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Ricky Romero: Aiming For 2013 As The #5 Starter

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Tuesday March 19th, 2013

Ricky Romero had a rough 2012 campaign, posting a 9-14 record to go with a sky-high 5.77 ERA. He is looking to rebound in 2013 with the help of the revamped Blue Jays lineup and rotation.

Ricky Romero led the American League with 105 Walks – and featured a brutal WHIP of 1.674 en route to a 9 – 14 campaign with a 5.77 ERA. This was only a year removed from being an ALL – Star in 2010 – and finishing 10th in AL CY Young Voting. The Blue Jays Left Handed Pitcher was 15 – 11, with a 2.92 ERA and a 1.138 WHIP. After the year, the team traded for Josh Johnson, former AL Cy Young winner Mark Buerhle – and reigning NL CY Young winner R.A. Dickey. Along with fellow returning Blue Jays Starter Brandon Morrow.

Bernie Olshansky (Baseball Writer):

At the beginning of 2012, Ricky Romero was solidified as the number one starter in a strong Toronto Blue Jays roster. In the previous three years of his career, he only had an ERA above 4.00 once (in his rookie season, 4.30), and had won more than 10 games every year.

2012 was an absolute disaster for Romero as he posted a sky-high 5.77 ERA and a 9 – 14 record. He had fans confused as to how such a solid pitcher could do a complete 180 and turn from an ace to an iffy back-of-the-rotation starter.

Romero is in a very interesting situation for 2013. The Blue Jays added two very formidable starters in Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle when they acquired the two in a blockbuster trade with the Miami Marlins. The two former Marlins starters will help support the preexisting rotation consisting of Brandon Morrowand Romero..

Also in contention for a spot is Kyle Drabek, who has made starts over the past couple of years, but has never really stuck. Johnson, Buehrle, Morrow, and Alvarez will round out the top four spots, and Romero will most likely be the fifth starter for 2013.

Ricky Romero Interview:

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Ricky Nolasco: Should Marlins Deal Him Or Keep Him For 2013?

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Tuesday March 5th, 2013

Nolasco might be the the next guy to be traded for more prospects.

Nolasco might be the next guy to be traded for more prospects.  The man has a Career Record of 76 – 64 (.543) with a lifetime ERA of 4.49 in 7 seasons for the Marlins.  However, despite a higher ERA – he does not walk that many hitters  (2.1 BB / Per 9 IP) – and his SO Ratio  is 7.4 / Per 9 IP.  He might be able to help a team that is playoff bound in 2013.  The Marlins will not offer him a 1 YR Free Agent deal to retain a Draft Pick – so it is either deal him or lose him for nothing at the end of the campaign.

Bernie Olshansky (Baseball Writer):

The Miami Marlins are in a state of disrepair. 2012 was meant to be their return to contention with the signings of Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell. A healthy Hanley Ramirez and Giancarlo Stanton were meant to provide power to the lineup that supported the pitching staff anchored by Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco.

The excitement of the new-look team combined with the anticipation of the new stadium. Unfortunately, the Marlins had a terrible season and shipped Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers, and every notable player except Giancarlo Stanton and Ricky Nolasco to the Blue Jays, most notably.

Ricky Nolasco Warming Up:

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What’s Wrong with Ricky Romero? Jays Hope Their Ace Can Return to Form

Thursday August 2nd, 2012

John Burns:  The 2012 season has been one to forget for Ricky Romero. Romero was the Blue Jays ace coming into this season after posting a 2.92 ERA in 2011. This year has been a complete disaster for Romero. The Jays lefty has a 5.68 ERA this season and has allowed 82 earned runs in 129.2 innings. Last year, Romero allowed 73 earned runs in 225 innings. It’s obvious that something is not right with Romero this year. Romero has also lost seven straight starts for Toronto. The second half has been even rougher for Romero. Since the All-Star break, he has 8.38 ERA. Read the rest of this entry

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: 2012 World Series contenders?

Thursday July 19th, 2012

John Burns:  The 2012 season for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim looks like it might be getting saved by a 20 year-old named Mike Trout. The L.A. Angels had a record of 6-14 before they called Trout up from Triple-A, and has a 44-27 record since the call up of Trout. Mike Trout leads the A.L. and is 3rd in baseball with a .353 batting average and is tied with Dee Gordon for the MLB lead in stolen bases with 30. Trout is almost a lock for the A.L. Rookie of the Year. But if he keeps this up and leads L.A. to the playoffs, he could be the A.L. MVP. Read the rest of this entry

Batting Average and Earned Run Average: Are They Still Useful Baseball Stats?

Wednesday January 18th, 2012

 

Peter Stein (Fantasy Baseball Analyst – MLB reports): Just as baseball cards have become outdated, so too are the statistics that many of us memorized on the backs of those same cards as kids. The statistics that I am referring to are the generic stats used to measure a player’s success, particularly batting average for hitters and earned run average (ERA) for pitchers. Sabermetrics has taught us that there are better methods to more measure a player’s worth or success on the diamond. Far too often, numbers like ERA or batting average are skewed and do not accurately depict a player’s true level of skill.

However, batting average and ERA are statistics that are fixtures in the game, particularly in fantasy baseball. They are used to define players and probably will continue to do so. For those of us in standard 5X5 Roto Leagues, batting average and ERA account for two essential categories.

In 500 at bats, the difference between a .250 and .300 hitter is 25 hits. With six months in a season (approximately 24 weeks), that comes to about 1 hit per week. I repeat, one hit per week! I think I first heard this statistic from Major League I. Remember the old catcher with the bad knees, Jake Taylor?

If you have ever watched baseball, you know how much luck can play a factor. A guy can hit the ball on the screws four times- yet make four outs… but just as easily, getting three hits without hitting the ball out of the infield. Likewise, a pitcher’s ERA can be entirely skewed based on circumstances beyond their control. Therefore, I introduce to you two sabermetric statistics that are key in determining a player’s “true” batting average and ERA.

According to Fangraphs, Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) “measures what a player’s ERA should have looked like over a give time period, assuming that performance on balls in play and timing were league average.”

The equation for FIP: ((13*HR)+(3*(BB+HBP-IBB))-(2*K))/IP + constant

XFIP takes it even a step further by replacing a pitcher’s homerun rate with the league average (10.6% HR/FB), since this statistic is subject to high volatility.

Considering the above, Fielding Independent Pitching and Expected Fielding Independent Pitching are great determinants for what a pitcher’s ERA should be. It can tell you if a player is overachieving or perhaps pitching better than their ERA might indicate. This is the key to fantasy baseball. Target the guys who have FIP’s lower than their actual ERA and sell high on the pitcher who’s FIP is much higher than their actual ERA. By no means is the stat perfect, but it certainly gives you insight into a player’s performance and is a better indicator of future success than ERA alone.

For batters, the key statistic in determining batting average is Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP), which according to Fangraphs “While typically around 30% of all balls in play fall for hits, there are three main variables that can affect BABIP rates for individual players: defense, luck, and changes in talent level.”

The average BABIP for players is between .290 and .310, although some hitters can maintain a much higher level. For example, Ichiro Suzuki has maintained a career BABIP of .351, well above the league average. Therefore, you can look at a player’s BABIP to see how well they are actually doing at the plate. Buy low on a guy whose BAPIP is thirty points lower than his career total. Chances are his batting average is suffering and he is a good buy-low candidate. The lower BAPIP indicates that has a victim of bad luck. Likewise, the guy who is sporting a .400 BAPIP simply cannot maintain that level and will see a major regression to the mean. In this case: sell, sell, sell!

A perfect BAPIP example is Austin Jackson, who exploded onto the fantasy scene as a rookie in 2010. With a .293 batting average and good speed, he was an attractive young player with a rising stock. However, his.293 batting average in 2010 coincided with a .396 BABIP. We know Jackson is not Ichiro (.351 BAPIP) and therefore we had to expect a major regression in 2011. Sure enough, his BAPIP dropped to .340 (still well above the league average) and as result, he finished the season with a .249 average. Therefore, I would not touch Jackson with a ten-foot pole in most leagues, at least not until he can cut down his strikeout rates and put the ball in play on a more consistent basis. Although he has proven he can produce a hit more often than most when he makes contact, he simply does not make enough contact at this point in his career to be a .300 hitter.

The young guns are generally the guys who are most difficult to read. With the veterans, you at least have their career BAPIP to use as a reference. However, do not be afraid to look at the minor league stats, which usually prove to be solid enough indicators. At the same time, never take too much stock in minor league numbers and make a hitter prove himself at the major league level.

Overall, stats like FIP and BAPIP are really just cheats for your fantasy baseball league. Batting average and ERA are statistics that are so deep-rooted that they will most likely be used forever to define a player’s success and as a result, will continue to be used in fantasy baseball. However, do not look at ERA and batting average to value a player and trying to predict their future ERA and batting average. FIP and BAPIP give you a more accurate story and are better indicators for future success- by at least attempting to eliminate the many variables that exist in the wonderful game of baseball.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Fantasy Baseball Analyst, Peter Stein.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Peter on Twitter (@peterWstein).***

 Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

The Hunt for Red Sox October

September 14, 2011

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports): Red Sox Nation is panicking. On September 1, the Boston Red Sox held a 9 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays.  Today, on September 13, they sit only 3 games ahead.  Since then, the Red Sox have gone 2-9, while Tampa has gone 8-3.  Many people believe that Tampa Bay has the pitching to get the job done.  Led by “Big Game” James Shields and David Price, they have a rotation that has been one of the top in the league all season.  As a team, they have given up the least amount of hits by 80 in the American League.  Their team ERA is also tops in the American League at 3.56.

Boston is limping into the end of the season, with 3 of their 5 opening week starters injured in some fashion in the last month.  Jon Lester has been every bit of the ace the Red Sox need him to be, with a 15-7 record and 3.07 ERA.  However, when the Sox leaned on him on September 11 against Tampa, he lasted only 4 innings, giving up 4 runs on 8 hits and 3 walks.  John Lackey has been awful this year.  I cringe when I look at his stats.  6.30 ERA, 180 hits in 144 innings, and 18 hit batsmen to lead the league.  How has he won 12 games?  Buchholz was solid before going on the disable list, giving up only 76 hits in 82 2/3 innings, but hasn’t pitched since June 16.  It is believed he could be back as soon as next week, but in a limited bullpen role at best, so his impact won’t be felt much.  Josh Beckett has been great this year as well, but rolled his ankle in the 4th inning of his last start. At one point, after throwing a complete game, 1 hit shutout on June 15, his ERA sat at 1.86.  He is currently 12-5 with a 2.49 ERA, and a WHIP of 0.985.  Daisuke Matsuzaka was a bust this year and required Tommy John Surgery in June.  In his place is knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who currently sits at 200 wins on his career.  Wakefield hasn’t made it look pretty this year, but has put in 139 2/3 valuable innings to date.

Tampa Bay boasts one of the top rotations in baseball, with Opening Day starter David Price pitching very solid, without much run support.  He has a 12-12 record but his ERA is 3.40 and has reached the 200 strikeout plateau for the first time in his young career.  Big Game James doesn’t need much of an introduction, as his 11 complete games and 4 shutouts lead the MLB.  He has already thrown 226 innings, a career high, with 210 strikeouts, also a career high.  Wade Davis has thrown 165 solid innings as a follow-up to being 4th in Rookie of the Year balloting last season.  Jeff Niemann is really blossoming into a dependable middle of the rotation pitcher, going 10-7 with a 3.97 ERA in 129 innings.  He doesn’t strike out a ton of hitters, but doesn’t walk many either, shown by his 3 K/BB ratio.  One of the frontrunners for AL Rookie of the Year is Jeremy Hellickson, who has been pretty much lights out all year.  With a 2.96 ERA and only giving up 135 hits in 170 innings, he will surely garner some votes.  The one wild card that the Rays hold, however, is Matt Moore.  Moore was just called up to fill a role similar to David Price in 2008.  He will be electric out of the bullpen after a minor league season that will rank him in the top 5 of all prospects going into next season.

Boston’s offense is abound with potential MVP’s and great hitters.  1 through 9, the Red Sox boast one of the best lineups I can remember.  Jacoby Ellsbury may win the MVP, but he will have to go through Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez first.  Also, David Ortiz is again proving the naysayers wrong, as he is hitting .313 with 29 home runs and 92 RBI.  When a player of JD Drew’s caliber can go on the disabled list and be replaced with Josh Reddick, who is hitting .298 and slugging .491 in 250 plate appearances, it gives a lot of confidence to a pitching staff.  Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia finally seems like the player who the Atlanta Braves envisioned when they drafted him in the 1st round in 2003.  Jason Varitek is also enjoying a fine season as a backup to Saltalamacchia, hitting 11 home runs in only 234 plate appearances.  This offense is one that no team will want to face in the final weeks of the season or the playoffs if they reach that far.

Tampa Bay may not have the “sexy” offensive players that the Red Sox do, but they have some players having mighty fine seasons.  Ben Zobrist has overlooked his mediocre 2010 season, and has put up numbers closer to his breakout 2009.  Although he probably won’t ever match that season, his 45 doubles lead the American League, and has a very good OPS of .820.  Casey Kotchman is still an on-base machine with little pop from first base.  He has hit at a .313 clip with a .382 on-base percentage, setting the table for the big run producers.  Evan Longoria may be having a down year by his standards, but most teams would be happy with a third baseman hitting 25 home runs and slugging .818.  Through May, Matt Joyce was an early favorite for AL MVP, but really tapered off in June and July, before turning it back up in the last month.  His .843 OPS leads the team, and he also has 12 stolen bases.  BJ Upton continues to be a low average, high power type of hitter, with 20 home runs and 27 stolen bases while hitting just .234.  The worst position in terms of offensive production has been shortstop, where Reid Brignac and Sean Rodriguez have handled most of the duties.  The Rays’ high-tempo style of offense has wreaked havoc on opposing batteries, as they have stolen 130 bases, good for third in the American League.

Both teams have completely different styles and techniques, but are successful in their own ways.  With the Rays aggressive style, and the Red Sox more reliant on taking pitches and making pitchers work, getting deep into bullpens early, this could be a battle to the bitter end.  The schedules they play the rest of the way will also dictate who is more likely to win the race for the Wild Card.

Boston:
1 vs Toronto
4 vs Tampa Bay
7 vs Baltimore
3 vs New York

Tampa Bay:
1 vs Baltimore
4 vs Boston
7 vs New York
3 vs Toronto

It is quite evident that Boston has a much easier schedule, and should win a fair number of them.  The Red Sox have gone 11-4 against the Yankees this year also.  Tampa has gone 5-6 against the Yankees, whom they see 7 more times.  Boston gets Baltimore 7 more times, and have beaten them 8 out of 11 games so far.  The pivotal series of all will be this weekend when the two teams square off against one another.  The game of the weekend may be on Friday September 16, where James Shields faces off against Josh Beckett.

I believe that Tampa Bay will come within a game or two, but the schedule differences give Boston a HUGE advantage.  The Red Sox 18-6 drubbing of the Blue Jays on Tuesday will be a catalyst for the team over the next two weeks, where they will produce runs and pitch just well enough to get into the postseason.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Top 10 Closers: MLB Saves Leaders

Thursday August 25, 2011

 

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB reports):  Closers are a topic a lot of people ask about, but I never really got around to writing about.  Mainly because, in my opinion, it is a position that is completely overrated.  While it certainly helps to have a guy that can go in and slam the door and collect saves for over a decade a la Mariano Rivera, it isn’t necessary to have a “closer” to be a contending team.  One need only to look at the top 20 leaders in saves in baseball to notice that the Texas Rangers’ closer Neftali Feliz sits 19th with 25 saves, and Philadelphia Phillies’ Ryan Madson is 20th with 23 saves.  It also doesn’t guarantee success, as Heath Bell, Drew Storen, Leo Nunez, Joel Hanrahan are all in the top 10 in saves, while their teams are not in playoff contention.

 

Top 10 Saves Leaders in MLB as of today:

Pitcher Team Saves K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP WAR
Craig Kimbrel Atlanta Braves 40 14.56 3.53 1.70 1.20 3.1
John Axford Milwaukee Brewers 37 10.86 3.32 2.26 2.36 1.7
Jose Valverde Detroit Tigers 37 8.31 4.79 2.72 4.08 0.2
Brian Wilson San Francisco Giants 35 8.72 5.20 3.19 3.40 0.7
Heath Bell San Diego Padres 35 6.79 3.23 2.55 3.07 0.7
Drew Storen Washington Nationals 34 8.03 2.19 2.77 3.48 0.6
Mariano Rivera New York Yankees 33 8.45 0.92 2.20 2.23 1.8
Leo Nunez Florida Marlins 33 8.31 2.88 4.63 4.02 0.1
Joel Hanrahan Pittsburgh Pirates 32 7.85 2.04 1.73 2.17 1.8
JJ Putz Arizona Diamondbacks 32 8.28 2.17 2.76 3.10 1.0

I look at this list and a few things come to mind:

1)      Craig Kimbrel is absolutely filthy.

2)      Mariano Rivera is still one of the very best.

3)      Closers are more overrated than I originally expected.

4)      A lot of saves does not equal success.

5)      Craig Kimbrel.  Wow.

Craig Kimbrel is having the best year ever for a rookie closer.  It isn’t even September and he has 40 saves.  Not only that, but he is striking out more than 14 batters per 9 innings.  His FIP is a ridiculous 1.20, and his WAR is at 3.1, which is 1.3 higher than any other closer in the Major Leagues.  His ground ball rate is 43.7% and has only given up 1 home run in 63 2/3 innings.  If the Braves end up winning the Wild Card and have a lead late in games, the shutdown duo of Johnny Venters and Kimbrel should be able to save the game for the Braves in most instances.

John Axford has had a strange way to becoming one of the premier closers in all of baseball.  It took him many years to get there, but under the tutelage of Trevor Hoffman, the career saves leader, whom Axford took his job from, he has flourished.  In 2010, Axford had 24 saves after taking over for Hoffman mid-season, and this year’s 37 so far are tied for 2nd in the big leagues.  Axford gets over 50% ground balls, and keeps the ball in the yard, two main factors for his success.

Jose Valverde is one of the closers whom I find to be overrated.  Part of his success can be attributed to a lucky .250 BABIP.   He also walks close to 5 batters per 9 innings, which is extremely high, especially when he does not strike out a very high number of batters.  Valverde may appear to be very good with 37 saves, but his 0.2 WAR suggests that he is basically a replacement level pitcher.  Surely he is not worth the $7M he is being paid.

Brian Wilson is loved by many in the game.  He is funny, has a strange personality, (which seems to be perfectly suited for the bullpen) and he has an outrageous beard.  Since 2008, he has accumulated 162 saves, so he is very valuable at the back-end of the Giants’ bullpen.  He keeps the ball on the ground, with a career 50% ground ball rate, but he walks a ton of batters (5.20/9IP).  He gets a lot of save opportunities because the starting rotation is very good, and his team doesn’t score many runs, so there are a lot of close games. 

Heath Bell has put up some ridiculous numbers over the last few years, but these numbers come with half of his games played in the cavernous PETCO Park.  While his last two seasons had his K rate over 10, he sits at 6.79 for this season.  His ground ball rate is also down 5% to 43.  Although his ERA is a good 2.55, his xFIP is 3.89, and like Wilson, gets saves because of an anaemic offense that results in his team often being in close games.

Drew Storen is another of the Washington Nationals’ young phenoms.  He moved up the ranks, throwing only 53 2/3 innings in the minor leagues before making his debut in 2010.  He has been a tad lucky as his BABIP is .241, but he gets a lot of ground balls, so the hits will even out.  He also gives up a higher than average home run per fly ball rate at 11.1%.  Storen doesn’t walk many, and as he matures, should probably strike out a higher number.  When Washington starts winning more games, he will have even more opportunities for saves.

Mariano Rivera is up to his usual tricks. Even at 41 years old, he is carving up hitters with his signature cut fastball.  Rivera has a ridiculous 9:1 K:BB ratio, as well as getting ground balls 47% of the time.  His WAR sits at 1.8, tied for second best for closers.  The only question is when will this guy ever slow down?

Leo Nunez of the Florida Marlins may be the most overrated closer in baseball.  Nunez doesn’t get a lot of ground balls, nor does he strike out a ton, as he gives up a ton of fly balls (49%) and home runs (8 in 56 IP).  Nunez’s ERA of 4.63 actually looks worse than his 4.02 FIP, so he has been a little unlucky, but still not very good.

Joel Hanrahan has found a home at the back-end up the Pirates’ bullpen, and is thriving there.  While his K rate has dropped to 7.85/9 IP from almost 13 last year, he has walked less batters.  Hanrahan has been able to induce ground balls on over half of his plate appearances, and only given up 1 home run in 57 1/3 innings.  His stellar numbers have allowed him to tie Rivera for 2nd in closer’s WAR this year.

JJ Putz’s resurgence as a closer this year comes as no surprise to many.  Last year as a setup man for Bobby Jenks with the Chicago White Sox, Putz’s K rate was just below 11/9IP, while he walked only 2.5 per 9 innings.  He hasn’t put up the same strikeout numbers this year, but he is walking less batters.  Putz’s WAR of 1.0 puts him towards the top of the list of closers.

 

Out of the top 30 relievers in WAR, only 9 are full-time closers.  Francisco Rodriguez is among those pitchers, but since he does not close games since traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, he was not counted.  Although this doesn’t mean that just ANYONE can close games and earn saves, it does show that many pitchers who have not been given the opportunity probably could get the job done.  

 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Jair Jurrjens: Braves Ace of the Future or Trade Candidate?

Wednesday July 20, 2011

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB Reports):  Now that the trade deadline is fast approaching, teams in contention are scrambling to find the pieces they desperately need to reach the playoffs.  Teams that are out of contention are scouring other teams’ minor league affiliates in search of suitable trade partners.  One man who is terribly busy fielding on calls on one of his biggest talents is the GM of the Atlanta Braves, Frank Wren.  Opposing GMs have coveted his ace pitcher, Jair Jurrjens over the past few years.   But now that Jurrjens has developed into a solid dependable pitcher who has exceeded his potential, Wren’s phone will be ringing right up until the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline.

 

Why Atlanta should hold on to their ace

Jair Jurrjens is young and controllable with an inexpensive contract.  He is an inning eater, and a dependable arm that will give 6+ innings per game.  Jurrjens is in his fourth full season, with the key variable that many people forget is that he is only 25 years old.  At the halfway mark of this season, Jurrjens has a 12-3 record with a sparkling 2.26 ERA.  Jair also induces a ton of ground balls, with a GB% of 48.2.  When a guy can throw strikes consistently, it makes it much easier to be successful.  Three walks per nine innings is a pretty good career mark, and he has seemingly improved almost every year, as Jurrjens currently sits at a 2.10 BB/9 for 2011.  A young, controllable ace that is continually improving might be something that the Braves want to hold onto.  Further, the Braves should even consider giving a long-term extension to Jurrjens given what he means to the ballclub.

 

Why Atlanta should trade Jurrjens

Why would a contending team trade their ace, you might ask?  Well, a guy like Jurrjens might be overachieving for a few reasons.  First of all, the velocity on his fastball has dipped every season since his rookie campaign.  His average fastball was once 93 mph, whereas it sits at 89 now.  Now this could mean a couple of things, such as he has learned how to pitch and doesn’t need the velocity.  However, his extra reliance on his change-up and slider; each of them up in usage about 3% over previous years, tells me that he knows his fastball isn’t quite as effective.  Jurrjens doesn’t strike many guys out, and there is almost no way that he can maintain a 4.1% homerun per fly ball rate.  His xFIP is exactly a run and a half higher than his ERA at 3.76, so a measure of his performance has been attributed to luck.  Numbers can be sometimes be deceiving and in Jurrjens case, he might not be as good as his statistics appear to show.  Sometimes its good to maximize a return when the market is at its peak and Jurjjens may very well be sitting at the top of his ceiling of potential.  Otherwise, if Jurrjens does regress, he value will never be higher than it is at the moment. 

 

Which teams could trade for Jurrjens

If the Detroit Tigers are willing to give up a ton of prospects for Ubaldo Jimenez, I believe they would do the same for Jurrjens.  Same goes with the Red Sox and Yankees. Detroit has at least kicked the tires on many starting pitchers, including Derek Lowe, Aaron Harang, and Jeremy Guthrie.  I see Jurrjens as an upgrade over those pitchers, so it would take a decent package to steal him away.  The Rockies covet four top prospects for Jimenez, so I don’t see why the Braves wouldn’t try to get at least three top prospects for Jurrjens.  He may not have the electric stuff that Ubaldo has, but he certainly has a track record of success.

Another fit to trade for Jurrjens that may fly under the radar could be the Indians.  Mitch Talbot and Fausto Carmona have underperformed, and they desperately need an upgrade if they are to contend.  This could cause a bidding war for Jurrjens.  I can see righty Alex White, lefty Drew Pomeranz and outfielder Nick Weglarz being involved in such a deal.  Prospects Jacob Turner (RHP), Andy Oliver (LHP) and Nick Castellanos (3B) may be included in a potential deal with Detroit.

In the NL, if the St. Louis Cardinals decide to make a push in the wide open Central Division, they may be looking at starting pitching help.  Kyle McLellan and Jake Westbrook have both struggled, so it could be a possibility they get in the mix.  Third baseman Zack Cox and starting pitcher Shelby Miller are possible candidates to be moved in such a scenario.

 

Verdict

Atlanta doesn’t appear to be actively shopping Jurrjens, but it would be in their best interest to at least gauge the interest of other teams.  The Braves could get a return for Jurrjens that would be impossible to refuse. With some of the prospects named, the Braves could still contend, and restock their system for years to come.  Until then, we expect Jurrjens to remain a Brave unless Frank Wren gets blown away a trade proposal.  With the active trade winds blowing this year and numerous contending teams desperate for starting pitching help, anything is possible. 

 

 

Editor’s Note:  Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Rob Bland.  Rob was selected from the many candidates who applied to write for MLB reports.  Please feel free to leave comments and to welcome Rob aboard.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

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MLB Pitchers and Walks: Flirting with Trouble

MLB reports:  Walks can make you and walks can break you.  That is our motto here at MLB reports.  If there is one stat that I use more than others to measure a player’s performance, its BB…base on balls…walks.  Recently, I featured an article on patient hitters and looked at the hitters that were the MLB leaders in walks.    As part of this post, I reviewed how walks could potentially improve every facet of a hitter’s game and why a good batting eye is a high indicator of future success.  Based on the response to that article, today we will look at the flip side, the MLB pitchers leader board in walks allowed.

In my opinion, there is not many things that are more frustrating about pitchers than those who give up a lot of walks.  Pitchers that walk hitters tend to get themselves in all sorts of trouble and create pressure on themselves as well as their team.  Defenses become on guard to avoid runners advancing and scoring, especially the catcher.  A stolen base, sacrifice and passed ball is all take to turn a walk into a run.  Pitchers that give up walks are often young hard-throwers who have not yet learned to command the ball.  They are throwers who need to develop into pitchers.  A veteran pitchers who throws soft and has no command will rarely survive in baseball (unless he has a lethal knuckleball, ala Tim Wakefield).  Regardless of strike outs, walks in baseball often lead to pitchers beating themselves.  I often tell young hurlers to trust in their stuff and led the hitters beat them.  By walking hitters, a pitcher will simply beat himself in the long run.  Looking at the MLB top 5 list of walks allowed, it is a who’s who list of potential, some success and plenty of frustration.

1)  Edinson Volquez, Reds:  28

The man traded for Josh Hamilton has one of the best power arms in baseball.  After undergoing Tommy John surgery (apparently a must-have these days to become a top pitcher for some reason), Volquez came back strong last year to reclaim his spot on the Reds pitching staff.  With a 28/38 BB/K ratio this year 38 1/3 IP, Volquez despite his 3-1 record is showing why he has unsightly 5.63 ERA.  With almost a hit allowed per inning, Volquez is playing with fire every game and needs to curb the walks to ultimately find long-term success.  Check out Volquez’s breakout year in 2008.  17-6 record with a 3.21 ERA.  Sparkling numbers on the surface.  His 93/206 BB/K ratio that year shows that when Volquez wasn’t striking guys out, he was loading them up on base.  In a hitter’s park like Cincinnati, numbers like that simply will not do.  Volquez has a lifetime 4.47 ERA and 1.49 WHIP.  At 27 years of age, he should be entering his prime year.  But Volquez is sitting on top of our leader board for a reason:  he walks the most hitters compared to any other pitcher in baseball.  That is a high feat and one that he should not be proud of.  A top pitcher can walk maybe 50 hitters a year at most to stay successful.  By walking 93 in 2008, Volquez showed that even in a breakout year he never completely figured it out.  Luck can only be on a person’s side so long and if Volquez does not transition better to being a pitcher, the sub-4.00 ERA and 1.50 WHIP will result unfulfilled potential and mediocrity.  The best pitchers in my opinion have figured out that sacrificing strikeouts for ground ball outs can be just as effective and less taxing on their arms and walk rates.  This realization has not occurred yet to Volquez, but that will end up being the difference from becoming the next Pedro Martinez or Ramon Martinez, to a certain degree.

2)  Jonathan Sanchez, Giants:  26

The poster child for walks, Jonathan Sanchez is victim #2 on our list to high walk totals.  After becoming a full-time starter in 2008, Sanchez had his breakout year last year with the Giants.  13-9 record with a 3.07 ERA and 1.23 WHIP are solid numbers.  His 96/205 BB/K ratio though left a lot to be desired.  Almost a mirror image of Volquez from 2008 if you compare the numbers.  This year, Sanchez sits at 2-2 with a 3.45 ERA, 1.45 WHIP and 26/47 BB/K ratio in 38 IP.  The best starting pitchers keep their WHIPs down below 1.20 and at most sit at 1.25.  Anything from 1.30 and above is considered a high WHIP, with 1.50 being unacceptable.  Despite his success in 2010, Sanchez still has a 1.38 career WHIP.  When people ask me why trade rumors consistently persist around Sanchez despite being 28 and in his prime, I simply point to the walk rate.  Granted he has unbelievable stuff and is literally untouchable when he is on (as all of the pitchers on this list are).  But one good outing for every three bad outings don’t cut it.  Sanchez throws hard and can successfully strikeout over 200 batters per season if he chooses to.  But with his high walk rate, he will likely suffer the same fate as Volquez.  Men on base can translate into runs allowed, which is unhealthy for a team’s won-loss record and a pitcher’s ERA.  Until Sanchez can cut down on those walks, I will continue to simply see him as a middle-of-the-road pitcher with unfulfilled potential.  If he can cut his walk rate in half, I could see 20 wins in his future.

3)  Kyle Drabek, Jays:  25

Another Tommy John surgery survivor, Drabek is the 2nd of 3 pitchers on this list that lead baseball in walks allowed and had the procedure in their careers.  Is there a correlation?  We will need to find out one day in another post perhaps.  I could see there being a link between the motion that pitchers use to high walk rates and leading to Tommy John surgery.  An interesting little sidenote.  But I digress.  Drabek is the only rookie on this list, as all the other pitchers have experience in the majors.  None of the players on the list are vets yet, although Liriano and Volquez are starting to get there.  In his first full major league campaign, Drabek has a 2-2 record in 2011 with a 4.50 ERA, unsightly 1.63 WHIP and 25/28 BB/K ratio.  With almost a hit allowed per inning as well, Drabek is loading up the bases far too often in getting burnt.  In my estimation, I see Drabek differing from the first two players as follows.  Volquez is wild and needs to learn control.  Sanchez is occasionally wild but often tries to be too perfect in making his pitches and misses his spots.  Drabek quite often is trying be perfect and misses his spots, but otherwise has good control.  Drabek, like Sanchez, simply need to trust their stuff and just go after the hitters.  With nearly un-hittable stuff, Drabek and Sanchez would find they will beat hitters more often than not.  But a walk every inning a half will not cut it in the majors.  Not if Drabek is to fulfill his potential and become the Jays ace one day.  The comparisons between father and son will always continue for Drabek until he makes his own way in the world and I will take a brief look at Doug’s numbers.  The elder Drabek never walked more than 69 hitters in a season and finished with a career WHIP of 1.243, with 155 wins and 3.73 ERA.  He also finished with 1594 career strikeouts, with a season high 177 in his final season in Pittsburgh in 1992.  Kyle has the potential to succeed his dad, as son as better stuff than his dad and the potential for far more punch outs than his dad ever did.  If Drabek Jr. will figure that out one day, the Jays will have their ace for the next decade guaranteed.

T4)  Francisco Liriano, Twins:  24

The fourth member of our list of frustration, Liriano proved this week how utterly frustrating he can be.  Consider this:  Liriano this week threw a no-hitter against the White Sox.  Perhaps a no-hitter by the records, but the rest of his numbers were by no means special.  Liriano threw almost as many balls as strikes, finishing with 6 walks and only 2 strike outs.  These numbers translate to little or no control, but somehow not giving up a hit in otherwise poor pitching performance.  The no-hitter actually is in line with Liriano’s start to the season.  2-4 record, 6.61 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 24/20 BB/K ratio in 2011.  Not only is Liriano now not striking guys out, but he is walking hitters at an astronomical rate.  Liriano had one incredible partial season: In 2006 he had a 2.16 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 32/144 BB/SO ratio in 121 IP.  Superstar numbers and an ace in the making.  Since then, health issues and poor performance have plagued the hurler for the most part.  The 3rd Tommy John survivor on our list, Liriano appears to have the same Volquez type control issues.  Last season I thought that we had seen a rebound from Liriano.  14-10 record, 3.62 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 58/201 BB/SO ratio.  Maybe not ace numbers, but very solid pitching numbers.  Believe it or not, Liriano is on pace for approximately 150 walks this season.  Just when he looked like he might be coming around, Liriano regresses.  Then he goes out and throws a no-hitter and nobody knows what to think.  But I will tell you this much, walking hitters is a disaster…while walks and few strike outs means a complete implosion.  I suspect that there may be more to this story than meets the eye, as Liriano may be having health issues that is leading to his poor numbers.  Otherwise, at 27 years of age, Liriano may be continuing his hurler mode rather than becoming a fine-tuned pitcher as is preached by the Twins organization.  The potential is there, but until we know his health situation is better, all bets are off.

T4)  Charlie Morton, Pirates:  24

The last member of our group may not be a Tommy John survivor, but he is a 27 something year old pitcher (only Drabek is the youngster at 23).  Morton is also not on his original team, as he has been traded together with all the members of our list except Sanchez.  It is not a coincidence in my estimation that young hurlers with control issues would be moved by a major league team.  Liriano, Volquez and Morton were all seen as expandable by their respective teams in order to obtain needed talent.  Sanchez has been mentioned in trade whispers for years now and Drabek was moved, but only because the Jays demanded him in the Halladay swap.  Morton was moved in the McLouth deal, with the Braves moving an extra arm and the Pirates stocking up on much-needed pitching talent.  After previous frustrating campaigns, Morton appears to finally be coming around this year.  His 2011 record sits at 4-1 with a sparkling 3.13 ERA.  He is allowed less than a hit per inning, which is promising.  His 24/24 BB/K ratio means that Morton is striking out as many batters as he is walking.  The 1.41 WHIP is the issue with Morton, as it is with all the hurlers on this list.  Morton has a career 1.57 WHIP, so he is improving in the category.  Once he is able to put it together, Morton is able to get major league hitters out.  He may not have the stuff of the other members of this list, but he apparently knows how to get major league hitters out.  While not an ace, developing into a solid #2 or #3 starter could be in his future.  If Morton could limit his walks to approximately 50 in a season, I would love to see what he could do over the course of that year.  I see potential and improvements to warrant hope.  For a pitcher that used to give up over a hit per inning, those numbers are vastly improved.  Time will tell if the rest of his numbers will fall in line.

With young hurlers that have little control, teams do not often know what they are ultimately going to have.  In the time that it takes for a pitcher to learn control, the issue becomes whether a pitcher will be able to get major league hitters out by going for ground ball outs and fly outs while reducing walk totals.  Roy Halladay is the poster child for high strike outs and low walks.  With ERAs in the low 2.00s, WHIPs in the low 1.00s, 20 wins consistently, Halladay is everything that a pitcher strives to be.  But then take a pitchers like Andy Sonnanstine.  One of my faves on the Rays, Sonnanstine rarely walks hitters.  But without striking out many hitters either, Sonnanstine unfortunately does not have the stuff to get major league hitters out on a consistent basis and gets hit hard often.  As a result, Sonnanstine is constantly shuttling between the rotation, bullpen and minors.  If you take Sonnanstine’s control and the stuff of any of the pitchers on this list, you would have Roy Halladay.  Perhaps a touch oversimplified, but you get my message.  For pitchers like Jonathan Sanchez and Kyle Drabek, my advice is just go after and trust your stuff, good things will happen.  For Edinson Volquez and Francisco Liriano, I think a change in mechanics and approach is in order.  I see too much wildness with little change in the future.  If these pitchers do not change their walking ways, the potential that each has will never be fulfilled and talent will end up being wasted.  With the emphasis in baseball on strike outs, pitchers like Volquez and Liriano fall into the trap in concentrating on punch outs and disregarding the finer points of the game.  The emphasis is on pitching, not throwing: I hope these guys understand that one day.  Unfulfilled potential at the end of the day is just failure in my book.  Remember that the next time when you watch these hurlers flirting with trouble in their next starts.

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