Drops in fastball velocity usually lead to spikes in ERA, but a handful of pitchers have made slower fastballs work for them this year.
There’s more to being a major-league pitcher than throwing hard. Plenty of pitchers have had successful careers without making the mitt pop. On the whole, though, throwing hard helps. All else being equal, the harder a pitcher can throw, the more effective his offerings are, and the easier it is for him to get away with mistakes. It’s no coincidence that the team with the hardest-throwing staff this season, the Nationals, also boasts the big leagues’ best ERA.
In a 2010 study, PITCHf/x analyst Mike Fast found that starting pitchers from 2002-2009 allowed, on average, 0.28 fewer runs per nine innings for every mile per hour of velocity gained. Relievers, who tend to rely more heavily on their heaters, shaved 0.45 runs for every extra tick.
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Paulino, Dickey, Zambrano, and Ogando make the VP cut this week
We have seen a shift in recent years with dwindling offensive output giving way to more dominant pitching. At one point or another, each of the last two years has been dubbed the “Year of the Pitcher,” and 2012 is on the same path (though Matt Kemp and Josh Hamilton may have something to say about that). This can be seen as a boon to fantasy owners, as Value Picks remain plentiful. Heck, just a cursory look at the top 10 starters in fantasy this season shows a handful of VP-types like Lance Lynn, Jake Peavy, and Jason Hammel. In short, there will always be some arms out there being undervalued or on the cusp of breaking out. Let’s take a look at this week’s list.
Though recent trends might indicate otherwise, aged pitchers rarely return to form after year-long layoffs.
Sure, it came against an Angels lineup whose centerpiece, Albert Pujols, has yet to get untracked, but it was difficult not to be impressed with Bartolo Colon's eight shutout innings last Wednesday. For one thing, it marked the 38-year-old Oakland righty's second consecutive scoreless start; he had tossed seven scoreless against the Mariners on April 13. For another, he reeled off a streak of 38 consecutive strikes, running from the second pitch of the fifth inning through the seventh pitch of the eighth inning, a span that included balls in play; he allowed only a single and a double during that time. Pitch-by-pitch records only go back to 1988, so there's no definitive account of whether Colon set a record, but via the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser, the next-highest known total was 30 in a row by Tim Wakefield in 1998.
Matt Cain, Cliff Lee, and Bartolo Colon ruled the mound on Wednesday night.
The Wednesday Takeaway
If you went to bed early last night, you missed a duel for the ages in San Francisco and a remarkable stretch of consistency from a pitcher who, just months ago, was seemingly left for dead.
Given the lack of thump in the Phillies’ and Giants’ lineups, the matchup of Cliff Lee and Matt Cain was likely to produce a low-scoring contest. What no one could have predicted, though, is that they would combine for 19 scoreless innings—10 by Lee, nine by Cain—and work so efficiently that the 11-inning game was over in just two hours and 27 minutes. It’s a shame Cowboy Joe West wasn’t behind the plate last night, because he would have been proud.
Why do teams sign older pitchers when they have younger hurlers in the minors?
Kevin Millwood is 37. Bartolo Colon is 39. Jamie Moyer is 49 and coming off Tommy Johnsurgery. Each signed this winter with a team that should be looking to rebuild with young players. What do these teams hope for—or expect to gain—by adding these old pitchers? What should they expect?
With the common and easy argument being that such pitchers block youngsters from getting a chance, why are the old guys here? Will they mentor the kids, soak up innings, or help make fans feel younger? All of the above and more?
Pitchers continue to get injured while batting, so should baseball continue to require NL pitchers to hit?
I'm not known around the Internet as the world'sbiggestA.J. Burnettfan. During last Wednesday's BP roundtable, I even dusted off an old Simpson's riff: "I'm a well-wisher in that I wish him no specific harm." Now, to set the record straight, any voodoo dolls I may have referenced over the past decade or so for any player exist only in my breathlessly hyperbolic narratives, and I would never actually wish injury on a ballplayer, particularly not such an injury as befell Burnett later that day. The recent trade that sent the enigmatic righty from the Yankees to the Pirates mandates that he practice his hitting and bunting, and unfortunately, a less-than-stellar bit of work on the latter sent a ball into his own face, fracturing his right orbital and necessitating surgery. Fortunately, it does not sound as though he suffered a detached retina, which could have threatened his career.
Does history offer any reason to believe that Bartolo Colon is the solution to the Yankees' dire fifth-starter straits?
The Yankees’ signing of Bartolo Colon to a minor-league deal in late January was greeted by a chorus of jeers that didn't begin to subside until his successful first outing of the exhibition season. It wasn't that Colon didn’t have a Yankee-caliber pedigree: the Dominican's resume includes two All-Star appearances and three top-ten showings in the Cy Young voting, including a 2005 first-place finish fueled by an AL-leading 21 wins (though that year's award probably should have gone to Johan Santana, who had earned the honors for the first time in 2004 and would return to the winner's circle in 2006). However, while Colon is hardly the first hurler with a history of acehood to be lured to the Bronx, his more recent track record pales in comparison to those of the team’s previous high-profile pitching imports.
By the time Colon was fitted for a supersized set of pinstripes, he’d left his greatest on-field achievements far behind. Since his Cy Young victory, the right-hander has gone 14-21 with a 5.18 ERA in 48 appearances, and his conditioning—the hurler is listed at 5’11”, 265, which might undersell where he'd actually tip the scales—makes him an easy target for the tabloids. Even more damning, Colon sat out the entirety of the 2010 season following a string of injury-plagued campaigns, and he'll turn 38 in May. Considering the question marks associated with the portly pitcher, one can’t blame New York Magazine for crowing, “With Mark Prior and Bartolo Colon on board, Brian Cashman has finally filled out his rotation, provided he can get his hands on that time machine.”
Derek catches a SoCal interleague Father's Day special, and gets his take on Bartolo Colon's return to action.
The Angels, on the other hand, are in last place, six games out of first place in the AL West, and six games under .500. The team has made the postseason three out of the last four years, but now stands in the awkward position of trying to decide if it's time to fish or cut bait. All season long, prospects who seem to be the future of this franchise have gotten call-ups to fill in or back up when the big club's veterans have faltered. Already, guys like Howie Kendrick (#5 on our top prospects list) Kendry Morales (#26 on our list) and Erick Aybar (#50) have gotten time on the major league roster. Only Morales has seen significant playing time in The Show, but the question lingering over the Angels' season has been when do you give up, deal the veterans, and put things in the prospects' hands?
If the Bartolo Colon trade was some big Selig conspiracy, how come Minaya offered Colon a $50-million, four-year extension? Bud had to approve that contract. Only after Colon rejected it, did Minaya trade him. Why wasn't that mentioned? Oh, I get it - if it's A FACT but it doesn't fit the conspiracy template/make Bud look bad in EVERY situation template - just ignore it.
The end always justifies the means when it is Bud we are attacking. I don't mind opinionated journalists, but when you ignore important facts to make your argument look better, it destroys your credibility. Is BP's urge to bash Bud that strong that you must always embellish your pro-MLBPA side and ignore facts that might weaken your argument?
Jonah Keri has ably analyzed the Colon trade and its ridiculousness for the Expos. I want to focus on the deal as an indicator of the shadiness and shame implied by the league's ownership of the Expos.
First, some background. For better and for worse, Major League Baseball is a legal cartel. As such, it may be thought of as a sort of open, friendly conspiracy (it conspires to keep any competing league from offering top-level baseball in North America). Nothing wrong with that in itself -- we happily put up with cartels in most of our major sports, and in other areas of life as well. And as long as I the consumer understand the arrangement, benefit from it, and have some kind of recourse to get out from under it, what's the problem? No one makes me spend money on MLB or the NFL. If I have a beef with one of these cartels, I can always boycott their sponsors, or push for new laws to rein them in, or just go to Longhorn games instead. So far, so good.
But for their own long-term health, sports leagues must convince their consumers that they field a fair product, or else the entire attraction of honest competition is ruined. By this token, baseball's fans must be able to believe that MLB holds itself in check by various means, whether in the structure of the amateur draft, or in a player's arbitration calendar, or in the rules of the waiver wire. These rules (and many others) allow for open explanations of events: The Red Sox signed Johnny Damon fair and square under the free agency rules; the Yankees got stuck with Jose Canseco's contract because the Rays really were looking to unload him via waivers; there's only so long the Expos can hold onto Vlad Guerrero thanks to his free-agency calendar. And so on.
Whether we like an individual piece of news or not, we have reason to believe that matters were handled out in the open. The league's internal rules are made even more potent in this regard since they're monitored by a powerful player's union and, at least in theory, by an independent press.
Onto the problem at hand. The very nature of the league's ownership of the Expos raises the specter of misconduct - of a violation of consumers' trust - because it subverts this system of checks. Because the league now controls the Expos' players, this specter extends not just to Expos fans, but to fans of other teams (like the Red Sox), and to followers of the league as a whole.
Protestations of innocence from Selig & Co. are irrelevant. Maybe the Commissioner does have firewalls in place such that he holds no sway on the Expos' day-to-day operations. It doesn't matter. Again, it is the very nature of the arrangement that opens the way for back-channel, conspiratorial explanations for events. Indeed, given the current arrangement, it actually becomes logical to entertain such notions.
One of the biggest questions this off-season has been what Major League Baseball will do with the Montreal Expos.
One of the biggest questions this off-season has been what Major League Baseball will do with the Montreal Expos. With owner/saboteur Jeff Loria jumping ship to take over the Marlins in last winter's game of musical chairs, the Expos became wards of MLB, with the other 29 teams taking over control of the Expos franchise in the expectation that the franchise would die as part of Bud Selig's ill-conceived contraction scheme.
Omar Minaya was named GM of the Expos, and to MLB's credit he was allowed to make moves as he saw fit to try to improve the Expos, with one restriction: payroll could not be increased. Minaya managed to add a couple of significant players (and salaries) by insisting that salaries balance in the deals that he made (which is why Lee Stevenswas part of the package going to Cleveland forBartolo Colon and why Carl Pavano and Graeme Lloyd went to Florida in the trade to acquire Cliff Floyd). The Expos fell short in 2002, but at the very least it was an interesting summer in Montreal where the team was trying to win.
The 2002 season is over, and now MLB has to figure out what to do with the Expos in 2003. Minaya is back as GM, and the team is slated to play a significant number of "home" games in Puerto Rico. But the big question is how much will the Expos payroll be in 2003? Rumors have the brain trust of MLB, in its infinite wisdom, pegging the Expos' payroll in 2003 at $40M, pretty much the same as it was in 2002. To determine what kind of position that puts Minaya in, lets take a look at what the payroll for the Expos roster projects to be in 2003.