December 11, 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.
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Nationals make great deal for Fister (2)
Transaction Analysis Lightning Round: Pierzynski, Nathan, Ellsbury, and more (1)
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Monday, August 26, 2013
According to most of the established advanced pitching statistics, Matt Harvey is having a better year on the mound than Clayton Kershaw is. Harvey's 2.00 FIP and 2.60 xFIP trump Kershaw's 2.40 FIP and 2.94 xFIP by a pretty solid margin.
But although Kershaw is likely to win the Cy Young (and quite possibly the MVP as well), it isn't the infamous win-loss record that's putting him over the top; his 13-7 record is solid, but traditionally pedestrian and arguably competitive with Harvey's 9-4 record for a much worse team. Kershaw will win the Cy Young because his ERA is a majestic 1.72, despite the fact that the difference between his ERA and FIP/xFIP is easily explainable by a ridiculous .231 BABIP and career-high left-on-base rate of 80 percent. Oh well, que sera, sera; we've seen this many times before.
But is there a sabermetric argument in favor of Kershaw topping Harvey? One could argue that although Harvey's 5.9 fWAR (which is based off FIP) beats Kershaw's 5.5, when you take batting WAR into account, Kershaw comes out ahead. Harvey is hitting just .088/.088/.123 this year, good for an awful wRC+ of -53 and -0.3 WAR, dropping his overall fWAR total to 5.6. Meanwhile, Kershaw has been one of the best hitting pitchers in baseball with a .156/.217/.250 slash line in 76 plate appearances, good for 0.4 WAR, bringing his overall fWAR to 5.9.
So the real question is: Should any of this matter?
First awarded in 1956 and invented by then-commissioner Ford Frick, the Cy Young award purports to go to the "best pitcher." It's not a stretch to distinguish between the "best pitcher" and the "player who pitches best" to make the case that being a pitcher in the National League entails not just pitching, but hitting.
Although we often think of pitchers hitting as some sort of cute sideshow to "real baseball" that doesn't have much impact, the fWAR numbers aren't any less real than those for Mike Trout or Miguel Cabrera. The only question is whether the Cy Young award should consider a pitcher's season at the plate (and, related, in the field and on the base paths, although those WAR numbers are usually low enough to leave them as a non-issue).
My gut answer would be "no," that for the purposes of the award the intent is "who pitched the best," despite the "best pitcher" language. But in terms of figuring out who had a more valuable season overall? Kershaw's bat may prove determinative.
Rockies 4, Marlins 3: The Rockies won this game but the Marlins took the 1993 Expansion Cup for this season, closing out the year with a 4-3 record against Colorado. What—you don't keep track of the 1993 Expansion Cup? There's a great ceremony at the end of the series each year in which either David Neid or Nigel Wilson hand the other a teal-and-purple loving cup while "Rump Shaker" by Wreckx-N-Effect in plays over the loudspeaker. It's one of the most majestic events in sports each year. And you weren't aware of it? For shame.
Giants 4, Pirates 0: What this season could have been if Ryan Vogelsong had pitched like he did last year. Of course last year was kind of a shocker, so I guess it was too much to ask. He was oh so good yesterday afternoon, however, throwing eight innings of shutout ball against the Pirates to earn the series split.
Blue Jays 2, Astros 1: Shut out for eight innings, the Jays rallied for both of their two runs in the ninth. That spoiled a nice day for Dallas Keuchel, who tossed seven shutout innings. It was a nice pick-me-up for Mark Buehrle, however, who allowed one run over eight and otherwise would have had a pretty damn tough luck loss.
Braves 5, Cardinals 2: The Bravos salvage one against the Cardinals, avoiding a four-game sweep behind a nice outing from Mike Minor. Finally a decent game for Jordan Schafer, who hit a double and a triple and drove in a run. In the three previous games filling in the leadoff spot for Jason Heyward, Schafer had gone 0 for 12 with five strikeouts.
Royals 6, Nationals 4: The Royals finally pull out of the seven-game losing skid that basically cost them any hope at the playoffs. A key play in this game: Billy Butler chugging down the line to first base while Adam LaRoche chased a ball he had knocked down but which had eluded him. I reckon we haven't seen two slower guys in a race on the same play since the 1950s.
Phillies 9, Diamondbacks 5: Not a bad day for Roy Halladay considering he has only had a couple of minor league rehab starts—neither of which was spectacular—and given that he was basically rushed into service after Ryne Sandberg had to empty his bullpen and then some during Saturday night's marathon game. Halladay threw six innings of two-run ball. He struck only two and his fastball is a shadow of its former self. But as we said back in the spring: the rest of Halladay's career appears to be contingent upon him learning to be a crafty, old, occasionally junkballing vet. If he can do that, we may have several years left of him. If not, we're nearing the end.
White Sox 5, Rangers 2: Sox bench coach Mark Parent was ejected from the game while exchanging lineup cards which, OK, that had to be some conversation. I'm going to pretend he did it to rally the Pale Hose. If so, it worked,with John Danks throwing six solid innings and the bats tuning up Matt Garza for five runs over seven.
Yankees 3, Rays 2: The Yankees always seem to have trouble down in St. Pete and this series was no exception. They salvaged one here, however, thanks to Curtis Granderson driving in Alfonso Soriano with a sacrifice fly in the 11th inning
Tigers 11, Mets 3: The sweep. Miguel Cabrera went 3 for 4 with a homer and a walk and finished the series 7 for 13 with two homers and five RBIs. He's hitting .360 now and he's not even remotely healthy. Just amazing.
Orioles 10, Athletics 3: A good weekend for Baltimore. J.J. Hardy, Nick Markakis and Nate McLouth homered and the O's took two of three from Oakland. That moves them to within two games of the Athletics for the second Wild Card.
Brewers 3, Reds 1: Marco Estrada had his change-up working and he allowed one hit and no runs over seven innings. Caleb Gindl with a two-run homer for the winning margin.
Indians 3, Twins 1: Four errors for the Tribe and a load of base running mistakes but the Twins couldn't really capitalize. Then Drew Stubbs hit a tiebreaking, two-out homer in the eighth.
Angels 7, Mariners 1: The M's scored two runs in the entire three-game series. Not too damn inspiring for the folks in Seattle. Jered Weaver stymied them here yesterday, allowing one run on three hits in eight innings while striking out eight.
Padres 3, Cubs 2 : It was 0-0 until the 13th when both teams scored two and then the Pads finally won it on with an RBI single in the 15th. Those two runs apiece in the 13th were the product of some odd plays -- wild pitches and baserunners being plunked on the head with thrown balls—all of which added up to five hours and 13 minutes of weird baseball.
Red Sox 8, Dodgers 1: Jake Peavy was fantastic, tossing a complete game on three hits. Mike Napoli drove in three. The Dodgers dropped their first series since mid-June.
Today marks the 10th anniversary of a trade featuring several notable players. On Aug. 26, 2003, the Padres and Pirates engaged in a four-player deal that sent Oliver Perez, Jason Bay, and player to be named later (Corey Stewart) to the Pirates in exchange for Brian Giles.
Stewart was a minor leaguer who never made it to the show. The other three all could claim to be a star at one point or another.
At the time of the trade, Giles was the big name. He was, after all, the "one" in this three-for-one trade. A corner outfielder, Giles had first come up with the Indians in the mid-1990s, when they were utterly loaded with talent. As a result, Giles often was buried and in the background, but when given a chance, he proved he could hit. Cleveland flipped him to the Pirates in the 1998-99 offseason for reliever Ricardo Rincon, and Giles immediately made the Indians looks stupid for that one.
In his first year in Pittsburgh, Giles smashed 39 homers while hitting .315 and drawing 95 walks. Power, average, plate discipline—he could do it all. It was the first of four straight years with at least 35 homers for Giles, and he hit .298 or better each year while averaging over 100 walks a season. From 1999 through 2002, only Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa were better offensive forces in the NL.
But in 2003, Giles' game turned south. While he still hit around .300 with plenty of walks, by late August he had just 16 homers. Now 32 years old, the Pirates figured it was time to unload him while he still had value.
The Padres, despite being well out of any pennant race and on their way to a 64-98 finish, were more than happy to get Giles.
Pittsburgh needed pitching, and San Diego had Perez, a 21-year-old hurler with a lively arm who was in the midst of a disappointing season with a 5.38 ERA. The Pirates needed another major league-ready player to even out the trade, and since losing Giles opening up a hole in their outfielder, the Padres also sent along Bay. At the time, Bay was a prospect who was a month from turning 25 years old but had played in just three big league games.
The trade turned out to be a great one for the Pirates and a terrible one for San Diego.
To be fair, Giles remained a solid offensive force. He posted a pair of .300 seasons and once led the league in walks. But in six-plus seasons, Giles hit just .279, with a homer every 10 games. His slow start in 2003 was the beginning of the end.
Meanwhile, Bay took off for the Pirates. In fact, he largely replicated Giles’ performances for the team, with about 30 homers a year, hitting around .300, with 90-100 walks a year. It wasn’t quite as good as Giles had been, but it was closer to Giles' peak, than post-trade Giles was.
Had Bay been the only thing that came to Pittsburgh, this trade would’ve been an easy win for them, but Perez did well for them, too. In 2004, Perez went 12-10 for the 72-89 Pirates with a 2.89 ERA. He became just the second pitcher in franchise history to fan over 200 batters in a year, with 239. He soon blew his arm out and didn’t recover until he left town, but he at least had that one year.
To be fair, Giles lasted longer with San Diego than either Bay or Perez did in Pittsburgh, and park factors make Giles appear worse than he was, but any way you slice it, this trade worked out better for Pittsburgh, and this trade took place 10 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other events in baseball history today celebrate their anniversaries or “day-versaries” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
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