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November 27, 2007 12:00 am

Future Shock: Twins Top 11 Prospects

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Kevin Goldstein

Minnesota's farm machinery has grown rusty of late, producing no near-term crops to help the Twins.

Four-Star Prospects
1. Ben Revere, CF
Three-Star Prospects
2. Anthony Swarzak, RHP
3. Jeff Manship, RHP
4. Eduardo Morlan, RHP
5. Tyler Robertson, LHP
6. Nick Blackburn, RHP
7. Brian Duensing, LHP
8. Trevor Plouffe, SS
Two-Star Prospects
9. Chris Parmelee, OF
10. David Bromberg, RHP
11. Joe Benson, OF















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July 5, 2007 12:00 am

Under The Knife: Hamstringing Along

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Will Carroll

More bad news in the Bronx, updates on the usual suspects like Chris Carpenter and Rich Harden on the mound, and some new Braves drama.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around the idea that an inning isn't an inning. We all look at things like innings pitched, batters faced, and pitch counts, knowing full well that all innings aren't created equal, a pitch's cost changes, and that facing Barry Bonds is different than facing Brandon Phillips. Even the question of "what is a stressful inning" changes the very definition of stress so completely that translating it within the major league context is difficult. That makes translating minor league pitching or worse, college data nearly impossible. The Padres have signed their first-round pick, and knowing how hard he worked, they're going to limit Nick Schmidt. As with any recent prospect, they're watching his workload, and as with every recent pitcher, we have no idea if that process of monitoring is helping or hurting. There's no logic or heuristic to help along the process, so instead we rely on the age-old wisdom of a scout or coach who says "he knows it when he sees it." They're right some of the time, but wrong some of the time as well.

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Further adventures in pitch-by-pitch data.

"All science is either physics or stamp collecting."
--Ernest Rutherford (1871 - 1937)


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October 4, 2006 12:00 am

Prospectus Today: Division Series, Day One

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Joe Sheehan

The A's and Padres give us a dog day afternoon, but the Yankees stick to the plan at night.

The big story was the continuing tear of Frank Thomas, who hit two homers to account for the early lead and the insurance run in the ninth inning. What is most impressive about the two shots is how different the pitches were, and how they showed the broad range of Thomas' still-impressive batting skills.

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December 20, 2005 12:00 am

Class of 2006

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Jay Jaffe

Jay finishes off the 2006 Hall of Fame ballot with a look at eligible relief pitchers.

If this specialist, called a closer, is successful--and for the most part, such success is as attainable as that for an NFL placekicker--he collects a statistical cookie called a save (mmm, cookie) and is exalted by the media. Meanwhile the closer's fireman predecessors, who often pitched two or three frames at a clip and entered when the score was tied or (heaven forbid) tilted in the other team's favor, receive little love from the Hall of Fame electorate, which has trained itself to value an 80-inning/40-save season more highly than the 110-inning/25-save ones of that bygone era.

We shouldn't be fooled by high save totals; it's the runs that matter, and due to the limited innings they throw, the Davenport numbers tell us that it's nearly impossible for the best late-model relievers to be more valuable than the best everyday players or starting pitchers. Annual Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP3) totals above 10.0 are common for elite players at their peaks, but the best relievers--of either variety--top 8.0 only in a rare Mariano Rivera/Eric Gagne-caliber year. The three enshrined relievers (Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, and Dennis Eckersley) have a combined two seasons above 8.0 as relievers (Eck topped 8.0 twice as a starter).

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March 9, 2005 12:00 am

Prospectus Game of the Week: A's-Angels, Sunday March 6

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Jonah Keri

Jonah Keri debuts his new Prospectus Game of the Week column with a trip to Arizona for an A's-Angels spring training tilt.

Now, I'm trying something new. This marks the debut of Prospectus Game of the Week. Starting the first week of the regular season and running through to season's end, I'll be highlighting one game a week. Big pitching match-ups, hot-button topics and random asides will come together to reveal the game behind the game, the bigger stakes beyond a single win or loss.

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December 20, 2004 12:00 am

The Class of 2005

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Jay Jaffe

Along with the three hitters he named last week, Jay Jaffe sees three qualified pitchers among the 11 on the Hall of Fame ballot.

The 2004 election saw the writers tab just the third reliever for induction, as Dennis Eckersley joined Hoyt Wilhelm and Rollie Fingers among the bronzed legends. While Eckersley's dominance and his usage pattern ("Just the Saves, Ma'am") contributed mightily to his election, his decade as a starter and the stats he garnered in that role mean that his ascension offers us little insight on the writers' view of what makes a Hallworthy reliever. The standards for starters may be somewhat easy to discern, if lately a bit unrealistic, but with a growing number of quality relievers on the ballot, the continuous evolution of the closer role, and the paucity of standards to measure them by, sorting out the bullpen elite poses a hefty challenge to voters.

One of the great lessons of the sabermetric revolution is the idea that the pitcher doesn't have as much control over the outcome of ballgames (as reflected in his win and loss totals) or even individual at-bats (hits on balls in play) as he's generally given credit for. Good run support and good defense can make big winners of mediocre pitchers on good teams, and .500 pitchers of good hurlers on mediocre teams. As such, it's important to examine the things over which a pitcher has control and account for those he does not.

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January 26, 2004 12:00 am

A Study in (Near) Perfection

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Blake Kirkman

To say that Eric Gagne's adjective-inducing 2003 performance was just another season would be akin to the notion that the Beatles were just another rock band. The truth of the matter, at least in the case of Gagne, is that his season's performance was one for the ages. The all-world reliever was not merely good, he was "Nintendo." Traditional metrics alone, such as his 55 saves and sporty 1.20 ERA, showed enough to make the goggle-wearing Dodger closer the sexy pick for the National League Cy Young Award, while he further impressed by striking out an astronomical 137 over-matched batters in only 82.3 innings. Further proof that his performance was from another world (and no, I don't mean Canada) was his limiting opponents to an eye-popping .133 batting average against. As is most often the case, the traditional metrics prove to be only the tip of the iceberg in discussing Gagne's 2003. For all the strikeouts and saves, the bottom line may best be seen through the realization that Gagne was the best reliever in baseball in terms of preventing runs. His 32.6 Adjusted Runs Prevented, based on the analysis of Michael Wolverton at Baseball Prospectus, represents the idea that Gagne prevented approximately 33 runs more than what would have been prevented by the average major league reliever during the course of his specific 82.3 innings pitched. That's an incredible difference of 3.6 runs for every nine innings pitched.

To say that Eric Gagne's adjective-inducing 2003 performance was just another season would be akin to the notion that the Beatles were just another rock band. The truth of the matter, at least in the case of Gagne, is that his season's performance was one for the ages. The all-world reliever was not merely good, he was "Nintendo."

Traditional metrics alone, such as his 55 saves and sporty 1.20 ERA, showed enough to make the goggle-wearing Dodger closer the sexy pick for the National League Cy Young Award, while he further impressed by striking out an astronomical 137 over-matched batters in only 82.3 innings. Further proof that his performance was from another world was his limiting opponents to an eye-popping .133 batting average against.

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January 14, 2004 12:00 am

The Class of 2004

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Jay Jaffe

The Baseball Writers of America's standards on what constitute a Hall of Fame pitcher are in a curious spot now, both when it comes to starters and relievers. Spoiled by a group of contemporaries who won 300 games from the mid-'60s to the mid-'80s (Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Gaylord Perry, Don Sutton, Nolan Ryan, Phil Niekro), the writers haven't elected a non-300-winning starter since Fergie Jenkins in 1991. That Perry, Sutton and Niekro took a combined 13 ballots to reach the Hall while Ryan waltzed in on his first ballot with the all-time highest percentage of votes is even more puzzling. Apparently what impresses the BBWAA can be summarized as "Just Wins, Baby"--which is bad news for every active pitcher this side of Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux. Of the 59 enshrined pitchers with major-league experience, only two of them--Hoyt Wilhelm and Rollie Fingers--are in Cooperstown for what they accomplished as relievers. While the standards for starters are somewhat easy to discern (if lately a bit unrealistic), the growing number of quality relievers on the ballot, the continuous evolution of the relief role, and the paucity of standards to measure them by present some interesting challenges to voters. If there's an area in which performance analysis has struggled mightily against mainstream baseball thought, it's in hammering home the concept that the pitcher doesn't have as much control over the outcome of ballgames--as reflected in his Won-Loss totals--or even individual at-bats--hits on balls in play--as he's generally given credit for. Good run support and good defense can make big winners of mediocre pitchers on good teams, and .500 pitchers of good hurlers on mediocre teams. As such, it's important to examine the things over which a pitcher has control and account for those he does not. Once again, the Davenport system rides to the rescue.

[Note: The research for this piece, and much of the writing, was done prior to the Hall of Fame voting results being announced.]

INTRODUCTION

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An analytic model of per-inning scoring distributions for studying in-game strategies *

Introduction *

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