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April 11, 2014

Pebble Hunting

Your Five Favorite Players of 2014

by Sam Miller


Just after the World Series last year, I told you who your five favorite players were going to be this season, now that Koji Uehara’s on a major label . A prediction that isn’t revisited is just an opinion, so in the interest of accountability it’s important that we periodically make sure that one of these players has become your favorite player. So, nearly two weeks into the season, is one of these players your favorite player? Yes! One of them is. Here are your New Favorite Player power rankings:

5. Nate Freiman
Crush category: One-skill player deployed to great effect.
Freiman is in Triple-A right now, and as much as you like to have an underground favorite player, only the worst kind of Brooklyn normcore hipster picks a 27-year-old Triple-A first baseman to be his favorite player. At least Freiman is doing what we want to see him do: His OPS against lefties so far is 520 points higher than against righties. (All stats in this article through Wednesday.) Here’s the long-term bad news for Freiman: If left-handers really do live, on average, nine fewer years than right-handers, then over time the number of left-handers as a percentage of the overall population should shrink. Once a right-hander is born, that is, he’ll spend a longer period of time among us; if 1,000 people are born every year and 85 percent of them are right handed, then after 500 years the right-handers would have spent more than 3.2 million extra years on this earth—the equivalent of 55,000 “extra” right-handers walking around. Further, handedness appears to be hereditary, and the longer-living right-handers would have more opportunities to procreate (assuming that the extra lifespan is distributed throughout various demographics). Eventually, Freiman is going to realize he’s living in a world with practically no left-handed pitching to mash. Assuming, of course, that Freiman lives that long, which, considering his handedness, he might.

New contender for this spot: Billy Burns

4. Wily Peralta
Crush category: Young flame-thrower poised to potentially break out as a potential breakout candidate.

Peralta had a wobbly first start of the season, allowing only two earned runs but three unearned. Further, he got just six swinging strikes, or what is known as a Two-Thirds Albers. But that’s okay. We don’t need him to pitch all that well; we just need him to pitch well enough that we might plausibly expect to someday predict that he will pitch well. For that, Peralta’s first start kept him on track. He struck out six in five innings, threw a couple more strikes than his traditional average, and—most importantly—continued to throw hard. At 96.4 mph, his four-seamer was actually a tick faster than it was last year, when he had the 13th-fastest fastball among all starters. His two-seamer—last season’s second fastest—also picked up a tick. Velocity is typically down in April, so it’s encouraging to see Peralta throwing as hard as ever, and maybe even harder. (Each of his fastballs, and his changeup, had more horizontal movement than last year, too, if you need one more thing to keep an eye on.)

Is it relevant that there have been two players in baseball history named Wily, and that they are arguably the least wily players who have ever played their position? Can we imagine, for a moment, a heist movie in which Wily Peralta and Wily Mo Pena have to sneak into a room with motion detectors, surveillance cameras, and alarm triggers? For goodness sakes, this is Peralta just trying to locomote across a flat, open, and unguarded expanse of dirt and grass:

Your fourth-favorite player.

New contender for this spot: Garrett Richards, who (after Yordano Ventura) has the second-fastest fastball this year.

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Baseball ProGUESTus: U... (04/11)
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