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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 261

post #7801 of 73413
Thread Starter 
Flip side is that it makes every division race that much more important to win instead of settling for a WC, gets a little boring down the stretch sometimes.
post #7802 of 73413
I just read that real solid article on Trout in SI. I sure hope he's the real deal. Freaking insane if Wash woulda taken him at 10 with Stras and then Harper the next year. eek.gif

I like how they are already sayin, in 6 years he's going to get his money back that he gave up signing his slot contract now. laugh.gif
post #7803 of 73413

STANTON would have a legit chance at 42 HR'S this year had he not missed those 6 weeks

post #7804 of 73413
AL East race will be nice down the stretch.......O's, Yanks and Rays all play each other multiple times.

I'll catch a game or two at the Yard in Baltimore even.
Straight Cash Homey
Straight Cash Homey
post #7805 of 73413
Thread Starter 
Going to the Stadium tomorrow to catch the Yanks/O's, looking forward to it for the first time in August in a long time.
post #7806 of 73413
O's are still in the hunt...Love it. Buck has really mellowed out over the years. Here's a hilarious vid of him playing a prank on pitcher Darren O'Day...
post #7807 of 73413
Nice, I have to make it back up to NY to catch a game there too. I was born up there and moved down here around age 6 or so. I have no qualmes with the Yanks or Mets. Except Jeffrey Mayer. O's should have went to the Series that year.....mean.gif
Straight Cash Homey
Straight Cash Homey
post #7808 of 73413
Thread Starter 
I love Yankee Stadium but if you're not coming up for Yanks/O's, I'd recommend Citi. Less crowded and a lot cheaper all around. Every time I go to the Stadium, I end up spending at least $100 on food and beer. Citi, it's barely $50 most times.
post #7809 of 73413
The way he started raising his voice to the actor playing the reporter was hilarious. Buck did an outstanding job of acting...Shoot, he even had to give O'Day a hug afterwards because he felt so bad talking about "Isn't this a contract year for you? It wouldn't be real good if you fell off it" & "You can solo way back to your city, we'll find someone else to pitch"...
post #7810 of 73413
One more funny vid... Lightning/Thunder strike during a Twins @ Texas game on July 9th....
post #7811 of 73413
Harper is on fire right now pimp.gif also really nice to see Werth drive the ball, even though he's been getting on base frequently.
post #7812 of 73413
Giants with 4.5 GM lead in the West pimp.gif
post #7813 of 73413
Orioles at Yanks

Orioles vs Tampa

Orioles vs Yanks

Orioles at Oakland

Some of the upcoming series for Baltimore....they truly decide their own fate.
Straight Cash Homey
Straight Cash Homey
post #7814 of 73413
Thread Starter 
Derek Jeter's shot at 4,000.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
By last year's All-Star break, it appeared that future Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter was starting to lose his battle against time, the most implacable, determined foe that all athletes face.

Jeter's 2010 season at 36 years old, a .270 AVG/.340 OBP/.370 SLG line, was still an acceptable performance for a shortstop, but it was his worst offensive performance in the majors since his little cup of coffee as a 21-year-old in 1995. Last season was looking like more of the same, with Jeter's numbers standing at .270/.330/.353 after the first half of the season.

Since that nadir in Jeter's fortunes -- or local minimum for the nerdier of us -- Jeter's battle against the clock has been considerably more successful, as he hit .327/.383/.428 in the second half of 2011 and is hitting .321/.363/.450 this year -- essentially classic Jeter numbers.

At 175 hits this season, Jeter's an injury-free September away from finishing the season with more than 200 hits, and with currently 14 more hits than Miguel Cabrera, he's likely to lead the American League in hits for the second time in his career. Though 38, standing at 3,300 hits puts Jeter in an interesting position in the records department, with a realistic shot at 4,000 career hits and a small chance of catching Pete Rose's all-time hits record.

Jeter, 12th all-time in hits, is only another 2012 season away from catching Tris Speaker at fifth all-time (3,514 hits). Still playing well, Jeter getting even farther on the all-time list is a real possibility.

Using the ZiPS projection system, Jeter's next milestone, 3,500 hits, requires him only to be healthy and keep his job for two years, with an estimated probability of 90 percent.

After 3,500, the next milestone becomes the 4,000-hit mark, which only Rose and Ty Cobb have managed in major league history. Jeter will need about 700 hits after his age-38 season, something only six players (Cap Anson, Rose, Sam Rice, Jim O'Rourke, Honus Wagner and Omar Vizquel) have ever managed. Thanks to Jeter's mini-comeback during the past year, ZiPS gives realistic odds, 36 percent, of him hitting the 4,000 mark, most likely in 2017 if he remains healthy and productive.

Jeter's odds of getting another 256 hits after 4,000 and catching Rose drop off considerably. ZiPS gives him a 4 percent shot. It would be extremely difficult because it would involve Jeter either aging as well as anyone ever has or a situation in which the New York Yankees will allow him to play years past his usefulness, as Rose was able to do in the mid-80s.

Don't start putting down large sums of money on anyone else to get hit No. 4,000 in the near future. Albert Pujols is the only veteran in an approach pattern that could make 4,000 possible, with just more than 2,200 hits at 32 years old, and he has 3 percent odds, according to ZiPS. Outside of Pujols, the best early handicapping involves Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Starlin Castro, all very young players with long careers ahead of them. But even Trout, projected as the best of those three, had odds at barely 1-in-100. Hitting 4,000 is hard, and Trout has a lot of hits to go.

If you like record-watching, Jeter's your man during the next few years. As John Maynard Keynes said, "In the long run, we are all dead," but "The Captain" has some writing left to do in the record books before he hangs up his glove and puts down his bat for the last time on his path to Cooperstown.

Predicting the 2013 ROYs.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The American League Rookie of the Year race is over. Let's say Mike Trout doesn't get another hit for the rest of the year, going 0-for-125. He'd still finish the year with a .261 batting average, 24 home runs and 40-plus stolen bases.

Now anyone predicting Mike Trout for Rookie of the Year honors would not have exactly gone out on a limb, but how many people took Todd Frazier for National League honors before the season? (For more on Frazier's breakout, check out Jerry Crasnick's feature on him.) A look at the winners of the award throughout history shows a combination of obvious choices and plenty of surprises.

So who does the crystal ball say are next year's nominees? It's a tough combination of talent and potential opportunity for playing time. Here are the big names, as well as some possible surprises in each league.

American League favorites

1. Wil Myers, OF, Kansas City Royals

If Myers isn't the best offensive prospect in baseball, he's certainly the best offensive prospect in the American League, and he's ready for big league action after spending most of the year at Triple-A and leading the minor leagues in total bases heading into the final week of the regular season. He might not see Kansas City at all this year, but he should be the everyday right fielder in 2013 and get the kind of at-bats needed to put up counting numbers.

2. Travis d'Arnaud, C, Toronto Blue Jays

He was on the verge of a midseason call-up this year when he suffered a season-ending knee injury while hitting .333/.380/.595 at Triple-A Las Vegas. He's the best catching prospect in baseball, and J.P. Arencibia just hasn't hit enough to hold onto the job in Toronto, although he should be a nice trade chip this offseason due to positional scarcity. Catchers with this kind of offensive ceiling are rare, and d'Arnaud should be able to hit right away.

3. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Baltimore Orioles

It would be amazing to see a 2011 high school draftee reach the big leagues so quickly, but if anyone can do it, it's Bundy. He has the stuff to succeed in the big leagues now, and while he's not going to begin 2013 in the big leagues, he's a likely first-half call-up who would need to maximize his 125 or so big league innings to win it.

AL sleepers

1. Nick Castellanos, OF, Detroit Tigers

Castellanos was pushed to Double-A after hitting .405 during the first two months of the season at high Class A Lakeland, but he's slowed down in his first taste of the upper levels due to a lack of patience and power that is still more projectable than real. His ability to hit for average is real, however, and he could be an answer for Detroit in a corner.

2. Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Houston Astros

This one could come down to Brett Wallace. We've seen the good and bad versions of Wallace in the big leagues, but Singleton is without question the first baseman of the future in Houston, and he's finishing his year strongly at Double-A while showing the ability to hit for average, hit for power and draw plenty of walks. A hot start to 2013 in Triple-A could create an opportunity. (Remember folks, the Astros will be in the AL next year.)

AL surprise

Jurickson Profar, SS, Texas Rangers

Considered by many to be the best prospect in baseball, Profar isn't going to play in Texas without the opportunity to play every day, and Elvis Andrus is signed through 2014. Some feel the Rangers wouldn't lose a drop by replacing Andrus with Profar, and a two-year cost-controlled All-Star shortstop could generate a big return on the trade market. It will be a story to watch this coming offseason. And if not this year, then next.

National League favorites

1. Trevor Bauer, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

The National League is all about pitching, and Bauer tops the list based heavily on the adjustments he's made after struggling in his brief big league stint. Bauer has simply become a more efficient pitcher, trusting his stuff within the strike zone instead of trying to get cute with his secondary offerings and throwing too many pitches while walking too many batters. A strike-throwing version of Bauer is a terrifying talent who could rack up big strikeout numbers right away.

2. Tyler Skaggs, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

Bauer and Skaggs are almost neck-and-neck, but Skaggs staying in the Arizona rotation until the end of the season could bring him perilously close to the rookie-eligibility limit of 50 innings. Skaggs has been impressive -- albeit a bit wild -- in his first two major league starts, keeping runs off the board with a plus fastball and an even better curve. Just 21 years old, he's still getting better and is just a few refinements from taking off.

3. Shelby Miller, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

Six weeks ago, Miller would be nowhere close to consideration for this list. But after a brutal first half of the year during which his ERA crept higher than 6.00, he's returned to the Shelby Miller of old -- in his past six starts, the 21-year-old has whiffed 52 while walking just four in 38⅓ innings. He's recovered his low-to-mid 90s velocity, he's rediscovered his plus breaking ball, he's throwing more strikes than ever and he's going to compete for a job in the 2013 Opening Day rotation.

NL sleepers

1. Oscar Taveras, OF, St. Louis Cardinals

Recently named the Texas League player of the year, Taveras is a better prospect than any of the favorites, but right now there's no obvious way to get him playing time in 2013. Matt Holliday is signed through 2016, Jon Jay is controlled for the same amount of time and Carlos Beltran has one more year left on his deal. Having just turned 20 in June, there's no need to rush Taveras.

2. Christian Yelich, OF, Miami Marlins

Yelich is almost the opposite of Taveras, in that he might not be ready yet, but the 2010 first-round pick has all sorts of opportunity, as only Giancarlo Stanton has locked down a permanent spot in the Miami outfield. Currently hitting .319/.394/.508 in the high Class A Florida State League, Yelich will begin next year as a 21-year-old in Double-A and has the potential for a breakout year that forces the Marlins' hand.

NL surprise

Billy Hamilton, SS, Cincinnati Reds

As a shortstop with steady defense and above-average power for the position, Zack Cozart isn't going anywhere. But what if the Reds do what many scouts would like to see and move Hamilton to center field? Currently at 154 stolen bases and counting, Hamilton could earn votes solely on the excitement he brings to the field and his ability to fill up a single column on the stat sheet.

Cubs land a sleeper prospect.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Cubs signed Juan Carlos Paniagua in mid-July for $1.5 million, a signing that was notable not just for its value but because it marked Paniagua's third contract with an MLB organization. He signed with the Diamondbacks in 2009 and pitched in the Dominican Republic, only to have the contract voided by MLB because he signed the deal under an assumed identity, and then went through a similar issue after signing with the Yankees in 2011 due to fraudulent idenfitication papers. His listed date of birth, April 4th, 1990, is considered unconfirmed by MLB, but unless he's actually 30 years old, it doesn't really matter given how good his arm is.

Kyle Terada/US Presswire
Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein have been busy and effective on the prospect front.

Paniagua made his second appearance for the Cubs (and thus second pro appearance in the U.S.) on Sunday night, facing five batters across two innings of work. He was at 92-94 mph in his first inning and 93-97 in the second, with the velocity about as effortless as you can imagine. His slider was above-average, 83-87, very sharp with some tilt but more vertical than horizontal break. His changeup was below-average at 79-80 and if he'd told the hitters it was coming via semaphore it wouldn't have been more obvious.

He's listed at 6-foot-1, 175, and doesn't have a ton of projection remaining, not that you'd expect much more fastball in the future. He takes a very long stride to the plate and generates velocity more with his lower half than his upper half, which should increase his ability to stay healthy. Given his age and present stuff he'd be a candidate to go start next year in full-season ball, maybe even Daytona, although getting him used to handling a starter's workload every fifth day will also be a priority.

• Right-hander Duane Underwood also pitched that night and was a little less impressive than when I'd seen him ten days earlier, sitting 91-92 with below average command and a still-inconsistent breaking ball that ranged in grades from 40 (well below average) to 55 (above average). His arm is loose and easy but I think there's a lot of work to do with his delivery, getting him to use his lower half more and to repeat his arm swing so that he can locate the fastball more effectively.

• Rangers prospect Joey Gallo garnered most of the attention paid to their AZL team because he broke the league home run record before his recent promotion, but I wouldn't be shocked if outfielder Lewis Brinson ended up the better big leaguer. The Rangers worked with Brinson this summer on his swing mechanics, getting him to set up his hands a little lower and further back, and shortening his stride, and the result is significantly improved bat speed without any loss of power. My concern on Brinson is more pitch recognition than physical ability, and I think it's exacerbated by his sense that he has the bat speed and hand strength to hit a lot of pitches he'd be better off letting go. He has all-star upside if he can tighten up his approach, and I think the fact that he made such significant swing adjustments in a short period of time is a huge positive.

• The Rangers took Delaware prep outfielder Jamie Jarmon in the second round this year, betting on his tools even though he was generally seen as one of the rawest hitters in the draft class. He has strong hands and loft in his finish, but he gets his front foot down late and drifts out over his front side, so he's not going to hit for power or even hard line-drive contact. On Sunday he seemed almost to drag the bat through the zone, and when the ball was down he'd stay too upright through contact and get on top of the ball. It was clearly not a good one-game look (bearing in mind that it was just one game), but he might be a candidate to return to short-season ball next year even as the Brinson/Gallo group advances to the Sally League.

• Royals lefty John Lamb made his fourth rehab start on Sunday night as he works his way back from June 2011 Tommy John surgery, facing nine hitters and retiring them all with three strikeouts. Lamb still looked tentative, especially in the first inning when he was 86-88, but he was more 88-91 in the final two innings and started to loosen up. His arm path is a little long but it's very clean, with early pronation, and if he's really just holding back as he gets reaccustomed to throwing at full strength he should regain his old prospect status.

• Kansas City's tenth-round pick this year, Alexis Rivera, has attracted some notice for his .335/.411/.462 line in rookie ball. Rivera was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, but drafted out of Montverde Academy outside of Orlando, the same school that produced Cleveland's 2011 first-rounder, Francisco Lindor. Rivera is very strong and physically mature for his age, turning 18 a few weeks after the draft. There's very little weight transfer and he barely strides, so while his swing is rotational and he has the loft for power, I don't think he's using his back side enough to fully drive the ball. He did show the ability to work the count and especially to foul off tough pitches in Sunday's game, but couldn't convert that into solid fair contact that night. He's one to watch and probably should have been drafted four or five rounds higher given the advanced approach and potential for power with some modest adjustments.

• I was at the Tyler Skaggs/Jacob Turner matchup at Chase Field last Wednesday, and shared a few thoughts on Twitter at the time but didn't blog about it. Skaggs was far more impressive that day even though Turner had the better stat line. Skaggs was 89-93 with a plus curveball that rates among the ten best true curveballs of any current big league starter, 74-79 with true two-plane break and very tight rotation; even better, Skaggs commanded it that day, working it to both sides and throwing it for strikes. He barely used his changeup but when he did it was an average to above-average pitch, and I think it'll provide a real weapon for him going forward and will allow him to throw fewer curveballs each outing. Turner was 89-92, touching 93, but was getting on the side of the ball and was running the fastball right into left-handers' bats; he touched 99 in high school and was regularly up to 97 when he first entered pro ball, but his arm is much slower now and the velocity on his fastball and the sharpness of his breaking ball are both reduced. Unless that arm speed returns, he'll have to be a command/control guy who can change speeds to have success in the majors.

The effect of Operation Shutdown.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
At the All-Star Game, a longtime star asked me, "Are the Nationals really going to do shut [Stephen] Strasburg down?"

I told him yes, they're really going to do it, and he was amazed by the decision, and talked about how he would have even more respect for them because of how much guts it would take to make this move.

It's almost official now. Davey Johnson met with Stephen Strasburg and told him he has a few more starts remaining, before Operation Shutdown is put into effect.

From Adam Kilgore's story:

With September arriving this weekend and Strasburg sitting at 150 1/3 innings, the Nationals ace's season will end within a handful of starts. Johnson said he and the Nationals have "a pretty firm plan" in place for Strasburg's season to end.

"He's probably got two or three," Johnson said. "I said something to him on the plane last night -- ''You got a few more to go.' So he doesn't think going out there thinking that, 'This may be my last one.' And no, I'm not going to drag it out and give him seven days between starts, either."

Johnson would not get any more specific than the "two or three" range. If Strasburg makes three more starts, his final outing would come Sept. 12 in New York against the Mets.

So in effect, Strasburg will miss either three or four starts at the end of this regular season, in addition to whatever innings he would have thrown in the postseason -- figure one or two per round. So, in the end, the Nationals are losing anywhere from 30 to 45 innings they would have had from one of the best pitchers in the majors.



Jordan Zimmermann is having an excellent season, with a 2.63 ERA in 26 starts, and if he doesn't get the ball in Game 1 or 2 of a postseason series, then it would go to Gio Gonzalez, who is 16-7. Edwin Jackson won last night, lowering his ERA to 3.53, and Ross Detwiler is perhaps one of the most underrated starters of this season, with a 3.32 ERA. The Nationals have the pitching to win, they have a good lineup, they play solid defense. Even without Strasburg, they may still go into the postseason as a solid pick to make it through the National League playoffs and have a shot at winning the World Series.

But are they a better team with Strasburg?

Of course.

General manager Mike Rizzo has done the right thing by standing in front of Strasburg and protecting him in this situation, by making it clear that this is the organization's decision and that Strasburg really has no vote, which is what Rizzo needs to do. Some fans, rival players and even teammates are asking how this can happen, and Rizzo has set himself up to take the responsibility for the choice and take the bullets for the pitcher.

But it's pretty clear, too, that Rizzo is going to be completely at the mercy of the results of Washington's final game of this season. If they win, then his choice will be lauded almost universally, and his willingness to preserve the pitcher's long-term interests over short-term gain (including his) will be praised.

If they lose their final game, however, Rizzo and the Nationals will be saturated by criticism, by Monday morning quarterbacks, because of this question: "Could the Nationals have won if Strasburg had been pitching?"

There will be no way to dispel that notion.


Jackson threw well Thursday and Bryce Harper mashed a home run to lift the Nationals to a big win. Harper's talent and temper battle for the upper hand.

From ESPN Stats & Information, how Jackson won:

A. Cardinals hitters were 0-for-8 with six strikeouts in at-bats ending with a slider.
B. He threw 65 of 123 pitches (52.8 percent) down in the zone or below. Cardinals hitters were 1-for-13 with seven strikeouts in at-bats ending with a pitch in that location, including 0-for-6 with the slider.
C. He induced a season-high 27 swings on pitches out of the strike zone. Cardinals hitters chased 12 of the 19 sliders out of the zone (63.2 percent), his highest percentage in a start this season with the pitch.
D. Cardinals hitters were 0-for-7 with five strikeouts in at-bats ending with a slider out of the zone.

Here's a look at players with the most HRs in a season at age 19 or younger (with a month to go in 2012):

Tony Conigliaro: 24
Mel Ott: 18
Ken Griffey Jr.: 16
Bryce Harper: 15

• Roger Clemens has some surprises in store. Of course he does.

I'll say it again: There is absolutely no downside for either the Astros or Clemens. The team is an embarrassment, veering toward a 115-loss season, and while the failures have been exacerbated by the decision to cut their major league roster to the bone, one or two appearances by Clemens will have zero impact on how new owner Jim Crane will be perceived in Houston. And from Clemens' perspective, he backs up his Hall of Fame clock by five years, at a time when there's zero chance he'll get inducted because of his perceived link to performance-enhancing drugs. And he gets to pitch, and while he's not going to throw a shutout, he certainly has enough stuff to not humiliate himself; he could be effective. "Knowing Roger," said a longtime friend of Clemens, "nothing he would do on the mound would surprise me."

But is it a stunt? For sure, and nobody should pretend otherwise. It's Eddie Gaedel, just a little bigger.

The Astros were swept, again, and they're 40-91, with a record of 8-48 in their last 56 games.

• The Orioles won again, and now they're heading to New York with a chance to catch the Yankees. Randy Wolf chose the Orioles because he wants a chance to win, writes Dan Connolly. When's the last time that happened?

The Yankees are suddenly facing a key series in their own ballpark, as Peter Botte writes.

• Even with new money, the Padres will spend wisely, writes Jeff Sanders.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Letting Josh Hamilton walk may be better business for the Rangers, writes Evan Grant. I wrote this in April and it's worth repeating now: If the Rangers cannot sign Hamilton on terms comfortable to them, in the number of years on the deal, then they will let him walk away -- and their proposed length of guaranteed years is probably going to be a lot shorter than most assume.

2. September call-ups are a dumb tradition, writes Joel Sherman.

3. Today is an important day for some in the Pirates' organization.

4. There is talk of Chase Utley moving to third base.

5. Adam Wainwright wants to wait before continuing his contract talks.

Dings and dents

1. Joey Votto is on the verge of his return.

2. Jason Frasor is close to coming back.

By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats & Information

2: Games with 7 RBIs this season for Jonathan Lucroy, the first catcher to have multiple such games in a season.
8: Leadoff home runs by the Indians this season, most in the majors.
21: Swing-and-misses generated by Zach Britton, the most by an Orioles starter this season.
460: Distance (in feet) of Ryan Braun's home run, the longest home run hit at Wrigley Field this season.

NL East

• Jimmy Rollins was benched, as Charlie Manuel tried to send a message.

• The Mets' four-game winning streak came to an end, writes Andrew Keh.

NL Central

• Rafael Furcal got hurt, and the Cardinals' offense was shut down.

• The Brewers' bullpen was really bad, again.

NL West

• Hunter Pence and the other Giants broke out the big lumber, wrecking the Astros.

• Aubrey Huff is seeing some echoes of the 2010 Giants team in this 2012 version.

• The Dodgers lost again, drifting deeper into the standings; Don Mattingly called a team meeting.

• Ian Kennedy's command was much better.

AL East

• The Rays stumbled again, as Marc Topkin writes. The Rays are going to use a whole bunch of different people at first base, and it's clear that Carlos Pena's playing time is being reduced.

• Carlos Villanueva had a really nice outing.

AL Central

• The Tigers lost yet another one-run game. The toothless Tigers were swept, writes Lynn Henning. Their series against the White Sox this weekend is absolutely crucial, and we've got the series finale on ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball," with Justin Verlander pitching against Chris Sale.

• The White Sox had a rough series against the Orioles, but they have to put that behind them, as Daryl van Schouwen writes. Don Cooper has Chicago's young pitchers on a steady plane, writes David Haugh.

• Jeremy Guthrie had another strong outing, and the Royals pulled off a sweep of Detroit.

• The Indians have completely fallen apart: They were swept by Oakland at home. Cleveland is 5-27 in its last 32 games, as Paul Hoynes writes.

• The Twins' Josh Willingham swung and missed, in defeat.

AL West

• Jarrod Parker was "the man" as Oakland finished a sweep of the Indians.

• The Angels have picked themselves up, and they completed a sweep of the Red Sox. Chris Iannetta is not slowing down, writes Landon Hall.

From ESPN Stats & Information, how Zack Greinke won:

A. He threw 75 of 107 pitches (70.1 percent) on the outside part of the plate or further away, his highest percentage in a start this season. Red Sox hitters were 2-for-15 with five strikeouts in at-bats ending with a pitch in that location.
B. Red Sox hitters were 1-for-12 in two-strike at-bats, including 0-for-7 on pitches away.
C. He threw just nine cutters, but Red Sox hitters were 0-for-6 with three strikeouts in at-bats ending with the pitch.
D. Red Sox hitters were 0-for-9 with men on base, including 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position.

• The Mariners rallied to close out a really good road trip.
post #7815 of 73413
Thread Starter 
The Dodgers Have A Good Outfield Problem.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Shane Victorino was recently asked if he would return to the Dodgers in a part-time role next season. One of the many pieces the Dodgers added near the trade deadline, the former all-star centerfielder was adamant that he’ll seek regular playing time in his next deal. Given Victorino’s sentiments and the crowded Dodgers outfield, his return likely isn’t in the cards. However, the Dodgers may need someone like him over the next year or two as an insurance policy on Carl Crawford or a stopgap until Yasiel Puig is ready.

When the Dodgers acquired Crawford, along with Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez …and Nick Punto in last week’s megadeal, they put the finishing touches on a very expensive outfield for the foreseeable future.

The move didn’t come without consequences. In addition to the hefty contracts now on the books, the Dodgers created a positional logjam that may prove difficult to solve without eating salary or making subsequent trades.

As it currently stands, Crawford is set to play left field for another five years. He will make around $102 million over that span. Andre Ethier will man right field and just signed a five-year, $85 million extension through 2017. Matt Kemp is on the books at $160 million over eight years and has center field locked up. The Dodgers would have a difficult time moving any of these players if they were so inclined. Crawford, the likely odd man out of the bunch, wouldn’t bring back much either, even if the Dodgers paid most of his bill.

What complicates matters is twofold: Crawford’s health and the signing of Puig.

The Dodgers signed Puig to a seven-year, $42 million deal this season. He spent August between Rookie Ball and High-A, and produced a .433 wOBA at the latter. He is at least a year and a half away, but is being groomed for a corner outfield spot. Assuming his progress remains on track, the Dodgers will face an interesting dilemma.

The natural reaction to this type of logjam is to move one of the outfielders to a new position. The likeliest position to receive one of said outfielders is first base. The Dodgers just acquired Adrian Gonzalez. Ipso facto, none of those outfielders are moving to first base. They aren’t going to try and move Gonzalez to open up space because the entire point of that trade was to bring him in. They absorbed Crawford’s and Beckett’s contract specifically to replace James Loney with Gonzalez.

If Crawford were to return from Tommy John surgery on schedule and start producing again, the Dodgers may very well find suitors for his services. Crawford probably won’t return until May or June next season, and might not get his groove back until a few weeks later. Which means the Dodgers are spending almost $200 million next season yet won’t have an everyday left fielder until the midway point of the season. If Crawford experiences any setbacks, he would obviously miss even more time.

This puts the team in somewhat of an awkward position, because it’ll be tough to convince a worthwhile and established outfielder to sign up for a role that might not involve everyday play from June onward. They certainly aren’t going to platoon Crawford or limit his playing time either, especially with that contract. Yet the Dodgers can’t risk not getting production out of the position and their big-time prospect isn’t yet ready.

If everything works out, Crawford will return sometime in May, produce very well, and the Dodgers will have another 1.5-2 years to make a decision based on Puig’s readiness. They would only need a stopgap leftfielder for a month, maybe two, and could look to utilize, say, Juan Pierre in a role similar to his current one with the Phillies. He wouldn’t cost much, especially relative to what the Dodgers just spent, could produce in a small sample, and then get relegated to fourth outfielder and pinch-runner status.

If everything doesn’t work out and Crawford misses more time, the Dodgers would be left with a fourth outfielder in an everyday role, which isn’t very prudent for a team looking to make a big-time dent in the National League. The future of the Dodgers outfield is very much up in the air, even with almost $400 million committed to four outfielders over the next several seasons.

They have an important decision to make this offseason but an even more crucial decision to make over the next year or two. Having a surplus of talent is a good problem to have, but it’s still a problem in need of a beneficial solution.

A Post About the San Diego Padres.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Overlord Dave and I exchange a lot of emails, and earlier Thursday he sent me an email declaring that everybody’s talking about the Padres. I chuckled heartily to myself, as Dave is one of the funniest people I know. The Padres are about as forgettable a franchise as any in the major professional sports. They could win seven consecutive World Series and still people would only talk about them in order to complain about the camouflage uniforms. But while everybody most certainly is not talking about the Padres right now, more people are talking about the Padres right now than were talking about the Padres some months ago. That’s because the Padres have been playing some outstanding baseball.

By their standards, at least. Maybe “outstanding” is too strong a term, but since June 10 — an endpoint carefully selected to make the Padres look as good as possible — the Padres have gone 41-30 and they’ve outscored the opposition by 23 runs. Overall, they’ve drawn to within a game and a half of the Red Sox, and while the Red Sox clearly aren’t what they were supposed to be, that’s a psychologically significant fun fact. The Padres and the Red Sox aren’t too different. The Padres now might well be better than the Red Sox now. What a game, baseball.

The Padres are nowhere close to a playoff race, because before they caught fire, they played baseball as if they were literally on fire. Yet their stretch of success has people wondering if the playoffs might be in the Padres’ near-term future. Let’s examine how this stretch has happened, and what the Padres’ outlook looks like.

Whenever a team surprises like the Padres have, you always want to check for signs of sustainability. Working in the Padres’ favor is that they haven’t put together this stretch of success by just beating up on the Astros. It’s not like the Padres have played 41 games against the Astros and 30 games against real teams, so if that’s something that you had in mind, the thought can be discarded.

Obviously, there are things that have occurred that can’t be counted on to continue to occur. During the stretch, Luke Gregerson has allowed zero runs, and Huston Street has allowed zero runs. Eric Stults has allowed ten runs in nine games, five of them starts. Will Venable has ridden his BABIP to lofty offensive heights. The Padres have won more games than their run differential would otherwise warrant. Whenever you isolate a team’s best stretch, you expect that the team will have been playing over its head, and, yeah, you see where this is going.

Interestingly, though, not all that many things stand out as being crazy. The starting rotation has not been very good, and the Padres have been saved by an excellent bullpen and a productive offense. You look at the top hitters and the numbers and it’s not like Alexi Amarista has been posting a four-digit OPS. Chase Headley‘s really good, and he’s been good. Venable’s been good, Yasmani Grandal‘s been good, Carlos Quentin‘s been good, and so on. This fine stretch of Padres baseball has come from fine performances from fine players.

That’s why this is so encouraging, from the Padres’ perspective. That’s why Ken Rosenthal just wrote about the Padres adjusting their plans to try to win sooner. The players who have been lifting the team are players who’ll be sticking around, and there are going to be more players with talent either coming up or coming back.

This is what the Padres’ lineup of position players could conceivably look like in 2013:

C: Yasmani Grandal
1B: Yonder Alonso
2B: Jedd Gyorko
SS: Everth Cabrera
3B: Chase Headley
LF: Carlos Quentin
CF: Cameron Maybin
RF: Will Venable

Logan Forsythe and Amarista could be around, for infield depth. Chris Denorfia could be around, for outfield depth. You look at that group and you don’t see a clear weakness. Cabrera isn’t much, but it’s hard to find a quality regular shortstop, and the Padres could find someone else. Statistically, Maybin isn’t much, but he’s posted a .735 OPS over the last two months since making an adjustment. There’s reason to believe in all of these guys, and there’ll be a little bit of depth in the probable event of someone’s under-performance.

The Padres do have reason to be wary. As recently as 2011, Maybin and Nick Hundley were major offensive contributors. Now Maybin is a work in progress again and Hundley seems lost. Players will surprise you in good ways and in bad ways. But the most you can do is raise your odds, and that group up there has fine odds of working out all right.

The bigger question for the Padres in the near term is the starting rotation. I’ll tell you now that I’m not going to dwell on the bullpen because bullpens are almost entirely unpredictable. During the Padres’ successful stretch, they’ve given regular starts to Ross Ohlendorf, Jason Marquis, and Eric Stults. Next year’s rotation is going to look different.

And it should look a hell of a lot better. The Padres’ pitching staff has just been shredded by injuries this year, and though injuries can mean future injuries, the Padres have suffered through too much bad luck. The only regular members of the rotation have been Edinson Volquez and Clayton Richard. Returning soon will be Anthony Bass. Returning soon will be Andrew Cashner. Casey Kelly just arrived. Returning somewhere early in 2013 could be Cory Luebke. Returning somewhere around the middle of 2013 could be Joe Wieland. Robbie Erlin seems to be over his elbow issues, and his minor-league numbers are designated as NSFW.

As the Padres have learned, you can’t really rely on any pitcher, but there’s a lot of intriguing starter talent already in the organization and with new ownership, the team could also land a quality arm on the market. Rosenthal mentioned Hiroki Kuroda as one possibility, and while we won’t just assume that Kuroda will land in San Diego, he’d make for a quality stabilizer. Going into next year, the Padres look to be all right. With an addition or two, they could be even better than that.

What the Padres are short on are stars, and stars are what help a team join the elite. The Padres have more of a smooth talent spread, with a Headley exception. There’s not a lot of projected condensed WAR on the 2013 roster. But in most places, there’s quality, and there should be the financial means to support that quality, or even add more of it. Nobody’s going to declare next year’s Padres as World Series favorites, nor should anybody do that, barring an unforeseen offseason of miracles. But the Padres have lifted themselves out of the lower tier and suddenly .500 looks less like a goal and more like an expectation. It’s realistic to think that the Padres should contend for next year’s one-game playoff. We’ll never live in a world in which everybody’s talking about the San Diego Padres. But we’re living in a world in which people are gradually remembering that the San Diego Padres are a baseball team. A pretty decent baseball team, with more talent on the way.

Billy Hamilton and Stealing 100 Bases.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Because he is a man who hates joy, Walt Jocketty said yesterday that Billy Hamilton would “probably not” be called up to the majors in September, as the Reds put the finishing touches on a first-place campaign. (Hamilton has been assigned to the Peoria Javelinas of the Arizona Fall League.) But you never know — as Lloyd Christmas might say, there’s a chance — so I think it’s still worth writing about Sliding Billy, the man who could reach the century mark in steals for the first time in a quarter-century.

Hamilton has stolen 154 bases in 127 games in the minors this year, in High-A and Double-A, breaking Vince Coleman‘s minor league stolen base record. Hamilton also stole 103 in 135 games in Single-A last year. If Billy played 150 games in the majors, the odds are awfully good that he could steal 100 bases, which no one has done since Coleman in 1987. Hell, Mike Podhorzer estimated that he could steal 100 bases as a pinchrunner next year.

Only four men have stolen 100 bases ever, and you probably know their names. Eight 100-steal seasons occurred between the years 1962 and 1987, and none before or since. Maury Wills stole 104 bases in 1962, setting the all-time single-season record, breaking Ty Cobb‘s modern baseball record of 96 steals in 1915, which had stood for 47 years.* Lou Brock upped the ante in 1974, with 118, which is still the second-most of all time. Then, of course, six of the eight 100-steal seasons occurred between 1980 and 1987, with Rickey Henderson on the Billyball Athletics and Vince Coleman on the Whiteyball Cardinals.

* Ty Cobb didn’t hold the all-time record, exactly, and technically, nor does Henderson Brock. It would actually be Hugh Nicol, who is credited with 138 steals in 125 games for the 1887 Cincinnati Red Stockings of the American Association, the predecessor to the modern Reds, Billy Hamilton’s club. I wrote about those Red Stockings in my Opening Day column: they were banned from the National League because the Reds wanted to sell beer at the ballpark. They were finally readmitted to the NL in 1890. Anyway, a lot of people stole 100 bases in 1887, according to Retrosheet: in addition to Nicol, there was Arlie Latham, Jim Fogarty, Pete Browning, future Players’ League founder Monte Ward, and future White Sox owner Charlie Comiskey. Two other players stole 100 bases before 1900. One of them was Tom Brown. The other, of course, was the original Sliding Billy Hamilton, who did it four times — and that is also a record.

Baseball has changed a lot since the 1980s, of course. In stealing 100 bases, Maury Wills established the primacy of the steal by breaking a record that had lasted even longer than the home run record that Roger Maris smashed the year before. And the speedy shortstop got value from his legs during a decade when offense was down across the major leagues.

Despite the fact that his offensive stats appear slightly worse than Coleman’s — Coleman had a career .320 wOBA, 97 wRC+, and 28 career homers; Wills had a .308 wOBA, 95 wRC+, and 20 career homers — Wills had a much better career, about 30 wins better. That’s partly because of the positional adjustment: Wills was an average defensive shortstop and Coleman was a slightly below-average left fielder. But that’s also because the replacement adjustment since the offensive level in Coleman’s era was a fair bit higher than it was in Wills’ era. Wills played from 1959 to 1972, when the major league average was 4.04 runs a game; Coleman played from 1985 to 1997, when the major league average was 4.52 runs a game.

Indeed, Wills’ career would be a very good outcome for Hamilton. Wills was an average defensive shortstop who managed a 40-WAR career and firm enshrinement in the Hall of the Very Good; he’s also probably the greatest major leaguer to hail from Washington, DC. He didn’t really have any power and didn’t really walk. His only two really remarkable talents were his ability to make contact — he had a career 8.2 percent strikeout rate — and his basestealing ability. Wills’ contact rate is the main thing that separates him from Hamilton, who has struck out in more than 20 percent of his minor league plate appearances.

Coleman’s career is another possible outcome, Mike Newman wrote two weeks ago. Coleman managed around 13 WAR in parts of 13 seasons. The typical Coleman season was above replacement-level but below league-average; he was exciting to watch but no more than “a useful player,” as John Sickels writes, predicting that Coleman’s career is essentially Hamilton’s floor.

Lou Brock and Rickey Henderson are less likely outcomes, unless Hamilton flashes power at the major league level. Brock finished with 149 homers, and he is one of only four members of the 100-800 club of players with 100 homers and 800 steals: Lou Brock, Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines, and Ty Cobb. Brock had an ISO of .118, more than twice the .050 that Wills posted, and Henderson’s ISO was .140. Hamilton’s career minor league ISO is .101, and his ability to keep that up will be strongly related to his ability to turn singles into doubles and doubles into triples at the major league level.

But Wills and Coleman demonstrate that Hamilton could have a long, successful career even if he does no such thing. One thing is for sure: he’s gonna be a whole lot of fun to watch.

Arizona Fall League Breakdown: Mesa Solar Sox.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Tentative rosters for the Arizona Fall League were released on Aug. 29. The fall developmental league is designed to help prospects received extra seasoning and coaching at the conclusion of the minor league season. Each organization contributes players to the six-team league. The league typically shifts in favor of the hitters because teams are generally reluctant to assign top arms to the league – unless they’re attempting to make up for lost innings due to injuries.

The Mesa Solar Sox club consists of players from five organizations – Baltimore, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles NL, and Chicago NL. Below are some interesting names set to appear on the roster. Full rosters can be found here.

Mike Belfiore, LHP, Baltimore: A former supplemental first round draft pick, Belfiore doesn’t have the same stuff he once did but he was a great addition to the organization when Arizona asked for Josh Bell. He pitched well in double-A and held left-handed hitters to a .170 batting average. He could provide same-handed match-ups at the big league level as a loogy or work as a long reliever. Belfiore, 23, is eligible for the Rule 5 draft this off-season so the organization will have to decide if its going to add him to the 40-man roster by the November deadline; his fall performance could help sway the decision.

Nick Castellanos, 3B/OF: Detroit: One of the top prospects on the squad – along with Chicago’s Javier Baez and Houston’s Jonathan Singleton – Castellanos could use the AFL as a spring board to a big-league assignment in 2013. A natural third baseman, Castellanos has seen time in the outfield in 2012 as the big league club tries to find a way to fit his bat into a lineup that already features third baseman Miguel Cabrera. The young prospect probably needs another half season of seasoning in the minors after posting a 96 wRC+ in 72 double-A games after a promotion from high-A ball (186 wRC+).

Chia-Jen Lo, RHP, Houston: After missing most of 2010 trying to avoid the knife and then 2011 following Tommy John surgery, Lo returned to appear in 18 games in ’12. When he’s right, the 26-year-old Taiwan native can hit the mid-90s with his fastball and he flashes a solid curveball. He struck out 19 batters in 17.0 high-A ball innings this season and could jump all the way to triple-A in 2013 if he has a strong AFL. Lo has the ceiling of a high-leverage reliever.

James McCann, C, Detroit: With the recent trade of Rob Brantly to Miami, McCann is now the top catching prospect in the system. He appeared in 45 high-A games and posted a 102 wRC+ and was aggressively pushed to double-A. McCann slumped badly afer the promotion, though, with a wRC+ of just 24. With big league catcher Alex Avila under contract for at least three more seasons, the club can afford to be patient with McCann. He’ll look to jumpstart his bat in the fall.

Jiovanni Miers, SS, Houston: A former first round draft pick who’s fallen on hard times, Mier showed an improved offensive game in 2012 but missed time with an ankle injury. The middle infielder was also playing in the potent California League so it’s hard to know for sure just how “real” his results were. Observers did have some nice things to say about adjustments made at the plate so the Astros organization will look for his success to carry over to the AFL. The jump to double-A could be a big test in 2013.

Yasiel Puig, OF, Los Angeles: The Dodgers organization shocked a lot of people when it handed a contract for more than $40 million to the relatively-unknown Puig. Reportedly 21 years old, the outfielder has appeared in just 21 games this year – nine in Rookie ball and 12 in High-A ball. He’s flashed some massive power and has also handled the strike zone surprisingly well. The AFL will provide some much needed at-bats for the Cuba native and will help the organization decide if he’s ready for the challenge of double-A in 2013.

George Springer, OF, Houston: The Astros’ first pick of the 2011 draft, Springer was known for being exceptionally athletic but raw for a college product thanks to some fairly large holes in his swing. He got off to a strong start, thanks in part to the favorable hitting environments in the California League. He produced a 20-20 season with 101 runs scored and a .316 batting average in 106 games before getting bumped up to double-A. Springer, 22, then suffered a concussion and hit just .191 in his first 15 double-A games. His tour of duty in the AFL will help him continue to smooth out his rough edges and cut down on his massive strikeout rates.

Tony Zych, RHP, Chicago: A solid fourth-round selection during the 2011 draft, Zych reached double-A in his first full pro season. The right-hander flashes heat that sits in the mid-90s but he has yet to develop a consistent slider, which has hampered his overall effectiveness… to a degree. Zych struck out 28 battes in 23.2 double-A innings and also showed an above-average ground-ball rate. If he can improve his command of his secondary pitch and sharpen his overall control, Zych could develop into a high-leverage reliever and could reach the Majors in 2013.

Pedro Alvarez’s Cardinal Destruction.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Cardinals must be glad they won’t be seeing the Pirates again this season. Not because the Pirates were a particular thorn in the Cardinals’ side — the Pirates won the season series 8-7, but the Cardinals have had greater struggles against the Braves (1-5) and, oddly enough, the Phillies (2-5). No, the Cardinals must be glad because they’ve seen the last of Pedro Alvarez, at least until a potential playoff matchup.

Alvarez closed the season series with a home run, a double and three RBI as part of a 2-for-4 night, bringing his line for the series up to 23-for-58 with four doubles, seven home runs and seven walks. All-in-all, Alvarez compiled a .534 wOBA throughout the assault. More importantly, with the Cardinals and Pirates separated by just one game in the standings, Alvarez made the damage count — in just 15 games, Alvarez produced a massive 1.7 WPA.

1.7 WPA over the course of 15 games is a staggering number. Only four times in major league history has a hitter put together a season with a WPA over 10. Three times it was Barry Bonds (+12.9 in 2004, +11.5 in 2001, +10.5 in 2000), the other time it was Willie McCovey (+10.1 in 1969); each time the subject posted both the league’s highest OBP and SLG. Alvarez set a pace of +18.4 WPA per 162 games against St. Louis this season.

Bonds’s 2001 produced a .539 wOBA, his 2004 a .538 mark, both nearly equivalent to what Alvarez did against the Cardinals. But Alvarez also sported an uncanny sense of timing. In eight plate appearances with a leverage index above two, Alvarez went 6-for-7 with two homers, a double and an intentional walk; in 15 plate appearances above 1.5 he went 10-for-14 with three homers, the double and the intentional walk.

The biggest moment — both by WPA and symbolic significance — came as the Pirates exorcised their 19th-inning demons back on August 19th. Alvarez blasted the game-tying home run with one out in the inning.

Given the depths to which Alvarez sunk in 2011 — a .098 ISO out of a man listed at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds; -0.8 WAR — it was fair to wonder if the Pirates would get anything out of their second-overall pick this season. But his resurgence has been one of the key stories to the Pirates’ contention for a Wild Card this year. With a 120 wRC+, Alvarez has started to live up to expectations.

And most importantly, with the Pirates clawing for every possible victory against their closest rivals for a playoff spot, the Cardinals, Alvarez came up big time and time again. His 1.7 WPA (and the resulting -1.7 for St. Louis) is the equivalent of 3.5 games in the standings, and it’s easy to find four games in the season series Alvarez directly swung in the Pirates’ favor. With single games now accounting for between seven and ten percent of playoff probability for Pittsburgh according to CoolStandings, Alvarez’s march of destruction through St. Louis this season effectively turns the Pirates from pretender to contender by itself.

Johnny Cueto For Cy Young.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Yesterday, we rolled out Fielding Dependent Pitching in an effort to provide a more thorough evaluation of pitching and run prevention. Today, I want to talk about how FDP can be used to examine the Cy Young races, and specifically, why it illustrates that Johnny Cueto should be the frontrunner for the NL Cy Young Award.

Let’s just start by looking at the value stats of the top five candidates, side by side.

Name IP WAR RA9-Wins BIP-Wins LOB-Wins FDP-Wins
Clayton Kershaw 186.2 4.7 5.1 1.7 (1.3) 0.4
Johnny Cueto 181.2 4.6 6.4 0.2 1.6 1.8
R.A. Dickey 182.1 4.1 5.1 0.9 0.1 1.0
Matt Cain 182.0 3.5 5.1 1.5 0.1 1.6
Aroldis Chapman 64.0 3.5 3.5 0.4 (0.3) 0.1

You could make a case for some other guys on the periphery, including somewhat shocking entries from guys Kyle Lohse and Wade Miley, but in terms of people I think actually have a chance to win, it’s probably one of these five. Kershaw and Cueto grade out best in terms of WAR, but their lead over Dickey and Cain is slight, and of course both of them are known for being pitchers who outperform their FIP anyway. Chapman’s in the mix because he’s having one of the great relief seasons of all time, but I’m not going to spend too much time talking about him in this post because he doesn’t really have much of a case, given what his own teammate is doing in the rotation. So, really, let’s focus on the four starters.

WAR suggests its a pretty close race, with Kershaw and Cueto out in front. However, we’ve never intended for WAR to be a discussion-ender, with the leaderboards of that one stat being the standard for handing out awards, and there is no question that you should dive deeper into the issue that simply saying “Kershaw has the highest WAR, therefore he’s been the best.” And now, with FDP, we can more easily look at the differences in run prevention that aren’t so clearly the result of the pitcher, and decide how much credit we want to give them for those runs saved.

So, if you re-sort the table above by FDP, you’ll note that Cueto has produced the most extra wins above and beyond his FIP, coming in at +1.6 LOB-wins and +0.2 BIP-wins. Cain and his normal low-BABIP ways add +1.5 BIP-wins and +0.1 Lob-wins, while Dickey’s knuckler gets him +0.9 BIP-wins and +0.1 LOB-wins. With both Cain and Dickey, we have legitimate reasons to believe that their below average BABIPs are a direct result of a skill they possess, and so they likely should be given a large majority of the credit for their FDPs, which would push both of their adjusted WARs up around +5.0 wins.

With Kershaw, the story is more interesting, and forces us to look deeper into the causes of runner stranding. While Kershaw is also likely a lower BABIP guy — high strikeout flyball lefties do well in hit prevention historically — his BIP-wins and LOB-wins nearly offset, and Kershaw’s total FDP is just +0.4. In other words, it’s hard to make a case that Kershaw has performed significantly better than his FIP, even though he has one of the lowest BABIPs in the league.

Cueto, on the other hand, is essentially Kershaw’s equal in wins based on FIP, but has racked up +1.8 FDP-wins, and has done it in the exact opposite way of everyone else we’ve discussed. His +1.6 LOB-wins lead the National League, and suggests that Cueto may deserve more credit than his WAR suggests. But, before we just hand him that extra credit, we’ll want to know how he’s keeping opposing baserunners from scoring. In looking through his splits, the answer doesn’t immediately jump out at you.

Bases Empty: .235/.270/.317, .259 wOBA
Men On Base: .245/.338/.369, .294 wOBA
RISP: .246/.357/.371, .311 wOBA

Unlike with Jordan Zimmerman (#2 in the NL in LOB-wins), Cueto’s performance against hitters has not taken a significant uptick once he allows a baserunner. In fact, he gets quite a bit worse, as his FIP rises from 2.44 with the bases empty up to 4.63 with men in scoring position. And, his BABIPs are essentially even in all three situations, so we can’t explain his stranded runners through the sequencing of hit prevention.

However, there’s one thing that these splits don’t measure, and it happens to be the thing that Johnny Cueto is better at than anyone else in baseball – picking runners off.

Cueto’s pick-off move isn’t the stuff of legends yet, but it probably should be. The list of the top ten pickoffs by a pitcher this year includes nine left-handed pitchers and Johnny Cueto, and despite being right-handed, Cueto’s seven pickoffs are actually only one off the Major League lead (held by Kershaw and Ricky Romero). Cueto’s pick-off move is so good, he actually nailed two Giants in the same inning back in June, and because it’s fun, let’s take a look at those.

Okay, Melky Cabrera was leaning, and any pitcher can catch a guy leaning once in a while, right? Well, look what he does to Buster Posey not five minutes later.

Buster Posey has stolen one base this year. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t trying for one there – Cueto just spun around so quickly he caught Posey off guard and didn’t give him a chance to get back to the bag. And so, despite the fact that the three batters he faced in that inning went single-walk-deep flyball to center field, it was actually a 1-2-3 inning for Cueto, and no one even got into scoring position.

Cueto’s been doing this kind of thing all year long, and it’s gotten to the point where there’s no real point even trying to get much of a lead off first base, much less think about taking second. Opposing baserunners have managed one steal off Cueto all season, matching the same number of stolen bases that he allowed in 2011. In fact, for his career, opposing base stealers are just 14 for 41 against Cueto, an astounding 34% success rate. 28 major league pitchers have allowed more stolen bases this year than Cueto has in his entire career.

How big of a deal can holding runners on actually be? Well, consider a guy like Tim Lincecum, a right-hander with a lousy pickoff move who doesn’t hold runners all that well. Would-be basestealers are a perfect 18-for-18 off of him this year, and surprise surprise, he’s posted -1.2 LOB-wins this year. Not all of that can be attributed to his inability to hold runners, but even if we just take the linear weight value of those steals, that’s 17 extra bases advanced at 0.25 runs apiece, and eight fewer outs made on the bases against him at 0.50 runs apiece, so the gap between Cueto and Lincecum’s value simply on SB/CS is over eight runs, or nearly an entire win. And that presumes that the only value to be had from holding runners is through controlling steals or picking runners off, but it’s certainly possible that batters get better jumps off Lincecum than they do off Cueto, which could influence the frequency of double plays turned or their ability to go first to third on a base hit.

While Cueto’s never stranded runners at this level before, and it’s unlikely that his LOB-wins are entirely the result of his fearsome pickoff move, the reality is that he has demonstrated a real skill at runner stranding, and he’s been above average in LOB-wins every year of his career. Like we acknowledge that Dickey and Cain are likely influencing a decent amount of their hit prevention, we should also acknowledge that Cueto is influencing a large part of his runner stranding, and given that he also leads both of them in FIP, we should give Cueto enough credit for his FDP that he returns to the top of the heap in the Cy Young race once again.

While things can certainly change over the final month of the season, Cueto has established himself as the frontrunner, and should be the guy to beat at this point. His skills as a pitcher — and perhaps the best right-handed pickoff move we’ve seen in a very long time — have elevated him into the top tier of the National League hurlers, and unless Dickey or Cain close with a great final month, the Cy Young Award should end up in Cincinnati. It just belongs to their ace starter, not their ace reliever.

Greatest September Call-Ups.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
We’re only three days from the expansion of major league rosters. On Sept. 1, all players on a team’s 40-man roster will be eligible to play in the big leagues without an accompanying move. Often times, baseball fans are treated to a sneak preview of teams’ top minor league talent as a result of September call-ups; or they’re surprised by a relatively unknown player who manages to contribute over the season’s final month.

In preparation for this year’s roster expansion, I thought it would be interesting to look back at the greatest-ever September call-ups, defined here as players that made their major league debut during the month of September.

There are, of course, two ways to look at this: The first is to look at players — position players and pitchers — who generated the most value for their clubs during their call-up. The second is to look at players whose careers began as a September call-up and then went on to have great careers.

I’m looking at both.
David Appelman was kind enough to pull the for me. For position players, I looked at WAR, but also at wRC+. Why? Any metric can be volatile in a small sample — and a month is pretty small — but defensive metrics tend to be more volatile than others. I didn’t institute a plate-appearance limit for WAR, but I did for wRC+ (40). For pitchers, I looked at FIP- and ERA-.

Let’s first tackle the greatest September performances among position-players, sorted by WAR and then by wRC+:

Player Debut Sept PA Sept wRC+ Sept WAR
Dwayne Hosey 9/1/95 77 171 1.6
Bill Sudakis 9/3/68 102 168 1.4
Chris Parmelee 9/6/11 88 187 1.3
Fernando Perez 9/5/08 72 121 1.2
Craig Wilson 9/5/98 53 228 1.2
Daric Barton 9/10/07 84 183 1.2
Nyjer Morgan 9/1/07 118 107 1.1
J.D. Drew 9/8/98 41 260 1.1
Kevin Seitzer 9/3/86 116 148 1.0
Jim Greengrass 9/9/52 75 159 1.0

Player Debut Sept PA Sept wRC+ Sept WAR
J.D. Drew 9/8/98 41 260 1.1
Craig Wilson 9/5/98 53 228 1.2
Fred Lynn 9/5/74 51 226 0.8
Randy Ready 9/4/83 43 211 0.7
Chris Parmelee 9/6/11 88 187 1.3
Daric Barton 9/10/07 84 183 1.2
Mark Quinn 9/14/99 65 175 0.8
Dwayne Hosey 9/1/95 77 171 1.6
Bob Nieman 9/14/51 47 171 0.6
Ron Cash 9/4/73 46 169 0.8

For overall value, it’s hard to top Dwayne Hosey, who made his debut on Sept. 1, 1995. Hosey created 1.6 Wins Above Replacement for the Boston Red Sox, and he did it in only 77 plate appearances. The 28 year-old outfielder posted a wRC+ of 171 (tied for eighth-best among September call-ups) and posted a .279 ISO and a .408 OBP. After his historic September, Hosey came back to earth and earned a negative WAR (-0.3) in 1996 in 87 plate appearance.

Bill Sudakis was a 22 year-old with the Dodgers in 1968. He rewarded his team with 1.4 WAR. All of Sudakis’ value was tied up in his offense that September, and he posted a 168 wRC+ in 102 plate appearances. Sudakis manned third base for 24 games and had a .195 ISO while he walked more than he struck out (15 walks against 14 strikeouts). Sudakis went on to be the Dodgers’ starting third basemen the next year. He generated 2.6 wAR, but only managed a 95 wRC+. He finished his career with 6.9 WAR and a 101 wRC+.

What about pitchers?

Here’s the top 10 pitchers (minimum of four starts), sorted first by ERA- and then by FIP-:

Player Debut Sept GS Sept G Sept IP Sept ERA- Sept FIP-
Josh Beckett 9/4/01 4 4 24 36 99
Marty Bystrom 9/7/80 5 6 36 41 73
Jack McDowell 9/15/87 4 4 28 43 70
Eric Gagne 9/7/99 5 5 30 49 91
Rich DeLucia 9/8/90 5 5 36 50 79
Steve Busby 9/8/72 5 5 40 51 54
Randy Martz 9/6/80 6 6 30.1 53 100
Dillon Gee 9/7/10 5 5 33 56 109
Pat Combs 9/5/89 6 6 38.2 59 63
Tim Belcher 9/6/87 5 6 34 61 75

Player Debut Sept GS Sept G Sept IP Sept ERA- Sept FIP-
Steve Busby 9/8/72 5 5 40 51 54
Richard Dotson 9/4/79 5 5 24.1 88 58
Pat Combs 9/5/89 6 6 38.2 59 63
Andy Rincon 9/15/80 4 4 31 71 66
Wade Davis 9/6/09 6 6 36.1 87 69
Jack McDowell 9/15/87 4 4 28 43 70
Marty Bystrom 9/7/80 5 6 36 41 73
Bob Knepper 9/10/76 4 4 25 91 73
Ken Forsch 9/7/70 4 4 24 140 73
Tim Belcher 9/6/87 5 6 34 61 75

In four starts in 2001, Josh Beckett posted an adjusted ERA of 36. While the young pitcher struck out more than 24% of the batters he faced, he also walked more than 11%. The high walks didn’t hurt him, though, and he managed to strand 78% of his runners. Opposing hitters only mustered a .183 BABIP against Beckett.

Future Dodgers closer Eric Gagne started five games for Los Angeles in September 1999. Gagne struck out 25.2% of the batters he faced and stranded 86.8% of the batters who reached base. That helped fuel his 2.10 ERA for the month. Gagne spent the next two seasons primarily as a starting pitcher before he was moved to the bullpen full-time.

A few other notable September call-ups include White Sox great Jack McDowell (43 ERA-, 70 FIP-), Tim Belcher (61 ERA-, 75 FIP-) and Steve Busby whose 51 ERA- and 54 FIP- are nearly identical.

Arguably the greatest relief performance from a call-up belongs to Joel Johnston. Johnston debuted on Sept. 5, 1991 and finished the year with a 10 ERA- in 22.1 innings pitched. Johnston stranded 94% of all base runners and struck out almost 25% of batters faced. In his 13 appearances, Johnston recorded six shutdowns and didn’t have a meltdown. Unfortunately for Johnston and the Royals, he’d would fall far short of his 1991 brilliance and posted a 364 FIP- of in five appearances the next year. Johnston had pretty good season in 1993 with the Pirates (82 ERA-, 111 FIP-), but he pitched horribly in only eight more games from 1994 to 1995.

There’s obviously a significant amount of variability when you see how the best September call-ups’ careers panned out. Some went on to have good to great careers (like Drew and Belcher); but many times, some truly great players managed only mediocre September debuts. Here are the top-20 position players (sorted by career WAR) and pitchers (sorted by career FIP-, minimum 1000 innings pitches):

Player Debut Sept PA Sept wRC+ Sept WAR Career PA Career wRC+ Career WAR
Mike Schmidt 9/12/72 40 84 0.2 10062 146 110.5
Joe Morgan 9/21/63 30 118 0.0 11329 141 108.0
Brooks Robinson 9/17/55 22 -55 -0.5 11782 105 94.6
Chipper Jones 9/11/93 4 353 0.1 10489 143 90.8
Carlton Fisk 9/18/69 5 -100 -0.1 9853 118 74.4
Lou Whitaker 9/9/77 37 64 -0.3 9967 117 74.3
Rafael Palmeiro 9/8/86 78 89 0.0 12046 130 74.3
Ernie Banks 9/17/53 39 141 0.6 10395 117 74.1
Gary Carter 9/16/74 29 186 0.5 9019 114 72.5
Reggie Smith 9/18/66 27 -14 -0.2 8050 136 71.8
Jim Thome 9/4/91 104 80 0.0 10277 144 71.8
Graig Nettles 9/6/67 3 189 0.0 10226 111 71.8
Dwight Evans 9/16/72 64 120 0.3 10569 129 71.4
Willie Stargell 9/16/62 34 99 0.1 9026 145 70.9
Tim Raines 9/11/79 -100 0.0 10359 134 70.9
Joe Torre 9/25/60 2 191 0.0 8801 129 70.8
Edgar Martinez 9/12/87 46 159 0.3 8672 148 69.9
Manny Ramirez 9/2/93 55 30 -0.6 9774 152 69.6
Alan Trammell 9/9/77 48 22 -0.6 9375 111 69.5
**** Allen 9/3/63 25 106 0.1 7314 156 67.9

Player Debut Sept GS Sept G Sept IP Sept ERA- Sept FIP- Career IP Career ERA- Career FIP-
Pedro Martinez 9/24/92 1 2 8 67 34 2827.1 67 67
Lee Smith 9/1/80 18 21.2 74 79 1289.1 76 73
Roy Halladay 9/20/98 2 2 14 41 78 2649.1 73 75
Kevin Brown 9/30/86 1 1 5 85 28 3256.1 78 79
Adam Wainwright 9/11/05 2 2 325 265 1025.2 76 81
Sam McDowell 9/15/61 1 1 6.1 84 2492.1 89 83
Rollie Fingers 9/15/68 1 1.1 939 573 1701.1 83 83
Len Barker 9/14/76 2 2 15 69 94 1323.2 108 84
Tom Gordon 9/8/88 2 5 15.2 130 68 2108 88 84
Nolan Ryan 9/11/66 1 2 3 420 168 5386 90 84
Cliff Lee 9/15/02 2 2 10.1 39 95 1789.2 85 85
Alejandro Pena 9/14/81 14 25.1 84 115 1057.2 85 85
Gary Lavelle 9/10/74 10 16.2 57 99 1085 80 86
Ubaldo Jimenez 9/26/06 1 2 7.2 72 106 1059.2 91 86
Lindy McDaniel 9/2/55 2 4 19 116 133 2139.1 92 86
Tom Bradley 9/9/69 3 2 772 196 1017.2 104 86
Ron Reed 9/26/66 2 2 8.1 59 116 2477.2 93 87
Fergie Jenkins 9/10/65 7 12.1 62 103 4500.2 87 87
Bob Moose 9/19/67 2 2 14.2 110 108 1304.1 100 87
John Hiller 9/6/65 5 6 45 1242 75 88

The lists are packed with all-time greats.

Mike Schmidt is arguably the greatest position player to make his debut during September. Schmidt finished his career with 110.5 WAR and 146 wRC+. Manny Ramirez, one of the greatest hitters ever, posted a meager 30 wRC+ in 55 plate appearances in 1993. Until 2011, that was the last time Ramirez posted a wRC+ below 120.

Pedro Martinez, he of the identical career ERA- and FIP-, threw eight innings in September 1992. It was only eight innings, but those eight innings gave fans a preview of the Martinez who’d dominate the league in the next 13 years (25%+ strikeout rate, one walk).

Oddly enough, none of the pitchers on this list started more than two games during their September call-up. Lee Smith and Alejandro Pena appeared in the most games (18 and 14, respectively) on their way to excellent carrer FIP- numbers (73 and 85).

Fans can expect to see sneak previews of some of the best players during the coming month, but they also have a good chance to see a few players have truly remarkable runs. Players that may not contribute much outside of one spectacular September. And that’s just one of the things that makes baseball in September so much fun.

post #7816 of 73413
Thread Starter 
Padres Improving But Many Fans Can’t Watch On TV.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Yesterday Jeff Sullivan wrote about the San Diego Padres. If you haven’t read Jeff’s post, go read it now. I’ll wait. Okay, so now you know that since June 10, the Padres have a record of 41-30 and have outscored their opponents by 32 runs. But that’s not all. The Padres are 9-1 in their last 10 games, 13-7 in their last 20, and 18-12 in their last 30. They are outplaying everyone in the National League West other than the division-leading Giants.

The Padres also have new owners. The second and third generation of the O’Malley family — who owned the Dodgers from 1950 until 1998 — now own the Padres, along with San Diego businessman Ron Fowler and a group of minority investors. Fowler has been designated as the team’s control person, but Peter O’Malley and his sons and nephews, with their longstanding baseball pedigree, will be key to the Padres’ efforts to re-energize the team and the fan base.

It won’t be easy.

The new owners take charge of a Padres team whose games cannot be viewed by more than 40 percent of fans in the San Diego area. The problem stems from the creation of Fox Sports San Diego, a new regional sports network launched in March. The Padres signed a 20-year TV broadcast deal with FSSD before the 2012 season. The contract is valued in the range of $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion, putting average annual payments to the Padres in the $50 million to $75 million range. It is believed that the initial payment for 2012 was closer to $30 million. The Padres also received a 20% equity share in FSSD.

But FSSD has spent the season in a stalemate with several cable and satellite service providers in the San Diego area. FSSD netted deals with Cox Cable and DirecTV, reportedly for $5 per subscriber. Time Warner Cable, AT&T U-verse, and DISH Network wouldn’t agree to that fee, leaving subscribers to those services in the San Diego area without access to Padres games in their homes. According to a report from the Associated Press in July, these sorts of disputes between program providers and cable and satellite providers are becoming much more commonplace, as each sides seeks to squeeze out additional marginal profits in an otherwise stagnant industry.

The Padres reportedly have left the negotiating to FSSD but the failure to reach deals with the hold-out cable and satellite providers for next season and beyond will hurt the Padres in the pocketbook. The 20-year deal is believed to contain escalators, so that higher viewership results in higher payments from FSSD to the Padres.

And the Padres will need every penny if they are to regain competitiveness in the National League West. The Dodgers, of course, also have new owners, who seem hell bent on spending whatever it takes to win a World Series. Much of that financial bravado comes from the new TV deal the Dodgers are expected to enter into after this season. The Dodgers’ current deal with Fox Sports expires at the end of the 2013 season, but the two sides will begin formal negotiations on a new contract after October 15. A new 20-year deal is likely to be worth between $3 billion and $4 billion, outpacing the $3 billion deal the Angels entered into with Fox Sports last fall. The Diamondback’s current TV contract expires in 2015.

The Padres, like the other 29 teams, also will benefit from the new deal between Major League Baseball and ESPN. On Tuesday, the league announced a new 8-year contract with ESPN worth $5.6 billion. ESPN will pay MLB approximately $700 million per year for the right to broadcast Sunday Night Baseball exclusively, in addition to non-exclusive rights to Monday Night Baseball, Wednesday Night Baseball, and highlights for Baseball Tonight. ESPN also will have the right to broadcast one wild card playoff game, alternating each year between the American League and National League.

The math is pretty simple. MLB equally divides the revenue it receives on its national TV contracts among the 30 teams. The Padres and every other team can expect an additional $23 million in national TV revenue from new ESPN deal. So while the Dodgers will be in a position to sign any free agent they want for the foreseeable future, the Padres should have some additional financial flexibility to lock up their young players before they become free agents.

With the outlook improving for the Padres, now’s the time for the team and its broadcast partner, FSSD, to make sure most Padres fans in the San Diego area can watch the team on TV next season.

The Tigers’ Royal Choke Job.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Tigers’ projected domination of the 2012 American League Central never quite came off. However, after a disappointing first couple of months that saw them below .500, the Tigers have been winning ever since. They were looking forward to this weekend’s showdown at home in Detroit with the division-leading White Sox. Detroit was only two games back.. All they had to do was get through the three-game series with the Royals in Kansas City in order to set themselves up. Sure, Anibel Sanchez had been mostly terrible since coming to the Tigers, and Rick Porcello was having yet another disappointing season (at least in terms of ERA), but they were matched up against Bruce Chen and Jeremy Guthrie, respectively. No way the Tigers offense doesn’t light those guys up, right? If that wasn’t enough, Justin Verlander was matched up against Luis Mendoza.

According to Cool Standings’ “Smart” standings, going into the series in KC the Tigers had a 32 percent chance of winning the division and 61.4 percent chance of making the playoffs. A series win in KC would set them up nicely going into the weekend and for a shot at the playoffs generally. Things didn’t exactly work out that way. The Tigers got swept. As of today, the “smart” standings have Detroit down to a 40 percent chance of making the playoffs. What?

One could point out that the Royals are only one “spot” behind the Tigers in the division and that Kansas City has the second-best August record in the American League as of today. Those are poor “excuses,” though. Even after the sweep, the Royals are ten games behind the Tigers, and are in third mostly by default due to the horrible-ness of the Twins and Cleveland’s epic collapse. As for the Royals’ August record, I only mention it because if I don’t, someone will. One good month does not demonstrate anything special about a team’s true talent level that one should take as predictive over the full season.

The Royals being a bad team and the Tigers being a good team does not mean that Detroit should win every game or series, or that they were “looking past” the Royals. This is not meant as some sort of moralizing “dressing down.” It simply was an ugly way to get to this weekend’s big series, and was somewhat punctuated by the way the Tigers lost in close games one would have expected them to have won.

Tuesday’s game was probably the strangest of the three relative to expectations. Verlander versus Mendoza was not a promising matchup for the Royals, with Verlander looking every bit as dominant in 2012 as he did last year and Royals’ starter Luis Mendoza having a much better year than might have been expected — almost mediocre (4.51 ERA after the game). Mendoza started the game about like one would expect — by getting knocked around by the Tigers for three runs, capped by a two-run shot from Delmon Young.

It looked like things would get ugly quickly for the Royals, but after striking out the first two batters he faced, Verlander have up a double, a single, a double, and a single and the Royals tied the game. Things got even weirder when Verlander took the mound again the bottom of the second, and the Royals strung together a series of hits that scored four more runs, and suddently it was a 7-3 game with Verlander on the hook for seven runs. Verlander ended up going over five innings and giving up eight runs.

Despite a mess of a start from Verlander, it was still Luis Mendoza the Tigers were facing, and they managed to knock him out after five innings and six runs, and added two more off of the Royals’ (usually tough) bullpen to tie the game. However, lefty Phil Coke gave up a double to Mike Moustakas (who has a career 68 wRC+ versus southpaws).

The Tigers still had a chance to win it, and almost did in the bottom of the ninth. With two outs and runners on the corners, Delmon Young had a monster WPA play with a home run… almost. It was hard to tell, but it was foul. A wild end to a bizarre game, and the Tigers’ playoff probability dropped to 56 percent.

The next two games did not the same back-and-forth run scoring, but held their own intrigues. Wednesday’s game featured Anibel Sanchez coming off of his first good start for the Tigers, having shut down the Blue Jays just the week before. Sanchez only struck out one Royal in seven innings, but did not walk any, either. He only have up one run on an eric Hosmer single.

The problem was that the Tigers got shut out by eight innings of Bruce Chen and one innings of Greg Holland. Holland is a good reliever, but legends aside, Bruce Chen is back to his ol’ gopher-balling self in 2012 — mostly. Not Wednesday night. Given that the Tigers are tilt to the right side and are a power hitting team, one would have given them a good chance of hitting one out against the left-handed, soft-tossing fly ball pitcher. Nope. The Tigers playoff odds dropped under 46 percent.

Last night’s game was a chance for the Tigers to at least get one back, as the White Sox lost to the Orioles. Rick Porcello was taking the mound, and while his ERA is nothing special this year, his FIP and xFIP indicated improvement. Moreover, Detroit was going up against Jeremy Guthrie, who, despite pitching pretty well since coming over to the Royals in the Jonathan Sanchez trade, is basically a right-handed Bruce Chen.

Well, hey, the Tigers couldn’t hit the left-handed version, why should we expect them to hit the right-handed clone? They did hit against Guthrie, actually: 10 hits and only three strikeouts over seven innings. Yet they produced only one run against Guthrie before getting shut down by the Royals bullpen. This should not be put at Porcello’s feet: yes, he did give up two runs, including Alex Gordon‘s decisive solo homer (Sonic Slam!) in the sixth. But the Tigers offense simply could not capitalize on their opportunities, and fittingly ended the game on a Miguel Cabrera double play (thought it must be said that Alcides Escobar made an crazy play to finish the Tigers off). That brought the Tigers’ playoff probability to its current 40 percent chance.

Using a word like “Choke” in the title is admittedly attention-grabbing, but probably unfair. Good teams lose, and get swept by, bad teams in a regular basis. Moreover, the Tigers lost three one-run games in a row. There is not reason to think that Justin Verlander is a bad pitcher because of one bad start. Detroit fans should not worry about the offense because it got shut town by Bruce Chen and Jeremy Guthrie. These things happen.

This is not a moralizing post about how the Tigers were “distracted” by their big series against the White Sox this weekend or anything like that. However, their goal for the season is the playoffs. If they sweep the White Sox, they can tie the division. Moreover, there are still games after that, and, of course, there are two wildcard spots. However, Detroit is currently not in line for one of them — the As, Orioles, and Rays are all ahead of them. That makes this series even bigger, as a division title may well offer the Tigers the best way into the post-season.

Playoff probability depends on projections, with all of the uncertainty that implies. But even on a more optimistic projection, the Tigers’ chances for the playoffs are much worse today then they were Tuesday morning, making the Chicago series that much “bigger.” However, if the Tigers fail to make the playoffs, it may be these three one-run losses to the Royals, rather than this weekend’s series with the White Sox, that the team looks back on with regret.

Mark Trumbo’s Month as Somebody Awful.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Over the past month or so, who’s been the worst regular or semi-regular hitter in baseball? I’m actually asking you, because I don’t have the answer. I could look it up really easily but wouldn’t you know it, I haven’t looked it up. Huh. The answer might be Mark Trumbo. If the answer isn’t Mark Trumbo, then Mark Trumbo is probably close to being the answer, because over the past month or so, Mark Trumbo has just been terrible.

If you look at Trumbo’s game log, you might think that he showed signs of snapping out of this Thursday night. Against Jon Lester and the Red Sox, he finished 2-for-4 with an RBI. But one of those hits was a weak groundball single, the other hit was just a regular single, Trumbo struck out once, and Trumbo swung and missed several times. Also this was just one game. I don’t know what it’s going to look like if and when Trumbo returns to being something like himself, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we couldn’t recognize it at the time.

It’s a really bad slump that Trumbo has been in. You could simply take my word for it, because I wouldn’t lie about something like this on the front page of FanGraphs, but I’ll go into some detail anyway, just in case you were unaware of the slump or unaware of the magnitude. It wasn’t that long ago that Trumbo looked like an out-of-nowhere superstar slugger. His overall numbers are still terrific, but looking at the overall numbers ignores a trend and, as humans, we really like trends.

August Mark Trumbo has batted 113 times. That’s the second-most plate appearances he’s had in any month this season, and that’s a really meaningless fact that adds nothing to this article. He’s hit safely 21 times, and homered three times. He’s walked six times, and struck out 41 times. Put it all together and you get a .257 OBP and a .288 slugging percentage. The Orioles’ 2012 winning percentage is higher than Mark Trumbo’s August OPS.

And Mark Trumbo’s August BABIP is .295. To put it another way, Trumbo’s August BABIP is not weird. A lot of times, we can look at slumps and identify a correlation with reduced BABIP, and while that doesn’t necessarily mean the hitter will be fine, it means he’s probably had a lot of bad luck. Luck hasn’t really been Trumbo’s problem. Strikeouts have been Trumbo’s problem, and while strikeouts have been Trumbo’s problem before, they’ve never been a problem to such an extent.

36 percent of the time. That’s how often Trumbo has struck out in August. Before this August, his previous high strikeout rate in a month was 28 percent, then 26 percent. His career rate is 23 percent. And what we find behind the significantly elevated strikeout rate is a significantly reduced contact rate. That’s what we’d expect, but it isn’t always a given. Trumbo’s entire major-league career as a regular:

April 2011: 72% contact
May 2011: 76%
June 2011: 81%
July 2011: 77%
August 2011: 82%
September 2011: 73%
April 2012: 75%
May 2012: 73%
June 2012: 76%
July 2012: 76%
August 2012: 63%

Trumbo hasn’t posted the league’s lowest contact rate this month, but he almost has, and he’s posted easily the lowest monthly contact rate of his career. He’s made limited contact on pitches out of the zone, and he’s made limited contact on pitches within the zone. Nearly two out of every five swings Trumbo has attempted in August have missed the baseball completely, and one of the goals of hitting is to not do that.

Identifying the slump is the easy part. Finding the cause and developing an outlook are the harder parts. With any streak, good or bad, we have to wonder whether it’s sustainable, and we can never know for sure. Is Trumbo just fine? There is some probability that the answer is yes. Is Trumbo screwed forever? There is some probability that the answer is yes. Let us now engage in speculation and guesswork.

A guy who’s well aware of Mark Trumbo’s slump is Mark Trumbo. We can see it on TV but he’s lived it in real life! Perhaps something might be wrong with Trumbo’s swing? He doesn’t think so:

Trumbo, still leading the team with 29 homers while adding 73 RBIs and a .911 OPS, has watched intensive video of his swing recently and “everything has checked out,” he said.

Trumbo did mess around with an adjustment, though. From very recently:

Trumbo considered the source and heeded some of that advice over the weekend, modifying the ‘toe-tap’ timing mechanism he used to start his swing in favor of a leg kick that he used in the past.

The advice came from teammate Albert Pujols.

Here’s Trumbo on August 23:

Here’s Trumbo on August 28:

Here’s Trumbo on August 30:

So much for that adjustment, probably. Mark Trumbo listened to Albert Pujols just long enough for Pujols to not feel like he was being ignored. Clubhouse egos must remain in a delicate balance.

There is one thing. The correlation is almost too perfect. In pre-game batting practice on July 29, Trumbo injured himself. It was reported as both a dislocated rib and as a muscle spasm. Trumbo played anyway that day, and then took the next day off. He was back in action on July 31. Before July 29, Trumbo wasn’t slumping. After July 29, Trumbo was slumping something terrible.

Let’s treat July 29 as a possible watershed, just for the hell of it. Let’s look at Trumbo’s most recent 15 games up to that point, and at the next 15 games after. The splits are astonishing.

15 games before: .941 OPS
15 games after: .538 OPS

15 games before: 21% strikeouts
15 games after: 36% strikeouts

15 games before: 76% contact
15 games after: 56% contact

We can’t prove that things changed on July 29, but it works if we want it to. The problem is that Trumbo doesn’t want to just easily explain this away:

His previous rib-cage issue, Trumbo continues to say, is not an issue.

“There’s no excuses,” he said. “I’m letting loose, just not getting it done.”

Maybe Trumbo’s still feeling some discomfort and isn’t admitting to it in the heat of a playoff race. Mariners fans went through something similar to that with Justin Smoak in 2011, only without the playoff race part. Smoak played through injured thumbs and didn’t hit a lick, while refusing to admit that his thumbs were bothering him. Months later, Smoak and the team admitted that his thumbs were bothering him. Of course, Smoak is still terrible, so.

Maybe Trumbo’s still sore. Maybe Trumbo isn’t sore anymore, but maybe he’s fighting through mechanical inefficiencies initially developed to compensate for soreness. Maybe Trumbo’s slump has nothing to do with his injury at all. Just because it fits doesn’t mean it’s the only thing that could fit. Most realistically, it’s probably even a big ol’ combination of things currently at play.

The most important thing is that Mark Trumbo is slumping. In the first half of August, he struck out 35 percent of the time, and in the second half of August so far, he’s struck out 38 percent of the time. Trumbo might know in his heart what’s going on, or maybe he doesn’t. He’s showing few visible or statistical signs of progress. I don’t think you can blame this on pitchers taking advantage of Trumbo’s exploitable plate discipline because it all happened so suddenly, but whatever the case, there’s not much reason now to believe this’ll be resolved in the near future. Trumbo might need some rest, or he might need a few weeks or months of making adjustments. Or he could be just fine and awesome again beginning today, because sometimes baseball does that for no reason. I wouldn’t expect it, but lots of things happen that I didn’t expect. Like Mark Trumbo beginning this slump all of a sudden in the first place.

Adam Greenberg’s “One At Bat”.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Over the last week or so, several people have hit me up on Twitter asking me to help promote, a social campaign to get the Chicago Cubs to sign Adam Greenberg and give him a chance to hit in the big leagues in September. The story is certainly moving. You may remember that Greenberg got hit in the head on the first pitch of his Major League career, but may not know that it effectively ended his shot at a big league career.

Since the 2005 season, Greenberg has bounced around between a few different Double-A clubs and more recently independent league baseball, and now 30-years-old, he’s not likely to have any kind of career rebirth that leads to a sustained chance with a Major League team. So, Matt Liston has decided to use social pressure and the promise of good PR to try and get the Cubs to give Greenberg the at-bat they tried to give him back in 2005, before Valerio de los Santos‘ wild pitch turned a dream into a nightmare.

It’s a pretty fascinating social experiment. Greenberg’s not the first guy to have his big league dreams cut short due to something beyond their control, and he’s certainly not the only guy playing in independent ball who would love to get an at-bat in the big leagues just so he can say he finally got to experience what it was like. If Major League teams operated like Extreme Makeover: Baseball Edition, granting wishes to those with touching backstories, we’d have a never-ending parade of at-bats being handed out because “it’s the right thing to do.” From a pandora’s box point of view, I can understand a team’s reticence to open up a spot on the 40 man roster and go through all the machinations involved with adding a new player in order to give Greenberg his chance at redemption.

That said, I’m still hoping the Cubs play along. If there’s room on a big league roster for Roger Clemens simply because he wants to delay his HOF eligibility in hopes of increasing his chances of getting inducted later on — and let’s call a spade and spade and note that this is likely the motivation behind his “comeback” — then we should all admit that a roster spot for one game in September for a team out of the playoff race isn’t so sacrosanct that it can’t be spared for Greenberg.

The schedule actually works out perfectly as well, as the Cubs close the season at home against the Astros. There will be no questions of whether giving Greenberg an at-at in a Houston-Chicago match-up in game 162 is influencing a playoff race, or endangering the legitimacy of an outcome that anyone cares about. Let Greenberg lead-off the game and get a standing ovation, and with any luck, he’ll even get a chance to run the bases. It’d be a good story. It’d be fun to watch. I hope it happens.

post #7817 of 73413
One month left in the season. Who are the leaders for MVP and CY in both leagues? In your opinion.

NL MVP: Posey
NL CY: Cueto

AL MVP: Trout
AL CY: Hernandez
What's 1.21 gigawatts to a McFly like me. Can you please remind me?
What's 1.21 gigawatts to a McFly like me. Can you please remind me?
post #7818 of 73413


Don't expect a sweep...just want them to win the series.
post #7819 of 73413
since the all-star break, if this lead stands the Reds will have won more games at Minute Maid than the Astros.
post #7820 of 73413
the Cardinals have scored 1 run in their last 4 games.
post #7821 of 73413
Originally Posted by RaWEx5 View Post

One month left in the season. Who are the leaders for MVP and CY in both leagues? In your opinion.
NL MVP: Posey
NL CY: Cueto
AL MVP: Trout
AL CY: Hernandez
AL MVP: I really want to give it to Josh based on his early season start and now he's starting to rake again, but based on the numbers it has to be Trout.
Trout, Miggy, Josh, Cano, Austin Jackson.
AL Cy Young: Felix, Price, Verlander, Sale. Hoping for a late push from David Price to steal the AL CY.
NL MVP: I'd like to give the award to Cutch if I could.
Cutch, Braun, Wright, Posey, Bourn.
NL Cy Young: Cueto, Kershaw, Stras. Gio and Miley severely underrated.
post #7822 of 73413
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by JJs07 View Post

Don't expect a sweep...just want them to win the series.

I have not been that upset at a Yankee game in a loooooooooooooooooong time.

AL MVP - Trout
Cano, Miggy, Beltre and Reddick. Sorry man, Hamilton just disappeared for wayyyyyyyyy too long for me to put him up there now.
AL Cy - Felix, Verlander, Sale, Price, Peavy. Hoping they all falter and CC goes on a Milwaukee-esque run laugh.gif
NL MVP - So close between Braun, Cutch, Posey, Wright and Holliday. September will decide that.
NL Cy - Kershaw, Cueto, Stras, Gio, Dickey with Miley close, Wainwright coming on REALLY strong and Cain/MadBum still around.
AL ROY - Trout
NL ROY - Miley, Frazier and Fiers.
AL MOY - Buck
Girardi and Melvin.
NL MOY - Hurdle. No one else laugh.gif
post #7823 of 73413
When the Giants lose so do the Dodgers
post #7824 of 73413
Thread Starter 
Dodgers are ******g up.

BTW AZ,I busted open that Dewars today and it's about halfway done laugh.gif
post #7825 of 73413
I have Trout winning the AL MVP, ROY, and Cy Young just cuz.

And I might throw some votes his way for NL MVP if I'm feelin tingly
post #7826 of 73413
Mike Trout is the best player in baseball. He's the AL MVP in a landslide. You shouldn't even mention anyone else. mean.giflaugh.gif
post #7827 of 73413
I'm an Angels fan, but if we don't even make the playoffs. Don't think Trout should be the MVP. Probably Josh. Just trying to be fair and unbiased, lol
post #7828 of 73413
Originally Posted by Nowitness41Dirk View Post

Mike Trout is the best player in baseball. He's the AL MVP in a landslide. You shouldn't even mention anyone else. mean.giflaugh.gif

It's funny how good he is right now. I've had arguments, keep in mind, in our cups, that he's the greatest player of all time. laugh.gif

Good times. laugh.gif
What's 1.21 gigawatts to a McFly like me. Can you please remind me?
What's 1.21 gigawatts to a McFly like me. Can you please remind me?
post #7829 of 73413
Profar will make his debut today.
post #7830 of 73413
Originally Posted by Kevin Cleveland View Post

Profar will make his debut today.
pimp.gif Moment I've been waiting for. Will probably just spell Andrus and Kinsler for rest, but still valuable experience in the majors to setup for next season.
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