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Newsletter: Friday, August 31, 2012


IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: Introducing the latest in the great line of Baseball
Prospectus publications...The Call-Up 2012 e-book! Click for details:
http://bbp.cx/a/17651

NEW PREMIUM CONTENT

108 Stitches
The Importance of the Area Code Games

by Dan Evans

The Area Code Games offer the best opportunity for MLB officials to evaluate
amateur talent. Our resident former GM explains all.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=18198

Prospectus Hit and Run
Fat Elvis' Swan Song

by Jay Jaffe

A closer look at Lance Berkman's Hall of Fame candidacy.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=18196

Overthinking It
From Prospect to Project to Prominence

by Ben Lindbergh

Ten players who took the long route from top prospect to major-league
contributor this year.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=18191

Daily Hit List
Thursday, August 30

by Jason Wojciechowski

Celebrating the achievements of Brett Wallace, Matt Harvey, Bryce Harper and
the non-achievements of the Seattle Mariners.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=18190

NEW FANTASY CONTENT

Value Picks
Outfielders for 8/31/12

by Paul Singman

Parmelee, Mayberry, McLouth, and Ruf join VP this week.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=18199

Weekly Planner
Week 23

by Paul Sporer

Paul returns to this week to help you decide which two-start pitchers are
worth your time.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=18201

NEW BASIC CONTENT

Pebble Hunting
The Best Pitches Thrown This Week (Yu Darvish Edition)

by Sam Miller

Watching Yu Darvish is wonderful. Hitting against him is hell.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=18193

Wezen-Ball
Do You See Every Pitch of Every Game?

by Larry Granillo

Considering all the distractions at a baseball game and the mixed nature of
the crowd, exactly what percentage of pitches are seen on any given night?

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=18203

BP Unfiltered
Ichiro Suzuki, Mountains, and Mushrooms

by Ben Lindbergh

An Important Internet Discovery reveals more of Ichiro's strange sense of
humor.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=18202

What You Need to Know
Friday, August 31

by Daniel Rathman

Bryce Harper's bat and swagger are finally on display again for the Nationals.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=18195

The BP Wayback Machine
The Clemens Signing

by Joe Sheehan

What we wrote the last time Roger Clemens came back.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=18197

BP Unfiltered
This is a Mike Trout Factoid

by Sam Miller

Mike Trout's numbers are factoidable.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=18200

Tater Trot Tracker
Trot Times for August 29

by Larry Granillo

The tater trots for August 29: Bryce Harper, Evan Longoria, and Chris Heisey
hit two home runs each.

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=18192

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: AUGUST 31

THE THURSDAY TAKEAWAY

Teenagers are not supposed to hit 15 home runs in the majors. Until yesterday,
only three—Tony Conigliaro, Mel Ott, and Ken Griffey Jr.—had ever done it. But
Bryce Harper is no ordinary teenager, and now, 23 years after Griffey joined
the club, he has become member number four.

Harper arrived with a splash on April 28. He went 1-for-3 with a double in his
big-league debut. Four games in, his OPS stood at 1.015. By June 12, it had
receded, but only modestly, to 943. Drafted first overall in 2010 and
nicknamed “The Natural,” Harper was destined for the spotlight. And with the
spotlight came great expectations.

The Las Vegas native enjoyed the attention. When Cole Hamels welcomed him to
The Show with a beaning, Harper got revenge by stealing home. When a reporter
razzed him about his age, asking for his favorite beer, he told him, “That’s a
clown question, bro.” When Giancarlo Stanton’s knee injury enabled Harper to
become the youngest position player ever to appear in an All-Star game, he
decided to do so wearing gold cleats. But for all of Harper’s baseball talent,
his willingness to embrace being “The Natural,” and his deft handling of the
media stir that came with it, at some point, he would have to endure a slump.

That 943 OPS Harper carried two-and-a-half months ago marked a peak in his
rookie campaign. By the end of June, it was down to 822. From June 29 until
July 23, he did not hit a single home run. And after an 0-for-5 outing in San
Francisco on Aug. 15, Harper’s OPS dropped to 718, its lowest point in three
months.

There was no shame in Harper’s lull. All first-years, especially those as
young as Harper, take their lumps at some point. Even Mike Trout, now in the
midst of one of the greatest rookie seasons ever, hit just .220/.281/.390
during his 40-game cup of coffee last year. And, fortunately for Harper, the
Nationals were still winning and still in first place, a spot they have not
shared since June 3.

But the attention was still there, and Harper felt it: After striking out on
Aug. 5, he shattered his bat on the plate, drawing a “When I was his age …”
from Marlins catcher John Buck. Fortunately, he continued to accept it: After
an 0-fer in Houston on Aug. 8, the midpoint of a five-game hitless streak,
Harper willingly admitted, “I’m all over the place right now.”

Three weeks later, he’s back in the zone. Harper went deep twice in Miami on
Wednesday, sparking a four-run Nationals rally that got them on the board in
the fourth inning, then adding an insurance run in the fifth to become the
first teenager to deliver a multi-homer game since Andruw Jones did it in
1996. But the frustration was still there, evidenced by Harper’s first
major-league ejection—punishment for slamming his helmet after a ninth-inning
double play.

Harper served as Washington’s catalyst again in yesterday’s series opener
versus the Cardinals, smacking a two-run shot in the bottom of the first. It
marked the first time Harper has gone deep in consecutive games since May
26-27, when the baseball world was still his oyster, and when his bat seemed
uniquely slump-proof.

Washington Post beat writer Adam Kilgore observed during Thursday’s 8-1
victory that the long-lost balance is back in Harper’s swing. Perhaps as
importantly, the swagger Harper left behind in Kansas City last month has
returned to his game, too. When Harper’s homer cleared the right-field fence
yesterday, he sprinted around the bases in a season-low 16.2 seconds, just as
our resident Tater Trot Tracker, Larry Granillo, requested. In doing so, he
beat his own 2012 record, set way back in those glory days of late-May.

Harper’s revival on Wednesday helped Washington to snap its five-game skid,
and the Nats have now won two straight with three games left in this weekend’s
series against St. Louis. With the Reds—who sit a game ahead of Washington on
the National League totem pole—still surging despite Joey Votto’s absence, the
Nationals will need Harper to stay hot in order to keep up.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR THIS WEEKEND

When Roy Halladay is going right, few others can rival his dominance, but Mike
Minor—who will lock horns with Doc on Friday—is doing his best to mimic the
two-time Cy Young award winner’s control. Minor has not walked a batter in any
of his last three starts, and he hasn’t issued more than two free passes in an
outing since June 30. He’ll need to be careful with Chase Utley and Ryan
Howard, though, as the Phillies sluggers are a combined 6-for-17 with two home
runs in their past meetings (Friday, 7:35 p.m. ET).

***

It seems every time Felix Hernandez takes the mound, a 1-0 shutout victory is
in store for Seattle. The 26-year-old righty has won in that fashion thrice in
his last five starts, and the Mariners have come out on top in eight of his
last nine. The lone blemish came against the Angels on Aug. 10, when Hernandez
was charged with five runs (four earned) in seven innings in a 6-5 Anaheim
win. He’ll look to avenge that defeat against Ervin Santana, who has gotten
shelled in all three of his outings against the Mariners this year. With a
10-to-14 K:BB and four home runs allowed in 16 total innings (7.83 FIP) versus
Seattle, Santana has earned almost every bit of his 8.44 ERA (Saturday, 4:05
p.m. ET).

***

August is almost over, and the Indians can only thank the heavens for that.
After plunging into a 5-23 abyss this month—their lowest low since August,
1938—they will be thrilled to see the calendar flip to September on Saturday,
though things won’t get any easier with the Rangers in town this weekend.
Roberto Hernandez, who has lost in each of his three trips since returning to
the majors, will look to provide a fresh start in the middle match, where he
will take on Scott Feldman, who has dropped each of his last four (Saturday,
7:05 p.m. ET).

***

The Brewers lead the league in strikeouts, and Yovani Gallardo—who is riding a
six-game winning streak and has fanned exactly nine batters in each of his
last three starts—is a big reason why. He’ll try to continue his whiffing ways
in the series finale versus the Pirates, just a month and a half after
collecting a career-high 14 punch outs over seven innings against them. Pedro
Alvarez picked up a hat trick in that Pittsburgh loss on July 15, but he
enters this series on a tear, having gone 6-for-9 with two doubles and three
home runs in the last two games of the Pirates’ set against the Cardinals
(Sunday, 2:10 p.m. ET).

***

Got plans for Sunday night? Break ‘em. It’s the White Sox and the Tigers on
Sunday Night Baseball with first place in the American League Central—which
Robin Ventura’s team leads by three games entering the weekend
showdown—potentially at stake. Chris Sale and Justin Verlander are set to duke
it out at Comerica Park, where the home team is 39-26 this season and 9-3 with
its ace on the mound. Both Sale and Verlander will be looking to bounce back
from their worst starts of the year: a four-inning, four-run loss in Baltimore
for the Chicago lefty; a 5 2/3-inning, eight-run debacle in Kansas City for
the Detroit righty. You do not want to miss this one (Sunday, 8:06 p.m. ET).

PODCASTS

EFFECTIVELY WILD, THE DAILY BP PODCAST - EPISODE 32: JOE MAUER CLEARS WAIVERS,
AND THE DEMISE OF ERIK BEDARD
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=18184

BP PODCAST EPISODE 101: LET'S JUST NOT EVEN TRY
After our big celebration for Episode 100, we're back to normality, or at
least as normal as the show gets. We talk about the Manny Machado call-up,
some prospects that we are higher or lower than most on, and also just what to
make of Austin Wood. Then we try to gauge Mike Trout's value (good luck) and
talk about scouting little league games. Our special guest is a good friend of
the show in Andy McCullough of the Newark Star-Ledger who talks about the
future of the Mets, and then our listener of the week is the amazing Craig
Robinson, better known to many of you as the Flip Flop Flyin' guy. From there
it's the goofy stuff with a tribute to the late, great Juan Deli, and some
talk about weird neighbors ... and mattresses.
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=17979

BP FANTASY PODCAST EPISODE 17: BACK ON MY MARK
Jason and Paul discuss the 2013 draft values of former Red Sox outfielders
Carl Crawford and Josh Reddick, as well as those of sophomore slumpers Brett
Lawrie and Desmond Jennings. They'll also tell you what to make of Brett
Anderson's return and Tim Lincecum's easy remaining schedule. All that and
much more at the link below.
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=18140

ANNOUNCEMENTS

BASEBALL PROSPECTUS 2012 APP NOW AVAILABLE
At long last, the Baseball Prospectus 2012 annual app is now available for the
iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. Follow your favorite MLB teams and players
throughout the season with Baseball Prospectus analysis that includes team
overviews, player assessments, detailed stats, and 2012 projections for over
2000 players. All of that and more for just $4.99 if you purchase it in the
next two weeks. For more information and to access the download page, click
the link below.
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=16776

BALLPARK EVENT TICKETS NOW ON SALE
Join your favorite BP writers and industry insiders at our upcoming ballpark
events. For more information and to purchase tickets, click the links below.
September 15 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles: http://bbp.cx/a/18042

BROOKS BASEBALL AT BP
The outstanding PITCHf/x work of Dan Brooks, Harry Pavlidis, and co. is now
available through BP. For more details on the integration of Brooks Baseball,
see the post by Joe Hamrahi linked below:
bbp.cx/a/17621

SUBMIT A QUESTION TO THE RESEARCH MAILBAG
Got a burning baseball question you want answered? Submit it via email to
Bradley Ankrom (bankrom@baseballprospectus.com) and we'll do our best to find
the answer. Our research staff will select its favorite questions from the
batch and feature them in the mailbag the following week.

PLAYOFF ODDS AVAILABLE DAILY
The season is underway, and our playoff odds report is now updated to account
for the double wild card. Check it out here:
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/odds/

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updates throughout the day.

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