Interesting story in NBC Sports by Aaron Gleeman; the ex-Dirtbag had a strong first half last year but slumped in the second half, and appears to be on his way to another stint in AAA. I don't much recall what was expected of him, except that he was a surprise story for the Nationals last year.
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Mark Saxon of ESPN reports that the Angels have traded minor league INF Alexi Amarista and RHP Donn Roach for Padres RHP reliever Ernesto Frieri. Amarista hit .292/.337/.419 last year with Salt Lake as a 22-year-old, predominantly at second base. Roach had a 2.16 ERA this year with high-A Inland Empire, a 6.3 K/9, and an outstanding 9.67 K/BB ratio. As for Frieri, he had a 2.71 ERA last year in 59 games, all in relief, with a 10.9 K/9 and a 2.24 K/BB ratio. I like this deal for the Angels and the Padres, as the Pads get some kids with good upside, and the Angels get a solid relief man.
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The Dodgers and Bobby Abreu have agreed to a contract where he will be a bench player, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (via Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports). No indication about terms yet, though the assumption has to be the Dodgers will pay major league minimum.
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Colorado's minor league affiliates were all losers last night.
The Sky Sox (14-14, 1 GB) lost their 3rd straight game last night. To be fair, they've played 8 games at home and 20 on the road, so I foresee success in their future. Colorado Springs was outscored by 5 despite getting the same amount of hits (9) as their opponents.
Matt McBride went 2-4 with a double and scored the lone run, while Brandon Hynick (remember him?) got the loss in his return to the Sky Sox. He allowed 4 runs on 6 hits in 4.1 IP, with 5 strikeouts. Meanwhile, ex-PuRP Bruce Billings (traded to Oakland for Mark Ellis last year) got the win against his former club with 7 shutout innings.
Both PuRP 26 Ben Paulsen and PuRP 9 Josh Rutledge hit homers in this game (4 for Paulsen, 5 for Rutledge), but that wasn't enough to get Tulsa (19-8, 6 game lead) the victory. PuRP 13 Edwar Cabrera failed to deliver a quality start for the first time this year, lasting only 4.2 innings and allowing 6 runs on 9 hits, striking out 2 and walking 2.Visalia 5, Modesto 2
The Nuts (13-15, 4 GB) only generated 6 hits and 2 runs on the night with nobody having a multi-hit game. That wasn't enough as PuRP 5 Tyler Matzek was his wild self. Matzek lasted only 3 innings, allowing 2 runs without allowing a hit. How is this possible? Maybe because he walked 8 in 3 innings!
In the 3rd inning Matzek walked 4 in a row to let in a run, then threw a wild pitch to allow another to score. Once again, he was unhittable (he got 4 strikeouts), but Matzek needs to find the plate with any consistency to be considered for a promotion. So far he's struck out 36 in 27.2 IP (11.7 K/9), which is good, but he's also walked 24 in those innings (7.8 BB/9).
Harold Riggins and Jordan Ribera each had 2 hits for the Tourists (17-10, 2 GB), but Asheville was outhit 13-7. Strangely, the Tourists are 10-3 on the road but only 7-7 at home. Riggins (who is batting .318/.417/.588 this year) hit a homer (5) and had 3 RBI. Alex Gillingham took the loss, allowing 10 hits and 6 runs in 5 innings.
For today's discussion topic let's talk Jonathan Villar Vs. Jiovanni Mier. This has been an increasingly hot topic floating around here on TCB lately, and the fact that Mier went 3-5 with a homerun and is hitting .301 on the year now while Villar is hitting .208 and made his 10th error of the season will probably add to the discussion. Here are their stats prior to yesterday's action.
We know that Villar is younger and that he's playing at a higher level of competition right now. We also know that he was rushed last season and probably should have spent the whole year at Lancaster. He's gotten off to a rough start at Corpus again this year showing that at 21 years old he may not yet be quite ready for AA.
On the other hand Mier is performing well and has gotten off to a nice start in Lancaster. The disclaimer with him though is that he has struggled in full season ball up to this point, and he's experiencing his first run of success. It may be worth letting him experience some sustained success for a while before challenging him at the next level just to make sure that you don't risk his development.
The problem that the Astros have is that they have two shortstops who should probably both be playing at the High-A level right now. If Mier performs like he has so far all year, or maybe even half the year then he would seemingly be ready to move up to the next level. Likewise if Villar continues to struggle then he would not be ready to advance to Oklahoma City to accompany Mier, and that would make for a difficult decision for the Astros to make.
ST. LOUIS (AP) The wife of St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan Musial has died at the age of 91.
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Rod Carew 1984 Fleer – Batting Cage Card!!! I have been steadily knocking off the Rod Carew baseball cards issued in the 1980s for my player collection that honors his Hall of Fame career. As with most cards, I can … Continue reading →
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After the 2009 season the White Sox sent Chris Getz to the Royals as part of the odd and generally annoying to all parties Mark Teahen trade. It seemed like an obvious move for the White Sox, who had a new star in second base in Gordon Beckham. As a rookie, the 22 year -old Beckham hit .270/.347/.460 in 430 PAs. Chris Getz, also a rookie, but two years older and much less heralded, had also had a nice season for a young middle-infielder, hitting .261/.324/.347. Still, Beckham, the top prospect from some sun-drenched southern school, was the obvious guy to keep.
Or was he?
Since 2009 Beckham has floundered, hitting .238/.304/.352 in 1131 PAs. Getz hasn't exactly set the world on fire, but Beckham has been so bad, that Getz's line of .254/.312/.298 in that same span (727 PAs) has to give us pause. The odd thing is that both of their games went backward. Beckham always had more power, and he held onto some of it, while Getz became game's true low-wattage hitters.
My sense is that Getz is considered a better defender, but I'm not positive about that. Since 2009, Getz has produced 0.9 brefWAR and 1.6 fWAR, comparable to Beckham's 0.5 and 1.7 totals, respectively. Getz hasn't played as much as Beckham, which, for bad players like these, actually helps his WAR numbers. And Getz also has 30 net steals, while Beckham has 0. (Getz also looks identical to Ned Yost, but apparently I'm the only one who sees this.)
Because the White Sox have stuck with Beckham for so long, he'll hit arbitration next season, as will Getz. In the grand scheme of a Major League budget, their salaries have been the same.
Getz's hot start to 2012 helps make this discussion even more plausible. In 50 PAs, Getz is hitting .326/.354/.500 with 4 doubles and 2 triples. Meanwhile, Beckham is once again terrible, hitting .203/.276/.290 in 76 PAs. Wow.
I think we have to say that, given what the knew in 2009, the White Sox were right to go with Beckham. Beckham, while not very good, has very likely been slightly better than Getz. The really interesting question is this, would the Royals trade Getz for Beckham, straight up, right now?
As we know from Wednesday, Jhoulys Chacin has been optioned to AAA Colorado Springs. Taking his roster spot will be AAA starter Carlos Torres. Torres, 29, was signed as a minor-league free agent this past December, and was brought in mostly to plug organizational holes in the starting depth.
As we've all been watching this season, Chacin has been up and down - mostly down. Of his 5 starts, he surpassed 5 innings in only one, and only finished the 5th inning in 2 starts. His walk numbers are up, hits are up, and homers are up. That's about the brass tacks of the situation.
The more subjective side is that Chacin has just flat out sucked. Outside of that one start, it's been really hard to have any sort of faith in him. In fairness, he's only 24, and he has a lot of time to continue developing. I mean, his strikeout numbers are still there, and still very strong. He has the stuff to be a top flight pitcher, but he has to return to where we saw him 1st half in 2011.
I'm just hoping he isn't hurt.
The counterpart in this back and forth, Carlos Torres, will be brought up to bolster an overworked bullpen. Torres spent last season in Japan, making 6 ill-fated starts. Since signing with the Rockies, Torres has posted a 2.88 with the recently humidored Sky Sox.
Torres' strikeout numbers have been good, his walk numbers.... not so good, but he strikes out more than 2 batters per walk allowed, so we can work with them. Torres has averaged 5 innings per start, so on one hand, he'd probably fit right in with the current rotation, but given that the Rockies' rotation is essentially set for the next 6 games without needing a fifth starter, Torres will provide some much needed relief to a tired bullpen. We hope.
Part of me wishes we could have Tyler Chatwood or Alex White up right now, but Chatwood was pulled from his start on Wednesday with triceps tightness and White isn't fully stretched out at the exact moment. When the Rockies head to San Diego, they'll reevaluate the rotation (and where Jeremy Guthrie is in his recovery from his bike/shoulder accident) and see where the needs are. Renck suggests that White is a favorite for a promotion, if needed, but we'll see how things unfold next week.
Despite the fact that most High School Aces can reach back for more than the blistering 75 degrees that Jamie Moyer burns by hitters, Moyer's ridiculous longevity in Major League Baseball is still inspiring, even to students who never slop hogs. Location and change of speeds has been the game Moyer has been playing during his whole career, and those fundamental lessons in pitching are ones best learned early.
This should be an interesting read going forward. Wendy Thurm, who runs the site Hanging Sliders as well as contributing to Baseball Nation has begun a series exploring Troy Tulowitzki and the allegations that he is, in fact, not clutch whatsoever. Looks to be worth following, even if just for discussion's sake.
Amid all of the good will that comes from a three-game sweep of the San Francisco Giants on the road, the Miami Marlins are facing some adversity. The events of the previous three games, in particular the second game that required an extra-innings home run by Giancarlo Stanton to achieve victory, that have put into serious question the future of Heath Bell, the Marlins' $27 million closer that the team signed this offseason. While Bell was supposed to bring security and a veteran hand into the ninth inning of the Marlins, he has only brought about trouble for the Fish. Bell has saved only three of his seven save attempts, with three blown saves and four "Meltdowns" (a statistic, alongside Shutdowns, created by Tom Tango and based on a relief pitcher accumulating a certain amount of positive or negative WPA).
What is happening with Bell, and what is going to happen in the future now that he has helped to cost the Marlins four different games? The answers here are very intriguing.Control Versus Whiffs
When you look across Bell's FanGraphs page, there is not a single positive sign to be seen. His strikeouts are way down, his walks are sky-high, he has the lowest ground ball rate of his career, his BABIP is a towering .387, and everything comes to a 11.74 ERA that does not look a whole lot better via FIP (6.89). So why are all of these things happening?
Well, in just looking at the two results, two thoughts come to mind:
1) He is not spotting his pitches well, leading to more walks.
2) He is not getting enough swings and misses, leading to fewer strikeouts.
When we look peripherally at his pitches, it seems like there are some changes associated with these problems.
OSwing% / OContact% indicate swing and contact percentage outside of the strike zone. ZSwing% / ZContact% indicate swing and contact percentage inside the strike zone.
The poor location in terms of placing pitches in or out of the zone is supported to some degree by these numbers. Bell's percentage of pitches in the zone is down two percent from last season and three percent total from his career rate, so he is not pounding the strike zone as often. Similarly, Bell's ratio of balls versus called strikes on his fastball is down from last season; he went from 1.46 in 2011 to 2.0 in 2012.
However, we mentioned that a two-to-one ratio is about average, so it is not as if Bell's location has been that far off. The problem is that hitters are laying off of it in the first place. As you noted on the table, hitters are laying off of Bell's outside offerings at an extreme rate, swinging only 19 percent of the time out of the zone. Even in Bell's worst season as a closer in 2011, he was still inducing bad swings at a 30 percent clip. Now, hitters are laying off of everything, and it is helping to cause a direct increase in those balls called.
The other problem is also evident from this chart. Hitters are making contact at a greater rate than ever before, but it is notable that the rate on pitches in the zone is particularly increased. Not only are hitters laying off on more and more pitches out of the zone, but they are making contact on more and more pitches in the zone, and the distribution is a good deal different even in the small sample size.
Bell would have allowed two or three fewer balls in play had he allowed foul balls at his 2011 rate, so the difference is minuscule at this point in the season. But every ball in play counts when the alternative is a pseudostrike that at worst repeats the count.
Of course, the above really just gets into the "what happened" more specifically without truly addressing the "why it happened" question. It does appear that hitters are making more contact on pitches in the zone while laying off of more pitches out of the zone. The contact has also been better just based on slugging on contact (.761 slugging percentage of contacted fastballs in 2012 versus .338 in 2011) and percentage of balls in play versus foul balls. But we cannot find out mechanically why this is happening. A look at his pitches in terms of movement and release point revealed no out-of-the-ordinary changes. His velocity is down about a mile per hour as well. A look at the location of his fastball does reveal something of interest. First, his fastballs from 2012:
Compare that to his 2011 fastball locations:
Obviously the charts are a little different, but the early looks in terms of foci of locations in 2012 have them a little lower and towards the middle of the plate rather than the corner up and away. Perhaps some of this location is changing hitters' approaches towards Bell.
The Marlins did have a save opportunity yesterday afternoon, but neither Bell nor Steve Cishek were available. With Cishek's success early in the season, Fish Stripers were calling for Bell's head and demanding Cishek take over in the closer capacity. Guillen's quick hook on Bell once he began to show signs of blowing the save against the Giants indicates that the manager has a definite short leash despite numerous traditional reasons to keep Bell in the closer's spot. Nevertheless, it does seem the Marlins will consider a change.
What could the Fish do? Turning to Cishek or Edward Mujica would not be a terrible idea, even for a temporary reprieve while Bell works on his mechanics or other issues causing these early problems. If he can recover while pitching in a reduced leverage role, the Marlins will most certainly insert him back into the closer role; after all, the team is paying $9 million a year for his services. However, if he does not recover and continues to struggle, look to Cishek being first in line for closing duties, and note that the overall number of saves and games saved or lost by the closer will not change much over what Bell was projected to do before the season began. In the end, even the most important reliever has a much smaller impact on the game than most players, no matter how badly Bell has challenged that wisdom early this year.