OK, so this post is a liiiiiittle off-schedule. Better late than never, right? Anyway…
Tonight is Start 1, APG (After Perfect Game) for Dallas Braden, as he and the rest of the Athletics face the Angels in Anaheim, Calif. The question on everyone’s mind, from players to the media to the fans to fantasy owners, is what happens next? How does one follow up perfection? Is it a sign of things good or bad to come, or is it just one of those weird anomalies that helps baseball be so unique?
Well, of course, that’s a question I just couldn’t let go unanswered. But there is one major caveat before you read further: since there have only been 19 perfect games in the modern era of baseball, the sample size is very small, understandably. Also, since perfect games have happened across different offensive times, so I only looked at perfect games that occurred during the current high-powered offensive climate we’re in now.
That leaves us with five such games (from earliest to latest): Kenny Rogers on July 28, 1994; David Wells on May 17, 1998; David Cone on July 18, 1999; Randy Johnson on May 18, 2004; and Mark Buehrle on July 23, 2009.
When I went through these games, all I was looking for was how each pitcher was doing before the big game and how he did after it. Did particular rate statistics increase or decrease by a significant amount for these five? Was there any clearly definitive pattern? The only instance the process was complicated was with Rogers, who made only two more starts after his perfecto before the ’94 season was cancelled due to the players’ strike.
After I first looked through the data, I was a little disappointed. Some pitchers were better for the rest of the season after The Game while others bombed out, and everyone’s rate stats were different. But, if you take another look, you’ll see a pattern does emerge, and it all depends on when the perfect game takes place.
I saw that half of the perfect games occurred May and the other half in July. When you separate the two, the pattern smacks you right in the face: those who had their moment in the sun in May went on to have great seasons while those that happened in July saw their season take a steep nose-dive. On the surface, that is how simply it appears, but there are a couple undercurrents that should be mentioned.
The two pitchers who had perfect games in May, Wells and Johnson, had at least one highly exceptional skill set: Wells was probably one of the best control artists in the last 25 years, while Johnson might simply be one of the two greatest strikeout pitchers ever. Also, with the exception of the then-29-year-old Rogers, all these pitchers were at least 30 years old, so they were able to rely on intelligence and guile as well as their physical abilities to get hitters out. Braden is neither north of 30 nor does he possess a skill set that separates him from the majority of his peers (at least for now).
So what does this all mean? Braden’s PG came in May (which is good), but he isn’t well-known for a particular stat or ability (which isn’t good), so should I start him? Sit him? Cut or trade him?
Well, in my opinion, I like to think that Braden will have a good 2010 season, but nothing like what Boomer Wells had in ’98 or the Big Unit in ’04. He’s still learning and improving, so I also highly doubt his season will suddenly careen into the abyss, dragging many fantasy seasons along with it. Not only that, but Mr. 209 pitches half of his games in one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in the game.
Braden is definitely worth keeping on your roster as a back-end starter in mixed leagues and a mid-rotation guy in AL-only leagues. But odds are that your league has a guy who’s pitching is so bad that it would make the Mariners’ lineup look more like the Rangers. Make that guy your new best friend and name your price for the irreverant southpaw.
Oh, one more thing. While searching for pictures of Braden, I came across this beauty. It was too good for me to leave alone, so here it is. Dallas Braden: Human Time Machine.
Anyway, I think it’s safe to say that this weekend was a fairly active, eventful one. You only had Mark Teixeira turn in his third three-homer game (as well as his 13th with five-plus RBIs), Rod Barajas hit two home runs to give him nine on the year (most among catchers), Jayson Werth took batting practice for three days against the Braves, the real Jake Peavy returned to action, and Dallas Braden (pictured right, hugging his grandmother after the game) tossed the 19th perfect game in Major League history. I’d say that’s enough to keep one person entertained.
While I would love to go on and on about Braden’s achievement, in terms of fantasy baseball, it is such a rare anomaly, that it really isn’t worth talking too much about. But, after reading about the game later on (I was at work during the two-hour sprint of a game), I remembered how Mark Buehrle‘s and David Cone‘s performances took a sharp tumble after each of their perfect games. With that in mind, I’ll do some digging around tonight and will have a post up tomorrow about how perfect game pitchers do following their feat. This will hopefully help Braden starters figure out whether to start him, sit him or trade him to other owners who now overvalue the southpaw.
Now, on to the other goings-on of the weekend:
Teixeira turns third home-run hat-trick
By now, it’s common knowledge that Teixeira in April is about as effect for your fantasy team as it is using water to put out a grease fire, as his career April stats of .235/.342/.411 show. But I don’t think anyone was expecting for him to surpass his April RBI total within his first seven games in May. Incredibly enough, these kinds of games are not unusual for Tex. Like I said before, this was the third time he’s hit three home runs in a game (June 22, 2008 for ATL against SEA; June 13, 2006 for TEX against BAL).
Not only that, but Saturday’s shellacking of the Sox gave the former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket his 13th game with five or more RBIs. His career-high is seven, which he did on June 13, 2006 and on Aug. 17, 2004 when he hit for the cycle. During his years with the Rangers, Teixeira accomplished this feat at least three times a year between 2004 and 2006, but only twice between 2007 and last weekend.
But now that he isn’t bouncing from team to team and is smack in the middle of one of the best lineups in the league, it shouldn’t be surprising to see five RBI games becoming more frequent again.
Putting together Peavy
According to published reports this weekend, 2007 NL Cy Young winner Jake Peavy was seen pitching in the South Side of Chicago on Saturday, May 8. This was confirmed to be the real Peavy and not the pitcher who frustrated White Sox fans and Peavy owners through the first month of the 2010 season, as he earned his second win in as many games by holding the Blue Jays to two runs on three hits with eight strikeouts in eight innings.
So, remember how last week I was writing that Peavy was in a tailspin he wouldn’t get out of for a while? You do? Well, this is what’s going on right now as I write this blog:
After two straight dominant starts, it’s safe to say that Peavy is most likely back to his usual self. So what’s the difference between April and May? For one thing, it’s his velocity. The average speed on Peavy’s fastball this year is 91 mph, but on Saturday, he averaged 92.1 mph on his four-seam fastball and 92.5 on his two-seamer. As far as his put-away pitch, the slider, his average speed was 83.3 mph. On Saturday, that dropped down to 82.5 mph on average.
While one may think that would be bad, the speed differential is helpful in this case because, if thrown with the same arm speed as the fastball, a batter who commits to swinging will be out in front of the pitch (basically, a similar concept to the changeup, only with dramatic movement down and to the pitcher’s glove side). The only caveat is that if there is too big of a differential, the batter will have enough time to react and readjust.
One last thing that I noticed about Peavy while combing through Fangraphs.com: the release point of his pitches. Now Peavy is at his best when his arm slot is at a low three-quarters angle, but if it gets too low, his pitches flatten out, lose velocity and/or movement and become more hittable. When you look at this graphic on the top right-hand corner, notice the general height of the release points from the horizontal axis from his two May outings, then look at the RPs from April. The RPs in April are lower when he did poorly and higher when he did well.
Getting your money’s Werth
The man at the right, Jayson Werth.
There seems to be little Werth can’t do (besides finding a decent barber). After hitting 16 doubles in 2008 and 26 in 2009, he has a Major League-leading 16 doubles through 31 games this season. In just the past week, where he was named National League Player of the Week, he collected four homers and four doubles while slugging an even 1.000. He’s also amassed back-to-back 20 steal seasons in 2008 and 2009, and has thrived in the postseason (.285/.393/.650).
Now though everyone is riding free and easy as Werth hammers away, all of you who have him on your roster must realize there will be some New York City-sized potholes in the near future. Why? Well for one thing, it is highly improbable for anyone to maintain a .408 BABIP (batting average, balls in play) like Werth. Since the stat was regularly recorded in 2002, only one player has ever crossed the .400 threshold, with said player being Jose Hernandez in ’02, so if players like Ichiro Suzuki, Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols have not done it, the likelihood of Werth accomplishing that feat is not very good.
Plus, there are also other, more obvious reference points to expect him to slow down: he’s never hit above .300 in any Major League season; he averages 152 strikeouts per 162 games; he has yet to drive in 100 or more runs in a single season; and finally, he’s on the wrong side of 30 years old.
Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to have him on my team right now (I’m looking right at you, Adam Lind). All I am saying is to not anchor your offense around Werth.
Just before I go, here’s a little forray into my main league, where my squad is called The Men Who Laugh. It’s a 12-team, head-to-head mixed league based on a points system that favors hitters with guys I went to HS with. It’s usually a lot of fun, especially when members make long, rambling posts late at night, and the draft usually features a few moments that bring everyone to tears from laughter (i.e. – I hosted the draft our first year, and one of the guys, needing to make a call and his cell was dead, asked me in all seriousness if the phone on the wall was real. You cannot make stuff like that up).
To avoid coming off like an arrogant jerk or whiner, I’m not going to talk much about the moves I make, unless it is key to a point I’m making in the body of a post. The point of any story about my league isn’t to babble on, but to either illustrate a point or just tell a funny story.
Anyway, one owner, “Tyler,” made a very peculiar deal this weekend, sending over Chase Utley (his first pick), Justin Verlander and Buster Posey (not a keeper league, but we have two spots for Minor Leaguers) to “Rick” for Alex Rodriguez (his first pick), Ben Zobrist and Tim Hudson. While I initially thought “Rick” got the better end of the deal, I looked at the roster situations and determined that both sides won out.
“Rick’s” starting pitching was shaky with Hudson, Francisco Liriano, Matt Cain, Ricky Nolasco, Clay Buchholz, Max Scherzer and J.A. Happ, while both A-Rod and Zobrist have had mediocre starts. After this deal, he was able to switch Pablo Sandoval to 3B and choose between Adam Dunn and Billy Butler to start 1B while gaining an ace in Verlander. On the other side of the coin, “Tyler’s” starting 2B and 3B go from Utley and Chone Figgins to Zobrist and A-Rod. Though he’s losing one of the two best 2B around, he will probably get more production from the incoming players than the outgoing pair. As for losing Verlander, well, you can do that when you also have Tim Lincecum, Phil Hughes and Jeff Niemann on your staff.
The point of this is to not focus on the addition or subtraction of one particular player, but to look at the net gain or loss, especially if you’re in a points-based league.
– Michael Echan