This is your conscience speaking. If you have plans, cancel them: there’re like a hundred sweet baseball games this weekend.
[Note: All minor league numbers are courtesy of StatCorner. HR/BIA = Home Run per Ball in Air. MLB average for starters is 6.5%. MiLB average is I-don't-know-what.]
Toronto at Tampa Bay | Friday, April 23 | 7:10 pm ET
Jays: Brett Cecil (L)
11.0 IP, 9.00 K/9, 1.64 BB/9, .394 BABIP, 39.4% GB, 0.0% HR/BIA, 1.75 FIP (Triple-A)
Projected FIP: 4.49 (FAN) 4.67 (CHONE) 4.77 (ZiPS)
Rays: Matt Garza (R)
24.0 IP, 7.13 K/9, 2.63 BB/9, .211 BABIP, 39.3% GB, 4.0% HR/FB, 3.87 xFIP
Projected FIP: 3.87 (FAN) 4.09 (CHONE) 4.10 (ZiPS)
This’ll be Cecil’s first MLB start of the year after having been recalled earlier in the week from Triple-A Las Vegas for the injured Brian Tallet. Cecil has some impressive seasons on his minor league resume — seasons where he struck people out, didn’t walk them, and got groundballs. That’s what we in the industry call a “triple threat.”
One note about Garza: I’m just not that in to him. Is that okay to write? Looking at his Pitchf/x numbers now, I see he’s got some wiggle on his slidepiece. He always seemed more of a chucker to me. On the other hand, I’m a little bit of an idiot.
Saint Louis at San Francisco | Friday, April 23 | 10:15 pm ET
Cards: Jaime Garcia (L)
13.0 IP, 6.92 K/9, 3.46 BB/9, .158 BABIP, 69.7% GB, 0.0% HR/FB, 3.38 xFIP
Projected FIP: N/A (FAN) 4.69 (CHONE) 4.59 (ZiPS)
Gigantes: Tim Lincecum (R)
20.0 IP, 10.80 K/9, 1.35 BB/9, .270 BABIP, 49.0% GB, 5.9% HR/FB, 2.24 xFIP
Projected FIP: 2.48 (FAN) 2.72 (CHONE) 2.68 (ZiPS)
Lincecum’s starts are basically the pornography of the baseball nerd world — or, at least that’s how it felt during his most recent game, last Saturday against the Los Angeles Dodgers. It got to the point in that start — during the fourth and fifth innings, especially — where he could’ve told whichever Dodger was batting that he was about to throw his change-up, and it wouldn’t've mattered. Here’s how those innings went down:
Bottom 4th: LA Dodgers
- M. Kemp struck out swinging
- G. Anderson struck out swinging
- R. Belliard flied out to shallow right
Bottom 5th: LA Dodgers
- B. DeWitt singled to shallow center
- A.J. Ellis walked, B. DeWitt to second
- C. Blake hit for C. Monasterios
- C. Blake struck out swinging
- J. Carroll struck out swinging
- J. Loney grounded out to second
There are four swinging strikeouts there, and three of them (Kemp, Anderson, Carroll) came on the change. Overall, he registered eight swing-and-misses on the pitch while throwing it only 20 times. That’s 40 percent. That’s also nutso. If and when Lincecum cuts his hair, I’ll jump real hard on his bandwagon.
Of course, none of this is to overshadow what Cardinal Jaime Garcia has done over his first two starts. This author was surprised to see the frenzied heights Garcia’s groundball rate has reached over the lefty’s first two starts. Turns out, it’s not that crazy. In 2007, over 103.1 innings with Double-A Springfield, Garcia recorded a 56% GB rate. A year later, in Triple-A Memphis, he recorded a 55% GB rate in 71 innings. If he records anything like a decent strikeout-to-walk split, he’s gonna be be somebody.
Fresno at Portland | Saturday, April 24 | 10:05 pm ET
Grizzlies: Madison Bumgarner (L)
13.0 IP, 6.23 K/9, 2.08 BB/9, .417 BABIP, 42.3% GB, 14.3% HR/BIA, 6.51 FIP (Triple-A)
Projected FIP: 3.92 (FAN) 4.99 (CHONE) 4.03 (ZiPS)
Beavers: Josh Geer (R)
18.0 IP, 4.5 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, .271 BABIP, 44.3% GB, 6.5% HR/BIA, 4.48 FIP (Triple-A)
Projected FIP: N/A (FAN) 4.97 (CHONE) 5.41 (ZiPS)
You’ve undoubtedly heard of Giants prospect Madison Bumgarner. If not, here’s his story in a nutshell: first, he was a sweet prospect; then, he lost like 6 MPH on his fastball; then, people were like, “OMG” and “WTF?” Anyway, he’s still only 20 and still the number two prospect on both Baseball America’s and also our own Marc Hulet’s respective prospect lists for the Giants.
The man who’s number one on each of those lists is Fresno catcher Buster Posey. A couple notes on Posey. First, he’s hitting the turkey stuffing outta the ball right now in the PCL — to the tune of .346/.443/.462 in 61 PAs. Second, Baseball America invokes the name Joe Mauer when attempting to describe the sort of player Posey is/might one day be. Third, his real name is actually Gerald Demp Posey. Neither you nor I am shocked to hear that he’s from Georgia.
If I had my druthers, Matt Antonelli — the pride of Peabody, MA — would magically return from an injury to his hamate bone (which is very clearly not even the name of a real human bone). I’d settle for a donger off the bat of Lance Zawadzki, though.
For more on the Portland Beavers and their glistening cast of characters, do consider pointing your browser to this season preview-y type thing.
Detroit at Texas | Sunday, April 25 | 3:05 pm ET
Tigers: Rick Porcello (R)
15.1 IP, 5.87 K/9, 2.35 BB/9, .398 BABIP, 57.4% GB, 5.6% HR/FB, 4.30 xFIP
Projected FIP: 4.34 (FAN) 4.91 (CHONE) 5.13 (ZiPS)
Rangers: Colby Lewis (R)
17.1 IP, 9.35 K/9, 5.19 BB/9, .280 BABIP, 40.0% GB, 4.8% HR/FB, 4.68 xFIP
Projected FIP: N/A (FAN) 3.99 (CHONE) 4.39 (ZiPS)
In case you didn’t notice, Colby Frigging Lewis is pitching this afternoon. Much like the great Cyclone roller coaster of Coney Island, Lewis’s early season exploits have been
made of wood located in Brooklyn up and down. Impressive? The righty’s 11.4% swinging-strike rate (which would’ve placed him around the top of last year’s leaderboard in that category). Less impressive? That only about 42% of his pitches are finding the zone (while league average typically sits around 50%). Lewis’s project now is twofold: first, attack hitters more authoritatively; second, use the changepiece to control lefties.
Tonight also presents the opportunity to ogle Detroit’s pair of rookie starters, center fielder Austin Jackson and second baseman Scott Sizemore. The former has managed to slash .311/.373/.443 through his first 67 Major League PAs, although the 37.7% K rate and .500 (!) BABIP are screaming “regression to the mean” right in my ear. The latter, Sizemore, is batting a more modest .275/.362/.350. On the plus side, he’s the only Sizemore in the Majors not to’ve taken weird pictures of his naked body in a bathroom mirror.
Win some, lose some, is the message there.
Cleveland at Oakland | Sunday, April 25 | 4:05 pm ET
Indians: Justin Masterson (R)
15.0 IP, 12.00 K/9, 4.20 BB/9, .433 BABIP, 59.5% GB, 14.3% HR/FB, 2.80 xFIP
Projected FIP: 4.34 (FAN) 4.91 (CHONE) 5.13 (ZiPS)
Athletics: Gio Gonzalez (L)
15.0 IP, 9.60 K/9, 6.00 BB/9, .347 BABIP, 45.0% GB, 8.3% HR/FB, 3.99 xFIP
Projected FIP: 4.33 (FAN) 4.57 (CHONE) 4.88 (ZiPS)
Masterson enters the weekend with the third-lowest xFIP among qualified pitchers. “Qualified to do what?” maybe you’re asking. “To dominate right-handed batters,” is my answer. Another thing you might be saying is “Hey, Cistulli: small sample size much?” And to that I reply, “I’ve never heard those words in my life. The numbers tell me he’s the third best pitcher in the Majors, and I believe them without question.”
All-Joyer Alert! Three of baseball nerdom’s most exciting players — Adam Rosales, Ryan Sweeney, and Kurt Suzuki — take the field tonight. Watch as Rosales fills in admirably for the injured Mark Ellis! Watch as Sweeney attempts to defeat Colby Rasmus for the title of Most Baseball-y Looking Baseballer! Watch as Suzuki does everything just well enough not to be noticed at all!
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