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.
This weekend, the Indians continued to put the hurt on top-flight pitchers. Tonight, Josh Lindblom will make his first career start against the A's.
The Weekend Takeaway
Indians reliever Vinnie Pestano, who came off the disabled list in time for the ongoing series against the Mariners, issued this warning to other teams after the third game of four:
Catching instructors and coordinators comment on the importance of receiving skills.
While working on a feature on catcher framing for Grantland, I spoke to many catching instructors and coordinators about what makes a good receiver, what receiving skills are worth, and to what extent they can be improved. Many of their most interesting insights didn't make it into that story, so I've collected them here.
Running through the notable quotes of the week that was.
SNAKES ON TOP OF THE WEST "I was spotty at first. As good as I've felt the last few times, coming out again I just wasn't there, I wasn't sharp, but I had a focus point that I wanted to get back to. About the second inning on, I was able to get back to that and at least repeat my delivery and was able to kind of turn the game over in my favor instead of the first where everything was a little up and a little too hittable."
—Diamondbacks starter Brandon McCarthy, after throwing a complete game shutout at Marlins Park on Saturday. Arizona’s 25-19 record leads the NL West. (Steve Gilbert, MLB.com)
If the players on Bret Sayre's weekly Stash List are already owned in your league, don't worry: Mike has advice on how to pick fantasy diamonds out of the minor-league rough.
Every week, Baseball Prospectus’ own Bret Sayre puts together The Stash List. This list is an invaluable resource. I often use it not only to ascertain who might be close to making an impact in my deep leagues but also to get a feel for what the market value might be for a player. In leagues where I can bid on minor leaguers, this gives me a feel for when I might need to bid; in leagues where I can’t bid on minor leaguers, this tells me what I might need to bid.
However, in some of the deeper leagues I play in, Bret’s list isn’t of much use. Two of the expert leagues I’m in allow owners to stash minor leaguers, and the reserve lists are deep enough that even in non-keeper formats the top prospects that might make it up in 2013 are long gone. Speculation also runs rampant in these types of cutthroat leagues. If you think you’re going to be the lucky soul that snags Christian Yelich a week before his call-up, forget about it. Yelich is already owned in Tout Wars and in most deep leagues with any appreciable reserve depth.
Updates on Byron Buxton, Francisco Lindor, and others around the minor leagues.
Byron Buxton, OF, Twins (Low-A Cedar Rapids)
After a scorching start to the season (1.194 OPS in April), Buxton has cooled (somewhat) in his second month in full-season ball, but thanks to game heroics and flashes of his future brilliance, Buxton’s stock has never been higher. Equipped with eye-splitting tools, including elite speed and easy plus raw power, the 19-year-old is well on his way to being the top prospect in the minors. Buxton recently hit a walk-off grand slam that one scout source in attendance said traveled an estimated 450 feet and was launched off a 98 mph fastball. Perfect Game’s Justin Hlubek captured the event on video, and if you have a change of pants handy, please click this link and drift into a euphoric state. --Jason Parks
Yordano Ventura, RHP, Royals (Double-A Northwest Arkansas)
If Ventura’s physical characteristics read 6’3’’ rather than 5’11’’, the combination of stuff and results would make him one of the premier pitching prospects in the game. Everybody knows about the fastball, as it can hit triple digits in bursts and routinely works in the plus-plus range, but the legitimacy is found in the developmental progression of the secondary arsenal, which includes a plus curveball and a changeup that some think could end up being very special. Because of questions about his ability to handle a starter’s workload, Ventura gets put into the bullpen box, where he profiles as an elite closer. While that’s quite the enticing alternative, the organization is adamant that they always have and will continue to view the 21-year-old righty as a starter, and a very special one at that. Not every slight Dominican righty is going to be the next Pedro, but most slight Dominican righties aren’t in Ventura’s class of talent, and if his body is up to the challenge, the Royals might have the top of the rotation arm they’ve been trying to develop since forever. –Jason Parks
Jonny Venters undergoes Tommy John surgery for the second time. Who's to blame?
In The Song of the Lark Willa Cather wrote, "People live through such pain only once; pain comes again, but it finds a tougher surface." Though Cather meant something else, the thought lends itself to physical pain; hence our cliches about broken bones mending sturdier, and reconstructed elbows healing stronger. Unfortunately, Mother Nature trumps tougher surfaces, which explains why Jonny Venters underwent his second Tommy John surgery last Thursday.
The operation comes as a last resort. In April Venters received a platelet-rich plasma injection—a relatively new, painful procedure—along with instruction to rest for a few weeks. When Venters resumed throwing his elbow resumed hurting, necessitating further action. Typically a full recovery takes about 12 months with a high success rate. But the odds diminish with subsequent surgeries. As Carroll Rogers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explained: "Though the sample size is smaller, estimations range from 10 to 25 percent of those pitchers returning to be effective major leaguers."
The best and worst framers of the week and the season, plus framing-related links.
Framing-related links of the week
It’s been an eventful week for framing on the internet. If you're here because you’re interested in catcher receiving skills, you might also want to take a look at these three articles:
Estimated historical framing: More great work by Max Marchi, who used Retrosheet pitch-by-pitch data to estimate framing performance going back to 1988. He also took a look at how receiving skills age. Next on his to-do list: estimated framing for minor leaguers, and the quantification of game-calling.
The nastiest offerings of the first quarter of the season.
Though I spend the vast majority of my time at Raising Aces immersed in the analysis of pitching mechanics, the best part of the game is the filthy stuff produced by the mechanical process. One of my favorite features at BP is Sam Miller's “The Best Pitches Thrown This Week,” in which the audience is inundated with GIFs of the nastiest projectiles caught on camera. Inspired by Sam's work, in conjunction with our human compulsion toward dicing the season into manageable chunks of information for the sake of over-analysis, I decided to conjure up a collection of the best stuff from the first quartile of the 2013 season.
The categories were chosen to reflect the elements of a well-rounded repertoire, with the data split into fastballs, breaking balls, and off-speed pitches. In appreciation of the qualitative value of elite pitching, both subjective and objective elements were considered when constructing the following lists, yet the end results were too close to call. I plead the audience to help me fill the gaps by voting for their favorite candidate in each pitch-type category and submitting votes in the comments section. [Stats through games of 5/15]