good enough to keep hitters off balance.
This is how Johansen began the game:
Three 98s and a 99 to the first batter of a game is a nice cue to pay rapt attention, and while he never hit 99 again, he held 93-98 mph velocity through an entire 5 2/3 inning start–his last pitch was 96. The fastball comes out of a very easy motion, with great plane from Johansen’s large 6’6″ frame. With his size, stamina, and delivery, he projects to be able to handle large workloads. It’s not just the velocity that’s notable with the fastball, too–the pitch often gets some running and sinking life, helping him post strong ground ball rates so far in his minor-league career. It’s somewhere in between a 70 and 75-grade pitch, which is a heck of a thing to base one’s arsenal around.
The rest of Johansen’s stuff consists of an 81-85 mph slider, 90-93 mph cutter, and 86-89 mph changeup, all of which have moments where they look like near-average pitches. Of them, the change is the least advanced, as it often comes in hard and flat, though he did manage to toss in a few with late sink and fade. He likes to throw both the cutter and slider down and away to righthanders and shies away from using them to lefties, and as a result, he’s had big platoon splits in his career–last year, righthanders managed just a .147/.189/.172 line against him with 33 strikeouts and five walks, while southpaws hit .240/.387/.347 with an even 18/18 K/BB. He’ll need to get his changeup to move more consistently or figure out a way to utilize the breaking pitches against opposite-side hitters in order to reach his ceiling.
Johansen is 23 years old and in Low-A, and before yesterday, he hadn’t thrown particularly well (he came in with a 7.52 ERA). Whatever issues caused those struggles sure weren’t present in my viewing, though, and it’s foolish to write a guy off when he shows the attributes Johansen does, and when he can do this:
He’s 6’10″, which is fun in its own right, but Slegers is more than a novelty.
6’10″, 250. Just seeing that listing on a roster is intriguing–there aren’t many baseball players with those dimensions. Aaron Slegers also carries a fifth-round pedigree, so he’s not solely a size curiosity in the way that, say, Joe Melioris was.
One might expect a hurler of Slegers’ size to be a wild power arm, but he’s quite the opposite. He utilizes a balanced, deliberate motion and does a nice job of hitting his spots, as evidenced by his career 51/8 strikeout-to-walk ratio. However, I saw Slegers throw twice in the Appalachian League last year, and he worked at just 87-90 mph in the first and 89-92 in the second, also working in a slider at 78-80. Note that those appearances were out of the bullpen, which makes the velocity readings even less impressive.
Slegers’ lack of a quality changeup also gives him issues against lefties–he has a 26/1 K/BB vs. RHBs this year but just 7/5 against portsiders–and he’ll need to master one more effectively in order to remain a starting pitcher and raise his profile. Even so, he has top-of-the-scale size, surprising command, and two reasonable pitches. If that sounds a lot like 2005-07 era Chris Young…well, it does, doesn’t it?
It’s just nice to see Knapp on a mound again, but he might be more than just a temporarily fun story.
If you don’t know the story of Jason Knapp…you should. A second-rounder in 2008 who threw gas and two promising offspeed pitches, he struck out 111 batters in 85 1/3 innings in Low-A as an 18-year-old, enough to make him arguably the key piece in the trade that sent Cliff Lee from Cleveland to Philadelphia. However, he would only make thirteen more professional starts following the trade (in which he struck out another 57 in 40 frames) before succumbing to shoulder problems in 2010 that led to two surgeries. He never pitched for the Indians organization again, was released in late 2012, and appeared never to return, until news surfaced this past offseason that he was attempting a comeback. He signed with Texas in February and has been handled extremely cautiously, working just seven times out of the bullpen, all on at least three days of rest and for no more than a single inning. A month in, he’s still standing, and while it’s not much, it’s still great to see him out there giving it a go.
That’s all well and good, but does Knapp actually have anything left? Here’s his full last outing:
Well, that’s something. 96 is something, especially when it’s got great downhill plane and comes out easy. A 78-79 mph curveball with power and bite is something, even if Knapp didn’t seem to have any feel for it in this particular outing–a hard fact to hold against him, given that this was his seventh time on a pro mound in four years.
Does it go anywhere? It’s hard to say, because there are so many variables in play. What is easy to say is that the fastball-curveball combination will definitely play if Knapp is healthy and has reasonable command, but neither of those are givens. While his delivery is fairly easy overall, it doesn’t seem particularly easy on the shoulder, and even if it was, pitchers break all the time. As far as command goes, Knapp was never cited as a particularly polished pitcher in his pre-injury days, and he now has a lot of rust and lost years of development time, so it’s anyone’s guess where his walk rate will end up. But the stuff is still there and he’s just 23, so if it’s smooth sailing from here, Knapp certainly has the potential to make a big league impact, even if “quality reliever” wasn’t what we all hoped he’d be five years ago.
Ah, I gotcha. I doubt it though. It's such a volatile stat (as OKB was alluding to...I think ) that I doubt many sites would put a lot of manpower into it. But I'll check it out, not too much work on my end to look
It looks like those guys just picked an arbitrary number, queried up some names and formulated it out. I'd imagine that'd be the best way to do it.
Just quickly (I can't export player stat pages on FG anymore for some reason), I can give you that Verlander has been worth ~2.5/100 IP and his best season he was ~3.38/100 IP. Edited by Proshares - 5/9/14 at 1:18pm
You gotta think Darvish will get one eventually. These last two have heartbreaking. Would've been interesting had the no hitter held up...am I the only one watching MLB Tonight? Mitch and Harold are great tv. MLB network is easily the best sports network imo.
"In baseball statistics, an error is the act, in the judgment of the official scorer, of a fielder misplaying a ball in a manner that allows a batter or baserunner to advance one or more bases, when such an advance would have been prevented given ordinary effort by the fielder."
If you don't think that was an error, you are retarded
@Jewbacca is right though, that kind of play is called a base hit all the time