Only one closer was traded at yesterday's deadline, but there are still plenty of situation's in flux in this week's VP.
Of the 18 earned runs Orioles closer Jim Johnson has allowed this season, 13 of them have come in the past 16 days. Sprinkled into this hellacious stretch was a five-run clunker on July 16 and a six-run disaster on Friday. It has not been pretty for this Jim-John (yes, Jim-John) owner. So what’s to blame for the slump? Whenever there’s a stark downturn like this, injury is a concern, but I’ve read nothing to this effect. Correction is possible, too; Johnson misses far too few bats to think he was going to sustain a sub-2.00 ERA all season. But the fact that he absorbed all of this correction (and then some) in such a small window is worrisome nonetheless.
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This week's VP finally finds some resolution in the Minnesota and Milwaukee bullpens and examines the aftermath.
When we look back on closers at the end of the season, there’s no denying that the high rate of early-season turnover will dominate the discussion. But a less discussed angle is that of the struggling closers whose respective teams stubbornly refused to shake things up. One such example is John Axford of the Brewers, who has gotten a ton of leash in 2012 but mostly failed to reward his team’s faith. Now, after seeing Axford post a 5.35 ERA and blow six of 22 save chances, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke has finally turned elsewhere.
Everyone on the outside wants to analyze pitching coaches, yet nobody can. Not knowing the coach’s instructions to his staff leaves an information gap between the numbers and anecdotal evidence. In return, there are two choices for evaluating a pitching coach: defer to the organization or take the anecdotal evidence at face value. The problem with anecdotal evidence is how it tends to pop up post hoc. Whenever Leo Mazzone turned a journeyman hurler into a quality pitcher, the explanation bordered on circular reasoning.
Beyond banality, this information doesn’t do much for analysis. There is no incentive for pitching coaches to make their tweaks public, and that leaves the knowledge-seeking public to scope out every aspect of the latest breakout, in hunt of the fix. Often, the answers are unsatisfactory. Ryan Vogelsong went from forgotten journeyman to legitimate major-league starter, and the best reasoning out there is that he realized he needed to pitch inside. The simplicity of that fix borders on inanity and that’s what makes it so good. The best fixes are the most obvious ones, the ones that everyone sees, but only a trained eye observes.
Which players are some of the top expert fantasy players selecting in the early rounds of their drafts?
I spent this past Monday and Tuesday in Las Vegas for the Fantasy Sports Trade Association winter conference. (Well, to be more accurate, I spent the entirety of Monday in multiple airports after delays, cancellations, and lost bags, but that's beside the point.) During the FSTA conference, there was an experts draft held and broadcast live on SiriusXM's fantasy channel. I'm not sure where the official draft results can be found online, but there was a huge draft board that was displayed throughout the conference, and a few selections stuck out to me, so I wanted to discuss them today. Keep in mind that we're dealing with a standard 5x5 mixed league with 23-man active rosters and 13 teams.
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.
The Brewers' stars stayed on the field in 2010, but will their luck hold after they upped the ante in the NL Central this winter?
The Team Injury Projections are here, driven by our brand new injury forecasting system, the Comprehensive Health Index [of] Pitchers [and] Players [with] Evaluative Results—or, more succinctly, CHIPPER. Thanks to work by Colin Wyers and Dan Turkenkopf and a database loaded with injuries dating back to the 2002 season—that's nearly 4,600 players and well over 400,000 days lost to injury—we now have a system that produces injury-risk assessments to three different degrees. CHIPPER projects ratings for players based on their injury history—these ratings measure the probability of a player missing one or more games, 15 or more games, or 30 or more games. CHIPPER will have additional features added to it throughout the spring and early season that will enhance the accuracy of our injury coverage.
These ratings are also available in the Player Forecast Manager (pfm.baseballprospectus.com), where they'll be sortable by league or position—you won’t have to wait for us to finish writing this series in order to see the health ratings for all of the players.
Jason took part in a slow mock draft with other fantasy experts and is now here to share what he learned from the experience.
I recently had the pleasure of doing a slow—and I mean slow—mock draft over the past four weeks with a few of my friends and colleagues in the fantasy baseball industry. That group included most of the mlb.com folks, Fernando DiFino, and the legendary Joe Sheehan. The draft started on February 17 and survived a few lost weekends, DiFino’s nuptials (congrats!) and several copy and paste issues from some of us that are still using not-so-smartphones.
Evaluating Rick Peterson's claim that premier pitchers release the ball within the horizontal dimensions of the strike zone
At a recent promotional event for the Bloomberg Sports Front Office 2011 professional product, Rick Peterson analyzed the mechanics of John Axford and discussed how he helped Axford move toward the center of the rubber to improve his results in 2010. You can see a video of the Bloomberg event here, courtesy of Kerel Cooper.
The Brewers' closer discusses his path to the majors, film, and social networking.
When most baseball fans think of John Axford, they think of a hard-throwing right-hander who came out of nowhere to replace Trevor Hoffman as the Brewers’ closer last season. Many also look at him as the guy with the cool mustache, but there is far more to Axford than the 24 saves and the facial hair that is approaching cult status. A 27-year-old native and resident of Ontario, Canada, Axford teetered on the brink of baseball oblivion before making his mark in Milwaukee. He underwent Tommy John surgery while earning a film degree at Notre Dame, and subsequently found himself going from indie ball in western Canada to a minor-league stint with the Yankees, who released him after just one season. Signed off the scrapheap by the Brewers in 2008, he is now a bona fide big-leaguer and burgeoning online sensation.