Angels sign Ian Stewart to a minor league deal

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Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register is reporting that the Angels have signed infielder Ian Stewart to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. Stewart has had a rough go of it on the field over the last few years, but found himself in hot water last June when he went on Twitter and complained about how the Cubs were using him.

Stewart posted a .464 OPS in 136 plate appearances with the Rockies in 2011. He also missed time with a wrist injury and moved back and forth between the Majors and Triple-A Colorado Springs a couple times. After the season, the Cubs signed him as a free agent, but Stewart posted a meager .627 OPS in 202 plate appearances. In June, he suffered a wrist injury and went under the knife in July, ending his season.

Last season, Stewart strained his quadriceps early in spring training and missed the start of the season with Triple-A Iowa. He posted just a .657 OPS at Triple-A with the Cubs. They released Stewart in early July after he went public with his criticism. The Dodgers picked him up, but the results weren’t any better. With Triple-A Albuquerque, Stewart posted a .638 OPS.

While Stewart has spent a majority of his career at third base, he has experience playing second base and he can play either outfield corner or first base in a pinch. On a no-risk deal, it’s difficult to see the downside for the Angels, even with Stewart’s questionable history in terms of health, production, and behavior.

The “Clayton Kershaw can’t pitch in the postseason” narrative should be dead

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For years, a bulk of the postseason coverage surrounding Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw focused on his poor results once the regular season ended. The three-time Cy Young Award winner carried a career 5.68 postseason ERA following his NLDS Game 1 start against the Diamondbacks last year, a sample size spanning 15 starts and four relief appearances totaling 95 1/3 innings.

Kershaw had a subpar start against the Astros in Game 5 of the World Series last year and the narrative hit a fever pitch. I dug into the numbers at that point and found that a not-insignificant portion of Kershaw’s playoff ERA could be attributed to relievers coming in after him and failing to strand their inherited runners. At the time of that writing (October 30, 2017), Dodger relievers allowed 10 of 16 runners inherited from Kershaw in the playoffs to score, a strand rate of 37.5 percent. That’s roughly half of the league average (around 75 percent).

Kershaw finished out the World Series last year by pitching four scoreless innings of relief in Game 7. He returned to the postseason, starting Game 2 of the NLDS against the Braves this year and tossed eight shutout frames on just two hits with no walks. The narrative should have died there, too. It, of course did not. As the Dodgers advanced to the NLCS, Kershaw got the Game 1 nod against the Brewers and struggled. The Brewers got him for five runs (four earned) across three-plus innings. One of those runs included a home run hit by the opposing pitcher (Brandon Woodruff). Kershaw was also hurt by a passed ball and catcher’s interference on the part of Yasmani Grandal in the third inning. Not a great outing, but not as bad as the line score read, either.

In Game 5 of the NLCS on Wednesday evening, Kershaw once again redeemed himself. He limited the Brewers this time around to a lone run on three hits and two walks with nine strikeouts over seven innings of work. The only run came around in the third inning when Lorenzo Cain hit an RBI double to center field. Kershaw’s career postseason ERA is now 4.11 and it would be much lower if his bullpen had, in the past, done its job more effectively.

According to Katie Sharp of The Athletic, tonight’s postseason start was Kershaw’s eighth in which he allowed one run or fewer and three hits or fewer. No other pitcher in baseball history has made more than five such starts. That’s partially a function of opportunity, as the Dodgers have been in the postseason every year dating back to 2013 as well as in 2008 and ’09. But Kershaw still has to go out there and make the pitches, and he largely has. The “Kershaw can’t pitch in the postseason” narrative is dead. It never should have lived.