A primer on the Twins' Caleb Thielbar, who started his career with 20 scoreless innings.
After 20 scoreless innings to start his career, Caleb Thielbar this week allowed his first run, on a front-row home run by Ben Zobrist. While he no longer has the 0.00 ERA, he has still allowed the lowest OPS in baseball against lefties, and his lead over no. 2 Alex Torres is as big as Torres’ lead over no. 18 Rex Brothers. Lefties are 1-for-30 against Thielbar, with a single, a walk, and 13 strikeouts: .033/.063/.033.
He’s also a contender for this year’s Kratz Award for Kratzing. Thielbar was released from the Brewers’ minor league system in 2011, because he was throwing 84 mph without any sort of changeup as a starter. He went to play for the independent league St. Paul Saints, who happen to be his hometown independent league team. Also, the Twins’ hometown independent league team. They signed him, sent him to High-A as a 24-year-old, watched him clean up his mechanics and pitch pretty well over parts of three minor league seasons (particularly against lefties), and brought him up for low-leverage scrub work. He’s in high leverage now. Twins fans call him … hang on, let me make sure I have this right... yup. Meat Raffle. Twins fans call him Meat Raffle.
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How do left-handed specialists make the most of their platoon advantage, and at what cost does their approach come?
Growing up left-handed is a tough gig. We left-handers can't write a sentence in ink without needing to wash our hands, classroom scissors malfunction in our claw-like grips, and driving a stick-shift requires a certain degree of ambidexterity. In little league, defensive assignments were restricted to roaming the outfield pasture unless one happened to have a hyperactive pituitary gland, thus earning a trip to play first base with the right-handed infielders. I was able to fool one coach into putting me at catcher for a season, but that experiment was predictably short-lived.
The mound is a southpaw's chance at redemption, where the bar for lefties to gain acceptance is lowered. Left-handers sit right in the cross-hairs of the supply-demand curve in the majors due to the limited player-pool as well as a league-wide desire to exploit platoon splits (see table for 2012 figures). Just 10 percent of the world is left-handed, yet southpaws have been on the mound for 31 percent of all plate appearances this season. Lefty batters make up 44 percent of plate appearances, a function of the advantages that are inherent in a two-step head-start down the line, combined with the reality that it is much easier to switch sides of the plate than it is to alternate throwing arms.
Trying to determine the value of three NL West pitchers and their potential impact for next season.
At the beginning of the year, a Blockbuster Video near my house was closing down and held a liquidation sale for about a week or two. Movies, video games, posters, and even the stands that hold the movies were up for grabs, and it became common to see customers exit the store with 10 or more items in their bag. After a bit of skepticism with regards to the types of movies that would be on sale, I ventured over for the first of my three visits. My skepticism was well-founded, as the movies that remained were not award-worthy by any stretch. Still, they were so inexpensive that I couldn’t help but walk away with a small stash. Traitor for $1? Sure, why not?
Saluting the players whose accomplishments will go unrecognized during awards season.
While the postseason is in full bloom, the winners of the regular season awards will be revealed next month. At that juncture some fans will cheer, some will cry, and others will inevitably write articles about how the BBWAA messed up by not voting Justin Morneau as sixth in the AL MVP race, or why James Shields deserves Cy Young consideration because his predictive numbers were much better than his ERA would indicate; as the co-creator of SIERA, I think I can joke about its usage in award voting. I know from experience what it’s like to write such articles, as I once nastily opined that it was a sham how Roy Halladay finished out of the top three on the AL Cy Young Award ballots of some writers in 2008. Then again, even if Cliff Lee deserved the award, how in the world did Halladay fall out of the… never mind, this is no time to dwell.
Sorting out who's been good and who's been great in situational roles.
Over the last several decades, with the platoon effect becoming more widely understood and exploitable, a flood of pitchers with otherwise weak skills in the broad strokes have found employment in the major leagues. No aspect of the sport has undergone as thoroughgoing a transformation as bullpen usage, and while the idea of a structured relief corps may in fact be inefficient in terms of roster management, it has certainly paved the way for the rise to prominence of a number specialist relievers. Those referred to as LOOGYs-courtesy of John Sickels, who coined the catch-all term for Lefty One-Out GuYs-comprise the vast majority of this new group, entering into the latter stages of a game to try to face a same-handed hitter or two. Pitchers assigned to the role generally dominate lefty batters; approximately three-quarters of the pitches that a batter will see over the course of a season are thrown by right-handers, and a pitch delivered from a southpaw to a left-handed batter can be thrown from a more deceptive angle, altering the perception of the hitter.
Talking to Rad about the value of situational relievers, feeding off of adrenaline on the mound, and his passion for punk rock.
Scott Radinsky knows all about rocking back and throwing. Not only did the left=hander have an 11-year big league career--mostly as a situational reliever for the White Sox and Dodgers--he is also a veteran of the punk rock scene. A native of Southern California, Radinsky has balanced baseball and music since being taken in the 1986 draft, pitching in over 500 games while fronting Scared Straight, Ten Foot Pole, and now his current band, Pulley. Radinsky also missed the 1994 season while battling Hodgkin's Disease. He joined the coaching ranks in 2005, and is currently the pitching coach for the Indians' Triple-A affiliate.