ESPN’s Stats and Info group knew something was up:
Jose Fernandez: averaged 94.6 mph with fastball in first 4 innings of last start, 90.7 mph in last 2 innings
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 12, 2014
How else could the abysmal San Diego Padres offense, Jedd Gyorko in particular, suddenly be able to touch up one of the game’s best pitchers? Something had to be wrong. Of course, Ken Rosenthal broke the news:
Sources: Jose Fernandez expected to be placed on disabled list. Exact nature of injury not known. #Marlins
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) May 12, 2014
The exact nature of the injury was in fact, the dreaded elbow discomfort. Miami’s ace was placed on the 15-day DL, underwent an MRI scan in LA., and sent back to Florida. Cut to the five stages of Fernandez-related grief…
Jose Fernandez MRI reveals God, wrapped inextricably around right elbow ligament. “truth be told we kind of suspected as much,” says doctor
— Jeff Sullivan (@based_ball) May 12, 2014
WHICH ONE OF YOU BROKE JOSE FERNANDEZ — keithlaw (@keithlaw) May 12, 2014
Placing myself on the 15-day disabled list with emotions about Jose Fernandez
— Ben Lindbergh (@ben_lindbergh) May 12, 2014
I knew Jose Fernandez shouldn’t have flown so close to the sun. — Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) May 12, 2014
All we know for now, thanks to Marlins manager Mike Redmond, is that the MRI revealed a right elbow sprain. ‘Sprain’ would imply ligament trouble, as opposed to a ‘strain’ more commonly associated with muscle injuries. If the worst is later confirmed, and Fernandez joins the epic list of pitchers requiring Tommy John surgery this season, robbing us of one of the game’s most exciting young talents (way more so than Matt Harvey last year I’d argue, well, Dan Symborski has the appropriate response covered:
Jose Fernandez MRI and disabled list. If the worst case scenario, all Marlins fans are allowed 4 hours of crying and 1 overturned car. — Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) May 12, 2014
Please, Lord, say it ain’t so. Don’t take away Jose.
With Opening Day II only one sleep away, it’s time to bid adieu to Spring Training. As always it started out a pleasure, then dragged on for what seemed like an eternity, but we’ve made finally it; only today’s slate remains before we can settle down for the halcyon days of an 162-game summer. Continuing on from Part I yesterday, let us send off Spring Training in style, and celebrate the good, the bad, and the downright ridiculous, in the manner I have arbitrarily deemed best – a GIF review.
Picking up where Part I left off, the 2014 edition of Spring Training provided the accustomed quota of oddities. If it wasn’t Hank the dog signing a contract with Milwaukee (and scoring his own bobblehead night), it was mascots gobbling up foul balls.
Bartolo Colon was seen hustling up to first base to score a hit in his first at-bat as a Met. A bee attack halted a Red Sox vs Yankees match-up – providing some excellent reaction shots. Jake Peavy nearly cut his finger off in a fishing knife accident. Los Angeles Angels infielder Ian Stewart was forced to sit out after his four-year-old daughter innocently head butted him while they were playing. Absurdity was everywhere!
Unfortunately, not every pre-season moment was so amusingly wacky. If this spring will be remembered for anything, it will be the rash of serious pitching injuries which occurred; Texas will be missing their three top starters come Opening Day (Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, and Yu Darvish), though they are all expected to return sooner rather than later. The same can’t be said for Jarrod Parker and Patrick Corbin, two young staff anchors who will be out for the year after both undergoing Tommy John surgery. And spare a thought for Braves pitchers Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen, who went down within days of each other – both will be hitting the operating table for a second time, and are out for the season (Medlen’s post-injury interview was particularly saddening).
The hits just kept on coming elsewhere too – and in horrifying fashion. After protective caps for pitchers were widely panned before Spring Training opened, in a sickening incident, Aroldis Chapman caught a Salvador Perez line drive with his face. The Cincinnati closer had a metal plate inserted after sustaining multiple facial fractures, his ordeal catching the attention of several fellow throwers, José Fernández in particular. Thankfully the Cuban Missile should be okay, and has been tentatively scheduled to return at some point in late May/early June.
On a more positive injury-related note, Grady Sizemore has managed to stay healthy for over a month! Lured to the reigning champion Red Sox by a one year, $750,000 major league deal, the 31-year-old Sizemore has officially beaten out Jackie Bradley Jr. for Boston’s Opening Day center field role on the back of his eye-opening spring display; tomorrow he’ll be making his first appearance in an MLB game since Sept. 22, 2011.
If the healthy return of Sizemore was one of the biggest surprises of the spring, Giancarlo Stanton’s continued crushing of baseballs was altogether predictable. That he will start the season on yet another crappy Marlins team – despite the optimism of some scouts – doesn’t make the biggest power in the game any less entertaining; here’s to hoping we have a full season of ludicrous Stanton bombs ahead, even if a change in zip codes is part of it.
Going nowhere for the foreseeable future, Miguel Cabrera punished pre-season pitching as if it were any regular June game – his .352/.439/.611 spring line pretty much in line with his pre-injury pace of 2013. Miggy’s signing of an 8 year, $248 million extension topped off a pretty wonky offseason for Detroit, but if the crushing that he laid on poor Aaron Harang a few days back is anything to go by, the Tigers are primed for another long postseason run on the back of their newly-minted superstar.
And finally, as the game’s brightest stars should always do during spring (unless you’re Clayton Kershaw that is), Mike Trout shone. My baseball crush did nothing but, well… crush, laying waste to anyone who dared pitch him; on his way to a .407/.458/.796 triple slash line, no. 27 on the Angels led AL players in HRs (5), including smashing a grand slam the day after signing his one-year, $1 million record contract.
Of course, Trout has since (last night actually) agreed to an extension of his own, buying out his first three years of arbitration eligibility and the following three of his free agency; he’ll now be an Angel through 2020, and will hit the market again before his age-30 season. For now though, let’s just enjoy his astounding talents and not worry about the money – not everyone can so casually drill a ball over a hedge after all. Bring on the regular season, and meaningful baseball brilliance!
As previously detailed in my ROY cases for Noah Syndergaard and Xander Bogaerts, and MVP picks of Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, I’ll occasionally be interspersing my usual content with my (probably misguided) award predictions for the upcoming season. Today marks the next installment pertaining to my poor judgement – it’s time to choose some Cy Young award winners. Fair warning, I’m not exactly going out on a limb with my picks.
Entering last season, you could make a justifiable case that either Justin Verlander or Felix Hernandez was the best pitcher in baseball, marginally ahead of Clayton Kershaw. 12 months later though, there’s no disputing the Dodgers’ ace is the best in the game.
Still just 26 (his birthday was last Wednesday), Kershaw has already racked up two Cy Young awards and three consecutive ERA titles, while his numbers over the last four years – 2.37 ERA, 2.70 FIP, and 1.02 WHIP – all rank as best in the league. Coming off a 2013 season in which he went 16-9 with a 1.83 ERA, and had 17 games of at least 6.2 innings pitched and allowing one or fewer earned runs, the Texas native is somehow getting even better too; his walk rate has decreased from the 9-13% range he put up earlier in his career to an extremely frugal 5-7% during the past couple of seasons, and whilst doing so, the southpaw with the hammer curve has also maintained at least a 25.0% strikeout rate. Given that he furthermore possesses the power to re-write the BABIP laws (his .270 average is significantly below the typical league-wide .290-.300 range), the seven year, $215 million extension that Los Angeles signed their stud to this past winter could end up being a bargain should Kershaw keep up his current rate of performance – as speculated by Grantland’s Jonah Keri.
After providing yet another example of how Spring Training statistics don’t matter (he had a 9.20 ERA across 14.2 IP), Kershaw is already off to another dominant start – fanning 7 Arizona batters with his typically filthy array of curveballs and sliders over 6.2 innings in the opening game of the 2014 season. Though he finally gave up his first Opening Day earned run in his fourth such start, it’s shaping up to be yet another season in which the normally-charitable Kershaw makes even the sport’s best hitters look helpless – stranding them alone on an unforgiving island of pitching cruelty up in the batter’s box.
Unfortunately for the likes of Stephen Strasburg and Jose Fernandez, barring voter fatigue, or God help us all, injury, the NL Cy Young hardware should be Kershaw’s for years to come should he simply stay on track. Get ready to clear some more room on the mantelpiece Clayton, you’ve got my (unrecognized) vote already.
The field of possible contenders among the American League is much wider; Yu Darvish, King Felix, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander all figure to be in the mix, but, as mentioned in yesterday’s gambling related post (when I wasn’t making fun Fernando Rodney actually having odds for the award), I’m picking David Price – he who has averaged 208 innings and a 78 ERA- over the past four years – to pick up his second Cy.
Having won the award in 2012, Price’s offseason regiment back at his alma mater Vanderbilt was disrupted by the bump in publicity he subsequently received. Unable to work out fully with his old Commodores Coach Tim Corbin, the Rays’ ace came out the gate slowly in 2013, allowing eight home runs and an opponent’s triple slash line of .294/.340/.471 in his first 55 innings pitched. By the time he came out of May 15 outing against the Boston Red Sox (in which lasted just 2.1 innings, allowing four runs) with a triceps injury, Price was sitting on a 5.24 ERA with a 1-4 record. He’d be out for six weeks, but would return with a vengeance.
Making 18 starts over the rest of the season (including Game 163 in Texas), Price would author a 2.53 ERA (37 ER/131.2 IP), allowing only 113 hits en route to a 9-4 record. Even more impressive though, was his immaculate control; after returning, the lefty’s velocity was down, but he still struck out 102 batters while only issuing 13 walks. By seasons end, Price paced the Junior Circuit in complete games (4), fewest walks per nine innings (1.3 BB/9), and also had the highest strikeout to walk ratio (5.59) – officially returning to the form that captured him the 2012 award, even despite a velocity drop (he didn’t throw one pitch of at least 97mph in 2013, after throwing more than 250 such pitches in 2012, though his average still sat at a very respectable 93.5mph).
At only 28, manager Joe Maddon believes his no. 1 to be entering “that era of five or six years of the best pitching” of his career, but 2014 will almost certainly be the last year Price spends in a Rays uniform; it was quite the industry surprise that Tampa didn’t move him during December’s Winter Meetings, and instead picked up his arbitration tab for the upcoming year. Consider this season the ultimate trade showcase then, as I expect Price to pick up exactly where he left off in 2013 and then, trophy in hand, be moved next winter in exchange for a veritable bounty. It might be another two years until he’s paid like the ace he is then, but hopefully a second Cy Young for the meantime will be sufficient consolation for Price.
While Spring Training lingers on for the next three weeks or so, I’ll every now and then be interspersing my usual content with award predictions for the 2014 season. Today marks the first such instance of my forecasting, as I plump for a relative outsider in the National League ROY race.
Boy was 2013 a doozy of a year for exciting rookies joining the Senior Circuit; in terms of hitters there was the indomitable Yasiel Puig, overshadowing key contributors such as Jed Gyorko and Nolan Arenado, whereas on the pitching side of things, Shelby Miller, Julio Teheran, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Gerrit Cole all built strong enough cases to claim the award in any other year but for one including the dominant eventual winner – the Marlins’ Jose Fernandez. The 2014 class too, looks like a heated debate waiting to happen; aside from the (currently-blocked) future stars Archie Bradley and Oscar Taveras, names such as Billy Hamilton, Kolten Wong, Kris Bryant, Chris Owings, even Eddie Butler, are waiting in the wings themselves ready to break out. Somewhere in the middle of those two echelons though, is my favorite – the New York Mets’ top prospect, Noah Syndergaard.
Packaged to New York alongside catcher Travis d’Arnaud in exchange for R.A. Dickey prior to the 2013 season, the 6’6 righty simply destroyed the minors in his first year as a member of the Mets organization. Behind – as Baseball Prospectus so aptly put it – “his ungodly K/BB numbers” (he struck out 133 batters in 117.2 innings, walking just 28 along the way), Syndergaard blazed through a season in which he spent time at Single-A, but ultimately finished at Double-A Binghamton. With a “plus-plus fastball that he can throw to a teacup” (H/T to BP again) that regularly flirted with triple digits, a curveball that manager Terry Collins has already dubbed the “hook from hell”, and a potentially plus change up too, the Texas native oozes ace potential – something that has not gone amiss so far this spring.
When Baseball Prospectus wrote “He could probably do a decent Matt Harvey impression at the major-league level right now,” even after his supreme 2013 showing, I was skeptical; the 21 year old hadn’t thrown a single pitch in Triple-A after all. Then came Monday, and his Spring Training debut, after which I quickly changed my mind. In his first Grapefruit League game against the Atlanta Braves, Syndergaard demonstrated exactly why Mets fans are dreaming of a time in the near future in which he, Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler will all simultaneously occupy the same rotation. He pitched two innings of scoreless ball, striking out both Jason Heyward and Evan Gattis with 98mph fastballs, giving up a solitary single to Ryan Doumit, and generally looked at ease against big-league opposition. When Terry Collins said afterwards “he’s on track to be special,” he wasn’t wrong – Syndergaard is going to be great. When the Mets allow him to be so however, is the question crucial to his ROY case.
The timetable for Syndergaard’s arrival will presumably be much akin to the paths taken by Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler to The Show; both were delayed somewhat by the Mets’ willingness to delay the inevitable ticking of their respective service time clocks, and were brought up only once their addition wouldn’t cause further financial damage to a low-payroll squad rocked by the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme scandal. With Jonathon Niese, Bartolo Colon, Zack Wheeler, Dillon Gee, and Jenrry Mejia all healthy so far – the likelihood of Syndergaard being taken back north at the end of the month would appear to be slim; he’d instead spend until late June or even July at Triple-A Las Vegas waiting for his Super-2 eligibility to expire, and spend only a half-season in the majors. Typically, that’s not going to be long enough to stake a legitimate ROY case, no matter how good you are.
However, the reports of Mets GM Sandy Alderson’s internal staff meeting might have ramifications that would see their top prospect arrive sooner rather than later; as John Harper of the Daily News pointed out, “if Alderson really thinks this team is capable of winning 90 games, Syndergaard should be up here sometime in May.” With news of his demands now public, Alderson to some extent owes it to Terry Collins (and the fans too for that matter) to provide him with the best roster possible – a prospective 25-man unit which would easily include Syndergaard. And if he is to crack the rotation early (Collins has said it “conceivable” that the 2010 draft pick makes it straight from Spring), Syndergaard’s case for ROY may well be comparable to Fernandez’s 2013 offering in terms of results.
Though it may seem that I’m banking on the aforementioned Taveras and Bradley encountering similar issues in regard to their service clocks in building my case for Syndergaard, I equally believe in the power righty’s potential. Though he may not spend the year in the majors, I’m all-aboard the hype wagon after the rave reviews he has so far drawn from teammates, managers, and opposition alike this Spring. That, and the fact that Mets fans sorely need a Matt Harvey-like feel-good story replacement to root for this year, is why I’m picking Noah Syndergaard as my 2014 National League Rookie of the Year.
On day 6 of my 2014 MLB Season Preview Series I appraised the worth of Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers. On day 7, I’m taking a rest. Kind of. Partly due to my need to think of a dissertation thesis, but mainly the plain depressing incarnation of this year’s Marlins squad, today’s preview comes in the form of a series of quotes, GIFs, and graphs revisiting the dumpster fire that has also been known as Miami’s 2013 season. You could label my absence of care for the Marlins as cruelly amateur – I would argue it to merely reflect their 62-100 record from a year ago, and the apathy displayed by their fans. Whatever the case, let’s just pin the blame on the truly despicable Jeffrey Loria…
- Let’s start positive. Jose Fernandez was truly spectacular in 2013, his ascension providing Miami a legitimate second star to pair with Giancarlo Stanton. On his way to posting a 4.2 WAR season, the then-aged 20 Fernandez put on a show; behind his impressive heater and devastating curve, the Cuban righty routinely made batters look silly, striking out 187 in 172.2 IP, with a 2.19 ERA to boot – good enough to capture the NL ROY award in a strong year of competition. If that weren’t enough, he also laid a strong claim towards the GIF of the year. He gets Troy Tulowitzki’s vote:
With his refreshing youth and talent, simply amazing backstory, even better home run trots, Fernandez emerged as the future of the franchise. His 2013 would prove to be one the few bright spots of Miami’s 2013 however.
- A slightly less wanted title was also scooped by a 2013 Marlin – Catcher Rob Brantly was awarded The Worst Overall Bunt by Matt Klaassen of Fangraphs for his April 9th effort against the Atlanta Braves, a 9th inning out which checked in with a mark of -.261 WPA. Anytime you can somehow get two players out while laying down a bunt in a high-leverage moment, you have to do it… #SoMarlins.
- Of those qualified for the batting title, Giancarlo Stanton unsurprisingly led the team – as he did in almost all offensive categories of performance. His mark of .249 fell .004 short of the major league average however. Just to clarify, the Marlins’ best hitter was below league average. On the plus side, Stanton still managed to launch his fair share of entertaining HRs, punctuated by this 463 ft. blast against the Phillies
- Just to quantify how bad those Marlin hitters were, Bradley Woodrum ran a very cool piece in late July last year in which he demonstrated the historical ineptitude on show at Marlins Park. Words shouldn’t be wasted when there are interactive graphics available.
- The Marlins were so bad in fact, that only the Astro’s – y’know, the team that had a payroll considerably less than Alex Rodriguez’s individual salary and will be picking 1st in the draft for the third consecutive year this summer – out-sucked them in terms of team WAR. Special S/O to Fangraphs for the excellent background provided with this graph:
Regular shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria accounted for -1.9 WAR alone, the worst single season mark for any qualified player since the somehow-still-employed-last-year Yuniesky Betancourt‘s -2.4 WAR in 2009.
- Owner Jeffrey Loria appropriately capped off his team’s 62-100 on field performance – the second-worst in franchise history – by being judged by ESPN The Magazine to be the most dishonest owner in sports, though he only displaced the Maloof family by virtue of them finally selling the Sacramento Kings. Marlins fans can only hope the trend of ‘winning’ owners leaving continues. Not that this was the worst thing to come out about Miami’s upper management…
- It emerged that Team President David Samson took leave from the club for two months of the regular season… to participate in Survivor. If this wasn’t the most embarrassing thing to transpire during the season, it’s only because of the incredible athletic performance put on by reliever Chad Qualls:
- I’ll stop there for the sake of the Marlins fans. Any Marlins fans. Fans of baseball. Evidently they were just as indifferent towards their team’s third consecutive last place finish as I was to writing properly, as Miami ranked last in attendance once again. Over 81 games, they pulled in just 1,586,322 people, an average of 19,584 per game. In contrast, the NL-leading Dodgers drew 3,743,527 for their home games, or 46,216 per game – and thats with the i-5 traffic.
Miami has largely done nothing to improve their fortunes for the upcoming season during the winter; signing Jarrod Saltalamacchia does not constitute an upgrade, nor Carlos Marmol, I’m afraid Mr. Loria. As they are annoyingly wont to do however, the Marlins have acquired some young talent in the process of assembling a pu pu platter at the major league level, a promising group including Marcell Ozuna, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino and Christian Yelich. With another season of struggle on the cards, all should see significant playing time for the big club this year, with Yelich in particular tabbed as a future star.
Naturally, he’ll probably be replacing Giancarlo Stanton in RF when he gets traded mid-season. #SoMarlins.
With Superbowl XLVIII in the rearview mirror and the dog days of the NBA fast approaching, what makes more sense than to look ahead to the upcoming baseball season. Accordingly, I’m going to be breaking down some of the players, teams, and story lines which I deem most relevant/engaging/amusingly-bloggable leading up to Opening Day 2014. Or actually just until the week before Opening Day – I’ll be in Nicaragua for the 8 days preceding the first pitch… Anyhow, by virtue of their alphabetical rank, I present my person of interest relating to the 2014 incarnation of the Arizona Diamondbacks; Archie Bradley.
If you want the quick and dirty 140 character scouting report of Archie Bradley, I refer you simply to Ben Badler’s tweet from last year’s Futures Game in which Bradley threw a perfect inning, inducing two groundouts and an easy fly out;
Archie Bradley with an overpowering 96-98 mph fastball and a low-80s hammer with power and depth. Filthy.
— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) July 14, 2013
Nothing Badler says in those few words is false – Bradley is simply so good that ‘Filthy’ sums his overpowering stuff up quite sufficiently. Drafted in the 1st round (7th overall) back in 2011 – the same draft in which the Diamondbacks also took the since-traded Trevor Bauer with the 3rd overall pick – the 6-4, 225lb Bradley looks set to crack the Arizona rotation at some point this year, if not straight from Spring Training, having spent his age 20 season dominating the minors. Boasting a fastball that consistently sits 94-96 mph, in addition to the aforementioned “hammer” curve (80-82 mph), Bradley possesses two plus-plus pitches, and while his changeup clearly profiles as his third pitch, it still projects to be comfortably above average. In combination with his above average control, and improving command, Bradley was simply too good for the lower levels in 2013, posting a 1.97 ERA over 152 innings across High A and AA ball, impressively striking out 162 in that span. His dominant year only served to confirm the high esteem in which scouts held him – Bradley could well be the future no. 1 of a big-league rotation, the ace which the Diamondbacks have been trying to acquire all winter long.
The Diamondbacks have clearly been shopping for their frontline answer to the riches possessed by NL West rivals the Los Angeles Dodgers. In an attempt to bolster a starting rotation that was a large part of an underwhelming .500 2013 campaign that saw those Dodgers celebrate the capture of the division in their home pool, Arizona fell short in the bidding for Masahiro Tanaka, and rightly weren’t willing to include Bradley in any deal for David Price. For a team built upon the depth of it’s pitching more so than offense, the performance of Kirk Gibson’s staff was far from the ‘gritty’ pre-season expectations conferred upon it; though lefty starter Patrick Corbin posted an All-Star worthy first half, his performance fell off after the break, while sophomore Wade Miley (predictably) regressed from his surprising rookie campaign. Ian Kennedy, who entered the season as the staff’s leader only a season removed from winning 21 games himself, also struggled, generating more press for his plunking of Yasiel Puig and Zack Greinke than for his performance on the mound, before being dealt to the Padres in July. Following him out of the organizational door, last year’s top prospect Tyler Skaggs was sold low on in the winter trade that netted Mark Trumbo (from the Arizona perspective, the less said about this entire deal the better).
With Brandon McCarthy, Trevor Cahill, and Randall Delgado joining Corbin and Miley in the projected 2014 rotation (barring injury), Bradley figures to be on the outside looking in, at least to begin the season. But the Diamondbacks pitching quantity shouldn’t long obstruct his quality; if Bradley meets expectations, it wouldn’t be completely out of the equation for him to succeed from the jump, á la fellow 2011 draftee José Fernández in 2013. With GM Kevin Towers reportedly considering an 175/180 innings limit for his top prospect, the path of the 1st overall pick in that draft, Gerrit Cole, might be more relevant in regards to how much we see of Bradley in the majors next year; called up on June 11th, the Pirates not only suppressed Cole’s service time but still managed to wring 117.1 big-league innings out of him, and snuck into the postseason in the process.
The 2014 Diamondbacks can only hope to rebound from last year’s disappointment, and follow Pittsburgh’s lead into the playoffs. The performance of Bradley will be a huge factor in determining if they do so or not.