Author Archive

Ogando Enters Rangers Rotation

After months of back and forth banter, the Texas Rangers announced last week that they would be keeping both of their flame-throwing relievers (Neftali Feliz and Alexi Ogando) in the bullpen. That plan lasted less than a week. With starter Tommy Hunter out until at least May, the team announced that Ogando will begin the season as a starting pitcher.

Ogando is an interesting choice for a spot in the rotation given his lack of history with the role. The former outfielder has just over 100 appearances (majors and minors) as a pitcher, with just three of them coming as a starting pitcher. He has pitched in five games (one start) this spring, tossing 10.2 innings.

Despite being relatively new to the world of pitching, it’s easy to see the appeal of giving Ogando an expanded role. Working mainly off his high octane fastball and slider*, Ogando induced an above-average number of swings and misses (10.8% SwStr). With 39 strikeouts in 41.2 innings of work, he averaged nearly a punch out per inning pitched. In addition to the fastball and slider, the righty used a changeup (sparingly), and word on the street is he has dabbled with a splitter this spring.

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Beachy Makes Braves Rotation

The rag to riches story of Brandon Beachy continues with the announcement he has won a job as a member of the Atlanta Braves’ rotation to start the 2011 season. Since joining the organization as an undrafted free agent in 2008, Beachy has been on an accelerated path through the system. After starting the ’08 season in rookie ball, he ended 2010 with the big league team. Now he finds himself a week away from his first opening day roster spot.

Beachy, 24, has worked his way quickly through the organization on the strength of fantastic peripherals at the minor league level. Without overpowering natural ability, the right-hander has been a control freak thus far. He allowed just 49 walks in more than 200 innings as a minor leaguer and owns a career K/BB of nearly five.

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Where Is Willy Aybar?

The answer is not in a major league or minor league camp.

Two years ago, Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron had some nice things to say about Willy Aybar. In early 2009, Cameron called him the best reserve player in baseball and said he was deserving of an everyday job in the Major Leagues. Back then, there was a lot to like about Aybar.

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Yankees, Nationals Scouting Carlos Silva

Carlos Silva has drawn attention this spring for his dugout brawl with teammate Aramis Ramirez. According to Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago, he is gaining interest for what he does on the field as well. Levine names the Washington Nationals and the New York Yankees as teams who have scouted the Cubs’ right-hander this spring.

Both Washington and New York have questions at the back end of their rotations. The Nationals have durability concerns in John Lannan and Jordan Zimmerman while the Yankees are sorting through non-roster invitees like Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia. In either case, it’s hard to see Silva as much of an upgrade, especially considering he is on the books for nearly $12 million – although Seattle is picking up part of the tab.

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What Percival Taught Friedman

The architect of one of the biggest defensive turnarounds in modern baseball history, Andrew Friedman was given another tough task this offseason: build an entire major league bullpen with limited financial flexibility. In an offseason where relievers banked over $200 million, the Rays signed three relief pitchers (Kyle Farnsworth, Joel Peralta, J.P. Howell) to major league deals totaling around $6 million. Given the volatile nature of relief pitchers and bullpens, it is a sound strategy for a small revenue team like the Rays to put their dollars into different areas of the team. However, not only is Tampa Bay budget-conscious, but also stingy when it comes to guaranteed years.

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Durbin Signing Ends Wild Relief Market

The offseason for relief pitchers started with Joaquin Benoit signing a three-year, $16.5 million contract after a career year in 2010. Chad Durbin’s one-year pact with the Cleveland Indians for a guaranteed $800k with the potential to be worth $1.8 million effectively ends the silly season for relievers. In between Benoit and Durbin, more than 30 relief pitchers signed major league contracts with guaranteed money surpassing the $200 million mark.

Earlier this winter, reports said Durbin demanded at least a two-year commitment. In a market that saw multi-year deals handed to several middle relievers, it’s hard to blame him for taking that stance. Unlike some of his peers, the early rush on middle relief passed over Durbin and he was forced to accept a one-year offer.

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Arizona Scoops Up Branyan

After wondering where saber-sweetheart Russell Branyan would play this upcoming season, we now know he will be joining the fangraphs crew in Arizona – not literally, but close. In an offseason where Mark Kotsay signed a major-league deal, Branyan and his .350 wOBA of a season ago will join the Diamondbacks on a minor-league deal with an invite to spring training…really.

Branyan has been a hot topic around these parts with two articles yesterday looking at possible destinations for the muscle. As a Rays’ fan I agreed with Jack Moore that he was born for the Rays – or at least a better backup plan than Casey Kotchman. My AL East Rival, Joe Pawlikowski suggested the right-handed heavy Blue Jays would be a good fit as well.

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Delcarmen Chooses Relief With Mariners

Unlike last offseason, when they made several high-profiled transactions, the Seattle Mariners have stayed on the sidelines for the most part this winter. The signing of Manny Delcarmen does nothing to change that fact since it reads like a typical non-roster invite. While Delcarmen to the M’s is not a noteworthy move, the reported opportunities he passed to join Seattle are worth mentioning.

The Colorado Rockies acquired Delcarmen from the Boston Red Sox last year, but they did not tender him an offer for arbitration this offseason. As a free agent, several teams displayed varying interest on the right-hander. According to reports, Delcarmen’s final choice came down to the Tampa Bay Rays and the Seattle Mariners. Both teams have slots in the bullpen, but he ultimately chose Seattle.

Perhaps it was just too soon for the Massachusetts native join a rival club or perhaps Delcarmen wisely picked a softer landing in hopes of rebuilding his value. In choosing Seattle, Delcarmen gets the added benefit of pitching in spacious Safeco Field. While Tropicana Field is also pitcher friendly, the lineups in the American League East are not. For a relief pitcher looking to re-establish himself as key bullpen cog the Safeco/AL West option is a decent way to go.

On the other hand, Seattle and Tampa Bay were not Delcarmen’s only options. According to, he left a major league offer from one National League club sitting on the table. In perhaps the most interesting twist Delcarmen also had the opportunity to become a starting pitcher for a “mystery team” in the NL.

Despite all of 298 of his major league appearances coming in relief, the 28-year-old began his professional career as a member of the rotation. He made 53 starts from 2001-2004, spanning his time from rookie ball up to the Advanced-A level. From Double-A and above, he has been exclusively used in relief. Although he hasn’t started a game with merit – started one game in 2010 lasting one inning – in six years, he does have some qualities that are useful as a starter.

While his role as a reliever doesn’t command an expanded repertoire of pitches, he throws three offerings with regularity. In addition to his fastball, he throws a curveball and changeup as secondary offerings. According to pitch values, all three held positive values at one time or another during his career. In terms of swing and miss ability, his curveball and changeup especially have racked up a quite a few whiffs.

In addition to options in pitch selection, Delcarmen’s career numbers are lacking extreme platoon splits. In fact, his career OPS is actually more favorable against lefties (.651) than it is against righties (.738). Even his 3.74 FIP against lefties bests his 4.25 against righties, although xFIP suggests that has come with some fortuitous home run rates.

The one area of complete unknown is durability. Delcarmen has logged at least 44 games in each of his full seasons as a reliever, but has thrown over 60 innings just one time in a major league season. His career high as a starter was 136.0, but that came as a 20-year-old in the South Atlantic League way back in 2002.

Career numbers alone don’t quite explain Delcarmen since he has experienced varying degrees of success as a major leaguer. From 2005-2008, he appeared in 177 contests for the Red Sox compiling a pitching triple-slash line (ERA/FIP/xFIP) of 3.49/3.38/3.87. In the past two seasons each of those numbers is around 5.00.

Since 2009, he has put up a trifecta of red flags: declining strikeout rate, increasing walk rate, decrease of fastball velocity. Immediately that triggers off the injury alarm; he has, however, appeared in at least 57 games in each of the past two years. Jeff Sullivan makes a compelling case that the recent struggles may be mechanical related.

Similar to Alfredo Aceves, the case of Manny Delcarmen – the starter – is an intriguing idea, especially considering the cost would have been relatively low for a starting pitcher. Alas, in the end Delcarmen chose to battle for a spot in the back end of the Mariners’ bullpen instead of one at the back end of an unknown rotation.

Chris Young Trades Petco For Citi Field

The New York Mets have been in the news quite a bit this offseason. Unfortunately for their fans, most of the headlines have centered on the financial problems facing the franchise and not the on-field product. With most of their payroll tied up in a handful of players, new General Manager Sandy Alderson has had to make due with little resources.

With Johan Santana on the mend, Alderson’s main task was filling the remaining rotation spots behind Mike Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey, and Jon Niese. With few internal options (Dillon Gee) and limited spending money, Alderson was forced to make some risk/reward signings and hope for the best. One of those signing came in the form of Chris Young, formerly of the Alderson-led San Diego Padres.

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Edmonds’ Minor Problem with Kotsay’s Major Deal

We’re pleased to welcome Tommy Rancel as the newest member of the FanGraphs staff. His debut post is below.

Last week, Mark Kotsay signed a one-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers worth $800,000 with incentives that could push it closer to $1.2 million. Kotsay receives a guaranteed major league contract despite coming off a season in which he hit .239/.306/.379 in just under 360 plate appearances for the Chicago White Sox. His .297 wOBA and 77 wRC+ last season were well below average, following a trend for Kotsay over the past few years.  If you’re looking for a silver lining on defense, look elsewhere – he hasn’t been a good defender for most of the past decade.

Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash said Kotsay will fill the role that Jim Edmonds held last year. He will serve as the team’s primary bat off the bench as well as the fourth or fifth outfielder with the ability to fill in at first base if needed. Just a few days after his name was mentioned by Ash when speaking of Kotsay, Edmonds returned to the St. Louis Cardinals, potentially to fill a similar role.

Edmonds missed all of 2009, but made a surprise return to the big leagues last year playing for the Brewers and later the Cincinnati Reds. In 272 plate appearances, the 40-year-old hit .277/.342/.507. He joined Matt Joyce as the only players in the majors with at least 10 home runs and 15 doubles despite logging less than 275 plate appearances. As a defender, he did an admirable job in the field earning positive marks in a limited role. In total, he was worth nearly 3 WAR. Not bad for a non-roster invitee.

Naturally, Edmonds received a minor-league deal from St. Louis while Kotsay is guaranteed major league money. What?

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