Let there be news – Volume 7

Let There Be News is a recap of the most interesting stories and transactions from the previous week.

THT and BrooksBaseball team up for game changing database

I swear, nobody put me up to this. And if you’ve taken the time to check out some of the player cards, you probably understand why I am including this among the top news in baseball from the past week. The tool is simply incredible.

Let’s demo what you can do with these cards. Check out Roy Halladay (link in previous sentence).

The first table is trajectory and movement. There, we can quickly glean how frequently Halladay has thrown each of his pitches, how they move and spin, and the average velocity of each pitch type.

Moving along, the pitch outcomes table contains a ton of excellent information. For instance, we learn that Halladay’s curveball is some kind of filthy. It generates whiffs nearly 20 percent of the time, and batters rarely manage to put it in play—just 15.43 percent of the time.

The sabermetric outcomes table is my personal favorite. Continuing with the curveball theme, we can easily see that when batters swing at a Halladay curveball, they whiff over 40 percent of the time. That’s some kind of unhittable. And if you think that’s impressive, check out Craig Kimbrel’s curveball.

All of the data are customizable, including the charts that come in every shape, size, and flavor for the discerning sabermetrician. Expect a lot of excellent analysis to be generated using these player cards this season.

Josh Hamilton experiences relapse with alcohol

Hamilton’s unfortunate dance with addiction hit another low note this past week. Those who do not struggle with addiction—including myself—will never be able to truly empathize with Hamilton. An unscientific poll of my friends, colleagues, and associates indicated that the common baseball fan does not grasp the seriousness of the situation. One frequent comment went something along the lines of, “How can somebody have the perfect job and screw it up?”

This is a fundamental misunderstanding of Hamilton’s disease. The quality of his employment does not directly affect his cravings. It could very well be the case that his general success with sobriety is in part fueled by his love for baseball.

There are on-field ramifications to this latest relapse. The Rangers and Hamilton had been working on a multi-year extension, but talks have been tabled. This means that Hamilton will probably become a free agent next offseason—unless they hammer together a deal very quickly.

The Nationals sign Edwin Jackson

The Nationals continued adding to a suddenly deep rotation by signing Jackson to a one-year, $11 million deal with incentives. Jackson was unable to find the kind of multi-year deal he desired, so he will join the NL East to audition for his next contract.

The move to the National League and spacious Nationals Park should help Jackson’s numbers. The reason he had trouble landing the deal he wanted was due to concerns over his consistency. That isn’t likely to go away over one season, but he could perform well enough to earn a substantial four- or five-year deal in his next spin through free agency.

From the Nationals’ perspective, the move deepens an already deep rotation. Jackson will serve as the team’s fourth starter for much of the season and will bump John Lannan or Chien-Ming Wang from the rotation.

The important element is that, if the Nationals stick with their plan to keep Stephen Strasburg on a strict innings limit, Jackson would serve as their third pitcher in the playoffs. Of course, the Nationals could figure out some other means to make sure Strasburg is available for the playoffs.

The twist with this signing—and there’s always a twist—is that Jackson’s results have closely mirrored Lannan’s over the past three seasons. There are certain caveats—Jackson should shave some ERA by moving to the National League—but on a pure results level, the Nationals might not prevent too many more runs with this move. Of course, that supposes Washington selects Wang as its fifth starter.

The Cubs sign Gerardo Concepcion

Concepcion was the last Cuban prospect to hit the public consciousness this offseason, and now he’s the first to sign. The Cubs inked the 18-year-old to a $7 million deal with an additional $1 million in incentives.

Umpires Ejections and Player Ethnicity: An Analysis
Umpires disproportionately eject nonwhite players compared to nonwhite players’ representation in the major leagues.

Kevin Goldstein discussed the signing in the latest BPro podcast. Goldstein noted that there isn’t much projection in Concepcion due to a sub-90s fastball and a fourth- or fifth-starter ceiling. He would rank Concepcion outside the top 101 prospects and sixth in the Cubs system (which is notably weak).

The deal could affect the market for Jorge Soler, who was already eyeing at least $15 million. With such a mediocre prospect garnering $7 million in this heady, “last call” international market, Soler could end up with an unprecedented deal. For those who haven’t followed the various Cubans floating around this offseason, Soler is a five-tool prospect who draws comps to Hanley Ramirez. He has a truly elite ceiling, unlike Concepcion.

Quick Hits

The Phillies signed Chad Qualls to a one-year, $1.15 million deal. Eric Seidman of Fangraphs felt the move was unnecessary, although it does seem to be a cost-effective depth signing. The move will temporarily block one of the many relief prospects in the Phillies system.

The Astros signed Livan Hernandez to a minor-league contract. Earlier in the offseason, Hernandez said the only team he would consider relieving for was the Nationals, so he may decline any non-starting role with the Astros. Houston appears to have a set rotation with Wandy Rodriguez, Bud Norris, Brett Myers, Jordan Lyles, and J.A. Happ, but Rodriguez and Myers are both trade bait. The Astros could option Happ or Lyles to make room for Hernandez until a trade clears up more space.

Just a few days after acquiring Russ Canzler from the Rays for $100,000, the Indians signed another former Ray, Casey Kotchman. He’ll earn $3 million plus incentives and could see the majority of time at first base. He has a spotty history of success, although that’s been mostly due to fluctuating BABIPs. Unsurprisingly, his career year was accompanied by a career-best .335 BABIP. It would seem the club is done experimenting with Matt LaPorta at first base since Kotchman and Carlos Santana should absorb most of the innings at that position.

The Fukoka SoftBank Swallows signed Brad Penny to a contract that is said to be the largest ever awarded to a first-year, American pitcher. Ken Rosenthal has the contract details in a tweet.

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Will H.
Will H.

Jackson has a much better RA than Lannan, so it would be better to think of that more than that Lannnan is “better than his (worse than Jackson) FIP, which makes the former clearly an upgrade… and allows for a trade of one of their remaining starters for what would be an admittedly so-so prospect or OF depth. It ain’t great but at 11 mil. for 3.5 or more WAR it was a good move.

Brad Johnson
Brad Johnson

Yea, I don’t see a trade as likely to be very beneficial in any way.

Really, Lannan/Wang are probably 1-1.25 WAR pitchers, Jackson’s a 3.5-4 WAR pitcher. Now that’s FIP based WAR, if we switch to RA some of that difference is shaved off (historically for these pitchers anyway). So Jackson’s really a 2-2.5 WAL/W move.

It’s a fine move at that cost and should prove to be very helpful, all that I’m getting at is that it’s not quite as big a move as some people are making it out to be.