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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.
Looking at the fast starts of Jose Abreu and Masahiro Tanaka to see what we can expect moving forward.
With due respect to the rest of a talented rookie class, no two newcomers face more pressure to succeed in 2014 than Jose Abreu and Masahiro Tanaka. The expectations exist for obvious reasons: both are older, better paid, and more experienced (albeit in international competition) than the typical rookie. Now two weeks into the season, the winter's most prominent imports have compiled fantastic statistics. But, before the league adjusts and vice versa, do they pass the eye test—or are these two more cases of April numbers ran amok?
The Braves and Nationals played a three-game series over the weekend, and obscured by the obvious storyline—the two best teams in the National League East meeting for the first time this season—was a subplot for sadists: Just how many strikeouts would B.J. Upton, who entered the series with a 44 percent whiff rate, tally against a Nationals staff that fanned 39 batters in its first 28 innings? The answer, it turned out, was five times in 13 tries; an improvement over Upton's first series, when he struck out in half his 12 plate appearances. He then started the next series with this sequence:
The Marlins' new catcher might have an affect that goes beyond credible slash lines.
For as much as we focus on catcher defense these days, the battery dynamic remains beyond our grasp. We know pitchers and catchers work together to form a gameplan and negotiate pitch type and location, but the heavy lifting is often left in the dark. What illumination we do receive often shines from second-hand knowledge, or analysis that is prone to fundamental attribution errors. As a result, analyzing gamecalling and the like is a tough, if not impossible, pursuit from outside a team's walls.
Not one of Tyler Collins' or Roenis Ellis' PECOTA comparables was a major leaguer. But Collins, Ellis, and the rest of these unknowns are on MLB rosters today.
Opening Day is here, and that means it's time to introduce the unknowns who made rosters. This year's edition includes some new quirks. In addition to an expanded roster, each capsule now includes the player's major league service time (MLS) and the percentage of their PECOTA comparables who played in the bigs during the comparable season (MLB%), as a crude way to determine the unexpectedness of their Opening Day assignment.
In case you weren't awake for baseball's opening series (or even if you were), R.J. has you covered: Kershaw, Trumbo, Goldschmidt, and all the action that mattered.
While the east coast slept early Saturday morning and late Saturday evening, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks opened the season with a two-game series in Sydney, Australia. The time-zone difference is 15 hours, meaning normal start times in Australia (1 and 7 p.m.) became abnormal stateside (4 a.m. and 10 p.m. EST). Because not everyone disrupted their sleep patterns to watch two baseball games, here are some insights on what happened during those two games down under.
Getting hit by a pitch is a skill, but how repeatable is it, and what should we look for?
The hit by pitch—or at minimum the threat of one—is supposed to be a tool for pitchers to use against hitters. Not just in the Bob Gibson sense, but in a nuanced understanding that goes something like this: humans can only be so accurate when throwing a projectile over long distances. Accidents happen, regardless of intent, and both sides know it—but only one side faces the projectile on each pitch. As Roger Angell writes in Five Seasons, "Most pitchers seem hesitant to say so, but if you press them a little they will admit that the prime ingredient in their intense personal struggle with the batter is probably fear."
If fear buys the pitcher another inch on his fastball, or causes the batter to bail on his breaking ball, then he becomes more likely to realize success than he would otherwise. Instilling fear is an unhealthy aspiration, but nonetheless passes as legitimate strategy. Most hitters react like normal beings; after all, getting drilled by a firmly thrown ball hurts no matter the location. Yet there are some batters who have turned the hit by pitch into their own weapon against pitchers. These batters fear not getting hit; instead, they embrace it—some even hunt for pitches to throw their limbs toward. These batters are the stupidest smart guys in the game.