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2016 MLB thread. THE CUBS HAVE BROKEN THE CURSE! Chicago Cubs are your 2016 World Series champions. - Page 272  

post #8131 of 78800
Thread Starter 
Do you need an ace in October?
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
As October approaches, several contending teams find themselves without ironclad aces at the top of their rotations. The Texas Rangers will go into Game 1 with Yu Darvish, who's riding a string of several strong starts but has struggled at times during his debut season.

The Oakland Athletics may have to enter October with an all-rookie rotation that lacks both Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson. The Baltimore Orioles' rotation is fronted by Wei-Yin Chen, who's been barely better than league average. The St. Louis Cardinals are hoping the reckoning for Kyle Lohse doesn't come until 2013. If the Los Angeles Dodgers claim a wild card, their hopes of advancing to the NLDS might depend on Josh Beckett. And even Yankees ace CC Sabathia has looked uncharacteristically shaky in the second half.

Meanwhile, a few other playoff locks and hopefuls can count on handing the ball to a starter who's been consistently successful all season. The Chicago White Sox (Chris Sale and Jake Peavy), Washington Nationals (Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann), Detroit Tigers (Justin Verlander), Cincinnati Reds (Johnny Cueto), and even teams on the periphery of the race like the Los Angeles Angels (Jered Weaver) and Tampa Bay Rays (David Price) can rest secure in the knowledge that their top starter would match up well with any opponent in a play-in game or at the start of a series.

Aces are often viewed as integral to postseason success, but do the teams with stronger starters at the tops of their rotations really have more reason to be confident?

We can all recall teams whose playoff success (or lack thereof) supported either the Essential Ace Theory or the Extraneous Ace Theory. The Atlanta Braves won the World Series only once during their streak of 14 consecutive playoff appearances, despite having three Hall of Fame-caliber starters in their rotation for the majority of their run.

The Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series in 2008 with a rotation topped by Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer, then got bounced in the first round three years later despite adding Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt. The 2005 White Sox won on the strength of four dependable-but-not dominant starters, all of whom made at least 32 starts but none of whom struck out as many as seven batters per nine innings. The 2002 Angels went all the way with Jarrod Washburn, who never made an All-Star team.

Obviously, having an ace is no guarantee of October success, and lacking one isn't a postseason death sentence. But anecdotal arguments won't get us anywhere. To come up with an answer, we have to examine how all playoff teams have fared.
[+] EnlargeJustin Verlander
AP Photo/Mark DuncanHaving an ace like Verlander doesn't give you a special edge in October.

To do that, Baseball Prospectus director of research Colin Wyers selected the ace of each playoff team from the one-wild-card era of 1994-2011, defining the ace as the starter who pitched at least 120 innings with the lowest ERA. Then he came up with a normalized measure of ace-ness, similar to ERA+, that allowed us to place all the aces on the same scale. Finally, he checked the correlation between the strength of each team's ace and the difference between its winning percentages in the regular season and the postseason.

The result? A statistically insignificant correlation of 0.02. (A correlation of 1.0 is perfect, minus-1.0 is the opposite.) Park-adjusting the stats didn't strengthen the correlation. Neither did defining ace as the starter with the highest WARP. Neither did running the study again using only pitchers who pitched in the playoffs, so as not to skew the results by including teams whose regular-season aces weren't available in October. However we sliced and diced the data, we couldn't find any evidence that the strength of a team's top starter alone helped dictate how it would do.

October is the time when games mean the most, so it's only natural that we would look for any signs that could help us predict which teams will still be standing at the end of the month. But searching for those signs means seeking meaning in small samples, always a risky exercise where baseball is concerned. Over the years, a number of popular theories purporting to predict playoff success have been proposed and debunked. Do teams that "back into the playoffs" after a September swoon fall to the ones with momentum? No. Are teams that rely on home runs at a disadvantage in October? No. What about the quality of a team's closer, its defense or its staff's strikeout rate -- do these components offer any hints? Not likely.

To those three suspect theories, we can add the notion that a team can't succeed in the postseason without an ace. It certainly doesn't hurt to have one, but we can't count on any one player to make a major impact in a short series or a series of short series, scenarios where randomness reigns supreme. (The correlation between ace strength and regular-season success for these teams was a more meaningful 0.15, suggesting that having a true ace helps more over the long haul.) So what should we look at when we're wondering which teams will succeed in the postseason, if not their top starters?

The best predictor of how often a team will win in October is, intuitively enough, how often it's won on the way there. The correlation between regular-season winning percentage and winning percentage in the playoffs is a healthier 0.28, which would likely rise even higher if we looked at underlying regular-season performance rather than overall record. A great starter's contribution is already captured in that regular-season success, and it doesn't add any extra information to assess it in isolation. While that might disappoint those hoping to peer further into the playoff future, it's reassuring to know that the strengths that got a team to October will continue to serve it well once it's there.

IMO, having an ace doesn't help as much as you'd think it should but it's a load off your shoulders as a fan I guess.
post #8132 of 78800

well the phillies just pounded up on the mets 16-1, goddamnnnnn only if they didnt lose to the damn Astros ! that **** still got me heated


Remind yourself. Nobody built like you, you design yourself !





Team T.A.N   






Remind yourself. Nobody built like you, you design yourself !





Team T.A.N   





post #8133 of 78800
Originally Posted by xxpizzo View Post

well the phillies just pounded up on the mets 16-1, goddamnnnnn only if they didnt lose to the damn Astros ! that **** still got me heated
The Mets need to trade David Wright he should be with a winning team must be miserable, and they're pitching prospect Familia got rocked. Mejia got nothing bullpen pitcher. They should blow up the team like Boston.

Nats already clinched a playoff berth.
post #8134 of 78800
I thought David Wright said he wants to sign long term with the Mets? He seems like a guy who's happy to stay with the team no matter what.
A T H L E T I C S | U C L A | L A K E R S | R A I D E R S

A T H L E T I C S | U C L A | L A K E R S | R A I D E R S

post #8135 of 78800
Thread Starter 
Tell me when David Wright gets a hit the Mets need in a big spot then come back to me about him deserving to be on a better team laugh.gif

That dude fell off HARD the second half. A lot of his value tied into his defense and it hasn't been that great this year. He doesn't look like the tpe that minds losing IMO. He's like Aramis was in Chicago. The Mets as a whole are on the right track but it's going to take a while. Minaya left them with absolutely NOTHING, that farm system was barren as hell. They made a mistake not trading Hairston at the deadline.
post #8136 of 78800
Yankees vs A's today.....big series this weekend.

Hope the O's are able to beat up on Boston or maybe Boston hates NY that much they tank......
Straight Cash Homey
Straight Cash Homey
post #8137 of 78800
Thread Starter 
I think Boston remembers what Baltimore (Andino) did to them last year. I think they'll give it a go.
post #8138 of 78800
they better , i'm rootin for those bastards laugh.gif
Yanks Knicks Jets
Yanks Knicks Jets
post #8139 of 78800
Thread Starter 
Rumor going around Cano is facing a PED suspension...but Boras and an official from MLB say it's false.
post #8140 of 78800
Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

I think Boston remembers what Baltimore (Andino) did to them last year. I think they'll give it a go.

 I hope not, hoping the O's can pull out 2/3 from that series

post #8141 of 78800
Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

I think Boston remembers what Baltimore (Andino) did to them last year. I think they'll give it a go.

Yeah, but I'm banking on their hatred of NY to loom over that..... laugh.gif
Straight Cash Homey
Straight Cash Homey
post #8142 of 78800
Thread Starter 
The Triple Crown Is Not Evil.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
There has been a lot of banter about the Most Valuable Player Award this week. While the National League has an even field with multiple candidates, it’s the American League — with Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera — that’s gotten most of the attention.

At the center of the debate is baseball’s triple crown, an incredibly rare achievement that is within reach for Cabrera. The fact that Trout is going to finish with the better season, regardless, has led many to pooh-pooh the fact that Cabrera has the chance to become just the 14th player since 1901 to win the elusive title. And while the triple crown in and of itself doesn’t signify greatness, it has only been won by great players. And most often, the league’s best player has won it.

It’s common knowledge that no player has hit for the triple crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967, and even his claim to it is debatable. He tied for the AL lead in home runs with Harmon Killebrew, who matched Yaz’ 44 taters. History gives Yastrzemski credit for his triple crown, though, and so shall we. The feat has been accomplished just 13 times, with 11 different players (Rogers Hornsby and Ted Williams each did it twice):

Year Player Lg Tm AVG HR RBI
1967 Carl Yastrzemski AL BOS 0.326 44 121
1966 Frank Robinson AL BAL 0.316 49 122
1956 Mickey Mantle AL NYY 0.353 52 130
1947 Ted Williams AL BOS 0.343 32 125
1942 Ted Williams AL BOS 0.356 36 137
1937 Joe Medwick NL STL 0.374 31 154
1934 Lou Gehrig AL NYY 0.363 49 165
1933 Chuck Klein NL PHI 0.368 28 120
1933 Jimmie Foxx AL PHA 0.356 48 163
1925 Rogers Hornsby NL STL 0.403 39 143
1922 Rogers Hornsby NL STL 0.401 42 152
1909 Ty Cobb AL DET 0.377 9 107
1901 Nap Lajoie AL PHA 0.426 14 125

You’ll recognize every name on this list. All 11 players are in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The triple crown is not baseball’s rarest feat — there have been only four hit streaks of 40 or more games since 1901; only eight 60-homer seasons; and there have only been 13 .400 batting average seasons. But that doesn’t mean the feat isn’t ridiculously difficult to accomplish.

In most seasons, at least one player has won two of the three legs of the triple crown. At least one league has had a player win (or tie to win) two of the three triple crown categories in 85 of the 111 seasons, starting with 1901. In 33 of those 85 seasons, both leagues had a player win two of the three triple crown categories.

To put that more plainly: It’s just as frequent for two players — one from each league, in all cases — to lead their league (or tie for the league lead) in two of the three triple crown categories as it is for zero players to do so in any given season. History is littered with players who have led the league in two of the three categories, but not all three. Alex Rodriguez did it twice. Mike Schmidt did it four times. George Foster and Willie McCovey did it in back-to-back seasons. Hank Aaron did it three times. Babe Ruth did it six times in eight years — five times leading in both home runs and RBI, and one time leading in average and homers.

Not only is it a rare achievement, it is not a cheap one. While we don’t put much, if any, importance on RBI these days, these seasons weren’t exactly Dante Bichette’s 1999 season. Eleven of the 13 led their league in WAR outright, with Nap Lajoie tying Cy Young for the WAR lead in 1901 and Cobb’s 10.8 WAR in 1909 coming in slightly under Eddie Collins’ 11.1 WAR. The third-best WAR in the AL that season was Donie Bush, with 7.4 WAR, though, so it’s not like Cobb was a scrub that season.

In fact, let’s take another look at these guys, but with some advanced stats swapped in for the more traditional selections:

Year Player Lg Tm wRC+ wOBA OPS Batting WAR
1967 Carl Yastrzemski AL BOS 194 0.454 1.040 70.2 12.1
1966 Frank Robinson AL BAL 196 0.447 1.047 74.8 9.1
1956 Mickey Mantle AL NYY 204 0.502 1.169 93.4 12.2
1947 Ted Williams AL BOS 209 0.507 1.133 87.5 10.8
1942 Ted Williams AL BOS 211 0.522 1.147 94.2 12.2
1937 Joe Medwick NL STL 178 0.467 1.056 65.7 8.1
1934 Lou Gehrig AL NYY 196 0.509 1.172 100.9 11.5
1933 Chuck Klein NL PHI 181 0.468 1.025 62.3 7.8
1933 Jimmie Foxx AL PHA 192 0.508 1.153 91.4 11
1925 Rogers Hornsby NL STL 208 0.544 1.245 93.9 11
1922 Rogers Hornsby NL STL 198 0.521 1.181 98.9 11
1909 Ty Cobb AL DET 204 0.478 0.947 72.7 10.8
1901 Nap LaJoie AL PHA 188 0.504 1.106 80.8 10.3

Not too shabby, right? Aside from Lajoie’s and Cobb’s WAR, the players here finished first in their respective season and league in WAR, wOBA, wRC+, OPS and “batting” (from the value section). In fact, by wRC+, eight of these seasons are in the top 51 seasons from 1901 to 2011. Simply put, these were some of the best seasons in baseball history. As a group, they blew away the competiton in their respective years and leagues. To wit:

Stat Triple-crown winner Best/Next-best player
WAR 10.6 8.3
wOBA 0.495 0.444
wRC+ 196.8 166.5
OPS 1.109 0.984
Batting 83.6 54.9

Even with Collins beating out Cobb and Young tying Lajoie, the players here were more than two wins better than either the best or next-best player in their league and season — a description that doesn’t quite fit Cabrera. The Detroit slugger leads the AL in OPS, wOBA and batting, but OPS is the only category in which he has a sizable lead. He’s second in wRC+ and WAR.

But even when the triple crown winners thoroughly dominated, they didn’t always take home MVP honors. Only 10 of the players were eligible to be awarded MVP, as the MVP wasn’t around when Lajoie, Cobb and Hornsby (the first time) took their titles. Two of the other times, it was Williams who won and still didn’t get the MVP. In 1947, he lost because a Midwestern writer left him off of the ballot. There are two other instances where a player won the triple crown and not MVP: Chuck Klein in 1933 and Lou Gehrig in 1934.

Klein won the year before, and came in second in ’33 to Carl Hubbell, who posted a 1.66 ERA and won a league-leading 23 games for the World Series champion New York Giants. Gehrig tallied more votes and was closer to first in the AL vote a year later, but he finished fifth in what was a very fractured vote: Mickey Cochrane took first place with 67 vote points. Gehrig had 54 vote points.

Which brings us back to this year’s MVP debate. Cabrera hasn’t been a better player overall than Trout this season. But rather than cutting down the triple crown, we really should be praising Trout’s season. Since 1901, there have been 12,000 qualified position player seasons. Fewer than 200 of them have posted 9 WAR or better, and Trout would be just the second (Alex Rodriguez, 1996) to do so before his age-21 season. That Trout is on pace to finish with a WAR that is so much higher than Cabrera’s is essentially uncharted territory.

The triple crown is, as Keith Law said in his Wednesday chat, a statistical quirk. It’s one that doesn’t account for the full breadth of a player’s contribution. And while Cabrera might pass Josh Hamilton in homers, the triple crown wouldn’t necessarily make him the player most deserving of the MVP.

Still, that doesn’t take away from the fact that winning the triple crown is incredibly rare. Yes, RBI is one of the categories — and yes, it doesn’t account for all of the nuances that more modern statistics do — but the triple crown is not evil. In fact, it’s actually pretty cool.

Matt Harvey’s Excellent Debut and the Next Step.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Matt Harvey’s first MLB season is over. In 59.1 innings, the 22-year-old gave the Mets everything they could hope for and more from a top-tier pitching prospect. His seven-inning, one-run performance Wednesday against the Phillies dropped his ERA to 2.73, paired with a solid 3.30 FIP. His seven strikeouts marked the sixth time he reached that mark in 10 starts; only Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer struck out more than Harvey’s 10.62 batters per nine innings among starters with 50 innings pitched.

His final start showcased everything that defined his season — the big fastball — hitting 97 at times — the breaking pitches to keep hitters off balance, the strikeouts, and the occasional lapses in control.

The big fastball is the alpha and the omega for Harvey, at least at this point in his development. He throws it just over 66 percent of the time and it still may be his best out pitch. Wednesday against Philadelphia, it generated nine of his 12 swinging strikes, most coming up in the strike zone:

When David Laurila interviewed Harvey back in April, Harvey deflected Laurila’s attempt to discuss the merits of working up in the zone as Trevor Bauer has alluded to on multiple occasions. Harvey said those merits come “if you’re using your power stuff,” instead choosing to focus on his efforts to work down and induce ground balls when necessary.

A fine proposition, to be sure, but Harvey’s power stuff is what has him succeeding in the first place. Those nine swinging strikes against the Phillies came on 84 fastballs, a 10.7 percent rate, just a slight tick above his 10.3% season rate. And that’s because he’s working with true power stuff: at 94.7 MPH, his average fastball velocity trails just Garrett Richards, Jeff Samardzija, David Price and Steven Strasburg among starters with at least 50 innings on the season.

Some pitchers — especially the young ones — see their big velocity readings start to slip after the first couple of innings. Harvey had managed to sustain his velocity through at least two trips through the order on a regular basis:

(Width indicates number of pitches thrown)

The problem, though, comes in the sixth, where Harvey dips to 94.0 MPH — still elite starter velocity, but every tick off the fastball makes each of those elevated offerings more dangerous. Harvey simply has seen too many deep counts — he averages at least 15 and as many as 19 pitches per inning throughout the first four, and that leaves him either gassed or up around 100 pitches by the time the sixth or seventh inning rolls around. Harvey’s biggest issue on a statistical level this season is inefficiency — he needed 10 starts to get to those 59.1 innings.

It’s a good problem to have, to be sure. But if Harvey is going to step up and be the Mets’ ace soon, he’ll have to chip away at the pitch count. Harvey walked 3.9 batters per nine innings and slogged through a whopping 75 three-ball counts in his 10 outings, the barrier allowing him through to the seventh inning just three times.

Harvey’s control is only particularly poor with his curveball, his least used pitch, and one rarely deployed in deep counts — over half have gone for balls. His fastball, changeup and slider all went for strikes at least 60 percent of the time, approaching or eclipsing the league average. The problem is falling into these deep counts in the first place.

Sometimes, Harvey just makes plate discipline too easy on the hitters:

The larger zone in this chart represents when it becomes obvious out of the pitcher’s hand the pitch will be a ball — six inches out of the zone above or to the sides, and a foot below the zone. In Harvey’s case, 90 percent of pitches outside this area resulted in balls (or hit by pitches). Things happen, of course, but typically once these pitches leave the hand you can feel safe notching a ball on the scoreboard.

Of the 648 fastballs Harvey threw, 97 (or 15 percent) were easily discernible balls. It doesn’t tend to matter what count he’s in or how many pitches he’s thrown in the at-bat — once every seven or eight fastballs, Harvey is liable to uncork one well out of the zone.

Harvey doesn’t even necessarily have to fire more pitches inside the strike zone. A key and perhaps underrated part of pitching is the ability to pitch around the zone, in places that can produce strikes but don’t risk serving up easy contact. These pitches are the drivers behind those two and three ball counts, where hitters expect the fastball and foul it off even more often (30 percent as opposed to 25 percent), only exacerbating the pitch count issue.

For a 22-year-old, these are but minor quibbles. Harvey’s results in his first trip around the majors were phenomenal for any rookie, much less one of his youth. His power fastball gives him a weapon any major league hitter will have trouble dealing with. Whether he steps into the ace role the Mets hope from him depends on his ability to rein that fastball in and use it (along with his arsenal of breaking pitches) to pitch deep into ballgames as he develops in 2013 and beyond.

The Chase Utley-Third Base Experiment.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
This has been a very disappointing season for the Philadelphia Phillies. After posting a poor 37-50 record prior to the all-star break, the team has turned things around to the tune of a 39-24 mark. However, the turnaround has mostly come too late, as they still have to make up four games with 12 left to play just to tie the St. Louis Cardinals for the National League’s second wild card berth. Despite barely even hovering around the .500 mark until recently, the non-contention has enabled the team to evaluate potential pieces of next year’s team at the major league level.

The Phillies installed Domonic Brown in right field on an everyday basis and shifted John Mayberry to center field after the trades of Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino. They took a cautious approach with Vance Worley, shut him down when his elbow proved too bothersome, and replaced him with youngster Tyler Cloyd. The improbably hot-hitting Kevin Frandsen has handled the majority of playing time down at the hot corner in Placido Polanco‘s absense. The Phillies have also called upon a slew of relief pitchers, either homegrown or previously acquired via trade, in the hopes that they don’t have to spend any more money in that particular area.

But the Phillies also have another player they plan on evaluating for next season, and he is already a star at the major league level. Chase Utley recently approached the front office with the idea of playing third base next season. It wasn’t a demand, or even a detailed conversation fleshed out logistically with the front office and managerial staff, but Utley suggested that, if it helps the team given the poor free agent class at the position, he could give it a shot. Ruben Amaro, Jr., added that Utley could even see time at the position this season if the Phillies are officially eliminated from the playoff race over the next two weeks.

The Phillies could definitely use some help at third base, but shifting Utley isn’t a cut-and-dried solution, and this positional swap isn’t necessarily going to solve the team’s issues.

For starters, the rationale behind moving him to third base is that the Phillies can’t truly upgrade the position on the free agent market. The third base free agent class is pretty anemic, with names like Geoff Blum, Miguel Cairo, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Scott Rolen. The latter seems mostly done, and the other three aren’t exactly upgrades over the Phillies current situation. Utley at third base represents a better option than anyone available via free agency. The Phillies could look to make a splash via trade, or if the options of David Wright and Kevin Youkilis aren’t exercised, but the team might not be inclined to dole out another lucrative deal to an aging player or ship away more of the already-depleted farm system.

Moving Utley to third base would solve that issue, but it would create another one in that the Phillies don’t exactly have someone waiting to replace him at second base. Sure, they have Freddy Galvis, who was playing defense at an elite level this season before breaking his back and getting suspended for having a trace amount of performance-enhancing drugs in his urine. Galvis hasn’t fully recovered from his injury yet, and can’t hit even if his glove is terrific. The Phillies have flirted with the idea of playing him at third base next season, along with Frandsen, but it ultimately makes no difference.

Whether Utley plays second base and that combo plays third base, or vice-versa, that light-hitting combo is still in the lineup. Using Galvis and Frandsen at the keystone would also have the added detriment of playing Utley out of his natural position, in a spot he may not handle well given his recent throwing problems.

The only way moving Utley to third base actually improves the Phillies — aside from determining if the assumption that his defensive skills would translate rings true — is if the team upgraded at second base. Unfortunately, the free agent crop of second basemen and shortstops isn’t that much better than the third base crop. Sure, Jeff Keppinger could fit nicely. Stephen Drew on a one-year deal, if it came to that, could be interesting as well. It seems unlikely that Marco Scutaro would have to settle for an inexpensive, short-term deal, and all indications are that the Phillies are trying to avoid spending a lot on older players. Aside from those names, the classes are loaded with the Ryan Theriot‘s, Yuniesky Betancourt‘s, and Cesar Izturis‘s of the world.

At that point, sticking with the internal options makes sense, but so does using them at third instead of making Utley learn a new position. Frandsen has gained experience at the position this season, and Galvis transitioned from shortstop to second base seamlessly. It’s hard to imagine that, if healthy, he couldn’t handle third base duty.

Besides, there is no guarantee that Utley could even play the position. Yes, Placido Polanco shifted back and forth between these two positions throughout his career, so there is precedent. However, Polanco always had a strong, reliable arm. Utley derives plenty of defensive value from his range and ability to convert fielded balls into outs. If there is a weakness in his usually pristine game, it’s his arm, as he struggles from time to time to make a strong throw to first base. How that throwing issue would translate to third base remains to be seen, but the skepticism is certainly merited. He hasn’t played the position since the Travis Lee and Omar Daal era of Phillies baseball, when he was in the minors, and it sure seems a lot to ask someone with chronic knee pain, who has played half-seasons the last two years, to learn a new position over the offseason.

If Utley could transition to third base seamlessly and, in doing so, stay healthy for a longer period of time, the idea starts to make some sense. Then again, there is no way of knowing if playing third base would be easier on his knees than second base, even though it seems like it should. There is also very little to suggest he could play the position well, let alone that it would keep him healthier, especially since his chondromalacia isn’t going to disappear. Further, the lack of viable external solutions to replace him at second base renders much of this discussion moot.

This is the type of selfless act Utley has become known for throughout his career, and it’s interesting out of the box thinking from a team that hasn’t used its resources that well in recent years. Unless Utley can handle the position well and the team can truly upgrade at second base, it’s an idea not worth pursuing.

2012′s Most Unhittable Pitch (By a Starter).
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Shortly after the Mariners made the mistake of trading Brandon Morrow for Brandon League and another guy, it was noted by the Mariners’ front office that, the season before, League had thrown baseball’s most unhittable pitch. No pitch in baseball, apparently, generated a lower contact rate against than Brandon League’s splitter, and that gave us Mariners fans something to look forward to. What it actually wound up doing was give us something to complain about all the time, but no matter. That was the first I’d personally heard of a most unhittable pitch, and I fell in love with the concept. What better measure of dominance than whiffs over swings?

Of course, we all understand that pitches don’t exist in isolation. That year, League’s splitter was baseball’s most unhittable pitch, but it wouldn’t have been so if League only ever threw his splitter and never threw his fastball. There’s a lot of game theory stuff at play, so isolating individual pitch types is a little improper and misleading. Still, it’s a fun exercise, and I’m about to indulge. So we’re all about to indulge.

Just recently Baseball Prospectus folded in PITCHf/x leaderboards, based on Brooks Baseball data. I found myself navigating the leaderboards this afternoon, and I grew curious about 2012′s most unhittable individual pitch. I decided that I only wanted to look at starters, because relievers throw fewer pitches and have very different jobs. I also decided that I wanted a minimum of 200 pitches thrown, to weed out some small-sample noise. Not that there isn’t still noise, and not that I’ve made any correction for game-theory data or count, but whatever, I knew what I was getting into. This left me with a pool of 632 pitchers and pitch types. The pitcher and type with the lowest contact rate: Stephen Strasburg, changeup, 46-percent contact.

PITCHf/x recorded Strasburg throwing more than 400 changeups this season. Batters swung at 219 of them, and of those swings, 119 completely whiffed. Less than half the time batters swung at Strasburg’s changeup did their bats so much as touch the baseball in flight. It’s not far and away the most unhittable pitch in the sample, but the gap between first and second does appear wide enough to hold through the end of the year. It’s not like Strasburg is going to be throwing anymore changeups.

For good measure, Strasburg’s change also generated a grounder two out of every three times it was put in play. But, as noted before, it was very seldom put in play, so I don’t know how much this matters. It was a good pitch, is the point.

The predictable thing to do here would be to show .gifs of Strasburg generating swinging strikes with his changeup. He did that very often, and the .gifs would allow you to visualize what the pitch looks like, if you can’t recall it off the top of your head. Instead I’m going to show you .gifs of the two times Strasburg’s changeup was hit for a home run. You can still visualize what the pitch looks like, but now it’s all been turned on its head! Wacky!

The first batter to take Strasburg’s changeup deep was Jose Bautista, and there’s hardly any shame in that.

The second batter to take Strasburg’s changeup deep was Tyler Colvin, and there’s some very limited shame in that. Although it’s not like Colvin identified the pitch out of the hand and hit the living crap out of it.

I still can’t figure out how that swing made that ball leave that yard, but it did, and I suppose one of the lessons here is that even a very good pitch can be drilled for a home run and nothing is automatic. Baseball’s most unhittable pitch — by a stater — was not actually unhittable.

Strasburg has a good changeup — this we know. This we basically just confirmed. It stands to reason that a big part of the pitch’s effectiveness is that the hitters have to look out for the heat and the slurve. Strasburg is known for his high-90s fastball, and he’s always had this devastating breaking ball, and including a changeup is some degree of unfair. What’s interesting is that people weren’t really talking about Strasburg’s change as a weapon at the time he was drafted. Strasburg said in college he just sometimes mixed the pitch in. This draft report essentially labels the change as inconsistent. Quote:

Nitpickers may look at the secondary offerings as being just average and his command needing a little refinement, but none of that will keep him from being atop just about every Draft board.

Strasburg’s long thrown a changeup, but it never got the attention that his fastball did, or that his breaking ball did. He does indeed have a very good fastball and a very good breaking ball, but his changeup looks to have been baseball’s most unhittable regular pitch by a starter in 2012. Ending be damned, this was a pretty good season for Stephen Strasburg.

Why the Pirates Always Limp to the Finish.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Yes, we collapsed in the second half, but if we get some pitching help in the offseason, we could contend next year. #talklikeapirateday

— Ruben Bolling (@RubenBolling) September 19, 2012

We can fairly well predict that the Pirates are not going to make the playoffs this year, for the 20th straight season. They still have a fighting chance at their first winning record in two decades, as they stand at 74-74 after Game 148, but that looked almost like a lock before their 11-17 August and their 4-13 September.

So why do the Pirates always suck in September? If you look at the team’s win totals, month by month, from 1993-2011 — their record 19 straight losing seasons, you see a remarkable pattern emerge:

March/April W 191 March-August W 874
L 244 L 1103
% .439 % .442
May W 233 August-Sept W 419
L 294 L 622
% .442 % .402
June W 227
L 283
% .445
July W 223
L 282
% .442
August W 210
L 316
% .399
September/October W 209
L 306
% .406

The 1994-1995 strike accounts for the fact that there are fewer games played in April and September than in the other months. But you can see: for the last two decades, the Pirates have been a much, much different team from March through July than in August, September, and October — which is to say, before and after the trade deadline.

Before the trade deadline, from 1993-2011, the Pirates were a .442 team — that’s 72-90 over a full year, 9 games under .500, not good but not catastrophically awful. However, after the trade deadline, they were a .402 team — that’s 65-97 over a full year. The difference is crucial: it measures the difference between a team that is a hot streak away from a winning season for most of the year, and a team that never has any hope.

It’s not a complete surprise to see that the Pirates have been worse, historically, after the trade deadline. After all, they have often been sellers at the deadline, getting rid of Aramis Ramirez and Brian Giles in 2003, Kris Benson in 2004, Oliver Perez in 2006, Jason Bay and Xavier Nady in 2008, Ian Snell and Jack Wilson and Adam LaRoche and Nate McLouth in 2009, and so on.

But they weren’t always sellers, and actually have made their share of misguided win-now trades. They traded Mike Gonzalez for Adam LaRoche in 2007, and a few days later traded Rajai Davis for a completely washed up Matt Morris; they brought in Derrek Lee in 2011; and in 2012, they got Chad Qualls, Travis Snider, Gaby Sanchez, and Wandy Rodriguez before the deadline. Obviously, none of it worked. It isn’t obvious that their habit of getting rid of stars at the deadline is the sole explanation for their late-season ineptitude.

A better reason is almost certainly their catastrophically bad draft history. It’s not just that the Pirates don’t have much to call up in September. It’s that the Pirates have hardly ever had any organizational depth to speak of, so as the season wears on and injuries mount, they inevitably lack good replacements.

Case in point: In 1992, the Pirates had a great year: they won 96 games, finished in first place in the NL East, and drafted Jason Kendall. It was the last time that they finished above .500 for two whole decades, as we know. It was also the last time that they drafted an above-average player for a whole decade.

After Kendall, the team did not draft a single good player until Paul Maholm in 2003. (Andrew McCutchen came in 2005.) The only major leaguers of note that the team drafted in between Kendall in 1992 and Maholm in 2003 were Kris Benson, drafted in 1996, whose career was almost exactly average, and Sean Burnett, who’s a decent enough setup man. And they signed Aramis Ramirez as an amateur free agent in 1994. That’s it.

When current general manager Neal Huntington got his job in late 2007, he inherited a team whose earth had been scorched in both the majors and the minors for 20 years, thanks to the strategic short-sightedness and talent-blindness of GMs Cam Bonifay and Dave Littlefield. Huntington immediately moved to address his team’s depth, and those fire sale trades in 2008 and 2009 were his doing. Some of the players that he brought in have paid dividends, like Derrek Lee, or, at least for the first half of 2012, James McDonald. Others have not, like Brandon Moss, Craig Hansen, and Andy LaRoche.

This year isn’t the first time that the Pirates have come tantalizingly close to a good season only to come up disappointingly short. You only have to remember back to 2011 for another example of that. But it’s remarkable how robust the pattern has been over the past 20 years: the Pirates play decently for a while, and then they fall off a cliff. Rinse and repeat.

Of course, with the strides that Pedro Alvarez has made, and the tantalizing flashes of ace potential shown by McDonald, and Neil Walker‘s solid comptency at the keystone, there are the makings of a baseball team here, especially considering that their center fielder is a perennial MVP candidate. But it’s hard to say Wait ‘Til Next Year. To quote Battlestar Galactica, all of this has happened before.

Jimmy Rollins Amazingly Inconsistent Season.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
I thought about leading off this post with one of those “Guess who leads the Majors in WAR among shortstops” questions, but then realized that I put Jimmy Rollins name was in the headline, so that seemed to not be much of a challenge. But, yes, Jimmy Rollins currently leads all MLB shortstops in WAR, checking in at +4.9 for the season. He’s been the lynchpin to the Phillies second half comeback, but on the other hand, he was also one of the reasons that they had a big hole to dig out of to begin with, because Rollins is having one of the weirdest good seasons in recent history.

Here are his monthly splits:

Mar/Apr 93 0.235 0.283 0.271 0.035 0.290 58
May 127 0.241 0.302 0.336 0.095 0.268 77
Jun 129 0.303 0.357 0.580 0.277 0.306 150
Jul 105 0.208 0.276 0.375 0.167 0.225 73
Aug 120 0.213 0.283 0.417 0.204 0.205 94
Sept/Oct 79 0.333 0.405 0.681 0.348 0.314 201

Rollins was atrocious in the first month of the season, mostly because his strikeouts went way up (18.3% K%) and his power went way down (.035 ISO). The ability to hit for power while maintaining high contact rates have always been his calling card, so when both of those things go south at the same time, he’s a pretty awful hitter. Even with his usual solid defense at short, Rollins was a replacement level scrub in April.

His May was slightly better, but not by much. He got his strikeouts back in check, but there still wasn’t much power, and and again, Rollins was mediocre at best. Then came June.

After combining for just 10 extra base hits in the first two months of the season, Rollins hit 18 in the season’s third month, including six home runs and three triples. He slugged .580 in June and posted an 11.4% K%, his lowest mark of the season. The contact and power reappeared, and for the month, he was one of the best players in baseball, posting +1.7 WAR in the process.

While the skills stuck around, the same process didn’t lead to great results in July and August, as his BABIP crashed and took his offensive production down with it. The power helped him produce more than he had early in the season, but he wasn’t anything special, posting +1 WAR total between those two months. Had he carried over some of his June production into July, the Phillies may have traded him to a contender in need of an upgrade at the position, but given his age and the $30+ million left on his contract, there wasn’t a huge market for his services.

That looks like it’s pretty fortunate for the Phillies, because his September has been even better than his June. He’s already his seven home runs this month, and he’s slugging a ridiculous .681 over the team’s last 17 games. At +1.5 WAR, he’s been baseball’s best position player this month – yes, even better than the legendary Miguel Cabrera.

Rollins has played 40 games in June and September, which accounts for just 30% of his season total. In those two months, he’s accumulated +3.2 WAR, which is 65% of his total for the year. And, while some normal variation in performance over these kinds of arbitrary endpoints is expected, you don’t see these kinds of awful-bad-great-bad-okay-amazing kinds of swings too often.

Overall, the total package for the Phillies has been quite valuable, and there’s a pretty good case to be made that he’s been baseball’s best overall shortstop this year. It’s been a roller coaster of a ride, however, beginning with a few months where Rollins looked like a shell of his former self. However, for the last four months, he’s been showing better power than he has at any point since his MVP season of 2007, and even with the increase in strikeouts, Rollins is still a very productive player. While he turns 34 in November and is probably headed for some decline in the next few years, it certainly isn’t here yet. As long as he keeps driving the ball and playing quality defense at a premium position, he’ll continue to be among the league’s best players.

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Yu Darvish Now Officially Abusive.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Alternate headline: Yu Darvish Stops Being Polite, Starts Getting Real

Yu Darvish pitched again on Thursday, and Yu Darvish dominated again on Thursday. Unlike when he dominated the Mariners in his previous outing, this time he dominated a good team on the road, allowing a run over eight innings against the Angels. The Rangers beat the Angels, which the Angels found particularly devastating, and while it wasn’t all Darvish’s fault, it was a lot Darvish’s fault. Said Michael Young afterward:

“Yu has just been awesome,” said 3B Michael Young. “I hope people are appreciating what they are seeing, because rookies don’t usually get stronger as the season goes on. It’s usually the other way around. Guys are running on fumes as the season is ending. Not Yu. He’s getting stronger and better. He’s just been rock solid.”

Plenty of players keep from wearing down during the stretch run, but few pick up their games as Darvish has. Darvish has unquestionably gotten stronger and better, and what he’s done lately has been Medlenesque. Before we get to that, a pitch sequence against Vernon Wells from Thursday’s eighth inning. The count is 1-and-1.

Realistically I could’ve chosen any Darvish strikeout, because they’re all esthetically pleasing. I liked this one because I’m a fan of the lollipop curve, and because I like Wells’ helpless body language. In truth, the pitch was off the plate and Wells was probably expressing his exasperation over the call, but had I not told you that, the body language still would’ve made sense. Darvish can make batters feel helpless when he’s on, and these days he’s more on than the ceiling fan in my kitchen. (The ceiling fan in my kitchen is always on.)

By the numbers, Thursday’s was Darvish’s sixth outstanding outing in a row. Since August 17, Darvish has started six times, throwing 44 innings and allowing ten runs. Over that span he’s got nine walks and 52 strikeouts, throwing two-thirds of his pitches for strikes. This is the sort of performance stretch some people expected when Darvish first signed on with the Rangers. This isn’t the sort of performance stretch people saw coming after Darvish got some big-league innings under his belt.

Darvish, you’ll recall, was the author of some statistical obscenity in Japan. Based on those numbers, and based on his stuff, the Rangers spent a small fortune to sign him to a contract. That’s when the comparisons to Daisuke Matsuzaka really took off, and for a while Darvish did little to separate himself. Matsuzaka was the easy and lazy comparison, sure, but he was also an appropriate comparison. Darvish, for months, showed inconsistent command of the strike zone.

Through August 12, Darvish walked nearly 13 percent of opposing batters while throwing 61 percent of his pitches for strikes. Since August 17, he’s walked under six percent of opposing batters while throwing 66 percent of his pitches for strikes. Out of his 28 starts, Darvish has walked two or fewer batters 11 times. Six of those times have come in Darvish’s most recent six starts.

The obvious follow-up question is: so what’s changed? Comparing Darvish’s most recent six starts to his previous 22 starts, he’s nearly tripled the use of his cutter. He’s thrown fewer sliders and splitters. He’s been caught by Geovany Soto instead of Mike Napoli and Yorvit Torrealba, and Soto has now basically been designated as Darvish’s personal catcher. There’s a correlation between the Soto acquisition and the Darvish hot streak, although clearly we can’t prove causation. No one can know if there’s causation; people just know that things are working for now.

Interestingly, while Darvish’s rate of pitches in the strike zone has gone up, it hasn’t gone up by as much as his strike rate. Batters, though, have been swinging a lot more often — 44 percent of the time through 22 starts, and 49 percent of the time through these last six starts. Seems to me there’s a reason for that. Announcers like to say there’s no more important pitch than the first pitch, and while that’s clearly untrue — the most important pitch is the last pitch! — the first pitch is important, and here’s what’s been happening with Darvish’s first pitches.

1st Pitch Result Through 8/12 Since 8/17
Begin 1-0 43% 35%
Begin 0-1 47% 57%
In Play 10% 8%

First-pitch-strike rate is meaningful, but it includes first pitches that are put in play, and it’s better to have this sort of breakdown. During his hot streak, Darvish has done a much better job of getting ahead of the hitters, and Darvish is lethal when he gets out ahead. Some AL league-average numbers:

After 1-0: .268/.377/.446, 14% BB, 15% K
After 0-1: .226/.265/.350, 4% BB, 27% K

Some Darvish numbers:

After 1-0: .244/.404/.378, 21% BB, 18% K
After 0-1: .170/.226/.269, 5% BB, 40% K

There’s not even much in the way of BABIP to blame for those batting-line splits. When Darvish has fallen behind early, he’s had a devil of a time fighting back. When Darvish has gotten ahead early, he’s reduced opposing hitters to pitchers. Darvish has done better getting ahead early of late, and over his last six starts he’s allowed a .394 OPS. I’m just going to go ahead and let that sentence sink in.

Darvish’s turnaround isn’t as simple as saying he’s thrown more quality first-pitch strikes — these things are always incredibly complicated, and I imagine Darvish has just been doing a better job of everything. A better job of getting ahead, a better job of staying ahead, and a better job of fighting back after falling behind. He has a repertoire such that, when a hitter is in a pitcher-friendly count, he can’t have any idea what’s going to be thrown to him. Darvish’s location isn’t quite good enough for him to be able to consistently make up for first-pitch balls, but that’s been less of an issue. Command is less important when you’re ahead and you throw a dozen different pitches.

It’s too soon to say which Yu Darvish is the real Yu Darvish going forward, but the Rangers now have compelling reason to believe that the walks are going to be less of an issue. Darvish was never a guy who was easy to hit, as he’s posted one of the very lowest contact rates in the league. Over his last six starts, he’s allowed a contact rate of just 68 percent. Given that unhittability, Darvish was never going to be anything close to ineffective. With fewer walks, though, he can actually be an ace — the ace the Rangers thought they were signing, the ace who’s one of the best pitchers on the planet. It’s too soon to say whether Darvish has taken a leap forward. It’s not too soon to say that he might’ve.

AL MVP Debate: We Did This Two Years Ago.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
While I wrote most of what I had to say about the AL MVP discussion a few days ago, I do have one more question I want to ask – what’s so different about Cabrera this season compared to 2010?

Most of the case for Cabrera’s candidacy rests upon the idea that he’s having an historic offensive performance, and that denying him the award would be some kind of historical injustice. But, if we look at his 2012 season and his 2010 season side by side, can we really make the case that this year is all that different from what he did two years ago?

Because he has almost identical amounts of plate appearances between the two seasons, it’s easy enough to just compare raw totals side by side, so we’ll start there.

Season PA 1B 2B 3B HR BB GDP
2010 648 96 45 1 38 89 17
2012 646 112 38 0 41 63 28

Cabrera has 16 more singles and three more home runs, but he has eight fewer non-HR extra base hits, so the overall net in total bases is just +11. In other words, while his batting average is slightly higher, he’s actually hitting for slightly less power this year than he did two years ago, which you can see in his seasonal rate statistics.

2010 0.328 0.420 0.622 0.429 169
2012 0.333 0.398 0.613 0.421 169

A five point increase in average and a nine point decrease in slugging are, for all intents and purposes, a tie. There’s no real meaningful difference in those numbers. The one area where there is a meaningful change is in his walk rate, as Cabrera has drawn 26 fewer walks this year than he did in 2010, which is the main driver of his 22 point drop in OBP. However, that’s swallowed up almost entirely by the change in offensive run environments over the last two years.

And, just so you don’t think we’re obscuring the issue by only looking at “sabermetric” stats like walks, doubles, and double plays grounded into, here’s a comparison based on his “run production” stats.

Season Runs RBI
2010 111 126
2012 102 130

In reality, Cabrera’s 2010 and 2012 offensive performances are almost exactly equal no matter what kinds of metrics you use. In terms of something more accurate like batting runs above average, Cabrera was at +54.9 in 2010 and is at +54.3 this year. Even if you want to evaluate his performance strictly by RBIs, there is essentially no difference between this year and two years ago.

And yet, in that race, Cabrera finished a distant second in the MVP voting behind Josh Hamilton. Hamilton, a center fielder who also had a tremendous season, received 22 of the 28 first place votes that year despite the fact that he only played in 133 games — 17 fewer than Cabrera — and had inferior home run and RBI totals to Cabrera. However, voters decided that Hamilton’s superior defensive value outweighed the extra quantity of playing time for Cabrera, and gave him the award in a vote that wasn’t even close. And I don’t recall much in the way of controversy surrounding that pick, as Hamilton was pretty clearly the AL’s best player that year.

In reality, the only real differences between the 2010 and 2012 races are Cabrera’s change in position — which WAR gives him credit for, by the way — and the relative win-loss records of the teams on which the contenders play for. Cabrera’s case might be billed as being about his amazing offensive performance, but he had this same offensive performance in 2010, and there wasn’t a strong push to give him the award then. A case for Cabrera as MVP this year, but not two years ago, essentially rests on one of these three arguments:

1. Cabrera’s defensive value has dramatically increased due to his move to third base, such that an equivalent offensive performance is now worthy of a first place vote.

2. Cabrera’s individual value has dramatically increased because the Tigers have a .530 winning percentage as a team this year, as opposed to the .500 winning percentage they had in 2010.

3. Trout’s 2012 season has been less valuable than Hamilton’s 2010 season, so while Cabrera was beat out by a stronger contender two years ago, that kind of candidate doesn’t exist this year.

You can’t make a case for Cabrera over Trout without leaning heavily on several of those as foundational beliefs.

There’s actually some evidence supporting point #1, as Cabrera’s total fielding rating compared to league average (UZR + Positional Adjustment) this year is just -8.1 compared to the -17.5 he put up in 2010, so WAR is giving him credit for an additional win of value with the glove because of the move to third base and how he’s played there this year. So, that’s an argument that actually has some teeth, but the problem is that you can’t simultaneously lean on that piece of data as a pillar of your argument while dismissing Trout’s value because of the unstable nature of single year defensive performance. If you go with argument #1 as a pillar of Cabrera’s foundation, you’re essentially also locking yourself out of #3, because any consideration of defensive value will elevate Trout’s 2012 season over Hamilton’s 2010. Point #1 and Point #3 are essentially mutually exclusive – you can’t argue both at the same time.

And point #2 is just kind of silly. The Tigers are on pace to finish with 86 wins and miss the playoffs, so it’s hard to see how that’s drastically better than the 81 wins and no playoffs that they achieved two years ago, especially considering that it’s easier to make the playoffs this year due to the addition of the second wild card. In both 2010 and 2012, the Tigers have the eighth best record in the American League. Basing his MVP case on team performance just doesn’t really hold up to scrutiny.

Again, as Paul said in his piece a few hours ago, none of this is meant to disparage Miguel Cabrera. Winning the Triple Crown would be a pretty neat historical accomplishment, and the fact that Cabrera has had so many seasons at this level speaks to his amazing consistency. The unfortunate reality for him, however, is that Josh Hamilton was clearly better in 2010, and Mike Trout has been clearly better in 2012. Two years ago, Cabrera had this exact same season, and everyone agreed that the guy doing it in center field was more valuable. There’s no reason to change our minds two years later.

Padres' surge means little for 2013.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
On July 1, the San Diego Padres stood at 29-50, worse than every team in baseball besides the Chicago Cubs. They'd been outscored by 80 runs and simply looked like a team that was far from being competitive.

Since that day, however, the Padres have won 42 of 70, a .600 winning percentage that is tied for the fifth-best mark in baseball. The addition of top catching prospect Yasmani Grandal and a resurgent Cameron Maybin have the offense clicking, and their second-half success has people talking about the Padres as contenders in 2013.

Certainly the Padres do have several interesting young players, and their farm system was rated as the best in the game by Keith Law before the season started, so there are reasons for Friar-related optimism. However, before we get too carried away by their recent string of strong play, it would be helpful to know whether these kinds of second-half surges have actually carried over to the following season.

Over the past five years, I found eight examples of teams that posted losing records before July 1 who had a winning percentage at least 100 points higher in the final three months of the season than they did in the first three. While the Padres' midseason turnaround seems unexpected based on how they played in the first three months of the year, this phenomenon happens pretty much every season, and sometimes multiple teams pull off large second-half improvements in the same year.

So, how often did those gains carry over to the following season? Well, Padres fans, you might not want to read any farther or look at the chart to the right, because you're probably not going to like the answer.

U-Turns: Second-half turnarounds
Year Team 1st Half 2nd Half Next Season
2008 Rockies .386 .532 .568
2009 Braves .474 .581 .562
2006 Phillies .456 .590 .549
2011 Dodgers .439 .582 .513
2007 Reds .383 .506 .457
2010 Orioles .312 .494 .426
2008 Indians .446 .557 .401
2010 Astros .392 .542 .346

Of the eight clubs who had similar leaps, only one team -- the 2008 Rockies -- actually improved upon their second-half winning percentage in the following season. That example comes with a fairly large asterisk, because the 2007 Rockies team made it to the World Series. They started their NL title defense with a thud, and their second-half rebound and subsequent 2009 improvement was more about returning to established levels of performance. The Rockies played poorly in the first half of 2008, but that was really their only poor stretch of baseball over a three-year time period, so they don't necessarily fit the model of an upstart team having a strong finish as a precursor of what is to come.

Besides that Colorado team, every other club played worse in the following season than it did during its second-half improvement. Of course, there was far more room to go down than up, so perhaps that was to be expected, but the magnitude of the overall declines doesn't speak particularly well for the second-half surge theory.

On average, the seven decliners lost 67 points off their second half winning percentage, dropping from a .548 aggregate winning percentage as a group to just .478 in the following season. The 2010 Braves had the smallest decline at 19 points -- and they did manage to win the NL wild card, so perhaps you would like to count them as a success story as well -- but they were also the best of the first-half teams that we were examining, having posted a .474 winning percentage in the first three months of 2009.

Four of the seven posted losing records in their follow-up season, and two of them -- the 2009 Indians and 2011 Astros -- posted lower winning percentages in the next season than they did in the first half of the prior year. Overall, the .478 winning percentage posted by these teams in the season after their second-half surge was slightly lower than the .480 winning percentage they posted during the season in which they appeared to be two totally different clubs.

And perhaps that small difference is the real takeaway here. At the group level, these teams posted an almost identical record in the next season as they did to their total record in the prior year, suggesting that the first-half record of a team that improves significantly is just as important as the second-half data. Had we just used total season winning percentage as a predictor of next season winning percentage, we'd have hit the overall mark almost dead-on for these eight teams.

The Padres' play of late is certainly encouraging, but it doesn't mean that we can just ignore all the problems that were on full display in the first three months of the season. If we want to understand how teams will do next year, we should look at their entire season as a whole and not fall into the trap of putting too much weight on recent performance. The Padres might very well be a team on the rise, but their record since the calendar turned to July is simply not enough evidence to suggest that they should be penciled in for a playoff run in 2013.

A new title for David Price: trade target.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The field of contending teams narrows by the day, with more and more executives focusing on the offseason to come, on the free agents and trade targets they might pursue.

Some talent evaluators believe that a very prominent player could be on the move, and if he does, it would be landscape-altering, in the way it was when the Brewers traded for Zack Greinke, in the way it was when the Athletics traded Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder in the same winter.

The trade value of David Price will never be higher than it will be this winter, and given the Rays' need to constantly manage payroll, there will financial incentive for Tampa Bay to flip Price for prospects now. Unlike Evan Longoria, James Shields and Matt Moore, Price did not sign a long-term team-friendly deal, and he is about to become a very expensive player.

Price's salary for this year is $4.35 million, and he'll finish this season with three years and 164 days of service time. If he wins the Cy Young Award -- and he's got a legitimate shot -- he could get bumped, through arbitration, into the $10 million range. If not, Price's best comparable could be Jered Weaver, who, in a similar stage in his career, jumped from $4.265 million to $7.37 million, after a defeat in arbitration.

An $8 million salary for Price may not sound like much, but keep in mind that the Rays' payroll this year was about $62 million; Price would account for almost 15 percent of that.

And in 2014 and beyond, Price will get really expensive, far beyond what the team that drafted and developed him can practically afford.

There will be a day when the Rays trade him.

Tampa Bay will do with Price this winter what they have done with Matt Garza and James Shields and others before him: Because they have enough starting pitching to contend, they must weigh the costs and benefits of keeping him against the possible packages of young players they would get in return for a dominant left-hander who just turned 27.

They would get extraordinary offers, because Price is a game-changer.

Some of the teams that could be a fit for a Price deal with Tampa Bay, which needs middle-of-the-diamond help catcher, shortstop, center field, second base.

Texas Rangers: Texas has a surplus of shortstops, and the wide expectation is that Elvis Andrus is going to be traded this winter. Andrus wouldn't really fit the Rays, because he's about to get very expensive, but Jurickson Profar would, and presumably, he would be the first player Tampa Bay would ask for. If Texas said no on Profar, it remains to be seen whether the Rays would find a suitable package.

San Diego Padres: They have a lot of depth in their farm system, they have a new and committed ownership, and they are one dominant starter away from being serious players in the NL West. Price could be that guy.

Cincinnati Reds: GM Walt Jocketty demonstrated last winter that he will be aggressive for a frontline starting pitcher, in his acquisition of Mat Latos, and Price would be a staggering addition. The Rays have had interest in catcher Ryan Hanigan in the past, if he was involved in a Price deal, he would be window-dressing; there would have to be a major prospect centerpiece to the trade.

St. Louis Cardinals: They've got some prospects to deal, and Kyle Lohse is set to walk. A rotation core of a recovered Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter and Price would be extraordinary.

Kansas City Royals: They'll be aggressively seeking a rotation leader this winter, an anchor, and the addition of Price would change their 2013 outlook dramatically. But in order to get the left-hander, the cost in prospects would make the Royals' front office wince. It's hard to imagine the Rays even considering a deal unless one of K.C.'s best talents -- outfielder Wil Myers, catcher Salvador Perez (who just signed a team-friendly contract), third baseman Mike Moustakas or first baseman Eric Hosmer -- was in the trade.

Toronto Blue Jays. The Rays need catching, and the Blue Jays have catching, and a glaring need for a front-of-the-rotation starter.

Chicago Cubs: They wouldn't seem to be a good fit for a deal, because they're a couple of years away from contending and trading a boatload of prospects for Price now would almost seem like a waste in 2013 and 2014. On the other hand, access to a talent like Price is rare, and if they traded for him and signed him to a long-term deal, he could be a staff leader for years to come.

The Red Sox and Yankees could theoretically be in play, but it would be extraordinarily difficult for the Rays to hand a Cy Young caliber pitcher to a division rival, and Tampa Bay would probably require Boston and New York to overpay, which neither team is typically willing to do.

Again, it's really not a question of whether Tampa Bay will trade the left-hander; it's only a question of timing among the three most likely windows -- this winter, next summer, or in the winter of 2013-2014.


The Rays have collapsed over the last 10 days, but they pulled out a great win on Thursday. They are nearing a strikeout record, as well.

From ESPN Stats & Information, how Price threw well against the Red Sox Thursday, lowering his ERA to 2.58:

A) Price got four outs using his curveball, giving him 11 curveball outs in his last two starts; Price had 20 curveball outs in his 10 prior starts. In his last two starts, half of the curveballs Price has thrown have been pitches outside the strike zone that batters have swung at. Batters don't have a hit or a walk against his curve in that time.
B) The anemic Red Sox lineup was unable to elevate the ball against Price, who hit 15 of 24 balls put in play on the ground (65.2 percent). It's the sixth time this season ground balls have made up 60 percent of balls put in play against Price; the Rays are 5-1 in those six games, and the loss was a 1-0 game.
C) Price got ahead 0-1 to 19 of the 31 batters he faced. After he got to an 0-1 count, he gave up just two singles on 64 pitches. Price continues to be one of the best pitchers in the AL after he gets to 0-1. He has allowed an average of just .182 when he does.


• The Angels' playoff hopes are almost completely wrecked after another ninth-inning defeat; Ernesto Frieri allowed a decisive two-run homer, as Bill Plunkett writes.

Scioscia may be just one in a large group of managers with long resumes who could be in play, if the Angels decide to make a change. Consider some others...

- Bobby Valentine: 16 years as a manager, 1,185 victories-1,154 losses
- Ozzie Guillen: nine years as a manager, 744-701
- Dusty Baker, whose contract is set to expire: 19 years, 1,574-1,426
- Jim Leyland: 21 years, 1,667-1,654
(- Scioscia: 13 years, 1,147-946)

Scioscia had another closed-door meeting with C.J. Wilson, writes Mike DiGiovanna.

• The 2012 Red Sox disaster is largely the responsibility of Valentine, writes John Tomase.

• The Tigers' problem this year has been with the defense, writes Lynn Henning. I totally agree with this. The Tigers put together a team they believed would hit enough to overcome its defensive flaws, and it just hasn't happened -- and it really doesn't matter who the manager is.

I will say this: I find it remarkable -- and a tribute to the players and to Leyland -- that there has not been one instance that I can recall of a pitcher griping about the Detroit defense.

• Jeffrey Loria has a lot of problems to fix, writes Dave Hyde.

• The Nationals clinched a playoff spot.

From Adam Kilgore's story:

The Nationals' 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers clinched Washington's first baseball postseason in 79 years, an achievement that sent fans into delirious celebration and caused a knock on manager Davey Johnson's office door not long after 10:02 p.m., when the last pitch crossed the plate.

He was in his office, saying good night to his wife, Susan. Players dragged him into the clubhouse, where a long table had been set up. Bottles of Korbel and empty flutes had been placed on top. Every player got a glass. "Of course," right-handed pitcher Jordan Zimmermann said in reference to the team's underage outfielder, "Bryce had water."

His team encouraged Johnson to speak, and the 69-year-old manager, back in the playoffs for the first time in 15 years, responded not with a valedictory, but a rallying cry.

"We ain't done yet," Johnson said.

The Nationals are hungry for more, writes Thomas Boswell. Steady progress has been part of the Nationals' master plan.

ELIAS: Davey Johnson will be the second manager to manage four different teams in the postseason, joining Billy Martin.

• The Reds clinched a playoff spot, but without Dusty Baker, who is in good spirits.

• Miguel Cabrera is having a season for the ages, writes Jeff Seidel. Mike Trout has the numbers and the sparks to be the MVP.

The Tigers lost Thursday.

Bustin' Out
Players with a .390 BA, 50+ RBI after the All-Star break, all-time:

Player Team BA RBI
Barry Bonds 2002 Giants .404 53
George Brett 1980 Royals .421 77
Ted Williams 1941 Red Sox .406 58
Earl Averill 1936 Indians .409 64
Paul Waner 1936 Pirates .397 52
Luke Appling 1936 White Sox .395 77

• I don't have a vote for NL MVP, and I'm not yet sure who I will pick. But I think Buster Posey is going to win it.

From Stats & Info: Posey is hitting .392 with 52 RBI since the All-Star Break. He could join an elite group that you can see in the chart at right.

• Chris Carpenter returns to action today, and as Bernie Miklasz writes, it feels like Christmas. From Nate Jones and Kenton Wong of ESPN Stats & Info:

Carpenter has not pitched since winning Game 7 of the 2011 World Series (October 28, 2011). Once he steps on the mound Friday that will mark a span of 328 days between starts.

ELIAS: Only three pitchers have ever started and won a deciding world series game and then not made his next start for at least 300 days (not including pitchers who never started again). Johnny Podres after the 1955 series went a year and 198 days, ****** Ford went over two years after the 1950 series, and Johnny Beazley went three years and 193 days after the 1942 World Series, service in a World War a part of the picture.

When Carpenter has been healthy he's been one of the best pitchers in baseball since making his Cardinals debut in 2004. He's first in MLB in win percentage at .693, third in ERA at 3.06, and fourth in shutouts (tie) with 10.

The Cardinals are in the midst of a nine-game Astros-Cubs-Astros sandwich, and they swallowed Houston in a sweep. Allen Craig is on the verge of qualifying for the league's batting title.

By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats and Info

11,310: Days since Nationals franchise clinched postseason berth on Oct. 3, 1981.
70: No-hitters in MLB since then ... just one by the Expos/Nationals franchise (Dennis Martinez on July 7, 1991).
29: Different teams to have reached the postseason (that's every other team except the Nationals franchise).
26: Quarterbacks which have started a game in the 2012 NFL season that were born following Nationals last postseason appearance. 5: U.S. Presidents which have held office (Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama). 0: Expos/Nationals pitchers which have won at least 20 games in a season (Gio Gonzalez can end drought on Saturday).

Dings and dents

1. Jed Lowrie is making gradual progress.

2. Josh Hamilton is having sinus issues.

Moves, deals and decisions

• Kenny Williams might be promoted to team president, writes Mark Gonzales, with Rick Hahn moving into the GM role.

AL West

• Adrian Beltre got a huge hit for the Rangers, who got another strong outing from Yu Darvish. Beltre had talked his way into the lineup.

• Seth Smith was The Man for the Athletics.

AL Central

• Jarrod Dyson is right: The way the Royals are playing now, no contending team would want to play them. They beat the White Sox Thursday, and they have two series left with Detroit. Salvador Perez set a record for pickoffs.

• The White Sox made some mistakes on the bases.

• Because of Casey Kotchman, it was a good day for the Indians.

• Baltimore's turnaround provides hope for the Twins, writes Joe Christensen.

AL East

• Ichiro Suzuki's on-base percentage has increased by about 50 points since he joined the Yankees.

• The Red Sox had their guts ripped out.

• Miguel Gonzalez's long journey has taken him into a pennant race.

NL West

• Pablo Sandoval showed off some power. Barry Zito looks ready for October, writes Ann Killion.

• The Dodgers have fallen to three games behind in the wildcard race, and their playoff hopes are slipping away.

• Tyler Skaggs learned a lesson. Adam Eaton hit his first homer.

• The Padres continue to play well in the second half.

• The Rockies played some bad defense.

NL Central

• The Pirates' freefall continues: They're now below .500. Clint Hurdle needs to adjust.

• The Brewers rallied for a sweep, but they remain 2 1/2 games behind the Cardinals.

NL East

• The Phillies embarrassed the heck out of the Mets, as Ryan Lawrence writes.

• The Mets hit rock bottom, writes Andrew Keh.

• A couple of young starters are making bids for next year's Miami rotation.

• The Braves need more from Michael Bourn, writes David O'Brien. He's the linchpin guy for Atlanta if the Braves are going to make a dent into October.
post #8144 of 78800
Yu was a beast in the World Baseball Classic, glad to see he's doing well in the big leagues. He's got the most interesting mix of nationalities (Iranian & Japanese)...
post #8145 of 78800
Orioles with another win to keep pace with the least the Yanks victory means the Orioles are 1 up in the Wild Card. eyes.gif
Straight Cash Homey
Straight Cash Homey
post #8146 of 78800
Originally Posted by JesusShuttlesworth34 View Post

Orioles with another win to keep pace with the least the Yanks victory means the Orioles are 1 up in the Wild Card. eyes.gif

******g Bobby V., AGAIN having his guys plunk one of the Os. Andino took one off the back of the neck last night mean.gif Remember, he threw at Adam Jones last month as well. If the O's had nothing to play for, I bet Buck would have one of his pitchers hit Pedroia right between the 1-5. It's ok tho....we'll get yall back early in the '13 season. I fully advocate trying to sign Kyle Farnsworth to get this done.
post #8147 of 78800
Originally Posted by JJs07 View Post

******g Bobby V., AGAIN having his guys plunk one of the Os. Andino took one off the back of the neck last night mean.gif Remember, he threw at Adam Jones last month as well. If the O's had nothing to play for, I bet Buck would have one of his pitchers hit Pedroia right between the 1-5. It's ok tho....we'll get yall back early in the '13 season. I fully advocate trying to sign Kyle Farnsworth to get this done.

Loathe that clown of a manager. If there's a big lead today or tomorrow either way, I think someone's getting pegged.

Good to see them beat their best pitcher, though. Sets up the rest of the series. And the MFYs need to start losing asap. Securing any kind of playoff spot is the goal, but without a true ace I want no part of that WC game.
Edited by abovelegit1 - 9/22/12 at 4:10am
post #8148 of 78800
Melky asked Selig to remove him from contention in the race for the battling title. PR move to salvage his damaged reputation.

Would love to see Yu Darvish get a G1 start for Texas in the playoffs. I believe Washington, Daniels, and Ryan have little choice with Colby Lewis out. Derek Holland is the only other name I'm taking a serious look at because of last year's playoff run and experience. I'd definitely expect to see nerves from Yu in the first inning but once he shakes that off, watch out.

Miggy is my clear number two in the AL MVP race after Trout. More respect for playing on a sore/injured ankle. Him and Verlander have single-handedly kept Detroit in the AL Central race just behind the CWS. Hats off to Ventura, by the way. Miggy's taken over the title from King Albert as the best hitter in the game. Only weakness will always be his poor defense, but at least he never complained about a move to third with the Prince acquisition like Han Ram did about Reyes.
post #8149 of 78800

 went to the phillies game last night and they got that Win. 3 back from wildcard


Remind yourself. Nobody built like you, you design yourself !





Team T.A.N   






Remind yourself. Nobody built like you, you design yourself !





Team T.A.N   





post #8150 of 78800
Phils just might do it. I could see STL folding and conceding the WS spot in their first year under Matheny.
post #8151 of 78800
lmao someone please upload a gif of Matt Lattos wildly fumbling that bubblegum.
post #8152 of 78800
yanks pulled this one out their *** laugh.gif

Yanks Knicks Jets
Yanks Knicks Jets
post #8153 of 78800
Giants can clinch with a Win Tonight pimp.gif
post #8154 of 78800
Originally Posted by SGpinoy View Post

lmao someone please upload a gif of Matt Lattos wildly fumbling that bubblegum.

I saw that. laugh.gif
What's 1.21 gigawatts to a McFly like me. Can you please remind me?
What's 1.21 gigawatts to a McFly like me. Can you please remind me?
post #8155 of 78800
JIM THOME!!!! Old man's still got a little somethin' in the tank....

Get well soon Dusty...Congrats to the Cincy fans...

post #8156 of 78800
Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

Rumor going around Cano is facing a PED suspension...but Boras and an official from MLB say it's false.
Ruh roh nerd.gif
post #8157 of 78800
Originally Posted by psk2310 View Post

JIM THOME!!!! Old man's still got a little somethin' in the tank....
Get well soon Dusty...Congrats to the Cincy fans...

On the behalf of Reds fans across the universe, thank you. happy.gif

Hopefully Dust gets back soon.
DS Jordan 1 Royal For Sale, size 10 $300 or trade for size 10 Jordan 1 Top 3 Deadstock.
DS Jordan 1 Royal For Sale, size 10 $300 or trade for size 10 Jordan 1 Top 3 Deadstock.
post #8158 of 78800
post #8159 of 78800
thoughts with dusty , get well soon .....
Yanks Knicks Jets
Yanks Knicks Jets
post #8160 of 78800
Orioles with 16 straight extra innings victories......smokin.gif

I left the bar with the A's up in the 13th......mean.gif

Another Baltimore fan bet $500 that Jeter would end it with the bases loaded in the bottom of the twelfth.
Straight Cash Homey
Straight Cash Homey
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