A Rangers reliever returns to the majors in the midst of a career-redefining resurgence.
I appreciate the leap of faith it took to click this link, knowing full well that the article it took you to would be about Neal Cotts. You could have spent this time, during which you’re probably supposed to be working, reading about much more famous players, whose names are more likely to come up in conversation and make you sound smart. You probably won't ever sound smart because of Neal Cotts. But Cotts' story is exciting. It’s not just that he's back in the majors after wandering in the baseball wilderness for years. That part is pretty cool, of course, considering how long he’s been away. But if that were all it was, the excitement would wear off quickly. What makes the story special is that Cotts, at age 33, has come back a completely different guy, a completely dominant guy, and, until proven otherwise, possibly the best pitcher who has ever thrown outside the realm of the immortals. And now that I’ve hopefully hooked you, let’s recap how Cotts sank into the obscurity from which he recently returned.
You might remember Cotts from his days with the White Sox and Cubs. Then again, you might not, since he was a mostly unremarkable reliever. His most memorable season was 2005, when he won a World Series with the Sox after posting a 1.94 ERA in 60 1/3 innings. Even that season wasn’t nearly as good as it seemed on the surface: Cotts had the lowest HR/FB rate (1.8 percent) and one of the lowest BABIPs (.237) of any pitcher to top 60 innings. In all other seasons combined, Cotts recorded a 5.14 ERA in relief. He struck out about eight batters per nine, walked about four, and gave up too many home runs. He was a lefty, but not a specialist, since he had a career reverse split (southpaws slugged .456 against him).
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Adam Dunn walks away. Alex Gordon walks away. Other players' walks, also, have gone away.
Not all samples are small, but all samples are samples. Still, some samples are better samples than other samples. Russell Carleton showed us which are which last year, by which I mean that he showed, for a variety of stats, how big a sample we need for the signal to outweigh the noise. One happy outcome from that study is that walk rate for hitters is a stat that "stabilizes" faster than almost any other.
Lessons learned from lessons taught (or, perhaps, some less mawkish description of this article)
Woman: I’m so bored. Man: Me too. I wish there was some way we could derive significance from our meaningless sex-filled lives. Spokesman: [appears] Now you can! With “Children!” Man and Woman together: [confused] Children? Spokesman: That’s right! Children! Children are you, but smaller, slower, and almost impossibly incompetent! Act now and you’ll experience the miracle of life on a daily basis! With “Children” it won’t take long before you’re asking yourself, “Hey! Where’d my meaningless life go? And can I have it back?”
Don Mattingly's message to the Dodgers yesterday might have fired his team up for a victory over the Brewers. Tonight, Ervin Santana matches up against the Angels.
The Dodgers are underperforming, and Don Mattingly blames a lack of #want. Currently helming the cellar dwellers of the NL West, Mattingly laid into the team’s work ethic yesterday, and the quotes are dripping with vitriol and tobacco.
“We got to find a team with talent that will fight and compete like a club that doesn't have talent,” he said before his suddenly inspired club walloped the Brewers, 9-2, on Wednesday afternoon. “There has to be a mixture of competitiveness,” Mattingly said. “It's not, ‘Let's put an All-Star team together and the All-Star team wins.’”
The win might be a silly statistic, but does it affect pitchers' performance?
On Monday’s edition of MLB Now, anchor Brian Kenny once again made the case against using wins as a measure of pitcher quality. Citing recent games such as Matt Harvey’s brilliant nine-inning, one-hit no-decision, he argued that the win is an overrated statistic that doesn’t do a good job of describing the pitcher’s performance. After Kenny’s presentation, former pitcher Al Leiter came out to give a rebuttal. Leiter had an interesting take on the issue. He said that Kenny wasn’t respecting the human element of the game, and he suggested that the win statistic might actually make starters perform a little better in some key situations.
They might be on a historically bad pace, but the Astros are optimistic about 2013. Our beat man also checks in on Matt Garza, the AL Central, Carlos Ruiz, and with scouts.
Bo Porter is enthusiastic, optimistic, and energetic. Very enthusiastic, optimistic, and energetic. In fact, the first-year Astros manager possesses so much of those three qualities that he believes that his team is not nearly as bad as its record says it is and it won’t be as historically bad as some analysts have predicted.
In this week's edition, Mike obliges multiple reader requests by adding tiers to the reliever rankings, to go with the regular news and notes.
For this installment of the Bullpen Report, I am adding rankings, by popular demand. Closers are rated in five tiers, from best to worst. The tiers are a combination of my opinion of a pitcher’s ability, the likelihood that he will pick up saves, and his security in the job. For example, a pitcher in the third tier might have better skills than a pitcher in the second tier, but if the third-tier pitcher is new to the job or has blown a couple of saves in the last week, this factors into the ranking as well.
Valencia has only been a productive major leaguer for half-a-season (in 2010), is now 28 years old, and doesn’t have a clear path to playing time. Sometimes, though, you just gotta take the chance on the guy who slugged his way to 11 home runs and 35 RBI in Triple-A regardless of age and situation. Right now Valencia, looks like he’s starting solely against lefties, limiting him to AL-only leagues. Perhaps he can convert his minor-league power into a few bombs in the big leagues and prove his AL-only worthiness.
The Orioles don't have the record they had this time last year, but they're a stronger team.
On Tuesday night, the Orioles flashed some of their 2012 magic against the Yankees at Camden Yards, winning on a 10th-inning walk-off homer hit by Nate McLouth that brought an end to a battle of the bullpens. For last season’s Orioles, who went 16-2 in extra-inning games and 29-9 in games decided by a single run, winning one-run games with walk-offs was a way of life. For the 2013 Orioles, who entered last night 3-3 and 6-6 in such situations, respectively, those victories have been as difficult to come by as they are for the typical team.
“Run differential” was the frequent refrain in any conversation about the Orioles’ success in 2012 and outlook for 2013. Good teams tend to outscore their opponents by a comfortable margin. The Orioles, who went 93-69, outscored their opponents, but barely—their run differential was that of 82-80 team. Some said it was luck and assumed it wasn’t sustainable, while others credited a good bullpen and Buck Showalter, both of whom the O’s brought back.