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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 944

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Originally Posted by Jewbacca2 View Post


post #28292 of 73633
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Originally Posted by JumpmanFromDaBay View Post

Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

I love this ******* guy laugh.gif

Don't know how to embed vine videos but he's the video to that picture laugh.gif

laugh.gif I will always root for that dude to succeed.
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Tim Hudson finally getting out of the 1st round pimp.gif
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you just dont bet against the giants or cards when playoffs roll around. i dont care who is on their roster, these teams find ways to get clutch performances
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Thread Starter 
10 crucial matchups in the ALCS, NLCS.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
ST. LOUIS -- Ten key matchups in the AL and NL Championship Series that begin Friday and Saturday, respectively:

1. The Orioles vs. the Kansas City running game: This is like a steel-cage match within the main event. The Royals have run aggressively in the postseason, with 12 stolen bases in 13 attempts, including seven in their wild-card game against Oakland. Terrance Gore and Jarrod Dyson are setting new standards for brazenness.

But the Orioles are excellent at controlling the running game, and with the layoff before the start of the ALCS on Friday, you can bet O's manager Buck Showalter and his staff are preparing for the Royals' roadrunners. They already have some great countermeasures in place, such as:

• Chris Tillman: Nobody steals against him because he delivers his pitches to the plate so quickly. Opponents have tried to steal 13 times on him over the past two years and have been successful twice. To repeat, that's two steals in 13 attempts.

• Caleb Joseph: The catcher has a great arm, and during the season he threw out 23 of 57 baserunners.

• Wei-Yin Chen: He has allowed just nine steals (in 13 tries) over the past two years.

The Royals' best chances may come against the Baltimore bullpen, using Gore and Dyson. Teams try to run on Darren O'Day because of his unconventional delivery (10 steals in 15 attempts over the past two seasons), and there have been only six attempts over the past two years against Andrew Miller (with four steals).

No team stole more bases than the Royals did during the regular season, while only seven teams allowed fewer steals than Baltimore. And if you take Ubaldo Jimenez, who allowed 19 steals in 2014, out of the equation, you could make a case that the Orioles were the best in the AL at slowing opponents … other than Kansas City.

Shutting down the running game will be key, writes Eduardo Encina.

2. The Cardinals' zombie storm vs. the Giants' cockroach swarm: These two teams have accounted for the past four National League championships (with three World Series titles) and seem impossible to eradicate; they just keep coming at you. Well, now they have to go at each other, as they did in the 2012 playoffs, when the Giants came back from a 3-games-to-1 series deficit to beat the Cardinals.

Most postseason wins, past 5 seasons
Cardinals 30
Giants 26
Rangers 18
Tigers 17
Red Sox 11
Giants catcher Buster Posey is 27 years old and has already played in 36 postseason games. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina has played in 84 postseason games. These two teams, the two managers, the players, they've been there and done that many times, so you will be hearing a lot about clubhouse culture and environments for success over the next 10 days … and it will all be true.

3. Adam Wainwright vs. whatever he's feeling: The Cardinals aren't saying exactly what's going on with their perennial Cy Young candidate, but something is. That's at least part of the reason that manager Mike Matheny didn't consider bringing him back to pitch Game 4 against Clayton Kershaw on short rest. In fact, Matheny hadn't even committed to start Wainwright for Game 5 if the Dodgers had won Tuesday to extend the series.

Maybe the respite will help; if Wainwright starts Game 1 of the NLCS, he'll have had seven days between starts, and at this stage of October, he has three or four starts remaining, at most.

For now, the plan is for Wainwright to pitch in Game 1 against the Giants, Derrick Goold writes, but the Cardinals are prepared to use Lance Lynn instead. From his story:
"Just making sure that Waino feels right," Matheny said. "We've got two guys on regular rest; it wouldn't be a stretch to have either one of them go. There's no question that Waino has been fighting it. I haven't made that a secret and neither has he. It's all going to come down to how he feels. The likelihood of him saying 'I can't go' is very slim. But it is a possibility that something might not feel right."

Wainwright indicated he did not expect any issue and would start Saturday.

4. Nelson Cruz vs. the Royals' pitching staff: He is the unlikeliest of postseason superstars, having not established himself in the majors as an everyday player until he was 29 years old. But Cruz has dominated October baseball since his first taste of it in 2010, with 16 homers and a 1.059 OPS in 149 plate appearances. He went 6-for-12 with two homers in the ALDS against the Tigers, and the Royals need to neutralize him in this series.

Worth noting: Cruz's numbers against Jason Vargas are staggering: four homers among 10 hits in 30 at-bats, with seven walks.

5. The dueling-banjo Orioles and Royals defenses: The Orioles' defense isn't as good as it would be with Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters, but it's still excellent, probably the best in the majors … other than what the Royals are throwing out there, with Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain and Salvador Perez et al. No middle infielder throws the ball better than the Orioles' Jonathan Schoop, and Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar is capable of the spectacular. Also, Steve Pearce has played excellent first base for the Orioles.

6. Adam Jones vs. his desire to swing: He is ultra-aggressive, and he knows that opposing pitchers know this. Going into the postseason, he spoke of taking what the pitchers provide rather than being too aggressive. Through the work of advance scouts, the Royals will undoubtedly drill this into the heads of their pitchers: Make him make you throw strikes, because he might swing at stuff outside the strike zone.

Jones went 2-for-11 against the Tigers, and in his two postseasons so far, he is 4-for-37 with 10 strikeouts. But through repetition, Jones may be gaining comfort.

[+] EnlargeMatt Carpenter
Harry How/Getty Images
Matt Carpenter hit .375 with three homers and seven RBIs in the NLDS against the Dodgers.
7. Matt Carpenter vs. whatever the Giants try: The Dodgers kept looking for ways to get Carpenter out, whether it was a Cy Young Award winner like Kershaw or a matchup lefty like J.P. Howell, and nothing worked. Matheny and some of the Dodgers players talked about Carpenter's ability to focus in moments of greater intensity, such as the extended at-bats he has had against Kershaw the past couple of postseasons. The greater the stress, it seems, the better he performs, and now it's up to the Giants to try to deal with that.

The Giants' starters know what Carpenter can do. He is 3-for-5 with a couple of doubles in his career against Madison Bumgarner, 1-for-3 against Jake Peavy in the postseason, 2-for-3 against Tim Hudson and 5-for-10 against Ryan Vogelsong.

8. The new and improved Eric Hosmer vs. the Orioles' lefties: When Hosmer broke into the big leagues, rival evaluators loved him, and they pictured him being a hitter who generated 25-30 homers. But for Hosmer, that sort of power went away … until now. It was as if his homer off the Angels' Hector Santiago in Game 3 of the Division Series, a monster shot to left-center field over one of the largest outfields in the majors, was a reintroduction. Hosmer has found his loose, powerful swing, and so far in the postseason he has seven hits in 14 at-bats, with a double, triple and a couple of homers.

During the regular season, his power was mitigated by left-handers; Hosmer had just two homers in 148 at-bats against lefties. It figures that Showalter will run his parade of lefties against Hosmer in the late innings, from Brian Matusz to Miller to Zach Britton. But this is a different Hosmer, a different beast altogether, the player everybody has been waiting for.

Oh, and Hosmer picked up a bar tab the other day, by the way.

9. Hudson vs. age: The Giants' 39-year-old right-hander has accomplished a lot in his career, but he never has been part of a championship dogpile, and he's pushing through some physical challenges now to get there. Near the end of the season, he battled a hip problem, but in his past two starts (against the Dodgers and the Nationals), he was really good, keeping the ball down, walking one and striking out 12 in 12 2/3 innings. The Giants have the option of buying an extra day of rest for Hudson between starts by lining him up for Games 2 and 6 of this series.

10. Matt Holliday vs. Hunter Strickland: The Cardinals left fielder is one of the strongest players in the game, capable of launching a fastball, and Strickland, who has become Bruce Bochy's newest toy, throws really hard, with an average fastball velocity of 98.1 mph. There will be a big moment in this series when Bochy will call on Strickland to challenge Holliday; everybody will know what the pitch will be, but nobody knows what will happen next. It should be fun.

Cardinals-Dodgers series

The challenge in front of Kershaw now is like someone building a house with a deck of cards only to see it fall repeatedly on the last card. Kershaw will win many more regular-season games and awards, and he may start more All-Star Games. His standing as the best pitcher in the game is rock-solid.

But that last step, that 52nd card, has eluded him. Now he must go through the long process of working toward his next opportunity, and there will be excruciating moments along the way. He might want to call John Elway, who was one of the NFL's most prolific passers and set records, but waited many frustrating years for his championship.

Clayton Kershaw in 2014 Division Series, by inning
Statistic 1st-6th 7th+
Swing rate 47% 65%
Opp. BA .079 .818
Hard-hit balls 3 6
GB-LD* 10-2 2-5
*Ground balls to line drives

From Elias: During the regular season, Kershaw was 15-0 with a 0.89 ERA in 15 starts in which he had a two-run lead or better. That was the best ERA in that scenario (Corey Kluber was next at 1.08). And of course, in the Cardinals-Dodgers series, he blew leads of two runs or more in Games 1 and 4.

The Cardinals knew that Matt Adams would deliver, writes Bernie Miklasz. They are taking the next step, Derrick Goold writes. Adams made a little leap.

To paraphrase the immortal words of Pedro Martinez: The Cardinals are Clayton Kershaw's daddy. The Cardinals solved him again, writes Tyler Kepner.

So much for the Freeway Series, writes David Wharton. There's a lot of blame to go around for the Dodgers' debacle, writes Bill Plaschke.

Kershaw was knocked out again, writes Dylan Hernandez, and now the Dodgers have some tough choices going forward, writes Mark Saxon.

Giants-Nationals series

The Giants held on, writes Henry Schulman. There is a feeling of destiny back at AT&T Park, writes Bruce Jenkins. Hunter Pence's catch was a signature play, writes Ann Killion. The Giants are in their postseason glory, writes Mark Purdy.

Lowest postseason ERA in MLB history (minimum 5 starts)
Sandy Koufax 0.95 ERA
Christy Mathewson 1.06 ERA
Ryan Vogelsong* 1.19 ERA
*4 ER allowed in 30 1/3 postseason innings

Bumgarner had a five-beer celebration.

The Nationals needed urgency and they got orthodoxy, writes Adam Kilgore. Washington is still no match for the NL elite, writes Thomas Boswell.

In defeat, this much was established: Bryce Harper likes to hit in October.

More on the Orioles-Royals series

The Orioles and Royals are set to meet in a showdown that defies logic.

Standing pat at the trade deadline proved crucial, writes Vahe Gregorian.

Final words

Josh Hamilton isn't particularly thrilled about the fan reaction he received.

Missed this last week: Josh Reddick hopes the Athletics don't tear the team apart.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Josh Beckett is retiring. He had a great career.

2. The Braves have continued their front-office rebuild.

3. The Rangers continue to talk with managerial candidates.

4. Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson assumed he was fired when manager Ron Gardenhire was fired. But that is not the case.

5. Bill Mueller resigned as the Cubs' hitting coach after Mike Brumley was fired.

NL East

• A cartoon assessment of the Phillies.

NL Central

• Moving forward, the Pirates are solid at shortstop.

• The Pirates are wary of their guys playing a full winter-ball season.

• The Cardinals are the best franchise in baseball, writes Ken Davidoff.

• John Fay has some recommendations for the Reds.

NL West

• The Diamondbacks appear to have a lot of trade options.

AL East

• A Red Sox prospect had an off season.

AL Central

• Should the Indians sign Victor Martinez?

• The Tigers' bullpen should get some
injured guys back in 2015, which should provide an easy boost.


• Orioles season-ticket holders are looking for a postseason sale replay.

• The Astros' television case continues.

• City Hall's perk at Petco may end.

And today will be better than yesterday.

Let’s Take Check Swings Away From Home Plate Umpires.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Of late, Major League Baseball has been fairly aggressive in adopting new rules to attempt to improve the game. We have instant replay now, at least for some plays and some calls. Runners aren’t allowed to run over catchers at home plate anymore. The league is even experimenting with a pitch clock in the Arizona Fall League, which could eventually lead to a reduction in the amount of time that pitchers are allowed to stand around doing nothing. The game is great, but it can still be improved upon, and I’m glad to see MLB working to try and continually make it better.

And after what we’ve seen in the playoffs over the last week, I think it’s time for Major League Baseball to consider another rule change. It’s time to officially take check-swing strike calls away from the home plate umpire.

Last night, we saw an egregious example of why this call just doesn’t need to be made by the guy behind the plate. In the 9th inning, Santiago Casilla threw a 1-2 curveball to Ian Desmond. Desmond did this.

Hunter Wendelstedt rang Desmond up, ending the at-bat, and putting the Nationals one out away from elimination. Desmond, predictably, reacted, because that’s a very borderline check-swing to get called out on, but also, because Wendelstedt didn’t even bother to ask the first base umpire for assistance on the call. Maybe you think that Desmond swung, but there is no way to think that the swing is so clear cut that the home plate umpire should make that determination without even checking down to first base.

This isn’t the first time this has happened in the postseason either. Last week, Paul Nauert decided to ring up Erick Aybar on this swing.

Like with Desmond, Aybar was batting with his team down a run in their last at-bat, and Nauert’s call struck him out on a swing that does not look like a swing. Here is Mike Scioscia‘s reaction to the call.

Check swing decisions are about as subjective as anything in baseball gets, but again, how do you not at least check with the third base umpire before making that call? Is there any way to defend the position that Aybar so clearly swung that the home plate umpire could make that call without assistance?

I don’t think so, and I’m not sure home plate umpires need to be making these calls to begin with. On nearly every inconclusive check swing, it is standard operating procedure to let the base umpire make the decision anyway, so why not just codify that into the rules? Why give the home plate umpire the right to insert himself into the decision whenever he likes, when it is widely accepted that the base umpires have the better angle and are in a better position to make the swing-or-not determination?

The appeal to the base umpire is already in practice on a vast majority of check swings anyway, so officially giving this decision to the umpire down the opposite line from the batter wouldn’t slow the game down in any appreciable way. It takes a second or two for the base umpire to make the decision, and when a home plate umpire rings up a batter on a check-swing strike, we usually get an argument at the plate that lasts longer anyway.

MLB brings in two extra umpires for the postseason to try and make sure they have as many angles as possible covered for big games. We have instant replay now, as the league is trying to cut down on the number of times human error contributes significantly to the outcome of a game. There just isn’t any real reason why home plate umpires need to be making check swing decisions in the 2014 postseason, and I’m not sure I can think of a reason why they ever really need to make one.

Maybe Aybar and Desmond both would have been called out by the base umpire as well. We don’t know, because neither Hunter Wendelstedt or Paul Nauert asked for help, but it’s possible, and as long as we have human beings subjectively deciding whether a batter crossed some invisible line of demarcation, we’re going to have check-swing controversies.

But on essentially every other play in baseball, the umpire with the best angle owns the right to make the call. The home plate umpire does not have the best angle to determine whether a check swing went too far or not. He shouldn’t have the right to take that call away from the base umpire whenever he wants. Let’s officially make this the base umpire’s call. It’s what he’s there for.

How Did That Dodger Bullpen Get So Bad?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
In Game 1 of the NLDS, Don Mattingly left in Clayton Kershaw to absorb a beating in part because he didn’t trust his bullpen. In Game 2, he lifted Zack Greinke, only to watch veteran J.P. Howell give a lead away. In Game 3, he rode Hyun-jin Ryu as far as he felt was realistic (given that Ryu had missed weeks with a shoulder injury), then saw Scott Elbert kick it away. In Game 4, a short-rest Kershaw was outstanding up until the moment he wasn’t, with Mattingly trying to push Kershaw through that seventh inning in order to turn it over to Kenley Jansen.

Each of these decisions were defensible in some way. And each one blew up in Mattingly’s face. The manager is getting pummeled for that, because that’s how sports work, and there’s a non-zero chance he doesn’t survive the winter, fairly or not. But the focus on Mattingly’s choices perhaps overlooks a more crucial problem: Man, how bad was that bullpen? How does this even happen?
Before the season, the Dodger bullpen was expected to be outstanding. Here’s a spring article that says the bullpen was “strong, stacked and ready for high expectations.” This one asks if the bullpen was “too stacked.” Another says it was a “position of strength.” At ESPN, it was judged to be a top-five collection. I point those out not to shame them — at least one is written by a friend — but to show how universal the belief was. We weren’t quite so high in our own projections, ranking them No. 12 and noting some concerns, though generally being positive, and the difference between top-five and top-12 wasn’t much.

It’s not hard to see why, anyway, because in theory, this was a bullpen overflowing with talent. Jansen had been one of baseball’s most dominant relievers for years. No one doubted Brian Wilson had been overpaid, but he’d also been outstanding in a small sample down the stretch in 2013 after recovering from Tommy John surgery (0.66 ERA / 2.02 FIP). The disappointing Brandon League and low-cost newcomer Chris Perez had few fans, but at least both had had success in the not-too-distant past.

Howell had been a reliable lefty for the team in 2013. Flame-throwing Chris Withrow had struck out hitters at Jansen-esque levels in his rookie season the year before. Paco Rodriguez‘ rookie season had ended poorly, but he’d been very productive all year before September. Youngsters Jose Dominguez, Yimi Garcia, Onelki Garcia and Pedro Baez were in the mix, as well, along with ageless veteran Jamey Wright, who had actually seemed to get better as he’d gotten older. Elbert was working his way back from injury. So was Chad Billingsley, who potentially would have fit in here if all five starters were healthy when he was ready. Paul Maholm was, too, I suppose, though more as a swingman — and he did end up making eight starts before blowing out his knee.

Here’s how that bullpen, which seemed like it would have more talent than places to put them, actually ended up: No. 26, in one of the rare times where FIP-WAR and RA9-WAR see eye-to-eye. In one or the other, they variously beat out the Tigers, Astros, Diamondbacks and Rockies, also known as “three awful teams and another well-known relief disaster.”

Perhaps most amazingly, this all happened despite the presence of Jansen, who was one of the best closers in baseball. Despite some atrocious batted-ball luck, Jansen was essentially Craig Kimbrel, walking fewer and striking out nearly as many as the celebrated Atlanta closer, and actually posting a better K%-BB%. Jansen was also the only Dodger reliever who wasn’t seen as replacement-level or worse, by FIP-WAR. (RA9-WAR at least likes Howell a bit more.)

Other than Jansen, though? Just about every other notable piece under-performed. Some of that’s to be expected, because we know how volatile relievers are, and some of it was due to injury. Withrow showed early wildness, then blew out his elbow in May. Billingsley never made it back. Onelki Garcia‘s reportedly minor off-season elbow surgery ate his entire year.

Still, just compare actual performance to Dan Szymborski’s 2014 ZiPS projections run in late December. The table below shows every Dodger reliever with at least 10 innings pitched, which really only eliminates Dominguez, who spent most of the season in Triple-A and missed time with a shoulder injury; Elbert, who pulled the rare “DFA’d in July, playoff roster in October” pairing; and expanded roster call-up Daniel Coulombe. (It also doesn’t include swingman Kevin Correia, who was acquired in an August waiver deal from Minnesota and was an absolute disaster, allowing seven homers in 24.2 innings.)

Jamey Wright 2014 68.1 17.2% 8.4% 8.8% 0.308 4.35 3.48 0.1
ZIPS 58.7 20.0% 8.8% 11.2% 0.293 3.53 3.33 0.4
Kenley Jansen 2014 65.1 37.7% 7.1% 30.6% 0.350 2.76 1.91 2.0
ZIPS 70.2 39.0% 7.7% 31.3% 0.281 1.91 1.96 1.7
Brandon League 2014 63 13.9% 9.9% 4.0% 0.319 2.57 3.40 0.1
ZIPS 60.1 15.5% 7.2% 8.3% 0.286 4.03 3.72 -0.1
J.P. Howell 2014 49 24.1% 12.6% 11.6% 0.236 2.39 3.30 0.3
ZIPS 50.2 21.2% 9.6% 11.6% 0.276 3.37 3.56 0.3
Brian Wilson 2014 48.1 24.2% 13.0% 11.2% 0.336 4.66 4.29 -0.4
ZIPS 38.3 24.3% 8.9% 15.4% 0.285 3.05 3.02 0.4
Chris Perez 2014 46.1 19.5% 12.5% 7.0% 0.256 4.27 5.07 -0.8
ZIPS 58.1 22.5% 8.3% 14.2% 0.295 4.47 4.53 -0.3
Paul Maholm 2014 27 14.4% 8.5% 5.9% 0.348 5.00 3.21 0.1
ZIPS 147.3 15.9% 6.7% 9.2% 0.285 3.91 3.94 2.0
Carlos Frias 2014 25.2 24.0% 5.8% 18.3% 0.243 4.91 3.4 0.0
ZIPS - - - - - - - -
Pedro Baez 2014 24 19.6% 5.4% 14.1% 0.197 2.63 3.88 0.0
ZIPS 61.1 14.6% 10.2% 4.4% 0.287 5.14 5.11 -0.9
Chris Withrow 2014 21.1 31.1% 20.0% 11.1% 0.214 2.95 3.79 -0.1
ZIPS 54.1 23.6% 11.2% 12.4% 0.249 3.48 3.77 0.3
Paco Rodriguez 2014 14 26.4% 7.6% 18.9% 0.324 3.86 2.92 0.1
ZIPS 41.2 27.2% 9.0% 18.2% 0.306 3.02 2.93 0.4
Yimi Garcia 2014 10 25.0% 2.8% 22.2% 0.167 1.80 4.23 -0.1
ZIPS 57.1 24.6% 9.2% 15.4% 0.288 4.24 4.11 -0.3
(Wright, Maholm and Perez’ projections were run with other teams, as they were not Dodgers yet, though it’s not likely much would have changed. Frias came from so far off the radar that he didn’t even have a projection.)

There are a lot of numbers there, probably too many, so let me sum it up for you: Jansen was just as outstanding as he was expected to be. Howell was mostly fine until an inexplicable late-season slump that continued into the playoffs. League actually turned around 2013′s disaster to become one of the National League’s preeminent ground ball machines, though an inability to miss bats or contain walks limited his utility.

Wilson, however, was a mess from the start. He landed on the disabled list in April with a sore right elbow, and he struggled with his velocity and command all season. Wright was essentially replacement-level. Perez wasn’t expected to be good, then under-performed that. Baez, a converted third baseman, showed some value, but also lost velocity down the stretch as he was put into more important situations. Rodriguez spent most of his year struggling in Triple-A. Maholm added little.

As the season went on, it became clear this was an issue and it was not getting better. But the deadline came and went without any moves. Ned Colletti was crushed for that, perhaps not unfairly, though only two valuable relievers — Joakim Soria and Andrew Miller — were actually moved, and neither came cheaply. (Soria also didn’t help Detroit much around being injured.) In retrospect, that looks like a huge mistake; however, we don’t know the deals on the table, and if it had been something like “Joc Pederson for Hector Rondon,” or whatever was actually on the table, perhaps it’s better undone. We’ll never know, and as we saw anyway, teams making big trades didn’t automatically get anywhere in October.

Ultimately, it was such an issue that in the playoffs, Elbert, who had pitched only 4.1 MLB innings in September after missing more than two seasons with elbow injuries, made the cut. So did Frias, who’d had one of the worst games in the history of baseball only a few weeks earlier when pressed into the rotation, and so did Baez, who had pitched one inning apiece in brief May and July recalls before sticking in August. Perez did not.

So: Should Mattingly have trusted this group more in October? Elbert, Baez and Howell all gave up game-changing homers, and Kershaw might have been out of both of his games before disaster struck had the options been better. We all know how dangerous the effects of a recency bias can be — just look at the seemingly bizarre decision to sit Yasiel Puig in Game 4, then use him only as a pinch-runner — but it’s also not hard to see, with Howell’s rough few weeks, why Mattingly thought he had only a single viable bullpen option.

Maybe, as Jonah Keri noted during Game 4, Jansen would have been a bold choice in the seventh inning with Kershaw in trouble. But that’s a move no manager would have made, and with this group, it’s hard to shake the feeling that it would have only delayed the inevitable disaster. Right or wrong — there’s clearly room for either interpretation — Mattingly just didn’t have a lot of choices here. There was probably never a “right button to push.”

As for next year? Well, back in January, Colin Zarzycki noted that the Dodger bullpen cost more than the entire Astros roster. I can’t say I know what Houston’s spending will be this winter, but we do know that the Dodgers will again have an expensive bullpen. Wilson (with a $10 million player option that will surely be picked up), League ($8.5 million) and Howell ($5.5 million) are all under contract, as is the arbitration-eligible Jansen, who should get a bump from his $4.3 million 2014 salary. Right there, that’s nearly $30 million, and if Ned Colletti keeps his job, that’s sure to increase when he throws money at Miller or Sergio Romo or David Robertson.

Mattingly probably did the best he could with this group. Wildly expensive finances aside, it just wasn’t enough. It’s not the only reason they’re already home — the offense didn’t exactly step up against the Cardinals — but it’s the most visible, and it’s terribly disappointing for Dodger fans.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
There is so much more to managing a baseball team than what we see during the games. We only see the lineups, the batting order, and the pitching changes; we don't see the human interactions, the coaching, and all of the work that goes into keeping so many large personalities pointed in the right direction. Managing a baseball team is about a lot more than just in-game strategy.

But in-game strategy is part of the job, and on Tuesday night, Matt Williams failed at that part of the job in the most important game of his team's season. And while we cannot know what would have happened if different decisions had been made, we do know that maybe the best team in baseball just got bounced in the first round due, at least in part, to a series of decisions that strain credulity.

Let's just walk through the pivotal seventh inning. Bryce Harper had just tied the game in the top half of the inning, so the score was tied at 2-2 with the top of the Giants order coming up. The Giants No. 1 and No. 2 hitters both bat left-handed, so Williams countered with Matt Thornton, the team's only remaining left-handed reliever. Perfectly logical.

Thornton got a groundout from Gregor Blanco, then gave up a single to Joe Panik. That put the go-ahead run on base for Buster Posey, the Giants best hitter. The Giants best right-handed hitter. Here is what Buster Posey has done against left-handed pitchers in his career:

631 at-bats, 210 hits, 53 doubles, 2 triples, 32 home runs, 61 walks, 77 strikeouts.

That's a .333/.393/.578 batting line, which when you account for his home park, translates to a 168 wRC+, meaning that Posey's performance against lefties has been 68-percent better than a league-average hitter. Do you want some context for that? In 2012, when Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown, he had a 166 wRC+. Posey's performance against left-handers has basically been the equal of the game's most feared hitter having one of his best years.

In the seventh inning of a tied regular-season game, you probably wouldn't let Buster Posey face a left-handed reliever. To do so in an win-or-go-home playoff game defies basic reasoning. And that's exactly what Matt Williams did, sticking with Thornton against Posey, even though Thornton had just put the go-ahead run on base.

Predictably, Posey hit a line drive to center field, and the Nationals are lucky that it was hit right toward Denard Span, so Posey only got a single, and Panik only advanced to second base. So now the go-ahead run was in scoring position, with only one out, and Hunter Pence -- another quality right-handed hitter -- coming to the plate.

Williams rightfully decided that Thornton shouldn't be the guy to face Pence, and went to the bullpen to get a right-hander. But no, he didn't call on Tyler Clippard, the team's best relief pitcher, who held right-handed batters to a .126/.197/.226 line this season, even though the Giants would be almost 90-percent favorites to win the game if Panik scored and they took the lead into the top of the eighth. Preventing Panik from scoring in that inning was of the utmost importance, but Clippard wasn't called upon because he wasn't even warming up.

That's right. Not only did Williams let Posey hit against a left-handed reliever with the go-ahead run on base, he didn't even have his best reliever warming in case it didn't work. He did have rookie Aaron Barrett warming up, however, and that's who he called on to go after Hunter Pence.

Now, despite being a rookie, Aaron Barrett isn't a terrible choice to be pitching for the Nationals in the playoffs. He had a good first year in the big leagues, striking out 28 percent of the batters he faced, and more importantly, 31 percent of the right-handed batters he faced. Righties only hit .190/.277/.253 against him his year. He earned his way onto the playoff roster, and we've seen plenty of live-armed youngsters come up big out of the bullpen in the postseason before.

But Barrett has one primary flaw right now: his command isn't very good. He threw only 45 percent of his pitches in the strike zone this year, and walked 12 percent of the batters he faced. His best pitch is a strong power slider that he gets hitters to chase out of the zone, but with the go-ahead run at second base and only one out, Barrett couldn't afford to miss out of the zone and push that runner to third base with a walk. Doing so would remove the Giants' for a hit, and allow them to take the lead with simply a medium-depth fly ball.

So instead, Wilson Ramos called for Barrett to throw seven consecutive fastballs to Pence; unfortunately, only two of them were in the strike zone, and he walked Pence anyway. Because of the situation, Barrett was asked to pitch in the biggest game of his life, and do it without his best pitch. Pence's walk pushed Panik to third base, and brought up switch-hitting Pablo Sandoval.

Now, the usage of Thornton to go after Blanco and Panik meant that the team didn't have any more left-handed relievers, so Sandoval was going to bat left-handed, his much stronger side. For his career, Sandoval has a 132 wRC+ against right-handed pitchers, but just a 95 wRC+ against left-handers, and this season the split was even more extreme: 136 against RHPs and 59 against LHPs. Sandoval's biggest strength as a hitter is driving the ball against pitchers like Aaron Barrett.

Barrett, by the way, had even more severe command problems against lefties this year, since his slider is mostly ineffective against them. Forced to just pound fastballs, and without a real out-pitch to throw them, Barrett walked 15 percent of the left-handed batters he faced this year, and only struck out 22 percent. Barrett is a good right-on-right reliever when he can use his slider, but you don't really want him facing a lefty in a big situation, and you definitely don't want him facing a lefty who kills right-handed pitchers with the bases loaded. In a tie game. In the seventh inning. Of a game that ends your season if you lose.

But even after watching Barrett walk Pence, Williams stuck with his youngster. Sandoval ended up not even mattering, as Barrett's wildness led to a wild pitch that scored Panik from third, and then he uncorked another wild pitch while attempting to intentionally walk Sandoval once first base was open. That was the final straw for Williams, who removed his young right-hander from the game rather than letting him face the left-handed Brandon Belt, still with two men on base even after Posey was forced out at home trying to score on the second wild pitch.

To replace Barrett, Williams called on Rafael Soriano, who had such a poor second half that he lost his job as closer and almost didn't make the playoff roster. Soriano is basically just an older, diminished version of Barrett, a fastball-slider right-hander who doesn't do as well against lefties. And yet, even though any hit to the gap would essentially end the Nationals season, Williams brought in Soriano to face Belt.

Tyler Clippard never even warmed up that inning. Neither did Stephen Strasburg, the team's dominant starter who was available out of the bullpen, and who could have bridged the gap to get to the eighth inning if Williams was completely insistent on maintaining his regular season roles. After the game, Williams said Strasburg was available only in an emergency, but he didn't clarify why pulling his starter after four innings in an elimination game didn't qualify as an emergency.

But I can at least see an argument for why Storen or Strasburg wasn't ready to go in the seventh inning. Clippard, though, is on the roster for these exact situations: getting big outs with men on base in extremely high-leverage at-bats. It doesn't get any more high-leverage than if-this-guy-at-second-scores-our-season-is-probably-over, but Clippard simply sat and watched his less-talented teammates give up the run that would eventually decide the game.

Before the game, I suggested that the Nationals use Strasburg in a pre-planned relief role, allowing him to pitch as normally as possible out of the bullpen, and in that piece, I made this statement: "The team’s best chance to win two games is likely to maximize the percentage of innings thrown by Zimmermann, Strasburg, Clippard, and Storen."

Those four pitchers combined to throw zero pitches in Game Four, and due in part to that decision, Game Five won't even happen. The Nationals lost because Matt Thornton -- given to the team by the Yankees in exchange for only the waiver fee, as New York just didn't want him anymore -- and Aaron Barrett couldn't keep the middle of the Giants' order from scoring one run, and because Williams wasn't willing to use his best relievers to escape a jam that didn't even need to happen in the first place.

There is no parallel to this in other sports. NFL teams that trail by a touchdown don't put in their backup linebackers until their offense takes the lead again. NBA teams don't use their worst bench players in the first half, saving their good reserves for the end of the game, as long as they're winning when the fourth quarter rolls around. Baseball is the only sport where it's perfectly acceptable to lose a game because the worst players on your roster didn't create a lead for your best players to protect. Not using your best relievers in a tie game, or even down a single run -- while employing them to "save" a game where you only need to get three outs before you give up three runs -- just doesn't make sense.

As an outsider, we can't know about the internal dynamics of the clubhouse and how well Williams might or might not have handled the aspects of his job that we never see. But part of his job is also to make decisions during the games that give his team the best chance to win, and in the biggest game of his managerial career, he made a series of poor decisions that directly led to the run that eliminated his team from the postseason. The Nationals' offense didn't do Williams any favors in this series, and it's tough to advance when your team just doesn't hit. But on Tuesday night, they scored at least enough runs to earn the right to keep playing.

They didn't get that chance, though, because Matt Williams was unwilling to use his best pitchers in a tie game. In many ways, baseball is getting a lot smarter. In this particular way, baseball has a long way to go.
post #28297 of 73633
Originally Posted by JJs07 View Post

Pro hit the nail on the head. It was a win or go home situation for the Nats. You are putting the balance of your season in the hands of Barrett/Soriano? While he's not responsible for the silent bats, a good chunk of this postseason failure of the Nats falls on the shoulders of Matt Williams for being inflexible. He had his mind set as far as what he was going to do with the bullpen before the first pitch. That's crazy. He has a script and sticks to it, REGARDLESS of the situation. Recipe for disaster, IMO.
Yep. His post game presser made me want to fire him on the spot. So much ********.
post #28298 of 73633
Thread Starter 
A very good view for those with complaints about the umps.

Strike Zones of the NLDS/ALDS visualized.
post #28299 of 73633
^ Wow. That's dope.

Peep Tom Hallion roll.gif Called balls at the center of the box
Sacramento Kings | San Francisco 49ers | San Francisco Giants | San Jose Sharks | Sacramento Republic FC | Sacramento Rivercats
Sacramento Kings | San Francisco 49ers | San Francisco Giants | San Jose Sharks | Sacramento Republic FC | Sacramento Rivercats
post #28300 of 73633
Good Lord, Tom Hallion sick.gif
post #28301 of 73633

:lol @ Hallion

post #28302 of 73633
@MLBPipeline: Line for @Astros #2 prospect Mark Appel in his AFL debut tonight: 3 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 1 BB, 2 K:

Welp, he didn't get shelled, so that's a plus.
post #28303 of 73633
Hopefully the Cards will take it in 6.
post #28304 of 73633
Originally Posted by ROBPZEE612 View Post

Hopefully the Cards will take it in 6.
Giants in 5 wink.gif
post #28305 of 73633
post #28306 of 73633
Originally Posted by LB510 View Post

Giants in 5
Royals in 4
Cardinals in 5
Orioles in 4


Slightly off on the number of games but 4 of 4 on the series winners.

O's in 6

Giants in 6
post #28307 of 73633
Originally Posted by LB510 View Post

Originally Posted by LB510 View Post

Giants in 5
Royals in 4
Cardinals in 5
Orioles in 4


Slightly off on the number of games but 4 of 4 on the series winners.

O's in 6

Giants in 6

All Orange World Series would be pimp.gif
post #28308 of 73633
Originally Posted by LB510 View Post

Originally Posted by LB510 View Post

Giants in 5
Royals in 4
Cardinals in 5
Orioles in 4


Slightly off on the number of games but 4 of 4 on the series winners.

O's in 6

Giants in 6

$100 parlay would have made you over $4,000.
What's 1.21 gigawatts to a McFly like me. Can you please remind me?
What's 1.21 gigawatts to a McFly like me. Can you please remind me?
post #28309 of 73633

Well done ESPN laugh.gif
post #28310 of 73633
Originally Posted by JumpmanFromDaBay View Post

All Orange World Series would be pimp.gif

I'm pulling for the all Missouri WS.

Vikings | Timberwolves | Mariners | Twins | Huskies


aka 651


Vikings | Timberwolves | Mariners | Twins | Huskies


aka 651

post #28311 of 73633
Originally Posted by PacificNorseWst View Post

Originally Posted by JumpmanFromDaBay View Post

All Orange World Series would be pimp.gif

I'm pulling for the all Missouri WS.

post #28312 of 73633
Originally Posted by RaWEx5 View Post

$100 parlay would have made you over $4,000.

post #28313 of 73633
Thread Starter 
Free Jarrod Dyson!
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
If there is one thing we have learned from the American League teams this postseason, it’s that defense and baserunning really are very important. No one person has better exemplified this than Royals outfielder Jarrod Dyson. You’ve already read Jeff’s article on how Dyson stole perhaps the biggest base since Dave Roberts in 2004. Eventually though, this postseason run for the Royals is going to end. Whether that is in four games or 14 games is not yet certain, but when it does end, the Royals will need to make a decision as to what they are going to do with Dyson next season. They should let him play.

Over the past two seasons, there have only been 29 outfielders in baseball more valuable than Dyson. Of those 29, only one of them had as few plate appearances as did Dyson. Most of them have double the plate appearances, and some have 2.5 times Dyson’s 529 PAs. Dyson is particularly adept afield. Over the past two seasons, only three outfielders have been worth more defensively per our Def statistic, and only 15 position players in general.

And it’s not just UZR where Dyson ranks well. He also scores well via DRS as well as our Inside Edge fielding numbers. They all paint him as one of the very best defensive center fielders in the game. Even his Fans Scouting Report score, which has penalized him in the past for his less than stellar throwing strength, has risen for the second straight year, and now stands at an above average 61. He has put this defense on display when called into duty, and the diminutive center fielder has made the most out of his limited opportunities.

That is not something that can be said about Norichika Aoki, the man who has played instead of Dyson and who is set to enter free agency after the season ends. In fact, Aoki had done a great deal to squander his walk year, and has only redeemed himself in the last month-plus. At the end of August, Aoki’s slugging percentage was the same as his on-base percentage — .332. He then went bananas in September, to the tune of .379/.432/.494, and it still only brought him up to 1.1 WAR for the season.

Aoki essentially had the same season as he did in 2013, but with the demerit of horrible baserunning mixed into the equation. Once a bargain, Aoki has trended from 2.3 WAR, to 1.6 and 1.1 in his three major league seasons. Even if you consider the poor baserunning decisions, both in the stolen base department and otherwise, to be a one-year blip, he’s still unlikely to add much value in that department.

Dyson, on the other hand, excels at baserunning. We covered that up top. Let’s cover it some more. Over the past three seasons, Dyson ranks sixth in the majors in BsR. Here again this is where we bring up the lack of playing time. One fun stat that Baseball-Reference tracks is stolen base opportunities. Dyson managed to have 116 of these, which are defined as “plate appearances through which a runner was on first or second with the next base open,” and successfully stole a base during 31 percent of them. That’s a higher rate than Dee Gordon, who stole bases in 27.9% of his stolen base opportunities, but because Gordon had 229 SBOs, he wound up with 64 steals as opposed to Dyson’s 36. Double Dyson’s playing time, and something like that could be in the cards for Kansas City.

Of course, it’s tempting to keep Dyson in reserve so that he can jump in for anyone at any time, that need will be lessened next season thanks to the person of Terrance Gore, who stole five bases in 11 SBOs. And if the club declines Billy Butler‘s club option or ships him off to a team desperate for his sweaty charms, then there won’t be as glaring of a need for a regular pinch runner anyway.

The reason to this point that Dyson hasn’t been further let off the chain is because his hitting tool is not necessarily up to snuff, particularly against left-handed pitching. To which I would say, so what? This season, the other four teams in the AL Central had a combined total of 25 pitchers start at least 10 games. Of them, six were left-handed — John Danks, Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, David Price, Drew Smyly and T.J. House.

One of these six (Smyly) won’t be around next season, one is terrible (Danks) and three of them — Price, Sale and Quintana — are so good that it doesn’t matter if you stack the deck against them with right-handed hitters anyway. Lefties or righties, a team faces long odds to get to four runs scored on the day against that trio. So, while you certainly don’t have to play Dyson in all 162 games, he isn’t in more danger of being victimized by left-handed starting pitchers than anyone else on his team is.

Finally, there is the matter of salary. Dyson is eligible for arbitration for the first time this offseason, but even if he scores a raise to $3 or 4 million, he’s going to be cheap compared to the value he’s providing. And given that the Royals are going to need to pinch every penny if they want to bring James Shields back, they could do a lot worse than letting Aoki and Willingham walk and installing Dyson every day.

In other sports, specialists generally go far more appreciated than they do in baseball. Specialist relievers are often derided or fit into a tiny box so small that they can never provide real value. Such is not the case with Jarrod Dyson. He might not be the next Willie Mays, but three-win outfielders don’t exactly grow on trees. That’s essentially what Dyson has been the past two seasons, in part-time duty. Even if he regresses to more average defense in a full-time role, he will be just as valuable as Norichika Aoki was this season. And if he manages to maintain that elite level of baserunning and defense for a whole campaign, then the Royals might just have a four-win player on their hands for a relative pittance. Free Jarrod Dyson.

How Chris Tillman Keeps Runners From Running.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Chris Tillman‘s 2014 has a pretty great storyline. Approaching the end of July, Tillman had an average ERA and below-average peripherals, with 51 walks to go with 83 strikeouts. That’s not at all what the Orioles were looking for, and then all of a sudden Tillman turned his year around. Over the dozen starts he had remaining, he allowed 23 runs, with 15 walks and 67 strikeouts. Last week, Tillman was reasonably effective against the Tigers, with six whiffs in five innings. People who look at the Orioles’ rotation don’t see an ace, but Tillman’s the closest they’ve got, and he’s pitched at that level for a couple of months.

So, Tillman’s had a great second half of the year, just like the whole team around him has, and that’s one thing you could talk about. But in October, people love to focus on the matchups, and Tillman’s about to go up against the Royals, who made a name for themselves in the Wild Card game by running all over the place. The perception of the Royals, now, is that they’ll run you to death if you give them the chance. And yet, Chris Tillman doesn’t give runners chances. This’ll be a fascinating matchup for a number of reasons.

How much would you like to know? This season, attempted base-stealers were 1-for-4 with Tillman on the mound. Tillman, incidentally, is right-handed, and in case you’re wondering about that one successful steal, here it is in all of its glory:

It was a busted hit-and-run where the hitter basically stood directly in the catcher’s way as he tried to throw to second. With an even halfway accurate throw, the runner would’ve been out, so this deserves a big ol’ asterisk. It wasn’t a straight steal attempt, and the runner was safe only because the catcher had trouble throwing from behind another person.

And last year? Last year, attempted base-stealers were 1-for-9 with Tillman on the mound. Last year, Tillman was also right-handed. Here are Tillman’s last four years, and the rate at which runners tried to steal given the opportunity.

2011: 6.7% attempts
2012: 5.6%
2013: 3.2%
2014: 1.3%

And Tillman, in turn, has reduced his pickoff attempts. His pickoff attempt rate this year was a third what it was in 2011, not because Tillman doesn’t have a good pickoff, but because runners just aren’t so aggressive with their leads against him anymore. He knows they’re not likely to try.

The pickoff — it’s a good pickoff.

In the first one, you see an attempt before Tillman even comes set. In the second one, you see an attempt as he’s coming set. Runners know that pickoff is there.

Tillman didn’t have the lowest steal rate in 2014, even among righties. There was just one attempt against Doug Fister, and it was unsuccessful. There were two attempts against Yordano Ventura, and one of them was successful. There were two attempts against Michael Wacha and four against Lance Lynn, in large part probably a function of Yadier Molina. But this isn’t just a one-year thing for Tillman, and he’s clearly extreme even if he might not be the most extreme. So how does Tillman do it, beyond just being able to throw pretty quickly to first base?

Ben Lindbergh wrote well about Ventura almost exactly a month ago. Runners don’t try to steal against Ventura, and though some of that is his velocity and some of that is the presence of Salvador Perez, mostly it’s because Ventura is quicker to home plate than any other pitcher. The Orioles want all their pitchers to be no slower than 1.3 seconds to home, which is a pretty quick time. Ventura measures at 1.1 seconds, and that makes for almost impossible math for any would-be runner.

Tillman doesn’t have a Salvador Perez. In fact, he commonly throws to Nick Hundley, who isn’t a great defensive backstop. Tillman also doesn’t have Ventura’s velocity, not that velocity plays a huge role in steal success. And Tillman isn’t as quick to the plate as Ventura is, because nobody is, as I already mentioned. But for one thing, there’s that pickoff. For another thing, Tillman isn’t slow. And for a third thing, Tillman’s got his own quirks to combat any kind of running game that might exist.

Why don’t we just look at one example, say, from when Tillman faced the Royals earlier in the season? Below, Tillman pitching in a close game with Alcides Escobar on first base. Escobar stole 31 bases this year. Last year, he stole 22 in 22 tries. Escobar likes to run, and against Tillman, he didn’t do anything. Let’s try to figure out why.

You see that? You see the way that Tillman comes set? It’s subtle, until you notice it, and then you can’t not notice it. He puts his hand in his glove up at his chest, then he very slowly lowers his hands to his belt while his left foot taps in front of him. From first base, it looks like Tillman’s in constant motion, until he comes set and steady. And then that’s another thing. I’ll track some numbers below the .gifs.

Time while set: 1.3 seconds
Time to home: 1.23 seconds

Same quirk with the glove and left foot. Tillman does that every time. But pay close attention to the numbers below.

Time while set: 2.0 seconds
Time to home: 1.26 seconds

Tillman held the ball a little longer than he did the first time. Plenty of pitchers are told to do this, to vary their looks, but few do it as well or as consistently as Tillman does.

Same approach to being set; opposite difference once set. The numbers again:

Time while set: 0.5 seconds
Time to home: 1.37 seconds

And here we have a pickoff attempt. Not only is it a quick and accurate attempt, but it’s very difficult to pick up on specifically because of what Tillman does with his foot and his hands. The runner is trying to read the pitcher’s movements, and here, Tillman was already in motion before throwing over. His hands were already moving, and his foot was already bouncing, and that gives him an incremental timing advantage with his throw to first because the runner might be that much slower to react. And Tillman doesn’t always try to pick a guy off at this point in his motion. Refer back to the two attempts shown above — he also throws over before coming set, and as he’s coming set. He’s quick enough to throw over whenever he wants, which makes him very unpredictable, which makes him very hard to read if you’re trying to move up 90 feet. Running is simply about detecting a pattern. Tillman keeps himself pretty random.

Here you really get to see that left foot at work. If I’m going to be honest with you, I didn’t know this was even allowed. And I’ve watched Chris Tillman before. I’ve just never watched this part of his game very closely. I guess the Royals are causing me to examine the anatomy of steals and non-steals closer than I ever have. Escobar doesn’t even try anything. Dyson singled, but that’s beside the point. Escobar couldn’t read Tillman very well, so he didn’t try to steal, and he didn’t get a running start on the knock. So the single just moved him from first to second, the same as it would’ve done for Billy Butler.

Time while set: 2.1 seconds
Time to home: 1.30 seconds

Tillman doesn’t have Ventura’s explosive delivery that allows him to be so quick to home. But he’s still faster than average, and he blends that speed with a terrific pickoff move, deception, and varied timing. Many pitchers are told to vary their timing, but the numbers indicate that Tillman’s better than almost everyone at it, and it doesn’t seem to cost him anything in terms of performance with men on. You can see in the case with Escobar above, Tillman was set for as little as half a second, and for as much as more than two seconds. It gives him a tiny little edge when it comes to plays decided by tiny little differences. Some runners, surely, could steal against Tillman, but they’ve pretty much all just decided it’s not worth the risk.

So if the Royals face Tillman twice, it’ll be fascinating to see how aggressive they are. Buck Showalter says the goal is to keep guys off base in the first place, but Tillman might at least be able to keep the runners he does allow from going anywhere. And if you look at the Royals’ splits, they seem to prefer running later anyway, presumably because they get to see relievers and get to use pinch-runners:

Innings 1-3: 42 steals (7th in MLB)
Innings 4-6: 44 steals (2nd)
Innings 7-9: 62 (1st)

With Jarrod Dyson and Terrance Gore on the bench, the Royals can try to select their own running opportunities, but when Chris Tillman is on the mound, those opportunities might not really exist. Which means, when Chris Tillman is on the mound, the Royals might have to beat him with their bats, and that’s where the Royals are weakest. It’s an awful small thing, but it can be such a big thing, as the Royals have demonstrated, and the beauty is in the details anyhow.

Discussing the “NLCS Powered by JABO” with Rob Neyer.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Tomorrow night, Fox Sports 1 is going full nerd. While their mothership is showing the traditional broadcast of the game, FS1 is going to have a simulcast of the game action, but instead of the traditional play-by-play and color commentary audio, the crew from Just A Bit Outside — C.J. Nitkowski, Gabe Kapler, and Rob Neyer — will be offering their insights while the game occurs. They’ve also wrangled Bud Black into joining them, and the whole thing will be hosted by Kevin Burkhardt. You can read more about what they have planned here, or watch this video preview, or you can read below, where I talk to Rob about what it is they’re going to do tomorrow night.

Also, while those guys getting ogled on your TV screen, we’ll be making sure is still loaded with content. Jeff Sullivan, Drew Fairservice, August Fagerstrom, and myself will be representing the FG crew, providing quick-hit analysis and commentary on the site, and expect a few other notable voices to chime in as well. If you want to be fully ensconced in analysis while you watch the game, tomorrow is the night for you.

Dave: So, what exactly is this thing you guys are doing on Saturday night, and how can people watch it and the game at the same time?

Rob: That’s exactly what they can do! At every moment, anyone watching FS1 will see the same game they would see on Fox. Often it’ll be a split-screen, with the game in one screen and our panel in the other. At key moments, we’ll switch the game action to full-screen and you’ll hear us doing our thing. And occasionally during a break in the action, you might see just us.

Dave: This is like color commentary on steroids, then? Wait, maybe that isn’t the best metaphor. But I gather this broadcast will focus more on the commentary side of things and less on the play by play of a traditional broadcast booth?

Rob: Very little play-by-play, unless we’re in the middle of a discussion, or there’s a lull, and Kevin Burkhardt pulls us back into the game for a little context.

Dave: What are some fun things that you expect to be able to do on Saturday night that fans aren’t used to getting in a traditional broadcast? Are you going to actually going to say the words “linear weights” on television?

Rob: I’ll be shocked if linear weights doesn’t come up at some point, at least in passing. Essentially, we’ll be talking about all the things that we — and by we, I mean you and I — talk about when we get together: defense and the vagaries of measuring it, pitch-framing, game theory, wOBA … You know, all the good stuff. But it won’t be just the sabermetrics. We’ve got a big studio, a bunch of cameras, and two tremendously smart and experienced ex-players in Gabe Kapler and C.J. Nitkowski, who can walk away from the desk anytime they like and give us all lessons in how the game’s really played. Oh, and we’ve also got Bud Black! You wanna know what it’s like to manage against Bruce Bochy? I’ll bet Bud Black will tell us.

Dave: How much is the balance going to lean towards appealing to people who read FanGraphs versus retaining mainstream appeal for casual fans who might just be flipping through the channels? If my wife watched the broadcast with me, would she enjoy the simulcast, or is this something we should watch alone in our mother’s basements?

Rob: Honestly, I think any baseball fan who’s not utterly hostile toward sabermetrics will enjoy this broadcast. We’ll be explaining everything we talk about, but I think briefly enough that neither you nor Amy will be bored. Also, there’s this: Gabe and C.J. are both wildly engaging. Just great people to be around, and I think if you’re watching you’ll feel like you’re just in the middle of a great conversation about baseball, not to mention the occasional moments when those guys step away from our desk and demonstrate pitch-framing or reading a left-handed pitcher or whatever. We’ve done a few hours of rehearsals, and my only regret is that I can’t just hang out at home and watch these guys do their thing. Because they’re really, really good at it. Plus Kevin Burkhardt is one of the best studio hosts I’ve ever seen.

Dave: If we overnight you a FanGraphs t-shirt, will you wear it on the air? What if we special order a FanGraphs button-down, or better yet, a FanGraphs flannel? You’d wear that on TV, right?

Rob: Can you overnight me a FanGraphs tie? They’re making me wear a tie. And fancy pants, too. It better be worth it.

Orioles Keeping J.J. Hardy for Themselves.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Since it became clear that the 2014 Yankees weren’t very good, a lot of people in our chats started asking about the 2015 Yankees. Specifically, a lot of people started asking about the shortstop for the 2015 Yankees, since they’re not going to have Derek Jeter, in a different way from how the 2014 Yankees didn’t really have Derek Jeter. A name I kept arriving at was J.J. Hardy — he was due to be a free agent, and he’s pretty good, and he’d cost plenty without costing plenty. He seemed like a good option for a Yankees team that might not want to break the bank. Also, he’s not an option anymore.

In the break between playoff series, the Orioles have signed Hardy to a multi-year extension:

Source: Hardy deal 3 years, $40 mil with $6.5 mil deferred. Vesting option 4th year based on ABs #orioles

— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) October 9, 2014

In re-signing Hardy, the Orioles are getting for about market value a player who is no longer young but who is not yet a problem. That sentence is all the analysis you need, but now let’s get into some details you might want.

You might somewhat recognize the structure of the contract. It’s not the exact same, but it’s similar to the contract to which the Cardinals signed Jhonny Peralta last offseason. Peralta was given a guaranteed four years and $53 million, which surprised some people who didn’t believe in his defense. Hardy’s getting basically the same money for three years, and he has a shot at a fourth. Sensible enough; Peralta and Hardy occupy the same mental tier.

I should note, though, that Peralta was being signed for ages 32 through 35. Hardy’s going to be a little bit older than Peralta was when he debuted with St. Louis. And over the three years leading up to the free-agent contract, Peralta was worth 11 WAR by our estimates, with a 109 wRC+. Hardy, over the last three years, in more playing time, has been worth 9.5 WAR, with an 89 wRC+. People believe a lot more in Hardy’s defense than they do in Peralta’s defense, but Peralta’s defensive performance has still been at least fine, and Hardy’s the inferior bat. So, Peralta had arguments in his favor, is the point.

But I suppose if you believed in all of Peralta’s numbers, the Cardinals were getting him for something of a bargain. Hardy’s a good player, and he’s long been a good player, and no matter what you think of WAR as a statistic, this at least implies a very solid asset:

2010: 2.2 WAR (375 PA)
2011: 4.3
2012: 2.7
2013: 3.4
2014: 3.4
Hardy’s offense has been a little difficult to figure out. His wRC+ has recently bounced from 93 to 113 to 78 to 100, and this past season he hit just nine home runs. Overall, Hardy’s been a below-average bat, and because of his tendency to pop the ball up he’s run some fairly low BABIPs. But the Orioles aren’t fond of Hardy because of his All-Star offensive productivity. At the plate, he’s good enough. In the field is where Hardy seems to shine through.

He’s one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball, according to Defensive Runs Saved. He’s one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball, according to UZR. He’s one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball, according to Inside Edge, and he’s one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball, according to the Fan Scouting Report. Everybody loves Hardy’s defensive work, and while he’ll never be confused for Andrelton Simmons, Hardy’s a defender without any flaws. He doesn’t make a lot of errors, he converts the routine plays, he converts a lot of the non-routine plays, and he’s one of the better shortstops around when it comes to starting or turning the double play. Here is a gratuitous J.J. Hardy defensive .gif, to break up the text:

Hardy isn’t going to get better as he ages, but he’ll start the contract from a high level. And it’s worth considering the organizational context in which he’s being signed — Manny Machado just suffered another injury, and he’s proven to be an outstanding defensive third baseman, so the Orioles were presumably less willing than ever to move Machado back over a few steps. And while the Orioles’ system doesn’t literally have zero shortstops in it, it’s not a position of strength or depth, so Hardy keeps a position from becoming a hole. Without him, there were no realistic internal replacements.

I want to say something about Hardy’s offense, and it does trouble me a little. Hardy, for a while, was known for his outstanding contact skills. Used to be he maintained a contact rate in the upper 80s. This past season he dropped to 81%, and his strikeouts went up as a consequence. Between 2013 and 2014, 237 players batted at least 250 times in each season. Hardy just had the fifth-highest strikeout-rate increase, and the third-greatest contact-rate decrease. Curiously, Hardy made the same amount of contact within the zone. But his contact rate on pitches out of the zone plummeted, and unlike Devin Mesoraco, Hardy didn’t pair that with a huge power breakout. Hardy just put the bat on the ball less, especially on pitches down or away.

It’s possible that bodes poorly for Hardy’s offensive future. But then, it’s also possible he’s just adjusting to getting older, and it’s alternatively possible that this is the result of Hardy playing a lot of games with a somewhat uncomfortable back. It didn’t seem to have an effect on his defense, but maybe Hardy was less able to reach when he was at the plate. The likelihood is that Hardy will remain a slightly below-average hitter in the coming years, but he might be changing as he approaches his mid-30s.

Ultimately, the Orioles have chosen to spend good money on a player they know well. He’s a player they like, obviously, and he’s a player for whom they don’t have an alternative, and even if you don’t love the idea of $40 million for a player like this, the fact that Hardy is so capable up the middle makes him tough to replace for cheap. Replacement-level shortstops don’t pair decent bats with above-average fielding. Hardy’s is a difficult skillset to acquire, and now the free-agent market is without one of its potential impact players. As shortstops go, Hanley Ramirez will be expensive and not a shortstop for long. Jed Lowrie isn’t really a shortstop, Asdrubal Cabrera isn’t really a shortstop, and Stephen Drew was just worth negative WAR. Hardy was the promising one, so now the Yankees in particular will have to scour the trade market. While the Orioles didn’t re-sign Hardy just to make the Yankees a little more frustrated, it makes for a delightful little side effect.

How Matt Carpenter Destroyed the Dodgers.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
There was no baseball last night. There will be no baseball tonight. This is the fault of a great many people, too many to list here. The cynical might say some blame falls at the feet of Don Mattingly and Matt Williams. Others insist the entirety of the blame belongs there.

Mattingly tried his best and Clayton Kershaw turned in two starts (or parts of two starts) unbecoming of a presumptive MVP and Cy Young winner. But if you’re looking for the true catalyst of the Dodgers’ demise and the author of a short series win, look no further than Matt Carpenter.

The Cardinals’ third baseman was unconscious during the division series, clubbing a home run and double apiece in the first three games of the series. In the deciding Game Four, he went 0-4 but his mark on this series remains indelible.

All that extra base pop is slightly out of character for Carpenter, who claimed the same high-OBP as his 7 WAR campaign of 2013 only without the extra base power. He hit just eight home runs during the regular season, only one player hit for less power while still producing more than 10% better than league average.

None of this makes Dodgers fans feel any better. How could L.A. let off-brand Joe Mauer beat them so soundly during the Division Series? Carpenter bested the Dodgers in three key ways.

Flipping the script

Carpenter is a selective hitter. He’s a very selective hitter, all told. Only two qualified hitters saw more pitches per plate appearance than the Cardinals lead-off hitter in 2014. Only one qualified hitter swung at the first pitch less frequently than Carpenter. Only one hitter swung-and-missed more rarely than Carpenter this season. None of this is news. He’s patient and precise. We get it.

These established facts regarding Carpenter’s plate discipline make his performance in the NLDS a very “man bites dog” baseball event. Of his three home runs, he parked two of them on the first pitch, as well as one of his doubles. Swinging at the first pitch is something Carpenter simply doesn’t do, but against Clayton Kershaw of all people, he pulled the trigger to great effect.

Those four extra base hits represent all his first-pitch swings this postseason. After a mere 17 plate appearances, it hardly suggests a turn towards the reckless. If anything, it is further proof of his discipline. Carpenter went to the plate with a plan – swing first pitch if I see a fastball middle-in – and pulled the trigger when he saw what he liked.

It’s the difference between selective and passive. Carpenter knew the likelihood of a fastball from Kershaw was high, just as the odds of J.P. Howell throwing a first pitch sinker. He combined this information with his keen pitch recognition skills and made very good things happen for the Cardinals when he found pitches to his liking.

Staying the course

It wasn’t all first pitch glory and ambush swings from the Cards’ third baseman. Matt Carpenter can grind out at bats like few other hitters in baseball, staying back on breaking balls while fighting off good fastballs from top pitchers. This Game One battle against Kershaw s one of the best at bats we’ll see this postseason.

Many watching this game wondered aloud if the Cardinals had something on Kershaw, if perhaps he was tipping his pitches or the base runners were stealing signs. The swings Carpenter put on some of these pitches are comfortable enough to suggest some sort of prior knowledge, though our own Mike Petriello debunked that line of thinking over at Dodgers Digest

If we track back one year, we find a nearly identical battle between Kershaw and Carpenter from Game Six of the 2013 NLCS. The batting-gloveless one fights off fastball after fastball, staying alive and on the sliders and curves that Kershaw offers before banging the 11th pitch he sees, a slider, into the right-field corner for a double. He’s a great hitter who, in these situations, hung tough against the game’s best.

In earlier at bats, Kershaw dispensed with Carpenter easily, striking him out on four pitches and coaxing a tame infield popup. But in these huge at bats, the motor of the Cards offense earned himself some hittable pitches, not to mention more fastballs from a quickly-tiring Kershaw, by simply keeping the at bat alive.

Gift Horse Rodeo

We often hear about good pitching beating good hitting, but even great pitching isn’t immune to mistakes. Great hitting is all about taking advantage of those mistakes and turning them into opportunities for your club. Against Matt Carpenter in the NLDS, the Dodgers made more than their share of mistakes.

A quick look at the strike zone plot of his extra base hits shows just how generous L.A.’s pitching staff was with the Cardinals lead-off man. Fastballs over the heart of the plate, change ups that caught far too much of the strike zone and two cookies in the typical lefty wheelhouse, down and in.

The pitch plot tells some of the story, but the locations appear worse when contrasted with the targets set by Dodgers’ catcher A.J. Ellis. We see Ellis reaching back across the plate on the bomb Carpenter hit off Howell and groping for an even bigger miss when the two met again in St. Louis. His first homer off Kershaw came on a fastball that stayed up, and the worst offender of all, the bases-clearing double, which missed its spot by the full width of the plate.

It takes a great hitter to capitalize on these mistakes and Carpenter is just that. As noted above, he “earned” these pitches by making the opposition work and staying alive through some long at bats. After a season in which he admits to fighting his swing, it all came together in time for another Cardinals run to the league championship series.

What can and will the Giants do to combat the relentless Carpenter? Game One starter Madison Bumgarner will try keeping his fastball on the outside part of the plate, perhaps trying looking to flip in a first pitch breaking ball to jump ahead in the count? It isn’t something he’s done in their matchups in the past and it isn’t a pitch he typically throws to lefties to open at bats (around 7% of the time this year), but Carpenter surely earned the full attention of all coaches and scouts in SF.

We know Matt Carpenter isn’t going to beat himself too often at the plate. In the NLDS, he showed he can a very good team. He’ll continue making himself a tough out and while he might not earn many more Stan Musial comps, the Giants must avoid the same mistakes made by their bitter rivals to the south lest Carpenter become The Man once again.

So Why Do Our Playoff Odds Love the Royals?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
This is the postseason of the underdog. The Angels, Dodgers, Tigers, and Nationals were all bounced in the first round. Both wild card teams advanced, combining to lose one game in the process, despite having burned their best starting pitchers in the play-in game. One of the remaining division winners won just 90 games. These are not the League Championship Series many people expected, and with the little guys advancing in each division series, we should be in for some pretty even match-ups. At least, that’s what one would think.

But if you look over at our Playoff Odds page, our depth chart forecasts don’t exactly see it that way. This is how those projections look right now, before the start of either LCS.

Team LCS Odds WS Odds
Royals 63% 36%
Cardinals 52% 25%
Giants 48% 23%
Orioles 37% 16%
Our projections have the Royals as a significant favorite over the Orioles, even though Baltimore was the better regular season team by just about any measure you want to use. But this isn’t another FanGraphs-just-hates-the-Orioles situation — we don’t, really, I promise — as our forecasts actually had the Royals-Angels match-up as essentially a coin toss, and see them as a legitimately strong contender, not just a Wild Card who snuck past the first round due to the randomness of October.

But the Royals certainly didn’t play like an elite team this summer. By BaseRuns, they were a .500 team, and only managed to snag a Wild Card spot because of their strong performances in the clutch. So what’s the deal? Why do our forecasts love the Royals so much?

Thanks to our Depth Charts overview page and our positional leaderboards we can actually go see exactly where the differences are between projected value and what the Royals produced in 2014. So let’s find out where exactly the projections are bullish on this roster.

Royals C 1B 2B SS 3B LF CF RF DH SP RP Bat Pit WAR
Projections 4.4 2.6 2.2 2.2 3.4 4.4 3.5 2.4 1.6 10.3 5.0 26.7 15.3 42.0
2014 3.0 1.0 1.0 3.4 1.3 6.2 5.8 2.3 (1.7) 12.9 5.9 22.3 18.8 41.1
Difference 1.4 1.6 1.2 (1.2) 2.1 (1.glasses.gif (2.3) 0.1 3.3 (2.6) (0.9) 4.4 (3.5) 0.9
Overall, the forecasts are pretty optimistic about the Royals young position players, giving them league average or better marks at essentially every position on the field. But there are two notable forecasts that paint a significantly more positive view than just looking at 2014 performance: third base and designated hitter.

Let’s start at DH, where Billy Butler was a miserable failure, especially when he wasn’t playing the field. His overall .271/.323/.379 line is bad enough for a bat-only player, but even that was pulled up by solid production when Butler played first base; as a DH, Butler hit .259/.307/.335, good for just a 79 wRC+. The guys who filled in when he played first base weren’t a lot better, and overall, the Royals DH’s combined for the second worst total in the AL, with only the Mariners (-3.2 WAR!) getting less from the position.

But the Steamer forecasts — the engine powering our Playoff Odds models — aren’t really phased by Butler’s lousy 2014 season, and think he’s basically still the good-not-great hitter he’s always been. The 119 wRC+ forecast for him is actually slightly above his career average mark, as Steamer is still giving weight to his strong 2012 season, and at 28 years old, he’s right in the sweet spot of the aging curve. This season, Butler was awful, but the forecasts don’t see Butler as an actually awful player, and assuming that he’s classic Billy Butler and not the 2014 version gives the team a significant boost in the forecasts.

The story is similar at third base. Mike Moustaksas had a miserable regular season, posting a 76 wRC+ and getting himself optioned back to Triple-A for a stint, but Steamer sees him as an above average big league third baseman. In fact, his +3 WAR in 586 PA is shockingly strong given that, in nearly 2,000 plate appearances, Moustakas has produced a total of just +5 WAR over his career. Steamer is really bullish on Moustakas despite a poor Major League track record, and so to find out why, I emailed Jared Cross, the gatekeper of the projection system and asked him what was up. His response:

In addition to going into a peak age, I think he’s benefitting from having a slightly better year this year (than his career average) in terms of BB%, K% and a worse year in BABIP. BABIP not only gets regressed more than K% and BB%, but BABIP data from longer ago weighs in more heavily relative to data from the more recent season (although the most recent season still gets the highest weight, of course). So, his rough year in 2014 isn’t quite as bad as it looks, projection-wise, because it’s largely the result of a terrible BABIP.

Jared isn’t kidding; Moustakas had a .220 BABIP this year, the lowest mark of any hitter who hit at least 500 times this season. His high infield fly rate shows that this isn’t just bad luck, as Moustakas makes a ton of weak contact that results in easy outs for the infield. But Moustakas has always hit a ton of infield flies, and he’s never run a .220 BABIP before; his career mark is .260, and Steamer is only forecasting him for a few ticks above that, at .272.

But as Jared notes, if you don’t hold the entirety of his .220 BABIP against him, the rest of Moustakas’ line actually isn’t half bad. His walk rate was the highest of his career, and his strikeout rate was well below the league average, while he also posted a decent-ish .149 ISO. For comparison, Moustakas’ BB/K/ISO numbers are almost exactly the same as Jacoby Ellsbury‘s, and actually a little bit ahead of guys like Lonnie Chisenhall, Starlin Castro, and Pablo Sandoval, each of whom were slightly better than league average hitters. This high-contact/some power combination, mixed in with a smattering of walks, is a decent offensive player as long as the BABIP is within the normal range.

And that’s basically what Steamer is projecting for Moustakas; a strong enough BABIP regression to make him a league average hitter, based on his solid enough underlying skills. Add in his defensive skills at third base, and Steamer sees Moustakas as a productive player, not the black hole he was in the Royals line-up for most of the year.

Interestingly enough, this is one of those times when the data and the scouts likely agree. The Royals believed themselves to be contenders this year based in part on their faith in Moustakas and Butler, and both underachieved relative to what the team and the forecasts believed they were capable of. The same could be true, to a lesser extent, of Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez, and Omar Infante. The Royals expected to have a productive infield, and the forecasts thought this group should be pretty solid as well, but in reality, they were pretty lousy, especially if you consider Butler part of the infield group. But just as the Royals haven’t given up on their young core, neither have the projections, and their optimism about these young players performing better than their 2014 numbers has the forecasts buying into Kansas City as a legitimate contender.

A total projection of 42 WAR might not sound like a lot, because after all, it’s only 1 WAR higher than their 2014 total, but it’s actually the fourth highest projected total of any team in baseball, a tenth of a win behind the Dodgers. These forecasts look at the Royals and see a legitimately good team, not a .500 club that clutched their way into the playoffs.

If you go to the Royals team depth chart page, you can see how the individual forecasts add up at the runs level. The positive forecasts for the young players turns the Royals from a bad offensive team into an above average one, grading them out at +26 runs above average with the bats. Toss in another +34 runs for their fielding, and Steamer really likes the Royals position players. Pair that with a decent rotation and a great bullpen, and the forecasts think the Royals are clearly the best team left in the postseason, as good as any of the big boys who just knocked out in the first round.

Now, how much emphasis you put on these forecasts is a matter of opinion, and if you think that the only data that matters is what happened in the regular season, then our season-to-date Playoff Odds model probably aligns more with your expectations, with the Orioles as strong favorites to win both the ALCS and the World Series. If you think Moustakas, Hosmer, and Butler are more of what they showed this season than what the forecasts think, then the Royals probably aren’t a legitimately great team.

Personally, I’m probably somewhere in between, thinking the Royals are better than their 2014 performance but not entirely buying into the full improvements that Steamer sees for the Royals young hitters. But then again, I’m also the guy who would have had Anaheim, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Washington playing in the LCS, so Steamer’s doing better than I am this postseason.
post #28314 of 73633
This should be a good series
post #28315 of 73633
EJ is my guy but he isnt built for playoff baseball laugh.gif

Hope whoever comes out the AL wins it all
You whole crew's ravishing, team's untouchable
In the jungle banging Nas, Mobb Deep and Wu
"My Ohhh My"
You whole crew's ravishing, team's untouchable
In the jungle banging Nas, Mobb Deep and Wu
"My Ohhh My"
post #28316 of 73633
Looks to the Royals pimp.gif
post #28317 of 73633

Wow monster chance down the damn drain

post #28318 of 73633



Way to escape the inning unscathed.


Royals dun goofed.

post #28319 of 73633
post #28320 of 73633
Originally Posted by toine2983 View Post

Royals dun goofed.



...Or not. :lol

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