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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 889

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Yanks Knicks Jets
Yanks Knicks Jets
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No Days Off laugh.gif
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What do the a's and Tim Hudson have in common?
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9ers need 2 TD's and a FG in the bottom of the 9th to tie.

#Yankeed #TrademarkSymbol
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17-0 though
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Magic number is at 5. pimp.gif
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Yessir and LMAOOO at papelbon
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Originally Posted by Mr Marcus View Post

Yessir and LMAOOO at papelbon
Ump grabbed and handled him like Nucky.
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Thread Starter 
Defensive holes on contenders.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
No team in baseball is perfect, even ones like the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Angels that have more-or-less locked up their division titles several weeks before the end of the regular season. In fact, most teams have at least one player who is actively hurting the team in at least one facet of the game.

Defensively, those black holes are the players every team's pitchers hope to avoid on their allowed balls in play. At best, their defensive mistakes require pitchers to throw extra pitches and earn extra outs. At worst, they are the players who could preemptively end their teams' seasons with untimely misplays and errors, as happened with Matt Holliday and the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 2 of the 2009 NLDS.

Let's take a look at defensive concerns for potential playoff teams.

National League
Washington Nationals: Asdrubal Cabrera, Second Base
Early in the season, the Nationals played musical chairs at second base, rotating between Danny Espinosa and Anthony Rendon when Ryan Zimmerman was healthy and still primarily playing third base. With Espinosa reaching base at a .281 clip, the Nationals smartly addressed the position at the trade deadline by acquiring Cabrera from the Indians. Cabrera has provided the offensive improvement the team was looking for with a .333 OBP since the start of August. His defense is another story. Traditionally a poor defensive shortstop, Cabrera has not improved with the move to second base. In fact, the 11 runs he has cost the Nationals since Aug. 1 are the most in baseball by any player at any position.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Matt Kemp, Right Field
Even when their only real alternatives were Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig, both natural corner outfielders, the Dodgers still moved Matt Kemp off center field in late May. That tells you all you need to know about Kemp's center-field defense. Since, he has continued to be below average in both corner spots, such that his collective minus-23 runs saved are tied for second-worst in baseball. Injuries have likely sped up Kemp's decline, but his defensive performance never matched his natural athleticism because of lapses in concentration and effort. This season, Kemp has multiple instances of plays in which he let a ball bounce off his glove, he mishandled a ball after a hit, he hesitated or recovered slowly, or he threw to the wrong base.

St. Louis Cardinals: Oscar Taveras, Right Field
There are not many holes you can poke in the St. Louis Cardinals defense, who lead baseball with 75 runs saved this season. Oscar Taveras is the only one of their primary position players with a below-average runs saved total, and he has cost the team just three runs in right field. As long as Yadier Molina continues to be healthy, the Cardinals have little cause for concern on defense.

San Francisco Giants: Michael Morse, Left Field
The Giants have been able to hide Michael Morse at first base for good portions of the season when Brandon Belt has been out with injuries. Morse has been a neutral defender at first in more than 300 innings this season. Ideally, that would be his permanent position. Morse might get a few more games at first when he returns from his oblique strain, which might happen this weekend. However, Belt should rejoin the team in another week or two, as well, which will move Morse back to left field, where he has cost the team nine runs in fewer than 600 innings.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Ike Davis, First Base
A few weeks ago, it looked like first baseman Ike Davis might lose his job to third baseman Pedro Alvarez. Given Alvarez's athleticism but inaccurate arm, that could have solved the Pirates' two biggest defensive problems in one move. However, Alvarez suffered a stress reaction in his left foot shortly thereafter and is expected to miss the rest of the season. That forces Davis back into the lead-half of a first-base platoon. With minus-5 runs saved, Davis isn't a terrible defender, but he does struggle to handle catchable throws from his infielders. His 10 such failures are tied for the most at the position this season, and he has the fewest innings of the players nearest him.

Milwaukee Brewers: Rickie Weeks, Second Base
The Brewers have done well to platoon Rickie Weeks with Scooter Gennett, which in addition to consistently providing them with a platoon advantage against their opposing pitchers has limited Weeks' exposure on defense. But even in about 400 innings, Weeks has still managed to cost the team 15 runs, which is worst among second basemen. That is not much of a surprise for Weeks, who has been the fourth-worst defender in baseball since he became a full-time player in 2005.

Atlanta Braves: B.J. Upton, Center Field
The Braves were able to replace one of their overpriced defensive butchers, Dan Uggla, with rookie Tommy La Stella. However, B.J. Upton has three more seasons on his contract after this one and will be more difficult to replace. Upton is still a great athlete and at times is a solid defender, but he is also very mistake-prone. That has been the major issue for him this season, as his 32 defensive misplays and errors is tied for second behind Yasiel Puig among all outfielders.

American League
Los Angeles Angels: David Freese, Third Base
The Angels knew they were trading defense in Peter Bourjos (career 40 runs saved) for offense in David Freese (career minus-28 runs saved), and that has gone as expected. Freese has hit for less power this season than in previous seasons, but his .323 OBP is better than league average at third base. His minus-9 runs saved is tied for fifth-worst.

Baltimore Orioles: Delmon Young, Left Field
The Orioles didn't get to 60 runs saved, the most in the AL, by playing Young every day in left field. However, the offensive struggles of David Lough and the Manny Machado injury that precipitated Steve Pearce's move to the infield have forced the team to sometimes trade defense for offense in left field. Lately, they have relied more on left-hander Alejandro De Aza in left, but he might naturally become a platoon partner with the right-handed Young, who has cost the team six runs in less than 200 innings this season.

Kansas City Royals: Norichika Aoki, Right Field
Last offseason, the Royals signed Norichika Aoki to stabilize right field, which has been a weakness for the team for several seasons. Traditionally, Aoki had been an effective offensive and defensive player. From 2012 to 2013, Aoki had a solid .755 on-base plus slugging (OPS) and saved the Brewers 21 runs in right field. This season, Aoki has disappointed both offensively, with a .673 OPS, and defensively, with minus-8 runs saved.

Oakland Athletics: Jed Lowrie, Shortstop
Jed Lowrie has always been a bit overmatched at shortstop. He has cost his teams 37 runs there since 2009 but saved them three runs at third base, albeit in limited opportunities. Last season, the Athletics mitigated the damage Lowrie could cause with a fly ball-heavy staff. Their 39.5 percent ground ball rate was the lowest in baseball. This season, their ground ball rate has increased to 45.3 percent, and that has made Lowrie's defense more of a factor.

Detroit Tigers: Nick Castellanos, Third Base
Over the winter, the Tigers made a concerted effort to improve their team defense. Trading Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler was a major defensive upgrade, and moving Miguel Cabrera, who cost the team 18 runs at third base in 2013, to first base has turned him into a neutral defender. Their plan broke down on the left side of their infield, where they lost Jose Iglesias for the season because of shin fractures, and where Castellanos, Cabrera's replacement at third base, has really struggled. Castellanos has not only been a worse defensive third baseman this year than Cabrera was last year, his minus-29 runs saved is the worst of any player at any position in baseball this season.

Seattle Mariners: James Jones, Left Field
It is a minor miracle that there is no bigger defensive problem on the Mariners than Jones. Last season, the Mariners defense cost the team 97 runs, worst in the AL and second-worst in all of baseball. This season, they are slightly above average as a team, and while they do not have an elite defensive player at any position, they also do not have a major liability. Jones might be their weakest defender, but nine of the 12 runs he cost the team was in center field, which Austin Jackson shored up at the trade deadline.

Toronto Blue Jays: Jose Reyes, Shortstop
In his prime, Jose Reyes was an inconsistent but frequently good defensive shortstop. He saved the Mets at least five runs in three of his first five seasons. Unfortunately, the myriad hamstring injuries that have cost him playing time and stolen bases in recent years have also shown up in his declining defensive numbers. This season, Reyes has already cost the Blue Jays 16 runs, which is tied with his 2012 total for the worst of his career.

Cleveland Indians: Lonnie Chisenhall, Third Base
Lonnie Chisenhall has finally produced at the plate this season, and while he is enjoying career-bests in home runs, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, Chisenhall has been somewhat exposed defensively as a full-time player. He has cost the Indians 15 runs at third base this season, second-most at the position. In particular, Chisenhall has made a lot of throwing errors. His seven such errors are second-most among third basemen despite Chisenhall ceding a lot of innings to Carlos Santana earlier this season.

New York Yankees: Derek Jeter, Shortstop
Even in his prime, Derek Jeter was a poor defensive shortstop. He was sure-handed on the plays he did reach, but he had much less range than the majority of players at the position. Given his age and late-career ankle injuries, one might reasonably expect Jeter to have cost the Yankees more than the 10 runs he has this season. However, that still makes him the clear defensive weakness on the team, especially after their trade deadline acquisitions of solid infield defenders Chase Headley, Martin Prado and Stephen Drew.

To-do lists for Orioles, Angels, Nationals.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
BALTIMORE -- There will not much rest at all for Miguel Cabrera, it appears, no chance for him to stay off his right ankle and let the pain from his bone spur subside. If Wade Davis becomes weary in the next 14 days, he probably won't have much choice but to push through it; the same could be true for Tony Watson, Justin Wilson and Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates, and for the Brewers' Francisco Rodriguez. If Sean Doolittle isn't quite 100 percent, his 98 percent or 90 percent or 85 percent will just have to do.

David Robertson threw 35 pitches Friday, 11 more on Saturday, then made another appearance Sunday … and had absolutely nothing, giving up three consecutive extra-base hits in a walkoff loss to the Orioles. The Yankees' playoff hopes are dying, and Robertson's effort was like CPR; he had to do what was required in the moment. This is the stretch drive, the last mile in the Major League Baseball marathon, and the players for the Tigers, Royals, Pirates and other teams will have to push through.

But there are a handful of contenders who likely will secure playoff bids in the next few days, leaving them time to be much more specific in their preparation for the postseason.

For instance, you have the Orioles. After their comeback win against what appeared to be a completely exhausted Robertson on Sunday, Baltimore's magic number for clinching the AL East is down to three, and while Manager Buck Showalter has spent recent days running away from any hypothetical suggestion that the Orioles might make the playoffs, you'd have to imagine a "to-do" list like the one below might be forming in his head:

1. Keep shortstop J.J. Hardy properly rested. Hardy is dealing with a back issue, and while the shortstop is functional, Showalter indicated that Hardy is being careful. You could see that in his relatively gentle swings in batting practice over the weekend. If Hardy could benefit from time off in the next couple weeks, the Orioles should be able to give it to him.

2. Align the team's rotation in preparation for a likely division series against the Tigers or Royals. Something worth remembering: The Tigers haven't faced Wei-Yin Chen in more than two years.

3. Getting all the relievers up to full speed. Look, Showalter is arguably the best skipper at managing a bullpen anyway, in getting relievers proper rest, and now the Orioles likely will have two weeks to set things up just right, which should be a scary thought for any team facing them. Baltimore's bullpen is absolutely loaded, with the trade-deadline addition of Andrew Miller topping it off. Miller has faced 59 batters since being acquired from Boston and has struck out 28 of them, and he has pitched in back-to-back days just twice with the Orioles.

4. Rest Adam Jones, who has been the anchor of the Orioles' lineup. Jones won't want to come out of the lineup, but Showalter could give him some DH days.

Meanwhile, as the Orioles play on, suspended slugger Chris Davis is going to play in instructional-league games.

Then you have the Angels' to-do list. They have a 10-game lead in the AL West, and their magic number stands at four, leaving manager Mike Scioscia plenty of time to deal with the following priorities:

1. Play or rest Josh Hamilton as needed. He has a shoulder problem and hasn't played in 10 days. The Angels can afford to give him time to rest before trying to get him cranked up for the postseason.

2. Rest and align their starting pitchers. Pitching coach Mike Butcher will be able to shape the pitch counts for Jered Weaver, Matt Shoemaker, etc., to keep them sharp but fresh as they head into the October grind.

3. Rest for a hard-working bullpen. In August, Scioscia acknowledged that some of his relievers had been worked hard, such as Joe Smith (71 appearances), and Kevin Jepsen (also 71 appearances). Jepsen has really had an underrated season, but here's one example of how he might be helped: When he has had two or more days of rest, he has allowed zero homers in 81 at-bats. There won't be any need for him to be pushed down the stretch.

4. The proper rest for Albert Pujols. Generally speaking, he likes to stay on the field and play first base rather than DH. In this case, Scioscia will be able to do what he needs to do to make sure Pujols has his best possible legs in the postseason.

The Angels avoid being no-hit on Sunday in a 6-1 loss.

And finally, there's the Nationals. Their magic number is down to four, and their lead in the NL East is 10 1/2 games. Here is some of what Matt Williams can accomplish:

1. Get Ryan Zimmerman, who is coming back, reps at several different positions, with as many at-bats as possible: No matter how Zimmerman is used in the postseason, his presence should help the Nationals' depth and create some flexibility for Williams.

2. Use the days ahead to prepare their starting pitchers for the postseason. They could push back a start, or skip a start, or simply go with shorter outings and lower pitch counts.

3. Give some of the position players needed rest over the next 10 days. Then, in the final days of the regular season, the Nationals will go back to their regular rotation and lineup heading into the postseason.

Washington's lead is at double digits after yet another win over the Mets.

Around the league

• Assuming the Orioles make the playoffs, Adam Jones will draw on his experience from his first postseason go-round, when he had two hits in 26 at-bats and seemingly swung at everything. "I really have to take what they give me," said Jones, who understands that opposing pitchers might tend to work around him and Nelson Cruz. "You have to hone into the strike zone."

• The signing of Chris Young was almost accidental for the Yankees. After he was cut by the Mets, Young was recommended to the Yankees by the team's statistical analysts, General manager Brian Cashman initially passed on the idea. But as Cashman recalled, he changed his mind and figured that he had a spot and might as well give it a try.

Young has been excellent in his first days with the Yankees, and in between rounds of batting practice Sunday evening, he talked about how he felt about the brief respite from playing after his release, which gave him the opportunity to work in the batting cage, and also absorb the lessons of coach Kevin Long. "I'm having a blast," he said. "I don't know if I've ever had more fun. Hopefully it's a new start of better things to come."

• John Lackey is experiencing some dead arm and will be passed over in the rotation, and he's not happy about it, writes Derrick Goold. Marco Gonzalez has impressed the Cardinals and may be carving out an October role for himself.

• The Tigers have a lot of experience, guys who have played in a lot of important games, and every time they have been threatened by another club in AL Central, they have delivered the head-to-head beat-down. Over the weekend, they all but ended the Indians' chances to make the playoffs, closing out the sweep Sunday with a late-inning rally.

Meanwhile, Kansas City lost three of four to the struggling Red Sox. Daniel Nava hurt the Royals with a key home run. Royals starter Danny Duffy says he feels great as he prepares for his Tuesday start.

• Jonathan Papelbon did something, and now it'll be left to Major League Baseball to determine exactly what he did, and whether umpire Joe West was at fault for the way he grabbed Papelbon's jersey.

Here's more from Jake Kaplan's story:
Despite photos and videos suggesting otherwise, Papelbon unwaveringly claimed after the game that "by no means" did he intentionally direct a lewd gesture toward the fans.

"I mean, this is baseball. I had to make an adjustment and I did it," he said. "I don't even hear the fans out there. When I'm out there and I'm in the moment, the fans are irrelevant to me. I don't even see them. I don't even hear them. To me it's … it's pretty stupid, to be totally honest with you."

West, on the other hand, said to a pool reporter that he and the home-plate umpire each witnessed the pitcher make a gesture "and that's not good." West also said he grabbed Papelbon during their confrontation only after the pitcher's head made contact with the umpire's cap.

"The whole thing started because the fans booed him and he made an obscene gesture," West said. "He had no business doing that. He's got to be more professional than that. And that's why he was ejected."

Here's the still shot of Papelbon's gesture, and his explanation made me think of this guy.

• After Clayton Kershaw was great again versus the Giants on Sunday, ESPN Stats and Info sent us some of the great numbers he is generating this season. Here are some of them:

1) His 2014 ERA actually rose from 1.67 to 1.70, while his career ERA versus the Giants rose from 1.40 to 1.44 (he's now 13-5 against them in his career).
2) He has allowed 3 runs or fewer in 24 of 25 starts this season, including 21 in a row, the third-longest streak in the past 15 seasons (the longest is 22 by both Johan Santana in 2004 and Mat Latos in 2010).

And there's this from Elias:

Highest percentage of starts allowing 3 runs or fewer, since 1900 (min. 25 starts)
Clayton Kershaw, 2014: 96.0 percent (24 of 25 starts)
Dwight Gooden, 1985: 94.3 percent (33 of 35 starts)
Pedro Martínez, 2000: 93.1 percent (27 of 29 starts)
Pedro Martinez, 1999: 93.1 percent (27 of 29 starts)
Greg Maddux, 1995: 92.9 percent (26 of 28 starts)

Kershaw is one win away from his second career 20-win season. Sandy Koufax is the only Dodger with more 20-win seasons, with three, since the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958. Claude Osteen and Don Drysdale did it twice.

Giancarlo Stanton had an amazing season. Jonathan Lucroy has been incredibly important to the Brewers. Buster Posey has been on a tear lately. But Kershaw is having one of the greatest seasons of all time for any pitcher, and his performance has been difference-making. Simply put, he is the most valuable player in the National League. The Dodgers are 18-1 in his last 19 starts.

Adrian Gonzalez has an opinion about Kershaw and the MVP Award. The top of Dylan Hernandez's story:
Adrian Gonzalez said last month that he thought Clayton Kershaw deserved to be the National League's most valuable player. Now Gonzalez is certain of it.

"If someone even tries to mention someone else, they're an idiot," Gonzalez said.

• The Giants had a chance to do some damage over the weekend, but it didn't happen, as Henry Schulman writes. Bruce Bochy isn't upset with a replay challenge of the Dodgers.

• Oakland counterpunched the past two days, beating Seattle -- with a little help from the slumping Brandon Moss on Sunday -- and separating itself from the Mariners in the standings. It was a disappointing weekend for the Mariners, writes Jerry Brewer.

• Derek Jeter is in one of the worst slumps of his career, in his final days in the big leagues. The number of pitches he sees in each plate appearance has dropped markedly; pitchers are challenging him with fastballs.

These are the gifts that Jeter got from the Orioles on Sunday night.

• Alex Avila is feeling another hit to the head. Eight days ago, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus mentioned in our meeting with him that the team hopes to adjust his setup at the plate to make him less vulnerable.

• Russell Martin would be a great fit for the Cubs in 2015, writes Gordon Wittenmyer. He is 100 percent correct in that assessment: The Cubs are in the process of identifying the perfect veteran players to sprinkle among the blossoming young talent they have, and Martin is a great role model, given his approach to the game.

• The Braves have almost dropped back to .500 after getting swept by the Rangers.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Charlie Morton is going to start Tuesday for the Pirates.

2. The Mets need to spend, writes Joel Sherman.

3. Nick Franklin was summoned to the big leagues by the Rays.

Dings and dents

1. Nolan Arenado has sore ribs.

2. Evan Gattis is sick. I'd be surprised if the Orioles bring back Nelson Cruz, who has put himself in position to make a lot of money in the winter -- the O's likely will give him a qualifying offer and then just take the draft-pick compensation -- and Baltimore could look for another right-handed stick. Gattis, who is a candidate to be traded this winter because of defensive concerns, would be perfect for Camden Yards as a DH.

3. George Springer is hopeful about his return.

Sunday's games

1. Neil Walker and the Pirates rallied.

2. The Brewers won, too, roughing up the Reds.

3. Trevor May had a great day.

4. The Blue Jays lost a heartbreaker at the worst possible time.

5. The Marlins rallied in the ninth inning.

NL Central

• Devin Mesoraco has had a really nice season, as John Fay writes.

• The Cubs' final homestand could spell the end for some players.

NL West

• Trevor Cahill's erratic season continues, writes Zach Buchanan.

• Joc Pederson is struggling to adjust to a new routine.

• The Padres' VP of scouting feels energized.

AL East

• David Waldstein takes a guess at how many swings Derek Jeter has taken in his career. Jeter, meanwhile, expressed pride in his durability.

• Ben Zobrist is ol' reliable.

• Kelly Johnson fits the Orioles' next-man-up mentality.

AL Central

• The White Sox will make contenders work for it, writes Toni Ginnetti.

• The Twins spark some memories for Paul Konerko.

AL West

• The Rangers had a dominant weekend of pitching, which bodes well for their future.

• A Texas rookie earned the ire of an umpire.

• We are not hearing the usual rumors about Mike Scioscia's future, writes Helene Elliott.


• The Tigers' rookies traveled in style.

And today will be better than yesterday.

Davis' mistake may cost him eight figures.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
BALTIMORE -- This cannot be overstated: Chris Davis is a really nice person. Routinely gregarious, cheerful, helpful, self-deprecating. He is eminently likeable in the way that a wagging St. Bernard is, and that great demeanor is probably what will prevent at least some of his Baltimore Orioles teammates from absolutely blasting Davis publicly, and saying out loud what some of them really feel.

If you gave some of his teammates truth serum, some of them would tell you that his act of taking Adderall after having already tested positive once -- and getting a mulligan -- was at the very least absolutely inexplicable, and at worst, incredibly selfish. There is anger in the Orioles’ clubhouse about Davis’ 25-game suspension because he violated union rules that the players built and agreed to follow, but mostly because the Orioles have a chance to win the World Series, and now one of their few power hitters won’t be available for at least one round (and maybe two) of the postseason.

Sure, if the Orioles play deep into October and Davis becomes eligible to play and demonstrates he can help, they’d take the big lug back, because they need him and they like him. Plus, it’s not going to help anybody for his teammates to crush him with words, because the 28-year-old Davis already has done enormous damage to his career.

The timing of this suspension, occurring at the end of what has been an incredibly disappointing season, could not be worse and will cost him a lot of money beyond the $1.5 million or so lost while he is serving his penalty. It could cost him tens of millions of dollars.

A year ago, in the midst of a 2013 season in which Davis launched 53 homers and drove in 138 runs, the Orioles would’ve invested heavily in the first baseman. Heck, they would’ve done a deal even after his slow start this season. The Orioles wanted to talk about a long-term contract, and at some point, the team made a significant offer. An educated guess is that the Orioles would’ve been comfortable with a five-year deal for $75-80 million. Davis had become a beloved star, and with Nick Markakis' long-term deal close to its end and with Matt Wieters likely headed into free agency, Davis could have been an anchor.

A rival executive noted the strong position that Davis was in. “Coming off a monster season ... maybe he could have gotten even higher,” he said. “In the range of six years and $100 million. I mean, in the past five or six years, how many hitters have hit over 50 homers? Where is the left-handed power in the game?”

Davis is represented by Scott Boras, who almost always takes his clients into free agency, which Davis could achieve after 2015. Boras also represents Wieters, who is slated to hit the market at the same time as Davis, 14 months from now.

[+] EnlargeChris Davis
Joy R. Absalon/USA TODAY Sports
"Coming off a monster season ... maybe he could have gotten even higher," a rival executive said of Chris Davis. "In the range of six years and $100 million. I mean, in the past five or six years, how many hitters have hit over 50 homers?"
Within the Orioles’ organization, there was some hope that perhaps Davis would be more open to a long-term deal than Wieters because his journey had been so filled with failure. The Texas Rangers -- recognizing Davis' power potential -- had given him repeated chances to establish himself in the big leagues, but after that didn’t work, they had swapped him as a piece in a trade for Koji Uehara. The Orioles liked Davis at the time of the trade, but it wasn’t as if they thought they were acquiring a home run champion.

Davis' career took off, however, and he thrived under Buck Showalter and his coaching staff. But the negotiations with Davis didn’t gain traction, he’s had a lousy season (with his OPS plummeting 300 points), and now, his leverage is gone.

Davis, whose base salary was $10.35 million this year, will finish the regular season with 26 homers, a .196 average and 173 strikeouts.

The history of arbitration cases suggests that it is extremely difficult for a player coming off a down year to get a raise of greater than $3 million, and while rival officials don’t believe the Orioles would think about non-tendering Davis (essentially dumping his contract) this winter, they do expect that Baltimore will grind away in the arbitration negotiations.

One exec thinks the O’s can push Davis to $11 million or $12 million. Says another: “I think he will end up in the lower end of the $13 million range, and the team will have extreme leverage. Boras rarely goes to hearings anymore, but for a PED user there is no way any agent wants to go to a hearing, so expect a reasonable settlement -- and in some [weird] and twisted way, this is a mixed blessing for Baltimore's payroll flexibility.”

The possibility of a long-term deal is almost certainly over. The Orioles can’t be confident about what they would be buying, anyway, given the surprising suspension of a player who was outspoken last year against PED use. It would be fair and proper for the Orioles to wonder whether 2013 was the aberration, and that Davis is more likely to be the player he was with the Rangers.

The next time you see criticism of a young player who accepts large crooked numbers in a long-term contract, rather than waiting for free agency and maximum leverage, remember what has occurred with Davis, who may never again see the tens of millions once offered to him.

Stuff happens; circumstances change.

Steve Pearce played first base Saturday; the Orioles lost, as Chris Young's tear continued. There’s a possibility that Davis has played his last game with the Orioles, writes Peter Schmuck. The Davis suspension raises questions about MLB's policy, writes Richard Griffin.

More Orioles

• Ryan Flaherty is among those players who will get increased playing time at first base in Davis’ absence, and because Flaherty’s first base mitt really isn’t broken in properly yet, he reached into Davis’ locker and grabbed his mitt.

Did he ask?

“I couldn’t ask permission,” Flaherty said, smiling.

• Nelson Cruz discussed Davis’ suspension with Dan Connolly.

• Nick Hundley talks about the “spin rate” of Chris Tillman's four-seam fastball with the precision of a scientist, about how this phenomenon is probably the reason why Tillman’s fastball seems to maintain its life late on its way to home plate. Caleb Joseph, the Orioles’ other primary catcher, listened to Hundley’s description of Tillman’s fastball Saturday and agreed with him about how the ball takes off, sometimes to the degree that the movement can make the pitch tough to handle.

As Hundley’s words were related to Tillman a few minutes later, a small smile crept over his face. He has no idea what the heck Hundley is talking about when he mentions spin rate.

Tillman says he’s heard hitters talk about the late life on his fastball, but has wondered if they’re just blowing smoke, and that “they’re actually fighting to get to the bat rack.”

Chris Tillman Throwing Fastballs
Year Opp BA Opp slug pct GB/FB*
2012 .291 .545 36/91
2013 .240 .439 121/162
2014 .227 .337 139/146
Source: ESPN Stats & Information
But Tillman’s fastball has been much more effective this season, and we'll get another opportunity to see it on "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 ET on ESPN and WatchESPN). From Justin Havens of ESPN Stats & Information: “During Tillman's three strong seasons since turning the corner, batters have less and less success against his fastball. He’s been better at getting ground balls with the pitch. Further, opponents are hitting .194 off it with a .255 slugging percentage in the second half.”

Tillman is 6-foot-5 and lanky, and given his body type, he said, the reduction of excess movement in his delivery has been crucial. For example, Tillman explained how in the past, he tended to swing his left leg in front of him in the midst of his delivery; now, he just lifts his front foot and sets it down.

In addition, the pace at which Tillman works is extremely important to him; he likes to watch Mark Buehrle, the king of tempo, in how he gets the return throw from the catcher and gets right back to work. Sunday night, you will see Tillman shake off Hundley very rarely, if at all, for the sake of tempo.

“The slower that pitchers get, the more the hitters have the advantage,” said Tillman. “If a pitcher has three pitches, tempo is a fourth pitch; it’s another weapon.”

Tillman has a 3.36 ERA, and in the second half, he is 5-0 with a 2.08 ERA and just 15 walks in 69 1/3 innings. Bud Norris has been better in the second half, with a 3.43 ERA. Wei-Yin Chen has a 2.67 ERA after the All-Star break; Miguel Gonzalez, 2.12. The Orioles’ rotation ERA in the second half is below 3.00, so it hasn’t only been about a great bullpen for Baltimore; the questions about the starting pitching may already have been answered.

“My feeling is that we’ll let people think what they want [about the rotation],” Tillman said. “But the five guys in here, we’re really close and we’ve got each other.”

The Orioles’ starting pitchers have adopted the St. Louis Cardinals' practice of having collective bullpen sessions, in which all of them will be in attendance to watch, offer thoughts and provide support.

Around the league

• Fernando Rodney couldn’t throw a strike in the 10th inning, and Oakland edged the Mariners in a hugely important game for both teams. The Athletics managed to win a game started by their most frequent tormenter, writes Susan Slusser.

• The Dodgers wrecked AT&T Park records for hits and runs in obliterating Tim Hudson and the Giants.

In the sixth inning, Giants manager Bruce Bochy called his son Brett into the contest for his major league debut. From Henry Schulman’s story:

Bochy had waited for just the right moment to summon his 27-year-old son, Brett, into a game, and there was a comical aspect to the way it happened.

The Bochys have joked about how Bruce brought Brett into his first big-league spring training game in 2013 with the bases loaded, throwing his boy into the fire.

It happened again Saturday. The Dodgers were leading 14-0 in the sixth when Bruce decided Mike Kickham had enough. With two outs, Bruce handed Brett the ball -- again with the bases loaded.

“He likes to get into the habit of that,” Brett said, smiling.

The younger Bochy walked in a run before getting the third out. In the seventh, he recorded his first big-league strikeout (Yasiel Puig) before allowing his first home run (Scott Van Slyke).

Odds are, Bruce will remember his emotions far more than the result.

“It's kind of surreal, really,” the manager said. “Here's your son, and you're bringing him into a big-league game. You're nervous. At the same time you're very proud. I was glad to see him out there. He's worked hard to get here. I was very proud.”

The Bochys made history, writes Alex Pavlovic.

• Everybody in the Dodgers’ lineup was killing the ball, Dylan Hernandez writes, but there is concern about Hyun-Jin Ryu, who will be examined Monday.

From the Elias Sports Bureau: The Dodgers beat the Giants 17-0, the largest shutout win for either team in the history of the series. Saturday was their 2,407th meeting. The Giants' loss was their largest shutout loss since 1906, when the Cubs beat them 19-0.

• The season record for the number of hitters who have 100 or more strikeouts -- 111, set in 2012 -- will be obliterated in the days ahead. According to Havens, we're currently at 91.

• Ian Desmond did it all, James Wagner writes, and the Nationals routed the Mets.

• Jered Weaver has 17 wins, and the Angels have 10 straight wins, Zach Helfand writes.

From ESPN Stats & Information, how Weaver won:

A. Weaver’s fastball averaged 88.3 mph, his fastest in a start in the past two seasons. Entering Saturday, Weaver ranked 89th among 93 qualified starters in average fastball velocity (86.2).

B. Weaver recorded a season-high six strikeouts on his fastball, four of which were looking. That ties his single-game high for strikeouts in a start in the past six seasons.

C. Weaver threw nine changeups with two strikes and recorded five strikeouts -- which tied his single-game high from the past six seasons.

• Alex Avila's homer put a dent in the Cleveland Indians, and kept the Tigers in first place. Joe Nathan got the job done, writes Lynn Henning.

This was a tough loss for the Indians, writes Paul Hoynes.

• Danny Duffy hopes to start for the Royals on Tuesday.

Dings and dents

1. Brad Ziegler won’t rush back from surgery.

2. Justin Morneau will be back in the lineup soon.

3. Paco Rodriguez was activated.

4. Pedro Alvarez's return is a mystery to him, too.

5. Giancarlo Stanton's injury creates some doubt.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Rockies’ player payroll in 2015 is a puzzle.

2. There are skills that Jon Daniels wants in his next manager, and Tim Bogar might fit the criteria.

3. The millions lost in revenue will impact the Rangers’ payroll, writes Gerry Fraley.

4. Matt Gelb wonders whether Chase Utley might move to first base.

5. Mark Newman made his decision to retire before the season, writes Mark Feinsand.

Saturday’s games

1. Tyson Ross had a shaky outing.

2. Matt Holliday did it again, Rick Hummel writes.

3. Felix Doubront achieved a first.

4. The Brewers were handcuffed by a struggling pitcher.

5. The Marlins’ lineup, without Stanton, was stifled again.

6. The Braves wasted pitching, again.

7. The Pirates missed an opportunity.

8. R.A. Dickey lifted the Blue Jays.

NL West

• Reality blocks the dreams of Rockies owner **** Monfort, writes Patrick Saunders.

• The Diamondbacks won’t have to play without Paul Goldschmidt much longer, writes Zach Buchanan.

NL Central

• Jhonny Peralta feels like he’s started a new career.

• Todd Frazier is having a career year on the basepaths, writes John Fay.

• Steve Smith disagrees about the number of Reds who have been thrown out running the bases, writes Hal McCoy.

• Rick Renteria gets a pass on the team’s record in the first year, writes Paul Sullivan.

• Starling Marte's swing has gotten better.

• From the Elias Sports Bureau: Matt Holliday now has 23 game-winning RBIs in 2014, by far the most in the majors, ahead of Albert Pujols' 18. Holliday’s 23 game-winning RBIs this season is the third most for a Cardinals player over the past 50 seasons; Joe Torre had 27 in 1971 and Pujols had 25 in 2006.

NL East

• The 2014 Phillies are unwatchable, writes Frank Fitzpatrick.

• It’s time to lighten up and let players like Jenrry Mejia celebrate, writes Anthony McCarron.

AL West

• There is nothing average about Jose Altuve's pursuit of a batting title, writes Jesus Ortiz.

AL Central

• The White Sox are enjoying the 1-2 punch of Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, writes David Just.

• Max Scherzer focuses on the strike zone.

• Paul Konerko's departure is a tough one.

• The Twins ended a strikeout streak.

• From the Elias Sports Bureau: Jose Abreu is the fourth White Sox rookie to reach 100 RBIs in a season, and second to reach 30 home runs and 100 RBIs, joining Ron Kittle in 1983. If his .321 batting average holds, he'll be fifth on the all-time modern era list of rookies with 30 homers and 100 RBIs behind Hal Trosky (.330, 1934), Pujols (.329, 2001), Ted Williams (.327, 1939) and Walt Dropo (.322, 1950).

AL East

• The Rays want Chris Archer to work in his changeup in his final starts.

• Steven Wright is a little different from other prospects, writes Nick Cafardo.


• There is sad news about Frank Torre, the brother of Joe Torre. He was an inspiration to his brother, writes **** Goldstein.

• Lloyd McClendon deserves the Manager of the Year Award, writes Larry Stone.

• Jason Kipnis fired back on Twitter.

• MLB needs a domestic violence policy, writes John Shea.

From his piece:

“The only thing I want to say to you is, I said it before and I’ll say it again, we’re a social institution,” Bud Selig said, “and I’m proud of our record dealing with a myriad of subjects, and we deal with them, I think, quite effectively.”

Selig suggested domestic-violence cases in baseball are rare, which is debatable if not misguided.

“We haven’t had any cases, I’m happy to say, in a long, long time,” he said. “I can’t remember when the last time was. I’m grateful for that. ... Yes, it has been discussed because we’re sensitive to all issues, but I’m not going to sit here and (hypothesize). Fortunately, we don’t have that issue in front of us, but we deal with all issues directly.”

Former Minnesota second baseman Chuck Knoblauch was going to be inducted last month into the team’s Hall of Fame. He was charged with assaulting his wife, so the Twins canceled the induction. He had a similar charge in 2009.

There are plenty of examples of active players involved in domestic-violence cases. In 2012, San Diego infielder Everth Cabrera was arrested on domestic-violence charges (the charges were dropped), and I counted 18 other cases during Selig’s 22-year reign.

No one was suspended by MLB. A policy is needed, and we don’t need George Mitchell to tell us that.

I wrote here about this topic earlier in the week, after the second Ray Rice videotape emerged. MLB should take the high ground, and sooner rather than later, so it can be progressive and not just left in a position to be reactive -- which is how the NFL got into the position it is in.

And today will be better than yesterday.

Oakland's collapse could be worst ever.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
On the morning of Aug. 10, the Oakland Athletics not only had a 4-game lead over the Angels in the American League West, they also had the majors’ best record: 72-44, on a pace to win 96 games. They were regarded as the best team in baseball, with the most prolific offense (to that moment), a dominant bullpen and a rotation that had been bolstered by the addition of World Series hero Jon Lester.

Sure, the Angels had made up some ground in the standings, but Oakland was positioned to win the division for the third straight year. Making the playoffs? A foregone conclusion, given how well Oakland had played and the enormous gap in the standings between the Athletics and the teams that might be involved in the wild-card race -- Detroit, Kansas City and Seattle, for example. At the time:

Oakland 72-44
Detroit 63-51
Kansas City 62-53
Seattle 61-55

The Athletics were 9.5 games ahead of the Royals, and 11 games ahead of the Mariners.

This morning, however, the Angels’ magic number for clinching the AL West is down to 5 games, and the Athletics are like marathoners who led everyone for 20 miles but have now been swallowed up by the pack in the 25th mile.

The wild-card standings (including the AL Central-leading Tigers, who have a half-game lead over K.C.):

Detroit 81-66
Oakland 81-66
Seattle 80-66
Kansas City 80-66

The Athletics have lost 22 of their last 31 games and surrendered 10.5 games in the standings in little more than a month. They have positioned themselves for arguably the worst collapse in the history of baseball, with all due respect to the teams that have previously vied for this title -- the 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers, the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies, the 1978 Boston Red Sox, the 2007 New York Mets and the Red Sox and Atlanta Braves of 2011.

If the 2014 Athletics fail to make the playoffs, they will have not only plummeted from the top of the standings, they will also have missed the two safety nets that weren’t available to those other teams -- the wild-card spots.

On the morning of Aug. 12, 1951, the Giants were 59-51, 13 games behind the Dodgers, 15 in the loss column; over the next six weeks, they closed out with a blistering finish of 37-7, leading into that best-of-three playoff. The Dodgers went 26-22 -- playing over .500 -- so it wasn’t so much that Brooklyn fell apart as much as it was that the Giants just stopped losing.

After finishing the regular season with identical 96-58 records, the Dodgers and Giants played a three-game series that was punctuated by Bobby Thomson’s walk-off homer. The ’51 Dodgers finished the season with a record of 97-60, the second-best record in the eight-team National League. But only one team from each league qualified for the postseason at that time.

In 1964, the Phillies had a 6.5-game lead with 12 games to play. Philadelphia lost 10 straight games, however, before winning the 161st and 162nd games, to finish at 92-70 -- a game behind the Cardinals, the only team among the 10-team NL to advance to the postseason. The Phillies had tied for the second-best record in the league, with Cincinnati, but in an era with no wild-card berths, there were no safety nets.

On the morning of July 19, 1978, the Yankees were 47-42, 14 games behind the first-place Red Sox. But for the rest of the scheduled regular season, New York went 52-21, a .712 pace. From July 19 to Oct. 1, Boston went 37-35 -- over .500 -- but the Red Sox lost their final six scheduled games against the Yankees, losing the lead in the AL East on Sept. 13.

But the Red Sox actually won their last eight scheduled games to catch the Yankees on Oct. 1, and force the one-game playoff that was won by Bucky Dent. Boston’s final record: 99-64, the second-best record in the majors. But each league had two division winners and no wild cards, so Boston did not reach the postseason.

On Sept. 12, 2007, the New York Mets had a seven-game lead over the Phillies in the NL East, in a summer that had played out a lot like 2014, with parity across the baseball landscape. That day, only the Red Sox had a winning percentage over .600; the Mets were 83-62, with the best percentage in the NL at .572.

What happened after that will live forever with Mets fans. A five-game losing streak allowed the streaking Phillies to cut the lead to 1.5 games, and after the Mets managed to stabilize briefly, with four wins in five games, New York then fell apart, dropping six of its last seven. At season’s end, the Mets were 88-74, with the league’s sixth-best record. The Rockies and Padres tied for the fourth-best record and played for the wild-card spot. Even if there had been two wild-card spots, the 2007 Mets would not have gotten in.
[+] EnlargeJacoby Ellsbury
AP Photo/Bill Kostroun
The 2011 Red Sox experienced a pretty massive collapse.

The 2011 Red Sox never led the AL East by more than three games after the All-Star break; they reached their high-water mark on Aug. 31, when they were 83-52, 1.5 games ahead of the Yankees in the division, but nine games over the Rays and 10.5 games better than the Angels, who had the fifth- and sixth-best record in the AL, respectively.

Boston flat-lined thereafter, dropping 20 of its next 27, including a walk-off loss in Baltimore on the memorable Sept. 28. At season’s end, Boston was 90-72, the fifth-best record in the AL; if there had been two wild cards for the 15 teams, the Red Sox would’ve made the playoffs.

The Braves’ disintegration of last season mirrored that of Boston, although Atlanta’s race was all about the wild card; the Phillies ran away with the NL East. After the conclusion of play Sept. 1, the Braves were 7.5 out in their division, but with a 3.5-game lead over Arizona for the wild card, and an 8.5-game lead over St. Louis.

Atlanta lost 18 of its last 26 games, however, to finish 89-73; if there had been a second wild-card berth, the Braves would have been positioned for it.

After Oakland’s loss Friday night, the Athletics were left, again, to explain a train wreck as it happens.

From Susan Slusser’s story:
“It’s not ideal, but the boys are battling,” A’s outfielder Jonny Gomes said. “There are 15 games left and we’ve just got to do our best. ... We’re in the driver’s seat. Season ends today, we’re in. We haven’t lost anything, by any means.”

"We're leaving it all out there right now," Hammel said. "Obviously it's just not falling our way, so we're going to keep grinding. We've got lots of ball games left, we'll go game by game, pitch by pitch."

The A’s have dropped three games in a row and 12 of their past 15 overall. Each of their previous seven losses had been by one run, and 11 of their past 13 losses have been by one or two runs.

Oakland is 28-37 in games decided by no more than two runs, and 53-29 in games decided by three runs or more.

The A’s lost their DH in the third inning, when Derek Norris moved from DH to catcher after Geovany Soto left the game with back spasms -- the third A’s catcher lost to an injury in the past two weeks, following Stephen Vogt (ankle) and John Jaso (concussion).

John Hickey had more. From his story:
"We've got to find a way to score more runs," center fielder Coco Crisp said in a silent clubhouse.

Oakland tried to put something together in the ninth when pinch-hitter Brandon Moss and Sam Fuld opened the inning with singles, but even with the top of the order coming up, it wasn't happening for the A's. Crisp fouled out, Josh Reddick struck out and Josh Donaldson struck out as well, the 12th and final A's strikeout.

How to keep all the negatives from infecting the next at-bat, and the one after that?

"I'm not in the mind of every guy here," Crisp said. "I just go up and try to do the best I can every at-bat."

History has seen teams with big leads overrun in the standings by red-hot teams; there have been teams that have fallen apart in the last days of the regular season. But if the Athletics don’t make the playoffs -- if they go from leading their division for 116 days and having baseball’s best record for much of the summer to not posting one of their league’s five best records -- well, that would be just about unprecedented.


• Oakland activated Sean Doolittle on Friday.

• James Paxton is capable of only pitching well, apparently. Dustin Ackley is back in the Seattle lineup.
[+] EnlargeChris Davis
Karl Merton Ferron/Getty Images
Chris Davis' timing couldn't have been much worse.

• In the midst of Chris Davis’ incredible 2013 performance, he was the target of a lot of steroid speculation. His strong denials of use, unfortunately, crashed head-on into the awful history of athletes who had claimed they hadn’t used performance-enhancing drugs only to be exposed, from former Oriole Rafael Palmeiro to Ryan Braun to Lance Armstrong. Now Davis himself has undercut the credibility of his brethren in baseball’s union, sadly, after testing positive for Adderall for the second time. A lot of fans won’t care about the fine print, about how he had a therapeutic use exemption from Major League Baseball in the past, or that the use of Adderall is not treated as great a violation as that of good old-fashioned winstrol.

No matter the absolute truth for his use -- whether it’s out of a desire to find his way out of his early-season slump, or to help the Orioles, or to better position himself for a bigger free-agent payday, or addiction -- his bust will be perceived by a lot of fans as another in a long line of players saying one thing publicly and doing something else. Davis knows the rules and presumably understands why the union voted for testing -- to level the playing field, and to ensure that the members of the world’s strongest union don’t have to fill themselves with drugs to keep up with their peers -- and Davis violated them anyway.

There was a range of reaction to Davis’ suspension within his clubhouse, as you can imagine. Davis has no excuse, writes Peter Schmuck.

The Orioles reduced their magic number to clinch to five, with a doubleheader sweep of the Yankees. Bud Norris had a strong start.

• The Giants are streaking, and they won the first game of their three-game series Hyun-Jin Ryu">against the Dodgers, behind Madison Bumgarner. It was a 1-2 punch, as Dylan Hernandez writes.

• On Friday’s podcast, Clark Spencer, Justin Havens and Karl Ravech discussed the injury to Giancarlo Stanton; and we got an early read on just how crazy the Orioles’ clinching celebration will be, from Roch Kubatko.

• Stanton is going to see specialists. He is back in Florida.

• Got a text from a player that this should’ve been at the top of the Web Gems.

• The Angels are piling up runs.

• Detroit passed the Royals in the standings, with help from J.D. Martinez and David Price. From ESPN Stats and Info, how Price won:

A) He ended 13 plate appearances in one or two pitches.
B) He went to a 3-ball count just three times, and hitters went 0-for-3 (two of them ended in strikeouts).

• The Tigers have won seven of their last nine games against the Indians and Royals, which, right now, is difference-making. The Indians lost the series-opener.

• The Royals lost to the Red Sox, again.

• A rainout could cost Phil Hughes a half a million dollars, writes Mike Berardino.

• Nathan Karns was The Man for the Rays, as Marc Topkin writes.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Red Sox won’t sign a top-tier starter -- meaning Jon Lester or Max Scherzer -- sources tell Rob Bradford.

2. Brad Ausmus explained his shortstop switch.

Dings and dents

1. Ryan Zimmerman is making progress.

2. Brock Holt is still banged up.

3. For Charlie Morton, it’s the status quo.

4. Michael Wacha was pulled from his scheduled start Saturday.

Friday’s games

1. Juan Lagares got a big hit.

2. Gerrit Cole overwhelmed the Cubs.

3. Matt Holliday hit a long, long home run.

4. The Brewers have been winning again: That’s three straight, and counting.

5. For the Braves, the losing continues, even against Texas.

AL East

• Not even Chris Young’s burst of production can save the Yankees, writes John Harper.

• Derek Jeter is in a deep slump.

• Allen Webster turned a corner.

AL Central

• Brian Dozier’s marketing power continues to grow, writes Mike Berardino.

NL East

• The Phillies are owning the late innings.

• Don’t count out Cody Asche, writes David Murphy.

NL Central

• Since Yadier Molina has been on the DL, Adam Wainwright is 4-5 with a 4.42 ERA. With Molina, he was 3-0 with a 2.35 ERA. Wainwright won his 18th game of the season, tied with three others (Kershaw, Cueto, Bumgarner) for most in the majors.

• Anthony Rizzo is preaching patience, in regards to Javier Baez.

And today will be better than yesterday.

Stanton's injury could cause MLB change.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
On this date in 1952, the Pittsburgh Pirates did something no other team had done before. From

At Forbes Field, the Pirates become the first team to use protective head gear, a precursor to the batting helmet that protects the players' temples. Branch Rickey's innovation, worn both at the plate and in the field in the Bucs' twin bill split with Boston, is a plastic hat with a foam layer attached to the hat band.

On Sept. 9, 1979, Bob Montgomery -- the backup catcher for Boston’s Carlton Fisk -- took the final at-bat of his career, a moment notable because it was the last helmet-less at-bat by any hitter in a major league game.

When the rule requiring batters to use helmets was put in place eight years before, all the players who hit without them to that point were grandfathered into the regulation and allowed to continue to hit without the additional protection for the sake of their comfort.

The composition and shape of helmets has changed many times through the years, from something that was little more than a lined hat to the high-tech stuff we see now, when the composition of the helmets has been through military-style testing. All with regard for player safety.

There was no protection in place for Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton on Thursday night, when he was hit directly in the face by a pitch thrown by the Brewers’ Mike Fiers; Stanton suffered dental damage and fractures.

Chase Headley
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
Chase Headley of the Yankees will miss a few games after being hit by a pitch Thursday.
A few minutes after Stanton was hit, Chase Headley was drilled in the chin; Headley is likely to miss a few days.

Stanton is expected to miss the rest of the season, and just as the Buster Posey injury of 2011 spurred a lot of conversation about home plate collisions and player safety, the injury to Stanton -- one of the game’s greatest stars -- will inevitably spur this question: In the name of player safety, can more be done to protect hitters?

The answer, without question, is yes.

We know this because already we see players in Little League and softball and in cricket wear helmets that also include facial protection. We know this because after Jason Heyward was drilled in the face by the Mets’ Jon Niese, Heyward started wearing a helmet with a flap that curls around the front of his jaw -- protection he continues to wear to this day. You can see it here.

Face flaps for helmets are like safety belts in cars in the '70s -- they are available, they could prevent serious injury, and as Heyward and others have demonstrated, there is really no downside to wearing one, just as there was no strong counterargument to wearing a helmet, beyond personal comfort.

In time, we will see if Stanton is OK, and if his injury leads to change with helmets.

• Stanton has lacerations and facial fractures. If you haven’t seen the video, warning: It’s a tough watch.

• His season is probably over, as Clark Spencer writes.

• The two teams were on edge after Stanton was hit, not surprisingly, and at one point, the benches cleared. Within Tom Haudricourt’s story, there is this from Mike Fiers:

Fiers was visibly shaken by the sight of Stanton sprawled on the ground, taking off his baseball cap and crouching on the mound.

“It’s very tough,” an emotional and distraught Fiers said after the game. “I’ve never in my life experienced anything like that. It was very hard for me to take in everything at the moment and come back and throw another pitch.

“I just want to send my thoughts and prayers to Giancarlo Stanton. I would never think of throwing at somebody like that. Never in my life has something like that happened. I’m very sad that it hit them. I’m very sorry to their teammates, their fans, his family. It’s just tough.”

• Ron Roenicke spoke about what happened after the game.

• From ESPN Stats & Information: Giancarlo Stanton is the third-most valuable player in the National League by wins above replacement this season.

Most Wins Above Replacement
• NL this season
Clayton Kershaw -- 7.6
Jason Heyward -- 6.6
Giancarlo Stanton -- 6.4
Johnny Cueto -- 5.9
Jonathan Lucroy -- 5.9
> Entering Thursday

Around the league

• On Wednesday’s podcast, Orioles manager Buck Showalter described how his team has dealt with the success of 2014; Jayson Stark discussed Rule 7.13; and Alex Speier talked about pending Red Sox issues.

• On Thursday’s podcast, Cardinals pitcher Michael Wacha described how those collective bullpen sessions are used by starting pitchers; Keith Law reviewed the James Shields and Wil Myers trade; and Adam Rubin discussed the upcoming Mets’ offseason.

• The Diamondbacks addressed payroll and front-office questions from Nick Piecoro.

One of the questions was: What’s the status of Kevin Towers? From Nick Piecoro’s piece:

La Russa made it clear he views Towers as a valuable member of the organization, and Towers has expressed interest in staying in some role, though Towers hasn't given up on being a GM again.

Towers is waiting to see if he meshes with the new GM before deciding on whether he stays, but is free to look at other opportunities in the meantime.

"I'm sure that the word will get out that he's available," La Russa said. "I've said very clearly I'm very distressed that the report was leaked early so that the initial headline said 'dismissed, fired.' That's 180 degrees from the arrangement we have potentially. Kevin has got a lot he can offer."

• The Royals are in a really bad offensive funk. They lost to Boston on Thursday night.

A couple of their pitchers are on the mend.

• Corey Kluber and T.J. House were brilliant, and the Indians swept a doubleheader. It’s worth remembering a couple of things about this team:

A. They’ve already got 9.5 innings in the books of a suspended game against the Royals that will be finished Sept. 22, with the Indians leading 4-2.

B. Last year, they won their final 10 games and 15 of their last 17 to make the playoffs.

• Oakland lost again, this time to the dominant Chris Sale. From Susan Slusser's story:

The A’s lost the series three games to one.

“I didn’t expect it,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said of the series results. “We have one game where we break out and score some runs, and the other games we just didn’t.

“We’re playing for our lives now; it’s just the way it is. We put ourselves in this position.”

• Sean Doolittle will rejoin the Athletics, but not Stephen Vogt.

From ESPN Stats & Info, how Chris Sale shut down the Athletics:

A. Key pitch: changeup -- threw 32 of them, netting nine outs without yielding a baserunner.

B. Kept the ball down -- only 19 percent of his pitches were in the upper third of the strike zone or above, his third-lowest rate this season.

C. A little lucky -- Athletics batters hit five line drives, resulting in only one base hit.

Chris Sale
Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports
White Sox starter Chris Sale allowed just two hits in eight innings Thursday against the A's.
From the Elias Sports Bureau: Sale lowered his ERA to 1.99 with eight shutout innings in the White Sox's 1-0 win over the A's. Sale is the fourth pitcher this season to have an ERA under 2.00 at some point after making 20 starts. Clayton Kershaw has a 1.67 ERA in 24 starts, Adam Wainwright's ERA was 1.92 through 21 starts (it's now 2.62) and Felix Hernandez had a 1.99 ERA through 26 starts (it's now 2.12).

Sale continues to cut down hitters and expand his vocabulary, writes Daryl Van Schouwen.

From ESPN Stats & Info: The Athletics' tailspin continued with a 1-0 loss to the White Sox. Oakland is now 9-21 in its last 30 games, the team's worst 30-game stretch since May/June 2011. They hold the top wild-card spot by one game over the Tigers and by 1.5 games over Mariners. The last seven A's losses have each been by one run, with five shutouts since Aug. 1, tied for most in MLB.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. James Shields would be nice for the Red Sox, but there is a catch, writes Nick Cafardo.

2. The Red Sox have shifted Mookie Betts to second base.

3. George King reports that Mark Newman, the Yankees’ VP of baseball operations, is retiring.

Dings and dents

1. Joey Votto is going to join the Reds for their upcoming road trip.

Thursday’s games

1. Johnny Cueto was dominant.

2. Jake Peavy and the Giants finished a sweep of the Diamondbacks. This team is on a serious roll as it heads into its weekend series against the Dodgers.

3. The Angels won again -- they never lose, it seems -- and they could clinch the division in the week ahead.

4. Chris Young broke up a no-hitter, and then finished off a wild Yankees comeback.

5. Bartolo Colon was ejected.

6. Francisco Liriano dominated, and the Pirates picked up a game in the standings.

NL East

• Matt Harvey has a prediction.

• Chase Utley’s declining production begs a question, writes David Murphy.

NL Central

• From the Elias Sports Bureau: Johnny Cueto became the third pitcher in Reds history with more than 18 wins and more than 220 strikeouts in a season, joining Noodles Hahn in 1901 and Jim Maloney in both 1963 and 1965. Cueto's 220 strikeouts are the most by a Reds pitcher since Jose Rijo had 227 in 1993.

• The Cardinals like the edge that John Lackey has, writes Derrick Goold.

• The Cubs are learning about what they have on the mound.

• A changeup could work for Gerrit Cole.

NL West

• Clayton Kershaw has a team record in sight.

• Walt Weiss won’t let his players go on cruise control.

• Joe Panik is in the mix for the Rookie of the Year Award.

• Angel Pagan is the Giants’ heartbeat.

• Rene Rivera is thankful for a second chance he got.

AL East

• The Toronto starters have become a major strength, writes Mike Rutsey.

• Kevin Pillar has staked a claim for 2015.

• Roch Kubatko has some thoughts about the most valuable Oriole.

AL Central

• Joakim Soria returned.

• The Tigers’ chances are helped out by the home-field advantage.

• The Twins had mixed reviews Thursday.

AL West

• Elvis Andrus' downward spiral continued Thursday. From Gerry Fraley’s piece:

Andrus’ problem area this time was hitting with runners in scoring position. He had two chances in the first five innings and did not get the ball out of the infield.

The low point came in the fifth, when the Rangers loaded the bases with two outs. Angels manager Mike Scioscia went to the fifth of eight relievers in an all-bullpen game: Mike Morin. He needed one pitch to retire Andrus on a grounder to the mound.

If the hitter swings at the first pitch in that situation, it has to be a good pitch rather than just any pitch.

This is what Bogar referred to this week when discussing Andrus’ big dip in performance. There have been too many times when Andrus mentally wanders away from the game.

“He needs to stay focused on just being in the game for nine innings,” Bogar said.

• The Angels will be able to properly rest Josh Hamilton and Huston Street as the team heads down the stretch.

• The Mariners have been winning, but the fans have been slow to return, writes Ryan Divish.

• The Mariners have been scoreboard watching, writes Bob Dutton.


• Most athletes who are involved in alleged domestic abuse cases play on, writes Karen Crouse. Within the piece, she writes about the horrible Brett Myers situation in 2006.

• On Friday, Bud Selig said this about MLB and domestic abuse:

"Yes, it has been discussed, because we're sensitive to all issues. But I'm not going to sit here and (hypothesize)," Selig said Thursday. "Fortunately, we don't have that issue in front of us. But we deal with all issues."

Sorry, but this makes no sense. MLB is witnessing an example of what can happen when a league has no policy in place in regards to domestic violence, given the Ray Rice situation. Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred should be addressing this right now because if an incident does occur, the avalanche of questions will come crashing down on him: What is Selig or he going to do? As I wrote here earlier this week, it’s much better to be progressive and stake out the high ground on the issue of domestic violence than to appear to be dragging your feet and being pushed along by circumstance, which is certainly why NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has gotten so much scrutiny.

MLB has no way of knowing what is transpiring in the homes of its thousands of employees -- just as it had no idea what would happen with Brett Myers and his wife -- but now, in light of the NFL’s disaster, there is no excuse to not have a plan.

There will be no room for a mulligan for MLB if something happens; national pressure will be applied to Selig or Manfred immediately.

• The playoff schedule was announced.

And today will be better than yesterday.

Could be a quiet offseason in New York.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
As one small-market general manager said recently, Major League Baseball is at its strongest when the big-money teams are thriving and driving interest in the largest pools of potential customers. Parity is nice, and it's a good thing when fans in Baltimore and Pittsburgh and Kansas City are reminded that winning is possible.

But MLB is better off in those times when Chicago's Cubs are threatening to break through, or when Los Angeles' Dodgers have a chance to be great. The business of the sport needs to be utilitarian at its heart: The most good for the most people.

Which brings us to the strange state of baseball in New York.

In one borough, the Yankees have been trying to win so much that they have spent themselves into a corner, and in another, the Mets don't seem to be prepared to do much of anything.

The other day, Mets GM Sandy Alderson appeared to be signaling to the fan base that the team's payroll -- which ranks in the lowest third of the majors -- is probably not going to grow for next season. This is what he said:
"… mproving a team isn't always a function of just dollars spent," Alderson said Monday while visiting veterans at the VA Hospital in Manhattan, prior to the Mets' 3-2 win against the Rockies. "Most of the improvement that came from the Mets this year had little to do with the overall [spending] … so it doesn't equate. We'll have some flexibility. We'll be able to do some things. We just have to see what's there."

The truth is that the expectation within the organization is that the team's payroll will again be in the range of $82-85 million, with $36 million of that, of course, absorbed by the salaries of two players, David Wright and Curtis Granderson.
For the first time in years, the Mets appear as if they could break through in the standings in a weakened NL East. The Braves have had a disappointing season and may well have changes in leadership, the Phillies have been a disaster, and the Marlins are talented but limited. The Nationals are closing in on a division title.

Meanwhile, the Mets have had a summer of progress in key places. Lucas Duda has had the best season of his career, Travis d'Arnaud has settled in and there is a growing belief among rival evaluators that infielder Dilson Herrera, who was acquired from the Pirates in the Marlon Byrd trade, could be a star. Right-hander Jacob deGrom is a Rookie of the Year candidate. Zack Wheeler has improved markedly during the season, posting a 2.47 ERA after the All-Star break. Pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard is really close, as Alderson acknowledged the other day.

The Mets are probably going to finish this season with something in the range of 78 victories, but if Matt Harvey pitches in and contributes even average production next season, his first full season after Tommy John surgery, the Mets would probably have the potential to contend. This winter would be the perfect time to expand the payroll, for a team that built an expectation in the fan base that money has been saved for better days.

But the reality appears to be that the Mets' front office will be left with little money to improve the roster, perhaps bypassing pricey veterans who could represent pivotal upgrades, such as shortstop J.J. Hardy. It appears Alderson will instead pick through the bargain bin for short-term gambles, which is how Chris Young came to be a Met last winter; he was a bargain for a reason.

The Mets' ownership could choose to take a different path and look to spend money to make money. But once again, that does not appear to be the route this team will go, and it's bad for the sport when a New York City team pretends it must adhere to its budget the way the Tampa Bay Rays do.

Over in the Bronx, the Yankees' 4-3 loss to the Rays on Tuesday looked a lot like many of their other defeats this summer. Again they had trouble scoring, and the team is now the eighth-lowest scoring team in the majors. In the DH era, the franchise has had only two seasons in which they ranked worse than that, in 1990 (third-lowest scoring team) and 1973 (sixth). There were too many mistakes Tuesday night, including outs being made on the basepaths. Regardless of whether Stephen Drew should've been called safe or out in the fifth inning, his out shouldn't have happened; he was the first out in the inning, and the play at the plate wasn't especially close.

[+] EnlargeBrian Cashman
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Yanks GM Brian Cashman is saddled with a number of big contracts right now.
But the Yankees' roster changes in the offseason probably aren't going to be as sweeping as a lot of fans expect, given the team's massive payroll obligations. Catcher Brian McCann has four years and $68 million remaining. Mark Teixeira is set to make $22.5 million for each of the next two years. Martin Prado will make $11 million for each of the next two seasons. Alex Rodriguez will presumably return next season to play the first of his three remaining years. Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brett Gardner will all be in the second year of their multiyear contracts, so the outfield is accounted for.

They will need a shortstop to replace Derek Jeter, and there are no apparent options at the top of the minor league system. The Diamondbacks have a surplus, and Hardy will be a free agent. They could be a fit to re-sign Chase Headley, because he will probably be best-served taking a one-year deal for 2015, and the team could give him at-bats at first base, third base and designated hitter.

They have a lot of money invested in pitching with very little certainty in production. CC Sabathia is owed at least $48 million for the next two seasons, but the Yankees have no idea how effective he will be. Masahiro Tanaka has a torn elbow ligament -- he threw a simulated game Tuesday -- with six years remaining on his deal. Michael Pineda has pitched well on the days he has pitched, but those have been scant. Ivan Nova will be coming back from Tommy John surgery. Hiroki Kuroda has mostly pitched well for the Yankees, but given the signs of regression in his performance, it's possible the team will weigh the risk/reward for a pricey pitcher who turns 40 in February and decide to move on. As mentioned here in early August, it would make sense for them to give David Robertson a qualifying offer so that if he leaves, they'd get a draft pick in return. If he stays, their risk would be diminished.

All of the long-term commitments bundled together probably means that unless ownership is willing to throw another big log on the payroll fire, they won't be involved in the bidding for Max Scherzer or Jon Lester. It's much more likely that they'll look for smaller solutions, something they've done well at the past couple of years (with Brandon McCarthy, for example).

Agents dream of a perfect negotiating storm in which both the Yankees and Mets are aggressively bidding against other teams and each other, on the most expensive players. But for now, it appears the two teams in baseball's most lucrative market will have a relatively quiet offseason, which isn't good for the Mets, the Yankees or, in the big picture, anybody else in the sport.

Some New York reports from Wednesday: A-Rod will soon be the most interesting man in the sport, writes Joel Sherman. Meanwhile, David Wright's season is over.

Around the league

• On Tuesday's podcast, Patrick Saunders discussed the upcoming offseason for the Rockies, which could turn out to be more quiet than expected; and Tim Kurkjian talked about the possible historic context of the Athletics' slide and what MLB could do to be progressive on the issue of domestic violence.

• As the Orioles close in on a division title, shortstop J.J. Hardy received a cortisone shot.

• Josh Donaldson watched video, made an adjustment and had five hits, as Susan Slusser notes, and Jon Lester dominated for the Athletics on Tuesday night. Meanwhile, the Mariners lost to Houston, relieving some of the pressure on Oakland. Seattle is now a half-game behind the Tigers and Royals.

• The Yoenis Cespedes trade has backfired for Oakland, writes Bruce Jenkins.

• About that play at the plate in the Rays-Yankees game: Even with the clarification that Jayson Stark reported Tuesday, it would be really interesting to hear how this is not considered blocking home plate or impeding the runner. If this play had happened hours before, it's very possible it would've gone against the Rays, acknowledged Joe Maddon.

Joe Girardi says he has new instructions for his players: Run over the catcher. The decision gave the Yankees a chance to talk about something other than their bad offense, writes Ken Davidoff.

• Hanley Ramirez struggled again defensively, making two errors. The Dodgers continue to wait -- and hope -- for Ramirez and Yasiel Puig to contribute more than they have, writes Mark Saxon. Something has gone wrong with Hanley this season, writes Bill Plunkett.

• The Angels' offense is on a serious roll, and they racked up nine runs against the Rangers on Tuesday.

The highest-scoring offenses so far in September
1. Angels, 50 runs
2. Tigers, 48 runs
3. Rockies, 44 runs
4. Marlins, 42 runs

The Angels do have growing concerns about Josh Hamilton's right shoulder.

• The Marlins pulled off a Houdini act and are now just a game behind the Braves in the loss column. Miami is on the rise, Juan Rodriguez writes.

Meanwhile, Atlanta lost again to the Nationals. The Braves say this has not been the fault of hitting coach Greg Walker, writes David O'Brien.

• Max Scherzer shut down the Royals on Tuesday and pushed the Tigers into a first-place tie with Kansas City. Scherzer's bet on himself in the preseason, when he turned down a $144 million offer from Detroit, looks better by the day. From Elias: Scherzer is the 12th pitcher in the live-ball era to post 16 wins and 230 strikeouts in three consecutive seasons. Of the eight to do it that are eligible for the Hall of Fame, seven of them are in: Bob Feller, Don Drysdale, Bob Gibson, Jim Bunning, Ferguson Jenkins, Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan. The lone exception is Roger Clemens. The remaining three are not yet eligible: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Johan Santana.

The pivotal game of the season may be at hand for the Royals, writes Sam Mellinger.

• Victor Martinez is to the walk-strikeout ratio in baseball this year what Wayne Gretzky was to goal scoring in the NHL.

Dings and dents

1. Within this John Shea notebook, there is word that Giants slugger Mike Morse is a "maybe" for the weekend series against the Dodgers.

2. Nick Punto was activated.

3. Ian Desmond came out of Tuesday's game because of a lower back problem.

4. Martin Prado and Brett Gardner are hurt.

5. Dustin Pedroia might have season-ending surgery.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Drew Smyly has been shut down, as expected.

2. The Astros might focus on managers with major league experience. Some folks in the industry regard A.J. Hinch, the former manager of the Diamondbacks, as the favorite for this job.

3. Tim Bogar is the favorite for the Rangers' managing job.

4. The Twins have made a change with their minor league hitting coordinator.

Tuesday's games

The Brewers in 2014
Statistic First 131 games Last 14 games
W-L 73-58 1-13
Runs per game 4.3 2.5
AB per HR 33.7 75.5
Run diff. +42 -51
1. The immensity of the Brewers' slide is just improbable. They found another way to lose, writes Tom Haudricourt. From ESPN Stats & Info on Milwaukee's collapse: The Brewers have dropped 16 of 19, and as a result, according to numberFire, the Brewers' chances of winning the NL Central have gone from 57 percent to 1 percent in a span of three weeks. Their chance of making the playoffs has fallen from 88 percent to 16 percent.

2. A bad inning took down the Indians, Zack Meisel writes. It was a missed opportunity, given the Royals' loss in Detroit.

3. The Jays are finishing well. They rallied and blew out the Cubs.

4. The White Sox played a terrible game.

5. Yusmeiro Petit helped the Giants pick up a game in the standings.

6. Andrew Cashner did it all.

7. A Phillies prospect pitched in.

8. Jacob deGrom pitched great, writes Kristie Ackert.

AL West

• Jon Singleton is hitting .176 at the plate, but he has been patient.

• Don't blame Jon Daniels for what happened with Ron Washington, writes Kevin Sherrington.

AL Central

• The Twins' bullpen came through.

• Joe Nathan has struggled, but he is getting better.

• It's remarkable that the Indians are even close to contention, writes Terry Pluto.

• Dayan Viciedo hits for power, but the White Sox expected more.

NL West

• Brett Bochy still hasn't had a chance to pitch.

• Josh Rutledge has returned to the fundamentals of hitting.

NL Central

• This has been a tough year for the Reds to stomach, writes Hal McCoy.

• Michael Wacha labored. The Cardinals' turnaround started with a big July 31 trade, writes Bernie Miklasz.

• The Pirates aren't sure how to use Charlie Morton.

• Mark Melancon has done a good job for the Pirates, writes Rob Rossi.

NL East

• The Nationals' bullpen came through again.


• The Mets should reduce the dimensions of Citi Field again, says manager Terry Collins.

• There's one circumstance under which Pete Rose should be reinstated.

• Frank McCourt could bring horse-jumping to Dodger Stadium, writes Steve Dilbeck.

• About 1,750 fans are hurt by foul balls per year, according to this Bloomberg report.

And today will be better than yesterday.

End-of-season scouting notes.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The season has come to an end for all but a few of the best minor league players. If one were to hand out a grade for how the season went for those prospects considered elite coming into the season, it'd likely be an incomplete. For every good development -- like Kris Bryant's and Joey Gallo's ridiculous power numbers, or the impressive developments of Mookie Betts and Joc Pederson -- there were negatives, mainly a plethora of talented arms who saw their season come to an end because of various injuries.

"The injuries are kind of the overwhelming takeaway," an AL East scout said. "That's how I'll remember 2014, anyway. But there was a lot to like, too. The pitching still looks fantastic, and for the first time in a while I'm pretty excited about the offensive talent, and not just those guys that are in the Cubs system either. The [Arizona Fall League] should be a pretty fun one to check out, too. Baseball is in good shape."

And while some will head to the Arizona Fall League or play internationally in various winter leagues, a large portion will clean out their lockers for good until they report to Arizona or Florida a little under six months from now.

In that fashion, I thought it would be appropriate to empty my locker -- so to speak -- and give some of the final scouting notes of the 2014 season.

Piscotty no longer considered a sure thing?

Most analysts currently list Stephen Piscotty as the St. Louis Cardinals' top offensive prospect, and it's easy to understand why. The former Stanford Cardinal star has hit at every level, including a .288/.354/.406 line for Triple-A Louisville this season.

While Piscotty might be their best -- and at very least most advanced -- offensive prospect still in the minor leagues, several scouts I spoke with were not as sold on the outfielder as an everyday player.

There's no question that Piscotty has a chance to hit for average, thanks to a quality approach and a swing that stays through the zone with an ability to hit darts into left and right field. What is in doubt, however, is the power tool. He doesn't have elite bat speed, and right-handers can tie him up with fastballs on the inner half of the plate.

"I see [Piscotty as a] platoon guy," an NL scout said. "I like the feel for hitting and think he can give left-handers fits, but I have my doubts about whether or not he'll be able to put up the quality numbers against righties that would justify him being an everyday player. He's certainly a nice guy to have, but those who are expecting him to be the next great St. Louis outfielder are overselling things, in my opinion."

It wouldn't be a surprise if Piscotty was a regular for the Cardinals -- or another team if he's moved in the offseason -- at some point, and there's reason to believe he can be a successful big league hitter. Those expecting him to put up numbers like the ones he's accrued as a minor leaguer, however, are likely to come away disappointed.

Astros' draft still solid without Aiken

If you just woke up from a two-month siesta, you might not know that the Houston Astros failed to come to terms with Brady Aiken, the player they took with the very first selection of the 2014 draft.

Obviously, this was a massive -- and somewhat embarrassing -- development for the Astros, but even without procuring his services, Houston's class still has a chance to be one of the better drafts in baseball.

"It's still a good [draft class]," an NL executive said. "Of course it would look better had they gotten the Aiken deal done, but a draft class is never about one player, and the depth they picked up was still among the best."

The best of this group is former University of Virginia outfielder Derek Fisher, a left-handed-hitting outfielder who likely would have been a mid-first round selection if not for missing a large portion of the year due to a broken hamate bone. The power and hit tool both have a chance to be above-average, and his plus speed gives him a chance to be a threat on the bases as well. He impressed scouts with his performance in the New York-Penn League, posting a .308/.378/.408 line for Class A Tri-City, and despite his poor defensive instincts, the bat has a chance to carry Fisher to the big leagues in the next two to three years.

While Fisher may have the best upside, the Astros' next two selections, first baseman A.J. Reed and third baseman J.D. Davis, may have the best chance of making an impact quickly. Both players have plus power tools -- Reed from the left side and Davis from the right -- and while Reed's hit tool is more advanced than Davis', both have a chance to hit for average because of their feel for hitting and line-drive swings. Add in a potential back-end starter in Daniel Mengden and a potential high-leverage reliever in Derrick Velazquez, and you have a group that still rivals most of the draft classes in the AL.

It sure would look a heck of a lot better with Aiken, though.

Barreto impresses

The Toronto Blue Jays gave Franklin Barreto a substantial signing bonus -- $1.45 million to be exact -- as one of the most talented hitters in the 2012 international class, and it hasn't taken long for him to show why they're so high on the young shortstop. He's posted an OPS of .848 in his first 130 games in the minor leagues, and based on what I saw of the infielder in the Northwest League a few weeks ago, it's not a fluke.

At the plate, Barreto has a compact swing, but his strong wrists and solid plane allow him to hit line drives to all parts of the field, and despite his small size, he has enough strength to project solid-average power at the position. The approach is still a work in progress, but he has shown he's not allergic to walks nor working counts into his favor, and scouts tell me his pitch recognition has improved considerably as well. He's also a plus runner, and seasons of 20-30 steals aren't out of the question.

The biggest question with Barreto right now is in the field. He has the athleticism and the arm strength to stick at shortstop, but his actions in the field aren't the cleanest and his hands looked only average on my view, which could see him move to the other side of the diamond. The bat could play there, but if Barreto can stick at shortstop he's got a chance to be an above-average regular, maybe even an All-Star.

Blair could beat talented trio to bigs

The Arizona Diamondbacks have three of the most "famous" pitching prospects in the game right now in Archie Bradley, 2013 first-round selection Braden Shipley and 2014 first-round pick Touki Toussaint. As good as those three are, they could all be beaten to the big leagues by Aaron Blair, who quietly had one of the best seasons of any prospect in the Diamondbacks' system.

Blair attacks hitters with all three of his pitches, starting with a 60 fastball that sits in the low 90s but will touch 94 mph with quality sink and downhill plane. That fastball plays up because of his quality change, a plus offering that has good fade and deception from exceptional arm speed. While his curveball is the weakest of his three pitches, it's still a solid third selection with above-average depth and solid shape.

What gives Blair a chance to move quickly, however, is his command. The 2013 second-rounder repeats his smooth delivery, and he not only limits bases on balls, he also hits his spots with all three of his pitches. The upside doesn't rival the "big three" mentioned above, but as a right-hander with solid size (6-foot-5, 230 pounds) and the ability to put the baseball where he wants, Blair has a chance to be a solid mid-rotation starter who could be pitching in Arizona by the end of 2015.

'Keep calm' on these young players.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
A lot of highly touted prospects and other young major leaguers had what might appear to be disheartening seasons in 2014. Here are five examples of players whose stat lines this year shouldn't dampen your enthusiasm about their futures.

Javier Baez

It's not the debut Cubs fans were expecting, at least not given his showings in spring training and the Futures Game, but a rough first time around the carousel is pretty much in line with Baez's career to date. Baez has 153 plate appearances in the majors so far, with 63 strikeouts and a .175/.229/.364 line. In his first 153 plate appearances in Triple-A, coming earlier this year, he hit .201/.268/.388 with 53 strikeouts.

He started slowly in Double-A as well, failing to get his OBP over .300 until his 120th plate appearance, but he came around sooner and was at least up to .273/.329/.580 by the time he passed 153 plate appearances. The primary skill that made him such a highly rated prospect -- he was No. 7 coming into the year -- is still intact: He has some of the best bat speed and strongest hands I've ever seen on a hitting prospect. He needs to overhaul his approach to at-bats, as he still seems to be deciding whether to swing before he could possibly have identified the pitch type, but he's so talented that he can make mistakes and still turn it into hard contact.

Xander Bogaerts

I'm in the camp that says his season went south the moment the Red Sox moved the "X-man" off shortstop, where he was only adequate on defense but at least was playing a position he already knew. Asking him to learn a new position while still a rookie and developing as a hitter was probably too much, and his performance didn't bounce back right away when the team returned him to short upon trading Stephen Drew.

Bogaerts has at least had a nice 10-game run leading up to Wednesday (.385/.400/.641) and is starting to drive the ball again, but the more important sign is he has continued to work the count and see a lot of pitches, maybe his most impressive baseball skill as a prospect. Over the course of 2014, he's seen more pitches per plate appearance than Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz or Brock Holt. I still believe Bogaerts will develop into a regular All-Star who gets on base and hits for power, as long as the Sox put him in a position to flourish.

Jonathan Schoop

I've long been a Schoop fan, as he has a great swing that already produces power despite his youth (he played this whole year at age 22) and is a good enough athlete to handle second or third, but he did not belong in the majors this year. He made the club because he was the best internal option to play second base, mostly because of his defense, but that has left him fighting just to stay afloat at the plate. If he had enough plate appearances to qualify, his walk rate would be the second worst in the majors, only to Ben Revere and just a shade better than teammate Adam Jones' AL-worst rate.

The Orioles have been too aggressive with Schoop for several years now; he started 2011 in low Class A, was pushed to high Class A that summer but didn't perform that well in half a season there at age 19. Still, Baltimore promoted him to Double-A, where he wasn't great, for 2012, then to Triple-A, where he played a half-season around a back injury, for 2013. The last time he was allowed to excel somewhere was that first half of 2011, when he was still young for the full-season South Atlantic League. So not only is he young to be starting in the majors -- just four players, including Nick Castellanos and Bogaerts, have been everyday players this entire season -- but he's inexperienced in terms of playing time and performance. It might take another year or two for Schoop to catch up developmentally, although, given his makeup, I wouldn't be shocked if he took a big leap at some point in 2015.

Nick Castellanos

Castellanos has had a solid rookie season at the plate; while his wOBA of .314 ranks 20th of 25 qualifying third basemen this year (tied with Evan Longoria), he's also the youngest everyday player at the position in the majors. The No. 32 prospect in baseball coming into this season, Castellanos was handed an everyday job by the Tigers and asked to return to his old position after a year and a half of playing the outfield, even though he wasn't really a finished product at third base before the position switch. That's a fair amount to put on a kid, even one as talented as Castellanos, who is a strong hitter with a great swing that produces doubles power now and should produce 20-plus homers as he matures.

He'd probably have spent half of 2014 in the minors if he was in a lot of other organizations, but the Tigers had a critical need for him after trading Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler and moving Miguel Cabrera back to first base. Only three other position players aged 22 or younger have qualified for the batting title this year -- one of them is Mike Trout, who might not even be human -- so there's reason to be optimistic about Castellanos' bat. The bigger challenge will be improving his defense, which is rated poorly across the board even though he has the hands and arm to play third base. If he could just become average there, even grade-45, he'll be an above-average regular once his bat develops.

Mike Minor

Minor was horrendous in the middle of this season, and it's going to leave fans who haven't watched his late-season starts thinking he had a mediocre year, even though he's set up to have a much better 2015 and maybe even a big postseason if the team can get there. Minor missed time earlier in 2014 with a shoulder problem, and it seemed to affect his stuff and performance until he skipped a start in early August.

This still doesn't look like peak Minor, as he's barely using his changeup (once his best pitch) and is living in the upper third of the zone with his fastball more than ever, but he's throwing far more two-seamers than four-seamers now, going from a 20/80 two-seam/four-seam ratio to more than 55 percent two-seamers now. This looks like a season of growing pains, both in terms of health and of Minor's evolution as a pitcher. If he can reestablish that changeup and mix it in more with the two fastballs and the curveball, he should be an above-average, 200-inning starter next year.
post #26650 of 73564
Magic number's at 2 smokin.gif

At this point, should Rafael Soriano even be on the postseason roster? If I were in charge he wouldn't be.
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Papelbon is the real-life Kenny Powers.
post #26652 of 73564
Originally Posted by madj55 View Post

Magic number's at 2 smokin.gif

At this point, should Rafael Soriano even be on the postseason roster? If I were in charge he wouldn't be.
You > Matt Williams.
post #26653 of 73564

the Astros are .500 since the all-star break :hat


see y'all in the post season next year >D

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Thread Starter 
Clayton Kershaw’s Replacing Strikeouts with Strikeouts, Basically.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Clayton Kershaw‘s good! Here’s something I bet you didn’t know about him. In the first half of this season, he struck out more than a third of all the hitters he faced. In the second half, his strikeout rate is actually down 17%. Now, that’s percent, not percentage points, but it means one of six strikeout victims hasn’t been a strikeout victim. That seems like the kind of thing that should raise eyebrows. But you haven’t noticed because in the first half Kershaw allowed 19 runs, and in the second half he’s allowed 19 runs. One is less inclined to notice when great players are slightly differently great.

Also, his second-half strikeout rate is still extraordinary. Also, he’s still not really walking anybody, even though just yesterday he did put Yusmeiro Petit on base. The regular numbers love second-half Kershaw, but if you dig just a little bit deeper, you can gain a better understanding of how Kershaw has remained so dominant despite giving away a handful of whiffs.

Here’s a clue. From Sunday, Kershaw vs. Andrew Susac:

From the same game, Kershaw vs. Matt Duffy:

You’re looking at a couple of pop-ups. Now, granted, Duffy’s pop-up dropped in between fielders, allowing it to be a run-scoring hit. For Kershaw, that was a bad outcome, but it’s an extremely rare outcome, and all things considered he would’ve been happy with the batted ball. This season, on pop-ups, hitters are batting .021, and slugging .025. They’re almost automatic outs. In the NFL, extra-point success rate hovers around 99%, and more and more people wonder whether the kick should even be necessary. In baseball, a pop-up is a lot like an extra point. The same thing doesn’t always happen, but when it doesn’t happen, it’s highly unusual.

So you know something’s going on with Kershaw and pop-ups. Why don’t we take a look at first- and second-half splits?

1st 34% 4% 8% 0.279 5% 50
2nd 28% 5% 6% 0.252 24% 46
In the first half, Kershaw’s numbers were absurd. In the second half, he’s changed things up a little bit. He’s allowed more contact, but he’s also allowed worse contact, and that pop-up rate is the highest in the major leagues. His first-half pop-up rate was among the league’s lowest. Earlier, Clayton Kershaw was piling up the strikeouts. He’s still getting plenty of strikeouts, but he’s replaced some of them with the ball-in-play equivalent of strikeouts.

By the numbers available on FanGraphs, Kershaw generated three first-half pop-ups — two on May 23, and one on June 13. So, pop-ups accounted for 1.3% of his batted balls. In the second half, he’s had just one start in which he didn’t generate a pop-up, picking up a total of 16 overall. They’ve accounted for 7.5% of his batted balls. That tells you a lot, but we also draw from a conservative data source, and Gameday provides its own classifications.

According to MLB, first-half Kershaw generated ten pop-ups. Second-half Kershaw has generated 31. And, mostly, this has been about righties. Kershaw’s pop-up total against lefties has risen from four to five. His pop-up total against righties has risen from six to 26. That’s an extremely high total, and, where have those pitches been going? You could guess, but we can confirm with the help of Baseball Savant:

Mostly, the pop-ups have come against pitches inside and elevated. And if you examine Kershaw’s pitch patterns, you can see that perhaps this is deliberate. Kershaw has moved more often toward that quadrant.

Looking at his overall pitches against righties:

First half: 22% inside, up
Second half: 29%

Looking at his fastballs, still against righties:

First half: 31% inside, up
Second half: 40%

And how about if we look at first pitches? We’ll look at this two different ways:

First half: 70% inside
Second half: 86%

First half: 27% inside, up
Second half: 45%

More recently, Kershaw has thrown more first-pitch fastballs, and he’s thrown more of them high and tight. In the second half alone, Kershaw has generated 12 first-pitch pop-ups, 11 against righties. The second-place numbers are seven and five, respectively. Kershaw, on the season, has been pounding the zone to open at-bats. Batters, then, want to be aggressive early, because they don’t want to fall behind in the count and have to try to put a bat to Kershaw’s breaking stuff. So with batters looking to swing at 0-0, Kershaw’s moved a little closer to the hands, and more batters have gotten themselves out in a hurry. It’s a somewhat infrequent thing, but all of them add up.

There have been a few elevated breaking balls. Kershaw’s command of his slider is such that he can throw the pitch up and in from time to time, and over the past couple months, Kershaw’s slider has generated seven right-handed pop-ups, against one in the first half. But this is mostly about his fastball — that pop-up total’s risen from four to 17, looking at only right-handed batters. This is what you’d expect. The high, inside fastball is the pop-up pitch, and Kershaw’s thrown more of it. His fastball is also one of those fastballs hitters tend to swing underneath, because of its vertical movement. Kershaw has a long track record of generating pop-ups. They started to go away a little bit when Kershaw slightly altered his approach, but now they’re back with a vengeance, as Kershaw now is blending everything. He’s a strike-thrower like never before. He’s still not allowing much contact. Now he’s also limiting the quality of contact. Kershaw’s simply turned everything up to 11, blending his new skills with his old ones in becoming the perfect pitcher.

So in the first half, Kershaw struck out 34% of batters. In the second half, he’s struck out 28% of batters. But, Duffy’s pop-up aside, let’s go ahead and consider pop-ups automatic outs. That much isn’t always true, but then strikeouts aren’t always automatic outs, themselves. Blending strikeouts and pop-ups, first-half Kershaw turned 37% of batters into easy outs. Second-half Kershaw’s up at 38%. In one sense, the last couple months, Clayton Kershaw’s allowed more contact than he did before. In the truest sense, batters have just found more efficient ways to whiff.

Changing Up With the Count 3-0.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
There are a few things that most people reading this know about 3-0 counts, or at least there some things we think we know about what happens when the count runs 3-0. We know the strike zone gets very big and we know batters take the vast, vast majority of the time. We also know only the best hitters get the green light in this count.

While bat still stay largely on shoulders with the count 3-0, more and more hitters do offer at these pitches – the 3-0 swing rate increased every year since 2009. If you’re going to get a good pitch to hit, why not swing? Since only the best hitters get to unload, the ones understood to be the best judges of the strike zone, the chances of a positive outcome increases. As a rough measure, consider the drop off in slugging from 3-0 to 3-1 is slight compared to the drop from 3-1 to a full count.

MLB splits, 2014 (via Baseball Reference)

3-0 Count 3234 22 .353 .942 .680 1.622
3-1 Count 7281 188 .348 .682 .609 1.291
Full Count 21479 366 .216 .449 .344 0.792
Despite being a trend on the rise, pulling the trigger with the count 3-0 still runs counter to conventional baseball thinking. It is a situational judgement call. If, for example, the batter was Jose Bautista and he’s facing Jeremy Hellickson in the fifth inning of a one-run game, swinging the bat is far from the worst option available to the Blue Jays slugger.

Bautista has swung the bat well of late, allowing Toronto to maintain a “girlfriend in Canada”-style relationship with the Wild Card race. Hellickson hasn’t been great since he returned from a long stint on the DL, especially vulnerable against right-handed batters as he’s been of late. Of all times to swing at a 3-0 pitch, this looked like a fine time for Bautista to zone up and unload on a pitch if he got one to his liking.

The Jays slugger wasn’t alone in this thinking, as Rays catcher Jose Molina and Hellickson were on the same wavelength. They decided to, um, change things up on Bautista, throwing him a 3-0 changeup.

So that’s how that pitch got the name! They baffled a very dangerous hitter, getting him a mile out front. He wanted to hit it about 450 feet into the seats but it rolled about 75 feet foul.

Though the Rays walked him on the next pitch, they dodged a bullet by avoided the worst possible outcome in this situation (a very long home run). A complete success by taking an unconventional approach. Or so I thought. Offspeed pitches in 3-0 counts are more common than I assumed. Since the dawn of the Pitchf/x era, around 2.5% of all non-intentional walk pitches thrown were classified as changeups, using data from Baseball Savant. Looking at 2014 in particular, nearly 3% of “unclassified” 3-0 pitches were changeups, more than any other non-fastball.

BS is a terrific resource but it relies on the Gameday pitch classifications, resulting in some occasionally wonky results. Looking at 3-0 changeups thrown in 2014, the standard pitch classification system spits out Justin Verlander as the pitcher to throw the most offspeed pitches in this count. A quick look at his Brooks Baseball card, where the pitch types are adjusted manually by their team, reveals they aren’t changeups but 2014 JV frowny face emoticon fastballs, the only pitch he’s thrown 3-0 this season.

The actual list of pitchers getting weird 3-0 reads about as one might expect had one invested time guessing at such things. Jered Weaver throws the most, Justin Masterson , and even Chris Sale threw a handful of changes when in the deepest of holes. In 2014, injury deprived us of the rightful name at top of this leaderboard.

Bronson Arroyo throws more 3-0 changeups than any other pitcher – more than 50% since 2012. His results with the pitch aren’t bad at all, just one single allowed against nine walks and and a pop out. For Arroyo, it plants enough doubt in the mind of hitters (combined with his heavy curveball usage in the ultimate fastball count) that he hasn’t been victimized at all in this count aside from the expected walks.

On the other side of this coin sits Yovani Gallardo. Gallardo served up an improbable four 3-0 home runs since 2010, yet he still throws throws fastballs 98% of the time. Jeremy Guthrie gets hit almost as hard in this count, surrendering three home runs. This year, he threw his first two changeups when behind 3-0, earning a called strike and a foul for his trouble.

The situation is really what dictates the decision on both sides of the exchange. Even great pitchers are unwilling to give in to great hitters from this deep hole. Sale threw five changeups 3-0 this season: one to Miguel Cabrera and two to Billy Butler, always an eager swinger with four home runs in 3-0 counts for his career. As hitters become more willing to swing in this count, pitchers and catchers add wrinkles and switch up their pitch usage.

For hitters. offering at a 3-0 pitch is not unlike swinging at the first pitch: it’s a great idea right up until the moment it fails to produce the desired outcome. Very much unlike the first pitch, there is little to lose for pitchers getting cute when behind 3-0, as the writing for this at bat is mostly on the wall.

Which brings us back to Jose Bautista.

After Jeremy Hellickson fooled him on Saturday afternoon with a 3-0 change, Bautista found himself ahead 3-0 once again on Sunday afternoon. This time it was in the 10th inning, with his Blue Jays trailing 6-5 and Brandon Gomes on the mound for Tampa Bay. With one out, Bautista again saw an opportunity to get a pitch to drive. Gomes worked carefully with three straight pitches down and away, wary of Bautista’s power. His 3-0 was over the plate enough that Bautista unleashed his violent swing…

…and popped out to foul territory. The pitch was a good one, down and away enough to induce this easy (yet tricky) out. A big win for the Rays and a lost gamble by Bautista. It’s the sort of thing that drives some fans crazy (go ahead and search “Bautista 3-0” on twitter.)

In the right hands, a 3-0 swing is a dangerous weapon. As word gets around, teams are more and more cautious and unwilling to give in. Even when an at bat looks all but over, the gears are still turning and pitchers will do whatever they can to keep the ball in the park, even if it means throwing your second-best pitch and accepting a walk as the cost of doing business.

Domingo German: Flamethrowing Reliever or Useful Starter?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
When our other prospect writers submit scouting reports, I will provide a short background and industry consensus tool grades. There are two reasons for this: 1) giving context to account for the writer seeing a bad outing (never threw his changeup, coming back from injury, etc.) and 2) not making him go on about the player’s background or speculate about what may have happened in other outings.

The writer still grades the tools based on what they saw, I’m just letting the reader know what he would’ve seen in many other games from this season, particularly with young players that may be fatigued late in the season. The grades are presented as present/future on the 20-80 scouting scale and very shortly I’ll publish a series going into more depth explaining these grades. -Kiley

Domingo German, RHP, Miami Marlins (Low-A Greensboro)

German signed for $40,000 out of the Dominican in August 2009, a couple days after his 17th birthday. He spent his age 17 and 18 years in the DSL then his age 19 and 20 years in the GCL. In that age 20 season (2013), German made progress with his command and continued his GCL success in the short-season New York-Penn League, setting up a full-season debut this year in Low-A Greensboro. German beat expectations, performing well by throwing strikes and getting ground balls in an impressive 123.1 innings. He’s showed some of the traits to start and has a chance to take another step forward in 2015, with the question being whether he turns into a back-end starter or late-inning reliever.

Fastball: 55/60, Slider, 45/50, Changeup: 45/50, Command: 40/50 -Kiley

As low-minors arms go, Domingo German has a very strong track record, with excellent ERAs and K/BB ratios the past two years. Beneath the appealing statline lies an interesting if somewhat puzzling skillset.

Fastball: 55/60

German has good arm speed that allows him to work in the low 90s with almost no effort. In my viewing, he worked at 89-93 mph, touching 94, and he almost seemed to be holding back in his delivery, slightly short-arming the ball and not generating optimal momentum. With some mechanical improvements, he could work into the mid-90s with more frequency, and he threw 95-97 in a one-inning Futures Game appearance according to Pitch F/X data. His fastball is fairly straight, though it does boast some sinking action at times. The pitch jumps on hitters late, and he holds his velocity well.

Slider: 40/50+

German’s breaking ball is almost the definition of a slurve, arriving at 78-82 mph with rolling three-quarters break. The shape and sharpness of the pitch seem to vary considerably, with it working best as more of a power 10-to-4 offering in the 81-82 range. If German can get the pitch more consistently in that vein, it could be an average to solid-average offering. In the Futures Game appearance, he was 83-84 with it.

Changeup: 40/45+

German’s 84-86 mph changeup is probably his weakest pitch at present. It does have some sink and can give hitters a different look, but he gets below-average speed separation and his motion doesn’t help him in selling the offering. Its inadequacy partially explains German’s platoon splits (righties hit .228/.284/.302, while lefties .269/.320/.376), and it needs to improve if he’s going to remain a starting pitcher.

Command: 40/50+

German’s excelled at being around the zone and avoiding walks for two years running, and credit for this can largely be attributed to his being a compact pitcher with a compact, easy motion. He’s more of a mere strike-thrower than a real command artist at present, though, especially on offspeed pitches; he comes slightly across his body in his motion and doesn’t always repeat his timing pattern through release. He has the coordination to improve in this area over time and develop solid-average command.


German is one of the large class of minor league starting pitchers whose fastball runs ahead of his other attributes, thus tempting some scouts and analysts to want him moved to short relief where he can air the heater out. To be sure, the difference between his working 89-93 in my viewing in June and 95-97 in a one-inning appearance in the Futures Game the following month is eye-opening. At the same time, there’s obviously a desire to keep a pitcher in a starting role if he has a chance of succeeding there, as it gives him a higher contribution ceiling, and it’s hard to write German off in this respect given his success and the fact that he throws strikes and has offspeed pitches that are at least playable. For now, there’s enough across-the-board promise that German deserves time to continue starting and working on rounding out his game, and there’s a chance he could put up some 2014 Drew Hutchison-type years if he can do so. Otherwise, he has a chance to go to the bullpen and make an impact there thanks to his heat and ability to avoid ball four.

Small Things Adding Up: Michael Bourn’s Speedy Decline.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
After 2013’s surprise run to the playoffs, in 2014 Cleveland is making a good show of it. However, at this point their playoff contention is mostly nominal.

Cleveland had a number of good things happen for them this year. They have both a serious Cy Young contender in Corey Kluber and (in a Trout-less world) a legitimate MVP candidate in Michael Brantley. The team has also made some free agent signings over the past couple of years, acquisitions that were supposed to be part of the team’s return to relevance. Despite the overall success, though, players like Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn have mostly been disappointing. In the case of Bourn, it is not any one thing, but a number of factors that have contributed to his disappointing performance the last two years.

When looked at from one perspective, Bourn’s career as a whole has been the opposite of disappointing. It started out in inauspicious fashion. Bourn’s first real chance in the majors with Philadelphia in 2007, and was less than thrilling (remember when an 86 wRC+ from a center fielder was considered bad?). After the season he was sent to Houston in a trade that sent Brad Lidge to Philadelphia. The Astros installed Bourn in center field (in between Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence). Bourn played in 138 games, and managed to hit even worse than the year before: .229/.288/.300 (58 wRC+), miserable even by today’s deflated offensive environment.

It is to the Astros’ credit (or lack of better options) that they stuck with Bourn, and in 2009 he rewarded them. He did not blow anyone away at the plate, behind exactly league average (100 wRC+) with a .285/.354/.384 line. But Bourn’s speed not only allowed him to keep playing good defense, but to exploit his increased chances on the basepaths. Bourn led all of baseball with 12 base running runs above average that season. After 2008’s replacement-level performance, in 2009 Bourn put up over four wins according to WAR.

Over the next few seasons, Bourn did his best to show that 2009 was no fluke. He did not hit for much power, and his strikeout rate was worse than average even if he did cut it a bit. His walk rate also improved a bit during his years in Houston. Probably the main factor of his success between 2009 and 2012 was his BABIP, which rose considerably from his first twoo full seasons in baseball. During those four seasons, Bourn’s BABIP was .356. This may scream “luck” to some, but keep in mind it was over four seasons. Moreover, Bourn kept the ball on the ground and out of the air, which is a pretty good formula for a fast guy without much power. And Bourn’s speed must have been a factor in his high BABIP. Obviously, it was a weapon on the bases, but also in legging out grounders. As an indication of Bourn’s speed note that from 2009 through 2012 he stole 216 bases, 45 more than the next highest.

If one believes that players can magically “turn it on” during a walk year to get a big contract, Bourn’s 2012 provides some anecdotal evidence,. Bourn had been traded to Atlanta during 2011 and was unimpressive during his partial first season there. In 2012 he had probably the best season of his career. He had the same 104 wRC+ as he did in 2011, but is included nine home runs, easily a career high, his walk rate went up to 10 percent, and the fielding metrics loved him as much or more than ever. Even if one does not buy that Bourn was a six-win player in 2012, it was an eye-catching performance.

Cleveland, at least, was impressed. signing Bourn, who turned 30 prior to the 2013 season, to a four-year, $48 million contract. To all appearances, Bourn’s game has dropped off in just about every respect. Perhaps that is not completely fair. It is not as if Bourn has been bad in all facets of his game, but it is pretty clear that he has not been what Cleveland hoped he would be for them, not even at the start. Let’s leave behind the quasi-narrative nature of this post so far and just look at his performance.

The one big drop that probably catches the eye is that fielding metrics, after loving Bourn for years, see him as getting worse the last two years. Now, it is fair to point out that given all the problems with fielding metrics, they could simply be wrong about the last couple of years. Or maybe they were wrong in rating him so highly earlier. Or maybe it was always wrong. The Fans Scouting Report also sees his defense as in decline, though, and it is not hard to believe that a player in his thirties, when speed in other aspects of the game decline, would be losing some range.

But let’s not get caught up in arguments about fielding metrics. Bourn does seem to have lost a step in general, as evidenced by his recent performance on the basepaths.After averaging more than 50 stolen bases a season from 2009 to 2012, in 2013 season he only stole 23, albeit in fewer games than in 2012. Bourn did manage to get thrown out as much in 2013 (12 times) as he did in 2012 (13 times, although he was successful 42 times in 2012). UBR also sees him as getting worse, at least this year. This loss of a step (likely due to leg issues) probably plays into problems in the field, although again, that is not the focus of this post.

Earlier, speed was mentioned as a likely factor in Bourn’s high BABIPs from his more successful seasons. However, in this case Bourn has mostly maintained his performance. His BABIP may not be as high as the .369 he managed in 2011, but his .338 last year was still high compared to most players, and his .349 so far this season is the same as his big 2012 for Atlanta.

The problem is that Bourn does not do much positive at the plate other than get singles on balls in play. The problem is not really power. It is down, , but not much — a .110 this year is not significantly lower than his .117 in 2012. His home runs on contact have gone down two years in a row, but this year are still higher than any season in 2009-2011. His extra-base hits in play (doubles and triples) this season are actually at a career-best rate.

Bourn’s walk rate is way down from 2012, but that was his career-best season. In any case, Bourn had success in 2011 with a similar walk rate to this season. But one would also rightly point out that in 2012, he had a career-best BABIP.

The single biggest problem for Bourn at the plate this year and last, at least on the surface, has been strikeouts. He may have suceeded with a similar walk rate and (lack of) power in the past, but in those seasons he had an even higher BABIP than usual. While Bourn still seems to be able to maintain a high BABIP, if he does not put the ball into play, then, well, it is hard to get hits, gets on base, and put his (declining) speed into action. Bourn’s strikeouts have always been an issue given his lack of diversified offensive game, but without his 2012 walk rate, it is even more of a problem. It is not immediately obvious what the problem is. The main driver of strikeout rate is contact rate, and his overall contact rate has been roughly the same the past few seasons. His swing rate has gone up a bit, particularly on balls outside of the zone, so that probably has hurt both his walk and strikeout rates.

Still, to lay things all at the door of his strikeout or swing rates is overly simplistic. And there an additional factor: health. After being quite durable the previous few years, Bourn played in only 130 games in 2013, his fewest since in 2007 rookie season. So far this season he has only played in 93. Just playing in fewer games hurts his value, naturally, but the injuries themselves are probably making a difference in his performance. Given that many of his problems the last couple of seasons have been leg-related, the injuries are probably contributing to his speed-related issues. Sometimes one might argue that injuries mean that once a player is healthy, he will return to prior levels of performance. However, given Bourn’s age, that would not be the safest bet to make. And not all of his problems, e.g., strikeout rate, are obviously speed-related.

Back when Bourn was a free agent, Dave Cameron wrote about the dangers of signing a player whose value stemmed mostly from outfield defense going into his thirties. The point could be extended, at least in Bourn’s case, to the problem of having speed as the primary source of his value — in the field, on the basepaths, and at the plate (via his BABIP). While there is evidence that faster players decline later than other players, if speed is the primary locus of a player’s value, once that goes, he has less to fall back on. And losing that makes the decline in less obviously speed-related aspects of Bourn’s game such as strikeout rate all that much more problematic.

Bourn’s future is not set in stone, of course. This season has been really bad for him, but in 2013, he still had some decent value, even if it wasn’t as much as hoped. Four years and $48 million is not all that onerous compared to many of the contracts given out these days (although Cleveland is hardly one of the teams capable of giving out the big contracts). Still, Bourn has not been the value Cleveland had hoped, and while some issues have been bigger than others, it has been a combination of a number of smaller issues that have led to the decline.

Baseball’s Least-Improved Pitch-Framer.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
You ever notice how “improved” doesn’t have a good selection of antonyms? That’s what I’m going for. “The pitch-framer who’s gotten a heck of a lot worse somehow” gets the idea across, but it makes for a pretty lousy headline. Anyway, now you know the question being answered.

Dave has noted a few times in the past that at this point, the market doesn’t seem to pay very much for quality pitch-framing. There could be any number of reasons for this, but one could be that teams simply think they can teach their catchers to receive the ball better. Why pay for what you can instruct? Jason Castro would be an example of a guy who’s gotten way better at receiving with proper, targeted instruction. I think it makes sense to us how a guy could learn to receive pitches better. It makes less sense how a guy could just flat-out do worse. It seems like a fundamental skill once it’s learned, but every stat has its players who get better and its players who get worse, and the catcher who’s had the biggest performance decline between 2013 and 2014 is a catcher who last winter inked a three-year contract after winning a World Series.

I don’t think Jarrod Saltalamacchia was ever considered a really good framer. But during his years with the Red Sox, he wasn’t a liability, and the worthwhile numbers — those from Baseball Prospectus and StatCorner — allege that he was roughly league-average. He was no David Ross, but few catchers are, and Saltalamacchia was good enough to earn most pitchers’ trust. I’m guessing this might’ve factored in to the Marlins’ offseason contract proposal, and this past spring, pitchers seemed to enjoy throwing to him:

Mike Dunn: Just to get to see him behind the plate, the way he receives, because every catcher looks a little bit different, the target is presented a little differently. It looked clean back there, even if I made a bad pitch, he made me feel like I threw it good because of the way he caught it.

When the Marlins signed Saltalamacchia, there was reason to believe his defensive work would be perfectly fine. It had been for years. Saltalamacchia was a veteran, but he wasn’t old and declining and broken. What Saltalamacchia did bring is career-average offense. Yet what he hasn’t brought is his receiving. At least, to the extent that we can measure it.

Between 2013 and 2014, there are 55 catchers who’ve had at least 1,000 framing opportunities in each season. We can look at this with a simpler method, and we can look at this with a more complicated method. Matthew Carruth presents more simple numbers at StatCorner, and according to that data, Saltalamacchia’s declined the most out of the group, by roughly a strike and a half per game. Baseball Prospectus has published and run with a more granular method, and according to their data, Saltalamacchia’s declined the most out of the group, by roughly a strike and a half per game. So there’s agreement here, and while it might be hard to explain, the numbers are the numbers. Unless the numbers are completely wrong, the lack of a good explanation doesn’t change the fact that there has to be some kind of explanation.

So where, statistically, Saltalamacchia was a roughly average framer, now he looks like one of the worst in the league. With the help of Baseball Savant, here’s his 2013 strike/ball plot:

Here’s 2014:

And here’s a .gif, since those images might be hard to compare as presented:

Along the glove-side edge, Saltalamacchia’s stayed the same, with a little over 70% called strikes. Around the bottom edge over the plate, he’s stayed the same, with a little over 60% called strikes. He’s down seven percentage points around the upper edge over the plate. And along the arm-side edge, he’s down 11 percentage points. That low-away corner against righties, that pitchers love to target? Down there, Saltalamacchia’s helped less than he used to.

I don’t know exactly what it is. I can show you some .gifs of Saltalamacchia catching, but I can’t tell you what they mean. It’s just, here are balls, that could’ve been borderline strikes, from a game the other day.

Not even a missed spot.

Ugly reach across.

Drove the ball too far down.

Another ugly reach across.

Baseball Prospectus provides framing data broken down by battery. That can be interesting to peruse, and, the worst battery by framing runs is Saltalamacchia/Koehler. Second-worst? Saltalamacchia/Eovaldi. Fourth-worst? Saltalamacchia/Hand. A little north of that, we find Saltalamacchia/Fernandez, and a little north of that, we find Saltalamacchia/Alvarez.

You might be thinking: don’t the Marlins have a bunch of live arms? They sure do! And that can be hard to catch. Absolutely, Saltalamacchia doesn’t have an easy job. But, the Marlins’ other regular catcher has been Jeff Mathis. He’s been one of the better framers in the league. And while he hasn’t caught the same distribution of guys and pitches as Saltalamacchia has, who’s had the better framing data with pitchers who’ve been shared at least a decent amount?

A.J. Ramos: advantage, Mathis
Brad Hand: advantage, Mathis
Bryan Morris: advantage, Mathis
Chris Hatcher: advantage, Mathis
Dan Jennings: advantage, Mathis
Henderson Alvarez: advantage, Mathis
Jacob Turner: advantage, Mathis
Mike Dunn: advantage, Mathis
Nathan Eovaldi: advantage, Mathis
Steve Cishek: advantage, Mathis
Tom Koehler: advantage, Mathis
Mathis has been better with all the shared pitchers, by this measure, and most of the differences aren’t even small. The Marlins, as a staff, aren’t easy to catch, but that hasn’t been an excuse for Mathis. So it’s up to Saltalamacchia to adjust better than he has.

And that’s what I suspect this is. After more than three years with the Red Sox, Saltalamacchia left and had to learn a whole new staff in a whole new league. Good receivers will tell you it helps an awful lot to be familiar with the tendencies and movement of the guys on the mound, and maybe it’s just taking Saltalamacchia a while. Being a starting catcher is mighty hard work. But we’re near the end of 2014, now, and in his first year with the Marlins, Saltalamacchia’s receiving has taken a massive step back, by the numbers we can produce. Presuming the numbers aren’t misleading inaccurate crap, Saltalamacchia needs to turn this around. Maybe somehow he’s just developed worse technique. I can be only so confident in my explanations. I’m more confident, though, that there’s something to explain.

Bryce Harper, Craig Kimbrel and a Rare Moment of Weakness.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
I’m going to be honest, I feel a bit dirty writing this post. We’re now on year five of Craig Kimbrel being impossibly good. For four years he’s clearly been the best reliever in baseball and, frankly, it’s one of the better stretches of relief pitching we’ve seen in recent history. Yet, this is the first post on FanGraphs this year where he is the subject, and it’s about him making a mistake. Which, really, just reinforces how good Craig Kimbrel is. He’s so good that when he makes a mistake, it becomes news. On Wednesday, Kimbrel made a new kind of mistake.

Though there hasn’t been a post this season in which Kimbrel was the main subject, that’s not to say he hasn’t been mentioned. His name was invoked in a post by Jeff Sullivan earlier this year on baseball’s most and least homerable pitches. For the purposes of setting up today’s post, I’d like to recreate a table that ol’ Jeff published:

Player Pitch HR%
Craig Kimbrel Curve 0.00%
Matt Lindstrom Slider 0.07%
Javy Guerra Fastball 0.09%
Al Alburquerque Slider 0.09%
Jake Diekman Sinker 0.10%
Jamey Wright Curve 0.12%
Brandon Lyon Cutter 0.13%
Javier Lopez Sinker 0.13%
Fernando Rodney Sinker 0.14%
Mark Melancon Cutter 0.14%
You now know what the mistake is that Kimbrel made. One of those things used to stand out from the others. Now, it’s just another low number. In case you still need help figuring it out, I’ll post the tweet that got the ball rolling on this post:

Just realized — Bryce Harper’s homer against Kimbrel a few days ago was the first EVER homer off a Kimbrel curveball

— Dan Rozenson (@SixToolPlayer) September 15, 2014

You can click that link to learn a little more about Kimbrel’s history with the curveball, or you can just keep reading, as I am about to explain it to you.

The pitch Kimbrel throws the most is a fastball. He throws it about 70% of the time. The other 30% of the time, he throws a bendy pitch. From 2010-2012, it was classified as a slider. Now, the classification systems are calling it a knuckle curve. The disagreement on what to call it is fitting, because it is unlike any other pitch in baseball.

Since 2008, when PITCHf/x began collecting pitch data, 157 pitchers have thrown at least 1,000 curveballs. At 87mph, Kimbrel’s is the fastest, by more than 3.5mph. At 53%, Kimbrel’s gets the most whiffs, by more than 6%. And at 9%, Kimbrel’s generates the least amount of fly balls, which leads us to the big point:

Kimbrel has thrown 1,411 bendy pitches in his career. Of those 1,411 pitches, 314 have been swinging strikes. Just 128 have resulted in balls in play. Of those 128 balls in play, Kimbrel has allowed 38 hits. Of those 38 hits, 36 have been singles. One was a double. None were triples. And, as of Wednesday, one is a home run.

In Kimbrel, clearly, you have an extraordinary talent. In Bryce Harper, you have another extraordinary talent. Sometimes, when two extraordinary talents collide, you get an extraordinary result.


My first thought was “I wonder if Kimbrel knew?” The Braves announcers picked up on it pretty quickly. Something tells me Kimbrel knew:

It’s impossible to quantify exactly how good or bad an individual pitch is, but this certainly wasn’t Kimbrel’s best curve. By results, it’s the worst he’s ever thrown. By location, it doesn’t get much better:

But it’s not like Kimbrel throwing a curve middle-middle is a recipe for disaster. He’s thrown a curve right down the pipe like this 71 times in his career and they’ve only resulted in 19 balls in play. Of those 19 balls in play, 18 (!) were either ground balls or popups. Even when hitters get Kimbrel’s breaking ball right down the middle, they don’t even come close to doing damage with it. Oh, and here’s the other “fly ball,” from way back in 2011:

So how did this happen? Perhaps past history between Kimbrel and Harper can clue us in. Being in the same division, this wasn’t the first time Kimbrel and Harper had faced each other. Being a guy who throws a breaking ball 30% of the time, it wasn’t the first time Harper had seen Kimbrel’s breaking ball. It wasn’t even the first time he had seen it in the at-bat. That’s my way of segueing into the pitches leading up to the unprecedented dinger:

Kimbrel starts Harper off with a 96mph fastball, away, and Harper takes it for strike one. Nothing too extraordinary about this, besides maybe the amount of movement on Kimbrel’s fastball and the pinpoint command.

Kimbrel comes back with a breaking ball that’s almost in the dirt. Harper thinks about swinging, but wisely lays off. This pitch barely resembles the pitch he would eventually hit for a dinger, but now he’s seen the curve, and that’s what matters.

Now we see our first clue. Harper is waiting on the breaking ball and he gets it. But as we’ve previously outlined, that usually doesn’t matter against Kimbrel’s curve, so Harper swings through it.

After this pitch, Harper turns to Braves catcher Christian Bethancourt, smiles and says something. The camera only catches the last couple words of the exchange, but on first glance it looks like he says “so far.” I would love to believe that he told him, “Throw me a curve again and I will hit it so far,” but it’s just as likely that he said “Hitting that pitch is so hard,” or, “After my last speeding ticket, I have no car.” We’ll never know.

Now, with two strikes on him, Harper is still thinking curveball. He gets a 98mph fastball away, and does enough to foul it off and keep the at-bat alive. That he appeared to still be waiting on a curve is clue number two.

Still ahead of the hitter, Kimbrel comes back with a low fastball to change eye levels, and Harper lays off, probably still looking for a curve. He got it on the very next pitch, and did something that had never been done before.

I looked back through the rest of the history between Harper and Kimbrel’s curve, hoping to find anything else that might have led to this, but there wasn’t much. I was hoping maybe Harper had hit a deep foul ball that just missed being a homer or maybe hit one straight back. I was hoping maybe Harper was one of the seven people to ever hit Kimbrel’s curve for a fly ball and that it was sent to the warning track. Not the case. The homer can maybe be explained by the fact that Harper appeared to be sitting on a breaking ball for the last few pitches of the at-bat, but for the most part, it’s unexplainable.

The home run doesn’t change much. A streak is over, but Kimbrel is still the most dominant pitcher in baseball and his curveball is still the hardest pitch to take deep. He will go right back to punishing hitters and Harper will go right back to doing Harper things. Baseball is a game of failure, and for more than four years, Kimbrel has been beating the system. Craig Kimbrel might have thought he could fool baseball forever, but this goes to serve as a reminder that baseball always wins.
post #26655 of 73564
Originally Posted by ChampCruThik View Post

You > Matt Williams.

I'm interested to see how he uses Ryan Zimmerman in the playoffs. Can't have him playing 3B and making crucial errors, especially since his bat won't be back up to speed yet. We'd have to make it to the World Series for him to be the DH. LaRoche is hot right now so we can't put him at 1B. Rendon and Cabrera at 3B/2B are significantly superior defensively than having Zim in at 3B. Can't put him back out in LF. Guess we're gonna have an $100M pinch hitter.
post #26656 of 73564

Zimmerman will be in the OF. 

post #26657 of 73564
post #26658 of 73564
Originally Posted by Jewbacca View Post

Zimmerman will be in the OF. 
Who do you take out of the lineup? Span is on fire, Werth is playing well, and Harper's power is back. I can't really decide where I'd put Zim. I wouldn't wanna take any of those guys out, and anywhere he goes he'll be a defensive liability.
post #26659 of 73564
Originally Posted by madj55 View Post

Who do you take out of the lineup? Span is on fire, Werth is playing well, and Harper's power is back. I can't really decide where I'd put Zim. I wouldn't wanna take any of those guys out, and anywhere he goes he'll be a defensive liability.

I feel like they'll rotate guys out of the lineup to keep Zimmerman's bat in. 


I really don't like Zimmerman and I know he's a defensive butcher, but I can't imagine the Nats leaving his bat out of the lineup. 

post #26660 of 73564
Thread Starter 
I honestly think they'll take the risk and put him at 3rd. Move Rendon to second and bench Espinosa/Cabrera. They'll use the Cardinal series as a crutch and say the positives he brings on offense outweighs the negatives on defense. It screams Matt Williams move.

Or I can see Bryce pissing Williams off over the next couple of weeks and he'll bench him for Zimm in the OF laugh.gif
post #26661 of 73564
Thread Starter 

2014 Prospects of the Year.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
While the process of selecting the top prospects was ultimately subjective, I focused primarily on legitimate prospects who performed well relative to their age, level and experience in pro ball. In short, the younger a player was relative to the other players in his league -- especially when compared just to the players in his league with a chance to have some impact in the majors -- the more impressed I was with a strong performance.

The winner here won't surprise anyone, so I discuss a number of other players who would have merited strong consideration if we didn't have such a clear favorite. I also give a separate award to the 2014 draftee who had the best pro debut, as well as a pair of runners-up.

Prospect of the Year: Kris Bryant | 3B | Chicago Cubs

I'd say it was a unanimous vote, but considering I'm the only voter, that was sort of an inevitable outcome. Still, Bryant blew away the field, dominating at two levels, leading the minor leagues in home runs and slugging percentage, finishing second in OBP (behind a 21-year-old in low-A) and ascending the rankings to become baseball's top prospect, all in his first full year in professional baseball. The second overall pick in the 2013 Rule 4 draft, Bryant probably would have appeared in the majors in September if he were already on the 40-man roster, but the current collective bargaining agreement and major league rules gave the Cubs a real disincentive to promote him for a cup of coffee. He will almost certainly be up by May 2015, however, bringing his 30-plus-homer power and outstanding eye at the plate to the heart of the Cubs' lineup.

Other contenders

Mookie Betts | 2B | Boston Red Sox

Starting Betts in Double-A this year seemed aggressive, as he had just 51 games in high-A in 2013 and would play all of 2014 at age 21. But he destroyed two levels on his way to the majors, hitting .346/.431/.529 with 33 steals in 40 attempts between the Eastern and International leagues and all but forcing the Red Sox to call him up to the majors in July. He lost his rookie status this year but performed so well that he must have a regular job somewhere at Fenway in 2015, even with the signing of Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo.

Joey Gallo | 3B | Texas Rangers

Gallo finished one homer behind Bryant for the overall minor league lead; he led the Class-A Carolina League in homers despite leaving the league in early June and fell one short of tying for the Texas League lead despite not arriving there until, well, early June. Gallo still strikes out too often, 39.5 percent of his at-bats in Double-A after his promotion, but he was the youngest every-day player in the league and showed slight improvement in his contact rate as the summer went on. Of course, nothing he did this year was likely to match the show he put on at the Futures Game.

Corey Seager | SS | Los Angeles Dodgers

Seager's .352/.411/.633 line as one of the youngest regulars in the high-A California League isn't as impressive as it looks, because Rancho Cucamonga is a great hitter's park and the Quakes play a lot of road games at other launching pads in the southern half of that league. But Seager, who is Mariners 3B Kyle Seager's little brother, moved up to Double-A Chattanooga for the last six weeks of the season and hit .345/.381/.534 there, so maybe he's just really this good. His 50 doubles led all of minor league baseball. I'm starting to think the Seagers should have had more children.

J.P. Crawford | SS | Philadelphia Phillies

Crawford earned a June promotion out of the low-Class A Sally League to high-A Clearwater, and he was the Florida State League's youngest regular in 2014. He proceeded to post similar OBP and SLG numbers to those of Dilson Herrera, who made it to the majors in late August after an outstanding minor league season of his own. Crawford even finished 24th in the FSL in home runs despite playing just 63 games there, tripling his career total in the process.

Clint Coulter | C/DH | Milwaukee Brewers

Coulter might not remain at catcher long-term, but after a disastrous first go-round in the Midwest League as a 19-year-old last year, he exploded there in 2014, leading the league in homers and walks, finishing fifth in OBP and fourth in slugging, with a strong contact rate that not only re-established him as a prospect but gives the Brewers reason to believe he can play every day at a position other than behind the plate.

They don't have a good first-base prospect ahead of him, so while that wouldn't make much use of Coulter's plus arm, if he can show he has the other skills required to play there, moving him might speed his bat to the majors. His ascension also helps blunt the pain of the non-performance of the Brewers' other top pick from 2012, Victor Roache, as Milwaukee took the two players with back-to-back picks near the end of the first round.

Lucas Giolito | RHP | Washington Nationals

While the Nats shut down Giolito after just 98 innings, he still managed to finish 11th in the Sally League in strikeouts and was fourth among starters there in ERA thanks to a low walk rate. Giolito, the Nats' first pick in 2012, managed all of this in his first full year back from Tommy John surgery despite an edict from the team to throw only his four-seamer, not his two-seamer, ostensibly so he could work on fastball command. Back in April, I was lucky enough to catch Giolito against Baltimore's 2013 first-rounder, Hunter Harvey, who also had an incredible year in 2014, and I don't think there was a better pitching matchup in all of the minors this season.

Nomar Mazara | OF | Texas Rangers

Mazara got a record $5 million bonus back in 2011 as a 16-year-old in the Dominican Republic, but despite great bat speed and a decent approach, he didn't produce much in his first try at full-season ball in 2013. Repeating the Sally League this year, he was still young for the level at age 19 and hit .264/.358/.470, earning a two-level promotion to Double-A, where he hit even better, .306/.381/.518 in 24 games (small sample alert). Mazara always has projected to hit for average and power, but he looked so far away even in his solid summer in 2012 in the Arizona Rookie League that it was hard to imagine he would see the majors before he turned 23. Now he might get there before he reaches the legal drinking age.

Daniel Norris | LHP | Toronto Blue Jays

Norris finished eight shy of the minor league lead in strikeouts, with 163, but the two guys ahead of him had at least 37 more innings pitched than Norris did. The Tennessee southpaw ripped through three levels of the minors this year, raising his strikeout rate at each stop, reaching the majors in September and getting David Ortiz, a reasonably accomplished major league hitter, looking on a slider over the inside corner. He might be in Toronto's rotation in 2015, which is a remarkable leap for a pitcher who spent 2013 in the low-A Midwest League, walking a man every other inning.

Tyler Danish | RHP | Chicago White Sox

I don't like Danish's delivery at all -- it's a low-slot, slinging delivery that puts a lot of stress on the arm -- but he can get into the mid-90s and generates a lot of sink (thanks to that arm slot), which, despite his youth, made him among the best starters in two full-season leagues. He was the youngest starter in the high-A Carolina League, where he spent most of the season, and still finished in the top 10 in the league in ERA, walking just 23 men in 91 2/3 innings, with 78 strikeouts. The White Sox have had success with pitchers who have unusual deliveries -- one of whom might win a Cy Young Award this year -- so perhaps they'll defy conventional wisdom again with Danish.

Honorable mentions: Brett Phillips, OF, Astros; Chance Sisco, C, Orioles; Dilson Herrera, 2B, Mets; Austin Meadows, OF, Pirates; Henry Owens, LHP, Red Sox; Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pirates; Marcos Molina, RHP, Mets.

Best debut from the 2014 draft class

Bobby Bradley | 1B | Cleveland Indians

Bradley led the AZL in batting average, homers and slugging percentage, and finished in the top five in OBP, despite being just 18 years old and coming from Mississippi, a state that has produced a number of high picks from its high school ranks but few prospects who've played well in pro ball. Bradley is a first baseman, so the standard for his offense always is going to be high, and it's worth bearing in mind that the AZL in general is a good league for hitters due to the slight elevation across the area.

Honorable mentions: Cubs first-rounder Kyle Schwarber finished his first summer with a strong showing in the Florida State League, after overmatching two other leagues (for which he was old/experienced) before the Cubs promoted him to high-A. He's in good shape to start 2015 in Double-A, although his defense behind the plate remains an open question. … Padres shortstop Trea Turner also had a huge debut, leading the Midwest League in batting average and finishing second in OBP and slugging percentage, although like Schwarber, he was a little old and experienced for low-A.
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That list looks like my Re-Draft team. laugh.gifpimp.gif
post #26663 of 73564
Thread Starter 

indifferent.gif you bastard.
post #26664 of 73564
Thread Starter 
How do you guys feel about the awards so far?

I think I have...

AL MVP - Trout winning...Felix/Kluber/Brantley/Seager/Cano/Bautista all in the mix in some order behind him.
NL MVP - Kershaw (would have loved to see a couple more weeks of Stanton though mean.gif ). Lucroy/Gomez/Cutch/Rendon/Buster. Btw, I'm an Upton fan but this swoon is why I could never elevate him. Dude went off a cliff in late August and in September, right when Atlanta needed him most. He's too goddamn streaky.
AL Cy Young - Felix...this is the closest one, Kluber & Sale are having such monster seasons...Sale with another 40 innings like this eek.gif. AL is so stacked between those 3, Lester, Price, Hughes, Scherzer, Quintana and Richards.
NL Cy Young - Kershaw by far.
AL ROY - Abreu by far.
NL ROY - I love DeGrom but it's probably Hamilton.
AL MOY - IDK, Buck maybe? I think Yost (and Sciosia to an extent) win despite their blunders. I always try to plug Joe G for all the unappreciated work he has done the last two years but missing the playoffs won't help.
NL MOY - Man, if they give it to Hurdle laugh.gif what Ron Roenicke and Mike Redmond have done with those atrocious rosters is pretty outstanding to me.
post #26665 of 73564
replace manager of the year with McClendon
PSN: Aiinatural
Go Hawks, Mariners, Ducks
PSN: Aiinatural
Go Hawks, Mariners, Ducks
post #26666 of 73564
Thread Starter 
I totally forgot about Lloyd.

So yea, it'd probably be between him and Buck.
post #26667 of 73564
Originally Posted by madj55 View Post


I'm interested to see how he uses Ryan Zimmerman in the playoffs. Can't have him playing 3B and making crucial errors, especially since his bat won't be back up to speed yet. We'd have to make it to the World Series for him to be the DH. LaRoche is hot right now so we can't put him at 1B. Rendon and Cabrera at 3B/2B are significantly superior defensively than having Zim in at 3B. Can't put him back out in LF. Guess we're gonna have an $100M pinch hitter.
I know it's far better than having Zim at the hot corner, but isn't Cabrera a weak link, borderline liability at 2B defensively?
post #26668 of 73564
Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

How do you guys feel about the awards so far?

I think I have...

AL MVP - Trout winning...Felix/Kluber/Brantley/Seager/Cano/Bautista all in the mix in some order behind him.
NL MVP - Kershaw (would have loved to see a couple more weeks of Stanton though mean.gif ). Lucroy/Gomez/Cutch/Rendon/Buster. Btw, I'm an Upton fan but this swoon is why I could never elevate him. Dude went off a cliff in late August and in September, right when Atlanta needed him most. He's too goddamn streaky.
AL Cy Young - Felix...this is the closest one, Kluber & Sale are having such monster seasons...Sale with another 40 innings like this eek.gif. AL is so stacked between those 3, Lester, Price, Hughes, Scherzer, Quintana and Richards.
NL Cy Young - Kershaw by far.
AL ROY - Abreu by far.
NL ROY - I love DeGrom but it's probably Hamilton.
AL MOY - IDK, Buck maybe? I think Yost (and Sciosia to an extent) win despite their blunders. I always try to plug Joe G for all the unappreciated work he has done the last two years but missing the playoffs won't help.
NL MOY - Man, if they give it to Hurdle laugh.gif what Ron Roenicke and Mike Redmond have done with those atrocious rosters is pretty outstanding to me.
No Terry Collins?

AL MVP: Victor Martinez.
NL MVP: Andrew McCutchen.
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale.
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw.
AL ROY: Jose Abreu.
NL ROY: Jacob deGrom.
AL MOY: Buck Showalter.
NL MOY: Mike Redmond.
post #26669 of 73564
@JamesWagnerWP: Ryan Zimmerman played 3 innings at first in Viera & did well, per Matt. Ran bases after pair of doubles. Gets 3 at 3rd & 2 at 1st tomorrow.
post #26670 of 73564
Originally Posted by Jewbacca View Post

I feel like they'll rotate guys out of the lineup to keep Zimmerman's bat in. 

I really don't like Zimmerman and I know he's a defensive butcher, but I can't imagine the Nats leaving his bat out of the lineup. 
I'd rather not leave his bat out, but the guy takes forever to get going. He's gonna need all the at bats he can get down the stretch if he's gonna be counted on to be somewhat productive.
Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

I honestly think they'll take the risk and put him at 3rd. Move Rendon to second and bench Espinosa/Cabrera. They'll use the Cardinal series as a crutch and say the positives he brings on offense outweighs the negatives on defense. It screams Matt Williams move.

Or I can see Bryce pissing Williams off over the next couple of weeks and he'll bench him for Zimm in the OF laugh.gif
mean.gif hope they don't do that. Zimmerman costing us a game because he can't throw the ball to 1B would be the most DC Sports thing to happen ever.
Originally Posted by ChampCruThik View Post

I know it's far better than having Zim at the hot corner, but isn't Cabrera a weak link, borderline liability at 2B defensively?
He's been alright from the eye test. Makes the plays he should, he's also made a few outstanding plays as well. From a metrics standpoint, he's been pretty unspectacular.
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