NEW YORK (AP) — Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels became the youngest AL Rookie of the Year on Monday and Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals was voted the second-youngest winner of the NL honor.
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Starting pitching has long been an area of strength for the Atlanta Braves and that trend doesn't seem likely to end any time soon. The Braves have a great crop of right handed starting pitchers coming up the pipeline, and this second half of the top 10 includes a number of players who had great 2012 campaigns, though most of them may eventually end up in the bullpen.
6. Cody Martin: B: R, T: R, Ht: 6'2", Wt: 210, DOB: 9-4-89
The Braves selected Martin in the 7th round out of Gonzaga in 2011 and he turned in a fine debut season, posting a 1.08 ERA, a 0.75 WHIP, 13.2 K/9, 1.4 BB/9, and 9.8 K/BB in 33.1 innings over 22 relief appearances between Rookie level Danvile and Low A Rome. He moved into the rotation with High A Lynchburg in 2012 and flourished, earning a 12-7 record, a 2.93 ERA, a 1.18 WHIP, 10.3 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, and 3.6 K/BB in 107.1 innings over 22 games, 19 starts, before being shut down in July after reaching his innings limit for the season.
Martin's thick and sturdy frame combined with his bulldog mentality makes him an imposing presence on the mound. He has a very good fastball that sits in the 92-94 range with late movement and he throws a slurvy slider that works between 70-75 and can be used as an effective strikeout pitch when he has a feel for it. His best pitch is his cutter, which sits in the mid-80s and looks like a fastball coming out of his hand. It's a dominating pitch for him, and the reason he's been able to rack up big strikeout totals as a professional. Martin works best when he can limit himself to a fastball-cutter combo and save the slider for show, which is why he may end up moving back to the bullpen down the line.
While Martin's future may lie in the bullpen, his results as a starter were outstanding, and the Braves will give him every opportunity to thrive out of the rotation. At 23 years old, he's about as close to a finished product as you can find in the system, and while he'll begin 2012 in AA Mississippi's rotation, there's a very real chance that he finishes the year in Atlanta's bullpen.
7. Navery Moore: B: R, T: R, Ht: 6'2", Wt: 212, DOB: 8-10-90
Moore, a college teammate of fellow Braves Mike Minor and Mark Lamm at Vanderbilt, signed late after the team selected him in the 14th round in 2011 and didn't make his professional debut until this season, putting up a 8-3 record, a 3.86 ERA, a 1.25 WHIP, 7.4 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, and 1.9 K/BB in 102.2 innings for Rome. His maturity was on full display this year, as he was able to maintain his consistency despite the inconsistency in his role. He began the year in the rotation, then moved into the bullpen, working in tandem with 2012 2nd rounder Alex Wood, then moving back into the rotation late in the season. In 65.1 innings over 13 starts, he had a 3.44 ERA, a 1.21 WHIP, 7.6 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, and 2 K/BB and in 37.1 innings over 13 relief appearances he had a 4.58 ERA, a 1.31 WHIP, 7 K/9, 4.3 BB/9, and 1.6 K/BB.
Moore was Vanderbilt's closer and possessed a high 90s fastball before undergoing Tommy John surgery. The heat isn't all the way back, though he was hitting the mid-90s again by the end of the season. More importantly, Moore was learning how to control his fastball and pitch more effectively by taking a bit off and throwing more consistently in the 91-93 range. His secondary pitches, a curveball and a changeup, are solid, but not above average, which further leads to the belief that Moore will eventually end up back in the bullpen. He does enjoy the routine of being a starter, and given his success this year, the team will certainly give him every chance to succeed in that role. To be a Major League starter, he's going to have to turn his secondary pitches into weapons.
At worst, Moore looks like he'll be a dynamite Major League reliever, but with his work ethic and natural leadership abilities, he could develop into a very solid starter. He'll get another crack at the rotation with Lynchburg as a 22 year old in 2013, and he could work his way up to Atlanta some time in 2014.
8. Abraham Espinosa: B: R, T: R, Ht: 6'1", Wt 175, DOB: 6-3-93
The Braves signed Espinosa as an international free agent out of Panama and he spent 2010 and 2011 playing in the Dominican Summer League, combining to put up a 7-7 record, a 1.75 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP, 6.9 K/9, 1.5 BB/9, and 4.7 K/BB in 128.2 innings over 28 games, 20 starts. He made his US debut this season in the Gulf Coast League, earning a 3-6 record, a 3.80 ERA, a 1.27 WHIP, 7 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, and 2.5 K/BB in 47.1 innings over 11 games, 8 starts.
Espinosa isn't a flame thrower, instead working with a fastball that sits in the low 90s and advanced secondary pitches, including a changup, a slider, and an evolving curveball. At 19, he's still incredibly raw, but the Braves have been more successful than any team at pulling talent out of Panama over the years, and Espinosa is at roughly the same developmental stage fellow countryman Randall Delgado was at the same age.
Espinosa will get his first of full season ball in 2013 as he moves up to Rome, likely working in a tandem with another young pitcher. It will be a surprise if he doesn't struggle, but he has as much potential as any of the young arms in the Braves system and the team will have no trouble being patient and letting him develop at his own pace.
9. Aaron Northcraft: B: R, T: R, Ht: 6'4", Wt: 225, DOB: 5-28-90
The Braves drafted Northcraft out of high school in the 10th round in 2009 and he turned in solid years in 2009 and 2010, but really seemed to flourish in 2011 with Rome, posting a 7-8 record, a 3.34 ERA, a 1.32 WHIP, 7 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, and 2.2 K/BB in 113.1 innings over 23 games, 19 starts. This season, he was one of the best pitchers in the Carolina League for Lynchburg, leading the league with 160 strikeouts while putting up a 10-11 record, a 3.98 ERA, a 1.29 WHIP, 9.5 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, and 3 K/BB in 151.2 innings over 27 starts.
Northcraft utilizes a low 3/4 delivery and throws a diving fastball that sits between 89 and 91. He also employs a sweeping slider, but his best pitch is his sinker, which is unhittable when he's in a groove. He's been an effective groundball pitcher and his low-stress delivery allows him to eat up innings. He's getting better every year, as his strikeout rates have kept going up and hit hit and walk rates have kept going down. As a prospect, he's a bit boring, he's big and sturdy without any real question marks in his repertoire, but he also doesn't wow on the radar gun. Still, he has the kind of talent and consistency that teams crave, and seems well on his way to becoming a useful Major League arm.
Whether he develops into a back of the rotation innings eater or a bullpen specialist, Northcraft was a great find for the Braves scouting department, and his development as a player is a testament to their Minor League coaching. He'll move up to AA Mississippi in 2013 as a 22 year old, and it will be a huge test for his future. With another solid year, Northcraft could find himself in Atlanta's pitching plans for the 2014 season.
10. Gus Schlosser: B: R, T: R: Ht; 6'4", Wt: 220, DOB: 10-20-88
After the Braves selected Schlosser in the 17th round in 2011 out of Florida Southern College he had a dominant debut, putting up a 1.56 ERA, a 0.81 WHIP, 10.9 K/9, 1.3 BB/9, and 8.4 K/BB in 34.2 innings over 21 relief appearances between Danville and Rome. He moved to the rotation for Lynchburg this season and was named the Carolina League Pitcher Of The Year, leading the lead with 13 wins and 165.1 innings, posting a 3.38 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP, 7.6 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, and 4.2 K/BB over 27 starts.
As a sidearmer, Schlosser's success as a starter is hardly typical, which leads many to believe that he'll end up back in the bullpen. His stuff is only average, he uses both a two-seam and a four-seam fastball, with both sitting in the low 90s and the two-seamer acting like a cutter, and he compliments them with a diving, biting slider and a changup, though the change is his weakest pitch and he typically only uses it for show. Schlosser is an intelligent and meticulous pitcher, and he gets the most out of his pitches by coming in with a solid game plan, executing it well, and utilizing well above average control. He has a huge, strong body, and his sidearm delivery causes almost no stress on his arm, so he should have no problem with being durable if he can remain in the rotation. Even if he ends up in the bullpen, there's little doubt that his sidearm delivery, bulldog mentality, and rigid control would make him a successful reliever.
Schlosser will be 24 during the 2013 season, and given his success at High A in 2012, there's a very good chance he could skip over AA and begin the season with AAA Gwinnett. Regardless of where he starts, with a good season he could find himself pitching out of Atlanta's bullpen late in the year, and could force his way on to the staff for good in 2014.
BOSTON (AP) — A baseball official familiar with the deal says the Boston Red Sox have agreed with backup catcher David Ross on a two-year, $6.2 million contract.
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The stage was set. The orchestra started to play a favorite tune while an MC stood at one end of the stage behind a podium next to a couple of ropes suspended from some cow bells high above the stage. On the other end two contestants braced themselves getting ready to race across the stage and be the first to pull the rope and identify the tune. The TV show was called "Name That Tune."
In a good pair of tennis shoes and slacks, the contestant who beat the other to pull the rope and identify the song won a prize. Yes, knowledge and speed were the key to winning.
Thinking about speed I'm reminded of Lou Brock, former St. Louis Cardinal. He is best known for breaking Ty Cobb's all-time major league stolen base record. His stolen base history also includes holding a record of 118 stolen bases in one season; a total stolen base history of 938 until broken by Ricky Henderson in 1991. Good job Lou Brock. And baseball fans love you.
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I pride myself on knowing every player, on every team, in every organization. When the Baltimore Orioles featured two pitchers down the stretch I had never heard of, it caused me great distress. What made it worse was that not only were they unheard of by me, but they were pretty good.
I'll start with Johnson, the 25 year old right-hander. He pitched in 12 games for Baltimore, starting four of them and throwing a total of 38.1 innings over those games. He posted an ERA of 2.11, but his FIP pointed to some luck there as it was 3.46. Looking a bit closer, it appears as though luck may have been a big factor in Johnson's success, as he stranded an extremely high 90.4% of the runners he had on base this past season. Not helping his case is his exceptionally low .229 BABIP.
To stop there however would be a disservice to Johnson, as he was not all smoke and mirrors. He posted a very high 30.5% K-rate over the 38.1 innings he pitched, which may explain how he was able to have such a high strand rate. He also did not have a platoon split in his short stint for Baltimore, with lefties posting a wOBA of .257 off of him as opposed to righties who posted a .251 wOBA.
One reason Johnson was able to fare so well against lefties despite his 89.9 MPH fastball, is that his change-up is very effective against left-handed batters. Johnson coaxed lefties into a 17.28 whiff rate on his change-up (small sample warning is important for this entire section), and only putting the ball in play 18.52% of the time off of it.
Two key factors may have led to its effectiveness: 1.) He didn't tip it, as one can see below, the difference to lefties between his fastball and change-up was near-impossible to make out, and 2.) the pitch came in on average at 79.65 MPH, or roughly 10 MPH less than the fastball.
As I mentioned above, not only did he disguise it well, but he kept a 10 MPH difference between the two pitches' velocities, as one can see in the chart below. Without this he could hide it all he wanted, but batters would still be able to make contact or at least foul the ball off at a high enough rate to cancel out the whiffs he generates on it.
Johnson also mixes in a slow-curve which he throws at 68.38 MPH on average, using it to even further change speeds. Against lefties, Johnson liked to use this pitch most frequently to start counts off, getting mixed results. As one can see in the chart below, Johnson struggled to throw it for strikes, throwing just 7 out of the 17 first-pitch curves in the strike-zone,
That is how Steve Johnson attacked lefties, but how did he get righties out as well? Well two main differences here: more sliders, and less change-ups. Against righties Johnson mixed in an 80.03 MPH slider 11% of the time, only throwing it 5 times total to lefties. His plan of attack versus righties included a four-pitch mix including the slider, his four-seam fastball, his change-up, and the aforementioned slow-curve.
His secret against righties was mixing his four pitches evenly, not straying more than 10% above or below the baseline amounts that he throws each of his four pitches when facing righties, with those amounts being 67% for the fastball, 10% for the slider, 16% for the curve, and 7% for the change. The decreased use of the change-up is not unusual, as many pitchers use the pitch to get opposite-handed batters out.
As long as Johnson can continue to be effective with his change-up versus lefties, and mix his pitches well when facing righties, he should be able to carve out a niche on the Orioles pitching staff next season, potentially even in the starting rotation again.
So at this point you must be sitting there, saying "I just wasted 5 minutes of my Monday for this?" I would respond to this by saying "remember, we're only halfway through, the best part is coming up when I look at Miguel Gonzalez."
Miguel Gonzalez is a 28 year old pitcher, and Baltimore is his third organization. This coupled with that fact that he contributed 1.1 WAR to the Orioles in 2012 should just about sum up the insanity that was the 2012 Baltimore Orioles.
Gonzalez pitched in 18 games this year, starting 15 and throwing 105.1 innings over that span. He posted an ERA of 3.25 and a FIP of 4.38, once again pointing to some potential luck factoring into his success. His 82.6% strand-rate and .260 BABIP point to some minor amounts of good fortune, but nothing obscene.
While according to his pitch F/X mix he throws five pitches, I believe it is only four as his sinker and his regular fastball seem to be the same pitch. They cluster in the same area and behave relatively similar, so I will group them together into one pitch. You can observe this in the chart below.
Against right-handed hitters, Gonzalez uses his slider as his main secondary pitch, throwing it 25% of the time on average. The average velocity for the pitch is 85.6 MPH, acting similarly to his splitter while featuring more horizontal movement away from righties (see chart above). He strangely elects to go away from this pitch with two strikes against righties, instead using a slightly higher amount of his other pitches, but using his splitter 7% more frequently than average. With two strikes against righties, the splitter has a 33.33% whiff/swing rate.
Against lefties, Gonzalez changes his arsenal a bit, featuring less sliders and more splitters (his version of the change-up). Gonzalez throws the splitter 20% of the time in every count except for first-pitch, showing the importance yet again of the change-up against batters of the opposite handedness. The splitter is quite effective against lefties, as he has a 44.53% whiff/swing rate when throwing the pitch to left-handed batters.
He mixes in the slider and curve roughly 10% each against right-handed batters, with the slider inducing ground-balls on more than half the balls in play that are hit off of the pitch. The curveball is his slowest pitch, coming in at 78.27 MPH and he throws it for called strikes better than any other pitch against lefties, doing so at a clip of 31.85%.
After looking at both of these pitchers, one can see that despite the factor that luck may have played in the Orioles improbable success, it is also important to remember that they did some of the work. Without finding players such as Steve Johnson and Miguel Gonzalez, Baltimore never would have been able to survive injuries to starters such as Jason Hammel.
Thanks to Fangraphs for the stats, and TexasLeaguers and BrooksBaseball for the pitch F/X data.
Russell A. Carlton of Baseball Prospectus gives us about as in-depth of an article about mental health as baseball fans could handle and he does it incredibly well: Baseball Prospectus | Baseball Therapy: Assessing the Risk: Hamilton, Greinke, and Mental Health
It's possible that what triggered Greinke's SAD was related to his pitching. It's also possible that it had nothing to do with baseball. Remember that while we often o see these men only in their roles as baseball players, they also have lives to live. To my knowledge, Mr. Greinke has chosen to keep the details of his struggle against anxiety and depression private (and that's his right), so before you write him off as damaged goods on the mound, consider that you're dealing with variables about which you know not.
Rob Neyer of Baseball Nation searches for the 2012 NL version of Billy Beane and he may or may not have come up empty: Billy Beane was great, but who was the National League's Executive of the Year? - Baseball Nation
It's funny. This whole piece is premised on the notion that the National League deserves its counterpart to Billy Beane, but the truth is that no general manager in the National League did what Billy Beane did. I absolutely did not expect to wind up like this, but maybe it's so rare for a general manager to truly create a contending team in the space of one year that we just shouldn't expect more than one brilliantly performing executive per year.
Brendan O'Toole of Over the Monster makes a case for why MVP and other awards matter: Why Most Valuable Players Matter - Over the Monster
So on Thursday, if Miguel Cabrera wins the MVP, don't worry too much about it. Don't start screaming that Trout was robbed (unless you're an Angels fan, in which case go nuts). Don't swear vendetta against Jon Morosi. Just remember that the debate's not settled, and that ideally it'll never be settled. I don't want to trade the old grit-and-hustle orthodoxy for a new WAR-is-all orthodoxy. I want a thousand different voices telling a thousand different stories about baseball.
Hudson Belinsky writing for ESPN SweetSpot discusses how the Angels re-tool their rotation: Restocking the Angels' rotation - SweetSpot Blog - ESPN
With the end of the season came a world of uncertainty. Weaver and Wilson are the only locks to return, and the Angels have 60 percent of a rotation to fill this winter. Who are some of their better options to restock the staff?
Mike Axisa of FanGraphs discusses the Red Sox's options with Jacoby Ellsbury: Jacoby Ellsbury’s Three Outcomes | FanGraphs Baseball
A year ago, Ellsbury was one of baseball’s hottest commodities as an elite player whose salary was still below-market due to the arbitration system. His injury-shortened and overall disappointing year turned what was supposed to be a slam-dunk contract extension into questions about his future with the team, however.
Andre Dawson 2012 Topps Triple Threads – Sepia I have finally scored another card of Andre Dawson from this year’s Triple Threads set. This one is the ‘Sepia’ version and it is serial numbered as 294/625. Have a peek: … Continue reading →
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Last week we started to look at Plate Discipline and look at O-Swing %, Z-Swing % and Swing %. [...]
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Last week, I introduced what we believe to be the most complete list of baseball players that have undergone the UCL reconstruction procedure that has come to be commonly known as Tommy John surgery.
With a relatively large sample of major league pitchers on the list, there is ample opportunity for many different studies relating to the surgery. Earlier this week, I investigated whether pitchers heading toward Tommy John surgery tend to throw certain types of pitches more than the average pitcher. I found that such pitchers tended to throw slightly more fastballs and sliders, and slightly less curveballs and changeups than the average pitcher in their peer group. In the near future, I will look at whether pitchers tend to alter the frequency of use of certain pitches after successfully returning to the big leagues following the surgery.
Today I will look at another area of interest to me with respect to pitchers and Tommy John surgery, namely the velocities with which they throw their pitches in the years leading up to their looming surgery as compared to the league average pitcher. Again, in the coming weeks I will return to determine whether there are any trends in pitch velocity visible in the years following the surgery.
As in the previous study on pitch mix, I will use the Baseball Info Solutions data that has been available since 2002. By restricting my view to the pre-surgery years, it allows me to include any pitcher from the list that pitched in the major leagues leading up to their surgery since 2002, regardless of whether or not they successfully returned to pitching after the surgery and lengthy rehabilitation period.
The idea will be to compare the average pitcher that received Tommy John surgery to the league average pitcher with respect to pitch velocity. In order to attempt to make this comparison fairly, I will control for two factors that can significantly affect the speed of pitches.
The following two graphs show the breakdown of average pitch velocity by age for starting pitchers and relief pitchers. They serve to highlight the importance of controlling for these two factors in this comparison process. Note the overall downward velocity trend in as pitchers age in the graphs.
NOTE: Y-axes start at 50mph
Data: Baseball Info Solutions, 2002-2012, via Fangraphs
Similar to the strategy used in the previous study on pitch frequencies, the comparison will be to contrast the pitch velocity of each Tommy John recipient that meets the requirements for this study to the league average pitcher of the same age that performs the same pitching role.
I will then take the average of all of these differences to form a pitch velocity profile of the average Tommy John pitcher in the three seasons leading up to his surgery as compared to the league average pitcher. Since each pitcher's pitch velocity delta is controlled for pitching role and age, I feel that I can take the average of the deltas of all Tommy John pitchers at this point without any further weighting. For the purposes of this study, I used every pitcher that appeared as a pitcher in the major leagues between 2002 and 2012. I defined a starting pitcher as any pitcher that started at least one game in a given season.
The table indicates that the average pitcher headed toward Tommy John surgery tends to throw every one of these types of pitches at a faster velocity than the league average pitcher of the same age and pitching role. Intuitively, this makes sense as a finding, as with all other things being equal, I would think that throwing the ball harder would cause more strain on the arm. It is noteworthy that the higher velocities are across the board, and across all three years leading up to the surgery.
Another interesting observation is that for five of the six pitch types, the velocity delta above the league average pitcher dropped in relative terms in the year of the surgery as compared to the year prior to the surgery. The differences are again small in this case, but I could believe that this may be the case due the arm already wearing down on its way to requiring Tommy John surgery.
One other clarification to make here is regarding the sample sizes, and why they differ among the three years. There are two main reasons for the differences.
This marks the second of a series of follow up studies based on the compilation of a list of pitchers who have undergone Tommy John surgery. To this point, all I have been able to say is that the results for the most part at least make logical sense. In the next article of this series, we will seek some help to look at the latest scientific pitching biomechanics research in an effort to determine whether our findings to date agree with academic research findings.
You can follow me on Twitter at @MLBPlayerAnalys.
Credit and thanks to Fangraphs for data upon which this analysis was based.