Author Archive

How Mat Latos Saved His Season

It is easy to forget that Mat Latos is still just 24-years-old. It is also easy, apparently, to overlook how impressive he has been since the second half of June.

Latos started off his tenure in Cincinnati pretty miserably, with a 5.20 ERA in 14 starts. He was getting hit rather hard, and his home run rate escalated. He allowed 16 homers in less than a half season’s worth of starts. The jump was expected, since moving from homer-depressing Petco Park to Great American Ballpark would likely cause any pitcher to give up more home runs. But I imagine there were at least a few people who wondered if Latos was simply a Petco creation.
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Is Erasmo Ramirez the Next Kris Medlen?

The current talk of the National League is a reliever turned starter with a small body type dominating the league with three solid pitches and, specifically, a killer changeup. Kris Medlen’s season has been one of the more interesting storylines this year, which has to do with both his impressive performance as a starter and the fact that he has done so for a contending team. In the American League, there is a pitcher that I find to be strikingly similar to Medlen. They both have a similar body type, they both have changeups that make hitters look absolutely silly, and they both have displayed top notch command. While he will need a bigger sample size to be evaluated more in depth, Erasmo Ramirez looks like he has the tools to be a rather successful starting pitcher.
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Madison Bumgarner’s Slider is Awfully Impressive

Through just two and half seasons, Madison Bumgarner has already accumulated 11.0 WAR, which is an even more impressive number when you consider that this is just his age-22 season. Bumgarner has followed a breakout 2011 campaign with a season of similar quality, with an increased strikeout rate and decreased walk rate despite a rather large uptick in home runs allowed. Even with the increased home run total – 20 allowed this season compared to 25 in his previous 325.2 innings pitched – he has gotten away from the “hittable” label and has seen his BABIP drop to .265, putting his career mark at a standard .299 mark compared to the rather high .317 prior to this season.

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Digging Into Chris Sale’s Slider

One of the bigger pre-season storylines this year was the numerous relievers who were being used in their respective rotations. A number of them struggled, but a few have exceeded expectations. Jeff Samardzija has relied heavily on his split-fingered fastball and has had a solid season; Lance Lynn was an all-star; and then there’s Chris Sale — the player who made the most seamless transition.

Sale relies on his slider more than all but five qualified American League starters, and while his fastball and changeup combination has been big reasons for his success, the slider without a doubt is his out pitch. As a reliever, Sale got away with being close to a two-pitch pitcher, despite having a solid changeup in college. He used his changeup about 12% of the time against righties, but Sale and the White Sox staff understood the pitch needed to become a more heavily used offering if he was going to be successful in the rotation. Sale now throws the pitch 25% of the time against righties, though he doesn’t use it at all against lefties. The pitch’s success has been a large reason why righties have just a .289 wOBA against Sale — an impressive number for a first-year starter. But even with the success of his changeup, only 21 of the 162 batters he has struck out fell victim to the changeup. The slider, on the other hand, has been the pitch. It’s been used on 95 of his 162 strikeouts and accounts for 59% of his Ks.

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Kris Medlen Is Dealing

While Craig Kimbrel has been absolutely lights out all season, it is possible that the most important member of the Braves’ pitching staff all season has been Kris Medlen. Between 38 appearances as a reliever and six starts, Medlen has thrown 95 innings and recorded an incredible 1.71 ERA.

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Matt Moore’s Slider Has Turned His Season Around

This is not quite the rookie season that many envisioned for Matt Moore. He was supposed to be at worst a contender for the rookie of the year, he was supposed to be one of the top pitchers in the league in just his rookie season. He was supposed to be, essentially, the pitching version of Mike Trout this year, maybe to a slightly lesser extent. While the season totals will not look as impressive as hoped before the season started, he has taken massive strides over the past few months and performed at a very high level.
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How Good Is Jeff Samardzija’s Splitter?

It has not all been rosy in Jeff Samardzija’s first season as a major league starting pitcher, but it has certainly been successful. With a 4.06 ERA backed by a 3.54 FIP and 3.59 SIERA, Samardzija has shown the ability to strike out batters at a high rate while getting his walk issues under control. He has battled inconsistency at times, mainly during a stretch in the middle of the season, but overall it has been a rather impressive campaign.

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Johnny Cueto’s Changeup Leads to Cy Young Caliber Season

The past 46 starts of Johnny Cueto’s career have been absolutely incredible. Between last year and this year, the Reds’ ace has posted a 2.41 ERA in 302.2 innings. Cueto was a big regression candidate after posting a 2.31 ERA, 3.45 FIP, and 3.93 SIERA last season, but he has followed that impressive season up with an even better year on the mound. While his ERA has jumped up a tick to 2.52, his FIP of 3.05 and SIERA of 3.70 are career lows, and despite pitching in an extremely hitter friendly ballpark, Cueto has allowed just 15 home runs over the past two years.

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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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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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Wade Miley’s Consistent Control

Wade Miley’s surprise season has many wondering how exactly the 25-year-old starter has transitioned into one of the top starting pitchers in the National League. While his SIERA of 3.71 and xFIP of 3.68 point to his 3.02 ERA being at least somewhat inflated, Miley has still shown that he can be a very effective pitcher who can control his pitches with striking regularity.

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Zach McAllister, Cleveland’s Best Starter

The Indians have had serious starting pitching issues throughout the entire year. Ubaldo Jimenez has been worth negative WAR over 18 starts, Josh Tomlin has been both bad and unfortunate, and Derek Lowe’s ERA over his past nine starts is 7.16 after posting a 2.15 ERA in his first nine. Justin Masterson has been the most effective starter throughout the season, and even he has a 4.14 ERA. Despite the rotation issues, the Indians they still sit just four games out of first place in the A.L. Central and are just a half game back of the second wildcard.

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How Mark Buehrle Is Having One of His Best Seasons Yet

Mark Buehrle is the definition of a crafty lefty. His career high strikeout percentage is 16.2% and he has struck out more than six batters per nine innings just one time in his career. Despite his lacking strikeout skills, Buehrle has still been able to maintain an 84 ERA- and net a nice four-year $58 million contract with the Marlins this past offseason. In his first stint in the National League, Buerhle is posting the best strikeout-to-walk ratio of his career. Here is how he is doing it.

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James McDonald Adds a Slider, Dominates

One of the biggest surprises for the first place Pittsburgh Pirates (!) has been the outstanding performance of James McDonald. Before this year, McDonald had a career ERA above 4.00 and a strikeout-to-walk ratio below two, which caused McDonald to alter his arsenal before the season. This year, he has an ERA and FIP under 3.00, with an xFIP and SIERA just under 3.60, thanks to the addition of a slider and subtraction of his changeup.

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Matt Harrison’s Two-Seam Fastball Makes Him an All-Star

Here are the stats for Matt Harrison and David Price over the past two seasons:

Harrison: 291 IP, 3.31 ERA, 3.48 FIP, 3.86 xFIP, 6.8 WAR
Price: 329 IP, 3.31 ERA, 3.35 FIP, 3.31 xFIP, 6.7 WAR

Those are pretty similar numbers, which are even more impressive when you consider that Harrison pitches in Arlington while Price throws in Tampa Bay. Needless to say, Harrison has been an underrated pitcher over the past few years. He has the 16th highest WAR since the start of 2011, but what is he doing so well that makes him one of the top pitchers in the game over the past two seasons?

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Braves Call Up Andrelton Simmons

Only three NL teams have a higher BABIP against than the Braves, a number which would be even worse if not for a top notch defensive outfield. Martin Prado, Michael Bourn, and Jason Heyward are all plus defenders in the outfield, but the Braves have struggled tremendously on the defensive front in the infield. Dan Uggla is annually one of the worst defensive second baseman in the league, Chipper Jones and Juan Francisco are both below average in the field, Freddie Freeman maintains a solid glove but very limited range, and Tyler Pastornicky has been the worst defensive shortstop based on pretty much every metric.
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When To Stop Making Excuses For Mike Minor

There are issues with Mike Minor on the mound. He has allowed far too many home runs this year, eight in eight starts, and his BABIP once again is astronomically higher than league average. His current BABIP of .336 is getting laughed at by the league average .288 mark, and his career BABIP of .353 is nowhere near the league average during that span of .290.

At this point, it is easy for some to conclude that Minor is rather hittable. He seems like a classic control but not command guy, as his 2.93 K/BB rate this season — which matches his career rate — shows that he can throw strikes at a high rate but not strikes of the highest quality. He has still started just 31 games and thrown 170.1 innings, so it is likely too early to say he will always be a pitcher with a high BABIP, despite the fact that the number has been high in each of his three stints in the majors.

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Jair Jurrjens Demoted To Triple-A

With Tim Hudson set to return from the disabled list next week, the Braves have opted to send down Jair Jurrjens, who made last year’s NL All-Star team, rather than prospect Randall Delgado.

Despite Jurrjens’s history as a solid starter, this seems like the right decision. The biggest reason for not wanting to send Jurrjens down at this point was to potentially hold onto some semblance of his trade value. The Braves were actively shopping him this winter, but the knee injury which forced him to miss much of the second half made other teams wary. There were talks of Jurrjens being shipped to Baltimore in a package that included Martin Prado for Adam Jones. The Braves thought it to be too steep a price and avoided the deal.

Now, the Braves are left with a $5.5 million pitcher in triple-A who is more-or-less completely immovable. It is easy to see why, despite the price and destruction of his trade value, that Jurrjens needed to be sent down. His current strikeout-to-walk ratio is 0.80, and while his career mark of 1.94 is certainly not the most impressive part of his game, having more walks than strikeouts is a rather large issue.

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Matt Garza, Legitimate Number One Starter

Matt Garza has always had the stuff to be an elite top tier starter, but never quite put it all together until last year. As Dave Allen and Josh Weinstock explained during this past season, a heavier reliance on his secondary pitches was instrumental in his turn around from three consecutive seasons with an FIP between 4.14 and 4.42 to a breakout 2.95 mark last season. I also looked at how his increase in secondary offerings led to a 4.25 K/BB rate against left-handed hitters specifically for RotoGraphs, a heavy improvement over his past marks against opposite handed batters.

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2012 Organizational Rankings: #17 – Miami

Read the methodology behind the ratings here. Remember that the grading scale is 20-80, with 50 representing league average.

2012 Organizational Rankings

#30 – Baltimore
#29 – Houston
#28 – Oakland
#27 – Pittsburgh
#26 – San Diego
#25 – Minnesota
#24 – Chicago AL
#23 – Seattle
#22 – Kansas City
#21 – Cleveland
#20 – New York Mets
#19 – Los Angeles Dodgers
#18 – Colorado

Miami’s 2011 Ranking: 17th

2012 Outlook: 53 (14th)

The biggest strength for the Marlins this year will likely be their lineup. While the team finished slightly behind the middle of the pack in wOBA at .311 (9th in the NL) last year, the progressions of Logan Morrison and Giancarlo Stanton, along with the expected bounce back from Hanley Ramirez and the acquisition of Jose Reyes should make this one of the better lineups in the league.

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