When the news of yesterday’s surprise three-team trade between the Athletics, Diamondbacks, and Marlins broke, the consensus insta-reaction was that the A’s got the best end of the deal — acquiring legitimate starting center fielder Chris Young for struggling infielder Cliff Pennington and borderline non-prospect Yordy Cabrera — and that Miami also did a nice job ridding themselves of reliever Heath Bell and $13 million of the $21 million left on his contract over the next two years.
That, of course, leaves Arizona’s side as the difficult one to justify. They shipped out Young and his $8.5M salary (and $11M option/$1.5M buyout for 2014) for Pennington and Cabrera, which could be seen as a salary dump, but then they turned around and flipped Cabrera to Miami for Bell and the $13M due to him.
Chris Young has been worth 7.4 fWAR over the last two years, in spite of playing a mere 101 games in 2012. Over the same time period, Pennington has been worth a mere 2.8 (playing in 16 more games than Young over the time period), and Bell just 1.0. Over the next two seasons, Arizona will spend $13M on Bell and probably another couple million on the arbitration-eligible Pennington, while the A’s will either spend $10M on Young over one year or $19.5M over two years. Actually, it’s even more slanted than that, because the A’s got $500,000 from Arizona in the trade.
So there’s the root of the issue for Arizona here. The two players they received combine to add about half the wins as the player they gave up, they spread that meager production over two roster spots instead of one, they didn’t get younger, they didn’t get any upside (I think it’s fair to say Chris Young, while being a few months older than Cliff Pennington, has more room to improve than Pennington does), and they didn’t even save money, taking on more guaranteed commitments and at best saving a couple million dollars if you assume Young’s option would be exercised.
Bad news, isn’t it? And yet, a major league front office chose to do this. And as much as we can dehumanize front office execs from the comfort of our couches, the people who make decisions like this are human beings — human beings appointed to run the complex operation that is an MLB franchise, at that. And human beings, especially those entrusted with such power, generally don’t make decisions without having a train of thought that backs that decision up.
So what is that train of thought, here? It certainly can’t have too much to do with Pennington, who for three years running has ranged from acceptable to unacceptable offensively and from below-average to quite good defensively. There are worse major leaguers, and worse major league starters, and I’d sooner turn to Pennington than the Yuniesky Betancourts of the world, but he’s certainly not somebody a team should be looking to as a long-term answer at any position, especially as he comes off his worst career season and starts to see his salary escalate.
Robert Mayer-US PRESSWIRE
No, the obvious focus has to turn to Bell — the bulk of the money taken on by Arizona is going to him, after all. It seems particularly surprising that a team run by Kevin Towers, a bullpen-building expert if there ever was one, would seem to commit such a classic relief blunder. Committing $13M over two years to a pitcher who hasn’t really been effective in two years, and who is already 35, certainly seems like something a big-market team with backward management would do, not a club like Arizona that tends to be resourceful and has personnel that fit that reputation.
If Arizona’s side of the deal is to work, then Bell has to at least justify that $13M — effectively, he needs to put up around 2.5 WAR over the next two seasons. It’s a tall task to count on a full win above replacement in a season from all but the best, most consistent relievers, but Bell has actually posted three seasons of two wins above replacement on better in his career: 2007 (2.4), 2009 (2.0), and 2010 (2.4).
If Bell has another 2009-10 run in him for 2013-14, Pennington doesn’t fall off the face of the earth any more than he already has, and Young doesn’t suddenly metamorphose into a superstar, Arizona ultimately comes out just fine in this trade, getting about the same WAR production for the same price, but trading from a stockpiled outfield (.335 wOBA, ninth in MLB) to help out a weak shortstop spot (1.5 WAR, 27th in MLB) and fortifying a strong bullpen.
So there’s the logic. Just because it’s logic doesn’t mean it’s not stupid — it probably is, in fact. And if I was an Arizona fan, I would not be happy about this.
But let’s suspend our ire and disbelief and examine what’s going on with Heath Bell. Before we can evaluate if he can get back to excelling on the mound, we have to figure out what went wrong in the first place.
Photo credit: Mike Ehrmann
As I alluded to earlier, Bell’s major dropoff occurred in 2011, not 2012. Now, his ERA didn’t show it (2.44 in 2011, 5.09 in 2012), but Bell’s FIP rose from 2.05 in 2010 to 3.23 in 2011, only jumping to 3.72 in 2012. In 2010, Bell struck out 30% of opposing batters; the following year, that number fell all the way to 19.9%, actually upticking to 20.6% in 2012. A .261 BABIP disguised the dropoff in 2011 and a .340 mark exaggerated it in 2012.
Essentially a two-pitch pitcher, Bell has long worked with a mid-90s fastball and low-80s curveball. With the exception of his 17-game cameo in 2004, he’s thrown the fastball between 64% and 72% of the time every season. Since 2006, his fastball has ranged from averaging 93.4 mph (in 2008) to 94.7 (in 2007), with the breaking pitch ranging from 81.4 (2009) to 83.5 (2007).
What that immediately exposes is that two of the most likely culprits for a sudden downturn — velocity loss and usage change — are pretty much out the window with Bell. Last year, he averaged 93.6 mph on his fastball and 82.0 on his curve — in 2009, when he put up 2 WAR, his fastball was 93.6 and the curve 81.4.
Let’s compare 2009-10 Bell with 2011-12 Bell. His velocity was essentially the same in both periods, with his fastball declining from 93.8 mph all the way to 93.7, and the curve actually increasing from 81.5 to 82.0 mph. Bell’s fastball, always a very straight pitch, actually got a little bit more sink (1.4 inches) and run (.4) in the latter period, and it also went for strikes more (68%, up from 65.6%). However, the pitch’s swinging strike rate fell from 9.3% to 7.1%, and its called strike rate fell from 21.4% to 19.5%. While it was getting more strikes overall, the amount of good strikes it was getting dropped significantly.
The curve that Bell threw the last two years was not only half a mile harder, on average, than the one of 2009-10, it also had nearly an extra inch of vertical break and about an inch less of horizontal break. Those are really fairly inconsequential differences, but if anything, it takes the pitch definitively out of "slurve" territory, which is usually a good thing in the scouting world. Again, though, the pitch declined in effectiveness, losing not only called strikes (18.7% to 14.6%) and swinging strikes (13.6% to 10.1%), but strikes overall (58.5% to 53.3%).
There are positives and negatives here. On one hand, Bell still basically has the stuff that made him one of the game’s best relief pitchers — if anything, his stuff is ever-so-slightly better now than it was then. That alone makes one excited about his rebound potential, right?
Then again, I have utterly failed to answer the question "What is wrong with Heath Bell?" All the analysis I just did basically comes to two conclusions. The first can be not-so-eloquently summed up as follows: "If we look beneath the poor numbers, we find numbers that lead to poor numbers." The second is "It’s not a stuff issue."
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE
Let’s try some other angles. How about mechanics? Compare this video of Bell closing out a game in 2010 to this one in 2012. See any major differences? I don’t. You could note that his landing in the second video seems a bit less secure, which could lead to control issues, but three pitches is quite the small sample to draw conclusions from. His release point is the same, and Bell’s quirky, straight-up-and-down legkick remains intact, so he should be roughly as deceptive as ever.
What about location? Let’s compare:
Anyone dare to draw conclusions from this? It seems like Bell’s fastball tended to miss off the plate more in 2009-10, he might work down in the zone slightly more of late…and that’s it. Certainly nothing that would seem to explain the precipitous drop in Bell’s effectiveness. If I had taken the dates off these charts, would you have thought they would lead to pronounced differences in performance? Would you have been able to identify which matched with which time period of Bell’s career?
So it seems that Arizona’s logic is this: Kevin Towers knows Heath Bell. He fished him out of the Mets organization and brought him to San Diego years ago. And he looks at Bell today and sees the same pitcher that did so well for his ballclub back then — same build, same delivery, same stuff, same approach to pitching. That pitcher was worth (per FanGraphs) $22.7M in the three years he pitched for a Towers-run organization (2007-09), and Towers thinks he can get back to that $7.5M/year form. In fact, he thinks Bell is in that form. For one, his ERA should snap back by over a run just to get back to his FIP/xFIP. Beyond that, though, there’s no clear reason why Bell can’t be as effective as he was in his heyday.
The lack of an explanation for Bell’s issues appears at least as troubling as it is heartening, but given that Towers has personal experience with him, it’s understandable why he leans toward the optimistic viewpoint on the portly righthander.
And hey, maybe he’s right. When Tampa Bay brought in a similarly large and disgraced righthanded fireballer last offseason, most fans raised their eyebrows at such a "savvy" organization bringing in and overpaying an unreliable veteran. A year later, Fernando Rodney was the AL Comeback Player of the Year. It happens. Baseball careers are unbelievably unpredictable, and that’s why sabermetrics are so vital in the sport — no matter how much you know, many players will shock you every year. And relief seasons, in particular, can swing positively or negatively based on a few bounces in a few outings.
It’ll be interesting to see if a return to the NL West, albeit in a much harsher ballpark environment, will help Bell’s pitches start finding the strike zone without finding bats as well. Thus far, his downturn is just slight enough (he was still well above replacement level in both 2011 and 2012) and just small-sample enough (62 2/3 IP in 2011, 63 2/3 in 2012) that one can plausibly chalk up a plurality of his struggles to the luck dragon.
Is it still a bad move? More likely than not. Perhaps the idea of shipping out a C-grade prospect for Bell has some merit upon this reexamination, but the whole three-team move still appears less than thrilling through even the rosiest lenses. A return to form from Bell, though, would give the Diamondbacks an elite corps of righthanded relievers, with David Hernandez, J.J. Putz, Brad Ziegler, and Bryan Shaw already in tow. If Pennington indeed upgrades the shortstop position and they can still cobble together one of baseball’s better outfields in spite of Young’s departure, perhaps they’ll ultimately be able to cope with what seems to be a less than desirable roster rearrangement.
Benny Sieu-US PRESSWIRE
Nathaniel Stoltz is a contributor to Beyond the Boxscore and Big Leagues Monthly. He can be followed on Twitter at @stoltz_baseball.
It is Monday. Billy Beane is already making trades. The Giants are trying their best to save us from the horror of another Cardinals' World Series and those of us caught in the web of Royal fandom are just waiting for the post-season to get over and the off-season to begin.
Although an off-season trade or free agent signing might change this sentiment, Wil Myers is likely to be the most watched player in spring training. Not only is he one of, if not THE, best hitting prospect in the minors, but Myers is also the heir apparent to one of the weak spots in the Kansas City lineup in 2012.
How much better could it be for The Process? You have a veteran with an inconsistent career history, coming off yet another horrific year (wOBA .285, fWAR -1.2), whose defensive range seemed to be shrinking by the inning as the season ground on. You have one of the best hitting prospects in baseball in AAA, ready to take over right field and provide a boost to the lineup. That's how it is supposed to work, right?
EIGHTEEN. That is the number of games Wil Myers played in rightfield in 2012.
Seventy-five. That is Myers' career total at the position.
After moving from catcher, the Royals have put Myers in leftfield six times and 100 more games in center. Just for fun, Myers also has played 15 games at third base.
There is a school of thought that playing centerfield is a good way to just generally learn the outfield, but with Francoeur struggling throughout 2012, did it make sense to basically not play Myers in right at all last summer? And what is one to make of the shift to third base?
Is Dayton Moore trying to market Myers? Or Moustakas? I can see some logic in that approach, but I keep going back to just how bad Jeff Francoeur was last year. The great arm aside, the Frenchman was painful to watch run down fly balls (or chase after bouncing ones, more often). You have a young team with precious few position prospects in the upper minors and decide you are going to take the very best prospect and play him at positions that, theoretically, you already have filled.
Some of you have no doubt seen Myers play more than I (I have caught two Omaha games and the Futures Game), but I see a guy who generally makes the plays, but does not do so very efficiently. Myers' routes to fly balls seems problematical at best. Given what was happening to the Royals on the major league level, I would have been inclined to get Myers as much work in right from July on as possible.
One could say that the Royals are hardly set in center and be correct, but I will take my chances on the sometimes healthy Lorenzo Cain and the somewhat improving Jarrod Dyson being more valuable in center than Francoeur will be in right. The organization seemed to be handling Myers as if they had Giancarlo Stanton in right.
Now, all that said, I think there is a 10% chance that Myers breaks camp with the Royals in 2013, a 30% chance he is up by the end of April and a 99% chance he is starting somewhere for Kansas City by mid-July. Still, if we are counting on Myers to be the second coming, wouldn't it be nice if he was as prepared as possible to step in and play well both offensively and defensively?
Or do I have it wrong and developing super utility players is the new market efficiency.
Lets waste no time and hop right into it. These are the biggest stories we'll be talking about while we want for pitchers and catchers to report in February.
We've already been told four names that will be on the coaching staff, leaving two spots yet to be determined. Also to be determined are defined roles. We know Doug Brocail will be back as pitching coach and John Malee will be the hitting coach, but no other roles have been defined. It's assumed Dave Trembley will be the bench coach based on his experience in the American League. Dave Clark received the brunt of fan disdain with his decision making at third base; Most fans will be hoping he's standing in the first base coaches box when games start being played.
That leaves an infield and a bullpen coach yet to be named. I'm guessing part of the reason why some of the roles haven't been defined is because they're looking at adding coaches who may fill those roles. We assume Trembley is the bench coach, but what if they want a coach who will only come on as a bench coach. Maybe Trembley's agreed to be apart of the staff as either a base coach or a bench coach. Same thing with Clark, maybe they want to add someone who will only come on if they're able to coach first. This story sounds like it will be resolved within the next few weeks.
November 2 is the go date for the reveal of the new uniforms. Although, it appears the marketing department may have goofed that up already and revealed a little too much about one of the uniforms. We expect a return to the blue and orange uniforms of the past. No we didn't have any insight on our site in the re-branding, but we did have the foresight back when the changes for this site were brought to us to suggest that's where the Astros branding would be heading. It didn't take much to sway Trei Brundrett, a huge Astros fan and lead on the SB Nation United refresh, that a return to some of the more classic colors was in our best interest.
As for the re-branding of Minute Maid Park, expect a fresh paint job and a decision to be made on both Tal's Hill and the train. We're still getting some mixed messages, but it sounds like both might be staying. At one time I was a big proponent to bulldozing the hill in center but I think it brings a little excitement to the park so I don't have a problem with it staying. That being said, I don't have a problem with them removing it either. At the very least I wish they would remove the flag pole that is in play.
It's unlikely but I'm starting to wonder if they're having second thoughts about the signage in left field. Yes it's for the greater good of the community, but the Astros would be fooling themselves if they thought we didn't see the real intention behind that eye sore. Revenue. I'm sure they are putting money back into the community, but they're also taking a small piece of that pie for themselves. And If the train is staying it makes even less sense to keep the signage. It's big, it's ugly, it makes Friday night fireworks more annoying. I hope at the very least they're considering moving or removing the signage all together. It would be a goodwill gesture to fans (those still around) who have stuck around through the switch to the American League and the blood bath that has been personnel changes in the organization.
If you thought we were done watching prospects playing baseball, then you haven't discovered the Arizona Fall Leauge. Jonathan Singleton, George Springer, Jiovanni Mier, Bobby Borchering, Jarred Cosart, Nicholas Tropeano, Chia-Jen Lo and Alex Sogard are all playing in the Arizona Fall League.
Head over to What The Heck, Bobby? for a full list of players playing this Fall and Winter and where they're playing. The league will run through mid-November, with playoffs included in the season. Last year the championship game was broadcast on MLB Network and I imagine they'll do the same thing this year. The AFL is a league that features top prospects close to the Major Leagues from each organization. For players who struggled with injuries this year (Jarred Cosart and Jiovanni Mier) it's an opportunity to get some playing time that they missed out on. For players like Jonathan Singleton and George Springer it's an opportunity to see how they do against tougher competition. For fans it's an opportunity to watch a little more baseball and keep up with the progress of some prospects.
There are other leagues going on and you can check in here weekly for a recap of those other leagues, courtesy of Brooks (aka Subber10).
The "other" draft takes place during the Winter Meetings in early December. In this draft each team gets to select players who are not on a teams 40-man roster and, depending on age, have between four or five years in the teams Minor League system. For a full explanation check out the FanGraphs page on the Rule 5 draft. Both Marwin Gonzalez and Rhiner Cruz were Rule 5 picks and because they stuck with the team the full year now belong to the Astros. Wesley Wright was another Rule 5 draftee selected out of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.
The Rule 5 draft is more miss than hit, for a team like the Astros getting Cruz and Gonzalez was about adding depth to a depleted organization. Stars coming out of the draft are rare, but they do happen: Johan Santana came out of the Astros system; Jose Bautista and Josh Hamilton are two other names. So there's the possibility of getting a star, but it's highly unlikely. With the Astros new found depth in the farm system I wouldn't be surprised if they lost a few Minor League players in this years Rule 5 draft. Farmstros has a list of Astros Minor League players eligible for this years draft. The selection order follows the summer draft so the Astros will have the first selection and it's likely they'll take one maybe two players to get a closer look at in Spring Training.
Likely the biggest topic of discussion this offseason will be free agency. With Carlos Lee finally off the books and Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez gone the Astros do have some money to spend this offseason. It's likely not going to be a big name like a Zack Greinke or a Josh Hamilton, but it may be a player looking to rebuild value or if they're young enough can help this time in the distant future. It sounds like the Astros will be looking at the outfield and designated hitter position. Pitching will also be an area of need so expect a few signings in both the bullpen and rotation.
In discussing free agents the players looking to rebuild some value is a good starting point. Melky Cabrea is coming off a PED suspension and it appears the San Francisco Giants have no desire to bring him back (they could have put him on the playoff roster, but didn't). Then there are guys like Edwin Jackson who are looking for that big deal and not getting it and end up signing a one year deal for 10 million dollars, like Jackson did with Washington last offseason. Jackson is again a free agent this offseason and probably looking for a long term deal. I don't know that he'll get that after a season in which he pitched 189.2 innings with a 4.03 ERA, and a 98 ERA+, but he is only 29 and did pitch for the Cardinals in 2011. The Jeff Luhnow connection is there and he has said that he's not opposed to adding someone long term that can help this club in the future.
It'll be a much more interesting and refreshing offseason in the free agent market for the Astros
I expect a couple Jeff Luhnow curveballs this offseason, but overall the stories above will be our main focus.Do you see any offseason stories I missed?
In reviewing the 2012 Miami Marlins season these past few weeks, we have hit very few bright spots along the way. One of them was Jose Reyes, whom I went over last week. Another candidate for a positive review, however, was clearly the team's best player, Giancarlo Stanton. We actually spoke about Stanton in our very first installment of this series, but we went over a lot of what went right with Stanton's 2012 season. Indeed, a lot did go well, but it is worth discussing some of the problems he also had in 2012.
The positives about Stanton's campaign were numerous. He was highly productive in the time that he did spend as starter. Stanton set a career high in home runs with 37 despite getting just 501 PA on the year. His 37 home runs ranked second in the National League and seventh in the majors, and no player in the top ten of either list had fewer than 600 PA. Stanton's 501 PA was lower than all but one of the top 30 home run hitters in the majors this year, with only rookie Colorado Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario having fewer opportunities at the plate.
Stanton's .608 slugging percentage led the majors in 2012 among players with at least 500 PA. In addition, the season was among the best power years since the most recent offensive downturn that began in 2010. Stanton's 2012 season ranks ninth in all player seasons in slugging, ranking behind seasons put up by the likes of Jose Bautista, Josh Hamilton, and David Ortiz. Only two seasons since 2010 with at least 250 PA had higher ISO than Stanton's .318. One of those years was Jim Thome's excellent 2010 year off the bench, and the other was Jose Bautista's 54-homer year.
At the same time, Stanton somehow managed a .290 batting average despite all that power, thanks to a .344 BABIP. This was a career high as well and got folks thinking about a .300 batting average for 2013. In fact, Stanton's 2012 season even had him consider .300 a reasonable goal for the future, despite his other difficulties at the plate.
But Stanton was not merely a hard-hitting slugger with a first baseman's glove and the lead feet of a catcher in the field. In terms of the advanced defensive statistics, Stanton was also one of the best right fielders in baseball this season. For example, Stanton ranked fifth among right fielders this year in runs above average according to UZR, behind only Jason Heyward, Josh Reddick, Ichiro Suzuki, and Torii Hunter. He ranked fifth and fourth in DRS and TotalZone systems respectively as well, meaning that the defensive stats all saw him as a Gold Glove-level defender in 2012.
But despite all the good things that Stanton did this year, you cannot ignore that there were a few problems in his game this past season. It is easy to look at his .290 batting average and think he was more well-rounded at the plate, but his strikeout numbers suggest that this problem persists. His 28.6 percent strikeout rate was higher than last year's mark, and it was steadily rising as the season went along.
You can see that Stanton's strikeouts starting climbing from about 25 percent in early- to mid-August and began taking a sharp turn up that continued on through September. Stanton whiffed in 33 percent of his PA in August and 37 percent in September, averaging a 35 percent rate in those final two months. Meanwhile, it is not hard to see the concurrent steady fall of his walk rate from a high closer to 10 percent all the way down to what ended up being an 9.2 percent rate. His rate got as low as in the seven percent region before climbing in September.
The reason for Stanton's faltering strikeout and walk rates was a loss of plate discipline, especially late in the season. His overall season showed a decrease in selectivity as compared to last season.
Stanton got a few more pitches in the zone to hit this season, though that may have been due to his struggles in April, during which pitchers attacked him in the strike zone. Since his crazy month of May, Stanton has more or less been avoided at the plate, but in August and September, he fell for those tricks by pitchers and chased a lot of pitches out of the zone, as evidenced by the increased rate of swings out of the zone. While he made more contact this year, you can be certain he turned a lot of balls into foul balls by swinging out of the zone, and that can only lead to worse results and fewer walks.
Of course, Stanton's biggest problem in 2012 was staying healthy. Despite the great numbers, 501 PA is simply not enough Stanton for the Marlins to win, and him missing significant time in July particularly hurt the club's slight chances of contention at that stage. Stanton likely cost the Marlins at least one win during his injury time.
Overall though, Stanton's season could not be considered anything but a success, as the Marlins got the most wins from Stanton than from any one other individual player. The team could not be happier with his production this past year, and the Marlins will have a chance to hopefully see a fully healthy Stanton and what he is capable of in 2013.
Mike Schimdt 1989 Donruss Wow, the graphics on this 1989 Donruss baseball card compliment the Mike Schimdt photo very well. Have a look: It appears that Schmidt has launched the baseball into the outfield. Did it reach the warning track? … Continue reading →
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Hiring a new manager is the Rockies number one priority this 2013 offseason. Obviously. It's all we've been able to write about this week. Finding the new skipper is obviously important, as they are going to want to get the new manager acclimated to their new position before they really start making a lot of player moves this offseason.
Tom Runnells Jason Giambi A New Manager, whoever it may be, is officially hired, replacing coaches will be the next step. Carney Lansford (hitting coach) and Rich Dauer (3B coach, defensive coordinator) will need to have their jobs filled, as a start. While the Rockies are pleased with Bo McLaughlin's work as the Rockies' pitching coach after Bob Apodaca stepped down, McLaughlin seems to be more of an organizational guy rather than a MLB pitching coach. Should Mark Wiley be hired as the Pitching Grand Poobah, I'm sure he'll have input on the position.
From there, we move on to players. Part of the problem with trying to target moves that should be made is trying to gauge the current talent, where they are, where their ceiling is, and how likely it is that the ceiling be hit.
C: We've heard about Wilin Rosario's vow to improve his defense during the offseason. As a 23-year-old rookie catcher, Rosario batted .270/.312/.530 with 28 HR. He was also reallyreallybad at blocking balls in the dirt and his handling of the pitching staff was questionable at best. My thought is that the Rockies find anyway to offload Ramon Hernandez and find a way to bring back Yorvit Torrealba.
Now, don't get me wrong, I have a soft spot in my heart/head for Hernandez, and it's more than likely because his 2006 season really helped my fantasy team. But Hernandez is old, broken, and might not be the guy the Rockies need to mentor Rosario any longer. Torrealba has long been known as an excellent receiver, good ball-blocker, and a catcher full of latin fire and fistpumps. Having recently been outrighted by the Brewers, Torrealba would not be expensive, would not mind coming back to Colorado, and while he isn't going to hit much of anything, let's be honest, growth is more important in 2013 than a few offensive spikes that don't extend to a winning season. Now that Hernandez has helped Rosario transition into MLB, let's get Torrealba in here to make him a real MLB catcher.
1B: In the short term, 1B doesn't seem to be much of a problem. Todd Helton will play however many games he's able to until he gets hurt again and swears he isn't finished and gets another surgery. Much as it's a more unreliable use of a roster spot, it's Todd Freaking Helton. After Helton, Michael Cuddyer and Jordan Pacheco may be options to fill in the rest of the time. Cuddyer seemed the obvious choice for Helton's successor, again, at least in the short term, but injury and underperformance has Cuddy a potential trade candidate.
Should Cuddyer not last the offseason in Colorado (and let's be honest, that will be 2 multi-year contracts the Rockies have whiffed on in Ty Wigginton and Cuddyer, so I'm not sure that pride will allow such a trade from Colorado), Tyler Colvin is also a candidate to fill in at 1B when Helton or Pacheco aren't handling the job. I'd prefer to see Colvin spend more time in RF.
When it comes to 1B, any acquisition Colorado makes should be in the form of the "1B of the future". While Colvin is young, and I was both terrified and enthralled by his 2012 performance, a .364 BABIP fueling a .290 AVG has me concerned. Granted, Colvin's the type of player who's going to give you hot streaks and has some downright Slugger power (career .221 ISO, 2010 and 2012 showed ISOs above .240), I get the impression that a more leveled-out Colvin is more of a league-average bat.
It may behoove the Rockies to inquire upon players such as C.J. Cron (Angels), Matt Adams (Cardinals), or perhaps Neftali Soto (Reds). This is of course, assuming that Kyle Parker isn't already the 1B of the future.
2B: Unless Dustin Pedroia is inexplicably available for a song, Josh Rutledge appears to have the position nailed down, purely based on the amount of playing time Colorado gave him after his callup. It is still a very real possibility that Rutledge his a massive sophomore slump and spends some remedial time in AAA, but in that case, the Rockies still have D.J. Lemahieu and Chris Nelson to back up the position.
3B: Nolan Arenado's merely "Alright" season in AA Tulsa points to a situation where, barring a monster Spring Training out of Arenado, we're looking at Chris Nelson at the hot corner for a good chunk of the season. Nelson has finally started showing signs of his upside emerging, which is certainly an asset in play or trade. Still, something underwhelms me with Nelson at 3B. Maybe it's the possibility of a collapse with a weak glove to boot, and we could be seeing LeMahieu playing 3B more often just for the sake of a strong glove at 3B.
Then again, David Wright could be a FA this offseason. Wright, Carlos Gonzalez, and Troy Tulowitzki all in the same lineup would be downright disgusting, especially with a supporting cast of Wilin Rosario and Dexter Fowler? Mmmmmm-MMMM that's a hell of a lineup. That would also move Arenado to 1B at some point and everything is coming up Rockies.
Alright, there's a strong chance of Andrew Fisher picking the rest of this up for me tomorrow, and I just made myself sad.
So uh, yeah. Baseball and stuff.
Few moments in baseball are more thrilling than the walk-off homer, especially one that occurs in the post-season. If that post-season walk-off home run comes off of a hard-fought 13-pitch at-bat, it is utterly jaw-dropping.You may have forgotten after all the drama of the subsequent League Championship Series, but let me remind you that this scenario is exactly what happened to the Washington Nationals' Jayson Werth in the 9th inning of Game 4 of the NLDS.
Werth began the fateful at-bat in question by quickly falling behind 0-2 on two called strikes delivered by Cardinals' similarly-bearded closer Jason Motte. After patiently evening up the count at 2-2, Werth fouled off the next six pitches in a row, took the 11th pitch for another ball, fouled off the 12th, and then finally put the 13th pitch of the sequence ball in the outfield seats in Nationals Stadium. Here is his exact pitch sequence as depicted by Baseball-reference:
The 13-pitch at-bat is uncommon, but it's not exactly the stuff of legend. From 2002-2011, roughly 30-35 at-bats a year have ended on the 13th pitch.
But how uncommon is it for a hitter to ultimately tattoo this 13th pitch into the bleachers after such a lengthy stand-off with a pitcher? Well, honestly, I'm glad you asked. In the 1015 plate appearances that went at least 12 pitches in that same time period, batters homered 3.84% of the time. In the 50858 plate appearances that went less than 12 pitches long, batters homered only 2.68% of the time.
To put that into perspective, a 1.16% increase in HR/PA over the course of a 650 PA season is the difference of about 7 HR.
But HR rate isn't the only aspect of the pitcher-batter matchup that seems to benefit from the extended plate appearance. In fact, in the 245 plate appearances that have gone exactly 13 pitches long from 2002-2011, the wOBA of those outcomes is a startling .381!
Whoa, whoa, whoa there. 245 PA? Isn't this a Small Sample Size?
Good question. That is probably too small a sample to draw any significant conclusions from, yes. So let's attempt to increase the sample size of these extra-deep at-bats by expanding the reach of our data set back to 1988-- the year retrosheet's pitch counts first became available. With the new data, our 13-pitch sample nearly doubles to 460 PA, while the wOBA in those at-bats remains steady at .380. 460 PA may still not be an ideal number to work with, but consider that Batters also happened upon some of their best results in 12-pitch at-bats with an even more shocking .415 wOBA in just over 1300 PA.
Notice the slow but certain gains in wOBA batters make as the pitches pile up during an individual plate appearance:
Now, keep in mind the sample size gets obscenely small towards the deepest at-bats here-- just 64 PA in 15-pitch at-bats, and even smaller beyond that. So reference those numbers at your own risk. But where the sample remains at least above 1000 PA, from 4-pitches to 12-pitches, there is a strong indication that the Batter gains an advantage the deeper in the count he goes.
Here is the full table for the 1988-2010 data, with K%, BB%, and other metrics included (Remember this table is measuring the outcome of those PA's that ended on the 'PA Pitch Count'):
What's interesting here is the source of the wOBA surge in those later at-bats. K% steadily decreases from it's peak at 27% at 5 pitches, then quickly falls down to 22% by pitch #9. Conversely, BB% steadily rises to 24% at pitch 9, where it remains through pitch #12. BABIP sees a small but significant increase from pitch-4 to pitch-9, but then begins to jump around quite a bit afterwards.
Perhaps a look at what happens after each pitch in the PA pitch count can help eliminate some of the fluctuations in these numbers.
And the Corresponding Table (with OBP/SLG added):
It makes sense, intuitively, that the deeper into an at-bat a hitter goes, the more acquainted he'll become with a pitcher's delivery, release point, and most importantly, the velocity and movement of the pitches. With this increasing familiarity, it is certainly conceivable the hitter gains a decisive advantage. But is it that simple?
The first thing that came to my mind after running these tables is 'Sample Bias'. In other words, is the wOBA increase in these deeper at-bats only because the pitchers who find themselves in these counts are simply not as effective as pitcher's who don't?
I ran a quick check on the pitchers who had most often gotten themselves into counts of at least 10 pitches or more who had at least 500 BF from 2002-2011. No pitcher had more than .5% of his PA run more than 10 pitches long, and only 3 pitchers had 10-pitch PA percentages higher than .35%. Among the top 50 were plenty of no-names for sure, but among the best were late-inning flame-throwers with excellent reputations: Eric Gagne, Jonathon Papelbon, Brian Wilson, Heath Bell. The average FIP and wOBA-against of those top-50 pitchers over that time wasn't very convincing of a bias either-- their 4.35 FIP was just a hundredth above league-average in that span, while their .319 wOBAA was actually below average.
The problem with this group is that .5% of 500 PA is just 3 at-bats. And 3 at-bats is just too little to make any assumptions on. But if we attempt to raise the BF requirement, we are likely eliminating a lot of the ineffective pitchers we were hoping to find since, presumably, many of them never made it to more than 1000 BF.
Another possibility is that better hitters are more likely to work these extra-deep counts. As it turns out, Batters may have a slightly higher tendency to regularly work an at-bat into a +10-pitch count. Using the same 500 PA criteria from 2002-2011, I found 13 batters that worked extra-deep counts at least 1% of the time. But other then Jeremy Giambi, that list isn't all that impressive:
So is there a bias in the wOBA increase in these long at-bats? Maybe. But, I'm willing to entertain suggestions on how to test for it.
In case you are dying to know: The two 18-pitch at-bats in the 2002-2011 data set were Adam Kennedy vs. Luis Vizcaino and Alex Cora vs. Matt Clement, both in 2004. While the longest plate appearance in the 1988-2010 query was Ricky Guitierez's 20-pitch at-bat battle royale against Bartolo Colon on June 6th 1998.
All data courtesy of the fine folks at retrosheet, includes post-season. All wOBA values from The Book, all FIP constants set at 3.2.
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The Mariners have raised the ire of some fans by sending out season ticket renewal packages with[...]
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Prior to the end of the season, manager Ozzie Guillen and Bell began publicly commenting on the job each had done this past year. Just days after closing out their season, several sources reported that Guillen's job "is not safe", and the Marlins "may be searching for their next manager."
Miami's decision to trade Bell might suggest that the front office would like Guillen to continue to manage the team. Bell drew negative attention to the clubhouse, and criticized Guillen during a radio interview.
Bell, though, doesn't have much to brag about , as he blew eight saves and didn't find himself pitching in the ninth inning after mid-June. Often relieving Bell was Steve Cishek, who saved 15 games and ended the year with an earned run average of 2.69.
Heading into 2013, Miami, for the moment, doesn't have a defined closer. With Bell gone, is the closer job Steve Cishek's to lose?
-Alex Rodriguez consistently struggled throughout the postseason, which led to Yankees manager Joe Girardi benching him. With New York eliminated from the playoffs, many think that Rodriguez will not return to New York next year. Many have suggested that Miami is a perfect fit, since the Marlins don't have any depth at third base.
-Marlins prospect Jose Fernandez is the latest pitcher to be on the cover of Baseball America. Under his name, Baseball America said that Fernandez "put himself among the elite, finishing as the top prospect in both leagues. Fernandez had a great year at single-A, and might find himself pitching for Double-A Jacksonville come the middle of next season.
- On Wednesday, the Toronto Blue Jays claimed outfielder Scott Cousins on waivers and the Boston Red Sox claimed pitcher Sandy Rosario. Cousins' most memorable moment as a Marlin was when he slid into home plate and ended San Francisco catcher Buster Posey's season. Rosario spent a minimal amount of time at the big league level with Miami.
-Miami also outrighted infielders Donnie Murphy, Gil Velazquez, and Nick Green to Triple-A New Orleans on Wednesday. Green and Murphy then opted to become free agents. All three ended the season on the Marlins' 25 man roster.
-Miami front office executives are very excited about the potential of prospect Yordy Cabrera, who the Marlins acquired from the Diamonbacks for Heath Bell. "This should be a positive change for Heath and the Marlins," Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said in a statement. "After a disappointing 2012 season, Heath gets a fresh start and this move gives us clarity as we begin our offseason roster improvement."
-Despite several reports suggesting otherwise, Marlins president David Samson has recently said that there have not been talks with the Yankees about bringing A-Rod to Miami. "There have been no conversations between the Yankees and the Marlins," Samson told MLB.com at a team community event.
-Third base coach Joe Espada, who manager Ozzie Guillen elected to keep on his staff for the 2012 season, will manage in the winter league in Puerto Rico. The league is trying to bounce back after financial problems forced it to cancel the 2007 season. "It is cool. They're just trying to get things going again," said Espada, 37, a native of Santurce who lives in Jupiter.
Around The League
-The Boston Red Sox have officially named John Farrell as their next manager. Farrell was a pitching coach in Boston from 2007-2010. "I'm extremely excited to be returning to the Red Sox and to Boston," Farrell said in a team statement. "I love this organization. It's a great franchise in a special city and region, with great fans, and we want nothing more than to reward their faith in us."
-The Yankees have reported that they will listen to offers for A-Rod, however a deal is unlikely. "It's not like I'm going to hang phones up on anybody who wants to make any overtures about anything," GM BrianCashman said during an ESPN Radio interview Sunday. "You're talking about realistic stuff and unrealistic stuff. I don't think it's realistic at all for us to be moving forward with anything but Alex Rodriguez at third base.
-In the three team trade that sent Heath Bell to Arizona, the Athletics gained a veteran center fielder in Chris Young. "There's no need to go down that road," A's GM Billy Beane said. "Everybody knows how important this guy is to our team. He also has the benefit of being a personal favorite of mine."
At Fish Stripes
-The short-season Low-A Marlins will now be playing in Batavia. Batavia is known for having a tight-knit community, but still struggled to draw more than 1,000 fans for every game.