New Hall of Fame voting rule is a mistake.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
For Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire, the chances for Hall of Fame induction through the vote of the writers appears to be all but eliminated, given the implications of the rule change announced Saturday. Maybe you agree with that, maybe you disagree.
But the chances for some players who haven’t been linked in any way to performance-enhancing drugs, like Tim Raines, will also be hurt, which is flat-out ridiculous.
Under the terms of the new rules, players will now appear on the Hall of Fame ballot for 10 years, rather than 15, a switch that also accelerates the time frame in which the issue of past PED use can marinate in the minds of voters.
To date, a clear majority of the BBWAA members have determined that they will withhold their votes for players based on either an established or suspected link to performance-enhancing drugs. Last year, for example, Bonds received 34.7 percent of the vote, after receiving 36.2 percent in his first year. Jeff Bagwell -- a player with overwhelming statistical credentials for the Hall -- has never been linked to PEDs in any substantive way, other than suspicion, and he hasn’t received more than 59.6 percent of the vote. (Full disclosure: I voted for Bonds and Clemens in each of the two years they’ve been on the ballot; I have also voted for Bagwell, and I have voted for McGwire in all but one year.)
But precedent in the voting will soon be hardened by the new rules. McGwire has already been on the ballot for eight years, and once his time on the ballot expires -- in January 2017 -- the issue will presumably be cemented for many voters. McGwire polled at 23.5 percent in his first year on the ballot, in 2007, and by last winter, his vote percentage had dipped to 11 percent. He has virtually no chance to be elected, or inducted.
Once McGwire comes off the ballot, there logically can be no softening in the writers’ blacklisting of suspected or proven PED users, despite the reality that the Hall of Fame already has members who have acknowledged past PED use.
The worst part of the Hall of Fame voting process is the annual public flogging of candidate credentials. Every winter for 15 years, Jack Morris had to read and hear from writers that his career of 18 years and 3,824 innings was inadequate in some way, and there’s something unusual and cruel about that. For only that reason, I’m glad about the change from 15 to 10 years.
But it’s very surprising that the baseball writers and the Hall of Fame haven’t agreed to increase or even eliminate altogether the ballot limit of 10. This was a significant problem for a lot of voters last winter and promises to be so into the future. As Jayson Stark and Tim Kurkjian and I have written and discussed many times, all we want to do is judge each candidate on his own merits, rather than try to figure out how we want to pick 10 names out of the 15 to 20 players who might be worthy.
The limit of 10 is incredibly arbitrary, and really, what’s the point of the rule? Why not 11? Why not 13? Why not eight? Why not two or six, or 16? What makes 10 more appropriate than any other number?
The only criteria that should matter in a vote is whether a player is judged to be Hall of Fame-worthy. That’s the only thing that’s important. And the simple fact is that by holding to the number of 10, Curt Schilling and Raines and Mike Mussina and other players worthy of the Hall are going to be left off ballots because of the logjam of candidates, and not because they weren’t elite players.
Now, with the eligibility reduced from 15 years on the ballot to 10, time is quickly running out for candidates. Raines has only three years left on the ballot, having seen his percentage climb to 52.2 percent two years ago and then dip to 46.1 percent, perhaps because of the Rule of 10 logjam.
The moral majority of the baseball writers is apparently going to prevail in its stance against Bonds, Clemens, etc., despite the fact that those two -- as well as McGwire, Bagwell, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Mike Piazza and others -- are regarded as members in good standing by both Major League Baseball and the Hall of Fame. (That is unlike Pete Rose, who is permanently banned.)
But in the meantime, players who have no apparent links will get caught in the crossfire of the Rule of 10, which is really ridiculous.
• Hyun-Jin Ryu, who starts against Jake Peavy on "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 ET on ESPN and WatchESPN), likes to pick the brain of his teammates, and recently, he made a couple of grip changes with pitches after chatting with a couple of experts: Josh Beckett, who demonstrated his curveball grip, and Clayton Kershaw, who showed him how he threw his slider.
On Saturday, Kershaw shut the Giants out on two hits, needing only 113 pitches, while walking one and striking out seven. Kershaw pitched the Dodgers into first place, Dylan Hernandez writes.
From ESPN Stats and Information, how Kershaw beat the Giants on Saturday:
A. He threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of 30 hitters, retiring 20 while the other reached via error.
B. He allowed one hit in 17 at-bats ending in non-fastballs, striking out five batters and walking none in those at-bats.
C. For the first time this season, Kershaw did not allow a line drive.
Lowest career ERA vs. single team
Player ERA Opponent
Note: Past 100 seasons (min. 20 starts)
Source: Elias Sports Bureau
Clayton Kershaw 1.40 Giants
Sandy Koufax 1.44 Mets
Mel Stottlemyre 1.49 AngelsKershaw is tied for the MLB lead with 12 wins this season. He is 9-0 with a 0.94 ERA since June 1, with opponents batting .147 against him in that span.
Kershaw lowered his career ERA to 1.40 against the Giants; according to the Elias Sports Bureau, that's the lowest by any pitcher against a single opponent in the past 100 years (minimum 20 starts), as seen in the chart at right.
• Peavy arrived in San Francisco during the Giants’ game here Saturday, and as he takes the mound Sunday night, he holds a career record of 14-2 with a 2.21 ERA in 25 starts against the Dodgers.
He will make about a dozen starts for the Giants before he becomes a free agent at season’s end, assuming he stays healthy, so he’ll probably pitch something between 65 and 75 innings. In exchange for that -- and for the Red Sox eating about half of the $5 million owed to Peavy for the rest of the season -- the Giants gave up two of the top 10 prospects in their organization, young arms Heath Hembree and Edwin Escobar.
Some officials have talked about how in recent seasons, the perceived value of prospects had climbed so high that it was out of touch with reality, and what we seem to be seeing this summer is a market correction. Rather than cling to shortstop Addison Russell, Oakland moved him for two veteran pitchers, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. The Angels, trying fix their bullpen and run down the Athletics in the AL West, gave up a handful of prospects for Huston Street. The prospects that Detroit surrendered for Joakim Soria are seen as solid. And now the Giants -- who have been a win-now organization -- are moving aggressively.
The Peavy trade supports a winning initiative, Ann Killion writes.
• In the aftermath of the Peavy trade Saturday, some of the other Dodgers jokingly tried to convince Matt Kemp that they heard he was being traded to the Red Sox, and that a deal was imminent. Not true; Kemp is owed so much money (about $115 million) that any trade would be extremely complicated, with the Dodgers expected to eat a ton.
Kemp has actually been swinging better of late, with an impressive extra-base hit Friday; he’s got nine hits in his past 24 at-bats.
• Dee Gordon says that Yasiel Puig's whistle to call for fly balls is so loud and so distinct that he isn’t worried about any confusion, or about being run over by the linebacker-sized center fielder.
• As the Giants wait for Angel Pagan to return, they could use a right-handed hitter with the ability to play center field, like the Padres’ Chris Denorfia.
Around the league
• John Henry takes stock of the Red Sox as they listen to offers for Jon Lester and others.
The Red Sox players were unhappy with a decision by the staff not to challenge a play.
• You can’t stop the Rays, you can only hope to contain them.
It’s worth repeating an important factor in the David Price deadline decision: The folks who run the Rays are really, really competitive. And sure, if somebody put a whopper offer in front of them for Price before Thursday’s deadline, they’d think about it, and might even pull the trigger. But they desperately want to win and they work to win, and aren’t just about correctly managing the resources of a small-market team.
• There was a Triple-A fight on Saturday, and it got really ugly.
• Brad Ausmus was ejected after a call was overturned. The disagreement between Ausmus and Jim Joyce continued after the game, writes Lynn Henning.
Meanwhile, the Royals just keep on winning.
• The Blue Jays are seemingly putting the pieces back together, with Marcus Stroman developing into a weapon and some players making their way back from injury; they beat the Yankees on Saturday, ending a losing streak in Yankee Stadium.
Unfortunately, Edwin Encarnacion suffered a setback in his rehab.
• Fernando Rodney fired an arrow after picking off David Lough to end the game.
• Troy Tulowitzki flew to Philadelphia to have his thigh examined.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. If Minnesota doesn’t think it will re-sign Kurt Suzuki to an extension for 2015 and beyond -- and presumably he’s looking for a multiyear deal -- it would make a whole lot of sense for the Twins to move the catcher before the trade deadline.
Suzuki is making $2.75 million this season, and having a really good summer, hitting over .300 after being named an All Star for the first time, but there is no chance that Minnesota will extend a qualifying offer of $15 million to him in the offseason, meaning the Twins won’t get draft pick compensation. The asking price on Suzuki is said to be really high right now, which is why the Cardinals signed A.J. Pierzynski instead of waiting for Suzuki. But at some point over the next 100 hours, Suzuki could fit into a deal with Baltimore or the Cards.
2. Allen Webster will start for the Red Sox on Sunday.
3. Mike Carp has asked for a trade, writes Peter Abraham.
4. Buck Showalter is considering a tweak to the Orioles’ starting rotation.
5. Danny Espinosa has been benched the past couple of days.
6. The Phillies are unlikely to generate much value at the deadline.
7. Pedro Alvarez was benched for the third straight game.
8. Martin Prado is likely raising his trade value, writes Zach Buchanan.
Other teams are being told that Prado is not available.
Dings and dents
1. Avisail Garcia should be back in September.
2. The Rangers’ starter on Saturday night was injured.
1. Michigan native Matt Shoemaker beat Justin Verlander and the Tigers.
2. Pierzynski got three hits in his debut with the Cardinals.
3. Johnny Cueto helped to end the Reds’ losing streak.
4. The Indians lost a big lead.
5. The Brewers bounced back.
6. The Orioles’ game ended with a runner being picked off at second base.
7. Jonathon Niese had a bad inning.
8. Cliff Lee got knocked around, again.
9. Jeff Locke had some struggles.
10. The Marlins are surging.
11. The Braves just kept the line moving.
12. The Astros lost again.
13. The Mariners snapped out of an offensive slump.
14. Some home runs turned Sonny Gray into a winner.
15. The Angels won with role players, again.
• Carl Yastrzemski thinks David Ortiz is the second-greatest Red Sox player, behind Ted Williams, as Dan Shaughnessy writes.
• The Yankees are relying on a mound makeover.
• Brian McCann's inexperience at first base cost the Yankees, writes Larry Brooks.
• Understudies have helped spark the Rays.
• The Indians have imposed a Francisco Lindor quarantine.
• Chris Sale was great again, shutting out the Twins, writes Rachel Blount. From ESPN Stats & Information, how Sale beat the Twins:
A. He allowed just one hit and struck out nine batters in 17 plate appearances that ended with a changeup or slider.
B. He allowed one hit on pitches thrown in the lower third of the strike zone or lower, racking up seven strikeouts on those pitches.
C. He got ahead of hitters on the first pitch of a plate appearance 20 times, recording 11 strikeouts in those plate appearances.
This was Sale's eighth career game with at least 12 strikeouts, tied with Yu Darvish for most in MLB since 2012 (Sale's first season as a starter).
• Danny Duffy keeps it real, writes Vahe Gregorian.
• From ESPN Stats & Information: Saturday marked the A's 29th game of the season allowing one run or fewer, which is the most in MLB. They are undefeated in games in which they have allowed one run or fewer.
• Mark Appel will get a start in Double-A.
• GM Jerry Dipoto has put the Angels’ bullpen in order.
• Ryan Howard clearly doesn’t fit Ryne Sandberg's vision, writes Matt Gelb.
• Allen Craig is in an extended slump, Derrick Goold writes.
• Due to a car wreck, the season is likely over for a Reds prospect, writes C. Trent Rosecrans.
• It’s time to shift strategies versus the shift, writes Gene Collier.
• Tony La Russa’s latest challenge is revamping the Diamondbacks, writes Nick Piecoro.
• Here’s a look at the Rockies’ power structure, from Patrick Saunders.
Hall of Fame
• Tony La Russa’s career is not capped with a Hall of Fame induction. Championships were the residue of La Russa’s preparation.
• Tom Glavine's road to the Hall of Fame started in a Massachusetts high school.
• A common sense approach set Greg Maddux apart from the crowd.
• Saturday was a busy day for Bobby Cox and the other former Braves being honored.
• Frank Thomas' pursuit of excellence ends at the Hall of Fame today.
• Joe Torre will have a great speech, writes Bob Elliott. Torre has gone from Brooklyn to Cooperstown, writes Anthony McCarron. Torre takes his rightful place today, writes Bob Klapisch.
• Roger Angell was honored at the Hall of Fame.
• Eric Nadel praised Rangers fans as he was honored.
• A 1979 brawl between the Yankees and Brewers had everything in it.
• The mistake on a T-shirt giveaway honoring the Rockies’ most prominent player will live in infamy. It’s surprising that they handed out the flawed shirts; Nick Groke has the explanation from the Rockies within this story.
And today will be better than yesterday.
DALLAS KEUCHEL'S TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE WON'T GET IN HIS WAY.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
At different points in his short career, Dallas Keuchel has thrown a slurve and a spike curve. Due to ineffectiveness and injury, the Houston Astros left-hander had to step down his usage of either breaking ball. But they'll be back.
The first breaking ball Keuchel ever threw was a slurve back in high school. But when he got to college, pitching coach Dave Jorn showed him a three-finger change up grip. In what is almost a pitchfork style grip, Keuchel's thumb doesn't touch the ball. Perhaps it's that loose grip that's given him the third-largest horizontal movement on his change among lefty starters in the game.
The pitchfork grip that launched a career.
Along with his low-90s sinker, that change gave him enough weapons to get by without using his breaking pitch much in college.
That arsenal served him well, but he felt he needed a breaking pitch. He had "lost feel for the slurve" he used to have while in high school and so he "came up with a couple spike grips." One won out, and it helped him advance through the minor leagues. It was good enough.
The spike curve that was good enough for a while.
But then Keuchel hit the major leagues. Midway through his second attempt at the league, he still had a career ERA over five. "The curveball wasn't working for me," Keuchel admitted, "and I figured I wanted to make a career out of this."
(Take a look at his big looping curve ball from 2013 here.)
He was right -- the average curve gets 11 percent whiffs and 49 percent ground balls, and his got 5 percent and 48 percent respectively.
So after the season, he re-assessed. "I just kind of took a look back after the season, there were good times, a couple good outings in a row, and then a bad outing." With consistency in mind, the first thing that Keuchel thought of, other than fastball command, was that curve ball.
The slider that fueled a breakout.
He wasn't getting the feel out in front on the spike curve, so he tightened it up, and went back to his old grip. "I figured out a nice little slurve," Keuchel said. That slurve has netted him 22 percent whiffs this year -- the average slider gets 15 percent, so "nice" and "little" might be underselling it a bit. That consistency he was looking for is evident too. The ball rate on his slider is 38 percent compared to the 48 percent he saw with the curve.
(Take a look at his different, more sweeping breaking ball here.)
Everything was humming along with his new pitching mix this year, and he was one of the year's great breakout stories. But then something happened in his wrist.
"It was kind of like a mini-golf ball," Keuchel said of the fluid that had built up there. But once the doctor was summoned, they assured him nothing was wrong, it was just fluid.
But it did affect his breaking ball. "I didn't really have a good feel for the slider," Keuchel said of the first few starts after the injury.
Thanks to BrooksBaseball, we can see his pitching mix graphically. Check out the red line that represents his slider, and where it drops off a cliff temporarily. That game against Tampa is where he first felt the injury.
"It was going to take me a few starts to get back to the feel that I had before," Keuchel said, and he's not worried. "I know it's going to come back, it's just a matter of getting the feel back."
A lot of what Dallas Keuchel does is based on command of the sinker and the change, and that command also took a leap forward this year.
"My stuff is as good as anybody else's and even though I don't throw that hard, I can command the baseball," he said. "A lot of it had to do with my first opening day this year, when I got into the starting rotation out of spring training," Keuchel said. "A lot of the worrying went by the wayside."
That confidence, plus a new breaking ball, has led to the breakout. Even if it's taken a couple weeks off, the slider will be back. It's been gone before, and returned.
Will the spike curve ever be back? Maybe.
"I've thought about doing an eephus curveball, I threw it a little last year," Keuchel admitted with a smile.
Carlos Santana Doesn’t Care For Balls In Play.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
In a series of three GIFs from Friday night’s baseballing match between the Indians of Cleveland and the Royals of Kansas City, I’ll attempt to visually encapsulate Carlos Santana‘s 2014 season to date:
In the second inning, Santana hit his team-leading 18th home run. Later in that very long second inning, Santana drew his MLB-leading 72nd walk. In the ninth, he struck out for the 87th time. Thus became the sixth game this season in which Carlos Santana had at-bats end in all three true outcomes (walk, strikeout, home run). Only Giancarlo Stanton, with eight, has had more TTO games than Santana.
The next day, Santana hit two more bombs and drew another walk. He didn’t strike out, but he did raise his TTO percentage to 43%. That is to say, nearly half the time Carlos Santana has come to the plate this season, he’s either struck out, walked or hit a dinger. That’s quickly approaching Adam Dunn territory, and Adam Dunn is the King of the TTO. In fact, only Dunn, Stanton, George Springer, Chris Davis, Chris Carter and Mike Napoli have a higher TTO% than Santana this year. Difference is, these are all notorious TTO guys. Dunn’s career TTO% is 51%. Everyone knew Springer was going to be a TTO guy. Davis, Carter, Napoli and Stanton all sit between 44-46% for their careers. Prior to this season, 36% of Carlos Santana’s plate appearances ended in a strikeout, walk or homer, which is still high, but not extraordinary high like it is now. This is somewhat of a new thing for Carlos Santana.
The whole season has been somewhat of a strange one for Carlos Santana.
It was announced in Spring Training that Santana would take over as the Indians everyday third baseman. Not only did that not work out (kind of), Santana struggled mightily at the plate (kind of).
On April 11, in just the 11th game of the season, Santana’s average dipped below .200. A month later, it was at .148. A month after that, it was .178. It wasn’t until June 21 that Santana got his average back above .200. Yet he always remained hovering around league-average production thanks to his rare combination of discipline and power. During this “slump”, some wanted him benched. Others wondered if he should be demoted to Triple-A. His name started to pop up as an expendable piece in trade rumors.
Over the last month or so, Santana has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball, but still his average rests at just .232. He’s still striking out more than ever. Yet, thanks to a career-high .224 isolated slugging percentage and .371 on-base percentage, Santana is having the best offensive season of his career. His .368 wOBA and 138 wRC+ would both be single-season highs since becoming an everyday player in 2010. He’s hitting for more power than ever while also getting on base as often as ever. That’s the best possible combination of outcomes for a hitter, regardless of what batting average might lead you to believe.
Not only is Santana having the best offensive season of his career while hitting under .235, he might finish with one of the best offensive seasons of all-time under .235. According to ZiPS, Santana is projected to finish the season with a batting average of .233 and an OPS+ of 131. Since the liva ball era began nearly a hundred years ago in 1920, only five different players have posted an OPS+ north of 130 with a batting average south of .235. Carlos Pena did it most recently in 2009. Jack Cust did it in 2008. Before that, you have to go back 18 years to Mark McGwire‘s 1990 season. Gene Tenace did it three times in the 70′s. Harmon Killebrew did it in 1972 and Mel Ott in 1943. Even if Santana doesn’t end up quite meeting the exact criteria, it’s clear he’s in bizarrely historic company this season.
Even stranger is that there doesn’t appear to be much else out of line with Santana at the plate. There’s nothing different in the way he’s being pitched. He’s hitting both fastballs and offspeed pitches about the same as ever. He’s swinging at the same amount of pitches within the strike zone. He’s making contact at career levels. His batted ball mix has stayed consistent. The only real noticeable differences that sticks out is his career-high HR/FB%, backed by an average fly ball distance of 285 feet, up 11 feet from last season. If anything, given Santana’s spike in homers and strikeouts with no other significant changes, it seems like Santana might just be selling out for power. And selling out for power would make sense given Santana’s situation – the way he’s played defensively and the result it’s had on his batting average. Santana hits into the shift more often than most players in baseball and, as a result, is hitting just .200 on ground balls, well below the league average. Hitting home runs is one way to negate the effect of a shift, and Santana has helped make up for the lack of singles with an increase in his already-elite walk rate.
“But guys who walk a lot don’t drive anyone in!” Well first, two of Santana’s walks this season actually have driven runners in, so it’s not like it’s impossible. But if you’re really of the crowd that places the value of driving in runs over creating runs, Santana’s spike in power has allowed him to drive in runs as often as ever, with his projected 74 RBI falling right in line with totals of 74, 76 and 79 from years past.
Engaging Twitter user Nick W. Schaller also pointed out to me that Santana has improved his baserunning this season by five runs already, becoming an above-league average baserunner after being one of the very worst in the league the last two years. Most notably, Santana is scoring from second base on singles 86% of the time after doing so just 45% of the time prior.
Despite a batting average below .240, Carlos Santana is undoubtedly putting together the best season of his already-impressive young offensive career. His career-high power output is coupled with a league-best walk rate that gives him an elite on-base percentage. His spike in power production has him driving in runs as often as ever while a more aggressive and efficient approach on the bases has him scoring runs as often as ever. He’s creating, driving in and manufacturing runs in every facet of the game. There’s really no arguing with the production Santana has brought to the Indians lineup this season.
If you really needed more proof that batting average doesn’t mean a thing, look no further than what Carlos Santana is doing this year.
The Jake Peavy Deal: Giants and Red Sox Make Win-Win Trade.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Red Sox and Giants struck a Saturday morning near-trading deadline special, with Jake Peavy headed west in exchange for pitching prospects Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree, with the clubs splitting Peavy’s $5M remaining 2014 salary. As with most of this month’s trades to date, real, actual, solid prospects were netted by the selling club. In this case, they’re both pretty close to big league ready. Before anyone rushes to call this a clear win for the Giants – Peavy is 1-9, 4.72, for the season, after all – let’s take a closer look at what the Giants are getting, and how Peavy fits into his new environment.
Truth be told, post-peak Jake Peavy was never a particularly good fit in Fenway Park. He has always been a fairly extreme fly ball pitcher, and that in general is not a good thing to be in that environment. Utilizing my own 2013 park factors, based on granular batted ball data, Fenway had the second highest fly ball park factor, at a whopping 151.1. It’s been ever worse in 2014, at 165.5. Routine fly balls often become doubles in Fenway. Overall, including all batted ball types, Fenway had the highest doubles park factor in 2013, at 125.
The environment that Peavy is headed to is much, much different. In 2013, AT&T Park had the 3rd LOWEST fly ball park factor at 76.0, and thus far in 2014, it has been even lower, at 62.3. There is virtually zero chance to hit the ball out of the park to the right of center field, unless you drive it right down the line.
If you took all of Peavy’s 2013 fly balls allowed, and put half of them in Fenway Park, he would have allowed a .310 AVG-.870 SLG, 130 production relative to the MLB average. Put those same fly balls into AT&T Park, and it drops to .286 AVG-.777 SLG. This is not an insignificant difference. Thus far in 2014, Peavy has already allowed a whopping 31 doubles, 11 of them on fly balls. He has allowed a .298 AVG-.847 SLG on fly balls, 126 production relative to the league. Expect that figure to drop down to near MLB average from now through season’s end.
There’s some other positive regression that should be coming due for the Giants. Hitters are batting .778 AVG-1.159 SLG on line drives allowed by Peavy so far this season, way above the MLB average of .662 AVG-.874 SLG. Let’s not go crazy here – this is post-peak Peavy after all, a guy with slightly below MLB average K and BB rates, not the gaudy figures he put up back in his salad days with the Padres. He is way better than what his traditional numbers say he is this season, however – he is a massive popup generator (11.9%), and his stuff, while not what it used to be, has not deteriorated materially.
He has been a solid if somewhat unspectacular contact manager throughout his career – his career unadjusted contact score, the production he has allowed on batted balls, unadjusted for context, is 93.1, well better than league average. The Giants are getting what should be – in their ballpark – an average to slightly above average major league starter, who has been through the postseason wars recently, and has a great deal of experience pitching in NL West ballparks. This is a good fit for them, and in the NL’s wild seven teams for six spots pennant race, he slots right into the spot vacated by the injured Matt Cain in the rotation. The difference between Yusmeiro Petit and Jake Peavy the rest of the way could be the difference between the wild card and going home, or the difference between a one-game wild card lottery ticket and an NL West title.
Now let’s take a look at the Red Sox’ return. Escobar, 22, is the key piece here. Again, don’t sweat the traditional stats – he’s 2-8, 5.11, at Triple-A Fresno. In fact, the key stats for Escobar are his age and his level of competition. Each season, I compile an ordered list of minor league position player and starting pitcher prospects based on a sliding scale of production and age relative to level of competition. Escobar has fared extremely well on this list, ranking #60 in 2012, #10 in 2013 and #46 at midseason 2014. While this is more of a follow list than anything else – I don’t get overly caught up in the exact rankings – I do now have 22 years of history to draw upon, and to see where current major leaguers ranked when they were prospects. The closest active matches to Escobar are:
- Jake Odorizzi – 4 years in Top 69 – Peak rank #30
- Yordano Ventura – 3 years in Top 69 – Peak rank #23
- Ricky Nolasco – 3 years in Top 55 – Peak rank #40
- Jon Niese – 4 years in Top 65 – Peak rank #52
- Matt Garza – 3 years in Top 49 – Peak rank #12
Oh, and just for fun, Jake Peavy had 3 years in the Top 11, and peaked at #3. Escobar has an above average fastball for a lefty, his changeup flashes above average, and his slider should be an average pitch at the major league level. He has struggled mightily against the opposite hand this season, for the first time in his pro career. If he can overcome this, he should be a contender for a rotation slot in Boston as soon as next spring. He could be what they thought they were getting in Felix Doubront, a solid mid-rotation starter.
Hembree, 25, is a little less exciting, but is what he is – a big man with a big arm, with a slider that can be filthy to righties. He is a born and bred reliever going back to his college days, a one inning per outing guy who has now been at Triple-A Fresno for the better part of three seasons, cracking the Giants’ pen only briefly. He’s not likely to be a future MLB closer, and will need to figure out a way to get big league lefties out – he’s given up 33 baserunners in 14 2/3 innings against them in Fresno this season. That said, he has the raw materials to become a Matt Albers/Scott Atchison type for Boston, a 7th inning guy who will get righties out.
It isn’t either of these two clubs’ first trading deadline rodeo – three very large pieces of hardware have been won by them in the very recent past. The Giants understand how precarious their playoff perch is at present, and how Peavy should fit better in their home environment. They don’t have a loaded system, but pitching is their strong suit, and while Escobar is now gone, Kyle Crick, Adalberto Mejia and Clayton Blackburn remain. The Red Sox haven’t totally given up in the thoroughly mediocre AL East, but they knew a solid offer when they saw one, realize Peavy isn’t a perfect fit in Fenway, and can now give some talented young hurlers – who are better fits – a late-season opportunity. Kudos to both clubs on this one.