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After a bit of a hiatus (alright, more like a hibernation) Tarp Talk is back!
The show has a bit of a different format than last time, so bear with as we work through it all.
Monday’s will be Monday Minors, where we meander through the farm system and talk about promotions, demotions, things we like/don’t like, so on and so forth. This week I am joined by Nathaniel Stoltz and Chris Biderman. It’s 36 minutes of great stuff, you guys. The link to listen/direct download is below. We should be able to get this on iTunes soon.
Enjoy guys and talk with you again soon!
– Jemile Weeks
– Sonny Gray
– Raul Alcantara
– Addison Russell
– Rolex watches
– “I will remember you.”
So you want to coach? Get used to having these kinds of conversations. This was from practice last night with my 9U baseball team.
Kid: “So what’s your kids name?”
Me: *not understanding where this came from* “My kid? I don’t have one.”
“Well are you married?”
“And you’re how old?!”
*almost shocked* “Wooooooow.”
Not long after the season ended for the Athletics, the very next day actually if I remember correctly, Billy Beane stated that if they were going to make any major additions to the team in free agency it would be to the starting rotation. With the declined option of Stephen Drew (I still think he comes back) and the still yet to be re-signing of Brandon McCarthy (also feel that he’ll come back) in addition to the money from the new MLB television deal, the A’s have some room to spend money. So let’s look at the four pitches I would like to see the A’s pursue, and hopefully sign one, in the free agency market.
Joe ‘Cupcakes’ Blanton
I know Joe’s years in Philadelphia don’t look that pretty, but that is what happens when you put a flyball pitcher in the bandbox that is Citizens Bank Park. But look at the overall numbers before you jump to conclusions. He still boasts as career K/9 and BB/9 of 6.14 and 2.37 respectively and posted career highs in both categories last season. His career pitching triple slash (ERA/FIP/xFIP) of 4.37/4.15/4.15 is not great but it’s not awful either. Again, his numbers in those categories last year were the best they’ve been since 2007, his last full season with Oakland.
Age has been kind to him as he hasn’t seen a down turn in average velocity or movement, per Brooks Baseball. If anything his h- and v-movements have held steady and his average velocity has actually increased last year.
Blanton has also been healthy for the large part of his career. 2011 was the first time he did not make at least 30 starts in a season and he has posted close to 2.0 fWAR each year he’s been healthy. He did miss out on posting 2.0 fWAR in 2010, but at 1.8 it’s close enough in my book.
At the right price I’d love to have Joe back in Oakland. Coming off of a contract of 3/$24 I think $8MM would be a tad much for him, but if you go by $/WAR he would be a good bargain if he keeps to his career averages.
This is the first of my ‘stretch’ choices. ‘Stretch’ not in “I don’t think the A’s can get him” but as in who knows what he will add to the rotation. His career pitching triple slash of 4.15/4.56/4.48 is something to blush at, as it is getting close the bottom of what I would call ‘acceptable’ for the rotation. Last year he posted his best fWAR since 2008 of 2.5. For having pitched in relatively hitter friendly parks the last couple of years he still comes in at or below league average for HR/FB. He posted his best K/9 and BB/9 since 2007 and his career numbers in those fields are, again, getting close to the bottom of the barrel.
But, as with Blanton, Saunders is with reliable, having made nearly 30 starts, at least, the last five seasons and logging no less that 170 IP’s since 2008.
One-year at $6MM isn’t an awful contract for him, but I’d like to see it somewhere in the 4-5MM before biting at him. Make it a low risk/high reward signing.
Alright, after you have finished laughing just at the thought of him pitching for yet another season, hear me out on this one.
Every season in which he has pitched more that 120 innings, he has posted at least 2.o fWAR, save for 2001 and 2010. His pitching triple slash of 4.25/3.91/4.42 isn’t awful given a pitcher of his age. His K/BB of 2:1 last year isn’t bad, and for his career a K/9 and BB/9 of 6.98 and 2.97 is still serviceable.
Also, he comes extremely cheap at 1 year/$1MM. The main question is, can he stay healthy? He season ended last year because of a shoulder injury, which is concerning. But stick him in the back of the rotation or make him a spot-starter is very frugal, in my opinion.
I will also admit that I have a strange love of Millwood as a pitcher. I don’t know why, can’t explain. But I still feel that he could be a useful/serviceable option in the right kind of rotation.
This is my ultimate ‘stretch’ option, both in the fact that I don’t know if the A’s would be able to get him (price) and what he will bring. If the A’s were to sign him this would be his eighth team in six years.
ERA/FIP/xFIP don’t really like him as his career numbers are 4.40/4.26/4.29, although he posted strong numbers last year with the Nationals. He is seen as a head case but when you look at his K/9 and BB/9 last years 7.97 and 2.75 are nothing to blush at. His career numbers in those categories are close to 2:1, but since 2007 (save for a small uptick in 2010) he has lowered the BB/9 each year while raising the K/9 each year. He is also an extremely valuable pitcher by fWAR, posting close to 4.0 WAR each year until last season, a “paltry” 2.7 fWAR. He also tied a career best, and well below league average, LD% last year of 16.8%.
There are two big question marks when it comes to Jackson as a pitcher, though. First, you never know which one will show up for his starts. Some games he looks like he will throw no-hitters and the next one he can’t get guys to swing and miss. Also, are the A’s in a position to sign him? He is a Boras client, as far as I know, and gets paid like one. His 1 year/$11MM contract with the Nationals last year is most likely going to take to sign him. And he could stay with Washington, but it still would be nice to see the A’s kick the tires on him.
I saw Hiroki Kuroda thrown around by my Tarp Talk co-host Alan Torres as someone to go after. That would be a nice get, but I think he stays in New York.
Then again, there’s also Jaime Moyer.
Earlier today Andrew Baggarly wrote this about Game 2 starter Madison Bumgarner;
Bumgarner has an 11.25 ERA in two postseason starts, both at AT&T Park, and he hasn’t survived the fifth inning in either of them. But getting yanked from the NLCS rotation allowed him to work on his mechanics in side sessions, and the 23-year-old left-hander said he corrected a flaw in which he was over-rotating.
“And that was causing a lot of other problems,” Bumgarner said. “I’ve always been a guy who closes off some, but it was too much. Throwing that way causes a lot more stress and causes me to tire out a little faster.”
So what exactly does this look like and what would this fix look like?
Bumgarner has an extremely pronounced and long delivery to the plate. As seen by this behind home view from his start in Game 1 of the NLCS.
Easy to see how MadBum could easy blow out his front side, which he admits to. Now what happens to a pitch when this happens. From the same at-bat, the pitch Freese hit his two-run homer;
Two things to take note of; 1) at the point of release you can see how his fingers just roll off the side of the ball that causes the pitch to 2) tumble instead of dive in towards the inside corner.
So what changes can you look for? Do not be surprised if you see his arm swing is a little shorter than the above and don’t be surprised if turns into a left-handed version of Jered Weaver and close off his front side a bit. Also don’t be surprised to see him work the corners a bit more tonight, trying to keep the ball out off the large part of the plate.
This comes from the great Reggie ( @gopherballs ) and it looks at wins vs. number of lineups.
You should click on that image so you can fiddle around with the interactive version, which you really should do.
By his own admission this is probably just random, but it is still amazing to look at. A couple quick hits from this:
- The most lineups used in the MLB this year was Tampa Bay. They also used the DL the most.
- The A’s used the 10th most number of lineups in the MLB.
- Of the remaining playoff teams, lineup rankings are; Cardinals (14th), Tigers (16th), and Giants (23rd)
Those last two points came from this graph that he put together, compiling the times the DL was used and plugging it into the lineups and wins graph.
Oh, and if you don’t already follow Reggie, you totally should.
Ryan Cook’s struggles since the All-Star Game are well-known to Athletics fans. The teams lone All-Star representative, and once closer, has hit the skids. As I mentioned in my piece about the A’s bullpen some of this is most likely just him coming back to earth. However, the more I looked into his number, though, I think his struggles are tied to the fact that his isn’t throwing his best pitch, the slider, as much. With Colon now out for the rest of the season, Cook has thrown the seventh most innings for the A’s. The only reliever he trails in innings is Balfour. For the purposes of this article, Blackley is a starter. So it is easy to see that Cook is an important part of the pitching staff. Even though he is not the “closer” anymore, he still is getting a significant number of innings. This is a pitcher you need to be effective if you want to make a run at the Wild Card.
Cook throws three pitches; fourseam fastball, sinker, slider. He “throws” a changeup but it is more of a “show” pitch as he’s only thrown it a whopping 2% of the time. He throws the fastball 47% of the time, and he has some right to, as it is a lively one. His average velocity of 94.9 MPH ranks just outside of the top-20 (currently 23rd) of all relievers in MLB. His slider, in frequency, is his second pitch. He has thrown it 31% of the time this year and it works really well off of the fastball. His sinker is a pitch I would like to see him develop more. At 21% frequency it has a ton of sink and arm-side run. I do not feel that I speak in hyperbole when I say he could just throw those two pitches, the sinker and slider, and be just as effective. So, let us do some digging into the numbers.
First let us look at the differences, so far, between to two halves of Cook’s season;
38.1 IP , 6 R (6ER) , 21 BB , 39 K , 0.89 WHIP , .105/.243/.169/.413 OPS , 35 GO , 39 AO , .90 GO/AO , H/9 3.05
I don’t need fancy numbers or some obscure sabermetric theory to show you how good of a first half he had. Yes his BABIP was a cause for concern, but that is a solid first half. An All-Start worthy first half. How has the second half looked so far?
15.2 IP, 9 R (9ER), 3 BB, 19K, 1.40 WHIP, .302/.353/.508/.861 OPS, 13 GO, 12 AO, 1.08 GO/AO, H/9 10.91, 4 HR
Again, I don’t need sabermetrics to say that post-ASG has not been kind to Ryan Cook. Could some of this be coming back to earth? Sure. But I think it is explained with his pitch selection. Let’s take a look at a month-by-month breakdown.
FB – 58%
SL – 26%
SI – 11%
FB – 47%
SL – 28%
SI – 23%
FB – 50%
SL – 34%
SI – 15%
FB – 47%
SL – 35%
SI – 17%
FB – 38%
SL – 30%
SI – 30%
FB – 50%
SI – 26%
SL – 22%
For some reason, he has turned to the sinker more since the All-Star Game. Granted, it’s not a bad pitch, but why the change? In July Cook threw 48 sinkers and 47 sliders. 14.6% of those sinkers were called strikes.16.7% of those sinkers were fouled off, 14.8% where whiffed on, but 25% were put in play. On the other end 19.2% of sliders were thrown were called strikes, 19.2% were fouled off, 12.8% were fouled off, and only 8.5% were put in play. In June ~22% of his sliders were whiffed on. So far in August 21% of his sliders have been swung through with roughly 18% being put in play. For the year61.5% of his sliders have resulted in grounders whereas his sinker and fastball have resulted in ~19% and 15% line-drives per ball in play. Why the sudden change?
Probably the most damning evidence, for me, is looking at the splits for the three pitches;
.190/..324/.286 OPS .609
.250/.364/.571 OPS .935
.118/.143/.132 OPS .275
I do not know why Cook has seemingly gotten away from his best pitch. Would this solve all his problems? Who knows. But for a pitcher to completely change the way he pitches, what has brought him success is unusual. The only reason that came to mind was that he felt it was not as “sharp” that he did not have a feel for it. However, the opposite is true. It has actually gotten better as the season has progressed. Again by month, his vertical and horizontal movement on his slider;
March : h-mov 6.36 / v-mov -36.97
April : h-mov 7.56 / v-mov -35.53
May : h-mov 9.29 / v-mov – 36.03
June : h-mov 7.63 / v-mov -35.33
July : h-mov 8.93 / v-mov -34.33
August : h-mov 8.01 / v-mov -33.02
Those numbers come courtesy of Brooks Baseball. So outside of the slight setback in June, in which he actually induced more grounders with his slider, that pitch has improved every month. Now I am at a loss. The reason for this change is baffling to me. And no, I do not blame the catchers. And don’t you even dare think about cERA.
By now you know that Stephen Drew is on his way to Oakland for what turned out to be pennies. Remember when people wanted to overpay for him? That was fun. With Drew expected to be in uniform tonight, Tuesday, for Oakland should Drew get a large majority of the playing time at short? Simply, no.
The feelings on Pennington range from accepted to, “I want to burn him in effigy.” The latter being wildly overstated. And yes, I am telling you that your hatred towards him is probably wrong. But now with Drew in the fold, had Pennington got some help? First, let us look at Drew’s numbers.
Stephen Drew is the rental of all rentals. Drew is a free agent at the end of the year with a $10MM mutual option, and I can pretty much bet that will not be picked up by the A’s. By the numbers, Drew looks a lot more appealing than Pennington, but I think some caution needs to be taken in crowning him ‘The One’ who will lead the A’s to the Promise Land.
Going by WAR, Drew wins in a landslide, 11.8 to Pennington’s 6.5. By triple slash it is a bloodbath; Drew .266/.328/.436 to Pennington’s .248/.313/.354. Everywhere you look, Drew has the ups on Pennington. But do not forget where he has played a majority of his games.
Only once has he posted a positive WAR in a year in which his BABIP was sub-.300. With updated projections he will barely do that again this year, .2 WAR with a .296 BABIP. Even in the years in which he posted pretty deplorable averages, his BABIP seems to have held him up; 2007: .238 AVG, .267 BABIP, 2011: .252 AVG, .313 BABIP. You could also throw his power numbers out the window, as most of those home runs will now turn to either flyouts or doubles.
His fielding also leaves something to be desired. If you put any faith in defensive metrics Pennington is by far the better fielder. At short Drew is a career -17.9 UZR fielder and Pennington is 0.6. Yes Pennington was horrible to watch for two years, but Drew has consistently been bad. Only thrice has been posted fewer than double digit errors, and those were years that he did not play the entire year.
Will Stephen Drew get his shot at short? Absolutely. One would hope the A’s did not make a trade simply to sit him on the bench. Should he get the bulk of playing time? In my opinion, no. Yes the offensive upside sounds good, but the A’s simply are not in a situation in which they can give away free runs. Drew’s offensive abilities simply do not afford him the chance to be bad a defensive player.
Per the wonderful guys over at Baseball Prospectus, the addition of Stephen Drew increase the A’s playoff chances as such: +0.0 percent