As the end of Jason Heyward's free agency approaches, we look at the anti-Heyward arguments that managers and execs are surprisingly attached to.
Jason Heyward will sign somewhere soon. If you’re reading this, it hasn’t happened yet, but soon it will. When he signs, be it with the Cubs, the Cardinals, the Nationals, or the Angels, it will be for a ton of money. Heyward seems poised to get somewhere around $200 million on an eight- or nine-year deal, and it would be a surprise if it weren’t more, absent at least one opt-out clause.
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Diamondbacks interested in Yovani Gallardo
The desert was ripe with rumors over the weekend, one that came to fruition and others that might take time to unfold. After exporting Jeremy Hellickson to Philadelphia, the D’backs are said to be in the market for free-agent pitchers, but it’s not yet clear which starters could fit into general manager Dave Stewart’s budget.
How Matt Carpenter kept his signature skill from being a weakness.
Just over a year ago, Rob Arthur put together a series on plate discipline in which he used integrated probabilistic models to evaluate batters’ decisions to take pitches. It’s well worth going back to read in full, but for our purposes, I offer the nugget that I would remember most often throughout the 2015 season: Rob’s model found that Matt Carpenter was one of the 10 or so worst hitters in baseball at deriving value from taking pitches. That confused even Rob, who wrote, “Carpenter walks plenty, has good plate discipline statistics, and yet gains little value, at least on average, by taking pitches.”
Now, Carpenter took a ton of pitches during the period of that study, so though he wasn’t getting much from each individual take, he racked up plenty of value simply by taking a very, very patient approach. Still, Rob’s model had found something significant. Maybe Carpenter’s approach was too simplistic, or too passive. One way or another, in terms of leveraging each decision not to swing into added probability of the at-bat ending well, Carpenter was missing something.
A knock-down season series carries over into the postseason, as the more talented Cubs face the more experienced Cardinals.
The Cubs knocked Pirates ace Gerrit Cole out of the Wild Card game after just five innings, while their own dominating ace did what he’s done for months: Dominated. They now head to St. Louis for their first ever playoff clash with their arch-rivals.
Mets muster up some runs, but miss out on a chance to climb closer to first place.
The Wednesday Takeaway
The Mets have had an up-and-down July after a terrible June. They had put together some good games entering Wednesday's series finale against the NL East-leading Nationals, winning six of their previous 10 games. Their playoff odds had risen from 25 percent in the beginning of July to 39 percent after Tuesday's win against the Nationals.
That's a pun because this article is about Matt Holliday's injury and the possible end of the Cardinals' run of offense
From 2011 through 2013, four Cardinals qualified for the batting title with an OPS+ north of 120 each year. They were the first NL team since the 1975–77 Reds to manage that for three consecutive seasons. Impressively, too, they did so without perfect (or even significant) stability among that core of their lineup. In 2011, the four guys who met these criteria were Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Yadier Molina, and Matt Holliday. In 2012, five guys did it: Allen Craig, David Freese, Carlos Beltran, Holliday, and Molina. In 2013, there were five again: Beltran, Craig, Holliday, Molina, and Matt Carpenter.
After a down year for the entire offense in 2014, in which Holliday was the only qualifying hitter with at least a 120 OPS+, the 2015 Cardinals are back in the saddle. This time, the four qualifiers meeting our criteria are: Carpenter, Holliday, Jhonny Peralta, and Kolten Wong. For much of the last two weeks, Wong, Carpenter, Holliday, and Peralta have batted first through fourth in the Cardinals' batting order.
While the boxers were holding their punches this weekend, the Cardinals and Pirates slugged each other into exhaustion.
Since the start of the 2011 season, the St. Louis Cardinals have won two NL Central titles, but reached the playoffs all four seasons (and they’re off to a blazing start that gives them a very good chance of extending that streak). It’s not quite fair to say that they’ve dominated the division—their two wins have been narrow, by five combined games, whereas they lagged well behind the Brewers and Reds in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Still, there’s no question the Cardinals are the dominant power of the group.
To wit, they have steamrolled three of their four (and for two seasons, four of their five) divisional foes in head-to-head matchups over the last four-plus seasons. Here are the records of those encounters:
The incredible rise of Jake Marisnick, the Cardinals long and difficult sweep, Addison Russell's first bomp, and the best defensive play of the weekend.
The Weekend Takeaway
Is this the season that the #process finally pays off for the Astros? The odds still aren’t fantastic—40.6 percent adjusted odds to make the playoffs, as of Sunday—but they’re sure as heck better than they were at the beginning of the season, and they’ve shot up 25 percentage points since last Saturday.
Lance Lynn has one of the lowest Takeoff Rates in baseball. Credit him, not just his catcher.
For as unpredictable as April was—the Mets and Astros are in first place! A.J. Pierzynski is out-hitting Mike Trout! Devon Travis is the runaway favorite for Rookie of the Year!—it's refreshing and, in a sense, validating that some things we held as near-facts remained true. Take Lance Lynn.
What separates the Cardinals and the Cubs? So far this year, it's been catching baseballs.
This piece originally appeared on BP Wrigleyville, Baseball Prospectus' local site for all your Cubs needs. And be sure to visit BP Boston and BP Bronx for Red Sox and Yankees analysis as well.
The St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs are the two most serious contenders for the NL Central title. If that wasn’t apparent coming into the season, the Pirates’ early unsteadiness should throw it into relief. While the Cardinals are the heavy favorites—as of Monday morning, the Playoff Odds report gives them a 59.3-percent chance to win the division, more than double that of the Cubs—the Cubs have a lot going for them, too. Their long-awaited offensive metamorphosis is matriculating from tantalizing possibility to tangible reality: they have the second-best OBP, second-best walk rate, and tied for the most pitches seen per plate appearance in the NL. They also have more pitching depth than any Cubs team in recent memory, though that depth has been tested by an early spate of injuries.