The Reds' ace tosses another shutout, the Mets use a brand-new starter for the second straight day, plus other recaps and previews for the weekend.
The Thursday Takeaway
The Padres and Reds played two on Thursday, with the first matchup pitting Johnny Cueto and Ian Kennedy against each other in a matchup between baseball's ERA leader and its FRA leader.
Nick Bacarella mentioned in yesterday's WYNTK that Cueto entered Thursday as the first pitcher since Fernando Valenzuela to start a season with eight starts of at least seven innings pitched while allowing two or fewer runs. That streak continued after Cueto tossed his second shutout of the season on Thursday, and he is now the first starting pitcher since 1914 to start a season with nine such starts.
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What does Doug see ahead for selected pitchers in 2014?
Along with the rest of the BP staff, I’ve submitted my pre-season predictions for division standings and end-of-season award winners. I tend to stay in the neighborhood of likely outcomes for these picks, resulting in easy answers such as “Mike Trout for AL MVP” or “Tigers win the AL Central,” but I’m more intrigued by the long-shot stories that emerge once the season starts.
As the offseason winds down, Bret shares some of his late-draft sleepers for various league sizes and formats.
With spring training reaching peak twilight and the biggest drafting weekend of the year approaching, it’s time for my final marker post column of the preseason.
We’ve been doing rankings and analysis here for the last three months and hopefully they’ve been helpful to you as you sort through all of the information that lead to your most important draft decisions. And to top it off, as we get to the endgame of draft season, it seems only natural to focus on the endgame of drafts. It’s the most interesting, and often most important segment of your draft. Sure, if you miss on your first round pick or get $5 in value from your $25 player, you’re in a hole that can be very difficult to climb out of. As I’ve said many times, closing out your draft strong is a must if you want to win your league.
Petco Park can turn most any pitcher into a fantasy asset, but the Padres' position-player depth limits the appeal of their bats.
The best thing the Padres have going for them in real life is depth. Of course that just clouds the picture when it comes to fantasy. Still, the Padres have a reservoir of talent at the minor-league level, with enough of it bubbling toward the surface that they are of interest to deep leaguers. They have enough useful pieces at the major league level to be of interest to shallow players as well, with Chase Headley’s resurgence and Carlos Quentin’s good health being the keys to a lineup that struggled to produce counting stats in 2013. While one of those things will be sure to fail us going forward (Quentin’s health), the other has a good chance of staying true.
A relatively quiet offseason means that the Padres aren’t drastically different than they were before. The additions of Joaquin Benoit and Seth Smith add depth (there’s that word again), but lack impact. There were no waves made about the closer role, and the outfield picture only got murkier. Health will be paramount though, as a seemingly inordinate number of position players, pitchers and prospects have seen the disabled list in recent years. Still though, this Padres team seems the same as previous incarnations, with much of the talent (and fantasy value) being provided by the pitching staff.
A look at five scuffling pitchers whose luck might turn next year, and who could be fantasy bargains with better results.
When it comes to starting pitching, my philosophy has long been “it’s always available.” Even when it comes to deep/dynasty leagues where the talent is scarce, finding pitching depth isn’t as difficult as it might seem. With that in mind, we turn our spotlight to five pitchers who have struggled—to varying extents—in 2013, but who have the ability, history, and peripheral statistics to pique our interest. Note that, unsurprisingly, two of these pitchers appeared in the Starting Pitchers section of BP’s Mid-Season Outliers, which should be a good source if you’re looking for anyone beyond the five mentioned in this article.
Jeremy Hellickson, Rays
It’s been a rough season for pitchers who have made a habit of outperforming their FIP, and Hellickson has been chief among those types. He’s also been chief among those having a rough season, including last night’s putrid performance (2 2/3 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 1 K). The interesting part though, is that unlike some of the others listed, Hellickson is actually producing better peripherals than he ever has, so instead of just relying on past performance, we can say that he’s actively getting better.
Diamondbacks success story Patrick Corbin continues to pitch well with a standout start in Cincinnati.
The Tuesday Takeaway
As one of the league’s least-friendly venues for pitchers, Great American Ball Park is not an easy place to log a complete game. As of Tuesday morning, it had played host to only 41 nine-plus-inning outings in the 11-plus seasons of its existence. It’s even more difficult to work nine or more frames in Cincinnati’s home yard without walking a batter; until Tuesday, that had happened on only 17 occasions. And only two of those 17 lines featured double-digit strikeouts.
Last night, Patrick Corbin upped those numbers to 42, 18, and three, adding another masterpiece to his breakout season.
Scouts' takes on Travis d'Arnaud, Chris Johnson, Mariano Rivera, Ian Kennedy, and other interesting players.
Many of our authors make a habit of speaking to scouts and other talent evaluators in order to bring you the best baseball information available. Not all of the tidbits gleaned from those conversations make it into our articles, but we don't want them to go to waste. Instead, we'll be collecting them in a regular feature called "What Scouts Are Saying," which will be open to participation from the entire BP staff and include quotes about minor leaguers and major leaguers alike.
How does Ian Kennedy get so many whiffs with so little zip?
Ian Kennedy is the subject of an identity crisis. At a glance Kennedy looks like a command-and-control pitcher. You know the type. Small, with a fastball in the low-90s that, when it is thrown, is located well at the knees or on the black. The kind who changes speeds, throws strikes, and hides the fastball. On his best days this type resemblesGreg Maddux; on his worst days he resembles a poor forgery. In many ways Kennedy fits the archetype. He does throw four pitches for strikes. He does mix speeds and locations. He does thrive based on his location. But Kennedy uses his fastball more and in ways that he should not be able to based on its velocity—or as teammate Daniel Hudsononce put it, "If you look at the radar gun, you wouldn't say he's a power pitcher, but he pitches like one. He pitches up in the zone with it, gets swings and misses with it."
You wouldn't say Kennedy is a power pitcher if you were looking at the radar gun, but you might say he's a power pitcher if you were looking at our PITCHf/x leaderboards. Only three right-handed pitchers threw more four-seam fastballs last season: Justin Verlander, Phil Hughes, and Max Scherzer. Kennedy had a lower average velocity than each. In fact only one other pitcher that ranked in the top-15 averaged fewer than 91 mph on their fastball, and that was Tommy Hanson.
You have to click to find out what it is. What, you thought we were just going to give it away?
You’d think that, if you managed a player who was almost totally unable to get a base hit, you might consider telling him not to swing. Pitchers, most pitchers, are almost totally unable to get base hits. You might tell your terrible-hitting pitchers not to swing unless they're behind 0-2 or 1-2. "If you can't stop yourself from swinging," you might suggest to these pitchers, "think about something totally unrelated to baseball as a distraction. Think about sex, to distract yourself from the baseball you're having."
Earlier this season, Ian Kennedy starred in a factoid on this site when he was outwalking Albert Pujols. Ian Kennedy seems to have figured out on his own that he should not swing. He walked 11 times this year, in 73 plate appearances, which would be the second-highest walk rate in baseball if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. He’s a terrible hitter, but he’s an excellent statue. Only three players (Lou Marson, Daric Barton, and the pitcher Christian Friedrich) swung at fewer pitches outside the strike zone, and no player swung at fewer pitches inside the strike zone, and of course no player swung at fewer pitches in aggregate. Ian Kennedy drew three four-pitch walks. Never forget this: pitchers don't actually have much control, and Kennedy's experience suggests a man without a bat can walk at least 10 percent of the time.
Pardon me for hitting this point again and again, but it's by far the most fascinating part of Albert Pujols' season so far. Anybody can go into a home run drought; the difference between a home run and a flyout is, what, the width of a cuticle? It's very easy for a home-run hitter to not hit a home run. They do it all the time. But to not walk is just so deliberate, and significant. Barry Bonds never went more than seven games without a walk. Adam Dunn has never gone more than nine games without a walk. Walks don't just disappear for no reason, and Albert Pujols' walks have disappeared, and they have disappeared not just for a month but since last year's All-Star break. Delmon Young now has as many unintentional walks as Albert Pujols since last year's break. I'm not just piling on because he's in a slump. This is a genuine mysterious phenomenon! So here's a quick rundown of things with as many or more unintentional walks than Albert Pujols this year:
The Brewers advance to the NLCS with an extra-inning game to remember
If you didn’t catch tonight’s NLDS finale between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Arizona Diamondbacks, you missed quite the game. Framed as a potential pitchers’ duel between Ian Kennedy and Yovanni Gallardo, the two starters didn’t disappoint. Each went six innings, pitching well enough to maintain the pitchers’ duel pretense but allowing enough action to keep the fans excited—a perfect blend. The announcers commented during the game that every base hit is a rally in the playoffs, and while that might be a bit of an exaggeration, it definitely felt like it in a back-and-forth game like this.