Posts tagged ‘Joe Nathan’

Monday: 04.8.2013

Worst Strike Call Ever?

The game-ending call in Arlington on Monday night was undoubtedly one of the worst strike calls I’ve ever seen. Even closer Joe Nathan knows they got away with one they most certainly did not deserve.

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Edit to add: Excellent stuff here by MLB.com posting it with all four calls (home and away TV and radio). Hat tip to my co-host Jason Collette for posting that on Facebook.

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Friday: 01.25.2013

Top 10 RP – Review

Last Friday night, MLB Network unleashed their Top 10 Relief Pitchers Right Now along with input from host Brian Kenny, co-host and human bobblehead (click that & also see below) Mitch Williams, and special guest to the series Bill James. The results were a bit annoying. For one, they did what I feared they might do: lean far too heavily on closers. One list had exactly zero middle relievers and the maker of said list is a huge surprise. I know these lists are for s’s & g’s and despite how it may read, I’m not getting that worked up over it, I’m just trying to have some fun as we move closer toward real baseball!

HumanBobble2

Here are all four lists from MLB Network-related folks and then I’ll address them separately:

top10RPlists

The Shredder

I’ll say straight out front that The Shredder did much better with the relievers than with starters. I’ll also admit that Grant Balfour was a nice pick. I probably didn’t give him enough consideration. The dude hates letting guys hit the ball (4.9 H/9 last year), misses a good amount of bats (25% K rate), and Oakland has the perfect stadium for his flyball tendencies. That adds up to a helluva reliever. My love for strikeouts probably kept Jim Johnson and Eric O’Flaherty off of my list or it was just the overwhelming amount of depth at the position making it nearly impossible to whittle it down to 10. O’Flaherty has been insane the last four years with a 1.95 ERA and like a 2 million percent groundball rate. Seriously, it’s been 55-57-56-66(!!) percent the last four years meanwhile he has struck out 20% or more guys in three of the four years so he isn’t completely incapable of bat-missing. I was also impressed that The Shredder didn’t overrate Jonathan Papelbon and gave Koji Uehara some big love. All told, this was probably my favorite list because they gave middle relievers deserved love and their differences from my list were pretty strong. That said, Motte was a huge miss.

My inclusions he didn’t list: David Hernandez, Joe Nathan, David Robertson, and Jason Motte

Middle relievers: 4 (Kenley Jansen isn’t starting the year as the closer)

Bill James

Bill, Bill, Bill. You’re my dawg, but Papelbon #2?? No, just no. I pretty much blocked out everything else at that point: the inclusions of Motte and Nathan, the Rodney love, the Sergio Romo exclusion, all of it was forgotten for better or worse because the godfather of sabermetrics and objective analysis threw Jonathan Papelbon second on his list of relievers RIGHT NOW showing a clear bias toward his Red Sox (for whom Bill works as an advisor). John Axford was a little high for me, but his inclusion isn’t too problematic. This is a dude who fans 30% of the batters he’s faced for three years running. He gave up a quarter of his 2012 runs (36) in three games with a trio of three-run outings from June 10th to July 29th. And he was also saddled with a 19% HR/FB rate, it’s probably not a bad idea to bet on some improvement for 2013.

My inclusions he didn’t list: Hernandez, Uehara, Robertson, and Romo

Middle relievers: 1 (and maybe two if Ryan Madson closes for LAA) 

Mitch Williams

Everyone else worked under the assumption that Aroldis Champan is going to be a starter (primarily because he is), but not ol’ Bobbles. OK, so you’re trying to make a big call, but why not just work under the same conecit everyone else did and add a disclaimer that you have Chapman second and think he’ll be closing by Memorial Day or something? Apart from that, his list isn’t too bad despite five disagreements between us. It’d really only be four without the Chapman thing because as he mentioned in the video linked in the opening, Motte was his #11. Finally, someone gives Robertson some attention, which he richly deserves.

My inclusions he didn’t list: Hernandez, Nathan, Motte, Jansen, and Romo

Middle relievers: 3

Starting pitchers: 1

Brian Kenny

How could you do this to me, Brian? You’re my boy, blue! The critical thinker himself, Mr. Next Level Stats who firmly believes the closer mentality is garbage (I don’t fully agree, btw) chimes in with ZERO middle relievers in his list. Or maybe one with Ernesto Frieri, but he’s an assumed closer in many circles at this point. I’m not suggesting you should shoehorn non-closers in if you don’t think they belong, I’m just wondering how he thinks they don’t belong?! Papelbon at 4? Are Soriano and Johnson really better than all middle relievers? He pointed out multiple times how Mitch had more middle relievers than James only to come to the table with a goose egg himself. I was surprised for sure!

My inclusions he didn’t list: Hernandez, Uehara, Robertson, and Jansen (all 4 of my MRs of course)

Middle relievers: 0

I’ll reiterate once more that I know these are just fun and any exasperation I show is reasoned exasperation. I’m not taking these lists too seriously or cultivating hate for any of the panelists. I truly enjoy this series quite a bit and I’ve had fun agonizing over my own lists.

Thursday: 03.17.2011

2011 Closer Tiers

Here’s a look at my 2011 closer rankings.  I’m going to do my Middle Reliever article soon so the top 7th and 8th inning guys will get their coverage there.  I mentioned a few in here, but none of them are ranked unless they are in a committee to close.

Stat consideration in order of importance: Strikeouts, Saves, ERA, WHIP.  I would take a few less saves for a ridiculous strikeout rate.  Closers can impact ERA a decent bit (at the truly elite levels), but their WHIP impact is often insignificant (even at its worst, more on that later).

Tier 1

Joakim Soria – He has an incredibly rock solid skills profile over the past four seasons and yet he is still just 27 years old.  His inferior team hasn’t prevent him from two 40+ save seasons and in non-40 save season he struck out 69 in 53 innings (he wasn’t the full time closer in the first of his four seasons).

Carlos Marmol – Too many outlets greatly overrate the impact of a reliever’s WHIP (and ERA for that matter) on your team’s bottom line.  Take Marmol’s awful 1.46 WHIP in 2009 and add it to a standard team with 1250-1300 innings and it increases the WHIP by 0.01.  You can’t tell me that his otherworldly strikeout rates for a reliever don’t more than cancel out that negligible impact.

Heath Bell – Similar to Wilson, he’s on a team that can win, but when they do it’s close because they aren’t powered by offense.  This has led to 42 and 47 save seasons the last two years for Bell.  He’s also notching better than 10 strikeouts per nine with elite ERA and WHIP totals to boot.

Neftali Feliz – After a back-n-forth Spring Training and rampant speculation about whether or not he was going to start or close, he has finally been locked down as the closer again.  He was brilliant last year and I expect no different in 2011.  He has devastating starter’s stuff which plays pretty well in one-inning bursts.  Remember that with the tiers, I see everyone within a tier relatively similarly.  So if you wanted to take Feliz first in an AL-Only (or mixed for that matter), I support that.  I ranked them how I prefer them, but there’s little difference one to the next.

Mariano Rivera – He’s a freak, even at 41. The Ks dropped last year (6.8 K/9), but ratios remained absurd and I’m not betting against him.  K rate dropped to 6.6 in 2006 and then he reeled off three straight seasons above 9.0 at ages 37 through 39, so don’t let the 41 years make you believe he can’t bounce right back again.  He almost deserves his own second tier because there is a little risk with anyone his age, but I’ll give him the T1 respect.

Tier 2

Brian Wilson – He’s just on another level right now delivering near-Marmolian strikeout rates (10.3, 11.2 last two years) with great ratios and high save counts (on a team that wins, but not with offense meaning more close games).  Update: Injuries move him down, but still worth drafting pretty high.

J.J. Putz – Last year Putz looked a lot like the guy who notched 36 and 40 save seasons back in 2006 and 2007.  Once an elite closer, Putz quickly earned a closer’s role this offseason and there is no reason to believe he won’t once again become a big time stopper.  He’s being a little overlooked so far this draft season.  If you want to skip the first wave, jump on Putz a few rounds after.

Matt Thornton – Rightfully given the job to start the season, Thornton has been an elite reliever for three years now though many might not realize it as he has just 13 saves in that time.  Posted a ridiculous 12.0 strikeout rate last year, but even if he’s “only” at the 10.6 he averaged the two years before, he is still an excellent investment.

Jonathan Papelbon – For all his issues (ascending walk rate, ERA and WHIP; dropping save totals), his strikeout rate is actually ticking up yearly since 2008 (10.0, 10.1, 10.2) and at 29, he’s still well within in his prime.  As annoying as Papelbon can be personally, he could be an undervalued fantasy asset this year as his demise is being overrated.

Francisco Rodriguez – We are seeing a lot risk in this tier which says a lot about the state of closers in the 2011 preseason.  K-Rod is no different, but it’s hard to deny the talent.  The main concern is that if the Mets don’t trade him, they might game his playing time to avoid a vesting option for 2012 (needs to finish 55+ games).

Tier 3

Jonathan Broxton – He is inexplicably being written off for three bad months.  He was brilliant through June 26th with a sub-1.00 ERA and 48 Ks in 33 innings.  The wheels came off the next day with a 4-run outing and he was never the same the rest of the year.  No way I’m going to write off a 27-year old with as much talent as Broxton just yet.

Jose Valverde – An up and down season in 2010 that was essentially four great months and two horrible ones.  Elbow soreness likely caused some of the issues that led to 8.25 and 7.00 ERAs in July and August, but he bounced back with eight strong innings in September.  He looks good so far in Spring Training so I’d be comfortable investing in a standard Valverdian season.

Andrew Bailey – He might have crept into Tier 1 if it weren’t for the major injury scare a few days ago during a spring outing.  We are being told he’s fine for now and doesn’t need surgery, but the uncertainty of his elbow plus his injury track record make him a frightening investment.  Handcuff Brian Fuentes here.

Joe Nathan – He might ease into the role for a few weeks in April, but I think he will be the full-time closer no later than May given health.  Like Putz, I think we’ll see a quick return to form and Nathan will once again be a reliable premier asset.

Chris Perez – He came into his own last year and started paying dividends on his top 100 prospect status from 2008 (97) and 2009 (91).  Control is the missing element in his game to this point (4.3 BB/9 in 162 career IP), but at 25 years old there is still plenty of time.  His stuff is undeniable and he should feel secure in the job.  You should feel secure when investing.

Tier 4

Huston Street – The skills are there, always have been, but it’s hard to rely on him being there for you all season.  That lack of consistent health is why he has just two 35+ save seasons in his six years in the majors.  Each of the other four has yielded 23 or fewer.

John Axford – Burst onto the scene last year for a huge rookie season taking over for Trevor Hoffman with nearly 12 strikeouts per game and 24 saves in 27 chances.  His control needs work (4.2 BB/9), but that and a deep track record are the only missing ingredients for an elite closer.

Joel Hanrahan – You may be shocked to learn that Hanrahan has improved his strikeout rate each of his four seasons in the big leagues and had a career-best 3.4 BB/9 last year.  He’s been given the job for now, but Evan Meek looms if he fails.  The skills are there, but does he have the fortitude to closer?  I’d bet yes.

Leo Nunez – He had a career year in his first as the full-time closer which is enticing, but can it last?  He makes a strong secondary or tertiary closer on a team with a T1 in mixed leagues.  I also like him as a cheap option in an NL-Only if you don’t like investing a ton in saves.  I like him a lot more than most and I think he’s being a bit underrated.

Tier 5

Brad Lidge – A sore biceps tendon has caused a preseason scare, but Lidge asserts it’s something he has dealt with before and writes it off as no big deal.  Even still, he’s far from “Lights Out” these days despite the still impressive strikeout totals.  Tread cautiously. Update: Injuries also move him down as he’s now set to start the season on the DL.

Frank Francisco – He’s closed before and posted 3.2 K/BB rates or better each of the last three years, but a sore pectoral has cast some doubt over him, especially in light the depth of competition in Toronto.  If healthy, he could be a cheaper option that pans out very nicely.

Francisco Cordero – His eroding skillset belies the gaudy save totals (79 the last two years) as his strikeout rate has dropped in each of the last three seasons coming in below 8.0 each of the last two seasons.  Mix that in with his age (36) and legitimate competition behind him (Aroldis Chapman and Nick Masset) and Cordero becomes a risky proposition.

Craig Kimbrel/Jonny Venters – Listing them together because they are set to share the job for now.  I think one will emerge, but who knows who?  Venters was brilliant in 83 innings so it seems like he’d be more reliable, but Kimbrel really impressed with 40 strikeouts in 21 innings.  I wouldn’t be afraid to invest in either or both if the prices weren’t out of whack.  They only rate this low because saves are the guiding factor of these tiers.  From a pure skills standpoint, both can be elite relievers.

Kevin Gregg – Middling skills combined with legitimate competition on hand (namely Koji Uehara) make Gregg a risky option.  Throw in a mediocre at best team in the league’s toughest division and this could get ugly.  That said, he held on for 37 saves in the same division last year.

Ryan Franklin – Regression popped his ERA last year, but he tightened up the control a lot yielding an even better WHIP than 2009.  Still, I don’t like closers with lame strikeout rates especially if I can’t count on excellent ERA and WHIP.

Tier 6

Alexei Ogando – My main concern is that Ron Washington seems to lack much confidence in him and this whole Neftali Feliz melodrama might not be over yet, either.  Buying Ogando while things remain pretty uncertain could represent a nice bargain as I think he is the clear choice behind Feliz if he does end up a starter (which he should if Texas is smart… and they generally are…)

Jake McGee/Kyle Farnsworth – Manager Joe Maddon is firm on going with a committee marginalizing the value of both of these guys, who would otherwise be pretty valuable if they were the lone closer.  Their skills and team situation is better some of the other committees found in T6 so they still rate above them even as a tandem.

Fernando Rodney – I can’t envision a scenario where he keeps the job all year long.  Any one of Jordan Walden, Kevin Jepsen or Scott Downs would be better options.  Of course, they will probably get their shot in reverse order of how I listed them.  Downs is on the DL right now, but Rodney should at least hold it through April.

Brandon League/David Aardsma – League is a placeholder until Aardsma is healthy after having hip surgery in January.  I loved League heading into last year after his 2009 season, but he pretty much flopped and made his 2009 skills (9.2 K/9, 3.6 K/BB) look like an outlier.  Don’t buy both.  If you buy one, it should only be as a third option regardless of league format.

Drew Storen – A rough spring is putting his grasp on the job in serious doubt as manager Jim Riggleman obviously doesn’t realize how worthless Spring Training numbers are in the grand scheme.  Add in the myriad of options (none particularly good) behind Storen and he becomes a serious risk.

Brandon Lyon – A lesser version of Ryan Franklin on a much lesser team.  Wilton Lopez lingers, too, but I’m not sold he keeps the 0.7 BB/9 he displayed in 67 innings last year.

Tuesday: 02.8.2011

Daily Dose – February 8th

I can’t believe how close pitchers and catchers are to reporting.  Baseball season is right around the corner, I can feel it!!  It’s the only thing getting me through this awful cold weather.  Let’s hit the dose for Tuesday:

I’ve been a fan of Daniel Tosh (@danieltosh) since he was an unknown comic doing Taco Bell commercials years ago.  I saw him at the local comedy club around that time and the next time he was in Austin, I was one of the three comics who got to open for him.  Once I heard he was going to have a show, Tosh.0, I didn’t really care what it was going to be about, I knew I’d watch it.  I have not been disappointed as it’s easily one of, if the funniest show on TV.  As much as it makes me laugh on a week to week basis, this clip might be my favorite of all-time:

A while back, Unreality Magazine did a piece covering the 10 Hottest Girls in TV Comedies.  I figured it was a pretty good idea for a column.  While I disagree with some inclusions and the order, it is hard to argue with the content otherwise.  Alison Brie and Katrina Bowden were far too low given that they actually excel in both the hotness and the comedy whereas some were included merely because they are very pretty and part of comedy shows even if they aren’t particularly funny themselves.

No arguments for the picture of Kaley Cuoco they used as she looks great there, but anyone who watches Big Bang Theory knows that that particular picture is definitely Ms. Cuoco at her peak.  I’d have had a bit further down the list despite the fact that she’s pretty funny on BBT.  By the way, I’m sure I’m one of many, but I was saying that the eldest daughter on Modern Family looked like a younger Mila Kunis from the very first moment I watched the show.  It’s a pretty easy link so I’m not trying to suggest I started it or anything.  Any time you are getting compared to Mila Kunis, you know you’re awesome.

A pair of tweets about two of the best Cleveland Indians players had to give fans some hope for the upcoming season.  Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) tweeted that Grady Sizemore is running and taking swings with April 1st, Opening Day for the Tribe, not out of the question.  Meanwhile the Cleveland Indians Twitter feed (@tribeinsider) tweeted that Carlos Santana has been cleared for batting practice and catching activities.  Olney mentioned that Santana is a bit ahead of Sizemore in the rehab process.

Over at Beyond the Boxscore, Justin Bopp (@justinbopp) created a sweet picture of Albert Pujols’ spray chart from last year.  Click on the picture itself and it enlarges to about 3x the size.  He also did one for Carlos Gonzalez last month.  I’m a sucker for infographics like this which is why I can’t get enough of Craig Robinson’s work over at Flip, Flop, Flyball.  If you’re familiar with Robinson’s work, you might want to pre-order the FFFb book due out in July.  Hell, even if you’re not familiar with it, you’ll love it once you click the link and you’ll still want to pre-order the book.

ESPN is running a series of columns grading each team on their offseason grouped by division.  Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) and Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) have done the first four (East & Central) and I’d assume they’re going to do the whole series.  Crasnick covered the American League East and Central while Stark had the National League East and Central.

Sticking with the Worldwide Leader, they have been posting videos from their Fantasy Baseball Summit a few weeks back and it could be (read: most definitely is) because I’m kind of a dork, but I’m loving them.  They started with a Mark Teixeira v. Kevin Youkilis debate and have since released clips on Jayson Werth, Joe Nathan and Adam Wainwright.  The Wainwright clip is especially interesting and I suggest everyone in mixed or NL-Only leagues take a look.

One thing I really enjoy about John Sickels’ Minor League Ball site are his series articles.  The ones I can think of off the top of my head that he does are Crystal Ball, Prospect Retro and Career Profiles.  He’s been doing a lot of reader request Career Profiles of late and I recommend you check them out: Eric Chavez, Francisco Liriano, James Loney, Rickie Weeks and Jayson Werth are just a few that I really enjoyed.  You can look through the rest here and find players that interest you most.  In addition to Project Prospect, who I mentioned yesterday, Sickels’ site is another must-read for anyone interested in the minor leagues.  Whether you already consider yourself a prospect maven or you’re interested in becoming one, his stuff is great.

Twitter Recommendation: CNBC sports business report, Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell), is an absolute must-follow on Twitter.  Don’t let the sports biz moniker deter you either, he covers more than just sports and posts tons of interesting facts and great links about a wide variety of topics.  If I could only pick five people to follow on Twitter, Rovell would easily earn a spot.

Knowledge Bomb: Be careful with stats, they can be dangerous.  Houston Astros third baseman Chris Johnson came out of nowhere last season to put up 94 games of fantasy goodness including 11 HR, 52 RBIs and .308 AVG.  Some will look at his line and think that a full season will bring about even better numbers for the 26 year old in 2011.  In fact, I’ve seen him being trumpeted over Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez based on one stat: OPS.

In his 362 plate appearances, Johnson posted an .818 OPS.  Make no mistake, that’s a pretty solid figure especially for an unknown like Johnson.  Not many think he can repeat next year (including me), but those that do have dangerously wielded that .818 OPS around like a sword.  In his 386 plate appearances, Alvarez “only” had a .788 OPS, 30 points away from Johnson.

While OPS is a useful stat for quick and dirty catch-all production estimations, not all OPS marks are created equally.  The problem here is that OPS brings batting average into the equation so a fluky batting average, like Johnson’s which was powered by a .387 BABIP, can artificially boost one’s OPS.   Alvarez had just a .256 average which cut deep into the OBP end of OPS.  But when you go second level and look at the Isolated Power of each, Alvarez clearly has the brighter future based on their first 90+ games.

Isolated Power is Slugging Percentage minus Batting Average.  Alvarez popped a .205 IsoP, 5th among National League third basemen.  Johnson had a .175 mark, good for 9th.  Alvarez probably won’t hit .300 in 2011, he may not even top .270, but as Johnson’s luck regresses his average will sink and he may end up struggling to stay above .270 himself.  Without the batting average advantage, you start comparing the two in runs scored, driven in and home runs and Alvarez wins a walk.

Alvarez has legitimate 25 home run power already with the potential for more while Johnson is a middling power contributor who will likely top out in the mid-teens.  He’s one to avoid for 2011 as his 2010 numbers, including his OPS, will undoubtedly inflate his value to a level that won’t be commensurate with his performance this year.  If you want a bargain at the thin hot corner, talk up Alvarez’s down average and strikeout tendencies and then swoop in and take him and reap the hefty rewards.

Pitchers and Catchers report in five days…