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The Diamondbacks and Mariners Combine on One-for-One Swap

© Lindsey Wasson-USA TODAY Sports

Mini trade alert! Yesterday, the Seattle Mariners sent outfielder Kyle Lewis to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for outfielder/catcher Cooper Hummel. That’s the entire exchange – no other players, no cash, just a one-for-one swap. It’s not terribly exciting, but its simplicity makes it easier to break down. Shall we?

Two years ago isn’t a lot, but considering all the ruckus that has occurred between then and now – and I’ll spare you the loathsome, often non-baseball-related details – it might as well be forever. That’s also when Lewis won American League Rookie of the Year. After a lengthy detour caused by persistent knee injuries, Lewis seemed on a sure path to becoming an integral part of an up-and-coming Mariners core. But the hardship continued into his sophomore season due to another tear to the same knee that had been bothering him for years; he played just 36 games in 2021. And if that wasn’t enough, the already battered Lewis, who began his 2022 on the injured list, was hit by a pitch a mere week after being called up in May. He recovered, but struggled immensely at the plate. Eventually, the Mariners sent him back down to Triple-A Tacoma, where he wrapped up a grueling season.

Laid in front of us are four fragmented seasons, including a cup of coffee in 2019, from which to evaluate Lewis. The truth is, it’s a tricky task. When samples are small and distant from one another, distinguishing the effects of injury from random variance and a possible decline in skill is about as productive as imagining “what could have been.” But from a projection system’s perspective, a short resume actually paints Lewis in a positive light. Steamer, for example, forecasts a .240/.323/.426 slashline and a 110 wRC+ for 2023, likely because of his recent minor league output and the fact that most of his major league experience comes from an award-winning rookie season. The ceiling of an everyday center fielder still exists, and a 116 wRC+ in Triple-A last season that wasn’t BABIP-driven is reason for optimism. Read the rest of this entry »

The Houston Astros Are World Series Champions

© Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s start in the middle. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Yordan Alvarez hit a ball far. How far? Over-the-batter’s-eye far:

The titanic blast — 450 feet, 112.5 mph off the bat — put the Astros up 3–1 in Game 6 of the World Series, a lead they never relinquished. Houston now has its second championship in franchise history. It’s a title made possible by so many contributors, both old and new, strong individually and unstoppable as a collective. From the beginning of the postseason, many called this Astros team flawless. It had no apparent weakness. In simulations, it would steamroll its opponents, and that’s more or less what happened. Sometimes, dominance takes the form of an extended rally. Sometimes, it channels into a single swing.

José Alvarado routinely touches triple digits and throws a nightmare cutter. For the fourth time this series, he was asked to face Alvarez. In hindsight, letting Zack Wheeler stay in the game might have yielded a better outcome. Alvarado had been erratic his last few outings, and Wheeler didn’t look fatigued, at least to the naked eye. But Phillies manager Rob Thompson had been aggressive throughout the postseason, and to great success. He stuck to his plan. The move backfired not because Thompson made an unacceptable mistake, but because Alvarez, and by extension the Astros, were simply better. In sports, a “choke” usually refers to self-inflicted asphyxiation. Not here. The Phillies fell victim to their opponents, not themselves.

But before Minute Maid Park fell into pandemonium, it was in a stasis. Hope existed for Phillies fans – Wheeler looked liked himself again, his velocity having rebounded. His sinkers, perfectly commanded, ran into Astros hitters and broke bat after bat. But his teammates couldn’t capitalize on the parade of zeroes. For Framber Valdez stood on the mound for Houston, a towering figure the Phillies failed to fully comprehend. If not for a Kyle Schwarber solo homer in the sixth, they would have mustered no runs and just one additional hit. Valdez didn’t bring his A-game – he threw his fair share of uncompetitive pitches, with a few down the pipe – but a competent version of the lefty sufficed. When the game turned in Houston’s favor, it was Valdez who led the cheering brigade.

With a one-run lead, Wheeler started off against a meek opponent: Martín Maldonado. But the Silver Slugger candidate had one trick up his sleeve. In the postseason, the veteran backstop has a history of crowding the plate. Maldonado presumably knew Wheeler would try to attack inside. And when that happened, his preparation paid off – a sinker hit Maldonado on his elbow, right where it’s protected by a pad. Call it disingenuous, call it devious, but it was deemed a legal hit-by-pitch. The Phillies challenged to no avail. The call on the field stood, and Houston had a baserunner to lead off the inning.

Replacing an All-Star shortstop with a rookie shouldn’t be possible, but this season, the Astros did just that. If you’ll recall, Jeremy Peña hit a go-ahead home run in the 18th inning of ALDS Game 3, a three-run home run in ALCS Game 4, and was hitting over .400 in the World Series. He has the poise of someone who not only frequents the rodeo but calls it home. Upon seeing a fastball, Peña promptly lined it up the middle. Runners stood at the corners. Thompson got up to relieve his ace, then hailed for Alvarado.

It’s almost comical that the Astros received Alvarez in a throwaway trade. The tweet announcing its existence now lives in infamy, visited by taunting fans as part of a pilgrimage. It’s also impressive how the organization nurtured him into the power-hitting threat he is now. Alvarez had been ice cold up to this point, making it easy to forget that he slashed .306/.406/.613 in the regular season. But in a series-defining moment, he reminded us of his status as one of the best hitters in the game. In one fell swoop, Alvarez came through.

The Astros weren’t done yet. They took advantage of a distraught Alvarado, who walked Alex Bregman, then allowed him to advance to second on a wild pitch. Kyle Tucker struck out swinging for the second out, and in came Seranthony Domínguez. But you know it isn’t your day when Christian Vázquez of all hitters notches an RBI single. Any insurance is good insurance – being up three runs rather than two feels enormous, especially in Game 6 of the World Series. The Phillies couldn’t bridge that chasm, and they went out with a whimper, not a bang.

Innings seven, eight, and nine were examples of the gap between the Astros and Phillies. Granted, it’s one thing to protect a three-run lead and another to chase a three-run deficit. But consider that behind the one-two punch of Alvarado-Domínguez, the Phillies had Zach Eflin, David Robertson, and if necessary, maybe Andrew Bellatti. The Astros went with Héctor Neris and Bryan Abreu, who aren’t even their best relievers, in the seventh and eighth, then used Ryan Pressly to shut the door. Philadelphia received attention this year for constructing a lineup that prioritized offense over defense. Houston ran out a squad that hit for a similar amount of thump without sacrificing contact or run prevention. Fittingly, the Gold Glove-winning Tucker (whose 129 wRC+ this season would have been second-best on the Phillies) made a mad dash towards foul territory to secure the final out:

This is no criticism of the Phillies, who weren’t supposed to make it all the way here. As the sixth seed in the National League, they had to topple the division-winning Cardinals, the red-hot Braves, and the like-minded Padres just to have a chance at World Series glory. Each confrontation contained a comeback, rally, or moment that seemed to defy all odds. The Phillies marched to the beat of their own drum against the Astros, too – upending a 5–0 deficit in Game 1, slamming five home runs off Lance McCullers Jr. in Game 3, relying on Nick Castellanos, defensive wizard. In the end, those bursts of magic couldn’t stave off the Astros. But a deep postseason run is a good starting point for the Phillies, and with additions this offseason, they could find themselves in another championship chase.

As the Astros spilled out onto the field, much of the attention shifted to Dusty Baker. The 73-year-old legend has enjoyed a lengthy managerial career consisting of 25 seasons, 3,884 regular-season games, and three World Series appearances. But this marked the first time he’d won it all as manager, providing an exclamation point to his Cooperstown resume. Baker seldom strayed from his toothpick-savoring, at-times stubborn ways. He arguably left pitchers in too long on multiple occasions, missing opportune moments to extinguish the Phillies’ flames. Nonetheless, the Astros prevailed. Perhaps they would have even without Baker, but to disregard any element of these Astros is to disregard them as a whole.

Not long ago, organizational turmoil threatened to close the door on the Astros. In the wake of the sign-stealing scandal, much of Houston’s front office turned over, as did the big-league roster. For some, it’s difficult to disassociate these two eras of Astros baseball from each other – the old one led by the ruthless Jeff Luhnow, and the latest one piloted by James Click, who oversaw the growth of players like Cristian Javier and the aforementioned Peña and Valdez, all of whom played an integral role in Houston’s triumph. A clean victory doesn’t wash away what happened in the past, but that doesn’t mean we should discredit the new regime, either. The 106 games and championship won by the Astros this year are a testament to what an organization can accomplish when every part of it is in sync.

Meanwhile, the Phillies and their fans will head home, wondering what could have been. What if Edmundo Sosa’s fly ball in the second inning had landed 15 feet to the left, resulting in a three-run home run? What if Wheeler had stayed in to pitch and retired Alvarez? What if Schwarber had swung away in the eighth, instead of awkwardly bunting against the shift? It’s natural that these questions linger. But time has passed, rendering those questions unanswerable. The Phillies will have gone to sleep, and they will have woken up, the sunlight of a new day upon them. It’s a day without baseball, a day with little reason to celebrate. Gradually, however, the ice will thaw. The sound of the bat will ring through batting cages, and balls will find themselves nestled in gloves, just where they belong. And the Phillies will gather once more, armed with the knowledge that it’s the heartbreaks that define and motivate us.

San Diego Topples Los Angeles With Small-Ball Heroics in NLDS Clincher

Jake Cronenworth
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

It had been leading up to this all day. After the Phillies routed the heavily favored Braves, after the Astros clinched their ALCS ticket with a go-ahead home run by Jeremy Peña in the 18th inning, and after Oscar Gonzalez walked up to the SpongeBob SquarePants theme and walked off the Yankees, of course it was the Padres who authored the closing spectacle. Down 3–0 in the seventh of Game 4, they rallied for five runs and are headed to the NLCS, their first in 24 years.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, have been saddled with one of their most humiliating losses in recent memory. A juggernaut in the regular season, none of their 111-win momentum carried over into this elimination game, or the entire series for that matter. For those who enjoy it, Los Angeles’ rapid implosion is a refreshing splash of schadenfreude; the 116-win 2001 Mariners at least made it past the Division Series, but the 2022 Dodgers will live in infamy for having won one measly playoff game.

Their collapse is made all the more heartbreaking by the auspicious start that preceded it. Watching the Dodgers had been an excruciating experience this series, punctuated by brief moments of hope to be deflated soon after. They were 0-for-their-last-20 with runners in scoring position, if that makes sense. But finally, Los Angeles broke through in the third inning. Mookie Betts drew a lead-off walk, Trea Turner doubled, and so did Freddie Freeman to drive in two runs:

For the first time in what felt like an interminable while, the top of the Dodgers’ order resembled the well-oiled, run-producing machine that flattened its opponents. Before it could kick into overdrive, however, Joe Musgrove settled down, getting the two additional outs needed to shut the door.

Speaking of Musgrove, he featured his four-seam fastball 44% of the time, which, considering his regular-season rate of 24%, was uncharacteristic. But it also made perfect sense. The one misconception about the Dodgers, likely popularized by this graphic, is that they are a superb fastball-hitting team. Rather, they are a superb fastball-taking team; their chase-averse tendencies are responsible for a collectively high run value. When attempting to make contact, though, the Dodgers have been objectively terrible. The optimal strategy against them, then, is to throw fastballs for strikes. That’s basically what Musgrove did, even though he sometimes strayed too far to his glove side:

As a result, Musgrove largely cruised through the game. The only other moment of danger he encountered came in the sixth, when fatigue seemed to set in, resulting in a walk followed by a single. But as the internet loves to proclaim, Musgrove got that dog in him. He struck out Chris Taylor looking for the second out, then Gavin Lux swinging on a perfectly-located high fastball for the third. Read the rest of this entry »

The Mariners Honor Team Tradition, Mounting Late-Game Rally to Board ALDS Train

© John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The history of the Seattle Mariners, as famously documented by Jon Bois and crew, is rife with bizarre, inexplicable, and downright hilarious episodes. But the most memorable of all, the one representative of the team’s scrappiness and tenacity, has to be The Double, Edgar Martinez’s famous hit in the bottom of the 11th that sent the Mariners to their first ever Championship Series in 1995, capitalized, given a Wikipedia article, and revered ever since.

The point is, the Mariners are no strangers to comebacks. They’ve been underdogs their entire existence; to them, surprise victories might as well be regular ones. A pinch-hit, walk-off home run from Cal Raleigh to clinch the team’s first playoff berth in two decades? Thrilling, yes, but just another day in the office. That pitted them against the Blue Jays, who before the series began were deemed favorites. But manager Scott Servais knew. “Expect the expected,” he said in an interview last Thursday, stressing the importance of preparation in an unfavorable situation.

At one point in Game 2, the Mariners were down 8–1. For the do-or-die Blue Jays, everything had gone according to plan; it looked like they would live to fight another day. Then the spirit of the Mariners awoke from its slumber. Ten combined runs later, the dust had settled. The final score: Seattle 10, Toronto 9. In the heat of the postseason, the Mariners authored another scorching come-from-behind win, with the Blue Jays their latest victim.

How innocuously it all began. With Kevin Gausman on the mound for the Blue Jays and Robbie Ray for the Mariners, we first got to enjoy some quality pitching. In the top of the first, Gausman struck out two batters and allowed only Raleigh to reach base on a walk (so did Ty France, but on a fielding error from Santiago Espinal). Moments later, Ray nabbed two swinging strikeouts and a groundout. So far, so peaceful. But in the bottom of the second, the game’s first cracks appeared, as Ray began leaking his pitches over the plate. Alejandro Kirk doubled, then Teoscar Hernández blasted a baseball to deep left field:

Ray managed to escape the inning without further harm, but that proved to be a mere respite. When he got back to work, Espinal led off with a double, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. drove him in with a single to center. And when Hernández hit another homer, this time to lead off the fourth, the Mariners had had enough. Matt Brash replaced Ray, who stopped just short of being outed as a double agent, and put out the fire.

But wait – it got even worse for the Mariners. It was Paul Sewald who was tasked with the fifth inning and beyond, which is odd considering they were down by four runs, but understandable when you realize their starter went just three innings. What happened next can only be described as ugly, bad, no-good baseball. This wasn’t a battle between Sewald and the Blue Jays. This was a battle between Sewald the Idea and Sewald the Man. The former is a lights-out reliever in perfect command of an advanced fastball and slider, concocted by Mariners pitching analysts in a lab buried in the depths of T-Mobile Park; the latter is a mere mortal who occasionally appears and has no idea where his pitches are going.

You can guess which version of Sewald the Mariners received on Saturday. The Blue Jays scored their fifth run on a passed ball with the bases loaded, then their sixth when Hernández bore the brunt of a hit by pitch. A sacrifice fly made it a seven run deficit for Seattle, and a double made it eight. When Diego Castillo entered the game to put Sewald out of his misery, Toronto’s chances of winning this pivotal game stood at 99.0%.

Ninety-nine percent.

But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s back up for a moment. While chaos ensued around him, Gausman was in the midst of an admirable performance. Sure, a single-double-sac fly sequence allowed one Mariner run to score, but he entered the sixth with seven strikeouts and a manageable pitch count. How did things go south from there? I’m glad you asked:

The honorary Frenchman hit a single, which under normal circumstances wouldn’t sound alarm bells. But it’s Gausman who’s on the mound, and he’s spent this season as the unluckiest pitcher around. To wit, his .363 BABIP allowed is the highest of any qualified starting pitcher post-integration, and that’s including the 60-game weirdness from 2020. Bloop hits and shallow line drives had driven Gausman to the ground all year long, and October was no exception. Following France’s lead, Eugenio Suárez hit his own single, as did Raleigh to load the bases with no outs. It indeed pours when it rains for Gausman, but he maintained his composure, striking out Mitch Haniger on six consecutive splitters and getting Adam Frazier to pop out.

The Blue Jays then went with Tim Mayza to face Carlos Santana, which sparked a bit of controversy. In a little over 2,000 career plate appearances facing lefties, Santana, a switch-hitter, has been notably better against them (125 wRC+) than righties (113 wRC+). Toronto must have had its reasons, but they were undone by a single swing:

Surprisingly, not much happened in the seventh. Mayza and Yimi Garcia combined to retire the side in order. A Danny Jansen single tacked on another run for Toronto, but the entire process, for once, resembled a functional baseball game. And while the Mariners had made a valiant effort, it still seemed like the Blue Jays had a clear path to victory. A four-run lead as the home team entering the top half of the eighth represents a 96.9% win probability, because teams realistically do not make up that large of a deficit in such a limited number of opportunities.

We’re now in the final chapter of this bazonkers game.

Anthony Bass is not some random reliever with a strike-throwing problem. He’s good! He had a 1.54 ERA this season. But, well, there are days when one allows consecutive hits without sporting any visible defects, and the Mariners simply made contact, tacking on a run and cutting their deficit to three. Because Bass failed to earn a single out, Jordan Romano came into the game earlier than expected, inheriting two baserunners. The Blue Jays’ closer started off by allowing another baserunner and potentially spelling disaster, but he recovered, striking out the next two batters. But the crisis wasn’t averted; it was merely delayed:

What a devastating minute for Toronto. While Bo Bichette got back to his feet, the collision resulted in George Springer exiting the game. More than allowing all three Mariners to score, though, the incident seemed to suck all the life out of the Rogers Centre. The game was tied, effectively halving the Blue Jays’ odds of survival, but they might as well have been zero. Despite Andrés Muñoz’s inability to find the zone, the top of Toronto’s somber and defeated order couldn’t muster a single run. Meanwhile, the Mariners immediately seized the moment: Raleigh doubled off Romano in the top of the ninth, as did Frazier to score the go-ahead run. George Kirby took the mound in the bottom half of the inning, ending the game on a fly ball that landed, rather fittingly, in the glove of Julio Rodríguez. Thus concluded one of the greatest comebacks in postseason baseball history. Chart, please:

The Double is the defining moment of Mariners history, but it might not have happened if not for a less-heralded yet equally enthralling rally. In Game 4 of the 1995 ALDS, the Mariners mounted a five-run comeback against the Yankees to force that decisive fifth game. For years, it stood as the largest postseason comeback win in franchise history – that is, until last night’s game. But in the context of a team on the ropes for half a century, it feels more like a progression of sorts than an upset. And it calls into question the definition of a comeback: Does it count as one if this is precisely how the Mariners grab onto success, however fleeting it may be?

In the days to follow, the emphasis could fall on the word “fleeting.” The Mariners will have to replicate their magic against the Astros, an even scarier squad than the Blue Jays, over the course a five-game series. They will enter the ring as not just the underdog, but to some, a mere stepping stone for a clearly superior team. As much as logic says to bet on Houston, however, we can’t count out the Mariners just yet. Not after their tumultuous history. Not after their multiple come-from-behind wins. And most of all, not after this game, in which they seemed inevitable.

How Adam Ottavino Turned His Career Around

© Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

When the Mets signed Adam Ottavino to a one-year, $4 million deal this past offseason, you could imagine how the move might work out for them – or not. To an optimist, Ottavino seemed like a low-risk gamble with prominent upside. To a pessimist, he seemed more like an aging pitcher in decline, especially after a mediocre stint in Boston. But you’d be lying if you said you predicted Ottavino would put up the second-lowest ERA (2.13) and FIP (3.07) of his career at age 36. You could describe the Mets as having caught lightning in a bottle, but that would be an affront to the effort Ottavino has put into sharpening his game, a feat not many players his age manage.

Let’s start with what hasn’t changed. Ottavino’s signature pitch, a flying saucer of a slider that abducts the souls of hitters, is still moving like it used to. There haven’t been any improvements made to it, because stuff-wise, it’s a near-perfect pitch, with Ottavino having pushed the envelope years ago. His two fastballs – a four-seamer and sinker – also haven’t regressed in terms of movement, and though the velocities on both are down, Ottavino’s success has never really been tied with how hard he throws. What matters is that he’s maintained enough velocity: At 94.9 mph, Ottavino’s four-seam fastball is a smidge above league average. In sum, his late-career turnaround hasn’t been because of an uptick in raw stuff. The major ingredients for an outstanding Ottavino outing remain the same.

How about pitch mix? I’m afraid you won’t find a satisfying answer here, either. Compared to last season, Ottavino is throwing his sinker more, and his slider and four-seamer less, but none of those alterations have been dramatic. They certainly could be contributing to Ottavino’s resurgence, but they don’t seem like the sole reason. This season, Ottavino has reintroduced his changeup, presumably to give him a backup plan against left-handed hitters. But given a usage rate of 7%, it’s not as if he’s been relying on the slow ball. And regardless, lefties are faring well against Ottavino, just like they always have. It would make for an appealing narrative, but in truth, the changeup hasn’t been much of a difference-maker. Read the rest of this entry »

Craig Kimbrel Is Multiple Dilemmas in One Pitcher

Craig Kimbrel
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday against the Brewers, Craig Kimbrel achieved a feat that had eluded him for months: converting a save opportunity with a one-run lead. But in true Kimbrel fashion, he did so on a tightrope. The Dodgers’ closer allowed a hit, a walk, and failed to strike out a single batter, completing what was a thoroughly underwhelming and yet nail-biting ninth inning.

Those three sentences pretty much sum up the entirety of Kimbrel’s 2022 to date. Clean outings have been few and far between, and when he does manage to put up a zero, such an effort is seldom characterized by the dominance we’ve come to associate with the All-Star closer. For now, forget what the granular numbers say. Kimbrel, as I type this out, is the owner of a 4.46 ERA in 42.1 innings, a cumulation of inefficient pitching and a tendency for batters to figure out how they’ll ambush his otherwise formidable stuff. It’s troublesome, especially for a team with playoff aspirations.

But if the Dodgers are concerned, they haven’t been keen on expressing that. The day prior to Wednesday’s scoreless outing, Kimbrel coughed up two runs en route to an extra-innings loss against the Brewers, but in a post-game interview, Dave Roberts drew the ire of fans by stating that he thought Kimbrel threw the ball well. It’s not as if the Dodgers’ skipper had the option of throwing his star reliever under the bus, but regardless, the obliviousness he displayed came off as puzzling. Objectively, Kimbrel had not thrown the ball well. What the heck did Roberts see that thousands of fans did not? Read the rest of this entry »

Presenting a Much-Needed Steven Kwan Update

Steven Kwan
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

In April, the baseball article subject of choice is often a player who has a scorching hot start to the season. We put him under scrutiny, examine his ins and outs, then ultimately shrug and say, well, maybe. Maybe it’s something! Then again, it could also be nothing. Months pass, and said player and their progress is never revisited. Instead, you’ll likely come across their remains in the dustiest corner of a box score, discovering a mere shell of a once-promising breakout candidate.

Let’s amend that. If there’s anyone who deserves a follow-up, it’s Guardians outfielder Steven Kwan, who ranked No. 57 on our 2022 Top 100 prospect list before the season and who captivated fans back in April with an endless stream of hits and a refusal to swing and miss. But a horrid May (.173/.271/.253) removed him from the community’s collective radar, consigning him to a Yermín Mercedes-like fate. Since then, however, Kwan has been outstanding: Following a productive summer, he’s brought up his slash line on the season to a respectable .295/.371/.389, for a 121 wRC+. This sport has seen countless one-month wonders; he isn’t one of them. Read the rest of this entry »

The Teams Most Affected By Their Remaining Schedules

St. Louis Cardinals
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Toward the beginning of the season, strength of schedule isn’t all that important. The divergences in it are minuscule, not enough games have been played to differentiate team strength, and so on. There are projections, yes, but that doesn’t mean the actual season is never volatile. But as spring gives way to summer, providing a more accurate overview of the season, schedule strength becomes a variable that matters. Fans love to imagine that a contender would have an easier shot at reaching the playoffs with a cushy schedule, and it’s true. What kind of team wouldn’t want an easier road ahead?

Normally, early August would be a tad late to write an article on remaining schedule strength. But due to how late the season started, we’re only now two-thirds of the way in. Also, we just recently wrapped up the trade deadline, which saw some teams bulk up and others slim down, often at the expense of each other. It’s these additions and subtractions that have shifted the playoff picture. All in all, it felt like an an appropriate time to sit down, crunch the numbers, and figure out whose schedules are forgiving, and which are less so. Read the rest of this entry »

Pitching-Needy Blue Jays Snag Mitch White in Prospect Swap With Dodgers

Mitch White
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

A lot happened on a frantic deadline day, so you wouldn’t be blamed for missing out on this trade between the Dodgers and Blue Jays that came together down the stretch. But we at FanGraphs are dedicated to covering every deadline transaction, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. This is a four-player deal, with each team involved receiving two of them. Here’s the basic breakdown:

Blue Jays get:

Dodgers get:

First, let’s break down the Jays’ return. As expected, a great scramble occurred at the deadline for the limited amount of starting pitching available. Some teams, like the Yankees and Twins, emerged as clear winners. Others, like the Phillies, had to settle for the second-best but nonetheless decent options. Then we have the Blue Jays, who ended up with White. It’s understandable if this feels like a disappointing pickup, and while it’s better than nothing at all, with the right maneuvers, they could have done much better.

At the very least, White has experience starting in the majors. Prior to the trade, he served as the Dodgers’ five-and-dive starter and put up admirable results, with a 3.47 ERA and 4.06 FIP in 46.2 innings. That’s partially because his team seldom lets him face the order for a third time, but it’s also the point: For four or five innings, White does his job on the mound and then heads back to the dugout. With José Berríos and Yusei Kikuchi still in search of consistency and Hyun Jin Ryu out for the season, White’s presence provides some respite for the Blue Jays.

Repertoire-wise, White throws up to five pitches, though only three of them are noteworthy. The four-seam fastball, his primary offering, has about league-average velocity (93–95 mph) and is characterized by poor shape. He’s weirdly gotten a ton of outs with it this season despite the lack of movement, though whether that’s due to luck remains to be seen. The slider, his secondary offering, is genuinely great, featuring two-plane break and solid velocity for a breaking ball (84–86 mph). Opposing hitters agree; when swinging at it, they’ve whiffed 33.8% of the time so far. White will sometimes remind us of his low-80s curveball, but he often lacks proper feel for the pitch. Read the rest of this entry »

Braves Make Great Bullpen Even Better With Raisel Iglesias

Raisel Iglesias
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Squeezing in once last deal before the looming deadline, the Braves acquired right-handed reliever Raisel Iglesias from the Angels in exchange for Tucker Davidson and Jesse Chavez. In doing so, they obtained one of the best bullpen arms of the past few years, filling a gap created by the departure of Will Smith (who was traded for Jake Odorizzi) and more. The Angels, meanwhile, shed a long-term contract and take on two pitchers who should keep their bullpen in a tolerable state this year and beyond.

Traded to Anaheim before the 2021 season, Iglesias hit the free-agent market that winter but quickly signed a hefty four-year, $58 million deal to return to the Angels. It made sense: If you have a lights-out closer, as he was in ’21, and see a window of contention, it’s a darn good idea to keep him around for as long as possible. And though his on-field results have been a tad disappointing — a 4.04 ERA, the third-highest mark of his career — his peripherals suggest he’s no pitcher on the decline. His 3.17 FIP is much better, and so is his 3.05 xFIP; he’s striking out fewer batters and walking slightly more, but he’s also giving up fewer home runs. And though the velocity is down a tick, the swinging-strike rate on his fastball hasn’t wavered.

I’m only human, but it’s clear that the computers also agree Iglesias is in no imminent danger of falling off a cliff. Check out his ZiPS projection for the remainder of his contract, courtesy of Dan Syzmborski:

ZiPS Projection – Raisel Iglesias
2023 9 3 2.67 58 0 57.3 43 17 6 13 85 169 1.6
2024 8 3 2.61 52 0 51.7 38 15 6 12 76 173 1.5
2025 7 3 2.66 52 0 50.7 38 15 6 12 74 169 1.4

That is… very good. So much so that, surprisingly, the Braves have agreed to take on the entirety of Iglesias’ contract. The righty reliever is owed $10 million this season, followed by $16 million annually from 2023 to ‘25, and while that’s not an insignificant sum, a reliever of his caliber is hard to come by. Outside of Edwin Díaz, the market for an A-list reliever should be thin this offseason, and what the Braves need to do as they nip at the heels of the Mets is improve at the margins. It’s not unreasonable they’re going all-in on with Iglesias. Read the rest of this entry »