Author Archive

The Basepath Misadventures of Jose Pirela

As baseball analysis has grown, the advanced metrics have begun to find their way into television broadcasts more regularly. Announcers will occasionally mention win probability in terms of game context. Pitcher FIP will be brought up alongside ERA. The slew of batter statistics — wOBA, wRC+, ISO, et al — will be used to shed further light on hitters. Even fielding metrics like UZR and DRS have slowly started creeping their way into viewers’ homes, at least from national television broadcasts.

The one quantifiable area of the game that seems to get a little less sabermetric coverage from broadcasters is baserunning. Stolen bases are of course referenced, and Statcast sprint speeds are a relatable number that does occasionally get mentioned. However, the concept of baserunning runs (BsR) has not made its way to television in the way that its fielding counterparts have.

While the introduction of Statcast sprint speeds to the public is a step forward in understanding how good a baserunner is, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Rather, it tells something more akin to the potential baserunning value that a player can bring. Activating that potential involves no small amount of baserunning instincts for basically anyone who lacks Billy Hamilton’s speed. Looking at one player in particular from 2018 clearly shows us why in explaining runner ability, broadcasts need to go beyond sprint speed.

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The One Thing Freddie Freeman Does Better Than Everyone

If you haven’t heard, Freddie Freeman is good at baseball. He’s currently second among first basemen by WAR and wRC+, behind only Matt Carpenter in each case. Since 2016, he’s recorded a 150 wRC+, good for sixth-best in baseball over that span. Nor is his more recent success unprecedented. Freeman ranks 29th in career WAR for active hitters, with only five players having produced a greater WAR figure than him (30.0) in fewer plate appearances (4,793): Josh Donaldson (35.6 and 3,757), Paul Goldschmidt (34.8 and 4,521), Mike Trout (62.6 and 4,547), Giancarlo Stanton (37.7 and 4,613), and Buster Posey (39.1 and 4,658). (All numbers current as of Wednesday.)

This news isn’t exactly earth-shattering for anyone who frequents the pages of FanGraphs. We have known this since Freeman’s breakout season in 2013. Despite that, however, it seems like there’s an increase in Freddie Freeman appreciation recently. Some of this is likely due to the fact that the Braves are — somewhat unexpectedly — fighting for a playoff spot. The Home Run Derby also helped his nationwide notability, even if he didn’t perform particularly well. Google seems to confirm the newfound recognition, as Freddie Freeman searches are up notably the past two years.

As noted, though, Freeman has been an extraordinary talent for a while now. He hits for average and power, is a good fielder (he ranks third in UZR for first basemen since 2013), and is a good runner for a first baseman (fourth-most baserunning runs since 2015). However, to add to all these skills, there is one thing that Freeman does better than anyone else in baseball, and it’s this one thing that helps put him in position to succeed.

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Victor Arano and the Power of Movement

It’s August 3rd, and the Phillies are still in first place in the National League East with a 60-48 record. They’ve slid a bit off of their June 1st pace, but that’s not totally unexpected. Despite this, they still remain in good position among teams in the playoff hunt. According to our playoff odds, they have a 45.3% chance of winning the division and a 59.9% chance of making the postseason in general.

One key that has helped drive the Phillies to their first-place position is the success of a few rookie relievers in a bullpen that has already exceeded preseason projections and generated 3.5 WAR with 55 games to go. The group was expected to be led by Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek, and Hector Neris — projected to put up 1.1, 0.8, and 0.6 WAR, respectively. But these three relievers have combined for just 0.4 WAR so far, with Neris demoted to Triple A. Instead, it’s two rookies who have been the premier relief options for the team. Seranthony Dominguez has been discussed here before, and has ascended to the closer role since Neris’s demotion. However, it’s the emergence of Victor Arano that has put the Phillies bullpen in a position to help push the team toward the playoffs.

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Kyle Crick’s Return to Relevance

Growing up, the closest minor-league club to me was the Richmond Braves. This was the late 90s and many top prospects who would go on to major-league careers came through town for a season. My scorebook from those years is filled with games that included former major leaguers Andruw Jones and Bruce Chen, along with lesser luminaries such as Wes Helms and Odalis Perez. The Braves moved to Gwinnett after the 2008 season, and the Flying Squirrels — the Giants’ Double-A affiliate — would move to Richmond in 2010.

The parade of prospects slowed a bit after the Flying Squirrels arrived. Buster Posey skipped Double-A, Brandon Belt’s 2010 breakout helped propel him to a top-100 prospect. However, without question, the biggest prospect who stayed in Richmond for any length of time was Kyle Crick. He arrived in 2014 as the 32nd-best prospect in baseball according to MLB.com. He proceeded, however, to stay in town for three seasons without being promoted or demoted. Needless to say, his prospect light dimmed during that period.

When Crick was promoted to Fresno in 2017, it was more out of a need to see if he had any chance of reaching the majors that season, as he was eligible to become a minor-league free agent at the end of the year. He would eventually make it to the Giants’ bullpen and then, later, to Pittsburgh as part of the Andrew McCutchen deal.

In Pittsburgh, Crick has become a serviceable bullpen option, combining with Richard Rodriguez and Felipe Vazquez to helm a bullpen unit that ranks among the league’s top 10 in K/9, FIP, and xFIP. The success of all three has been unexpected — Crick included, despite his prospect pedigree. By leaning on his long-held strengths and gaining a modicum of control over his weaknesses, Crick has been able to end his long minor-league odyssey and has found success in the majors, albeit in a role which he had hoped to avoid.

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The One Ball Keon Broxton Didn’t Catch

On July 10th, the Brewers were in Miami to face the Marlins in a game that didn’t seem to have anything of note going into it. Jhoulys Chacin was facing Pablo Lopez, there were no stats leaders in the game, and playoff spots weren’t directly at stake. After both teams put up a run in the first inning, J.T. Riddle stepped in and whacked a slider in the middle of the zone to center field.

Okay, “whacked” might be an exaggeration. It exited the bat at only 71.1 mph and, with a launch angle of 30 degrees, represented a pretty standard short fly ball. Fortunately for Riddle, it was well placed and landed in front of the center fielder for a single. Despite Starlin Castro coming around to score and giving the Marlins an early 2-1 lead, it would ultimately go for naught: the Brewers put up four in the top of the second and went on to an easy 8-4 win.

Seems like a throwaway single in a relatively meaningless game, right? On the one hand, yes. On the other, there’s something interesting in that moment, and it has nothing to do with Riddle or the Marlins. Rather, it’s an interesting event for Brewers center fielder Keon Broxton. “But why?” I hear you say. “He didn’t catch the ball. Sure, it looks like he considered diving there for a brief second, but he didn’t and let the ball land.” However, the fact that the ball landed is what’s notable. That bloop single is the only ball hit to Broxton in 2018 — with a catch probability greater than 0% — that he didn’t catch. And he was only a couple of strides from reaching it at that! In a part-time role, necessitated by his poor hitting and the Brewers’ very crowded outfield, Broxton is putting up an unprecedented defensive season.

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Ryan Borucki and Baseball’s Newest Plus Pitch

For most of 2018, any positive noise about the Toronto Blue Jays has been oriented to the future. Teoscar Hernandez — picked up for Francisco Liriano last July 3 — has proven to be a solid piece for the team. The farm system boasts four prospects in the top 100, led by baseball’s No. 1 prospect in Vladimir Guerrero Jr. While injured currently, Guerrero has posted video-game numbers at Double-A, and even the slightest possibility of his call-up to Toronto has sent fans into hysterics. With the AL East pretty well set for the playoffs, looking ahead is an entirely realistic plan for the Blue Jays.

Two weeks ago, another young Blue Jay made his major-league debut. Ryan Borucki comes from a baseball family: his father played 600 games in the minors and was a one-time teammate of Ryne Sandberg’s. The younger Borucki was a 15th-round pick in 2012 and signed for $426,000 to forego his commitment to Iowa. After a rough start to the career — including Tommy John surgery and shoulder pain that led to lost 2015 campaign — he turned it around after a demotion to Low-A in 2016 and shot up three levels to Triple-A in 2017. After a middling start to the 2018 season in Triple-A, Borucki got called out to fill out a rotation plagued by struggles and injury.

In his first three starts, Borucki faced the Astros, Yankees, and Tigers. Despite the quality of those first two clubs, Borucki conceded only five total runs in 20 innings while recording a 16:6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Nor does it get any easier: Borucki is scheduled to start tonight against Boston.

At first glance, Borucki’s arsenal doesn’t seem like the sort capable of thwarting two of the league’s highest-scoring offenses. His sinking fastball averages around 92 mph and his slider is generally seen as pedestrian. However, he does have one weapon that could become one of the best pitches of its kind in the majors.

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Brian Anderson and Hope for the Marlins

This image represents an exception to the rule of Anderson’s outfield defense.
(Photo: Keith Allison)

Not every franchise is in a position to enjoy the present. Each year, 10 clubs qualify for the postseason, meaning 10 fanbases experience some form of pleasure. The supporters of the other 20 teams, however, are necessarily forced to contend with various levels of discontent. Some are able to recall recent success, if not much hope for the near future. Those who follow the Giants and Royals belong to this category. Others, like those in San Diego or the south side of Chicago, endure the present while waiting for an Astros- or Cubs-style turnaround. For these fanbases, “[The] Past and to come seem best; things present [the] worst.

One club that is forced to dwell only on the past and future is the Miami Marlins. They certainly have past glories: they’ve won the World Series in their only two playoff appearances. Their present, however, is just as certainly is bleak. Since 2011, the club has endured a spending spree that went nowhere; the resulting sell-off; the death of a bright, young talent; another firesale; a deteriorating relationship between management and their best player; and… yeah… it’s rough for the Marlins.

That said, there are some reasons for hope in Miami. All those sell-offs and losing seasons have allowed the club to acquire some promising prospects. In the low minors, the upper minors, and even at the major-league level, there are players in the Marlins’ system about whom analysts and fans can get excited. Going into the season, the two players expected to have spend the most time with the Marlins were Lewis Brinson and Brian Anderson. Brinson has struggled thus far, to the tune of a .188/.231/.347 slash line, a 54 wRC+, and -0.4 WAR (All-Star campaign notwithstanding). Brian Anderson has had a more successful debut, however, giving Marlins fans their first taste of hope for a brighter future.

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Yoshihisa Hirano and Deceptiveness in Action

Baseball is often simultaneously a kind and cruel sport. In 2018, nothing could’ve been kinder to us as fans than the Shohei Ohtani experience. We marveled at his ability on the mound and at the plate as we watched a level of complete player unseen since the early days of the sport. But Ohtani was also placed on the disabled list with a UCL sprain, an injury that could rob the game of his gifts for an extended period. And now, because of that, we’re forced to search elsewhere for what the kind side of baseball has given us.

Well, how about looking no further than one of Ohtani’s most experienced opponents? One who has seen Ohtani step into the batter’s box 15 times over their respective careers and has dominated the Angels’ superstar, to the tune of seven strikeouts and only one measly infield single allowed?

You might be able to guess — given the number of plate appearances against this pitcher — that this would likely have to be another former NPB player. However, rather than a big name such as Masahiro Tanaka or Kenta Maeda, this Ohtani kryptonite is Yoshihisa Hirano, a name that probably isn’t too well known in America outside of Phoenix. With Archie Bradley looking slightly more human and Brad Boxberger having had trouble with the homer, the 34-year-old Hirano has been a key component for a D-backs team that, despite a merely average relief corps, leads the NL West.

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Are Young Teams More Likely to Fade After Hot Starts?

Heading into the 2018 season, the NL East picture appeared to be pretty clear. The Washington Nationals — while having just one more year of Bryce Harper — entered the campaign as presumptive favorites. The Mets, despite possessing a talented roster, were conducting their affairs in an all-too-familiar way, while the Marlins were conducting their affairs in a way that made their roster much less talented.

In Atlanta and Philadelphia, meanwhile, the future was on the horizon. The Braves boasted a stable of young arms, Freddie Freeman, and the best prospect in the game (mon-Ohtani division). The Phillies supplemented their equally impressive young core with the signing of Jake Arrieta, announcing that they were ready to end the rebuild and begin contending. It only seemed a matter of time before the division would be theirs.

A couple months into the season, the picture is somewhat less clear. Indeed, it seems as though the future has arrived a little early in the NL East. As of this morning, the Braves sit atop the NL East at 35-25, with the Phillies just a couple games behind in third. (The Nationals sit in second.) The two teams have gone about things in different ways: where the Braves — led by Ozzie Albies, the aforementioned Freeman, and a surprising Nick Markakis — boast a top-five offense, the Phillies have benefited from a top-five pitching staff.

Whenever a young team makes this sort of run, it’s inevitably accompanied by discussions concerning the importance of experience. Experience, so it is said, leads to more staying power over the course of a long season or playoff run. Young teams are then expected to fade or fall short, thus earning some “much needed experience” and checking off that box on their development path.

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Tommy Pham Is Continuing His Breakout

Last year was one of many great stories for baseball. Leading the way was the ascendance of the Houston Astros, fulfilling the prophecy made three years earlier. Max Scherzer attempted to wrest the “Best Pitcher” title from Kershaw, and Aaron Judge obliterated pitches on the way to giving baseball one of its most exciting new faces in years. Yet, despite all of this, possibly the best story on the year was the breakout of St. Louis outfielder Tommy Pham, rising from being blocked at all three outfield positions to being the best player on the Cardinals.

What Pham did was virtually unprecedented. It took him eight years to reach the majors, and he became a regular player 11 years after his draft season. Then he put up over six wins’ worth of value in that first campaign of regular at-bats. Over the offseason, the Cardinals traded for Marcell Ozuna, envisioning him to be their new best position player. Despite this, with a quarter of the season done, we still see Pham leading the Cardinals offense. He has built on his breakout 2017, continuing onward with an astonishing consistency.

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Juan Lagares and the Power of Perception

As Opening Day approaches, many team’s rosters have rounded into place. However, there is some slight tinkering to be done. With this in mind, let’s consider the careers of two players, blindly — one of whom is a mainstay for his team and the other who used to be.

Blind Resume
Name PA BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wRC+ Offense Defense WAR Peak WAR
Player A 2180 6.6% 19.4% .248 .298 .334 71 -31.2 63.5 10.6 3.7
Player B 1770 4.6% 19.9% .257 .297 .366 84 -27.1 68.0 10.1 3.9

Both players converted from shortstop to center field. They’re almost the same age. Player A was once a top-25 prospect, however, while Player B was a relatively unheralded signing out of the Dominican. Now, Player A is his team’s unquestioned starting center fielder, while Player B is on the trading block.

Player A is Billy Hamilton, noted speedster, while Player B is Juan Lagares. Recent reports suggest that the Mets have received interest in Lagares and that the club is motivated to move him.

Now, this could be the case for a variety of reasons. Lagares hasn’t hit particularly well this spring, going just 7 for 36 so far with 13 strikeouts. While spring stats only correlate so well to regular season, Lagares hasn’t made an overwhelming case for an expanded role. Lagares also makes $6.5 million this year and $9 million next year, and the Mets have supposedly been interested in shedding some payroll. Finally, there’s the fact that Lagares — one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball — is buried on the Mets’ outfield depth chart by a bevy of corner outfielders masquerading as center fielders. The fact that he is available should pique the interest of many teams, just as much if Billy Hamilton was available.

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The Adjustment to Revive the Final Boss

This post begins with a friendly reminder — specifically, that there are five teams in each of baseball’s six divisions. Given the noise around baseball for much of the offseason, one could be forgiven for thinking there were only four clubs in the American League East. Much of the chatter regarding the AL East this winter has centered around the formidability of the Yankees’ roster, the Red Sox’ (now successful) pursuit of J.D. Martinez, the imminent close of Baltimore’s competitive window, and the Rays’ sort of, kind of, not really teardown. It isn’t that the Blue Jays have done nothing — they’ve made several good trades and taken low-cost risks — it’s just that there have been a few more prominent stories and louder fanbases.

The most recent move out of Toronto continues the club’s offseason trend of reasonable, low-cost acquisitions. For a price of just $2.5 million, the signing of Seung-Hwan Oh — a player who, in 2016, recorded nearly three wins out of the bullpen — seems like a potential bargain.

Of course, he would not be available at this time of the offseason and at this price if he didn’t have some warts. He is coming off of a mediocre 2017 campaign, falling from one of the leauge’s top-10 relievers to barely replacement level. Of possibly greater concern is the fact that the Rangers nixed a potential deal after expressing concerns with Oh’s physical. Despite these warning signs, there is reasonable optimism for an Oh turnaround, one that would benefit the Blue Jays in either a playoff chase or as a deadline trade chip.

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Farm Systems Are Cyclical

Everything in life is cyclical; just look it up. Depending on your subject of interest, you can likely find some meditation on the cyclic nature of events in that particular field. Politics, history, sociology — heck, even opera has cycles. Baseball is no different. Whether it’s the dynamic between pitchers and hitters, strategic trends, or the success of individual teams, each side of the coin will come up eventually.

One key area in baseball that exhibits this cyclic nature is in the relative strength of organizational prospect talent. Every year, we see various outlets publish their rankings of the league’s assorted farm systems, thus giving hope to downtrodden franchises everywhere. Baseball America just released their list, while Baseball Prospectus and John Sickels will surely follow soon with their own. As all these lists are published, it’s worthwhile to consider how clubs tend to navigate the crests and troughs of such rankings, and what that movement implies for a team’s future.

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The Giants Should Stop Prioritizing Outfield Help

The Giants have been one of the busier teams this offseason, wheeling and dealing their way to a markedly different roster in just a few months. Since December 15th alone, the club has traded away left-hander Matt Moore, a general disappointment in the 240 innings he had thrown for the Giants. They followed this up by acquiring two faces of their former franchises: Moore’s one-time Tampa Bay teammate Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen. The most recent deal has the Giants signing Austin Jackson for two years and $6 million to round out their starting outfield.

Or so it seemed.

Giants president of baseball operations Brian Sabean seemed to suggest otherwise recently, according to reports by Alex Pavlovic and John Shea.

“He’s certainly a viable option,” Sabean said of Jackson. “Did we get him to be our everyday center fielder? Probably not. I don’t know that in his recent history, he’s been able to go out there in that fashion.”

Sabean might not be wrong about Jackson. Even though he was an effective player from 2010 to -15, he turns 31 in a week and hit the disabled list twice last season. Jackson might be best relied on as a part-time player, albeit a very good one.

So were does that leave the Giants? They seem to be keeping an eye on the market for outfielders, probably with a view towards acquiring a cheap option somewhere along the line. This search, combined with their financial position, seems to leave the team focused on a particular goal in mind, one that fails to address one of their most glaring needs.

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David Dahl May Not Be the Rockies’ Answer

The Colorado Rockies are acting like a team with expectations for 2018. Before the start of the offseason, Cot’s Contracts projected a salary of $131 million for the team, an all-time high for the franchise. That was before they added $40 million in average annual value by signing Wade Davis, Chris Iannetta, Jake McGee, and Bryan Shaw. The players seem to expect big things as well, and have used this energy in their pursuit of free agents. McGee, according to Patrick Saunders, helped sell Wade Davis on the Rockies saying, “[T]his was a team that was going to win now.”

Now, many questions remain for the Rockies, and those questions have led some to doubt Colorado’s ability to contend. Can the pitching keep up its pace from last year? Can Charlie Blackmon repeat his MVP-type performance? Is Jonathan Lucroy back? While all three of those uncertainties can be addressed by playing the actual games, there’s another question that might have been answered recently.

David Dahl saw only 82 plate appearances in 2017, all at the minor-league level. After a breakout 2016 rookie campaign in which he slashed .315/.359/.500 over 237 plate appearances while adding average defense in the outfield, Dahl was expected to be a key contributor to the Rockies going into the year. There were thoughts of a .300 hitter with 20-20 potential, enough to get most fanbases excited.

Unfortunately, those fantasies had to be postponed. On March 6th of 2017, the Rockies released a seemingly innocuous announcement that Dahl had suffered a stress reaction in his ribcage and would be reevaluated in two weeks. That injury would persist for basically the entire season.

Reports concerning Dahl’s return to health give the Rockies some hope of improving an outfield that was horrendous outside of the aforementioned Blackmon; however, the combination of Dahl’s profile as a hitter and the consequences of missing a full year suggest that enthusiasm ought to be curbed.

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Cubs Sign Cishek, Will Require More Bullpen Help

To say this year’s Winter Meetings were a relatively quiet affair would be accurate. While there were some moments of excitement (the trade of Marcell Ozuna to St. Louis, the Angels’ acquisition of Ian Kinsler), this offseason meetup in Orlando mostly produced rumors and reliever signings.

While the best free-agent reliever, Wade Davis, remains unsigned, he’s one of the few high-leverage arms left standing. Greg Holland, Brandon Kintzler, Jake McGee, Mike Minor, Juan Nicasio, and Joe Smith were all taken off the board in short order.

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What Do You Get for Your International Bonuses?

With the likely winner of the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes becoming a bit more clear, 23 teams now find themselves in an interesting situation. Before Ohtani had narrowed his list, many of those clubs had hoarded their international bonus money for the big moment. Following the announcement of Ohtani’s seven finalists, however, they were left with the capacity to offer free-agent bonuses, but few actual players in whom to invest that money.

Fortunately for them, a fresh set of prospects emerged thanks to the Braves’ indiscretions on the international market. Some teams — including the Angels, Phillies, and Royals — pounced quickly, using funds from the 2018-2019 pool to sign some of the top ex-Braves. Other teams will assuredly put their remaining bonuses to use in this way, taking a chance that these players will thrive in a new system.

There is, of course, one other way in which teams can put their bonus dollars to work, and it’s one that seems to have increased in popularity during this year — namely, by trading the bonus money. The rules for this have changed a few times. Under the terms of the most recent CBA, however, a team can trade away its entire international bonus pool or acquire additional funds up to 75% of their initial pool through trades.

Some teams have taken advantage of this rule to trade substantial portions of their bonus pools, to varying levels of public approval. The last few days, specifically, have seen the remaining teams in the Ohtani sweepstakes make trades to augment their pools.

Is this a smart strategy? Before we disparage or praise teams for using their bonus pools in this fashion, it’s worthwhile to look at what teams are getting with this particular kind of asset.

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Michael Taylor Gives the Nationals Multiple Options

Going into the 2017 season, the Washington Nationals would have been right to view their outfield as a strength. With Bryce Harper already present in right, the front office traded a pair of highly prized pitching prospects to add Adam Eaton, as well. The acquisition had the benefit of sending Trea Turner to his natural shortstop position, filling another of the Nationals’ holes. Jayson Werth could still be counted on as the weak side of a platoon, and there were bench bats who could otherwise fill in.

Not many people were talking about Michael Taylor at that point — and rightfully so. He’d dealt with a demotion to Triple-A the year prior in order to iron out his swing, and he was increasingly looking like a prospect who’d failed to live up to expectations. Mark Zuckerman of MASN Sports speculated that he was “at best looking at a spot on the bench” alongside Chris Heisey and Adam Lind.

Things changed quickly on April 30th. General manager Mike Rizzo announced that Adam Eaton would be out for the year after stepping awkwardly on first base while legging out an infield single. Suddenly, the Nationals would be leaning much more heavily on Michael Taylor. He responded very well, putting up three-plus wins over the course of the season, with above-average offense and defense in center field. His emergence not only helped push the Nationals to a playoff spot, but now gives them valuable flexibility heading into 2018.

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Death, Taxes, and the Orioles’ Need for Starting Pitching

Free agency began a week ago to an expected lack of fanfare. Unlike the NBA, where free-agent deals are often announced minutes after the midnight opening bell, it usually takes a little while for baseball’s hot stove to ignite. Until the GM Meetings, which began this past Monday, free agency is usually dominated by leaked contract demands, contract extensions, and declarations by certain players that they intend to keep playing.

Thus far, the 2017-2018 offseason is no exception. For the moment, we must content ourselves with news of minor-league deals for Kevin Quackenbush and Rubby de la Rosa with Cincinnati and Arizona, respectively.

Alongside the minor-league signings and contract demands, the early days of this offseason have been marked by another annual tradition. According to Orioles beat writer Rock Kubatko, Baltimore has shown “definite” interest in Andrew Cashner and Jason Vargas. The Orioles’ rotation remains a weakness for the club, and as is often the case, the team appears to be targeting mid-level innings-eaters. It also appears to be all they’re likely to afford: due to questionable commitments on the payroll, the Orioles will probably find it difficult to pursue many true rotation upgrades to prop open their closing — or perhaps already closed — window.

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Kershaw’s Forgotten Chapter

Congratulations to the Houston Astros! After distinguishing themselves as one of the best teams in the regular season, they managed to survive the giant Plinko board that is the postseason. Truly a worthy champion.

There will certainly be much attention paid to the World Series winner in the wake of their victory. For the moment, however, I’d like to consider the team that fell just short — and, specifically, to examine their much-maligned ace, Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw stepped onto the mound in Game 7, his team needing him to hold the wall in the worst way. The Dodgers were already down five runs when Kershaw entered, their win probability reduced to just 10%. It was pretty dire.

Kershaw responded, throwing four innings of shutout ball, striking out four, unintentionally walking none, and limiting hard contact along the way. He looked like the guy who’s established himself as the best pitcher of this generation. As the game unfolded Wednesday night, the fans who joined the Game 7 live blog grasped three central points of Kershaw’s performance in very short order, as illustrated by the following excerpt from that chat:

These six comments are representative of observations made by other readers, observations which fell into the three following categories:

  1. That Kershaw pitched effectively.
  2. That naysayers would comment about the low leverage of the moment.
  3. That, however well Kershaw fared, it wouldn’t alter The Narrative.

I’d like to address those points in a moment. However, before we descend (as Jonathan Yardley would put it) “into the Void,” let’s take a quick step back and appreciate Clayton Kershaw’s performance on Wednesday, in what will likely be a lost chord in his playoff opus.

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