Good days at the plate are pretty easy to identify. If you’re looking for the best game any hitter had in April, you can look at total bases (as in Ryan Braun’s three-homer game) or at hits (as in Charlie Blackmon’s 6-for-6 game) or at win probability added (as when Kyle Seager hit two homers, including a walk-off, for a one-game .906 WPA); or, simply RE24, which would lead you back to Blackmon, who produced more than five runs all by himself. Similarly, for pitchers, pretty easy: Andrew Cashner’s 9/1/0/0/2/11 was the month’s best game score, though you might opt for Jose Fernandez’s 8/3/0/0/0/14 for dominance or Julio Teheran’s 1-0 shutout for value.
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.
Gary Cohen: The Mets have a group of pitchers now who can help themselves (at the plate) a little bit more.
Ron Darling: I always say, on every ballclub there’s different fraternities—the everyday players, the bullpen guys, and the starting pitchers. If you have a close-knit bunch of starting pitchers that are talented as far as their pitching is concerned, they start to get uber competitive with the hitting, too, and you have a lot of fun with it. Who gets the most bunts down? Who’s got the most RBIs? Those are the things that make it the most fun.
Has the Rangers starter uncovered the secret of erasing his mistakes?
Back in the 2013 Annual, we wrote that Martin Perez’s “strikeout rate dropped off significantly last season, along with his ceiling. Once thought to be a potential front-end rotation arm, he’s now considered more of a third starter.” But he heads into his start tomorrow with the best ERA in the American League, while his strikeout rate hovers around the 15th percentile. There’s a contradiction there—those two statements aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, but they are certainly opposed to each other. Perez has the career-low BABIP of an early-season fluke, and he has the pristine HR/FB rate of an early-season fluke. But what about the most magical part of his game thus far? Is it possible that Perez’s exceptional ability to induce double plays is a skill that he can carry forward?
To appreciate just how significant the 6-4-3 has been to Perez’s 1.42 ERA this year, consider: 31 times so far he has had a runner on first base (at least) and fewer than two outs. Those 31 at-bats have produced 12 double plays and three fielder’s choices, along with three caught stealings, six strikeouts, and just three singles. In those 31 chances he has turned about nine more double plays than an average pitcher should have, according to our NetDP stat, putting him more than four net double plays ahead of the next-best doubleplayer. A double play with a runner on first and nobody out is worth about three-quarters of a run, according to our 2014 run-expectancy matrix. In Perez’s 31 matchups with a runner on first (at least) and fewer than two outs, he has around 13 runs off his expected runs allowed. He has allowed six runs all year. The double plays alone have been roughly as valuable as Mike Trout's sixth-in-the-AL home run total.
In 2013, Mike Carp was limited to a strict platoon—88 percent of his plate appearances came against right-handers, up from 77 percent the year before—and, just months after Boston acquired him from offense-starved Seattle for mere cash considerations, he produced a better OPS than Adrian Beltre. I’m going to assume this happens to everybody who moves into a strict platoon. They just immediately become way better than we ever thought they would. Way, way better. Every single player.
Sam checks in on his predictions about which players you'd fall for this year.
Just after the World Series last year, I told you who your five favorite players were going to be this season, now that Koji Uehara’s on a major label . A prediction that isn’t revisited is just an opinion, so in the interest of accountability it’s important that we periodically make sure that one of these players has become your favorite player. So, nearly two weeks into the season, is one of these players your favorite player? Yes! One of them is. Here are your New Favorite Player power rankings:
A division can't be won or lost in the first week, but these teams did have relatively hefty playoff-odds swings already.
Last year, the Patriot-News of Harrisburg, PA issued a correction for a piece it had written on the Gettysburg Address, 150 years earlier. “We pass over the silly remarks of the President,” they had written in 1863. “For the credit of the nation we are willing that the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them and that they shall be no more repeated or thought of." It took some time, yes, but Patriot-News staff eventually did check themselves before they wrecked themselves.
Baseball's back, which means: PITCHES! Literally. Without the pitches, we'd still be waiting for the season to start. Thank heavens for pitches!
3. Jose Fernandez’s changeup In his remarkable Opening Day start, Fernandez threw just seven changeups. This isn’t an entirely insignificant thing to note; late last year I tracked Fernandez’s emergence as an ace to Jeff Mathis’ emergence as his personal catcher. Mathis generally calls fewer changeups than his teammates, and Mathis often pocketed Fernandez’s changeup completely for entire starts at a time. Overall, Fernandez cut his changeup usage nearly in half as he worked with Mathis, and in his first start throwing to Jarrod Saltalamacchia he maintained the reduced changeup usage. By the way, this is what that changeup looked like on Monday, and what a batter swinging at that changeup looked like:
What would happen if several hitters and pitchers of interest faced each other for full seasons?
As we talked about on Monday, Mike Trout has hit Felix Hernandez very well. After his first-inning home run on Opening Day, Trout is now hitting .441/.447/.794 in 38 plate appearances against Hernandez since being called up to the majors for good in April 2012. The question for the day, then, is this: How well should Mike Trout do against Felix Hernandez?
Trout faces Felix on Opening Day. How has Hernandez attacked Trout, and how has Trout hit him so hard?
In 2011, when Mike Trout made his major-league debut, it was at home against the Seattle Mariners. In the final game of the series he had to face Felix Hernandez, and it didn’t go well. Twice he got ahead in the count but tapped back to the pitcher on 2-1 sliders. In his only other at-bat that day, he struck out looking on three consecutive pitches.