December 6, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
And here's the full roster.
THT's latest e-bookThird Base: The Crossroads is THT's new e-book, available for $3.99 from the Kindle store. The good news is that anyone can read a Kindle book, even on a PC. So enjoy the best from THT in a new format.
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Let’s discuss the THT Annual (7)
10th anniversary: the A.J. Pierzynski trade (15)
It’s The Hardball Times Annual 2014 (8)
25th anniversary: Rob Neyer writes a letter (4)
Putting the knock on pitching changes (2)
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Friday, July 24, 2009
The Cardinals could certainly use it, as their .768 OPS from the cleanup spot is the 12th worst in the National League, worst in the Central. Holliday's current .454 slugging percentage might not offer much hope for improvement, but Keith Law is optimistic:
Holliday started his tenure with Oakland horribly, bottoming out after an 0-for-7 performance in an extra-inning loss to Seattle on May 3 and an 0-for-4 performance the next day against the Angels. Since then, in exactly 300 plate appearances, he has hit .310/.413/.492, more in line with his skill set and history. ... The knock on Holliday at the plate has always been that he can't handle heat -- throw him hard stuff, especially in on his hands or up in the zone, and he can't catch up. He'll now move back to the National League, which has less velocity overall and more starters who survive with fringe-average or below-average fastballs. So there's good reason to believe he'll improve his performance by more than the typical player who leaves both the American League and Oakland's cavernous park.
Well, that certainly bodes for improvement.
Holliday will almost certainly get an arbitration offer from the Cardinals, but with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees losing their left-fielders (and the Yankees also losing their DH) it wouldn't surprise me to see Holliday play the field and decline any arbitration offer. The Cardinals are taking a big risk here, hoping that they can hammer out an extension for Holliday before he hits the market. With Scott Boras, that's highly unlikely. Their offer of arbitration could be enough to have Holliday rejoin the Cardinals on a deal around $15 million (he's currently making $13.5 million, so that figure is conservative) but it might be their only hope if the Yankees and/or Red Sox get in a bidding war for Holliday. It's this question mark that has teams panning the deal based on what the Cardinals gave up, but I'm not of that mind.
The Cardinals sent three prospects to Oakland to complete the deal: Brett Wallace, Clayton Mortensen and Shane Peterson.
Brett Wallace, 22, is a bad-body third baseman who should have no problems hitting once he arrives in the majors, which could be as soon as this year. In Triple-A, he's hitting .293/..346/.423. When he first gets started at the major league level, he's unlikely to crank 30 home runs right away, if at all. Wallace shouldn't have a problem hitting doubles, but home runs are further off, especially in Oakland's park. With Pujols at first base, Wallace was limited to third for the Cardinals. While he might still stick there the next couple of years, the general consensus is that he's a future first baseman.
If true, he loses a lot of value quickly -- still valuable, but not irreplaceable as his bat would constitute at third. Given all I've heard of Wallace, he strikes me as a player who could put up numbers similar to James Loney's slash stats in 2007: .331/.381/.538. Any such line is a long way off, as Wallace's Triple-A numbers are less than impressive.
When I look at this deal, I'm seeing the Cardinals trade away a bat they likely could never live with at third, and a bat without transcendent power.
The second of the three pieces, Mortensen, already made his big league debut as a right-handed pitcher. 24, Mortensen pitched three innings in a 10-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants, giving up two earned runs, five hits, one walk and two strikeouts. That's not all that far off from what I expect Mortensen to settle in at. He may be worth a couple extra wins a year in Oakland than elsewhere, but the overall consensus is that Mortensen ranks as a No. 4. As valuable as pitching is, a No. 4 shouldn't be too much trouble to give up in a deal.
Peterson, 21, is an outfielder who held a lot of promise last year when he hit .298/.367/.428 with the High-A team. Power was the only thing missing from the game, so scouts were eager to see if that came through this year. Nope. At Double-A, he has just one home run on the year and has seen his value take a hit as he's also struggled with his plate discipline. He's not projectable enough to pass judgment quite yet, but right now he sits as a backup outfielder. Given his age and level of play, if the A's have him repeat the level next year, he could take a leap forward.
I think the Cardinals did well here in acquiring Holliday. To me, Mortensen and Peterson are nothing more than pieces that may or or may not pan out. Wallace is the only one near-certain of doing so, but the viability of his future in St. Louis was very much in question. They turned Wallace into a major league hitter that can get them into the playoffs. With the way their pitching is performing, Holliday gives them a shot at defeating either the Dodgers or Phillies to call themselves NL champions.
During the season, Mark Buehrle used his change-up about 15-20% of the time. In yesterday's perfect game, it was his go-to pitch, particularly against right-handed batters, who saw 40 change-ups out of 90 pitches. He notched 15 outs with the change, seven with the four-seam fastball, and five with the cut fastball.
In the last three innings, he went even more heavily to the change-up, throwing 24 changes compared to 18 pitches of all other types combined. This while he was ramping his fastball speed from the mid-eighties to the upper eighties, touching 90 mph with his final pitch.
After the jump is a chart showing the speed of all his pitches, with the pitch type and result of the at bat indicated.
Click for more...
From 2006 to 2007 Matt Antonelli appeared to be on the fast track to the major leagues. Antonelli, a former first round pick out of Wake Forest, was dubbed the Padres second baseman of the future and the top second base prospect in all of baseball by several publications. His outstanding athleticism (he was Massachusetts Player of the Year in Football and Hockey in high school) combined with his plate discipline and advanced hitting approach made him one of the fastest rising stars in the minor leagues.
In 2007 he hit .301/.402/.477 between High-A and Double-A. Having had such success in the lower rungs of the minors San Diego moved him up to Triple-A in 2008.
But during that season Antonelli hit a wall. He saw his average plummet to .215. His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) fell from .335 in 2007 to .251. He saw his home run output dwindle from 21 in 2007 to seven in 2008. Nevertheless, the Padres promoted him, perhaps in hopes of jump starting his season, for a brief cameo in the big leagues. Antonelli struggled in his 65 plate appearances hitting .193. This season has been much of the same. Back in Triple-A after missing the six weeks with a leg injury, Antonelli is batting .188/.295/.339. His BABIP has dipped to .197.
Interestingly, Antonelli's plate discipline remains consistent. His solid walk rate this year, 12.2 percent, and strikeout rate, 14.5 percent, are right in line with his minor league career averages. He has maintained a strikeout to walk ratio near one his entire career.
So what could possibly explain this sudden drop in performance? Well for one his ground balls and line drives are down and his fly balls and pop ups have risen. In 2007 his ground ball rate was 43.2 percent, his line drive rate was 16.7 percent, his fly ball rate was 40.0 percent and his infield fly ball rate was 14.3 percent. Fast forward to 2008 and his percentages are 37.8, 15.1, 47.0, and 23.9 percent. These percentages are virtually identical to his 2009 campaign as well. More fly balls and pop ups mean more easy outs and a lower BABIP. Below is a simple chart I made of Antonelli's batted ball data throughout his minor league career.
Could it also be possible that Antonelli's home park in the Pacific League deflates offensive production that much? Not likely, but using the tools on http://www.minorleaguesplits.com/ I was able to figure out his batting line with the park factors neutralized. Even with this he would only be batting .205/.309/.355 this season. Neutralizing luck still only yields .253/.351/.434, a far cry from his earlier performances. So it appears neither of these two factors are playing a major role in his poor performances of late.
Whatever the case may be its obvious that something is wrong with Matt Antonelli as he is nowhere near the player he once was. Perhaps it is a mechanical issue that can be corrected with time. Although he is just 24 years old, Antonelli's career seems to be in a free fall. If he cannot get back to what made him such a successful player he could be out of a job in a few years. For his sake, and for Padres fans everywhere, I hope he can revert to his former self.
With heavy humidity, threatening skies, and building crowds on Main and Pioneer streets, Hall of Fame Weekend 2009 made its presence known in Cooperstown on Thursday...
One of the surest signs of the arrival of Induction Weekend is the sighting of the Fergie Jenkins Van. I saw Jenkins’ colorfully decorated vehicle, which he uses to travel around the country and Canada in efforts to raise money for his charitable foundation, early in the afternoon on Thursday. Another clearcut sign of Hall of Fame Weekend is the presence of Pete Rose, who was spotted at a Main Street autograph signing on Thursday. Now that Rose has apparently given up hopes of being reinstated, he’s back to his habit of appearing at Hall of Fame Weekend and signing his autograph at inflated prices. Amazingly, Rose receives more for his signature than just about all of the Hall of Famers, even those who were far superior players…
Also on Thursday, 2009 Inductee Rickey Henderson made an unexpected appearance at the Main Street CVS Pharmacy, causing a bit of a commotion in the store. Henderson isn’t scheduled to sign at CVS until Monday afternoon, but he dropped by on Thursday afternoon to negotiate some of the remaining details to his autograph session. When fans spotted Henderson in one of the aisles, they began to crowd around, thinking that Henderson was signing right then and there. A mini-mob scene formed, before the fans were eventually told that Rickey will not appear until Monday. Henderson will not be signing anywhere else in Cooperstown, meaning that CVS has an exclusive on him throughout the weekend…
Two other Hall of Famers did sign at CVS on Thursday: Jenkins and 90-year-old favorite Bob Feller. Feller visited town to pitch in the first Hall of Fame Classic last month; he won’t be doing any pitching this weekend, but I’m sure that he’ll be giving his outspoken opinion on just about anything he’s asked. Feller receives his fair share of criticism for being one of those old-fashioned “get off my lawn!” kind of guys, but the man is always accessible to the media, willingly engages fans in conversation, and has an impeccable resume as both a player and American war hero. During my years at the Hall of Fame, I interviewed Feller more than any other player, and he never failed to treat me with fairness and respect. And there is no one who loves the Hall of Fame, or would do anything to promote its popularity, more than Rapid Robert.
Yesterday, Evan Brunell looked at the Rockies recent bullpen upgrades. In addition to trading for Rafael Betancourt of the Indians, they also brought up top pitching prospect Jhoulys Chacin to pitch out the pen.
Chacin was having a solid year in Double A at age 21, putting up a 2.46 K:BB ratio and a 4.02 FIP; however, thanks to a deflated ERA of 3.14, he was selected to pitch in the Future's Game. That's good news for us, as MLB recorded Pitch f/x data for that game. Chacin wasn't the only one who pitched in that game, and you can see Pitch f/x looks at some other prospects here and here; however, today we'll focus on him.
He pitched one shutout inning, while striking out two batters and walking one without giving up a hit. He threw 16 pitches, and it appears that 8 of them were fastballs, 4 of them were curveballs and 4 were changeups. Keeping in mind that this is not necessarily a representation of his true ability, let's see how his stuff looked through the eyes of a computer:
Click for more...