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Jason Collette Baseball Chat – 2/14/14

Chatting from 11:30 to 1:00 ET today

11:26
Jason Collette:
11:27
Jason Collette: Happy Corporate-Created Holiday everyone! Let’s chat
11:29
Comment From KSSoxFan
Any hope for any of the vets in the Marlins infield? Late round fliers?
    Jason Collette: I actually like the youth best here in Hechevarria and Dietrich. This has a Major League movie type feel to this roster – Salty even resembles a younger Jake Taylor 

11:31
Comment From Bill
Are you concerned about Encarnacion’s wrist? Feel like we’ve heard nothing about it recently.
    Jason Collette: Yes, a bit. Toronto hasn’t exactly had the best luck with health in recent seasons so any bit of injury news from there concerns me. Their lack of action on the free agent/trade market leads us to believe that all is well up there, but if Anthopoulous shows up to a presser in a ROTC uniform, be worried. 

11:33
Comment From Brad
What are your thoughts on Kevin Gausman? Thanks.
    Jason Collette: I like him a ton. When he’s commanding his fastball and throwing his offspeed pitches, it can be NC-17 material. 

11:36
Comment From Pale Hose
The Rays model is based on turning over expiring contracts for future talent. If they can’t do this with Price is it the beginning of the end for their competitive cycle?
    Jason Collette: The beginning of that cycle has happened in recent years with the restrictions on the international market and added rules to the draft process. The Rays are in a catch22 here as the current team, on paper, is arguably the best in franchise history. Trading Price now changes that dramatically. They are apparently comfortable with that they will lose in potential trade compensation by holding onto him another season will be offset by possible postseason glory. The recent deals of Torres, Hahn, Lobaton, Vettleson, and Rivero to add depth to the upper levels of the minor league depth chart in terms of pitching help offset poor drafts from a few seasons ago. They need to develop more young hitting to keep this thing going though. 

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Inconsistent Veteran Presence

Last week, Colin Zarzycki reviewed the Milwaukee Brewer bullpen on RotoGraphs. The projected bullpen included the likes of Jim Henderson, Brandon Kintzler, Tom Gorzelanny, Michael Fiers, and Will Smith, among others. The 12 names on the depth chart combined for 12.009 years of MLB service time, with Gorzelanny accounting for half of that total. The depth chart contained some intriguing upside, but was certainly lacking in experience. Enter Francisco Rodriguez, again.

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Jason Collette Baseball Chat – 2/7/14

11:55
Jason Collette: I’m still battling walking pneumonia, but at least I’m not in Sochi. Let’s chat!
11:57
Comment From Perplexed Fantasy Owner
Hey Jason. Thanks for doing the chat today. I’m in an 11-team AL-only league, and I need your guidance. I own Brandon Morrow and Scott Kazmir on the cheap this year, but they both terrify me! What do you expect out of each of them in 2014? Should I hang on to them or cut bait before the season starts?
    Jason Collette: I have Kazmir myself and not terrified as I really liked what I saw from him as the season progressed. Morrow would terrify me as health is a problem that does not go away and Toronto, for whatever reason, seems to have more injury issues than most teams. 

11:58
Comment From jesse
pneumonia, that sound like an excuse, man up and rub some dirt on hit!
    Jason Collette: I’ll paste what I said last week when someone else asked the same thing – I’ve been writing about fantasy baseball since 1999 where I got started at the old RotoJunkie.coom (now rjbullpen.com). In 2008, Fanball plucked me from there and then I was split between BP and Rotowire in 2011 when Fanball was shut down by Liberty Media. I’m still doing a lot of work at Rotowire and also do monthly contributions to BaseballHQ.com and guest spots on the ESPN Sweetspot blog. Lastly, I’ve been writing about the Rays since 2007 between time spent at DRaysBay, Dock of the Rays (now in the hands of the talented Jason Hanselman) and now write with R.J. Anderson & Tommy Rancel at TheProcessReport.net. I believe in the DH, roofed stadiums, fake grass, and yoga pants. 

11:59
Comment From Zach
I see this is only your third chat and you’re a fairly new FG contributor. What’s your brief bio? What do you like to chat about?
    Jason Collette: well, this is the question I meant to reply to previously. I blame the meds 

11:59
Comment From Brad
Pitcher keeper: Pick one: Bailey, A. Sanchez or Teheran and why? Thanks.
    Jason Collette: I’m a big Homer Bailey guy. You want my non-Kershaw pick for the NL CY, there it is. 

12:01
Comment From Brian
I just traded for Mike Trout as a 15th round keeper for the rest of his career. I can’t come up with a way to celebrate that lives up to this moment.
    Jason Collette: Streaking in the quad while holding a large growler of a Russian River brew would work for me 

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Nearly Name-change Worthy

The Cy Young Award.

The Jackie Robinson Award.

The Kenesaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award.

Players dream of earning these awards during their career. To be a part of the prestige and history of the game in that manner is the stuff that dreams are made of.  Then, we have the award named after baseball contemporaries.

Matt Klaassen started the Carter-Batista Awards (CBA) in 2009 to recognize those players whose offensive value is exaggerated by their RBI totals.  Joe Carter‘s name is listed first because not only does he own the highest CBA score since 1990, he owns three of the top seven.
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Jason Collette Baseball Chat — 1/31/14

11:01
Jason Collette: As the President of the Wilson Betemit fan club, it is a great day today. Let’s chat!

11:04
Comment From Mitch
Is there any hope Carlos Quentin can become relevant again?

   Jason Collette: Guys do not get healthier with age. Ideally, he’d be in the AL as a DH, but the fact he has exceeded 100 games played just 3 times in his career is not good.

 

11:05
Comment From Sandy Alderson
Am I going to actually pull the trigger on Stephen Drew?

   Jason Collette: You would have done it already if you were doing to do so. Milking it out only gives more leverage to he and his agent as the open market could create new opportunities with injuries that happen during camp.

 

11:06
Comment From Kev
Hey Jason, what do you think we can expect from Miguel Gonzalez?

   Jason Collette: No more than what he’s done so far, maybe a bit less.

 

11:09
Comment From Brad
If aj burnett signs with Orioles, who gets bumped from rotation?

   Jason Collette: Inserting the required “assuming he passes the physical” comment, one would have to think that adding Burnett does not initially bode well for Gausman opening the season in the rotation.

 

11:11
Comment From Earl
I’ve always been a fan of betemit, back when we he was a great platoon option in video games (it’s been a while for me). Anywho, what do you see him doing for the Rays this season?

   Jason Collette: For now, providing depth assuming he’s willing to report to Durham as it is tough to see him making the 25 man roster as it looks today. Ideally, he would give up switch hitting as he is simply a poor hitter from the right side but platooned effectively, I’ve always seen some hidden value in his bat from the left side.

 

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Doing More With Less

A part of the allure of Greg Maddux was how he was able to post an above-league average K/9 during the prime years of his career despite not having the velocity of many of his peers. He was the epitome of sacrificing velocity for movement and location in a time when pitchers were observed peeking over their shoulder to the scoreboard to see what they hit on the in-park radar gun.

Thomas Boswell encapsulated Maddux rather well in repeating an anecdote from a time the two spent together in the early 90′s:

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Jason Collette Baseball Chat – 1/24/14

11:56
Jason Collette: Hi all, let’s get it started. Here until 1p EST

11:58
Comment From Jason Collette Jr.
odds jays make the playoffs

   Jason Collette: slim to none and slim has a foot out the door

 

12:00
Comment From Burris
How surprised are you that Garza signed in Milwaukee?

   Jason Collette: Very surprised. Without the comp pick hanging on him, I thought he would have a lot of suitors but the scuttlebutt on his medicals clearly limited that pool. Milwaukee’s staff looks very good with him on it.

 

12:01
Comment From Jason Collette Jr.
can i draft Goldy 2nd overall?

   Jason Collette: I honestly don’t have a problem with that, but Cabrera is more of a sure thing.

 

12:02
Comment From Guest
Hi Jason, do you think Burnett retires or returns to a contender?

   Jason Collette: I’m all for guys leaving the game before their skills leave them, but I think Burnett still has more to give. This is a nice way to avoid the grind of Spring Training, and his services should have multiple suitors once he stops straddling the fence.

 

12:03
Comment From Pick #5
Trout, Miggy, Goldy, Cutch… who’s next? Still Cano? Kershaw? Puig? H2H points, thanks!

   Jason Collette: Kershaw or CarGo for me

 

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Where Closers Come From

The lineage of closers can, in part, be traced back to Jerome Holtzman’s creation of the save statistic. Table 2-2.1 in The Book outlined how the use of pitchers in the ninth inning with no outs and none on has quadrupled in the past 30 years and doubled since the late 1980s. The other half of that puzzle is where exactly closers come from. Closers are rarely drafted for the role coming out of the amateur draft, with names such as Chad Cordero, Ryan Wagner, David Aardsma, Josh Fields, Huston Street, Chris Reed and Drew Storen being some recent exceptions.

The closer role is revered by commentators and fans for its importance in how teams win games. But where those closers come from remains mostly a mystery. What pitchers did while in the minor leagues, where they are drafted or where they are drafted from offers little clarity.

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John Axford’s Generous Tipping

We officially learned yesterday that John Axford had a tipping problem. Specifically, the Cardinals scouting staff noticed he had been tipping his pitches nearly the entire time they had scouted him. This is actually something that Axford himself hinted at during an interview in early September, as he explained to FoxSports Ohio.

Axford, who had lost his job as the Brewers’ closer early in the season, found another reason to be glad to land with the Cardinals in his first meeting with his new coaching staff. The Cardinals gave him some pitching advice — the specifics of which he declined to discuss — that he says immediately helped his performance. “When a team has been looking at you for five years, trying to kill you every single time you’re out there on the mound, they pick up on every little detail they can — what you may be showing, or tipping, or what you’re doing different,”

Maybe this quasi-intervention was what Axford needed to get the message, because this was not the first time this issue has come up in his career.

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Finding A New Market

When you are the 726th player drafted in a draft, your odds of making it to the major leagues are incredibly slim. Only two players drafted in that spot (and signed) in the history of the draft have donned a major league uniform: Milt Hill and Dane De La Rosa.  It took De La Rosa five seasons of pitching, in any league, to throw his first pitch above A-ball. That time frame included stints in places such as Yuma, Helena, Long Beach, and Victoria with stops in between. It also included a stop in the real estate market in 2006 trying to close deals on houses.

The Rays gave him another chance in 2010, and he finally reached the major leagues on July 20th, 2011. He went on to pitch 11 more games in Tampa Bay before being traded to the Angels late in the 2013 Spring Training season. De La Rosa went to the Angels as a pitcher that struggled to command his fastball.  Yet another new location for De La Rosa, but with it came a new approach to his craft.

In looking at video of De La Rosa from the past two seasons, he has made some minor tweaks to his delivery. The first changes come in his setup for his delivery (click all images to enlarge).

start2012 start2013

The first image is from 8/27/12 when De La Rosa mopped up a 13-3 blowout against Boston while the second one came in his second save of his career against his former team. The 2013 image shows that De La Rosa has changed where he starts on the rubber while also starting his hands a bit higher, and closing off his front side more than he did in 2012.

At the max lift portion of his delivery, he now resembles the man he was called up to replace on the roster in 2013, Jered Weaver.

2_2012 2_2013

De La Rosa has more bend in his back leg, has brought his hands closer to his body, and has more twist in his upper body as he shows his back to the opposing hitter. These adjustments allowed him to stay closed easier in order for him to open his hips up to come to the plate in rhythm with his delivery.

3_2012 3_2013

One of the thing that stands out in reviewing De La Rosa from 2013 is his increased velocity.

ddlrvelo

 

The data from BrooksBaseball shows that shows that the average velocity on De La Rosa’s four-seam fastball rose nearly each month of the season in 2013, continuing the trend that started in 2012.

Month Avg Velo
April 2012 92.2 mph
Sept 2012 93.2 mph
April 2013 93.7 mph
May 2013 94.8 mph
June 2013 95.7 mph
July 2013 95.6 mph
Aug 2013 95.6 mph
Sept 2013 96.4 mph

The data also shows that De La Rosa was throwing from a bit of a higher release point, which pitchers can use to add velocity while sacrificing horizontal movement. The increased velocity led to increased results. Opponents slugged just .277 against him last season, which was in the top tenth percentile of all relief pitchers that faced at least 200 batters in 2013. His Contact% as well as his opponents wOBA were both in the top-third of the same sample size. The improvements led to more success against right-handed batters as his swing and miss rate against those batters (35.5%) was higher than the likes of Koji Uehara (35.1%) and Craig Kimbrel (34.0%).

The Angels have had their issues in recent years harvesting pitching talent from their farm system, but they appear to have done quite well thus far here. They’ve turned an undrafted organizational middle reliever into an opportunity for a home town kid to go good. So far, so good.


Jonathan Papeldone?

Nearly five seasons ago, Jonathan Papelbon was awarded a $6.25M figure in arbitration, which at the time, was the largest deal in history awarded to a closer in the first year of arbitration. At that point in his career, he had saved 113 games with a 1.84 ERA and the arbiters rewarded him nicely for those figures. He would pitch three more seasons in Boston and left the Red Sox having been worth 16.4 RA9-WAR while converting 88% of his saves.

Philadelphia handsomely rewarded the closer with a four-year deal with a vesting fifth option. Thus far, Papelbon has been worth 4.4 RA9-WAR and has converted 86% of his saves. Yet, two years into the four to five-year commitment, the Phillies are reportedly looking to move him. A quick search of MLB Trade Rumors has Papelbon mentioned in rumors regarding the Orioles and both local and national writers hearing the team is actively attempting to move the closer.

GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has his work cut out for him as Papelbon is guaranteed at least $26M with the potential of a very achievable trigger option pushing the contract to a $39M value. That is well above the money that has been doled out to any free agent closer this offseason.

On Sunday, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer laid out some of the challenges in front of Amaro Jr.

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The Uptons and Making Contact

Earlier this year, Bill Petti mentioned in his CLIFFORD work the single largest driver in a player’s wOBA collapse from one year to the next was Z-Contact%. Players that saw their Z-Contact% decline by at least 1.4% had a 1.68 times the odds of seeing their wOBA collapse that season than those that did not experience such a decline.

As with any correlation, nothing is a guarantee. Just because a player improves or declines with any one statistic does not guarantee that the results will behave in lockstep. The five players who saw their Z-Contact% improve the most in 2013 were Gerardo Parra, Everth Cabrera, Brandon Moss, Carlos Santana, and David Murphy. Parra, Cabrera, and Santana saw their wOBA improve by 1, 38, and 20 points respectively while Moss and Murphy’s dropped 33 and 80 points.

It was equally volatile on the other end of the scale. Raul Ibanez‘s Z-Contact% dropped 5.3%, yet his wOBA improved by 19 points. Chris Young‘s Z-Contact% dropped 6.2% from 2012 to 2013 as his wOBA dropped 36 points.  Marlon Byrd‘s 6.7% decrease was the third-largest decrease in Z-Contact% in the sample size, yet his wOBA improved an amazing 148 points last season. The two largest declines in Z-Contact% from 2012 to 2013 had one thing in common – a last name.

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Rays Pay Up for James Loney

Over the past three seasons, the modus operandi for the Tampa Bay Rays has been to find a one-year solution at first base in the clearance bin of the offseason market. In 2011, that came in the form of adding Casey Kotchman on a minor league deal and watching him produce a 2.4 win season. In 2012, the team upped the budget and spent $7.25M to bring back Carlos Pena a year after he left via free agency, but Pena struggled through a 0.7 win season. Last season, James Loney was brought in on a $2M deal, and turned a profit with a career-best 2.7 win season.

The first base situation has been as much as a revolving door as the closer role has been with the club. Until Fernando Rodney repeated as the team saves leader last season, the team had had a different pitcher leads the team in saves each year under Maddon. While they have had repeated success with the closer role, the situation at first base has been a bit different.  As Joe Maddon often says about these types of situations, the Rays meatloafed the first base situation.

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What Can Domonic Brown Do For You?

It appears, once again, that Domonic Brown‘s name is out there cooking up in the hot stove.  Dave and Jeff each touched on Brown when his name last came up in rumors last month when a Brown for Jose Bautista rumor was floated out of Philadelphia. Both pieces laid out the caveats of such a move in that Brown’s career is still immature enough that it could go in either direction. 2013 could as much be his baseline as much as it could be his peak.

Brown’s major league career has consisted of just 1032 plate appearances. Prior to 2013, Brown was on the Philly to Reading shuttle a number of times and also had to recover from a hamate injury, which sapped some of his power through the recovery process. The amount of plate appearances he received in parts of three seasons from 2010 to 2012 were nearly identical to the ones he received in his 2013 as a full-time player for the first time. Not only were the plate appearance totals nearly identical, so were the skills.
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Ryan Webb and Moving Out of Splitsville

Ryan Webb was one last week’s more surprising non-tenders. Miami decided Webb wasn’t worth his projected $1.5 million salary, according to Matt Swartz’s arbitration projections. In the past two seasons, Webb was worth 1.2 wins for the Marlins while working in 131 games. But don’t feel bad for Webb. He didn’t stay unemployed long: Baltimore added the reliever on a two-year deal for $4.5 million.

The team reportedly liked how Webb’s ground-ball skills compared to the freshly-traded Jim Johnson, and acknowledged Webb’s career splits while also noting he made improvements in that department this past season. Pitchers can change the type of pitcher they are, such as Edward Mujica‘s transition from an extreme fly-ball pitcher to a heavy ground-ball pitcher. But how does a pitcher  improve his ability to get out opposite-handed batters without adding a pitch?

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The Orioles Bullpen Options

Jim Johnson led all of baseball with 101 saves over the past two seasons. On September 27th, Dan Duquette told Roch Kubatko of MASN that, “Jim Johnson is one of our core players,” and it was the team’s intention to keep him despite the $10.8M projected salary for 2014. Fast forward to late last week when Buster Olney tweeted that the Orioles were willing to listen to offers on Johnson. After a flurry of rumors yesterday, Duquette decided to allocate his resources to balance the roster to make it more competitive.

Doing so creates a large hole in the back of the Orioles’ bullpen as Johnson also led all of baseball in games finished over the past two seasons. Johnson stepped in to fill the void left by Kevin Gregg‘s ineffectiveness two seasons ago, and now someone else has the opportunity to do so. When Johnson did so, it was the easy choice as he had displayed the skills to do so while getting the ball to Gregg to attempt to save games. In looking at the current 40-man roster for Baltimore, there does not seem as clear a choice this time around.

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When Walk Years Don’t Work

The theory goes that some players can turn it on in the final years of their existing contracts on their way to free agency. The data say otherwise, as both writers and teams, have discovered. In 2013, we witnessed two contrasting examples of walk years from Ubaldo Jimenez and Phil Hughes. Jimenez seemingly flipped a switch in June, pitched like his old self and exercised an out clause in his deal with Cleveland to jump feet-first into a cash-rich free-agent crop. Then there was Hughes, a pitcher who statistically regressed in his walk year. As Buster Olney tweeted yesterday:

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Dan Haren Becomes Rare Underpaid Dodger

Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com is reporting the Los Angeles Dodgers have signed Dan Haren to a one-year, $10 million deal that has a vesting 2015 option if Haren works at least 180 innings next season. Last month, when we did our crowdsourcing for Haren, Carson Cistulli presented the following Haren facts:
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To Keep or Trade David Price

It seems like a foregone conclusion that David Price won’t be with the Tampa Bay Rays when spring training begins next year. In previous seasons, Tampa Bay has dealt Edwin Jackson and Matt Garza as the team entered costly years in the arbitration process. The Rays also traded James Shields to address team depth, despite his rather affordable contract, which means there’s plenty of history to suggest a move is in Price’s future.

Some of the statements put out there in recent weeks include concerns about Price’s declining velocity, about diminishing returns on value and whether the team can afford to keep the pitcher for even one more season. There’s no masking the fact Price threw with less velocity in 2013, even after returning from a stint on the disabled list while he recovered from a triceps strain. Price returned from the DL intent on becoming a more efficient pitcher, and he did so with aplomb. In fact, only Cliff Lee threw a higher percentage of strikes in the season’s final three months.

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The Josh Johnson Dilemma

Earlier this year, Jack Moore reviewed Josh Johnson‘s inability to get hitters out while pitching from the stretch. Johnson and the Jays were very much aware of the situation, but even still, it did not improve as the season went on. In the end, Johnson limited batters to a .315 wOBA and a .307 BABIP when he worked out of a full wind-up, while opposing batters had a .440 wOBA and a .450 BABIP when Johnson worked out of the stretch. His BABIP while pitching from the stretch was 73 points higher than any other pitcher that made at least 15 starts in 2013.

The simple answer this dramatic split would be to simply point at Johnson’s BABIP and say he was unlucky. If one were to review the video from the first inning of his July 27th start against Houston, one could certainly believe that:
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