Tag Archive | "Second Baseman"

Stolen Base Champion Passes Away

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Stolen Base Champion Passes Away

Posted on 21 February 2013 by Bill Ivie

Pop quiz: Who holds the record for most stolen bases in a professional baseball season, ranks second among all professional base stealers, and averaged 150 stolen bases a season?

If you answered Rickey Henderson, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Her name is Sophie Kurys (pronounced “curries”).  A young woman from Flint, Michigan, she was a founding member of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and a second baseman for the Racine Belles.

SophieKurys

Kurys signed her first contract, for $50 a week, one day shy of her 18th birthday.

Kurys would play for eight seasons for the Belles, including rejoining them a year after they left Racine and moved to Battle Creek.  Her best season would come in 1946 when she was named player of the year after gathering 215 hits and stealing 201 bases in 203 attempts, a professional record that still stands today.  She would hit .286 that season with a .434 on base percentage, score 117 runs, walk 93 times and collect a .973 fielding percentage, leading the league in each category.  Her walks and fielding percentage marks in 1946 would go down as league records.

She wasn’t done with just the regular season, though.  She would lead all hitters in the post-season that year and have one of the most amazing games in professional baseball history in the sixth and deciding game of the league championship.

The game itself was a bit of an enigma   Carolyn Morris, the Rockford ace, had thrown a no-hitter through nine innings before surrendering the first hit of the game in the 10th.  Meanwhile, Racine’s pitcher, Joanne Winter allowed 19 base runners through 14 innings, stranding them all.  The game had gone 14 innings without a run, despite Kurys four stolen bases up to that point.  She would single and steal her fifth base of the game in the bottom of the 14th inning, putting her at second base with Betty Trezza, her double play partner and shortstop for Racine, at the plate.

As Kurys broke for third as Trezza singled through the right side.  As the throw came home from right field, Kurys would hook slide around the catcher’s tag and provide Racine with the 1946 championship.  It was easy to see that the young lady had earned the nickname “Flint Flash”.

“A hook slide away from the tag by a player wearing a skirt – how about that?  Sophie was certainly one of our best,” stated Lois Youngen, former AAGPBL Players Association President.

Many managers and players credit Kurys for her ability to read a pitcher and her attention to the detail for her base stealing prowess.  While she was certainly fast, she would get an incredible jump off the pitcher and was a “master of the slide”.

She played her first few years in the league as the clean up hitter for the team but new manager Leo Murphy, who took over the reigns of the Belles in 1945, identified her base running abilities and moved her to the leadoff spot where she flourished for her team.

She would finish her career with 1,114 stolen bases.  That mark would stand as a professional record until Rickey Henderson would eventually surpass her, finishing his career with 1,406.  Her 201 stolen bases in 1946 remains a record in professional baseball today.  She would also steal 166, 142, 172, and 137 bases in a season during her career, all more than Henderson’s modern-era record of 130 and three of which were higher than Hugh Nicol‘s 1887 total of 138.

Kurys passed away on February 17, 2013 at the age of 87 years old in Scottsdale, Arizona due to surgical complications.

Read more about Sophie in this comprehensive article, Playing Hardball In The All-American League at aagpbl.org

Bill Ivie is the editor here at Full Spectrum Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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jason kipnis

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The Jason Kipnis Dilemma

Posted on 05 September 2012 by Will Emerson

What a long, strange road it has been for Jason Kipnis this season. Well, perhaps just strange. Kipnis came into 2012 with a nice little bit of hype surrounding  him after a nice performance in his 2011 call-up. In 36 games in 2011 J-Kip hit .272, with seven dingers and 19 RBIs. His OPS in that stint was .841 and a highly impressive wOBA of .378. To expect this over a full season would be a silly assumption, but just for kicks and to lengthen this article, let’s say he did stretch these out over a full season, how would that have compared with your qualifying second basemen in 2011? Well, if he were to keep up his rates over a full season’s worth of ABs, he would hit roughly 30 home runs, with 82 RBIs and 103 runs scored. Again, there is most likely no way he would have kept up that pace and these estimates are based on crude simplistic equations created by yours truly, but the home runs and runs would be top three amongst second basemen. The RBIs? Those would have been fifth. Batting average? That would be good for 8th amongst second basemen last year and his OPS would have ranked third at the cornerstone. Okay, okay, like I said there is nothing that would make these specific projections a reality, but these still paved the way for some decent preseason projections for Kipnis and he started off the season looking like he would live up to, and exceed, said projections.

The general consensus amongst the fantasy pundits and prognosticators before this season started was that Kipnis would be around the twelfth best two bagger in the fantasy game in 2012. As the twelfth best option at second base, that makes him a starter in pretty much every fantasy league around. On average, he was the 15th second baseman taken in Yahoo! fantasy drafts and and 16th in ESPN drafts and for all intents and purposes was still considered to be something of a sleeper pick. Well, compared to his average draft position and what he has done this season, he has been a great value pick. At his position he ranks 6th in Yahoo! and 9th in ESPN, so stellar season right? Sure, very solid, but a lot of these high ranks are based on a good start to his season. Through May he had a slash of .280/.330/.450 with eight homers, 30 RBIs and 34 runs scored and eleven stolen basesm making him one of the highest ranked second basemen in the game. But even these numbers were a bit inflated by what he did in May. For that month he had a slash of .295/.351/.459 to go along with five home runs, 18 RBIs 21 runs and seven stolen bases. That big May had many, including myself, thinking Kipnis was the real deal and ready to jump up into the upper echelon of fantasy second baseman. But then June came and the downward trend began. The June slash line was .267/.322/.381. He still had three dingers, 16 RBIs and 13 runs, which is respectable, sure enough, but let us see what happened since then, shall we?

For July and August, Kipnis had a slash line of .215/.299/.305 which is just not very good at all. In fact those numbers are below replacement level. In July and August, Kipnis has hit two, count ‘em TWO, home runs! And the first of those two home runs came on August 20th! He went just shy of 50 games without knocking one out of the park. That is a drought of pretty serious proportions. So the big question is, what in the heck happened? Why did the numbers drop so danged much? Well let’s see if we can pinpoint the trouble and see if we can expect Jason to right the ship.

Well the first thing that jumps out at me is Kipnis’ strikeout rate. Through June, he had a K-rate of 15.9%. For the past two months that rate has been at 17.3%, which is only a slight uptick, but in August that K-rate was 23.8% which is a much larger rise and also not  a great number. Striking out almost every fourth time to the plate is bad, unless you are belting out around 30 home runs a season. But really that does not seem like it would be the biggest factor in his recent woes. It is not so much that he is putting the ball in play less, but rather what he is doing when he does put the ball in play.

Here is a break down, by month, of his ground ball rates:

Mar/Apr- 41.7%

May- 44.8%

June- 43.5%

July- 51.4%

August- 56.7%

Yikes! Close to 60% of balls in play being put on the ground in August, which could only possibly be considered a good strategy if you are, maybe, Billy Hamilton or the Flash. Kipnis has decent speed but he needs to get the ball up in the air to be successful. But what is causing the increase in ground balls and general lack of effectiveness on batted balls? Well it seems that pitchers know what to throw to get Kipnis to chase and make weak contact. He chasing the same amount of balls outside of the strike zone and making contact on those just as much, but it seems that Kipnis is having trouble with pitches that are moving. Considering he is making contact on balls outside of the zone almost 90% of the time, it would stand to reason that he his not making great contact most of the time, but rather flailing at pitches and putting them into play weakly.

According to picth values on his Fangraphs page, straight ball, he hit it very much. Sliders, curveballs, and split-fingered fastballs, bats are afraid. He has a negative value on all of these pitches this season. His linear weight against the slider is -.68, wihch is behind the average hitter and also behind 94 other major league hitters. Kipnis has struggled even more against curveballs. His weighted linear value against curves is -1.96 which is behind over one hundered other major league hitter this season. But these are not anything compared to how he handles the split-fingered fastball, where his linear weighted value per one hundred pitches his a paltry -3.23. Since he is already seeing 3% more curveballs and 1.2% more split-fingered fastballs than last season, it seems that if he does not change his approach and start hitting these pitches that are a movin’, he will not be able to turn things around. Maybe he should ask Jobu to come? You know, offer him cigar, rum. He will come. Or, you know, change his approach at the plate. Well, he may have done one or the other, since he is off to a decent enough start in September. For Kipnis’ and his fantasy owners’ sakes, let’s hope whatever he has done lately will continue to work and he can start climbing back towards the upper echelon of fantasy second basemen.

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SP_291079_BORC_rays_11

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Ben Zobrist: A Love Story!

Posted on 22 August 2012 by Will Emerson

It’s no secret amongst my baseball loving colleagues that I have had what you might call an advanced stat man crush on Ben Zobrist for several seasons now. And quite frankly can you blame me? Okay well, maybe don’t answer that question, I suppose. The point of the matter is Zobrist is an advanced stat stud and in my mind could be one of the most underrated fantasy, maybe even real life, baseball players around. Now sure, you could easily argue that his real life value is greater than his fantasy value and that is a valid argument. But that don’t sway the man crush. As you may know, Zobs has recently started getting playing time at shortstop for Joe Maddon, which only enhances his real life, and more importantly, fantasy value. Already eligible at the somewhat shallow second baseman position, the addition of shortstop eligibility makes him a world class fantasy asset allowing flexibility on whatever fantasy roster he may be on. But what many fantasy owners may not even realize is the added shortstop eligibility alone is not what should be making them take notice and commence salivating. Oh no, no. If any salivating should occur, it should be at how well he stacks up against the shortstop field this season. But first off, just for kicks, let’s take a look at his value at the cornerstone.

As a two-bagger, he is ranked in the top ten fantasy wise, which is decent . I mean, that’s better than two-thirds of second baseman out there. Among second basemen this season he is tied for 5th in runs scored, 10th in RBIs and tied for 4th in homers. Now as you may or may not know, I am not so down with the counting stats, but that’s not a bad showing for Zorilla. He certainly will drop a little in the ranks because of his average hovering in the .260s, which has actually been a ton better since his slow start to the season (.203 average through May) in that department. But here’s why I really love Zorilla; his advanced stat goodness. Amongst second baseman this year with at least 200 plate appearances he is second in OBP (.373), 3rd in SLG (.460) and OPS (.833). Oh and  his ISO of .199 is also third amongst those same second baseman and his .365 wOBA? That also ranks 3rd. The only second basemen with better numbers in these categories would be Robinson Cano and Aaron Hill. Well with the exception of OBP, where he only trails the immortal Skip Schumaker. So overall he’s already pretty valuable at a week fantasy position, but I know what you are all wondering, ” but Will, how does he stack up against other shortstops this season?” Why I thought you’d never ask!

You see with Troy Tulowitzki missing a good chunk of the season, shortstop has been a tad bit weak. A good spot for a fantasy team to pick up runs, steals maybe some batting average, with not a ton of pop or all-around help, for the most part. Enter the Mighty Zorilla! Zobs  very well has the potential to be the best fantasy shortstop down the stretch. At the very least he is probably the most underrated. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at these numbers stacked up against the other shortstops with at least 200 plate appearances this season:

RUNS:
Derek Jeter (NYY)- 74
Elvis Andrus (TEX)- 70
Jimmy Rollins (PHI)- 70
Ben Zobrist (TBR)- 67

HOME RUNS:
Ian Desmond (WAS)- 17
J.J. Hardy (BAL)- 16
Ben Zobrist (TBR)- 14
Danny Espinosa (WAS)-14
Jed Lowrie (HOU)- 14
Jimmy Rollins- 14

RBIs:
Starlin Castro (CHC)- 61
Ian Desmond (WAS)- 53
Mike Aviles (BOS)- 52
Alexei Ramirez (CWS)- 52
Asdrubal Cabrera (CLE)- 51
Ben Zobrist (TBR)- 49
Elvis Andrus (TEX)- 49
Jhonny Peralta (DET)- 49
JJ Hardy (BAL)- 49

Okay not necessarily eye-popping numbers I suppose, and yes, again, this is wihout Troy Tulowitzki thrown in there, but you may notice the mighty Zorilla is the only one in the top six in all three of these categories, which is none too shabby. Of course it should also be noted that Hanley Ramirez is not included, but looks to be headed towards being shortstop eligible once again next season and would top Zobs in homers and RBIs. But if you’re in a league with some cooler, hipper, non-counting stats, and by gum you should be, than you may want a bit more here, right? I mean, quite honestly who could blame you? Go on, tell me? No one? That’s right! So let me throw you some numbers that will show you why Zobs is gonna be a fantasy shortstop gem and a half for the rest of this season and into next.

That sexy .373 OBP Zobs is putting on the table? That is higher than every single shortstop with at least 200 plate appearances this season, and this is including Hanley Ramirez. Also, only Ian Desmond and Tulo have higher slugging percentages than Zorilla and only Tulo has a higher OPS. Oh and in case you were curious, Jed Lowrie and Ian Desmond are the only shortstops with a higher ISO and the only other shortstop with an ISO even over .175 is Tulo, who is tied with Zobs with an ISO of .199.

So while other shortstops can always pop out of the woodwork, I would say Zobs could very well end up being a top five fantasy shortstop for 2013. Now sure, wOBA, ISO, OBP and OPS do not always necessarily translate into fantasy awesomeness, but you have to like the potential, especially where you will probably be able to draft Zobs. Fact of the matter is, I’m guessing he still falls behind some of your more well known commodities when draft day rolls around, so you can probably still grab him a bit on the cheaper side. With the potential to be a top five fantasy shortstop next season, he could very well fall behind at least eight or nine shortstops, second baseman as well for that matter, come draft day. So jump on the Ben Zobrist man crush bandwagon while you can my friends!

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Finders Keepers: The Jean Segura Edition

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Finders Keepers: The Jean Segura Edition

Posted on 30 July 2012 by T.J. McDonald

By now, we have come to the point of the fantasy season where it is painfully obvious for some and dangerously close for others that they are no longer in playoff contention. While there is always next year, for owners out of contention in Keeper and Dynasty leagues, now can be prime time to mold a solid foundation for a future title run. Enter shortstop/second baseman Jean Segura, who Friday was in the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim trade for Zack Greinke. On Friday, Zack Greinke of the Milwaukee Brewers was traded to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  in exchange for three prospects:  shortstop/second basemen Jean Segura, RHP John Hellweg and RHP Ariel Pena. While on the surface most baseball fans and fantasy baseball players in general will view this as Greinke to the Angels. For keeper and dynasty league owners it should be all about Jean Segura to the Brewers. Below, I will go over Segura’s minor league profile and path to the majors now that he has been acquired by the Brewers and his long term potential and prospects.

Segura is a second basemen/shortstop who was currently ranked as the Angels #1 prospect  in their system following the graduation of Mike Trout  earlier this year. He was also ranked as Keith Law’s 44th best prospect in all of baseball coming into the season and 67th best prospect by Kevin Goldstein. He was the Angels only representative at the Future’s Games during the All Star break. Segura’s career average is.310 with 203 RBIs and his 122 career walks drawn show good plate discipline. He was hitting .294, 7 Hrs, 40 RBIs and 33 SBs in 374 ABs with the AA Arkansas Travelers the Angels AA affiliate prior to his call up on on July 21st.  However he was immediately assigned to AA Huuntsville Milwaukee’s AA affiliate following the trade but is predicted to make his Brewers debut later this year. He has struggled with injuries throughout his minor league career but has hit for a high average with good stolen base numbers at every minor level so far. He has low power numbers, career high HRs 10 with scouts being very high on his plate discipline and his ability to make contact.  He is profiled as a possible All-Star who should hit for average with true plus speed.

Now for his keeper potential and prospects. He was blocked in the Angels organization by long term contracts for starting shortstop Erick Aybar and starting second baseman Howie Kendrick. With the added road block of super utility infielder Maicer Izturis and Mike Scioscia’s general reluctance  to rely on rookies. While he was called up recently by the Angels, prior to the trade, when Aybar went on the disabled listed he only saw one game of actual game action going 0 for 3 with 2 strike outs. Now that he is with the Brewers his path to the majors and full playing time is much clearer. Short stop talent is very thin in the Brewers organization and he is only blocked at the major league level by shortstop Alex Gonzalez currently out for the year with a torn right ACL with the Brewers holding a club option on him for next year, 36 year old utility infielder Cody Ransom and 32 year old veteran shortstop Cesar Izturis. None are considered the long term option at short for the Brewers. All signs point to Segura reaching the big league club this year, becoming their everyday shortstop starting opening day next year and sticking there for the foreseeable future.  If you are looking for a long term shortstop in your keeper or dynasty league then Segura may be your man. With a possible call up coming later this season this will give you a nice glimpse of his potential and services he could offer as a keeper for your fantasy team. As of yesterday he is owned in only 0.1% of yahoo leagues, 0.1% ESPN leagues and 8% CBS leagues. He is currently second base eligible only in both CBS and yahoo with SS eligibility only in CBS. He is being projected long term as the Brewers everyday short stop. He does however have the skills and ability to play second so he could have duel eligibility in future fantasy seasons. I grade his keeper potential as a B.

Are you at the point in your keeper or dynasty league this season where you  have one eye on the future? Will Jean Segura be on your radar for a possible pickup and keep? Feel free to let me know in the comments and as always following me on twitter @FantasyzrTJ for all your fantasy baseball needs.

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Kipnis Shakes Things Up At Second Base

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Kipnis Shakes Things Up At Second Base

Posted on 27 June 2012 by Bryan Geary

Last season was a banner year for second basemen in terms of fantasy baseball. The usual suspects (Cano, Pedroia, Kinsler, Phillips) all had excellent years, while guys like Ben Zobrist, Howie Kendrick, and Ryan Roberts also put up big years. Coming into 2012, second base was a position fantasy owners felt like they could count on for big production in the middle infield. Unfortunately, injuries and ineffectiveness have made second base one of the more spotty positions thus far. Right now, the ESPN Player Rater has second-year player Jason Kipnis easily leading the way.

Kipnis, a 2009 second-round pick, was raking in his big league debut last year before ceding to a hamstring injury in August. There were certainly high expectations for him coming into 2012, though he seemed to be overshadowed by Mariners second baseman Dustin Ackley, who has been a disappointment thus far. Kipnis, however, has been a big time power speed threat, posting 11 home runs and 17 steals so far. And while his 25 home run pace may be a surprise, it is the speed that has really grabbed my attention. As a minor leaguer, he never surpassed 12 steals, so where has this speed burst come from? Kipnis has always drawn rave reviews for his baseball IQ and baserunning instincts, and he is showing why in his first full season, having only been caught once all year. Simply put, Kipnis is getting better fast.

Nothing unusual jumps out at you about the season Kipnis is having, either. His BABIP, strikeout and walk percentages, ISO, and batted ball stats are all very similar to what he has done previously. In other words, what Kipnis is doing seems very sustainable. His splits, both home/away and platoon, are really the only ugly mark on an otherwise excellent season. While players typically benefit from playing at home, Kipnis is thriving on the road this year, hitting .326/.376/.556  as opposed to a paltry .227/.287/.320 at Progressive Field. That may be a freak thing, but his platoon splits are cause for a least slight concern. Kipnis has mashed righties to the tune of a .304/.352/.484 line with 9 home runs. Against lefties, his triple slash is an ugly .218/.289/.337 with just 2 home runs. It is not uncommon for young players to have trouble with same side pitchers, and this is not to say Kipnis will not figure it out. However, it is something to keep an eye on.

The bottom line is that Kipnis is a top 5 second basemen at this point. And as far as this season, with Pedroia’s lingering hand injury, the only second basemen I would rank ahead of him are Cano and Kinsler. Other than that, I do not see better options than Kipnis. It is surely too late to buy low on him, but in keeper leagues, especially if you are out of the race this year, Kipnis is a guy you can build around.

Heating Up

Ben Zobrist was nothing short of awful over the first two months of the season, hitting a combined .203/.342/.397. This led to many frustrated owners, but with the climate at second base, there were not many other quality options. If you have not noticed, Zobrist is out of that early season funk. He has absolutely crushed the ball in June, hitting .319/.430/.500 in 20 games with 3 home runs. Especially for those in leagues that count OBP, he is back among the fantasy elite, with a 16.5% walk rate that leads all second basemen and ranks 5th in all of baseball. There may still be time to buy low on Zobrist, so do so if you can.

King of the Hill

Everyone remembers Aaron Hill‘s crazy good 2009 season in which he had 36 home runs and 108 RBI, but two poor follow up seasons led to his departure from Toronto as well as elite fantasy status. It turns out that a change of scenery may have been exactly what Hill has needed. Since being traded to Arizona (a hitter’s haven), Hill is hitting .303/.372/.494, which is nothing short of studly. He has a massive platoon split this year — .360/.408/.655 home versus .210/.299/.311 away — but as long as he continues to play half of his games at Chase Field, does it matter that much? Hill currently ranks 6th on the player rater and a hot June (5 of his 10 home runs) is only helping.

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