A look at 10 new managerial candidates, and a conversation with Mets manager Terry Collins.
The All-Star break is coming into view, yet no managers have been fired this season. In fact, there have been only a few reports of any of the 30 major-league skippers even possibly being in trouble. But it will eventually happen. Some owner will finally get fed up, drop the axe, and his club will begin a managerial search.
Drops in fastball velocity usually lead to spikes in ERA, but a handful of pitchers have made slower fastballs work for them this year.
There’s more to being a major-league pitcher than throwing hard. Plenty of pitchers have had successful careers without making the mitt pop. On the whole, though, throwing hard helps. All else being equal, the harder a pitcher can throw, the more effective his offerings are, and the easier it is for him to get away with mistakes. It’s no coincidence that the team with the hardest-throwing staff this season, the Nationals, also boasts the big leagues’ best ERA.
In a 2010 study, PITCHf/x analyst Mike Fast found that starting pitchers from 2002-2009 allowed, on average, 0.28 fewer runs per nine innings for every mile per hour of velocity gained. Relievers, who tend to rely more heavily on their heaters, shaved 0.45 runs for every extra tick.
After over 50 years without a no-hitter, Johan Santana finally pitched the Mets to a spot in history.
The Weekend Takeaway
Superstitious baseball fans scream or tweet threats at broadcasters who mention that a no-hitter is in progress for fear that the pastime’s overlords won’t let it stand. Apparently, those same overlords read Craig Glaser’s guest article last Tuesday and decided that the curse should work in reverse, too.
Some 80 hours after the article went up on the Baseball Prospectus homepage, Johan Santana took the mound at Citi Field and threw the first of the 134 pitches he would need to do what no Mets hurler had ever done before. He began with an 88-mph fastball to Rafael Furcal and ended with a 79-mph changeup that fooled David Freese. In two hours and 35 minutes, Santana walked five Cardinals and struck out eight, facing 32 batters without surrendering a hit.
The Week in Quotes is a feature that ran roughly forever at BP, more or less from the advent of the site until last July, when it was temporarily retired. Since then, it's become the BP equivalent of Arrested Development—you've never stopped asking us to bring it back. Thanks to the hard work of BP interns Hudson Belinsky, Jonah Birenbaum, Andrew Koo, and Matthew Rocco, we are bringing it back, and unlike the new season of Arrested Development, you don't have to sign up for Netflix to see it. For the most part, we're following the old format, but we've also added a section for the week's best tweets by beat writers and players. Please let us know if there's anything else you'd like to see included.—Ben Lindbergh
The best pitches of the past two weeks, narrated by a guy who's trying to impress his date.
This week’s Three Best Pitches Ever Thrown This Week, which technically covers two weeks, will be narrated by a guy on a first date trying to impress his date with all his awesome baseball knowledge. Guy is sitting directly behind home plate, so he has an excellent view of these pitches, and a little bit of rib sauce on his lip.
No. 3. Jeremy Affeldt’s curve against Josh Thole, April 20.
So this guy Jamie Affeldt used to be a starter but now he’s a reliever. He’s really, really good. A lot of people wouldn’t think he was that good because he doesn’t have many saves, but saves are an antiquated way of measuring relievers, and let me just tell you Affeldt is really good. He should probably be the closer now that Brian Wilson is injured. Brian Wilson, do you know that guy? Oh, really? He’s the guy with the beard? Oh, come on, you have to know the guy with the really big beard and he was on all the Taco Bell commercials? No, it’s not a big deal, I’m just surprised you haven’t heard of him. Even my mom has heard of him! I’m not yelling. I’m just saying, he’s a pretty big deal. It would be like if I hadn’t heard of Susan Faludi or something. Oh my gosh did you see that pitch!
Johan Santana and Josh Johnson turned back the clock in a vintage pitcher's duel on Tuesday.
The Tuesday Takeaway Josh Johnson missed most of the 2011 season because of inflammation in his right shoulder. Johan Santana was shelved for much of it while rehabbing from a torn capsule in his left one. But on Tuesday night in Queens, they decided to party like it was 2009.
The Marlins and Mets aces matched each other out for out, hit for hit, and run for run on a night that was supposed to be highlighted by Jose Reyes’ return to Citi Field. Instead, Reyes went an inauspicious 0-for-4, while Johnson and Santana stole the show.
Stephen Strasburg's pitch count sails into uncharted territory during a matchup against the Mets on Wednesday.
In this age of pitch counts and innings caps, every starting pitcher has a limited number of bullets. Even among the hardiest hurlers, nine years have passed since a starter topped 260 innings, and eight since one went past 140 pitches in a game without having either a no-hitter on the line (Edwin Jackson) or simply being Livan Hernandez. These days, it's a rarity for any hurler to come within 10 percent of those marks in a game or a season, and not surprisingly, the more fragile sorts pull up far short. So nobody came out to Citi Field on Wednesday afternoon expecting the matchup between the Nationals' Stephen Strasburg and the Mets' Johan Santana would yield complete game efforts or deep pitch counts, particularly with both pitchers working their way back from 2011 seasons largely lost to injuries. But in their second starts of the season, on a gray day with game-time temperature at a brisk 53 degrees, the two opposing managers tested their aces' limits, and both held up after firing all of their bullets, keeping their opposite offenses to a combined one run through 5 ½ innings before the bullpens took over.
Johan Santana returned to the mound last night, and a preview of today's events.
The Thursday Takeaway
The Mets have $35 million committed to Jason Bay and $55 million owed to Johan Santana over the next two seasons. If the team is to salvage any value from those ill-fated contracts—either internally or via trade—Bay and Santana must regain their prowess soon. And while Bay’s quiet, 0-for-3 start was nothing to write home about, Santana’s 2012 debut opened some eyes.
Now 33 and coming off a lost season, Santana no longer throws in the mid-90s. His first pitch on Thursday was an 87 mph fastball, and he sat in the upper-80s throughout the afternoon, occasionally reaching back for 90-91. But Santana also proved that he could be effective without premium velocity, tossing five scoreless innings, fanning five and walking two to pave the way for the Mets’ 1-0 win.
Settling who the best starting pitching in baseball is involves a shorter short list than you might expect.
Last week, talking with Todd Wright on Sporting News Radio, I got off on something of a rant about calling Zack Greinke the best pitcher in baseball. It's not unfair to say that he's pitched the best in 2009, but the title mentioned implies a longer list of qualifications. It's similar to my argument about All-Star teams: the last two months of work is information, but it's a fraction of the information necessary to render a decision on selecting squads for the Midsummer Classic.