• Chris Sale dominates, but it’s the Astros who put together another double-digit winning streak

    Posted 11 hours ago

    Chris Sale looks like his old self. Unfortunately for New York, so do the Mets.

    Welcome to ‘Marty’s Musings’, my weekly column of numbers summarizing the happenings in the baseball world. I am your guide for taking an analytic look at the news and notes throughout the game, and highlighting this week’s key pitching matchups.

    This week we take a look at Hyun-Jin Ryu’s continued dominance, Chris Sale’s career record in strikeouts, and some injury news and notes.

    All this news and more in this week’s Musings.

    News and Notes

    17 – Strikeouts for Red Sox ace Chris Sale, who on Tuesday night, walked zero batters and allowed two runs over seven innings. His only real mistake was a pitch that Nolan Arenado took deep, but he still left the game after seven innings with Boston up 3-2. Brandon Workman coughed up the lead, and the Red Sox lost in 11 innings despite striking out a combined 21 batters over the first nine innings, an MLB record.

    2 – Home runs belted by Toronto rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Coming off injury, Guerrero did not start-off his Major League career as successfully as he would have liked, but this past week he broke out, hitting four homers in six games. At 20 years and 59 days, he is the youngest Jay to homer.

    3 – Game sweep the Marlins handed the Mets this weekend in Miami. The Fish entered the weekend at a putrid 10-31, having put together only two consecutive wins all season. Miami out-slugged New York 8-6 in the opening game Friday night and then shut out the Mets 2-0 and 3-0 over the weekend. The Mets sit at 20-25, 6 ½ games behind the division leading Phillies

    10 – Game winning streak for the red-hot Astros, who finally lost the series finale against the Red Sox in Boston on Sunday afternoon. It was their second 10-game winning streak of the season, and the 31-16 ‘stros are 13-4 in May, and currently have an 8 ½ game lead over the 22-24 Angels.

    31 – Consecutive scoreless innings for the Dodgers Hyun-Jin Ryu, who has been nothing short of masterful this season. Over the weekend, he shutout Cincinnati over seven innings, scattering five hits and a walk. He is quite a ways from Orel Hershiser’s MLB record consecutive scoreless innings streak of 59. Next, he faces the Pirates on Saturday evening.

    14 – Teams that veteran journeyman has suited-up for in his Major League career. He made his Blue Jays debut on Wednesday afternoon against the Giants. Since being drafted by the Dodgers in 2006, he has played for the Rays, Tigers, Diamondbacks, White Sox, Cardinals, Nationals, Cubs, Braves, Marlins, Padres, Orioles, and Athletics.

    12 – Games that Yankees’ third baseman Miguel Andujar has played in this season, before resigning himself to an unfortunate season-ending labrum repair surgery. On March 31st, Andujar injured his shoulder diving back into first base, and after trying to avoid surgery, he and the team agreed that to be the best next step.

    2 – Hits for Trea Turner in his first game in six weeks, after returning from a broken finger he suffered at the beginning of April. It’s good news for the Nats who continue to struggle with a 19-27 record.

    Matchups to Watch

    Monday, May 20

    Jake Arrieta (PHI) v. Yu Darvish (CHC), 8:05 ET

    The first-place Phillies kick-off a series visiting the first-place Cubs with two veterans taking the mound. Neither Arrieta nor Darvish have been particularly good this season, but despite their mediocre (and often worse) performances, both the Phillies and Cubs are well-positioned with strong division leads.

    Tuesday, May 21

    Clayton Kershaw (LAD) v. TBD (TB), 8:10 ET

    After losing two-out-of-three at the hands of the Yankees, the Rays dropped from first place for the first time in nearly two months. They go up against another strong lineup, and have to face Clayton Kershaw in the first of a quick two-game set that starts on Tuesday night at the Trop.

    Wednesday, May 22

    Max Scherzer (WAS) v. Jacob deGrom (NYM), 7:10 ET

    On the surface, this looks like a classic Cy Young battle between two of the most dominant pitchers in baseball, likely pitching for two teams trying to vault ahead in the crowded standings. In reality though, it’s a game against two pitchers who have the talent to be the best in the league, but have been plagued by inconsistency, pitching for two sub-.500 teams trying to turn their season around. In his last start, the pathetic Marlins’ offense roughed-up deGrom for six runs in five innings. Scherze has been ok recently, allowing three runs in six innings against the Cubs last time out; he has not had a quintessential-Scherzer dominant start yet this year.

    Friday, May 24

    Chris Sale (BOS) v. Wade Miley (HOU), 8:10 ET

    The Astros took two-of-three against the Red Sox in Boston last weekend, Boston can return the favor in Houston this upcoming weekend. After coming off the a game in which he garnered the most strikeouts in his career, Sale faces a potent Astros lineup that is running away with the American League West.

    Saturday, May 25

    Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAD) v. TBD (PIT), 7:15 ET

    Ryu is performing as one of the best pitchers in the game, and hoping to keep his scoreless streak alive against the Pirates on Saturday night. The recovery and reemergence of Ryu has been nothing short of spectacular to watch, as he’s been a major part of the Dodgers excellent 31-17 start.

    Sunday, May 26

    Dylan Covey (CHW) v. Jake Odorizzi (MIN), 2:10 ET

    The Twins have been as good as the Astros all season, but continue to fly under-the-radar. This upcoming week, they face the Angels and White Sox, two teams they should beat-up-on pretty easily before undertaking a challenging stretch against Milwaukee, Tampa, and Cleveland.

    *All pitching matchups as of Sunday night’s pitching probables


    Steven Martano is an Editor at Beyond the Box Score, a Contributing Prospect Writer for the Colorado Rockies at Purple Row, and a contributing writer for The Hardball Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @SMartano

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  • Sabermetrics news: Ryan Feierabend is a welcome anomaly

    Posted 12 hours ago

    Josh Bell’s power explosion; Ryan Feierabend’s return as a knuckler; trade block if the Nats don’t recover

    FanGraphs | Ben Clemens: Josh Bell was once a former top prospect and then widely considered to be destined for league average first basedom, but instead he has tweaked a timing mechanism that has unleashed his power to the tune of the fifth-highest ISO in baseball.

    Baseball Prospectus | Lucas Apostoleris ($): Ryan Feierabend made his debut with the Blue Jays after a decade-long hiatus in the KBO, and now he’s back as a left-handed knuckleballer. He’s the first of his kind in literally decades, and despite the fact it has only made up two-thirds of his arsenal, the experiment is interesting enough that we’ll have to keep an eye on him.

    ESPN Insider | Buster Olney ($): The Nationals look like they’re crumbling, and if they continue to, expect the likes of Anthony Rendon, Sean Doolittle, and Adam Eaton to be on the trade block come July, and considering that the core of their team is still talented, they could still manage to pull a Yankees a la 2016 and come back better than ever.

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  • Texas Takes A Leake On The M’s

    Posted 15 hours ago

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    To the Muppet Show theme song, “It’s time to face the music!  It’s time to say Asdrubal Cabrera is all right!  It’s time to meet the Rangers on the Rangers show tonight!”  Asdrubal Cabrera went 2-for-4 and his 8th and 9th homer, hitting .222.  Guess you can say that was an Asdouble homer night!  Give me some skin up in the air!  No?  Okay.  Asdrubal went cold the past three weeks after having a hot two weeks prior, and it sounds like I’m writing his autobiography.  So, finally he said to his 4th grade gym teacher, “I will be someone one day,” and that teacher was Hunter Pence, who also hit a home run, his 9th as he hits .307.  Pence aka The Gangly Manbird aka the Zombino aka the inflatable wavy guy outside of a used car lot has six homers in the past 11 games.  He sure doesn’t stink, but you know who does?  Rougned Odor (1-for-4, 3 RBIs, hitting .169) hit his 7th homer.  Odor…Odor…Odor…Odor…*my back is pressed against a giant gym sock*…Odor!  Seriously, you know when 25 homers is not feasible?  When it comes with a .170 average. Pick up the pace, Odor, you odorous piece of pond scum!  All of this offense was plenty for Mike Minor (6 IP, 1 ER, 7 baserunners, 11 Ks, ERA at 2.51).  Nope, he’s not pitching as well as his ERA indicates, but at a certain point you have to say to yourself, “Do I want some flashy FIP, which I don’t even fully understand, or do I want to win my league?”  But those runs were only barely enough for Clocks singer, Chris Martin (1 IP, 3 ER, ERA at 4.66). Bring back the South African dictator, Leclerc, which I say quietly to myself, so no one gets the wrong impression. Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

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  • Service time manipulation is as blatant as ever

    Posted 21 hours ago

    Tracking MLB debuts exposes how teams are messing around with top prospects’ service time.

    From a labor perspective, it’s inconvenient that free agency has to occur in the offseason. If every player became a free agent the very moment they accrue exactly six years in the majors, there would be no need to manipulate service time.

    From a baseball perspective, this is all but impossible. Anthony Rendon would’ve become a free agent last week, while Gerrit Cole would hit the market in early June. Imagine if a great player reached free agency in mid-September, then signed with a division rival immediately! No, it’s too impractical to have midyear free agents, and it would be catastrophic to competitive integrity.

    The necessity of offseason free agency has the negative consequence of service time manipulation. There must always be a defined point at which a player can earn the right to free agency. As such, teams will always be able to play games to ensure as much bonus-service as possible after the player passes the free agency threshold. ESPN’s Christina Kahrl explains the importance of this in detail.

    Some teams truly disregard service time when building their rosters. Both Fernando Tatís and Chris Paddack made the Padres’ Opening Day team. Kudos to them. Most other teams blatantly flaunt the idea that the best players should be in the majors. This was most conspicuous when Toronto kept Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. in Triple-A until April 26. The Blue Jays are far from the only culprit.

    Debut Data

    By tracking MLB debuts, we can see how rampant service time manipulation has become in the league. Through May 18th, 88 players have made their major league debuts. Some have been more heralded than others, to be sure. Of those 88 players, 15 were ranked a top 100 prospect before the season by at least one of Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, or MLB Pipeline. We can see some patterns based on when these players were called up.

    Before we get into that data, we need to clean it up a bit. Two players must be excluded for our purposes: Yusei Kikuchi and Eloy Jiménez. They signed major league contracts prior to the start of the season, so their service time is irrelevant. Both are top 100 prospects (Baseball America considers Kikuchi prospect-eligible), leaving us with a data set of 86 debutants and 13 top prospects.

    We can split the 2019 season into three periods:

    1. Opening Week, 3/20-4/1. With rare exceptions, anyone who debuts by April 1 made the Opening Day roster. This period covers 13 calendar days, but only seven days of baseball thanks to the mid-March Japan games. The Opening Week period needs to cover one full turn through the pitching rotation to capture everyone. Paddack, for example, first pitched on March 31.
    2. Pre-Cutoff, 4/2-4/19. This could just as easily be named “The Dead Zone.” To accrue a full year of service time, players need to spend at least 172 days of the 187 day regular season on the major league roster or IL. If the team withholds the player in the minors through mid-April, they can spend the rest of the year in the big leagues without accruing a full year of service.
    3. Post-Cutoff, 4/20-present. After the service time cutoff, teams can promote top prospects having successfully delayed their free agency by a full year. (There’s another important cutoff date in June: Super Two eligibility. That’s a different matter entirely, but it absolutely impacts promotion decisions.)

    Here’s how the 2019 debuts have broken down into these three periods:

    Opening Week had the highest amount of debuts per day, with 25 in a seven-day period. Every player changes relative to the rest of the league over the offseason. This is most perceptible when someone like Marlins reliever Nick Anderson finally reaches the majors at age-28. A lot of relievers and bench players made the roster for the first time.

    Really, a lot of these debuts came from out-of-options players or Rule V picks who the franchise would lose altogether if they didn’t put them on the 25-man. In that light, it’s unsurprising that only four of these debuts were top 100 players: Tatís, Paddack, Mets first baseman Pete Alonso, and Diamondbacks right-hander Jon Duplantier.

    The Pre-Cutoff data is the most damning of all. Fewer than one player per day made a debut. Not one single top prospect surfaced during this period. It’s hard to believe that there wasn’t a need for talent due to injuries and ineffectiveness on the major league level. Nevertheless, a lot of the minor league replacements from this period already had previous major league experience.

    That’s not to say that all of these players have a bleak future. Erik Swanson and Mike Ford were called up on April 11th and 18th, respectively. Using top 100 prospects is an imperfect measurement of talent, but it most likely shows that the teams didn’t promote anyone during this 18 day stretch who they expect to stick around all year (or six years, for that matter).

    The dam broke during the Post-Cutoff period. While 1.6 debuts per day doesn’t match Opening Week levels, a much higher percentage of them were top prospects. Starting with Boston’s Michael Chavis on April 20, ten of them paraded through MLB over this 29 day period.

    At the least, it’s highly suspect that zero top prospects were MLB-ready before April 20, but ten of them have “developed” since then. It’s true that some failed to carve a permanent place in the majors just yet, such as Carter Kieboom, and others are injury replacements, such as Austin Riley for Ender Inciarte. However, this data makes the delays of future stars like Guerrero that much more glaring.

    Daniel R. Epstein is an elementary special education teacher and president of the Somerset County Education Association. In addition to BtBS, he writes at www.OffTheBenchBaseball.com. Tweets @depstein1983

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  • Rolling In The Deep: Looking For A Free Agent Who’ll Treat You (Da)wel

    Posted 23 hours ago

    Another week, more exciting prospect call-ups, as Keston Hiura is now a full-fledged Milwaukee Brewer, and Brendan Rodgers is rumored to be on his way to join the Rockies as I write this.  If you play in a shallow league, perhaps you had the opportunity to grab Hiura off the waiver wire and are now a little more invested in his major league baseball career than you were a week ago.  If you play in a very deep league, chances are both Hiura and Rodgers were drafted back in March even in re-draft formats, and perhaps have been owned for years in an NL-only, dynasty type league.  No, we deep-leaguers aren’t going to be finding guys with Hiura’s or Rodgers’ upside floating in the free agent pool too often, so we have to get much more creative.… and on that note, here are this week’s players that may be more realistic targets in AL-only, NL-only, and other deep leagues.

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