The commissioner's lasting legacy isn't randomness and meaningless. It's a more fair world.
For all the excitement of this postseason’s individual games, there is a fairly common sentiment out there that something sucks about a system so random that sub-par teams get to fluke their way to the World Series, thus stripping the season of its power to make sure the best teams are rewarded. Why play a long season and then reduce the championship to coin flips? Why continually expand postseason until every champ resembles Chris Moneymaker? Zachary Levine foretold this postseason in his epitaph for Bud Selig, written in August:
The Royals have the speed, the Giants have the skipper, and both teams have momentum in an unlikely World Series matchup.
On July 28th, the Giants were four games behind the Dodgers, the Royals were five behind the Tigers, and PECOTA put their combined odds of winning the World Series at 4 percent. Neither was a preseason favorite to win the division, neither won the division, neither won 90 games, neither has an MVP candidate or a Cy Young candidate. Neither team's manager will win manager of the year, and neither will be the favorite to win a division going into next year's season. They are a combined 16-2 against the postseason gantlet, and PECOTA puts their combined odds of winning the World Series at 100 percent.
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The young lefty has ascended through the Royals system in just a few months and now finds himself being used in high-leverage situations during a World Series run. But is his future as a starter or in the pen?
Notes on prospects who stood out in the desert, including Greg Bird and Patrick Kivlehan.
Greg Bird, 1B, Yankees (Scottsdale): 2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, K. The key to Bird’s success is finding the right balance point between being patient and being passive. He has a tremendous eye at the plate, but there are times when he lets hittable pitches go by instead of trying to do damage, which I noted earlier in the year after seeing him in the Florida State League. As he learns to attack more of these pitches without expanding the strike zone and swinging at pitchers’ pitches, however, he has the potential to do enough damage to be an everyday first baseman, as the power is legitimate and the ball comes off his bat with ease.
Patrick Kivlehan, 1B, Mariners (Surprise): 2-3, 2 R, 2B, HR, BB. Kivlehan is a late-bloomer in the baseball world after playing more football while at Rutgers, but he offers plus right-handed power, a desired commodity in the game today. The Mariners have had him at third base, but he’s destined for first base where he’s playing this fall. It’s going to be all about the power for Kivlehan, and just how much of it will play in games against better competition. He could be a guy who hits his ceiling at Triple-A, but if the power continues to show, he’ll get his chances.
The former first-rounder plugged the Giants' hole at the keystone, but can he do the same for your fantasy squad?
A first-round pick of the Giants back in 2011, Panik quietly hit his way up through the minors, landing a spot on the MLB roster halfway through the 2014 season. Once viewed as a shortstop, he’s settled in as a second baseman for San Francisco, and with Brandon Crawford firmly entrenched at short, Panik figures to stay at the keystone for the foreseeable future.
Panik’s rough 2013 campaign in Double-A tempered what was already pretty lukewarm enthusiasm about his future, but he answered his critics in a big way in 2014, both in Triple-A and in the majors. Once viewed as a surefire utility infielder, Panik now seems like he may at least be a second-division starter, and the Giants probably think there’s even more here.
Poaching is a big part of the agent business. Some especially sting and never stop.
What a postseason. What a year. I have one client playing on a postseason team, so that has been quite exciting to follow. Only one of my clients has ever won a ring before—Darren Ford. Such a strange concept to me. Ford has won one but Ted Williams, Ernie Banks, and Barry Bonds didn’t. It’s a huge honor and a numbing experience.
A first attempt at measuring how much different pitchers pitch to the situation--and the questions it raises.
A few weeks ago I wrote about James Shields’ success with runners in scoring position, specifically noting how it coincided (causation or not) to a change in the righty’s approach. This led down a deep, dark rabbit hole in which the BP research staff helped me compile a more exhaustive list of how pitchers changed their tendencies in these situations. The full data set includes the absolute changes in pitch selection in several different count situations (first pitch, pitcher ahead, count even, batter ahead, etc.); for this particular post, though, I’ll focus on just one of these subcategories: first pitches.
The Cardinals center fielder isn't a sexy late-draft option, but could he still hold fantasy value in 2015?
The 29-year-old Jay has seemingly been around forever, but he has in fact only been playing baseball at the major-league level since 2010. Honestly (but there is no way you can really know), heading into the 2014 season, a playoff spotlight on the former second-round pick out of the University of Miami was the last thing I thought I would be writing in October. Why? Because after an unexciting 2013, Jay seemed destined to be replaced by the newer and apparently shinier Peter Bourjos. Additionally, super-prospect Oscar Taveras and notable prospect Randall Grichuk were waiting in the wings.
While players like Jay have almost no use in shallow leagues, finding affordable (cheaply acquirable) players to fill out your roster is a key to success in deeper leagues. Prospect theory tells us that when our expectations are lowered, such as at the end of drafts or auctions, we tend to be more risk-seeking (think buying lottery tickets). Consequentially, boring, lower-ceiling players like Jay tend to be passed up in favor of boom or bust type players (in the fantasy sense) such as Borjous, Cameron Maybin, or Chris Young. Sometimes these lottery tickets workout, but in knowing our behavioral biases, we know that the odds are not in our favor. Conversely, steady players like Jay with no ceiling to dream on can often come at a discount. Given all of this, let us see what happened in 2014.
Notes on prospects who stood out in the desert, including C.J. Edwards and Aaron Judge.
C.J. Edwards, RHP, Cubs (Mesa): 3 IP, H, 0 R, BB, 3 K. Since coming over to the Cubs farm system in the midst of his breakout 2013 campaign, Edwards has been unfairly pegged as the leader of a lackluster group of Cubs pitching prospects. He may be one of their better arms in a farm system dominated by impact bats, but there are major questions about his ability to remain a starter. He’s had success, but shoulder inflammation kept him to just 53 2/3 innings this year, which doesn’t help ease concerns about his durability.
Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees (Scottsdale): 2-4, R, HR. Judge didn’t just hit a home run, he crushed one, which he’s perfectly capable of doing given his tremendous size and strength. I’ve noted before that he doesn’t sell out for his power, which gives him a remarkably balanced approach for such a tall hitter and bodes well for his future development. He’ll run into plenty of home runs because he’s so strong, but he’ll be better suited being the all-around hitter he’s attempting to be.
Could sending Molina to the batter's box essentially without a bat be a better option for the Cardinals simply due to his elite talents behind the plate?
When Yadier Molina went to the bullpen to warm up Trevor Rosenthal in Game 3 of the NLCS, the speculation was totally warranted. Why not bring Molina in to catch with his oblique injury? That’s something that affects the swing, and if you can get some defensive work out of him, that’s where so much of his value is anyway.
In that light, we had received one of my favorite questions to the Effectively Wild podcast, which Ben and Sam passed along: