Archive for February, 2014

Will Homer Bailey’s Strikeouts Carry Over?

Homer Bailey’s shiny new six year, $105 million extension is a clear sign that the Reds believe that Bailey’s 2013 breakout was no fluke. While Bailey’s career up to last year had been somewhat inconsistent, that kind of price requires Bailey to keep pitching at the level he did last year. And there are reasons to think that he may very well do that.

Perhaps most important in his breakout was a sharp uptick in his strikeout rate, which went from 19.2% in 2012 to 23.4% last year. By ranking, he went from 27th in the NL two years ago to 8th in the NL last year, as even just a few points of strikeout rate can make a big difference. And strikeout rate is the kind of metric that seems somewhat impervious to fluke seasons. You can either get guys to swing and miss or you can’t, and we just don’t see too many Brady Anderson type seasons when it comes to pitcher’s strikeout rates. But how much of a strikeout rate spike can we really expect to carry over from one season to the next?

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Rick Porcello’s Breakout Potential

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Rick Porcello is on the verge of having a big season this year. That’s a statement that seemingly pops up every year, most notably last spring, when Porcello was doing his best to disprove the long-held theory that spring training stats don’t matter by striking out 21 without walking a single batter.

Yet the anticipated breakout didn’t quite happen, not when Porcello put up an ERA north of 4.30 for the fourth straight year and was the subject of trade rumors this offseason.

So what makes this year different? Here are three reasons: Read the rest of this entry »

A Look Back at Last Year’s Extensions

While a few stray free agents remain unsigned, the upcoming baseball news landscape is going to be dominated by new contracts for players already in camp for spring training. Clayton Kershaw, Freddie Freeman, Michael Brantley, and Julio Teheran have kicked off the start of the 2014 extension season, but they won’t be the last players to sign long term deals with their current clubs. Between November of 2012 and June of 2013, 12 players re-signed with their organizations for deals that last at least five years, and if that trend holds, we’re likely to see another wave of long term extensions over the next few months.

What can this year’s crop of potential extendees learn from the players who signed a year ago? Let’s take a look at those 12 deals and see how they’ve worked out for both the team and the player. For reference, all total listed years and dollars are from the point of the signing through the expiration of the extension, and in some cases, include years already covered by a previous contract.

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Contenders Without Enough Arms

We all know that depth is important for teams across sports, and with the largest amount of games to fill, it is of paramount importance for baseball teams. In a nutshell: over the course of six months and 162 games, stuff happens. This is especially true when it comes to starting pitchers. It’s rare that a team makes it through a season with its intended rotation intact.

Last month, Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs wrote that, on average, each team needed 32 starts from starting pitchers who weren’t among the five most-frequent starters. In essence, what this means is that teams need to have quality options at the sixth and seventh spots in their rotation. It is in this area that the Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics and Atlanta Braves may come up a little short this season.

All three supposed contenders face injury concerns with the front five members of their rotation, and it doesn’t get much prettier after the front five. Let’s take a closer look.

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FanGraphs+ 2014 Is Here!

It’s that time again! Time for FanGraphs+ to help you get ready for the coming season. With this subscription, you get access to the 1200+ player capsules on the player pages (our most ever) and our ongoing pieces that we produce for ESPN Insider for a full calendar year. Enjoy also the research pieces listed below, as our fine writers worked hard to uncover an aspect of baseball or fantasy baseball that you may not have noticed before.

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2014 Batter Profiles: A – B

Tony Abreu

Debut: 2007 |  BirthDate: 11/13/1984 | Team: Giants | Position: 2B
’12 74 18 1 0 15 5 .257 .284 .357 .279 -4.0 -0.4 -0.2
’13 147 37 2 0 14 21 .268 .301 .442 .319 0.8 -2.4 0.3
’14 101 26 1 2 10 10 .270 .302 .393 .303 -0.6 -2.9 -0.1

Profile: Abreu was signed by the Giants to fill a utility infield role in 2013 and that is exactly what he did. He started 22 games at second base (30 appearances in total) while Marco Scutaro was injured and filled in over at both third and shortstop sporadically. However, defense is Abreu’s game, as evidenced by his two home runs and zero stolen bases over 147 plate appearances, so his usefulness is the fantasy game is almost nil. He’ll fill the exact same role in 2014, so fantasy owners can simply bypass him altogether. Yes, even in the deepest of leagues, he has no value. (Howard Bender)

Quick Opinion: Abreu will fill the Giants’ utility infielder role once again in 2014 which means fantasy owners can once again omit him from their lists. With no stick and no speed on the bases, he offers about as much value as Joe Buck has doing sports commentary.

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2014 Batter Profiles: C

Miguel Cabrera

Debut: 2003 |  BirthDate: 4/18/1983 | Team: Tigers | Position: 3B
’12 697 205 44 4 139 109 .330 .393 .606 .417 50.7 -8.2 6.8
’13 652 193 44 3 137 103 .348 .442 .636 .455 63.5 -14.8 7.6
’14 656 182 37 3 115 105 .325 .418 .594 .427 51.8 -15.7 6.2

Profile: Miguel Cabrera didn’t repeat his 2012 Triple Crown, and he faded badly down the stretch as minor injuries piled up… and yet he still had what was probably the best year of his life. Cabrera’s home run per fly ball rate reached an absurd 25.4%, and while it’s difficult to count on that happening again, it’s not like it was a huge jump from 2012’s 23.0%. At some point he’s going to slow down, but he’s only headed into his age-31 season. The move back across the diamond to first base should help reduce some of the wear and tear, too. MVP arguments aside, we’re probably watching one of the top ten right handed hitters in the history of his game in his prime. Put him down for another .330ish average, 35-45 homers, and 130 runs batted in, and if you’re lucky enough to draft him consider yourself a step ahead of the competition. (Mike Petriello)

Quick Opinion: Miguel Cabrera may never play an inning at third again, but he’ll still have eligibility there in 2014, and that plus his historic bat makes him a contender for first overall pick in any draft.

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2014 Batter Profiles: D – F

Travis d’Arnaud

Debut: 2013 |  BirthDate: 2/10/1989 | Team: Mets | Position: C
’13 112 20 1 0 5 4 .202 .286 .263 .254 -4.8 0.1 -0.1
’14 428 97 13 2 49 44 .254 .320 .418 .323 3.9 7.2 2.6

Profile: Travis d’Arnaud may have a backwards and upside-down capital P on the back of his jersey — which is undeniably sweet — but his fantasy value in the coming years is more debatable. Some of the things that show up fairly quickly, whether you are watching the player play or looking at his small-sample major league stats, will be useful in real life but not so much in batting-average fantasy leagues. It looks like he might have good patience, for example. He swung and reached less than the league, and those stats stabilize quickly. He was always supposed to do this, too, according to scouts. Defensively, he’s a good framer, blocker and receiver, that much was immediately clear. His contact rate was good in the majors and he never really struggled with strikeouts in the minor leagues. So far, so good. The problem is that he didn’t show power in his short major league stint last year, and the places where he did show power in the minor leagues were largely hitter-friendly parks. If he does show that 18-20 homer power that is supposedly on it’s way, he’ll be fantasy relevant even if his average is in the .250s. If he doesn’t… well, he’ll be useful to the Mets. (Eno Sarris)

Quick Opinion: The good news is that the stuff that matters in short samples all went d’Arnaud’s way last year. And the good news about the bad news — his power didn’t show — is that power takes the longest to stabilize. We still don’t know how powerful the Mets’ catcher will be in the majors, and that makes all the difference to his fantasy value.

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2014 Batter Profiles: G – H

Freddy Galvis

Debut: 2012 |  BirthDate: 11/14/1989 | Team: Phillies | Position: 2B/3B
’12 200 43 3 0 24 14 .226 .254 .363 .267 -8.8 8.1 0.6
’13 222 48 6 1 19 13 .234 .283 .385 .291 -6.5 0.3 0.1
’14 278 63 5 3 26 24 .243 .283 .363 .283 -8.1 -6.9 -0.7

Profile: If you really value positional flexibility in fantasy baseball, Galvis might offer decent value beyond his raw numbers, as he might qualify at second, short, third, and outfield in some leagues. With the Phillies’ middle infield manned by the aging Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, and Cody Asche hardly a lock at third base for the 2014 Phillies, Galvis might have some opportunities to play. He will be just 24 during the 2014 season, but beyond that, there is not much upside. He never hit in the upper minors, with few walks and little power. He had a little speed, but it was not mind-blowing, and he does not have the sort of on-base skills that would make it useful anyway. The chance that he could luck into playing time means that he might have some marginal value in very deep NL-only leagues, but even that is iffy. Pass. (Matt Klaassen)

Quick Opinion: Freddy Galvis has little to recommend him in fantasy baseball aside from the chance that he might luck into some playing time.

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2014 Batter Profiles: I – L

Chris Iannetta

Debut: 2006 |  BirthDate: 4/8/1983 | Team: Angels | Position: C
’12 253 53 9 1 26 27 .240 .332 .398 .323 -0.2 3.4 1.2
’13 399 73 11 0 39 40 .225 .358 .372 .330 2.7 3.4 2.1
’14 288 53 8 2 30 34 .220 .339 .374 .320 0.8 4.1 1.6

Profile: The upcoming playing time battle between Chris Iannetta and Hank Conger has no clear favorite, but defense, youth, and offensive potential seem to favor Conger. Iannetta will likely play a little less than half of the time, but can still provide respectable home run production in his starts. While his great eye creates good on-base percentages, his batting average is going to be a liability, fantasy-wise. That shouldn’t change — his strikeout rate is bad and is only going to get worse as he ages. With a bit of an uppercut swing, no speed, and few balls in play, there’s always the risk of a disastrous average on balls in play, too. If the Angels are bad in 2014, the 31-year-old is probably not going to be considered a part of the franchise’s long-term plan, either. Look for him to finish around 40th in standard fantasy catcher rankings (or low 30s if OBP is used instead of AVG) with more downside than upside. (Steve Staude)

Quick Opinion: Hank Conger will likely usurp playing time from Iannetta this season, diminishing the latter’s fantasy value to the point where it won’t make sense to draft him in most leagues.

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2014 Batter Profiles: M – O

Manny Machado

Debut: 2012 |  BirthDate: 7/6/1992 | Team: Orioles | Position: 3B
’12 202 50 7 2 26 24 .262 .294 .445 .317 -0.2 6.1 1.3
’13 710 189 14 6 71 88 .283 .314 .432 .325 0.5 33.6 6.2
’14 471 116 12 7 52 59 .268 .313 .426 .323 -0.1 11.6 2.9

Profile: There’s a better than zero chance that Manny Machado stole either your heart, your breath, or both at some point in 2013. The sophomore exploded in his first full season, posting a six-win year thanks in large part to his otherworldly defense. However, for fantasy purposes he was less impressive, slashing .283/.314/.432 with 14 home runs and six stolen bases. That was still good enough for 10th among third basemen, and his 51 doubles and decent batted ball distances are encouraging for his power potential. The big question looming over Machado is when his season will start – he ruptured his left medial patellar femoral ligament in September and had surgery in mid-October. The current expectation is that he’ll be ready for the mid-April, if not the start of the season. It seems far more likely the recovery will impact his defense than his offense, placing him as a low-end starter at the hot corner in standard formats. (Blake Murphy)

Quick Opinion: Manny Machado was one of the most popular players of 2013, but the sophomore’s excellence was primarily in the field. Recovery from knee surgery isn’t particularly concerning, but don’t overpay for the potential, as his fantasy value hasn’t caught up to his reputation quite yet.

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2014 Batter Profiles: P – R

Jordan Pacheco

Debut: 2011 |  BirthDate: 1/30/1986 | Team: Rockies | Position: C/1B
’12 505 147 5 7 54 51 .309 .341 .421 .330 -5.9 -13.9 -0.4
’13 262 59 1 0 22 23 .239 .276 .312 .262 -15.2 -5.4 -1.4
’14 170 43 2 2 17 18 .274 .320 .386 .311 -3.8 -4.7 -0.4

Profile: When Pacheco made his major league debut in 2005, he hit an empty .286 in limited playing time. The next season, when he was 26, he hit for a similarly empty .309 average. He struck out a little more, but he was essentially a contact hitter. When he made hard contact, the ball tended to find a hole. When he didn’t, he had no chance, thanks to his hack-tastic approach at the plate. Still, even with the .309 average, he was worth -0.4 WAR. With no patience and very little power, there wasn’t a whole lot there to like, or even to project upon for the future. And that was before the bottom fell out. Which it did in 2013. Of the 316 players to rack up at least 250 plate appearances last season, only eight had a worse WAR than did Pacheco. Only four of the 316 had a worse wRC+ — Jeff Francoeur, Jeff Mathis, Brendan Ryan and Elliot Johnson. And that was in his age-27 season. Pacheco is simply one of the worst players in baseball. Of the 2,470 position players to garner at least 800 PAs since 1947, only 92 have a lower career WAR than Pacheco’s -2.1 mark. You’d think this would be enough to get him designated for assignment, but the Rockies are holding onto the thin thread that Pacheco can capably catch in the majors (he can’t), so we may get to see him sink even closer to the bottom. Just don’t let him do so on your fantast team.

Quick Opinion: Jordan Pacheco has been one of the worst players in baseball the past few years, but that hasn’t stopped the Rockies from playing him. You don’t have to make that mistake.

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2014 Batter Profiles: S – T

Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Debut: 2007 |  BirthDate: 5/2/1985 | Team: Marlins | Position: C
’12 448 90 25 0 59 55 .222 .288 .454 .319 -2.2 5.5 1.9
’13 470 116 14 4 65 68 .273 .338 .466 .349 10.1 7.3 3.6
’14 425 86 14 3 47 42 .226 .297 .399 .305 -4.4 5.1 1.5

Profile: Just when fans in Boston (and snarky Rotographs writers) were figuring how to spell his name, Jarrod Saltalamacchia bolted the world champion Red Sox for the perennial powerhouse known as the Miami Marlins. While he gets the key benefits of $21 million and the chance to watch the world’s greatest home run sculpture in action, he’s probably on the road to regression (not one of AC/DC’s more well-known hits) in 2014. Aside from the less favorable park factors, he is unlikely to reproduce a .372 BABIP, so expect his batting average to look more like his career .246 mark. He has positive three year running trends in BB% (up) and K% (down), so he should remain a fantasy-average catcher, just be aware that you’ll have to endure some frustrating up-and-down stretches, thanks to both the strikeout-friendly Salty and the rest of the lineup that surrounds him. (Colin Zarzycki)

Quick Opinion: Jarrod Saltalamacchia posted career best offensive marks in 2013, although a lot of his rates were buoyed by an impressive (but unsustainable) .372 BABIP. Now in Miami, he figures to get dinged a bit for league, park, and surrounding lineup, so he’s not an ideal value play in drafts.

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2014 Batter Profiles: U – Z

Dan Uggla

Debut: 2006 |  BirthDate: 3/11/1980 | Team: Braves | Position: 2B
’12 630 115 19 4 78 86 .220 .348 .384 .325 5.5 6.5 3.4
’13 537 80 22 2 55 60 .179 .309 .362 .303 -7.7 -4.0 0.5
’14 473 85 17 2 53 51 .212 .320 .386 .314 -1.0 -0.8 1.3

Profile: Uggla was dreadful last season and he may need to rebound quickly in 2014 if he wants to retain a starting job. With Braves prospect Tommy La Stella waiting in the wings, Uggla is working with a short leash. That should keep his cost to fantasy owners low, making him a high risk, high reward candidate. Uggla’s ugly .179/.309/.362 batting line was held down by a low .225 batting average on balls in play and career worst 31.8% strikeout rate. The low BABIP is partially supported by a career worst 13.2% line drive rate, which was also the worst among all qualified hitters by a whopping 2.9%. It’s unclear if there’s an explanation for that low rate. His strikeout rate is also supported by peripherals — a 1.5 percent increase in his whiff rate. Despite the doom and gloom, Uggla managed to come up only nine percent short of the league’s average weighted offense last season. That’s right about average for a major league second baseman. If he featured better defense and base running last season, he would have still been a respectable player. Going forward, there is still much uncertainty in Uggla’s profile. (Brad Johnson)

Quick Opinion: Uggla is coming off the worst year of his career and is now entering his age-34 season. He’s not a bad guy to take a flier on, especially if you’re stuck with a mid-tier second baseman like Neil Walker, but he’s probably more likely to stay the same or get worse than he is to substantially improve.

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2014 Pitcher Profiles: A – B

David Aardsma

Debut: 2004 |  BirthDate: 12/27/1981 | Position: RP
’12 0 0 0 1 9.0 9.0 9.0 9.00 2.00 17.09 -0.0 -0.1
’13 2 2 0 39 8.2 4.3 1.6 4.31 1.46 5.27 -0.3 -0.7
’14 1 0 0 10 7.4 4.5 1.1 4.40 1.47 4.66 -0.0 -0.1

Profile: Following a successful 2009 and 2010, David Aardsma missed most of 2011 and 2012 due to injuries, derailing an unexpected story of somewhat late-found success. Now 32 and a free agent, someone will surely roll the dice that Aardsma can be better than his 4.31 ERA and 5.27 FIP from 2013 with the Mets. Considering those two years off, the biggest concern is a drop in strikeout rate, which simply has to stay high for Aardsma to avoid punishment for his heavy walk rate. He was throwing almost three miles an hour slower than he had before his two Tommy John surgeries, and there just isn’t enough evidence on players having two of those surgeries to reliably suggest his velocity could rebound. Wherever he signs, it’s unlikely Aardsma finds his way to a closer’s chair. (Blake Murphy)

Quick Opinion: David Aardsma emerged as a decent closer in 2009 and 2010 but two Tommy John surgeries later, his velocity is gone and his effectiveness waned. He’ll find a home, but likely as a middle-inning guy.

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2014 Pitcher Profiles: C – E

Trevor Cahill

Debut: 2009 |  BirthDate: 3/1/1988 | Team: Diamondbacks | Position: SP
’12 13 12 0 200 7.0 3.3 0.7 3.78 1.29 3.85 3.0 2.9
’13 8 10 0 146 6.3 4.0 0.8 3.99 1.42 4.26 1.7 0.9
’14 12 11 0 182 6.6 3.6 0.6 4.11 1.40 3.79 1.5 2.1

Profile: Cahill improved in a lot of ways in 2012, but was unable to improve further or even maintain those gains in 2013. In 2012, he posted the highest strikeout rate of his career by getting more swings on pitches outside of the zone and, relatedly, more swings and misses. And he also went from having an elite ground ball rate to having the best ground ball rate in the league (61.2%) by three percentage points. A big reason for the improvements in 2012 was the addition of a cutter to his pitch mix. That pitch generated ground balls and got swings and misses at rates better than most of his other pitches. When you consider that Cahill used the cutter even more in 2013, his regression is a bit surprising. But the cutter simply wasn’t as effective. His swing and miss and ground-ball rates declined noticeably on his cutter last year. There’s always a chance the cutter regains its effectiveness or that Cahill makes another adjustment, but absent the absurd luck on balls in play he got in 2010, his upside is nothing more than something like a 3.80 ERA with a 1.30 WHIP, 12-13 wins and an average strikeout rate. That’s the best case scenario. That projection looks a lot like the line Dillon Gee from last year, and he was a borderline top 60 fantasy starters. So best case scenario, Cahill is one of the last guys on your staff. But more likely he’s just a spot starter. (Brett Talley)

Quick Opinion: All the progress made by Cahill in 2012 disappeared in 2013. The cutter that fueled his 2012 improvements was less effective, and his skills regressed. But even if his cutter regains effectiveness or he makes some other adjustment, Cahill’s upside is limited to that of a borderline top 60 fantasy starter.

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2014 Pitcher Profiles: F – J

Jeurys Familia

Debut: 2012 |  BirthDate: 10/10/1989 | Team: Mets | Position: RP
’12 0 0 0 12 7.3 6.6 0.0 5.84 1.54 3.66 0.1 0.0
’13 0 0 1 10 6.8 7.6 1.7 4.22 1.97 6.52 -0.0 -0.3
’14 4 3 3 65 8.8 4.2 0.8 3.65 1.35 3.76 -0.0 -0.2

Profile: Familia recorded minimal innings in 2013, on account of a mid-season procedure to remove bone chips and maybe other sorts of things from his elbow. Returning, though, to make appearances in both the Arizona Fall and also Dominican Winter Leagues, he sat in the mid- to high-90s, notably crossing the 100-mph threshold at times in the Caribbean. Reports generally also praised the movement on his fastball. That pitch, in combination with a serviceable slider, provide some reason to believe that the large right-hander has promise as a major-league reliever. That will likely be his role with the Mets in 2014 — if not at the very beginning of the season, then at least soon afterwards. (Carson Cistulli)

Quick Opinion: Based on the quality of his fastball alone, is likely to find way into Mets bullpen in 2014. Quality of slider and overall command will dictate extent of success.

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2014 Pitcher Profiles: K – O

Nate Karns

Debut: 2013 |  BirthDate: 11/25/1987 | Team: Rays | Position: SP
’13 0 1 0 12 8.2 4.5 3.8 7.50 1.92 8.38 -0.4 -0.4
’14 2 2 0 38 8.1 4.4 1.0 4.32 1.40 4.27 0.2 0.3

Profile: Nate Karns has continued to rise in the Nationals organization over the last couple years. He’s a bulldog type who attacks the strike zone with a power sinker. He came up and missed bats in his major league debut but also showed his flaws. Command — especially of his secondaries — and finding an offspeed offering that works for him will determine how far Karns can go. He tore the labrum in his pitching shoulder in 2009, so durability will always be a concern, too. With the addition of Doug Fister, the Nats rotation ranks among the strongest in baseball and it’s not clear what opportunities for starters will be available, if any. So it’s easy to see the Nats using Karns out of the pen in the short term, but he could also stay in Triple-A as rotation depth. In that case, he likely spends a few years as an up and down back end starter before settling in to the bullpen. (Al Skorupa)

Quick Opinion: Karns has the potential to be a useful starter as a back end ground-ball pitcher who misses some bats. Given the addition of Doug Fister to an already strong rotation, and the emergence of Taylor Jordan, it’s going to take injuries for Karns to get that chance. Long term, Karns likely fits best in the seventh or eighth inning.

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2014 Pitcher Profiles: P – T

Jonathan Papelbon

Debut: 2005 |  BirthDate: 11/23/1980 | Team: Phillies | Position: RP
’12 5 6 38 70 11.8 2.3 1.0 2.44 1.06 2.89 1.8 1.4
’13 5 1 29 61 8.3 1.6 0.9 2.92 1.14 3.05 0.9 1.0
’14 4 2 33 65 8.9 2.4 1.0 3.08 1.16 3.44 0.7 0.4

Profile: For a guy that had an ERA under three, a good WHIP and 29 saves last season, Papelbon sure had a lot of things go really wrong. His strikeout rate fell precipitously — his rate of 8.3 strikeouts per nine was more than a strikeout worse than his previous worst, and more than three strikeouts worse than his 2012 number. In percentages, his strikeout rate fell ten percent! His swinging strike rate dropped from 12.2% to 10.6%. That was among the worst 30 drops in baseball. A lot of that had to do with his flagging velocity. He used to be 95+ with the Red Sox, that dropped under 94 in his first year with the Phillies, and then all the way to 92 last season. That last drop was tenth in lost velocity among with pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched in both 2012 and 2013. Adding to the concern was that though Papelbon threw his slider the most he’d ever thrown it, the pitch slowed down to curveball-type velocity — and still features slider break. With the splitfinger and the fastball and elite control, Papelbon could be fine, though, there are role models in Boston that he can follow. What would be more worrisome about these numbers is if they are hiding an injury. You can’t treat him like an elite guy anymore, but if your saber-savvy league is too far down on him, remember that Papelbon still has more velocity than Koji Uehara, who throws today’s favorite splitter. (Eno Sarris)

Quick Opinion: With dropping velocity and swinging strikes, post-peak 33-year-old Jonathan Papelbon won’t be the same dominant reliever he once was. We knew that. What we don’t know is if the numbers are hiding an injury, or if his team will decide to ship him out because of them. Don’t treat Papelbon like an elite closer any more.

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2014 Pitcher Profiles: U – Z

Koji Uehara

Debut: 2009 |  BirthDate: 4/3/1975 | Team: Red Sox | Position: RP
’12 0 0 1 36 10.8 0.8 1.0 1.75 0.64 2.40 1.2 0.8
’13 4 1 21 74 12.2 1.1 0.6 1.09 0.57 1.61 3.8 3.3
’14 5 2 30 65 10.6 2.0 0.9 2.18 1.01 2.76 1.7 1.4

Profile: In what may have been one of the steals of last offseason, the Red Sox quietly signed setup man Koji Uehara to a $4.25 million contract. Pushed into the closer role through the injury ineffectiveness of Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, and Junichi Tazawa, Uehara lit the relief world on fire, posting an insane 1.09 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, and 101 whiffs in just over 74 innings. While some guys post those numbers thanks to some “lucky” peripherals, Uehara wasn’t one of them. His 3% walk rate continued to be among the league’s best and he even bumped his strikeout rate a bit (38% versus a 34% average in 2011-2012). His 1.36 SIERA bested all qualified major league relievers. Not too shabby. Some may pause at his below-average 88-90 mph fastball, but he posted 16-18% swinging strike rates in relief and a huge part of that was 25+% swSTR% on his splitter. He may not light up the gun, but apparently his opponents agree he’s tough to beat. Uehara’s age might be the only reason he sits a half tier behind Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, but if you are one of those people that like to lock up relievers earlier, Uehara is as good of a choice as any to be elite again this season. (Colin Zarzycki)

Quick Opinion: Uehara is another year older but showed no signs of slowing down in 2014. Even at 39, it’s not unreasonable to put him among the top six closers.

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