Stathead team now has two-fifths of a rotation

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Royals right-hander Brian Bannister has always been very open about how statistical analysis has helped him post a 4.51 ERA in 85 career starts despite relatively underwhelming raw stuff, saying recently that “if Bill James had a 90-mph fastball he’d be me.”
Bannister now has some company in the official stathead rotation, as Diamondbacks right-hander Max Scherzer revealed earlier this week that he also applies sabermetrics to his pitching. Here are some details on Scherzer from Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic:
He values the pitching statistics that take fielding out of the equation and recently has become particularly interested in a stat called tERA, which assigns values to every batted ball based on trajectory, velocity and location. He also has taken time to examine his Pitch-f/x data, the information drawn from cameras that trace every pitch thrown in every big-league game. …
For his first full season in the majors, Scherzer has set the goal of being at least a four-win pitcher. As in, four Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP), a stat that tries to express the difference between a player and an average fill-in type, such as a readily available Triple-A call-up. … As if he needs a reminder, Scherzer’s brother will sometimes needle him. “He sends me text messages all the time saying, ‘Why can’t you be a four-win pitcher?'” Scherzer said, laughing. Maybe he will be. He was at 2.5 wins entering Thursday.

I’m amused that the actual players are seemingly more open to sabermetrics than most of the media members covering them.
Bannister has turned himself into a solid big-league starter when he might otherwise be a long reliever or Triple-A veteran, but in Scherzer’s case he already had the overpowering mid-90s fastball and mid-80s slider to be an ace. It’ll be interesting to see if embracing the ever-increasing amount of data and information available to smart, open-minded baseball fans can help turn him into an elite, Cy Young-caliber pitcher.
So far this season Bannister has a 3.59 ERA and 79/39 K/BB ratio in 123 innings to bounce back from an ugly 2008, while Scherzer has a 4.01 ERA and 120/40 K/BB ratio in 116.2 innings as a 24-year-old in his first full season. Oh, and their xFIPs are 4.35 and 3.96, respectively.

Astros advance to the World Series with 4-0 finale against Yankees

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The Astros punched their ticket to the World Series on Saturday, shutting out the Yankees 4-0 to take their first Game 7 victory at home. Charlie Morton was nearly untouchable on the mound, holding the Yankees to two hits, a walk and five strikeouts en route to his first career postseason win.

Morton and Sabathia carried their duel through three solid innings. Morton struck out three batters and allowed just one baserunner. Sabathia worked in and out of jams in the second and third innings, supplying and stranding two runners in scoring position.

Evan Gattis was the first to strike. In the fourth inning, he punched a 2-2 slider from Sabathia into the left field wall, where it registered a projected 405 feet and broke a homer-less streak of 115 at-bats by designated hitters in the 2017 postseason. The home run signaled the beginning of the end for the Yankees’ starter. He induced a groundout from Marwin Gonzalez, then walked Brian McCann on six pitches and allowed Josh Reddick his first base hit of the playoffs. That was enough for Joe Girardi, who pulled Sabathia for righty Tommy Kahnle and an inning-ending double play to close out the fourth.

Even with Sabathia gone, there was still some hope that the middle of the order could bail the Yankees out. Greg Bird led off the fifth with a first pitch double and Aaron Hicks took a four-pitch walk. A wild pitch from Morton allowed Bird to reach third base, but Alex Bregman and Brian McCann weren’t about to let the Yankees spoil their starter’s shutout. Todd Frazier bounced a ball toward third base, where Bregman grabbed and fired it to home plate, catching Bird just as McCann put his glove down.

The bottom of the inning wasn’t any easier for Sabathia’s successors. Jose Altuve went oppo-taco on a 1-1 changeup from Kahnle, postmarking it 364 feet into the right field stands. Kahnle labored through the next four at-bats, handing out a pair of singles to Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel before sending Gattis down swinging. The next at-bat was even more troublesome. McCann roped a two-out, two-RBI double to the warning track in right field, clearing the bases and boosting the Astros’ to a cushy 4-0 lead.

The excitement fizzled a little over the next few innings. Brett Gardner muscled a leadoff single off of Lance McCullers, but was later caught at second on a force play to end the sixth. McCullers didn’t let go of the ball again. He was lights-out through the end of the game, scattering a walk and six strikeouts over four innings and clinching the pennant with a 1-2-3 performance in the ninth.

Whatever confidence the Astros had coming off of their three-game sweep in the Division Series was tested and tested again in their pennant run. They battled through three tough losses in Games 3 through 5, staved off elimination with a gem from Justin Verlander in Game 6, and finally emerged victorious tonight. Three days from now, when they enter Dodger Stadium for Game 1 of the World Series, they’ll have the chance to do it all again.