The tater trots for June 20: John Buck tries to injure his way to the top of the list, Big Papi races him, and an inside-the-parker from Ryan Roberts.
In yesterday's post, I almost made a comment about the heat wave affecting so much of the country and how it didn't seem to be causing any more home runs. Boy, I should learn to keep my mental mouth shut. On Wednesday, when it seems the heat got worse for so many people, there were 42 home runs hit across the league. In three of the four early games—Braves at Yankees, Mariners at Diamondbacks, and Blue Jays at Brewers—there were a combined 22 home runs. The Marlins and Red Sox add six more in Boston.
Which NL starters are off to a worse start than the Angels' not-yet-sluggy first baseman?
On Wednesday, I examined a half-dozen American League hitters who are off to chillier starts than even Albert Pujols in an attempt to shine a light on a handful of developing stories centered around underperforming players. Of course, none of those hitters has the track record or the job security of the Angels' newest marquee attraction; neither do seven billion other people on Earth. In other words, they're a wee bit more likely to find themselves riding the pine or worse if they continue to flounder, and at the very least, their small-sample struggles—and for this the threshold is 70 plate appearances, not long enough for any key hitter statistic to stabilize—are worth your attention.
Pinpointing the positions with the worst projections on this season's likely contending clubs.
Every year, several teams finish out of the playoffs by a handful of games, close enough to taste October but just as ineligible for post-season play as the lowliest of last-place finishers. Last season, the Red Sox and Braves were both eliminated on the season’s final day after watching what had seemed to be safe leads evaporate. Since a one-game swing for either team would have meant a much different outcome, it was tempting to look back and wonder where in the lineup they could have eked out an extra victory.
As Jay Jaffenoted in January, right field proved to be a particular weak point for both teams. Braves right fielder Jason Heyward slumped to a .254 True Average (TAv) in an injury-plagued sophomore season, and his replacements—primarily Eric Hinske, Joe Mather, and Jose Constanza—hit only .252/.294/.346 in his absence. In Boston, J.D. Drew added a 60-day DL stint for a left shoulder impingement to his lengthy injury history and hit just .222/.315/.302 when active. His replacements—mainly Josh Reddick, Darnell McDonald, and Mike Cameron—made Heyward’s look good, mustering only a .234/.282/.377 line. As a result, Braves right fielders accumulated 0.6 WARP, and Red Sox right fielders checked in at 1.3 WARP. It’s reasonable to wonder whether both teams would have made the playoffs with even average (roughly 2.0 WARP) production in right.
Tattoo afficionado Ryan Roberts has helped to spark the Diamondbacks' lineup this season.
When Ryan Roberts came to bat with the bases loaded, two outs, and the Los Angeles Dodgers leading by three in the 10th inning of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ penultimate game of the regular season, the energy at Chase Field was high, even though the stakes were low. The NL West crown had long been clinched, and home-field advantage in the NLDS was only possible for the Diamondbacks if the Brewers lost their game the next day. Yet Roberts’ grand slam—which capped an historic six-run rally that began with two outs, nobody on, and a win-probabilityofoneinathousand—put a cherry on top of a remarkable regular season that would have seemed incomplete without it.
Arizona inked Roberts as a minor-league free agent in November 2008, after he spent five years in the Toronto Blue Jays’ farm system and another in Triple-A for the Texas Rangers. An 18th-round pick out of University of Texas-Arlington in 2003, Roberts was never regarded as a top prospect, and instead emerged as a sleeper with the potential to be an above-average hitter and play multiple positions. Still, the Jays and Rangers were only able to serve Roberts brief cups of coffee between 2006-2008, during which he went 2-for-27 with 12 strikeouts.
The tater trots for September 27: Prince Fielder's trio of taters, Ryan Roberts' walkoff, Rickie Weeks' massive bomb, Conor Gillaspie's "inside the parker", and many more.
Tuesday was the second-to-last day of the season and, not only were we overflowing with things to talk about around the league (Rays/Sox, Cards/Braves, etc.), we were also overflowing with things to talk about here at the Tater Trot Tracker. Of course, 44 home runs in one night will do that, game #16 or game #161.
With All-Star selection around the corner, the BP staff fills out their ballots for who deserves to start in the Midsummer Classic.
It’s July, and that means another All-Star Game, one which—we might as well get this out of the way now—won’t be as exciting as those wonderful old All-Star Games when important things happened, like Ted Williams breaking his elbow and Dizzy Dean breaking a toe (Williams said he was never the same hitter; Dean destroyed his arm with altered mechanics) and Ray Fosse getting run over because damn it, Pete Rose just had to win an exhibition game.
(It is at times like these that I like to recall Mickey Mantle’s immortal words on the subject of Rose: “If I had played my career hitting singles like Pete, I’d wear a dress.”)
The standings out West have an odd look to them, as the losers are suddenly becoming winners.
If you weren't previously aware of the weirdness in the American and National Leagues' West divisions, the long weekend provided ample opportunity to take note of the ascendance of two teams that combined to lose 198 games last year. The Yankees pulled into Seattle with the AL's second-best record, and while they held their own against the one-two punch of Michael Pineda and Felix Hernandez, the Mariners clawed away at the Yankees' bullpen and took two out of three games. In doing so, they climbed above .500 for the first time since April 3, when they were 2-1, and finished Memorial Day just 1.5 games out of first place. Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks pulled into first place in the NL West on Sunday, thanks to a well-timed streak in which they won 13 out of 14 games while their division rivals fell apart. Obviously, neither team figured to be in this position even one-third of the way into the season. The question is whether they can continue to factor into their divisions’ free-for-alls.
Do early-season phenoms fade once the rest of the league learns to stop giving them pitches to hit?
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.
How Jamie Moyer learned to stop worrying and love the bomb.
On May 6, Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Robertspassed away. Many nice things were said upon his shuffling off this mortal coil—staff leader of the 1950 "Whiz Kids," active in the formation of the players' union, all-around stand-up guy. But the most distinctive number attached to his 19-year big-league career was his 505 home runs allowed, the all-time record. Those dingers didn't stop Roberts from racking up 286 wins with a 3.41 ERA, a 113 ERA+, and 82.0 WARP, good enough to earn him a bronze plaque in Cooperstown in relatively short order.
With Opening Day a little more than a week away, here is a look at the projected rosters for each of the 16 National League clubs following conversations with club executives and media members. Keep in mind these are projected rosters and subject to change. American League lineups are here. You can also look at the fantasy depth charts at any time to see our latest updated projections.