Ask the Reports: ATR Answers Your Baseball Questions – April 15th, 2012

Sunday April 15th, 2012



Jonathan Hacohen:  Posted every Weekend: Your top baseball questions from the past week are answered. E-mail all questions to mlbreports@me.com, message us on Twitter and post on our Facebook Wall!

Let’s get to your top questions of the week: (there are MANY great ones this week…better jump right in!)

 

Q:  How many triple plays were turned last year?  Wayne

MLB reports: Nice way to start off ATR Wayne. Four. Can you believe it? Four triple plays turned last year. Three in 2010, five in 2009, two in 2008 and four in 2007. Surprised? Me too. I thought they were more rare! Last year’s triple plays took place as follows:

(1) Indians turned a 3P against the White Sox on April 3rd

(2) Brewers turned a 3p against the Dodgers on August 15th

(3) Red Sox turned a 3p against the Rays in the 2nd game of a DH on August 16th (a day later!)

(4) The miracle Rays came back on September 27th to turn their own 3p against the Yankees.

 

Q:  Is it worth picking up Aroldis Chapman as a third reliever?!?  William

MLB reports:  Without a doubt. Yes. Are you kidding me? Grab him. Right now. Don’t wait. Now. Right now! As you can tell, I am high on Chapman. Long term, I see him as a starter. But for now, he is a reliever. I see him having some great save opportunities this year. Madson is done for the year. A ton of money is invested in Chapman and he has been nothing short of brilliant this season. In 4 games he has a 0.00 ERA. 11 strikeouts. 0 walks in 6 innings. Yes. As a third relieve, you cannot go wrong with Chapman. He has already vultured 2 wins. He can help you in so many ways. There will be ups-and-downs this year with Chapman, no doubts. But with pitchers around baseball dropping like flies, when you have a talented pitcher with huge upside, make sure he can find his way onto your team.

Q:  After spending 2 billion+ for the Dodgers, are the new owners pockets deep enough to entice top ’13 FA & who might be willing?  Old Man Mack

MLB reports: Our ATR regular, OMM is back. A popular question about the Dodgers. No doubt. Many people are thinking (hoping) that the Dodgers will break the bank and go hog-wild on free agents this coming offseason. I don’t think so. Not yet. First the team needs to decide on who is their long-term General Manager and manager. Then the management needs to assess the farm, team and its personnel to determine the long-term focus and goals for the coming years. Preparing for the draft and the trade deadline if the team is contention will also be priorities. So with all the calculations and determinations that need to take place for the Dodgers, it is too soon to start stocking up the team with big contracts. Plus with so many players signing extensions as it is, there may not be that many players that the team will want to go after just yet. The biggie may be Andre Ethier- who the team may want to re-sign instead of losing in the offseason. That is as big as it will likely get at this point. Sure, there may be a $20-50 million dollar deal(s) signed. But no $200 million players just yet. The owners can do it. I just don’t think they will need to or be in a smart baseball position to do that just yet.

 

Q:  What kind of impact do you think Damon will have for the Tribe?  Mike

MLB reports: I’m a big Johnny Damon supporter and like this signing a great deal. But do I think that Damon will have a huge impact on the Indians? The answer is no. Damon provides leadership and grit to a team that needs stability. But there is already talk of a gentleman understanding that Damon can leave if he is not receiving enough playing time in 2012. Not a big vote of confidence to start off a baseball relationship. Plus, you just have to take one look at the Tigers lineup, with the addition of Prince Fielder and possible return of Victor Martinez at the end of the year and know that the Indians have a huge hill to climb. The Indians in my estimation have too many holes to be serious contenders this season. They need a couple of more bats and arms to make it happen. Sizemore is injured. LaPorta is in AAA. Choo is still not the MVP everyone was hoping he would turn into. Ubaldo is a mystery trapped in a riddle. Perez can be hit and miss. Hafner? Don’t get me started. You have Santana, Cabrera…and hope. Not enough, with or without Johnny Damon. A great addition, but I don’t see Damon in Cleveland by season’s end.

 

Q:  What teams start are you most surprised by? And of those teams, who can keep it going for good? Or turn it around if it’s bad?  Stephanie

MLB reports: Still way too early, as the season is barely a week and a bit old. But if I had to make some picks: The Orioles and White Sox have surprised me in a good way in the AL, while the Angels are disappointing. The Nationals, Mets and Dodgers have surprised me, while the Padres are disappointing me. I expected the Phillies to start off slowly until they get Howard and Utley back. From those teams- I expect the Orioles and White Sox to fall back into reality (last place). The Angels will turn it around soon and contend for the division all year. The Nationals will keep it up. Not to this extent, but will fight for a playoff spot. They have the players to do it. The Mets will fall back into reality (see Orioles and White Sox). The Dodgers will be good, but not this good. .500 or better for LA, but no playoffs. The Padres will turn it around. No playoffs for them either, but I can see them finishing as high as 2nd place. So from the main surprises- the Nats have the best chance to sustain it, while the Angels and Padres will be better than this.

 

Q: Why does Granderson play center and Gardner play left?  Yoenis

MLB reports: Why? Why why why? A question many Yankees fans, if not general baseball fans have asked for some time. I’m not going into defensive measurements and analysis to answer this one. Watching the Yankees as much as I do, I will make this one simple. Curtis Granderson for his career has played 922 games in center and 22 in left. Gardner has played over 5 seasons- 295 games and 183 in center. The Yankees know that you don’t always play your strongest player in the right position. If that was the case, A-Rod would be the shortstop and Brett Gardner would play centerfield. But Jeter is the captain. The team lifeline. He is the shortstop. He plays shortstop. Granderson is the offensive machine. Almost the second captain. He is a centerfielder. He does not get moved for anyone. I agree that Gardner is a stronger defensive player watching him, and he should play center. But it is hard to move your star from his natural spot. You need him to feel comfortable. To thrive to produce. He may not be the longest tendered player, but the main attraction gets the benefit. Look at the A’s. They moved Coco Crisp to a corner for Yoenis Cespedes. For a rookie. Because the A’s know they need their new big bat to thrive. Since he feels more comfortable in center, the lesser player (Crisp) has to move over. Baseball is not always about putting your best players in certain spots. There are egos and politics to massage. On the field and in the clubhouse. Curtis Granderson also is a free agent possibly after 2013, if the Yankees exercise their option. If they want to keep Granderson, they have to play him where he is comfortable. It is also not like Granderson is a defensive liability. He plays a strong center and would play the position on most teams. Just because Gardner is better, that doesn’t take anything away from the incumbent. But in the overall success of the team, the leader stays in center. Get used to watching Granderson there for a while longer.

 

Q:  David Robertson for Neftali Feliz in a keeper league. Thoughts? Good. Bad?  Forrest

MLB reports: I know where you are going with this. Rivera is getting in on years. Robertson is the electric setup man. That meaN. Robertson will close by next year? Right? Not exactly. Robertson looking at the numbers has had a good career, but only became truly great last year. He is already off to a flying start and there is no reason why he shouldn’t be the Yankees closer one day. But until a guy is actually a closer, you never know what he will do. Just because Rivera transitioned well after Wetteland left, there are no guarantees that Roberson will do the same. Feliz is three years younger. He has proven he can close in the major leagues and already had a successful start this year as a starter. While the Feliz transition could lead to arm problems, could Robertson’s overuse in the Yankees pen. If I am thinking long-term or short-term, I go Feliz. If he stays a starter, you get a potential ace. Remember, he has Mike Maddux as Pitching Coach, Nolan Ryan as President and Greg Maddux as a special assistant. At worst, Feliz just goes back to being one of the best closers in the game. With Robertson, he may lose the job to another pitcher if the Yankees add an experienced closer and keep Robertson to set up. Or they hand him the job and he fails. Or he gets hurt. Too much for saves. Saves are easy to find. But a good starter is more valuable. If you have Robertson, trade him for Feliz immediately. If you have Feliz, hold onto him for dear life.

 

Q:  Why is David Phelps going to be stuck in AAA again while Garcia, Hughes & the Ghost of Pettitte go forth.  Mike

MLB reports: Ask and thou shall receive. It’s almost like David Phelps read your mind! Pitching in his 3rd game of the season, Phelps continues his brilliant run. After pitching 3 innings in his first 2 games, Phelps went 5 1/3 in replacing an ineffective Phil Hughes this afternoon. Phelps only hit given up was a solo home run to Vernon Wells (out of all people). The rest of the Angels lineup was baffled by the  25-year old righty. Albert Pujols. Kendrys Morales. Torii Hunter. None could solve him. Phelps had four strikeouts and only 2 walks otherwise. Phelps now has a sparkling 1.08 ERA while Hughes scuffles along with a 9.00 ERA. While Hughes pitched ok in his first start, he couldn’t get out of the 5th. Now today, he barely lasted 3 innings. Hughes is due for the bullpen any day now, to go into long relief to work out his kinks. Phelps has been a starter for his whole career since joining the Yankees in the 14th round (what a steal!) In 4 minor league seasons, he has started all but one game. 38-15, 2.61 ERA, 1.184 WHIP, 410/112 SO/BB. Yankees management is not dumb, contrary to what some people think. Phelps was solid in 18 starts last season in AAA. He really does not have much left to prove down there. If Hughes remains ineffective, Phelps is grabbing his spot. Either way, unless he implodes- no way he goes back to AAA. The Yankees are here to contend, not make friends. They don’t care who is out of options or contracts. Hughes can pitch in long relief or be traded. Same goes with Garcia. I am not even going to worry about Pettitte until he officially is called up. Until then, Hughes gets maybe more one more start- and then, it will be Phelps time. As long as he pitches one or more brilliant games like this one, expect Phelps to get a 1-3 game trial by fire. If he has the grapefruits, you may be seeing a star in the making. Thank you for bringing up such a great topic…and let’s hope Phelps does get his due reward!


Q:  Which is harder to do in these days? Hitting 50 home runs, winning 20 games or hitting .350?  Larry

MLB reports: Look at our #1 fan coming through in the clutch. Great question Larry, as always. Let’s say a guy gets 180 hits in 600 at-bats. That will give him a clean .300 average. 190 hits? .317 average. 200 hits? .333. 210 hits gives a .350 average. So between a .300-.350 average, you are talking 30 more hits. Over 6 months of the season, that is 5 extra hits per month. About 1 extra hit per week. Should be simple enough. Right? But it isn’t. Baseball is a game of inches. An extra hit or there is a difference between being a star and in the minors. In my mind, the .350 average is actually the hardest. A .280 average is considered a good standard for most players. That takes 168 hits in 600 at-bats. 42 more hits for the season. 7 more hits per month. About 2 more hits per week. Imagine. Literally a game of inches. Blows my mind. But with the age of relief pitching specialists, defensive replacements, luck, skill- consistent base hits are hard to come by. If you go 1/4 everyday as a hitter, you are hitting .250. You aren’t very good. If you go 1/3 everyday, you are hitting .333. You are now a star. It’s that close. Take Ichiro. The modern-day Pete Rose. Averaged close to 700 at-bats each season. In 11 major league seasons, Ichiro hit .350+ only 4 times. Great for any player. But for a guy who people expect to hit close to .400, he has only done it 4 times. Pete Rose? Never actually did it. Closest was .348 in 1969. Ted Williams? 7 times. Barry Bonds? Pre-juice…never. Post-juice. 2 times. Look, if those greats had a hard time consistently achieving .350 over their careers, you can see how hard that number is to hit. Now hitting conditions are even tougher and the talent is not as great as it was in the eras of Mantle, Williams, Musial and company. So .350 gets my vote and it’s not even close.

Looking at the other two statistics, I see a similar pattern. Starting with pitching and winning 20 games. Let’s take Roy Halladay. The Cadillac standard. For as great as Halladay has been in his career, he has only hit 20 games 3-times. Yes. Only 3! He hit 19 a couple of times, including last year, but not consistently 20. Let’s get serious. Most starters if healthy get 30-34 starts max per season. They are lucky generally to break 200 innings. With few starters having control over their destinies (a quality start is only 6 innings), wins are largely based on bullpens. The worse the pen, the harder it is to achieve a win. That is why wins are a meaningless statistic to a certain extent for a starting pitcher, as the stat is mostly out of the pitcher’s control. But you will see more pitchers win 20+ games than a hitter achieving .350+ averages. To win 20 games, a pitcher has to win 3-4 games per month. About a win every week and a half. Win a little over half of their starts. Seems very challenging. But compared to getting 3.5 hits out of every 10 at-bats, it is more likely to happen. As long as a starting pitcher makes 30+ starts and can last at least 6-7 in each and give up 3-4 runs each time around, as long as they have a decent offense behind them and pen, they stand a good chance of winning. So while I am not minimizing 20 wins as an achievement, it is a more likely goal to happen.

Finally we come to home runs. 50 home runs. The standard for long balls. Pre-juicing, this was easily done. Ask McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro and company. These days? Not as much. A much higher plateau. Not impossible, but certainly harder. Teams are playing more small ball, with less focus on mashers. Scanning the yearly leader boards shows how difficult this number is to hit. Bautista hit 54 in 2010. 2008-2009? Nobody. To reach 50 home runs, a hitter needs almost 8.5 home runs per month. About 2 home runs per week. Not impossible…but very difficult to do. If a hitter hits 1 home run per week, he will have approximately 25 for the season. As the years go by, we will find out what the state of home runs will be. On the one hand, we have again those relief pitching specialists that help curb home runs, as compared to tired starters pitching many complete games. But then, the state of pitching talent is in flux. We will see more and more that teams have a hard time stocking pitching on a staff top to bottom. Partially due to injuries, ineffectiveness and many other reasons. There are some great pitchers in baseball, don’t get me wrong. But you will see more and more that there will be many sub-par pitchers getting opportunities. Look at how many pitchers have already dropped this year due to injury. So that is where I see the Ryan Brauns and Prince Fielders of this world still hitting their 50+ bombs. There won’t be many of them, but more than .350+ hitters. So to answer your question, all three stats are very difficult to achieve. But the most difficult one- which requires the most skill and luck- is the .350 average. Too many things need to go right for it to happen. Thank you for challenging me on this one Larry, had to really use the brain on that one!

 

Last Q:  With this whole bounty thing in football, can you please explain why Pete Rose isn’t in the Hall of fame again???  Monica

MLB reports: Had to save this one for last. Just a fantastic question from a super reader and baseball fan! Since this is MLB reports, I won’t go into a whole football discussion. I don’t keep up with it – baseball or nothing for me! But essentially, in the NFL- coaches rewarded players for injuring players on other teams. More or less, that is what is happening. I won’t even begin to condone that type of behavior. For any moral and law-abiding citizen, to intentionally try to injure another human being is disgusting. But this being professional sports, the world seems to operate sometimes in a twisted manner. So here is what I will say on the subject. For all the negative on the football bounty, at least the team/coach/player is trying to win. There is no shape or form intention to throw or lose a game. What Pete Rose did- he bet on baseball. Not only did he bet on baseball, he bet on his own team. Teams that he managed. So while Pete may have bet only on his team to win, by doing so- he could be affecting the outcome of games. Let’s say for example, going into the weekend- Pete only bet on the Reds to win on Saturday. As a result, he may hold back his pen on Friday…knowing that he HAS to win on Saturday to collect money. So he wouldn’t throw Friday’s game, but he wouldn’t do all he could to win- knowing that Saturday was more important. If a player/coach does anything behind the scenes that could directly affect outcomes of games in such a manner, that is the one of the biggest crimes of the sport. Period. I am not saying I agree with it, but that is a fact. So if someone is trying to injure another player, suspend them. Criminally charge them. But you won’t ban them from the sport unless they literally kill someone, use banned substances x number of times and you throw games. I wonder what Bud Selig would do if a MLB manager was found rewarding his players with the same bounty system. Knowing baseball, they very well could get a lengthy suspension. But a ban? Not sure. Depends on how the individual and team handle the situation. Remember, part of the reason Pete Rose is still banned is because of his conduct after the findings came out. If Pete had come out and admitted it right away, apologized, had counselling and rehabilitated himself, he would have been the HOF by now. But he lied. Covered up. Did everything possible but take the high road. So overall, I say a couple of things. Different sports. Different situations. Hard to compare. One is not necessarily worse than the other, but in the eyes of the sporting world, what Pete did ranks high on one of the worst crimes possible. The bounty situation is extremely wrong and it is terrifying to think how many innocent players were injured as a result. But it is the conduct as much as the action is judged overall. Pete Rose got the bigger punishment. But that has much to do about him as a person as his actions. Thank you for your question!

 

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Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

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Posted on April 15, 2012, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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