Archive for August, 2017

The Angels Wanted Justin Upton for Right Now

Two things are simultaneously true about the American League wild-card race. One, none of the teams, outside of the Yankees, are particularly good. Even the Yankees have their own flaws, but the rest of the teams in the mix are even weaker. One could argue whether any of them will deserve to be playoff teams at all. Two, there will be playoff teams. There will be, probably, the Yankees and someone else. No matter what you might think about team quality, playoff positions are at stake, and a playoff spot, for any club, holds considerable value. We don’t actually know how the playoffs will ever go. The biggest thing is just making it there. Plenty of AL teams are trying to make it there.

It’s with this year’s playoff race in mind that we’ve got the following trade:

Angels get

Tigers get

The Angels are not a good baseball team, relative to other baseball teams. However, they don’t need to be good — rather, they just need to be good enough. Upton could well make them good enough, and because this trade was made official today, Upton, of course, would be eligible for the playoff roster. Upton’s contract does have another four years, but this trade is very much about today, tomorrow, and the weeks a little after that.

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Does Baseball Need to Reassess the “Right” Way to Play?

This is Ashley MacLennan’s sixth and final piece as part of her August residency at FanGraphs. Ashley is a staff writer for Bless You Boys, the SB Nation blog dedicated to the Detroit Tigers, and runs her own site at 90 Feet From Home. She can also be found on Twitter. Read the work of all our residents here.

“You gotta take care of your teammates sometimes. With me, if hitting a guy in the leg is what I have to do, then that’s what I did… I take care of my teammates and protect them.” Those were the words of Tigers relief pitcher Alex Wilson in the immediate aftermath of one of the most absurd and raucous games of baseball in recent memory.

Alex Wilson makes his contribution to last week’s contretemps between the Tigers and Yankees.

During the August 24th day game between the Tigers and Yankees, the benches cleared three times and eight people were ejected, including players, managers, and coaches. Multiple players on both teams were – intentionally or not – hit by pitches. An array of fines and suspensions followed.

It was, for lack of a better word, a disaster.

It was also an object lesson in one of baseball’s most notoriously silly and problematic unwritten rules. The unwritten rules — a subset of conventions that dictate baseball etiquette but don’t exist in any official capacity — are intended to mandate how players act on the field and to establish repercussions if those players fail to abide by the code. Grandstanding and bat flips are a no-no, as we saw when Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor sucker-punched Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista as revenge for Bautista’s famous 2015 postseason bat flip. Punishment is usually swift for someone who breaks the rules, but grudges often carry over into subsequent seasons.

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Jonathan Schoop Has Been One of the Best Second Basemen

The Orioles won again on Wednesday, continuing their surge back into the wild-card race. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Jonathan Schoop knocked a game-tying first-pitch homer against the admittedly homer-prone Ariel Miranda. Later on, in the bottom of the eighth, Schoop laced a tie-breaking first-pitch single against Marc Rzepczynski. Schoop was only one of the Orioles’ heroes, but they presumably wouldn’t have won without him.

As the Orioles have shaken off their slump, observers around the league have begun to notice. It was only weeks ago one wondered whether the team might elect to sell off Zach Britton, and more. There was even a little chatter about a trade of Manny Machado. The club now has three more wins than losses, and Machado’s drawn praise for his big second half. Dylan Bundy, too, is getting the spotlight treatment for his possible August breakout. Even Kevin Gausman has received plaudits for turning his season around. But you know who leads the 2017 Orioles in overall WAR? It’s Schoop, and it’s Schoop by the better part of a win. While Machado is still the best player on the roster, Schoop’s own progress shouldn’t be overlooked.

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FanGraphs Audio: The Pessimist’s Guide to the Future of Scouting

Episode 762
Roughly two weeks ago, the Houston Astros fired eight scouts in what GM Jeff Luhnow characterized as the first step in an effort by the club to restructure, but not reduce the size of, the organization’s scouting departments. Nevertheless, there remains some anxiety in the scouting community, according to FanGraphs’ lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. He examines their concerns and his own in this edition of the program.

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Audio after the jump. (Approximately 1 hr 13 min play time.)

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Eno Sarris Baseball Chat — 8/31/17

Eno Sarris: Weird intro, but i’m looking forward to seeing them in New York at in two weeks. See you there?

Tim: How many hits do you think you could get in 600 plate appearances Eno?

Eno Sarris: Man you saw my swing path and stats. I think zero, but the role of luck is huge. I’d just swing as hard as I could as soon as the pitcher released the ball and maybe get one.

Nick in Atl: headed across the pond soon – beer/brewery recs in London, Edinburgh & Amsterdam? Enjoying the book also.

Eno Sarris: I don’t know as much about those spots as I should. Cloudburst is doing fun stuff though.

2-D: Eno I just missed out on Pliny and had to get Blind Pig. How big is the gap?

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Chad Green on His Overpowering Repertoire

Chad Green’s 2-0 win-loss record and 2.05 ERA suggest he’s had a successful season. Those numbers only begin to tell the story. Pitching out of the New York Yankees bullpen, the 26-year-old right-hander has allowed just 27 hits in 57 innings while also recording 86 strikeouts. Doing the math, that’s 4.3 hits per nine and 13.6 strikeouts per nine. Augmenting those stellar stats is a 0.74 WHIP, which ranks as third best in baseball, behind only Craig Kimbrel (0.67) and Kenley Jansen (0.69).

Yesterday — in his 31st appearance on the season — the former Tigers prospect became the first pitcher in MLB history to record seven strikeouts while facing eight or fewer batters in a game. In December 2015, the Yankees acquired Green, along with Luis Cessa, in exchange for Justin Wilson.

Spin and velocity are among his closest friends. Green’s arsenal includes a solid slider, but his signature pitch is a four-seam fastball that zooms through the zone at an average speed of 95.5 mph. Thanks to a well above-average 2,478 spin rate, the University of Louisville product gets plenty of punch outs above the belt.


Green on the reasons behind his breakout: “Last year, I figured out what I needed to work on, and this year it’s been about consistency. Last year, I wasn’t consistent. Some days I would have a good breaking ball, and some days I wouldn’t. Some days I would have good fastball command, and some days I wouldn’t.

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Adrian Beltre Is Never Getting Older

Earlier this season, there was a disagreement between Adrian Beltre and myself about how long I was permitted to remain in the visiting clubhouse at Progressive Field. I was there waiting on one of Beltre’s teammates (now ex-Ranger Jonathan Lucroy). The rest of the modestly sized media contingent had departed and the media-relations representative was nowhere to be found. I was the last reporter remaining. Beltre asked from his locker about 20 feet away why I was still in the clubhouse. He suggested I leave.

I motioned toward the time on the wall-mounted digital clock and explained I had a few minutes remaining. I have rights as a BBWAA card holder! He disagreed. Feeling outnumbered, feeling now as something of a trespasser — and preferring to fight another day and over something more significant — I attempted to depart the clubhouse with my dignity.

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Dylan Bundy Is Looking the Part

Think about the teams in the American League wild-card race. Focus on the teams gunning for the second position. Focus further still, on their various starting rotations. They’re bad! They’re pretty much all bad. Or, if “bad” feels too cruel, we could go with “lacking.” All of them are lacking. I don’t know if the Orioles have the worst rotation in the group, but they’ve received maybe the most notice for being so thin. It’s not like it hasn’t been deserved.

Chris Tillman was supposed to be good, and his season’s been a nightmare. Ubaldo Jimenez wasn’t supposed to be nearly as good, but his season has also been terrible. Kevin Gausman has yet to make that leap people always figure he’s on the verge of making. The Orioles traded for Jeremy Hellickson when his strikeout rate was under 14%. There’s been so little, for so many months. The Orioles are in the race despite their rotation, not because of it. They’ve just been waiting for someone, anyone, to step up.

And now, Dylan Bundy is stepping up. Of the Orioles’ rotation value over the past several weeks, Bundy has accounted for almost all of it. I don’t think a pitcher can become an ace in the matter of one month. But if one could, that month would look a lot like Bundy’s August.

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Greg Bird Is Back and Might Save the Day

Hey, remember this guy?

It was Greg Bird, not Aaron Judge or Gary Sanchez, who was the talk of Yankees camp while producing eight home runs and a 1.654 OPS over 51 at-bats. It was Bird who seemed poised to build upon a promising 178-plate-appearance sample as a rookie in 2015 (.261/.343/.529 slash line and 137 wRC+) after missing all of 2016 with a labrum tear.

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Mariners Allow Cardinals to Rid Selves of Mike Leake

For anyone who hasn’t been paying attention, let me set the scene real quick. The Mariners are involved in that big giant fight for the AL’s second wild-card position. None of the teams in the picture are actually good, but all anyone will need is one more win than the rest of the pack. At that point, the playoffs will beckon, and, who knows? So that’s part of it. The other part is that the Mariners’ rotation was supposed to include James Paxton, Felix Hernandez, Drew Smyly, and Hisashi Iwakuma. Right now the rotation includes none of them. On the year, the Mariners’ rotation ranks 28th in baseball in WAR. Over the past month, they’re dead last, a few hairs below replacement. What do you do when you have a rotation that’s bad? One of the things you can do, I suppose, is acquire Mike Leake.

In part because of Luke Weaver, Leake became expendable in St. Louis. He remains under contract through 2020. Here are the details of the swap:

Mariners get

  • Mike Leake
  • $0.75 million in international bonus space
  • About $17 million in salary relief (via Ken Rosenthal)

Cardinals get

The Mariners have added yet another back-end starter. At least this one is a little different from the others.

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