Wednesday Wallpaper: Trout Continues to Amaze; Sidearmers Rejoice; Chapman Shatters FIP Formula

by Jason Epstein

Bryce Who?

If the season ended today, 20-year-old phenom Mike Trout (.353 BA/.411 OBP/.608 SLG; .445 wOBA) almost certainly would capture the AL MVP, making him the only rookie to do so other than Fred Lynn in 1975 and Ichiro Suzuki in 2001. To give an illustration as to how amazing Trout’s performance to date has been, SweetSpot’s David Schoenfield lists the names of the center fielders in MLB history who have slugged .600 or better in a season.

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Via Zach Schonbrun of the New York Times, it is not very often that a big-league roster includes more than one sidearm pitcher — the 2009 Rays come to mind — but the Yankees have two at the moment: the right-handed Clay Rapada and southpaw Cody Eppley. A minor-league coach thought Rapada would improve if he changed his delivery:

Rapada, who was not drafted, struggled in his first year after signing with the Chicago Cubs organization in 2002. Early on, a pitching coach suggested he change his angle for good. He was not a hard thrower, and his pitches had little sink. By dropping his arm, Rapada could produce more spin, deceive more hitters and maybe work his way into a major league bullpen.

He said he modeled his early delivery off that of the Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, who had a long, pronounced sidearm style. Rapada’s delivery is a hybrid submarine-sidearm mix — like someone skipping stones across a pond.

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Trout is not the only player enjoying an out-of-sight year. Aroldis Chapman’s season has been so dominant — he is on pace to shatter the K/9 and K% records — that he has busted the fielding independent piching (FIP) formula. As C. Trent Rosencrans of CBSSports reports:

. . . [H]ere’s the fun outlier, Chapman’s FIP for July is -0.99 — that’s right, that little mark in front of what would be an impressive FIP means it’s silly good. (His xFIP [adjusted fielding independent pitching] is a slightly less — but still completely certifiable — crazy -0.73.) . . .

This, as it has been suggested, doesn’t mean FIP is invalid — this is simply an outlier based on a miniscule sample size. FIP is better used a predictor of future performance than it is a review of past results and it’s best using a full season or so of data. A strange result from 11 1/3 innings does not say anything about the validity of a statistic.

That’s not the only impressive number for Chapman this month — he’s struck out 26 of the 40 batters he’s faced, allowing four hits and two walks. Batters are hitting .105/.150/.132 against him. They’ve got a .333 batting average on balls in play, but that doesn’t matter as much when only 12 of the 40 batters he’s faced have managed to put balls in play. His last outing, Wednesday against the Astros, was just the second of his nine this month in which he’s struck out a lone batter. His other one-strikeout inning? That was on July 17 against the Diamondbacks and he only faced one batter, striking him out. He’s struck out the side in four of his 11 three-out appearances in July.

For those not well-versed in FIP, below is a short and mildly entertaining primer:

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The bad news for Wrigley’s faithful: The Cubs managed only one hit last night against A.J. Burnett, a clean, two-out single in the bottom of the eighth inning, in a 5-0 loss to the Pirates.

The good news: Last night marked the 7,441th consecutive game that the team has played without being no-hit, the longest active streak in MLB.

Bleed Cubbie Blue’s Al Yallon reminds readers when the Cubs were last no-hit:

. . . [T]he last time the Cubs failed to get a hit in a game was Sandy Koufax’s perfect game September 9, 1965, which occurred just three weeks after the last time they were no-hit in Wrigley Field, August 19, 1965 by the Reds’ Jim Maloney.

Just two visiting pitchers — Maloney and Fred Toney, also of the Reds, on May 2, 1917, have no-hit the Cubs in Wrigley Field in its 94-year history as the Cubs’ home park.

According to Bill Chuck of Billy Ball, Burnett became the 27th Pittsburgh pitcher to throw a one-hitter since 1918 and the first since 2001.

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In a separate post, Chuck brings up another streak — one that came to a halt last night. A rain-shortened affair in Boston ended Justin Verlander’s consecutive starts of at least six innings at 63, even though he pitched a (five-inning) complete game.

Right Field

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