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:
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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.
How bad will things get for your team when two starters go down?
The problem is, people get hurt. People get hurt, you’re going to expose your lack of depth. There just is no depth. There is no number six. If Joe Blanton pitches an inning this year it will be just a catastrophe for the Angels and I don’t know—Shoemaker? Is that number six? Even in my ideal world I’m trying to figure out who is number six. —Matt Welch, author of the Angels chapter in this year’s annual, on Effectively Wild.
Why it's problematic to point out that a player isn't as good as he once was.
Brandon Phillips is declining. Around 13 years ago, his lung capacity began decreasing, and in another couple decades it will be half what it was when he was 20. He's losing neurons in his brain—up to 10,000 per day. Around the age of 30, his major organs began to lose function, and his muscles began to lose mass. His maximum attainable heart rate is dropping by a beat per year, and his capacity to pump blood is shrinking, too. The first symptoms of mild-moderate cognitive impairment often start around this time, slowing his brain's processing speed and affecting memory and attention.
Is it time to bring back the Herb Washington-style dedicated pinch-sprinter?
We all have radical ideas that we’d like to see implemented: the all-reliever pitching staff, the perfectly optimized lineup, the corner outfielders swapping based on batter handedness, etc. Until somebody puts them into play, they’re just ideas. What Charlie Finley did, then, was a favor to us all: He took one of those ideas and put it in play. And when it failed, we got to move on. We never had to talk about it again. For once, a crazy idea tried, tested, and settled.
What the terms of Mike Trout's rumored extension tell us about Mike Trout.
Back in the summer of 2012, when it became clear that Mike Trout was doing something we had never seen from a player his age, the word of the day was “adjustments.” Yes, Trout was accomplishing amazing things, and there was little doubt that he would be a phenomenal player, probably a Hall of Famer. But his legacy—would he be a Hall of Famer like Willie Mays, or a Hall of Famer like Andre Dawson?—would come down to adjustments.
The biggest gaps between 2013 and 2014 pitcher projections.
It’s a feeling we’ve brought up a lot this winter: Pitchers seem like they are capable of changing our minds much more quickly than hitters can. A bump in velocity (like Ubaldo Jimenez) or a move to the bullpen (Will Smith) or a return after years away (Scott Kazmir) can radically reshape how we assess a pitcher's future.
Which suggests we should be open to radically different projections for a pitcher from year to year, and yet! There’s a case to be made that this unpredictability should actually make a projection system even more conservative when evaluating pitchers. As quickly as a pitcher can change our minds about him, he can unchange our minds, lose the velocity or move back to the rotation or undergo a surgery that fixes him. So, when in doubt, regress.