Deciding between the new South Sider and the new Padre.
For this week’s Tale of the Tape, we have two pitchers who were among the biggest acquisitions for a couple of the most active teams this winter. Jeff Samardzija joins a White Sox rotation that now has one of the better one-two punches in the game with him and Chris Sale. James Shields joins a Padres team that made a trade approximately every ten minutes this offseason. They placed 19th and 20th, respectively, in our rankings and will be a couple of the most intriguing pitchers in the league in 2015.
Significant money will be handed out to a trio of arms this offseason, so how their mechanics grade out is certainly of great interest.
There is a thick crop of free agent pitchers this offseason, including a trio of arms at the top of the class who will likely command nine-figure deals with commitments of at least five years apiece. Pitching mechanics take on greater importance in these cases, given the long-term timeframe and the heavy cost expenditure; the physical elements of the delivery play a role in a pitcher's ability to consistently execute his pitches, the reliability of his performance, his injury risk, and his long-term adaptability as stuff naturally wanes and these pitchers get further from their physical peak.
The Dodgers' ace is the priciest player on Craig's Roto dream team.
On Friday, Mike Gianella released his latest mixed league Bid Limits, which spurred an idea from Bret Sayre called Model Portfolios, wherein the fantasy staff (and anyone else on the BP roster who wants to participate) will create their own team within the confines of a standard 23-man, $260 budget. The roster being constructed includes: C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, CI, MI, OFx5, UTx2, and Px9 along with the following standards issued by Sayre:
Newcomer Jason Vargas is just "a guy" in fantasy leagues, but the Royals boast several returning players who are worthy of your attention.
One of the songs of summer, if not the song of summer was Daft Punk’s Get Lucky. The electronic music duo’s smash hit also serves as the overriding factor of what determines fantasy champions over the course of a grueling baseball season. Call it chance, call it fortune, call it what you want to call it (wait, that’s a different song), luck is unavoidable. Either good or bad rolls of the dice affect all of us as we try to navigate our way through the labyrinth that is living vicariously through the accomplishment of others. But, as summer gave way to fall and fantasy playoffs ended, Get Lucky has given way to another pop hit… Royals by Lorde.
“And baby I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule / Let me live that fantasy.”
There are certain rules about changeup usage. The Rays, unsurprisingly, aren't beholden to those rules.
“The game evolves constantly,” Tampa Bay Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey tells me on a Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, after wrapping up a bullpen session an hour before first pitch. Evolution in baseball works a lot like it does in real life: traits that confer a competitive advantage tend to be passed on. But before a new approach is adopted around the league, Hickey says, “someone’s going to have to be successful doing it.”
The Rays are often that someone. If the Rays have an identity—aside from their status as a team that doesn’t draw, locked into a lease that never expires—it’s that they do things differently. Driven by their need to make the most of their limited resources and the creativity of their front office and field staff, the Rays under General Manager Andrew Friedman and manager Joe Maddon have authored a long list of innovations. Shifting more aggressively than almost any other team. Giving defensive specialist Jose Molina a starting job for the first time at age 37. Opening an academy in Brazil. Refusing to sign free agent starters (before Roberto Hernandez). And so on.
Opening Day observations about James Shields, Jon Lester, Mike Moustakas and others.
Like many fans with MLB.tv access, I spent the first 24 hours of the new season binging on baseball. That meant taking in the Rangers-Astros, Red Sox-Yankees, and Royals-White Sox games. Along the way I wrote down some observations about a few players.
Jason Castro PECOTA and I disagree on Castro's offensive outlook. The algorithm sees Castro hitting .238/.319/.351 with eight home runs this season in a hair fewer than 500 plate appearances. I'm more optimistic about the Stanford product and former first-round pick's chances of being an offensive asset independent of his position. Castro's problem to date has been an inability to hit same-handed pitching. He boasts a career True Average of .286 against righties and .113 against lefties—that's the difference between Jason Kubel and Lucas Harrell's 2012 offensive production. Castro did me no favors on Sunday night, going 0-for-4 against southpaws Matt Harrison and Joseph Ortiz. Still, I came away pleased with Castro's efforts behind the plate.
What sort of arm can Kansas City expect in Wade Davis?
Not long ago Wade Davis placed near the top of prospect lists. At 6-foot-5 with a simple delivery and easy arm action Davis was the textbook power pitcher. He had a lively fastball that ranged into the mid-90s and could touch higher, a knee-buckling curveball, a solid slider, and a developing changeup. You weren't alone if you thought Davis could turn into a frontline pitcher. The Rays showed confidence in their young arm by refusing to trade him for Jason Bay or others, and by signing him to an extension after just 35 big-league starts. Success seemed like a birthright to Davis back then.
Davis reached the majors as a 23-year-old. In his first start in the majors he struck out nine batters, including three in a row to start the game—his first six outs were recorded via strikeout. After six starts Davis had a 118 ERA+ and a 2.77 strikeout-to-walk ratio. But that early success turned out to be a tease, a figment of small-sample magic, and not an omen. Davis would spend the next two seasons in the rotation looking average. He made 58 starts, posted a 90 ERA+, and struck out 1.74 batters per walk. Faced with an overcrowded rotation the Rays opted for Jeff Niemann over Davis last spring, then Alex Cobb over Davis when Niemann suffered an early-season injury.
Sometimes, the player-value models disagree, and you get to make a choice. Make that choice.
Much, perhaps too much, is made of the multiple models existent that attempt to characterize a player's value relative to replacement level. "A man with one watch always knows the time, while a man with two watches can never be sure," is an expression. Most of the time, though, WAR, WARP, and WAR are close allies. How good is Joey Votto? you might ask. And the answers you get:
Teams know their own prospects best, so should it be a red flag if they're willing to trade a top one? History suggests it is so.
Winning baseball teams—at least the ones without exorbitant payrolls—are usually powered by young, cost-controlled talent. And in the land of cost-controlled talent, the top prospect is king. Not only do elite prospects stand a good chance to be stars, but they promise to provide that production—which would cost a fortune to obtain from a free agent—for the league-minimum salary or something close to it.
Since top prospects are such valuable commodities, teams are reluctant to trade them without receiving huge hauls in return, so we rarely see them change organizations before they’ve had a chance to sink or swim in the majors. That’s why it was so strange to see two top prospects—Wil Myers and Trevor Bauer, each of whom either is now or has recently been a top-10 prospect in baseball—on the movethis week.
If you think about it, the Royals and Rays, the two teams that completed a massive prospects-for-pitchers trade on Sunday, are a lot alike. Both teams are among the have-nots of the American League, competing with payrolls in the mid-60-millions (last season). Neither one draws well—in the Royals’ case, because of all the losing and because Kansas City is small, and in the Rays’ case, because of all the past losing, the newness of the franchise, and the ugliness and location of the ballpark, where it’s almost impossible to catch a foul ball without some painfuland/orembarrassing consequence. To compensate for the lack of revenue, both teams try to draft, develop, and extend homegrown players as an alternative to paying for wins from free agents, and both have had among the finest farm systems in baseball for the past few seasons.