Archive for June, 2012

Daily Notes: Rangers’ Perez to Make First MLB Start

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of Daily Notes.

1. Featured Game: Oakland at Texas, 19:15 ET
2. Other Notable Games (Including MLB.TV Free Game)
3. Today’s Complete Schedule

Featured Game: Oakland at Texas, 19:15 ET
What’s Notable About This Game
What’s particularly notable about this game is left-hander Martin Perez is starting it for Texas.

Regarding Perez, Who That Even Is
Perez has been a top prospect in the Rangers organization for some time, having been ranked by Baseball America among said organization’s top-five prospects each of the last four years — including third overall this season.

Regarding Perez, Where He’s Ranked on Four Other Lists
Here’s where Perez was ranked on four other preseason prospect lists:

• Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus: 2nd

• Marc Hulet, FanGraphs: 2nd

• Jonathan Mayo, 2nd

• John Sickels, Minor League Ball: 2nd

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Select Pitches from Trevor Bauer’s Debut

It’s probably true that basically any idiot can capture and render into GIF form video footage of a few pitches from Trevor Bauer’s much-anticipated major-league debut on Thursday. Only one such idiot, however, both (a) writes for FanGraphs and (b) has 15 free minutes on Friday evening.

This guy, is who.

So, without anything further in the way of preface, here are three select pitches from Bauer’s debut. (Note: for each pitch, both velocity and movement — horizontal and then vertical — are listed. League-average velocity/movement indicated in parentheses).

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FanGraphs Audio: Fantasy Friday with Howard Bender

Episode 207
RotoGraphs contributor Howard Bender is the guest on this Fantasy Friday edition of FanGraphs Audio.

• Reliever turnover, what points in the season are more and less prone to it.
Trevor Bauer vs. Andrew Cashner, the eternal debate of the last day and a half.
Stephen Drew, his value in the second half.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 43 min. play time.)

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Franklin Morales: Back, For The First Time

When the Red Sox acquired Franklin Morales from the Rockies last season, no one paid much attention. At the time of the deal, he hadn’t pitched in four days, and hadn’t recorded an out in seven. When he began his Red Sox career by allowing four runs in three innings in his first two outings, there was similarly no reason for Red Sox nation to sit up and take notice — he was just another re-tread lefty that the team would have to cycle through now that Hideki Okajima had turned back into a pumpkin. Fast forward one year though, and Morales is catching everyone’s attention, as — for the moment — he is once again impressing as a starter. The difference is that this time, there is reason to believe it’s for real.

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Matt Davidson Displays Power In Double-A

Arizona Diamondbacks third base prospect Matt Davidson began the 2012 season in quite an offensive groove. In April, his .330/.450/.549 slash line left the 21-year-old amongst Southern League Leaders. In fact, his 16 home runs to date is still tops amongst qualified hitters and double any player considered age appropriate for the league. However, Davidson’s numbers have been in steady decline as the weather has warmed up, leaving prospect followers questioning how well his bat will translate at the major league level.

Video after the jump

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Job Posting: Office of the Commissioner

Office of the Commissioner: Senior Software Developer

Develop and support critical baseball software systems and provide general support to the Software Development Manager.

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What’s Going on at Safeco Field?

It’s no secret that the Mariners home park is one of the more pitcher friendly ballparks in the Majors. Because of it’s asymmetrical dimensions, its especially beneficial to left-handed pitchers who can take advantage of the large area in left-center field, allowing right-handed batters to pull the ball without getting penalized by as many home runs as they’d allow in a neutral ballpark. Jason Vargas is the best current example of this phenomenon, as he’s allowed just five home runs at home and 16 on the road this season.

However, what is happening in Safeco this season looks like it goes beyond just the park effects that we already know about. For some reason, Safeco Field is just destroying offense this year in a way that it never has before.

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FanGraphs Prospect Stock Market – 06/29/12

Marc Krauss, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
Current Level: AA
2012 Top 15 Prospects Ranking: NR
Current Value: Improving

Krauss spent the first two years of his career destroying pitching in the low minors. Promoted to double-A in 2011, the now-24-year-old outfielder faced the first true, long-term struggles of his pro career which saw him hit .242 with a wRC+ of 109. Returning to the level in 2012, Krauss has shown steady improvements and currently sports a wRC+ of 168, as well as an ISO rate of .234. The left-handed hitter could carve out a solid career as a platoon left-fielder (and/or DH) who beats up on right-handed pitching but runs screaming like a school girl from southpaws.

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Daily Notes, Featuring Top Ace Pitchers, Thumbs Up!

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of Daily Notes.

1. Featured Game: Detroit at Tampa Bay, 19:10 ET
2. Other Notable Games (Including MLB.TV Free Game)
3. Today’s Complete Schedule

Featured Game: Detroit at Tampa Bay, 19:10 ET
Regarding This Game, What’s Notable About It
What’s notable about this game between the Tigers and Rays is how the starters for both teams — that is to say, Justin Verlander (117.2 IP, 82 xFIP-, 3.8 WAR) and David Price (97.2 IP, 83 xFIP-, 1.9 WAR) — are generally regarded as Top Ace Pitchers, Thumbs Up!

Regarding What Makes Them Top Ace Pitchers
In terms of why both Verlander and Price are considered top aces, a lot of it — the lion’s share, one might even say — has to do with their ability to prevent runs.

Verlander and Price, Another of Their Praiseworthy Qualities
Another of Price’s and Verlander’s praiseworthy qualities is how they’ve recorded the second- and fourth-highest average fastball velocities (95.6 and 94.5 mph, respectively) among qualified starters this season.

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Kimbrel’s Historic Pace

Craig Kimbrel is really freakin’ good. While his blown save in the final game of the 2011 season gave him a bit more fame for the wrong reasons, Kimbrel has been downright tremendous in his young career. He has only gotten better this season, and at just 24 years old, still stands to improve a bit. Improvements beyond his current performance would make for one scary closer against whom almost nobody would reach base.

Kimbrel has now logged 126.2 innings in his career, and has the following marks: 1.71 ERA, 1.46 FIP, 15.3 K/9, 42.7% K/PA, 45.4% groundball rate. He has an 83.5% strand rate, a .157 opponents average and a 1.01 WHIP, even with a relatively high walk rate. But he’s getting better in that area as well, as his walk rate has decreased each year: from 18.2% to 10.5% down to his current 9.1% mark.

Whether we’re looking at the career numbers of all relievers in the history of baseball, or pitchers through their first three or four seasons, Kimbrel ranks ahead of everyone in most important categories. This is only his third season — and second full year — in the majors, but he is off to a historic start. It wouldn’t be out of line to suggest that, through three years and 120+ innings, Kimbrel has the best numbers of anyone ever.

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Q&A: Tim Hudson, Evolution of a Repertoire

Tim Hudson has had a long and successful career. The 36-year-old right-hander owns a 187-100 recrod and a 3.41 ERA in 389 big-league appearances. Now in his eighth season with the Atlanta Braves — after six years in Oakland — he has accumulated 50.5 WAR. Primarily a sinkerball pitcher, Hudson has been a consistent front-line starter despite a pedestrian 6.11 K/9.

Hudson talked about his repertoire, and how it has evolved over the years, when the Braves visited Boston earlier this month.


Tim Hudson: “When I first signed, I was sinker, slider, split — mostly sinker, split. I didn’t really throw much of a breaking ball; it was kind of a show-me type of pitch. That was pretty much all I had up until I got to Triple-A. Then I started working more on a changeup and a little bit of a bigger breaking ball.

“When I got to the big leagues, I was still mostly sinker-split, with an occasional slider. After about a year or so, I started relying more on a bigger breaking ball that I could throw more often when I was behind in counts. I also started throwing an occasional changeup, which was a different look than my split.

“My breaking ball went from being more of a cutter to more of a slider — just a bigger break. I needed something with a little more depth, something with a little more swing-and-miss potential. I needed something that would move away from a right-handed hitter a little more. The [pitch] I had been throwing had a smaller break, because it didn’t have slider rotation.

“A cutter is just an offset fastball that looks like a fastball and spins like a fastball, but at the very end cuts like a small slider. Read the rest of this entry »

Is Baseball Getting Too Expensive For Kids?

A week ago, John Sickels wrote an interesting blog post, more of a musing than an analysis:

A) At the amateur level (high school, college, etc.), baseball is primarily a game for the children of wealth and the upper middle class. Do you think that is true or false?

B) If you accept that A is true, is that good for the sport and what, if anything, should be done about it?

I accept his proposition. I played Little League baseball for five years or so, and I was a growing boy — I remember how many pairs of cleats and clean white jerseys and pants and metal bats and gloves I went through, to say nothing of the summer camps, the days at the batting cages, and the dues for the league themselves, much of which probably went to the trophy I invariably got for showing up every year. This despite the fact that I was, as many of my readers no doubt will have guessed, no good at all.

Because I wasn’t any good at all, my parents saved on things like travel (because I certainly wasn’t traveling), personal instruction, or the “metal contraption” that Trevor Bauer’s dad built for him.

But I had no idea how much they were spending. Read the rest of this entry »

Josh Hamilton’s Weakness On Full Display

I don’t mean to beat a dead horse. I know I just wrote about Josh Hamilton’s approach at the plate on Tuesday. We’re not breaking any new ground here, but last night was such a striking example of Hamilton’s current problems, and the four images I’m about to show you make the point so obvious that they need to be recorded for posterity.

Josh Hamilton struck out four times last night. He reached base once, when he was beaned by the first pitch of an at-bat. I’m not going to show you that at-bat, because, well, he got beaned, so I’m pretty sure you know where the pitch was. Here are the MLB Gameday graphics for his other four at-bats.

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FanGraphs Audio: Fredi Gonzalez, Andrelton Simmons

Episode 206
David Laurila, curator of FanGraphs’ Q&A Series, talks with Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez and shortstop Andrelton Simmons.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 21 min. play time.)

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FanGraphs Prospect Stock Watch – 06/28/12

Christian Bethancourt, C, Atlanta Braves
Current Level: AA
2012 Top 15 Prospects Ranking: 7th
Current Value: Down

This past off-season I spoke with a front office person who had very glowing things to say about Bethancourt – especially on defense. The backstop is continuing to impress observers with his play in the field in 2012 but his offense has been MIA at the double-A level. Bethancourt is hitting a modest .257 and both his on-base percentage and slugging percentage are below .300. His OPS sits at .557. With just three extra base hits on the year (all doubles), the Panama native hasn’t shown any improvements in the power department as the year has progressed with just one of those extra baggers coming since the end of April. Still just 20 years old, Bethancourt has a lot of time to turn things around and Atlanta will almost certainly pick up veteran catcher Brian McCann’s 2013 option ($12 million).

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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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Dodgers Invest In Yasiel Puig

The Dodgers dipped into the international market for the first time under new ownership Thursday morning, reportedly agreeing to a seven-year, $42 million deal with Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig. The 21-year-old Puig broke out in the Cuban Serie Nacional (the nation’s top league) during the 2009-10 season, hitting .330/.430/.581 with 17 home runs in 327 at-bats.

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The Disappearance of Hitters Who Walk More Than They Strike Out

While watching the Mets pound on the Cubs yesterday, I noticed that David Wright still has a walk rate (BB%) higher than his strikeout rate (K%). If Wright managed to continue this trend through the end of the season it would be the first time in his career he achieved such a feat.

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Bauer and Cashner: An Object Lesson in Hype

Trevor Bauer makes his Major League Debut tonight. Carson already wrote about it, and the coverage of his impending promotion has included months of conversation, including a movement to #FreeTrevorBauer. Bauer’s big league debut has been heavily anticipated and is now going to be heavily watched.

However, there’s another guy getting called up from the minors to join the rotation of an NL West team tonight too, and he’s doing it with little to no fanfare. Carson didn’t even mention his start under “other notable games”, and no one has ever used the hashtag #FreeAndrewCashner. So, while the Trevor Bauer Hype Train rolls on, don’t miss out on Andrew Cashner’s first real big league start of 2012, because he very well may be the best pitching prospect to take the mound tonight.

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Matt Klaassen FanGraphs Chat – 6/28/12