Velasquez, who turns 24 in June, debuted with the Astros last year in a swingman capacity. He made seven starts and appeared 12 times in relief, racking up 58 strikeouts in 55 2/3 innings, a reflection of big-league-ready stuff. Chris Crawford wrote in our Transaction Analysis of the Giles trade, “At worst, Velasquez marks a strong central piece as a potential high-leverage reliever,” but the Phillies will let him start until he proves he can’t, and his ceiling could be substantially loftier than the late-inning floor.
The bottom of the Red Sox rotation has taken hits this spring. It's not for the best, but it might not be for the worst.
Last year’s Mets wouldn’t have made it to October, but for the good fortune of playing in one of the worst divisions of the Wild Card era. They were 90-72 overall, but 47-29 in the 76 games they played against the Nationals, Marlins, Braves and Phillies. They had a +69 run differential in those 76 games, and a +70 run differential overall. In other words, against the league beyond the NL East, the Mets were a .500 team, with a .500 team’s run differential.
That’s not intended as a poke at the Mets, of course. Indeed, having a strong record against one’s division rivals is not only a good way to win a lot of games (since the unbalanced schedule MLB uses these days includes 19 games against each member of the division), but the surest way to answer the question the regular season now seems meant to answer: Who is the best team in each division? There’s even something to be said for teams who win a high percentage of those games, because the sample size of each season series is so much larger than it is between any given team and an interdivisional opponent, so each series result probably implies something closer to a real expression of relative team quality.
Even though Encarnacion is on the “wrong” side of 30, he’s done nothing but improve his most valuable asset—his power hitting. In the 2015 season, he hit .277/.372/.557 with a TAv of .324 and 39 home runs, up from .268/.354/.547, .310 TAv and 34 a year earlier. He might be just another weapon in a fearsome Blue Jays lineup, but he'd be good enough to be the best hitter in a championship-quality offense.
A lot has changed in Toronto since their playoff run ended in October. Alex Anthopoulos has moved on to warmer places, David Price is taking the mound for Boston, and Ben Revere is suiting up for the Nats. The Jays have also made significant changes to the pitching staff, adding some desperately needed depth. While those additions are nice, they’re mostly window dressing, as the pitching is still only decent. Thankfully, the Jays only need mediocre pitching, because their hitters straight up mash.
The Blue Jays were a magnificent offensive team in 2015. We know it. You know it. Sam Dyson definitely knows it. But I don’t think many of us realized just how good Toronto’s hitters were last year. In addition to leading baseball in runs scored, the Jays led the league in HR, BB, SB%, TAv, and most other offensive statistics that you can think of. Basically, the offense could do it all. In order to fully visualize that, look no further than this fantastic tweet from Gideon Turk, which charts OBP against SLG.
Did this year's IBA voters really prefer the player we said they preferred in a tight race?
I love crowdsourcing projects. I love them because they take virtually no effort to set up, and yet we get a huge amount of information out of them. They work because the voters are the ones doing all the work, and whatever biases they may have get cancelled out, so that we're left with a reasonable view of the perceived truth. That's if everyone is playing fair. Sometimes, the voters try to game the system.
Start the bandwagon: The next criminally underrated HOF candidate is today's criminally underrated superstar.
I might be a little biased, but I think that if there’s something that last week’s Hall of Fame results needed, it was more inductees named Russell. With Russell Branyan not eligible for election (and in legal trouble), things have been looking kinda bleak. But something else happened in last week’s results that gives me hope. Other than that guy who’s going in with a backwards cap, catcher Mike Piazza finally got his spot in the Hall of Fame.