There’s no point in asking whether there have ever been three pitchers as good as the Yankees’ back-end trio together in one bullpen. It’s not even close; it’s not even close to being close. In 2015, among pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched, Andrew Miller had the lowest cFIP, Dellin Betances the fourth-lowest, and Aroldis Chapman the fifth-lowest. In 2014, the three (in a different order) made up the absolute top of the cFIP leaderboard. If they come anywhere near matching that level of excellence in 2016, they’ll be the best bullpen trio ever, without a close second. The only team in the last 30 years (at least) to put three relievers among the top 15 pitchers in cFIP was the 2012 Rays, who had Jake McGee (third), Joel Peralta (12th), and Fernando Rodney (13th). This Yankee cluster-closer is projected for more WARP than the entire starting rotations of the Angels, Royals, and Braves are projected to add, and about 50 percent more than the average NL bullpen. The only starter projected for more WARP than these three combined is Clayton Kershaw, and he’s also the only pitcher of any kind whom PECOTA thinks will have a better DRA than any of these three in 2016. Keep in mind that PECOTA is a computer system. It’s seen a lot of great relievers come and go, and is generally deeply cynical about their exceptionalism, especially if they have relatively short track records of dominance (like Miller and Betances, each of whom have just a little over two seasons’ worth of stellar relief work affixed to otherwise uninspiring career logs).
Of course, some deride the Yankees offseason because of these very facts. The addition of Chapman was, unless you’re deeply enamored of Starlin Castro, the biggest the team made all winter. Famously (or infamously), the team didn’t sign a free agent to a guaranteed deal all winter. They didn’t stabilize their thin starting rotation. In fact, they used one of their better depth options to acquire Castro. They didn’t use their financial muscle to pursue first-division replacements for any of their (expensive) second-division starters, like Chase Headley or Carlos Beltran, except in that they took on Castro’s salary. They elected to buttress the aging Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury (each only 32 this year, but 32 is sometimes very old for second-tier outfielders, and even 31 looked old for Ellsbury) only with Aaron Hicks.
In the career trajectories of seven (or eight) young(ish) shortstops, we see the volatility of baseball careers at this level.
This is an interesting phenomenon, though one that (for various reasons) has gone largely unnoticed: There were seven (or eight, if you’re feeling generous) regular big-league shortstops in 2015 who were born in the seven months between early September 1989 and late March 1990. I’ve been tracking their progress for years, wondering when one or another edged ahead of the field as the most valuable, trying to gauge their relative market standings. It was always hard to tell, though, because for each player, development has been anything but linear, and their values have seemed to be very volatile. The group even flexed in size and membership over the years, reaching (probably) its maximum size in 2015.
This winter, we finally got a little clarity (though only a little). Four of these shortstops changed teams this winter, all via trade. At least two permanently moved on from being shortstops. From here on out, the careers of these seven (or eight) players with so much in common might seem thoroughly disparate, even though (perhaps most remarkably, of all the interesting things about them) their paths to this point in their careers have often crossed—and in some cases, have even altered one another. Thus, I want to take a moment to consider their respective situations, weigh them against each other, and revel in the entropy that defines baseball, an entropy this group embodies as well as anyone.
A look at the movement at the top of the all-time catching leaderboards.
Last week, Baseball Prospectus debuted expanded catcher statistics in an all-day festival immortalized forever as Catchella. We have long known that catcher defense, particularly pitch framing—we will not be referring to it as “presentation” whatever your preferences, players—is hugely important in assessing a catcher’s value. With framing data going back to 1988, and blocking and throwing data going back to 1950, we have a wealth of new information to sort through and analyze to help understand exactly how much those skills affect the game. The totality of that analysis will take time, but as we start to unpack this treasure chest, a few interesting tidbits emerge.
Everything has a price, including personal shortcomings, in the game of baseball.
This piece isn’t really about domestic violence. Nor is it ultimately about Aroldis Chapman, although the erstwhile Red is one of its central characters. When the Reds traded Chapman to the Yankees for prospects and the privilege of not having to deal with his domestic violence investigation any further, it became clear that the edges of baseball’s free market were brushing up against baseball’s humanity in a way as interesting as it was alarming. So this piece is about the opportunities baseball seeks, and the prices we pay for them.
“We run out of time at some point.” When David Ortiz announced on The Players Tribune his intention to retire at the end of the 2016 season, it became obvious that Opening Day won’t just mark the beginning of Big Papi’s last campaign; it will launch a retirement tour.
The Astros manager makes three big pitching decisions, and they all work out.
Heading into this year's edition of the American League Wild Card Game, you had to appreciate that the upstart Astros' first postseason opponents were the Yankees, the team that for much of the past two decades has served as the American League's gatekeeper; the narratives about new versus old spread themselves. Another contrast you had to appreciate was the out-of-style starting-pitcher matchup. On the eve of Jake Arrieta and Gerrit Cole trading flame-emoji heaters, the Astros and Yankees started two pitchers who in the game combined for one pitch clocked above 95 mph, according to PITCHf/x data.
Yogi Berra will be remembered for his sayings, but his incredible career speaks for itself.
James Smyth is the sports researcher for Yankees broadcasts on the YES Network. More of his writing can be found here.
The death of Yogi Berra has brought a wave of retrospectives about his incredible life. His on-field accomplishments were often overshadowed by his personality and his many memorable quotations, but he had one of the greatest careers in the history of the game. Let’s take a closer look at a few things that made this unparalleled winner so special.
Yogi’s Tremendous Prime
Yogi’s finest seasons were in the seven-year stretch from 1950-56. He hit .295/.364/.502, giving him an OPS+ of 134, and trailing only Stan Musial, Duke Snider, Mickey Mantle and Ted Kluszewski for slash line superlativeness during that stretch. That he was this middle-of-the-order mainstay all while handling his duties behind the plate make this all the more remarkable, and led to a still-unmatched run of dominance in MVP voting. Here are Berra’s finishes in the American League Most Valuable Player voting over this span: