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Entries in trade (12)

Friday
Jan252013

Atlanta's New Outfield: Young, Fast and Powerful

New Brave Justin Upton joins brother B.J. and Jason Heyward in an outfield that could make power/speed history.The Atlanta Braves ended baseball's longest-running soap opera, "As The Upton Turns," by acquiring Justin Upton from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a seven-player deal. Justin now joins brother B.J., who inked a five-year, $75 million contract earlier this winter, and Jason Heyward in Atlanta's new-look outfield. The Brothers Upton and Heyward all have youth on their side, and they can crack a game wide open with power or speed. How rare is it for a club to have three power-speed threats covering the outfield, let alone three young ones? Turns out, it's unprecedented.

All three of Atlanta's fly-catchers have turned in 20 home run, 20 stolen base seasons in the major leagues. B.J. hit the 20/20 mark in 2007 (24 HR, 22 SB), 2011 (23 HR, 36 SB) and 2012 (28 HR, 31 SB). Justin did it in 2009 (26 HR, 20 SB) and 2011 (31 HR, 21 SB), and Heyward cleared the bar this past year (27 HR, 21 SB in 2012). With the Uptons and Heyward in the prime years of their careers, manager Fredi Gonzalez might just get three 20/20 seasons from his outfielders in 2013:

    2013 Bill James Projections

While Heyward has more than 1,700 plate appearances in the majors and he can grow a beard between innings, he'll be just 23 years old next season. Justin is entering his age-25 campaign, and B.J. is the old man at all of 28. All young dudes, all 20/20 threats in 2013 and for years to come. So, when was the last time that a team boasted three 20/20 outfielders?

The answer, according to Baseball-Reference's Play Index Tool, is "never." In all the years since we began this stick-and-ball business, no team has ever had its left, center and right fielders all go 20/20 in the same season. The Uptons and Heyward could very well make history next season. And the season after that. And the season after that. If Justin re-signs with the Braves following the 2015 season, B.J. keeps his wheels and Heyward stays healthy, they could be at this for a half-decade.

It's incredibly cool -- and rare -- for two brothers to man the same outfield. But if B.J., Justin and Heyward all hit 20 bombs and steal 20 bases next year, the story of the Uptons' shared bloodlines will be downright blasé by comparison.

Courtesy of Baseball-Reference, here's a list of teammates who have gone 20/20 in the same season while in their twenties. Only nine pairs have pulled off the trick, with Justin Upton and Chris Young being the most recent in 2011:

              20/20 seasons by teammates under 30 years old

Monday
Dec172012

To Thrive, Porcello Needs Out of Detroit

Detroit Tigers starter Rick Porcello has improved his strikeout-to-walk ratio each season in the majors while also inducing bushels of ground balls. Porcello turns 24 later this month, and he won't hit free agency until after the 2015 season. The right-hander's gradual improvement, youth and years of remaining team control make him potentially valuable commodity. So why is Detroit shopping him? Simply put, Porcello and the Tigers are better off apart. Porcello needs quality infield defense to reach his potential, and the Tigers' plus-sized plodders don't provide it.

Tossing his tailing fastball more frequently than every American League starter not named Bartolo Colon or Henderson Alvarez, Porcello posted a 54% ground ball rate during the 2012 season. That easily topped the 46% major league average, and ranked eighth among all qualified starting pitchers. All of those grounders helped Porcello keep the ball in the park (he surrendered 0.8 home runs per nine innings pitched), but they didn't turn into outs as often as they should have. With Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder manning he corner infield spots, Porcello's batting average on balls in play (BABIP) on ground balls was well above the MLB average for qualified starters:

Highest BABIP on ground balls among SP, 2012

PitcherBABIP
Max Scherzer .339
Phil Hughes .309
Matt Moore .294
Joe Saunders .290
Ricky Nolasco .286
Luis Mendoza .286
Bud Norris .285
Bruce Chen .277
Anibal Sanchez .274
Ivan Nova .274
Barry Zito .270
Tommy Milone .269
Josh Beckett .267
Ryan Vogelsong .266
Ubaldo Jimenez .265
Tommy Hanson .264
Homer Bailey .263
Josh Johnson .261
Cliff Lee .260
Ross Detwiler .257
Felix Hernandez .256
Derek Holland .256
Rick Porcello .250
Lance Lynn .249
Ricky Romero .248
MLB Avg.for Qualified SP .234

 

As a pitcher who misses few bats (his 5.5 K/9 last year was a career high), Porcello puts the ball in play more often than the rest of the guys on this list. That amplifies the effect that Detroit's less-than-rangy infield has on Porcello -- more grounders, more balls that squeak past Prince and Miggy for singles

Porcello has been linked to the Angels, Pirates and Padres, among other clubs. All three would be a better fit for his groundball-centric approach, as L.A. (.224 BABIP on ground balls), Pittsburgh (.234) and San Diego (.245) turned more ground balls into outs than Detroit (.260). With better infield defense, Porcello should be able to close the gap between his mediocre ERA (4.59 last season) and his more promising Fielding Independent ERA (3.91).

The Tigers' philosophy with Fielder and Cabrera at the corners is to score runs, range be damned. To mitigate the effects of that lack of range, Detroit has assembled a high-strikeout starting rotation. Porcello's pitch-to-contact, ground ball-heavy style just doesn't fit. A trade makes sense for both sides, as Porcello has more value to a club with airtight infield D than he does to the Tigers.

Wednesday
Dec122012

Cincy Bets on Choo's Bat

Despite posting the second-highest win total in the majors in 2012, the Cincinnati Reds got precious little out of their leadoff spot. Cincy's sorry collection of table-setters -- mostly Zack Cozart, Brandon Phillips and Drew Stubbs -- ranked dead last with an abysmal .254 on-base percentage. It wasn't close, either: the Dodgers and Mariners tied for second-worst at .281. Given the out parade atop an otherwise dangerous lineup, the Reds' top priority this offseason was finding a leadoff hitter with on-base skills.

GM Walt Jocketty got the offensive threat he so coveted in yesterday's three-team, nine-player deal involving the Reds, Indians and Diamondbacks, acquiring Shin-Soo Choo from Cleveland while surrendering Stubbs and shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius. Whether the 30-year-old Choo, who has all of 83 career innings played in center field and below-average defensive metrics in right field, can cut it in the middle pasture is an open question. But here's what's not up for debate: Choo has one of the best plate approaches in the game.

Check out the lefty hitter's swing rate by pitch location last season, compared to the MLB average:

Choo

MLB average

Choo took a cut at 65.2% of pitches thrown in the strike zone in 2012, topping the overall 64.6% average for MLB hitters. In addition to swinging at plenty of hittable pitches, Choo passed on junk pitches tossed outside of the zone. With a 21% chase rate, he ranked just outside the bottom ten among all MLB hitters:

Lowest chase rate among MLB hitters, 2012

BatterChase Pct.
Josh Willingham 18.4%
Rickie Weeks 18.4%
Alberto Callaspo 18.7%
Kevin Youkilis 19.2%
Edwin Encarnacion 19.9%
Carlos Santana 20.0%
Dan Uggla 20.1%
Michael Brantley 20.2%
A. J. Ellis 20.3%
Joe Mauer 20.6%
Denard Span 20.8%
Shin-Soo Choo 21.0%
Jamey Carroll 21.6%
Ben Zobrist 21.8%
Adam Dunn 21.8%
MLB Avg. 28.3%

 

Choo might have to fake it in center field, but he brings doubles power and a career .383 OBP to the top of the Reds' lineup. Somewhere, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce are smiling.