Stretching out Treinen

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Blake Treinen isn’t exactly the spry young man of day’s past. At 29 years old, the chances of massive growth at the major league level are slim, but with his nasty arsenal and history, nothing can be ruled out. The idea for this article came from the guys at Effectively Wild, Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer and Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs, who made a comment on episode 1085 that the Oakland A’s may look at stretching Treinen back out as a starter. The idea was unfortunately not elaborated but I got curious and decided to research Treinen’s chances of becoming an effective starter in the bay.

Trienen last started for the Nationals in 2014 as a fill in player picking up 50.2 innings over 7 starts and 8 relief outings. Over those 7 starts, he threw 36 innings with a 3.00 ERA, a 3.60 FIP, and a 1.31 WHIP while allowing just  three runs or fewer in six of those seven games. The appeal of Treinen as a reliever came from his 8 relief outings where he totaled a 1.23 ERA, a 1.84 FIP, and a 1.57 WHIP in 14.2 innings. That 2014 season, in which Treinen finished with a 151 ERA+, allowed him to cement a place in the Nationals staff with the potential to shine in either pitching role.

The Nationals opened up the 2017 season with the hopes that Treinen would emerge as the elite bullpen arm they were missing, but the tale of the tape has been quite discouraging. Trienen posted just a 5.73 ERA, a 3.75 FIP, and a 1.619 WHIP in 37.2 innings as a National in the first half leading them to seek additional bullpen help. All of this despite the absolutely nasty pitches showing up on PitcherList every week (Just google Treinen Slider if you want to see something nasty) which is exactly why I can see the a taeam  wanting to pick him up and potentially convert him back into a starter. So let’s get a more in depth look on what a 2017 starting Blake Treinen would look like and why the A’s are the team he would most likely start on.

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“Small school senior signs don’t typically have the stuff South Dakota State RHP Blake Treinen has, but his is an unusual case. He has the size and stuff to start, but could be a late inning possibility if he stays in the bullpen. Either way, his inexperience means he’ll take some time to develop. On the plus side, however, said inexperience means he has plenty of bullets left in his right arm.”

– Blake Treinen Scouting Report 2011

 

Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s drafted Treinen in the 7th round in 2011 before shipping him to Washington a little later, but in his time in the Oakland system, he saw a lot of action as a starter. Treinen started 15 games in the Oakland A ball affiliate in 2012 meaning that the A’s liked him as a guy who could potentially start. The Nationals then ran Treinen out as a starter in the following two minor league seasons prior to the 2014 call up, lending to the narrative of his stuff. The overall picture being that two organizations looked as his raw ability and saw a starter with a good multi-pitch mix, so let’s analyze Treinen’s pitch mix to see if it would hold up in s starting role.

Treinen has 4 main pitches: the Fastball, Sinker, Changeup, and Slider each paired with a lot of movement

The Fastball

Treinen has thrown in fastball 21.3 % of the time this season, making it his 2nd most used pitch. The pitch comes in at a hearty 97.4mph, making it one of the consistantly hardest pitches in the majors. This got me thinking to compare Treinen with Joe Kelly to see what Treinen’s fastball could could look like in a starting role, where velocities are typically lower. Kelly averaged around a 95mph fastball as a stater with the Red Sox and Cardinals from 2012 to 2016 and a 99mph average as a reliever in 2017 with the Red Sox. Using this as a baseline, thus making Treinen a reverse Joe Kelly, Treinen’s fastball would probably come in around 94-95mph as a starter, making it still a consistently hard pitch.

BT FB

The Sinker

Treinen’s most used pitch at 51.8% is also his most popular amongst fans leading to a wealth of gifs. The pitch sits at a pretty 97.2mph on average and can top out around 100. The pitch has a ton of movement and deception to it as well. It is the top aid in Treinen’s 66% GB rate in 2017 having produced at 68.5%  and can also generate a ton of swings and misses with its 49.1 swing %.

BT SI

The Changeup

If you consistently throw in the upper 90’s, a deadly changeup can be your best friend, but Treinen has only thrown the pitch 7.2% of the time in 2017. If moved into a starting role, that pitch would have to become more developed if Treinen wants to keep hitters guessing. The pitch average around 89mph meaning that hitters will have to deal with a decent drop off in velocity if they want to barrel the ball.

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The Slider

Treinen’s slider is absolutely filthy. He throws the breaking pitch 19.8 % of the time to much success. Treinen has thrown the pitch as fast as 92mph and as slow as 84mph in 2017 and it has a career strikeout rate of 49.4% and a 22.6% swinging strike rate. The movement on the pitch can be electric with Treinen’s career averages at 1.7,/-2.2/ 2.6 xMov/zMov/Mov.

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Treinen’s movement as a starter in 2014

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Treinen’s movement in 2017

^Here you can see Treinen’s Horizontal and Vertical movements as a starter and reliever

OAKLAND ATHLETICS VS. TAMPA BAY RAYS

In essence, Treinen has 3 above average pitches with the potential for a 4th if he works on his changeup. Based off of his past as a semi-effective starter and a potential lockdown releiver, I see Treinen as a reverse Joe Kelly. The Oakland A’s could move Treinen into the rotation considering and injury or trade (cough Sonny Gray cough) and allow him to revitalize his career at 29.

St.Louis needs to address its Bullpen

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The NL Central has turned into a winnable division for every team not based out of Cincinnati, OH mostly because the Cubs have not been very good (but let’s save that for another post) and the Pirates are having Drug and Alcohol Problems (I’m looking at you Kang and Marte). This means that the 5 GB Cardinals have a chance to come away with a playoff birth in 2017. In fact, considering their strong offensive base, if it were not for their horrendous Bullpen, they might be up their with the Brewers for the division lead. The fact of the matter is that the Cardinals have lost 16 games in which they have at one point led by 2 or more runs, good for worst in Franchise history. So what’s the problem and how can John Mozeliak address it.

The Bullpen is not entirely disgusting becuase Oh and Rosenthal have more than serviceable this year. They rank in the middle of the pack in WPA at 14th at -.37, nowhere near as bad as Detroit’s -3.18. The core of a solid Bullpen is there, they just need help.

STL BP WPA

STL BP ADV

If you cannot tell from those charts, part of the problem has been the disappearance of Brett Cecil as an effective starter.

BC Fip

Cecil has gone from being extremely valuable to being exactly league average. It’s hard to tell if Cecil will even make a strong second half rebound considering what his Career BABIP looks like.

BC Babip

If the Cardinals want to make a push, they need to add to Oh and Rosenthal in order to give them a solid backend trio because the current set up won’t hold up over the season, let alone a post-season series.

Potential Targets

Pat Neshek: 0.67 ERA  2.27 FIP  0.9WAR

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies-Media Day

Former St.Louis Cardinal has been electric for a practically dead Phillies team in 2017 and they will certainly look to move him. Considering his age and contract, it should not take much for Mozeliak to swing a deal

Brad Hand: 2.82 ERA  3.23 FIP  0.6 WAR

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The Padres are known to be receiving calls on Hand and St.Louis should join that hunt. if If they make an offer way before the deadline, I’m sure the Padres would happy to accept. Hand would give the Cardinals a solid reliever with a couple of years of control, not mention giving them a litteral hand.

Jim Johnson: 3.34 ERA  2.15 FIP  1.0 WAR

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Johnson is owed money (4.5M) in 201, making it a better investment for the Cardinal’s competitive window. Atlanta has a low need for proven MLB closers and could serve to donate his innings to one of their many Minor League Arms.

Lordy, Bronson Arroyo is bad

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I spent quite a while trying to find the worst possible Bronson Arroyo picture and this one just spoke to me. The hair ended up being the final clincher in choosing this image over the plethora of other viable candidates. Image Link

Day after day, amateur baseball writers like myself and professional writers seem to think they are smart by bashing on the beloved righty Jared Weaver of the San Diego Padres. Granted, Jared Weaver has been utterly atrocious by every baseball metric available and every radar held pointlessly towards his “fastball”. Seemingly unnoticed, however, has been the work of another atrocious righty playing for a team under renovation. Bronson “Don’t Call It a Comeback” Arroyo continues to quietly die in a Reds uniform and for the past 13 starts it would seem that nothing positive has come from his return to Cincy. That line of thinking would lead most down the path of completely ignoring his work, but I find that we can use Bronson as a sort of teachers example. Let’s look at the former steady starter in order to understand the importance of Pitching Peripherals in judging today’s variety of starters.

I have chosen three percentage based statistics to use as a baseline: GB%, HR/FB, and Pull%. In case you are unaware as to what those exactly mean.

GB% = the percentage of batted balls hit on the ground

HR/FB% = ratio of home runs out of fly balls

Pull% = the percentage of batted balls that were pulled by the hitter

GB%

It appears as if Arroyo has relied on a ground-ball based arsenal for the majority of his career, yet his Fastball, Cutter, Sinker, Slider base has been extremely ineffective in that realm; producing GB rates that are neither consistent or near the league average.

BA Career GB%

Looking at the GB% of each of his major pitches in 2017 we can see where some of the faults lie.

Fastball = 49.3%

Cutter = 21.2%

Sinker = 40.7%

Slider = 19.0%

His fastball is the only pitch resulting in above average results but Arroyo has been throwing it less and less as his velocity declines (more on that later).

Relative to an above-average Starting Pitcher in Carlos Martinez (50.9 GB% 67 ERA-) and an almost exactly league average Starting Pitcher in Daniel Norris (40.7 GB%  101 ERA-); it is clear how below average Arroyo has been in generating ground balls. Obviously the argument could be made that Arroyo is therefore a Fly Ball Pitcher but that is where our next statistic comes into play.

HR/FB Rate 

In order for Arroyo to be successful while not producing a league average GB%, then he must be able to limit the amount of fly balls that head into the stands. As you probably guessed, Arroyo has been unable to accomplish this feat.

BA career HRFB

Homeruns may be up overall in the Majors but they are drastically up for Bronson. As we did with GB%, lets compare this statistic with two other Major league Starters: Danny Duffy (5.1 HR/FB%, 80 ERA-) and Tanner Roark (12.3 HR/FB%, 100 ERA-).

So if the balls hit in the air are going for dongs… the question becomes why?

Pull %

The hits are certainly not clearing the fence by luck.

BA Career PUll%.PNG

I believe it is correct to say that the league is crushing his middling 84mph fastball, but some of the blame for can be placed on Arroyo’s fastball location.

BA FB location

Arroyo is leaving meatballs right over the dish for the rest of the National League to crush. Let’s again see how Arroyo’s Pull% compares to other Pitchers: Stephen Strasburg (35.1 Pull %, 75 ERA-) and Alex Cobb (43.2 Pull%, 99 ERA-).

Conclusion

To quote Mr.Arroyo after his most recent shelling. “You have to put up enough quality starts for a ball club to want to keep you around, you know? That could have been the last time I was on the field, yeah. It’s just the way it is.”

Even Bronson knows that things aren’t boding well for him going forward, even on a suffering Reds team, but just because it’s over for him doesn’t mean we can’t use Arroyo as an example. These Batted Ball Percentages allow us to see how certain statistics effect Pitchers who are below average, average, and above average.

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Bronson Arroyo 2000-2017

 

Clutch Baseball is the Baseball Card Game we’ve been waiting for.

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Clutch Baseball or its employees. They asked me to do a write up of their new game and I accepted, therefore I have no intention of sugar-coating any flaws. If you want to look more into the game after reading – http://clutchmoment.com/

 

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You may be asking yourself, what the hell is Clutch Baseball and why do I care about some card game? So why not begin by answering those two questions.

What the hell is Clutch Baseball?

According to their website, Clutch Baseball is “an exciting, fast-paced fantasy game. Build a team, craft the perfect strategy deck, and choose a home stadium. “This about sums up the game, you organize your team and just go at it. If this interests you at all – then why not give it a shot.

Why should you care about some card game?

The classic baseball card is a good time. You get to break the seal on a crisp pack of possibility hoping you may get your favorite player or a card worth some money. Unfortunately, the baseball card has become outdated for a number of reasons; for starters, the statistics provided on the back of the card are no longer relevant to modern baseball (see Kieth Law’s Smart Baseball for more information) and the appeal has been diminished by more complete ways of enjoying baseball (see MLB The Show and OOTP). In truth, the baseball card has been dead for a while now, but Clutch Baseball has the opportunity to revolutionize the Baseball Card.

With such being established, let break the game down into its three major components: Presentation, Gameplay, and Clutch Hobbies, LLC.

Presentation

Everything is Perfect. The presentation of the game is absolutely superb and the team behind the product did a great job putting it all together. I opened the box they sent me and immediately was impressed. They sent a base copy of the game along with some booster packs and a pack of big league chew (which unfortunately melted and reformed into one massive blob of amazing).

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After that I got into unwrapping my bag of goodies and was again impressed by everything I saw. The cards themselves are neatly organized, wasting almost no space but still looking crisp. The three styles being Players, Stadiums, and Strategy.

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Along with the variety of cards, I received the game mat. The mat reminded me of and plays a lot like a Pokemon card map, it’s not that hard to figure out even without an instruction guide and looks great. The team even took the time to sign the mat for me, which was really cool on their behalf.

 

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Speaking of “really cool on their behalf,” the guys behind the game have great costumer service with aids their presentation a lot. Anytime I needed anything, they were responding immediately and seemed truly eager to get the feedback of baseball fans. You will see that level of commitment later with the Q&A.

 Gameplay

The Gameplay is rough at the beginning. The quick-start guide covers how to set up the mat and the basic formula of an at-bat but is a little vague on strategy cards, stadium effects, and where to set up a defense. I found myself reading the guide about 15 times before I felt that I knew what I was really doing. After you get through the initial confusion, it becomes a lot of fun. Being a baseball fan, coach, player, and writer, the Gameplay was addictive and interesting. I wanted to explore all of the strategies and match-ups and styles and cards, however, the games are a bit time consuming, and my friends are not as big baseball nerds as I am. I plan on exploring the game more in full once I have the chance, but for now it is mostly positive and I am excited to play it again and again.

 

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Clutch Hobbies, LLC (Q&A)

I figured I would use the Q&A to give you all a glimpse into the company and the decisions that went into making the game. One of the creators, Jordan, is answering most of the questions.

Q: What are your personal backgrounds in Baseball? Former players? Fans? Writers?
Jordan: Just a Red Sox fan pretty much
Sean: Former little league player now little league umpire
Mike: Former little league player now little league coach
Q: What is your background in the card game industry?
Jordan: Life long TCG player.  Magic: The Gathering, competitive Yu-Gi-Oh, Dragonball Z, etc.  Also tabletops such as Mage Knight, Small World, Zombicide, Thunderstone, etc.
Sean: Former MLB Showdown tournament player.
Mike: Pretty much just casual MLB Showdown.
As far as the industry, this is the first crack at the market for all of us.  The company is Clutch Hobbies LLC and our premier product is Clutch Baseball but we hope to expand into other sports, other genres, and even other media.
Q: What inspired you to create Clutch Baseball?
Clutch Baseball began 10 years ago when me and Mike were in high school study hall together along with 2 other friends.  We began reminiscing about MLB Showdown and how they had canceled the game.  Mike was just getting into graphic design at the time so he said hey I’ll make some of our own cards and we can play.  Thus, EH Showdown was created (EH for East Haven, the town we grew up in).  8 years later I’m now in college and Mike has graduated with a degree in graphic design.  I needed graphics help with a presentation I had to create for my Basic Computer Applications class.  He shows me some EH Showdown style stuff he had been working on.  I didn’t think much of it, more amused than anything.  The next year I came back to him for help with an advertisement I had to make for my Marketing 101 class.  I came by his house and stuff was really fleshed out by now and I was hooked.  He had found a guy on Reddit (Sean) who was down to make the game.  I asked him if I could join up and we hit the ground running.  We really focused on making our own, unique product that was different than any past games this time around.
Q: Why now? Where do you see the current MLB marketplace going?
The median baseball viewer is getting older every year but I feel there are a lot of quality young players coming up that could help interest rebound.  Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are both superstars under the age of 25.  The Yankees and Red Sox are touting some exciting young players in Judge, Sanchez, Bird, Bogaerts, Benintendi, and Betts.  The MLB also seems to be trying to appeal more to younger audiences by updating and streamlining the game.  Adding instant replay and pitch timers, not allowing batters to leave the batter’s box, making intentional walks automatic, stuff like that.
Q: How has business fared to date?
Business has gone far better than we every could have expected.  We set up our Indiegogo campaign with a goal of $5,000.  We said to ourselves man if this hits $10,000 wouldn’t that be nuts?  We ended up breaking $16,000 when all was said and done with.  The only issues we’ve had is trying to continually keep up on stock and the orders we’re receiving.  We have some amazing fans that truly believe in us and want this game to succeed more than anything.  However it’s a very long road to get to where we want to be and we aren’t letting the success get to our heads in any way.
Q: What company or aid did you receive in designing and packaging the game?
Thankfully we have an experienced and talented graphic artist on the team so we’ve done pretty much everything ourselves.  From there it was just about finding people we could rely on to manufacture us quality products at a reasonable price and timeframe.  That’s been the hardest part.  From stickers, to game mats, boxes, and even the cards, there’s always been issues along the way but we’ve been able to rectify them fairly quickly.  As of now we believe all our business relationships are in good standing moving forward.
Q: Do you feel the game is unmarketable to non-baseball fans?
Not unmarketable but definitely a much harder sell.  However we have play-tested the game with friends and family who had no interest in baseball and they found it very enjoyable.  At the end of the day, there’s different numbers and different names but it’s still just a strategy card
Q: Do feel that the game is harder to get a grip of then most other card based games?
If you are not a baseball fan, yes.  If you are a baseball fan, I’d say it’s probably easier since you come in knowing most of the rules already.  We’ve taken great lengths to make the game accessible and casual-friendly so you can pick up and go right away.  It’s a lot simpler than most of the other sports simulations out there.
Q: Why did you choose an assortment of more unknown baseball writers to help with publicity?
Honestly we just scoured social media and the blogsphere to find talented writers creating quality content regarding the game of baseball.  It didn’t matter to us if they were famous or unknown as we’re pretty unknown ourselves.
And that about wraps things up. Big shout out to Clutch Hobbies for giving me the opportunity and I look forward to seeing where they go from here.
If you want to purchase the game, head on over to http://clutchmoment.com/shop/ and find the team on twitter, facebook, and Instagram.

Using an excessive amount of charts and graphs to try to explain Ervin Santana

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Because the 2017 MLB season makes absolutely zero sense, Ervin Santana has been lead the Minnesota Twins to a tentative hold on first place in the American League Central. In fact, Santana has been leading the entire league in a number of categories (as of 5/30)

charts sort ERA

That’s two months of season with an ERA higher than Keuchel, Sale, and Kershaw.

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Two months leading in Innings pitched.

 

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Two months leading in LOB%

 

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Two months leading in BABIP.

 

Yep. Two months leading the league in Batting Average on Balls In Play. Things are going to go down hill for Ervin as also evident by his 4.09 FIP and 4.67 xFIP but for now he is riding a massive high. It is worth finding out, however, why Santana has been so dominant despite these troubling signs. (In part to further understand the importance of Peripheral statistics)

Let’s begin by analyzing two of Santana’s most prominent pitches: his fastball and his slider.

Santana’s fastball has been extremely effective this year. Opposing hitters are slashing just .174/.291/.357 off of the pitch for a total WRC+ of 90. The odd thing about his fastball is that hitters are making contact 88% of the time and it has only generate a swinging strike rate of 5.5%. The pitch has been both dominant and easy to hit. The key to the success can again be traced back to BABIP where Santana’s most common pitch has a mere .159 average.

 

 

FA chart HM

Santana has been locating his fastball extremely effectively as well.

 

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Despite leaving slightly more fastballs over the plate, Santana has been spreading the pitch all over the strike zone. Batters have not been able to hit the pitch well regardless.

 

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Obviously, pitches left over the middle of the plate are going to be hit slightly harder but those slugging percentages are well bellow the league average of .416 in 2017.

 

Let’s move on to Santana’s out pitch and arguably his best pitch: his slider. Using the same metrics as the fastball, opposing hitters are slashing .063/.138/.100 against the pitch with a remarkable WRC+ of -23. Batters are making contact 67.9% of the time and swinging through 13.6%. As with most of Santana’s statistics, the BABIP on the pitch is .077. Yes you read that correctly, a .077 average.

 

SL chart Hm

Similarly to the fastball, Santana has been excellent in locating his slider.

 

ES slider locations

Santana is dropping that slider inside to left-handers and away from right-handers. Almost nothing is getting left over the plate.

 

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No one is hitting that slider anywhere.

Santana has been both extremely lucky and extremely gifted in his pitching this year. His fastball and slider combination continuously dominates opposing lineups despite clear evidence that he should be pitching worse. A clear way to tell the differnce between a pitcher like Santana and true ace is to simply compare them.

 

E v D basic stats

Dallas Keuchel and Ervin Santana have almost identical surface statistics in 2017. They have thrown around the same Innings, have ERA’s within .05 points of eachother, and WHIP’s within .03. Underneath the surface it becomes clear. Keuchel is striking out near 8 batters per 9 while Santana trots in at 6.55. Keuchel is only walking 2 per 9 while Santana is walking 3.4 per 9.

When we compare the BABIP and FIP’s of the two pitchers it becomes even more obvious.

 

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Santana cannot and will not continue his torrid pace. Even if hitters keep falling on their rears trying to hit his slider.

Was that enough Charts and Graphs?

 

Data from FanGraphs.com

The Remarkably Unremarkable Dylan Bundy

In 2011, SBNation writer Dave Coleman wrote of Orioles righty Dylan Bundy that he” has the stuff to be a No. 1 ace for a long time for whichever team drafts him. His fastball and two other plus pitches right now make him scary enough. Imagine once he learns how to pitch! Bundy could join Stephen Strasburg and Tim Lincecum as the best pitchers of the next decade.”

After undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2013 and solidifying himself in the Orioles staff in 2016, it seems that Coleman wasn’t too far off from his 2011 claims of Bundy becoming a No.1 starter. The problem is that he is nothing like Strasburg or even pre-Apocalypse Tim Lincecum … Dylan Bundy is remarkably unremarkable.

Stephen “Disabled List” Strasburg carries the pure arsenal to make a batter check his drawers and uses it when healthy as evident by his career 10.46 career K/9 and 30.6% K rate in 2016. Strasburg pairs his massive strikeout ability with a comfortable 45.3% GB rate. These are the kind of stats that you expect from an ace level pitcher, especially one attached to $175 million over 7 years. Tim Lincecum used to carry the same kind of weight, striking out more than a batter per 9 with a 46% GB rate during his majestic 2008-2011 run with San Francisco. Lincecum carried the Giants to multiple World Series Wins and Strasburg, although behind Max Scherzer, remains one of the most gifted pitchers in the majors.

So how is Dylan Bundy meeting his expectations?

For starters, he is carrying a typically understaffed Orioles rotation that finds itself in second place in the American League East. His 1.2 WAR leads the Orioles and far exceeds his Steamer projections. But let’s look at how his K/9 compares to Lincecum and Strasburg

Bundy v Strasburg v Lincecum

Bundy comes in well below peak Lincecum and current Strasburg yet is close to matching Strasburg on 2017 WAR (1.2 v 1.7). Bundy’s K/9 is almost exactly league average (6.40 v 6.29).

Looking at other peripherals against Strasburg in 2017

Groundball rate) 32.1% versus 47.6%

Fly Ball rate) 43.3% versus 32.9%

BABIP) .261 versus .281

WHIP) 1.14 versus 1.11

ERA-) 69 versus 76

Bundy and Strasburg have been sort of close but Strasburg pulls away with pure dominance. So how is Bundy producing like an Ace without the big Ace numbers that we have come to expect from no.1 Starters?

Bundy v Strasburg v Lincecum LOB

Bundy has been stranding runners at a well above average rate this year. He is 8th in the majors in LOB% (min 60IP) which has certainly aided his hot start. Obviously some regression is to be expected (.394 FIP), but Bundy has certainly been able to leave runners on base thus preventing them from scoring crucial runs.

If Bundy can keep up some sort of pace close to this, he should finish in the upper echelon of AL starters despite average peripherals. Bundy is not Strasburg or peak Lincecum like Dave Coleman clamed he could become in 2011, but Bundy is Bundy and this year he has been remarkably unremarkable.

Data from Fangraphs.com

Eddie Arrieta

The year is 2020, Mlb.com has just regurgitated their yearly list of the “most lopsided trades in MLB history” or something along those lines. This years list is more of the same, a couple of older trades no one remembers ending with transactions from Theo Epstein’s run atop the cursed Cubbies. However, something is different with the click-bait in 2020 from 2017, for the top three trades are the following…

#3

Andrew Cashner and Kyung-Min Na    ↔    Anthony Rizzo and Zach Cates

#2

Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger    ↔   Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop

#1

James Farris and  International Bonus Slot No. 28    ↔    Eddie Butler and International Bonus Slot No.74

That’s right folks! The most lopsided trade in the history of baseball is February 1st 2017’s Eddie Butler pick up by the MLB champion Chicago Cubs, rejoice once more Bill Murray because the Colorado Rockies messed up once again. In exchange for a throwaway prospect and a swap of some cash, Theo once again steals premium talent away from the hands of those less keen sighted. I am no scout nor will I claim to be one, but I would put my money on Eddie Butler finding his footing at Wrigley and becoming the next Cubs pitcher to breakout under Chris Bosio *cough* Jake Arrieta *cough*.

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Let’s take a look at the similarities between Butler and Arrieta from a career perspective before switching to a more analytical approach.

Jake Arrieta 

Yahoo Sports writer David Brown once described him as “Eternal prospect Jake  Arrieta” which was perfectly fitting prior to his electrifying 2015 campaign which ended in some sick hardware. Arrieta, once a top 50 MLB prospect struggled from 2010-2013 with Baltimore, tossing 358 Innings of 5.46 ERA ball with a sad 77 ERA +, but turned the corner with Chicago producing 634.2 Innings of 2.52 ERA ball with a much more respectable 153 ERA+ from 2013-2016. Arrieta is the Cinderella story of a baseball generation, a true rags to riches righty  with nothing left to prove.

Eddie Butler

For all we know, Butler has a crushing fear of heights that has hindered his performance in Denver, or Butler’s disgustingly bad seasons in the Mile High City have spawned said fear of heights. The point being that getting out of dodge may assist the once highly rated prospect. Like Arrieta, Butler was once given the praise of being a top 50 MLB prospect and promised to bring stable innings to Colorado’s future. Instead we received 36 appearances (28 starts) of 6.50 ERA baseball complimented by a dismal 73 ERA + and 1.6 HR/9 for good measure. Needless to say, it wasn’t pretty.

After that paragraph is where hopefully one day I can write that…”Butler, like Arrieta, turned a corner with Chicago, churning in (insert respectable Innings numbers) of (insert great ERA) ball tied to a (insert ERA+ that makes it clear he was far above league average) that helped lead Chicago to three consecutive World Series titles.”

But how can Butler achieve Arrieta Status?

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Scouting Report Analysis

Arrieta and Butler feature a number of similar comments on scouting reports that hint at future success

Scout Jason Cole writes of Butler in 2013 that “His stuff is nasty; nobody doubts that. It’s a power arsenal with huge life. His delivery isn’t ideal and leads some scouts to believe he profiles best in the bullpen––where I think he’d be a potential elite closer––but he seems to make it work enough to stick in a starting role. He repeated, got to both sides of the plate, should be durable, and showed a plenty deep repertoire.

While Orioles Scouting Director Joe Jordan wrote in 2008 of Arrieta “He’s a four-pitch guy. When the other three pitches become consistent and he can use them the way he needs to, the sky is the limit. That’s what I’m looking forward to from him in 2009, the progression of secondary pitches. When he makes that step, he’s going to force his way to the big leagues.” and Alex Eisenberg of the Hardball Times adds in 2009 that Arrieta’s stuff may best be utilized in a bullpen role for Baltimore considering his struggle to find a groove and control.

In both cases, the pitchers posses elite pitch arsenals that they struggle to master, a potential to provide quality innings, and the power stuff to carve out a role in an MLB bullpen at least.

The Ground-ball

The situation that Butler is walking into is perfect. The average MLB GB% sits around 48% while Butler has pitched near a 50% in his big league career and while projections have him near that 48% mark for 2017, Cubs Pitching Coach has done an excellent job extracting the best from the ground-out as seen by Arrieta’s success and Kyle Hendrick’s breakout 2016.

Moreover, Butler is walking in on an infield defense to die for with Bryant, Russell, Baez/Zobrist, and Rizzo which, according to stat site oddshark.com was the best defense in the majors in 2016. That defense should help provide Butler with much more stability than he received in Denver and should in turn reduce his H9 of 12.2 and .357 BABIP.

The Cubs 

This argument is arbitrary and has little analytical backing, but there is something about the Cubs pitching staff under Joe Maddon that just makes you think it can be done. Kyle, Hendricks and Jake Arrieta were no names in 2013 but came together with proven stud Jon Lester to form a dynamic staff. Cub’s pitching coach Chris Bosio’s track record of reclamation is not as deep as Ray Searage’s but features a now perennial Cy Young candidate in the similar Jake Arrieta. Manager Joe Maddon brings out the best in his troops and inspires more that what you are deemed capable of.

 

In all likelihood,

Eddie Butler probably won’t become the next Jake Arrieta. However, if he reaches the ceiling he is capable of, the NL central better watch out because cracking through the Cubs will be tough. If he accomplishes these goals, I will be over here at The Swinging Strike ready to say “I told you so” while sipping out of my memorial three-peat Cubs mug.