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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 728

post #21811 of 73398
The fan that caught the Edwin Encarnacion bat just was about to swing on dude. laugh.gif
post #21812 of 73398
Since early June of 2012, the A's are 22 games better than the Rangers.
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 #21813 of 73398
Lakers | Blue Jays
Lakers | Blue Jays
post #21814 of 73398
Originally Posted by macbk View Post


Jeff Francoeur trying to make a comeback as a pitcher mean.gif i liked Frenchy even more than McCann when they both were called up with the Braves...
post #21815 of 73398
Damn Francoeur fell off mean.gif

I was a fan during his years with the Braves
post #21816 of 73398
Francouer a pitcher a now mean.gif with this dude used to swing the bat with authority in the majors not just at triple A
MLB Los Angeles Dodgers
NFL Denver Broncos
NBA Los Angeles Lakers
USC Trojans
MLB Los Angeles Dodgers
NFL Denver Broncos
NBA Los Angeles Lakers
USC Trojans
post #21817 of 73398
Francouer believed his teammate was deaf for months laugh.gif , he's done for.
New York Yankees | New York Jets
New York Yankees | New York Jets
post #21818 of 73398


post #21819 of 73398
His arm was the truth, gunning dudes out all over laugh.giflaugh.gif
post #21820 of 73398
Kershaw got roughed up last night
post #21821 of 73398
Getting rid of Michael Morse for Denard Span was a bad decision.
post #21822 of 73398

i agree

post #21823 of 73398
I'm hoping Morse stays healthy
post #21824 of 73398
Morse is a monster when healthy, just such a liability in the field laugh.gif he rivals Adam Dunn as the worst LF I've ever seen play.
post #21825 of 73398
Originally Posted by madj55 View Post

Morse is a monster when healthy, just such a liability in the field laugh.gif he rivals Adam Dunn as the worst LF I've ever seen play.

Raul > Any other terrible left fielder Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
PSN: Aiinatural
Go Hawks, Mariners, Ducks
PSN: Aiinatural
Go Hawks, Mariners, Ducks
post #21826 of 73398
@sportspickle: Brian McCann is lucky baseball doesn't have an unwritten rule about hitting above .230.
post #21827 of 73398
The shift is killing McCann plus he still runs extremely slow
post #21828 of 73398
How the hell do the Pirates bat Snider in at leadoff?

Was at the Yankee games today, sitting right up on the RF wall. Bleachers heckling him all game long. Calling him Apple Snider and singing "Snider-man, Snider-man, does whatever a snider can" laugh.gif .
New York Yankees | New York Jets
New York Yankees | New York Jets
post #21829 of 73398
Oakland with their 5th sweep this season, and outscores the tribe 30-6 in the process. smokin.gif
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post #21831 of 73398
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by mfreshm View Post

The shift is killing McCann plus he still runs extremely slow

Easier said than done but if a young kid like Rizzo who has had to pretty much remake his swing/stance can learn to beat the shift consistently, established vets like McCann and Tex should be able to as well. But, they're stuck in that "swing for the fences" mode every time they're up to the plate.
post #21832 of 73398
Thread Starter 
Ausmus' impact on Tigers' basepaths.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
BOSTON -- From the first day of spring training, the Detroit Tigers players say, Brad Ausmus talked about the running game.

But not only the running game of the Detroit baserunners, who were told to look for opportunities to take a base when they see it. Ausmus also wanted his pitchers to think more about the running game.

When pitchers threw their bullpen sessions in the spring, about a third of their work was done from the stretch, Alex Avila recalled. They simulated situations in which there was a runner at first, or first and third. They worked on varying their delivery times to the plate and on throwing to first base.

Last year, opposing teams ran aggressively against the Tigers. Detroit allowed 128 steals in 157 attempts, a staggering rate of 81.5 percent, which ranked 29th in the majors. Only two teams allowed more stolen bases.

This season, the Tigers have allowed 27 steals in 42 attempts, and their 35.7 percent rate of nabbing runners ranks fifth in the majors.

The pitchers have bought in to slowing down opposing runners, said Ausmus. That includes Anibal Sanchez, particularly, after he's had a lot of trouble with stolen bases in the past. Last year, Sanchez allowed 25 steals in 26 attempts.

This year, Sanchez's numbers aren't much better (six steals allowed in seven attempts), but Avila feels he’s throwing better, and has put in the work to improve. “Throwing out runners is a two-way street,” said Avila.

The Tigers added Rajai Davis and Ian Kinsler during the offseason, and so it was inevitable that Detroit would run more and steal more bases. The Tigers’ baserunners generally have a green light to run, other than when they get a hold sign from the bench, and Torii Hunter believes the Detroit baserunners are assuming a natural aggressiveness.

Detroit leads the AL in steals with 36 -- one more than all of last season, when the Tigers finished last in MLB.

More on the Red Sox, Tigers

• The Boston Red Sox players have a strong sense of what it takes to win, after going from worst to first last season, and there is deep unhappiness with the team’s situational play right now. They feel like they should be taking advantage of those opportunities to move runners in close games, given the team’s dip in power production this season, and given Boston’s own strong pitching. The Red Sox currently rank 15th in runs, after leading the majors -- by far -- in 2013.

• The sands in the hourglass continue to slide away in the time remaining for the Red Sox to sign Jon Lester to a long-term extension. Clayton Kershaw set the very top of the market when he got a $215 million deal in the offseason, but the fairer comparables for Lester might be Cole Hamels, who got $144 million from the Philadelphia Phillies a few months before he was set to hit the market as a free agent, or Matt Cain, who got a five-year, $112.5 million extension in the spring before his free-agent fall.

The Red Sox offered Lester $70 million over four years earlier this year, and while Lester has mentioned that he’d like to stay in Boston, there is typically a time in the baseball calendar when it makes more sense for a prospective free agent to simply wait until he can hit the market.

If Boston intends to make a stronger offer to the 30-year-old Lester, who is off to the best start of his career, then it makes absolutely no sense to wait before presenting the upgraded proposal. The Phillies took a similar approach with Hamels a couple of years ago, coming in with a very low offer initially, and with Hamels pitching well as he neared free agency, the Phillies surrendered completely and made a deal for about 75 percent more than their initial offer.

[+] EnlargeJon Lester
Abelimages/Getty Images
If the Red Sox have another offer for Jon Lester, it would behoove them to put it on the table soon.
There is a clear middle ground in the Lester talks -- for about five years and $110 million, that place between what Boston offered and what Hamels got -- and if the Red Sox decide they are willing to go there, they should offer now rather than later in the summer. This is because there could be a day when Lester and his representatives decide to wait for free agency, and Lester would probably rank with Max Scherzer as the best available.

Keep in mind, as well, that the Red Sox have contractual commitments to exactly one player beyond 2015: Dustin Pedroia. Unlike the Angels, Tigers and Yankees, they have a lot of financial flexibility.

• Scherzer is known for never wanting to back away from a challenge, for being hyper-competitive, and so far, his bet on himself -- after he turned down a $144 million offer in the spring -- looks good, given his league-best 1.83 ERA and 73 strikeouts.

But another Tiger is putting himself in position to cash in in a big way. Rick Porcello is showing a much improved slider, and because he broke in at such an early age, it’s easy to forget how young he is (25). Porcello will be eligible for free agency after the 2015 season at age 26, and he just keeps on getting better and better. He shut down the Red Sox on Saturday.

From the Elias Sports Bureau: Porcello is the fifth Tigers pitcher in the past 65 seasons to win seven of his first eight starts of a season. The others were Doyle Alexander in 1987 (7-0), Mark Fidrych in 1976 (7-1), Mickey Lolich in 1972 (7-1), and Denny McLain in 1966 (7-1).

• Sanchez’s changeup has a ton of movement, so much so that Avila says he has no idea which way it will break. Typically, the changeup of a right-handed pitcher will fade low and away from left-handed hitters, down and in to right-handed hitters. But Sanchez’s will sometimes cut, or go straight down. Avila will set up in the middle of the plate, rather than sit on a corner and create a target, and catch the ball in whatever direction it goes.

Sanchez will start for the Tigers on "Sunday Night Baseball" against the Red Sox (8 ET on ESPN and WatchESPN), and Detroit will be careful with him, Rod Beard writes.

• Miguel Cabrera was hitting .206 on April 21, in keeping with what Hunter predicted back in spring training. Cabrera had abdominal surgery after last season, and Hunter had the same kind of surgery after the 2009 season. Hunter recalled how it took him months to get comfortable using the lower half of his body again in his swing, and related this to Cabrera back in February, telling him that he probably wouldn’t feel 100 percent until July.

Miguel Cabrera Through May 17
2012 2014
BA .305 .305
HR 8 7
RBI 33 37
Triple Crown? Yes ?
MVP? Yes ?
Source: ESPN Stats & Information
Cabrera seems to be ahead of that projection now. As he has integrated the lower half of his body more and more with his swing, he has stopped chopping grounders, and he has started driving the ball: Cabrera is hitting .350 in May, with five homers and 22 RBIs.

From ESPN Stats & Information: Cabrera is starting to heat up, and while he hasn't been a wrecking ball yet this season, his numbers are almost identical to those at this same point two seasons ago, when he won the Triple Crown and MVP, as seen in the table to the right.

• Will Middlebrooks broke his right index finger, and is again on the disabled list. A sizeable portion of the Boston organization would welcome back Stephen Drew, writes John Tomase.

At this point, the earliest that Drew and Kendrys Morales will be playing is probably late June.

By the way: MLB’s investigation of the comments made in my April 9 column about Drew and Morales is progressing, with employees being asked to explain details of their contact with this reporter. Just a rule of thumb: Reporters talk to a lot of people about a lot of things.

Around the league

• The hits just keep on coming for the Texas Rangers: Prince Fielder missed Saturday’s game because of a neck problem.

• The Arizona Diamondbacks' hiring of Tony La Russa to oversee the baseball operations department means another change of direction for Arizona.

Ken Kendrick, the team’s managing general partner, is notoriously impatient, which has a better chance of working if the club payroll is one of the highest -- a la George Steinbrenner and the Yankees -- because the inevitable mistakes of aggression can be papered over.

But the Diamondbacks have typically ranked among MLB’s bottom half in payroll -- this year, they are 11th, at $113 million -- and when Kendrick's frustration spills over, which is often, the ripples force change. That was evident when he criticized Justin Upton in a radio interview during the 2012 season, which was taken by rival organizations as a sure sign that Upton was going to be traded; eventually, the Diamondbacks swapped Upton at a discount price.

Arizona made the playoffs in 2007, but missed the postseason when the Manny Ramirez-fueled Dodgers passed them late in 2008, and Josh Byrnes was fired during the 2010 season. Kevin Towers was hired following the 2010 campaign, and in the three seasons since then, Arizona won 94, 81 and 81 games, which means that Towers is effectively losing his job without having a losing season. (Arizona is 17-28 this season, and 15 games over .500 overall during Towers’ tenure).

In April, Kendrick told the Arizona Republic that he wanted someone in his front office steeped in sabermetric analysis, and the great irony is that Byrnes has a reputation for excellence in that. Now Kendrick is bringing in La Russa, who isn’t a numbers guy. So go figure.

From Nick Piecoro’s story:

The Diamondbacks were thrilled to be able to add someone of La Russa's pedigree, but the move clearly was spurred by the team's disappointing start. Despite a franchise record payroll of more than $110 million, the Diamondbacks entered Saturday's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at 16-28 and were 11 1/2 games out of first place in the National League West. They finished at exactly .500 in each of the past two seasons.

"We have a tough situation that he's entering," Diamondbacks Managing General Partner Ken Kendrick said. "We don't expect any one person can change this overnight. It took us a while to get where we are, it'll take us a while to change it. We have the right guy at the right time, and we're really delighted and honored to have Tony join us."

Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall said the organization needs to add talent throughout, particularly on the pitching staff, which has underperformed both in the rotation and the bullpen. He also said the club's prospect depth has been drained.

"I think a few years ago we were positioned well with prospects," Hall said. "We made moves -- and it's not just KT, it's all of us -- (a) let's try to win it now mentality."

The first question that will face La Russa will be if and when the Diamondbacks will wave a white flag on the 2014 season. But no matter what happens going forward -- and personally, I think the Diamondbacks should start thinking of themselves as a West Coast version of the Tampa Bay Rays, rather than worrying about competing with the Dodgers -- Kendrick needs to stick to a plan and let his people do their work. The buck stops with him, and the instability that has marked recent seasons begins with his management of the club.

The D-backs delivered a much-needed jolt, writes Dan Bickley.

Arizona routed Kershaw and the Dodgers on Saturday.

• Danny Duffy flirted with perfection, writes Andy McCullough.

• Scott Kazmir was ejected and isn’t sure why, but Oakland won anyway.

• Kershaw seems to have a curveball problem, Mark Saxon writes. Fascinating.

From ESPN Stats & Information, how Kershaw lost:

A. He threw 56 percent of his pitches for strikes, his worst rate in any start since 2011.

B. Batters hit .600 (3-for-5) in at-bats ending in his fastball, his second-worst rate since 2009.

C. Hitters had a hard-hit ball in 36.4 percent of their at-bats vs. Kershaw, his fourth-highest rate in the past six seasons, and highest since 2010.

• John Russell took over the Orioles for a day, with Buck Showalter attending his son’s graduation from law school.

• Victor Martinez is off to a start akin to what Joe DiMaggio had, John Lowe writes.

• A pivotal call went against the Giants, and prompted the Marlins to give the game ball to someone not in uniform.

Dings and dents

1. Dylan Bundy is expected to start in an extended spring training game Tuesday.

2. A Phillies pitcher landed on the DL with a shoulder injury.

3. Jason Grilli and Russell Martin faced each other in a simulated game.

4. Jesse Crain continues to work out.

5. Joey Votto is still in a state of limbo.

6. Mat Latos is making progress.

7. A couple of Mariners pitchers are making progress.

Saturday’s games

1. Juan Lagares put on a show.

2. Hamels picked up his 100th victory.

3. The Blue Jays took another in Texas.

4. Tom Koehler stepped up for the Marlins.

5. That’s four straight wins and counting for the Cardinals.

6. The Braves’ slump has deepened.

7. Brian Dozier ignited the Minnesota offense again.

8. The Indians kicked the ball around.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Mets saved $850,000 by cutting Kyle Farnsworth, writes Anthony Rieber.

2. Ryan Zimmerman may or may not become an outfielder.

3. The Rockies need to call up a pitcher.

4. Daric Barton has cleared waivers.

AL West

• C.J. Wilson went the distance. From ESPN Stats & Information, how Wilson threw his second career shutout:

A. He had 14 ground ball outs, second most in any start this year.

B. He averaged a season-high 91.3 mph with his fastball; the Rays were 3-for-16 in at-bats ending with that pitch.

C. Hitters were 1-for-6 in at-bats ending in his curveball.

• George Springer had another good day.

• A kid from South Dakota is becoming a hot prospect for the Rangers.

AL Central

• Ron Gardenhire wants a four-man bench for the upcoming road trip.

• Jose Abreu had a painful day.

AL East

• Marcus Stroman says he’s ready, if needed, for the Toronto rotation.

• The Yankees won Saturday, but their bullpen didn’t get a lot of relief.

• Mark Teixeira is back in stride, writes Kevin Kernan.

• Dellin Betances is piling up a lot of innings and strikeouts.

• The decision about the Rays’ rotation gained clarity.

• David Price is finding his comfort level, writes Roger Mooney.

NL West

• The Dodgers continue to be out of sight, writes Bill Plaschke.

NL Central

• The Cardinals are doing the little things to get back on track, writes Bernie Miklasz.

• The Brewers could have some options in a draft stocked with pitchers.

• Rick Morrissey is not buying what the Cubs are selling.

NL East

• B.J. Upton has 13 strikeouts in his past 19 at-bats, David O’Brien writes.

• Three veteran signings by the Marlins are paying off, Clark Spencer writes.

Other stuff

• A Johns Hopkins graduate is pursuing his goal of managing in the big leagues, Tim Casey writes.

• J.P. Arencibia remains angry over what was said about him in Toronto.

• Some baseball art is selling for about a half a million bucks.

• Vanderbilt will be the No. 6 seed in the SEC tourney.

And today will be better than yesterday.

Blue Jays should trade for Samardzija.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
General managers use the first two months of the season to evaluate their teams, then try to improve the team through trades or calling up top prospects in the next two months. Then they try to tweak the team with waiver deals and September call-ups in the last two months.

Given this, teams are mainly concentrating on the draft and don’t focus full-time on trades until after the draft (June 5-7). However, GMs still are talking to each other and laying the foundation for deals. This includes letting other GMs know their interest in a particular player and at least offer a fair chance to trade for that player. Many GMs are also letting other teams know exactly who’s available and who’s untouchable.

Most of the big trades happen between the All-Star Game and the July 31 trade deadline as well as in August via waiver deals. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t deals in May or June, and I like to think of these deals as "appetizer" trades, with the entrees coming closer to July 31. Often, these are minor deals, like when Chris Nelson was dealt from the Colorado Rockies to the New York Yankees last May. However, we sometimes get major deals in May.

For example, it was mid-May 1998 when the Dodgers traded Mike Piazza to the Marlins, who then traded him to the Mets a week later.

With 27 of the 30 teams within four games of the playoffs coming into the weekend, it is safe to assume there will be fewer teams "selling" than normal. More likely trades will be made between contenders that match up in roster depth and weaknesses.

Here are some possible "appetizer" trades I would like to see that would fill some important needs of these contending teams:

1. Toronto Blue Jays acquire RHP Jeff Samardzija from the Chicago Cubs

OK, this is not a traditional "appetizer" deal, and is more in line with those aforementioned Piazza deals. The Blue Jays lead the AL in home runs and are third in runs scored. They might have the best lineup in the AL East. However, for the Blue Jays to contend all season, they must make a trade for a starting pitcher.

They came close to signing Ervin Santana before he went to Atlanta. Mark Buehrle is off to the best start of his career, with a 7-1 record at a 2.04 ERA. R.A. Dickey and Drew Hutchison have held their own despite 4.50 ERAs, but all other Jays starters are over 5.00. The Blue Jays should strike early and try to land Samardzija, and without dealing top pitching prospects Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman. Perhaps an offer of left-handed pitcher Daniel Norris, right-handed pitcher Roberto Osuna and third baseman Mitch Nay could get it done.

2. Atlanta Braves acquire 2B Nick Franklin from the Seattle Mariners

The Braves need more range, contact and speed at second base, and Franklin would fit the bill. I know some people think Tommy La Stella could be the answer, but he is 25 years old and is slugging .328 at Triple-A. It's hard to see him as a difference-maker.

Franklin, 23, is tearing it up at Triple-A Tacoma, batting .384/.479/.667 with seven doubles, seven home runs, 25 RBIs and six steals in just 27 games. He is blocked by Robinson Cano and it's only a matter of time before the Mariners deal Franklin.

The problem is the Mariners want a corner outfield prospect with power, something Atlanta does not have. The Braves also don’t want to sacrifice their strength in the bullpen arms, leaving prospects like Jose Peraza, Victor Caratini and Josh Elander as possible trade bait, which might not be enough for the Mariners.

3. Detroit Tigers acquire RHP Brad Ziegler from the Arizona Diamondbacks

Ziegler, 34, is off to another fast start with a 2.53 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 24 appearances for the D-backs as they shift into rebuilding mode. Meanwhile, the Tigers need quality depth in the sixth and seventh innings. Ziegler and his submarine delivery bring a unique look at any bullpen, and should play nicely with the right side of the Tigers’ bullpen that boasts Joba Chamberlain and Al Albuquerque setting up closer Joe Nathan.

Arizona GM Kevin Towers is pretty good at picking the right pitching prospects, and maybe he could persuade the Tigers to part with prospects Drew VerHagen or Jeff Thompson.

4. Baltimore Orioles acquire C Kurt Suzuki from the Minnesota Twins

The Orioles don’t need to be in denial any longer. Matt Wieters's elbow injury is a problem, and they should prepare for the fact that he might be limited to the DH spot when he returns from the DL. (This assumes he will avoid Tommy John surgery, which is still a possibility.)

Although GM Dan Duquette says he’s happy with the duo of Steve Clevenger and Caleb Joseph, Suzuki would be the perfect fit for the Orioles. He knows how to call a game and is decent at framing pitches. He’s also off to a great start with the bat (.314/.390/.410).

Suzuki's stock will never be higher and the Twins need to make Josmil Pinto their full-time catcher to let him develop. Minnesota needs pitching, and the Orioles could offer one of their secondary bullpen arms like Troy Patton or Ryan Webb, or a mid-level minor league pitching prospect.

5. Los Angeles Angels acquire LHP Alex Torres from the San Diego Padres

It was just two years ago in May that Angels GM Jerry Dipoto acquired Ernesto Frieri from the Padres, so why not swing a similar deal?

Padres GM Josh Byrnes made a shrewd trade acquiring Torres (0.60 ERA in 17 appearances) from Tampa Bay and doesn’t want to trade him because he has one of the best bullpens in the NL right now. However, Byrnes also knows that he has to keep building long term, and with Chase Headley a free agent at season’s end, he will need a long-term solution at third unless he moves Jedd Gyorko there. Could he pry third base prospect Kaleb Cowart away from the Angels for Torres? I doubt it. If not, second baseman Alex Yarbrough might work, and he's hitting .308 at Double-A.

The market for Jeff Samardzija.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The playoff field expanded from eight to 10 teams for the first time, giving more teams more chances at trying to make it to the postseason, making it less likely that clubs would become sellers before the July 31 trade deadline. Generally speaking, the market moved slowly.

But the rebuilding Chicago Cubs distinguished themselves last summer in their willingness to discuss trades. First, they moved Scott Feldman to Baltimore after the right-hander got off to a good start. They then swapped Matt Garza to the Texas Rangers and received what was generally considered to be the best package of the trade season: high-end pitching prospect C.J. Edwards, third baseman Mike Olt and right-handers Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez.

Edwards was hurt earlier this season in Double-A, but the 20/20 hindsight perception of that trade within the industry is that Chicago did very well -- so well, in fact, that some rival executives believe that this trade helps frame a working model for what the minimum price will be for right-hander Jeff Samardzija.

“So you have an idea of just how expensive it will be,” one evaluator said.

Yes. Very.

At the time Garza was traded, he was about 10 weeks from qualifying for free agency. Samardzija, on the other hand, won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2015 season.

Garza was in the market with some ugly injury history: He had missed months, making his last start in 2012 on July 21, and making his first start in 2013 on May 21. Samardzija, on the other hand, appears completely healthy.

And Samardzija right now appears as if he is a better pitcher than Garza was last year. Garza had a respectable 3.17 ERA at the time he was swapped to Texas. Samardzija, 29, has allowed just two homers in 61 innings and has posted a 1.62 ERA, and he is coming off a season in which he threw 213 innings. He has been one of the best pitchers in the National League so far, regardless of what his 0-4 record might suggest; only one pitcher in the majors has received less run support than Samardzija.

The Cubs need high-end pitching to match the strong collection of position players they are developing, and rival officials are already taking deep breaths and preparing for an extremely high asking price whenever they start conversations about Samardzija.

Given that there might be only one comparable pitcher in the market this summer -- David Price would be the No. 1 starter available, if the Rays choose to go that route -- the Cubs will be justified in setting a very high bar for Samardzjia. It will be a seller’s market.
“All it takes is one team saying yes,” one GM said.

Alfonso Soriano says he wouldn’t be surprised if Samardzija decided he wants to leave Chicago to have a shot to win. The Cubs also are expected to market right-hander Jason Hammel.

From ESPN Stats & Information, more about the hard luck of Samardzija so far this season.

He has 12 straight starts in which he has allowed three earned runs or fewer, and he hasn’t won any of them. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the second-longest such streak since earned runs became an official stat in both leagues in 1913.

Around the league

• On Friday’s podcast: Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy offered some observations about the most skilled players at his position and the Fireball Express presented some next-level numbers on Mike Moustakas, Xander Bogaerts and others. On Thursday’s podcast, Keith Law explained the top of his mock draft and Chris Colabello of the Twins detailed his improbable journey to the big leagues -- which included seven seasons in an independent league.

• Not only have the defensive shifts affected offenses and gotten in the minds of hitters, but many evaluators believe they are hurting the reliability of some defensive metrics that have been developed in recent seasons. Some execs say that a lot of the metrics being used right now are so far askew from the eye test that they are beginning to question the credibility of the numbers.

• Some in the game now view Rob Manfred as a prohibitive favorite to follow Bud Selig as the next commissioner and estimate that he already has 21 or 22 votes of support among the 30 teams; he will need 23 votes. There is a block of teams that won’t support Manfred, but the committee that was just formed to identify candidates is stacked with officials who are viewed as supporters of Manfred.

• Max Scherzer’s bet on himself continues to look good: In his ninth start Friday, he shut out the Red Sox for six innings, lowering his ERA to 1.83. Scherzer has 73 strikeouts in 59 innings, and he has held opponents to a .325 slugging percentage.

Jon Lester was the losing pitcher, and, whether he likes it or not, writes Jon Tomase, he will be measured against Scherzer this season.

• The Tigers finished the shutout.

• In Arizona, Zack Greinke pitched eight innings of scoreless ball, extending his streak of consecutive starts allowing two or fewer runs to 21 -- which, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, is the modern-day record.

Most consecutive starts allowing two or fewer runs
*Modern era (since 1900)
Zack Greinke, 21<<, 2013-14
Ferdie Schupp, 16, 1916-17
Mat Latos, 15, 2010
Al Benton, 15, 1945
<< Active streak

• The Dodgers flexed their muscles.

Sonny Gray
Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports
A's starter Sonny Gray allowed one run in six innings pitched Friday against the Indians.
• Sonny Gray dominated the Indians, with help from Josh Reddick. From ESPN Stats & Info, how he won:

A) Hitters swung and missed on 34.3 percent of his pitches, the second-highest rate of his career (highest this season)

B) Hitters were 0-for-9 in at-bats ending in his curveball with season-high six strikeouts.

• The Mets sent out Sandy Alderson’s credit card info.

• Jayson Werth saved the Nationals. Check it out here. And in his postgame interview, Werth made a "Mean Girls" reference.

• Joey Votto has been diagnosed with a strained quad. Devin Mesoraco returned.

Dings and dents

1. Ryan Zimmerman is uncertain of his return.

2. Shane Victorino is hurting.

3. Another pitcher is going to meet with a Tommy John specialist.

4. Jason Motte is close to being eligible, writes Rick Hummel.

5. Chris Sale looks as if he’s ready to go.

6. An earlier injury led to this injury, says Jose Fernandez’s lawyer. Fernandez pitched through pain, writes Juan Rodriguez.

7. Alex Cobb is close to returning.

8. Mark Trumbo is healing.

9. Wilin Rosario is due back this weekend, writes Patrick Saunders.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. A couple of youngsters are battling for a spot in the Mets’ rotation.

2. The Orioles signed Heath Bell.

3. Michael Saunders was back in the Seattle lineup.

4. Opportunity has knocked for Mike Carp.

5. Dustin McGowan has been moved to the Toronto bullpen.

6. The Royals designated Justin Maxwell for assignment.

7. Chad Qualls is the Astros’ closer.

Friday’s games

1. Chris Tillman was outstanding for the Orioles, as Dan Connolly writes.

2. Drew Hutchison outdueled Yu Darvish.

3. Jorge De La Rosa flirted with a no-hitter.

4. The Cardinals are starting to heat up.

5. Zach McAllister had a really bad inning.

6. Adam Dunn killed it.

7. Brian Dozier hit another homer.

8. Grant Balfour bounced back.

NL East

• The Phillies’ lack of offense concerns Ryne Sandberg.

• The Mets are stupid sitting Juan Lagares, writes Mike Vaccaro.

• Casey McGehee redeemed himself.

• Tyler Pastornicky is getting another chance.

NL Central

• Clint Hurdle is unfazed by the blown saves the Pirates have had.

• Rick Renteria laments the team’s performance late in games.

• The Brewers are taking a cautious approach with Ryan Braun.

NL West

• The Diamondbacks can’t seem to beat the Dodgers.

• Bruce Bochy is fine with a four-man bench, writes Steve Kroner.

• Yasiel Puig is showing a lot of plate discipline.

• A.J. Ellis knows he has to earn his keep.

• Bud Black has reasons for drawing up his lineup the way he does.

AL East

• Derek Jeter’s routine has been interrupted.

• The Yankees will play an old-fashioned doubleheader today.

AL Central

• The Tigers are running a whole lot, writes John Lowe.

AL West

• The Astros were done in by Adam Dunn.

• Ron Washington is pleading for signs of life from his team’s offense.

• Jered Weaver feels great.


• Johnny Cueto says he’s the best pitcher in baseball right now.

• ”Million Dollar Arm” tells the story of a Pirates prospect.

• A picture of Babe Ruth, knocked out, as Michael Beschloss describes.

And today will be better than yesterday.

Red Sox must fix from within.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
BOSTON -- In the midst of a year in which almost everything went right for the Boston Red Sox, there was a game last season when everything went wrong. Cliff Lee went into Fenway Park and stuck it to the Red Sox on May 28, needing just 95 pitches to complete eight innings, and afterward, the Boston players went into problem-solving mode. The hitters could've focused better, they agreed; the at-bats could've been better. They never really put any pressure on Lee. They resolved that they would be better, that they would do better. And they were better.

That was a conversation that wouldn't have even happened if the players hadn't believed there was room to grow with the group in the clubhouse, and in 2014, a season in which very little is going right for the Red Sox -- other than the collective struggles of their division opponents -- it would be interesting to know for sure if the Boston players believe this group can improve quickly enough. It would be interesting to know if the players believe if this roster has the ability to solve their immediate problem of run production.

Jacoby Ellsbury is gone, and to paraphrase Rick Pitino, he's not coming through Boston's clubhouse door anytime soon. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who hit 14 homers and drove in 65 runs last season and help balance the lineup, is gone. The Red Sox repeatedly made overtures to Stephen Drew during the offseason, into the dawn of January, without gaining any traction -- and besides, there is no guarantee that Drew would provide immediate help for Boston after not playing the last seven months.

Right now, the Red Sox hitters have to fix themselves; there are no magic elixirs available, at a time when David Ortiz is really the only member of the lineup meeting expectations. Oh, sure, Jackie Bradley Jr. is really struggling, and Xander Bogaerts is not yet having the offensive impact that some of the veterans expected after they watched him last October. But nobody else is really lighting it up, either.

Dustin Pedroia's OPS is the lowest of his career. Shane Victorino has battled injuries. Mike Napoli hasn't homered since he clubbed a rocket off Masahiro Tanaka on April 22. Mike Carp's OPS is down more than 200 points, Jonny Gomes's is down by almost 50, the No. 5 spot has been a major problem, etc., etc., etc.

The Red Sox scored 57 runs more than any other team last season, and as of this morning, they are 16th in the majors in runs, a stunning decline. That's not all on the front office for not re-signing Ellsbury, and it's not all on Bradley; it's not all on Pedroia.

It's on just about all of them. And they're the only ones who can fix it.

They were problem-solvers last season. They've got about 4 1/2 months to get it right in 2014, starting Tuesday, against Toronto.

The Red Sox lineup was shut down again Sunday night, writes Julian Benbow. The Red Sox are playing poorly at home. It's time for the Red Sox to shake things up, writes Michael Silverman. From his piece:
Three runs in three losses to the Tigers do not add up to nothing for the Red Sox offense — it cries out for change.

And since there's no way the Red Sox are going to cut the cord yet with their young players, they could do a lot worse than doubling down on their best young hitter, Xander Bogaerts, and put him and his .369 on-base percentage on top of the lineup.

They have another move they need to get a move on, which is finding a veteran third baseman with a proven bat, but that's not going to happen in time for tomorrow night's series against the Blue Jays.

The Red Sox need to unveil a new look by tomorrow night, because the lineup they keep putting out on the field keeps falling short, nearly all the time.

It's no longer cute to think that the Red Sox' inability to hit with runners in scoring position — .240 as a team — is just a phase that will eventually disappear and all will be right like last year, when the Sox put up five runs a game without breaking a sweat.

The team underestimated how badly it would miss Jacoby Ellsbury atop the lineup, but that talking point left the barn months ago. They have to deal with the present, and while Jackie Bradley Jr.'s defense in center field offers a fair approximation of what Ellsbury did on defense (but with Bradley having a far better arm), Dustin Pedroia would help the Red Sox lineup more from his natural No. 2 spot than in his current job as leadoff hitter.

• Before Sunday's game, Tigers Manager Brad Ausmus said that he's never played with or seen a player who has more focus on each pitch of each at-bat than Victor Martinez. Right now, Miguel Cabrera and Martinez are killing the ball, as perhaps the best 3-4 combination of hitters in the game.

Cabrera in May: a .375 batting average, a 1.112 OPS, with 24 RBI in 16 games.
Martinez in May: .375 batting average, a 1.179 OPS, 12 RBI in 16 games.

• The Tigers' bullpen has been hot of late, as John Lowe writes.

The Tigers are 15-3 in their last 18 games (MLB-best 27-12 this season); and their sweep at Fenway was their first since June 6-9, 1983.

Around the league

• Jose Abreu, the major-league leader in homers, was placed on the disabled list with ankle trouble.

• Yoenis Cespedes drove in five runs in a blowout of Cleveland and Oakland increased its run differential to plus-95. The Athletics and the Giants are inspiring October dreams, writes Scott Ostler. Right now, the three best teams in baseball are the Tigers, Oakland and San Francisco, and there's a gap between that trio and the rest of the pack.

• Carlos Gomez had to sit again. The light-hitting Brewers lost again.

• Felix Hernandez shut down the Twins, as Ryan Divish writes.

From ESPN Stats and Info, how he won:
A) Induced 12 ground ball outs, tied for his most in a start over the last two seasons.
B) Pounded the strike zone: 55.7 percent of his pitches were in the strike zone, his best rate this season.
C) Changed the pace: Twins batters were 0-for-8 with four strikeouts in at-bats ending in a change-up.

• Matt Shoemaker pitched great, and he got a couple of homers of support from Albert Pujols.

Dings and dents

1. Gio Gonzalez landed on the disabled list, writes Adam Kilgore.

2. CC Sabathia will be on the disabled list for more than 15 days.

3. Matt Wieters had an injection in his elbow.

4. Dylan Bundy could hit another level Tuesday.

5. Rick Porcello has an ache in his side.

6. Omar Infante is on the mend.

7. Jason Motte will be activated Tuesday, writes Derrick Goold.

8. Ryan Hanigan is sore and hurt.

9. Jonny Venters has a sore elbow.

10. Carlos Gonzalez has a knee issue.

11. Carlos Quentin tweaked his groin.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Matt Gelb wonders if Ben Revere's job is slipping away.

2. Jeff Francis was claimed on waivers.

3. Nick Franklin is likely to be recalled.

Sunday's games

1. The Blue Jays lost and sent down a pitcher.

2. The Yankees split a doubleheader.

3. The Marlins couldn't overcome Jacob Turner's slow start.

4. Nick Martinez stepped up for the Rangers when they really needed it. The Rangers had held a team meeting that didn't have a lot of fire and brimstone.

5. Atlanta rallied to avoid a sweep.

6. Justin Morneau's walk off homer gave the Rockies a series win over the Padres.

NL East

• The Phillies have flourished with Jimmy Rollins in the leadoff spot. It's early, but Rollins has an OPS of .760, and if he did that for an entire season, it would be his highest since 2009.

David Wright wants consistency.

Patience is not a virtue at Citi Field, writes Bob Klaplisch.

Zack Wheeler had an uneven start.

NL Central

• Gerrit Cole said it was just another win against the Yankees.

• Starting pitching is killing the Pirates.

Trevor Rosenthal hasn't been what he was in 2013.

• Jaime Garcia was really good.

• The Reds are on a hamster wheel, writes Paul Daugherty.

• Nearly everything is wrong with the Reds, writes Hal McCoy.

• Anthony Rizzo is maturing as a hitter.

NL West

• Tony La Russa is fired up, writes Bernie Miklasz. La Russa is going to tour the D-Backs' organization. Arizona won a series over the Dodgers.

• The Diamondbacks need more of the Big Unit.

• The Dodgers were flat again.

• The Giants have very limited expectations for Marco Scutaro.

AL East

• The Yankees' rotation is a mess, writes Bill Madden.

Garin Cecchini tells Tim Britton his defense will improve.

• The honeymoon is over for the Red Sox, as Steve Buckley writes.

• David Price had a grind-it-out outing against the Angels. From Marc Topkin's story:
Price was not nearly as sharp in the follow-up to his complete game in Seattle, allowing a season-high 11 hits — including Albert Pujols' 503rd and 504th homers — while throwing 119 pitches in less than seven innings.

"Just didn't execute enough pitches," Price said. "Felt great. Just keep working."

Manager Joe Maddon said Price, now 4-4, 4.28, didn't pitch badly. He insisted Price had good stuff, and the Angels should be credited for their approach, which Pujols said was based on being aggressive. "He may only give you one-two pitches to hit in four at-bats, and you need to take advantage of that," Pujols said.

But Price did make some mistakes, allowing the first homer to Pujols with two outs in the first on an 0-and-2 fastball, a run in the third on three consecutive two-out singles, then putting the first three Angels on in the fourth in advance of Longoria's error.
AL Central

• Alex Gordon broke out.

• The Indians got torched.

• Cleveland is waiting for Nick Swisher to find himself at the plate.

• Joe Mauer's back trouble might still be bothering him. I've said and written many times: Players and teams are not obligated to tell us everything that's happening with them medically. But that means that we are free to wonder, free to speculate, and I wonder if we'll learn someday that Mauer's troubles have been more acute than we have thought.

AL West

• The Astros had a really good weekend.


• A bobblehead was botched.

• Paul Beeston salutes Bud Selig.

• The Twins are not reaching a consensus with their draft boards.

• Don Meyer was a legendary teacher.

And today will be better than yesterday.

Best tools in the 2014 draft.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Over the past two weeks, we have discussed the players with the most upside as well as the "safest" players available for the 2014 draft.

This week, we break things down a little further and take a look at the players with the best individual tools in this year's class. While one skill doesn't make a prospect, it can be a major deciding factor for teams that are looking for any way to separate players in a muddled draft class.

"The whole package is obviously more important," an NL Central scout said. "But knowing that a guy has that one standout tool is a huge benefit. If you're debating between two players and you know that the pitcher has that ridiculous changeup or that the shortstop is going to be able to play plus defense, it makes it easier to justify taking a guy early.

"I wouldn't call it specialization, but having an idea that a player has at least one thing that can allow him to be an effective big leaguer is definitely valuable."

Here's a look at the players with the best individual tools of the 2014 class.

Best fastball

College: Nick Burdi, RHP, Louisville -- Burdi has easily the most dominant fastball in the collegiate class. It's a heater that routinely touches 100 mph and sits 97-99 with late life.
Also considered: Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina; Sean Newcomb, LHP, Hartford; Michael Cederoth, RHP, San Diego State

Prep: Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd (Texas) HS -- Kolek is a massive human being, with a 6-foot-5, 250-pound frame, and he uses that size and his arm strength to sit 94-96, touching 100 mph over the summer.
Also considered: Jacob Bukauskas, RHP, Stone Bridge HS (Ashburn, Virginia); Grant Holmes, RHP, Conway (South Carolina) HS; Touki Toussaint, RHP, Coral Springs Christian HS (Miami)

Best breaking ball

College: Carlos Rodon, LHP, NC State -- When Rodon's slider is at its best, it's an unhittable pitch for both left-handed and right-handed hitters, sitting in the mid-80s with tremendous tilt and bite.
Also considered: Hoffman; Jacob Lindgren, LHP, Mississippi State

Prep: Touki Toussaint, RHP, Coral Springs Christian HS (Miami) -- No pitcher in the class has a curveball with more downward movement, and when he gets ahead of hitters it's a true swing-and-miss breaking ball with tremendous spin and break.
Also considered: Brady Aiken, LHP, Cathedral Catholic HS (San Diego); Holmes

Best changeup

College: Aaron Nola, RHP, LSU -- Nola can throw his change for strikes or out of the zone for swings and misses. He generates a lot of deception by throwing the pitch with the same arm speed he uses for his fastball.
Also considered: Luke Weaver, RHP, Florida State; Austin Gomber, LHP, Florida Atlantic

Prep: Brady Aiken, LHP, Cathedral Catholic HS (San Diego) -- Aiken has outstanding arm speed on his change from a delivery that's already deceptive, and it's one of his three pitches that grade out as plus.
Also considered: Mac Marshall, LHP, Parkview HS (Lilburn, Georgia); Foster Griffin, LHP, First Academy (Orlando)

Best hit tool

College: Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon State -- Though Conforto does have a great deal of swing-and-miss to his game, his ability to work counts into his favor is unparalleled by any collegiate hitter, and his swing stays through the zone to give him a chance to hit for average.
Also considered: Derek Fisher, OF, Virginia; Casey Gillaspie, 1B, Wichita State; Mike Papi, OF, Virginia; Bradley Zimmer, OF, San Francisco

Prep: Alex Jackson, C/RF, Rancho Bernardo HS (San Diego) -- He is one of the smarter hitters in the class -- college or prep -- and has excellent bat speed. Jackson has also shown a willingness to work counts into his favor and hit to opposite field.
Also considered: Nick Gordon, SS, Olympia HS (Orlando); Michael Chavis, 3B, Sprayberry (Georgia) HS

Best power tool

College: A.J. Reed, 1B, Kentucky -- Reed has put up power numbers that have gone unrivaled in all of college baseball, and he uses all of his 6-foot-4, 240-pound frame to generate leverage and hit moon shots to right and right-center field.
Also considered: Kyle Schwarber, C/1B, Indiana; Conforto; Fisher

Prep: Jacob Gatewood, SS, Clovis (California) HS -- When Gatewood doesn't open his hips up too early, he's capable of hitting some absolute monster shots from the right side, thanks to a wiry 6-foot-4 frame and loads of strength.
Also considered: Jackson; Braxton Davidson, 1B, TC Roberson (Ashville, North Carolina); Bobby Bradley, OF, Harrison Central HS (Gulfport, Mississippi)

Best run tool

College: Trea Turner, SS, NC State -- No, it's not 80 (on the 20-80 scouting scale) speed anymore, but Turner still moves very well and has shown the ability to steal 30-40 bases a year, assuming he gets on base enough to get the opportunities.
Also considered: Greg Allen, OF, San Diego State; Bobby Boyd, OF, West Virginia

Prep: Jeren Kendall, OF, Holmen (Wisconsin) HS -- There are several plus-plus runners who could go early in 2014, but the Vanderbilt commit moves the best of all of them both on the bases and with excellent range in the outfield.
Also considered: Michael Gettys, OF, Gainesville (Georgia) HS; Carl Chester, OF, Lake Brantley HS (Orlando); Derek Hill, Elk Grove HS (California)

Best throwing arm

College: Matt Chapman, 3B, Cal-State Fullerton -- Chapman has been clocked up to 96 mph on the mound, and his arm is easily plus-plus at the hot corner.
Also considered: Zimmer; Dylan Davis, OF, Oregon State

Prep: Michael Gettys, OF, Gainesville (Georgia) HS -- Several scouts I spoke with gave Gettys' throwing grade an 80, and he was clocked at 102 mph this summer from the outfield.
Also considered: Gordon; Monte Harrison, OF, Lee's Summit (Missouri) HS

Best defensive outfielder

College: Greg Allen, San Diego State -- Allen doesn't have the best athleticism of the outfielders in this year's class, but he has above-average speed and takes excellent routes, giving him a good chance to be a quality center fielder at the big league level.

Prep: Derek Hill, Elk Grove HS (California) -- In addition to having plus-plus speed, Hill's instincts are better than any other prep outfielder, and if there's such a thing as a lock to stick in center field, it's him.

Best defensive infielder

College: Matt Chapman, 3B, Cal-State Fullerton -- Not only does Chapman have the strongest throwing arm of any infielder in the class, he also has soft hands and can make plays to his left and right despite having below-average speed.

Prep: Milton Ramos, SS, American Heritage School (Miami) -- There are questions about whether or not Ramos will hit enough, but there's no question about his glove as a shortstop with excellent range and footwork.

All hail Zack Greinke.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
BECAUSE OF SOME dude named Clayton, it's difficult for another Dodgers starter to stand out. But to regard Zack Greinke as merely Kershaw's running mate is to severely -- even tragically -- undersell the 30-year-old former Cy Young winner.

18: Consecutive starts in which Greinke pitched at least five innings and allowed two runs or fewer, the longest such streak since 1900. When the run finally ended on May 5, it took intervention from the heavens: Greinke was forced from a start in Washington after just three innings by a rain delay of more than three hours.

4: Consecutive seasons in which Greinke's ERA has fallen, from 4.17 in 2010 to 2.35 this year.* Since last July 30, spanning those 18 sparkling starts, the LA right-hander has posted a minuscule 1.72 ERA, second best in all of baseball to Marlins phenom Jose Fernandez (1.35).

55.8 percent: MLB-best Z-Swing percent (the percentage of pitches inside the zone hitters swing at) by Greinke this season. Couple that with his nearly league-leading O-Swing percent (the pitches outside the zone hitters swing at) and Greinke's plan is clear: Make hitters swing at his pitches, not theirs.

11.2 percent: Swinging-strike percentage in 2014, highest of Greinke's career and a top-15 mark among MLB starters. What's more, his career-high strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate of 11.0 is an increase of 3 K's over his career average. His K/9 rate is fourth best in the majors.

3.27: Difference, in inches, in the vertical movement of Greinke's slider from 2012 to this season, a change he attributes to ending his experiment with a similarly gripped cutter. His 19.2 swinging-strike percentage on the slider has nearly doubled from last year's 11.9.

0: Seasons by a pitcher over the past decade that have been more valuable than Greinke's Cy Young campaign of 2009, based on WAR -- wins above replacement. The last pitcher to top Greinke's 10.4 mark was Randy Johnson in 2002.

All stats through May 7.

Don't build like the Twins.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Once again, major league baseball players are striking out at previously unseen levels, with 20.5 percent of plate appearances ending in a whiff, which would set a record for the ninth year in a row. And once again, the Minnesota Twins' pitching staff is doing its best to go against that trend.
Twins pitchers currently sit in last place in strikeout percentage; their 14.9 percent whiff rate is a full 1.6 percent behind the No. 29 White Sox. (If you prefer K/9, their 5.85 rate is also in last place, well below the league average of 7.85.) Not that this is new. The Twins had the majors' lowest strikeout percentage rates in 2011, '12 and '13 as well.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Twins' cumulative pitching strikeout percentage dating to 2010 pulls up the rear by a considerable amount:

This is, of course, embedded in the Twins' DNA. It's who they are, endlessly giving innings to low-upside and low-strikeout pitchers like Brian Duensing, Nick Blackburn, Carl Pavano, Scott Diamond and Kevin Correia, and it's part of the reason they're 72 games under .500 in that span.

But this year, they're treading into some particularly dangerous waters, because the roster they've assembled is the worst-case scenario: They have a staff full of pitchers who allow balls to be put in play in front of a defense that isn't particularly effective at turning those balls into outs.

An offensive defense
Defense can be measured a few ways, though none of them are without their issues over a small sample size. But when they're all generally saying the same thing -- that the Twins' defense is quite poor -- it's difficult to toss that data away. Defensive runs saved, for example, has the Twins at minus-23, just barely ahead of the last-place Indians. (The Cardinals currently lead the majors with 29 DRS.) UZR/150 has the Twins at minus-4.8, 23rd best. They are middle of the pack in errors, if you care about that, but they might be worse if they could get to more balls; they're No. 26 in range runs, which is determined by FanGraphs "by how the fielder is able to get to balls hit in his vicinity."

It goes beyond just the fact that the overall defense isn't great, because the Twins have managed to build a staff that specifically caters to the weakness of their fielders. Right now, Twins pitchers are allowing fly balls at a 38.4 percent rate, tied with the Angels for the most in baseball. That's not necessarily a bad thing; fly balls that don't leave the park -- and the 8.0 percent HR/FB rate Minnesota has is solid enough -- generally turn into outs at a higher rate than grounders do.

But despite allowing the same rate of fly balls, the outcomes for the Twins and Angels have been very different. Although the Angels walk more batters and allow slightly more home runs, they have allowed 28 fewer runs than the Twins while playing one more game. One reason is they have pitchers who can actually miss bats; their strikeout percentage is fourth best in baseball and a full 7.6 percent higher than that of the Twins. They also have something nearly as important: an outfield that actually turns those fly balls into outs.

Outfield shuffle
Looking only at outfielders, the Angels have the best DRS mark in baseball, helped by plus fielders like Mike Trout, J.B. Shuck and Collin Cowgill. The Twins, meanwhile, are in dead last, with a minus-18 mark that represents a full 38-run difference from the Angels.

[+] EnlargeAaron Hicks
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
Aaron Hicks (career .588 OPS) has failed to establish himself.
That's partly due to injury -- infielders Eduardo Escobar, Eduardo Nunez and Danny Santana have each started in the outfield in the past week -- but mostly due to the fact that the outfielders the Twins have put together just aren't quality defenders. Chris Colabello, in the early conversation for worst defensive outfielder in baseball, was primarily a first baseman in the minors. Jason Kubel was a below-average outfielder in his first stint in Minnesota. Now, as he prepares to turn 32 next week, he's now a disaster with the glove yet has received more defensive playing time than any other Twins outfielder.

Minnesota fans can rightfully point to the fact that the outfielders who were expected to be assets in the field have failed to stick in the lineup for various reasons. Aaron Hicks came to the big leagues with a good defensive reputation, but has failed to show that: He has hit only .185/.270/.315 in parts of two seasons and recently missed time with a concussion. Sam Fuld joined the team in late April and provided value in center, but he also has not hit much and has had a concussion.

Josh Willingham, never much of an outfielder, hasn't played much this year because of a wrist injury, and he won't be expected to help much with the glove when he returns. The same goes for Oswaldo Arcia, also out with a wrist injury, who is expected to receive significant playing time this year despite some horrendous defensive play in 2013 (minus-15 DRS in just 97 games).

A mess of their own making
While the injuries and Hicks' ineffectiveness have been unfortunate, the Twins put themselves in this position -- partly because they collected defensively challenged players like Kubel and played out-of-position first basemen like Colabello, and partly because of a spring decision that backfired terribly. Minnesota decided to keep 34-year-old Jason Bartlett and use him as an outfielder, a position he'd never played before. (It was a decision made almost entirely because of his clubhouse presence, according to Ron Gardenhire.)

By keeping Bartlett, a shortstop they traded in 2007 and who didn't even play professional baseball in 2013, the Twins lost outfielder Alex Presley -- a competent left fielder -- on waivers to Houston. When Bartlett retired in April, after just three games, zero hits and minus-2 DRS, the Twins were forced to cut loose outfielder Darin Mastroianni because of a paperwork issue related to Bartlett's sudden departure. Mastroanni had 24 stolen bases in only 271 plate appearances with the team, along with average-at-worst defense. But by keeping Bartlett, the Twins received zero production and lost two decent outfielders, and now they're resorting to using inexperienced infielders in the outfield.

Teams can succeed without top-notch defense, as the Detroit Tigers have shown. They can get by without huge strikeout numbers if they have a good defense, as the Pittsburgh Pirates have the past two years. But there's almost no way they can live with both of those things combined. Until one is solved -- or both -- the Twins are doomed for another season without playoff baseball.
post #21833 of 73398
Thread Starter 
Where the Marlins are One of the Best and Worst Teams in Baseball.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
A feature that gets a lot of attention here, probably, is our playoff odds page. That page uses updated player projections and manually updated team depth charts to determine playoff probability and expected record. I look at the page probably two or three times a day, and though the numbers mean only so much, there’s no better way to get an idea of where a team truly stands. Current standings tell you about the now; projected standings tell you about the significance of the now.

A feature that gets a lot less attention here, probably, is our playoff odds page based on season-to-date performance. It uses the same depth-chart information, but instead of using player projections, it uses what players have already done. For example, in the former case, the Rockies are projected with a half-decent Charlie Blackmon. In the latter case, the Rockies are projected with a terrific Charlie Blackmon. It’s evident why the former page is preferred, but the latter page can serve a purpose, especially if you’re wondering about potential under- and over-achievers.

I thought it could be interesting to compare the two pages. We’ll leave the playoff odds alone — those get complicated, and they’re not what this is about. Both pages have projected rest-of-season winning percentages. With which teams do we see the greatest differences? Is this as predictable as it seems like it would be?

I made a chart, that I only realized after the fact is pretty unhelpful. Here it is anyway, because I invested literally several minutes:

Note the different axes. On the x-axis, projected win% based on season-to-date numbers. On the y-axis, projected win% based on projected numbers from ZiPS and Steamer. You can see agreement that the Astros suck. You can see agreement that the Tigers and A’s are good. But then, just how good? Let’s examine the same data in table form:

Team Win%, Projections Win%, Season-to-Date Difference
Rangers 0.518 0.438 0.080
Diamondbacks 0.483 0.404 0.079
Dodgers 0.556 0.492 0.064
Indians 0.517 0.460 0.057
Rays 0.518 0.462 0.056
Pirates 0.504 0.461 0.043
Red Sox 0.543 0.501 0.042
Nationals 0.553 0.514 0.039
Phillies 0.474 0.441 0.033
Padres 0.494 0.461 0.033
Astros 0.429 0.411 0.018
Mariners 0.508 0.493 0.015
Braves 0.527 0.513 0.014
Yankees 0.500 0.493 0.007
Blue Jays 0.520 0.516 0.004
Royals 0.502 0.501 0.001
Reds 0.485 0.492 -0.007
Cardinals 0.530 0.537 -0.007
Orioles 0.483 0.494 -0.011
White Sox 0.450 0.468 -0.018
Mets 0.448 0.471 -0.023
Brewers 0.483 0.510 -0.027
Giants 0.515 0.545 -0.030
Angels 0.532 0.565 -0.033
Twins 0.433 0.466 -0.033
Cubs 0.451 0.488 -0.037
Tigers 0.558 0.628 -0.070
Marlins 0.452 0.534 -0.082
Rockies 0.491 0.576 -0.085
Athletics 0.542 0.660 -0.118
In one column, projected win% based on projected numbers. In the next column, projected win% based on season-to-date numbers. In the last column, the latter subtracted from the former. Some large differences show up. Also, you get non-differences, like with the Royals, but the interesting teams aren’t the teams in the middle.

If you evaluated the Rangers only by what they’ve done so far, you’d see a pretty lousy team, particularly after the injury problems. But then, it’s a team with Prince Fielder, whose slugging percentage matches his OBP. It’s a team with Adrian Beltre, who to date has been worth 0.1 WAR. It’s a team where Elvis Andrus has been less valuable than Robinson Chirinos. You can continue on down the line, and you find players who’ve been underachieving.

Right after the Rangers, you see the Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks have been known underachievers, and a big chunk of the difference in this table has to do with the Diamondbacks currently having a staff RA9-WAR of -2.0. The issues have mostly been the pitchers and Martin Prado, and the projections still think the team is half-decent. Maybe a third-decent, but, not disastrous.

Then you’ve got a streak of expected contenders, topped by the Dodgers. People have been waiting for the Dodgers to kick it into gear, and through a quarter of the season the outfield hasn’t been great outside of Yasiel Puig. The catchers have yet to do much of anything, with and without A.J. Ellis. You look at that team, though, and you figure it has to win, with that rotation. Note that, in a twist, while the projections like the Dodgers more, the projections also like Dee Gordon less.

At the other end of the table, some 2014 surprises. The Marlins are referred to in the headline. Based on season-to-date, they’re projected for baseball’s seventh-best rest-of-season record. Based on ZiPS and Steamer, they’re projected for baseball’s sixth-worst rest-of-season record. The projection systems are reluctant to buy the offense, while the season-to-date numbers like even a Jose Fernandez-less Marlins roster.

The Rockies have a slightly bigger difference than the Marlins do. This has little to do with pitching, and almost everything to do with the crop of position players. Troy Tulowitzki has been the best player on the planet. Blackmon’s already exceeded all expectations, and guys like Nolan Arenado, Justin Morneau, and Corey Dickerson have been overshadowed and overachieving. The Rockies have been a position-player juggernaut; projection systems foresee a slow-down.

And then there are the A’s. The A’s, who don’t have Jarrod Parker or A.J. Griffin. The A’s, who’ve found gold in Jesse Chavez. The A’s, who’ve featured an unbelievable catching tandem in Derek Norris and John Jaso. The projections do like the A’s — right now, they have baseball’s second-highest playoff odds. But the other version of the playoff-odds page loves the A’s, who have baseball’s best run differential by 40. The worst pitcher’s been Dan Straily, and he’s been sent to the minors. The general message here: the A’s have been playing probably too well. But they might just be freaks.

It’s a tricky thing to discuss, the difference between projected record and projected record based on season-to-date data. Sometimes, certainly, the projections can lag, because projections need some convincing to change their minds. If you’re a believer in the Marlins’ offense, you might believe more in the alternative playoff-odds page. If you’re a believer in the Rockies’ offense, you might believe more in the alternative playoff-odds page. The regular playoff-odds page is going to be more conservative, but in most cases that tends to be the proper approach. The season-to-date page will more closely reflect how fans do feel about their teams. The projections page will more closely reflect how fans should feel about their teams. We’re all prone to recency bias, but then we do sometimes spot a change before the projections do, so we’re not total idiots.

According to a playoff-odds page, the Marlins are one of the best teams in baseball. According to a playoff-odds page, the Marlins are one of the worst teams in baseball. Those are two facts. It’s up to you how you choose to weight them.

A Week of Andrelton Simmons Missing Plays.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Let’s talk about slumps. Mike Trout is drawing some attention for his elevated strikeouts, and he’s on pace for 21 fewer batting runs than he produced a year ago. Price Fielder’s had some trouble adjusting to his move, and he’s on pace for 29 fewer batting runs than he produced a year ago. Robinson Cano up and changed sides of the continent, and he’s on pace for 34 fewer batting runs than he produced a year ago. These are all pretty big statistical declines, and while the players are each too good to give up on after so little time, their numbers are getting noticed. People are impatiently waiting for the players to look like themselves. I should note that Trout’s still been amazing, on account of being Mike Trout, but one can be simultaneously amazing and worse.

You know what nine or ten runs mean. You know the rule of thumb is that’s about what a win is. A win’s a pretty big deal, so those declines above are pretty big deals. And, of course, offense isn’t the only area where numbers fluctuate. Defensive Runs Saved, as shown on FanGraphs, updates daily. A year ago, as a shortstop, Andrelton Simmons was worth 41 runs above average in the field. This year he’s on pace for +4. He’s a full-time player on pace to be worse by 37 runs, and that’s an enormous gap that to my knowledge no one’s discussed.

Certainly, there’s no reason to believe Simmons’ level of talent has meaningfully changed. Oh, he’ll be a mediocre shortstop in time, when he’s 50, but right now he’s 24, and last year he was 23. We’ve known Simmons as the guy who’s broken the advanced defensive metrics, and talent doesn’t disappear overnight. We’ve always cautioned that you need big samples of defensive data to draw conclusions, and a month and a half isn’t enough. Based on 2014 numbers, there isn’t much we can conclude about Simmons’ defensive true talent.

But there’s true talent, and there’s performance. Over long stretches of time, the two are close together, but while true talent changes slowly and predictably, performance can dart around like a fly in a kitchen. One could say that Simmons, to this point, has earned his numbers for the year, even if they don’t quite reflect what he really is. Why should we expect a perfect reflection?

I got to wondering about what Simmons has done. And that took me to his defensive spray charts, and that took me to The numbers say Simmons has been creating fewer outs in the field. What does that look like? Join me, if you will, on a tour. We’ll cover just the past week, because it’s been an eventful one. Here are six plays that Andrelton Simmons didn’t make.

Play No. 1

Inside Edge actually lists this as an impossible play. That is, they figured 0% of shortstops would turn this into an out, and the Braves announcers said that Simmons didn’t have a chance. What Simmons did do was get close enough to look like he did have a chance, and in the past he’s certainly shown the ability to slide in front of a ball and launch it accurately to first with his shoulder-mounted cannon. In truth, this probably was impossible, but if you close your eyes and imagine, you can see Simmons coming up with magic.

Play No. 2

Almost impossible, according to Inside Edge, but not quite literally impossible. The part you see is that Simmons was unable to barehand the ball cleanly, but even if he had pulled that off, it’s by no means a lock he would’ve been able to throw out Darwin Barney. Barney’s a decent runner, the chopper was slow, and Simmons would’ve had to throw the ball off balance. 1-10% seems about right, erring closer to 1%.

Play No. 3

Darwin Barney again. Super difficult play again. The play Simmons didn’t make, pretty much all shortstops also wouldn’t have made. But the thing about Simmons is he isn’t supposed to be just another adequate shortstop. He’s supposed to make the regular plays, and the extraordinary plays. One gets only so many opportunities to make an extraordinary play.

Play No. 4

Screaming line drive. Nearly caught on the fly, but the ball came out of Simmons’ glove. This was classified as a remote play, but that doesn’t mean Simmons wasn’t upset with himself afterward:

Hold yourself to a crazy standard and you’ll be disappointed a lot by things that wouldn’t disappoint other people. This is the third play, incidentally, we’ve seen from the same game. Prepare for a fourth. Could this have been an out? Sure. Almost was. Simmons almost pulled off a Simmons, but instead he pulled off a Normal.

Play No. 5

Here’s the real stinker of the bunch. While it’s never easy to backhand, and while the ball might’ve taken a funny bounce, a ball got through that usually doesn’t, and Simmons was initially charged with an error before the play was apparently changed to a hit. Inside Edge classified this play as basically a coin flip. Definitely not easy, but, again, this isn’t a post about Derek Jeter.

Play No. 6

Simmons came up just shy of stopping this hot-shot grounder from Hunter Pence. Because he didn’t, Pence finished the play on second base, with the rare two-out double that doesn’t score a runner from first. If made, this play would’ve gone on a highlight reel, but instead that’s one fewer highlight for Andrelton Simmons, not that he doesn’t already have enough.

What’s been learned? First of all, I’ll note that none of these runners actually ended up scoring. Everybody got stranded, so Simmons didn’t meaningfully cost his team much of anything. And all but one of these plays would’ve been incredibly difficult, so we can’t even classify this as a defensive slump, really. And this brings us to the expression, that defense never slumps. When people say that, they’re thinking about the routine plays, the high-percentage plays. That defense doesn’t slump, barring a case of the yips. But there’s easy defense and challenging defense, and while the challenging defense is more infrequent, it’s also volatile, because the percentages shift so drastically. The idea behind the expression is that defensive performance is stable. But it likely isn’t toward the extremes, because the extremes involve full-out dives and barehands and throws while falling away. It takes little time for routine defensive ability to stabilize. It takes a lot more time for extreme defensive ability to stabilize.

For Simmons to do what he’s done in the past, statistically, he’s had to be amazing at both the routine and the exceptional. Probably, based on the numbers, he was a little over his head in the exceptional department, and in a sense that’s what regression is. His numbers are down now because he’s made fewer of the insane plays, but the reality of Andrelton Simmons might lie in between, where maybe in the future he makes one or two of the plays above. We know he can do things most shortstops can’t. Andrelton Simmons has the same defensive talent as ever. All the numbers are are estimations, and it can be a challenge to estimate the rare.
post #21834 of 73398
Kind of cool, and I know I sound like a broken record, but even with the young guys we have everywhere, we're still not winning games, and as of this morning, we have the worst record in the league. pimp.gif

Theo has the #4 next month. (sure to be a college Pitcher)
He has Shark to trade for more pieces, if he wants.
And if we finish poorly and land yet another top 1-2 pick for next year (which would again, be another college Pitcher)......

He'd suddenly have a crop of young arms, to follow up behind the entire lineup of young bats he's already got stashed.

All that, and it doesn't even include any of the internationals he has stashed, like Eloy, Mejia, Moreno, Torres, etc.

AND, on top of all that, he has a very low payroll and can start buying as soon as this summer, or next.

From Dunston, to Grace, to Maddux, to Walton, to Wood, to Prior the Cubs have NEVER been able to use their farm system for more than a player at a time. They get 1-2 nice young pieces and can't follow up with more young talent behind them. Eventually that dries them out, and they languish.

In like 3 years, Theo has completely overhauled the entire system, got out from all the ridiculous contracts we had built up, and now has a chance to start bringing up player after player in the next 18 months or so.

Will it work? I have no idea. But they are a helluva lot stronger now than they were 5 years ago when we had like 8 horrible contracts to deal with and almost zero young guys worth doing anything with.
post #21835 of 73398
CC is out until July...

This further solidifies in my mind they are going to be big players again this offseason.
Twitter - @EssentialShow
Instagram - MarshallLaw518
Twitter - @EssentialShow
Instagram - MarshallLaw518
post #21836 of 73398
Originally Posted by Essential1 View Post

CC is out until July...

This further solidifies in my mind they are going to be big players again this offseason.

It wouldn't be an MLB offseason without the Yankees spending big.
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 #21837 of 73398
Originally Posted by Essential1 View Post

CC is out until July...

This further solidifies in my mind they are going to be big players again this offseason.

if anyone is giving hanley over 130 mil, its the yankees.

LA loves him and he loves LA, but not that number. Ill see you in pinstripes hanley

post #21838 of 73398
post #21839 of 73398
Thread Starter 
Yea, I don't think they're going to give a 30 year old horrid defender $130mm no matter how good he is when healthy laugh.gif
post #21840 of 73398

Boss move. :lol:hat


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