Category Archives: BBBA Featured Writers
The elimination game between the United States and the Dominican Republic was filled with thrilling highlights and historic moments. It ended with Team USA defeating the Dominican club by a 6-3 score in the final game of the second round of the World Baseball Classic on Saturday night at Petco Park in San Diego. With the victory Team USA advances to the Championship round for the first time since 2009. They’ll play Team Japan in the semifinals on Tuesday evening.
Team USA had to overcome an early 2-0 deficit, as the Dominican plated twice in the first frame. The Americans tied the score in the third inning thanks to a scoring grounder from Ian Kinsler, and an RBI double from Christian Yelich. The Americans took the lead in the next inning thanks to a monster two-run home run into the second deck Western Metal Supply Co from Marlin’s slugger Giancarlo Stanton. The Americans added two insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth inning on a two-run double from Andrew McCutchen that broke open what was a one-run game.
With everyday that passes, we’re getting closer to the end of Spring Training. That doesn’t just mean that it’s time for the season to start. It also means some big-time decisions need to be made by the San Francisco Giants front office. One of the big decisions is if long tenure pitcher Matt Cain will be breaking camp as a starting pitcher, a reliever or if he even makes the Opening Day Roster at all.
We all know the Pittsburgh Pirates starting outfield, Gregory Polanco, Andrew McCutchen, and Starling Marte, in part because they are so good and in part because they have been the subject of so many contract rumors, trade rumors, and now position shifts in the last few years. McCutchen is also one of Off the Bench’s 5 players to watch this spring.
But there’s a new name to know: Austin Meadows.
Meadows has reportedly made a good impression on the Pirates this spring and is set to see more playing time between now and Opening Day and will start the season in Indianapolis, at the top of the minor leagues. Coming into last season, he was ranked right around the 20th best prospect in all of baseball and last season the 21 year old made it as high as AAA. This year, some have him as the best prospect in the whole Pirates system and the 6th best in the sport.
Spring Training is finally here! Thank god; I don’t think I, as an individual, nor we, as a nation and a planet, have ever needed baseball more.
But we are not the only ones! Every year, players use Grapefruit and Cactus league games to cement their status as starters, finally earn a trip to the majors, or, in some cases, disrupt the status quo and commute chaos upon fans and front offices.
Of course, Spring Training games are far from predictive of future performance, just look at Jackie Bradley Jr. a few years ago. He tore it up in March and then struggled to hit well enough in his first season in the MLB to justify keeping his stellar glove in the lineup at all. He was eventually sent to the minors and only last year recaptured his starting spot. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t learn an awful lot from some of these early showcases. The pre-season can help us get an early feel for players poised to bounce back from a tough season, or not, and those who need to justify their team’s (semi-inexplicable) faith in them.
Let’s take a look at 5 of the guys whose spring performance can be particularly instructive about what their 2017 seasons might hold.
Shelby Miller, starting pitcher, Arizona Diamondbacks
Talk about a bounce-back candidate.
After an All Star season in Atlanta in 2015 (despite leading the league in losses), Miller was shipped to Arizona in exchange for Dansby Swanson, Ender Inciarte, and others. Then things took a turn.
Despite winning the AL West by 9 games and winning 95 games in 2016, the Texas Rangers finished 22 out of the 30 MLB clubs in overall pitching with a 4.37 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. The Ranger’s pitching staff allowed a .260 batting average against to opposing hitters and a .424 slugging percentage. Texas finished in the middle of the pack (16 out of 30) in starting pitching with a 4.38 ERA. The Rangers may have won a lot of games in 2016, but their run differential was only +7. They didn’t beat their competition by much throughout the season and below average pitching could be contributed as a big factor.
The latest news involving your San Francisco Giants is that they’re linked to Korean infielder Jae-Gyun Hwang. It’s being reported that the Giants are showing continued interest. I’m not sure what the need is for him with Eduardo Nunez at 3rd, Brandon Crawford at short and Joe Panik at 2nd.
I have some good news for San Francisco Giants fans… We all know that the Giants have parted ways with 3rd base coach Roberto Kelly. Kelly was often criticized by Giants fans for holding up way too many runners at 3rd base, and that’s because we were spoiled with Tim Flannery at the hot corner for 7-years. I do feel like Kelly wasn’t ever going to cut it, especially taking over after Flannery. No one would ever live up to the Flan-man after him sending us home safely to 3-World Series Championships!
The Philadelphia Phillies just traded for the right to pay Clay Buchholz $13.5 Million in 2017. The deal is a bit of a head stratcher as it was unclear why the Boston Red Sox decided to pick up that salary in the first place when they had the option not to. You see, Buchholz is no longer the pitcher he once was. He’s battled injuries pretty much his entire career, and hasn’t been the most effective guy out there even when healthy. I’m frankly very surprised that two organizations went through the processes associated with guaranteeing Buchholz $13.5 Million for what is sure to be a sub-200 IP 2017.
Anyway, the Phillies have Buchholz now and the Red Sox, for their troubles, picked up Josh Tobias, a 24-year old second baseman with two first names who just crushed high-A minor league ball.
In the process of breaking this down, I couldn’t help but feel like the Phillies must have had other options. What was their motivation to make this move? Sure I recently advocated that they be aggressive in adding pieces to their roster because they aren’t too far from contention, but this is not what I had in mind.
To continue reading about the Philadelphia Phillies puzzling trade for Clay Buchholz, please click on over to offthebenchbaseball.com.
A new rumor on the Twitter has the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Dodgers as possible trade partners in a deal that would send Brian Dozier to LA in exchange for Jose De Leon. The swap would see LA deal its #4 prospect, a huge upside starting pitcher with limited MLB time but dominating AAA numbers, and Minnesota part ways with a slugging second basemen who has been the defacto face of the franchise for nigh on three years.
I love it. This is a trade that makes sense for both teams.
First, let’s look at it from the Twins side since that’s a little simpler. Minnesota is not a very good team. They lost 103 games in 2016 and finished in last place in AL Central. However, as I wrote back in October, Minnesota has a really good young core of position players led by Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, and Max Kepler that should provide good reason for hope in the Twin Cities.
However, the they lack pitching, particularly starting pitching. From my previous Twins post:
To continue reading about the potential Dodgers and Twins trade, check out offthebenchbaseball.com!
On Friday afternoon, the St. Louis Cardinals finalized a 5-year, $82.5 million with former Cubs center-fielder Dexter Fowler. As has been explained in the media, the Fowler addition was meant to add more athleticism both on defense and atop the Cardinals’ lineup. At face value, this seems to make sense; Fowler’s skills are indicative of a lead-off hitting center fielder. In theory, inserting Fowler in center in place of incumbent Randal Grichuk should improve the outfield defense. In researching this theory; however, I have found that the ‘Fowler Effect’, while certainly providing plus-value, is not as straightforward as it may seem.
I will start with what we know. Offensively, Fowler is a bona-fide leadoff hitter as far as present day terms are concerned. While fans can get bogged down in batting averages (Fowler put up just a .276 mark in 2016), he did finish the year with a .393 OBP and was a table-setter for the first Chicago Cubs World Series victory in over 100 years. In fact, since he became a full-time MLBer in 2009, Fowler has ranked very highly when it comes to getting on base. Take a look at the following chart and see just how well he stacks up.
To continue reading about how Dexter Fowler improves the Cardinals, check out offthebenchbaseball.com.
Hey! Idea: baseball player political cabinet. Which players would be best for each cabinet position. My first nominee: Ozzie Smith for Secretary of Defense because, well, you get it.
Ha! Brilliant! Trump needs some help
Glad you’re on board. Who’s your choice for education?
It’s funny. That’s immediately where my head went as well. I want Pedro Martinez or Greg Maddux. Both are brilliant and insightful. They definitely need to be in our cabinet, but I’m not sure if Education is the best place for either. My mom, a liberal school teacher, kinda hates the Dept of Education. Can we give this to someone with the best intentions but who we really don’t care if they mess it up too bad because it might actually be hopeless? Tell me that’s not A-Rod. I dare you.
Also- do we have any rules? We know Trump’s one rule is: “Are they worth $1,000,000?” If so, they’re in. Do we need our cabinet representatives to be retired ballplayers? Do they need to be alive? What about American Citizens?
To find out who made our made-up baseball player political cabinet, click on over to offthebenchbaseball.com. Seriously, you won’t want to miss our picks for Secretary of Agriculture and Energy and Homeland Defense.
At this point, it’s safe to say that the Blue Jays’ offseason has been a failure thus far. GM Ross Atkins can speak as glowingly as he’d like about the additions of Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce, but their acquisition is heavily offset by the potential losses of Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Michael Saunders, and Brett Cecil.
Still, there was always the possibility that the Jays would sign Dexter Fowler. The NL All-Star and World Series champion would look great hitting in front of Josh Donaldson and playing right field in the Rogers Centre. But his deal with the Cardinals is now official, a 5-year/$82.5 million agreement. Fowler successfully gambled on himself last season, turning down Baltimore’s 3-year/$33 million offer to take a 1-year/$13 million in Chicago.
With their primary target gone, where do the Jays go from here?
It’s obvious that the Jays wanted an athletic outfielder, and preferably one that could hit leadoff, to add to their lineup. Fowler, with a .393 on-base-percentage in 2016 would have been the perfect fit, if only the Jays were willing to spend the money.
To continue reading about the Blue Jays outfield plans, please click on over to offthebenchbaseball.com
This time of year in baseball really means one thing: new faces in new places. It’s looking increasingly unlikely that Kenley Jansen returns to the Los Angeles Dodgers as their closer in 2017. This is coming on the heels of news that the Miami Marlins have offered Jansen $80 million dollars over five years to come to South Beach.
Did anyone notice at the Winter Meetings this past week that Los Angeles was ‘in’ on players but nothing really materialized? There may be good reason for this. The Dodgers were reported to be in serious amounts of debt. As soon as this news broke, it was obvious that they weren’t going to be able to retain their All-Star closer and their starting third baseman, Justin Turner.
After the San Francisco Giants signed one of the elite premier closers in the game Mark Melancon, they had to figure out who would be the odd man out on the 40-man roster. The Giants decided that they would be willing to part ways with pitcher Chris Heston. Let’s not forget that Heston tossed a no-hitter for the Giants a little over a year ago. Which is probably why they were able to trade him last night to the Seattle Mariners for a “Player to be Named Later”.
Ian Desmond is headed to the Colorado Rockies for 5 years and $70 million and according to various reports, he’s expected to start at first base. This in itself is puzzling; first base will be Desmond’s third position in three years following stints at shortstop and center field for the Nationals and Rangers respectively. Following an offensive collapse in 2015 that saw the then 29-year old slash .233/.290/.384, Desmond bounced back last season to hit .285/.335/.446. He went from a below average wRC+ of 83 to an above average figure of 106. He then used his 2016 numbers to gamble on himself, rejecting the Rangers’ qualifying offer and forcing the Rockies to cough up the 11th overall pick in the 2017 draft to sign him.
Committing $70 million and a draft pick to a player that will be learning a new position for the second time in two years is odd, but not unprecedented (see Hanley Ramirez and the Boston Red Sox). About a month ago, FanGraphs posted an article arguing that the Rockies could be on the verge of contention.
To read about the ramifications of the Ian Desmond Signing on the Rockies plans, please click on over to offthebenchbaseball.com
First things first, the MLB Winter Meetings are nirvana for baseball nerds like myself…..
Oh, hey legendary sportswriter Peter Gammons, how are you? What’s that Boston Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowski? Sorry I couldn’t hear you because I was too busy saying hi to your manager John Farrell. Hey LA Times Dodgers’ beat writer Andy McCullough, have you seen NBC Sports’ Craig Calcaterra? I need to follow up on our conversation earlier and I got sidetracked by the New York Posts’ Joel Sherman. Oh, by the way, cool new glasses Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle.
You couldn’t turn around without being starstruck by people who would only be stars to readers of this blog. It was fantastic.
It wasn’t just shaking hands and pleasantries, though. I was able to have some really good conversations. For instance, while waiting for the guys on the MLB TV set to announce baseball’s two newest hall of famers, John Schuerholz and Bud Selig (whom I have some thoughts on), I had a really interesting semi-debate with MLB.com’s Mark Bowman about the independence and objectivity of an MLB-owned news organization and the conflicts faced by writers of even nominally independent outlets like ESPN.
With the Winter Meetings underway… This is the time where you’ll start to see a lot of names fall off the free agent board. Right now the San Francisco Giants are on the verge of taking off one of the three top closers on the board.
It’s been reported that the Giants have agreed to terms with closer Mark Melancon.
The Atlanta Braves completed a swap for St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jaime Garcia last night, sending a package of 3 fringe Major League prospects to Missouri. The deal is an interesting one, but not the type of franchise-altering swap of which Braves fans have become accustomed. If you’re a casual fan, you probably aren’t entirely sure who this Garcia guy is and that is the most puzzling part of the deal for me. The Braves just clogged up their rotation with another #4 starter.
Off the Bench once ribbed the Red Sox for fielding a rotation full of #2 starters. There is likely not verb strong enough to adequately condemn a rotation full of #4 starters, but here we are. Atlanta just added their third veteran starter of the offseason, planning to pay these old guys $36 million in 2017. For a rebuilding team still treading water and waiting on the full calvary of prospect talent to arrive, this is the type of deal that can disrupt the years-long plan.
But let’s get into this deal for a moment before I talk Braves fans back off the cliff.
Just one year ago, Garcia posted a 2.43 ERA across 130 innings but he’s always been injury prone, a result of a delivery that stresses his arm more than one might like.
To continue reading about the Atlanta Braves Puzzling Deal for Jaime Garcia, please click on over to Off The Bench.
Ruxer, 24, split the 2016 season between Burlington [Iowa] (A) and Inland Empire (A), posting a combined 3.08 ERA in 29 appearances and 19 starts and a 4-8 record. He opened the season with the Bees, going 3-2 with a 1.44 ERA (10 ER in 62.1 IP) in his first 18 outings, before being promoted to the 66ers on July 8, where he was 1-6 with a 5.18 ERA in his final 11 outings (all starts). Last season marked Ruxer’s second year in professional baseball after being selected by the Angels in the 12th round the of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft.
Over at Off the Bench we’ve written a lot about where this offseason’s free agents might end up. Some of the bigger names that generate all sorts of buzz are the likes of Aroldis Chapman (who threw an incredible pitch), Kenley Jansen, and Yoenis Cespedes, whom we think might end up back with the New York Mets, we were right. We even pondered about the final destination of lower profile players like Michael Saunders, but we never got so deep in the weeds as to discuss the fate of free agent first basemen Mitch Moreland.
Moreland has spent the last few seasons manning first base for the Texas Rangers, taking his place as the lowest profile position player on a team full of offensive studs. With Prince Fielder’s tragic forced retirement this summer, Moreland became the answer to the oft-posed question ‘So who’s the Texas Rangers’ first basemen these days anyway?’
Los Angeles Dodgers‘ Corey Seager stormed on the scene in 2016, winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award (unanimously), and finishing third in the league’s Most Valuable Player ballot. Seager sported an OPS of .877 and played a Gold Glove quality shortstop all season. He was the best player – even including Clayton Kershaw – on baseball’s second best team in 2016. This was evidenced by his 7.5 fWAR. When the 2016 season began, the player I couldn’t wait to see the most was Carlos Correa. By the time the season ended, I emphatically decided that the player I couldn’t wait to see the most in 2017 was Seager.
Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs went through some rough patches in 2016. A loss of command to batters in the middle of pitching sequences led to a noticeable uptick in walks. This issue compounded itself and lead to a potential shift in confidence that correlated with overcompensation. Let’s dive into the numbers over his career to see if 2016 was a return to prior form, leaving 2014 and 2015 as the best we will ever see of Jake Arrieta.
This is a guest post from friend of the blog Ricky Mears, who writes over at Innings Pitched. Their website will be launching in January 2017. Follow @InningsPitched on Twitter to stay up to date before the launch and sign up for the Newsletter. Tickets to a MLB or MiILB will be given away to a follower once they reach the 200 threshold.
By The Numbers
Jake Arrieta was lauded as having pinpoint control in 2014 and 2015. His 2.08 walks per nine innings placed him as number 24 out of 84 qualifying starting pitchers over the two year stretch. In 2014, Arrieta had 8.2% walk rate against lefties and a 5.4% walk rate against righties. Similarly, in 2015 he had a 6.6% walk rate against lefties versus a 4.6% versus righties.
To continue reading the original post on Jake Arrieta’s 2016 pitching mechanics, please visit Off The Bench Baseball
Conventional wisdom is wrong.
Gray came into last season with 491 career major league innings, a 2.88 career ERA, a 1.13 WHIP and a strikeout to walk ration of nearly 4 to 1. He’d thrown more than 200 innings in each of the preceding 2 seasons and despite being only 5’10”, the then-26 year old was making a name for himself as one of the best young starters in baseball.
Then 2016 happened. Now, there are a lot of people out there saying 2016 has been a pretty bad year. But no matter your political leanings, taste in music, or whatever else, your year probably wasn’t as bad as Sonny Gray’s.
To Continue reading about why the Oakland A’s should Trade Sonny Gray, Please visit offthebenchbaseball.com
Michael Saunders isn’t one of the flashier names in this year’s free agent class, but that doesn’t mean that he will not be an important contributor to a competitive team in 2017.
Saunders is coming off of the best year of his career. The 29 year old outfielder cooled off a bit in the second half, but he socked 24 home runs and hit .253 en route to his first All Star game as a member of the Blue Jays.
Saunders, a former Mariners 11th round pick, can handle both corner outfield spots and did a lot to dispel the notion that he struggles mightily against left handed pitching over the last 8 months: in 2016 he put up a .927 OPS and 8 homers against lefties.
That said, he’s a .235 lifetime hitter, who has never had more that 57 RBIs in a season and had never hit more than 19 homers before 2016. He is no longer a stolen base threat (he stole 21 in 2012), and has never produced more than 2.4 WAR in a season. He also missed most of 2014 and nearly all of 2015 with injuries.
So what are you getting if you sign Michael Saunders this winter? Well, you’re getting a chance – a chance at some serious outfield power numbers (via both homers and doubles), a halfway decent OBP, and a pretty consistent everyday player for the lower half of your lineup at likely a pretty decent price.
To continue reading about Michael Saunders’ fit with the Phillies and Giants, please click on over to Off The Bench Baseball.
The fall of 2016 has been a season of extremes. In the very first game of the postseason, we saw the Baltimore Orioles lose the most important game of their season with their best pitcher, Zach Britton, who happened to be the best reliever anywhere in baseball this year, sitting on the bench.
The fallout was swift and severe. Columnists, bloggers, and fans rightly derided manager Buck Showalter, typically something of a sabermetric darling, for being the latest in a long line of playoff managers to manage to position his team for a future game they would never get to play. (See Fredi Gonzalez as a recent, obvious example)
Possibly in response to the Orioles’ debacle – not to give bloggers too much credit, Showalter made a transparent baseball mistake- managers in the rest of the postseason have been notably aggressive.
Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts deployed his closer Kenley Jansen in the 8th inning 3 times in the NLDS and CS, and once in the 7th in game 5 of the DS against the Nationals. Jansen even pitched in the 6th inning in the team’s final game of the year; Jansen is usually used for just 3 outs, but went for 3 innings to keep NLCS Game 6 close.
Indians’ manager Terry Francona is perhaps the most talked about guy this October. He and his bullpen Ace Andrew Miller have been blowing the existing bullpen paradigm out of the water.
To continue reading, please visit Offthebenchbaseball.com.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are a team that is searching for answers. They may have a ready-made answer in Adam Frazier
Pittsburgh Pirates UT Adam Frazier has been an unexpected surprise in 2016. In a season thought to mark the debut of noted pitching prospects, a do-it-all utility man who had all of 299 plate appearances at Triple-A has shown that he is big-league ready.
So why won’t manager Clint Hurdle pencil him into the lineup more often? To be sure, there is a comfort level that has been built up with players such as Josh Harrison and David Freese. With Gregory Polanco‘s ability to get hot at any given time coupled with Starling Marte‘s consistent play, the formula for consistent playing time for Frazier gets murky.
With the club barely clinging to Wild Card contention, the time may be now for Hurdle to consider scribbling Frazier’s name on his lineup card with regularity, regardless of preference or past performance.
Despite having just those 299 PAs at Indianapolis, Frazier has consistently shown to have a major-league capable approach at the plate. A quick glance at several plate discipline and batted ball peripherals shows this to be the case.
The biggest takeaway from these statistics presented here is that Frazier is seeing more pitches in the zone than most other hitters, and doing more with them. An 85.1 percent contact rate versus just a 7.7 percent swinging strike rate shows a very patient hitter who may be more advanced at the plate than initially thought.
When Frazier does put bat-to-ball, his hard hit percentage is above league average as well as is his line drive percentage. A quality approach breeds quality contact which breeds quality hits.
P – Anthony DeSclafani (vs. San Diego Padres): $9,400. DeSclafani has been incredibly reliable this season when he is healthy. He is 6-0 on the year, with a 3.09 ERA, and 46 strikeouts in 55.1 innings pitched.
He is pitching in San Diego’s home stadium, which is a much better pitcher’s park than what DeSclafani is used to in Cincinnati. If this righty continues to pitch like he has over the last two months, the Padres’ offense shouldn’t pose a problem on Saturday..
P – Jeremy Hellickson (vs. Atlanta Braves): $8,900. Now is Hellickson’s time to shine if he wants to get dealt to a competing team. Over his last seven starts, he has a 2.20 ERA, which is obviously very appealing to teams looking to acquire pitching around the trade deadline.
He will be facing one of the worst offenses in baseball, so this should be a great matchup for the righty.
DraftKings Daily Fantasy Baseball Lineup Picks (7/27/16): MLB DFS Advice
Fanduel Daily Fantasy Baseball Lineup Picks (7/27/16): MLB DFS Advice
Fanpicks Daily Fantasy Baseball Lineup Picks (7/27/16): MLB DFS Advice
Advertise with us: https://www.fiverr.com/braden22
Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FantasySportsGuru22
Follow us on Twitter: @FantasyAdvice22
Let’s Build The New DailyRotoHelp– https://www.gofundme.com/dailyrotohelp
Daily Matchups for 7/27/2016
P – Jon Gray (vs. Baltimore Orioles): $10,500. The Orioles have been horrendous over the last seven games. They are ranked last in OPS with a .599. Meanwhile, Jon Gray has been absolutely filthy over his last few starts. In his last three starts, Gray has struck out at least eight batters and he has only given up three runs in 20.1 innings pitched. Over his last 11 starts, he owns a 2.93 ERA.
P – Matt Moore (vs. Los Angeles Dodgers): $7,500. Over his last nine starts, Moore has thrown at least six innings. He is facing a Dodgers’ lineup who has struggled mightily against left-handed pitching. In 831 at bats against lefties, the Dodgers are batting .218, with a .295 OBP, and a .350 slugging percentage.