Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, November 19, 2019 -- "Rebuilding the Minors"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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"It seems an unassailable point that MLB teams don’t need all of the minor-league teams and all of the minor-league players that they are currently supporting. Under the current proposal, the low-A and short-season levels would be eliminated, the draft would be shortened to 20-25 rounds and pushed into the summer, and teams would be restricted to 150-200 minor leaguers, as opposed to the uncapped number today. All of these changes fit the way players are developed in the early 21st century."

Monday, November 18, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, November 18, 2019 -- "The Astros' Edge?"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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"For a larger sample, let’s look at 3-1. Eighty percent of 3-1 pitches are fastballs, and a bit less than half are two-seamers. Batters hit .363 with a .713 SLG. The more confidence you have in what’s coming, the more confident you can be in your swing. Remember, too, that many pitchers throw just one variety of fastball, so at the individual level, just knowing “fastball or not” is a powerful bit of information. Think of all the two-pitch relievers in the modern game. Now eliminate the coin flip when facing them."

Friday, November 15, 2019

The Hot Stove League's Most Interesting Teams, 1-30

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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From today's Newsletter. For comments on all 30 teams, subscribe today!

1. Red Sox
2. Cubs
3. White Sox
4. Dodgers
5. Reds
6. Angels
7. Padres
8. Phillies
9. Nationals
10. Indians

11. Astros
12. Mets
13. Yankees
14. Braves
15. Twins
16. Brewers
17. Cardinals
18. Blue Jays
19. Athletics
20. Rockies

21. Rays
22. Rangers
23. Giants
24. Diamondbacks
25. Pirates
26. Mariners
27. Marlins
28. Tigers
29. Royals
30. Orioles


Thursday, November 14, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, November 14, 2019 -- "Random Player Comments"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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"As someone who believe Torres should be left alone to play shortstop, I approve of the Yankees not making the qualifying offer to Gregorius. It’s a boon for Didi as well, who would be the kind of tweener free agent most likely to be hurt by QO compensation. There are more than a few good places he could land on some kind of 2/20 deal -- Milwaukee, Cincinnati -- and failing that, he’d be one of the best players on the league’s bad teams. His days as a three-win player are probably over, though."

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, November 13, 2019 -- "Signs"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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"The only person you could plausibly target here is A.J. Hinch. Hinch was in the dugout. It is highly unlikely that he would not have known what was going on. It is reasonable to hold a manager responsible for his player’s actions. Hinch, a team and thus an MLB employee, may be in the worst spot here, forced to choose between protecting his players or losing his clubhouse."

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, November 12, 2019 -- "The Bill James Handbook"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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"The back of the book is, as always, a treasure. Park effects, baserunning data, manager charts, leaderboards, projections. I’m writing this on Tuesday afternoon, and I find myself wanting to get this Newsletter done so I can dig into the book for more Newsletter ideas. The leaderboards alone, running from your basic baseball card stats to esoteric ones, will keep you occupied for a day. (Longest Average Home Run, AL, is a hoot.) In all of MLB, there were just 14 120-pitch starts last year. Why, Nolan Ryan alone had 14 120-pitch starts in June of 1976."

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, November 9, 2019 -- "Mookie Betts"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--

"It’s funny...we’re having this conversation in the run-up to the 100-year anniversary of the trade that defined this franchise for most of its history. On December 26, 1919, Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $100,000, largely for non-baseball reasons. That transaction changed the history of the two franchises, the history of baseball, in a small way the history of America.

"A century later, the Red Sox are in almost the exact same spot, plus or minus a couple billion dollars. Let’s hope they don’t make the same mistake twice. "

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, November 7, 2019 -- "Calling Balls and Strikes"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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"What we know without a doubt, though, is that the system is going to call the pitch based on where it is when it crosses the plate. It’s not going to be influenced by what the catcher does after the fact. For that reason alone, the system is better than human umpires out of the box. For many, the measurement of what we call 'pitch framing' quantified the importance of catchers. For me, it quantified the inability of human umpires to do their job. Those numbers, which have driven the careers of many people on and off the field, should not exist in a fair game. The batter doesn’t get the information of 'framing' to decide whether to swing or to take. Batters have been woefully underrepresented in this conversation."

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, November 5, 2019 -- "Coda"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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"The World Series, as you know, was clinched by the road team, the seventh game of seven won by the visitors. Looking back, that was the theme of the month; just three of nine “rounds,” counting the wild card games as such, were clinched at home: the Nationals in the Coin Flip Round, and the Astros in the Division Series and ALCS. Home teams went just 17-20 in the playoffs all told, 5-12 from the LCS round on. It was an October during which we mostly watched teams celebrate on the field while the crowd walked glumly towards the exits.

"I can’t quantify this, but I am certain that this contributed to how this postseason felt. Sports are theatre, dramatic action set against the background of a crowd gleefully cheering its heroes. We rarely had that this month, and almost not at all in the World Series -- Nationals fans who attended the three middle games in D.C. had nothing to cheer for. There was a strange, muted energy to the Series, and it was due to the absence of home wins."


Thursday, October 31, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, October 31, 2019 -- "National Champions"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $49.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

--

"The lasting image of this Series will be a Nationals pitcher working out of the stretch with two on and one out, and getting the critical out to escape the jam. Last night it was Max Scherzer allowing 11 baserunners in five innings, but holding the Astros to 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, the only hit a ground ball just past Anthony Rendon in the fifth to bring home the Astros’ final run of the World Series. In the Astros’ four losses, they were 4-for-29 with runners in scoring position. They had chance after chance after chance to score, and in almost every spot, the Nationals’ pitchers were just better."

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Newsletter Preview, October 30, 2019 -- "Game Seven Pregame"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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This has been one of the most peculiar World Series ever played, largely owing to the road team winning all six games. If that continues tonight, the Washington Nationals are going to become a very unlikely champion. If it doesn’t, if we finally get to see an excited home crowd as the game draws to a close, the Houston Astros will win their second Series in three years and further their case as at least a minor dynasty.

At the fulcrum? A 35-year-old man who needed his wife to dress him three days ago.

Max Scherzer has done everything you can do in baseball except win a championship. He’s won awards, set records, been critical to pennant-winning teams. He’s been an All-Star seven times over. He’s respected by his peers and by fans outside of D.C. He’s been exceptionally durable in an era in which that’s the rarest of skills, starting 30 times every year for a decade. And at this moment, the one every kid dreams about, the seventh game of the World Series...no one knows what he has.

Scherzer took a cortisone shot Sunday, and showed enough in a throwing session yesterday to be tabbed the Nationals’ starting pitcher for tonight. He was up in the bullpen yesterday during the seventh inning, apparently healthy enough to relieve if the Nationals hadn’t broken open the game. Again, though, he woke up on Sunday unable to lift himself out of bed, and he faced the media that afternoon needing to turn his entire body to direct answers to questioners.

As of 4:30 p.m., Scherzer is in the starting lineup, and at this point it seems clear that he’ll take the mound in the first inning. Beyond that, though, we just don’t know what will happen. What kind of freedom of movement will Scherzer have, and if anything less than 100%, how will that effect his velocity and his command? Dave Martinez doesn’t get to put Scherzer’s Strat card on the mound; he’s asking a man who couldn’t pitch on Sunday to get outs in the biggest game in franchise history.

If it’s just about Max Scherzer the person or Max Scherzer the legend, you’re happy to be in this spot. It’s not, though. It’s about Max Scherzer the body, the right arm, the neck, all of which have been failing him this year. There aren’t five people who can tell you what Scherzer has in him tonight, facing one of the best offenses in baseball history, in a park built for home runs. There may not be one person.

The story of tonight’s Game Seven could go a lot of ways, but the most likely is that it will be determined by what Max Scherzer’s body allows him to do. Everything else is secondary to Scherzer’s ability to overcome on Wednesday that which was debilitating on Sunday.

If Scherzer can’t work deep, we’ll probably see Anibal Sanchez, the originally-scheduled Game Seven starter, for an inning or two. Depending on the spot in the lineup when Scherzer has to leave, we could see Patrick Corbin before or after Sanchez. Those three pitchers will handle the first 18 outs, and if you’re Dave Martinez, you want those three, Daniel Hudson, and Sean Doolittle to get the final nine. While Martinez has been dabbling with Fernando Rodney and Tanner Rainey in leveraged spots, it seems safe to say that if anyone other than the first five guys pitch tonight, the game has gotten away from the Nationals.

The Astros counter with Zack Greinke, the highest-paid pitcher in baseball, whose acquisition completed the Astros’ excellent top three. The catch is that Greinke hasn’t had anything like his usual command in October. In four postseason starts he’s failed to finish five innings three times. He served up five homers in his first two playoff starts, and then traded homers for walks -- seven in 43 batters -- in his last two. Greinke’s raw stuff isn’t on the same tier as that of Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, and that gap has been evident in these playoffs. He succeeds with exceptional command, with one of the great pitching minds we’ve ever seen, and with a deep repertoire.

You can expect A.J. Hinch to again have a quick hook with Greinke. He said before the game that everyone but Verlander is available, but I don’t necessarily believe that. We have seen pitchers come back in Game Seven after pitching Game Six, perhaps most famously Randy Johnson in 2001. If this game is close, I think Verlander at least goes down to the pen to throw. Gerrit Cole might be available on two days’ rest, with that being determined closer to gametime. Hinch has more and better options, even absent his two starters, than Martinez does. If this becomes some war of attrition, the Astros are better-equipped to win it.

Every World Series game, and more than two-thirds of postseason games this year, have been won by the team that has hit more home runs in the game. Maybe that’s too facile, maybe there should be some deeper analysis, but when teams that are this good at throwing strikes, this good at missing bats, this good at turning balls in play into outs face each other, the difference is going to be home runs, big swings that put runs on the board without needing other actions.

The Nationals’ sequencing in their three wins has been incredible. They’ve scored 24 runs on 43 baserunner events, which is amazing. They have eight homers in their three wins, one in their three losses. We don’t talk about them as a #ballgofar team, perhaps because they were an average one during the regular season -- sixth in the NL in homers, eighth in percentage of runs on homers -- but against the Astros, a team you have to beat by hitting the long ball, they have come through. Their path through tonight is the same as it’s been in their three wins: hit the ball out of the park.

The Astros have had more than enough chances in their three games in Houston, but have failed to capitalize. They’re 3-for-21 at Minute Maid Park with runners in scoring position. In the same games the Nationals have been banking more than half their baserunners, the Astros have been squandering 75% of theirs. They’ve been beaten in the games’ biggest moments by Scherzer, by Stephen Strasburg, by Hudson and Doolittle. That’s baseball. If you’re the Astros, you have to feel like you’ve gotten enough baserunners to win. Their path through tonight is the same as it’s been in their three losses: finally beat the Nationals in the highest-leverage spots.

It’s one game, and I won’t pretend to know exactly how it’s going to go. My hope, and I know I’ve said this before, is that in 12 hours we’re talking about Scherzer or Greinke, about Anthony Rendon or Alex Bregman, or even Robinson Chirinos or Victor Robles. Let’s all hope we’re not talking about Jim Wolf, or Joe Torre, or Rule 27.2(d)(ii)(4)(ç)(™). Let’s let this wild 2019 season be settled, once and for all, by the players.

Newsletter Excerpt, October 30, 2019 -- "Game Six"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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 "It’s possible, maybe even probable, that this era of Nationals baseball ends tonight. Bryce Harper is gone, and both Rendon and Strasburg can be free agents tomorrow if they want to be. They would be the second- and third-best players on the market, in some order, and they’ve spent the last month showing that they can be the best players on a championship team.

"Harper, Strasburg, and Rendon were taken either at 1.1 or as 1.1-caliber talents in three straight drafts, and together they pushed the Nationals to three NL East titles. With Harper gone, Strasburg and Rendon have been a part of the most successful Washington team ever. Win or lose tonight, Game Six of the 2019 World Series was a valedictory moment for this team’s core."

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, October 29, 2019 -- "Game Six Pregame"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--

"In this World Series, the team to hit more home runs has won every game. Home runs have accounted for 52% of runs scored in the World Series. In the postseason as a whole now, the team to hit more homers in 24-6, and homers have accounted for 44.7% of all runs scored. That almost matches the regular season number. We have had a couple of huge innings without homers in this postseason, dragging down the overall number. I don’t think I would read too much into that. With those rare exceptions, postseason offense is still about scoring as many runs as you can with as few events as you can."

Monday, October 28, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, October 28, 2019 -- "The Joyless Series"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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"TV ratings are only part of a story, of course, but they do hang a number on what I’ve been sensing watching this Series. There’s no joy. There’s no energy. With the road team winning every single game, there have been precious few moments in which it seemed like you were watching an exciting sporting event. There have been no walkoff wins, obviously, and no ninth-inning moments with the crowd on its feet, clapping in unison, cheering for that last out and a home-team victory."

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, October 27, 2019 -- "Game Four"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--

"I’m thinking about Lipnicki today because Jose Urquidy just stole the World Series, or at least Game Four, in the same way Lipnicki stole 'Jerry Maguire.' An anonymous young man dropped in among highly-paid superstars, Urquidy blew away his peers with stumpers like his fastball and slider. Like Lipnicki, Urquidy wasn’t in many scenes -- he went just five innings -- but without his performance the show falls apart. Urquidy, forgotten behind baseball’s Cruise, Gooding Jr., and Zellweger in Verlander, Cole, and Greinke, paid a tiny fraction of what those stars make, came up big in the chance he was given."

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, October 26, 2019 -- "Game Three"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--

"Anibal Sanchez bobbed and weaved his way through four innings last night, allowing just two runs on six hits. He’d thrown just 65 pitches, but in doing so had gone through the lineup twice. As I wrote earlier in the week, the Astros were the second-best team in baseball at taking advantage of seeing a starter a third time. Sanchez struggled badly this year when exposed a third time: .288/.352/.571, a 923 OPS allowed, against a 645 mark the first two times through. Based on pitching alone, letting Sanchez face the Astros a third time was not likely to go well for the Nationals."

Friday, October 25, 2019

Newsletter Preview, "Game Three...Plus" (from 10/26/18)

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $49.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

--


The Joe Sheehan Newsletter
Vol. 10, No. 110
October 26, 2018

Their paths had crossed before, you know.

Three years and change ago, Max Muncy stepped in against Nathan Eovaldi. He was “Nate,” then, and Max mostly went by “who?” It was a Saturday night in Oakland, the A’s off to a miserable 19-33 start, searching for offense and failing to find it in the form of Ike Davis. So they found themselves turning to a 24-year-old they’d drafted out of Baylor three years before. This was long before Muncy ever heard the words “launch angle,” long before he was released, long before “Maximum Muncy!” was a baseball-nerd battle cry.

No, on this night, he was just another non-prospect trying to find playing time on a team going nowhere. When he dug in against Eovaldi in the second, with Brett Lawrie on first and no one out, Muncy was hitting .222 with a couple of homers, on a 1-for-14 jag that ruined the first stretch of regular time he’d ever gotten in the majors. Baseball Reference pegs the attendance at a bit more than 25,000, which is just another reason to ignore listed attendance counts. Those actually in their seats paid little mind to the second-inning matchup. Muncy took a fastball for a strike, then fouled off two more before Eovaldi sent a changeup high and away for ball one. On the 1-2 pitch, Eovaldi busted out a hittable slider that locked up Muncy and sent him back to the dugout.

An inning later, they did it again, although by this point Eovaldi had morphed into the frustrating mix of velocity and contact that so frustrated first the Dodgers, then the Marlins, and now the Yankees. The A’s had eight singles in 14 at-bats, but just three runs. Muncy had a chance to make a name for himself, with two on and two out, but the slider once again proved his undoing. He fouled one off, a cookie, on 2-1, then swung over a second on 2-2 to end the inning. In striking out Muncy twice, Eovaldi didn’t throw a single cut fastball. In throwing 4 2/3 innings that night in Oakland, Eovaldi didn’t throw a single cut fastball. In fact, Eovaldi was still a year from playing around with the pitch that would put him in the World Series, that would give him another crack at Muncy.

Eovaldi wouldn’t be around when Muncy’s turn popped up again, chased from the game in the fourth by three more singles. When he gave way to Chasen Shreve, Muncy yielded to Mark Canha. Their paths diverged from there. Eovaldi would lead the American League in winning percentage, with a career-high 14 wins, and help the Yankees get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2012. Muncy was back in the minors a month later, unable to hit, on a path to being released at the end of spring training in 2017.

I doubt either man remembers those strikeouts on a cool spring night at the Oakland Coliseum. Why would they? The two players who battled for ten pitches barely exist any more. Muncy, career at a crossroads, landed in the Dodgers system after being let go by the A’s and became a take-and-rake, flyball hitter, became a bench option, became the best hitter on a division champion. Eovaldi became the owner of a second elbow scar in 2016, undergoing a second Tommy John surgery in August of 2016. The track record of players who need a second Tommy John surgery is poor, and Eovaldi’s career was hanging in the balance. The Rays, betting on the come, signed Eovaldi to a one-plus-one deal in February of 2017, subsidizing the righty’s rehab with an eye towards having a tradeable asset in 2018. Those deals don’t always work out, but when Eovaldi returned this spring with his velocity intact, he’d added a wrinkle: the cut fastball he’d shelved earlier in his career.

No, the two players whose paths crossed briefly are gone, and in their stead are a pair of World Series heroes. When Muncy stepped in against Eovaldi in the 13th inning last night, he was one of the most dangerous men in the building, a Statcast darling with a four-figure OPS against righties. Eovaldi, with quality starts in both the Division Series and ALCS, had morphed into Alex Cora’s favorite relief pitcher, throwing the eighth inning of the first two games of the Series. Cora called on Eovaldi in the 12th inning last night, trying to put a stranglehold on the World Series with the best pitcher available to him, even if it meant holding tryouts for a Game Four starter.

It should have worked. Eovaldi retired the side in the 12th on 17 pitches, the last of them a 101-mph fastball that Justin Turner still hasn’t seen. In the top of the 13th, a Dodgers defense that has been the story of the Series once again got involved. Brock Holt walked and stole second when Scott Alexander bounced a sinker. Austin Barnes got tangled up with Eduardo Nunez trying to make a throw. (Some saw interference by Nunez, who was clipped by Barnes on the play, but I did not.) Nunez then topped a ball to the left of the mound. Muncy ranged out of position to make a play, leaving first base uncovered. Alexander snagged the ball, but flipped it over the head of Enrique Hernandez covering, allowing Holt to score. The Red Sox had the lead without hitting a baseball more than 70 feet.

When Muncy faced Eovaldi in 2015, he didn’t see a single pitch above 95. Leading off the bottom of the 13th, he saw four fastballs, all at 99 and 100. The last of those nearly hit Muncy, but instead sent him to first base with a leadoff walk. Eovaldi went to 3-2 on Manny Machado as well, but Machado isn’t going to walk at this point in October, and flied to left for the first out.

I mentioned that Barnes had clipped Nunez in the top half of the inning. This was no small matter. Nunez has been in and out of the Red Sox lineup with a number of leg ailments, and the contact with Barnes caused him to land hard on his right ankle. Nunez needed to walk it off, and in almost any other situation, would have left the game. This situation, however, was the Red Sox having used 23 of their 25 players, with only starters Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz left at Cora’s disposal. Nunez was going to have to play until and unless he lost a limb, and even then you’d have to think about it.

This had already cost the Red Sox. With Nunez on first and two outs, Sandy Leon roped a double into the right-field corner. It was a ball on which Nunez, an aggressive baserunner with good speed, would normally score standing up with two outs. Instead, he pulled into third base, never having any chance to score. The Sox would strand him at third. Nunez’s bad wheels would now cost them again. Cody Bellinger fouled a ball off the third-base side, a fairly routine play but for the Sox being in a shift. Nunez, positioned just to the shortstop side of second base, ran 100 feet to make a fantastic play, but -- similar to Derek Jeter in the famous 2004 play -- was unable to stop himself from falling into the stands. It’s impossible to know for sure, but I think a healthy Nunez can throw out the parachute and stay on the field. By falling into the stands, he allowed Muncy to advance to second base.

That 90 feet would become critical a minute later. Yasiel Puig, the Dodgers’ final hope, ripped a ball up the middle, but right to Ian Kinsler, shifted toward second. Kinsler backhanded the ball, bobbled it, then inexplicably released a leaning, rushed throw that never came close to first base. Kinsler, who has played 15,000 major-league innings at second base, who is a finalist for the AL Gold Glove Award at second base, may never make a worse choice than he did last night. He had more than enough time to set himself, take a crow hop, and throw, and he simply rushed it. A good first baseman might have saved the day, but the various extra-inning maneuvers had left catcher Christian Vazquez to make his MLB debut at first base. (It’s incredibly hard.) Muncy scampered home, and the World Series had life.

Eovaldi and Muncy weren’t done. In the 15th, Muncy again led off, and again pushed the count to 3-2. He then launched a ball down the right-field line that had home-run distance, and home-run height, and, just barely, foul-ball angle. It missed the pole by a foot or two. Given a reprieve, Eovaldi finally put Muncy away with that new trick, the cutter, on the tenth pitch of the at-bat.

Three innings later, Eovaldi was working on one of the longest starts of the postseason, having retired 11 in a row, when Muncy stepped in to lead off the 18th. Eovaldi was leaking a little oil, not that you’d have seen it in the results. It’s understandable, of course. It was approaching 1 a.m. local, 4 a.m. body clock time, for a pitcher pushing 90 pitches working for the third time in four days. He was down a tick with the fastball, a tick-and-a-half with his command. There’s no crime in working at 96-97, but when you started at 99, it’s a sign you’re at least criminal minded.

Eovaldi sprayed his first three pitches to Muncy, then threw a get-me-over fastball for strike one. Muncy fouled off a 3-1 cutter and a 3-2 four-seamer, and the two were pretty much where they’d been an hour ago, and two hours ago, and a million miles from a half-empty Oakland Coliseum on a May night. They were new players, new people, and they were going to go down playing with their new toys.

Cut fastball.

Launch angle.

Bedlam.

No World Series game had ever gone 15 innings before, much less 18. Very few baseball games in history had ever run more than seven hours. It took a remarkable confluence of events -- another Jackie Bradley Jr. home run, more Keystone Kops defense by the Dodgers, a high-school error by a great defensive player -- to push this game into paid-programming hours on your local Fox station. Maybe it wasn’t good baseball. Maybe it wasn’t even entertaining. Anyone who watched it, though, anyone who saw Walker Buehler and Joc Pederson and Craig Kimbrel and Pedro Baez and Mary Hart is going to remember this game for the rest of their lives.

They’re going to remember two players who were on their way out of baseball not so long ago, making history after midnight.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, October 24, 2019 -- "Game Two"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

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"On his 114th pitch of the night, his 3,839th of the year, the 19,592nd he’d thrown since watching Drew Storen on that fateful day seven years ago, Stephen Strasburg had reclaimed a word for himself. He’d shown us a real Strasburg shutdown."

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, October 23, 2019 -- "Game One"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

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"The Nationals won a one-run game in which the Astros got 50% more baserunners, forced Max Scherzer out of the game after five innings, ate the game’s worst call, and made the game’s worst unforced error. I think if you play last night’s game 100 times, the Astros probably do no worse than 55-45.

"Nothing I saw last night moved me off the Astros winning this series. They laid off a ton of Scherzer’s breaking stuff, forcing him to throw 38 two-strike pitches and consistently getting into deep counts, even after starting from behind. Given one crack at the soft half of the Nationals’ staff, they got a homer and two walks while making one out."

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, October 22, 2019 -- "World Series Preview"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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"The Astros were the second-best team in baseball when facing a starter a third time, racking up a .291/.350/.558 line, second only to what the Rockies did, and of course that’s a park issue. The Nationals were third in MLB to the Mets and Indians in the number of plate appearances their pitchers faced hitters a third and fourth time, and as a group, they were effective relative to the league: .243/.313/.419, fourth-lowest OPS allowed. (The Astros had the best mark: .206/.251/.391. Astros starters were better the third time around than most teams’ starters were the first time around.) The Nationals don’t have the pitching depth to change that strategy in the World Series, so if you’re looking for an early angle, it’s the Astros facing the Nationals’ starters the third time around. The Nationals have to win that battle most nights to win the World Series."

Monday, October 21, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, October 21, 2019 -- "The Best"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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"From Jose Altuve down through Luis Cessa, Game Six of the 2019 ALCS underlined a running theme in this space: These are the best players who have ever played our game."

Newsletter Excerpt, October 18, 2019 -- "Mailbag!"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

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"Beating Verlander is about hitting the ball over the fence. As I wrote in Sports Illustrated last week, he allowed 68% of his runs on homers, the second-highest figure ever. The dead ball helps Verlander as much as any pitcher in this postseason. There just aren’t very many ways to score against him. If the Yankees are going to send this series back to Houston, it will be by hitting at least three homers today."

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, October 16, 2019 -- "The Nationals Win the Pennant"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

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"The Nationals have a smaller number of good pitchers than most playoff teams do. The playoff schedule allows the Nationals to use their best pitchers more often. The deadened baseball helps keep those pitchers in games longer. Six pitchers -- six very good pitchers -- have accounted for almost 90% of their innings pitched in ten playoff games. That’s the biggest reason they won the NL pennant."

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

NLCS Game Four Note

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

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The Cardinals, as I wrote earlier, are pretty much playing to put extra money in the pockets of local hoteliers, by extending the series and keeping the various traveling parties on the road a day or two longer. As a competitive enterprise, the 2019 NLCS is over.

That doesn’t mean, of course, the Cardinals shouldn’t be trying to win the game. To do that, they’ll have to take advantage of run-scoring opportunities, given how few they’ve generated. Mike Shildt has already been too passive this month in chasing those chances.

Go back to NLDS Game Four, the bottom of the fourth inning, when Shildt let Dakota Hudson bat with two on and two out, the Cards up 3-1. Hudson had given the Cards four innings, and the Braves would turn the lineup over for a third time in the fifth. Hudson’s expected future performance, relative to the team’s relievers, was poor. The at-bat, however, was incredibly important. Shildt should have pinch-hit for Hudson. He didn’t, and 15 minutes later his team trailed 4-3.

This could very well come up again tonight, Hudson batting in the top of the fourth or top of the fifth, runners on, leverage high. Shildt must hit for Hudson if that situation occurs. The Cardinals have 12 pitchers, including eight relievers. They can fill the innings. Four of those relievers didn’t pitch last night -- their best four. Shildt’s team has two runs in three games. They have to take advantage of their scoring opportunities, and not squander them on a pitcher’s at-bat.

I’d go so far as to say that Shildt should hit for Hudson in the top of the second, in a two on or bases loaded, two-out situation. The Cardinals need runs more than they need innings, and they have their good relief pitchers well-rested and ready to go. Shildt can’t make the NLDS mistake again; if Dakota Hudson’s turn comes up in a big spot, he must send up a pinch-hitter to cash it in.

Newsletter Excerpt, October 15, 2019 -- "Ozuna's Glove"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

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"We have no way of knowing how last night’s NLCS Game Three might have turned out had the Nationals not broken open the game in the third inning, but we do know the ball was in his glove. Marcell Ozuna’s, that is. Ozuna had made a long run to snare an Anthony Rendon pop-up with two outs, a run in, and a man on first. The ball was in his glove, and the Cards were going to walk off the field down 1-0 after three innings."

Monday, October 14, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, October 14, 2019 -- "LCS Catch-up"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

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"Boone’s five good relievers threw 6 2/3 innings and allowed one run. He managed his staff exactly as he should have, and on a lot of nights, he would have walked away a winner. On this night, however, the Yankees got just those two runs, and Boone was left with his innings guys. J.A. Happ eventually coughed up a solo homer to Carlos Correa to end the game. If your take from last night is that the Yankees lost 3-2 in 11 innings because of the manager, you’re wrong. Boone did a great job. His hitters just got beat."

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, October 12, 2019 -- "ALCS Preview"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

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"The Yankees are a very good baseball team. The Astros are a great one chasing history. Astros in six."

Friday, October 11, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, October 11, 2019 -- "NLCS Preview"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--

I’m no closer to having a feel for the series than I did yesterday. The Nationals have an incredible core, and not a lot of depth. The Cardinals don’t have many bad players, but they can’t match the Nationals up top. The Nationals will have the best starting pitcher, or a strong argument for it, in every game. I kind of want to see this go seven, because a Game Seven of Strasburg versus Flaherty would be fantastic, but I am not sure the Cards stretch it that far. Mike Shildt is a bit more likely to lose a game from the dugout, which is what swings me. Without much confidence, I’ll say Nationals in six. Nothing would really surprise me, though.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, October 10, 2019 -- "Hello, Soto"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

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"It’s Soto, though, who has now had the most important swing in the Wild Card Game, and the most important swing in the Division Series, and who now moves on to the third round. It’s Soto who has become more than .282/.401/.548 and a host of age-related statistics. It’s Soto whose smiling face and tic-filled routine and violent swing will be seen not just by the seamheads reading this, but by football fans stumbling on baseball highlights and by ten-year-olds watching MLB Tonight with their moms and by that great mass of people who check into baseball for a few weeks every October. Soto is the breakout player of these playoffs, and he’s still 15 days from you being able to buy him a beer to celebrate that. This is how you become a star. All the WAR in the world can’t buy you what Soto’s team gave him last night: A chance to be a hero."

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, October 9, 2019 -- "A Set of Fives"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

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--

"This series has been brutally ugly at times, with nontroversies and laughably bad hitting in big spots and the worst managerial decisions of the round. It’s also been as tense and as closely played as you could hope for. The tying run has batted in every ninth inning. The winning team trailed in the eighth twice, and in the ninth once, and almost the entire series has been played with neither team up by more than two runs. Heroes have included a guy who was in the majors in 2004 and a guy who was in the minors on September 2. The best player in the series so far is 21 years old. The second-best, I’d argue, is 38. The Cardinals bullpen has blown a two-run lead in the ninth and then tossed 5 1/3 shutout innings in a comeback win the next."

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, October 8, 2019 -- "Hometown Heroes"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

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--

"Sports fandom has become nationalized, with a talking head from Dallas sitting in a studio in Los Angeles screaming about a basketball team in New York, the same dozen voices chewing over the same dozen topics day after day. Baseball fandom, however, remains local. Molina matters to Cardinals fans. Zimmerman matters to Nationals fans. Kiermaier matters to the Rays fan. That these players have played their careers for one team doesn’t make them better people than the players who have moved on; it does, however, create a connection with the local fans that is greater than, say, what Astros fans might feel for Gerrit Cole, Yankees fans for D.J. Lemahieu.

"Moments like yesterday’s are better because the hero is, was, and has always been your guy. That matters. A playoff win that staves off elimination is a gift no matter who is responsible. The players at the center of the action yesterday just make that gift a little sweeter."

Monday, October 7, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, October 7, 2019 -- "Welcome, Managers"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

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--

"In riding Wainwright and walking McCann, Shildt made mistakes his predecessor would have made, viewing players as their career numbers and not as what they are today. He got away with one of them, and he didn’t get away with the other; Rafael Ortega, running for McCann, scored the game-winning run."

Newsletter Excerpt, October 7, 2019 -- "ALDS Review"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

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--

"Down 2-0, can either of these teams come back to win? The Rays have the stronger case. They’ll have their ace, Charlie Morton, on the mound in today’s Game 3, and they draw Jose Urquiddy, the Astros’ soft spot, in Game 4. Their pitching has kept them in these games, with a two-run error by Brandon Lowe due to miscommunication between him and Tommy Pham making Game One look a bit worse than it was. They have a very deep staff, and it’s pitched fairly well: 18 strikeouts over two games against the best contact team in the league, just six walks allowed. The Rays can keep throwing different looks at the Astros. In close games, they can make it a battle of the bullpens, where they have a small advantage. Two wins just puts them back in Houston against a rested Justin Verlander, but they’d take that outcome this morning."

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, October 6, 2019 -- "NLDS Review"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

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"Overall in the Division Series, there have been 123 hits and 169 strikeouts. You’re 37% more likely to see a strikeout than a hit in any given situation. 28% of all plate appearances have ended in a strikeout. Now take the trends above, with a generation of pitchers that has learned how to get strikeouts in the biggest spots, and leave only the good pitchers, and you see that getting those big hits in the playoffs is harder than it has ever been before. Hence, trying to get as many runs as you can on one swing, regardless of who is on base."

Friday, October 4, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, October 4, 2019 -- "ALDS Previews"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

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"Then there are the Astros, who went 107-55 and were never seriously challenged by even a very good A’s team. Prospectus calls Houston one of the best teams in baseball history, with a third-order record of 117-45 (116-46 if you want to round down). They had the best offense in baseball, by far. They had the best defense in baseball. They had the third-best pitching in baseball, although reducing staffs to just the pitchers who will be used in the playoffs makes up a lot of the gap between them and the teams ahead of them.

"It’s hard to underestimate a team that just produced the best record in baseball, that won a World Series two years ago, that has won 100 games three straight seasons, that had a book written about them, that traded for a Hall of Fame starting pitcher at the deadline. We might be there with these Astros, though."

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Joe Sheehan Newsletter, October 3, 2019 -- Braves/Cardinals Preview

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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The Joe Sheehan Newsletter
Vol. 11, No. 88
October 3, 2019

The Rule:
 The least important words in a playoff preview are the last ones.

Braves/Cardinals

This series, despite being between two longtime successful franchises and two division champions, runs the risk of being the one that gets a bit lost. It has late-afternoon start times through Sunday, and it’s the one Division Series that doesn’t feature one of the three top teams. At that, though, this could be the best of the first four.

The Cardinals come in having taken the NL Central away from the Cubs with a four-game sweep two weeks ago, then holding off the Brewers over the season’s final week. They did have to burn Jack Flaherty in the process, pitching him on the season’s final day to clinch, but the way the schedule falls there is very little cost to doing so; Flaherty starts Game Two on full rest and can start a Game Five on the same.

Flaherty struggled in the first half, allowing 20 homers in 18 starts, pitching to a 4.64 ERA. The stuff and the skills never left, though -- a 26% strikeout rate even at the worst of it. After the break he started throwing his four-seam fastball less and both his sinker and curve more, producing an Arrieta-like run: 15 starts, a 0.99 ERA, a .142 batting average against. The Cardinals’ path to a championship, and certainly through the Braves, rests largely on Flaherty’s right arm.

It’s not just Flaherty's overall skill set that makes that true. Flaherty (6.8% walk rate) is one of a small handful of Cardinals pitchers who routinely throws strikes. Another, Miles Mikolas (4.1%), is the Game One starter. Even with those two lapping up 380 innings, the Cardinals had the fifth-highest walk rate in the NL. Cards relievers had the fourth-highest walk rate in the league, and you can’t wave that off as a product of short-timers. Carlos Martinez, Andrew Miller, John Brebbia, John Gant...these guys are important pitchers for Mike Shildt and they don’t throw strikes.

The Braves are built to exploit just that flaw. They were second in the NL in walks drawn, with the fifth-lowest chase rate in the league. Of the nine position players -- including the catching platoon -- who will play the most for the Braves in this series, seven have above-average walk rates. The late innings of these games, and the entirety of games not started by Mikolas and Flaherty, will be all about the Cardinals looking for swings and the Braves not giving them. The Cardinals’ bullpen flies awfully close to the sun, with the lowest HR/FB rate and the second-lowest BABIP in the league, numbers that don’t have to regress this month but are worth noting.

Watch how Shildt uses Giovanny Gallegos, the hard-throwing rookie righty who had a 93/14 K/UIBB in 74 innings. Gallegos faded under heavy usage in September: no strikeouts in his final four appearances, just two over his final seven (22 batters faced).

The frustrating part about this, if you’re Mike Shildt, is that Cardinals pitchers have good reasons to throw strikes. Just two NL teams were better at turning balls in play into outs this year. The single best thing Shildt has done as Cards manager is free Kolten Wong to play without fear that every 0-for-4 would mean a benching. That, and playing Harrison Bader in center (around a demotion, it should be noted), gives the Cards a rangy defense up the middle. Every walk is an opportunity not given to this defense to make a play.

A year ago, the Braves rebuilt their bullpen heading into the playoffs. They did it a bit earlier this year, with deadline trades for Shane Greene, Mark Melancon, and Chris Martin that turned out...fine, I guess. Melancon saved 11 games after Greene had a rough few outings to lose the closer job. Combined, they had a 3.98 ERA in 63 innings with the Braves, although the underlying numbers, including a 67/8 K/BB, are much better. Darren O’Day did make the roster after eight regular-season appearances. Throw in the Dallas Keuchel signing, and there’s been a lot of turnover from the Opening Day staff.

Keuchel gets the Game One, and presumably Game Five, starts, to my dismay. The Braves are burying their ace, Mike Soroka, in Game Three, guaranteeing him just one start in the series, while setting Keuchel up for two and using Mike Foltynewicz as the #2 starter. There’s no matchup reason for this; the Cardinals have a small platoon split as a team and just one left-handed hitter you’d bother planning around. Maybe not even that, given Matt Carpenter’s year. This choice seems to be motivated at least in part by Soroka’s home/road split in 2019, numbers that are entirely noise, no signal, for any pitcher in a single season. Soroka has great strikeout rates and K/BB both home and road; he’s allowed a .323 BABIP on the road, .248 at home, which is, again, noise over this number of innings. This is a clear mistake by Snitker.

In a best-of-five series, small things matter. The Cardinals are getting their best pitcher two starts. The Braves are getting their best pitcher one start.

The Braves should get away with it. The edges they have when facing Dakota Hudson, Adam Wainwright, and most of the Cardinals’ bullpen should define this series. I expect them to control a middling Cards offense that doesn’t really do anything, while drawing enough walks and hitting enough homers to make the Cards’ strong defense a non-factor. Late-season injuries to Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuña Jr. were minor and not a big concern heading into this series.

The Cards’ path through this series is winning the two Jack Flaherty starts and stealing one more, most likely tonight’s game behind Mikolas. It’s getting to that second Flaherty start that will be the challenge. Braves in four

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Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, October 2, 2019 -- "The New Model"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

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"This is the new normal. The model that got a team through 162 games in 186 days was, for a long time, the model teams used to win 11 games in 30 days. No more. Teams head into the postseason expecting that they may call on their best starting pitchers out of the bullpen on their throw days, and sometimes on other days too. What Craig Counsell did last year in taking the Brewers to within a win of the World Series was a model a number of teams will ape now and in future seasons. There are no SPs and no RPs. There are just pitchers, and the next out, next three outs, next 27 outs."

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, October 1, 2019 -- "The Coin Flip Round"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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"This is the eighth season in which we’ve had ten playoff teams, with four of them squaring off in one-game 'rounds' to advance to the Division Series in each league. I’ve called it the 'Coin Flip Round' from the start, because when two good teams play a single game, the outcome is akin to flipping a coin. Heck, when a good team plays a bad team, you sometimes get results like Orioles 13, Indians 0. (Twice.) So when the Nationals play the Brewers, or the Rays play the A’s, variance swamps everything."

Monday, September 30, 2019

2019 Awards

The Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter is an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

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AL MVP: Mike Trout, Angels

NL MVP: Cody Bellinger, Dodgers

AL Cy Young: Gerrit Cole, Astros

NL Cy Young: Jacob deGrom, Mets

AL Rookie of the Year: Yordan Alvarez, Astros

NL Rookie of the Year: Peter Alonso, Mets

AL Manager of the Year: Rocco Baldelli, Twins

NL Manager of the Year: Mike Shildt, Cardinals

Newsletter Excerpt, September 27, 2019 -- "What I'm Watching"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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"The A’s are quietly putting together their playoff pitching staff, which will look nothing like the one they had in August. Sean Manaea has a 1.21 ERA in five starts. Jesus Luzardo is at 1.80 in five relief appearances. A.J. Puk has been tough out of the pen, allowing just a 652 OPS. They could do worse than line those three up in some order, with Liam Hendriks and Yusmeiro Petit, for Wednesday’s wild-card game."

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, September 26, 2019 -- "Competitive Balance"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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"Bud Selig looked at the best competitive balance in baseball history and lied about it to make more money for him and his pals. Rob Manfred? In February, coming off a season in which six teams won or lost 100 games, he said, “There has been no meaningful change in the distribution of winning percentages in major league baseball.” Why? Because the teams are making money hand over fist. (Rob Arthur, take it away.) There are draconian penalties for spending too much money on your product, and none at all for spending too little."

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, September 25, 2019 -- "The Tigers Make History"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

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"When the Tigers go bad, though, they go very bad. There have been five 110-loss seasons in this century, and the Tigers are responsible for 40% of them."

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, September 24, 2019 -- "Stats Don't Matter"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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"So much of postseason lore centers on workaday players who had the best week of their lives when everyone was watching. David Freese. Mike Lowell. Scott Brosius. Ray Knight. Ron Cey. I mean, that’s just the non-superstar third basemen who were World Series MVPs since I started watching baseball. What we think less about -- and what I’m getting at today -- is that teams win World Series when they do things they weren’t expected to do. The Royals didn’t hit homers, but they hit a bunch of critical ones across two postseasons. The Red Sox middle relievers weren’t good, and then for three weeks, they were great."

Friday, September 20, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, September 20, 2019 -- "The Jack Flaherty Game"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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"The Cardinals are exactly what they look like. Their third-order record matches their real record exactly. I projected them to go 91-71, they’re on pace to go...91-71. They’ve been a disappointing offensive team -- tenth in runs, ninth in wRC+ -- and a middling pitching one (seventh in FIP) that has been saved by a strong defense (third in DER). They’ve gained some runs by stealing bases well (79%) and, by 2019 standards, often (111, first in the NL). In the year of the dinger, they’ve allowed the fewest homers in baseball thanks to both a high groundball rate (45.2%, fourth-highest in the NL) and low HR/FB (14.4%, fourth-lowest)."

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, September 17, 2019 -- "Fun With Numbers"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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"Herget has now faced 19 batters without a strikeout. That seems like a lot to me, so I looked it up. It is, but it’s not the most of any player in 2019.

"Pitching to Contact (Most Batters Faced, No Strikeouts, 2019)

Michael Blazek     26
John Ryan Murphy   22
Jimmy Herget       19
Mike Brosseau      18
Alex Gordon        17"


Monday, September 16, 2019

Newsletter Excerpt, September 16, 2019 -- "What I'm Watching"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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Worst NL Teams, Second Half

Marlins   19-42   .311
Pirates   21-40   .344
Rockies   21-40   .344
Padres    23-36   .390
Reds      29-34   .460


Those five teams are also five of the Brewers’ final six opponents in 2019. The Brewers, out of playoff position at the moment, have to be thinking not just about a wild-card slot but about stealing the NL Central.