Catchers can't throw anyone out anymore. Why is that, and should we be worried?
At the end of May, Rob Neyer wrote a piece about baseball’s ever-rising strikeout rate, which reached yet another new high this season. In that piece, he called Ernesto Frieri a canary in a coal mine—the coal mine, in this case, being the major leagues, and the toxic substance being strikeouts. Instead of keeling over in his cage, Frieri had started striking out everyone: when that piece was published, he’d struck out 23 batters in his previous 11 innings, without allowing a hit. For some, Frieri’s feat was just kind of cool. For Neyer, it was the latest reminder of a creeping strikeout menace that has already proved harmful to the health of the game. You can disagree with Neyer’s stance on the trend toward more strikeouts—Sam Miller and I did, on our podcast in September—but you can’t deny that the trend is there. Frieri is the face of it for Neyer; probably some other pitcher is the face of it for you.* It has many possible faces, which was precisely Neyer’s point. Ten years ago, there were 26 relievers who pitched at least 50 innings with at least as many strikeouts; this year, there were 61.
*The face of it for me was Jason Grilli, who struck out 1.5 batters per inning after striking out half a batter per inning six years ago.
This year's Pirates haven't crumbled like last year's Pirates, and the reasons why start with team defense.
With a 7-6 win over the Diamondbacks on Wednesday night, the Pirates ran their record to 63-47, pulling within 2 ½ games of Cincinnati in the NL Central. They remain tied with Atlanta atop the NL Wild Card standings. If the season ended today, the Pirates would be a playoff team. That’s not something we’ve been able to say very often after April in the last 20 years.
Last year at this time, the Pirates were in mid-free fall, fresh off a 10-game losing streak that put them under .500 for good. This year, that collapse isn’t coming. Pittsburgh’s 2011 team had a -39 run differential on this date last season, but this year’s edition has outscored its opponents by 35 runs. The Pirates haven’t played as well as their record would indicate, which explains why their playoff odds still sit below 60 percent. But even if their two-decade postseason appearance drought does go on a little longer, their streak of consecutive sub-.500 seasons is about to end.
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The Hot Stove season is in full swing, and middle infielders with fantasy impact are on the move.
Welcome to yet another week of Hot Spots' coverage of the offseason. As more moves pour in, the staff here at BP Fantasy is going to be covering the moves for you with an eye towards fantasy production. Let's go over some of this week's moves.
Placed RHP Vicente Padilla on the 15-day DL (bulging disk - neck), retroactive to 8/16; recalled RHP Travis Schlichting from Albuquerque (Triple-A). [8/20]
Activated LF-R Manny Ramirez from the 15-day DL; designated INF-R Juan Castro for assignment. [8/21]
Placed RHP Travis Schlichting on the 15-day DL (shoulder); activated RHP Jeff Weaver from the 15-day DL; claimed C-R Rod Barajas from the Mets off waivers. [8/22]
Activated C-R Rod Barajas; optioned C-R A.J. Ellis to Albuquerque. [8/24]
Noted the loss of LF-R Manny Ramirez on a waiver claim by the White Sox; recalled RHP Ramon Troncoso from Albuquerque. [8/30]
Activated RHP Vicente Padilla and SS-S Rafael Furcal from the 15-day DL; recalled C-R A.J. Ellis from Albuquerque. [9/3]
Recalled RHPs John Ely and Jon Link and MI-R Chin-lung Hu from Albuquerque; purchased the contracts of 1B-R John Lindsey and UT-R Russ Mitchell from Albuquerque; transferred C-R Russell Martin from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [9/6]
Purchased the contract of OF-L Trent Oeltjen from Albuquerque; designated INF-R Ronnie Belliard for assignment. [9/7]
Released INF-R Ronnie Belliard. [9/9]
Traded RHP Octavio Dotel to the Rockies for a PTBNL. [9/18]
Traded OF-R Preston Mattingly to the Indians for OF-L Roman Pena. [9/26]
Here are some of the select few players who have amassed a very high slugging percentage while compiling a very low on-base percentage.
Last weekend, I posted a few trivia questions on Twitter, the type that anyone could look up but which would be more fun to answer without the help of a statistics site. The one that went unanswered for a longer than expected period of time involved naming the only National League hitter who, at the time, had 100 or more plate appearances, a slugging percentage above .500, but an on-base percentage south of .300. Forgive the slight tangent, but we need to come up with the OBP version of batting average’s Mendoza Line. Would the “Jacobs Line” work?
Anywho, the answer was none other than Mets legend Rod Barajas. On June 5, Barajas boasted a .261/.283/.529 slash line, displaying plenty of power while rarely reaching base. As of June 9, the catcher’s numbers sat at .261/.282/.521, with 11 home runs and four walks. Four. That isn’t a typo. His odd slash line got me wondering about how often a player finishes a season as a member of the .300/.500 club, while receiving a decent amount of playing time. Players with such poor rates of reaching base are unlikely to remain in the lineup for an entire season, but if they can absolutely mash, 400 or more trips to the plate isn’t exactly out of the question.
Johan versus Livan in Citi Field in a grudge match of sorts.
Unhappy chance puts me in New York now instead of Chicago tomorrow to see the Cubs' home opener, but the usual formula for what to do with lemons applies in the Empire State as much as the Land of Lincoln. Today's game in Flushing gave me a shot to see Citi Field for the first time, with a chance to see Johan Santana on the mound, Jim Riggleman steer a patchwork roster, and Jose Reyes play in his second game since his activation from the DL.
Give us your poor, your huddled Quad-A sluggers, yearning to be big leaguers.
I want to share a very personal fantasy with you, something I think about only late at night when no one else is awake. My fantasy is that in this year's annual, under Rod Barajas it will say, "See Miguel Olivo," and under Miguel Olivo it will say, "See Rod Barajas."
Jonah enlists former BPer Derek Zumsteg to help him find choice seating at Safeco Field. Oh, and the Mariners lost again.
DH David Dellucci
SS Michael Young
1B Mark Teixeira
3B Hank Blalock
2B Alfonso Soriano
LF Kevin Mench
CF Laynce Nix
RF Richard Hidalgo
C Rod Barajas
The Rangers rank third in the majors in runs scored per game, just
behind the Yankees and Red Sox. Yes, Ameriquest Field's batter's park factor of
111 is the most hitter-friendly in the AL, 2nd in MLB. But that fact
can't obscure the great seasons being forged by several Rangers hitters.
According to Baseball Prospectus' new Sortable
Stats feature, six of the top 30 hitters in the AL as ranked by
VORP are Rangers. While you might expect big seasons out of corner infield
stars Hank Blalock and Mark Teixeira, the emergence of Kevin Mench (.309
EqA) and the out-of-nowhere explosion of David
EqA) have supercharged what already looked like a formidable lineup
heading into the '05 season. It's Dellucci that gets the party started
Texas on this night, crushing the second pitch of the game from
Aaron Sele for a near upper-deck homer.