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2016 MLB thread. THE CUBS HAVE BROKEN THE CURSE! Chicago Cubs are your 2016 World Series champions. - Page 268  

post #8011 of 78800
Originally Posted by JumpmanFromDaBay View Post

So I'm assuming the Posey is a lock for Comback Player of the Year. I just realized that this is his 1st full season in the Bigs eek.gif

Adam Laroche?

post #8012 of 78800
Originally Posted by J RAIN View Post

Originally Posted by JumpmanFromDaBay View Post

So I'm assuming the Posey is a lock for Comback Player of the Year. I just realized that this is his 1st full season in the Bigs eek.gif

Adam Laroche?

Not sure if serious
post #8013 of 78800
Originally Posted by JumpmanFromDaBay View Post

Not sure if serious

can't just disregard a dude that's about to hit 30/100.

post #8014 of 78800
He's definitely in the mix.
What's 1.21 gigawatts to a McFly like me. Can you please remind me?
What's 1.21 gigawatts to a McFly like me. Can you please remind me?
post #8015 of 78800
Originally Posted by J RAIN View Post

can't just disregard a dude that's about to hit 30/100.
I've always liked LaRoche. Sup J Rain let my Braves win the division tongue.gif

Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

Of course I do laugh.gif
I'm not saying it's outrageous either way. Overall, I think Heyward has been more valuable this season. A lot of Bourn's "worth" is tied into a defensive statistic that's way too inaccurate when accounting for year to year defense. Especially on Baseball Reference, that WAR is a little off. No accounting for park factors, opponents and more emphasis on defense than even FG. I think the stats paint the picture for it:
Michael Bourn Braves 143 656 162 9 88 56 39 9.50% 21.30% 0.12 0.348 0.277 0.347 0.397 0.332 109 21 3 6.1
Jason Heyward Braves 141 582 143 26 82 71 19 9.50% 24.10% 0.22 0.327 0.274 0.344 0.494 0.36 128 16.4 6.2 6.1

Bourn has been slipping a bit lately. Although Heyward has strong numbers this year i think Prado is our MVP b/c he has good stats plus he's played all over the field 2B, 3B, LF, and now SS he's more valuable to me than Bourn.

and I don't view Bourn as being a 100 Million dollar player as he is seeking in free agency i like him, but not for that money plus Braves are cheap. i'd rather get Curtis Granderson who Yanks might let go.

Prado beats Bourn in almost all stats look at Bourn 140 K's to Prados 63

post #8016 of 78800
Do the Yankees beat the Rays easily tonight?
post #8017 of 78800
Originally Posted by humpasaurus rex View Post

Do the Yankees beat the Rays easily tonight?

Probably...Rays bats are asleep.

Need the Rays to come thru tho.
post #8018 of 78800
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by humpasaurus rex View Post

Do the Yankees beat the Rays easily tonight?

Hell no laugh.gif dudes can't beat the Indians right now easily.
post #8019 of 78800
Thread Starter 
Five players poised to rebound.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
If you're Mike Trout or Andrew McCutchen, 2012 probably will go down as one of your career highlights, a season that many will fondly remember decades from now.

For others, however, turning a page on the calendar can't come soon enough. Not every player having a down year will come back triumphantly with a better one, whether it's because of the effects of injury, age or a simple decline in baseball skills. And bounceback seasons aren't always predictable, either -- Adam Dunn's 2011 was so awful that many questioned if he'd ever be useful as a major leaguer again while players such as Edgardo Alfonzo or Carlos Baerga had people waiting years for a grand return to stardom that never happened.

So, which players are most likely to wipe away disappointing 2012 seasons? I've taken a stab at naming my favorite five players who are likely to bounce back. Also included are preliminary 2013 ZiPS projections for the players in question, though I sometimes disagree with my computer. I usually win those arguments because I pay the electric bill.

Tim Lincecum, RHP, San Francisco Giants

The Giants as a team should be rather happy with the 2012 season, as they are six games ahead with 20 to play and the clear favorite to win the NL West and avoid the uncertainty of a one-game wild-card round. Unlike previous seasons, San Francisco's passage to the playoffs has little to do with Lincecum, who is 8-14 with a 5.11 ERA this season. If you ranked all qualifying pitchers in baseball based on their ERA+, which is park-neutral ERA compared with league average, Lincecum comes in dead last, 93rd of 93.

Some might say that the silver lining is that Lincecum has been healthy, but on some level, needing Tommy John surgery would almost be a relief, as it would provide an answer to a puzzling season. Whatever the reason, Lincecum has been terrible, missing spots and with his formerly nasty stuff being surprisingly hittable. Some of the play-by-play statistics reveal scary splits, such as a Lincecum changeup being twice as likely to be hit for a line drive than it was last year.

Despite all this, I still think that Lincecum will once again be a solid pitcher in 2013. The season got off to a bad start, with Lincecum still tinkering with his repertoire as the season started and at times, you still see flashes of his old form. He's 6-4 with a 3.33 ERA since the All-Star break and as a whole, his peripherals for the year really aren't that bad; his FIP comes out as a mediocre but nowhere near disastrous 3.97.

Furthermore, his stuff remains good enough to strike out a batter an inning and no batter gives a pitcher a mercy whiff. Unless there's still an undiscovered injury lurking in his arm -- his pitching motion always leads me to expect that someday his arm will fly into the crowd -- I think he'll have a much better 2013. He's too talented to be the worst starter in baseball.
2013 ZiPS Projection: 15-11, 3.60 ERA, 9.3 K/9, 2.9 WAR

Jose Bautista, OF, Toronto Blue Jays

BautistaA few years ago, Bautista's .241/.358/.527 line would look like an amazing year rather than a disappointing one. That was before his superhero-like transformation from Jose Bautista, mediocre role player, to "Joey Bats." Bautista was doing his best to erase an ugly .181/.320/.313 April from his stat line before something went wrong with his wrist in a July game against the Yankees. For a while, it looked like Bautista would return to the team, but in the end, with inflammation still bothering him and the Blue Jays out of the playoff picture, there was little reason not to go ahead with surgery repair his tendon sheath.

You never like to see a hitter have something go wrong in his wrist, but with his tendons otherwise intact and with physical therapy expected to be completed before 2012 is out, he has plenty of healing time and good odds to have his power back in 2013.
2013 ZiPS Projection: .271/.404/.581, 34 HR, 81 RBI, 5.3 WAR

Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves

Chipper Jones has been the Braves' biggest star, not surprising given he's probably one of the 10 best third basemen of all time, but McCann has been Atlanta's most dependable players in recent years -- a catcher who puts up the same ol' boring All-Star season, and who never goes on the disabled list. For a player with six All-Star appearances in his career, McCann has never earned a reputation quite to the level of his accomplishments.

At just 28, McCann has had easily his worst major league season, hitting .230/.300/.409 in 111 games. Not bad for a catcher, but pretty bad for McCann. While many have offered explanations for his down year, that dreaded nemesis of pitchers, BABIP, seems like the obvious reason for McCann's down year. His .228 BABIP is 64 points below his career .292 BABIP, and while BABIP isn't as volatile with hitters as it is with pitchers, there's no reason to believe he's a .228 BABIP hitter going forward. Don't believe me? The average pitcher typically has a BABIP in the .220-.230 range, and it would be quite odd that a five-time Silver Slugger Award winner on the sunny side of 30 can't hit balls harder to field than a group of hurlers.

McCann has had a heavy workload, so the Braves and any future team would be smart to rest him more, as he has hit worse over his career in the late parts of the season -- his August OPS of .780 and September OPS of .751 well off his career .828 number. Catching is tough on his body, but at age 28 and 944 career games behind the plate, McCann should still have quite a bit of awesome left before the tools of ignorance really start taking an irreversible physical toll.
2013 ZiPS Projection: .258/.340/.437, 21 HR, 75 RBI, 3.8 WAR

Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals

HosmerExpected to be one of the bright young stars of the 2012 Royals by most analysts (myself included), Hosmer instead has followed up a .293/.334/.465 with a rather mediocre .244/.315/.380 season. The best thing you can say about his 2012 is that his star hasn't dropped as far as Justin Smoak's, the player to whom Hosmer was compared and contrasted in the minors, given both were two of the most well-regarded first-base prospects at the time.

I don't usually give a lot of credit to the Royals, given that they seem to have a strange liking of fringe major leaguers such as Yuniesky Betancourt and an obnoxious unwillingness to let minor-league star Wil Myers send Jeff Francoeur to the unemployment line. But in this case, despite more downs than ups, the Royals haven't panicked with Hosmer, still giving him his at-bats, letting him work through his problems, rather than GM Dayton Moore finding the phone number for Mike Jacobs.

In this case, it will pay off. Hosmer will not disappoint again in 2013. He's only 22 and his contact numbers haven't dropped off this year despite his struggles.
2013 ZiPS Projection: .287/.348/.455, 21 HR, 76 RBI, 2.9 WAR

Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox

LesterLester is another pitcher who, looking at his secondary statistics, is having a better season than you would think at first glance. His ERA dropoff from 2011 to 2012 (3.47 to 4.99) is rather alarming, but his FIP only went from 3.83 to 4.12, a considerably less frightening change in performance. He hasn't lost any velocity and, despite the decrease in strikeout rate, he's throwing just as many swinging strikes (8.9 percent) as he did last year (8.7 percent). And the Red Sox's bullpen hasn't done him any favors, either, allowing 5-of-11 of Lester's inherited runners to score after allowing only 4-of-32 to score over 2010-2011.

Lester has tried to compensate for his issues this season by nibbling a bit more. Despite his walk rate improving from 2011, he has thrown fewer pitchers in the strike zone than ever before, with only 40 percent of his pitches thrown in the zone. The 2012 Red Sox may be a train wreck, but Lester wasn't the engineer. Given that Lester has already beaten back cancer, I'm confident he can beat back an off year.
2013 ZiPS Projection: 14-9, 3.90 ERA, 8.2 K/9, 3.5 WAR

The Yankees' cloudy future.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The New York Yankees' weak second half has focused attention on the age of the offense, even though younger players such as Curtis Granderson have been just as responsible for the team's struggles. They still may win the American League East despite the soft finish, but their outlook beyond this season is cloudier than it has been for several years, maybe since the mid-1990s. Their salary commitments for 2013 are significant, and while the team is often assumed to have the capacity to handle an infinite payroll, moving any of their large contracts without paying most of the freight would be nearly impossible. Their rotation is a weakness now and in the future, and that lineup is indeed getting old.

But the Yankees' primary problem isn't specifically the team's cost, or even the major league roster's age, but the fact that the farm system is not ready to provide players who are going to help the team in regular roles, either as everyday position players or as rotation members, in 2013 -- or even 2014.

Their top prospect coming into 2012, left-hander Manny Banuelos, missed nearly the entire season with what the team called a bone bruise in his left elbow. Right-hander Dellin Betances, their fourth-best prospect coming into the year, was so wild in Triple-A that the team had to demote him, and at this point his only likely value to any major league team is in the bullpen. Catcher Austin Romine, ranked eighth in their system, at least appeared to be close to helping the major league club in 2012 but missed much of the year with a back injury.

The Yankees' system isn't barren, but their prospect depth is almost entirely at Class A, much of it starting the year at low-A Charleston and finishing at high-A Tampa. Right fielder (and former third baseman) Tyler Austin is probably the closest to major-league ready, an advanced hitter for his age who should grow into some more power; after spending April through August in A-ball, he's unlikely to see the majors before September of next year. Catcher Gary Sanchez has the highest upside of the group, but his defense behind the plate, while much improved over 2011, is still a work in progress. Centerfielder Mason Williams needs to improve his ability to work the count and get on base, although he's a very good defender and has the other tools to be a potential star. Sanchez, Williams, Slade Heathcott and their other prospects at and below single-A are all a good two years away from the majors, which also means their trade value is limited.

As a result, the Yankees will have to fill any significant holes on the major-league roster with players from outside the organization, either through free agency or by trading a large chunk of the prospect depth they do have. Their incumbent catcher and right fielder are free agents, and they probably need a caddy for their third baseman, who's still reasonably productive but can't be counted on for a full season. And that all assumes that Brett Gardner, whose injury this year probably cost the Yankees two wins, can return to form next year.

That inability to solve existing problems is far worse on the pitching side. Their lineup may be aging, but their biggest question mark of all for 2013 is in the rotation. At the moment, the Yankees' 2013 rotation would be comprised of CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, David Phelps, Ivan Nova, and Michael Pineda, who should probably legally change his middle name to "If-Healthy." The first four members of that rotation have combined for just over 7 wins above replacement in 2012, per FanGraphs, half of it from Sabathia, who will fail to reach 30 starts in a season for the first time since 2005.

Nova has the best stuff of the starters besides CC and If-Healthy, but all of those three young starters have been homer-prone this year, partly a function of the home park but more a reflection of their flat four-seamers, a pitch that's easy to hit in the air if it catches a little too much of the plate because it doesn't sink, cut or tail like other varieties of fastball. The team has tried to get Hughes to work with a cutter, but the pitch isn't that effective and he still struggles to pitch side-to-side. Nova has the most potential to improve, and Hughes has some upside remaining as well, but a realistic outlook wouldn't peg either starter at more than 2 WAR next year. As a result, even a full, effective year from Sabathia wouldn't make that a championship-caliber rotation on paper, and, hypothetically, it could be the fourth-best in the division if the Yankees stand pat this offseason.

The path of least resistance would be to re-sign Hiroki Kuroda to another one-year deal; he'll be 38 but has performed at his usual level, throwing more breaking stuff to make up for a slight loss of velocity on his fastball. Even if they retain Kuroda, I'd still expect the Yankees to be significant players in the free-agent starting pitching market, probably leading with Ryan Dempster and/or Edwin Jackson. Signing two of those three, or trading for a comparable pitcher, would put the rotation in the top half of the league, pushing Phelps to a swing role and giving the team depth it didn't have coming into 2012 while (one would hope) ending Freddy Garcia's career in pinstripes.

They do have some areas of strength aside from the aging lineup core. Gardner's return gives them two major-league caliber center fielders, meaning they could even trade Granderson to try to fill other holes or add prospect depth for a future deal. Mariano Rivera's return strengthens the bullpen significantly, and the farm system is producing potential big-league relievers, with Mark Montgomery probably next out of the chute. They have the deepest pockets in baseball (although the Dodgers are entering that gated community), and can likely afford to add pitching from outside even as they have to pony up to re-sign Robinson Cano, who is eligible for free agency following the 2013 season.

But if those pockets aren't bottomless, and if the age of the roster turns out to be a bigger issue in 2013, they don't have the internal depth to patch those holes, and the large contracts they do currently have are extremely tough to move, making their margin for error this winter a lot smaller than it normally is.

Pirates facing wrong kind of challenge.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Pittsburgh Pirates understand that if any member of their organization uses a racial slur, or a word rooted in racial hate, then it's a serious issue that needs to be addressed. "If that ever happened," said one official, "then we'd have a major problem, and we would do something about it."

After Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips accused Pirates pitcher Jared Hughes of yelling an unacceptable racist word at him the other day, Pittsburgh officials looked into the matter extensively, even forensically, examining different angles of television replays of the incident. They spoke with players and staffers who were in the vicinity, from catcher Rod Barajas to manager Clint Hurdle to center fielder Andrew McCutchen.

The Pirates reached this conclusion: Hughes did not do what Phillips says he did. "Jared Hughes is a tremendous young man," said Pirates GM Neal Huntington. "Jared knows what he said. He knows he did not say what he's accused of saying.

"We know beyond a shadow of a doubt he didn't say what he's accused of saying."

Beyond the simple fact that the Pirates are certain that Hughes didn't yell the word "boy" at Phillips, they moved aggressively to defend the pitcher Wednesday because they know how a charge of racism can hang on a player's reputation.

Phillips and Hughes spoke by phone Tuesday and seemingly settled their differences, but the Pirates were greatly surprised when Phillips reiterated Wednesday that Hughes used the racially charged phrase, and said that Hughes acknowledged using it in their phone call. From Rob Biertempfel's story:

In an interview with NBC's "SportsTalk," Phillips told Erik Kuselias that Hughes "said what he said" after Phillips was hit by a pitch. Phillips said it was the first time he had heard a player make a racist comment on the field during a game.

When Kuselias pressed Phillips to confirm Hughes made an offensive remark, Phillips paused and said, "He did. That's what we talked about. If you want to know what he said, you should ask him." Phillips said he forgave Hughes during their phone conversation Tuesday.

Hughes said Wednesday he was surprised and frustrated by Phillips' comments to NBC.

"I did not say those things he is saying I said," Hughes said. "I did not make any comment with a racial undertone or connotation during our exchange on Monday night -- period. While I cannot repeat everything that I said because I did swear, it is obvious when reviewing the tape that I in no way, shape or form made any remark that was in any way connected to race. It is not how I was raised and not who I am as a person."

Nobody other than Phillips can speak for him, or what he believes he heard. But none of the television replays the Pirates viewed show the pitcher yelling the word "boy" at Phillips.

The replays do show Hughes aiming a 12-letter profanity at Phillips that is well within the bounds of professional sports.

There were others in the room when Hughes spoke with Phillips, including manager Clint Hurdle, and they offered a different version of Hughes' end of the conversation, saying that Hughes never acknowledged using the word.

The Pirates aren't trying to vilify Phillips. But they maintain, with 100 percent certainty, that Hughes did nothing wrong.

Meanwhile, the Pirates have pressing issues on the field: They have lost six straight.

Top five teams in need of a win today:

1. Los Angeles Angels
2. Tampa Bay Rays
3. Pirates
4. Detroit Tigers
5. Los Angeles Dodgers


• Another rookie lifted the Oakland Athletics, who have 12 straight road victories -- that's twelve -- and counting. The Angels had no answers, again, as Mike DiGiovanna writes.

From ESPN Stats & Info, how the amazing A.J. Griffin won

A) Angels hitters were 1-for-6 with three strikeouts against Griffin's curveball.
B) Four of the five outs on his curveball, including all three strikeouts, came after he threw a fastball on the previous pitch. Griffin's fastball averages 90 mph this season and his curveball averages 68. That 22 mph velocity differential is tied with Roy Oswalt for the largest in baseball this season among starting pitchers.
C) Griffin threw a season-high 64 percent fastballs Wednesday, and he recorded a season-high 14 outs with the pitch.
D) Griffin went to five three-ball counts but didn't walk a single batter.

From Elias Sports Bureau: Griffin is 6-0 with a 1.94 ERA in his first 11 big league starts. Since the major leagues began recording earned runs about 100 years ago, the only other pitcher who was undefeated in his first 11 big league appearances, all of which were starts, while maintaining an earned run average under 2.00, was Jered Weaver in 2006 (12 GS, 9-0, 1.95).

By the way: There is a lot of speculation about Mike Scioscia's standing if the Angels don't make the playoffs, and because he's under contract through 2018, there is an assumption that Arte Moreno's financial obligation to Scioscia could be a factor.

But keep in mind that if Scioscia is fired, he'll almost certainly find a job immediately and be under contract with another team, which would mitigate -- not eliminate -- the Angels' cost.

Three Texas Rangers starters got hurt in the Rangers' latest victory.

• The Baltimore Orioles continue to benefit from unlikely heroes, and on Wednesday, the heroes were Manny Machado and Nate McLouth, as Eduardo Encina writes.

The Rays had their guts ripped out, and now they're three games out in the division and wild-card race. The aggressiveness of a late-season call-up hurt them.

From Marc Topkin's game story:

But with the disappointment and frustration from the loss obvious in the clubhouse, the more telling Rays performance will be what happens over the remaining 20 games, starting with today's matinee series finale that suddenly looms extremely large.

"We've got to win (today)," centerfielder B.J. Upton said. "We felt like we had to win (Wednesday), but reality is we've got to win (today). We've got no choice. If we want to end up where we want to be, we have to win the game (today), and we have to win the series in New York."

Jason Hammel will have his MRI today.

The New York Yankees won, but Derek Jeter aggravated a bone bruise, writes David Waldstein. Andy Pettitte may come off the disabled list next Tuesday, in Toronto.

• The St. Louis Cardinals lost again, and Kyle Lohse was really unhappy about it. St. Louis doesn't have a lot of roster depth, writes Bernie Miklasz.

• Stephen Strasburg is going to be available down the stretch … as a pinch-hitter. The transition was seamless for the Nationals.

• The Philadelphia Phillies and the Milwaukee Brewers continued their rush toward the top of the wild-card standings: Jimmy Rollins was the hero for Philly, and Rickie Weeks was the hero for the Brewers.

The Phillies are finding out that the kids are all right, writes Bob Ford.

• Alfredo Aceves wouldn't give the ball to his manager, as mentioned within this Dan Duggan notebook.

Bobby Valentine says Kevin Youkilis' issues weren't his doing.

By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats & Info

10: Starts with 6+ IP and 2-or-fewer ER with a loss or no-decision by Kyle Lohse, tied for most this season.
16: Salvador Perez and Ryan Zimmerman extended their hitting streaks to 16 games, the longest current streaks in the majors.
94.9: Max Scherzer's average mph fastball from August-September, which ranks in the top three in MLB.
475: Career home runs by Albert Pujols, tying Stan Musial and Willie Stargell for 28th place all-time.

Dings and dents

1. Michael Morse has a bone bruise.

2. Ramon Hernandez needs surgery, writes Patrick Saunders.

3. The Astros' Jed Lowrie was back in the lineup, as Zachary Levine writes.

4. Mike Adams is dealing with a strained trap.

5. Zach Cozart says he's feeling a lot better, as Tom Groeschen writes.

6. Ryan Braun is playing through wrist pain.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Rod Barajas is willing to take less money to stay with the Pirates.

2. Jordan Pacheco will get a start at catcher Sunday.

3. Within this notebook, there is word that some Angels scouts have been fired.

AL East notes

• Ricky Romero continues to struggle.

AL Central notes

• Robin Ventura stands by his bullpen. The Chicago White Sox will face Justin Verlander tonight.

Max Scherzer came through, at a time when the Tigers are drawing a lot of scrutiny. Alex Avila had a crucial bunt.

From ESPN Stats & Info: Scherzer's fastball averaged 95.3 mph, his second highest in the last four seasons; he averaged 96.2 mph in his start last Friday. Scherzer's fastball velocity has been trending up all season.

Scherzer's fastball this season (average mph/miss percentage)
April-May: 93.8/23 percent
June-July: 94.4/22 percent
Aug.-Sept.: 94.9*/27 percent*
* Ranks top 3 in MLB

• The Kansas City Royals batted around, twice.

• Remember when the Cleveland Indians hovered around the top of the AL Central? After their latest loss, they are 25 games under .500.

• The Minnesota Twins played a sloppy game.

NL East notes

• John Lannan stepped into Stephen Strasburg's spot in the rotation and had a strong outing.

• The New York Mets didn't hit much, again.

• The Miami Marlins were fried.

• The Atlanta Braves were dominated in Milwaukee; they need to start playing better ASAP.

NL Central notes

• The Reds' magic number is down to eight after their latest sweep.

• Travis Wood was The Man for the Chicago Cubs.

• An Astro avoided serious injury.

NL West notes

• Tim Lincecum threw well again, and the San Francisco Giants are closing on the division title. The Giants played without Angel Pagan and Pablo Sandoval.

From ESPN Stats & Info: Since joining the Giants, Marco Scutaro has seen an uptick in fastballs batting primarily in the two-hole in front of Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey. Thirteen of the 18 pitches (77 percent) he saw Wednesday were fastballs, and all three of his hits came against them. He's seeing 67 percent fastballs since he joined the Giants, which ranks among the highest in baseball since then. He saw just 60 percent fastballs with the Rockies.

Highest percentage of fastballs seen (since July 28)
Ben Revere: 70 percent
Derek Jeter: 69 percent
Jamey Carroll: 69 percent
Marco Scutaro: 67 percent

Scutaro vs. fastballs this season (with COL/with SF)
Percentage seen: 60 percent/67 percent
Batting average:.278/.328
Slugging percentage: .377/.459
Extra-base hits: 15/11

• The Dodgers just keep losing, and when it was over, Adrian Gonzalez wasn't happy. Dodgers GM Ned Colletti is happy with the Big Trade, no matter what happens this season.

• Trevor Cahill recovered nicely.

• The San Diego Padres are making a late rush toward .500, and after their latest sweep, they're 21-7 at home since the All-Star break.

Chase Headley in his last 38 games: a .316 batting average, 15 homers, 50 RBIs.

How Phils, Brewers got back in the race.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Crazy Stuff bar was set very high last year, when the Boston lineup of stars collapsed and the Braves' bullpen crumbled. As Evan Longoria prepared for his season-ending at-bat last year, he looked at a photographer near the Rays' on-deck circle and said, "Watch this." What we saw was something we had never seen before.

But now that the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers are both back to within four games of the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL wild-card race, with 23 days left in the regular season, their climb no longer qualifies as Crazy Stuff; their climb is very plausible.

During the next eight days, the Phillies play the Miami Marlins -- a team that some evaluators believe has stopped playing -- and then the Houston Astros and New York Mets. A lot of teams are starved for starting pitching this time of year, plugging and filling their rotation, and the Phillies are running out Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and a red-hot Kyle Kendrick. Closer Jonathan Papelbon has allowed two earned runs since July 21. Heck, the Phillies might be a wild-card leader, along with the Atlanta Braves, by the start of next week.

Rather than asking whether the Brewers have enough to get to the top, maybe the more appropriate question is: Have they been a good team all along, weighed down only by an absurdly poor bullpen? And now that John Axford has rediscovered his command, that problem is solved, and the Brewers are finding their level. In his past nine appearances, Axford has surrendered one hit and no earned runs, in support of what continues to be an absurdly good offense.

Before the trade deadline, Brewers manager Doug Melvin spoke about how well he feels the Brewers are set up with their position players, with Corey Hart settled in nicely at first base, with Aramis Ramirez having a very strong season and, of course, with Ryan Braun. Rickie Weeks has shown the toughness that others in the organization really admire, with the way he has battled out of a brutal slump. His OPS, month by month:

April: .680
May: .497
June: .654
July: .913
August: .772
September: .992

The only teams that have plated more runs this season than Milwaukee are the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees.

Milwaukee's remaining schedule:

Wednesday: Braves
Sept. 14-16: home vs. New York Mets
Sept. 18-20: at Pittsburgh Pirates
Sept. 21-24: at Washington Nationals
Sept. 25-27: at Cincinnati Reds
Sept. 28-30: home vs. Houston Astros
Oct. 1-3: home vs. San Diego Padres

A major question about the Brewers-Reds series -- which could be crucial -- is what kind of mode Cincinnati is in by then. The Reds' magic number for wrapping up the NL Central stands at 10, and they likely will clinch just before that series is played. Dusty Baker could use the last days of the regular season to prepare his team for the postseason by resting some of his everyday guys and his relievers; they just shut down reliever Aroldis Chapman. There won't be any need for the Reds to push.

Can the Brewers follow through with this surge? Can the Phillies? Of course they can, as we know from 1914 and 1951 and 1978 and 2007 and 2011.

Watch this.

Roy Halladay and the Phillies are back to .500, writes Ryan Lawrence. Marco Estrada had a really nice outing. Corey Hart is dealing with some pain that he'll probably have to play through.


• The Oakland Athletics have stopped losing: That victory Tuesday was their 11th consecutive on the road.

From ESPN Stats & Info, how Dan Straily won with his slider:

A) Straily's slider was dominant. The Angels missed on 16 of their 22 swings (73 percent) and struck out seven times against the pitch, six of which were swinging.
B) Straily's 16 swings-and-misses on sliders are tied for the second most by any starter this season and the most by anyone against the Angels in the past four seasons.
C) Straily mixed up his pitch selection. He threw a career-high 44 sliders, 20 more than the last time he faced the Angels, last month.
D) He threw 14 sliders to lefties, three more than he had thrown to lefties in his first three starts combined.
E) Straily used his slider in the zone and as a chase pitch. He got three outs on sliders in the zone and six outs out of the zone.
F) Angels hitters chased 15 sliders out of the zone, missing on 14 of them. Predictably, Mike Trout was the only Angels hitter with a hit against Straily's slider.

Most swings-and-misses on sliders in single game this season
Francisco Liriano: 17 vs. Athletics
Dan Straily: 16 vs. Angels
Mat Latos: 16 vs. Rockies
Mat Latos: 16 vs. Brewers

The Oakland bullpen saved the day, writes Susan Slusser.

• Brandon McCarthy got to go home.

• David Price is ready to go.

• If the Toronto Blue Jays work out some sort of arrangement with the Boston Red Sox that paves the way for John Farrell to become Boston's next manager, there is a perception within some corners that Torey Lovullo would be the front-runner to replace Farrell in Toronto.

• Bobby Valentine is the best man for the Red Sox job, he says.

• John Lannan will take Stephen Strasburg's spot in the rotation on Wednesday.

By the numbers
From ESPN Stats & Info

11: straight road wins for the Athletics, tied for their second longest streak since the franchise moved to Oakland in 1968.
16: losses for Ubaldo Jimenez, most in MLB this season.
30: straight saves for Joe Nathan, longest streak in MLB this season.
81: RBIs for Kyle Seager, who is the third second-year player in Mariners history with 80-plus RBIs in a season (1990 Ken Griffey Jr., 1985 Jim Presley).
1,044: career strikeouts for Jon Lester, passes Bruce Hurst for most all-time by a Red Sox left-handed pitcher.

Dings and dents

1. Michael Morse is having some tests on his wrist.

2. Joe Mauer was out with back spasms.

3. Anthony Rizzo hurt his shoulder.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Adam LaRoche wants to stay with the Nationals.

2. Kevin Gregg was cut and was disappointed.

3. Jed Lowrie could be back in the Houston lineup on Wednesday.

NL East notes

• Jordan Zimmermann got it done.

From ESPN Stats & Info: Giancarlo Stanton hit his 34th home run of the season. That is tied for the second most homers in a season in Marlins history. Gary Sheffield hit 42 home runs for the Marlins in 1996.

Most homers in single season in Marlins history
42: Gary Sheffield, 1996
34: Giancarlo Stanton, 2012
34: Giancarlo Stanton, 2011
34: Miguel Cabrera, 2007

• R.A. Dickey didn't get a lot of run support.

NL Central notes

• The Pirates played poorly and lost again.

From ESPN Stats & Info: The Pirates have yet to recover from their 19-inning game, going 5-15 and scoring 3.7 runs per game in their past 20 games. After its 19-inning game last season, Pittsburgh also went 5-15 in its next 20 games and finished the year under .500.

• Mike Leake was The Man for the Cincinnati Reds.

• The Astros generated a shutout, and they are moving toward 50 wins.

NL West notes

• The Giants' magic number is down to 15. Their bullpen has been contributing solid stuff, Henry Schulman writes.

• The Arizona Diamondbacks won, and Kirk Gibson says they're in the playoff race.

• The Los Angeles Dodgers couldn't generate any offense.

• You can't stop the Padres, you can only hope to contain them and Chase Headley.

AL East notes

• The Baltimore Orioles won, but it appears they lost ace Jason Hammel to a knee injury. Hammel will see an orthopedist on Wednesday, writes Dan Connolly.

• The Yankees lost in Boston and fell back into a tie for first place. The Yankees may be under pressure to execute a big-money signing, and New York's spending guarantees nothing, writes Joel Sherman.

• The Tampa Bay Rays lost ground in the wild-card race, Marc Topkin writes.

AL Central notes

• The Detroit Tigers got a badly needed victory, with Doug Fister stepping up.

From ESPN Stats & Info, how Fister beat the White Sox:

A) Put hitters away: White Sox hitters were 0-for-12 with six strikeouts in at-bats ending with two strikes.
B) Three of Fister's strikeouts came on his fastball and three on his curveball; it's only the second time in 91 career starts that he had at least three strikeouts on both his fastball and curveball.
C) Fister threw 26 curveballs Tuesday, his most in six career starts against the White Sox and his fourth most this season. Hitters missed on seven of their 14 swings against the pitch Tuesday.
D) Fister threw 20 of his 26 curveballs (77 percent) Tuesday down in the zone, his highest percentage in his career (min. 20 curveballs thrown).

The Tigers loosened up, writes Drew Sharp. Avisail Garcia has been really impressive, writes Lynn Henning.

• Chicago's lead was trimmed, but there is some good news: Adam Dunn is close to coming back.

• The Kansas City Royals frolicked around the bases.

• The Minnesota Twins lost a lopsided game.

• Defensive mistakes wrecked the Cleveland Indians.

AL West notes

• The Rangers took care of business.

• The Angels' rally fell short, writes Mike DiGiovanna. Mike Scioscia has a tough decision with Mark Trumbo.

• Kyle Seager mashed his 18th homer, and the Seattle Mariners edged a little closer to .500.

10 youngsters 'winning' their auditions.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
For top prospects like Will Middlebrooks, Jurickson Profar and Wil Myers (and Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, before them), it’s only matter of time before they are given starting positions and become stars in their respective lineups.

Then there are those prospects who must earn their jobs at the major league level and take full advantage of opportunities they are given. In essence, they are auditioning for a job in 2013. And if they fail during the audition, they might never get another chance. And these auditions often only come about because of injuries or underperformance by star players. Those who seize the moment and take advantage of the opportunity can earn a starting spot for next year. Here is a list of 10 players (in alphabetical order) who are doing well in their late-season auditions and might have earned vital roles on their teams next year.

Rob Brantly, C
Brantly and right-hander Jacob Turner were acquired by the Marlins at the trade deadline in what could be Marlins president Larry Beinfest’s best deal. At the plate, the 23-year-old Brantly has easily held his own in his first 20 major league games, batting over .300. Behind the plate, however, he still has work to do against the running game as he’s thrown out only one runner in 12 attempts. But he does show above-average ability to call a game and frame pitches. He’s certainly doing enough to be the Marlins’ No. 1 catcher in 2013 and beyond.

Josh Donaldson, 3B
Donaldson was given the third-base job in spring training after Scott Sizemore went down with a knee injury. Donaldson lost the job after the Oakland Athletics acquired Brandon Inge. However, when Inge went down with an injury, Donaldson reclaimed the position Aug. 14 and hasn’t let go, belting six home runs and posting a .996 OPS since then.

Tyler Cloyd, RHP
The Philadelphia Phillies might have the best four-man rotation in the National League with Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Kyle Kendrick. However, another interesting story has been the surprise development of Cloyd, who has unexpectedly become the fifth man in their rotation. Cloyd was the Phillies’ 18th-round selection in the 2008 draft and wasn’t on the prospect radar entering the season. However, after leading the International League in ERA, he earned a promotion to the major leagues and has taken advantage of it. In three starts, he’s pitched 17 innings allowing just three walks while striking out 16. Cloyd has above-average command and deception. He is fearless on the mound and will pound the zone. However, he will have to be fine to have success because his stuff is just ordinary. He’s definitely shown enough to be in the conversation for the Phillies' fifth-starter spot in 2013.

Sam Deduno, RHP
Deduno is proving there is nothing wrong with a 29-year-old rookie and has certainly made the most of his opportunity. After 12 starts he’s 6-3 with a 3.55 ERA for one of the league’s worst teams. He’s athletic, unafraid and has enough stuff to strike out a hitter with a couple of different pitches. However, Deduno needs to reduce his walks, which will lower his WHIP, if he wants to have any sustained success in the major leagues. Minnesota Twins general manager Terry Ryan told me Deduno should be in the mix for a spot in their 2013 rotation.

Adam Eaton, CF
Eaton is a baseball player, pure and simple. He won the Pioneer League batting title in 2010 after being drafted in the 19th round. In 2011, he hit a combined .318 with 10 home runs, finishing his season in Double-A. This year he started the year in Double-A and was promoted to Triple-A after just 11 games, where he hit .381 with 46 doubles and 7 home runs in 119 games. In his first seven games with the Arizona Diamondbacks, he’s gone 10-for-31 and is quickly becoming a long-term answer in the Diamondbacks’ outfield.

Anthony Gose, OF
Gose was called up July 17 and the Toronto Blue Jays tried to let him develop at the major league level, but he struggled to hit .200 and was sent back down in late August. Upon his Sept. 4 recall, however, he has taken advantage of his second chance and is hitting .389 in September with 4 stolen bases. Gose has shown good balance at the plate with improved plate coverage and discipline. He’s showing enough improvement at the plate along with his blazing speed and better routes to fly balls that he might be able to be in the 2013 Opening Day lineup. Because of his speed and defense he doesn't need to hit a ton to be a contributor.

Greg Holland, RHP
Holland has always had the arm, the biggest question with Holland was whether he could improve his control and command. With his 13 saves and 81 strikeouts in 59 innings pitched he’s proven the latter. He still has to reduce his walks. However, Kansas City Royals GM Dayton Moore told me this week there is no doubt in his mind that Holland can be their closer for the rest of this year and going forward.

Chris Parmelee, OF
I remember scouting Parmelee out of Chino Hills (Calif.) High School back in 2006 when the Twins made him the 20th overall pick in the draft. There was no doubt that he was a prospect who should hit, the only question was with how much power? Six years later, he still hasn’t lived up to his potential. However, he could be turning the corner. The Twins' front office is considering trading outfielder Denard Span for starting pitching this offseason, which would mean Ben Revere could be moved to his natural position of center field and Parmelee would take over in right field. Parmelee has the Twins’ typical impeccable makeup and if his bat develops, he could become a .280 hitter with 15-20 home run power at the major league level.

Erasmo Ramirez, RHP
Ramirez has a clean delivery with a fastball that sits 91 to 95 mph. His changeup has been his best secondary pitch as opposing hitters are batting just .125 against it. His breaking ball still needs refinement, and he must get more downward plane and command of his fastball in the strike zone. He is a grinder and competitive and has shown the ability to be a back-of-the-rotation-type workhorse. His 5-foot-11, 210-pound frame is durable. Seattle Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik told me that he will definitely be watching Ramirez, visibility that Ramirez will take advantage of.

Josh Rutledge, 2B
Rutledge was the Rockies' third-round selection in the 2010 draft. Just two years later -- after hitting .320 across three minor league stops -- he has a shot to be the long-term second baseman for the Rockies. He got his opportunity at shortstop because of Troy Tulowitzki’s injury and took advantage of it by hitting .304/.320/.531 in 53 games. He has shown the ability to go to his right and left with an average arm and his six stolen bases in six attempts. He has certainly caught the eye of manager Jim Tracy, and Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd told me they are anxious to see him play some second base after Tulowitzki returns and also said he has been impressed that Rutledge has not been intimidated at all. With Tulowitzki, catcher Wilin Rosario and center fielder Dexter Fowler, the Rockies have a strong future up the middle.

Strasburg was slowing down.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Wednesday night's game in New York is the "not" heard 'round the world: The game Stephen Strasburg would have been pitching if the Washington Nationals hadn't shut him down ahead of schedule due to his problems with "mentally concentrating," which the Nationals blame on the level of media attention over the team's plans to shut him down.

The Nationals have a strong lead in the NL East, so they are unlikely to miss his performance in one game, or for the rest of the regular season, very much. The larger issue surrounding Strasburg is the impact of losing him for the postseason. When the Nationals instituted their plan for Strasburg at the beginning of the season, it made a lot of sense for a young team with slim hopes of making the playoffs to protect one of their most valuable (and most fragile) players from injury. With the Nationals heavily favored to make the playoffs, though, some Nationals fans are likely to be disappointed if their team's ace isn't available for a single game of the postseason.

Clearly, the Nationals know that Strasburg is a better pitcher than whomever they will replace him with in the playoff rotation, just as everyone else does. However, the public is at a disadvantage when discussing a pitcher's condition, since teams simply know more about how he's doing than fans and the media do. Teams have scouts, trainers, doctors and even the player himself to shed light on how the pitcher's body is reacting to his workload.

It's difficult for anyone not affiliated with a major league team to get that sort of feedback on a player. The next best thing we can do is look at the pitches themselves to see if we notice anything that we may be able to link back to the pitcher's workload.

A look at the PITCHf/x data reveals that Strasburg's four-seam fastball (his primary pitch) has been steadily declining in velocity over the course of the season. The graph below charts his fastball velocity in each start relative to his average fastball speed for the season:

Baseball Prospectus
Strasburg's fastball velocity was gradually declining over the course of the season.

The data is noisy, but there's a definite trend there: According to the best-fit line, Strasburg has lost nearly a mile per hour off his four-seam fastball since the beginning of the season. Knowing this by itself doesn't tell us much of anything, without knowing about how other pitchers fare over the course of the season. This second graph shows the velocity of all starting pitchers over the course of the season relative to average fastball velocity:

Baseball Prospectus
If anything, the typical starting pitcher gains a little velocity as the season progresses.

The effect we see here is much less pronounced, but most pitchers actually gain speed over the course of the season. This finding holds up if we restrict our observations to players with above-average fastballs (average speed greater than 93 mph), as well. It also holds up if we restrict ourselves just to Nationals home games, suggesting that what we see in Strasburg is unlikely to be some systemic problem with velocity measurements in the PITCHf/x system.

So we know there was an unusual velocity loss in Strasburg's case; what we don't know is what the cause of that was. It is possible that this was due to a deliberate choice on the part of Strasburg. He may have been trying to ease off in order to help him pitch through the season longer. Or he may have been changing something else that reduced velocity as a side effect, perhaps in exchange for better command or better movement.

But the drop in velocity could also have been a sign of fatigue. It might not have been arm fatigue; it could have been fatigue in his legs or lower core. Fatigue would not necessarily mean Strasburg was hurt, of course. But according to athletic trainer and Baseball Prospectus author Corey Dawkins, pitching through fatigue "at maximal effort" is the primary cause of pitching injuries. Fatigue could also have led to changes in delivery as Strasburg tried to compensate for its effects, which would have increased his risk of injury.

Now, we don't know that Strasburg was fatigued, but we do know that the Nationals would have much more information to determine that than we do. What we can say is that we see something that may indicate fatigue, and that asking Strasburg to continue to pitch through that fatigue could have meant risking a reinjury.

The Nationals are giving up some likelihood of short-term gain to safeguard Strasburg's long-term health, which is a bizarrely forward-looking act in an industry so often concerned with the short term first. But the Nationals are a young team, and youth has its advantages when it comes to building up a run of sustained success; young teams are more likely to perform well in the future than older teams. If the Nationals have evidence that Strasburg is fatigued, that would seem to indicate that their concerns are quite prudent.
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Will White Sox keep Jake Peavy?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
With the end of the regular season just a few weeks away, teams are beginning to make their offseason plans, at least as it pertains to players on their own roster. In situations where a player has a guaranteed contract, the decision of whether to retain them or not has already been made, but arbitration-eligible players and guys who have team options for 2013 often force teams to make difficult decisions. Based on their performances and their 2013 salaries, here are the five toughest calls that teams are going to have to make this winter.

Jake Peavy, SP | $22 million team option or $4 million buyout
While Adam Dunn and Alex Rios have both had big comebacks to spark the offense, Peavy's return to prior form has been the biggest driver of the White Sox success this year. After dealing with a variety of arm problems, Peavy is going to throw 200 innings for the first time since 2007, and while he's not quite as dominant as he was then, his K/BB ratio (3.89) is nearly the equal of Justin Verlander (3.93), and ranks seventh in the American League among qualified starters. He's also the rare fly ball pitcher who can succeed in the White Sox home ballpark, and while it might seem like he's been around forever, he doesn't turn 32 until the end of May.

However, is a pitcher with Peavy's track record of injuries worth $18 million (the net cost of retaining him, considering the presence of the buyout) for 2013? Last winter, Hiroki Kuroda only was able to land a one year, $11 million deal with a similar skillset, and while he was several years older, he didn't have Peavy's history of arm problems. It is a weak market for starting pitching, however, and Peavy could probably land a three or four year deal at a reduced annual average value if the White Sox grant him free agency.

The White Sox might be looking at a choice between paying him $22 million for 2013 or paying the $4 million buyout and then bidding against others who might offer something like $36 million over three years. However, even if they had to pay the buyout, signing him to 3/36 would value the additional two years at just $9 million apiece, which is probably a gamble worth making given his production.

Verdict: Decline the option, attempt to re-sign to multi-year deal at a lower AAV.

Dan Haren, SP | $15.5 million team option or $3.5 million buyout
Before the season, this looked like a lock to be picked up, but Haren has struggled with back problems that have led to reduced velocity, and in turn, his worst season since his rookie season in 2002. However, an offseason of rest could solve all of his issues, and he's had stretches of effectiveness this year, including his most recent few starts in September. However, Haren's strikeout rate has been trending in the wrong direction for four years now, and even early in the season, he wasn't the same frontline starter he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

At a net cost of $12 million, the question for the Angels will really come down to whether they can afford to keep both Haren and free agent starter Zack Greinke, or if they need to choose between them. If picking up Haren's option stands in the way of retaining Greinke, then paying the buyout and hoping to bring him back at a lower salary seems like the best bet. If they don't believe they can re-sign Greinke, however, then they can allocate a few million that would have gone to keeping him around to picking up Haren's option, making sure they don't lose two starters in one fell swoop this winter.

Verdict: Decline if they can re-sign Greinke, exercise if they can't.

Hunter Pence, OF | arbitration at expected $14 million or non-tender
When the Phillies traded Pence to San Francisco, the fact that he was not eligible for free agency until after the 2013 season was touted as a virtue. However, as a player who has already gone through arbitration three times (thanks to achieving Super-Two status earlier in his career), Pence's salaries have escalated to the point where offering him arbitration might result in a paycheck that is too large for what he brings to the table.

After posting a career best .378 wOBA and +4.7 WAR last year, Pence has regressed to a career worst .324 wOBA and +1.8 WAR this season, as he's just not getting balls to fall in for hits like he used to. His core statistics are all mostly unchanged, so there isn't evidence of massive decline, but Pence overachieved in 2010, and his current salary reflects numbers that he probably can't put up again. If Pence is more of a +2 to +3 win player headed into his age 30 season, $14 million might just be too rich for the Giants blood, especially if they also want to retain the more productive Angel Pagan.

However, if they think that Pence could bounce back to something closer to his prior form, $14 million isn't an outrageous sum for one year, and they would have the right to make him a qualifying offer after next season, which would give them draft pick compensation if he signed elsewhere as a free agent, which they would not get if they non-tender him this winter.

Verdict: Offer arbitration, hope he's willing to settle for a smaller raise.

Kevin Youkilis, 3B | $13 million team option with $1 million buyout
Since the White Sox took Youkilis from their red-stained brethren, his power and walks have come back and he's performed as well as they could have hoped, though still not at the kinds of levels he's achieved previously. Still, at +1.7 WAR in just 266 plate appearances in Chicago, his numbers would project out to a +4 win season in over 150 games played, which is easily worth the $12 million net cost of exercising his team option.

Of course, Youkilis has actually never managed to play 150 games in a regular season before, and has averaged just 115 per season over the last four years. So, while he's been productive when healthy, the injuries are taking a toll on his body, and committing a significant chunk of the payroll to a guy who might best profile as a part-time player isn't the best use of resources for the White Sox. On the other hand, this is an absolutely miserable crop of free agent infielders, so he'd be fighting guys like Jeff Keppinger for the title of best available third base option if the Whtie Sox cut him loose. Given the relative lack of alternatives, he probably won't have to settle for much less than what the option would guarantee him.

Verdict: Decline, but don't expect a big savings if they try to re-sign him afterwards.

Tim Hudson, SP | $9 million team option or $1 million buyout
Hudson has been an excellent pitcher when healthy, and $8 million isn't a lot of money for a guy who can still get opposing batters out, but Hudson's future comes with a lot of red flags. He turned 37 in July, and right about that time, his velocity and strikeout rates both headed south in a hurry. After averaging 90 MPH with his fastball after coming off the disabled list in May, he bottomed out at 88 MPH in July, though he's creeped back up to 89 in the last month or so. However, his 12 percent strikeout rate in the second half of the season is a problem, as even a groundball specialist like Hudson needs to miss bats every now and then in order to keep opposing runners from scoring.

Given his advancing age, his back surgery last winter, and his declining velocity and strikeout rates, committing $8 million to Hudson might not be in the Braves best interests. As a Georgia resident near the end of his career, Hudson might be more willing to take a paycut to stay close to home, but how low he'll be willing to go while still being a rather effective pitcher remains to be seen. If the Braves put him on the market, he might be this winter's Roy Oswalt.

Verdict: Decline, then try to re-sign to an incentive-laden contract.

Josh Beckett's pitching transition.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Josh Beckett is a pitcher in transition, no longer able to dial up his four-seam fastball to 97 and throw a wipeout curveball to miss bats. On Thursday night at Dodger Stadium against the St. Louis Cardinals, he was fortunate to exit the game with just one run allowed, having shown average to fringy stuff all night without the fastball command a pitcher like that needs to be successful.

Beckett topped out at 91 and mostly threw his fastball in the 87-90 range, but instead of his old fastball-centric approach, he opted for the kitchen sink, mixing in a few two-seamers, a ton of cutters, a very mediocre changeup, and a mid-70s curveball that is probably his best pitch but that he can't use as his primary way of getting ahead in the count.

Beckett needs to work on locating the four-seamer better to the corners and staying out of the upper middle part of the zone, an area he used to own when he was throwing gas. He also seems to go to the cutter too often; it's not sharp and the break is visible right out of Beckett's hand.

Josh Beckett
#61 SP
Los Angeles Dodgers
2012 STATS


There's an element of experimentation here, as Beckett and catcher AJ Ellis try to remake him as a command guy who'll have to rely on location and on changing speeds. I don't think that kind of pitcher needs, or even should have, as many different pitches as Beckett threw tonight.

• Cardinals starter Lance Lynn was aggressive all night with an above-average fastball at 92-95, pounding hitters inside (especially under right-handed batters' hands) while working with both the curve and slider, even going to those breaking balls in changeup counts.

Lynn's fastball didn't have much life but he located it well to three corners of the zone, especially down and in, and established it well enough that Dodger hitters were off balance whenever he'd throw something offspeed. The slider was mostly 85-86, short but with tilt, while the curveball was hard at 78-80 and a little slurvy. He located both pitches well and mixed them in different counts to allow him to get through the lineup a third time.

This was Lynn's first start since August 24th, so he may have been working with more adrenaline than usual and his arm was probably fresher than it would have been had he started five days previously. He had the stuff and aggressiveness on Thursday night to profile as a league-average or better starter and wouldn't be out of place in a playoff rotation.

• Dodgers reliever Paco Rodriguez made his third major league appearance for the Dodgers, his first where he faced more than one batter; the one right-hander he faced, Shane Robinson, ended up scoring the go-ahead run after Ronald Belisario took over. Rodriguez, the Dodgers' second-round pick this June out of the University of Florida, was 89-90 with tailing life, but the money pitch for him is his cutter, 87-88, breaking down and away from left-handed batters. He can take a little off and throw a traditional slider in the mid-80s as well but they are effectively the same pitch, potentially death to lefties. He doesn't have a clear weapon against right-handers and his command is fringy, but he could have a long career as a specialist if he stays healthy.

Ozzie Guillen's uncertain future.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The 2012 Marlins are a colossal failure, so it's little wonder that owner Jeffrey Loria has talked about a season-ending assessment, and that club president David Samson was understated but direct in his criticism of Miami's first-year manager in an interview with From Barry Bloom's interview: And how has manager Ozzie Guillen played out in all this?

Samson: I think he's had a disappointing season. I think [that's the way he feels] in his mind, too. It just didn't turn out the way we thought it would when we drew it up. That's how life goes sometimes. We never could get our legs under us.

Samson threw a blanket of blame over everyone in the organization -- "from the 25th man to me," he said -- but Guillen's situation is unique because he was brought in to be the face of the franchise, a well-known Latin American manager in a multicultural city. The Marlins' hope was that Guillen would connect with the community, and instead, he spent the early part of this season asking for forgiveness for his published comments about Fidel Castro. Given the Marlins' record of 63-81 and the perception among some rival evaluators that the team has not been competitive, and this month is no exception, it's not surprising that ownership hasn't excluded him from the organizational evaluation that is going on in these final days of the regular season.

Guillen is in the first year of a four-year contract, and given how long the Marlins worked to get Guillen to their organization, it may seem like a safe bet that he'll be back for 2013. But remember, Loria is more like George Steinbrenner than the Phillies' David Montgomery, who might be the most even-keeled owner in the sport. Loria fired Joe Girardi after just one year as a manager -- a season for which Girardi was given the NL Manager of the Year Award.

Some baseball officials say that while the Marlins' attendance has spiked in their new ballpark, they have drawn about 9,000 fans less per game than they had projected, and the great unknown is how different that could have been without the Castro remarks. In Miami, those were the perfect storm of words.

Guillen is wholly responsible for that, and indirectly responsible for the performance of the club, and Loria's history is that he will be aggressive in making changes. Guillen's recent compliment about Giancarlo Stanton could not have gone over well with ownership, either.

Said Guillen, after Stanton hit his 30th homer: "At least we can enjoy every two or three innings ... to see this kid at the plate. That's the only part we're good for to come to the park and watch."

Soon, Loria will make it known whether he believes Guillen is a reason why the fans come to the park, or if he's part of the reason why some fans have stayed away.


Few positions are set for the Marlins for next year, writes Joe Capozzi. Carlos Zambrano wants a rotation role, Juan Rodriguez writes.


• The top five teams in need of a win today:

1. Rays
2. Pirates
3. Phillies
4. Angels
5. Dodgers

The Angels badly needed a win Thursday, and they got it from Jered Weaver, who had bite on his breaking ball, as Marcia Smith writes. He got back up to speed quickly, Helene Elliott writes. From ESPN Stats & Information, how he beat the Athletics:

A) Weaver was unhittable with his off-speed stuff, throwing 37 pitches (39 percent). The Athletics were 0-for-10 in at-bats against Weaver's off-speed pitches (0-for-5 with slider, 0-for-3 with changeup, 0-for-2 with curveball).
B) Weaver threw 53 percent of his fastballs up in the zone and above, leading to four outs.
C) Weaver focused on going out of the zone with two strikes. Twenty-seven of Weaver's 36 two-strike pitches were out of the zone, leading to eight outs, with six by strikeout.

From S&I: Weaver became just the sixth Angels pitcher all-time to record multiple 17-win seasons and just the fourth to record consecutive 17-win seasons (won 18 games last season). He is the first to do so since Bartolo Colon won 18 in 2004 and 21 in 2005.

For Oakland, the loss hurt, but the Athletics' greater concern is about Yoenis Cespedes, who injured his wrist. Oakland has played well, but its lineup is not deep, and Cespedes carries a presence the Athletics need badly. Brett Anderson is no longer untouchable.

• Manny Machado looks and plays like he's been playing in the big leagues for a decade. But the last time the Orioles played in the postseason -- in 1997 -- Machado was just 5.

He set himself for a pie in the face Thursday at the end of Baltimore's extraordinary 14-inning victory over Tampa Bay.

ELIAS: Machado (20 years and 69 days old ) is the youngest player with a walk-off hit in the 14th inning or later since 19-year-old rookie pitcher Don Gullett of the Reds singled home Dave Concepcion in the 15th inning in the second game of a doubleheader against the Braves on May 17, 1970.

For the Rays, it was a crushing sweep. From Marc Topkin's story:

But the stark reality of the result was an issue: a third straight loss to the Orioles that dropped the Rays (77-66) a season-high four games out of an AL playoff berth with less than three weeks left to play.

"It's too late," Rays third baseman Evan Longoria said. "I don't want to say we have time, because we don't have time. We don't have time to lose any more games, especially one-run games when we have opportunities. We've got to start saying that now. Realistically, we may have a few we can lose here and there, but we've got to have the mentality of going out and winning every game."

Watching the Rays play in these close games is like seeing someone try to fight a water gun war with nothing but a spoon. They have little lineup firepower, and if the opposing pitchers execute, the Rays don't have a lot of answers; they seem to have very few guys who can hit good pitching.

Tampa Bay, four games behind the Orioles and Yankees, is now further back in the playoff race than the Milwaukee Brewers.

Chris Archer pitched well, but lost.

Meanwhile: Jason Hammel got good news about his knee. The Orioles have broken a long streak of losing seasons and are looking for more, Childs Walker writes.

• With a strong outing from Phil Hughes and a big hit from Derek Jeter, the Yankees kept pace.

• John Henry says the Red Sox are not for sale. The Red Sox are better off with the current ownership, Dan Shaughnessy writes.

By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats & Information

6: Straight September losses for Felix Hernandez after giving up seven runs in loss to Blue Jays.
13: Straight extra-inning victories for Orioles this season, joining 1949 Indians (17 straight) and 1995 Indians (13 straight) as only teams to do that.
20: Straight non-losing seasons for the Yankees after a 2-0 win against the Red Sox. Only the Yankees' teams from 1926 to 1964 had a longer streak.
3,283: Hits for Derek Jeter in his career, tying Willie Mays for 10th all-time.

• Stephen Strasburg's doctor clarified his remarks.

Look, the decision is worthy of discussion and debate. But no matter which doctor said what and when he said it, the bottom line is that the Nationals made the choice to shut down Strasburg, forgoing immediate benefits in the hope of keeping him healthy longer.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. Bo Porter is among those who have been interviewed as a candidate for the Houston managerial job.

2. The Indians shifted David Huff into their rotation, as Paul Hoynes writes.

3. Evan Grant doesn't think the Rangers will bid enough to keep Josh Hamilton. Totally agree. I'd strongly disagree that the Red Sox will spend big to land Hamilton.

Dings and dents

1. Kenley Jansen could be back soon.

2. Ryan Raburn landed on the disabled list.

3. The Rangers' Mike Adams is dealing with a shoulder issue.

4. Adrian Beltre is OK.

AL West

• Joe Nathan blew a save, but he's moving on.

• Felix Hernandez's chances for the Cy Young keep suffering body blows as he struggles: He lost his third consecutive decision, as Larry Stone writes.

From S&I: Hernandez's struggles in September are not just a one-year blip. He has lost his last six September starts dating back to September 12, 2011, and he has an 8.35 ERA and allowed a .402 opponents batting average in those starts. He allowed six hits against his fastball Thursday, including a home run in a 8-3 loss to the Blue Jays. After giving up 10 hits against his fastball in five August starts, Hernandez now leads the majors with 19 in September.

AL Central

• The rainout on Thursday could help the Tigers, Drew Sharp writes.

• Gavin Floyd will pitch the makeup game Monday for the White Sox.

• The Royals missed a chance for a sweep, as Bob Dutton writes.

• Zach McAllister looked sharp, Paul Hoynes writes.

• The Twins got some big hits in the late innings.

• Gordon Beckham understands why he was benched.

AL East

• Edwin Encarnacion hit his 40th homer, Mike Rutsey writes.

NL West

• For the Dodgers, the losing continues.

NL Central

• Lance Lynn picked up the Cardinals and gave them some help.

• Bronson Arroyo has been helped by a new breaking ball.

• The Pirates have some guys with playoff experience. The Pirates are clueless about winning, Dejan Kovacevic writes.

• Norichika Aoki has helped the Brewers a lot in their surge, as Todd Rosiak writes.

• The Astros are making a late push toward their 50th win, and they came back against the Phillies.

NL East

• This hurts: The Phillies blew a four-run lead against the Astros.

• The Braves aren't worried about playing the Nationals this weekend, writes Carroll Rogers -- they're just worried about winning games.
post #8021 of 78800
Thread Starter 
Arizona Fall League Breakdown: Surprise Saguaros.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Tentative rosters for the Arizona Fall League were released on Aug. 29. The fall developmental league is designed to help prospects received extra seasoning and coaching at the conclusion of the minor league season. Each organization contributes players to the six-team league. The league typically shifts in favor of the hitters because teams are generally reluctant to assign top arms to the league – unless they’re attempting to make up for lost innings due to injuries.

We’ve already broken down four AFL clubs:
Mesa Solar Sox
Peoria Javelinas
Phoenix Desert Dogs
Scottsdale Scorpions.

The Surprise Saguaros club consists of players from five organizations – St. Louis, Kansas City, Boston, Texas and New York (NL). Below are some interesting names set to appear on the roster. Full rosters can be found here.

Seth Blair, RHP, St. Louis: I was a pretty big fan of St. Louis’ selection of Blair during the 2010 amateur draft as he had a successful college career at Arizona State. However, injuries, inconsistency and control issues have derailed his pro career to this point. A starter in college, Blair’s route to the Majors will likely come from the bullpen and a trip to the AFL will help him catch up on much needed innings; he appeared in just seven games in 2012.

Bryce Brentz, OF, Boston: Brentz is one of those fringe prospects for me. I have yet to buy into him as a future full-time player at the big league level and he doesn’t really offer enough defense (although he has a strong arm) to be an ideal fourth outfielder. His best hope is likely a platoon job. Brentz hit almost .300 in double-A in 2012 but was aided by a .370 BABIP. If he continues to strikeout at rates between 24- 26% he’s more likely to hit around .240-.260 with 55-60 power (20-80 scale).

Edwin Carl, RHP, Kansas City: An out-of-nowhere, pop-up prospect in 2011, Carl’s improbable success continued through the 2012 season and two minor league levels (A and A+). The right-hander’s stuff is average across the board but it plays up because of above-average control, solid command and deception. The undrafted prospect, who signed with KC in 2010, made 11 starts in low-A this year, but is definitely a future reliever who his overall ceiling to be determined – but middle reliever at the big league level is probably the best-case scenario.

Kellin Deglan, C, Texas: A first round draft pick from 2010 (22nd overall), Deglan was a late riser in the amateur ranks but his bat has been a disappointment in pro ball. Still just 20, the young Canadian will be given plenty of chances to develop. He’s behind the eight ball as a cold weather prospect and flashes intriguing left-handed power. After two straight years in low-A ball, he should move up to high-A despite his league-average offensive output in ’12.

Leury Garcia, IF, Texas: The Rangers system is flush with up-the-middle infield talent with the likes of Elvis Andrus, Jurickson Profar, Rougned Odor and Luis Sardinas – as well as Garcia, who often gets overlooked. The 5’7” infielder is possibly the least physical of the group but he makes consistent contact, swings from both sides of the plate and has some speed. He may top out as a utility player but the 21 year old could be a very useful big league player.

Tim Melville, RHP, Kansas City: In early 2012, I identified Melville as a potential buy-low candidate for big league teams looking for a sleeper prospect to acquire. Unfortunately injuries wiped out his season and he pitched just 34.1 innings. Melville is a former top amateur pitcher who is still just 22 years old so he should continue to receive opportunities to realize his potential – and hopefully that will begin with a trip to the Arizona this fall.

Danny Muno, IF, New York (NL): A former eighth round draft pick out of Fresno State, Muno spent the 2012 season in high-A ball and could reach the Majors by the end of 2013 — depending on the big league club’s needs. He doesn’t have a huge ceiling but he has a decent floor and could carve out a solid big league career as a back-up infielder. Muno – a switch-hitter – has a good eye at the plate, walking almost as much as he strikes out, and flashes some gap power.

Mike O’Neill, OF, St. Louis: A late round draft pick originally signed for organizational depth, O’Neill has hit well everywhere that he’s played and reached double-A in his first full pro season (His first two seasons were spent mostly in short-season ball). Jumped to the Florida State League (A+) this past season, O’Neill hit .342 with 70 walks and just 24 strikeouts. Those are impressive numbers and he gets on base a ton, but his speed is average and he possesses below-average power. A diminutive 5’9”, he could eventually spend some time at the big league level as a left-handed pinch hitter and fourth or fifth outfielder. He received a late-season promotion to double-A and hit .563 in 13 games, earning player-of-the-week honors in the Texas League so he may not be far off from The Show.

The Sad, Neglected Fog Horn at AT&T Park.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Wednesday night, Kevin Millwood was laboring through shoulder discomfort in a start in Toronto. Still, he’d kept the Blue Jays hitless through three and a third. That’s when he let an 0-and-2 fastball to Edwin Encarnacion catch a little too much of the plate. Encarnacion blasted the pitch way out to left field, and the Jays got on the board. It was the 22nd home home run of Encarnacion’s 2012 season. That ties him for the second-most in baseball. A glimpse at the current leaderboard:

1.Miguel Cabrera, 24
2.Edwin Encarnacion, 22
3.Ryan Braun, 22
4.Giants, 22
Whoa, wait, hold on a second. What?

Nothing in there is untrue. So far, Miguel Cabrera has slugged 24 home runs in Comerica Park. Edwin Encarnacion has slugged 22 home runs in Rogers Centre, and Ryan Braun has slugged 22 home runs in Miller Park, and the Giants have slugged 22 home runs in AT&T Park. Encarnacion has batted 283 times at home. The Giants have batted 2,615 times at home.

It will come as little surprise, then, that the Giants are bringing up the rear. The Padres are second-to-last in baseball in home home runs, as they probably always are, but they’re still 17 ahead of the Giants, or 77 percent ahead of the Giants. Then there are the Mariners and the Dodgers, each with 44 home home runs. The Yankees have 117. The Yankees hit their 22nd home home run of the season on May 1.

This information isn’t unfamiliar to people who have been watching the Giants all season, but it might be unfamiliar to most of the others. It’s laughable how infrequently the Giants have gone deep in front of their own fans this season, and it’s laughable how little it’s mattered, since the Giants are also 40-31 at home. Make no mistake, this is about the ballpark, and not the Giants; the Giants have hit 43 more home runs on the road, and they’ve allowed 30 more home runs on the road. They’ve also allowed more than twice as many home runs at home than they’ve hit. In San Francisco, the Giants have been out-homered more than two to one, and still they’ve won far more often than they’ve lost.

Various west-coast ballparks have gotten attention for their extreme 2012 run suppression, and A&T is a west-coast ballpark. An average of 6.9 runs have scored per Giants home game. An average of 10.0 runs have scored per Giants road game. But I’m not here to talk about AT&T Park’s run suppression; I’m here to talk about the Giants not going deep.

On May 14, Gregor Blanco launched a home homer to right off Christian Friedrich. On June 12, Madison Bumgarner launched a home homer to left off Bud Norris. In between, there were no home homers, over 16 full games. Blanco’s was also the first home homer since May 1. The Giants went on a little run in the middle of June, hitting six homers in three games, beginning with Bumgarner’s, but all three of those games were against the Astros, so the numbers hardly even count.

Want more, still? On the road, the Giants have posted a below-average 9.7-percent HR/FB. At home, the Giants have posted a terrifying 3.9-percent HR/FB, more than three full percentage points behind the Mariners. Cliff Pennington has a career 4.2-percent HR/FB. At home, the Giants have turned a lower rate of fly balls into home runs than Cliff Pennington.

In AT&T Park this season, the Giants have 22 home runs. The Braves have seven home runs, three apiece for Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman. I didn’t know where to tuck in that little fun fact but I knew it needed to be tucked in somewhere. Buster Posey leads all Giants with six home home runs, and then there’s Brandon Belt, with four. Then Pablo Sandoval, who’s tied with Heyward and Freeman.

Curious, I had overlord David Appelman run a query for me. I wanted to know where the Giants’ home home run numbers fit into a historical context, and Appelman was able to go back to 1974. The Giants have hit a home run in 0.84 percent of their home plate appearances. Turns out the 1981 Padres hit nine home home runs all year in a shortened season, coming in at a 0.44-percent clip. Other teams from around that time were worse than the Giants. But the Giants, at present, have the lowest home home-run rate for any team since the start of 1993. The 1992 Royals came in at 0.81 percent. That’s the last time a team has been this low. We find the 2010 Mariners at 1.19 percent. Then the 2011 Giants, at 1.42 percent. Last year, the Giants hit 42 home runs at home. This year it doesn’t look like they’ll even come close.

When I was a kid, I had a soft spot for the Giants, and I attended one game at Candlestick Park. The free giveaway was a J.T. Snow growth-chart poster, featuring a picture of J.T. Snow holding a baby. What I really wanted from my one experience was to hear the stadium fog horn go off after a Giants homer. I’m a sucker for special home-stadium celebrations — the Giants’ fog horn, the Blue Jays’ goal horn, the Mariners’ Funk Blast, any hockey goal horn, the Angels’ fireworks, and so on and so forth. The Giants still have that fog horn, and it hasn’t been getting a whole lot of use. I understand the fog horn sounds after wins, too, and it’s done so about twice as often as it’s sounded for a homer. That’s…I mean, that’s insane.

Clearly, the Giants are able to win without hitting too many dingers. Clearly, we should assume there’s some noise in this data, and clearly, the Giants just aren’t a dinger-hitting team. Whether or not the Giants are going to win the World Series has little to do with the fact that it’s September 13 and they’ve hit 22 home runs at home. But it’s September 13, and the Giants have hit 22 home runs at home.

2013 Schedule: Constant Interleague, Still Unbalanced.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Welcome to the future. In the all-new, sleek and streamlined 2013 schedule that MLB just released, every division will have the same number of teams, every team will play the same number of intradivision and interleague games, and there will be “at least one Interleague game every day.”

The Astros’ move to the AL West makes all of this standardization possible. Every team will play exactly 19 games against each of the other four teams in its division (76 total), 6-7 intraleague games against each of the 10 teams in the other two divisions (66 total), and 20 interleague games. The season will begin right after the World Baseball Classic, on March 31, and will end on September 29. (No word on whether the playoffs will end before November.)

But this schedule is going to take some getting used to. Just as an example, here’s what it looks like for the lone non-US team, the Toronto Blue Jays:

The Jays will begin the year with two exhibition games in Philadelphia. They don’t have any interleague games in April; they begin the year in Canada, and then have road trips to Detroit, Kansas City, Baltimore, and the Bronx. Then, in May, they’ll travel to Boston and Tampa Bay, then play two games at home against the Giants, and a week later they play the Braves for two games in Toronto and then fly to Atlanta for two more games. (And yes, I know, the last time they played two in Toronto and flew to Atlanta, they only needed one game to end the series.) Immediately after that, in June, they’ll fly to San Diego and San Francisco, back home to play the Rangers, then to Southside Chicago, then to Arlington Texas, then home to play the Rockies.

Like I say, it’s going to be weird: the baseball map just enlarged, permanently. Your favorite team will still play seven times more intraleague games than interleague games, but they could go to a city in the other league at any time. That might be good for fans who live in a different city than their favorite team, like me, a Braves fan living in Boston, even though the Braves aren’t coming to town this year.

But perhaps the most significant significant thing about perpetual interleague play is something Steven Goldman noted at SB Nation: this makes it harder for a team to carry a professional DH like David Ortiz, a player who really shouldn’t be allowed onto the field for any reason. As a result, the market will likely begin to favor DH fielding ability a bit more strongly than normal, as teams begin to prefer a DH-type who can play 20 games a year with a below-average glove, compared to a a bad body who simply can’t.

Goldman believes that this disadvantages teams that have already invested in players like Ortiz: “AL teams are in the position of having to win with rosters designed for a schedule that is slowly being taken away from them.” I tend to disagree. There aren’t THAT many David Ortiz/Travis Hafner/Billy Butler/Jack Cust types who really should be barred from the field at all costs. Usually, designated hitters are players who’ve aged out of an everyday field position, rather than players who never had a glove to begin with, and so you can usually hide them in left field or at first base for one game if need be.

But it could mean that minor leaguers who truly can’t field might have an even tougher time making it to the majors, and it means that the line between “awful fielder” and “cannot field” — the line between Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz — just got a little bit brighter.

Unfortunately, the schedule is still unbalanced; even though the number is now evenly fixed at 19 per team, teams now play even more games in their divisions than before. And that is why people like Rays owner Stu Sternberg are decrying the new schedule. “Look at the schedule the Tigers are playing,” Sternberg told CBS Sports. “I’d like to take my chances playing that schedule.” As I wrote a year ago:

It’s unfair for the Blue Jays to have to play nearly 55-60 games against the Red Sox, Rays, and Yankees, while the Rangers get to play 55-60 games against the Angels, Athletics, and Mariners.

It’s going to get even more unfair, now that those teams have 76 intradivision games to play. It’s hard to blame Sternberg for wanting to play 76 games against the Astros Twins, Royals, Indians, and White Sox, rather than the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Orioles (!). There’s a fundamental tension between the unbalanced schedule and the notion of competitive fairness. It’s unfair for the Orioles to face a vastly tougher schedule than the Tigers. This is to some degree mitigated by the second Wild Card, and over the next few weeks, we’ll find out what effect the new Wild Card play-in game will have on the contours of the playoffs and the stretch run.

In one way, the new Wild Card diminishes the relevance of a team’s regular-season record, since it provides a back door into the playoffs for the 10th-best team in a 30-team league, and to that degree, it mitigates the problem of unfairness caused by the unbalanced schedule. However, in another way, the second wild card increases the relevance of the regular season for the two wild card teams, because the four wild cards have a tougher road than the six division winners. The new schedule, therefore, places even more of a burden on the second wild card and wild card play-in game, as a sort of backstop of last resort for fairness.

That said, the schedule changes either a little or a lot every year. For a sport that’s famed for its adherence to hazy ritual, Bud Selig’s MLB has constantly tinkered with its format in a relentless search for profit, and has been mostly successful, at least when it comes to that aim. The only two things we know for certain are that there will be a few more changes in 2014, and none of those changes will take money off the table: expanded replay is almost certain, but there’s no way that the schedule will decrease from 162 to 154 games.

Now, if we could just figure out a way for them to end that stupid Saturday blackout for…

Leveraging the Orioles Bullpen.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Last night the Orioles won another one-run game — no surprise there. Darren O’Day, Pedro Strop, and Jim Johnson combined for a scoreless 7th, 8th, and 9th — also no surprise. The Orioles bullpen is a major reason the team is tied atop the AL East. On Tuesday Jeff Zimmerman argued that successfully leveraging these relievers could partially account for the O’s performance in one run games. The theory is that an inconsistent rotation and streaky offense put the O’s in a disproportionate number of low leverage situations and preserving the best relievers hurts run differential in these games, while allowing the team to consistently use its best arms in close games. The result? Bigger blowout losses, fewer blowout wins, and more wins than typical run differential expectations would dictate.

Testing the theory that there is a method to the O’s 2012 run requires analysis of three questions. First, do the O’s find themselves in enough low leverage situations for such a strategy to impact their run differential on a significant scale? As Jeff pointed out on Tuesday, relative to other similarly successful teams the O’s seem to have a disproportionate number of blowout losses—games lost by more than six runs. In fact, the O’s have the 12th highest number of low leverage relief appearances in baseball.

Second, do the O’s actually employ a unique strategy in low leverage situations that suggests they are preserving the best relievers for higher leverage situations? Finally, does this strategy actually mean that the O’s best relievers appear in fewer low leverage situations and more high leverage situations than do the best relievers for other teams? The phrasing of this final question is very important, because every team tries to avoid using the top relievers in blowouts. The real question is do the O’s do so more successfully than other teams and, more importantly, is the result that these relievers consistently are available and successful in high leverage situations. The rest of the analysis will focus on these two important questions.

Surviving Blowouts: Low Leverage Extraordinaire Kevin Gregg

The first part of the theory that must be tested is whether or not the Orioles do in fact manage to avoid using the best relievers in low leverage situations. One method for doing so is to force starters to suck it up and push through bad starts to eat innings, but eventually this takes its toll and has long-term consequences. The table below shows all 11 of the Orioles losses by more than six runs (hereafter referred to as blowouts) this year in order of occurrence by the starting pitcher, the number of innings they threw, and the earned runs they allowed.

Pitcher Innings Runs
Brian Matusz 5.2 5
Tommy Hunter 5.2 8
Brian Matusz 5.0 7
Jake Arrieta 6.1 6
Jason Hammel 3.1 8
Chris Tillman 0.1 7
Miguel Gonzalez 2.2 7
Zach Britton 2.2 7
Tommy Hunter 3.0 8
Joe Saunders 5.1 6
Zach Britton 3.1 5

While there are some cases of pitchers gutting it out for a while, in all of these blowouts there were obviously a significant number of low leverage innings thrown by relievers. I don’t think we can say definitely that any blowout strategy employed involves hanging starters out to dry longer than other teams normally do.

So where do the Orioles’ low leverage relief innings go? To Kevin Gregg, of course. At .49, Kevin Gregg has the second lowest gmLI (average leverage index upon entering the game) of any reliever with at least 40 appearances in baseball. He has thrown in nine of the Orioles 11 blowout losses and two of their four blowout wins. In the process he has posted a very pedestrian 4.74 ERA, but has managed to grind through 43.2 innings in 40 appearances. He is not alone in the mop up ranks within elite bullpens, though. JP Howell for the Rays, Alfredo Simon for the Reds, Cristhian Martinez for the Braves, and Louis Coleman for the Royals have all made 40 or more relief appearances and have a gmLI less than .70 pitching for bullpens in the top ten in WAR.

Kevin Gregg is not the end of the story, however, and in fact it is the myriad of other pitchers the Orioles have used in low leverage situations that is most impressive. The team has a combined 54 relief appearances from 12 different pitchers including normal starter Tommy Hunter, acquisitions Randy Wolf, Miguel Socolovich, and J.C. Romero, and journeymen call ups like Dana Eveland. Of these 54 appearances, 37 (69%) of them have been in low leverage situations. All told the Orioles have used 19 relievers this year (if you include Chris Davis’s emergency extra inning appearance). Only ten teams have used at least 18 relievers this season and of these teams, only the Orioles and Red Sox rank in the top 15 in baseball in reliever WAR, implying that for the other teams it has a lot more to do with ineffectiveness than with strategy.

Leveraging O’Day, Strop, and Johnson

So the Orioles have been creative in constructing the relief corps, but how does that translate into actual usage of the team’s best relievers? First, a quick return to the 15 blowouts the Orioles have taken part in. Below is a table of the Orioles seven most used relievers (including Kevin Gregg) with their appearances in blowout losses, blowout wins, and all blowout games.

Pitcher Blowout Loss Blowout Win Total
Jim Johnson 1 - 1
Pedro Strop 1 - 1
Darren O’Day 4 - 4
Luis Ayala 3 1 4
Troy Patton 5 1 5
Matt Lindstrom 5 1 6
Kevin Gregg 9 2 11

The Orioles thought enough of Matt Lindstrom to trade him to Arizona and a fair number of Troy Patton’s low leverage appearances came early in the season when he was somewhat less established. That leaves 10 total appearances in blowouts by Jim Johnson, Pedro Strop, Darren O’Day, and Luis Ayala in the eleven blowouts. However, that actually overstates the case, as half of those 10 appearances came during the stretch immediately after the All-Star break, where the Orioles played 20 games 20 days. During this stretch, the Orioles were at some points forced out of necessity to get innings out of these pitchers simply due to the lack of off days. Even including these games Jim Johnson and Pedro Strop have only pitched in one blowout each. Strop’s came after three straight rest days when he needed work. Johnson’s was a strange departure from the strategy on July 16th when he gave up 5 ER in 1/3 of an inning in a throwaway loss to Minnesota.

Now, the important point of all this is that the Orioles should be able to use their top pitchers in the most high leverage situations and in the least low leverage situations. I very subjectively chose the top three relievers from each team and looked at the percentage of each reliever’s appearances that were low leverage and the percentage that were high leverage. I also looked at the proportion of a team’s high and low leverage appearances accounted for by these top relievers.

The Orioles seem to do pretty well within this framework, but there are a handful of other teams that leverage their best relievers similarly. The average proportion of total appearances that were in low leverage situations among O’Day, Strop, and Johnson was the 9th lowest in the league. These three relievers made up 28% of the team’s total relief appearances in low leverage situations, good for the 11th fewest in the league. More importantly, the average proportion of total appearances that were in high leverage situations for the Orioles relievers was second highest only to the Royals (for whom I included Jonathan Broxton, despite being traded, because without including the team’s closer for much of the season it skews the results). These three relievers made up 63% of the Orioles total high leverage appearances, good for 6th in the league.

As far as minimizing appearances in low leverage situations and maximizing appearances in high leverage situations for the top three relievers, the Giants, Indians, Reds, and Royals are the only teams that seem to do as well or better than the Orioles across the board. As they did last night, the Rays rely heavily on Joel Peralta, Jake McGee, and Fernando Rodney in high leverage situations, but also use them in a fair amount of low leverage situations.

If we restrict our analysis to only the team’s top two relievers the combination of Jim Johnson and Pedro Strop rank 3rd and 30th in the league in gmLI, respectively. Here only the Rockies, Reds, Indians, and Giants have a higher combined ranking among their top two relievers. In fact, the three headed monster of Javier Lopez, Santiago Casilla, and Sergio Romo in San Francisco has a combined higher ranking with gmLI’s of 6, 10, and 11, respectively.

Strategy or Luck?

In a way this is circular logic, but baseball’s best bullpens all do a good job of leveraging their best relievers and the Orioles seem to fit squarely into this group. What appears to be different is the manner in which the Orioles have creatively found ways to avoid using these relievers in blowout games, which in turn has caused the team’s run differential to take a hit.

I do not think this is the whole story — certainly a combination of randomness and offensive performance has a significant impact on winning close games as well. I do think, however, that Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter deserve credit for being creative and sticking to a potentially unpopular method for utilizing an already great bullpen. Having been a part of teams that felt like the coaches quit on games that got out of hand, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of Showalter’s ability to communicate this strategy with players to prevent it from becoming a negative.

As Jeff Zimmerman pointed out on Tuesday, whatever the true reason for the Orioles unlikely success, barring a major collapse in the final weeks we could be witnessing the greatest “over-performance” in baseball history — or perhaps one of the greatest strokes of managerial genius.

post #8022 of 78800
These Birds man... love this team regardless of what happens. First winning season since '97; been far too long. Just wish it wasn't Angelos reaping the benefits and praise.

IMO, Braun and Trout deserve the MVP as of today. No one particularly close in the AL, but Cutch, Posey, and Wright are all thereabout in the NL. Cy should probably be a repeat of last year.
post #8023 of 78800
No one particularly close in the AL

Is everyone really going to ignore Miguel Cabrera?

Mike Trout is beasting, but it's for a third place team, if they miss the playoffs he shouldn't get it. Yeah, still salty about Matt Kemp losing it to Braun for that same reason last year, therefore, I don't think Braun should get it either. wink.gif
Instagram: backyardlobo
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post #8024 of 78800
Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

Hell no laugh.gif dudes can't beat the Indians right now easily.
Okay, Pro. I see you. Shots fired.

At least we got Los and Kip to look forward to in 2013-2014.
post #8025 of 78800
Originally Posted by ooIRON MANoo View Post

No one particularly close in the AL

Is everyone really going to ignore Miguel Cabrera?

Mike Trout is beasting, but it's for a third place team, if they miss the playoffs he shouldn't get it. Yeah, still salty about Matt Kemp losing it to Braun for that same reason last year, therefore, I don't think Braun should get it either. wink.gif

Cabrera ain't makin the playoffs neither, soooo.......?

You could make the argument if Trout starts the year day 1, they make the playoffs. That start killed them. Not his fault. Since he came up, they've done well, and he's been unreal. Easy MVP imo. Shouldn't even be close.
post #8026 of 78800
Originally Posted by ooIRON MANoo View Post

Is everyone really going to ignore Miguel Cabrera?
Mike Trout is beasting, but it's for a third place team, if they miss the playoffs he shouldn't get it. Yeah, still salty about Matt Kemp losing it to Braun for that same reason last year, therefore, I don't think Braun should get it either. wink.gif

Cabrera provides less offensive value than Trout (small difference in power #s don't make up for the massive difference in base-running), and a fraction of the defensive value (Cabrera is one of the worst corner infielders, Trout is one of the best CFs).

LOL @ punishing a player for something he has no control over. In this case, it's the performance of the rest of his team.
post #8027 of 78800
Originally Posted by abovelegit1 View Post

LOL @ punishing a player for something he has no control over. In this case, it's the performance of the rest of his team.

Happens every year champ...
Instagram: backyardlobo
Instagram: backyardlobo
post #8028 of 78800
So we should adopt obviously flawed logic as our own just because it happens every year?
post #8029 of 78800
Originally Posted by abovelegit1 View Post

So we should adopt obviously flawed logic as our own just because it happens every year?

That's the way baseball has been for over 125 years, glasses.gif
Instagram: backyardlobo
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post #8030 of 78800
Originally Posted by ooIRON MANoo View Post

That's the way baseball has been for over 125 years, glasses.gif

Actually, the MVP award has been around for less than 100. And I'm not sure if serious, but I still fail to see why I should apply the moronic rationale of the BBWAA to my own. It's an individual award that should go to the most deserving player. Not most deserving player on a good team.
post #8031 of 78800
Could somebody make an AL MVP case for Robby or even Beltre over Miggy? I'm sure glove work will be the first point of detraction against Cabrera.
post #8032 of 78800
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by ChampCruThik View Post

Okay, Pro. I see you. Shots fired.
At least we got Los and Kip to look forward to in 2013-2014.

I seriously did not mean that as any shot towards you or Indians fans laugh.gif

Right now in the AL, it's Trout by a wide margin and then a mix of Beltre/Cano/Cabrera/A-Jax/Hamilton. There's no way Trout doesn't win it. Playoffs or not.
post #8033 of 78800
Fire away. !+%* those guys.
post #8034 of 78800
Prince Fielder and Alex Avila collide going for a ball in foul territory. Fielder wins by TKO.
post #8035 of 78800
Cabrera Could Be Eligible In Postseason, But Giants May Not Want Him

Melky Cabrera, who was suspended 50 games for violating baseball's drug policy, could be eligible for the postseason if the Giants extend their run beyond five games.

There were 45 games left in the regular season when Cabrera was suspended.

Cabrera recently reached out to the team to find out when he should report to the club's minor league complex to prepare for a potential spot on the postseason roster.

However, Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area writes that the Giants are "not commenting on Cabrera's situation, but all indications are that upper management has zero interest in the All-Star Game MVP playing another game in orange and black."

Cabrera was leading the major leagues in hits and runs scored when the league suspended him.
Hip Hop is dead. There is no "savior".
Hip Hop is dead. There is no "savior".
post #8036 of 78800
They put up with bonds all those years but dont want Melky back laugh.gif. We need all the help we can get on Offense
post #8037 of 78800
Posey is the MVP

His offensive numbers dont tell the whole story. He throws out baserunners like no other, and his defense goes unoticed because hes a catcher
follow me in IG: @thegodfresco, ill follow back
follow me in IG: @thegodfresco, ill follow back
post #8038 of 78800
A's and O's smokin.gif really want these teams to make it.

My mind is blown at what Trout has done this year, def could see him getting MVP. Here I am reading and seeing all this stuff about Bryce Harper being the next big thing but Trout is doing all this and he's pretty much the same age. You guys seeing Harper ending up being better or no? Or at least offensively considering he's still adapting to the outfield.
post #8039 of 78800
He throws out baserunners like no other
Ninth of out 12 qualified catchers in caught stealing percentage. He has allowed the most stolen bases in baseball.
post #8040 of 78800
The Giants pitchers are horrible at holding runs on. That stat is very deceiving
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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.