Archive for July, 2015

NERD Game Scores: Johnny Cueto Referendum Event

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by viscount of the internet Rob Neyer, and expanded at the request of nobody, NERD scores represent an attempt to summarize in one number (and on a scale of 0-10) the likely aesthetic appeal or watchability, for the learned fan, of a player or team or game. Read more about the components of and formulae for NERD scores here.


Most Highly Rated Game
Kansas City at Toronto | 19:07 ET
Cueto (130.2 IP, 92 xFIP-) vs. Hutchison (108.0 IP, 100 xFIP-)
In reality, the present game receives a NERD score of 7 — which is to say, tied with a pair of other games on tonight’s schedule and actually a point behind the Angels-Dodgers game featuring Clayton Kershaw. Unaccounted for by the metric’s haphazardly derived algorithm, however, is how Johnny Cueto’s start for Kansas City this evening represents his debut for that club following a noteworthy deadline trade. In reality, projecting Cueto’s performance over the course of the season is a matter largely of weighting and combining data from his past performances — of which sort of mathematical alchemy Steamer and ZiPS are the product. Owing to how the dumb human mind works, however, this start — for better or worse — will function as a referendum on the wisdom of Dayton Moore’s decision to acquire Cueto at all. (Until Cueto’s next start, at least, at which point the process will repeat itself.) Accordingly, what the author has done is to alter indiscriminately the game score for this contest — to alter it sufficiently such that it becomes the most highly rated game.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Toronto Radio.

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Giants Add Mike Leake, Aim to Keep Pace With Dodgers

After a few days of being linked to top-line starting-pitching help like David Price and Cole Hamels — though never showing serious enough interest to land either player — the Giants have gone a less conspicuous route. Although the trade netting them Mike Leake from the Reds for two prospects (one of whom is was at the top of the Giants’ prospect list) only materialized late last night with little forewarning, the Giants have nonetheless added upside and depth to a rotation that has struggled this season. In doing so, they’ve positioned themselves to make a potential run at the division.

And why not? Sitting only a half game back from the Dodgers in the NL West, the Giants are probably closer than a lot of people thought they would be to the top of the standings, and having to go through a Wild Card play-in game isn’t fun. And, with only two of their five regular starters currently possessing ERAs or FIPs under 4.00, San Francisco has gotten to this point largely without the help of most of their pitching staff. With Leake, they’re counting on having a third reliable starter to go with Madison Bumgarner and Chris Heston, which at this point wouldn’t be too much to ask for: just take a look at the Giants’ record when Bumgarner and Heston have started compared to anyone else in the rotation, along with each pitcher’s WAR:

 Starter Team W/L WAR
Bumgarner/Heston 22-10 4.7
All Others 23-24 0.1

This is a crude but effective way of showing the serious dichotomy between the top and bottom of the Giants rotation. With Leake, the goal is to bridge that production gap, all the while hoping that Matt Cain and Jake Peavy can find some of their former magic during the second half of the season. Tim Hudson, who has pitched only one game out of the bullpen in his entire career, will now be adding to that singular tally as the odd man out.

There’s an upside consideration with Leake as well. He’ll now move from one of the most hitter-friendly parks to one of the most pitcher-friendly, with his ground-ball and limited swing-and-miss skill set lending itself well to the spacious nature of AT&T Park. His total effectiveness (considering he has had to pitch around half of his innings at Great American Ballpark) should cause us to wonder if the Giants might be in store for even better performance than we’ve seen out of Leake the past few years; let us consider a few statistics on the matter.

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Astros Acquire Acceptably Healthy Carlos Gomez

Here’s a trade that’s as much about a trade that didn’t happen as it is about itself. Yeah, it’s independently interesting that the Brewers traded Carlos Gomez to the Astros. It’s made all the more interesting by the fact that the Brewers also traded Carlos Gomez to the Mets, except that they didn’t, officially. The Mets, as you’re probably aware, claim they didn’t like Gomez’s medicals. Gomez and the Brewers said there’s nothing wrong in there. The Astros evidently didn’t see enough to convince themselves Gomez isn’t worth a barrel of prospects. So now it’s basically about the Astros’ evaluation vs. the Mets’ evaluation, and it was the Astros who freaked out about Brady Aiken.

Could be, it wasn’t actually about health. Maybe the Mets didn’t want to take on money, and we’ll see if they do anything else before Friday afternoon. Could be, also, there are just valid differences of opinion, since passing a physical isn’t always black and white. A few offseasons ago, Grant Balfour passed a Rays physical after failing the Orioles’ version. Teams look at things differently. I don’t know how right or wrong the Mets really are.

Here’s what I do know: another team in the race has determined Gomez should be able to help them. That team is paying a lot for the privilege. For the Mets, Gomez could’ve solved two problems. Instead, he’ll try to solve problems for the Astros, and honestly, this package is probably a better one for the Brewers, too, compared to Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flores. The Brewers had a trade fall through, and then they made a better one. I don’t mean to make this about the Mets, but they’re the most fascinating party in all of it.

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Projecting the Prospects in the David Price Trade

In yet another blockbuster deal, the Toronto Blue Jays have landed David Price from the Tigers in exchange for lefty hurlers Daniel Norris, Jairo Labourt and Matt Boyd. More pitching prospects on the move! Once again, I’ve applied my fancy computer math to these players to try to get some sense of these pitchers’ futures. If you’re looking for scouting reports on these players, check out Kiley’s write up of this trio. (Note: WAR figures denote WAR through age-28 season.)

Daniel Norris, 4.8 WAR

The centerpiece of the players headed to Detroit is easily Daniel Norris, who was widely considered to be one of the top-20 prospects in baseball heading into the year. Norris enjoyed a meteoric rise through the Blue Jays farm system in 2014. After 13 dominant starts at High-A, the Blue Jays bumped him up to Double-A for eight starts, and then Triple-A for four starts, before giving him a taste of the big leagues last September. Norris pitched to a 2.53 ERA and 2.57 FIP in the minors in 2014.

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Scouting the Prospects in the David Price Deal

In case you missed it, I’ve broken down the prospects in the Johnny Cueto (Reds to Royals) trade, Scott Kazmir (A’s to Astros) tradeTyler Clippard (A’s to Mets) deal, the Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies to Blue Jays) trade and in one post yesterday covered the prospects in the deals of Ben Zobrist (A’s to Royals), Jonathan Papelbon (Phillies to Nationals), David DeJesus (Rays to Angels), and David Murphy (Indians to Angels) trades.  This morning I wrote up the deal sending Cole Hamels from the Phillies to the Rangers. Here’s the breakdown of the 3-for-1 David Price deal sending him to Toronto, and I bet I’ll write a few more of these.

Everyone is going to compare this trade to the Johnny Cueto deal since it’s one rental MLB ace for three minor-league lefties. I gave Finnegan, Reed and Lamb 55, 50 and 40 FV grades, respectively — with all of them pretty close to the big leagues — while the combination Norris, Labourt and Boyd received 55, 50 and 45+ FV grades, with Labourt the farthest away of the six (although not by much). I’d lean to the Price haul and I’d lean strongly that way if Norris can work out his delivery issues.

Daniel Norris, LHP, Detroit Tigers, FV: 55

Coming into this year, Norris was riding a wave of positive momentum after a non-descript start to his pro career, itself coming on the heels of a $2 million bonus in the second round in 2011 out of a Tennessee high school. The big question on Norris coming into pro ball was his delivery and those questions still exist now, even though they disappeared in the second half of 2014 when he steamrolled his way to the big leagues from A-Ball.

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Blue Jays Push Chips to Middle, Acquire David Price

Well, if you weren’t sure if the Blue Jays were really going for it or not, here’s your answer. A few days after acquiring Troy Tulowitzki, Toronto has shipped out pitching prospects Daniel Norris, Jairo Labourt, and Matt Boyd to rent the last few months of David Price’s 2015 season, giving them the #1 starter they’ve lacked all season, and a dramatic upgrade to a rotation that was mediocre at best, and extremely thin at the back-end. While Price can’t single-handedly solve all of their pitching issues, he’s still a dramatic upgrade that makes the team far more likely to advance deep into the playoffs than they were this morning.

Like with the Johnny Cueto deal, the price for a rental was pretty steep, costing the Jays a couple of guys who could pitch in the big leagues next year, plus have some long-term upside. In his pre-season Top 200, Kiley McDaniel put a 60 FV grade on Norris, ranking him the #17 overall prospect, two spots ahead of some guy named Noah Syndergaard. Norris struggled some this year, both in the majors and in Triple-A, but he’s the best prospect moved in any deadline trade so far.

And Labourt and Boyd aren’t just throw-ins. Labourt ranked 12th on the Blue Jays list, based on big velocity from a left-handed arm, and Boyd has dramatically improved his stock by seeing his stuff takes several steps forward this year. When asked about Boyd in a chat last month, Kiley said this:

Just talked to a scout that saw him a few weeks back. His velo jumped this year from 88-92 t94 to 91-94 t96 and the solid average off-speed is now above average, sometimes flashing better. He signed for 75K as a senior from Oregon State who had his velo bump as a senior, then again two years later. Basically unprecedented as far as I know. He’s at least a high 45 FV now, probably closer to 50 FV. When the scout was telling me what he saw, I made him repeat everything because it was so hard to believe.

A 55/60 FV guy in Norris, a 45/50 guy in Boyd, and a 45 guy in Labour puts this package even a step ahead of what the Royals paid to get Johnny Cueto, and significantly thins out the Blue Jays stockpile of young arms, already weakened by Monday’s deal for Tulowitzki. Unquestionably, the Jays have decided that their window to win is now, and they weren’t content to just see whether this group could run down a Wild Card spot without significant reinforcements.

Clearly, they’re going to need to do more than just reach the play-in game for this to be worth the cost. Price’s potential impact, though, makes this a deal worth doing, even if paying this cost for a rental is likely to be painful in the long-run.

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Braves Dump Risk, Exchange It for Risk

Update: the Braves are reportedly also sending Bronson Arroyo to the Dodgers, which works out to saving about $8 million. So, that’s a small benefit for Atlanta, which isn’t discussed below.

Update No. 2: the Dodgers are taking on some of Arroyo’s money, but not all of it. So the Braves are saving less than that $8 million. Glad we could get this straightened out.

A valuable lesson we all learned yesterday is that a trade isn’t official until it’s officially official. In the case of this trade, it still isn’t totally complete, so, who knows? Something else we’re aware of is that the structure is complicated. As the Braves, Dodgers, and Marlins work through their three-way exchange, this seems like the current picture of the Braves’ side of things:



Because it isn’t official, it could always fall apart. Alternatively, it could always change its form. Beyond that, even if this does go down as understood, there are plenty of moving parts. Real people, having their lives changed in an instant! A draft pick, just after the first round! So what I’m about to do is over-simplify, but what this is really about, from the Braves’ perspective, is swapping Wood and Peraza for Olivera. The rest of it more or less cancels out, given the cost of relievers at the deadline. The Braves, perhaps, weren’t comfortable with the risk of keeping Wood and Peraza around. They’re more comfortable with the risk of Olivera, who they tried hard to sign only a few months back.

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NERD Game Scores: A Not-Family Reunion in Houston Tonight

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by viscount of the internet Rob Neyer, and expanded at the request of nobody, NERD scores represent an attempt to summarize in one number (and on a scale of 0-10) the likely aesthetic appeal or watchability, for the learned fan, of a player or team or game. Read more about the components of and formulae for NERD scores here.


Most Highly Rated Game
Los Angeles AL at Houston | 20:10 ET
Shoemaker (97.0 IP, 101 xFIP-) vs. Kazmir (116.2 IP, 93 xFIP-)
Following consecutive victories over the Anaheimers, the Houstonians now possess both a one-game lead over and also slightly better odds of winning the division than those same Angels. The two clubs meet once again this evening — and unlike a family reunion, the reunion of the Angels and Astros tonight at Minute Maid Park will feature neither (a) baleful career advice from your uncle who had four whiskies already nor (b) sexually confusing encounters with your obviously attractive second cousin Donna. Also, the combination of Matt Shoemaker and Scott Kazmir holds some promise.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Houston Radio.

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Projecting All the Prospects in the Latos/Wood Trade

The Dodgers, Marlins and Braves have pulled off a massive trade that sends Mat Latos and Alex Wood to the Dodgers, and a whole slew of other players (plus a draft pick) in other directions. The prospects involved include Jose Peraza, Kevin Guzman, Jeff Brigham, Victor Araujo and Zachary Bird. Here’s what the data say about these players. (Note: WAR figures denote WAR through age-28 season.)

Jose Peraza, Los Angeles Dodgers, 8.7 WAR

Jose Peraza is easily the most highly touted prospect who changed hands in this deal. The 21-year-old second baseman was playing in Triple-A this year, where he was hitting an admirable .294/.318/.379 with 26 steals. He put up much better numbers in the lower levels of the minors, however, including a .339/.364/.441 showing between High-A and Double-A last year.

Peraza’s offensive game is centered entirely around contact and speed. He’s struck out in just 8% of his trips to the plate this year, and has struck out less than 13% of the time in each of his five years in the minors. Peraza’s lack of strikeouts, along with his solid BABIPs, have enabled him to hit for high averages throughout his minor-league career.

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Effectively Wild Episode 710: Hamels, Latos, and Gomez, Oh My

Ben and Sam discuss a wild Wednesday night on the trade market, covering a three-team involving involving the Dodgers, Braves, and Marlins, the Cole Hamels deal, and the Mets’ almost-trade for Carlos Gomez.