For all the speculation about which Type A and Type B free agents would and wouldn’t accept arbitration offers just two of the 27 eligible players said yes: Frank Francisco of the Rangers and Jason Frasor of the Blue Jays.
I’ve seen some suggestions that the low number of accepted arbitration offers means this offseason is a player’s market, but in reality two out of 27 is a pretty standard acceptance rate. Last offseason three players (Carl Pavano, Rafael Soriano, and Rafael Betancourt) accepted arbitration and the winter before that two players (Darren Oliver and David Weathers) did so.
It’s interesting to note that, of the seven free agents to accept arbitration offers in the past three years, six of them are relievers. I wrote earlier this month about how the free agent compensation system significantly overrates relievers relative to other positions by pegging them as 37 percent of Type A free agents, and certainly six of the past seven arbitration acceptances coming from relievers is more evidence of that.
Free agents accept arbitration when they believe returning to their old team on a one-year contract beats whatever offers they can get on the open market, so clearly relievers’ values are the most likely to be overrated by the Type A and Type B designations. The compensation system is faulty for any number of reasons, but the weight given to relief performances is seemingly one of the more obvious and easy-to-fix problems.
The Astros walked off 3-2 winners in the bottom of the 11th inning of ALCS Game 2 against the Yankees. Carlos Correa struck the winning blow, sending a first-pitch fastball from J.A. Happ over the fence in right field at Minute Maid Park, ending nearly five hours of baseball on Sunday night.
Correa’s heroics were precipitated by two highly questionable calls by home plate umpire Cory Blaser in the top half of the 11th.
Astros reliever Joe Smith walked Edwin Encarnación with two outs, prompting manager A.J. Hinch to bring in Ryan Pressly. Pressly, however, served up a single to left field to Brett Gardner, putting runners on first and second with two outs. Hinch again came out to the mound, this time bringing Josh James to face power-hitting catcher Gary Sánchez.
James and Sánchez had an epic battle. Sánchez fell behind 0-2 on a couple of foul balls, proceeded to foul off five of the next six pitches. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Sánchez appeared to swing and miss at an 87 MPH slider in the dirt for strike three and the final out of the inning. However, Blaser ruled that Sánchez tipped the ball, extending the at-bat. Replays showed clearly that Sánchez did not make contact at all with the pitch. James then threw a 99 MPH fastball several inches off the plate outside that Blaser called for strike three. Sánchez, who shouldn’t have seen a 10th pitch, was upset at what appeared to be a make-up call.
The rest, as they say, is history. One pitch later, the Astros evened up the ALCS at one game apiece. Obviously, Blaser’s mistakes in a way cancel each other out, and neither of them caused Happ to throw a poorly located fastball to Correa. It is postseason baseball, however, and umpires are as much under the microscope as the players and managers. Those were two particularly atrocious judgments by Blaser.