Archive for Astros

Sunday Notes: Will Flemming is Next Up in the PawSox Pipeline

Gary Cohen (Mets), Dave Flemming (Giants), Andy Freed (Rays), Aaron Goldsmith (Mariners), Dave Jaegler (Nationals), Jeff Levering (Brewers), and Don Orsillo (Padres) share something in common. Each began broadcasting for a big-league team after honing his play-by-play skills with the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox. The pipeline runs deeper still. Dan Hoard (Bengals) and Bob Socci (Patriots) came to the NFL via the PawSox radio booth.

There’s a good chance that group will grow in the not-too-distant future. Will Flemming — Dave Flemming’s younger brother — has been calling PawSox games for the past four seasons, and many in the industry feel he’s of MLB quality.

He passed an important test this summer. Filling in for Tim Neverett, who was away for his father’s funeral, Flemming was alongside Joe Castiglione when the Red Sox hosted the Phillies on July 30. The game was a thriller, with Boston winning 2-1 in 13 innings.

“There were no low lights,” Flemming.said of his MLB debut “Not one. All of us in this profession dream of that moment, and to have it realized in that ballpark, with this Red Sox team against a good Philadelphia team — Price versus Nola — it was more than I ever could have dreamt of.”

He’s been imagining the moment for years. Despite his relatively young age — Flemming has yet to reach the big 4-0 — he’s no neophyte. His journey has included stints in Lancaster, Potomac, and Indianapolis. At each stop along the way — this is something all minor-league broadcasters can attest to — the frills have been few and far between. Read the rest of this entry »


ZiPS Updated Playoff Probabilities – 2018 NLCS

Updated through Game Six of the NLCS.

The ZiPS projection system will update these charts after every game and as the starting pitcher probables change. They are based on the up-to-date ZiPS projections of the strengths of the teams and the projected starting pitchers. They are different than the playoff odds that appear elsewhere at this site. The FanGraphs playoff probabilities are based on 10,000 simulations using the updated projections in the depth charts. Where ZiPS differs is guessing the game-by-game starting pitcher matchups and using the ZiPS projections, including split projections.

First, here are the game-by-game probabilities:

Game-by-Game Probabilities, NLCS
Game Home Team Milwaukee Starter Brewers Win Los Angeles Starter Dodgers Win
1 Brewers Gio Gonzalez 100.0% Clayton Kershaw 0.0%
2 Brewers Wade Miley 0.0% Hyun-Jin Ryu 100.0%
3 Dodgers Jhoulys Chacin 100.0% Walker Buehler 0.0%
4 Dodgers Gio Gonzalez 0.0% Rich Hill 100.0%
5 Dodgers Wade Miley ‘n’ Friends 0.0% Clayton Kershaw 100.0%
6 Brewers Wade Miley 100.0% Hyun-Jin Ryu 0.0%
7 Brewers Jhoulys Chacin 45.1% Walker Buehler 54.9%

And here are the overall series probabilities.

Overall NLCS Probabilities
Result Probability
Brewers over Dodgers in 4 0.0%
Brewers over Dodgers in 5 0.0%
Brewers over Dodgers in 6 0.0%
Brewers over Dodgers in 7 45.1%
Dodgers over Brewers in 4 0.0%
Dodgers over Brewers in 5 0.0%
Dodgers over Brewers in 6 0.0%
Dodgers over Brewers in 7 54.9%
Brewers Advance 45.1%
Dodgers Advance 54.9%

The Astros’ Doomsday Scenario

The Houston Astros won the World Series last year. They had a really good chance of winning it again this year. Unfortunately for the team, a really good chance in the playoffs still topped out below a 50/50 shot, and they ran into a really good Red Sox team that played well. Winning back-to-back championships is hard. No team has done it since the Yankees won three in a row from 1998 to 2000. Even making it to the World Series in back-to-back seasons is difficult. Since that Yankees’ team made it to the series again in 2001, only the Phillies in 2008 and 2009, the Rangers in 2010 and 2011, and the Royals in 2014 and 2015 have participated in the World Series in back-to-back years. The odds were in the Astros’ favor and simultaneously stacked against them. Always take the field.

The Astros are incredibly well set up for the future. In Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Carlos Correa, the team has not only three legitimate stars but potential MVP candidates. This 2018 season was not a good one for the 24-year-old Correa, whose lower-back problems sidelined him at times and rendered him an average player when he was in the lineup. Consider how well the Astros persevered, though, despite lacking the services of six-win player. Kris Bryant of the Cubs had a similar season, for example, and the Cubs’ offense struggled to score runs, eventually losing in the Wild Card Game and firing their hitting coach. The Dodgers were huge favorites in the National League West. Without Corey Seager, however, they struggled to 90 wins and a 163rd game for the division after acquiring a similar player for half the season in the form of Manny Machado.

Alex Bregman emerged as a star, Jose Altuve put together a very good season despite his own injury issues, and George Springer turned in another good season. On offense, the team took a step back from its MLB-best 123 wRC+ in 2017, but still put together the fourth-best offense (110 wRC+) in the majors. The downturn in offense made little difference, as the pitching stepped up. A full year of ace Justin Verlander plus a trade for co-ace Gerrit Cole paced the team with 13 combined WAR, while Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr., and Charlie Morton all put together above average seasons. Those five pitchers made 152 of the team’s 162 starts. The rotation’s 22.5 WAR placed them just behind Cleveland’s and meant the bullpen had to cover just 499.2 innings. Houston didn’t have a problem with middle relievers because they never had to use them.

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The Fan Interference Call Was Probably Good

Let’s just get this out of the way now: That sucked. I mean, the game between the Astros and Red Sox was great, and it couldn’t have ended in a more dramatic fashion, but ultimately, the Red Sox won by two runs. And, in the bottom of the first inning, a controversial call and replay review might well have cost the Astros two runs. Yes, you’re right, the game would’ve played out differently had that call been made differently. We have no idea what that alternate game would’ve looked like. But the Astros have been pushed to the brink now, and a two-run homer would’ve been a pretty big deal. No one ever wants to think a game and season were damaged by umpires. It’s a very unsatisfying kind of disappointment, when the outcomes aren’t solely determined by the players themselves.

I don’t think we’re ever going to know for sure whether the right call was made. As such, it’s the sort of thing that’s going to linger, at least if the Astros fail to advance. Immediately, this has turned into a great What If?, and a target of Astros fan rage. Yet having reviewed all the evidence, I’ve come to the conclusion the call was good. And by that I mean, I think it was more good than bad. In the absence of anything conclusive, some amount of mystery is everlasting. But if you are to render judgment, you go whichever way you’re leaning. I’m leaning toward fan interference.

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How Do You Feel About This Ball Down the Middle?

I just polled you all about something last Thursday. I asked you how you feel about the diminishing role of the starting pitcher in the modern game. I don’t know what I expected, which meant I’d be surprised by *any* results, but here’s where things stand — 23% of you are neutral. Yet 57% of you have a negative opinion, while just 20% of you have a positive opinion. That’s almost a 3-to-1 ratio. We’ll see how things evolve over time, as we become increasingly accustomed to how pitching staffs are used, but there’s clearly a collective sense of loss. The audience likes to think of the starter as the protagonist. The protagonists shouldn’t be killed off in the fourth or fifth inning. Leaves too much of the story.

Now I’m going back to the well again. I have another question for you all. This isn’t about some sort of trend within the game. Rather, this is about one call. But really, it’s about how calls are made in general. It’s about how you prefer that judgment be rendered. We’re going back to Saturday’s Game 1 of the Red Sox/Astros ALCS. Let’s all watch Joe Kelly throw a curveball down the middle.

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Matt Barnes Threw 14 Curveballs in 15 Pitches

There was a moment where Sunday’s Game 2 might’ve unraveled. David Price left the mound to a Fenway Park standing ovation, because he left the mound with a lead, but he also left the mound in the top of the fifth with two runners on in a one-run game. That meant it was up to the Red Sox bullpen to get 13 outs. It was, most immediately, up to Matt Barnes to get out of a jam. And within three pitches, the Astros got a break.

Barnes got ahead of Marwin Gonzalez with two quick strikes. At that point, Barnes came back with a breaking ball low. Gonzalez swung, and he came up empty, and that appeared to be that, but according to home-plate umpire Vic Carapazza, Gonzalez had tipped the ball before it landed in the dirt. So instead of Barnes getting out of the inning, he’d have to try again. Replays couldn’t confirm a foul tip, but a foul tip is a non-reviewable play. It was like watching a dramatic turning point in progress.

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Seth Lugo, Collin McHugh, and Ryan Meisinger on Developing Their Sliders

Pitchers learn and develop different pitches, and they do so at varying stages of their lives. It might be a curveball in high school, a cutter in college, or a changeup in A-ball. Sometimes the addition or refinement is a natural progression — graduating from Pitching 101 to advanced course work — and often it’s a matter of necessity. In order to get hitters out as the quality of competition improves, a pitcher needs to optimize his repertoire.

In this installment of the series, we’ll hear from three pitchers — Seth Lugo, Collin McHugh, and Ryan Meisinger — on how they learned and developed their sliders.

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Seth Lugo, Mets

“I’ve pretty much developed my pitches through repetition, especially my breaking pitches. My sinker, as well. I didn’t have them coming out of high school. I didn’t learn my sinker until Low-A. All of my pitches really came after that season.

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Small-Sample Theater in the Postseason: The Justinification

We’re now two games deep in both League Championship Series, which makes it a good time to take stock of some of the small-sample stuff that makes up the postseason. As before, I’ll note that there’s always some danger in ascribing too much meaning to the numbers underlying the wins and losses. That said, it’s difficult not to notice certain trends and, having noticed them, not to connect them with what we’ve seen over the course of the regular season. Inclusive of the Wild Card and Division Series rounds, as well, here’s what has caught my eye over the past week.

Justin Time I

On the heels of last year’s championship run, Justin Verlander continues to stand out in October — relative not only to the other frontline pitchers of this current postseason but to a generation of October veterans. Here’s a quick look at the nine starters who have taken two turns thus far in this postseason, ranked by cumulative Game Score (Version 2):

Pitchers with Two Postseason Starts in 2018
Player Team IP H R HR BB SO ERA FIP GSv2
Wade Miley Brewers 10.1 5 0 0 1 5 0.00 2.52 131
Justin Verlander Astros 11.1 4 4 0 6 13 3.18 2.49 129
Gerrit Cole Astros 13.0 9 6 1 2 17 3.46 2.05 127
Hyun-Jin Ryu Dodgers 11.1 10 2 1 0 12 1.59 2.23 124
Chris Sale Red Sox 9.1 6 4 0 6 13 3.86 2.34 113
Clayton Kershaw Dodgers 11.0 8 5 1 2 5 3.27 4.02 106
Luis Severino Yankees 7.0 9 6 0 6 9 7.71 3.20 83
Mike Foltynewicz Braves 6.0 5 5 2 7 10 7.50 7.70 71
David Price Red Sox 6.1 8 7 3 6 4 9.95 10.94 53
GSv2 = Constant + 2*Outs + Strikeouts – 2*Walks – 2*Hits – 3*Runs – 6*HR. Here I’ve applied the constants from the regular season for the AL (40) and NL (38), which centered the season average at 50.

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FanGraphs Audio: Dan Szymborski Analyzes All the Postseason

Episode 839
Dan Szymborski is the progenitor of the ZiPS projection system and a senior writer for FanGraphs dot com. He’s also the guest on this edition of the program, during which he examines which managers have produced the best performances of the postseason. Also: Szymborski’s argument for playing Matt Kemp at shortstop. And: a status update on the forthcoming projections for 2019.

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 49 min play time.)

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The Most Unhittable Pitch Is in the Astros Bullpen

There are a lot of pitchers, right? There are a lot of pitchers, and, therefore, there are a lot of relievers. Some of them have long been great. Some of them have more recently been great. Others have just kind of hung around. Many of them are relatively anonymous. Ryan Pressly has been one of the more anonymous ones. He’s been in the majors since 2013, but we’ve almost never written about him here. Rian Watt did change that a month ago. He wrote a whole article about Pressly, who was dealt from the Twins to the Astros near the end of July.

Watt focused a lot on Pressly’s curveball. He’s been leaning heavily on that pitch, especially since arriving in Houston. Pressly, who’s a righty, throws a four-seam fastball, a curveball, and a slider. It’s an interesting mix for a reliever to have, and it’s further interesting how easily Pressly goes from one pitch to another. He’s not a one-pitch specialist. He’s not a two-pitch specialist. He mixes. He likes everything he throws.

He throws that slider more than a quarter of the time. He’s had a slider for a while. Most pitchers have. But there’s something different and special about Pressly’s slider today. Absolutely, the curveball is important. The fastball’s important, too. It all works together. But Pressly’s slider in 2018 has been baseball’s single most unhittable pitch. That’s measured by how infrequently it’s been hit.

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Lance McCullers Jr. on Being Studious and Not Throwing to Blank Spaces

Lance McCullers Jr. put up some pretty good numbers during the regular season. The Houston Astros hurler had a 3.86 ERA and a 3.50 FIP and punched out 10 batters per nine innings. It wasn’t all peaches and cream — a forearm strain limited him to 128 innings — but he was nevertheless a stalwart on one of baseball’s best teams.

He still has room to grow. McCullers turned 25 years old earlier this month, and in terms of consistency, he remains a work in progress. Borderline unhittable when on top of his game, he’s prone to implosions. Four times this year he allowed five or more runs in fewer than five innings. McCullers readily admits he needs to learn how to limit such damage.

To a large extent, he’s already learned how to best utilize his plus stuff. Tapping into technology and the attained knowledge of veteran teammates — plus the study of others — he’s evolved into a thinking-man’s power pitcher. Thanks to a mid-90s heater and a hammer curveball, augmented by that studious approach, he’s on the doorstep of becoming elite.

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Lance McCullers, Jr.: “To [learn and develop] a pitch, you need to have a knack for putting what you see, and what you study, into real life. You have to be able to put it into action. I’ve spent a lot of time with Dallas Keuchel. He’s been a huge mentor for me. Read the rest of this entry »


Mike Clevinger, Will Harris, and Brandon Workman on Developing Their Curveballs

Pitchers learn and develop different pitches, and they do so at varying stages of their lives. It might be a curveball in high school, a cutter in college, or a changeup in A-ball. Sometimes the addition or refinement is a natural progression — graduating from Pitching 101 to advanced course work — and often it’s a matter of necessity. In order to get hitters out as the quality of competition improves, a pitcher needs to optimize his repertoire.

In this installment of the series, we’ll hear from three pitchers — Mike Clevinger, Will Harris, and Brandon Workman— on how they learned and developed their curveballs.

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Mike Clevinger, Indians

“My curveball was pretty inconsistent in the past. I would get kind of slurvy with it — it was sloppy the past couple of years — but I’ve tightened it up. It’s more 12-6 now. I’ve been able to find a more consistent up-to-down break.

“There was a lot of process involved. It literally started as… it was almost like we were trying to catch a bass, just flipping it with a tight wrist. A reversed stance — my right foot forward, almost like a pickoff — and just flipping it, flipping it. We were kind of getting the feel for that, coming down and pulling out in front.

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The Astros Gave the Indians an All-Time Beating

We know half of the ALCS, as the Astros on Monday wrapped up a sweep of the Indians. And the way I see it, there are two ways you can read the brief series that was.

In one sense, the series was closer than it seems. Game 1 was tight until the bottom of the seventh. It was only then the Astros managed to pull away. Game 2 was decided by only two runs, and the Indians actually led into the bottom of the sixth. The contest turned on a Marwin Gonzalez double off Andrew Miller. And then even though Game 3 was a blowout, the Indians led into the top of the seventh. That catastrophic inning turned in part on an excuse-me ground-ball single. It turned in part on a throwing error on a would-be double play. It turned in part on a double well out of the zone that Marwin Gonzalez thought he fouled off. The score got out of hand, and it got there fast, but the Indians had it where they wanted it to be. It all unraveled in the last third of the game.

So based on one reading, the Indians could start, but they just couldn’t finish. Through the first six innings, they were outscored 7-5. Over the final three innings, they were outscored 14-1. It looks very bad, but it’s not like they were all laughers. At some point, the Indians were very much in every game.

Based on another, different reading, the Indians got destroyed. They didn’t even belong on the same baseball field. The Astros coasted to maybe the most lopsided series win in history.

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Sunday Notes: Josh James Is More Than a Fringe Five Favorite

Josh James has been a Fringe Five favorite this season. He’s also been a shooting star. The 25-year-old hurler began the year in Double-A, and he’s finishing it with aplomb in Houston. Since debuting with the Astros on September 1, James has punched out 27 batters, and allowed just 14 hits and six runs, in 21 innings of work.

His ascent has come as a surprise. A 34th-round pick out of Western Oklahoma State University in 2014, James went unmentioned in our preseason Astros Top Prospects list (ergo his eligibility to take up residence in the aforementioned Carson Cistulli column).

Every bit as surprising was the righty’s response when I asked him how he goes about attacking hitters.

“To be honest, I’m still trying to figure that out,” James told me on the heels of his rock-solid MLB debut. “A couple of years ago I was a low-90s guy and mixed up pitches. I’d throw curveballs in 0-0 counts, work backwards. All that stuff. Now the velo is up a little higher, so I can throw more fastballs and attack the zone a little more.”

The velocity jump is real. James’ four-seam heater has averaged a tick over 97 MPH since his call up, and he’s been told that he touched 101 earlier this summer. Getting a good night’s sleep has helped breathe more life into his arsenal. Read the rest of this entry »


Roberto Osuna’s Legal Case Is Over

On Tuesday, Astros reliever Roberto Osuna agreed to a deal to bring to a close the legal proceedings pending in Ontario for charges filed against Osuna for assault stemming from a domestic-violence incident that occurred earlier this year.

Per ESPN:

A domestic assault charge against Houston Astros closer Roberto Osuna in Toronto was withdrawn on Tuesday.

In exchange, Osuna agreed to a peace bond, which requires him to not contact the woman he is alleged to have assaulted and to continue counseling. He must comply with the conditions of the bond for one year or face criminal charges, which would carry a maximum sentence of up to four years’ imprisonment.

The bond was worth $500. At least according to one Associated Press report, the impetus behind the deal was that the complainant, Alejandra Román Cota, was unwilling to return to Canada to testify against Osuna.

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Sunday Notes: Tyler Clippard Sees a Save-Opportunity Disconnect

In all likelihood, Tyler Clippard’s numbers are better than you realize. In 696 career relief appearances encompassing 752 innings, the 33-year-old Toronto Blue Jays right-hander has a 3.17 ERA. Moreover, he’s allowed just 6.5 hits per nine innings, and his strikeout rate is a healthy 10.0. Add in durability — 72 outings annually since 2010 — and Clippard has quietly been one of baseball’s better relievers.

He also has 68 saves on his resume, and the fact that nearly half of them came in 2012 helps add to his under-the-radar status. It also helps explain the size of his bank account.

“My biggest jump in salary was the year I had 32 saves, and that was essentially the only reason,” explained Clippard, who was with the Washington Nationals at the time. “My overall body of work was pretty good, but numbers-wise it wasn’t one of my better seasons. I had a bad stretch where I had something like a 10.00 ERA, so I ended the year with a (3.72 ERA). But because I got all those saves, I received the big salary jump in salary arbitration.”

Circumstances proceeded to derail the righty’s earning power. The Nationals signed free-agent closer Rafael Soriano to a two-year, $22M contract, relegating Clippard to a set-up role. While Soriano was saving games, Clippard was being paid less than half that amount while logging a 2.29 ERA and allowing 84 hits in 141 innings. Read the rest of this entry »


Jerry Blevins, Taylor Guerrieri, and Lance McCullers Jr. on Developing Their Curveballs

Pitchers learn and develop different pitches, and they do so at varying stages of their lives. It might be a curveball in high school, a cutter in college, or a changeup in A-ball. Sometimes the addition or refinement is a natural progression — graduating from Pitching 101 to advanced course work — and often it’s a matter of necessity. In order to get hitters out as the quality of competition improves, a pitcher needs to optimize his repertoire.

In this installment of the series, we’ll hear from three pitchers — Jerry Blevins, Taylor Guerrieri, and Lance McCullers Jr. — on how they learned and/or developed their curveballs.

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Jerry Blevins, Mets

“The story starts as a kid. You start learning about curveballs, and the reason mine is big and slow is because I wanted to visualize it. A lot of those smaller breaking balls you don’t really see from the perspective of a pitcher. I wanted to see the big break. That’s why mine is how it is.

“Did anyone ever try to change that? All the time. Every step of the way, coming through the minor leagues. Even in high school and little league. They were always telling me, ‘Look, you need something tighter.’ I always fought against that, and I think it’s done me well.

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The Manager’s Perspective: A.J. Hinch on Bullpens

Managing a bullpen is one of the biggest challenges a big-league skipper faces. Starters are going fewer and fewer innings, multi-inning closers have gone the way of the dinosaur, and roles have begun to blur. Matc-ups have thus become increasingly important, and determining them isn’t as simple as scanning a stat sheet. This isn’t Strat-O-Matic, it’s real life, and workloads and psyches need to be factored into the equation.

A.J. Hinch has done a good job with this balancing act. Having quality arms at one’s disposal obviously helps — and the Astros clearly have some quality arms — but optimizing their usage is nonetheless an art form. The numbers suggest that Hinch is more of a Rembrandt van Rijn than a Jackson Pollock (no disrespect to the latter, the reference is to technical proficiency). Houston relievers have both the best ERA and best FIP of any team in the majors, while their walk and strikeout rates are things of beauty. By and large, Hinch knows which buttons to push… and when to push them.

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A.J. Hinch: “It’s definitely changed from my playing days to now. We’ve been softly eliminating perfect roles. I think there will always be a closer. There will always be setup guys. There will always be guys who are long men or lefty specialists. I’m not taking about those roles. It’s more that I’ve watched the game evolve to the point where managers are using their relievers creatively.

“There’s how Terry Francona used Andrew Miller a couple of years ago. There’s how we used the bullpen in the playoffs last year. Closers are being used on the road more often. Lefties are getting righties out if the numbers suggest you don’t have to play a perfect matchup. I think the creativity within organizations has grown, and that’s impacted the manager role, how we utilize our weapons.

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Using Contact Quality to Sort Out the AL Cy Young Mess

The American League Cy Young race is pretty messed up this season. The current WAR leader, while apparently healthy, might throw so few innings in September that he fails to qualify for the ERA title as a result. The pitcher currently ranked second by WAR in the league hasn’t pitched in a month. A third pitcher who, as of July 1, had authored a sub-2.00 ERA and fantastic peripherals — and was probably the favorite for the award — is now an afterthought.

Overall, there are probably eight candidates who deserve to appear on a ballot — and that’s without even considering the credentials of dominant relievers like Edwin Diaz and Blake Treinen. Voters, however, can only choose five names — and, as a result, it is possible that totally defensible ballots will omit the eventual winner (or that a pitcher who would have otherwise won will be omitted from a totally defensible ballot).

As I noted yesterday with regard to the NL’s Cy Young field, this award invites multiple questions about how best to evaluate pitching performance. Unavoidably, one’s choice for Cy Young will depend on how one weighs what a pitcher can and cannot control — and how best to quantify those effects. In this post, I’ll look at various metrics and consider the implications of each regarding luck, defense, and pitcher skill.

Before we get to how contact and defense might be playing a role in voters’ minds, though, let’s look at some fairly standard statistics at FanGraphs.

AL Cy Young Contenders
Metric Chris
Sale
Trevor Bauer Gerrit Cole Justin Verlander Corey Kluber Luis Severino Carlos Carrasco Blake Snell
IP 146 166 182.1 195 195 173.2 169 157
K% 38.7% 31.5% 34.6% 33.6% 25.6% 28.5% 29.3% 30.4%
BB% 5.8% 8.2% 8.1% 4.6% 3.8% 5.9% 5.0% 8.8%
HR/9 0.62 0.43 0.84 1.25 1.06 0.98 1.01 0.86
BABIP .276 .298 .286 .277 .269 .317 .322 .250
ERA 1.97 2.22 2.86 2.72 2.91 3.52 3.41 2.06
FIP 1.95 2.38 2.70 2.96 3.19 3.05 2.95 3.08
WAR 6.1 5.9 5.7 5.8 4.8 4.9 4.6 3.7
Blue=First
Orange=Second
Red=Third

Jay Jaffe made the case for Chris Sale’s candidacy last week, and that case certainly looks quite strong — or would, if the season ended today. Problem is, Sale might not get too many more opportunities to build said case. The left-hander is scheduled to throw two innings for Boston today and then another three innings on the 16th. If he records those five innings and then, say, another 10 over his final two starters, he won’t qualify for the ERA title and will potentially allow other pitchers the opportunity to catch up in value.

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Gerrit Cole, Dallas Keuchel, and Charlie Morton on Developing Their Fastballs

Pitchers learn and develop different pitches, and they do so at varying stages of their lives. It might be a curveball in high school, a cutter in college, or a changeup in A-ball. Sometimes the addition or refinement is a natural progression — graduating from Pitching 101 to advanced course work — and often it’s a matter of necessity. In order to get hitters out as the quality of competition improves, a pitcher needs to optimize his repertoire.

In this installment of the series, we’ll hear from three pitchers — Gerrit Cole, Dallas Keuchel, and Charlie Morton — on how they learned and/or developed their go-to fastballs.

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Gerrit Cole, Astros

“It’s all about the fastball. From a young age, I’ve thrown both the two-seam and the four-seam. I just try to keep my fingers on top of the ball and get after it, man. It’s pretty simple.

“You try to locate it the best you can, knowing that overcooking the pitch — whether that’s overthrowing it or overthinking it — can cause you to maybe leak the ball over the plate or simply lose some of the quality of the pitch. You try to be as relaxed as you can, and have the most-connected delivery that you can. You keep your fingers on top of the ball, spin it, and take it right through the glove. Don’t try to do too much. Just let it eat.

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