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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 327

post #9781 of 73438
Originally Posted by Mr Marcus View Post

can I join a fantasy league nerd.gif

and who's getting mlb tv this year?? nthat.gif

ima drop the $130..can access it through my computer, ps3, and gusta....I had it last year but I don't think it would let you link it to your ps3 (was separate)

is $130 the going price? i'll need to sign up for this as well too i think
Boston Bruins | New England Patriots | Boston Red Sox | Georgetown Hoyas | Michigan Wolverines |
Arsenal FC | Huevos Rancheros Hockey | USMNT
Boston Bruins | New England Patriots | Boston Red Sox | Georgetown Hoyas | Michigan Wolverines |
Arsenal FC | Huevos Rancheros Hockey | USMNT
post #9782 of 73438
I've split it with a couple other people the past couple years pimp.gif
post #9783 of 73438
MLB.TV is the best.
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 #9784 of 73438
I think the MLB AT-BAT app was the top selling sports app in 2012.
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 #9785 of 73438
Yea it's $130 for the ultimate package...and yea the at bat app is so should take notes
post #9786 of 73438
Originally Posted by dland24 View Post

Kev sign up for the fantasy league already. Sheesh.
I guess my invite got lost in the mail.
post #9787 of 73438
Im down for a fantasy league if someone makes one. I cane in 2nd in the 2007 league and never got invited again laugh.gifmean.gif
post #9788 of 73438
Count me in for a fantasy baseball league.

Really wanna be in a competitve one as I wanna watch alot of baseball this year
post #9789 of 73438

I'm a yankees fan but i know the blue jays are going to be good. They basically robbed the marlins good players, I just feel bad for the Miami fan base they had so much hope last year.

post #9790 of 73438
Blue Jays look good on Paper. I'm rooting for them and Baltimore in the AL East
post #9791 of 73438
Blue Jays got a nice team on paper and looking like a nice shift in power in AL East
post #9792 of 73438
Originally Posted by ognikehead85 View Post

Blue Jays got a nice team on paper and looking like a nice shift in power in AL East

It'll be a nice change of pace if Toronto can head the division, but I don't know how long I'd expect it to last. Baltimore on the other hand....pimp.gif
post #9793 of 73438
AL East will be very interesting.

Blue Jays on paper look primed for a division title.

Baltimore fell just short of a division title with basically a grit and grind roster. Can they repeat last year's magic?

Tampa Bay has been really good the last 5 years and have good young talent. I think they'll finish top two this season.

New York is old, really old. But they're experienced and have only missed the playoffs once since 1995. This could be the 2nd time since then. But I wouldn't count them out.

Boston...mean.gif the only interesting thing about this team is that their sellout streak is going to end this year. Horrible product last year and probably going to repeat that again this year. I think we all knew the FO was a mess the moment Francona was canned and they showed it by hiring Valentine. And for the first time in sports history a front office fired the players instead of the manager, only to fire the manager later laugh.gif
post #9794 of 73438
Thread Starter 
If Baltimore finishes over .500, I'll be stunned.
post #9795 of 73438
Thread Starter 
The stats I can't live without. Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Having a player's WAR (wins above replacement), even if you know which version of WAR it is, is not in and of itself terribly useful unless you know the breakdown of the numbers that went into it.

WAR is just the end of a process of normalizing different areas of a player's game -- for a hitter, that's offense, defense, and baserunning, with an adjustment for the offensive standards of his position -- so they can be added together into a single number.

Any system of valuing production should distill a player's contributions into a number that represents runs added/saved if it's a positive contribution and runs cost if it's a negative one. If you just have a player's WAR, you have no idea how he contributed to his team's success or lack thereof, and you can't assess the figure's reliability because you don't know how much came from, say, offense, which is one of the easiest things to measure accurately, and how much from defense, which is one of the hardest.

And because players create value in different ways, it affects the way we evaluate them. For example, I'm a little less confident in Michael Bourn holding his value going forward because so much of his WAR over the last few years came from his legs -- great defense and value added on the bases. Not only are the defensive metrics a little less precise than the offensive ones (although they are a huge improvement over what we had 10 years ago), but having the breakdown allows us to see how much Bourn depends on his speed to be a valuable player. If his legs go with age, or he suffers one or more significant leg injuries, his value will drop quickly. If his value largely came from his bat, we might have other concerns, but not the same one about his speed.

Unless you're comparing two players whose WAR figures were so far apart that there is no question who was the more valuable player -- say, Mike Trout versus Miguel Cabrera last year -- having WAR by itself is nothing but a starting point without an end.

With that in mind, here's a glance at a few of the stats I always use when I pull up a player's stat page on FanGraphs or Baseball-Reference to at least get me started in thinking about the player's value:

wOBA (weighted on-base average)

This is the best single metric I've seen so far for measuring a hitter's production on a rate basis. That is, it tells you how productive the hitter was when he played, but doesn't address how much he played and thus is missing one component required to tell you exactly how much value he contributed.

Since I'm more often concerned with looking forward than with assessing past value, I spend far more time looking at rate stats than at cumulative stats. wOBA takes the seven ways a batter can reach base safely for which he should receive some credit -- singles, doubles, triples, homers, unintentional walks, times hit by pitch and times reaching on error -- weights each of them relative to their run-producing value and divides it by plate appearances. The weights produce a ratio that usually sits in the .300-.450 range, making it similar to the scale for OBP and thus a little familiar to our eyes. If you want one number to tell you how good a hitter was, this is my choice.

OBP and slugging

The two best basic indicators of what a hitter did -- incomplete, to be sure, but a solid starting point. OBP tells us how often the hitter reached base; the converse of this, 1 minus OBP, tells us how often he made an out. A hitter with a .300 OBP made an out in 70 percent of his plate appearances, which is not a desirable trait in anyone but a pitcher.

Slugging percentage, and its sibling isolated power (SLG minus AVG), give a quick and familiar measure of power production. Slugging is flawed because it weights each base achieved equally; the hardest base to reach is first, and the difference between a double and a triple is usually in the hitter's speed rather than its ability to advance runners already on base. Despite that, slugging, like OBP, is a good starting point for further analysis.

But for the love of Pythagoras, please don't add the two things together and pretend the result means anything. It is a massive mathfail, something the Millennium Bridge engineers might understand. You have two fractions with different denominators -- OBP gives us a rate per plate appearance, while slugging gives us a rate per at-bat -- so you can't simply add the two without accounting for that.

OPS, the fauxbermetric stat that results from a straight addition of the two, ignores the difference in value between the two -- a point of extra OBP is worth a lot more to a team's run-scoring potential than a point of slugging.

Consider two players with an .800 OPS: One has a .350 OBP and a .450 slugging, and one has a .400 OBP and a .400 slugging. The second player is clearly more valuable: He makes fewer outs than the first player, and the number of additional times he's on base exceeds the number of extra bases added by the first player. OPS wouldn't tell you that, but wOBA would.

Moving from wOBA to OBP and slugging helps you further understand what made a player valuable or not valuable, without losing sight of just how good he was overall relative to his peers or forcing you to connect two pieces that just don't fit together.

Strikeout and walk percentage

There are two things a pitcher can do on his own that he can "control," in the vernacular of baseball analytics -- he can strike a guy out, and he can walk him. As the famous sabermetrician Captain Obvious once said, you want pitchers who do a lot of the former and not much of the latter.

These ratios are not subject to the noise present in pitcher stats that incorporate hit rates, balls in play or even home run rates -- those data are important, too, but they require further interpretation, including park effects and adjustments for defensive help, bullpen help or harm, and just plain old randomness. If a pitcher can miss bats, it'll show up in his strikeout rate -- and if a plus slider isn't missing bats, maybe it's not plus after all.

If a pitcher has plus control, he shouldn't walk guys. If he walks too many guys, it may be control, or it may be mechanical, or it may be approach, but whatever the reason, it is, to use the technical term, no bueno. As an aside, I always prefer to remove intentional walks from pitching ratios, since they're a manager's decision, not a reflection of pitcher skill.

It's more instructive to use strikeout and walk percentage -- as opposed to strikeouts and walks per nine innings -- because some pitchers face more batters per inning than other pitchers, which means they get more chances to strike out or walk them.

Ground ball percentage

Again, it's best expressed as a ratio of the total, in this case of all balls put into play if possible, although we often make do with field outs (ground ball/fly ball ratio) as a proxy. A pitcher's ability to keep the ball on the ground indicates two things -- that he might not be homer-prone (assuming he doesn't have a below-average fastball or a nasty habit of hanging curveballs) and that he might be able to generate double plays.

A ground ball in play is slightly more likely than a fly ball in play to become a hit, but less likely to go for extra bases; as you might imagine, a line drive put into play is the most likely type of batted ball to end up as a hit, but line drive rates don't appear to be within most pitchers' control and the data is rife with classification problems. Ground ball data is more reliable, and can help answer the question of whether that sinker actually sinks in meaningful terms.


Batting average on balls in play is simply the rate at which a pitcher allowed a hit on balls put into play -- so we're deleting strikeouts, walks and typically home runs (although I think it's fair to ask whether HR should always be removed here), and just looking at balls that entered the field of play and whether they became hits or not.

The central conceit is that pitchers have little or no control over this rate, given a large enough sample size, if we adjust for park and defense. Knuckleballers are an exception, and really awful pitchers are an exception in that they can only control how quickly they walk off the mound after eight or nine straight hits on balls in play.

One of the most interesting areas of research right now is into how much of the year-to-year variation in pitchers' BABIPs is noise, and whether there's any signal in there at all that might help teams make better decisions on pitcher transactions or usage.

The leaders from 2010 to 2012 in BABIP, for example, include some players who have been helped by great defenses, like Jeremy Hellickson and Jered Weaver (a fly ball pitcher in a fly ball park who's had Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout behind him a lot), but also includes guys like Matt Cain, Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander, who are all great power pitchers but don't have obvious explanations for low BABIPs besides general awesomeness. Is that just luck, or randomness, or are they able to cause small reductions in their BABIPs because of the type of contact they induce?

There are a lot of good pieces online that attack these questions, and I'm sure even more proprietary work done by teams' analytics departments (except the Phillies, who would like to remind you that they don't have one). In the meantime, though, I want to see a pitcher's BABIP, this year and in the past few years, when I start to think about how to assess his performance and look forward from it.
post #9796 of 73438
Thread Starter 
WAR's most divisive players. Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
One of the more controversial baseball stats today is the beloved/dreaded wins above replacement. The commonly used abbreviation, WAR, is fitting given the stat's status as one of the biggest battlegrounds between the old school and the new school.

There are three commonly cited versions of WAR: One each by FanGraphs and Baseball Reference, and another by Baseball Prospectus that is called WARP. All attempt to measure the same thing.

Complicating this epic struggle is that while the various flavors of WAR tend to broadly agree on most players -- they all concur that Justin Verlander is amazing and Jeff Francoeur is, well, a very nice dude. There are always a handful of players that the stats disagree on.

Today, we're going to look at the players the WAR systems disagree on the most and, in the American judicial tradition, decide on a verdict.

First, a little background on WAR. Whether we do it explicitly with a straight calculation such as WAR, or implicitly using different statistics or the ol' eyeball test, on a fundamental level we all evaluate players based on wins when we choose our preference for one player or the other. The differences is how we get there and how we express the results.

WAR systems agree broadly because there's a great deal of research on the value of a homer, or a strikeout, etc. But there are things that aren't so obvious. How exactly do you apportion credit for a soft fly ball? Do we give credit to the more predictive elements of pitching (FIP) or to the bottom line results (ERA)? How poor does a player have to be to have no value to the team's winning?

These questions aren't cut and dry, so there's disagreement among the WAR stats. Disagreement isn't necessarily a problem, as disagreement forces us to ask tougher questions. There's a tremendous amount of disagreement among scientists on the eventual fate of the universe, but we still use the scienctific method to resolve questions rather than a Magic 8 Ball.

So who are the most divisive players among the WARs in 2012? Let's take a look.

Note: From here on out, the WAR systems will be abbreviated as bWAR (Baseball-Reference), fWAR (FanGraphs) or WARP (Baseball Prospectus).

Matt Harrison, LHP, Texas Rangers
2012: numbers: bWAR 6.2, fWAR 3.8, WARP 1.6

If all you knew about Matt Harrison was his 2012 WAR, you'd be mighty confused, unable to decide whether Harrison is a Cy Young candidate, a very good pitcher, or a mid-rotation starter. Part of the difference here is that bWAR evaluates a pitcher's defensive support directly, through evaluation of the defensive players and their short-term defensive stats, while FanGraphs uses FIP, which looks at the pitcher's peripheral stats, such as strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed. BP uses FRA, which is FIP-like, but contains information on pitch sequencing and specific defensive support.

The verdict: Harrison did outperform his FIP in 2012, but for his career, an ERA 0.19 better than his FIP to date isn't really signficant yet. Maybe he becomes Tom Glavine in hindsight, but I think fWAR is the closest here. I sentence BP to 6-12 months of listening to angry Rangers fans.

Brandon Phillips, 2B, Cincinnati Reds
2012 numbers: bWAR 3.5, fWAR 4.0, WARP, 0.3

All three of the metrics define "replacement level" a little bit differently -- with BP's being the highest -- and that accounts for some of the difference here, but far more is due to the difference of opinion on Phillips's defensive ability.

BP's FRAA doesn't like Phillips' defense, having him at -21 runs for his career while FanGraphs and defensive runs saved (the defensive component of bWAR) have him at +64 and +49, respectively, over their careers. Adding in Sean Smith's Total Zone (-16 career) and you have one of the bigger split decisions among fielding stats, which tend to be comparable long-term.

The verdict: I think bWAR and fWAR are closer to the truth here, but there's a chance that they have overrated his defense to some degree. While I think that Phillips is a solid player, his similar BA/HR/RBI masked the fact that he had the worst OPS of his career and he's at an age (31) where you start to see declines from middle infielders.

Tim Lincecum, RHP, San Francisco Giants
2012 numbers: bWAR -2.1, fWAR 1.5, WARP, -0.3

Lincecum's nearly average fWAR comes down to its reliance on FIP, which was at 4.18. Even if you're not into peripheral stats, was Lincecum really the worst pitcher you saw in 2012? He was an extremely frustrating pitcher to watch all season, but he was also still able to rack up the strikeouts (190 in 186 innings).

While you can't ignore the runs allowed (5.18 ERA), did he really look worse than Ervin Santana or Ricky Romero, who had seasons that were essentially unmitigated disasters?

The verdict: BP is right on this one. Baseball Reference founder Sean Forman is sentenced to watching 18 Nick Blackburn starts.

Martin Prado, 3B/LF, Arizona Diamondbacks
2012 numbers: bWAR 5.4, fWAR 5.9, WARP 2.3

Here's another case of disagreement on defensive value, with the first two WARs seeing Prado as a Gold Glover in left and the third having him at 10 runs below average.

The verdict: In this case, there's a broad consensus otherwise on Prado's defensive performance in left being very good -- and the positive spin on Prado's defense does seem more in line with what you expect from a former middle infielder with a strong arm and who hasn't had multiple surgeries on his knee.

Michael Bourn, CF, Cleveland Indians
2012 numbers: bWAR 6.0, fWAR 6.4, WARP 3.7

bWAR and fWAR agree that Bourn is a fabulous defender, and both had him at more than 20 runs better than average in 2012. I'm a bit skeptical, and it generally pays to be conservative with defensive numbers -- a year of defensive stats is roughly as useful as two months of offensive stats -- so that's a pretty aggressive statement.

The verdict: UZR and DRS have Bourn at only 11 and 12 runs a year better than average respectively in center over the course of his career. Those are still excellent defensive numbers and I think BP is more accurate here for 2012.

Darwin Barney, 2B, Chicago Cubs
2012 numbers: bWAR 4.6, fWAR 2.5, WARP 1.8

Another one that comes down to defensive evaluation. DRS loves Barney, putting him at an amazing 28 runs above-average, while BP's FRAA and FG have him in the 10-15 range in 2012. That DRS figure is a big number on defense and not one we can wholeheartedly embrace for him yet -- that's not BIS's fault, but simply the limits on short-term defensive stats and the fact that we're still early in figuring out how to evaluate the effects of infield shifting.

The verdict: As a prospect, the scouting community did like Barney's defense, so I have faith that he's well above-average, but I think we should wait a little before evaluating him as among the best defensive second basemen we've ever seen. Certiorari is denied as this case isn't yet ripe for judgment.

Dan Szymborski covers baseball for ESPN Insider. He has written about the sport since 2001 for the Baseball Think Factory, where he is an editor. He is also the developer of the ZiPS projection system. You can find his ESPN archives here and follow him on Twitter here.
post #9797 of 73438
Thread Starter 
Top five pitching duos. Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
When the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Zack Greinke this offseason, he gave them -- along with lefty Clayton Kershaw -- one of the top front ends of a rotation in baseball. Together, the duo is arguably the best one-two punch in the game, a pair truly capable of winning four games in a seven-game series.

Are they the best in the game? I decided to pore through some advanced metrics (and sprinkle in a little subjectivity) to determine the top five duos in the game right now.

To determine these rankings, I selected the top two of each rotation based on the player's projected WAR totals, courtesy of Dan Szymborski's ZiPS system, which has just finished running over at FanGraphs.

I also took the combined WAR (FanGraphs' version) of each duo for the past three seasons. I use three seasons, because any one season can be subject to statistical flukes, so when possible -- as it is here -- three years makes for a better sample.

However, WAR isn't the end-all be-all, so we want a couple of other metrics as well. A pitcher's peripheral statistics, such as strikeouts and walks, often hold a great deal of predictive value, but rather than dividing them by each other, as K/BB does, it's better to subtract the two percentages from each other. This not only gives it more predictive value (which you can read more about), but it also makes more sense intuitively, as you are using the same sample in your denominator -- total batters faced. (For a full statistical breakdown, check scroll to the bottom.)

Finally, we want to have a projected rate stat to account for the fact that not all pitchers are projected to have the same workload. For instance, ZiPS projects Gio Gonzalez to toss 200 innings this year, but projects Kershaw to toss 221 2/3, a large difference. Therefore, we'll use the ZiPS projected ERA for each duo. By using all four of these metrics, we can get a more complete picture of how the duos have performed, and how they may be expected to perform.

Here are the top five pitching duos in baseball right now:

1. Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke

Indeed, the Dodgers' new duo is the No. 1 team on the list. No pair of pitchers that a team can put together can match the 10.4 WAR that ZiPS projects Kershaw and Greinke to achieve this season. The Nats might come close if Strasburg were pegged for more innings pitched, but it remains to be seen if the nanny state Washington placed him in will lead to the 200-inning season they expect from him.

Like the Phillies, Los Angeles has a pair of very efficient pitchers. It's become de rigeur to doubt Greinke, but he has been worth at least 4.0 WAR (per FanGraphs) in each of the past five seasons, giving him an exemplary track record. It's that track record that makes him more bankable than Scherzer or Strasburg, who have just a single season of domination under their belts. And while Kershaw didn't match his brilliant 2011 season in the same fashion that Verlander did, he joins Verlander as one of two pitchers to notch a WAR projection north of six wins.

The Dodgers have the best balance of past track record and future projection, and that puts them in position to tip the scales in their favor. L.A. may not have the best overall rotation, but with Kershaw and Greinke, they are going to be tough to beat.

2. Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels

You could make the argument that Roy Halladay deserves to be placed here rather than Hamels, but coming off a down year, Hamels has a higher projected WAR than does Halladay. And certainly Hamels is no slouch, as among the No. 2 starters as defined by this exercise, only Mat Latos has a higher projected WAR for 2013.

Lee and Hamels form the most efficient pairing. Both rarely waste bullets, particularly Lee, whose 3.9 percent walk rate is easily the game's lowest over the past three years. Over those past three years, they have been the most valuable duo, and there is little reason to expect much of a drop-off this season. Lee received attention for his drop in wins last season, but if there's any reason for worry among Phillies fans, it's that both his K-rate and swinging strike percentage fell last season. But he also was able to limit his walks more, which dampened most of the negative effect.

3. Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer

Last season was Scherzer's coming-out party, as the young righty -- who was part of the famed three-way trade that also involved Curtis Granderson, Austin Jackson and Ian Kennedy -- saw his strikeout rate skyrocket. Instead of making contact on more than 78 percent of the pitches they swung at, opposing hitters were only able to connect on 74 percent of Scherzer's pitches in 2012, a number that was good for fourth in the game among qualified starters.

As for Verlander, he essentially duplicated his Cy Young Award-winning season, though the instinct of writers who wanted to want to craft a different narrative led them to select David Price for the honor instead. Still, few are going to do it better than Verlander, who ZiPS projects to have the most WAR among starting pitchers this season.

4. Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg

Strasburg is at once the reason to be wary and optimistic for the Nationals. There isn't a starter in baseball who has a better FIP- projection than Strasburg's 58 FIP- heading into this season. But Strasburg also has the thinnest track record, thanks to Tommy John surgery that cost him most of the 2011 season.

As a result, he has just just 251 1/3 innings pitched in the majors, and not one season with 30 starts. On the other side is Gonzalez, who made a lot of strides last season but still walked batters at a rate above that of league average. The two may top this chart a year from now, but at the moment it is prudent to exercise a little caution.

5. Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson

Weaver and Wilson have been very productive over the past three years, and likely will be again this season. Both rank in the top 10 in WAR over the past three seasons, placing them in the top five as a duo. But where they fail to reach the top is in their strikeout and walk ability.

Collectively, their strikeout and walk rates are middling, though the walk rate can be laid at the feet of Wilson much more so than Weaver. Though Weaver doesn't walk many, he does a poor job of keeping the ball on the ground, but thanks to his ballpark and outfield defense, this isn't the issue for him that it would be on a different team.

Dynamic duos
How the top pairs stack up in key stats. (FanGRaphs' WAR was used.)

Duo Proj. WAR Proj. ERA '10-'12 WAR '10-'12 K%-BB%
Kershaw/Greinke 10.4 2.82 30.9 17.80
Verlander/Scherzer 9.9 3.49 31.4 17.50
Strasburg/Gonzalez 9.5 2.88 20.2 15.80
Hamels/Lee 9.3 3.16 31.7 19.40
Weaver/Wilson 8.5 3.25 27.2 13.60
post #9798 of 73438
Thread Starter 
Why time is gaining on Derek Jeter. Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
TAMPA, Fla. -- Don't tell Derek Jeter this, but time is gaining on him.

He has heeded Satchel Paige's advice and refrained from looking back, and last summer he all but thumbed his nose at age. He fought off inside fastballs and rolled out 216 hits at age 38, the most since he was 25. He was an All-Star, finished seventh in the MVP voting and passed a whole bunch of Hall of Famers on the all-time leaderboards.

At the end of his season, when he collapsed on the field with a broken ankle, he refused to give in to time. When New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi reached him while Jeter while sprawled on the dirt, the first thing Jeter said -- knowing that he was seriously injured -- was that he didn't want to be carried off the field. So he half-limped, half-walked off, supported by others, before anybody thought about bringing out a cart.

But time is relentless. You may have heard that it posted 50 years on Michael Jordan today, who seemed an immortal in his time. It will get Jeter eventually.

Will that happen this summer? Who knows? Jeter has spoken confidently about his rehab work, about how he's right on schedule, and after his resurgence over the past year and a half, we'd be fools to doubt him.

But he's now reached the stage of his career when it wouldn't be a surprise if the decline came at any time. If his batting average plummeted from the .316 of last season to something much lower, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron and Cal Ripken would probably nod their heads and say, Yeah, it happens. In the summer of 1973, when Aaron was 39 years old, he clubbed 40 homers. The next season, he hit 20. Two years after that, he retired.

Jeter will meet with the media today and will grin at the questions that are couched in doubt. He has earned that right, for sure. I thought he was at the beginning of the end at the outset of 2011, when his swing generated a whole bunch of ground balls -- and I'd bet I wasn't alone in that assessment. Jeter -- like Jordan and Kobe Bryant and a whole bunch of other players who have been the best of their time -- feeds on those doubts, which is part of what makes him great.

Shortstops, age 39 or older, with at least 500 plate appearances
Year Player Age Team
2007 Omar Vizquel 40 Giants
2006 Omar Vizquel 39 Giants
1973 Luis Aparicio 39 Red Sox
1949 Luke Appling 42 White Sox
1947 Luke Appling 40 White Sox
1946 Luke Appling 39 White Sox
1931 Rabbit Maranville 39 Boston Braves
1915 Honus Wagner 41 Pirates
1914 Honus Wagner 40 Pirates
But time is gaining.

There have been only a very small handful of players who have ever played shortstop regularly at an advanced age. Jeter turns 39 on June 26. John Fisher and Kenton Wong of ESPN Stats & Information dug out this list of players who at 39 or older played at least 50 percent of their games at shortstop and had at least 500 plate appearances since 1901 (table on right).

None of the teams for which Vizquel, Aparicio, Appling, Maranville and Wagner played in those seasons referenced reached the postseason -- and, in fact, only one had a winning record.

2007 Giants (Vizquel): 71-91
2006 Giants (Vizquel): 76-85
1973 Red Sox (Aparicio): 89-73
1949 White Sox (Appling): 63-91
1947 White Sox (Appling): 70-84
1946 White Sox (Appling): 74-80
1931 Braves (Maranville): 64-90
1915 Pirates (Wagner): 73-81
1914 Pirates (Wagner): 69-85

The Yankees made the playoffs last year, when Jeter was 38. If he has a 160-hit season, he would climb to sixth on the all-time hits list:

5. Tris Speaker -- 3,514
6. Cap Anson -- 3,435
7. Honus Wagner -- 3,420
8. Carl Yastrzemski -- 3,419
9. Paul Molitor -- 3,319
10. Eddie Collins -- 3,315
11. Jeter -- 3,304

With a 90-run season -- a mark he's surpassed 14 times in his career -- he would climb into ninth place in runs:

8. Cap Anson -- 1,999
9. Stan Musial -- 1,949
10. Alex Rodriguez -- 1,898
11. Lou Gehrig -- 1,888
12. Tris Speaker -- 1,882
13. Jeter 1,868

Jeter needs 26 doubles for 550 in his career, two more stolen bases to reach 350, and with 449 at-bats, he'll become only the ninth player in history to achieve 11,000 in his career.

News and notes

• Even before the end of the World Series last year, there was some resignation that Pablo Sandoval's weight was going to be an issue this year, because he played well last year when he was heavy and because he was destined to enjoy himself in the aftermath of the Giants' success. And sure enough, the Panda came in very overweight.

• Mike Trout says he's not fat. From Mike DiGiovanna's story:

Yes, the 21-year-old outfielder reported to spring training at 241 pounds, about 10 to 15 pounds more than he weighed in 2012 and five pounds heavier than slugger Albert Pujols, who checked in at 236.

And, yes, with his thick neck and muscular build, the reigning American League rookie of the year looks more like an NFL fullback than a major league leadoff hitter, causing an uproar among fans on Twitter and message boards, where Trout has been called, among other things, "Blimpy" and the "Hindenburg."

But most of the added weight is muscle -- Trout's body fat is 9 percent -- and he expects to lose about 10 pounds during camp, which would put him right around the weight he finished last season at, 230 pounds.

And he has not gained 30 pounds, as some have speculated. Though he was listed at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds last season, he actually weighed between 225 and 230.

"I think it's pretty funny," Trout said of the response to his weight gain. "I usually lose five to 10 pounds in spring. I figured if I came in at the weight I want to play at and lost five to 10 pounds, I'd be underweight to start the season."

• Houston Astros owner Jim Crane is going to golf with the president.

• As far as Pittsburgh Pirates owner Bob Nutting is concerned, it's playoffs or bust. From Rob Biertempfel's story:

Pirates owner Bob Nutting has high expectations for this season.

"My expectation is the same as everyone within our organization, and that is winning our division and competing for our sixth World Series championship," Nutting said in an interview with the Tribune-Review. "That is and has to be our objective every year. We all expect the progress we have seen over the past two years on the major league level to continue.

"We need to continue to give our fans a team that they can believe in. The strong show of support from our fans has further crystallized for me just how important the Pirates are to so many generations and strengthened my commitment to completing this turnaround."

• Chipper Jones was in the Atlanta Braves' camp, with no itch for a comeback, David O'Brien writes. From O'Brien's story:

Despite inevitable speculation that Jones will consider a comeback once he gets the itch, the switch-hitting slugger indicated that was about the last thing on his mind.

"I just haven't had the urge," he said. "I'm here, and I thought today would be difficult not to get the itch to put the uniform on. I don't even want to put that uniform on, to be honest with you. I'd much rather just kind of walk around in anonymity and just hang out with the guys, and just kind of wean myself off this clubhouse."

The battle for jobs

1. Aroldis Chapman's transition to the rotation is the hottest topic in the Cincinnati Reds' camp, writes John Fay.

2. Here are the candidates for the Minnesota Twins' center field job, from Phil Miller.

3. Brian Roberts' health is the biggest factor in the competition at second base.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Chris Sale is not in a rush for a long-term deal.

2. Ned Yost would like to put Alex Gordon in the leadoff spot.

3. The Texas Rangers are trying to decide when Jurickson Profar's career will begin, in earnest.

4. Clayton Kershaw is getting the ball on Opening Day. As if there was any doubt.

5. Homer Bailey worked out a deal.

6. Charlie Manuel is tired of talking about his contract.

7. The New York Mets should go after Jose Valverde, writes Ken Davidoff.

Dings and dents

AL West

Ian Kinsler will be asked to provide leadership now that Michael Young is gone, Richard Durrett writes.

There is a new look and feel to the Seattle Mariners' roster, writes Geoff Baker.

Hiro Nakajima could be the Yoenis Cespedes of 2013 for the Oakland Athletics, writes Susan Slusser.

AL Central

Jeff Seidel asks if Bruce Rondon can handle the pressure.

Here are 10 observations from the Detroit Tigers' camp, from Lynn Henning.

Jhonny Peralta has impressed so far.

Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez know that the Cleveland Indians' hope for improvement really rests on them.

Tom Brunansky is in a tough spot as the new hitting coach of the Twins.

NL West

Cody Ross has had an immediate impact, Nick Piecoro writes.

Todd Helton has delayed his talk with the media since his DUI arrest, and there must be a reason, writes Troy Renck.

Wilin Rosario is working to reshape himself as the Colorado Rockies' catcher.

NL Central

The Chicago Cubs have a pitcher who once played on a hexed team, writes Paul Sullivan.

Ian Stewart is looking to prove himself, writes Gordon Wittenmyer.

The St. Louis Cardinals have to rebuild their chemistry from within.

Tony Sanchez is trying to reach the big leagues with the Pirates.

AL East

Tampa Bay Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey is building on what is already an excellent rotation.

The Rays need Matt Moore to take the next step, writes Gary Shelton. I couldn't agree more.

The Yankees' CC Sabathia passed his first test.

Adam Lind is trying to find his swing, writes Ken Fidlin. The Toronto Blue Jays have a new hitting coach.

History shows that a high payroll doesn't always translate into success, writes Richard Griffin, in reference to the Jays.

John Farrell is the perfect personality to turn around the Boston Red Sox.

The expectations for Mike Napoli are downsized, writes Dan Shaughnessy.

NL East

For the Miami Marlins, it's back to the future, writes Clark Spencer.

Jayson Werth talked about the sting of losing Game 5 last year.

The Washington Nationals are going to work on preventing steals, writes Adam Kilgore.

The New York Mets' Collin Cowgill is embracing the underdog role of the team.
post #9799 of 73438
Thread Starter 
Enough with the PED spin. Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
[TAMPA, Fla. -- A longtime player chatted recently about watching Melky Cabrera in the All-Star Game last summer. "Remember when he hit that home run?" the veteran said, referring to the laser Cabrera mashed over the left-field wall, among the many hits he got the last two seasons.

"I couldn't believe it," the player said. "That was a bullet. I couldn't believe it. Because I remembered what he was before. He wasn't a very good player, and then he's one of the best outfielders in the world? Please. It just pisses me off."

That is the same Melky Cabrera who worked from a written statement the other day:

"Last season ended for me when I admitted taking a banned substance and accepted and served my punishment of a 50-game suspension. Since that day, my goals have been to serve my punishment and to put that mistake behind me, and to work hard to be the best baseball player I can be.

"At the end of last season, when it became clear that I would win the batting title despite my positive test, I asked the Players Association and MLB to make sure a more deserving player won, and I am very happy that my former teammate Buster Posey won that award instead of me."

To paraphrase: Aren't I a good guy for not accepting the batting title? (But please don't ask about the $4 million I took away in salary, even after you account for the $2 million or so I lost through the suspension.)

More Cabrera:

"I also accepted the Giants' decision not to bring me back for the playoffs after I served my punishment. Instead, I continued to work hard so I could be ready for the 2013 season. I hoped and expected that I would be allowed to put my mistake behind me and to start this season fresh.

"I am aware that in the past weeks, there have been news articles written about so-called patient files from a Miami clinic, and the MLB and others are investigating those allegations. I have told MLB I will cooperate in their investigation the best I can, just as my legal counsel has told federal investigators. I have been instructed by legal counsel not to answer questions relating to the pending investigations.

"This statement will be the last comment I will make on the events of the 2012 season. I have put my mistakes behind me, have learned my lesson, and have served my punishment. I am here to play the best baseball I can to help the Toronto Blue Jays win a world championship."

Oh, please.

A "mistake"? Would someone who embezzled money from his company say he made 'a mistake'? Would someone who used somebody else's ATM card to take millions claim he made "a mistake"?

Note to players who are linked to PEDs: If you get caught, please, enough with the statements that are supposed to convey contrition and sorrow and a desire to fix the problem of drug use in baseball. Just save it. Please, say nothing at all.

Nelson Cruz had this the other day, in addressing the recent report that tied him to Tony Bosch's clinic.

"I want to be honest. When it's done I will address you and tell everything I know. … I want to speak and I want to talk, but my lawyer told me I couldn't say anything right now.''

Let's get this straight: Cruz's lawyers work for him, not the other way around. He can say anything he wants. If he wants to clear the air and give a full explanation, the world is waiting, and nothing is stopping him except him.

Yasmani Grandal, busted last fall for a positive drug test, offered up his own prepared statement the other day. From the Associated Press:

"I have taken full responsibility for my actions and apologized to my teammates, the fans and the San Diego Padres organization," Grandal said, taking less than 2 minutes to read his statement. "I plan to put that mistake behind me, serve my suspension and continue working hard to be the best player and teammate I can be."

As for Biogenesis, Grandal said "I am aware of the various press reports about so-called patient files from a Miami clinic, and that Major League Baseball and others are investigating those allegations.

"I intend to cooperate fully in their investigations. I have been instructed by legal counsel not to answer questions relating to the pending investigations," he said. "Based on that legal advice, I will have no further comment."

Isn't it amazing? Everybody who is caught really wants to help, wants to cooperate fully, but can't answer questions.

From Ryan Braun:

"I understand why a lot of you guys are probably here, but I made a statement last week. I stand behind that statement. I'm not going to address that issue any further. As I stated, I'm happy to cooperate fully into any investigation into this matter."

Let's see how that goes. Let's see how much cooperation there really is from Cabrera, from Grandal, from Braun.

Let's see if Cabrera tells Major League Baseball investigators exactly where he got his performance-enhancing drugs. Let's see if he gives them a road map for when he took the drugs, where the weakness in the current drug-testing system is, and who helped him along the way.

Let's see if Braun cooperates fully, and waives his attorney-client privilege and tells his lawyers to give up all the information they have to MLB about hiring Bosch as a paid consultant -- the contemporaneous notes that were taken, copies of the checks sent to Bosch for his work, phone records that will help corroborate the convenient timing of all of this.

If they're not willing to take that step, then please, save the public statements. Save the posturing.

If those who are busted are truly contrite, they can give money made to charity. If they were truly sorry, they would have nothing to hide and they could answer any question from anybody, as lessons learned and passed on to others.

There have been so many empty statements made through the years, from Marion Jones to Rafael Palmeiro to Lance Armstrong, that they are now meaningless. Nobody will believe them anyway, without action that supports them.

Don't say anymore that you are sorry; show you're sorry.

Don't say that you want to cooperate; pick up the phone and help.

Don't ask for forgiveness; just do something worthy of forgiveness.

Don't say you want to talk but that you can't talk; just talk.

Or just shut up altogether, and stop pretending that it wasn't about the money all along, and about gaming the system. Enough with the artful, lawyer-washed language. Enough with the relentless lying.


• Mariano Rivera hasn't formally announced his plans after 2013, but he is clearly contemplating the end of his career. While chatting Sunday in front of his locker at Legends Field, Rivera said that the morning after he blew out his knee last spring, he knew he would try to come back. "Because it couldn't end like that," he said.

Rivera was asked: What if you had been able to come back and pitch at the end of last season? Would you have retired last fall?

"A good chance," Rivera said, nodding. "A good chance."

• For the first time, Derek Jeter sounded philosophical about age, in speaking with reporters Sunday. Everybody gets older, he said, adding that when he's on the field, he doesn't think about age.

When questions like this have come up in the past, Jeter has seemingly taken them as a challenge. But there was none of that on Sunday. He looked good, at his usual weight, and sounded really good. He said he's aiming for Opening Day and knows he has to push himself to make that happen. He really can't ask himself for more than that.

I wrote here yesterday that only one team in baseball history has ever had a winning record with an every-day shortstop at age 39 or older -- the 1973 Boston Red Sox, with Luis Aparicio.

Age and injury are likely to take their toll on Jeter in 2013, writes John Harper. There are core concerns for the Yankees for the first time since 1996, writes Joel Sherman. Jeter is back and the Yankees need him, writes Bob Klapisch.

• Alfredo Aceves did another strange thing Sunday. Boston is loaded with bullpen depth, and although Aceves has a good arm and can be useful, you'd have to assume that the Red Sox aren't going to have a lot of patience with him. They don't have to have him around to win, and they need a change of culture this year, with everyone pulling in the same direction.

The Red Sox should've gotten rid of him over the winter, writes Steve Buckley.

• The Astros' owner golfed with the president.

• Matt Garza has a lat strain. The best-case scenario for the Cubs is that he's backed up by a couple of weeks.

• Todd Helton, who is expected to retire after this season, was apologetic when speaking with reporters about his recent DUI. From Troy Renck's story:

"I'm very grateful to my wife, my family, my teammates and the Colorado Rockies organization for their support. I am determined to learn from my mistakes, and I've gotten help."

Helton, 39, declined to discuss the nature of help he's receiving. He told The Denver Post after the news conference that he doesn't believe he has a drinking problem. However, he reiterated that he's following a protocol to avoid another misstep and recognizes the gravity of the situation.

Helton talked for 9 minutes, 47 seconds, his voice halting at times as he recalled telling his older daughter, Tierney, about the incident.

"I told her I made a mistake. Just like Daddy forgives you for your mistake. I have to learn from it. When I talk about taking the right steps, I am talking about her too," Helton said. "She holds me very accountable too."

Dings and dents

1. Johan Santana threw off a mound for the first time since last August, writes Kristie Ackert.

2. Brennan Boesch tweaked an oblique.

3. Yasmani Grandal hasn't started hitting yet.

The fight for jobs

1. The Cardinals' shortstop spot is in play, as Derrick Goold writes, and Pete Kozma is among those guys battling.

2. The Jays' second-base job is up for grabs, writes John Lott.

4. Bruce Rondon threw to hitters for the first time.

5. Four guys are battling for the last two spots on the Tigers' roster, writes Lynn Henning.

6. Jean Segura is getting a chance to be the Brewers' shortstop, writes Tom Haudricourt.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. There is no chance that Jacoby Ellsbury will stick with the Red Sox, writes Dan Shaughnessy.

2. The Cubs may leave WGN after the 2014 season.

NL East

• Spring training for the Nationals is very different than it was a few years ago, Ryan Zimmerman tells Adam Kilgore.

• Jordan Zimmermann's changeup is improving, writes Amanda Comak.

• The Phillies' bullpen has improved, Jonathan Papelbon tells Bob Brookover.

• Tim Hudson is valued off the mound, too.

• Chipper Jones had a good seat for an epic batting practice session.

• Some old friends have been reunited in the Marlins' camp.

• A Marlins catcher is a plus hitter.

NL Central

• Ryan Ludwick talked about his 18-month slump, writes Bill Center.

• The Pirates are looking to slow the running game this year, writes Bill Brink.

NL West

• Kyle Blanks is banking on good health.

• Marco Scutaro is all smiles, writes Alex Pavlovic.

• Brett Bochy is pitching in the Giants' camp, for his dad. I can remember Brett playing catch in front of the Padres' dugout on the first day of the 1997 season -- he must've been 7 or 8 -- and having a crazy-good arm for a little kid, and accidentally smoking Bobby Valentine in the leg with an errant throw.

• Andre Ethier wasn't bothered by trade rumors, writes Mike DiGiovanna.

• Jason Kubel hopes he has fixed his batting woes.

AL East

• The Orioles are counting on another big year from Jason Hammel. Jair Jurrjens had a nice bullpen session.

• The Blue Jays got the first look at the team they've compiled.

• R.A. Dickey's knuckler befuddles hitters, as Rosie DiManno writes.

• Daniel Nava is preparing at first base.

• The Red Sox talked with Felix Doubrant about his conditioning.

• The Rays think Yunel Escobar is worth the risk.

AL Central

• Thoughts of retiring don't scare Paul Konerko. His future is uncertain, as Daryl Van Schouwen writes.

• The Twins' Trevor Plouffe hope he settles in at one position, writes La Velle Neal.

• The Royals' Luis Mendoza says he's ready to go after a busy winter.

• The hiring of Terry Francona has provided a foundation of hope for the Indians, writes Bud Shaw.

AL West

• Dustin Ackley is trying to get past his rough 2012 season, writes Larry Stone. From his piece:

Dustin Ackley is used to being the best hitter on his team, not the one flailing to figure out why he can't get on track, no matter what or how hard he tries.

And yet that's precisely where Ackley found himself last year, as he endured by far the worst season of his baseball life. The precision of his swing eroded. The bone spur that had sat in his left ankle since his freshman year in college caused increasing discomfort. And his batting average plummeted to .226, almost inconceivable for a hitter of Ackley's reputation. That's about 100 points below the best-case scenario envisioned for Ackley when the Mariners made him the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 draft, right behind Stephen Strasburg and 23 picks ahead of Mike Trout.

When it came to his stance, his swing, the mechanics that had always come so naturally, "I didn't really know what was going on," he admitted.

• The Rangers must decide who will start on Opening Day, writes Evan Grant.

• The youngest player in any camp is with Oakland, writes Susan Slusser.

• Peter Bourjos is looking for a speedy recovery, writes Mike DiGiovanna.

• Lucas Harrell will get the ball in the Astros' first exhibition.

post #9800 of 73438
Thread Starter 
Tigers have big plans for Bruce Rondon. Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
LAKELAND, Fla. -- For some of the Detroit Tigers, Bruce Rondon is still more rumor than fact. They've heard about how he throws lightning bolts, a fastball that reaches triple digits, and how he's capable of embarrassing hitters, but they haven't actually seen him on a mound.

"I'm looking forward to it," said Max Scherzer, standing on one of the back fields at the Tigers' facility in Lakeland, and you can understand why, because there is a good chance Rondon will have the responsibility of closing out leads for the Tigers this year despite the fact that he has never thrown a pitch in the big leagues.

[+] Enlarge

Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos/Getty Images
Bruce Rondon is playing a key role for Detroit this season.

Detroit might have the majors' best rotation, as well as a very good lineup; Victor Martinez is bouncing around camp, others say, anxious to be the guy who hits behind Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Torii Hunter is here now, cheerily going about his business, which is his way. This is a team otherwise built to win the World Series -- and the job of getting the last outs might go to a pure rookie.

Tigers catcher Alex Avila has seen Rondon throw. He has caught him in the bullpen, in fact. The other day, Avila decided to break in a new catcher's mitt on the same day he worked with Rondon, and even though the pitcher wasn't really applying full force and adrenaline -- "70 percent," Avila guesstimated -- his fastball carved its way into the new glove.

"Impressive," Avila said with a small smile, which, given the catcher's even-keeled temperament, is like shouting, "YEP, HE LOOKED GREAT!"

This is what Avila has seen in Rondon: His arm angle is about three-quarters, rather than over the top, which means the right-hander is probably going to be very daunting for right-handed hitters. Some guys who throw really hard launch themselves at the hitters, like Joel Zumaya -- but Rondon has a nice and easy delivery, Avila said, with the ball hidden behind him. This means the hitters will see nothing but this very relaxed Sunday-stroll-in-the-park motion -- until the ball is suddenly bearing down on them like a charging buffalo. The motion is deceptive, and a little unnerving.

Rondon has a refined changeup, Avila says, that is probably his second-best pitch; the breaking ball is a little further behind. And this is big: Rondon is capable of working to both sides of the plate, which is not something you usually see in hard-throwing relievers.

"The big thing with him is going to be throwing strikes," Avila said.

Yes. In 2009, at the age of 18, Avila threw 15 1/3 innings professionally and issued 15 walks. The next year, he cut his walk rate in half, doling out 16 in 32 1/3 innings. He had 34 walks in 40 innings in 2011, and then last year, he had 26 in 53 innings, reaching Triple-A by the end of the year.

Rondon is a big guy, listed at 6-foot-3, 255 pounds; his body seems structured like a refrigerator, blocky and strong. But, as he played catch on the back field here Friday, he turned his body fluidly with each throw, a flicker of athleticism; in fact, his motion is reminiscent of that of Livan Hernandez, the former Marlins pitcher who became oversized late in his career but always had extraordinary ability to hit and field his position and repeat his delivery.

The general manager of the Marlins when Hernandez signed was Dave Dombrowski, and his manager was Jim Leyland; they are, of course, both with the Tigers now. The two of them have promoted a lot of young players into prominence in their respective careers. In spring 2006, they committed themselves to using two young, unproven pitchers on that team: Zumaya and Justin Verlander.

It has been telling how open Leyland and Dombrowski have been in recent months about their feelings about Rondon; rather than run from the idea that he could be the closer, they've promoted it, always acknowledging the caveat that Rondon must prove himself in games.

They would not be doing that, a reporter said to Avila, if they didn't really believe he is ready. Avila agreed.

He has seen Rondon throw. He has talked to him about finishing games.

"This," Avila said, "is something he wants."

Al Kaline says Cabrera is a Hall of Famer already.


• There is another alleged link between Ryan Braun and performance-enhancing drugs; he stands by his story.

• Melky Cabrera talked about performance-enhancing drugs a little. Rosie DiManno feels Cabrera has dodged questions. Alex Anthopoulos says the Jays talked about what it would mean if they signed Cabrera.

• Nelson Cruz says he wants to tell the truth really badly but can't at this time.

• Jose Reyes talked about Jeffrey Loria, a lot. From Jayson Stark's story:

"I was shocked, because Jeffrey Loria, he always told me he's never going to trade me," Reyes said on his first day as a Blue Jay. "He always called my agent and said, 'Tell Jose to get a good place here to live,' and stuff like that."

In fact, Reyes said he and Loria attended a dinner together only a couple of days before the trade, and "he was talking still about 'get a nice house in Miami.'"

"That was kind of crazy," 29-year-old Reyes said. "I mean, how can you want me to spend some money in Miami, when I have my house in New York, and you're going to trade me in two days?"

In the Marlins' camp, Giancarlo Stanton didn't rip the team.

• The Rays met with the St. Petersburg mayor.

• This explains at least some of the Bigfoot sightings in the offseason.

• Johan Santana is likely to skip the WBC, writes Andy Martino.

The fight for jobs

1. Gerardo Parra must compete with Cody Ross, Jason Kubel and Adam Eaton for at-bats.

2. Marlon Byrd could be the Mets' right fielder.

3. Rick Porcello is competing for the No. 5 spot in the Detroit rotation, amid trade rumors.

4. Hanley Ramirez is looking to improve his defense.

Dings and dents

1. Grant Balfour didn't need crutches after his knee surgery, as Susan Slusser writes.

2. Neil Walker's back is back to normal, writes Rob Biertempfel.

3. Brian Roberts is feeling really good, as Peter Schmuck writes.

4. Rafael Furcal is very confident in his elbow, writes Rick Hummel.

5. John Danks says his left shoulder feels better.

6. Padres prospect Rymer Liriano will miss the season because of an elbow reconstruction. It feels as if the Padres' luck is all bad.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Jordan Zimmermann reached an agreement.

2. Justin Morneau is entering the final year of his contract with the Twins, and he's not sure what that will mean.

3. After signing his deal, Michael Bourn says he's ready to go.

4. The Marlins signed Casey Kotchman.

AL West

Erik Bedard is trying to rebuild his career, with the Astros.

Jurickson Profar hasn't decided whether to play in the World Baseball Classic.

Mike Trout got bigger in the offseason.

The pitchers and catchers in the Angels' camp are focusing on building a rapport, writes Jeff Fletcher.

AL Central

The Royals' staff is falling into place, writes Bob Dutton.

AL East

Manny Machado has high expectations.

The Yankees are being patient with Michael Pineda, writes Pat Borzi.

Andy Pettitte feels the Yankees can use some of Kevin Youkilis' intensity.

John Farrell is setting a different tone with the Red Sox, writes Peter Abraham.

NL West

The Diamondbacks hope that a change of culture brings wins.

Bruce Bochy got to watch his son throw a bullpen session, as Alex Pavolic writes.

Zack Greinke talked about his anxiety disorder, as Bill Plaschke writes.

NL Central

Troy Tulowitzki is pacing himself, writes Troy Renck.

The Pirates' bullpen guys are aiming for something special, as Bill Brink writes.

Jorge Soler caught the attention of Cubs manager Dale Sveum, writes Gordon Wittenmyer.

Joey Votto says his knee is fine.

NL East

The question is whether the Phillies' vets can carry the load or whether young guys grab the reins, writes David Murphy.

Bryce Harper has lofty goals, writes Amanda Comak.

Dan Uggla shed some weight in the offseason, writes David O'Brien.
post #9801 of 73438
Thread Starter 
A path to change for the Red Sox. Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The signs of change in Red Sox camp started on the sidewalk -- damp from Thursday morning showers -- which leads from the players' parking lot to the clubhouse. Somebody who didn't look like John Lackey strolled down that path and then you realized: Wow, that's John Lackey.

He looks so thin, from his offseason regimen, that he could be a body double for Jered Weaver. He looks so thin that Dustin Pedroia, as impolitic and blunt as ever, jokingly asked him if he had contracted a life-threatening disease in the offseason.

But there was more change, when Shane Victorino walked in, filling the room with energy; and one of the guys housed next to Victorino's locker is Jonny Gomes.

Pieces of the greatest change, however, could be seen on the apron of the indoor batting cages, where the Red Sox worked out. Manager John Farrell moved back and forth, breezily talking with his coaches, with players, with front-office personnel. Some of the folks in the organization noted that shift immediately the other day, when Farrell interacted with general manager Ben Cherington. There was a comfort level and a trust that simply was never there last spring, when Bobby Valentine was in the room and Cherington was in his first year on the job with a manager who probably wasn't his first choice.

Pedroia and others have been careful to say, without equivocation, that Boston's shocking 69-win season wasn't Valentine's fault, and that the players are responsible for the pitching and the hitting and the fielding, and in the end, for the victories and defeats. But no matter how they got there, you cannot overstate how dysfunctional the Red Sox were last year -- just as now, you cannot overstate how excited they are to get back to doing what they love to do.

Nobody should overreact to bullpen sessions -- heck, some general managers find them so worthless that they don't even bother watching -- but the word is Lackey is driving the ball down in the strike zone in a way that he hadn't in recent seasons. He feels the difference in his arm, with the extension.

Jon Lester has a good competitive chip on his shoulder, and it shows, some of the Red Sox say. Andrew Bailey is said to be throwing really well here, and the same can be said for Daniel Bard, who has lowered his arm angle slightly, to get back to where he was in 2011.

David Ross caught Junichi Tazawa, who was maybe the best thing that emerged from the wreckage of 2012, and came away in awe of his splitter, thinking that perhaps it is of the same quality thrown by Kevin Brown and Tim Hudson, the two best he has ever caught.

The Red Sox staffers have talked in their conversations about how, in a more stable environment, the team could have a wipeout bullpen, with Tazawa, Bailey and Bard working from the right side in front of closer Joel Hanrahan, and Andrew Miller, Franklin Morales and Craig Breslow working from the left side. Much more production is needed from the rotation, of course, which ranked 27th in ERA last season at 5.19.

But if there is change, it will all start on that sidewalk leading to the spring training clubhouse, because the Red Sox players seem much more enthused about going to work, and their workplace.


• John Lackey looks to rebound, writes Tim Britton.

• Larry Lucchino labeled the Red Sox as scrappy underdogs, but that doesn't fly, writes Steve Buckley. The Red Sox foresee an end to the sellout streak.

• WARNING: WHAT FOLLOWS IS COMPLETE SPECULATION: Chipper Jones is returning to the Braves' camp today. You can take this and book it: If the Braves' third basemen, Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson, struggle in the first half of the season, there will be a conversation about whether Chipper might come back. Chipper said last year that he had learned that he can't play every day any more, but there were stretches of last season when he was the Braves' best hitter; last year, he was still a really good hitter, posting a .377 on-base percentage.

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Kevin Liles/US Presswire
So, you sure about that?
Francisco had a nice run in winter ball, but he came into camp probably a little heavier than the Braves would've liked, and Johnson can hit for power but can get into stretches, scouts say, when he makes mistakes.

The fact that he's coming back so early in spring training, and is scheduled to be around for a few days, will probably only whet Jones' appetite. Remember how that worked with Andy Pettitte last year? He came into the Yankees' camp, threw some batting practice and immediately started talking about a comeback.

Chipper insisted last year that he was absolutely ready to move on, and maybe he's still in that frame of mind. If Johnson and Francisco put up big numbers, there really won't be a reason for anyone to wonder if Jones might come back.

But if third base becomes a black hole of production, Chipper might welcome the opportunity to talk, in June, about another half-season and a run at another championship.

We'll see.

• The Cubs want more night games.

• Mike Matheny and John Mozeliak got contract extensions, and Matheny wants to get better.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Pirates signed Brandon Inge.

2. Jacoby Ellsbury referred questions about his future to his agent. So, he'll hit the market.

3. Ron Roenicke is pleased that Norichika Aoki is skipping the WBC.

4. The Rockies traded for Reid Brignac.

Dings and dents

1. Grant Balfour had knee surgery. Oakland fully expects him to be ready at the start of the season.

2. It's so far, so good for John Danks, after his first mound session.

3. J.A. Happ is back up to speed after breaking his foot.

The fight for jobs

1. Domonic Brown is getting another shot, writes Bob Brookover.

2. Jason Grilli is ready to step into the Pirates' closer job.

3. David Phelps and Ivan Nova are fighting for a spot, as Pete Caldera writes. I'd bet that Phelps is going to play a really important role on this staff.

4. Logan Schafer is in a good spot to win a job, writes Tom Haudricourt.

5. Jim Leyland say he's broken-hearted that Jose Valverde doesn't have a job.

6. Leyland wants to see his options at closer.

7. Julio Borbon has one last chance with the Rangers, writes Jeff Wilson.

NL West

• Carlos Quentin is getting back in the swing, writes Bill Center.

• One of the Giants likes karaoke.

• Carl Crawford had a tough run in Boston.

• Willie Bloomquist is back in the game.

• Walt Weiss is sure to put his stamp on the Rockies, writes Troy Renck.

NL Central

• A.J. Burnett is hoping for an encore performance, writes Rob Biertempfel.

• The Cubs are excited about their new complex, writes Paul Sullivan.

• Billy Hamilton will be one of the most watched players in the Reds' camp.

NL East

• Drew Storen wants the ball after his failure in Game 5 last year, writes Adam Kilgore.

• The Nationals are on a mission, writes Thomas Boswell.

• Ryan Howard says the window is still open for the Phillies, as Jim Salisbury writes.

• Travis D'Arnaud is getting ready for what figures to be his first season in the big leagues.

• Chris Coghlan doesn't want to be known as a flameout, writes Clark Spencer.

• Giancarlo Stanton could have his resolve tested.

• Hank Aaron hated to lose Martin Prado.

AL West

• As manager Bo Porter looks for change, the Astros have a winning handshake.

• The Mariners have added a guy with a sinker and a history of pets.

• Joe Nathan is going to save bullets for the season, writes Evan Grant.

• The key to the Angels' lineup might be who bats second, writes Mike DiGiovanna.

• Albert Pujols is not rushing in his return from knee surgery.

AL Central

• Mike Pelfrey is excited to get back out on the mound.

• Jason Giambi got rave reviews from Terry Francona.

• Torii Hunter is fitting right in.

• Eric Hosmer is hoping that a quieter approach at the plate helps.

AL East

• Mark Hendrickson hopes to rejuvenate his career.

• Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes are preparing for a crucial season in their respective careers, as Tyler Kepner writes. The Yankees are keeping a close eye on Michael Pineda, writes Joel Sherman. He weighs 20 pounds less than when he reported last year.

• R.A. Dickey doesn't want to feel entitled, writes Ken Fidlin.

• Wil Myers impressed folks with his first batting practice session. From Marc Topkin's story:

"It's impressive," hitting coach Derek Shelton said. "And I think the thing that's the most impressive is the bat speed ... and the way the ball comes off his bat. You can see it not only when he's hitting on the field, but even off a tee. You don't see very many people that generate that much bat speed. First day, it's exciting to see."

Also, apparently, to hear.

"It's a different sound," Shelton said. "It's loud. You don't hear many guys that can create that sound, and he's definitely creating it."

Shelton watched from behind the cage, where a half-dozen top Rays officials just happened to flock from different sides of the training complex as the 6-foot-3, 190-pound 22-year-old -- so excited he didn't sleep much Wednesday -- grabbed his 34-inch MaxBat and showed off.

"I had some nerves when I first stepped in," Myers said. "But I think it went well."
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I know this isnt a new report, but I just read that Don Mattingly says that Brandon League will be the Dodgers closer this season and not Kenley Janson?!? WTF?!? As a Giants fan, I am absolutely thrilled with this decision. Brandon League is trash and Janson looks unhittable most of the time.

Can any Dodger fans weigh in on this? I am curious to know what your thoughts are.
post #9803 of 73438
Thread Starter 
Breakout pitchers for 2013. Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Was it something Kenley Jansen said? How else do you explain how he was used in 2011?

While Don Mattingly fed other Dodgers relievers more critical innings, Jansen became one of baseball's most dominant relievers. The rookie's 44 percent strikeout rate in 53 2/3 innings led all qualified relievers -- yup, even Mr. Kimbrel.

FanGraphs attempts to measure the pressure, or "leverage," of situations with a stat called leverage index (considers inning, outs, score, runners on base), and Jansen ranked 103rd in 2011. Essentially, in situations that needed any reliever, Jansen pitched. In critical spots that demanded an elite one, Jansen was buried in the Dodger Stadium bullpen hedges.

Because of this, Jansen "broke out" in 2012. He earned a higher-profile bullpen job in his second season and dominated, striking out 39 percent of batters and walking 9 percent in 65 innings with a 2.35 ERA. He threw 94 percent fastballs, which touched the mid-90s and averaged 92 mph. Of course, Jansen's velocity is deceiving. A natural cut makes his 92 more difficult to handle.

So Jansen was a dominant reliever who relied almost exclusively on a cut fastball. Sound familiar? Jansen isn't Mariano Rivera -- there's only one -- but Rivera has topped the 30 percent strikeout rate only once in his career. Just sayin'.

With the opinions of MLB officials mixed in, here are five pitchers who could pull a Jansen and break out in their second seasons in 2013.

Moore's sneaky good year

After Matt Moore did this in the 2011 playoffs, nobody could resist projecting. But if Moore's 2012 rookie season displeased you, well, that's on you. Look past the 11-11 record, which means almost nothing, and 3.81 ERA, which is very solid considering age and league.

"To handle that workload as a rookie was impressive, and you could see him figuring things out," one MLB official said.

Sure, Moore had issues. At times, the southpaw wasn't on speaking terms with the strike zone, his 10.7 percent walk rate ranking 107th among qualified starters. Arm-side fastballs could sail like a cheap paper plane. But he did impressive little things. He spun breaking balls for strikes at a league-average clip. He turned his changeup into a weapon against righties, throwing it for 67 percent strikes in fastball counts. He threw 60 percent first-pitch strikes. And Moore threw fastballs by guys at a better rate than all other starters (24 percent).

"He's a typical power guy whose stuff is so good, but he needs to learn to pitch," an AL evaluator said.

Hey, it seems like 2012 was a big step in that direction. No reason 2013 shouldn't be even better.

Harvey's unlikely opponent

Funny thing happened to Matt Harvey at Triple-A Buffalo: Every team he faced had a No. 3 hitter named "Boredom."

Only Harvey knows if he was staring at his Tag Heuer, counting down until his promotion, but evaluators continually use that to explain how he looked like a mid-rotation starter in Triple-A and a potential ace in New York. In July, the Mets had holes and couldn't wait any longer.

"One of the issues was his command," Mets GM Sandy Alderson said. "But we had a need and the stuff was so good we weren't concerned."

Boredom didn't get promoted with Harvey. He struck out 29 percent of batters in 59 1/3 innings with a 2.73 ERA, flashing upper-90s velocity with a plus slider.

With power pitchers such as Harvey, a delicate line separates "too predictable" from "too cute." With a fastball that good, Harvey should use it often and does. But there needs to be a mix. "Not throwing a fastball on every 0-0, 0-1 count will be important," the AL evaluator said.

In the first two pitches of at-bats last season, the righty went heater 66 percent of the time, a top-15 rate in baseball. This isn't a problem, per se. But eventually hitters will cheat and Harvey's command will be imperative. Breaking off a slider or curve to righties and turning over a change to lefties early in the count will help keep hitters off Harvey's fastball.

Parker emerges by the Bay

When the Diamondbacks took Jarrod Parker No. 9 overall in the 2007 draft, this is what they envisioned. A 3.8-WAR rookie season, a 3.47 ERA in 181 1/3 innings. But Oakland offered Trevor Cahill before the 2012 season, and Arizona shipped Parker to the Bay Area as part of a multiplayer deal.

After undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in late 2009, Parker has emerged as a power-sinker guy capable of leading Oakland's rotation.

"The strikeouts weren't where they were in the minors, and the ground balls weren't the same, but the adjustment takes time," the MLB official said. "He's certainly showing he can make it."

Parker couldn't touch Cahill's MLB-leading 63 percent ground ball rate, but his 44 percent wasn't bad. Parker challenges both sides of the plate with his fastball early in counts, and the run he gets on his two-seamer makes it very difficult to distinguish from his changeup out of the hand. This can be death on lefties, but even right-handed hitters can't eliminate the change in certain counts.

With two strikes against lefties, Parker will sneak a fastball inside, run one off the plate away or get the hitter to wave at a change. Righties could normally expect a slider away or fastball in, but Parker is equally likely to throw a right-on-right change. Not only that, more than half of them will be inside, fooling hitters into thinking it's gas. If you can do that, you're a bad dude.

Miley's stealth act of dominance

Did you forget an Arizona pitcher finished seven points behind Bryce Harper for the NL Rookie of the Year award in 2012? With Trevor Bauer's aptitude and Kirk Gibson's grit dominating conversations this winter, it was easy to forget about Wade Miley. But the lefty deserves attention, because he was really good.

Miley posted a 3.15 FIP and 4.3 percent walk rate, fourth among qualified starters, in 194 2/3 innings. Miley lives on fastball movement and command of his changeup and slider, but he thrives because he's also playing with angles on the mound. He stands on the third-base side of the rubber and lands outside the first-base side -- significantly across his body.

Imagine you're a right-handed hitter. You have this gangly thing throwing seemingly out of right field, and 49 percent of fastballs you see will start away and keep tailing, making them difficult square up. The 28 percent fastballs inside look like they're coming for your navel.

Now you're a lefty facing the lefty Miley. The release point appears to be coming from behind you, making any fastball inside brutal to deal with. Miley can start fastballs away off the plate and bring them back to the corner, and if you get to two strikes, there's a 34 percent chance you're seeing a slider. And, remember, that slider is starting behind you.

McGee says 'Hit this'

Good news: Hitting against Tampa's Jake McGee is not complicated. There's mostly only one thing to worry about, and that's mid-to-upper 90s velocity repeatedly.

"For better or worse, [McGee] does almost all of it with the fastball," the official said. "It's just dominant velocity from the left side."

The lefty struck out 34 percent of batters last season in 55 1/3 innings while walking only 5 percent. Righties? Lefties? Didn't really matter -- he brutalized both. Lefties had a .289 OBP, righties a .157. McGee does have a second pitch, a cutter, which he uses to steal a strike by surprise in a 1-1 count or fool a hitter in a 2-2 count.

Otherwise, a fastball is coming, and the best option is to sit location. McGee favors the glove side heavily against lefties, which helps the hitter, because if he throws a cutter, it will break to the outer half and you have a shot to hang in on it. Righties have the tougher gig against McGee, because he will work both halves of the plate and the cutter is breaking into your hands. If you're sitting on an inside fastball, you probably pull that pitch foul. If you're sitting away, well, you're screwed. That seems to be a common outcome against McGee.

If anything happens to closer Fernando Rodney, McGee could be the next Jansen, "breaking out" in a prime-time role.
post #9804 of 73438
Thread Starter 
Rumors. Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
If Billingsley is healthy..
February, 19, 2013
Feb 1911:32AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintIt’s still early in Dodgers camp, but there are encouraging signs regarding Chad Billingsley, who sat out the final month of 2012 due to a partially torn elbow ligament.

Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times reports Billingsley already been on the mound about a dozen times since he started his throwing program last month and the pitcher is reporting “no problems.”

The Dodgers came to camp with eight starting pitchers and Billingsley will have one of those jobs if he is ready. Assuming that scenario unfolds, Mark Saxon of says the Dodgers could accelerate their efforts to trade Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang or Ted Lilly.

Capuano would be an attractive candidate given he had a 3.72 ERA last season and has a manageable $6 million salary.Tags:Los Angeles Dodgers, Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly
Minors likely for Campana
February, 19, 2013
Feb 1910:48AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintThe D-backs added another candidate to their outfield mix Monday by acquiring Tony Campana from the Cubs for minor league pitchers Jesus Castillo and Erick Leal.

Campana hit .264 with 30 stolen bases in 89 games for the Cubs last season and was designated him for assignment earlier this month. While Campana will get a chance to compete for a roster spot, GM Kevin Towers says it is far more likely he will start the season at Triple-A Reno, reports’s Steve Gilbert.Tags:Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs, Tony Campana
Mets could shop Turner
February, 19, 2013
Feb 1910:18AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintA 40-man roster crunch could prompt the New York Mets to consider dealing infielder Justin Turner late in spring training, says Adam Rubin of

The Mets signed a host of players to minor league deals over the winter and will have to find spots for Pedro Feliciano, Scott Atchison and LaTroy Hawkins if they earn places in the bullpen. The same scenario would apply for outfielders such as Marlon Byrd and Andrew Brown, and a deal for Turner could clear some space.

Turner is a .252/.324/.354 hitter in parts of four major league seasons.Tags:New York Mets, Justin Turner
Options to replace Gamel
February, 19, 2013
Feb 1910:03AM ETBy AJ Mass | Recommend0Comments1EmailPrintWith Corey Hart recovering from off-season knee surgery, the Milwaukee Brewers were planning on giving Mat Gamel the first base job until their slugger was able to resume play. That, apparently, is no longer a possibility. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, two days after aggravating his own knee injury, Gamel will miss the entire 2013 season. That leaves the Brewers with players like Taylor Green, Alex Gonzalez, and Bobby Crosby as possible fill-ins, but perhaps it also opens the door for the signing of free agent Carlos Lee.

Lee did hit 60 home runs over a season-and-a-half for the Brewers back in 2005 and 2006, and is currently shopping his wares as a free agent following a disappointing nine homer season split between the Houston Astros and the Miami Marlins in 2012.

The Brewers also have asked about Mike Carp, who was designated for assignment by the Mariners last week.Tags:Milwaukee Brewers, Carlos Lee, Corey Hart, Mat Gamel
Soriano's trade value
February, 19, 2013
Feb 199:50AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintThe Chicago Cubs have been looking for a new home for Alfonso Soriano for years, and a deal this season seems more feasible given his mammoth contract is down to a manageable $36 million over the next two years.

Sensing the obvious, Soriano tells Jesse Rogers of he would be open to a deal if the Cubs fall out of contention. Soriano, who has a no-trade clause, said there are “six or seven teams” he would agree to as landing spots. The 37-year-old reportedly nixed a possible deal to the Giants last season and wants to play for a team in the central USA or on the East Coast. The Orioles and Phillies have been linked to Soriano in the recent past.

Soriano restored some of his value last season by hitting 32 home runs, driving in a career-high 108 runs and demonstrating more mobility in left field.Tags:Chicago Cubs, Alfonso Soriano
Smoak gets his chance
February, 19, 2013
Feb 199:17AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintAfter yet another solid finish, Justin Smoak will get a chance to be the regular first baseman for the Seattle Mariners.

Mariners manager Eric Wedge said Monday that barring "something drastic" Smoak will open this season at first base and Kendrys Morales will be designated hitter. Smoak hit .341 last September, the third straight season he has hit at least .300 in the season’s final month.

The 26-year-old Smoak has just a .223 batting average over three seasons, so his leash will not be a long one, nor should it be. If Smoak starts slowly, Wedge would have the option of turning to Morales or to offseason pickup Michael Morse.Tags:Seattle Mariners, Kendrys Morales, Justin Smoak
The cost of keeping Cano
February, 19, 2013
Feb 198:55AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintOne of the biggest storylines in the Bronx this season is the impending free agency of Robinson Cano, a saga that started to unfold Monday when the All-Star second baseman was peppered with numerous questions about his future with the Yankees.

Mark Feinsand reports Cano gave the very predictable response: “I’m just focused on playing the game and just help the team to win a championship.”

Behind the scenes, general manager Brian Cashman obviously is trying to figure out what it will take to keep Cano, a four-time All-Star who has been in the Top 10 of AL MVP voting three times and owns two Gold Glove Awards. Cano's current deal will have paid him $57 million over six years (2008-13), but his next contract is going to dwarf that.

Early estimations have put possible numbers in the range of $180-200 million over six to eight years. A quick deal seems unlikely since Cano is represented by Scott Boras, who usually takes his clients through the free agent process.

There is no rush to make a deal, but John Harper of the Daily News says the Yankees may have no choice but to pay a hefty price since Cano is the only elite player on the club currently in his prime. “When the time comes, they’ll have to pay Cano and simply pray he turns out to be more like Derek Jeter than A-Rod,” Harper writes.

Meanwhile, Joel Sherman of the New York Post says the Yankees are less inclined to hand out long-term deals in light of the disastrous 10-year, $275 million contract given to Rodriguez.

Tags:New York Yankees, Robinson Cano
Long-term deal for Walker?
February, 19, 2013
Feb 197:48AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintAfter signing Andrew McCutchen to a six-year contract last spring, the Pirates may soon turn their attention to a deal with second baseman Neil Walker.

“Absolutely that's a possibility,” team president Frank Coonelly told Rob Biertempfel of the Tribune-Review on Monday.

Walker, who has said he would welcome a long-term deal, is signed for this season at $3.3 million. Any deal would likely be for at least his three remaining years of arbitration. The 27-year-old has put up consistent slash lines over his first three seasons, averaging .280/.339/.424.Tags:Pittsburgh Pirates, Neil Walker
Boston's options with Aceves
February, 19, 2013
Feb 197:16AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintRed Sox reliever Alfredo Aceves spent a good portion of the 2012 season butting heads with manager Bobby Valentine, and he didn’t exactly impress new skipper John Farrell during a workout Sunday, as Joe McDonald of explains.

During a workout on one of the practice fields, Aceves was supposed to throw live batting practice, except that his tosses were so lifeless that Farrell approached the right-hander to ask if everything was OK. "His session on the mound didn't go as intended. He's healthy. It's been addressed," Farrell said.

Aceves is a durable reliever who appeared in 69 games last season, but there already is talk in Boston whether Sunday’s antics were another sign that the righthander must go. Farrell is preaching a “team concept” in Boston, and Aceves already is testing the patience of the new manager.

Alex Speier of discusses the club’s options with Aceves, such as trying to trade him or even releasing him solely for bad behavior, a move that would undoubtedly draw a grievance from the Players' Association.

Rick Doyle of says Aceves is still too valuable to consider cutting ties.

Our Buster Olney has more on the job status of Aceves in Monday's blog:

Buster Olney
Will Aceves remain?
"Boston is loaded with bullpen depth, and although Aceves has a good arm and can be useful, you'd have to assume that the Red Sox aren't going to have a lot of patience with him. They don't have to have him around to win, and they need a change of culture this year, with everyone pulling in the same direction."

Tags:Boston Red Sox, Alfredo Aceves
Deal for Carp likely
February, 19, 2013
Feb 197:07AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintAt least a handful of teams have kicked the tires on first baseman/outfielder Mike Carp, who was designated for assignment by the Mariners last week.

Seattle has until Friday to trade Carp, release him or assign him outright to the minor leagues, and GM Jack Zdurencik tells’s Adam McCalvy a deal could get done in the next day or two.

McCalvy says the Brewers, who are dealing with injuries at first base to Corey Hart and Mat Gamel, have inquired about Carp, a .213 hitter in 59 games last season. The Twins, Astros and Red Sox have some interest, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.Tags:Seattle Mariners, Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, Mike Carp
Second base battle in Toronto
February, 19, 2013
Feb 196:46AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintThe job of second baseman for the Toronto Blue Jays will go to Maicer Izturis or Emilio Bonifacio, neither of whom has started more than 64 games at the position in any single season.

Izturis appeared to be the front-runner entering camp after agreeing to a three-year, $10 million deal in the offseason, but manager John Gibbons seemed to backtrack a little from that stance, on Sunday, reports John Lott of the National Post.

Both players can play multiple positions, and Bonifacio, acquired in the blockbuster deal with the Marlins, also has outfield experience. Gibbons also has the opportunity to mix and match as the season progresses.

Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail says the Blue Jays brass is split on whether Bonifacio plays defense well enough to be the everyday second baseman.

As for a possible winner, Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus says to follow the money trail:

Ben Lindbergh
AL Position Battles
"Based on early indications, both Alex Anthopoulos and John Gibbons prefer the player who will be making more money (Izturis). But forget the salaries; the stats support their preference too. Both players can take a walk and Bonifacio has better speed, but Izturis makes more contact, has superior power and is a stronger defender. PECOTA projects a .735 OPS for him and a .697 mark for Bonifacio."Tags:Toronto Blue Jays, Emilio Bonifacio, Maicer Izturis
Maybe, Maybin not?
February, 18, 2013
Feb 1812:45PM ETBy AJ Mass | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintIt is certainly early on in the spring training process, but that doesn't mean the San Diego Padres aren't going to be monitoring the progress of Cameron Maybin very closely as he attempts to rebound from a sore right wrist.

Initial reports had Maybin all set to return to action on Monday, but the injury left him unable to participate. Maybin was quick to tell reporters that he would have been able to play had this been the regular season, but keep in mind that he did miss some time due to an injury on this same wrist during the 2012 campaign.

The sky is certainly not falling here, and there's no reason to go dropping Maybin to the bottom of your draft lists just yet. That said, one would certainly hope that Maybin's absence doesn't go on for very much longer, lest the team be forced to plan for a whole lot more of Chris Denorfia than expected this April.Tags:San Diego Padres, Cameron Maybin
Profar, so good?
February, 18, 2013
Feb 1812:23PM ETBy AJ Mass | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintBoth Jurickson Profar and Adrian Beltre came to the same conclusion in recent days, but for very different reasons. Neither member of the Texas Rangers will be participating in this year's World Baseball Classic.

For Beltre, who was going to suit up for the Dominican Republic, it comes down to his not being 100 percent healthy. Beltre has a minor right calf muscle suffered during early team workouts and simply doesn't want the issue to linger into games that count.

As for Profar, the decision to bail on Team Netherlands has everything to do with his hoping to earn a spot on the Opening Day roster and avoiding the forecast demotion to Triple-A. The team had left the decision in Profar's hands, and after going back and forth for a few weeks, he's decided to stay in camp.

However, it is very premature to assume this means Profar will "head north" with the team when April comes. The Rangers are going to want their top prospect playing games and not sitting on the bench, so it will take an incredibly hot spring to force their hand.
Tags:Texas Rangers, Jurickson Profar, Adrian Beltre
Wainwright's contract talks
February, 18, 2013
Feb 1810:25AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintThe St. Louis Cardinals would like nothing better than to work out a long-term deal with ace righthander Adam Wainwright, who is entering the final season of a six-year, $36 million.

The two sides decided last week to put their negotiations on hold, but Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes Monday that the pitcher and the club remain on good terms. Comparisons were already being drawn to two years ago, when free-agent-to-be Albert Pujols came to camp without a deal and ultimately landed with the Angels the following winter.

The 31-year-old Wainwright, owner of an 80-48 record with a 3.15 ERA, has one of the most team-friendly contracts in baseball and will be looking for a big raise. Cole Hamels of the Phillies (seven years, $153 million) and Matt Cain of the Giants (eight years, $140 million) each signed highly lucrative extensions in the offseason, but each is a few years younger than Wainwright.

And as we saw with Pujols, the Cardinals do not hand anyone a blank check. Tags:St. Louis Cardinals, Adam Wainwright
What happens with Buck?
February, 18, 2013
Feb 189:50AM ETBy Doug Mittler | Recommend0Comments0EmailPrintThe New York Mets landed two catchers, veteran John Buck and hot prospect Travis d’Arnaud, from Toronto as part of the deal for R.A. Dickey.

Buck is known primarily for his defense (as are most .235 career hitters), and his job is essentially to keep the seat warm until d’Arnaud is ready for regular duty. Assuming d’Arnaud is ready at some point in 2013, Buck could find himself as midseason trade bait, speculates Adam Rubin of

The Mets are the fourth major league team for the 32-year-old Buck, who is in the final season of a three-year, $18 million deal. A low batting average doesn’t necessarily reduce the demand for a catcher. Just as Russell Martin, who hit .211 for the Yankees last season and got a two-year, $17 million deal from the Pirates.
post #9805 of 73438
Thread Starter 
Nationals must sign Kyle Lohse. Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Fans of the Washington Nationals have much to be excited about, because a team that already won 98 games last year looks like it could be geared to be even better in 2013. This year's edition won't have to worry about shutting down Stephen Strasburg, and they surprised many by adding Rafael Soriano to what was already a solid bullpen.

They can expect improved outfield performance given that Bryce Harper has a year of experience under his belt, Jayson Werth has returned from yet another injury -- don't forget, he was excellent (.312/.394/.441) in 52 starts after coming back last year -- and they've finally filled the leadoff/center field hole they've been trying to patch for years by trading for Denard Span.

GM Mike Rizzo capped off his busy offseason by adding Dan Haren to the rotation, retaining Adam LaRoche on the club's terms and rebuilding some farm depth by trading the somewhat overrated Mike Morse to Seattle.

All in all, it has been a very good winter for the Nationals, and they're the consensus pick to win the National League East, especially given the teardowns in Miami and New York, and the continued aging of the Phillies. But for a team that's truly built to win now, there's one more move they could and should make -- they need to be the club that swoops in to sign Kyle Lohse, the one big-ticket free agent remaining.

How good is he?

In some ways, the fact that Lohse remains unsigned headed into the second half of February seems like proof of the education of an industry. He brings 30 wins, a 3.11 ERA and one championship ring over the past two seasons into free agency, numbers that ordinarily would generate something of a feeding frenzy on an open market that is always desperate for quality starting pitching. Yet here we are, with camps open to pitchers and catchers across Arizona and Florida, and Lohse is still out there.

It's not hard to see why, of course. Teams have wisely begun to look beyond misleading win-loss records to dig a little deeper, and what you have in Lohse is someone on the wrong side of 30 with a long history of inconsistency who doesn't miss bats and missed time in both 2009 and 2010 because of arm injuries.

Thirty wins over two years may seem elite, but a 3.58 FIP and a 5.72 K/9 -- the latter among the 10 lowest figures of all qualified starters over the past two seasons -- indicate someone who is much more of a mid-rotation starter. Throw in the presence of Scott Boras and the anchor of draft pick compensation due to the qualifying offer St. Louis extended, and you can see why Lohse's stock isn't as high as he might have thought back in the fall.

Lohse may not be among the elite group of pitchers in baseball, but a veteran mid-rotation guy still brings considerable value. He has seemingly become so overrated that he might actually now be underrated, because he's still a good, solid picher, and his market may have fallen to where he might be a steal at this point. While he won't miss bats, he has made himself into a control artist, walking only 1.62 batters per nine innings last season -- better than all but four other starters -- and finishing in the top 25 in home run rate (0.81 per nine). On the right terms, he would be an improvement for nearly every team in baseball.

Why Washington?

The Nationals make the most sense because two of the issues that may scare off other clubs -- Boras and the draft pick -- simply don't apply here. Rizzo famously has a good relationship with the super-agent, counting Boras clients Harper, Soriano, Werth, Strasburg and Danny Espinosa among the current Nationals already. Boras also represents Edwin Jackson, who waited until February to sign with Washington last year before moving on to the Cubs this winter. The Nationals already forfeited their first-round draft pick to sign Soriano, so picking up Lohse would cost them only their next pick, which would be in the high 60s in what is expected to be a shallow draft.

[+] Enlarge
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
Stephen Strasburg, like Lohse, is a Scott Boras client.

That's important because Washington is in exactly the right position on the win curve to continue to try to improve. That is, it wouldn't make sense for a team such as Houston to go after Lohse, because spending millions and a draft pick to simply improve from 60 wins to 63 wins ultimately makes little difference. For the Nationals, who do still have to fight off the reloaded Braves on their way to another division title, every win counts -- far more than a late second-round pick would.

Given that Washington already has a solid rotation in Strasburg, Haren, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler, collecting Lohse may seem like an unnecessary addition that would merely lead to an embarrassment of riches. Perhaps so, but there's ample reason for the Nationals to want to seal some of the cracks that are easily visible here.

Gonzalez may yet have to deal with the repercussions of his alleged involvement in the South Florida PED mess that has caught up Alex Rodriguez and others, while concerns over Haren's back and hip were serious enough that he managed only a one-year deal, coming off one of the worst seasons of his career. If either one misses time, the team is without an obvious or appealing replacement because safety blanket John Lannan moved on this winter.

Adding Lohse probably would bump Detwiler out of the rotation, and that would not only improve the starters, it could solve one of the team's more glaring holes -- the lack of a real lefty option in the bullpen. Washington lost Sean Burnett to free agency and missed on available lefties such as J.P. Howell, which currently leaves them with only the mediocre Zach Duke as a southpaw reliever.

Detwiler had a decent season in his first full year in the Washington rotation, contributing 164 1/3 innings of a 3.40 ERA, but advanced statistics are not a huge fan; he misses even fewer bats than Lohse does and brings neither elite velocity nor a great out pitch. Having him pitch in relief might allow his velocity to play up somewhat while also helping the club more than he would in the rotation, given that he has been very effective against lefty hitters over his career (.214/.307/.300 line against). He would not only be a better option than Duke, he would be available to return to the rotation should injuries require it.

The real question is whether the Nationals could find the money for Lohse, because they have spent so much elsewhere. That said, Lohse doesn't look to be in much of a position to demand a massive deal at this point and Boras has shown a willingness to be creative with Washington, deferring a sizable portion of Soriano's deal. Assuming Boras is never going to allow Lohse to sign for less than the $13.3 million qualifying offer he declined, a back-loaded two-year deal in the $28 million to $32 million range, perhaps with a third-year vesting option, seems appropriate for both sides.

From a baseball point of view, it almost seems like a no-brainer for everyone. Washington would improve its rotation depth and bullpen while fully gearing up for a World Series run; Lohse would get a chance to win another ring while remaining in the National League and playing in front of a good defense that should also score plenty of runs to support him.

There are other places that might make sense for Lohse -- teams such as the Los Angeles Angels or Cleveland Indians, who both already have lost draft picks and could use another starter. After pricey offseasons for each, those clubs could be at their spending limits, and Lohse may not have interest in returning to the more difficult American League for the first time since 2006. Washington is the best fit if the money is there, and Boras and Rizzo always seem to find a way.
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Thread Starter 
Felix Hernandez’s Velocity. Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Last week, the Seattle Mariners inked their ace, Felix Hernandez, to a $175 million extension for the next seven years. The dominating righty will be entering his age-27 season this year, meaning the contract will through his age-33 season. That is, unless, he injures his right elbow.

Embedded within Hernandez’s contract is a clause that gives the Mariners a club option for an eighth season — at a paltry $1 million — should Hernandez miss at least 130 consecutive days due to any kind of procedure to his right elbow. The Mariners negotiated this clause after some concern over what their doctors saw in the pitcher’s MRI.

Apparently, the club was reassured enough by their medical staff to sign the mammoth deal, even though the track record for long-term pitcher extensions isn’t the greatest. But how confident should the team be?

To begin with, Hernandez has been a starter in the league since 2005, and he moved into the rotation full time in 2006. Since 1920, Hernandez ranks 13th in innings pitched through the age-26 season. That list of 13 reads as you would expect — a group of historical hurlers — some of who continued their greatness after age 26 and others whose performances fell precipitously:

Bert Blyleven 282 279 2143.2 76 72 19.9% 6.4% 0.62 0.279 76.10% 55.5
Don Drysdale 313 262 1945 81 84 18.4% 6.8% 0.81 0.274 75.50% 39.9
Hal Newhouser 300 235 1889 71 76 16.2% 10.7% 0.26 0.268 73.90% 42.8
Catfish Hunter 286 263 1881.2 97 102 16.3% 7.4% 0.94 0.246 75.50% 18.9
Fernando Valenzuela 244 234 1805.2 87 85 19.6% 8.9% 0.55 0.275 73.30% 36.0
Dwight Gooden 238 236 1713.2 82 72 22.1% 7.2% 0.46 0.286 74.10% 45.4
Joe Coleman 260 238 1686.2 98 94 17.2% 8.3% 0.79 0.272 74.50% 23.3
Robin Roberts 230 207 1669.1 76 83 11.8% 5.7% 0.68 0.264 75.50% 33.6
Vida Blue 235 224 1666 82 88 17.2% 7.9% 0.63 0.254 75.40% 29.9
Mel Harder 291 200 1662 79 85 7.6% 6.7% 0.34 0.291 66.40% 32.0
Pete Donohue 253 209 1634.1 89 87 6.8% 4.3% 0.20 0.289 65.60% 28.2
Milt Pappas 260 232 1623 90 96 14.1% 7.9% 0.79 0.256 74.80% 20.6
Felix Hernandez 238 238 1620.1 78 81 22.2% 7.2% 0.72 0.298 74.60% 38.3

Here’s how each of those pitchers finished their careers after that:

Bert Blyleven 410 406 2826.1 92 88 17% 7% 0.90 0.285 73% 54.5
Don Drysdale 205 203 1487 86 94 17% 5% 0.64 0.269 76% 25.6
Hal Newhouser 187 138 1099 85 88 11% 8% 0.67 0.270 72% 19.9
Catfish Hunter 214 213 1567.2 91 106 12% 6% 1.02 0.239 75% 16.5
Fernando Valenzuela 209 190 1124.1 112 117 12% 10% 0.92 0.285 71% 5.7
Dwight Gooden 192 174 1087 102 103 16% 10% 1.02 0.291 71% 12.7
Joe Coleman 222 100 864.2 114 110 13% 11% 0.90 0.286 69% 5.5
Robin Roberts 446 402 3019.1 96 96 13% 4% 1.13 0.266 73% 43.1
Vida Blue 267 249 1677.1 101 104 14% 9% 0.79 0.271 73% 18.9
Mel Harder 268 232 1715.1 98 100 8% 8% 0.49 0.281 70% 22.6
Pete Donohue 91 61 478 125 103 5% 6% 0.60 0.328 63% 4.3
Milt Pappas 256 233 1554 95 96 12% 5% 0.90 0.281 74% 25.3

Now, obviously these pitchers performed worse and provided less value than before age 27, and that’s to be expected. Only Catfish Hunter managed to see his adjusted ERA improve. Additionally, these pitchers saw their K% decline by roughly 3%, on average, and their HR/9 increase by .25. Another, admittedly crude, way to look at the decline is to compare WAR/100 IP. Here, 11 out of 12 pitchers declined, with only Catfish Hunter being slightly better (+.05).

These pitchers also saw their innings decline significantly. Eight out of the 12 pitchers saw their innings drop, relative to before age 26. Five of those eight experienced innings-pitched declines of at least 37%.

The Mariners are essentially betting Hernandez can give them an additional 28 WAR through age 33. A quick glance at this list tells us that only two pitchers with a similar workload by age 26 have managed to produce that much value — with a few coming close.

This is a long way of saying that, when we think of aging curves for pitchers, age is only one factor. We also need to keep in mind the amount of wear and tear pitchers experience and how that can dramatically impact how much “greatness” a pitcher has left — even for a player as young as Felix. And, to that point, there are some warnings signs for Hernandez: The biggest has to do with that right elbow.

Before reports of the questionable MRI and contract clause, there was reason for concern. Like most pitchers, Felix has seen his fastball velocity decline throughout his young career. That isn’t troubling. What is, though, is the rate at which that velocity has fallen.

Since PITCHf/x came online in 2007, Hernandez has seen his fastball velocity drop between 4 mph and 5 mph, depending on what data you look at. This applies to both his four-seam fastball and his sinker (which, according to Brooks Baseball, he throws significantly more often):

We know from previous research on velocity and pitcher aging that, on average, starting pitchers lose about .55 mph from their four-seam fastball between ages 21 and 26. Hernandez’s velocity loss is 10 times that amount. We also know that experiencing a velocity loss of at least 1 mph from one season to the next increases a pitcher’s odds of injury, further velocity loss and/or ineffectiveness. Hernandez has had such a decline four out of the past five seasons. Additionally, his sinker’s velocity declined between 1 and 1.5 mph in 2012.

However, while Hernandez lost velocity last year his overall velocity trend was more normal than 2011. Pitchers generally gain velocity as the season goes on. In 2011, Hernandez was essentially throwing his sinker the hardest early in April, only to see his velocity steadily decline through September (93.5 vs. 92.9 mph). Last year, Hernandez was only hitting a shade under 92 mph in April compared to 93 mph in September, more what we would expect.

That being said, let’s assume Felix’s sinker velocity will average about 92 mph in 2013. But how does that compare to other pitchers between 27 and 33 years old? Well, since 2007, we really don’t have a good comparison.

Based on our PITCHf/x data, of the 12 pitchers who rely on their sinkers at least 20% of the time, none throw it as hard as Felix is likely to next year. The closest comparison might be Adam Wainwright, who has thrown his sinker 26.7% of the time and averaged 90.6 mph. Since 2007, Wainwright has averaged a 75 ERA- and 77 FIP-. If we remove the age restriction, we find guys like Chris Carpenter (30.5%, 91.9 mph), Hiroki Kuroda (27.5%, 91.8 mph) and Derek Holland (21.3%, 92.9 mph).

Is Felix’s velocity decline troubling? Yes, given what we know about aging and velocity trends. But since Felix does not rely on his four-seamer as his primary pitch, the decline need not be as concerning as if it was happening to a different pitcher. Moreover, that Felix’s in-season velocity trend once again resembled a normal trend is a good sign. This year could be a critical one to determining how this extension will play out. If Felix can hold the line on his sinker’s velocity, it bodes well for his continued dominance. (In fact, his Steamer projection — which takes into account velocity — sees Felix posting a 5.4 WAR season in 2013.) However, if his sinker again declines significantly, it could further signal that Felix is aging at an accelerated rate — or worse, that his elbow in fact is not sound.

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Thread Starter 
Oakland Athletics Top 15 Prospects (2012-13). Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The emergence of Addison Russell gives the organization a potential corner-stone talent to eventually build around. The last two drafts have also added some depth into a system that has been slowly depleted over time.

#1 Addison Russell (SS)

18 244 79 10 7 23 48 16 .364 .428 .590 .456

Russell exploded in his first taste of pro ball after being selected 11th overall by the A’s during the 2012 amateur draft. He played at three levels where he combined to hit .369 and posted a 1.027 OPS in 55 games. Russell, 19, has above-average bat speed, a good eye at the plate and professional coaching helped him become more consistent with his swing. A contact I spoke with said the young hitter had an amazing debut. “He torched the baseball offensively at every level… controlling the zone while hitting rockets all over the diamond. His swing is short, compact and powerful,” he said.

Along with surprising pop, Russell also has above-average speed although he’s still learning the nuances of running the bases. In the field, he shows a strong arm, good range and improving actions. That same contact said of the middle infielder’s glove, “His defense rivals his offense. [He's a] very consistent and athletic fielder. He’s capable of making the routine and spectacular play… with exceptional range and reliability.” Russell also earns high marks for his make-up, according to another talent evaluator I spoke with recently. “He plays at a very high level of intensity… It comes out every day.”

When asked what Russell needs to work on during the coming year the second talent evaluator I spoke with said the prospect needs to control the strike zone better and learn to be a little more patient. “He has a chance to be an upper-level hitter with power,” he said, likening him to a young Barry Larkin. “There is nothing this kid doesn’t do.” After finishing the year in low-A ball, the Florida native will return there to open the 2013 season but it would not be shocking to see him push himself to high-A in the second half of the season.

#2 Sonny Gray (P)

22 27 27 152.0 158 8 5.86 3.43 4.38 3.83

On first blush it might be easy to say Gray’s 2012 season was disappointing because his numbers were modest at the double-A level. However, the right-hander was playing in just his first full pro season after being selected out of Vanderbilt University with the 18th overall pick of the 2011 amateur draft. Gray, 23, was also challenged with a new delivery in the first half of ’12 before he was allowed to revert to his traditional mechanics.

Gray is a little under-sized from a traditional standpoint but a talent evaluator I spoke with doesn’t expect him to become a reliever as some have suggested as a future role for the prospect. “He’s a starting pitcher. He’ll eventually succeed in that role at the top level,” he said. “Sometimes people get too enamoured with height on pitchers. Successful pitchers come in all shapes, height and sizes. 2013 is a potential breakout year for Sonny.” Despite his sub-6’0” height, Gray manages to stay on top of his fastball and gets a good downward plane on his offerings.

Gray generates low-to-mid-90s velocity on his fastball and has a curveball with plus potential. Another contact I spoke with said he needs to improve his location and efficiency but raved about his heater and breaking ball. “This kid definitely has weapons,” he said. “His fastball and curveball are off the charts.” His changeup has the potential to be average. He should open 2013 in triple-A and could be one of the first pitchers recalled in the event of an injury.

#3 Dan Straily (P)

23 7 7 39.1 7.32 3.66 30.0 % 3.89 6.48 -0.5

Straily exceeded all expectations in 2012 when he dominated both double-A and triple-A before making seven big league starts for Oakland. The right-hander is not overpowering but he can get his fastball up into the 91-93 mph range. He has two very good secondary pitches in a slider and changeup, while an inconsistent curveball rounds out his four-pitch repertoire. His ability to command his pitches with solid command, as well as an understanding of how to change speeds and move the ball around, makes him a valuable big league pitcher.

Straily, 24, has come a long way since being selected in the 24th round of the 2009 amateur draft and was no where to be found on the A’s Top 15 prospects list prior to 2012. He’ll open 2013 as a favorite to win a starting rotation spot on the big league club but he’ll have to fight off fellow 2012 surprise contributor A.J. Griffin.

#4 Michael Choice (OF)

22 402 103 15 10 33 88 5 .287 .356 .423 .349

The 10th overall selection from the 2010 amateur draft, Choice is yet another former first round pick who is close to contributing to the big league ball club. The power outfielder’s best tool is his raw power. A notoriously slow starter, the Texas native struggled a bit in the first half of the year before catching fire. A broken hand quickly extinguished the flame and ended his season in July.

Choice doesn’t hit breaking balls overly well and strikes out a lot so he might end up hitting in the .240-.260 range in the majors. A talent evaluator I spoke with also said the prospect has an unorthodox swing that can at times cause disruptions in his timing. However, he’s sees a lot that he likes in the young hitter. “There may not be a quicker or more powerful bat in the minor leagues… His power potential is off the charts.”

Choice is an efficient base runner but not overly fleet-of-foot. He’s spent time in center field in the minors but will very likely shift to left field in the majors — especially in spacious Oakland Coliseum — due to his average range and fringe-average arm. A second contact I spoke with about Choice said he offers more than just power. “Michael is a very good defensive outfielder that is reliable… He does a lot of things well and plays extremely hard. Although, ultimately, we are looking forward to the day that Michael allows his Louisville Slugger to do damage at the top level.”

With the emergence of both Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick, as well as the off-season trade (steal) of Chris Young, Oakland’s outfield depth is solid. Choice will spend the bulk of 2013 in triple-A unless an injury creates an opening for the young hitter.

#5 Renato Nunez (3B)

18 186 52 18 4 17 32 4 .325 .403 .550 .427

Nunez, who turns 19 around opening day, was one of Oakland’s surprising big-dollar signees from 2010 with a bonus of more than $2 million. He’s spent his first two pro seasons in rookie ball and came over to North America, from the Dominican Summer League, prior to 2012.

The teenager hit .325 last year while also showing good power in the Arizona League. A contact I spoke with said Nunez has “a short, repeatable swing to hit the baseball with authority. His doubles and extra base hits will eventually turn into blasts.”The Venezuela native is aggressive at the plate but has shown a willingness to take a walk. A second talent evaluator I spoke with said Nunez got rid of his ‘baby fat’ last season and showed better athleticism. He called the young hitter naturally gifted at the plate. “He made tremendous strides in his overall game,” he commented.

Nunez has the potential to be a solid third baseman thanks to his strong arm and average range. He needs to improve his actions and consistency to help cut down on youthful errors. The contact I spoke with said the defense improved by leaps and bounds, calling him a smart, hard-working kid. It’s possible that Nunez will impress enough in spring training to earn a full-season assignment but the organization may want to hold him back in extended spring training to help him focus on the fundamentals of the game.

#6 Grant Green (SS/OF)

24 639 172 30 17 43 94 14 .292 .340 .449 .348

A strong first full season in the California League in 2010 may have set some unfair expectations of this former first round draft pick. Green hit for impressive power that season
– including 39 doubles and 20 homers — but his true strengths come from a well-rounded game that includes more gap power than over-the-fence pop. He’s a solid base runner but his speed tool is just average.

A contact I spoke with referred to Green as the most consistent hitter in the A’s minor league system over the past three seasons. A second contact I spoke to referred to the prospect as a natural born hitter. “I believe wholeheartedly that he will have better numbers in the majors than the minor leagues,” he said. “I’ve compared Grant’s bat numerous times over the years to Michael Young’s. That’s high praise for anyone.”

Originally drafted as a shortstop, the California native played five different positions in 2012 at the triple-A level — shortstop, second base, third base, left field and center field. I was told recently that Green, 25, will still see time at different positions but his main focus in 2013 will be at second base. He has average arm strength for a second baseman and shows solid range and good actions around the bag.

Green has a shot at opening 2013 on the big league roster as a utility man, although the addition of recently-acquired Jed Lowrie could hurt his chances. Further struggles by second base incumbent Jemile Weeks could also give Green a hefty foot in the door.

#7 Miles Head (1B/3B)

21 530 160 32 23 39 132 3 .331 .389 .573 .416

The late 2011 trade of former closer Andrew Bailey and outfielder Ryan Sweeney to Boston brought 2012 breakout star outfielder Josh Reddick and two prospects, including Head, to Oakland. The young infielder was not a top prospect in the Sox system but he continued his emergence last season in the A’s system. He has above-average power potential and his quick, compact swing helps him hit for a solid average. Head played at both high-A and double-A in 2012, absolutely dominating the California League. “The numbers he put up in one half in the Cal League were crazy,” a contact stated. “There is tremendous upside with this kid.”

While in the Red Sox system, the natural third baseman was moved to first base permanently in 2011. He was shifted back to the hot corner as soon as he joined the A’s system despite his lack of athleticism and limited range. The contact I spoke with said there are no guarantees that Head will stick at third base, but said that he deserves a shot. “He’s so young to just walk away from it because his body doesn’t look the part… This guy has a knack with his hands and has a little arm strength.”

Head injured his shoulder in the Arizona Fall League and appeared in just one game, but the contact I spoke with said the prospect was cleared for regular activity in spring training and should have no issues opening the year on time. He’ll likely return to double-A at the beginning of 2013 but could see triple-A before the year is out. Head could be ready to push for a starting gig at third base for the A’s in 2014.

#8 Daniel Robertson (3B/SS)

18 231 47 12 5 23 46 3 .241 .330 .400 .339

Considered an advanced high school bat, Robertson reaffirmed that assessment by playing at two levels in 2012 — in the Arizona rookie league and the more advanced New York Penn League. The right-handed hitter has plus bat speed but has yet to develop loft to his swing so the majority of his hard-hit balls end up in the gaps, rather than over the fence. The development of his power could be important depending on where he ends up defensively.

A natural shortstop, it remains to be seen if Robertson has the range to stick at the position in the upper levels of pro ball. During his debut, he spent time at shortstop and third base, where he struggled with the new position. His strong arm plays at either position but he’s definitely not going to push fellow prospect Addison Russell off shortstop.

A contact I spoke with said Robertson was drafted with the idea of playing third base but could continue to see time at both positions. “He has the physical ability to play shortstop and did a very solid job of it when he played there last summer,” the talent evaluator said. “I’m sure he will get the opportunity to play both as his pro career progresses.” A strong spring could help push Robertson to low-A ball, otherwise the A’s may want to get him some extra defensive reps.

#9 Nolan Sanburn (P)

20 7 7 18.2 23 2 9.16 2.89 3.86 3.52

After spending much of his college career at Arkansas in the bullpen, Sanburn was immediately placed in the starting rotation in pro ball and showed potential in seven starts. A contact I spoke with said he was drafted with the plan to develop him as a starter. “He has three or four pitches that have a chance to be above-average and we think those weapons may allow him to develop as a front-line starter,” the talent evaluator said.

The right-hander’s starts never exceeded three innings and he needs to learn to become more efficient and channel his aggressive nature. In short stints, the 21-year-old can hit the upper 90s with his heater. He also has a potentially-plus curveball but lacks a reliable third pitch at this point, although his changeup shows average potential and he’s also working on a cutter.

Sanburn has a shot at opening 2013 in high-A ball, unless the organization wants him to work on expanding his repertoire in a less hostile environment. He has the ceiling of a No. 3 starter or, if he reverts to his bullpen roots, he could develop into a high-leverage reliever that could reach the majors in short order.

#10 Matt Olson (1B)

18 213 53 16 9 19 50 0 .282 .352 .521 .387

Like 2012 draft pick Daniel Robertson, Olson was considered a strong hitting prep prospect that could move swiftly through the minors. He has a quick left-handed bat that offers above-average power potential and the ability to hit for average.

A contact I spoke with underscored Olson’s advanced approach. “He knows how to use the field and hit a ball where it’s pitched… He has a chance to develop into a very good hitter for average,” he explained. “At the same time, we think Matt has a chance to continue to get stronger as he matures and we think he’ll develop power to go along with his hitting ability.” Olson has below-average speed on the base paths.

The infield prospect, soon to be 19, was a two-way player for his Georgia high school and was committed to Vanderbilt University in that role. He has a chance to be a strong defender at first base so his arm strength would be mostly wasted at the position. Olson has a very good shot at moving up to low-A ball in 2013.

#11 B.J. Boyd (OF)

18 167 43 8 1 23 36 16 .301 .401 .434 .393

A multi-sport start in high school, Boyd entered pro ball with some rough edges despite hitting more than .300 in 39 rookie ball games. He also walked 23 times and the ability to get on-base at a high level could be an important component of his game if it continues as he moves up the organizational ladder. He has some left-handed pop despite his modest frame and will have to avoid letting it cloud his head and take him away from his strengths.

Boyd’s best tool is perhaps his above-average speed and he stole 16 bases in 20 attempts during his debut. A contact I spoke with stated, “He is very athletic and can really run. He has a rare combination of speed and strength, which could be very exciting as he develops.” In the field, Boyd covers a lot of ground in center field but he’s still working to improve his routes and his arm strength is below average so a move to left field could be in the cards. He will likely open 2013 in extended spring training before an assignment to the New York Penn League in June.

#12 Pedro Figueroa (P)

26 19 0 21.2 5.82 6.23 40.7 % 3.32 5.08 -0.1

Signed way back in 2003, the organization is finally seeing a return on its time and investment in Figueroa. The hard-throwing left-hander was shifted into a full-time relief role in 2012 — after missing parts of 2010 and ’11 due to Tommy John surgery — and made his MLB debut. Figueroa, 27, still struggles with both his command and control and they’ll probably never be more than average thanks in part to his whippy arm action. His repertoire includes a mid-to-high-90s fastball, above-average slider and a decent changeup.

With two very good left-handed relievers head of him on the depth chart in Sean Doolittle and Jeremy Blevins — as well as Japanese veteran Hideki Okajima, Figueroa will likely open 2013 back in triple-A. His ability to serve as a long-man out of the ‘pen or as a spot starter, though, could help him see significant time at the big league level in the coming year. The injury to closer Grant Balfour also thins the waters for the first month of the season.

#13 Chris Bostick (2B)

19 316 70 16 3 27 66 12 .251 .325 .369 .331

Bostick, 20, has potential as a hitter and does a little bit of everything. He doesn’t hit for much home run power but he has gap strength and will use the whole field. A contact I spoke with said Bostick is a mature player with good focus at the plate. “He has a solid swing this is conducive to using the entire field and making hard contact,” he said. “Chris’ ability reminds me of ex-big leaguer Junior Spivey. His skill set and athleticism are similar. Chris is a hard-working kid that displays passion for the game.”

The native of New York state could stand to be less aggressive at the plate. He also has solid speed and could steal double-digit bases at the MLB level. Defensively, Bostick has spent time at both shortstop and second base as a pro, although he’s likely to see more time at the keystone as he moves up the ladder. If his development stalls at all, he could offer value off the bench as a utility player. He should open the year in full-season ball.

Another contact I spoke with sees success in the prospect’s future. “We really like Chris’ potential… With young players like these kids, their developments are all based on gaining experience and continuing to improve as the competition continues to improve,” he said.

#14 B.A. Vollmuth (3B)

22 595 138 32 14 56 144 7 .261 .336 .405 .336

Vollmuth entered pro ball with the reputation of being a bat-first prospect but he hasn’t hit quite as well as expected. With that said, he reached high-A ball in his first full pro season and didn’t embarrass himself along the way. He hits for some power and has more in the tank, but he needs to do a better job of making consistent contact. He also struggles with breaking balls and struck out more than 150 times in 144 A-ball games.

A contact I spoke with said Vollmuth displayed glimpses of his potential in 2012. “He definitely possesses one of the purest fundamental swings in the entire organization… with a pretty [swing] path through the zone with power potential,” he said. “Vollmuth needs to gain some consistency and work to have strong at-bats day to day. 2013 will be a good year to see if he can take his game to the next level.”

Vollmuth, 23, shows promise at the hot corner and has a strong arm but he’s still working on his foot work and the nuances of the position. He could also end up at first base or as a utility player off the bench that offers versatility and some left-handed pop. He could return to high-A ball to begin 2013 and see double-A by the end of the year.

#15 Michael Ynoa (P)

20 14 12 30.2 31 3 7.34 7.34 6.46 5.68

Ynoa, 21, has pitched just 40 innings in five years since signing for more than $4 million. The right-hander made 14 appearances in 2012 after undergoing Tommy John surgery the previous year. I asked a contact about how well Ynoa has bounced back from the injury and was told that his stuff is looking good, although it’s not quite back to pre-surgery levels. With that said, his fastball is still working in the low-90s and can touch the mid-90s. He also flashes and above-average curveball but needs to see his changeup improve significantly.

Assuming he’s healthy, Ynoa will open 2013 in low-A ball and the organization hopes he can break the 100-inning barrier — although it’s a big ask. The Dominican Republic native was added to the 40-man roster during the off-season and it started the clock ticking with his options, although his situation could certainly earn him a rare fourth option down the line.

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Thread Starter 
Diamondbacks Acquire Tony Campana’s Base Stealing. Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Arizona Diamondbacks outfield roulette continued today, as they announced they’d shipped a pair of low level minor leaguers to Chicago in exchange for Tony Campana. Yes, the Diamondbacks just traded for another outfielder, despite the fact that their OF is already one of the most crowded in baseball. With Adam Eaton and Gerardo Parra in the fold, it doesn’t seem entirely clear why Kevin Towers felt that the organization needed another speed-and-defense center fielder.

What is clear, though, is that Campana can help a big league team even though he can’t hit. In fact, Campana might be one of the most interesting bench players in baseball.

Campana has been in a position to steal a base — on first with second open, on second with third base open — 152 times in his Major League career, often because he’s been inserted as a pinch-runner for someone more capable of getting on base than himself. Campana has taken off in 59 of those 152 opportunities (39%), and has been successful on 54 of those attempts (92%). That’s an extraordinarily high stolen base success rate, especially given the frequency with which Campana runs.

Let’s put this into context. In the Major Leagues last year, there were 66,083 stolen base opportunities, and baserunners attempted a steal in 4,365 of those opportunities, or a SB per SB attempt rate of 6.7%. Of course, that includes a lot of sloths who never run, so we don’t necessarily care about the league average, but more what the average is among guys who do run.

So, let’s just look at players who stole at least 10 bases last year, and then look at their stolen base attempts and successes in relation to their opportunities. There were nine players who ran in at least 30% of their opportunities last year.

Player SBO SB CS SB% SBA/Opp SB/Opp
Rajai Davis 118 46 13 78% 50% 39%
Tony Campana 79 30 3 91% 42% 38%
Dee Gordon 110 32 10 76% 38% 29%
Anthony Gose 52 15 3 83% 35% 29%
Darin Mastroianni 71 21 3 88% 34% 30%
Emilio Bonifacio 101 30 3 91% 33% 30%
Carlos Gomez 134 37 6 86% 32% 28%
Jordan Schafer 119 27 9 75% 30% 23%
Everth Cabrera 160 44 4 92% 30% 28%

In terms of frequency of stolen base attempts, only Rajai Davis ran more than Campana last year. In terms of successful stolen bases per opportunity, Davis narrowly edges Campana out for the top spot, but only does so because of the extra usage rate. While Davis stole 16 more bases in 39 more opportunities, he also was thrown out ten more times. Additional steals at a 61% success rate have negative value, so it’s fair to say that Campana was probably the best high volume base stealer in baseball last year.

That’s why Campana finished in a tie for sixth in the Majors in 2012 by wSB, which measures the runs added by a player through base stealing, even though all of the players surrounding him on that leaderboard were essentially full-time players.

If you extend the leaderboard back to 2011, you’ll actually see that Campana rates #2 in Major League Baseball in runs added through base stealing, behind only Coco Crisp, a player with 750 more plate appearances. Campana has created more runs through base stealing the last two years than Michael Bourn, despite the fact that Bourn has almost 1,100 more plate appearances and is one of the game’s best baserunners.

Put simply, Tony Campana is probably the very best base stealing weapon in Major League Baseball right now. He runs even when everyone knows he’s running, and he’s been ridiculously successful even without the element of surprise. He can’t hit, and Cubs fans aren’t as kind in their defensive evaluations as the very-small-sample-metrics have been, but there should be little question that Campana can create a significant amount of value as a pinch runner, and potentially as a defensive replacement as well — there aren’t too many examples of big leaguers this fast that weren’t above average defensive OFs, after all.

With Jason Kubel around, the Diamondbacks have a starting outfielder who needs a defensive caddy and could certainly be pinch run for in late game situations. Parra was presumed to be the guy filling that role, but he may also be Arizona’s best left-handed bat off the bench and could be pressed into fairly regular starting duty if Cody Ross continues to struggle against right-handed pitching, as he has for most of his career. Having Campana on the roster gives Kirk Gibson the ability to start Parra without losing the ability to pinch run for Kubel any time he gets on base in a high leverage situation, and Campana has the ability to get himself into scoring position with regularity.

Jack Moore noted last year that the offensive decline in baseball has made the stolen base more valuable than it used to be, and while a guy like Campana might have seemed like a wasted roster spot 10 years ago, a player with his unique skills can be a significantly larger weapon in this day and age. Even if he doesn’t hit, and even if he isn’t a great defensive outfielder — the jury is still out in that regard — he’s probably still capable of producing close to +1 WAR as a pinch-runner extraordinaire.

We don’t often talk about the value of bench wins, but they’re real, and they can add up. If Campana ends up replacing Eric Hinske on the roster, this could end up being a significant improvement for the D’Backs, especially if he’s deployed in a role that maximizes his baserunning skills without asking him to hit too often.

The days of simply evaluating a player based on his ability to hit are over. Or, at least, they should be. There are ways to produce value in the big leagues without being a good hitter. Tony Campana is probably one of the best people alive at producing that non-hitting value. Instead of focusing on what he can’t do, let’s acknowledge what he can, and note that Campana likely makes the Diamondbacks a better baseball team than they were without him.

post #9809 of 73438
Thread Starter 
Sanchez versus Syndergaard: Prospect Showdown. Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
By December it became clear Sandy Alderson would trade R.A. Dickey before his Cy Young Award could collect a spec of dust. The only questions remaining were where the knuckleballer would land and who the Mets would receive in return.

It came as little surprise that Alex Anthopoulos was lurking — fresh off acquiring much Miami’s talent less than a month earlier. It was certain the Mets would require Travis d’Arnaud to make a deal, but would they demand another player, too? Noah Syndergaard and Aaron Sanchez vaulted up prospect lists this season as pitchers in the Lansing Lugnuts’ rotation, and their success created a divide among analysts. Syndergaard or Sanchez? Sanchez or Syndergaard? Who was atop Alderson’s list? Was Anthopoulous correct when he deemed Sanchez “untouchable?”
Sanchez is listed at 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds and is a lean, projectable right-handed pitcher. Out of the windup, his tempo is more deliberate than one would expect for a 20-year-old starter who sits in the mid-90s with his fastball. Despite above-average athleticism and good body control, Sanchez has trouble finding a consistent release point. Part of Sanchez’s issues stem from his long legs. After raising his left knee to his hands and beginning to uncoil towards to the plate, he employs a small kick toward the batter.

This movement is inconsistent and he often finds his plant foot landing at a different place each time. When he plants early, his fastball — which normally has good sink and arm side run — flattens out and sails high in the zone. While control has hindered Sanchez, he has an elite ceiling due to featuring three of the minor leagues’ best pitches. In addition to his fastball, Sanchez has a devastating change-up that runs away from left-handed hitters. His change-up came into the season as his third offering but now rivals his 12-6 curveball as his best pitch. The curve is also a true out-pitch that features tight rotation and no visible hump. Like all curveballs, it can be inconsistent, but it’s already a plus-offering.

Syndergaard is also a projectable right-hander. He stands an inch taller and is more physically developed than Sanchez, especially in the upper half. Interestingly, he is also slow to the plate out of the windup and from the stretch. Due to his size and high three-quarter delivery, Syndergaard’s fastball is thrown on a steep downward plane with moderate sinking action. While he is subject to youthful inconsistency, Syndergaard has good command of the pitch and pounds the bottom of the strike zone.

Due to these attributes, it’s easy to project the 20-year-old to be a ground-ball machine at higher levels. He couples his fastball with an above-average-or-better change-up that features both sink and fade. The two pitches complement each other, and inexperienced Midwest League hitters were rarely able to adjust to his change after sitting on the fastball. Syndergaard’s third pitch is an underdeveloped curveball. Currently, the offering is a looping 12-6 curve that needs to be tightened significantly and thrown consistently before it is considered even an average pitch.

Choosing Sanchez or Syndergaard comes down to whether one think Sanchez can rein in his command or Syndergaard can develop a third pitch. Both have the aptitude to make changes. Sanchez has the athleticism, body control and repeatable delivery coaches look for when gauging whether a pitcher can harness his command. It’s more difficult to determine whether Syndergaard can develop a curveball, which is tied to a skillset he’s yet to showcase: consistent tight rotation due to wrist pronation and tensile strength.

But there are other pitches he can develop should his curveball’s development plateau. Most importantly, Syndergaard already has an above-average change-up to keep left-handed hitters — and his platoon splits — in check. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Mets had Syndergaard develop a slider, too, as that tends to be their breaking ball of choice.

Both pitchers will be in the Florida State League (High-A) this season with an outside change at reaching the Eastern League (Double-A) before the season ends. A lot will happen in the two or three years before their debuts, but if each develops as I expect, Sanchez has a higher ceiling as an ace. Syndergaard, on the other hand, is realistically a second or a third starter. With that said, I am more confident that Syndergaard can complement his fastball and change up with a third offering than I am in Sanchez’s command profile. If I had to pick one of them to start a playoff game for me today, it would be Syndergaard. But talent like Sanchez’s is rare.

post #9810 of 73438
Thread Starter 
The White Sox and Beating Projections. Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
There are a lot of projection systems floating around the nerdy baseball universe. Here on FanGraphs, we host a lot of them, including ZIPS, Steamer, Oliver, Marcel, and the Fans projections, and then there’s other systems like CAIRO and PECOTA that are hosted elsewhere. Of all the baseball projection systems, PECOTA is probably the most famous because it was created by Nate Silver, and Nate Silver is now pretty famous for his post-baseball career. So, when PECOTA releases their annual projections, mainstream writers pay attention. And Chicago writers, particularly, like to talk about PECOTA’s projections, mainly to remind everyone how wrong they’ve been about the White Sox.

For instance, here’s a piece by a local radio anchor that trots out all the usual ad hominem attacks about geeks and their numbers. And here’s another one of this year’s entries, which just gives up on factual information completely:

What is it about the White Sox’s rosters and farm system that Baseball Prospectus doesn’t like?

To answer that question, I decided to do research on who writes these inaccuracies year after year. What I found shocked and disturbed me.

It’s Nate Silver.

My whole world of reality collapsed at that moment.

How could it be the guy I religiously read for pinpoint accuracy in politics? How could it be that Silver is an accuracy genius in politics, but yet when it comes to the White Sox he transforms into the accuracy of a Republican pollster?

After composing myself, I discovered a possible reason. Silver lived in Chicago for many years near Wrigleyville and is rumored to be a Cubs fan.

Maybe being a Cubs fan is a weighted bias even Silver’s methodology can’t overcome.

I’m not here to defend PECOTA — BP can do that if they’d like — but I will just insert some facts into the discussion. Like, for instance, that Silver grew up in Michigan as a Tigers fan, not a Cubs fan. Or, that Silver hasn’t been in charge of the system since 2009, and the code has been essentially rewritten since he left. And, of course, it would be remarkably silly for any forecaster to create a system that intentionally downgrades the projections of a specific franchise, since that would simply make the system less accurate and hurt his own credibility. The idea that PECOTA has some kind of anti-White Sox bias because Silver went to the University of Chicago and attended some Cubs games is worthy of the tin foil hat brigade.

That said, I do think it’s interesting that the White Sox have regularly outperformed PECOTA’s expectations, and I think it’s worth actually investigating, as opposed to what Michael Tomaso did. So, let’s investigate the White Sox overall performance since 2005.

Thanks to this helpful link from Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago Tribune, we can see PECOTA’s projections for the White Sox each of the last eight years next to their actual record for that season.

Year Projected Wins Projected Losses Actual Wins Actual Losses Difference in Wins
2005 80 82 99 63 19
2006 82 80 90 72 8
2007 73 89 72 90 -1
2008 77 85 89 74 12
2009 73 89 79 83 6
2010 79 83 88 74 9
2011 82 80 79 83 -3
2012 78 84 85 77 7
Total 624 672 681 616 57

The White Sox have won 52.5% of their games over the last eight years, while PECOTA projected them to win 48.1% of those games during the same time period. On a per season basis, that works out to a seven win difference, and beating your projections by seven wins per year for an eight stretch is pretty impressive. The question is why they’ve been able to do that.

One possible option is that PECOTA’s just not a great forecasting tool, of course, but that probably shouldn’t be the conclusion that we default to simply based on one franchise’s results. It’s also possible that the White Sox have just done something over the last eight years that is hard to forecast ahead of time, and these are things we can actually test and potentially identify.

So, let’s just start with the White Sox win-loss record, and whether or not it matches up with their runs scored and runs allowed. We’ve already noted that the Pale Hose have won at a .525 clip over the last eight years, but has their run differential backed up that kind of record?

During their last 1,297 games, they’ve scored 5,991 runs and allowed 5,825 runs, or an average of 4.62 RPG and 4.49 RAPG. Just from the fact that they’ve outscored their opponents, we can already see that they’ve outplayed their projections, and the entire difference hasn’t been due to the timing of when those runs scored. However, it’s still worth noting the magnitude of the difference, so we can put those RS/RA totals into the pythagenpat calculation and see that those RS/RA totals correspond to a .513 expected winning percentage.

The gap between playing at a .513 and .525 level isn’t enormous, but over nearly 1,300 games, it adds up to an extra 16 wins. In other words, of the seven win per year difference that we started with, two of those (29%) can simply be explained by the timing of run scoring. There’s simply no real way for any forecasting tool — mathematical or gut-based — to know in advance the distribution of how runs are going to be divvied up throughout the year, but that distribution can have a big impact on a team’s final record.

Even if there was an absolutely perfect forecast for the White Sox over the last eight years, it would have missed by two wins per season simply due to fact that run distribution is outside of the realm of forecasting. Projecting aggregate totals with some degree of success is possible, but no one is capable of knowing whether a team is going to score exactly five runs each game or whether they’re going to alternate 10 run games with shutouts. We know what’s more likely, based on historical data and normal distribution, and the best anyone can do is to assume that a team will score and allow runs in something like a normal distribution going forward.

So, we’ve basically explained 30% of the White Sox variation from their PECOTA projections. What could explain the other 70%?

Don Cooper and the White Sox training staff is probably a large chunk of that. Last year, Jeff Zimmerman had a really great post on 10 year DL trends, and I’m going to steal two images from that post and put them here:

The overall health of the White Sox during the last decade has been pretty staggering. Look specifically at the blue pitcher injury bars. From 2002 to 2011, the White Sox pitchers lost fewer than 2,000 days to the DL, while most teams were over 3,000, a lot of teams were over 4,000, and the Rangers were up over 6,000. The White Sox had a remarkable run of pitcher health, and as new GM Rick Hahn told a group of FG readers and authors in Phoenix a few years ago, the organization views Cooper and the training staff as one of the main reasons the team has been competitive during this stretch.

Team forecasts are essentially a collection of individual forecasts realigned to account for expected playing time levels. Because specific pitcher injuries are hard to predict, forecasting systems rely on a player’s own personal track record and normal regression to the mean, which accounts for the fact that there is a chance each player will get injured and miss a chunk of time during the season.

The White Sox pitchers have continually spent a fraction of the time on the DL that any forecasting system would have projected, and so the team’s innings have been reallocated from replacement level scrubs to the team’s highest quality arms. As a result, the White Sox have had the best pitching staff in baseball since 2005, coming in with both an ERA- and FIP- of 93 during that time. They may often get overlooked because of the hitter’s haven they play in, but Chicago has consistently put together results that were better than many high profile staffs, even if they did it with depth and endurance rather than splashy aces.

Chicago has only had 14 pitchers throw at least 100 innings as a starter for them over the last eight years, and of those 14, only three — Orlando Hernandez, Clayton Richard, and Philip Humber — could be described as below average Major League starters during their time in Chicago. That’s remarkable. Even other teams that have focused heavily on pitching during this run have ended up giving long runs to lousy pitchers, simply due to the fact that pitchers break down, and teams either live through terrible performances trying to get them fixed or have terrible replacements come up from the minors.

The White Sox simply haven’t had that problem. They might not have had a rotation fronted by Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee, but they also didn’t give 265 innings to Adam Eaton and his 136 ERA-. While most of the analysis about a pitching rotation’s strength focuses on how good the first few starters are, the contributions of the guys at the back end can make a huge difference as well. And, no team has gotten more value from their back-end starters than the White Sox, primarily because they’ve been able to keep them healthy and avoid the roller coaster of minor league fill-ins that most teams inevitably have to endure.

Trying to quantify exactly what the difference in wins that Cooper and Herm Schneider have meant to the franchise is a more difficult task than looking at the distribution of runs, but just for fun, let’s add an extra 200 days per year on the DL for the White Sox pitching staff, which would bring them to that 2002-2011 league norm that Zimmerman demonstrated last year. There’s roughly 185 days in a Major League season, so we’re basically talking about the difference of not losing one pitcher for a full year, or about 180 to 200 innings pitched.

The average White Sox pitcher during the 2005-2012 timeframe has averaged +2.9 WAR per 180 innings. If we assume that another pitching coach/training staff would have lost that pitcher to injury each season, and the White Sox would have had to replace that pitcher with a collection of replacement level arms, we’ve now accounted for an additional 43% of the White Sox variation from their PECOTA projected records. There’s some assumptions in there that might not be true, but it seems pretty clear that the White Sox track record of pitcher health has added something on the order of several wins per season to the team’s record during the time we’re discussing. Maybe it’s two wins instead of three. I’m not going to argue for this being a precise calculation, but it’s clearly a major factor, and probably an even larger factor than the run distribution we talked about earlier.

Between pitcher health and run distributions, we can probably assume that those two factors account for 50-75% of the team’s variation from the PECOTA projections over the last eight years. One of the two factors is basically not forecastable, while the other is something that the White Sox absolutely deserve a lot of credit for, and it should be noted that this appears to be a sustainable advantage for the organization. If you think the White Sox projections from any system are too low, pointing to Cooper and Schneider’s success at keeping pitchers healthy is almost certainly your best answer to why the team may continue to outperform those projections once again.

But also, please just keep in mind that projections are not predictions. They are a snapshot of what we think a team’s median true talent level might be, and it should be understood that there’s a pretty sizable margin for error based on things that projection systems simply can’t forecast, and also the errors that come from having imperfect information or imperfect calculations. The standard deviation in wins from the good forecasting systems are somewhere in the range of eight wins, meaning that a team forecast for 77 wins could reasonably be expected to win anywhere from 69 to 85 games without it saying anything about the model having a breakdown. There are simply too many uncontrollable and unpredictable variables to get so precise with our preseason forecasts, and simply because of how bell curves work, there are always going to be teams that fall at the tail end of the distribution, making the forecasts look wildly wrong in retrospect.

Most years, there’s one team that beats its forecast by 15 wins, sometimes even 20. Last year, we had two, with Baltimore and Oakland winning far more than anyone expected. Pretty much any team forecast for north of 70 wins has some chance at making the playoffs if the stars align. A 77 win forecast for the White Sox — from any projection system — shouldn’t be taken as a death knell for their season, especially with what we know about their apparent ability to keep their pitchers healthy. But, it’s still worth knowing the consensus projections for the White Sox this year have them as something like the 10th best team in the American League. That doesn’t mean that they can’t win, but it does mean that it’s less likely that they’re going to make the playoffs than most of their competitors.

You don’t need a perfect model in order to extract useful information. Projection systems are not perfect models, and as the White Sox have shown, there are important variables that are not being measured as well as they could be. That said, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water, and don’t assume that the people behind the projections are biased towards your team just because they created a system that spits out a number you don’t like. Instead of going on the attack, try to figure out why the projection system says what it does, and see if there’s a reasonable argument for why it might be missing something.

With the White Sox, there is definitely a reasonable argument that projection systems underrate their ability to keep their pitchers healthy. The run distribution thing is probably just randomness, and I wouldn’t advise counting on that going forward, but the White Sox may very well outperform their projections again this year. Instead of decrying the systems as useless, maybe just use that information as reason to throw Don Cooper a parade.

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