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Tag: david price

The Price is Right

CY Young Award goes to David Price in the AL and R.A. Dickey in the NL.

[Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images North America via It's a Long Season]

Price is Right

It came down to this: fifth inning, bases loaded, one out. David Price vs. Alex Rodriguez. The Rays up, 5-1. Price was dealing, but had thrown a lot of pitches. Beautiful fastball, 96-97-98, a four-seamer, but down in the strike zone. He mixed in a slider, a change-up, and a curve ball. And it had been a performance where you didn’t know what pitch he’d go to next.

Rodriguez singled on the first pitch he saw from Price in the first inning, a fastball, and then Price got him out the next time on off-speed pitches. Now, he went after Rodriguez with more soft stuff. Rodriguez fouled pitches off, good pitches, nasty pitches. Until he saw 11, almost all soft (3 hard fastballs mixed in there for good measure). It was a riveting at bat and if Yankee fans felt that Rodriguez was bound to whiff at least he wasn’t making it easy on Price.

Then he struck out on a change-up, or was it a slider? Doesn’t matter. Rodriguez was booed–unfairly, it says here–on his walk back to the dugout. Robinson Cano was next and the 1-1 pitch was a 97-mph fastball, right down the middle. Cano put a good swing on it but fouled it off. He too ruined a couple of good pitches by Price before grounding out weakly to second base to end the threat. Cano was not booed but he had the best chance of the inning–the one true mistake that Price made (I’m not including the two walks).

That ended Price’s night but it was also as close as the Yanks would come (Eric Chavez, pinch-hitting in the eighth inning, represented the tying run and missed a fat pitch, fouling it off, that could well keep him up tonight if he’s the sensitive kind). Just a nervy performance by Price in the fifth.

C.C. Sabathia had an effective slider but made a few too many mistakes (an error by Rodriguez did him no favors, either) as the Rays escaped New York with a win.

Final Score: Rays 7, Yanks 3.

The Yanks couldn’t take advantage of an Orioles loss to move into first place so they remain in second as our attention turns to the dreaded Subway Serious. You can guess the narrative: the Mets are scrappy, full of gamers–they’ve got spunk! they’ve got heart! they’ve got guts!–they are fun, they are what baseball is supposed to be about. The Yankees, meanwhile, are boring and bloated, overpaid, a regular snoozefest. Wonder who the reporters are pulling for?

[Photo Credit: Bags; Seth Wenig/AP; Jim McIsaac/Getty Images]

 

Mr. Big Stuff

And that goes for David Price, too.

Bad news for Brett Gardner who will have another MRI.

Derek Jeter SS
Nick Swisher RF
Robinson Cano 2B
Alex Rodriguez DH
Mark Teixeira 1B
Curtis Granderson CF
Andruw Jones LF
Eduardo Nunez 3B
Chris Stewart C

Never mind last night’s loss: Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Painting by Paul Lempa]

Generation Gap in CYA Mode

Greetings from Kansas City! Home to great barbecue, baseball history (the Negro League Hall of Fame), and my grandmother’s all-time favorite golfer, Tom Watson. Wednesday evening, after Roy Halladay was unanimously chosen the NL Cy Young Award winner, I was perusing the net, digesting the commentary and scrounging for material, when our good friend Repoz over at BaseballThinkFactory posted a link on Facebook.  I had to click.

It was, in the irony of all ironies, a blog post from the irascible, former New York Times baseball columnist Murray Chass. In a textbook anti-stats, antediluvian rant that may as well define “generation gap,” Chass claimed that Hernandez winning the AL Cy Young Award would be, among other things, a sign of the “Dark Side” taking over, and that this was the “wrong year for Hernandez.”

Well it looks like the BBWAA just became a sith.

Thursday, Felix Hernandez, winner of just 13 games, took the 2010 crown. Until Hernandez, 16 victories was the floor for starting pitchers to have won the award in a non-interrupted season (David Cone set that mark in the strike-shortened 1994 season). Lefties David Price and CC Cabathia, who combined for 40 victories, finished second and third, respectively.

Hernandez’s Cy Young was seen as a triumph for the sabermetricians; the “stat nyerds,” as Alex Belth noted in his hilariously titled post. The blog at Baseball Reference called it a “great day for stat geeks like us,” adding that it “goes to show you how little Wins and Losses mean as an individual pitcher stat (despite being, obviously, the most important team stat).” At Baseball Musings, David Pinto wrote, “With this vote, and last year’s awards, the wins column seems to be out of style in choosing the top spot. That’s a great stride forward for the BBWAA.”

Tyler Kepner stated in his post over at Bats that you didn’t need advanced metrics to make the case for Hernandez.

You don’t have to look up the meaning of Base-Out Runs Saved or Win Probability Added or anything like that. The stats that on the backs of baseball cards for decades make the case quite well.

And he’s right. Hernandez led the major leagues in ERA, led the AL in innings pitched, batting average against, and was second in strikeouts. He was last in the league in run support. Even Price agreed with the voting.

From tampabay.com:

“I feel like they got it right,” he said on a conference call. “I feel Felix deserved it.”

Price said he considers ERA the most important stat, and had no issue with Hernandez, who led the majors with a 2.27 mark, winning the award despite a 13-12 record.

Indeed, the pattern is similar to last year, when Zack Greinke and Tim Lincecum claimed the AL and NL prizes. Greinke led the majors in ERA, led the AL in WHIP, was second in the AL in strikeouts, and had the benefit of Hernandez and Sabathia splitting the vote. In the NL, Tim Lincecum was a 15-game winner but he led the NL in strikeouts and led the majors in K/9, and had the benefit of St. Louis Cardinal teammates Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright splitting the vote.

In fact, one can argue that Hernandez’s 2009 season was better than 2010. He was tied for the AL lead in wins with Sabathia (19), led the league in hits per nine innings and win-loss percentage, was second in ERA, third in WHIP, and fourth in strikeouts. Last year, his teammate helped him enough offensively to boost his win-loss record.

More from Kepner …

Over the course of a career, won-lost record is important, because luck generally evens out over time. But in the framework of a season, 34 starts or so, it’s not always revealing. Too many variables beyond a pitcher’s control can mess it up. Hernandez had 12 starts in which he allowed two earned runs or fewer and did not win. Price had five starts like that. Sabathia had three. Hernandez pitched in front of the worst A.L. offense of the designated-hitter era. That’s not his fault. That’s bad luck.

Speaking of luck, Chass recounted Steve Carlton’s Triple Crown season in 1972, when Lefty won 27 games for a Phillie team that won just 59. Luck wasn’t involved. Carlton was that good. Chass was trying to illustrate the premise that “great pitchers find ways to win games.” He also referenced Roy Halladay’s subscription to that philosophy. Kepner and others quoted Halladay similarly. But in Carlton’s case, he made 41 starts that year, pitched on a four-man rotation, completed 30 games, pitched more than 300 innings — it’s silly to even bring that season, as magnificent as it was, into the discussion. You can’t compare the two.

Later in the column, Chass criticized his former colleague, Kepner, and his former employer, for delving into highbrow intellect to add further context to the Paper of Record’s baseball coverage. Kepner committed an egregious act — using the Total Zone Total Fielding metric — to argue why Derek Jeter should not have won the Gold Glove, despite his making the fewest errors of any shortstop in baseball. This incited the elder’s ire.

The Times has increasingly used statistically-based columns, often at the expense, I believe, of the kind of baseball coverage it used to emphasize. But Kepner’s use of “Total Zone Total Fielding” was the clincher, demonstrating that the Times has gone over to the dark side.

Kepner, the Times’ national baseball writer, used the statistic in reporting that metric men were critical of the selection of Derek Jeter, the Yankees’ shortstop, as the Gold Glove shortstop. The Total Zone formula, Kepner wrote, rates Jeter 59th, or last, among major league shortstops.

“‘Within an hour of Tuesday’s announcement of the American League Gold Glove awards,’” he wrote as he planted both feet firmly on the dark side, “editors at Baseball-Reference.com summed up the general reaction to Derek Jeter’s latest victory at shortstop: ‘We can’t believe it either,’ a notation briefly on the site said.”

The game is more specialized. It’s data driven. Statistics don’t tell the entire story, but they help to put the story into perspective. This movement, which has evolved off the field since Bill James ascended to prominence and has gained more traction over the last 15 years, is not going away. On the field, managers like Earl Weaver and Tony LaRussa were pioneers in how the game is managed today, helping feed the depth of analysis that exists.

There is a place for some of Chass’s arguments. To say “great pitchers find a way to win games” is callous. But highlighting Carlton’s season the way he did allows us to cross-check Baseball Reference, Retrosheet, Baseball Almanac et al and use the stats to compare pitchers from the different eras. What the stats tell us, and the sabermetricians will agree, is that the truly great players, even with the advanced metrics, would have been great no matter when they played.

The fact that writers like Kepner, and Jayson Stark and Peter Gammons before him continue credit those sites and help bring them to the fore is a good thing for baseball fans. If reporters are supposed to be our eyes and ears — and they still can be — what better way to prove it than to show us that they visit the same websites we do to get information? Christina Kahrl of Baseball Prospectus has a BBWAA card, after years of fighting for it. That group, a group with I was proud to call colleagues for two of the annuals, was part of the “basement bloggers” that Murray Chass-tised a few years back. Now they’re mainstream and didn’t have to sell out to get there. And by the way, Mr. Chass should note that the CEO of that enterprise is the same brain behind 538.com, which changed the way elections were covered two years ago. It’s now a leading political blog under the New York Times umbrella. Numbers feed words.

This progression is healthy. Tradition can still be strong. But it should be put in context with the modernization of the game. Even Tevye, the protagonist in “Fiddler on the Roof,” came to accept that the traditions he held dear were changing and he needed to adapt.

With that post, Chass showed he’s rooted in “tradition” and is past the point of adapting.

Onion Powder

So far I like the idea of Kenny Powers more than I like the real Kenny Powers. But the jury is still out, and there’s always room for improvement. The fact that Kenny Powers doesn’t literally know how to throw a ball is weak.

Oh yeah, huge game tonight–Price vs. Lee. Should be a good one.

Southpaws

The fifth and deciding game of the ALDS between the Rangers and the Rays features a fantastic match-up of left-handed twirlers. In fact, it’s been raining lefties in the ALDS, with four Cy Young candidates showing off their stuff. CC Sabathia and Francisco Liriano faced off in the Yankee-Twin opener, and Cliff Lee and David Price go at each other for the second time tonight. Throw in the fine performances of Andy Pettitte and CJ Wilson and left-handed batters have not felt very comfortable since the regular season ended.

I’ll never forget my introduction to the lefty’s breaking ball. For left-handed batters, it’s a rite of passage. Mine came in the ultimate setting, the batting cages near the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. I was eight or nine years old and I had never seen a batting cage that spit out breaking pitches. The cage with the shortest line featured a lefty slide-piece and I jumped in without a clue for what was in store.

The first round was not a happy experience – the bend was just too unsettling. The ball came directly at my front, right shoulder before succumbing to the laws of physics and dropping down and towards the plate. I realized that even though the pitches looked like they were going to hit me, they always broke down and away before impact. I just had to trust it, keep the front shoulder pointed at the machine, and wait for it.

After attention-getting success in the second round (after all this time, I can remember the special feeling of a gathering crowd behind the cage) , the baseball gods decided that this was too much, too fast. Or maybe one of the balls was just worn down too much to generate the proper spin when released from the machine. As it came hurtling toward my front shoulder, I dug in and waited for the break. It never broke. The ball just bore in and in and plowed into my lead arm. It stung badly and I watched, through tears, as the last few pitches sailed over my head. The balls whacked the backstop with that depressing thud. 

I understood something there on the ground. This was the deal you made when facing a lefty. If you want to cover that pitch, you have to give in, trust the break and accept the consequences. That’s how these pitchers keep us from hitting everything they throw. Among other dastardly things, they can move us off the plate; they can drill us in the arm.

Cliff Lee and David Price are both incredibly tough lefties, but that doesn’t mean that facing them is a similar experience. Look at their release points. David Price comes at you from the sling-shot arm slot, like a Randy Johnson-lite. The fastball and the breaking ball sweep across the left-handed batter’s box, but the fastball materializes suddenly on the hands while the breaking ball just keeps slipping down and away. Distinguishing one from the other is the difference between a difficult at bat and an impossible one.

Cliff Lee comes more over the top, which might be preferable for some lefties. But because of the expert way Lee hides the ball, and the movement he generates on all his pitches, he replaces the sweeping motion of Price with dart-gun precision and an unpredictability that the sling-shot lefty does not possess.

Both Lee and Price have success at limiting left-handed batters, but in two of the last three years, Lee actually had better numbers against righties. Price displayed the more traditional platoon advantage this year. Small sample sizes are in play for both, but I can believe that Price’s sweeping approach makes things more difficult for lefties but is slightly easier to track from the right-handed batter’s box. Meanwhile, Cliff Lee’s overhand style sacrifices some advantage versus lefties to better contend with the righties.

Outside of Ben Zobrist, none of the Rays did much with Cliff Lee in the first game. And then the righty-heavy lineup did even less with CJ Wilson in Game Two. I wonder if Joe Maddon will be tempted to start some of the lefties tonight, since the offense finally put runs on the board in Texas. Ron Washington has a much easier decision. His right-handed sluggers damaged Price the first time around and he can feel confident in trotting the same team out there again.

I expect Cliff Lee to be excellent, and I expect David Price to be much better than last time. But I don’t think he will be good enough. I expect the Rangers will win a low-scoring affair, 3-1. But no matter the outcome, Yankee fans can look forward to seeing a tough lefty in Yankee Stadium in Game 3 of the ALCS.

The Price is Right

I think David Price and the Rays will find a way to beat Cliff Lee and the Rangers tomorrow night. Either way, neither Lee or Price is likely to start Game One of the ALCS against the Yankees. Over at the Pinstriped Bible, Steve Goldman takes a look at the possible pitching rotation for the New Yorkers:

Now, we know that the Rangers are reluctant to use Lee on short rest, but perhaps young Price won’t be subject to the same limitations. Yet, moving up Price, or Lee for that matter, doesn’t change anything. Whether they pitch Saturday (three days) or Monday (five days), they’re getting two starts in the seven games. If they pitch on regular rest on Monday, they have the benefit of their usual recovery time, and the manager retains the option of asking them to come back on short rest for Game 6 or regular rest for Game 7.

After the first four games, determining the matchups becomes difficult and depressing. Given Andy Pettitte’s fragile physical state, it seems spectacularly unlikely he would pitch on short rest for Game 5. That means A.J. Burnett or Ivan Nova or Waite Hoyt or someone who wouldn’t ideally start is going if Game 5 is necessary. One alternative, and it’s probably not a good idea or even a realistic one, is Hughes pitching Game 2 . This would open up the possibility of shis tarting Game 5 on three day’s rest. Then Pettitte would pitch Game 3 and would line up to pitch in the seventh game if, for some reason, Sabathia couldn’t make another short-rest start.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver