Author Archive

Chris Sale’s Dominant Memorial Day

Three weeks ago, it looked like Chris Sale would no longer be starting games for the Chicago White Sox. Yesterday, he struck out over half the batters he faced in 7.1 innings.

It’s been an interesting year already for the sinewy blue chip. Sale, 23, had immediate success in moving to the starting rotation after spending the entirety of his two major league seasons overwhelming batters from the bullpen. His first five starts resulted in three wins, a 2.82 ERA and opposing hitters were hitting just .205/.262/.342.

Then due to some rather mysterious general elbow fatigue, Sale was moved back to the bullpen where he summarily blew a save on an unearned run. Days later, Sale managed to convince Robin Ventura (or whomever necessary) that he ought to be starting again, and he’s been filthy ever since. In his four starts after the bullpen flap, he’s posted a 1.82 ERA over 24.2 innings pitched, holding opponents to a .189/.247/.244 slash line.

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Jimmy Rollins’s Vanishing Bat

One of the more confounding parts of baseball, and surely if you’re a baseball player, is the disappearance of what appeared to be an entirely reliable skill set for extended periods of time. Some of it can be explained away by statistical measures while others are attempted to be explained away by a narrative. But frequently, it’s hard to unearth a tidy explanation. And that’s simultaneously frustrating and rather fascinating.

I was scanning the leader board recently, looking at strikeout and walk rates for hitters and those who have seen notable changes this year. For curiosity’s sake, here’s what caught my eye after a cursory glance:

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Beltran’s Best Season?

One of my closest friends is a St. Louis native, and after the tumult of contract misadventures this past off season, he asked me how I thought the Cardinals might fare in 2012. My comment was that they’d win more games in 2012 than they did in 2011 — bank on it. But most of that was wrapped up in the notion that they’d get Adam Wainwright back to form, Lance Berkman would be relatively healthy and better suited defensively at first base and Carlos Beltran would produce somewhere around four wins.

Some prognosticator I am. Thank goodness for Carlos Beltran — right, St. Louis?

After just 33 games, Beltran has already posted 2.2 wins above replacement, and although he has played decent on defense, his WAR total is almost entirely accounted for with his bat. His slash line stands at .298/.406/.653 with 13 home runs and 32 RBI. He is among the league leaders in WAR, and is just 0.1 WAR behind Matt Kemp. And what’s particularly notable about the current WAR leaders is the potential for regression:

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Change of Scenery Struggles to Hit Its Weight

Each winter we’re treated to the swapping or signing of former high draft picks, once productive players who have worn out their welcome, or players previously thought to have a great future devoid of on-field results. When the local media narrative begins, these players are often referred to as those who might benefit from a “change of scenery.”

“It might be just what the doctor ordered to get back on track.”

“Never felt comfortable in (insert city).”

“Needs a fresh start,” they’ll say.

Objectively, it feels rather silly to think in this game of inches that a new cut of grass, color of stirrups, or fan base might provide an entirely different result for players. But count me among the many fans who frequently think it just might work. And yet, examples of it working out are few.

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Mat Latos: Velocity, Repertoire, and Command

In 2011, Mat Latos emerged from April with an 0-4 record and an earned run average near five. Even though he’s wearing a different uniform, things must be feeling eerily familiar right now.

After three starts, Latos finds himself winless with his new team and currently possesses an unseemly 8.22 ERA and 1.89 WHIP. Yes, the ERA predictors suggest Latos hasn’t been quite this bad and no, he hasn’t had much in the way of good luck on batted balls. But his command has been off, his repertoire has seemingly changed, and and after his last effort versus the St. Louis Cardinals, giving up eight earned runs over 5.2 innings pitched, there were some serious concerns in Cincinnati about their prize off season acquisition.

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