The Tigers face off with the Orioles in a series that features two rosters with very different strengths and weaknesses.
A series between opposites pits the preseason favorite Tigers against the anything-but-preseason-favorite Orioles. The two teams differ in a few other noteworthy ways—one has a veteran manager, excels at defense, and uses a strong bullpen to brace a shaky rotation; the other is led by a rookie manager, struggles at defense, and begs its rotation to minimize its shaky bullpen. Which style will prevail and advance to the ALCS? Let's find out. (Note: Neither team's Divisional Series roster is set, so we'll update the article when the names are officially announced.)
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The best team in the AL takes on the Wild Card champ Royals in a matchup of aggressive managers, lopsided team rosters, and teams who have employed Raul Ibanez this year.
Here’s something I learned about the Angels’ fanbase while covering the team five years ago: They hated Rob Neyer. Not for the usual reasons that everybody hates everybody else these days, but because, in the late 1970 and the 1980s, the Angels and Royals were legit rivals. In 1978 and 1979, each team won the AL West once—and finished second once. 1982, the Angels won and the Royals finished second; in 1984 and 1985, the Royals took the crown, and the Angels were in both years the runner-up. In 1986, the Angels took it, and the Royals were third. They hated each other, so much so that Angels fans still hold it against Neyer that he was a Royals fan at the time and, to their view of the world, must hate them. Of course, since then Kansas City and Anaheim have moved farther from each other on the map; the former is now in the Midwest, if you can believe it, so there is no division rivalry, but this week will surely revive some of the old feuds.
The Pirates righty's fine season came to an end yesterday, but can we expect more of the same in 2015?
This is going to come to you a day late, and likely a dollar short. Edinson Volquez took the mound last night, but I’m writing this in the afternoon so the results of his one-game playoff performance aren’t yet known, nor if he’ll get another shot. That said, we do have a 31-start sample from which to analyze this year, allowing us to determine how we feel about Volquez going forward.
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2001, Volquez matured gradually, not appearing on a prospect list until 2004. From there he took off, ranked by Baseball America as the Rangers no. 1 prospect following the 2005 season, in addition to ranking in their top 100 for the first and final time. He was a member of the Rangers vaunted DVD trio (Danks-Volquez-Diamond), and thought to be part of the wave of pitching prospects that would save Texas.
We might be in the "Era of the Pitcher," but does that mean that the league is teeming with top-shelf arms?
Early last week, I reintroduced the concept of the Holy Trinity and outlined the 19 starting pitchers who qualified for the elite status. Furthermore, I argued that Holy Trinity pitchers, on average, significantly outperform the league-average pitcher. While that’s not a groundbreaking discovery, the estimated margin of 1.00 ERA for any HT pitcher over the league-average starter is remarkable enough to perhaps persuade fantasy owners to specifically alter their draft board in order to target them.
However, the HT list from 2014 is merely a piece of the puzzle. It begs the question: Are HT pitchers increasing in frequency as pitching continues to dominate across Major League Baseball?
After three weeks of reading this column (you all read this column on a weekly basis, right?) you probably have some expectations. When my editor and I were discussing column names, he liked this one, saying it suggests that I'll look at things a bit differently, with an emphasis on pitching. "Pitching Backward" just kind of fits.
Now, I’m no fool, I can sense what you’re all thinking. It’s been three weeks and I have yet to actually talk about pitching backward. That all changes today. I know, the excitement is palpable.
A look at the A's third baseman's 2014 campaign and what the future holds for him.
Ben Carsley got our Playoff Spotlight series kicked off on Tuesday with a breakdown of Eric Hosmer. At the time this is being written, Oakland is still in the playoffs. Of course, so is Kansas City, as the game hasn’t started, so players from both clubs are technically still fair game. I actually expect Oakland to win so they’d still be in the playoffs when this is posted, but you’ll forgive me if they aren’t, I hope. Let’s stay on the hitting side and take a look at Josh Donaldson from the A’s.
A first-round pick back in 2007 (48th overall by CHC), Donaldson was a tertiary part of the Rich Harden deal in July of 2008. He started out behind the dish, but also saw time at the four corners (1B, 3B, LF, and RF) in the Oakland farm system. He spent two years in Kevin Goldstein’s second 10 for the Athletics prospects with power as the carrying tool, though it didn’t grade at a plus level.
I tried to think of some clever way to start this recap; something about Ned Yost, Billy Beane, or Moneyball. Nope. None of that would do justice to a game that was, at its heart, baseball in its purest form.
What to watch for in this postseason? Things three standard deviations away from the mean, obviously.
There’s a toy over at Brooks Baseball—well, he probably wouldn’t call it a toy, but I use it as a toy—that I just love. For each pitch thrown by each pitcher, it assigns a “scouting scale” number for certain characteristics and results: velocity, movement, release point, whiff rate, groundball rate, etc. As you know, on the 20-80 scouting scale, 50 is average and each standard deviation represents 10 points up or down the scale. For instance, Aroldis Chapman’s average fastball velocity is a bit more than three standard deviations from the average left-hander's, so, per Brooks, his fastball velocity is assigned an 84 (lol) on the scouting scale. Dallas Keuchel’s groundball rate on his sinker is nearly three standard deviations higher than the typical lefty sinkerl in that specific aspect, it gets a 79. It’s a toy, of course, because that’s not to say Keuchel’s sinker is an 80 pitch, or that a scout would put an 80 on it, or that you should put an 80 on it; it’s just that, statistically, in this one aspect of it, compared to other pitchers, in the period of time surveyed, his was thatfar from normal.
The Giants and the Pirates play at 8:07 Eastern today; the winner gets the Nationals.
Thanks to the Milwaukee Brewers’ second-half collapse, the playoff picture was pretty clear in the National League in the last few weeks, the only question being whether the Pirates could steal the division from the Cardinals with a late push. The Cardinals held on, so for the second year in a row the Pirates will host the NL Wild Card game at PNC Park, this time against the San Francisco Giants.