What has ailed the league's best player this month? The problems start with his swing.
There is nothing average about Mike Trout. People built like Brian Urlacher shouldn’t be able to scale walls, run like a scared deer, all while squarely hitting a round ball with a round bat. The 2014 season has seen Mike Trout put up a slightly more earthbound line than usual. The question is why? The sample size is rapidly getting too large for the saber community to claim this is all due to a small sample of games.
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Eyes on Ben Lively, Ryan Wright, and Matt Anderson, along with the Cubs' high-profile international signings from last summer.
Ben Lively, RHP, Reds (High-A Bakersfield)
Broad shoulders, thick legs, muscular build; 6-foot-4, about 210; body to log innings; repeatable delivery; gets downhill well; hides the ball behind his torso and snaps it on the hitter with a quick arm; plenty of deception; three-quarters; fastball 88-92; runs it and cuts it; true ghostball; explodes on the hitter; if I didn’t have gun readings I’d guess 95-plus based on the swings; hitters weren’t comfortable all night; third time through the lineup was still pumping the fastball and jamming guys; gets 92 with runners on; amped up after striking out a batter to escape a jam; good control with it, pounded the zone for the most part (got squeezed) but the command was hit or miss; up the zone and challenged guys often; he won most battles, but going forward he needs the get the ball down.
Curveball 71-76; lacked bite early; loopy and hangs over the plate; tightened it up and it flashed late; much better around 74-76 mph, and had some two-plane break; dropped it in for some first-pitch strikes; scout said he had a hammer his last appearance, but didn’t see an above-average CB on this night ; SL 82-84 mph; sweepy break; not much bite; lengthened it with two strikes; used it vs. lefties and righties; commanded it well; better against righties; pounded the outside corner and just off the plate; CH around 85; some dive and tumble; thrown only a handful of times; used it right after his FB to keep the hitters off balance.
A division can't be won or lost in the first week, but these teams did have relatively hefty playoff-odds swings already.
Last year, the Patriot-News of Harrisburg, PA issued a correction for a piece it had written on the Gettysburg Address, 150 years earlier. “We pass over the silly remarks of the President,” they had written in 1863. “For the credit of the nation we are willing that the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them and that they shall be no more repeated or thought of." It took some time, yes, but Patriot-News staff eventually did check themselves before they wrecked themselves.
What the terms of Mike Trout's rumored extension tell us about Mike Trout.
Back in the summer of 2012, when it became clear that Mike Trout was doing something we had never seen from a player his age, the word of the day was “adjustments.” Yes, Trout was accomplishing amazing things, and there was little doubt that he would be a phenomenal player, probably a Hall of Famer. But his legacy—would he be a Hall of Famer like Willie Mays, or a Hall of Famer like Andre Dawson?—would come down to adjustments.
Stark wrote on Wednesday that the Blue Jays will come away with Santana only if his asking price falls into the range they have in mind. If agent Bean Stringfellow sticks to his guns, industry sources—both in other organizations and on the player-representation side—don’t believe that the Blue Jays will budge.
The Angels talk contract with Mike Trout, the Royals try to decide what to do with their bullpen, and Seattle reassesses its needs.
Royals could explore multi-year deal with Greg Holland
The Royals got on the same page with their closer on Wednesday, when the sides compromised on a $4.675 million salary for the 2014 season. Kansas City Star beat writer Andy McCullough wrote in the article summing up the agreement that a longer-term pact might be in the cards.
Holland turned in a third consecutive elite season last year, recording 47 saves in 50 tries to go with a shiny 1.21 ERA that meshed well with his 1.39 FIP. He struck out 103 batters, issued only 18 walks, and served up only three home runs in 67 innings. You could easily argue that the 28-year-old was the league’s best closer.
In a high-heat era, how do low-heat pitchers get the job done?
On Thursday, Robert Arthur provided a statistical look at how pitchers without velocity succeed. Arthur concluded that arsenal depth—although less predictive of success than velocity—was the key. It's an intuitive takeaway, yet an important one. The league has seen an influx in velocity in recent seasons (with more firepower on the way). Consider this nugget: the starting pitcher with the 50th-fastest average heater in 2009 checked in at 91.5 mph; in 2013, that spot belonged to a pitcher whose fastball averaged 92.2 mph. Pitchers as a population appear to be gaining velocity.
What did the 2005 Angels' best-in-baseball farm system turn out to be worth?
In the late 2000s, when the Angels’ farm system (weakened mostly by promotions and a lack of early first-round draft picks) started to place low in organizational rankings, some local writers would respond with a pithy counterpoint: In 2000, the Angels were ranked 29th by Baseball America, and two years later they won the World Series. This supposeduly irrefutable refutation was trotted out so reliably it seemed likely that reporters were parroting the club's own words. You never got the sense that the Angels, as an organization, thought much of organizational rankings.
The organizational rankings, in time, thought much more of the Angels. They improved from 29th to 25th to 17th to fifth to third and, finally, before the 2005 season, they were baseball’s no. 1 farm system, according to both BA and John Sickels. Baseball Prospectus didn’t do org rankings yet, but that year's top prospects list had two Angels in the top five. The Angels had made this great leap forward while also dramatically upgrading their big-league results; as Matt Welch writes in the Angels team essay in this year’s BP Annual, “it almost felt like the Angels had beaten baseball's business cycle.”