The long-term deals signed last winter have turned into one of the ugliest in recent memory, from the teams' perspectives.
If you look back at the biggest multi-year contracts signed by free agents every offseason, the rate of teams at some point wishing they could get out of the deal tends to be high. On the most basic level, there’s simply a lot of room for a nine-figure investment in a baseball player to go wrong, particularly when the player is usually on the wrong side of 30 years old and coming off a stretch of good performance that makes for a natural regression candidate. Beyond that, the notion of a “winner’s curse” is at work, in that any team bidding enough to secure a high-end free agent likely did so by paying a premium. And, of course, players sign deals when they're in their prime. They end them when they're old, but still getting paid like they're not.
None of which is to suggest that handing out $100 million-plus deals to free agents is always a bad idea, but rather that for the contract to be a good idea the team has to get tremendous value in the early years. There’s a tacit understanding that, for instance, a six-year, $150 million signing will not provide the team with as much value in Year 5 and Year 6 as it does in Year 1 and Year 2, but the team lives with the later years of the contract in order to get the early years. Another way of looking at it is that, if things don’t go well in those early years of a big long-term contract, the whole signing may turn very, very ugly.
Stephen Strasburg's perfect season gets befouled. Meanwhile, a baseball traveled 484 feet and Francisco Liriano righted himself.
The Thursday Takeaway
We’re not supposed to talk about pitcher wins anymore. There’s no real need to count the ways that the statistic is misleading and poorly constructed; Brian Kenny can take care of that for you. If you read this site, you should know why it’s not the greatest barometer of pitching success in a world filled with poor pitching barometers. In a world of blind men, the one-eyed man is king. The pitcher win is a blind man without a nose or nerve endings in his fingers.
Stephen Strasburg coasts to a record win, Ryon Healy gets his first big-league knock, and Santiago Casilla balks his way out of extra innings.
The Weekend Takeaway
For some, a return from the All-Star break is an opportunity to right the season, to rise in the standings, to prove that whatever setback or injury derailed the first half is eclipsed by the success of the second. For Stephen Strasburg, it’s just an extension of the dominance he’s already exhibited this year.
Notable starts this week from Stephen Strasburg, Dallas Keuchel and Anthony DeSclafani
It’s a short week in the sense of taking notes, as the extended All-Star break left me with just a couple of days that bookended the time off from regular baseball. There was still plenty of intrigue, from one man’s quest for hardware to another man’s attempts to justify hardware already won, as well as a staff ace who missed the first couple months of the season. Let’s get to the notes.
Scherzer threatens another signature start, the Dodgers dip toward .500, and Whit Merrifield is a thing.
The Monday Takeaway
Few pitchers are as unhittable at their best as Max Scherzer is. The right-hander’s 20-strikeout game earlier this year can attest to that. And for a while on Monday, it seemed as though Scherzer might duplicate that effort against a Cubs lineup that looked helpless at the plate.
Scherzer struck out the side in the first, two more in the second, and another trio in the third. With his high-80s breaker darting expertly at lefties’ back feet,
The teams that are doing things radically different than last year, and whether they mean anything.
Last week, Matt Trueblood wrote about the biggest changes to team Playoff Odds since the start of the season. The five teams with the widest swings: The White Sox, Red Sox, Astros, Mariners, and Yankees. You can guess why. Three of them have been surprisingly good, and two of them have been surprisingly bad. Those teamwide surprises have been underpinned by individual surprises, like Jackie Bradley Jr. (good) and Dallas Keuchel (not). Surprises all, but well-known surprises. If Donald Rumsfeld were writing for BP, he might call them known knowns. (He might call them that anyway. Or he might be too focused on getting you to play solitaire on your smartphone to care.)
I’m looking for unknown knowns. These are teams that’ve changed in less obvious ways—i.e., not the ones you see when you peruse the standings each day—but are nonetheless interesting. I looked for sharp changes from 2015 compared to the 2016 season to date that have probably eluded headlines and highlight shows.
Of course, there are two ways a team can change. They can import a bunch of new players with new characteristics, or their existing personnel can change. I found a little of both in this list.