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.

Reid Brignac is trying to become a designated hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.

Video: Andrelton Simmons makes a heads-up play to catch Carlos Asuaje off first base

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 03:  Andrelton Simmons #2 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 3, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
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Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.

With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.