Next year's draft season is still nine months away, but the lessons we've already learned this year could carry over.
We’re taking a break from my series on streaming hitters with sharp splits to discuss the future a bit. There is nothing in particular about this point in time that makes it worth discussing 2014 now. Most teams have played about 75 games, but I didn’t even know that before I planned this; again, the point in the season is irrelevant. It’s just something I like to do around the start of summer as the first check-in point.
As much as I love to enjoy the here and now of the season we’re in the throes of, I also like to look forward and see how the current season might be affecting the following spring’s drafts. We are about nine months from the 2014 draft season so a whole lot will change from now until then, but I guarantee that some of what we’ve seen thus far will stick and have a lasting impact on 2014. In fact, in part one of a two-part look at what we’ve learned (or think we’ve learned) thus far, we start with something that I’m certain will be true in March 2014.
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Both owners who splured on their fantasy backstops and those who went bargain hunting have seen mixed results so far this year.
Drafting catchers in fantasy baseball is treated like drafting kickers in fantasy football. A few owners recognize the value of having the best at the position and will spend money to acquire them. Some owners treat catchers like kickers and draft them in the final rounds. Some leagues have gone so far as to eliminate the second catcher on standard fantasy rosters and made the position a second utility player, an extra pitcher, or a flex position, allowing owners to juggle the spot on a weekly basis.
Personally, I do a mixture of the first two strategies, as I tend to draft one of the better catchers and then pair him with a $1 mate. Two seasons ago, I drafted Joe Mauer at $23 and Adam Moore for $1 in AL Tout Wars, and neither worked out. Last season, I went back to the Mauer well at $20 and paired him with a $2 Ryan Lavarnway. This season, determined not to spend $20 on a catcher, I saved money and spent $18 on Jesus Montero and $1 on Carlos Corporan. It took three seasons, but I finally made a great catcher selection—with my second catcher.
How did the Cardinals' young starter approach the Giants' young catcher?
On Saturday, one of the most electric young arms in baseball faced one of the best in-his-prime hitters in baseball. Shelby Miller's Cardinals came out of it with a win over Buster Posey's Giants, but the matchups between Posey and Miller were more interesting than just an outcome.
Posey, the 2012 MVP, received his award before the game Saturday. Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Jeff Kent, and Kevin Mitchell were in attendance to take part in the ceremony. Posey’s 172 OPS+ led the NL in 2012, and is the second-highest ever for a catcher.
Silver Slugger awards shouldn't be controversial, but Jason finds a gap remains between advanced metrics and voters.
When you do an article search on this site for the phrase "Silver Slugger," you get 57 results, the first of which, by Gregg Pearlman, is apparently the 18th article ever written for Baseball Prospectus and the most recent of which is Geoff Young's piece about the Padres throwing their heft around the N.L. West this offseason.(That's #19056.) Young's Silver Slugger mention came because Jason Marquis won one. Pearlman was writing about Barry Bonds. (Or really about sportswriters' relationship with Bonds. This was October 1997. We were innocent once, and young.)
By contrast, when you search "Gold Glove," you see just a smidge over nine times the results. (The first of which, hilariously, is another Gregg Pearlman article -- this one includes a lamentation of the J.T. Snow trade—which is numbered "1" in our content system.)
You could be forgiven for thinking this was a boring postseason. I believe I noted once or twice that few of the games lately have been close. The numbers confirm this. If we use the average leverage index of each game and then average all those games together, we find that the average leverage index of this year's postseason was but 0.97; last year's postseason games had an average leverage of 1.01. For the Giants, the difference between this year's championship path and the 2010 run is even starker: 1.12 two years ago, 0.78 this year. To put that into perspective, 0.78 is roughly the leverage for the batter who hits in the bottom of the eighth trailing by four, whereas 1.12 is roughly the leverage for the batter hitting in the top of the seventh of a tie game.
The Giants didn't play their best five games, but it was good enough to beat a very good Cincinnati team to advance to the NLCS.
If you put enough gas in your spaceship and just keep flying, you’ll eventually get to a planet that looks just like this one. There’s a guy just like you and one just like me, and every letter the guy like you is reading was written exactly like the letters that I am actually writing. The only difference is that, on the other planet, Hideki Matsui was looking for a changeup, but Pedro Martinez threw him a fastball, and Matsui took it for a called strike three. The Red Sox kept their three-run lead. And it took eight years before Grady Little was ultimately scapegoated for a Boston loss and pushed out.
Buster Posey, Alex Avila, and Ryan Hanigan are showing off different techniques in the postseason.
One of the side benefits of the postseason is its place as a sample. You get to see all kinds of different players with varying skill sets, talent levels, and techniques, and all the different ways they achieve success. The downside, if you want to call it that, is when you start noticing minute differences and it becomes a focus. Take catchers and their mitt positioning between setting the target and receiving the pitch. It’s the most-seen, least-noticed part of a catcher’s job. You focus on the mitt to see where the pitch is probably heading and then you shift your attention back to the pitcher once he begins his motion. But not every catcher passes the time in the same way:
Buster Posey is having an extraordinary season, but he's not the first position player to improve after recovering from a serious injury.
When I was a kid, I broke my collarbone. Doctors told us that bones that break tend to grow back even stronger. “You are not broken,” the doctor might have said, as if he were merely a narrative device to be used many years later, “you are getting structural reinforcement!”
Man does that sound like a scam, but here we are in September, and look at Buster Posey. As I write this, he has a 170 OPS+. (If it goes down this weekend, I will probably leave it as “As I write this.” If it goes up, I will update it with the higher figure before publication. Pro tip!) A 170 OPS+ is insane. Mike Trout has a 170 OPS+. Remember how good Mike Trout is? And he’s only 21? Buster Posey is not 21, but he is a catcher. As you know, “And he’s only 21” and “But he’s a catcher” are extremely close to each other on the Factoid Scale: