Oracle Report: Pitchers, Hitters, Runs
Young pitchers like Cingrani & Wood are discussed. Ray also talks about hitters including paying close attention to batting orders and how they effect run production.
Tony Cingrani could be demoted. Alex Wood will like be demoted but he could return as a starting pitcher. Manny Machado, well not only has he been suspended for acting like a 12 year old in the series with the Athletics, but there are rumors circulating that he might also be sent down to the minors. What is wrong with Chris Davis? How good is Nick Markakis? Ray will also discuss the role that batting order has in terms of a players ability to score runs.
Tony Cingrani was a pitcher I continually warned folks about last season. I ended up looking like a fool when he posted a 2.92 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. Every dog has his day though. Sample size folks. Guess what he has done this year? Exactly what I predicted would happen last year. Cingrani has a 4.68 ERA, his WHIP has exploded to 1.53 thanks to 4.68 walks per nine innings, and he's going to lose his rotation spot to Mat Latos this weekend. The real question for Cingrani is – does he go to the bullpen or do the Reds demote him to continue to work as a starter in the minor leagues. I said it last year, Cingrani should be used out of the bullpen until he harnesses his wildness and learns to throw more than just a fastball. He's tried this season as his percentage of fastballs thrown has dipped from 82 to 73 percent, but he's simply not throwing enough strikes. His first pitch strike percentage has dipped three points this year down to 54.6 percent, and when he doesn't get ahead in the count batters know he will feature his heater. When he does fall behind they hammer him, often deep (27 homers in 169.1 career innings has led to a 1.44 HR/9 mark).
Sounds like the Braves are likely to send Alex Wood down to the minors to stretch his arm out. They play a double-header on June 28th and will need an arm then. Also hearing some whispers that the Braves could do a deal to open up a spot for Wood. Though 138 big league innings Wood has a 3.26 ERA, 9.13 K/9 mark, a 2.74 BB/9 mark an a solid 1.62 GB/FB ratio. I know that Gavin Floyd and Aaron Harang are getting it done, but it seems very shortsighted for the Braves to be rolling with those two retreads over the obviously superior talent of Wood.
How good was my timing? I wrote a Lonnie Chisenhall Player Profile Monday morning. Monday night he hits three homers with nine RBIs and goes 5-for-5. He also become the second Indian batter to have 22 RBIs over a 10 game spans since the 1954 season. The other was Juan Gonzalez in 2001. By the way, as a 14 year old in Pony Baseball I had a three game stretch in which I hit three homers and drove in 15 runs. True story.
Chris Davis has been hurt, so we'll cut him some slack. But overall this has been disappointing. Not only is he batting .234 but he has a mere .778 OPS. This isn't a little slump either. Dating back to last season, let's look at his last 75 games played (nearly half a season of games), the slugger is batting .227 with a .770 OPS. He's also hit “only” 15 homers with 45 RBIs and 36 runs. At least he's stolen five bags. The fact is that he's not been anything other than Adam Dunn or Mark Trumbo for months now.
Manny Machado might be demoted. It probably won't happen, but Orioles executive VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette said that possibility hadn't been ruled out yet. Machado, who basically blew his top over the weekend against the Athletics, culminated his meltdown by chucking his bat at A's third sacker Josh Donaldson in a veiled attempt at hitting a pitch. As a result, Tim Brown of Yahoo is reporting that Machado will be suspended for five games (it is said Machado will appeal). I'm not going to defend Machado as others do by claiming 'oh, he's just 21 years old.' Carrying yourself with dignity and respect for human beings should be a persons default setting, not something they have to learn as adult. Nuff said on that.
As for his production, you have no one to blame but yourself if you're disappointed. I wrote back in October of 2013 in his Player Profile to be wary of Machado in 2014.
“...his 2014 outlook is a bit muddled. We have to worry about his return from knee surgery. We have to worry about his second half fade. We have to worry about his approach at the plate. We have to worry about his lack of long ball power. We have to worry about his complete ineffectiveness on the base paths. Add that all up and it's quite possible that Machado will be overdrafted in 2014. Don't expect much improvement if any on his 2013 numbers. This youngster is a work in progress.”
Machado has hit better in June with two homers, six RBIs and six runs in eight games, but overall he's been a total mess. Through 35 games he's hitting .229 with a .619 OPS. His swing is off, duh, but in addition to not producing hits he's also beating everything into the ground (his GB rate is up from 47 percent last year to an unhealthy 57 percent this season). Demoted or not, suspended or not, it's really looking like the 2014 season is going to be a wasted one in terms of his development.
Speaking of the Orioles, Nick Markakis is batting .312 for those that missed it. Oh yeah, he's also got a 14 game hitting streak during which time he's batting .379 with 10 runs and 10 RBIs. As always he's a solid 5th outfielder in mixed leagues.
Did you happen to catch Rick Wolfe's great piece on rookies. He riffs off Back to the Future in the piece, yes, the Michael J. Fox flick.
RUNS / BATTING ORDER
Did you see Todd Zola's piece on runs titled The Forgotten Category? That got me to thinking, as any thoughtful piece usually does, so I went over to check out things with the folks at Baseball Reference. As you can see they have a list of how each spot in the batting order produces. Let's take a look at the runs category in particular for the sake of this piece. Here is how each slot breaks down.
The higher in the order the more plate appearances and at-bats you get (duh). Everyone knows that. But look how significant that change is. Fifth hitters have had only 91 percent of the plate appearances compared to the leadoff man. In world terms, each spot a player drops in the batting order results in a loss of 15-20 plate appearances over the course of a season. That means if a guy goes from 2nd in the order down to 7th, a loss of five spots, he would lose something like 75-100 plate appearances over the course of a campaign. That's a darn big deal.
The lose of plate appearances plays a part in the loss of run production, but were you aware of how drastic things are? Leadoff hitters nearly double 9th place hitters in runs scored, and the only lower spot in the order to outperform a higher spot is the third hold which scores more runs than the second batter – by a hair.
Leadoff hitters score a run every 7.81 plate appearances, the same as three hitters, which makes sense since most teams bat their best hitter in that spot in the lineup.
The bottom line is that paying attention to batting order, something many folks don't do enough, is key. It's especially important to pay attention to those slap hitters. If they are in the 1-2 spot they are a gravy train of production. If they're dropped to the bottom third of the order by their manager they all of a sudden look much less interesting.
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