On five players attempting to do new things this season, and whether those things have worked.
Four teams asked five players to do things this season that they’d never done prior to 2013. This article is about how well those things have worked for the first six weeks, and whether they can continue.
1. Shin-Soo Choo: start in center field
It’s not that Choo has turned into a superb center fielder. That was never the plan. Starting Choo in center, a position he hadn’t played at all since 2009 and hadn’t played regularly since 2002 (as a 19-year-old in A-ball), was always going to be an exercise in extreme double-entry bookkeeping: Would the runs his bat added outnumber the runs his glove gave up? So far, the answer is an easy “yes.” Choo’s .347 TAv ranks 10th among players with at least 100 plate appearances, and he’s second only to Miguel Cabrera in VORP.
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Ben and Sam answer listener emails about the worst team to work for, what baseball would look like without outfield fences, when it's okay to give up on high draft picks, and how Mariano Rivera compares to top starting pitchers.
Can the former No. 1 pick right the ship in shorter stints? Maybe.
Luke Hochevar is going to the bullpen. It's an unsurprising development, given Kansas City's offseason activity and Hochevar's history of failure. The former first-overall pick nearly seven years ago, Hochevar has compiled a 5.39 ERA and 132 starts over his career to date. He did manage a career-best strikeout-to-walk ratio last season (2.36), however, his run average worsened from poor to intolerable—even for a Royals team previously light on starters.
Having a great pitch doesn't make you a great pitcher, as the PITCHf/x leaderboards show.
If you’re like me, you’ve been waiting for PITCHf/x leaderboards filled with info from Brooks Baseball for a while. And now that you have them—again, if you’re like me—you’re compelled to keep sorting columns in descending order, in every possible permutation, just to see what will rise to the top. Sometimes what rises to the top is a name you don’t expect to see. This is an article about a few of those names, and the pitches that plucked them out of obscurity and took them to the top of a leaderboard where no one would have expected them to be.
There are many ways to gauge the effectiveness of a particular pitch. One way is to see how often batters fail to hit the pitch when they attempt to. This leaves out a lot of information—how often they attempt to hit it, how well they do when they succeed, how well the pitch sets up a subsequent offering—but it is a quick-and-dirty way to assess unhittability. The most unhittable pitches—by this definition of “unhittable”—are pretty predictable. Cole Hamels has the most unhittable changeup. Zack Greinke (or Edwin Jackson, depending on your minimums) has the most unhittable slider. A.J. Burnett has the most unhittable curve. (That one might seem slightly less predictable, but even during his disappointing seasons, Burnett’s curve was always hard to hit.) Among relievers, if you set the thresholds low enough, Aroldis Chapman has the most unhittable fastball and the most unhittable slider. Aroldis Chapman is really hard to hit.
Shining a spotlight on the minor mental mistakes and successes that often go overlooked.
There was an axiom tossed about when I was in college, one that I and my other bench-warming teammates were only too happy to co-opt, which held that the dumber you were, the better you played. In other words, the less intelligent a player was, and the less he had going on in his mind (colloquially, the less "in his own head" he was), the more focused he'd be on playing to the best of his abilities. Some rebutted that we spent too much free time during games coming up with theories about why we weren't playing, but you get the idea.
The big leaguers we see on TV have found a way to circumvent this problem, if it even exists. Nevertheless, there remains a mental aspect of the game that often goes ignored, both by sabermetricians (because it's nearly impossible to measure) and by the players themselves (because these mistakes are usually too small to affect their club's opinion of them). I don't mean visualization or Pedro Cerrano's Jobu doll or Turk Wendell's animal tooth necklace—I'm talking about the nuts-and-bolts logic of baseball that, when ignored, costs teams outs and runs, which eventually cost them games.
Two talented young Diamondbacks starters with different degrees of upside join the group.
Your usual host, Paul Sporer, is away this week crossing things off his bucket list. Things like meeting Robert Pattinson, teaching tortoises how to french kiss, making snow angels in horse manure, and trying to figure out why people find Curb Your Enthusiasm funny… or, you know, doing normal, work-related stuff. He wasn’t very specific… In any case, I’ll be filling in for him today with VP and tomorrow with Weekly Planner. Here goes…
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.
Having already graduated a lot of young talent to the majors, the cream of the Royals' crop is a mix of pitchers and low-minors prospects.
1. Mike Moustakas, SS Four-Star Prospects
2. Luke Hochevar, RHP Three-Star Prospects
3. Daniel Cortes, RHP
4. Billy Buckner, RHP
5. Danny Duffy, LHP Two-Star Prospects
6. Blake Wood, RHP
7. Carlos Rosa, RHP
8. Julio Pimentel, RHP
9. Sam Runion, RHP One-Star Prospects
10. Mitch Maier, OF
11. Chris Lubanski, OF
Kevin sits down with the #1 pick from the 2006 draft, Luke Hochevar, to talk about the previous year's draft, his subsequent play in an independent league, and his future as a Royal.
Watching Luke Hochevar stand behind second base
gathering balls from outfielders as the Low Class A Burlington Bees clean up
after a round of batting practice, he just looks happy to be back on a baseball
field and wearing a uniform.
With the draft now two weeks away, Kevin zooms in on the volatile first round, and offers some thoughts on how it may shake out...particularly since a familiar name may have re-entered the picture.
With less than two weeks to go before the draft, those charged with covering the annual pick-fest have been busy with mock drafts. I was going to follow suit, but it's still too much of a guessing game. The first five picks have solidified to the consistency of Jello at best; after the first fifteen, you might as while get a monkey to throw darts, as any number of pre-draft deals could create chaos in the second half. So instead of projecting exact names, let's go through the first half of the draft and see what the rumors are and where each team stands. The glass half-empty guy would say I'm wussing out here, but the glass half-full guy--a personal friend of mine--would say I'm giving you far more information this way.