Archive for the ‘Anaheim Angels’ category

Will the Baltimore Orioles Finally Dump Chris Davis?

August 8, 2019

News out of Charm City is that Chris Davis had to be restrained from going after manager Brandon Hyde today after being pinch hit for in the bottom of the 5th inning.  You know what?  You don’t get to cop an attitude when you’re an aging slugger with a .589 OPS in August.  Not now, not ever.

If I were the Orioles’ General Manager, or whomever holds the real power in the Orioles’ organization, I’d release Chris Davis tomorrow and eat the remaining $69M+ on his contract.  When a player is playing as far as Davis is playing below replacement, you just have to eat the contract and hope somebody else is willing to pay him the major league minimum — the same cost to the O’s as the replacement level player they should be able to find to replace him.  A team can’t afford to accept attitude from a worse-than-marginal player no matter how much he is being paid.

It’s uncertain if Hyde will last beyond the end of the 2019 season, but that’s beside the point.  Even if Hyde is proving he’s no better as a manager than Davis is a 1B/DH, you can’t hold onto a player who isn’t performing now and isn’t likely to perform in the future.  Hyde’s record as a manager would certainly be better if word wasn’t coming from somewhere higher that he has to keep playing Davis solely because of all the money the O’s committed to Davis.

Just admit that a mistake was made, and move on.  The Orioles are so bad that it is certain that no matter how much of a comeback Davis could potentially make going forward, he won’t be good enough to make the Orioles a post-season contending team.  Find that replacement-level player now, and try to develop a real star for 2020 or 2021 or 2022 and on.

Chris Davis’ contract is yet another reason why teams have gotten a whole lot stingier on free agents thanks to sabrmetrics than they once were.  Hope springs eternal, but the objective data says that free agents are way overpaid when they ought to be merely overpaid.  For every Chris Davis and Albert Pujols, there is a Nelson Cruz, but those aren’t great odds.  And teams have been generally stingy with their contracts to Cruz since his PED positive test to their great benefit.

The objective lesson is treat ’em all like Nelson Cruz and then some.  The Mariners gave Cruz a four-year $57M deal going into this age 34 season, so even in Cruz’s case, the team took some risk.  Teams collectively only benefit by holding the line on free agent salaries, and superstar players will still get paid because many teams still believe and will likely continue to believe that they are only one or two free agents away from contention.

If Davis gets the axe in Baltimore, it will be interesting see if another team signs him to a major league contract, even at the MLB minimum salary.   If Davis can’t hit playing half his games in Baltimore, is a change of scenery really going to make a difference.  Maybe the Rangers would sign him to play at the major league level — Davis is from Texas, and there’s no better place to hit in the Junior Circuit than the Ballpark at Arlington (or whatever it is now called).  The O’s should let the Rangers give Davis a shot.

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All Those 4-A Outfielders

July 18, 2019

Former SF Giants Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker both cleared waivers today and out-righted back to AAA.  They’ve both hit great in the Pacific Coast League this year, which isn’t surprising given their talent levels and the amount of offense in the PCL.  Hitting in the majors is a whole ‘nother story.

At this point, it seems clear that neither Williamson nor Parker has any reasonable shot as regular major league roster spot holders and both should immediately begin looking into opportunities to play in the Asian majors.  Parker, in particular, needs to move fast, or he’ll be too old to interest a KBO or NPB team.

It feels like every single player the Giants have used in the outfield this season should seriously consider trying to get a high paying job in Asia no later than next off-season.  The only exceptions are Brandon Belt and Steven Vogt who played the outfield for the Gints this year mainly out of pure desperation.  Obviously, Kevin Pillar won’t be going to Asia anytime soon, but his career is fast approaching a stage where he should at least give it some consideration.

Yangervis Solarte, in fact, has already signed with an NPB team.  I am certain that between now and the end of the 2020, he won’t be the last former Giants outfielder to go to Asia.

Three True Outcomes Make for Boring Baseball

May 20, 2019

Bryce Harper hit a home run for the second consecutive game on Sunday, but he’s batting .235 and he’s on pace for 218 strikeouts this year.  He’s a better player than this, but he seems to have convinced himself that singles have no value in today’s game.

Harper hit .330 in 2015 and .319 in 2017, but he seems to have convinced himself that somehow 450 foot home runs put more runs on the scoreboard than 400 home runs.  What is he thinking?

Long home runs are sexy, but Harper is now married, so what good does it do him, unless he’s one unfaithful Mormon.

I want to see the superstars who can hit for power, draw walks, and hit for averageChristian Yelich hit .326 last year and is batting .325 so far this year.  He’s on pace for 99 walks this year.  Mike Trout has a .306 batting average.  Cody Bellinger is still hitting .405 and is second in the Senior Circuit behind Yelich with 17 home runs.  Players with superstar talent can still have it all.

I’m beginning to think that Bryce Harper has a $330 million body and a 10 cent head.  Hell, even Joey Gallo is batting .277 this year.  There is just no reason that I can think of that Harper can’t hit .275, draw 100+ walks and hit 30 or 40 or 50 home runs and not strike out 150 times in a season.

There is a once famous story about Stan Musial that is worth retelling here.  The story goes more or less as follows: Musial had a huge year coming back from WWII in 1946.  He batted a league leading .365 with a league leading 50 doubles and 20 triples.  He also hit 16 HRs.  Musial thought that hitting like that without trying to hit home runs, what could he do if he really tried to hit them out.  He hit 19 dingers in 1947, but all his other numbers dropped off dramatically.

In 1948, Musial went back to just trying to put a good swing on the ball while squaring it up.  He batted a league leading .376 and lead the league again in hits, doubles and triples while hitting a career high 39 HRs.  As the story goes, he hit more home runs not trying to hit home runs.

The point of the story, which is probably more true today, given how strong the best hitters are, is that trying to hit home runs is foolish.  Just swing hard and try to hit the ball squarely, and let the outcomes be what they may.  You can’t tell me that a player with Harper’s talent and strength couldn’t hit 50 home runs in a season (to all fields) merely by putting a good swing on the ball and trying to square the ball up by hitting it where it’s pitched.

The largest share of HRs, even for Harper, come on 2-0 and 3-1 pitches when the hitter can look for a specific pitch to crush.  The modern game would be so much more exciting if players didn’t try to hit every single pitch to the wall.

Bryce Harper is setting himself up for a disappointing 13 years in front of Philthy’s notoriously fickle sports fans if he tries to hit a home run every single time he comes up to the plate.

Reality Bites Dereck Rodriguez

May 12, 2019

Hope springs eternal, especially at the start of each new baseball season, but reality has a way of asserting itself eventually.

Dereck Rodriguez‘s 2018 breakthrough was a very pleasant surprise in what was otherwise an armpit of a season.  Giants’ fans told ourselves, sure Rodriguez is a 26 year old rookie and his peripheral numbers weren’t impressive, but he’d come late to pitching, so maybe he’d be one of those rare players who establishes himself as a major league star after a 26 year old rookie season.

Alas, it didn’t take reality long to call bullsh#$ on that.  Looking at his minor league numbers, there really wasn’t much reason to think that Rodriguez could really ever be better than a fifth starter, and I certainly didn’t go into the 2019 with grand delusions that Rodriguez was going to have the success this year that he did last year.  The law of averages is a bitch.

Rodriguez was sent down to AAA today.  With Drew Pomeranz on the Injured List and Derek Holland ineffective after seven starts, Rodriguez could get another chance if he has a couple of effective starts for the Sacramento River Cats.  One would have to assume that Tyler Beede will get another start as a result of Rodriguez’s demotion, but with an 18.69 ERA after two major league appearances, Beede is on short rope himself.

Shaun Anderson may be the next River Cat to get a shot at the Giants’ rotation.  He’s pitched better than his 4.11 ERA so far this year in Sacramento.

The other big Giants’ news of the day is that the team claimed now former Phillies outfielder Aaron Altherr off waivers.  I speculated that the Giants might be interested in Altherr as soon as the Phillies signed Bryce Harper.  Apparently, the Gints were waiting for Altherr’s price to drop — the price doesn’t get any lower than a waiver claim.

Altherr is out of options, so the Giants will give Altherr a major league shot. It’s likely that Aramis Garcia gets sent down to make room for Altherr.  Altherr’s start in Philly was awful this year — 1 for 29 at the plate.  He’s one of those players who has talent but strikes out too much.  Hard for those kinds of hitters to be consistent.  There’s not a lot of daylight between Altherr and Mac Williamson, both 28 year old right-handed sluggers still trying to establish themselves.

In a final note, the Pirates just bought former Giant Chris Stratton‘s contract from the Angels for what I am sure was a modest sum since the Halos had just designated the out-of-options Stratton for assignment.  It’s the best outcome Stratton could reasonably have hoped for.  Stratton is back in the National League, where he’s had some success, and PNC Park is a good one for pitchers.

San Francisco Giants Make a Bunch of Roster Moves

May 7, 2019

Yangervis Solarte, Pat Venditte and Mike Gerber are out.  Mac Williamson, Donovan Solano and Williams Jerez are in.

Only Solarte really got a chance to show what he could do (he didn’t — slashing only .205/.247/.315 in 78 plate appearances), but Venditte (allowed five earned runs in his last outing of 1.1 IP) and Gerber (1 for 15) played so poorly they were quickly sent packing.

After a recent three-home-run game, Williamson was slashing .378/.459/.756 after 23 games for AAA Sacramento. We’ll see if he can finally hit major league pitching.  I see this season as Williamson’s last real chance to establish himself as a major league player, and he’s certainly got the opportunity with no one in the Giants’ outfield really hitting.  I won’t hold my breath, however.

Donovan Solano hasn’t played in the majors since 2016, so I’m sure he’s excited about the promotion.  I’m doubtful he’ll hit significantly better than Solarte, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Williams Jerez is seven years younger than Venditte, so one would have to think he has more of a future.  He had 2.40 ERA after 12 appearances covering 15 innings in Sacto, while striking out 14.

It all kind of feels like moving around deck chairs on the Titanic, but maybe one of the new guys will get hot and provide a little excitement in what has not been a very inspiring campaign so far.

Meanwhile, Gerardo Parra opted for free agency, so he’s presumably out of the organization unless the Giants make him the best offer he gets.

In sort of Giants’ news, the Angels have designated RHP Chris Stratton for assignment after he posted an awful 8.59 ERA across 29.1 IP.  Stratton is out of options, so he has to pass through waivers.  I could see an NL teams claiming him, since he’s still only 28 and pitched O.K. in 2017 and 2018.  He’s also a former 1st round pick, which might convince another team to see him as player who could become effective with a few minor mechanical tweeks.

Early Season Asian Baseball Run-Down

April 28, 2019

The elite few who have read this blog with any regularity know that I follow Asian major league baseball quite closely.  Here’s a run-down on what’s happening in the Far East so far in 2019.

Japan’s NPB

So far, it feels like a fairly typical NPB season.  The high revenue Yomiuri Giants and SoftBank Hawks are leading their leagues respectively.  However, the small or mid-market Yakult Swallows, Chunichi Dragons, Hiroshima Carp and Rakuten Golden Eagles remain within close striking distance.  Of course, only 25 games into the NPB season, no one is yet truly out of it.

Most of the top NPB hitters are off to good starts, including Hayato Sakamoto, Tetsuto Yamada, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, Nori Aoki and Dayan ViciedoTomoyuki Sugano is off to a not so hot start after a recent rough outing and Takahiro Norimoto is still recovering from non-Tommy-John elbow surgery to clean out loose bodies and bone chips, but Kodai Senga is still showing MLB-level stuff.

I am convinced that Tetsuto Yamada is going to be an MLB player.  The most important stat for NPB hitters in terms of future MLB success is on-base percentage, and Yamada has that in spades.  He has a .513 OBP so far this season and an NPB career OBP of .404.  He plays 2B, he runs well (142 career NPB steals at an 82% success rate) ,and he plays for the small market Swallows.

Yamada should be posted this post-season, so he can join MLB in 2020 for his age 27 season.  The relatively new posting fee regime gives NPB teams the most money based on the greatest value of the player to an MLB team.  Yamada’s value to an MLB team will be highest this coming post-season if he doesn’t get hurt or slump.

South Korea’s KBO

The SK Wyverns and Doosan Bears are off to the best starts, with LG Twin, NC Dinos and Kiwoon Heroes leading the field for the KBO’s five playoff spots.  Foreign Aces Tyler Wilson and Josh Lindblom are off to great starts.  Lindblom is the KBO’s highest paid foreign player this year at somewhere between $1.7M and $1.9M, so if he can keep up this exemplary performance so far, he could challenge Dustin Nippert’s $2.2M single season record for foreign player compensation in 2020.

Former MLBers Jose Miguel Fernandez, Byung-ho Park, Jerry Sands and Darin Ruf are among the top six KBO hitters in terms of OPS so far.

Offense is down in the KBO so far this season, apparently due to less zing in the baseballs per fangraphs.com.

I’ve noticed the out-sized effect Cuban players have had in Asia in recent years.  Part of it is that Cuba produces a great deal of baseball talent, at least as much as the Dominican Republic or Venezuela, and only the Cuban players with a reasonable shot at playing in the MLB majors go through the very arduous process of defecting.  Needless to say, the Cuban defectors don’t all live the MLB major league dream, but many of those that haven’t have lived the dream in Asia.

I think that one of the things that help Cuban players is that, because they come to the MLB system later, they have to make a bigger adjustment than the Dominicans and Venezuelans who come to the MLB system between age 17 and 21.  If the Cuban players can succeed as AAA players in the MLB system, they’ve done something, and it’s relatively not as big a deal for them to adjust to playing and living in Asia.  That’s my theory anyway.

Taiwan’s CPBL

The big story in the CPBL this year is the performance of former KBO Ace and marginal MLB major leaguer Henry Sosa.  After six starts, his 1.26 ERA leads the league by nearly a run-and-a-half and his 48 Ks (in 43 IP) leads the league by an even dozen.

The CPBL got lucky in signing Sosa, who was one of the KBO’s top starters in 2018, when/where he finished third in ERA (3.52), sixth in run average (4.12), second in strikeouts (181) and third in innnings pitched (181.1).  Sosa didn’t return to the KBO for 2019 because of South Korean tax law changes which would have required him to pay most of his salary to the government, and at age 33 (he turns 34 in July), he was too old to interest any MLB team.

Sosa at 95-to-97 mph consistently throws harder than any other pitcher in the CPBL, and he’s learned from his time in the KBO that he throws hard enough at the KBO level to attack the strike zone.  Rob over at CPBL Stats opined before the season started that the signing of recent MLB major leaguer Austin Bibens-Dirkx would create a test for how good CPBL hitters currently are.  I think that Sosa is a better test — the extent to which CPBL hitters can eventually catch up to Sosa will show just how good or not they are.

The second best pitcher in the CPBL so far this year is another Dominican former KBO Ace Radhames Liz.  The 35 year old Liz has been recorded as throwing even bigger fast balls than Henry Sosa, but Liz can’t do it as often as Sosa.

In recent years, CPBL teams (there are currently only four of them) have focused mostly on North American pitchers as their foreign imports.  I think part of that is that even though the CPBL pays better, there is more longevity for Latino pitchers to pitch in the summer Mexican League and their home country’s winter league than to try to jump to the CPBL’s slightly higher salaries.  In Sosa’s case, I believe he is looking at jumping to Japan’s NPB if he can dominate in Taiwan.

Anyway, I think that Sosa and Liz will have CBPL teams looking at Latin pitchers more next off-season.

Best Hitting Pitchers in MLB Baseball 2019

April 3, 2019

Shohei Ohtani has ended any debate about the best hitting pitcher in major league baseball.  He’s created a whole new paradigm for two-way players that hasn’t existed since the 1920’s and the only question is whether he is the start of a new trend or a one-off.  He won’t be pitching in 2019 after Tommy John surgery but is expected to return as a designated hitter in May.

Highly touted prospect Brendan McKay is still on pace to be to a great hitting major league pitcher, but his prospects as a two-way player aren’t as good as they were a year ago.  The main problem for McKay is that his talents as a pitcher are developing much faster in pro ball than his talents as a hitter.

1.  Shohei Ohtani.  Ohtani finished the 2018 season with .925 OPS in 367 plate appearances as a hitter and went 4-2 in 10 starts before hurting his elbow.  The entire baseball world is waiting for his right arm to be healthy enough to pitch again. ’nuff said.

2.  Michael Lorenzen (.247 career batting average and .767 career OPS).  Lorenzen is still short of the 100 career at-bat cut-off I’ve used in previous iterations of this post, but he had a tremendous season with the bat in 2018 and was used in a role that was specifically tailored to his ability to hit.  He managed 34 plate appearances last season, in which he batted .290 with a 1.043 OPS thanks to four home runs, despite making only three starts all season.  He was used at least nine times as a pinch hitter, and was frequently left in games to hit for himself when he pitched in relief.

I expect Lorenzen’s career averages to drop as he gets more major league plate appearances, but it’s clear at this point that he’s one of MLB’s very best hitting pitchers.

3.  Zack Greinke (.219 BA, .569 OPS).   One thing I’ve noticed about good hitting pitchers, writing about them as I have for some years now, is that there doesn’t seem to be a particularly strong correlation between a pitcher’s ability to hit and his having spent his minor league time or the vast majority of his MLB career with a National League team, even though this would presumably mean that the pitcher got a lot more opportunities to hit.  After spending his minor league career and his first seven major league seasons with the Royals, Greinke established himself as a fine hitter by his second National League season, and he has been remarkably consistent as a sweet-swinging pitcher since then.

If I had to guess, I would say that the ability to hit the fastball (and lay off breaking pitches) is probably the most important factor in a pitcher’s ability to hit.  Pitchers hate to walk the opposing pitcher, so any time the pitcher-as-hitter is ahead in the count, fastballs for strikes are likely to follow.

The fact that the Diamondbacks are apparently not willing to give Greinke even half a dozen opportunities to pinch hit each season is a missed opportunity.

4.  Madison Bumgarner (.184, .542).  I dropped MadBum a couple of spots this year, because he hit poorly in 2018 and his career batting line isn’t particularly impressive, although park factors are probably in play in comparing MadBum to Greinke.  We’ll see if Bumgarner bounces back to being the best hitting full-time pitcher in 2019.

5.  Yovani Gallardo (.201, .563).  Gallardo’s career as a major league pitcher is probably over, as he remains unsigned as of this writing, but he sure could hit.

6. Adam Wainwright (.202 BA, .537 OPS).  Another player whose major league pitching career is winding down, but with well over 500 career at-bats, Wainwright has well proven his abilities as a hitting pitcher.

7.  German Marquez (.230, .504).  Marquez benefits from a small sample size and playing his home games in Coors Field, but any pitcher who hits better than .220 with an OPS over .500 is great hitting pitcher in today’s game.

8.  Noah Syndergaard (.176 BA, .526 OPS).  “Hulk say Thor smash ball with hammer bat!” At least once in a while.

9.  Daniel Hudson (.222, .557).  Since coming back from an arm injury as a major league relief pitcher, Hudson hasn’t had many opportunities to hit in recent years, but his career numbers get him on the list.

10.   Mike Leake (.198, .507).  Mike Leake hasn’t had a plate appearance yet this year, as he is now an American League pitcher.  He hit a ton his first three seasons with the Reds, but hasn’t done much with the bat since.

11.  Tyler Chatwood (.210, .475) and Tyson Ross (.200, .481).  As I point out every year, the best hitting major league pitchers get pretty bad pretty fast.

Honorable Mentions.  fangraphs.com says that aces Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer were with Zack Greinke the best hitting pitchers in 2018.

Young Hitting Pitchers to WatchBrent Suter (.174, .530).  Unfortunately, Suter is already 29 years old and likely to miss all of 2019 after having Tommy John surgery.