Archive for July, 2016

Orioles Acquire Unexciting, Generic Innings Sponge

The Marlins had to pay a decently high price for Andrew Cashner. Jon Morosi is unironically tweeting about the ongoing Jeremy Hellickson sweepstakes. It’s important to establish the market context in which the Orioles have now traded for Wade Miley. It’s been obvious for months the Orioles could use some help in the rotation. The farm system didn’t make it realistically possible for them to look at higher-level solutions. They’d have to settle for what they could afford. Wade Miley is what they could afford, with the Mariners getting Ariel Miranda in exchange. There’s no money changing hands. This is about as uncomplicated as a move can get, with Miley being tremendously dull and still presumably helpful.

That’s the thing about the Orioles. Even though they’re a first-place team, it’s a team that had issues. Recent results be damned, the Orioles, in theory, can hit. We all know they can relieve. The rotation has been bad behind Chris Tillman — so bad that Wade Miley is an improvement. There aren’t many contending teams that Miley would make meaningfully better, but that’s the Orioles’ burden and blessing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Scouting the Yankees’ Return for Andrew Miller

The package netted by Brian Cashman and the Yankees in exchange for Andrew Miller is headlined by two big names in OF Clint Frazier and LHP Justus Sheffield (both of whom project as average-or-better regulars for me) and supplemented by two potential relievers in RHPs Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen.

Clint Frazier was the fifth-overall pick in the 2013 draft out of Loganville High School in Georgia. He was signed away from his commitment to Georgia with a $3.5 million bonus, the most lucrative bonus in Indians draft history. Frazier was a high-effort spark plug with elite bat speed, though he didn’t look like your typical high-upside prep draftee.

Before the draft, most organizations were correctly skeptical about Frazier’s long-term ability to play center field despite some of the run times he was posting (he ran a 6.6-second 60-yard dash at East Coast Pro) because of the way they anticipated his body to fill out. Frazier was listed at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds as an amateur but has grown into a listed 6-foot-1, 190, though he’s probably heavier than that. Despite his likely corner-only destiny, Frazier’s bat speed and advanced feel for hitting made him a worthy top-five selection, even if he had atypical physical projection.

Because of the superhuman circumference of his biceps and his generally muscular physique, Frazier is most often body-comped to Popeye the Sailor Man, a reference I hope doesn’t elude the youngest of our readers. Though he posts some plus run times to first base because of a natural jailbreak, he’s only about an average runner whose middling speed is masked by visible effort and good base-running instincts. Frazier’s speed and feel for center are enough that I think he’d be passable there in an emergency, but I wouldn’t advocate him playing there everyday. I think that, given his size and build just shy of age 22, Frazier is likely to slow down as he enters his prime. His arm strength should allow him to play in either outfield corner (though I think he fits best in left), where I believe he’ll be an average defender at maturity.

Frazier’s 80-grade bat speed has helped him generate a .278/.360/.452 career batting line. He’s hit despite the excessive loop his hands take back to the ball, a mechanical hiccup that I think causes his barrel to arrive late and robs him of the ability to pull the ball consistently. This could dilute his game power a bit, but Frazier is strong enough to muscle some of those balls out to right field anyway, and the new Yankee Stadium will be particularly kind to this flaw. Though his swing features a good bit of effort and Frazier has struggled some with strikeouts throughout his minor-league career, he still projects as an average Major League hitter. Again, the bat speed is the primary reason for this, but Frazier has shown that he has some barrel control and the ability to make adjustments in the middle of at-bats, as well. Reports on his makeup are glowing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cardinals Strengthen Bullpen Without Paying Top Dollar

As the going rate for elite relievers continues to make grown men and women blush, it’s increasingly evident that there’s value in not needing to get into the market for the crème de la crème of relievers. Through the hefty prices paid in the acquisitions of Craig Kimbrel, Ken Giles, Aroldis Chapman and, now, Andrew Miller, contending teams are making it clear that they value having that lights out guy at the back of the bullpen perhaps even more than we may have once thought. Fortunately for the St. Louis Cardinals, when they lost their closer, Trevor Rosenthal, first to under-performance and then (perhaps not coincidentally) to a rotator cuff injury, they had an internal alternative which kept them from needing to wade into the deep end of the relief pitching market.

Seung Hwan Oh has been absolutely dominant for the Cardinals this season first as a set-up man and, for the last month, as a closer. The 34-year-old right-hander who had been tremendously successful in both South Korea and Japan has posted a 1.69 ERA and a 26.4 K-BB% since being signed by St. Louis this past winter. His 1.94 FIP ranks tenth among relievers in baseball this season. With the loss of Rosenthal, the Cardinals could have pursued the top names on the relief market this month, but Oh gave them the freedom not to. Instead, they made a relatively quiet transaction this morning picking up left-handed reliever Zach Duke from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for 23-year-old outfield prospect Charlie Tilson — a deal which was announced in true old-school fashion by the teams themselves.

In 2014, Zach Duke posted a surprisingly strong season out of the bullpen for the Brewers. He was 31 at the time and it was his first full season in a major league bullpen after scuffling along as an under-performing starter for most of his 20s. That one great season led to the White Sox giving him a 3-yr/$15M which was heavily mocked at the time due to his age and lack of a successful track record. It would appear, however, that the White Sox were either on to something or extraordinarily lucky as Duke has continued to be a solid reliever since signing the contract.

Since the start of the 2014 season, he has thrown 157 innings to very impressive results: 2.87 ERA, 27.9 K%, 58.2 GB%. He walks more batters than you might like — 10.0% walk-rate — but it’s hard to complain when the overall results are as strong as his. The key to his success has been a curveball which misses bats — the whiff-rate on his curve this season is 43.9% which ranks 12th of 41 MLB relievers (min. 100 curves) — and a sinker which induces grounders on 67% of balls in play. This has resulted in him posting an impressive combination of strikeouts and grounders over the past three seasons.

Read the rest of this entry »

Scouting All the Prospects in the Andrew Cashner Trade

The Padres have continued to load up their farm system with interesting pieces, this time netting power-hitting first-base prospect Josh Naylor and low-level fireballer Luis Castillo in exchange for Andrew Cashner and others.

Naylor, a native of Ontario, stood out during his showcase summer because of his big raw power but wasn’t seen as a potential first rounder until he began to rake against advanced international competition with the Canadian Junior National Team late the next spring. By draft day, there was buzz that Philadelphia was interested in him at 10, but he fell to 12 where the Marlins made him their second big-bodied first-round selection in as many years. I was not a fan of the pick at the time and remain skeptical of Naylor, but he does have some impressive tools that might allow him to clear the high offensive bar required of a first-base-only prospect.

Read the rest of this entry »

There Are No Villains in the Jonathan Lucroy Story

Perhaps it’s fitting that, in a trade season without any big name stars, the biggest story that may emerge before the deadline is a deal that didn’t happen. As August noted over on InstaGraphs, the Indians and Brewers appeared to have struck a deal for Jonathan Lucroy last night, but this morning, Lucroy’s representatives informed the Brewers that he wouldn’t be waiving his no-trade clause in order to facilitate a trade, effectively killing the deal.

Whenever a player refuses to go along with an agreed-to trade, there’s always a backlash. If you’re a Brewers fan, you’re probably frustrated that a guy who has no future with the franchise prevented the team from landing a package of quality prospects, especially after making public comments the last few months about wanting to play for a contender. If you’re an Indians fan, you’re probably frustrated that maybe the best player on the market just refused to join your team, and instead of having a loaded roster headed into October, the team still has a big hole behind the plate. And if you’re August Fagerstrom, you’re frustrated that you had to throw away a nearly-finished article on the Indians decision to push all-in, and lose a nifty cooking analogy in the process.

So there’s a lot of frustration out there, since Lucroy’s decision prevented a lot of people from getting what they wanted. But this is one of those times when it’s definitely worth remembering that ballplayers are people, and when it comes to making decisions about his life, Jonathan Lucroy doesn’t really owe us anything.

Read the rest of this entry »

Indians Attempt to Go All In, Still Wind Up with Andrew Miller

The recipe goes like this. Take an American League-best 59-42 record and sauté it in a 67-year World Series drought. Chop up a recently revamped, sneakily excellent farm system and add it to the pan, along with some league-worst catcher production and a relatively thin bullpen. Let cook for one trade deadline, pour over the long-term perils of building a team around starting pitching, and season with a touch of championship envy from your neighbors across the street. It’s the perfect recipe for pushing all-in, pulled straight out of the Cleveland Indians cookbook.

Let’s get the details out of the way now. Late last night, Ken Rosenthal broke the Jonathan Lucroy news, which has now fallen apart and is a story all of its own. This morning, Rosenthal broke some more news, as he’s wont to do, regarding Andrew Miller. The Miller news is official — no take-backs! — and the details are as follows:

Read the rest of this entry »

NERD Game Scores for Sunday, July 31, 2016

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by sabermetric nobleman 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
Baltimore at Toronto | 13:07 ET
Tillman (132.1 IP, 103 xFIP-) vs. Sanchez (132.1 IP, 80 xFIP-)
The purpose of this brief entry is twofold: first, to note that Aaron Sanchez continues to produce excellent strikeout and walk numbers relative to his ground-ball rate and, second, to experiment with a graph-making utility created by FanGraphs employee Sean Dolinar. The following visual, which illustrates the former, is the fruit of the latter:

Sanchez 2

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Baltimore Television or Toronto Radio.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Yankees Have Been Impressively Rebuilt

You’ll have to forgive me if I think of Andrew Miller as the travellin man. Now in his 11th major league season, Miller is headed to his sixth major league team, all east of the Mississippi. But unlike most journeymen, for the most part the teams acquiring Miller have been quite excited about the possibility. The latest team to celebrate getting the lanky lefty are the Cleveland Indians, who are now looking quite formidable. But they’re not the only team looking formidable. The Yankees may no longer be in 2016 contention, but they’re setting up well for 2017 and beyond.
Read the rest of this entry »

Sunday Notes: Cards Bowman, Kinsler, Span, SABR Miami, Moore, more

Matt Bowman isn’t your stereotypical baseball player. The St. Louis Cardinals rookie right-hander majored in economics at Princeton, and his senior thesis looked at how much a win is worth in free agency. He doesn’t fit the physical profile, either. A slender 6-foot-even, he looks more like… well, an Ivy League economist.

Last year he pitched like one. In 140 innings for Triple-A Las Vegas, Bowman went 7-16 with a 5.53 ERA and a 4.95 K/9. To little surprise, he was left unprotected by the Mets, who had selected him in the 13th round of the 2012 draft. The last thing he expected was for a team to gamble on him in the Rule 5.

“I was surprised that I got picked up,” admitted Bowman. “I didn’t feel that I deserved a 40-man spot with the Mets and I certainly didn’t think that any team would be looking at me as someone who could contribute, or even hide, on a major league roster. When my agent said the Cardinals picked me up, not a whole lot of it made sense. These guys are perennial contenders and I was coming off a terrible year in Triple-A.”

The 25-year-old’s level of honesty and humility are also atypical. When I asked if he’s surprised at how well he’s pitching, I received an answer I wasn’t expecting. Read the rest of this entry »

Padres, Braves Exchange Toxic Assets

Note: this is all pending physicals, so

Follow-up note: physicals complete! Trade official. Update included at the very bottom.

Usually, we’re at least able to focus on the baseball side of things. Even though we all recognize that baseball is a business, we’ve gotten good at ignoring that part, focusing on the more baseball-y parts of player transactions. Business matters some in the Mark Melancon trade, but it seems mostly about the Nationals getting a good closer, and the Pirates getting some longer-term pieces. You know, baseball stuff. We’re all in it for the baseball stuff, after all, because the business part is seldom entertaining.

The Padres and Braves have made a business move. Oh, sure, there’s a baseball side, kind of. The Braves must see something in Matt Kemp, something they didn’t see in Hector Olivera. To help cover some of Kemp’s remaining cost, the Padres are reportedly including $10 – 12 million. It would be possible to look at this and think only about the roster implications. But this is mostly just a money move, and from where I sit, the Padres are coming out ahead.

Read the rest of this entry »