Stat of the day: Eastern League OPS & ERA leaders

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Top 10 OPS
1. Carlos Santana (Indians) – 943
2. Neil Sellers (Phillies) – 869
3. Brock Bond (Giants) – 838
4. Brian Stavisky (Phillies) – 831
5. Brett Pill (Giants) – 828
6. Brennan Boesch (Tigers) – 828
7. Brian Dinkelman (Twins) – 824
8. Deik Scram (Tigers) – 819
9. Josh Thole (Mets) – 816
10. Kevin Mahar (Phillies) – 815
– Obviously, many of the more interesting players didn’t qualify. Pedro Alvarez, the second overall pick in the 2008 draft, came in at 1009 in 60 games. Phillies outfielder Michael Taylor was at 977 in 86 games. The Orioles’ Brandon Snyder was promoted after posting a 1018 mark in 58 games.
– Santana never received a promotion, though he clearly deserved one for the work he did offensively. The problem is that the 23-year-old is still rather raw defensively behind the plate after beginning his pro career as an outfielder. He has the tools to make it as a starting catcher, but he’s likely going to need another full year in the minors in 2010.
– Bond’s 838 OPS was very impressive for a guy who played half of his games in one of the best parks for pitchers in the minors. Still, his league-leading 429 OBP would have counted for more if he wasn’t caught stealing on 15 of his 28 attempts.
– Other notables: Alex Avila (Tigers) – 814, Nick Weglarz (Indians) – 808, Ryan Kalish (Red Sox) – 781, Ruben Tejada (Mets) – 732, David Cooper (Blue Jays) – 729, Beau Mills (Indians) – 724, Brad Emaus (Blue Jays) – 712, Lars Anderson (Red Sox) – 673, Cale Iorg (Tigers) – 610
Top 10 ERA
1. Zach McAllister (Yankees) – 2.23
2. Felix Doubront (Red Sox) – 3.35
3. Jeanmar Gomez (Indians) – 3.43
4. Luis Perez (Blue Jays) – 3.55
5. Matt Fox (Twins) – 3.58
6. Randy Boone (Blue Jays) – 3.70
7. Danny Moskos (Pirates) – 3.74
8. Erik Arnesen (Nationals) – 3.87
9. Ryan Mullins (Twins) – 4.03
10. Jon Kibler (Tigers) – 4.06
– Non-qualifiers included Madison Bumgarner (1.93 ERA in 107 IP), Brad Lincoln (2.28 EREA in 75 IP), Ryan Edell (2.32 ERA in 89 1/3 IP), Brandon Erbe (2.34 ERA in 73 IP) and Junichi Tazawa (2.57 ERA in 98 IP).
– Also clearly deserving of mention was Yankees prospect Josh Schmidt, who had a 1.61 ERA in five starts and 41 relief appearances.
– McAllister was the league’s best pitcher, and he had the 1.08 WHIP to back up his ERA. Still, his season wasn’t quite as encouraging as the numbers suggest, if only because his previously strong groundball rate dwindled. He ended up as a modest flyball pitcher, and given that he’s probably not going to be a big strikeout guy in the majors, he’s going to have to induce grounders to thrive.
– Doubront’s ERA was more of a fluke, as he allowed 14 unearned runs and finished with a 1.41 WHIP, thanks to the 52 walks he surrendered in 121 innings. The 21-year-old lefty is a fine prospect without much of a platoon split, but he shouldn’t be counted on to be so effective in Triple-A next year.

Eddie Perez likely to be Braves’ interim manager if Fredi Gonzalez is fired

Atlanta Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez, left, stands with manager Fredi Gonzalez during a spring training baseball workout, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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There’s been a lot of rumbling that Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez will soon get the pink slip. His team is 7-20 entering Thursday’s action. Historically, front offices — particularly those of rebuilding/restructuring teams — respond to that by making coaching and/or managerial changes.

Per MLB.com’s Mark Bowman, bullpen coach Eddie Perez is likely to fill in as the Braves’ manager on an interim basis if and when Gonzalez is fired. Perez has been with the Braves as a coach since 2007. He played for the Braves in 10 out of his 11 seasons from 1995-2005. Perez wasn’t known for his bat, but was respected for the way he called games and handled the Braves’ then-elite pitching staff.

Bowman notes that Gonzalez isn’t expected to be fired over the weekend. If the team plays well, that could extend Gonzalez’s leash, so to speak.

First baseman Freddie Freeman issued a vote of confidence for his skipper, saying, “I think everything is getting magnified since we’re off to this start. I don’t know if it’s fair to put it all on [Gonzalez] because he’s not a player. We’re the 25 guys [who have to] go out there and play every day. We’re obviously not playing to our capabilities. To say that’s Fredi’s fault is unfair in my opinion.”

What’s on Tap: Previewing Thursday’s action

Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo, left, and Kris Bryant celebrate a 7-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
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The Phillies and Cardinals got started a little early, finishing up their four-game series on Thursday afternoon. In the evening, we have 10 games on our slate, including Cubs-Nationals.

The Cubs have jumped out to a 20-6 start, looking like baseball’s best — and scariest — team. Entering Thursday’s action, the Cubs have a +93 run differential (runs scored minus runs allowed). That’s by far the best in baseball. The next best are the Nationals at +50, the Mets at +44, and the Cardinals at +41. In fact, the Cubs’ run differential is so good that they have under-performed relative to their expected won-lost record of 22-4.

This is without Kyle Schwarber. This is with Jason Heyward hitting a miserable .211/.317/.256, Jorge Soler hitting .185/.276/.292, and Addison Russell hitting .224/.356/.329. It’s with John Lackey pitching to a 4.32 ERA.

What makes the Cubs so good? They’re on-base machines. The club’s aggregate .364 on-base percentage is second best in the majors behind the Pirates. Dexter Fowler has an outstanding .470 OBP and Anthony Rizzo is at an elite .403. In fact, of their regulars with 100-plus plate appearances, Heyward is the only one with a sub-.350 OBP. The league average is .319. The Cubs steal bases, too, as they’re 17-for-24 (~71 percent) in that department.

The Cubs have baseball’s best pitching staff, which has yielded a major league-best 2.54 runs per game. Only four teams are below 3.00 runs allowed per game. Of course, reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta is the big contributor to that with a sterling 0.84 ERA, but Jon Lester has put up a 1.58 mark and Jason Hammel 1.24. Closer Hector Rondon has found himself in only four save situations but has converted each of them with an even 1.00 ERA and a 15/0 K/BB ratio in nine innings. The Cubs’ aggregate bullpen ERA of 2.66 is fifth-best in the majors.

It’s too early to use defensive statistics with any degree of certainty, but even the eye test shows the Cubs to be elite defenders at the important positions, particularly shortstop (Russell), right field (Heyward), and third base (Kris Bryant).

The Cubs’ success isn’t exactly surprising. The club rode five consecutive fifth-place finishes into some high draft picks and that talent is starting to establish itself in the majors. Whether it was fans, writers, or Vegas oddsmakers, the Cubs were preseason darlings.

Kyle Hendricks starts for the Cubs opposite the Nationals’ Joe Ross at Wrigley Field tonight at 8:05 PM EDT.

The rest of Thursday’s action…

Detroit Tigers (Michael Fulmer) @ Cleveland Indians (Trevor Bauer), 6:10 PM EDT

New York Yankees (Masahiro Tanaka) @ Baltimore Orioles (Kevin Gausman), 7:05 PM EDT

Texas Rangers (Derek Holland) @ Toronto Blue Jays (J.A. Happ), 7:07 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Robbie Ray) @ Miami Marlins (Adam Conley), 7:10 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers (Chase Anderson) @ Cincinnati Reds (Alfredo Simon), 7:10 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox (Henry Owens) @ Chicago White Sox (Erik Johnson), 8:10 PM EDT

Seattle Mariners (Wade Miley) @ Houston Astros (Chris Devenski), 8:10 PM EDT

New York Mets (Jacob deGrom) @ San Diego Padres (Colin Rea), 10:10 PM EDT

Colorado Rockies (Chris Rusin) @ San Francisco Giants (Matt Cain), 10:15 PM EDT

The Phillies are seeing to it that their minor leaguers eat well

Crop of vegetables. Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and other vegetables.
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For years we’ve talked about how odd it is that baseball teams are in the extraordinarily competitive business of developing highly-trained athletes yet, for whatever reason, it pays minor leaguers virtually nothing and all but forces them to subsist on junk food and other cheap options.

As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, however, the Phillies are changing that. Indeed, they’re plowing serious money into nutritious food options for their minor league players:

The Phillies are teaching their minor leaguers how to play baseball, so why not teach them how to eat well, too?

“We want them to not have to worry about anything other than baseball,” assistant general manager Ned Rice said. “When they’re playing for the Phillies, they’ll have that stuff taken care of for them.”

 

That this is a news story — and it is a good and novel one — is kind of sad in some ways. How teams haven’t been on board with this approach for decades is beyond me.

Tracking baseball’s “Naturals”

The Natural
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Rob Neyer has a great column in today’s New York Times in which he tracks the real life players who, at one time or another, were dubbed “The Natural.” A la Roy Hobbs in the book and movie of the same name.

There are some that a lot of people probably remember: Jeff Francoeur and Ken Griffey, Jr. as “The Natural” come to mind easily. There are some who I don’t ever recall being called “The Natural” but were, apparently, like Terry Pendelton and Karim Garcia. There are also some whose stories were far odder and far more tragic than any version of Hobbs’ tale (oh man, a Toe Nash sighting!). Then there’s Rick Ankiel, whose path may be the closest one to Hobbs’ of them all, at least broadly speaking.

Fun stuff that, in addition to being a walk down memory lane, is also an instructive lesson about how the power of narrative works in sports.