Archive for the ‘Cliff Lee’ Category

Houston Astros v Kansas City Royals

Okay, that just isn’t fair. There is only ONE Cliff Lee, and for that the world is much better (and yet worse.) But just like Cliff Lee last season, James Shields is in the middle of a terrific season that just might go for naught.

James Shields ranks among the league leaders in many pitching categories in 2013, ranking first in in the AL for innings pitched and sitting among the top 20 in baseball for ERA, FIP, and xFIP among others. He has two complete games and has given the Royals exactly what they wanted when they swapped him for their top prospect, Wil Myers.

Unfortunately for the Royals and Shields, the Kansas City offense won’t play along. Which puts James Shields on a crash course with history!

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Philadelphia’s bottom of the ninth inning Sunday against Cincinnati is, without question, the leader in the clubhouse for Inning of the Year 2013.

First, Aroldis Chapman walked Delmon Young on four pitches. And then Cliff Lee pinch ran for Delmon Young. Cliff Lee is a pitcher. Delmon Young plays right field.

But the move makes some sense. Lee has hardly been incompetent on the basepaths. He had never been picked off, he had two steals in three chances, and he had scored from first on a double twice out of two tries — precisely what the Phillies probably thought they needed if they were going to break Chapman. Plus, with Young still fresh off an ankle injury, the Phillies probably didn’t think he could put on the burners like usual, and usual is bad enough.

Of course, the Phillies probably weren’t expecting much from Lee. Just two things: don’t get hurt, and don’t get picked off.

At least he managed the former.

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Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals

2012 Record: 81-81, 3rd NL East
2012 Pythagorean Record: 81-81
Impact Player: 2B Chase Utley
Impact Pitcher: LHP Cliff Lee
Top Prospect: LHP Jesse Biddle 

Significant Acquisitions: CF Ben Revere, 3B Michael Young, RF Delmon Young, RHP Mike Adams, LHP John Lannan, RHP Chad Durbin, C Humberto Quintero, OF Ender Inciarte, RHP Aaron Cook, CP Joe Mather

Significant Departures: 3B Placido Polanco, RHP Vance Worley, CP Ty Wigginton, RHP Michael Schwimer, RHP Chad Qualls, RHP Josh Lindblom

“All that is human must retrograde if it does not advance.” – Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Despite their complete disdain for analytics, the Philadelphia Phillies string of success over the past ten years or so has been impressive. From 2007-2011, the Phillies won five straight division titles, two National League pennants and a World Series in 2008. Under former successive GMs Pat Gillick and Ed Wade, the Phillies drafted as well as any team in baseball and loaded the roster with high-upside talent like Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Cole Hamels. They also made savvy trades and free agent signings, acquiring the likes of Placido Polanco, Shane Victorino, Cliff Lee, and Roy Halladay.

But over the last few years, that core has crumbled with age and the once invincible Phillies have fallen hard. Current GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has tried to hang on too long and has made a number of questionable moves. There was the Ryan Howard extension, the Jonathan Papelbon contract and of course, the acquisitions of Delmon Young and Michael Young.

Suddenly, the once insuperable Roy Halladay is throwing 87 MPH, the back end of the rotation includes John Lannan, and the lineup features Michael Young as the projected number-three hitter. The idealistic among you might suggest that the inevitable decline is merely a symptom of a decade of sustained success, but the more realistic can look at Amaro and cast some of the blame his way for the state the Phillies currently find themselves.

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2012 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game

There is very little hardcore baseball fans love more than prospects. That the majority of prospect information comes in handy list form has a lot to do with this, I believe. But the promise of prospect gold is a very real and very appealing thing, especially for fans of moribund franchises who otherwise face the impending season with the sort of dread associated with the first colonoscopy of a middle-aged man’s life.

As one might expect, fans tend to overvalue prospects, especially those in the farm system of their chosen franchise. Their prospects will, against all odds and available information, sweep through the minor leagues without a hiccup, storming the big league roster by force.

This is not reality, however. Even the most highly touted prospects fizzle. Pitchers break down or just TINSTAAP their way out of baseball. The biggest level-to-level jump in baseball is going from Triple-A to the bigs. Many just can’t make it.

Don’t let the boring shackles of reality constrain your throbbing prospect member – let your biased prospect flag fly and, gasp, enjoy yourself.

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Division Series - Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees - Game Five

Pitchers are a necessary evil to most fantasy players. They get hurt more often than hitters, and they stay hurt longer. While it’s extremely rare to lose a hitter for the entire season, it happens all the time with pitchers. But we need them, so here we are.

The holy grail for fantasy, then, is being able to predict pitcher injury. Well, that factors in pretty well with the real-world success of the White Sox for example, but this is a Roto column, so there.

Tom Verducci had a theory — pitchers with big jumps in innings from year to year were more susceptible to injury. Turns out it’s not really true. Jeff Zimmerman and I showed a case for sliders and curveballs adding to injury risk, but the added risk is a) not true for everyone and b) incremental. Zimmerman found a similar effect for wild pitchers after Billy Beane mentioned it. These things all have a little bit of truth to them, but they aren’t enough of a rack to hang the hat of our fantasy hopes upon.

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Last year around this time, pressed for topics and staring at a gaping spreadsheet, I wrote a post which basically broke FIP up into its components and plotted it on a graph. My methods are not quite as scientific as that of the tall foreheads who created your favorite ERA-like substance but they do a job.

Just like last year, we can learn who keeps runners off the base paths and who keeps the ball in the yard by using these simple components. There are other factors at play here — home ballpark the most glaring — but strikeout differential (expressed as a rate) and home run per ball in play rate seems like a decent start when it comes to classifying pitchers. So here we go.

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The inner workings of baseball contract and transaction rules are a tricky business. I’ve been following the game intensely for a long time and I’ve only really grasped all the nuances and hitches over the last couple years. For more casual fans of the game, a lot of the rules governing things like waiver transactions probably read like an anagram of antidisestablishmentarianism. It is for this reason that the Twitter machine exploded with a raging hot fury yesterday when it was announced Phillies lefthander Cliff Lee was placed on waivers and subsequently claimed by a mystery team. Not long afterwards, it was announced that the fiscally substantial and not-altogether responsible Los Angeles Dodgers (so nouveau riche) were the team that won the claim.

Queue the frenzy.

As Dustin explained yesterday (twice), the Phillies placing Lee on waivers does not necessarily mean they have any real intention of dealing him—and for that matter, the claiming team may not have any real intention of making the acquisition. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible that a deal will take place, but it means we should all relax, maybe go to our back decks and chill out with a nice frosty beverage and think about all the things that probably won’t happen in this crazy world.

In fact last night, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. was asked to confirm or deny the story and said “It’s irrelevant. He’s not going anywhere.” Now, obviously he could be lying to keep his leverage with the Dodgers and to keep the negotiations out of the media, but it seems to me that that should end almost all speculation that Lee will be dealt.

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