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Archive for May, 2022

Too Old for the level Revisited

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Brady House is certainly NOT too old for his level. Photo via primetimesportstalk.com

One of the key points in evaluating minor league prospects (or any amateur prospect really) is the consideration of their age in relation to their level. We constantly see added on to the evaluation of a player’s stellar performance at a certain level the caveat of, ” … but he’s old for the level.”

I did a deep dive on this back in 2011, trying to compare the rules of thumb advertised by expert minor league evaluator John Sickels versus our own observations. Now, 10 years on, with evolutions of player development, minor league consolidation, the removal of an entire Short-A level, and the compressing of the lower ranks of the minors, I thought i’d revisit it.

My working guesses before going in and looking at the data are:

  • The compression of the minors will mean that there will be an older skew of players now in Low-A.
  • Hitters will generally be younger than Pitchers, since we have such a prevalence of injuries in the sport which delays pitcher development.
  • the lost Covid year will add at least a half a season or more, especially to pitchers who got hurt at the wrong time (see Irvin, Jake below)

My methodology was to grab the entire list of players with non-trivial stats (meant to remove rehab assignments that would skew the average ages) from the four main full season levels, and grab average ages. Unfortunately fangraphs only lists the “age” and not the birthday for minor leaguers, so this is a bit of an estimate (and thus I couldn’t get meaningful quartile/median figures). I wasn’t willing to scrape dozens of rosters from milb.com to get actual birthdays … so this will have to do. I also only grabbed the leagues where Nats have affiliates; otherwise this would have been 3x the spreadsheet work. I think its a safe assumption that the average age of the players in the Eastern AA league is roughly the same as the Southern AA league.

To start, here was the old Sickels “rules of thumb” for age expectations in the four full season leagues:

  • AAA: Typical Age range is 23-24.  Age 25 depends.  26+ is old
  • AA: 22-23.  24 depends.  25+ is old
  • High-A: 20-22.  23 depends.  24+ is old
  • Low-A: 19-21.  22 depends.  23+ is old

This already seems way low, especially in AAA, where we now know that teams store tons of 4-A 40-man roster guys who will press the issue. But we’ll get to that.


Here’s 2021 full season average age analysis for Hitters with > 30Abs for the year:

  • AAA Hitter Avg Age:  26.53801
  • AA Hitter Avg Age:  24.11027
  • High-A Hitter Avg Age:  22.92832
  • Low-A Hitter Avg Age:  21.40741

and here’s fy2022 so far for hitters with > 30ABs this season:

  • AAA Hitter Avg Age:  26.599
  • AA Hitter Avg Age:  24.169
  • High-A Hitter Avg Age:  22.705
  • Low-A Hitter Avg Age:  20.975

And here’s a bit of a deeper dive into the 2022 hitter data, with quartiles shown:

 MeanYoungest0.25Median0.75Oldest
Low-A Hitter Avg Age: 20.9751552795031820212225
High-A Hitter Avg Age: 22.7046979865771922232427
AA Hitter Avg Age: 24.1689189189192023242533
AAA Hitter Avg Age: 26.5985130111522225262834

So, what are we seeing in Hitters?

  • In Low-A for Hitters, we’re seeing a bit of an inflation of ages from the old rule of thumb, with the 25%-75% quartile range going from 20-22, whereas before it was 19-21.
  • There’s nobody in Low-A right now younger than 18 and you can count on one hand those who are 18. Washington’s T.J. White is one of them. Makes sense; you draft a HS kid and they’re going to generally start in the complex league, and only if they’re stellar will they make the next year’s low-A team … and White was really young for his class out of HS.
  • The average age for high-A hitters jumps more than a year and a half from the Low-A average. interesting. Does this imply that it’s going to take kids a year and a half to get out of low-A now? This would seem to support the argument that we could really use another level (you know, something like Short-A?)
  • The Average age for AA hitters jumps up another year and a half from High-A, showing that the old rules of thumb are now completely antiquated. The average age in AA for hitters is now north of 24.
  • AAA average age is pretty useless in aggregate because of its status as a “spare parts” league. If you’re a prospect rising the ranks (like Cade Cavalli) there’s some analytical value to seeing just how young someone is as compared to the average age, but otherwise the prospects generally are in AA or below.

Lets look at pitchers.

Here’s 2021 full season average age analysis for Pitchers with > 20IP for the year:

  • AAA Pitcher Avg Age:  26.90933
  • AA Pitcher Avg Age:  24.76211
  • High-A Pitcher Avg Age:  23.28326
  • Low-A pitcher Avg Age:  21.93048

and here’s fy2022 so far for Pitchers with > 10IP so far this season:

  • AAA Pitcher Avg Age:  27.33068
  • AA Pitcher Avg Age:  24.5873
  • High-A Pitcher Avg Age:  23.23485
  • Low-A pitcher Avg Age:  22.03472

And here’s a bit of a deeper dive into the 2022 Pitcher data, with quartiles shown:

 AverageYoungest0.25Median0.75Oldest
Low-A pitcher Avg Age: 22.0347222222221921222329
High-A Pitcher Avg Age: 23.2348484848482022232426
AA Pitcher Avg Age: 24.587301587302212324.52530
AAA Pitcher Avg Age: 27.3306772908372225272937

So, what are we seeing in Pitchers, as compared to Hitters?

  • Right now, the fy2022 data on just a few weeks is almost identical to the full season fy2021 data, which shows that teams have already made consistent adjustments to the loss of Short-A.
  • Low-A pitchers are on average a full year older than the hitters at the level, and the 25%-75% quartile range is also a full year older.
  • The age difference is less pronounced in High-A and AA: high-A pitchers are on average a half a year older, while AA pitchers are on average 3-4 months older than the pitchers.
  • AAA goes back to half a year older between hitters and pitchers, but again these numbers are greatly skewed (especially on the pitcher side) by the large number of veteran arms in their late 20s/early 30s giving it one more shot (our own AAA team has more than a few).

So, what’s our new “rules of thumb” for being “too old for the level?” I think it has to adjust from the old days.

  • AAA: Typical Age range is 25-28.  A prospect at the age of 26 is iffy. 27+ is considered old for the level (with all the above AAA caveats). However, if you’re 27 and in AAA, you’re already passed through rule-5 draft, you’re probably pretty close to a 6-year MLFA and you’re not a “prospect” any more anyway. So these rules of thumb really don’t apply to AAA.
  • AA: typical age range is 23-25.  A prospect at 25 is iffy. 26+ is old for the level.
  • High-A: 22-24.  24 depends.  25+ is old
  • Low-A Hitters: 20-22 range, 23 depends, 24+ is old
  • Low-A Pitchers: 21-23 range, 24 depends, 24+ is old

Now, looking at our new rules of thumb, lets do a quick run-through of our notable prospects per team, and comment as to their relative age. This is not a comprehensive list of every player on the roster; just those “top players” who have appeared on prospect ranking lists lately.

  • Frederick’s Low-A Hitter Prospects: House (19), Infante (21), De La Rosa (20), White (18), Boissiere (22): they’re all within the appropriate range right now. Nobody is “too old” here. House and especially White are really young for the league. Boissiere is the oldest prospect here, and he’s repeating the level after struggling in his draft year/age 21 season. Nothing to worry about yet. We do have a couple of “too old” for the level players in Martina and Millas, but they just promoted Millas up as I was writing this draft.
  • Frederick’s Low-A Pitcher Prospects: Lara (19), Rutledge (23), Saenz (23): Lara obviously is young, while Rutledge is pushing the range of acceptability, especially for such a high draft pick and his highly visible failings so far. Saenz is also 23, along with some newer additions like Glavine and Schoff, both senior signs in their first full year of pro ball. While we’re all concerned about the fact that Rutledge can’t find the plate, the rest of these guys are not yet in the “too old” category, but are a little concerning.
  • Wilmington’s High-A Hitter prospects: Antuna (22), Pineda (22), Barley (22), Mendoza (24). So, despite our continual angst about Antuna’s progress, he’s still within the 75% quartile range for age in the league at age 22. He won’t turn 23 until October. His bigger problem is that the team put him on the 40-man way, way too early, and now he’s burned 2 options. Mendoza is in the “depends” category and we all know why: he failed at AA, got demoted last year, and has zero homers through 25 games in 2022 despite basically being a DH at this point.
  • Wilmington’s High-A Pitcher prospects: Parker (22), Brzycky (22), Shuman (24), Irvin (25). So, Parker and NDFA Brzycky are both actually young for High-A. Shuman is in the iffy range; he was excellent for Oakland’s High-A team, then was awful for us in 2021, earning himself a return trip to Wilmington in 2022 … but he’s been pretty solid so far. My guess is that he earns a promotion soon. Meanwhile, we now know that Irvin is way too old for High-A, but we also know why: he missed two full years of throwing with Covid and TJ. He’s also been basically unhittable in High-A in five starts and likely gets promoted within a few weeks.
  • Harrisburg’s AA Hitter prospects: Cluff (25), Alu (25), Harrison (25). We don’t have a lot of hitter prospects in AA; even these three guys are challenging the definition of “prospect.” Cluff is really the only guy who gets any industry-wide speculation. All three are 25, putting them all in the “iffy” category anyway. Cluff and Harrison are really struggling this year. Alu just turned 25 last month, and is hitting well in 2022, but has little prospect buzz.
  • Harrisburg’s AA Pitcher prospects: Henry (22), Carrillo (23), Cronin (24), Cate (24), Evan Lee (25). So, Henry is quite young for AA and is lighting it up, a great sign. Cronin and Cate are still “ok” for the level at this point, even if Cate struggled so badly last year. Lee is already “iffy” even though he just got put on the 40-man, but his AA performance so far has been stellar and he should get pushed up soon. Nobody “too old” here who’s a prospect. We do have several arms in AA who are way too old to be there (Herrera, Brill, Andrew Lee)
  • Rochester AAA Hitter prospects: Casey (26), Barrera (27). We don’t have a lot of prospects in AAA right now. Casey is “iffy” as a prospect based on age, but he’s a banner child for the Covid effect; he lost 2020 after earning a promotion to AA in 2019 at age 23; then he loses his age 24 season, solves AA at age 25 but has struggled in AAA ever since. So, its possible this is his peak. Meanwhile, we know Barrera is too old for AAA, and probably too old to be a “prospect” at this point, but he’s also a catcher on the 40-man roster and is next in line if Ruiz/Adams gets hurt. So he falls into the “AAA as spare parts” league category.
  • Rochester AAA Pitcher prospects: Cavalli (23), Seth Romero (26). As with hitters … our AAA is not really a place where we bring up our prospects. Cavalli at 23 is one of the youngest pitchers in AAA right now (only 7 arms in the International League are 23 or younger, most of them major prospects whose names you already know). Romero at 26 is “iffy” as a prospect, which makes me laugh to write since he’s been “iffy” as a prospect since the moment he was kicked off his college team. I still can’t quite believe he’s in the employ of the team, and it should make you sick that he was called up to then be put on the major league 60-day DL, thus meaning he’s earning MLB salary this year.

Conclusions? the Nats are generally keeping their prospects in the appropriate level, and the “too old for the level” iffy considerations all have easy-to-see explanations.

Written by Todd Boss

May 12th, 2022 at 9:45 am

Best Baseball movie of all time?

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I have not done a Baseball Movie themed post in years. I’ve thought about it … since we’ve had a couple of random baseball movies released since the origins of this blog 10+ years ago and i’ve seen some baseball-movie themed blog posts here and there, but never pulled the trigger.

But today, lo and behold, in my inbox from MLB was a link to vote in a crowd-sourced baseball movie bracket, and I just had to post it, and turn it into a blog post since i’m on a deathly conference call that I only have to pay attention to for a few minutes…

https://www.mlb.com/brackets/mlb-bleacher-features

I’m going to play through the entire bracket, talk about movie snubs, and arrive at the best baseball movie.

First off, here’s the baseball movies of note that I’m aware of from the pantheon that did not make the top 16 below. I’ve listed them in rough order of their own quality … and in the rough order that you may argue to replace ones from below.

  • Pride of the Yankees, with Gary Cooper playing Lou Gehrig. Probably more famous for its depiction of his retirement than of his playing ability, since reportedly Cooper was so unathletic they couldn’t even show him playing the sport.
  • Bang the Drum Slowly: Great movie, not exactly rewatchable as a story about a catcher slowly dying, but full of significant, Oscar-pedigree actors.
  • Damn Yankees: well, if you wanted to see a musical about Baseball, with balding middle aged actors singing in the locker room instead of playing the sport, this is your movie.
  • 61*: Billy Crystal‘s tribute to the 1961 season and Roger Maris‘ pursuit of Babe Ruth‘s record. Barry Pepper and Thomas Jane as Maris and Mickey Mantle are great, and the movie is well done.
  • Sugar, an inspirational story about a Dominican kid who washes out of the minors and struggles to find himself in America. Well regarded.
  • The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings: little known Baseball comedies that do not rate and that i’ve never seen.
  • Soul of the Game: Despite its topic, i’ve never seen it. But it does not fare well with the critics, which is too bad b/c a great movie about the Negro Leagues would be awesome to re-watch.
  • Million Dollar Arm; Jon Hamm travels to India to recruit cricket players to play baseball. The only problem with this plot? Top Cricket players in India are paid millions of dollars a year.
  • Cobb: Tommy Lee Jones plays a great turn-of-the-century racist bastard of a player in a movie that wasn’t really that re-watchable.
  • Mr. Baseball: a movie that wouldn’t be made today, Tom Selleck faces culture shock playing in Japan. has not aged well, nor did Selleck’s baseball playing ability.
  • Mr. 3000: Bernie Mac as a showman attempting a comeback with an unbelievable plot of a showy retired slugger having exactly one career hit over turned, leaving him with just 2,999 for his career.
  • The Babe: Do you remember John Goodman‘s depiction of Babe Ruth fondly? I don’t.
  • The Scout: Brendan Frasier was not terribly believable as a baseball player in a forgettable movie.
  • Hustle: did you even know they made a movie about Pete Rose? I’ve never seen it.
  • Fever Pitch, Summer Catch: just no.
  • Little Big League, Air Bud: 7th Inning Fetch: formulaic Disney kids movies, barely behind the other formulaic Disney kids movies that did make the cut below.
  • Major League II, Major League III, Bad News Bears sequels?: sequels never work, but Major League III was an abomination.
  • The Benchwarmers, Hardball: awful, awful and more awful.

I’m sure i’m missing some; feel free to comment and tell me what baseball movies i’ve missed.

Of the above, I’d have probably replaced several of the below with the top movies from above … but nobody alive today is really rewatching Pride of the Yankees or any of the others listed, so maybe the snubs aren’t really snubs.

Ok lets get to it.

Methodology: I have none. What makes for a “great baseball movie?” Is it great baseball action? Is it the movie itself, whether or not the baseball scenes work? Is it a believable plotline? Is it the Acting? Is it rewatchability? For me, its some nebulous combination of all of the above, which is why I knock out the movie with the most Oscar nominations in the first round. Everything below is IMHO, your opinions may vary.

Here’s the MLB Movie knockout round of 16 with my comments.

  • #1 Field of Dreams vs #16 Angels in the Outfield: #1 v #16 seed is never going to be an upset, though Angels in the Outfield (despite some of Danny Glover‘s best work outside of the Lethal Weapon franchise) was never going to press it. Field of Dreams is solid, but has its flaws; we’ll be getting to them soon, but it moves on here. Winner: Field of Dreams.
  • #9 The Natural vs #8 For the Love of the Game: See, right away we get a heavy weight matchup, and what more would you expect form the #8 vs #9 seed. For me, despite Kevin Costner‘s really amazing athletic performance as an aging MLB pitcher in For the Love of the Game, the movie is absolutely crippled by the crap “love story” that keeps interrupting the baseball story. Every scene with Kelly Preston is fast-forward material. Oh, and John C. Reilly as the catcher is so completely unbelievable that it distracts even from Costner’s performance. Meanwhile, there’s nothing more iconic than Roy Hobbs, and the Natural was never going to lose here. Winner: The Natural.
  • #5 The Sandlot vs #12 The Perfect Game: legendary baseball film versus a feel-good story starring the same guy who was made famous for smoking Ganga on film; how do you choose here? The Sandlot transcends culture, with its famous lines like “You’re killing me Smalls” and its legendary scenes. Perhaps a movie starting Cheech will age better, but the Sandlot has to move on. Winner: The Sandlot.
  • #4 The Bad News Bears vs #13 Rookie of the Year: I see what they’re doing here: all the little leaguers are in one quadrant, to ensure that a movie about kids is in the semis. Ok, fair enough. So, despite the Bad News Bears (which I HAVE to believe refers to the Walter Matthau version and not the 1995 remake with Billy Bob Thornton) not really aging that well (some of it is absolutely cringe worthy today), Rookie of the Year is awful. I mean … ok, suspend disbelief about the plot involving a kid who can suddenly throw 110mph for a bit; the ending is ridiculous. Bears move on. Winner: Bad News Bears
  • #3 League of their Own vs #14 The Rookie: tough matchup here; Lets just say from the get-go that League is going to be tough to beat. I’ll give props to Dennis Quaid for his believable performance as Jim Morris (here’s his baseball-reference page, btw, MLB debut at 35), but the movie itself was typical Disney fluff (it was rated G). We’ll cover League in a moment; it clearly moves on here. Winner: League of their Own.
  • #6 Eight Men Out vs #11 42: tough one here; I can see some people arguing with me. Eight Men Out was not only a fantastic baseball movie with well done baseball action scenes, it was a fabulous period piece about the 1919 Black Sox and the culture that led to their scandal. Technically “42” was also a period piece … a throwback to a transitional time in baseball’s history, and the actors involved reportedly struggled greatly to curse at Chadwick Boseman (who was amazing as a young Jackie Robinson before he became the superstar actor he eventually became). I’ll never forget the one scene in Cincinnati, where Pee Wee Reese comes up to Robinson and puts his arm around him… but Harrison Ford‘s awful acting performance and the lack of real rewatch ability (it is really difficult to watch a movie where they so freely use the n-word over and over) crushes “42” for me in the end. Winner: Eight Men Out
  • #7 Major League vs #10 Trouble with the Curve: this is a blowout for me: Trouble with the Curve was an awful movie full of bad cliches and unbelievable scenes related to the way scouting and drafting occurs. It depended on hit-you-over-the-head racist tropes related to the discounting of the Latino hurler at the end. Amy Adams‘ performance was annoying throughout. Winner: Major League.
  • #2 Moneyball vs #15 Bull Durham: I’m sorry, but this seeding is whack. This is a semi-final caliber matchup between two movies that are attempting to accomplish two drastically different things. You just cannot compare a legendary comedy versus a well-executed drama. That being said … despite Moneyball getting six Oscar nominations … it’s story (as written by author Michael Lewis) was a flawed retelling of the famous 2002 Oakland Athletics (baseball reference link here: https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/OAK/2002.shtml), spending almost zero time on the fact that the Athletics had three ace starters that year in Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito (who won the Cy Young), nor that the team’s lineup was anchored by Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada (who won the MVP). Not to mention, the entire Jonah Hill character was made up, thanks to Paul DePodesta not wanting to appear in the film. Oh, and making Art Howe look like a stiff (both in the book and in the movie) was ridiculous. Moneyball may be the better “movie,” but baseball fans know it focuses on the wrong things that made the 2002 Oakland team winners. Winner: Bull Durham.

Quarter finals

  • #1 Field of Dreams vs #9 The Natural. I’m already going for the upset here. Field of Dreams was a solid movie, which makes me cry at the end every time when Kevin Costner gets a catch with his dad. But the movie has huge plot issues, not the least of which is the fact that the amount of corn he plows over to make the field absolutely will not send his farm under. A baseball field takes somewhere between 3-5 acres to make, and one acre of corn fields produces less than 200 bushels of corn a year, and corn sells for about $5 a bushel. Do the math. Corn farmers in Iowa have thousands of acres, have million-dollar harvesters … and losing a couple of acres of land directly next to the house isn’t making that big of a difference. The story is fine, the period piece baseball is great, but the whole hidden voice as the plot driver makes no sense based on where the Costner character goes and ends up. Oh, and by the way, the James Earl Jones character is absolutely reacting if he’s sitting in Fenway Park and hears a damn voice. Winner: The Natural
  • #5 The Sandlot vs #4 The Bad News Bears. Even though Bears has not aged well, I recently re-watched The Sandlot, and, well, it just isn’t that good. Its a fun piece about a bunch of neighborhood friends that’s less about baseball and more about just growing up and getting into hijinks. They barely play any actual baseball, and the step-dad’s actions are completely unbelievable (if you’re a baseball fan, and your non-athletic kid asks to play catch … that’s every dad’s DREAM; you drop what you’re doing and help, you don’t hem-and-haw about how you have a bunch of work). Oh, and some random neighbor just happens to have a baseball signed by the entire 1927 Yankees team sitting around and is willing to give it up to some punk kid who broke into his property?? Even in 1962, that would have been a priceless piece of memorabilia, let alone what its value would be now. Yeah right. Winner: Bad news Bears
  • #3 League of their Own vs #6 Eight Men Out: two period pieces, one of which is pretty unique in sports history, that being the AAGPBL. Bill Simmons just did a rewatchable deep dive into this movie on his podcast called, fittingly, The Rewatchables, and its hard to find too much fault here. Eight Men Out, despite its excellent baseball scenes and reenactment of the 1919 scandal, does not match up and drags at times. Its an important movie of course, and D.B. Sweeney‘s baseball prowess is pretty impressive (he learned how to hit left-handed and look believable in order to play Shoeless Joe Jackson). Winner: League of their Own
  • #7 Major League vs #15 Bull Durham: You see, again, this is a semi-finals matchup of quality. And, I see again what they’re doing here; putting all the major baseball comedies into one quadrant so that the final four basically has just one comedy. Fair enough. As much as I love both of these movies, there’s parts of Bull Durham that detract from the re-watchability. Its hard to watch some of the dramatic scenes that they put in between the baseball scenes. Tim Robbins is pretty darn good, as is Costner of course. But, Major League all-in-all is funnier. It’s a raunchier watch, more laugh out loud moments, and the first 30 minutes are just absolute gold, one liner after one liner. Winner: Major League

Semis:

  • #9 The Natural versus #4 The Bad News Bears: This is no contest; the acting, the storyline, and the baseball performances in the Natural, especially out of Robert Redford as an aging slugger, are second to none. There’s some weird plot holes, and I struggle with the ending just a little bit (they couldn’t find a kid to play his son who couldn’t throw the ball like an actual baseball player??), but the run of aging-poorly scenes and themes from the 1976 Bad News Bears causes its demise. Coach freely cursing in front of his team? Sharing his beer with a minor? Kids Smoking cigarettes? A father slapping his son across the face in broad daylight? Yeah; just one of a few of the things that make this “kids movie” unshowable to your, you know, actual kids. Winner: The Natural
  • #3 League of their Own vs #7 Major League. wow. Tough on here. I like both movies. I have yet to comment on Tom Hanks‘ amazing rendition of Jimmy Foxx in this movie, nor the great one-liners he gets in that transcend culture (There’s no crying in baseball.”). Nor have we talked about the pretty solid performances of Rosie O’Donnell and Madonna and Lori Petty and especially Geena Davis as players. From a comedy perspective though, it can’t hold a candle to the raw in-your-face antics of Major League. League is a better ‘story’ and has as good of baseball action as they could muster, given that actresses don’t actually play baseball at any point in their lives. But Major League wins. Winner: Major League

Final:

#9 The Natural v #7 Major League. In some ways, this is impossible to gauge, because we’re talking about the best ever baseball Drama versus the best ever baseball comedy. But we’ll try:

  • The Natural pros: great baseball action, great story, easily weaves in a number of solid dramatic actors with a completely believable set of baseball players. Amazing, transcendent ending, with the filmmaking to go with it.
  • The Natural cons: Hobbs would have healed from his wound in a couple years tops; where the heck has he been for a decade and a half? And the girlfriend never went looking for him, ever? Even when she had his kid all those years? Really? He struck out Babe Ruth in front of a leading sportswriter for a national paper … and then nothing ever came of it? The Hollywood ending differs from the book; does that matter?
  • Major League pros: Charlie Sheen could actually throw in the mid 80s. The baseball players were mostly believable. Pedro Ceranno‘s lines are amazing, as are the quotes from this movie (“that ball wouldn’t have been out of a lot of ball parks…”). As I’ve said before, the premise of the movie is hilarious and the first part of the movie, from the recruitment of players to spring training, is just gold.
  • Major League cons: Tom Berenger is the lead, and he’s not a good actor, and he’s not a believable baseball player. Explain to me again why his ex-gf dumps her fiancee and her new life to return to him? What exactly did he do to win her back?

The Natural, at the end of the day, is the best combination of Movie and Baseball; it’s the winner.

Winner: The Natural


By the way, If I was re-seeding this draw …. i’d seed it as follows:

  1. The Natural (#9 here)
  2. Major League (#7)
  3. Bull Durham (#15)
  4. Moneyball (#2)
  5. League of Their Own (#3)
  6. Field of Dreams (#1)
  7. Eight Men Out (#6)
  8. 42 (#11)
  9. Bad news Bears (#4)
  10. The Sandlot (#5)
  11. For the Love of the Game (#8)
  12. the Perfect Game (#12)
  13. The Rookie (#14)
  14. Trouble with the Curve (#10)
  15. Rookie of the Year (#13)
  16. Angels in the Outfield (#16)

So, I’ve got some serious problems with their rankings. If the seedings had gone this way, We’d have Moneyball in the semis.

Written by Todd Boss

May 5th, 2022 at 9:22 am

Quick thoughts on the MLB and MiLB rotations one month in

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Cade Cavalli not yet ready for the big-dance. Photo via Lookout Landing blog

Every year i’m excited to start tracking our minor league pitching, and rotations in particular … and a month in, here’s some quick, random, small sample sized, perhaps not fully backed by statistics or sabremetrics thoughts on our rotations of the four minor league full season affiliates. And just for good measure, i’ll throw in thoughts on the debacle of the MLB rotation as well.

For reference, as always here’s the Big Board, which has the rotations in their pitching order lined up on the same day as the corresponding MLB pitcher, along with the rest of the staffs and their approximate roles. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/186nm-v5F-zTCoR2Be7TFYM3e2cZ-gYi2WVqJLEkHdmc/

Note: this was written on Monday 5/2/22 during an off-day so any moves that have happened since are not accounted for.


MLB Rotation

https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/WSN/2022.shtml

  • Grey: after a scuffling start, has put in a couple of really sterling outings and is starting to look like the headlining prospect we gave up Scherzer and Turner for. FIP is a bit higher than his ERA, which is indicative of his high walk rate, but he’s mowing them down to the tune of 10.7 K/9.
  • Adon: a 7.33 ERA and equally ugly whips and fips show that, as i’ve maintained for most of the last year and a half, he’s overpromoted. One September start against Boston seems to have blinded fan-boys across the Natmosphere into where Adon really is. He’s 23, which is generally the age of our current high-A rotation, and you can count the number of starts he’s had above AA on two hands. I think he needs to be in AAA.
  • Corbin, who is making $23M this year and is under contract through the 2024 season (and its balloon gift payment of a $35M payroll figure that year) continues to dumbfound observers; how could someone be so effective two years ago and fall apart so comprehensively? He’s now posting an 8.69 ERA, a whip north of 2.0, and a 43 ERA+ this season. His only saving grace right now is his obscenely high BABIP of .443, which leads to a normal looking FIP of 3.69 … better than Grey’s amazingly. So, maybe he’s just had a very unlucky April in terms of balls finding their way into the outfield. Either way, he’s not going anywhere, not when he comprises such a large percentage of the payroll and there’s nobody really pushing from AAA for a promotion.
  • Fedde, the guy who I was convinced would get non-tendered this off season (given that he was out of options and pitched horribly in 2021), instead is tendered a contract and given $2.1M guaranteed dollars to be our 5th starter … and has been pitching like it. 6.00 ERA, 1.55 whip, mediocre FIP. He’s yet another example of a guy who, if he had been a 15th rounder and gotten $125K as a signing bonus would have LONG ago been DFA’d and buried in AAA, but because of the “investment” made in him in terms of signing bonus so many years ago, continues to throw MLB innings that virtually ensure losses.
  • Aaron Sanchez at one point was a Fantasy stud, a phenomenal starter for Toronto. Now he’s back in the majors and probably has a pretty extended shot at sticking around. His first two starts were meh, but his peripherals don’t look too bad yet. Now that he’s back in the majors though, he’s got enough service time to refuse a demotion, so he’ll either stick or get DFA’d. My guess is that if he shows any promise whatsoever, he’ll stick in the rotation at the expense of someone else, and the team will look to flip him at the deadline.
  • Josh Rogers was the guy who i thought merited a rotation spot from the get go, not some hail-mary chance at MLFA/NRI/washout Anibel Sanchez. But hey, old habits die hard right?
  • Speaking of Sanchez, he managed to hit the DL pretty much the MOMENT his $2M salary was guaranteed … and it remains to be seen when we’ll see him again. Nice move! His official DL reason was “Nerve impingment in neck.” Anyone want to bet how many starts we get out of him this year?

Hitting the 60-day DL before the season even started were our $35M albatross Stephen Strasburg, who the team still says expects to throw “20-25 starts” this year. I’ll take the under. Joe Ross is earning $2.4M this year to probably sit on the DL for several months with his elbow bone ship removal surgery just done. And of course who can forget our favorite 1st round draft pick Seth Romero, who was recalled and dumped onto the 60-day DL with what was called a “calf strain,” this after suffering a ‘stiff back’ during spring training, and this after suffering a “rib injury” that cost him half of 2021. At what point can he suffer a “DFA injury?”

Next to get demoted/released? I can’t imagine Adon will be allowed to pitch like this the rest of the way and will eventually get pushed back to AAA. Fedde may get the dump if/when one of the DL starters is ready to return … but more likely Rogers (who has options) gets moved since the team has “less invested” in him of course.

What do I think happens next? No changes until Strasburg/Sanchez/Ross is ready to come off the DL.


AAA rotation:

https://www.milb.com/rochester/stats/pitching/games-started?playerPool=ALL

  • Sanchez: promoted and with good reason: 3 starts, 3.60 ERA is best of the AAA rotation, even if his peripherals were not that great (10/5 k/bb in 15 innings, 1.47 whip).
  • Verrett: I think he’s meant more to be a reliever but has 2 starts and 7 IP.  Maybe they put Braymer back in rotation.
  • Tetreault: 1.54 whip, 5.56 ERA but his fip is going to be lower b/c his BAA is decent.
  • Cavalli: interestingly on 13 Ks in 15 innings right now, ugly era 6.23, but his whip is not bad 1.27 and he’s only got a .234 BAA.
  • Reyes: an offseason MLFA who now has a 14.18 ERA … seems like he’s getting ready to get released.
  • Jrodriguez: weird numbers: 8.31 ERA but only a .184 BAA. .. oh its b/c he has 10 walks in 13 innings.  Another guy who seems to be just holding down a rotation spot til they’re ready to promote someone from AA.
  • Sharp: put in a spot start in place of the now departed Sanchez and wasn’t half bad (5ip, 4hits 2 runs), and should probably go into the rotation.

Next to get promoted? Nobody is earning it anytime soon; maybe someone like Sharp if they need a spot starter in the majors, but the Nats already has a couple guys in the bullpen who can do that (Espino, Voth).

Next to get demoted/released? Reyes seems to be out of here soon. JRodriguez may not be far behind.

What do I think happens next? Reyes gets released, the team promotes two guys from AA, Verrett and Sharp go back to the pen and we run with Tetreault, Cavalli, JRodriguez and two guys we’re about to cover in the next section…


AA Rotation:

https://www.milb.com/harrisburg/stats/pitching?playerPool=ALL&sortState=asc

  • Fuentes: 4 competent starts so far; no surprise from someone who should be in AAA. Whip is a little high, should be doing more against AA pitchers.
  • Gausch: Decent numbers, 3.66 era, 1.27 whip, really nice BAA of .194. Pretty good for his first time facing AA hitters. Probably needs to do this for most of the season before promotion.
  • Henry: uh… 13 ip, just 3 hits given up to go with 4 walks. So that’s around 1/2 a baserunner per inning. It goes without saying his era is 0.00 and his BAA is a miniscule 0.073. But, the team is only throwing him 3-4 innings an outing. Obviously, a month in the guy is looking like a sure fire promotion but he’s gotta get his endurance up.
  • Herrera: ERA ugly, but peripherals not bad. He’s too old for the level and either needs to move up or out.
  • Lee: about what we’re expecting; lots of Ks and lots of walks (14/10 in 14 innings). ERA belies some bad peripherals and he’s likely to see that rise soon. Needs more time.

Next to get promoted? Henry and Fuentes.

Next to get demoted/released? Herrera.

What do I think happens next? We probably don’t see much change here for another month, then we see Henry and perhaps Fuentes moved up. Who takes their place? Well, not for nothing but two of our more advanced SP prospects (Cate and Carrillo) are on the AA DL right now; Cate is doing rehab starts and is back soon, Carrillo’s shoulder barked and he may be out for a bit, but it’d make sense for these two to slide in before considering a High-A promotion. They also have an excellent long reliever/spot starter in Alex Troop who is having a fine season who could slot into the rotation soon. There’s nobody really pressing in the immediate from High-A for now, so solutions may come from within. See Next section.


High-A

https://www.milb.com/wilmington/stats/pitching?playerPool=ALL&sortState=asc

  • Cuevas: solid. 2.79 ERA, 1.09 whip, .179 BAA. That’s not bad for a 23rd rounder who hasn’t turned 21 yet. We may have a find on our hands here.
  • Irvin: 4 starts after two lost seasons and things are looking promising; miniscule 0.69 ERA, similarly small whip, great k/bb 13/2 in 13 innings. Like Henry above him, Irvin is being eased back into starts, just going 3 or 4 at a time, but we’re starting to remember why we drafted him.
  • Merrill: strugging; a walk an inning. a 5.00 ERA that might be higher in FIP. Might make sense to put in the pen.
  • Parker: is continuing the great performance we saw last year in Low-A so far; 2.08 ERA, a .111 BAA. 25 Ks in 17 innings is amazing … but 14 walks in 17 innings is not.
  • Shuman: repeating the level and posting a 5.27 ERA, though his peripherals indicate that’s unlucky. He’s one-thrid of trade bounty we got from Oakland in the Gomes/Harrison deal last trade deadline, so the team doesn’t have a ton invested.

Next to get promoted? Cuevas and Irvin, but no time soon.

Next to get demoted/released? Shuman.

What do I think happens next? Irvin isn’t moving up until he’s doing 6ip a night, same as Henry, so maybe both their fates are tied to each other. Cuevas is lower profile and young, so he might not be moving up anytime soon either. Two of the long relievers here (Knowles and Pena) are having solid seasons and could move into the rotation if need be. There’s not a lot of pressure in Low-A pushing up right now, so we may see this unit intact until the July (see next).


Low-A

https://www.milb.com/fredericksburg/stats/pitching/games-started?playerPool=ALL

  • Lara: 6.75 ERA, but a nice K/BB 21/6 in 14 innings. He’s punching a ton of guys out, but letting in a ton of contact. He’s only 19, 3-4 years younger than anyone else in this rotation, so we should be patient here.
  • Saenz: a nice line of 3.74 ERA, 1.34 whip, 26/6 K/BB in 21 innings. This is a solid line and should he continue it he should be in line to move up later this season.
  • Theophile: Crushing it so far in a huge turnaround from last year in the same level: 0.86 ERA through 4 starts, and a great 30/5 K/BB in 21 innings. Love that line. I’d like to see this continue for a while though, since he got shelled for the same team last year (5.56 ERA in 22 starts)
  • Alvarez; 5.93 ERA, decent K/9 numbers, 1.46 whip. Probably needs to step it up a bit.
  • Caceres is the only guy here who didn’t end last year on this staff and it shows: ERA north of 7 but an interesting 20/3 k/bb ratio in 14 innings.
  • Collins: the 2021 17th rounder ended last year in the Low-A rotation but now is getting stretched out a bit and the early returns are good: 20/3 K/BB in 12 innings, 3.55 ERA, 1.11 whip. I like that.

Its hard to tell if Low-A is doing a 6-man rotation or is throwing a 6th spot starter in all over the place. They also have Seijas in the pen who is throwing almost starter innings in relief (though not that effectively).

Next to get promoted? Theophile

Next to get demoted/released? Caceres.

What do I think happens next? there’s a couple guys sitting in XST who might profile here (Dyson, AHernandez, Stoeckinger if he’s still with the club at this point). But more likely the team shuffles around its long relievers to fill rotation spots if they need them until we start seeing the FCL team start to play and the 2022 draft take shape. We may end up with an SEC starter in the upper rounds who could go straight to low-A mid-season once the deck chairs start to shuffle. Until then, I can’t see anyone getting promoted, even Theophile, for another month at least.

Written by Todd Boss

May 3rd, 2022 at 10:40 am