Just a few more days! Pitchers and catchers report to spring training starting this coming week.
Stat of the Day: Innings Pitched
Abbreviation: IP. Leaders: All Time: Cy Young (7356). Single Season: Will White (680 in 1879). Active: Jamie Moyer (4074). 2012: Justin Verlander (238.1).
The innings pitched statistic has changed as much as any stat in baseball. The way it's recorded has stayed the same; three recorded outs constitute an inning, not much else. It has changed in that in the 19th century, it was routine for pitchers to throw over 500 innings in a single season. Nowadays, we are lucky to see one break 250. It is because of this change that Cy Young's record of 7,356 innings pitched will stand forever. To break it, a pitcher would have to throw 307 innings a season...for 24 years, the length of Roger Clemens' career. Now Clemens is 15th on the all time list at 4916.2 innings, and he never even approached 300 innings in a season. In fact, no one has pitched 300 innings in a season since Steve Carlton tossed 304 in 1980, and no one has reached the necessary 24 year average of 307 since 1979, when Phil Niekro tossed an incredible 342 innings. So Young's record is safe. However, back in the 19th century, innings pitched went insanely high. This was caused by two factors; one is that teams used only 5-7 pitchers (of which only a couple pitched the majority of games), and the other is that pitchers threw underhand, so injuries were less common. In Major League Baseball's inaugural season in 1876, the St. Louis Brown Stockings used just two pitchers all year, one of which tossed all of four innings. That left the remaining 573 innings and 64 starts on George Bradley, who went 45-19 with a 1.23 ERA. However, Bradley didn't even lead the league in innings pitched. That honor befell on Jim Devlin of the Louisville Colonels, who tossed 622 innings over 68 games started. Despite this, he was just 30-35 with a 1.56 ERA (ERA's were much, much lower back then, hence the losing record). After tossing 559 innings in 1877, he was banished for fixing games. In 1879, Will White of the Reds threw 680 innings, almost three times today's average league leaders. Future Hall of Famer Charles "Old Hoss" Radbourn came close to equaling White's record in 1884, but ultimately finished at 678.2. That same year, Guy Hecker threw 670.2 innings for Louisville. With overhand pitching replacing the traditional underhand, 600 innings became harder and harder to reach. In 1892, Chicago's Bill Hutchison became the last pitcher to ever throw 600, finishing with 622 for the Cubs. Interestingly, not only was it the last time a pitcher would throw 600 innings, but it was also the last time a pitcher would throw 500. The Giants' Amos Rusie threw 541 that year, joining Hutchison as the last pitchers to reach the number. With time, even 400 became increasingly difficult to reach, and by 1908, future Hall of Famer (and all time ERA champion) Ed Walsh became the last pitcher to reach 400, tossing 464 for the White Sox. After that, innings pitched per pitcher started to drop more slowly, and it wasn't until 1980 that the last 300 inning season was recorded by Steve Carlton. Nowadays, league leaders usually throw around 235 to 255 innings. This is because pitchers throw harder than ever before, thus resulting in more injuries, thus concerning coaches (and rightly so) and keeping innings down. In 2012, Justin Verlander led the majors at just 238.1 innings. He is considered one of the top workhorses in the game, regularly swallowing up over 230 innings per season. Others like him include C.C. Sabathia, who tossed at least 230 innings each year from 2007-2011, Mark Buehrle, who has thrown over 200 innings each year since 2001, Felix Hernandez, who completed his fourth straight season of at least 232 innings at just 26 years old, and Roy Halladay, who has reached at least 246 three times. 250 innings is not as uncommon as I may have made it sound, as it was just reached by Verlander in 2011, who tossed 251 innings. Halladay tossed 250.2 in 2010, and Sabathia reached 253 in 2008. The record for an active player is 266, set by Halladay in 2003.
Longtime shortstop Omar Vizquel retired after 24 years in the major leagues.
Rumors have surfaced of Felix Hernandez signing a seven year, $175 million extension with the Mariners, but both sides claim that this is not true. Because of ongoing negotiations, he has decided not to play for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic.
Diamondbacks signed Aaron Hill to a three year, $35 million extension ($11.67 million per season).
Omar Vizquel was the greatest defensive shortstop of his era, garnering eleven Gold Gloves, nine of which were in a row. He could run, recording double-digit stolen bases in sixteen seasons. Lastly, he was one of the most dependable players in baseball. It all started in 1989, when he debuted for the Mariners three weeks before his 22nd birthday. He ended up spending all year at shortstop for them, finishing with a home run and a .220 average. The next two years looked like that, but be really began to set his footing in 1992. That year, the 25 year old batted .294 with 15 stolen bases for Seattle. Then, 1993, he won his first of nine consecutive Gold Gloves. 1995, his second season with the Indians, saw an increase in power, as he set a career high with six home runs while batting .266 with 29 stolen bases. 1996 was his true breakout year, when the 29 year old switch hitter hit nine home runs, batted .297, and stole 35 bases while knocking 36 doubles. In '97, he hit five more home runs while batting .280 with 43 stolen bases, the latter of which would stand as a career high. After hitting .288 with 37 stolen bases in 1998 (and earning his first trip to the All Star Game), Vizquel had one of the best years of his career. He just kept hitting and hitting all year until he finally finished with five home runs, a .333 average, 42 stolen bases, 36 doubles, and 112 runs scored. It was his second time being an All Star. He settled down after that season, but in 2002, he saw a major jump in power. Though it was his first time since 1992 in which he didn't win a Gold Glove, Vizquel hit 14 home runs, knocked in 72, and batted .275 with 18 stolen bases. That earned him his third and final trip to the All Star Game. Since then, his numbers have slowly declined, and he had his final great season in 2006 with the Giants. Over 153 games, he hit four home runs and batted .295 with 24 stolen bases, as well as a career-high ten triples. He has been mostly a backup since then, and he hit his final home run in 2010 with the White Sox, as well as stealing his 400th base that same year. Last year, in 60 games for the Blue Jays, he batted .235 with three stolen bases at the age of 45. Over his 24 year career, he hit 80 home runs, knocked in 951, and batted .272 with 404 stolen bases (70th all time). His 2,968 games played rank 12th all time, and his 10,586 at bats 15th. The 456 doubles are 93rd, and his 1,445 runs scored are 78th. Lastly, his 2,877 hits, which left him just 123 short of the hallowed 3,000 mark, rank 40th.
Free Agent Signings
Rays signed Kelly Johnson (16 HR, 55 RBI, .225 AVG, 14 SB, 2013 age: 31) to a one year, $2.45 million deal.
Mets signed Brandon Lyon (4-2, 3.10 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 1 save, 2013 age: 33) to a one year, $750,000 deal.
Marlins signed Jon Rauch (3-7, 3.59 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 4 saves, 2013 age: 34) to a one year, $1 million deal (plus up to $750,000 in incentives).
Rays also resigned Kyle Farnsworth (1-6, 4.00 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 2013 age: 37) to a one year, $1.25 million deal.
Nationals signed Micah Owings (it's complicated, I'll explain later, 2013 age: 30) to a minor league deal.
Pirates signed Jonathan Sanchez (1-9, 8.07 ERA, 2.09 WHIP, 2013 age: 30) to a minor league deal.
Mariners signed Kelly Shoppach (8 HR, 27 RBI, .233 AVG, 1 SB, 2013 age: 33) to a one year, $935,000 deal.
Nationals also signed Chris Snyder (7 HR, 24 RBI, .176 AVG, 0 SB, 2013 age: 32) to a minor league deal.
Nationals also signed Jeremy Accardo (0-0, 4.82 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 2013 age: 31) to a minor league deal.
Rockies signed Miguel Batista (1-3, 4.61 ERA, 1.73 WHIP, 2013 age: 42) to a minor league deal.
Indians signed Rich Hill (1-0, 1.83 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 2013 age: 33) to a minor league deal.
Kelly Johnson tops this list of eleven free agent signings. Johnson, a power hitting second baseman, will bring the Rays much needed infield help. His signing means that the infield should look like this: James Loney at first, Johnson at second, Yunel Escobar at short, and Evan Longoria at third. Johnson will hope to recapture the offensive prowess of 2010, when he hit 26 home runs and batted .284 with 13 stolen bases. In 2011, he kept up the power, but his average dropped significantly, ending up with 21 home runs, a .222 average, and 16 stolen bases. Last year, his power dropped and his average stayed the same, as he finished with 16 homers, a .225 average, and 14 stolen bases. At 31 years old, Johnson may yet recover his lost offense. Over his seven year career, he hit 108 home runs, batted .255, and stole 72 bases.
Micah Owings will be an interesting addition. He is 32-33 with a 4.86 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP for his career, but he won't throw a single pitch in Washington. Instead, he'll join as a first baseman. One of the best hitting pitchers in baseball, Owings struggled to find employment as a hurler, and instead will capitalize on his excellent hitting. Over his six year career, he has hit nine home runs, knocked in 35, and batted .283 through 205 at bats, roughly 2/5 of a full season. His best year was his rookie 2007, when he hit four home runs and batted .333 with seven doubles in 60 at bats, winning a Silver Slugger. On the mound that year, he was 8-8 with a 4.30 ERA for Arizona. In the minors, he is a career .337 hitter with eight doubles and a home run through 89 at bats.
Washington also added Chris Snyder, a lifetime backup catcher. This signing intrigues me, because the Nationals already have significant catching depth with Kurt Suzuki, Wilson Ramos, Jhonatan Solano, and Sandy Leon all major league ready. Snyder, a 6'4", 240 pound righty out of Houston, had his best years from 2007-2008 with Arizona. In '07, he hit 13 home runs and batted .252 in 110 games. In '08, he hit 16 home runs and batted .237 in 115 games. 2010 was his third double digit home run season, when he hit 15 bombs and batted .207 in 105 games. Over his nine year career, he hit 77 home runs and batted .225 through 706 games.
The last signing by the Nationals is Jeremy Accardo, a 31 year old right handed reliever. The Arizona native has somewhat coasted off his success from 2007, the year he took over the closer's role in Toronto for an injured B.J. Ryan. In 64 appearances, Accardo was 4-4 with a 2.14 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, and 30 saves. Since then, he has had difficulty staying afloat, never making more than 31 appearances in a single season. Last year, he posted a 4.82 ERA in 27 appearances for the Indians and A's. Over his eight year career, he is 10-20 with a 4.30 ERA, a 1.40 WHIP, and 38 saves in 262 appearances.
Teams followed in this update: Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals, New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Colorado Rockies
If your team is not included, please leave a comment.
HR: home runs. RBI: runs batted in. AVG: batting average. SB: stolen bases. ERA: earned run average. WHIP: walks/hits per innings pitched. K's: strikeouts. WPCT: winning percentage