Andrew Miller makes Jose Molina look like a worse hitter than usual, David Price makes Nick Swisher's head explode, Chris Davis makes baseball look easy (or hard), and more.
Here are the three best pitches of the week, or rather some number near three in some period of time that is roughly week-like.
3. Andrew Miller, slider, against Jose Molina.
There's a tendency to judge these pitches on how the batter reacts to them. This seems like a flaw in the judging, but maybe this is actually just right. Without being in the pitcher's head, we don't really know whether the pitch was exactly as he intended it. A two-seamer with nasty movement can look an awful lot like a two-seamer that gets away from him. Even if he did execute his pitch perfectly, exactly as he intended it, we can't know without being the hitter whether it was actually a difficult pitch to hit. Brian Moehler probably executed a lot of garbage pitches exactly as he intended them, as slightly less-garbagey garbage. Our understanding of the value of pitch sequencing is primitive. Catchers' targets are often inexact suggestions, or they allow for the movement of the pitch, so it's hard to say the pitcher hit his target exactly right. Our view of these pitches on TV is misleading and inconsistent. So we're left with the one thing we can clearly observe.
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A look at the surprising early season success of Baltimore's hitters
Your computer is not broken. The Baltimore Orioles do indeed lead all of baseball in home runs this season with 56. They were quietly the fourth-best team last year with 191 home runs, trailing only the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rangers. Last season, the Orioles hit 1.18 home runs per game, but in 2012, that pace has spiked to 1.6 per contest… with essentially the same personnel as last year, no less. Nick Johnson—who anointed Joel Peralta his favorite pitcher this weekend when he took him deep twice—is the lone addition to the lineup.
Fans were treated to weird baseball in Boston when the O's and Sox resorted to using position players as pitchers.
The Weekend Takeaway
Everyone loves a good dose of weird baseball, and that’s precisely what fans at Fenway Park were treated to on Sunday afternoon. The Orioles capped off their first sweep of the Red Sox in Boston since 1994, but that does not even begin to describe what transpired on Yawkey Way.
In one of the most bizarre goat-to-hero stories you will ever see, designated hitter Chris Davis hit like a pitcher… and then pitched like one, too. Davis began the afternoon by collecting a platinum sombrero, added a double-play ball in his sixth at-bat, and wound up 0-for-8 by the time the 17-inning marathon was over. But with the media preparing to make Davis the butt of many a Monday joke, Davis put the joke on the hometown nine, hurling two shutout innings to earn the win.
Dee Gordon hits his first home run, two bench players push the limits of bad batting, Chris Davis keeps hitting, Clay Hensley exposes the unearned run, Derek Jeter hits cleanly in three of his five at-bats (or does he?), and more.
Five things I wanted to write about happened in last night’s games, but none of them was substantial enough on its own for an article. The solution: drop all five unrelated observations (plus a few more for good measure) into the same article draft and call it a column. Trick of the trade.
Derek Jeter goes 3-for-5 and gets accused of steroid use by this one guy I talked to
I live in a baseball discourse bubble.
Michael graduates his first VP of the season, but he still points out plenty of undervalued corner infielders to be found on your league’s waiver wires.
For our nation’s scholars, graduation is just around the corner, but we start things early here at Value Picks, bidding adieu to our first departee. He leaves the list after quickly exceeding ownership thresholds, but I’ve got lots of other players ready to prove themselves to VP readers, including several bubble candidates in Playing Pepper.
Why the Royals and Padres will win their divisions, and four questions with Dustin Ackley.
The emails and tweets have been most interesting in the days since our staff predictions were posted on the website. Most people think I am nuts for picking the Royals to win the American League Central and the Padres to win the National League West. Perhaps they will be proven right. After all, I was the only one of 27 staff members to pick either team to win its division. Remember, though, that 29 of the 30 people who were on the staff at this time last season picked the Red Sox to win the AL East. The one person who predicted the Red Sox not only wouldn't win the division but also fail to qualify for the postseason? Well, I was a taught at an early age that it's impolite to brag.
A look at whether a sleeper can really be a bargain in fantasy leagues
Every season, a handful of players improve by leaps and bounds. There’s no denying this fact. These breakout players tend to have an inordinate impact on both the success of our teams as well as our collective consciousness. That too is well established. Those who ended up with Asdrubal Cabrera, Melky Cabrera, or James Shields in 2011 will thank the lucky heavens and hope for similar fortunes this coming season. Anybody who has been paying attention to the Jeremy Lin story will testify to the same. But is it wise in fantasy baseball drafts to chase these players instead of selecting others with more established production? That’s a more complicated subject.
In the preseason, we’re all very excited for the games to begin. These days, there’s a booming industry providing player analysis and attempts to forecast the season ahead, aimed directly at those who compete in fantasy baseball leagues. Among the most popular features this time of year is the community’s attempt to identify which players are primed to provide value well beyond their salary or draft spot.
Now that the new PECOTA projections are out, Michael looks at which fantasy corner infielders you might fall in love with this Valentine’s Day.
For those who have just fallen in love with fantasy baseball, draft day can seem like a box of chocolates: you never know what you might get. Will you get the coveted chocolate caramel, the dreaded orange cream, or the boring plain milk chocolate? Of course, savvy fantasy owners know to come armed with projections and predictions, and the wisest fantasy owners look to Baseball Prospectus for guidance. What better way to distinguish coconut from cherry-filled chocolate—or next year’s Matt Kemp from Carl Crawford?
Like any fantasy lover, I tore into last week’s PECOTA release with reckless abandon to come up with some sweet finds for next season—aka the players predicted for the biggest turnaround (or, if you like, the ones you can catch on the rebound.) Using the Player Forecast Manager, I found the corner infielders and designated hitters with the heftiest projected increase in dollar value, excluding those who are projected to remain below the $5 threshold or who missed most of last season. Rankings are based on a 12-team mixed league, and Average Draft Position (ADP) comes from mockdraftcentral.com.
Berkman, Ichiro, Duda, Heisey, Rajai, and Dirks make the Keeper Reaper's list this week
For a baseball season which threatened to have about as little drama as an episode of Emeril Live until the final week, the high drama continues in a hotly contested World Series. For some leagues, keeper decisions need to be made by the time dessert is finished in the season, and so the other 28 teams get some attention before trading begins in earnest. Whether a deadline looms or not, keeper advice can help make a team into a dynasty.
In the final week of the season, Michael looks at near-term and long-term return for his Value Picks.
As the season (and Value Picks) draws to a close, I’ll look at what my VPs are likely to deliver in the next week, as well as their future for keeper leagues. Every year, one of my league championships has gone down to the final day, so there’s every reason to keep your roster current with fresh blood, even in redraft leagues. If you’re out of the money, keep the leaders honest by playing spoiler, scrapping for one more steal, one more homer, one more point of batting average. Because after Wednesday, it’s six months before fantasy baseball comes around again. Make this last week count!
After a strong week from most of his Value Picks, Michael makes a few tweaks and offers plenty of post-September-callup analysis in Playing Pepper.
Nearly every VP performed well enough to remain this week, and there’s plenty of other waiver wire value to be found, although September callus—a while unlikely to be valuable in and of themselves—can affect those waiver-wire decisions. I’ll look at those angles, along with other potential VPs, in a heaping helping of Playing Pepper.