Originally posted on High Heat Stats.
Back in 2010 the New York Yankees were in possession of a pair of talented minor league catchers by the names of Jesus Montero and Austin Romine. Both players were considered top-100 prospects by Baseball America and both players appeared to be on their way to long, prosperous careers. Romine was considered the finer defender of the two, topping out at #86 in Baseball America’s rankings while Montero was thought to be a powerhouse offensive force, ranking among the top 5 minor league players in the game. While Yankee fans spoke well of Romine they positively salivated at the idea of putting Montero’s prodigious power behind the plate as visions of 35 homer seasons danced in their heads.
There was a catch however. Montero’s defense was considered to be so shaky by the Yankees brain trust that rumors of him becoming a full-time DH were already circulating before he could even advance past Double-A Trenton. Scouting reports pegged Montero’s glove work as shoddy and his throw times to 2nd base as well below Major League average.
Just one April ago Philip Humber threw the game of his life against the Seattle Mariners, requiring just 96 poised pitches to complete a perfect game, the 19th in baseball history. Humber, then a member of the Chicago White Sox, was brilliant that day. His 2-seam fastball was darting all over the zone, dancing away from Mariners’ hitters as Humber racked up 9 total strikeouts.
Oh, what a difference a year can make. After taking the loss against the Yankees on Tuesday night, Humber became just the 2nd pitcher since 1900 to lose 6 games in the month of April and his ERA on the season now stands at an unsightly 7.58 on the season.
Ever since that perfect game Philip Humber has been unable to get even the easiest of hitters out. His ERA since that fateful April 21st game has been an almost unbelievable 7.52 in 131.2 innings, which far and away stands as the worst in the Major Leagues. Opposing batters have hit a ridiculous .309 off of Humber since last April 21st and those aren’t just cheap hits either. The right-hander has also given up 26 homers and 26 doubles, which basically factors out to one extra base hit every time a lineup turns over.
How many 1st base/DH types does one team need? Well according to Mariners’ general manager Jack Zduriencik, it’s mathematically impossible to have enough . Over the past 12 months, the Seattle Mariners have gone from a team that was chalked full of speedy, defensive-type players to one that has an alarming logjam of 1st base/DH types. Zduriencik swapped for Jesus Montero, a catcher whose size and skills with the glove are more suited for DH work, Kendrys Morales, a 1st baseman/DH, and Michael Morse, a 1st baseman/DH who was poorly concealed in the Nats’ outfield a year ago. And if you do roll the calendar back a little more you find Zduriencik swapping Cliff Lee out for Justin Smoak, a 1st baseman who’s swing is too slow to hit big league pitching with feet too slow to play another position.
Yesterday Felix Hernandez threw the 23 perfect game in baseball history, dispatching the Tampa Bay Rays with a variety of perfectly located fastballs, earth-shattering sliders, and mind-bending curveballs. Watching him dispatch one Tampa Bay hitter after another was akin to watching Van Gogh paint his starry night or catching the Beatles during the recording of the White Album. King Felix turned one afternoon in Seattle, in front of his adoring court, into his personal thesis on pitching. Here’s just a few thoughts on what I saw: Continue reading
Felix Hernandez threw one of the easiest-looking, most dominant complete games of the season, taking down the New York Yankees 1-0 by allowing only 2 hits while striking out 6. His performance was efficient, with only 102 total pitches thrown, and appeared so effortless because only one solitary Yankee got to 2nd base (Cano in the 1st) and no one advanced passed there.
A month or so ago I wrote about some of the discrepancies I was seeing between the listed WAR (Wins Above Replacement) totals of some players, in that particular instance Brett Lawrie, with their actual play on the field. To reduce the piece down to it’s simplest form, I made the claim that Baseball-Reference.com’s WAR was overcompensating for Lawrie’s defense and inaccurately rating him as the best player in the American League. An in-season adjustment has been made to the bWAR formula to attempt to correct this issue, and Lawrie has since fallen to 9th overall in the American League at 3.2 WAR, which is more accurate but still lacking in truth for a player who has been around league-average at the plate (OPS+ of 97 exactly at the league average). Lawrie isn’t the only player with a questionable WAR and will I was perusing Baseball-Reference.com I noticed another inconsistency that seemed a little bit severe: Brendan Ryan and his 2.7 WAR ranking him as the 19th best player in the American League. This also puts him above every single other shortstop, including the likes of Asdrubal Cabrera, Elvis Andrus, Derek Jeter, and Alcides Escobar. And that’s just a sample of some of the American League players. Again this post isn’t intended to pick on Brendan Ryan, who is a very, very excellent defender, nor is it designed to pick on Baseball-Reference.com (which is my favorite baseball website, by the way). It is intended to point out some inconsistencies in WAR and an attempt to make the statistical world a safer, more accurate place.
If the rumors that Ichiro has indeed been sent to the New York Yankees for a package of minor league pitchers (DJ Mitchell and Danny Farquhar), it signals a significant change in the Mariners front office, as well as their clubhouse. Ichiro has been a staple in Seattle since his MLB debut in 2001, delighting fans with his unorthodox batting stance, fantastic speed, and rocket launcher arm. As a life-long Yankee fan and a long-time Ichiro fan, I’m personally thrilled to watch him man the outfield and step into the batter’s box in Yankee Stadium using his trademark speed on defense to take away hits, while annihilating runners with his arm on the base paths. But what does this mean for both teams? Let’s take a look at the Mariners’ takeaway first: