Neftali Feliz

Neftali Feliz has a great start. And somehow this is a problem.

23 Comments

If a team had a new starting pitcher show up, throw high heat and exhibit good control over multiple innings, most people would think it was awesome. It’s only when the guy closed games the season before and got a bunch of saves that this somehow becomes a problem. Case in point: Neftali Feliz, who had a nice start yesterday:

Even as he paced himself, Feliz’s fastball regularly clocked between 94 mph and 96. His slider locked knees. His changeup, which at one point he threw two pitches in a row, elicited weak swings.

“His mound presence, his use of his other pitches,” Ryan said, continuing the litany of Feliz praises.

Yet Gil Lebreton of the Star-Telegramechoed by Buster Olney — calls this a “dilemma” because it might mean — gasp! — that instead of pitching 69 innings out of the pen, it may cause the Rangers to use him for 200 innings as a starter. And everyone knows that 60 ninth innings are way, way more important than 200 innings that occur between the first and eighth. I mean, that’s just science!

Dear Lord. Once — just once — I would like to get every baseball writer on the planet under oath for half a second and make them go on the record with an answer to one simple question: “what is more valuable: an excellent starting pitcher or an excellent relief pitcher.”  Pending the answer to that question, I will decide whether to pay any attention to that person ever again.

UPDATE: As noted in the comments, I am being a bit unfair here. Lebreton does, at the end of the piece, opine that Feliz should be a starter and that filling out a bullpen should be secondary.  So yes, he would pass my little test.  I still take issue with this being presented as a “dilemma,” however, which is how his story is couched.  If the writer is allowed to opine in his article as Lebreton opines here, and if he agrees that a starter is more valuable than a closer, he should probably be more critical of the Rangers for even suggesting that this is a “dilemma.”  Because to the extent there is still uncertainty on what to do with Feliz in the Rangers’ mind, it is unreasonable uncertainty. To the extent there is not uncertainty, articles about Feliz’s role are kind of pointless.

Former MLB player Andy Marte also killed in car accident

GOODYEAR , AZ - MARCH 06:  Andy Marte #15 of the Cleveland Indians looks on from the dugout during the spring training game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Goodyear Ballpark on March 6, 2009 in Goodyear, Arizona. The Brewers defeated the Indians 17-7.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Compounding the tragic news of Yordano Ventura‘s passing is a report that fellow Dominican and former MLB infielder Andy Marte was also killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic early Sunday morning. The report was confirmed by Marte’s agency, J.M.G. Baseball, as well as Marte’s former MLB clubs. No further details have been released so far.

Marte, 33, appeared for the Braves, Indians and Diamondbacks from 2005 through 2014. He was ranked in the top 10 MLB prospects by MLB.com in 2005 and held a career .218/.276/.358 batting line, 21 home runs and a .634 OPS over seven seasons in the majors. He signed with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization after the 2014 season, slashing .312 with 42 home runs in 206 games.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Marte’s family and teammates during this terrible time.

Yordano Ventura and Jose Fernandez were two of the most promising arms in MLB

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 3: Starting pitcher Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals throws a pitch in the first inning during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on July 3, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Baseball lost two incredible pitchers in the last four months, both to horrible and unforeseen tragedies. Jose Fernandez and Yordano Ventura were among the most talented and promising pitchers in MLB, two young arms that drew both accolades and criticism for their performance on the mound.

Ventura signed with the Royals in 2008, blazing through several tiers of their farm system before he was called up to replace an injured Danny Duffy in late 2013. He secured his rotation spot the following spring and finished a solid 2014 campaign with a 14-10 record, 3.20 ERA and 2.4 fWAR in 32 starts for the club. During the Royals’ World Series run later that year, Ventura dedicated his performance in Game 6 to Cardinals’ prospect Oscar Taveras, who was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic just two days earlier.

In four years with the Royals, Ventura pitched to a 38-31 record, 3.89 ERA and 6.5 fWAR. While his command and overall production rate waned, bottoming out in 2016 with a 4.45 ERA and 1.85 SO/BB rate, his dynamic pitch repertoire still kept him front and center in the Royals’ pitching staff. He brandished an electric fastball that, at its lowest point, hovered around 96.6 m.p.h. and, at its best, topped out around 102.6 m.p.h.

Like Ventura, Fernandez made an instant impression in the major league circuit. He earned Rookie of the Year distinctions in 2013 after delivering a 12-6 record, 2.19 ERA and 4.1 fWAR with the Marlins. Despite undergoing Tommy John surgery in his sophomore year, he recovered to take on a full workload in 2016 and stunned the league with a 16-8 record, 2.89 ERA, career-high 253 strikeouts and 6.1 fWAR.

Ventura developed a reputation for brushing back hitters, which escalated in some cases to volatile bench-clearing brawls. In 2015, he was ejected for three altercations in three consecutive games and served a seven-game suspension. Halfway through the 2016 season, he earned another eight-game suspension after plunking the Orioles’ Manny Machado in the back with a 99 m.p.h. heater. Some speculated that his aggressive behavior on the mound was excused — or, at least, made more palatable — by his talent and track record, while others called for a more heavy-handed approach from the league.

Fernandez, too, found himself at the center of speculation after reports emerged that painted the 24-year-old as a “clubhouse difficulty,” citing attitude problems that damaged relationships between the pitcher and Marlins players and staff. On the field, he was occasionally chastised for failing to adhere to some of baseball’s unwritten rules, most notably when he showed his elation after hitting his first career home run off of the Braves’ Mike Minor in 2013.

It’s impossible to predict where Fernandez and Ventura’s careers would have taken them. We mourn them not for their actions on the mound or their potential as star pitchers, however, but for their inherent value as people who were loved and respected by their families and teams. Major League Baseball will be worse off for their loss.