Over the next few days, we’re looking at sophomore, or second-year, players in the Major Leagues. Today’s post is looking at the American League East division. Yesterday, we looked at the American League Central.
Ian Kennedy came into the Yankees’ system with a reputation of being a pretty good college pitcher, but he was not quite as highly regarded as he had been coming out of high school (in part because he lost a little bit off the fastball). Despite some grumblings that Kennedy had been an overdraft as a first-round draft pick, the right-hander dominated the minor leagues (He has a career 1.96 ERA in the minors). There is a reason, though, that they call it the “Major Leagues” and Kennedy was hit around in 2008. He posted an 8.17 ERA and allowed 50 hits in just 39.2 innings or work. His walk rate, which was 2.8 BB/9 in the minors, jumped to 5.90 BB/9. Kennedy got off to a solid start in 2009 in four games at triple-A but he then underwent surgery for an aneurysm under his right armpit and will be out until after the All-Star break.
Like Kennedy, Joba Chamberlain was a pretty good college pitcher but he had injuries problems and other teams shied away from him. Big mistake. The Yankees took a risk and have one of the top young arms in baseball, although Chamberlain has still had a few injuries throughout his pro career. In 2008, the right-hander spent time in both the starting rotation and the bullpen. He allowed just 87 hits in 100.1 innings, while posting a 2.60 ERA (2.65 FIP). Chamberlain also posted an excellent strikeout rate at 10.58 K/9. In 2009, he has continued to pitch well, although he has not been as dominant. He has a 3.86 ERA (4.68 FIP) with 56 hits allowed in 63.1 innings of work. His walk rate has risen from 3.50 in 2008 to 4.69 BB/9 in 2009. His strikeout rate has decreased to 8.24 K/9. Chamberlain’s average fastball velocity has decreased each of the past three seasons, from 97 to 95 to 92.4 mph, although part of that can be attributed to spending more time in the starting rotation.
Both Jose Veras and Edwar Ramirez came out of almost nowhere in 2008 to provide much-needed innings for the Yankees’ bullpen. Veras, now 28, allowed 52 hits in 57.2 innings and had a strikeout rate of 9.83 K/9. However, he was just designated for assignment after posting a 5.96 ERA in 2009 and seeing his strikeout rate drop to 6.31 K/9, while also struggling with his control and gopher ball tendencies. Ramirez, also 28, had a 3.90 ERA in 2008 and posted a 3.90 BB/9 rate, as well as a strikeout rate of 10.25 K/9. In 2009, though, he’s regressed to a 5.19 ERA, and rates of 7.79 BB/9 and 8.31 K/9.
As far as first-round picks go, David Purcey has been a huge disappointment. Making his MLB debut at the age of 26, the left-hander posted a 5.54 ERA and allowed 67 hits in 65 innings of work, although he showed some improvements as the year progressed. His rates were 4.02 BB/9 and 8.03 K/9. In 2009, he won an opening-day rotation spot but made just five starts before a demotion to triple-A. In those starts, Purcey allowed a 7.01 ERA, 28 hits in 25.2 innings and posted rates of 6.31 BB/9 and 9.12 K/9.
Southpaw Jesse Carlson was a revelation in 2008 and appeared in 69 games as a rookie. He posted a 2.25 ERA (3.80 FIP) and allowed just 41 hits in 60 innings of work. In 2009, though, Carlson’s ERA has risen to 5.22 (although his FIP is just 3.80) and he’s allowed 31 hits in 29.1 innings. His control is OK (3.15 BB/9 in 2008, 2.76 in 2009) but he hasn’t had the same command of his pitches and his strikeout rate has dropped from 8.25 K/9 in 2008 to 5.83 K/9 this season.
Radhames Liz has a blistering fastball but he’s just one more hard-throwing pitcher that has no idea how to pitch (Daniel Cabrera, anyone?). Liz, 26, was promoted to the Majors in 2008 by the pitching-poor Orioles and was coming off a good half season in the minors, as well as a very good 2007 season at double-A. Liz allowed 99 hits in 84.1 innings, while also posting a 6.72 ERA. He posted rates of 5.44 BB/9 and 6.08 K/9. So far this year, Liz has a 6.09 ERA in triple-A and has a 67.50 ERA in two relief appearances in the Majors. Velocity is not everything.
Another hard thrower, Dennis Sarfate appeared in 57 games for the Orioles as a rookie in 2008. He allowed just 62 hits in 79.2 innings of work and posted rates of 7.00 BB/9 and 9.72 K/9. Sarfate, 28, appeared in just eight games in 2009 and posted an ERA of 6.39 before going on the disabled list with circulation problems in his finger. Right-hander Jim Johnson was also a major contributor to the 2008 bullpen as a rookie. He posted a 2.23 ERA (3.38 FIP) while allowing 54 hits in 68.2 innings of work. In 2009, Johnson, 25, has continued to have success with a 3.07 ERA (3.83 FIP) and 28 hits allowed in 29.1 innings. His strikeout rate has actually risen from 4.98 K/9 in 2008 to 6.14 K/9 in 2009.
A sinker-slider pitcher, Justin Masterson has bounced between the starting rotation and bullpen for the Red Sox during the past two seasons with good success in both roles. The right-hander induces a lot of groundballs and gets his fair share of strikeouts in the process. He posted a 3.16 ERA (4.69 FIP) while allowing 68 hits in 88.1 innings of work in 2008. In 2009, the 24 year old has a 3.88 ERA (3.68 FIP) with 56 hits allowed in 53.1 innings. Masterson has also seen his BABIP allowed increase from .243 in 2008 to .332 in 2009. His walk rate has decreased from 4.08 in 2008 to 3.04 BB/9 this season.
Clay Buchholz burst upon the scene in 2007 but struggled during his rookie season in 2008 by allowing 93 hits in 76 innings of work. He posted a 6.75 ERA and posted a strikeout rate of 4.86 BB/9. He’s really turned things around in triple-A this season, although there is no opening in the Red Sox Major League rotation. Buchholz has a 1.75 ERA (3.27 FIP) in triple-A with 40 hits allowed in 67 innings. His walk rate is just 2.01 BB/9.
Jed Lowrie did a nice job as an injury replacement in 2008 for the Red Sox. He had a triple-slash line of .258/.339/.400 with two homers in 260 at-bats. His strikeout rate of 26.2 K% was a little high for an infielder with modest pop, but he filled in at three positions and provided solid defense. After just five games in 2009 Lowrie required wrist surgery. He’s currently rehabbing.
It was hard for Jacoby Ellsbury to build off his debut in 2007, but he had a solid – albeit unspectacular – first full season in Majors in 2008. He hit .280/.336/.394 with 50 stolen bases in 61 attempts. Ellsbury’s triple-slash line in 2009 is .306/.351/.383 and he’s stolen 25 bases in 31 attempts. He’s also trimmed his strikeout rate from 14.4 to 8.9 K/9, while maintaining almost the same walk rate at 6.1 BB%. Ellsbury is proving to be a very solid player, but he’s probably not a star.
Evan Longoria had a huge 2008 season and won the American League Rookie of the Year award. He produced a triple-slash line of .272/.343/.531 and hit 27 home runs. So far this year, Longoria has been even better with a line of .305/.387/.584 with 14 home runs and 58 RBI. His walk rate has increased from 9.3 in 2008 to 11.4 BB% in 2009. His strikeout rate has stayed almost the same at 26.5 K%. Longoria also plays a solid third base. He should be a mainstay in the Rays lineup for many years to come.
Matt Joyce spent the 2008 season with Detroit and hit .252/.339/.510 with 12 homers in 242 at-bats. Traded to Tampa Bay for Edwin Jackson prior to the 2009 season, Joyce, 24, has regressed and has spent most of the season in triple-A. Jackson, though, has had a breakout season for Detroit.
Help me -> help everyone -> help you.
The AL West continues to get more interesting. Capitalizing on a winter of depressed salaries, the A’s today signed shortstop Orlando Cabrera to a one year, $4 million deal – according to our dollar values here on FanGraphs, Cabrera has been worth an average of $13.5 million over the last four years, and hasn’t been worth less than $10 million in any season since 2004. In any other market environment, Cabrera would have received a significantly larger contract, but the combination of an imploding economy and his Type A free agent status drove down the suitors, so Cabrera had to settle for the best offer from the only team that expressed serious interest.
That suitor, of course, was an A’s team that has clearly shifted it’s focus towards trying to steal the AL West in 2009. With the Angels likely to take a significant step backwards in terms of wins, the winner of the AL West could finish with less than 90 wins. CHONE has the Angels as the best team in the division, but only projected to finish 85-77. The A’s, before signing Cabrera, were projected at 81-81, clearly within striking distance of a playoff berth.
So, how much ground do the A’s make up on the Angels with this move? Cabrera’s playing time will come at the expense of Bobby Crosby, so we simply need to take a look at their respective projected performances to see how much of a boost Oakland should expect.
We’ll start with Cabrera. CHONE is down on his offense, as 34 year old middle infielders don’t age particularly well. He’s projected for a park adjusted -13 runs offensively over a full season, slightly worse than the -11 he posted last year.
However, the A’s are acquiring Cabrera for his glove, not his bat – his UZR of +16.4 last year was the best in baseball among shortstops. Of course, it was also a significant leap over his prior two years performance, and we’ve consistently cautioned against using a single year’s worth of defensive data to project future performance. Over his career, UZR has Cabrera at +7.2 runs per full season, and he’s +7.9 over the last three years. A more accurate assumption about his defense going forward is that he’s above average to good, but not likely to be +16 again.
If we project Cabrera as +5 defensively at shortstop to go along with his -13 offensively, add in the +7.5 run position adjustment, and the +20 run replacement level adjustment, it adds up to +19.5 runs above replacement. Basically, that makes Cabrera a league average shortstop. If you think we’re underselling his defense, you can add half a win, but the A’s should expect Cabrera to be something like +1.5 to +2.5 wins above a replacement level shortstop in 2009.
However, while Crosby has struggled the last few years, he’s still been slightly better than replacement level. He hasn’t hit, but he’s played average defense for an SS, and his combination of -19 offense, +0 defense, +7.5 position adjustment, and +20 replacement level adjustment adds up to +8.5 runs above replacement over a full season, or a little less than one win.
In total, Cabrera should be about a +1 win upgrade over Crosby at shortstop for the A’s. Given their new roster, you can bump the A’s up to 82 or 83 projected wins, but they’re still a couple of games behind the Angels.
Is that win worth $4 million and a second round draft pick? Probably. The marginal value of wins rises significantly as a team gets close to playoff contention – the revenues generated from playing in October are significant to every organization. The A’s still aren’t the favorites in the AL West, but they’re not that far behind the Angels, and this move gives them one more weapon to try to bring down the Angels.
For $4 million and a second round pick, it’s a gamble worth taking.
Every week or so I like to take a look at how Tangotiger’s Great Clutch Project is shaping up. For those of you unfamiliar with the project, the gist of it is to find out if fans know which players on their team are “clutch”. You can read all the details over at the Hardball Times and find the daily updated results right here on FanGraphs.
In any case, earlier in the season Tangotiger’s team had a sizable lead over the fans’ choices and it looked like the fans might be in for a rough season. By April 15th, Tangotiger was ahead in every category and was up by nearly 4 wins in WPA and over .200 points in OPS.
One month later on May 15th, the fans’ team had closed the gap considerably and had the lead in some categories including OPS, but still trailed Tangotiger’s team in WPA by .8 wins.
As of yesterday, June 4th, the fans lead in every single major statistic with the exception of home runs, runs batted in, and walks. The fans’ lead in WPA is currently over 2 wins. Here’s what the race has looked like so far:
There’s still a ton of baseball left to be played and the competition is far from over, but after a dubious start, the fans’ team is more than holding its own.
Chase Utley was hit by three pitches in today’s game to tie a Major League record. Oliver Perez hit him twice and then Scott Schoeneweis decided that twice wasn’t enough and hit him again! Utley was actually hit a fourth time if you count Carlos Delgado’s errant throw which nailed him right in the back.
The last player to get hit three times was Nomar Garciappara on July 3rd, 2006.
Johnny Cueto made his second big league start and struck out 8 with no walks in 6.1 innings of work. He gave up 5 hits and 1 home run in what turned out to be a no-decision instead of a loss thanks to….
Eric Gagne! The 2003 Cy Young award winner blew his second save of the season by giving up a solo shot to Corey Patterson. Gagne has now allowed 2 home runs in 3 innings of work. His fastball velocity appears to be at 88.5mph, which is down 4 from last year’s 92.3mph. It may be is just a sample size issue and considering the Brewers other options, I think it’d be wise to give Gagne a bit of breathing room.
Mark Reynolds hit his MLB leading 5th home run tonight and he’s making a strong case for his Reynolds being Reynolds approach at the plate. Apparently his hitting coach believes he’s been chasing pitches outside the strike zone considerably less. His hitting coach is indeed correct since the data shows that he’s cut down on swinging at pitches outside the strike zone by 6%.
In some site related news, FanGraphs has updated it’s leverage index (LI) tables to Tangotiger’s latest and greatest. You may see some very (very, very) slight changes in LI related stats.
The Great Clutch Project tracker page has been updated and now includes BABIP. Also, the wildcard players now have gray backgrounds so you differentiate between them.
With the Reds down by 2 runs in the bottom of the 9th, Edwin Encarnacion hit a walk-off, three-run home run. It was not only the most important hit so far this year according to WPA, but also the biggest hit of Encarnacion’s career by a long shot. His previous single most important hit was a bases clearing double all the way back in September of 2005 worth .45 wins. Tonight’s home run was worth .62 wins.
Found the video: Hat tip to Brock For Broglio
A friend of mine’s — co-worker’s — friend’s — son is Micah Owings. This was a shocking revelation to me. I’m only 4 degrees of separation from THE Micah Owings who made his big-league debut yesterday. More importantly, he picked up the win, throwing 5 innings of 1 hit ball while striking out 6 and walking 3. That’s a pretty good start for the rookie who pitched against the Nationals; possibly the worst team in recent history.
It’s only his first start, but his control was definitely off since he hit 2 batters, and threw 1 wild pitch. The 3 walks weren’t so wonderful either. He hasn’t exactly been a control master in the minors either, walking 34 batters in 88 innings (BB/9 of 3.60) in AAA. It’ll be interesting to see how he pitches next time against Cincinnati.
– The great Albert Pujols has just 1 hit in 13 at-bats this season. He’s still walking a healthy 19% of the time, so there’s still 43 Major League regulars who have a worse OBP than he does at this point in the season. Don’t fret Cardinals fans, Pujols went 1-13 between July 4th and July 7th just last season. After that, he went on an 11 game hitting streak where he went 20-46 with 4 home runs. If anyone in any of my fantasy leagues would like to jump ship on Pujols at this time, please let me know.
– Speaking of Pujols, Miguel Cabrera (or as I call him: Pujols-lite) has been on an absolute tear to start the season. He already has 6.98 Batting Runs Above Average (BRAA) which just happens to be tops in the majors by more than half-a-run. He’s on pace to have 282 BRAA, which I’m sure would easily be the best season ever. At this rate, I’ll have to start calling Pujols, Cabera-lite.
– The other day in Daisuke Matsuzaka major league debut, he struck out 10 in 7 innings of work. He also gave up 6 hits, 1 solo-shot and only walked 1. This is just the obligatory mention, since you can read about this nearly anywhere else.
– Oliver Perez struck out 6 in 7 innings against the Braves. More importantly, he walked zero. This is definitely a guy to keep an extremely close eye on. He was lights out in 2004 so there’s no question that he has the ability to be a dominant pitcher, the only question is can he do it consistently. He’s off to an excellent start following his solid spring. Between Perez and John Maine, there could potentially be much less doom and gloom surrounding the Mets rotation.
– After being banished to the minors last season in favor of Brandon Watson, Ryan Church is showing why he should have always been on the Nationals roster. He’s batting just under .300 with 2 home runs and an OPS of 1.224. He’s always been an intriguing player and should continue to be one of the bright spots in the Nationals offense.
– Finally, in the land of Win Probability, B.J. Ryan blew his first save of the season giving the Devil Rays a fairly improbable comeback for the second time this year. Who had the winning hit? None other than B.J. Upton. The Devil Rays now find themselves in first place.
After being down 10-1 after the first inning, the Indians pulled off the comeback of the year to win the game 15-13 in extra innings. This is one of the craziest win probability graphs I’ve seen this season.
It even bests the August 9th comeback last season, when the Indians overcame a 5 run deficit by scoring 11 runs in the top of the 9th.
Browsing the player captions in my Sportsline fantasy league, I noticed that they had this to say about Miguel Cabrera:
News: 3B Miguel Cabrera has been Mr. Clutch for the Marlins all season, but he has turned it up in the second half. Cabrera had batted .395 with runners in scoring position since the All-Star break going into Monday, fourth in the NL.
Cabrera is in fact #1 by a long shot for the Marlins with a 3.39 WPA this season. This ranks him 14th in baseball and 7th in the National League. Since the All-Star break he’s wracked up a 1.13 WPA, good for 32nd in baseball during that same time period.
Yet since the All-Star break, part time 1st-baseman and pinch hitter, Wes Helms has a WPA of 0.93, nearly as good as Cabrera, with Josh Willingham not far behind with 0.89. Cabrera and Helms have had consistent positive contributions compared to Willingham, whose main contribution was a 2-run walk off homer against the Mets on August 1st. That single shot was worth 0.70 WPA, nearly all of Willingham’s post All-Star value.
Cabrera’s actual Clutchiness for the season is -0.35, so while he’s certainly been the most valuable Marlin, he’s hardly been contributing above and beyond what a “non-clutch” player would with the same stats. Hanley Ramirez actually leads the Marlins this season with 0.75 Clutchiness, while since the All-Star break, Willingham leads the team with a 0.81 Clutchiness.
Tonight, Adam Dunn became the 23rd player in Major League history to hit a grand slam in the bottom of the 9th to win the game by one run. This feat has been dubbed an “Ultimate Grand Slam” and is only slightly more common than say, throwing a perfect game. The last player to hit one of these grand slams was Jason Giambi over 4 years ago on May 17th, 2002.
In terms of Win Probability, the Reds pretty much defied all odds to pull out a win for the ages. Dunn’s grand slam was worth about 90 points of Win Probability Added (WPA) giving his former season total of 30% a nice boost.