Aaron Gleeman

Anthony Ranaudo Rangers

Rangers starter Anthony Ranaudo leaves game with arm injury

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Another day, another injured Rangers pitcher.

This time it’s starter Anthony Ranaudo, who exited this afternoon’s game against the White Sox with what the team is calling “right arm discomfort.” He’ll no doubt undergo further testing.

Ranaudo was a Red Sox first-round pick in 2010 and was acquired from Boston in January in exchange for Robbie Ross. He made seven starts for the Red Sox in his debut last season and is now competing for a spot in the Rangers’ rotation, which is a lot less lofty of a goal following news that Yu Darvish will likely need season-ending Tommy John elbow surgery.

Joe Nathan is still a mess

Joe Nathan Tigers
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Joe Nathan spent the offseason talking about how he planned to have a bounceback year and show everyone he wasn’t washed up after a decade as an elite closer, but the early results aren’t promising.

Nathan, whose first season in Detroit included a 4.81 ERA and lots of boos from Tigers fans, allowed six runs while recording two outs this afternoon. Even more worrisome, his fastball was clocked in the high-80s and he topped out at 91 miles per hour.

Nathan was so good for so long with the Twins and Rangers that a bounceback season at age 40 didn’t seem as crazy as it might for other pitchers, but unfortunately it’s looking more and more like he may simply be finished as a top-end reliever. Detroit owes him $10 million this year.

Tim Collins out for the season after Tommy John surgery

Tim Collins
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Royals left-hander Tim Collins underwent Tommy John elbow surgery Wednesday and will miss the entire season.

Collins missed time with elbow problems last season and exited his spring training debut with elbow tightness, which an MRI exam showed to be from ligament damage.

Collins has been very solid out of the Royals’ bullpen since debuting in 2011 as a 21-year-old, throwing 211 innings with a 3.54 ERA and 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings to offset shaky control. His absence seemingly increases the odds of Brandon Finnegan cracking the opening Day roster, as a reliever.

He’ll be paid $1.45 million this season in his second year of arbitration eligibility and the Royals will have to decide whether to keep Collins for 2016 at roughly the same price tag.

Ryne Sandberg wants the Phillies playing lots of small ball

Ryne Sandberg
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Phillies fans don’t have much to look forward to this season, but if manager Ryne Sandberg has his way they’ll see plenty of bunts, hit-and-runs, stolen bases, and analytically questionable strategy designed to score one run at a time.

Already this spring the Phillies have bunted more often than any other two teams combined–including two bunts with runners in scoring position and zero outs Wednesday–and Sandberg told Todd Zolecki of MLB.com that’s part of his “small ball” plan:

That’s something that I’m stressing this spring. We’re working on it. We’re practicing it. If it’s not a bunt, it could be a hit and run. Get a baserunner, make something happen–really to set the tone for the season. … I look at our bats and our type of team, and I think we’re going to have to be good at that game.

In other words: We can’t hit, so we might as well bunt.

What the heck happened to Jered Weaver’s fastball?

Jered Weaver
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Angels right-hander Jered Weaver tossed three innings against the Diamondbacks on Wednesday and his fastball was clocked in the low 80s, topping out at 85 miles per hour.

Naturally he was asked about the low velocity by reporters afterward and Weaver replied:

How many velocity questions are we going to have? I don’t pay attention to velocity. It’s more about getting location down and being able to get on pitches when you need to.

Meanwhile, manager Mike Scioscia admitted that Weaver “has a lot of moving parts” within his pitching mechanics and “was a little out of sync, really fighting himself.”

Weaver has never been a hard-thrower and his fastball velocity has been in a pretty steady decline for years:

2010: 89.9 mph
2011: 89.1 mph
2012: 87.8 mph
2013: 86.5 mph
2014: 86.3 mph

Last season among the 148 pitchers to throw at least 100 innings Weaver’s average fastball velocity of 86.3 miles per hour was the fifth-slowest behind R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Chris Young, and Josh Collmenter. Dickey and Buehrle were the only two pitchers to average below 85 miles per hour, so that’s the company a 32-year-old Weaver would potentially be keeping if his velocity dips further in 2015.

And unlike those two soft-tossers Weaver is neither a knuckleballer nor a crafty left-hander, although if anyone qualifies as a crafty right-hander it’s certainly him. Despite never throwing very hard and recently throwing in the mid-80s he’s posted an ERA of 3.75 or lower every season since 2009, with three top-five finishes in the Cy Young voting. And last year, while averaging 86 miles per hour, Weaver won 18 games and threw 213 innings with a 3.59 ERA and 169 strikeouts.

He’s probably sick of being asked questions about his lack of velocity because he’s been succeeding despite the missing miles per hour, but it seems fair to ask at what point not even Weaver can keep walking that tightrope.