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The Best of FanGraphs: July 7 - July 11, 2014

by Paul Swydan - 7/12/2014 - Comments (0)

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, purple for NotGraphs, dark red for The Hardball Times and blue for Community.

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NERD Game Scores for Saturday, July 12, 2014

by Carson Cistulli - 7/12/2014 - Comments (0)

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by viscount of the internet Rob Neyer, and expanded at the request of nobody, NERD scores represent an attempt to summarize in one number (and on a scale of 0-10) the likely aesthetic appeal or watchability, for the learned fan, of a player or team or game. Read more about the components of and formulae for NERD scores here.

***

Most Highly Rated Game
Washington at Philadelphia | 19:10 ET
Stephen Strasburg (119.1 IP, 68 xFIP-, 2.7 WAR) faces Cole Hamels (100.1 IP, 89 xFIP-, 1.9 WAR). The latter has prevented runs at a more characteristic rate over his late two appearances. After entering his July 1st start with a 2.63 xFIP and 3.70 ERA, Strasburg has conceded only three earned (and overall) runs over his last 14.2 innings — which is to say, a mark more similar to the latter and not the former of the aforementioned figures.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Washington Radio.

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FG on Fox: Moving On Without Yadier Molina

by Jeff Sullivan - 7/11/2014 - Comments (10)

Thursday was a rough day for baseball on the injury front. For Cincinnati, Brandon Phillips was diagnosed with a thumb injury that’ll knock him out a month and a half. For New York, Masahiro Tanaka was diagnosed with an elbow injury that’ll knock him out at least a month and a half. And for St. Louis, Yadier Molina was diagnosed with a thumb injury that’ll knock him out for 8 to 12 weeks. All of these teams, of course, are trying to make the playoffs, and all of these players, of course, are important.

The commonality: significant injuries. Upon deeper investigation, though, the injuries have different meanings. The Reds should be able to survive without Phillips, who’s no longer a star. The Yankees could be devastated without Tanaka, who’s all but irreplaceable and who might still eventually need Tommy John surgery. And the Cardinals should be able to survive without Molina, even though he is still a star, unlike Phillips. Other than Adam Wainwright, Molina’s the most valuable player on that ballclub, but even still, the Cardinals aren’t in a terrible situation.

Read the rest on FoxSports.com.



The New Marlon Byrd is the Real Marlon Byrd

by Jeff Sullivan - 7/11/2014 - Comments (12)

This is a trade-deadline season defined by available pitching. We’ve already seen a handful of arms on the move, with more still to get dealt, and for the teams who’ve been looking for bats, there’s not nearly the same kind of market. But one player out there who’s gotten a little attention is Marlon Byrd, who’s been a good veteran hitter on a bad team. There’s little reason for the Phillies to keep Byrd on the roster through July, and while, a year ago, the Pirates took a bit of a risk in acquiring the bounceback outfielder, now there’s every reason to believe the version of Marlon Byrd that suddenly came into existence in 2013 is the version of Marlon Byrd that there is.

The changes, see, have only been sustained through this season’s first three months. Byrd still strikes out more than he used to, but he also hits for more power than he used to, and he’s right on the edge of being an all-or-nothing slugger. When I was first getting into sabermetrics, I learned about the concept of old-player skills, and I was told that players near the end of the line will often sell out for dingers and fly balls. Based just on the numbers, Byrd has indeed sold out for dingers and fly balls, but in his case, this seems to be less about his approach and more about the swing he modified a year and a half ago. And that makes it seem like he has a little more left in the tank.

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FanGraphs Audio: Ben Badler on Matters International

by Carson Cistulli - 7/11/2014 - Comments (0)

Episode 461
Ben Badler (@BenBadler) writes for Baseball America, for which publication he provides all manner of prospect-related coverage, with a decided emphasis on the international market. He’s also the guest on this edition of FanGraphs Audio

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 37 min play time.)

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Looking Back at the 2013 Trade Value List

by Dave Cameron - 7/11/2014 - Comments (119)

Next Monday, we’re kicking off one of the most popular things we do around here: the Trade Value series. It’s been an annual tradition for going on 10 years now, and I find it a nice distraction from the fact that the All-Star break fails to give us any interesting baseball to talk about. Plus, it gives you guys all kinds of ammunition to prove that I am, in fact, an idiot.

To that end, I’d like to look back at last year’s list, and make some comments about what we might have learned over the last calendar year. List first, then comments.

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Jose Quintana Is Better Than You Think

by Paul Swydan - 7/11/2014 - Comments (9)

There were a lot of good pitchers in the American League last year. Jose Quintana was one of them. There are a lot of good pitchers in the American League this year. Jose Quintana is one of them. You may not have noticed until recently, as he’s been on a very nice run of late, which was punctuated by five perfect innings to start yesterday’s game at Fenway Park.

Quintana is an easy guy to ignore. He isn’t especially young. This is his age-25 season, and he’s in the midst of his third big-league season, and in his first season he wasn’t called up until early May. That’s pretty good, particularly for a pitcher, but it certainly isn’t remarkable. There are plenty of pitchers who have more than two full seasons under their belt by the time they get to their age-25 season.

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Nicholas Minnix Baseball Chat – 7/11/14

by Nicholas Minnix - 7/11/2014 - Comments (0)

8:39
Nicholas Minnix: What’s up, everybody? I’ll be with you at the top of the hour, looking forward to answering some questions.
9:01
Nicholas Minnix: Rock n roll
9:01
Comment From Sizzle
Not sure if you can answer during the chat, but here’s an interesting question: What’s the longest hitting streak during which the guy’s AVG was under .300?
9:01
Nicholas Minnix: You’re correct, haha, that’s something for Google or a greater power.
9:01
Comment From Matthew
I traded Votto for Lawrie. Talk me off the ledge that it wasn’t a bad deal. Not keeping either of them and have Rizzo/VMart.
9:02
Nicholas Minnix: Not bad at all. Could turn out to be a good deal, you’re in good shape at 1B already it seems.

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The AL East War Of Attrition

by Blake Murphy - 7/11/2014 - Comments (27)

They say all games are created equally, and that each outing in a long season is just one of 162 games. That’s certainly true, from a mathematical perspective – 90 wins is 90 wins, regardless of how a team gets there.

From a practical perspective, however, not all games are equal. While the primacy effect may make it seem like it’s the games late in the season, within a tight race, that “matter more,” the argument can be made that it’s the games earlier in the year that can shape a team’s endpoint the most. In particular, success in the games ahead of the July 31 trade deadline, when looked at together, is paramount.

The American League East is a great example of this. With five teams projected to perform similarly before the season, the spread in the division so far is perhaps wider than most anticipated, with 9.5 games separating first and last. The team quality evaluation hasn’t changed all that much, however, with each team projected to win between 35 and 37 games (.480-.521) the rest of the way. The teams who have performed well early are in the driver’s seat for a playoff push, even though they don’t necessarily project as better than the others the rest of the way.

This is important not just for building an edge within the division – it’s made three teams buyers and two teams sellers ahead of the deadline.

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NERD Game Scores for Friday, July 11, 2014

by Carson Cistulli - 7/11/2014 - Comments (2)

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by viscount of the internet Rob Neyer, and expanded at the request of nobody, NERD scores represent an attempt to summarize in one number (and on a scale of 0-10) the likely aesthetic appeal or watchability, for the learned fan, of a player or team or game. Read more about the components of and formulae for NERD scores here.

***

Most Highly Rated Game
Oakland at Seattle | 22:10 ET
Jeff Samardzija (115.0 IP, 86 xFIP-, 2.4 WAR) faces Felix Hernandez (136.1 IP, 62 xFIP-, 5.1 WAR). One notes, with regard to the latter, that his most recent start — over which he produced an 8:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 55% ground-ball rate — actually served to slightly increase (i.e. make worse) his park-adjusted xFIP. That’s likely the most economical way of indicating that Hernandez is in the midst of an excellent season. A less economical way would be to paint a large portrait of Hernandez astride a pile of corpses, each corpse representing a batter Hernandez had retired this season.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Seattle Radio.

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Prospect Watch: Polished Hurlers

by Nathaniel Stoltz - 7/11/2014 - Comments (12)

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.

In this installment, I’ll discuss three pitchers I’ve come across in A-ball who boast more polish than most at their level.

***
Adam Plutko, RHP, Cleveland Indians (Profile)
Level: High-A   Age: 23   Top-15: N/A   Top-100: N/A
Line: 41 IP, 41 H, 23 R, 31/9 K/BB, 4.83 ERA, 4.86 FIP

Summary
Plutko gained plenty of prospect helium with a dominant run at Low-A early in the season, but he’s found the going tougher after a promotion to the Carolina League.

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A (Re)Introduction to the FanGraphs Library

by NWein44 - 7/11/2014 - Comments (46)

Entering play on Thursday night, Kyle Seager owned a .274 batting average. Chris Johnson‘s average was a nearly identical .273. The two third basemen have played in a similar number of games and have come to the plate close to the same number of times. If you use batting average to evaluate these players’ seasons, you’d come to the conclusion that Seager and Johnson are essentially equivalent players this year.

They’re not. In fact, it’s very clear Seager is substantially better than Johnson. Let me rephrase that: It’s very clear Seager is better than Johnson — but only if you’re well-versed in the language of baseball statistics. If you know how to properly value walks, extra base power, baserunning and defense, the difference between Seager and Johnson is impossible to miss.

At FanGraphs, our writers use statistics and metrics like wOBA, wRC+, FIP and WAR to evaluate baseball players and teams. We provide those tools, and more, so others might conduct evaluations on their own. Want to know Miguel Cabrera‘s wOBA against lefties? You can find that on FanGraphs. But what if you don’t know what wOBA means, how it’s calculated or why you should care about it more than batting average?

You can find some of that information on FanGraphs. A well-motivated, self-starter could show up at the site, notice something called wOBA on the leaderboards, go to the glossary and figure out what it means and why it’s important. But it can be intimidating and challenging for people who are just starting out to make sense of everything we offer.

In an effort to make advanced statistics easier, and to understand and to better use the data and features available at FanGraphs, we’re relaunching and promoting the FanGraphs Library. There’s a lot of great information there already, but this revamped library is even better. There’s a steep learning curve, though, so I’ve been tasked with making things a bit simpler.

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Let's Imagine a Baseball-Playing LeBron James

by Jeff Sullivan - 7/10/2014 - Comments (146)

LeBron James is a basketball player. Let’s imagine a LeBron James equivalent as a baseball player.

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Brandon Belt, Making Adjustments

by Eno Sarris - 7/10/2014 - Comments (7)

Brandon Belt was once thought of primarily a pitcher, so the Giants’ first baseman knows a little bit about change. He’s been accused of walking too much, striking out too much, and now perhaps swinging too much. But he’s still found his way to just outside the top ten at a position with a high offensive bar.

The process hasn’t been easy, but past changes to his game, combined with his current mindset, can both give us hope that he’s got what it takes to continue improving, while also dishing us a dollop of despair — hitting seems hopelessly hard, a continual game of adjustments, even on the game level.

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Jorge de la Rosa and the Rockies Talent Evaluation Problem

by Dave Cameron - 7/10/2014 - Comments (57)

The Rockies 2014 season is essentially over. They stand 39-53, and our Playoff Odds model gives them a 0.1% chance of reaching the postseason. And that’s just a one-tenth-of-one-percent chance of getting to the Wild Card game, where they would be heavy underdogs and likely eliminated after Game 163. As Mike Petriello wrote earlier this week, the Rockies need to seriously think about changing course.

There are good arguments against trading Troy Tulowitzki, however. He’s a superstar signed to one of the most team-friendly contracts in baseball. They can rebuild around Tulo and build a winner while he’s still a productive player. He needs better teammates, but it’s generally easier to find new good role players than it is to develop another MVP-caliber shortstop and sign him to a long term extension for half of his market value.

But the key to building a winner around Troy Tulowitzki is to properly determine which players should be kept, and which players should be replaced. Given the recent rumors, it appears that the Rockies may not have figure that part out yet.

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The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

by Carson Cistulli - 7/10/2014 - Comments (33)

The Fringe Five is a weekly regular-season exercise, introduced last April by the present author, wherein that same ridiculous author utilizes regressed stats, scouting reports, and also his own heart to identify and/or continue monitoring the most compelling fringe prospects in all of baseball.

Central to the exercise, of course, is a definition of the word fringe, a term which possesses different connotations for different sorts of readers. For the purposes of the column this year, a fringe prospect (and therefore one eligible for inclusion in the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above both (a) absent from all of three notable preseason top-100 prospect lists* and also (b) not currently playing in the majors. Players appearing on the midseason prospect lists produced by those same notable sources or, otherwise, selected in the first round of the current season’s amateur draft will also be excluded from eligibility.

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Eno Sarris Baseball Chat -- 7/10/14

by Eno Sarris - 7/10/2014 - Comments (6)

11:40
Eno Sarris: will be here at noon ET, but enjoy some Drums
11:40
Radijo86:
12:00
Eno Sarris: Hey Ho Let’s Go
12:00
Comment From JAL
Eno, good day. Do I throw Hudson out there today? Thanks.
12:00
Eno Sarris: Yes I trust him, and this offense can be pitched to.
12:00
Comment From Fister? I hardly know her!
Do you think Junior Lake ever figures things out? The guy has great physical tools, but no plate discipline.

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How Much Better Does "The Trade" Make the A's?

by Blengino - 7/10/2014 - Comments (96)

There is something to be said for getting the jump on the trading deadline. You get an opportunity to set the market, rather than react to it. Making a big move for pitching in advance of the trading deadline has other, salient benefits, such as the ability to get an extra start or two from your newly acquired arm(s) as you restructure your rotation going into, and out of the All Star break. This rings especially true to me personally, having been with the Brewers the year of the C.C. Sabathia trade, when we wound up needing almost every exceptional start and inning he gave us.

The A’s jumped the gun on this year’s deadline, getting not one, but two of the premier available arms, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, albeit for a hefty price. The A’s are obviously playing for now – so how much better does this deal make the A’s in the short term, and does it materially increase their chances of finally bringing home some hardware this fall?

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NERD Game Scores: Day of Bullpen Planned in Seattle

by Carson Cistulli - 7/10/2014 - Comments (6)

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by viscount of the internet Rob Neyer, and expanded at the request of nobody, NERD scores represent an attempt to summarize in one number (and on a scale of 0-10) the likely aesthetic appeal or watchability, for the learned fan, of a player or team or game. Read more about the components of and formulae for NERD scores here.

***

Most Highly Rated Game
Minnesota at Seattle | 22:10 ET
Yohan Pino (21.2 IP, 105 xFIP-, 0.6 WAR) faces Tom Wilhelmsen (47.0 IP, 96 xFIP-, 0.1 WAR). Following the decision to move Felix Hernandez‘s next start back to Friday and, simultaneously, to demote right-hander Taijuan Walker to Triple-A Tacoma, Seattle has decided to use only relief pitchers against Minnesota today. A half-hearted inspection of the internet reveals that the White Sox attempted a nearly similar thing on April 30th of this year (although Hector Noesi, who’d made only relief appearances until that point, has gone on to record only starts since then). Otherwise, the most recent example of such a strategy appears to be that instance last September 1st when Jamey Wright started for Tampa Bay — a game, however, which will have been played just after late-season roster expansion.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Seattle Radio.

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Prospect Watch: New Cubs Hitters

by JD Sussman - 7/10/2014 - Comments (20)

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.

***
Billy McKinney, OF, Chicago Cubs (Profile)
Level: High-A   Age: 19.10   Top-15: 3rd (OAK) Top-100: N/A
Line:  333 PA,  17.4 K%, 10.3 BB%, .241/.330/.400 (wRC+ 93)

Summary
The less heralded of the hitters the Cubs’ received in the Jeff Samardzija, McKinney was a 2013 first round selection who profiles as a corner outfielder.

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WAR: Batters
Mike Trout5.4
Troy Tulowitzki5.3
Alex Gordon4.5
Andrew McCutchen4.2
Carlos Gomez4.0
WAR: Pitchers
Felix Hernandez5.3
Jon Lester4.2
Clayton Kershaw3.6
Yu Darvish3.5
Phil Hughes3.5
WPA: Batters
Mike Trout4.97
Giancarlo Stanton4.30
Casey McGehee3.78
Andrew McCutchen3.67
Hunter Pence3.44
WPA: SP
Adam Wainwright3.51
Felix Hernandez2.80
Garrett Richards2.62
Chris Sale2.57
Clayton Kershaw2.49
WPA: RP
Huston Street2.83
Dellin Betances2.57
Jake McGee2.56
Cody Allen2.26
Joaquin Benoit2.21
Fastball (mph): SP
Yordano Ventura96.8
Carlos Martinez96.4
Garrett Richards96.2
Nathan Eovaldi95.7
Gerrit Cole95.6