A Fascinating In-Game Pitching Adjustment

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony DeSclafani put up a clunker last Monday. He gave up five runs and 10 hits over seven innings — to the Nationals of all teams — and the Giants lost 5-1. That’s nothing out of the ordinary; good pitchers have bad outings all the time. DeSclafani has been solid in San Francisco, but he’s more above average than elite. Giving up five runs is hardly an earth-shattering outcome.

Would you find that start more interesting if I told you that all five runs came in the first inning? Probably – that’s a lot of runs to give up in one inning followed by six clean sheets. On the other hand, that’s baseball: sometimes you’re the steamroller, and sometimes the other team has your number for 15 minutes.

Afterwards, though, Maria Guardado’s game story had an interesting detail:

“After the rough start, DeSclafani convened with pitching coach Andrew Bailey in the dugout and learned that he wasn’t getting his optimal shapes on his slider and his two-seamer. He made a mechanical adjustment between innings, tweaking the way he took the ball out of his glove…”

For 100 years, that wouldn’t have been a particularly interesting quote. That’s just the kind of thing that pitchers and pitching coaches say after bad outings. “Oh, I/he was doing this thing wrong, as you can see from the runs. But then we changed that thing, as you can see from the lack of runs afterwards.” But these days, we can go to the tape. Read the rest of this entry »

Ben Clemens FanGraphs Chat – 5/15/23

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Alek Manoah Is Falling Apart at the Seams

Alek Manoah
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 season isn’t off to the best start for last year’s AL Cy Young finalists. Reigning winner Justin Verlander missed the first five weeks with a shoulder strain and now faces the unenviable task of rescuing an ailing Mets rotation. Runner-up Dylan Cease has had his moments but an equal number of surprisingly poor outings. Finally, third-place finisher Alek Manoah is struggling most of all. His ERA has doubled, his WAR is in the negatives, and his 1.28 K/BB ranks last among qualified major league pitchers.

Manoah’s slow start has been difficult to watch. Last season, at just 24 years old, he established himself as the ace of the Blue Jays’ staff, securing his first All-Star selection and earning the nod for Game One of the Wild Card Series. Six months later, he was awarded the Opening Day start, making him the youngest Opening Day starter in the American League. The analytics crowd (myself included) might have argued Kevin Gausman was the true no. 1 in Toronto, but the Blue Jays clearly chose Manoah, and it wasn’t hard to understand why: Read the rest of this entry »

After Dominating Yankees, Drew Rasmussen Becomes the Latest Rays Starter Felled by Injury

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday night, Drew Rasmussen baffled the Yankees, holding them to just two hits in seven scoreless innings and only getting to a three-ball count once; he didn’t walk anybody while striking out seven. Within 24 hours, however, the Rays all but announced that the 27-year-old righty’s season was in jeopardy, placing Rasmussen on the 60-day injured list with a flexor strain and putting yet another damper on the team’s hot start.

Indeed, it was just about a month ago that the Rays lost another starting pitcher. Jeffrey Springs had allowed just one run in 16 innings over three starts while striking out 24 before he was sidelined by what was initially identified as ulnar neuritis and then diagnosed as a flexor strain, though it turned out he needed Tommy John surgery as well, knocking him out for the remainder of the 2023 season. Read the rest of this entry »

FanGraphs Power Rankings: May 8–14

We’re approaching the quarter mark of the regular season and there’s still a large group of teams that had high expectations heading into the season and have largely disappointed so far. A few of the surprise teams have continued to play well too, but we’re getting to the point where clubs are ready to really evaluate how their roster is shaping up for the summer.

A reminder for how these rankings are calculated: first, we take the three most important components of a team — their offense (wRC+), their pitching (a 50/50 blend of FIP- and RA9-, weighted by starter and reliever IP share), and their defense (RAA) — and combine them to create an overall team quality metric. I also add in a factor for “luck,” adjusting a team’s win percentage based on expected win-loss record. The result is a power ranking, which is then presented in tiers below.

Tier 1 – The Best of the Best
Team Record “Luck” wRC+ SP- RP- RAA Team Quality Playoff Odds
Rays 31-11 -1 141 74 96 8 175 95.2%
Rangers 25-15 -3 117 83 95 3 165 64.6%

For the first time this season, the Rays looked somewhat beatable. They lost a three-game series to the Orioles in Baltimore in which both teams scored six total runs, then battled the Yankees to a series split in New York over the weekend. But those losses last week pale in comparison to the new injury woes they’re facing. After losing Jeffrey Springs earlier this year, Drew Rasmussen has joined him on the 60-day injured list with an ominous elbow injury. Then, on Sunday, Yandy Díaz was removed from the game after suffering a groin injury running the bases. Losing your best hitter is never a good thing, but at least Tampa Bay has the depth to cover for Díaz, and Tyler Glasnow is slowly making his way through his rehab process to fill a hole in the rotation. All those wins the Rays have banked to start the season will definitely come in handy if they end up having trouble overcoming the losses of these key players. Read the rest of this entry »

Detroit Tigers Top 34 Prospects

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Top Prospects Series
* Imminent Big Leaguers article. All orgs will receive a full list.
2023 Preseason Top 100

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Detroit Tigers. Scouting reports were compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. This is the third year we’re delineating between two anticipated relief roles, the abbreviations for which you’ll see in the “position” column below: MIRP for multi-inning relief pitchers, and SIRP for single-inning relief pitchers. The ETAs listed generally correspond to the year a player has to be added to the 40-man roster to avoid being made eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Manual adjustments are made where they seem appropriate, but I use that as a rule of thumb.

A quick overview of what FV (Future Value) means can be found here. A much deeper overview can be found here.

All of the ranked prospects below also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It has more details (and updated TrackMan data from various sources) than this article and integrates every team’s list so readers can compare prospects across farm systems. It can be found here. Read the rest of this entry »

Sunday Notes: Yankees Prospect Caleb Durbin Channels Stubby Clapp

Caleb Durbin is an underdog’s underdog in an organization that boasts big-time star power. Acquired along with Indigo Diaz by the New York Yankees from the Atlanta Braves last December in exchange for Lucas Luetge the 23-year-old infield prospect is a former 14th round draft pick out of a Division-3 school. Moreover, he’s never going to be mistaken for Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton. Listed at 5-foot-6 (he claimed to be an inch taller when I talked to him earlier this week), Durbin looks like a stockier version of Jose Altuve.

He’s currently hitting not unlike the diminutive three-time batting champion. In 112 plate appearances — 97 with High-A Hudson Valley and 15 with Double-A Somerset — Durbin went into yesterday slashing .319/.446/.385. His bat-to-ball skills have been impressive. The Lake Forest, Illinois native has fanned just nine times while drawing 15 walks.

Durbin’s numbers at St. Louis’s Washington University were even more eye-opening. With the caveat that D-3 isn’t exactly the SEC, the erstwhile WashU Bear batted .386 with 42 walks and 10 strikeouts in 439 plate appearances over his three collegiate seasons. Since entering pro ball in 2021, he has 70 walks and 62 strikeouts in 631 plate appearances.

“Low strikeout rates are something I’ve always had,” said Durbin. “That’s kind of been my elite tool, if you want to call it that. I feel like that’s always going to be there, so it’s just a matter of building on my contact quality.” Read the rest of this entry »

Effectively Wild Episode 2006: Not My Cup of D

Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley banter about Akil Baddoo taking a baseball to the beans, broadcasters describing groin shots, and players deciding whether to wear cups. Then they compare a resurgent Joey Gallo and a slumping Andrew Benintendi (20:25), recall reliever Zack Littell’s affinity for cruise ships (33:22), forecast MLB’s international future (37:22), consider the Dodgers’ secret Ugandan academy (47:06), discuss an update on MLB’s integration of Negro Leagues stats (1:13:40), and assess their levels of anxiety about game-fixing in light of two college gambling scandals (1:30:21), plus a Past Blast (1:42:35) from 2006.

Audio intro: Gabriel-Ernest, “Effectively Wild Theme
Audio outro: Ian H., “Effectively Wild Theme

Link to Baddoo play
Link to first cup tweet
Link to second cup tweet
Link to MLB nutshots compilation
Link to another nutshots video
Link to swinging nutshot video
Link to Ben Clemens on Gallo
Link to Ben L. on Gallo in 2014
Link to Gallo’s juggle catch
Link to Gallo on New York
Link to Gallo on New York again
Link to Littell article
Link to old Littell EW episode
Link to MLB international plans
Link to South Korea game info
Link to Uganda academy article
Link to info on Dodgers’ DR academy
Link to info on academies’ impact
Link to prospect exploitation report
Link to Horace Wilson article
Link to article on Negro Leagues stats
Link to Ben on MLB’s reclassification
Link to Ben on reclassification again
Link to Baumann on the Ala. scandal
Link to Sheehan on the Ala. scandal
Link to Iowa scandal story
Link to Iowa State info
Link to 2006 Past Blast source
Link to 2022 article on Jones
Link to David Lewis’s Twitter
Link to David Lewis’s Substack
Link to Rasmussen info
Link to 2022 Megill story
Link to 2023 Megill story

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Jazz Chisholm Jr.’s Switch to Center Field Is Looking Like a Great Decision

Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

Position changes can be risky. The outcome depends heavily on the timing and circumstances of the switch, and the natural ability of the player. Sometimes, rookies need to carve out a roster spot for themselves and end up switching on the fly, like Jordan Walker. His shift to the outfield is a work in progress, just like it would be for most rookies. Then there are cases of a more experienced player moving due to roster construction, as with Jazz Chisholm Jr.’s move to center field.

Chisholm’s switch was precipitated by the Marlins’ offseason trade for Luis Arraez. With the sixth-worst offense (88 wRC+) in all of baseball in 2022 and good starting pitching depth, a pitcher-hitter swap to improve the lineup was highly logical, and the Marlins saw their best chance to obtain an impact bat in Arraez. That created something of an infield logjam. With Joey Wendle penciled in at shortstop and Jean Segura at third, the question became what they would do with their young star, who was slated to start at second base. Soon after the announcement of the trade, Kim Ng revealed that Jazz would be moving to center field, their most important position of need. His speed, athleticism, and lack of premium defense on the infield made it worth a try. Read the rest of this entry »

The Unbreakable Casey Schmitt

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

In the sea of prospects, Casey Schmitt barely caused a ripple. The only Top 100 list the infielder made before this season was Baseball Prospectus’ Top 101; he just squeezed in near the end at no. 94. The computer projections were no kinder, with ZiPS only projecting him as the fourth-best prospect in a rather weak San Francisco Giants system, just barely in its Top 200. Yet these limited expectations didn’t stop Schmitt from engulfing opposing pitchers in his first three big league games, as he went 8-for-12 with two home runs and two doubles.

Obviously, having three big games isn’t a guarantee of stardom — or even viability — in the majors. For example, Vaughn Eshelman started his major league career by throwing 13 shutout innings over his first two starts. He only had eight quality starts left in him (out of 28) and was out of the majors two years later. He might be best known for going on what was then the DL as a result of burning himself with a candle. Read the rest of this entry »