The teams that have outhit and outpitched their projections, or fallen the farthest short.
We’re approaching the halfway point of the season, though we’re still over a month away from the nominal start of the second half. And that means we’re also approaching the point at which we stop thinking about how we thought the season would play out (except for our probably accidentally accurate predictions, which we treasure forever). According to Colin Wyers, in-season team records become more reliable than pre-season projections around Game 103. Most of us don’t have a particular point of the season at which we entirely abandon pre-season projections—nor should we—but every day we trust what we’ve seen so far a little more and what we expected to see a little less. And eventually, we look back and wonder why we didn’t see certain things coming.
PECOTA has had plenty of successes. The projected team TAvs for the Rangers and Brewers, for example, have been correct to the point, and the projected team ERAs for the Mets and Diamondbacks have been less than 0.02 points off. But while PECOTA deserves a pat on its back for its accurate predictions, there’s much more to say about the surprises. This article is about the lineups and pitching staffs that have defied our expectations so far.
The Yankees haven't produced many successful homegrown starters, but they have been churning out a wave of cheap relief arms.
Most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.
Josh Norris has covered the Trenton Thunder and the Yankees farm system for The Trentonian for the last six seasons and spends his free time filming prospects in plush locales like Scranton, Allentown, Wilmington, Lakewood and Staten Island. Previously, he covered the Eugene Emeralds for Scout.com and Oregon club baseball (before NCAA baseball returned) for the Oregon Daily Emerald.
Do substitute defenders perform worse in the field than starters?
I have a fascination with super-utility players, the guys who can play anywhere on the diamond. Players like Tony Phillips, Ben Zobrist, or even Denny Hocking. They're so handy to have around because a manager can fill out a lineup with a little more flexibility and know that he has someone to fill whatever hole is left. He's a wild card that gives a general manager more choices when putting together a roster. He's the type of player who adds a little extra value that the box score— and WARP—don't really capture.
With the likes of Wil Myers and Zack Wheelers making their debuts today, Bret looks at the next wave of players who could come up and help your fantasy team.
It seems like it was just yesterday that we were all talking about Super Two status and when we'd see the likes of Wil Myers and Zack Wheeler at the major-league level. Oh wait, it was yesterday (they're both making their major-league debuts today). So as far as speculation, here at The Stash List, we move on from one very important group of players to another less attractive one. At this point, we've seen almost all of the top prospects that were waiting for the call due to service-time reasons—guys like Billy Hamiton and Oscar Taveras are not included here since there are other reasons why they have not been called up yet. So what is the wave coming in the horizon? Players who will see their values increase due to trade deadline activity.
Now, this next phase has its concentration in a few different areas, but the biggest focus is pitching—both starters and closers. There are already rumors of current closers Jonathan Papelbon, Kevin Gregg, Bobby Parnell, and Casey Janssen being moved over the next month or so, and there are sure to be more as we get closer to July 31. Same with Matt Garza, Ricky Nolasco, and Bud Norris in the rotation. The trading deadline presents playing time opportunities that weren't there before, and while it's still a little early to start acting on some of these impulses, it's never too early to start thinking about them. So while not all of these players who move on to contenders will have successors worthy of owning, there are definitely guys to keep tabs on as rumors begin to fly. This applies tenfold in AL- and NL-only formats, where playing time is king.
After gaining polish over 13 Triple-A starts, Zack Wheeler is ready to prove that he belongs in the Mets rotation.
The Situation: With the Mets struggling at the big-league level and the “Super 2” timeline squarely in the rearview mirror, it was time for the club to call upon their other high-end pitching prospect to pair him with right-hander Matt Harvey. Zack Wheeler will make his major-league debut just down the road from where he grew up near Atlanta on Tuesday night against the Braves.
Background: Wheeler, the sixth-overall pick by the San Francisco Giants in 2009, joined the Mets in exchange for outfielder Carlos Beltran at the trade deadline in 2011. After two successful but inconsistent seasons in Low-A and High-A with the Giants, Wheeler got his first taste of the upper levels in 2012 with the Mets. In 19 Double-A starts Wheeler notched a 3.26 ERA with just 92 hits allowed in 116 innings. He walked a career-low 3.3 batters per nine innings and fanned better than a batter per inning, making progress in his development. The Mets promoted him to Triple-A Buffalo at the end of 2012 season, and he logged a 3.27 ERA in six starts. Returning to Triple-A to start the 2012 season, though this time in the high-octane Pacific Coast League, Wheeler has posted a 3.93 ERA with 61 hits and 27 walks yielded in 68-2/3 innings and an impressive 73 punchouts.
One of baseball's best-hitting teams adds one of baseball's best-hitting prospects.
The Situation:Wil Myers, ranked by Baseball Prospectus as Tampa Bay’s no. 1 prospect (and no. 7 in baseball) entering this season, has received his much-anticipated MLB call-up. Although Myers appeared to be near big-league ready after mashing in Triple-A last season, the Rays sent him back to the minor leagues in mid-March, citing adjustments needed both offensively and in right field while likely keeping a watchful eye on this year’s “super two” arbitration window. That window has since passed, and Myers has recently caught fire at the plate, leading to Tuesday’s call-up. The top prospect will look to bolster Tampa Bay’s already strong offense in the midst of a tight American League East race.
Background: Drafted by Kansas City as a catcher in 2009, Myers spent two summers behind the dish before his advanced bat enabled him to fly through the lower minors. After the former third-round pick hit .315/.429/.506 between the Low- and High-A levels in 2010, the Royals chose to accelerate his developmental timetable by scrapping his still-raw catching and moving him into the outfield. Myers has since spent time at all three outfield spots but this year has settled in as a right fielder, where he profiles long term. He continued to mash upper-level pitching in 2012, hitting .314/.378/.600 with 37 home runs between Double- and Triple-A. Although Myers got out to a slow start (by his standards) this season, he’s batting .286 through 64 games and has a .339/.377/.696 slash line this month.
Yesterday, Josh Johnson showed off his vintage form against the Rockies. Tonight, Seth Smith ought to be wary of Yu Darvish as he tries to avoid becoming the fireballer's next strikeout victim.
The Monday Takeaway
The early returns on the Blue Jays’ off-season shopping spree are not quite as rosy as general manager Alex Anthopoulos might have hoped they would be.
Jose Reyes has been on the disabled list with a severe ankle sprain since April 13. R.A. Dickey’s first 15 assignments have been a rollercoaster ride at best and a disaster at worst. Melky Cabrera has essentially been a replacement-level player, logging a .320 on-base percentage that hardly belongs at the top of a contender’s order. And Mark Buehrle has seen his FIP rise for a fourth consecutive year, from 3.87 in 2010 to 4.48 so far in 2013, and only recently began to right the ship after a brutal first month and a half.
Jose Iglesias has a .507 BABIP this year. This article is not about that BABIP, exactly, but we are starting there. Iglesias entered the season with a .164 career BABIP in the majors, and a .300 BABIP in the minors, and a reputation as the best defensive shortstop in baseball, with a bat that might be just weak enough to support that glove. Finding out Jose Iglesias has a .507 BABIP is like finding out that Chin-lung Hu quietly signed with the Pirates and hit 14 home runs in May. Anyway, like I said, this article isn't about that BABIP.
A year ago, we did a blind BABIP test for a Jake Peavy start; 20 balls put in play, 10 were hits, and you tried to guess which were which based on all the information you could collect up to the point of contact. Gosh, did you ever do terribly. Given a 50 percent chance of guessing the correct answers blindly, you collectively got 52 percent of the answers correct. But maybe that wasn't fair; maybe focusing on the pitcher (who, as we know, controls his BABIP only a little bit) is a doomed exercise. Hitters control their BABIP some bit more than that. So maybe we should be focusing on the batter, looking to see if he's balanced and putting a good swing on the ball or flailing, jammed, late, or on top of the ball. So what happens if we do this from the batter's perspective? Will we be any better? I suspect... well, honestly, I don't know.