In this edition of the Beyond The Box Score podcast, Alex Kienholz (myself) substituted for Blake Murphy as the host. I was joined by Adam Darowski and we discussed the Hall of Stats, Deacon White, and the current Hall of Fame ballot.
Two other people helped Adam create the Hall of Stats. Their names and respective sites are:
You can visit the Hall of Stats here.
Read The Full Article:
Read The Full Article:
Read The Full Article:
Prepare to be floored.
I don't think that there would be too much debate if I said that the Rockies' bullpen last year was one of their strengths. After all, 3 of their top 4 pitchers by fWAR were relievers. Much of that is usage -- after all, the Rockies bullpen threw almost 100 innings more than the next highest team -- but it's also true that the top three (Rafael Betancourt, Matt Belisle, and Rex Brothers) were pretty darn good.
Here's the thing: if healthy, Wilton Lopez, whom the Rockies just acquired for Alex White and Alex Gillingham (pretty much a non-factor), is as good or better than those guys. Indeed, Lopez was dominant last year, throwing 66 innings of 2.17 ERA/1.04 WHIP ball for the Astros. Plus, he's under team control (he has 3.038 years of service time) for the next three years, meaning that Dan O'Dowd wasn't acquiring a rental.
While Lopez's K/9 rate (7.33) is a little low for an elite reliever, his exceptional BB/9 rate (1.09) meant that he was pounding the strike zone with consistency. To put it in perspective, Betancourt had a 1.87 BB/9 last year while showing phenomenal control...and a 1.16 BB/9 during his historically good 2011. Oh, and Lopez's ground ball % last year was 55% (and that was the lowest of his career), so not only does he throw strikes, he induces ground balls. So I think it's safe to say that I'm excited to see what Lopez can do in Colorado's bullpen.
However, there are concerns with Lopez's elbow that could cloud this deal from the Rockies' perspective. The Phillies had a trade in place for Lopez last month that fell apart due to these concerns. Troy Renck's article on the trade mentions that the Rockies did an MRI on the elbow and still wanted to do the trade, so that's something of a relief. Still, acquiring a potential Tommy John surgery candidate is risky business.
So is giving up on Alex White at this stage in the game. White was a 1st round pick in 2009 for the Indians, pitched his way into many Top 50 prospect lists, and was one of the two centerpieces in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade in the summer of 2011. To say that he struggled mightily once coming to the Rockies organization would be thoroughly, depressingly accurate. With the Rockies, White had an ERA that hovered near 6, a BB/9 well over 4, and a K/9 that was below 6.
Put simply, White wasn't able to locate his pitches well as a member of the Rockies, which was an extremely poor fit for the four man rotation. In 20 starts last year, White managed only 93.2 innings pitched -- that's just 4.2 IP per start. While he was in the mix for a back-end starting position this year, it was unlikely that he was going to win a starting job, especially if the Rockies were to acquire a starter or two this off-season. Even his position as a member of the bullpen would have been in doubt, given the glut of players like White on the Rockies' roster.
With all of that said about White, there's a reason he was part of the Ubaldo trade and why the Astros insisted on including him in this deal. He's still young and not far removed from his top 50 prospect days. White's pitches can be nasty when he's on, and in a different environment (read: not Coors Field) he could become a decent starter.
There's definitely an argument to be made that the Rockies should be acquiring starting pitching (their greatest weakness), not trading it away for a relief arm (arguably their biggest strength). The thing about White was that I just don't think that he was ever going to be a significant contributor for the Rockies unless it was in the bullpen -- and he would have had to beat out plenty of similar players (including Drew Pomeranz, Tyler Chatwood, and Christian Friedrich) to become that player. In other words, the potential production by White (great relief arm) is exactly what Lopez (barring injury) will produce for Colorado.
We've been wanting for a long time to see Colorado turn some of their "wait and see, maybe never" assets into ML-caliber players, and with this trade the Rockies front office has done just that.
Dave Cameron of Fangraphs is confused about the deal from the Rockies' perspective -- it basically boils down to why Colorado would acquire a reliever despite being far from contention. It's a valid point, though I believe Lopez will be more valuable to Colorado than White would have been (Houston might reap more value if White becomes a starter for them, but I don't think that was going to happen here).
Troy Renck thinks that it might be a bigger risk for the Rockies to NOT trade Dexter Fowler. Which is a little melodramatic given how far the Rockies need to go to be contenders. My position is that unless Colorado can get a haul for Fowler that will legitimately improve the team more than it hurts them, it doesn't really make sense to move him.
New manager Walt Weiss spoke at the meetings yesterday, which was chronicled by SBN's own Rob Neyer and by Troy Renck. So far, Weiss is saying the right things and getting my hopes up. Tony Larussa's a fan.
Finally, SB Nation is hosting a Winter Meetings Simulation, where contributors from across SB Nation's blog roll are acting as Fake GMs for their teams. The rules and the transactions are found here. So far, I've fake traded Michael Cuddyer and Jordan Pacheco for Rick Porcello of the Tigers and signed Brandon McCarthy to a 4 year, $55 million deal. Which is somewhat of an over-pay, but in the fake market over there it's pretty close to market value. It's also the only way a good free agent pitcher would sign with the Rockies.
Let me know if there are any other transactions you want me to pursue in the comments.
2011 HEADLINE: Ron Santo Elected To National Baseball Hall Of Fame On this day in 2011, Ron Santo was elected into the Baseball Hall Of Fame. From MLB.com: Legendary Cubs third baseman and broadcaster Ron Santo was elected to the … Continue reading →
Read The Full Article:
Philip Humber isn't exactly a name that people were thinking of when it came to pitchers this off-season. But that didn't stop the Houston Astros from picking him up after the White Sox put him on waivers, while avoiding arbitration by signing him to a one year contract.
Humber's 2012 season was one to forget. His career-worst 9.5 BB% and 16.5 HR/FB% led to a 6.44 ERA and a 5.77 FIP.
Humber throws a sinker, four-seam fastball, slider, change-up and curveball and since he struggled so severely in 2012, I checked to see if any of those pitches changed significantly from 2011.
The first thing that sticks out is that Humber had a lot of success at inducing groundballs with his slider, curveball, and change-up during the 2011 season. His curve was his best pitch, getting groundballs 66% of the time, while his change-up was getting groundballs 54% of the time. To put that into perspective, that was the sixth best groundball percentage while throwing a curveball in 2011 according to Baseball Prospectus.
In 2012, however, Humber's curveball struggled at generating groundballs.
He induced grounders just 46% of the time, which put him at 82nd overall on the season. That's a pretty big difference.
For some reason Humber stopped throwing his sinker during the 2012 season. When he threw the sinker in 2011 it only generated groundballs 37% of the time. Overall his sinker's GB% ranked toward the bottom for all qualified pitchers, according to Baseball Prospectus.
His slider didn't see any significant impacts in terms of whiff/swing%, in fact in only increased by roughly 1%. His curveball and change-up saw their whiff/swing% drop by almost 3%. Overall I'm not quite sure how significant that drop is though.
Even though Humber's whiff/swing% with his slider wasn't affected that much, he still had problems with his GB%, so I wanted to see if I could get to the bottom of it. Humber's change-up appeared to be getting a lot more horizontal movement, while some of his sliders were showing significantly less vertical movement.
First, I'd like to say that some of those pitches from 2012 are misclassified, and my best guess is that they are actually two-seam fastballs (according to Texas Leaguers, that is. Besides seeing a two-seamer on Texas Leaguers, I didn't think he threw one).
Like I stated earlier, in 2012 it appears that he had less vertical movement on a good chunk of sliders, compared to his 2011 season. As a result, it got hit around a lot more in 2012 than 2011, particularly in the power department. When he threw his slider in 2011 he had an opposing ISO of .097, but in 2012 the opposing ISO was .244.
I also took a look at Humber's curveball, to see if there were any similar results.
In 2012 Humber's curveball was clustered as tightly together. If we look at his horizontal and vertical numbers we can see that vertically he didn't see a change at all. For those that are wondering, here are the numbers:
In 2011 his curve was +6.18 HOR and -4.91 VER. For 2012 it was +5.86 HOR and -4.92 VER. There were a good number of pitches that weren't in the cluster though, and he did get knocked around a little as a result.
In 2012 his ISO when throwing his curve was .135, compared to .076 in 2011. I'm not sure what league-average ISO numbers are for specific pitches, but keep in mind a .150 ISO is considered average. He essentially declined across the board in every category.
Finally, the last pitch that I will look at is his change-up.
From the following graphic it's pretty obvious to see that Humber struggled mightily with his horizontal movement during the 2012 campaign. His vertical movement went from +4.96 to +4.54, but his horizontal movement went from -5.39 to -7.
Batters actually hit for less power, their ISO went from .1 to .067, but they got on-base at a much higher clip. Opposing OBP went from .263 to .406. Overall he went preventing runs 34% better than average to giving up runs 43% worse than average. Not exactly the trend that you want to see.
If we take a look at his plate discipline profile we can see that batters swung out of the zone 3% less in 2012, but interestingly they made contact 3% more of the time. His overall zone percentage saw over a 2% decrease, and given the struggle he had with some of his pitches that doesn't come as a surprise.
Philip Humber is definitely an interesting case as we make our way to Spring Training 2013. He faced some struggles in 2012, but it seems like some of the struggles could be fixed. I don't know if he's a 3 WAR pitcher, but he could easily be a 2 WAR pitcher, which is still a good piece to have, especially considering Houston's current state.
Thanks to Texas Leaguers, FanGraphs, and Brooks Baseball for the data used in this analysis.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter. Follow @AKienholzBtB
Astros GM Jeff Luhnow has been rather quiet at this year's annual meetings thus far, but stated that he did not intend to leave Nashville empty handed. The first move he makes could be a Wilton Lopez trade to the Colorado Rockies according to Troy Renck of the Denver Post. No word yet on who the Astros may acquire in the Deal. Renck mentioned that the Astros like Parker Frazier but then later stated that Frazier would not be in any potential deal, but that the Rockies would look to send two young pitchers the Astros way.
This marks the second time this offseason that rumors have surfaced involving a potential Wilton Lopez trade. The 29-year-old was almost traded to the Phillies last month before the deal stalled. No official word was given from the Astros on the Phillies deal, but it was rumored that the Phillies backed out after concerns over Wilton's elbow.
Lopez would provide a boost to a Rockies bullpen that posted a combined 4.52 ERA in 2012, though part of that high ERA was due to the team's creativity in piggybacking relievers. It appears now that they are looking to bring in a proven veteran in Lopez to help anchor the bullpen in the later innings.
As for the Astros, it appears that they will acquire two young pitching prospects from the Rockies, though no word yet on who they might be. We will keep you posted.
Let's run a thought experiment.
The Astros payroll has come under some heavy criticism lately, and justifiably so. Money is coming in from outside sources, but the Astros are keeping the payroll at a bare minimum so far. In fact, no Astro player is signed to a contract except Phillip Humber, who's making under a million next season.
What if Houston did go crazy on the market? How much would that help the team? Is there a way that they could sign enough free agents to put them in the playoffs?
Let's assume that they can get all these players signed. Pretend it's a video game and the fact that Houston has been atrocious for the past two seasons won't matter to said free agents. Let's also assume we can undo some free agents signings already and put them on the Astros instead.
If we use Jeff Passan's list of the top free agents, we get a nice list of guys who could help the Astros at positions of need: outfield, DH, starting rotation.
What if Houston signed all of these players?
Josh Hamilton $25 million, 4 WAR, replaces -0.6 WAR (-0.4 Schafer, -0.2 J.D.)
Zack Greinke $20 million, 5 WAR, replaces -0.6 WAR (Keuchel)
Anibal Sanchez $17 million, 4 WAR, replaces 0.2 WAR (0.6 Happ, -0.6 Galarraga, 0.0 Abad, 0.2 Edgar Gonzalez)
Nick Swisher $15 million, 4 WAR, replaces0.9 WAR (0.2 Bogey, 0.7 F-Mart)
Michael Bourn $15 million, 5 WAR, replaces 2.3 WAR (JMax)
That's an entirely new outfield of Bourn in center and Swisher and Hamilton on the corners. Napoli would play first and DH some, while also serving as a backup catcher to Castro. Both Sanchez and Greinke slot at the top of the rotation, with Norris and Harrell behind and Lyles suddenly the team's fifth starter.
Those are all projections on salary, with the exception of Napoli. In actuality, if Houston signed all these guys, they'd probably have to overpay, which brings the price tag well north of the $105 million I have set down here. Add that to the roughly $30 million owed to the current players, and the Astros have about $135 now committed to the 2013 team.
As a team last season, the Astros generated 9.6 positional WAR and 8.0 pitching WAR. We're replacing 3.2 of that total WAR with the free agents, totaling 25 WAR. Add that to what's left of Houston's total and we get about 40 WAR.
So, we'd have the most expensive team in club history, but would it get Houston into the playoffs. Let's assume everything breaks right, everyone stays healthy and they hit their projected WAR totals. How does that 40 WAR compare to playoff teams from last year?
Last year's ten playoff teams totaled the following WARs
San Francisco: 29.9 batting WAR, 14.7 pitching WAR, 44.6 total WAR
Detroit: 21.1 batting WAR, 24.8 pitching WAR, 45.9 total WAR
New York (AL): 30.8 batting WAR, 20.3 pitching WAR, 51.1 total WAR
St. Louis: 33.4 batting WAR, 18.9 pitching WAR, 52.3 total WAR
Cincinnati: 25.9 batting WAR, 21.0 pitching WAR, 46.9 total WAR
Washington: 28.7 batting WAR, 21.4 pitching WAR, 50.1 total WAR
Baltimore: 15.3 batting WAR, 16.6 pitching WAR, 31.9 total WAR
Oakland: 23.7 batting WAR, 18.1 pitching WAR, 41.8 total WAR
Texas: 26.5 batting WAR, 23.9 pitching WAR, 50.4 total WAR
Atlanta: 29.0 batting WAR, 18.5 pitching WAR, 47.5 total WAR
Thought it's far from a given, it appears a team needs to be over 40 WAR to be in playoff contention and probably should be closer to 45 or 50 WAR to have a realistic shot at the postseason. The Orioles are the only outlier, and we know they completely outperformed their peripherals down the stretch, so it's not surprising to see them show up poorly here.
WAR isn't really used this way. It's not a good judge of team talent, since it's imperfect for pitching and sometimes pretty off on bullpen talent. Still, this should give us a good benchmark on what to expect if Houston completely raided free agency...not enough. Even if everything broke right for Houston next season, they'd still just be on the cusp of the playoffs and would likely miss out, even after spending.
When you add in the improbability of all those free agents signing with a team as bad as Houston, and the Astros would really have to make a trade to bring in high profile talent. What if Houston made that huge Toronto-Marlins deal and picked up the pieces FLA sent up north?
Josh Johnson $13.75 million, 4 WAR, replaces 0.2 WAR (0.6 Happ, -0.6 Galarraga, 0.0 Abad, 0.2 Edgar Gonzalez)
Mark Buerhle $11 million, 3 WAR, replaces -0.6 WAR (Keuchel)
John Buck $6 million, 2 WAR, replaces 0.5 WAR (.5 Corporan)
Emilio Bonifacio $2.5 million, 3 WAR, replaces -0.6 WAR (-0.4 Schafer, -0.2 J.D.)
That improves the team by 16 WAR in players, subtracted from the 1.3 WAR they'd replace, gives Houston 14.7 new WAR to its old total of 9.6 plus 8.0, or 32.3 WAR. Still not good enough to cross that 40 WAR threshold for the playoffs. Plus, the payroll is now up to $73.5 million with long term commitments to both Reyes and Buerhle that get dramatically more expensive after this season.
So, let's go the more realistic approach. Let's say the Astros sign players they can get to improve this team, adding a few key names at key spots. Say...
Lance Berkman $8 million, 4 WAR, replaces 0.0 (Wally)
Brandon McCarthy $6 million, 3 WAR, replaces replaces -0.6 WAR (Keuchel)
Nate McLouth $1 million, 1 WAR, replaces replaces 0.2 WAR (0.2 Bogey)
There, you've got a bat a first base, an outfielder, a reliever and a starter. Obviously, Soria is off the table, but at that price, he'd have been a reasonable addition. And yet, that still only improves the Astros so much. They're up 9 WAR on what they had, which added to the others gives them 26 or 27 WAR. That makes them about a 70-win team, maybe more.
All this is also assuming Houston can maintain some of those performance levels from last year in a harder league, which it can't. So, if we drop that current WAR down a few notches, the Astros suddenly have a very tough road to hoe to get back to respectability.
My point, from all this, is that spending money is not the end-all, be-all of this team. They money Houston is getting from the RSN contract is not enough to put them back in contention quickly. But, for an extra $20 million (as shown in the third scenario), Houston could add some familiar big league faces on short deals without blocking anyone. They'd increase their win total slightly, not spend more than they had said they'd commit before the offseason began and buy some fan goodwill.
Too bad it's not going to happen.