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Alfredo Aceves’ Really Bad Night

Source: FanGraphs

Baseball statistics can be very quirky, especially the ones we carry here at FanGraphs. Players can be worth half-a-win, a hit can produce fractions of the run, stuff like that can be difficult to accept at first. Things happen in wholes in the real world — a team gets credited either with one full win or no win in any single game, that hit either drives in a run or it doesn’t — and understanding that these bits and pieces contribute to the whole isn’t exactly something that gets explains clearly or often enough.

Last night, Red Sox closer Alfredo Aceves lost more than one game. The Sox and Angels played a wild back-and-forth affair with seven total lead changes, including five after the seventh inning. The 29-year-old Aceves was on the mound for three of those lead changes despite only being credited with one full inning of work. He allowed three runs in the top of the ninth to blow a two-run lead, was let off the hook when Cody Ross hit a solo homer to knot things up in the bottom half, then went back out to the mound in a tie game in the tenth only to surrender two more runs.

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Kuroda & Jackson: One-Year (Contract) Wonders

Prior to this past offseason, five of Dave Cameron’s top ten free agents were starting pitchers. Both CC Sabathia (#3) and C.J. Wilson (#5) landed mega-contracts while Roy Oswalt (#9) decided to take the Pedro Martinez/Roger Clemens route and sign midseason. The other two guys — Hiroki Kuroda (#8) and Edwin Jackson (#10) — signed nearly identical one-year contracts. Eight months later, they share another thing in common: they’re pitching for the team with the best record in their respective league.

Kuroda, 37, landed a $10 million salary from the Yankees. At 3.3 WAR, he’s already had the third-best season of his five-year MLB career and appears poised to zoom past his career-high 4.1 WAR from 2010. Jackson, 28, signed with the Nationals for $11 million, but is having a slightly down year by his standards. He’s at 1.6 WAR and seems likely to a) fall short of the 3.6-3.8 WAR level he’s established these last three years, and b) still provide the Nationals plenty of surplus value.

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Yankees Lose A-Rod And It Probably Won’t Matter

The AL East has been hit hard by injuries this season, with about a dozen above-average to star-caliber players needing lengthy stints on the disabled list. The Yankees have been without Michael Pineda all year and without Brett Gardner and Mariano Rivera for most of the season, and now they’re going to be without Alex Rodriguez until sometime in September. Felix Hernandez clipped him with a 3-1 changeup last week, breaking a bone in his left hand.

The Yankees have a healthy lead in the division — eight games in the loss column — and will platoon Eric Chavez and Jayson Nix at the hot corner for the time being. The 34-year-old Chavez is very quietly having a solid season off the bench, posting a 101 wRC+ overall with a 121 mark against righties. Nix, 29, has a 95 wRC+ overall and a 112 wRC+ against lefties. The concern is that all the extra playing time will expose Chavez to injury and just expose Nix in general given his career 72 wRC+. For the time being, they’ll do.

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Braves Go Dempster Diving to Improve Rotation

The starting rotation was supposed to be a strength for the Braves, but they instead opened today with just one qualified starter with a sub-4.40 ERA. Ben Sheets has provided a lift two starts into his comeback and Tim Hudson has been his typically reliable self, but Mike Minor, Randall Delgado, and Jair Jurrjens have struggled to varying degrees while Brandon Beachy blew out his elbow. Atlanta remains right in the thick of the playoff hunt despite ranking middle of the pack in rotation ERA and FIP (both 4.04).

In an effort to shore up the staff, the Braves acquired Ryan Dempster from the Cubs this afternoon. It’s unclear what they gave up as of this writing, though Delgado has been rumored. Dave O’Brien, Jon Heyman, and Mark Bowman all deserve some credit in breaking the news. The veteran right-hander has ten-and-five no-trade protected but waived it to join Atlanta. He reportedly did not demand any kind of extension or other compensation to approve the trade, so he gets brownie points for that.

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Martin Prado, The Braves And The Future

The Braves are four games back of the Nationals in the loss column in the NL East and four games up on a wild-card spot, so they’re right in the thick of the playoff hunt. They’ve survived some terrible pitching performances and injuries thanks to one of the game’s most productive outfields — a unit that ranks third in baseball with 10.5 WAR. Michael Bourn (4.2 WAR), Martin Prado (3.7 WAR) and Jason Heyward (3.5 WAR) all rank among the 15-most-valuable players — and among the eight most-valuable outfielders — so far this season.

Bourn will be a free agent after this season and Heyward is under team control through 2015, so those two are on the opposite ends of the contract spectrum. Prado, 28, is kind of in the middle. He’ll be arbitration-eligible for the third time next season before becoming a free agent 15 months from now. Atlanta is going to try to prevent that from happening… Read the rest of this entry »

Braves Go Bargain Hunting, Come Up With Sheets

The Braves came into the season with enviable pitching depth, enough that they were able to trade innings eater Derek Lowe to the Indians in a cash-saving deal over the winter. Tim Hudson missed the first month of the season recovering from a back procedure, but they still had a solid rotation led by Tommy Hanson, Brandon Beachy, Jair Jurrjens, and Mike Minor. The prospect trio of Randall Delgado, Arodys Vizcaino, and Julio Teheran provided depth at Triple-A.

Fast-forward three months and things have changed rather dramatically. Both Beachy (2.00 ERA and 3.45 FIP in 81 IP) and Vizcaino are out with Tommy John surgery, Minor has been awful (6.20 ERA and 5.51 FIP in 85.2 IP), and Jurrjens was so bad earlier in the year (9.37 ERA and 7.89 FIP in 16.1 IP) that he was sent to the minors. He’s since resurfaced to take Beachy’s spot and has turned in two solid outings. Delgado is doing about as well as a 22-year-old can do in the show, with a 4.52 ERA and 4.17 FIP in 79.2 IP. Overall, Atlanta’s rotation has pitched to a 4.22 ERA and 4.35 FIP, the 19th and 22nd best marks in baseball.

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Sabathia, Pettitte Latest Victims of ALE Injury Bug

Pitchers get hurt all the time, but I think we can all agree that CC Sabathia was on the short list of guys who we would expect to make every start in a given season. He’s been a workhorse of the first order for the last decade, but yesterday a twinge in his left groin sent him to the disabled list for the third time in his career and first time since 2006. The Yankees insist that their ace will only miss two starts and return immediately after the All-Star break.

Sabathia’s injury hurts New York but two starts isn’t the end of the world. Unfortunately for them, he wasn’t the only starter they lost on Wednesday. Andy Pettitte (1.4 WAR in nine comeback starts) was struck by a batted ball and suffered a fractured left ankle in yesterday’s game, sending him to the sidelines for a minimum of six weeks and more realistically 8-10 weeks. In the span of about four hours, the Yankees lost their two best starting pitchers.

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Nationals In Need Of A Bat, Bullpen Depth

Many people expected the Nationals to be legitimate contenders this season for the first time since moving to town, but I don’t think many expected them to have the second best record in baseball more than one-third of the way through the campaign. The Nats came into Wednesday’s action with a 37-23 record to go along with their +38 run differential, the fifth best mark in the game. They’ve relied on utterly dominant starting pitching so far, riding a staff that owns baseball’s best ERA (2.94), FIP (3.15), and WAR (8.3).

Great starting pitching only goes so far though, and Washington is really lacking in the run creation department. Their offense owns a .307 wOBA (sixth worst in MLB) and a 90 wRC+ (seventh worst) through their first 60 games, resulting in a 3.90 runs per game average that is the second lowest among teams with a .500+ winning percentage. Bryce Harper has been nothing short of brilliant so far — 153 wRC+ and 1.3 WAR through 172 PA — and Michael Morse‘s recent return from the disabled list should provide a boost as well.

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Effective Andrew Miller Helping Boston’s Bullpen

For the first month of the season, the Red Sox didn’t just have a bad bullpen, they had one of the worst bullpens in recent memory. Manager Bobby Valentine‘s relief corps pitched to a 6.10 ERA with a 5.13 FIP in April, both easily the worst marks in the game. Boston’s pen has gone on to post a 2.31 ERA with a 2.97 FIP since the calendar flipped to May, bringing their overall season performance down to a much more respectable 3.55 ERA and 3.75 FIP.

A turn around like that can be attributed to many things, first and foremost just simple regression to the mean. A .337 BABIP and 16.4% HR/FB ratio certainly aren’t performances you’d expect an entire pitching staff sustain over a full season. It’s possible, just unlikely. Secondly, the Red Sox did what you would expect them to do and made some personnel changes. Mark Melancon (49.50 ERA/37.55 FIP (!!!)) was shipped to the minors while Justin Thomas (7.71/3.27) and Michael Bowden (3.00/6.38) were cut loose. Changing the names is the easiest way to change performance.

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Rangers’ Rotation Thins Out With Holland Injury

It’s been a rough few weeks for the Rangers. They got thumped by both the Mariners (21-8) and Athletics (12-1) within the last week and are just 21-22 since an eight-game winning streak in the middle of April. Texas has already lost Neftali Feliz for an extended period of time due to an elbow sprain and today they lost another young hurler, southpaw Derek Holland with left shoulder fatigue according to Jeff Wilson of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The 25-year-old Holland had already been battling a stomach virus that reportedly cost him 10-15 pounds and apparently also some giddy-up on his fastball*. He allowed 18 runs in 19.1 innings across the four starts immediately prior to this shoulder issue, contributing to the team’s skid. Scott Feldman — 7.01 ERA and 5.48 FIP in five starts and five relief appearances — is already in the rotation for Feliz, and now Holland’s injury forces Alexi Ogando into the starting staff per Jeff Fletcher of Bay Bridge Baseball. Relief prospect Tanner Scheppers will come up to fill out the bullpen.

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Frieri Capitalizing On Opportunity With Angels

It was a minor swap made earlier this month, but Ernesto Frieri has already been a major contributor to the Angels’ bullpen. Since being acquired from the Padres for Alexi Amarista and Donn Roach more than three weeks ago, the 26-year-old right-hander has thrown 11 hitless innings for the Halos. With Jordan Walden stumbling out of the gate, Frieri has quickly assumed right-handed relief ace work while Scott Downs handles things from the left side.

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Kerry Wood Calls It A Career

Based on Game Score, Kerry Wood‘s 20 strikeout game against the Astros on May 6th, 1998 is the best-pitched nine-inning game in Major League history. The 105 score is better than every perfect game and four points better than any other game period. He was 41 days shy of his 21st birthday and it was his fifth big league start.

Wood, now 34, is set to announce his retirement from baseball today according to ESPN Chicago’s Bruce Levine. Among pitchers who have thrown at least 1,000 career innings, his career 10.31 K/9 is the best in history by a right-handed pitcher and the second best all-time behind Randy Johnson (10.61 K/9). His 20 strikeouts against Houston remains the National League single-game record, and five days later he struck out 13 Diamondbacks to set the all-time record for strikeouts in consecutive starts (33).

In many ways, Wood is the embodiment of everything that can happen with young pitchers. He dominated, he walked a ton of guys, he got hurt, he dominated again, got hurt again, shifted to the bullpen, and then got hurt yet again. Unlike Mark Prior, Wood was hurt long before Dusty Baker came to Chicago’s north side and starting running arms through the shredder. He had Tommy John surgery in 1999 and shoulder inflammation in 2001, but still managed to rack up 17.2 WAR before his career really flew off the rails in 2004.

The laundry list of injuries includes labrum and rotator cuff surgery, five separate DL stints for non-surgical shoulder problems, knee surgery, back problems, blisters, an oblique strain, and triceps issues in addition to the elbow reconstruction. Wood spent 16 different stints on the disabled list during his 14-year career, including a bout with shoulder inflammation this season that appears to have contributed to his decision to retire. Frankly, it’s surprising he didn’t call it a career sooner given all the physical problems.

In an age when the term “electric stuff” gets slapped on every kid with a mid-90s fastball, none have lived up to the moniker like Wood. His fastball would legitimately sit in the mid-to-upper-90s early in his career and that curveball … it was just a thing of beauty. Batters swung and missed at his offerings a whopping 12.3% of the time since the data starting being recorded in 2002, a testament to how nasty he was. Wood topped the 200 IP plateau only twice (2002 and 2003) but he had four different seasons of 3+ WAR, including another at 2.7. He started, he closed, and he setup between injuries for the Cubs, the Indians, the Yankees, and then the Cubs again.

It’s almost impossible to find someone who wasn’t a fan of Kerry Wood. He was never an underdog in the sense that he lacked talent — he had talent to spare, if anything — but he was an underdog in that his body did everything it could to sabotage his greatness. Wood was one of the most exciting pitchers of his generation, fitting the Texas fireballer stereotype to a tee. Paul Sullivan of The Chicago Tribune says he’ll announce the decision following this afternoon’s game, and chances are Wood will make his final appearance as a player in relief and walk off the field to a standing ovation. After all he’s been through, Kerry will leave the game of baseball on his own terms and that’s awesome.

Pettitte’s Return A Mixed Bag For Yankees

After a year away from the game and a handful of minor league tune-up starts, Andy Pettitte officially returned to the Yankees on Sunday. His pitching line was nothing to write home about — 6.1 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 2 K — and he ultimately took the loss against the light-hitting Mariners. All four runs came on a pair of two-run homers, including a line drive shot by Justin Smoak that probably doesn’t leave many non-Yankee Stadium stadiums (video).

Anecdotally, the 39-year-old Pettitte looked an awful lot like the previous versions of himself, just with quite a bit of rust. He threw a ton of moving fastballs — 23 two-seamers and 32 cutters out of 94 pitches (58.5%) — but had trouble getting the ball (particularly the cutter) in on right-handed batters…

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Mike Axisa FanGraphs Chat – 5/14/12

The Mariano Rivera Fact Sheet

Late last week the Yankees (and really all of baseball) got some bad news when Mariano Rivera tore his right ACL shagging fly balls before Thursday’s game. It’s been part of his pre-game routine throughout his entire professional career, but it wasn’t until now that he took a misstep and hurt himself seriously. Rivera did announce that he will return to pitch next year — “I am coming back. Write it down in big letters … I’m not going out like this,” he said on Friday — but the Yankees will still have to weather the storm without him this summer. Luckily for them, David Robertson and Rafael Soriano are more than adequate replacements in the late innings.

The injury and the shock factor that came with it — was this going to be end of his career? — spurred me on to dig up some interesting nuggets about the greatest relief pitcher in baseball history. We all know about the 608 career saves, but save totals alone do not do the man’s career justice. Without further delay, the Mariano Rivera fact sheet…

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Giancarlo Stanton’s Power Outage

It took 21 team games and 72 plate appearances, but Giancarlo Stanton finally hit his first home run of the the season this past weekend. He drove an 0-2 fastball from left-hander Mike Zagurski out to dead center field, a 425-foot three-run shot. It raised Stanton’s season line to .246/.288/.348 and was just his fifth extra-base hit, well below both projections and expectations. There are a number of reasons for the 22-year-old’s power outage in the early going, but the most obvious one is staring us right in the face: his new ballpark.

With some help from Hit Tracker Online, here’s a look at the new Marlins Park with an overlay of the Sun Life Stadium outfield dimensions…

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New York’s Comeback Is Boston’s Latest Collapse

99.6%. That was the Red Sox’s win expectancy when Vicente Padilla struck out Andruw Jones to open the seventh inning on Saturday. Freddy Garcia did not make it out of the second inning and rookie southpaw Felix Doubront had handcuffed the Yankees’ lineup through six innings, surrendering only a solo homer to Mark Teixeira along the way. The game was all Boston with eight outs to go, and that’s when the national FOX broadcast cut away to the ninth inning of Phil Humber‘s perfect game.

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Jared Burton’s Splangeup

When the Twins signed 30-year-old right-hander Jared Burton to a minor league contract this winter, it was little more than a blip on the offseason radar. He managed to rack up 1.3 WAR in 161 relief innings for a Reds from 2007-2009 after being taken from the Athletics in the Rule 5 Draft, but hyperthyroidism and shoulder surgery limited him to just eight big league innings in 2010 and 2011. Relievers get hurt and drop off the baseball radar, it’s what they do.

Burton appears to have avoided that fate, at least for the time being. He had a strong Spring Training and made Minnesota’s bullpen with an assist to Scott Baker‘s elbow injury. Through five innings across six appearances, he’s struck out six batters and walked zero. He did surrender two solo homers in his first game, so it’s going to take some time for him to work off that 5.40 ERA and 6.32 FIP. Burton has allowed just one baserunner (a single) since that first game.

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The No Walks, No Strikeouts Clubs

Most teams have played ten games by now, and while we still are unable to draw anything meaningful out of players’ performances, we can still have a little fun with them. I’ve always been a fan of high-contact guys, especially players with better than average walk and strikeout rates. Guys who walk more than they whiff over a full season are my personal favorites.

With that in mind, let’s look at some players who haven’t done either yet this season, draw a walk or strikeout. We’ll begin with the five players with the most plate appearances who have yet to see a ball four in 2012…

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Indians Get No Discount With Santana Extension

Offensively competent catchers are perhaps the rarest commodity in baseball, and clubs tend to go to great lengths to make sure they can keep those guys long-term. The Indians and Carlos Santana agreed to a five-year contract extension yesterday, a deal that guarantees him $21 million and includes a $12 million club option for a sixth year. Jordan Bastian of and Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer both deserve credit for breaking the news.

Santana, 26, was already under team control through 2016. The new extension kicks in immediately, so it covers his final two pre-arbitration years and all three years of arbitration-eligibility. The club option covers one year of free agency. The Indians gained cost certainty more than anything, though that club option is obviously very appealing. Santana only signed for $75,000 out of Dominican Republic in 2004, so he gets some serious long-term financial security.

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