Friday Afternoon, the White Sox announced that the Astros claimed Right Handed starting pitcher Phil Humber off waivers. Humber, 29, is a good bet to fill a rotation spot for the Astros in 2013. In 316 major league innings, Humber posted a 4.87 ERA (4.53 FIP) with a 6.71 K/9, 3.10 BB/9, and 2.17 K/BB. Humber's most successful season was in 2011, when he had a 3.75 ERA in 163 innings.
Humber was a 1st round (3rd overall) pick of the New York Mets in 2004 out of Rice University. He made his major league debut in 2006, but never logged significant innings until 2011. In the minors, his ERA was 4.49 in 681 innings with a low walk rate and high SO/BB rate.
He lost time in 2012 due to an elbow strain, which may have contributed to his high ERA for the season. There's no reason to think that Humber will perform as poorly as he did in 2012, and he figures to be a middle of the rotation starter for the Astros in 2013.
This move makes a lot of sense for the Astros. Though Humber has not lit the world on fire, he has had major league success, is a hometown guy, and has the pedigree of a top draft pick. At 29, he is still below the peak age for starting pitchers, and could continue to improve as he spends more time in the majors. It is a minor surprise that Humber was even available, but he was suspected to be a non-tender candidate because of the White Sox' comparatively strong rotation and his projected arbitration salary cost (about $2 million, which the Astros can well afford).
The Astros made a smart grab to add a rotation pitcher with a perfect game on his resume, without giving up any assets or a significant amount of cash.
Jim Abbott ?Fab Five? ? Card #1 – 1991 Upper Deck Now that my Jim Abbott player collection is complete, it is time to show of my favorite five cards from the set. Card #1 – 1991 Upper Deck Sure, there may be … Continue reading →
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Per MLB.com and countless other media, though the first mention I can find so far (cribbed from Halos Heaven) is a Jon Heyman tweet from CBS Sports. Hanson has been said to have lost considerable zip on his fastball, which dipped below 90 MPH for the first time on a regular basis this year. Fangraphs is first out of the post with analysis, and it basically matches my own thinking:
The question, then, is exactly how much better Tommy Hanson makes them. He makes them at least a little better, because he?s a fifth starting pitcher on the roster. Previously there was no one in that slot. But there?s a reason the Braves didn?t have Hanson in their projected rotation, and there?s a reason the Braves gave him up for a reliever, even though he?s under team control another three years. The Tommy Hanson that exists now is similar in many ways to the Tommy Hanson that used to exist before, but when it comes to pitching, there are alarming differences.For my money, and given the Angels' dire situation with the bullpen early in the 2012 season, sending Jordan away is no small matter. I don't like recent acquisition Ryan Madson's inability to stay healthy. Madson had Tommy John surgery this year, so he's going to be back at some point in the 2013 season, though just when that might happen is still an open question. Even though my rule of thumb for UCL repairs is 18 months, that number is now down to a year, but we'll see how it goes. Even then, there's no guarantees, and while I didn't like Jordan's lack of movement — he could throw hard but not fool anybody — it seems we are deeply into "devil you don't know" territory here.
I'm okay with getting rid of Ervin Santana — the Brandon Sisk deal was exactly the sort of thing you can do, though it was risky exercising his option and then trading him. On the other hand, Santana showed an elbow ligament tear on an offseason, post-trade MRI, so this could easily have been the beginning of his own Tommy John surgery and perhaps a shot at redemption. But that won't be in the Angels rotation. Likewise, I'm fine with the prospect of Haren going away, and Greinke (though the jury is still out on whether that happens, the Dodgers are apparently the lead team there). For this to work, we have to believe that Hanson is at least going to fill out the fifth starter role effectively, and I'm not entirely sold on that.
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PITTSBURGH (AP) — A day after agreeing to the deal in principle, the Pirates signed free-agent catcher Russell Martin to a $17 million, two-year contract on Friday.
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With the acquisition of Jordan Walden, the Braves almost certainly have the best bullpen in baseball at this point in time — at least on paper. They have a plethora of power arms that can get both righties and lefties out, and to me it looks like moving the most expensive piece who is at [...]
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Bill Petti of FanGraphs analyzes David Wright's contract extension with the Mets: David Wright Deal a Solid Bet for Mets | FanGraphs Baseball
By this approximation, the deal should work out well for the Mets. At the end of eight years, Wright is projected to accumulate roughly 25 WAR and those wins will be valued at around $156 million — an excess of $18 million from the actual contract. Note that if the rate of contract inflation is higher than 5% per year (which it very well could be after all is said and done given the growth of television deals) then the contract is even more team friendly
Rob Neyer of Baseball Nation explains why he thinks Denard Span makes the Nationals better: Mike Rizzo has Nationals well-positioned for the next few years - Baseball Nation
In the long term, Rizzo will have to do some things differently. There won't be any more Stephen Strasburgs or Bryce Harpers when the Nationals draft, and the minor-league prospects cupboard is nearly empty. But barring a rash of serious injuries, the Nats are well positioned for the next two or three years.
Chris Jaffe of the Hardball Times discusses Hall of Fame voters: On Hall of Fame voting--THT
For writers voting on the Hall, now is not the time to make a political stand. Part of the reason the steroid problem—if we want to term it that—was allowed to grow is many writers chose not to follow up on leads they were given. To hold a flimsy standard against these players not only accomplishes nothing for baseball’s history, but also erases the notion that the media who chose to build these figures up are not partially culpable for these legacies.
Doug Thorburn of Baseball Prospectus goes in-depth into an issue of pitching mechanics, not discussed by most: Baseball Prospectus | Raising Aces: On the Other Hand
A pitcher's throwing arm is the hardest-working limb on the playing field, so it figures to get all the attention, but the oft-ignored glove-side arm has the potential to either aid the delivery or throw a wrench into the system. The non-throwing arm plays a non-trivial role in mechanical assessment—I have occasionally dropped a reference to a pitcher with a “sloppy glove” or one who “keeps the glove out in front of the body,” but I have yet to go into detail on the topic.
During the last week of the 2012 MLB season, 10 writers from Beyond the Box Score joined forces to create the greatest collaboration of baseball minds the world has ever known . This elite organization, known only as the BtBWAA, was formed for one and only one purpose: To conduct a player awards vote in which the truly meritorious take home the coveted hardware.
We've already announced our picks for MLB Executive of the Year, Silver Sluggers (AL, NL), Gold Gloves (AL, NL), Rookies of the Year (AL, NL), Cy Youngs (AL, NL), and the AL MVP: the National League Most Valuable Player.
Before we get to the results, a few words on the process. Voting began on October 1 (after 159 games had been played) and continued until October 5, with the balloting closing before the first playoff games started. Each writer voted for three candidates, with voting scored Each writer voted for three candidates, with ballots scored on a 14-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.
Without further ado, here are the results: (click to embiggen)
Ladies and gentlemen, your 2012 NL MVP is Buster Posey! Of course, you already knew that because the BBWAA announced it two weeks ago. But now we've offered our affirmation, with nine out of our 10 voters putting him atop our ballots.
Moving down the list, it looks like the BBWAA got the next few spots right too. Reigning MVP Ryan Braun (the recipient of the other first-place vote) comes in second, followed by Andrew McCutchen taking home the bronze. We also agreed about Yadier Molina coming in fourth, though we have him tied with David Wright (who tied for sixth in real life).
In tabulating the results, I was fascinated by how quickly and dramatically our consensus falls apart after the first six or seven picks. Posey, Braun, McCutchen, Molina, and Wright each appeared on all 10 ballots, but we stopped agreeing shortly after. Players ranked as highly as eight-place finishers Ian Desmond and Joey Votto appeared on only four of our 10 ballots.
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ATLANTA (AP) — The Braves have traded Tommy Hanson to the Los Angeles Angels for former closer Jordan Walden.
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The Rockies just concluded their worst season in franchise history (in case you had forgotten), but it could have been much, much worse. Standard were the games the Rockies lost in which the starting pitcher gave the club little to no chance to win. Often were the times the young and injury-riddled offense struggled to score runs on the road. Fortunately, it was fairly rare that Colorado took a lead late in a game only to lose it due to a shaky bullpen.
With the Rockies' piggyback system, Colorado obliterated even reasonable sabermetric ways to grade out a bullpen. Reliever WAR puts a premium on innings pitched, yet the designed early exits of the 75-pitch count led to a large innings load for Colorado, resulting in a 6.7 bullpen fWAR, tops in the National League, despite a 4.52 ERA. It also led to more appearances, which, in addition to a high offense environment, leads to more blown saves. Colorado led MLB in that department with 35, though only 7 were by Rafael Betancourt - the rest were really "blown holds").
If you break it down to look at the seven most prominant Rockies relievers though, Colorado routinely trotted out capable to dominant arms.
Rafael Betancourt continues to be one of the most underrated relievers in all of baseball. Despite a few hiccups in save situations, he was largely dominant, painting his low 90's fastball 75% of the time to get strikeouts without walking many.
Matt Belisle posted an ERA of 3.71, which appears to be the workload-led regression many came to expect, yet that was mostly BABIP driven. Thanks to a FIP below 3.00 and 80 innings of work, Belisle's fWAR rated him the 6th most valuable reliever in baseball.
Rex Brothers was one of the top 20 strikeouts specialists in all of baseball out of the bullpen, holding lefties to a paltry .206/.303/.284 line, striking them out more than 40% of the time. That ability to get out of jams ended up with him being credited with eight wins, more than any pitcher on the staff.
Josh Roenicke was a waiver wire pick-up in 2011, and all he did for the Rockies was lead all MLB relievers in innings with 88.2. He was effective over those innings too, with a 3.25 ERA. That run prevention combination led to Roenicke having 2.0 rWAR, ranking him 6th among relievers in the NL, behind only Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, Rafael Betancourt, Matt Belisle and Wilton Lopez. Yet the Rockies tried to pass Roenicke through waivers, and the first team up on the waiver wire, the Minnesota Twins, snapped him up. After that season, why? I myself would not have exposed Roenicke as such, but he was certainly not as effective as he looked. His 54 strikeouts in 88.2 IP is mediocre at best, and the worst strikeout rate of his career. Roenicke also walked too many and inexplicably had a .276 BABIP against despite pitching at Coors Field and allowing an above average line drive rate. As tough as it may be to believe the MLB leader in innings hid in small sample size good fortune, that appears to be the case with Roenicke. He still would have held value going into 2013, but his loss won't be as large as it appears on the surface.
Adam Ottavino was a sly waivers pickup from the Cardinals, and after some time in AAA, became a crucial part of the big league bullpen. Ottavino carried an ERA below 2.00 for his first 18 appearances, then later became lynchpin in the piggybacker scheme. At the end of the year, Ottavino struck out more batters than innings pitched with a decent enough walk and groundball rate. His ERA may not be nearly as pretty as Roenicke, but he clearly is the more valuable reliever going forward.
Matt Reynolds burst on the scene at Coors Field as a rookie in 2010 with a 2.00 ERA and strong strikeout and walk numbers. He was even better to start 2011, posting a 0.34 FIP in April, but Reynolds has regressed since. Unable to thrive against left-handed batters and having an increasing problem with home runs (12.5% HR/FB in 2010, 16.4% in 2011, 20% in 2012), the Rockies decided to trade him to Arizona for 1B/3B Ryan Wheeler. Aside from home runs allowed (11), he pitched decently enough as a middle reliever. If he can get those in check (sorry about Chase Field, Matt), he'll be a decent reliever.
Carlos Torres was one of those minor league filler free agent acquisitions no one paid attention to in the offseason. He put together a sub-4.00 ERA in Colorado Springs and got his chances in the Rockies bullpen. In 11 appearances through the end of July, Torres had a 1.50 ERA, when he was cast as one of the chief piggybackers in the bullpen. His ERA suffered from the bullet-biting, but his 3.70 FIP in 53.0 IP was a significantly pleasant surprise. It wasn't to the level of protecting though, as Torres left as a free agent and signed as a minor league free agent with the Mets two weeks ago.
These seven all had flashes of brilliance and were well above average relievers by either rWAR or fWAR (except Reynolds). Yet it should be noted how they were acquired. There is one trade (Betancourt for Conner Graham), two draft picks (Brothers - supplemental 1st round, Reynolds - 20th), two waiver selections (Roenicke, Ottavino) and two minor league free agents (Belisle, Torres). For a midmarket team, it is certainly helpful to be able to identify cheap bullpen options.
Only four of these seven will return to the Rockies in 2013, but they are the most critical four - Betancourt, Belisle, Brothers and Ottavino. All four have shown an ability to pitch at Coors Field and fill critical roles (closer, set-up, lefty set-up and lefty specialist, middle long man). Colorado figures to have a solid bullpen in 2013 once again, once those back end roles are filled.