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Fernando Rodney’s Next Incredible Feat

Fernando Rodney signed his first professional baseball contract before Juan Soto was born. He has been pitching in the major leagues longer than Switzerland has been a member of the United Nations. He has appeared in more games than Cy Young.

Clearly, Rodney has been around the game of baseball for a while. His first postseason appearance came on October 10, 2006. It was Game 1 of the ALCS between the Rodney-having Tigers and the not-Rodney-having Athletics. He faced eight hitters that night, including now-Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, later-to-be NLCS MVP Marco Scutaro, and good-but-never-elite Nick Swisher.

On Tuesday night, Rodney will be in uniform for his 16th different playoff series. He’ll likely pitch in a game before the World Series is over, which will add yet another interesting factoid to his legacy. If — or likely, when — Rodney appears in the 2019 Fall Classic, he will have pitched in an AL and NL Wild Card Game, plus the ALDS, NLDS, ALCS, NLCS, and World Series for both an AL and an NL team. Read the rest of this entry »

The Yankees Still Need Adam Ottavino

Last offseason, the Yankees gave Adam Ottavino a three-year, $27 million contract, a move that added yet another high octane arm to their already-loaded bullpen. And unlike some reliever contracts, it has worked out quite well thus far.

Ottavino had a solid first year in New York. His 1.90 ERA was a career-best, as was his 2.5 RA9-WAR. His 3.44 FIP (74 FIP-) and 4.32 xFIP (94 xFIP-) suggested that he was probably quite a bit worse than his ERA indicated, due to a year-over-year strikeout rate that fell from 36% to 31% and a walk rate that ballooned from 12% to 14%. So, yes, Ottavino wasn’t nearly as dominant in 2019 as he was the year before, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t useful in the Big Apple. His 1.3 WAR ranked 22nd among all relievers and second on the team.

We could dig deeper into Ottavino’s 2019 campaign if we so desired, but that’s not why he’s relevant right now. The 66 and third innings he pitched during the regular season were important, but they are not nearly as meaningful as the two and one-third innings he’s pitched so far this postseason. Ottavino has faced just 18 hitters this October, but the Yankees have already been ridiculed for “making a big mistake” in sticking with him.

Perhaps this is a fair argument; Ottavino’s October results certainly reflect the rationale behind the criticism. Of the 18 batters he has faced, seven of them have recorded hits, three more have walked, and just seven have made outs. The slash line against Ottavino is ugly: .467/.556/.800.

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The Stars Aligned for the Nationals

With their sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals, capped off by a 7-4 win last night, the Washington Nationals are bringing the World Series back to the nation’s capital for the first time since 1933.

No team gets to the World Series without their fair share of luck, and the Nationals certainly have seen things go their way so far this October. But at the end of the day, talent reigns supreme. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that the Nationals were a superior team to the Cardinals. They produced 48.3 WAR this season, more than 10 wins above the Cardinals’ aggregate of 37.9. Washington’s hitters produced a wRC+ eight points higher than St. Louis’; their pitchers produced a FIP- six points lower. The Nationals were simply better across the board. What’s arguably most exciting for fans in Washington is that their top talent has stepped up when things have mattered most.

One of my favorite statistics to follow during the postseason is Championship Win Probability added, or cWPA, housed on the website The Baseball Gauge. It’s very similar to WPA in that it calculates how each plate appearance during every game has changed each team’s odds of winning the World Series. The Ringer’s Ben Lindbergh has covered cWPA in the past, such as in this piece about players who made late-season debuts and contributed to a postseason run, or in this one when analyzing the relative “mundanity” of the 2018 World Series. As you might expect, Nationals players are dominating in cWPA this postseason. Four of the top five individual cWPA leaders don the Nationals’ red, white, and blue: Read the rest of this entry »

Jesus Luzardo Should Make A’s Fans Excited for Next October

Last Wednesday, the Athletics were eliminated from the playoffs at the hands of the Rays and the long ball in the American League Wild Card Game. Yandy Díaz homered twice, Avisaíl García and Tommy Pham each added homers of their own, and the Rays cruised to a 5-1 victory.

Despite the losing effort, it was an A’s player who impressed me the most. Jesus Luzardo, who came on to pitch the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings, had quite the postseason debut. In those three frames, he did not surrender a run, and only allowed one hit and two walks to go along with his four strikeouts. At just 22 years and two days old, Luzardo became the youngest pitcher to throw three or more shutout innings in a postseason game since Madison Bumgarner in 2010:

Youngest Pitchers With 3+ Shutout Postseason IP Since 2000
Pitcher Date Age (YY.DDD) Round IP H R BB K
Jesus Luzardo 10/2/2019 22.002 ALWC 3 1 0 2 4
Madison Bumgarner 10/31/2010 21.091 WS 8 3 0 2 6
Phil Hughes 10/7/2007 21.105 ALDS 3.2 2 0 0 4
Francisco Rodriguez 10/20/2002 20.286 WS 3 0 0 0 4
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

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The Patrick Corbin Signing Made the Difference for Washington

The Nationals would not be here today without Patrick Corbin.

In a season with many ups and downs — really, just one “down” and then one much larger “up” — Corbin was a consistent arm in the Nationals’ rotation, especially as the ace of the staff, Max Scherzer, dealt with injuries in the second half and relative (by his standards) ineffectiveness upon his return. He was not the only rock — Stephen Strasburg was also superb — but he was the new rock, the highlight of the Nationals’ offseason, their prized signing.

On December 4, the Nationals inked Corbin to a six-year, $140 million deal, the largest contract given to any starting pitcher the entire offseason. With one full season in the books, it’s clear that Corbin has come to Washington exactly as advertised. As their third ace, Corbin’s presence in the rotation helped put them over the top. A team with three of the best 13 pitchers in baseball likely won’t stay defeated for long, and the Nationals overcame a horrid 19-31 start to win 93 games and clinch the top NL Wild Card spot.

Of course, this turnaround is not solely due to Corbin’s contributions, but having him in the rotation certainly didn’t hurt. He pitched 202 innings this year to the tune of a 3.25 ERA, 3.49 FIP, and 4.8 WAR. He outpitched both Steamer’s (3.3 WAR) and ZiPS’ (3.5) preseason projections. As a result, the Nationals had the best rotation in baseball, and they hope that their top three starters will be the difference here in October: Read the rest of this entry »

Dylan Bundy Is Beating the Long Ball

The other day, while I was doing my usual perusal of the FanGraphs’ Season Stat Grid, I came across an interesting find. Orioles pitcher Dylan Bundy had seen the largest year-over-year decrease in home runs allowed per nine of any pitcher in baseball.

This was particularly interesting for a plethora of reasons, none less important than the fact that we’re currently witnessing baseball in its most homer-happy era ever. We all know this, Rob Manfred knows this, and the Orioles certainly know this, having set the record for most home runs allowed in a single season all the way back on August 22. Thus, there is a certain irony here; of all teams, the Orioles currently employ the pitcher who has witnessed the largest year-over-year decrease in home runs per nine.

Bundy’s career has followed an interesting arc. He was the fourth pick of the 2011 draft, with a four-seam fastball that touched 100 mph. He made his major league debut the following year, becoming the first Oriole to debut before his 20th birthday since Mike Adamson in 1967. Bundy only pitched 1.2 scoreless innings, all out of relief, but the excitement in Baltimore for their top pitching prospect was understandably palpable.

Tommy John surgery ended Bundy’s 2013 before it began, and in the process of rehab, he had to be shut down indefinitely due to shoulder issues. Long story short, Bundy didn’t return to the majors until 2016, making his season debut on April 7, a grand total of 1,290 days after his last major league outing.

Bundy is now concluding his third full season in Baltimore’s rotation, and though 2019 did not produce his best results, he certainly wasn’t bad. Over 161.2 innings, Bundy posted a 4.79 ERA, a 4.74 FIP, and 2.5 WAR. But, as noted above, he also posted the largest year-over-year decrease in home runs per nine. Here are the leaders in that statistic: Read the rest of this entry »

Seth Lugo’s Three-Headed Monster

As a FanGraphs reader, Mets fan, baseball follower, or some combination of the three, you’re probably familiar with Seth Lugo. We at FanGraphs haven’t written a ton about Lugo in 2019, but he is one of baseball’s most fascinating pitchers, known for his high-spin curveball that consistently finds itself atop the Baseball Savant daily spin rate leaderboards, like this one from September 15:

Lugo’s curveball is cool, and its coolness has generated much discussion. For good measure, here’s another look:

Wil Myers had no chance. Read the rest of this entry »

The Athletics’ Shrewd July Is Paying Dividends

Another year, another Oakland surprise.

In July, I wrote about how the Athletics deserved your attention, again. After starting the season 29-28 through the end of May, the A’s got hot. The team is 62-33 since, tied with Houston for the best record in the American League in this stretch. As the team racked up wins, their playoff odds grew, increasing from 10% on June 1 to 96% today. This is a trend you like to see if you’re an A’s fan:

Oakland is still not quite a lock to make the playoffs, but with a two-game lead over the Rays for the first Wild Card spot and a two-and-a-half game lead over the Indians for a playoff spot overall, you have to like their chances.

Incredibly, the 2019 A’s are behaving almost exactly like the 2018 A’s. As I mentioned in my July piece, coming into games on June 1, both the 2019 and 2018 squads were 29-28. After a scorching 68-37 finish, the 2018 team ended their campaign with 97 wins, the exact pace the 2019 A’s are on now.

Earlier this week, I wrote about Kolby Allard being the best pitcher traded at the trade deadline by WAR. Today, though, I want to talk about the team that has added the most post-August pitching value via July trades. It’s hard to think that Oakland would be in this position today without the contributions of three July additions.

For most of this season, the A’s needed pitching help, even despite generally positive results from the group of arms they rostered on Opening Day. Frankie Montas was suspended 80 games after testing positive for a PED in June, Sean Manaea spent the majority of the year on the Injured List recovering from shoulder surgery, and top pitching prospects Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk weren’t promoted to the majors until fairly recently. (They’re both in bullpen roles, partially out of necessity and partially because the rotation upgrades have been solid.) As a result, the A’s made three trades for pitchers in July: a deal with the Royals for Homer Bailey, another, separate deal with KC for Jake Diekman, and a deal with the Reds for Tanner Roark. Read the rest of this entry »

Kolby Allard Has Been Quite the Find for the Rangers

In the final moments of the 2019 trade deadline, the Astros shocked the baseball world with their trade for Zack Greinke. As Dan Szymborski put it at the time, “In a league in which money and prospects are meekly handed out when a team has an opportunity to strike a critical blow, Houston keeps demonstrating why they’re one of the best, most focused organizations in baseball today.”

Since the trade, Greinke has been good. He’s pitched 49.1 innings for Houston thus far, posting a solid 3.10 ERA, 3.50 FIP, and 1.2 WAR. His strikeout numbers have dipped (24.0% to 19.5%) since moving from the Diamondbacks to the Astros, but even with this dropoff in performance, it’s hard to say that he hasn’t been worth the cost so far. With that said, of course, the Astros didn’t acquire Greinke to help them get to the playoffs; they acquired him to get through the playoffs. The evaluation of that trade — along with many others made at the deadline — is far from complete.

While Greinke has been solid since the trade, he hasn’t been the best pitcher of those moved in July. That distinction belongs to Kolby Allard, even if it is by a razor-thin margin:

WAR Since Aug. 1, Pitchers Traded in July
Rank Player Name Team WAR
1 Kolby Allard Rangers 1.3
2 Zack Greinke Astros 1.2
3 Zac Gallen Diamondbacks 1.1
4 Homer Bailey Athletics 1.0
5 Nick Anderson Rays 0.9
6 Jason Vargas Phillies 0.6
7 Mark Melancon Braves 0.6
8 Jordan Lyles Brewers 0.5
9 Sergio Romo Twins 0.5
10 Chris Martin Braves 0.4
Stats through games played on September 14.

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Carlos Santana Is Having a Career Year

On September 19, 2018, Carlos Santana was in the Phillies’ lineup, playing third base. It was an experiment that sparked speculation about his role in Philadelphia going forward. After all, he had just signed a three-year, $60 million contract. But after Rhys Hoskins had one of the worst defensive seasons by a left fielder this decade, it was clear that Santana’s usage would need to be adjusted. Having him play first — thus relegating Hoskins to the outfield — would not work long term, especially for a team trying to contend.

Santana’s brief stay in Philadelphia was mixed. He drew walks in 16.2% of his plate appearances, hit for power at about his then-career-average, and was about average defensively. With that information, you’d probably think that Santana had a good year, but reality was different. He was BABIP’d to death; no qualified hitter in 2018 posted a lower BABIP than Santana’s .231. His slash sat at .229/.352/.414 with a 108 wRC+, a decent-yet-unspectacular season. He also made headlines this past March when it was reported that, near the end of the 2018 season, he had smashed a clubhouse TV after witnessing his now-former teammates playing Fortnite during games.

The Phillies went on to have a memorable offseason, to say the least. They signed Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson. They traded for J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura. Once all of the dust settled, Carlos Santana was no longer wearing red and white pinstripes. The seemingly tumultuous relationship lasted one season. Santana was back in Cleveland, the same place where he had spent the first eight seasons of his major league career. Read the rest of this entry »