Welcome back to this week's First Pitch! Time to talk about something that'll make you want to go back to the days of no baseball during the All-Star break!
One Quick Thing -- How the **** is Miguel Tejada still playing professional baseball?
In 2012, Miguel Tejada, playing out his age-38 season, had 151 plate appearances for the Baltimore Orioles' Triple-A affiliate. In those plate appearances, Tejada posted a .259/.325/.296 slash line, good for a 71 wRC+. In case you're wondering, that means that Tejada's offensive output was roughly 30% worse than league average ... for the International League.
So one would have to figure, going into an age-39 season, that Tejada wouldn't be in much of a position to draw attention. And yet, here we are. The former AL MVP has found his way into 36 games for the Kansas City Royals, a team that ostensibly has designs on playing in the post-season, or at least they did before the season started. That's why they traded for James Shields, after all.
Tejada's no longer really capable of playing a decent defensive shortstop, so instead he tends to split his time between second and third base. And while his performance hasn't been nearly as bad as it was during 2011 and 2012, he's still not playing very well: he's got a 93 wRC+ while providing not-too-slick defense at his chosen positions. He's been worth roughly 0.1 fWAR, -0.0 bWAR, and 0.0 WARP. He's basically been the quintessential replacement player.
So what would possess the Royals -- again, a team looking to make it into the playoffs -- use a roster spot on an aging player like Tejada, who hasn't shown offensive strength since 2009 and who's never been a dynamite defender? Remember, this is a team that's got younger players in need of PAs (Johnny Giavotella, Mike Moustakas, etc.) and with a higher ceiling. Offense-first third basemen can be found in several Triple-A ballclubs. Irving Falu exists.
I'd assume the main reason is because of Tejada's clubhouse presence, or something that he can add to the team's clubhouse. But that kind of thing is awfully tough to quantify. And what is the benefit for keeping Tejada around? As a mentor to the young guys on the roster? As a guy to keep the clubhouse loose? Is there some psychic benefit in particular he provides that makes it worth keeping him around?
Then again, Tejada hit his third home run of the season on Sunday night. And I suppose the potential for a guy to hit a dinger as a pinch-hitter has value. A wRC+ of 93 isn't completely unfortunate, though it is buoyed by that recent dinger, which pulled it up about 10 points.
But back on the other hand, he still has a negative RE24. He probably still has a negative WPA. And his defense still isn't what you'd like from a backup infielder. His team is five games below .500, and the only way they'll sniff the playoffs is if they buy tickets. He's not helping them win -- at best he's helping them not lose as fast.
At this point in the season, maybe there's a place for a player of Tejada's -- imagined or real -- clubhouse charms. I just can't imagine Kansas City is that place. And while I very much respect Tejada's skills -- and especially admire his determination to keep playing to the bitter end -- I wonder exactly how he's still holding down a roster spot.
The Smallest Sample Size -- Game Results for 07/21/13
Photo credit: Tom Szczerbowski
Luke Scott and Kelly Johnson hit long back-to-back homers off R.A. Dickey in the sixth inning, helping the Rays win this one, 4-3. Evan Longoria also added a dinger of his own in the fourth, but Scott's two-run jack gave him the game lead in WPA, with .226. The game's starter, Chris Archer, had another effective start, limiting the Jays to one run on five hits and four walks in seven strong innings. Fernando Rodney almost blew the game in the ninth, allowing two runs before settling down and retiring Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and, eventually, Melky Cabrera to end the threat.
For the Jays, R.A. Dickey didn't have his strongest stuff, and though he struck out eight in his six innings, the three homers he gave up would be too many. The 23 he's given up this season now ties him for the most in the bigs with Joe Blanton. Former Mets Josh Thole and Jose Reyes were the offensive stars of this game, with Thole knocking his first double of the year -- a run-scoring RBI double -- while drawing two walks. Reyes had two singles and two walks in five plate appearances, and stole a base.
Also, Chris Archer hit Jose Reyes in the junk with a pickoff throw. Yup.
Pirates 3, Reds 2
I can now confirm reports out of Pittsburgh that neither Jeff Locke, nor the Pittsburgh Pirates as a whole, have turned into pumpkins yet. The surprise All-Star threw another great outing, limiting the Reds to one run, one hit, and four walks over six innings in another Bucs victory. All in all, the six Pirates pitchers limited the Reds to just three hits, all singles, but walked seven.
Meanwhile, Homer Bailey actually had a pretty crazy performance in opposition. While it may likely be forgotten in the loss, Bailey struck out 12 Pirates in his six and one-third innings of work, nearly two batters per inning. Bailey also threw 121 pitches, with 82 of those coming for strikes. Since he also gave up seven hits (including a homer to Garrett Jones), walked one batter, and let a wild pitch go, it might not be seen as a successful outing -- but that's still a pretty impressive strikeout performance.
Phillies 0, Mets 5
But was bailey's outing as impressive as Matt Harvey's? Probably not. The New York phenom completely shut down the Phillies, striking out 10, walking none, and giving up just three hits in seven innings of work on Sunday. Of course, he was staked to a nice lead in the first inning, thanks to back-to-back homers by David Wright and Marlon Byrd, but still -- quite impressive.
Cliff Lee had a tougher time than his counterpart, allowing five runs over six innings, thanks in no small part to three homers. Still, he only walked one guy, so at least he still has that going for him. Relievers Antonio Bastardo and Jonathan Papelbon and Chase Utley were the only three Phillies with positive WPAs in this game, so better luck next time, guys.
I expected a Jordan Zimmermann / Clayton Kershaw matchup to be a pitchers' duel, and while Kershaw held up his end of the bargain, the Dodgers lit up Zimmermann and the Nationals to win this one with authority. Matt Kemp did some of the heavy lifting for the Dodgers, hitting a homer, a double and a single while drawing a walk, but he also left the game in the ninth inning with an injury -- despite this being his first game back from the DL. Hanley Ramirez also continued his torrid hitting, logging his 10th homer of the season in just 155 PA. He's basically like the new (old) version of Yasiel Puig.
For the Nats, we've already talked about how bad Zim was, so the only players to speak of are probably Ross Ohlendorf -- who snuck in a quality start in relief, throwing six innings while only giving up two runs with six strikeouts -- and Jayson Werth. Werth drove in and scored the Nats' only two runs of the game on two solo homers, and he also threw in a walk for good measure. The beard's still pretty awful, though.
Photo credit: David Banks
The Braves managed a host of singles, but too few runs against the White Sox during this 3-1 loss. Despite a great effort from Mike Minor, Atlanta couldn't find an extra-base hit against Jose Quintana, who threw five and two-thirds innings and gave up just one run on nine hits, three walks and a hit batsman. But the Sox bullpen held on to throw three-plus scoreless in relief, helped out more than a little by a leaping Casper Wells catch to rob Reed Johnson of a homer in the eighth.
The Braves had all those singles, but only one by Evan Gattis managed to plate a runner. And Mike Minor pitched a complete game on his side, going eight innings with eight strikeouts, two walks and five hits. He only used 97 pitches to get through his eight. If it hadn't been for that leaping grab by Wells, he might have even been in line for a win. #killthewin
Tigers 4, Royals 1
You cannot stop Miguel Cabrera. Oh sure, we could talk about other things in this game, like how both starting pitchers James Shields and Doug Fister threw pretty well, about how Miguel Tejada (see above) hit an unlikely homer and how Andy Dirks hit his seventh bomb of the season ... but when it comes down to it, all I really want to talk about is Miguel Cabrera.
Cabrera hit his 31st homer of the season, It was a solo homer, hit in the first inning. After that, the rest of his game wasn't very good, as he made three outs, and botched a ball at third for his 11th error of the season. But Cabrera has a 201 wRC+, meaning he's about 101% better than a league-average hitter. He's already got 55.09 RE24, meaning his bat's been worth about five and a half wins in a run expectancy context -- and he hasn't even played 100 games yet. He's making his Triple Crown season look like some some silly warmup for the main event -- the main event being a once-in-a-decade offensive performance the likes of which we haven't seen since Barry Bonds was in the league. History, man.
Also, the Tigers won, and the Royals are awful. Recap!
Break up the Brewers! Wily Peralta mowed down another offense, while rookie Caleb Gindl provided all the power for the Brewers in a one-run win in extras. Gindl hit a double and a solo homer in the 13th to walk it off. Funny enough, the Brewers -- one of many teams who likes to no-sell a player's first career home run -- hid in the tunnel instead of charging the field to celebrate with Gindl. As he came to the plate, the only player to greet the game-winner was shortstop Jean Segura, making for an awkward moment before the rest of the team eventually shared the moment with Caleb.
Meanwhile, Wily Peralta shoved it, mowing down seven Marlins via strikeout and only allowing two hits and two walks in eight innings of work. Henderson Alvarez, my least favorite player in baseball, actually pitched very well, throwing seven shutout innings despite only striking out a single hitter. He gave up five hits, and one walk.
The Marlins are still a truly terrible offense, and have not scored a run since July 14th. Ick.
And speaking of shutting down an unimpressive offense, Justin Masterson pitched beautifully in Minnesota, carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning before Brian Dozier broke it up with a bloop double. Masterson didn't allow another hit in his seven innings of work, striking out eight and only allowing a single run in an emphatic victory. Jason Kipnis was the offensive star, hitting a homer, singling in another run in the ninth, and also drawing a walk. Michael Brantley hit a triple that plated three runs in the fifth, and that actually gave him his team's offensive WPA lead over Kipnis (.138 to Kip's .131) despite it being his only hit of the game.
Scott Diamond was not good again on Sunday, charged with six runs, no strikeouts, seven hits and three walks in less than five innings of work. He's fallen far from being the breakout star of his team's rotation last year, posting a 5.53 ERA and 5.20 FIP in 96 innings of work this season. All of the Twins' hits were doubles by Brian Dozier, of which there were two.
It's taken me a while, but I'm finally starting to adjust to the idea of the Mariners as a decent offensive team. They hung 12 runs on the Astros (I know, the Astros, but still!) thanks in part to a big grand slam by second baseman Nick Franklin and a lot of inadequacy by Jordan Lyles and Lucas Harrell. Pretty much every Mariner got hits, from rookie Brad Miller at the top of the lineup all the way down to Dustin Ackley in the eight hole. Of course, Henry Blanco, the team's catcher an ninth hitter, didn't get a hit, but that's because he's Henry Blanco and basically has no business in the majors at this point. He also made an error.
Felix Hernandez, with all that offensive noise clanging about him, simply shut down the Astros' bats. He struck out seven, walked one, and gave up four hits in six scoreless innings. Jordan Lyles of the Astros basically did the opposite thing, giving up 10 runs in four innings, earning a Game Score of 9. Yikes.
The Cardinals keep rolling, as Adam Wainwright out-dueled Eric Stults to win another game for his team, the best in baseball. Wainwright went eight, giving up just two runs on seven strikeouts, which brings his ERA to 2.44 and his FIP to 2.21. If it weren't for that pesky Matt Harvey, Waino would be ruling the Cy Young race with an iron fist. Believe it or not, Allen Craig (yes, Allen Craig) made a leaping catch on a hard-hit ball by Jedd Gyorko to help Wainwright retain his lead. And David Freese did his thing, hitting a two-run double to give the Cards a lead they would hold for the rest of the game.
Stults had a quality start for the Padres, despite throwing 124 pitches in just six innings of work, but three runs would be enough with the Padres bats not worrying anyone. The team did have doubles from Everth Cabrera, Carlos Quentin, and a late one from Jesus Guzman, but it just wasn't enough to plate a third (or fourth) run.
Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports
It's only just now sinking in for me that 40-year-old Bartolo Colon is really one of the most effective starting pitchers in baseball this year. Colon went the distance on Sunday, throwing his third (third!!!) shutout of the season and blanking the Angels over nine. In another inexplicable event, Eric Sogard hit a home run.
On the other side of the ball, nothing went right for the Angels. The team made three errors, Jerome Williams didn't look sharp (six runs on eight hits and three walks in five innings), and even Mike Trout could only manage a single off of Colon. Not much to report here, other than that Mr. Colon is in charge now.
The Diamondbacks haven't been great recently, but the Giants haven't been great all season -- so the Snakes were finally able to stop their skid on Sunday. Randall Delgado pitched five and two-thirds scoreless while the trio of Martin Prado, Paul Goldschmidt, and Cody Ross carried the offense. Prado tripled and scored the game's first run on a Goldy sac fly. Ross singled in two more runs, and all three of those players reached base three times.
Madison Bumgarner pitched very well in the loss for the Giants, going seven innings with six Ks and just one run given up. The team threatened in the ninth, when they scored their only run, but couldn't capitalize on a double-play-turned-fielder's-choice-turned-error-turned-back-into-a-double-play. You read that right. Brandon Belt had two hits, and still vaguely resembles a small zoo animal.
Nolan Arenado got his only hit of this game when it counted, driving in two runs on an eighth-inning single that led to a throwing error and, eventually, a Rockies win. By coming through in the clutch, Arenado racked up .182 WPA, good for the best in this game. But Carlos Gonzalez also added quite a bit of value using his speed, stealing two bases in this one and rushing home during Arenado's single and forcing that throwing error -- which allowed Michael Cuddyer to score as well. Meanwhile, Tyler Chatwood continued his strong season, throwing six innings of two-run ball and lowering his ERA to 2.48.
On the Cubs side, it wasn't all bad, despite another lackluster outing by Edwin Jackson. Starlin Castro had four hits including a double, and Anthony Rizzo hit his 14th homer of the season.
Orioles 4, Rangers 2
Chris Tillman may not have been the most deserving All-Star in baseball history, but if he keeps up this performance, that decision may not look so bad in hindsight at the end of the season. The Orioles hurler mowed down the Rangers' offense in Arlington, going eight innings and giving up only two runs on six hits and three walks. Tillman pitched with a lead for most of the game, as Chris Davis and Matt Wieters started the run-scoring in the second inning, and the team benefitted from runs scored by Davis, Brian Roberts, and Wieters (twice).
The Rangers did what they could, with Adrian Beltre connecting on a home run in the ninth inning to try and bring the game closer. But Martin Perez was nicked up to death by singles and doubles, and he wound up giving up four runs on nine hits in six and one-third innings of work. The Rangers were swept in this series, and now sit three games back of the AL West-leading Athletics.
Buried at the bottom of my report, because we don't want to be accused of an East Coast Bias here at BtBS, the Yankees and Red Sox had another in a litany of exciting games on Sunday night. Mike Napoli walked it off in the 11th inning with his second home run of the night, putting the game away and giving him an awesome .317 WPA on the night. Napoli was definitely the hero of the game late, and Ryan Dempster (five and one-third innings, five runs allowed) the goat, but plenty of Sox deserve credit in the win. Shane Victorino stole two bases, David Ortiz stole one, and Jonny Gomes homered. And most of the Sox's relievers pitched very well, especially from the eighth inning on to keep this close.
This game looked like it wouldn't be anything special early on, given that C.C. Sabathia got rocked for seven runs in the first five innings of the game. But the Yankees bullpen acquitted itself well, save for Napoli's late-inning bomb off of
celebrated comic book writer and illustrator Adam Warren. Strangely enough, the Yankees managed to score all seven of their runs without sourcing an extra-base hit, taking advantage of plenty of singles and walks, three stolen bases, and some timely errors by Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jose Iglesias.
Brent Lillibridge, whose only real value to a major league team lies in his defense and positional versatility, was his team's designated hitter for much of this game. Because baseball is weird.
- Erik Bedard pulled himself out of a no-hitter in the seventh inning because he was getting tired. Some baseball fans are furious! Others are not! While I think it would've been cool to see the psychic benefits of a no-hitter on the downtrodden Astros franchise, I'm pretty sure Bedard would have stayed in if he would've thought he could've finished a no-hitter. When in doubt, I like to side with the pitcher, who usually knows best.
- In other Astros news, the team designated Carlos Pena and Ronny Cedeno for assignment following that loss to the Mariners, and will call up shortstop prospect Jonathan Villar. Villar is an interesting prospect, so maybe things will get better for Houston.
Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports
Opposing Starter: Jordan Zimmermann, Washington Nationals
Daily Stat Line: Entered the game as a defensive replacement.
2013 Season Stat Line: .369/.400/.581 -- 8 HR -- 176 wRC+
Today's Puig Status: Dangerously close to losing his special section in every First Pitch. Still fun, though!
Photo credit: Jim McIsaac
Opposing Starter: Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies
Daily Stat Line: 1-for-3 with a run scored.
2013 Season Stat Line: .338/.464/.515 -- 9 doubles -- 181 wRC+
Today's Satin Status: One of the most dangerous hitters in the Mets' lineup. Was pinch-hit for by a guy with a 47 wRC+. No respect.
So that's it! Don't forget to follow up with feedback, and we'll see you tomorrow!
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All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.