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06-27

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Prospectus Feature: How To Fight Crime
by
Henry Druschel

06-24

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1

Prospectus Feature: Baseball and the Chinese Room
by
Trevor Strunk

06-23

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Prospectus Feature: The Increasingly Lopsided Everybody-Wins Trade
by
Aaron Gleeman

06-22

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6

Prospectus Feature: Groundballs Through the Decades
by
Rob Mains

06-21

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Prospectus Feature: Goin' Down Slow
by
Aaron Gleeman

06-19

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1

Prospectus Feature: The Allure Of The First-Act Narrative
by
Trevor Strunk

06-16

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3

Prospectus Feature: Ichiro!'s Exclamation Point
by
Aaron Gleeman

06-14

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3

Prospectus Feature: 365 Days of a Shortstop Revolution
by
Aaron Gleeman

06-14

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4

Prospectus Feature: What the #StroPoll Results Got Wrong
by
Rob Mains

06-13

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14

Prospectus Feature: Groundball Pitchers: Nothin' To Do With Them?
by
Rob Mains

06-10

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Prospectus Feature: It's June 10th, and July 2 Deals Are Happening
by
Trevor Strunk

06-09

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3

Prospectus Feature: First Base Is Dead
by
Aaron Gleeman

06-07

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2

Prospectus Feature: Do Pathetic, Embarrassing, Miserable Failures Breed Success?
by
Rob Mains

06-07

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3

Prospectus Feature: From a Cesspool, Success
by
Aaron Gleeman

06-02

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8

Prospectus Feature: The Matt Bush Challenge
by
Trevor Strunk

06-02

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3

Prospectus Feature: The One Who Got Away
by
Aaron Gleeman

05-31

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4

Prospectus Feature: Buxton's Back, and Not Busted Yet
by
Aaron Gleeman

05-30

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5

Prospectus Feature: The Under-the-Radar Team Adjustments
by
Rob Mains

05-27

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Prospectus Feature: Why Is College Baseball A Statistical Wasteland?
by
Jake Garcia

05-26

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Prospectus Feature: On David Ortiz and Perhaps the Best Final Season Ever
by
Aaron Gleeman

05-25

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2

Prospectus Feature: The RISP Mystery
by
Rob Mains

05-24

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2

Prospectus Feature: Joe Nathan's Got One Thing To Prove
by
Aaron Gleeman

05-23

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7

Prospectus Feature: Overcoming Negativity
by
Jonathan Judge

05-19

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11

Prospectus Feature: So Long, Jose Berrios; See You Soon?
by
Aaron Gleeman

05-19

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5

Prospectus Feature: On Bonds' 73 Homers and Boggs' 64 Miller Lites
by
Trevor Strunk

05-17

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5

Prospectus Feature: The Only Rule Is You Have To Answer My Questions
by
Russell A. Carleton

05-17

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17

Prospectus Feature: The Need for Adjusted Exit Velocity
by
Jonathan Judge, Nick Wheatley-Schaller and Sean O'Rourke

05-17

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10

Prospectus Feature: The Fall of the Ryan Empire
by
Aaron Gleeman

05-16

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12

Prospectus Feature: A Short History of Reds and Pirates Hitting One Another With Baseballs
by
Rob Mains

05-15

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2

Prospectus Feature: Failing To Find A Better Way
by
Trevor Strunk

05-12

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5

Prospectus Feature: RISPy Business
by
Rob Mains

05-10

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2

Prospectus Feature: The Big-League Look
by
Adam McInturff

05-06

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9

Prospectus Feature: Wainwright's Curve Takes A Turn For the Worse
by
Ryan Davis

05-06

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8

Prospectus Feature: The Rays' Complex History With Domestic Violence
by
Jessica Quiroli

05-05

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6

Prospectus Feature: The Cost Of Saving Money
by
Trevor Strunk

05-02

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7

Prospectus Feature: I Come to Praise Quality Starts, Not to Bury Them
by
Rob Mains

04-29

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Prospectus Feature: The Differences Between Latin Pitching Schools
by
Octavio Hernandez

04-29

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2

Prospectus Feature: Goodbye, April: You Are Not Special
by
Rob Mains

04-28

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8

Prospectus Feature: Your Favorite Prospect Did Not Take Place
by
Trevor Strunk

04-26

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6

Prospectus Feature: One Fine Day
by
Rob Mains

04-22

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Prospectus Feature: Your Fun, My Fun, Our Fun
by
Trevor Strunk

04-18

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30

Prospectus Feature: The Women's Version of Baseball is Baseball
by
Kate Morrison

04-15

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6

Prospectus Feature: Building An Australian Baseball Team
by
Anthony Rescan

04-14

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4

Prospectus Feature: Bad Teams Don't Start 7-0
by
Rob Mains

04-13

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5

Prospectus Feature: MLB Can't Beat the Weather
by
Samuel Mann

04-07

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7

Prospectus Feature: Can the Twins Sweep ROY Voting, Still Lose?
by
Bryan Grosnick

04-06

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12

Prospectus Feature: The Most Out-Of-Place Opening Day Player
by
Rob Mains

04-04

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3

Prospectus Feature: Something Like A Hit List!
by
Matt Sussman

04-04

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27

Prospectus Feature: Pre-Season Staff Predictions
by
BP Staff

04-01

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Prospectus Feature: Save the Person, Save the Arm
by
Eric Garcia McKinley

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Preempting a bunch of Chicago Cubs hot takes.

As you may have heard, the Chicago Cubs started the season pretty well. As of the end of May, they were 35-15, playing exactly .700 ball. That projects to a 113-49 record over 162 games, which would be the most wins in a season since the Mariners won 116 in 2001, and the most in the National League since, well, since the Chicago Cubs won 116 in 1906.

But that wasn’t the only notable end-of-May record. The Twins and Braves were both 15-36, on pace for 48-114. The Reds, at 17-35, were on pace for 53-109. The 20-33 Padres projected to 61-101, raising the question of how Padres owner Ron Fowler would describe the Twins, Braves, or Reds. On the other hand, the 32-20 Red Sox were on pace to finish 100-62, the 33-21 Giants were on track for 99-63, the 32-21 Nationals on pace for 98-64, the 31-21 Rangers for 97-65, and the 30-21 Mariners for 95-67. So there were, at the end of May, four teams with a shot at 100 losses and six that could win 100.

As an aside, I am fully cognizant that “on pace for” is intellectually lazy and ignorant, unless it’s wielded cleverly by the likes of Jayson Stark or Cespedes Family Barbecue. (Especially the Cespedes Family Barbecue link. You should check it out. Go ahead, it won’t take long. I’ll still be here.) So no, I’m not implying that there actually will be four teams with 62 or fewer wins and six with 62 or fewer losses. I’m just setting the tone. Play along with me here.

Read the full article...

Did Justin Verlander announce his resurgence in a Twitter reply?

Twitter can be a rough, unforgiving place for baseball players. Their mentions stink with fans using the direct line to bombard them with criticism, name-calling, and personal attacks. Players can't reply in tone, of course, so they can ignore, or they can reply with positivity—as Jake Arrieta did, three years ago, in an exchange culminating in a now-legendary tweet.

Arrieta, then with the Orioles, received a tweet from a stranger on the internet telling him “you f***ing suck” and “go back to the minors.” It was April 21, 2013 and Arrieta had just allowed five runs in four innings against the Dodgers to raise his ERA on the season to 6.63 and his career ERA to 5.41.

He was no doubt frustrated and unhappy with how his career was going at age 27. But instead of lashing out (with cause) at a person who had lashed out at him (without cause), Arrieta killed him with kindness. Well, mostly. Arrieta replied: “Agreed. Gotta be better. If we see each other in person, you should avoid me.” That could be viewed as a threat, but it could also just be a factual statement made to a person who said “you f***ing suck.”

After a bit more back and forth Arrieta totally changed the tone of the conversation to the point that the same person who kicked things off by saying “you f***ing suck” was telling him things like “you have great stuff” and “good luck to you.” He even got the guy to admit “maybe I have anger issues.” All of which is interesting in itself, but my favorite part is Arrieta promising,

Read the full article...

In a sport that fetishizes comebacks, it can be difficult to tell a return from a redemption.

I was following along, like maybe a lot of you, with the Matt Bush story the past few weeks. Bush likely needs no real intro to a committed baseball readership, but here’s the short version for context’s sake. Bush was drafted as a shortstop with the first overall pick in the 2003 draft by the San Diego Padres. He was bad at hitting—which led to his conversion to pitching—and bad at avoiding injury. Worse than either, though, were his problems with drugs, domestic violence, and DUI. He spent three years in prison.

Now, he’s with the Texas Rangers—the team most closely associated with another former first-overall draft pick/recovering substance abuser—and pitching in the major leagues for the first time ever. He’s throwing 98 miles an hour, he’s on a zero tolerance policy for drugs or booze, and he’s rapidly climbing the ladder in the Rangers’ bullpen. In short, Matt Bush has reinvented himself.

I’m taken in easily by stories like Bush’s, and that can be a problem. Bush’s anomalous transformation, his ability to become something different in order to succeed in what is a brutal game of failure, makes it tempting to forgive and (more problematically) forget his past sins. And while we all might have different opinions on the value of redemption or retribution, the fact is that we can’t really enjoy the rise of Matt Bush without asking ourselves some serious questions about our relationship to the actions that made him fall.

Bush’s sins aren’t of the Josh Hamilton variety, after all—there’s an easy link by way of substance abuse, and I’ll admit I’ve drawn it without thinking a few times. But Hamilton’s problems were self-destructive, limited for the most part to his own abuse of drugs and his fight to get over that. Bush hurt a lot of people on his way back to the majors, the most famous example of which was running over a man’s head while fleeing a hit-and-run DUI. (The man survived thanks to his wearing a helmet.) While this incident is what landed Bush in prison for a little over three years, he was also involved in the assault of a high school lacrosse player with a golf club (getting him released from the Padres) and he threw a baseball at a woman’s head (which got him kicked off the Blue Jays). In short, Matt Bush made his bed in a fairly dramatic and troubling way. He was awful.

But now he’s back, and it’s tempting to revel in the baseball return story. After all, the comeback is one of our most treasured genres as fans, and for good reason. These stories make us believe, however briefly, in our ability as people to beat the odds. I mentioned Hamilton above, and his story is likely one of the most inspiring in this way, as he kicked his drug habit and tasted some of the Mickey Mantle-esque appeal he had when being drafted first overall by the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays. And while Hamilton’s journey has been a little windy since then, the fact that he saw any success after flaming out for years in the minor leagues is remarkable. Baseball, as I’ve said before and I’ll say again, is powerfully unforgiving.

And so when we see most of the nameless first-round busts or snake-bitten injured phenoms go the way of our Brian Bullingtons and Mark Priors, we’re rightly amazed to see a happy ending. When Rich Hill can stick to the pursuit of baseball as long as he has, and then end up pitching beyond our wildest expectations at 36, that’s pretty cool. That’s a story we can tell our kids about all the great, warm fuzzy feelings baseball is classically supposed to give us: perseverance, self-confidence, belief. These guys beat the odds in a game that is literally already about beating long odds, and we remember and revere them for that.

Read the full article...

Half the American League might have regrets every time they check an A's box score these days.

Danny Valencia made his major-league debut in 2010, joining the Twins as a 25-year-old former 19th-round draft pick with a modest minor-league track record. He hit .311/.351/.448 in 85 games as a rookie to force his way into Minnesota’s plans, at which point he was handed the Opening Day job in 2011 and remained the starting third baseman all season. He quickly turned back into a pumpkin and by mid-2012 the Twins had tired of him on and off the field.

They traded Valencia to the Red Sox for a non-prospect and three months later the Red Sox sold him to the Orioles, who kept him for a year before sending him to the Royals for little in return. Six months later Valencia was traded from the Royals to the Blue Jays in a low-wattage swap and he was placed on waivers a year after that, when the A’s claimed him. Valencia changed teams five times in less than three years while spending much of that stretch in the minors.

He looked like the epitome of a replacement-level player. Not capable enough defensively to be trusted at third base, but not good enough offensively versus right-handers to warrant a full-time job at first base or designated hitter. Valencia was a 31-year-old platoon corner infielder with a reputation for too much … well, let’s call it swag. If anything, hanging around for as long as he did without being a former top prospect was a victory in itself. But then, just as it looked like Valencia might be running out of stops to make, he started crushing the ball.

Read the full article...

In a lost season, getting Byron Buxton settled in and ready to be a long-term asset is the most important goal for the next four months.

Twins general manager Terry Ryan admitted to calling up Byron Buxton too early last season, saying he regretted promoting the 21-year-old top prospect in June when injuries left Minnesota short-handed in the outfield. Buxton was overmatched in his first taste of the big leagues, hitting .209/.250/.326 with a 44/6 K/BB ratio in 46 games after arriving with the most hype of any Twins prospect since Joe Mauer in 2004.

Because of his poor debut and Ryan’s comments, most Minnesotans went into the offseason assuming Buxton would begin 2016 in the minors. Instead the Twins traded their best in-house center-field option, Aaron Hicks, and brought in no outside alternatives. Buxton arrived at spring training with essentially zero competition and won the starting job by default. He was the Opening Day center fielder at age 22, but three weeks and 17 games later the Twins demoted him back to Triple-A.

Nothing about Buxton’s performance suggested he was ready to thrive in the big leagues, and in fact, aside from flashing excellent range defensively he was pretty much a mess. However, the Twins calling him up “too early” in 2015 only to hand him the 2016 job without any competition and then change their minds 49 plate appearances later showed that Ryan and company are capable of being equally messy. Buxton has struggled and struggled mightily through his first 63 games, but the Twins also didn’t help much and that’s become a player development pattern.

Read the full article...

The teams that are doing things radically different than last year, and whether they mean anything.

Last week, Matt Trueblood wrote about the biggest changes to team Playoff Odds since the start of the season. The five teams with the widest swings: The White Sox, Red Sox, Astros, Mariners, and Yankees. You can guess why. Three of them have been surprisingly good, and two of them have been surprisingly bad. Those teamwide surprises have been underpinned by individual surprises, like Jackie Bradley Jr. (good) and Dallas Keuchel (not). Surprises all, but well-known surprises. If Donald Rumsfeld were writing for BP, he might call them known knowns. (He might call them that anyway. Or he might be too focused on getting you to play solitaire on your smartphone to care.)

I’m looking for unknown knowns. These are teams that’ve changed in less obvious ways—i.e., not the ones you see when you peruse the standings each day—but are nonetheless interesting. I looked for sharp changes from 2015 compared to the 2016 season to date that have probably eluded headlines and highlight shows.

Of course, there are two ways a team can change. They can import a bunch of new players with new characteristics, or their existing personnel can change. I found a little of both in this list.

Read the full article...

You would never know baseball had undergone a data revolution if you only followed the NCAA. This might finally be changing.

The following is excerpted from The Evolution of Data and Statistics in Baseball, a thesis paper written by Jake Garcia for the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, at Arizona State University.

Doing introductory research on a niche topic like the interplay between baseball, stats and data, I initially pegged baseball as experiencing something similar to a Schumpeterian moment—an economic theory derived from the work of Karl Marx that describes a process of destroying an old structure and creating a new one. But ever since its inception, baseball and numbers have been heavily intertwined, and the Schumpeterian moment has been fixed in a never-ending cycle. The destruction of old stats and analytics and the creation of new ones has been incessant and perpetual. It did not stop when the concept of the run batted in was introduced in 1879; it definitely did not stop when computers came along in the 1960s to encourage in-depth statistical analysis; and it will not stop any time in the near future with technological advances like Statcast continuing to mold the way people think about baseball. How does the change continue and how will it manifest itself?

Spotlighting college baseball was presumably a good starting point. Since the NCAA is chock-full of players striving to embark on their professional careers in the near future, you would expect it to also be the perfect grounds for experimentation with data, stats and technology, much like the Arizona Fall League, right? Well, not exactly.

Read the full article...

Somewhere, a recreational Sunday softball league is about to get really, really good.

Seemingly every year or two for the past decade when David Ortiz has gone through a rough stretch—a bad April, a slow start coming back from the disabled list, or even just a hitless key series—it has become a story in Boston, with attention-grabbing headlines asking if he’s washed up. The answer has always been a resounding no. In fact, few players in baseball history have as thoroughly and convincingly avoided being washed up for as long as Ortiz.

At age 26 he was released by the Twins—as a Minnesotan, the state ban prevents me from discussing this matter any further—and from the moment Ortiz started putting up big numbers in Boston many people have been waiting for him to come crashing back down to earth. He never has, topping an .850 OPS in 13 of the past 14 seasons, with a low-water mark of .794 in 2009 that really pressed the “he’s washed up!” alarm.

Just last season Ortiz was hitting .219 in early June when a local television reporter asked him about being washed up, which led to this memorable rant a few days later:

Read the full article...

When runners are in scoring position, home runs go down, while everything else--including doubles and triples--goes up. Why?

In this article, I looked for evidence that some hitters perform better with runners in scoring position (RISP) than in other situations. (I didn’t find much.) To help me define perform, I calculated run expectancies with RISP and discovered that of common batting metrics (batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS), slugging percentage correlates best to driving in runs. So I looked for hitters who slugged higher with RISP than in other plate appearances.

A couple commenters suggested that this is a low bar. After all, they reasoned, hitters should have a higher slugging percentage with RISP than without, for a number of reasons:

· Pitchers have to pitch from the stretch (though the perception that pitchers give up velocity by pitching from the stretch doesn’t appear to be true)

· Infielders must position themselves to hold runners on, opening up lanes for basehits that wouldn’t exist with the bases empty

· Similarly, with fewer than two outs and a runner on third, infielders may move up to prevent a run, creating additional opportunities for singles

Read the full article...

Don't forget how great Joe Nathan was. And as he prepares for a comeback, don't forget what he's still working toward.

The last big-league pitch Joe Nathan threw was an 86 mph, 1-2 slider to Torii Hunter on Opening Day of last season. Hunter checked his swing, got rung up by umpire Joe West for a game-ending strikeout, and argued his way into a meaningless ejection (followed by several days of the usual “Joe West is the worst” headlines). Detroit beat Minnesota, Nathan got his 377th career save, and two days later he was placed on the disabled list with an elbow injury that eventually required Tommy John surgery.

It was the second Tommy John surgery and third major arm surgery of Nathan’s career and at age 41 it seemed like the end of the line for the six-time All-Star closer, with a headline-grabbing one-out save against his former team and former teammate serving as a memorable final act. Instead, he rested and rehabbed, and last week Nathan signed a major-league contract with the Cubs that includes a spot on the 60-day disabled list until he’s ready to pitch again. As of now he’s aiming for early July.

Nathan wasn’t great for the Tigers before blowing out his elbow—posting a 4.78 ERA and 55/29 K/BB ratio in 58 innings—but having closely watched his entire Twins career it’s my duty to remind everyone of how great he was for a long time in Minnesota and later in Texas. Nathan at his best was as dominant as nearly any reliever in baseball history, and Nathan was at his best a lot. For instance, here’s a list of the pitchers since 1920 with the most seasons in which they threw at least 50 innings and posted an ERA below 2.00:

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DRA in depth: Finding a run-expectancy curve that would eliminate the negative DRA.

This is the second in a series of articles explaining in depth the updated formulation of Deserved Run Average. The overview can be found here, and Part I of the in-depth discussion of the revised approach can be found here.

Call me Jonathan.

For most of this offseason, my (entirely metaphorical) White Whale was baseball’s run expectancy curve; the distribution, if you will, between the minimum and the maximum number of runs yielded by pitchers per nine innings of baseball. Why would something so seemingly arcane be so very important to me? Let’s start with some background on run expectancy.

In 2015, for pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched, their ERAs ranged from .94 (Wade Davis) to 7.97 (Chris Capuano). In more prosperous times, such as the 2000 season, pitcher ERAs at the same threshold ranged from 1.50 (Robb Nen) to 10.64 (Roy Halladay). For something more in the middle, we can turn to 1985, when a starter (!), Dwight Gooden, had the lowest ERA at 1.53, and Jeff Russell topped things off at 7.55.

Here’s what those seasons look like on a weighted density plot, side by side:

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Putting the Twins' top pitching prospect's disaster start in perspective.

Monday night I tuned into the Twins-Tigers game, in part because I'm a glutton for punishment with a Pavlovian need to watch Twins games no matter how bad things get, but also because top prospect Jose Berrios was making his fourth career start. I was excited, or at least as excited as baseball fans in Minnesota get these days. Berrios' first three starts weren't great, but his previous outing was encouraging enough to make me think perhaps the 21-year-old former first-round pick was ready to become a full-time member of the rotation for the next decade or so.

He wasn't. Actually, whatever the opposite of that is, he was ready to do that and only that. Berrios failed to make it out of the first inning, recording two outs while allowing seven runs. First-inning knockouts have always fascinated me. It’s like showing up to your office, spilling coffee down the front of your shirt, slipping and falling on the wet floor beneath you, knocking over a filing cabinet in the process, and then being asked to go home by your boss. Not only did you embarrass yourself in front of co-workers, now they’re all watching you exit in shame. It’s made even worse by knowing that everyone else has to keep working for the rest of the day.

Twins manager Paul Molitor came out to remove Berrios following a bases-loaded double by light-hitting shortstop Jose Iglesias, and their limited interaction had a "put him out of his misery" vibe. Shortly after the game--which the Twins came back to tie at 8-8 before losing, thus providing their fans with the maximum possible pain--Berrios was demoted to Triple-A. There he joins fellow top prospect Byron Buxton, who began the season as the Twins' starting center fielder before being demoted to Triple-A three weeks later after hitting .156 in 17 games.

Buxton ranked No. 2 overall on our top-101 prospect list and Berrios was No. 17, so in addition to all the losing happening in Minnesota it's getting increasingly difficult to convince people here that prospects are worth believing in. I'm still a big believer in Berrios (and Buxton too), but his disastrous start Monday did give me some pause, in that it got me wondering how often a prospect as young and as highly touted as Berrios has ever been that helpless on a mound. My hope was that it actually happens quite a bit, and better yet happens quite a bit to prospects who go on to become amazing pitchers. But... well, it doesn't.

Here's the complete list of pitchers since 1995 who've been knocked out of a start in the first inning while allowing seven or more runs before turning 22 years old:

Read the full article...

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