Archive for September, 2011

Hamilton Bunts, World Gasps

Baseball is a game of mysteries: Who invented the game? Why do scouts use a scale ranging from 20 to 80? And what were the Marlins thinking when they chose their new team logo?

Yet these mysteries are but mere blips on the proverbial radar when compared to what happened tonight. It was the first game of the ALDS — and following an Elvis Andrus walk — Josh Hamilton dug in with no outs, down by eight runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. And then did the unthinkable.

Josh Hamilton bunted.

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Rays-Rangers, ALDS Game One Chat

The Idea and Reality of Justin Verlander

“In the end, the Tigers are just too strong in too many areas, and they have the X factor at the top of their rotation. Verlander is this year’s Orel Hershiser of ’88 vintage, capable of winning two games each series, no questions asked.” – Larry Stone, Seattle Times.

“He was the most pivotal player in the league, dominating on the days he pitched and having a significant impact on the Detroit bullpen the day before he pitched and the two days afterward.” – Buster Olney, ESPN

You don’t have to do much googling to find a column praising the dominance of Justin Verlander. In fact, a search for “Justin Verlander” + dominant will return 561,000 results. There’s no arguing that Verlander is one of the game’s elite pitchers – no matter what perspective you take, he’s great.

But, I’m starting to feel like the idea of Justin Verlander is becoming larger than the reality of Justin Verlander. He’s a great pitcher who had a great year, but it’s not like he did anything this season that was historically unprecedented. In fact, there’s a pitcher that performs at something close to this level nearly every season.

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Umpires of the LDS

The list of umpires scheduled for the LDS has been released. As much as they should not be a factor in the games, several of their decisions will ultimately be scrutinized this postseason. The following is a look at which umpire strike zones are most likely to get notice and affect the game.

I am not going to get into any discussion on if the umpires and their strike zones are good or bad. They are their own individuals. The more I look into the subject, the differences can be some of the 2% that can be exploited to gain an advantage over other teams.

At the beginning of the season, I rated which of the umpires are the most hitter and pitcher friendly. Here is a look at each umpire, their rating and what series and game, for now, they are to umpire. I know there are only five games, but I included the last umpire in case there are any changes. The umpires at the top of the list are more hitter friendly and those at the bottom are more pitcher friendly:

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FanGraphs Staff Playoff Predictions

After Wednesday night’s madness finally set the playoff series, we asked our writers to chime in on what they thought might happen over the next few weeks. Trying to predict the outcomes of short baseball series is a fool’s errand, but I do think there are some interesting things to be learned from the collective opinions of some pretty smart people who follow the game closely. My individual predictions might be worthless, but there’s strength in numbers, and the overall assessment of what our staff is expecting produces some interesting results.

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NLDS Preview: Brewers-Diamondbacks

The similarities between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Arizona Diamondbacks are creepy. In 2010, both teams had very good offenses but sputtered to losing records due to horrible pitching. With their issues solved — a rebuilt bullpen in Arizona, a revamped starting rotation in Milwaukee — both teams stormed back from the depths of mediocrity (or worse) to hoist a division title in 2011.

The construction of both teams is remarkably similar. Both have a legitimate MVP candidate (Ryan Braun, Justin Upton). Both have good offenses, although with significant holes (Willie Bloomquist, Yuniesky Betancourt), and both have rotations turned from weaknesses to strengths, largely thanks to great one-two punches (Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke, Ian Kennedy and Dan Hudson).

What will set these two teams apart? Let’s take a look at the advantages each team will carry into the series, both perceived and real.

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Disappointing 2011 Prospects: NL East

We kick off the National League today as we continue our series looking at disappointing seasons from prospects ranked on the pre-season 2011 FanGraphs Top 10 prospect lists. We’ve already taken a look at the American League: East, Central, and West.

Atlanta Braves
FanGraphs 2011 Top 10 Prospects
Decreased Value: Matthew Lipka, SS/2B/OF

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Brandon Jacobs and Xander Bogaerts

The release of Baseball America’s South Atlantic League top-20 list is essentially Christmas for me, as much of my time is spent scouting the league. This season, I had the opportunity to see 11 of the top-20 prospects featured in person, which is actually a down year for me. Fortunately, the Greenville Drive, the Boston Red Sox “Sally” affiliate was well represented, with four players in the top-20, including two of the highest ceiling prospects in the system in outfielder Brandon Jacobs and shortstop Xander Bogaerts.

As two of the best hitting prospects in the league this past season, both Jacobs and Bogaerts deserve to be ranked highly on the list, and they check in 8th and 10th respectively. However, I was pretty surprised to see Jacobs edge out his teammate for a higher position on the list.

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2011 NL Playoff Rotations: St. Louis Cardinals

Remember when St. Louis was doomed without Adam Wainwright? Yes, the Braves choked in a big way, but the Cardinals also made a magnificent September run to get into the playoffs. Their starting pitching was a huge part of that run, putting up a 2.85 ERA (2.96 FIP) during the final month of the regular season. Overshadowed by all the other Wednesday hoopla, Chris Carpenter dominated the opposition (I use that term loosely — it was the Astros) with a two-hit, 11-strikeout, one-walk, two-hit complete-game shutout. The need to win every game right up to the end of the season disrupted the preferred order of St. Louis playoff rotation, but it was not that long ago they looked like they were finished — at this point the Cardinals are playing with house money.

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ALDS Preview: Tigers-Yankees

The Yankees and Tigers square off in the Bronx tonight (the Yankees always seem to end up with the night game, don’t they?) with what should be the marquee pitching matchup of the Division Series — Justin Verlander versus CC Sabathia. Here’s a fun fact: both pitchers are very good. A second fun fact: you should be excited to watch them. But you didn’t click on this story to read that — you already knew that. So let’s get into the stuff you did come here to read, shall we?

When the Tigers are at bat:

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