Los Angeles Angels: New York Yankees

We've reached the most fun part of the All-Star Game: Arguing about the final rosters.

The starters and reserves were named on Sunday and it was interesting to note the different philosophies of managers John Farrell and Mike Matheny in filling out their rosters. As expected, some worthy American League players were excluded and there were a couple surprising choices in the National League.

Some quick thoughts:

Worst American League starter: Derek Jeter, Yankees. While I actually don't have that big of an issue with Jeter starting -- there is no Troy Tulowitzki in the AL that he's keeping out of the lineup -- he's probably the worst starter we've had in a long time, hitting an empty .273 with mediocre defense and no power, worth 0.5 WAR so far. Matt Wieters was inexplicably voted in by the fans at catcher, but since he's out for the season, Salvador Perez will rightfully start in his place.

Worst National League starter: Aramis Ramirez, Brewers. Cincinnati's Todd Frazier is clearly the deserving starter at third base based on 2014 numbers while Ramirez is hitting .287 with 11 home runs. Considering Frazier, Matt Carpenter of the Cardinals and Anthony Rendon of the Nationals are better all-around players than Ramirez, his selection cost somebody an All-Star spot (Rendon is on the final player ballot).

Best ballot stuffing: Orioles and Brewers fans. Who says you need to play for the Yankees, Red Sox or Dodgers to have an edge in fan balloting? Adam Jones was never in the top three among outfielders until passing Yoenis Cespedes at the wire. He's a fine selection, however, and has come on strong after a slow April. Orioles fans also voted in Wieters and Nelson Cruz in that crowded DH slot that included Victor Martinez, Edwin Encarnacion, Brandon Moss and David Ortiz. Likewise, Carlos Gomez passed Giancarlo Stanton for the third outfield spot in the NL behind Yasiel Puig and Andrew McCutchen. Stanton clearly should be starting but Gomez is arguably one of the top three outfielders in the NL. Brewers fans, however, couldn't get Jonathan Lucroy voted in over Yadier Molina, so Lucroy will be the backup.

National League DH should be: Stanton. Pretty each choice here for Matheny. Heck, start him and let him play the entire game. A nation that never watches Marlins games should see this guy get four at-bats.

Jeff Samardzija, almost an All-Star. The players had actually voted for Samardzija as one of the five best starters in the NL, along with Johnny Cueto, Adam Wainwright, Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner. Samardzija had a 1.68 ERA through May, so you can see why he fared well in the balloting. His ERA had since climbed to 2.83 with some bad outings and he was replaced by Julio Teheran of the Braves.

Worst player selection: Charlie Blackmon, Rockies. The players actually did a much better job than they usually do and Blackmon's selection was the only dubious choice, a guy who had a monster April but is down to .295/.341/.463, mediocre numbers for a guy who plays in Colorado. To be fair, the NL lacked obvious choices for the fifth and sixth outfielders, but they somehow came up with a player ranked 21st among NL outfielders in FanGraphs WAR. Justin Upton, Ryan Braun, Billy Hamilton or even Rockies teammate Corey Dickerson (hitting .340) would have been better selections.

The AL crunch: Farrell had some tough choices in filling out his squad. His manager selections were Jon Lester (deserving and the only Red Sox rep), David Price (deserving and the only Rays rep), Glen Perkins of the Twins, Max Scherzer of the Tigers, Kurt Suzuki of the Twins (a third catcher), Encarnacion and Moss. I guess you have to carry three catchers and I don't have a problem with the Scherzer selection. Encarnacion was a lock with his big numbers so the final choice probably came down to Moss or another player.

Biggest snubs: Ian Kinsler, Tigers; Kyle Seager, Mariners. And that led to Kinser and Seager being this year's biggest snubs. Entering Sunday, Kinsler ranked third among AL position players in fWAR and Seager seventh. In Baseball-Reference WAR, they ranked third and sixth, so by either measure two of the AL's top 10 players didn't make it. It's not that an undeserving player made it -- the players voted in Jose Altuve and Adrian Beltre as the backups at second and third -- just that there were too many good players and not enough spots (unless you want to knock out a third catcher). You can debate the Moss selection, but I can see the desire to have the left-handed power off the bench if needed late in the game. (Remember, it counts!)

Matt Carpenter and Pat Neshek are good selections: Matheny picked two of his own players -- third baseman Carpenter and righty reliever Neshek. I'm sure both picks will be criticized but when you dig into the numbers, both are worthy choices. Carpenter isn't having as good a season as last year, but he's still 10th among NL position players in fWAR and 15th in bWAR. Please, I don't want to hear that Casey McGehee is more deserving.

As for Neshek, his numbers are outstanding: 0.78 ERA, 35 strikeouts, four walks and a .134 average allowed. He has been as dominant as any reliever in the game, even if he's not a closer. He's also a great story, once one of the game's top set-up guys with the Twins in 2007 but suffering years of injuries since. On the day the A's clinched the AL West on the final day of the 2012 season, his infant son died after just 23 hours. The Cardinals signed him in February to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training, so Neshek certainly qualifies as this year's most improbable All-Star (along with Dellin Betances of the Yankees).

I suspect Matheny also picked Neshek for late-game strategic purposes -- his sidearm delivery is killer on right-handed batters (although he has been just as effective against lefties this year), so you can see him matching up against Encarnacion or Jose Abreu if there's a big moment late in the game. Similarly, Matheny picked Pirates lefty reliever Tony Watson, a good strategic move since he had only three other lefties on the team.

Strangest selection: That picking reserves for strategic reasons also led to the selection of Pirates utility man Josh Harrison. I get it: He's having a nice season and can play multiple positions, but it's a little odd to pick a guy who doesn't even start regularly for his own team (reminiscent of the Omar Infante choice a few years ago). Rendon -- who has played second and third -- is the better player and Matheny already had versatility with Carpenter and Dee Gordon.

Best AL final man: Chris Sale, White Sox. Farrell went with five pitchers -- Sale, Dallas Keuchel, Corey Kluber, Garrett Richards and Rick Porcello. I wrote the other day that four of these guys would be battling for a spot or two (along with Scott Kazmir, who got voted on by the players). All are worthy but the best choice is pretty easy since Sale is one of the top starters in the game and would have otherwise already made the team if not missing some time with an injury.

Best NL final man: Anthony Rizzo, Cubs. Torn here between Rizzo and Rendon, but since Matheny has already loaded up with third basemen and second basemen, let's go with Rizzo in case you need to swing for the fences late in the game.

Suggested AL lineup: Jeter better hit ninth. Mike Trout, CF; Robinson Cano, 2B; Jose Bautista, RF; Miguel Cabrera, 1B; Nelson Cruz, DH; Adam Jones, LF; Josh Donaldson, 3B; Salvador Perez, C; Derek Jeter, SS. With Felix Hernandez on the mound.

Suggested NL lineup. Yasiel Puig, RF; Andrew McCutchen, CF; Troy Tulowitzki, SS; Giancarlo Stanton, DH; Paul Goldschmidt, 1B; Carlos Gomez, LF; Aramis Ramirez, 3B; Chase Utley, 2B; Yadier Molina, C. With Clayton Kershaw on the bump.

Robertson follows in line of great escapes

August, 12, 2013
Chris Nelson is the latest in a long line of opposing hitters who have failed in that situation, not just against David Robertson, but against Yankees pitchers in potential game-winning scenarios.

Nelson wasn't just the 25th straight hitter to make an out against Robertson with the bases loaded (and 18th to strike out). He's also the eighth in a row to make an out against a Yankees pitcher when batting with his team down a run and the bases loaded with two outs in the ninth inning or later.

The full list is in the chart on the right.

There's no shame in being a member of that club. It's one that includes the likes of David Ortiz and Albert Pujols, who did so earlier this season. Nelson was the second of those eight to work the count to 3-2, joining Rocco Baldelli of the 2004 Rays (then-Devil Rays).

Six of the eight outs in those situations were recorded by Mariano Rivera. The two that weren't are Nelson and Asdrubal Cabrera, whom Rafael Soriano got to fly out to end a 5-4 win over the Cleveland Indians last June 27.

It was a first time for Robertson. Elias notes that his streak of 25 straight batters retired with the bases loaded is the longest of its kind since Jeff Brantley set down 30 in a row from 1989 to 1991.

Inside the matchup: Pujols vs Rivera

June, 16, 2013

Mariano Rivera had a specific plan for his pitch sequence to Albert Pujols.

Sometimes a baseball game will produce the ultimate matchup and Sunday’s Yankees-Angels series finale gave us that-— bases loaded, two outs in a one-run game in the ninth inning with a pair of legends going head-to-head: Albert Pujols versus Mariano Rivera.

Let’s go inside the matchup:

The setup
The Yankees had nearly completely frittered away a 6-0 ninth-inning lead after a terrific start by CC Sabathia. Rivera had allowed three hits and a walk in one-third of an inning prior to Pujols' turn.

Entering the at-bat, Rivera had faced a hitter with the bases loaded, two outs and a one-run lead one out from a win on 10 previous occasions. He’d gotten the batter out eight times, including five straight over the last 10 seasons.

Pujols had only been in this situation once before in the regular season and popped out. He also was 0-for-1 with a hit by pitch in two regular-season turns against Rivera.

First pitch
Rivera’s first pitch was a strike called, one deemed on the inside corner, though the Pitch F/X pitch-tracking system disagreed (as you can see above).

A lot of pitchers have high batting averages allowed on the first pitch of an at-bat, but Rivera does not.

Over the last four seasons, Rivera has thrown a first pitch to 316 right-handed hitters. Batters who swung made 24 outs (three of which became double plays) and netted only four hits.

Rivera also has among the highest first-pitch strike rates over the last four seasons when the pitch is thrown outside of the Pitch F/X strike zone (36 percent), attributable to getting hitters to chase bad pitches and to getting a lot of borderline pitches called strikes.

Pujols is one of those hitters who hits well in the first pitch of an at-bat (.373 batting average since 2010, about 30 points above major-league average), but he’s very discerning.

Pujols typically swings at a rate of about one of every six first-pitches. The average major league hitter swings at about one of every four.

Second pitch
The advantage that comes for Mariano Rivera when he gets up 0-1 in the count is this: If he throws an inside pitch, the hitter becomes very eager.

When Rivera is in that situation and throws a pitch out of the strike zone, but “inside” (defined as: over the inner-third, or off the inside corner), hitters swing more than half of the time.

His 54 percent chase rate on those pitches (dating back to 2010) is nearly 20 percentage points above what an average pitcher would get.

With regards to chasing, Pujols has been an aggressive hitter in the first 60-plus games of the season when he has one strike against him. He swings at nearly half the pitches out of the strike zone in those instances. The typical hitter swings at about a 28 percent rate.

Rivera came inside again and Pujols dinked the ball foul. Now he’s behind 0-2.

Third pitch
Earlier in the inning, Rivera had given up a hit on an 0-2 pitch to Peter Bourjos. The pitch was off the inside corner, but Bourjos was able to bloop it to left center.

Bourjos was the first batter all season to get a hit against Rivera after falling behind 0-2. The first 22 hitters Rivera faced in that situation this season, he retired. Bourjos got him, but no one else would.

Since joining the Angels last season, Pujols has not fared well in a situation in which a pitcher comes inside with an 0-2 pitch.

He’d seen 56 such pitches, managed one hit, and made 18 outs.

This 0-2 would again come spinning inside and Pujols could do nothing but try to check his swing.

No luck, strike three. Rivera and the Yankees were winners this time.



Howie Kendrick
.293 7 75 85
HRM. Trout 36
RBIM. Trout 111
RM. Trout 115
OPSM. Trout .939
WJ. Weaver 18
ERAG. Richards 2.61
SOJ. Weaver 169