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MLB: Chicago White Sox at New York Yankees

Brett Gardner‘s success at the big league level is something of a mystery. A mystery that is equal parts utility and scarcity. A triumph of selection bias, really.

Players like Gardner tend to slip through the cracks, more often than not. Lacking the big time power profile of a prototypical outfield prospect, players who go about their business in the style of the Yankees newly minted millionaire put a lot of pressure on notoriously unreliable measures.

The Yankees are no fools. They understand how important a player like Brett Gardner is to their success and so they rewarded their left fielder with a four-year, $53 million contract extension.

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MLB: Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees

Baseball as we know it is changing. More and more pitchers pump their fastballs into the upper 90s. Guys who can touch 100 mph aren’t the exception in big league bullpens – they’re quickly becoming the norm.

The move towards power arms isn’t reserved for pitchers alone. More and more defensive players assert their dominance on the game via their arms. Fans love it and base runners know it. Whether a seed from the outfield to nail a runner at home plate, a rocket from deep in the hole to nip a runner by a step or precision strike from behind the plate, a perfect throw can be a game-changer.

With triples on the wane across baseball, the play at the plate stands as the game’s most exciting moment. And who can we count on to deliver these throws with regularity? The nine guys listed below are a great place to start – baseball’s best arms.

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New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox

The Yankees don’t have fun beards and don’t have sexy blue chip prospects lining their rotation like some teams. Instead, the Yankees pay top dollar for established stars and known commodities.

In signing Carlos Beltran to a thre-year, $45 million contract, the Yankees now have a glut of aging outfielders who are mostly DHs. The difference between Carlos Beltran and Vernon Wells or Ichiro or Alfonso Soriano is Carlos Beltran remains very, very productive. While his body might betray him, he can still provide value in right field.

The former center fielder showcased some defensive chops during the World Series and the RF job at Yankee Stadium is not the most challenging place to play. More so thanks to Ellsbury & Gardner gobbling up fly balls in left and center.

Beltran put very nice numbers for the Cardinals in 2013 and should take advantage of the short porch in the Bronx when hitting left-handed. The Yanks can pay somebody like Soriano to play for someone else or trade Brett Gardner for a starter if they so desire.

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Detroit Tigers pitcher Jose  Veras celebrates victory against the Boston Red Sox during their MLB American League Baseball game in Boston

It’s the final month of the season, unbelievably. After all the waiting and complaining and small-sampling-sizing and dog-daying, we are in the final push toward to the playoffs. There is still much to be decided with less than 30 games on the schedule. So, uh, where do we stand?

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URL Weaver: Groundharvey Day

matt harvey marlins park

There is no easy way to say this, friends. The Mets are going to lose Matt Harvey for a year. After the discovery of a partial tear in the Ulner Collateral ligament of his right (throwing) elbow, Harvey will rest for a few weeks before deciding how best to proceed.

The prognosis is not so rosy. Hardly a death sentence it still means a year without Harvey, which to all Mets fans and most fans of baseball in general, is a punishment all too cruel.

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URL Weaver: Ichiro Forever

Be careful when forming your opinion on Ichiro Suzuki collecting his 4000th professional hit last night. We live in the era of Hot Sprots Takes, where the hotter the take the sweet the juice, or something.

Where Hot Sprots Takes are involved, good sense does not follow. Hot Takes are rarely the stuff of substance. As the great Martin Luther King Jr. once said: I’d rather be judged by the content of my character than the heat of my Sprots Takes.

You see, your opinion on Ichiro’s 4000 hits is a terrific barometer for your relative quality as a person the the hit king serves as a window into your tortured soul.

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pedro alvarez is El Toro

Pedro Cerrano: Bats, they are sick. I cannot hit curveball. Straightball I hit it very much. Curveball, bats are afraid. I ask Jobu to come, take fear from bats. I offer him cigar, rum. He will come.

You can actually hide a weakness in the real life major leagues.

Consider the case of one Mike Zunino. The book on Zunino in Triple-A was that he couldn’t hit the curveball, and yet his major league strikeout rate (23.4%) works at his position (catchers strike out 20.2% of the time) and comes in a 100+ plate appearance, which is almost reliable. The problem with exploiting this weakness is that not every pitcher has a curveball. The league sees 9.6% curveballs, Zunino saw 10.6% before injury felled him. He didn’t do much with those curveballs — it was his worst pitch  by FanGraphs’ pitch-type values — but 90% of the pitches he saw weren’t curveballs.

So it’s possible. And that’s how you get major league hitters that have weaknesses, holes in their approach. Stephen Loftus at Beyond the Box Score set out to find those holes. By using the batting average on each pitch and then weighting things appropriately, he found the pitches that are kryptonite for different hitters around the league.

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