Archive for the ‘National League’ category

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.

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Tim Lincecum’s and Jake Peavy’s Hall of Fame Chances

May 5, 2019

Jake Peavy officially retired today although he hadn’t actually pitched professionally since 2016.  Peavy and Tim Lincecum had very similar major league careers, and it got me thinking about their respective Hall of Fame chances.  After Lincecum’s failed comeback in the Rangers’ organization last year, it’s pretty clear Timmy’s professional career is over too.

I don’t think either has a good shot at making the Hall of Fame.  Both pitchers were the National League’s best for roughly four or five years, but were basically back-of-the-rotation starters for the second halves of their respective careers when injuries wore them down.  Peavy lasted long enough to finish with a career record of 152-126, while Lincecum finished a modest 110-89.

Lincecum won two Cy Young Awards to Peavy’s one, Lincecum pitched for three World Series winners to Peavy’s two, and Lincecum pitched two no-hitters while Peavy threw none.  But, as noted above, Peavy won 42 more games.

In my mind, pitchers with career highs of a Jake Peavy or Tim Lincecum still need to win at least 190 games in today’s MLB to be realistic Hall of Fame contenders.  Another similar, if even better short-time ace, Johan Santana (career 139-78 record), hasn’t received much love from Hall of Fame voters.  In his first and only year of HOF eligibility, Santana received so few votes (10 or 2.4%) that he was dropped from the HOF ballot the next year 2019.

Given where the game is going, I think that Santana will get more love from future Veterans’ Committees and could eventually make the HOF.  I don’t think either Lincecum or Peavy will, however.  At least both Lincecum and Peavy won a lot of awards, multiple World Series rings, and made a boatload of money.  They’ll never forget Lincecum in San Francisco or Peavy in San Diego, so it’s hard to feel too sorry for them.

Luis Robert, Robel Garcia and Other 2019 Hot Starts

May 4, 2019

I thought it would be fun to write a couple of pieces on minor leaguers off to particularly hot starts in 2019.  Here goes:

21 year old $26 million Cuban bonus baby Luis Robert got off to the hottest start anywhere in organized baseball.  In 19 games in the Class A+ Carolina League his 1.432 OPS was a whopping 437 basis points better than the league’s next best hitter.  Not surprisingly, he has already been promoted to the AA Southern League, where he is off to an 0-for-6 start after two games.

Robel Garcia‘s 1.050 OPS leads the AA Southern League by 100 basis points.  He’s already 26 years old and has only played 17 games this season, so it’s probably a fluke.

However, Garcia’s back-story is extremely interesting.  Before this season, baseball reference lists no professional statistics for him since 2013.  He washed out of the Indians’ organization all those years ago, but he apparently kept his baseball career going by playing on Italy’s National team, even though he’s a Dominican.

Garcia makes me wonder how many other players who can play never get the chance because they take too long to develop or don’t get the right breaks.  Some NPB teams have academies in the Dominican Republic that occasionally turn Dominican MLB system wash-outs into servicable NPB major league players.  Xavier Batista is a current example.

Yordan Alvarez is ready for the majors.  The soon-to-be 22 year old Cuban’s 1.421 OPS leads the admittedly hit-happy Pacific Coast League.  Alvarez is an LF/1B and the 35 year old also Cuban Yuli Gurriel isn’t hitting in Houston, so Alvarez may get his first major league shot right quick.

Brian O’Grady‘s 1.189 OPS leads the AAA International League by 58 basis points.  Alas, he turns 27 in two weeks and has yet to play in the majors.  Hopefully, he can get some major league action this season in order to put himself in a position for an Asian payday next year.

21 year old catcher Sam Huff is ready for a promotion.  His 1.189 OPS leads the Class A Sally League by 127 basis points, and he’s thrown out 10 baseball stealers in 16 attempts.

25 year old 1Bman Chris Gittens has a 1.264 OPS, which leads the AA Eastern League by 110 basis points.  He’s also ready for a promotion.

Trey Cabbage leads the Class A Midwest League with a 1.029 OPS.  I wonder if his teammates call him “Cole Slaw” or “Trey Cole”.

What is former NL home run champ Chris Carter doing in the Mexican League?  He’s leading this hot weather hitters’ league with a 1.397 OPS.

Christian Walker Is NL’s Biggest Surprise So Far

April 24, 2019

The Arizona Diamondbacks’ Christian Walker is the Senior Circuit’s biggest surprise so far in 2019.  The 28 year old 1Bman was stuck behind Paul Goldschmidt until Big Paul got traded away to the Cardinals this past off-season.  Walker is taking full advantage, batting .347 with a 1.135 OPS through his first 21 games of the season.

How long Walker can keep the hitting up remains to be seen.  Not many players who establish themselves as major league regulars at age 28 have long major league careers.

Walker proved that he could hit when he posted a .980 OPS at AAA Reno in 2017, and he has the advantage of playing his home games in one of MLB’s better hitters’ parks.

Walker had very limited playing time in four major league seasons prior to 2019, and he was often pinch-hitting, which is tough for a young player to do.  One thing that may work in his favor is that he has shown a pronounced reverse-platoon advantage in his career.  As an exclusively right-handed batter, he has an MLB career .975 OPS against righties and a career .789 OPS against lefties.  He’s had fewer than 200 major league career plate appearances, so the platoon splits will probably change significantly over time.

Even so, it’s got to be easier for a right-handed hitter to hit better against lefties with more experience than to learn how to hit righties.  While Walker’s career OPS against righties is certain to regress toward the mean the more he plays, it can only be a good thing for him if he hits well against righties to begin with.

For a player like Walker to have any kind of major league career, he needs to do what he’s doing right now — hit a ton right off the bat when he finally gets a chance to play every day.  I don’t think that Walker will make them forget about Paul Goldschmidt in Arizona, but I will be rooting for him to at least be the next Garrett Jones.

An Idea for Solving the DH-Pitcher-Hitting Debate

February 9, 2019

There has been a lot of talk this past week about new negotiations over playing rules between MLB and the Players’ Union (MLBPA).  The most notable proposals have involved getting rid of the designated hitter in the National League, requiring incoming relief pitchers to face at least three batters and a 22 second pitch clock (pitchers have to throw the next pitch within 22 seconds.

I am a life-long NL fan, what with rooting for the Giants.  My main concern with adding the DH to the National League is that there are a few pitchers who can hit, and I would miss seeing them get their turns at the plate.  The pitchers that can’t hit a lick?  Well, not so much.

So how about a rule that requires teams in the NL (or both leagues) that requires teams to bat their pitchers a certain number of games every season, but less than all 162 games.  Why not require teams to bat their pitchers, say 40 to 80 games a season, with all of the remaining games subject to the DH?  Madison Bumgarner and Zack Greinke would still get to hit when they start, but the really dreadfully hitting pitchers could be replaced by DHs.

Such a system would increase strategy because teams would have to figure out when to let their pitchers hit and when to go with the DH.  The best hitting pitchers, like Bumgarner and Greinke, might not be thrilled with such an arrangement because they’d often have to face the DH, while they themselves batted.  However, it would also shine a spotlight on the value of pitchers good enough to hit for themselves.

What bothers me most about the DH is that it creates this developmental separation between players who can pitch and players who can hit, when the reality is that most major league pitchers were the best or at least in the top half of hitters among starters on their high school teams.  Before the Second World War, there were many players whose careers moved back and forth between pitching and hitting, because they were good enough to do both.  Now that Shohei Ohtani has shown that players can do both even today, it would be a shame to completely cut out hitting pitchers from the professional game.

If you are willing to impose a rule requiring relievers to face at least three hitters (I am doubtful, however, that such a rule will be adopted), then there is no reason why you could not require pitchers to hit in some games and DHs to hit in others.  Once you get past the novelty of the idea, rules that create more room for strategy and calculation are actually a good thing.

The Milwaukee Brewers Have to Resign Jonathan Schoop

October 24, 2018

One of the toughest calls this off-season is whether the Brewers offer salary arbitration to Jonathan Schoop.  Schoop is projected by mlbtraderumors.com to get $10.1 million through the arbitration process even though he was mediocre in 2018 and absolutely dreadful in the two months he played for Milwaukee.

It’s a tough call, indeed.  Schoop was worth, according to fangraphs, a combined $48.3 million in 2016 and 2017, but only $4.2 million in 2018.  He’s going to be 27 years in 2019, which is the year that major league players as a group peak.  Schoop could be expected to play better in 2019 based on his performance in 2015-2017.

On the other hand, Schoop is a hitter who does not walk at all (98 times in 2,640 plate appearances).  When young, extremely talented players end up washing out in their late 20’s, they are mostly players who can’t learn to draw walks.  Eventually, major league pitchers (and scouts) learn that these players won’t take walks and how to set them up so the money pitch is usually out of the strike zone.

The Asian major leagues are literally awash with extremely talented former MLB major league stars whose inability to take walks when pitchers stop throwing them strikes drove them out of the MLB major leagues.  Wilin Rosario, Jose Lopez, Dayan Viciedo and Oswaldo Arcia are current examples, and there are plenty more.

In short, the odds that Schoop is worth $20M+ in 2019 is about equal to the chances he’ll be playing in Japan’s NPB in two or three years’ time.  That said, I think the Brewers have to role the dice and offer Schoop arbitration.

The Brewers are notoriously a small market team, one of the smallest in MLB.  But they won’t be a low revenue team in 2019.  The Brewers’ attendance was 10th best in 2018, and it’s likely to be even better in 2019, following a season in which they had the National League’s best record and advanced to the NLCS.

$10M on a one year deal is a risk the Brewers have to take and can afford to take in 2019.  If Schoop’s 2019 performance is worth $20M or more, which is a reasonable possibility, it’s something the Brewers will absolutely have to have to repeat their winning ways next season in light of their overall budget constraints.  If Schoop plays as poorly as he did in 2018, I don’t see that the Brewers have any players at AAA knocking down the door.  It just seems to me like an obvious risk the Brewers need to take if they want to compete for the pennant again in 2019.

Today’s Tie-Breakers

October 1, 2018

I really like the fact that two tie-breaking games were played today, if only because it means that the National League wild card loser will have to lose two consecutive games before being sent home.

The Brewers have already beaten the Cubs, and it looks all but certain that the Dodgers will beat the Rocks.  On paper, the Cubs looked like a better team than the Brewers, but one-and-done match-ups are more about whose starting pitcher has a better game.

Presumably, the NL wild card game will be played in Chicago, which certainly favors the Cubbies.  However, as the Cubs just learned, anything is possible in a one-game series.  The Cubs and Dodgers look like the only two NL teams with any realistic shot of winning the World Series, but the Cubs could be going home if they lose to the Rockies on Wednesday.

Certainly, the Astros and Red Sox look like the class of the American League, but anything can happen in a short series, and all the teams but the A’s have recent post-season experience.  As for the A’s, they really played great in the second half and made the trades they needed at the trade deadline to make themselves a great team.

The 2018 A’s remind me of the powerhouse A’s teams of the early 1970’s, at least in terms of their everyday players.  They hit for power, many of them will take walks, they by and large play good defense.  Except at catcher, they don’t have many holes in their line-up.

Obviously, the A’s starting pitching is not as good as that of the early 1970’s A’s, but their bullpen has been strong enough to get them to the play-offs.  We’ll see what happens.