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David Price Sheds an Albatross

To date, there have been 71 pitchers who have thrown at least 60 postseason innings in their careers. Entering Wednesday, David Price owned a 5.42 ERA, the second-highest of the bunch:

Highest Career Postseason ERAs
RK Player Yrs IP HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 ERA FIP
1 Tim Wakefield 1992-2008 (9) 72.0 1.6 4.8 6.8 6.75 5.63
2 David Price 2008-2018 (9) 79.2 1.7 2.5 8.1 5.42 4.67
3 Al Leiter 1993-2005 (5) 81.2 1.0 4.0 7.5 4.63 4.29
4 Charles Nagy 1995-1999 (5) 84.2 1.5 3.2 5.8 4.46 5.11
5t Vida Blue 1971-1975 (5) 64.2 0.8 3.2 6.5 4.31 4.02
5t CC Sabathia 2001-2018 (9) 129.1 1.0 4.4 8.4 4.31 4.30
7 Kevin Brown 1997-2004 (3) 81.2 0.9 3.4 7.8 4.19 3.87
8 Clayton Kershaw 2008-2018 (8) 140.0 1.2 2.6 9.8 4.11 3.66
9 Matt Morris 2000-2005 (5) 73.1 1.1 4.2 5.4 4.05 4.99
10 Zack Greinke 2011-2017 (5) 67.0 1.2 2.0 7.9 4.03 3.86
11 Livan Hernandez 1997-2007 (4) 68.0 0.8 4.8 6.2 3.97 4.55
12 Andy Pettitte 1995-2012 (14) 276.2 1.0 2.5 6.0 3.81 4.16
13 Jack Morris 1984-1992 (4) 92.1 0.9 3.1 6.2 3.80 4.12
14 David Cone 1988-2000 (8) 111.1 1.0 4.7 7.6 3.80 4.48
15 Don Gullett 1970-1977 (6) 93.0 0.5 3.7 5.8 3.77 3.83
SOURCE: Stats LLC
Minimum 60 innings. Numbers in parentheses are years appearing in postseason games.

There are some very good pitchers in the above group, including one who’s already in the Hall of Fame for his, uh, postseason reputation and a few more who have a very good shot. The best of them, Clayton Kershaw, has been dogged by inconsistent performances in the postseason, but he’s had big moments as well, including Wednesday’s NLCS Game Five performance against the Brewers.

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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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Cody Bellinger Wasn’t Clutch Until He Was

Postseason baseball has not come easily to Cody Bellinger. After setting an NL rookie record with 39 home runs in 2017, the then-22-year-old endured ups and downs last October, coming up big in the Dodgers’ Division and League Championship clinchers but going 4-for-28 with a record setting 17 strikeouts in the World Series. Those struggles had continued this fall, in the form of a 1-for-21 skid through Game Four of the NLCS and a spot on the bench for Game Four, as lefty Gio Gonzalez started for the Brewers. Nonetheless, in a five-hour, 15-minute slog that he didn’t even enter until the sixth inning, Bellinger played the hero, first with a diving catch on a potential extra-base hit off the bat of Lorenzo Cain in the 10th inning and then a walk-off RBI single in the 13th, giving the Dodgers a 2-1 victory.

The hit was actually Bellinger’s second of the night. His first came in the eighth inning, when he countered the Brewers’ defensive shift with an opposite-field single off the nearly unhittable Josh Hader, a Nice Piece of Hitting.

Bellinger, despite his pull tendencies, ranked ninth in the majors on grounders against the shift during the regular season, with a 98 wRC+. His 111 wRC+ overall on balls in play against the shift ranked 24th among the 123 hitters with at least 100 PA under such circumstances, which is to say that he’s fared well in this capacity — among the many other ways he’s fared well — despite this October slump.

Paired with Max Muncy’s leadoff single earlier in the inning, it was the first time all year that the Brewers’ fireman yielded multiple hits to left-handed batters in the same outing. The Dodgers couldn’t convert there — more on which momentarily — but Bellinger would only come up bigger.

Here’s Bellinger’s catch off Cain’s liner, which led off the 10th inning against Kenley Jansen. According to Statcast, it had a hit probability of 94%:

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Where It Went Wrong for Clayton Kershaw Last Time

Five years from now, when we think about Game One of the NLCS between the Dodgers and Brewers, I’m guessing we’ll probably think about the ninth inning: taut, suspenseful, and fundamentally baseball-y in the best way. If the Brewers go on to win the World Series, completing the job the 2008-11 versions of the club never could and exorcising some of the demons still haunting the area formerly occupied by County Stadium (which is actually just the parking lot right outside Miller Park), that ninth inning will be remembered as a key step along the way. I hope it is. The ninth inning was The One Where the Brewers Hung On. But I hope that fond memory is not eclipsed, at least today, by our shared memory of the third inning: The One Where Clayton Kershaw Couldn’t Hit His Target.

For the sake of narrative appeal, it would have been ideal for Kershaw to have entered the inning all youth and innocence, grown in stature by vanquishing a series of increasingly insalubrious foes, and then fallen to an antagonist at the dramatic climax of the tale.

That is not what happened, however. What happened instead is that Kershaw just began the inning by allowing a home run to Brandon Woodruff. Here is a picture of where Yasmani Grandal wanted the pitch that Woodruff ended up hitting out:

And here is a picture of where the ball ended up right before Woodruff blasted it into Toyota Territory™:

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One Simple Fix for Rich Hill’s Pitch-Tipping

There’s been a tiny little surge of pitch-tipping content. Ben Harris identified credible evidence that Luis Severino was tipping some of his pitches. And Fabian Ardaya wrote about Ross Stripling tipping his pitches. Now, within the Stripling article, there’s also a brief point made about Rich Hill. Chase Utley is apparently a wizard at looking for pitch signals. Utley saw that Stripling was doing something, but Utley also saw that Hill was doing something. Being a good teammate, Utley let the pitchers know. Hill already folded in a quick fix. One you’re probably able to spot, and spot easily.

Here’s Hill throwing a pitch on September 22:

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NLCS Game Three Turned on Decision to Let Buehler Hit

With his stellar performance down the stretch — including in the Game 163 tiebreaker that won the NL West — Walker Buehler may have supplanted Clayton Kershaw as the Dodgers’ ace. In Monday night’s Game Three of the NLCS, manager Dave Roberts nonetheless went a bridge too far with the 24-year-old fireballer. For five innings, the young righty had pitched brilliantly, if not flawlessly, against the Brewers, allowing just a lone run. But that run loomed large. For the third time in the series, the Dodgers had failed to put a dent in the Brewers’ starter, and so they entered the bottom of the fifth trailing 1-0 against Jhoulys Chacin, who to that point, had allowed just two hits and two walks (one intentional) himself.

On Chacin’s fourth pitch of the inning, Yasmani Grandal — who has had a rough series on both sides of the ball — dunked a slider into left field for a ground-rule double. Enrique Hernandez lined out to bring up Buehler, who to that point, had thrown 78 pitches and struck out eight while yielding just two hits and one walk. The Brewers had done their damage in the first inning, when Ryan Braun followed a six-pitch walk to Christian Yelich with a scorching double to left field for the game’s only run. From there, Buehler had settled down, striking out the next four hitters and retiring 14 of 16. He was dealing.

Nonetheless, the Dodgers offense was gasping for air, and Roberts had a full and rested bullpen thanks to the off day. He’d stacked his lineup with lefties — Joc Pederson, Max Muncy, and Cody Bellinger — against Chacin, who struggles without the platoon advantage. That left Roberts with a bench full of righties, namely Brian Dozier, David Freese, Matt Kemp, Chris Taylor, and, if necessary, backup catcher Austin Barnes. No doubt the skipper had his eye on using some of those righties to combat lefty Josh Hader later in the game. Still, Freese, Kemp, and Taylor all posted a wRC+ of 113 or better against righties this year, though only Taylor had been that strong last year. Of that trio, both Freese and Taylor handled sliders from righties well this year, with wOBAs of .388 and .336 according to Baseball Savant; over the past three years, however, only Taylor (.350) has been above .300 among that trio.

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Jhoulys Chacin’s Matchup Problem

After throwing Jhoulys Chacin on short rest for the division title two weeks ago and then in Game Two of the NLDS against Colorado shortly after that, Brewers manager Craig Counsell opted to skip Chacin for the first two games of the NLCS against the Dodgers. As I noted last week, the move made sense: while Chacin functions as the club’s nominal ace, the Brewers nevertheless gained an advantage over the Dodgers by throwing two left-handed starters.

The plan very nearly worked: Milwaukee took the first game of the series, then took a 3-2 lead into the eighth of Game Two before the bullpen coughed up the victory. With the series headed back to Los Angeles, Chacin will get his first start of the NLCS after eight days of rest. The Dodgers could provide some matchup problems for Chacin.

Jhoulys Chacin has always had platoon issues. By that standard, this season was no different. Against right-handers this year, Chacin struck out 24% of batters, walked 7%, and gave up a homer to one out of every 56 batters. When at a platoon disadvantage, however, Chacin struck out just 15% of batters, walked 11%, and gave up a homer to one out of every 37 batters he faced. The Dodgers — thanks in part to lefties Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, and Joc Pederson, and also switch-hitting Yasmani Grandal — put up an MLB-best 124 wRC+ (non-pitchers) against right-handed pitching this season. It’s clear, in light of this, why Counsell might have avoided using Chacin for a few games after a heavy recent workload and a couple lefty options. Moving Chacin’s game to Los Angeles also meant moving away from Miller Park, the third-best stadium in baseball for left-handed home runs. The Dodgers do play in a park that is homer-friendly for lefties, but not to the extent of Milwaukee.

The thing to watch, in particular, will be how Chacin’s slider fares against Dodgers hitters. This season, the Dodgers have been one of the very best teams in baseball against right-handed sliders, per Baseball Savant.

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Elegy for ’18 – Philadelphia Phillies

“I love September, especially when we’re in it.”

Willie Stargell

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”

– Albert Camus

“@*%(#*&%.”

— Phillies fans, 9/18

The Setup

What precisely makes a dynasty is a point of some contention. Many believe that, however strong a run a team produces, if that run ends in something less than multiples titles, then the result can’t possibly be considered dynastic. I’m a little more liberal with the term than most, however, and I think the late-00s and early-10s version of the Phillies can rightly be regarded as a dynasty, simply for the length of time for which they remained one of the best clubs in the league. As for championships, they claimed just the one, but it’s also a lot easier to win the World Series when only two teams qualify for the playoffs, as was the case in baseball for a long time.

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Sunday Notes: Brewers Broadcaster Jeff Levering Looks at Bullpens, Sees Value

Jeff Levering has had a bird’s-eye view of bull-penning at its best. Perched alongside Bob Uecker in the Milwaukee Brewers radio booth, he’s gotten to watch Craig Counsell adroitly shuttle relievers in and out of games, most notably since the calendar turned to October. One thing he hasn’t seen — at least not often — is starters going deep into games. Brewers starters threw just 847 innings in the regular season, the fewest among teams that advanced beyond the Wild Card round.

A few months ago I asked Levering if he could share any observations, and/or opinions, on the current state of the game. He brought up pitcher usage.

“Baseball is trending to specialization, especially with how bullpens are being constructed,” said Levering. “You’re asking starting pitchers to give you five or six innings. You don’t have many guys like Max Scherzer where you can say, ‘All right, he’s going to give us seven or eight innings today, no matter what.’”

Levering proceeded to mention last winter’s free-agent environment. Rather than being priorities, as they had been in the past, starting pitchers were almost an afterthought. Lucrative offers were neither plentiful nor quickly-coming. Read the rest of this entry »


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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The Yankees Have a Lot of Payroll to Use

The Yankees’ 2018 campaign came to a disappointing end on Tuesday. After a 100-win regular season that, under normal circumstances, would have won them the division, they were forced to face the A’s in the American League’s Wild Card game. And while they managed to get past Oakland, New York ran into trouble against a Boston club that produced 108 victories, losing the final two games due, in part, to rookie manager Aaron Boone’s reluctance to utilize his bullpen.

Now the focus for the Yankees moves to 2019, when the team will be forced to compete not only with the Red Sox but also the lofty standards set by the club’s 2018 season.

In a sense, 2018 was a transition year for the New York. On the one hand, yes, they began the season by trading for the National League MVP and ended it with 100 wins. On the other, though, rookies — most notably Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres — accounted for 1,528 of the club’s plate appearances, the highest total for the franchise since 1969, when Bobby Murcer became a full-time starter. The club’s 5.7 WAR from rookie position players is the third-highest total in the past 30 years behind only last season (due solely to Aaron Judge) and 1989 (when Alvaro Espinoza, Bob Geren, and Roberto Kelly were rookies).

As part of their “transition,” the team finally reduced their payroll by a sufficient amount to avoid the competitive-balance tax and reset the penalties associated with it. From 2014 to -17, the Yankees spend an average of $256 million per year in payroll and penalties combined, per Cot’s Contracts. This season, they are likely to end up around $195 million. The Yankees, in other words, just cut payroll by $60 million. And not only that: because they drew 300,000 more fans than last season and also face a more modest revenue-sharing burden under the new CBA, New York likely ended up with $100 million more in 2018 than previous seasons. In light of that, it’s unsurprising to find that the organization is reportedly planning to buy back the YES Network from Disney when the latter sells it off to acquire part of FOX’s assets. The Yankees are awash in cash, and they shouldn’t have any limitations in free-agent spending this offseason.

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The Sense Behind Ripping the Manager

The whole division-series round went just two games more than the minimum. The last team eliminated, of course, was the Yankees, who lost Game 4 to the Red Sox on Tuesday. There’s a whole host of reasons why the Yankees lost the game, and why the Yankees lost the series. But I’m going to remember one or two moments. There was the Eduardo Nunez throw to an outstretched Steve Pearce to record the very final out. I wasn’t at any point convinced Nunez had it in him. And there was also what happened mere minutes before. Craig Kimbrel faced Gary Sanchez with one out and the bases loaded in a two-run game. The count ran full. The call was for a high fastball.

The pitch selection wasn’t surprising. Kimbrel throws a bunch of high fastballs. Sanchez had already swung through two high fastballs. When Kimbrel works in two-strike counts, he throws either a fastball high or a breaking ball low. That’s what Kimbrel always tries to do. Against Sanchez, he didn’t execute. Against Sanchez, he threw one of the worst Kimbrel fastballs imaginable.

Granted, even a bad Kimbrel fastball still gets up there really fast. But Sanchez was ready. A two-strike count is a swinging count. Sanchez made contact and hit the ball in the air. It came off his bat at 107 miles per hour.

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Another Slow Hook Helps Send Red Sox to ALCS

A night after he was pilloried, both here and elsewhere, for sticking with his starting pitcher for too long, Yankees manager Aaron Boone did it again — this time in an elimination game. It wasn’t quite as egregious, and it didn’t turn the contest into a blowout, but the rookie skipper was short on urgency with his team’s season on the line, and it cost them. The Red Sox beat the Yankees 4-3 in Game Four of the AL Division Series (box), closing out the series on their rivals’ home field and moving on to the ALCS for the first time since 2013.

With the Yankees down two games to one in the Division Series, Boone started CC Sabathia, who at 38 years old is long on experience and guile but short on stamina. Of the 128 pitchers who threw at least 100 innings as a starter this season, the big man’s 5.28 innings per turn ranked 102nd. It didn’t prevent him from turning in a valuable season: over the course of 153 innings, he delivered a 3.65 ERA, 4.16 FIP, and 2.5 WAR, the last mark 0.6 wins higher than last year in a similarly sized body of work (148.2 innings). Some credit for that is due to Boone for limiting Sabathia’s exposure the third time through the order (when his wOBA allowed jumps to .391), and some to the pitcher himself, for accepting his role and his limitations.

On Tuesday night, against a lineup stacked with righties — Ian Kinsler and Eduardo Nunez were back at second and third bases, respectively, in place of Game Three heroes Brock Holt and Rafael Devers, while Steven Pearce subbed again for Mitch Moreland at first base — Sabathia wobbled through the first inning on 20 pitches. After retiring the first two hitters, he loaded the bases with two singles and a walk before escaping via a towering Kinsler fly ball that left fielder Brett Gardner ran down near the foul line. He prolonged his second inning with a two-out walk of Christian Vazquez, the No. 9 hitter and a guy who posted a 42 wRC+ in the regular season. That required him to face leadoff hitter Mookie Betts again. On the 15th pitch of the inning, though, Betts hit a routine fly to right for the third out.

Sabathia was in trouble from the outset of the third, hitting Andrew Benintendi with a pitch and then yielding a single to Pearce that sent Benintendi to third; he soon came home on a J.D. Martinez sacrifice fly, the game’s first run. Sabathia induced Xander Bogaerts to ground out, but by this point had thrown another 16 pitches, running his count to 51. Boone, with a rested set of A-listers (save for Chad Green, who threw 29 pitches on Monday night, at a point well after any of them mattered), had finally gotten David Robertson up in the bullpen — the kind of power arm sorely needed in mid-inning on Monday night, but one who never got the call.

Kinsler smoked a double (exit velocity 106.2 mph) over Gardner’s head in left field, scoring Pearce and putting the Red Sox up by a score of 2-0.

Boone stayed put.

Nunez hit an RBI single to right, pushing the tally to 3-0.

Boone stayed put.

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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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Boone Fiddles While the Bronx Burns

NEW YORK — In stark contrast to the proficiency with which he handled staff ace Luis Severino in the Yankees’ AL Wild Card win, pulling the right-hander after four electrifying (if wild) innings, manager Aaron Boone appeared to be caught flat-footed last night in Game Three of the AL Division Series against the Red Sox.

Well equipped to handle Severino’s heat, the Boston lineup — featuring four players who didn’t start Game Two — hit scorcher after scorcher off the 24-year-old righty through the first three innings, building up a 3-0 lead in the process. By the time Boone came out of the dugout, three batters into the fourth inning, he was too late. The pitcher to whom he turned offered little relief, too. The resulting seven-run outburst broke the game open, paving the way for the Red Sox to humiliate the Yankees 16-1, the most lopsided postseason loss in the franchise’s history and one that pushed them to the brink of elimination in the best-of-five series.

The small fraction of the 49,657 attendees who stuck around to the bitter end witnessed not only that bit of history but another, as well, as Red Sox second baseman Brock Holt became the first player ever to hit for the cycle in a postseason game. The coup de grâce came in the form of a two-run ninth-inning homer off Austin Romine, normally the Yankees’ backup catcher but here just the second position player ever to pitch in a postseason game.

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The Dodgers Might Be in Actual Legal Trouble

Last week, we talked about a federal grand jury probe currently investigating Major League Baseball’s activity in Latin America. At the time, it appeared that the signing of Hector Olivera seemed to be a significant part of that investigation. Thanks to Carl Prine and Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated, we now have a much better idea of the matters at which that grand jury is looking.

Collectively, the documents [provided to the Grand Jury] offer a vivid window into both this netherworld and the thermodynamics of the operation: How Caribbean smugglers traffic Cuban nationals to American soil, using third-country way stations. How the underground pipeline ferries Cuban players to stash houses in countries like Haiti and Mexico before they can seek lucrative contracts with MLB clubs. How teams interact with buscones, the unregulated street-level agents who often take a financial stake in Latin American players.

The dossier given to the FBI suggests the extent to which some MLB personnel are aware of—and brazenly discuss—this unscrupulous culture and the potential for corruption. While both the league office and other teams are mentioned in the files obtained by SI, the Los Angeles Dodgers, a franchise with extensive scouting and development operations in the Caribbean, figure most prominently in the dossier[.]

Prine and Wertheim provide a detailed piece that’s is worth your time. Whitney McIntosh also published a helpful summary of their work for SBNation. A couple of interesting points jump out of their reporting, however. First, the Grand Jury and FBI are already evidently receiving at least some cooperation from important witnesses.

SI has learned that multiple alleged victims of smuggling and human trafficking operations have already given evidence to law enforcement agents or testified before a federal grand jury.

Second is that the Dodgers are evidently a prime target of the probe.

One particularly remarkable document shows that Dodgers executives in 2015 went so far as to develop a database that measured the perceived “level of egregious behavior” displayed by 15 of their own employees in Latin America. That is, using a scale of 1 to 5—“innocent bystander” to “criminal”—front-office executives assessed their own staff’s level of corruption. Five employees garnered a “criminal” rating.

***

Internal communications by the Dodgers show concerns about what team officials called a “mafia” entrenched in their operations in the Caribbean and Venezuela, including a key employee who dealt “with the agents and buscones” and was “unbelievably corrupt.” Other personnel were suspected of being tied to “altered books” or “shady dealings,” according to the documents.

We can all agree that analytics are wonderfully useful. For those who have plans of participating in international organized crime, however, please note that crafting charts to depict one’s level of criminality is unwise — as is openly discussing one’s own personal mafia.

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Sunday Notes: The Voice of the Indians Flirted with a Pigskin Tiger

Tom Hamilton has been the radio voice of the Indians since 1990. Very early into that tenure there was a chance — albeit a small one — that he would move on and spend the bulk of his career elsewhere. How might that have happened? In the winter following Hamilton’s second year in Cleveland, the Detroit Tigers inexplicably informed iconic broadcaster Ernie Harwell that 1991 would be his final season in the booth.

“Ernie told me that I should apply for the job, or at least go if I got called,” Hamilton explained. “I felt uncomfortable about that — nobody wanted to see Ernie have his career end that way — but he came to me and said that I should. The Tigers did call, so I interviewed even though I didn’t really have an interest. Not only was I happy in Cleveland, I didn’t want to be the guy following Ernie.”

Rick Rizzs, who is now in Seattle, ended up getting the job. Predictably, he wasn’t well-received. While Rizzs was, and remains, a quality baseball play-by-play announcer, that means little when you’re stepping into the shoes of a legend.

Another Wolverine State sports legend made Hamilton’s reluctant interview more than worthwhile. Read the rest of this entry »


Division Series Live Chat – 10/5/18

1:59
Jay Jaffe: Hello folks, and welcome to a day of baseball madness, with four Division Series games piled high starting with the Indians and Astros at 2 PM. I’m the starter today, not the opener. Hopefully I’ll be able to give you several good innings of delightful commentary.

1:59
Klubot: How much of a factor do you think Kluber’s hard hit % will be today? His rate this year is his career high

2:01
Jay Jaffe: I’m less worried about Kluber’s hard hit rate and more worried by the fact that his 7.7% drop in K rate was the majors’ largest for anybody with 150 innings last year and this one. Number two on that list? Kershaw, with a drop of 5.9%. https://www.fangraphs.com/leaders/season-stat-grid?position=P&seasonSt…. Both are still excellent pitchers, and perhaps the hard-hit rate for Kluber is  as indicative of a decline as the K rate is, but the rest of his numers say he’s still a vary valuable pitcher.

2:02
TJF1777: Have the Yankees ever played the Red Sox in the playoffs? Didn’t see any articles on it this week

2:02
Jay Jaffe: I can’t tell if you have the sarcasm font on or not, but to answer you in earnest: three times, all in the ALCS: 1999, 2003 and 2004.

2:02
BK: I’m just a sad Braves’ fan looking to watch some more baseball and wallow in my sorrows

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The Brewers’ Best Laid Plans Were Just Good Enough

For eight innings, everything went as planned for Craig Counsell and his Brewers in their NLDS Game One matchup against the Colorado Rockies. Their MVP homered. A non-traditional arrangement of pitchers got them to the ninth inning with a 2-0 lead. Their All-Star closer took the mound needing to record only three outs. It was, more or less, the ideal scenario.

Then things fell apart a little. The closer faltered, and the Rockies tied the score. Counsell was forced to adjust. In the end, everything worked out anyway. The Brewers won the game on their home field and took a 1-0 lead in their best-of-five battle against Colorado. The plan, ultimately, worked.

Let’s take a look at the finer points of that plan to get a sense of Counsell’s logic and the Brewers’ strengths.

The Starter

Ever since the Tampa Bay Rays used Sergio Romo in a one-inning start back in May, the idea of the opener has spread across the league. And while Brandon Woodruff’s appearance could easily have been mistaken for another example of that strategy — Woodruff recorded many more relief appearances (15) than starts this year (4) — that’s not how Craig Counsell saw it.

Said Counsell before the start of the game on Thursday:

I think from our perspective, Woody is — he’s not a reliever. He has the ability to do more than that, if that’s what the game calls for. So that’s — one, he’s throwing the ball really well and, two, I think he has the potential to do a little more than a reliever maybe.

Whatever the case, the decision paid off: Woodruff pumped upper-90s four-seamers and two-seamers to get batters out. The sinkers were a bit of a surprise — Woodruff had only used the pitch during one appearances all season, his final one against Detroit — but were also effective. Only one batter reached base over Woodruff’s first three innings of work — a first inning walk of DJ LeMahieu — and he was erased on a caught stealing. By the end of three complete, Woodruff had produced three strikeouts against one walk while throwing 71% fastballs. But the velocity appeared to be waning, as the graph below indicates.

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Yankees Defeat Surprising A’s Bullpen in Less Surprising Way

NEW YORK — It was a nice, tight AL Wild Card Game until Fernando Rodney showed up. Through five-and-a-half innings, the Yankees led the A’s 2-0 on the strength of a two-run first-inning homer by Aaron Judge off opener Liam Hendriks and an effectively wild four innings from Luis Severino, backed by a pair of dominant frames from Dellin Betances. The Oakland lineup had managed just two hits to that point while striking out 10 times, yet the A’s were still in the game thanks to the four scoreless innings they got from the two pitchers who followed Hendriks — namely, Lou Trivino (who matched his season high with three innings) and Shawn Kelley. A’s manager Bob Melvin, who had elected to bullpen his way through the game, had another decision to make with Judge, Aaron Hicks, and Giancarlo Stanton due up for the sixth.

He chose poorly. The much traveled 41-year-old Rodney, who had been acquired from the Twins on August 9, had not pitched particularly well for the A’s, turning in a 3.92 ERA and 4.52 FIP in 20.2 innings; in September, he was rocked for an 8.38 ERA while walking 10 in 9.2 innings. Melvin literally had half-a-dozen alternatives upon which to call for what might be the most daunting and important stretch left on the table. Nobody would have raised an eyebrow if he’d tabbed Jeurys Familia, Yusmeiro Petit, or rookie J.B. Wendelken, all of whom fared better than Rodney in September.

Rodney got a called strike on a first-pitch sinker, but his second offering was doubled down the right-field line by Judge. Two pitches later, Hicks doubled to center field, expanding the Yankees’ lead to 3-0. A wild pitch sent Hicks to third base as Stanton stepped in, and Melvin had no choice but to pull him and call upon Blake Treinen to save not the game but the season.

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