The pitches pitchers don't throw for strikes, to try to get strikes.
There’s a story about Gene Bearden in Veeck as in Wreckthat I’ve written about before. As a 27-year-old rookie in 1948, the knuckleballing Bearden posted a 2.43 ERA in 37 games and 29 starts for the Indians, winning 20 games and finishing second to Alvin Dark in Rookie of the Year voting. But he couldn’t sustain his success. In Bearden’s sophomore season, Casey Stengel, who had managed Bearden during his successful 1947 PCL campaign with the Oakland Oaks, was hired to manage the Yankees. Stengel, the story goes, knew that Bearden’s knuckleball “usually dipped below the strike zone after it broke, which meant that [he] was totally dependent upon getting the batter to swing.” So he instructed his hitters not to swing at the knuckler until there were two strikes, forcing Bearden to elevate it or throw his unremarkable fastball or curve. The scouting report spread around the rest of the league, Bearden became more hittable, and his walk rate rose. Working primarily out of the bullpen, he posted a 90 ERA+ from 1949 on and was out of the majors after 1953.
It’s an interesting story, and the stats mostly support it. Bearden was probably due for some regression, Stengel’s advance scouting aside—his BABIP in 1948 was some 40 points below the AL average (low even for a knuckleballer), he walked more batters than he struck out, and he allowed only nine home runs in 229 1/3 innings. But in 1949, his walk rate rose by more than two batters per nine, and he allowed 11 runs in nine IP against the Yankees, posting a lower strikeout-to-walk ratio (0.17) against them than he did against any other team. (Admittedly, Bearden struggled against the Yankees in 1948, too. The Yankees were good.)
With less than a month until draft day, which players are making names for themselves in the corner outfield market?
This year’s draft class offers an interesting blend of talent at the outfield corners, particularly at the prep ranks, where we find a dynamic cross-section of thumpers, pure hit tools, and a little of everything in between. At the collegiate ranks, some of the top talents include current infielders and center fielders that project better to a corner at the next level, with perhaps the best current corner outfielder in the class representing one of the biggest displays of helium over the past 12 months.
Last night, Patrick Corbin continued his breakout season in dominating fashion. Tonight, Max Scherzer will try to contain Carlos Santana and the Indians.
The Monday Takeaway
When members of the Baseball Prospectus staff submitted our breakout-player predictions back in February, only two pitchers, Matt Moore and Mike Minor, made the list. With Moore off to an 8-0 start and Minor sporting a 51-to-12 K:BB, those were fine choices. But if we were to do it over, a third lefty, the Diamondbacks’ Patrick Corbin, would undoubtedly join them.
Corbin took the Coors Field mound yesterday with a 1.52 ERA through eight assignments, a number that was scrutinized by those skeptical of his emergence as a mid-rotation stud. The southpaw’s strikeout rate had increased modestly, from 18.9 percent last year to 19.5 percent in the early going of 2013, but his walk rate had climbed more significantly, from 5.5 percent to 8.1 percent. His opponents’ BABIP was .259. He had stranded 89.2 percent of the runners who reached base. All of those are often indicators of impending regression.
Safe for work, if your workplace permits nearly nude baseball players in tastefully draped towels.
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A non-scout goes undercover at Evans Diamond to evaluate the potential 1-1 draft pick.
I saw Mark Appel pitch once before. It was early last season, down on The Farm, AKA Sunken Diamond, when it looked for all the world like he would be selected first overall in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.
His stuff was electric. Fastball sat in the mid-90s and his slider absolutely unfair. It was there, and then it wasn't. To his opponents—mostly good-enough college hitters whose careers would end when they received their diplomas—it must have seemed like the ball was teleporting, Nightcrawler-style. Here it comes, the BAMF! It's in the dirt, six inches off the plate.
With the Rangers' top prospect moving up to the big leagues, Wil Myers takes over his spot atop the list.
"Fellow prospects, rehabbers, suspension servers and major leaguers awaiting the roles you were meant to fill,
The Stash List has not only been a place for all of us to be highlighted for our potential, but a community for the nearly famous. As we toil the baseball earth searching for a path to glory, we are subject to its whims. The injuries we played through, the bus rides we shared, the per diems we blew through at fast food joints, the dizzy bat races (ALL THE DIZZY BAT RACES)—it all leads to this.
Opposing pitchers haven't fared quite as badly in the thin air of Denver in 2013 as they have in past years, but that doesn't mean you should lower your start-sit bar.
Patrick Corbin’s filthy, complete-game gem on Monday night in Coors Field drew a chorusofTwitterfacepalms as many fantasy managers shied away from the excellent-thus-far-but-still-unproven lefty in the terrifying Denver venue. Of course, if they read last week’s Two-Start Planner, they would’ve had Corbin in their lineups, as I gave him a full “Start” recommendation despite the risk associated with Coors. Back-patting aside, I’ve been keeping a close eye on Coors Field this year and as I mentioned in the aforementioned Planner “it really hasn’t been as scary as it was last year,” and we may need to lower our threshold for starters to consider when they’re traveling to Denver.
It’s not like the Rockies offense has completely fallen off, either. Their 5.02 runs per game is the National League’s best clip and baseball’s second-best, while their 5.55 runs per game at home also tops the NL and checks in third overall behind Detroit (6.20) and Texas (5.58). Last year, the Rockies were scoring six runs per game at home—baseball’s best by half a run—so the competition hasn’t been as fierce when opposing pitchers toe the slab in Coors Field. But it hasn’t been anywhere near easy, either, and yet we are seeing a lot more success from the starters facing the Rockies.
The shift is here to stay, but to be embraced, it has to be rebranded.
In 50 years, and that may be a conservatively distant estimate, we will hear much less talk about defensive shifts.
First of all, there might not be baseball in 50 years. It’s why I’m always hesitant to answer questions that start with “will we ever see,” because “ever” is a really, really long time compared to the current lifespan of baseball (unless it isn’t).
Considering the pros and cons of an innovative experiment.
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article in which I suggested that teams might benefit from going to a model that gets rid of the traditional starting pitcher. Instead of having five men who are expected to go 6-7 innings over 100 pitches, I suggested a model in which three pairs of pitchers each throw 50 pitches, and on the third day, they would pitch again, in fulfillment… I should stop there. I argued that a team that committed to that model could leverage a group of (cheap!) pitchers who were good for a couple innings, but not for six. In this way, a team could get the same sort of results that they might expect from having a bunch of pretty good starters, but for a fraction of the (David) Price.