Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Bullpen Heros for the Mariners

Since moving to the bullpen, Maurer has become a new pitcher. Posting ridiculous stats: 0.00 ERA 1.45 FIP 2.52 xFIP while striking out 31.6% of all batters he has faced. Things weren’t working out for him in the rotation, but moving to the bullpen has allowed him to use his two best pitches (fastball and change-up) and he has done an amazing job in his ten innings of work. Small sample size or not, anyone who watches the Mariners can tell you Brandon Maurer has looked infinitely better as a reliever. 

Brandon Maurer showing great fastball command.

Dominic Leone has been equally impressive this season. His 1.83 ERA isn’t a fluke either as he has posted a 2.73 FIP and 2.85 xFIP, so even if he regresses, it shouldn’t be so severe. He’s striking out 10.30 batters per nine innings and his groundball rate is at 51.5%, so he is a tough match-up with runners on base as well.

Dominic Leone freezes B.J. Upton with his slider.

 The Mariners are currently the second Wild Card team in the American League and their bullpen is a huge reason why that is the case. They lead all of MLB with a 2.39 bullpen ERA and given the injuries to James Paxton and Taijuan Walker (and Iwakuma early on), they’ve really stepped up to the challenge and kept the Mariners in the playoff race. While Chris Young continues to use smoke and mirrors to succeed (4.95 FIP & 5.38 xFIP) and rookie Roenis Elias begins to fade, the bullpen has stayed consistent. If Walker and Paxton can make any impact on the rotation with this bullpen in place… The Mariners could be a dangerous team come playoff time.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Success of Scooter Gennett

 Why do people act like Scooter Gennett has come out of nowhere to play well?

(Source: Mike McGinnis/Getty Images North America)

He had a lot of minor league success: .297/.337/.371 .745 OPS and it's carried over to the majors: .317/.353/.481 .835 OPS. His numbers have been better in the majors, but he's been excelling in a platoon role with Rickie Weeks. He essentially kills right handed pitching, but struggles with lefties: .349/.386/.540 vs .143/.167/.324 against lefties. This is also allowing Rickie Weeks to bat primarily against lefties and he's doing a pretty solid job in that role: .262/.347/.464 which is good for an OPS of .812. If you've followed the Brewers over the past few seasons, you'll know that Weeks was entering Dan Uggla territory in terms of production, so this platoon allows the Brewers to get the best out of Gennett and Weeks.

Some of the success Gennett is having can be attributed to pure luck and his .389 BABIP against RHP would make that very obvious, but he's been producing at this level for nearly two seasons. One final stat of notice to me, his total percentage of contact made when swinging at all pitches is at 85.1% and that ranks higher than Miguel Cabrera 81.3% and Mike Trout 81.0% for the 2014 season. For reference, Jose Altuve is even higher than Gennett at 90.8%... Maybe it's just a short player thing? *Yep, just checked Pedroia and he's been around 89-90% for his career.*

So, Gennett may be the product of a successful platoon, but there's no denying that he's a great contact hitter. To me, he's right in line with guys like Jose Altuve and maybe even in the same realm as Dustin Pedroia. Altuve may have more speed and Pedroia might have better power numbers, but Gennett is right with them both in terms of their contact rates. I've seen some other writers claiming they've been "wrong" about Gennett and while I think he's doing a great job, his splits do point towards his success being because of his platoon role. I would like to see him get a chance everyday soon, but why break up a good thing between him and Weeks? In the meantime, the Brewers keep on winning and Gennett keeps on hitting.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Gus Schlosser - Braves Rookie Reliever

Gus Schlosser made his Major League debut yesterday against the Milwaukee Brewers and already had an immediate impact in the bullpen. Following up fellow rookie, Ian Thomas, Schlosser induced an inning ending double play. Throughout his career in the minor leagues, Schlosser has been great at stranding runners on base and his career he has had a very high LOB% (which ranges from 78% in 2011, 67% in 2012, and 78.1% in 2013). Given these numbers, it's apparent that he'd be great coming into games and getting important outs with people on base. Another advantage Schlosser has is his excellent control, his career WHIP in 335.5 innings in the minors is 1.130, and he averages 7.6 SO/9 and only 2.2 BB/9 which is good for a 3.44 SO/BB ratio. Personally, I feel like the most important thing for a relief pitcher is to limit walks and throw strikes. Throughout his entire minor league career, he has only allowed 14 home runs and when you don't walk many batters and don't allow many home runs, you're in a great position succeed on the mound in high leverage situations. Obviously, he's only made one career appearance and there's not enough of a sample size to make any assumptions about his role moving forward, but if he's able to duplicate his minor league success, you'd have to think the Braves have another late inning reliever in their arsenal of impressive bullpen arms. In the image below, it demonstrates the movement on his slider and Schlosser's ability to generate ground balls.

He has a very unique delivery and his slider breaks so much that Rickie Weeks can only muster a weak ground ball off the end of the bat. He pitched 1.2 innings in his debut and struck out a batter while also inducing an inning ending double play. The Braves already feature Luis Avilan, David Carpenter, Jordan Walden, Craig Kimbrel, and will eventually be getting Jonny Venters back as well. The Braves continue to produce above average relievers and they'll need them more than ever with the question marks surrounding the 5th starter spot in the rotation. If the Braves can have a lead going into the 6th inning, you'll have to like their chances to win moving forward this season. I'm very excited to see Gus Schlosser continue to grow and get chances to impress manager Fredi Gonzalez at the Major League level.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

It's Official: Masahiro Tanaka has signed with the Yankees.

The Yankees continued their busy off-season by signing the best available pitcher: Masahiro Tanaka. Last season, the Yankees struggled through injuries and off the field distractions (have you heard about this A-Rod guy?) and had to endure seeing their bitter rivals in Boston win the World Series. The Yankees went to work this off-season and in my opinion, they've done a great job to improve their ball club.

(Koji Watanabe/Getty Image)
Fast forward to today and the news about Masahiro Tanaka. It's been a hectic few months, but the Tanaka sweepstakes are finally over and the Yankees got their guy. I feel like Tanaka has the mental mindset and ability to do great things in New York, but Yankee fans need to be patient with him. He's not a "savior" or some magical pitcher who's going to go undefeated next season (it would be amazing if he did, but you let's be real here!). When you think of the transition from NPB to MLB, it's not always as simple as it sounds. Most people make the NPB out to be the "minor leagues", but it's far from it. It's one of the most passionate and competitive leagues in all of sports. To me, the transition from NPB to MLB is more about work loads and sticking to throwing programs. I feel like the Yankees need to let Tanaka be Tanaka and not try to change his mechanics or alter how he goes about his bullpen sessions. Instead of forcing him to embrace things here, they should embrace how he wants to do things. After this huge deal, the fans in New York are going to have massive expectations for Tanaka, but he's not going to always be perfect. He's going to have his ups and downs, but I feel like he's going to be worth much more than his $155M contract.

Are the Yankees truly the best fit for Tanaka?

That's the $155M question... I do feel like Tanaka has the ability to do great things in New York, but I do have some concerns. Not with Tanaka's ability, but the team around him. The Yankees infield does have it's flaws and unknowns. Robinson Cano is gone, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira are coming off numerous injuries, and there's questions surrounding who's going to play 3B and 2B. Masahiro Tanaka isn't going to strikeout 13+ batters a game and relies on his defense to make plays behind him. The Yankee outfield should be alright, but the infield is a huge concern for me. Derek Jeter's range has been on the decline for the past few seasons before his injury and you'd have to think he's going to be even more limited now. Kelly Johnson may be asked to play 3B and he has little to no experience over there. Brendan Ryan is an excellent fielder, but his bat is a huge liability. This isn't just a concern for Tanaka, but also the other pitchers on the Yankee staff as well. If they can't have Tanaka's back, he may not put up the stats that Yankee fans are wanting out of him and it's unfair to talk badly of him when the defense around him may let him down.

Masahiro Tanaka is a great pitcher and will probably be slotted behind Sabathia and Kuroda in the Yankee rotation. I think he's going to be able to handle the pressure of pitching in New York and my only concerns aren't with his ability, but the team around him. Personally, I would have liked to of seen him sign with a team that has better infield defense, but all reports indicate that he's excited to join the Yankees and they desperately need him.

Are you excited to see Masahiro Tanaka pitch with the Yankees? I know I am.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Thoughts on the Braves acquiring Justin Upton...

I’ll start off by saying that Martin Prado was one of my favorite players and I’m really sad to see him traded.

(Ralph Freso/Getty Images North America)

Now, if I get the fan side of things out of the way….

Martin Prado is a great player, but the Braves did him a disservice when they moved him from second base. He was an above average second baseman, but his offensive game didn’t translate well to third base or LF, but he still fit the Braves well and his mix of contact and defense worked great for a #2 hitter. He was a great leader and he impacted the game on the field and off the field, but the reasons for trading him go beyond what most people see on paper.

Justin Upton signed a team friendly deal to stay in Arizona and he’s still under contract until 2015. Martin Prado is entering his last arbitration eligible year and will be a free agent after the season. The DBacks are working on an extension with Prado, but he will be earning more money than what Justin Upton is currently making and the Braves budget probably wouldn’t allow them to sign him long term.

So, enter Justin Upton. He’s under contract until 2015 and is making $9.75M next season and just over $14M in 2014 and 2015. The most important thing about his contract is that he’ll only be 27 years old at the end of his contract… Martin Prado is entering his age 29 season and will demand a large payday after this season. When you take in account the ages and salary, getting Justin Upton at this price is a great deal by Frank Wren and the Braves.
Let’s compare the stats:

Player A: .301/.359/.438 .796 OPS 114 OPS+
Player B: .280/.355/.430 .785 OPS 107 OPS+

When you compare the stats last year, both players had similar years. The only difference is that last year was a “down” year for Justin Upton and Martin Prado had one of the best seasons of his career. So, even when Justin Upton is injured and having a “bad” season, he’s still playing at the level of Martin Prado.
When healthy, Justin Upton has been a player to average .295/.368/.531 .900 OPS 135 OPS+
So, when he’s healthy and playing up to his potential, Justin Upton is one of the best offensive players in all of baseball. His down years are more like the better seasons from Martin Prado.

You also have to take into account that Justin Upton is only 24 years old… With Jason Heyward (23 years old), Freddie Freeman (23 years old), Andrelton Simmons (23 years old), and B.J. Upton (28 years). The Braves have some of the best young talent in all of baseball.

In closing, I will always be a fan of Martin Prado and all he did for the Braves. I just can’t see how this is a bad move on the Braves part though. When you take into account the age, money, and potential, the Braves did very well for themselves. That’s not even including getting Chris Johnson, who is a pretty solid Major League player. I like the deal for the Braves, but I’ll miss Martin Prado. I’m also happy for the prospects the Braves traded because they’ll finally get a legitimate chance with the DBacks.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Is B.J. Upton A Fit For The Braves?

With the rumors circulating around that the Braves are "making a push" for B.J. Upton, I decided to take a look at Upton versus the Braves incumbent centerfielder, Michael Bourn.

(Chris Trotman/Getty Images North America)
Since being acquired from the Astros in the summer of 2011, Michael Bourn has become a fan favorite in Atlanta. His speed and defense gave the Braves a look at the top of their lineup they haven't seen since the Rafael Furcal days. Bourn also filled the void in centerfield left by Andruw Jones after the 2007 season. Mark Kotsay, Jordan Schafer, and Nate McLouth all had their chances, but either didn't produce at the level the Braves needed or had injury issues.

When the Braves traded prospects Brett Oberholtzer, Paul Clemens, Juan Abreu, and Jordan Schafer for Bourn many felt like the Braves got a steal when you consider what the Astros received for Hunter Pence. With his agent being Scott Boras, the Braves knew the odds were slim that could extend him before he reached free agency and that brings us to B.J. Upton. 

Since Michael Bourn no longer fits into the Braves budget, they have (according to sources) set their sights on B.J. Upton. Some fans want to point to his low batting average or low on-base percentage, but let's compare his stats to those of Michael Bourn. 

I want to do a blind eye test here, just for the sake of making this argument better:

Player A: .274/.348/.391 .739 OPS 99 OPS+ 42 SB 13 CS 104 wRC+

Player B: .246/.298/.454 .752 OPS 109 OPS+ 31 SB 6 CS 107 wRC+

Player "A" is Michael Bourn and Player "B" is B.J. Upton. 

Earlier, I mentioned how some fans want to point to Upton's lower on-base and batting average, but he makes up for that with a higher slugging percentage. He also possesses the same speed threat as Bourn, but he gets thrown out at much lower rate. 

There's also something else B.J. Upton could bring the Braves and that's a nice speed/power threat from the right side. With a lefty heavy lineup, Upton could break up Heyward and Freeman. Andrelton Simmons, Martin Prado, Dan Uggla, and B.J. Upton would give the Braves a nice mix of right handed batters. 

The only real downside to B.J. Upton against Michael Bourn, would be on the defensive side of things. Without overloading on stats, Michael Bourn is an elite defender. B.J. Upton isn't in the same ballpark as Bourn on defense, but he certainly won't embarrass himself out there either. 

Both batters strikeout at high rates (Bourn 21.3%) (Upton 26.7%), but far too often Michael Bourn seemed to be a leadoff hitter who couldn't get on base. With B.J. Upton, you're at least getting a guy who is a legitimate 30/30 player and when you throw in Jason Heyward, it would be great having two guys in the same lineup who are potential 30/30 players. 

I think the Braves would be wise to make an offer to B.J. Upton. Josh Hamilton is too pricey and the other candidates wouldn't bring what B.J. Upton could bring the Braves. He may not be the "perfect fit", but who is in this free agent class? The Braves would be getting a player who is in their prime and could benefit from not only changing leagues, but also having a change of scenery. 

We'll see what Frank Wren and the Braves decide to do, but I think B.J. Upton would be a nice addition to the Braves. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mike Fiers: Sleeper NL Rookie of the Year Candidate.

If the season ended today, my NL Rookie of the Year award pick would be Mike Fiers of the Milwaukee Brewers. 
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images North America)