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2016 MLB thread. THE CUBS HAVE BROKEN THE CURSE! Chicago Cubs are your 2016 World Series champions. - Page 83

post #2461 of 77546
Thread Starter 
laugh.gif a serious leg injury is karma for being a cocky 18 year old? OK.

Just flashed on msnbc, saying initial reports is just a strained hammy.
post #2462 of 77546
Thread Starter 
laugh.gif a serious leg injury is karma for being a cocky 18 year old? OK.

Just flashed on msnbc, saying initial reports is just a strained hammy.
post #2463 of 77546
laugh.gif at you responding to that. Relax yourself.
VIKINGS | TIMBERWOLVES | TWINS | MARINERS | HUSKIES | SHARKS
Reply
VIKINGS | TIMBERWOLVES | TWINS | MARINERS | HUSKIES | SHARKS
Reply
post #2464 of 77546
laugh.gif at you responding to that. Relax yourself.
VIKINGS | TIMBERWOLVES | TWINS | MARINERS | HUSKIES | SHARKS
Reply
VIKINGS | TIMBERWOLVES | TWINS | MARINERS | HUSKIES | SHARKS
Reply
post #2465 of 77546
Thread Starter 
laugh.gif I can't tell internet sarcasm too well.
post #2466 of 77546
Thread Starter 
laugh.gif I can't tell internet sarcasm too well.
post #2467 of 77546
Thread Starter 
Breaking down the AL MVP race.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler [+]

When it comes to the MVP award, I prefer to set aside my scouting hat and focus just on performance measurement -- and we have plenty of tools available to us to help guide us to the right answer to the question: "Who produced the most value for his team this year?" And the stat that best gets at this question, in my opinion, is Wins Above Replacement, better known as WAR. Here's a table of the top candidates for the American League MVP award showing their WAR totals to date using two methods, one from FanGraphs (fWAR) and one from Baseball-Reference (rWAR), both sites I typically keep open in browser tabs from the moment I turn on the computer in the morning until I shut it off at night.

The various types of Wins Above Replacement calculations share a common goal: To measure each player's individual value as accurately as possible. For a position player, that means totaling up the value of everything he produced as a hitter (and the value he destroyed every time he made an out); plus the value he produced or destroyed on the bases; plus the value he produced or destroyed on defense. For a pitcher, it means adding up the value of the outs he generated and subtracting the value of the hits and walks he allowed; it may also mean adjusting the value of the balls he allowed into play to try to back out any help received from his defense. In all contexts, the statistics should be adjusted for ballpark, although they're not adjusted to reflect the unbalanced schedules big leaguers face.

The defensive numbers bundled into WAR are somewhat controversial, of course, in part because they're new, in part because they're opaque, and more than anything else because there are multiple stats purporting to measure the same thing but giving us different results. But I respect the statistics even with their limitations, because when we're trying to get a reasonable measurement of defensive value, these statistics are better than a scout's eyes in a small sample of games, which is in turn better than a divining rod, which is in turn better than fielding percentage, which is the worst thing to happen to baseball since Bowie Kuhn finished trying to run the game into the ground.

With all of that in mind, here's a rundown of the leading candidates, including some more qualitative arguments about their cases, starting with the obvious -- or should-be-obvious -- MVP to date.

Jose Bautista

He's leading the AL in on-base percentage and in slugging percentage, with giant margins in both categories, while playing adequate defense across two positions. His OBP is somewhat boosted by intentional walks, but without them he'd still lead the league in OBP by 12 points. (Even without those intentional walks, his fWAR is still 7.0, tops in the AL). He's been far and away the most valuable player in the league, and the only reason I can see that he's not getting his due as such is that he plays for a non-contender.

Because, let's face it, that's the real problem with Bautista's candidacy: For the voters still clinging to an outdated notion of value, there's nothing he could do to earn the MVP award while he plays on a non-playoff team. But where can the argument be? You can't even make a win-probability argument against him -- that is, to say that his performance hasn't directly resulted in wins -- because he's leading the AL in win probability added (WPA), which factors in the timing (inning, score) of offensive performance and credits the hitter with the change in the team's probability of winning the game. And he's not leading by a little bit -- his net WPA of 6.50 is nearly 50 percent higher than the second-highest figure, 4.39 by Miguel Cabrera. I don't advocate the use of WPA to determine the MVP because it's still context-dependent, but if you care about context, it's a sound measure, and points to Bautista in a landslide.

Dustin Pedroia

Pedroia's case here rests to a surprising degree on where he plays: he gets two boosts from playing a position up the middle and from playing it exceptionally well this year, a fairly extreme outlier compared to the rest of his career. Pedroia has made himself into an above-average defender, producing fairly consistent defensive ratings in each of his first four full seasons. This year, his UZR figure, representing runs saved above an average second baseman, is higher than the combined total for the previous two years and has him as the best defensive second baseman in the game (although the current crop of defenders at that position is pretty weak overall).

As a hitter, Pedroia ranks ninth in the American League in FanGraphs' Batting Runs, dead even with Ben Zobrist, and only moves up the rankings on the high fielding rating and the boost he gets for playing second base. (In fact, the difference between Pedroia and Zobrist this year is almost entirely fielding, with small adjustments in Pedroia's favor for playing time and because Zobrist has played 33 games in the outfield.) An argument for Pedroia over Bautista involves team record and a fervent belief that the large uptick in Pedroia's defensive numbers is accurate. I'm skeptical on the second part, but even if I take it at face value the first part holds no water with me.

Jacoby Ellsbury

Ellsbury also plays a position up the middle and has had the good fortune to come up in enough critical situations that he's racked up the third-best WPA figure in the league in addition to earning some mainstream "clutch" points or positive qi or whatever sort of woo some use to decide whose team is good enough for its players to be considered for an MVP ballot. Ellsbury was one of the better defensive centerfield prospects I've seen, at least in terms of range, but his defensive scores as a big leaguer have been all over the place (more evidence in favor of the argument that a single season isn't a sufficient sample when attempting to judge a player's defensive ability).

But his defensive value isn't the big reason for the jump in his WAR totals -- he's started hitting for power like never before, generating more offensive value in four months this year than he had in over 300 games coming into this year and more than doubling his career home run total. He has shown the ability to drop the bat head and drive the ball out to right-center this year, so I'm not convinced it's a fluke, but the value created by the home runs is real either way. I am a lot more comfortable with his defensive ratings than I am with Pedroia's, though.

Justin Verlander

I'm not sure what sort of voting calamity would have to occur for a pitcher to win an MVP award, but indulge me for the moment, since the rules for MVP voters do not in any way exclude pitchers, and any voter who omits them entirely is violating the spirit of those rules, if not their letter as well. And such a voter is also ignoring the value that a top-end starting pitcher can create, whether it's Roy Halladay this year in the National League or Verlander in the American.

The FanGraphs version of WAR relies on FIP, a very simple ERA estimator that is probably too simple -- a back-of-the-envelope calculation where a more rigorous one would do the job better -- and might slightly overrate Verlander, who fares a little worse in any of the other three major ERA estimators (SIERA, tERA, and xFIP) I know of. (An ERA estimator looks at the individual results allowed by a pitcher over which he has significant control, including strikeouts, walks, home runs, and groundball or line drive rates, and uses them to construct a more "neutral" ERA-like statistic that should give us a more accurate picture of how much the pitcher contributed to his team. They assume many things, including that all pitchers suffer roughly the same loss of effectiveness when pitching from the stretch.) Baseball-Reference's version of WAR is based strictly on a pitcher's ERA, so the boost Verlander gets from his ballpark is still present there, and the fact that he's been "lucky" on balls in play -- one might say he's been helped by his defense, assuming one hasn't actually seen Detroit's defense in action -- isn't factored out either.

That "luck," for lack of a clearer term, shows up in Verlander's career-low BABIP, or the batting average he's allowed on balls in play, of .234. Pitchers have little control over whether a ball in play becomes a hit beyond some ability to generate more groundballs or fewer line drives. So Verlander's dominance this year may be boosted by some good fortune that isn't likely to continue; many voters would disagree, but I prefer to use heavily normalized statistics where possible to try to isolate individual value, which would mean taking credit for that low BABIP away from Verlander, dragging his WAR even further below Bautista's. Even if he throws 260 innings or is credited with 26 pitcher wins, he's probably not going to be the most valuable player in the league.

Adrian Gonzalez

Yes, the RBIs are pretty, but they're a function of all the guys Gonzalez has had on base for him, and he doesn't play a premium position. Great player. Nowhere near MVP status.

Curtis Granderson

The most valuable position player on what may be the team with the best record in the American League by the end of the season, and if you throw out the defensive runs figures on FanGraphs -- not that I'm advocating you do such a thing -- Granderson is second in the league behind Bautista, as UZR shows him at nine runs below the mean for all AL centerfielders this year and Baseball-Reference concurs. He's also third in the AL in wOBA, a total-offense rate stat, behind Bautista and Cabrera. I don't know if Granderson is suffering from playing with a former centerfielder, Brett Gardner, to his right, but I've never seen Granderson as a below-average defender, and he wasn't one statistically until this year. I wouldn't put him first on my ballot under any circumstances right now, but I could understand any voter who put him second or third due to skepticism at the implied collapse of his glove.

The National League

Colleague Jayson Stark is breaking down the NL MVP race today, but since I know you'll ask, right now I'd have Halladay at the top of my ballot, followed by Justin Upton and Troy Tulowitzki, any of whom could end up the leader at the end of the season.



Should Arizona call up Bauer?

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler [+]

Unlike most of the top picks who waited until just before the August 15 signing deadline to agree to terms, Bauer put his name on the dotted line during the last week in July. So by the time Monday night rolled around, he had already struck out 17 of the 39 batters he faced during three California League outings and then whiffed eight more over five shutout innings in his Double-A debut on Sunday. The plan, as publicly stated when he signed, was for Bauer to pitch somewhere around 30 innings post-signing, and he's already at 14. But with the D-backs in first place in the National League West, and in the midst of a fairly tight race with the San Francisco Giants, there are already whispers that Bauer might be called up this year. Could he help the Diamondbacks down the stretch? More importantly, should he?

Make no mistake about it, Bauer is good. With a low-to-mid 90s fastball, knee-buckling curve and diving changeup, he has three plus pitches, and he'll even throw a solid slider on occasion to provide a different look to hitters. He throws strikes and maintains his stuff deep into games, and he was the best pitcher in college baseball this spring. "It's always worked for him and I think it always will," said one National League scout. "I think he'd be fine in the big leagues, and he won't be afraid."

There's little doubt that Trevor Bauer can handle big league hitters, but the length of Bauer's UCLA season and his heavy college workload should indicate to the Diamondbacks that while flags fly forever, it might not be worth risking the career of a potential ace. UCLA's baseball season began in February, with practices starting in January. That means that other than a six-week break between his final outing for the Bruins and his pro debut, Bauer has been pitching for eight months already, and to extend him into the playoffs could stretch that into the 10-month range, a risky endeavor for a 20-year-old.

Then, there is the workload itself. Bauer threw 136 2/3 innings for UCLA this year in just 16 starts. He averaged more than eight innings per outing and did not go the distance only six times, while throwing a full nine in each of his last nine starts. Including his brief professional career, he's already at 150 innings, which would be at or above the normal workload expectation from a more mortal prospect of the same age.

Bauer's pitch counts are even more troubling. While big league teams rarely push prospects past 100 in minor league games, Bauer's college pitching lines look like something from the 1970s. Only four times in 2011 has a pitcher hit the 130 pitch mark in the majors, with Tim Lincecum's 133-pitch effort on May 21 being the high. Bauer matched or exceeded the 133 mark in half of his 16 starts, including a stretch of six in a row, with a high of 140 in a 10-1 win over Cal-State Bakersfield when the game was already a guaranteed Bruins victory after an eight-run third. (It should be noted that Bauer pitched on six days' rest at UCLA, as opposed to the typical four days for big leaguers.)

Much has been made of Bauer's uniqueness as a prospect. At 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, he's not exactly the kind of traditional power body normally associated with such workloads, which has led to nearly unavoidable yet unfair comparisons to Tim Lincecum. Bauer is a disciple of the long-tossing regimen as well as many in-between start exercises designed to build and maintain arm strength, and while it's worked so far, the book is far from closed on the effectiveness of his routines. They've worked so far, but it hasn't been proven on a long-term basis, and the potential risk is just too great.

Bauer is good enough to compete for a rotation job next spring and give the Diamondbacks at least six years of star-level performances, if not more. That's 200 starts and 1,200-plus innings, with the always-necessary caveat that he remains injury-free. Yes, he just might be the next pitcher for whom workload really isn't an issue, like Halladay or Lincecum or Sabathia, but finding that out right now isn't worth risking the potential payoff down the road.



Phillies weakness?

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler [+]

Thanks to a pitching staff that is even better than expected -- and expectations were high -- the Philadelphia Phillies are in the midst of an all-time great season. The Phils are currently on pace for 105 wins, which would tie them for ninth on the National League single-season wins list.

With a 7½-game lead in the NL East, the Phillies are in cruise control and can start looking ahead to the playoffs. While the Phils' offense is merely average (seventh in the NL in runs), their starting pitching, led by Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, makes them clear favorites to reach the World Series.

However, when examining the Phils' 2011 résumé, there is one aspect of their performance that raises questions about their postseason chances. To succeed in October, it would stand to reason that you need to be able to beat the best. However, much of the Phillies' gaudy record is based upon the fact that they have beaten up on the worst teams.

According to Baseball-Reference.com, the Phillies are 36-11 against teams with a winning percentage below .470. That .766 winning percentage against such clubs is by far the best in baseball. The New York Yankees, at 26-10 (.722), have the next best mark against sub.-470 teams. (I chose .470 as the cutoff because that is the winning percentage of teams that finish the season 10 games under .500.) In fact, if that .766 winning percentage holds, it would be the fourth-best mark against sub-.470 teams of the wild-card era, just ahead of the 2001 Seattle Mariners, who set the record for regular-season wins before flaming out in the ALCS.

But when playing teams on pace to finish at least 10 games over .500 (.530 winning percentage), the Phillies are just 16-16. That's the sixth-best record in baseball against such clubs, and worse than their NL East rivals, the Atlanta Braves. Who fares the best against .530-plus teams? That would be the Boston Red Sox, who are 24-15.

This seems like bad news for the Phillies, because one would think a potential World Series champ would have more success against the league's best. To see if there is any truth to that hypothesis, I went back to see how the last 10 World Series champs fared against the sub-.470 and .530-plus clubs. In theory, the World Series champs should consistently perform well against the good teams, and that would be an indicator of postseason success.

As it turns out, that's not really the case at all. The World Series champs, with the exception of the 2006 Cardinals, have all beat the snot out of the sub-.470 clubs, and even the Cards fared pretty well. The champs' performance against the .530-plus clubs, however, has varied widely. Just last year, the Giants had the best record in baseball against the sub-.470 teams (35-14), but their mark versus the .530-plus teams (20-27) ranked 15th.

It's not surprising that the World Series champs would beat up on the bad teams. The ability to do so consistently, in fact, is typically the sign of a strong team. However, you would expect World Series champs to fare well against good squads during the regular season, and that hasn't happened this century.

In fact, beating up on the weaklings seems to be a better indicator of postseason success. To wit: The 1998 New York Yankees, the team many consider the best in recent history, went 52-12 against sub-.470 teams, which is the best mark of the wild-card era.

If recent history is any guide, the Phils' remarkable record against poor squads says more about their title chances than their pedestrian record against good teams. So if you want nitpick something regarding their World Series hopes, you'll have to look elsewhere.

post #2468 of 77546
Thread Starter 
Breaking down the AL MVP race.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler [+]

When it comes to the MVP award, I prefer to set aside my scouting hat and focus just on performance measurement -- and we have plenty of tools available to us to help guide us to the right answer to the question: "Who produced the most value for his team this year?" And the stat that best gets at this question, in my opinion, is Wins Above Replacement, better known as WAR. Here's a table of the top candidates for the American League MVP award showing their WAR totals to date using two methods, one from FanGraphs (fWAR) and one from Baseball-Reference (rWAR), both sites I typically keep open in browser tabs from the moment I turn on the computer in the morning until I shut it off at night.

The various types of Wins Above Replacement calculations share a common goal: To measure each player's individual value as accurately as possible. For a position player, that means totaling up the value of everything he produced as a hitter (and the value he destroyed every time he made an out); plus the value he produced or destroyed on the bases; plus the value he produced or destroyed on defense. For a pitcher, it means adding up the value of the outs he generated and subtracting the value of the hits and walks he allowed; it may also mean adjusting the value of the balls he allowed into play to try to back out any help received from his defense. In all contexts, the statistics should be adjusted for ballpark, although they're not adjusted to reflect the unbalanced schedules big leaguers face.

The defensive numbers bundled into WAR are somewhat controversial, of course, in part because they're new, in part because they're opaque, and more than anything else because there are multiple stats purporting to measure the same thing but giving us different results. But I respect the statistics even with their limitations, because when we're trying to get a reasonable measurement of defensive value, these statistics are better than a scout's eyes in a small sample of games, which is in turn better than a divining rod, which is in turn better than fielding percentage, which is the worst thing to happen to baseball since Bowie Kuhn finished trying to run the game into the ground.

With all of that in mind, here's a rundown of the leading candidates, including some more qualitative arguments about their cases, starting with the obvious -- or should-be-obvious -- MVP to date.

Jose Bautista

He's leading the AL in on-base percentage and in slugging percentage, with giant margins in both categories, while playing adequate defense across two positions. His OBP is somewhat boosted by intentional walks, but without them he'd still lead the league in OBP by 12 points. (Even without those intentional walks, his fWAR is still 7.0, tops in the AL). He's been far and away the most valuable player in the league, and the only reason I can see that he's not getting his due as such is that he plays for a non-contender.

Because, let's face it, that's the real problem with Bautista's candidacy: For the voters still clinging to an outdated notion of value, there's nothing he could do to earn the MVP award while he plays on a non-playoff team. But where can the argument be? You can't even make a win-probability argument against him -- that is, to say that his performance hasn't directly resulted in wins -- because he's leading the AL in win probability added (WPA), which factors in the timing (inning, score) of offensive performance and credits the hitter with the change in the team's probability of winning the game. And he's not leading by a little bit -- his net WPA of 6.50 is nearly 50 percent higher than the second-highest figure, 4.39 by Miguel Cabrera. I don't advocate the use of WPA to determine the MVP because it's still context-dependent, but if you care about context, it's a sound measure, and points to Bautista in a landslide.

Dustin Pedroia

Pedroia's case here rests to a surprising degree on where he plays: he gets two boosts from playing a position up the middle and from playing it exceptionally well this year, a fairly extreme outlier compared to the rest of his career. Pedroia has made himself into an above-average defender, producing fairly consistent defensive ratings in each of his first four full seasons. This year, his UZR figure, representing runs saved above an average second baseman, is higher than the combined total for the previous two years and has him as the best defensive second baseman in the game (although the current crop of defenders at that position is pretty weak overall).

As a hitter, Pedroia ranks ninth in the American League in FanGraphs' Batting Runs, dead even with Ben Zobrist, and only moves up the rankings on the high fielding rating and the boost he gets for playing second base. (In fact, the difference between Pedroia and Zobrist this year is almost entirely fielding, with small adjustments in Pedroia's favor for playing time and because Zobrist has played 33 games in the outfield.) An argument for Pedroia over Bautista involves team record and a fervent belief that the large uptick in Pedroia's defensive numbers is accurate. I'm skeptical on the second part, but even if I take it at face value the first part holds no water with me.

Jacoby Ellsbury

Ellsbury also plays a position up the middle and has had the good fortune to come up in enough critical situations that he's racked up the third-best WPA figure in the league in addition to earning some mainstream "clutch" points or positive qi or whatever sort of woo some use to decide whose team is good enough for its players to be considered for an MVP ballot. Ellsbury was one of the better defensive centerfield prospects I've seen, at least in terms of range, but his defensive scores as a big leaguer have been all over the place (more evidence in favor of the argument that a single season isn't a sufficient sample when attempting to judge a player's defensive ability).

But his defensive value isn't the big reason for the jump in his WAR totals -- he's started hitting for power like never before, generating more offensive value in four months this year than he had in over 300 games coming into this year and more than doubling his career home run total. He has shown the ability to drop the bat head and drive the ball out to right-center this year, so I'm not convinced it's a fluke, but the value created by the home runs is real either way. I am a lot more comfortable with his defensive ratings than I am with Pedroia's, though.

Justin Verlander

I'm not sure what sort of voting calamity would have to occur for a pitcher to win an MVP award, but indulge me for the moment, since the rules for MVP voters do not in any way exclude pitchers, and any voter who omits them entirely is violating the spirit of those rules, if not their letter as well. And such a voter is also ignoring the value that a top-end starting pitcher can create, whether it's Roy Halladay this year in the National League or Verlander in the American.

The FanGraphs version of WAR relies on FIP, a very simple ERA estimator that is probably too simple -- a back-of-the-envelope calculation where a more rigorous one would do the job better -- and might slightly overrate Verlander, who fares a little worse in any of the other three major ERA estimators (SIERA, tERA, and xFIP) I know of. (An ERA estimator looks at the individual results allowed by a pitcher over which he has significant control, including strikeouts, walks, home runs, and groundball or line drive rates, and uses them to construct a more "neutral" ERA-like statistic that should give us a more accurate picture of how much the pitcher contributed to his team. They assume many things, including that all pitchers suffer roughly the same loss of effectiveness when pitching from the stretch.) Baseball-Reference's version of WAR is based strictly on a pitcher's ERA, so the boost Verlander gets from his ballpark is still present there, and the fact that he's been "lucky" on balls in play -- one might say he's been helped by his defense, assuming one hasn't actually seen Detroit's defense in action -- isn't factored out either.

That "luck," for lack of a clearer term, shows up in Verlander's career-low BABIP, or the batting average he's allowed on balls in play, of .234. Pitchers have little control over whether a ball in play becomes a hit beyond some ability to generate more groundballs or fewer line drives. So Verlander's dominance this year may be boosted by some good fortune that isn't likely to continue; many voters would disagree, but I prefer to use heavily normalized statistics where possible to try to isolate individual value, which would mean taking credit for that low BABIP away from Verlander, dragging his WAR even further below Bautista's. Even if he throws 260 innings or is credited with 26 pitcher wins, he's probably not going to be the most valuable player in the league.

Adrian Gonzalez

Yes, the RBIs are pretty, but they're a function of all the guys Gonzalez has had on base for him, and he doesn't play a premium position. Great player. Nowhere near MVP status.

Curtis Granderson

The most valuable position player on what may be the team with the best record in the American League by the end of the season, and if you throw out the defensive runs figures on FanGraphs -- not that I'm advocating you do such a thing -- Granderson is second in the league behind Bautista, as UZR shows him at nine runs below the mean for all AL centerfielders this year and Baseball-Reference concurs. He's also third in the AL in wOBA, a total-offense rate stat, behind Bautista and Cabrera. I don't know if Granderson is suffering from playing with a former centerfielder, Brett Gardner, to his right, but I've never seen Granderson as a below-average defender, and he wasn't one statistically until this year. I wouldn't put him first on my ballot under any circumstances right now, but I could understand any voter who put him second or third due to skepticism at the implied collapse of his glove.

The National League

Colleague Jayson Stark is breaking down the NL MVP race today, but since I know you'll ask, right now I'd have Halladay at the top of my ballot, followed by Justin Upton and Troy Tulowitzki, any of whom could end up the leader at the end of the season.



Should Arizona call up Bauer?

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler [+]

Unlike most of the top picks who waited until just before the August 15 signing deadline to agree to terms, Bauer put his name on the dotted line during the last week in July. So by the time Monday night rolled around, he had already struck out 17 of the 39 batters he faced during three California League outings and then whiffed eight more over five shutout innings in his Double-A debut on Sunday. The plan, as publicly stated when he signed, was for Bauer to pitch somewhere around 30 innings post-signing, and he's already at 14. But with the D-backs in first place in the National League West, and in the midst of a fairly tight race with the San Francisco Giants, there are already whispers that Bauer might be called up this year. Could he help the Diamondbacks down the stretch? More importantly, should he?

Make no mistake about it, Bauer is good. With a low-to-mid 90s fastball, knee-buckling curve and diving changeup, he has three plus pitches, and he'll even throw a solid slider on occasion to provide a different look to hitters. He throws strikes and maintains his stuff deep into games, and he was the best pitcher in college baseball this spring. "It's always worked for him and I think it always will," said one National League scout. "I think he'd be fine in the big leagues, and he won't be afraid."

There's little doubt that Trevor Bauer can handle big league hitters, but the length of Bauer's UCLA season and his heavy college workload should indicate to the Diamondbacks that while flags fly forever, it might not be worth risking the career of a potential ace. UCLA's baseball season began in February, with practices starting in January. That means that other than a six-week break between his final outing for the Bruins and his pro debut, Bauer has been pitching for eight months already, and to extend him into the playoffs could stretch that into the 10-month range, a risky endeavor for a 20-year-old.

Then, there is the workload itself. Bauer threw 136 2/3 innings for UCLA this year in just 16 starts. He averaged more than eight innings per outing and did not go the distance only six times, while throwing a full nine in each of his last nine starts. Including his brief professional career, he's already at 150 innings, which would be at or above the normal workload expectation from a more mortal prospect of the same age.

Bauer's pitch counts are even more troubling. While big league teams rarely push prospects past 100 in minor league games, Bauer's college pitching lines look like something from the 1970s. Only four times in 2011 has a pitcher hit the 130 pitch mark in the majors, with Tim Lincecum's 133-pitch effort on May 21 being the high. Bauer matched or exceeded the 133 mark in half of his 16 starts, including a stretch of six in a row, with a high of 140 in a 10-1 win over Cal-State Bakersfield when the game was already a guaranteed Bruins victory after an eight-run third. (It should be noted that Bauer pitched on six days' rest at UCLA, as opposed to the typical four days for big leaguers.)

Much has been made of Bauer's uniqueness as a prospect. At 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, he's not exactly the kind of traditional power body normally associated with such workloads, which has led to nearly unavoidable yet unfair comparisons to Tim Lincecum. Bauer is a disciple of the long-tossing regimen as well as many in-between start exercises designed to build and maintain arm strength, and while it's worked so far, the book is far from closed on the effectiveness of his routines. They've worked so far, but it hasn't been proven on a long-term basis, and the potential risk is just too great.

Bauer is good enough to compete for a rotation job next spring and give the Diamondbacks at least six years of star-level performances, if not more. That's 200 starts and 1,200-plus innings, with the always-necessary caveat that he remains injury-free. Yes, he just might be the next pitcher for whom workload really isn't an issue, like Halladay or Lincecum or Sabathia, but finding that out right now isn't worth risking the potential payoff down the road.



Phillies weakness?

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler [+]

Thanks to a pitching staff that is even better than expected -- and expectations were high -- the Philadelphia Phillies are in the midst of an all-time great season. The Phils are currently on pace for 105 wins, which would tie them for ninth on the National League single-season wins list.

With a 7½-game lead in the NL East, the Phillies are in cruise control and can start looking ahead to the playoffs. While the Phils' offense is merely average (seventh in the NL in runs), their starting pitching, led by Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, makes them clear favorites to reach the World Series.

However, when examining the Phils' 2011 résumé, there is one aspect of their performance that raises questions about their postseason chances. To succeed in October, it would stand to reason that you need to be able to beat the best. However, much of the Phillies' gaudy record is based upon the fact that they have beaten up on the worst teams.

According to Baseball-Reference.com, the Phillies are 36-11 against teams with a winning percentage below .470. That .766 winning percentage against such clubs is by far the best in baseball. The New York Yankees, at 26-10 (.722), have the next best mark against sub.-470 teams. (I chose .470 as the cutoff because that is the winning percentage of teams that finish the season 10 games under .500.) In fact, if that .766 winning percentage holds, it would be the fourth-best mark against sub-.470 teams of the wild-card era, just ahead of the 2001 Seattle Mariners, who set the record for regular-season wins before flaming out in the ALCS.

But when playing teams on pace to finish at least 10 games over .500 (.530 winning percentage), the Phillies are just 16-16. That's the sixth-best record in baseball against such clubs, and worse than their NL East rivals, the Atlanta Braves. Who fares the best against .530-plus teams? That would be the Boston Red Sox, who are 24-15.

This seems like bad news for the Phillies, because one would think a potential World Series champ would have more success against the league's best. To see if there is any truth to that hypothesis, I went back to see how the last 10 World Series champs fared against the sub-.470 and .530-plus clubs. In theory, the World Series champs should consistently perform well against the good teams, and that would be an indicator of postseason success.

As it turns out, that's not really the case at all. The World Series champs, with the exception of the 2006 Cardinals, have all beat the snot out of the sub-.470 clubs, and even the Cards fared pretty well. The champs' performance against the .530-plus clubs, however, has varied widely. Just last year, the Giants had the best record in baseball against the sub-.470 teams (35-14), but their mark versus the .530-plus teams (20-27) ranked 15th.

It's not surprising that the World Series champs would beat up on the bad teams. The ability to do so consistently, in fact, is typically the sign of a strong team. However, you would expect World Series champs to fare well against good squads during the regular season, and that hasn't happened this century.

In fact, beating up on the weaklings seems to be a better indicator of postseason success. To wit: The 1998 New York Yankees, the team many consider the best in recent history, went 52-12 against sub-.470 teams, which is the best mark of the wild-card era.

If recent history is any guide, the Phils' remarkable record against poor squads says more about their title chances than their pedestrian record against good teams. So if you want nitpick something regarding their World Series hopes, you'll have to look elsewhere.

post #2469 of 77546
im pissed. Harper was coming to Portland on monday. Now work will be boring 30t6p3b.gif

But Cubs fire Hendry. You guys want Ed Wade?
TEAM CHEESEHEADS ..... HoustonRockets
Jordy Nelson: Best WR in the game .................................. The Roc Boys in the building tonight
Reply
TEAM CHEESEHEADS ..... HoustonRockets
Jordy Nelson: Best WR in the game .................................. The Roc Boys in the building tonight
Reply
post #2470 of 77546
im pissed. Harper was coming to Portland on monday. Now work will be boring 30t6p3b.gif

But Cubs fire Hendry. You guys want Ed Wade?
TEAM CHEESEHEADS ..... HoustonRockets
Jordy Nelson: Best WR in the game .................................. The Roc Boys in the building tonight
Reply
TEAM CHEESEHEADS ..... HoustonRockets
Jordy Nelson: Best WR in the game .................................. The Roc Boys in the building tonight
Reply
post #2471 of 77546
Who do you guys think is the best third basemen in baseball right now?
post #2472 of 77546
Who do you guys think is the best third basemen in baseball right now?
post #2473 of 77546
Adrian Beltre.

Todd Helton's at-bat in the 12th inning tonight was outrageous. 15 pitches before ripping a double to get the Rockies within one. 3-6 on his 38th birthday. .313, 14, 65, .395, .492. Love that guy.
post #2474 of 77546
Adrian Beltre.

Todd Helton's at-bat in the 12th inning tonight was outrageous. 15 pitches before ripping a double to get the Rockies within one. 3-6 on his 38th birthday. .313, 14, 65, .395, .492. Love that guy.
post #2475 of 77546
Have I mentioned how much I despise Kevin Gregg?

Least favorite Oriole EVER....
post #2476 of 77546
Have I mentioned how much I despise Kevin Gregg?

Least favorite Oriole EVER....
post #2477 of 77546
Quote:
Originally Posted by DoubleJs07

Have I mentioned how much I despise Kevin Gregg?

Least favorite Oriole EVER....


smiley: laugh

Toronto does this every year, grab some $+!#%@ relievers, let them rack up some saves till they reach type b or a and collect draft picks, why other teams keep falling for this is hilarious to me.
Instagram. | just my art and photography. #NT will follow back. Also Flickr.
Reply
Instagram. | just my art and photography. #NT will follow back. Also Flickr.
Reply
post #2478 of 77546
Quote:
Originally Posted by DoubleJs07

Have I mentioned how much I despise Kevin Gregg?

Least favorite Oriole EVER....


smiley: laugh

Toronto does this every year, grab some $+!#%@ relievers, let them rack up some saves till they reach type b or a and collect draft picks, why other teams keep falling for this is hilarious to me.
Instagram. | just my art and photography. #NT will follow back. Also Flickr.
Reply
Instagram. | just my art and photography. #NT will follow back. Also Flickr.
Reply
post #2479 of 77546
Quote:
Originally Posted by Osh Kosh Bosh

Quote:
Originally Posted by DoubleJs07

Have I mentioned how much I despise Kevin Gregg?

Least favorite Oriole EVER....


smiley: laugh

Toronto does this every year, grab some $+!#%@ relievers, let them rack up some saves till they reach type b or a and collect draft picks, why other teams keep falling for this is hilarious to me.

I said this a few pages back...but everytime Buck makes the call to the BP and his fat %%# comes trotting out, I change the channel or do something else.  No joke.  Dude looks intimidating as #@%#, but throws 81 mph fastballs. 

He absolutely SUCKS. 
post #2480 of 77546
Quote:
Originally Posted by Osh Kosh Bosh

Quote:
Originally Posted by DoubleJs07

Have I mentioned how much I despise Kevin Gregg?

Least favorite Oriole EVER....


smiley: laugh

Toronto does this every year, grab some $+!#%@ relievers, let them rack up some saves till they reach type b or a and collect draft picks, why other teams keep falling for this is hilarious to me.

I said this a few pages back...but everytime Buck makes the call to the BP and his fat %%# comes trotting out, I change the channel or do something else.  No joke.  Dude looks intimidating as #@%#, but throws 81 mph fastballs. 

He absolutely SUCKS. 
post #2481 of 77546
I think the Indians lost the C.C. Sabathia trade...
post #2482 of 77546
I think the Indians lost the C.C. Sabathia trade...
post #2483 of 77546
 have signed jered weaver to extension. press conf tuesday, team announces

weaver got 85M for 5 yrs. 

weaver got a full no-trade clause. appears he badly wanted to stay with the 

 Jon Heyman 


smiley: pimp 
I was really worried because he was a Boras client and theres a history between Boras and the owner.
Team Lakers
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post #2484 of 77546
 have signed jered weaver to extension. press conf tuesday, team announces

weaver got 85M for 5 yrs. 

weaver got a full no-trade clause. appears he badly wanted to stay with the 

 Jon Heyman 


smiley: pimp 
I was really worried because he was a Boras client and theres a history between Boras and the owner.
Team Lakers
1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1972, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010
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post #2485 of 77546
Thread Starter 
Jason Heyward's fall from grace.

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Spoiler [+]

Gushing scouting reports heralded him. In his first spring training, he sent pitches impossible distances. The balls he hit battered a Coca-Cola truck in the parking lot and broke an assistant GM's window.

In his first major league at-bat, he lined a 2-0 fastball from Carlos Zambrano deep -- 414 feet deep -- over the right-center wall at Turner Field. He made the All-Star team as a 20-year-old. Surely, more laurels would follow. It was more than just the start to a career. It was a creation myth in the making.

Almost a year-and-a-half after that first home run, however, much of the shine has come off Jason Heyward.

Last season, Heyward ranked fourth in the National League in on-base percentage and authored an impressive WAR of 5.1. In 2011, he's cratered: a batting line of .220/.313/.393 and just 12 home runs in 355 plate appearances.

Probe deeper and things are similarly grim. Heyward is trending in the wrong direction when it comes to line-drive percentage (17.8 percent in 2010 to 13.9 percent in 2011), infield pop-ups (8.4 percent to 24.7 percent) and batting average on balls in play (.335 to .245). In the case of his declining BABIP, there's almost certainly some bad luck involved, but the remaining indicators are more troubling.

Additionally, he's swinging at 44.8 percent of pitches overall, up from 39.4 percent last year; and he's swinging at 28.7 percent out of the zone after hacking at just 24.2 percent of such offerings. Add it all up and you have a guy who's hitting fewer line drives and more pop-ups and seems to have lost control of the strike zone.

And things appear to be getting steadily worse. In a related matter, he's been losing playing time to the previously forgettable Jose Constanza.

Can this be the real Jason Heyward?

Heyward is still just 21 years of age, and we've seen him succeed at a high level. So he has the chops to live up to the expectations, as those who have followed him have always maintained. Perhaps his struggles this season are mechanical in nature? Here's Heyward's Atlanta Braves teammate, future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones, on the young outfielder's struggles:

"Jason's got one swing. His swing needs some versatility. How many times have we seen him get fooled on an off-speed pitch and one-hand it into centerfield? He swings and misses because he takes the same swing. He's had some mechanics that have been a little iffy that he is trying to work out. You show me a .300 hitter, and I'll show you a guy who is going to take five different swings."


Quite often -- more often than some wish to acknowledge -- traditional scouting dovetails quite nicely with "statheady" analysis. And so it is with Heyward.

As Jones implies, Heyward, on top of not driving the ball, has seen a slight decline in his contact rate.

Heyward's problem mostly, though, is that line drives have turned into pop-ups and tepid grounders this season, which suggests he's just missing his spots -- round ball meeting round bat leaves little margin for error, as the story goes.

Diagnosing the problem is of course a speculative exercise, but it's highly possible that Heyward has thrived at the lower levels with an incomplete approach at the plate because he was talented enough to do so.

Now, however, he's competing against the best pitchers in the world, and perhaps they've divined something in his approach that's lacking. Chipper Jones seems to think so (if you'll permit a brief appeal to authority). To cite one of countless examples, Jose Bautista owes his ascent in part to a mechanical adjustment at the plate.

To hear Curtis Granderson tell it, New York Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long has much to do with his recent power spike and newfound ability to hit lefties. And so on and so on. The point is that even the best ballplayers can be infected, unknowingly, by bad habits or allow an exploitable mechanical flaw to persist. Such tales are legion. The good news is that Heyward, in addition to being lavishly gifted and driven, is also an intelligent and engaged professional, one who gives every indication of wanting to get better.

There's also no discounting the health variable. Heyward was troubled by a bad back during spring training (which may have spared those Coke trucks from further ritual abuse), and this season he spent time on the disabled list with a shoulder malady.

Such injuries, of course, can sap power, upset timing and lead to altered swing planes, among other misfortunes. Heyward, as mentioned, is still quite young, so for now his injuries are more explanatory than damning. Only time will tell whether it's a pattern.

Heyward will probably never live up to those early comparisons to the likes of Willie Mays and Ken Griffey Jr., but that was the case even before his 2011 struggles. If he adjusts, enjoys something other than bad luck and stays generally healthy, then he's going to be a very good player for a very long time.



Andrew Friedman faces a tough decision.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler [+]

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman once aptly compared his work to that of Sisyphus, the king doomed to constantly push a boulder up a hill, only to see it roll back down. Year after year, Cashman and Boston general manager Theo Epstein are now expected to construct teams with the ability to win a championship.

But they have the tools to do it. It's as if the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have bulldozers, while Tampa Bay Rays general manager Andrew Friedman is working with a shovel. You couldn't blame him if he began to suffer from American League East fatigue, trying to squeeze production out of every nickel of his payroll, while knowing that the Yankees and Red Sox will always have the wherewithal to paper over mistakes with dollars.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Friedman and Joe Maddon
AP Photo/Steven SenneAndrew Friedman may leave the Tampa Bay Rays.

Friedman and those who work with him have probably done their jobs as well or better than any organization in the majors over the past five years, and yet most years, the odds are that Tampa Bay will be exactly where they are today: They are good, but not great enough to keep up with two division rivals that have staggering resources. And no matter how well the Rays develop players and run their finances, they will almost never retain their best players if they reach free agency.

Friedman, then, will have interesting choices this offseason, when he presumably will be offered the opportunity to take over the baseball operations of the Houston Astros, and perhaps the chance to run the Chicago Cubs.

With the Rays, he works among people he has come to know and trust, among people who know and trust him, the kind of work environment that nobody should take for granted. On the other hand, he does his work knowing that he can do everything perfectly within his means -- picking the best available players and maximizing value -- and the Rays may still finish a dozen games out of first place most seasons, well into the future. Because right now, Tampa Bay has roughly the same chance of getting a new ballpark as the U.S. has of balancing its budget. It's not close.

If Friedman goes to Houston, he would be reconstructing the Astros almost from the ground up. If he went to the Cubs, he would be taking on a franchise that hasn't won a championship in more than a century.

But from Friedman's point of view, leaving the AL East would be like going from the final table at the World Series of Poker to a neighborhood card game. There are no monster payrolls to contend with; in fact, if Friedman were to become GM of the Chicago Cubs, he would be the guy with the big stack of chips in front of him. The Pirates are improving, but they're still limited, and the Cardinals' budget may never go beyond $110 million. The Brewers are going to draw 3 million this season, to their great credit, but owner Mark Attanasio does have limits to how far he'll take his payroll, and rightly so; he bid aggressively on CC Sabathia and still was outbid by about 40 percent.

The 2011 payrolls for the NL Central teams in April, according to The Associated Press, and their respective rankings among the 30 teams:
Chicago Cubs $125.5 million (sixth)
St. Louis Cardinals $105.4 million (11th)
Milwaukee Brewers $85.5 million (17th)
Cincinnati Reds $76.2 million (19th)
Houston Astros $70.7 million (20th)
Pittsburgh Pirates $46 million (27th)

What Friedman will have to consider, too, is that this could be the best time for him to move. Right now, he is to baseball what Bill Belichick was to football in 2002. Nobody knows what could change in five years. Friedman may never again have the opportunity to take over the Astros, his hometown team. He may never again have the chance to pursue a chance like the one he would get with the Cubs -- a franchise with more than a century of history, excellent resources and a fan base prepared to bestow sainthood upon the executive who leads the next Cubs world championship victory parade.

A decade ago, Billy Beane -- who would also make sense as a candidate to run the Cubs now -- was in a similar situation that Friedman is in now, passing up the chance to take over the Red Sox. Beane made his choice for personal reasons, to remain close to his daughter from his first marriage, and he has no regret over that decision.

But almost a decade later, Beane is working in a place where he may never have a chance to win, in a bad ballpark, for an owner he really likes and respects in Lew Wolff.

Pat Gillick, Beane, Epstein, Cashman and Friedman all got into baseball because they love the sport -- but also because they are highly competitive people. And in the coming weeks, Friedman must ask himself how important it will be to him to consistently compete on a relatively level playing field in the years ahead.

If that's something he really wants, his best opportunity to leave Tampa Bay could be right now.

Friedman's candidacy has been endorsed by Matt Garza.

The comments by Tom Ricketts would seem to rule out assistant GMs from consideration, writes Dave van Dyck.

The Cubs want to have a GM in place by Oct. 1 to begin the offseason, and keep in mind that Cashman's contract does not expire until Oct. 31.



Jered Weaver bucks a (Boras) trend.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler [+]

A year ago, Prince Fielder turned down a five-year, $100 million offer from the Milwaukee Brewers at a time when he was about a year and a half from free agency. Like almost every Scott Boras client, Fielder decided to play through his arbitration years without signing a long-term deal -- and this fall, he will get more than $100 million. Probably a lot more.

Jered Weaver
Scott Rovak/US PresswireWeaver's decision to accept a deal and not test the market isn't the usual path for Scott Boras clients.

Jered Weaver, another Boras client, was faced with a similar decision in recent weeks. The Angels offered the Cy Young contender a five-year, $85 million deal at a time when Weaver was only 15 months removed from free agency. If he had rejected the offer and pursued free agency, Weaver would have put himself in position to get enormous offers from the New York Yankees, or the Boston Red Sox, or the Philadelphia Phillies, or other teams, in the fall of 2012, when he turns 30. If he had avoided injury through the next season, those offers would have been in the range of the deals signed by CC Sabathia ($23 million a year) or Cliff Lee ($24 million).

Given the history of Boras clients, it's possible the Angels could have dangled Weaver in a trade this winter, or maybe next summer, knowing they wouldn't match whatever the market would bear for Weaver a year from now. In recent years, the Angels have steered away from the stable of Boras clients, and if Weaver had turned down the five-year offer, they might have assumed he was going to walk away.

But Weaver has stunned executives around baseball by agreeing to the Angels' offer, which will pay him $17 million a year. Weaver might have gotten a lot more money by playing this out, by waiting to become a free agent, but what he probably would have lost was the opportunity to continue playing for the team that inhabits a stadium about 30 minutes from where he grew up.

The Angels' offer included an assurance that Weaver could continue to remain in Southern California; they added a full no-trade clause. Weaver's brother, Jeff -- another Boras client -- had bounced from team to team to team in his career. But Jered now has a chance to play his entire career with the Angels. Sure, he probably didn't max out on his market value; by taking the Angels' offer, he might've left 50-60 million dollars on the table.

But in setting his priorities, Weaver apparently is getting what he wanted: He will get to play exactly where he wants to play. And he'll make do with $85 million, still a staggering sum of money.

This is the largest deal for any pitcher in the history of the Angels, and, as Mike DiGiovanna writes, the second-largest contract the club has doled out.

From ESPN Stats & Information: Weaver, a heavy fly ball pitcher, has thrived in Anaheim's cavernous park, which helps suppress home runs. Since he broke into the league in 2006, Weaver has induced fly balls at a higher rate (48.5 percent) than any other qualified starter. Despite allowing more fly balls at home, just 6 percent of those fly balls at home have left the yard, compared with nearly 9 percent on the road. That has helped translate into a significantly lower ERA at Angel Stadium.

Since his breakout season in 2010, Weaver has been among the league's best starters. Over the past two seasons, his K-BB walk rate is 4.07, fourth in MLB; his WHIP is tops in the league at 1.03; and his ERA is fourth at 2.60. He's also near the top for highest WAR (wins above replacement) since 2010:

Roy Halladay: 13.4
Justin Verlander: 12.5
Cliff Lee: 12.1
Jered Weaver: 11.1

Another reason Weaver is a great long-term fit with the Angels? Anchored by Peter Bourjos, who leads all center fielders with 19 runs saved, the Angels' outfield defense is the best in baseball. Here is the list of most defensive runs saved by outfields:

Angels: 38
Nationals: 30
Padres: 28
Diamondbacks: 24
Tigers: 24

By the way: Some teams that track defensive metrics have gauged Mike Trout's defensive value to be extraordinary, based on his short stint in the majors this year. Weaver is going to be very well supported for years to come, presumably.



Aramis Ramirez, more valuable than you think.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Spoiler [+]

Any other year, we might call the season Aramis Ramirez is having "decent." He'll likely finish the season hitting just under .300 with a home run total in the mid-20s and will collect somewhere close to 90 RBIs. He's not walking, but he's not striking out, either. Even in decline, the 33-year-old's glove is holding steady at "mediocre." Put it all together, and he looks like a slightly above-average player.

With the Cubs suddenly in a rebuilding mode, though, his $16 million option might be too onerous for that kind of production. Especially when considering their $125 million payroll, which was sixth highest in baseball this year.

Has something changed this year that might make that option more palatable?

Well, for one, third basemen as a group really had a bad year. With Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Beltre hurt, and Alex Rodriguez just now on the mend, the position isn't likely to have a single player put up six wins above replacement (WAR), and may only have one even close to five. Last year, four third basemen sat around that number and another two finished with 4.9 WAR.

This year, third basemen are hitting like shortstops -- literally. The average line for a shortstop is .259/.312/.369 so far this year, and third basemen are virtually cloning that number (.257/.317/.382). Last year, the difference between the men at the hot corner (.263/.324/.418) and the men to their left (.262/.319/.374) was much more stark. Even with offense down across the sport, third basemen are falling short.

Injuries are part of the story. Youkilis is on the DL, leaving Ramirez with Casey McGehee, Danny Valencia and Mark Reynolds as the only full-time third basemen who will cross the 600 plate appearance threshold. Last year, 15 managed to get to the plate 600 times and two more came within five PAs of that total. Injuries at the top have forced more replacements onto the field, which has lowered the production overall.

But that doesn't mean that Ramirez is intrinsically any better. He is still the same person, even if the rest of the league has been falling off. Check the chart below to see the decline at the position over the past five years. Does this decline alone mean that he deserves the option more now?

Cubs0821.pngFanGraphs

Well, for one, there aren't going to be any better options for the Cubs at the position. The most attractive, younger free agents at his position are Wilson Betemit and Greg Dobbs. Even if the team opts for the veteran fill-in, the cupboard is relatively bare: Eric Chavez, Mark DeRosa, Wes Helms, Melvin Mora, Miguel Tejada and Omar Vizquel could all retire, even. Betting on one of them to have something left isn't an enticing proposition.

Aramis Ramirez is still Aramis Ramirez, but he does look a little better among the wreckage that is the third-base position around the majors. When compared to other prospective free agents, he looks even better. He's not likely to be a great bargain at $16 million, but he might provide just enough for the team to break even on the deal. Even a rebuilding team looking to save money should probably pick up that option and look to shave money off the roster elsewhere.



Eovaldi leads a new wave of arms in LA.

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Spoiler [+]

From Clayton Kershaw to Chad Billingsley to Rubby de la Rosa (a recent victim of Tommy John surgery), the Los Angeles Dodgers have displayed a knack for developing top-flight pitching talent. The newest hurler to emerge is Nate Eovaldi, but he’s just the tip of the iceberg in what should be LA’s strong wave of young, cost-controllable talent. Other names to tuck away for future reference include Allen Webster, Zach Lee, Garrett Gould — and recent first-round pick, Chris Reed.

Eovaldi is probably the least-heralded prospect of the group. A former 11th-round selection in 2008 out of high school in Texas, he would have gone much higher if he hadn’t been slowed by Tommy John surgery in his junior year. He received an over-slot deal and has not had any major issues with his elbow in pro ball. Breaking out in 2011 at double-A, Eovaldi did a nice job of keeping runners off base (6.64 H/9) and struck out his fair share of batters (8.65 K/9). On the downside, the 21-year-old is a fly-ball pitcher and has struggled with his control (4.02 BB/9). Eovaldi is probably in the majors a little early, but his mid-90s fastball has a lot of promise; he just needs to learn to better-control his secondary pitches and learn the value of changing speeds.

Webster, another 21-year-old, has moved through the minor league system after being stolen in the 18th round of the 2008 draft out of a North Carolina high school. He was nabbed by the same scout, Lon Joyce, who also discovered outfield prospect Jerry Sands in the 25th round of the same draft. The right-hander has split 2011 between high-A and double-A. After dominating high-A ball, Webster now has a 4.00 FIP (4.75 ERA) in 77.2 double-A innings. His strikeout rate is still respectable, but it’s dropped from 10.33 to 7.18 K/9. With a fastball that can touch the mid 90s and a solid changeup, the consistency of his curveball is the primary thing that’s keeping him from becoming a solid big-league starter.

Despite entering the 2011 season with zero pro innings, Lee was considered by most talent evaluators as the organization’s top pitching prospect. The club’s No. 1 draft pick in 2010, he was considered tough to sign away from Louisiana State University, where he would have played both football and baseball. Lee has held his own so far this season in low-A ball, where he’s posted a 3.67 FIP (3.41 ERA) in 95 innings. He has a strikeout rate of 7.96 K/9 and has shown above-average control (2.65 BB/9) for his experience level. Lee has a well-rounded repertoire that includes a fastball that can touch 95 mph, a curveball and a changeup.

Taken out of a Kansas high school in 2009, Gould was a projectability pick. With a big, strong pitcher’s frame, he should add velocity as continues to fill out and he currently sits in the 88 mph to 92 mph range. He also flashes a potentially plus curveball and a developing changeup. Having only recently turned 20 and already in his third pro season, Gould has made huge strides low-A ball this year. The right-hander has shown good control (2.83 BB/9) while missing his fair share of bats (7.69 K/9). His FIP currently sits at 3.28 (2.35 ERA) in 114.2 inings.

Reed was a fast mover up the board as the 2011 draft approached. The left-hander showed the ability to reach the mid-90s and has an impressive slider and a promising changeup. He’ll need time to better-command his secondary pitches, though. The organization used its 16th-overall selection to take him and likely will develop him as a starter — even though he only made one start in three years at Stanford University. If he doesn’t have the consistency and overall game for the starting rotation, Reed could develop into a high-leverage reliever.

The Dodgers’ organization has seen some well-publicized pitching washouts — Ethan Martin, Chris Withrow — in recent years but there’s still much to get excited about as the prospects continue to develop in the minor-league system or move to the majors. There should be a plethora of impressive arms at Dodger Stadium in the future.



Jered Weaver and park effects.

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Spoiler [+]

Over the next few days, you’re going to read an awful lot about how Jered Weaver left money on the table to re-sign with the Angels and pitch close to home. That is almost certainly true, since he probably could have commanded a significantly larger deal had he stayed healthy through 2013 and hit the free agent market, where prices for pitchers of his quality are significantly higher than the $17 million per year he just agreed to. But in addition to his desire to stay close to home, Weaver also knew that re-signing with the Angels was in his best long-term interests, because he’s pitching in one of the best environments possible for his skillset.

More than anything else, the defining characteristic about Jered Weaver is that he’s a fly ball guy. In fact, he’s one of the most extreme fly ball pitchers in all of baseball. Since the start of the 2009 season, the only starter who has generated fewer ground balls than Weaver is Ted Lilly – Weaver is 73rd out of 74 qualified pitchers in ground ball rate.

One of the main reasons Weaver has been able to succeed despite all the fly balls, however, is that he has managed to give up fly balls that don’t go out of the ballpark. Despite being an extreme fly ball guy, his HR/9 since the beginning of 2009 is just 0.88, about the same mark as you’d expect from a guy with a neutral GB/FB split. So, in addition to not walking guys and racking up strikeouts, Weaver has made a living giving up fly balls that his outfielders can run down. It’s a pretty good recipe for success.

That recipe, however, wouldn’t work everywhere, and it wouldn’t work nearly as well in almost any other ballpark besides Angels Stadium. While it doesn’t have the reputation of an extreme pitchers park, the ballpark in Anaheim is one of the toughest places for left-handed batters to hit home runs in all of baseball. And Weaver has taken full advantage of this effect.

For his career, 49.7% of the balls Weaver has allowed to be put in play at home have been fly balls, and only 6.0% of those have left the yard. On the road, 8.8% of his fly balls have carried over the fence. While most players perform slightly better at home, Weaver’s skillset is perfectly tailored to the strengths of his home team’s stadium, and that shows up in the results. His career FIP at home is just 3.22, while his FIP on the road is 3.95.

This isn’t to denigrate Weaver at all. Like Dustin Pedroia, he’s found a park effect that he can exploit to great success, and he’s tailored his style of pitching to take full advantage. That’s just smart pitching, and it was also smart of Weaver to realize that his current home park is the perfect place for him to pitch. Yes, he could have taken his talents to free agency and let teams with small ballparks and short right field porches bid for his services, but by staying in Anaheim, Weaver gave himself the best possible chance to sustain his high quality performances.

If he stays healthy and continues to pitch well in Anaheim for the bulk of the next five years, Weaver will likely be looking at another sizable contract extension before this current deal runs out. If he had gone somewhere like New York and had to put up with 320 foot “home runs

post #2486 of 77546
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Jason Heyward's fall from grace.

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Gushing scouting reports heralded him. In his first spring training, he sent pitches impossible distances. The balls he hit battered a Coca-Cola truck in the parking lot and broke an assistant GM's window.

In his first major league at-bat, he lined a 2-0 fastball from Carlos Zambrano deep -- 414 feet deep -- over the right-center wall at Turner Field. He made the All-Star team as a 20-year-old. Surely, more laurels would follow. It was more than just the start to a career. It was a creation myth in the making.

Almost a year-and-a-half after that first home run, however, much of the shine has come off Jason Heyward.

Last season, Heyward ranked fourth in the National League in on-base percentage and authored an impressive WAR of 5.1. In 2011, he's cratered: a batting line of .220/.313/.393 and just 12 home runs in 355 plate appearances.

Probe deeper and things are similarly grim. Heyward is trending in the wrong direction when it comes to line-drive percentage (17.8 percent in 2010 to 13.9 percent in 2011), infield pop-ups (8.4 percent to 24.7 percent) and batting average on balls in play (.335 to .245). In the case of his declining BABIP, there's almost certainly some bad luck involved, but the remaining indicators are more troubling.

Additionally, he's swinging at 44.8 percent of pitches overall, up from 39.4 percent last year; and he's swinging at 28.7 percent out of the zone after hacking at just 24.2 percent of such offerings. Add it all up and you have a guy who's hitting fewer line drives and more pop-ups and seems to have lost control of the strike zone.

And things appear to be getting steadily worse. In a related matter, he's been losing playing time to the previously forgettable Jose Constanza.

Can this be the real Jason Heyward?

Heyward is still just 21 years of age, and we've seen him succeed at a high level. So he has the chops to live up to the expectations, as those who have followed him have always maintained. Perhaps his struggles this season are mechanical in nature? Here's Heyward's Atlanta Braves teammate, future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones, on the young outfielder's struggles:

"Jason's got one swing. His swing needs some versatility. How many times have we seen him get fooled on an off-speed pitch and one-hand it into centerfield? He swings and misses because he takes the same swing. He's had some mechanics that have been a little iffy that he is trying to work out. You show me a .300 hitter, and I'll show you a guy who is going to take five different swings."


Quite often -- more often than some wish to acknowledge -- traditional scouting dovetails quite nicely with "statheady" analysis. And so it is with Heyward.

As Jones implies, Heyward, on top of not driving the ball, has seen a slight decline in his contact rate.

Heyward's problem mostly, though, is that line drives have turned into pop-ups and tepid grounders this season, which suggests he's just missing his spots -- round ball meeting round bat leaves little margin for error, as the story goes.

Diagnosing the problem is of course a speculative exercise, but it's highly possible that Heyward has thrived at the lower levels with an incomplete approach at the plate because he was talented enough to do so.

Now, however, he's competing against the best pitchers in the world, and perhaps they've divined something in his approach that's lacking. Chipper Jones seems to think so (if you'll permit a brief appeal to authority). To cite one of countless examples, Jose Bautista owes his ascent in part to a mechanical adjustment at the plate.

To hear Curtis Granderson tell it, New York Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long has much to do with his recent power spike and newfound ability to hit lefties. And so on and so on. The point is that even the best ballplayers can be infected, unknowingly, by bad habits or allow an exploitable mechanical flaw to persist. Such tales are legion. The good news is that Heyward, in addition to being lavishly gifted and driven, is also an intelligent and engaged professional, one who gives every indication of wanting to get better.

There's also no discounting the health variable. Heyward was troubled by a bad back during spring training (which may have spared those Coke trucks from further ritual abuse), and this season he spent time on the disabled list with a shoulder malady.

Such injuries, of course, can sap power, upset timing and lead to altered swing planes, among other misfortunes. Heyward, as mentioned, is still quite young, so for now his injuries are more explanatory than damning. Only time will tell whether it's a pattern.

Heyward will probably never live up to those early comparisons to the likes of Willie Mays and Ken Griffey Jr., but that was the case even before his 2011 struggles. If he adjusts, enjoys something other than bad luck and stays generally healthy, then he's going to be a very good player for a very long time.



Andrew Friedman faces a tough decision.

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Yankees general manager Brian Cashman once aptly compared his work to that of Sisyphus, the king doomed to constantly push a boulder up a hill, only to see it roll back down. Year after year, Cashman and Boston general manager Theo Epstein are now expected to construct teams with the ability to win a championship.

But they have the tools to do it. It's as if the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have bulldozers, while Tampa Bay Rays general manager Andrew Friedman is working with a shovel. You couldn't blame him if he began to suffer from American League East fatigue, trying to squeeze production out of every nickel of his payroll, while knowing that the Yankees and Red Sox will always have the wherewithal to paper over mistakes with dollars.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Friedman and Joe Maddon
AP Photo/Steven SenneAndrew Friedman may leave the Tampa Bay Rays.

Friedman and those who work with him have probably done their jobs as well or better than any organization in the majors over the past five years, and yet most years, the odds are that Tampa Bay will be exactly where they are today: They are good, but not great enough to keep up with two division rivals that have staggering resources. And no matter how well the Rays develop players and run their finances, they will almost never retain their best players if they reach free agency.

Friedman, then, will have interesting choices this offseason, when he presumably will be offered the opportunity to take over the baseball operations of the Houston Astros, and perhaps the chance to run the Chicago Cubs.

With the Rays, he works among people he has come to know and trust, among people who know and trust him, the kind of work environment that nobody should take for granted. On the other hand, he does his work knowing that he can do everything perfectly within his means -- picking the best available players and maximizing value -- and the Rays may still finish a dozen games out of first place most seasons, well into the future. Because right now, Tampa Bay has roughly the same chance of getting a new ballpark as the U.S. has of balancing its budget. It's not close.

If Friedman goes to Houston, he would be reconstructing the Astros almost from the ground up. If he went to the Cubs, he would be taking on a franchise that hasn't won a championship in more than a century.

But from Friedman's point of view, leaving the AL East would be like going from the final table at the World Series of Poker to a neighborhood card game. There are no monster payrolls to contend with; in fact, if Friedman were to become GM of the Chicago Cubs, he would be the guy with the big stack of chips in front of him. The Pirates are improving, but they're still limited, and the Cardinals' budget may never go beyond $110 million. The Brewers are going to draw 3 million this season, to their great credit, but owner Mark Attanasio does have limits to how far he'll take his payroll, and rightly so; he bid aggressively on CC Sabathia and still was outbid by about 40 percent.

The 2011 payrolls for the NL Central teams in April, according to The Associated Press, and their respective rankings among the 30 teams:
Chicago Cubs $125.5 million (sixth)
St. Louis Cardinals $105.4 million (11th)
Milwaukee Brewers $85.5 million (17th)
Cincinnati Reds $76.2 million (19th)
Houston Astros $70.7 million (20th)
Pittsburgh Pirates $46 million (27th)

What Friedman will have to consider, too, is that this could be the best time for him to move. Right now, he is to baseball what Bill Belichick was to football in 2002. Nobody knows what could change in five years. Friedman may never again have the opportunity to take over the Astros, his hometown team. He may never again have the chance to pursue a chance like the one he would get with the Cubs -- a franchise with more than a century of history, excellent resources and a fan base prepared to bestow sainthood upon the executive who leads the next Cubs world championship victory parade.

A decade ago, Billy Beane -- who would also make sense as a candidate to run the Cubs now -- was in a similar situation that Friedman is in now, passing up the chance to take over the Red Sox. Beane made his choice for personal reasons, to remain close to his daughter from his first marriage, and he has no regret over that decision.

But almost a decade later, Beane is working in a place where he may never have a chance to win, in a bad ballpark, for an owner he really likes and respects in Lew Wolff.

Pat Gillick, Beane, Epstein, Cashman and Friedman all got into baseball because they love the sport -- but also because they are highly competitive people. And in the coming weeks, Friedman must ask himself how important it will be to him to consistently compete on a relatively level playing field in the years ahead.

If that's something he really wants, his best opportunity to leave Tampa Bay could be right now.

Friedman's candidacy has been endorsed by Matt Garza.

The comments by Tom Ricketts would seem to rule out assistant GMs from consideration, writes Dave van Dyck.

The Cubs want to have a GM in place by Oct. 1 to begin the offseason, and keep in mind that Cashman's contract does not expire until Oct. 31.



Jered Weaver bucks a (Boras) trend.

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A year ago, Prince Fielder turned down a five-year, $100 million offer from the Milwaukee Brewers at a time when he was about a year and a half from free agency. Like almost every Scott Boras client, Fielder decided to play through his arbitration years without signing a long-term deal -- and this fall, he will get more than $100 million. Probably a lot more.

Jered Weaver
Scott Rovak/US PresswireWeaver's decision to accept a deal and not test the market isn't the usual path for Scott Boras clients.

Jered Weaver, another Boras client, was faced with a similar decision in recent weeks. The Angels offered the Cy Young contender a five-year, $85 million deal at a time when Weaver was only 15 months removed from free agency. If he had rejected the offer and pursued free agency, Weaver would have put himself in position to get enormous offers from the New York Yankees, or the Boston Red Sox, or the Philadelphia Phillies, or other teams, in the fall of 2012, when he turns 30. If he had avoided injury through the next season, those offers would have been in the range of the deals signed by CC Sabathia ($23 million a year) or Cliff Lee ($24 million).

Given the history of Boras clients, it's possible the Angels could have dangled Weaver in a trade this winter, or maybe next summer, knowing they wouldn't match whatever the market would bear for Weaver a year from now. In recent years, the Angels have steered away from the stable of Boras clients, and if Weaver had turned down the five-year offer, they might have assumed he was going to walk away.

But Weaver has stunned executives around baseball by agreeing to the Angels' offer, which will pay him $17 million a year. Weaver might have gotten a lot more money by playing this out, by waiting to become a free agent, but what he probably would have lost was the opportunity to continue playing for the team that inhabits a stadium about 30 minutes from where he grew up.

The Angels' offer included an assurance that Weaver could continue to remain in Southern California; they added a full no-trade clause. Weaver's brother, Jeff -- another Boras client -- had bounced from team to team to team in his career. But Jered now has a chance to play his entire career with the Angels. Sure, he probably didn't max out on his market value; by taking the Angels' offer, he might've left 50-60 million dollars on the table.

But in setting his priorities, Weaver apparently is getting what he wanted: He will get to play exactly where he wants to play. And he'll make do with $85 million, still a staggering sum of money.

This is the largest deal for any pitcher in the history of the Angels, and, as Mike DiGiovanna writes, the second-largest contract the club has doled out.

From ESPN Stats & Information: Weaver, a heavy fly ball pitcher, has thrived in Anaheim's cavernous park, which helps suppress home runs. Since he broke into the league in 2006, Weaver has induced fly balls at a higher rate (48.5 percent) than any other qualified starter. Despite allowing more fly balls at home, just 6 percent of those fly balls at home have left the yard, compared with nearly 9 percent on the road. That has helped translate into a significantly lower ERA at Angel Stadium.

Since his breakout season in 2010, Weaver has been among the league's best starters. Over the past two seasons, his K-BB walk rate is 4.07, fourth in MLB; his WHIP is tops in the league at 1.03; and his ERA is fourth at 2.60. He's also near the top for highest WAR (wins above replacement) since 2010:

Roy Halladay: 13.4
Justin Verlander: 12.5
Cliff Lee: 12.1
Jered Weaver: 11.1

Another reason Weaver is a great long-term fit with the Angels? Anchored by Peter Bourjos, who leads all center fielders with 19 runs saved, the Angels' outfield defense is the best in baseball. Here is the list of most defensive runs saved by outfields:

Angels: 38
Nationals: 30
Padres: 28
Diamondbacks: 24
Tigers: 24

By the way: Some teams that track defensive metrics have gauged Mike Trout's defensive value to be extraordinary, based on his short stint in the majors this year. Weaver is going to be very well supported for years to come, presumably.



Aramis Ramirez, more valuable than you think.

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Any other year, we might call the season Aramis Ramirez is having "decent." He'll likely finish the season hitting just under .300 with a home run total in the mid-20s and will collect somewhere close to 90 RBIs. He's not walking, but he's not striking out, either. Even in decline, the 33-year-old's glove is holding steady at "mediocre." Put it all together, and he looks like a slightly above-average player.

With the Cubs suddenly in a rebuilding mode, though, his $16 million option might be too onerous for that kind of production. Especially when considering their $125 million payroll, which was sixth highest in baseball this year.

Has something changed this year that might make that option more palatable?

Well, for one, third basemen as a group really had a bad year. With Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Beltre hurt, and Alex Rodriguez just now on the mend, the position isn't likely to have a single player put up six wins above replacement (WAR), and may only have one even close to five. Last year, four third basemen sat around that number and another two finished with 4.9 WAR.

This year, third basemen are hitting like shortstops -- literally. The average line for a shortstop is .259/.312/.369 so far this year, and third basemen are virtually cloning that number (.257/.317/.382). Last year, the difference between the men at the hot corner (.263/.324/.418) and the men to their left (.262/.319/.374) was much more stark. Even with offense down across the sport, third basemen are falling short.

Injuries are part of the story. Youkilis is on the DL, leaving Ramirez with Casey McGehee, Danny Valencia and Mark Reynolds as the only full-time third basemen who will cross the 600 plate appearance threshold. Last year, 15 managed to get to the plate 600 times and two more came within five PAs of that total. Injuries at the top have forced more replacements onto the field, which has lowered the production overall.

But that doesn't mean that Ramirez is intrinsically any better. He is still the same person, even if the rest of the league has been falling off. Check the chart below to see the decline at the position over the past five years. Does this decline alone mean that he deserves the option more now?

Cubs0821.pngFanGraphs

Well, for one, there aren't going to be any better options for the Cubs at the position. The most attractive, younger free agents at his position are Wilson Betemit and Greg Dobbs. Even if the team opts for the veteran fill-in, the cupboard is relatively bare: Eric Chavez, Mark DeRosa, Wes Helms, Melvin Mora, Miguel Tejada and Omar Vizquel could all retire, even. Betting on one of them to have something left isn't an enticing proposition.

Aramis Ramirez is still Aramis Ramirez, but he does look a little better among the wreckage that is the third-base position around the majors. When compared to other prospective free agents, he looks even better. He's not likely to be a great bargain at $16 million, but he might provide just enough for the team to break even on the deal. Even a rebuilding team looking to save money should probably pick up that option and look to shave money off the roster elsewhere.



Eovaldi leads a new wave of arms in LA.

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From Clayton Kershaw to Chad Billingsley to Rubby de la Rosa (a recent victim of Tommy John surgery), the Los Angeles Dodgers have displayed a knack for developing top-flight pitching talent. The newest hurler to emerge is Nate Eovaldi, but he’s just the tip of the iceberg in what should be LA’s strong wave of young, cost-controllable talent. Other names to tuck away for future reference include Allen Webster, Zach Lee, Garrett Gould — and recent first-round pick, Chris Reed.

Eovaldi is probably the least-heralded prospect of the group. A former 11th-round selection in 2008 out of high school in Texas, he would have gone much higher if he hadn’t been slowed by Tommy John surgery in his junior year. He received an over-slot deal and has not had any major issues with his elbow in pro ball. Breaking out in 2011 at double-A, Eovaldi did a nice job of keeping runners off base (6.64 H/9) and struck out his fair share of batters (8.65 K/9). On the downside, the 21-year-old is a fly-ball pitcher and has struggled with his control (4.02 BB/9). Eovaldi is probably in the majors a little early, but his mid-90s fastball has a lot of promise; he just needs to learn to better-control his secondary pitches and learn the value of changing speeds.

Webster, another 21-year-old, has moved through the minor league system after being stolen in the 18th round of the 2008 draft out of a North Carolina high school. He was nabbed by the same scout, Lon Joyce, who also discovered outfield prospect Jerry Sands in the 25th round of the same draft. The right-hander has split 2011 between high-A and double-A. After dominating high-A ball, Webster now has a 4.00 FIP (4.75 ERA) in 77.2 double-A innings. His strikeout rate is still respectable, but it’s dropped from 10.33 to 7.18 K/9. With a fastball that can touch the mid 90s and a solid changeup, the consistency of his curveball is the primary thing that’s keeping him from becoming a solid big-league starter.

Despite entering the 2011 season with zero pro innings, Lee was considered by most talent evaluators as the organization’s top pitching prospect. The club’s No. 1 draft pick in 2010, he was considered tough to sign away from Louisiana State University, where he would have played both football and baseball. Lee has held his own so far this season in low-A ball, where he’s posted a 3.67 FIP (3.41 ERA) in 95 innings. He has a strikeout rate of 7.96 K/9 and has shown above-average control (2.65 BB/9) for his experience level. Lee has a well-rounded repertoire that includes a fastball that can touch 95 mph, a curveball and a changeup.

Taken out of a Kansas high school in 2009, Gould was a projectability pick. With a big, strong pitcher’s frame, he should add velocity as continues to fill out and he currently sits in the 88 mph to 92 mph range. He also flashes a potentially plus curveball and a developing changeup. Having only recently turned 20 and already in his third pro season, Gould has made huge strides low-A ball this year. The right-hander has shown good control (2.83 BB/9) while missing his fair share of bats (7.69 K/9). His FIP currently sits at 3.28 (2.35 ERA) in 114.2 inings.

Reed was a fast mover up the board as the 2011 draft approached. The left-hander showed the ability to reach the mid-90s and has an impressive slider and a promising changeup. He’ll need time to better-command his secondary pitches, though. The organization used its 16th-overall selection to take him and likely will develop him as a starter — even though he only made one start in three years at Stanford University. If he doesn’t have the consistency and overall game for the starting rotation, Reed could develop into a high-leverage reliever.

The Dodgers’ organization has seen some well-publicized pitching washouts — Ethan Martin, Chris Withrow — in recent years but there’s still much to get excited about as the prospects continue to develop in the minor-league system or move to the majors. There should be a plethora of impressive arms at Dodger Stadium in the future.



Jered Weaver and park effects.

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Over the next few days, you’re going to read an awful lot about how Jered Weaver left money on the table to re-sign with the Angels and pitch close to home. That is almost certainly true, since he probably could have commanded a significantly larger deal had he stayed healthy through 2013 and hit the free agent market, where prices for pitchers of his quality are significantly higher than the $17 million per year he just agreed to. But in addition to his desire to stay close to home, Weaver also knew that re-signing with the Angels was in his best long-term interests, because he’s pitching in one of the best environments possible for his skillset.

More than anything else, the defining characteristic about Jered Weaver is that he’s a fly ball guy. In fact, he’s one of the most extreme fly ball pitchers in all of baseball. Since the start of the 2009 season, the only starter who has generated fewer ground balls than Weaver is Ted Lilly – Weaver is 73rd out of 74 qualified pitchers in ground ball rate.

One of the main reasons Weaver has been able to succeed despite all the fly balls, however, is that he has managed to give up fly balls that don’t go out of the ballpark. Despite being an extreme fly ball guy, his HR/9 since the beginning of 2009 is just 0.88, about the same mark as you’d expect from a guy with a neutral GB/FB split. So, in addition to not walking guys and racking up strikeouts, Weaver has made a living giving up fly balls that his outfielders can run down. It’s a pretty good recipe for success.

That recipe, however, wouldn’t work everywhere, and it wouldn’t work nearly as well in almost any other ballpark besides Angels Stadium. While it doesn’t have the reputation of an extreme pitchers park, the ballpark in Anaheim is one of the toughest places for left-handed batters to hit home runs in all of baseball. And Weaver has taken full advantage of this effect.

For his career, 49.7% of the balls Weaver has allowed to be put in play at home have been fly balls, and only 6.0% of those have left the yard. On the road, 8.8% of his fly balls have carried over the fence. While most players perform slightly better at home, Weaver’s skillset is perfectly tailored to the strengths of his home team’s stadium, and that shows up in the results. His career FIP at home is just 3.22, while his FIP on the road is 3.95.

This isn’t to denigrate Weaver at all. Like Dustin Pedroia, he’s found a park effect that he can exploit to great success, and he’s tailored his style of pitching to take full advantage. That’s just smart pitching, and it was also smart of Weaver to realize that his current home park is the perfect place for him to pitch. Yes, he could have taken his talents to free agency and let teams with small ballparks and short right field porches bid for his services, but by staying in Anaheim, Weaver gave himself the best possible chance to sustain his high quality performances.

If he stays healthy and continues to pitch well in Anaheim for the bulk of the next five years, Weaver will likely be looking at another sizable contract extension before this current deal runs out. If he had gone somewhere like New York and had to put up with 320 foot “home runs

post #2487 of 77546
i like what weaver did, im sure hes fine with 17 million a year
post #2488 of 77546
i like what weaver did, im sure hes fine with 17 million a year
post #2489 of 77546
Alex Gonzalez is the slickest fielding SS I've ever seen.
post #2490 of 77546
Alex Gonzalez is the slickest fielding SS I've ever seen.
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NikeTalk › NikeTalk Forums › The Lounge › Sports & Training › 2016 MLB thread. THE CUBS HAVE BROKEN THE CURSE! Chicago Cubs are your 2016 World Series champions.