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2010
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April, 2010

April 27, 2010 - Washington’s got a live one. In Reading, Pennsylvania, Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg was in town with the Harrisburg Senators and went five near-perfect innings (a passed-ball on strike three accounted for the only base-runner) while striking out six. Not only that, but Strasburg also drove in the first run of the game for Harrisburg.

Meanwhile, in an at-least-for-now wide open National League East, the Nationals are currently a game over .500 and one game out of the divisional lead. Sure, the Phillies have had some injuries and the Mets are playing over their head, but what if the Nationals are one player away from competing for the NL wild card, and that one player just threw five perfect innings in Double-A ball? Asher takes a look at this and other events of yesterday which may prove to make April 27, 2010 a red-letter date in the history of baseball.

April 27, 2010 – Walk, Save! Walk, Save! - Matt Capps is 9-for-9 in his save opportunities this year, despite having walked six batters in 12.1 innings. While you might not think walking a batter every other inning is horrible for a power closer (Carlos Marmol would kill for that kind of ratio), for Capps, it is atrocious. That walk total of six surpasses the number of free passes Capps issued in 53.2 innings back in 2008. Paradoxically, though, Capps was only 21-for-26 in his save chances that year.

Capps has only walked one batter over his last 9.1 innings and has never walked three batters in any one outing of his major league career.




Carlos Zambrano
April 21, 2010 – Fun Stat of the Day Carlos Zambrano’s early season combination of strikeouts and hits allowed is both unique and historic. Zambrano’s strikeouts per nine innings and hits allowed per nine innings are both currently over 12.0. How rare is that?

Only three major league baseball players have ever finished a season with over 12 strikeouts per nine innings – Kerry Wood, Pedro Martinez, and Randy Johnson, who did it six times – and only 33 pitchers with a minimum of 150 innings pitched have ever finished a season with over 12.0 hits allowed per nine innings. And the two lists don’t come anywhere near overlapping : the worst H/9IP amongst Wood, Pedro, and Randy was 7.3, and the best K/9IP on the other list was 5.32.

Of course, this makes sense – guys who strikeout lots of batters don’t give up lots of hits, and vice versa. What doesn’t make sense is how Zambrano has managed to be so proficient at both categories.

UPDATE: What also doesn't make sense is that Lou Piniella has moved Zambrano to the bullpen with the imminent return of Ted Lilly. Piniella maintains that the change was made to strengthen the bullpen, not based on Z's iffy early-season results. Regardless of the motivation, the Cubs now have their best pitcher - who is making $18 million this year - working in middle relief.




Brian Matusz
April 20, 2010 - What's Up with the Orioles? The Baltimore Orioles are off to an abyssmal 2-12 start. The Orioles are last in the AL in runs scored, and second-to-last in runs allowed. The team's meager pitching and hitting stats look even more meager when you consider that five of their 13 team homeruns so far have come from Ty Wigginton, 11 of their 37 bases on balls have come from Nick Markakis, and their only two wins have been credited to Brian Matusz. Nevertheless, Asher says, the problem with this team is not the hitting, and it's not the pitching. As the Clinton political team would say: It's the defense, stupid!


April 18, 2010 - The Giants Two Weeks In: Almost two weeks into the season the San Francisco Giants, by the estimation of some, have been among the surprise teams out of the gate. At 8-3 at this early juncture, they sit atop the NL West, but what's been most encouraging hasn't been the way they've played (which really has been very encouraging), but the obvious confidence with which they've been playing. Not surprisingly, their pitching has been strong, posting a 3.18 team ERA in the early going, second only to the Cardinals in that category. They also lead the senior circuit with three shutouts after leading the Majors last year with 18, their latest coming on Saturday against the division rival Dodgers with their ace, back-to-back Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum, leading the way.

Where the Giants have been surprising, however, has been at the plate.

4/17/10: First No-Hitter In Rockies History - For the first decade-plus of baseball in Colorado, it didn't appear that the Rockies would ever find a pitcher who could finish in the top-10 in ERA, much less contend for a Cy Young Award.

Things have changed. Ubaldo Jimenez, who might just have the best stuff of any starter in baseball, threw the first no-hitter in Colorado Rockies history today, albeit on the road in Atlanta. Jimenez needed 128 pitches to blank the Atlanta Braves, as his command was spotty in the early innings. That led to six walks through the first five frames. Jimenez faced the minimum in the final four frames, as he pitched exclusively from the stretch there on out to seal the deal and immortalize himself in baseball history. His fastball was still hitting 98 mph in the ninth inning, and his breaking pitches were filthy.

Oh, and do you know who caught the no-no? None other than Miguel Olivo, who caught 31 of Zach Greinke's 33 starts in Greinke's breakout season. --KG

2010 Colorado Rockies Preview

The Zack Greinke/Miguel Olivo Divorce is something we are going to be watching all season. Last season, when Greinke won his Cy Young Award and dominated the American League on an abysmal Kansas City Royals team, Olivo was his primary catcher (I am not sure anyone else caught any of his games). What’s more, Olivo became one of the incredibly small number of recent Royals to hit 20 homeruns in a season in the last ten years, with 23 in 114 games. Yet, somehow the Royals didn’t bring him back for 2010.

Through the first three series of the 2010 season, Zack Greinke is now 0-1 with six earned runs allowed in 12.2 innings (3.55 ERA). His strikeout to walk ratio is astounding – 9:1 – but he has also allowed 14 hits and two homeruns. Meanwhile, Olivo has played in just five games (ironically, his strikeout to walk ratio is also 9:1), but he has thrown out four of five would-be basestealers and the Rockies have allowed 13 earned runs in 45 innings (2.60 ERA) that he has caught. Oh, and four of his five games have been in Coors Field.



Who is that guy?
April 16, 2010 – Chris Young, Is That You? - In 2007, Chris Young nearly went 30/30 (32/27) and scored 85 runs in 148 while playing stellar centerfield defense as a rookie, so it was easy to overlook his .237/.295/.467/.763 RSL. In 2008, he played 160 games, hit 42 doubles, and raised his RSL to .248/.315/.443/.758, so he looked to be a work in progress. The 2009 season gave us all reason to worry – 134 games, .212/.311/.400/.711 RSL, and only 15 homeruns and 11 stolen bases to go with 54 runs scored; the Chris Young experiment appeared to be over.

Well, the early returns for the 2010 season are in, and through nine games Young is looking fabulous – three homeruns, 14 RBI, and an OPS over 1.000. As difficult as it is to draw conclusions from such a small data-set, one factor seems to have played an important role in his early season success – for a fast guy, Chris Young is a much better five/six hitter than he is a one/two hitter, and Young has spent the 2010 season in the six and seven spots in the lineup thus far after a career spent as a square-peg batter trying to fit into the round-hole role of leadoff man.



Hall of Famer?


Hall of Famer
06/10/09 - Asher's Hall of Fame Tracker Is Nomar Garciaparra headed for the Hall of Fame? Probably not. But what did we think six years ago? We thought he was. What about Ken Griffey, Jr.? Yes, but it won't be nearly the lock it once was. In an effort to go on record about the Hall of Fame chances of current players, and keep track of how our perception of that changes, Asher has decided to keep a running tab. Check it out and see if you agree.



Dave Stieb
April 14, 2010: A Glaring Omission: In August of last season, I had a bout of obsession with AL vs. NL pitching during the post-DH era. Naturally, this led me, at one point, to Dave Stieb. As I began to take a long look at Stieb, I became relatively enamored with his interesting career, and I proceeded to do a brief run down of the highs and lows of Dave Stieb. However, as Keith recently mentioned to me, I failed to note his incredible comeback after having been out of baseball for almost four full years. Let me do that now.




The Beginning of the End?
April 12, 2010 – Hoffman, We Have a Problem - After a surprisingly great 2009 season with the Brewers, Trevor Hoffman has encountered some major difficulties at the outset of the 2010 season. Brewers fans will recall that Hoffman didn’t allow a single earned run until June 14th of last year; this year, he has already been touched for six single earned runs. To put his in a more stark light:

Trevor Hoffman, 2009: 54.0 IP, 11 ER, 1.83 ERA
Trevor Hoffman, 2010: 4.0 IP, 6 ER, 13.50 ERA

It may be the beginning of the end for one of the two greatest closers in the modern era of closers. Hopefully, Hoffman won’t try to Tommy-John his way to 600 saves. If it isn’t there, it isn’t there Trevor. Just ask Tommy what his desperate, and ultimately failed, quest for 300 wins did to his career numbers.



Your New Leader
April 9, 2010 – The Poster Boy for a New Era. Something bizarre happened today as I was trolling about looking at potential future Hall of Famers: a bunch of the numbers on Andy Pettitte’s career statistics line were italicized, including the wins, losses, games started, innings pitched, hits, earned runs, homeruns, strikeouts, and batters faced. It took me a second to realize the importance of this, but then it hit me: Andy Pettitte is currently the active leader in career wins and career strikeouts! (and all those other categories, too).

Only then did it dawn on me – all of our great pitchers are gone. Clemens and Johnson; Pedro and Schilling; Maddux, Smoltz, and Glavine; even Mike Mussina and Kevin Brown. They’re all gone. And now our active leader in career wins has 229, and our active leader in career strikeouts has only 2154.

For the record, the last time the active leader in career wins had 229 or fewer was in 1972, when Juan Marichal was the active leader with 227. And the last time the active leader in career strikeouts had 2154 or less was in 1960, when Early Wynn had 2150 (and, amazingly, was in the fourth year of a five year run as the active leader).

UPDATE: Thanks to reader J. Thompson, who points out that Jamie Moyer has 258 wins. I blame Baseball-Reference.com, which has Pettitte listed as the active leader. I guess as soon as Moyer starts his first game, he will re-become the active leader. Anyway, mea culpa for not remembering Moyer on my own, given that I had just written about him getting ready to join the Four Decade Club.



The First 3000 Hit Catcher?
April 9, 2010 – Where is Ivan Rodriguez Headed? - Here’s a twenty-second hypothetical for you: you’re Ivan Rodriguez, the major league career leader for games caught and a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer. You’ve been in the league since you were 19 years old, so you’re only 38 despite the fact that you’re now in your 20th season. Entering this, your 20th season, you have 2711 career hits. Last season, you were absolutely terrible for two teams, but you ended the season with 106 hits. The year before that, you were slightly less terrible but still bad for two teams, and ended the season with 110 hits. And the year before that, you were terrible, and ended the season with 141 hits.

Knowing that you can average over 100 hits per season even if you play horrendously, wouldn’t you definitely try to play three more years – despite your completely eroded skills – and become . . . The First 3,000 Hit Catcher Ever?

Ivan Rodriguez Prediction: I-Rod gets traded from the Nationals to some middling contender mid-season (perhaps the Mets, if they’re still in it), and fails to make the playoffs. He starts next season in Kansas City, because they’ll take anybody, but stays the whole season. In 2012, he signs with either the White Sox or the Rangers and, around early to mid-September gets his 3,000th hit in what will prove to be the highlight of the season for his team. -ABC



Tim Lincecum
April 9, 2010 – The Best Team in Baseball? - Every team in baseball save one concluded its first series of the season having lost at least one game. The lone remaining unblemished team? The San Francisco Giants. While it would be tempting to write off this feat as a product of playing the lowly Astros, remember that even the Phillies lost one to the Nationals, and even the Tigers lost one to the Royals. The Giants, meanwhile, outscored the Astros 18-6 during their three game set (in Houston, oh by the way) on the strength of their pitching – Zito and Lincecum combined for 13.0 shutout innings – while receiving an unexpected boost from 33 year old Edgar Renteria, whose current RSL is .727/.786/.818/1.604.

By the way, the last time only one team remained unbeaten after the first series of the season? You’d have to go all the way back to 2008 for that. --ABC



Hayden
Penn
April 8, 2010 – The Return of Hayden Penn - In 2009 Hayden Penn was one of the most mercilessly ridiculed players on the BaseballEvolution.com site, and with good reason. The former superstud prospect for the Baltimore Orioles has spent his incredibly brief career giving up earned runs as a potentially historic pace. At one point, we even had a Hayden Penn Tracker on the side of the front page of the site, to track Penn’s daily performance; we got rid of that feature when, after 22.0 innings, the Marlins sent Penn to Triple-A New Orleans. We certainly thought we’d never hear from him again, but low and behold, Penn made a relief appearance for the Pittsburgh Pirates this afternoon, giving up four earned runs in one inning pitched. This brings Penn’s career tally to 81.0 innings pitched, 83 earned runs. Oh baby! -ABC

April 8, 2010 - Four Decade Club Update – It happens less frequently than the Olympics, Presidential Elections, World's Fairs, or Leap Year, but certainly more frequently than Halley's Comet, and just about as frequently as the U.S. Census. Every ten years, we get to induct new members into Major League Baseball's Four Decade Club. About 11 months ago, things were really looking up for the Four Decade Club. The surprisingly long list included Ken Griffey, Jr., Omar Vizquel, and Randy Johnson from the 1989 Seattle Mariners; Tom Glavine and John Smoltz from the 1989 Atlanta Braves; and Gary Sheffield, Tom Gordon, and Jamie Moyer from other teams. So where are they now?

04/08/10: Fausto or Famine - Last night, Fausto Carmona pitched six innings, giving up one hit and getting the win. That one hit, however, was a homerun, and he also gave up three earned runs by walking six batters and striking out only one.

True or False: If Fausto Carmona continues to walk a batter per inning and give up a homerun every six innings, he will continue to win games. --ABC

April 8, 2010 - Omar Vizquel Sits Waiting – Having debuted with the Seattle Mariners in 1989, when Omar Vizquel next appears in a game he will become a member of the Four Decade Club (former 1989 Mariners teammate Ken Griffey, Jr., joined the club earlier this week). I am not sure if any shortstop has ever joined the club before, but Vizquel’s second milestone would indicate not: with his first appearance at shortstop, Vizquel will extend his major-league record by playing at least one game at the position in 22 different seasons. Finally, Omar Vizquel’s next hit will put him in a tie for second all-time on the career list for hits by a shortstop, tying former White Sox shortstop, and fellow Venezuelan, Luis Aparicio. And this is where it starts to get fun.


April 7, 2010 - Yankees Trio Makes History – During the Yankees-Red Sox telecast on the MLB channel last night Bob Costas said something I found to be unfathomable: apparently, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera are the first trio of teammates to play together for 16 seasons in baseball history.



I am tired of trying to figure how to refer to a player's combination of average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS. I often refer to a guy having "put up a" and then producing the line of stats, each separated by backslashes, as in: "Last season, Jorge Cantu put up a .289/.345/.443/.788." This seems imperfect. Other times, I'll refer to this set of stats as a "AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS," as in "In 2008, Dan Uggla hit 32 homeruns, but his AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS was only .260/.360/.514/.874, and he provided subpar defense." Also no good.

In essence, what we are doing when we quote these numbers is giving the reader the player's rate stats. Instead of saying "Jeremy Hermida had a .296 batting average to go with his .369 on-base percentage and a surprising .501 slugging percentage for a total OPS of .870," we are giving a very concise but very relevant stat-line of rate statistics. We just need a simple way to refer to it.

And so, on this day - April 7, 2010 - I have decided that from now on, I will refer to this arrangement by the simplest description of just what it is: the Rate Stat Line, or "RSL" for short. From now, when I refer to a player's RSL, we'll all know exactly what I mean.

And I encourage you all to do the same.

-ABC

In 2009, Scott correctly predicted that the Los Angeles Dodgers would win 95 games after they had won just 84 the previous year. Keith knew that Heath Bell would lead the National League in saves even though he had just two in his career before the season began. Rich foresaw Tim Lincecum's second consecutive Cy Young Award and Todd Helton's resurgent season. Meanwhile, Chris Carpenter was Asher's comeback player, and he improbably nailed Zach Greinke for AL Cy Young.

But we don't pretend that all of our predictions go so smoothly. Scott predicted that Chipper Jones would win another batting title and the 2009 NL MVP Award. Keith figured that the Reds would get to the World Series and that the Giants would lose the most games in baseball. Rich had the Rays and the Cubs winning the most games in their respective leagues and meeting in the World Series. Asher thought that the Mets would win 101 games and that the Mariners would lose 103.

What can we expect from BaseballEvolution.com's 2010 predictions?  More hits, more misses, several bold leaps of faith, and the most comprehensive baseball prognostications you'll find anywhere.  And although you'll always find dissent among our analysts, there is a grand consensus this season: Believe in the Braves!

Something odd has been brewing in Arlington, Texas: Genuine, over-the-top optimism. Some of the players have predicted as many as 95 wins this season, while team president, Nolan Ryan has gone on record with a 92-win prediction.

As usual, though, the Rangers have managed to bring the good news, bad news routine to Arlington. The good news is that your franchise brings back many of the key components of their offensive machine, with the possibility of improvement as they�ve added young prospect Julio Borbon and veteran slugger Vlad Guerrero to the starting mix. All they need now is to avoid losing any ground in the pitching department.

Did we mention there was bad news?

The Cleveland Indians begin this new decade in the same place that they find themselves every five years or so � rebuilding. Working with what is left of the would-be Cleveland Indians Dynasty of the Aughts (Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, Fausto Carmona, Jhonny Peralta), the returns on the trades of Sabathia (Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley) and Lee (Lou Marson, Carlos Carrasco), and some interesting new faces, the Indians expect to field a viable major league baseball team in 2010.

They may even win some games.

An inept offense kept the San Francisco Giants out of the playoffs last year, and the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. When scoring three or fewer runs last season, the Giants had a miserable record of 22-59, but when they scored four or more, they were 66-15. That's a .815 winning percentage when scoring four or more runs for a team that scored three runs or fewer 81 times. With merely an average offense, the Giants might have made it to the postseason in '09.

An inept offense kept the San Francisco Giants out of the playoffs last year, and the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. When scoring three or fewer runs last season, the Giants had a miserable record of 22-59, but when they scored four or more, they were 66-15. That's a .815 winning percentage when scoring four or more runs for a team that scored three runs or fewer 81 times. With merely an average offense, the Giants might have made it to the postseason in '09.

With all that in mind, GM Brian Sabean went into the off-season looking to add some much needed pop to an otherwise punchless lineup. To that end, he added free-agents Aubrey Huff (1-year, $3M) and Mark DeRosa (2-years, $12M). Not exactly the kind of thump Giants fans were hoping for, but it might be enough.

With the departures of Curtis Granderson, Edwin Jackson, an Placido Polanco, The Detroit Tigers aren't expected to be a particularly competitive team in 2010. But when you consider the players they added, the former stars on their roster who could be primed for comeback seasons, and the weak division in which they play, you may come to realize that Detroit stands a pretty good shot at postseason play.


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