FanGraphs Audio: Jeff Sullivan's Meetings of Winter

by Carson Cistulli - 12/5/2016 - Comments (1)

Episode 703
Jeff Sullivan is a senior editor at FanGraphs. In this edition of program, he discusses both the delicate art of tricking the public into reading a post about Jarrod Dyson and an introvert’s experience at the Winter Meetings.

This episode of the program either is or isn’t sponsored by SeatGeek, which site removes both the work and also the hassle from the process of shopping for tickets.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 1 hr 14 min play time.)

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Yankees Bet on Resurgent Matt Holliday

by Craig Edwards - 12/5/2016 - Comments (11)

Over the last few years, the New York Yankees have placed a focus on getting younger. The attempts to make that happen have been mostly successful. The data back it up. Consider: since 2014, the average age of the club’s batters (weighted by plate appearance) has decreased from 32.5 to 31.2 to 30.0.

At first glance, the Yankees’ decision on Sunday to sign Matt Holliday to a one-year, $13 million contract might seem to run contrary to these efforts. Adding a 37-year-old to play designated hitter doesn’t immediately seem like the sort of move that would continue to facilitate the Yankees’ youth movement. That said, this is the same club that allocated a majority of the team’s plate appearances at DH last season to 40-year-old Alex Rodriguez and 39-year-old Carlos Beltran. In a crowded market for designated-hitter types, the Yankees acted relatively early and might have gotten one of the better deals for the upcoming season.

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The Royals' Last Ride

by Jeff Sullivan - 12/5/2016 - Comments (17)

Not long ago, I was thinking about the teams that might elect to rebuild next. The only really obvious candidate was and is the White Sox, who could begin the process at any moment. After them, I thought about the Diamondbacks, who might be a half-year away. The Orioles might be approaching their own cliff. The Tigers have already expressed a desire to get younger and cheaper. And so on. A team I didn’t think about enough was the Royals. In my head, I still associate the Royals with having so recently won a championship, but now that’s behind them. What’s ahead of them is a future that seems like it’s going to be very tricky to navigate.

Now isn’t the time for the Royals to start blowing it up. The Royals shouldn’t dismantle, not this week, not this winter. I don’t think that would really help them avoid the coming reality. But from the looks of things, 2017 is going to be it. Already, the Royals achieved the greatest success. The cost of that pursuit will begin to take its toll.

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Giants Make Obvious Move, Sign Mark Melancon

by Eno Sarris - 12/5/2016 - Comments (30)

When your favorite team signs a new player, you don’t want to hear about the downside. You don’t want to hear about other players whom your team could have signed, or how your player will age, or if the deal constitutes an overpay. You want to hear about how awesome that player is and how much better he’ll make your team. I’m here for you. I’ll tell you those things about Mark Melancon, who has reportedly signed with the San Francisco Giants for what is likely to be something like four years and $62 million. And then… then comes some cold water. Just warning you.

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Let's Find a Home for Edwin Encarnacion

by Dave Cameron - 12/5/2016 - Comments (33)

Over the weekend, the DH market started to clarify itself. The Astros signed Carlos Beltran, giving him $16 million for one year. The Yankees signed Matt Holliday, giving him $13 million for one year. And in 48 hours, two teams that looked like potential landing spots for Edwin Encarnacion opted to go with short-term commitments for older players, rather than trying to win the bidding war for the best hitter on the market.

So, this morning, the question of the day here at the Winter Meetings is where does Encarnacion go from here.

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Dan Szymborski FanGraphs Chat - 12/5/16

by Carson Cistulli - 12/5/2016 - Comments (1)

Dan Szymborski: Hail to whatever you found in the sunlight that surrounds you this Monday morning: The Dan Szymborski FanGraphs Chat.
Roadhog: Braves found the price of Gray “too high.” After Sale is off the board somewhere else, do they bite the bullet?
Dan Szymborski: I suspect no. I don’t think Atlanta’s feeling is that the rebuild is *quite* as far along as they express to the public.
Dan Szymborski: A’s should have traded Gray last winter. Not really a fan of Oakland’s front office these days.
Bork: Has EE priced himself out of a contract? It seems like all his possible suitors are bowing out one by one with cheaper alternatives.
Dan Szymborski: It’s possible that he’s hurt his negotiating position, but there are still teams that are going to want him.

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2017 ZiPS Projections - Arizona Diamondbacks

by Carson Cistulli - 12/5/2016 - Comments (9)

After having typically appeared in the very famous pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have been released at FanGraphs the past few years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Chicago NL / San Diego / Toronto / Washington.

Not unlike a glass that’s simultaneously half full and half empty, the Diamondbacks — on the position-player side of things, at least — serve as an effective litmus test for optimism. There are real strengths in the projected starting lineup — strengths like Paul Goldschmidt (630 PA, 4.8 zWAR), Jake Lamb (517, 2.4), and A.J. Pollock (445, 3.5). There are also real weaknesses, too, in the form of Brandon Drury (581, 0.0), Yasmany Tomas (524, 0.5), and whoever’s tasked with playing catcher.

The optimist regards this as a club that can be easily upgraded: because the flaws are so obvious, they can be dramatically improved with only a modest investment of resources. The pessimist, on the other hand, is uncomfortable with relying so heavily on the ability of just a few players. If one of them were to get injured (as Pollock did in 2016), the club would suffer unduly (as the D-backs did in 2016).

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Rich Hill Is Just a Different Kind of Risk

by Dave Cameron - 12/5/2016 - Comments (18)

Rich Hill is, probably, the most fascinating free agent in recent memory.

On the one hand, he’s a frontline pitcher in a market starved for pitching, the only guy available you can really imagine handing the ball to in a playoff game and liking your chances of winning that day. Since the start of the 2015 season, Clayton Kershaw (.221) is the only pitcher alive to allow a lower wOBA than Hill (.231). During the last two years, his 23.3% K%-BB% puts him right between Noah Syndergaard (22.9%) and Chris Sale (23.8%), while at the same time, no starting pitcher has allowed home runs at a lower rate than Hill’s 0.4 HR/9.

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Top 21 Prospects: Chicago White Sox

by Eric Longenhagen - 12/5/2016 - Comments (11)

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the Chicago White Sox farm system. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from my own observations. The KATOH statistical projections, probable-outcome graphs, and (further down) Mahalanobis comps have been provided by Chris Mitchell. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of my prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this. -Eric Longenhagen

The KATOH projection system uses minor-league data and Baseball America prospect rankings to forecast future performance in the major leagues. For each player, KATOH produces a WAR forecast for his first six years in the major leagues. There are drawbacks to scouting the stat line, so take these projections with a grain of salt. Due to their purely objective nature, the projections here can be useful in identifying prospects who might be overlooked or overrated. Due to sample-size concerns, only players with at least 200 minor-league plate appearances or batters faced last season have received projections. -Chris Mitchell

Other lists: NL West (ARI, COL, LAD, SD, SF), AL Central (MIN, CLE)

White Sox Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Zack Collins 21 A+ C 2018 50
2 Carson Fulmer 22 MLB RHP 2017 50
3 Zack Burdi 21 AAA RHP 2017 50
4 Alec Hansen 22 A RHP 2020 45
5 Spencer Adams 20 AA RHP 2019 45
6 Jordan Stephens 24 A+ RHP 2019 40
7 Charlie Tilson 23 MLB OF 2017 40
8 Jameson Fisher 22 R LF 2019 40
9 Bernardo Flores 21 R LHP 2020 40
10 Alex Call 22 A OF 2020 40
11 Trey Michalczewski 21 AA 3B 2019 40
12 Jake Peter 23 AAA INF 2017 40
13 Luis Martinez 21 R RHP 2020 40
14 Adam Engel 24 AAA CF 2017 40
15 Luis Curbelo 19 R 3B 2021 40
16 Jacob May 24 AAA CF 2017 40
17 Michael Ynoa 25 MLB RHP 2017 40
18 Brian Clark 23 AAA LHP 2017 40
19 Jordan Guerrero 22 AA LHP 2019 40
20 Chris Beck 26 MLB RHP 2017 40
21 Tyler Danish 22 MLB RHP 2017 40

50 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Miami
Age 22 Height 6’3 Weight 220 Bat/Throw L/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 60/60 40/60 30/20 40/45 50/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Posted .544 OBP at Miami in 2016.

Scouting Report
A trusted scout has repeated to me ad nauseum that context is an essential variable to consider when evaluating catchers, particularly those who have played long seasons. Collins looked bad behind the plate in the Fall League. He was slow, immobile, and had issues receiving the ball. He was also wrapping up a season that had begun in February and included 66% more games than he’d played at Miami as a sophomore — all while catching an entirely new staff of pitchers. As such, it seems prudent to ingest what we saw in the AFL with a pillar of salt and lean more heavily on what amateur scouts saw from him this spring.

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Sunday Notes: Vizquel, Lindor, Shipley, Ryan, Mussina, more

by David Laurila - 12/4/2016 - Comments (37)

Omar Vizquel will be on Hall of Fame ballots for the first time in 2018. In all likelihood, he’ll still be there when I become eligible to vote a few years later (This is my sixth year in the BBWAA, so I have four to go). The defensive whiz will receive some support, but his odds of reaching the 75% mark aren’t great. There’s a pretty decent chance he’ll eventually end up an Eras Committee candidate.

The arguments against Vizquel are valid. His .688 OPS and 82 adjusted OPS are clearly inferior, and he was an All-Star just three times in 24 seasons. His 42.6 WAR pales in comparison to Alan Trammell’s 63.7, and the Tigers’ great was (inexplicably) snubbed by the BBWAA.

I plan to vote for Vizquel.

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The Padres Rotation Might Be Historically Poor

by Carson Cistulli - 12/3/2016 - Comments (13)

Yesterday, the author of the current post published a lightly annotated version of Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections for the San Diego Padres. To no one’s surprise, likely, the forecast for the 2017 edition of the club isn’t wildly a promising one. After investing heavily in some expensive veterans during the first year of his tenure as the club’s general manager, A.J. Preller has taken a very different approach over the last calendar year, acquiring whatever young talent he could in exchange for the aforementioned veterans.

On the offensive side, some of that young talent is already materializing at the major-league level. Outfielders Travis Jankowski, Manuel Margot, and Hunter Renfroe, for example — who’ve recorded fewer than 600 plate appearances as a group — are projected to produce about two wins each next year. That’s encouraging both for the club’s present and future. On the pitching side, however, Szymborski’s computer was decidedly less optimistic: of the club’s likely starters, only one (Tyson Ross) was projected to produce more than a win.

Of course, the caveat attached to any team-based projections released at this time of year is that the complexion of said team’s roster can change dramatically. “This is bad,” one could reasonably say of the forecast for the Padres’ rotation, “but the team could still make some moves.”

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The Best of FanGraphs: November 28-December 2, 2016

by Paul Swydan - 12/3/2016 - Comments (1)

Each week, we publish north of 100 posts on our various blogs. With this post, we hope to highlight 10 to 15 of them. You can read more on it here. The links below are color coded — green for FanGraphs, brown for RotoGraphs, dark red for The Hardball Times and blue for Community Research.

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Yankees' Struggles Aren't Fault of CBA

by Craig Edwards - 12/2/2016 - Comments (101)

While everyone else basks in the glow of continued labor peace and begins to explore the minutia of the latest pact between the league and its players, the Yankees remain committed to a PR campaign against the collective bargaining agreement and its (negative) influence on the team’s ability to compete. The latest critique comes courtesy New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman in a piece from George King III of the New York Post.

We’ll get to that in a moment. Before we do, though, we should acknowledge that, yes, the Yankees pay a substantial amount both in revenue sharing and luxury tax. Yankees president Randy Levine indicated that the former obligation was $90 million in 2015 — from a combination both of the standard 34% revenue sharing and also a performance factor, explained in greater depth here by Wendy Thurm. As a result of these obligations, the Yankees are giving more money back to small-market teams than any other club in baseball. Add in more than $300 million in luxury-tax/competitive-balance penalties over the last decade, and it’s pretty easy to see the Yankees’ grounds for dissent.

That’s not the real cause of the Yankees’ failure to dominate in recent seasons, however. Rather, poor spending and failed player development have been the team’s main issues.

But back to Cashman, for a moment. In his recent comments, he was unambiguous about the effect that the last few CBAs have had on his club.

“The CBA is going to affect us in the long term,” general manager Brian Cashman said Tuesday at Yankees scout Cesar Presbott’s Thanksgiving turkey giveaway in The Bronx. “It’s already crippled us in the short term. Exhibit A is our free agency last year and a lot of the international markets I’ve been taken out of.

“The previous CBAs have really hindered us, so I think the next one is something we’re clearly going to be interested in on how it will impact us over the entire course of the term of the contract. The previous ones have impacted us in a bad way.”

As noted above, the Yankees have been compelled to contribute quite a bit in revenue sharing, etc. — ultimately paying out probably more than a billion dollars directly to their competitors over the last decade. It’s not that simple, though.

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"Pitch" Episode 9: Farewell, Mike?

by SarahWexler - 12/2/2016 - Comments (8)

Earlier recaps: Episode 1 / Episode 2 / Episode 3 / Episode 4 / Episode 5 Episode 6 Episode 7 / Episode 8.

Welcome to our recap of the ninth episode of Pitch, entitled “Scratched”. As always, there are spoilers, so proceed with caution.

It’s the end of August, and these very well may be Mike Lawson’s (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) last days in San Diego. Mike has announced his desire to be traded to the Cubs, and the Padres are attempting to comply. (In earlier episode, someone mentions to Mike that he’s been placed on waivers. Presumably, he’s been claimed by Chicago or passed through waivers entirely.)

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Win a Free Copy of THT 2017!

by Paul Swydan - 12/2/2016 - Comments (31)

Have you heard? The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2017 is now available for sale. You can check out the table of contents and read some excerpts from the book here. When you finish that you can purchase it Amazon in either print or Kindle form.

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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat -- 12/2/16

by Jeff Sullivan - 12/2/2016 - Comments (3)

Jeff Sullivan: Hello friends

Jeff Sullivan: Welcome to Friday baseball chat

Bork: Hello, friend!

Jeff Sullivan: Hello friend

Matthew: Why are so few players throwing palmballs anymore? Are other pitches that much more effective?

Jeff Sullivan: Pretty sure it accomplishes similar things to the changeup and/or splitter

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The 10-Day Disabled List Is a Beautiful Thing

by Paul Swydan - 12/2/2016 - Comments (17)

The collective bargaining agreement on which the players and owners have just tentatively come to terms didn’t move the needle too much in the grand scheme of things. The changes that occurred were more akin to trimming the branches on a bonsai tree than they were clear-cutting a forest. But one interesting alteration was the replacement of the 15-day disabled list with a 10-day variety. This be interesting in a few ways.

I have to say, my first thought was very much:

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2017 ZiPS Projections - San Diego Padres

by Carson Cistulli - 12/2/2016 - Comments (14)

After having typically appeared in the very famous pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have been released at FanGraphs the past few years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the San Diego Padres. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Chicago NL / Toronto / Washington.

Were one to have followed major-league baseball with some vigor through the 2014 season but then entered a coma at the end of that season but then just exited that coma this morning, that would constitute an unsual series of events. It would also uniquely qualify the nearly awakened to comment on the relative inexperience of the Padres’ starting lineup, because basically none of that lineup’s constituent members had appeared in major-league baseball by the end of 2014.

Catcher Derek Norris (450 PA, 1.7 zWAR), who’s recorded fewer than 600 career games (or less than four full seasons’ worth), is the veteran of this club. Wil Myers (621, 3.4) and Yangervis Solarte (519, 2.5) are the only other two projected starters who’ve recorded more than 1,000 career plate appearances. The starting outfielders, meanwhile, have compiled 552 PAs as a group.

Which, a note about San Diego and its outfields. The reader might remember, in 2015, when the Padres fielded an Opening Day alignment (from left to right field) of Justin Upton, Wil Myers, and Matt Kemp, marking one of the worst defensive units in recent memory. The results were not positive. In any case, the current iteration of the Padres outfield represents a great departure from that. Travis Jankowski (404, 1.6) and Manuel Margot (581, 2.6) are projected for +7 and +9 fielding runs in center; Hunter Renfroe (586, 1.5), meanwhile, is forecast to save +6 runs in right.

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The Most Atypical Players in Baseball

by Jeff Sullivan - 12/2/2016 - Comments (28)

Greetings! Yesterday, I wrote about how Billy Hamilton is a freak. If you didn’t read the post, let me save you some time. First of all, yeah, you kind of already knew that. But, statistically, he’s gone almost without comparison. I looked at all regulars and semi-regulars through age 25, going back to 1961, and I examined their batting, baserunning, and defense. Based on my analysis, Hamilton stands out, with his closest comp being Julio Cruz. To this point, he’s been a terrible hitter. He’s also been an elite runner and defender. Highly unusual!

Related to that, I felt somewhat inspired. That was a post about how Hamilton is atypical. Who else these days is atypical? Who these days is the most atypical? What follows is a quick and similar analysis. Of course, you haven’t seen the last of Hamilton’s name.

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Scouting the Cardinals' Return for Jaime Garcia

by Eric Longenhagen - 12/1/2016 - Comments (21)

The St. Louis Cardinals sent lefty Jaime Garcia to Atlanta in exchange for a trio of minor leaguers this evening. Below are my thoughts on the prospects heading to St. Louis in the deal.

John Gant, RHP (Profile)

The good-bodied and eccentric Gant is probably the likeliest to yield big-league value of the triumvirate acquired by St. Louis tonight. He’s already spent time there, having thrown 50 major-league innings in 2016. As a rookie, Gant struck out nearly a batter per inning (recording a 22% strikeout rate) but also struggled with walks (9.5%). Gant’s fastball sits in the low 90s, mostly 90-93, but will touch as high as 96 and has a slightly above-average spin rate. His changeup is his best secondary offering and best pitch overall. It’s a plus, low-80s cambio that disappears away from lefties as it approaches the plate. Gant maintains his fastball’s arm speed throughout release. There are times when Gant makes a visible effort to create extra movement on the pitch, alters his arm action, and causes his change to flatten out. He also has a loopy, below-average mid-70s curveball. He’s had to use the curve more frequently than a pitch of this quality usually warrants in order to navigate his way through minor-league lineups multiple times.

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WAR: Batters
Mike Trout9.4
Kris Bryant8.4
Mookie Betts7.8
Josh Donaldson7.6
Corey Seager7.5
WAR: Pitchers
Clayton Kershaw6.5
Noah Syndergaard6.5
Jose Fernandez6.2
Max Scherzer5.6
Johnny Cueto5.5
WPA: Batters
Mike Trout6.96
Josh Donaldson4.66
David Ortiz4.65
Paul Goldschmidt4.52
Joey Votto4.39
Jon Lester4.56
Clayton Kershaw4.19
Kyle Hendricks3.84
Johnny Cueto3.76
Max Scherzer3.60
Zach Britton6.14
Andrew Miller4.79
Sam Dyson3.57
Mark Melancon3.06
Jeremy Jeffress2.87
Fastball (mph): SP
Noah Syndergaard97.9
Nathan Eovaldi97.0
James Paxton96.8
Yordano Ventura96.1
Reynaldo Lopez95.9