David's Blog

On this page, I'll share my thoughts, and any articles or information I think are of interest.  Feel free to use the comments section to join in the discussion!


“because he might have the best makeup of anyone I’ve ever signed.” 

 The Foundation of the New Cubs

May 16, 2015 by Peter Gammons 

 

Anthony Rizzo is 25, and as the Wrigley week unfurled—from the four game sweep of the Mets to Eddie Vedder to Friday’s 11-10 win against the Pirates—the view of the young Cubs’ rise to the forefront of the baseball landscape became something far greater than an Old Style at the Seventh Inning Stretch or a singalong with “This Year We Go All the Way.” This is now dead serious.

Oh, there is pitching depth to be determined and maturation experiences unforeseen, but driving the forces of extraordinary young players like Kris BryantAddison Russell and Jorge Soler—with waves to come—has been Rizzo. It’s easy to start with his emergence as one of the most dominant offensive forces in the game at a position that features six to eight star-level players.

It is that because he is but two years older than Bryant and is a cultural contemporary to the young players that are storming the National League Central Bastille, his leadership is really more meaningful than that of a presence in his mid-30’s. And he is that leader. He’s the guy that last season challenged the entire Reds dugout. He’s the voice that echoed Eddie’s “all the way.”

Not that Cubs VP Jason McLeod is in the least bit surprised. McLeod drafted Rizzo in the sixth round of the 2007 draft, went above “slot” to sign him, and said to watch the 17-year-old kid from Southeast Florida “because he might have the best makeup of anyone I’ve ever signed.” The next year, Rizzo was diagnosed with lymphoma, as Jon Lester had two years earlier, and like Lester, he came back. And a little more than a fifth of the way through the 2015 season is the most valuable player in the National League as the Cubs have clearly climbed on a back that’s strong.

McLeod is the constant in the rise of Anthony Rizzo, Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein his wingmen. McLeod went to the Padres with Hoyer in October, 2009 as assistant GM. A year later, Hoyer teamed up with a trade with their former boss and friend Epstein that sentAdrian Gonzalez to Boston for two former first round picks—Casey Kelly and Reymond Fuentes—and Rizzo.

In retrospect, the Red Sox clearly wish the deal hadn’t happened and that they had a 25-year-old Rizzo leading their band of 23-year-old regulars, Mookie BettsXander Bogaertsand Blake Swihart. But that isn’t fair. Gonzalez was eventually sold off to the Dodgers in the disaster that was Boston’s 2012 season and never really caught the spirit of New England, but in 2011-2012, up to the trade on Aug. 24, 2012, Gonzalez’s 282 games for the Red Sox produced 42 homers, 203 RBI and a slash line of .321/.382/.523. His perception in Boston rankles him (“I’m told I couldn’t play in Boston,” he says). He was good. In Los Angeles, he has been a production metronome.

Then when Hoyer and McLeod joined Epstein in Chicago after the 2011 season, they tradedAndrew Cashner for Rizzo, the flipcard of Brock/Broglio.

Look at Rizzo’s three year maturation: OBP .323 to .386 to .486. Slugging .419 to .527 to .611. OPS+ from 103 to 153 to 193.

Then awaken Saturday morning in the midst of an important series with the Pirates. He leads the league with a .468 OBP, placed in a critical second hole by Joe Maddon betweenDexter Fowler and Bryant. Rizzo is hitting a ridiculous .467 with a .590 OBP and .700 slug against lefthanded pitchers, which, since Fowler and Bryant are on base at .387 and .407 rates against lefties essentially eliminates the tic-tac-toe specialization of opponents’ bullpens against the heart of the Cubs’ order.

He has 20 walks, 17 strikeouts. He is tied with Bryce Harper atop the offensive WAR leaderboard, tied for third in WAR among all major league position players.

There will come a time when Kris Bryant is an MVP, Addison Russell and maybe Soler and/orKyle Schwarber are, as well. For now, Epstein talks only of the joy of watching Rizzo and Bryant in the heart off the Cubs order for seven years. Cubs fans embedded in history will revel in Bryant, not Mark Appel, in the bold move of Jeff Samardzija for Russell (and Billy McKinney), but in many ways they will remember that this all started weeks after Epstein, Hoyer and McLeod reunited on The North Side and they traded for Anthony Rizzo.

Jason McLeod was right back when Rizzo was 17 when it came to the makeup. Eight years later Anthony not only is the cancer survivor whose worked his way to the status of superstar, but the back on whom this generation of Cubs stars have climbed.

http://www.gammonsdaily.com/peter-gammons-the-foundation-of-the-new-cubs/

 

“Each additional mile per hour of batted ball velocity equates to an 18-point increase in OPS”

 

MAY 15, 2015 

Chase Utley Is The Unluckiest Man In Baseball

By ROB ARTHUR

This early in the baseball season, most hitting statistics are worthless. Numbers like on-base percentage and slugging percentage — the core components of a hitter’s value — mean little in samples as small as 100 plate appearances. Without the usual tools, baseball columnists have to turn to other, more reliable (but offbeat) stats. Last week it was catchers’ pitch framing. This week: it’s how much a guy can punish a ball.

Until recently, hard hits were the kind of thing you could see but not always quantify. Fortunately, Statcast has come to the rescue. The new camera tracking technology, installed in all Major League Baseball ballparks in 2015, isn’t just about dissecting defense. It also offers an unparalleled view of hitting. Its cameras track a ball’s speed as it leaves the bat, allowing us to see when a hitter makes good and bad contact.

It’s good to smoke the ball. All else being equal, pitches that are struck harder tend to become hits more often1 and are more likely to fall for extra-base hits.

 

Each additional mile per hour of batted ball velocity equates to an 18-point increase in OPS (on-base plus slugging). In other words, a hitter who smokes the ball tends to be better.2

Even so, some hitters have managed to escape their expected OPS. Either they have been the beneficiaries of good luck, or they’ve found some way to perform that doesn’t depend on hitting the ball hard. In most cases, we should expect their OPS to come back to what it should be, given how well they hit the ball.

Let’s take a look at some of the players who are outperforming their velocities the most.

PLAYER

BATTED BALL VELOCITY

OPS

PREDICTED OPS

DIFFERENCE

Chris Young

81.9

1.028

0.622

0.406

Adrian Gonzalez

90.4

1.166

0.775

0.392

Bryce Harper

88.3

1.084

0.738

0.346

Nelson Cruz

92.6

1.153

0.814

0.338

Dee Gordon

83.2

0.982

0.645

0.337

Dee Gordon stands out on the list of overachievers.3 This analysis isn’t quite fair to Gordon, because we aren’t taking into account running speed, and that’s Gordon’s calling card. Gordon’s legs turn lightly struck grounders into hits and stretch singles into doubles. They allow him to make the most of his otherwise mediocre defense and fringe bat.

Even so, we shouldn’t expect Gordon to keep up this kind of OPS. His current batted ball velocity is 10th-worst among the 225 regulars I examined, placing him in some poor company: the likes of Alberto Callaspo (OPS of .640), Omar Infante (.633), and Marlins teammate Ichiro Suzuki (.660).4 Most of the hitters with batted ball velocity as low as Gordon’s have substantially worse performance than him, suggesting that Dee Gordon’s speed is uniquely effective or that he’s in line for some regression. Both statements are probably true to some extent: Gordon has thrived on speed for as long as he’s been in the majors, but this is a new and unsustainable level.

But just as Gordon has exceeded all expectations, others have fallen behind.

PLAYER

BATTED BALL VELOCITY

OPS

PREDICTED OPS

DIFFERENCE

Chase Utley

87.7

0.389

0.726

-0.336

Rene Rivera

86.8

0.399

0.710

-0.311

Everth Cabrera

88.7

0.456

0.745

-0.289

Mike Napoli

93.0

0.542

0.822

-0.280

Jordy Mercer

88.7

0.480

0.745

-0.265

Meet Chase Utley, the unluckiest man in baseball. The Phillies second baseman is cursed with a .115 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), meaning that about a tenth of the balls he puts on the field get him safely to base. An average BABIP mark is about .300, and while there is some variation between players, it’s usually on the order of a few dozen points, not 200.

Some have argued that Utley ought to be benched. Given his age (36) and the wear and tear second basemen face, Utley could be in a steep decline. Statcast’s batted ball statistics say otherwise. Utley’s batted ball velocity is a little below average, not elite — but below average would be an incredible improvement from Utley’s .389 OPS. (Since I started writing this article, his BABIP has already increased by 12 points and his OPS by 14.)

Utley’s Statcast readings present an interesting contradiction with other kinds of batted ball data. Others have noticed that Utley might be hittingfewer line drives and making weaker contact, but these analyses rely on guys in the stands who manually diagnose each batted ball. These manual data collection efforts have proven error-prone in the past.

In contrast, the batted ball velocity data comes from automated camera tracking. The technology is still young, and undoubtedly there are hidden problems to be worked out. Already, Jeff Sullivan has noted that some batted balls have been assigned implausible velocities, indicating that we need to take these numbers with a grain of salt. It’s possible, too, that hitters’ batted ball velocity will regress to meet their OPSs, instead of their OPSs regressing to what we’d expect given their hit velocity.

In Utley, we have a player whose Statcast data doesn’t match the conventional narrative. If the commentators and traditional data sources are correct, Utley is headed toward a premature retirement. If Statcast is right, Utley has an about average bat, one that should recover. The Phillies just have to stick by him long enough to let him do it.

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/chase-utley-is-the-unluckiest-man-in-baseball/

 

“He attributes better conditioning for much of his breakthrough, as well as mechanical adjustments. “

Twelve months ago, Jose De Leon was essentially a non-prospect in the Los Angeles Dodgers system. A 24th round pick in 2013 out of Southern University, the right-hander began last season in extended spring training. Today, he’s a shooting star.

Few players have seen their fortunes rise as quickly as the 22-year-old native of Isabela, Puerto Rico. After beginning 2014 in the minor league equivalent of purgatory, De Leon put up a 2.22 ERA and struck out 119 batters in 77 innings between a pair of low-level stops. This year he’s been even better. Pitching for the Dodgers high-A affiliate in the hitter-friendly California League, he’s fanned 50 in 32 innings, with a 1.69 ERA.

When I talked to De Leon earlier this week, he admitted he had few expectations when he was drafted. He was simply happy to get an opportunity to play professional baseball, and pleased by how proud his family was of him. Beyond that, he had little idea of what to expect.

No one, including De Leon, expected his fastball velocity to jump from 91 to 96, occasionally touching 97. He attributes better conditioning for much of his breakthrough, as well as mechanical adjustments. De Leon straightened out his stride, so that he wasn’t throwing across his body, and also moved to the first base side of the rubber. Stretching back to last season, he’s walked eight and punched out 92 over his last 55 innings.

De Leon complements his four-seam fastball with a slider and a circle change. The latter is his best secondary pitch – “I have a lot of confidence in it and can throw it at any time” – while the former lacks consistency. De Leon threw “more of a curveball” in college, and is working on making his slider “tighter and sharper.” He won’t do so by radically altering the way he throws it.

“Just last week, our pitching coordinator (Rick Knapp) was talking to me about that,” said De Leon. “He said to use what I have, and try to make it better without changing anything. He said if you get too focused, or obsessed, with trying to improve something, you can forget about what you do best.”

What the fast-rising righty does better than anything is blow away hitters, and he’s not planning to stop. He tried pitching more to contact in his junior year at Southern, and “It didn’t go well.” He went back to a strikeout mentality, and thanks to improved conditioning and better mechanics, he’s getting them in bunches.

“It’s just the way I pitch,” De Leon told me. “It’s like how you have power hitters. They’re going to strike out, but they’re also going to hit a lot of home runs and get a lot of RBIs. It’s what they do. I’m a strike-out pitcher.”

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/sunday-notes-archer-ono-de-leon-medeiros-more/

 

"I don't deserve this job."

 

Paige: Rockies have gotten even worse under new GM Jeff Bridich

Bridich, the Rockies' neophyte general manager showed his naiveté, Friday afternoon.

By Woody Paige The Denver Post POSTED:   05/17/2015

 

Jeff Bridich won't have to become even more agitated by the Troy Tulowitzki trade talk turmoil. Nobody else wants the Rockies' all-star, star-crossed shortstop now. The Troy of Men is hurting again.

Welcome to the Big Leagues, rook. You're not in the Ivy League any more, Jeff.

Beware the jabberwock.

Bridich, the Rockies' neophyte general manager, was surly and splenetic, and showed his naiveté, Friday afternoon.

The snippiness, especially by a Harvard Man, was stupid.

Jeffrey made another rookie mistake, wandering too far off base.

But it didn't take Jeff Bridich long into his first season to learn from the master blaster of fans and media — Dick Monfort.

Mutt and Jeff, bungling characters out of the comic strips, are running the Rox right ... right into the ground.

Rather hard to believe a duo could be more laughable than "Sorry Charlie" Tuna and Dealin' Dan O'Dud. But these two certainly are.

WATCH: Woody's World: No the Rockies did not turn things around with one win

In reaction to the latest baseball buzz about Tulowitzki, Bridich claimed to The Denver Post, before the Rockies-Los Angeles Dodgers game Friday night, national viral reports were merely a "media production ... that fuels speculation, and then people go on the record and try to create types of news stories and controversies by writing opinions that are just that — opinions. They aren't based in fact. So, really, nothing has changed."

Something soon changed Friday night. In Tulowitzki's second at-bat, he hit a comebacker to the pitcher and charged toward first — only to pull up lame. He felt tightness in his left quadriceps, the general area where he has been often injured.

Say it ain't so, Tulo.

Here's one of those "writing opinions" Bridich abhors: So much for deal dialogue involving the Rockies' redamaged precious commodity. The Rockies can't trade Tulo, Cargo and Jorge and dump $47 million in 2015 salary.

Here are the facts, Jeff: From April 17-May 16, you and Monfort have presided over a team that is the worst in all of Major League Baseball.

The Rockies have won five games — and LOST 18 — in the span of a month.

Before Saturday night's game, the Rockies were 1-for-May. A paltry victory against 10 ghastly defeats.

The starters are 0-7 this month.

The Rockies' staff (chaff?) owns baseball's highest earned run average and opponents' batting average against, and ranks 30th in quality starts, 29th in strikeouts and 28th (tie) in walks.

When asked if he still believes in his pitchers, Bridich said, "Yes."

On which planet does he reside?

The Rox, he said, have not played up to "expectations."

Those expectations must have been the delusional dreams of Mutt and Jeff. Every other person of interest in the game knew the Rockies' rotation projected as the most abysmal outside Quad Cities. The only book the Rockies have on batters must require crayons. They hired a new pitching coach this season. How's that working out? The pitcher who earned the save for L.A. on Friday night was, ahem, Juan Nicasio.

And poor Walt Weiss had an emergency appendectomy Wednesday. The surgery was successful, and Walt got to stay away from the team until returning Saturday.

Meanwhile, Bridich was accusing the press of creating "salacious stories." A New York Post writer simply called Tulowitzki's agent and asked about a potential deal (given the Mets' offseason infatuation), and Paul Cohen was quoted as saying that he and Troy would discuss the matter in California. Tulowitzki said after the meeting that he hadn't demanded, and wouldn't ask for, a trade.

Bridich snorted Friday, "The reality is that Troy doesn't have control of this, and neither does his agent."

Dignified response, Jeff.

"The possibility of the Rockies trading Tulowitzki at some point? Yeah, it's within the realm of possibility," Bridich would say, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Bridich produced his own salacious story.

He is no wiser than on the day Monfort introduced him and abruptly bolted from the podium. When I asked Bridich then why he should be the Rockies' general manager, he responded, "I don't deserve this job."

Bridich is proving his evaluation was correct.

http://www.denverpost.com/paige/ci_28132324/paige-rockies-have-gotten-even-worse-under-new

 

"You can't let your ego get involved," 

HOUSTON STREET: WORTH LESS ... BUT COULDA GOT MORE?

Rob Neyer

Just answering the question in the headline, in case you're busy or just not particularly curious: Probably, and probably.


First, about the money ... Huston Street's new contract is actually a good story. From Mike DiGiovanna:

When Street arrived at spring training and was acting as his own agent, he said he wanted a deal between what closer David Robertson got from the Chicago White Sox (four years, $46 million) and setup man Andrew Miller got from the New York Yankees (four years, $36 million) last winter.

Well, he wound up getting two years and $18 million or (if Angels exercise their option) three years and $27 million. Which isn't between Robertson and Miller at all. It's significantly fewer years and dollars than Robertson and Miller got, and significantly fewer dollars per year than Robertson.

So why did Street sign the contract?

"You can't let your ego get involved," Street said. "You have to make decisions based on reality and what you really want. If all you want is money, that's one thing. But I put a lot of value on a lot of other things. First and foremost is the happiness of my family.

"Second is my loyalty to winning. I love my teammates, but this is a talent league, and I told them if I didn't think they were worth a hill of beans, I wouldn't have signed this contract. … I was closing for the team I want to close for. So the allure of free agency wasn't as exciting to me."

Which is refreshing, right? Players love to say It's not about the money, but it's hard to take them seriously unless they take less money.

And when they do, we tend to be pleased with them. For our own fuzzy reasons.

Then here comes MGL, throwing a spanner into the works...

 

 

Mitchel Lichtman @mitchellichtman

There are a ton of relievers as good as Houston Street at 1/4 of the price. "Proven closer" = $$.

9:30 PM - 15 May 2015

 

 Granted, we don't know what he means by "a ton" here. So instead let's just try to get a handle on where Street ranks among relievers...

First glance? Not all that good. Looking at 2012 through Thursday's games is a pretty nice sample. Street's pitched about 160 innings over that span. Among the 105 relievers who have thrown at least 150 innings, Street ranks 45th in fWAR, 42nd in FIP, and 69th in xFIP.

So where does Street fare well? He's third in BABiP allowed (.225) and (in related news) seventh in ERA (2.07).

Now, you can read into those numbers whatever you like, and what you like probably depends on your particular perspective; MGL's is different from Mike Scioscia's.

Do you believe that Huston Street is fundamentally better than his pitching-independent numbers? At this point in the history of baseball analysis, I'm afraid the burden of proof lies with you, not MGL.

So is Street worth $9 million per season on paper?

Nope. It's close, thought. Because Street didn't pitch particularly well in 2013, a reasonable projection would show him worth around $8 million this season, give or take. But what MGL would argue, I think, is that looking at WAR/$$$ ratio in this case is somewhat nonsensical, since relievers are so fungible and it's so easy to find a good relief pitcher for much, much less than the theoretical market rate for a Win Above Replacement.

What that does leave out, though, is peace of mind. You know Mike Scioscia loves having a Proven Closer™ in his bullpen, just as Linus loves his blanket. I don't know how to attach dollars to Scioscia's peace of mind, but it does have value. There's probably some value, too, in signing a player who so clearly is happy to be where he is, even for a touch less money than he might otherwise have gotten.

But in a world where the Angels are paying Josh Hamilton a billion dollars to play for the Rangers, throwing a few sheckels Huston Street's way doesn't figure to bust the budget. And in a world where the closer so often comes in to protect two- or three-run leads, there's only so much damage Huston Street can do.

If he keeps pitching reasonably well. If he stops pitching reasonably well -- granted, a distinct possibility considering some of those numbers above -- and Scioscia keeps using him because of the contract?

Well, then it's a bad contract and I will stop defending it.

http://www.foxsports.com/mlb/just-a-bit-outside/story/huston-street-los-angeles-angels-new-contract-051515

 

 

 

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