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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 726

post #21751 of 73441

only 6 innings too :lol

post #21752 of 73441
andrew miller is utter garbage
Boston Bruins | New England Patriots | Boston Red Sox | Georgetown Hoyas | Michigan Wolverines |
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Boston Bruins | New England Patriots | Boston Red Sox | Georgetown Hoyas | Michigan Wolverines |
Arsenal FC | Huevos Rancheros Hockey | USMNT
post #21753 of 73441
Astros minor league team, the Lancaster Jethawks, threw a combined no hitter tonight too.
post #21754 of 73441
When is Posey going to become a full time 1st basemen?
post #21755 of 73441
Originally Posted by Jewbacca View Post

The Astros clapped the Rangers cheeks tonight. I'll enjoy this victory cause they're few and far between lol

Great work boys pimp.gif
A T H L E T I C S | U C L A | L A K E R S | R A I D E R S

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

post #21756 of 73441
Thread Starter 
Melky shows why PEDs don't matter.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
After a miserable 2013 season, the 2014 Toronto Blue Jays are right in the middle of the painfully tight AL East race, and one of Toronto's biggest contributors has been now-notorious Melky Cabrera.

Cabrera, famously suspended in 2012 after his first All-Star appearance and given the full-on damnatio memoriae treatment from the San Francisco Giants and the batting average rankings, is hitting .333/.368/.521 after a 2013 season ruined by a spinal growth.

In fact, Cabrera isn't the only hitter coming out of the Biogenesis scandal (he wasn't suspended in 2013 as testing already had caught his involvement in 2012) who is making some noise in 2014. Ryan Braun, who is out with an abdominal issue, is hitting .318/.361/.591 with 6 homers on the season. Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta both easily lead their teams in OPS and home runs. Yasmani Grandal's .738 OPS places him second on the Padres. Even former top prospect Jesus Montero, whose .685 OPS for the Mariners in 2012 and lost 2013 dropped his stock to Great Depression levels, is finally hitting in the minors again, currently at .267/.333/.517 for Tacoma.

There's little dispute that PEDs can have nasty long-term health effects, but most of the debate about PEDs has been based not on concern for the health of players but on the more superficial concern of tainted hitting statistics. But a close inspection of the numbers shows that we shouldn't be all that concerned about the impact PEDs have on hitting stats because there doesn't seem to be one.

Melky's fluctuations
Although many point to Cabrera's huge stats in 2012 as "proof" of the effect of PEDs, Melky's magical season was fueled by a sky-high .379 BABIP, which likely would have fallen back to earth no matter what he was using. ZiPS knew nothing about his 2012 PED usage, yet his 157 OPS+ in 2012 was only enough to move his 2012 OPS+ projection of 106 up to a 113 projection for 2013. Can they test urine for BABIP yet?

Year Proj. OPS+ OPS+ Probability of matching OPS+
2006 77 95 31%
2007 109 88 75%
2008 102 68 92%
2009 81 93 40%
2010 94 83 64%
2011 92 121 7%
2012 106 157 3%
2013 113 88 80%
2014 106 143 7%
PED impact overstated
After 10 years of drug testing, dozens of major league players have been busted for use of steroids or related performance-enhancing substances (leaving amphetamines out of the mix here). It's always hard to tell exactly when a player starts using illicit training aids and when the benefit stops once use has stopped, but with players tested at least twice a year, the suspension date at least provides us with a time frame of when they were using.

If using PEDs has a significant impact on statistics, at some point before drug suspensions, the drug users should be overperforming their expectations as a group and at some point after, while they're testing clean, the drug users should be underperforming their expectations as a group.

To test this, I took the 27 major league hitters who were suspended for non-amphetamine PED use since 2004 and compared their ZiPS projected OPS+ to their actual OPS+ (including only stints of at least 100 plate appearances in the majors). Ignoring the two-time offenders because that factor complicates our time lines, I looked at predicted OPS+ vs. actual OPS+ for the suspension year and from the two years before the suspension to the two years after. One exception is I used 2012 for the use year for the Biogenesis players, given that the 2013 suspensions were non-analytical positives for prior use and Biogenesis reportedly only really operated for about six months in 2012.

Despite the rhetoric surrounding PEDs, players caught for steroid/testosterone use do not show a pattern of overperforming their projections in the years leading up to the drug suspension or a pattern of underperforming their projections in the years after a drug suspension.

In the years leading up to the stated drug offense, just 44 percent of offenders outperformed their projected OPS+. In the years after the drug offense in which they tested clean, a minority (45 percent) underperformed their projections. Given that both of these figures are close to 50 percent -- which is what we'd expect -- it mitigates some of the small-sample-size issues.

Weighting the performances more than the simple over/under tally does little to change the result. ZiPS expected the busted MLB hitters to collectively put up a 100 OPS+ in the years leading up to their drug suspensions. Their actual OPS+ was 97. In the years after the drug suspension, ZiPS projected a 101 OPS+ versus the actual 104. For the suspension seasons themselves, ZiPS expected a collective 100 OPS+ (actual 101). Once again PED use does not show up in the data.

A similar pattern during the 'steroid era'
Expanding the group to include the Mitchell report players and other players of various levels of suspicion -- from admitted (McGwire) to likely (Bonds) to possible (Sosa) -- doesn't change the results. Using a more rigorous method, I took historical OPS+ and assigned a "dummy variable" for steroid use, assuming all the above suspected players as users. I then developed a simple model that used predicted OPS+ and whether the player was a steroid user to predict future OPS+. In every time frame I chose, the variable for PED use was rejected as a significant predictive factor.

Melky Players caught for PEDs use do not show a pattern of overperforming their projections in the years leading up to the drug suspension or a pattern of underperforming their projections in the years after.
In layman's terms, if all you knew about players the past 10-15 years was their past OPS+ and whether they were busted for steroids -- now or at any time in the past -- it appears the PEDs had no noticeable effect on the projection of their future OPS+.

What this means is that, even with the knowledge of what outliers such as Barry Bonds accomplished while allegedly using performance-enhancing drugs, as a whole, there's extremely limited evidence of a significant effect on statistics of the drug users as whole. And without double-blind research studies of PED use among major leaguers and/or detailed information of what players are using, all we have to go by so far is the bottom-line results.

Now, none of this should be taken as endorsing the idea that MLB should simply open the floodgates and allow players to do whatever they want. Instituting drug testing is a very good thing for the sport -- but that improvement is for reasons other than the record books, such as the long-term health of players and the public trust. As far as the record books being tainted by PED use, well, it appears there isn't much evidence of that.

Marlins not at fault for Fernandez injury.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
ST. LOUIS -- The Miami Marlins' handling of Jose Fernandez was perfect, within the context of the conventional wisdom that had developed within Major League Baseball.

They limited his innings in 2013 to 172 2/3, and when he reached that limit, they shut him down with about three weeks to go, on Sept. 11.

Fernandez never threw more than 114 pitches in any outing, and in his 36 career starts, he threw more than 100 pitches just 11 times.

He was fully protected, unless you believe the Marlins should've placed him in packing noodles between innings, encapsulated in bubble wrap. And he still got hurt, just as Matt Harvey got hurt, just as Kris Medlen and Patrick Corbin and Jarrod Parker and Brandon Beachy got hurt.

Because with pitchers, there is one reality that supersedes all rules: They don't last. Nolan Ryan was an exception, with his 5,386 innings and 5,714 strikeouts. Nolan Ryan is a freak, a complete outlier. David Wells was just about injury-free in his big league career.

But if you want to know what happens to pitchers, go watch pregame work sometime and count the number of former major league pitchers who throw batting practice. On a given day, the answer is almost always the same: zero.

This is because their shoulders and elbows usually don't work anymore, from the wear and tear of repeating a physiological movement that runs counter to the mechanics of the body. Pitching is like having a stick-shift car and grinding the gears 150 times every day they make a start.

I wrote here last summer, in the aftermath of Harvey's injury, that some team decision-makers had reached the conclusion that there was no magic formula, no perfect number, no way to really protect pitchers, other than to not pitch them. There certainly is no one-size-fits-all rule, because the bodies of Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez aren't the same as the bodies and the history of James Shields or Mark Buehrle or Justin Verlander, three of baseball's great workhorses.

The only number that really matters, some evaluators believe more and more, is six: The number of years that a team controls a pitcher before he can become a free agent. The Giants didn't worry about innings counts or pitch counts with Tim Lincecum; they just pitched him, and generally speaking, they got six tremendous seasons of production from The Freak.

Lincecum had a strong outing Monday, but he is not the same pitcher he was when he won Cy Young Awards; the act of throwing a baseball has worn him down, just as it got Roy Halladay and CC Sabathia and hundreds and hundreds of others.

If a rule is needed -- if some evaluators must have a mantra to work from -- this is what it should be: Pitchers get hurt.

Even if you're not abusing them, you have no idea when or how that is going to happen. Fernandez is only the latest example, with an injury that hurts the Marlins and Major League Baseball because his talent is so extraordinary.

Some reminders of what Fernandez has done in his career, from ESPN Stats & Information:

Fernandez has been one of the best pitchers in baseball the past two seasons. He leads the majors in batting average against, allowing opponents to hit just .183 since the start of 2013. Fernandez has been at his best at home, with an ERA of 1.09 at Marlins Park in his career. He is 12-0 in 20 home starts and his ERA at home is more than half a run lower than the next closest pitcher, Clayton Kershaw. And he has been dominant against his division. Fernandez has an ERA of 1.45 in 15 career divisional starts.

He has given up only one earned run in three career starts against the Nationals and he has thrown 16 shutout innings against the Braves this season.

• He underwent an MRI to determine the full extent of his injury, writes Juan Rodriguez. The Marlins have now lost four consecutive games.

• Monday was a tough day, said Mike Redmond.

Around the league

• On Monday's podcast, Jerry Crasnick discussed the return of Aroldis Chapman, and David Wells tells stories from his playing days.

[+] EnlargeShelby Miller
AP Photo/Tom Gannam
Cardinals starter Shelby Miller is confident he can improve on his recent struggles.
• The day after Shelby Miller got chewed out by his manager on the mound, he worked to find solutions. Miller reached out to a coach who had worked with him at Texas Sports Medicine and got video of a bullpen session he had before the 2013 season. Before Monday's game, Miller held up his phone for a reporter and played the video, which showed what he does right when he's throwing a fastball correctly: His left hip -- his front hip in his delivery -- drives toward home plate on a straight line.

He has not been doing this, Miller explained, recalling the many times from Sunday's game when he spun out of his delivery too soon, his body whirling toward the first-base line in his follow-through. Over and over, Miller kept misfiring his fastball, in the same way, with the ball sailing up and in to right-handed hitters, or up and away to left-handed hitters.

He shook off Yadier Molina repeatedly during Sunday's game not because he was contesting the wisdom of the catcher's pitch selection, but because he didn't have confidence that he could throw a strike with the pitch Molina called for -- and he had backed himself into a lot of situations where he had to throw a strike.

As Miller chatted, he sounded confident that he can fix the problem and that he will get better. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said before Sunday's start that Miller has had innings of complete dominance this season, and then suddenly his command disappears, and just as suddenly he will start throwing strikes again. Now he is trying to find a way to stop the snowball from rolling downhill a little sooner.

• Miller is giving the Cardinals results, plus some aggravation, writes Rick Hummel.

• The Cardinals are beginning a stretch in which they'll play 19 of 22 games at home, a great relief. But they were blown out by the Cubs on Monday.

• Tim Lincecum struck out 11 in his best outing of the season.

• In order to ensure that he is in position to be healthy for the 2015 season, Matt Wieters would need to have surgery on his right elbow by about July 1. And remember, Wieters is eligible for free agency after next season. So at some point very soon, the question about Wieters will be: Is he playing for this year, or is his focus on being healthy for next season?

• Bud Norris did something that made Torii Hunter angry. The umpires explained why Norris was ejected.

• The co-owner of the Mets is interested in selling the team, writes Michael Schmidt.

• The Mets are going for it this season, writes Andy Martino. Joel Sherman wonders: Can this bold move by Sandy Alderson work?

Dings and dents

1. Carlos Beltran hyperextended his elbow, writes Dan Martin. The Yankees continue to battle age and injuries, writes Tyler Kepner.

2. Freddy Galvis broke his collarbone.

3. Decision time will come soon on Martin Perez.

4. Coco Crisp is still out.

5. Jaime Garcia is on the upswing. Jason Motte is throwing well, with his velocity at 95-96 mph, according to teammates, and with excellent movement on his cutter. He could be a help as soon as he returns.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Orioles GM Dan Duquette says he won't engage in any contract discussions during the season.

2. The Nationals signed Greg Dobbs to a minor league deal, writes Adam Kilgore.

3. Jayson Nix was sent down.

4. Dan Uggla was out of the lineup again.

5. An Astros prospect hopes to get called up soon.

6. The Yankees are looking for starting pitching help outside their organization, but remember, at this time of year the prices in any deal -- for Jason Hammel of the Cubs, for example -- would be extremely high.

7. Raul Ibanez's job with the Angels could be in jeopardy.

8. It's time for Mike Moustakas to be sent to the minors, writes Sam Mellinger.

Monday's games

1. The Mets powered their way to a comeback.

2. Rick Porcello pitched great.

3. The Rays got clobbered as they opened a West Coast swing.

4. The Astros couldn't score.

5. Mark Buehrle just keeps winning.

6. You can't stop the Athletics, you can only hope to contain them. In other words: Jesse Chavez was outstanding, again.

7. Addison Reed blew a save chance.

AL East

• Steve Clevenger is looking to fill in for Matt Wieters.

• Jackie Bradley Jr. has been showing patience, writes Peter Abraham.

• There is no shortcut for Xander Bogaerts, writes Scott Lauber.

• Shane Victorino's return has helped to solidify the Boston lineup.

• The frustration of John Gibbons boiled over.

AL Central

• Danny Salazar is learning.

• Robin Ventura was miffed by his team's effort.

• Danny Santana's versatility has helped the Twins.

AL West

• Fernando Rodney has no hard feelings toward the Rays.

• Rougned Odor showed he's ready.

• Felix Hernandez was good, and he was ejected.

NL East

• The Braves need somebody other than Freddie Freeman and Justin Upton to carry the load.

NL Central

• Jordy Mercer is having a good month.

• Gerrit Cole is coming of age.

• A rough start in Triple-A could be good for the Cubs' Javier Baez.

• Brayan Pena is a smiler.

• The Brewers are counting on Ryan Braun.

NL West

• Yasiel Puig keeps showing progress.

• Ned Colletti wants more plate discipline from the Dodgers.

• Justin Morneau is off to a great start.


• Jon Hamm pitched his new movie in Pittsburgh the other day.

And today will be better than yesterday.

Top 10 early trade candidates.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The July 31 trade deadline is a little less than three months away. While every team is focused primarily on the draft right now, they’re also realizing that because of the sport’s parity and competitive balance, there could be fewer “sellers” at this year’s deadline than perhaps we’ve seen in decades.

In fact, there are just three teams more than 4 games out of the postseason: the Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks.

I expect that group of teams to grow between now and the middle of July, but it will be no larger than more than seven or eight teams. With so few sellers expected, the asking prices for top talent will be exorbitant.

Here is my early list of 10 trade candidates to watch:

1. David Price | LHP | Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are hoping to be in a pennant race come the end of July, but after the season-ending injury to Matt Moore and a below .500 start, Price will have to be considered the early most sought after trade candidate in baseball. General manager Andrew Friedman knows that he’ll get more value for Price at the July trade deadline than he will in the offseason with only one year left on Price’s contract.

Further hurting Friedman's leverage is the fact that Price is off to a slow start, and he'll be hoping to get a haul similar to the one he received for James Shields prior to the 2013 season. Price’s trade market also will be fascinating because it won’t be limited to just contending teams. Non-contending clubs that made offers on Masahiro Tanaka, like the Cubs and Diamondbacks, could also get involved.

2. Cliff Lee | LHP | Philadelphia Phillies
Phillies GM Ruben Amaro is hoping the veteran-laden Phillies can stay in the race all season, as this is Amaro’s last-ditch effort with this group of players. However, if they get to the trade deadline as a sub-.500 team and a fire sale ensues, Lee will be the Phils' most marketable asset and offers the best chance of bringing back a significant prospect package.

Lee makes $25 million a year through 2015 but has a vesting option for 2016 at $27.5 million if he pitches 200 innings in 2015 or 400 innings in 2014 and 2015 combined. The Phillies might have to eat some of the contract depending on the prospect package they receive. Either way, due to his contract, age and limited no-trade clause that blocks 20 teams, Lee won’t have a long list of suitors.

3. Jeff Samardzija | RHP | Chicago Cubs
Samardzija’s trade value is the highest it’s ever been in his career after a dominating start to the 2014 season. After eight starts he’s second in the league in ERA (1.45) behind Johnny Cueto. Because of a severe drought of run support, Samardzija doesn’t have a single victory, but his fastball has been averaging 94 mph, his slider is late-breaking and nasty and his split-finger has been effective.

The Cubs have a long list of possible AL trade partners, including the Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels. Like Price, Samardzija is under team control through 2015.

4. Justin Masterson | RHP | Cleveland Indians
The Indians and Masterson worked hard on a contract extension prior to Opening Day, but when the Indians didn’t take advantage of being able to sign him at a short-term, below-market value deal, the negotiations were tabled.

It is highly unlikely the Indians will be able to retain him as Masterson’s expected offers when he hits the market this winter will dwarf what the Indians could have signed him for. Therefore, with the team hovering around .500, it’s only logical for them to try to trade him between now and the deadline for compensation that’s perhaps better than the draft pick they will get if he signs elsewhere in the offseason.

What will be interesting is how Masterson is marketed as compared to Price, Lee and Samardzija. Unlike those three, Masterson would be a hired gun, and a team that trades for him can't give him a qualifying offer (and net a draft pick) this winter. In other words, the Indians can't expect to get nearly as much for him as the Rays and Cubs could get for Price and Samardzija, respectively.

5. Huston Street | RHP | San Diego Padres
There are so many contending teams in dire need of a closer or impact eighth-inning reliever that GM Josh Byrnes will have little choice but to listen to offers and move Street as soon as he can for an impact young bat for his offense-starved lineup. Teams such as the Angels, Baltimore Orioles, and Texas Rangers could be among the teams calling.

6. Asdrubal Cabrera | SS | Cleveland Indians
The Indians have not made Cabrera -- who will be a free agent this winter -- a contract extension offer, and with top prospect Francisco Lindor on his way, Cabrera’s days in an Indians uniform are numbered. If the Indians aren’t contending come July, expect Cabrera, like Masterson, to be dealt.

There are several clubs that should be in play for him, including the Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Yankees and New York Mets.

7. Chase Headley | 3B | San Diego Padres
In retrospect, the Padres should have traded Headley after his 2012 season when he led the National League in RBIs and won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. And holding on to him now, when he will be a free agent this winter, is probably not a logical option unless they can get him to sign for significantly less than they’ve previously offered him.

Teams that might make sense for him include the Yankees, Angels and Chicago White Sox.

8. Martin Prado | 2B/3B | Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks must rebuild and Prado will be one of their most sought-after players because of his versatility, ability to get on base and excellent makeup. There are several teams looking for an upgrade at second or third base, so it should be a pretty good market in which GM Kevin Towers can deal. Prado is signed through 2016 at $11 million per year, which isn't cheap, but isn't exorbitant in the current market.

Clubs that might fit with Arizona include the Yankees, Oakland Athletics, Atlanta Braves, Miami Marlins and San Francisco Giants.

9. Jason Hammel | RHP | Chicago Cubs
Each year, the Cubs sign veteran starting pitching with the hope of trading him for a prospect at the July deadline. Last year it was Scott Feldman. This year they’re hoping it’s Hammel.

The 31-year-old is off to a solid start, going 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA, which should be good enough for a contending team looking for a No. 5 starter.

10. Aaron Hill | 2B | Arizona Diamondbacks
In order to trade Hill, the Diamondbacks will have to eat some of his $12 million annual salary, which runs through 2016. They also need to move toward the future and give either Didi Gregorius or Nick Ahmed the opportunity to finish their development at the major league level.

Hill, 32, is just two years removed from 26 home runs and 85 RBIs, and he would represent an upgrade for a few teams. The Yankees, Athletics, Orioles, Marlins and Braves could all be fits.

Angels, Sox and the speed divide.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
One win can make all the difference in a hotly contested pennant race, and at least two of the divisions in the American League -- the East and West -- already are shaping up to go down to the wire.
In close races, even the smallest things can make a difference, and baserunning is a minor -- yet crucial -- factor. The importance of intelligence on the basepaths is demonstrated by the Los Angeles Angels and Boston Red Sox, the teams that rank 12th and 13th, respectively, in this week's ESPN Power Rankings.

At FanGraphs, we have two metrics that measure baserunning. Weighted stolen base runs (wSB) accounts for stolen bases and caught stealing, and ultimate baserunning (UBR) measures everything else a player does on the bases -- taking an extra base on a hit, tagging up on fly ball outs, staying out of double plays, etc. The two stats are then combined, not unlike a smaller-scale Voltron, to form BsR.

In a typical year, the scale among teams will be about four wins -- two wins above league average for the best teams and two below for the worst teams. This year is no different, and in the early going we find that the Angels already have separated themselves at the top of the pack, while the Red Sox have started at the bottom.

Anaheim express
Mike Scioscia's team usually is effective on the basepaths, and the Angels have logged a positive BsR in 12 of Scoscia's 15 seasons at the helm, this season included. Last season, they tallied 3.2 BsR and this year they already have 7.0, a mark that leads the league.

Team Speed
The best and worst teams in terms of BsR thus far this season.

Best BsR
Angels 7.0
Pirates 3.3
Braves 3.3
Rangers 2.9
Yankees 2.9
Worst BsR
Giants -2.0
White Sox -4.4
Cardinals -5.9
Athletics -6.8
Red Sox -9.0
To be sure, not everyone on the team is a good baserunner. Raul Ibanez is not only ice cold at the plate (.140/.250/.270), but the few times he has reached base he has been a drag there as well. Albert Pujols has showed off his intelligence on the basepaths with two stolen bases in the early going, but he simply can't get around the way he used to, and has been a net negative so far as well. But aside from those two it has been all wine and roses so far the Angels once they reach base.
One of the biggest differences is with second baseman Howie Kendrick. The team's longtime second baseman is generally an above-average baserunner -- in the first eight seasons of his career, he was above average in six of them, and in one of the two seasons in which he was below average he was just barely below average. Last season though, was the anomaly. He registered a career-low minus-5.4 BsR. While he had a below-average wSB, the bulk of his loss was on normal basepath activity.

It's possible that Kendrick's knee injury in August caused some of the issues here, but looking at the monthly splits it appears to be just a down year. Kendrick had a negative BsR in each month of the season, and his injury was the direct result of a collision with another player. Whatever the issue was, Kendrick is back on track so far this season. His 2.1 BsR leads the team and is 12th overall in the majors.

The team's catching duo -- Chris Iannetta and Hank Conger -- is effective on the basepaths right now, but as the summer wears on and their legs get heavier, we'll see. Right now, they've combined for 1.1 BsR. Mike Trout is still Mike Trout (0.4 BsR thus far, 8.1 in 2013), and even without Peter Bourjos around, the outfield should be a big plus. Subtracting Mark Trumbo and Brad Hawpe and replacing them with Kole Calhoun and Josh Hamilton (when they return from the disabled list, that is) is a definite plus. The Angels might not lead the league in BsR all season, but they most certainly look a lot better than they were last season, and they already were pretty good.

Boston's plodders
Pretty good is not at all how you would describe the Red Sox's baserunning at this point -- they are last in MLB with minus-9.0 BsR. Only one player on the team currently has a positive BsR, and that is Daniel Nava, and he is not even with the big club right now. Looking at the past decade, two of the team's current players -- A.J. Pierzynski and David Ortiz -- are in bottom 16 in the majors in BsR (out of 564 qualified players), and four of the players in said bottom 15 already have retired.

Pierzynski is already at minus-0.3 BsR this season, while Ortiz and Mike Napoli are both at minus-1.2. Obviously, the lack of speed from both Ortiz and Mike Napoli is tolerable because they both rake, but it definitely slows things down for the lineup, especially when the rest of the lineup is having problems.

Perhaps the most concerning is Dustin Pedroia, who just does not seem like himself this season. He already has been caught stealing four times this season (2-for-6), which is just one fewer time than he was caught in all of last season (17-of-22). The team's poor baserunning has not been lost on manager John Farrell, who went out of his way to say that the team may need to "shut down" its stolen base activity. Pedroia's middle infield partner, Xander Bogaerts, has joined him near the bottom of the team's leaderboard.

Another large factor has been Jacoby Ellsbury's departure. Last season, Ellsbury led the majors in BsR by more than a run, and he is off to a positive start this year in the Bronx as well. His replacement, Jackie Bradley Jr., has not fared as well. While Bradley has routinely used his superior speed and instincts to make very difficult catches in the outfield this season, he has not translated that success to the basepaths. He has swiped three bases without being caught, which is nice, but it has been offset by poor decisions and/or results the remainder of the time -- and his minus-1.4 BsR is the lowest on the team (yes, even worse than Ortiz).

Based on the sabermetric rule of thumb that 10 runs equals a win, the Angels are almost two wins better than the Red Sox based on baserunning alone. And while the two clubs don't play in the same division, they are a half-game apart in the standings and will likely be competing for the same wild-card spots.

Good baserunning doesn't necessarily portend a good season, and bad baserunning won't on its own torpedo a team's playoff hopes. After all, five teams that reached the 2013 postseason had a negative BsR. But you only get 27 outs per game, and the last place you want to give away outs is on the bases. Right now, the Angels are making the basepaths work in their favor, and the Red Sox are not.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
A's interested in Kyle Blanks?
May, 13, 2014
MAY 13
By Doug Mittler |
The San Diego Padres are open to dealing first baseman/outfielder Kyle Blanks and the Oakland Athletics may be interested, tweets Chris Cotillo of

Blanks has spent parts of the last six seasons with the Padres who was promoted from Triple-A El Paso last week before being sent back down on Tuesday afternoon to clear roster space for Carlos Quentin. Once a highly rated prospect, Banks is a career .228 hitter with 28 homers.

The A’s might view Blanks as a right-handed hitting option to complement the left-handed hitting Brandon Moss at first base, suggests Joe Stiglich of

Blanks also could provide some depth should the A’s decide to move a position player in a deal for rotation help. Given the season-ending injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, "there is little doubt” that Oakland will look to trade for another starter, wrote Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this month.
Tags:Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, Kyle Blanks
Surgery for Carlos Beltran?
May, 13, 2014
MAY 13
By Joe Kaiser |
Carlos Beltran isn't in the Yankees lineup on Tuesday and is expected to sit the next two or three days to see if a cortisone shot will enable him to play with the bone spur that was detected in his elbow by a recent MRI, Bryan Hoch of reports.

On Monday, before the MRI results came in, Yankees manager Joe Girardi admitted concern.

"I'm concerned because it was enough to take himself out of the game," Girardi said of Beltran, who was forced to leave Monday's game after aggravating his elbow while working out in the batting cages during the game. "I didn't have a long conversation with him about how sore he was. He seemed pretty upset. When someone came and told me, I walked by and it was his right elbow. There's concern."

If the cortisone shot doesn't do the trick and allow Beltran to play through the injury, Hoch reports that "surgery is in play."

Without Beltran, the Yankees would be left with four healthy outfielders -- Jacoby Ellsbury, Alfonso Soriano, Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki. With Ellsbury in center, Girardi would likely go with Ichiro in right as Beltran's primary replacement, Gardner in left and Soriano as the main designated hitter.
Tags:MLB, Insider
Many teams considering Todd Coffey?
May, 13, 2014
MAY 13
By Joe Kaiser |
Todd Coffey hasn't pitched in the major leagues since 2013, but the veteran right-handed reliever is reportedly on the radar of quite a few clubs. Here's the latest.

The 33-year-old required a second Tommy John surgery in the summer of 2012, while a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but according to Chris Cotillo of, will throw a showcase for teams in Arizona on Wednesday.

"Hearing 13-16 teams expected to be there. Throwing well," Cotillo tweets.

It'll be interesting to see which teams, if any, emerge as possible suitors for Coffey, whose best season came in 2009 with Milwaukee. Here's a look at the bullpen ERAs from around the league, which could be an indication of some of the teams that might be interested in the veteran righty.

Jon Heyman of reports that Coffeyhas been clocked at 92-94 on the radar gun as of late.
Tags:MLB, Insider, Todd Coffey
Ibanez on borrowed time?
May, 13, 2014
MAY 13
By Doug Mittler |
As soon as the Los Angeles Angels called up C.J. Cron on May 3, the clock started ticking on veteran outfielder Raul Ibanez.

The plan was for Cron to split the designated hitter spot with the lefty-swinging Ibanez, but that came with the realistic expectation that the 41-year-old Ibanez would bounce back from a dismal April. But Ibanez is hitting .139, the lowest batting average of any player with at least 100 at-bats, and he could be on borrowed time, writes Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.

As Shaikin points out, Cron is seeing increased at-bats against righthanders and is making the most of them. Cron hit a home run against Toronto’s Steve Delabar on Monday and is 5-for-16 against right-handers. The Angels also like to give Albert Pujols an occasional game at the DH spot, further limiting the opportunity for Ibanez to find his stroke.

It will be interesting to see if manager Mike Scioscia finds Ibanez an at-bat during a two-game series in Philadelphia that begins Tuesday night. Perhaps he gets a chance against righthander A.J. Burnett on Wednesday.

Ibanez was a fan favorite in Philadelphia and made his lone All-Star team as a Phillie in 2009.
Tags:Raul Ibanez
Uggla on thin ice?
May, 13, 2014
MAY 13
By Doug Mittler |
At first, it was just a night off. Now Dan Uggla is in the midst of an extended stay on the Atlanta Braves' bench.

Uggla, owner of a paltry .1984/.258/.272 slash line, was out of the Braves lineup for the fifth consecutive game Monday, and manager Fredi Gonzalez gave no hint as to when the three-time All-Star second baseman will get another chance, reports David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Ramiro Pena or Tyler Pastornicky have started at second base in the past week. The next litmus test on Uggla’s future will come Wednesday when the Braves face the San Francisco Giants and lefthander Madison Bumgarner. Uggla’s last start was against Cubs’ southpaw Tyler Lyons on May 6.

The latest benching only heightens the speculation the Braves may be willing to part ways with Uggla and the approximately $22 million left on his contract through the 2015 season. The Braves appear willing to deal Uggla at a discount and have found no takers, so the only viable option may be to release him altogether.

Mark Bradley of the Atlanta JC says it is time to cut the cord. “The Braves are last in the majors in runs. On such a team, he’s not an affordable luxury. He’s the hole in the order that never gets closed,” writes Bradley.

The problem is Pastornicky has yet to prove he can hit at the big league level, posting a .286 OBP over parts of three seasons. Pena is viewed primarily as a backup. If Uggla goes, the Braves would call up Tommy La Stella, who is hitting .296 at Triple-A Gwinnett but has no power.
Tags:Atlanta Braves, Dan Uggla
Moustakas headed to Triple-A?
May, 13, 2014
MAY 13
By Doug Mittler |
Have the Kansas City Royals finally lost patience with struggling third baseman Mike Moustakas? We will get an answer later today.

The one-time elite prospect continues to regress at the plate, and manager Ned Yost left him on the bench in favor of Danny Valencia Sunday in Seattle. Moustakas has a paltry .147/.215/.321 slash line and has seen his batting average and OBP decline each year since his debut in 2011.

Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweeted Sunday night that the Royals are “debating multiple scenarios for adding a reliever,” and one involves sending Moustakas to Triple-A Omaha on Tuesday.

“We’ve exhausted every possible scenario to get him locked in,” hitting coach Pedro Grifol told McCullough in Tuesday’s KC Star. That quote implies a demotion is far more plausible than it was a few weeks ago.

The Royals have not been to the postseason since 1985 and have marketed themselves to the Kansas City community as a team that is built to win now. They would not be giving up on Moustakas altogether, but can no longer give him unlimited time to find his stroke. They also have a viable caretaker in Valencia, who hit .304 in limited at-bats for the Orioles last season, even if the 29-year-old is not be a long-term solution.

The status of infielder Omar Infante, who has missed five games with back inflammation, complicates the matter. Johnny Giavotella, who was recalled last week, could be sent back to Omaha, sparing Moustakas.
Tags:Kansas City Royals, Mike Moustakas
Free agency more likely for Markakis?
May, 13, 2014
MAY 13
By Doug Mittler |
Orioles executive VP Dan Duquette has put the kibosh on engaging in contract extension talks with any players during the season, increasing the likelihood that Nick Markakis will at least test the free agent waters this winter.

Markakis is in the final season of a six-year, $66.1 million contract, and is off to a strong start with a .309 batting average a .403 slugging percentage. After Duquette worked out an extension with Adam Jones in 2012, there was some talk Markakis could get an in-season deal as well.

But Duquette told Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun the team would “keep the focus on the field” and pass on any extension talks, a decision that could also have an impact on impending fee agents J.J. Hardy and Nelson Cruz.

Markakis’ deal includes a mutual option for 2015 worth $17.5 million and a $2 million buyout, clause that “almost assuredly will make him a free agent at the end of this year,” reports Connolly. Markakis would likely decline the option if he has a big season. If he does not, the club will be inclined to decline the option, pay the $2 million buyout and allow him to entertain offers from other clubs.

Markakis is a favorite of Orioles owner Peter Angelos, which could count for something.

As of now, the crop of available free agent corner outfielders is not particularly deep, so Markakis could be in demand. The field includes Melky Cabrera, who is hitting .333 for the Blue Jays.
Tags:Baltimore Orioles, Nick Markakis
Phils won't rush 3B prospect Franco
May, 13, 2014
MAY 13
By Doug Mittler |
The Philadelphia Phillies are looking for ways to improve their unproductive bench, but the immediate choices are unlikely to include a promotion for highly rated third base prospect Maikel Franco.

The Phillies outrighted utility infielder Jayson Nix from the 40-man roster on Monday and will need to make a move before Tuesday’s game with the Angels. While Franco might be an option,’s Todd Zolecki reports the Phillies "view him as more than a bench player and limited at-bats in the big leagues could curtail his development."

Franco started slowly this season, but is hitting .308 in his last 10 starts at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

According to Zolecki, other options include Darin Ruf, who is on a rehab assignment at Lehigh Valley, and Double-A Reading infielder Cesar Hernandez. Freddy Galvis, demoted to the minors last week, fractured his left clavicle Sunday afternoon.
Tags:Philadelphia Phillies
Who fills in for Jose Fernandez?
May, 13, 2014
MAY 13
By Doug Mittler |
The Miami Marlins are in a position of having to replace the irreplaceable.

Jose Fernandez was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained right elbow Monday and will return to Miami for further evaluation following an MRI in Los Angeles. The Marlins believe the 21-year-old ace will need season-ending surgery, reports ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Marlins have won 64 percent of Fernandez’s starts and only 36 percent of starts with their other starting pitchers.

The Marlins (20-19) have been a surprising contender through the first six weeks of the season, but it remains to be seen if the front office would be willing or able to deal for an established starter. For the time being, they will lean more on a young rotation that includes Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez, Tom Koehler and Jacob Turner.

The immediate dilemma for manager Mike Redmond is to find a starter for Wednesday's game against the Dodgers.’s Joe Frisaro says long relievers Kevin Slowey and Brad Hand, both of whom are on the active roster, could step in for the time being. If the Fish chose to call up a minor leaguer, the top candidates are lefty Andrew Heaney and right-hander Anthony DeSclafani. Both are at Double-A Jacksonville.

Heaney, however, would appear to be out of the mix for Wednesday after pitching seven innings for Jacksonville on Sunday.
Tags:Miami Marlins, Jose Fernandez
Will the last-place Rays shop David Price?
May, 12, 2014
MAY 12
By Doug Mittler |
A quick look at the standings shows that only the Houston Astros are keeping the Tampa Bay Rays from having the worst record in the American League.

The Rays (16-22) are last in the AL East, and their problems stem from injuries to starting pitchers Matt Moore, Alex Cobb and Jeremy Hellickson. It may be way too early to write off a franchise that has made the playoffs four of their past six seasons. After all, the Rays are just 5 1/2 games out of first place.

But them playing October baseball is not a slam dunk, either, given the overall talent in the AL East. If the struggles continue, Jon Paul Morosi of wonders whether the Rays could be willing to deal ace left-hander David Price, who is in line to be a free agent after the 2015 season.

ESPN Insider's Jim Bowden laid out his top 10 early trade candidates, and the headliner is Price. There could be fewer sellers at this year’s deadline given the growth of parity, only raising the price for the 2012 AL Cy Young winner.

If Price is shopped, the Yankees will likely be mentioned as a candidate, particularly if the knee injury to CC Sabathia turns out to be significant. Bowden says current non-contenders such as the Cubs and D-backs also could be in the mix:

Jim Bowden
Top 10 early trade candidates
"The Rays are hoping to be in a pennant race come the end of July, but after the season-ending injury to Matt Moore and a below .500 start, Price will have to be considered the early most sought after trade candidate in baseball. General manager Andrew Friedman knows that he’ll get more value for Price at the July trade deadline than he will in the offseason with only one year left on Price’s contract. Further hurting Friedman's leverage is the fact that Price is off to a slow start, and he'll be hoping to get a haul similar to the one he received for James Shields prior to the 2013 season. Price’s trade market also will be fascinating because it won’t be limited to just contending teams. Non-contending clubs that made offers on Masahiro Tanaka, like the Cubs and Diamondbacks, could also get involved."

Tags:Tampa Bay Rays, David Price
Orioles eye a backup catcher
May, 12, 2014
MAY 12
By Doug Mittler |

The Baltimore Orioles are in the market for a backup catcher after Matt Wieters landed on the disabled list, and their target could be the Houston Astros.

Roch Kubatko of says Orioles VP Dan Duquette spoke with Astros GM Jeff Luhnow over the weekend. The Astros have three catchers on their 40-man roster -- Jason Castro and Carlos Corporan are with the big league club and Max Stassi is at Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Kubatko says the Orioles could seek a righty bat to platoon with Steve Clevenger, who was behind the plate for the entire weekend series with the Astros.

Even when Wieters comes off the disabled list, the Orioles could be tempted to keep three catchers on the roster. The Orioles could look to protect Wieters from the wear and tear of catching, giving him occasional days as the designated hitter.

This is just a guess here, but one team carrying three catchers is the AL East rival Blue Jays, who might listen on a possible deal for righty swinging Erik Kratz.
Tags:Baltimore Orioles, Matt Wieters
Could Yanks eye Drew after draft?
May, 12, 2014
MAY 12
By Doug Mittler |

Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft is less than a month away, which is good news for unemployed free agent shortstop Stephen Drew.

Once the selection process runs its course in early June, teams looking to sign Drew will no longer be required to surrender any draft pick compensation. That should jumpstart the market value for the 31-year-old who found no viable takers after turning down a qualifying offer from the Red Sox over the winter.

The New York Yankees have denied interest in Drew, but Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe says the club could change its thinking if they find Derek Jeter can’t last the full season at shortstop. Brendan Ryan is the current understudy behind Jeter, who is hitting just .250 with a .310 slugging percentage.

Cafardo hears the Yankees "don't want the Red Sox to get a draft pick," fearing that some yet-to-be-determined player could haunt them in the rivalry in future seasons.

The Tigers also have been prominent linked to Drew after losing Jose Iglesias for the season with stress fractures in his shins. Detroit already has parted ways with veteran shortstop Alex Gonzalez and is trying to get by with Andrew Romine at shortstop.

Two NL Central contenders have shortstops hitting below the Mendoza Line and could be tempted to kick the tires on Drew. Jordy Mercer is batting .191 in Pittsburgh and Zack Cozart has a .188 BA in Cincinnati.
Tags:Stephen Drew
No room in STL for Aardsma?
May, 12, 2014
MAY 12
By Doug Mittler |
Veteran reliever David Aardsma was unable to win a job with the Indians in spring training before agreeing to a minor league deal with the Cardinals in late March. There may be no room for him in St. Louis as well.

With the return of Jason Motte getting closer, "it looks less likely" the Cardinals will have room for Aardsma in the majors, reports Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch. Aardsma can opt out of his contract Thursday if he wants to seek a job elsewhere.

Aardsma has a 1.84 ERA in 14 games at Triple-A Memphis, but has walked seven batters in 14 2/3 innings.

Motte pitched a scoreless inning for Double-A Springfield on Saturday and is scheduled to pitch for Memphis on Tuesday.
Tags:St. Louis Cardinals, David Aaardsma
Another setback for Galvis
May, 12, 2014
MAY 12
By Doug Mittler |
The season went from bad to worse for Freddy Galvis.

The Phillies optioned the infielder to Triple-A Lehigh on Thursday night and Galvis promptly fractured his left clavicle Sunday afternoon in Allentown and will need surgery, reports the Philadelphia Daily News.

Galvis, who began the season on the disabled list after suffering a MRSA infection at the end of spring training, was hitting .a dismal 048 (2-for-42) before his demotion.

The hope was that Galvis could benefit from some extra at-bats in the minors and return as a viable utility infielder. That timetable now appears unrealistic, so the Phillies could be looking outside the organization to fill that role if the recently promoted Reid Brignac does not pan out.
Tags:Philadelphia Phillies, Freddy Galvis
Familia closer to closing?
May, 12, 2014
MAY 12
By Doug Mittler |
Jeurys Familia could be the next closer for the New York Mets, perhaps as soon as the Subway Series with the Yankees that begins Monday in the Bronx.

Manager Terry Collins has tried aging veterans Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth in the ninth inning with limited success since Bobby Parnell went down with a season-ending elbow injury in early April.

Familia has worked his way into contention with a string of solid outings, including 1 2/3 scoreless innings Sunday against the Phillies. He has allowed just one run, three hits and two walks in 7 2/3 innings in May, striking out 10. For the season, Familia has a 3.12 ERA in 17 1/3 innings. After the game, Collins said the 24-year-old Familia was "real close" to getting a shot in the ninth inning, reports Adam Rubin of

The promotion of Familia could be part of a larger bullpen restructuring. There is talk that Jenrry Mejia could be moved from the rotation and moved to the bullpen to make room for Rafael Montero. Collins has yet to announce who will start Wednesday’s game against the Yankees at Citi Field.
Tags:Jeurys Familia
post #21757 of 73441
Thread Starter 
Is Throwing Harder Hurting Kenley Jansen?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Just over a month ago, Dave Cameron made an astute observation: Kenley Jansen was suddenly throwing harder in the earliest part of the season. Or as he put it, “PITCHF/x has already classified more 97+ mph pitches from Kenley Jansen this year than it did all of last year.” And since Jansen was already a hard-throwing and dominant closer with an unhittable pitch even before the velocity jump, it made for an interesting proposition. Namely, what would hitters do against a Jansen who was actually throwing harder? What happens if you take someone who is one of the three or four best in the world at what he does, and then give him something more to work with? What then?

Six weeks into the season, Jansen now has one more 97-plus mph pitch (21) logged than in his entire career through 2013. He’s also already allowed more than half as many earned runs as he allowed in any of the last three years, and he has four meltdowns as compared to eight in all of 2013. Hitters have a .276/.349/.408 line against in 2014, as opposed to .158/.245/.249 previously. He’s throwing harder, finding less success despite it, and, well, baseball is just the worst sometimes. (This may be residual Jose Fernandez anger.)

This has led to a pretty predictable narrative: Jansen is throwing harder…

…and it’s because of that that he’s had problems. Causation! It implies correlation, except when it doesn’t.

You understand why, of course. Remember why Jansen has been so incredible over the last few years in the first place: The absurd cutter he throws approximately 90% of the time. It’s great because it’s thrown hard, but it’s especially great because of the movement at the end. When the pitch is thrown too hard, though, there’s less time for it to move — or so goes the thinking.

For example, here it is at 94 mph, making Brandon Phillips look silly this past August:

When thrown properly — like, say, just over the outside edge of the plate to a right-handed batter — it’s basically untouchable. Even just last week, he was still doing that. He destroyed Anthony Rendon on May 6 at 95 mph with unreasonable movement:

You can make a good case for that being the best pitch in baseball. Jeff has.

Now, here it is at 99 mph against Miguel Cabrera last month:

It’s still a great pitch, because it’s 99 mph. Cabrera — at least, diminished early-season Cabrera – swings right through it. Though it looks like a straight fastball here, it’s not; both corrected PITCHf/x logs and game reports from the time refer to it as a cutter. It’s great, but it doesn’t really move. Even the best fastball can eventually be timed if you know it’s coming and there’s not a lot of movement to it. This is sort of Henderson Alvarez‘ issue, as we looked at last week.

And Jansen knows this, saying, “It makes it a little straighter, but I feel like the velocity makes it move a little later and that’s better. I don’t have the big cut, but I have late cut. It feels like a weapon.”

So back to the the question: Is there anything to the idea of Jansen’s increased velocity being responsible for his troubles?

Fortunately, we live in the future and we can compare things like the performance of pitches that were thrown extremely hard or just, you know, very hard. Overall, he’s thrown 324 pitches that were either fastballs or sliders. One-hundred-and-eighteen have been at 95 mph or faster. Of those 118, a mere 10 have been put into play. Five went going for hits; 25, or 21.2%, have been swinging strikes.

One-hundred-and-sixty-one have been at 94 mph or slower. Of those 161, 25 have been put into play, with 12 going for hits. Twenty-one, or 13%, have been swinging strikes. It’s hard to say there’s anything here, as far as damage against Jansen, that’s worse when he’s throwing at higher speeds. At lower speeds, there are more hits, more balls in play, fewer swinging strikeouts.

It’s those five hits at 95-plus mph that stand out, though. One was Brandon Belt’s double down the left-field line that scored Angel Pagan in mid-April. One was a Victor Martinez homer, the other a Martinez hit that contributed to Jansen blowing both games of a short, two-game set against Detroit in April. Another was a Ehire Adrianza hit that scored a run for the Giants and turned a 2-0 lead into a 2-1 lead. (Jansen held on.) Four of the five hits there — the last being a meaningless Hunter Pence double in a blowout — led to damage and/or losing a game. Perhaps that makes it seem like his throwing harder leads to bad things. Overall, it hasn’t.

So what has? First, look at his season line, where you’ll see two pretty obvious issues stand out: First, a .432 BABIP from a guy who has never even been at .300 before; and second, a walk rate that has jumped to 10.5%, reversing the improving 11.9->8.7->6.2 trend he’d shown between 2011 and 2013. You can throw a million miles per hour and strike out a ton of batters, but it’s still difficult to get around nearly half of the contacted balls you allow falling in for hits and putting runners on base for free.

On the BABIP, first, it goes without saying that won’t be sustainable. No pitcher with as many innings as Jansen has a number like that, with only Carlos Villanueva and Felipe Paulino close. Of course we’re talking about just 18.2 innings here. The usual reasons go into that. The Dodger defense hasn’t exactly been stellar behind him, with more than a few catchable balls dropping in and one particular blown game came partially due to a grounder that hit him in the foot and bounced away. Luck hasn’t been on his side. It can’t be with a .432 BABIP.

The walks are a real issue, though. He’s thrown nearly an identical amount of balls at 95 mph or harder as compared to below, but he’s of course thrown 43 fewer pitches at 95 mph or harder. You can see that a bit in the heat maps:

There are fewer pitches at 95 mph or faster, but with as much, or more, wildness. So while there’s not really much to the idea that pitching harder — and with slightly less movement — is hurting his ability to get hitters out, those pitches are a bit more difficult to locate, as you’d expect.

There’s also this, of course: Jansen’s velocity is coming back down toward normal levels. Of the 21 97-plus mph pitches, 20 came in April. (It hasn’t exactly made a difference, yet. He easily dispatched the Marlins on Monday night, but gave up three earned runs to the Giants the night before.) The velocity bump seems like it isn’t going to last all year. That BABIP won’t continue, either. If the walks return to normal with it, we’ll soon enough be thinking of Jansen as nothing but the elite closer he’s long been, no matter how hard he’s throwing.

Meet the Disciplined Yasiel Puig.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Let’s talk about something Yasiel Puig did on Monday. In the fourth inning, off Tom Koehler, he hit a home run. He does that. In the fifth inning, off Henry Rodriguez, he walked on four pitches. The same guy had just previously walked Dee Gordon and Dan Haren. In the third inning, Puig flied out. In the seventh inning, Puig grounded out. For good measure, Puig also got caught stealing. But let’s hone in on the bottom of the first. Gordon led off with a groundout, and then it was Puig vs. Koehler with nobody on.

First pitch, fastball, in the zone, foul. Second pitch, fastball, in the zone, foul. That quickly, Koehler was ahead of Puig 0-and-2, and there is no more advantageous count for a pitcher, aside from 0-and-3. Koehler could choose from anything to try to put Puig away, and Puig was put on the total defensive. At that point, he probably wished he would’ve put one of the fouls in play.

For the third pitch, Koehler liked the idea of a low-away slider. It was almost too obvious. Almost every right-handed hitter has problems with the low-away slider, and Koehler figured he might be able to dismiss Puig right away with a pitch that’s basically unhittable.

Still 1-and-2. Count still favors the pitcher. How about a high fastball?

Even. With the eye level changed, why not go back to the slider, and maybe bring it closer to the plate? It’s one thing to lay off it once. It’s quite another to lay off it twice.

Full, then. Maybe a low fastball, that Puig’ll think is a slider until it’s too late, or something.

The last pitch was borderline. To get there, however, Puig had to lay off a couple tricky two-strike sliders, as well as a fastball up. In the end, Yasiel Puig turned an 0-and-2 count into a walk. It’s the second time he’s done so already in 2014, after doing it precisely zero times in 2013. Last year, after 0-and-2, Puig had zero walks and 43 strikeouts. This year he’s at two and 17, the important bit being the two.

It’s the damnedest thing, this version of Yasiel Puig. All that is up there is basically an anecdote, but we don’t have to rely on anecdotes to support the conclusion that Puig is playing a lot more disciplined so far this year. This is a guy who blew into the room with his hair on fire and with his pants also on fire, and Puig made a name for himself with over-aggressiveness everywhere, in every facet. He was a little too aggressive at the plate. He was a little too aggressive in the field. He was a little too aggressive with his arm, and he was a little too aggressive on the bases. He’s still aggressive on defense, and he’s still aggressive on the bases, and he’s still overall a work in progress as the Dodgers try to polish out the rougher bits, but as far as hitting is concerned, the only thing 2014 Puig has in common with 2013 Puig is the absurd wRC+. He’s taken a different road to get there.

Just on the surface, the walks are up, and the strikeouts are down. The power is up, a little, and the exceptional BABIP is essentially unchanged. But keep on scrolling. Last season, Puig swung at well over half of all pitches. This season, he’s swung at well under half of all pitches. He’s swinging at far fewer balls, and he’s been more selective with strikes, and presumably as a consequence of all this, Puig has lifted his perilous contact rate. We can put this in some context.

There are 198 players who batted at least 100 times in 2013, and who have batted at least 100 times in 2014. Puig has increased his contact rate by seven percentage points, putting him in the top-ten of the biggest gainers. He’s lowered his swing rate by eight percentage points, which is the second-biggest drop. And he’s lowered his swing rate at balls by more than ten percentage points, which is easily the biggest drop. Here’s that list:

Drops in O-Swing%, 2013-2014

Yasiel Puig, -10.3 percentage points
Kurt Suzuki, -7.9
Adam LaRoche, -7.8
Trevor Plouffe, -7.6
Dayan Viciedo, -7.1
Tyler Flowers, -7.1
Scooter Gennett, -6.9
Danny Espinosa, -6.7
Shin-Soo Choo, -6.6
DJ LeMahieu, -6.5
Here’s where we are now. Yasiel Puig has an average swing rate, and a below-average O-Swing rate. Just one year ago, Puig was a guy thought to be exploitable because he was willing to swing at anything. Of course, he still got his results, but it seemed like a dangerous, volatile approach. So now Puig has tightened up his own zone, and while this is something we always talk about certain players needing to do, it’s also one of the hardest things in baseball to just suddenly make yourself more disciplined. Puig has made it a reality, and not even by just a little. He’s a batter, now, with an eye.

During the PITCHf/x era, the biggest season-to-season O-Swing% drop is about 13 percentage points, for 2012-2013 Shane Robinson. Young Pablo Sandoval shows up on the list, as does young Jose Altuve, and then you have older Nick Punto and older Jonny Gomes. Puig is one of six guys, for the moment, with a double-digit drop, and the rest of his game hasn’t suffered, which is another key point. Sometimes it’s hard to change an approach without also changing the swing and the swing results. Puig is still clobbering the ball — he’s just clobbering a greater relative frequency of strikes.

So where has Puig been more disciplined? The answers are both predictable and remarkable. According to Baseball Savant, a year ago, Puig swung at almost half of all pitches located low and/or away, out of the zone. This year, he’s at one out of three. Additionally, last year, Puig swung at about 35% of pitches in off the plate, while this year, he’s around 23%. After swinging at one out of four pitches at least a foot in, this season he’s chopped that in half. Basically, Puig’s been less willing to get jammed, and he’s been less willing to go fish, and so while weaknesses remain, they’re more difficult to locate.

One wonders if, as a consequence, Puig is starting to look more to left and left-center. When he’d swing at anything, he needed to use the whole field. Let’s look at just a few more numbers:

2013: 22% hits to opposite field
2014: 10%

2013: 31% extra-base hits to opposite field
2014: 13%

The samples are too small to do much with, but while Puig has demonstrated his ability to take the ball to right, it could be he’s becoming more of a pull threat now that he’s given himself a tighter zone. So maybe pitchers will try to pitch him more away, and maybe that means he’ll return to right field, or maybe that means he’ll just draw a lot more walks. We don’t know where this Puig is going to go, because we didn’t expect this Puig to ever really exist, after the way he looked as a rookie.

Don Mattingly made things very simple:

“I think more and more of Yasiel as an RBI guy,” manager Don Mattingly said in a reversal of his Spring Training opinion. “He’s become more patient and getting more strikes. Last year he was more emotional. He’s quit chasing, made adjustments.”

Mattingly said that Puig has been helped by a game within a game he plays with Adrian Gonzalez to see who gets on base more during a series.

More patient, more strikes, quit chasing, made adjustments. He says it like it’s an easy thing to do. It’s an obvious thing to do, but a player generally is what a player is, and it’s hard to just change an approach on the fly. Puig’s pulled it off without sacrificing any of his productivity, and while we can still question the sustainability of his hit rate, it looks like we no longer have to question the dual sustainability of his over-aggressive tendencies. It turns out that Yasiel Puig can change. It’s not even totally clear that he needed to, but there’s nothing wrong with getting better, even if you’re already great. You can see why the Dodgers are so intent on getting Puig to maximize his ability — a maximized, optimal Puig is a Puig that can’t be stopped.

The Top 10 Prospects Currently by Projected WAR.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
What follows is an exercise not very different than that one performed on a slightly larger scale by the author at the very beginning of the season. As was the case with that post, this one represents an attempt to identify the rookie-eligible players* who are most ready to produce wins at the major-league level (regardless of whether they’re likely to receive the opportunity to do so). What it is not is an attempt to account for any kind of future value — for which reason it’s unlikely to resemble very closely those prospect lists which are typically released by more qualified writers at the beginning and middle of the season.

*In this case, defined as any player who’s recorded fewer than 130 at-bats or 50 innings — which is to say, there’s been no attempt to identify each player’s time spent on the active roster, on account of that’s a super tedious endeavor.

To assemble the following collection of 10 prospects, what I’ve done first is to calculate prorated rest-of-season WAR figures for all players for whom either the Steamer or ZiPS projection systems have produced such a forecast. Hitters’ numbers are normalized to 550 plate appearances; starting pitchers’, to 150 innings — i.e. the playing-time thresholds at which a league-average player would produce approximately a 2.0 WAR. Catcher projections are prorated to 415 plate appearances to account for their reduced playing time.

Owing to how the two systems are structured, the majority of the numbers which follow represent only the relevant prospect’s Steamer projection. Players eligible for the list either (a) enter their age-26 season or lower in 2014 or, alternatively, (b) were signed as international free agents this offseason.

Finally, note that, in many cases, defensive value has been calculated entirely by positional adjustment based on the relevant player’s minor-league defensive starts — which is to say, there has been no attempt to account for the runs a player is likely to save in the field. As a result, players with an impressive offensive profile relative to their position are sometimes perhaps overvalued — that is, in such cases where their actual defensive skills are sub-par.

1. Masahiro Tanaka, RHP, New York AL (Profile)
150 8.7 1.6 0.99 3.29 3.3
Tanaka has pitched only 49.0 innings thus far, which means he’ll only officially become part of the 2014 rookie class after recording three more outs*. If his performance to date is any indication, he will likely require only probably three batters to do that.

*Which statement ignores any consideration of his time thus far on the active roster, which is probably very close to 45 days at this point.

2. Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis (Profile)
550 5.5% 13.2% 14 .322 2.4
At 22, Taveras is very much among the youngest players at Triple-A — and yet he’s recording slightly above-average offensive numbers. That’s not surprising, probably, given his established performance and the attendant scouting reports. Of note: Steamer’s rest-of-season projection for Taveras remains basically identical so far as the outfielder’s rate stats are concerned.

3. Robert Kral, C, San Diego (Profile)
415 11.1% 20.2% 11 .310 2.1
Kral was absolutely the most obscure player to appear among the top-10 prospects by projected WAR when the author attempted an exercise similar to this one a month-plus ago. And even though his slash stats (.211/.343/.333) haven’t been particularly attractive through his first 70 plate appearances at Double-A San Antonio, the catcher has produced entirely reasonable defense-independent figures (like a 17.1% walk and 22.9% strikeout rate, for example) — which metrics become reliable much more quickly than BABIP.

4. Tommy La Stella, 2B, Atlanta (Profile)
550 7.9% 10.4% 4 .321 2.1
While Dan Uggla has had some unarguably excellent offensive seasons and a considerably more substantial career than anyone would have expected, he doesn’t entirely resemble the best version of himself right now — nor has he for a while, probably. Given his limited power, La Stella has a lower ceiling; given his fantastic control of the strike zone, however, his floor appears much higher.

5. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Kansas City (Profile)
150 8.0 3.5 1.01 4.08 2.0
Due to a combination of shoulder soreness and then biceps tendinitis, Zimmer hasn’t recorded any innings thus far in 2014 after producing a 140:36 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 108.1 innings last year between High- and Double-A. He remains in extended spring training for the moment and is expected to return in mid- to late-May.

6. Chris Taylor, SS/2B, Seattle (Profile)
550 7.3% 19.3% 6 .304 2.0
Seattle contains within its organization a striking number of offensively competent, relatively unheralded infield types. Kyle Seager is presently the most successful of these, but Dustin Ackley, Nick Franklin, and Brad Miller — and apparently Chris Taylor, too — all feature more or less the same skill set. One notes that any of these would have been useful at second base, probably, had the Mariners not signed Robinson Cano over the winter.

7. Ty Kelly, 2B/3B, Seattle (Profile)
550 11.3% 14.5% 6 .318 1.9
Nearly all the same comments that apply to Chris Taylor (just above) apply to Kelly, as well, with the caveat that Kelly is both older (25 this year) and not as flexible defensively. Much of Steamer’s enthusiasm for Kelly is derived from the infielder’s plate-discipline figures: in 417 plate appearances at Triple-A now, Kelly has produced walk and strikeout rates of 20.1% and 14.9%, respectively.

8. Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota (Profile)
550 8.2% 28.0% 22 .313 1.9
Like Kyle Zimmer (above), Sano hasn’t made any appearances this season in a minor-league game. Unlike Zimmer, unfortunately, he probably won’t. If there’s good news, it’s that his Tommy John surgery in March went well. Should rehab proceed as expected, Sano will be ready for 2015.

9. Andrew Susac, C, San Francisco (Profile)
550 9.1% 21.3% 10 .303 1.8
Were a catcher with major-league aspirations to choose an organization, San Francisco probably wouldn’t be his first choice, owing to the presence there of the very talented Buster Posey. On his own merits, however, Susac has probably earned a promotion to the majors. After missing about two weeks with concussion-related symptoms, Susac recently returned to Triple-A Fresno lineup, where he’s recorded an offensive line 50% better than league average.

10. Garin Cecchini, 3B, Boston (Profile)
550 9.2% 18.1% 6 .318 1.8
Last year at this time, Cecchini was playing third base in the High-A Carolina League. Following promotions to Double-A and, to begin the 2014 season, to Triple-A, Cecchini’s plate-discipline figures have eroded somewhat, but he continues to demonstrate the same basic skills that have made him a success at lower levels.

Five Brief Comments:

The assembly of this list was performed, in part, by hand. While the author has attempted to remain vigilant, he is also notoriously incompetent. The reader is invited to raise any relevant concerns in the comments section.
Three notable rookies who would have appeared here but have passed the relevant playing-time thresholds are these three: Jose Abreu, Xander Bogaerts, and Yordano Ventura.
Two notable rookies who would have nearly appeared here, but who’ve also passed the relevant playing time-threshold are these two: Josmil Pinto and Kolten Wong.
One player who would have appeared here but is ineligible for the list on account of he’s currently partaking in his age-27 season is this one: Dean Anna.
Finally, the reader should note that the case of Marcus Stroman is a difficult one so far as this exercise is concerned. Because he’s currently pitching out of the bullpen, he’s being projected as a reliever. Because pitchers’ rate stats improve while working in a relief capacity, it’s not reasonable merely to prorate Stroman’s projections to 150 innings, as with other starts. Accordingly, he’s been omitted from this list. That doesn’t alter the fact, however, that Marcus Stroman is very good.

Jose Fernandez: Preventable or Inevitable?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Jose Fernandez is broken. After allowing him to throw ridiculous pitches that opposing hitters simply couldn’t touch, his elbow threw in the towel in the fifth inning of his start on Friday night. You can basically see the injury occur in his in-game velocity chart.

In the fourth inning, his four-seam fastball averaged 97.7 mph; in the fifth inning, 90.0. An eight mile-per-hour velocity loss from one inning to the next is worrisome, to say the least, and MRIs have apparently suggested the worst. It hasn’t been officially announced, but the expectation is that Fernandez will need Tommy John surgery, which will take him out for the rest of 2014 and most of the 2015 season, most likely.

In the wake of nearly any serious injury to a pitcher, the discussion moves to whether or not the pitcher was handled correctly, Was he asked to throw too many pitches, or too many innings, or was he allowed to throw too many of a certain type of pitch? In Fernandez’s case, you could present both sides.

On the one hand, the Marlins handled Fernandez with some care last year. He was limited to no more than 86 pitches in his first seven starts as a big leaguer, and he didn’t break 100 pitches in a game until his 13th start. Even since breaking that threshold, he has most often been held to fewer than 100 pitches, and he’s only broken 110 pitches once; a week ago, against the Dodgers, he threw 114.

If you believe that injuries are caused by pitchers throwing while tired, and you think that pitch counts can serve as a proxy for when a pitcher begins to wear down within a given start, then you’d likely conclude that the Marlins handled Fernandez with care. A pitcher who has averaged 95 pitches per start — most of them coming with the bases empty because no one was good enough to get a hit off of him — would not generally be classified as an abused arm.

But then there’s the other side of the argument. Fernandez was brought to the majors as a 20 year old, and was asked to throw 173 innings against big league hitters before he was shut down in mid-September. He’d thrown 134 innings in A-ball the year before, so so not only did his workload increase by 30% year over year, but the quality of opponent increased dramatically, and I think it’s fair to say that innings against big league hitters probably require more of an effort from a pitcher than innings against minor league hitters. Maybe even 170 innings against big leaguers is just too many for a developing arm. Or maybe 300 combined innings in your age 19/20 seasons is just too many.

Or maybe we just have no idea. After all, Rick Porcello made almost the exact same jump as Fernandez, throwing 125 innings in A-ball at 19 and then 170 in the majors a year later, and he’s yet to have any major elbow issues. CC Sabathia threw 145 innings between A-ball and AA at age-19, then threw 180 in the majors as a 20 year old, and he’s been one of the most durable pitchers in baseball over the last decade. Felix Hernandez threw 172 innings between Triple-A and the Majors as a 19 year old, and then 191 additional big league innings at age-20, and he’s shown no ill effects from his early career workload.

There simply isn’t enough evidence to blame Fernandez’s workload for his injury, and it’s not like the list of guys who have been developed more conservatively are avoiding surgery at a higher rate. Elbows are blowing out at the same or higher rates than they ever have been, even in the age of limiting pitch counts and innings totals. While Fernandez did have a larger workload than most 20 year olds, against better competition than most 20 year olds, it’s difficult to suggest that any other type of handling would have produced better results. There are a lot of teams trying a lot of different solutions to try to keep their young pitchers healthy, and everyone is failing. Everyone.

In some ways, figuring out pitcher health with our current tools and metrics feels like trying to go to the moon in a hot air balloon. Maybe we can see the goal, and maybe we have a vehicle that moves us in the direction of that goal, but we’re not getting to space in a basket, and we’re not going to keep pitchers healthy with pitch counts and innings totals. That doesn’t mean we abandon all caution and stop counting pitches and innings entirely — you absolutely can run a pitcher in the the ground due to overwork, but MLB teams just aren’t doing that anymore — but perhaps we just accept that it’s going to take a technological leap forward before we actually know enough to measure when a pitcher is actually in danger of blowing his elbow out.

Hopefully, in 10 or 20 years, in-game live biomechanics have proven useful, and teams will be able to measure things that have proven to actually matter. There are companies already pitching products like this, though the industry is in its infancy. I could see these kinds of tools actually providing some real benefit down the line, and perhaps that kind of technology will help turn the tide of pitcher injuries.

For now, though, we’re grasping at straws. We don’t know how to keep pitchers healthy, and we don’t know if the Marlins could have kept Fernandez healthy. It sucks that another great young arm has gone down, but this is just the reality of where we’re at with keeping elbows in tact. We don’t know how to do it, and we don’t know why Fernandez blew out when Porcello and others have not. Hopefully, some day, we’ll know. For now, we just accept our ignorance, and keep the finger pointing to a minimum.

The Wild, Woolly — and Mediocre — American League.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Normally, when a championship season begins, there already is a pretty clear stratification of teams within a league. In the current 15-team league era, leagues often divide fairly neatly into thirds: five pretty clear contenders, five pretty clear laggards or rebuilders and five “meh” clubs in the middle. As the season begins to unfold, a game of musical chairs begins, with a contender or two often falling short and a club or two from the “meh” and rebuilder categories making a surprise run.

The 2014 American League breaks this mold. almost a full quarter into the season, there are two clear contending clubs — the Detroit Tigers and Oakland A’s — and only the Houston Astros are an obvious laggard. The “meh” pile is 12 deep. Let’s look at this group a little closer for clues as to who might emerge as the other three AL playoff teams.
First, let’s take a look at these 12 teams’ records entering Monday night’s games.

Thru 5/11 W L PCT
BAL 20 15 0.571
NYY 19 17 0.528
LAA 19 17 0.528
SEA 19 18 0.514
BOS 19 18 0.514
TEX 19 19 0.500
CWS 19 20 0.487
KC 18 19 0.486
TOR 18 20 0.474
CLE 18 20 0.474
MIN 17 19 0.472
TB 16 22 0.421
Yes, Virginia, the AL East Champion and two wild cards need to eventually emerge from this motley collection of clubs. Five-and-a-half games separate the top from the bottom. Amazingly, only two games separate the second- and 11th-place clubs. With a significant chunk of the season already in the books, this qualifies as parity at best — and sheer lunacy at worst.

Before I pull out my crystal ball, let’s do a little crowdsourcing and see how some baseball sites’ prognostications for the rest of the season match up:

BBREF COOL FanGraphs Pythag
LAA 0.9 LAA 57.6% BOS 63.3% LAA 0.593
SEA 0.3 BOS 40.8% LAA 51.9% TOR 0.530
CWS 0.0 BAL 40.1% TEX 43.7% SEA 0.503
TOR 0.0 TOR 35.3% NYY 30.0% CWS 0.503
KC -0.1 KC 24.9% SEA 26.9% KC 0.500
MIN -0.1 NYY 23.9% TOR 25.9% BAL 0.493
BAL -0.2 CLE 22.9% BAL 25.2% BOS 0.487
CLE -0.2 CWS 21.5% CLE 24.5% MIN 0.474
BOS -0.2 SEA 21.2% TB 19.4% TB 0.470
NYY -0.4 TEX 15.7% KC 18.8% NYY 0.466
TB -0.4 TB 14.3% CWS 3.3% CLE 0.459
TEX -0.5 MIN 13.7% MIN 0.7% TEX 0.420
Above, you see the team strength ratings/playoff odds from Baseball Reference, Coolstandings and FanGraphs, along with current Pythagorean rankings based on actual runs scored and allowed. Based both on this rankings and my own instincts, I feel somewhat confident in deeming one of these 12 clubs as clearly the best and another as clearly the worst of this 12-team group.

The Minnesota Twins rank 11th in the AL in AVG and 14th in SLG. Their team OBP ranks sixth, thanks to their newfound ability to draw walks (second in the American League). They’re close to .500 to date thanks to overperformances from Brian Dozier, Kurt Suzuki and Eduardo Escobar. Shortstop (prior to the insertion of Escobar) and center field have been offensive sinkholes. Their offense, however, has been just wonderful compared to their pitching. They rank 14th in the AL in ERA and dead last in Ks, which places undue pressure on their below-average team defense. This is likely a 70-ish win club, with the first quarter of the season likely to go down as its best.

On the other end we have the Angels. Though they currently stand only two games over .500, they’ve outscored their opponents by 186-154 with very little input from Josh Hamilton or Kole Calhoun, two of their four or five best hitters. They’re ranked first in the AL in SLG, second in HR and fourth in runs despite the presence of offensive sinkholes at third base and designated hitter. Albert Pujols has led the way — and though he should regress —the return of their injured outfielders plus an eventual DH upgrade should keep the offense rolling. They lead the AL in starting pitcher IP per game (6.20), which keeps the pressure off their relatively nondescript bullpen. This is a 90-plus win team, with a puncher’s chance of bringing down the A’s.

Before trying to split hairs and separate the remainder of this 10-team mob scene, let’s take a look at one more table. Listed below is each team’s calculated offensive and defensive ERAs, based on their OBP and SLG for and against, along with their projected Pythagorean winning percentage based on this data. This winning percentage is then applied to each club’s remaining number of games to be played to determine their number of remaining wins, which then is added to their wins to date to arrive at an overall total.

Calc ERA Off Def Pythag Rem W Tot W
LAA 4.45 3.57 0.609 77 96
BOS 4.10 3.94 0.519 65 84
TBR 4.14 4.06 0.510 63 79
CLE 3.85 3.82 0.503 62 80
CHW 4.30 4.31 0.499 61 80
NYY 4.15 4.18 0.496 62 81
KCR 3.56 3.66 0.486 61 79
TOR 4.40 4.61 0.477 59 77
TEX 4.08 4.44 0.458 57 76
SEA 3.40 3.79 0.445 56 75
MIN 3.91 4.42 0.440 55 72
BAL 3.93 4.60 0.422 54 74
This sums up the overall parity/mediocrity of this group. The table above is sorted by Pythagorean winning percentage based on calculated offensive and defensive ERA. This is an eye-opening column that points out the very real possibility that the second AL wild card team will be a .500 ballclub, give or perhaps even take a game or two. Maybe the most surprising individual piece of data is the Orioles’ poor Pythagorean winning percentage of .422. The O’s have the best current record of this group, but the worst calculated OBP-SLG-ERA Pythag winning percentage. That’s worse than the Twins. My ranking of these clubs will not blindly parrot this table, though. In reverse order, let’s rank the remaining 10 clubs and finish up with our two remaining playoff teams, the AL East champ and the second wild card.


10. Toronto Blue Jays: At some point, the five-team AL East logjam will begin to break, and an upper and lower division will emerge. The guess here is that the Jays’ utter inability to keep the opposition off of the scoreboard — and their own starting pitcher in the ballgame — will be their undoing. Jays’ starters have averaged only 5.51 IP per start, better than only Tampa Bay among this group, and these guys don’t have Alex Cobb or Jeremy Hellickson coming back. Their greatest strength is obviously their offensive power, ranking first in the AL in home runs and second in SLG. The Adam Lind/Juan Francisco combo has overperformed to date. A continuing MVP-level offensive performance from Jose Bautista is a prerequisite for ongoing contention. Second base is an offensive sinkhole. Their pen has been bad, and heavily leaned upon, and their staff is second in the AL in walks. There are numerous leaks here that should eventually combine to take this team down.

9. Chicago White Sox: Chicago’s first quarter has actually been a pretty good story, one I actually saw coming in my preseason article declaring them the “Most Interesting Rebuilder” in the American League. In any event, the clock should strike midnight for Cinderella at some point this summer, and Chicago’s lack of team run prevention ability will be to blame. The White Sox have scored the most runs in the AL to date — they have played a league-high 39 games — and rank third in the AL in AVG and fourth in SLG. They have done this largely on the back of unsustainably strong performances from Jose Abreu and Alexei Ramirez, with Adam Dunn, Dayan Viciedo and Tyler Flowers also over their skis a bit at this stage of the season. They are getting nothing out of second base, third base or left field. Their pitching staff ranks 13th in ERA and Ks, and has walked the most batters of any AL club. Chris Sale should be back soon, but the problem goes beyond an injury to one pitcher. They already have used nine starters, with only Sale and Jose Quintana materially above replacement level. FanGraphs likes them the least among the above resources, with a projected 3.3% chance of making the playoffs. Their system is onto something there.

8 – Baltimore Orioles – Tough call here, but I see the O’s eventually retreating and joining the Blue Jays in the second division of the AL East. Based on OBP and SLG for and against, the Orioles’ .422 Pythag winning percentage is worse than even the Twins. The glass-half-full type might state they currently have the 3rd best record in the AL with only two HR from Chris Davis and basically nothing from Manny Machado, but the realist sees poor team run prevention skills and an offense that ranks 12th in the AL in OBP and dead last in walks. Five of their regulars have OBPs of .301 or below, Nelson Cruz can’t be expected to carry the offense all season, Matt Wieters is going to be out awhile and their team defense is not very good. This is a sub-.500 team.

7. Texas Rangers: FanGraphs sees them as the final playoff team, an outlier opinion compared to the others that see them at or near the Twins’ level. They’ve been outscored by 159-187 to date, for a .420 Pythag winning percentage based on actual runs scored. Their run prevention has been terrible, with their rotation largely in shambles behind Yu Darvish. Matt Harrison is back and Derek Holland should join him this summer, but even then their pitching will not be a true strength. Offensively, Prince Fielder has been in a slump so long that a revision of his true talent level might soon be in order, and Adrian Beltre is back but still not himself. They have gotten nothing out of catcher or second base, with Geovany Soto and Jurickson Profar still out. Shin-Soo Choo has almost singlehandedly kept the offense afloat. Their bullpen doesn’t strike people out, and it will be taxed more as the Texas summer heats up. There’s still a nice core here, but this likely isn’t the Rangers’ year.

6. Seattle Mariners: The Mariners arguably have the highest ceiling and lowest floor of the 10 core “meh” AL clubs. On one hand, they are over .500 despite getting a combined four starts to date out of Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker and running out an outfield featuring a rotating cast of replacement-level players. They do possess the most young, upwardly mobile core players among any of these clubs, though most of them were rushed to the majors and remain unfinished, showing impatience and pull-happy tendencies. Brad Miller is lost, Mike Zunino has flashed power but has a 33/3 K/BB, and their outfield situation would actually be even worse if their Plan A, which included Logan Morrison and Abraham Almonte, hadn’t been foiled by the former’s injury and the latter’s ineffectiveness. Their best-case scenario is a rosy one that features a healthy Felix Hernandez-Iwakuma-Paxton-Walker-fronted rotation with an offense starring a resurgent Miller and a more powerful Robinson Cano. That team has a legit shot. Just as likely, though, is that by June 15, only two or three of those pitchers are healthy, and some combination of James Jones, Jabari Blash and Endy Chavez are logging significant outfield time en route to a 70 to 75-win season.


5. Tampa Bay Rays: Some teams have their best quarter first, and others their worst. The Rays fall into the latter camp, having come into the season with high hopes, only to lose three-fifths of their starting rotation (Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, Jeremy Hellickson). Moore won’t be back this year, but the other two should still have an impact. The Rays have gotten only 5.45 IP per start from their rotation, less than even the Jays, but help is on the way. Their pen has been overtaxed to date, struggling as a result. On the positive side, their offense is balanced and OBP-centered — seven regulars have OBP of .339 or better — and no one has over-performed materially to date. Their team defense is solid and is among the best of this group of teams. This club just might be the best of these 10 clubs moving forward, but might not be good enough to make up ground on enough teams to earn a playoff spot in the end.

4. Cleveland Indians: The Indians’ offense has been abysmal to date, ranking 11th in the AL in runs scored. Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall are the only regulars who are hitting, with Nick Swisher, Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana and Michael Bourn all performing well below expectations. Their team defense has been subpar, particularly in the infield. This negatively impacts their strong pitching staff, which induces the most grounders in the AL. Their staff leads the AL in Ks, and the rotation has averaged an adequate 5.84 IP per start. Their bullpen has been effective, but its members are used frequently in a constant search for lefty-righty matchups, which could cause some attrition over the long haul. There’s a lot to work with here, but also too many Achilles’ heels for them to pull through.

3. Kansas City Royals: The Royals are a lot like the Mariners, but with much less variability and volatility on both the offensive and defensive sides. Both teams can’t score, due only in part to their spacious, pitcher-friendly homes, and both claim run prevention as their strong suit— with help from their home parks. The Royals are 13th in the AL in OBP and dead last in SLG and have gotten nothing out of third base or designated hitter. No one is performing over his head, and their best hitter, Eric Hosmer, is actually having a solid year (.320-.360-.440) despite hitting only one homer to date. They are getting 6.19 IP per game from their starters, fractionally behind only the Angels among this group, and their pen is well rested and talented. Their team defense is also clearly among the best of this group. At the end of the day, however, the extra games they have to play against the Tigers may be all that separates them and the second place AL East club in pursuit of the second wild card.


2. New York Yankees: There are plenty of reasons to rank this club further — perhaps much further — down this list. Their core position players are quite old, and there isn’t a lot of MLB-ready organizational depth waiting behind them. Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda and now CC Sabathia have all hit the disabled list, and Nova won’t be back this year. Despite all of this, they rank fifth in the American League in offensive SLG, and third in pitching Ks, with the second fewest walks. When you get down to it, according to calculated offensive and defensive ERA, they’re a .500 club. Why pick a .500 club to make the playoffs? Well…. According to the calculated ERA table above, 81 wins gets you into the playoffs in this year’s American League; Joe Girardi got 85 wins out of a demonstrably worse 2013 club that didn’t have Derek Jeter, Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran or — most importantly — Masahiro Tanaka; and New York could win 25 to 28 of Tanaka’s 33 starts (they’re 6-1 so far), and that could barely push them over the top. They’ll win 85 again and outperform their Pythag projection.

1. Boston Red Sox: These guys are just a bit better than the other nine core “meh” teams. Their offense has struggled and ranks 10th in runs, but at their core, the Sox have a solid OBP-based attack, ranking second in the AL at .337. No one is overperforming, and various members of their outfield rotation have underperformed and should fare better as the season unfolds. Xander Bogaerts is a fly-ball hitter who hasn’t yet learned to pull and use the wall — but he will. They get plenty of innings from their starting pitchers (6.05 per game), and Boston’s pen is deep, rested and effective. Perhaps most importantly, they haven’t exhausted all of their resources at this early stage in the season, unlike most of their competitors. They have multiple MLB-ready contributors in their upper minors, either for their use or for trade, plus the financial wherewithal to make a play for an MLB free agent after draft pick compensation is no longer an issue. This team, and organization, has another gear if it needs it.

The upside of all of this parity? Each and every day, there will be a slate full of meaningful games in the American League. In fact, the Rays-Mariners series that begins tonight is actually a big one for the Rays, which stand last among the “meh” clubs to date and find themselves facing Felix and Iwakuma the next two nights. The teams might not be great, but the competition should be. Strap in and enjoy the 10-teams-for-two-spots race that never ends.

Prospect Watch: Command Lefties.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Frank Lopez, LHP, Texas Rangers (Profile)
Level: Low-A Age: 20 Top-15: N/A Top-100: N/A
Line: 32.2 IP, 31 H, 6 R, 36/6 K/BB, 1.38 ERA, 2.62 FIP
A small Venezuelan southpaw, Lopez has command of three solid pitches at a young age.

I should have seen this coming. I saw Lopez last July and noted consistent 87-91 mph velocity, a good curveball, and an easy delivery, but I just put the “organizational arm” tag on him. Part of that was that I caught him at his worst–in that outing, he allowed seven runs (tying a season high) and five walks (setting a season high) in 3 2/3 innings. But he was just 19, he had the mechanics for command, there was some stuff there, and if you take that one outing out of his season, he’d have a 4.13 ERA and 74/30 K/BB in 69.2 IP–not bad for a 19-year-old in full-season competition, and the sort of numbers that–when combined with a reasonable passing of the eye test–portend further rounding into form.

Ten months after that July viewing, Lopez has become the pitching prospect I had wished he was. You can see the dominance in the numbers–and remember, he’s just 20 all year–and it’s backed up by his arsenal and approach. It all starts with one of the easiest motions around:

You can see there that Lopez has a loose, easy arm action and good tempo to the plate, and the ease and simplicity of his motion allow him to repeat his delivery and spot the ball well. Further, the smallish lefthander still manages to get good plane to the plate by utilizing a high arm slot and incorporating his lower half well. With the exception of a couple of breaking pitches that spun out of his hand, he put the ball wherever he wanted in the outing–the changeup was always down, and the fastball was always on the edges of the zone. He threw nothing but those two pitches for the first three innings, and nobody reached base off him in that span–in fact, he retired the first fifteen batters he faced.

Also notable is the fact that the 87s and 88s of 2013 seem to be just about gone, as Lopez worked comfortably at 89-91 mph for seven innings–his last pitch of the game was 91, in fact. Due to the high arm slot, the pitch is fairly straight, and Lopez doesn’t have much projection left, but with his command and secondary stuff, the fastball should play near average.

Lopez’s changeup has made considerable strides from last season and has become his best pitch, parking at 82-85 mph with good fade and sink. He’ll throw it to both lefties and righties, keeping it consistently around the knees and getting players to swing over the top of the ball. The sink on the change is instrumental in allowing him to post a 52.3% groundball rate this year despite his lack of fastball movement. Lopez’s curveball was his best pitch last year, and while it’s been passed by the change, it still has good potential, with upper-70s power and good (if inconsistent) shape. When he has all three pitches working, as he did in the outing I saw, he’s very tough to hit because he can spot three very different pitches in different locations. In particular, he’s not afraid to come inside to righthanders:

Lopez doesn’t have a whole lot of projection, and his modest fastball thus will likely prevent him from reaching the front of a rotation. But with his poise, command, and three-pitch arsenal, it’s not hard to see him as an effective back-of-the-rotation pitch-mixer, and he could also function well in a bullpen role. Not bad for a guy signed for $240,000 with little fanfare and who wasn’t even on Baseball America‘s Rangers org depth chart before the season.

Jon Dziedzic, LHP, Kansas City Royals (Profile)
Level: High-A Age: 23 Top-15: N/A Top-100: N/A
Line: 32.2 IP, 26 H, 8 R, 36/8 K/BB, 1.65 ERA, 2.55 FIP
A late-round find in the 2013 draft, Dziedzic has quickly adjusted to High-A in his first full season.

The above statline is great production for anyone, but it’s even more notable when it comes from an unheralded 13th-rounder jumped straight from the Pioneer League to the Carolina League. The move is actually quite necessary to give Dziedzic legitimate prospect status–he’s 23 years old–but he’s taken it and run with it, posting the third-best ERA in the league while tying for fourth in strikeouts so far.

Like Lopez, Dziedzic is a fairly small and non-projectable pitcher, listed at 6’0″ 200. Also like Lopez, he has a clean, repeatable motion that allows him to spot the ball effectively.

In my viewing (his first start of the 2014 season, back on April 4), Dziedzic worked at 90-92 mph in the first inning and mostly 87-89 thereafter. He does get good running and sinking action on the pitch, and as with Lopez, a high arm slot and good lower half use allow him to drive the ball down in the zone with good plane.

He’s really all about the secondary stuff, though. Dziedzic tosses a 73-76 mph curveball with good shape and bite and a fading 75-79 mph changeup with good speed separation. When he has them working, he can carve up High-A lineups, as you can see in this array of clips:

Dziedzic’s career will likely hinge on his ability to maintain low-90s velocity through his outings. While both of his offspeed offerings are good, neither are the sort of knockout pitches that allow a pitcher to succeed on their own, and he’ll find it increasingly difficult to set those pitches up with his fastball at higher levels if he’s working in the upper 80s. Given that my viewing came in his first start of the year, when pitchers often haven’t fully built up their stamina, I’m not about to say he can’t do it, but it’s something to keep an eye on, regardless. If Dziedzic can average 90 with his heater and make small strides with his consistency and pitch patterning, he could slot in as…well, basically what Bruce Chen and Jason Vargas are, except with the ability to keep the ball on the ground a reasonable percentage of the time.


Christian Jones, LHP, San Francisco Giants (Profile)
Level: Low-A Age: 23 Top-15: N/A Top-100: N/A
Line: 27.2 IP, 21 H, 13 R, 31/4 K/BB, 3.58 ERA, 2.59 FIP

This command sidearmer came within five outs of a no-hitter in his last outing and is off to a great start in his first full pro season.

Taken in the 18th round of last year’s draft as an Oregon redshirt junior, Christian Jones entered his first full professional season as a 23-year-old at the Low-A level, a low-profile kid behind the age curve. He was mostly a reliever in college and worked 15 games (19 innings) out of short-season bullpens in 2013, but this year, the Giants made him a starter for the first time since his 2011 sophomore season, and he’s taken to it with aplomb, as his statline shows. In his most recent start (May 10 in Hickory), Jones took a no-hitter through 7 1/3 frames, surrendering just one walk (and getting a double play to immediately erase the baserunner even then) in that span; it was one of the more impressive displays of pitchability I’ve seen.

Watching Jones, the first thing that sticks out is his arm slot. It’s low.

Jones slings the ball from a slot that could be described as either “low three-quarters” or “sidearm” depending on how you’re feeling, and as with most hurlers who deliver the ball in this fashion, he gets good run and sink on the offering. Also like most low-slot guys, he doesn’t have exceptional velocity, but he’s not exactly late-career Barry Zito, either, as he touched 92 mph and held 89-91 mph velocity through much of the outing before tailing off to 87-89 in the seventh and eighth. He does a good job keeping the ball down and moving the ball around, picking up called strikes and getting lots of grounders (59.2% per StatCorner).

The sinking heater sets up a big-breaking 76-80 mph slider that Jones can break off the plate to lefthanders or backdoor to righties. Lefties don’t read it out of his hand, which can make it a devastating pitch to them. Watch how bad it makes Nomar Mazara–a hitter who rarely gets fooled–look in this pair of strikeouts.

And here’s a couple of backdoor strikeouts of righthanders:

It’s easy to imagine Jones wreaking havoc on lefthanded batters out of the bullpen, maybe picking up another tick or two on both pitches and working 90-93 with a 78-82 mph breaker. This year, lefties are 6-for-40 (.150) against him with one walk and 15 strikeouts (34.9% K%). Northpaws, on the other hand, are hitting…well, a still-poor .242/.288/.290, albeit with a much-reduced 24.2% strikeout rate. He does have a third usable pitch, a changeup at 81-85 mph that doesn’t have great velocity separation but does have, as you might expect, good fade and sink. His three-pitch mix, command, and groundball propensity should allow him to stay a starter for a couple more levels (it’ll be interesting to see how impervious his groundballing ways are to the Cal League environs, a question the Giants should seek to answer in the near future), but he may struggle to consistently keep upper-level righthanders off balance. The Giants should let him start until he hits that wall, but the safe bet is that he’ll move to relief around the time he hits Triple-A. Still, this is a potential quality bullpen lefthander at the big-league level, and that’s quite the coup for the 552nd overall pick in last year’s draft.

Jose Bautista Is Doing More With Less.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Note: This was written just before Monday night’s game, in which Bautista had three hits and a homer. So, most of his 2014 stats are even better than they appear below.

One of the more impressive active streaks in baseball ended recently, and I bet you didn’t know anything about it. No, not the end of Nolan Arenado‘s 28-game hitting streak, as nice as that was. Jose Bautista went 0-4 in a loss to the Angels on Sunday, failing to reach base for the first time all year after doing so 37 consecutive times. It’s the longest streak since Michael Cuddyer (!) did so 46 consecutive times last year; it’s the longest to start a season since Albert Pujols had 42 in 2008; it’s tied with Carlos Delgado for the longest in Blue Jays history.

That’s interesting, but it’s not that interesting on its own, really. Bautista wasn’t even halfway to Ted Williams‘ record of 84. Orlando Cabrera once got on base 63 games in a row. Kevin Millar, 52. It’s hard to be a poor player and continually get on base, but it doesn’t on its own make you a great player. What’s interesting about what Bautista just did is that it’s a small part of the larger whole: After back-to-back seasons that were very good but hardly up to the standard he set during his insane 2010-11 run, and at age 33, Bautista is once again absolutely destroying baseballs, currently sitting with the fourth-best wRC+ in the game.
Now even “fourth-best” is maybe underselling it a bit, because that includes Seth Smith (!!), a platoon bat who almost exclusively faces righty pitchers, and Troy Tulowitzki, who may very well not be a human of this world. But fourth-best it is, and no matter how you want to parse or qualify it, it’s of course extremely good, and it’s a bit unexpected, considering the trends from his last four seasons I noted about him last fall:

ISO: .357 -> .306 -> .286 -> .239
SLG: .617 -> .608 -> .527 ->.498

That’s a clear downward direction, perhaps not unexpected from a player who took so long to break out that he was already 29 in his first big season. Obviously, some of that was injury-related — due to a 2012 wrist injury and a 2013 hip issue, he hasn’t played in a September game since 2011. (If that doesn’t seem that long ago, it should. Mike McCoy, Mark Teahen, David Cooper and Donny Lucy all started that day.) And who knows, maybe he doesn’t again. Players entering their mid-30s with a recent history of injuries don’t tend to get more healthy, so maybe we’ll look back at the end of the year and talk about a year that started out wonderfully and ended up as another good-but-not-elite season.

But for now, what we know is this: Bautista’s .422 wOBA through Monday afternoon is identical to the .422 wOBA he put up in his breakout 2010, the one that truly put him on the map. (Then as now, his wRC+was the fourth-best in baseball.) An identical wOBA indicates a similar level of offensive production, though what’s interesting here is that he’s not doing it in the same way. In 2010, it was ridiculous power, with a .617 SLG that was behind only Josh Hamilton and Miguel Cabrera, and helped along by a very good .378 OBP. This year, the power isn’t quite what it was at his best — not that anyone’s complaining about a .537 SLG, which is what Michael Morse and Yasiel Puig are providing, but it’s still not .617 — and an elite .430 OBP. (“But he’s got nine homers!” I can already hear. Four came in his first eight games, five in 30 since.)

The current Bautista is still offering power, but he’s also getting on base like crazy. (Remember here that while he did have a .447 OBP in 2011, he also had 24 intentional walks that year, somewhat inflating it.) Let’s take a look at some relevant plate discipline stats:

Note, if you would, some items. Bautista’s swing rate has remained relatively steady, from 37.5 percent in 2009 to 36.0 percent today; that his career mark is 39.1 percent includes some of his earlier free-swinging days in Pittsburgh, as he’s topped that just once in Toronto. He’s swinging slightly less overall, but not a great deal.

Note, secondly, that his contact rate has been consistent with some minor changes. For several years, it was at, near, or exactly 80 percent. Last year, you see a bump to 84.6; this year, a dip to 78.5. That does not correspond to any increase in strikeouts, because his whiff percentage has been all but identical in each of the last three years.

Note, finally, the line that does have a big difference: O-contact percentage, which tells you how much contact he makes on balls outside the strike zone. From 2010-12, it was exceptionally consistent. In 2013, it jumped along with his contact rate to a career-high 72.2, now, it’s plummeted all the way to 52.2 percent, an enormous drop.

What does that tell you? Nothing concrete, because while I’m about to speculate, it’s exactly that — there’s no primary source quoting this as something Bautista believes that I’ve been able to uncover. But it doesn’t seem totally unreasonable to suggest that missing more balls outside the strike zone may actually be a good thing, because for most hitters, contact on those kinds of balls isn’t ideal. (As Dodger fans will sadly remember, this was the Juan Pierre principle, because while Pierre was roundly celebrated for his contact skills, he’d routinely get his bat on lousy pitches, leading to endless weak grounders to second.)

Using the incomparable Baseball Savant, we can look into whether that holds up for Bautista. So far in 2014, Bautista has…

– Seen 444 pitches outside the zone, of which he’s offered at 108 of them. 31 were in play (6.9 percent of the 444), getting him 10 hits (2.2 percent of the 444), all but one a single, and he also reached on errors three times.

– Seen 246 pitches inside the zone, of which he’s offered at 140 of them. 79 were in play (32.1 percent of the 246), 28 for hits (11.4 percent of the 246), including 15 extra-base hits. He also had four other plays where he didn’t get a hit but ended up bringing a run in (fielder’s choice, sacrifice fly, etc.)

Which is all as expected. Swings at pitches inside the zone have a better chance of success for the hitter than reaching for those outside it. This is why I’m not going to expand a considerable amount of your time or my effort in comparing that to the league as a whole or Bautista’s career, because this isn’t exactly on par with discovering plutonium. Those numbers align pretty well with what we all understand baseball to be; there’s a reason that 2014 pitching stars like Zack Greinke, Yu Darvish, Sonny Gray and Jesse Chavez all have particularly low Z-Swing marks and Masahiro Tanaka, Stephen Strasburg, Jose Fernandez, Felix Hernandez and Greinke rate highly in O-Swing. If you can get entice hitters to swing at garbage outside the zone, good things will happen.

But remember, that only all works for the hitter if you have the patience Bautista does, because otherwise pitchers would never come into the zone. Bautista is one of only two major leaguers with a walk rate above 19 percent; since 2011, he’s second only to Joey Votto in walk rate. He’s on pace to have his highest unintentional walk rate ever this year, and when he does get pitches he wants to swing at, he’s doing so with a career-high 19.1 percent line-drive rate. Those are coming at the expense of a few fly balls; otherwise, his ground ball rate and HR/FB rate are very close to career norms.

In retrospect, it all seems so simple. Don’t help the pitcher by making outs on their pitches. Accept the walks when they’re given to you. Crush the balls that you can, especially now that you’re healthy. It’s simple, yet ever so complicated. Bautista is making it work, he’s doing it at a pace we haven’t seen in a few years. It’s been since Chipper Jones and Manny Ramirez in 2008 that a player 33 or older had a wOBA higher than what Bautista is sporting. It’s still early, of course; it’s also not like we’ve never seen Bautista produce at a high level, either. With his injury concerns not a concern at present, and a plate discipline / power combination that should be envied by all, we’re seeing Bautista production like many — myself included — thought might have been gone forever.
post #21758 of 73441
Originally Posted by Elpablo21 View Post


roll.gif at Ajax.
Philadelphia Eagles | Michigan State Spartans | Detroit Tigers
Philadelphia Eagles | Michigan State Spartans | Detroit Tigers
post #21759 of 73441
@EyeOnBaseball: MLB changes error, gives David Ortiz a hit following Yu Darvish's near no-hitter via @cbssports

To all of y'all who were claiming it was an error, the jury has ruled lol
post #21760 of 73441
Originally Posted by Jewbacca View Post

@EyeOnBaseball: MLB changes error, gives David Ortiz a hit following Yu Darvish's near no-hitter via @cbssports

To all of y'all who were claiming it was an error, the jury has ruled lol

I personally think that MLB gives way too many hits and far too few errors. IMO, its not right to reward a hitter and penalize a pitcher for plays that Major League players should make.


The Darvish/Ortiz thing included.  I am aware that 100 times out of 100, that a play like that is ruled a hit.  But IMHO, 100 times out of 100, that play should be ruled an error.

post #21761 of 73441
Originally Posted by bbllplaya23 View Post

When is Posey going to become a full time 1st basemen?

When Susac is ready and they find what to do with Brandon Belt.
Instagram: backyardlobo
Instagram: backyardlobo
post #21762 of 73441
So Josh Reddick has had "Careless Whisper" as his walk up song for the past few games. Check out the crowd reaction:

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

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

post #21763 of 73441
One of the best 80's songs. PERIOD.

It will do that to ya.

Song that EVERYONE should know by heart. Up there w/ the Star Spangled Banner. As a matter of fact, even tho George Michael is British, I'm all for Careless Whisper being our Nat'l Anthem.
post #21764 of 73441
This song is too much for a slightly bored, mildly drunk baseball crowd at night. I expect some repercussions, in the form of a couple getting naughty in the bathroom or something laugh.gif
A T H L E T I C S | U C L A | L A K E R S | R A I D E R S

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

post #21765 of 73441
Originally Posted by dland24 View Post

I personally think that MLB gives way too many hits and far too few errors. IMO, its not right to reward a hitter and penalize a pitcher for plays that Major League players should make.

The Darvish/Ortiz thing included.  I am aware that 100 times out of 100, that a play like that is ruled a hit.  But IMHO, 100 times out of 100, that play should be ruled an error.

I think most everyone agrees that play should be ruled an error but don't start making that change during a no hitter.

I too would like to see baseball consistently call that an error.
post #21766 of 73441
Originally Posted by Th3RealF0lkBlu3s View Post

So Josh Reddick has had "Careless Whisper" as his walk up song for the past few games. Check out the crowd reaction:


You whole crew's ravishing, team's untouchable
In the jungle banging Nas, Mobb Deep and Wu
"My Ohhh My"
You whole crew's ravishing, team's untouchable
In the jungle banging Nas, Mobb Deep and Wu
"My Ohhh My"
post #21767 of 73441
Thread Starter 
Let’s Explain Eric Hosmer’s WAR.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Eric Hosmer is still sitting on one home run as we approach the one-fourth point of the regular season. He hasn’t hit fewer than 14 dingers yet in a year, so it’s clear that Hosmer’s still looking for his power stroke. But don’t make the mistake of believing that Hosmer has yet to make a positive contribution — he’s got a 120 wRC+, which is basically right on what he did a year ago. Let’s keep doing that, comparing last year to this year. The offense has been identical, overall. Hosmer last year was nine runs below average defensively. Hosmer this year is on pace for about -7. So in a sense, Eric Hosmer has been just as good a player. But, last season, Hosmer was worth just over three wins. This season, he’s on pace to be worth just over one win. How do you explain that, when a guy’s been hitting the same and fielding the same? Is WAR losing the mind that it doesn’t have?

That’s one option. Or you could look at WAR’s other, oft-forgotten input. You think about baserunning value when it comes to burners like Billy Hamilton and Jacoby Ellsbury. It’s easy to kind of forget about it when you’re dealing with a first baseman or a DH. But, to this point, according to our leaderboards, Hosmer has been the worst baserunner in baseball, at almost five runs below average, already. That puts him on pace for -21, eclipsing Kendrys Morales‘ recent record of -14 in 2009. Hosmer, presumably, won’t keep up this impossible pace. Previously, for his career, he was actually above average. But how did things get to this point? How has Hosmer already cost his team that many runs in such a small sample of games?

There are .gifs, and, unfortunately, they are big.

The first thing that comes to mind: caught steals. People think of stolen bases as a huge part of baserunning value, yet so far, Hosmer is just 0-for-1 in steal attempts. Before the year, he was 38-for-48, so he’s a first baseman with some wheels. That makes it all the more surprising that he ranks where he does for the moment. But there are an awful lot of ways to do something good or bad or in between on the bases, and Hosmer’s wound up on too many bad ends through a month and a half.

Excluding steals, he’s already made seven outs on the bases, one shy of last year’s total and higher than his 2011 and 2012 totals. He’s run into four outs at home. This year, only Yasiel Puig has also made seven outs on the bases, and nobody else has made as many outs at home. Hosmer’s been thrown out leaving first on a single, he’s been thrown out leaving first on a double, and he’s been thrown out twice leaving second on singles. It hasn’t been Eric Hosmer’s year, and three times, he’s made outs on the bases in consecutive games.

So how does this happen? And perhaps more importantly, what does this tell us about Hosmer, versus what does this tell us about the nature of good and bad luck? How reflective is this of Hosmer’s true talent? We’re going to quickly go through the plays in chronological order. Following will be the eight Hosmer outs on the bases, caught-steal included.

#1: April 2

Welp. Nurts. Absolutely nothing for Hosmer to do. The numbers don’t know how to interpret a line-drive double play, and we don’t have live game-to-game stringers.

#2: April 5

The problem here? Part Hosmer, part not-Hosmer. From the recap:

Gordon dropped a single into right field, just in front of diving right fielder Dayan Viciedo.

But Hosmer feared a catch, hesitated between second and third and then had what he called a miscommunication with the team’s new third-base coach, Dale Sveum. Rounding third base, Hosmer got hung up and was tagged out in a rundown.

“My first peek, I saw his hand and saw him point so I figured the ball got away from somebody or something like that and I just saw the hand and went,” Hosmer said. “It wasn’t the right thing to do.”

Hosmer gets penalized for being over-aggressive, but at least some of the responsibility falls on the third-base coach, who I guess wasn’t completely clear.

#3: April 6

Runners last year were 19-for-21 against Chris Sale. Runners this year are 0-for-1. I’m not a huge fan of running in a 3-and-1 count against a good hitter, but perhaps Hosmer figured Billy Butler would get a pitch to drive, and then Hosmer could come all the way around to snap the deadlock given a head start.

#4: April 17

A good relay from deep center and Hosmer was just barely out. That’s something to remember about plays like this: they’re frequently decided by a small fraction of a fraction of a second, and the decision to go or not has to be made with the ball still quite far away. The Royals were leading comfortably against a team they were playing comfortably, so in a sense Hosmer didn’t need to risk it, but in another sense he didn’t have a lot to lose since the Royals’ win expectancy was already so high. The outcome of this was a coin flip, and it required the Astros to do a lot right, after the first mistake by Dexter Fowler.

#5: April 18

Too much aggressiveness, here. Hosmer might’ve misread the height of the throw in to home plate. Or he might’ve forgotten about the pitcher. Or he might’ve just plain old done something dumb. But that’s an out that doesn’t need to be made. That extra base is not worth a ton.

#6: April 30

Can’t help the contact play. The contact play is out of the runner’s hands.

#7: May 1

Hosmer was going full speed and he certainly didn’t misread his third-base coach. He just made an attempt and got thrown out after a strong throw that yielded a good hop and got the catcher in good position to apply an easy tag. Hosmer was out by literally an inch or two, and plays like this are like one-run wins: you figure they’ll balance out in the long run because so much just comes down to luck. If the outfielder grips the baseball a little differently, Hosmer might be safe. If the catcher does anything, almost genuinely anything differently, Hosmer might be safe. He was out, but not in a way that really reflected a mistake on his own part. Wasn’t about running, or speed — this was just about the fact that nobody is safe all of the time, no matter what. Defenses just make plays.

#8: May 7

And here’s something stupid. This is flat-out bad baserunning.


Eric Hosmer has done some things to earn his low baserunning value. He’s also been a victim of some bad luck and circumstances, and if all these plays were to repeat, Hosmer might not make outs on all of them. On a couple, there was nothing for him to do. In the eight games in which Hosmer has made an out on the bases, the Royals have gone 5-3, so it’s not like this has been particularly crippling, so we’re all left just considering what this means. Seems to me there’s a lot of noise in the baserunning values, but there’s a lot of noise in all the data, and it’s not like Hosmer didn’t make all the outs. But you end up in a situation where you’re deciding whether you want to look at a number descriptively or predictively. Descriptively, Hosmer has made all these outs, and they’ve cost runs. But predictively, Hosmer now has a career BsR of about exactly league-average. Which seems about right to me. Overall, Eric Hosmer is roughly a league-average baserunner, and over a month and a half, a league-average baserunner can, statistically, look like the worst runner in the majors.

David Price, Cliff Lee, and the Others.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
David Price had one of the best starts of his career on Tuesday. With any start, you always have to consider the opponent, since it’s the opponent who’s responsible for doing anything with the pitches that get thrown, but at least by the numbers, Price was absolutely outstanding in Seattle, turning in a walk-free complete game with a dozen strikeouts. He was sufficiently dominant that he was allowed to handle the ninth inning of a one-run game, and he closed the deal with a 96 mile-per-hour swinging strikeout. Not that it was the swinging strikeouts for which people will remember the effort.

Closing the bottom of the first, Price froze Corey Hart with an inside running fastball. That was the first of eight called strikeouts Price would record, giving him twice as many called strikeouts as whiffs. It was tied for the highest called-strikeout start of the 2014 season, and while most called third strikes are the result of a hitter being caught off guard, in the end Price’s called strikeouts were pretty similar.

From Baseball Savant, here are Price’s called third strikes, against both lefties and righties:

Eight of ‘em, all on fastballs, all either around the inside edge or the outside edge. So Price was succeeding with front-door fastballs and back-door fastballs, and what’s important isn’t that some of them might’ve been out of the zone — Price was commanding those pitches, allowing him to get the calls, and this isn’t anything new for him. Less attention gets paid to called strikeouts than swinging strikeouts, but as far as the former are concerned, Price has proven himself to be among baseball’s elite.

Last July, David Price came off the disabled list after having been sidelined with an arm injury. The David Price after the injury is very good, just like the David Price before the injury, but this Price is newly efficient. As a part of that, here’s the MLB leaderboard for called strikeouts since Price returned on July 2, 2013:

David Price, 74 called strikeouts
Cliff Lee, 73
Jon Lester, 52
C.J. Wilson, 50
Ubaldo Jimenez, 49
Felix Hernandez, 48
Adam Wainwright, 44
Stephen Strasburg, 42
Bartolo Colon, 42
Chris Sale, 41
Mike Minor, 41
Yeah, it’s a counting stat, which generally isn’t preferred. Yeah, it’s selective for a David Price endpoint, which might make him look a little better. But the point isn’t just that Price is at No. 1 — the point is that Price and Lee are separated from the rest of the pack by more than 20 called strike threes. There might be more deceptive pitchers in baseball, but no one else is on their level when it comes to getting third strikes unchallenged.

And that isn’t where the Price and Lee comparison ends. When Price returned from the DL, he started pitching in the Cliff Lee style, and he’s held that much up. Since his return, Price has made 27 regular-season starts. Here’s a table comparing Price over that span to Lee over his own most recent 27 starts.

Pitcher FIP- PA/start K% BB% F-Strike% Zone% Contact% Swing% Strike%
Lee 77 28 26% 3% 68% 56% 81% 48% 70%
Price 74 28 23% 3% 70% 54% 82% 48% 70%
By expected runs, they’ve been the same. By batters per start, they’ve been the same. Lee has an edge in strikeout rate, but he’s also pitched in the National League in a considerably weaker division, and Price has a slight edge in walk rate, of less than one percentage point. Both pitchers have been very aggressive with first-pitch strikes, and they’ve been aggressive in the zone in general, even though they possess the command to nibble. Price and Lee have managed those above-average strikeout rates with worse-than-average contact rates, and they get the same number of swings. They’ve each thrown seven of ten pitches for strikes, overall, which is quite a ways above the league average.

Cliff Lee might not be the best pitcher in baseball, but he’s the perfect blend of success and efficiency, and he’s apparently serving as David Price’s role model. Even in terms of pitch mix, Price is like Lee with a few extra ticks, which gives him a greater margin of error since he presumably has slightly inferior command. By far the greatest difference between the two pitchers is that Lee has taken six fewer seconds between each pitch. Lee has been one of baseball’s fastest workers; Price has been one of baseball’s slowest. But while Lee’s pace makes him that much more watchable, in terms of the numbers that really matter, he and Price are basically twins.

So at this point, it’s probably not worth worrying about Price — the arm injury seems to be behind him, and he’s made himself more efficient, which could help preserve his health. Any pitcher could get hurt at any moment, Price included, but now he’s got zero other red flags aside from his chosen position, and once Price’s ERA matches up with the rest of his numbers everyone else should realize what the Rays have at the front of their rotation. This trade deadline, one Cliff Lee might become available. This offseason, the same could be said of another.

Quickly, going back to those called strikeouts, here’s Price against righties since July 2:

Front-door fastballs and a good number of back-door cutters. Here’s Price against lefties:

Pretty much all back-door fastballs. Against righties with two strikes, Price has shifted more to pitching away since coming off the DL, but he hasn’t changed much of his approach against lefties. Truth be told, he was already good at all this, but he’s taken it up a level to become the dominant command pitcher he is today. I don’t know if this is part of a conscious response to getting hurt, and if so I don’t know if this is going to work in the long run, but you can see the sense in it, and you can certainly see the success in it.

Cliff Lee with velocity. Such a thing can exist. It’s about as pleasant to face as you’d expect. One might wish that Price would work a little faster, but a slow pace feels faster when you don’t have to throw many pitches.

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

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

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

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

Andrew Aplin, OF, Houston (Profile)
Research by the present author — largely aided, that research, by standing on the shoulders of the giants at Baseball America — suggests that prospects who demonstrate (a) the ability to hit for average and (b) excellent plate discipline and (c) promising defensive skills at a difficult position become, almost without exception, above-average major leaguers. Former fifth-round pick Andrew Aplin, despite exhibiting little in the way of what is frequently called a “carrying tool,” nevertheless matches that profile. The 23-year-old has recorded walk and strikeout rates of 16.9% and 11.6%, respectively, with Double-A Corpus Christi. Furthermore, Baseball America wrote of Aplin this offseason in their annual Prospect Handbook that “he’s an above-average center fielder, despite average speed, thanks to great reads and jumps.” In conclusion, Aplin is a candidate to become a surprisingly good professional baseballer.

For the enjoyment of the masses, here’s largely unrepresentative video of Aplin hitting a home run, a thing he’s unlikely to do with much frequency:

Ben Lively, RHP, Cincinnati (Profile)
A challenge in life — perhaps the challenge — is remaining constantly aware that everything is amazing. For one even to read these words requires an improbable and beautiful concert performed simultaneously by the human intellect and the technology that said intellect has produced. Likewise, the challenge with Ben Lively this year so far is not taking for granted his accomplishment in the High-A California League. Omitted from the notable top-100 lists which the author uses as his guide for this weekly feature, Lively has produced strikeout and walk rates now of 35.3% and 2.9%, respectively, through 48.2 innings while also conceding just a single home run in a league where pitchers have allowed 0.8 of them every nine innings. Since his appearance last week among the Five, Lively has continued terrorizing opposing batters, recording a 13:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 13.0 innings — exceptional, that, because it represents probably his worst week of the season.

Billy McKinney, OF, Oakland (Profile)
Because he’s recorded only a .219/.341/.401 slash line in the California League, McKinney will likely not have received overwhelming attention thus far — which, that’s understandable. Of probably greater relevance to his possible future as a real-live major-leaguer, however, are the fact that (a) he’s produced one of that same league’s best defense-independent batting lines and also (b) he’s only 19 (i.e. nearly four years younger than the Cal League’s average age) and also (c) he continues to play center field regularly. Over 164 plate appearances now, McKinney has posted walk and strikeout rates of 15.2% and 19.5%, respectively, while also hitting six home runs. What’s particularly notable about McKinney is the extent to which he appears capable of adapting his approach. Over 73 plate appearances between April 3 and 18, for example, he hit six home runs but produced a relatively unimpressive 6:17 walk-to-strikeout ratio. In the 91 plate appearances since then, however, McKinney has recorded precisely zero home runs, but a much improved 19:15 walk-to-strikeout figure.

No MiLB.TV game footage appears to exist of him thus far this season; however, one does find this video (courtesy Big League Futures) of McKinney homering to a Shania Twain song:

Wes Parsons, RHP, Atlanta (Profile)
There’s some difficulty, over the first month or so of the season, in locating very recent scouting reports for the minor leagues’ less celebrated prospects. As such, an idiot Paris-based weblogger is compelled to base his assessments of fringe-type pitchers almost entirely on either the defense-independent numbers they’ve produced or the projections which are produced for them by Steamer or ZiPS or whatever. By mid-May, however, such an imbecile might more readily draw his absurd conclusions from a combination both of performance and also the tools which have facilitated that performance. Parsons, for his part, is well-acquitted by both critera. Over 32.2 innings in the High-A Carolina League, the right-hander has recorded strikeout and walk rates of 28.2% and 5.2%, respectively — among the league’s best marks, those. Moreover, not only has he continued to demonstrate both above-average fastball velocity and an effective slider, but there are indications that the changeup has also become an important pitch for the formerly undrafted free agent.

Regard this excerpt from a recent piece by Damien Sordelett of the News Advance in Lynchburg, Virgina:

“The changeup was actually my best off-speed pitch. I was really working that off the fastball, which got stronger through the innings,” Parsons said. “The slider was there. The slider early in the game was a little wild, but throughout the game it got stronger. The changeup was there.”

Recent footage of Parsons appears non-extant; however here he is throwing a slider for a swinging-strike last year to Raul Mondesi the Younger:

And doing that same thing in slow motion, too:

Michael Reed, OF, Milwaukee (Profile)
A fact about Michael Reed is that, relative to his league (the Florida State one, in this case), he’s produced one of the best defense-independent offensive lines among all minor-league batters at High-A or above, having posted walk and strikeout rates of 23.3% and 16.0%, respectively, over 150 plate appearances while also compiling two home runs and a 17-for-23 stolen-base record. Another fact about Michael Reed is also that, despite having generally been young for his levels (he’s just 21 now) and having belonged to one of the weakest minor-league systems — despite all of that, he was still omitted from Baseball America’s most recent top-30 organizational prospect list for the Brewers. This isn’t an indictment of that honored publication, of course; what it is is a celebration of the Michael Goddamn Reed, who also’s capable of playing center field.

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

Josh Hader, LHP, Houston (High-A California League)
Brian Johnson, LHP, Boston (Double-A Eastern League)
Robert Kral, C, San Diego (Double-A Texas League)
Roberto Perez, C, Cleveland (Triple-A International League)
Jace Peterson, SS, San Diego (Triple-A Pacific Coast League)

Fringe Five Scoreboard
Here are all the players to have appeared among either the Fringe Five (FF) or Next Five (NF) so far this season. For mostly arbitrary reasons, players are assessed three points for each week they’ve appeared among the Fringe Five; a single point, for each week among the Next Five.
Josh Hader Astros LHP 4 1 13
Robert Kral Padres C 3 3 12
Ben Lively Reds RHP 3 1 10
Jace Peterson Padres SS 3 1 10
Thomas Shirley Astros LHP 3 0 9
Jose Ramirez Indians 2B/SS 2 0 6
Michael Reed Brewers OF 2 0 6
Aaron West Astros RHP 1 2 5
Andrew Aplin Astros OF 1 2 5
Billy Mckinney Athletics OF 1 2 5
Adam Duvall Giants 3B 1 1 4
Cameron Rupp Phillies C 1 0 3
Dario Pizzano Mariners OF 1 0 3
Ryan Rua Rangers 3B 1 0 3
Taylor Cole Blue Jays RHP 1 0 3
Tsuyoshi Wada Cubs LHP 1 0 3
Wesley Parsons Braves RHP 1 0 3
Bryan Mitchell Yankees RHP 0 2 2
Roberto Perez Indians C 0 2 2
Tommy La Stella Braves 2B 0 2 2
Billy Burns Athletics OF 0 1 1
Brett Eibner Royals OF 0 1 1
Brian Johnson Red Sox LHP 0 1 1
Chris Taylor Mariners SS 0 1 1
Danny Winkler Rockies RHP 0 1 1
Darnell Sweeney Dodgers MI 0 1 1
Edwar Cabrera Rangers LHP 0 1 1
Seth Mejias-Brean Reds 3B 0 1 1
Stephen Landazuri Mariners RHP 0 1 1
Tim Cooney Cardinals LHP 0 1 1
Tyler Goeddel Rays 3B 0 1 1

Prospect Watch: Mets Relievers.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The New York Mets have a talented group of young arms in the minor league system. That’s great news in terms of the pitching talent pipeline but it might make roster management difficult.

The club has eight arms that would be at risk of being lost in the annual Rule 5 draft if they were to be left unprotected: Noah Syndergaard, Cory Mazzoni, Logan Verrett, Jack Leathersich, Gabriel Ynoa, Luis Mateo, Domingo Tapia, and Akeel Morris.

Right-hander Rafael Montero was also on the list prior to having his contact purchased by the club mere days ago. The need to protect infielder Dilson Herrera will further muddy the waters.

New York has the potential to clear upwards of seven roster spots at the end of the season via free agency. A quick glance at the club’s 40-man rosters also shows expendable players such as Josh Edgin, Gonzalez German, Erik Goeddel, Scott Rice, Jeff Walters, Zach Lutz, Wilfredo Tovar, Andrew Brown, and Eric Campbell.

So, the club could potentially protect all eight of the pitching prospects (and Herrera) but it would hinder the club’s ability to build depth in other areas (such as the infield) and would also prevent them from acquiring much in the way of new talent. As a result, between now and when offseason rosters are set in November (in advance of the Rule 5 draft), a number of talented arms in the Mets system will be jockeying for the coveted 40-man roster spots (which includes a bigger payday for the players).

Let’s have a look at a couple of the above relief arms that I’ve recently seen pitch:

Akeel Morris, RHP, New York Mets (Profile)
Level: Low-A Age: 21 Top-15: N/A Top-100: N/A
Line: 20.2 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 34/10 K/BB, 0.00 ERA, 1.89 FIP

It’s not common for a player to spend four years in short-season ball and still be considered a prospect – but Morris is the exception to the rule.

Morris is one of the least known names vying for roster consideration. The 21-year-old right-hander spent four seasons in short-season ball before receiving an opening day assignment to A-ball in 2014. After striking out 60 batters in 45 innings last year, he’s now whiffed 30 in his first 18.2 innings.

Morris possesses a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a promising curveball with good shape and break (despite a low arm angle). However, he’s a little undersized at 6-1 and has command issues — which were on display when I watched him pitch; his stuff looked crisp but he was his own worst enemy by falling into favorable hitters’ counts and leaving pitches in hittable zones.

When he’s on, though, he’s almost unhittable — as witnessed in his last bullpen appearance on May 9 when he recorded five of his seven outs via the K. Overall this season, he has yet to allow a run in his 18.2 innings of work with just even hits allowed but 10 free passes. He just might be a diamond in the rough.

Jack Leathersich, LHP, New York Mets (Profile)
Level: Double-A Age: 23 Top-15: N/A Top-100: N/A
Line: 13.0 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 24/10 K/BB, 3.46 ERA, 3.49 FIP

Leathersich isn’t a one-trick pony so don’t try and pigeon hole him as a future LOOGY. His stuff suggests he could be a solid middle reliever against hitters on both sides of the plate – assuming he can solve his command issues.

I’ve been rather high on Leathersich for a few years now. However, like Morris above, he struggles with his command and control – in part due to his max-effort delivery. So far this season he’s struck out 24 batters but walked 10 in 13.0 innings of work. Interestingly, the southpaw has actually been better against right-handed hitters than those on the left side of the plate. One of the most eye-catching numbers for the 23-year-old hurler is the 23% line-drive rate for left-handed batters versus 11% for righties.

Undersized at 5-11, Leathersich has good stuff nonetheless. His fastball generally sits in the low 90s but works its way up into the mid 90s. He also possesses a slider that flashes plus potential when he commands it. The lefty told our very own David Laurila in a December 2013 interview that he was working on incorporating a changeup into his repertoire. His lack of premium height does cause issues and he struggles to maintain a consistent plane on his offerings, which leads to more fly balls than I’d like to see.

Even though he’s not an ideal candidate for the LOOGY role, Leathersich’s stuff suggests he could develop into a solid middle reliever at the big league level — He just might end up as a late-bloomer.
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Thread Starter 
Careless Whisper sick.gif

The fact that DJ's compared it to the Star Spangled banner sick.gifsick.gifsick.gif
post #21769 of 73441
Originally Posted by JJs07 View Post

One of the best songs EVAR. PERIOD.

It will do that to ya.

Song that EVERYONE should know by heart. Up there w/ the Star Spangled Banner. As a matter of fact, even tho George Michael is British, I'm all for Careless Whisper being our Nat'l Anthem.


If they replaced Timber and all the other crap these past years on espn during the playoffs with just the sax solo, I'd watch the intros over and over again

Dodger announcers have noticed Jansen is throwing the cutter less or something's off. Between him struggling at times, Wilson being utter crap, wright being meh, the bullpen hasn't been a strength. On the bright side, League hasn't sucked as much this year laugh.gif
post #21770 of 73441
Originally Posted by JJs07 View Post

One of the best 80's songs. PERIOD.

It will do that to ya.

Song that EVERYONE should know by heart. Up there w/ the Star Spangled Banner. As a matter of fact, even tho George Michael is British, I'm all for Careless Whisper being our Nat'l Anthem.

Instagram: backyardlobo
Instagram: backyardlobo
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George Spinger with a 112MPH laser 2-run homer to tie the game. :hat

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Astros beat the Rangers on a walk off double. You're welcome, A's and Angels.
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Giants are 5 HRs away from tying last years HR Totals laugh.gif
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The Giants continue to impress yet another series win.
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Careless whisper laugh.gif then a two run hr smokin.gif
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Thread Starter 
ESPN The Mag article.

Tanaka is a $155M bargain.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
IN THE AFTERMATH, the players remembered how Masahiro Tanaka flinched, ducking as if someone had rifled a ball at his face.

It was early evening in a late-April game at Fenway, and Tanaka had carried a 4-0 lead into the fourth. He'd fallen behind 3 and 1 to David Ortiz and, to keep from walking him, challenged the slugger with a fastball. Pitching 101. Ortiz anticipated the fastball -- Hitting 101 -- and destroyed the pitch, a massive, fully leveraged hack. That was when Tanaka ducked his chin into his shoulder, as if the contact unnerved him. Then he watched as the ball soared high above, landing in a spot in center where Ortiz had never before driven it, some 482 feet away. As Ortiz's teammate Jonny Gomes later said, "I bet nobody has ever hit a ball that hard against him."

Meet Masahiro Tanaka's translator

Shingo Horie is a former-TV-guy-turned-interpreter helping break language barriers. Story »
That is, until the next batter. Tanaka, on a 1-1 count to Mike Napoli, fired another fastball. Napoli blistered a home run 405 feet toward the Massachusetts Turnpike, and Tanaka flinched even worse. His hands flashed upward and his body rippled, like someone taking a punch to the chin.

He was now faced with baseball's truest test: responding to the failure inherent in the game. Would Tanaka, the 25-year-old beneficiary of a $175 million investment -- the most the Yankees had ever spent on any free agent pitcher -- crack and begin to falter as New York's other Asian pitchers had? (Most notable was Kei Igawa, who played so poorly the Yankees benefited more from keeping him in the minors than calling him up.) Or would he live up to his 24-0 record with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles last year, which presaged the offseason bidding war in which Tanaka became the most hotly pursued Japanese pitcher in history?

Tanaka waited for Napoli to round the bases and stared as Gomes dug in. His body language betrayed nothing; he showed no sign of panic. His face looked determined, if flushed with anger. Two pitches into the at-bat he got Gomes to fly out. But then A.J. Pierzynski doubled off the Monster -- Another crack? The makings of a Red Sox rout? Tanaka snatched the ball but remained otherwise serene. He promptly struck out Xander Bogaerts to end the inning. That night Tanaka faced 12 more hitters, and none advanced beyond second base. The next day, chatting in the batting cage, Red Sox hitters would marvel at how he seemed to throw harder as the game progressed, nicking the edges of the strike zone, his split-fingered fastball fooling hitter after hitter as it sank out of sight at the plate. Tanaka pitched 7 innings, picking up the 9-3 win, and stayed perfect on the year at 3-0.

As Yankees catcher Brian McCann says, "He knows when to go to max effort."

Masahiro Tanaka
Peter Yang for ESPN
It may not be too early to wonder if we're looking at a future Yankees legend.
THE YANKEES BEGAN scouting Tanaka in 2007, when he was 18. More than half a dozen New York scouts watched him last year to gather as many perspectives as possible. The reports were consistently glowing; Gene Michael, the former general manager who helped turn around the franchise in the early 1990s, pored over hours of video and loved what he saw. Yankees GM Brian Cashman first floated the idea of nabbing Tanaka late in the 2013 season. He scheduled a meeting with the Steinbrenners, and when Hal and Hank walked into his office, he called up video of Tanaka pitching on his computer screen. The brothers trotted over to Cashman's side of the desk to watch; they saw Tanaka's precision in the zone and the dovetailing split-finger, the most lethal of the seven pitches Tanaka throws. At the end of the half-hour meeting, the Steinbrenners agreed with Cashman: They needed Tanaka.

When the Yankees identify a star they want, they attack the negotiations, immediately firing off their best offer, or something close to it, often with a deadline attached. As Robinson Cano closed in on a deal with the Mariners, the Yankees extended offers of $140 million to Shin-Soo Choo and $45 million to Carlos Beltran, warning the agents of each outfielder that they had multiple offers out and that once the first player accepted, the other offer would be pulled. Beltran quickly said yes, and Choo was no longer considered.

With Tanaka, the Yankees went in with an offer close to $150 million, sources say, knowing that if he took it, the club would also be on the hook for a $20 million posting fee, payable to the Rakuten Eagles. Cashman could not attach a firm deadline this time, though, because MLB rules dictate that a foreign free agent can entertain offers for 30 days. Tanaka's agent, Casey Close, gave each of the roughly 10 interested teams an hour to make their pitch. Many teams placed a value of $100 million to $120 million on Tanaka. Some were in the vicinity of the Yankees' offer. On Jan. 22 -- 12 days after Close opened the bidding -- Tanaka agreed to a seven-year, $155 million deal with the Yankees, the fifth highest in MLB history for a pitcher.

Cashman tried to tamp down expectations going into spring training by saying that Tanaka might be a good No. 3 starter. But he's been a whole lot more than that. There's really nobody else like him in the big leagues. Tanaka throws more types of pitches than McCann has fingers: a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, curveball, slider, cutter, splitter and changeup. And he can throw strikes with all of them, meaning that it's extremely difficult for hitters to corner him. Even if they do try to look for one particular pitch, Tanaka will probably see it and adjust. He generally leaves the pregame scouting reports to McCann and pitching coach Larry Rothschild, but from the mound, Tanaka is apt at reading the body language of hitters -- their tells -- and diagnosing what they are trying to do. This is when he'll shake off McCann.

"One thing we've seen is he's really good at making adjustments," says Yankees manager Joe Girardi.

Especially when the pressure mounts. Tanaka's average fastball velocity with the bases empty during his first six starts this year was 91.0 mph. But with runners on base and two strikes, it was 92.4 mph. In fact, with runners in scoring position, opposing hitters were 3-for-29 with 17 strikeouts. With runners in scoring position and two outs, they were 2-for-16 with 12 K's.

"He is like a rock star," says Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee, who played with Tanaka in Japan last season. Orioles manager Buck Showalter calls him "the real deal."

Tanaka's rise could not have come at a better moment for the Yankees. With longtime ace CC Sabathia in decline and the team preparing for the departure of Derek Jeter, Tanaka has, at least, inspired a dormant fan base -- ratings for the team's YES Network have increased by 20 percent -- and, at most, asserted himself as the franchise player, possibly the new Yankees captain.

DESPITE A CONTRACT that distinguishes him from almost all other players, Tanaka, his teammates say, has made a seamless transition into the Yankees' culture. His acerbic sense of humor darts through his limited English -- no easy task. George Rose served as a translator for the Yankees' Hideki Irabu in the late '90s, and he noticed humor was a casualty of the language barrier. If one of his teammates said something amusing, by the time Rose finished explaining the joke ... well, a joke is not a joke if it has to be explained.

[+] EnlargeMasahiro Tanaka
Tanaka was on everyone's radar after he went 24-0 for the Rakuten Eagles in Japan's NPB last season.
But right away, Tanaka's teammates learned that a raised eyebrow and the occasional English phrase relayed an ironic and dry worldview. He fit in perfectly in the bemused, even sardonic clubhouse of the most notorious team in the world. Tanaka can joke with his teammates because he is very comfortable with himself. The same man who said he has not ruled out another perfect season is also an unabashed fan of the Asian versions of One Direction. His entrance music is by Momoiro Clover Z, the Japanese equivalent of, say, the Spice Girls. He is assured enough to have once made a guest appearance on a variety show in Japan, dancing around and repeating the 
word "coconuts."

Players say Tanaka has done exactly what any new guy should do, no matter his past accomplishments. On team bus rides and flights, he has ceded the best seats to veterans. He takes good-natured teasing -- Sabathia calls him Baby -- and gives back just enough to show he's not a pushover.

But he has mostly kept his personality out of exchanges with reporters. Tanaka's approach in dealing with the media, one member of the organization noted, is much like that of Derek Jeter's: The goal appears to be to participate without participating, to answer questions without ever saying anything controversial, much less revealing.

This is quite a task given the attraction he's become. More than 100 print and TV reporters watched the first time Tanaka pitched to live hitters as a Yankee -- throwing 10 minutes of batting practice and doing some running and fielding drills. These days, each time Tanaka talks to reporters, he does a round with English-speaking reporters through an interpreter, then another round with the scores-more journalists from Japan. As questions are translated for Tanaka, his face often splits into a wry smile, as if he finds the whole thing just a little absurd.

After Tanaka's strong start against the Red Sox, SportsCenter producers asked me to interview him for a Sunday Conversation, and I prepared a long list of questions, knowing that we'd never get to a lot of them because of the two-language dynamic. Each question and each answer would have to be translated, eating into our 15 minutes.

As the interview started, I began to feel like a hitter standing in the box against Tanaka: He seemed to anticipate what I was thinking and wanted to ask, and he did his best to counteract it. The wry smile appeared.

I asked about adapting to a new type of baseball, moving from Japan to MLB. "Coming in," he said, "I already knew the ball will be different. So to me, it wasn't a big problem."

I asked for his favorite new English phrase. "I still don't have the vocabulary, so I feel I need to keep on learning the language."

I asked about his biggest cultural adjustment. "I am coming here to learn what American culture offers. And up to this point, I haven't had any problems adjusting to it."

When it was over, Tanaka got up and walked out without saying another word. That went pretty well, a producer in the room said. "No," I replied, "that was really terrible."

BUT TO THE Yankees players, says McCann, "he's been everything you could have hoped for."

Tanaka struck out 51 in his first 42 innings, the fourth most in major league history for any pitcher in his first six starts. The early results have been so promising that the conversation around Tanaka has moved from Will he make it? to How long can he last? In one Japanese World Series game last fall, he threw 160 pitches. This season Tanaka has thrown his splitter, which puts tremendous torque on his elbow, on 24 percent of his pitches. But with runners in scoring position and two strikes, he's thrown it 52 percent of the time. "I've never seen a pitcher throw that many splitters," David Ortiz says with wonderment. "Never."

[+] EnlargeMasahiro Tanaka
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
Tanaka's average fastball velocity of 93.3 increases by 2 mph with runners in scoring position, two strikes and two outs.
Most pitchers grip the splitter by driving the ball in between their index and middle fingers, and that separation -- from which the splitter gets its name -- stresses the ligament that extends through the forearm. But David Cone, the former Yankees pitcher who relied on the pitch, notes that Tanaka grips his splitter just a little differently, not buried quite so deeply against the webbing of his fingers, and finishes with a high-torque snap of the wrist, as if he's wielding a bullwhip. This way, the stress on the elbow and forearm is likely diminished.

In any case, the curiosity about Tanaka's durability only amplifies his allure. Five days after his start against the Red Sox, he faced the Angels on a cold night at Yankee Stadium. Before the game, Albert Pujols said Tanaka would have to adjust to him, rather than the other way around.

But as the game began, the Angels' hitters stood near the front of their dugout locked in on Tanaka; Ian Stewart spoke to David Freese while staring out at the field, as if trying to solve a crossword puzzle. The Angels constantly had runners on base, and Tanaka turned to the splitter -- a pitch that McCann says looks like a fastball on its way to the plate because of its indiscernible spin, right up to the moment that it tumbles. "He can throw it to either side of the plate; he can throw it anywhere he wants," McCann marveled.

By the fifth inning, the Angels had all seen the splitter, and they knew that Tanaka would probably throw it with two strikes. Mike Trout came to the plate first and drew the count to 2 and 2. After Trout fouled off three straight, Tanaka delivered a pitch low in the zone, and the best player in the world swung aggressively. The ball dived, skipping off the plate. Trout flailed over the top of it, a strikeout. He glanced at his bat and the umpire, in seeming disbelief, before he trudged back to the dugout.

Pujols then grounded out -- he still hadn't adjusted to Tanaka -- before Howie Kendrick hit a towering fly ball that Ichiro Suzuki misplayed in left field. Kendrick stretched it to a triple. But Tanaka hadn't flinched at the crack of the bat, or with Kendrick crouched in scoring position at third.

He simply turned to the plate, stared down Erick Aybar and shook off McCann's call signs before settling on his pitches. It took only three.

Aybar whiffed. On a splitter.

Surprising starts to believe, not believe.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
MLB teams have now played approximately 25 percent of their regular-season games, and as much as we’d like to think you can just multiply their wins or statistics by four to see how the season will play out, we all know better.

We do have, though, a pretty good indication by now of who the contending teams are, which players are having breakout seasons and those who have begun their decline. Some players are going to get better, some are going to come back to reality and some are going to fall apart. So what should you believe and not believe after the first six weeks of the season?

Here's my look at a few players and teams off to surprisingly good (and bad) starts, and why you should buy into their performances or not.

Believe this

1. Dee Gordon | 2B | Los Angeles Dodgers

Gordon, 26, is the most improved player in baseball this season. If the All-Star game were tomorrow, he’d be the starting the second baseman for the National League. He’s developed into an impact leadoff hitter, leading the league with 24 stolen bases and a slash line of .322/.362/.434. He’s taking pitches, slapping the ball, bunting and getting on base any way he can. He’s found a permanent home at second base and continues to improve defensively on a nightly basis with special range to both sides.

Perhaps most impressive has been Gordon's work ethic. He knew he needed to get stronger and learn a new position and he's done just that, regularly coming out for early work under the tutelage of first base coach Davey Lopes, who has done wonders for Gordon in all facets of the game.

I’m not saying Gordon will hit .322 all season, but I do believe he’ll finish with a slash line in the neighborhood of .280/.350/.420 and end up with 75-100 stolen bases. Believe it!

2. The Colorado Rockies' dynamic lineup

The Rockies lead the major leagues with runs scored with 231, the next closest being the Athletics with 203 and in the National League the Marlins with 174. They’ve hit more doubles and home runs than any other team in the sport and their team OPS is the only in baseball over .800 at .843. Additionally, they have bucked the trend of rising strikeouts around the league; Colorado has the second fewest K's in the NL.

Is some of this due to Coors Field? Sure, but it’s still one of the game's best overall lineups and they’re going to hit at home and on the road.

Troy Tulowitzki is finally having his MVP season, Justin Morneau is revived, and sophomore third baseman Nolan Arenado had a 28-game hitting streak, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who's scouted him. Remember, Arenado won the Arizona Fall League MVP over both Mike Trout and Bryce Harper in 2011. And let's not forget about Charlie Blackmon, who has been the biggest surprise for the Rockies by hitting .342/.375/.597 with nine home runs.

They've gotten all of this offense despite slow starts from Carlos Gonzalez and Wilin Rosario and with last year’s NL batting champion Michael Cuddyer playing just 16 games because of injuries. So even if guys like Blackmon and Morneau cool off, there are others who are poised to bounce back.

3. The Arizona Diamondbacks' poor start

The Diamondbacks had a difficult schedule to start the year; they already have played the San Francisco Giants, Dodgers, and Rockies a combined 18 times. However, they also were able to get a real good feel of how they stack up against the NL West opponents. The answer is "not well."

The D-backs already are 10 games out of first place and are 29th in baseball in ERA and 20th in OPS. They have too many fourth-outfielder types and not enough impact talent. Right-hander Archie Bradley, their most exciting prospect, has been sidelined with injury, and Patrick Corbin is out for the year following Tommy John surgery. Sorry to say it, but the Diamondbacks are out for the year, too.

4. Wily Peralta | RHP | Milwaukee Brewers

Doug Melvin, the Brewers' general manager, told me three years ago, two years ago and last spring training that he thought Peralta would develop into a top-of-rotation starter. Last year, Peralta made some progress by posting a 4.37 ERA in 183 1/3 innings, but he was still walking almost four batters per nine innings. He's now down to 1.77 walks per nine, and his ERA has dropped to 2.17.

I asked Melvin what the difference has been for Peralta this year and what adjustments he’s made. Melvin's response: "[Peralta]'s been able to repeat his delivery, he's not trying to overpower every hitter, and he has more confidence in his slider."

All of those factors shouldn’t change the rest of the way. Time to believe.

5. Jordan Lyles | RHP | Colorado Rockies

The Rockies made an extremely unpopular and highly criticized trade last winter when they sent Dexter Fowler to the Astros for starting pitcher Lyles and outfielder Brandon Barnes. I was the first to rip them and now the first to eat crow.

Lyles, 23, had an ERA north of 5.00 in each of his first three seasons with the Astros. How would that type of performance work in Coors Field? The Rockies had the vision of correcting some delivery flaws and really believed that they could help maximize the talent that made him a first-round draft pick in 2008. Lyles isn't striking out a lot of batters, but he's keeping the ball down and letting the Rockies' infield do the work. His ground ball rate of 55.4 ranks 11th in MLB, and that plays well with Gold Glovers like Tulowitzki and Arenado behind him.

There will be some regression as the season goes on, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be eating crow the rest of the season. This is a quality starter.

Don't believe this

1. Pablo Sandoval | 3B | San Francisco Giants

"Kung Fu Panda" is off to a terrible start with a slash line of .193/.261/.293, but that's all it is, a slow start. Sure, it’s his free-agent walk year and that definitely might have gotten into his head, which is why he is taking more pitches in an effort to be more selective.

Should the Giants worry about Sandoval? No. Should at least the fans worry about him? No. Just put your seat belt on and get ready for Sandoval to go on a tear. He’s starting to swing at the first pitch again and although he’ll still be among the leaders in swinging out of the strike zone, he’ll also start leading the leagues in hits out of the zone.

2. Yangervis Solarte | 3B | New York Yankees

Solarte, 26, has been one of the best stories for the Yankees thus far, filling in for the suspended Alex Rodriguez and doing it with style, production and dominance. He’s batting .336/.412/.500 and opponents have started to notice.

Pitchers didn't have much data to work with when they faced him in April, but that’s going to change quickly. Solarte spent eight years in the minor leagues hitting over .300 just three times with a career minor league OBP of .336. I think Solarte has done a great job, I’m just not buying he’ll be able to do it over a full season at this pace.

3. Cincinnati Reds' poor start

The Reds are going to be in the NL Central race all year and shouldn’t be concerned with their 17-19 start. Their poor start is only because of injuries to Mat Latos, Tony Cingrani, Aroldis Chapman, Devin Mesoraco and Jay Bruce. As long as they can hover around .500 until everyone’s healthy, they are in for a fun pennant race.

Their starting pitching is deep and strong, Chapman is back throwing 102 mph, Mesoraco is showing signs of reaching his offensive potential, Todd Frazier continues to develop and Johnny Cueto is now a true ace. A poor start will only turn into a strong finish.

4. Curtis Granderson | OF | New York Mets

Granderson is following in the foot steps of so many players that have changed leagues over the last few years who slump dramatically in their first season in the other league. However, I don’t think Granderson will be this bad all season. There is an adjustment after you are used to facing American League pitching for a decade. He’ll hit fewer home runs having to play half of his games at Citi Field, but he won’t hit .205/.307/.356 all year, and no, his decline is not starting at age 33. In fact, on Tuesday against the Yankees, he went 2-for-3 with a homer and three RBIs.

5. St. Louis Cardinals' infield play

The National League champions changed 75 percent of their infield from last year and so far it hasn’t worked. Matt Carpenter was moved from second base back to his natural position of third base and quickly found out that not playing a position for an entire season would take time to adjust back. Shortstop Jhonny Peralta has been below the Mendoza Line, but is at least hitting for power. Promising second baseman Kolten Wong was demoted to Triple-A after a slow start. Matt Adams has just two home runs.

Don't worry, St. Louis: I fully expect by season’s end that the Cardinals' infield will once again be solid both offensively and defensively. The personnel is there both in talent and in depth. Manager Mike Matheny has a lot of internal options for his infield, both in the majors and minors. He always can move Allen Craig back to first base to open up an outfield spot for prospect Oscar Taveras and give more playing time to Mark Ellis to allow Wong to find himself in the minors.

MLB clubs risking paralysis by analysis.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The best trend in baseball over the past decade is that a simple question is asked reflexively: Why?

For a sport long entrenched in unwritten rules and a that's-the-way-things-have-always-been mentality, the changes are dramatic.

Not only are pitches thrown by relievers counted, but the number of times they warm up is counted, and the number of pitches thrown in warm-ups are counted. Some managers have the warm-ups of the other team's relievers counted. Defensive players are being moved, in sweeping shifts, to where hitters are most likely to hit the ball, an alteration so simple and so logical. Teams started realizing that it made no sense for a catcher worth tens of millions of dollars to put himself at risk blocking the plate to save a run worth about $200,000.

It's good stuff, mostly. It's great stuff, mostly.

But there is a risk of paralysis through analysis, and it might be time for teams to ask this "why": Why are teams routinely trading the opportunity to win games today -- right now -- for the sake of tomorrow, and is it worth it?

Exhibit A: Service time manipulation

The Pirates are front and center in this conversation at the moment, because their right fielder of the future, the highly talented Gregory Polanco, is sitting in the minor leagues with a .378 batting average and an OPS of almost 1.100. In all likelihood, the Pirates will call up Polanco after the Super Two deadline has passed so that he will become eligible for arbitration after 2017, rather than 2016. Meanwhile, the Pirates' right fielders rank 20th in OPS and the team is slogging along.

The Pirates are hardly alone in this practice. The Rays have done it as well, and that discipline may have helped them get more young players to agree to team-friendly deals, because the players know those contracts will help get them to the big leagues more quickly.

But the question should be: Why are we doing this?

The Pirates should weigh the money that might possibly be saved from tethering Polanco in the minors to the potential financial gain that might be realized if the team makes the playoffs for the second consecutive season. Here's another way to look at it: If the Pirates miss the playoffs by one game and it's possible that Polanco's presence could have made a difference, how much money does the team stand to lose in fan support?

It's also worth weighing these factors: What are the odds that Polanco will be with the Pirates in four or five years? What are the chances that he gets hurt, which would render the service-time machinations worthless. What's the value of winning now? In short: Is it worth it for the Pirates to focus on the 2017 payroll in 2014?

Exhibit B: Pitch and innings counts

This has been going on for the better part of a decade now, and the number of pitching injuries are going up. Are the restrictions actually helping?

"I think by now we should all realize that we don't have a clue," one highly ranked executive said.

As the official noted, teams have been applying one-size-fits-all rules on pitch and innings limits to pitchers without really having any scientific foundation.

"We're treating these guys as if they come to us as blank slates, and they're all starting from the same point," he said. "They're not. They all have different individual histories, different backgrounds in coaching, in what type of pitches of they've been throwing, how often they're throwing. They're all completely different."

I spoke with about a half-dozen scouts and executives in the aftermath of the news that Jose Fernandez has been advised to have Tommy John surgery, and it was as if they all worked from the same script: Don't abuse pitchers, but use them. Because nobody has any idea when or how a pitcher will break down, only that almost inevitably, they will.

How much extra money have the Giants made over the past seven years because they simply called up Tim Lincecum when he was ready for the big leagues and pitched him, without regard to service time and innings pruning?

Why? Why? Why?

It's the best question being asked in baseball.

Along the same lines: The Rockies should trade their top prospect for Jeff Samardzija, writes Mark Kiszla.

• The Marlins made it official: Jose Fernandez will miss the rest of 2014. Meanwhile, the team is spiraling downhill. Tyler Kepner writes about the rash of injuries.

Around the league

• On Tuesday's podcast, Jayson Stark discussed the Tommy John epidemic, and Adam Rubin looked at the parallels between Jose Fernandez and Matt Harvey.

• Ryne Sandberg was direct in his criticism of Jonathan Papelbon. From Matt Gelb's story:
Jonathan Papelbon's soreness Sunday presented a bigger problem for Sandberg. The closer proclaimed himself able Tuesday. Sandberg, though, remained disappointed in the $50 million pitcher's unavailability.

"Well," Sandberg said, "we need a closer that can go three games in a row and close three games. No question about that."

It would have been a footnote, of course, had Antonio Bastardo saved what turned out to be a 5-4 loss to New York, or if the Phillies had better bullpen alternatives than Roberto Hernandez, who threw 99 pitches Friday and tried to save Sunday's game.

Those are flaws that will not be cured overnight.

Papelbon, meanwhile, said he harbored no regrets. He threw 21 pitches in the two games before Sunday's.

By the way: Papelbon is just about untradable, given that he is making $13 million for this year, $13 million for next year, and needs to finish 86 games for the rest of the season and next in order to vest a $13 million option for 2016.

Ruben Amaro stood by his closer.

• Josh Reddick got new walk-up music, and the Athletics won again, as Susan Slusser writes.

• The best game of last night came from the Tigers and Miguel Cabrera. After a instant replay challenge worked for the Tigers on an attempted stolen base, after Torii Hunter battled for a walk, Cabrera mashed a three-run homer -- and Victor Martinez followed with another homer. Cabrera has started crushing pitches on the outer half, as ESPN Stats & Information notes.

• Mike Minor had a strong outing against the Giants.

• Mark Appel is close to returning to a minor league affiliate.

• PED scrutiny follows Melky Cabrera, writes Jerry Crasnick.

• James Shields reached a milestone.

• An Astros pitcher continues to throw well.

• For Matt Harrison, back troubles continue to pop up.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Braves are going with a six-man rotation now, and perhaps into the future.

2. Kevin Gausman was called up and inserted into the Baltimore rotation to pitch against Justin Verlander today.

3. Jake Peavy wants to stay in Boston.

Dings and dents

1. Carlos Quentin was back in the lineup, as Corey Brock writes.

2. The Blue Jays are waiting for Colby Rasmus to heal.

3. Carlos Beltran hopes to avoid surgery, writes Erik Boland.

4. Omar Infante landed on the disabled list, writes Andy McCullough.

5. Jay Bruce might be back faster than expected. Hal McCoy writes about the miracles of modern medicine.

6. Ryan Braun was reinstated from the DL.

7. Byron Buxton aggravated a previous injury, writes Andy Greder.

Tuesday's games

1. Stephen Strasburg made two big mistakes, writes James Wagner.

2. Errors undercut Cliff Lee.

3. Toronto backed R.A. Dickey.

4. Chase Headley mashed a big homer, and the Padres are closing in on .500.

5. The Mets outlasted the Yankees in a really ugly game. Joe Girardi is unsure why he was ejected from the game.

6. Jake Peavy is struggled with his command. David Ortiz had a big day.

7. The Cardinals slogged their way to a win.

8. Marco Estrada was outstanding.

9. Chris Parmelee had a moment.

10. David Price and the Rays had a really, really nice win.

11. Bronson Arroyo was "the man."

NL East

• Matt Williams has dealt with a lot of adversity, writes Thomas Boswell.

• Zack Wheeler's struggles are are a real concern for the Mets.

NL Central

• Javier Baez is struggling. Though the years, I've had some GMs and farm directors tell me they like it when a touted prospect has a slump like this, so that they learn to work through problems -- and before they reach the big leagues and hit the inevitable rough spots, they can have a been-there, done-that feeling about conquering a slide.

• The Pirates and Brewers talked again about their fight.

• Andrew McCutchen is seeing a lot of off-speed pitches, writes Karen Price.

• Everybody is accountable, says GM John Mozeliak.

• Jake Arrieta taxed the rest of the staff, as Mark Gonzales writes.

NL West

• Buster Posey had a tough night.

• Josh Beckett got it done again.

AL East

• Mark Buehrle has been old reliable.

• Caleb Joseph had an outstanding game.

AL Central

• For the White Sox, new faces bring new hope.

AL West

• Sean Doolittle is thriving in the bullpen.

• Mike Trout is a really popular guy.

• Hisashi Iwakuma was let down.


• Torii Hunter came to the defense of an umpire.

• Brad Ausmus had a wry thought about the benches and bullpens clearing.

• Terry Francona was picked for the All-Star staff.

• The Twins are talking about adding softer padding.

• Nobody knows how Rougned Odor made this play.

And today will be better than yesterday.

Halos' Richards proving to be the real deal.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Garrett Richards of the Los Angeles Angels, the 25-year-old who has transitioned from the bullpen to the rotation, has quickly developed a reputation for having some of the most dominant stuff in the sport.

Richards shut down the Phillies on Wednesday, just his latest piece of pitching art. Think about some of the numbers he has generated:

A) We hear all the time about how a pitcher's average fastball velocity has diminished. Richard's velocity has gone up by, incredibly, a full mile per hour (from 94.8 to 96 mph). Only two pitchers have posted a higher velocity average with their fastballs than Richards.

B) He has pitched 52 innings so far this season and allowed just one home run. One. That's tied with Mark Buehrle for the lowest HR/9 rate in the big leagues (among qualified pitchers).

C) Only one pitcher, Ervin Santana, has generated a lower percentage of contact on pitches thrown outside the strike zone than Richard. In other words, hitters are flailing.

D) Only Johnny Cueto (.463) has a lower opponents' OPS than Richards' .513 mark.

Garrett Richards, 2013 to 2014
Comparing his first eight starts from 2013 to his first eight starts from 2014.
Statistic 2013 2014
W-L 2-3 4-0
ERA 3.98 2.42
Opp BA .226 .191
K/9 rate 5.9 9.3
Fellow Angels starter Jered Weaver mentioned recently that Richards reminds him of a younger A.J. Burnett, with overpowering stuff that seemingly moves all over the place and makes for a difficult at-bat against him. Another evaluator mentioned Max Scherzer as a comparable because it seems hitters have very little to swing at.

Regardless of whom he compares to, the Angels have a tremendous weapon to complement Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Tyler Skaggs. Remember how the big question for the Angels over the winter was whether they would be able to rebuild their rotation? Right now, the team ranks fifth among AL clubs in starters' ERA.

Here's more from ESPN Stats and Info on how Richards overwhelmed the Phillies:

A) He went to only one 3-ball count (and ended up getting strikeout); in his seven previous starts, Richards averaged six 3-ball counts per game.

B) That allowed Richards to go walk-free for the first time in 16 starts.

C) He stayed down in the zone, throwing a season-high 57.5 percent of his pitches down in the strike zone or below.

D) And finally, even though he went back and forth between the Angels' bullpen and rotation last season, Richards' improvements this season have his ERA at 2.42, best among Angels starters.

Then there's this from Elias: Richards is now 3–0 in six road starts this season, with a 1.38 ERA and a .133 opponents' batting average. In the past 100 years, only two other pitchers have owned an ERA under 1.40 with a batting average under .140 after their first six road starts of a season, Pedro Martinez for the 1997 Expos (0.97 ERA, .134 opponents' BA) and Reb Russell for the 1916 White Sox (1.20 ERA, .137 opponents' BA).

Around the league

• On Wednesday's podcast, Tim Kurkjian discussed the Jose Fernandez injury and the question of deferring on an opportunity to win, as well as Josh Reddick's walk-up music, and Jesus Ortiz assessed the current and future status of the Houston Astros, noting there are folks on the staff who want a particular prospect promoted.

• Major League Baseball is forming a search committee for the next commissioner, writes Bill Madden and Christian Red. Sources say that White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf argued strongly for this, believing it was more appropriate for owners to search for the next leader of the sport rather than have current commish Bud Selig privately lobby for votes on behalf of his preferred successor, Rob Manfred. So far, Manfred is said to have the backing of about two-thirds of the teams, with executive vice president Tim Brosnan running in second in terms of support.

Some of the owners believe Selig shouldn't have a pivotal role in the choice, or at the very least he should a much less important role than current owners, who have more personally invested in the future of the game than Selig does.

• Tommy John surgery has almost clinched the title as the lead baseball injury of 2014, claiming Fernandez and others. But injuries from sliding headfirst stands out as the No. 2 injury so far, with Ben Zobrist of the Rays dislocating his left thumb sliding headfirst into second base Wednesday. Meanwhile, Ryan Zimmerman's thumb is still healing.

• While the rival Angels rotation is flourishing behind Richards, the Texas Rangers, who have used the disabled list five times more than any other team, now must cope with the loss of two-fifths of their starting rotation, following the news that Matt Harrison and Martin Perez have suffered significant injuries.

The Rangers had a terrible day Wednesday, capped off with a loss. Texas will fill the spots internally, and the team has no choice but to carry on, writes Evan Grant, even though injuries are crushing it, writes Richard Durrett.

• Masahiro Tanaka shut out the Mets on Wednesday, reinforcing his standing as "The guy holding up the Yankees." ESPN The Magazine's cover story this week is on Tanaka, built on these two moments: back-to-back homers by slugger David Ortiz and then Mike Napoli.

Tanaka was right on the money Wednesday, writes Tara Sullivan. And courtesy of ESPN Stats and Info, here's how Tanaka beat the Mets:

A) Tanaka matched his season high with 22 swings-and-misses against a Mets team that is strikeout-prone. He also had 22 in his second start of the season against the Orioles.

B) The Mets had trouble with Tanaka's slider and his splitter. He threw the former 20 times and the Mets did not put any of them in play; they took seven swings, missing on six and hitting one foul ball. The pitch netted Tanaka three of his eight strikeouts.

C) Tanaka threw 28 splitters, against which the Mets hit into eight outs and managed only one baserunner.

Tanaka became the first Yankees rookie to begin his career 6-0 as a starter since Hall of Famer ****** Ford went 9-0 in 12 starts in 1950. He also was just the second Yankee to throw a shutout against the Mets -- Andy Pettitte shut out the Mets at home back in 2002 -- and the first to do it on the road.

• Meanwhile, fellow Yankees starter CC Sabathia's knee has a degenerative condition.

• Nothing can stop Jose Abreu, apparently, other than a sore ankle.

• Justin Verlander beat the Orioles and sent a message in the process. Only Verlander knows what's really going on, but he and Nelson Cruz do have some history. As the Rangers advanced to the World Series in 2011, Cruz turned on a 100 mph Verlander fastball and hit a home run -- you can see it here at about the 2:15 mark -- a velocity reading that Cruz noted.

• Doug Fister threw the ball well Wednesday.

• Mike Moustakas waged a subtle protest after having a good game Wednesday, and he made the media mad.

• A Marlins rookie quieted the Dodger Stadium crowd.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Braves changed their minds again: They'll stick with a five-man rotation.

2. Kyle Farnsworth is mad at the Mets following his release.

3. Tommy Hunter may be out as the closer of the Orioles.

4. Kolten Wong is back for the Cardinals.

5. The Marlins signed veteran Randy Wolf.

6. Jeff Keppinger was designated for assignment by the White Sox.

Dings and dents

1. Jason Grilli awaits the next step of his rehabilitation, writes Bill Brink.

2. Dillon Gee is having shoulder issues.

3. Michael Brantley is dealing with some back tightness.

4. Jaime Garcia will return to the Cardinals' rotation Sunday.

5. A's outfielder Coco Crisp could be back Friday.

6. A.J. Ellis was activated.

7. Everything looks like a thumbs-up for a couple of ailing Mariners pitchers.

Wednesday's games

1. Starling Marte and Francisco Liriano helped push the Pirates to a win.

2. Felix Doubront had a good outing.

3. The Indians went off.

4. George Springer blasted a home run.

5. Brad Ziegler had a tough inning.

6. The Mariners were shut down again.

NL East

• The Phillies have a whole bunch of problems, as David Murphy writes.

• Chase Utley is driving the ball.

NL Central

• Francisco Rodriguez's changeup has been a problem of late.

• Todd Frazier has been part of the Reds' solution, writes John Fay.

• The Cubs' Kris Bryant is killing it in Double-A.

NL West

• Troy Tulowitzki was ejected Wednesday.

• Yonder Alonso is finding his way.

• Gregor Blanco had a great day, as Henry Schulman writes.

AL East

• Kevin Gausman wasn't thrilled with his performance Wednesday.

• Xander Bogaerts got a boost.

• Red Sox manager John Farrell says he's sticking with his youngsters.

• The Jays' bullpen absorbed a beating.

AL Central

• Aaron Hicks has been told he needs to prepare better.

AL West

• The Angels are carrying on in spite of injuries, writes Mike DiGiovanna.

And today will be better than yesterday.
post #21777 of 73441
Thread Starter 
Prospect Watch: Today’s Actual Starters for the Mets, Yankees.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The New York Mets and also Yankees play each other today at 7:10pm ET. Both clubs feature a right-hander making his major-league debut. What follows is a brief report on both of them.

Jake deGrom, RHP, New York Mets (Profile)
Level: MLB Age: 26 Top-15: 7th Top-100: N/A
Line: 38.1 IP, 6.8 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 0.5 HR/9, 3.72 FIP at Triple-A

Despite his age, deGrom has demonstrated promise, if also a lack of true swing-and-miss secondary pitches.

For the second straight game, the New York Mets feature a starting pitcher making his major-league debut. On Wednesday, that was right-hander Rafael Montero taking the rotation spot previously occupied by Jenrry Mejia, now a part (Mejia) of the bullpen. Thursday, other right-hander Jake deGrom replaces Dillon Gee, the latter having been placed on the disabled list with a lat injury.

There was more optimism regarding deGrom this preseason than one might customarily expect for a pitcher entering his age-26 season having never recorded a major-league inning. Marc Hulet, for example, ranked him seventh among Mets prospects; Baseball America, tenth; Keith Law, just outside the top 10. One reason for that is probably on account of how his career was delayed by Tommy John surgery and the subsequent rehabilitation. Another reason is, is deGrom features a fastball that sits at 92-94 mph according to multiple sources and over which he has demonstrated command. The average fastball velocity among qualified major-league starts this season, by comparison, is just 91.1 mph.

As for deGrom’s secondary pitches, neither appears to receive the ravest of reviews — which probably accounts for the modest strikeout rates deGrom has produced as a minor leaguer. That said, neither pitch has been entirely discarded, either.

Here’s an example of the slider from this spring, at 85 mph to strike out Scott Hairston:

And from that same game, deGrom’s changeup at 83 mph to Nate McLouth:

Chase Whitley, RHP, New York Yankees (Profile)
Level: MLB Age: 25 Top-15: N/A Top-100: N/A
Line: 26.1 IP, 10.9 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 0.0 HR/9, 1.75 FIP at Triple-A

Despite his relative anonymity, Whitley has produced among the best defense-independent figures among Triple-A starters — and also features an achingly beautiful changeup.

Whitley received almost no attention as prospect this offseason. He was omitted from Hulet’s organizational top-15 list for the Yankees, for example, and omitted even harder (on account of how it’s twice as long) from Baseball America’s list for that same club. There are a number of indications, however, that he could have real success.

First, one finds that Whitley — at 25, a year younger than deGrom — has recorded not only better strikeout and walk rates than that Mets prospect, but also better than almost every other starter at Triple-A.

By way of illustration, here are the top-10 Triple-A pitchers by kwERA, an ERA estimator popularized by Tom Tango and based on strikeout and walk rates (min. 25 IP):
# Name Team Age IP K% BB% kwERA
1 Mike Fiers Brewers 29 45.1 37.0% 3.5% 1.38
2 Marcus Stroman Blue Jays 23 26.2 33.3% 6.5% 2.18
3 Chase Whitley Yankees 25 26.1 30.8% 6.7% 2.52
4 Tsuyoshi Wada Cubs 33 44.1 27.9% 5.5% 2.71
5 Cody Martin Braves 24 43.0 28.0% 6.9% 2.86
6 Carlos Pimentel Cubs 24 32.2 28.7% 8.1% 2.93
7 Liam Hendriks Blue Jays 25 41.2 21.2% 1.3% 3.02
8 Trevor May Twins 24 35.0 29.1% 9.2% 3.02
9 Kyle Lobstein Tigers 24 38.1 25.0% 6.0% 3.11
10 Dana Eveland Mets 30 29.0 24.8% 6.2% 3.17
Furthermore, of note with regard to Whitley: in addition to having produced the aforementioned impressive numbers, he also appears to feature an entirely competent fastball and — perhaps most importantly for his prospective success as a starting pitcher — what manager Joe Girardi has referred to as a “plus changeup.”

Here’s footage of said changeup from this spring to Victor Martinez:

And that same changeup, but slower and more slow:

The Old Mark Buehrle’s New Trick.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Dave observed the other day on Twitter that, over the past calendar year, Mark Buehrle has been one of the better and more valuable starting pitchers in baseball. A lot of that has had to do with home-run suppression, and if you read FanGraphs often, you know how we generally feel about home-run suppression, but the larger point is that, after getting off to a rough start in Toronto, Buehrle turned things around and continues to get batters out to this day. His strikeouts right now are basically the same as ever, and every game batters against Buehrle return to their dugouts shaking their heads. He is what he has been, allowing him to feel ageless.

Consider everything about Buehrle and you might assume that he’s pitching like he always has. Why mess with what’s been working? Buehrle’s always been a little bit deceptive and a little bit finesse, and it’s not like you very often see a pitcher in his mid-30s make an approach adjustment. But if you dig beneath the 2014 Mark Buehrle surface, you notice something you can’t un-notice. Of his 31 strikeouts, 20 have been called. This is unusual, and this has an explanation.

Of those 20 called strikeouts, 19 have come against right-handed batters. Let’s take a look at the Mark Buehrle timeline of called strikeouts against righties during the PITCHf/x era:

2008: 29 called strikeouts against RHB
2009: 22
2010: 22
2011: 30
2012: 26
2013: 32
2014: 19 (already)

Right now, Buehrle’s on pace to shatter at least his recent high. Better than two-thirds of his strikeouts of righties have been called, and at one point eight consecutive right-handed strikeouts were called. Or, if you prefer, 12 of 13. Buehrle got out to an incredible start, confusing the hell out of the Rays on April 2, and he hasn’t kept up that pace, but the numbers now are the numbers now, and this isn’t typically Mark Buehrle’s game, as much as it feels like it is.

Over Buehrle’s career, before this season, 29% of his strikeouts were called, which is only a little above league average. He’s presently at 65%. Last year’s high, among qualified pitchers, was 48%, shared by C.J. Wilson and Lucas Harrell. Vance Worley was at 57% in 2012. Bartolo Colon was at 56% in 2011, with Worley at 55%. To find something in the 60s, you go back to 2003, when John Burkett finished at 63% and Rick Reed finished at 62%. In the strike-shortened 1995, John Doherty finished at 70%. He’s the only qualified pitcher since 1988 to beat Buehrle’s current rate.

The key, to go back to it, is what Buehrle’s done against righties. Courtesy of Baseball Savant, here are the 19 called third strikes against right-handed hitters in 2014:

A few on the outside. One down the gut. A big clump around the inside edge. That’s by design, and this is a reflection of a new thing that Mark Buehrle is doing with tremendous frequency.

The thing about Buehrle is the diversity of movement he can generate. Most obviously, he has a changeup and a curveball, but he also has a cut fastball, a straighter fastball, and a running fastball. Brooks Baseball classifies those as a cutter, a four-seamer, and a sinker, and we’ll stick with those labels. The big change has to do with Buehrle’s sinker, and I had to check this a bunch of times to make sure I wasn’t making a mistake. The difference is enormous.

Here are Mark Buehrle’s rates of two-strike sinkers to right-handed batters during the PITCHf/x era:

2008: 7% sinkers to righties with two strikes
2009: 3%
2010: 6%
2011: 3%
2012: 6%
2013: 8%
2014: 41%

What used to be an almost forgotten pitch has become a favorite weapon. Previously, Buehrle’s sinker accounted for about 6% of his strikeouts of righties. This year, that’s up to 61%, as Buehrle has caught hitters unprepared for his sinker’s location and movement.

It’s astonishing, the way Buehrle has put the pitch to use. Against righties this year, with zero strikes, Buehrle has thrown one of 92 sinkers over the inner edge, or beyond. With one strike, he’s thrown one of 26 sinkers inside. With two strikes, he’s thrown 43 of 57 sinkers inside. He’s set hitters up by working them away, and then with two strikes, Buehrle has tried to run the sinker back over the plate, finding the front door.

Before, Buehrle didn’t use the sinker very much with two strikes against righties. When he did, he threw 36% of them inside. So far this year he’s more than doubled that rate while throwing the pitch far more often overall. Trying to get strikeouts with front-door running fastballs isn’t unique to Buehrle — this is kind of the Johnny Cueto game plan, and Bartolo Colon’s, too — but Buehrle hasn’t done this much in the past, and that’s what makes this interesting. Now 35, Buehrle throws the same pitches as ever, for the most part, but he’s learned to use them differently and perhaps stave off a decline that otherwise might’ve already arrived.

To this point, the story of Mark Buehrle’s 2014 has been his sinker. He’s used it differently from how he has in the past, and it’s allowed him to post similar numbers to his track record. Because so much of what we do is basically about trying to predict the future, the question is how long this approach can last, before opponents begin to adjust and look for the sinker inside. We tend to be more skeptical of called strikeouts than swinging strikeouts, since swinging strikeouts seem to be more sustainable. I get the feeling Buehrle won’t be able to keep up his current rates all season long. But, he’s gotten by for this long, so maybe he shouldn’t be doubted. And if hitters do pick up on this, there’s nothing stopping Buehrle from making another kind of change to stay one step ahead. I mean, he’s done it before. That’s what this whole thing is about. Eventually, Mark Buehrle will be finished, but that day’ll probably come long after it by all rights ought to.

Garrett Richards, Who’s Making Sense.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
One of the most confounding things in baseball is an obviously talented starting pitcher who doesn’t generate many strikeouts. Generally speaking, we expect to see strikeouts match the stuff, and while sometimes we just confuse a good fastball for a good repertoire, there are guys who just pitch below their ceilings. Garrett Richards, in the past, was such a guy. It wasn’t just that he possessed one of the fastest fastballs in the majors — he’s also thrown a sharp slider, yet through his first three years he posted the same strikeout rate as Jeff Karstens and Kevin Millwood. Because of the incongruity, Richards has been considered a sleeper, but sometimes all a sleeper is is an early-stage disappointment.

Right now it doesn’t look like Richards is going to be a disappointment. It looks like Richards is going to fulfill that sleeper potential people have long figured he had. Wednesday, Richards was dominant against the Phillies, whiffing eight over seven shutout innings. Now, through a quarter of the year, Richards has struck out one of every four batters he’s faced. One out of four is bigger than one out of six.

What Richards has posted is the second-greatest strikeout-rate increase in the bigs. Following, the top five, through this writing:

Jon Lester, +10.3 percentage points
Garrett Richards, +9.5
Brandon McCarthy, +9.0
Ervin Santana, +8.9
Zack Greinke, +8.7
For Lester, he’s been around this strikeout level before. McCarthy has added oomph to his repertoire. Santana has developed a stronger changeup. Greinke has been around this strikeout level before. Richards didn’t get many strikeouts in 2013, or in 2012, or in 2011, and even his upper-level minor-league rates were underwhelming. Richards is doing something he hasn’t done, and when you combine the whiffs with his groundball tendencies, you get an almost-26-year-old with a mid-2s FIP. Or, you get the sort of breakout people have been predicting.

Interestingly, it’s not like Richards is exhibiting superior command or control. He’s always been a below-average strike-thrower, and so far this year he’s just shy of 60%. His goal in spring training was to cut down on the walks, and to this point his walks are up and his strikes are down. So if we want to try to explain Garrett Richards, we have to look somewhere else, and thankfully we have a few options.

We can start with the obvious. From Brooks Baseball, here’s Richards’ average pitch velocity:

Richards, in 2014, is throwing harder, even though he’s spent considerable time in the past in the Angels’ bullpen. With every pitch, he’s up a tick or two, and while velocity doesn’t mean the same thing to every pitcher across the board, it obviously benefits a guy to give a hitter less time to react, and Richards has added on to something that was already intimidating. This might be all the explanation we need. Richards is throwing harder. Throwing harder leads to more strikeouts.

But we might as well keep exploring, while we’re in here. This year, Richards has done a slightly better job of getting to two-strike counts. Yet the biggest difference is in what he’s done with those two-strike counts. Simple numbers:

2011-13: 35% strikeouts
2014: 51% strikeouts

Clearly, a guy whose strikeout rate is up is going to have numbers showing a better ability to convert two-strike counts, but this helps to clarify the message: Richards has been doing a much better job of putting hitters away, after pushing them to the brink. It’s been true for him against righties, and it’s been true for him against lefties, and his strikeout leap is massively significant.

So are we looking at a change in approach? Against lefties, Richards has trimmed his two-strike slider rate and increased his two-strike curveball rate. But against righties, his pitch mix is similar, so it could be beneficial to pay more attention to pitch location. For example, some numbers with two strikes:

Against LHB

2011-13: 49% pitches low (lowest third of zone or below)
2014: 66%

Against RHB

2011-13: 43% pitches away (outer third of zone or beyond)
2014: 60%

Richards has definitely been pitching to different spots, and while we can’t very well tie that to his increase in strikeouts, it seems like it’s probably not a coincidence. Against righties, he wasn’t having a ton of success getting strikeouts inside. Against lefties, he wasn’t having a ton of success getting strikeouts up. Now he’s still throwing a lot of balls and pitching frequently from behind, but when he gets to two strikes, he’s better able to finish the job with a whiff or a grounder.

And there’s another thing I’d like to note, something that could be playing a part in all this. Again, from Brooks Baseball, here’s a chart of Richards’ horizontal release points:

There’s a big shift in late June 2013, toward the first-base side of the mound. The trend has continued in 2014, and if this is confusing in chart form, maybe it’ll be easier to understand in image form. From last June, before the shift:

After the shift:

From this very month:

Richards is consistently pitching from a different spot on the rubber. It isn’t that easy to intuitively link a change like this to a change in performance, but Richards is far from the first guy we’ve seen attempt such a move, and it tends to be about improving angles and ability to pitch to the edges. As Richards has shifted toward the first-base side, his pitches to righties have shifted toward the first-base side, and he’s spending less time trying to work to lefties up and away. It’s also possible this in some way changes how easy or hard it is to see the ball right out of Richards’ hand.

Some things we know: Garrett Richards looks like he’s starting to fulfill his potential. His strikeouts are up, as he’s doing a much better job of converting two-strike counts into three-strike counts. He’s pitching both righties and lefties a little differently, and he’s moved on the rubber, and his velocity is up across the board. Maybe it all has to do with that last bit. Maybe there’s a mechanical adjustment in there that’s been made that I missed. But all anyone really cares about is that Richards has changed for the better, and now that he’s getting his strikeouts, it’s hard to envision him giving them back. We can all continue to talk about the Why, but the What is actively helping the Angels try to get back to the playoffs.
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Reddick, you amazing son of a *****. One of the greatest songs of all time. It would drive me nuts being in that stadium and only hearing 10-15 seconds of it, I would need to hear the whole song.

The guy dancing smokin.gifroll.gif

Ortiz appealing for that hit. What a sad sack of ****. This guy better never make the HOF, the definition of a pile of sh.
post #21779 of 73441
Thread Starter 
Replacing Martin Perez with Martin Perez.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Rangers, already the most injury plagued team in baseball, got a double dose of bad news on Wednesday.

Matt Harrison‘s lingering back problems have simply not abated, and now he’s looking at either trying to pitch through serious pain or face a spinal fusion surgery which could potentially threaten his Major League career. Meanwhile, Martin Perez — who lasted just 3 2/3 innings on Saturday — was diagnosed with a tear in his UCL, and is probably going to join the Tommy John parade. The Rangers were already trying to get by without Derek Holland, Jurickson Profar, and Geovany Soto, as well as a host of role players who had been pushed into larger roles due to the team’s injury epidemic.

With both Perez and Harrison potentially out for the season, the Rangers rotation is in shambles, and some national pundits are already writing the team’s obituary. And certainly, losing 40% of your rotation on one day is not going to improve your team’s chances of making the playoffs. The Rangers are worse today than they were yesterday. But let’s keep some perspective; few players are so good that their loss would dramatically the needle for a team’s playoff odds, and the Rangers replacement for Martin Perez might actually be just as good.

Nick Tepesch has never been a highly regarded prospect. He was a 14th round pick in the 2010 draft. Baseball America never rated him higher than the 19th best prospect in the Rangers organization, and Marc Hulet has never mentioned him in any of his off-season rankings of Texas’ farm system. He’s been seen as just a guy, an organizational arm of limited upside. Perez, meanwhile, has rated as highly as the #17 prospect in baseball per BA, and has been on the Top 100 five times.

But let’s put aside our expectations for a second, and compare what they’ve actually done in the big leagues. Here are their career numbers as Major Leaguers.

Martin Perez 213.2 8% 16% 49% 10% 72% 0.306 97 97 103 3.0 2.9
Nick Tepesch 98.1 7% 20% 47% 13% 70% 0.305 110 97 95 1.4 0.8
While he’s pitched fewer than half as many innings, Tepesch has posted a lower walk rate and a higher strikeout rate while generating essentially the same rate of ground balls when batters do make contact. And Perez doesn’t really have much of a case on quality of contact either; Tepesch has a slight edge in inducing infield flies, and they have nearly identical rates of hits on balls in play. The entirety of Perez’s ERA advantage comes from when they’ve allowed those hits to occur, as Tepesch has posted a .288 BABIP with the bases empty, a .321 BABIP with men on, and a .376 BABIP with runners in scoring position.

There’s just no reason to think that kind of split is indicative of any kind of fundamental flaw in Tepesch’s arsenal, and over a larger sample, those numbers will regress back to something more normal. In the areas that better measure a pitcher’s skills, Tepesch has been as good or better than Perez. And if you break things down even further, Tepesch continues to stack up well against Perez.

Name O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone%
Martin Perez 29% 64% 45% 65% 90% 81% 46%
Nick Tepesch 32% 63% 47% 63% 91% 81% 48%
Despite the scouting community’s overwhelming preference for Perez’s stuff, Tepesch has thrown more pitches in the strike zone while simultaneously getting hitters to chase more of his pitches out of the zone, and hitters have posted a lower contact rate on pitches out of the zone against Tepesch than they have against Perez. Overall, these two lines are very similar, but where there are differences, they actually favor Tepesch.

But, of course, we’re only dealing with 87 big league innings for Tepesch, while Perez has thrown over 200. Given two similar performances, it’s entirely reasonable to prefer the one that came over the larger sample. But even if we stretch the comparison back to Triple-A, Tepesch continues to hold his own.

In seven starts down in the PCL this year, Tepesch posted a 41/9 K/BB ratio over 46 innings, compiling a 1.58 ERA/2.90 FIP, which rank 2nd and 4th respectively among pitchers with at least 40 innings in that league this year. Perez was also quite good in his short stint in the PCL last year, posting a similar walk rate, but striking out a few less batters and posting a FIP of 3.21, a little higher than what Tepesch put up this year.

Taking all of their relevant performance data into account, and adjusting for things like fastball velocity and age, both the ZIPS and Steamer forecasts see Perez and Tepesch as essentially equal pitchers. Here are their rest-of-season projected FIPs, from both systems.

Pitcher ZIPS Steamer
Martin Perez 4.44 4.49
Nick Tepesch 4.45 4.39
Despite the wildly different prospect pedigrees, both forecasting systems look at these two pitchers for 2014 and see basically the same results. In terms of the Rangers chances of reaching the postseason, swapping out Perez for Tepesch barely matters at all. It does take away some of the team’s depth — if Perez hadn’t been hurt, then Tepesch could have stepped in for Matt Harrison — but if we’re evaluating just Perez’s rotation spot now filled by Tepesch, it’s not entirely clear that the Rangers are actually worse off.

This isn’t to say that Perez doesn’t have the brighter future, or at least, that he didn’t have more upside before the UCL tear. Scouting reports do matter, and the fact that scouts universally preferred Perez is useful information. But the entire nature of scouting pitchers can lead to an unhealthy emphasis on things like velocity, which don’t matter as much on the mound as they do in deciding which prospects rank where. And if we’re talking about the effects of Perez’s injury on the Rangers playoff chances, then we don’t really care too much about upside or long-term potential.

Take heart, Rangers fans. Losing Martin Perez isn’t a crippling blow. The A’s aren’t going to be easy to catch, but even their early success after losing Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin should be a reminder to not overstate the impact of a couple of injuries to non-star pitchers. Jesse Chavez has proven to be a more than capable replacement, and it shouldn’t surprise us if Tepesch fills Perez’s shoes nicely as well.

Quarterly Report: Masahiro Tanaka’s Dominance.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Roughly a quarter of the 2014 season is in the books, and the sample sizes are creeping toward a representative level. Over the next couple of weeks, let’s take a somewhat deeper look at some of this season’s more noteworthy players and performances to date. “Noteworthy” doesn’t always mean “best”, though it does in most cases. Let’s kick it off today with a look at Masahiro Tanaka‘s first seven starts as a Yankee. (This article was written prior to his eighth start, on Wednesday night.) His 58/7 K/BB ratio obviously speaks volumes about his ability. Is his future success based almost exclusively on this solid foundation, or is there even more to him?
The raw traditional numbers are pretty impressive – 5-0, 2.57, with that superb K/BB ratio. Poke down just a little further beneath the surface and there’s even more good stuff. The best swinging-strike percentage (14.5%) in the American League. A much higher than league average ground ball rate. He’s the only ERA qualifier in the AL to average seven innings per start to date. It isn’t too early to state that Brian Cashman was in “under-promise but over-deliver” mode when he dubbed Tanaka a “number three starter” upon his signing. Only aces do what Tanaka has done over any seven-start stretch, let alone the first seven starts of their MLB career.

Let’s also consider the context of his performance to date – four of his starts have come at home, in a hitter-friendly yard with a 2013 park factor of 110.0, based on my own calculations utilizing granular batted ball data. According to this method, Yankee Stadium was the fourth most hitter-friendly park in the majors in 2013, behind Colorado, Boston and Milwaukee. It was the sixth most hitter-friendly park for fly balls, and second most for line drives. Two of his three road starts were at even more hitter-friendly parks – Fenway and Miller Park – and the other was at Toronto, versus their power-laden lineup. His home starts have been against the well-regarded offenses of the Orioles, Rays and, well, the Cubs. Overall, he has faced stronger than average clubs in more hitter-friendly than average venues.

It doesn’t take too long to identify a potential Achilles’ heel – vulnerability to the longball. Tanaka has given up as many homers – seven – as walks in the early going, and the one David Ortiz hit off of him is still in orbit.

So what do we have in Masahiro Tanaka? Is he “just” a strike-throwing bat-misser with a home run problem? That wouldn’t be a crime – Fergie Jenkins and Robin Roberts, to name two, rode such a package all the way to the Hall of Fame. Or might he be something even better – a superior K/BB guy who also manages contact very well, like the 2009-13 version of Clayton Kershaw? Let’s take a look at Tanaka’s 2014 plate appearance outcome frequency and production by BIP type data for some hints. Keep in mind that the sample sizes remain small, so most of the contextual information incorporated below is from the 2013 season. No matter – we’re not searching for exactitude here, just looking for some indicators.

Tanaka % REL PCT
K 29.9% 149 96
BB 3.6% 42 1
POP 8.2% 105 57
FLY 23.0% 82 8
LD 18.8% 91 12
GB 50.0% 115 90

FLY 0.357 1.250 237 114
LD 0.696 1.000 117 109
GB 0.262 0.262 113 125
ALL BIP 0.333 0.587 121 97
ALL PA 0.228 0.257 0.402 79 64 2.57 3.18 2.61
First, let’s look at the frequency table. Tanaka’s superior K and BB rates are the headliners here – his K rate is 149 percent of the 2014 MLB average, and in the 96th percentile of MLB pitchers, using 2013 data for context. His BB rate is as low as it gets, in the 1st percentile. His line drive rate is also very low, in the 8th percentile, though that is the most fluid of the frequency figures going forward, a clear regression candidate. His ground ball rate is very high, in the 90th percentile, and is likely real. He manages to pull off the odd combo of a very strong ground ball tendency and a higher than average popup rate, something accomplished by Tim Hudson in 2013. Frequency-wise, it’s a slightly less extremely grounder-focused version of Justin Masterson‘s profile.

Frequency is only one part of the story, however. The second table lists the production from and hints at the authority of the batted balls yielded by Tanaka. The actual production allowed for each BIP type is listed in the “AVG” and “SLG” columns, and is converted into run values, compared to MLB average and scaled to 100 in the “REL PRD” column. Estimates of context, i.e., ballpark, team defense, simple regression and luck are applied in the “ADJ PRD” column in an attempt to isolate Tanaka’s true talent. In the three right-most columns, his actual ERA, his calculated ERA (based on his ADJ PRD) and his “tru” ERA (adjusted for context) are listed. For the purposes of this exercise, HBP are excluded from the OBP calculation, and SH and SF are counted as outs. Again – this is relatively small sample, with much subjectivity in the contextual adjustments, so let’s not get caught up in absolute precision here.

What you see is a guy who has been pummeled in the air to date, to the tune of a .357 AVG-1.250 SLG. We shouldn’t overreact to this, as six of his seven HR allowed have been at Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park, both homer-friendly stadiums, and two of the homers in particular were fairly “soft” homers. The other five were legit and then some, in the case of one of them. It’s fair to say that he has allowed harder than average fly ball contact, though the adjusted for context 114 ADJ PRD feels much more realistic. Actual production allowed on both liners and grounders suggests harder than average batted-ball authority as well. So while batted-ball type frequency, thanks to his ground ball tendency, is a strength, the level of authority within each of those groups has been harder than average. Overall, the grounder tendency prevails, as his overall ADJ PRD – you might call it his adjusted contact score – on all BIP is a league average-ish 97. Add all those K’s and those few BB’s back, however, and you have a “tru” ERA of 2.61, almost exactly the same as his actual ERA.

How does this early estimate of Tanaka’s contact management ability measure up that of the game’s current ruling class of pitchers? Let’s take a look at this same data for the 2013 performances of Yu Darvish, Felix Hernandez and Clayton Kershaw.

Darvish % REL PCT
K 34.2% 172 99
BB 9.9% 128 87
POP 10.4% 137 85
FLY 31.2% 111 79
LD 20.1% 94 24
GB 38.3% 89 22
— — — —
Hernandez % REL PCT
K 27.8% 140 95
BB 5.9% 77 18
POP 5.6% 75 24
FLY 25.1% 89 26
LD 21.6% 101 52
GB 47.7% 111 82
— — — —
Kershaw % REL PCT
K 26.2% 132 93
BB 5.9% 76 16
POP 8.5% 112 69
FLY 24.0% 86 16
LD 23.2% 108 84
GB 44.3% 103 60

FLY 0.279 0.857 118 116
LD 0.648 0.898 102 109
GB 0.243 0.249 101 120
ALL BIP 0.309 0.536 101 107
ALL PA 0.193 0.272 0.335 72 76 2.83 2.81 2.93
— — — —
FLY 0.264 0.682 85 101
LD 0.739 0.991 129 105
GB 0.227 0.251 93 101
ALL BIP 0.330 0.488 99 97
ALL PA 0.238 0.281 0.352 78 77 3.04 3.04 2.98
— — — —
FLY 0.190 0.469 42 57
LD 0.571 0.671 69 87
GB 0.203 0.244 80 97
ALL BIP 0.265 0.376 61 79
ALL PA 0.192 0.239 0.273 53 65 1.83 2.04 2.52
Frequency-wise, two of the three, Hernandez and Kershaw, displayed 2013 K and BB rates somewhat comparable to Tanaka’s 2014 marks. On both the K and especially the BB side, however, Tanaka’s numbers are better, though they were accumulated over seven starts rather than over a full season. Hernandez and Kershaw also showed groundball tendencies in 2013, though again not as strong as Tanaka’s 2014 marks. Overall, Tanaka bests all three frequency-wise.

Authority-wise, it’s a different story. Two of the three, Darvish and Hernandez in this case, were in the same league average-ish neighborhood in 2013 where Tanaka resides in 2014. Darvish’s adjusted contact score of 107 was worse than MLB average, but when you strike out almost 35% of the batters you face, it’s not a big deal. Hernandez’ 2013 adjusted contact score of 97 exactly matches Tanaka’s 2014 mark.

Kershaw is a different animal, however. On top of his exceptional 2013 K and BB rates, he held hitters to a puny .190 AVG-.469 SLG on fly balls – after adjustment for context, that’s an amazing fly ball contact score of 57. He also yielded below average production and authority on liners and grounders, for an overall adjusted contact score of 79, best in the NL last season.

I feel comfortable conclusively stating that Tanaka is not Kershaw when it comes to managing contact. The peak version of Kershaw might never allow a homer as loud as the one Tanaka yielded to Big Papi earlier this season. Based on the limited data available to this point, Tanaka’s contact management ability appears to most closely match that of Felix Hernandez among this small group of elites, and that’s plenty good enough. With such incredible K and BB rates, it’s enough to make Tanaka a legitimate ace and Cy Young Award candidate.

Not to beat a dead horse here, but again – it’s only seven starts. Hideo Nomo struck out 55 batters over 41 innings in his first seven starts, on his way to whiffing an insane 236 batters in 191 1/3 innings as a rookie, before hitters began to gradually figure out his delivery. He settled in as a fine #2-3 starter, but wasn’t the dominant ace he first appeared to be. Fernando Valenzuela won – and COMPLETED – all of his first seven starts, posting a 0.29 ERA with a 61/16 K/BB in those 63 innings. He was very good for a few years afterward, but was never “that guy” again. We just might be seeing the best we will ever see from Tanaka right now, as he remains something new and different, as yet unseen by the majority of major league hitters.

We can certainly say this much about him, though. His splitter just might be the best single offering thrown by any starter in the game today. He has an amazing 25.7% whiff rate on it – over a quarter of the splitters he has thrown have resulted in a swing and a miss. His slider is a second viable whiff pitch (12.6%). He has utterly dominated the opposite hand, yielding a paltry .207-.225-.310 line to lefties to date.

Most of all, he just pumps strikes. Swings and misses with multiple weapons, a true, bona fide out pitch, a mastery of opposite-handed hitters – this is the stuff of which dominant starters are made. It’s early, but if he can stay healthy – a massive “if” for any pitcher these days – the Yanks should be able to chalk up this signing as a major win.

Keith Law's first mock draft.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
We're three weeks away from the start of the Rule 4 draft, and it can't come soon enough for all of the pitchers hoping to be selected -- they've been going down with injuries just as often as pro pitchers have this spring, with UNLV's Erick Fedde and East Carolina's Jeff Hoffman both needing Tommy John surgery. There's a little crystallization near the top of the draft, and it's still a fairly pitching-heavy draft overall, but after the first four or five picks there's very little clarity.

Two names you won't see listed with any teams here: Brandon Finnegan and Scott Blewett, both of whom are dealing with shoulder soreness and will have to get cleared by team doctors before they get strong consideration in the first round. Neither is expected to need surgery, and Finnegan pitched Friday, although TCU has some history of sending pitchers back out to the mound before they're fully recovered.

For a look at my top 100 draft prospects, click here.

1Brady AikenHouston Astros (14-27)SCHOOL: Cathedral Catholic HS, San Diego, Calif.HT: 6-4WT: 200POS: LHP
Analysis: I keep hearing the Astros are down to three names: Aiken, Carlos Rodon, and Alex Jackson, with local product Tyler Kolek likely on the outside of that final set. The decision may come down to money -- they'd like to repeat their successful 2012 strategy, where they save $2 million or so on the top pick and reallocate the money to later picks (they have No. 37 and No. 42 this year) to acquire more first-round talents who slid into the sandwich/second because of their bonus demands.

2Alex JacksonMiami Marlins (21-20)SCHOOL: Rancho Bernardo HS, San Diego, Calif.HT: 6-2WT: 210POS: C
Analysis: The Marlins are on the same three names as Houston, plus Tyler Kolek, but the word around town is that Miami is focusing heavily on bats throughout the draft. The Fish have the most money in their draft pool of any team this year, with extra picks at 36 and 39 as well as their regular pick at 43, and could do just what Houston wants to do, cleaning up with as many as four first-round talents if they play their money right.

I've also heard them with Bradley Zimmer, but I think he's a tweener for them -- probably not as good as their best options at No. 2, and clearly long gone before they pick again.

3Tyler KolekChicago White Sox (20-22)SCHOOL: Shepherd (Texas) HSHT: 6-5WT: 250POS: RHP
Analysis: The White Sox want one of the big three arms, so even though early favorite Jeff Hoffman is on the shelf after Tommy John surgery, they'll still get someone they really like. The bet here is that they'd do better financially with Kolek than with Carlos Rodon, but I wouldn't rule out the latter. Everything I'm projecting here is about probabilities, or possibilities, not certainties.

4Carlos RodonChicago Cubs (13-25)SCHOOL: N.C. StateHT: 6-4WT: 235POS: LHP
Analysis: This is close to a dream scenario for the Cubs, who'd love Rodon or Brady Aiken, would like Tyler Kolek, and will otherwise have to choose from the next tier; Jeff Hoffman's injury hurt them more than it hurt any other club, and that was just driven home further when Erick Fedde blew out his arm. (The Tommy John epidemic has crept into college baseball, too. Potential 2016 first-rounder Matt Krook saw his elbow spontaneously combust this spring.)

If all three of the top arms go before the Cubs pick, their mix will include Alex Jackson, Michael Conforto, Aaron Nola, and at least a half-dozen other possibilities, with even a rumor about Max Pentecost on a huge under-slot deal.

5Nick GordonMinnesota Twins (18-20)SCHOOL: Olympia HS, Orlando, Fla.HT: 6-1WT: 170POS: SS
Analysis: The Twins have been heavy on Gordon, Alex Jackson and Aaron Nola this spring, with Gordon considered the most likely choice. He would add some needed middle-infield strength to a system that's long been stronger in the outfield. There's also a rumor they'd like Jacob Gatewood on a discount, but it's not out of the question they could try to grab him on an over-slot deal at No. 46.

6Michael ConfortoSeattle Mariners (20-20)SCHOOL: Oregon StateHT: 6-1WT: 215POS: OF
Analysis: The Mariners, along with the Brewers, are among the most secretive clubs around the draft, and have been linked to a lot of names, including Conforto, Alex Jackson, Aaron Nola, Nick Gordon, Casey Gillaspie, Kyle Freeland and Grant Holmes. I take that to mean most of us don't really know who they truly want, other than a general feeling that Jackson won't get past them.

7Aaron NolaPhiladelphia Phillies (17-21)SCHOOL: LSUHT: 6-1WT: 180POS: RHP
Analysis: The Phillies have been all over Jacob Gatewood and were heavy on Casey Gillaspie last weekend, but there's apparently a push there to take someone who's closer to helping the major league club -- a dangerous shift for a scouting staff that's long gone after higher-ceiling guys and seems to have hit on last year's top pick, athletic prep shortstop J.P. Crawford.

8Kyle FreelandColorado Rockies (23-19)SCHOOL: EvansvilleHT: 6-4WT: 185POS: LHP
Analysis: The Rockies could go in a lot of directions, and I've also heard them connected to Nick Gordon, Aaron Nola and Trea Turner.

9Touki ToussaintToronto Blue Jays (20-21)SCHOOL: Coral Springs (Fla.) Christian Acad.HT: 6-2WT: 195POS: RHP
Analysis: The Jays would love Nick Gordon, but there seems to be no way he runs the gauntlet from Minnesota to Colorado without someone taking him. They're clearly the high team on Toussaint and have been rumored all spring to be on prep arms.

10Sean NewcombNew York Mets (19-20)SCHOOL: HartfordHT: 6-4WT: 240POS: LHP
Analysis: The Mets are just on the best player available, whoever that turns out to be, which could include Newcomb, Bradley Zimmer, Aaron Nola (although I can't see him getting here) or Michael Conforto. I've heard them on all of the college arms, but again I don't think that implies they're not looking at bats.

11Jeff HoffmanToronto Blue Jays (20-21)SCHOOL: East CarolinaHT: 6-3WT: 190POS: RHP
Analysis: This is a compensation pick for failing to sign 2013 first-rounder Phil Bickford, which also allows the Jays to get creative.

Hoffman was one of the top three arms in the draft until he underwent Tommy John surgery recently. The hot rumor of the week has the Jays using their second first-rounder on Hoffman, signing him for a little less than the recommended bonus for this draft slot (he can't exactly go back into next year's draft, as he would barely be back on a mound by next May), and use the savings on their next pick at 50.

In addition to prep arms, I've also heard them on Sean Newcomb and Brandon Finnegan before his shoulder barked recently.

12Max PentecostMilwaukee Brewers (25-15)SCHOOL: Kennesaw State UniversityHT: 6-1WT: 190POS: C
Analysis: The Brewers win the prize for the most "so-and-so doesn't get past their pick" comments this past week -- I've heard that with Kyle Freeland, Tyler Beede, Touki Toussaint and Grant Holmes, at the very least. Although those are all pitchers, I don't think they're looking exclusively at arms, with Pentecost the most common name for bats.

13Trea TurnerSan Diego Padres (19-21)SCHOOL: N.C. StateHT: 6-1WT: 171POS: SS
Analysis: The Padres are also on Michael Chavis and Kyle Freeland; I'd expect them to aim high with their first pick and pass on seemingly lower-ceiling guys such as Grant Holmes or Kyle Schwarber.

14Grant HolmesSan Francisco Giants (26-15)SCHOOL: Conway (S.C.) HSHT: 6-2WT: 200POS: RHP
Analysis: I've also heard Jeff Hoffman doesn't get past them, and that they're the high team on Monte Harrison. One of the few real knocks on Holmes is his lack of height, but this is the team that picked and scored with Tim Lincecum, so I don't think they're fazed by a 6-foot right-hander if he has hit 98 mph before.

15Kyle SchwarberLos Angeles Angels (21-18)SCHOOL: IndianaHT: 6-0WT: 240POS: 1B
Analysis: I'm also hearing them on Michael Chavis and on college arms, possibly Nick Burdi on a below-slot deal where he'd probably see the majors in August as a potential setup man.

16Bradley ZimmerArizona Diamondbacks (16-27)SCHOOL: San FranciscoHT: 6-5WT: 205POS: OF
Analysis: I've also heard Arizona connected to Grant Holmes, Monte Harrison, Casey Gillaspie and Alex Blandino (who might be a tweener for them, as they don't pick again until 55).

17Derek FisherKansas City Royals (20-19)SCHOOL: VirginiaHT: 6-3WT: 215POS: OF
Analysis: The Royals are on a different mix of guys from the teams around them -- not necessarily a bad thing -- and I've also heard them on Monte Harrison, Michael Gettys and Kodi Medeiros, although with picks at 28 and 40, they could get very creative and end up with three guys they'd consider here at 17.

18Erik FeddeWashington Nationals (21-19)SCHOOL: UNLVHT: 6-4WT: 165POS: RHP
Analysis: I've also heard them with a bunch of high school names, but since Mike Rizzo took over as general manager, the Nats have taken only one prep guy in the first round -- Lucas Giolito, who fell on concerns over an elbow injury and ended up needing Tommy John surgery, as Fedde does.

19Sean Reid-FoleyCincinnati Reds (17-20)SCHOOL: Sandalwood High SchoolHT: 6-3WT: 205POS: RHP
Analysis: I've heard them on a pretty broad mix of guys, mostly prep, including Monte Harrison, who is one of the fastest risers late in the spring.

20Casey GillaspieTampa Bay Rays (18-23)SCHOOL: Wichita StateHT: 6-4WT: 238POS: 1B
Analysis: Conor's switch-hitting brother is in a lot of teams' mixes from the midpoint of the first round onward; I've also heard Tampa Bay with Braxton Davidson and Kyle Schwarber, and I have to think they'd consider Tyler Beede, as they've shown they're willing to bet on talent even where there's a question about makeup.

21Monte HarrisonCleveland Indians (19-21)SCHOOL: Lee's Summit (Mo.) West HSHT: 6-2WT: 200POS: OF
Analysis: I'm also hearing them on Michael Chavis here, two-way threat Alex Verdugo (as a pitcher), although that could be for No. 31, and Max Pentecost, who wouldn't get to their next pick.

22Derek HillLos Angeles Dodgers (22-20)SCHOOL: Elk Grove (Calif.) HSHT: 6-2WT: 170POS: OF
Analysis: As you might expect, I've also heard the Dodgers with a bunch of prep arms, including Sean Reid-Foley, Luis Ortiz and Justus Sheffield, although last year they took college guys in the first three rounds and took just one high school player in their top 12 picks.

23A.J. ReedDetroit Tigers (24-12)SCHOOL: KentuckyHT: 6-4WT: 245POS: 1B
Analysis: There's a running story in scouting circles -- part serious, part humorous -- that the Tigers and RHP Nick Burdi are as big a lock as you'll find in the draft, because they love to take hard-throwing guys, especially college arms, but the system is light on bats and they've been linked to a couple of the big conference position players.

24Tyler BeedePittsburgh Pirates (17-22)SCHOOL: VanderbiltHT: 6-4WT: 215POS: RHP
Analysis: This is pure speculation by me -- the Pirates wouldn't shy away from a player with this ability even with some small makeup questions, and I believe they'd do this rather than take one of the high-upside prep players they're otherwise linked to.

25Ti'Quan ForbesOakland Athletics (25-16)SCHOOL: Columbia High SchoolHT: 6-4WT: 175POS: SS
Analysis: They're heavy on Forbes, sending most of the front office through there to see him (and it's not as though they were in Mississippi for other reasons), as well as Monte Harrison, who might be their first choice.

26Marcus WilsonBoston Red Sox (20-19)SCHOOL: Serra High SchoolHT: 6-3WT: 175POS: OF
Analysis: The Red Sox are a good bet to grab any higher talent who falls because of concerns such as a high price tag or Tommy John surgery; I've also heard them with Chase Vallot, more likely for their compensatory pick at 33.

27Foster GriffinSt. Louis Cardinals (20-20)SCHOOL: First AcademyHT: 6-5WT: 195POS: LHP
Analysis: They seem to be on college bats and prep arms here, from Luis Ortiz and Sean Reid-Foley to the various college bats I've got going ahead of them.

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