Archive for Instanalysis

Expanded Replay Probably Coming, Probably Flawed

Major League Baseball is looking to expand its instant-replay review system in time for the 2014 regular season. This much has been known for a while, and it’s been discussed and debated several times over. I don’t know if there’s anyone out there who still has a fresh and original take on the matter of replay review. Opinions have been established. Minds have been made up. Now, though, we do get some details about a plan proposal. There’s been a meeting in Cooperstown, and I’ll allow Ken Rosenthal to take it away:

Baseball owners are considering a proposal under which managers would initiate replay reviews.
[…]
Under the proposed rules, managers will be allowed two challenges over the first six innings of games and one after the seventh inning. Calls that are challenged will be reviewed by a crew in MLB headquarters in New York City, which will make the final ruling.

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Johnny Cueto’s Twist

Johnny Cueto came off the disabled list and started for the Reds last night. He had been on the disabled list due to a sore right oblique; it was the same injury he experienced during last season’s playoffs. His unique twisting windup seems to be the reason that he’s suffered the same ailment twice now, and he has said he might consider changing his delivery to correct the problem in the future.

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Anatomy of a Really Bad Call

It is an irrefutable fact that nothing that happens at the beginning of April can cost a team an entire baseball season. That is, short of a disaster or otherwise some act of God. You know what there’s a lot left of? Regular-season baseball. There is so much regular-season baseball left to be played. Things are going to happen, and seasons are going to change course. At this point we’re practically still in extended spring training.

But it is likewise an irrefutable fact that every single game of a regular season matters. Which is why we turn our attention to a game between the Rays and Rangers in Texas on Monday night. A year ago, the Rays finished within a few games of a playoff spot. The Rangers lost the division on the season’s last day, and then they were eliminated in the one-game wild-card playoff. The Rays and Rangers both project to contend in 2013. Things are going to be tight, most likely, making everything matter more, and on Monday, the Rangers closed out the Rays thanks to what we might charitably label a controversial call.

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Doing the Best With Jose Valverde

All offseason long, the Detroit Tigers denied interest in re-signing free-agent closer Jose Valverde. Every other team in baseball also effectively denied interest in signing Valverde. The Tigers did next to nothing to address their closer situation, and on Wednesday, Phil Coke blew a save against the Twins. Thursday, the Tigers signed Valverde, albeit to a minor-league contract with an early-May opt out. There have been, I think, two primary responses:

(1) It’s a minor-league contract so it’s utterly risk-free — if Valverde doesn’t earn a big-league job, he won’t be given a big-league job. What’s the harm?

(2) The Tigers won’t be able to help themselves. Valverde isn’t what he was, but it won’t be long before he’s closing again for Detroit, and possibly costing them games. He’s “proven”, he’s familiar, he’s still thought of as a closer despite everything. This is how it starts.

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CC Sabathia’s Velocity Is Definitely Worth Watching

Every year we hear stories about pitchers whose fastballs don’t seem to have the same life as last year. The most talked about are typically front-line starters that rely on their fastballs. In early 2013, the name that’s being discussed the most is Yankee ace CC Sabathia.

Throughout spring training, Sabathia’s velocity has been a point of concern. Coming off of elbow surgery during the offseason, Sabathia’s first regular season start did nothing to quell that concern. As The Star-Ledger’s Andy McCullough notes:

Sabathia’s fastball topped out at 91.7 mph on Monday, according to Pitch f/x data from Brooks Baseball. On Opening Day in 2012, his fastball hit 94.5 mph. On Opening Day in 2011, his fastball touched 94.7 mph.

(By the way, if you don’t read McCullough on a regular basis you are missing out.)

In the end, McCullough notes that while it’s reasonable to be concerned, Sabathia is likely to improve as the season wears on and has good enough secondary stuff to still be very good.

Overall McCullough is right, however, I think there is greater reason for concern than some may think.

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Justin Verlander Summits Money Mountain

For much of the offseason, Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, and Clayton Kershaw were non-literally linked. All three have been among the most consistently outstanding starting pitchers in the world entire. All three were to enter 2013 two years away from free agency. So all three were to entertain thoughts of signing long-term contract extensions. Felix signed first, re-upping with the Mariners for the rest of days. Now, Friday, with the season just about upon us, Verlander has signed second, re-upping with the Tigers for several days himself.

Depending on how you think about things, Verlander has signed either a seven-year contract or a five-year contract. Verlander was already under contract for $20 million in each of the next two seasons, but upon the new agreement some of the language concerning those two seasons has changed. In any case, after Verlander makes $20 million a year for two years, he’ll make $28 million a year for five. The breakdown:

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Brewers Find Starter, Lohse Finds Work

Monday morning, Dave Cameron posted his bottom half of the 2013 starting pitcher positional power rankings. Just going to go ahead and paste a few select excerpts:

There’s a reason the team keeps getting tied to Kyle Lohse – he would be a pretty big upgrade over the internal candidates for the Brewers rotation.

And:

If they had another quality starter, having two interesting upside guys with big variance at the back of the rotation would be more palatable. As it is, the Brewers look like they’re at least one good pitcher short of being a contender this year.

Funny story!

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Edgar Renteria’s Underrated Career

Although he didn’t play a single game in 2012, it wasn’t until yesterday that Edgar Renteria officially announced his retirement from baseball. The long-time big leaguer told RCN Television in his native Colombia that “I’m definitely retired from baseball and it will soon be announced in the majors … I decided to retire from baseball and try to spend all my time with my family.”

Renteria, 37, had a very long and productive career, racking up 39.6 WAR in 2,152 games across parts of 16 seasons. He retires as a .286/.343/.398 (95 wRC+) career hitter with some dynamite individual seasons to his credit — specifically his 128 wRC+ and 6.9 WAR in 2003. If you want to cherry-pick some end-points, Renteria was the fourth best shortstop in baseball from 2002-2007 at 23.7 WAR. Only Derek Jeter (29.8), Miguel Tejada (27.2), and Jimmy Rollins were better (26.4)*.

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Dodgers Temporarily With 100% Less Hanley Ramirez

You don’t know how close you came to reading a “Hand-ley Ramirez” joke. I guess now you might.

Hanley Ramirez participated in the recently-concluded World Baseball Classic. He played third base, even though he was to spend the regular season as a shortstop. While attempting to make a play in the field the other day, Ramirez jammed his thumb, and shortly thereafter he was removed. Initial estimates put him out for 2-10 weeks, pending further word. Further word is in, and it’s not good news for Ramirez or for the Dodgers. It is good news for Ramirez’s backups, if they’re selfish.

According to Ken Rosenthal, and since confirmed by others, Ramirez is having surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament. His thumb won’t be able to do anything for three weeks, and it’s estimated that Ramirez could return to action in eight weeks. Depending on the length of any rehab assignment, then, the Dodgers will be without Hanley Ramirez until mid- or late-May. Which means Ramirez is set to miss a quarter or a third of the regular season, barring any setbacks or surprises.

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Scott Kazmir Strikes Out Josh Hamilton

Previously, it was Oliver Perez. Earlier in his career, Oliver Perez was a good major-league pitcher. Then he was a worse major-league pitcher, then he was a bad major-league pitcher, then he was nothing, thought to be hopeless. Perez resurfaced in winter ball, allegedly reaching his old velocity levels as a reliever. The Mariners gave him a chance, and he worked his way into a big-league bullpen. Perez will be back in that bullpen in 2013, armed with a rich new contract, and just like that, Oliver Perez has been resurrected.

Now we have the case of Scott Kazmir. Earlier in his career, Kazmir was a good major-league pitcher. Then he was a worse major-league pitcher, then he was a bad major-league pitcher, then he was nothing, thought to be hopeless. Kazmir was awful the last time he pitched in affiliated ball, and he wasn’t particularly good with the independent Sugar Land Skeeters. Kazmir resurfaced in winter ball, allegedly reaching his old velocity levels as a starter. The Indians gave him a contract, and right now Kazmir is on his way to making the starting rotation out of camp.

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White Sox Looking to Lock Up Chris Sale

From the esteemed Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago:

White Sox pitcher Chris Sale confirmed Tuesday his representatives have had discussions with the club about a contract extension.

(snip)

“We’ve been kind of back and forth but nothing too crazy right now,” Sale said Tuesday when asked about extension talks.

Think of the headline potential. “Sale Extended: Now Through 2018!” That is SEO gold right there.

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Michael Bourn Joins Indians’ Roster of Interest

Michael Bourn was supposed to become a very highly-paid player. Then all the teams with center-field vacancies started filling them with other guys, leaving Bourn on the market. It was an impossible market to read, and, per usual, people started wondering if Scott Boras had overplayed his hand. Eventually there was talk that the Mets would be interested, if they could negotiate to have their first draft pick protected. So, for a short while, it looked like Bourn could sign with the Mets. But, instead, Bourn has now signed with the Indians, joining fellow free-agent acquisition Nick Swisher. And Bourn is going to be a very highly-paid player, if to a lesser extent than expected.

The terms are as such: four years and $48 million, guaranteed, with a vesting fifth-year option worth $12 million. Ages ago, the FanGraphs audience — that’s you! — projected that Bourn would sign for five years and $70 million. So, relative to expectations, Cleveland has done pretty well.

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Felix Hernandez Reportedly Getting Blockbuster Contract

At present, Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, and Clayton Kershaw are three of the very greatest starting pitchers in the game. They’re also all two years away from free-agent eligibility, so there’s been talk of long-term contract extensions. Dave wrote about this subject last month, and he estimated that Hernandez could end up with a seven-year commitment worth about $150 million. That would be five years at $22 million apiece, attached to the end of the two years for which Felix is already signed.

Thursday has brought news of no confirmations. However, it’s also brought a report out of USA Today that Hernandez and the Mariners have agreed to terms on a seven-year deal worth $175 million. Follow-up reports say it isn’t official, and that there are still some little issues to work out, but the hard part looks to have been conquered. While the numbers might change a bit, it seems this should get finalized, and Hernandez should end up with a five-year contract extension, plus raises in 2013 and 2014. What we’re looking at is a seven-year commitment to a pitcher with a $25 million average annual value.

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Chris Carpenter Hurt and Probably Finished

Earlier Tuesday, word got around that the St. Louis Cardinals had called an afternoon press conference. Word got around because the Cardinals spread it. Immediately, there was some speculation that the Cardinals had made an acquisition. There was also speculation that the Cardinals were going to announce a long-term contract extension for a player or coach. But then there were whispers that the news conference would have to do with Chris Carpenter‘s future, and many began to expect a retirement announcement. Carpenter has not retired, but retirement doesn’t appear to be far off.

Carpenter’s coming off major surgery, and he started throwing early on this offseason to test his body. Recently, he informed the Cardinals that he’s feeling similar symptoms to the ones he experienced a year ago. He’s going to get himself examined, but the Cardinals all but wrote him off for 2013, and they repeatedly referred to Carpenter in the past tense. This is not a Chris Carpenter retirement article, but you can consider it just one step below.

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A’s Get Jed Lowrie, Astros Get Power

Some weeks ago, there was talk that the A’s were interested in trading for Jed Lowrie, while in return, the Astros were interested in getting Chris Carter and a young pitcher. Sometimes rumors reported in such a way are based in fact, and sometimes rumors reported in such a way are based in fantasy. Monday evening, the A’s swung a trade to get themselves Jed Lowrie. As part of the return, the Astros got themselves Chris Carter and a young pitcher.

The actual, complete specifics:

To Oakland: Jed Lowrie, Fernando Rodriguez
To Houston: Chris Carter, Brad Peacock, Max Stassi

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The Mets’ Low-Risk Bullpen Rebuild

Last offseason, Mets GM Sandy Alderson spent just $17.8 million on Major League free agents. Most of that when to Frank Francisco ($12 million) and Jon Rauch ($3.5 million), and the club also absorbed Ramon Ramirez‘s salary ($2.75 million) in the ill-fated Angel Pagan trade. Those three were supposed to join incumbents Bobby Parnell and Tim Byrdak to give the Amazin’s a solid relief unit, but instead the new additions combined to post an underwhelming 4.34 ERA (3.89 FIP) and 0.3 WAR in 163.2 innings.

Francisco, 33, signed a two-year contract last winter and will remain with the Mets this year. He had offseason elbow surgery and the team is openly concerned about whether he will be ready in time for Opening Day. Both Rauch and Ramirez have been allowed to walk as free agents though, plus Byrdak is expect to miss most (if not all) of 2013 following shoulder surgery. For most of the winter it appeared Parnell and rookie left-hander Josh Edgin were the only locks for the team’s Opening Day bullpen, but Alderson has gone to work in the last two weeks by signing low-risk and relatively high-reward relief options.

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Nick Johnson Retires, FanGraphs Weeps

Eight times on base. Had Nick Johnson reached base just eight more times in his ten-year career, he would have become just the 41st player in history to leave the game with a .400+ OBP (min. 3,000 PA). Eight times on base in ten years. I say we blame the Orioles, because it was with them that he reached base just 33 times in 102 PA last season (.326 OBP). He went into the season with a career .401 OBP.

Johnson, 34, retired from baseball earlier this week according to WFAN’s Sweeny Murti. He leaves the game as a favorite of statheads everywhere thanks to pure hitting ability — career .268/.399/.441 (126 wRC+) — that never quite received the respect in deserved. Quotes, like this one said to our own David Laurila last summer, stand out as well…

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Mets Grab Themselves a Cheap Shaun Marcum

We begin with a Shaun Marcum timeline. Marcum debuted in the majors in 2005, and he got progressively better through 2008. He missed all of 2009 due to Tommy John surgery. In 2010, as a Blue Jay, he started on opening day. Following 2010, he was traded to the Brewers for top prospect Brett Lawrie straight up. In 2011, he posted a sub-4 ERA over 33 starts. In 2012, he posted a sub-4 ERA over 21 starts, having missed time with elbow discomfort. But he pitched before the discomfort, and then he came back to pitch after it. Marcum’s a not-unreliable 31 years old. As a free agent, you’d think Marcum would be able to get himself a reasonably hefty contract. Instead, he’s signed with the Mets for a year and $4 million. He could earn an additional $2 million, but only if he hits his incentives.

As always, that counts as a hefty contract by our non-baseballing standards. Marcum will out-earn many CEOs! Such luxury! But for the sake of comparison, Mike Pelfrey signed for a year and $4 million, with $1.5 million in possible incentives. Scott Baker signed for a year and $5.5 million, with $1.5 million in possible incentives, and last season he didn’t throw a pitch. Kevin flipping Correia signed for two years and $10 million, and he’s Kevin Correia. On that basis alone, it seems like the Mets got themselves a pretty good deal. On that basis alone, it seems like Marcum should’ve had more of a market.

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Orioles Continue Inactive Offseason By Signing Jair Jurrjens

Despite surprising everyone by winning 93 games and qualifying for the postseason last year, the Orioles haven’t done much of anything this winter. Other than re-signing Nate McLouth, all of their moves have been small trades (Danny Valencia, Trayvon Robinson, Yamaico Navarro), minor league signings (Daniel Schlereth, Zach Braddock, Travis Ishikawa), or waiver claims (Luis Martinez, Alexi Casilla). Their most notable moves to date were extending GM Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter through 2018.

Baltimore continued their nondescript offseason yesterday by agreeing to sign right-hander Jair Jurrjens to a one-year contract worth $1.5 million that could reach $4 million through incentives. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports had the scoop. Jurrjens was just awful with the Braves last season, pitching to a 6.89 ERA and 5.64 FIP with nearly as many walks (18) as strikeouts (19) in 48.1 innings. They sent him to Triple-A not once but twice, where he managed a 4.98 ERA and 4.62 FIP in 72.1 innings. His season effectively ended in early-August due to a groin strain.

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Cubs Sign Scott Hairston, Edge Closer to Hopeful Season

The Yankees, Mets, Braves and Phillies were all in pursuit of Scott Hairston, and it wasn’t until last week that it appeared the Cubs even had a chance. Now the oft-wanted role player is joining the Chicago Cubs on a 2-year deal worth up to $6 million after incentives.

Hairston’s well-documented ability to hit left-handed pitching (119 wRC+ against lefties, 86 wRC+ against righties) has earned him quality playing time in the majors, but never a starting gig. That trend should continue as he joins a Cubs outfield alignment already featuring a pair of lefties in David DeJesus and Nate Schierholtz.

Schierholtz has a career 96 wRC+ against righties and 90 wRC+ against his brother southpaws. On the merit of two consecutive strong seasons against right-handers (123 wRC+ in 2011, 126 wRC+ in 2012), Schierholtz figures to earn a hearty 500 PA as the Cubs anti-righty platoon mate.

DeJesus, meanwhile, owns a much more pronounced platoon split. His strong defense across the outfield and 117 wRC+ against righties keeps him in the lineup most days, but his 80 wRC+ against lefties may make him — despite being the more proven hitter — a possible platoon partner for Hairston as well.

All told, Hairston and his surprise suitors together make an increasingly interesting team, rich both in flaws and talents. With Hairston and a few other Scotts — Scott Baker, Scott Feldman, Kyuji Fujikawa (“Scott,” to his friends, I believe) — the Cubs look like they may need a hunting cap in 2013. The playoffs may not be out of reach.
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