How the Mets became by far the best baserunning team in baseball.
It’s a few hours before first pitch at Citi Field, and for now, at least, the National League’s best baserunner is standing still. But in his head, he’s already on the lookout for empty bases to annex. “There is no reason to ever check into a bag,” Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy says. “You always come around every bag trying to get the extra base. It’s kind of the mindset we’ve taken as an offense. When we get on the basepaths, we want to get the extra 90 feet.”
The clubhouse is still almost empty, though batting practice has yet to begin. It’s Wednesday afternoon, and the Mets are only about 18 hours removed from their latest demonstration of what Murphy means. With the team tied 2-2 against the Rockies on Tuesday night, left fielder Eric Young led off the eighth with a single. After the next batter, Daniel Murphy, flied out and failed to advance him, Young got himself to second, tagging up and advancing on another fly to center hit by Marlon Byrd.
Well, that was underwhelming. According to Retrosheet transaction logs and MLBAM’s count of this year’s crop, there were fewer big-league trades made this July (19) than in any other season since 1996. Prior to this year, the average number of July trades per seasons the last round of expansion was 30.
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The best and worst receivers of the week and season so far.
We were off last week because of the All-Star break, so this edition will cover the two weeks since last time.
I did a guest spot on the Blue Jays Plus podcast to talk about J.P. Arencibia's receiving skills. As you'll probably recall from his previous appearances at BP, Arencibia rated very poorly over the past two seasons, and at the beginning of this season. But in mid-June, he worked with Blue Jays roving catching instructor Sal Fasano, and since then he's rated quite well. Small sample, of course, but the statistical improvement seems to be backed up by mechanical improvements. I might write more about this soon, but for now you can hear me talk about it if you're so inclined. The moral of the story is that Sal Fasano is still the best possible person.
How does the first calendar year of Matt Harvey's career stack up to those of other fast starters?
On Friday night, Matt Harvey held the Nationals to one unearned run over eight innings, walking one and striking out seven to lower his ERA to 2.11. That outing closed the book on his first calendar year in the majors; the previous July 26th, Harvey had debuted against the Diamondbacks, holding them scoreless for 5 1/3 and fanning 11. There’s no particular reason to draw a line after a pitcher’s first calendar year—it’s not a completely arbitrary endpoint, but it’s close—but compartmentalizing helps us humans make sense of things. So with Matt Harvey mania in full swing, the one-year mark seems like as good a time as any to see how Harvey stacks up historically, and what that might mean.
This is a list of the best first calendar years for pitchers since 1950, sorted by PWARP. That’s just the pitching component of WARP, so Harvey doesn’t get credit for the extra half win or so he earned by going 6-for-18 at the plate last season. (He’s 5-for-48 this year.) Debut year age is seasonal age, or age as of July 1 of each player's rookie season. Fair RA is a measure of pitching quality scaled to run average, not ERA, and considers sequencing, base-out state, batted-ball distribution, and team defense. Fair RA+ is Fair RA relative to the league; 100 is league average, so the higher the number, the better. Each pitcher’s career PWARP is included on the right.
Why Ryan Braun's suspension isn't bad news, and other reflections on the latest in the Biogenesis saga.
Baseball Prospectus has no house style on performance-enhancing drugs, the way we do about, say, punctuation (unspaced em-dash only, please). We haven’t taken an internal poll and decided to condone or condemn PEDs, and we don’t issue an official stance on steroids as part of the author orientation process. But a site devoted to the pursuit of objective knowledge about baseball tends to attract a group of authors who’ve independently developed similar feelings about certain subjects—from batting order to the sacrifice bunt—and so much of our coverage of baseball’s PED problem over the years has held true to a few first principles:
Now almost back to full health, the Dodgers look like the winners we thought they were.
Almost six weeks ago, Sam Miller and I spent some time talking about the four most disappointing teams of 2013: the Blue Jays, the Angels, the Dodgers, and the Nationals. Were we to have that discussion again today, at least three of those teams would still be in the discussion. The Jays got hot, then went cold again; they’re in last place, seven games under .500 and 13.5 out, and their playoff hopes are in hospice care. “Maybe we were overrated,” Mark Buehrleadmitted this weekend. “Maybe we’re not as good as we thought we were.”
The Angels have been a winning team since the start of June, but were bad enough in April that they’re still four games under, with a double-digit deficit in the AL West. And the Nationals were swept at home over the weekend, running their record to 48-50 and putting them half a game behind the Phillies. Publicly, at least, their self-esteem is still stronger than Toronto’s—“We’re a good team,” Jayson Werthsaid after the sweep—but they haven’t played much like overwhelming first-place favorites. The Nats’ Playoff Odds are down to 12.5 percent, which makes them look like a lock compared to both the Angels and the Blue Jays, whose chances have sunk to the low single digits.
Picking the Junior Circuit players whose best or worst work is behind them.
Baseball is back, and while there’s less of it remaining than there usually is when the so-called second half starts, there’s still plenty of time for good seasons to go bad and bad seasons to get better. Mike Gianella went position-by-position in search of second-half risers and fallers from a fantasy perspective earlier this week; I’m going to go team-by team, picking an opposing pair from each roster. We’ll start with the American League, since the DH is not as clumsy or a random as a pitcher who hits; an elegant position for a more civilized age. (NL picks are here.)
What happens, statistically, when major leaguers are forced to play in the minors?
The first inspiration for this article was watching the Futures Game. We know that the Futures Game is great because it gives us a chance to see top prospects face off against top prospects. But an underrated aspect of its appeal is that it sometimes pits top prospects against much less advanced top prospects, letting us see, say, 19-year-old Dilson Herrera, who’s in A-ball, hit against 23-year-old C.J. Riefenhauser, who’s in Triple-A (Herrera flied out). Riefenhauser may not have a super high ceiling, but he’s by far the most mature pitcher Herrera has ever had to hit against. The four years and three levels of development between those two players makes a massive difference—much more than the months and the lone level that separate the Futures Game rosters’ more advanced members from the majors. (Actually, World Team member Henry Urrutia has already been called up by Baltimore.)
The second inspiration for this article was podcast questions. A few weeks ago, a Fringe Average fan asked what Miguel Cabrera would hit in the minors. Effectively Wild listeners often ask the same sort of thing. (“What would my ERA be in the majors?” wondered one formerly league-average little leaguer.) Judging by my own curiosity and the kind of questions we get, we’re all intrigued by showdowns between players of dramatically different ability.
Pairing ads with players to provide sponsors with the best bang for their buck.
As Business Insider noted earlier this week, Sportsnet’s Blue Jays broadcasts have begun to feature a few more digitally inserted advertisements. The concept isn’t new—we’re used to seeing ads like these projected on the backstop behind home plate—but Sportsnet has taken things a bit further, superimposing images on the field in foul territory
Checking in on two practically perfect pitching prospects, several seasons on.
On the night that Homer Bailey pitched his second career no-hitter, fanning nine Giants against only one walk, Phil Hughes was also in action. Hughes had a good outing, but hardly a historic one: he threw seven innings of one-run ball against the Twins, striking out three and walking two. Bailey’s start was the one that led SporsCenter, but it’s appropriate that the pair’s spots in their respective rotations were synched.
Bailey and Hughes have been linked for a long time. Both were hard-throwing, right-handed high schoolers selected in the first round of the 2004 draft. Hughes stands 6’5”; Bailey stands 6’4.” Hughes is less than two months younger. On our list of the top 100 prospects of 2007, Hughes placed second and Bailey ranked fourth, which made comparisons between them inevitable. Just breathe in the August, 2006-ness of this excerpt from Future Shock: