Archive for July, 2012

FanGraphs After Dark Chat – 7/31/12

Today’s Trades

For those of you just playing catch-up, here’s a rundown of the deals that were made before the deadline today.

Philadelphia Phillies send OF Hunter Pence to San Francisco for C Tommy Joseph, OF Nate Schierholtz, and RP Seth Rosin.

Pence analysis here, Prospects analysis here

Philadelphia Phillies send OF Shane Victorino to Los Angeles Dodgers for RP Josh Lindblom and SP Ethan Martin.

Trade analysis here

Chicago Cubs send SP Ryan Dempster to the Texas Rangers for 3B Christian Villanueva and SP Kyle Hendricks.

Dempster analysis here. Prospect analysis here

Kansas City Royals send RP Jonathan Broxton to the Cincinnati Reds for SP J.C. Sulbaran and RP Donnie Joseph.

Broxton analysis here.

Miami Marlins send 1B Gaby Sanchez and RP Kyle Kaminska to the Pittsburgh Pirates for OF Gorkys Hernandez and a competitive balance pick in the 2013 draft.

Sanchez analysis here.

Arizona Diamondbacks send RP Craig Breslow to the Boston Red Sox for RP Matt Albers and OF Scott Podsednik.

Miami Marlins send RP Edward Mujica to the St. Louis Cardinals for 3B Zack Cox.

New York Yankees send RP Chad Qualls to the Pittsburgh Pirates for 3B Casey McGehee.

Boston Red Sox send 1B Lars Anderson to the Cleveland Indians for SP Steven Wright.

You can find stats for each player by clicking on their name above, and find analysis of the deals in the posts here on the main page.

FanGraphs Audio: Matt Sussman of the Internet

Episode 222
Matt Sussman has distinguished himself for his excellent Twitter feed (@suss2hyphens), but who is Matt Sussman really? That’s merely one of the questions left unanswered — left unasked, really — on this edition of FanGraphs Audio.

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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Pirates Take Calculated Risk In Acquiring Sanchez

The Pittsburgh Pirates have built up a pretty good farm system under Neal Huntington’s watch. Our own Marc Hulet ranked them ninth before the season, and over at ESPN, Keith Law ranked them eighth. They have also simulteanously been upgrading their Major League core, and have morphed into a contender this season. To do this at the same time, you have to get a little bit lucky, and you have to be a little bit creative and you can’t be squeamish about taking risks. They showed the latter two elements in trades both yesterday — when they acquired Travis Snider — and today by making two deals that essentially swap out Casey McGehee for Gaby Sanchez.

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Reds Beef Up Strong Bullpen With Broxton

The Cincinnati Reds acquired right-handed relief pitcher Jonathan Broxton from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for minor-league pitchers Donnie Joseph (LHP) and J.C. Sulbaran (RHP). Broxton signed a one-year deal with the Royals for $5.6 million and has been the Royals closer. He will be a free agent at the end of this season.

Joseph has pitched in relief for the Reds’ Double-A and Triple-A teams this season. Subaran has been a starter for the Reds’ Double-A squad.

The Reds’ acquisition of Broxton was a bit surprising, given the strength of Cincinnati’s bullpen this season. As we profiled last week, Aroldis Chapman has been lights out as the Reds’ closer, posting record-breaking strikeout numbers with his 100 mph fastball and his nasty slider. But Chapman’s not the only Reds reliever having a strong season. Overall, the bullpen has posted a 10.23 K/9, a .79 HR/9, and a .216 batting average against. Walks have been a bit of a problem, particularly for right-handed relievers Logan Ondrusek and Jose Arredondo. Broxton somewhat adds to that problem.

The burly right-hander was having a nice season for the Royals, but is no longer the dominant closer he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2007 to 2009. Broxton’s strikeout numbers — which used to rival what Chapman is doing this year — have steadily declined; his K/9 this season is at 6.31, the lowest of his career. Broxton has gotten his walk rate under control — now at 3.53/9 — after a disastrous season of walks with the Dodgers in 2011. He’s also been much stingier with home runs this season, but that may very well change as he moves from the spacious Kauffman Stadium to the launching pad at Great American Ballpark.

USA Today is reporting that the Reds will use Broxton in the 8th inning to set-up Chapman in the 9th. But a mix-and-match scenario with left-hander Sean Marshall makes more sense. Marshall’s been effective against all batters this season with a 5.75 K/BB and a 2.39 FIP in 38 innings pitched. On the other hand, Marshall hasn’t yielded a home run to a left-handed batter all season and posts a higher strikeout rate and lower walk rate against left-handed batters.

The Reds added to a strength by trading for Broxton. Cincinnati’s bullpen has performed well so far this season, but also been one of the least used ‘pens at only 273.1 innings to date. Manager Dusty Baker will have more flexibility in the later innings to use Broxton against right-handed batters and Sean Marshall  against lefties. That will free up Arredondo, Ondrusek, Alfredo Simon and Sam LeClure for middle relief.

Overall, the Broxton trade may not have been a necessary one for the division-leading Reds, but it makes them stronger down the stretch.

Rangers Swoop In On Ryan Dempster

With Ryan Dempster unwilling to go to Atlanta and the Dodgers unwilling to pay up, the door opened on this trading deadline afternoon for the Rangers to swoop in and grab one of the season’s most surprising starting pitchers. Texas will send right-hander Kyle Hendricks and infielder Christian Villanueva to the Cubs to complete the deal.

For the Rangers, dealing with injuries to Neftali Feliz and Colby Lewis as well as the ineffectiveness of Roy Oswalt and Scott Feldman, starting pitching suddenly became a need. The Rangers are six games clear of a Wild Card and a near-lock to make the playoffs, but the Athletics and Angels are within 3.5 and 4.0 games respectively, and with the Angels nabbing Zack Greinke a division title is by on means locked up. The Rangers sensed a need for starting depth and pounced.

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Christian Villanueva Rates As Rare Rangers Sleeper

This was written in January, but is being re-posted with Villanueva on his way to Chicago as part of the Ryan Dempster trade.

In 2011, Hickory was a hotbed of minor league talent including the best true shortstop prospect in baseball and multiple first round picks in catcher Kellin Deglan, center fielder Jake Skole and pitcher Luke Jackson. If not for being blown away by Boston Red Sox shortstop prospect Xander Bogaerts, my trip to Greenville would have been highlighted by a modestly performing, all but unknown third base prospect named Christian Villanueva. Villanueva went on to belt 10 home runs and steal 14/15 bases over the final two months of the season raising his prospect profile to legitimate sleeper.

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Philly Receives Respectable Return for Hunter Pence

The San Francisco Giants have secured a veteran outfielder for the stretch run but it comes at the cost of a young catching prospect.

Tommy Joseph, 21, was the organization’s second round draft pick in 2009 and he’s moved methodically through the minor league system, one level each year, and landed in double-A to begin the 2012 season. Despite being known as an offensive-minded catcher, the Arizona native has yet to post a wRC+ above 95, meaning he’s struggled to produce league-average offense. Despite that, he’s shown raw power potential and slugged 22 home runs in 127 high-A games last season. This season his isolated power rating has dipped to .132 (from .198 in ’11).

Joseph doesn’t hit for average, his walk rate is modest and he flirts with 20% strikeout rates so he’ll need to remain at catcher to have any true value at the big league level. Defensively, he’s made strides in the finer aspects of his game, which is good news because his strong arm would be wasted at first base and he just doesn’t have the type of profile that hints at future success there.

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Chad Billingsley Gets Friendly With Strike Zone

I had the opportunity to watch the Los Angeles Dodgers game on Saturday, which saw Chad Billingsley face off with Barry Zito. While I knew Billingsley was having a resurgence of sorts, his stellar outing versus the San Francisco Giants on this day sent me to the Fangraphs leader board where you can see him currently at 2.3 wins above replacement — hanging out with the likes of Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and Madison Bumgarner. Despite posting just six wins thus far, it turns out that Chad Billingsley is having a rather superb season, and I’m not too sure that many saw it coming after a disappointing 2011.

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Giants Upgrade Their Outfield With Hunter Pence

The San Francisco Giants today acquired Hunter Pence from the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for outfielder Nate Schierholtz, catching prospect Tommy Joseph, and right-handed pitcher Seth Rosin, who’s still in Single-A. The Giants will be responsible for the remainder of Pence’s $10.4 million salary for this season. Update: The Giants will receive cash from the Phillies to cover some portion of the $3.3 million remaining on Pence’s salary this season, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Next season will be Pence’s last year of arbitration-eligibility after which he will become a free agent.

Pence is a right fielder and will replace the Gregor Blanco-Nate Schierholtz platoon that’s patrolled right field at AT&T Park this season. Pence will upgrade the Giants on offense but could be a liability on defense, particularly in the tricky corners of the right-field wall and Triples Alley at AT&T.

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Joe Blanton is Having One of the Weirdest Seasons Ever

Before this season, there had been 25 seasons with a qualified starting pitcher who has had a strikeout-to-walk ratio greater than 6.00, and every single one of them has had an ERA- of 86 or better. To the likely surprise of many, Joe Blanton currently leads the NL with a 6.39 K/BB, and since Colby Lewis is out for the season and no other qualified starter has a mark better than 4.87, it is a pretty safe bet to expect Blanton to lead the majors in K/BB at seasons end. What makes Blanton’s season even more interesting is that he currently holds an ERA- of 114 and has allowed the most home runs in the NL.

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A Haphazard Estimate re Victorino, Dodger Left Fielder

As both managing editor Dave Cameron and large swaths of the internet have noted, outfielder Shane Victorino has been traded by the Phillies to the Dodgers. Despite the fact that he’s probably a superior defender to Matt Kemp, it’s unlikely that Victorino will push the incumbent Kemp to left field. (This is what’s known in legal terms as the Derek Jeter Precedent.)

It stands to reason that, owing to how Bobby Abreu has played a considerable amount of left field for the Dodgers this season, that installing Victorino as the club’s full-time left fielder will make a not-insignificant contribution merely in terms of runs saved over the Dodgers’ final 58 games of the regular season.

“How much of a difference, though?” the curious reader might be wondering. “This much of one,” the irresponsible author is now answering, in the form of the following, mostly haphazard calculations.

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Dodgers Get Shane Victorino for Nothing They’ll Miss

Okay, they didn’t actually get him for nothing. To acquire the Phillies center fielder (who will almost certainly play left in LA), the Dodgers gave up 25-year-old reliever Josh Lindblom and enigmatic right-handed pitching prospect Ethan Martin. Reports are that the Dodgers felt comfortable moving Lindblom after acquiring Brandon League from the Mariners last night, but in reality, they should have always been comfortable trading Josh Lindblom for value, because Josh Lindblom is simply not a particularly valuable player.

Over the last two years, Lindblom has thrown 77 innings in the big leagues and posted a 2.91 ERA, so on the surface, he appears to be a good young relief pitcher. In reality, though, there are warning signs everywhere.

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Trade Deadline Chat Fun – 7/31/12

Cubs Gamble on Vizcaino, Sell Low on Soto

“As a whole, not specifically regarding potential deals, we need to add a lot of pitching to the system. It’s not enough to have a handful or two. You need waves and waves coming through your system, and we don’t have that. We hardly have even one wave coming, so we need to rebuild a lot of pitching depth.”

–Theo Epstein, July 18, 2012

On Monday night, the Chicago Cubs executed a pair of trades, sending players to both the Braves and the Rangers in exchange for pitching, pitching, pitching. Here’s the breakdown of those trades:

Braves get:
SP Paul Maholm
OF Reed Johnson

Cubs get:
SP Arodys Vizcaino
RP Jaye Champman


Rangers get:
C Geovany Soto

Cubs get:
SP Jake Brigham

The Braves trade feels a bit like a fleecing for the Cubs; the Rangers trade is at best a wash. Let us see why.
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Braves Scoop Up Useful Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson

The Braves are taking a long-term risk for a short-term gain in trading Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman for Reed Johnson and Paul Maholm. The most talented player in the deal is obviously Arodys Vizcaino, but he also comes with a ton of question marks.

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Daily Notes, Featuring Matt Harvey’s Ample Repertoire

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

1. Featured Game: New York NL at San Francisco, 22:15 ET
2. Other Notable Games (Including MLB.TV Free Game)
3. Today’s Complete Schedule

Featured Game: New York NL at San Francisco, 22:15 ET
What’s Notable About This Game
What’s notable about this game is how Mets right-hander Matt Harvey is starting it for the Mets.

Regarding Matt Harvey, Who That Is
Matt Harvey is the 23-year-old pitching prospect who, in his debut this past Thursday against Arizona, made love to the strike zone with his ample repertoire.

Regarding Harvey, His Line from That Arizona Start
Here’s Harvey’s line from that start against Arizona on Thursday (box): 5.1 IP, 23 TBF, 11 K, 3 BB, 3 GB on 9 batted-balls (33.3% GB), 1.73 xFIP.

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Texas Grabs Contingency Asset in Soto

Amidst Monday night’s flurry of trades, the Texas Rangers picked up a new catcher: Geovany Soto, formerly of the Chicago Cubs. The Rangers plucked the 29-year-old out of the North Side for the low price of Double-A right-hander Jake Brigham, a name absent from organization top prospect lists this season. Soto will take the roster spot of Yorvit Torrealba, designated for assignment by the Rangers to complete the move.

In 2008, Soto was NL Rookie of the Year, bringing home the honor with a 119 wRC+. Over the last four years, Soto has accumulated 11.0 WAR and a 108 wRC+ despite injuries limiting him to just 1,813 plate appearances. The injuries are back this year — a meniscus tear docked him 29 games — and the bat has disappeared. Soto is hitting just .199/.284/.347 (67 wRC+), leading one to wonder just exactly what he has left for hte Rangers.

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Carlos Zambrano To The Bullpen

The honeymoon is over for the Miami Marlins and Carlos Zambrano. Big-Z may have gotten off to a great start in Miami, but a recent swoon, in which he has given up 35 earned runs in his last 41.1 innings, has put the 31-year-old pitcher back in the bullpen. The Chicago Cubs used the same approach in 2010, after Zambrano got off to a poor start. The experiment lasted just 16.2 innings. With the Marlins paying Zambrano just $2.55 million this year, they can justifiably move Zambrano to the pen with little argument from their fans. But even though it’s tough to complain much about the move, it doesn’t mean that it’s the right one.

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Effectively Wild Episode 10: Splash

Ben and Sam discuss whether the Orioles should be buyers and what teams mean when they dub a prospect “untouchable.”