Adam Wainwright is a exit-velo monster at the dish, Dallas Keuchel loses a streak, and Lorenzo Cain has a tough night.
The Monday Takeaway
For those who sought to go out on a limb with their World Series picks this spring, the Rangers represented an alluring dark horse. They were so alluring, in fact, that, at least in this neck of the woods, the horse in question wasn’t dark at all. Five BP’ers, including yours truly, pegged Texas to go all the way in 2016, giving Jeff Banister’s club more backing than any other except the Cubs.
The Rangers had plenty going for them as a tempting pennant pick. They’d have a full season of Cole Hamels. They sported a breakout candidate in Rougned Odor. They’d added a cheap, high-upside bat in Ian Desmond near the end of the offseason. And, beyond all that, the injury-ravaged 2015 outfit had managed to win 88 games and the American League West. But, while I can’t speak for my colleagues, the determining factor behind my preseason vote was the potential for internal reinforcements to greatly bolster the roster midyear.
On the persistent and insidious tough luck that Cole Hamels has pitched under.
The prevailing narrative surrounding Felix Hernandez is that he has been one of the great tough-luck pitchers of the modern era. King Felix. Felix the Great. Felix the Strong. Felix the Perpetually Let Down. Burdened with great talent and Mariners’ offenses that prominently featured Endy Chavez, the King’s reign would be recognized by many fans for the games during which Felix would pitch seven innings, give up one run, then sit helplessly on the bench as his team failed to do… much of anything.
What happens when the surest thing in baseball gets too old for an extension? If you aren't careful, things get weird.
Sometime three or four years ago, it seems like a lot of baseball fans had the same realization at the same time: “Wow, Adrian Beltre’s really good—even Hall of Fame-worthy. But nobody realizes this, so he’s going to miss the Hall of Fame when he comes up and we’re all going to riot.”
Fortunately—perhaps—for Beltre, public opinion corrected itself. Fortunately for us, Beltre’s tacked on a few more years of star-quality production for us to watch. When the Texas Rangers signed Beltre to a six-year, $96 million contract after an insane one-year stint in Boston in 2010, it looked like one of those veteran free agent deals where the team pays in extra years as well as in extra dollars. But entering the last year of that contract, his age-37 season, Beltre’s been superb—worth every dollar of that $96 million, and more.
No, really: The back of the Rangers rotation is bad, and Yu Darvish is good.
Yeah yeah, we all know how WAR(P) works: You take the number, you take the team wins, you add ‘em together, and then you’ve got your thing. The Rangers won 88 games last year. Yu Darvish, over 150 innings, projects to be worth 2.6 WARP. If everything else washes out—A full season of Cole Hamels, a healthy Derek Holland, the loss of Yovani Gallardo, a little regression in luck, Adrian Beltre’s a little older, but Rougned Odor is, too, and Ian Desmond plays well, while Jurickson Profar contributes somehow, but a little more regression in luck, offset by the improved back end of the bullpen—and you add Darvish’s 2.6 to that 88 and now Bill over in the Standings Department has to invest in a new 9.
Anticipating the disasters that will befall this year's rotations.
Each of the past two seasons, Sam Miller or I have done this fun bit of analysis that looks at which teams would fare best if they had to resort to their sixth and seventh starters (2014, 2015). Obviously, every GM needs to fill out the top five slots in his rotation, but that’s just the bare minimum. Over the course of the season, nearly two-thirds of teams will have two starters injured at the same time, meaning fans will get acquainted with sixth, seventh, and possibly even eighth and ninth starters.
As spring training ramps up, injuries are inevitable. So it makes sense for teams to assess their options now, just in case something goes awry before the real games start.
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When we take the weather into account for DRA, how big a swing are we talking about?
One of the most important components of DRA is the awareness of external factors on pitching performance. Obvious things like the parks each player is pitching in, and the defense behind him, clearly affect performance. So too, does temperature.
Derek Holland quite literally brings the heat. Sure, he threw a 94 mph fastball in 2015, but he also pitched in some of the highest average temperature games among all pitchers who recorded at least 162 outs last season. Holland started 10 games for the Rangers, the average temperature of which was over 81 degrees. That’s nearly 8 degrees warmer than the average gametime temperature last season.
Detroit's baserunning was a major contributor to the club's last-place finish. How they, and other AL teams, will look on the bases this year.
The 2015 Detroit Tigers won just 74 games, and that doesn’t happen to a team without significant flaws. A lot of things went wrong for them, from the prolonged absence of Miguel Cabrera to the catastrophic collapse of Victor Martinez, to yet another impossibly implosive bullpen.
If one thing most stood out about the Tigers, though, it was how old they played, especially offensively. It was back in 2013, when the team was running out (too generous a phrase, perhaps) Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter, Cabrera, and Martinez, that everyone worried the Tigers’ offense would sputter to a stop because of its key cogs’ old, heavy legs. In 2015, though, with Hunter and Fielder gone, it actually happened. Detroit basestealers succeeded at a clip of just 62 percent. They grounded into the most double plays of any team in baseball. They racked up -21.9 baserunning runs (BRR), according to our calculus the second-worst in the league. They batted .270/.328/.420, raw figures that ranked first, second, and fifth in the AL, respectively. They were second in team OPS+ and seventh in TAv in the AL, but they finished 10th in runs scored. Baseball Info Solutions estimated that the team created 736 runs, but they only scored 689. Some of that, to be sure, is just bad sequencing—bad luck. Surely, though, some of it also must be chalked up to their miserable baserunning.
A look back at what makes a good changeup, and a look ahead at who has the best ones.
A few years ago, Harry Pavlidis presented some research on what makes a good changeup (part 1, part 2). In the first part of Harry’s analysis, he identified a few key truths about changeups that I’ll include below for quick reference:
1. The faster a pitcher's fastball, the more likely he was to get whiffs with his changeup.
What Ivan Rodriguez really did do better than anybody ever did.
Much has been made of catcher framing, which can add or detract a dozen or more wins from a player’s career WARP. But this isn’t going to be a discussion about framing, or about how important it is to a player’s legacy and/or Hall of Fame candidacy. This is going to be a celebration of old school catcher evaluation. It’s going to be about the best all-time at the catch-and-throw. It’s going to be about the guy who was catching personified: Ivan Rodriguez.
Next offseason, Rodriguez will be eligible for the Hall of Fame, and much will be made of his ability, his reputation, and where he falls among all-time catchers. According to JAWS and the Hall of Stats, Rodriguez lands easily among the five best catchers of all time. It’s easy to see why. He was elected to 14 All Star games, won 13 Gold Gloves, has seven silver sluggers and an MVP award, and won a World Series ring.