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Monday, September 01, 2014

HBT: Jorge Soler with an extra-base hit in each of his first five games

Middlebrooks could be a Hall of Famer too. You don’t know.

Jorge Soler made his Wrigley Field debut this afternoon and the Cubs faithful were happy with what they saw… Soler poked an opposite-field double and eventually came around to score on a bloop single from Welington Castillo. The 22-year-old was later credited with another double in the sixth, this time after hitting the ball off the right-center field wall. He managed to advance to third on the play due to an error by center fielder Gerardo Parra… With today’s performance, Soler became the third player in the last 100 years with an extra-base hit in each of his first five games in the majors. Enos Slaughter (1933) and Will Middlebrooks (2012) are the only others. A Hall of Famer and someone who has a .651 OPS since his rookie season. Interesting duo.

Soler is now hitting .526 (11-for-19) with three home runs, four doubles, seven RBI, and a 1.761 OPS over his first five games since his call-up from Triple-A.

The District Attorney Posted: September 01, 2014 at 09:26 PM | 1 comment(s)
  Beats: cubs, jorge soler

OT: Monthly NBA Thread - September 2014

I estimate only 10-12 Primates care about the NBA, but with our own thread, we won’t detract from what this site is really about: college football, hockey, soccer, and wrestling.

The District Attorney Posted: September 01, 2014 at 05:03 PM | 5 comment(s)
  Beats: basketball, nba, off-topic

No-hitter! Four Phillies pitchers combine to blank the Braves

Jesse Spector
@jessespector

Congratulations to the Phillies on filling 58 minutes of their hour-long season highlight video!

The Phillies have no-hit the Braves. It was a combined effort, with Cole Hamels, Jake Diekman, Ken Giles and Jonathan Papelbon combining on the effort. Hamels took the first six innings and each of the relievers handled an inning. They combined to strike out 12 Braves hitters… it was the 12th no-hitter in franchise history. And the first ever combined no-no for Philly…

Cole Hamels… wasn’t a study in efficiency. H threw 108 pitches and walked five guys, but no one managed a hit off of him.


Robothal: Changed [Manny] Ramirez enjoyed helping Cubs prospects grow

I mean, if Rasheed Wallace can be on a coaching staff…

[Manny] Ramirez, 42, certainly stunned [Cubs president Theo] Epstein, who grew as exasperated as anyone with the player’s fits of immaturity and selfishness during their years together with the Red Sox.

But Epstein believed Ramirez deserved another chance and that he could impart his vast knowledge of hitting to the Cubs’ prospects… By all accounts, Ramirez positively influenced top prospects such as infielder Javier Baez, outfielder Jorge Soler and third baseman Kris Bryant at Triple A Iowa… Ramirez spent less than three months with Iowa… But during that time, he instructed Baez to be more selective, adjusted Soler’s swing path and talked situational hitting with Bryant, all with impressive results…

Ramirez still wants to return to the majors – he intends to play winter ball in his native Dominican Republic this offseason with the goal of taking one more shot. But once he saw the talent at Iowa, he essentially told the Cubs, “Don’t worry. Play the kids. I’m good.” ...

about a month into Ramirez’s stint in Iowa… Ramirez, speaking on the phone to Epstein, broke down every player on the Iowa roster, giving detailed, sophisticated assessments of not only their skills but also their personalities.

Epstein found the conversation so impressive and surprising that he left his office immediately after getting off the phone with Ramirez and walked down the hall to visit with other Cubs executives.

He had to repeat the conversation verbatim to his colleagues to make sure that it had really happened.


Nitkowski: Wanted: Major League manager…sort of.

Right after Bo Porter was hired [as Astros manager] I was told he was the only candidate who answered “yes”€™ to the question, “€œare you OK with influence from the front office in every day decisions like setting the lineup?”€ There was a reason he was the only one who said yes, no one wants to manage a major league team where they are told what to do by someone who has never played the game or even done the job.

There is balance here. Influences from front offices are part of the new equation in baseball and the game is smarter because of it. Clint Hurdle told me the Pirates utilize a sort of hybrid theory and it is working well in Pittsburgh. He is open to advanced metrics, he listens, he gets it and he and the front office work well together to implement the new school of thought.

There is one essential caveat though, he makes the final in game decisions, including lineups and he is never second guessed on those decisions…

The Astros need two managers. One right now who is not competitive and will do whatever the front office tells him while they’€™re still losing. Then they’€™ll need one when they get good who is ultra competitive and has the track record to tell the front office to back off. Of course that guy will go through the interview process and immediately withdraw his name.

Something has to change or this will be the beginning of a cycle that never ends in Houston.

The District Attorney Posted: September 01, 2014 at 03:10 PM | 6 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, bo porter, clint hurdle, managers, pirates

Astros Fire Bo Porter

The Astros have fired manager Bo Porter, according to a team press release.  Bench coach Dave Trembley has also been relieved of his duties.  Tom Lawless will be the club’s interim manager for the rest of the 2014 season.

The District Attorney Posted: September 01, 2014 at 12:19 PM | 54 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, bo porter, dave trembley, managers, tom lawless

OT: Politics, September, 2014: ESPN honors Daily Worker sports editor Lester Rodney

Lester Rodney was a crusader for equality and instrumental in integrating baseball as sports editor with the Daily Worker in the 1930s, says ESPN in a recent video on its website. The Daily Worker is the predecessor to this news website, peoplesworld.org.

At the time African American players were banned from the major leagues, says the mini-documentary. It was Lester Rodney that had a “simple but seemingly impossible dream” - to end more than a half-century of segregation in the big leagues, says ESPN’s Outside The Lines program. For Black History Month, OTL reported on this white Communist sportswriter who “crusaded for baseball integration a decade before Jackie Robinson broke the color line.”

He was at the center in the fight for baseballs integration, said sports historian Larry Lester in the video.

“There was no one in the main stream press promoting the integration of baseball like Lester Rodney was,” he said. “He was a soldier and the press was his sword and he was able to galvanize masses of people.”

At age 25 Rodney was hired as the Daily Worker’s first sports editor. He immediately launched a relentless campaign to end the Jim Crow policy that kept baseball segregated….

Rodney, the Daily Worker and supporters led petition drives, rallies and demonstrations for baseball’s integration. Rodney reported about white players and managers who also admitted it was time to integrate. In the face of skepticism Rodney persisted and millions joined the cause….

Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: September 01, 2014 at 10:52 AM | 27 comment(s)
  Beats: politics

Heavy rain forces suspension of Royals-Indians game, which will resume Sept. 22 in Cleveland

less pressure on the Royals to perform.

The wind punished the flags hanging high above the outfield walls. A hail of plastic bags and paper napkins whipped through the sky. During a rain delay that postponed what would have been a crushing Royals loss, a sudden storm dispersed the remnants of a capacity crowd and provided imagery that was cruel but fitting.

The game will resume on Sept. 22 with the Royals trailing 4-2 in the bottom of the 10th inning to the Cleveland Indians. The game will be played at Progressive Field in Cleveland, hours before the start of a three-game series there. The ending on Sunday marked an anticlimactic finish to a deflating night at Kauffman Stadium.

“It’s not over yet,” manager Ned Yost said. “We’ve still got half an inning to play.”

Indeed, but the moment was lost. The energy seeped from the ballpark in stages. As the Royals staggered toward their fourth consecutive loss of a similar vintage, the early optimistic vibes faded into desperation. The crowd appeared exultant when Alex Gordon’s ninth-inning homer tied the game. Yet they departed this park merely disconsolate and soggy, even if the final result is still in doubt.

 

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Maybe moving this game to Cleveland will put less pressure on the Royals to perform.

The wind punished the flags hanging high above the outfield walls. A hail of plastic bags and paper napkins whipped through the sky. During a rain delay that postponed what would have been a crushing Royals loss, a sudden storm dispersed the remnants of a capacity crowd and provided imagery that was cruel but fitting.

The game will resume on Sept. 22 with the Royals trailing 4-2 in the bottom of the 10th inning to the Cleveland Indians. The game will be played at Progressive Field in Cleveland, hours before the start of a three-game series there. The ending on Sunday marked an anticlimactic finish to a deflating night at Kauffman Stadium.

“It’s not over yet,” manager Ned Yost said. “We’ve still got half an inning to play.”

Indeed, but the moment was lost. The energy seeped from the ballpark in stages. As the Royals staggered toward their fourth consecutive loss of a similar vintage, the early optimistic vibes faded into desperation. The crowd appeared exultant when Alex Gordon’s ninth-inning homer tied the game. Yet they departed this park merely disconsolate and soggy, even if the final result is still in doubt.

 

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 01, 2014 at 08:29 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: alex gordon, indians, rain, royals

Bob Melvin calls Athletics ‘pathetic’ after Angels sweep four-game set

Plus some #umpshow action!

Manager Bob Melvin verbally unloaded on his team Sunday — at least for Bob Melvin, it was unloading — after the Oakland Athletics were swept in a four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels. The Athletics fell 8-1 in the series finale, putting them five games back of the Angels in the American League West. Oakland didn’t score in 29 straight innings over the course of four games, from the sixth inning Thursday until the eighth inning Sunday, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle...

What can you say? It was embarrassing. Pathetic. We don’t play like that. The last three games here are the worst I’ve seen this team play in… I can’t remember how long. I feel bad for our fans to have to watch that.

Melvin conducted a closed-door team meeting after the game, giving the players a more emotional version of what he told the media. Usually mild mannered, Melvin also was ejected in the second inning by umpire Gerry Davis. The A’s already had been at odds with Davis, who earlier in the series reportedly made a “crying baby gesture” to the A’s when they complained about another call or calls…

It was just frustrating. We can’t play like that. We’re not going to be able to play like that. The reason I’m upset is because that’s not who we are. That’s not who we’ve been for three years. And for the last… I don’t know how long, it’s mounted. It’s been frustrating. But that last three games for us is just not who we are. At all. And it’s embarrassing. They all should be embarrassed.

I’m done. Thank you.

The District Attorney Posted: September 01, 2014 at 01:23 AM | 22 comment(s)
  Beats: angels, athletics, bob melvin

Extreme Moneyball: The Houston Astros Go All In on Data Analysis

“The problem we’re trying to solve is that there are rich teams and there are poor teams. Then there’s fifty feet of crap, and then there’s us. It’s an unfair game. And now we’ve been gutted. We’re like organ donors for the rich. Boston’s taken our kidneys, Yankees have taken our heart. And you guys just sit around talking the same old “good body” nonsense like we’re selling jeans. Like we’re looking for Fabio. We’ve got to think differently. We are the last dog at the bowl. You see what happens to the runt of the litter? He dies.”

Luhnow’s appreciation of the predictive power of data grew out of his experience selling designer jeans. In the early 2000s, with a former president of Levi Strauss, he co-founded an online custom apparel company that made jeans for Lands’ End (LE) shoppers. “You’re taking self-reported inputs from a human being,” he says, “and then trying to figure out exactly what pair of pants to make them. Are they being honest with themselves? Is there vanity sizing involved? How do they perceive themselves relative to how they actually are?”

H/T to Jose Molina wants a nickname like “A-Rod”

Jim Furtado Posted: September 01, 2014 at 12:40 AM | 7 comment(s)
  Beats: astros, moneyball

OMNICHATTER 9-1-2014

The OMNICHATTER has never had a nude image leaked.


Also, including today, there are 28 SCHEDULED GAME DAYS LEFT IN THE REGULAR SEASON. Buckle up!

Gamingboy Posted: September 01, 2014 at 12:08 AM | 39 comment(s)
  Beats: omnichatter

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Blue Jays Acquire Mayberry Jr.

Grady Sizemore, Dom Brown, Darin Ruf, they’ve talked about moving Cody Asche out there… the Phillies just couldn’t keep all these great left fielders around.

The Blue Jays have acquired outfielder John Mayberry Jr. from the Phillies. Philadelphia announced the move via Twitter. The Phillies received infielder Gustavo Pierre in return.

The District Attorney Posted: August 31, 2014 at 09:20 PM | 7 comment(s)
  Beats: gustavo pierre, john mayberry jr., trades, transactions

High School Baseball Game In Japan Takes 50 Innings, Four Days

Chukyo finally defeated Sotoku 3-0 in the 50th Sunday morning, but look at those pitching lines. Both starting pitchers played the entire game. Taiga Matsui hurled 709 pitches for Chukyo, and Sotoku’s Jukiya Ishioka threw 689 pitches.

Matsui threw 77 more pitches in relief the next game. The likening of Japanese high school coaches to child abusers has another data point. It’s too bad, because a 50 inning game should be freakin’ awesome, and instead I’m just wondering if these two kids damaged their arms for the rest of their lives because their coaches are psychotic.


Brewers Acquire Jonathan Broxton

I always thought Broxton was pretty Turnbow-y. But he does lead the Reds in games pitched and has a 1.86 ERA, so maybe I’m wrong. (3.52 FIP)

The Reds have traded right-hander Jonathan Broxton to the Brewers, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link).

The District Attorney Posted: August 31, 2014 at 01:36 PM | 7 comment(s)
  Beats: brewers, jonathan broxton, reds, trades, transactions

Athletics Acquire Adam Dunn

Woulda fit in better with the John Jaha/Matt Stairs crew, but oh well. Cue various “never been to the postseason” lists.

The A’s have acquired Adam Dunn from the White Sox in exchange for minor league pitcher Nolan Sanburn, the team announced. Though the A’s were on his limited no-trade clause, word broke this morning that Dunn, who has never played in the postseason, was willing to waive that clause in order for a chance to win.

Dunn, 34, is hitting .220/.340/.433 with 20 homers on the season… The hope for the A’s is that adding some left-handed pop can help to spark an offense that has gone dormant in the month of August… John Jaso has served as Oakland’s left-handed DH quite a bit this season, but the A’s recently placed Jaso on the seven-day disabled list due to concussion-like symptoms, and they’ve been mixing and matching with Brandon Moss, Coco Crisp, Derek Norris and Gomes of late. Crisp, however, has recently re-strained his neck, which could lead to more outfield time for Moss, especially if Crisp is out for a significant amount of time.

Dunn is in the final season of a four-year, $56MM pact with the White Sox, meaning he is owed about $2.54MM for the month of September.

The District Attorney Posted: August 31, 2014 at 11:42 AM | 43 comment(s)
  Beats: adam dunn, athletics, trades, transactions, white sox

Sherman: How Reds react to second-half swoon will be major factor in offseason

Leitch is scared of the Cubs also! Hop on the el train, choo choo!

the club that faces the most daunting hurdles [this offseason] is the Reds because: 1) Four-fifths of their rotation will enter their walk year to free agency in 2015. 2) They have huge investments in a right side of the infield, with Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto, that has significant indicators of diminishing returns. 3) They play in arguably the majors’ toughest division, with the Brewers, Cardinals and Pirates all still vying for the playoffs, and the scariest element for every team in the NL Central the behemoth growing at Wrigley…

“We still have a small window,” Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said by phone. “This year is disappointing because of the injuries. From the very beginning, we had 11 DL guys and eight were key. … I feel we still have a small window if the guys come back healthy.”

That could be true. But I think Cincinnati has to be proactive and shop Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos, and maybe [Jay] Bruce, too. Even at full health, the Reds would not be the favorites to win the NL Central next year — maybe not even be picked for second or third… Phillips and Homer Bailey have big contracts that can’t be moved or only can be moved by eating large sums and/or taking back equally bad pacts. Having those contracts means the Reds do not seem positioned to sign their ace, Cueto, and maybe not even Latos, at a time when that duo plus Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon are all free agents after the 2015 campaign. And to make bad worse, Cincinnati is viewed as having a bottom-tier farm system at a time when the Cardinals, Pirates and Cubs have among the best…

“We are certainly aware of the strength of our division and the emerging strength of the Cubs,” Jocketty said. “We have obviously kicked [what to do moving forward] around some, but once the season is over we will sit down and really focus on it. I don’t know that we could sign everybody. That would be tough to do. We will do the best we can to retain the pitching we have and make the right choices.”

The District Attorney Posted: August 31, 2014 at 11:03 AM | 12 comment(s)
  Beats: reds

Backman named PCL’s top manager

Shouldn’t Vegas be the Aces? Are they named after Roswell, in a different state? What is this??

Wally Backman on Friday was named the 2014 Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year… With three games left in the regular season, Backman has led the 51s to the PCL’s best record, at 80-61, after guiding it to an 81-63 mark last season that was the second-best in the league…

Finishing second to Backman in the Manager of the Year voting was Sacramento’s Steve Scarsone, followed by Memphis’ Pop Warner and Reno’s Phil Nevin, who earned Backman’s vote.

Backman said Nevin, whose Aces could be the 51s’ first-round playoff opponent — the first two games are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday at Cashman Field — does a great job of matching wits against him…

Backman was named Arizona Diamondbacks manager on Nov. 1, 2004 but was fired on Nov. 5 amid legal and financial revelations… While Backman declined to speculate if winning the PCL award might help his quest to become a big league manager, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said recently at Cashman Field that he’s a capable candidate.

“He certainly deserves an opportunity, especially with the consistency of his winning at both this level and previously at the Double-A level,” Alderson said. “It’s very possible.”

As for what has prevented Backman from already getting an opportunity, Alderson said it’s hard to say.

“Each organization might be looking for someone slightly different,” he said. “Eventually there may be a match.”

The District Attorney Posted: August 31, 2014 at 10:31 AM | 21 comment(s)
  Beats: las vegas 51s, mets, minor leagues, wally backman

Spencer: Trout, Donaldson rival leaders on the WAR path

WAR of the double alliance.

Josh Donaldson is no fan of WAR. The process, he maintains, is fine, but the name has to go.

“I think it’s a terrible name for what it represents,” the Athletics’ skilled and athletic third baseman said Friday afternoon. “It’s not about [wins above] replacement players. It’s an equation of how you’re affecting the game—whether it’s clutch hitting, defense, offensive production. It’s a formula to say this is what a player brings to the table, his total game.”

Donaldson hasn’t come up with a more appropriate name for the equation, but he nodded enthusiastically when a visitor suggested Total Player Rating—TPR.

“I like that,” he said with a fist bump. “That’s much better. Let’s go with it.”

Donaldson, according to Baseball-Reference.com, is the highest-rated Wins Above Replacement position player in the Major Leagues. He is giving the A’s 7.1 wins, a half-tick more than two-time reigning American League WAR kingpin Mike Trout, who is at 6.5 for the Angels.

...With the loss of Yoenis Cespedes in the swap that brought Jon Lester to Oakland, Donaldson’s importance to the A’s increased—if that is possible. He was fourth, two spots behind runner-up Trout, in the AL Most Valuable Player Award balloting last season by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

“You can affect the game in more than one way,” Donaldson said. “It’s more than how you swing the bat. A lot of people say I’m having a down year, hitting [.255]. At the same time, I have those 20 errors. But there’s a lot more that goes into determining your value than your batting average and errors.”

Repoz Posted: August 31, 2014 at 07:34 AM | 10 comment(s)
  Beats: sabermetrics

Madden:Captain Catch-22: Offenses suffer with Derek Jeter, David Wright in prime batting order spots

Carleton Carpenter, Debbie Reynolds and Aba Daba Honeymoon incredibly still live on from ‘51…so should grace saving Batting Averages!

On the other hand, Jeter’s decline, in which, since late June, he’s had more parting gifts from opposing teams than extra base hits, has been both sad to watch and a real dilemma for Yankee manager Joe Girardi. While it would be tough to finger Jeter as the primary culprit for the Yankees’ offensive struggles this season — there are plenty of other more worthy candidates for that in the middle of the order — his inability to get around on almost any hard-throwing righties, his seven extra base hits since June 24, and the 12-point drop in his batting average since Aug. 1 cries out for moving him out of the No. 2 hole to the bottom of the lineup. But even though Girardi so famously stated he wasn’t hired to manage a farewell tour, he’s forced to do just that because moving Jeter would create a whole new media controversy that this delicate Yankee season doesn’t need.

At the same time, suggestions that Girardi should start giving more and more at-bats at shortstop to defensively superior Brendan Ryan or Stephen Drew are absurd, if only because neither of them is going to provide any added juice to the lineup, or is being groomed to succeed Jeter next year. Rather, for all of us who have admired Jeter’s sustained excellence and nobility these past 19 seasons, the hope is he just finishes the season respectably and not in the throes of a prolonged slump that drops his batting average — his one saving grace right now — to under .250 or worse. Remember, Joe DiMaggio hit .263 his final season, at only 36. So much has been said about the Yankees needing to get Jeter to just one more October. But considering the way Jeter is struggling down the stretch, maybe, for his sake, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the finish line came sooner.

Repoz Posted: August 31, 2014 at 06:24 AM | 11 comment(s)
  Beats: history, mets, yankees

Photo of the day: Bill Murray, indy league ticket-taker

Actor Bill Murray—America’s Best FriendTM—is of course part owner of the independent-league St. Paul Saints, and the Saints on Thursday bid final adieu to Midway Stadium, their home yard for lo these many years. To mark the occasion, Mr. Murray showed up and performed the tasks of the otherwise overlooked and taken-for-granted ticket-taker ...

A movie theater in my area was playing Ghostbusters in honor of the 30th anniversary.  1) Great call by the theater, 2) Great movie.  Took my daughter to it, she loved it and asked me why they don’t make movies like that anymore.  Man, I wish I knew the answer to that one…

 

Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: August 31, 2014 at 02:35 AM | 101 comment(s)
  Beats: bill murray, minors

Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera appears to re-injure ankle, leaves game

Tigers first baseman and two-time reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera was forced to exit Saturday’s night-cap against the White Sox (GameTracker) after trying to beat out a grounder in the fourth inning. As Chris Iott of MLive.com writes, Cabrera appeared to aggravate the right ankle injury that’s been bothering him for some time.

This is possibly unfair use of hindsight, but one now has to wonder about the wisdom of letting Cabrera, who, as noted, has been hobbled recently and throughout much of recent history, start both ends of the double-header in Chicago

All the stars are aligned, if the Royals can’t close the deal this season…

Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: August 31, 2014 at 02:28 AM | 19 comment(s)
  Beats: injuries, know your limits, tigers

OMNICHATTER 8-31-2014

The Orioles acquire… THE OMNICHATTER.

Gamingboy Posted: August 31, 2014 at 12:10 AM | 100 comment(s)
  Beats: omnichatter

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Orioles Acquire Kelly Johnson

Needs to go to Tampa and Toronto and complete the circuit. By the end of the day tomorrow, I mean. He’s played for them already.

The Orioles have announced that they’ve acquired infielders Kelly Johnson and Michael Almanzar from the Red Sox for infielders Jemile Weeks and Ivan De Jesus…

Johnson… [has] hit .212/.290/.354 for the season. With the Orioles, he’ll likely play mostly at third base in the wake of the team’s loss of Manny Machado for the rest of the season.

The Orioles selected Almanzar from the Red Sox in the Rule 5 Draft last offseason, but returned him in early July. Since then, he’s hit .280/.360/.427 in 186 plate appearances for Double-A Portland.

The District Attorney Posted: August 30, 2014 at 10:36 PM | 20 comment(s)
  Beats: kelly johnson, orioles, red sox, trades, transactions

Orioles Acquire Alejandro De Aza

A “why not?” deal for the O’s.

The Orioles have announced that they’ve acquired left-handed outfielder Alejandro De Aza from the White Sox for minor league pitchers Miguel Chalas and Mark Blackmar. De Aza, 30, has hit .246/.312/.358 this season… He’s making $4.25MM this season in his second year of arbitration, and he can become eligible for free agency after 2015.

The Orioles already have a strong starting outfield of Nelson Cruz, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis, but they can surely use De Aza as a backup…

Chalas, 22, has pitched most of the season with Class A+ Frederick, where he posted a 4.80 ERA, 6.4 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 69 1/3 innings of relief… Blackmar, also 22, has pitched 130 1/3 innings for Frederick, with a 3.18 ERA, 5.7 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9, pitching mostly has a starter. MLB.com does not rank either of them in its list of the top 20 Orioles prospects.


Sullivan: Why Mike Trout—and the rest of the league—is having trouble with the high stuff

Pitchers, by and large, are working lower. The called strike zone has followed them... Hitters are… swinging at more pitches in the lower third… Contact rates on pitches up have declined. Contact rates on pitches down have very slightly improved… here’s what this has led to: in 2008, hitters slugged 30 points better against high strikes than they did against low strikes. The next season, they slugged 51 points better. Fast-forward now to 2014, and you’ll observe that now hitters are slugging 10 points worse against those same high strikes…

Yet, pitchers continue to work down. It’s how they’ve long been instructed, and it’s where offspeed pitches are usually supposed to go… From a recent Business Week Astros profile:

advanced data yielded a useful insight: Major league hitters had become so adept at hitting low pitches that they were vulnerable to high ones. [Billy] Beane had discovered a particularly clever countermove. “€œBeane stayed ahead of the curve,”€ says [Astros pitching coach Brent] Strom, “€œby finding hitters with a steep upward swing path to counter the sinking action of pitchers trying to induce ground balls.”

Billy Beane put together a baseball team constructed to fight those low pitches… The Astros had Collin McHugh start to throw more elevated four-seam fastballs… McHugh is having an outstanding season out of nowhere…

So this is how we proceed in the league’s hunt for equilibrium. For years, pitchers worked to throw down more and more often… The league has started to respond… [and] now the league will eventually respond to the response, re-establishing the upper parts of the zone. McHugh is one example… And then, in time, there [will] just be a response to the response to the response. Look closely enough and there’s no such thing as equilibrium at all.


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