Ten Stray Thoughts On A Friday

For many, Friday represents the end of a long work week that was filled with heavy doses of sludging and drudging. It’s my hope that at the end of every week during the baseball season, at that moment that only occurs on a Friday afternoon when it’s too far away from closing time to leave work early, but too late in the day to start anything new, you’ll join us here to check out some random observations and contribute your own opinions to my ten stray thoughts on a Friday.

So, without further ado:

A.J. Ellis Is Umpire Friendly

A quick look atop the leader board in walk rate reveals a cast of usual suspects … save one. Los Angeles Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis ranks third in walk rate having received a free pass in a remarkable 18% of his plate appearances. Only Joey Votto and Adam Dunn have a higher walk rate.

So, why? Ellis has exhibited patience at the plate before in his Minor League career, but it also appears as though he’s benefiting from a lot tighter strike zone than the average right handed batter.

Courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info

However, it must also be noted that Ellis has only swung at 32.6% of the pitches he’s seen this year. The next closest batter is Ben Zobrist who has swung at 36% of the pitches sent his way.

An easy explanation would be that Ellis has batted just ahead of the pitcher in almost half of his plate appearances this season, but he’s maintained a similar walk rate in every spot in the batting order, including seventh where he has a similar number of samples.

Clearly, as a catcher, Ellis is skilled at making friends with whoever is calling the game.


When the Texas Rangers signed Roy Oswalt at the end of May his addition seemed redundant to me. I wrote as much, suggesting that the Rangers would be better off saving the $6 million or so it cost to acquire Oswalt because he was completely unnecessary to the team. Flash forward to two more starting pitchers hitting the Disabled List, and suddenly, Texas is so desperate for help that they called up Double A pitcher Justin Grimm for Saturday’s start.

In addition to an emergency spot start, Grimm also provides a solid opportunity for punny headlines following Saturday’s game against the Astros. If only this guy was still around, they could really have some fun.

This, of course, is all to say that the old adage – you can’t have too much pitching depth – remains very true.

Joe Nathan’s Revival

I think it’s been mentioned a couple of times, but for the most part, it’s seemed to have flown under the radar: Joe Nathan is having an incredible season for the Texas Rangers.

His 32.6% strikeout rate is no Aroldis Chapman’s 45.9%, but its rank as the 12th best in baseball among relievers remains impressive nonetheless. This is even moreso the case when you consider his walk rate: 2.1%, the best in baseball. This means that his strikeout to walk ratio of 15.5 is also the best in baseball. The next closest is Koji Uehara, who was also having a fantastic season for the Rangers before hitting the Disabled List, and his 11.0 K/BB. The next closest after that is Jared Burton from the Minnesota Twins with a 9.0 K/BB.

In other words, Joe Nathan is firmly  in control … by a lot. What looked like a laughable signing this off season, may be one of the shrewder reliever signings.

The Key To Dickey’s Success

R.A. Dickey has been incredible for the New York Mets, currently in the middle of a 32 and two thirds innings streak without allowing an earned run. If you’re not read up on the creator of The Dickster, check out Wendy Thurm’s piece for Baseball Nation on pitchers who don’t succeed until their mid-30s.

This is a typical pitch from Dickey:

He currently leads all Major League starters, not only in swinging strikes from opponents, but also in inducing swings on pitches outside of the zone. This is a big part of his effectiveness, but it might be anticipated considering his use of the knuckle ball, which likely causes most of us to think about Tim Wakefield.

However, Wakefield was never able to collect as many swinging strikes or induce as many swings at pitches outside of the strike zone. And that’s because Dickey’s knuckler is not Wakefield’s. It comes at hitters more than ten miles per hour faster at a speed that resembles Jamie Moyer’s best fastball. It moves a little less, but leaves the batter with even less time to have any clue as to what’s going on.

Qualifying Offers

This coming off season is going to be an especially interesting one due to the changes in the collective bargaining agreement that were announced last off season. This is most true in the area of compensation.

Starting in the 2012 off season, teams will have to make a qualifying offer of a one year guaranteed contract to players eligible to become free agents in order to receive compensation if the player signs with another club. That amount will be the average salary of the 125-highest paid players from the prior season (somewhere around $12 million). Teams that sign players who have been offered these lucrative one year guaranteed contracts will surrender their first round draft choice, unless the team has a top ten pick. In this case, the team will give up their second highest pick instead.

A report earlier this month from Ken Rosenthal suggested few players approaching free agency would be likely to receive such an offer, quoting one general manager as saying only Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels and Josh Hamilton were likely to receive an offer. I can’t help but feel as though that’s short sighted. Any free agent that a team would be willing to pay $8 million or more per year as part of a multiple year contract should be receiving a one year $12 million(ish) offer.

Surely, that type of player would prefer to seek out a long term deal with more guaranteed money, and if another team is willing to outbid you and pay the compensatory price, you’re protected. If not, you pay 50% or less to mitigate the cost of a bad contract. That may sound high, but a $4 million insurance policy is a worst case scenario in this situation.

While I can imagine players like  Michael Bourn, Melky Cabrera, Anibal Sanchez and Shane Victorino, assuming they’re neither signed to extensions or traded, offered these types of contracts, I think players a rung below them, like Edwin Encarnacion are also serious candidates.

Trade Targets

Now that the draft is finished, and teams will be forced to wrap up negotiations with their top picks sooner than in previous seasons, we’ll be launching into trade rumour time shortly. Here are a list of players I expect to get a lot of attention in the coming weeks:

  1. Cole Hamels, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies. 2012: $15 million. 2013: FA.
  2. Zack Greinke, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers. 2012: $13.5 million. 2013: FA.
  3. Matt Garza, RHP, Chicago Cubs. 2012: $9.5 million. 2013: Arbitration.
  4. Carlos Quentin, OF, San Diego Padres. 2012: $7.025 million. 2013: FA.
  5. Shane Victorino, OF, Philadelphia Phillies. 2012: $9.5 million.

There’s also Ryan Dempster and Kevin Youkilis, who have both already seen a lot of ink spilled in rumours, as well as Jeff Francoeur, Carlos Lee, Justin Morneau, Cody Ross, Joe Saunders, Alfonso Soriano and a myriad of relievers that will be sought in both July and August.

Rental Players

With new CBA rules making it so that players must spend an entire season with a club before that team can receive compensation when they sign elsewhere, the possibility is more likely for a team to trade a pending free agent at the deadline and then re-sign that same player to a new contract during the off season. Doesn’t that make this a whole lot more fun?

In theory, the Brewers could trade Greinke as a rental at the end of July and then negotiate a new deal with him in December and enjoy both Greinke and whatever in terms of prospects that they acquired for him in the summer.

Popular Players

Yesterday’s five most popular player profiles at Baseball Reference were:

  1. Alex Rodriguez
  2. Albert Pujols
  3. Derek Jeter
  4. Bryce Harper
  5. Mike Trout

Over at FanGraphs, the last 24 hours has seen these player profiles visited the most:

  1. Matt Cain
  2. R.A. Dickey
  3. Matt Moore
  4. Brandon Belt
  5. Stephen Strasburg

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The Rate Numbers Per Batter Faced Is The Thing

I’d like to call a moratorium on people quoting strikeout or walk numbers per nine innings. I’m not being facetious when I ask what insight this offers us over strikeout or walks per plate appearance. Is there something that I’m missing?

It seems abundantly more informative to know how many times something is happening in comparison to the batters being faced rather than over nine innings of which we have no clue how many batters a pitcher is facing.

You would never think to measure a batter’s hits per game or number of times on base per game, so why do we try to force such numbers on a pitcher when a complete 9 innings pitched in a game by a pitcher remains a relatively rare thing.

Again, I could very well be missing something, but I just don’t see how measuring strikeouts or walks by 9 innings is advantageous.