The best and worst of the week and season, plus more on Matt Wieters and the Brewers.
As promised last time, I put up several BP excerpts from interviews I conducted while working on my feature on framing for Grantland. If you missed any of them, the links are here:
Two epic plate appearances with a dramatic disparity in styles.
Normally this series is on the blog side of the site, but since this is an extra-long edition, I’ve made it an article. If you’re new to “Longest Plate Appearance of the Week” because you don’t read the blog section regularly, A) read the blog section regularly! and B) catch up on the first edition here and the second edition here. I’ve added a few new elements this week: the length of the plate appearance, the number of mound visits involved, and a GIF of an exhausted player who’s wishing the plate appearance would end.
Bonus long plate appearance trivia: I don’t know why I didn’t think to look it up before, but if we’re going to talk about long plate appearances every week, we should know what the gold standard in long plate appearances is. The pitch-by-pitch data in our database goes back to 1988, and in that time, the longest plate appearance was a 20-pitch battle between Bartolo Colon and Ricky Gutierrez on June 26, 1998. Gutierrez struck out swinging. So, 20 pitches: that’s the goal. The average plate appearance in 1998 was 0.15 pitches shorter than today’s, so we have a head start.
While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive (and mostly free) online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
The Indians have returned to contention in 2013, six years after the 2007 edition of the team won 96 games and appeared to be starting an extended run of success. In 2007, Kevin Goldstein took a look at how that last winning Indians team was assembled in the piece reprinted below, which was originally published as a "Future Shock" column on October 16, 2007.
Jason outlined some of the statistical differences in Masterson's 2013 performance, particularly noting his split stats versus left- and right-handed batters. Left-handed batters have accounted for 43 percent of all plate appearances league-wide since 2011, yet they tend to receive the majority of the attention when it comes to pitching strategy. Lefty hitters enjoy multiple advantages, ranging from the head start toward first base they get out of the box to the lesser gloves that typically populate the pull side of the infield (one of whom is tethered to the first-base bag).
You’ll notice that Tim Lincecum isn’t very good these days. He’s actually quite bad. It’s hard to watch him sometimes, especially when he’s matched up against a good opponent, knowing he’s become so likely to lose the battle. That’s what happens, I suppose: pitchers get older, they get worse.
Not his pitching, though. I’m talking about his hitting. Lincecum has one measly hit this season, a little groundball single through the hole between shortstop and third base. He has struck out 12 times in 16 official at-bats. Just six players—five pitchers, and Khris Davis, who R.J. brilliantly describes as “Chris Davis with more K”—have a lower contact rate on pitches in the strike zone.
Our fantasy staff takes a gander at some potential trades in fantasy leagues.
Question: I'm in a weekly HTH points league in which batting points are given for total TB, R, RBI, and BB, minus KO, and pitching points are awarded for W (5), QS (5), INN (.5), and K (1), minus ER (-1). I've been offered Matt Harvey and Cespedes if I give Pedroia. My OF is Aoki, Choo, and Heyward, and I play V. Wells and Hunter at U. I've got Werth on my bench. I'd need a 2B player, and Kelly Johnson is available on waivers. I'd probably drop Werth to pick up Johnson. What do you think of this trade?
Answer: If you can get Johnson, that becomes a nice 3-for-1 for you. He is playing very well, can be used in multiple places, and should put up better final numbers.
The Mariners demoted Jesus Montero to the minors yesterday. Tonight, Kris Medlen will try to halt David Wright and the Mets.
The Thursday Takeaway
With only five games on the docket, the day’s most salient news may have come from upstairs at Safeco Field, where the Mariners decided to demote Jesus Montero to Triple-A Tacoma. The former number-one prospect in the Yankees farm system, who came over to Seattle as the centerpiece in the trade that sent Michael Pineda to the Bronx, had fallen into an 8-for-44 slump, and that rut coupled with shaky defense was enough to cost Montero his big-league job.
Remember when, after Pineda exhibited diminished velocity and was diagnosed with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, it seemed as though the Mariners might emerge as the clear victors in the trade? Well, a year-plus of below-replacement-level work from Montero may have tilted the scales back toward the Yankees, who on Thursday also received positive news about the recovery of the 24-year-old pitcher they so highly coveted two offseasons ago.
Harry looks at the impact of velocity differentials between fastballs and changeups on whiff rates and ground-ball rates.
Two weeks ago, I looked at some of the factors that may impact "changeup" quality. When dealing with major-league pitchers, you are dealing with a rather select sample, so all results should be handled with care. In other words, this isn't a roapmap to pitcher development, but a single marker on the road.
Bret explains why high minor-league strikeout rates don't always portend low batting averages when a player reaches the majors.
It gets talked about a lot; we are living through a golden age of strikeouts in baseball. And there are plenty of potential reasons for this, which are thrown out during the discussion. Some say that it’s just a talent surge on the pitching side of the equation that will correct itself during the next cycle. Some say it’s an overall lack of a two-strike mentality among hitters in the game today. Some say the sabermetric movement has reduced the fear and shame associated with striking out. Some say it’s sunscreen.
Regardless of what the true reasoning is (though it’s likely a combination of all of the above and more), we are where we are at the major-league level. But what does that mean for minor-league strikeout rates? Are contact rates in the minors decreasing at the same level that we see across the highest level of the game? The answer is that it depends how advanced the league is.