Archive for the ‘Analysis’ Category

MLB: Spring Training-Detroit Tigers at Washington Nationals

It is easy to get too cute when thinking about pitching. For all the attention given Masahiro Tankaka’s splitter and Jose Fernandez’s curveball and Stephen Strasburg’s change up, there is no substitute for a good fastball.

There is no one set way to attack hitters but a good fastball goes an awful long way. Without one, pitchers are at the mercy of hitters to expand their zone and go after bad pitches.

Velocity isn’t everything but it certainly helps. Even a pitcher without his “peak” velocity can still dominate using a well-place fastball.

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MLB: San Francisco Giants at Arizona Diamondbacks

Paul Goldschmidt owns Tim Lincecum. Paul Goldschmidt hits Tim Lincecum hard every time they face off. Every. Time. This is not a new phenomenon, as last season in this space we examined the impact of Goldschmidt’s Timmy tuning on his career line.

The beat went on yesterday afternoon, as Goldschimdt homered in his first plate appearance of the year against Lincecum. He later singled but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. It was the sixth career home run for Goldschimidt off the two-time Cy Young winner in just 21 career plate appearances to that point. Goldy can claim 12 hits and two walks in his 26 career PAs versus Timmy. That’s a lot.

It is unusual for one hitter to dominate a pitcher as great* as Tim Lincecum, one would think. In fact someone asked me just that on Twitter: do other great pitchers have hitters who own them as Goldschimdt owns the Giants former ace?

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MLB: Cleveland Indians at Kansas City Royals

In 2013, the Kansas City Royals finally made their move from “eternal rebuild” to “competitive window.” They cashed in many of their chips ahead of the season, trading for both James Shields and Ervin Santana, losing top outfield prospect Wil Myers in the process. The Royals improved by 14 games over 2012 but still missed the playoffs, winning more games than they lost for just the second time since the strike season of 1995.

But Santana became a free agent and is now a member of the Atlanta Braves. The Royals signed Jason Vargas, an eager innings eater but hardly a superstar, to bolster their rotation. They didn’t exactly do much to make up the four or five wins required to get them more squarely into the Wild Card hunt.

Rather than tiptoe through the free agent minefield beyond the relatively safe Vargas, the Royals are going to improve from within. They officially announced that Yordano Ventura, the 22-year fireballer from the Dominican Republic, will start the season in their starting rotation. And if the early returns from Ventura’s career continue, KC won’t miss Ervin Santana for a second.

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MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Texas Rangers

At the conclusion of the 2013 MLB regular season, the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers both had 91-71 records, tied for the final American League Wild Card berth.

A one-game tiebreaker was required to solve the matter, but a more balanced schedule could have solved it long before. The Rays faced a more difficult schedule than the Rangers, an unfair reality of life in the AL East.

When Tampa Bay won the eventual tiebreaker, it seemed a matter of karmic justice.

After all, Texas went 53-23 against their own division, the AL West, which boasted a paltry .477 win percentage. The Rays, meanwhile, went 43-33 against AL East competition in a division with a .534 win percentage. Because teams play division opponents 19 times each, making up 46.9 percent of the schedule, division quality is a large determinant of record.

Tampa Bay played 97 games against teams with winning records to just 79 for the Rangers, and each was roughly a scratch team against winning opponents. Texas basically got 18 games against lesser opposition with which to gain a playoff edge and failed to do so.

This all seems terribly unfair, but an equalizing factor may have been at play, favoring teams in the East all along.

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MLB: Cincinnati Reds at San Diego Padres

There are plenty of roles more important than the lowly fourth outfielder. Going into a season with a question mark this menial on your depth chart should not keep anybody up at night. It is, however, a job that can pay distinct dividends.

There are many different ways to build a fourth outfielder. It is mostly a matter of need. Provide late-game defensive cover for the slugger with “fall down” range or do the opposite – offer “break glass in case of emergency” bench pop when a team needs instant offense.

As Spring Training slowly gives way to the regular season, it is this type of depth role that is often battled over among multiple options. Guys of this nature sometimes price themselves out of the role, leading to some last minute shuffling as the season nears and the ax falls in favor of a younger, cheaper player.

But what type of fourth outfielder you prefer says a lot about you and it says a lot about your favorite team. Your insecurities and worst held fears about the soft spot in the starting nine all bubble to the surface.

So let’s dig in and find out what kind of fourth outfielder works best for you. Yes, you.

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MLB: World Series-Boston Red Sox at St. Louis Cardinals

Opportunity isn’t a given. When a baseball player signs a contract, there is no language that ensures the player will be given ample opportunity to succeed and work through struggles. It’s why the option system exists, so teams are free to churn players at the end of the roster, looking to catch lightning in a bottle.

Mathematically, this makes little sense, of course. Chasing small samples with more small samples does not give you a larger, more reliable sample. Roster churn for the sake of “finding something that works” is an exercise in randomness, albeit one that occasionally pays off.

Despite the proliferation of sabermetric analysis in baseball, teams and players still mostly operate in inefficient ways. Decision making will never be perfectly rational in baseball, owing to tradition, moving statistical targets and, perhaps most importantly, psychology.

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MLB: New York Yankees-Workout

In some ways, the Yankees signing of Brian McCann is already old news. Swept aside after the Yankees kept grabbing assets, signing Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, and of course Masahiro Tanaka before they were finished shopping.

Ellsbury was a key member of the World Series champions. Tanaka was the crown jewel of the 2013 off-season. Carlos Beltran is a likely Hall of Famer perfectly suited to the ballpark and role the Yankees ask of him. But of this clutch of new players, it is Brian McCann who might provide the greatest bump to Yankee fortunes.

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