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Ben and Sam answers listener questions about catcher framing, a very unusual reliever, and cautionary MRIs.



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August 23, 2012 5:00 am

Prospect Profile: Bruce Rondon

9

Hudson Belinsky

The next hard-throwing right-handed Tigers reliever has made great strides this season and isn't far from Detroit.

Bruce Rondon entered professional baseball in 2008 as a member of the Detroit Tigers’ Venezuelan Summer League club. At the time, he was just another kid, a 17-year-old with a fastball that sat in the high 80s and low 90s and a fringy slider. He struggled to command his pitches and, as a result, spent all of 2008 and most of 2009 in the VSL. In 2010, his velocity ticked up and his slider became an average offering, helping him build some steam as a prospect. By 2011, Rondon had a fastball that consistently received grades of 75 and 80 from scouts.

Not surprisingly, scouts and player development officials really like Rondon. While some envision him as a future closer waiting for the right opportunity, others liken him to a former Tigers flamethrower who excelled in a setup role. “He’s pretty similar to a guy they had a few years ago, Joel Zumaya,” one scout opined. Rondon is a classic fastball/slider pitcher, but his ability to harness triple-digit velocity makes him stand out. “The stuff is all there,” the scout added. “He just needs to show better command.”

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June 20, 2012 5:00 am

The Platoon Advantage: Venting About Bullpen Woes

1

Cee Angi

Fredi Gonzalez's bullpen usage has had a major overhaul, but one reliever is resisting the change.

Fredi Gonzalez swore he would change, and he has. Dusty Baker never learned to love Mark Bellhorn, and Joe Torre never became a young player’s manager, but Gonzalez took the bullpen pedal off the floor. The Braves' manager started the 2011 season racing his bullpen around every turn, and by September the team was left with bald tires and in need of a pit-stop just sort of the finish line, blowing an eight-game lead to lose the wild card to the St. Louis Cardinals. It was the biggest collapse in National League history. When the season ended, Gonzalez promised that next year would be different, and he changed… but perhaps he isn’t the only Brave who needs to adjust his strategy.

Gonzalez’s mantra in early 2011 was win early and win often, seemingly viewing nearly every game as an opportunity to use one of his big relievers Jonny Venters, Eric O’Flaherty, and closer Craig Kimbrel—a three-headed, three-armed force of despair and dashed hopes for a comeback. If the Vikings sacked villages and carried off its riches, the VOK-ings sacked opposing hitters and carried off their manhoods. Gonzalez went to them even if the situation didn’t follow the conventional wisdom as to when a manager should deploy his best relievers. This resulted in an unrealistically heavy workload for the trio, with the number of one-run games the Braves had in the first half (24) only serving to exacerbate an-already unrealistic pace for the pitchers.

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May 16, 2012 3:00 am

Collateral Damage Daily: Wednesday, May 16

2

Corey Dawkins

The Dodgers lose their center fielder, and the Yankees lose their closer.

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Casey McGehee could prove to be a valuable pickup for the Pirates.

As spring training approaches, almost every player looking for a bounce-back season claims to be in the best shape of his life. Pirates infielder Casey McGehee is no exception; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Bill Brink tweeted on Thursday that the first-year Bucco has lost nearly 25 pounds and “cut [his] body fat in half.” The premise may be as clichéd as any in baseball, but there is reason to believe that McGehee is not whistlin’ Dixie.

The 29-year-old McGehee will begin the 2012 season with his third NL Central organization in the last five years. A 10th-round pick of the Cubs in 2003, he was claimed off waivers by the Brewers after a cup of coffee in 2008, and unexpectedly took off when handed the keys to the third-base job midway through the next season. McGehee hit .301/.360/.499 in his first year with Milwaukee, then followed that up with a .285/.337/.464 campaign in 2010, contributing 2.0 and 2.6 WARP in those seasons, respectively. But the wheels came off last year, and he was traded to the Pirates for reliever Jose Veras in December.

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You might not know it from watching the World Series, but it often makes sense for a manager to pinch hit for his starter before the late innings.

Believe it or not, most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.

Mitchel Lichtman, or MGL, has been doing sabermetric research and writing for over 20 years. He is one of the authors of The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball, and co-hosts The Book blog, www.insidethebook.com. He consulted for the St. Louis Cardinals from 2004 to 2006, as well as other major-league teams. He holds a B.A. from Cornell University and a J.D. from the University of Nevada Boyd School of Law. Most of the time these days you can find him on the golf course.


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Tom Tango returns to answer your first batch of questions from last week.

Believe it or not, most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.

You asked, he answered. Below are the first batch of responses to the questions BP readers submitted for sabermetrician Tom Tango. All questions are presented in their original form.

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January 25, 2010 12:26 pm

Baseball Therapy: Profiling a Manager, Part 2

23

Russell A. Carleton

Adventures in the anti-save and keeping games close late.

Your team has a bit of a problem. Namely, it’s the eighth inning and you are behind by two runs as you take the field to play defense. Worse, your starter is tired and you need to make a call to the bullpen. The question now is whom you should summon. After all, bringing a pitcher in now affects his availability for tomorrow. Should you bring in your ace set-up reliever, try to keep the deficit at two, and hope your offense can come back? Should you bring in the lesser reliever, figuring there’s no use wasting such a valuable resource on a game that, more likely than not, you will lose? Decisions, decisions.

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December 6, 2009 12:38 pm

On the Beat: Pre-Winter Meetings Shopping Lists

9

John Perrotto

'Tis the season for who needs what at what price, and poor-mouthing high and low, as the industry heads for Indy.

INDIANAPOLIS-Since it's the time of year to make a list and check it twice, all 30 major-league general managers are in the spirit. Not the spirit of the holidays, but the spirit of baseball's annual Winter Meetings, which begin here Monday. As GMs begin to converge on Indy today, all of them have wish lists, some longer than others. In order to fill those lists, though, they might have to give something up in return. With that in mind, here is a look at where all 30 teams stand on the eve of the winter meetings:

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If you're unfamiliar with how BP evaluates relievers, Derek's ready to make an introduction or two.

Welcome back to Prospectus Toolbox. I spent the first two editions talking about the replacement level, focusing on two stats-VORP and WARP-primarily as they apply to position players. Both statistics can be and are also used to measure pitching performance, and while this time out we're going to focus on pitching metrics, we'll be particularly looking at the ones that deal with relief pitchers.

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October 5, 2006 12:00 am

Prospectus Today: Division Series, Day Two

0

Joe Sheehan

The Play is the talk of the water coolers, but plenty of other things happened on an abbreviated second day.

\nMathematically, leverage is based on the win expectancy work done by Keith Woolner in BP 2005, and is defined as the change in the probability of winning the game from scoring (or allowing) one additional run in the current game situation divided by the change in probability from scoring\n(or allowing) one run at the start of the game.'; xxxpxxxxx1160071649_18 = 'Adjusted Pitcher Wins. Thorn and Palmers method for calculating a starters value in wins. Included for comparison with SNVA. APW values here calculated using runs instead of earned runs.'; xxxpxxxxx1160071649_19 = 'Support Neutral Lineup-adjusted Value Added (SNVA adjusted for the MLVr of batters faced) per game pitched.'; xxxpxxxxx1160071649_20 = 'The number of double play opportunities (defined as less than two outs with runner(s) on first, first and second, or first second and third).'; xxxpxxxxx1160071649_21 = 'The percentage of double play opportunities turned into actual double plays by a pitcher or hitter.'; xxxpxxxxx1160071649_22 = 'Winning percentage. For teams, Win% is determined by dividing wins by games played. For pitchers, Win% is determined by dividing wins by total decisions. '; xxxpxxxxx1160071649_23 = 'Expected winning percentage for the pitcher, based on how often\na pitcher with the same innings pitched and runs allowed in each individual\ngame earned a win or loss historically in the modern era (1972-present).'; xxxpxxxxx1160071649_24 = 'Attrition Rate is the percent chance that a hitters plate appearances or a pitchers opposing batters faced will decrease by at least 50% relative to his Baseline playing time forecast. Although it is generally a good indicator of the risk of injury, Attrition Rate will also capture seasons in which his playing time decreases due to poor performance or managerial decisions. '; xxxpxxxxx1160071649_25 = 'Batting average (hitters) or batting average allowed (pitchers).'; xxxpxxxxx1160071649_26 = 'Average number of pitches per start.'; xxxpxxxxx1160071649_27 = 'Average Pitcher Abuse Points per game started.'; xxxpxxxxx1160071649_28 = 'Singles or singles allowed.'; xxxpxxxxx1160071649_29 = 'Batting average; hits divided by at-bats.'; xxxpxxxxx1160071649_30 = 'Percentage of pitches thrown for balls.'; xxxpxxxxx1160071649_31 = 'The Baseline forecast, although it does not appear here, is a crucial intermediate step in creating a players forecast. The Baseline developed based on the players previous three seasons of performance. Both major league and (translated) minor league performances are considered.

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December 20, 2005 12:00 am

Class of 2006

0

Jay Jaffe

Jay finishes off the 2006 Hall of Fame ballot with a look at eligible relief pitchers.

If this specialist, called a closer, is successful--and for the most part, such success is as attainable as that for an NFL placekicker--he collects a statistical cookie called a save (mmm, cookie) and is exalted by the media. Meanwhile the closer's fireman predecessors, who often pitched two or three frames at a clip and entered when the score was tied or (heaven forbid) tilted in the other team's favor, receive little love from the Hall of Fame electorate, which has trained itself to value an 80-inning/40-save season more highly than the 110-inning/25-save ones of that bygone era.

We shouldn't be fooled by high save totals; it's the runs that matter, and due to the limited innings they throw, the Davenport numbers tell us that it's nearly impossible for the best late-model relievers to be more valuable than the best everyday players or starting pitchers. Annual Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP3) totals above 10.0 are common for elite players at their peaks, but the best relievers--of either variety--top 8.0 only in a rare Mariano Rivera/Eric Gagne-caliber year. The three enshrined relievers (Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, and Dennis Eckersley) have a combined two seasons above 8.0 as relievers (Eck topped 8.0 twice as a starter).

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