R.J. Anderson lives in Florida and joined Prospectus in 2011. In the past, Anderson's work has appeared on ESPN, SLAM, and Wired, as well as in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. His nightmares include an endless loop of Hank Blalock playing third base.
The two best teams in the second half meet up in a surprisingly lopsided matchup.
Back on July 27th, the Blue Jays and Rangers were both in third place and more than seven games out in their divisions. The following day, the Blue Jays acquired Troy Tulowitzki; a few days later, the Rangers secured Cole Hamels; then, right before the deadline, the Blue Jays struck again, landing David Price. The flurry of big-name additions helped these teams do more than grab headlines. From thereon they compiled the best records in the American League, posting a collective 84-42 mark—equal to a 108-win pace over an entire season. Those runs were good enough for both teams to overcome the odds and steal their divisions. Now they'll match up for the right to advance to the ALCS.
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The Astros manager makes three big pitching decisions, and they all work out.
Heading into this year's edition of the American League Wild Card Game, you had to appreciate that the upstart Astros' first postseason opponents were the Yankees, the team that for much of the past two decades has served as the American League's gatekeeper; the narratives about new versus old spread themselves. Another contrast you had to appreciate was the out-of-style starting-pitcher matchup. On the eve of Jake Arrieta and Gerrit Cole trading flame-emoji heaters, the Astros and Yankees started two pitchers who in the game combined for one pitch clocked above 95 mph, according to PITCHf/x data.
What teams do when teams can do whatever they damned well feel like.
It's a well-known, time-honored tradition that baseball players celebrate their team's entrance to the playoffs by poisoning themselves (and their teammates) with large quantities of alcohol. The aftereffects of those champagne showers—besides stained, stinky clubhouse carpet—leave managers with no choice but to send out the B-team the following day. In recent years, this phenomenon has been christened the hangover lineup.
How close did the publicly available scouting reports come to pegging Tim Hudson and Barry Zito's future careers?
On Saturday afternoon, Tim Hudson and Barry Zito faced off for the first and last time in the O.co Coliseum, thereby providing fans, players, writers, and everyone else the opportunity to reflect on the duo's glory days with the A's. By now, you've read enough retrospectives to know all about how Hudson, Zito, and Mark Mulder shaped the A's during their time together. So rather than repeat the same facts and stories, let's contemplate the past and commemorate their careers in a different way: by using the Diamond Mines database to go back in time, beyond the Moneyball era, and see what scouts said about the pair when they were still amateurs.
First the obligatory disclaimers: 1) scouting is hard and 2) looking at history backward is dangerous. Inaccuracy is a given whenever the task involves guessing how another human being will mature over the next N years, be it physically, emotionally, or both. People progress at different paces and respond to different stimuli; what looked to be the case then probably was, but, to state the obvious, each pitcher's outlook soon improved. The intent in highlighting these reports is not to mock or shame the scouts who authored them; rather, it is to illustrate the difficulty and unpredictability of their task, and to showcase how, even when they "missed," they still got plenty right.
How Roberto Osuna has had success at such a young age, and where he might go from here
Over the weekend, the Blue Jays clinched their first trip to the postseason since 1993, and in the process positioned themselves to claim the division title in the coming days. Both feats appeared to be beyond the Jays' wingspan in mid-July, when their playoffs odds were closer to slim than certain. In some ways, though, Toronto was always the team most likely to go on a torrid run because this squad, more than any other, is a study in improbability.
Though Dipoto is no longer making the moves in Anaheim, the Angels have nonetheless paid homage to their old boss by inviting a glut of players to assist them en route to the finish line. However, a different club—one without Dipoto ties—has since elbowed past the Angels to earn distinction as the team most willing to push roster expansion to its limit. That team is the Yankees, which, in addition to leading the majors in active-roster players (39) and percentage of the 40-man roster that is on the active roster, also lead the majors in roster-related creativity (numbers through September 22nd and courtesy of Roster Resource):
Why doesn't Aroldis Chapman get groundball double plays?
Say you were tasked with creating a pitcher who must lead the majors in double plays over the course of a simulated season, or else aliens would destroy Earth. What attributes would you provide him if you were limited to three at most? You'd probably start by making him an extreme groundball pitcher, for reasons that are easily understood. Then you'd ensure he held baserunners well, so he'd keep all his double-play chances in order. What else? How about controlling his quality of contact? You definitely wouldn't want a bunch of hard-hit balls that leak through the infield, but you wouldn't want him dealing exclusively in tappers and high-choppers either, lest you get only one out instead of two.
The last part sounds counterintuitive—weak contact is good contact—but consider the case of Aroldis Chapman, who is, for all intents and purposes, the antithesis of the pitcher created above. Chapman is such a non-threat to lead the majors in double plays (even on a rate basis) that he hasn't coerced a standard groundball double play in more than a year. Here's his most-recent one, from August 1, 2014:
On Sunday, the Braves suffered their latest brow-raising defeat, turning a three-run lead with two outs in the ninth inning against the Mets into an extra-innings loss. Along the way, the Braves bullpen did something more impressive than blow a near-certain win: They left Keith Hernandez aghast.
While Hernandez was beside himself, saying that if he were a Braves fan he would "turn in his season tickets," actual Braves fans have to be numb by now to showings like Sunday's. Losing has become the norm in Atlanta during the second half, with the Braves following up a surprising (and overachieving) 42-47 first-half effort with a 14-41 stretch (a 41-win pace over a full season) that has placed them in contention for the no. 1 pick. Predictably, Atlanta's futility extends to its team ranks. Entering Monday, the Braves were 27th in True Average and defensive efficiency, and 30th in runs scored and staff-wide Deserved Run Average. In fact, their bullpen's DRA was the worst among any bullpen or rotation.