Over the past couple weeks, I’ve watched two more shows on Amazon – each just had its first season in 2014 – and they were both excellent in different ways. ‘Broad City’ is a Comedy Central show, and I found it to be funny, but mostly just fun. It was silly and stupid, but the two leading ladies are magnetic. ‘Transparent’ is an Amazon original, and it was incredibly well done, thoughtful, and weighty. The quality easily matched anything you could find on any other premium network, which I also found impressive. I highly recommend both shows.
- Since I gave Pedro Strop some love behind Hector Rondon and Neil Ramirez yesterday, it’s only fair to give some love to the fourth guy in the pen who had a great year: Justin Grimm. On July 23, it looked like Justin Grimm’s season was in the tank. He’d just imploded against the Padres, allowing three earned runs on two hits and three walks in an inning of work, and his ERA/FIP/xFIP slash line had sunk to an ugly 4.98/4.19/4.31. After early flashes, he was no longer striking guys out at a prodigious rate (it had sunk to 21.5% – barely over league average), and he was walking guys with reckless abandon (12.3% at that point, almost twice the league average rate). Maybe it just wasn’t working out. But then Grimm went on a tear. From that point through the end of the season, he posted a ridiculous 1.75 ERA, 1.53 FIP, and 2.50 xFIP. His strikeout rate shot up to 28.9%, his walk rate dropped to a microscopic 3.1%, and he didn’t give up a single homer. For those two and a half months, Grimm was among the best relievers in baseball.
- So, what in the world happened to turn things around? Well, I don’t know if it was a mechanical adjustment or a physical improvement, but Grimm’s velocity from that July 23 appearance forward increased on all of his pitches across the board. Significantly. His four-seam fastball was right around 94mph in mid-July, but it climbed steadily to 96/97mph by September. His breaking pitches added several clicks as well. It looks like this isn’t an arbitration cut-off situation: Grimm was struggling, fixed something, and then took the heck off. I can’t wait to see what he can do in 2015.
- Sacrifice bunting sometimes helps you win a game. Even I’ll concede that. But the amount it helps is pretty minimal, and the downside risk is considerable. Check out this FanGraphs chart on Win Probability Added for sac bunts this year, with pitcher bunt attempts removed (because they’re kind of a different animal). The Royals are on top with a whopping 1.0 WPA (sac bunting all year got them one more win than they otherwise would have gotten – that’s fine, but it’s not exactly a huge benefit). The very bottom? You guessed it: the Cubs, at -0.9 WPA. They lost nearly an entire game because of the sac bunting. STOP. BUNTING.
- This is a fascinating, detailed read on plate discipline – specifically, the rates at which a player swings at pitches in and out of the strike zone – and how difficult it is to dramatically improve discipline in the big leagues. It can happen a little bit over the course of several years, but it’s rare.
- Patrick Mooney writes about the state of the Cubs and Starlin Castro.
- If you missed this week’s live stream, I talked about a crazy Edwin Jackson/Jonathan Papelbon swap, about what the Phillies are doing with Cole Hamels, about Junior Lake’s future, about the attractiveness of Dexter Fowler as a one-year option, and much more: