Hitting For The Cycle: Anatomy of a Start, Jon Singleton, Fifth Starters, and Skin Cancer

This week’s Hitting for the Cycle sees four more great pieces with national interest, including a local home run from Washington Post writer James Wagner. You’ll also see Jake Peavy break down a start in remarkable detail, learn why some players aren’t happy with Jon Singleton’s contract, and get stat-heavy on why fifth starters might matter more than we think.

Single: Anatomy of a Start by Tim Britton (Providence Journal)

Most of baseball writing falls into three categories: news and notes, statistical analysis, and player profile pieces. It is very rare to get a glimpse into something other than the mundane, which is all the more reason this piece is a shining beacon of journalist-player relations.

Tim Britton was afforded the luxury to sit down with Red Sox starter Jake Peavy to dissect his previous start against the Braves. And when I say dissect, I mean take a scalpel and go over every minute detail to paint a glorious word picture. It’s strange to get such an open and thoughtful dialogue from a player where most of the players spew constant clichés that mean absolutely nothing. I would love to dive into this piece to explain the many ways this is extraordinary but there isn’t time for that. Go and read this to get into the mind of a Major League pitcher. It is truly fascinating.

Kudos to Jake Peavy for his willingness to share his thoughts with a reporter. Please let this be a step towards more openness.

Quote: “We’re going to dance.”

Double: At Least one Major Leaguer is not pleased with the Singleton deal by Craig Calcaterra (Hardball Talk)

Free Agency has turned into a bit of a bust. More and more, young players are signing long-term contracts, and they are doing it earlier and earlier. Well, this deal certainly takes the cake.

Before even stepping foot in a Major League dugout, Jon Singleton has signed a long-term contract worth $10 million guaranteed with a possibility of making $35 million over the life of the deal. Aside from making sure his children’s children never have to worry about money ever again, Singleton has taken security over the possibility of making significantly more than that, which has rankled some MLB veterans. You see, players get paid what the market will bear, and if the market values a player less than another player, then they will see less money than said player. This Singleton deal creates a ripple effect that could see salaries among up-and-coming prospects fall in a somewhat drastic manner.

Calcaterra gives quite a reasoned take on this issue, which will sure to be a key component in the upcoming CBA negotiations.

Quote: “it takes a pretty entitled and narrow-minded person to not see that Singleton’s incentives were predetermined and his choices somewhat limited by virtue of a system that was set up long before he had to make his choice.”

Triple: Even A Team’s Fifth Starting Pitcher Matters When Trying to Make the Playoffs by Jonah Keri and Neil Paine (FiveThirtyEight)

FiveThirtyEight darlings Keri and Paine team up to delve deep into the neglected world of fifth starters in this stat heavy wonder-piece. All too often teams have turned to unproven youngsters (Taylor Jordan) or washed up veterans (Jason Marquis) for the fifth starter, but the math shows that spot is actually worthy of some quality.

As usual with FiveThirtyEight pieces I won’t get too much into the math side of things, but suffice to say the opportunistic value of a fifth starter isn’t much less than the potential value of a number one starter. If that is indeed the case, then why do teams choose to put together a patch-work bottom of the rotation instead of trying to sign a true starter with higher potential? Paine and Keri get into the math and dig up some of the highest values we have seen in the five-starter era; it’s definitely worth a read.

Quote: “the statistical relationship was so weak that it was essentially nonexistent.”

Home Run: Skin cancer is an often overlooked hazard in baseball by James Wagner (Washington Post)

When I first started this column, I really wanted to stay away from pieces by Washington Nationals writers, not because they aren’t fantastic writers (they are), but because if you are reading my piece, then you are reading theirs. This piece by Wagner represents the first of the “local beat writers” that I have chosen to include, and with very good reason. In this profile of skin cancer amongst Major League coaches and players, the issue goes far beyond the Nationals clubhouse and brings attention to a problem that deserves markedly more attention than it currently receives.

When you really think about the amount of time that baseball players/staff are outside in the summer months, only playing in decent weather with unprotected arms, necks, and faces, it really adds up to a ton of exposure to the sun’s harsh rays.

It’s surprising that there isn’t more out-cry about the dangers of skin cancer based on the number of Nationals personnel who have been affected. I think this piece by Wagner should be a must read for all players across professional and collegiate baseball.

Quote: “’It can happen to anybody,’ [Henley] said. ‘I was fortunate the skin was just cut out and being done with it.’”

(Photo: Smiley N. Pool/Houston Chronicle)

About Craig MacHenry

Writer for The Nats Blog and co-host of Nats Talk On The Go podcast