Thursday, July 31, 2008

Billy Butler on the Rebound?

I'm a huge Billy Butler fan, and I think he has the potential to be an incredible hitter along the lines of Manny Ramirez or Prince Fielder, so I was very disappointd when he started the year out so horribly. I was even more concerned when he had just 1 home run through April and May, and was sent back down to AAA in June. But he has since bounced back with 5 home runs in July, and he's beginning to look like the hitter I always thought he would be.

While his overall stats aren't eye popping just yet, he is beginning to show signs of breaking out, even in a Kansas City offense that is lethargic at best. Here are his strike out and walk rates in the majors since the beginning of the year.


While his strike outs never went sky high, and his walk rate wasn't horrible, the overall trend earlier this year was a bit out of whack. Since his minor league stint, Butler seems to have made some adjustments to his location in the batters box, allowing him to cover the plate more efficiently as well as pick up pitch locations better. According to Butler, the change was only a matter of inches, but it seems to have been sufficient enough to correct his original pitch selection issues (or at least mentally convince him that the problem has been fixed).

But aside from strike out rates, Butler's other stats are looking much better as well.

While the drop in BABIP -- and consequently OBP -- is worth noting, I'm really more interested in Butler's power production, which has seen a huge jump from earlier in the season. Though his ground ball and line drive rates haven't changed much, his slugging and ISOP are both up nearly 100 points, indicating that Butler is finally getting some lift on the ball, thereby increasing the trajectory on balls hit in the air, which ultimately adds to the home run totals. Lift doesn't always help the ol' BABIP since it results in more fly balls and fewer line drives, but it does help a hitters confidence and is an initial sign of a better swing plane.

At 22, Butler obviously has a long way to go, but he also has a high level of natural talent and plenty of time for it to shine through. If I were a GM I'd take Billy Butler any day, and I think the Royals are lucky to have him. The BABIP will sneak back up closer to his minor league average of .350+, and the slugging percentage will continue to trend upwards for the next 5 or 6 yers. If Butler shows that his July stats are the real deal, I fully expect him to be hitting close to .300 and on pace for 30 home runs by the end of 2009.


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A Look at the Braves Newest Pitcher: Stephen Marek

A lot of my friends here in Georgia have been asking me about the Teixeira trade and what to expect from Casey Kotchman and Stephen Marek, the 2 players Atlanta received in the deal. While Kotchman has put in some time at the major league level and is a relatively known player, Marek is one of those no-name prospects floating around in the minors without an ounce of fanfare. So, I thought we should take a look at him and see if he's any good.

To be honest, Marek was just a spare part to balance out what the Braves were losing with what they were getting from the Angels. He's not exactly Grade A beef, but more like the meat you get in a burrito at Taco Bell that has a little beef mixed with some textured vegetable protein. In other words, he's pretty much more of the same for Braves fans.



*The above chart is a comparison of AA pitching stats. Be sure to note the age differences.

In basic terms, Marek and Chuck James are pitching twins separated at birth. If Marek is the meat in your Taco Bell burrito, James is the weird chicken meat in those chicken nuggets your kids (and some of you) love to eat. There are some slight differences, like the walk rate and ground ball rates, but they pretty much balance each other out. Charlie Morton is the happy intermediate, with stats somewhere in between.

So, in a nutshell Braves fans, don't get too excited about this one. If I cared to come up with a projection for Marek, it would be a #4 or #5 starter if he's lucky, but more likely a sketchy #5/ bullpen type with an ERA in the 4.50-6.50 range.
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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Braves Mid-Summer Top 10 Prospects

As a life long Braves fan, I take a certain interest in the state of the Braves farm system. I remember the days when I would go to games with my dad and we could sit anywhere we wanted because the Braves were horrible and there might be 10,000 fans out on a good night. I usually wanted to sit in right field behind Dale Murphy, and I would spend hours yelling his name trying to get his attention.

Anyways, hometown heroes have been in abundance in Atlanta, and it looks like the trend continues on. However, the Braves farm system is not quite what it used to be, and I can't help but be a bit cynical about the future of the team when I look down the list of minor league stats. There are a few bright spots, however, so let's focus on those for now.


Hitters

1. Jason Heyward – Obvious choice. Potential to hit .300+ with 30+ home runs and 20-30 steals throughout his 20’s.

Comparable player: a more advanced Fred McGriff
Projection: .295-.325 average, 25-35 home runs, 20-30 steals, .800-.930 OPS

2. Freddie Freeman – Still not sure about his splits, but as a left handed hitter he will face right handed pitchers at least 65% of the time in the majors. Lots of power, good walk to strike out ratio, and nobody standing in his way.

Comparable player: Prince Fielder with a bit less plate discipline
Projection: .285-.315 average, 30-45 home runs, .800-.960 OPS

3. Gorkys Hernandez – Decent power and a good plate approach, but mostly speed and plenty of it. The real debate here is whether the Braves – who aren’t very aggressive on the base paths --will use Hernandez as a base stealer or not. Potential .300 hitter with 50+ steals.

Comparable player: Jacoby Ellsbury
Projection: .285-.310 average, .780-.820 OPS, 15-20 home runs, 40-60 steals

4. Tyler Flowers – Here’s where the list starts to break down. At catcher Flowers is one of the better prospects in the game, but with Brian McCann blocking him, a move to first base or the outfield – or a trade -- may be in order. Potential plus contact and power.

Comparable player: Jorge Posada
Projection: .290-.305 average, .850-.890 OPS, 23-31 home runs

5. Jordan Schafer – I still don’t know why everyone got so excited about Schafer this past winter. He’s an above average prospect, but doesn’t really have any excellent skills. 20-25 home run potential, low OBP, average steal totals, decent defense, and a batting average in the high .200’s. Good, but not great. If the Braves had more offensive talent, I’d like to drop Schafer from the top 5, but they don’t, so I can’t.

Comparable player: Jim Edmonds without the peak years
Projection: .260-.290 average, 20-30 home runs, 20-25 steals

Honorable mentions: Brent Lillibridge, Eric Campbell, Kala Kaaihue

Pitchers

Before I start the list, let me just say that the Braves have 6 pitchers that all rank about the same. They don’t have any can’t-miss prospects, but most of them will probably start in the majors at some point, and a couple of them could be good #2 or even #1 starters in 5 to 10 years. The following chart will help explain what I mean.

(For the record, I threw in Jair Jurrjens' numbers as a comparison to the Braves current top pitching prospects. I used his A+ ball stats when he was 20 to help even things out. He actually pitched at A ball as a 19 year old.)

See what I mean? Each of the 6 pitchers went through A ball at about the same age, and between their strike out rates, ground ball rates, and walk rates, they all pretty much balance out. The popular vote usually goes with Tommy Hanson, but I actually think Cole Rohbrough has the highest potential. After that you can throw in just about any name you want, but here’s how I rank them.

1. Cole Rohbrough - Of all the Braves pitchers, Rohbrough probably has the highest ceiling. He can be dominate at times, but there are questions about his health.

Comparable Pitcher: Yovanni Gallardo
Projection: Early #3 or #2, prime years as a #1

2. Jeff Locke - I know most people want to see Tommy Hanson in the top 2, but Locke has good numbers all around, and compares well with Jair Jurrjens who is having a fantastic year in the majors.

Comparable pitcher: Jair Jurrjens, Mike Pelfrey
Projection: Solid #2

3. Kris Medlen - All the Tommy Hanson fans will have to wait just a little bit longer before he shows up on this list. Medlen has been very good as both a relief pitcher and a starter.
Comparable pitcher: Adam Wainwright
Projection: Great relief pitcher, or good #3 starter

4. Tommy Hanson - Just so everyone knows, I'm only putting Hanson in at #4 because Jose Ortegano has had some recent arm issues. If Ortegano was completely healthy, Hanson would probably be #5 on this list. Anyways, Hanson is a fine pitcher, but not as good as the hype surrounding him. He's pretty much Kyle Davies and Jo Jo Reyes wrapped up into one player.

Comparable pitcher: Kyle Davies and Jo Jo Reyes
Projection: #3 or #4 with a shot at a #2 spot in a bad rotation

5. Scott Diamond - By the end of the season, I expect Ortegano to regain his spot as the #4 prospect, and Kris Medlen and Scott Diamond to switch places, leaving Tommy Hanson off the list. Diamond has been stellar at every stop, with great numbers all around.

Comparable Pitcher: Tom Glavine, Ben Sheets
Projection: #2 or 3, with a shot at being a good #1

Honorable mentions: Julio Teheran, Jose Ortegan,
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Aaron Laffey Sent to AAA

The move was actually made a few days ago to make room for the return of Fausto Carmona. I'm not so sure it was the right move, but it won't hurt Laffey, and the Indians need to prepare for the future more than they need to win games. Anyways, here are some of Laffey's stats over the 4 months he spent with Cleveland.


He looked pretty good when he first came up, but he let his walk rate sneak up on him, perhaps due to trying too hard to keep pitches out of the zone. It's hard to tell from the chart, but his walk rate actually equaled his strike out rate in June and July, which is obviously not a good thing.

Aside from pitch location, I also wondered if he was struggling with mechanics or ground ball rate regression. Here's his ground ball chart.


His ground ball rates looked fine, so I don't think there's too much he needs to work on other than slight location adjustments. He might have suffered from slight mechanical issues, but once again I think he might have tried to overcompensate at times, leading to poor mechanics and location (which resulted in a higher WHIP and ERA, which led to more overcompensation). It's kind of like when you start to doze off while driving, and then you hit those bumpy strips on the side of the road that make that weird whirring noise. It snaps you back to reality and you jerk the wheel back towards the middle of the road, but then you swerve into on-coming traffic and your life flashes before your eyes before you're able to cut back into your own lane. Maybe the Indians saw Laffey slipping into that cycle and decided a stint in the minors would save him from being crushed by on-coming 18 wheelers being driven by 230 lbs. corner infielders.

I don't have any video's to break down comparing Laffey in April to Laffey in July, but none of his stats were on a positive trend line, and he obviously needed to take some time to refine his approach. He'll get it figured out, and might be back before the season is over. Either way, I think he'll be much better in 2009, and should be a very good starter in 18-24 months.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

David Price vs. Brett Anderson vs. Trevor Cahill vs. Clayton Kershaw vs. Francisco Liriano Comparison Chart


Just a quick chart to match up 4 of the most popular pitching prospects against Francisco Liriano's AA stats back in 2005. Though the sample size for Price, Anderson, and Cahill is still relatively small, the results remain the same. Anderson has set himself apart (check his numbers against Liriano's), and the age difference between Cahill andPrice makes Cahill the better pick. If these stats remain constant throught the end of the season, I really can't see any legitimate reason to continue entertaining thoughts that Price should be the #1 pitching prospect going into 2009. Clayton Kershaw is still doing well, but has regressed since last year. I'm not sure what's going on with him, but he'll bounce back in time.

Refractor Tracker is Coming Back!

Hey guys, for those of you who have kept up with this blog over the past 6 months, you know that I like to collect baseball cards with some of my spare change. A few months ago I thought about keeping track of some of the Bowman Chrome prices on eBay, specifically different refractor types. Sadly, I didn't do such a good job with the Refractor Tracker, but I'm ready to make another go of it. My Excel skills have improved, and I think this time will be different.

I'll try to keep a weekly watch list going of some of the better known prospects out there and what kind of prices their cards are going for (prospects that have rookie cards other than Bowman Chrome may be included in the Refractor Tracker). Prices will be based off of weekly highs. If there are no sells of a particular card for the week, the price will remain constant with previous sale prices. Here's a quick list of players I'll be watching. Let me know if there are others you'd like me to add.

  • Travis Snider
  • Chris Davis
  • Trevor Cahill
  • Brett Anderson ('07 Donruss EEE Auto)
  • David Price ('07 Bowman Sterling Auto)
  • Matt Wieters ('07 Donruss EEE Auto)
  • Madison Bumgarner ('07 Bowman Sterling Auto)
  • Matt LaPorata ('07 Bowman Sterling Auto)
  • Jason Heyward ('07 Bowman Sterling Auto)
Here's a quick example of what I hope the Refractor Tracker Charts will look like...

I'll try to keep up with weekly sell prices and post a weekly update on the cards I'm following.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Chris Davis Career Home Run Projections

Attempting to project career totals of any stat is definitely a risky thing to do, but I've been messing around with some numbers and an Excel spreadsheet to see what kind of home run progression trend we can expect for Chris Davis' immediate and long term future.

In the minors Davis had an extremely low plate appearances per home run rate, so it's been difficult to find comparable hitters to measure him against. But I think if we use a moderate range of hitters and look at their home run progression trends, maybe we can draw some conclusions about where Davis might end up over the next 10 years in terms of home run production.

As I said, Davis' power rates are quite a bit better than most of the comparable hitters I found to compare him with, but he does match up well with Albert Belle and Cecil Fielder in terms of his overall stats. I guess we could think of Davis as either a more advanced Ryan Howard or a more powerful Albert Belle. Either way, he matches up well against some of the elite power hitters of the past 20 years, and could arguably end up with a higher sustained home run production level than any of them.

While numbers can give us an idea about where Davis fits in with other hitters, I think a visual representation of the trend lines established by each of the above hitters would help us see what level of production we can expect from Davis in the future. The following chart represents the average plate appearances per home run for each of the hitters in the chart above.


There's a lot of stuff going on in this graph, so I'll take some time to explain what it all means. The colored lines represent each hitters actual production. The thin black lines represent their general trend lines over time, meaning that it follows their average change in production rates as they age. The numbers at the bottom of the graph are the actual PA/HR averages for each player between the ages of 20 and 30 years old.

From the numbers given, we can see that these hitters began to approach their minor league home runs rates around the age of 24 or 25 years old. They all tend to follow a general trend of progression, with their highest levels of production coming between the ages of 25 and 29 years old.

Now let's look at those same stats translated into projected season totals if each player were to accumulate 650 plate appearances per season.

Once again, it's a very busy chart, but the overall trend is obvious. Each hitters prime production levels occurred between the ages of 25 and 29, with averages consistently in the 40 to 50 home run range per season. Of the 5 hitters, Rob Deer is the odd man out with production levels floating around 30 home runs per season. As a side note, Ryan Howard's trend line is severely steep, and may be inaccurate due to not having more than 3 years of major league stats. Then again, it could be a very accurate representation of his past and future regression rates, meaning that he could drop off the face of the planet in terms of home run production over the next few years.

With the general trends we established above, let's narrow down our focus to hitters that Chris Davis most resembles, namely Albert Belle, Cecil Fielder, and Ryan Howard. We'll take the regression and progression rates of each of the 3 hitters as set out by our above chart, and then apply those same trends to Chris Davis' minor league numbers to see what we can come up with.


By applying the trends we established above, Davis should reach his minor league home run production rate at about the age of 24 or 25 years old. To be conservative I've set his PA/HR rate to his minor league rate at the age of 25. After the age of 25, each comparable hitter improved on their home run rate until they reached approximately a rate of 12.5 PA/HR around the age of 26 or 27, which I also applied to Davis' numbers. By the age of 29 or 30 each hitter had steadily regressed back to their minor league production rates, so I've also applied that trend to Davis' projected production.

Here are Davis' projected yearly home run totals according to the values predicted in the above chart.
While most hitters don't really follow a smooth production course like I have predicted for Davis, the purpose of the above chart is to give an us an idea about what Davis' potential is over the next 8-10 years. There's no guarantee that he will actually follow my projections, but the numbers suggest that he'll be somewhere in the same ballpark. If he does happen to follow my projections, depending on how long he plays he could have 400-500 home runs by the end of his career, which would put him in some good company. Albert Belle and Cecil Fielder retired with 389 and 319 home runs respectively (Fielder played in Japan at 25, thus losing out on perhaps an extra 40 home runs), so these projections for Davis seem reasonable.

Low end career projection: 350 HR
Mid-range projection: 400 HR
High end projection: 450+ HR
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Saturday, July 26, 2008

C. Davis #10

25 games, 95 PA, 10 HR, .303/.347/.730, 20 RBI, 22 R

For future reference, Ryan Howard set a major league record by hitting his 100th home run in his 325th game. If Davis stays on his current pace, he'll hit his 100th homerun around game number 250. Even at half his current pace, he would still hit his 100th home run around game number 475. By averaging the 2 totals together, I think we can come up with a reasonable trajectory of about 350 games. So, maybe he won't set a new record, but there's a chance he could.

A.L. ROY Tracker
Evan Longoria: .278 ave, 19 HR, .880 OPS
Chris Davis: .303 ave, 10 HR, 1.078 OPS

The Prospect Corner Visitor Countries

For anyone interested, here is a list of countries that visitors to The Prospect Corner live in...

Mr. Crush Goes Long Numero Nueve

After 24 games and 91 plate appearances, Crush Davis has 9 home runs, 18 RBIs, and a .294/.341/.694 stat line. His ninth home run came last night in the 9th inning against the Oakland A's, and Davis ended the night 3 for 6 with a single, double, and home run.

After seeing highlights of the game last night, I debated about whether I would continue to post every time Davis hit a home run. I mean, I don't do that for any other prospect. But then again, I don't think any other prospect has the sheer power that Davis does. Texas fans are well aware of what's happening, but the average baseball fan has no clue who Davis is, and as long as that is the case, then I will probably continue to closely track his progress. However, I think the nation will soon begin to take notice, as indicated by this blurb on Davis' player page at ESPN.com:

Jul 24
: Davis has eight home runs since he was called up on June 26th which is the most in the AL since that date. Manager Ron Washington believes that his production is no fluke, and "his power is legit," the Dallas Morning News reports.


Last night I also remembered a book I read in elementary school called "The Boy Who Only Hit Homers." I don't remember much about it, but it left quite an impression on me, and I remember thinking that it would be really cool if there actually was a ball player that only hit home runs. Though Davis doesn't always hit a home run, it's amazing to watch a 22 year old that has the potential to hit a ball out of any park, in any direction, during any at-bat. I don't know what the future holds for Davis, but the more I watch him, the more I'm convinced that he could rewrite the history books in the Post-Steroids Era.


A.L. ROY Tracker
Evan Longoria: 19 hr, .276 average, .880 OPS, .971 FPCT, 2.65 RF, .803 ZR
Chris Davis: 9 hr, .294 average, 1.035 OPS, .995 FPCT, 9.29 RF, .771 ZR

Friday, July 25, 2008

Baseball America Hot Sheet: Week of July 18th - 25th

Here are the names, along with commentary on each player (if I have any). Feel free to add your own thoughts and opinions.

  1. Brandon Wood, ss - Wood has been up and down over the last couple of years, but he's got good talent and will be a major league starter one day soon. There are rumors that the Braves would like to get Wood in a trade for Teixeira, but I'm not sure how accurate that rumor is.
  2. Brett Anderson, lhp - Should be on everyone's radar by now.
  3. Allen Craig, 3b - Not a bad player, just not a very high ceiling.
  4. Tim Alderson, rhp - I like his make-up and his numbers, especially in the California League. Hopefully, we'll see Alderson and Madison Bumgarner starting back to back in AA next season.
  5. Brad Holt, rhp- At 21 years old, big numbers are easy to come by in rookie ball. But Holt's strikeout totals and the emergence of a decent curveball make him a great pitcher to watch in 2009.
  6. Jeff Samardzija, rhp - Looking good as of late, but not a good long term track record. Not very interested in follosing Mr. Samardzija.
  7. Jesus Montero, c - While not one of the better catching prospects of the last decade, Montero could easily fill in for Jorge Posada in a few years.
  8. Scott Campbell, 2b - Decent hitter, but not much to get excited about here.
  9. Wladimir Balentien, of - Isn't this guy in the majors yet? Guess not. What's the hold up?
  10. Ben Revere, cf - While I'm amazed at Revere's .400+ average on the season, I'm not certain that he'll have what it takes to be a major league starter anytime soon. I'm not saying it won't happen, I just want to see him maintain his contact rates at a higher level before I jump on the bandwagon.
  11. Dextr Fowler, cf - Same concerns with Fowler as with Revere. Looks good on paper and in theory he should work out in the majors, but doesn't have many back-up tools to rely on should his contact rates see a significant drop.
  12. Austin Gallagher, 3b - Good stats, but I'm not expecting big things.
  13. Sean O'sullivan, rhp - Not bad stuff, but not great. Should be a good middle of the rotation type starter in a few years.
So that's my take. Have at it, y'all.


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Tommy Hanson Thoughts and Comments

I've had a few requests from Braves fans to address my thoughts on Tommy Hanson. I know a lot of people have been impressed with him this year, but I don't think he's all that great. In fact, the Braves don't have a single pitcher in the minors that I think is going to have much of an impact over the next 3 to 5 years.

Anyways, here's Hanson and fellow comparables.

Not a bad list of comparables, but not great either. What really bothers me about Hanson and every other pitcher the Braves have in their farm system is the lack of solid ground ball rates. I don't know if the Braves pitching coaches don't teach their pitchers to induce ground balls, or if the pitchers just don't have the talent to do so. My gut tells me that the pitchers have plenty of talent, they just aren't being taught the importance of ground balls and how to make them happen.

To make my point, here's a brief excerpt from a recent interview Project Prospect conducted with Trevor Cahill:


AL: Simply put, you're a guy that balances out a lot of way to keep people off the bases. High strikeout rates, keeping the ball on the ground, low walk rate -- what's your approach when you take the mound?

TC: Usually it's about getting ground balls. Early contact and ground balls gets you later into games. I got a little obsessed with the strikeout when I was with [High-A] Stockton. I would start throwing to get them to swing and miss instead of getting them to roll over. That kind of prevented me from getting deep into games.

AL: So would you rather pitch deep into the game -- eighth inning, complete game -- or strike 15, 16 guys out?

TC: Well, right now with one inning [in the Futures Game], it's nice to strike out guys. But it helps the team out more if you go eight innings and give up no runs than it does if you go six innings, give up no runs, and get the strikeouts. Strikeouts don't matter for the win.

I always like to keep it in my back pocket. If a guy gets on third base with no outs and you need strike three, it's nice to be able to have it.



If the Braves minor league system was teaching their pitchers the importance and efficiency of ground balls, there would be a lot more guys like Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson in their system, and fewer Tommy Hansons. It would seem logical that a team that benefited so much from the efforts of Greg Maddux (career GB% around 60%) and Tom Glavine (50%) would try to instill their young pitchers with similar skills. However, at current, their best ground ball starting pitchers are averaging a GB% of 50% or less(compared to 60% or higher in the Oakland A's system), severely limiting their overall effectiveness. As long as the Braves fail to teach this important aspect of the game to their young pitchers, Braves fans are going to continue to see a revolving door of pitching prospects like Chuck James and Kyle Davies.
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Lars Anderson vs. Travis Snider: Talk Amongst Yourselves

Earlier this year I wrote an article comparing Travis Snider and Chris Marrero, and though it would be nice to revisit the topic, Marrero saw just a few months of action this season before breaking his leg in a play at home plate. So, I'm substituting Lars Anderson for Chris Marrero. It doesn't mean that the 2 hitters have anything in common, or that they have the same amount of talent. It just means I am interested to see how Lars Anderson matches up against Travis Snider.

Anyways, this comparison isn't going to be as simple as I would like it to be, because Anderson has just 15 plate appearances this year at AA, while Snider has 367 plate appearances at AA. So, we're going to go about this a little bit differently than usual. I'm going to post the stats, and let you guys hash out the details. If you like Anderson over Snider, or Snider over Anderson, state your case and let us know what you think. Keep it clean, and mind your manners.
I know most people still like to see averages, home runs, doubles, etc. So, here are the raw stats.

2007
Snider -- A -- 522 PA, 35 2b, 7 3b, 16 HR, .313 average
Anderson -- A-- 535 PA, 35 2b, 3 3b, 10 HR, .289 average

2008
Snider -- AA -- 367 PA, 17 2b, 0 3b, 15 HR, .256 average
Anderson -- A+ -- 358 PA, 19 2b, 1 3b, 13 HR, .317 average

So there you have it. Check the stats, state your case, and may the best man win.




Thursday, July 24, 2008

Now Taking Requests -- Team Top 10's and Player Analysis

Hey guys, I'm going to be writing up another Top 10 team prospects list, so if you have a team you'd like to see, let me know. I was thinking the Tampa Bay Rays, but if you'd like to see someone else that's cool with me.

Also, I've had a few requests for player write ups, so let me know who else you'd like to see. Thanks for all the great comments and poll votes. Have a great Friday!

-Adam G.

Madison Bumgarner Analysis & Comparisons

Right now it must be great to be a baseball fan in northern California. Well, at least for fans that pay attention to minor league players. The Oakland A's and the San Francisco Giants both have a nice group of young pitchers in the majors and the minors, with at least 5 years before each pitcher hits their prime years. There must be something in the water, because both teams know very well how to draft young pitching talent.

And that leads us to Madison Bumgarner. Before we get into statistical comparisons and analysis, let's cover some basics first.

Madison Bumgarner throws a fastball in the low to mid 90's, with reports of hitting 96 mph. During his years in high school, Bumgarner's dad limited the development of any breaking pitches to maintain low stress levels on his arm, so his curve ball and slider are still very much under development. He has a solid change up, but mostly relies on his fastball to get batters out. His progression through the minors will probably depend on how quickly his curve and/or slider catches up with his fastball.

Bumgarner shows a sincere intent to work hard and improve. Mike Fox, head coach of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had this to say about Bumgarner after learning of his original commitment to play at UNC: "Madison is a great kid with a great future. He is blessed with a great left arm, but I am more impressed with the type of young man he is. He is very humble and grounded. He obviously gets a great deal of attention but he handles himself with a great deal of maturity." Praise like that means quite a bit when it's coming from a man who has spent the majority of his life working with highly regarded prospects.

Now that we've gotten past the formalities, let's get down to business. Here are Bumgarner's 2008 stats, along with a few comparable pitchers that displayed similar performances at A ball.
In one word, Bumgarner has been superb. He's among some very good company, and there's no doubt about his talent. However, I've read a lot of talk on the web from fans that are concerned that Bumgarner doesn't have a good secondary pitch yet. To that I say don't worry about it. While Rick Ankiel was able to dominate early because he had an incredible curve ball, and Francisco Liriano had his slider to help him through the minors, Bumgarner has relied solely on his fastball and has been able to match up well against both of those pitchers. It's an amazing feat that points to the sheer level of talent Bumgarner posesses. If Bumgarner can post a K/9 near 10 with excellent control using just his fastball, imagine what he'll be able to do when he has a decent curve, or slider, and a change up. Also keep in mind that of all pitches, the fast ball is easier to control and applies the least amount of stress to the arm, consequently reducing the overall risk of injury. Which would you rather have, a pitcher with a nasty curve, or a pitcher with an equally nasty fast ball?

So if Bumgarner compares well to guys like Ankiel and Liriano, what can we expect from him in the future? Each of the 3 pitchers in the comparison chart went on to maintain their A ball stats through AAA, and made their first MLB appearance by the age of 21. Ankiel posted an ERA of 3.50 at the age of 20, Liriano had an ERA of 2.16 at 22, and Sabathia had an ERA of 3.60 at 22. If we apply the same trends to Bumgarner, we can expect him to debut with the Giants by 2011, and post an ERA in the 3.00-3.50 range by 2012.

Obviously, Bumgarner has a ton of potential and his left arm should carry him a long way. If he develops a good secondary pitch soon, his stats should quickly reflect it and we could see him cement his place among some great pitchers. I'm a little concerned that his July K% has seen a slight drop, but I think it's most likely due to late season fatigue since this is Bumgarner's first full year of professional ball. I expect the Giants -- who have demonstrated an above average to develop young pitchers -- to shut him down pretty soon, and let him rest through the end of the winter before putting him back to work.
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New Blog Additions and Changes

Hey everybody, I've added a search feature, current comments side bar, and changed the format up a little bit. If you don't like it, let me know. I'm getting a little bit better at using the HTML coding, but last night I almost completely shut down the website while working on it and I had no clue how to revert back to the original blog settings! For a second I thought I would have to start all over again.

Anyways, like I said, let me know what you think of the changes and if you would like to see other additions, or if you just want some of the stuff on the page rearranged.

Thanks,
Adam G.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Oakland A's Top 10 Prospects Summer 2008

This is the first in what I hope will be at least a weekly series of team by team prospect rankings. We're going to start off with the A's and see how it goes.

I don't like to rank hitters against pitchers and vice versa, so I'll be doing a Top 5 pitchers list followed by a Top 5 hitters list. Feel free to throw in your own suggestions.

Pitchers

1. Brett Anderson -- Not a big surprise here. He's got all the right stats (unless you care about minor league ERAs, which you shouldn't), and a nice family pedigree to go along with it. I still can't believe the Diamondbacks let this guy go.
Prime Projection: #1 Ace
Comparable Player: Francisco Liriano mixed with Brandon Webb

2. Trevor Cahill -- You could almost swap Cahill and Anderson if you really wanted to, but right now Cahill's control is a bit of an issue. He doesn't walk a lot of hitters, just more than Anderson walks. Cahill is very gifted and very intelligent, and I think he'll be a dominant major league starter in a few years.
Prime Projection: #1 Ace
Comparable Player: Francisco Liriano

3. Gio Gonzalez -- Gonzalez would be the #1 pitching prospect on just about every other major league team. His AAA stats this year haven't been as good as previous seasons, but he's got a lot of talent and has the potential to be a great #2 or even a solid #1 starter down the road.
Prime Projection: Great #2, solid #1
Comparable Player: Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden

4. Vincent Mazzaro -- There's a big divide between Mazzaro and the other 4 pitchers on this list, but he's still got decent talent. Good strike out numbers, good control, above average ground ball rates.
Prime Projection: Good #3
Comparable Player: Roy Oswalt, Zach Duke

5. Michel Inoa -- At 16 years old it's hard to say how successful Inoa will be. But if the A's like him to the tune of several million dollars, then I'll at least give him the #5 spot until we see more from him.
Prime Projection: ?
Comparable Player: ?

Honorable mentions: Henry Rodriguez, James Simmons, Jared Lansford

Hitters

1. Chris Carter -- While not a big hitter for average, Carter is capable of a .900+ OPS and 40+ home runs. I'll be interested to see what happens at first base between him and Daric Barton.
Prime Projection: .290 ave., 44 home runs, .930 OPS
Comparable Player: Eric Davis, Jay Buhner

2. Aaron Cunningham -- Decent numbers all around, but nothing great. Think Lastings Milledge on the west coast.
Prime Projection: .310 ave., 31 home runs, .885 OPS
Comparable Player: Lastings Milledge, Joey Votto

3. Sean Doolittle -- Similar to Cunningham, but sees more pitches at the plate. Should fit right in with the A's offensive philosophy.
Prime Projection: .295 ave., 33 home runs, .880 OPS
Comparable Player: Elijah Dukes

4. Adrian Cardenas -- If we were to take into consideration Cardenas' defensive worth, he would probably be higher on this list. But this is a Top 5 hitter's list, so we're sticking strictly to offense. Good player, solid stats. Should make a very reliable major league starter.
Prime Projection: .315 ave., 24 home runs, .825 OPS
Comparable Player: Ryne Sandberg

5. Jemile Weeks -- Since being drafted this summer, Weeks has done well for himself, but it's still hard to say how successful he'll be. He has a variety of tools, but none of them really stand out.
Prime Projection: ?
Comparable Player: ?

So, there you have it. Once again, if you have any players you'd like to suggest, feel free to do so. Also, feel free to let me know if you would like me to change the format or my approach to these team ranking posts. Any and all comments are appreciated.
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The Proof is in the Pudding: Liriano's Latest Start

A couple of days ago I made a case for why Francisco Liriano deserved to be in the Twins rotation, and last night Liriano presented his own case to the Twins.

In 7 innings against Toledo, Liriano struck out 10, while giving up only 2 hits and 2 walks. Since simple stats don't really describe how dominant he was, I wanted to give a quick inning-by-inning breakdown of Liriano's start.

1st Inning

* Freddy Guzman strikes out swinging.
* Timo Perez strikes out swinging.
* Brent Clevlen strikes out swinging.

3 K, 0 BB, O H, O GB, O FB, O LD

2nd Inning

* Jeff Larish grounds out, third baseman Trevor Plouffe to first baseman Garrett Jones.
* Mike Hessman strikes out swinging.
* Clete Thomas strikes out swinging.

2 K, 0 BB, 0 H, 1 GB, 0 FB, 0 LD

3rd Inning

* Mike Hollimon pops out to third baseman Trevor Plouffe.
* Erick Almonte doubles (21) on a line drive to left fielder Darnell McDonald.
* Max St. Pierre strikes out swinging.
* Freddy Guzman pops out to second baseman Alejandro Machado.

1 K, 0 BB, 1 H, 0 GB, 2 FB, 1 LD

4th Inning

* Timo Perez flies out to right fielder Howie Clark.
* Brent Clevlen walks.
* Jeff Larish grounds into double play, second baseman Alejandro Machado to shortstop Matt Macri to first baseman Garrett Jones. Brent Clevlen out at 2nd.

0 K, 1 BB, 0 H, 1 GB, 1 FB, 0 LD

5th Inning

* Mike Hessman called out on strikes.
* Clete Thomas grounds out, second baseman Alejandro Machado to first baseman Garrett Jones.
* Mike Hollimon strikes out swinging.

2 K, 0 BB, 0 H, 1 GB, 0 FB, 0 LD

6th Inning

* Erick Almonte flies out to center fielder Jason Pridie.
* Max St. Pierre strikes out swinging.
* Freddy Guzman lines out softly to shortstop Matt Macri.

1 K, 0 BB, 0 H, 0 GB, 1 FB, 1 LD

7th Inning

* Timo Perez flies out sharply to right fielder Howie Clark.
* Brent Clevlen walks.
* Jeff Larish singles on a ground ball to third baseman Trevor Plouffe. Brent Clevlen to 2nd.
* Mike Hessman flies out to left fielder Darnell McDonald.
* Clete Thomas strikes out swinging.

1 K, 1 BB, 1 H, 1 GB, 2 FB, 0 LD

Total: 10 K, 2 BB, 2 H, 6 GB, 6 FB, 2 LD

I've heard several different arguments as to why the Twins have kept Liriano in the minors, and I want to debunk them right here and now.

1. Liriano tires in later innings.
What pitcher doesn't tire in later innings? Does Livan Hernandez pitch better after 6 innings? We all know that complete games and high pitch counts are about as dead as the dinosaurs, so if Liriano looks good through 6 or 7 innings, isn't that all the Twins need? During last night's game, from the 5th to the 7th innings Liriano had 4 strike outs, 1 hit, and 0 walks. His GB/FB balance began to teeter towards the fly ball side, but he wasn't losing control or giving up hard hit balls, so unless his velocity is dropping by greater than 5%, I don't see late inning fatigue as a valid excuse for preventing a call up.

2. The Twins already have 5 solid starters.
I recently wrote an article outlining why the Rangers should keep Chris Davis in the line-up despite the return of Hank Blalock from the DL. In basic terms, I compared Davis' projected stats through 300 at-bats with Blalock's career highs in offensive production, and in the end Davis was the hands down winner. Let's do a similar comparison between Liriano's July numbers and the Twins top 5 starters.

Of course Liriano's numbers will see a slight regression once he faces major league hitters, but even with a significant regression, Liriano would still be the best starter in the Twins rotation. It wouldn't even be close. Let me repeat. Liriano is without a doubt the Twins best starter. If the Twins really think they have a "solid" top 5 and they can't fit Liriano in somewhere, then they're a lot dumber than I thought.

3. A Liriano call-up will disrupt a winning team's mojo.
Does anyone really believe that the players in the Twins clubhouse are going to be upset or perplexed that a guy with Liriano's talent is starting for their team every fifth (or sixth) day? I would think that keeping Liriano in the minors during a tight playoff race would make the Twins' players more upset than bringing him up. He's put in his time, proved himself, and deserves a spot in the rotation as much as anyone.

4. The Twins are in a playoff race and don't need Liriano.
Let's be honest. The Twins don't have a World Series caliber team. They might be able to secure the wild card spot, or maybe even win the division. But they don't have 2 dominant starters to get them through a 5 game division series followed by 4 wins in the ALCS. Even with Liriano in the rotation, they don't have the offense to guarantee wins in close games, and the Twins are well aware of these facts. The bottom line is that Liriano will make them a better team -- but not great -- at a price, and that's all that matters.

If anyone can think of a good reason for keeping Liriano in the minors, I'd love to hear it. But there isn't one. There's a chance that the Twins want to keep him there so that he'll be ready for the playoffs, but if he's going to put in the innings, why not have him winning games in the majors instead? Because more wins means less money (and remember we're not talking a few twenty dollar bills here, we're talking millions of dollars) for the Twins.


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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

You know it's coming...Chris Davis Home Run #8

81 total plate appearances. 8 home runs. .974 OPS. 22 years old.

If Davis ends the year with an OPS over .900 and 25+ home runs, do you think he could be in the top 3 for A.L. ROY? Is it possible he could catch Longoria?

The Prospect Corner's Mid-2008 Top 10 Pitching Prospects

This list was a bit harder to narrow down than the hitter list, so I expanded it to 10. However, I think this list is much more open to changes, debate, and modification over the next 6 months.

1. Brett Anderson - He won't show up on a lot of prospect top 10 lists, but that's fine with me. Anderson has been very good, he'll be a #1 starter for a long time.

2. Trevor Cahill - Do A's fans realize that one day they'll have a starting rotation with Gio Gonzalez, Brett Anderson, Sean Gallagher, and Trevor Cahill? It's quite possibly the best young rotation I've ever seen.

3. David Price - My gut instinct tells me to drop Price down closer to #5 or even #6, but I'm going to give him until the end of the year before I pass a final judgment on him. His stuff isn't as good as I originally thought it would be.

4. Madison Bumgarner - Pop Quiz Time! Name 5 pitchers that have averaged a K/9 of 10 or more in A ball at the age of 18. Time's up. Post your answers below.

5. Brett Cecil - I've seen absolutely zero buzz about Cecil, but he's got better numbers than Price, and he's very good.

6. Rick Porcello - I was hoping for higher strike out totals from Porcello, but his ground ball rate has been a nice surprise, and his control is respectable.

7. Neftali Feliz - It makes me sick every time I think that Feliz could have been pitching for the Braves if they hadn't lost him in the Teixeira trade.

8. Jordan Walden - Watch out Nick Adenhart, Walden's catching up really fast.

9. Jeremy Jeffress - Tons of potential, and it looks like he's got his personal life back on track as well.

10. Michael Bowden - Still a few years away from being a solid pitcher in the Red Sox rotation, but he'll be a very nice addition to the Buchholz-Lester-Masterson trio.

Honorable mentions: Jeremy Jeffress, Jose Ortegano, Jarrod Parker, Will Inman, Matt Latos, Nick Barnese

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Thanks for the Best Day Ever from The Prospect Corner

Just wanted to let everyone know that yesterday was the best day ever for The Prospect Corner. We had over 580 hits, up from the previous high of 570 hits. Thanks to everyone who takes part in the polls, leaves comments, and takes the time to stop by and read posts.

Let me know if there are other things you would like to see included in the blog, and feel free to offer suggestions for prospects you would like to see posts on, as well as any odd medical conditions you come across.

Thanks,
Adam G.

The Prospect Corner's Mid-2008 Top 5 Hitting Prospects

After reading over Scout.com's Top 100 prospect list, I got so worked up that I had to put together my own list.

So, now for my Top 10 list with Prime Projections(I'm going to do the Top 5 hitters, and then the Top 5 pitchers)...

Hitters

1. Matt Wieters - We're talking Johnny Bench good, people. His defense isn't quite there yet, but he'll stick at catcher, he'll hit 30-40 home runs a year, and he'll hit over .300. End of debate. Prime: .330 ave., 45 home runs, 1.020 OPS
2. Matt LaPorta - He's basically a one skill guy, but who cares? Any hitter that has the potential to hit 40-50 home runs with an OPS frequently in the .950-1.000 range deserves to be near the top of the list. Prime: .310 ave., 53 home runs, .990 OPS
3. Chris Davis - I almost want to put Davis at the #2 spot since his defense plus 50 home run power makes him a little more attractive than LaPorta, but I think his high strike out rate will slow him down at the plate at times. Prime: .315, 55 home runs, .950 OPS
4. Jason Heyward - I can't find anything to dislike about Heyward. He's a great all around hitter, with solid splits against lefties and righties, has good plate discipline, and projects to have very good power production. Prime: .330 ave., 38 home runs, .940 OPS
5. Josh Vitters - As much as Mets fans love David Wright, the Cubs are going to love Josh Vitters even more. His potential to hit for a high average as well as power makes him almost as appealing as Heyward. Prime: .320 ave., 36 home runs, .930 OPS

Well, there you have it. Those are my top 5 hitting prospects of mid-2008. I'll try to put together my top 5 pitchers by the end of the day, so be on the look out.

Also, let me know if you think I overlooked anyone, or if I'm just dead wrong with my rankings. I feel very good about them, but I'm open to discussion.






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Scout.com Top 100 Prospect Ranking Review

I'm not sure when the list came out, but it looks a bit ridiculous.

I won't bother with filtering through the entire list, but I'll add my comments to some of the top 10, and then maybe get around to some of the others later.

Scout.com's Top 10 Prospects...
  1. David Price - You all know how I feel about Price. He's good, but not that good.
  2. Andrew McCutchen -Ummmm...maybe, but not really. Probably more like a top 10, but not #2.
  3. Colby Rasmus -I think he fits in closer to #10 with McCutchen.
  4. Chase Headley -Headley is a solid player, but not top 10.
  5. Max Scherzer - Seriously?
  6. Matt Wieters - Perhaps the best catching prospect since Mike Piazza, and he gets the #6 spot?
  7. Chris Davis - Once again, everyone knows how I feel about Davis. He's definitely top 10, and #7 sounds about right.
  8. Jeremy Hellickson - 21 years old at AA with a 4.88 ERA. Big friggin' deal.
  9. Rick Porcello - I actually almost like this pick. Porcello should be somewhere around the top 15, but maybe not top 10.
  10. Jason Heyward - I like Heyward somewhere around the top 10, so I like this pick.
I'm going to put together my own Top 10 list over the next few hours, so if you're interested, be sure to check it out.

Medical Fact of the Day

Sometimes, life's a pain. But what if it wasn't? What if no matter what you did, you never felt any pain...?

Congenital Insensitivity to Pain CIP) is a rare genetic condition that leaves the effected individual with an inability to sense pain. The disorder can result from various genetic mutations involved with pain sensory pathways in the body, either by destroying nerve function, or by retarding the brains recognition of pain stimuli.

Though the condition itself is not life threatening, patients often suffer from infections, other diseases, and injuries simply because they are unaware that their body is being damaged. Imagine putting your hand on a hot stove and not feeling your skin burn, or biting half way through your tongue without knowing it.

While there is no current treatment for CIP patients, constant monitoring of injuries, cuts, scrapes, and overall health usually help patients maintain normal lives. Children with CIP are at the highest risk of fatal injuries and infections since they are the least likely to understand their condition and take the necessary cautions to prevent injury and infection.

On a side note, another form of CIP called Congenital Insensitivity to Pain with Anhidrosis (CIPA) causes not only a lack of pain perception, but also an inability of the body to sense cold and heat, leaving the individual incapable of regulating body temperature via sweating and shivering. Most patients with CIPA die in childhood due to heat stroke. Also, the Old Testament disease known as Leprosy is caused by a bacterial infection that destroys pain receptors in the extremities. Just as with CIP, patients with Leprosy are unable to sense injuries and infections in their hands and feet, which often leads to deterioration of the tissues.

Mat Gamel in the A.M. (After Matt) Aftermath

When Mat Gamel reached July with an OPS well over 1.000, Brewer fans and prospect fiends alike were ready to hail Gamel as the next Ryan Braun, or at least something close to it. His numbers across the board were eye-popping, and dramatically improved over his previous stat lines in A ball. If he could reproduce those numbers in the majors, Gamel would easily be a 30+ home run guy, with .300+ potential at the plate.

But then the Matt LaPorta trade ruined everything.

Sure, the Brewers have reason to believe they’ll need C.C. Sabathia’s arm more than LaPorta’s bat this year. But without LaPorta, Mat Gamel is like Superman with a vest of Kryptonite strapped to his chest. He’s like Robin without Batman. Like Spiderman without his Spidey senses. Mat Gamel needs Matt LaPorta, and without him, Gamel will never be the same.

Case in point: In 35 plate appearances since the LaPorta trade, Gamel is 10 for 33, with 2 doubles, and 7 strikeouts. His batting average for July is at .284 after 72 plate appearances, compared to .383 in April, May, and June. His July OPS is at .677, a drop of close to .400 points from his season average. His July strike out rate of 19.4% is the highest of the year, while his 2.8% walk rate is 8% lower than his season totals.

Ok, so maybe Gamel’s horrible July numbers and the recent departure of Matt LaPorta are only coincidence. There’s evidence that Gamel was coming back down to earth as early as mid-June. After hitting 13 home runs between April and May, Gamel hit just 2 in 124 plate appearances in June. However, overall his peripheral stats all remained fairly constant, and his production level didn’t take a significant hit until July.

So, the only question left to ask is how did losing Matt LaPorta directly affect Mat Gamel? I can only speculate, but it would seem obvious that any minor league pitcher with half a brain would much rather pitch to Gamel than LaPorta. You don’t need a scouting report and a stat sheet to know that LaPorta is the more dangerous hitter, and grooving a fastball to some guy named Gamel sounds a lot better than watching LaPorta deposit your pitch somewhere in the next county.

I don’t have the numbers yet to back up my theory, but I’m going to do some more research and see if I’m right about this one. Let me know if you have any thoughts on the issue, and we’ll continue to watch Gamel and see if he rebounds some time soon.


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Monday, July 21, 2008

Fausto Carmona in 2008: In Control of Losing control?

After a few months of rehabbing an injured hip, Fausto Carmona says he's ready to make a major league start, and reports indicate that he'll soon have his chance this upcoming weekend.

Before his injury, Carmona's walk rate had seen a huge jump to 15% up from a career high of 9.6% in 2006 and a career average of 7.5%. But his ground ball rates were hovering around 70%, helping to maintain a 3.10 ERA. From what I've read online, Carmona was working on using more pitches down in the zone, resulting in more pitches in the dirt, and consequently more walks. However, Carmona has displayed good control throughout his career, and his low ERA in 2008 suggests that somehow despite the walks he still had things under control. Perhaps he was willing to risk walking hitters with 1 or 2 outs, but once he had men on base, he reverted back to his proven pitch selection.

I'm not sure if the facts completely confirm my speculation about Carmona, but here's what I've found:

Of Carmona's 38 walks in '08, 21 came with no men on base as compared to 17 with men on base. Not really a significant difference.

Of his walks with men on base, 9 walks came with men in scoring position. In comparison, he had a 13.8% walk rate with men in scoring position against a 16.5% walk rate with no men in scoring position. Once again, not really a significant difference.

Of his 9 walks with men in scoring position, 6 came with 2 outs. That puts Carmona's 2 out with men in scoring position walk rate at 17%, and his walk rate with men in scoring position with 0 or 1 outs at 10%. Now we're beginning to see some significant differences.

With no outs and no men on, Carmona walked 12.7% of the batters he faced. With no men on and 1 or 2 outs, Carmona walked 20.6% of batters. Once again, there's some significance here.

Finally, here's how Carmona's walks broke down with men on.

Man on 1st: 13%
Man on 2nd : 20%
Man on 3rd: 0%
Man on 1st and 2nd: 14%
Man on 2nd and 3rd: 14%
Bases Loaded: 14%

So, what have we come up with? Obviously, Carmona is walking a lot more hitters than he has in the past, but he's being picky about the situations he issues those walks. When he has room to make mistakes, his walks rates are consistently near 20%, while in more volatile situations he's walking closer to 12-13% of hitters.

So, despite overall elevated walk rates, it looks like Carmona has a bit of method to go along with the madness. In 9 recent minor league innings, Carmona had 0 walks, so perhaps he's ready to regain his previous form. There is some speculation that Carmona's work load during 2007 could have induced some regression in his stats, and that sounds quite plausible and falls nicely in line with his results in early '08. But with time off to rehab his hip, we'll soon be able to see exactly how much of a role fatigue played in this season's walk surge and what kind of performances to expect for the second half.

Update: Carmona also induced 15 double plays this year in 58 innings, as opposed to 32 last year in 215 innings. Either he got really lucky, or he felt confident that even after walking batters, he could make up for it with a ground ball double play. If you had a 70% GB%, wouldn't you feel pretty good about your odds of getting a ground ball when you needed one?
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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Francisco Liriano Call-up: Is it time?

There's been some mounting tension between Francisco Liriano and the Twins lately, and it's become a bit of a public display. According to Liriano's agent, the Twins are putting off a call-up to the majors so that they can delay his eligibility for arbitration, an argument we've heard against other teams involving other minor league prospects this season. There are logical arguments for each side of the debate, but the biggest hurdle facing Liriano is the fact that the Twins claim he's still not ready. He says he is, they say he's not. So, who's right?

When Liriano was called up from the minors in 2005, he was sitting on a 32% strike out rate, with 6.9% walk rate and a 55% ground ball rate. He went on to post a 34% K%/7.3% BB%/50% GB% in the majors that same year, showing good consistency with his minor league numbers. In 2006, Liriano maintained his walk and strike out rates, while increasing his GB% to 57%.

If we compare the Francisco Liriano of 2005 with the Francisco Liriano of today, how would they match up? Here's a quick side-by-side comparison.

While his overall numbers for 2008 are down, he has shown consistent improvement every month, and his July numbers in 3 starts are pretty close to his 2005 stats. It seems that Liriano has put considerable focus on mastering his control and walking fewer batters, and perhaps that's the reason his ground ball and strike out rates haven't quite rebounded to previous levels. Without really letting go with his mechanics and release, Liriano's breaking stuff isn't going to have the same snap and movement, but all those things should come in the next few months.

So, with the Twins in the midst of a pennant race, should they really be concerned that Liriano will become a liablity in the majors? Yes, and no seems to be the answer. He's still unproven, and his consitency hasn't really been established, but would a call-up be a high risk move for the Twins?

Let's just say for argument's sake that Liriano gets called up and suffers a 25% regression in his July stats, or even a 50% regression. How would he compare to Livan Hernandez, the consensus #5 starter for the Twins?

The 24% ground ball rate seems extremely unreasonable, so we're going to use a more realistic ground ball rate and slightly bump up his walk rate so that in the worst case scenario, Liriano posts a 15% K%/ 9% BB%/ 36% GB%. If that were to occur, Liriano would be doing just as well as Glen Perkins who is posting a 12% K%/ 6 BB%/ 37 GB% line for 2008. If Liriano were to do a little bit better -- say a 20% K%/ 6% BB%/ 45% GB%-- he would be very competitive with the Twins ERA leader Nick Blackburn, who has a 13%/3.6%/46% line this year. No matter how you cut it, Liriano would be a considerable asset to the Twins and there really isn't a good reason to keep him in the minors.

No matter what you hear or what you read, there's something fishy going on here between Liriano and the Twins, especially if he doesn't recieve a call-up soon. He's obviously progressing very well, and his current level of performance is MLB worthy. He's got the stuff, he's got the numbers, what else do the Twins need?

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Medical Fact of the Day

Memorize this word: Recto-vesical fistula.

Hopefully it won't be a word you become personally familiar with. Without getting too graphic, a recto-vesical fistula is a fistulous tract between a patient's bladder and rectum that can occur due to carcinomas, Crohn's Disease, irradiation, or trauma to the affected area.

Once again, a recto-vesical fistula is a fistulous tract between the rectum and the bladder.

There are many more details to this condition, but I think it's best that I leave it to those interested to do their own research. I would post a picture, but it's kind of nasty. Use your imagination.
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Jaime Garcia Major League Debut

I made a guess the other day as to what Jaime Garcia's major league debut stat line would look like, so let's see how I did.

Here's what I guessed Garcia would post..

6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K

And here's his actual line for the day...

5 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K

So I wasn't too far off, but Garcia gave up a few more hits and runs than I thought he would. His biggest mistake was a home run he gave up to Scott Hairston, but other than that he was pretty solid, inducing a lot of ground balls and getting a fair share of strike outs. It looked like his control was decent, but not as good as it could have been.

Overall, I'd give him a B+ for his debut.

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Trevor Cahill vs. Brett Anderson vs. David Price

Besides Clayton Kershaw, there aren't many pitching prospects getting as much attention as David Price, Trevor Cahill, and Brett Anderson. Of those 3, Price is garnering the most hype, but Cahill and Anderson have been putting up some great numbers this year, and they are both beginning to draw some national attention.

With all the attention comes some good natured arguments about which pitching prospect has the most potential. A lot of prospect ranking sites are giving the #1 spot to David Price, but Cahill and Anderson are both very talented and deserve to be in the same sentence as Price.

So, let's play a game. I'm just going to put up each pitcher's minor league numbers from this year all at once, but I'm going to throw in a twist and explain what it all means in a minute.
Here's how the game works. I marked out the player names and ages so that we could first have an unbiased discussion about where each player would rank if they were all at the same level, and the same age. I'm also assuming that none of you have memorized each pitchers' stat lines before reading this (if you look at the stats for just a second you can probably figure out which stat line goes with which pitcher, but that would ruin the fun of this exercise). Take a quick glance at the stats, and then make a mental list ranking Pitchers A, B, and C as either the #1, #2, or #3 pitcher you would want on your team.

Just looking at the A+ ball stats, Pitcher A would be the guy I would want on my team. He has good control, a good K/9 rate, and a very healthy GB%. After that, I would have a hard time choosing between Pitcher B and Pitcher C. If you go with B, you sacrifice control for a higher K/9 rate and GB%, but if you go with C, you get fewer walks at the cost of a significantly lower GB%. I would probably go with Pitcher B simply because BB/9 rates come down easier than K/9 and GB% rates go up.

And now we move on to AA stats. We don't have a great sample size to work with, but I would still go with Pitcher A. His K/9 is much better than the other 2, his GB% is also the highest of the 3, and his control is very close to being the best. After that, I would once again be stuck between Pitcher B and Pitcher C, but I would probably still go with Pitcher B simply due to the high GB%.

You may or may not have a list similar to mine, but let's move on and put some names and ages next to our stat lines.
When I first looked at each player's stats, I thought I was going to go with Cahill as my #1 choice. But I was surprised to learn that I'd actually pick Anderson if I went off of a nameless list of stats. Another interesting point to make is that once you throw in the age factor, the difference between Pitcher B (Cahill) and Pitcher C (Price) is much greater than it was when we were ignoring age in our consideration of the #2 and #3 spots.

While the popular consensus is that Price is the #1 pitching prospect, once you look at the stats, there really is no logical reason to say that Price is better than Cahill or Anderson. In fact, I feel very confident in saying that Anderson and Cahill are considerably more talented than Price, and that Price easily ranks well behind the other 2 pitchers. I'll go so far as to say that Price ranks behind other guys like Madison Bumgarner, Jaime Garcia, Jeremy Jeffress, and Gio Gonzalez.

I don't want anyone to think that I'm down on Price. I think he'll be a very good major league pitcher, but he won't be great. He hasn't dominated hitters at any level, and his numbers are slowly regressing as he moves closer to the majors. Meanwhile, younger pitchers are posting better numbers with much less fanfare.

To conclude, I'd like to give comparable pitchers for Anderson, Cahill, and Price, as well as a score on my "Dirty, Nasty, Filthy" chart and leave it at that.

Brett Anderson
Comparable Pitcher: Brandon Webb
Score: Nasty (85/100)

Trevor Cahill
Comparable Pitcher: Francisco Liriano
Score: Nasty (84/100)

David Price
Comparable Pitcher: Justin Verlander
Score: Dirty (71/100)
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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Chris Davis is for Serious Y'all

How many more home runs will this kid hit until people start to take notice? Today he has a 2 run shot to bring his total 7 in 68 plate appearances, with 15 RBI. Straight up for serious.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Baseball America Hot Sheet

I have just a few thoughts on the Hot Sheet this week, so I'll get down to business and make it fast.

Engel Beltre -- I like his overall skill set, but I'm not really interested in his overall potential. He compares well to Torii Hunter, but I don't think he'll be an impact player in the majors.

Freddie Freeman -- Of course Freddie made the Hot Sheet. He's friggin' hot right now! But his splits against lefties have only gotten worse.

Madison Bumgarner -- It's about time Bumgarner made the Hot Sheet, and if you know what's good for you, you'll pay close attention to this kid.

Hank Conger -- While his 5 home runs in 2 games is very impressive, I'm interested to see how much power he really develops this year. He gots lots of above average tools, and could follow a path similar to David Wright.

Nick Weglarz -- It was nice to see Weglarz on this list. He's been overlooked for a while, but if he wants to make it in the majors he'll need to work on being a better contact hitter.

That's all for now.

Medical Fact of the Day

Do dwarfs, midgets, and giants play baseball? Well, kind of, but not really...

Growth Hormone (GH) is responsible for long bone growth development in pre-pubescent humans, while also stimulating an increase in organ growth and muscle size. Without GH, our bodies would be about the same size as your average pygmy, who is incapable of GH production much like the family below.


But what if your body makes too much GH, or like certain baseball players, what if you happen to rub on some "cream" that may or may not have GH in it?

Gigantism results from too much GH production during childhood and the early teenage years. The result is long bones, extreme height, with large hands and feet like this guy.

While not necessarily fatal, gigantism causes lots of problems with the heart and other organs, so treatment during childhood is usually suggested.

So, if gigantism is the result of too much GH during childhood, what happens if you have too much GH as an adult? Well, something like this happens.

Since long bones (like the femur) in adults have stopped growing, GH primarily effects soft organs, the extremities such as the hands and feet, and cartilage tissue like the ear and nose. Here's an image of the overgrown feet of a man with too much adulthood GH.

The skull is also effected, and usually undergoes abnormal growth and expansion, deforming the individual and causing a myriad of problems including headaches, breathing problems due to an enlarged tongue, arthiritis, heart failure, and diabetes. The condition is called Acromegaly ("acro-" meaning extremities, and "megalos" meaning large) and can ultimately lead to death.

So, do you know any baseball players that suffered from a lack of GH? How about too much GH? Eddie Gaedal, known as the shortest man to ever play major league baseball, stood 3 feet 7 inches tall when he was allowed one plate appearance as part of a publicity stunt during a double header in 1951. Gaedal was an bona fide dwarf, who lacked proper GH secretion.

How about those giants in baseball? Well, there haven't been any recorded cases of true giants playing in the majors, but we've been led to believe that several self-induced acromegaly sufferers have taken the field in the past decade, including this Giant.

I think we can all agree that Barry Bonds has experienced some extreme growth since his days with the Pirates, but is he a real sufferer of acromegaly? In a book titled "Game of Shadows" written by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, it was reported that Bonds not only has a larger head than he did during his 20's, but he also has larger feet. The book states that Bonds' hat size increased from a 7 1/4 to a 7 1/2, while his shoe size went from a 10 1/2 to a 13. Let's take a closer look and see if Bonds displays any of the common symptoms of high GH levels in adulthood.

From these pictures it's not easy to make a clear diagnosis, but if the allegations of increased skull and feet size are true, then the evidence suggests that Bonds probably used either GH or something that mimicked it's effects. The increased size of Bond's feet alone is a significant indication of elevated GH levels, while the current shape of his head looks a bit deformed and has a slight broad appearance around his cheeks and forehead similar to the deformation experienced by the man with acromegaly pictured below Bonds'. It's not my job to say whether Bonds did in fact use GH, but my gut feeling says that he did.

So, dwarfs in fact did play baseball, but giants have not. We've perhaps seen some players with self-induced acromegaly in the past decade or so, and that's close to a giant I guess. Either way, GH plays an important part in all our lives, whether we play baseball or not. ...Read more

Thursday, July 17, 2008

King "Kong" Conger Goes Deep 5 Times in 2 Days

This just in, folks. Hank Conger, the promising switch hitting catcher in the Angels farm system, just hit his 5th home run in 2 days.

In 7 plate appearances, Conger has 20 total bases and has raised his season total from 2 home runs to 7. We have to take into account the fact that he's playing in the hitter friendly California League, but 5 home runs in 2 days is an amazing feat no matter where you play. Conger should have a shot at making the Baseball America Hot Sheet, and more importantly, he'll catch the attention of everyone in the Angel's organization. Congrats to Hank, and keep up the good work.

Nick Evans Projections

Now that the New York Mets are back to winning, they'll need some production from their younger players to pressure the Phillie's for the division lead. Enter Nick Evans.

Evans isn't a great hitter, or even a prolific slugger, but he has improved every year in the minors, and he has some pop to go with a decent average. I don't think he's quite ready for the big leagues, but he could add some good production when the veterans need some rest, and there's always an outside chance that he'll get hot and make a name for himself. Anyways, here's what I'm projecting this year (and/or next year) for the first baseman, as well as prime projections and comparable players.

This year: .265 average/ .820 OPS/ 24 home runs (over 600+ plate appearances)
Prime Projection: .310 average/ .875 OPS/ 33 home runs

Comparable players:
Derrek Lee with less power
Rickie Weeks with a lower OBP
Chase Utley

Chris Davis to Take Over First, Blalock to Third

The Dallas Morning News is reporting that the Rangers are moving Hank Blalock to third base, and will give Chris Davis the starting job at first.

This was definitely the right move by the Rangers, and it'll keep the best players on the field while bolstering Blalock's trade value. Davis could put up some really nice numbers hitting in the bottom of the line-up, and if their pitching can improve, the Rangers could make a run at the division title.

Quick Hits from the Minors

Sorry for the lack of posting yesterday, folks. I've got a couple exams coming up as well as a pile of lab work to finish by this afternoon. Anyways, I wanted to note some nice performances from yesterday and add some of my own comments.

  1. Hank Conger -- 3 for 4, 3 home runs -- In 125 plate appearances, Conger is hitting .295 with 5 home runs and 9 doubles. He seems to be doing very well after rehabbing his injured throwing shoulder, and I think he could be a very good major league catcher in a few years with the Angels.
  2. Madison Bumgarner -- 7 IP, 11 K, 0 BB -- We've seen a slight drop in Bumgarner's GB% rate lately, but he continues to post very good numbers, even when he has low strike out totals. He has a 1.79 ERA in 95 innings...and he's still only 18 years old.
  3. Josh Vitters -- 3 for 5, 1 2B -- Vitters continues to hit like a maniac, and he's now sitting on a .327 average in Boise, and he's also only 18 years old.
  4. Freddie Freeman -- 2 for 3, 1 home run -- Freeman is putting up some very nice numbers, including an OPS of .923. Like Vitters and Bumgarner, Freddie is only 18 years old, and is quickly establishing himself as one of the best hitters in A ball. His splits still bother me, but I can overlook them for now.
Alright, that's all I have for now. I've got a lot of good posts coming (hopefully in the next few days), so check back with me later.

-Adam G.

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Medical Fact of the Day

Have you ever had a viral infection, accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate, dizziness, and fatigue? What if it wasn't a virus...and what if it lasted for months...and then it got worse...and nobody could tell you what was wrong with you...

Addison's Disease is caused by a destruction of the Adrenal Glands that sit on top of your kidneys, which then results in a decrease in important hormones (namely Aldosterone and Cortisol). The symptoms that result from a drop in these hormones can mimic a wide a variety diseases or infections, including vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, low blood pressure, and dizziness. In some cases, a darkening of the skin can also be present. The patient is commonly diagnosed with a viral infection like the flu, but as symptoms persist, blood work and diagnostic exams become necessary.

If the attending physician can piece together the puzzle soon enough, a routine injection of Adrenal hormones can relieve the patient of their suffering. However, some cases are extremely difficult to detect, even with the most advanced and sensitive tests available. In these rare incidences, the patient can quickly fall into a psychotic state, accompanied by constant vomiting, volatile drops in blood pressure, decreased kidney function, convulsions, and then death.

Though Addison's can be deadly, if treated in time and properly, patient's can enjoy a normal, fully functional life. Famous Addisonian's include John F. Kennedy, Eugene Merle Shoemaker (the astronomer responsible for discovering the comet Shoemaker-Levy), and possibly Osama Bin Laden (his condition is unconfirmed, but specialist's have noted that he expresses many of the tell-tale symptoms and is rumored to be on medication to control the disease).
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Dialing Up the Yankees' Dellin Betances: Projections and Comparisons

If you grew up in Brooklyn, your favorite team growing up was the Yankees, and you had the stuff to be a Major League pitcher, where would you want to spend your career?

With the Yankees, of course. And that's how the story of Dellin Betances begins. He may or may not spend his career in the confines of the New Yankee Stadium, but he'll pitch there at some point, and he'll be pretty good at it. But even as I type up this post, I can hear Yankees fans saying, "Yeah, but how good?" And I can't blame them for wanting to know.

Betances has the pure talent to be a stud. Before I get into all the details, I want to suggest a few comparable pitchers, and then discuss what kind of stuff Betances brings to the mound.

Betances compares really well to Kerry Wood, followed by Billingsly, and then Harden. By the age of 22, each one of them posted an ERA at or below 3.40, so that's a great set of pitchers to be grouped with, and I think Betances has just as much potential as any of them. None of them was particularly good at keeping the ball on the ground, but they don't give up a lot of home runs, indicating that even when they leave a ball high in the zone, hitters don't usually catch up with it. In a perfect world I would like to see Betances post a GB% closer to 50%, but I'll take his current rate since he is relying so heavily right now on his fast ball to avoid contact.

Speaking of contact, I want to outline Betances pitching repetoire for just a moment. While most scouting reports say that his fastball sits in the low to mid 90's, I've read from several sources that he can reach 97 or 98 mph. Betances also has a change up and a curve that he has been working on since being signed by the Yankees, but it looks like both pitches are still very much works-in-progress. His future development of a good secondary pitch will probably dictate his ability to maintain his K/9 rate while keeping his GB% at acceptable levels. The pace that he is able to locate a curve or change up for strikes will probably determine how quickly he establishes himself in the majors, although I think his fastball is good enough to at least get him there in a couple of years.

While I don't like to deem a pitcher's body as "projectable", Betances has plenty of size, standing 6'7" and weighing in at somewhere around 230 pounds. His ability to repeat sound mechanics will likely determine his durability, but it doesn't hurt to be a 20 year old in a giant's body if you want to be a professional athlete, so he gets a plus for simply being a huge guy.

Anyways, now that we've covered the basics, let's talk about projections. If we follow the path of progression followed by Harden, Wood, and Billingsly, Betances could find his way to AAA by the end of 2009 with perhaps a chance of a call-up late in the season, and a shot at a starting spot in 2010. By then the Yankees should have a rotation that includes a much improved Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Chien-Ming Wang, and Ian Kennedy. That would give the Yanks a very solid front 3, with nice depth at the #4 and #5 spot.

If Betances stays on track, he should be fully capable of posting an ERA under 4.00 in the majors by 2010, and possible below 3.50. That would make him at least a 12-14 game winner, with a chance at 15 or more. It's hard to say how he'll do long term since both Wood and Harden have been injury prone, but he definitely has a chance at being a #1 starter, and possibly a Cy Young caliber pitcher. I don't want to over extend my projection, but I like what I've seen from Betances so far, and I think the best is yet to come.

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Medical Fact of the Day

Have you ever spent hours trying to go to sleep? How about days? Months?...
Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI) is a rare genetically inherited disease that afflicts just 28 families worldwide, but is passed on to 50% of all offspring. FFI was first discovered in 1974 when an Italian physician learned of 2 women in the same family who had apparently died of insomnia. In 1984, another member of the family began to show similar symptoms. Doctors documented his fatal decline and flew his brain to the U.S. for further studies after his death.

Research has shown that a certain genetic mutation causes a build up of a plaque like substance in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates sleep. Between the ages of 30 and 60 years old, patients begin to exhibit insomnia-like sleep patterns, developing panic attacks and phobias over a period of 4 months. During the next 5 months, patients begin to hallucinate, followed by a 3 month period during which the patient is unable to sleep at all. At this point, the patient will suffer from extreme weight loss, and will soon suffer from complete dementia before going into a zombie-like state, exhibiting no response to the outside world. Ultimately, the patient dies due to a lack of sleep.

There is no present cure for FFI, and sleeping pills seem to only increase the rate at which the disease attacks the host. Gene therapy appears to be the only viable option, although it has been unsuccessful to date.

So, if you have problems going to sleep at night, just remember that it could be a lot worse.
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