Category Archives: The Rest: Everything Baseball
From Cuba to Japan, Opening Day to the World Series and the WBC
The Phillies farm system has some outstanding talent at the top of the list highlighted by top baseball prospect J.P. Crawford and the #1 overall draft pick from last season in Mickey Moniak. The farm is pretty deep as we go down the top 25 and the Phillies have a lot of pitching prospects that are very near Major League ready and have a sort of logjam at Triple-A as far as the rotation goes. The Phillies have invested a lot of money in the international free agents in the last few years, and they are starting to see the results of those investments. The Phillies may not have the best farm system in the Major Leagues, but they have young enough, solid pieces in the farm that will help them become a good team in the Majors again.
THE TEAMS THAT SHOULD HAVE WON: The first part of a series on the podcast that I will do for the next 31 Saturdays.
I look at the teams that if they had won the World Series, they would have done so under the best circumstances and with the best collection of players. First team I cover are my Red Sox and I look at the 1978 squad.
First of a month of Saturdays with this episode of The Sully Baseball Daily Podcast.
After being a pleasant surprise at the plate for the Milwaukee Brewers during the 2013 season, Jean Segura‘s production completely went down the drain — until he got a fresh start in 2016 with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
He didn’t earn an All-Star selection for his efforts, but it was such a unique performance that the Seattle Mariners acquired him in one of the 1,000 trades they made this winter.
How unique was it, exactly? Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto accurately put the middle infielder’s accomplishments into perspective to Bob Dutton of The News Tribune:
“The year that he had is one of just five seasons in this century where a hitter was able to throw out 200 hits, a .300 batting average, 20 home runs, 40 doubles, 30 stolen bases and 100 runs scored.”
Since he literally doubled his wRC+ (63 in ’15 to 126 in ’16), there’s a lot of attention on Segura with his new team. Is this the type of hitter they can expect to see moving forward? Dipoto said himself that given the rarity of this particular performance, it wouldn’t be realistic to expect it to be sustainable.
While Seattle’s new shortstop is one of just five players this century to produce like he did in the above six categories, he wasn’t the only hitter to do it in 2016 — Jose Altuve also accomplished the same feat.
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.
In addition to winning twenty-six games in 1912, Marquard was unbeatable throughout the campaign’s first three months. He won an astounding nineteen consecutive games for the Giants from the time he defeated Brooklyn in the opener on April 11 until he beat the Superbas in the first game of a doubleheader on July 3. Rube was finally vanquished on July 8, during a game at West Side Grounds, which was won by the Chicago Cubs, 7-2.
While the main story line from the afternoon should have revolved around the Cubs ending Marquard’s winning streak, a perceived jinx perpetrated by a demented woman seemed to grab the headlines. While a large crowd was in attendance watching New York and Chicago battle, much of the attention was directed at a woman perched in a tree outside the ballpark, overlooking the playing field. READ MORE
What makes a player so valuable?
The answer to this question varies depending on the person asked. However, it always becomes a hot-button topic of debate in baseball throughout the latter part of every season when discussing potential National League and American League MVP candidates.
We’re not here to discuss the definition of Most Valuable Player, though. We want to know which players have put together the best overall seasons while earning the award since 2000.
The best way to figure this out is by using Wins Above Replacement (WAR). While the statistics shown below focus on offense, WAR takes a player’s offensive and defensive contributions into consideration before providing an overall value for their performance.
FanGraphs’ version of WAR (referred to here as fWAR) will be the metric used to create our rankings. The definition of “Most Valuable Player” may forever be up for debate, but there’s no debate in figuring out which MVP winners have enjoyed the most success since the turn of the century.
This farm system has been built on the backs of Elite position players and the ability of the minor league staff to help them reach their potential. The Major League lineup is one of the most potent in baseball, and there are still prospects who could add more firepower to the order. The up and coming prospects cover a wide range of ages so that the team can be primed to defend their championship this season while also having insurance policies as arbitration years approach shortly.
The top of the list is again loaded with positional talent as Chicago looks to have options in the infield (Happ, Jeimer Candelario) and the outfield (Jimenez, Mark Zagunis, Eddy Martinez). Though there is limited star power, the Cubs starting lineup has enough to hold over the city. More important for the short-term, players such as Victor Caratini and Wladimir Galindo should see extended time on the 25-man roster.
With all other positions pretty stable, there really are only a handful of battles for the Detroit Tigers heading in to spring training. The 5th rotation spot will be interesting, there will be bullpen spots up for grabs, but I believe the main focus will be Centerfield after the trade of Cameron Maybin to clear some salary from the books.
The centerfield job is pretty much up for grabs as spring games commence later in the week with JaCoby Jones, Tyler Collins, Mikie Mahtook, Anthony Gose, David Lough, and Alex Presely all via for the position to name a few. Mahtook in my opinion has a slight edge; however a lot can change over the next month. Let’s take a look at some of the options…
The Cubs won it all last year. Perhaps you heard. But let’s savor how infrequently a team wins in the year they are SUPPOSED to win!
Perfectly timing titles on this episode of Sully Baseball Daily Podcast.
Matt Kemp isn’t the MVP-caliber ballplayer he used to be with the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier in his career. Despite that, the Atlanta Braves have high expectations for the right-handed hitting outfielder in 2017.
Those expectations aren’t coming without them getting a glimpse of what he could do for the offense, though.
After the San Diego Padres shipped him to Atlanta at last summer’s non-waiver trade deadline, Kemp was one of the reasons behind the Braves offense going from being historically awful to finishing as a top-performing unit.
His arrival also spurred a personal boost in production — he hit 23 homers in 431 plate appearances with San Diego, but produced just a 102 wRC+. Once the trade took place, that number jumped to 120 in 241 plate appearances (while hitting 12 more homers).
Yes, the Braves are technically still rebuilding, but with a new ballpark opening and their flurry offseason moves, they’re aiming to at least be competitive this year, and Kemp’s performance will play a significant role.
The big question with Spring Training now underway is whether or not his two-month stretch of above-average offensive production is sustainable for an entire season. If it’s going to be, he may need to make a few changes.
Only four pitchers in baseball history have started only one major league game, thrown six scoreless innings or more, and recorded a win in the process. Chris Sáenz (pronounced SYNS) of the Milwaukee Brewers is the most recent, and actually the first hurler since 1899 to accomplish the feat.
As with most cup of coffee players, a perfect chain of events had to play out for Sáenz to make just one appearance and disappear, never to be heard from again. The early 2004 season for the Brewers was ripe with issues – enough in fact, for a Double A pitcher to be called up to face the Central Division rival St. Louis Cardinals in late April.
A story of a bombastic, vindictive man who brooked no challenge to his authority, had no tolerance for weakness, and hated whom he saw as “losers.” We’re speaking, of course, of Ban Johnson, founder and president of the American League. READ MORE AT PLATE COVERAGE
It is Presidents Day. Will we ever have a baseball player President?
Hail to the Chief on this episode of Sully Baseball Daily Podcast.
Once a ballyhooed free agent signing, Pablo Sandoval’s 2016 season with the Boston Red Sox ended after a total of three games and an unacceptable number of trips to the dinner plate. Plagued with shoulder issues and an alarming weight gain, the third baseman barely made it on the field to try and follow up on a miserable 2015 campaign that was his first with the team. Now noticeably slimmer and reportedly healthy, his bid for a comeback is being aided by his team, which has put him in the best possible position to succeed.
Randy Levine Makes All The Wrong Movements Post Betances Arbitration Hearing
As you may know, the Yankees and their setup man Dellin Betances were involved in a harsh dispute about the 2017 salary of Betances. Betances was asking $5 million, while the Yankees did not want to spend more than $3 million. During the past weeks, both parties did not get closer to each other. So an arbitration hearing was needed.
Dellin Betances (photo by Alchetron.com)
The outcome of the arbitration hearing was that the Yankees don’t have to pay Betances $5 million but only the $3 million they wanted. Nothing wrong with that. It is a part of the business. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Setup men, even though they are elite, are simply rewarded less than star closers. And while Betances was lights out as a setup man, he struggled as a closer after the Yankees got rid of Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller.
But there is something that…
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So if pitchers who strike out a lot of batters while walking few tend to be very good, is the converse always true? Are pitchers with lousy K/BB ratios… lousy?
Welcome once again to my favorite blog entry of the year, my Top 100 Major League Baseball Prospect list for 2017. My list consists of the top prospects in baseball right now and doesn’t necessarily focus on player’s impact this season as these players are in various stages of their Minor League and and possibly Major League career.
Team breakouts for players on the list include: 8 – ATL 7 – NYY, 6 – MIL 5 – CWS, LAD, Pit, TB 4 – CHC, Col, Hou, NYM, Oak, Phi, SD 3 – Bos, Cin, Cle, Min, Tor, Was 2 – Sea, Tex 1 – Bal, Det, LAA, MIA, SF
Position breakouts for players on the list look like: C – 5, 1B – 4, 2B – 5, 3B – 4, SS – 12, OF – 25, LHP – 13, RHP – 32
For the list, you’ll find the player’s name, their position/team/and last year’s ranking for this list…
A few days ago, I thought the Marlins were about to get a normal owner.
Now the Marlins management is somehow mixed up with the Trump Presidency and the French Embassy.
This is bananas.
Florida is nuts again on this episode of Sully Baseball Daily Podcast.
When the Chicago White Sox acquired third baseman Todd Frazier from the Cincinnati Reds last winter, the organization’s goal was to find some lineup protection for first baseman Jose Abreu. Frazier responded with a power surge he hadn’t yet experienced during his young MLB career, but didn’t do much else outside of that, leading to a rather mediocre overall performance at the plate.
Given the lackluster free agent market this winter — especially at third base — one would assume that a player fresh off a 40-homer, 98-RBI season like Frazier would’ve been a hot commodity on the trade market.
That wasn’t the case, though, and the rebuilding White Sox still have him on their roster with the hopes he can improve from the 102 wRC+ and 2.4 fWAR he produced in 2016.
Where exactly can Frazier’s game improve? There’s not always a simple answer to a question like that, but he needs to stop hitting the ball in the air so freakin’ much.
To any qualified observer—players, coaches, even the owners who refused to grant him an opportunity to pitch in the majors—Satchel Paige was among the greatest handful of pitchers to ever take a mound. In his youth, Paige dominated with an overpowering fastball and extraordinary control. As the years and miles accumulated, he became the game’s greatest magician, flummoxing hitters with an unending variety of pitches and deliveries. Paige’s wit was a sharp as his control, his personality as big as the break on his curve. He took great pleasure in keeping people guessing, and he took his greatest secret with him to the grave… READ MORE
The state of the Chicago White Sox minor league system has likely never been brighter. With a huge influx of talent like Michael Kopech, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning the White Sox have the top prospects to truly build one of the elite pitching staffs in baseball. They also brought in young raw bats such as Luis Alexander Basabe and Yoan Moncada to potentially create franchise caliber talent in the field.
The White Sox also have done a good job of cultivating and developing talent through the draft and foreign signing classes. Alec Hansen looks to offer more promise than people him credit for while the ceiling for Zack Collins has many looking at this organization in awe. There is also an increasing amount of talent in the back end of the farm that offers some of the better upside seen in the league outside of the team’s top ten prospects.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a baseball fan who doesn’t dig watching home runs. If you indeed dig them, the 2016 season was one of the best years to track the long ball in recent memory.
There were 111 different players who reached the 20-homer plateau, which is a new record and a substantial increase to 2015, where only 64 players slugged that many baseballs over the fence. The most beautiful part of it all? Not all 20-plus homer hitters are created equally, which we’ve touched upon a couple of times this winter.
While they can also happen on line drives, the home runs usually result from fly balls. Obviously, for someone to accumulate a lot of round-trippers in any given season, a healthy fly-ball rate (FB%) is necessary.
So, it makes sense as to why 100 of the above players produced a fly-ball rate in 2016 north of 30% (including 53 with a fly-ball rate of at least 40%). That also leaves us with an interesting group who didn’t put the ball in the air as frequently, and they probably wouldn’t mind it happening again in 2017.
Here are the 11 hitters who managed to enter the 20-homer club last year without a fly-ball rate above 30%.
The Astros need to go all in. And that means taking Zack Greinke off of the Diamondbacks’ hands. Meanwhile I have all sorts of tech issues.
Testing Testing 1…2…3 on this episode of Sully Baseball Daily Podcast.
Earlier in the week I updated what had become an annual blog entry for me around the greatness of Miguel Cabrera, who is undoubtedly already a Hall of Fame lock. It got me thinking around looking in to Justin Verlander’s career and if there is potential to be elected to the Hall of Fame one day. Now, if you would have asked me two years ago, I wouldn’t have written anything, but the way JV reinvented himself this past season, it revitalized hopes that he could be in the Hall someday. Please bare with me as this is a little long, but a case will be made…
Before diving in to statistics and whatnot, there has always been one key milestone for pitchers that essentially ensures that they are Hall of Fame locks, and that’s 300 wins. We must acknowledge that 300 wins is really no longer feasible with today’s 5-man rotations, pitch counts, and bullpen specialist. We must also acknowledge that today’s game has changed where a slightly higher ERA is acceptable compared to the day an age where voters were looking for career ERA’s in the mid-2’s. Hitters are stronger these days; ballparks tend to be smaller, etc.
Here’s the other thing that JV and other pitchers have going against them and it all plays in to what I just wrote, only 6 pitchers have been elected to the Hall in the last seven years (Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, and Bert Blyleven). Take it back further to 2005 and add just Bruce Sutter and Rich Gossage to that list, making it 8 in the past 12 years. What I think we are seeing is pitchers being scrutinized more highly than hitters.
With this laid out, let’s look at Justin Verlander so far…
Some paths to the major leagues are longer and more winding than others. Just being drafted is far from a guarantee that any success will ensue. Hard work and an ability to take and adapt to instruction are just as important as having raw skill. Left-handed pitcher John Halama knows only too well what it takes to work his way up from a mid-round draft prospect to a successful major league career.
Part of the Koufax orthodoxy, of course, is his legend: Retired at 30, at the height of his game, the height of his fame. And then, gone. He never hawked a book, lent his name, or became an autograph factory.Never a hint of scandal, a suggestion of bad behavior. He’d make his Spring Training visits to the Mets or the Dodgers, to see old friends and talk to the kids, and the press covered these casual afternoons like matters of state. Then he’d disappear again, go back to his life. Fifty years of repose; fifty years of grace; fifty years of dignity. Five decades, essentially, of silence. Baseball’s Garbo. All the while, his legend grew, until it overshadowed even his magnificent accomplishments on the mound. He’s not just the best pitcher in Dodgers’ history; he was—is—often mentioned among the greatest handful of pitchers of all time, more monument than man to generations of fans.
The thing is, it’s pretty clear that Clayton Kershaw, not Sandy Koufax, is the best pitcher in the history of the Dodgers’ franchise. READ MORE
Mike Ilitch has passed away. He was everything a fan could want in an owner and helped make the Tigers a point of pride in a difficult time for Detroit.
Now that he is gone, what will the fortunes of the Tigers be moving forward.
It is a Motor City episode of Sully Baseball Daily Podcast.
When I first started thinking I’d like to write a book about the Milwaukee Brewers franchise moving from Seattle in 1970, I kept coming back to a simple question: Who were the original players, coaches, executives, and stadium workers? Not just their names, but who were they personally and what did they experience when the Brewers were in their infancy.
I started by looking at names and faces on the 1970 team photo card and decided to pursue interviewing as many of these guys as possible. I was fortunate last year to interview one of the original team bat boys and one of the ball boys. Both had interesting perspectives and memories of not just the players, but also County Stadium, and what it was like to work at Green Bay Packers games as well.
Making a name for yourself in the Miami Marlins outfield in recent years hasn’t been all that easy, but Christian Yelich has found a way to carve out some attention for himself in South Beach. Probably not enough yet, though.
Yelich quietly goes about his business on a daily basis, and while he may not generate the most headlines, he’s probably the most valuable outfielder on the Marlins’ roster.
After posting a 4.5-fWAR season in 2014, he didn’t progress like Miami hoped in 2015, producing just 2.4 fWAR. He flipped the script back in a positive direction last year, though.
He didn’t earn an All-Star selection, but posted a 4.4 fWAR, won his first Silver Slugger award and placed 19th in National League MVP voting. Climbing up the ranks in this award category won’t necessarily be a walk in the park — after all, that Kris Bryant guy is still pretty good, as is his teammate in Anthony Rizzo, along with other studs like Corey Seager and Freddie Freeman, just to name a few.
Although he’s fresh off a career year, Yelich is exactly the kind of player that can come out of nowhere to be a legitimate candidate for the award in 2017 because there’s still a ton of room for improvement in his game.
Will Jeffrey Loria sell the Marlins? It looks like he might! And if it happens, maybe the Marlins will finally have a chance to grow a fan base.
I take my talents to South Beach on this episode of Sully Baseball Daily Podcast.