Tyson Ross baffles the Giants, the benches clear at PNC Park, plus other recaps from the weekend and previews of today's action.
In the past, Tyson Ross has been viewed as a player with the raw talent to be a successful big-league pitcher, but one unable to put his skills toward sustainable success at the big-league level.
However, after an excellent outing on Friday against the Giants, Ross looks like a very good big-league pitcher. He completed eight innings with nine strikeouts, four hits, one walk, and no runs. This comes directly after another strong showing against the Tigers, in which he threw seven innings with seven strikeouts, six hits, one walk, and one run. Obviously, a two-game sample does not define the greatness of a big-league pitcher, but it is certainly a promising start. On the season, he owns a 2.13 ERA, a 2.95 FIP, and 25 strikeouts. Considering that he had a very solid second half of last season as well (2.93 ERA, 85 K in 80 IP), he may be hitting his stride.
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In addition to exploiting lefty-righty matchups, the A's also have a significant edge in the air.
The Oakland Athletics finished 2013 with baseball's fourth-lowest payroll, fourth-best offense, and best clubhouse chemistry. Debate hascentered on whether the latter two are related. There’s nothing objectionable about “good guy” genes—it’s a solid organizational goal to have. But chemistry alone doesn’t put runs on the board, and if a team is missing the talent, they better find the runs elsewhere. The 2002 Athletics discovered them in walk deities and college arms; once those methods pervaded front offices, the A’s slipped back into losing. Was chemistry the only undervalued commodity of their recent resurgence?
As the baseball community obtains more knowledge, roster construction strategies evolve. Previously undervalued talents like walks and defense are now accepted constructs. The A’s are Hollywood-infamous for adopting them before their competitors while prices were low. After a 74-win 2011, they cheaply signed Brandon Inge and Jonny Gomes, who Brandon McCarthy claimed bolstered the clubhouse DNA to the tune of 20 wins. But Inge and Gomes were two of several players who also bolstered a less-visible statistic: fly ball-to-ground ball ratio.
Monday's trade could impact far more players than just the five who changed uniforms.
Yesterday’s trade, which sent Jed Lowrie and Fernando Rodriguez to the Athletics for Chris Carter,Brad Peacock, and Max Stassi, may seem relatively unimportant from a fantasy standpoint, but there are ripple effects that could impact numerous players on both the A’s and the Astros. Below, I examine the fallout for all of the players affected by the deal.
No, the Astros aren't good. But if September was a salvage month, it has been a bit of a success. Here's why.
The Houston Astros topped at least one power-rankings list last week. The fact that it was my personal Power Rankings List that I keep in my journal is not germane; the once-lowly Disastros have gone 8-7 since the beginning of September. That’s better than .500 -- a winning record within these arbitrary endpoints! -- and the eight wins is as many games as Houston won in July and August combined (h/t @cantpredictball).
They also took three of four from the Phillies over this past weekend and all but ended that team’s Wild Card hopes. As this goes to press on Tuesday night, they open a three-game set against the Cardinals, and the Astros can play spoiler again against a St. Louis team that has lost seven of its last 10. If I were Mike Matheny, I’d be preparing for these games (and next week’s series in Houston) like each one was a one-game playoff. There’s nothing scarier than playing a team with nothing to lose, and the Astros are the nothing-to-losiest.
The Astros aren't exactly a success, but they certainly aren't a failure. We bet you didn't see that coming.
Last season, the Twins won 63 games and were widely acknowledged to be a total disaster. But the Twins were baseball’s second-worst team. The Astros were on another level of awful. They won only 56 games, the lowest total of any team since the 2005 Royals. They were the NL’s worst pitching team and the NL’s worst defensive team, and they weren’t much good at offense, either.
That level of futility wasn’t foreseeable. In order to be as awful as they were last season, the Astros had to decline by a whopping 20 wins. In the 1982 Abstract, Bill James observed that a team that declines in one year is likely to improve the next. He called it the Plexiglas Principle.* In most cases, we’d expect a team that fell off by as much as the Astros to bounce back the following year. But the Astros weren’t most cases, and they weren’t supposed to bounce. They were supposed to break through the glass and fall even further.
Soreness and tendinitis plague several ballplayers just before the regular season begins.
Michael Pineda, New York Yankees (Right Shoulder Tendinitis)
Pineda complained about shoulder soreness only a few days ago, and a subsequent MRI revealed right shoulder tendinitis. Pineda’s has thrown with slightly less velocity this spring, but he did not complain of any soreness until after his start last Friday. He averaged roughly 94 mph last year and sat consistently in the low 90s this spring, but had been playing it off as nothing. The good news is that there is no major structural damage, so Pineda should be able to resume throwing in about two weeks.
Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers (Left Groin Tightness)
Hamilton’s latest injury is tightness in his left groin. He underwent sports hernia surgery in November on his left side, so any soreness or tightness this far away from the surgical date is expected, but it’s also a little concerning. It’s common to have soreness when returning to full activities following surgery, and normal soreness keeps players out for a few days. Right now, this is a day-to-day issue.
Middle infield Keeper Reaper returns with Reyes, KJ, Lowrie, Scutaro, and Furcal
The Keeper Reaper returned earlier this month, but the up-the-middle positions were suspiciously absent due to previous commitments by yours truly. However, the up-the-middle Keeper Reaper is finally back, bringing Baseball Prospectus readers a few more names to consider for their keeper leagues.
Jose Reyes | Miami Marlins
Shallow (30 keepers): NO Medium (60 keepers): YES
Deep (90 keepers): YES
NL-only (60 keepers): YES
Super Deep (200 keepers): YES