Author Archive

Roberto Hernandez: New Name, New Team, New Pitcher?

Not long ago, Roberto Hernandez was considered to be an up-and-coming starter for the Cleveland Indians. He was also known as Fausto Carmona. But regardless of what it said across his back, his 3.06 ERA (3.94 FIP), 1.21 WHIP, and his 64% ground ball rate produced 19 wins for the Indians in 2007, and his value was almost four wins above replacement level. He even garnered votes for the American League Cy Young award, finishing fourth overall.

Hernandez battled injuries and serious control problems the following two seasons, put together a solid 2010 campaign, then the wheels kind of fell off. And the axle broke.

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Chris Young Is Not A Minor League Pitcher

A victim of what amounts to one of the deeper stables of starting pitching, Chris Young opted out of his contract with the Washington Nationals with the hopes that he could find a major league role in another city. The Nationals could ostensibly retain Young’s services should he fail in that pursuit, but it’s plausible that there will be several organizations interested.

Young, 33, is not so young anymore. The hulking 6-foot-10 right hander has had two shoulder surgeries in the last four seasons, limiting his major league innings from 2009 through 2011 to just 120. His 2012 comeback was a mixed bag, as he posted a 4.50 FIP, a 16.2% strikeout rate, and the characteristic high fly ball rate, flirting with 60%. His fastball has been in steady decline since he broke into the league in 2004, averaging just 84.6 mph in 2012 and almost all reports out of Spring suggested he was sitting in the 80-82 mph range frequently.

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2013 Positional Power Rankings: Left Field

Due to an unfortunate data error, the numbers in this story did not include park factors upon publication. We have updated the data to include the park factors, and the data you see below is now correct. We apologize for the mistake.

If for some reason you have been under a rock for the past week or perhaps you’ve been closing your eyes, plugging your ears, and hollering “I can’t hear you” until the Left Field Positional Power Rankings were unveiled, be sure to acquaint yourself with the methodology of the following. The quick and dirty is that the projections are a hybrid of Steamer and ZiPS, it takes into account expected playing time and players at multiple positions.

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Finding Jon Garland

It’s safe to say there’s general acceptance that using a small sample in data sets has the potential to result in spurious correlations or unreliable conclusions. Yet every Spring, there’s a long list of reclamation projects who will no doubt be judged on a very small sample size of data. Just ask Kelvim Escobar who found himself looking for a new team after two-thirds of a Spring inning, perhaps setting a new standard for small sample size decisions. There’s just not a lot of time for pitchers to demonstrate they can rediscover their velocity, recapture their control, or that they have discovered the fountain of youth. I’m sure Jon Garland can relate.

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Kevin Millwood Tips His Cap

When I think of expectations, I think of a line an old college buddy used to say regarding just about any undertaking: “Aim low and miss.” Olympian, he was not.

But that line came back to me when I was thinking about Kevin Millwood, not because Kevin Millwood aimed low, but because I think many observers had unreasonable expectations for his career. Millwood, as you probably are aware, decided to hang it up and do the spend-more-time-with-the-family deal. And from what I’ve read about him across electronic and print pages, he “failed to meet expectations” during his 16 seasons in the majors. I’m not sure that’s entirely fair.

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Change You Can Believe In

Back in High School, my pitching coach used to sit down all of the starting pitchers (all three of us) from the varsity squad to have a chat about pitching philosophy. Coach was a former minor league pitcher who flamed out after injury and ineffectiveness, but his love of pitching was obvious, if not a little obsessive. He used to preach about a lot of things, controlling your emotions, mechanics, pacing, etc. But it was always the video I looked forward to.

He’d roll out the rickety old metal stand with a crummy 18 inch TV and antiquated betamax player. Not only had we seen it before, but we would never really understand the usefulness of the demonstration. But it was still fun to watch.

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Complete Game, Interrupted

Similar to my post earlier in the summer on what a beautifully morbid season Cliff Lee was having, I tend to have a fascination with the way baseball sometimes refuses to be fair. I blame Tom Paciorek.

When I was 5 years old, I wrote Paciorek and asked him if he had any advice about how to get to the big leagues. After checking my mail obsessively over the next four months, I got an envelope with a Seattle Mariner trident on it. I tore it open. “Tom Paciorek! Tom Paciorek! Tom Paciorek!” I hollered, sprinting through through the house, waving the letter in the air.

And what sage advice did I receive? “Kid,” Paciorek wrote, “in baseball, you’re either the hero or the goat. – Tom.”

From those few words, my passion was born.

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Examining Gio Gonzalez

Lost in the improbable and rather infatuating season from R.A. Dickey and yet another commanding performance by Clayton Kershaw sits Gio Gonzalez and his measly 5.4 WAR season.

Gonzalez went 21-8 for the Washington Nationals with a 2.89 ERA, 2.82 FIP, and 25.2% strikeout rate and yet garnered only one first place vote in the Cy Young balloting. It’s not that Gonzalez so much deserved more attention from the Baseball Writers Association, but his season might have been as surprising as Dickey’s yet few seem to be talking about it outside of the Capital.

When Gonzalez came over from Oakland for Brad Peacock, A.J. Cole, Tommy Milone, and Derek Norris, reactions were mixed. If you could boil all the sentiments down into a prognosticator sludge, the general consensus was probably that Oakland did well to get highly regarded A.J. Cole and ready to nearly-ready prospects for what was likely a middle of the rotation kind of arm. To be sure, some were much higher on Gonzalez, but there were just as many that expected him to underwhelm the senior circuit.

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The Market for Dan Haren

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have until Friday to decide what they’re going to do with Dan Haren. The team has a $15.5 million dollar option for 2013 or it can choose a $3.5 million buyout, which would make Haren a free agent. There’s no doubt there will be suitors for Haren — should he hit the free-agent market — but the question the Angels are probably trying to figure out is if there’s a market for him at $12 million.

If the Angels can find a trade partner, it’s likely they’d pick up the $15.5 million option and send $3.5 million in cash with Haren for whatever parts would be acceptable in return. This is obviously preferable than absolutely nothing for $3.5 million, and it’s not out of the question that the Angels might find a middling prospect or perhaps a useful bullpen piece. Or, another option would be to simply pay the man with the hope he can regain the form that saw him average better than 5 WAR in the past seven seasons. Given their recent dangling of Haren on the trade front seems to suggest the team thinks such a hope is foolhardy.

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Matt Cain’s Slider and Release Point

The playoff version of Matt Cain hasn’t much resembled the regular season Matt Cain.

For the fourth straight season, Cain browbeat opposing National League batters and is a very big reason why the San Francisco Giants are back in the playoffs. In fact, you could argue that 2012 was his very best performance of his eight year career.

Cain posted a career low ERA and WHIP at 2.79 and 1.04, respectively. His 22% strikeout rate was the highest of his career and his 5.8% walk rate the lowest of his career. Despite Cain continuing to be the poster boy for pitchers that confound FIP (highest NL FDP, in fact), it appeared that he had taken a measurable step forward in a number of critical areas and at least made a questionable off-season contract extension not look so bad.

But so far in the postseason, Cain has had underwhelming results. It might have a lot to do with his slider.

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