Can and should the Diamondbacks push forward with their three-year plan, or look to blow it up early?
The Diamondbacks lost 8-0 on Monday night. The game was in Arizona. The opponents were the lowly Phillies. From the ninth spot in their batting order, Philadelphia got two extra-base hits (doubles by pitcher Vince Velasquez and substitute left fielder Cody Asche). The Diamondbacks didn’t manage any extra-base hits, from any place in the batting order. With the loss, they fell to 36-43. They’re 13.5 games back of the Giants, and after hard-fought wins over good teams for both the Dodgers and Rockies, Arizona trails those teams by 6.5 and 2.5 games, respectively. The Dodgers, seven losses clear of the Diamondbacks, hold the second Wild Card spot in the NL, and four teams (including three who are demonstrably better than Arizona, in St. Louis, New York, and Pittsburgh) stand between the two clubs. We credit Arizona with Playoff Odds of roughly 2.5 percent. Things are bleak, for a team that had high hopes (however unfounded those hopes might have been).
Lately, it seems like we talk an awful lot about the dangers of getting caught in between. We want to see teams follow the Cardinals’ model of excruciatingly patient investment in long-term success. We want to see teams follow the Rangers’ model, blending a strong preference for high ceilings in amateur talent acquisition with an open checkbook and a taste for mammal blood. We want them to follow the Cubs’ model, maybe most of all, forsaking slow slogs through seasons of 75 and 76 and 79 wins for ones much more miserable, with the end goal of building a truly special something, instead of just trying to get back into the mix.
Troy Tulowitzki is still searching for his missing production 11 months after leaving Coors Field.
Troy Tulowitzki returned to Coors Field last night for the first time as a visiting player, facing the Rockies nearly 11 months after the blockbuster trade that sent the five-time All-Star shortstop from Colorado to Toronto. Because the Blue Jays went 31-10 with Tulowitzki in their lineup last season and made the playoffs for the first time since 1993 the trade was immediately labeled a success, but Tulowitzki didn’t actually play all that well in those 41 games and his contract meant neither team involved was viewing the deal as strictly a short-term move. Tulowitzki’s mediocre performance has continued this season, which has to be worrisome for the Blue Jays given that he’s 31 years old and signed through 2020 at an average annual salary of around $20 million.
When the Blue Jays acquired Tulowitzki they did so knowing that his raw hitting numbers would decline because that’s just how things work with Rockies hitters. Coors Field undeniably boosts offense, often to extreme degrees, and hitters departing the Rockies can generally be counted on to post less gaudy raw numbers in their new homes. However, projecting how Rockies hitters will fare elsewhere can be tricky due to a potential “hangover” effect playing home games at altitude can have on a player’s performance in road games. In other words, it’s not always as simple as taking a longtime Rockies hitter’s road numbers and penciling those in as his overall numbers, because the road numbers might be underrepresenting his true, non-Coors Field talent level.
Tulowitzki spent the first decade of his career calling Coors Field home and took full advantage, hitting .321/.394/.558 in 526 games there compared to .276/.349/.468 in 522 road games. Even with a hangover effect possibly dragging them down those road numbers alone would have made Tulowitzki the best-hitting shortstop in baseball from 2006-2015, so the Blue Jays gladly would have signed up for .276/.349/.468. Instead he’s hit just .226/.306/.405 in 95 games following the trade, including .214/.294/.423 in 54 games this year. Once the king of good-hitting shortstops, his .717 OPS ranks 15th among the 26 players who’ve logged at least 50 games at the position this season and Tulowitzki is the third-oldest player in that group. His post-trade fall is magnified even further by the emergence of a potentially historic group of young shortstops.
Surveying the ninth-inning situations around the league.
We’re back to some semi-interesting news over the last week, with one of the top closers taken this spring being ousted from his role. Additionally, we have some injury return news as well as a few updates on our favorite situations. As always, keep up with everything on the closer grid. Quick programming note on the grid, I have recently moved to a new apartment and haven’t had WiFi all weekend, which is why I’ve been slow to update it. It should be back up to regular pace on Wednesday. Now, on to the news.
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Every year the Orioles win and every year it's classified as a surprise, but maybe it shouldn't be.
One could make the argument that, nearing the halfway mark of the 2016 season, there are only two major (positive) surprise teams in baseball: the Texas Rangers and the Baltimore Orioles. The Rangers aren’t even that surprising; they’re having the kind of breakout season that makes the skepticism difficult to remember. The team is sequencing its runs like a crooked dealer, their touted young players like Nomar Mazara and Jurickson Profar are ready ahead of schedule, and the pitching staff ... okay, the pitching staff still doesn’t make any sense. But it wasn’t hard to conceive of a good Texas Rangers team, even if many experts chose not to.
Not so the Orioles. After leaping out of the gate with a seven-game winning streak, the club has since held at an 87-win pace, and enjoys one of the best records in baseball. Despite PECOTA treating them as a sub-.500 team going forward, their banked victories still give them a coin flip’s toss at the playoffs. Real or fake, they can’t be dismissed.
What can Starting Lineup figurines and Abraham Lincoln teach us about baseball research?
Somewhere at my parents’ house, there’s a Starting Lineup figurine of Jose Canseco, depicting him during his Bash Brothers days with the Oakland A’s. I got it for Christmas one year back in the days when Jose Canseco was my favorite player. I would have been nine or ten at the time and he was ... let’s just say the words “Jose Canseco” evoked a different image back in the late 80s/early 90s than they do now. Canseco had won the 1986 Rookie of the Year award at 21 and the 1988 MVP at 23, hitting 40 home runs and stealing 40 bases in the same year. At the time, Canseco seemed like the guy we would all look back on some day and tell our kids that we saw him play.
Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Raimel Tapia, Josh Hader, Daz Cameron, and Adonis Medina.
Prospect of the Day: Raimel Tapia, OF, Colorado Rockies (Double-A Hartford): 4-for-5, 2 R, 2B, SB, CS.
After what would best be described as a forgettable April, in which he hit .214, Tapia has been white-hot with the bat, hitting .348./400/.485 since May 2nd. He’s not immune to the occasional poor at-bat, but this young man can really hit, and assuming his future is in the hitter’s utopia that is Coors Field, he’s capable of putting up gaudy numbers while playing a quality corner outfield.
A look at how the wise guys spent their money in expert leagues this week.
Welcome to The FAAB Review, the series that looks at the expert bidding in LABR mixed, Tout Wars NL, and Tout Wars AL every week in an effort to try and help you, the Baseball Prospectus reader, with your fantasy baseball bidding needs. Bret Sayre and I participate in LABR mixed while I have a team in Tout Wars NL, so I can provide some insight on the bids and the reasoning behind them. LABR uses a $100 budget with one-dollar minimum bids, while the Tout Wars leagues use a $1,000 budget with zero-dollar minimum bids. I will also be including Bret’s winning bids in Tout Wars mixed auction league where applicable.
LABR and Tout Wars both use a bidding deadline of Sunday at midnight ET.
The Situation: Nationals co-ace Stephen Strasburg is suffering from recurring back and rib problems. Washington has sputtered, bringing the Mets back into the National League East race, right as New York comes to town for a three-game set. Enter Lucas Giolito, the best right-handed pitching prospect baseball has seen since, well, Stephen Strasburg.