Warming up in the bullpen: Notes from Monday games, to whet your appetite

Starlin Castro ranks 12th in MLB with a .333 BA … and 64th with a .349 OBP. Through 35 games, he has 48 hits and 4 walks in 152 PAs, putting him on pace for 222 hits and 18 walks. No Cub since 1937 has topped 210 hits. No one has ever had more than 212 hits with less than 22 walks. And just two players have had 200+ hits with 12 times as many hits as walks.

  • Castro’s stats are extreme in other ways. He’s hitting .370 with RISP, 17 for 46 — with 16 singles and a triple. Of his 4 walks, 1 came with men on 1st & 2nd, the others with bases empty; he has no walks in 31 PAs with a man on and 1st base open.

Ben Zobrist, the anti-Castro, has a .218 BA, but a .377 OBP and 6 HRs. He leads the AL with 30 walks. The highest qualifying OBP ever with a BA under .220 is .377, by Jim Wynn in 1976 (.207 BA, 127 walks).

— Pittsburgh’s Brad Lincoln, who was the only pure reliever averaging 2+ IP in 5+ games so far this year, started Monday and held Miami to 2 runs in 6 efficient IP (80 pitches). The last pure reliever to average 2+ IP in 30+ games was Steve Sparks in 2003.

  • The Bucs have won 6 of 9 despite scoring just 25 runs; they’ve allowed just 24. That’s an average of 2.7 runs per team per game.
  • Pittsburgh was the last team to reach 100 runs for the season. They’re last in MLB at 2.86 R/G, but just a game under .500.

— One problem with judging a pitcher by earned runs allowed was on display in Brandon Morrow‘s disastrous 5th inning. With 2 out and a man on 1st in a tie game, he walked the righty B.J. Upton on 4 pitches, bringing up the more dangerous Matt Joyce (1.005 OPS vs. RHP). Joyce grounded to 1st, but Adam Lind missed it and the go-ahead run scored. Morrow could not minimize the damage: A strike-3 wild pitch loaded the bases, then consecutive 2-run hits made it 6-1 Rays and that’s your ballgame. Morrow was charged with only 1 ER, but he did not do a good job.

  • Lind is killing the Jays (and not so softly) with his noodle bat. This would be his third straight year of sub-100 OPS+ and sub-zero WAR. He’s signed for next year at a modest $5 million, but will likely see his option bought out after that.

Jon Lester tossed his first shutout since 2008, when he blanked the Yanks and no-hit the Royals.

  • Daniel Nava hit his 2nd career HR — 205 PAs and almost 2 years since hitting the first pitch he saw in the majors for a grand slam. No. 2 was also on the first pitch, but from the other side of the plate.
  • In 5 games since his call-up, Nava has reached base in 15 of 20 PAs. He had 2 walks three times, and 2 HBPs another.

“Get back on the horse, kid”: One day after his 0.00 ERA was marred by a 6-run inning, Addison Reed saddled up for a save situation against Detroit. He wasn’t perfect, but he got the job done.

  • With 12 HRs and 53 Ks, Adam Dunn is on pace to break both White Sox records — 49 HRs by Albert Belle, and 177 SO by himself. (By the way, Belle set the Sox HR mark with the help of a 163rd game, thanks to a rain-shortened tie. He homered in both the tie game and game #163. Imagine the commotion if that had been a MLB record he set!)
  • Drew Smyly (4 R in 5 IP) had allowed 2 runs or less in his first 6 career starts. He was the 5th pitcher since 1981 to start his career that way, and the only Tiger ever to do so.

The Mets are now 11-6 at home. Last year they were 43-38 out of town, but 34-47 in the Citi, 27th in the majors.

  • The Mets’ last win with 3 hits or less was Aug. 2010.
  • On the road, Ike Davis is hitting .258/.825, with 5 HRs, 11 RBI and no GDP in 16 starts. But at home, he has 3 singles and 22 Ks in 53 ABs, with 4 GDP.
  • New York has 1 HR in their last 10 home games. For the year, in 17 Mets home games, the teams have combined for 19 HRs (7 by NYM). In 18 road games, 37 HRs (16 by NYM).

— Clayton Kershaw is now 7-2, 1.92 in 11 starts against Arizona.

— How much will the Giants really miss Brian Wilson? Replacement closer Santiago Casilla has his ERA under 2 for the third straight year and has blown just 1 of 9 save tries (on a lone unearned run, with his team going on to win). Sergio Romo is unscathed in 10 IP; since 2010, his 1.72 ERA is 2nd among all pitchers with 100+ IP (Casilla is 3rd). LOOGY Javier Lopez has a 2.27 ERA since joining the team in 2010. Their bullpen has inherited and stranded more runners than any other NL team, with a sterling 79% strand rate.

  • Since moving to the #3 spot to replace the injured Panda a dozen games ago, Melky Cabrera is 22 for 50, with 8 multi-hit games, driving his season average to .338.
  • Christian Friedrich is the first Rockies pitcher ever to begin his career with 2 starts of 6+ IP and 1 ER or less.
  • It’s getting late early for the 13-21 Rockies, who spent a passel o’ money this offseason but have lost 9 of their last 10. Troy Tulowitzki has gone 11 games without an RBI, hitting .220 in that span and sporting an 87 OPS+. Michael Cuddyer‘s 101 OPS+, 10 points below the median for qualified corner OFs. Marco Scutaro, acquired in trade with a $6 million salary, has no HRs and 2 RBI playing full-time at 2B. CarGo leads the team with a 138 OPS+; Cuddyer and Helton are at 101, the other 5 regulars at 87 or less. No SP has an ERA+ over 95. Jhoulys Chacin had a 131 ERA+ over the past 2 years, but this year went 0-3, 7.30 in 5 starts before hitting the DL. Jamie Moyer is a fun story and all, but a guy who can’t miss bats is a poor fit in Coors Field, where opponents are hitting .347 off him.

This cannot stand: Derek Lowe has a 1.51 WHIP but a 2.47 ERA and 158 ERA+. For qualified seasons with WHIP over 1.50, the best ERA+ was 136 by Lefty Weinert in 1922; the best ERA was 3.08 by Bill Hogg in 1908.

— I’ve often quoted this Hepburn line from The Lion in Winter: “In a world where carpenters get resurrected, everything is possible.” But here’s my new line for such occasions: “In a season when Bruce Chen can beat Texas on 1 run in The Ballpark, anything is possible.” In prior games there, the HR-prone Chen had allowed 26 runs in 24.2 IP with 10 HRs.


Warming up in the bullpen: Notes from Monday games, to whet your appetite — 24 Comments

  1. Sometimes trades and free-agent signings turn out well and sometimes they don’t. A few of Atlanta’s forays into the market haven’t turned out well recently, including Melky Cabrera and Derek Lowe. Melky came over in the Javier Vazquez trade, and was perfectly awful with the Braves in 2010, posting an 83 OPS+ with -0.5 WAR. Since then, with KC and SF he’s slugged a 125 OPS+ and 5.5 WAR in a season and a quarter.

    Lowe is another example. After posting the third most wins in the majors from 2002-2008 with Boston and the Dodgers, the Braves signed the 35-year-old to a 4-year, $60 million contract. Derek was underwhelming in his time with Atlanta, posting an ERA+ below league average all three years and leading the National League in losses in 2011. The Braves traded Lowe to the Indians for cash and minor leaguer Chris Jones and are paying $10 million of Derek’s salary this year, so yeah it burns a little that Lowe is off to such a great start this season (although I’m happy for Ed about the Indians in first place).

    • bstar, isn’t baseball general managing a total crap shoot? Who can figure it out?

      I guess that’s why I love the game.

      The Braves don’t need to have any regrets about the moves though, because their current roster is achieving well.

  2. A search for similar statistics to Starlin Castro’s returns very few results.

    Since 1901 only three players with 150 or more plate appearances have a comparable spread between BA and OBA over a full season.

    In modern times, Mariano Duncan posted a mind-boggling 0.340/0.352 ratio in 417 PA for the 1996 Yankees, and Mickey Rivers, yes THE Mickey Rivers, chalked up a 0.333/0.353 line in 661 PA for the 1980 Texas Rangers.


    So, with Starlin Castro being who he is at present, as a coaching staff for the Cubs, are you grateful for the high rate of contact and his speed or do you wish for greater selectivity at the plate?

    In other words, are players with asymmetric stat lines like Castro, Duncan and Rivers considered “productive” or are they tolerated in the lineup because of the offensive output of players around them?

      • Richard, thank you, I set the batting average bar a little higher than 0.301.

        I should have said that in my post. I searched for players with a BA of 0.333 or greater and a OBA of 0.355 or less in order to find extreme examples of impatient hitters who hit their way on.

    • I remember reading that Mick the Quick (then a Yankee) once told a reporter that he didn’t use spring training to work on his weaknesses. “I work on what I’m good at,” he supposedly said. “If I’m bad at it, why waste time on it?”

  3. Morrow was fortunate to have onl one ER charged. It was a tough error call for Lind – could easily have been called a hit.

    • Doug, I am not investing any more emotional energy in watching the Blue Jays. They are a fraud!!

      The supposed ace of the staff is outpitched by a Twins moundsman making his 2nd major league start.

      They are being exposed in this home stand, sadly, for what they really are, a 0.500 team, ….. barely.

      “Five-year plans and New Deals, Wrapped in golden chains….” Anybody recognize the lyrics without looking them up?

      A lineup of popgun bats….. I could go on and on at risk of boring the rest of the world.

      I feel slightly better for having ranted in here.

      And I don’t even have any beer to cry in.

  4. So comparing Ben Zobrist and Starlin Castro straight up, which one is the “better” batter? Do you just default to their offensive WAR? (Zobrist 1.2, Castro 1.0)

    They have virtually the same number of plate appearances but Zobrist has scored 4 runs more than Castro but driven in 5 less.

    Do you use OPS or OPS+? Again, Zobrist stands at 0.856 and 145, while Castro is 0.768 and 116.

    I guess I just answered my own question. The emptiness of Castro’s batting average indites him as being a worse batter although maybe not a worse hitter.

    • My feeling on Castro is the Cubs are worried trying to teach him patience will ruin his hitting ability. However they better get working on that because even with his young age he’s on about 2 full seasons of MLB at-bats and it’s not going to get any easier to change his approach.

      It’s fine if Castro stays a free-swinger but he’s got to add power to the equation or he’ll be a real #3 hitter… you can get away with a .330-.360 OBP but not if you slug around .400. This was supposed to be the year he added power but it seems he’s learned how to steal bases, so I’ll take that.

    • Neil, I would take Zobrist right now. I think Castro has a higher ceiling, although (as brp noted) it’s about time to start making some progress. He’s actually seeing far fewer pitches per PA this year; it’s still early to judge such things, but he probably won’t hit .375 on balls in play all season, either.

      • John, you the voice of reason, a calming influence on those of us that would jump on statistics and wrest them, at our peril, to incorrect conclusions. :-)

        All joking aside, John, is Starlin Castro granted a temporary reprieve because of his batting average with RISP?

        I’m still not clear, independant of team context, whether Zobrist’s 0.217 BA is better than Castro’s 0.333 because of secondary statistics.

        • Neil, is there a “right” answer to the question of whether Zobrist is “better” than Castro?

          As you know, Zobrist rates better in oWAR (1.2 to 0.8) and OPS+ (146-109).

          Conveniently, both have exactly 160 PAs at the moment. Here’s what they’ve produced, listing Zobrist first in each case:

          Batting Outs — 102, 110
          Singles — 11, 39
          Doubles — 9, 6
          Triples — 3, 3
          HRs — 6, 1
          Walks — 30, 4
          Strikeouts — 27, 23
          Runs* — 21, 17
          RBI* — 17, 22
          With RISP — 4-20 + 9 walks, 18-48 + 1 walk
          Late & Close — 6-26 + 5 walks, 5-23 + 2 walks
          WPA — 0.71, (-0.38)

          *Keeping in mind that Runs & RBI are not entirely an individual product.

          All things considered, I think Zobrist is having a better offensive year and is a better offensive player. However, I can conceive of a team on which a player of Castro’s type would be more valuable.

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