Archive for October, 2016

Effectively Wild Episode 970: Managers, Closers, and Copycats

Ben and Sam banter about Manny Mota Grip Stick and Smash Mouth’s latest Twitter feud, then discuss the Cubs’ use of Aroldis Chapman in Game 5 and some strategic considerations for the rest of the series.

Terry Francona’s Fourth-Inning Dilemma

Much has been made of Terry Francona’s bullpen use this postseason. His aggressive use of relievers, Andrew Miller in particular, has garnered him a considerable amount of praise from all corners. Phrases like “leverage index” have been evoked beyond just the confines of websites like this one. Francona has managed the postseason very differently from the regular season, and that approach has worked very well given the personnel with which he’s working. Francona has felt comfortable using Miller early in games to preserve leads and once even used him to maintain a tie. In the fourth inning of last night’s Game Five loss, however, Cleveland was presented with a high-leverage situation. Instead of turning to the bullpen, Francona chose to stick with his starter, Trevor Bauer. Bauer gave up three runs in what would ultimately be a 3-2 loss. Did Francona wait too long to make a move?

First, a bit of context. As noted, Bauer started the game for Cleveland — and, over the first three innings last night, was significantly better than he appeared in Game Two. In Bauer’s first World Series start, he recorded 71 pitches through three innings, labored to get outs, and struggled with the strike zone. After a walk, a double play, and a single, Bauer was out of the game, having thrown 87 pitches before completing four innings. Last night, Bauer completed his first three innings efficiently, requiring only 45 pitches against 10 batters, striking out five of them. When he headed out to pitch the fourth inning, Bauer had three very good innings under his belt.

The fourth inning didn’t go as well for Bauer, however. On the third pitch of the inning, he sent a sinker down the middle of the plate to Kris Bryant, and Bryant crushed it to tie the game. Nor was Bryant’s shot a wind-aided gift. Consider: of all batted balls this year which left the bat at 105 mph and with a 23-degree launch angle, 70% of them were home runs.

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Eric Longenhagen Prospects Chat Meets the Wolfman

Eric A Longenhagen: Good morning from Scottsdale Stadium where I’m getting one last look at the Padres Fall Leaguers before I write them up as part of the SD list.

Eric A Longenhagen: Giants went live today, that’s here:

Eric A Longenhagen: Please take two questions a piece so the kids who get here late can still have some.

Eric A Longenhagen: Okay, let’s begin.

Zonk: Has Eloy Jimenez’s performance in the AFL changed your opinion of him at all? He’s been OK, but an AFL assignment was aggressive for him given age/experience, is that right?

Eric A Longenhagen: He looks great, no change of opinion. Monster raw power, probably a little tired right now.

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The Cubs’ Continuing Curveball Crisis

The story of this World Series, to this point, has been Cleveland’s dominance over Chicago’s hitters. During the regular season, the Cubs had the best offense in baseball, once you adjust for the fact that they didn’t have the advantage of the DH, and they regularly pounded their opponents with great hitters and a deep line-up. In this match-up, though, their bats have gone quiet, as they have hit just .210/.281/.311, scoring all of 10 runs in the first five games.

The easy way to explain Cleveland’s success has been to point to greatness of Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen, and note that those guys have thrown nearly half of the team’s innings in the series. And it’s certainly true that the Tribe have leveraged their best arms to maximum efficiency, making it quite difficult for the Cubs to rally against inferior pitchers. But there’s more to this story than simply Terry Francona’s bullpen usage; the team is taking apart with the Cubs offense with a systematic plan to pound them with breaking balls.

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Prospect Reports: San Francisco Giants

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the San Francisco Giants farm system. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from my own observations. The KATOH statistical projections, probable-outcome graphs, and (further down) Mahalanobis comps have been provided by Chris Mitchell. For more information on thes 20-80 scouting scale by which all of my prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this. -Eric Longenhagen

The KATOH projection system uses minor-league data and Baseball America prospect rankings to forecast future performance in the major leagues. For each player, KATOH produces a WAR forecast for his first six years in the major leagues. There are drawbacks to scouting the stat line, so take these projections with a grain of salt. Due to their purely objective nature, the projections here can be useful in identifying prospects who might be overlooked or overrated. Due to sample-size concerns, only players with at least 200 minor-league plate appearances or batters faced last season have received projections. -Chris Mitchell

Other Lists
AL Central (CHW, CLE, DET, KC, MIN)
NL Central (CHC, CIN, PIT, MIL, StL)

Giants Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Christian Arroyo 21 AA 3B 2017 55
2 Tyler Beede 23 AA RHP 2018 50
3 Bryan Reynolds 21 A OF 2019 50
4 Ty Blach 26 MLB LHP 2016 45
5 Andrew Suarez 24 AA LHP 2018 45
6 Steven Okert 25 MLB LHP 2016 45
7 Joan Gregorio 24 AAA RHP 2017 45
8 Sandro Fabian 18 R OF 2020 45
9 Chris Stratton 26 MLB RHP 2016 45
10 Matt Krook 22 A- LHP 2019 40
11 Chris Shaw 23 AA 1B 2019 40
12 Jordan Johnson 23 A+ RHP 2019 40
13 Heath Quin 21 A+ OF 2019 40
14 Steven Duggar 22 AA OF 2017 40
15 Dan Slania 24 AA RHP 2017 40
16 C.J. Hinojosa 22 AA SS 2019 40
17 Reyes Moronta 23 A+ RHP 2019 40
18 Melvin Adon 22 A- RHP 2020 40
19 Jalen Miller 19 A 2B 2020 40
20 Garrett Williams 22 A- LHP 2019 40
21 Sam Coonrod 24 AA RHP 2018 40

55 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2013 from Hernando HS (FL)
Age 22 Height 5’11 Weight 185 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/70 40/40 30/40 40/40 45/50 60/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .224/.278/.294 at home in 2016, .315/.348/.438 on the road. Worth +11 runs at combination of shortstop and third base this year per Clay Davenport

Scouting Report
Arroyo was viewed as a bit of a reach when he was drafted because he was already very likely to move off of shortstop and quite unlikely to develop prototypical, corner-worthy power. Some scouts wanted to give him a try behind the plate because it was the only place they thought his bat would profile. While scouts were right about Arroyo’s power projection, it may prove less relevant to his future than originally anticipated because his feel to hit compensates so well for it.

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Cubs-Indians: Game Five Notes

Aroldis Chapman had never recorded more than seven outs in a game. Last night, he recorded eight. Thanks to the Cuban flamethrower’s efforts — and Joe Maddon taking a page out of the Terry Francona playbook — the Cubs stayed alive with a nail-biting 3-2 win over the the Indians. The World Series now moves to Cleveland for Game Six, on Tuesday.

August Fagerstrom wrote about the difference between Cleveland and Chicago’s bullpen yesterday. Who knows, maybe Maddon read the piece and took it to heart? Regardless of the reason, his imitative stratagem cemented a win he described earlier in the day as being “as important as oxygen.”

“We got a little taste of our own medicine,” said Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis, after the game. “Late in the year, you don’t really hold anything back. They took a page out of our own book tonight.”

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The Cubs Got Back to Being the Cubs

When a team makes it to the World Series, it’s probably best that they– hold on. Let me re-start that. When a team has one of the best regular seasons in major league history and then goes on to make it to the World Series, it’s probably best that that team continues playing in a similar fashion to the way they played up until that point. That is, if they’re interested in capitalizing on that regular season by winning the World Series. The Cubs are very interested in that proposition.

All along, of course, these Cubs have been interested, but through the first four games of this World Series, we didn’t see as much of the regular season Cubs as we expected. The world-beating Cubs. We certainly didn’t see those Cubs in Games Three and Four at Wrigley, when Cleveland pushed Chicago’s backs to the wall by outscoring them 8-3 in two games on their home turf to take a 3-1 series lead. But in Game Five’s potential Cleveland clincher, Chicago’s last home game of the year, they gave their fans one last taste of what their historical season looked like, whether that history is rewarded with a World Series victory or not.

These Cubs all year played defense. That defense, along with their pitching staff, turned balls in play into outs as well as most any team in baseball history. Saturday’s Game Four loss featured two errors, and they led to early runs. The night before, the game’s only run came on a ball that dropped feet in front of Jorge Soler and was preceded by a wild pitch that put the go-ahead run 90 feet away from home. The Cubs looked sloppy in their losses, and the Cubs haven’t looked sloppy all year.

The Cubs went back to not being sloppy in Sunday’s 3-2 win. Let’s take a trip around the diamond.

For as much that gets made about Jon Lester and holding baserunners, it’s actually pretty tough to steal off him and battery-mate David Ross. Ask Francisco Lindor, who’s learned that the hard way not once, but twice this series.

This is all just so Cubsy. You see Lester staring down a runner who’s practically standing over second base already, and he doesn’t do a dang thing about it. Except for deliver the ball home in about 1.2 seconds to David Ross, who gets it to second in a remarkable 1.7 seconds. And then there’s Javier Baez, who’s probably responsible for shaving two-tenths of a second off Ross’ already elite pop time by doing Baez things: positioning himself in front of the bag — whereas most second baseman would wait on top of it — to get the ball into his glove faster, and then letting the ball travel into his glove, as his glove travels into Lindor.

All three parties here deserve credit for their remarkable parts in this caught stealing, which was huge, by the way. Lindor represented the tying run in Jon Lester’s final inning with Cleveland’s best hitter against left-handed pitching at the plate, with formidable bats in Carlos Santana and Jose Ramirez waiting after him. Two-tenths of a second more by anyone involved — Lester in his delivery, Ross in his exchange, Baez with his positioning and application — and the tying run is scoring on a single. Instead, Napoli led off the next inning with the bases empty against a hard-throwing righty.

That’s three Cubs players who contributed defensively. Let’s keep moving around the infield.

That’s Jose Ramirez busting ass down the line on a ball that’s an infield hit more often than it’s not, runners on the corners with no outs down two more often than not, that instead turned into runner-on-third-one-out-and-this-inning-ended-up-being-scoreless because Addison Russell improvised with his arm slot and showed David Ross that he’s not the only one with an elite pop time. And with all that Russell did, we’re back to runners on the corners with no outs down two, and probably worse, if not for Rizzo’s pick, one of the little things he does consistently that make him an elite defensive first baseman even without the flashy diving plays and catches made while climbing over the tarp.

Speaking of which, let’s move on over to third.

That ball came off Brandon Guyer‘s bat at 95 mph, right down the line. That ball went right into Kris Bryant’s glove, as he dove into foul territory. That ball went right into Rizzo’s glove, as he stretched and scooped. The scoops, man. The scoops.

Hey, Jason Heyward played.

Yeah, turns out he didn’t have to climb the wall. Under normal circumstances, this could’ve been a routine catch. Not normal circumstances, though. It was another windy night in Chicago. If any right fielder knows how to read a ball off a bat, it’s Jason Heyward, and the read off this bat was one row foul, within reach. The wind brought it back three row’s lengths toward the field, and Heyward adjusted in a way that few other right fielders would.

Even Ben Zobrist was making sneaky good plays in left:

That’s the kind of play that usually doesn’t get appreciated in real time by viewers, but goes a long way within a dugout and within a clubhouse.

“Don’t understatement how important that play was that Zobrist made keeping that a single,” manager Joe Maddon said. “A lot of times that would have turned into a double. That was a great play by Zo. Eventually we kept them from scoring.”

That’s every player but the center fielder contributing something “plus” in a one-run World Series win. I’m a big fan of the term “run prevention unit,” because as much as a Gold Glove Award insinuates the pinnacle of defensive achievement as being an individual task, defense is often played on the team-level, which isn’t always apparent in the game of baseball. On Sunday night, the Cubs played team defense. Three men played crucial roles in a crucial caught stealing. A first baseman helped ensure two fantastic plays actually turn into outs. How often do you see the diving play that should’ve been out, if only? For the Cubs, the should’ve been outs become outs. The Cubs played team defense.

Hell, they even used two guys to catch a pop fly:

The return to status quo didn’t just occur in the field. It occurred at the plate. The Cubs chased, uncharacteristically, throughout the first four games of this series. During the regular season, they ran one of baseball’s lowest team chase rates. According to BaseballSavant, they offered at 31% of pitches outside the strike zone. In the first four games, that rate spiked by 30%, helping lead to their lowest four-game stretch of run production all season.

And, while Javier Baez has reminded us all that he’s still very much an incomplete package with his plate discipline in this series, Kris Bryant got back to laying off the low-and-away breaking pitch and had himself a game:


Ben Zobrist was flawless:


The Cubs chased just 28% of Cleveland’s offerings outside of the zone, getting back under their elite season total.

And then they pitched, too. Lester Lester’d, and the back-end of the bullpen shut the door with three dominant innings the way they did for much of the regular season, except this time, it was just all Aroldis Chapman. That’s the one way the Cubs didn’t look like themselves on Sunday night, but for Cubs fans, that was a deviation from the norm that was finally welcome.

The Cubs now head back to Cleveland, fresh off a reminder of why they were the best team in baseball. Are the best team in baseball. The deficit is still very real, and the Indians are still very much favorites in the series. The Cubs remain the team most likely to play the closest thing to a perfect game of baseball. And perfect isn’t even required to win two more games.

Joe Maddon Terry Francona’d Aroldis Chapman

It’s not the relievers themselves that have seemed to give the Indians a bullpen edge. I know that so many baseball fans have reduced the Indians’ playoff success to the words “Andrew” and “Miller,” but Andrew Miller might not even be the best reliever in the World Series. If you look only at this year, Aroldis Chapman was no less dominant. If you look over the last three years, Aroldis Chapman was no less dominant. Miller maybe feels somewhat fresher; Miller maybe has to try a little harder. But Chapman’s arm is amazing. It’s incredible that he’s ever blown a save.

So it’s not about how well the pitchers can pitch. It’s been about when the pitchers can pitch. The whole advantage with Miller has to do with his versatility, how he can pitch in any situation in any inning. Miller has given Terry Francona almost limitless bullpen freedom, and we’ve seen how that’s worked. With Chapman, things were a little more rigid. You might say traditional. Chapman, they said, was accustomed to his routine, and you wouldn’t want to risk a disruption.

Sunday night, the Cubs risked a disruption. Joe Maddon asked Chapman to be prepared to enter in the seventh. Chapman got warm in the seventh. Chapman came in in the seventh. No one had to relieve Aroldis Chapman. Maybe it wasn’t so much that Chapman got Francona’d — maybe it would be better to say he got Dave Roberts‘d. But for the first time in the playoffs, Chapman was pushed to the extreme, and now the Cubs know there’s something new he can do. That information could prove to be useful as the series shifts right back to Cleveland.

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The Most Fascinating Stolen Base That Didn’t Matter

The Cubs just won Game 5 of the World Series, forcing the series back to Cleveland. There were some really obvious high-drama moments from the game, and we’ll talk about them very soon. But right now, I want to talk about a stolen base that had no impact on the outcome of the game whatsoever.

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2016 World Series Game 5 Live Blog

Carson Cistulli: This has begun! This largely one-sided conversation has begun!

Carson Cistulli: And Eric Longenhagen, who’s far more likable, will arrive soon.

Eric A Longenhagen: I’m totally here.

Eric A Longenhagen: And ready to appear likable.

Miguel Sano: Over/under 12.5 outs for Bauer tonight?

Carson Cistulli: I’d guess over. Francona will likely be a bu more patient tonight, is my idle speculation.

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