Tag Archive | "Cy Young"

Run For The Rawlings

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Run For The Rawlings

Posted on 08 May 2013 by Nick Schaeflein

This weekend marks the annual Run for the Roses. The 139th running of the Kentucky Derby is this weekend with the quest for the first Triple Crown winner since 1978 still out there. Major League Baseball currently has a Triple Crown winner of its own in the Tigers Miguel Cabrera. With the season now a month complete how are the ponies lining up at the one month pole?

Miguel Cabrera

The Atlanta Braves and Justin Upton got out to a fast start. Upton was named National League Player of the Month and appears to be enjoying the new scenery. He hit double digit home runs in the month, but the one negative was not very many guys were on base for the long balls. If his brother and Jason Heyward can start to get on base in front of him, look out National League. At one point the Braves were 13-0 when scoring a run and 0-3 when not. To this day, no team has ever won a ball game without scoring a run.

A surprise start came out of the Boston Gate. After the down year of 2012, Boston raced out to a fast start and the best record in the American League. They are healthier and currently Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are a combined 10-0.

It was a good month for pitchers named Matt as Matt Harvey and Matt Moore raced out to several wins. They are a combined 9-0 with an ERA under 2.

Also strong early runs have to go to the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates. One horse that has been doing it for years Mariano Rivera had 11 saves along with Jason Grilli of the Buccos.

Currently stuck in the middle of the pack is World Series favorites the Washington Nationals, and CY Young aces Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw. The two work horses are a combined 6-4 which is not quite elite numbers.

Could the Los Angeles Angels start to become the San Diego Chargers of baseball? The Chargers for the last few years on paper are always a team that is built up as a contender and every year they fall from grace and are home for the post season. The Angels with all of that offensive talent are under .500 and off to another slow start. Could a second straight year with an unimpressive April keep them out of the post season?

What could be viewed as an under the radar team in the middle of the pack is the Kansas City Royals. You will not find any Royal stats at the top of the lists, but collectively they currently are division leaders in the Central.

Still stuck in the gates for the 2013 race are a few surprises. The revamped team in Toronto has not quite showed up for their post position. Interestingly, two teams have team batting averages under .200 in the seventh inning on: the Blue Jays and Washington Nationals.

Los Angeles stars Josh Hamilton and Matt Kemp currently have 3 home runs combined and the batting averages are missing as well.

As the season turns into a new month, May will likely bring more moving and positioning for the summer run. And on the track for the run for the roses, have a little Goldencents. Enjoy the Mint Juleps and oversized floppy hats.

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A Pair Of Aces

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A Pair Of Aces

Posted on 15 April 2013 by Nick Schaeflein

In poker a pair of aces is nowhere near the best hand, but on the diamond a pair of aces can lead a team to the promise land. The old adage is pitching and defense wins championships and good pitching always beats good hitting. The one thing better then having an ace of a staff is having two.

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In the 90’s the Atlanta Braves were well known for having two and sometimes three aces in Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and Tom Glavine. The trio led Atlanta to yearly division titles, personal accolades, and a world championship. The 2001 season saw the Arizona Diamondbacks enjoy a season headlined by one of the most dominant duos ever in Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. The two only combined for 52 wins regular season and post season, a CY Young, co Sportsman of the Year, and co World Series MVP’s. In short, that is not too shabby.

Currently, the top ten pitching duos are:

#10 – Atlanta Tim Hudson and Mike Minor. Hudson is the elder ace who is still getting the job done. He will eat up innings and touch that 15 win mark. Minor is up and coming and seems to be finding his stride toward the end of last year and starting off this season. They also have a third wheel in Paul Maholm whose 2013 is on a good start.

#9 – Chicago White Sox Chris Sale and Jake Peavy. They are another duo featuring a veteran and youngster. Both are capable of racking up strikeouts and dominant starts. However, there is the occasional DL stint or rough outing.

#8 – Los Angeles Angels Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson. Both have been very consistent and productive. However, walk rates are subpar and strikeout rates are middle of the road.

#7 – Tampa Bay David Price and Matt Moore. Together they are two young guns with great out pitches that throw from the left side. Price is a yearly CY Young contender and Moore has yet to allow a run in 2013.

#6 – Boston Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. Both have high potential that is waiting to be tapped. Injuries have held back both at times but 2013 could finally be the year. They both had excellent springs and are a combined 4-0 thus far this season.

#5 – Detroit Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. If you are a hitter, close your eyes and swing early. Both have well above average fastballs and dominate the strikeout leader board. They both also collect a ton of innings and can save a bullpen.

#4 – Los Angeles Dodgers Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. Both are CY Young winners that do not lose on their home mound. Each is capable of building long winning streaks and carrying the team for the night.

#3 – Philadelphia Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. Suddenly this duo is seemingly under the radar within the division. They are two left hand pitchers with the x factor of pitching well in the post season. They are two trustworthy guys come late in the season and in October.

#2 – San Francisco Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. The Giants earn the 1990’s Atlanta Brave award as it is not just a duo. These two are also complimented with Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Lincecum, and a resurgent Barry Zito. The offense does not need to score a ton of runs when any of them take the mound as they are all capable of winning 1-0 games. They all can be stoppers in their own way and it is the most balanced rotation top to bottom.

#1 – Washington Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg. This is the duo that could most rival the 2001 Diamondbacks. This season each is likely to be in the CY Young running and at the top of all major pitching categories. The one question remains, can they pitch in October?

The pitching duo most likely to be next on this list comes out of New York. Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler are young and ready to help the Mets contend. Harvey is off to a blistering start in 2013 looking like an up and coming ace. Wheeler is the pitcher that was apart of the Carlos Beltran trade a few seasons ago. He is likely to join the big club sometime this year and is one of the top prospects in all of baseball.

Each of these teams has the ability to avoid long losing streaks and stay in contention thanks to these duos. Aces are wild. Shuffle up and deal.

 

 

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BarryZito3

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The Reinvention of Barry Zito

Posted on 11 February 2013 by Trish Vignola

When Barry Zito signed with the Giants in 2007, it was a coup. Why shouldn’t it be? He was a Cy Young award winner with a curve ball that looked like it was falling off the dinning room table. Zito was in the prime of his career. Big named markets, including New York, courted him. Barry Zito couldn’t be beat. San Francisco had a bright future on its hands.

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That future became a nightmare quite quickly. In six years with the San Francisco Giants, his ERA ballooned an entire run. From 2007 to 2011, he posted a loosing record for the first time in his career. He was riddled with injuries, loss of speed and rumors that batters had begun to pick up his once unhittable curve ball. 9 years out of a Cy Young award winning season, Barry Zito was getting booed out of town.

He came to a crossroad. Reinvent him self or find room next to Mark Mulder on “Baseball Tonight”. Once a part of the “Tres Aces” of Oakland, the once promising trio (Zito, Mulder and Tim Hudson) were split up and looking at the distinct possibility that only one of them (Tim Hudson) would last a decade in the game.

Barry Zito, power curve ball pitcher, became a finesse pitcher with location. “Pitchers that stay in shape, especially left-handers, seem to have ways to reinvent themselves,” Brian Sabean (Giants General Manager) said to MLB.com. With Zito’s reversal in 2012, he finished 15-8. More miraculously, he did something he never could do in his Oakland A’s “hey-day.” He was a relevant contributor to their post season run. He added two more victories in the postseason, basically saving San Francisco and allowing them to go on the run they did. Two years earlier, he wasn’t even on the team’s postseason roster.

I am a self-proclaimed “Zito-phile” with an Oakland jersey I no longer have to wear ironically. I must admit that even I was shocked, when in October, Barry Zito actually created the possibility that the Giants might want him to stick around longer. With Zito’s contract coming to an end this year, Barry Zito and the Giants could be involved in an activity that would have been unimaginable in 2011 – retaining him. The door is now wide open, and why shouldn’t it be, for the left-hander to be kept on for an additional season, or to even negotiate an extension.

Zito and the Giants have reached the seventh and final year of his $126 million contract, which culminates this season with a $20 million salary. Zito’s performance this season will determine whether the Giants pick up an $18 million option on his services for 2014. They also can buy him out for $7 million. Even Sabean now acknowledges that keeping Zito beyond this year is within the realm of possibility.

Said Zito to MLB.com, “This is where I want to be. I would love to play baseball in San Francisco until I’m happy riding off into the sunset.” If Zito can prove that last year was not an anomaly, than he can prove a priceless member of the pitching staff. Although no longer an ace on a staff of aces, Zito can be that veteran leadership and presence to younger talent, such as Tim Lincecum. Strong veteran presence is at a premium today, ask the Blue Jays and RA Dickey. It’s worthy investment, especially when that veteran still has some pop on the ball and hasn’t turned 35 yet.

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2012′s Luckiest Pitcher

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2012′s Luckiest Pitcher

Posted on 06 February 2013 by Will Emerson

I should start by saying, I cannot definitely label this pitcher the luckiest pitcher in baseball, per se. I may be just a bit too hyperbolic, but this pitcher was darned lucky on the bump in 2012 and it looks like his luckiness may be tough to beat. I  have not gone through every pitcher’s numbers from 2012 though so I can’t say with absolute certainty. Really, I haven’t! Anyways, let’s start with one of my, and I am sure your, favorite things in the whole wide world, a blind player comparison! Yay!

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Player A: 9.35 K/9, 3.06 FIP, 3.32 xFIP

Player B: 6.77 K/9, 3.75 FIP, 4.18 xFIP

So which pitcher would you rather have? Choose your answer wisely, grasshopper. Of course you would most likely choose Player A, but, as you are probably guessing, as with most blind player comparisons, there is a bit of a twist. So before the big reveal let’s look at a couple of, what I like to call, superficial numbers for the same two players:

Player A: 13-12,  3.01 ERA

Player B: 20-5, 2.81 ERA

So the ERAs are not monstrously far apart, but I would guess Player B would have received more Cy Young votes wouldn’t you? So who are these two pitchers? Well, here’s the big twist moment for ya….Player A is Jered Weaver in 2010 and Player B is, well, Jered Weaver….in 2013. Yes, that’s right folks, Jered Weaver had to be one of, if not the, luckiest pitchers in baseball last season.

Come on, you have to admit it is hard to argue the luck here for Jered Weaver. 20-5? 2o and frickin’ 5! With an FIP of 3.75 and a K/9 under seven you would hardly expect a sub three ERA and 20 wins. I’ve been over this before, but it bears reiterating (I think?), strikeouts per nine innings, as much as I love ‘em, are not the end all be all. However, pitchers with a low K/9 are generally crafty pitchers who keep the ball on the ground and such. Jered Weaver on the other hand? Well, he is not. Jered was inducing worm burners about 36% of the time, which is kind of low for a pitcher that is not striking guys out.  In fact, in looking even deeper into his numbers, almost 75% of batters that faced Weaver last year put the ball in play and of those balls in play close(ish) to twice as many were in the air. Generally not great percentages, so naturally Weaver would need a wee bit of luck.

Los Angeles Angles pitcher Jered  Weaver throws against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning of a baseball game in Anaheim, Calif., Tuesday, May 13, 2008. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

In 2012 Weaver had a BABIP of .241, which is pretty darned low. Just for a quick comparison, the league average in 2012 was .293.  Weaver was over 50 points below the league average, in case you are not quick with the arithmetic. That number right there points to a great deal of luck on Weaver’s side. Obviously BABIP can be subjective and will not always be extremely telling, but generally you would expect a pitcher to, at some point, come back to the mean, right? Well, if anything, Weaver is getting luckier by the season, believe it or not. Weaver’s BABIP has gone down in each of the last five seasons. Take a look for your self:

2007: .312

2008: .298

2009: .278

2010: .276

2011: .250

2012: .241

Quite a unique trend Weaver has going on here. Along with the lower BABIP, his FIP has gone up each of the past two seasons as well. So is regression, in fact on the way for Weaver in 2013? It’s almost tough to say. Really, he should have a fairly large regression, but he has avoided it thus far with that 2010 ERA of 3.01 being the highest in the last three seasons, so who knows? The big question though, is what does all this mean for Weaver’s fantasy value in 2013?

The regression just has to be coming, right? It makes no worldly sense if it doesn’t, right? What I can say for sure is that I am steering clear of Jered Weaver come draft day. The  thinking being that the ERA will float closer to his FIP or xFIP in 2013, due to that BABIP coming closer to the league average. Even if it doesn’t, the high probability of this happening should be enough to scare some people away from Weaver, especially at the price you will more than likely have to pay for his fantasy services.  Fantasy services? Okay, that sounded bad, but you know what I mean. RotoChamp, for instance, has him ranked as the number nine starting pitcher (39th overall) for fantasy. It is early but, barring injury or some sort of Spring Training meltdown, I would wager that is about where he will be drafted in most leagues. I just don’t like that kind of risk, for a guy that will more or less be the de facto ace of whatever fantasy squad he is on. Then again, the luck has been with Weaver consistently and it’s not like most, or probably any, leagues have BABIP or FIP as categories. But is there more to be concerned about with Mr. Lucky than just those advanced statistics with the giant blinking arrow pointing towards regression?

Well, one thing that does count in just about every fantasy baseball league is strikeouts, where Weaver has seen a major decline over the last two seasons. While the three season sample size here could be a fluke, there are some red flags within Weaver’s numbers that lead me to think otherwise. First of all, Weaver’s swinging strike percentage has gone down each season since 2010, from 11.2% to 9.1 % to 8.5%. This could be due in part to him just not fooling hitters as much and or the second red flag…his velocity. Weaver has also been slowly losing miles per hour on his fastballs since 2010. Weaver’s average  four-seamer and cut fastball have both lost about two miles per hour from 2011 to 2012.  What’s also interesting is that his average change-up is up in velocity about a full mile per hour since 2010. So, in reality he has lost three miles per hour difference in velocity between the two pitches over the past few seasons, not a trend you like to see in a pitcher. So, what are we to make of the 2013 Jered Weaver?

Luck, good or bad, can definitely play a huge factor for many, if not all, players and the luck has certainly been on the good side for Jered Weaver. Even with the disconcerting advanced stats, he is still a viable fantasy option though, because the bottom line is he, inexplicably, posts good numbers. Somehow he is getting the job done. Maybe it has something to do with the Danny Glover/ Tony Danza vehicle Angels in the Outfield, I dunno? What I do know, is I just can’t warrant drafting him as high as he will be going this year, especially if I can wait a little longer and land a Max Scherzer or Matt Garza. I know it sounds weird to be down on a guy who finished third in the American League Cy Young Award voting last season, but I just don’t have faith in Jered Weaver. There is an implosion on the way and I want to be far, far away when it happens. Now, I think I want to go watch Angels in the Outfield.

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The Rotation Crush; It’ll Be A Thing

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The Rotation Crush; It’ll Be A Thing

Posted on 04 February 2013 by Will Emerson

There are crushes, there are man-crushes, there are bro-mances, heck, I even have my advanced stat man-crush, Ben Zobrist! But I am going to add a new kind of crush to the list. A rotation crush! See, I was pouring over pitching stats, preparing for upcoming fantasy drafts, as I am want to do and came across the Chicago Cubs starting rotation and well, woah, mama! After just a quick glance I realized that, yes, I now had starting rotation  crush!

mgarza

Yep, the Cub rotation has me all starry-eyed. I may even plaster my bedroom walls with their pictures, posters and other assorted memorabilia,. Okay, I probably won’t  go to that much of an extreme. Probably. But, that is neither here nor there. The Cub rotation is my kind of rotation. Seems, like it has been a tad bit under the radar, but the Cubbies, in general, are actually well on their way to building themselves back up and into the real of respectability and it starts with their starting pitching. Garza, Jackson, Baker, Samardzija, Villanueva, Wood. Okay it does not sound overly intimidating or like a legitimate law firm, sure. Also, it’s not the Brave rotations of the 90s or the A’s of the early 2000′s. It’s not even the Phillies ace rotation of a couple seasons ago, for that matter. They are probably not going to adorn the cover of Sports Illustrated with a clever and catchy cpation next to them, any time soon, okay. But they are, unbeknownst to many, quite solid. I am not saying any of these picthers are gonna be winning the Cy Young Award in 2013, but in their starting picthing, the Cubs have a solid building block. Peruse these numbers from 2012 (2011 for Scott Baker since he missed all of 2012)

Matt Garza:              3.59 xFIP, 3.60 SIERA, 1.18 WHIP, 8.33 K/9

Jeff Samardzija:      3.38 xFIP, 3.40 SIERA, 1.22 WHIP, 9.27 K/9

Edwin Jackson:       3.79 xFIP, 3.75 SIERA, 1.22 WHIP, 7.97 K/9

Scott Baker:              3.61 xFIP, 3.44 SIERA, 1.17 WHIP, 8.22 K/9

Carlos Villanueva: 4.09 xFIP, 3.72 SIERA, 1.27 WHIP, 8.76 K/9

Travis Wood:           4.62 xFIP, 4.41 SIERA, 1.20 WHIP, 6.87 K/9

Well, I think you can quickly see why my inaugural rotation crush is for the 2013 Cubs. The advanced stas are very consistently above average for the most part. Sure, Wood is a bit of an outlier, but Travis Wood is just a pitcher I like. One of those pitchers I just like for no statistical or gut reason whatsoever. I have a similar unexplained affinity for Chris Volstad, but I am veering a bit off course, here. Back to the rotation crush. My guess is that Wood ends up coming out of the bullpen for the Cubbies, anyway, but who knows what could happen in Spring Training? Alright, focus. Roatation crush. Looking at these advanced stats, you have to feel the Cubs are going to be in a lot of their games and will not need to tax their bullpen all that much. Each one of these pitchers (okay, with the exception of Villanueva) have been high on my list for quite some time and are now all in one glorious rotation in Chicago! Again, though, let’s not start throwing these guys Cy Young votes just yet. While I can barely contain my excitement about this rotation, there are certainly some question marks hovering above it.

First off, you have Scott Baker. Now, I have liked Scotty Baker for awhile and I do like the move to the National League. The change of scenery should certainly do him well, even if he is moving to a more hitter friendly park. The concern though is that he did miss all of 2012 recovering from Tommy John surgery. Missing a season of baseball, for any reason, especially an injury and super especially (yes I said super especially, deal with it) for an arm or shoulder injury, will make things somewhat difficult. At some point Baker should be at, or at least close to, his former self, but there is no telling when that may be. Word is he will be ready for the start of the regular season and early projections make it seem like most baseball prognosticators think he will be up on the bump looking like he has not skipped a beat. There is no guarantee on what Baker will provide, but it is definitely worth whatever small risk there is, for the Cubbies. But Baker, of course, is not the only question mark in this rotation.

“The Shark” , Jeff Samardzija had a very, very good season in 2012. There were a few bumps along the way, *cough* June *cough*, but he still finished the season with some very respectable numbers. Plus, you have to love a 44.6 ground ball rate coupled with a K/9 over nine! Trust me, you have to! That’s not a ton of fly balls, which is great if, like “the Shark”, you pitch a lot of games at Wrigley Field. The one main concern/question around Samardzija, is whether or not he can duplicate his 2012 numbers in 2013. Looking at the numbers, themselves, nothing really points to a regression in 2013. In fact, if anything, they point to a bit of an improvement. So what’s the problem? Well, if you buy into this sort of thing, it could be his inning total from 2012. His innings thrown in 2012 were the most he has thrown in any season of professional baseball. In fact, it almost double his 2011 innnings thrown, back when he was coming out of the bullpen. But hey, the numbers point to some improvement, so maybe the innnings thing will counter act the expected improvement and he will duplicate those 2012 numbers, in 2013. Did that make sense? No? Yeah, it seemed to make more sense in my head. Personally, I think Shark will be fine in 2013, but I could see that increased innings thing being a mild concern to some. Of course numbers and projections are great, but they are not the end all, be all. They cannot always tell the whole story, per se.

Any baseball fan who follows stats, especially advanced stats, knows that while these stats can be helpful and show patterns, point to regressions, etcetera, etcetera, and should help us predict future performance, this is not always the case. When you look at this Cub rotation and see those xFIP and SIERA numbers, it looks all fine and dandy, peachy keen. For whatever reason though, we know it is highly unlikely that each of these pitchers will have an ERA matching, or even close to, their xFIPs or SIERAs. At the very least you have to like your odds if you are Theo Epstein and company over there in the Cubs front office. I know I sure do! When you have a fifth starter with the potential to strike out close to nine batters per nine innings, well everything else should be cream cheese. So congratulations to the 2013 Chicago Cubs starting picthers for becoming my very first rotation crush! You should feel greatly honored. Well, enough out of me, I have to go track down a life-sized Jeff Samardzija cardboard cutout.

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