A brutal eight-game losing streak has taken the Atlanta Braves from first to worst in the NL East.
The Weekend Takeaway
It’s not all that hard to go from first to last in nine days this early in the season. To do so as resoundingly as the Braves have, though, takes a special kind of awfulness.
At the end of play on May 20, Fredi Gonzalez’s team was 26-16 and enjoyed a 1 ½-game lead in the National League East. At the close of shop last night, the Braves had slipped to 26-24 and sat in a last-place tie with the Phillies, four games behind the first-place Nationals.
How much does pitching on a downhill plane affect a pitcher's ability to get ground balls?
Here we are in the middle of the Information Age, with access to more data than the human mind can possibly process, and yet the dissemination of baseball information has been muted by a language barrier. Baseball fans are becoming increasingly savvy about the nuances of the game, with sophisticated analytical tools at their disposal, but access to the dynamics of play on the field is often clouded by a filter of scout-speak. If we were playing poker, then the dealer would need to remind the scouts in seats eight and nine of the “English only at the table” rule in order to prevent them from trading secrets that fly under the radar of other players.
There are dozens of entries in the pitching section of the scout-speak dictionary, from “command” and “control” to “arm action.” One of these buzzwords is “downhill plane,” a term that refers to pitch trajectory that has a steep slope on its approach toward the hitter. It seems to follow that pitchers who possess a high release point would induce a higher rate of ground balls. The logic behind the idea is simple enough, as anyone who has thrown a tennis ball against a wall can attest, but the statistical evidence paints a different picture.
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Is Masterson's successful start to 2011 something to be taken seriously, or will he fall by the wayside as the year progresses?
With 7.2 innings of four-hit, two-run pitching against the Boston Red Sox on Monday night, the Indians Justin Masterson remains one of the surprise stories of the young season. Through 68 innings, he has allowed 21 walks, 51 strikeouts and just two home runs. His ERA sits at a spiffy 2.50 and his 1.17 WHIP ranks him 19th among qualified AL starters.
Expected to be an afterthought in the AL Central race, Cleveland has instead notched the league's best record. Can the Tribe keep it up?
On Sunday, Grady Sizemore returned to the Indians lineup for the first time since last May 16. After grounding out inauspiciously in his first at-bat, he hit a towering home run to right field in his second, and laced a double in his third. It was a performance much more reminiscent of the three-time All-Star center fielder who hit .281/.372/.496 from 2005-2008 than the shell of one who batted just .239/.328/.410 in 2009-2010, as troubles with his left knee set him on the road to microfracture surgery.
A battle between the Indians' and Cubs' low-velo righties leaves both teams feeling buoyant.
MESA, Arizona—Thursday, March 10 marked the Cubs' observance of Ron Santo's passing in HoHoKam. With so many tributes to come—including a statue at Wrigley Field, perhaps a pointed reminder not only of the love for him in Wrigleyville, but also of the signal failure of the BBWAA and however many iterations of the Veterans' Committee to include him among Cooperstown's bronzed ranks—yesterday's affair was more no-frills, as the Santo family got to speak about the man they loved to an audience already in a loving mood.
Perhaps the only sour note was that the Cubs weren't allowed to wear special #10 hats in Santo's honor—the MLB fashion police were duly offended by the lack of an MLB logo. Apparently, Bob Watson's dictatorial writ in all matters sartorial extends all the way to Arizona, right down to exhibition action. Who says the NFL is the only “no fun league”?
A look at some of the pitchers who have pitched better than their ERAs show.
With July approaching and nearly three months of innings behind us, now is a good time to take a look and see who is pitching better than their ERA. We're far enough into the season that owners are likely to be discouraged by a poor first half, and will hope to sell in order to salvage something—basically, the optimism that existed earlier in the season may have faltered for many an owner, and you should take advantage of it. Here are some key names to keep in mind—this list includes the 10 pitchers with the largest disconnect between their ERA and their SIERA, meaning many of them may be in line for a rebound. Now, just because there is a disconnect doesn't mean they will rebound, as some pitchers give us reason to believe that things will not change for the better, as you will see.
Which starting pitchers can give your fantasy baseball roster a boost?
Players added to the list
Hisanori Takahashi: Takahashi has faced two high-octane offenses -- the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees -- in his first two starts as a fill-in for the New York Mets and has yet to allow a run in 12 innings of work. In those 12 innings, he has struck out 11 and walked merely one batter. As a reliever, he missed a lot of bats but also missed the strike zone frequently. As you can see by the averages in the Value Picks table, that is simply par for the course. Also something to note is that the southpaw, in 38 innings, has a distinct platoon split which may be why he has held the Phillies and Yankees in check. His next start will come on May 31 against a weak Padres offense in their very pitcher-friendly ballpark. Get Takahashi while you can. Despite being available in 95 percent of ESPN leagues, he is being snapped up quickly after dominating the Phillies on Wednesday.
Which available starting pitchers may be able to provide a spark to your fantasy baseball team?
Added to the List
Brandon Morrow: Morrow can hit 100 MPH with his fastball. As you may expect, he racks up plenty of strikeouts -- 54 of them in 41 innings, a league-leading rate of nearly 12 per nine innings. "Great, where do I sign up?" you ask. As I am not a used car salesman, I must warn you about his control problems. He is averaging nearly six walks per nine innings this year, a problem he has had throughout his professional baseball career.
Which starting pitchers can help you jump ahead in your fantasy baseball league?
Added to the list
Craig Stammen: Stammen displayed great control in his brief time in the Majors with the Washington Nationals. In 142 and two-thirds innings, Stammen walked 32 batters, a rate of just over two walks per nine innings. However, he possesses below-average strikeout stuff. Stammen should help your ERA and WHIP stabilize, but you should look elsewhere if you are looking for punch-outs. If your league uses strikeout-to-walk ratio, he becomes an even better value as he should fall somewhere in the 2.5 area. Additionally, he does not have a platoon split, so he is someone you can feel confident starting him against anyone (except the Phillies, to whom he has allowed 11 runs in six and one-third innings this year).
The Indians pitcher talks about getting traded for the first time, and his future in Cleveland.
Justin Masterson is excited to be in Cleveland. Acquired by the Indians in the deal that sent Victor Martinez to Boston at last summer's trading deadline, the 6-foot-6 Beavercreek, Ohio native is not only pitching closer to home, but he also has a chance to become a mainstay in the Tribe's starting rotation. The 24-year-old right-hander has made 53 of his 78 big-league appearances out of the bullpen, but on a staff that lacks front-line starters, his power sinker just might be a perfect fit. Masterson talked about leaving behind old friends, as well as his early impressions of his new team, on the final weekend of the 2009 season.