Mike looks at the shaky situation in Minnesota and welcomes two high strikeout setup men to VP.
I spent my holiday weekend in the middle of the country, mainly driving from Ohio through Indiana to southern Illinois. If nothing else, I learned this: 80 percent of radio stations in that part of the country are, at any given time, carrying a St. Louis Cardinals game.Nothing at all wrong with that.
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A look at how the west is being won (and lost) through the first month-and-a-half of the season
It's been a brutal week in the AL West. On Saturday, the Rangers placed right fielder Nelson Cruz on the disabled list with a quad strain. On Wednesday, the Angels announced that first baseman Kendrys Morales would undergo season-ending surgery on his left ankle, this on top of his having already missed roughly two-thirds of last season after being injured in a post-walkoff home run celebration. That same day, the A's reported that starter Dallas Braden will need surgery to repair a torn shoulder capsule, quite likely a season-ender as well. Even the Mariners got into the black-and-blue bit, revealing that closer David Aardsmamay needTommy John surgery.
Building on Matt Swartz' recent analysis of ERA estimators, we look to see which are more accurate when there's little historical information to work with.
Last week Matt Swartz published an updated analysis of ERA estimators. He was kind enough to share his data so I could take a look at the accuracy of ERA estimators as a function of innings pitched. In other words, is there a difference in accuracy between the estimators given 100 historical innings pitched versus 500? (Hint: yes.)
We can measure a lot of things that happen while a pitcher is on the mound, but it takes a while for the real information to show itself. As we collect more data, the random noise is more likely it is to cancel itself out. For example, during any one season you'll see a lot of .270 BABIPs, but once we look at careers over five-season stretches, .270 BABIPs are few and far between.
Three AL teams have bolstered their bullpens this week, but what impact does that have for fantasy players?
It almost doesn't seem real (particularly if, like me, you live in the Northeast and have been suffering through something of a brutal winter), but pitchers and catchers are reporting in about a month. We've almost made it! Today, I'm going to focus on a few more relievers who've found new homes recently, but like my fellow Value Picks authors, I'd like to open it up to the readers for the next few weeks until camp starts. Is there a particular job battle that interests you? Wondering if that hot prospect is finally going to make his mark? Feel free to hit me up in the comments or via Twitter (@MikeSciosciasTI) and I'll be happy to accommodate as many requests as I can.
Before we start, last week I briefly touched upon the Tampa closer situation, as Kyle Farnsworth had signed with the Rays just before my article was complete. For a more complete look, be sure to check out BP newcomer Jason Collette's piece from yesterday, where he goes more in-depth at the various Tampa options.
For the last column of the season, we look at the surprise contributors of the 2010 season.
Last week, we went over the disappointments among starting pitchers in fantasy baseball. This week, we will turn those frowns upside down by looking at the surprise contributors that likely kept your team from hitting rock bottom.
J.A. Happ has pitched well since joining the Astros--is he someone you should be paying attention to?
When J.A. Happ was dealt to the Houston Astros earlier this season as one of the centerpieces in the Roy Oswalt deal, it was leaked that there were those in the Astros organization who thought Happ was a Cliff Lee type pitcher. Lee has been a dominating force and one of the most productive pitchers in baseball for the past three seasons, so it seemed an odd comparison to make, given Happ's track record in terms of his peripherals--he whiffs opponents around an average rate and walks too many hitters to post a quality K/BB like Lee does. Despite this, Happ has pitched well since the deal, posting an ERA of 3.21 while winning five of his eight starts for the 'Stros.
It seems there are two camps when it comes to Happ--the one that thinks he's a high quality pitcher as evidenced by his ERAs, and the one that thinks he is a league average hurler who has been lucky in terms of ERA. He has certainly given the former some ammunition this season, with a 2.86 ERA across 63 innings, but it's that number at the back that's important to remember--it's just 63 innings, and his peripherals do not support this ERA. Happ is striking out 6.9 hitters per nine, right at the league average for starting pitchers, while giving out unintentional free passes to 4.7 per nine. His K/BB is 1.4, well below the league average of 2.2, as well as nowhere near the realm of being able to support that ERA.
Ted Lilly's recent performances should give him a better payday, but where will he play next year?
When the Los Angeles Dodgers and starter Ted Lilly square off tonight against the Astros in Houston, very little will be at stake for either team. While the Padres’ recent freefall has allowed the surging Giants and Rockies to vault back into playoff contention, the struggling Dodgers’ team goals have been reduced to keeping players healthy, sorting out their options for 2011, and using the 12 remaining games against their more aspirational National League West rivals to play spoiler. Oh, and hopefully entertaining their paying customers more by their on-field exploits than the spectacle of their owners’ uncanny impersonations of Oliver and Barbara Rose.
A rundown of the starting pitchers from both leagues who have been just a tick below the level of greatness this season.
In addition to being a baseball nut, I consider myself to be a movie buff. I used to work somewhat in the field and just love taking breaks from reality to watch Schwarzennegger make silly puns after beatings, Lee J. Cobb make his patented scowl, or even the wide array of characters that Richard Jenkins and Stephen Tobolowsky can play with ease. While thinking of all the wonderful pitching performances that have been on display this year, these two passions collided, and I was taken back to the 1994 Academy Awards. In that year’s ceremony—technically, it was held in 1995 to honor the movies of 1994—the best picture went to Forrest Gump.
Upon further review, Kevin Brown's numbers reveal that he had a better career than credited.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article attempting to define the pitchers that best defined the most recent decade. The list certainly started a discussion as to the merits of some pitchers as well as one wondering about the lack of inclusion of others. This was the intended goal of the piece, as baseball memories are not developed in as confined a fashion as a decade, and so it was very possible that my list needed some tweaking. Merely as a way of framing the discussion, I offered that the starting pitchers who best defined the prior era of baseball could be grouped into a neat nonet: Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Kevin Brown. Interestingly enough, in the comments and in personal e-mails, it seemed that many wanted to steer the conversation toward this group, debating the merits of the last pitcher mentioned—Kevin Brown.
Brown doesn’t have the Hall of Fame resume of Maddux, Clemens, Pedro, or Unit. He doesn’t have the pedigree of a Glavine or the playoff mystiques of Schilling and Smoltz, and his win total pales in comparison to Mussina’s high tally. Put together, it is very easy to make a case that these eight, not nine, pitchers were the era’s best. Few produce Jim Halpert double-takes when reading those names, the same of which cannot be said for Brown. For various reasons, Brown just does not pass the smell test of many as far as being considered one of the best pitchers in baseball’s toughest era. While I do not necessarily think of him as worthy of being enshrined in Cooperstown, I did thoroughly enjoy watching him pitch while growing up. With that in mind, don’t think of this as comparable to Rich Lederer’s campaign to get Bert Blyleven into the Hall of Fame, but rather a reminder that Brown was a great pitcher for a long time.
The two best teams in baseball figure to take the American League East race to the wire.
After the Rays’ loss Thursday afternoon, the Yankees reclaimed first place in the American League East. The Yankees’ middling play over the last week and a half (5-5 in their last 10 games) opened the door for the Rays to make a run at first place. Tampa Bay, after all, has taken six out of 11 from the Yankees so far and has allowed the fewest runs in the American League. Does that mean we’re back to the days of bizarro baseball and small-market superiority?