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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 760

post #22771 of 73652
I had no clue that Ibanez is with the Angels laugh.gif
post #22772 of 73652
Adam LaRoche is a vacuum at 1B. Ian Desmond would set the single season record for most errors if it weren't for him.
post #22773 of 73652
Strasburg is dealing right now frown.gif
post #22774 of 73652
Ramos crushed that ball. Homer anywhere else but AT&T Park.
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post #22776 of 73652
Lol how is kontos still in this game?
post #22777 of 73652
Originally Posted by 651akathePaul View Post

Lonnie Chisenhall is having a breakout/great year so far and I don't think too many are talking about it. I swear, every time a check the Indians box score he has a hit or two.

Well, now people know. laugh.gif

Good God what a game he had.
post #22778 of 73652
This ump for the angles A's game is retarded
post #22779 of 73652
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by 651akathePaul View Post

Originally Posted by 651akathePaul View Post

Lonnie Chisenhall is having a breakout/great year so far and I don't think too many are talking about it. I swear, every time a check the Indians box score he has a hit or two.

Well, now people know. laugh.gif

Good God what a game he had.

Hopefully Cleveland took care of their runs for the week last night laugh.gif

Damn near 90 points with no pitchers mean.gif
post #22780 of 73652
MLB.TV is only $50 for the premium package for the rest of the week for Father's Day. The basic package is $40. Sale ends on Sunday. Premium comes with an app for your iPad and iPhone to watch.
post #22781 of 73652
Teams the Astros have more wins than:
Red Sox

Tied with Minnesota, Cincinnati and Colorado in wins.
12-4 in the last 16. We moving up!
TEAM CHEESEHEADS ..... HoustonRockets
Jordy Nelson: Best WR in the game .................................. The Roc Boys in the building tonight
TEAM CHEESEHEADS ..... HoustonRockets
Jordy Nelson: Best WR in the game .................................. The Roc Boys in the building tonight
post #22782 of 73652
Still wish we hired Bo as our manager
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Astros frighten me.
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 #22784 of 73652
Originally Posted by Th3RealF0lkBlu3s View Post

Astros frighten me.

"We're here" -Bray Wyatt
post #22785 of 73652
Told y'all Machado would get suspended.
post #22786 of 73652

Five game suspension?  What a joke. 

post #22787 of 73652
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Jewbacca View Post

Told y'all Machado would get suspended.

Yea but five games? laugh.gif that's nothing.
post #22788 of 73652

5 is fair since you can't prove he hit the catcher on purpose 

post #22789 of 73652
Thread Starter 
Polanco's under-the-radar rise.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Finally, he's here.

Heads exploded in anticipation of the arrival of Gregory Polanco in the big leagues. The do-everything, 22-year-old prospect, armed with a seemingly limitless array of talents, has been more frequently discussed than most members of the Pittsburgh Pirates' big league roster this year while posting a .347/.405/.540 line with 15 stolen bases for Triple-A Indianapolis.

Yet the conversation about his potential and big league readiness, as well as the Pirates' deliberate approach to calling him up -- which didn't happen until a Neil Walker appendectomy forced their hand on Monday night -- obscured a fascinating part of Polanco's emergence as a top prospect. There was a time, not long ago, when he was a minor leaguer of no profile whatsoever.

Players who emerge as elite prospects usually take little time to announce themselves. After all, part of achieving top-prospect status is the ability to stay ahead of the development curve at every step and to assert game-changing ability at virtually every level.

But while Polanco has enjoyed a meteoric ascent in racing from low Class A to the big leagues since the start of the 2012 season, his track record prior to that resembles that of few top prospects in recent years.

[+] EnlargeGregory Polanco
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
By waiting to promote Gregory Polanco, the Pirates could save in arbitration down the road.
"It certainly is rare," noted Pirates assistant general manager Kyle Stark. "[But] there's a lot of things about Gregory that are unique."

"We called him baby giraffe"

Little notice was paid to the Pirates' signing of a lanky 17-year-old outfielder in early 2009. Some teams that had seen Polanco saw a powerful left-handed arm and thought that perhaps he profiled as a pitcher, and there was limited interest from a few teams, but hardly a bidding war for his services. Polanco wanted to pursue a career as a position player, and Pittsburgh director of Latin American scouting Rene Gayo -- considered a master of finding diamonds in the rough -- gave him that opportunity, and so Polanco chose to accept the Bucs' offer of $150,000.

At the time, he was a 6-foot-3, 175-pound amalgamation of arms and legs who, in his first pro summer in the Dominican Summer League, performed well enough to make it to the States by the 2010 season based on his raw tools but hadn't distinguished himself as a performer.

The Pirates saw possibility, but certainly not certainty.

"We said, 'Depending on how the body matures, there's a chance here,'" Stark said. "He would show you some strength, he would show you some speed, he would show you these different things, but the consistency wasn't there. We called him the baby giraffe because it was arms and legs all over the place."

In the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, he posted dreadful numbers -- the kind that made it difficult to daydream about him being a future big leaguer. Polanco hit .202 with a .245 OBP and a .287 slugging mark in 2010.

He didn't make a ripple in the prospect universe. Indeed, his performance was so modest that he didn't graduate from the GCL.

"He wasn't being talked about then," Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor, who is now regularly answering inquiries about his outfielder, noted wryly.

The Pirates were still willing to be patient in hopes of seeing what the upside might be. Polanco, meanwhile, retained belief in his abilities.

"My first year, I didn't do too good. I hit .200. I just said, 'I have to work harder to get out of here,'" Polanco recalled. "I knew that I had talent, but I had to put it together to compete every day."

The Pirates didn't want to risk moving Polanco up and then having to send him back down, concerned that it would crush his confidence. So, the decision was made to have him repeat in the GCL as a 19-year-old -- an assignment Polanco accepted as an opportunity rather than a disappointment, receptive to the message from coaches that if he was patient, if he worked hard and kept learning, he had a chance to see some of his ingredients come together in an intriguing recipe.

[+] EnlargeNeal Huntington
George Gojkovich/Getty Images
Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington has taken a lot of heat for waiting to call up Polanco.
There were times when Tom Prince, who managed Polanco for two seasons, saw the teenager smoke a ball in batting practice, and while Polanco hit just .237/.333/.361 during his second GCL stint Prince saw the tools that scouts now rave about: the speed to steal bases and play defense, intelligence, a hunger to work and get better.

Prince and Polanco, among others, credit the work the young outfielder did with the Pirates' strength and conditioning staff, along with the physical maturation that defied a typical template, in a fashion that underscores the somewhat unpredictable nature of player development.

When you sign a 17-year-old, sometimes he'll never add strength or weight, and other times, he'll turn into a player who looks like a wide receiver. Polanco already possessed the early evidence of hand-eye coordination, but in his second GCL season, he figured out how to make his swing somewhat more compact so that he could more frequently impact the ball.

"It's always been a long swing because of the long limbs, but he showed, especially in that second year in the GCL, an ability to shorten some things up and get the barrel on the baseball in a lot of different parts of the zone," Stark said. "We saw a lot of progress in that area."

Prince had been a voice of reassurance for Polanco, a believer that progress would come with patience. But he acknowledges that he could not have forecast the next chapters of the outfielder's development -- particularly given that Polanco has gone from a 6-3, 175-pound amalgamation of arms and legs in the GCL to a 6-4, 220-pound force who has grown into power while actually becoming faster.

"We don't know what they're going to eventually become when they're that young. You have a vision, but still, you let them play the game," Prince recalled. "We projected him down the road as somebody filling out [his frame]. I don't think anybody actually had him as what he's become."

"Leaps and bounds"

Where Prince had seen "increments" of improvement in his two years with the young outfielder, Polanco started to charge forward in "leaps and bounds" starting in 2012. The improved barrel control and more compact swing, seen in flashes in Polanco's second GCL season, became a regular hallmark of his plate appearances in Class A, in which he hit .325 with a .388 OBP, a .522 slugging mark, 16 homers and 40 steals in 116 games as a 20-year-old for West Virginia and then Bradenton. He rode that wave to Double-A during a 2013 season that culminated with a season-ending promotion to Triple-A in 2013.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ortiz
Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
Like Polanco, David Ortiz once had to repeat rookie ball.
How did it all come together so suddenly, so dazzlingly? There's no simple answer.

"I didn't see the player then that I see now. There wasn't one moment where I said, 'That's who he's going to become,'" Prince said. "His ceiling has blossomed as he has."

Certainly with increased strength came improved coordination -- growing beyond the wobbly baby giraffe -- to permit the swing and even the legs to work in greater sync. And Polanco also seemed energized by the lights of night baseball with a full-single affiliate after three years of playing through breakfast and lunch in the Dominican and the Gulf Coast League.

But there's not a precise reason Polanco was able to go from second to fifth gear as a prospect in 2012, how the projectable -- yet unrefined -- tools all suddenly bubbled to the surface simultaneously. Usually, the improved application of tools will come gradually, sequentially. For Polanco, they came all at once.

There have been other tremendous prospects who have repeated a level before and seen their offense come together after a wait -- but not many. David Ortiz, for one, repeated rookie ball while in the Mariners system in 1994 and 1995 (though he dominated in his second year there). Magglio Ordonez needed two seasons to hit his way out of Class A ball in 1993 and 1994.

It doesn't happen often, but it does happen. And when there are stories like Polanco's, they come with a lesson.

"He's a colt, and he has a chance to be a thoroughbred"

The notion that player development is not linear works two ways. Sometimes, it explains why it's necessary to look beyond a down year for a prospect. And sometimes, it serves as a reminder that a prospect can blossom in a way that defies what he'd done to that point in his career.

"Gregory is a good example of how we all fall victim of wanting to see performance instead of seeing how things are happening, what a guy is doing, being able to see the progress in that and trusting that the results will come at some point," Stark said. "He's the ultimate example of being process-oriented and trusting that the results will be there."

Polanco's patience at that early stage of career struggle, in turn, might help to explain why he seemed like the calm eye of the storm amidst the constant conversations about when he might finally be promoted to the big leagues.

The 22-year-old seemed intent on using his time in the minors to learn -- to familiarize himself with the demands of playing a new position (right field), handling pitchers with big league experience, becoming comfortable in the leadoff role -- rather than being distracted by questions to which he didn't have an answer.

"I don't think about that," he explained in May about his curiosity regarding the timing of a call-up. "I know my time is going to come, so I play every day, try to do my best every day and try to get better."

Now, the call has finally arrived after a dazzling two-plus months in Triple-A, during which Polanco commanded the attention of everyone who saw him -- as well as Pirates fans and fantasy owners who never did.

"He's a colt, and he has a chance to be a thoroughbred," Treanor said.

It remains to be seen whether the outfielder will enjoy immediate success upon his promotion. Even the most talented players (see Trout, Mike) can endure a rocky transition to the big leagues.

But the outfielder and his organization have learned the value of patience, of a belief in eventual possibility rather than a focus on immediate gratification.

Verlander's disturbing trends.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Baseball has changed a great deal in 140 years, but one thing that has always remained true is that every team, no matter the philosophy, salivates at the prospect of having a durable ace at the top of the rotation. Another thing that has always been true is that the lifespan of an ace can be maddeningly short, with a sheer drop down to mortality always beckoning -- and sometimes, as in the case of Josh Johnson or Tim Lincecum, that cliff is even steeper.

Add another name to the list: Detroit Tiger and now former ace Justin Verlander.

Verlander's 2013 season represented a bit of a down year (for him), but there were still reasons to be optimistic about his 2014. Losing some velocity off his fastball from 2012 was cause for concern, but his peripheral numbers remained those of a pitcher who still terrorized batters. His 3.28 FIP was worse than the 2.94, 2.99 and 2.97 FIPs of his previous three seasons, but not alarmingly so. However, a year later, that warning light has become a blaring red klaxon, with a disturbing drop-off in all of Verlander's stats.

Reduced whiffs

The 31-year-old's FIP has jumped up to 3.82 this season, his xFIP (which normalizes HR/FB rate) up to nearly 5.00, suggesting that his 4.19 ERA isn't simply a run of bad luck. Unlike some pitchers who lose velocity and strike out fewer batters, Verlander's walk rate has now climbed for the third straight year, from 5.9 percent of batters in 2011 to 9.3 percent in 2014.

That still doesn't get us to the most alarming stat, the overall decline in his strikeout rate, from 9.0 in 2013 to 6.4 in 2014. On a per-batter basis rather than per nine innings (a pitcher pitching worse will face more batters per nine), the drop-off is even more frightening, from striking out 23.5 percent of batters to 16.1 percent, nearly a third. Unlike some other stats, such as batting average on balls in play (BABIP) or home runs allowed, strikeout and walk rates for players tend to be fairly stable.

[+] EnlargeJustin Verlander
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Verlander's K/BB ratio was 4.39 in 2011 and is 1.74 in 2014.
Over a couple of months, a change in a player's strikeout or walk rates is far more likely to represent a change in ability. A pitcher's strikeout rate in particular has as much predictive value as the league-average strikeout rate after about 140 batters faced, fewer batters than Verlander typically faces in just five starts. Even though we're talking about less than half a season, the magnitude of the missing strikeouts is enough that it likely represents a significant change of ability.

History not on Verlander's side

How does history look at quality pitchers who stop striking out batters? While there have always been pitchers who have been successful with a relatively low strikeout rate, the history books are less kind to pitchers with sharply declining strikeout rates. That makes intuitive sense, as a pitcher who is successful with a style that enables him to succeed while allowing a lot of balls in play, such as Jamie Moyer, has a lot more experience as that type of pitcher than does a pitcher who relies on strikeouts.

To look at this issue, I used only pitchers with a sustained history of success, consisting of 500 innings pitched with a 120 ERA+. This ensures that we're looking only at good pitchers, who ought to be more successful at adjusting to a declining strikeout rate than a more marginal talent. I then looked at the biggest drop-offs in strikeout rate (per batter faced) relative to the three previous seasons, and didn't look at anyone over 35 years old. I also limited the search going back to 1969, so we are looking only at modern pitcher usage and a game that focuses more on strikeouts than previously.

That leaves me with 167 ace or near-ace pitchers over the near half-century of the divisional era to look at. When ranking the strikeout drop-off, Verlander's 35 percent drop from his 2011-2013 rate would rank as the eighth-largest drop of any of the pitchers. Overall, the future was not kind to these players, with only three of the top 20 other than Verlander rebounding to a 120 ERA+ or greater over the three seasons after the drop in strikeout rate.

Defining an ace season as one with an ERA+ of 120 or greater and qualifying for the ERA title, a fairly liberal categorization, half of the group never had a season, for the rest of their careers, that met those qualifications. Even some of the relative success stories in the group had some serious potholes on the road ahead, with Bartolo Colon having shoulder problems for most of a five-year stretch and Frank Viola having Tommy John surgery that more or less ended his career. Of the top 20 pitchers, only Curt Schilling's strikeout decline was simply a bump in the road -- his strikeout rate rebounded from 19.5 percent in 2000 to 28.7 percent in 2001 and he finished off a Hall of Fame-worthy career with another sustained stretch of success.

Pitchers with biggest K-rate drop-offs
Ages 35 and under (Minimum 500 IP, ERA+ 120 previous three years)

Player K-rate drop ERA+, Prev. 3 years ERA+, Next 3 years "Ace" years left
M. Hampton, '02 45% 126 108 0
F. Tanana, '78 42% 141 98 1
Jim Palmer, '81 41% 120 108 1
Steve Rogers, '83 38% 126 76 0
Vida Blue, '73 36% 150 120 3
Milt Pappas, '73 36% 124 ---* 0
C. Hunter, '77 35% 123 87 0
J. Verlander, '14 35% 149 ?? ??
Mike Witt, '88 32% 122 87 0
Scott Kazmir, '09 32% 132 65 1
Larry Gura, '83 31% 120 71 0
Zane Smith, '93 31% 122 102 1
Bartolo Colon, '02 30% 120 109 3
Juan Marichal, '72 29% 122 91 0
Mike Caldwell, '81 29% 125 89 0
Curt Schilling, '00 28% 138 151 5
Frank Viola, '91 28% 130 130 2
Barry Zito, '03 27% 145 110 0
Tom Seaver, '79 27% 132 98 2
S. McDowell, '72 26% 125 91 0
J. Candelaria, '78 26% 134 104 2
*Pappas' final season was 1973
Not much value

So, what does the future look like for Verlander? The ZiPS projection system's in-season model remains optimistic that he can right the ship somewhat, getting back down to a 3.65 ERA by the end of the year.

The full offseason model, which takes velocity and more play-by-play data into account, shows a pitcher who is no longer an ace. Even if Verlander's ERA recovers as much as ZiPS' in-season estimate is predicting, his 2015 projected line is a 14-9 record with a 3.80 ERA and a 111 ERA+. And the projected performances continue to erode from there, with Verlander projecting to go 9-9, 4.31, with an ERA+ of 98 in 2019, which is the final guaranteed year of his contract and worth $28 million. That's a lot to pay for what is essentially a league-average pitcher, or a No. 3 or 4 starter.

A durable pitcher with an ERA+ between 98 and 111 is a solid pitcher, one that you would happily stick in the middle of your rotation. The problem for the Tigers is that they're not paying Verlander to be that pitcher, with a guaranteed $140 million going into his bank account from 2015 to 2019. The need for Verlander to be that ace again is even more important next year, with Max Scherzer looking increasingly likely to not be in Detroit after the 2014 season concludes.

Without a return of the 2011 AL Cy Young winner, the Tigers will find it much harder to play the big fish in the AL Central pond for much longer.

Indians' system among 5 most improved.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The 2014 MLB draft has come and gone, and while plenty teams did well over the three days, here’s a look at the five teams that improved their systems the most. (Of course, this assumes the teams are able to sign they players they drafted.)

1. Cleveland Indians

In terms of process, I’m not sure any team did better than Cleveland did over the draft's first 72 hours. The Indians were fortunate that Bradley Zimmer fell into their laps with the 21st overall pick, and Cleveland now has the advanced outfield prospect its system needed.

Justus Sheffield's feel for pitching and low 90s fastball should see him move relatively quickly for a prep arm, and Mike Papi was one of the best pure bats in the entire class. Add in talented preps like Grant Hockin and Bobby Bradley, plus one of the best defensive outfielders in the draft in Greg Allen, and Cleveland has added a tremendous amount of depth to its system.

None of these names are locks to be named to a top-100 prospect ranking next winter, but if they perform well over the summer, the Indians have picked up a handful of players who will rank in their top 10.

2. Toronto Blue Jays

When you have two picks in the top dozen and you have a bottom-third system in baseball, it’s not hard to improve your system substantially. Still, I think the Blue Jays did well in the first few rounds, getting one of the safest prospects in the draft in Max Pentecost and a pitcher that would have gone in the top five if not for injury concerns in Jeff Hoffman.

They also picked up a potential steal in Sean Reid-Foley at No. 49, and both Nick Wells and Lane Thomas have the talent to be among the best bats in their system.

If Hoffman fully recovers from Tommy John surgery there’s a chance the Jays just acquired the best prospect in their system. Even if he doesn't this was a promising start to rebuilding what was once one of the best groups in all of baseball.

3. Los Angeles Angels

You could say that there was nowhere to go but up, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Still, the Angels system looks substantially better than it did before draft day. Sean Newcomb was a borderline steal with the 15th pick of the draft, a pitcher who probably should have gone at least five slots earlier.

Both Joey Gatto and Chris Ellis have some volatility in their right arms, but there’s also a reason why both were considered potential first-round arms at some point this spring, and they have a chance to be starters at the big league level. The Angels may not have acquired the bats they need, but this is a system that has holes everywhere, and Los Angeles did a solid job recognizing talent and value throughout the draft.

4. Washington Nationals

After graduating a good deal of talent and seeing some top prospects stall, the Nationals needed to add some quality and quantity to their system, and I think they did just that. Like Jeff Hoffman, Washington first-rounder Erick Fedde is recovering from Tommy John surgery. And while he's a bit more of a risk than Hoffman, the Nats followed that selection with one of the safer southpaws in the class in Miami's Andrew Suarez.

Add in top-50 talent Jakson Reetz, hard-throwing right-hander Robbie Dickey and an absolute steal in Austin Byler in the ninth round, and you have several prospects who should challenge to be among the 10-15 best prospects in the Nationals system.

5. Milwaukee Brewers

There’s as much volatility in this draft as any, but there’s also a chance for it to be among the very best if everything breaks right with talented prep hitters Jacob Gatewood and Monte Harrison leading the charge.

Milwaukee also took a ton of chances on day three with prep players like shortstop Tate Blackman, catcher J.J. Schwarz and righty Turner Larkins, and if they’re able to get one or two of those guys signed -- as unlikely as it may seem -- it makes a strong upside draft even stronger. There’s very few guarantees in this class, but Milwaukee needed to take some chances and gain some star potential to improve a very weak system, and I think they did just that.

Just missed

Philadelphia Phillies: There have been a lot of rumors about the job security of GM Ruben Amaro Jr., but it should be noted that his last two drafts were among his best. Aaron Nola was considered the "safest" prospect in the draft, and he’s got the stuff to be a member of the Phillies’ rotation as soon as next year. The Phillies also picked up top-100 talents in Matt Imhof and Chris Oliver, and Aaron Brown was one of the best two-way prospects in the class this year.

They also drafted arguably the best defensive shortstop available in Alabama State's Emmanuel Marrero, and Sacramento State first baseman Rhys Hoskins has some offensive potential as well. Few systems in baseball needed to be reinvigorated as much as Philadelphia’s, and at least on paper, the Phils appear to have done just that.

Houston Astros: It’s not really possible to improve from being the best system in baseball, but once again they added a plethora of talented arms and hitters to their system, including the best prospect in the entire draft in Brady Aiken and one of the most talented collegiate hitters in the class in Virginia's Derek Fisher.

Kansas City Royals: The Royals added high-risk, high-reward hurlers Brandon Finnegan and Scott Blewett in the first two rounds and power-hitting catcher Chase Vallot, another high-upside play, in competitive balance round A.

Bucs, Mets need to be sellers.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Last week, we looked at teams stuck in the middle who should try to make a push as the trade deadline appears on the horizon. This week, we're looking at teams who should throw in the towel and sell off some of their more desirable short-term assets before the July 31 trade deadline.

Pittsburgh Pirates

It just doesn't seem like the Pirates' year. They have the fourth-worst run differential in the National League, and they have dealt with a boatload of pitching problems. The same magic the team used to help fix A.J. Burnett has not translated well to Edinson Volquez, Wandy Rodriguez was either hurt or ineffective, Jameson Taillon never even tossed a meaningful pitch before being lost to Tommy John surgery, and now Gerrit Cole is dealing with shoulder fatigue. Cole is not expected to miss more than the minimum, but you simply never know how these things will play out.

The Pirates don't actually have a lot of guys who they're about to lose to free agency, but two of the most prominent ones -- Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano -- could bring in a decent package of prospects. The National League Central is not necessarily all locked up just yet, but with the Pirates closer to last place than first and a still-good window to compete in 2015 and 2016 if they make the right moves, dealing Martin and Liriano, among others, makes sense.

New York Mets

You never what to expect with the Mets, who as we've discussed, have not exactly been a tightly run ship under Sandy Alderson. Certainly, after signing Bartolo Colon and Curtis Granderson, surrender probably wasn't the 2014 plan, but little has gone right for them as well. Three teams are currently tied for first place in the NL East, and none of them are the Mets, as they sit five games back after losing their sixth straight Sunday. According to FanGraphs, only the Cubs and Phillies face slimmer odds to reach the postseason among NL clubs.

The only player whose contract is up at the end of the season is Chris Young, but he won't be in demand. If the Mets want to be a bit more ambitious, they could look to move Colon and Daniel Murphy. Both of them are eligible for free agency following the 2015 season, which means neither would be a rent-a-player for the acquiring team. Furthermore, neither of them makes a huge salary, which should enhance their trade value.

San Diego Padres

I had high hopes for the Padres entering this season, but things have simply not worked out. Jedd Gyorko has been a disaster, Josh Johnson never even got the chance to pitch before being felled by Tommy John surgery, and Andrew Cashner and Chase Headley have missed time as well. Seth Smith and Tyson Ross have been better than expected, but it hasn't been enough. Their playoff odds stand at just 7.6 percent, and even with the Arizona Diamondbacks falling off, the NL West has been very competitive.

The good news is that the team may be able to reload quickly if it makes the right deals. In retrospect, the team probably should have dealt Headley a lot sooner, but they could still fetch a nice price for him the summer before he hits free agency.

The aforementioned Smith has a knack for the big hit and also has had a very solid regular season, so he should be in demand as well. Smith is a righty-killer, and Chris Denorfia is a lefty-killer and also set for free agency. Maybe the Pads can package them. If the team decides that 2015 is also not their window, they could also move Huston Street, Will Venable and Ian Kennedy. All three are signed through the 2015 season, but all also will be on the wrong side of 30 by 2016.

Kansas City Royals

I jumped off the Royals' bandwagon early this season, and nothing that has happened since has given me pause. They are still hanging around in the American League Central race, but as previously postulated, their reliever strand rate has come back to the pack in a big way, as they now rank 21st in MLB at 72.1 percent.

Mike Moustakas was so bad he had to be demoted, and while he has been subsequently recalled, his 4-for-27 performance since his recall isn't exactly inspiring a lot of confidence. Norichika Aoki was brought over to help improve the offense, but he has been similarly terrible -- thanks in large part to the fact that he hasn't homered, his on-base percentage is currently higher than his slugging percentage, and his OBP is .318. The Royals are hanging around because the rest of the division hasn't exactly been on fire, but that's not a very good reason to try to shoehorn a deeply flawed team into contention.

James Shields, if put on the trading block, would essentially be the belle of the ball this trading season, even with him set to become a free agent at season's end. Greg Holland might be the runner-up if they put him on the block. Holland isn't set to hit free agency just yet, but he is superfluous on a non-contending team, and especially so for the Royals now that Wade Davis has developed into a shutdown reliever. Throw in the fact that Davis' salaries are already locked in for the next few years, while Holland's cost may continue to increase in arbitration, and the team should have even more incentive to trade him.

And if they can get anyone interested in acquiring Aoki or Billy Butler -- who has a .249/.300/.316 line but a track record that might appeal to some -- they should send them packing before the interested party has a chance to reconsider.
post #22790 of 73652
Originally Posted by Mr Marcus View Post

5 is fair since you can't prove he hit the catcher on purpose 

Pretty sure him hitting the catcher is not what got him suspended.   :lol

post #22791 of 73652
Machado wasn't going to get hit with a serious suspension, I'm not surprised. He did just enough to be reprimanded but was fortunate not to make contact with his bat.
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 #22792 of 73652
I wouldn't move Murph, but Colon, Grandy and Young could be had.
post #22793 of 73652
Thread Starter 
Freddie Freeman: Hidden Hacker.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
This morning, I was playing around with some of our plate discipline calculations. I really like the metrics we have for measuring a player’s approach at the plate, but because they are broad categories that combine numerous variables into one number, there are some questions that none of them answer all that well on their own. For instance, if you just wanted to know who the most unrepentant hacker in 2014 has been, you could simply sort the leaderboards by Swing%, and you’d see Chris Johnson at the very top, swinging at a higher rate of pitches (57.1%) than anyone else in baseball.

But knowing that Johnson has swung at the highest percentage of pitches doesn’t really make him the game’s most aggressive hitter, as part of his high swing rate is that he’s been thrown an above average number of strikes. Pablo Sandoval is right behind Johnson in overall swing rate, but his Zone% is 11 percentage points lower than Johnson’s, so he’s getting far fewer pitches to hit but still chasing the same amount. By any reasonable measure of hackiness, one would have to conclude that Sandoval has been more aggressive than Johnson.

Of course, we have a measure of swings at out-of-zone pitches, which is a pretty good way to measure which players fit the hacker mold. However, by O-Swing%, Matt Adams ranks #2 in baseball, but his overall swing rate only ranks 17th. Is he one of the game’s most deliberate free swingers, or does he just struggle to recognize balls from strikes?

When I think about the hacker label for a hitter, I think of guys who swing as if they had made up their mind before the pitcher even started his delivery. Location and pitch type are secondary to the desire to just put the bat on the ball, and they won’t be deterred from swinging no matter what the pitcher does. So, I thought that perhaps we could better identify those types of hitters by looking at a ratio of two of our plate discipline stats, and so out of curiosity, I divided Swing% by Zone% to get a ratio of swings-per-balls-in-the-zone. Others have created far more complex and mathematically sound formulas to get at the same idea, but there’s value in ease of calculation, so I was curious how Swings Per In-Zone Pitch would do.

From 2008 to 2014, here are the five leaders in highest Swing/Zone.

Name O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone% Swing/Zone
Vladimir Guerrero 46% 79% 59% 72% 89% 81% 41% 1.45
Pablo Sandoval 44% 76% 57% 79% 86% 82% 40% 1.41
Josh Hamilton 39% 78% 56% 58% 81% 71% 43% 1.31
Alfonso Soriano 41% 68% 52% 58% 85% 73% 43% 1.22
A.J. Pierzynski 44% 73% 57% 77% 92% 86% 47% 1.22
If you were looking for a measure of hackiness to pass the smell test, you probably couldn’t ask for a better top five. Vladimir Guerrero kind of defined the unrepentant hacker model, while Sandoval and Hamilton best embody his spirit among today’s active players. Both Soriano and Pierzynski have had long careers despite an apparent desire to walk as rarely as humanly possible. This is basically the who’s-who of what I would consider the game’s biggest hacks over the last five or six years.

And it’s not just these five. Two of the next three on the list are Delmon Young and Jeff Francoeur, both of whom had potentially promising careers essentially ruined by an inability to control the strike zone. Both were top prospects who busted because they just couldn’t stop hacking at pitches that their opponents wanted them to chase.

But in that group of three, tied for the sixth spot on the list overall, is a name that gives me pause about this measure. It’s a name that I would not have expected to find: Freddie Freeman. Putting him in this group is like playing a very obvious game of “which of these is not like the others?” For reference, here are the 2008-2014 walk and strikeout rates for the top eight players by this Swing/Zone measure.

reeman has the highest walk rate of the group, and while his strikeout rate is higher than most of the rest, he’s also played his entire career in the era of quickly rising strikeout rates, and has done so at a very young age. Additionally, his strikeout rate has been trending downwards since entering the league, and at just 18% this year, below the league average. At 12%, his walk rate is also a career best, and his current profile looks nothing like that of guys like Guerrero, Sandoval, or Hamilton.

But the reality is that even as Freeman has improved, his ratio of swings per pitch in the zone is basically stable.

This isn’t a case where Freeman’s career numbers are skewing the data. Even as he’s matured, and his walk and strikeouts rates have improved, he’s maintained a swing/zone ratio in line right in line with the career marks of Delmon Young and Jeff Francoeur.

Of course, this gets back to the fact that swing percentage is a pretty large bucket, and not all swings are created equal. The key difference for Freeman versus the guys who fit the unrepentant hacker model? Freeman’s swings are heavily slanted towards pitches in the zone. Again, those same eight players, but now, there O-Swing% and Z-Swing%.

Name O-Swing% Z-Swing% Z-Swing/O-Swing
Freddie Freeman 33% 77% 2.32
Josh Hamilton 39% 78% 2.00
Delmon Young 42% 75% 1.82
Jeff Francoeur 41% 74% 1.81
Pablo Sandoval 44% 76% 1.74
Vladimir Guerrero 46% 79% 1.73
Alfonso Soriano 41% 68% 1.68
A.J. Pierzynski 44% 73% 1.68
Freeman swings at basically the same number of strikes as guys like Hamilton and Guerrero, but a much lower percentage of balls. If you challenge him, he’s going after it, but he doesn’t chase bad pitches to nearly the same degree of the other guys on the list. And so, instead of being a busted prospect who never walks, Freeman has developed into one of the game’s best hitters. He’s not a particularly patient hitter, and he’s getting walks more out of pitcher fear than working the count, but he’s at least willing to not expand the zone to a ridiculous degree.

Really, Freddie Freeman isn’t a hacker, even if dividing Swing% by Zone% makes him look like one. This is more of an example of why that’s not a perfect measure of hackiness, but I also found it interesting, because I haven’t watched Freeman enough to pick up on just how often he swings at pitches in the zone. He’s certainly an aggressive hitter, but if you’re going to be aggressive, be aggressive in the way that Freddie Freeman is aggressive.

The Art of the Sell.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The draft is now behind us and the summer will soon be in full swing. For more than two-thirds of the population of baseball clubs, participation in a pennant race is currently a legitimate consideration, thanks both to general parity and the presence of a second wild card club in both leagues. What about the other teams? Some, like the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs, likely suspected that this would be their fate, and likely long ago put summer roster management plans in place. Others, however, like the Tampa Bay Rays and – in their minds, at least – the Philadelphia Phillies expected to contend, and now find their reality to be much different. How might the summer progress for unexpected sellers such as these?
It is a very difficult thing psychologically for an organization to pull the plug early in the season. Tickets have been sold with great expectation for the summer months. There comes a point, however, when a team must look in the mirror and see who they are, rather than what they wanted to be. A poor-starting team always believes they are one good streak away from getting back into it. In truth, as long as the calendar still says “May”, they’re probably right. Start moving into June, however, and bottom-feeders need to realistically assess their predicament.

So many teams can look at the current standings right now and say, “Hey, we’re 5-6 games out of a wild card spot, let’s do this.” Realistically, however, they need to look at how many cumulative games they stand behind the leading club. For instance, the Rays woke up Sunday morning and found themselves 14 games behind the Blue Jays. Well, before they can even dream about catching them, they have to make up four games on the Red Sox and eight or so games on the Yankees and Orioles. The Rays found themselves a cumulative 34 1/2 games behind the division-leading Jays. Pretty daunting, when you look at it that way. Now they don’t have to win their division to make the playoffs, obviously, but they still have to jump 10 clubs to get a wild card spot, making up a cumulative 67 1/2 games over those clubs as of Monday AM. To put it still another way: to get from 24-39 to 87-75, a realistic record for a second wild card club, the Rays had to go 63-36 – not going to happen. It’s time for the Rays to sell.

Now let’s look at the Phillies. They woke up on Sunday AM at 25-35, “only” seven games behind the Braves, who were leading NL East with a humble 32-28 record. Looking at it in terms of a cumulative deficit, however, the Phils were a total of 21 games behind – two behind the Mets, six each behind the Marlins and Nationals, plus those seven behind the Braves. Like the Rays, they also have 10 clubs ahead of them in the wild card race, though they are “only” a cumulative 32 games behind them. If it was three or four years ago and the Phils’ core players were in their prime, they might legitimately consider riding it out and trying to make a run. Instead, their core is old and fading, they’re 10th in the NL in runs scored and 13th in ERA, their farm is relatively barren – it’s a very easy call to sell.

Once you’ve made the decision to sell, the question quickly turns to the identity of players being put on the market. Most of the time, the marketplace will tell you where the interest is – if you have to make calls to other clubs to put a particular player on the market, the player likely isn’t worth very much. Each and every club in major league baseball possesses valuable trade assets on their major league roster. Value, obviously, is not solely determined by a player’s talent and/or production. It is based upon that talent and/or production relative to their contract and years of control.

If a player is significantly productive or legitimately projects to be so, and has many years of control remaining at a low and predictable level of cost — i.e., the Rays’ Wil Myers — then he isn’t, or at least shouldn’t be available for trade, except in the most unique trade scenario. Evan Longoria’s salary is finally beginning to creep upward, but he still is an immense bargain relative to his contract status, and would also appear to be untouchable. The Phillies, at this point, likely lack such an untouchable player, as their best, most productive players are very well compensated.

Just because a player should be untouchable, however, doesn’t mean that other clubs won’t call to ask about him. Though this would appear to be obvious and self-evident, a club must clearly tell suitors that such players are off-limits. Though every player has a price in theory, even beginning to entertain mega-offers for such players is generally not a good idea. It leads to what I call “hare-brained schemes” in which a club spends significant time, resource and energy on trade concepts that are, A) very unlikely to be consummated, and B) are unlikely to result in a return commensurate with the value of the untouchable player you are considering dealing. While working for one of my previous employers, we annually received multiple inquiries on such a player, whom we had zero intention of ultimately moving. The distraction and time-consuming nature of this situation likely prevented us from cashing in on other opportunities that could have moved us forward.

The Rays currently are in a very strong selling position with regard to David Price. You can rest assured that many clubs have checked in with the Rays regarding his availability, and will continue to do so. He rates at the top of the current production/talent scale, but his contract status will become more of a factor, decreasing his value as we head toward the offseason. A team trading for Price now will pay top dollar for his ability to affect two pennant races, this season and in 2015. That is worth a pretty penny. Once 2014 is over, his value and price both come down.

The Phillies’ best lefthanded starter, Cliff Lee, has a similar track record and talent level compared to Price, but his contract and health situations are obviously much dicier. He’s on the DL with a strained elbow, and is locked into a $25M/year salary through at least next season. Lee is 35 years old, Price is 28. A team might look at Lee’s talent/production/health/contract equation and conclude that Lee isn’t worth his contract, and might offer little to nothing for him. Ryan Howard is totally, utterly worthless when his contract is taken into account. Ditto Jonathan Papelbon. Cole Hamels is currently healthy and effective, but is guaranteed $110M from 2015 through 2019. Chase Utley has some value, but has a full no-trade clause. The Phils have chances for modest returns for the likes of Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz, A.J. Burnett, and Marlon Byrd; each are mid-priced veterans who might catch the eye of clubs with very specific needs.

All of the players discussed to this point are under contract through at least next season. That’s a good thing from the seller’s perspective, as the days of receiving generous trade packages for “rent-a-players” are pretty much over. This is due in part to the new free agency rules; more specifically the prohibition of the extension of a qualifying offer to a free agent that has not spent the full season in a club’s uniform. I worked for the Brewers when we swung arguably the most notable “rent-a-player” deal of the last decade, acquiring CC Sabathia for a package headlined by then top-prospect Matt LaPorta and player-to-be named-later Michael Brantley. That’s one of the best pitchers in the game at that time, fetching a return containing exactly zero proven major leaguers. And that was a good package. Trading a Sabathia-equivalent at the 2014 deadline would demand a lesser package, as the acquiring team would get no draft pick compensation at the end of the 2014 season, while Sabathia’s departure did net the Brewers a pick after he left for the Yankees following the season. The days of the Rangers getting Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison and Jarrod Saltalamacchia for a couple months of Mark Teixeira are over.

The current environment is thus: more clubs are locking up their homegrown stars, preventing players from getting to free agency, making the few who do get there that much more valuable. Teams are valuing their prospects more highly, perhaps to a fault, as opportunities to improve a club via free agency are drying up. The qualifying offer rules have made it less enticing for a club to make a short-term trade play for a top talent; it’s like being unable to get “insurance” against a dealer’s blackjack when he has an ace showing. The combination of all of these circumstances conspire to make the good old-fashioned blockbuster trading deadline deal less prevalent than in previous eras.

Will they ever disappear totally? Hell no. A good front office is always in “buy” and “sell” mode simultaneously. When a player’s perceived value exceeds his actual value, consider selling him. When the opposite is true, consider buying him. Quality information from an organization’s scouts and analysts, and a decision-making process that values both can put organizations in a position to make hay. Organizations are getting smarter all the time, however, making it more difficult to gain true competitive advantages in that regard. Almost every player and prospect in the game was available for trade at one moment in time – and it might have only been that one moment. He might be in a 5-for-60 slump, or he might have hit a bump in his development as a minor leaguer. The smart organizations pounce at that moment when a still-bright star has very temporarily dimmed.

Next time, we’ll look at the mechanics of how these deals happen. How does an organization evaluate players throughout the game, including its own? What role does the existence of the trade deadline play, and how are trades still made after the deadline? The draft — each club’s best, least expensive means of obtaining impact talent — is now behind us, but opportunities to buttress a playoff charge or kickstart an organizational rebuild will present themselves as potential buyers and sellers pair off in the coming weeks.

Let’s Watch Mike Trout Do Something Amazing.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
We take Mike Trout for granted. It’s not a thing that’s unique to Mike Trout. We take all consistently great baseball players for granted. We take all consistently great anythings for granted. That’s why we’re always trying to figure out the next big thing — it doesn’t take long to get used to the current big thing. Mike Trout, right now, beats the hell out of Gregory Polanco, but Polanco might be of greater current interest, because he’s fresh and he could become a star. Trout’s already been a star for years. This is just part of having a human brain — we acclimate. We’re incredible at it. It has its upsides.

Once you start taking a player for granted, though, it’s that much more difficult to really appreciate what the player’s able to do. The best players aren’t guys regularly doing amazing things — the best players are guys regularly doing good things, some percentage more often than the inferior players. Usually those are standard good things. We get to the point where, in order to feel an appreciation, we need something extraordinary. So let’s seize a chance. Feel like you’ve been taking Mike Trout for granted? You’re not alone. Let’s watch him do something extraordinary, to remember that he is extraordinary.

We’re going back to the weekend, when Trout faced off against Chris Sale. They faced off a few times, but, as far as the memories are concerned, they faced off but once, in the bottom of the eighth of a four-run game. Trout batted with the bases loaded, and he and Sale ran all the way to a full count. Sale threw a changeup, and Trout won, and the game was tied in a matter of seconds.

Just the simple fact that it was a game-tying grand slam, late, makes it a career highlight. That it came against Sale boosts it a level or two. But now, think smaller-picture, think more granular. Look at the pitch that Trout hit out to straightaway center. Or, just stare at the following similar screenshots:

The changeup was just about perfect, for the situation. It was right on the outer edge, and it was down, maybe too far down to be a strike, but close enough that Trout would have to swing. Trout said later he thought it was a strike during its flight. For Sale, this wasn’t a failure to execute. It was just a failure of a human being, against Mike Trout. Basically, the pitch Sale threw can sometimes get lined the other way, but it isn’t a pitch you expect to go for four bases, when thrown just so. It was the ideal pitch in a full count. Hence:

The pitch was Sale’s last, and when he returned to the dugout, he grabbed a baseball bat and let out some frustrations in the tunnel. Sale might’ve been mad at himself, but he didn’t have a reason to be. He didn’t so much allow a grand slam as Mike Trout just hit one.

About the spot that Sale hit. I looked for pitches in the same spot over the course of the PITCHf/x era. I got ultra-precise and created a location box measuring one inch by one inch, and since 2008, there have been 940 swings by right-handed batters against pitches right there. Of those swings, 40% have missed. Of those swings, one has gone for a home run — Mike Trout’s. So that’s a homer/swing rate of 0.1%. On average, 1.4% of all swings lead to homers. A homer is never the most likely outcome, but for Sale against Trout, a homer was probably the least likely outcome, and still Trout went yard.

Here’s a plot of all the right-handed homers since 2008, so you can understand Trout’s homer in more context. I corrected a few measurement errors but I sure as shoot didn’t correct all of them, but you should still get the gist.

It’s not the most unusual homer that’s been hit — this might be the most unusual homer that’s been hit. But clearly, there’s the main cloud, then there’s the rest, and Trout’s homer is around an extreme. The closest homer is one hit by Alfonso Soriano, but Trout’s pitch is in an area where few other pitches are.

This is an example of where Trout really shines. Dave has noted that Trout has been somewhat vulnerable up in the zone. But, down in the zone, there is no better hitter in either league. Since 2012, Trout has baseball’s highest slugging percentage on pitches down, over the inner third. He has baseball’s third-highest slugging percentage on pitches down, over the middle third. He has baseball’s highest slugging percentage on pitches down, over the outer third. On pitches down and over the plate, overall, Trout has slugged .709. In second is Yasiel Puig, at .617. And Trout doesn’t swing and miss down there very often, which wouldn’t show up in the slugging results. He does the most damage when he hits the ball, and he very often hits the ball, when it’s down but over the plate.

It’s not that Trout doesn’t have any weaknesses. He can definitely be exposed up in the zone with good heat. But the same goes for a lot of hitters, and Trout is unbelievable around the knees. You should never want to pitch him down and in. You should never want to pitch him down and centered. And while, usually, down and away is the best location in general, Trout covers that location, too. Chris Sale threw exactly the down-and-away changeup he wanted, and it led to the worst possible result. On Monday, Jesse Chavez threw Trout a low-away cutter, and it went for a double that was an on-field homer before a replay review. Mike Trout stands out in a number of ways, but one of them is that a common low-and-away weakness isn’t by any means a weakness of his.

Chris Sale caused a little stir in April. Speaking to Jeff Passan:

“All I know I’ve got to do is give up less runs than we score,” Sale said. “I don’t care about anything else. Not the numbers. Not the ISPFMLBLSSRs and whatever else Brian Kenny has come up with to define what makes a good player or not.”

Reminded the numbers love him, Sale said: “I don’t love them back.”

Said Sale after the Trout homer game:

“That’s why he’s the best in the league,” Sale said of Trout. “I can’t really say too much about a guy like that hitting a home run off of you. The best.”

Sale shares a division with Miguel Cabrera. He’s faced Cabrera 27 times; he’s faced Trout 13 times. Cabrera, even, has had more success in the matchups. It seems distinctly statheadian to refer to Trout as the best in the league. Or maybe Sale can just see what the rest of us do, using his own two eyes. Mike Trout does an awful lot of good things. Sometimes he does amazing ones. This is most probably because he is amazing.

Why Would You Ever Throw Derek Jeter Anything But A Fastball?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
What’s an “average” fastball velocity? This year, it’s 91.9 mph. Last year, it was 92.0 mph. In 2012, it was 91.8 mph. We could go back further, but since that’s all pretty consistent and this isn’t really going to be about how hard pitchers throw anyway, three years is fine. We can say that 92 mph is pretty much the average fastball speed in Major League Baseball.

So with that knowledge in mind, here’s what I wanted to know: what hitters have to deal with the most heat that’s at average and above velocities? And how do they handle it? Fortunately, we have Baseball Savant, so we can look at this pretty easily. With a minimum of 500 fastballs seen – for reference, Matt Carpenter and Brian Dozier have each seen over 1,200 total pitches, so 500 pitches would be fewer than half of what an everyday player would have received – there’s only three hitters who have seen at least 35 percent of pitches coming in at 92 or higher:

1) Travis Snider, 37.41%
2) Derek Jeter, 36.28%
3) Matt Holliday, 35.59%

That’s fun, though perhaps not illustrative of anything. Also showing up on the top 10 of the “most heat” list are Kolten Wong and Mike Trout, so it’s not as simple as “good (or bad) players see higher velocities.”

But the second part of the initial question — who does what with that heat — well, that turns into a thread that all but forces you to keep on following it down the rabbit hole.

Here we have lowest slugging percentage on pitches at or above 92…

1) Jackie Bradley, .196
2) Jeter, .206
3) Chris Carter, .211

…and lowest isolated power on those pitches:

1) Jeter, .016
2) Nick Markakis, .016
3) Bradley, .018

Were we to do batting average, then Bradley, Jeter and Carter all appear in the bottom 10 as well, and obviously these things are not unrelated. What you have here are three players who cannot hit pitches at plus velocity, but that’s about all they have in common. Bradley has a career wRC+ of 62 and is almost certainly going to find himself in Triple-A at some point soon. Carter is still showing power, though not enough to make him more than a replacement player. Jeter may be the first real challenger to a 100 percent Hall of Fame ballot when he’s eligible in five years.

One of these is not like the others, but he’s showing up as among the most inept fastball hitters in the bigs – that ISO is one extra base hit in 63 tries, by the way, and came back on April 17 on a liner right over the first base bag against the since-DFA’d Heath Bell. So knowing that harder pitchers are eating him up, you inevitably go look at a spray chart just littered with balls to the right side…

…and then you go right back to Baseball Savant to check on which hitters have the lowest percentage of balls struck to left field:

1) Chris Denorfia, 0.887%
2) Jeter, 1.148%
3) Manny Machado, 1.426%

…and what began as a question about fastballs has quickly turned into a discussion about just how much Jeter’s bat has slowed, leaving him all but incapable not only of getting a ball beyond the infield to left, but to do anything with authority to right.

Not that I have a particular interest in demolishing the legend who is limping along in what he’s already acknowledged is his last season, but let’s at least lay out the numbers: Jeter is tied with B.J. Upton for 157th in wRC+ of the 167 qualified hitters in baseball. He’s 20th among 25 shortstops, primarily because guys like Zack Cozart and Brad Miller are doing their best to set historical lows for offense. His defense has been below-average, though perhaps surprisingly not catastrophic, but largely because of Jeter, the Yankee shortstops as a whole are currently ahead of only the collection of not-Jose Iglesias that the Tigers are rolling out at short.

It’s to his credit, really, that he’s managed to return from the injury woes that cost him nearly all of 2013 to stay healthy enough to collect 234 plate appearances, third-most on the Yankees behind outfielders Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury. But it’s also not helping the Yankees so much that he has, and neither is the fact that 51 of his 52 starts (save for one game at leadoff in early April) have come in the second spot in the order.

That’s particularly troublesome because we know, now more than ever, how important it is to have a quality hitter in the second spot. So far this year, 28 hitters have had at least 100 plate appearances hitting second. Here’s how they’ve done:

That Ned Yost is letting Omar Infante and his .277 OBP hit second is only about No. 14 on the list of Royals-related problems. The Brewers finally wised up and moved Ryan Braun into the second spot more than two weeks ago. The White Sox, slaves to the “second basemen hit second” plague, used Marcus Semien as an injury replacement while Gordon Beckham rehabbed an injured oblique; since returning, Beckham has an acceptable 104 wRC+.

But the Yankees continue on with Jeter hitting second, in deference both to his status as a legend and the fact that the back end of the lineup is so thin that there’s perhaps not an obvious replacement. Then again, what good does it do when Gardner gets on and then is either erased via double play (or fielder’s choice) or watches as an out is made in front of Ellsbury, Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann, Yangervis Solarte and Carlos Beltran? It’s not the only reason the Yankees have fewer runs scored than the Twins, Mets and Astros — and think on that for a minute — but it’s certainly part of it. It’s probably not realistic to expect Joe Girardi to take Jeter off of shortstop (Brendan Ryan, for all of his defensive prowess, has had health trouble this year, and is such a wreck at the plate that it actually makes a swap less than a no-brainer, though I won’t even discuss the ridiculous scenarios when Ryan has played first base) but getting Jeter out of the two spot is a conversation that is long since overdue.

Going back to the first list, the one about the highest number of fastballs thrown, maybe your first reaction was, “well, why aren’t they throwing him more if they know he can’t hit them?” As it turns out: they are. Running the same query, but just from May 1 on and cutting the minimum in half gets you this as far as percentage of pitches at 92 or above:

1) Bobby Abreu, 46.22%
2) Jeter, 40.89%
3) Ben Revere, 39.66%

This isn’t an accident. Abreu is even more ancient than Jeter, and makes the cutoff here by all of one pitch. Revere is such a non-threat at the plate that when he actually homered a few weeks ago, it spawned an entire post here in celebration of it. In April, Jeter saw just 30.9 percent fastballs at or above 92. Since May 1, that’s jumped by 10 percent, and while there’s something to be said for the overall velocity of the sport tending to increase past April, the fact is simply this: Jeter can’t catch up to good fastballs any longer, and teams are increasingly taking advantage of it. It’s getting to the point than other than the occasional breaking ball just to keep him from timing it, you wonder why he’s ever not seeing fastballs.

Other than a mild increase in strikeouts, Jeter’s peripherals aren’t all that different than they were during his quality 2012. He’s not losing his plate discipline or popping up more or chasing pitches or missing pitches; some of those things are actually better this year. It’s just that he’s no longer able to do anything with the pitches he’s touching, especially the hard ones. That he’s on pace to do something done only one other time in the last 60 years — qualify for the batting title as a shortstop at age 40 or older, along with 2007′s Omar Vizquel — says a lot both about who he is and why so few other players ever get the opportunity to. Even the great Jeter can’t fight off the cold truth of age.

Prospect Watch: Revisiting Predictions.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
n this installment of the Prospect Watch, I check in on the progress of three players whom I discussed last year.

Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pittsburgh, Pirates (Profile)
Level: High-A Age: 20 Top-15: 3 Top-100: 43
Line: 41.2 IP, 22 H, 11 R, 48/26 K/BB, 2.16 ERA, 3.17 FIP
Glasnow continues to put up big numbers, though his rawness remains significant.

I wrote this on Pirates righthander Tyler Glasnow after seeing him last June. If I had to characterize my take on the righthanded beanpole in that piece in one word, I would probably say “balanced;” I acknowledged his numerous strengths while also expressing considerable concern about rawness in some elements of his game. That did little to pinpoint a future role for Glasnow, as the reality is that there are a variety of possible outcomes for a raw teenager. What it does do, however, is shine a bright light on Glasnow’s flaws–his changeup and his mechanical consistency–for monitoring, as his future depends on the amount of improvement and adjustment he can make in these areas.

Reports indicate that Glasnow has picked up his velocity this year. While I saw him work at only 90-94 mph (touching 96) last year, he’s reportedly reached triple digits this season and is sitting more comfortably in the mid-90s. Given the extension and plane in his delivery, that makes the pitch project as a nightmare for opposing batters. Combined with his potentially-plus curveball, Glasnow absolutely overmatches righthanders–they’re hitting .111/.244/.194 off him this year with a 38.3% strikeout rate.

We can kind of set that skill off to the side and know that Glasnow can at least be a flamethrowing reliever who overmatches same-side batters. He’ll have a major league role just on the fastball and curve alone. But how about the rest?

Well, the rest doesn’t seem to be improving. Glasnow’s walk rate was already bad last year at 13.5%; now he’s up to 15.4%. In the last 25 years, only three MLB pitchers have ever made it through a qualifying number of innings with a walk rate of 14% or higher; one was Randy Johnson and the other two never qualified again. Clearly, Glasnow will need to reduce the number of free passes he’s issuing as he progresses, and to do this, more mechanical consistency is sorely needed. Given that Glasnow is just 20 and has very long levers to coordinate, it’s silly to disregard his chances of remaining a starting pitcher based on these numbers, but conversely, his lack of progress in this area certainly can’t be taken as encouraging.

Secondly, Glasnow’s lack of a good changeup is catching up with him more this season. In 2013, he limited South Atlantic League lefthanders to a .137/.245/.225 line with a 39.4% strikeout rate and 10.1% walk rate. This year, those numbers have moved to .209/.341/.284 with an 18.1% strikeout rate and a 15.7% walk rate. He’s still keeping opposing southpaws from doing much damage, but the strikeouts have been cut in more than half, the walks are way up, and the triple-slash is significantly worse (though a .264 BABIP and no homers allowed keep the average and slugging low).

So, I’m basically where I was last year with Glasnow–his positive attributes make me really want to get behind him as a potential dominant starter, but his issues give me considerable pause about forcefully projecting him in that role. Given that a year has passed and there don’t seem to be any adjustments, I guess I’m hedging more on him than I did last year, though he’s still young and has plenty of time to figure out how to make improvements.


Chris Beck, RHP, Chicago White Sox (Profile)
Level: Double-A Age: 23 Top-15: 5 Top-100: N/A
Line: 74.2 IP, 73 H, 33 R, 35/21 K/BB, 3.50 ERA, 4.41 FIP

After a tantalizing finish to 2013, Beck’s taken a step backward.

Last year, Chris Beck struck out just 11.4% of batters he faced in High-A, but he whiffed 20% in a 28-inning late-season Double-A stint. Given the stuff I had seen from him earlier in the season, I was inclined to believe the latter number was the better reflection of Beck’s talent, and I expressed that here. I never thought Beck had huge upside–I just thought he’d be a groundball guy at the back of a rotation who could throw strikes and strike out maybe 5.5-6.5 guys per nine innings, akin to a righthanded Paul Maholm. That’s not a sexy result, but it’s actually quite an excellent return for a second-round selection.

While his superficial 3.50 ERA seems like he’s continuing to solidify his prospect status, in reality Beck has taken a significant step away from my hopeful projection this year. For one, the 20% strikeout rate in Double-A last year didn’t hold in increased exposure to that level, as Beck’s K-rate is back to a poor 11.2% this year. Last year’s lack of strikeouts was a small enough blip to be an aberration; now, Beck’s looking at a 13.7% K-rate over almost 300 professional innings (which itself is inflated by a 20.5% rate in Rookie ball two years ago). It’s looking more and more like he’s going to have significant issues striking out even 14% or so at the big league level.

That might be okay if Beck was still getting tons of grounders, but his groundball rate has fallen from 56.3% in High-A last year to just 45.8% this year. Pitch F/X of his arsenal from this spring didn’t reflect my observation of plus sink from last year–he seems to be mostly relying on a four-seam fastball with a relatively straight trajectory, and that’s leading to a less impressive batted ball profile.

Beck retains an easy delivery that allows him to throw strikes (6.7% BB), but without the sink to induce buckets of grounders or the offspeed stuff to miss a reasonable amount of bats, he’s looking more and more like a Triple-A starter than a major league one in the long run. His career is still fairly young, and the line between Triple-A mainstay and MLB innings-eater is a fairly fine one, so if Beck can come up with a money pitch to give him statistical dominance in an area, perhaps he can get back on track. For now, though, the indicators are pointing in the wrong direction.


Taylor Dugas, OF, New York Yankees (Profile)
Level: Double-A Age: 24 Top-15: N/A Top-100: N/A
Line: 179 PA, .301/.415/.438, 1 HR, 21 BB, 25 K

He keeps grinding away and getting on base. Will anyone notice?

Now here’s one I can be happy about. In Chris St. John’s Consensus Top 58 Yankees Prospects, Taylor Dugas wasn’t mentioned. Nobody in either the national prospect circle or the Yankees one seemed to notice his existence except me. Because nobody talks about him, I’m not sure what the big knocks on Dugas are. Perhaps it’s power, perhaps it’s age, perhaps it’s size; it’s likely a combination.

At what point do you notice the guy, though? Dugas was picked in the eighth round in 2012 and hit .306/.465/.373 in the NYPL. An eye-catching line, that, but you’d be forgiven for moving past it given that he was a 22-year-old collegian and didn’t hit for power. A .250/.384/.306 line in Low-A in the first half last year, still excusable–low batting average, still no power, 23 years old. Then .321/.426/.373 in the second half–still old for the level at 23, still no power, but can you really ignore that?

Obviously, people did, but Dugas has come out in 2014 and continued to prove the doubters wrong. On a team that includes highly-touted players like Mason Williams, Gary Sanchez, Peter O’Brien, Rob Refsnyder, Tyler Austin, and Ben Gamel, Dugas ranks second (behind Refsnyder) with a .393 wOBA. His characteristic sterling K/BB ratio has actually taken a bit of a beating, as he’s striking out more than he’s walking for the first time in his career. However, in a development that makes me look smart for saying “he has just enough strength and swing loft that .100 ISO marks and 5-8 homer seasons aren’t out of the question,” Dugas has more than doubled his previous career high in Isolated Power with a .137 mark. He’s only hit one homer, but he has fourteen extra-base hits in 45 games this year after amassing just sixteen in 113 contests in 2013.

I’m not sure the Yankees take Dugas seriously, as he’s still just eighth on the Trenton team in plate appearances even though he’s been healthy the whole year; further, he has yet to appear in center field this year (partially due to Williams’ presence there, but you’d think Dugas would come in at least once). But at some point, doesn’t someone have to take the guy seriously if he keeps doing this? Doesn’t Dugas strike you as the sort of player Billy Beane snags for peanuts at some point? It’ll be fascinating to see what happens with Dugas, because at some point, either his numbers have to collapse or the respect has to come. Which will it be?

Dave Wallace on Analytics and the Minor Leagues.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Dave Wallace played several minor league seasons in the Indians organization as a catcher before beginning his coaching career as a staff assistant in Cleveland from 2009-10. He has moved his way through the Indians organization quickly, managing the short-season Mahoning Valley Scrappers in 2011, the Class-A Lake County Captains in 2012 and the High-A Carolina Mudcats in 2013 before joining the Double-A Akron RubberDucks this year.

It’s no secret that, as a small-market ballclub, Cleveland has one of the most sabermetrically-inclined front offices in baseball alongside organizations like Oakland, Tampa Bay and Houston. After reading Alex Kaufman’s great piece on the Indians DiamondView system, I wanted to know how much of that trickled down to the minor leagues and what Wallace’s stance was with regards to analytics. Wallace mentioned he is a regular reader of FanGraphs and that one of his favorite things to do is comb through our glossary and learn about new stats. We talked about advanced numbers, their prevalence and role in the minor leagues and how he uses them as a manager:

On DiamondView and the Indians’ stance with regards to sabermetrics:

“I’m not familiar with specifically DiamondView. I know I am familiar with how much we value analytics and how proactive we are in trying to find the best way to value a player. But also, that’s just a piece of the puzzle. What I see still goes into play, like how a guy takes to coaching and his character. But the numbers, the analytics, the DiamondView and all that is a very important piece of the puzzle.”

On his stance with regards to sabermetrics:

“I like them. There’s not one stat that I just hang my hat on necessarily. But in my development as a manager, the first thing I did was get the Bill James book and those type of things. I knew that this is where baseball is going and where it already is. It’s there. And whether I agree with it or not, I need to know it and be familiar with it. How I use it and apply it in-game isn’t that much right now, but I hope it will be one day. I love having all that information and picking and choosing what I like and I don’t like.”

On what he learned during his time in Cleveland:

“What I enjoyed was, before each series, we get this packet. An advanced report on the series. The fun part is going through and deciphering all this information. There’s so much information, you couldn’t possibly use it all. Well, I guess you could, but for example when Derek Shelton was the hitting coach he would use a certain part of it and Eric Wedge had certain numbers he liked more than others. Manny Acta used a lot of that stuff. For me, it was all pretty new, having just come out of playing. So even OPS was something that was new. Getting away from being just a batting average evaluator to OPS to WAR to all that, that was the very beginning of my process. Since then, I’ve become a regular reader of FanGraphs and that type of thing.”

On his transition from player to manager and the use of analytics:

“As a player, I didn’t pay attention to that kind of stuff at all. I was more focused on our pitching staff and the opposing lineup. But that was more of what my eyes saw. Reading swings, reading timing, that type of thing. And that’s how we attacked lineups. Then transitioning into coaching and seeing so much more information, you have to find out how to give that to a player or a pitching staff without giving them too much. I don’t want our pitchers or catchers out there trying to add and subtract numbers and figure out percentage-wise what’s the best play.

I think the most important thing is, the “old-school” mentality is about what you see. It’s results driven. Like the classic quote “What have you done for me lately?” The old-school seems to stick with a guy because he’s hot or sit a guy because he just looks lost at the plate. I see that side, and I still trust what my eyes tell me or what my gut tells me. But you have to look at the numbers and percentages because it’s important to keep that big-picture perspective. And that’s why I’ll ride out a player during a cold stretch because I know that the odds are a hot streak is coming. I try not to get too short-sighted and remember that with all this data throughout the history of baseball, I can trust that something is eventually going to happen, if it’s not already happening in the moment.”

On the players response and relationship with analytics:

“The majority of the guys really like that stuff. Specifically, with what we’re doing right now. We’re doing a lot of the defensive, what we’re calling “aggressive positioning.” But it’s a little weird for a pitcher to look behind them and see three infielders on one side of second base and this massive hole on the left side of the infield. They’ve all bought into it, but our main points to them were: number one, we’re playing the percentages. And number two, it’s about what we’re taking away and not what we’re giving up. We’re going to give up a routine ball to shortstop and nobody’s going to be there. It’s going to happen. But we’re going to be taking away a lot more. So far, it’s worked out well for us results-wise on the field. There have been a couple go through that we’re not used to seeing go through, but that’s a part of it and our pitchers have been 100% on board with it and the infielders love doing it because they know the guys in the big leagues are doing it.”

On the language used when talking advanced metrics with players:

“I don’t use the specific terms with the guys. Not yet. I try to keep it as simple and basic with them. Like with guys that are hitting balls hard that just happen to be caught, I’ll say ‘Hey man, it’s getting noticed that you’re hitting the ball hard. I know it’s not showing up in the numbers that you might see, but believe me, Cleveland and the front office knows you’re putting together good at-bats.’ And that’s what [hitting coach Rouglas Odor] reports on. Not hits, they can read that in the box score. He basically gives a grade to each at-bat and the quality of the at-bat and the contact. All that gets put into a report that [general manager Chris Antonetti] and [director of player development Ross Atkins] see up top.”

On the balance between using instinct and numbers with regards to in-game decisions:

“To say what the exact balance is, I don’t know. I try to go off of common sense, the numbers and what my gut tells me. I use those three factors and come up with a decision. But sometimes that decision gets overridden. For example, there’s a chance that Francisco Lindor could be in Cleveland and they’re going to ask him to bunt. He needs to have done it before. Even though the numbers say it doesn’t make sense to bunt and I don’t want to bunt, I need to make sure he’s done that and he’s comfortable doing that so that when it happens at Progressive Field it’s not the first time he’s done it.”

On pitch framing and quantifying it at the minor league level:

“I’m looking forward to one day being in the big leagues and seeing that information. For now, it’s mainly what I see but I’ll also have conversations with the umpire after every game. Like yesterday, I was talking to [umpire] Ryan Clark and I said ‘Hey, how is Tony [Wolters] back there with you? It looked like, to me, he was trying to pull some pitches.’ And he’ll say ‘Yeah, he does a good job, but I thought he tried to pull some in instead of just catching them and stopping them where they are.’ Because it’s hard to see from the dugout, that feedback helps me a lot. Then also I’ll try to get a centerfield camera video when I can, because I can see a lot that way, too.”

On defensive evaluation:

“I look for jumps and reads off the bat. There’s really no metrics down here defensively. But with all the best defensive outfielders I’ve ever seen, say Andruw Jones, you see the ball hit and then you go to look to where you think it’s going and the guy is already well on his way. Tyler Naquin shows me that. It’s all just eyeballing, but the good thing is, especially with framing, too, the guys who we thought were the best, are. The Molina brothers, Ryan Hanigan. I was fired up when we were watching video in spring training out in Arizona last year and then reading some of these lists as they’re coming out of who the best and worst framers are and watching the best guys. The numbers eventually back up what we see.”

Jair Jurrjens: Comeback in Cincinnati.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Jair Jurrjens is on the comeback trail. The 28-year-old righthander signed a minor league deal with Cincinnati in late May and is currently pitching for Triple-A Louisville. If he can approach his old form, the former Atlanta Braves stalwart could give the Reds rotation a shot in the arm.

Knee problems caused Jurrjens to spiral from solid starter to waiver-wire fodder. In 2009, he pitched 215 innings and went 14-10 with a 2.60 ERA. Two years later – despite discomfort in a surgically-repaired meniscus – he went 13-6, with a 2.96 ERA, in 152 innings. Then came the real pain. His 2012 and 2013 seasons were a velocity-challenged train wreck spent primarily in the minor leagues.

“The last couple of years have been stressful and frustrating,” Jurrjens admitted. “My arm was never a problem, I just didn’t have the strength to push off after the surgery to my right knee. I wasn’t using my lower body – I was throwing more with my arm – and wasn’t getting full extension.
“I ended up changing my mechanics so I wouldn’t feel my knee, and was never able to correct the bad mechanics. My leg also kept getting weaker and weaker. I finally found out why. It turns out I had a lot of scar tissue and a bone chip in my knee. I got that resolved over this past offseason and am feeling a lot better now.”

Louisville pitching coach Ted Power hasn’t seen a lot of the rehabbed righty – Jurrjens has made just two appearances since joining the team – but he’s mostly satisfied with his mechanics.

“They look pretty good,” Power said. “I don’t see the same flex and whip in his back leg, but the rest of his delivery is fine. He’s certainly not throwing all upper body. He’s getting help from his lower half.”

Jurrjens joined the Reds organization after almost signing with one of his former teams. The native of Curacao was originally signed by Detroit and made his big-league debut with the Tigers before being traded to the Braves for Edgar Renteria. After being waived by the Orioles last July, he re-signed with the Tigers and made seven appearances in Toledo before once again being let go.

“We did a tryout [in the spring] and six or seven teams came out to see me,” Jurrjens said. “I got an offer right away from Detroit, but then they took it back. I guess their doctors were a little scared of my knee. A week later Cincinnati gave me a chance, and so far everything is going well.”

The first of his 2014 starts was impressive. On June 2, against Columbus, Jurrjens fanned eight and allowed just one run over five innings. He wasn’t as good on June 7. Pawtucket touched him for five runs in six innings, with most of the damage coming in a four-run third. PawSox first baseman Travis Shaw, who had two hits on the evening, thought Jurrjens actually threw the ball well.

“He had a pretty decent changeup that was down for most of the game,” Shaw told me the following day. “He didn’t throw his slider much to me, but he had a few guys out front with that. I know his velocity isn’t what it was a few years ago – he was 88-91 last night – but after struggling a little bit early he settled into a good groove.“

“It seems like he got a little tricky with his off-speed stuff in that one inning,” Power said. “Instead of being aggressive with his fastball, as he was in the first two innings, he was sort of nibbling with his off-speed. After that he went to back to being aggressive with his fastball while throwing enough offspeed to make his fastball good. He shut them out after that.”

His pitching coach doesn’t think Jurrjens needs to overpower hitters to succeed.

“He has [lost velocity] but you learn to pitch without velo,” Power said. “He’s pitched in the big leagues and knows how to get people out. He reads hitters’ approaches and swings, and mixes his off-speed well. He also commands his fastball well.”

According to PITCHf/x, Jurrjens’ fastball averaged a tick under 92 mph in his healthy prime. Last season it was 88.5 mph. Thanks to a sturdier base, his velocity is slowly but surely beginning to climb. So is his confidence.

“I’m around 90 again.” Jurrjens said. “I’m still not consistently in the 90s, which is what I’m trying to get back to, but I think the velocity is going to come as I keep getting stronger. I’m waking up feeling good every day – no pain, no soreness. I feel like I’m getting closer and closer to being my old self again.”

“He getting there,” Power agreed. “He isn’t ready right now, but a few more quality starts and he may be ready to help the big-league club.”

The 2014 Proven Closer Disaster.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
After another late-game meltdown, Grant Balfour is officially out as closer for the Tampa Bay Rays, at least for now, and the Rays will go closer-by-committee for a little while. While no one player can doom an entire team, Balfour’s problems are one of the primary reasons the Rays have the worst record in baseball, especially given that Balfour’s $6 million salary is a larger share of Tampa’s budget than it would be for many of their competitors. But interestingly, Balfour isn’t really an outlier here. This year, nearly every team who spent resources to acquire a “proven closer” would have been better off lighting their money on fire instead.

While the definition of a “proven closer” is up for interpretation, I would suggest that seven relief pitchers changed teams last winter and were paid something of a premium due to their ninth inning experience. They are effective relievers and would have been valuable even without ninth inning experience, but their end-of-game history likely earned them a little more money than they would have had they been career setup men. Those seven, and their contracts, are listed below.

Joe Nathan: 2 years, $20 million
Brian Wilson: 2 years, $18.5 million
Joaquin Benoit: 2 years, $15.5 million
Fernando Rodney: 2 years, $14 million
Grant Balfour: 2 years, $12 million
Jim Johnson: 1 year, $10 million
Edward Mujica: 2 years, $9.5 million

Six of them changed teams as free agents, while Johnson was traded in a salary dump by the Orioles, and was effectively available to any team who wanted to pay the amount he would get in his final trip through arbitration. Here’s how those seven pitchers have done this year, with their 2013 performance listed below for reference.

Joaquin Benoit 27.2 6% 30% 34% 3% 82% 0.215 47 53 78 0.7 1.0
Fernando Rodney 23.2 10% 28% 44% 6% 80% 0.344 57 71 82 0.6 0.6
Brian Wilson 20.2 15% 25% 40% 15% 71% 0.345 175 147 123 -0.4 -0.7
Grant Balfour 23.2 19% 19% 49% 9% 62% 0.266 171 136 133 -0.4 -0.8
Jim Johnson 23.2 12% 15% 60% 7% 67% 0.386 167 112 116 0.0 -0.6
Edward Mujica 23.0 7% 15% 42% 18% 66% 0.320 160 136 110 -0.3 -0.5
Joe Nathan 23.0 11% 20% 38% 14% 59% 0.313 173 124 110 -0.2 -0.9
Total 165.1 11% 22% 44% 11% 69% 0.315 133 109 106 0.0 -1.9
—– —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —– —–
Joe Nathan 64.2 9% 29% 32% 3% 87% 0.224 33 54 83 2.5 3.5
Joaquin Benoit 67.0 8% 28% 42% 8% 87% 0.256 49 71 80 1.6 2.6
Grant Balfour 62.2 10% 28% 38% 11% 84% 0.263 67 91 86 0.6 1.5
Edward Mujica 64.2 2% 18% 45% 12% 86% 0.263 77 102 94 0.0 1.4
Jim Johnson 70.1 6% 19% 58% 11% 79% 0.327 72 85 85 0.9 1.5
Fernando Rodney 66.2 12% 28% 51% 7% 73% 0.298 89 75 79 1.3 0.7
Total 409.2 8% 25% 46% 9% 82% 0.274 63 79 84 7.1 11.8
As a group, they have been replacement level by FIP, and two wins worse than replacement level by runs allowed. Walks and homers are up, strikeouts are down, their low HR/FB% and BABIPs have regressed past the mean and are now worse than the league average, and the combination of hits and homers allowed have meant they haven’t been able to strand many of the copious amounts of baserunners they’re allowing. This group has been dreadful.

It says something about the group’s ineffectiveness when Fernando Rodney is the shining beacon of consistency. Benoit and Rodney look like Mariano Rivera next to the rest of these guys. Johnson and Balfour have already pitched their way out of the ninth inning, and at this rate, Joe Nathan isn’t far behind.

Interestingly, this mostly isn’t a case of old school GMs getting fooled by inflated save totals. The A’s, Rays, and Red Sox were all buyers on the list above, and each have previously been among the organizations to place the least amount of emphasis on ninth inning track records. In the case of the A’s and Rays, both had some money to spend in free agency but didn’t want to extend long commitments, and relief pitchers now offer one of the few places in free agency to spend money while sticking to one or two year commitments. As the closer disaster of 2014 shows, however, the “there’s no such thing as a bad one year deal” truism isn’t really true.

It’s just two months worth of performance, and these guys are likely going to perform much better over the rest of the season than they have so far, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was even more hesitancy to spend on relief pitching next winter. The price of proven closers has been steadily dropping over the last few years, and this dumpster fire of a performance isn’t going to help the flaky reputation of ninth inning specialists.

Was hitting coach Hudgens really the problem in New York?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Mets are seven games under .500 three-plus years into the tenure of the current front office, so maybe it was inevitable that someone got fired. And with 252 runs scored, the offense is middle of the pack (ninth in the National League by runs per game). Hitting coach Dave Hudgens made an easy target for someone in the Mets' organization. But was it the right move?

That's a hard question to answer. But by focusing on the peripherals of the team, and perhaps even the career of Lucas Duda, who played all but a hundred or so of his plate appearances under the tutelage of Hudgens, maybe we can try to evaluate the move.

In some ways, focusing on results understates the problem. Yes, the Mets are middle of the pack in runs, but their underlying numbers are worse. Their weighted runs created — calculated by weighting each offensive event according to its impact on the game in the past — is 11 percent worse than league average and near the bottom of the National League. They walk more than any team in the big leagues, but with that walk rate has come a high strikeout rate (sixth-worst)... and none of the power that usually comes with taking pitches. The Mets have the second-worst slugging numbers in the National League.

Of course, the hitting coach can only work on the process; he can't hit the ball. Research suggests that the major axis between hitting coaches is between those that preach patience and those that preach aggressiveness.

It's clear which one Hudgens is. To some extent, he was hired with the Mets for improving the Indians' on-base percentage across their minor league system, and his larger-sample work with players that have had other hitting coaches shows that his batters tend to swing less and reach less at pitches outside the zone when they work with him.

It's problematic to give him the success for the entire team, considering he didn't acquire the talent or take the swings himself, but here are the Mets' league-relative rates when it comes to plate discipline peripherals since he started in 2010 (100 = league average):
Season Reach Rate Swing Rate Zone Contact
2011 96 96 102
2012 93 95 101
2013 95 99 98
2014 91 95 99

Hudgens took some issue with the idea that his hitters were just taking pitches — "swing at every pitch until it's not your pitch" is how he described the team philosophy to me — but it looks like the team reach rate data supports the idea that his players were laying off pitches outside the zone more often under him. He took a team that took fewer pitches than league average and left with a team that took 2 percent more pitches per plate appearance than league average.

Duda can help us put this into perspective a bit. Every year he's been in the big leagues, he's swung less than the league average. His career reach rate is also better than the league average. But this year he's swung a little bit more, and he admits it — "I've tried to be more aggressive, even if the situation will dictate what you do in the end." Even in this more aggressive version of himself, he's a patient slugger with the 15th-best walk rate in the National League.

And in his own words, this find (he was a seventh-round pick with questionable power coming out of USC) appreciates what Hudgens did for him — "I owe a lot to him — not only is he a great hitting coach, he's a great person." For one, Hudgens always told me that Duda was at his best when he was spraying to all fields, and the player agreed: "When I shoot that left-center field gap, that's when I feel like I'm at my best." This year, Duda has the lowest pull rate and the highest center-field rate of his career:
Duda 2014 Career
Pull field 42.8% 44.2%
Center field 35.7% 33.6%

When pressed, Duda felt that the number one thing that he took away from his sessions with Hudgens was to "Stick to your plan and stick to your approach — stay with what you do best." Even if results didn't come right away, a good process would eventually produce good results.

That's an important thing to remember when evaluating Hudgens. Because the home park came up when the topic of his dismissal was broached. The Mets have struggled at home, to a .119 Isolated Slugging Percentage (.145 is league average, and all teams have a .122 ISO in Citi this year), and some think that the park has gotten in their heads. It looks like it has. Look at the reach, line drive and flyball rates at home and away for the Mets:

Home Away
Line-drive rate 19.3% 23.2%
Flyball rate 34.8% 35.8%
Reach rate 27.6% 25.9%

And Duda admitted to some change in his approach at home, even. He called the park a "big factor" and said that "maybe you tend to swing a little harder when you try to hit it out of that ballpark." But his inner Hudgens won out: "We can't let the ballpark dictate our approach." For what it's worth, Hudgens called a team hitter's meeting and discussed these splits with the team as soon as he was made aware of them... less than a week before his dismissal.

In the end, Duda felt that "if you're going well, it doesn't matter where you play." And that might speak for his hitting coach, too. After all, Hudgens felt that his general philosophy wasn't too strange — "look for a pitch that you can do damage on early and then battle on two strikes." He can do his best to keep track of each hitter's "keys" and then try to "get them back on track and treat each one as an individual." But ultimately, this was a lineup that's doing largely what it was projected to do — projections had them scoring 3.6 runs a game and they're currently scoring four a game — and looks like it's a bat or two from contention.

By the numbers and the account of at least one player, the philosophy Hudgens was preaching was getting through to his players. But the home splits on a team that's probably a hitter or two away from a full lineup ended up sinking him. That doesn't seem like a big deal, but when a team is struggling, anything can be enough to fire a hitting coach. Even a good one.
post #22794 of 73652
Is 22 homers, and .357/.460/.722 good for Double A?

I have to ask in here cuz nobody talks to me in the Cubs thread. frown.giflaugh.gif
post #22795 of 73652
Originally Posted by CP1708 View Post

Is 22 homers, and .357/.460/.722 good for Double A?

I have to ask in here cuz nobody talks to me in the Cubs thread. frown.giflaugh.gif
laugh.gif when are those numbers not good? Kris Bryant is a monster.
post #22796 of 73652
Thread Starter 
He's been a stud so far.

I really disagree with anyone who thinks he should be up now though laugh.gif skipping AAA for a kid who still needs to work on things (or skipping AAA period) usually leads you down a road of a broken prospect.

You want Longoria or Moustakas? laugh.gif
post #22797 of 73652
Bob Welch passed? frown.gif

RIP man. tired.gif
post #22798 of 73652

RIP mean.gif
post #22799 of 73652
I agree with Pro in that there's no rush to get him to Cubs anytime this summer, but it's at the point now where staying in AA is taking away from what he can be learning in AAA...I mean, right? What is he learning there? laugh.gif Get this man to AAA so he can work on hitting the breaking balls and where there's at least somewhat of competition. Goodness.
post #22800 of 73652
Thread Starter 
Yea, get him to AAA sooner rather than later.

RIP Bob Welch, that's crazy. Dude couldn't be that old.
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