Eric Hosmer versus Javier Lopez

The eleven-pitch plate appearance with two outs in the sixth inning Friday night ended with the deciding run for the Royals, and so it was a work of beauty for those supporting the team in blue. But in practice, it was a workmanlike effort and a mistake that finally ended the battle between Eric Hosmer and Javier Lopez.

HosmerATBAT

The first pitch was a mistake from Lopez. High in the zone is something that he’s mostly gone away from since his career renaissance. Look at his heat maps from early in his career and his heat maps from the last three years, when he said that he needed to concentrate on “being able to work down in the zone.”

LopezearlyLopez14

But Hosmer only swung at about a quarter of the first pitches he saw this year, just barely less than league average, and so Lopez stole a strike.

The second pitch was a nastier pitch, on the outside corner, low and away, from an arm slot that should give Hosmer fits. Hosmer, after the game said that he was just looking to “stay the other way and put the ball in play.” The first foul went straight down.

The third pitch was probably supposed to finish off Hosmer one-two-three. A 71 mile per hour breaking pitch that just caught the bottom of the zone… against a guy that has slowly seen more slow curve balls and had his worst year against them this year. But Hosmer managed another foul ball. Hosmer said he was just trying to “shorten up.” The second foul ball went down the first base line.

The fourth pitch was probably another mistake. A bit of a hanging slider in the middle of the zone, Hosmer still didn’t quite square it up, but it looked close. Another foul ball, this time straight back.

Pitch five was more than a foot outside, relatively easy to lay off of.

Pitch six found the outside corner, but Hosmer was ready for it and again fouled off the pitch, this time down the third-base line. At this point, he felt that he had “fought off some good pitches” and that “the more balls you see off a guy, it really does lock you in there.” Normally it’s because you walk, but outcomes (and slugging percentage) do usually get better as the at-bat lengthens.

Pitch seven was a fastball in the dirt. Hosmer laid off. Despite having one of his worst years with respect to reaching, he was able to identify that pitch as in the dirt early enough to avoid swinging.

Pitch eight was a slider low. This time, Hosmer swung and was lucky to foul the ball off. Early on the pitch, though, he fouled towards his own dugout on the first base side.

Lopez walked off the mound and sighed often. Pitch nine was a slider, six inches off the outside corner. But Lopez hadn’t once ventured to the inner half of the plate, and so now Hosmer could hang off the outside corner. You could see from the earlier foul that he was ready to go the other way. He reached the ball and fouled it off. Straight down.

Pitch ten was a fastball, in about the same location as pitch nine. Hosmer didn’t swing.

Pitch eleven was probably a mistake. A fastball, a couple inches off the bottom of the zone, and an inch in from the corner, with Hosmer looking in that direction, and “just trying to put the ball in play,” that was probably meant to be a little further outside. But by early results on command f/x, it seems that pitchers probably miss their spots by 13.8 inches on average.

And so, Hosmer, who was hoping to put his hands “in the load position as early as possible” and go the other way, put this swing on the ball.

HosmerSingle

Looks a little different from the swing he used to homer in the ALDS.

Javier Lopez made some mistakes. Throw eleven pitches to one batter, and you’re likely to make a mistake or two or three. But Eric Hosmer tailored his approach and his swing to best take advantage of that mistake, and deserves all the credit for his (game-winning?) run-producing single in Game Three of the World Series Friday night.


FanGraphs Audio: Kiley McDaniel, Live from Baseball

Episode 498
Kiley McDaniel is both (a) the lead prospect writer for FanGraphs and also (b) the guest on this particular edition of FanGraphs Audio — during which edition he reports directly from Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, FL, where a showcase of the nation’s top high-school talent is presently underway.

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 45 min play time.)

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Play

2014 World Series Game Three Live Blog

7:54
Brad Johnson: I have official enlivened this thing, so you may offer comments for me to ignore. David Temple will supposedly join us this evening.
7:54
Brad Johnson: The anthem seems like a swell time to wander off to find a beer. Cheers.
7:55
Jeff Zimmerman: And I have decided to join with a completely biased opinion on who should win the game.
7:57
Brad Johnson: Well this wasn’t apparent on the broadcast – https://twitter.com/Dwade/s…
7:57
David G Temple: Oh, hello.
7:59
Comment From Sgt. Pepper
Worlds biggest pair of pants

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Contract Crowdsourcing 2014-15: Day 10 of 10 (Bonus Round)

Free agency begins five days after the end of the World Series. As in other recent offseasons, FanGraphs is once again facilitating this offseason a contract-crowdsourcing project, the idea being to harness the wisdom of the crowds to the end of better understanding the 2014-15 free-agent market.

Below are links to ballots for four players omitted from the previous ten days’ worth of these posts.

Other Players: Nori Aoki / Brett Anderson / Chad Billingsley / Emilio Bonifacio / A.J. Burnett / Billy Butler / Asdrubal Cabrera / Melky Cabrera / Nelson Cruz / Michael Cuddyer / Gavin Floyd / Jason Hammel / Aaron Harang / Chase Headley / Torii Hunter / Hiroki Kuroda / Adam LaRoche / Jon Lester / Francisco Liriano / Jed Lowrie / Nick Markakis / Russell Martin / Victor Martinez / Justin Masterson / Brandon McCarthy / Andrew Miller / Kendrys Morales / Brandon Morrow / Michael Morse / Jake Peavy / Aramis Ramirez / Hanley Ramirez / Colby Rasmus / Mark Reynolds / Alex Rios / David Robertson / Francisco Rodriguez / Sergio Romo / Pablo Sandoval / Ervin Santana / Max Scherzer / James Shields / Ichiro Suzuki / Koji Uehara / Ryan Vogelsong / Edinson Volquez / Chris Young (OF) / Chris Young (SP) / Delmon Young.

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Mike Moustakas: One-Game Threat

With the World Series shifting to San Francisco for Game 3, the Royals have made some changes to their lineup. They’re not starting anybody as the designated hitter, because that would be against the rules. Ned Yost has elected to start Jarrod Dyson over Nori Aoki, which seems like the right thing to do. And Mike Moustakas has been bumped up to the fifth spot, with Alex Gordon soaring to second. It’s about as good a lineup as the Royals could have, under the circumstances, although there are two lefties back-to-back.

I’m not going to sit here and give you a prediction. However, there is one thing that might very slightly change the odds. You’ve seen broadcasts talk about x-factors before? Normally, they’re meaningless. Hell, maybe this one’s meaningless. But for this game, for this particular game, Moustakas should be one of the Royals’ best hitters. However small an advantage that presents, Moustakas has a couple of platoon factors working to his benefit.

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FG on Fox: The Royals Should Deploy the Ultimate Outfield

The Royals find themselves in an interesting situation. They’re in the World Series! Wow! And within that, with the series shifting now to San Francisco, the Royals are in an interesting sub-situation. Alex Gordon ought to start in the outfield, obviously. Lorenzo Cain ought to start in the outfield, obviously, as well. But then you’ve got Norichika Aoki and Jarrod Dyson. Aoki has been the starter in right field for a while, but now with the rules changing for three games, it’s time for Ned Yost to also make a change and keep Aoki on the bench at the beginning. Kansas City should go with the ultimate outfield.

This isn’t just a hypothetical suggestion, by the way. The matter is on Yost’s mind. Sometime Friday, he’ll make his call, and while it’s generally safest to bet on continuity, Yost’s been nothing if not unpredictable these last few weeks.

The ultimate outfield looks like this:

LF: Gordon
CF: Dyson
RF: Cain

Cain, defensively, is outstandingly good. So it tells you something that Yost likes to have Dyson in center field, with Cain shifting to right. Actually, it tells you a couple of things: Dyson, also, is outstandingly good, and Cain might well be more comfortable in a corner. Anyhow, the difference between the ultimate outfield and the ordinary outfield is that Dyson subs in for Aoki, and swaps places with Cain. The ultimate outfield is weaker at the plate, but is just stupid good not at the plate.

Dyson bats left-handed. Aoki also bats left-handed. There’s a strong argument to be made that the Royals should use the ultimate outfield against all right-handed pitchers. But that obviously wasn’t going to happen with the Royals playing by American League rules. Now, the National League rules change things up somewhat. They should provide enough incentive to pencil Dyson into the starting lineup.

Read the rest on Just A Bit Outside.


Buster Posey’s Baserunning Blues

Buster Posey hasn’t been quite himself this postseason. Through Wednesday’s game in Kansas City, he’s batted .288/.333/.288, which isn’t terrible but has included an un-Poseyish power outage. His batting line was better during the NLDS against Washington, which is ironic because most of the failures I’m about to talk about took place during that series.

My topic isn’t how Posey’s been getting on base. It’s what he’s been doing after getting on base: specifically, getting thrown out on the bases. During the four-game NLDS, Buster Posey got himself cut down four times. After a clean NLCS, he added an out at home in Game One of the World Series to push his postseason total this year to five.

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A Collection of Public Quotes About Joe Maddon

When Andrew Friedman was hired to take over as the Dodgers President of Baseball Operations, speculation immediately began that he might try and bring Joe Maddon with him to take over as manager. Both sides immediately tried to squash those rumors with strong public denials, a selection of which appear below.

Andrew Friedman:

“I have a tremendous personal relationship with Joe. He’s a very good friend of mine and have a really good professional relationship as well,” Friedman said after his introductory news conference in Los Angeles. “That being said, Joe is now working with Matt Silverman and the baseball operation people (with the Rays), and I’m excited about working with Donnie.

“I’m going into it with the mind-set we’re going to work together for a long time. I had one manager in the 10 years I’ve been doing this and am looking forward to working with Donnie for a long time.”

Joe Maddon:

“I’m a Ray, I’ve said it all along, I want to continue to be one,” Maddon said. “‘I still believe … it’s the best place in all of baseball to work…

Andrew Friedman, when asked whether Don Mattingly will manage the Dodgers in 2015:

“Definitely.”

And then today, we get this:

Things happen. I have no problem believing that everyone was being honest a week ago, and fully expected Maddon to sign an extension to stay with the Rays. Clearly, though, something changed, and now Maddon is a free agent. And if he’s not managing the Dodgers on Opening Day, it will be a pretty big upset.


Kiley McDaniel Prospects Chat – 10/24/14

12:08
Kiley McDaniel: So I spent four days watching July 2 guys and now I’m in Jupiter watching the huge high school prospect tournament. Got a break between games and some WiFi courtesy of Perfect Game, so bring the questions, people.
12:09
Comment From Guest
Hi Kiley, thanks for the chat.
12:09
Kiley McDaniel: You forgot to say you’ll hang up and listen
12:09
Comment From Big Pete
Provide content already!
12:10
Kiley McDaniel: Gimme a minute!
12:10
Comment From RotoLando
Hello, and thanks for the Friday chat! Who is your favorite hitting prospect and your favoirte pitching prospect?

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The Giants and the Left Field Decision

The World Series is headed to San Francisco, which means Bruce Bochy has a decision to make. The games in Kansas City allowed him to start Michael Morse at DH, getting another power hitter into the line-up without forcing Morse to run around the outfield, but under NL rules, Morse will either have to play left field or come off the bench as a pinch-hitter. Morse is a terrible defender when healthy, and it’s not clear that he’s recovered enough from his oblique strain to live up to even his own low standards with the glove, but then again, the competition is converted first baseman Travis Ishikawa, who isn’t exactly a defensive standout himself.

If you’re going to have a defensively challenged left fielder, might as well pick the one with the better bat, right? Well, I’m not sure that those should really be the two choices being debated here. I’d like to suggest that maybe the best option isn’t either Ishikawa or Morse; instead, maybe the Giants best chance to win would come from starting Juan Perez.

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Contract Crowdsourcing 2014-15: Day 10 of 10

Free agency begins five days after the end of the World Series. As in other recent offseasons, FanGraphs is once again facilitating this offseason a contract-crowdsourcing project, the idea being to harness the wisdom of the crowds to the end of better understanding the 2014-15 free-agent market.

Below are links to ballots for the a collection of five relief pitchers.

Other Players: Nori Aoki / Brett Anderson / Chad Billingsley / Emilio Bonifacio / A.J. Burnett / Billy Butler / Asdrubal Cabrera / Melky Cabrera / Nelson Cruz / Michael Cuddyer / Gavin Floyd / Jason Hammel / Aaron Harang / Chase Headley / Torii Hunter / Hiroki Kuroda / Adam LaRoche / Jon Lester / Francisco Liriano / Jed Lowrie / Nick Markakis / Russell Martin / Victor Martinez / Justin Masterson / Brandon McCarthy / Kendrys Morales / Brandon Morrow / Michael Morse / Jake Peavy / Aramis Ramirez / Hanley Ramirez / Colby Rasmus / Mark Reynolds / Alex Rios / Pablo Sandoval / Ervin Santana / Max Scherzer / James Shields / Ichiro Suzuki / Ryan Vogelsong / Edinson Volquez / Chris Young (OF) / Chris Young (SP) / Delmon Young.

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The 2014 American League Gold Glove Awards, Strictly by the Numbers

The finalists for the 2014 Rawlings’ Gold Glove Awards were announced on Thursday afternoon, and if you’re here on the internet with me, you know how much people hate the Gold Glove Awards.

Part of that is for good reason. For a long time, the Gold Glove Awards were pretty much a joke. Rafael Palmeiro has three. Derek Jeter has five. There have also been tons of worthy defenders to earn Gold Gloves, but throughout history it’s seemed to be more of an award that valued good hitters who weren’t terrible at defense, rather than the game’s best actual defenders.

But! Things appear to be getting better. Last season, the MLB introduced a “sabermetric component” to the decision making process. Advanced defensive metrics are still a hotly debated topic, but I think we can mostly agree that they do a better job than the “errors and the eye test” method that has been used for decades. There were still some questionable choices last year, sure, there are questionable choices this year and there will continue to be questionable choices in the future, because awards are subjective and people are never going to see eye-to-eye.

I think the eye test has its merits, but since this is FanGraphs, let’s imagine a world where the Gold Glove Awards are decided strictly by the numbers. I did a similar post last year when I was still a wee Community Blog writer, and I’m going to use a similar method this year.
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Two Jake Peavys

Two different guys named Jake Peavy pitched in the Major Leagues in 2014. One made 20 lacklustre starts for the Boston Red Sox. He was hit hard and hit often and, strangely a little wild. His walk rate brushed up against 10%, higher walk rate than at any point since his first full season in the big leagues.

Another guy named Jake Peavy made a dozen starts for the San Francisco Giants. Starts that were worth about 2 WAR, a nice bump given their playoff race context. He was miserly in his distribution of both home runs and walks – dropping his BB% below 5% and coughing up just three home runs in a Giants uniform. He was very good and was quickly identified as the second best starting pitcher on a playoff team.

The Giants would not be in the World Series without that Jake Peavy. He gave the Giants options (moving Tim Lincecum to the bullpen, an act of mercy for all involved) and now they’re here, competing for their third title in five years. Somebody in San Francisco saw something in Peavy that, with a little fine tuning, could help the Giants win the World Series.

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Scott Feldman on Scuffed Balls, Lopsided Balls, and Pitching Up

Scott Feldman knows a lot about pitching — the 31-year-old Houston Astros righthander just completed his tenth big-league season – which means he knows a lot about baseballs. When he gets a new one on the mound, Feldman immediately recognizes its specific shape and texture. Not every baseball feels exactly the same.

Feldman is likewise familiar with the fine line between success and failure. He’s never been a power pitcher, which means he needs to constantly look for an edge, be it physical or mental. He found several in the second half of the 2014 season, logging a 3.16 ERA over 13 starts.

Feldman addressed nuances of the horsehide sphere – and gave the lowdown on pitching high to Mike Trout – during a late-August visit to Fenway Park.

——

Feldman on scuffed balls: “In my opinion, not as many pitchers know how to use a scuffed ball as you might think. When I was a rookie, there were some older guys in the bullpen and I’m sure they all knew how to scuff the ball – how to use it properly – but now it’s probably kind of a lost art. I could get better at it if I hung out with Doug Brocail for a couple hours, but for the most part I get the basic gist. Read the rest of this entry »


Let’s Now Be Critical of a Single Pitch Selection

The only pitch that should literally never be thrown is a pitch aimed at a hitter’s head.

Anything else, totally fine. You don’t read MGL over the years without learning some things about game theory. Game theory explains that, optimally, you need to be unpredictable. You should bunt just often enough so that your opponent doesn’t know if you’re going to bunt. You should pitch out just often enough so that your opponent doesn’t know if you’re going to pitch out. And you should mix your pitches just enough so that your opponent doesn’t know what pitch will be on the way. It’s simple, if oversimplified: don’t tip your hand. It does your side a disservice.

Game theory is fascinating, and at the same time analytically limiting. When you get to talking about pitch sequences, any pitch, in isolation, is justifiable. Any pitch should/could be thrown more than zero percent of the time. Let’s say there’s a hypothetical that calls for, I don’t know, 60% fastballs in, 39% changeups away, and 1% hanging sliders. That describes no real situation, but anyway. If you see the pitcher throw a fastball, okay, yeah, that should happen sometimes. If he throws a changeup away, same deal. And if he throws a slider down the middle? It seems like a mistake, but every so often it does make sense to do that on purpose, in theory, because otherwise the hitter could just rule the pitch totally out. When a pitch gets totally ruled out, it slightly tips the balance. Part of being unpredictable is the willingness to sometimes do things that don’t seem so good. Surprising mistakes can be surprising successes.

Because of game theory, it’s almost impossible to reasonably criticize any given pitch or pitch sequence. A pitch comes with an n of 1, and stripped from context, you don’t know how many times that pitch would’ve been thrown in the same situation. Taking one pitch and only one pitch, you almost always have to conclude that, maybe it was fine. There’s no such thing as a pitch that absolutely should never be thrown, aside from the one noted at the beginning. This is frustrating, but sometimes sensibility frustrates. So the world can be.

And yet. I think this is against my better judgment, but there’s a pitch I want to criticize. It happened in Wednesday’s Game 2, and it was thrown by Hunter Strickland to Salvador Perez. I can’t declare absolutely that the pitch was a terrible idea, because of all the reasons, but this is about as close as I can get to believing that a pitch shouldn’t have been called. Perez, against Strickland, broke the game open. He did so against a pitch I think he knew damn well was coming.

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A Statistical Report for All the Caribbean Leagues at Once

For much the same reason that he published a statistical report yesterday for the Arizona Fall League, the author is publishing here a combined statistical report for the various Caribbean winter leagues that have started play — again, not necessarily because such reports are of great utility for evaluating players, but because they provide a means by which to participate in those leagues which doesn’t also require a substantial investment in transportation and lodging.

In this case, what the author has done is to identify the regressed hitting and pitching leaders in the Dominican Winter, Mexican Pacific, and Venezuelan Leagues separately*. What he’s then done is to combine the hitting and pitching leaders of those leagues into a pair of top-10 lists, which one can find below. Note: all ages are as of July 1, 2014.

*The fourth major Caribbean league, the Puerto Rican League, doesn’t commence until October 30th.

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Contract Crowdsourcing 2014-15: Day 9 of 10

Free agency begins five days after the end of the World Series. As in other recent offseasons, FanGraphs is once again facilitating this offseason a contract-crowdsourcing project, the idea being to harness the wisdom of the crowds to the end of better understanding the 2014-15 free-agent market.

Below are links to ballots for the last four starting pitchers we’ll be considering.

Other Players: Nori Aoki / Brett Anderson / Chad Billingsley / Emilio Bonifacio / A.J. Burnett / Billy Butler / Asdrubal Cabrera / Melky Cabrera / Nelson Cruz / Michael Cuddyer / Gavin Floyd / Jason Hammel / Aaron Harang / Chase Headley / Torii Hunter / Hiroki Kuroda / Adam LaRoche / Jon Lester / Francisco Liriano / Jed Lowrie / Nick Markakis / Russell Martin / Victor Martinez / Justin Masterson / Brandon McCarthy / Kendrys Morales / Brandon Morrow / Michael Morse / Jake Peavy / Aramis Ramirez / Hanley Ramirez / Colby Rasmus / Mark Reynolds / Alex Rios / Pablo Sandoval / Ervin Santana / Max Scherzer / Ichiro Suzuki / Chris Young (OF)/ Delmon Young.

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Grading the Home Runs Against Hunter Strickland

Harold Reynolds on Wednesday, a few pitches into Hunter Strickland‘s appearance:

I think they figured out the problems with Strickland. He struggled against the Nationals and actually a little bit against the Cardinals, but, my goodness, against the right-handed hitters, we saw last night and these first two pitches, very impressive.

Harold Reynolds, a few minutes later:

[different words]

We don’t have enough information to say that Hunter Strickland is homer-prone. We do have enough information to say that Strickland has been homer-prone. With the Giants in the season, he faced 25 batters, and none of them went deep. With the Giants in the playoffs, he’s faced 23 batters, and five of them have gone deep. Or four of them have, Bryce Harper doing it twice. Before this month began, you didn’t know who Hunter Strickland was. Now you’ve got all kinds of opinions, few of them nice. It’s going to take a while for Strickland to repair this reputation. A while, or, one high-leverage World Series inning, if it’s clean. Fans have short long memories.

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Eno Sarris Baseball Chat — 10/23/14

11:58
Eno Sarris: Guess we’re going to do this in real time!
11:59
TVOnTheRadioVEVO:
12:01
Comment From john
dammint eno, i have been working so much this past few weeks i cant enjoy your chats! i just wanted to say hi before i have to go back to work… and do these chats continue after the WS?
12:01
Eno Sarris: I’ll do some chatting! From the winter meetings, and regularly on Thursday, as long as people show up.
12:02
Comment From Terrible Ted
Good, I hate fake time.

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One Enduring Reason Why The Royals Are Still Playing

Much has been made of the supposed mediocrity of the two teams currently battling for the World Series championship. Not only are the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals both wild card teams, they’re the first pair of Fall Classic combatants to both win fewer than 90 games in the regular season. That said, there are a number of reasons why these clubs are worthy title competitors. The core of this Giants team, after all, has won two of the past four titles. The Royals, while a very poor offensive club by postseason standards, are clearly a strong run-prevention unit — riding defense and speed and a stellar bullpen into October. Very quietly, though, there is something else that truly stands about this Royals team: the durability of their core nine position players whose names are written into the lineup almost every day. Read the rest of this entry »