The 2015 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders

The RailRiders’ 2015 season ended on Friday night, a week earlier than they would have liked, as they lost three straight games to the Indianapolis Indians in the semifinals on the International League playoffs. Despite the disappointing ending, it was a strong year for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, who ended up with a 81-63 record (breaking their two year streak of going 68-76). For the tenth time in history (sixth as a Yankee affiliate), the RailRiders won the IL North Division title.

Scranton was a solid team on both sides the of the diamond, in large part to an array of top prospects put on their uniform at some point in 2015, but also thanks to some lesser known players. As a team, Scranton hit .271/.339/.389, giving them the highest average and on base percentage in the IL, and the fourth best slugging percentage. They did better than average when it came to pitch selection, striking out 979 times as a team, which was the fifth lowest total in the IL, while taking 480 walks – the fifth highest in the IL. Their 32 triples and 247 doubles gave them the fourth most, but their main shortcoming on offense was their ability to steal bases, as they only managed eighty.

The RailRiders had help offensively by many players this year, but Ben Gamel ended the season with some extra hardware. The outfielder has put together some good seasons in the minors, but has always been a bit under the radar. This year he went .300/.358/.472 over 129 games in 2015 with 64 RBIs, ten homers, fourteen triples and 28 doubles. He was the lone Scranton player who was given a postseason All-Star nod, along with being named the IL Rookie of the Year. Cole Figueroa was also a key offensive player for the RailRiders, and more recognizable names like Gary Sanchez, Ramon Flores, Rob Refsnyder and Slade Heathcott did their part to contribute to a successful season for Scranton. Ali Castillo ended the season as the fourth Scranton player to pick up Batter of the Week honors, going .484 with a .529 on base percentage in the first week of September. Continue reading The 2015 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders

Why I Am Quitting Daily Fantasy Baseball

I love playing daily fantasy baseball at Fanduel.com. The game that has rapidly evolved over the past few years is thrilling. You’ve probably seen their ubiquitous advertisements. I have always loved playing Texas Hold ‘Em poker, but moved to a city far away from the nearest decent casino. Daily fantasy baseball filled the game of skill game in my heart for a short period of time, made all the better by my love of baseball.

I am quitting daily fantasy baseball.

Why? I had long suspected that a great number of players on Fanduel were professional gamblers. The best part about a game of skill is that the best players can win money. The house (Fanduel in my case) takes a rake and provides the infrastructure, but you are fundamentally competing against other people on the site. If you’re smarter and better than those people, you win money. If not, you lose money. Like poker, daily fantasy baseball is beautifully meritocratic in a way that traditional casino games, including spread betting on sports.

The reality is that the vast majority of winnings on daily fantasy sites go to a very small number of players. Unlike (in person) poker, the best DFS player can enter as many lineups as his bankroll can support. You might have a shark or two at your 10-person table at the Tropicana, but those sharks are spread incredibly thin. However, the sharks in DFS baseball can play in every single game. And they do, via Bloomberg:

These limits seem almost laughably nonrestrictive until you understand how top players operate. Analysis from Rotogrinders conducted for Bloomberg shows that the top 100 ranked players enter 330 winning lineups per day, and the top 10 players combine to win an average of 873 times daily. The remaining field of approximately 20,000 players tracked by Rotogrinders wins just 13 times per day, on average.

Continue reading Why I Am Quitting Daily Fantasy Baseball

About Yesterday Afternoon: #TANAK

Tanaka vs BAL III

The Yankees needed to win yesterday’s game to avoid falling 5 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays in the division race and to avoid an embarrassingly awful four-game sweep at home. Luckily they had Masahiro Tanaka on the mound, and while he didn’t last as long as he did in his last start against Toronto , he was just as great. Tanaka kept most of the power hitters off balance, and helped shut out the Blue Jays lineup for the first time since the All-Star Break.

In his last two starts against Toronto (16 innings pitched), Tanaka is 2-0. He has walked three batters, struck out 15, has held the potent Blue Jays lineup to a paltry .164 BA and he has not allowed a home run. That last one is important because that team likes the long ball and hits it often.

So how do you shut down a team with such a potent offense? You don’t allow them to feast on fastballs. You pitch to your strength which is your splitter and Tanaka’s splitter was on yesterday.

Here’s the breakdown of all of his pitches courtesy of Brooks Baseball (as of late last night):

  • 12 four seamers: 93.3 mph (95.3 max), 9 strikes, 5 swings, 4 of them were a first pitches
  • 11 sinkers: 91.6 mph (93.2 max), 7 strikes, 4 swings, 2 of them were first pitches
  • 19 sliders: 83.6 mph (87.5 max), 11 strikes, 9 swings, 6 of them were first pitches
  • 11 curveballs: 78.2 mph (81.7 max), 7 strikes, 4 swings, 4 of them were first pitches
  • 11 cutters: 88.6 mpg (90.1 max), 9 strikes, 7 swings, 1 was a first pitch
  • 44 splitters: 88.1 mph (90.2 max), 33 strikes, 26 swings, 7 were first pitches

Here’s the results breakdown (hits, foul balls, balls in play, etc.) courtesy of Baseball Savant:

chart (9)

Tanaka gave up four hits. Three of them were doubles that obviously didn’t amount to anything because Toronto never scored. And all three doubles were hit by righty batters. He also gave up a single to lefty Josh Thole on an 89 mph splitter. That was the only splitter that didn’t quite work for Tanaka yesterday.

Here’s how that pitch looked most of the day:

tanakapitchfrequencysplitter

Here’s the splitter that didn’t quite work:

tholessingle

According to Brooks Baseball (again as of late last night when this post was written), Tanaka threw the splitter 19 times to lefty batters – 15 of them were strikes (10 were strikes not in play) and he generated 13 swings. Five balls were in play and one, the Thole single, fell for a hit. He threw the splitter 28 times to righty batters – 20 of them were strikes (18 were strikes not in play) and he generated 13 swings.

Here’s how Toronto’s four hits looked in heat map form. The 1-1 at the low end of the zone is Thole’s single and the 1-2 just below the 2-2 in red is Bautista’s double:

trumedia_baseball_grid (27)

Here’s a spray chart of all of the balls in play (outs in included):
Masahiro Tanaka (4)

It was another ace-like performance from the staff ace when the team needed it.

Tanaka mentioned to Meredith Marakovits in his postgame interview on YES that he felt he had the right mindset going into the game. He told her that he said to himself he wasn’t going to let Toronto sweep the Yankees. Maybe Tanaka should talk to the other members of the starting rotation and even some guys in the bullpen and help them with their confidence against Toronto.

Happy Monday!

[Heat maps courtesy of ESPN Stats and Info. Pie chart and spray chart courtesy of Baseball Savant. Other numbers courtesy of Brooks Baseball]
Continue reading About Yesterday Afternoon: #TANAK

Game 142 Quick Recap: NYY 5 TOR 0

You might have noticed that I didn’t bother writing a recap for either of yesterday’s games.  That’s mostly because I thought Stacey’s visual recap spoke louder than any of my written words could, and a little bit because I just didn’t feel like it.  I’ll write one today because they won though, and I don’t feel the slightest bit bad about it.

The story of this afternoon’s game was Masahiro Tanaka.  He was top notch in his last start against earlier in the week and he repeated that level of excellence today against the Jays.  Tanaka worked around hits in each of the first 3 innings, then sat the Toronto lineup in order from the 4th through the 6th.  Toronto finally got another hit on a Chris Colabello double in the 7th, but Tanaka snuffed that out before it could become anything.  He got a lot of ground ball outs, he struck out 7 and he didn’t walk anybody.  It was another ace-caliber performance from the no-doubt ace of the staff.

He got half his offensive support early by the piece-it-together method and the other half by the long ball.  The Yanks got to R.A. Dickey for a pair in the bottom of the 2nd by loading the bases on a walk, single, walk, and plating 2 runs with sac flies by Dustin Ackley and Did Gregorius, and created a run-scoring chance with 2 outs in the 4th on a Chase Headley base hit.  That brought Ackley back up and he laced a 1-1 pitch into the right field seats for his first Yankee home run and a 4-0 lead.

That was plenty for Dellin Betances and a pair of Quad-A arms.  Betances struck out the side in a perfect 8th inning and the immortal tag team of James Pazos and Caleb Cotham got the final 3 outs in the 9th. Continue reading Game 142 Quick Recap: NYY 5 TOR 0

Games 140 and 141: For the love of God, win at least one…

Here’s your game thread for the doubleheader.

Game one lineups:
BLUE JAYS
Revere LF
Donaldson 3B
Bautista RF
Encarnacion DH
Tulo SS
Colabello 1B
Navarro C
Goins 2B
Pillar CF

YANKEES
Ellsbury CF
Gardner LF
Beltran RF
McCann C
Rodriguez DH
Headley 3B
Bird 1B
Gregorius SS
Drew 2B

Pitching matchup for Game 1: Estrada vs Big Mike Continue reading Games 140 and 141: For the love of God, win at least one…

Quick hit: Yanks recall Heathcott and Sanchez from Triple A

Per Marly Rivera of ESPN: Earlier today, the Yankees recalled OF Slade Heathcott and C Gary Sanchez from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Heathcott hit .267/.315/.343/.657 in 64 with Scranton while Sanchez has hit .295/.349/.500/.849 in 35 games at Triple A. He played 58 games with Trenton and batted .262/.319.476.795.

Also of note: Heathcott will wear #72 and Sanchez #73. Continue reading Quick hit: Yanks recall Heathcott and Sanchez from Triple A