Apparently, the Chicago Cubs like New York Yankee pitchers. Last winter, the Yanks sent Adam Warren to Chicago in a package for second basemen Starlin Castro and now, reportedly, the Cubbies are interested in Nate Eovaldi.
As the guys over at Pinstripe Alley wrote today, it doesn’t make a ton of sense for the Yankees to trade Eovaldi as he’s young, under team control for a while, and quite possibly the best long term starting pitching option in the organization, especially now that Luis Severino has lost much of his 2015 shine.
However, the Yankees have a number of other pitchers the Cubs might want to go after, and Chicago matches up really well with New York in terms of the young position player talent that New York needs. The Cubs have a few of the best prospects in baseball and if they were willing to part with a few of them, Eovaldi, Aroldis Chapman, and even Andrew Miller, could all be on the table.
The way I see it the Cubs should be looking to bolster their pitching staff now.
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The Tampa Bay Rays sit at 20-22, 6 games behind the Orioles and Red Sox in the AL East. They’re still fighting the uphill battle against organizations with more money to spend to try to compete annually. They’ve got an chance to get after it this year and make some noise, but currently sit in an interesting position where they could become sellers and pack it in in preparation for next season should things continue to go awry in key areas.
The modern Rays don’t really sell; they’re always looking to add value and remain competitive while waiting for a little magic dust to come flying in. I think that’s a good plan again this year as they sit near .500 today, and they’ve got some magic dust on the way.
The pitching staff has reinforcements coming soon: Brad Boxburger will soon return from the DL to fortify the bullpen. Alex Cobb is working his way back from Tommy John surgery and could help in the second half. Blake Snell is among the top 15 prospects in baseball and threw 134 innings last year with a 1.41 ERA.
But the problem with all these guys waiting in reserve is that the pitching staff has already been pretty solid and could be even better if a few contributors return to their expected level. They’re 5th in the AL in xFIP despite Chris Archer sporting a 5.16 ERA and Matt Moore owning an even worse 5.47 figure. Both guys are former All-Stars.
The pitching staff has been pretty decent and should improve even without the additional reinforcements.
The lineup? They’re a well-rounded and athletic group with a number of moving and interchangeable parts. They’re currently 3rd in the AL in WAR, but just 11th in runs.
See how Sean thinks Tampa Bay continue to get better by addressing a possible Rays first baseman trade. You can also check out our full baseball analysis blog for all our latest analysis or follow us on Twitter @blogoffthebench.
To say the Tampa Yankees closer, Matt Marsh, is a friend of Off The Bench is a bit of an understatement. I grew up with the kid, know his family, and my mother and uncle met up with him over the offseason to enjoy a college football game. There’s something about the bond forged in the dugout during all those U-16 tournaments that we played across the Southeast that is indescribable. I mention all this to make clear that I’m biased. I root for Matt. Hard. OTBB even published an extended interview with him this winter.
When I heard that he planned to train hard this offseason at a facility in the DC area where a teammate had trained recently and gained a few miles per hour, I was excited. I knew Matt’s history of arm troubles had robbed him of the potential velocity that was evident from the time we were 12. I knew that he had spent time at 3 different colleges on his way to being an undrafted right handed reliever out of Liberty University.
From my position as a blogger and baseball nerd, I know the success rate of that type of player. I know 24-year old relievers in A-ball are often labelled “non-prospects.” They’re usually organizational filler that take up space on rosters, and help minor league teams compete through their rigorous schedule.
I know that often times these guys are the footnote in scouting notebooks. They’re the guys that the real prospects are supposed to hit home runs off of. Matt’s baseball resume is impressive, but until this year was just impressive enough to be good enough to face the million dollar bonus babies, theJorge Mateo’s of the world.
But all that just makes me more excited as I regularly check Matt’s baseball-reference page. He started the season as a closer for the high-A Yankees.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have baseball’s highest payroll, its best pitcher, its best prospects on both sides of the ball, and (arguably) its brightest front office star running the whole show. On paper, they should be the class of the MLB, competing for the best record in baseball en route to an awesome Clayton Kershaw– Jake Arrieta matchup in game 1 of the NLCS.
Instead, they are 23-23, 4.5 games behind the Giants for the lead in the NL West and losers of 6 of their last 10. With his dominance last night, Clayton Kershaw lowered his season ERA to 1.48 and lengthened his stretch of posting a sub-2 ERA to a staggering 1115 innings. If he doesn’t provide the team with a guaranteed win every 5th day, he comes closer than any body else in the game today. But past Kershaw, this is not a very good team.
In fact, without Clayton Kershaw, fangraphs says the Dodgers would be 3.8 wins worse, a below .500 team and one that might trail Colorado and Arizona in the NL West right now. I think it’s reasonable to say that so far this season, the difference between a 4th place Dodgers team and a 2nd place Dodgers team is Kershaw.
The Dodgers’ pitching staff is 3rd in all of baseball with a 7.3 WAR, but Kershaw accounts for 3.8 of that (for the non-mathematically inclined, that’s a full 50%). Without him, the Dodgers would fall to between 16th and 18th, right around where the Indians, Royals, and Marlins are.
Coincidentally, 16th is right where the Dodgers’ offense ranks in WAR with just 5.7. Of those wins, rookie Corey Seager, baseball’s number 1 prospect coming into the season, leads the team with 1.6. He’s followed by ancient second basemen Chase Utley with 1.3 and Joc Pederson, who strikes out in more than a quarter of his plate appearances, with 1.
Notably missing from those top 3 are Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig. Gonzalez, is striking out at a higher rate than at any point in his career, save for a cup of coffee he had with Texas more than a decade ago, and is a 0.1 WAR player, posting just a 105 wRC+, making him a below average first baseman. Puig’s streakiness this season has been well documented and he’s looking more and more like a super-talented flash in the pan than a real All-Star caliber player, which is a serious problem for LA because, despite their payroll flexibility, this is team built around just a couple stars and seriously lacking any real depth.
Time sure does fly when you’re having fun. Here we are a quarter of the way through the 2016 baseball season and it’s been nothing short of exciting. On Sunday, we got more excitement than bargained for, in the form of an ALDS rematch between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers.
We know how the scene is set: last year in the win-or-go-home ALDS game five, Jose Bautista hammered a go-ahead home run and hurled his bat. No one, especially not the Rangers, has forgotten this moment so in the top of the 8th inning, seven months after the bat flip – conveniently Jose Bautista’s last time at the dish against Texas this season – Joey Bats was plunked in the ribs. Justin Smoak was up next and with Bautista on first he grounded into a double play.
Here’s where things got hairy: From the moment of contact, there was no doubt that Bautista was going to be out at second, but to exact some revenge for the HBP, he slid hard and late, past the bag and into the path of Texas’ second baseman, Rougned Odor. In Bautistas’s own words, this slide was intentional, but he “could have injured [Odor] and chose not to.” Odor, unhappy with a slide that last year would have just been considered aggressive but under new rules is illegal, proceeded to punch Bautista square in the jaw.
The Minnesota Twins are 8-23, a 120-loss pace. If it weren’t for the Atlanta Braves, the Twins would be the worst team in Major League Baseball. These are the same Twins who finally came into a season with a reason to smile. Their uber-prospects were ready to contribute at the big league level, and their pitching staff stank of relative average-ness, which is far better than the smells and stats that the pitching staff had in recent years. From Max’s preseason look at the Top Ten Lynchpin Players:
The Twins want to be this year’s 2014 Royals and come from nowhere to win the AL Central. They think they have the offense to do it and with Miguel Sanoand others, they might be right. But I’m very suspicious about their pitching staff.
Max went on to discuss Ervin Santana and the huge potential range of possible outcomes for their underwhelming pitching staff. Sure, its was always possible for the Twins pitchers to greatly exceed their admittedly average expectations, but it never seemed all that likely.
Well, to this point, they’ve underperformed. The Twins have the worst collective ERA in the American League. 6 of the 8 pitchers who have made at least 1 start have an ERA of at least 4.70. You don’t get to an 8-23 record without “contributions” from the whole roster.
But far more worrisome for the long-term Twins’ plans are their young prospects’ struggles. Jose Berrios, their top pitching prospect, sports a 6.75 ERA after his first two starts. Byron Buxton, once the top prospect in all of baseball, has a .497 OPS. And Miguel Sano, the 23-year old slugger who actually produced in his limited time last year, is 200 points off of his 2015 OPS so far into his sophomore season.
Last September, I wrote that having Sano’s sweet swing around for another decade gave Twins fans something to be excited about. With that drop in OPS, Twins fans aren’t as excited as they once were.
To continue reading please read the full article on why Miguel Sano might be due for a comeback. You can also check out our homepage at offthebenchbaseball.com or follow us on Twitter @blogOffTheBench
Saturday night, I had the pleasure of catching the Oakland A’s take on the Baltimore Orioles in Baltimore’s Camden Yards. In addition to being a beautiful night, the first we’ve had on the East Coast in more than a week, and one of baseball’s best ballparks – if you haven’t been, go, its awesome- game 2 of Saturday’s day/night double header was a crisp and enjoyable game to watch.
Ubaldo Jimenez tossed 8 solid innings in his first start in forever and Chris Davis launched a mammoth 2 run shot to help Baltimore notch a 5-2 win and earn a doubleheader split after Oakland took game one. But in watching the A’s, I couldn’t help think there was something missing. Sure, it was game 2 of the day but most of Oakland’s starters were playing and the lineup lacked any sort of fearsomeness or hint that it might be capable of competing in the AL West.
Of course, the A’s aren’t a bad team, but it doesn’t feel like it’s a team capable of being a good team either. Watching them meekly go down against a pitcher with an ERA north of 5 and a fastball topping out at 91 inspired me to go back and look at the numbers.
Right now, Oakland is 14-17, 4.5 games behind Seattle for 1st in the West. They have a -16 run differential, good for 4th worst in the AL and are currently 10th in the AL in runs, 10th in batting average, and dead last in on base percentage.
That last number really jumps out at you.
Coming into this season, there was a lot of talk about Dodgers’ left hander Alex Wood. With the exodus of Zach Greinke and injury to Hyun-Jin Ryu, Wood is one of the guys the Dodgers will be counting on this season to pick up the slack in the rotation. Wood is particularly interesting because of his extremely funky pitching motion. Here’s a gif of Wood throwing a pitch from his days back with the Braves:
As you can see, weird.
This spring, there was a lot of talk about Wood looking a lot better coming into 2016 because he had finally figured out how to throw all of his pitches from the exact same arm angle. This, coupled with an uptick in velocity, spelled big, big things for him coming into 2016.
So far, Wood has’t been very good. He hasn’t been awful either, he’s just been very inconsistent. His velocity has been better though, all three of his pitches- his sinker, changeup, and curve – are almost three mph faster than at any other point during his career.
So what gives? If he’s throwing harder, as predicted, why isn’t he seeing the better results that were also foretold?
Let’s take a look at the release locations for each of his pitches.
On Friday, Off The Bench published its first foray into the new Statcast data. In that piece, which is made possible by baseball savant, I made note that Colby Lewis was the only player to induce (throw) multiple catcher interferences last year. I went on to publish the first ever heat map in Off The Bench history, but kept coming back to Colby Lewis and wondering what the hell happened on those two plays. Of the 702,307 pitches thrown last year, only 31 (0.004%) ended with a catcher interference call. Why was Colby Lewis unfortunate enough to have it happen to him twice? And why were they on different pitches in the same quadrant of the strikezone?
I got so worked up that I used an exclamation point. I have kept coming back to those two red dots. It feels like a song is stuck in my head, but it’s really just some bizarre corner of my brain has developed a fascination with Colby Lewis’ 2015 catchers interferences. I’m not sure what that says about me, or about you for reading about it. But to the interwebs I went in search of something to appease my admittedly odd appetite for interference information, armed with some data from baseball savant and Google.
What I knew:
- (Diagram from the clicked link will show this feature)
- May 22, bottom 4: Slade Heathcott reaches on catcher interference by Robinson Chirinos. Slade Heathcott to 1st. 88.8 mph sinker *
- Oct 5, top 2: David Murphy reaches on catcher interference by Robinson Chirinos. David Murphy to 1st. 82.2 mph slider*
*I also knew all sorts of information such as spin rate, direction, home plate umpire, and the count, but let’s not consider the above a full list of things that I knew.
Slade Heathcott’s CI
Well, here’s something interesting right out of the shoot:
**To continue reading, see the full article here: About Colby Lewis, Josh Reddick and The Catchers Interference. You should also check out our full site at offthebenchbaseball.com and our twitter @BlogOffTheBench
just emerged from a trip through Baseball Savant’s new treasure trove of baseball data. It felt like a baptism into a new world of baseball data that I only caught glimpses of through Fangraphs pitch f/x screens. But there I was embroiled in thousands of data points and I didn’t know what to do. There’s exit velocities, pitch movement, release point, spin rate, and game situation available for every pitch thrown last year. Where does one possibly begin?
Well, first things first, I thought and so to the Catchers’ Interferences I went. Using Colby Lewis‘ two catchers interference calls to understand what I was looking at, I began to realize just how powerful this tool could be. I understood why David Cameron was encouraged that we would learn something very cool from Statcast in 2016. I also understood that that long-sought discovery would not be found by deciphering why Colby Lewis had managed to induce (throw?) different catchers interference on different pitches nearly five months apart, or further decipher why he managed to be the only pitcher to do it twice last year. And why are they both in that quadrant of the strikezone?!
Baseball is weird. It is full of oddities and plays that you’ve never seen before, but baseball nerds find inner peace in “sample size” that because of the length of the season results in normalizing of the all that is right and holy. Baseball itself finds peace knowing that today’s scorched lineout becomes tomorrow’s auspicious RBI flare double that lands on the chalk. So in this treasure trove of new data that is being collected by MLB Advanced Media, we’re supposed to filter through those Colby Lewis Catcher Interferences and find larger trends that help to educate the game. Supposed to. How can I possibly look away from those two red dots?
At least temporarily, I must look away. While on my trip through Pitch f/x data, I discovered something genuinely worth sharing. I figured out where not to pitch it.
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