MLB pace of play

MLB makes strides to shorten game time

Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball made strides towards bringing down game time this week. Some of the rules put in place include only six mound visits a game, shortening time between innings, timing pitching changes and monitoring instant replays more closely.

Trouble finding common ground

MLB pace of play

Tensions between the the players and MLB are largely thanks to Scott Boras and the free agent market. (Photo from Bleacher Report)

What is interesting about the current process is that Manfred is open to pretty much anything. Since taking the position of commissioner, Manfred has made it known that pace of play will be a big focus during his tenure. The problem for him is that he is getting pushback from the players association.
In 2016, the MLB told players to keep one foot in the batters box at all times. This would limit the time used up by players taking their time in between pitches. At first, the players went along with it and honored the new rule.
However, in 2017, they were more reluctant to playing along with the new rules. We did not see players honor the one foot in the batters box rule nearly as much.
Manfred has expressed interest in reaching common ground on the matter. The goal at the moment is for them to get the average game time down to 2 hours and 55 minutes in 2018. The league hopes that the measures they are taking will get the job done.
The reason why the league is focusing so much on pace of play is because they want to bring in a younger audience. The average teenager or young adult does not want to sit down and watch baseball for over three hours on television. Speeding up play is the best way to re-engage a younger fan base.
Manfred has become open to hearing what the players have to say. Rather than going to extreme lengths and changing the game, he is open to all sorts of ideas. The thought is that the league and players work together in order to solve a problem that faces baseball as a whole. The only problem is that tensions between the two are the highest since the strike in the mid-90s.

Will a pitch clock be implemented?

MLB pace of play

The pitch clock has already been tested at the minor league level (Photo from MiLB.com)

For the time being, no. However, that does not mean that it is still not on the forefront of their minds. A pitch clock seems like the best way to shorten games, but the players are giving this idea a lot of push back.

A solid argument against the pitch clock, mentioned by Jayson Stark of ESPN, is that players are already pitching under the 20 second mark that would be on a pitch clock. Out of 155 starting pitchers that threw over 750 pitches, only three averaged more than 20.9 seconds per pitch with no one on base. Those three were Sonny Gray, Matt Garza and Yu Darvish.

The issue with this is that it does not factor in runners on base or relievers, which would be an interesting stat to look at. The later parts of the games tend to take longer due to the heightened circumstances. Either way, this does not completely discredit the argument for a pitch clock to shorten game time.

What else can be done?

The fact that the MLB is shortening time between innings means that they are very serious about fixing this problem. They are sacrificing a fair share of revenue if they are cutting down the amount of air time sponsors get between innings.

Some other measures that baseball can take are limiting the amount of pitching changes, cutting down mound visits even more or potentially putting on a runner at second to start out every inning in extras.

These solutions are all one that could potentially change the game fundamentally. The problem is that the game may have to change in those sort of ways in order to make this work. It would be ideal if game time was closer to two hours and 45 minutes within the next ten years. Whether or not it is will be up to how the players react to it though.

 

Featured image from CBS Sports

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Jimmy Nelson

Jimmy Nelson injury impact

Background

Jimmy Nelson

(Photo by Reviewing the Brew)

Jimmy Nelson was the Milwaukee Brewers’ second round selection in 2010. After spending five seasons in the minors, Nelson earned a spot in the rotation in 2014. His minor league success did not translate as smoothly as the Brew Crew had hoped, as Nelson started 14 games, winning only two, while sporting a 4.93 ERA and 1.46 WHIP.

Nelson was solid in his first full season with Milwaukee, posting an 11-13 record with a 4.11 ERA. His WAR of 2.0 placed him within the top 60 pitchers of 2015, showing that at 26 years old he was an above average arm at the time.

Nelson regressed in 2016, winning only eight games, while posting a 4.62 ERA and 4.91 xFIP, or expected fielding independent pitching, which according to fangraphs.com “is a statistic that estimates a pitcher’s expected run prevention independent of the performance of their defense”.

His 4.19 xFIP is considered awful on fangraphs.com’s rating scale. His WAR of 0.7 shows that he was barely better than a replacement level player that season.

2017 Resurgence

Jimmy Nelson

In only 175.1 innings, Jimmy Nelson fell one strikeout short of 200. (Photo by The News and Observer)

Nelson has quietly been incredible this season. His WAR of 4.9 ranks fourth in the MLB, only behind Chris Sale, Corey Kluber and Max Scherzer, showing how serious of an impact Nelson was making in Milwaukee. Also, his 3.49 ERA, 10.21 K/9 and 3.14 xFIP place Nelson statistically within the top-10 in each category in the MLB.

In only 175.1 innings, Nelson fell one strikeout short of 200, which was a huge improvement from his former career high of 148, which were thrown in 177.1 innings in 2015.

One major adjustment Nelson has made from season-to-season has been the usage rate of his curveball. In his respectable 2015 campaign, Nelson threw his curveball 21 percent of the time, although in his poor 2016 season, he only used it at a 12 percent clip.

Now in 2017, Nelson is once again is using his curveball 20 percent of the time, which has been key to his success. According to fangraphs.com, his curveball is currently valued at 9.2, where zero represents average value, positive are considered above average and negative are below.

To put this in better perspective, Clayton Kershaw’s curveball has been valued at a total of 63.8 over the course of his career and is currently valued at 6.4.

Nelson is being slept on because of his unproven track record and lack of exposure due to playing in Milwaukee, although statistically he clearly is performing up to par with the elite. If the season was to end today, it is safe to say that Nelson would have been a top-5 NL Cy young candidate.

Impact of the injury

Jimmy Nelson

Jimmy Nelson will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a partially torn labrum and a strained rotator cuff after sliding head-first back into first base. (Photo by Brew Crew Ball)

The 28-year-old will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a partially torn labrum and a strained rotator cuff after sliding head-first back into first base. According to Matt Carlson of The Washington Post, general manager David Stearns said that “he does not know if surgery is needed.”

Boston Red Sox pitcher Steven Wright suffered a similar injury while pinch running at the end of the 2016 season, jamming his shoulder while sliding back into second base. Wright also missed the remainder of his breakout season, although the injury seems to have had a serious impact on his pitching ability moving forward.

In his 24 innings since returning, he has allowed 24 runs on 40 hits. Obviously with Wright being a knuckle baller, the situation is very different, although it seems fair to say that the future is uncertain for Nelson after sustaining this type of injury.

The Brewers, who are sneakily only four games back of the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central and three games back of the Colorado Rockies in the wild card race, are going to seriously feel Nelson’s absence because of how successful he has been, although the rest of the rotation is nothing to scoff at.

The Brewers rank 10th in the MLB in team ERA and 12th in strikeouts and batting average against. Zach Davies is currently leading the team in wins with 16, while Chase Anderson is leading in ERA with 3.06. 27-year-old rookie Brent Suter has emerged seemingly out of nowhere, posting a 3.55 ERA 51 strikeouts in 63.1 innings.

Veterans Matt Garza and Junior Guerra have struggled, both posting ERAs over five, although they have been able to eat innings, pitching a combined 174.2. It is clear that Nelson was not the only quality arm in Milwaukee, although he was their unquestioned ace and will be missed. The anticipated replacement options for Nelson include prospects Brandon Woodruff and Josh Hader.

Woodruff was an 11th round pick in 2014, and has had two very successful seasons at the high-A and double-A levels. He has made four major league starts in 2017, posting a 1-1 record with 1.52 ERA and 7.61 K/9. According to MLB.com, Woodruff ranks 84th among all MLB prospects this season and looks to be the most ready and reliable option for the Brew Crew to go with.

Hader was a 19th round selection, although he has been widely recognized as one of baseball’s top prospects, as in 2016, Hader was ranked 34th on MLB.com’s prospect watch list after posting a 30-31 record with a 3.11 ERA and 10.3 K/9 in 593.1 innings in the minors. In 2017, Hader was called-up to assume a bullpen role, where he has made 28 appearances with zero being starts. He has been successful so far in the majors, so it seems like the Brewers won’t rush Hader into a starter spot even with their current situation.

Featured image by MLB.com

 

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MLB trade deadline: NL contenders moves to stay in first

The trade deadline is only five days away. After diving into what AL contenders must do to stay in first place, let’s jump into what NL contenders need to do.

Washington Nationals

This team could do exactly what it has been doing and it would stay in first place. The Nationals have a 11.5-game lead going into Tuesday night’s games and Hotlanta would need a miracle to catch up.

The problem in our nation’s capital has not been getting to the playoffs, but getting to the World Series. With that in mind they still desperately need bullpen help.

The Nationals made a deal to get Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson from the A’s about a week ago. This has obviously been a great upgrade for them but they still could use at least one more rock solid piece to give them the best chance in October.

In steps, no not Brad Hand (Padres want way too much for him), A.J. Ramos. The Marlins have not been able to put it together for the last two years and their team is up for sale in two different ways (let us pray that the baseball gods will rid the MLB of Jeffery Loria).

MLB Trade Deadline: nl contenders

Courtesy of: Faketeams.com

A.J. Ramos is a hot target, but from it sounds like he is not as expensive as other relievers like Hand and the Reds’ Raisel Iglesias are. He is also having a down year compared to his normal for his career, so he may end up costing even less than he would have last year.

As far as his contract goes, he is still owed some of his $6.5 million and is arbitration eligible next year. So, he has some team control but would could cost a bit more next year.

Taking this all into consideration, the Nationals need to try to make this deal. Their farm system is weaker due to the deals they have already done in the last year. But most people are hearing that they will not give up top prospect Victor Robles.

Right now most of the top Marlins top prospects are pitchers and outfielders so it is likely that they would like some infielders to go along with them or just more pitching.

I can see the trade being A.J. Ramos to the Nationals for Carter Kieboom (SS), Drew Ward (3B) and a hard throwing pitching prospect outside of the Nationals top 30 prospects. While this may seem like a lot, let’s look back at what Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman cost last year. Relievers are valued very highly (overpriced in my opinion) but at least three prospects seems to be the standard for closers and other top tier bullpen pieces.

Milwaukee Brewers

MLB Trade Deadline: nl contenders

Courtesy of: Nolanwritin.com

Raise your hand if you picked the Brewers to be in first place in July. No one? Yeah, me neither. This team has played well and some of their pieces are melding together very well. Some players may be a bit of a fluke, but overall their young players are really looking solid. The problem is that they are in the same division as the Cubs.

The Brewers should actually sell. It sounds crazy, but they are doing well and have an amazing farm system to boot. They won’t go far in the playoffs this year so it doesn’t make sense to trade away strong assets for rentals.

That said, this is a piece about staying in first place and if they want any chance at holding off the Cubs, then they will have to make a move.

Their biggest weakness is their starting pitching. While some of them have good records such as Zach Davies at 11-4, only Chase Andreson has an ERA below 3.45. There are some good options out there, and if the Brewers can get someone for the right price, then they will make the trade. This means staying out of what will probably be a bidding war for Sonny Gray.

While his ERA might not be exactly what they are looking for, he does provide experience and a lively arm. Andrew Cashner would be a relatively cheap rental and a player that most have forgotten was a big trading chip for the last few years. It also helps that everyone else will be focused on Yu Darvish and Sonny Gray.

Marcos Diplan (RHP) and a player to be named later would get this deal done. The Brewers would take on the rest of his salary which is not cheap, but they would not be giving up much in terms of prospects. Cashner would appease those who want the Brewers to make a move and would slot in well as another solid veteran along side Matt Garza.

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs may not be in first place, but they are just a half game out.

MLB Trade Deadline: nl contenders

Photo: Athelticsnation.com

The Cubs are the defending World Series champs and until recently they have not been playing like it. Luckily they are in a very weak central division (sorry Brewers fans). They also already made a big trade getting Jose Quintana and at this point their farm system is depleted.

Considering all of that it, seems like the Cubs will do whatever they have to do to make it back to the Series. Their bats are coming back to life and Jose Quintana was the shot in the arm the rotation needed.

But if they had to make a move, it might be worth going back to the rotation. John Lackey has been a great pitcher for a long time, but age is catching up to him. His ERA is the second highest it has ever been and his strikeouts are down. While he has said he would not move to the bullpen, it may end up being that or getting let go.

The Cubs have one prospect in the top 100, Jeimer Candelario (3B/1B). Would they be willing to give him up? From the looks of things, they could. He plays two positions that are taken up by the two biggest stars in Bryant and Rizzo. With that in mind, Sonny Gray will be the guy they go for.

The A’s are selling everyone, again. Thus, they will take the best prospects they can get and see who pans out. The trade will be Sonny Gray to the Cubs for Candelario, Oscar De La Cruz (RHP), Justin Steele (LHP) and a prospect outside of the Cubs’ top 30.

Los Angeles Dodgers

MLB Trade Deadline: nl contenders

Courtesy of: Outsidepitchmlb.com

This team has been on an unreal tear. They look primed for October and we still have around 62 games left. They are up by 12.5 games and even with the injury to Clayton Kershaw, they will still keep that big lead.

One thing that has hurt the Dodgers has been injuries. Scott Kazmir, Branden McCarthy and Clayton Kershaw are all missing from the rotation. They need someone to fill this hole now. The great thing for Dodgers fans is unlike the Cubs, they still have plenty of prospects to trade. That is why they will get Yu Darvish.

If you are a team in a five-game series and you have to go up against Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish and Alex Wood, then you are most likely sitting in a corner crying.

Even going to a seven-game series like the World Series you might think, phew we got through those three, now we get a break– nope. Rich Hill, a healthy (hopefully) Scott Kazmir or Kenta Maeda could all come in for at least one game.

Yu Darvish to the Dodgers for Walker Buehler (RHP), Willie Calhoun (2B/OF), Mitchell White (RHP) and DJ Peters (OF) could be a trade the Dodgers make. While the Dodgers are giving up a ton, they are also giving themselves a great chance at a World Series run.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed my take on the trade deadline. The trade deadline is a very interesting time for baseball. Hopefully this year will produce the craziness we have seen in the past.

 

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