On the fifth episode of DFA, Bryan and R.J. talk about the end of Ryan Howard's career, what made him an interesting player, and how history will remember the powerful slugger. Then it's on to Justin Marks and the Dodgers' "type" of pitcher, minor moves that stick with you, and a full transaction roundup.
It's Baseball Prospectus's newest podcast: DFA! Host Bryan Grosnick (Baseball Prospectus), co-host R.J. Anderson (CBS Sports), and producer Shawn Brody (Beyond the Box Score, BP Mets) are talking about all the transactions and roster moves that make MLB go. From trades and signings to callups and disabled list stints, DFA is here to provide analysis and commentary on all things baseball.
On the fifth episode of DFA, Bryan and R.J. talk about Ryan Howard's release from the Braves' Triple-A affiliate, and the (likely) end of his major-league career. (Bryan also wrote an expanded article about Howard for a Liner Notes column today!) Then R.J. brings up Justin Marks and how the Dodgers are chasing a very specific style of pitcher, and the guys reflect on some minor moves of years past that have stuck with them ... and Bryan goes a little too long on Athletics outfielder Mark Canha. Then it's off to the usual transaction roundup, where the Giants and Mariners continue to fall apart, and the Cubs may or may not be improving with the addition of Jeimer Candelario.
What do Ryan Howard, Derek Jeter, Lou Whitaker, Dill Dickey, and Bobby Doerr have in common?
This week Ryan Howard was released by the Braves after 11 unspectacular games for their Triple-A affiliate in Gwinnett. Some might consider this an inglorious, ignominious exit for a former MVP fallen on hard performance times, but I see it differently. I see it as a man so in love with baseball that he was willing to move on from the only franchise he’d ever played for, willing to toil away in Georgia for a Triple-A affiliate of a bad team with an All-World first baseman blocking him in the big leagues. It didn’t work out, but Howard’s story has (potentially) ended with him trying to do the thing he loved, and not for money or for glory. I like that about him.
You might want to let someone else gamble on these players in your fantasy drafts and auctions this spring.
First base is a very deep position, which affords fantasy owners plenty of opportunities to pad every offensive stat save for steals through their use. It also means that plays who whiff on their first base picks are automatically in a hole, an must make up for that lost ground elsewhere. Making up ground stinks, so be wary of these eight players.
Jose Abreu White Sox
This comes with a caveat, I’m not saying Jose Abreu will be a bust, but at a position like 1B, you have to get the production levels right. We don’t know what Jose Abreu will be in 2014; all we have are some reports and memories of his performance in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. In deeper leagues he’s worth a shot, but in a standard 5x5 league, there’s too much risk here to pursue him aggressively. Sure, sometimes a gamble like this can pay off like Yoenis Cespedes did, but I would strongly advise against taking a huge gamble at a position that produces at the level 1B does. —Mauricio Rubio
The Phillies can survive Ryan Howard's contract, but can they survive the GM who gave it to him?
Some baseball teams are disappointing by strange twists of fate. Some are disappointing by design. Not because they’re designed to perform poorly (although that happens, too), but because they’re given expectations contrary to reality, and when reality diverges from expectations, they continue to cling to the expectations.
The 2013 Phillies are a team modestly below .500. Given a preseason forecast of a basically .500 team, this shouldn’t be a terrible shock—baseball is a game filled with randomness, after all. But to view the Phillies as a real disappointment requires you to compare them to their run of excellence from 2007 through 2011, rather than the team they are now. General manager Ruben Amaro’s expectations, then, seem weirdly out of date, in more ways than one. When asked about the player who will most likely define Amaro’s career as a GM, he responded succinctly:
Is Ryan Howard clutch because he's clutch, clutch because of how teams play him, or just plain lucky?
Buzz Hannahan was inserted as a pinch runner for Wooten. The Bisons brought in ace lefty Cliff Bartosh to face cleanup hitter Ryan Howard. The Red Barons' first baseman delivered a clutch hit - a towering ground rule double that bounced over the center field fence. —August 6th, 2004
Miami's outfielder is attempting to accomplish a feat few others can claim.
Justin Ruggiano is having one of the league’s most surprising seasons. He entered Sunday with 245 plate appearances, a .324 batting average, and strikeouts in 25.3 percent of his plate appearances. Intuitively, we all know striking out more than a quarter of the time makes it tough to be a productive hitter, and nearly impossible to post a high average. Yet Ruggiano is angling to join an exclusive club of players with more than 250 plate appearances in a season, a strikeout rate above 25 percent, and a batting average of .300 or better:
The tater trots for July 23 (and the weekend): Mike Napoli hits a bomb, Carlos Gonzalez takes a stroll, and Chase Utley edges out Josh Rutledge.
It's been a few days since the last Tater Trot Tracker post. And though I was able to time each trot over the weekend, I missed highlighting a few special home runs. The biggest homers of note came on Saturday, when Cole Hamels served up a home run to Matt Cain in the top of the third inning and then, in the bottom of the inning, Cain returned the favor to Hamels. It was the first time two starters had hit home runs in the same inning since 1990. Hamels, who had never hit a home run before, won the race between the two pitchers, besting Cain's 21.51 second trot with a 21.13 second trot of his own.
The Rays have been willing to experiment with unorthodox defensive alignments, but are they ready to move an infielder to the outfield?
In 2010, Baseball Info Solutions began recording instances of defensive shifts. In the Fielding Bible III, they presented some data from the last couple of years: the Rays emerged as the team using special alignments most frequently, with a huge margin separating them from the clubs ranked just behind them.
While watching some of the action in the Rays’ Opening Day game against the Yankees, I came to the conclusion that BIS video scouts would have an easier time if they inverted their approach and marked down the instances when Tampa Bay does not play shifted.
The defending NL East champs should gather their titles while they may, since the same Phillies that flower today tomorrow will be dying.
It’s been six seasons since the Phillies finished anywhere other than first in the National League East. Last year, they led the major leagues with 102 wins, their highest total during their recent run of success. Over the winter, they signed Jonathan Papelbon, the top closer available on the free agent market, and saw their jilted former closer, Ryan Madson, blow out his elbow before he could throw a meaningful pitch for a competitor. Their starting rotation will be headlined by Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels, who project to be three of the 15 most valuable pitchers in baseball. Their lineup will be bolstered by a full season from Hunter Pence. On the surface, most signs point to continued success. But the Phillies’ competitive window may be closing quickly.
There are four Phillies ranked between 51 and 100 on ESPN’s list of the top 500 players for 2012: Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Shane Victorino. It’s conceivable that none of those four will be both ranked in that range and in uniform for the Phillies in 2013. Howard was worth less than two wins in each of the past two seasons and finished 12th on his team in WARP last season, so he’s already out of place that high on the leaderboard. This could be the season his reputation starts to reflect his recent performance: Even after he recovers from the ruptured and subsequently infected Achilles tendon that could cost him the first two months, his on-field decline will likely accelerate at age 32.