Updates on the ninth-inning situations for the White Sox, A's, Cubs, and Astros.
I’ve written about the White Sox a lot for two reasons: 1) I have access, and 2) their closer situation is tumultuous. Matt Lindstrom gave up another lead on Sunday. It wasn’t all Lindstrom’s fault—Jose Abreu made an error that started the rally—but Lindstrom’s profile doesn’t allow for many defensive mistakes behind him. Lindstrom’s stuff is contact-oriented for a reliever.
This all comes with the caveat that it’s early but Lindstrom has thrown a total of 91 pitches this year and has generated five swings-and-misses. For contrast, Daniel Webb has thrown 112 pitches and has generated a swing-and-miss 13 times. That doesn’t seem like a big difference in the raw, but essentially, Webb is doubling Lindstrom’s whiff rate. It fits both players’ profiles as well; Webb is a player who has swing-and-miss stuff, as he utilizes a mid-90s fastball and power slider to induce those empty swings that a high-leverage reliever needs when his defense makes an error behind him.
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Breaking down the starters for Scoresheet leagues, with a guest appearance from Bret Sayre.
As you’ve undoubtedly heard, good pitching beats good hitting, and vice versa. You may not, however, have thought about the implications of great pitching or terrible pitching on good hitting. We’ve got plenty to say on starting pitching in Scoresheet (so much so that this week is only the first half of our coverage of the position), but to summarize at the highest level, our advice is to maximize the great pitching on your team and to minimize the innings devoted to terrible pitching.
Sounds easy, but it can be quite hard in Scoresheet. So read on for our rankings and detailed thoughts on some players. And be sure to check out our podcast, linked at the bottom of this article, for even more advice on strategy and specific players.
We are also really excited to have the man/the legend Bret Sayre on the podcast for a special guest segment. Bret is trying out Scoresheet for the first time this year, and in this week’s segment, we talk through our thoughts on his keeper decisions in his soft keeper league.
Without further ado, here are our starting pitcher rankings in Scoresheet. Please note that for convenience, we are calling pitchers we rank 1-25 as no. 1 starters, those ranked 26 to 50 as no. 2 starters, etc.
Petco Park can turn most any pitcher into a fantasy asset, but the Padres' position-player depth limits the appeal of their bats.
The best thing the Padres have going for them in real life is depth. Of course that just clouds the picture when it comes to fantasy. Still, the Padres have a reservoir of talent at the minor-league level, with enough of it bubbling toward the surface that they are of interest to deep leaguers. They have enough useful pieces at the major league level to be of interest to shallow players as well, with Chase Headley’s resurgence and Carlos Quentin’s good health being the keys to a lineup that struggled to produce counting stats in 2013. While one of those things will be sure to fail us going forward (Quentin’s health), the other has a good chance of staying true.
A relatively quiet offseason means that the Padres aren’t drastically different than they were before. The additions of Joaquin Benoit and Seth Smith add depth (there’s that word again), but lack impact. There were no waves made about the closer role, and the outfield picture only got murkier. Health will be paramount though, as a seemingly inordinate number of position players, pitchers and prospects have seen the disabled list in recent years. Still though, this Padres team seems the same as previous incarnations, with much of the talent (and fantasy value) being provided by the pitching staff.
A deeper look into the recent struggles of CC Sabathia and Josh Johnson.
Last night we recorded episode 10 of TINSTAAPP, and perhaps my favorite segment of the podcast is the “homework” section, in which Paul Sporer and I assign take-home projects to one another that we discuss on the following episode. Typically, my assignments involve a deep-dive into the cases of pitchers who are performing outside of expectations, for better or for worse. To diagnose the symptoms of a struggling pitcher, I plunge into the stats, the PITCHf/x data, and the mechanical trends of the hurler in question. I believe that such an integrated approach is necessary to crawl through the biases that are inherent in each of these three tools, and a clearer picture emerges once we combine the objective data with the subjective experience of watching how those numbers were generated.
I enjoy these assignments so much that I decided to kick off a new series that is inspired by the ]TINSTAAPP homework, and the first two of pitchers under the microscope are both large humans with proven track records of success. CC Sabathia and Josh Johnson are both listed at 6-foot-7 and at least 250 pounds, with CC tipping the scales near three bills, giving them a biological advantage on the mound. However, the 2013 season has been the worst of each pitcher's career to date, and with more than half the season in the books, we have gone past the point where their struggles can be cast aside with excuses of small sample size.
A closer look at the impending free agents who have the most riding on a return to form or a return to health in 2013.
Before last season, no one would have predicted that fragile White Sox starter Jake Peavy would earn a bigger contract at the end of the year than Angels workhorse Dan Haren. Peavy, entering his age-31 season, was coming off three injury-plagued and ineffective seasons in which he’d thrown a combined 320 1/3 innings with an above-league average ERA; Haren, also entering his age-31 season, was coming off his seventh consecutive 200-plus-inning campaign, having led the AL in starts and strikeout-to-walk ratio and finished seventh in Cy Young voting the season before.
But 2012 proved pivotal in determining the size of the contract that each impending free agent could command. Peavy picked the perfect time to find his form, avoiding the DL, topping 200 innings, and making the All-Star team for the first time since 2007. Haren had back problems and saw his sinker lose speed and his stats decline across the board. As a reward for his resurgence, Peavy got a two-year, $29 million extension from the Sox, while Haren had to settle for a one-year deal with the Nats at a slightly lower annual value.
The Marlins follow up the salary-dump trade with a Juan Pierre signing. What each move tells us about the franchise.
Last season the Phillies found themselves choosing between Juan Pierre and Scott Podsednik for the last spot on the bench. For this I made fun of them. Picking between two old guys whose careers were pretty much over is like choosing between getting kicked in the junk or punched in the neck. Neither is desirable and in fact you’re better off without both. The Phillies, in their infinite wisdom, chose Pierre, and exiled Podsednik to Elbathe Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs Elba.
The funny part was that Podsednik did nothing in Triple-A and was essentially given to the Red Sox, where he suddenly remembered (learned?) how to hit. Pierre had been slated for the back of the Phillies bench, but due to injures, he ended up with over 400 plate appearances wherein he somehow managed the respectable batting line of .307/.351/.371. So much for making fun of them.
Josh Johnson's start against the Red Sox last night is a sign that he has recovered from his shoulder woes.
The Monday Takeaway
As the ESPN crew signed off from its Monday Night Baseball broadcast of the series opener between the Red Sox and Marlins, color man Rick Sutcliffe summed up the 4-1 Miami victory in four words: “Josh Johnson is back.”
Though Ozzie Guillen’s team won six consecutive Johnson starts between May 4 and May 30, the big right-hander struggled for two months to regain his dominant form of years past. His fastball velocity went in and out, and his command eluded him at times—such as the 2 2/3-inning, six-run clunker at Petco Park that, ironically, served as the springboard for the aforementioned winning streak.
The Marlins ace doesn't like to give up home runs.
Twelve starts into the season, Josh Johnson is yet to bedazzle us with a no-hit bid or double-digit strikeout game. If the season were to end tomorrow, all of the “There’s only one October” advertisements would become literal, and Johnson would finish with career-worst totals in earned run average and strikeout and hits allowed rates. Barring a historical run, Johnson is unlikely to take home the Cy Young award this season. But one thing about Johnson that remains as true now as ever is his resistance towards home runs.
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.