Ben and Sam discuss whether a pitcher's body language can cost him strikes, whether it's worth trading for relievers early in the season, a study about perceptions of steroid use, and whether a low BABIP is always unlucky.
Have hitters become too passive, or is there something else going on?
Last week, in an article in Sports Illustrated, Tom Verducci put forth an argument that the modern game of baseball has a problem. Hitters, he claimed, have become too passive in their approach at the plate as they attempt to drive up the pitch counts of the opposing pitcher. He mixes together a couple of case examples (Joey Votto, Jayson Werth) with some data that appear to show that hitters have become more passive in their approach over time, and are paying for it in declining run production. Maybe Joey and Jayson, and by proxy the rest of the baseball players out there, should swing the bat a little more.
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Can the best reliever ever hold a candle to history's strongest starters?
Recently, Mariano Rivera revealed that 2013 would be his final season. It wasn’t unexpected news, in that Rivera is 43 years old and coming off a serious injury that caused him to consider retirement in 2012. But the report, however predictable, hit many fans hard. Not only is Rivera respected and beloved both inside and outside of New York (a relative rarity for a big, bad Yankee), but he’s shown so little erosion in his skills that it’s possible to picture him throwing his cutter until he turns 50. Most players go through a decline phase, which gives us time to get used to the idea that it’s about to be over. Rivera really hasn’t, except in the sense that he’s less durable than he once was.
Rivera’s announcement inspired many written responses, one of which was an email to me from a reader named David Greene. “Rivera’s true ranking among pitchers all-time,” the subject line said.
Providing every team's bullpen picture at a glance.
Bullpen management: it’s one of the areas in which a major-league manager can make the most difference, and it’s also one of the areas in which we’re least likely to be satisfied with his work. But before we can pass judgment on a manager’s use of his bullpen, we have to know how he used it, and not just on an anecdotal level (although we agree that he made a mistake that one time your team lost a tie game on the road without using its rested ace reliever). On our Manager Pitching report, you can see how many relievers each manager used, and how many of those relief outings ended without a run being allowed. But that report won’t tell you who those relievers were, or when they were used.
Rafael Soriano is off the market, but there are still some potentially useful bullpen arms to be had.
Earlier this week, Jon Heyman tweeted a short list of free agent relievers who could be a reasonable fit for the back end of the Blue Jays’ bullpen. Whether you credit Heyman with clairvoyance or good contacts, it just so happened that one of the names conspicuously absent from that list was Rafael Soriano. Hours later, the 33-year-old right-hander became a member of the Washington Nationals, signing a two-year,$28-million deal with a vesting option for 2015.
In snapping up Soriano, the Nats removed the best available free agent reliever from the market, but they left an assortment of lower-tier options for teams still looking to bolster their bullpens. Ken Rosenthal later listed several teams still interested in picking up a reliever, identifying the Rays, Tigers, Mariners, Marlins, and Mets as potential suitors. Here are some of the options they can consider:
Sure, there might be better ways to construct bullpens than the way teams do it now, but change might not be as easy as you think.
The construction of the modern bullpen is silly. It starts with a junk stat (the save) and works backwards from there. There’s an anointed “closer,” his deputy (“the set-up guy”) who pitches the eighth inning, a couple of “match-up” relievers for the seventh inning, and some middle and long-relief guys who suck up innings four through six, as needed. In a close game, the relievers on the team with a lead are generally deployed in the (perceived) reverse order of their effectiveness as the innings unfold, with the apparent aim being to slowly choke off the other team’s chances of winning as the game goes further along. And to record a save.
Ben and Sam catch up on the Yankees-Tigers ALCS and Ben's beat-writing adventures, then talk about why players and stats disagree about the difficulty of pitching on short rest, and Jim Leyland's comments about closers.
Ben and Sam catch up on the Yankees-Tigers ALCS and Ben's beat-writing adventures, then talk about why players and stats disagree about the difficulty of pitching on short rest and Jim Leyland's comments about closers.
Episode 62: "Yankees-Tigers ALCS Update/How Hard is Pitching on Short Rest?/October Bullpen Strategy"
The Yankees pull off another exciting comeback behind Raul Ibanez, only to lose both Game One and Derek Jeter a few innings later.
A few innings after Raul Ibanez solidified his True Yankee™ status with yet another ninth-inning, game-tying home run, seemingly setting the stage for an inevitable extra-innings win, the Yankees lost Game One. They also lost a leader and a pretty good player, leaving them looking much more vulnerable than they did a day ago. Here are three things to think about before Game Two gets underway.
If the Orioles want to extend their surprise season beyond the wild-card game, they should make the most of what got them there.
An Orioles fan might put money on the O’s to win their wild-card play-in game against Texas tomorrow night, but a betting man wouldn’t, at least with even odds. Then again, by now the betting man may have already gone broke backing Baltimore’s opponents.
The Orioles have spent the whole season surprising people. First they flouted the expectation that they couldn’t compete in the AL East, then the near-certainty that they couldn’t sustain their early-season success (or, for that matter, their success later on in the season). To reach the Division Series, they’ll have to have one more surprise in store.