Last night, Trevor Bauer made a rather emphatic statement not only on behalf of his team, which is in the playoff hunt, but also for himself in the National League Cy Young race. Bauer pitched eight innings, striking out 12 against one walk and just a single run as the Reds moved above .500 to move into the eighth and final playoff spot heading into today’s action. Meanwhile, though it’s not yet clear if Jacob deGrom or Yu Darvish will get another outing to stake their claims, but Corbin Burnes pitches tonight against the Cardinals. Below you will find the NL WAR leaders among pitchers through last night’s contests:
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Our 2021 Free Agent Tracker is now live! There are currently over 200 players on the list, and several more will be added during the weeks following the postseason as decisions are made on 2021 options and teams continue to clear space on their 40-man rosters. The tracker will be regularly updated throughout the offseason as qualifying offers are made, accepted, and rejected, and free agents find their new homes.
You can filter by status (signed/unsigned), previous team, and signing team, and export the data for your own analysis. You can also currently sort by a player’s handedness, age, and 2020 WAR. Shortly after the postseason ends, projected 2021 WAR will be available, as well will the results of our annual contract crowdsourcing project, which include median contract total, years, and average annual value.
Players with options are not included in the list. The options typically do not have to be exercised or declined until five days after the World Series ends. As options are declined, those players will be added. Some of the more notable players with at least a decent chance of having their options declined are Chris Archer, Jake Arrieta, Brett Gardner, Corey Kluber, and Carlos Santana. Both Nick Castellanos and J.D. Martinez can become free agents by opting out of their current deals, but neither appears likely to do so at this point. Read the rest of this entry »
When the Padres made the August 31 trade deadline’s biggest splash by acquiring Mike Clevinger from the Indians via a nine-player blockbuster, it was with an eye towards the 29-year-old righty taking the ball in the postseason, potentially as a Game 1 starter. While the team is tied for the NL’s second-best record (34-22) and headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2006, plans for Clevinger to figure prominently have been put on hold, as he left Wednesday’s start against the Angels after one inning due to biceps tightness.
After throwing seven shutout innings against the Giants on September 13, Clevinger had previously been scheduled to start on Saturday, September 18 against the Mariners, but he was scratched due to his first reported bout of soreness in his right biceps. After a successful bullpen session on Monday, he was declared good to go against the Angels, and he got off to a strong start, breezing through the first inning on 12 pitches by sandwiching strikeouts of David Fletcher and Mike Trout — both swinging at sliders — around a groundout by Jared Walsh:
The 2020 season has been an exercise in constant risk calculation. Attempting to play baseball in the middle of a pandemic introduces a daunting list of potential issues, but athletes have come up with plenty of sensible reasons to play anyway. Some wish to avoid losing a year of service time or aren’t in a position financially to stop collecting paychecks. Some don’t want to feel like they’re letting their teammates down. Some would simply rather play baseball than not. The decision whether or not to play, however, isn’t one that athletes made once in July and then forget about. Players face that same decision every day as new variables come into play, the environment around them changes, and the upside in pushing forward shrinks. If you’re a star shortstop on the cusp of hitting the market for the first time, playing for a team barely clinging to life in its postseason chase, the upside in playing is next to nothing, while the risk in doing so is as great as ever.
That’s the situation Andrelton Simmons found himself in this week when the Los Angeles Angels entered Tuesday 4 1/2 games out of the final Wild Card spot with just five games left on the schedule. Simmons, a 31-year-old shortstop and a free agent this winter, decided those five games would take place without him. Read the rest of this entry »
On Monday night, I was watching the Cardinals battle the Royals when I heard something that stopped me in my tracks. As Adam Wainwright labored in the sixth inning — two runs in and runners on the corners with two outs — the Cardinals announcers mentioned one of Wainwright’s greatest strengths — in their minds, at least. “That’s something that Adam Wainwright is really good at, is not compounding the inning… going back and getting the next guy.” I’ve been a Cardinals fan my whole life — and to that tidbit, I said, “Huh?”
It was, in truth, something I’d never thought about. Are some pitchers better than others at turning off the tap, amping up their performance when they need it and keeping crooked numbers from getting even crooked-er? My saber sense was tingling — something about this didn’t sound quite right. But of course, these spots are exactly where if a pitcher could bear down more than expected, it would make the most difference. I decided I’d try to find out how real this effect was.
Defining what I was looking for turned out to be a difficult. What, exactly, does “not compounding the inning” mean? The announcers seemed to think it meant that Wainwright pitched better after runs were in, or at least pitched the same while most pitchers in baseball got worse. Either way, the general idea was that his ones and twos turned into threes and fours less often than average.
One possible reaction to that might be “So?” His ERA is his ERA, regardless of whether it comes via a three-run spurt and eight zeros over nine innings, or three one-run frames and six zeros. To that I say: reasonable point. There are still reasons to care, though. For one, if a pitcher were actually prone to clustering, they’d tend to underperform their FIP over time. One of the reasons home runs are so bad is because they always result in runs, whereas other hits can be scattered around in otherwise dry innings without damage. A cluster-prone pitcher wouldn’t have that advantage; when you give up baserunners in bunches, a single and a home run become much closer in value.
In the same way, a pitcher who was prone to lots of singleton runs allowed but then mysteriously got better after letting one in would beat his FIP over a long time horizon. Base/out states tend to be more dangerous after a run has scored, naturally enough. Getting better then, or not getting worse while most pitchers do, would be quite the superpower. Read the rest of this entry »
If I told you at the start of the 2020 season that the Cubs would win the division by a comfortable margin, you probably would rightly make some assumptions about the events that led to this result. Probably the most obvious is that a National League Central victory would involve big years from the three biggest names in the lineup: 2016 MVP Kris Bryant, 2018 MVP runner-up Javier Báez, and three-time All-Star and Gold Glover Anthony Rizzo. But that most obvious of assumptions would be wrong in this case. Through Tuesday’s games, these key contributors to the team’s success over the last five years have combined for just 1.1 WAR in 581 combined plate appearances, about the same WAR as players such as Kevin Pillar and Victor Reyes. In 2016, the year the Cubs won the World Series, this trio combined for 15 WAR, or 4.8 WAR per 581 plate appearances.
All three are eligible for free agency no later than the end of the 2021 season and their poor performances have changed their outlooks enough to potentially have consequences for both their career trajectories and future contracts. With their performance this year, the Cubs have gotten a taste of what the team’s future might hold if all three depart Chicago. There are mitigating factors all over the place — the shortened, odd 2020, Bryant’s plethora of injuries — but the fact remains is that for stars, the risk is fairly one-sided. What this means is that for the best players in baseball, it’s far more likely that events will reduce their value than increase their value; I can think of a lot of scenarios that would cause Mike Trout to underperform his WAR projection by five wins, but very few in which he’d exceed it by the same margin. Poor baseball is one thing, but uncertainty is also a problem for a superstar. How have the outlooks for these three changed over 2020? Let us count the ways. Read the rest of this entry »
Even though he’s still got one start to go and several other pitchers will also see playing time over the next few days, the American League Cy Young race is all but over. Last year, it was a two-horse race between Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander. This year, Shane Bieber has been so dominant that no other AL pitcher can come close to his accomplishments with less than a week remaining. He leads the league in strikeouts by 25 through Monday’s games, with the distance between first and second the same as the distance between second and 18th. His 41% strikeout rate is the best in baseball, and his 2.13 FIP and 1.74 ERA pace the league as well. There isn’t a credible argument against Bieber winning the award and he should even garner support for MVP. As for second place, there are a ton of candidates.
To try to wade through the potential two-through-five slots on voters’ ballots, let’s take a quick look at pitcher WAR through Tuesday night’s games:
With a 2-9 stretch from September 8-19, the Rockies plummeted below .500 for the season and faded from the playoff picture. Though they’re still technically alive-ish in the race for the NL’s eighth seed, they’ve squandered their 11-3 start, and their Playoff Odds are down to 1.7%; they need to overtake at least four teams in the season’s five remaining days. Their task will be that much harder without Nolan Arenado, who last played on Saturday and who was placed on the Injured List on Monday with what the Rockies described as left AC joint inflammation and a left shoulder bone bruise. His season is over.
Listening to the broadcast of the Rockies-Giants game on Monday night, one of the announcers — I forget which side it was, as I was in the midst of flipping around MLB.TV — noted that Arenado has been so durable that “the last time he was on the Injured List, it wasn’t even called the Injured List” or words to that effect. In 2014, he missed 37 games after fracturing the middle finger of his left hand while sliding head-first into second base. From 2015-19, he averaged 157 games per year from 2015-19, playing more games (787) than all but three players, namely Eric Hosmer (795), Manny Machado (793), and Paul Goldschmidt (791).
Arenado initially injured his shoulder during the season’s fifth game, on July 29, while making the kind of diving stop of a Stephen Piscotty groundball that has typified the seven-time Gold Glove winner’s career: