Ten relievers who've racked up the strikeouts in the majors for the first time this season.
Here’s a stat about strikeouts: The percentage of 50-plus-inning relievers who struck out a batter per inning in 1990 was lower than the percentage who struck out 12 per nine innings in 2012. Remember the Reds’ “Nasty Boys” bullpen of Rob Dibble, Randy Myers, and Norm Charlton? They were three of only eight relievers with a K/9 of at least 9.0 in 1990. Relative to average, Dibble’s 12.5 K/9 that season was more impressive than, say, Aroldis Chapman’s league-leading 15.1 in 2013. But 15.1 is such an astounding number that it commands the attention anyway. Strikeout rates are rising too fast for the baselines in our brains to keep up.
Every season, a new crop of relievers arrives and astonishes us with their strikeout prowess. Some are promising rookie relief prospects who throw a million miles per hour and were expected to miss many bats. Others are rookies who’ve exceeded expectations, and still others are veterans whose latent strikeout powers were never suspected before they surfaced this season.
The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.
Not a subscriber?
Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.
Has the Yankees' sole healthy slugger suffered because of the players batting behind him?
The more I learn about baseball, the more I think that much of the perceived divide between traditional baseball types and statheads—which is itself overstated—stems from some subset of each side overstating its case. Take clubhouse chemistry, the subject of frequent battles between people on opposite sides of the analytical aisle. A player (or former player) might insist that team chemistry is more important than talent, or that chemistry might be worth 20 wins. And a stathead, frustrated by an inability to measure it and without having experienced it himself, might say (or at least be saidto say) that chemistry doesn’t matter.
It seems likely that the truth lies somewhere in the middle: chemistry can help, but probably not so much that it could make a last-place team into a first-place team. If either side said that, the other wouldn’t argue. Instead, extreme and polarizing claims from the pro-chemistry camp prompt equally extreme and polarizing claims from the anti-chemistry camp, and vice versa.
Did the Orioles make a mistake by exhausting all the other options before sending Dylan Bundy to surgery?
When the news broke yesterday that Orioles prospect Dylan Bundy would have to have Tommy John surgery, most of you probably wondered why he hadn’t had it sooner.
It’s been almost three months since we became aware of an issue with Bundy’s elbow. The first reported red flag, “mild tightness,” was followed by an MRI that showed no structural damage, a few weeks of rest, a visit to Dr. James Andrews—who prescribed more rest and a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection—and several more weeks out of action. Bundy recently resumed a throwing program, but he suffered a setback that sent him back to Dr. Andrews and, ultimately, the operating room.
There are certain rules about changeup usage. The Rays, unsurprisingly, aren't beholden to those rules.
“The game evolves constantly,” Tampa Bay Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey tells me on a Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, after wrapping up a bullpen session an hour before first pitch. Evolution in baseball works a lot like it does in real life: traits that confer a competitive advantage tend to be passed on. But before a new approach is adopted around the league, Hickey says, “someone’s going to have to be successful doing it.”
The Rays are often that someone. If the Rays have an identity—aside from their status as a team that doesn’t draw, locked into a lease that never expires—it’s that they do things differently. Driven by their need to make the most of their limited resources and the creativity of their front office and field staff, the Rays under General Manager Andrew Friedman and manager Joe Maddon have authored a long list of innovations. Shifting more aggressively than almost any other team. Giving defensive specialist Jose Molina a starting job for the first time at age 37. Opening an academy in Brazil. Refusing to sign free agent starters (before Roberto Hernandez). And so on.
A recent study suggests that players' plate discipline erodes throughout the season due to fatigue. Here's why you should be skeptical.
Over the last few weeks, a press release has been making the rounds. It’s a persuasive press release that reports some interesting research, and wherever it goes, it produces a post. There’s just one problem: the research it reports is a little misleading.
The press release, which you can view here, was put out by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. It summarizes the results of a recent study on the effect of fatigue on strike-zone judgment. The source of the study is a research abstract published in an online supplement of the journal SLEEP—you can access the abstract (PDF) on page A408 here—and the principal investigator behind it is Scott Kutscher, MD, an assistant professor of sleep and neurology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
The teams that have outhit and outpitched their projections, or fallen the farthest short.
We’re approaching the halfway point of the season, though we’re still over a month away from the nominal start of the second half. And that means we’re also approaching the point at which we stop thinking about how we thought the season would play out (except for our probably accidentally accurate predictions, which we treasure forever). According to Colin Wyers, in-season team records become more reliable than pre-season projections around Game 103. Most of us don’t have a particular point of the season at which we entirely abandon pre-season projections—nor should we—but every day we trust what we’ve seen so far a little more and what we expected to see a little less. And eventually, we look back and wonder why we didn’t see certain things coming.
PECOTA has had plenty of successes. The projected team TAvs for the Rangers and Brewers, for example, have been correct to the point, and the projected team ERAs for the Mets and Diamondbacks have been less than 0.02 points off. But while PECOTA deserves a pat on its back for its accurate predictions, there’s much more to say about the surprises. This article is about the lineups and pitching staffs that have defied our expectations so far.
The best and worst receivers of the week and season.
As promised, Max Marchi followed up on his work on Retrosheet-based historical framing by applying the same method to the minor leagues. I was somewhat skeptical that the results would be useful, since there are a few aspects of minor league life that make receiving skills harder to assess: umpires call less consistent zones, pitchers have worse command, and because of the constant promotions and demotions, catchers are less familiar with their batterymates’ arsenals.
But Max found a fairly strong correlation between framing performance in the upper minors and the majors, so we know that by the time a catcher gets to Double-A, at least, his receiving talents are detectable. That’s a significant finding, and it’s possible that we could identify strong receivers statistically in the low minors or even at the amateur level, if we had access to reliable pitch-by-pitch data. If teams aren’t doing this analysis already, they will be before long.
Why one of baseball's best young players doesn't get his due.
After nine games, Yasiel Puig’s video archive at MLB.com comes close to filling four pages, at 12 clips per page. Marcell Ozuna, another exciting 22-year-old right fielder who’s hit .324/.364/.462 since his arrival in April, is still stuck on page three. Almost every play Puig touches turns into a highlight. If he isn’t hitting homers, he’s recording outfield assists; if he’s not in the game, it’s because he’s just been ejected from a bench-clearing brawl. Whatever he does, it happens at the center of the spotlight. It took him one week to be named National League Player of the Week, and it took him four words to appear in this article, which isn’t even about him. More than the amateur draft, more than Biogenesis (fortunately), baseball in June has been about Yasiel Puig.
So when Puig was thrown out attempting to advance to third on a Jerry Hairston single on Monday, it wasn’t immediately clear who the star of the story was: Puig, or Gerardo Parra, the player who made the throw. It took another viewing to determine that Puig’s presence in yet another highlight was just a coincidence, that it was Parra who’d earned Puig some extra airtime on SportsCenter, not the other way around. The throw was perfect, an on-the-fly strike to Martin Prado that nailed the speedy Puig in plenty of time,