During his prime with the Phillies — before all those nasty knee injuries — Chase Utley was one of the best defensive second basemen. He didn’t have the best range or the strongest arm, but the Phillies positioned him well and he had good instincts. While age has further deteriorated Utley’s range and arm, the instincts are still as good as they have ever been and he illustrated that during Thursday night’s game against the Rockies.
With a runner on first base and two outs in the top of the fourth inning, opposing pitcher Tyler Chatwood hit a weak ground ball to Utley that skipped up his glove and bounced off of his chest. Utley had to turn his back to pick up the ball and, in doing so, flipped the ball behind his back to Adrian Gonzalez to get the out. The play was so impressive that broadcaster Vin Scully exclaimed, “Wow!” Scully has seen a thing or two, so getting him to exclaim is saying something.
Pirates starter Ivan Nova is set to become a free agent after the season, so the club has reportedly made two multi-year contract offers, Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. According to Brink, the Pirates made a contract offer in early September but were rebuffed by Nova’s representatives, who said the right-hander was seeking a deal in the neighborhood of five years and $70 million. The Pirates made a second offer and discussions are ongoing.
The Pirates acquired Nova from the Yankees ahead of the August 1 non-waiver trade deadline for two players to be named later, who turned out to be Tito Polo and Stephen Tarpley. Despite struggling to a 4.90 ERA in 15 starts and six relief appearances with the Yankees, Nova has turned things around in Pittsburgh. Over nine starts, he has a 2.93 ERA and a 45/3 K/BB ratio in 55 1/3 innings.
The upcoming class of free agents is the weakest in recent memory, so Nova might prefer to hit free agency, particularly after turning his season around since joining the Pirates. The best targetson the market figure to be Rich Hill, Brett Anderson, Colby Lewis, and Jeremy Hellickson. Hill and Lewis in their mid-30’s, however, so as far as multi-year deals go, Nova is a much safer target.
MLB.com’s Mike Petriello published an article explaining a new metric developed by Statcast called “Barrels.” What is a barrel?
A “barrel” is defined as a well-struck ball where the combination of exit velocity and launch angle generally leads to a minimum .500 batting average and 1.500 slugging percentage, though it will require a bit more explanation than that.
Petriello includes a nifty graphic as well as a heat map to illustrate what the statistic is measuring. According to their metric, the hitter who has “barreled” up the most baseballs is Khris Davis of the Athletics at an average of 18.4 percent of balls put in play. As a percentage of plate appearances, he’s at 10.8 percent, also the best mark.
As for pitchers, Rich Hill has yielded the lowest percentage of barreled-up baseballs at 1.3 percent.
Daren Willman, who runs Baseball Savant, has hitter and pitcher leaderboards for barrels for those interested.
Kudos to Petriello, Willman, and the others at MLB.com involved in devising this statistic. It will be interesting to use, particularly next season as it could potentially help highlight breakout and fluky hitters and pitchers.