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A sneak preview of the coming year's highlight for each team.

AL West

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Batters don't swing enough against Skip Schumaker.

"Of course for Philadelphia, I mean they're not fooling around even though they have 16 runs. Every base hit, that's food on the table. You think Ruiz doesn't have the idea right now as if it's the big at bat in the World Series? He sees a couple of ribbies out there." -- Vin Scully

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March 15, 2013 5:00 am

In A Pickle: To Communicate a Failure

6

Jason Wojciechowski

Is there an appropriate way to talk about failure?

You've heard this one, even if it's past its sell-by date by now: "Epic fail, bro."

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Three years late, the GIF you've been waiting for.

Good friend Bill Hanstock was watching old baseball highlights on YouTube this morning, just like he imagined when he graduated from college, and alerted us to this spectacular tag avoidance from the year 2009, a year most notable for being the year before every single act of human motion was instantly converted into a GIF. (Here is a GIF of a man sleeping.) Watch this baseball player avoid this tag, and then keep reading to find out the awesome twist in the story: 

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October 5, 2012 8:00 am

Raising Aces: For Those About to Watch (We Salute You)

5

Doug Thorburn

One pitcher per playoff team who makes a convincing case in favor of watching every pitch of post-season baseball.

This season may have lacked the dramatic flare of 2011’s frantic finish, but the stretch drive of 2012 has been thrilling in its own right, with division races coming down to the final day and one unlikely club making its only ascension to the top of its division at the most opportune time.  After a day of reflection, we are now staring at an unprecedented slate of play-in games to the postseason tournament, where a season's worth of hard work comes down to nine innings of play.

October can be bittersweet for many loyal fans whose teams fell short of the playoffs. Football will lure those whose residual frustration is too great to bear, while others will adopt a more successful team to support through the postseason. But some of our baseball-loving brethren will follow the action regardless of rooting interest, and to those fellow baseball junkies who cherish every last pitch of October baseball: I salute you. To enhance your enjoyment of the next few weeks, here's a list of 10 pitchers who'll be in action this October—one per playoff team—and what makes them worth watching.

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What can a closer look at Carl Crawford's shifting approach at the plate tell us about his likelihood of success in Los Angeles?

Believe it or not, most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.

A tragic combination of limited upside and bad makeup, Chad Moriyama is in his fifth year as a blogger covering the Los Angeles Dodgers at ChadMoriyama.com, the only domain name he wouldn’t get tired of eventually. An expert at thinking he knows what he’s talking about, you can follow him on Twitter, find him on Facebook, or contact him at chad@chadmoriyama.com. He also makes amusing moving pictures at MLB GIFS.
 


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August 31, 2012 11:18 am

Raising Aces: Four of a Kind: Oakland's Aces

16

Doug Thorburn

Doug dissects the mechanics of Oakland's surprisingly successful starters.

The success of the A's has been spearheaded by exceptional pitching throughout their tenure in Oakland, from the 1970s green machine led by Vida Blue and Catfish Hunter, to the Stew-and-Eck teams of the '80s-'90s, and perhaps most famously with last decade's Big Three of Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, and Mark Mulder. The current A's might lack a traditional “ace” in their rotation, but the same staff that suffered the losses of Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill over the offseason now finds itself in a familiar position near the top of the run-prevention ranks, while the recent return of Brett Anderson from the disabled list has offered a brief glimpse of ace potential.

The current starters on the roster were not exactly trendy fantasy picks in March, and the pitchers who have logged most of the innings for Oakland this year have learned to survive on location and movement more than raw velocity. Yet the pitching staff has allowed the second-fewest runs per game in the American League, trailing only Tampa Bay’s. Four pitchers have tallied 100 or more innings for Oakland thus far in 2012, and though I hope that the readers will pardon the exclusion of the recently suspended Bartolo Colon, the other rotation-mates share some striking mechanical similarities.

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

Beside pitch speed, pitch location, pitch spin, pitch movement, pitch type, count, batter, park, umpire, release point, etc., PITCHf/x also logs something called pitch-type confidence. Since the system is using algorithms to deduce what the pitch is based on speed, movement, and release point, it has to make some assumptions. If a pitcher throws only one type of fastball, and it is 10 mph faster than any other pitch he throws, and it is the only pitch that breaks to the pitcher’s glove side, the system can be pretty confident when it labels a 98-mph pitch a fastball.

But then there’s Yu Darvish. Of all the pitches Yu Darvish has thrown this year, 43 were give a confidence level of 50 percent or lower, and 506 were 80 or lower. Compare this to, say, Wandy Rodriguez, my go-to control group. He has thrown just one pitch with a confidence rating lower of 50 percent or lower, and 121 at 80 or lower. Or compare to (random pitcher) Stephen Strasburg: five below 50, 120 below 80. Strasburg has thrown 81 pitches that PITCHf/x was 100 percent confident about. Yu Darvish has thrown none.

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August 22, 2012 5:00 am

Pebble Hunting: The Shame of Your First Big-League Hit

7

Sam Miller

Every player's first hit is special, but some players' first hits are dumb and stupid.

There are certain things in baseball that are just always the same. Player gets his first big-league hit. Somebody tosses the ball to the first- or third-base coach, who rolls it into the dugout. If a teammate picks it up before the bat boy does, he’ll pretend to flip the ball into the crowd. The teammates will scuff up a ball and pretend that it is the one going on the player’s mantle. Predictable stuff that makes you realize how much of your life you’ve spent watching baseball, and perhaps how much you hate it.

There are details that vary, though. Like when Irving Falu got his first hit, as he was running to third base, there was a shot of his family. There was a shot of his mother, joyful, sitting near a man who is, I have concluded, not at all: 

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July 13, 2012 5:00 am

Raising Aces: Back to The Futures Game, US Team

9

Doug Thorburn

Evaluating the mechanics of the US pitchers in last Sunday's Futures Game.

The pitching staff for the U.S. team was stacked for last Sunday's Futures Game, setting up a showcase of former first-round draft picks to satiate the All-Star appetite. The pitching rotations were pre-set on both sides, with starters Jake Odorizzi and Yordano Ventura representing the hometown Royals in a first-frame showdown. Three of the top four picks of the pitcher-heavy 2011 draft were on the U.S. roster, with Trevor Bauer's recent big-league promotion the only thing preventing a clean sweep of the historical top four, and the crew was joined by the top arm of the 2010 draft, Jameson Taillon. The aces-in-training put on a spectacular show, and I was extremely impressed by the mechanical profiles that Team America had on display.

Jake Odorizzi (Royals-AAA)
Odorizzi had a somewhat boring delivery, which is higher praise than it sounds, as the absence of a weak link offset any lack of an elite mechanical tool. Slow early momentum set up a late burst as he shifted gears near foot strike, and the right-hander showcased strong balance as he entered the rotational phases of the delivery. His posture was inconsistent on Sunday, with late spine-tilt that was more pronounced on curveballs than heaters, though the difference was subtle and his posture was respectable overall. Despite the postural inconsistencies, Odorizzi was able to repeat the timing elements of his delivery with a calm approach into foot strike that set up a storm of rotational velocity. The only mechanical issue was a lack of hip-shoulder separation, with late-firing hips that stuttered before rotating toward the plate, triggering the rotation of hips and shoulders in near-unison.


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July 11, 2012 5:00 am

Pebble Hunting: How Pitchers React to Home Runs

13

Sam Miller

What do pitchers look like just after allowing one of the longest home runs of the season?

If we learned anything from the Home Run Derby, it's that people enjoy watching home runs go far. We didn't actually learn that from the Home Run Derby. We knew that all along! It is a pretty well-established thing about baseball. I suppose we could just as easily say if we learned anything from the Home Run Derby, it's that large physical bodies such as the earth create an attractive pull whereby things that are flung up in the air will be drawn back down, the distance of flight correlating to the force exerted on the object. If you knew nothing before the Home Run Derby, you learned about gravity, and you learned that people enjoy watching big home runs. This is an introductory paragraph, and it is complete.

There is one small subset of the population we might not expect would enjoy watching big home runs: the pitchers who allow those home runs. We might not expect them to enjoy watching big home runs, but maybe they do. Maybe they have perspective on the thing. Maybe they appreciate the aesthetics of a baseball soaring impossibly deep into the sky. Maybe they're fans, just like you. Maybe not. I honestly don't know. 

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