What is going on in San Diego?

Have you heard of San Diego? It’s in California. I’ve never been there, but it sounds lovely. Did you know that they have a baseball team? It’s true! They’re called “The Padres”. You probably don’t pay much attention to the Padres, because not many people do, but if you had been paying attention, you would see that the Padres are doing some interesting things. How interesting? Well, that depends on your standards of interesting things. My standards are quite low, so I would classify what the Padres are doing as “quite interesting”. Don’t worry. I’m not happy about these last few sentences either.

Here is the San Diego Padres record by month:

April 7 17 75 99 0.292
May 10 18 92 129 0.357
June 12 15 104 123 0.444
July 15 11 123 99 0.577
August 18 10 119 109 0.643
September 5 4 54 48 0.556

Take a second to peruse those numbers, and you’ll see that the Padres started off the season quite terribly. Up till the end of June they were 29-50, and had been outscored by 80 runs. Not great. But not unexpected. The Padres were largely predicted to finish in, or near, the basement in the NL West. So they were performing about as expected. Maybe a little worse, but not a lot worse.

Then July came about, and since then the Padres have gone 40-25, while outscoring their opponents by 40 runs. How did the Padres turn it around so abruptly? Let’s start by looking at their hitters performance by month:

April/March 883 75 11 0.215 0.299 0.331 0.631 0.269
May 1049 92 15 0.232 0.303 0.357 0.660 0.291
June 1015 104 19 0.249 0.317 0.372 0.689 0.301
July 1012 123 22 0.249 0.326 0.392 0.718 0.295
August 1035 119 26 0.264 0.328 0.409 0.736 0.306
Sept/Oct 372 54 12 0.296 0.369 0.454 0.823 0.354

Well would you look at that. The Padres team batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage have each increased in every month of the season. I doubt that this has happened too many times. I would look it up, but I don’t know how.
Now let’s look at their pitching by month:

April/March 7 17 3.53 214.1 177 99 22 7.9 2.01
May 10 18 4.36 247.2 243 129 26 7.1 1.86
June 12 15 3.84 237 218 123 32 8.3 2.15
July 15 11 3.57 232 210 99 23 7.1 2.61
August 18 10 3.79 247 226 109 27 7.2 2.33
Sept/Oct 5 4 4.79 82.2 93 48 12 8.3 3.04

Not really too much of a trend here. The Padres’ pitching has stayed far more consistent over the course of the season than the hitting. It was worse in May and June, when they were a combined 22-33, but it was really good in April, when they were 7-17. It’s almost as if – if your hitters are terrible, it doesn’t matter how good your pitching is, you’re still going to lose a lot of games.
How about some individual performances? I’m going to split the season into two halves, April-June and July-present. Here are the players that played the majority of the games at each position over for the Padres over each period, and their slash lines:

April-June Pos AVG OBP SLG July-Sept Pos AVG OBP SLG
Nick Hundley C 0.166 0.226 0.259 Yasmani Grandal C 0.260 0.372 0.435
Yonder Alonso 1B 0.259 0.333 0.346 Yonder Alonso 1B 0.278 0.350 0.425
Orlando Hudson 2B 0.211 0.260 0.317 Logan Forsythe 2B 0.296 0.374 0.397
Everth Cabrera SS 0.246 0.331 0.381 Everth Cabrera SS 0.240 0.313 0.291
Chase Headley 3B 0.271 0.369 0.415 Chase Headley 3B 0.294 0.366 0.565
Chris Denorfia LF 0.289 0.353 0.428 Carlos Quentin LF 0.238 0.335 0.455
Cameron Maybin CF 0.204 0.282 0.292 Cameron Maybin CF 0.302 0.354 0.423
Will Venable RF 0.259 0.324 0.434 Will Venable RF 0.269 0.364 0.455

Lot of improvements here, starting off with actually having a catcher that can hold a bat. Grandal has been pretty good since coming up in July, putting up 1.6 fWAR in only 161 PAs. At first base, Alonso has increased his power numbers in the second half; and while they’re still low for a first basemen, they’re much improved over the first half. At second, Forsythe has hit quite well in the second half after taking the starting job from Alexi Amarista, who took it from Orlando Hudson.

Chase Headley has started crushing the ball in the second half, with 19 HRs since July 1. He’s certainly been a big part of the Padres resurgence, probably leaving many Padres fans happy that he wasn’t traded at the deadline. In left, there actually hasn’t been much of an improvement, as Quentin put up his best numbers  just after he came off the DL in late May. He’s cooled in the second half. In center, Maybin has really turned it on in the second half after a terrible start to the season. His contract isn’t looking nearly as bad as it did for the first few months of the season. Venable’s play in right has improved as well, with his walk numbers up significantly in the second half.

All in all, the Padres have taken a big step forward in the second half of the season. Their lineup will always have to deal with Petco, (unless they move the fences in), but as of right now, things are looking much brighter than they did at the start of the year. If they can lock up Chase Headley, the next few years could be relatively exciting for the Padres. Because you also have to remember nearly their entire starting rotation was injured this year, leaving them to run out Jason Marquis and Kip Wells. When those starters return, and more of their deep farm system makes it to the majors, the Padres could certainly have the potential to play for the wildcard in the National League. Now I really want to go to San Diego.


All of the Giancarlo Stanton Home Runs – Part Eight

In the last three days Giancarlo Stanton has hit three home runs. That means it’s time for the return of All of the Giancarlo Stanton Home Runs! On to the GIFs!

Home run #31 – Sept 7 – off Stephen Strasburg – 403 feet

Sequence of events: 1. Stephen Strasburg is going to be shutdown after his scheduled start on September 12. 2.Giancarlo Stanton homers off Strasburg on September 7. 3. Stephen Strasburg is immediately shut down for the rest of the year. Thanks a lot, Giancarlo!

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The Chap Man

Hi. Do you like baseball? I like baseball. You know who is really good at baseball? Aroldis Chapman. I wrote about Aroldis earlier this season already, but because I have a borderline inappropriate fascination with him, I’m going to do it again. Right here and now.

Here are some select Aroldis Chapman stats as of today, September 7:

Aroldis Chapman 66 35 30 15.95 2.32 0.41 0.248 1.23 1.11 1.59 3.6

I don’t know about you, but it would be a lie to say that I’m not a little bit aroused right now. Those are excellent statistics. Chapman has been worth 3.6 fWAR this season –  as a relief pitcher. What other pitchers have put up similar WAR numbers this year? Madison Bumgarner and Cole Hamels, that’s who! They however, have both pitched at least 117 more innings than Chapman has.

Chapman’s K/9 of 15.95 has actually declined a bit recently, and is now a hair behind the all-time record of 16.1, set last season by Kenley Jansen. I’ve written him letters informing him of this, informing him that he had better pull up his socks, but as of yet I have not received any responses. For what it’s worth, his K% is still higher at 46.8% compared to 44% last year for Jansen. And 15.95 is still the second highest of all time. Did you know that, if over 3 straight one inning saves, Aroldis Chapman struck out 2 batters, 1 batter, and then 2 batters, his K/9 for the season would actually decrease? It’s true. And that’s crazy. Because 5 strikeouts in 3 innings pitched is really good. But Aroldis Chapman has been better than that over the course of 66 innings.

Respond to my letters Aroldis Chapman!

Basically my conclusion here is that Aroldis Chapman is really good. Not Cy Young worthy good, but really good. If you look at FanGraphs’ RA9-Wins measure, Chapman has actually been worth 3.7 WAR this season, so this isn’t just a case of having really good peripherals but lackluster results. He’s tied for being the 17th most valuable pitcher in baseball this season. Chapman is awesome.

All of the Giancarlo Stanton Home Runs – Part Seven

Giancarlo Stanton hit his 30th home run of the season tonight, so it’s time for the long-awaited return of All of the Giancarlo Stanton Home Runs!

Home run #30 – Sept 4 – off Shaun Marcum – 436 feet

Giancarlo crushed this one to straight away center – right into the bushes past the center field wall at Marlins Park. Wait. There are bushes past the center field wall in Marlins Park? How did they get there? Is it moss? I know it’s humid down there in Florida. Also, was that ball lost in the bushes/moss? Whose job is it to retrieve balls in the bushes? Do you think people live in the bushes? How many bush people do you think are out there?

Well, that’s it for now, until Giancarlo hits another. Hopefully it’s tomorrow. That would be fun.

The Plight of the Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates have not finished above .500 since 1992. You probably know this. Last season on July 25 the Pirates were in first place in the NL Central at 53-47. You probably know what happened after that. They went 19-43 the rest of the way to finish at 72-90, which was the most wins they’d had since 1994.

This year, on July 28 the Pirates were in 2nd place in the NL Central at 58-42. They improved their team at the deadline, trading for Wandy Rodriguez and Travis Snider. They were poised to make the playoffs for the first time in 20 years. Except, they went 6-11 in their next 17 games to fall to 64-53. Nothing to worry about though, they were still tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for 2nd in the NL Central – and the 2nd NL Wildcard. The Pirates would get through it this year. No more teasing their fans with playoff hopes and aspirations like they did in 2011.

The Pirates would win 3 of their next 4 – including a 19 inning marathon against the Cardinals. Not an actual marathon. A really long game. Pittsburgh was back. They were going to the post-season. Except, they lost their next four games in a row. Still, no need to worry, it was just a hangover from the 19 inning game. Once they got rested they’d turn it around. Still tons of time left in the season. The Pirates would split the next two against the Brewers to bring their record to 68-59. They were two back of the Cardinals for the 2nd Wildcard. And what-do-you-know, the Cards were coming to town for a three game set! The perfect opportunity for the Pirates to gain some ground, which they did – taking 2 out of 3. Next up was a three game set against the Brewers. No big deal. Except the Pirates got swept, dropping their record to 70-63. Luckily the Cards lost a couple as well, allowing the Pirates to stay two games back.

Which brings us to yesterday- September 3rd. The start of a 3 game series against Houston. You may know what happened. The Pirates lost. Their record dropped to 70-64. The Cardinals won, meaning that the Pirates are now 3 games back. According to Baseball Prospectus’s hit list, the Pirates now have a 11.2% chance of making the playoffs. It’s not getting any easier. After the first 100 games of the season the Pirates were 58-42. Since then, they are 12-22. There’s now a very real possibility that the Pirates won’t finish over .500 this year, let alone make the playoffs. They have 28 games left. If they go 11-17, they would finish at exactly .500. Something tells me the Pittsburgh fan base may not be thrilled about finishing at .500 for the first time in 20 years.

But wait! As I write this, the Pirates are up 6-0 on the Astros. There’s hope! But, the Cardinals are winning too. Damn.

What will happen with the Pirates this year? Will they be satisfied with a .500 finish? Will they somehow have a miracle September and sneak into the playoffs? Or will they wilt away and finish under .500 for the 20th straight season? I don’t know. I can’t predict the future.

Jeremy Hellickson & FDP Wins

FanGraphs has recently rolled out some new pitcher valuation statistics that I really like, and which I’ve been playing around with a lot. These new stats have led me to take a closer look at Jeremy Hellickson, who FanGraphs’ current FIP based WAR model really does not like. Hellickson won the rookie of the year award in the AL last year with a 13-10 record with a 2.95 ERA, but a 4.44 FIP and a 4.72 xFIP. This was largely due to his ultra-low .223 BABIP – leading to an fWAR of only 1.4. Not great. This year is even worse for Hellickson, as he currently has a 0.2 fWAR despite a 3.41 ERA in 145 innings. His BABIP is higher than it was last season; at .254, but it’s still well below league average. I wondered how Hellickson would stack up when looking at FanGraphs’ new BIP-wins and LOB-wins. Would those show a disparity between on field results and the perceived value of a pitcher who gets most of his outs through balls in play instead of strikeouts?

Here is a leaderboard of pitchers since 2008 who have the most FDP wins, or wins that fall outside of the FIP based model:

Name Team WAR FDP-Wins
Matt Cain Giants 19.4 7.2
Jeremy Hellickson Rays 2.1 7.2
Tim Hudson Braves 11.6 6.9
Bronson Arroyo Reds 6.2 6.9
Jered Weaver Angels 21.4 6.6

So Hellickson is tied for first since 2008 with Matt Cain at 7.2 FDP wins. The difference is that Matt Cain has thrown 1067 innings, while Hellickson has thrown 370. Something Hellickson is doing is not jiving with FIP.

From 2008 to 2012, Hellickson has the fourth lowest BABIP of any pitcher that has thrown at least 200 innings at .240; behind only Neftali Feliz, Dan Wheeler and Tyler Clippard. Is it sustainable? Who knows. The only other starting pitchers with a BABIP under .260 over that period are Ted Lilly(08-12: .257; career: .269) and Chris Young (08-12: .252; career: .253). Chris Young has sustained a low BABIP over his entire career, but that only covers 866 innings. Whatever is happening, I think that you can be sure most MLB teams would put Hellickson’s perceived value a lot closer to 9.3 wins (7.2 FDP + 2.1 WAR) than 2.1 wins. Whether he can keep it up is another question.

All of the Giancarlo Stanton Home Runs – Part Six

This is it. For now. Giancarlo Stanton has hit 29 home runs so far this year – and I’ve made a gif and a bad joke about each and every one. If you want more Giancarlo Stanton home run gifs, talk to him, not me. On to the last 4 gifs.

Home run #26 – August 20 – off Brad Bergesen – 398 feet

When I was in Grade 8, my entire class each had to write a 5-7 minute speech which then had to be performed in front of the class. Each teacher would then pick the best two from each class, who would then have to perform in front of the entire grade. The best three out of that group would then have to perform at some banquet thing, in front of a bunch of bankers or something. I wrote my speech on “Cheese” so naturally I was selected as one of the three best in my grade. Unfortunately for me, I had a crippling fear of public speaking, so giving the speech in front of progressively larger groups of people was terrifying, at best. So, in a way I know what it feels like to rise through the ranks of the minor leagues. You and I have something in common Giancarlo. What’s that? It’s not the least bit similar? Well I don’t see you writing any award winning speeches, so shut up. That speech thing is true by the way.

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