Wednesday, December 16, 2009

How not to throw a baseball

I was doing a little reading on Dellin Betances this morning, and was reminded that he had TJ surgery at the end of 2009. This was disappointing to me because Betances was one of my favorite Yankees' prospects. He's a 6'8", lanky, hard-throwing right-hander from the South Bronx, and he has oodles of upside. Unfortunately, he's been unable to stay healthy.

This led me to remember another Yankees' prospect, Brett Marshall, who was the Yankees 6th round pick in 2008 who had an inconsistent debut in Single A ball as a 19-year old. Despite that, Marshall remains a very high upside prospect for the Yankees.

I don't want to bite Baseball Intellect's material, so I'll simply point you in their direction for a great read on Marshall's mechanics in high school. It's certainly possible that the Yankees' minor league staff made some changes to his mechanics, but given their seemingly poor record with prospects and TJ surgery, I tend to doubt it. Here's BI's gif of Marshall throwing:



There's a lot not to like. Everything's out of joint, timing wise. He elevates his pitching elbow far above his shoulder. His pitching forearm isn't vertical at footstrike. He hyperextends his knee at footplant, thereby increasing the load on his knee. It's obvious that Marshall was an injury risk; the question is whether he would make the necessary alterations to maintain his health. The other big question is whether he's even able to throw with decent velocity and control without employing the risky mechanics that he does.

We'll have to wait to find out. Marshall had Tommy John surgery at the end of 2009.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Remembering the Greats: Walter Johnson



Side-note before I begin: I've collected baseball cards since I was a kid, I took probably a 10-year hiatus from 1996 to 2006, but I've recently regained some interest in the hobby, more for hobby's sake than anything else. I must say, I'm very impressed with some of the products out there right now, and Upper Deck Masterpieces is one of the best. All of the cards look like they are mini canvas paintings and the paintings they depict are phenomenal. Look for more pictures of these cards in future posts from me.

Walter Johnson is pretty much the forgotten Cy Young. It's really hard to say why history doesn't remember Johnson in the same way as it remembers other pitchers like Cy Young and Christy Mathewson, but for whatever reason, his name is not brought up as often as it should be.

"The Big Train" was the dominant pitcher in baseball throughout the first quarter of the 20th century. There were certainly notable others, even some great ones, but Johnson was about as consistently dominating as they come. From 1908 to 1926, he failed to post 13+ wins only 1 time and that one time was due to injury. During that same period, he posted 20+ win seasons 12 times.

Walter Johnson had, perhaps, the two greatest back-to-back seasons of all-time in baseball. During the 1912 and 1913 seasons, Johnson won 69 games (in two seasons!) with 63 complete games and 18 shutouts. In 1912, Johnson finished 3rd in the MVP voting after a 33-12 season and a 1.39 ERA. In 1913, Johnson bested his previous season in almost every way, posting a ridiculous 36-7 record and 1.14 ERA. In 1913, Johnson won the MVP award and that season still stands as one of the greatest by a pitcher in baseball history.

In some ways, I think Walter Johnson was probably at least as good as, if not better than, Cy Young because Johnson pitched in the modern era where the competition was tougher. Young pitched in the late 1800's and early 1900's when the competition was probably somewhat weaker. Johnson won 417 games and finished and over 21 seasons of Major League Baseball, AVERAGED 19 wins. I'll say that again, he averaged 19 wins per season for 21 years. Today, if a pitcher wins 19-20 games, they're almost a lock to win the Cy Young award.

If you get a minute, take a look at his stats, they are pretty amazing in comparison with today's pitchers.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Joe "MVP" Mauer



Do I have much to add, in terms of accolades, to the mountain of praise that has been heaped on Joe Mauer as of late? Simply, no. Can I repeat the praise that others have heaped on Joe Mauer while adding a tidbit of my own here and there? Simply, yes. So here goes:

a) Adam Tidbit: The MVP award has only been given to a catcher 13 times in either league since it's inception in 1931. The last to receive the award in the American League was Ivan Rodriquez in 1999 (read: wtf?) and the last in the National League was Johnny Bench in 1972. (Complete List Here)

b) Mauer's Batting Average this past season, .365, was the highest by a catcher since 1936 when Babe Phelps hit .367, Mauer and Mike Piazza are the only two catchers in the past 73 years who have cleared the .350 mark for a season. (Source: ESPN, need an Insider Subsription)

c) Mauer received a $100,000 bonus for winning the MVP award. Get this though, Miguel Cabrera received a $200,000 bonus for finishing 4th, I wonder if he paid off that writer from Seattle who gave him a first place vote... (Source)

d) A favorite stat of mine and others out there is Value Over Replacement Player (VORP). This past season, Mauer's VORP was 91 runs above replacement at the Catcher position. The next closest?...Derek Jeter at 71 runs above replacement at Shortstop. Last year's AL MVP Dustin Pedroia was 60 runs above replacement. A 91 VORP is ridiculous when you actually think about what it means. (Source)

e) According to Wikipedia, Mauer has been rumored to be creating his own rap music during his free time. This is fantastic evidence for why you should always read Wikipedia with a critical eye.

One More...

f) Few articles I've read have mentioned the fact that Mauer missed a month of this past season recovering from surgery. The fact that he hit 28 HRs and had 96 RBIs is unbelievable. If he had played during that month and was at full-strength, he very well could have put together one of the greatest offensive seasons of all time with 30+ HRs, 100+ RBIs, 100+ Rs and a .360+ average (.400+ OBP).


All I have to say, as a Twins fan, is this; this team owes it's fans to re-sign Mauer. We have continued to support this team despite losing some of our favorites over the years (Hunter, Santana, etc) and even went as far as helping the team to build a brand new stadium, which they move into next year. The community and fanbase has done everything for this team, and I think the organization has finally gotten to the point where it would benefit them and us, as fans, to invest in the talents they have developed. A core of Mauer, Morneau, Kubel and Cuddyer moving forward would be the kind of product that fans in Minnesota could stay behind for awhile.

If the Twins don't re-sign Mauer, it will be awfully difficult to remain faithful to my team. I want to think that I will always be a fan of the Twins no matter what, but this is one of those times where right course of action is so clear that if the Twins front-office blows the opportunity, it will difficult to continue to trust that they know what they're doing.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Jack Morris & the 1991 Twins



What's so special, you might ask, about the above card? To most people not much, I mean, it's not worth much on the market (I paid $5 for it), Morris isn't a particularly well-known player to most baseball fans, and honestly, the autograph itself is a bit washed out looking. But for me, even though the card depicts Morris in a Tigers uniform, the card holds some sentimental value. Afterall, for one year in 1991, Jack Morris was a capital-H Hero in Minnesota, the last year that my beloved Twins won the World Series.

In the months before the '91 season, Morris signed a one-year deal with the Twins. Morris had been the winningest pitcher in the decade of the 1980's with 162 wins and had won one World Series with the Tigers and, ironically enough, lost an ALCS match-up with the Minnesota Twins in the 1987 post-season.

The Twins season was a good one for Morris, he went 18-12 with a 3.43 ERA in 246+ innings. That season, the World Series ended up being Twins v. Braves and it came down to Game 7, one night after Kirby Puckett's miraculous home-run that won Game 6. The match-up was slated to be John Smoltz v. Jack Morris. Throughout Morris' entire career, he had been known as a big-game pitcher, but this was probably the biggest start of his career. Well boy did Morris deliver. He pitched 10 innings of shutout baseball and the Twins won the game and the Series in the bottom of the 10th inning when Gene Larkin singled in Dan Gladden. Morris was named the MVP of the series and many baseball historians and writers still consider that World Series to be one of the greatest of all-time.

After the '91 season, Morris decided not to resign with his home-town Twins, but rather to sign with the Blue Jays who, quite spectacularly, won the World Series in 1992. Morris finished his career with 254 wins and 3 World Series rings but has not seemed to be able to gather the support necessary to get into the Hall of Fame despite the fact that there are many out there who support his induction.

So yes, this card, though not particularly special to most people, is special in terms of my collection because it is an instant reminder of the last moment of true greatness for the Twins.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Nick Swisher: Counterpoint

AK's dislike of Nick Swisher is well-known and well-documented. He even admits that its largely baseless. But in this piece, he makes some claims about Nick Swisher that I would like a brief moment to refute.

AK's piece essentially claims the following:

(1) Swisher is a tool
(2) Swisher talks like an idiot
(3) Swisher is bad at baseball (as evidenced by a low batting average and propensity to strike out).

As I've argued before, I think Nick Swisher is a decent ball player. I'll start with some value metrics, courtesy of Fangraphs.

Since his full-season debut in 2005, Swisher has accrued 13.5 Wins Above Replacement, a performance worth approximately $54.4M (using Fangraph's Win-to-Dollar conversion ratios). Here is the year-by-year breakdown, with value in parentheses.

2005 - 2.2 ($7.5M)
2006 - 3.1 ($11.6M)
2007 - 3.6 ($14.7M)
2008 - 1.0 ($4.6M)
2009 - 3.5 ($15.9M)



Swisher is currently signed to a 5 year, $26.75M contract, structured as follows:

2007 - $0.7M
2008 - $3.5M
2009 - $5.3M
2010 - $6.75M
2011 - $9M

As you can see, Swisher has clearly been worth more than the value of his contract so far. From 2007 to 2009, his salary has totaled $9.5M, and Fangraphs estimates that the value of his performance has been worth $35.92M. Not too shabby.

This brings me to my central point, which is that Swisher is a very valuable player despite his low batting average and propensity to strike out.

In 2009, Swisher's tripleslash was .249/.371/.498, an OPS of .869, which is slightly below Andre Ethier and Derek Jeter, and slightly higher than Michael Cuddyer, Victor Martinez and Nelson Cruz. He also hit 29 home runs and knocked in 84 RBI. When you combine this with a UZR that has typically ranged from 3.0 to -2.1, you have yourself a fairly valuable right fielder, and a tremendous #8 hitter on the Yankees.

I'm not saying that Swisher will ever be in the Hall of Fame, or that he should ever be considered as such. But his low batting average masks the fact that he gets on-base at a fantastic clip and hits for power.

Both CHONE and Bill James project that Swisher's 2010 performance will mirror his 2009 performance:

James - 26 HR, 85 RBI, .247/.365/.467 (.832 OPS)
CHONE - 27 HR, 80 RBI, .248/.367/.467 (.834 OPS)

I'll take that all day, thank you. Swisher is an undervalued, and underappreciated player. Williams' failure to comprehend BABIP, and thus failure to understand that Swisher was unlucky and due for a bounceback in 2009, was a boon for the Yankees. I want to thank him one more time for trading him to us. How's Wilson Betemit working out for you?

Oh yeah.

Swisher FTW.

Championship Glow



It's still sweet.

It's hard to put it into words now, what this title means. It's hard to close the door on 2009. 2009 still seems alive and active and ongoing. We are the champions. "Are" is an active verb. We continue to be the champions, and I feel it every day.



I don't want the offeseason to begin. My interest in the Hot Stove, one of my favorite parts of the baseball calendar, is muted. I have no offseason nerves, no desperation, no anger, no angst. The Yankees are World Series Champions, and there is nothing that will change that until next October when, hopefully, we do this all again.

It was a great year.

To win the World Series, it feels like everything has to go right. Everything has to click. You can have a great team and lose 3-1 in the ALDS if your bats go cold or if your ace has an off-night or if your closer screws up and you lose home field. I know it seems trite, but its true. Your margin of error is so slim, and you have to replicate your good performance and good luck three separate times. It was excruciating, and it was awesome. It seems like a blur.

My favorite moment of the playoffs has to be ARod's home run off Joe Nathan in the top of the ninth, captured here:


And here:



My favorite part of the second video is the 0:13-0:14 span. The crowd goes from chanting and clapping to silent, as Nathan releases the ball, to engulfed in complete and utter mayhem.

"OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD GET OUT! GET OUT! OH MY GOD!"

The redemption of Alex Rodriguez.



I'd be remiss not to include this wonderful moment with Mark Teixeira:





In other replays, you can see him screaming at the top of his lungs as he rounded second base.

There is too much to talk about, too much to remember, too much to put into words. But it's all in my brain, and it's never going away.




I didn't know if we could make it. But we did. And it was awesome. The Yankees won the World Series.

Baseball is a long way away now. A long, cold winter looms. And for once, I'm OK with that.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Douchebag of the Day: Nick Swisher



Is there a bigger Tool in Major-League Baseball? Just look at this: here, here, and here. The guy can't seem to decide if he wants to look like the monkey-men from the Geico commercials, A.J. Pierzynski, or a 15-year-old kid.

Oh, and have you ever heard this guy speak? I'll save you the trouble, here's a typical interview with Swisher: "Hey everyone, come see how good I look, come see how awesome I am." To display his brain-power, Swished dropped this gem on an unsuspecting reporter back in his days with Oakland. He said, "Everyone knows an ant, can't, move a rubber tree plant." Don't think about that quote, move on to the next sentence because if you think about it, your brain might literally explode.

Like most of the players I hate, my hatred of Swisher is essentially baseless. A big part of it lies in the fact that he spent a year with the White Sox and I had to listen to his stupid, narcissistic pre-game interviews. Another part of it is that he pretends that he's good at baseball. Look at his career hitting line:

.245 Batting Average
639 Hits
665 Strikeouts (yes, he has struck out more times than he's gotten a hit)
133HRs
437 Rs
406 RBIs
7SBs out of 15 attempts
.818 OPS
Career Postseason Batting Average of .155 in 71 ABs.

**Quick sidenote: Tony Gwynn had 3 times as many plate appearances in his career as Swisher has so far, and he only struck out a total of 439 times.

Basically, Swisher is a mediocre version of Adam Dunn, a guy who has some pop in his bat and that's about it. Swisher is a decent fielder with a career .982 fielding percentage, but seriously, the .245 career average is brutal. How do you stay in the lineup when you get a hit less than 25% of the time and strikeout as much as he has?? I would understand his "look at me" personality if he was a good player, but in reality, he's not. He's had his moments of greatest, most of them coming this past year with the Yankees, but I just don't like the guy.

Stay tuned for more articles in the future. Once (sic) recovers from his championship bender, he's promised a bevy of hard-hitting content.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Yankee Championship: 2 Conclusions



A hearty congratulations to the Yankees, to my partner in crime on this blog, (sic), and to Major League Baseball on what was another fantastic season. It all culminated last night with the Yankees winning it all, but I've got a few thoughts from common-man baseball fan.

First off, Matsui for MVP? Really. The guy played 3 games (half) of the series. Sure his monster game last night was a big part of helping the Yankees clinch, but what about the other 3 games they had to win to get to Game 6? What about A-Rod's monster post-season (finally), what about Rivera's dominance when it mattered the most? What about Damon's double-steal in Game 4 that essentially turned the tide of the entire series? What about CC's two dominant games? Hell, what about Cliff Lee's post-season performance and WS performance? Lee had a legitimate shot to become only the 2nd player on a losing WS team to win the WS MVP.

Anyway, that's really not the point of this post. The point is that based on last night and the last 15 years of baseball, I have two conclusions.

1) New York has more religious people than any other city in America.

If God does care about sports, then the Yankees have more people begging God for victory than any other team does. 27 Championships?!? I just want one! The Cubs, wow, if God cares about sports then he must be a White Sox fan....,or a Yankees fan...hmm.

or

2) God doesn't care about sports.

5 out of the last 10 World Series have been won by the team with the highest payroll in baseball (the Yankees) or the 2nd highest payroll (the RedSox). Of the past 10 winners, the Marlins (25th highest) were the only team to win the WS that wasn't in the top half of the payroll list. If it's true that God doesn't care about sports, a) the Twins don't stand a chance (22nd highest payroll) and b) you would expect the teams with the highest payrolls to win most of the time, which seems to be the case.
I'm not arguing that the Yankees bought their championship, because aside from the pieces they've added via free agency, they've also brought up plenty of home-grown talent like Joba, Cano, Jeter, etc. However, the payroll gap is real and it does make a difference.

I always love seeing the season come to an end, no matter who wins. It's the longest season of any of the major sports and a lot of times you can see the sheer relief in the faces of the players that it's finally over. I'm really happy for A-Rod, Teixeira, and CC on getting their first rings. I was thinking that Damon has to be the first player to win a WS Ring with both the Yankees and Red Sox in quite some time (if ever). Anyway, this blog will be cooking in the coming months with Hot Stove talk so stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Just win

Just win baby.

On the precipice now, one win away from WS title #27, its hard to describe how I feel. It feels so unlikely now. It was seven months ago that I first saw those AP pictures of pitchers and catchers stretching on the greenest grass in Florida. It was beautiful. Winter was over. Baseball was back.

And I'm looking back on the year now, and I remember myself standing in Times Square in March thinking about our prospects for the season and I remember how full of hope I was that we could do it. And it was a long year. I've followed the team more closely than I've ever followed it before. Too much, even. I can tell you all the permutations of our roster, the trades we've made and didn't make, I can name 30 or 40 of our prospects, and I can tell you our catcher in Low A Tampa. I can tell you which pitching prospects had TJ and which had breakout years and which were disappointments. I can tell you about the Coming of Sweet, Sweet Jesus Montero and the year from hell from Andrew Brackman. I can tell you about every walkoff we've had. I can tell you about the quality of the sod in our AAA affiliate. And I can tell you about all our wins. I can tell you about the walkoff homer by Arod that my new bride and I witnessed after 14.5 innings of scoreless baseball against the Red Sox on a hot summer evening, and the walkoff my dad and I witnessed against the White Sox in the cold rain in September.

It was a long year.

And then the playoffs come, and the intensity of the regular season, the anticipation, the nerves, everything just gets amped up, like you were listening to your iPod and someone pumped the volume while you weren't looking. And now I'm nervous all day every day. I count down the hours to each game. And there are so many off-days that I think I'm going to run through a wall. And then our games get rained out. It's cold, its wet, and we're winning. And I'm staying up late every game night, and my health is suffering, and this is, well, this is seriously awesome. And I want it to be over, and I want it to go on forever.

Just win baby.

It feels like its been forever since they won the World Series. Truth be told, I dont remember, really really remember what it feels like. I'm sorry, Twins fans. I know you've suffered longer. I can't help it, though. I want this so bad. I want the bedlam in the Bronx. I want to skip work and go to the parade down the Canyon of Heroes. I want 27 in 09. I want to stay up all night and celebrate. Please.

Just win, baby. Just win.

Future Superstars: Aroldis Chapman



We've done a few of these features now, where we (well, mostly (sic) up until now) feature an up-and-coming prospect to keep your eyes out for. Feliz brought the goods after being featured on this blog, Wieters struggled a bit in his first go around with the Orioles, and Strasburg is expected to dazzle next year with Washington. These guys are generally the cream of the crop when it comes to prospects and you can read about them here before they bust out in the Major Leagues.

Aroldis Chapman is one of those guys who is aways down the line, but who has absolutely electric stuff. This 21-year-old lefty has 'stuff' that has been compared to Strasburg, and sports a fast-ball that has been clocked as high as 102mph. He recently defected from Cuba and is currently living in Andorra. If you have a chance, read about his defection here, pretty cool story.

Chapman has been granted free-agent status by MLB, and as recently as last week was visiting with the Boston Red Sox. As many as 10 teams are thought to be interested in Chapman including the Yankees, Mariners and Tigers. According to SI, Chapman is in line to receive more than Jose Contreras was given by the Yankees back in 2002 ($32M) but probably less than Dice-K. Meanwhile, ESPN's Jorge Arangure thinks that Chapman may be looking for a $30-$60M contract.

Chapman is, by no means, a finished product. He's 21, he still has a lot to learn about pitching and that couldn't be illustrated better than by looking at his stats. Last year, pitching for the National Series team in Cuba, he had a 4.03 ERA in 118+ innings (stats found here) At the WBC last year, he posted a 5.68 ERA in 6+ innings, and that's probably the best reflection to-date of how he would do against an MLB line-up. He will probably need a couple of seasons in the minors, but think about facing a lefty who can throw 102mph...wow.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Future HOFer? Bobby Abreu



I've written other articles on this blog about people who I think might have hall-of-fame potential, but who are often left out of the conversation. Bobby Abreu is one of those players who has put together solid-season after solid-season and who, in a few years, could have a statistical resume that merits Hall-of-Fame consideration. Let's take a look:

14 Major-League Seasons
1,951 Games
Career .299 Batting Average
2,111 Career Hits
1,270 Career Runs
1,187 Career RBI
256 HRs
348 SBs
Career .404 On-Base-Percentage
Career .896 OPS
2-time All-Star
Gold-Glove Winner (RF)

Those numbers leave him a little short, but he is 35 years old right now and just finished one of the better seasons of his career. He is rarely injured (since 1998, he has played 150 or more games in every season) and is about as steady of a performer as there is. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that Abreu plays another 3 seasons, which sounds reasonable. That would put him at 38 and give him 17 total MLB season, a very solid career. Using his career averages, that would leave him with the following stat line in 3 years.

~2,700 Career Hits
~1,600 Career Runs
~1,500 Career RBI
~320 Career HRs
~440 SBs

That's a very solid and borderline HOF competitive resume for a MLB player. With 3,000 hits and a .300 career average, Abreu would be a lock. With the way that he takes care of himself, it's not at all unreasonable to think he could play until he's 40 in which case he would challenge 3,000 hits. Baseball reference compares his stat line to the likes of George Brett, who is a HOFer. Time will tell, but if Abreu continues his high degree of consistency and stays healthy, he could very well play himself into the Hall of Fame.

UPDATE 11/5/2009:
Bobby Abreu re-signed with the Angels today for a reported $2M, 2-year deal.

Thoughts in McGwire's Return

I was a HUGE fan of McGwire growing up. I collected the guy's baseball cards, I followed his box score everyday, I remember watching the Cardinals games when he was close to breaking Maris' home-run record, to me he was what made the game fun to watch again (after the strike). When him and Sosa and Palmeiro were testifying and the question came to him, I was hoping that he would say, "yes I did it" or "I didn't do it" but he said neither...he didn't say anything.

After that, McGwire pretty much fell off the map. He all but vanished as far as public appearances went. And now, out of nowhere, he resurfaces after a few years completely out of the spotlight. And now, he may finally have to face (and answer) the question that us fans have wanted to know all along. Now, I think it's fairly obvious what the answer is, but that's not the point, the point is getting to hear it from him.

To me, McGwire is an anomaly when it comes to the steroids issue. The dude had legit power from the very beginning of his career, as a rookie, he hit 49 HRs which was an MLB record for HRs by a rookie. Over his first 6 seasons, he hit 217 HRs and made the all-star team every one of those 6 seasons. He was a young, scrawny phenom and looked poised to have a long, productive career. Then in 1993 he was hurt most of the season and only played in 74 games between the '93 and '94 seasons. When the strike hit in 1995, he had 39 HRs through 104 games and looked to be fully back. Physically he was becoming bigger as well. The 1996 season started a HR binge that lasted for the next 4 years, the likes of which baseball has never seen and probably never will see again. His totals for those 4 years were as follows:

1996: 52
1997: 58
1998: 70
1999: 65

By the time he was hitting that 70th HR in 1998, his physical stature would have dwarfed that scrawny power-hitter who burst on the scene 11 years earlier. But like I said earlier, that was the anamoly of the steriod-era. McGwire, throughout his entire career, was a power hitter. Though he might not have topped 60 HRs without the 'roids, he certainly didn't need them to hit it out of the park. I'm guessing that he started taking the steriods when he was injured during the 1993 season in order to speed the healing process. I just want him to give it to us straight. Baseball fans, for the most part, are a forgiving bunch and who of us wasn't glued to that television when he was swatting 500+ ft. homeruns in '97 and '98? He owes us all the truth. I'll leave you with a side-by-side of McGwire's first year in the league and his record-breaking year in 1998.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Thanks Dick.



Nick Punto's base-running error in a critical situation tonight killed a brewing Twins rally and basically put the game away tonight in Game 3 of the ALDS. Punto's base-running gaffe was yet another failure by the Twins team to take advantage of myriad opportunities with men in scoring position and was symptomatic of the 'hero complex' that ultimately handicapped the Twins in their ALDS series with the Yankees. It seemed like any time a Twin would get on base or a rally would get going, it would be followed by a strikeout or a pop-out, with everyone looking to be a hero instead of doing their job and getting the runs in. Twins pitchers also seemed to let their guard down when the team would get a lead, and oh yeah, the Twins had a lead in every game of the series.

Punto's error was a heart-breaker for Twins fans and I'm not gonna lie, it's irritating that every time the Twins face the Yankees in the playoffs, they inevitably end up losing. Game 163 was great, and it's enough to lessen the pain of a playoff sweep, but the Twins failures to hold leads and play their brand of baseball in this series is tough to swallow.

Good luck next year in the new digs, it was a hell of a season considering all the injuries and adversity that this team overcame.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Down goes Johan!

So, Johan Santana out for the year with minor elbow surgery. I'm no expert on pitching mechanics, but I did write this about him back in June:

Johan Santana - MEH. Elevates the elbow above the pitching shoulder, but doesn't seem to suffer injury. One of the more perplexing ones out there.
.


I have said elsewhere that I do not like to see the pitching elbow elevated above the shoulder. Santana appears to do that. I say appears because this is obviously very inexact. Here are a few samples:





Now, like I said, I'm not an expert. I'm also certain you could find plenty of images in which Santana is not elevating his elbow over his pitching shoulder. Using images is the most imprecise way of evaluating mechanics (save watching it live, perhaps). Yet, I can't help but wonder if arm injuries follow trends, and if poor pitching mechanics led to Santana's injury. I won't say that there's causality, but it is enough to make me wonder.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Feliz Makes His Debut

Well, I've been calling for a Feliz call-up, and we've been following him all year. Last night he made his appearance for Texas, pitching 2 scoreless, hitless innings and striking out the first four batters he faced, which was a Texas Rangers franchise record.

Now you're hearing some noise about Feliz and how kickass he is. Remember where you heard of him first, right here on The Bat Shatters in my cute little writeup.

Meet Neftali Feliz. You don't know him yet, but you will.


Damn right. Interestingly, my conclusion to the Feliz writeup was this:

The scouting report on Feliz is that he throws a low 80s, 10-4 slurve, and a rudimentary changeup to compliment his plus-plus fastball. 2009 will be a good time for him to develop that crucial third pitch.


Well, we don't know if he has learned his change yet, but let's talk about what he did last night. We finally have some good Pitch Fx data on his outing. Feliz threw 30 pitches - 23 fastballs, 1 slider, 1 curveball, and 4 two-seamers.

Feliz averaged 98.6 mph on his fastball and topped out at 100.5. His two seamer averaged 90.6 and topped out at 91.1 but had some crazy horizontal movement away from the LHB. His curve/slider came in at around 81. As the graph below shows, he pumped out his best heater of the night on his last pitch. Damn.



I think we're looking at a 2007-Joba for the Rangers. He's flashing serious stuff, just like he did in the 2009 Futures Game.



Welcome to The Show, Neftali.

Brackman, Montero and Feliz: Three prospects moving in different directions

We stopped doing the daily prospect roundups, for various reasons, but its time to check back in with our favorite prospects and see how they are doing midway through the year. It's quite the mixed bag, let me tell you.

Let's start with the worst: Andrew Brackman. Disaster. Complete disaster.

Brackman is 1-11 on the year, have thrown 85.2 innings over 19 starts. He has walked 64 batters and struck out 79. His ERA is, gulp, 6.72. The only good news is that Brackman is allegedly healthy and is notching innings. He is also striking out nearly a batter per inning. He is, of course, getting horrible results and walking way too many batters per innings. Via River Ave Blues a week or so ago, I saw these two tweets about Brackman's velo. It could be fatigue, or it could be something worse. The Yankees have moved him to the bullpen for the remainder of the year in order to limit his innings and prep him for 2010, which may be do-or-die time for the giant pitcher.

Sweet, sweet Jesus Montero. After starting the year in High A, Montero earned himself a call-up to Double A. He deserved it after posting a monstrous .356/.406/.583/.989 line, with 8 homers in 48 games. In Double A Montero continued his torrid pace, and has put together a line of .307/.371/.511/.882, as a 19 year old. He has 7 home runs in 36 games. In short, the dude is raking. Baseball America took note, placing him on their Untouchable List. Montero also shot up BA's Prospect Ranking list, coming in as the third best prospect in all of baseball in their Midseason Top 25, behind Jason Heyward of the Braves and Mike Stanton of the Marlins. Not too shabby. Unfortunately, Montero recently broke his finger and is out for the year. Look for him to play some Fall Ball and get some time in AAA in 2010, with a outside chance at cracking the Yankees in mid-to-late 2010.

Neftali Feliz is having himself a great year in AAA (as a 21 year old!) posting a 3.44 ERA over 73.1 IP, striking out 70 and walking only 28. I don't think it would be unreasonable to expect him to compete for a spot in the rotation next spring. The kid has a gun. The Rangers recently called him up when Kinsler went to the DL with a hammy strain, and he did not disappoint. More on this later.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Why the Peavy Trade is a Bad Trade



Living in Chicago, I've listened to the sports talk radio guys here fawn over Jake Peavy much the same way they have fawned over Jay Cutler since he was traded to the Bears. No doubt, the Peavy to the White Sox was one of the surprises of this year's action leading up to the trade deadline, but when you look at this deal through the critical lens of reality, the conclusion I am left with is that this was a bad deal for the Sox to make. Numbers don't lie so let's take a look at them.

Peavy has pitched for the San Diego Padres for his entire career up until now and, thus, has benefited greatly from pitching in PETCO Park, which everybody knows is one the most pitcher friendly parks in all of baseball. To me, the home/road splits for Jake Peavy foretell what is to come.

Career Home ERA: 2.83
Career Home WHIP: 1.092
Career Home BAA: .219
Career Home BAbip: .288

Career Road ERA: 3.84
Career Road WHIP: 1.299
Career Road BAA: .246
Career Road BAbip: .289

Another reason I don't think that Peavy will look the same with the White Sox is the fact that he will be playing against American League opponents instead of National League ones. What are his stats against the American League?

Career Interleague ERA: 3.29
Career Interleague WHIP: 1.172
Career Interleague BAA: .235
Career Interleague BAbip: .281

The above numbers show what the White Sox can expect when Peavy finally starts pitching for them, which will probably not be until 2010. Peavy's ERA is a full point higher when not pitching at PETCO, and not only that his numbers against American League opponents are substantially higher overall. No doubt he will continue to be a valuable pitcher, but the Sox are not getting the lights-out, ace-type of pitcher than merits trading away 4 pitchers, 2 of whom have major league experience.

Clayton Richard was, at the time of the trade, in the starting rotation with the Sox and had performed decently with a 4.65 ERA in 14 starts. Aaron Poreda was considered to be the Sox #1 prospect and had compiled a 2.65 ERA with 244Ks in 281 innings in the minor leagues. Dexter Carter was another highly-touted propect in the Sox system who had compiled a 2.80 ERA with 232Ks in 186.2 innings at Rookie and Low-A ball. Adam Russell, the 4th player traded to the Padres in the deal, was the "worst" out of the bunch but still had a decent minor league track record, loggin a 3.82ERA with 400Ks in 556.1 innings during 6 minor league seasons.

If I'm the Padres, this is a major win. First of all, you got rid of a guy who was going to make $56 million dollars between now and the end of the 2012 season. Second, you got Clayton Richard, who can step into the rotation immediately (and probably benefit greatly from pitching in such spacious confines). Thirdly, you got 2 of the White Sox top 10 pitching prospects, one of whom is probably going to be pitching for you as soon as next season.

Like I said, when you look at this trade through the lens of reality, you see how much of a gamble this is for the Sox, not only in what they gave up to get Peavy, but also in how much they are expecting of a guy who is a) coming from the one of the best pitchers ballparks in the National League and b) has a history of injuries. U.S. Cellular Field is one of the top 5 most hitter friendly parks in baseball AND it's the American League. My prediction, Peavy falls on his face, can't wait to watch it happen.

All stats provided by Baseball Reference.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Ugliest MLB Players Part 3: Bartolo Colon


I mean look at this guy. He has the physique of a bowling ball (see below), he's got crooked eyes, a near uni-brow and his nose takes up 3/4th of his face. He looks like Andre the Giant for god sakes. Looking at his body, it's no wonder he's pitched nearly his entire career in the American League; if he had to bat and actually run he would be, hands-down, the laughing stock of Major League Baseball. Can you imagine him swinging a bat with those tiny arms trying to avoid that gut and then, if he did manage to make contact, running down the 1st base line? It would be hilarious, in fact, they should have a feature at next year's All-Star game, "Watch Bartolo Run." They can pay him $500K to do it which would prevent him from having to try and pitch for another year in the big leagues. You could even have people bet on how long it will take him or how many times he will trip and fall on his face.

He's currently on the DL with the White Sox, he's managed to piss everyone off there, including Ozzie Guillen, and he disappeared for a week right around the time Michael Jackson died because he said, "[unable] to cope with Michael Jackson's passing." (Source) He's lazy, I get the feeling he really doesn't want to pitch, so making him a circus-show act at next year's All-Star game sounds like the perfect idea to me.

Anyway, he is the bowling ball's career pitching stats (13 seasons):

153-103 (not bad)
Career 4.10 ERA and 1.338 WHIP
2076.2 IP
1607 Ks
7 SO/9 ratio (again, not bad)
31 career CGs
2005 AL Cy Young Winner
2-time All-Star

So he's had a decent career, big deal. Most of his success is probably due in part to the fact that most Major Leaguers aren't used to having a 5'11" 250lbs. behemoth pitching to them, it scared them. Anyway, if you want this author's prediction; he won't pitch in the Major Leagues again after this season. He's been mediocre, at best, for the past few years and he needs to go.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

My Halladay Trade Deadline Wish

My hope in the Roy Halladay sweepstakes is that he gets traded to...the Rangers.



It makes perfect sense from them from a baseball perspective. To wit:

(1) The AL West is weaker than it has been in recent memory. The Angels are looking good but not great; their pitching is weak and their offense is old. The Rangers are within striking distance, only 3.5 GB.
(2) Their farm system is ridiculously deep. They have all the pieces to get a deal done and have some awesome prospects left over. Neftali Feliz, Derek Holland, Justin Smoak and Elvis Andrus are all worthy of being the centerpiece of the deal.
(3) Their pitching is weak. They trot out Vincente Padilla every five days. 'Nuff said.
(4) Toronto doesn't want to deal within the division if they can help it.
(5) Toronto wants MLB ready pitching (Derek Holland, for instance), and a SS (Elvis Andrus, for instance)
(6) As I read on mlbraderumors.com, the Rangers are scheduled to see Marlon Byrd, Vincente Padilla and Hank Blalock, become free agents at the end of this year. This reduction in salary could offset Hallday's $15MM 2010 salary.
(7) Roy Halladay is Nolan Ryan's type of pitcher - the workhouse, finish-what-you-start, innings-eating fireballer.
(8) Their offense is hella good.

Go for it, Texas. As AK47's and my fantasy baseball email said today, "Flags fly forever".

Ugliest MLB Players Part 2: Aaron Harang is UGLY!



Welcome to a new series where, for a week straight, we are going to give you the bio's of the ugliest players in Major League baseball. Usually, major league baseball players are good lookin' guys, athletic, Adonis-type figures. But sometimes you guy a guy who is just downright gnarly, this series is all about those guys.

Today's segment centers around one ugly-ass mofo named Aaron Harang, starting pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds. Aaron Harang looks like a degenerate. Or at very least, he looks like he spends all his days indoors, in a basement, playing World of Warcraft in a reclining leather chair, going outside only when he needs more Pepsi and cheese doodles. Either that or a degenerate, someone who has been disfigured by the sheer force of their own wicked actions. Either way, Aaron Harang is one ugly dude, good enough for a spot on our All-Ugly Team. I hope he and Jack Wilson never get elected to the All-Star Team for the same year and get drunk in the hotel jacuzzi together and have a love child. The world cannot fit all of this ugly.

Aaron Harang also happens to be a half-decent pitcher. Check out these career numbers:

1311.2 IP
4.27 ERA
1.33 WHIP
.277 BAA
1096 K
7.53 K/9
360 BB
3.05 K/BB ratio
orangutan
Doesn't change the fact that he's ugly. I've nicknamed him the Harangutan (or at least I've never heard anyone else call him this). See the similarity?



Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Alderson?!

Just saw that the Pirates got Alderson from the Giants in exchange for
Freddy Sanchez. This is a major, major coup for the Bucs. I literally
gasped when I read it. What are the Giants thinking? I will post some
reactions when I see them start to come in.

Ugliest MLB Players: Jack Wilson


Welcome to a new series where, for a week straight, we are going to give you the bio's of the ugliest players in Major League baseball. Usually, major league baseball players are good lookin' guys, athletic, Adonis-type figures. But sometimes you guy a guy who is just downright gnarly, this series is all about those guys.

God must have been feeling ornery when He made Jack Wilson. His teeth are not anatomically proportionate to his face, he looks like he was punched in both eyes and his ears rival Dumbo's. However, he is one of the better players in the ugly-bunch though and he was just traded to the team of the far-Northwest (probably to get him away from the majority of the population), the Seattle Mariners. Let's take a look at his career.

In 9 full Major League seasons:
Career .269/.311/.376 hitting line
508Rs
60HRs
389RBIs
36SBs
Career .978 F%

You're not getting a masher when you bring in Jack Wilson. You're getting a stellar 2nd basemen and double-play artist with a pretty weak bat. You're also getting one of the ugliest players in the major leagues so you might want to hide your children's faces if you happen to see him walking down the street.

Lee to the Phils and other thoughts

The Indians traded Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco (defender savante) to the Phillies for Jason Knapp, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald and Lou Marson. They avoided including Kyle Drabek and Dominic Brown, and they obtained a very good LHP, coming off a Cy Young Season. Excellent move by the Phillies, and I like the move for the Indians too. I don't see the need to include the Francisco, but whatever. Nice move for both teams.

I'd like to point you to USS Mariner's reaction to the trade of Clement for Wilson. They do an excellent job summarizing the pieces of the deal, and their conclusion is (from a Mariners' fan's perspective):
For two guys with minimal value, the Mariners parted with five young players...Pittsburgh is the easy winner of this deal, as they get some interesting young talent and shed some salary without losing much that will hurt them. The Mariners could still salvage this by moving Wilson before Friday’s deadline for a younger SS with more long term potential, but if they stand pat with Wilson as the team’s shortstop for 2009 and maybe 2010, color me disappointed.


Click through for more advanced analysis, its worth a read.

Lee to the Phillies?

MLBTradeRumors.com is saying that Cliff Lee may be headed to the Phils. This would certainly throw a wrench in the Blue Jays' attempt to deal Halladay.

Jack Wilson to the Mariners

Jack Wilson has been traded from the Pirates to the Mariners for Jeff Clement. Before I read anyone else's reaction, I'll say that I hate this deal for the Mariners, and love it for the Pirates. Makes no sense for the Mariners - if they are out of contention, and prepared to sell assets, why trade away a prospect and take on an aging veteran with a relatively big contract?

Dumb dumb, dumb dumb, dumb Mariners. I'll post more reactions as I see them.

UPDATE (12:50 pm): Ian Snell to the Mariners as part of the deal. Makes it slightly more palatable. MLBTradeRumors.com says: "Wilson and Ian Snell for Clement, Ronny Cedeno, Aaron Pribanic, Brett Lorin and Nathan Adcock."

UPDATE (1:03 pm): Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus agrees with my assessment. Good deal for the Pirates.

Trade Deadline

The Trade Deadline is one of my favorite times of year, up there with the Hot Stove and Winter Meetings. There is a near-constant flow of rumors, and through it all there exists the possibility that my team, or my rivals, could improve drastically through a trade. The Deadline becomes even more fun when you know the prospects involved in each rumor or potential trade. I'm going to try to post here often in the next two days as the deadline comes to a close, and for now I am going to list my predictions for some of the big-names out there.

Roy Halladay - Phillies. I still think it makes the most sense for him to go here. I look for the Jays and the Phils to meet somewhere in the middle.

Cliff Lee - Dodgers.

Scott Kazmir - Tampa (no trade)

Victor Martinez - Cleveland (no trade)

Jarrod Washburn - Yankees

Freddy Sanchez - Giants

Jack Wilson - Red Sox

George Sherrill - Angels

That's already a very busy deadline, should all those deals go through. I'll check back in later with more thoughts.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Two No-No's??


Who is this a picture of? Johnny Vander Meer, the only pitcher in major league history to throw two consecutive no-hitters. In a span of 5 days in June of 1938, Vander Meer threw consecutive no-hitters against the Boston Bees and the Brooklyn Dodgers. As I write this, Mark Buehrle has thrown 3 unblemished innings against my beloved Twins and, as is brought up anytime a pitcher throws one no-hitter, he could tie Vander Meer if he throws another one tonight (I really hope he doesn't. With Buerhle throwing three unblemished innings so far, he has tied Harvey Haddix with 36 consecutive batters retired, Haddix took a perfect game through 12 innings on May 26th, 1959 but his team ended up losing the game when a reliever blew it in the bottom of the inning. Anyway, quick update, I hope Buerhle doesn't do it, but I'll be honest, that would be pretty awesome.

Omar Minaya...Shut Up.


Besides being considered a racist by some (and for laughs read this and this), and being a mostly terrible General Manager, Omar Minaya is also apparently a dumbass. As is old news by now, he basically called Adam Rubin of the New York Daily News a 'black-mailer' of sorts, insinuating that Rubin's recent articles about Tony Bernazard, the vice president of player development who apparently challenged the entire Double-A affiliate of the Mets to a street fight, were motivated by a desire on Rubin's part to replace Bernazard or become the GM.

Omar, shut up. First of all, how can you even make such a claim with a straight-face? For one thing, Adam Rubin has no qualifications to become a member of the player development staff, much less the GM, so it's untenable to think that Mr. Rubin's motive for writing critical pieces about the Mets front-office would be because he wanted one of your jobs. Second, why don't you take a look in the mirror, your team is the red-headed step child in New York City. Your line-up is in shambles, your pitching rotation still features Livan Hernandez as a STARTING PITCHER, and your team is 10.5 games back and below .500 in late July. The reason this crap about your right-hand man got published is because the team you are responsible for running, SUCKS. If your team was performing like it should be, this article probably wouldn't have been published.

So shut up Omar and stop pointing fingers and making ridiculous accusations. The only thing you should be focusing on right now is your pathetic team, not attacking reporters for doing their job.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Which is "harder?": Perfect-game or 20Ks


I live in the Chicago area and on my way home, as you might imagine, all the sports radio talk shows were talking about was Mark Buehrle's perfect-game against the Tampa Bay Rays last night. I really hate the Sox, but I actually got to watch the end of the game yesterday and I couldn't be happier to have seen a perfect-game thrown.

One thing they were talking about on the radio yesterday afternoon, rather briefly, got me to thinking. The
question posed was this: "which is harder, throwing a perfect game or striking out 20 in a game?" As most baseball fans have heard over and over in the past 18 hours, Buehrle's perfect-game was the 18th perfect-game in baseball history and the 16th since 1900. How many times has a pitcher struck out 20 in a game? It's happened 4 times in a regulation 9 inning game, twice by Roger Clemens, once by Randy Johnson and once by Kerry Wood.

Just mentioning that fact and those three names brings me to one somewhat obvious question given the fact that no pitcher in the major leagues had even accomplished said feat prior or since; could steriods or PEDS been involved? But I'll leave that for others to judge, here are the vitals on the four times it has happened:


April 29th, 1986
Clemens Line: 9.0IP, 3H, 1R, 1ER, 0BB, 20K

Just think about that for a minute, Clemens faced 30 batters and struck out 20 of them, that is crazy. Home plate umpire Vic Voltaggio told a batboy after the seventh inning, "This is best pitching performance I have ever seen." (Source: Sports Illustrated)

September 18th, 1996
Clemens Line: 9.0IP, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 20K

I would make the case that the first time he did it was more impressive because he faced less batters, but in this game he pitched a complete-game, 20K shutout. It's worth noting that he did not walk a batter in either 20K performance.

May 6th, 1998
Wood's Line: 9.0IP, 1H, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 20K

Oh what could have been. Can you imagine if Wood had not allowed that ONE HIT. It would have gone down as the greatest Perfect Game of all time. As it stands, it is easily the most impressive of the 20K performances the world has seen. The fact that it came on the road also adds to the overall greatness of this performance.

May 8th, 2001
Johnson's Line: 9.0IP, 3H, 1R, 1ER, 0BB, 20K

Originally this was not considered to be in the same group as Clemens and Wood's performances because the game eventually went to extra innings. Later it was decided that it didn't matter, Johnson struck out 20 in 9.0IP, same as Clemens and Wood. Look at Randy Johnson's career though, it's quite impressive: a no-hitter, a perfect game (oldest player ever to do it), 2nd all-time in strikeouts, 300+ wins, and on and on. He's a no-doubt first-ballot Hall of Famer.


So I'll pose the question again, which is harder? 20Ks by one pitcher in a game has only happened 4 times, a perfect game has happened 18 times. One is the definition of Perfection, the other is the definition of Dominance. If you ask me, I'd rather see a perfect game, but I'm not sure a 20 strikeout performance wouldn't be equally impressive...














Monday, June 29, 2009

Ghosts in Milwaukee?

Thanks to Over the Baggy for the following about a supposedly haunted hotel in Milwaukee. The idea of Adrian Beltre sleeping with a bat is pretty funny if you ask me.

"Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval had a late night room change at 3 AM in Milwaukee after what he thought was a ghost in his room. This is not an out of the ordinary charge at the Pfister Hotel. This old, but luxurious, hotel in downtown Milwaukee is over 116-years-old and has been the guests of visiting ballclubs for years. Numerous clubs have noted strange noises - Adrian Beltre, then a Dodger, slept with his bat in his bed the entire night. A few Marlins bunked together out of fear of the paranormal. Other guests claim they have seen the images of the hotel's first owner Charles Pfister overlooking the grand lobby. Carlos Gomez had a run in with the hotel a year ago when his iPod kept mysteriously turning on from across the room."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Joe Mauer Might be the Second Coming of Christ


That's right folks, you heard it here first, Jesus decided to have a little more fun the second time around and go by the name Joe and be a better baseball player than the world has ever seen. I'm grateful that He came back and decided to play for the Twins, though I'm slightly baffled as to why He didn't help the Cubs out,...oh yeah, that's right, He hates the Cubs.

In all seriousness though, people, it's time to start paying attention. I know we're in the middle of June, but Joe "The Man" Mauer is hitting .429 through his first 156 at-bats this season and has shown no signs of slowing down. He's hit safetly in 10 of his last 17 ABs, and 17 of his last 34 ABs. He could go 0-fer in his next ten at bats and still be hitting over .400.

In the post-steriod era, this is the kind of thing we're going to be looking forward to, players chasing .400 or chasing the SB record. This is pretty exciting though because when McGwire passed Maris for the HR title in 1998, it had only been 37 years since the previous record was set. However, it has been 68 years since the last .400 hitter in baseball (Ted Williams, .406, 1941). The closest we've seen in the past 30 years was Tony Gwynn who, when the players went on strike that year, was hitting .394.

By no means, am I saying that Mauer is a lock to hit .400, there are still 3 1/2 months of the season to be played, but I am saying that if anyone in the Majors right now has a shot, it's him. He's about as consistent a hitter as there has been in the last 50 years in Major League Baseball and he's looking 100% healthy which is really the key for Mauer.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Take a look at those mechanics PART THREE

So I'm in a post-lunch malaise, which usually means I can only think, talk and type about baseball. Definitely no working. So it is time to do another roundup of pitching mechanics. "What's this?" you say. "Two posts in one day? Are you feeling OK?"

FUCK YOU! I like mechanics and if that motivates me to post more than once a day then you should say thank you and go on your way. Without further ado, I present the National League West. Lotta good ones here.

San Francisco Giants
TIMMAY! - MEH. But somehow he continues to defy all reasonable expectations, including a Verducci Effect sophomore slump. He's never been injured, so maybe he'll just stay the Freak.
Matt Cain - HATE. Timing flaws galore, overly raised elbow.
Randy Johnson - MEH
Barry Zito - MEH. He has the classic "hung arm", tension-in-the-wrist pose. But he's never suffered any injury, so I'm thinking that he doesn't have a severe timing problem.
Jonathan Sanchez - MEH

Los Angeles Dodgers
Chad Billingsley - HATE with the fury of a thousand suns. Chad Billingsley will hurt his arm. I am sure of it. Mark my words down on paper with ink.
Randy Wolf - LOVE
Clayton Kershaw - LOVE LOVE LOVE. Gorgeous. Like in a textbook.
Hiroki Kuroda - LOVE. Short, compact delivery just like Dice BB.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Brandon Webb - MEH. Looks a bit like Sonnannstine out there.
Danny Haren - LOVE to MEH. A weird delivery, he pauses for a long time over the rubber. I am a bit concerned about the inverted L you can see as he strides towards home, but like Zito I don't see a clear timing flaw. Here is some gorgeous slow-mo footage of him in a wind-up. You will only enjoy it if you enjoy slow-mo, frame-by-frame look at mechanics (which is the only way to truly evaluate them).



Doug Davis - MEH
Max Scherzer - HATE. But everyone knows that.

Colorado Rockies
Jason Marquis - LOVE
Ubaldo Jimenez - MEH. Too whippy. Extremely long arm action, like Ben Sheets or Mark Melancon.
Aaron Cook - MEH

San Diego Padres
Jake Peavy - HATE.
Chris Young - MEH.
No other player on the Padres is worth thinking about.

Rising Star: Pablo Sandoval


You're looking at a side-by-side of Pablo Sandoval and Prince Fielder, the two combined, could probably eat a restaurant out of food. They are BIG boys, Fielder a bonafide star (his his first grand-slam last night) and one a quickly rising star.

Pablo Sandoval (22 yrs. old, 5'11", 245lbs.) broke into the majors with the Giants late in the 2008 campaign playing 41 games for the Giants and hitting a robust .345 in 145 ABs. So far in his young career the Giants have had him splitting time between 3rd base, catcher and 1st base. What is surprising about Sandoval, especially given his obvious talent for hitting, is how many years he spent in the minors. He was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2002 and spent the next 6 years advancing as far as AA ball. He had a staggering 1,899 minor league at-bats compiling a .303/.342/.445 line. With this type of hitting consistency it's not surprising that Sandoval made the jump from AA to the Majors but it is surprising how long it took.

Three things stand out to me about this guy:
a) the dude can absolutely hit the ball. Through 58 games so far this year he's hitting .332 with 8 HRs and 17 2B. He has been a consistent .300+ hitter throughout his minor and major league career and his .886 OPS through 99 major league games shows that he's got some pop to go with that 245 lb. frame.
b) He's surprisingly agile for his size. So far in his major league career he has played 48 games at 3rd base, 34 games at 1st base and 14 games at Catcher,...he's only committed two errors during all that time in 447 chances. He's also hit 2 triples this year and one last year. He's no 'speedy gonzalez' but looks decieve. Oh yeah, another cool thing, he's a switch hitter and a switch thrower.
c) HE IS YOUNG. He's 22, and looks to have a long career ahead of him.

So keep your eye out for this young rising star, he hit 2 HRs in last night's game against the Anaheim Angels with 4RBI. He's about as close to a solid threat that the Giants have in their lineup and looks to be fixture in the Majors for years to come.

Mechanics Part 2

Today I will continue my rundown of my likes and dislikes of the mechanics of each starter in the bigs. Last time out we looked at the NL East. Today we will look at the AL East.

Yankees
CC Sabathia - LOVE. Like Hamels, a dream.
AJ Burnett - HATE. So many things wrong.
Chien-Ming Wang - used to be a LOVE, now its a HATE. The change no doubt affects his performance. He's dragging his arm late through the zone, which puts greater stress on the shoulder and decreases his ability to effect downward sink on the ball. Thus, tired arm, no sinking fastball.
Andy Pettitte - LOVE.
Joba Chamberlain - MEH. Can't decide on ole Jobber.
Phil Hughes - used to be LOVE, now its a MEH. His arm seems late through the zone too. Scary.

Red Sox
Josh Beckett - MEH. Elevates the pitching elbow a bit too high for my liking.
Jon Lester - LOVE. He's due for a down year because of the Verducci Effect, but I like his long-term chances. And it saddens me.
Dice BB - LOVE. Looks a lot like Kuroda mechanics-wise. Very sound.
Brad Penny - HATE. Like Rich Harden, opens his body early and decreases his ability to generate torque with his lower half. This puts greater strain on the arm.
Tim Wakefield - LOVE. Whatever, honestly.
Clay Buchholz - MEH. See Phil Hughes, same concerns.

Rays
Scott Kazmir - HATE.
James Shields - LOVE
David Price - LOVE. In my top 5 of mechanics-love
Andy Sonnannstine - HATE.
Jeff Niemann - HATE. Not long for this world...

Blue Jays
Roy Halladay - LOVE
Brian Tallet - MEH
Ricky Romero - MEH
Shawn Marcum - HATE
Scott Richmond - MEH
Casey Janssen - MEH

Orioles
Jeremy Guthrie - LOVE
Everyone else will be gone next year.

Friday, June 12, 2009

"I'm not crazy about his mechanics..."

Recently DomeDog and I were having a friendly conversation about a baseball player and I remarked that I disliked said player's pitching mechanics. He responded by calling me a mechanics nazi. This is probably a fair charge. But then I realized that it is possible that some people think I'm full of shit about mechanics, because I never lay it all out there at once. So, I have decided to publish, division by division, team by team, which MLB starting pitchers I love and which starting pitchers I hate. Mechanically speaking. I'm also including a "meh" list, because there are some that I cannot decide on. We will start with...NL East.


The New York Metropolitans

Johan Santana - MEH. Elevates the elbow above the pitching shoulder, but doesn't seem to suffer injury. One of the more perplexing ones out there.
John Maine - HATE.
Oliver Perez - MEH.
Livan Hernandez - LOVE. Makes me sick to say so.
Mike Pelfrey - LOVE. Sad that they've overworked him so far.

Philadelphia Phillies
Cole Hamels - LOVE. Like a dream.
Jamie Moyer - LOVE. Dude is doin something right.
Brett Myers - LOVE.
Joe Blanton - MEH.
Antonio Bastardo - LOVE.
Thumbs up to the Phils.

Florida Marlins
Josh Johnson - HATE.
Andrew Miller - HATE.
Chris Volstad - MEH
Sean West - MEH
Ricky Nolasco - LOVE to MEH. Hard to tell.


Atlanta Braves

Derek Lowe - LOVE
Javier Vazquez - LOVE
Tommy Hanson - LOVE
Jair Jurrjens - LOVE
Kenshin Kawakami - LOVE
5 stars.

Washington Nationals
Stephen Strasburg - HATE
There is no one else on this team worth discussing.

Nice Try Selena

As a follow up to my post about Selena Robert's "hard-hitting" new book about A-Rod, I am happy to report, via ESPN, that Robert's new book has sold a grand total of...drum roll please....16,000 copies (*cymbal hit). Not only that, but her book sold 11,000 copies during the week of it's release, which means that in the intervening month or so, her pathetic attempt to further smear A-Rod's character has only sold 5,000 copies, or about 1,000 NATIONWIDE every week. My favorite part of this book's demise, is that Harper Collins printed 150,000 copies, meaning that they have about 134,000 copies sitting a warehouse somewhere that they could have an awfully nice bonfire with. Time to move on Selena Roberts, the sportsworld is tired of you and your books/articles. Go find someone else to bother, like Martha Stewart, she's a criminal.

Meanwhile, A-Rod, I know you had a two-run double last night, but seriously man, let's pick it up here.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Before it is official

Before Stephen Strasburg is selected by the Washington Nationals with the first pick of the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft this evening, I'd like to say a few things. We've enjoyed following Strasburg all year. He has had a remarkable career, and now he's overexposed and hyped-to-the-max. He's a superstar, and he hasn't started his professional career yet. It's well-deserved hype, don't get me wrong. He is quite possibly the best amateur pitching prospect...ever.

So, before what I'm about to outline happens, I want to get it out in the open. I'm going to issue a gigantic "I told you so", and I won't be ashamed to point to this post.

Stephen Strasburg is going to suffer shoulder and elbow injuries. He's not going to be Roger Clemens, Nolan Ryan, or Greg Maddux. He might be worth the value of his gigantic contract that will sign with the Nationals, because he might have enough bullets in his young arm, but he will not have a long, fruitful and injury-free career. If he gets to where CC Sabathia is today, having pitched tons of innings without any significant arm injury, then I will be very surprised and question my own intelligence. Here are the facts:

(1) Stephen Strasburg's arm action is long and whippy
(2) He has a substantial timing problem, meaning his arm isn't cocked and loaded when his leading foot plants.
(3) His follow-thru is piss poor. This increases the load on the shoulder and elbow over time.
(4) His glove-side arm flies open, slightly.
(5) He throws 100 mph
(6) The Washington Nationals won't change anything I just listed, for fear of hurting him, or making him lose his velocity, or being genuinely ridiculed for screwing up a "can't-miss" prospect.

It is the last fact that leads me to believe that Stephen Strasburg can miss. God knows I love him, the velocity, the Ks, the makeup and demeanor. Since he's so young, and didn't have a heavy workload as a youngster, it is entirely possible that he has a great career for the Nationals before hitting paydirt in free agency. But, as I said before, I dislike his mechanics a great deal and would wager that the Nats are just going to let him pitch as he always had. Why fix what isn't broken yet? Makes sense, I suppose. But ultimately I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that I expect Stephen Strasburg to have the same career trajectory as the last "can't-miss" college pitching prospect, Mark Prior.

Ridicule me if I'm wrong. I'd be delighted if I was. But I don't think that I am.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Tommy Hanson's Numbers

66.1 Innings, 90 Ks, 3 Wins, 3 Losses, 1.49 ERA, 0.86 WHIP (5.29 K/BB).

uh huh, uh huh, uhhuh uhhuh uhhuh.

The Atlanta Braves ain't playin

In a span of a few hours the Braves made the following moves:

(1) Released Tom Glavine
(2) Announced that Tommy Hanson will take Kris Medlen's Sunday start
(3) Traded Jeff Locke, Charlie Morton and Gorkys Hernandez to Pittsburgh for Nate McLouth.

I've thought for the past few weeks that the Braves are so close to contention. They have Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez, Jair Jurrjens and Kenshin Kawakami. That's a very solid starting 4. They have a solid infield that represents defensively and in OBP. They have a great backstop, and a decent pen. But the offense is weak, and they had Tommy Hanson rotting in AAA striking out ridiculous amounts of minor leaguers.


But as of today, the Braves have announced that the intend on contending hard for the NL East crown. The Mets and the Phillies have been hurt by injuries and poor decision-making by management (especially the Mets), and the Braves sense their opportunity. While they did give up a lot (A LOT...Gorkys and Locke? yeesh), I have to respect the straight up gansta of Frank Wren. I hope it pans out for my favorite NL team.

Oh, and all hail Tommy Hanson!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Best Brawls #2: 1965 The Marichal Bat Incident

As a tribute to how meaningful this day is to the sport of baseball, I decided it would be fitting to go back into the annals of baseball history to find a particularly memorable fight. For those of you not familiar, June 2nd is a date in which quite a few important things have occured in baseball. In 1935, Babe Ruth retired on June 2nd, Lou Gehrig died on June 2nd, 1941. Ken Griffey Jr. was drafted #1 by the Mariners on June 2nd, 1987. Ted Williams left to join the Navy on June 2nd, and on and on and on. Now, this brawl that I'm about to tell you about didn't happen on June 2nd, it happened on August 22nd, but it is known as the worst fight in baseball history. You'll see why after I'm done.



Date: August 22nd, 1965 - Giant Stadium

The Catalyst:
Marichal, the pitcher for the Giants that day had hit two Dodgers players and Johnny Roseboro, the Dodger catcher signaled to Koufax (the Dodger starter) to hit Marichal with the next pitch. Koufax ignored him and so Roseboro whipped the toss back to Koufax right by Marichal's ear. During the verbal argument that ensued, Roseboro whipped off his catchers mask and the players got in each other's faces. At some point during the argument, Marichal took a full on swing which connected with Roseboro's unmasked head causing him to fall to the ground. Um....needless to say, both benches cleared. According to reports, the game was delayed by 14 minutes as things were sorted out, Roseboro was helped to the dugout (and then to the hospital where he received 14 stitches), Marichal was ejected.

The Outcome:
Honestly, when I read this, I was shocked. Juan Marichal was suspended for 9 days and fined $1,750 by Major League Baseball for hitting and injuring Johnny Roseboro with a bat. Roseboro missed a couple of days and was back in the lineup. Roseboro ended up filing a lawsuit against Marichal over the incident and it was reported to have been settled out of court for $7,000. Marichal went on to win 243 games as a pitcher and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983. It's hard to believe Marichal received such a light penalty for such a terrible act. If that happened today, a player would risk being suspended for the rest of the season, if not banned from the game altogether. Interesting fact: this incident is still the only incident even in a major league game where a bat was used a weapon. A few years back it happened again in the minor leagues.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Stat of the Day: BABIP

Welcome to the first installment of Friday Stat of the Day, designed to provide a brief introduction to some of the advanced metrics (or concepts really, even if the math isn't that hard) used often by statheads, Bill James-o-philes and blogger geeks (but increasingly more by mainstream media, which is encouraging) to evaluate player performance beyond the standard statistical categories.

We'll kick it off with something that actually isn't too hard to grasp from a numbers perspective but actually can be very helpful in evaluating the current success or failure of a pitcher. BABIP stands for batting average on balls in play, and it essentially measures the percentage of all balls in play that go for hits against a certain pitcher. Home runs aren't counted as a "ball in play," nor are strikeouts obviously, so it largely boils down to all batted balls that a defender would theoretically have a play on. Here's the formula:



where H is hits, HR is home runs, AB is at bats, K is strikeouts, and SF is sacrifice flies.

Seems pretty simple, right? So why is this important?

Basically, looking at a pitcher's BABIP can be used as an indicator that a pitcher is having a fluky season - either a) that they are pitching way over their heads and getting lucky that many of the balls in play simply aren't dropping for hits or that they are benefiting from stellar defense; or b) that they are not pitching nearly as poorly as their win-loss record or ERA (generally regarded by sabremetricians as two of the worst ways to evaluate pitching performance) might suggest, meaning that balls in play are finding more gaps than they normally would or they are being victimized by defensive ineptitude. Extremely high or low BABIPs are not sustainable, and as the short Wikipedia blurb on the subject notes, "those whose BABIPs are extremely high can often be expected to improve in the following season, and those pitchers whose BABIPs are extremely low can often be expected to regress in the following season." Bottom line is that it depends mostly on defense and luck, rather than pitching skill.

So for some real-life examples, let's take a look at the BABIP of a few notable pitchers this admittedly still young season. To keep things in perspective, Baseball Prospectus says that an average BABIP is around .290. I'll highlight a few pitchers at both the top and bottom end of the spectrum.

Getting screwed:
Now here's an interesting example. As of May 21, with a minimum of 30 IP, the pitcher with the highest BABIP was none other than last year's Cy Young winner and (sic) favorite Tim Lincecum, sitting at a hefty .389. Lincecum's line on the season however, is far from a disaster - 3.03 ERA, 4-1 record, 84 Ks in 65 IP. What does this tell us? Number one, the best way to avoid having a high BABIP really hurt you is to miss a ton of bats, at which Lincecum is one of the best. But number two, we should expect his numbers to improve (sick, I know) as his BABIP regresses to the mean.

Following Timmay! at .388 and .382 are Jon Lester and Ricky Nolasco respectively, and although obviously not in the same category as Lincecum, Tim Dierkes notes that they each probably deserve ERAs around 4 rather than the 6.51 and 7.78 they currently sport.

Riding the wave:
One interesting highlight at the other end: Edinson Volquez. Currently sitting at .211. Volquez is putting together a decent season so far, but a lot of people thought that he would regress after a monster year last year. Obviously there are many more factors that go into something like that, not the least of which is probably fatigue from throwing 196 innings at his age, but this is an interesting stat. He's still missing bats at 45K in 48 IP, but his fortuitous BABIP might suggest that tougher times lie ahead. Not to say that last season was all smoke and mirrors, though as his BABIP last year was a very average .303. Make of this what you will.

So in summary, BABIP isn't a perfect, all-powerful or super-predictive stat, but it can help point out some of those guys who are overperforming and underperforming. Check it out for yourself if you wanna know more.

Note: For an interesting analysis of BABIP from a hitter's perspective, here's a good article.

http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/batters-and-babip/