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.
Sometimes the moves that seemed insignificant were noninsignificant.
Since January 1, 2013, we've published 102 Transaction Analysiscolumns, about three per week. While we don't cover every move, we do cover most moves with big-league implications. Yet sometimes moves that sneak through become noteworthy in their own right. Here are six players, listed in chronological order of their transactions, who passed us unnoticed but found success this season.
When we talk about the mastermind of the Orioles' turnaround, we often leave out a very important name.
Over the past two years, I've been wrong about the Orioles no fewer than three times.
My faulty assessments began when Dan Duquette was hired as general manager, in November 2011. Though I praised Duquette—calling him bright, among other adjectives—I expressed doubt about the job's prospects. For good reason, too; other executives turned away Baltimore's advances, likely due to their perceptions about manager Buck Showalter's power and owner Peter Angelos' vision. Despite drafting and developing poorly for years, Angelos (reportedly) rejected one candidate's plan to clear house, further obscuring how much authority the new GM would wield.
A look at the lesser-known, but influential, stories of Pittsburgh's season.
In last Wednesday's What You Need to Know, Daniel Rathmanwrote of the Pirates, "It finally happened." Rathman wasn't talking about James McDonald being designated for assignment, but, rather, the Pirates ensuring their first non-losing season since 1992. This is the big story in Pittsburgh, of course, but all big stories comprise smaller stories, some of which are likely to go unnoticed if/when the Pirates clinch a postseason berth. Before the Steel City is overwhelmed with joy, let's give those finer details the attention they deserve.
Story No. 1: The Curse of the Black Pearl Put simply, the best teams tend to have the best luck. Whether fortune manifests itself through one-run wins, late-inning comebacks, or good health depends on the situation. Often, as Patrick Sullivan, formerly of Baseball Analysts, noted last week, the surest way to pick postseason teams is by taking the preseason favorites and assume those with the healthiest rotations will advance to October. The Pirates are an exception. They trail only the Orioles in starters used this season (12 to 14), and could finish the year with just two pitchers having started 30-plus games.
The Tigers' catchers do very poorly by one metric. Or is it the metric that does poorly?
How flawed is too flawed?
Detroit entered the holiday weekend with the American League's largest division lead and exited, thanks to a series win against second-place Cleveland, all but assured a spot in the postseason. As a result the Tigers now inhibit that special late-season territory, where we no longer worry about how a team will make it to October, and instead wonder what they'll do when they get there. Most arrive at these conclusions through some means of micro-analysis. To wit, Jon Morosi of FOX Sportsraised a valid concern last week about the Tigers: their catchers' AL-worst caught stealing rate.
If it weren't the Marlins' strategy, we might be making something of the Marlins' strategy.
In the coming weeks the Marlins, just 16 games shy of elimination from postseason consideration, will secure a top-three pick in next June's draft. Yet, despite the awful record, Miami has recently evolved into a watchable team on most nights—something they were not earlier in the season, when Giancarlo Stanton was injured and Jose Fernandez was not pitching quite so well. Contention hopes are a season away, if not longer, but the Marlins are intriguing now in large part because of a young, hard-throwing rotation.
With due respect to Tom Koehler, people are tuning in to see the other four starters: Fernandez, arguably the National League Rookie of the Year, and three arms acquired in trades over the past 13 months: Jacob Turner, Nathan Eovaldi, and Henderson Alvarez. The quartet—average age 22.5 years, median fastball velocity of 95—has compiled a 3.24 run average over 354 innings. Between the youth, arm strength, and shiny surface-level statistics, there's a lot to like about this group. And that's fitting, because nothing symbolizes Miami baseball more than a good young rotation.