Early Weekend 6-Pack (7/1/10)

I am pretty sure I am not the only one for whom the season already seems oppressively long.  But it is only July 1st.  There are still three full months of baseball ahead of us.  And with a 4-game winning streak, the best rookie in baseball, and the prospect of some guys returning and others departing ahead of us - I think we can go boldly forward with an early holiday weekend 6-pack...

1. They're better than bad, they're good (better than bad)!

Most reports from the Russell Branyan trade have focused on two questions - why did Seattle want Branyan and isn't it nice that Shapiro got anything in return for him.  But the two guys the Indians received in exchange for the cat-like first baseman are not complete filler.  Coming into the 2010 season here is where the two would have sat based on Progress Score and Net:

Ezequiel Carrera - 6.4 (PS), +16 (Net)

Juan Diaz - 5.8 (PS), -12 (Net)

Those numbers pretty much put them into the John Drennen (low-end) to Carlos Rivero (high-end) range.  Diaz has a big body with a still developing plate approach and not quite enough power to match either of these attributes.  But if he does, and he stays up the middle on defense, he has potential to be something interesting.  Carrera is reasonably young, fast, and good at getting on base.  His total lack of power is a detriment, of course.  It should also be noted that Carrera is not as effective a baserunner as similar players in the organization with his skill-set.  Carrera's +16 net looks nice until you realize that Michael Brantley (+76) and Jose Constanza (+63) completely obliterate him in this area.  Most of this difference comes from the lack of power (even 2Bs) and poor base-running fundamentals - Carrera's netSB was just +1, compared to +29 for Brantley and +22 for Constanza.  If Carrera can more effectively utilize his speed to steal bases and turn a few singles into doubles, he might be a nice 4th OFer.

2. Not to put any pressure on the kid, but...

  • Carlos Santana's first 18 games: 1.165 OPS
  • Manny Ramirez's first 18 games: .521 OPS
  • Victor Martinez's first 18 games: .640 OPS
  • Jim Thome's first 18 games: .481 OPS
  • Albert Belle's first 18 games: .836 OPS
  • Richie Sexson's first 18 games: .824 OPS
  • Brian Giles's first 18 games: 1.320 OPS
  • Grady Sizemore's first 18 games: .864 OPS
  • Shin-Soo Choo's first 18 games: .425 OPS

3. Really, no pressure at all...

Shin-Soo Choo since Santana's call-up: .275/.383/.507

Travis Hafner since Santana's call-up: .314/.419/.647

The three have combined to hit 13 2Bs and 12 HRs over those 18 games (including a 6-game interleague stretch in which Hafner was only used as a PH).

4. A change can do you good

A number of people commented how fun it was to watch Mitch Talbot effectively use his changeup.  The reality is really that Talbot has been effectively using his changeup and fastball off each other.  Based on fangraphs numbers, Talbot uses his FB (avg. 91.1 mph) 52% of the time with a +4.2 run value and his CH (avg. 79.5 mph) 16% of the time with a +3.3 run value.   The pitch f/x chart from Talbot's last start show how is able to effectively force the batter to move his eye up and down with the combination, and in particular how he gets guys to swing with regularity at his changeup below the zone.

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One can hope that Talbot is actually getting more effective at this as the season has progressed.  Talbot's K/PA numbers have been improving - from a 3-game rolling average of just 8.5% at the start of the season to 14% now.

5.  The bottomless well - minor league relievers

  • Bryce Stowell this season: 46.2 IP, 31 H, 4 ER, 2 HR, 17 BB, 71 K, 0.77 ERA, .193 BAA
  • Vinnie Pestano: 34.0 IP, 32 H, 10 ER, 1 HR, 9 BB, 46 K, 2.65 ERA, .239 BAA
  • Rob Bryson: 31.1 IP, 19 H, 11 ER, 4 HR, 10 BB, 55 K, 3.16 ERA, .168 BAA

6. A mini-poll to send you off. 

What moment are you most looking forward to in the second half of the season.  I am looking forward to a game in which Santana, LaPorta, and Brantley play major roles in leading us to a victory, perhaps supported by strong pitching efforts from Carrasco/Judy/Todd.  Enjoy the weekend, everyone!

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