If you had to pick a pitcher for a big game tomorrow, who would you take? How about a big game in 2015? Some MLB execs weigh in with their choices.
On the surface, the question seems like an easy one: if your team were playing in a championship game tomorrow, and you could have any starting pitcher to pitch that game for you, who would it be? Your choice is of any ace in the game, but for some it's not just about statistics, it's about comfort and mitigating risk. The question was posed to 12 industry insiders, ranging from pro scout to general manager, and those twelve generated five different responses.
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Two starting pitchers are putting up elite strikeout rates this year, without adding new pitches or heaps of velocity. This is how.
Strikeouts are up this season. That, in itself is nothing new: strikeouts have been up in many seasons—most seasons, even—since the dead ball disappeared. The explanations have multiplied almost as quickly as the Ks. The mound is higher. The strike zone is bigger. Hitters are swinging for the fences. Pitchers are increasingly specialized, and they throw pitches they didn’t use to throw, and they throw the ones that they used to throw harder than they used to throw them. Also, Jose Molina keeps tricking umpires into seeing strikes that aren’t there.
Those are all valid theories, and more than one of them, if not all of them, probably contain some truth. But to that long list of culprits behind baseball’s increasing lack of contact, I’d like to add two more: Gio Gonzalez and Max Scherzer.
The Nationals rotation throws harder than any staff in baseball has over the past few seasons, and that just might win them the NL East.
The Washington Nationals haven’t hit very well this season: their .252 TAv ranks ninth in the National League. They haven’t run very well, either: they rank third from last in the big leagues in Baserunning Runs (-2.2). Nonetheless, the Nats have an 11-4 record, good for first place in the National League East and the third-best record in baseball, behind only the 11-2 Rangers and the 11-3 Dodgers. In a tight division like the NL East, a quick start can improve a team’s playoff odds significantly. The Nats’ chances of making the playoffs have risen from 7.9 percent before their first game to 19.2 percent today.
How have the Nats succeeded, if not by outslugging their opponents or regularly taking the extra base? The source of the team’s success has been defense and pitching—starting pitching, in particular. Before Edwin Jackson allowed five runs in five innings against the Astros on Thursday night, no Nats starter had allowed more than four runs in an outing. Through the team’s first 13 games, the starting rotation produced nine quality starts with a 1.65 ERA and a 2.20 RA, by far the best marks in baseball.
Jason Heyward takes a step forward, while Mat Latos and Gio Gonzalez are looking to get the ball rolling with their new clubs.
The Wednesday Takeaway
The Braves are counting on bounce-back campaigns from their corner outfielders and contributions from their high-ceiling pitching prospects as they look to return to the top of the NL East standings for the first time since 2005. If Wednesday night’s 6-3 victory over the Astros is any indication, they may get them.
Starter Randall Delgado earned the win for Atlanta, tossing five innings of two-run ball and striking out six. But the bigger story was right fielder Jason Heyward, who made his presence felt throughout the game and might be ready to resume his rise to stardom.
Pegging BP's favorites in both leagues, both in the standings and for the major awards.
Today we reveal the Baseball Prospectus staff predictions for the division standings and the major player awards (MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year) in the American and National Leagues. Each staff member's division standings predictions may be found later in the article. Here, we present a wisdom-of-the-crowds summary of the results. In each table you'll find the average rank of each team in their division with first-place votes in parentheses, plus the results of our pre-season MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year voting.
For the MVP voting, we've slightly amended the traditional points system in place that has been used elsewhere, dropping fourth- and fifth-place votes to make it 10-7-5 for the MVP Award, and the regular 5-3-1 for the Cy Young and Rookie of the Year Awards (that's 5 points for a first-place vote, 3 points for a second-place vote, etc.). Next to each of these selections we've listed the total number of ballots, followed by the total number of points, and then the number of first-place votes in parentheses, if any were received.