Archive for September, 2012

Daily Notes, Feat. High Stakes and Stronger Emotions

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

1. Featured Game: Boston at Baltimore, 13:35 ET
2. Other Notable Games (Including MLB.TV Free Game)
3. Today’s Complete Schedule

Featured Game: Boston at Baltimore, 13:35 ET
What a Reader Might Be Saying
It’s possible that a reader, after noting how this game features, in fact, the lowest NERD score of the day — NERD itself being the infallible watchability metric crafted locally and sustainably by the author — that such a reader is saying something like, “This is ridiculous” or “I am outraged” or, if the reader is a woman from a 1930s studio film, “Why, I never.”

What a Reader Might Continue to Say
It’s possible that a reader, after proceeding as described above, might level the charge that NERD — contrary to the bold (foolhardy?!?) claims of its creator — is, in fact, not infallible. Such a reader might go so far as to suggest that NERD is either “quite” or “very” fallible.

Why a Reader Would Say All Those Things
Why a reader might say all those things as printed above is because the upstart Orioles are currently, unexpectedly tied with the despotic Yankees for first place in the AL East with just four games remaining in the season. The stakes are high! So are the emotions! What will happen?

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Homer Bailey and Ryan Hanigan No-Hit Pittsburgh

At the end of all these no hitters, right after the 27th out, there’s the hug between the pitcher and the catcher. The whole team gets in eventually, but there’s always just a little more emotion in that pitcher-catcher connection.

Watching Homer Bailey no-hit the Pirates Friday night, I completely understand why.

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Daily Notes: Assorted Nerd Facts in re Homer Bailey

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

1. Nerd Facts: Homer Bailey’s No-Hitter
2. Today’s Notable Games (Including MLB.TV Free Game)
3. Today’s Complete Schedule

Nerd Facts: Homer Bailey’s No-Hitter
Regarding What Follows
What follows is a brief assortment of information regarding Cincinnati right-hander Homer Bailey’s no-hitter in Pittsburgh on Friday.

Which, In Case You Didn’t Hear
In case the reader was busy with some manner of nerdly venture, or indisposed in whatever way, what happened last (Friday) night is Cincinnati right-hander Homer Bailey threw a no-hitter against the Pirates in Pittsburgh.

Bailey’s Final Line
Here’s Bailey’s nerd line from last night (box): 9.0 IP, 28 TBF, 10 K, 1 BB, 10 GB on 17 batted-balls (58.8% GB), 1.22 FIP, 1.87 xFIP.

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Tsuyoshi Nishioka’s Big Day

The chapter began with the Minnesota Twins signing Tsuyoshi Nishioka to be a starting middle infielder. Two years later, the chapter ends with the Twins releasing Nishioka at his own request. There remained another year and some millions of dollars on Nishioka’s contract, but Nishioka has chosen to forfeit all of that and walk away. Reports say the news didn’t come as a surprise to the Twins organization, and, clearly, just from reading this paragraph, it’s evident that things didn’t go how they were supposed to go at the start.

There was promise, once. In Japan, Nishioka won awards for his defensive work. In 2010, he led his league in hits. That year Patrick Newman liked Nishioka as his Pacific League MVP. Obviously, the Twins thought they were getting a pretty good player. In Japan in 2010, Nishioka batted .346/.423/.482. In Japan in 2010, Norichika Aoki batted .358/.435/.509. With the Brewers, Aoki’s been successful. With the Twins, Nishioka was a nightmare.

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FanGraphs Audio: Prospects with Mike Newman

Episode 252
Prospect analyst Mike Newman discusses three players he saw in person this season — catcher Mike Zunino (Mariners), shortstop Brad Miller (also Mariners), and German outfielder Max Kepler (Twins) — and the larger concerns each raises with regard to prospect analysis generally.

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 51 min. play time.)

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Luis Sardinas: Best SS You’ve Never Heard Of

In heading to Greenville, South Carolina for an early September pair to see the Hickory Crawdads (Rangers), no prospect interested me more than shortstop Luis Sardinas. A few days earlier, a contact had filled me in that Sardinas was “special” and “had tools like Jurickson Profar“. Having traveled to “The Palmetto State” just fourteen months earlier to watch the aforementioned Profar, my expectations for Sardinas were extremely high considering the Rangers organization is known for being a shortstop factory.

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A’s Rookie Starting Pitchers Defying Odds

The other day, a clerical error on Major League Baseball’s part gave Athletics pitcher Travis Blackley another chance to be a freshman. As a result, the A’s — who had already received more than 60 starts from rookie pitchers — moved even further up the leaderboard of games started by rookie pitchers. But while many rookie-laden pitching rotations stumble, Oakland has gotten some of its finest efforts this season from its group of youngsters.

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Where There’s Smoak, There’s Something

2012 was to be a critical season for the Seattle Mariners, as the organization hoped its young talent would start to jell and suggest the possibility of a playoff bid in the near future. Outside of Felix Hernandez, the keys were assumed to be Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero, and Justin Smoak. All three position players have recently been tippy-top prospects, and all three position players got their own Mariners team commercials. Ackley was billed as a hitting prodigy, Montero was advertised as the new guy with tremendous power, and Smoak was shown punching down trees with raw strength. The season’s almost over — really! it’s gone so fast — and Montero has a -0.2 WAR. Smoak has a -0.2 WAR. Ackley has a 1.8 WAR, but a lot of that is good defense, which, take that, minor-league scouting reports.

The breakthroughs have come from Kyle Seager, John Jaso, and Michael Saunders, which pretty much no one expected. The three guys thought to be most important have all been disappointments. But with that in mind, check out what happens when you sort the September leaderboards by wRC+:

  1. Justin Smoak, 195
  2. Joe Mauer, 187
  3. Chase Headley, 183
  4. Adrian Beltre, 180
  5. Ian Desmond, 173

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Yadier Molina is Having a Johnny Bench Season

Yadier Molina has always been an amazing defensive catcher, but like most amazing defensive catchers, he hasn’t always been a very good hitter. In fact, for the first three years of his career, he was a pretty terrible hitter, and then he spent four years as an average-ish hitter before his breakout season last year. Well, we thought last year was his breakout season anyway. This year is Breakout 2.0, as Molina has put himself among not just the elite hitting catchers in the game, but has produced at a level that is outstanding for any position. And in the process, he’s having one of the best all-around catcher seasons in baseball history.

There have always been catchers who can hit but can’t throw, and throw but can’t hit, but there haven’t been many who have hit and thrown like Molina has this year. Below is a table of every season in Major League history where a catcher posted both a 140 wRC+ or better and threw out 45% or more of attempted base stealers.

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Orioles’ Winning Season Paying Off At Box Office

The Baltimore Orioles celebrated the 20th anniversary of Camden Yards this year. A few more winning seasons and the Orioles just might get back to the sell-out crowds that filled Camden Yards in 1992 and for nearly a decade thereafter.

The high-water mark for attendance at Camden Yards was in 1997, when the the Orioles won the American League East with a record of 98-64. That year, 3,711,132 fans filled Camden Yards to the brim nearly every game. It’s been a steady decline ever since. Still, even as the team floundered after the 1997 season, more than 2,000,000 fans bought tickets year after year, putting the Orioles in the top half of American League teams in attendance.

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Breaking Down AL Wild Card Tie Scenarios

Things are setting up for an exciting final week in the American League Wild Card race. With the Orioles and Athletics unable to break away from the Angels and Rays — just two and three games behind Oakland respectively, and another half game behind Baltimore — it could be a wild seven days for Team Entropy. MLB will need to get its contingency plans in place, as there are a number of scenarios that lead to three or even four-team ties:

The cases in black preclude involvement in any tie. Every other result for each team leads to at least the possibility of involvement in a three or even four team tie after 162 games. Then, of course, the question becomes just how likely each possibility is.

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Daily Notes, In Which R.A. Dickey Throws a Changeup

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

1. Action Footage: R.A. Dickey Throws a Changeup
2. Today’s MLB.TV Free Game
3. Today’s Complete Schedule

Action Footage: R.A. Dickey Throws a Changeup
A Thing That R.A. Dickey Did Yesterday
A thing that Mets right-hander R.A. Dickey did on Thursday was to tie his career-high in strikeouts, with 13.

Another Thing R.A. Dickey Did Yesterday
Another thing R.A. Dickey did on Thursday was to record his 12th strikeout — against Pirates outfielder Garrett Jones in the eighth inning — was to record it via the changeup, a pitch he throws about one percent of the time or zero percent of the time.

Dickey’s Eighth-Inning Changeup
Here’s an animated GIF of the changeup Dickey threw to Garrett Jones in the eighth inning yesterday for his (i.e. Dickey’s) 12th strikeout:

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Effectively Wild Episode 52: Oakland’s All-Rookie Rotation/Baseball’s Ever-Rising Strikeout Rate

Ben and Sam discuss whether the A’s all-rookie rotation bodes well for their future, then talk about whether the average strikeout rate has risen too high.

Doug Fister: Unlikely Possessor of Record

As it happens, we were at Doug Fister’s major-league debut. By “we” I mean myself, Dave Cameron, and some hundreds of USS Mariner and Lookout Landing readers. We weren’t there specifically for Fister; we were there for a blog event and a game, and Fister just happened to pitch in it. He pitched after Sean White, who pitched after Garrett Olson, who pitched after Chris Jakubauskas, who pitched after Ian Snell. The Mariners did not win that game.

Fister’s debut drew a modest response, because it’s always cool to see a guy play for the first time, and because the Safeco PA system uttered the name “Doug Fister” for the first time. But nobody had attended in the hopes of seeing Doug Fister pitch, because Fister was generally considered a no-stuff non-prospect. He could conceivably fill out the back of a bullpen or serve as rotation depth, sure, maybe, but he wasn’t thought of as someone to get excited over. Fister debuted in August 2009. All these sentences bring us to this:

It’s been a weird ride.

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Prohibiting Reporters from Reporting

“Media who attend a USC practice are asked not to report on strategy or injuries that are observed during the course of watching that practice or result from that practice. … USC allows media access into all of its practices, and those practices are closed to the general public, and therefore USC asks that the media not disclose information that is observed or learned that could put USC at a competitive disadvantage to opponents.”
— Official media policy on football practices, University of Southern California, as of 8/26/2012

“As a condition of entry to UW football practices, all visitors and members of the media are hereforth prohibited from reporting on strategy or injury-related news observed during practices.”
— Official media policy on football practices, University of Washington, as of 9/12/2012

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Mike Newman Prospects Chat – 9/27/12

FanGraphs Audio: Rays Right-Hander Chris Archer

Episode 251
David Laurila, curator of FanGraphs’ Q&A Series, talks with young Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Chris Archer.

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 13 min. play time.)

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Michael Bourn’s Market Value

If you go to the Free Agent Leaderboards, you’ll see Michael Bourn’s name at the top, as the sort for the list is set to descending 2012 WAR, and Bourn has the highest WAR this season (+6.1) of any upcoming free agent. We can pretty much guarantee that Bourn isn’t going to sign the largest contract this winter, though, as free agent value isn’t simply based on a player’s most recent season, nor are all skills as likely to be sustained going forward, and various skills have different valuations in the marketplace. Bourn’s combination of average offense and terrific defense is a valuable package, but how will it translate into market value?

Well, before we figure out how much he’ll get paid, we first have to figure out how much of his 2012 value he’ll retain in future years, or at least, how much teams will expect him to retain. There’s no question that the average offense/great defense package can be highly valuable, but it’s also a young man’s skillset. Here is a list of every player in the UZR era (2002-2012) that has posted a +5 WAR season while running a wRC+ below 110.

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Josh Reddick Hates Fastballs

“Bats, they are sick. I cannot hit curveball. Straightball I hit it very much. Curveball, bats are afraid. I ask Jobu to come, take fear from bats. I offer him cigar, rum. He will come.” — Pedro Cerrano

The archetype of power hitters feasting on fastballs and whiffing on offspeed pitches has long floated within baseball circles. The quotation featured above from the movie Major League highlights how pervasive the idea that “power hitters are fastball hitters” has become in baseball.

Alfonso Soriano has long found success by smashing fastballs, and he now receives a heavy diet of sliders and curveballs to counter that strength. Adam Dunn, Mark Reynolds, and Garrett Jones also serve as fruitful examples of sluggers who have experienced the vast majority of their success against fastballs.

The stereotype often proves true, so you’ll have to excuse me for jumping to conclusions when assuming that Oakland Athetics’ outfielder Josh Reddick would fall into that same broad category. After all, his 29 home runs, .216 ISO, and .242 batting average all suggest on the surface that he’s merely another power-hitting, fastball-feasting slugger who needs to adjust to big league breaking pitches to become more consistent at the plate.

That’s not just a misleading statement, though. It’s blatantly wrong. In fact, amongst qualified batters this season, Josh Reddick has the worst batting average against fastballs in all of baseball, and it’s not particularly close.
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Miguel Cabrera Gets Robbed: A Tale of Consequences

Science is neat. In many scientific experiments, you can run trials, generate results, slightly change the conditions, run trials, and generate other results. Then you can compare those results to measure the effect of the change that you made. I used to work in a neuroscience lab with fruit flies, and one of the first projects to which I was assigned attempted to measure the draw of potential mates against the draw of fresh food. Without going into detail, we were constantly futzing with the method and seeing what happened to the numbers in the end. It was not a very good experiment and it never came close to getting published. At least there were usually donuts.

Baseball isn’t like science. In baseball, there is but one trial, and it’s always going on. We can speculate about the effects of certain things, and we can feel pretty confident about our speculations, but we can never know for sure. We can never know for sure how many wins above replacement a player is or was worth. We can never know for sure the significance of a borderline pitch call. And we might never know the meaning of a play that Alex Gordon made in Detroit Wednesday evening.

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