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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 793

post #23761 of 73002
Thread Starter 
I think Strasburg somehow is starting to become underrated laugh.gif
post #23762 of 73002
Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

I think Strasburg somehow is starting to become underrated laugh.gif
laugh.gif idk about that, some Nats fans still think he's the second coming of Christ. He's still a stud, but all of those K's don't tell the whole story. He's got the 18th highest line drive percentage of all qualifying starters, and puts himself in stressful situations more than any other Nats starter as well. Coupled with the fact that nothing ever seems to be his fault when things go wrong out on the mound, I think that may be why people are a little down on him.
post #23763 of 73002
Originally Posted by bronconation24 View Post

How did you know?

I've been discovered.
post #23764 of 73002
Originally Posted by JumpmanFromDaBay View Post

I don't want to talk about World Series in July. I want to win the West and make the Playoffs
Originally Posted by Red Is On NT View Post


Obviously. It wasn't meant to be taken serious. We're still a half game back in the west. Doesn't mean I can't jump to conclusions and say things. At least 90% of sports fans live vicariously through their teams, we're going to say things like that because we hope it happens. As an extension to that I'm clearly going to go to bat for the players on my team whether it's ridiculous or not. The only thing clownish is a sports fan acting like he's smarter or more logical than another because of a statement like Buster Posey is going to lead his team to another championship.
post #23765 of 73002
Originally Posted by thekidgriffey24 View Post

I've been discovered.

I've been discovered.
post #23766 of 73002
A Washington National has been on the Final Vote Ballot for six years in a row now. They've lost the previous five, including when Bryce ******* Harper was on the ballot. Nats fans mean.gif
post #23767 of 73002
Less Nationals a better chance for the NL to get Home Field

wink.gif kidding
post #23768 of 73002
Low blow
post #23769 of 73002
post #23770 of 73002
Josh Hamilton making it is a joke.

I hope Kinsler doesn't make it.

Seager/Sale/Street mean.gif
post #23771 of 73002
Rodney and Seager getting snubbed. I really can't make a strong argument for Seager over many people but I think Rodney should of made it over Doolittle
PSN: Aiinatural
Go Hawks, Mariners, Ducks
PSN: Aiinatural
Go Hawks, Mariners, Ducks
post #23772 of 73002
Tough call Rodney has twice as many saves but the K's/per innings pitches, 2 walks all season and WHIP by Doolittle sick.gif
post #23773 of 73002
Doolittle has been lights out all season setup guy/closer.

I'm hoping since MadBum is pitching Sunday that Tim Hudson takes his spot. Having a good year after that ankle injury
post #23774 of 73002
Thread Starter 
Samardzija deal sets stage for Price trade.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
DETROIT -- David Price's focus is on doing the best he can for the Tampa Bay Rays, he said here Saturday. But every day, there are reminders that he could be in his last hours with Tampa Bay.

Players on other teams text him daily to ask whether he’s heard anything about an impending trade. Sometimes, they’ll be more direct, as Detroit reliever Joba Chamberlain was Saturday, in approaching Price on the field to chat about the constant rumors.

Price’s answer is consistent: He doesn’t know anything. He doesn’t have a special pipeline into the trade talks the Rays have had. He starts against the Detroit Tigers on "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 ET, ESPN and WatchESPN) believing that he is throwing the ball as well as he has at any point in his career, but not knowing whether this might be his last start for the Rays, or the first of another four months’ worth of starts for them.

The folks he works for -- most notably, GM Andrew Friedman -- probably don’t know the answer, either. The Rays have won nine of their past 11 games, and have crawled back to within 8.5 games of first place in the American League East. Close enough for hope, but far enough away for the Rays to strongly consider trading the former Cy Young winner.

Price’s situation probably gained some clarity with the trade of Jeff Samardzija, who was the other big-time starter available on the market. That deal firmly established an acceptable asking price for David Price.

A lot of folks in the industry believe that the Oakland Athletics paid heavily for Samardzija and Jason Hammel, surrendering superstar prospect Addison Russell as well as former No. 1 pick Billy McKinney. Friedman can now use that deal as a way to shape any proposals for Price, because while rival officials were well aware that Samardzija has thrown about 6,500 fewer pitches than Price, Price is still widely regarded as the better pitcher, having had his success in the AL East. Within the context of the Samardzija trade, the Rays can ask the Los Angeles Dodgers about minor league shortstop Corey Seager, or the San Francisco Giants about a number of top pitching prospects in the minors, or the St. Louis Cardinals about Carlos Martinez and others.

Rival officials believe that the Rays’ preference is to deal Price to a National League team, and the Cubs’ trade with Oakland did not interfere with that. In fact, Price now stands alone as an elite option in the pitching market; he's unencumbered by the injury questions tagged to Cliff Lee, or the whopper salary obligation that is attached to Cole Hamels. It was a seller’s market even before the Samardzija trade, and now Friedman has a one-of-a-kind item to dangle.

Friedman could always wait until the fall to trade Price, as a cheaper alternative to the free-agent aces like Max Scherzer and Jon Lester. Tampa Bay already has invested a lot in 2014, anyway, having made the decision to carry Price into this season because of a belief that the Rays had a chance to have a special year. It’s still possible that this happens, and at heart, Friedman and his bosses are really competitive people; they’re not accustomed to giving up in midseason, and there’s really no getting around the reality that a trade of Price would be a white flag at a time when Tampa Bay is playing its best baseball of the season.

The quality of the offers the Rays receive for Price figure to be the tipping point in the choice, as they were last winter, when the Rays decided to keep him.

Meanwhile, Price keeps tinkering, keeps working to get better. Some of the Tigers’ hitters, including Torii Hunter, talked Saturday about the difficulty of facing Price, about his relentless attack of fastballs in and out, and cutters on the knuckles of right-handed hitters mixed with fastballs dotting the outer edge.

A veteran talent evaluator said recently that in his eyes, Price has become more of a thrower than a pitcher, given his apparent effort to fire the ball as hard as he possibly can. And yet, the evaluator noted, it works for him in a way that usually works for no one else. Price said he has simplified his delivery, and with this, he can still throw strikes at max effort.

Over the past calendar year, Price has made 36 starts, and in those, he has 255 strikeouts and 30 walks in 262 2/3 innings. Chris Archer recalled those numbers Saturday, before his start against the Tigers, and just shook his head. Those are crazy numbers for a pitcher who, like Clayton Kershaw, may be at the apex of his career. Whether he's putting up those numbers for the Rays or another team remains to be seen.

Around the league

• The Rays have now won nine of their past 11 games, after Archer's win here Saturday.

• The Cardinals see the cost of trading as very high, writes Derrick Goold.

• Dan Haren, the Dodgers' No. 5 starter, seems to be wearing down, writes Dylan Hernandez.

• Lost amid the talk of the Cubs-Athletics trade was the latest effort by the Los Angeles Angels to fix their bullpen, including a deal for Arizona's Joe Thatcher. A few days ago, Angels GM Jerry Dipoto talked about how he feels the team has some good pieces in its bullpen, and that the struggles of a few have obscured other good work. So he has been going about the business of trying to plug those holes, first swapping Ernesto Frieri for Jason Grilli, and now adding Thatcher, who gives manager Mike Scioscia a viable matchup lefty. Thatcher has three walks and 25 strikeouts in 24 innings.

Grilli was an All-Star a year ago, and his velocity is still present; his biggest problem has been command of his breaking stuff, and the Angels are hoping that this is related to the oblique issues he has had this season. Maybe Grilli can be the solution at the back end of the bullpen, or maybe not. If the latter winds up being the case, Dipoto could pursue one of the closer options in the trade market, from Huston Street to Joaquin Benoit to Joakim Soria.

The Diamondbacks are not surprised by their role as sellers, writes Nick Piecoro. Dipoto talked about his reaction to the Oakland trade.

• Justin Verlander says Oakland made the big trade because of Detroit. From John Lowe’s piece: “They made that trade because of us,” Verlander said. “No doubt about it in my mind. If they want to win a World Series, they’re envisioning that they have to go through us.”

• Samardzija was introduced in Oakland, writes Carl Steward.

The trade was made to win the division, says Billy Beane.

The Oakland trade demonstrated that the Athletics and Giants are in different places, writes John Shea. Oakland is in win-now mode, writes Tim Kawakami.

Oakland won again Saturday, behind Scott Kazmir.

• Starlin Castro is a centerpiece of the Cubs going forward, says president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, who is now stacked with a bunch of middle infielders. This was a trade to remember for the Cubs. Epstein can see the light at the end of the tunnel, writes Gordon Wittenmyer.

• That’s nine straight wins and counting for the Braves. The Atlanta bullpen has been dominant, writes Michael Cunningham.

• There was a game within a game Saturday in Seattle’s win over the White Sox: Felix Hernandez against Jose Abreu.

From ESPN Stats & Information, how Hernandez stymied Abreu:

1. Seven of 12 pitches he threw to him were changeups.

2. Four of his six pitches thrown with two strikes were changeups.

3. Hernandez recorded his only strikeout against Abreu with the changeup.

4. Abreu is hitting .182 against changeups this season.

5. Abreu has the eighth-highest chase rate against changeups in the AL this season (out of 88 qualified batters).

The White Sox's bullpen blew a lead.

• The cost of re-signing Lester keeps going up for the Red Sox; he shut down Baltimore on Sunday. From ESPN Stats & Information, how he won:

1. He had a 40.7 chase percentage, his highest in a single game since June 16, 2013 (also against the Orioles).

2. Lester allowed no extra-base hits for the second consecutive start. That is the first time he has done that since Aug. 19 and 24 of 2013.

3. He got the Orioles to hit a lot of ground balls. His ground ball percentage was 69.6, which was his highest in a single game since Sept. 21, 2012, also against the Orioles (73.9 percent).

4. Lester is 3-0 with an 0.96 ERA in his past five starts, and the Red Sox are 5-0 in those starts.

It’s time for the Red Sox to stop fooling around and just pay Lester, writes Steve Buckley.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Marlon Byrd is not thinking about getting traded.

2. With Samardzija traded, Toronto can now turn to Plan B, writes Richard Griffin.

3. The Mets should make a run at Starlin Castro now, writes John Harper.

4. The trade options to help the Yankees’ rotation are thin and costly, writes George King.

5. Christian Colon was out of the lineup Saturday after starring Friday.

6. Andrew Heaney was sent back to the minors.

7. For the Padres, it’s a seller’s market.

Dings and dents

1. Gerrit Cole says he’s good to go.

2. Jonathon Niese may go on the disabled list.

3. Jaime Garcia is headed for another operation.

4. Edwin Encarnacion was helped off the field Saturday.

Saturday’s games

1. The Angels rallied, and Albert Pujols hit his 19th home run of the season. It was the 511th of his career, which moved him into a tie with Mel Ott for 23rd on the all-time home run list (one behind Ernie Banks and Eddie Mathews).

2. Edinson Volquez settled in for the win, Bill Brink writes.

3. A late error hurt the Yankees.

4. Nelson Cruz starred, and John Lackey wouldn’t comment about his performance.

5. Anibal Sanchez fell apart in the fifth inning.

6. Billy Butler's struggles are indicative of what the Royals are going through, writes Andy McCullough. From his piece:

The slip to the sixth spot in the batting order frustrated Butler, but he appeared resigned to his fate.

“Somebody’s got to be that guy, and it’s sending a message to the rest of the guys,” Butler said. “I can take it. I guess I’m a mentally tough guy. He could do it to somebody else, but I think he knows how I’ll take it.”

7. The Cardinals lost a lead in the ninth inning.

8. Cleveland’s T.J. House got his first major league victory.

9. The Twins honored Derek Jeter, and then beat his team.

10. Late homers helped the Giants win.

11. Matt Garza was dazzling.

NL East

• Bryce Harper says his timing is off.

• The Phillies have a ninth-inning alternative to Jonathan Papelbon.

• From ESPN Stats & Information: Casey McGehee had two RBIs for the Marlins on Saturday, giving him 52 for the season, and he has just one home run. That's the second-most RBIs for anyone with one or zero homers prior to the All-Star break (stats compiled since 1933, when the first All-Star Game was played), and the most since 1943. Billy Herman (58 in 1943) and **** Porter (51 in 1934) are the two others comprising the top three.

• Andrelton Simmons has been more comfortable hitting second.

NL Central

Andrew McCutchen, 2014 Season
April-May June-July
BA .298 .369
HR 4 9*
Slug pct .439 .721
*Tied for most in NL since start of June
• Andrew McCutchen continues to rake since the calendar flipped to June, as shown in the chart at right from ESPN Stats & Information.

• There is no measuring Josh Harrison's heart, writes Dejan Kovacevic.

• The Cubs are stockpiling an impressive group of prospects, writes Bernie Miklasz.

• It’s time to recalibrate expectations for Billy Hamilton, writes John Fay.

• The Brewers can feel good about the deep 2009 draft.

NL West

• Jair Jurrjens was fine on Saturday after struggling to breathe Friday.

• Haren struggled against the Rockies.

AL East

• Alfonso Soriano continues to struggle.

• Some reliable sources have failed to produce for the Red Sox, writes Michael Silverman.

• Jake McGee should be an All-Star, says David Price.

AL Central

• Raul Ibanez refuses to give in to age, writes Andy McCullough.

AL West

• The Astros have plummeted to the bottom of the standings, again.

• Ron Washington thinks Adrian Beltre should be an All-Star.

• The Rangers ended their losing streak.

• The Mariners find themselves in contention, writes Larry Stone.


• Jose Bautista says MLB’s replay system is a joke.

• Oakland caved in to Bud Selig’s hollow threats, writes Scott Ostler.

And today will be better than yesterday.

Better for Yanks if Sabathia calls it quits.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
David Ortiz recently recalled a time when CC Sabathia drilled him intentionally. There was nothing to do but drop the bat and jog to first base, Ortiz said, because Sabathia has so much credibility and accountability that if he hit you on purpose, well, there was no question that it meant circumstances compelled him to do so.

No one in Cleveland will forget Sabathia’s time with the Indians, when he had great successes and took the blame for his failures. In Milwaukee, they will always remember how, with his free agency looming, he repeatedly took the ball on three days’ rest. After retiring, he will forever be invited back to Yankee Stadium for Old-Timers’ Day and be introduced as a leader of the team that won the 2009 World Series.

Sabathia has won many admirers among players and fans during a career that includes 208 victories, nearly 3,000 innings and a Cy Young Award. But the simple fact is that, moving forward, he might be worth more to the Yankees if he never comes back from the knee trouble that is likely to end his 2014 season.

This is because of the regression in his performance, a 5.28 ERA in eight starts this season after posting a 6.08 ERA in the second half of 2013, and his contract. Sabathia is set to earn $23 million in 2015, under the terms of the deal he signed with the Yankees after the 2008 season, and $25 million in 2016, given the mini-extension he got in the fall of 2011 because of an opt-out clause in his deal. In addition, Sabathia has a $25 million vesting option for 2017, with a $5 million buyout, that kicks in under three conditions during the 2016 season built in because of concerns about his shoulder.

A) That the season does not end with him on the disabled list because of a shoulder condition
B) That he does not spend more than 45 days on the disabled list because of a shoulder injury
C) That he does not make more than six relief appearances because of a shoulder problem

At most, the Yankees could owe Sabathia $73 million over the 2015 to 2017 seasons. At the very least, they will have to pay him $53 million, in salary and the $5 million buyout.
[+] Enlarge CC Sabathia
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Sabathia's days as a big-game pitcher are over, and maybe his career.

Sabathia is facing the possibility of microfracture surgery on his knee, and as doctors, Grady Sizemore and many other athletes will tell you, this is no sure thing. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. In Sabathia’s case, even if his knee is OK, it will still be uncertain that he could actually come back and be effective. His fastball velocity has dropped significantly in recent seasons, from 94.1 mph in 2009 to 89.6 in 2014.

The Yankees have insurance on Sabathia’s deal, a record-setting contract at the time when he agreed to seven years, $161 million. Whether the policy covers 50 percent or more, their potential for savings could be substantial if Sabathia never pitches again.

If the Yankees’ policy covers 50 percent, for example, the heart of the matter comes down to this: Can he generate $11.5 million in performance value in 2015 or $12.5 million in 2016?

Based on his recent seasons, the obvious projection would be: No.

But Sabathia will try to come back because that is in his nature. He will be accountable and go through whatever rehab is required. He will throw on flat ground and in bullpen sessions, and the folks in the Yankees’ organization will work with him, help him and hope for the best because he has earned that sort of respect. He stands to make an extra $20 million if he pitches through the 2016 season without the sort of shoulder trouble stipulated in his 2017 option.

But the Yankees might extract the most value from him, at this point, if he never throws another pitch for them again, an odd dynamic that will be in place for someone who has built a reputation for always being willing to take the ball.

• The Tampa Bay Rays climbed over the Boston Red Sox in the American League East standings Sunday night with the help of David Price. With nine wins in their last 11 games and a diminished deficit in the standings of 8½ games, the Rays will likely wait until the All-Star break to reassess any decision about the All-Star left-hander.

If Price is traded, it stands to reason that super utilityman Ben Zobrist will also be traded.

Price said after Sunday’s win that he felt like he wasn’t as good as in other starts and that he left his changeup up in the strike zone far too often. Joe Maddon spoke strongly after the game, as Marc Topkin writes. From his story:
"I think we're one of the best teams in the American League, period," manager Joe Maddon proclaimed. "I thought that from day one. Our record has not reflected it. We did not play that way. But we are now."

There still is a long way to go, living with the threat that Price and others may be traded. But they are making progress, winning 10 of 12 and 17 of 25 in improving to 41-50, and moving past Boston to escape last place for the first time since May 28.

"You've got to be impressed with our guys," Maddon said. "We're playing at a very high level emotionally and mentally right now. We're not going anywhere. We're in it for the long haul. I know the math does not look appropriate. But I was not very good at math."

• The greatest surprises for me among the All-Star selections were that Chris Sale and Garrett Richards were not picked.

Jordan Zimmermann was selected, and won on Sunday, as Adam Kilgore writes.

Chase Utley was picked. Josh Harrison got the call.

Five players from Chicago were picked, although one now plays elsewhere.

Derek Jeter will be an All-Star for the 14th time.

From ESPN Stats and Info, some notes on guys who weren’t picked:

In the American League, Ian Kinsler and Kyle Seager ranked seventh and 12th in WAR, respectively, yet were not selected. Meanwhile in the National League, Jason
Heyward and Jhonny Peralta rank 14th and 15th and were also not chosen. All four players might have been overlooked due to hidden value from their defense.

At second base in the AL, Kinsler has been worth a full win more than Robinson Cano. Most of this difference comes from the fact that Kinsler has 10 Defensive Runs Saved this season, 15 runs above Robinson Cano.

At third base, Kyle Seager has produced half a win more in value than Adrian Beltre, mostly thanks to his superior defensive value. Seager has four Defensive Runs Saved this season, while Beltre has just one.

In the National League outfield, Jason Heyward was omitted in favor of Charlie Blackmon. Heyward is first in MLB with 24 Defensive Runs Saved, which is five more than any other player in MLB this season. Meanwhile, Blackmon has just two Defensive Runs Saved and has produced 1.8 fewer WAR than Heyward.

Daniel Murphy was picked for the All-Star Game.

• He got snubbed for the All-Star Game, but Richards shut down the Astros on Sunday, as Mike DiGiovanna writes. From ESPN Stats and Info, how he won:
Garrett Richards
Jim Cowsert/USA TODAY Sports
Richards continues to impress and gets better with each outing.

A) Averaged career-high 97.3 mph with his fastball and matched a career high by getting nine missed swings with the pitch.

B) He threw 42 sliders, which netted seven outs and yielded only one baserunner. Threw 38 percent sliders for the game, his third-highest rate in a start this season (in which he throws an average of 27 percent sliders).

C) He improved to 6-0, 1.45 ERA (8 ER/49.2 IP) in seven starts since June 1 (4-2, 3.65 ERA in 11 prior starts).

• The Pirates continue to roll: They swept the Phillies, beating A.J. Burnett Sunday.

• Miguel Cabrera isn’t going to do the Home Run Derby. Troy Tulowitzki, derby captain, took time to talk with Yasiel Puig after Sunday’s game. Mike Trout won’t be in the derby.

Dings and dents
1. Clint Barmes will miss four to six weeks with a groin strain.
2. Joey Votto is having knee trouble.
3. Ryan Braun expects to return soon from back spasms.
4. Evan Gattis is unsure of when he’ll return.
5. The Rangers’ Nick Martinez might be headed to the DL, with an injury that could be a microcosm of the team’s fortunes this year, writes Evan Grant.

Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Yankees traded Vidal Nuno to Diamondbacks for Brandon McCarthy. From ESPN Stats and Info: McCarthy entered Sunday with a 1.22 run difference between his ERA (5.01) and FIP (3.79 ... FIP is an ERA estimator based on strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed), the highest of any pitcher who was qualified for the ERA title. Shane Greene will pitch Monday.
2. The Yankees cut Alfonso Soriano.
3. The Royals signed Scott Downs.
4. The Cubs are taking a different path in acquiring pitching, writes Gordon Wittenmyer.
5. Carlos Gonzalez is starting his injury rehab assignment.
6. Michael Cuddyer is waiting for some MRI results.

Sunday’s games
1. The Red Sox are in last place.
2. The Reds won another series, as John Fay writes.
3. Corey Kluber was "The Man" for the Indians.
4. Hector Noesi was really good.
5. The struggling Blue Jays were swept. The Jays aren’t very good right now, says John Gibbons.
6. Atlanta’s nine-game winning streak ended.
7. The Astros are in freefall: That’s seven straight losses, and counting.
8. The Mariners were shut down.
9. Jeff Samardzija thrived in his first game with the Athletics.
10. Tim Lincecum is really good against the Padres.

NL East
• Henderson Alvarez continues to dominate, as Clark Spencer writes. From ESPN Stats and Info, how he won:

A) He averaged 92.3 mph with his fastball. Oddly, that was his slowest average fastball velocity this season. But he threw it for strikes 67% of the time and the Cardinals made 15 outs (and had just two baserunners) against it).

B) Alvarez went 3-for-4, all on pitches that were out of the strike zone. That matches the most hits on pitches out of the strike zone by anyone in a game this season.

C) The Marlins have won each of Alvarez's last 10 starts (Alvarez is 4-0, 1.49 ERA over this stretch).

NL Central
• Andrew McCutchen is thriving, writes Dejan Kovacevic. When you watch McCutchen play these days, his confidence radiates.
Andrew McCutchen: in 2014
Stat Through May 31 Since June 1
Games 54 32
BA .298 .364
OPS .862 1.140
HR 4 9
RBI 23 31

• The Cardinals have four All-Stars, while he Reds have four All-Stars.

• The Brewers have four All-Stars.

NL West
• Paul Goldschmidt will start in the All-Star Game.

• The Rockies have two All-Stars, as Patrick Saunders writes.

• Dee Gordon’s hard work got him on the All-Star team.

• Huston Street was snubbed, writes Matt Calkins.

AL East
• Jeter moved into fourth place in career singles on Sunday with three singles in Sunday's win at Twins. From Elias Sports Bureau:
Most Career Singles: All-Time
Pete Rose 3,215
Ty Cobb 3,052
Eddie Collins 2,643
Derek Jeter 2,542
Willie Keeler 2,539

• A Yankees prospect has gotten the attention of the front office, as Joel Sherman writes.

• Three Orioles were picked for the All-Star team.

• Jon Lester is the only Red Sox All-Star.

• The Jays’ lack of depth in position players is hurting them, writes Mike Rutsey.

AL Central
• Rick Porcello had a tough night.

• Three Royals got the All-Star call.

• Michael Brantley is an All-Star.

• Injuries have limited the White Sox, writes Toni Ginnetti.

• The Twins have two All-Stars, including first-timer Kurt Suzuki.

AL West

• Jose Altuve was picked for the All-Star team.

• A couple of Rangers were selected as All-Stars.

• The Mariners will have two representatives at the All-Star Game. Felix Hernandez should start for the American League.
Oakland has a bunch of All-Stars.

• Buck Showalter had a droll response to what John Lackey said about Nelson Cruz.

• Mike Schmidt did it his way.

• There is sad news about former pitcher Jim Brosnan.

And today will be better than yesterday.

Baseball in need of more run production.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The topic of parity came up Thursday on "Baseball Tonight," and Rick Sutcliffe mentioned how the sport has changed over the last decade, in the wake of the steroid era.

Many, many pitchers have used performance-enhancing drugs, for sure, but the simple fact is that since Major League Baseball adopted testing, offensive numbers have been in sharp decline. There is also less opportunity for hitters -- and, by extension, teams -- to distinguish themselves. The potential variance between clubs has declined.

The same sort of thing happened in the latter half of the 1960s, as pitching increasingly dominated. In 1968, the Year of the Pitcher, none of the 10 National League teams won less than 72 games, and only one team won more than 88 -- the St. Louis Cardinals, who finished 97-65. Every team averaged between 2.9 runs per game and 4.2 runs per game.

There was a greater range of performance in the American League in 1968, with the Tigers posting a record of 103-59. But every team averaged between 2.9 and 4.1 runs per game that year, and in the season before, 1967, the AL saw an incredible race because of the parity in another season of few runs. Boston led the AL with 92 wins, while Detroit and Minnesota won 91, the White Sox 89, the Angels 84. The Kansas City Athletics were the only AL team to win fewer than 72 games.

Baseball altered the rules in response to the decline in offense, lowering the mound, and if Major League Baseball wants something other than general parity and games with fewer runs, it will probably have to revisit this -- perhaps lowering the mound again, or changing the composition of the ball.

Because at a time when there are less PEDs in the game, more scouting information that seems to be of greater practical use to the pitchers and improved defensive efficiency, the trend is indisputable. Teams are scoring far fewer runs, and teams are morphing into one largely indistinguishable lump -- with the exception of Oakland, which so far is to 2014 what the Tigers were to 1968. In 2000, 17 teams scored more than 800 runs, and right now, the Athletics are the only team on track to plate more than 800 this year.

In 2000, three pitchers posted ERAs below 3.00. This season? As of Thursday morning, 27 pitchers had ERAs below 3.00.

In seasons past, the common refrain of general managers in the last days leading up to the trade deadline was that you couldn’t find any pitching. Now pitching is plentiful and everybody (other than Oakland and the Angels) is looking for another good hitter. There were groans around the sport the other day when Seth Smith signed a two-year extension with the Padres, because although Smith is generally regarded as a really good platoon player, he could have been the hitter with the most impact in the trade market.

I prefer low-scoring games to the kind of 13-12 games we’ve seen at Coors Field through the years. But I don’t think it’s good for baseball that the offense is regressing into something so thoroughly dominated by pitching and strikeouts. A lot of 10-year-olds sitting high in the left-field stands aren’t going to be inspired by inaction, many minutes spent waiting for contact to be made and for a ball to be hit out of the infield. They may not be as wowed as their parents by Clayton Kershaw’s unique ability to effectively spin both a curveball and a slider, given that pitchers usually throw one or the other. Ten-year-olds would probably be more interested in watching Giancarlo Stanton in the Home Run Derby.

In the Year of the Pitcher, in 1968, five of 20 teams accumulated more than 1,000 strikeouts. In 2014, 29 of 30 teams -- every team but the Royals -- are on track to have more than 1,000 strikeouts.

Babe Ruth placed baseball on a different trajectory in his time with home runs, with offense; he became a superstar through offense. The game’s biggest stars have always been hitters, from Joe DiMaggio to Ted Williams to Mickey Mantle to, whether you like it or not, Pete Rose and Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.

Baseball needs more run production. It needs more scoring. It needs a Murderers’ Row, teams and players that stand out.

It’s a conversation worth starting.

• Pitchers now have the power, writes Tyler Kepner. John Harper writes that he is bored on the Fourth of July.

• Joe Maddon may have aided parity.

• The union is investigating agents, writes T.J. Quinn.

Around the league

• On Thursday’s podcast, Keith Law discussed the Yankees’ spending spree in the international market, and Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald discussed how the Marlins will handle their decisions leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.

• Oakland just keeps winning, even though it played Thursday’s game under protest.

• Toronto fell out of sole possession of first place. The Blue Jays’ defensive plan backfired.

• The Orioles moved up, behind another big day from Steve Pearce.

• After April and May, the Giants ranked fourth in the majors in homers -- and since then, it’s as if a spigot was turned off. They have simply stopped hitting homers and they have stopped winning; they finished a homestand Thursday with another homerless loss.

[+] EnlargeZack Greinke
AP Photo/Al Tielemans/Pool
Zack Greinke allowed one earned run in eight innings pitched against Colorado.
• Zack Greinke kept pumping fastballs past the Rockies’ hitters Thursday night. It will be really interesting to watch and see whether Kershaw does the same today, rather than keeping the same mix of sliders and curveballs in the thin air of Denver.

From ESPN Stats & Info, how Greinke won Thursday:

A) Topped 60 percent fastballs for just the fourth time this season, tying a season high with six strikeouts on his heater.

B) Went inside a season-high 37 percent of the time; opponents were 2-for-13 in at-bats ending on inside pitches (6-for-18 in all other at-bats).

C) Conquered Coors Field: allowed one earned run and 11 baserunners in eight innings pitched after posting 6.23 ERA and 2.13 WHIP in first three starts there since joining the Dodgers.

• Juan Uribe looked good for the Dodgers.

• CC Sabathia was shut down after having some swelling on his knee. He could be headed to microfracture surgery -- the same type of procedure his former teammate Grady Sizemore had twice. The bottom line: The Yankees have no idea whether Sabathia will ever be effective again.

Masahiro Tanaka allowed four earned runs for the first time in his career, snapping his streak of quality starts at the beginning of his career at 16 (tied with Steve Rogers in 1973 for longest in MLB history).

Most Consecutive quality starts to start season
Divisional era (Since 1969)

1985: Dwight Gooden -- 17

2014: Masahiro Tanaka -- 16 *

1994: Greg Maddux -- 16

1973: Steve Rogers -- 16

* Snapped Thursday

Tanaka picked up his MLB-leading 12th win of the season. From the Elias Sports Bureau: He's the first Yankees rookie to win a dozen games before the All-Star break.

• The Athletics have finished their 10-year lease at their old ballpark. In other words, the status quo.

• Alfredo Aceves was suspended.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Dejan Kovacevic writes about what he thinks the Pirates should do.

2. The Rangers held back Yu Darvish.

3. Evan Grant raises the question of whether the Rangers might pursue Nelson Cruz this winter.

Dings and dents

1. Francisco Liriano is making progress.

2. Victor Martinez was back in the lineup.

3. Carlos Gonzalez is almost good to go.

4. Hanley Ramirez says he just can’t take it easy. His potential asking price in the free-agent market has seemingly plummeted this summer. We’ll see.

Thursday’s games

Madison Bumgarner
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
San Francisco starter Madison Bumgarner gave up five runs in five innings in a loss to the Cardinals.
1. The Phillies rallied.

2. Vance Worley saw a good outing get away. Bob Smizik wonders: What was Clint Hurdle thinking with Ernesto Frieri?

3. Madison Bumgarner had another rough outing.

4. The Tigers put up some early runs and Max Scherzer won again.

5. Carlos Martinez shined.

6. Erik Bedard lost.

AL East

• From the Elias Sports Bureau: The Rays have scored four or fewer runs in each of their last 19 games against the Tigers. That's the longest streak by an AL team since the Blue Jays were held to four or fewer runs by the Yankees in 23 straight games from 1996 to 1998.

• A call-up who had more than 3,700 plate appearances in the minors helped the Yankees win.

• Ben Cherington continues to be optimistic about the Red Sox.

• Red Sox prospect Henry Owens has found a rhythm.

AL Central

• The Royals hope that Eric Hosmer builds off his recent success.

• Yan Gomes and Michael Brantley are well-armed.

• For Robin Ventura, the feeling is not quite as dire as last year.

• Phil Hughes’ former teammates came back against him.

AL West

• Albert Pujols prefers playing in the field.

• Ryan Divish weighs in on the All-Star chances for some Mariners.

• For the Astros, the losing continues.

NL East

• Jason Heyward has been a dominant defensive player.

• Bryce Harper and Matt Williams are still learning about each other, writes Adam Kilgore.
From his piece:

Conversations with multiple people familiar with the situation paint a more nuanced picture of the Williams-Harper relationship than the contentiousness that seems to dominate public perception. Rather, the bumps in their partnership have stemmed from fits of public awkwardness between a first-year manager and a 21-year-old still learning major league life. Williams is figuring out the personalities of his players; Harper is at an age when almost all players make their missteps in the anonymity of the minor leagues.

We’ll see. Harper is a smart guy and his remarks about the lineup were unique.

• Sandy Alderson kind of likes his team.

• Casey McGehee is OK with low All-Star support.

NL Central

• Allen Craig shouldn’t hit cleanup, writes Bernie Miklasz.

• Billy Hamilton plays like one of those greats he doesn’t remember, writes John Erardi.

• Kris Bryant and Javier Baez are patient.

• Scooter Gennett has been on a roller-coaster ride.

NL West

• Nolan Arenado is back.

• The Diamondbacks aren’t ready to give up yet, writes Nick Piecoro.

• Jesse Hahn has been excellent for the Padres.


• Manny Ramirez encourages young players to follow the rules.

• Mike Rizzo keeps his thoughts in a notebook.

• The Daily News has more on baseball’s TUE system.

• The Wrigley rooftop owners are somewhat pliable.

And today will be better than yesterday.

Yankees come out ahead in McCarthy deal.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The New York Yankees' acquisition of Brandon McCarthy upgrades a beleaguered rotation that's not getting any help from their farm system, while the Arizona Diamondbacks don't capitalize on one of their most valuable trade assets, getting nothing in return but some financial savings.

McCarthy turned out to be a poor fit for Arizona's hitter-friendly ballpark and almost as hitter-friendly defense, but he fared well in the three things a pitcher can do to help himself most: miss bats, avoid walks and keep the ball on the ground. While some things out of McCarthy's control have gone against him, he's also had trouble keeping his sinker, his best pitch, from drifting up in the zone. He has given up 15 homers, one of every five fly balls he's allowed, and all but two came on sinkers or cutters, pitches designed to generate ground balls or at least weaker contact. All 13 homers off sinkers/cutters were pitches that were left at or above the midpoint of the strike zone.

While Yankee Stadium isn't a pitcher's paradise, McCarthy has never been this homer-prone before, and there almost has to be some element of misfortune in there, even if there's a true drop in his ability to avoid home runs. That's a long way of saying I think McCarthy will be better for the Yanks than he was in Arizona, posting an ERA around 4 rather than 5. It's probably a one-and-a-half win upgrade for the Yanks over Vidal Nuno, perhaps more if you consider the ripple effect of Nuno failing to soak up innings and increasing the workload on the bullpen, but hardly enough to make the team more serious contenders in a tough division.

The Diamondbacks get about $3 million in salary relief and a replacement-level (if that) starter, which gives Arizona four such pitchers in their rotation after Wade Miley. Nuno is a severe fly ball pitcher, thanks to a below-average fastball, with over half his home runs allowed this year coming on the heater -- not that his other pitches are much to write home about. Chase Field is a good hitters' park, especially prone to home runs, so Nuno isn't a great fit. Other than the change in leagues and divisions, there isn't any reason to expect him to improve.

The Diamondbacks will have to hope Archie Bradley or Bronson Arroyo is available soon, as they are going to sport one of the worst rotations in the majors with McCarthy gone and Patrick Corbin out for the year.

The bottom line is that they just dealt away an asset with some value and didn't get any future major league talent in return.

Springer's contact issues a concern.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Let's be resoundingly clear about one thing: George Springer has been everything the Houston Astros could have hoped for and more. His .240/.346/.469 slash line is good for a 127 wRC+, which means that he has been 27 percent more productive on offense than a league-average hitter. It puts him among the top-40 marks in the game, and he's all but certain to smash Lance Berkman's team record for homers by a rookie (21 in 2000).

The Astros have rebounded from a wretched start to play close to .500 ball over the past two months, and Springer's contribution is a huge reason why. In fact, only the performances of both Masahiro Tanaka and Jose Abreu will keep him from being the obvious AL Rookie of the Year award recipient this fall.

Given his plus speed -- he stole 77 bases in the minors in 2012 and 2013 -- and center-field-quality defense, Springer can provide considerable value in other ways than just at the plate. And yet it's difficult to shake the feeling that because of all the incredible things he has done in his short time in the big leagues, we're willfully turning a blind eye to the one thing he's really, really bad at, which happens to be quite important: making contact with the baseball.

So the question must be asked: Will Springer's contact issues ultimately make him merely a good player rather than a great one?

Numbers don't lie

First, the raw numbers. As of Thursday morning, Springer has struck out 98 times in just fewer than 300 plate appearances, which yields a huge 33 percent rate. To use a completely unfair comparison, he's already nearly a quarter of the way to matching the number of times Tony Gwynn struck out over two combined decades of play. Springer isn't Gwynn, obviously, but even within the context of today's whiff-happy game, he still stands out.

Dating back to 2002, when the contact-rate stat was first kept, there have been exactly zero players who have ever put up a qualified season with a contact rate lower than Springer's 61.3 percent. The next-three-lowest marks all belong to Mark Reynolds, who had a brief stint as an elite power hitter but had only one season with more than a 1.7 WAR, then two seasons by Springer's Houston teammate, Chris Carter, who is hitting .181 and might soon be looking for new employment. While you'll see a Josh Hamilton or Jim Thome pop up on the list, it's extremely difficult to do what Springer has been doing and sustain a star-level career over a number of years.

Contact doesn't automatically equate to success, of course, as many low-offense, speedy types will tell you. But it's not exactly a rookie finding his way in his first trip around the bigs, either. In his minor league career, Springer struck out 26.4 percent of the time, which is just as scary. Playing in places such as Lancaster, California., and Corpus Christi, Texas, Springer was swinging and missing more often than all but a handful of big leaguers are this season, and they have to face the best pitching in the world. And in his first three months in the big leagues, Springer's highest strikeout rate came in his most recent month; he posted a whopping 35.1 percent mark in June. His 39 strikeouts during the month are the highest number any big leaguer has had in a month this season.

MLB Miss Rate
Player O-Contact%
George Springer 31.7%
Chris Carter 42.2%
Jay Bruce 45.1%
Marcell Ozuna 45.7%
Ryan Howard 46.4%
Obviously, the contact issues aren't coming as a surprise. As his track record indicates, this is just the kind of player he is, and he does enough other good things to take some of the focus off his strikeouts. As players such as Hamilton and Giancarlo Stanton have shown, you can strike out a lot and still be successful. But Springer is having contact trouble to a degree we've rarely seen, and the problem is that pitchers are learning more about him. As they see his weaknesses -- and they aren't hard to find -- he doesn't exactly have a lot of flexibility to strike out more than he already is.

Where to attack him

Springer is not an undisciplined hacker; his swing percentage of 48.0 is merely the 39th-highest mark in baseball, and that 23.6 percent of his swings come at balls outside the strike zone is fairly unremarkable, below the MLB average. That helps Springer maintain an 11.4 walk percentage, which is actually quite good.

Here's the thing, though: When Springer does swing at a pitch outside the zone, there's no one in baseball less likely to connect with it, and it's not even close.

Of course, there's a theoretical argument to be made that not making contact with a poor pitch allows Springer to still be batting when a better pitch comes along, rather than potentially making weak contact outside the zone. But that hasn't really played out, as the 209 times that he's swung and missed, only 12 times has the plate appearance ended with a hit.

It's not hard to see where pitchers are realizing the hole in Springer's game is. As the wonderful BaseballSavant makes clear, if you're looking to get Springer to swing and miss, throw him something low and away:

On pitches to the lower-right quadrant of the strike zone and the lower quarter of the outside zone, Springer is hitting only .171. His issues particularly have come against sliders; he has swung at slightly more than half of the sliders he has seen this year -- no matter where they are -- and has missed half of them.


Springer is still a rookie, obviously, and rookies can improve. It's probably important to remember, though, that as a college draftee, he's older than you might think he is. He turns 25 in September, which means he's older than established stars such as Stanton, Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Yasiel Puig and teammate Jose Altuve, in some cases by several years. He still has time to adjust to pitchers once they adjust to him, but he's a lot more established in his ways than his rookie status might indicate.

As we've learned over the past decade or so, strikeouts aren't the absolutely unacceptable outcome they once were, and that change in mindset is one of the reasons the whiff rate in baseball keeps increasing. As long as strikeouts are accompanied by enough additional production, it doesn't matter so much whether a hitter's outs come via whiff or grounder or anything else. It's just that there's a limit to how much production you can offer when you're not touching the ball 40 percent of the time you swing. Springer's power and other obvious talents will keep him in the big leagues, of course. It just might keep him from being an elite star.
post #23775 of 73002
Thread Starter 
The A’s, Royals, and Going For It.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
On Friday night, the A’s traded top prospect Addison Russell and some stuff for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. Mike Petriello did a great job of writing up the transaction, highlighting the pros and cons on both sides of things. Well, at least on the A’s side, because getting a prospect of Russell’s quality basically leaves this as a deal with no real cons for the Cubs. It might or might not work out — the nature of baseball makes this true of every decision ever made — but landing an elite young middle infielder in exchange for a player who has out-priced his own value and a rent-a-veteran is a huge win for the Cubs.

In fact, the inclusion of Russell in the deal led some pretty smart folks to compare this trade to one of the more controversial trades in recent history.

Is it me, or did Billy Beane just make basically the same trade that Dayton Moore got eviscerated for 15 months ago?

— Matt Meyers (@mtmeyers) July 5, 2014

So, the A's just traded a consensus top 10 prospect for a 2 year shot at greatness. Therefore GMDM… uh I mean Billy Beane… is a genius.

— Russell A. Carleton (@pizzacutter4) July 5, 2014

A year and a half ago, the Royals traded Wil Myers and stuff for James Shields and Wade Davis. At the time, Myers was generally rated as a top ten prospect, with some even having him as high as top three. In exchange for Myers and Jake Odorizzi, the Royals acquired the rights to Shields for two seasons and Wade Davis for two seasons with three team options, so they acquired as many as seven years of team control of their new acquisitions. In exchange for Russell, the A’s acquired 1 1/2 years of Jeff Samardzija and half a year of Jason Hammel, so they acquired a grand total of two seasons in exchange for their elite young talent. Just based on this fact alone, one could argue that Samardzija trade might even be a worse return than the Shields trade.

And yet, when the deal was announced, this was my reaction.

I'm usually against trading great young talent, but present wins have so much value to OAK right now. Good for them. And great for Cubs.

— David Cameron (@DCameronFG) July 5, 2014

I realize that some people see the disparate reactions to the two trades as evidence that I am biased in favor of some organizations and against others; in this case, for the A’s and against the Royals. After all, the trades do have similarities, and the reactions are dramatically different. While I will freely acknowledge that we’ve said a lot more good things about the A’s moves than the Royals moves over the last few years, I’m totally okay with that; the A’s are perhaps the best team in baseball, so if we weren’t saying more good things about their moves than every other team, we’d have been missing the boat.

Beyond that, however, I think there are two dramatic differences that support different conclusions for these two transaction.

1. The given playoff probabilities for the A’s and Royals at the time of the two trades.

2. The opportunity costs paid by the two teams.

Let’s deal with these two in order. As of today, our Playoff Odds model has the A’s with a 71% chance to win the division and a 28% chance to win a wild card spot; in other words, we’re giving the A’s a 99% chance to make the postseason this year, by far the highest mark of any team in baseball. Even factoring in the chance that the A’s might get passed by the Angels in the AL West and have to play in the Wild Card game, the model still gives the A’s an 86% chance of reaching the division series. Barring some kind of travel disaster that wipes out half the roster, the A’s are going to play in October, and they’re probably going to reach at least the division series. Jeff Samardzija is going to pitch meaningful baseball games for the A’s.

Compare that to where the Royals were when they made the Shields trade. Heading into both 2013 and 2014, our estimates gave the Royals roughly a 20% chance of winning either the division or a wild card spot, with the odds being more heavily tilted towards a less-valuable wild card berth, meaning that they would still have to play their way into the division series. The Royals made the Shields trade on the hope that it would make them a good team; the A’s are already a good team.

Giving up an elite young player on the hopes that it will help you get to October is not the same thing as giving up an elite young player knowing that you’re basically guaranteed at least one trip to the postseason. The dramatic rise in information that teams have about their own chances at reaching the playoffs is one of the primary reasons that we see teams pay higher prices at the trade deadline than they will over the winter, even though they’re acquiring roughly half of the value that they could have gained by making the move over the off-season. The increased information justifies moves in-season that are not justifiable without that information, and the A’s have a postseason near-certainty that the Royals have never possessed.

The wins that Samardzija will add to the A’s are simply more valuable than the wins that Shields added to the Royals, either last year or this year. Just as the number of runs an elite reliever prevents have a larger impact on a teams record than the equivalent number of runs allowed by a starting pitcher, a few wins for a team in the A’s position is more valuable than those same few wins for a team in the Royals position. We accept leverage index as a reality for in-game decision making, and we also should account for leverage in roster construction decisions.

But while the win-curve argument is the one most commonly made to support deals like this, it can be taken too far. There is a long history of teams making bad deadline trades because they overpaid for a short-term upgrade due to their spot on the win-curve. You can’t just make a blanket statement that any team that is a strong favorite to make the postseason should pay any cost to upgrade. The cost/benefit analysis still has to make sense. But that’s the other aspect of this deal that makes it unlike the Myers/Shields trade; the Royals paid a massive opportunity cost that the A’s are not paying.

As I wrote two weeks before the Royals traded Myers to Tampa Bay, Myers shouldn’t have really been considered a “prospect” for Kansas City; he should have been considered their starting right fielder. While Shields added a four win pitcher to their rotation, not using Myers to replace Jeff Francouer was something like a two win downgrade in the outfield, mitigating a large part of the advantage of acquiring Shields in the first place. The Royals got better in the short-term, but only marginally so, because they traded a piece off their Major League roster in order to make the trade. They robbed Peter to pay Paul, so the long-term cost only resulted in a minor short-term upgrade.

Addison Russell, as great as he might be someday, isn’t a big leaguer right now. He has 75 plate appearances above A-ball, and the Steamer rest-of-season projection suggests that he’d have hit like Eric Sogard if the A’s had promoted him down the stretch. Rather than swapping a two win player for a four win player, the A’s swapped a zero-win player for a three-win player. Russell’s value is entirely in the future, and when you’re making a go-for-it trade, you want to maximize your team’s present value. Trading Russell does not make the A’s any worse; trading Myers absolutely resulted in a downgrade for the Royals in right field.

And then there’s the money. One of the primary objections I had to the Myers/Shields trade was the Royals could have simply spent the $9 million they had to pay Shields on a two-win free agent pitcher and have been essentially just as good as they were with Shields and Francoeur. My favorite free agent starter of that winter was Scott Feldman, who signed with the Cubs for $6 million and put up +2 WAR over 182 innings of work. The Royals not only paid the opportunity cost of losing Myers as their right fielder, but they also took on $12 million in salary between Shields and Davis, so they lost the chance to spend that $12 million to upgrade the team without trading away young talent.

That opportunity cost is dramatically reduced in-season, because there are no free agents to go sign instead of making trades. During the winter, teams can essentially substitute from one market to another depending on the prices being asked for in trades and free agency; during the season, there is only the trade market, and if you decide not to pay the price being asked for in trades, then you’re deciding not to upgrade at all. The basic principle of supply and demand dictates that prices are higher when supply is reduced, and the non-existence of a free agent market in-season makes the $5 million in salary increase the A’s are taking on for 2014 basically a non-issue.

Samardzija’s price in 2015 will negate some of the value of controlling his rights for next season as well, so the A’s are still paying some opportunity cost to acquire him, as that’s $9 or $10 million in committed payroll they won’t have to spend that they otherwise would have. But the opportunity cost they are paying is dramatically lower than the one the Royals paid.

While it may be tempting to compare in-season trade prices with off-season trade prices, the circumstances surrounding those markets are not the same. In-season buyers have information that off-season buyers do not, but the tradeoff they make to gather that information is that they lack access to free agency as a trade-market alternative. Those two factors both conspire to make in-season trades more expensive, because buyers are gaining the value of leveraged information and sellers have less competition for available talent.

On the surface, trading Russell and Myers for short-term pitching upgrades might look similar, but these moves were made in very different circumstances, in different markets, and with different information. And Myers was capable of helping the Royals in the short-term in a way that Russell is not. These trades may be similar on the surface, but once you factor in the entire context of the deals, they are more different than alike.

That isn’t to say that this is some kind of great steal for the A’s. They paid a very high price, and this trade will likely hurt them in the long-term. But while the cost of both trades is high, the A’s are going to generate a benefit that the Royals were never likely to see. Trades are about balancing cost and benefit, not just about limiting costs. Both teams paid very high prices for their upgrades, but there are times when paying a high price does make sense. This is that time for the A’s.

For now, Padres' Hahn succeeds giving 'em the old 1-2.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)

In order to get through the lineup multiple times, a starting pitcher generally needs to have more than two pitches. The list of starters with only one non-fastball is short.

So far, new Padres pitching phenom Jesse Hahn belongs on that list, as he's thrown his fastball or curve almost 94 percent of the time this year. But there's also a good chance that Hahn can be more than just the sum of those two pitches, as good as they might be.

For one, the curveball is a pretty good place to start. Particularly Hahn's sort of curveball.

"I really try to get on top of it and pull it down. I think it drops a good bit," Hahn told me before an early July game against the Reds. "I think it has a lot of depth."

Even if he's modest, he's right -- only seven qualified curveballs in the game drop more than Hahn's at 8.8 inches. That makes it a "roundhouse curve," which has a reverse platoon split. In other words, he has a weapon against lefties in that breaking pitch.

In the early going, Hahn is getting batters to swing at the curve. "I'll throw it in fastball counts when guys are sitting fastball -- then they see the curve, and I think they just miss it," he said.

On 0-0 and 2-1 counts, pitchers across baseball throw fastballs 74 percent of the time and curves 9 percent of the time. Hahn has thrown his curve 24 percent of the time in those counts. That's a function of his arsenal as much as it is his strategy, but it has led to more swings than usual.

The average curve gets swings 39 percent of the time -- Hahn has been coaxing a swing on half of his curves this year.

"I have confidence in throwing it for strikes," Hahn said of his curve.

Even if batters don't swing, Hahn is fine with throwing the curve often.

"I just try to throw it down in the zone for a strike," he said. "Don't swing at it, it's a strike; that's just helping me out. I can keep it down in the zone. I'm fine with that."

Hahn walked just over 7 percent of the batters he faced in the minor leagues, which is better than the major league number (8 percent most years). Even though he's slightly worse than league average this year, the average 24-year-old would expect to improve his walk rate for another three or four seasons at least. Let's say Hahn has good command.

Hahn's four-seam fastball sits around 92. That's not plus-plus velocity, but starters are averaging closer to 91 this year. And with 10 inches of horizontal break, Hahn is sporting a sinker that has two inches more break than average.

It's possible that, considering his good command and OK velocity, Hahn could be a little like John Lackey, Jason Hammel or Charlie Morton. He'd have a lot in common with them.

But Hahn is far from fully formed. He stopped throwing his "violent" slider after a bout with Tommy John surgery back in the day, but he still throws a slider. In order to preserve his arm better, he throws it like a "slow cutter" now -- "I don't really go over the side much, I really stay on top of that one. ... It's all in the fingertips."

It's not a finished pitch yet, maybe.

"For me, it's just to show something different and throw it for a strike," Hahn said. "It's a get-me-over pitch."

Hahn has only thrown 13 of them this year, but it does have the potential to add a third velocity range to his offerings. At 80 to 84, it would sit right between his 92-mph fastball and his 74-mph curve. And then there's the change-up.

"I've been working on my change a lot recently," Hahn said. "It is a good pitch, and I just need to throw it more and get comfortable with it and get more confidence with it."

It's tough to evaluate change-ups based on shape and speed, but if Hahn's version doesn't have the velocity separation you'd like for whiffs, it might have the movement you'd like. It breaks 2.5 more inches vertically than your average change and has 1.5 more inches horizontal movement.

His whiff rate on the pitch -- 15 percent -- would be above average, but he's only thrown 26 so far, and so we're talking about four whiffs. Still, the change up might be something to build on.

"Seeing success with it out there -- if I throw it and I get some whiffs and some ground balls and some pop-ups, then I'll gain more confidence with it and throw it more," Hahn said. "Sometimes I get caught up throwing the fastball and curveball."

But that's just how pitchers get to the big leagues, too.

"Out there, you're just battling, so whatever your strengths are, that's what you want to automatically go to."

So right now, Hahn is throwing the two pitches that make him special, and the two others that have a little promise will take some time. That might be OK -- with his combination of command, velocity and curve, Hahn might have what it takes to succeed without them.

The Emergence of Tyson Ross.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
This is me writing a positive post about the San Diego Padres in 2014. That’s notable, because there haven’t been too many good things to say about the Padres this year. Sorry, Padres.

To be fair, it’s mostly because of their lineup, which had a wRC+ of 40 in the month of June. The offensive unit, as a whole, has produced exactly the same WAR for the entire season as Yangervis Solarte, who was just optioned to Triple-A. Some guy named Kevin Kiermaier has nearly twice the WAR of the entire Padres lineup. But that’s for a different post. The position players have been historically bad in San Diego, but the pitching hasn’t been much better.

The Padres pitching staff is 21st in WAR. After a breakout season last year, Eric Stults has a matching ERA and FIP of 5.00. Free agent addition Josh Johnson got hurt and never pitched a game. 16 starts have been given to a lousy combination of Donn Roach, Billy Buckner, Robbie Erlin, Tim Stauffer and Odrisamer Despaigne. Ian Kennedy has been good, but not great. Andrew Cashner has been good, but he’s also been hurt.

Then there’s Tyson Ross.
A few things about Ross: He’s 6-foot-6, which is unusually tall for a baseball player. It’s totally super unusually tall for a baseball pitcher. Because of his height, Ross has some funky mechanics. I mean some really funky mechanics:

(GIF courtesy of Kyle Boddy)

He used to be a reliever and now he’s a starter. He used to be bad and now he’s good. I’ll attempt to demonstrate how and why.

The first thing that happened was Tyson Ross was traded from the Oakland Athletics to the San Diego Padres for basically nothing in 2012. It was in San Diego that he met pitching coach Darren Balsley. I’ll let Tyson tell you about that:

“I had a rough year in 2012 and was kind of searching for things,” Ross said. “But coming here, from Day One in camp, he [Balsley] had a way of getting the best out of you and could convey how to do that. He will tell you one adjustment and the next pitch you’ll see it or feel it. He could see something in the dugout, and before you even talk to him about it, he’ll have a solution brewing in his head.

“I’ve said it before, but that trade was the best thing to ever happen to me.”

I can’t tell you exactly what changes Balsley instilled in Ross, because I don’t have access to the Padres clubhouse and Googling the tubes of the internet yielded me nothing substantial. But I can tell you that several Padres pitchers gush over Balsley in the article linked above. I can also tell you that Tyson Ross, as far as results go, has done a complete 180 since coming to San Diego, turning into something that closely resembles an ace. And this has been going on for nearly a full calendar year now:

ERA FIP xFIP K% BB% HR/9 GB% SwStrk%
Oakland ’10-12
5.33 4.26 4.42 15.6% 10.7% 0.73 50.0% 7.5%
San Diego ’13-14
3.05 3.28 3.30 23.3% 8.7% 0.63 56.8% 11.7%
These aren’t totally perfect comparisons, as Ross bounced back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation before settling in as a starter in late July last year. And we know that pitchers pitch differently in different roles. But to put things into context, let’s isolate just Ross’ innings as a starter since the beginning of last season.

Of all starting pitchers who have thrown at least 200 innings since the start of last season, Ross’ 2.99 ERA ranks 15th, ahead of Jordan Zimmermann. His 3.17 FIP ranks 20th, better than Cole Hamels. His 57% ground ball rate is fourth-best in the MLB and higher than Tim Hudson‘s. And his second-best 12% swinging strike rate puts him right above Yu Darvish. To put it simply, Ross is both filthy and effective.

And it’s mostly because of a slider.

I said earlier that I didn’t know specifically what changes Balsley may have instilled in Ross. But one of them could be a concentrated effort to use the slider, his best weapon, more often. In Oakland, Ross threw his slider 24% of the time. In San Diego, Ross is throwing his slider 35% of the time. With two strikes, that ramps up to over half the time. Tyson Ross has thrown more sliders than any pitcher in baseball this year. And it’s no big secret where he’s going to throw it:

An astounding 47% of Ross’ 700+ sliders this season have landed in that one quadrant. Low and away to righties, low and inside to lefties. Neither side is having much success. Ross’ slider has graded out more than nine runs above average, according to our PITCHf/x leaderboards, making it the fifth-most valuable slider in baseball and one of the 15 best pitches in the entire game. Opposing batters are hitting just .209 against Ross’ slider this year. A quarter of the time they swing at it, they miss.

For your pleasure, here’s a super slow motion clip of Ross’ slider making Buster Posey do something that you don’t see Buster Posey do too often:

Here it is making Cody Ross do something he hopes he never does again:

Here it is another time to strike out Cody Ross, in the same game, for good measure:

Tyson Ross has a good slider. A great slider. But Tyson Ross has always had a great slider. It’s just that he started throwing it more once he got to San Diego. This year, not much as changed with Ross concerning his slider and its usage. But there’s a different part of Ross’ repertoire which has changed.

Last year, Ross threw a four-seam fastball over half the time. Batters hit .310 off of it with a .505 slugging percentage. To put that into context, Yasiel Puig currently has a .308 batting average and a .516 slugging percentage. So basically, every hitter was Yasiel Puig against Ross’ four-seam fastball. Now, Ross has mostly ditched the fastball, more than halving its usage and instead replacing it with a sinker, which he is now throwing a third of the time. It’s especially being used against left-handed batters, when he ramps its usage up to 43%.

The results? Ross is actually running a reverse platoon split now, which is the complete opposite of what we’ve come to expect from a pitcher who throws as many sliders as Ross does. Sliders are supposed to be effective towards same-handed batters but vulnerable to opposite-handed batters. Yet Ross is running a .266 wOBA to lefties and a .309 to righties. Part of that is because his slider is so good that it doesn’t matter who he’s throwing it to. But the sinker is helping too. He’s getting more ground balls. He has induced more double plays than any pitcher in the National League. He’s giving up less homers. And now, when he does throw the four-seamer, guys have the same average and slugging percentage as Yunel Escobar, rather than Yasiel Puig.

A couple years ago, the Athletics totally gave up on Tyson Ross and traded him to the Padres for a couple of non-prospects. While I was writing this post, Tyson Ross became an All-Star. Part of that is because the Padres have been bad, but mostly it’s because Tyson Ross is really good. When he came to San Diego two years ago, he started throwing his slider a lot more and it turned into one of the deadliest weapons in the MLB. This year, Ross stopped throwing as much of the pitch that hurt him the most in his fastball and instead started throwing a good sinker while killing a platoon split in the process. His mechanics and heavy reliance on the slider probably make him an injury risk, but as long as he can stay healthy enough to put on those awful camouflage uniforms every fifth day, the Padres appear to have found something special in Tyson Ross.

It’s Time to Trade Troy Tulowitzki.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
You probably enjoyed your holiday weekend. I watched a good deal of Colorado Rockies baseball, so you tell me which of us had a more productive few days. It’s difficult to remember a time where I’ve seen more incompetent baseball in such a short span. It’s not that Colorado lost three of four, because the Dodgers are a more talented team on a hot streak and it’s not fair to have to face Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke back-to-back. Rather, it’s how the Rockies looked while losing.

Three days in a row, Colorado allowed the Dodgers innings in which they batted around. In the seventh inning on Saturday, the Rockies went through three relievers and seven Dodger hitters before finally getting an out — and turning an 8-2 lead into an 8-7 squeaker. On Sunday, Brooks Brown, who is apparently a real person, entered in relief of Yohan Flande, who is also apparently a real person. Brown faced Miguel Rojas — a .238/.305/.297 hitter in parts of nine minor league seasons and a .230/.288/.246 hitter in his first big league season — with the bases loaded. He hit Rojas to force in a run.

Or, if you prefer pictures, here’s Franklin Morales throwing a slider while Wilin Rosario was expecting a pitchout:

Here’s Rosario on Sunday, after having received a throw from Nolan Arenado, just barely missing a sliding Adrian Gonzalez. This wouldn’t be a big deal if not for the fact that Rosario inexplicably was attempting to tag the runner on a bases-loaded force play.

Obviously, a lot of this is for entertainment effect. Perhaps that’s unfair. We talk about “sample size” a lot here, and with good reason. No one play or one game or even one series should be taken as the story of a team’s entire season. But of course, it’s not just about what happened this weekend. It’s that the Rockies now have lost 17 of 20 and are playing so badly the Diamondbacks are merely a half-game away from escaping the National League West’s basement. In fact, the Rockies are only two games ahead of the Astros for the most losses in baseball. They’re at 0% in our playoff odds. Think about that: There is not a single imaginable scenario for the Rockies to make the playoffs.

This team is not working out, just like the team hasn’t worked for all but two seasons this century. And so the “maybe they should trade Troy Tulowitzki” noises are popping up once again. The difference is that this time, Tulowitzki seems open to the idea. And he’s not wrong to be. Now — or at least this coming winter — is the time.

It’s difficult to argue that Tulowitzki will be more valuable than he is right now. He’s not only the National League’s best hitter, he does so while providing elite defense at the most valuable position. His worst month this season so far, June, saw him post a 155 wRC+. For those who think that he’s a Coors Field creation — and yeah, a .522 OBP at home is absurd — his 132 wRC+ road line would still make him a top-35 hitter and a top-two shortstop. The $114 million he’s guaranteed in the next five years will price out some smaller-market teams, but for a guy who is pretty clearly the second-best player in baseball behind Mike Trout, it’s almost a bargain. Should he keep this up all season, he’ll prove to be a pretty entertaining test case for the ludicrous “only winning teams can have MVPs” debate.

But nearly as important: He’s healthy, and he’s months away from his 30th birthday. Tulowitzki has had five trips to the disabled list in his career, and innumerable bumps and bruises otherwise, including a few days missed this weekend with groin soreness. Despite that, he’s he’s managed at least 500 plate appearances in five different seasons. Still, rare is the player who enters their 30s and manages to become healthier.

Despite all that, the Rockies are on track to finish third or lower for the fifth season in a row. Having one of the best players in the game has not brought success. Now, of course, Rockies fans will likely refute the idea of moving him. The team, they argue, has been destroyed by injuries and isn’t this bad. And they’re right. No team can be this bad, and no team should have Flande, Jair Jurrjens and Christian Friedrich making starts within close proximity of one another. Among starting pitchers alone, Jhoulys Chacin, Brett Anderson, Jordan Lyles, Eddie Butler and Tyler Chatwood are on the disabled list. That’s an entire rotation, and outfielders Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Gonzalez — along with reliever Nick Masset — join them. Arenado, Josh Rutledge, Boone Logan and Rosario are healthy now, but they missed chunks of time earlier. It’s difficult to point anywhere other than injuries as the root cause of the demise of the 2014 Rockies.

When those guys are healthy, this is obviously a different team, though not quite as good as the version that was eight games above .500 in early May. (Shockingly, Charlie Blackmon‘s .389/.434/.642 April has been .256/.303/.388 since; he is now barely above a league-average hitter.) But of course, it really doesn’t matter that health has been the main issue. The 2014 season is dead. Over. A failure. Even the complete roster at full strength won’t change that. The only question that should be considered now is whether the future Rockies contend?

* * *

For Colorado, the idea of rebuilding is distasteful. This franchise is supposed to be on the verge of the next generation of young Rockies. Arenado, 23, is already there and a star. Rex Brothers is 26. Rosario is just 25. Outfielder Corey Dickerson, with a career 132 wRC+ in just under a full season of play, is 25. Chatwood is only 24; Lyles and Tyler Matzek are 23. Butler is 23. Jon Gray is 22. Kyle Parker is 24. David Dahl is 20, though still only in Single-A. There’s a lot of good young talent here. Ideally, Tulowitzki is complementing this group, not leaving it.

But then, reality. Cuddyer is going to be a free agent. Butler made one major league start before going down with a shoulder injury, one that thankfully seems like it won’t require surgery. Gray has been more adequate than dominant in Double-A. It’s possible both are in the 2015 Rockies rotation, yet foolish to count on them both to be above-average immediately. Jorge de la Rosa is going to be a free agent. Morales will be a free agent. Anderson has a $12 million club option that seems unlikely to be exercised. Juan Nicasio has been awful this year, and has rarely ever been good for sustained stretches. Chacin has “fraying in his rotator cuff,” is likely out for the year, and could be a non-tender candidate. Every other young pitcher mentioned above — no matter how talented — has had health concerns. Is that a winning rotation in 2015?

There are a ton of “ifs.” If Chatwood and Lyles stay healthy and productive and if Butler’s arm is OK and if Gray pitches to his potential and if Nicasio and Chacin pitch like the best versions of themselves and not the messes they’ve been this year, then maybe there’s something. Of course, all of that happening at once seems incredibly unlikely. And even if it does, there’s no one there who compares to Kershaw or Greinke or Madison Bumgarner. Every team can play the “if” game, of course, but most other teams that fancy themselves contenders can point to at least one or two near-certainties. The Rockies rotation can’t.

Remember when the Rockies were winning early this year? It took completely unsustainable performances. Blackmon was hitting out of his mind. Justin Morneau had a 158 April wRC+. Tulowitzki had a ludicrous 214 April wRC+. Lyles somehow turned a 4.66 K/9 in April into a 2.70 ERA. Injuries or not, these things were never going to keep up, and they didn’t.

The idea of taking 90% of the same roster into next year, hoping for better health and continued unsustainable production over a long period, and making it a winner, seems unrealistic. And in the meantime, Tulowitzki will be 31 with plenty of additional opportunities to have seriously injured himself and destroyed his value. There’s also a near certainty he won’t be hitting as well as he is right now. Who could?

Maybe it’s less about whether the Rockies can afford to trade Tulowitzki, and more about whether they can afford not to. It hasn’t worked with him so far, and with Josh Rutledge only 25 and shortstop prospects Trevor Story and Rosell Herrera in the system, they have alternatives. With the state of offense in baseball being what it is — and the trade interest should Tulowitzki suddenly appear on the market — might this team might not be better off with a ton of salary saved and high-end, nearly-ready prospects in town? If the prospects are the right ones, of a similar age to the early 20s group mentioned above, this isn’t an Astros-style rebuild. It’s selling high on a very valuable piece to improve other areas that may not be able to support that very valuable piece.

* * *

As for likely trade partners, that’s a different discussion entirely. Both New York clubs could use him, though the Yankees might not have the prospects; the Mets would have to destroy its young pitching core. Detroit has an obvious hole at shortstop, and an owner with bottomless pockets. The Mariners badly need to make an offensive splash, and could easily replace or trade Brad Miller at shortstop. The Cardinals always appear in these rumors. Maybe the Cubs want yet another shortstop. If the Red Sox could do it without including Xander Bogaerts, imagine that left side. If some of these teams may not have the right prospects for the Rockies, well, that’s why three-way trades exist.

The specifics don’t matter yet, though, and you could probably make most of this same argument for Gonzalez. Of course the public-relations aspect would be painful. But it happens. Things can’t stay the same. There’s no point in letting Tulowitzki spend his early-30s in a situation that isn’t likely to be a winning one simply over concerns about his legacy in Denver.

Of course, a Tulowitzki trade perhaps could open a wormhole. Maybe that puts Cuddyer, if healthy, De la Rosa and LaTroy Hawkins (who all should be traded this year, no matter what) on the move, plus Gonzalez and Morneau. Maybe ownership decides it has had enough of the bizarre Dan O’Dowd-Bill Geivett pairing. There’s a lot of ways this could go. Whether it’s now or this winter, it’s time.

Prospect Watch: Christian Walker, Anthony Alford.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Christian Walker, 1B, Baltimore Orioles (Profile)
Level: Double-A Age: 23 Top-15: N/A Top-100: N/A
Line: 374 PA, .307/.366/.542, 20 HR, 8.6% BB, 19.5% K

With Chris Davis suffering through a disappointing season, Christian Walker is picking a perfect time to develop into one of the better first base prospects in the minors.

Chris Davis is one of the best player acquisitions by the Orioles in recent memory. The slugging first baseman hit 86 home runs between 2012-13. Unfortunately, he’s having a poor season in 2014 with a triple-slash line of .201/.319/.366 with 13 home runs in 72 games. Davis, 28, has one more season of arbitration eligibility and will then become a free agent after the 2015 season. Between now and then, the club will face a tough decision on the former Texas Rangers’ future; he’s making more than $10 million this year.

Further complicating matters (or perhaps making the decision easier), 23-year-old first-base prospect Christian Walker is tearing up Double-A. The young hitter features a triple-slash line of .307/.366/.542 in 86 games. Originally known for his ability to hit for average, Walker has seen his power output increase significantly over the past three seasons (Isolated Slugging percentages: .136 in 2012, .155 in 2013 and .235 in 2014) while also maintaining a solid batting average and on-base percentage.

Walker has a respectable walk rate in 2014 at 8.6% but he’s seeing a ton of pitches and often works himself into favorable hitting counts. He shows a good eye, recognizes breaking balls and doesn’t chase bad pitches. Listed at 6-feet and 220 pounds he’s not a huge guy but he generates his power with a relatively short stroke that’s quick to the ball. He maintains his ability to hit for average because of his low-maintenance mechanics, which help him avoid the prolonged slumps than often plague power hitters — as well as a willingness to pepper singles all over the field.

Teams have clearly figured out that Walker’s power is to his pull side, and the Akron (Cleveland Indians) pitchers worked him constantly away in the July 5 matchup. To his credit, he took pitch after pitch and waited for the hurler to make a mistake. Walker has hit just one home run to right field and one to right-center. His remaining 18 home runs in ’14 have gone to left field. Ten of his 15 doubles have been to left field.

Walker failed to make the Orioles Top 15 Prospects list at FanGraphs prior to the 2014 season. Baseball America ranked the first base prospect 18th on their Top 30 pre-season ranking. Now that his pull power is developing, Walker should now fit easily among the Orioles Top 10 prospects on most lists. Despite that fact, he’ll continue to face doubters due to the lack of successful 6-feet-and-under first basemen in Majors. Among the Top 15 first basemen in the Majors (per WAR), only three stand 6-feet or less — Brandon Moss, a converted outfielder; Mike Napoli, a converted catcher; and Carlos Santana, a converted catcher. Both Moss and Santana offer coveted power from the left side.

Even so, don’t expect Walker to come up short in his quest for a big league promotion.

Anthony Alford, OF, Blue Jays (Profile)
Level: Low-A Age: 19 Top-15: N/A Top-100: N/A
Line: 55 PA, .286/.364/.429, 2 HR, 5 SB, 5-17 BB-K

Anthony Alford faces a tough decision as a two-sport athlete splitting his time between professional baseball and college football.

It’s easy to forget about Anthony Alford. Despite being a highly-touted prep prospect prior to the 2012 amateur draft, he turned pro with the Jays but has received fewer than 100 at-bats in three seasons. And no, it’s not because he’s been battling injuries. The athletic outfielder signed a contract that allows him to play college football — as a defensive back (formerly quarterback) — each season at the University of Mississippi (and formerly Southern Mississippi). The soon-to-be-20-year-old prospect reportedly left to prepare for his upcoming college football season after Sunday’s Low-A ball game in Lansing.

In an organization that has struggled to develop home-grown hitters, Alford is an intriguing commodity. The club has already committed a $750,000 bonus, a third-round draft slot (He was arguably a fringe-first-round talent with signability concerns) and conceded at least three years of development to the Mississippi native. Because he’s not a top-of-the-line NFL prospect, Toronto may still be able to sway him to turn his attentions to the diamond on a full-time basis but it will hopefully be sooner rather than later.

At this rate, he’ll continue to fall further and further behind his same-aged peers and he also risks serious injury while playing football. Not only that, he has only two more years of development after this season before the Jays have to decide whether or not to offer him an all-import 40-man roster spot to protect him from the advances of other organizations in the Rule 5 draft.

Interestingly, Alford’s A-ball teammate D.J. Davis has a similar profile as a speedy, athletic outfielder with just enough power to tease the senses. However, although Alford has less than 100 at-bats of pro experience in three seasons, he seems to be further along in his baseball development than the 17th overall pick from the 2012 draft who has just under 800 at-bats.

Imagine what Alford could do if he focused on baseball full time.

Prior to Sunday’s appearance, Alford was hitting .286/.364/.429 through 49 at-bats. A small sample size to be sure, but also impressive considering his lack of experience and split focus. It speaks to his natural athleticism. However, his 17 strikeouts in 13 games displays the glaring need for further development — including repetitions and eye-balling a thousand more breaking balls.

Alford gave scouts a reason to salivate during his first four games in Low-A ball after opening the year in short-season ball. During his first four games in Lansing — leading off — he went 8-for-20 with four stolen bases is as many attempts. He’s shown blazing speed on the base paths with instincts and a quick bat with raw power potential.

The Yankees Bet on Brandon McCarthy and xFIP.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Yankees just pulled a rare feat by trading Vidal Nuno to the Diamondbacks for Brandon McCarthy. Only once in the last five years has a team traded for a pitcher whose results were so out of whack with their process and peripherals. Of course, that was when the Dodgers traded a player to be named later to the Phillies for Joe Blanton in 2012, but the Yankees have a few reasons to believe that this will turn out better for them than that trade did for the Dodgers.

ERA does not tell the full story of Brandon McCarthy‘s season so far. Look across his line, and you see career-best strikeout (20%) and ground-ball rates (55.3%) paired with his customary excellent command… and then you see that he’s giving up twice as many home runs on fly balls as he has his whole career.

Let’s focus first on the stats by themselves, without context. We can look at his xFIP for short-hand on his walk, strikeout and fly-ball rates, and we can see a career-best number there. And we can see the big gap between his ERA and xFIP. And we can look for the 20 other qualified starting pitchers that have had the biggest such gaps in the first half. And we can create this list:

2012 Tim Lincecum 9.7 4.7 1.0 0.333 59.2% 43.5% 12.4% 6.42 3.88 -2.54
2009 Ricky Nolasco 8.9 2.1 1.2 0.341 58.1% 36.3% 10.7% 5.76 3.46 -2.30
2012 Jake Arrieta 7.9 2.8 1.2 0.324 58.2% 42.9% 12.9% 6.13 3.84 -2.29
2014 Brandon McCarthy 7.6 1.6 1.2 0.345 66.7% 55.3% 20.0% 5.01 2.89 -2.12
2013 Wade Davis 8.3 3.9 1.2 0.381 66.3% 38.3% 13.5% 5.89 3.99 -1.90
2013 Rick Porcello 7.4 1.8 1.0 0.323 65.4% 57.1% 15.9% 4.90 3.02 -1.88
2013 Joe Blanton 7.5 2.1 1.8 0.343 70.6% 44.2% 18.1% 5.53 3.74 -1.79
2014 Ricky Nolasco 6.3 2.4 1.4 0.362 68.7% 40.8% 12.2% 5.90 4.15 -1.75
2013 Edinson Volquez 7.7 4.2 0.7 0.342 63.3% 48.3% 8.8% 5.74 4.05 -1.69
2010 Kevin Millwood 7.0 2.9 1.7 0.337 67.6% 38.6% 14.8% 5.77 4.11 -1.66
2011 Roberto Hernandez 5.4 2.9 1.3 0.288 59.4% 57.9% 15.6% 5.78 4.14 -1.64
2010 James Shields 8.5 2.0 1.5 0.330 67.7% 40.5% 14.3% 4.92 3.32 -1.60
2010 Scott Kazmir 5.9 4.8 1.7 0.288 63.3% 40.1% 13.0% 6.92 5.33 -1.59
2011 Chris Volstad 5.9 2.7 1.4 0.309 66.4% 51.2% 16.5% 5.40 3.82 -1.58
2012 Joe Blanton 7.8 1.3 1.6 0.305 66.1% 42.5% 16.9% 4.92 3.43 -1.49
2010 Nick Blackburn 3.2 2.5 1.8 0.326 66.2% 48.0% 14.8% 6.40 4.92 -1.48
2009 Cole Hamels 7.8 1.7 1.4 0.343 71.3% 39.4% 13.5% 4.87 3.43 -1.44
2009 Scott Baker 7.3 1.9 1.6 0.282 62.8% 32.8% 12.6% 5.42 3.98 -1.44
2012 Adam Wainwright 8.6 2.5 0.9 0.333 67.7% 51.8% 13.9% 4.56 3.12 -1.44
2011 Ryan Dempster 8.3 3.2 1.1 0.326 68.3% 46.0% 12.8% 5.01 3.58 -1.43
Average 7.3 2.7 1.3 0.328 65.2% 44.8% 14.2% 5.56 3.81 -1.75
Obviously, it takes a confluence of track record and bad luck to get on this list. If you haven’t shown some promise, you’re not going to continue getting chances. But these pitchers also had terrible numbers in the parts of the game where they haven’t been shown to have great control over results. This group’s strand rate (65.2%) and home run per fly ball rate (14.2%) in particular, are well above the league’s number (generally 70% and 10% in any given year). And not in a big enough sample to believe they’ve earned those numbers.

So what did this group do in the second halves after their disastrous starts?

2012 Tim Lincecum 8.7 4.0 1.2 0.281 79.1% 48.6% 17.4% 3.83 3.75 -0.08
2009 Ricky Nolasco 10.0 2.2 1.1 0.290 64.4% 40.6% 11.2% 4.39 3.00 -1.39
2013 Wade Davis 5.9 3.8 0.6 0.361 69.0% 42.2% 5.6% 4.99 4.72 -0.27
2013 Rick Porcello 7.1 2.8 0.8 0.310 74.6% 52.4% 12.1% 3.82 3.49 -0.33
2013 Edinson Volquez 7.2 3.9 1.5 0.294 66.7% 47.4% 17.9% 5.73 4.08 -1.65
2010 Kevin Millwood 5.2 3.3 1.1 0.291 74.8% 35.4% 8.1% 4.23 4.92 0.69
2011 Roberto Hernandez 5.0 2.9 0.8 0.296 65.1% 50.9% 9.6% 4.59 4.21 -0.38
2010 James Shields 8.1 2.6 1.6 0.358 68.9% 41.7% 13.2% 5.59 3.82 -1.77
2010 Scott Kazmir 5.2 4.7 1.3 0.270 76.4% 37.5% 9.4% 4.37 5.55 1.18
2011 Chris Volstad 7.1 2.6 1.0 0.313 73.1% 54.5% 13.7% 4.04 3.35 -0.69
2012 Joe Blanton 7.9 2.0 1.0 0.314 70.1% 47.7% 13.0% 4.35 3.26 -1.09
2010 Nick Blackburn 4.7 1.9 0.7 0.258 72.1% 57.1% 9.6% 3.54 3.76 0.22
2009 Cole Hamels 7.8 2.4 0.9 0.289 73.1% 41.6% 7.9% 3.76 3.84 0.08
2009 Scott Baker 7.3 2.5 0.9 0.271 77.9% 34.0% 6.9% 3.28 4.32 1.04
2012 Adam Wainwright 8.1 2.2 0.5 0.296 67.9% 49.6% 6.3% 3.28 3.35 0.07
2011 Ryan Dempster 8.6 3.1 1.3 0.313 69.1% 44.7% 14.1% 4.76 3.81 -0.95
Average 7.1 2.9 1.0 0.300 71.4% 45.4% 11.0% 4.28 3.95 -0.33
Better. Their collective ERA dropped a full run, as did the gap between their xFIP and ERA. They gave up fewer home runs, too, on a more normal home run per fly ball rate. Their strand rate regressed to league average. Their batting average on balls in play even regressed to a league average number.

There are two caveats here, however:

1. There’s a bit of survivor bias; due to injury, Jake Arrieta didn’t pitch in the second half in 2012, for example. Joe Blanton was on this list twice but was released once by the Angels after his poor early season in 2013. Pitchers who might not have regressed, for one reason or another, could have been prohibited from giving that non-regressing performance, thus skewing the numbers a bit.

2. The group’s results improved significantly, but they still underperformed their second xFIP by three-tenths of a run, and their second half xFIP was worse than their first half xFIP. In other words, players that underperform to this degree for half a season aren’t likely to continue to underperform to that same level, but they might be likely to still underperform, and you shouldn’t expect their second half performance to match their first half peripherals.

Of course, the Yankees would probably take a 4.30 ERA from their new pitcher, who might also welcome that number after his rough start. Especially given that the cost was minimal, and McCarthy has a track record of success that suggests that a poor three months probably doesn’t mean that he’s now permanently terrible.

For one, McCarthy’s xFIP is the best on that list above. His combination of stellar walk and ground-ball rates is really only equalled by Rick Porcello in 2013. And it’s built on a compelling back story — McCarthy bulked up this offseason in an effort to have more staying power, and in return, his velocity increased to a career high.

And though McCarthy has been looking for a better change up ever since he switched to featuring the sinker, his home run problem this year hasn’t been a function of a platoon split. He’s had a better strikeout, walk and home-run rate against lefties than righties this year. Not that the split is sustainable — he still has slightly worse numbers against lefties than righties for his career — just that lefties can’t be blamed for his homer rate this year. Perhaps the 11 home runs he’s given up in the hitter friendly parks in Arizona and Colorado (versus the four he’s given up elsewhere) have a little more to do with the ledger standing as it does.

At least the Yankees and their home park — third-friendliest in the league to lefty power hitters — can hope so. They’ve got the rest of the (non-ERA) numbers on their side, it looks like.
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Really happy for Tyson. pimp.gif

Met him at spring training and he was a great guy. Didn't work out here in Oakland but glad to see him get some shine.
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Kyle Seager replacing Encarnacion on the AL Roster.
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Seeing a lot of Red Sox fans I know hating on Jeter being the starting SS for the AL mean.gif Clearly they don't get it.
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Bronson arroyo to undergo Tommy John

Lol dbags
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Kluber was snubbed big time
Team Cleveland OG member #5
Team Cleveland OG member #5
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Originally Posted by threeoneoh View Post

Bronson arroyo to undergo Tommy John

Lol dbags

What a terrible year for Arizona laugh.gif
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@Proshares Hey Pro, do you have any real comprehensive views on the Shark/Hammel deal?

The ones I have found are just kinda basic, I was lookin for one of those in depth articles you always find that breaks down the trade values on each side.

(Note, I'd like to steal it for the Cubs thread laugh.gif )
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^ laugh.gif

Cardinals/ Pirates Ran has been in the area. They play .5 an inning then put the tarp on. mean.gif

Ryan Zimmerman looking like Scott Smalls.
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Watching Ryan Zimmerman throw the ball to 1B makes me want to fling myself off of the top of the Washington Monument sick.gifmean.gif
post #23785 of 73002
TB lost and Bos looking like **** while losing. It's a good night for the world smokin.gif
post #23786 of 73002
Jered Weaver just came out of his game in the third inning nerd.gif
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post #23787 of 73002
I've always been a fan of Coco Crisp. Glad he's finally found a home in Oakland
post #23788 of 73002
Nats have lost 9 straight in extras at home mean.gif
post #23789 of 73002
Originally Posted by madj55 View Post

Nats have lost 9 straight in extras at home mean.gif
post #23790 of 73002
Originally Posted by ChampCruThik View Post

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