FbR Fantasy Top 25: First Base

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Jamie Sabau (Getty Images)

FbR debuted its Top 25 series last week with a look at the catcher position. Like usual,  fantasy talent behind the dish is tough to find. However that’s not an issue at first, where it’s likely that the 10th best first baseman will produce comparable value to the best catcher. Given the depth at first one might be inclined to punt the position, but that’s a misguided strategy. Most fantasy leagues include corner infield or general infield spots, along with utility positions, so there are plenty of places to put your cornermen.

While we presented the catcher rankings in a conversational style, I will present the first base rankings as a “quick hit” variety that spends two to three sentences discussing each player in the top 25. Once again, these rankings are best utilized in a traditional 5×5, re-draft fantasy league.


01. Paul Goldschmidt: Yes, the humidor will probably negatively effect every D-Backs hitter, however Goldschmidt is near automatic for 100-30-100-15-300 from the first base position. His high average and stolen bases are really what differentiate him from the pack. He’s in a tier by himself.

02. Freddie Freeman: Freeman, who also possesses third base eligibility in most leagues,  has  rounded into one of the most complete hitters in baseball. He walks, doesn’t strike out much, hits for power and sprays balls to all parts of the field. Draft him in the first round with the confidence that you’ll get 35 home runs, great runs and RBI numbers and a 300 average.

03. Joey  Votto: Votto has finished with a 450 OBP in two of the last three seasons and has a 428 career mark. The last player to post marks that impressive so consistently was Barry Bonds. I know we’re looking at a batting average league, but that’s still darn impressive and will ensure Votto’s run totals are always top notch. He also has a pretty darn good batting average because of his ability to take make contact and take pitches to all fields. While the power surge from last season will be hard to repeat, Votto is a virtual lock for 30 homers and a 315 average.

04. Cody Bellinger: Part of me is wary about Bellinger and the potential sophomore slump that could be hanging over his head. But digging into the numbers, Bellinger’s power seems real. He hits the ball hard and mostly in the air. He has the minor league pedigree. And the thing that vaults him to fourth is the athleticism and speed that will enable double digit stolen bases. 40 home runs with 10 steals is well within reach. He also has outfield eligibility to boot.

05. Rhys Hoskins: Homer alert: Hoskins is probably my favorite player in baseball. He also hits a lot of home runs. The batting profile is pristine: he hits the ball hard, he hits tons of fly balls and he rarely swings and misses. That combination is exceedingly rare, and makes for a player capable of competing for the home run title year-in and year-out. His average will never be great due to all the fly balls, but I think he’ll settle in nicely in the 280 range, which is plus for a first baseman.

06. Anthony Rizzo: Is Rizzo too consistent? Almost to the point of boring? The guy has had from 31-32 homers, 94-99 runs and 101 to 109 RBIs each of the last three years. My ranking of Rizzo is probably lower than most, and that’s because I think some lower-ranked first base have a decent shot at replicating his 95-30-100-280 batting line. Draft both Bour and Smoak and I bet one approaches those figures at a fraction of the cost.

07. Edwin Encarnacion: Edwin likely suffers from a bit of Rizzo-itis in fantasy owners’ eyes: he’s been around for a while and is super predictable in his performance. Put 35 home runs, 100 RBIs and 90 runs in the bank. In OBP leagues he’s potentially a top 15-20 player, as  his 15%+ walk rate last year was a career mark, but his consistently low BABIPs and averages make him a cut below the rest at first.

08. Joey Gallo: This is a ballsy ranking for Gallo in traditional 5×5 leagues, as it’s unlikely that Gallo posts a batting average above 230. But the rest of his production will make up for it. 50 home runs is well within reach, and a mark Gallo could have achieved last year if he wasn’t so deprived of plate appearances at the bottom of the Rangers’ batting  order. He also has the potential for high single digits, or maybe even double digit steals due to his underrated athleticism.

09. Jose Abreu: After a slow start to 2017, Abreu rebounded into the form we’ve come to expect and even added some additional power on top. His all fields approach and reasonable strikeout rate mean an average from 290 to 300 should be expected, while you can feel safe projecting 30 home runs and 100 RBIs.

10. Wil Myers: With the Padres’ signing of Eric Hosmer, Myers will be relegated to the outfield in 2018, which only increases his value in fantasy due to positional flexibility. To be perfectly honest, I’m a not a huge fan of Myers’ batting profile. He strikes out a tad too much for the amount of power he generates. But the 15-25 steals he’s capable of providing from first really drive his value.

11. Matt Olson: What to make of Matt Olson, the guy who whit 24 home runs in less than 60 games last year? The 40%+ HR/FB rate will certainly come down, and his 13% swinging strike rate could mean more strikeouts. But the rest of the batting  profile says that Olson is legit with a strong hard hit rate and lots of pulled fly balls. Olson’s upside probably resides in the type of season Gallo had last year.

12. Justin Bour: Bour’s breakout 2017 has largely been forgotten about due to injuries that scuttled the end of his season and the pillaging of Miami’s roster that has occurred this offseason. But let’s not forget that Bour’s 2017 figures extrapolate to 40 home runs and 110 RBIs in a full complement of plate appearances. He’ll probably slide down draft boards due to the state of the Marlins, so don’t be afraid to pounce even if you already have a  first baseman picked.

13. Miguel Cabrera: Miggy burned a lot of people last season, myself included. He was a below average overall hitter, which meant that from a fantasy perspective he was garbage at first. But this is also the same guy who posted a wRC+ of at least 148 the previous three years. Cabrera was allegedly hampered by back problems all last season, so maybe an offseason of rest did him well. Not a bad a guy to target for upside later in the draft.

14. Eric Hosmer: Thank god Hosmer finally signed. After mulling multiple long-term offers for what seemed like forever, Hosmer officially inked with the Padres in mid-February. Worm-burning tendencies and low strikeout rate make Hosmer a good bet for a decent average, but we shouldn’t expect a repeat of last year’s .351 BABIP. More realistically we’re looking at a 280 hitter with 25 home runs and 80-90 on the RBI and run stats. Decent but not much to shake a stick at at first.

15. Justin Smoak: The former top prospect finally put it all together last season! He cut his swings and misses significantly and lowered his strikeout rate while continuing to hit the ball hard and in the air, with a 38 home run / 99 RBI season to show for it. Toronto should be decent this season with a bunch of underrated offseason additions, so a 90-35-95 line with a 260 average is certainly within the cards.

16. Josh Bell:  Bell, known as a high-contact guy with okay power, surprised a lot of people by hitting 26 bombs last season for Pittsburgh. He did so with a 10%+ walk rate and a sub-20% strikeout rate, which combine for a very solid batting profile. Bell actually profiles similarly to Eric Hosmer, with a ground-ball heavy approach and contact ability that should enable a decent average. His 255 figure in 2017 was dragged down by an unlucky 278 BABIP, but both of those numbers should rise this year.

17. Greg Bird: Bird might have the most upside relative to draft position of any player on this list. While his 2017 regular season was hampered by injury and relatively unimpressive overall, he managed a 575 slugging percentage and 128 wRC+ in 87 post all-star break at bats. He followed this up with three home runs and a 151 wRC+ in the postseason. Bird’s lefty pull tendencies play very well in Yankee Stadium, and he has an outside shot at 40 home runs if he plays a full season.

18. Ryan McMahon: This site has been pimping the wares of Ryan McMahon since last season, and now it looks like he’ll have an opportunity to produce at the MLB level with the Rockies’ first base job within reach. McMahon arguably had the best hitting season in the minors last year, with a combined 355 / 403 / 582 batting line between AA and AAA. As a testament to his power potential, McMahon smacked an outstanding 63 extra base hits in 470 minor league at bats. Given the Coors effect and the Rockies potent lineup, McMahon is a real sleeper.

19. Matt Carpenter: Carpenter is someone whose value is totally league dependent – if you count OBP, his back-to-back 380+ seasons make him a valuable add. But in a batting average league he’s better off on the waiver wire. While Carpenter hits a lot of fly balls, and he hits them hard, he’s consistently under-performed on HR/FB rate in recent years. He’s also had lingering back and shoulder issues over the last 12 months which present some concern.

20. Ryan Zimmerman: There’s no doubt about it: Zimmerman had a fantastic 2017, posting the second best wRC+ of his career and helping push numerous fantasy squads over the top. But the degenerative shoulder condition that Zimmerman suffers from, as well as a the looming presence of Matt Adams, should temper expectations for Zimmerman this season. Adams is likely to snag an increasing share of at bats against righties, cutting into Zimmerman’s PAs and counting stats.

21. Chris Davis: The nearly 32-year old Davis seems to have lost a step last season, with a strikeout rate climbing into the high 30%s and a pedestrian slugging rate of 423. While a bit of rebound is in order this year, Davis will need to do more than hit 35 home runs to make up for a batting average that will be in the 215-230 range.

22. Carlos Santana: Santana is one of those guys that profiles as a much better real life player than fantasy player. His nearly 1:1 walk to strikeout ratio will be a real boon for the Philadelphia Phillies, but his 250ish average and 25 home runs is unexciting at best in 5×5 fantasy. In the end Santana is very similar to Carpenter – valuable in OBP leagues but barely roster-able otherwise.

23. Brandon Belt: See Carpenter and Santana. Belt’s fantastic walk rate doesn’t do much for him in batting average leagues, and AT&T Park’s spacious right field won’t be shrinking any time soon, thus keeping his power numbers suppressed.

24. Eric Thames: Thames took the baseball world by storm in April 2017, and despite a second half slow-down he still finished with 31 home runs and a 124 wRC+ in 138 games. His approach was good, with lots of hard contact and very few infield flies. Thames’ ranking this season would be higher if not for Milwaukee’s offseason additions of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain, which will likely push Ryan Braun and Thames into a time share at first.

25. Jose Martinez: The 6’7″ Martinez burst onto the scene in the second half of 2017 with St. Louis, clubbing 14 home runs in 272 at bats and producing a 309 / 379 / 518 batting line. The 29-year old late bloomer probably deserves a bit of skepticism after never having made an MLB impact before, however he hit the ball exceedingly hard and showed great plate discipline. Playing time might be an issue though. Martinez is the backup first baseman and fourth outfielder for St. Louis, so unless an injury occurs he’ll struggle to get to 500 at bats.

 

 

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Yankees Rightfully Solidify Rotation with Gray, Garcia

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The Yankees got their guy, as they agreed to a trade with the A’s for three prospects.

The highly anticipated Trade Deadline has officially passed, as several teams with playoff aspirations shored up their few weaknesses, while others stockpiled prospects as they set their sights for the future.

All throughout the 2016-17 offseason, the buzzword to describe the Yankees’ upcoming season was a team “in transition”. The squad was expecting to at least be more exciting than year’s past, but to be no match for the supposed juggernaut in Boston.

One year ago today, the Yankees were correctly sellers, and got a king’s ransom from two playoff hopefuls in Cleveland and Chicago for two of the best relievers in baseball in Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman. The Yankees repleted their farm system to great success in a short amount of time. Fast forward to today, and the Yankees are atop their division by a half-game over Boston entering play tonight. The Yankees are most certainly in the playoff hunt, and once again were correct in their actions at the deadline, this time as buyers.

Michael Pineda’s elbow injury created a clear need for the Yankees’ starting rotation if they wanted to make any noise down the stretch and in the playoffs. They likely needed two starters to shore up Pineda’s spot and to likely reduce the number of innings for their bright young stars in Luis Severino and (more so) rookie Jordan Montgomery. In the span of 36 hours, the Yankees have made their upgrades, by bringing in a rental lefty in Jaime Garcia, and a controllable, higher ceiling righty in Sonny Gray.

The Yankees had been linked to Gray leading up to the trade deadline, and rightfully so. The Yankees had a clear need in the rotation not only for this year, but for 2018 and beyond; They only had the aforementioned Severino and Montgomery under contract, with Tanaka’s opt-out looming. “Controllable pitching” was the name of the game, and Brian Cashman finally got his guy after losing out on the Jose Quintana sweepstakes to the Chicago Cubs.

As always, it’s impossible to truly rate a trade immediately after it happens, but let’s look at what both teams got in the deal.

The Yankees acquired a 27-year-old 5’10” right-handed pitcher who remains arbitration-eligible through 2019, keeping him in the Bronx for the next 2.5 seasons. He is a five-pitch pitcher, primarily relying (about 2 out of 3 of his pitches) on a four-seam fastball and sinker combination, both in the low-to-mid 90s, to keep batters off-balance and generate an above-average number of groundballs. His off-speed offerings include a changeup in the high-80s, slider in the mid-80s, and a curveball in the low-80s.

A quick snapshot of his velocity trends since 2014:

Brooksbaseball-Chart

Reasonably consistent from year-to-year, and encouraging to see him maintain his velocity after his injury woes (more on that in a bit). Of note, I removed his cutter to cut down on clutter, as he rarely throws it.

The question of the day: Did they get an ace or a middle-of-the-rotation-type of guy? Below are Gray’s ERA-/FIP-/xFIP- from 2014 (his first full season) through today:

Sonny Gray Adjusted ERA 2014-17

Gray’s park- and league-adjusted ERA/FIP/xFIP since 2014. (Source: FanGraphs)

Quick reminder that ERA-/FIP-/xFIP- are both adjusted for ballpark and league environment (as indicated by the “minus”). 100 is exactly league average, and each point below (or above) means the player was 1% better (or worse) than league average.

So, what do we see? Gray had an ace-like stretch in 2014-15, going over the arbitrary workhouse innings limit of 200 in each season. Among other qualified AL pitchers in the same time frame, he ranked sixth in ERA-, behind such name brands as Keuchel, Sale, King Felix, Kluber, and Price. As far as FIP- and xFIP-, Gray ranks 13th and 12th, respectively. This makes sense when considering the factors for said metrics: Gray has a slightly above average strikeout rate (7.42 K/9 in 2014-15), and a roughly league-average walk rate (2.80 BB/9). Therefore, it shouldn’t be too surprising to see that Gray held the fifth-largest negative difference between his ERA and FIP at -0.55. In other words, Gray “outpitched his peripherals” and prevented more runs than one would expect based on the skills he can control (strikeouts, walks, HR), but even so, was an above-average AL starter for 2 seasons. Putting all of it together, it would not be a stretch to consider him a Top 10 pitcher in the American League during that time frame.

But then, 2016 happened. As noted by his reduced innings count, Gray went to the disabled list twice with two separate injuries, once in May with a right trapezius strain, and again in August with a right forearm strain. When he wasn’t on the DL, he threw some admittedly bad baseball by ERA- and FIP-. In fact, his ERA- ranked third-worst in the AL in 2016 among pitchers with at least 110 IP. Unlike 2014-15, Gray seemed to have the opposite fortune in 2016, with the second-highest positive difference between his ERA and FIP. Part of this could be explained by an uncharacteristically high BABIP (.319), which in turn could be explained by the Athletics’ awful defense last year. He also doubled his HR/FB rate from around league-average in 2014-15 (9%) to almost 18% (!) in 2016, while walking more (3.23 BB/9) and striking out a little less (7.23 K/9). Not ideal, but if you squinted, there were the makings of a bounceback season if he got healthy.

Unfortunately, it was more of the same to begin 2017. He opened the season on the disabled list for a third time in less than a year, this time with a right lat strain, delaying his season debut by a month. Since then, however, the bounceback was in full effect, as he seemed to return to his 2014-15 form, ranking sixth in xFIP- so far this year. He’s striking out more than ever (8.72 K/9), his walk and HR rate are more in line with 2014-15, and he has maintained his above-average groundball rate (56.7%). Furthermore, his ERA, FIP, and xFIP are all right around the same, reducing the likelihood of good or bad luck.

Digging a little deeper, he is allowing hard-hit balls at a lower rate closer to 2014-15 than to 2016, as well. Additionally, he has a career-high swinging strike percentage (SwStr%) so far this year (12.1%), ranking comfortably above-average and likely contributing to his spike in strikeouts.

His pitch usage appears to be roughly the same as year’s past:

Gray pitch usage

He does appear to be using his sinker more than ever, but he is throwing his other pitches about as often as before. The difference here might be in vertical movement: He is throwing his fastballs lower in the zone compared to last year. Likely as a result, he has generated an above-average outside-the-zone swing and contact rate this year.

All of that being said: Did the Yankees get an ace? Maybe! It really depends on how one defines an “ace”. What they did get was an established MLB pitcher who appears to be healthy again, and when healthy, is probably one of the ten best pitchers in the American League. A pitcher like that can help every team, and that includes the Yankees, who had an obvious hole in their rotation both this year and beyond. Consequently, they always felt like an obvious fit for Gray if they could agree on which prospects to send to Oakland.

And it appears that Oakland received a solid haul for their former staff anchor. The Athletics receive three Top 100 prospects from the Yankees in SS/CF Jorge Mateo, CF Dustin Fowler, and RHP James Kaprielian, of which the latter two are currently injured.

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Mateo can really fly. (Getty Images)

Jorge Mateo, still just 22, feels like he has been in the Yankees system forever. He signed in 2012 as a teenager out of the DR, and quickly made a name for himself with his legs, as he possesses true 80-grade speed. He was able to get by in the lower levels with his speed, but began to struggle in 2016. It wasn’t until a promotion to AA earlier this year that Mateo has found his groove with the bat. Scouts said he has made a mechanical change at the plate, which might lend further credence to his offense output. He was drafted as a shortstop, but has been playing center field (and second base) lately, so regardless, he projects as a speedy up-the-middle player who may just be discovering his swing.

MLB: Spring Training-Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees

Fowler’s future still appears bright if he can recover from his knee injury. (Presswire)

The left-handed Dustin Fowler, also just 22, was crushing AAA to start 2017 before earning a call-up to the big leagues at the end of June. In one of the more somber and gruesome events of the year, his season ended abruptly after one inning of play, as he tore his patellar tendon on his first play in the outfield, and will remain out for the season. However, Fowler undoubtedly has great tools and upside, including plus speed, defense, and hit tool. He projects as a speed/power threat at an up-the-middle position, and, assuming he comes back healthy, he has the potential to be a productive everyday center fielder for the Athletics. To wit: FanGraph’s KATOH+ prospect projection system thinks quite highly on Fowler, projecting him for ~8 WAR in his first six seasons, falling just short of the Top 25.

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Another lost season from Kap, who was rumored to be fast-tracked to the Majors this year. (Staten Island Advance)

Finally, RHP James Kaprielian, 6’4″ and 23, is a former first-round draft pick in 2015 out of UCLA. He was a true four-pitch pitcher with good command that many projected as a top-of-the-rotation arm. For one reason or another, he began throwing much harder after being drafted, and maybe as a consequence, began to be derailed by injuries. He missed the end of 2016 with a flexor tendon strain, but returned to dominate in the Arizona Fall League. Unfortunately, he torn his UCL after one spring training start in 2017, and is currently rehabilitating after Tommy John surgery.

After hearing that Oakland initially wanted Yankees’ top prospects Gleyber Torres or Clint Frazier, this package might seem light in comparison. However, Billy Beane got three very good prospects with considerable upside who could all go on to have successful major league careers.

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The only start Garcia made in a Twins’ uniform. (Newsday)

Previously discussed at length on FunCast Vol. 2, the Yankees also obtained LHP Jaime Garcia from Minnesota for two lower-level prospects in RHP Zack Littell and LHP Dietrich Enns. In Garcia, 31, the Yankees get a rental lefty groundball-predominant guy, which is always welcomed at Yankee Stadium. He has been roughly league-average (99 ERA-/96 FIP-) this year and will be an instant upgrade over the Yankees’ previous fifth-starter endeavors after Pineda’s injury, like Caleb Smith. The Twins got RHP Zack Littell, 21, who was ranked in the 20s in the Yankees farm system, and has seen his stock rise since arriving from Seattle for James Pazos, as he is striking out more than ever. He is not overpowering, but could have the stuff and “pitchability” to succeed as a back-of-the-rotation guy. LHP Dietrich Enns, 26, has never had much “projectability”, and is also not overpowering, but also strikes out guys, and could conceivably provide some depth in the bullpen. Both guys would have been Rule 5 eligible in the offseason, and may have been lost for nothing if not protected, so the Yankees continue to prioritize and trade from a position of surplus and depth.

Bottom line: The Yankees, despite being in a self-proclaimed “transition year”, saw an opportunity for the postseason in a surprisingly wide-open division, and appropriately bought at the deadline. They obtained a legitimate No. 2 guy with recent health concerns in Gray, who not only plugs into the rotation for 2017, but helps complete their rotation on the cheap for 2018-19. They also got a more-than-serviceable No. 4/5 guy in Garcia for an expendable pair of arms that may have been lost in the Rule 5 Draft in the offseason anyway. The overall cost for Gray ended up being three of their Top 10 prospects in Mateo, Fowler, and Kaprielian, who, in a best-case scenario, could all be productive, dynamic players in the Majors. However, considering the asking price for Quintana and the initial ask for Gray (a similar, but slightly less valuable trade piece given career, injuries, and contract), the Yankees have to be thrilled to get a controllable guy like Gray without losing their tippy-top prospects.

BACKBACKBACK: A Breakdown of Chris Berman’s Favorite Day of the Year

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The fantastical, eyesore home run sculpture plans on working overtime during the 2017 Home Run Derby.

Baseball fans and players will collectively catch their breath in the upcoming days, as the All-Star Break and unofficial halfway point of the baseball season is already upon us.

Before the ceremonial, historic, This Time It Doesn’t Matter All-Star Game on Tuesday, eight of the leagues premiere sluggers will face each other in a battle of sheer brawn, as they will attempt to outslug each other in the Home Run Derby.

With the formatting constantly being tweaked, the HR Derby has settled into a neat eight-person bracket, as shown below:

HR Bracket

The Miami faithful have reigning dong-crusher Giancarlo Stanton, as well as their underrated slugging first baseman Justin Bour, in the mix. Interestingly enough, the pair of Fish will face a pair of Baby Bombers in the first round in Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge. The National League’s answer to Aaron Judge, Cody Bellinger, will face division rival and thin-air-abusing Charlie Blackmon. Two more division rivals, Moose Tacos and Miguel Sano, round out the bracketing.

On paper, it appears to be shaping up to be a great set of match-ups and potential match-ups (let’s be real, who isn’t routing for Judge vs. Stanton in the finals?) But we at Fungraphs are too analytic to stop there. Let’s delve a little deeper at what the venue and players have to offer in today’s dinger party.

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Marlins Park dimensions and wall heights. (Source: FanGraphs)

Marlins Park unfortunately was not constructed with the Home Run Derby in mind, as it has more cavernous dimensions than most of its counterparts around the Majors. In fact, according to ESPN Park Factors for 2017, Marlins Park ranks just 23rd in HR. Park Factors ranks Marlins Park unfavorable, at 26th overall.

Per Swish Analytics, Marlins Park favors lefties, with a (still-below-average) 0.81 HR factor vs. 0.74 for righties.

Let’s look at our eight sluggers and see how they compare to one another in a few key aspects with regards to power.

2017 HR Derby Data

A closer look at the 2017 HR Derby participants. (Number in parentheses indicate ranking among MLB hitters, min. 100 BBE; Data via Baseball Savant and FanGraphs)

The four lefties (Bellinger, Moose, Blackmon, and Bour) already have a slight advantage in Marlins Park over their opposite-handed counterparts.

On paper, all eight appear to have the resumes needed for entrance into the Derby. The top 7 seeds actually all rank in the top 26 in MLB (among batting title qualifiers) in isolated slugging percentage (ISO), which is merely one’s slugging percentage minus the batting average (Sanchez still needs more PA after missing about a month with a brachialis injury).

The new StatCast data have been permeating around baseball broadcasts and blogs. One new term coined in the StatCast era is “Barrels“, which is basically the best possible outcome for a hitter. It’s essentially hitting the ball at the ideal angle and exit velocity to produce a very favorable outcome for the hitter (at least .500 AVG and 1.500 SLG). Aaron Judge leads the way, with an absolutely staggering 1 in 4 (!) of his batted ball events (BBE) being Barrels. Miguel Sano is still in the Top 10 in Barrels/BBE, with a more modest 18.6% of his BBE with the ideal outcome. Bellinger and Stanton also rank well in this metric, hitting about 15% of their batted balls as Barrels.

What about exit velocity? Every single damn ball off the bat nowadays is tagged with an exit velocity, whether it’s a routine ground out or a mammoth home run. Unsurprisingly, Judge leads the pack in exit velocity on flyballs and line drives, hitting them, on average, over 101 MPH. Somewhat predictably (since Barrels relies on exit velocity in its metric), the same pecking order follows, with Sano, Bellinger, and Stanton close to the top of the pack in MLB. Blackmon lags the Derby group in both categories, as he is the only participant with less than 10% of his BBE as Barrels, and hitting his FB/LD a relatively meager 91.5 MPH.

Finally, in terms of all BBE hit really fast (95+ MPH), Judge once again leads his peers at 56.5% of his batted ball events going 95+ MPH off of the bat, with only Alex Avila (58.0%) doing it more often in the Majors. Judge and Sano are the only two in the pack doing this over half of the time.

The underlying numbers backup what any Yankees fan already knows: Aaron Judge was tailor made for the Home Run Derby. He routinely murders baseballs in batting practice, and is even destroying property with his prodigious power. Now he sets his sights on destroying his peers and that godawful monstrosity in center field at Marlins Park.

However, despite all of the underlying numbers, the HR Derby has surprised the masses before with its outcome. No matter who ends up victorious, it is shaping up to be an eventful, dong-filled night.

Prospect Hot Stove Pt. 2

Yesterday we explored some of the top prospects who are knocking on the door of an MLB call-up. Names like Moncada, Torres and Devers are well known, even in non prospect nerd circles, so today we will explore five lesser known prospects who making waves in the minors. But first, a summary from yesterday’s post:

Yoan Moncada / 2B / Chicago White Sox (ETA: June 30th)
Gleyber Torres / SS / New York Yankees (ETA: September 1st)
Amed Rosario / SS / New York Mets (ETA: June 30th)
Rafael Devers / 3B / Boston Red Sox (ETA: June 30th)
Franklin Barreto / SS / Oakland Athletics (ETA: August 1st)


Austin Meadows (OF / Pittsburgh / AAA / 22)

MLB.com Prospect Rank: 6th

MLB ETA: August 1st

Austin Meadows, the ninth overall pick in the 2013 draft and name-sharer with a Dekalb County townhome development, is a toolsy outfielder that has made quick work of Pittsburgh’s minor league system. Although he was expected by some to compete for a

austin meadows

Seems like a nice place.

roster spot out of spring training, Meadows was sent down to AAA prior to the season and subsequently had a very rough month of April, posting a .503 OPS and 40 wRC+ in 82 at bats. Since then Meadows has looked more like his normal self, cutting his strikeout rate significantly and posting a .797 OPS since May 1st. Recently turned 22, and with over 1,250 minor league plate appearances to his name, Meadows is likely nearing MLB readiness, however Pittsburgh has a logjam in their outfield with Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte (who is nearing a return from his suspension) and Adam Frazier. The Pirates are currently last in the NL Central and don’t have much hope to contend in 2017, so it’s likely that they trade McCutchen by the July 31 trade deadline. Meadows’ path to the MLB will become a lot clearer after an outfielder is dealt from the MLB roster, so expect a promotion shortly thereafter.

 


Brent Honeywell (SP / Tampa Bay / AAA / 22)

MLB.com Prospect Rank: 24th

MLB ETA2018

Honeywell has been one of minor league baseball’s most consistent pitchers since being drafted in 2014, never posting an ERA above 3.50 at any level and displaying a polished approach with lots of strikeouts and very few walks. He made two starts in AA for the Montgomery Biscuits to start the season and struck out 20 batters in 13 innings, prompting a promotion to Tampa’s AAA squad in Durham, NC. Honeywell’s made eight

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The Hot Rods are a great team name.

starts in AAA, holding the opposition to three or less earned runs in six of them. His most recent start was a seven run, three inning affair that bloated his ERA in AAA to 4.93, however his underlying performance has been much better than that. Honeywell’s 26.2% strikeout rate and 3.8% walk rate produce an elite 2.90 xFIP, which is third best in the AAA International League. Given his strong performance, it’s only a matter of time before Honeywell’s ERA descends into the 3.00’s, however an MLB call-up might not come until 2018 regardless. Tampa’s MLB staff is fairly deep, with Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Alex Cobb and Matt Andriese all profiling as above average starters. The Rays also have some of the best minor league pitching depth in the league, with Blake Snell, Jacob Faria and Jose de Leon likely ahead of Honeywell in the call-up queue. While Tampa will likely unload some pitchers at the deadline, Honeywell probably won’t see significant MLB action until 2018.

 


Derek Fisher (OF / Houston / AAA / 23)

MLB.com Prospect Rank: 74th

MLB ETA: August 1st

Derek Fisher was a standout collegiate player at the University of Virginia prior to being drafted by the Astros 37th overall in the 2014 draft. Fisher possesses a well-rounded game, flashing plus power, speed and hitting ability combined with decent outfield

MLB: Fall Star Game

Handsome guy.

defense. He’s been remarkably consistent while climbing the ranks of Houston’s minor league system, never posting a wRC+ below 124, however his game elevated to another level in 2017 with the AAA Fresno Grizzlies. Fisher has swatted 14 home runs in 227 plate appearances thus far, with a 1.016 OPS and 162 wRC, which both currently rank third in the AAA Pacific Coast League. Due to his age, collegiate pedigree and minor league experience, Fisher would already be in the majors for most teams, however the league-leading 38-16 Astros don’t have much space on the MLB roster. Their current outfield is comprised of George Springer in center, Josh Reddick in right and Nori Aoki in left, with Jake Marisnick and Marwin Gonzalez sprinkled in from time to time. Springer and Reddick are locked in to their positions, however if Fisher keeps raking in AAA it’s possible that he can nudge Aoki, who is running a 70 wRC+ in 2017, out of a starting role. Houston is looking to win it all this year, so if they think Fisher can improve the MLB squad, he’ll get the call-up.

 


Rhys Hoskins (1B / Philadelphia / AAA / 24)

MLB.com Prospect Rank: NA

MLB ETA: August 1st

It’s kind of weird how certain prospects receive little to no fanfare, even after decimating minor league pitching over the span of three years. Hoskins, a 6’4″, 225lbs first baseman hailing from Sacramento, CA, is definitely one of those prospects. He’s dominated at

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Rhys attempting to punch a ball.

every minor league level, posting a wRC+ of at least 159 at stops in A, A+ and AA. He’s been unconscious with the AAA Lehigh Valley IronPigs in 2017 and is the International League-leader in HR, RBI, OBP, SLG, OPS and wRC+. It’s also not particularly close in many of those categories. Hoskins’ 1.044 OPS is 90 points higher than second place Max Moroff, who is at .954. Hoskins played collegiate ball, has logged at bats at every minor league level and is already 24 years old, so why isn’t he in the majors yet? Unfortunately, Hoskins is blocked on the MLB team by incumbent 25-year old first baseman Tommy Joseph, who has hit 29 home runs in his 154 game MLB career. Philadelphia, despite having a strong farm system, has holes across the entire MLB roster, so they would be wise to trade redundant assets to plug those holes. Expect one to be dealt by the trade deadline, and for Hoskins to be in the MLB wherever he ends up.

 


Luke Weaver (SP / St. Louis / AAA / 23)

MLB.com Prospect Rank: 60th

MLB ETA: Sometime in July

New York Mets vs St. Louis Cardinals

What are you, like 12?

Luke Weaver was St. Louis’ 1st round pick, 27th overall, in the 2014 draft. He has impressed at the professional level since, posting a dominating 1.62 ERA in high A in 2015, followed by an even more impressive 1.40 ERA in AA in 2016. Weaver was so dominating in AA that he earned an MLB call-up in August, starting eight games for the Cardinals and posting a 5.70 ERA along the way. However, his strikeout ability and control earned him a 3.34 xFIP, indicating that his true performance was better than the boxcar stats showed. With St. Louis possessing a stacked MLB rotation, Weaver accepted a demotion to AAA to start the 2017 season and picked up right where he left off in 2016. Weaver’s ERA with the Memphis Redbirds is a stingy 2.08, and he’s striking out over 25.0% of the batters he faces. Unfortunately for Weaver, every St. Louis starter currently has a sub 4.00 ERA, so he won’t be taking anyone’s MLB job due to ineffectiveness. It will take an injury to someone on the Cardinals’ staff to open up a rotation spot. However, the likes of Wainwright, Lynn and Wacha are hardly beacons of health, so don’t be surprised if Weaver is starting games for St. Louis soon.

How Mike Trout Can Still Win the AL MVP

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Never slide head-first, kids. (Source: Steve Mitchell – USA Today Sports)

Mike Trout is a baseball god among mere mortals. No matter how one slices it, he has had a historic start to his career, cementing himself as the undisputed best player in baseball essentially since he began playing full time.

Since 2012, his first full season in the Majors, he laps the league in fWAR (50.4); the next best player in MLB, Josh Donaldson, is at a distant second with “just” 32.6.

Every year, one of the few certainties in baseball is seeing Trout atop the WAR leaderboards. He has led the AL in fWAR every season since 2012, and only Bryce Harper’s monstrous 2015 campaign topped Trout in any corresponding NL season.

But if there is one other, more humbling certainty in baseball, it is that no one is invincible. Even a baseball god like Trout is vulnerable to the wear-and-tear of the grueling baseball season. He had weathered these aches and pains admirably so far in his career, playing at least 157 games in all of his full seasons, and avoiding the disabled list, giving him the capability of compiling a counting stat like WAR with ease.

Then, suddenly, he’s gone. An awkward head-first slide into second base on May 28 in Miami ultimately led to an ulnar collateral ligament tear in his left thumb, requiring surgery. The estimated timetable for his return is 6-to-8 weeks, putting his return somewhere between the start of the unofficial second half and the end of July, if all goes accordingly.

The loss of baseball’s best player is awful all around, clearly for baseball as a whole, as well as for the Angels, who are still hovering around .500. The loss comes at a time where Trout appeared to be on pace for his best season yet, as he was in the midst of one of his best stretches as a major leaguer.

Trout was off to a torrid .337/.461/.742 start to 2017, good for an obscene 213 wRC+ in 47 games, meaning he is 113% better than the average major leaguer. For comparison, his best wRC+ in a season was 176 in 2013, and his career wRC+ is 170.

Maybe not that unbelievably, but Trout has actually had better 45-game stretches in his career, by wRC+, as evidenced by the below 45-game rolling wRC+, courtesy of FanGraphs.

Trout rolling wRC
Perhaps more impressive than all of the highs is the lack of real lows. Granted, there are “lows” for someone of Trout’s prodigious offensive output, but if your worst 45-game stretch is an above-average wRC+, you’re doing just fine.

In terms of starting the season, Trout’s Mar./Apr. and May 2017 wRC+ are career highs for those respective months, as are basically every other offensive metric of choice.

Trout Apr wRCTrout May wRC

Is a wRC+ of 213 sustainable or even attainable over a whole season? Since 1900, there have been 12 player seasons resulting in a wRC+ greater than Trout’s current 213. The names are as one would expect: Ruth (4), Bonds (3), Williams (3), Mantle, and Hornsby (1 each). There have been 28 seasons of at least 200 wRC+, which involves most of the same suspects.

So, Trout had a historically great first two months of his age 25-26 season, well on his way to his third (*cough could be sixth cough*) AL MVP, and now he’s hurt for nearly 2 months and everything sucks.

But, I’m an optimist. Rather than dwell on the potential milestones Trout may have achieved had he played a full season at this rate, I’ll spin his injury into yet another way he may be the best ever. There is a chance, albeit small, that he could still pull off the AL MVP award, even with this injury.

This will naturally require a best-case scenario to pull off. Trout will need to come back at the low end of his predicted recovery timetable (6 weeks), which would have him back right after the All-Star Break, conveniently ready to tackle the unofficial second half of the season. This would give him 70 more games to lay waste to AL pitchers. Of course, the other major assumption is that he comes back perfectly healthy and does not miss a beat from his early season destruction.

Nicolas Stellini over at FanGraphs already discussed Trout’s injury, including a useful go-to chart for every player who also had a thumb UCL surgery since 2010, with their pre- and post-surgical production. The sample size is obviously small (n = 15), and the talent pool widely variable, so it is difficult to make any real conclusions. The recovery times ranged from 5 to 13 weeks, but a few players were able to pick up where they left off, pre-injury. Some notable names are on the list, including Bryce Harper in 2014, who had exactly the same wRC+ before and after surgery.

We all want data to make useful conclusions and predictions, but the reality is, every player’s body is inherently different. No one knows how Trout’s left thumb will heal. No one knows if he’ll be just as good after surgery. But, let’s remain optimistic during these dark times and say he will be back with a vengeance come July 14 versus Tampa Bay.

If the above assumptions hold true, Trout could conservatively eclipse 7.0 fWAR, with an outside chance of surpassing 8.0. In one simplistic and flawed approach, Trout put up 3.4 fWAR in 47 games, which would extrapolate to about 8.4 fWAR for 117 games. Since 2012, he has amassed 50.5 fWAR over 818 games, which would work out to about 7.2 fWAR per 117 games.

In other words, he might still put up gaudy WAR numbers in an injury-shortened season to potentially claim the AL WAR crown for a sixth straight year. Who is his real competition thus far in 2017? Below is the Top 10 AL WAR leaders of 2017, courtesy of FanGraphs:

2017 AL WAR leaders thru May

I narrowed it to only hitters, as a pitcher has to have a superb season to snag the MVP, although Chris Sale certainly could do just that if he keeps up his insane start (3.2 fWAR, 2.77 ERA, 1.91 FIP, league-leading 12.69 K/9).

Based on this listing, his primary competition currently lies in Yankees’ Large Adult Son Aaron Judge. He is still a rookie, and could certainly regress to his high-strikeout ways, but he has shown some real improvement in his plate discipline and pitch selection this year, as he appears on his way to, at the very least, his first All-Star appearance and Rookie of the Year award. Last year’s MVP runner-up, Mookie Betts, is a full 1 WAR behind Trout for the crown; his WAR extrapolated to 150 games would be around 7.5 WAR, in the neighborhood of Trout’s theoretical season total. Sano is crushing baseballs as he was always projected to do, and Dickerson has had a hot start as he is out to prove he can hit this well outside of Coors Field. It’s possible these guys, or the rest of the Top 10, continue their hot-hitting ways to reclaim AL dominance. However, no one, based on their rest-of-season (ROS) projections, seems poised to do so.

First, the ROS ZiPS WAR leaders:
2017 ZiPS ROS WAR

Now, the ROS Steamer WAR leaders:
2017 Steamer ROS WAR

Projections are always a bit fluky. First, Trout is clearly not going to play 98, or even 76 games. However, the point is to look at everyone else’s ROS projections to give us an idea if overtaking Trout is doable, based both on current and past production. Betts seems to be the most likely based on both models, giving him about 6.5 WAR. Lindor and Correa could make some noise and end up over 6 WAR, as well. Judge is trickier for the projection systems to predict, as he has a less-established track record. It is very possible it could be a tight WAR leaderboard come the end of the year.

Of course, WAR is never the end-all, be-all metric for making an MVP case, but it does a reasonable job of stratifying out the best players for our purposes. As such, the AL MVP award, for better or worse, comes with the human element, which means certain voters placing emphasis on the team that the player is on. The tiebreaker could ultimately come down to which team makes the playoffs. Other factors could include significant, more traditional statistical accomplishments, a la Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown, which appeared to clinch the 2012 MVP award over Trout.

It seems highly unlikely the Angels will make the playoffs at this point, with FanGraphs giving them about 5% odds. However, the Angels’ performance could potentially shine light on Trout’s brilliance in a roundabout way. This will be the first time since 2011 that the Angels will play any significant amount of time without Trout. The Angels suddenly collapsing in Trout’s absence would further highlight how important he is to his team, even if it means making an awful team a mediocre one. Baseball is inherently a team sport, but Trout is as close to a one-man wrecking crew as there is, and we are about to witness the effect of his prolonged absence on his ball club.

The last issue is sheer playing time. Our version of Trout will have only played 117 games, while, presumably, his competition will have played a full season. Has there ever been an MVP winner with a (non-strike) shortened season? The short answer: Yes.

Interestingly enough, George Brett won the 1980 AL MVP while playing exactly 117 games. Brett blew away the competition with an astounding .390/.454/.664 line, good for a 198 wRC+, and leading the AL in fWAR and bWAR by 1.3 and 0.3, respectively. He beat out Reggie Jackson, who had a .300/.398/.597 line and 5.0 f- and bWAR, but tied for the MLB lead in HR with 41.

The closest, most recent example appears to be Josh Hamilton in 2010. He played 133 games, but still led the AL in fWAR and bWAR by margins of 0.7 and 0.6, respectively, while leading the league with a .359 BA and 1.044 OPS. However, in both cases, both Brett and Hamilton still qualified for the batting title, which is arbitrarily defined as 3.1 PA per team game, or 502 over a full 162-game season. In our best-case scenario, Trout would just squeak over the threshold.

This is a long-winded way to say that Trout certainly remains in the discussion for AL MVP. Obviously, his recovery time would need to be short, and his post-surgical production would have to be typically Troutian. But if he comes back as predicted and continues to mash, he has a very real chance to outpace his competition, possibly by enough to make it noteworthy. It may help if he led the league in another, more traditional category when he returns. Regardless of the ultimate outcome, the fact that this is even a discussion further magnifies the greatness of Mike Trout.

Prospect Hot Stove: Who are the next big things to earn an MLB call-up?

While baseball nerds have always geeked out over prospect lists, rankings and debutsMLB rookies 2015, prospect mania really hit the baseball mainstream during the 2015 season. In that year, once prospects, now MLB studs like Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Kris Bryant made huge impacts as rookie call-ups. Six rookies that season totaled extrapolated wins above replacement (based on a 150 game season) over 5.0, while 11 earned a figure over 4.0. From star-studded premiers from hyped guys like Corey Seager and Michael Conforto, to lesser known but equally effective debuts from Devon Travis and Jung Ho Kang, the rookies turned out a historic performance.

Ever since, the thrill surrounding the rumored promotion of the next big prospect is palpable. That buzz is reaching a fever pitch now that calendars have turned to June, because it marks the conclusion of Super Two eligibility. What is Super Two eligibility? Basically, if a prospect is called up prior to the Super Two deadline, which is ambiguously scheduled sometime in the first of week of June, it starts their service clock a year early, which means said players are eligible for arbitration and eventually free agency one year earlier. Teams want to avoid this, as they would have to pay players more money sooner, so they often wait until after the Super Two deadline to call players up even if they’re deserving of an earlier promotion.

Now that the Super Two deadline is here, expect a lot more commotion surrounding the prospect hot stove, and in the coming weeks some actual promotions. The first in a two part series, the following post will break down five of the hottest MLB prospects right now and prognosticate when they will be called up.


Yoan Moncada (2B / Chicago (AL) / AAA / 22)

MLB.com Prospect Rank: 1st

MLB ETA: June 30th

Chicago White Sox Photo Day

Champion Twinkie eater.

Moncada, universally regarded as the best prospect in the game and consumer of up to 85 Twinkies per week, is due to for a promotion imminently. Despite being one of the youngest players in the AAA International League, Moncada is 6th in OPS at .885 and 5th in wRC+ at 149 (remember, that means he’s hitting 49% better than the average AAA hitter). Moncada was sidelined for about 10 days due to a thumb injury in mid-May, so expect Chicago to give him another week or two to shake off the rust prior to calling him up. The one rub on Moncada’s game has always been his strikeout proclivity, evidenced by a 31% strikeout rate in 207 AA plate appearances in 2016, but he has improved that part of his game, with a still high but not astronomical 27.5% rate in 2017.


Gleyber Torres (SS / New York (AL) / AAA / 20)

MLB.com Prospect Rank: 2nd

MLB ETA: September 1st

The Yankees pulled off some seriously good asset management when they dealt a bunchGleyber_Torres_1280_jcu1mw48_cm1gsb8t of average prospects to the Reds for Aroldis Chapman in December 2015 and then flipped Chapman to the Cubs for stud prospect Gleyber Torres at the 2016 trade deadline (only to re-sign Chapman as a free agent in the 2016 offseason). Torres’ stock has only vaulted up since then, with a sterling performance in AA to start 2017. Torres ranked 10th in the Eastern League in OPS and wRC+ prior to the Yankees promoting him to AAA on May 22nd. Torres has had a bit of a slow start with the AAA Scranton RailRiders, but he is displaying good plate discipline and is the youngest player in all of AAA. Assuming that Torres improves his performance in AAA, the Yankees will look to call him up when MLB rosters expand in September. There is no starting role available for Torres on the Yankees as of now, with SS Didi Gregorius and 2B Starlin Castro owning the middle of the infield and Chase Headley at third. However, Torres has been playing all over the infield this year, so expect him to occupy a Javier Baez-like utility role for the Yankees as they make their push to the playoffs.


Amed Rosario (SS / New York (NL) / AAA / 21)

MLB.com Prospect Rank: 3rd

MLB ETA: June 30th

USATSI_9926001-239x320Amed Rosario, a 2012 international signing hailing from the Dominican Republic, has tantalized scouts for the last five years with his rare blend of athleticism, speed, batting speed and untapped power potential. Rosario initially struggled to hit professional pitching in 2014-15, but has since cemented his status as one of baseball’s top prospects. His 2017 performance with the AAA Las Vegas 51s has garnered even more attention, with Rosario putting up a .914 OPS (13th best in the AAA Pacific Coast League) and 139 wRC+ (12th). He, along with Oakland prospect Franklin Barreto, is one of the youngest players in the entire league at 21. The Mets currently have Asdrubal Cabrera at short, who, despite wielding a solid bat, provides below average and sometimes awful defense. While Cabrera is a solid major league player, it’s only a matter of time before the Mets youth movement continues with a Rosario call-up. Expect it before the end of June.


Rafael Devers (3B / Boston / AA / 20)

MLB.com Prospect Rank: 13th

MLB ETA: June 30th

Devers, ranked as the 13th best prospect in the MLB at the beginning of the season, would be approaching the top five if rankings were re-done today. He’s had a torrid start with the AA Pawtucket Red Sox, and is currently 9th in the Eastern League in home runs

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Oh look, a ball!

and 12th in OPS, all while being the second youngest player in the league next to Yankees prospect Gleyber Torres. The Red Sox have received the second worst offensive production from the third base position in the majors, although they just activated Pablo Sandoval from the DL yesterday. If Sandoval continues to hit like he did prior to injury, expect the Sox to make a change at third base. There are rumors swirling about the team’s interest in acquiring a third baseman like Todd Frazier, but given their deteriorating farm system, and the likelihood that Devers would be just as good as someone like Frazier, promotion from within makes more sense for Boston. GM Dave Dombrowski hasn’t been shy about promoting prospects to the MLB directly from AA before, so don’t be surprised to see Devers in Boston in the coming weeks.


Franklin Barreto (SS / Oakland / AAA / 21)

MLB.com Prospect Rank: 46th

MLB ETA: August 1st

Barreto, the stud prospect acquired from the Blue Jays in the Josh Donaldson trade, has managed to hit at every level of the minors. 2017 has been no different, with Barreto

636179274113207861-franklin-barreto

Anyone else think I look like Great Gazoo from the Flintstones?

sporting a .300 average and solid but not great .823 OPS for the Nashville Sounds, Oakland’s AAA squad. The opportune time for a Barreto promotion occurred in mid-April, when the Athletics’ incumbent shortstop Marcus Semien went down with a broken wrist. Oakland held firm and kept Barreto in the minors, with Adam Rosales taking over full-time shortstop duties. Second baseman Jed Lowrie and utility infielder Chad Pinder are also crushing the ball for Oakland, leaving little room on the big league roster for Barreto right now. With Oakland waffling at 23-29, last in the AL West, don’t be surprised to see the team enter “sell” mode early and deal pieces like Lowrie and Semien to contending teams, at which point a Barreto promotion will be a bit more feasible.

A Frame by Frame Account of the Harper / Strickland Fight

Baseball can be a pretty boring game sometimes. A lot of standing around. Announcers filling air time with inane stories that have no relevance to the game. Some nose picking. But once in a blue moon the baseball gods grace us with a situation that allows testosterone-fueled, alpha-men to get their rocks off in physical confrontations. More often than not, these altercations involve a lot of milling about with little actual fighting, and basically serve as an excuse for the relief pitchers out in the bullpen to stretch their legs a bit. However, on rare occasions the stars align and we are graced with moments like yesterday’s Bryce Harper / Hunter Strickland fight, which was replete with helmet throwing, blind fist flailing and punches to the face.

For those who haven’t seen the fight yet, check out the full video here. To provide some context to the situation, the San Francisco Giants were hosting the final slate of a three game set against the Washington Nationals. The Giants were trailing the Nationals 2-0 in the top of the 8th inning when Hunter Strickland, a hard-throwing relief pitcher for San Francisco, plunked Bryce Harper, the Zeus of baseball and great hair, in the right buttocks with a 98 MPH fastball.

I would suggest watching the full minute-long video prior to conducting the annotated, frame by frame viewing below:

game score

Strickland is mid wind-up. Harper is priming his leg kick. Posey thinks the ball is going on the inside half of the plate. Take notice of the score and the inning. The Giants are trailing 2-0 in the top of the 8th. The guy on deck actually has a better OPS than Bryce Harper this year. All in all, probably not a situation where Hunter Strickland would intentionally put Harper on base.

harper just hit

So Strickland missed his location a little bit…or by like three feet. Did he do it intentionally? Tough to say. I decided to review Strickland’s previous four MLB plunkings to see if I could glean anything.

HBP #4: Jay Bruce on August 21, 2016

Ironically enough, Strickland’s previous beaming occurred in a game at AT&T Park where the Giants were losing 2-0. He also missed his fastball location horribly, drilling Jay Bruce in the upper ribs, which is a much worse place to get hit than the ass. Bruce took the 99 MPH fastball like a man and walked to first, even though it appears like he’s about to keel over at the 18-second mark.

HBP #3: Stephen Piscotty on June 5, 2016

One thing is becoming clear…when Strickland hits someone, it freaking hurts. Strickland didn’t miss his location as badly on this one, just nicking Piscotty in the elbow, but boy did Piscotty wince in pain. This 98 MPH fastball was the only pitch Strickland threw in the game, as he was lifted for lefty Javy Lopez to face the lefty-hitting Matt Adams.

HBP #2: Todd Frazier on September 15, 2015

Couldn’t find a video for this one, but a picture is worth a thousand words. Given that Frazier is a righty, and given the look on his face, I’m assuming that he was hit by one of the 15, 96-98 MPH fastballs thrown by Strickland that day and NOT one of the two, 86 MPH sliders.

HBP #1: Matt Kemp on June 25, 2015

No video or pictorial evidence on this one. However, I am going to go out on a limb and assume that the right-handed Kemp was hit by one of Strickland’s fastballs, which he threw 77% of the time on this day and which averaged 97 MPH.

So what did we glean from all that? Somehow, four other players took Strickland fastballs to various parts of their bodies and managed to not charge the mound. Jay Bruce looked like he almost died and didn’t say anything. Toughen up Harper.

harper hit

Immediately post plunking. You can tell Harper is pissed. Now, while I think Harper is being a bit over-dramatic here, I would like to point out the location of the baseball. See the the Oracle sign with the red background on the right? The ball is covering the lower right part of the ‘R’. That’s a good 12 feet from where Harper was hit, and it travels another three or four before hitting the ground. You don’t get that kind of distance on the ricochet without inflicting some damage on the target. With that said, an ass-cheek bruise isn’t the worse thing in the world.

bat flip.PNG

What’s going on with that bat flip? You bat flip after hitting a monstrous dong, not after getting plunked in the butt. Maybe Harper was just mad about being 0-3 on the day? Simmer down Bryce.

harper wind up

The wind up…

harper release

…and the pitch is just a bit outside.

The ironic thing in all of this is that Harper was so mad about Strickland’s lack of ability to control his throw, yet Harper uncorked one of the worst throws seen on live television since 50 Cent threw out the first pitch at a Mets game. No one likes a hypocrite Bryce.

pre collision

Now the real hilarity begins. San Francisco players are labeled with a red ‘S’ while Washington players are designated with a blue ‘W’ (Harper is the ‘W’ in the middle of the picture). Fair to say the Giants players are overreacting a bit in their desire to enter the middle of the fray. Notice how Mike Morse, the San Francisco player directly to the left of Harper, and Jeff Samardzija, the San Francisco pitcher with the black fleece, are about the collide.

collision aftermath

collision aftermath2

And boom! The force of teammates Morse and Samardzija running into each other knocks them both to the ground and sends Samardzija’s hat flying. Although they were both hoping to help Strickland fend off Harper, they simply ran into each other at full speed, taking both of themselves out of the fracas. Also, instead of getting at Harper, they take out Harper’s teammate Daniel Murphy at the knees, while Harper walks away unscathed.

Also, I apologize for my poor MS paint penmanship.

werth jesus.PNG

Jesus, is that you?

hold me back

Fair to say Strickland was pretty hot and bothered. He may or may not have thrown at Harper intentionally, and he subsequently had a batting helmet hurled at him and received a couple good shots to the moneymaker. But seriously, pull it together. I count eight Giants personnel holding you back. Player #3 is even picking your leg up in an attempt to help carry you off the field, much like how my parents would carry my four-year old self out of a restaurant in the midst of a temper tantrum. Timeout for you Hunter.


After all that, what’s my take? Harper is a whiny baby. Strickland needs to get his fastball under control, because that thing is a deadly weapon. He should also attend some anger management classes. Jeff Samardzija and Michael Morse are those drunks guys at the bar who bump into people looking for a fight. And Jayson Werth continues to have the best flow in baseball.

Monday Fantasy Notes: 5/29 Edition

I once again apologize to the two, maybe three people that read the recurring fantasy notes segment here at FunGraphs. I had a busy weekend at Boston Calling and wasn’t able to produce on Saturday, so for back-to-back weeks the fantasy notes were moved to Monday.

Time to buy!!!

Cameron Maybin / CF /  Los Angeles Angels (Ownership: 9% ESPN / 21% Yahoo)

Maybin, the former Tigers top prospect and the key cog (along with Andrew Miller) in the trade that brought Miguel Cabrera to Detroit, has bounced around a bit to say the least. Two separate tours of duty with Detroit, with single stops in San Diego, Atlanta and now Anaheim along the way. Maybin’s inability to stick with one team, along with his injury issues and “post-hype” prospect status have all combined to make him an undervalued fantasy asset.

Maybin’s fantasy line with Detroit in 2016 read 65 R / 4 HR / 43 RBI / 15 SB. That doesn’t look so impressive on the surface, but he did it in 394 plate appearances. Extrapolated over a full season, that line comes out to 104 R / 6 HR / 69 RBI / 24 SB. Maybin also put up a .315 batting average and .383 on-base percentage, which, combined with his extrapolated stats, would make him a top fantasy outfielder.

Although Maybin moved to an inferior lineup in Anaheim, he has solidified his spot atop the batting order and should be in a position to drive in plenty of runs hitting ahead of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. Maybin has also shown a great hitter’s eye so far this season, with a fantastic 15.8% walk rate and a .370 on-base percentage in spite of poor luck on batted balls. Maybin is piling up the runs with 29 through 184 plate appearances and also has 12 steals to boot.

If you want a multiple category contributor who is going to give plus-plus performance in runs, stolen bases and on-base percentage, grab Maybin while you still can. Injuries will always be a concern, but the cost to acquire him is likely only a waiver pickup.

Josh Tomlin / SP /  Cleveland Indians (Ownership: 7% ESPN / 12% Yahoo)

Outside of some inspired pitching in the 2016 postseason, Indians starter Josh Tomlin gets little recognition for his efforts at the back-end of Cleveland’s rotation. Tomlin’s calling card is his control, evidenced by the best walk rate in the majors since 2014 at a minuscule 1.04 per nine innings. His stinginess with the free pass and slightly above average hit suppression ability combines for a very good WHIP. Tomlin’s Kryptonite has always been the home run, with the second worst HR/9 rate in the same span. He also doesn’t strike out too many batters.

I just described a pretty unexciting fantasy pitcher. However, the 2017 version of Tomlin, despite his 5.79 ERA, has exhibited reasons for optimism. Although he’ll never be a groundball pitcher, Tomlin has upped his groundball rate to north of 43%, which is approaching serviceable. He’s also cut his home run to fly ball ratio down to 13.3%, which is still high, but much better than the 15-17% range of previous years. The cumulative result of these changes is a HR/9 rate of 1.29, which is still bad, but not at the crippling levels of previous years.

Tomlin’s 5.79 ERA contrasts heavily with his 3.75 FIP and 3.73 xFIP. His BABIP of .335 is well above his career average of .280, and his strand rate of 58.9% is well below his career average of 67.6%. Sunnier skies are ahead for Tomlin’s run preventing ability.

In summation, more reasonable home run rates will allow Tomlin’s elite control to play well in fantasy leagues. Because of his efficient pitching style, he’s a good bet to go six innings and and thus more likely to pick up wins and quality starts. He won’t garner many Ks, but you’re looking at a strong, three-category (Q, W, WHIP) and possibly four-category (ERA) contributor going forward.

Time to send packing!!!

Zack Cozart / SS /  Cincinnati Reds (Ownership: 78% ESPN / 70% Yahoo)

Zack Cozart is a player with more real life than fantasy value. He is baseball’s fourth best defensive shortstop since 2012 and 10th in overall wins above replacement. His bat has improved from terrible to average, which makes for a great real-life player given his position and defensive acumen. However, not so in fantasy.

Cozart is off to a red-hot start in 2017 with .350 batting average and .580 slugging percentage. He’s also upped his walk rate to a near-elite 12.6%. However, much of Cozart’s improvement rests on an unsustainable BABIP of .403, significantly higher than his career rate of of .282. There’s nothing in Cozart’s batted ball profile that would suggest an improved BABIP going forward. His infield fly ball rate is an extremely high 17.1%. His soft-contact rate is at its highest rate since 2011.

The improved plate discipline does look legitimate, but unless you’re in an OBP league, who really cares? Shortstop has turned from a shallow fantasy position to one of the deepest, so it’s not as if you can’t find better alternatives elsewhere. If you have Cozart, thank him for his performance to date and put him on the trading block.

Seung Hwan Oh / RP /  St. Louis Cardinals (Ownership: 92% ESPN / 96% Yahoo)

The South Korean-born Seung Hwan Oh made his MLB debut at the ripe age of 34 last season and was a revelation to the say the least. A 1.92 ERA, 2.13 FIP and 11.6 K/9 rate left NL hitters reeling in late inning situations against St. Louis. However, 2017 has been a different story.

Oh’s 3.00 ERA doesn’t seem too scary, but the underlying peripherals are concerning. His strikeout rate has plummeted to 8.3 per nine, while his walk rate has increased. Oh’s groundball rate has also gone down from 40.0% to 29.2%. The cocktail of less strikeouts, more walks and less groundballs is a dangerous one, and had led to a 4.31 FIP and 5.18 xFIP. There’s no obvious reason for Oh’s worsened performance, as his pitch velocities and spin rates are similar to last season. It could be that MLB hitters have adapted to Oh’s approach after having one year to feel him out.

With all that said, Oh is in an enviable position as St. Louis’ closer, as he will rack up saves. Yet a blow-up and potential bullpen demotion is around the corner. St. Louis also has a very viable alternative in Trevor Rosenthal. Owners in saves-only leagues should put Oh on the block immediately, while owners in saves/holds leagues should consider dropping him for Rosenthal right now.

Previous Long Picks:
1B, Miguel Cabrera (DET) – 5/6
1B, Yonder Alonso (OAK) – 5/13
C, Alex Avila (DET) – 5/22
SP, Trevor Cahill (SD) – 5/6
SP, Nate Karns (KC) – 5/13
SP, Luis Perdomo (SD) – 5/22

Previous Sell Picks:
1B, Ryan Zimmerman (WSH) – 5/6
1B, Mark Reynolds (COL) – 5/13
LF, Corey Dickerson (TB) – 5/22
SP, Dallas Keuchel (HOU) – 5/6
SP, Robbie Ray (ARI) – 5/13
SP, Gio Gonzalez (WSH) – 5/22

WORST STARTING PITCHING SEASONS IN THE MODERN ERA: #5 THRU #1

We’re back for day two of two in FunGraphs’ countdown of the worst starting pitching seasons in the Modern Era. A bit of a refresher in case you missed yesterday’s post:

I am defining the Modern ERA (see what I did there?) as 1989 through current day. Why 1989? Because that was the year I was born.

For a starter to qualify for this list, they must have made at least 10 starts and accrued over 50 innings pitched as a starter in the given season. The statistics I reference will be based strictly on starts from each year, excluding any relief outings.

The statistic of choice to measure starter ineptitude is ERA-. What is ERA-? Glad you asked. It compares a pitcher’s ERA to the league average ERA that season, which is good because this adjusts for league run environment (1996 featured way more run scoring than 2016, so we need to take that into account). 100 is average, and anything above 100 is increasingly bad and below 100 is increasingly good. If a pitcher has an ERA- of 150, that means that his ERA was 50% worse than league average. So if the league average ERA in a given season is 4.00, and a pitcher has an ERA- of 150, that means their ERA is around 6.00.

10. Charlie Morton / 2010 / Pittsburgh Pirates / 194 ERA-
09. Hideo Nomo / 2004 / Los Angeles Dodgers / 199 ERA-
08. Andy Larkin / 1998 / Miami Marlins (fka Florida Marlins) / 202 ERA-
07. Jimmy Haynes / 1996 / Baltimore Orioles  / 204 ERA-
06. Josh Towers / 2006 / Toronto Blue Jays / 197 ERA-

05. Dave Johnson / 1991 / Baltimore Orioles / 202 ERA-

dave j

A different Dave Johnson. But our Dave Johnson also has a mustache. 

Dave Johnson had a fairly nondescript career as an MLB starter. After all, what else would you expect from someone with a name as generic as Dave Johnson? A hometown boy through and through, Johnson was born in Baltimore, played collegiate ball at Baltimore City Community College and threw all 57 of his career starts for the Baltimore Orioles from 1989 to 1991.

 

Johnson put up an okay 1990 season, with a 4.10 ERA across 180 innings and 29 starts. However, for whatever reason, the wheels came off the wagon in 1991. Johnson logged 14 starts and managed a 8.13 ERA as a starter, which was more than twice as bad as the league average at the time.

Johnson’s 5.94 FIP and 146 FIP- underscore his futility that season. He would spend the 1992 season in the minors and make one final MLB appearance in 1993, posting a 12.96 ERA in 8 1/3 innings for the Detroit Tigers.

04. Alfredo Simon / 2016 / Cincinnati Reds / 207 ERA-

“Fettuccine” Alfredo Simon rounds out the fourth spot on the list. Simon is an interesting

simon

“Touch my pasta and I’ll cut you!”

case, because he actually made the 2014 All-Star Game and seemed like a relatively decent pitcher until he fell off a cliff in 2016. Although completely unsubstantiated, I’m guessing Simon’s increasingly corpulent, 265 lbs+ frame might have had something to do with his swift regression.

Simon posted an 8.77 ERA in 11 starts for Cincinnati last season. His FIP was 6.83. He gave up over two home runs per nine innings pitched. His five pitch mix, which would grow to six on occasion with the usage of an eephus, was a kitchen sink of crap that batters teed off on like no tomorrow.

Simon was just part of the problem on the 2016 Reds. That team was the first since 1890 (yes, the first in 126 years) to produce sub-replacement level pitching.  In case you don’t fully know what that means, replacement level is what a standard minor league call-up would produce. So the Reds pitchers performed worse than a bunch of journeymen minor leaguers last year.

03. Clayton Richard / 2013 / San Diego Padres / 203 ERA-

richard

Probably could have made more money as a Quarterback

Hey, finally another guy who is still pitching in 2017! Clayton Richard is actually a half-way decent pitcher. He posted ERAs of 3.75, 3.88 and 3.99 for the Padres from 2010 through 2012, posted a 3.33 ERA last year for the Cubs and Padres and has a 4.31 ERA for the Padres in 2017. He’s a pitch-to-contact guy with low strikeout rates and a lot of groundballs. The funny thing about those pitchers is that they tend to have one complete bust season every five years or so when the batted ball luck gods frown upon them.

Richard’s bust season was in 2013. He totaled a 7.28 ERA in 11 starts, which was more than twice as bad as the league average. What’s more, his FIP of 6.76 amounted to a 182 FIP-, which is easily the worst among the pitchers on this list. Richard managed all this by striking out a pathetic 3.91 batters per nine, which is also the worst among any pitchers on this list. Richard also suffered from some serious gopheritis, yielding over 2.3 long balls per nine innings.

Richard, who was actually a standout quarterback in his high school days and was a star recruit at the University of Michigan, has managed to make over $13 million in his baseball career. Not too shabby. But given that schleps like Mike Glennon are making more than that in one season, I wonder if he should have stuck to  throwing the football?

02. Roy Halladay / 2000 / Toronto Blue Jays / 222 ERA-

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Miami Marlins

Don’t bring up the year 2000 around Halladay or else he’ll make this face

Roy Halladay? Say what now? Yes, the pitcher with the 36th best ERA- minus of all-time among starters actually posted the worst ERA- minus season in the modern era (and stretching even further back to Steven Blass’ 276 ERA- in 1973). If there’s ever a test case for why you shouldn’t give up on a pitcher after one bad season, Roy Halladay is it.

Halladay earned a 11.13 ERA in his second full season in the majors in 2000. A strikeout-to-walk ratio of 1.17 and a HR.9 ratio over 2.08 were the central culprits in Doc’s awful season. His 6.58 FIP and 136 FIP- show that he received some pretty bad luck, and perhaps I should have moved him back on the list as a result. However, putting up the worst league-adjusted ERA since 1973 deserves high placement on this list.

To give Halladay some credit, he had to pitch against some pretty nasty AL lineups at the time. His worst stretch of the season came from April 20th through May 5th, where he faced Anaheim, Oakland, New York, Cleveland and Boston in succession, surrendering 33 earned runs in 19 2/3 innings (15.10 ERA). Ouch. Luckily Halladay eventually figured things out, and went on to become one of the most dominant pitchers of the 2000s.

01. Todd Van Poppel / 1996 / Oakland Athletics and Detroit Tigers / 218 ERA-

May-1991-(Todd-Van-Poppel-Nolan-Ryan)

Nope. 

Strap in kids. We’ve arrived in the abyss. Hide the women and children. Todd Van Poppel’s 15 starts in the 1996 season amount to the worst starting pitching performance the MLB has seen since Nixon was in the White House.

But before we get to the horror of his 1996 season, how about some Todd Van Poppel trivia? Van Poppel was a hotshot pitching prospect out of Texas when he was drafted 14th overall by the Athletics in 1990. The Atlanta Braves, who owned the first overall pick that draft, were apparently so enamored with Van Poppel that they were planning to take him first. Luckily for the Braves, their scouting director threatened to resign unless they selected Chipper Jones, and the rest is history.

Back to 1996. Van Poppel made 15 starts – six for Oakland, and nine for Detroit. He amassed a 10.80 ERA as a starter, giving him an ERA- of 218. That’s bad. But it gets worse. His FIP was an astronomical 8.52 with a 170 FIP-, which is second highest on this list. He gave up 2.84 home runs per nine innings, easily the worst on this list. And, perhaps most horrifying, he walked 1.5x more batters than he struck out (3.98 K/9; 6.11 BB/9).

Van Poppel miraculously lasted another eight seasons in the majors, finally hanging up the cleats after a 6.09 ERA season with the Reds in 2004. He finished things off with a career 5.58 ERA and 5.16 FIP.


If there’s one thing I learned in researching the worst starting pitching performances in the modern era, it’s that you don’t need to be trash in order to have a bad season. Roy Halladay, Charlie Morton and Clayton Richard are all good pitchers who, through come combination of ineffectiveness and bad luck, just had bad seasons. Hideo Nomo and Alfredo Simon were all-stars at one point. Even Josh Towers had a nice season in there.

Below is a summary of all the numbers presented in this series:

bad SP table

Worst Starting Pitching Seasons in the Modern ERA: #10 thru #6

Kim

Being a pitcher is hard

Good players tend to get all the fanfare in baseball, and for good reason. No one really cares about the guy who can’t hit home runs or the pitcher who can’t strike anyone out. But I figured that the also-rans of baseball deserve some notoriety. In an ongoing series, FunGraphs will explore the worst pitching and hitting performances in the modern baseball era. We’ll begin with the worst starting pitching performances, move on to hitting, and then look at some uniquely bad performances for specific things like strikeouts, home runs, etc.

I am defining the Modern ERA (see what I did there?) as 1989 through current day. Why 1989? Because that was the year I was born.

For a starter to qualify for this list, they must have made at least 10 starts and accrued over 50 innings pitched as a starter in the given season. The statistics I reference will be based strictly on starts from each year, excluding any relief outings.

The statistic of choice to measure starter ineptitude is ERA-. What is ERA-? Glad you asked. It compares a pitcher’s ERA to the league average ERA that season, which is good because this adjusts for league run environment (1996 featured way more run scoring than 2016, so we need to take that into account). 100 is average, and anything above 100 is increasingly bad and below 100 is increasingly good. If a pitcher has an ERA- of 150, that means that his ERA was 50% worse than league average. So if the league average ERA in a given season is 4.00, and a pitcher has an ERA- of 150, that means their ERA is around 6.00.

So, without further ado:

10. Charlie Morton / 2010 / Pittsburgh Pirates / 194 ERA-

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Pittsburgh Pirates

Morton auditioning for a role in the next Assassin’s Creed movie.

Charlie Morton, the 6’5″, 235 lbs horse of a right-hander drafted by the Braves in 2002, has had an interesting career to date. He originally honed his craft as a low-strikeout, ground-ball artist who alternated good and bad seasons depending on his batted ball luck. In recent years Morton has added velocity to his fastball and focused more on the swing and miss element, ditching some of the grounders for strikeouts and becoming a better pitcher in the process.

Morton’s third full MLB season turned out to be his worst. Across 17 starts and 79 2/3 innings for Pittsburgh in 2010, Morton posted a 7.57 ERA, which was 94% worse than the league average ERA that season. Morton’s FIP (fielder independent ERA) of 5.29, 34% worse than league average, indicates that he got his fair share of bad luck. His 2.27 K/BB ratio is by far the best on this list.

Whatever way you slice it, cobbling together a 7.57 ERA in close to 80 innings is pretty bad. Needless to say Pittsburgh was not very competitive that season with a league-worst 57-105 record.

09. Hideo Nomo / 2004 / Los Angeles Dodgers / 199 ERA-

Hideo “The Tornado” Nomo, owner of quite possibly the funkiest delivery in MLB history,nomo had an interesting career arc. He burst onto the scene with the Dodgers and posted 2.54 and 3.19 ERAs in 1995 and 1996, but then regressed significantly going forward. He bounced around different clubs, briefly resurrected his career with the Dodgers in 2002-03, and then put up  a dud of a season in 2004.

Nomo’s 2004 campaign included a horrid 8.25 ERA over 18 starts and 84 innings pitched. His FIP was an almost-as-bad 6.35. His strikeout to walk rate of 1.29 was below replacement level. The only reason Nomo isn’t higher on this list is that 2004 was one of the highest scoring seasons in modern MLB history, keeping his ERA- at a horrible but not worst ever level of 199.

As for why the Dodgers let Nomo start 18 games that year? The rest of their rotation included names like Jose Lima, owner of a 5.26 career ERA, and fellow Japanese import Kaz Ishii, who managed a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 1.01 that season.

08. Andy Larkin / 1998 / Miami Marlins (fka Florida Marlins) / 202 ERA-

andy larkin

Why do baseball cards feature such weird poses?

The first two entries on this list were fairly recognizable baseball names. Now enter Andy Larkin, owner of a Wikipedia page shorter than the one for the house I grew up in. Larkin pitched 105 2/3 innings in his career for a total ERA of 8.86. He walked more batters than he struck out. He sported a WHIP over 2.00. He was not good.

Larkin’s 1998 season with the Marlins was something to behold. Florida, fresh off a 1997 world series win, had high hopes for the 1998 season. Hopes were dashed fairly quickly however, and they finished the season with an abysmal 54-108 record. Larkin had a formidable hand in that ineptitude, posting an 8.21 ERA across his 11 starts. His strikeout-to-walk ratio of 0.96 was the second worst on this list.

At least Larkin could share his misery on that 1998 team. Brian Meadows vomited up a 5.21 ERA in 31 starts. Rafael Medina a 6.01 ERA in 12 starts. That season NL batters looked at the Florida Marlins pitching staff like fat adolescents ogling churros at Epcot.

07. Jimmy Haynes / 1996 / Baltimore Orioles  / 204 ERA-

haynes

Lt. Dangle, is that you?

1996 was a tough year for MLB pitchers, particularly AL pitchers. 17 players hit 40-plus home runs. 50 players had over 100 RBI. Only six starters had ERAs south of 3.00, and five of them were in the NL East. Jimmy Haynes, a 23-year old facing his first real MLB competition, was ill-prepared to deal with hitting onslaught in his 11 starts in 1996.

Haynes put up a 10.08 ERA as a starter. His 204 ERA- was, amazingly, only third highest on this list despite a double-digit ERA. If his ERA- was third highest, why is he occupying the 7th spot? Haynes’ FIP of 6.17 was actually decent for the times, and his 125 FIP- was the best score among the entire list. Make no mistake, Haynes still stunk up the joint, with his 1.06 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 1.62 HR/9. But things weren’t quite as bad as they seemed.

Haynes’ Baltimore pitching comrades that season featured established veterans like Mike Mussina, Scott Erickson and David Wells. The lowest ERA among the bunch was Mussina’s 4.81, which providing perspective for how difficult pitching in the AL East was back in 1996.

06. Josh Towers / 2006 / Toronto Blue Jays / 197 ERA-

towers

Towers posing for the camera during his standard 2006 pregame preparation.

Oxnard, CA native and suspected party animal Josh Towers looked like a player on the rise after the 2005 season. Towers, 28 at the time, earned a 3.71 ERA in 33 starts and 208 2/3 innings for the Blue Jays that year, anchoring their staff after ace Roy Halladay went down with a broken leg. Expectations were high entering the 2006 season, however Towers came crashing down to earth in horrific fashion.

Towers’ 9.11 ERA through 12 starts with Toronto that season would be the worst performance by a starting pitcher until Morton’s aforementioned 2010 season with the Pirates. His pedestrian strikeout rate of 4.80 K/9 and outrageous homer rate of 2.65 HR/9 meant that most of his dismal output was justified. Towers’ FIP of 6.90 is the second worst on the entire list, and his FIP- of 150 is the fourth worst.

Amazingly, Toronto trotted Towers out for another 107 innings of 5.38 ERA ball in 2007. He bounced around AAA from 2008 to 2010, before finishing his professional career to the tune of a 7.94 ERA in the Mexican League in 2011.


Check back tomorrow for the rest of the list! It includes one pitcher who still pitches in the MLB, a retired sure-fire Hall of Famer and someone whose first name is a popular Italian pasta sauce.