Mechanical looks at big-time pitching draft prospect Brady Aiken, Tyler Kolek, Carlos Rodon and Jeff Hoffman.
The 2014 first-year player draft is loaded with arms who are projected to fly off the board in the early going. The BP prospect crew recently conducted a mock draft of next Thursday's action, with each evaluator answering the question, “Whom would you draft?” The first edition covered the top 10 picks of the draft, and when all was said and done, the participants had chosen pitchers with eight of the first 10 selections, including the top four players overall. The only time in the history of the draft that the first four names announced were pitchers was in 2011, with the quartet of Gerrit Cole, Danny Hultzen, Trevor Bauer, and Dylan Bundy, and the early indications are that the arm-saturated draft of 2014 could match that tally.
Downhill plane carries substantial weight in the pitcher evaluation game. Poor marks in that area carry repercussions ranging from diminished prospect status to bullpen assignments conceived in order to limit the exposure of a perceived weakness. The driver of downhill plane is the height of the baseball at the pitcher’s release point, an element influenced by various mechanical techniques and tendencies. On the surface, it seems obvious that a player's height would be a major determinant of his vertical release, and while there’s something to that relationship, multiple variables are at play, and physical height is merely a piece of the equation.
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Breaking down the mechanics of high-octane setup men Chris Withrow and Dellin Betances.
One of the more visible signs of change in today's game is the reshaping of the bullpen, which has led to an increased emphasis on stockpiling ace relievers. Baseball has become saturated with strikeouts, and the solution becomes more concentrated as a game gets to the late innings and the leading team trots out a conga line of pitchers who specialize in whiffs. Today's ’pen is mightier than it’s ever been before.
Examining Homer Bailey, Danny Salazar, and Justin Masterson.
Last week we studied a trio of pitchers who have enjoyed breakouts in performance over the first month of the season in order to distinguish legitimate improvement from potential mirage. This week, we examine the other side of the coin. There are a handful of pitchers who entered the season with high expectations yet have been knocked around the yard this April, and the most perplexing of these players are those whose peripheral stats are in line with last season but whose batted-ball profiles have taken a dive. It might be tempting to dismiss any vulnerability due to the vagaries of balls in play over small samples, but in some cases there are functional underpinnings to suggest that something has gone awry.
Is Doug buying or selling three starters who've had success so far this season?
Evaluations of player performance during the first month of the season come with small-sample caveats, but we can try to separate the flukes from the real improvements by identifying meaningful changes in mechanics, approach, or repertoire. Some of the gains are legit, while others are merely a numerical mirage, so we must look beyond the stats in order to tell which players will continue to impress over the coming months of the season. Let's take a look at some of the more surprising April performances by pitchers and attempt to determine whether it's too soon to swoon over their skills.
A new season is upon us! The first regular season episode of TINSTAAPP includes several emails, an expanded discussion on several guys that both Doug and Paul have noticed early on in the season, a look at their Model Portfolios from a BP project, and of course the Game of the Week.
The guys discuss some guys who have caught their eye early on, look at their model portfolio project at BP, and read user emails! (Send your questions to email@example.com)
The Yankees' new starter appears to have the most important attribute of them all: the ability to make adjustment.
When I wrote about Masahiro Tanakaover the winter, my analysis was limited to the piecemeal footage that could be found across the interwebs, which led to a lot of caveats about what we could expect of his performance in the majors. There were many reasons for caution when projecting the state-side translation of his skill set, ranging from his workloads and pitch selection to his mechanics and statistical profile. With a trio of big-league starts now under his belt, we have a much clearer picture of his talent.
Doug looks for signs of mechanical progress by Yordano Ventura, Trevor Bauer, Chris Archer, and Erasmo Ramirez.
This is my third year writing Raising Aces for Baseball Prospectus, and one of the perks is the dynamic nature of the series (aided by the leniency of our editors). I’m always searching for better ways to communicate ideas about pitching or to broaden the discussion, and transparency has been an integral part of the process.
All of the great holidays are marked by high levels of anticipation. But Opening Day stands out among the more traditional observances because it is merely the beginning of the celebration to follow: seven months of 6-4-3 double plays, exploding sliders, and that sweet sound when lumber meets horsehide. It’s easy to fall pretty to the trap of overweighting observations made at the start of the regular season, and the rational observer will maintain perspective while enjoying the day's festivities. But that doesn't mean that there’s nothing to be learned from the first round of games. Early in the season, many pitchers are making real adjustments to elements of their mechanics, approach, and repertoire, and these alterations can be put under the microscope in order to get an idea of the player's developmental patterns.
Doug's attachment to arms shines through as he nabs David Price and Felix Hernandez to anchor his dream Roto staff.
I tend to go with something resembling the stars-and-scrubs approach, mostly because I think that it's possible to identify “scrubs” who will be productive. It's no secret that I have an attachment to arms, and I always make a point to secure a pair of aces in my fantasy leagues, whether draft or auction.
The knock against pitchers is that they always get hurt, which tends to depress their value, and the injury-risk makes it all the more important to have two top-end guys at the top of my fantasy rotation—if one gets hurt then my season is not necessarily down the drain, because ace no. 2 can carry the weight. So my staff is top-heavy, after which it's time to go dumpster-diving, and I take great joy each fantasy season in identifying the cheap pitchers who will ascend to the next level. Oh, and sucks to closers—they are way too volatile to trust in a league where rosters are locked on Opening Day, so I'll just go ahead and aim for victories in the counting stats of Ks and Ws while sacrificing saves. My calculator says that two 15s and a 1 supersede the worth of a sixth-place finish in three categories, and the draft-and-lock setup changes the game in this case.
What does Doug see ahead for selected pitchers in 2014?
Along with the rest of the BP staff, I’ve submitted my pre-season predictions for division standings and end-of-season award winners. I tend to stay in the neighborhood of likely outcomes for these picks, resulting in easy answers such as “Mike Trout for AL MVP” or “Tigers win the AL Central,” but I’m more intrigued by the long-shot stories that emerge once the season starts.