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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 953

post #28561 of 73652
Originally Posted by Lightweight Champion View Post

If he had thrown home Crawford gets back to third. Make a good throw and its a moot point.
post #28562 of 73652
Originally Posted by Lightweight Champion View Post

Edit: nvm I take that back.

that run wouldve scored before the tag. he shouldve stepped on first and looked at the runner on third and concede the runner to second
post #28563 of 73652
Originally Posted by DMan14 View Post

that run wouldve scored before the tag. he shouldve stepped on first and looked at the runner on third and concede the runner to second
Yep. I see the mistake I made.
post #28564 of 73652
Welp, now I'm praying that the Cards can pull off the 04 Red Sox miracle. It's cool to have all 5 AL Central
teams make it to the WS during my lifetime.
post #28565 of 73652
Nice to see the Royals make it to the WS pimp.gif hope this break doesn't slow down that momentum they have going
post #28566 of 73652
that marlins jacket fan was at BOTH royals/o's and giants/cards game today???
post #28567 of 73652
Wainwright isn't right. I don't see how the Cards can overcome that against Bum.
post #28568 of 73652
Cardinals are in a position to pull the reverse of what they did in 2012 when up 3-1 on the giants.

They went up 3-1 and only scored 1 run the rest of the way while getting blown out the final 3 games just like their 96 team did against the braves in the NLCS.

I think this ends tomorrow though
post #28569 of 73652
Originally Posted by DMan14 View Post

that marlins jacket fan was at BOTH royals/o's and giants/cards game today???

Highly Unlikely. The 2 games were less than 1 hour apart and its a 3+ hour flight.
post #28570 of 73652
Bruce Bochy is too good of a manger to allow his team to falter like that. It's possible I guess, but highly doubt it. I think Bum finishes them off tomorrow.
post #28571 of 73652
On another note, while we've had some good playoff games this postseason. Quite a few extra innings games and alot of close games, every series has been one sided in terms of how many games they've went.

Do you prefer more series going the distance but not as many of the games being close and competitive, or a bunch of short series's sweeps and best of 5 series finishing in 4, where the games are close, could go either, way and have their share of extra inning dramatics.

Royals Orioles was a sweep but 2 games were decided by 1 run, another went extra innings, and game 2 was tied going into the 9th. Obviously its a sweep on paper, but it wasnt your typical overly one sided sweep with a few blowouts to me.
post #28572 of 73652
That's the beauty of it, you give props to Orioles for staying close in each game yet, KC took care off business in each of the close games, as if they weren't bothered with it being close. Anywho, for those who watched that series should appreciate the the sheer competitiveness of these two clubs but, also give an incredible amount of respect to KC for staying in control for the most part despite Orioles fighting back. I prefer a sweep with close games than a series going the distance with loopsided games. Of course, you can in fact have the 7 game series which each game is close, which is a great reward for me, even if my team (Giants) might be in the wrong end of it.
post #28573 of 73652
The Royals' sweep of Baltimore reminded me of the '06 Tigers sweep of Oakland. The games were close but for some reason every break went to KC.

Matheny has dried up the well with the bullpen. He continues to run the same arms out there and now they're gassed. They need Waino to go 7-8 innings but with how he's looked so far in the playoffs that isn't likely. Giants close it out tomorrow.
post #28574 of 73652
Originally Posted by JohnnyRedStorm View Post

Cubs winning the pennant next year nerd.gif

Originally Posted by sole vintage View Post


Year 2015 according to BTTF:

Sports almanac FTW! Book it!

Vikings | Timberwolves | Mariners | Twins | Huskies


aka 651


Vikings | Timberwolves | Mariners | Twins | Huskies


aka 651

post #28575 of 73652
I expect Wainwright to deal tomorrow. Giants win in a close game though.
post #28576 of 73652
I'll never count out the Cards
👑 KC Royals 2015 World Series Champs 👑
Los Angeles Rams #FIREFISHER
New York Knicks
Nebraska Cornhuskers
Team Crawford

PSN : popamolly1

Certified Jordan 1 OG legit checker
👑 KC Royals 2015 World Series Champs 👑
Los Angeles Rams #FIREFISHER
New York Knicks
Nebraska Cornhuskers
Team Crawford

PSN : popamolly1

Certified Jordan 1 OG legit checker
post #28577 of 73652
Originally Posted by NIKESUX View Post

I'll never count out the Cards

I would say the the same about the Giants in the same situation, but they're the ones with the 3-1 advantage...Gonna be a tough haul for the birds.

Vikings | Timberwolves | Mariners | Twins | Huskies


aka 651


Vikings | Timberwolves | Mariners | Twins | Huskies


aka 651

post #28578 of 73652
post #28579 of 73652
Originally Posted by EAski3 View Post

what's funny is that all season long I read ESPN MLB (comments)..and the arrogant Orioles fans did nothing but talk ****..and ppl would always say "don't worry..they will choke in the playoffs" lolol

Man, ALL fan bases talked ****. Please direct me to a comment section on ESPN where this doesn't happen.

And let's keep it 100...Royals fans walking around like this:


Enjoy the ride...and as an O's fan, I DO hope that yall win the WS because it's a hell of a story (and well-deserved). But spare me the sensitivity **** about what other fan bases say....
post #28580 of 73652
I'm taking the Cubs next year. Those odds are gonna be silly. Put like 20 bucks down and bank when they win it all and CP drinks alcohol for the very first time.

The tides are turning!
post #28581 of 73652

I think they improve next year, yes, but not serious threats.

2016 tho, that's when I expect some stuff.

As for the drinking, honestly, I'd probably be too busy crying. Building a Theo statue on my front lawn. laugh.gif
post #28582 of 73652
Man I'd go crazy to see the Pirates in a WS

From Smith to Friedman, we know what's up

Official Member of the Steeler Nation

From Smith to Friedman, we know what's up

Official Member of the Steeler Nation
post #28583 of 73652
Thread Starter 
Congrats to the Royals and their fans!
post #28584 of 73652
the day the mets win the world series, my family is going to have to drag me out of a ditch 2 days later, butt naked and cover in pancake syrup.
post #28585 of 73652
Thread Starter 
What's next for the Baltimore Orioles?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Baltimore Orioles got an early start to their offseason when they extended the contract of J.J. Hardy on a three-year, $40 million extension earlier this month. However, that's just the beginning of a few big decisions ahead for general manager Dan Duquette.

The first order of business will be trying to retain two key free agents in outfielder/designated hitter Nelson Cruz and one of the best left-handed relievers in the game in Andrew Miller. The Orioles will have plenty of competition for both players. Teams like the Cincinnati Reds, New York Mets, Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners should have the most interest in Cruz, but the Orioles clearly remain his first choice and should be considered the front-runners to get him.

Miller will be more difficult to retain, because all 30 clubs will have serious interest in him, with the strong likelihood that at least a few teams will be willing to overpay for his services.

Markakis call looms

Duquette will have to make a decision on whether to vest the club option on right fielder Nick Markakis for $17.5 million or buy him out for $2 million. Duquette will probably try to sign Markakis to a multiyear deal in the $12-14 million range, but given the thin free-agent market for corner outfielders, it's doubtful that strategy will work.

My best guess is the Orioles will decline the option, but that could end up being a mistake. Markakis will be compared to outfielders such as Jayson Werth and Andre Ethier, and in free agency it takes just one team to make a big contract offer. Markakis' value has elevated down the stretch, and there are several teams in need of a quality corner outfielder.

Looking ahead to 2016

The Orioles also will have to decide what to do with their biggest free agents for 2016, including Chris Davis and Matt Wieters. Since they were able to win without them, it's possible they'll shop both of them this winter.

There will be a huge market for Davis, with teams such as the Mariners and Milwaukee Brewers being the most likely landing places. The Orioles can commit to first baseman Steve Pearce for a fraction of what Davis will make.

Wieters probably won't be tradable until he comes back from Tommy John surgery and proves he's healthy in the spring, unless there is a creative GM or front-office leader -- Andrew Friedman of the Los Angeles Dodgers? -- who might be willing to take a risk on what would be a long-term power solution at catcher who also happens to be Gold Glove-caliber behind the dish.

Other key situations

• The Orioles will monitor Manny Machado's rehabilitation from knee surgery, knowing that he will be a key part of their ability to repeat as AL East champions in 2015, especially if Cruz or Markakis departs or Davis is dealt.

• The O's expect Kevin Gausman to develop into a top-of-the-rotation starter as soon as next year, and they hope that Dylan Bundy is completely healthy and can make a jump in July to have an impact in their rotation down the stretch in 2015.

Besides dealing with their biggest free agents this year (Cruz and Miller) and shopping next year's biggest free agents (Davis and Wieters), I would expect a relatively quiet offseason for the Orioles, a 96-win team that will be kept largely the same for another run next year.

Andrew Friedman's to-do list with Dodgers.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
SAN FRANCISCO -- Andrew Friedman takes over as president of baseball operations for a Los Angeles Dodgers franchise that has a payroll three times larger than what he's worked with in the past, with an all-time great pitcher in Clayton Kershaw and a ton of talent in both the major leagues and the minors.

Here is Friedman's partial to-do list:

1. Work out a deal with his former team, the Tampa Bay Rays, and hire manager Joe Maddon

Dodgers officials made it clear Tuesday that Don Mattingly is their manager, with two years remaining on his contract. Maddon, who has one year left on his contract, is saying all the right things about not wanting to leave Tampa Bay. But what needs to happen next is for Rays owner Stuart Sternberg to sit down with Maddon -- like, today -- and ask him: Will you commit to the Rays with a long-term extension? If the answer is yes, then Maddon can move forward as the Tampa Bay manager.

But if Maddon waffles, says he isn't sure, and indicates that he wants to see how the next year goes, then Sternberg should learn a lesson from how Friedman has operated the Rays and take advantage of Maddon's value right now. In a year, Maddon will be a free agent, and Tampa Bay will get nothing for him.

Maddon could be an asset who can be flipped for talent, and if he won't stay with the Rays long term, they might as well turn the page and begin bartering with Friedman. Maddon has a great track record with Friedman; Maddon's personality would be perfect for Los Angeles, and he maintains a home in southern California.

Yes, Mattingly is well-liked by the Dodgers' ownership. But by letting Mattingly go now, with a golden parachute, and dealing for Maddon, Friedman would get the manager he presumably prefers. Friedman would save Mattingly the trouble of a whole year of speculation about whether he's a lame duck and about to lose his job to Maddon at the end of 2015.

2. Hire a general manager

As the Cubs' president of baseball operations, Theo Epstein hired Jed Hoyer to be his general manager, and now Friedman can hire one of the best and brightest officials from another team, such as Boston assistant general manager Mike Hazen, or Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine, or the Yankees' Billy Eppler. Hazen and Eppler would carry some perspective about working not only in a large market, but also in a web of complicated palace intrigue.

3. Find a shortstop

It won't be Hanley Ramirez, who is about to enter free agency. Friedman has been a master of maximizing value, and the best value play with Ramirez is to give him a qualifying offer, in the assumption that he will reject the offer and go to the open market.

4. Identify some starting pitching targets

The Dodgers have Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dan Haren under contract for 2015, but remember, Greinke has an out clause on his deal after next season. As I wrote here the other day, there will be a ton of available options in the pitching market in the next 14 months. Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields are all free agents this fall, expecting big dollars. And then next fall, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and Friedman's old friend David Price are all slated to be free agents, among others. Cole Hamels also can be netted in a trade. Pitching is plentiful these days, and it'll be up to Friedman to pick the right one or two guys, and make the right deals.

And the great thing for Friedman in his new role with the Dodgers is that all options are on the table, after so many years in Tampa Bay of having to trade away his best players.

5. Rebuild the Dodgers' bullpen

This is what Friedman has done best in his time running the Rays, finding fixable relievers with good arms and, in many cases, those who have an ability to throw a good changeup (Fernando Rodney, Joaquin Benoit and others). Friedman might also need to part ways with Brian Wilson, who is guaranteed $9.5 million under a player option for next season.

6. Move a veteran outfielder

[+] EnlargeYasiel Puig
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
It would make sense for Andrew Friedman to at least listen to what teams might offer for talented yet enigmatic outfielder Yasiel Puig.
The daily gloom that hovered over the Dodgers' clubhouse because of the glut of outfielders affected the whole atmosphere, and Friedman needs to find a partner for a swap of bad contracts. Andre Ethier could be dealt, or maybe even Matt Kemp, who had a resurgence this year. Kemp might have some trade value right now after his strong second half, and if Friedman moves him, he can shift Yasiel Puig to right field and open a spot for up-and-coming center fielder Joc Pederson.

There's another really interesting option that would have to be run past the Dodgers' ownership and marketing folks: Consider offers for the mega-talented Puig. There are folks in the Dodgers' organization who have come to believe that Puig is never going to be reliable, that he's always going to be inconsistent, and that his bursts of production are always going to be offset by the constant mistakes in his play and conduct.

Friedman's history suggests that he cares more about talent and potential than personality quirks -- see Elijah Dukes -- but he'll need to gather all the information that is available to him and at least weigh what Puig might get in the open market.

7. Lock up the Dodgers' best young players

This is why Friedman could be such a great fit for L.A.: He'll give this relatively new ownership a chance for maximum dollar efficiency while using their massive financial resources. By all accounts, rising minor leaguer Corey Seager is a player you can build around in terms of talent, production and personality. He should reach the big leagues sometime next year after racking up a combined 75 extra-base hits in 118 games this season at the high-A and Double-A levels, and it would be good for the Dodgers to discuss an Evan Longoria-type contract with him. The same could be true with Pederson, for that matter.

8. Build a relationship with Kershaw

The left-hander is not only an accomplished pitcher but also the face of the Dodgers' franchise, and he's a really bright clubhouse leader whose opinion will matter more and more as the years go on. My guess is that Friedman and Kershaw will develop a strong alliance as two smart Texas natives who are both really confident but also self-deprecating and can set aside their egos.

Catcher A.J. Ellis is highly valued by Kershaw for his devotion to the pitching staff, beyond their close friendship, and there is a looming decision on what to do with Ellis in his last year of arbitration eligibility. The Dodgers have the ability to go big-market in pursuit of their next catcher and go after Russell Martin this winter, but it will be important for Friedman to have conversations with Kershaw before making that decision.

For the Dodgers, the hiring of Friedman signals a cultural shift, writes Bill Plaschke. The Dodgers' front office will never be the same, writes Steve Dilbeck. Don Mattingly is on the hot seat, writes Vincent Bonsignore.

With Friedman off to the Dodgers, Matt Silverman is replacing him as head of baseball operations in Tampa Bay. Silverman counts on an innovative spirit, writes Roger Mooney.

Marc Topkin has a list of Friedman's hits and misses. The loss of Friedman is painful but not crippling to the Rays, writes Tom Jones. The Rays will carry on, writes Martin Fennelly.

Baltimore-Kansas City series

The steamroller otherwise known as Kansas City is one game from reaching the World Series. I'm guessing this will end the speculation about the job status of GM Dayton Moore and manager Ned Yost. The Royals are marching toward their destiny, as Jerry Crasnick writes.

• The Orioles need a miracle, writes Eduardo Encina. Everything keeps coming up Royal blue, writes Peter Schmuck.

• From ESPN Stats & Informatiomn on the struggles of Adam Jones: His postseason struggles have persisted into the ALCS; he has a .137 career postseason batting average (7-for-51, with 14 K's and just one walk), and his .363 OPS is the fourth-worst for any position player with at least 50 plate appearances in the divisional era (starting in 1969).

Jones has always been a free swinger -- no batter in the AL swung at a higher percentage of pitches (55.5 percent) during the regular season -- but his lack of patience is being exploited in postseason play; Jones has seen 12 pitches thrown out of the strike zone with two strikes, and he has swung at 10 of them. For his postseason career, Jones has seen 29 pitches thrown out of the strike zone with two strikes, and has swung 23 times.

• For the Royals, it has been a different hero nightly. They've had six different players produce a go-ahead RBI in the sixth inning or later, tied for the second-most in a single postseason (the 1995 Braves had 9).

Best record when leading after 6 innings, regular season
Team W-L Win pct.
Padres 60-1 .984
Royals* 65-4 .942
Nationals 72-6 .923
Dodgers 81-7 .920* 2-0 in the postseason
• As the chart to the right reveals, the Royals' bullpen was solid during the regular season, and it continues to be just as good in the postseason.

• The Royals are one victory from the World Series, writes Vahe Gregorian. Mike Moustakas' catch embodies the K.C. playoff run, writes Sam Mellinger.

• That Zack Greinke trade has turned out pretty well.

• O's manager Buck Showalter deserves better, writes Bob Klapisch.

San Francisco-St. Louis series

• Just another crazy ho-hum finish for the Giants on Tuesday. As Giants coach Tim Flannery told Jayson Stark, his team leads the league in RTIs: runs thrown in. The Giants got a big lead, but they knew better than to think it was over, writes Henry Schulman. The Giants' bullpen delivered, writes John Shea. The Giants' mix of talent and luck is paying off.

• The Cardinals wasted a comeback, writes Derrick Goold. The Cardinals are in a must-win situation today, writes Bernie Miklasz.

• Yadier Molina says he'll have to play in pain.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Pirates bench coach Jeff Banister is a finalist for the Rangers' managerial job. If he isn't hired by the Rangers, he'll be hired by some team very soon. The Rangers have three good candidates, writes Evan Grant.

2. The Yankees are thinking about hiring Omar Minaya, and the Mets are considering hiring Kevin Long.

3. The Yankees and Mets are both pursuing Dave Magadan.

4. There's help at third base in the free-agent class, but it's expensive and limited, writes Paul Hoynes.

Dings and dents

• Mike Napoli needs facial surgery.

AL Central

• The Tigers' offseason hinges on Victor Martinez.

• The tweaking of the Tigers will test David Dombrowski.

AL West

• Taijuan Walker is pitching in the Arizona Fall League.

NL East

• The Phillies don't have many outfielders.

NL Central

• Devin Mesoraco plays to win, writes Hal McCoy.

NL West

• Chip Hale embraces the presence of Tony La Russa.


• There is sad news about a longtime member of the Braves' organization.

• On the anniversary of the Steve Bartman game, Rick Telander did some reflecting.

And today will be better than yesterday.

Changing conditions for free-agent pitchers.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
ST. LOUIS – A growing trend, over the last decade, has been for teams to lock down their best young talent into long-term deals, whether it be the Giants signing Madison Bumgarner to a contract through 2017 with club options for 2018 and 2019, or the Rays signing Matt Moore and Chris Archer to what are perceived to be team-friendly deals.

These sorts of contracts have meant that fewer high-end players have gone into free agency, and some agents say there has been a nudge from the players' association to get more players into the open market; to not settle for deals that are perceived to have significant value to teams.

An elite free agent, like CC Sabathia in the fall of 2008, has maximum leverage and can drive the salary ceiling higher. Sabathia got $161 million over seven years -- a record-setting deal that set the tables for some of the deals that followed, like that of Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw, who all agreed to deals before reaching free agency.

Max Scherzer and Jon Lester are heading into free agency this fall, along with James Shields, and they will all be paid well. But like changing weather conditions, the market setting for these free agents may not be as strong as it was for Sabathia. The prices may be depressed, for a couple of reasons:

1. Run production is down dramatically, and club executives say that while they are struggling to find elite power bats, they can now more readily find effective pitchers.

2. It appears that there is going to be relatively high volume of good and even great pitching that will be available in free agency or trade over the next 15 months, partly because some of them -- Jordan Zimmermann, for example -- have rebuffed overtures from their respective teams.

The Reds, alone, have four starting pitchers eligible for free agency in the fall of 2015 -- Cy Young candidate Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon. Zimmermann is widely regarded as one of the best pitchers in baseball and rival officials believe he is headed into free agency after next season.

Doug Fister is a year away from becoming a free agent. So is David Price, the 2012 Cy Young Award winner, and his teammate Rick Porcello, who will turn 27 years old the winter he hits the market. Ian Kennedy (who had a 3.63 ERA and 207 strikeouts in 201 innings for San Diego in ‘14) and Jeff Samardzija will be 31 years old. Zack Greinke will have the option of voiding the rest of his contract with the Dodgers after next season.

What does this mean? Well, if a team doesn’t like the asking price for Lester or Scherzer or Shields, they’ll have a range of alternatives. They can be reasonably confident that while they might not be able to get Scherzer or Lester, there will be pitching available. They’ll be able to call the Reds to ask about trading for one of their starting pitchers, or maybe they can call Oakland to discuss Samardzija, or perhaps they can wait for a trade-and-sign opportunity for one of the others who is closing in on free agency. They can call the Phillies, who are said to be very willing to listen to trade offers for Cole Hamels.

So if you are Cubs president Theo Epstein, with money available, you can feel good about your chances of landing some pitching this winter. If your Plan A doesn’t work out, there is a really good Plan B -- and Plan C and Plan D and Plan E, for that matter.

At the time Sabathia hit the market, he was in the perfect storm for an elite free-agent pitcher. The industry was starved for pitching, and Sabathia was the clear No. 1 option available; the Yankees, in particular, had a desperate need for a high-end starter; and he was coming off a season in which he helped to carry the Brewers into the postseason.

The same sort of conditions may not exist for this year’s class of free agents -- Lester, Scherzer and Shields -- the way the union envisioned, because the demand may be diminished and the supply is growing.

By the way: Epstein called the signing of Edwin Jackson a mistake.


" On Friday’s podcast, Jayson Stark talked about the possible change in the Dodgers’ organization, and whether Tampa Bay GM Andrew Friedman would consider a move to L.A.; Orioles reliever Darren O’Day discussed the bullpen process that Baltimore works through.

Here’s the piece in which Jayson details all the experience that the Cardinals and Giants have in the postseason.

" The Royals’ offense erupted again, in Game 1 of the AL Championship Series. Alex Gordon killed it.

Some fun facts about the Kansas City homer barrage from ESPN Stats & Information:

" The Royals have homered in four straight games this postseason, a franchise record. They did not homer in consecutive games over the final 25 games of the regular season.

" The Royals had one extra-inning HR in the regular season. They already have three extra-inning homers in the postseason.

" The Royals have seven homers this postseason. They had seven homers in their final 23 regular-season games.

" Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas are the second set of teammates in postseason history to homer in the same extra inning. The other was by the Mariners in the 2000 ALDS when Edgar Martinez and John Olerud went back-to-back in the 10th.

" The Royals have scored eight runs three times this postseason. They did so twice after the All-Star break.

" Alex Gordon is the first player with a homer in extra innings of the LCS since Nelson Cruz in 2011 (Cruz hit two that series).

James Shields continues to be a wobbly postseason performer.

San Francisco-St. Louis

Adam Wainwright's fastball this season
Through June 10 Since
Pct up 26% 36%*
Opp BA .239 .320
Strike pct 66% 62%
Chase pct 23% 19%
*58% up in NLDS Game 1 vs Dodgers (2nd-highest since 2009).
Adam Wainwright again said that the speculation about his condition is overblown.

Wainwright acknowledged that his elbow was an issue in his division series start against the Dodgers, but says now that it feels better and that the question of his physical condition is overblown.

At issue, scouts say, is his ability to command his fastball, and this note from ESPN Stats & Info backs that up.

Wainwright has been missing up in the zone with his fastball much more frequently since the elbow issue first popped up in June and with less effectiveness overall.

What the numbers say about pitching to Matt Carpenter, according to ESPN Stats & Information:

" Stay away, away, away to Matt Carpenter: Carpenter is 0-for-8, four strikeouts and no hard-hit balls in at-bats to end on a pitch on the outer third or away this postseason.

" Carpenter is 6-8, 3 2B, 3 HRs, 7 RBIs this postseason in at-bats to end on a pitch on the inner two-thirds of the plate or closer.

" He hit .311 in such at-bats in the regular season, compared to .237 in at-bats to end on pitches away.

" Don’t leave anything over the plate on first pitch: The Cardinals are hitting .556 this postseason when they put the first pitch in play. Bumgarner has thrown 67.7 percent of first pitches in the zone this postseason, well higher than his 56.6 percent rate from the regular season.

Bruce Bochy named his starters for Games 1 and 2, but declined to go beyond that, for now.

The Cardinals’ trade gamble worked, writes Bruce Jenkins. Tim Lincecum is handling his new role with grace, writes Ann Killion.

Buster Posey and Yadier Molina are center stage, writes John Shea.

The Cardinals added A.J. Pierzynski to their roster.

Bruce Bochy sets an even tone in managing in the postseason.

The Giants expect Mike Morse to be available in this series.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman got a three-year deal, and two longtime coaches were fired.

Wrote here last week that there is no chance the Yankees will commit third base to Alex Rodriguez, given his age and his year-long suspension. Cashman acknowledged Friday the Yankees have discussed first base with A-Rod.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. It wouldn’t have made sense to stay with the Diamondbacks, says Kevin Towers.

2.The Nationals’ assistant GM left the team.

3. The Tigers have to decide whether to pick up the option of Joakim Soria.

4. Steve Dilbeck writes in defense of Ned Colletti.

5. Ron Roenicke will return as the Brewers’ manager in 2015, but a couple of his coaches were let go. It is not a coincidence, after MLB’s offensive collapse, that so many hitting coaches have lost their jobs.

6. The Rangers wrapped up the first round of managerial interviews.

NL Central

The Cubs’ new hitting coach is realizing a dream.

AL Central

A Tigers prospect is off to a good start in the Arizona Fall League.


" Players want a voice in the pace-of-play conversation.

" Yasiel Puig seeks dismissal of a lawsuit.

" An MLB ruling would net the Nationals $300 million.

And today will be better than yesterday.

Can Andrew Friedman thrive in L.A.?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
L.A. has seen Andrew Friedman's story before. In the movies.

Friedman, the longtime general manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, is the equivalent of the indie film producer who has done masterpieces, the talk of Sundance, of Cannes, work that hardened reviewers love.

There’s just one problem: Relatively few people saw his effort, as his product doesn’t have the wide distribution that a big studio might provide. His chances for an Oscar -- to hoist the most revered trophy on the biggest stage -- were greatly diminished.

Now the big studio has called. The Los Angeles Dodgers have hired Friedman to fill the newly created position of president of baseball operations. Former GM Ned Colletti remains with the organization as a senior adviser to team president and CEO Stan Kasten.

The big studio can offer huge budgets, special effects, Oscar buzz. It can provide a Hollywood mansion. It can make him king of the world. Friedman must have imagined what he might try to do with more money, greater financial flexibility. He is someone with a lot of ideas.

But to make the deal, Friedman has to leave some of his art behind. He has to cede control. He no doubt loved the strong working relationship he had with his bosses and thus has to leave people he trusts behind. He also has to buy in to some stuff that he probably has scoffed at while doing his indie projects.

Part of him probably thinks of it as a sellout, a concession to a system that he has found to be appalling. And part of him -- the competitive part that wouldn't turn down the Oscar or the accolades -- sees the potential.
[+] EnlargeYasiel Puig
Denis Poroy/Getty Images
Doing something like getting into a bidding war for an international talent like Yasiel Puig was a nonstarter where Andrew Friedman had worked.

Friedman created masterpieces in Tampa Bay. The Rays have been a perennial contender for the better part of a decade while working with payroll equivalent to what CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira make in a year. In some respects, anything Friedman ever accomplishes with the Dodgers and their gaudy payroll could never surpass that. He could win a championship with L.A. yet, in practical terms, his work with the Dodgers could never be as impactful or challenging as it was in Tampa Bay.

But Friedman has never won a championship, never had a shot to work with big money, and the common denominator of all those who ascend to the job of major league general manager is that they are competitive. They aspire to be the leader of the one team left standing among 30. Friedman knew his bosses in Tampa Bay, and they knew him. He and manager Joe Maddon collaborated with great success. There may not be a more symbiotic organization, from ownership to the clubhouse, than that of the Rays, in a sport filled with anecdotes of troublesome owners, highly political team presidents and managers steeped in insecurity. Friedman had a great job situation in Tampa Bay. Undoubtedly he knew that.

But now with the Dodgers, he could do so much more.

He could sign David Price instead of trading him. He could bid on the best free agents instead of trying to find the broken reliever who has the potential for a good changeup. Those ideas Friedman has harbored in competing against how the Yankees and Red Sox operate could finally be implemented, because with the Dodgers, he would have resources.

But he will have to buy into a leadership group that has veered sharply from day to day, seemingly valuing star power as much as WAR. Because of the roster rush job, the team was cobbled together imprecisely and made the playoffs in spite of that the past two seasons and still manager Don Mattingly dangled in uncertainty after last season, as did Colletti.

The Dodgers have the potential for great things and, at the same time, for great unhappiness. Any proposed deal would have to go through a marketing and ratings rinse cycle in a way that Friedman probably hasn’t had to worry about with the Rays. If the team happens to lose under Friedman next year or the year after that, the Dodgers ownership wouldn’t care about what he accomplished in Tampa Bay. It would only be about failed expectations for them.

Friedman had to figure out what he really wants and what he really loves about his work -- and he chose the Dodgers.


• Mattingly expects to be back, writes Mark Saxon. He says he expects the Dodgers will keep Colletti.

• On Thursday’s podcast, Derrick Goold detailed the state of Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis offense going into the NL Championship Series, and Karl Ravech and Justin Havens discussed the front-office decisions looming for the Rockies and Dodgers.

• Knowing that the demand for a steady, stabilizing shortstop was going to be high when the free-agency period began next month, with the Dodgers, Yankees, Mets and others looking for that sort of player, the Orioles made a pre-emptive strike on J.J. Hardy, signing him to a three-year, $40 million deal. An aggressive move, for sure.

"They must feel OK about his medicals," one official said. "That [deal] would scare me."

Said another: "It's a fair contract, considering the market."

Kansas City-Baltimore

• In the battle of the bullpens, it’s hard to pick between the Orioles and Royals, writes Dan Connolly. That comeback against Oakland steeled the resolve of the Royals, writes Vahe Gregorian.

• Chris Davis won’t be on the LCS roster.

• John Fisher of ESPN Stats & Information sent this along: The Orioles led the majors in home runs and finished last in stolen bases, the first team to do that since 1979 and only the sixth team to do that since 1903 (the first World Series). Only one of the previous five made the postseason -- the 1968 Tigers -- but they won the World Series (by beating the Cardinals, which the Orioles could do).

San Francisco-St. Louis

• Adam Wainwright wants the ball, says his pitching coach. His health could be key in this series, writes John Shea.

• The Giants and Cardinals are two of a kind, writes Bernie Miklasz. The St. Louis hitters must keep it up, writes Rick Hummel.

• Bruce Bochy has drawn rave reviews in the postseason, writes Ann Killion. The Giants have gotten contributions from their much-maligned farm system, writes Henry Schulman. Bochy has yet to reveal his NLCS rotation.

Again from Fisher: In the NLDS, the Cardinals hit .366 and slugged .780 in at-bats by left-handed hitters against left-handed pitchers. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no team has ever hit or slugged that well in those situations in a single postseason in MLB history (minimum 40 AB). The Cardinals were led by Matt Carpenter, who had six hits in the NLDS -- all for extra bases -- and five of them came against left-handed pitchers. He’s got great career numbers against the Giants' left-handed pitchers, including 3-for-5 with two doubles against Madison Bumgarner.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Pirates will continue to pursue value free agents this winter.

2. The Dodgers face the decision of whether to extend a qualifying offer to Hanley Ramirez. I wrote about this last month, and the overwhelming consensus I heard is that given the lack of infield production in MLB these days, it would be a no-brainer to give him a qualifying offer because they can get a draft pick if he signs elsewhere. "And if he happens to accept it, then you just work something out so that you trade him and dump the contract," one rival evaluator said. Either way, it's hard to imagine that Ramirez will be back with the Dodgers.

3. The Indians have an infield puzzle.

4. A couple of Brewers elected free agency.

5. The Twins are not close to being done with their managerial search, says Terry Ryan.

6. The Rangers interviewed Kevin Cash.

AL East

• Mookie Betts is aware of the trade speculation that surrounds him.

AL Central

• It would be nice for the Tigers if Miguel Cabrera opened up, writes Tom Gage.

NL East

• Ryan Zimmerman was hurt enough to sit in the LCS.

NL Central

• Adam Dunn is a future Reds Hall of Famer, writes John Erardi.

• The Cubs' C.J. Edwards is making up for lost time.

NL West

• The Padres are taking a hard look at Yasmany Tomas.

• Jeff Bridich vows to be his own man.


• The Yogi Berra Museum thieves are as low as they come, writes Mike Lupica.

And today will be better than yesterday.

Can Cards count on Wainwright?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Adam Wainwright is slated to start Game 5 of the National League Championship Series for the Cardinals on Thursday, which would normally be music to the ears of St. Louis fans. Wainwright has been one of the best pitchers in the game for a decade. He is probably on his way to another top-five Cy Young Award finish, and in terms of WAR, he already is one of the five best starters in the storied history of the Cardinals franchise. In fact, if he were to post another typical Wainwright season in 2015, he will jump to No. 2, behind only the legendary Bob Gibson.
But the 2014 postseason hasn't gone so well for Wainwright. In Game 1 of the NLDS, the Dodgers pounded him for 13 baserunners and six runs in 4 1/3 innings, a performance that was overshadowed by Clayton Kershaw's late collapse. In Game 1 of the NLCS, Wainwright allowed nine baserunners over 4 2/3 innings in a game the Cardinals would lose 3-0, the first time in his career he has had back-to-back starts of fewer than five innings.

Two lousy starts against teams good enough to make it to the postseason would generally be considered merely a blip when compared to Wainwright's long, successful history. But this might be different. Wainwright, who missed all of 2011 after Tommy John surgery and skipped a start in June due to what the Cardinals called tendinitis in his elbow, is on record as saying that his elbow is "not 100 percent," even telling reporters "my arm doesn't feel great" after the NLCS loss.

Wainwright is going to start a pivotal game Thursday, and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is saying all the right things about trusting his ace. But really, how worried should the Cardinals be?

Anytime a pitcher with a serious arm injury in his recent past talks about how poorly his arm feels, it's a cause for concern, and Wainwright isn't immune from that. Recent research at The Hardball Times shows that pitchers who have undergone a Tommy John surgery last, on average, approximately 650 innings before needing a second procedure. Obviously, every pitcher is unique and there's no such thing as a "magic number," but Wainwright has thrown 726 1/3 innings (including the postseason) since his surgery, and now he is having trouble. It's the most any pitcher in baseball has thrown over the past three seasons, and especially considering his comments, it's not to be taken lightly.

Wainwright in 2014
Month GS IP K% BB% FIP
June 4 31.0 20.3 4.2 2.16
July 5 33.1 12.4 8.8 3.46
Aug 6 38.1 16.6 6.5 3.71
Sept 5 39.0 19.9 3.4 3.03
When Wainwright missed that start in June, it generated enough concern that he received a cortisone shot and underwent an MRI. He returned to allow only two earned runs over his next four starts, alleviating much of the concern. But take a look at the underlying peripherals (to the right):

In July, immediately following his elbow scare, Wainwright began striking out fewer batters and walking more, both considerably different than before. In August, that improved a bit, though some terrible batted-ball luck, an early disaster start (7 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings) and what he referred to as a "dead arm" contributed to a 5.17 ERA. In September, that K/BB trend continued going back in the right direction, and he looked like his old self, winning the NL Pitcher of the Month award for his efforts. (Of course, making two starts against the collapsing Brewers and one against the long-eliminated Rockies didn't hurt.)

With that positive progression, there were few concerns about Wainwright headed into the NLDS, although he reportedly had given up bullpen sessions in September to reduce the workload on his arm. But it took less than one inning for the same discomfort that Wainwright had felt in June to return -- for what it's worth, the pitcher says all of this has been in the back of his elbow, not in the same area that he had injured before his surgery -- and without the chance to skip a start, Wainwright had to get by with what he had. While his velocity didn't disappear, the bite and command on his pitches did.

Forced to nibble, Wainwright threw only 34 pitches in the zone against the Dodgers and 68 outside it. That 33 percent strike-zone percentage was his lowest mark for a start since at least 2009, playoffs or otherwise. Though he was able to do somewhat better against the Giants in the NLCS (45.9 percent zone percentage), it was still below the 50.0 zone percentage he posted during the 2014 regular season. And even though he had a great month of September, his zone percentage for that month was below his season mark too. So whether it's injury-related or not, Wainwright's strike-zone rate has been trending in the wrong direction.

Wainwright Pitch Percentages, 2014
Time period Fastball Cut Sink Curve
Through 6/10 16.1% 29.7 26.2 25.3
6/21-end of season 18.0% 29.2 20.9 29.0
NLDS/CS 16.0% 39.5 13.5 30.5
In addition, Wainwright has changed his pitch usage. Wainwright throws four primary pitches: a four-seam fastball, a cutter, a sinker and a curve. (He occasionally mixes in a changeup or slider, but we'll leave those out here, as he rarely throws them.) Looking at the three portions of his season -- his healthy first half, his uncertain second half and his two postseason games -- we can see the difference, according to's pitch-tracker system.

The fastball usage didn't change much and the curve went up slightly, but the big difference was trading out sinkers for cutters, especially against San Francisco, when he threw only two sinkers and 47 cutters.

Theoretically, that's not a problem. Wainwright's cutter is deadly, ranked as one of the best in baseball by FanGraphs. So is his curveball. His other pitches exist mainly to set them up, but that's not how he has been pitching in October, when he has been relying on mainly just those two pitches.

Take, for example, the first pitch of a plate appearance against righties. In the first segment (through June 10), again according to, he had been using the sinker to start off the at-bat most often, 31 percent of the time. In October, that has been 57 percent of the time, and he has continued using it later in counts. Even a great pitch is less effective if hitters don't have much else to think about.

Now, to listen to Wainwright explain it, his playoff issues have been mechanical in nature, suggesting that his inability to make his pitches stemmed from being "dramatically late getting the ball out of my glove" and that his "stride length is about a foot shorter than it should be," which could explain why he hasn't been able to use all of his pitches. He says he has watched film with catcher A.J. Pierzynski and that he has himself all sorted out for Thursday.

Perhaps that's the case and he'll come out looking like the usual Wainwright in a game the Cardinals badly need to win. But we also have ways of measuring release points for pitchers, and there's really nothing that shows up as being different for Wainwright in that regard in the postseason. Besides, we've seen this show before. In June, he was able to take time off, get a cortisone shot and slowly work himself back into shape for an excellent September.

He doesn't have that luxury now. If things go bad early on Thursday, Matheny might need to be more aggressive with his ace than he'd otherwise like to be.

Takeaways from Arizona Fall League.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
My five-day run in the Arizona Fall League is over. I saw nine games across that period, watched every team's batting practice and also saw more than half of the pitchers on the six rosters.

My first post from the trip focused on the big arms I saw in the first three days; this post covers all of the bats of note plus a few more arms I saw after that last file.

Here's a look at more than two dozen players competing in the 2014 AFL.


• This was my first live look at Boston outfielder Rusney Castillo, who signed a $70 million deal in August and debuted with the Red Sox at the end of September. He can certainly play the heck out of center field, with above-average speed but more importantly good reads, making plays into both gaps with ease. At the plate, he has a quiet approach with good hip rotation and loft in his finish; he starts with his hands by his right shoulder, barely moves them to load, then is short to the ball as he starts his rotation. I'd call this average bat speed, or at least not plus, but he made plenty of hard contact when I saw him against average velocity.

What he did not do was show much effort; he didn't run ground balls out (at this level there's a decent chance you'll end up safe) and looked disinterested in some at-bats. It's notable mostly because he's fresher than other AFL players who've been going since February or March, so I expected him to play with more intensity than everyone else, not less. I don't worry too much about that stuff, especially not this time of year, but in practical terms, it meant that those of us there to evaluate the league didn't get a real read on his running ability.

• The Giants' recent Cuban signee, outfielder Daniel Carbonell, is also in the AFL, but he doesn't have anything close to Rusney's ability and he's more graphite than diamond. His swing is long and he chased breaking stuff out of the zone all week, as well as fastballs in under his hands. He's an average runner who showed more than adequate range in right and a 60 to 65 arm, but I don't think he's going to post a .300 OBP if he gets regular time in the big leagues.

• Moving on to some non-Cuban hitters: San Diego outfielder Hunter Renfroe was one of the real standout bats in the first week of the AFL. His hands are busy when he's taking BP swings, but he quiets it down in games, and he's got ridiculous strength, at least 7 raw power even when going the other way, thanks to both great hip rotation and upper-body strength. He took good at-bats all week, and showed off a 7 arm in right field. I think he's going to have his share of strikeouts in the majors, but there's a lot of (healthy) Josh Hamilton in here with the power, speed, range and arm.

• Renfroe’s teammate Trea Turner is on the taxi squad for Surprise, so he only plays Wednesdays and Saturdays and had just six plate appearances in the first week. He's a plus runner and has a good idea at the plate, with a solid two-strike approach when I saw him on Saturday. However, he's not very strong, and I'm afraid he might be too rotational, trying to hit for more power than his hands and wrists can generate. He was erratic at shortstop, but he's also been going since early February and had a rather full summer in the minors, so I'm inclined to give him a pass on anything that might be explained by fatigue.

Jesse Winker
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
Cincinnati OF Jesse Winker impressed at the plate in AFL action, consistently working deep counts.

• Cincinnati outfielder Jesse Winker is becoming one of my favorite prospects to watch because his approach is so simple and quiet while his at-bats are so … well, “professional,” to use the vernacular. All he did all week was work deep counts and hit fastballs hard, even smoking a double off a 94 mph pitch from a left-hander. He's a corner outfielder only, probably left field, and the track record of guys like him -- guys with great minor league offensive lines who show great patience and some power but play a corner spot rather than up the middle -- is mixed, as players like Jeremy Hermida and Jaff Decker, both of whom had huge walk rates in the minors, couldn't do much else when they reached the big leagues. I think Winker is a smart enough hitter and has enough power to succeed where those guys failed.

• Oakland first baseman Matt Olson is a similar player to Winker, but with more power and a little less patience. He had two hits in 10 at bats last week, both home runs on Saturday night, with one out to dead center off a right-hander's changeup at the Cubs' new park in Mesa. Olson, who walked 117 times in the California League this year, doesn't have great bat speed but is blessed with plus power, some from his size (listed at 6-foot-4, 236 pounds) and more from his rotational swing. My fear with Olson is that he'll struggle against better velocity, and in an era where it seems like even Double-A and Triple-A pitchers are sitting at 92 to 94 mph, that will keep his contact rates down.

• Arizona third baseman Brandon Drury has moved from being the throw-in in the Justin Upton trade to the team's best position-player prospect and potentially the best part of what was overall a “D-backle” of a trade. He looked overmatched much of the first week outside of a huge homer he pulled to left off a 90 mph fastball, otherwise struggling against velocity and right-handed breaking stuff. I love his swing, however, as it's short to the ball but long enough to enable him to make hard contact with some loft in his finish. He's also worked on his defense at third base to the point where it's no longer doubtful that he can stay there.

• Houston third baseman Rio Ruiz shocked me with how huge he's gotten in the last year and a half; he's listed at 6-2 and 215, but I think that's well out of date. It's a mixed blessing, as he's stronger than ever but his bat speed was noticeably slower and he was very rough at third base outside of a plus arm. His BP looked great, but once games started he was making weak contact or swinging through 92 mph fastballs. Ruiz is just 20 and could be worn out from the long season, so I don't want to make anyone overreact with a pessimistic report. I'd like to see if having him slim down a little this winter brings back some bat speed.

" Outfielder Andrew Aplin, another Astros farmhand, looks like a strong fourth outfielder/bench bat prospect, an above-average runner who doesn't try to do too much at the plate (smart, since he has 45 power unless he cheats on a fastball) but can manipulate the barrel and takes good at-bats. I think he'd be overtaxed playing center every day but will be an asset in left or right. Aplin walked more than he struck out in Double-A this summer, but he'll have to show he can drive the ball to keep that ratio consistent. Otherwise, major league pitchers will just attack him on the inner half if they don't have to worry about him hitting more than a single, as he had just 22 extra-base hits in 550 plate appearances in the regular season.

Byron Buxton
Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images
Byron Buxton appears to be back at full strength after suffering a season-ending concussion in August.

• Twins centerfielder Byron Buxton, the No. 2 prospect in all of baseball, is finally back at full strength again, suffering no complications from the collision that ended his regular season in August. He looks rusty at the plate, just working on his timing, with the same bat speed he's always had. Plus, his game-changing speed is intact. He needs these at-bats as much as any other player in the league; a solid, injury-free six weeks would make it easier for him to reach Triple-A by mid-2015.

• Texas outfielder Nick Williams continued to show why I don't believe he'll be a major league regular or more than an up-and-down guy. He hit .292/.343/.491 in high-A this year; the OBP was inflated by 11 HBP -- he walked just 19 times in more than 400 PA -- but his approach at the plate is atrocious, with poor recognition of both pitch types and locations. He has good bat speed and is an above-average runner, but there's no ability to make adjustments here, and you can't hack like this and become a big-league asset.

• Tampa Bay catcher Justin O'Conner nailed 55 percent of opposing baserunners in the minors this year, and showed great receiving skills in the first week despite catching pitchers he hadn’t previously worked with, with most throwing hard. He was also 7-for-12 in his three games last week with three doubles. (Small-sample caveats apply to all AFL stats, even from a full season. I present them for your information, but I don't draw any conclusions from them.) O’Conner made a ton of hard contact when I saw him, killing sliders in particular, but his high setup leaves him vulnerable to any pitcher who can locate down in the zone. A plus defensive catcher with the power to hit 30 doubles and 10 to 15 homers a year is an All-Star even if he can't post a .300 OBP, which I find extremely hard to accept because that feels so hacktastic, but that's O'Conner's likely projection.

• St. Louis outfielder Jacob Wilson was a 10th-round pick out of the University of Memphis as a senior and was on his way to a breakout season in 2014 when he tore his meniscus after 66 games. His swing is simple and balanced, with strong hands that provide some surprising pop: He was driving balls to the track all week, with three doubles and several long, high fly balls. Primarily a second baseman during the regular season, Wilson played first and third when I saw him, giving me no sense of his defense, unfortunately. But I really think he can hit, and if he profiles at second or even third, he's got a shot to be an everyday guy somewhere.

• Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo continued doing what he always does, taking good at-bats, squaring up fastballs, swinging and missing a little more than you want, especially on sliders last week. His timing looked great, as if he hadn't just had a month off, and he's willing and able to go the other way if that's where he's pitched. I saw at least four of his strikeouts, and all involved him expanding the zone with two strikes. Teammate Matt Reynolds doubled, tripled and homered last week, but I don't see his swing generating power; he doesn't use his hips much at all, and he tends to meet the ball out in front. He's been playing shortstop for Scottsdale and wasn't bad, but I didn't see enough to offer a firm opinion on what kind of defender he'll be there.

• Yankees first base prospect Greg Bird led the AFL in total bases through the first week with 14, a promising start from the former fifth-round pick who's now posted strong OBPs and slugging percentages at three full-season levels through age 21. If you just scouted his stat line, you'd expect a slow-bat slugger type with some length to his swing, but Bird's swing is very short to the ball, with great hand acceleration to produce that hard contact. His one homer came off a below-average fastball from a lefty, while he punched out twice while I saw face mid-90s heat from right-handers. My real concern with him is at first base, where he still needs work on fielding ground balls.

Fellow Yankee farmhand Tyler Austin looks better in BP than he has in a while, but didn't have an extra-base hit all week in 15 AB or fully square anything up when I saw him, something that might make me feel better about his recovery from a series of wrist injuries. Dante Bichette Jr., who had something of a bounce-back year thanks to a strong walk rate in A-ball, looks the same as ever: He possesses a huge, out-of-control swing with a big backside collapse, and poor defense at third.

• Francisco Lindor is a star. I'm not even sure what we're waiting for anymore, as he appears to have nothing left to learn from facing minor league pitching.


• Speaking of pitching, Cubs prospect CJ Edwards threw two innings on Friday night. Make no mistake: Edwards is small. He's listed at 6-2 and 155, which means Aaron Judge could use him as a toothpick. Edwards threw 91 to 95 mph with a plus curveball at 79 to 80, showing tight rotation with two-plane break. His changeup was below-average (and he's really small). I don't know if there's a starter in the majors this slight of build; no pitcher at 170 pounds or less qualified for the ERA title this year.

Nick Howard
Rafael Suanes/USA TODAY Sports
Cincinnati's Nick Howard has the look of a relief pitcher.

• The opposing starter that night was Cincinnati's first-round pick Nick Howard, who went three innings and worked between 92 to 94 mph with good control but not command and very little fastball life. His curveball was average to a tick above at 79 to 83. His delivery has an abrupt finish and his tempo through it was poor. I thought this spring that Howard was a reliever, and this look didn't dissuade me from that view, but it's been a very long season for him as it has been with Turner and other 2014 draftees in the league.

• St. Louis prospect Tyrell Jenkins missed more than a year across 2013 and 2014 due to shoulder surgery, but his stuff was as good as ever when he made his AFL debut on Friday. Jenkins threw 93 to 96 mph with good downhill plane, really turning the pitch over well even at 95 mph, generating lots of groundballs. His slider was plus at 83 to 87, with curveball depth, and actually got sharper into his second and third innings. His changeup was on the fringe, straight at 86 to 88, effective because his delivery of the pitch is close to his fastball but lacking any life or action. He was very aggressive, both throwing strikes and coming inside to right-handed hitters. He was my No. 74 prospect in baseball going into 2012, and this outing showed why I believed in him. Now that he's healthy, he looks like he'll make good on that promise.

• Houston right-hander Vincent Velasquez threw a long inning and posted 93 to 96 mph with an above-average changeup and below-average slider. When warming up he shows great extension out over his front side, but when facing live hitters he cuts himself off and doesn't extend quite as well.

• Miami right-hander Brian Ellington had one of the hardest fastballs I saw all week, clocking in at 95 to 98 mph with a power curve at 79 to 83. A 16th-rounder out of Division II University of West Florida, he posted the best strikeout rate of his career this year, but he needs to tighten up that breaking ball and, like most low-minors relievers who throw this hard, improve his fastball command.

• Royals starter Miguel Almonte had so-so results in high-A this year, with a 4.49 ERA and modest peripherals in a decent pitching environment. But the good news is that the 21-year-old right-hander's stuff and delivery looked strong. Almonte pitched an inning of relief, facing just five batters, and threw 94 to 96 mph with an above-average curveball at 80 mph, showing 12-to-6 break but not quite as tight as it has been in the past. He was overthrowing his changeup, giving up a bomb to Olson on an 88 mph pitch that was more like a BP fastball.

• If Boston reliever Aaron Kurcz's name rings a bell, it's because he was involved in the trade that sent Theo Epstein to the Cubs. He's got a chance to provide some value out of the pen, pitching at 94 to 96 mph with a power curve at 82 to 83. He was a teammate of Bryce Harper at the College of Southern Nevada in 2010, and if he reaches the majors, he'll be the fourth player off that team to do so. He looked a lot better than fellow Boston right-hander Madison Younginer, who threw just 90 to 93 mph with a crazy max-effort delivery.

• Players of note whom I didn't see in game action: Roberto Osuna (who gave up a six-spot in relief on Thursday), Aaron Judge (played just once all week), Tyrone Taylor (had two days off midweek when I saw Glendale), Jimmy Sherfy (threw one inning all week), Clayton Blackburn (listed on the roster but did not pitch), Adam Morgan (one inning, on the only day I didn't see Scottsdale) and Wei-Chung Wang (threw the last night in Glendale, when I was at the game at Mesa).

What's next for the Washington Nationals?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Regardless of what happens in the National League East this offseason, the Washington Nationals will be heavy favorites to repeat as NL East champions again in 2015. But that doesn't mean they'll have a quiet offseason.

The Nats have decisions to make on three significant free agents: first baseman Adam LaRoche, second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera and reliever Rafael Soriano. They also must address their next free-agent class (following the 2015 season), which includes Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond, Tyler Clippard, Doug Fister, Denard Span and Matt Thornton. Do they extend them? Do they trade them now while they have strong value? Or do they just prepare to let them depart via free agency next offseason, in which they may or may not get draft pick compensation for them?

Other areas the Nats will need to tend to include what to do with Ryan Zimmerman and how to improve the team's bench and bullpen depth.

Here is a look at each area heading into the offseason: Ryan Zimmerman

Zimmerman's throwing issues are such a problem that the former Gold Glove third baseman will now have to move off the hot corner for good. That's not a problem for the Nationals, as Anthony Rendon, their best all-around position player this year, has already solidified the position. The Nationals have three real options for Zimmerman:

1. Trade him (although his no-trade clause could make that difficult): Most GMs feel first base is Zimmerman's best position at this point and see him as a player capable of performing similar to Mark Teixeira in his prime. In other words, he’s a Gold Glove defender capable of hitting .280 with 20 home runs and 100 RBIs. There are several teams looking to improve at first base, including the Seattle Mariners, Milwaukee Brewers and San Diego Padres. Teams that are looking for left fielders, where Zimmerman also fits, include the Cincinnati Reds, New York Mets, Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays, among others. With a weak free-agent position-player class, the Nationals should get plenty of offers.

2. Move him to left field: In time, Zimmerman could develop into an above-average left fielder, but for the Nationals to play him there, they would have to move Bryce Harper to right field and then try to trade Jayson Werth, who also has a no-trade clause. However, I doubt they'll want to break up their present alignment of Harper (left field), Span (center) and Werth (right).

3. Move him to first base: This would be the best landing spot for Zimmerman, but that would also mean that the Nats let LaRoche depart via free agency. LaRoche was an important bat in the middle of the Nationals' lineup and gave them a solid left-right balance. If Zimmerman replaces LaRoche, then Harper and Span will be the only left-handed hitters in the lineup. If this happens, re-signing Asdrubal Cabrera to play second or acquiring another lefty-hitting second baseman would help.

This year's free-agent class

• Adam LaRoche: In all likelihood, he's gone. Because of the no-trade clauses Zimmerman and Werth have, the Nationals probably will end up putting Zimmerman at first and letting LaRoche leave. LaRoche will have plenty of offers, starting with the Brewers, who will have him as a top free-agent target.

Rafael Soriano
AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
Rafael Soriano has likely pitched his last game for the Nationals.
• Asdrubal Cabrera: The Nationals would like him to return to play second base, but the asking price will probably be too high for them to retain him. Cabrera prefers to play shortstop, and with the Orioles re-signing J.J. Hardy and the declining defense of both Hanley Ramirez and Jed Lowrie, it leaves Stephen Drew and Cabrera as the two best shortstops on the free-agent market. There are so many teams looking for a shortstop, including the Mets, Yankees and Athletics, that it's doubtful the Nats will be able to persuade him to stay.

• Rafael Soriano: He lost his closer job to Drew Storen by season's end, and the Nationals are not expected to bring him back.

Next year's free-agent class

• Jordan Zimmermann: He's the best pitcher the Nationals have and could be the most sought-after pitcher in free agency next fall. The Nationals have tried to sign him to a multiyear contract on numerous occasions, but Zimmermann is as competitive in negotiations as he is on the mound. The Nationals might have to trade another starter like Gio Gonzalez to make the finances work, but this should be an offseason priority.

• Ian Desmond: Like Zimmermann, the Nats have tried to sign him to a multiyear contract several times without any luck. His power-speed combination is unique for a shortstop and he's an integral part of the clubhouse, as well. The Nationals don't have another elite shortstop ready to take over in the system, so, like Zimmermann, the team needs to get Desmond signed long-term this offseason.

• Doug Fister: It's unlikely the Nationals sign him to a long-term contract since they need first to take care of Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg. They have Gonzalez signed, and Tanner Roark is not arbitration-eligible. With a year left on Fister’s contract, they might decide to see what the market would bear. After his sensational year (16-6, 2.41 ERA, 1.08 WHIP), he should have good trade value. The Nationals need to keep an eye on the future as they make their run now, because eventually Strasburg, Harper, Rendon and Wilson Ramos are going to be expensive.

• Denard Span: He was one of the best leadoff hitters and defensive center fielders in baseball this year. They'll probably pick up the team option for 2015 and let him leave next year as a free agent when rookie Michael Taylor is ready to take over on a full-time basis.

• Tyler Clippard: Given the Nats' long history of inconsistent relievers, they'll probably let him play out his free-agent year.

• Matt Thornton: He had a solid season, but the team will listen on trade offers and likely won't offer an extension.

Other issues facing the Nationals

Second base: If Cabrera departs, the Nationals won't look to give Danny Espinosa another chance at second base; rather, they'll look to the trade market for a young, inexpensive second baseman. They'll probably target the Rangers and either Rougned Odor or Jurickson Profar, the Diamondbacks for Chris Owings, the Padres for Jedd Gyorko or the Dodgers for Alex Guerrero.

Bullpen and bench depth: The Nationals will need to look to improve both areas after saying goodbye to Soriano, Nate Schierholtz and Jerry Hairston Jr., among others. They will have Nate McLouth back from shoulder surgery, which should help them as a fourth outfielder.
post #28586 of 73652
Andrew Miller is gonna get P-A-I-D. Also, Markakis is probably my favorite player on the O's...but unless he's gonna take a discount, he's gonna bolt. Like the article said, the market for corner outfielders is thin, and if the contract he gets compares to Werth/Ethier, he'll probably get something in the range of 17-18 mil over 5 years. Yuck. sick.gif

O's need some speed at the top of their lineup. David Lough could fill that void, but it would be a huge risk.
post #28587 of 73652
Markakis isn't worth more than 12 mill a year. And I feel like that is still overvaluing him. Crazy some of these contracts these guys get.
post #28588 of 73652
Thread Starter 
How Did Anyone Ever Beat The Royals Bullpen?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Watching the late innings of of the ALCS, I had but one thought: The Orioles have no chance here. With the exception of stolen bases, that series was basically “the Royals way” in a nutshell. Get better starting pitching than you’d expect, scratch out just enough offense, receive some outstanding defense, and turn the game over to Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland for the final three innings.

The Royals haven’t discovered some new market inefficiency there, because “have good relievers” isn’t exactly cutting edge. It’s easier said than done, of course, because as difficult as it is to find one reliever like that, the Royals have come up with three of them. It’s why it’s very much selling Davis short when we refer to the deal that brought him to town as “the James Shields trade,” because while Shields has obviously pitched significantly more innings, Davis’ impact has been enormous. It’s the redundancy there that’s really incredible, because if one has an off night — which rarely ever happens — Ned Yost still has two others at his disposal.

Still, it got me thinking about how anyone could come back in the late innings against that group, and when Buster Olney’s column yesterday pointed out that the Royals were an AL-best 65-4 when leading after six innings, it really drove home how rarely such a thing happens. But there’s still that “4″ out there, so it’s not like it never happens, and by diving into the Baseball-Reference innings database, we can see that they also blew a game apiece when leading after seven and eight.

So, how did it happen? How, other than waiting for the inevitable imperfections of humanity to show up, do you beat the unbeatable? Let’s break it open. First, a note: There’s actually slightly more occurrences than the six times B-R indicates. Why? Because they have it defined as “leads after X innings,” and that’s not always how baseball works. For example, the Royals could be tied or behind at the end of an inning, take the lead in the top of the inning, and then blow it in the bottom of the inning. That would be a late lead blown, but not counted because a lead was never held at the end of a full inning. Sometimes, also, the bullpen could blow a lead and be saved by the offense later.

I’ve accounted for that as much as possible, but with the understanding that there may be one or two that slipped through the cracks, here’s how you come back from a deficit against the Kansas City bullpen in the late innings. Spoiler alert: Mostly, you don’t.
By feasting on the weaker relievers

As great as those three are, Yost can’t use them every single game, and his other options have been limited. It took him all season to realize that Aaron Crow isn’t what he used to be — have we forgotten the mid-September disaster against the Red Sox where Crow allowed a grand slam to Daniel Nava, because “it wasn’t Herrera’s inning” already? Louis Coleman couldn’t find the plate or avoid homers; Francisley Bueno had his moments but was generally uninspiring. Every reliever other than the big three were replacement-level or worse; an exception there is mid-season acquisition Jason Frasor, who was valuable for the team but pitched only 17.2 innings this season.

For the Royals, this happened to them on the very first day of the season, when Shields put two on with one out in the seventh inning in Detroit, up 3-1. Less than nine innings into the season, Yost was already being second-guessed:

The Royals blew a two-run lead and failed to capitalize a wobbly version of Tigers ace Justin Verlander. Their relievers malfunctioned, and Yost invited questions about his deployment of them.

Perhaps, at the time, it wasn’t quite certain how bad Crow would be this season, and he didn’t get much help from Salvador Perez when he struck out Nick Castellanos:

Castellanos would be safe, and a run would score, then Alex Gonzalez would tie the game with a triple. Of course, this one’s not all on Crow. Davis, working into his second inning in the ninth, put two men on. Yost went out to get Holland, who immediately allowed the game-winning hit. Following the game, Yost uttered the quote that would launch a million angry tweets:

“I’m not going to start [Holland] in the ninth in a tie ballgame,” Yost said. “But the game was on the line right there. I wanted to put my best pitcher in there, at that time, to try to get us to the top of the 10th.”

Sounds about right.
Beating up on the other guys is easily the best strategy, though not one that applies to the postseason. (For example, Donnie Joseph‘s lone appearance for the team this year came on June 16, when he turned an 11-2 ninth-inning laugher into a terrifying 11-8 victory. He was a Marlin by the end of the month.) But even some of the blown leads by the lesser relievers are less about “these guys aren’t very good” than it is about “baseball happens.” For example, on July 25, Bueno entered with a 4-3 lead and runners on second and third, thanks in part to a Mike Moustakas throwing error. He threw all of four pitches and got Jason Kipnis to fly out, but because Yan Gomes scored from third, it was a sacrifice fly. Billy Butler would later homer to give the Royals the win.

But enough about the guys who aren’t on the roster right now. How about the big three?

By getting help from poor defense

This seems like a sustainable strategy! On April 13, the Royals scored three runs in the top of the eighth in Minnesota to turn a 2-0 hole into a 3-2 lead. Crow entered and immediately walked the first two, and remember when Crow was entrusted with important situations? Davis replaced him and struck out the side… eventually. After striking out Joe Mauer, Davis walked Trevor Plouffe, and then induced a weak grounder from Chris Herrmann, and… oh.

Davis has made two throwing errors in four years. You probably shouldn’t count on this to happen too often.

Holland, pitching for the third day in a row, also ran into some trouble on July 24, walking Carlos Santana on a pitch (No. 5 below) that Perez seemed completely indifferent towards, as far as framing goes. (He ranked near the bottom in the 2014 framing ranks.)

Santana advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and a groundout, then scored the tying run on Yan Gomes‘ single. Sometimes, that’s all it takes. The Royals would win in 14, anyway.

This also bit Herrera a bit on May 25, a game that was problematic for a number of reasons. Jason Vargas had left one on and one out with a 3-0 lead in Anaheim, and Herrera got Raul Ibanez to hit a ball that second baseman Pedro Ciriaco really should have come up with, but didn’t. After a fly out, there were two on for Mike Trout, who doubled past third baseman Jimmy Paredes.

Right there, the fact that I’m writing “Ciriaco” and “Paredes” tells you something about this one, and while Moustakas probably doesn’t get the Trout ball cleanly enough to make an out, he might have been able to at least knock it down. Herrera, however, quickly fell apart, hitting Albert Pujols and allowing two singles, with the inning finally ending when Pujols was thrown out at home.

Because ever so rarely, they’re human

Davis allowed two earned run to the White Sox on April 5, turning a 3-1 lead into a tie game thanks to a sequence that went: single, hit by pitch, walk, single, sac fly, strikeout, lineout. That would be three earned runs in his first four games — which overlap with the first four games of the KC season, though there were days off — and he’d allow three in his next 61. Yost alluded to “faulty mechanics,” and maybe that’s true, though nothing shows up in the Brooks charts. If anything, this game was most notable for the broadcast team talking about how much Lorenzo Cain was struggling in center, ostensibly due to a very bright afternoon sky.

The next time Davis allowed a run, it was months later on Sept. 16, though it wasn’t entirely his fault; Herrera had put two on with one out, and Davis worked around Jose Abreu to load the bases. When Conor Gillaspie tripled to plate all three, it was more of a “hey, good on you for getting to a low-and-away 97 mph fastball” than it was that Davis had made a mistake:

It’s not easy to beat this bullpen in the late innings. It’s nearly impossible, especially when you consider that the rare times it’s happened have mostly been either pitchers who aren’t on the playoff roster, or one-off issues like Davis throwing the ball away. Ever so often, they’ll give you a little something to work with, but it’s so, so rare. It hasn’t happened at all this postseason.

So how do you beat this group in the late innings? Make sure you get a lead before that. If not, it might already be too late.

All That Ned Yost Bunting Has Helped the Royals.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Relative to the rest of the league, Ned Yost‘s bunting isn’t exactly out of control. However, he does seem rather fond of the strategy, so he pulls it out pretty often, and it’s a big part of how he’s labeled online. The Royals bunted and ran like crazy people in the wild-card playoff against Oakland, and in Wednesday’s Game 4 against the Orioles, Lorenzo Cain sac bunted in the first inning, with nobody out, as the third hitter in the Kansas City lineup, facing Miguel Gonzalez. The Royals did score twice in the inning, but it was taken to be another bit of good Royals luck, and the bunt predictably drew its critics. If nothing else, it looked weird. Cain, again, was batted third, by his own manager.

But there’s a funny thing about Ned Yost’s sacrifice bunts. This goes beyond just the wild-card playoff bunts mostly being defensible. In theory, a sacrifice bunt is either successful or unsuccessful. Even if successful, it trades an out for a base or two. But bunts, as you know, have a whole range of potential outcomes. The Giants, just Tuesday, won on a walk-off sac bunt attempt. 2014 Ned Yost has called for a bunch of sacrifice bunt attempts, and overall, they’ve actually been good for the team.

This is all about Win Probability Added, or WPA. When you start learning about baseball analysis you’re exposed to run-expectancy matrices, and those provide the simplest possible argument against the sac bunt, but that doesn’t tell you enough. Teams don’t play baseball games trying to get runs. They’re trying to win. Because winning is always the goal, WPA should be the preferred metric, and while win expectancy and run expectancy will be very strongly linked, they diverge in precisely the sorts of situations where a sacrifice bunt might be reasonable. Also, there’s just more to the story. Because of the other possible bunt outcomes. I’m tripping over my own words, so let’s proceed toward some numbers.

This all started because I was thinking about the Giants’ walk-off bunt from Tuesday. That got me thinking about the Nationals’ two-run bunt against the Giants earlier, and then when you’re a baseball writer on the Internet, when you think about bunts, you eventually think about Ned Yost. The Baseball-Reference Play Index is awesome, and within its searchable Event Finder, it includes sacrifice bunt attempts. So I decided to look at all such attempts on a team level from 2014, and I took the additional step of leaving out pitcher bunts because many pitcher bunts are perfectly reasonable. People generally don’t get mad when a pitcher drops one down. People get mad when Lorenzo Cain drops one down. So now look at the resulting table, of 2014 data. You see all 30 teams, and you see the cumulative sac-bunt-attempt WPA. Surprise!

Team Sac Bunt WPA
Royals 1.0
Blue Jays 0.7
Angels 0.5
Astros 0.5
Athletics 0.5
Nationals 0.5
Giants 0.4
Mariners 0.3
Brewers 0.2
Tigers 0.2
Mets 0.1
Yankees 0.1
Diamondbacks 0.0
Indians 0.0
Marlins 0.0
Orioles 0.0
Pirates 0.0
White Sox 0.0
Red Sox -0.1
Dodgers -0.2
Rockies -0.2
Twins -0.2
Phillies -0.3
Rays -0.3
Cardinals -0.4
Rangers -0.5
Reds -0.5
Braves -0.6
Padres -0.6
Cubs -0.9
In first place, having derived the greatest benefit, are the Royals. Ned Yost’s Royals, with a slim lead over the Blue Jays. This doesn’t include the playoffs, but the playoffs also wouldn’t knock the Royals out of first if considered. During the year, Royals non-pitchers attempted 52 sac bunts, as interpreted by Baseball-Reference, and they were a net positive for the team.

This doesn’t capture everything. It doesn’t capture plate appearances that featured a bunt attempt, but wrapped up in another way. It doesn’t capture the odd bunt-for-a-hit attempt with men on. But this does pretty well, and certainly it doesn’t serve as evidence that the bunting was bad for Yost and Kansas City. How did this happen? Well, lots of times, the Royals players dropped down ordinary sacrifices. But one time, Alcides Escobar reached on an error. Jarrod Dyson reached on an error. Escobar also reached on two other errors. There were a total of 13 balls in play ruled singles. It’s so easy to forget that a sac bunt attempt can result in a baserunner, since the whole point is to give yourself up, but it happens, and it can happen pretty often.

Maybe you’d argue that this is Yost getting lucky, that no one plans on the sac bunter reaching. But because it happens, it’s part of the calculation, and if sac bunters never did reach, they wouldn’t be so psychologically appealing. I don’t know how much Yost would bunt if the outs were more assured. I just know what’s actually happened, and this year, those sacrifice bunts have been more good than bad for Kansas City, even ignoring any kind of matchup analysis.

Really, this isn’t just about Yost. Although I’ll mention that, last year, the Royals’ sac bunt attempts also resulted in a positive total WPA. If you look at all of Baseball-Reference’s 2014 sacrifice bunt attempts, you see a cumulative -18.7 WPA. Very bad strategy! But now look what happens when you leave out pitchers: you see a cumulative 0.2 WPA. Essentially, the league broke even, with enough bunters reaching base to offset the outs and various failures. Again, it’s not complete, because we’re missing “expected” WPA and because we don’t know which sac bunt attempts were actually sac bunt attempts, but if you figure this is in the ballpark, suddenly it doesn’t look like managers bunted poorly at all, with their position players. There are bad bunts, but there are also good bunts, and there’s not much you can say to argue with an even WPA. That means, overall, things are neither helping nor hurting.

That’s the league. For the Royals, the bunts have helped. Not in every case, but, overall. And while that doesn’t mean they’ll continue to help in the future, it means Yost hasn’t sunk anything with the bunting to date, and maybe later on one shouldn’t be so quick to be critical. Yost absolutely makes his mistakes, but so do opposing defenses. That’s one of the ways in which a sac bunt can pay off.

Defense Needed the Royals.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
I’m writing this underneath a framed ESPN magazine cover from the 2010 baseball preview. The cover features Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez, and Ichiro Suzuki, and right up top are these words: “Outs are in — and so are the Mariners”. It’s funny now, and it was given to me half as a joke, because of course the 2010 Seattle Mariners were a total catastrophe. But I remember the feeling, the state of things back then. The 2009 Mariners had set a UZR record, and then the front office brought in Chone Figgins and Casey Kotchman. The goal was to win by prevention, and the prevention was there, but what happened was the Mariners prevented their own scoring too and lost 101 times. Things changed rapidly for the organization. There was a missed opportunity to have defense front and center on a national stage.

We’ve never been real shy about WAR, and as such, we’ve never been real shy about the more advanced defensive metrics. FanGraphs didn’t exactly invent the concept of baseball players with good gloves, but statheads have argued for years that defensive players deserve more respect, that a guy can be incredibly valuable because of what he does in the field, instead of the box. Naturally, there’s been resistance, because hitting is a lot more visible, and nothing in the field is as valuable as a home run. And, absolutely, offensive value does have a higher ceiling than defensive value, just because of the limited opportunities. But defense, as a concept, needed a mascot. It needed a representation that would allow more people to understand how significant it can really be. Defense needed a team like the Royals.

The Royals, of course, have more than one strength. They have an unhittable back of the bullpen, and the defense doesn’t have to help those guys much. They have a bunch of solid baserunners, and they have James Shields, and there are a few guys who can hit a little. Salvador Perez is said to be a tremendous leader, of both the staff and the team as a whole. But, lots of teams have good relievers. The Royals’ rotation is relatively unremarkable. Baserunning tends to be a small factor. And the position players are better on defense than offense.

The Royals have captured national attention, and while the story after the wild-card game was that they ran Oakland mad, it’s since been all about the gloves. The gloves and Mike Moustakas, I guess. The Royals have played some long games, and time during those games has to be filled, and you can’t ignore what the defenders have done. The Royals, in the playoffs, have allowed a .258 BABIP, and it feels like lower than that. Every time you look up, someone in blue is either catching his breath or picking himself back up off the ground. The defenders have been everywhere.

Tuesday’s game against the Orioles wasn’t even one of the Royals’ most spectacular, defense-wise, but nevertheless, here come some clips. Here are eight plays of at least moderate difficulty. All were outs. The Orioles made 27 outs, and five of those were strikeouts.

Not easy. Alex Gordon lost his footing because he tripped, not because he had to dive.

Grounder over second base. Hard play made to look like easy play.

Sure, maybe this play is typically made, I don’t know. But is it typically made that easily? Lorenzo Cain had almost stopped by the time the baseball came down.

Cain again. Outstanding. And it doesn’t even look like it.

Also, Eric Hosmer is on the team.

Nobody blames Mike Moustakas if that gets through for a single. The ball was scalded on a line. Welp.

Everybody in love with Lorenzo Cain yet? I realize I’m not embedding these in any kind of order. That’s an incredibly difficult play from Cain’s second position of the game.

And here’s the lasting highlight. Here’s the Kansas City version of Derek Jeter going head-first into the seats. If Moustakas doesn’t make the catch, if he doesn’t even really try to make the catch, it’s a strike and the count is 0-and-2. The batter’s probably going to get out anyway. But every little gain is a gain. Every play made has value, and the Royals make so many plays.

The Royals were ninth in the American League in runs scored. They were 11th by wRC+. The Tigers led the AL in wRC+, yet their position players were just one WAR better than the Royals’, because the Royals reliably caught everything. Some of it is disguised by a spacious home environment, but the Royals tied for the lowest road BABIP allowed. The Royals were worth 61 team UZR, and the outfield was responsible for 60 of that. UZR loves the Royals, Defensive Runs Saved loves the Royals, and every metric and every eye loves the Royals. Defensively, they were great, and in the playoffs, it feels like they’ve been even greater.

The Royals feel like an exaggeration of what defense can do. In this way I can only speak for myself, but when, say, Miguel Cabrera goes on one of his tears, I see him at the plate and I feel like he could hit a dinger at a moment’s notice. I can sense the threat of a slugger, because I’m aware of the range of possible outcomes. The Royals have made me sense a defense. The feeling I get is that every ball in play is doomed. Hit a ball to the outfield and you might as well just walk back to the dugout, unless you hit it 420 feet. Not every ball in play is converted, naturally, but not every slugger plate appearance turns into a handful of bases. It just happens often enough to set the expectation. The expectation is that the Royals will make the out, if it’s in any way possible.

And that’s important. Obviously, it’s important for them to get the outs, as they try to win a World Series. But it’s also important for fans to see that. If, that is, the fans are in any way interested in learning more about the game. It can be so difficult to understand what a run saved really looks like. It can be difficult to understand how a player can be worth 10 or 20 runs better than average in the field over a year. The Royals are instructive. You can see what an elite defensive team looks like, and in every game you can estimate the bases saved. And, how often has Lorenzo Cain been running down a liner in front of him, behind him, or to the gap? Cain posted awesome defensive numbers this year, allowing him to finish with a 4.9 WAR, and if the Royals weren’t in the playoffs it would be hard to believe it. Seeing him, it makes a lot more sense. He catches everything he can. Forget the 4.9, specifically, and just focus on what it means. Cain has demonstrated how he can be an above-average hitter and a star-level player.

The Royals have demonstrated the importance of team defense, and they’re doing it with everyone paying attention. They’re doing it while never losing in the playoffs, and they’re doing it without a shutdown ace or a mid-lineup slugger. The Royals are proving how far you can get as a defense-first ballclub, and while it’s not the only way to build a winner, it’s a way to build a winner. And if you can appreciate the importance of defense on a team, you can then break that down and better appreciate the importance of individual-player defense. Mets fans get to watch Juan Lagares. Braves fans got to watch Andruw Jones, and they’ve got Andrelton Simmons. Mariners fans, for a short time, got peak Franklin Gutierrez. You can add defensive value on top of defensive value, and if one good defender is useful, a bunch can form a real weapon. They just need to be able to do enough of the other things.

I get how weird it might be to see something of a pro-Royals article on FanGraphs, given, you know. But for one thing, this isn’t specifically about the Royals. And for another, there’s no better current representation of something we all hold to be important. The Royals are like if UZR were a general manager, and while there have been great defensive teams before, the Royals are sensational and the Royals are one win away from the World Series with limited other strengths. Is defense really as important as WAR suggests? I mean, I don’t know with 100% certainty, but the Royals make a hell of an argument. Outs are in — and so are the Royals.
post #28589 of 73652
Hate the Cardinals. Would love a situation to beat them in the WS but I don't want my boys to be off for that long. So in that case let's go Giants, wrap this up.




post #28590 of 73652
Won't they be off until Tuesday either way?
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