The Best of FanGraphs: February 8-12, 2016

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, orange for TechGraphs and blue for Community Research.
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68-Win A’s Get Khris Davis From 68-Win Brewers

With so much analysis and similar thinking taking over the game, it’s easy to imagine a reality where, down the road, every player in every organization is assigned a number that reflects his total value, and trades are made based on nothing more than balancing value numbers until they match. Even if that’s an exaggeration, you can see how things could come to feel that way, like trades are just the results of equations being run. In this hypothetical future, we’d see trades a lot like the one that’s just gone down between the A’s and the Brewers. Needs have been met on both sides. Everything makes very obvious sense.

I know the A’s and Brewers just finished with the same record, but the A’s don’t do the whole rebuilding thing, while the Brewers are in deep. Oakland wanted to add power from the right side and they were seeking help in the outfield, so that’s where Khris Davis fits. From Milwaukee’s side, if anything they had too many outfielders, and they didn’t have any catching depth behind Jonathan Lucroy, so that’s where Jacob Nottingham fits. Lucroy’s basically a goner anyhow, and Nottingham might not be that far away. And Bowdien Derby, known as Bubba? Live arm. Lottery ticket. More talent for the system. The A’s win the trade for the certainty; the Brewers win the trade for the upside. The A’s wanted certainty. The Brewers wanted upside.

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Selecting Baseball Teams for the Presidential Candidates

If you have been exposed to media anytime between January 2015 and today, you’re likely aware there is a presidential race at hand. Those are exciting enough on their own (the whole “future of the country” thing), but this version seems to contain excessive amounts of chaos. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton, who everyone knew would waltz to the nomination with ease, is once again up against a grassroots insurgence from the left. On the Republican side, the clear frontrunner since they started talking about this stuff six years ago, Jeb “!” Bush, just finished fourth in the New Hampshire primary. Like the rest of the GOP field, he’s getting crushed by businessman and former reality TV star Donald Trump. You can’t make this stuff up, though it might be nice if someone had.

All this craziness isn’t unlike the 2016 baseball season. The teams are about to report to spring training and the predictions are all over the place. Coming off a World Series win, forget repeating, the Royals aren’t projected for a winning season by many (including us). The big-money teams are coming off of varying degrees of failure and have conducted themselves this offseason not unlike a fish flopping about in a boat. The National League, despite a clearer caste system in place of haves and have-nots, might be even worse. The Dodgers look like favorites in the West, but the Giants could be fantastic, and if you’re buying what the Diamondbacks are selling then… okay! Then there’s the Nationals and Mets in the East, and the Cubs, Pirates, and Cardinals in the Central. Good luck figuring all that out.

The thing is, we are trying to figure all that out. We’ve got projections and odds for the baseball teams, and there are sites that are doing projections and odds for the presidential candidates. A couple days ago at the Sporting News, Jesse Spector wrote a piece assigning Simpsons pictures to baseball teams. I figured I owe it to the internet, nay the country, to write a piece in assigning baseball teams to their corresponding presidential candidates. So I am writing that piece. And you are reading it. And I’m sorry.

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$500 Million For Bryce Harper Might Still Be a Bargain

Bryce Harper won’t be a free agent for three more years, but that hasn’t stopped people from writing about his next contract. Over the last few months, David Schoenfeld and Jeff Passan have discussed his eventual price tag recently, and Harper himself vaguely addressed the topic in a radio interview yesterday:

Harper was asked during an interview with 106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier whether he has thought about the possible magnitude of his next contract.

“I was talking to an executive this offseason,” Paulsen said. “At one point in time they said you could be the first $400 million player. Do you ever think about your future and what’s possible, in terms of you could break records for the money you make at one point in time?”

“Yeah, I mean I don’t really think about that stuff. I just try to play the years out and do everything I can to help my team win,” Harper said. “But don’t sell me short. That’s what you’re doing right now to me, so don’t do that.”

The idea that $400 million is selling Harper might seem ridiculous, but he’s right; as long as he continues to perform near expectations, the winning bid should be substantially higher than that.

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2015 Positional Ball-In-Play Retrospective – 1B/DH

Football is behind us, and large trucks are on their way to Florida and Arizona, bearing loads of baseball-related cargo. To tide us over until spring-training games kick in next month, let’s take a position-by-position look back at the ball-in-play (BIP) profiles of 2015 semi-regulars and regulars to see if we can find any clues as to their projected performance moving forward. Today, we’ll take a look at first basemen and designated hitters.

First, some ground rules. To come up with an overall player population roughly equal to one player per team per position, the minimum number of batted balls with Statcast readings was set at 164. Players were listed at the position at which they played the most games. There is more than one player per team at some positions and less at others, like catcher and DH. Players are listed in descending OPS+ order. Without further ado, let’s kick it off with AL first basemen.

BIP Overview – AL First Basemen
Name Avg MPH FB/LD MPH GB MPH POP% FLY% LD% GB% CON K% BB% OPS+ Pull% Cent% Opp%
Cabrera 93.8 96.9 91.7 1.1% 31.6% 25.2% 42.1% 163 16.0% 15.1% 170 35.8% 30.7% 33.5%
Davis 92.2 97.1 86.4 1.7% 41.8% 24.7% 31.8% 213 31.0% 12.5% 146 56.0% 26.5% 17.6%
Teixeira 89.9 93.9 86.1 3.8% 38.5% 18.9% 38.8% 134 18.4% 12.8% 146 55.5% 28.9% 15.7%
Colabello 91.1 94.8 88.0 2.5% 24.4% 25.2% 47.9% 193 26.7% 6.1% 142 34.5% 39.1% 26.5%
Abreu 92.0 94.1 90.5 3.4% 28.7% 20.7% 47.3% 146 21.0% 5.8% 135 37.6% 35.9% 26.6%
Hosmer 90.6 94.4 88.6 2.5% 21.9% 23.4% 52.2% 119 16.2% 9.1% 122 36.8% 34.6% 28.7%
Pujols 92.0 93.5 90.8 4.1% 38.1% 15.9% 41.8% 90 10.9% 7.6% 118 45.8% 34.9% 19.3%
Moreland 92.1 96.6 87.9 3.8% 30.8% 19.8% 45.6% 134 21.7% 6.2% 116 44.8% 32.7% 22.5%
Cron 88.8 93.5 84.9 6.7% 30.4% 18.4% 44.5% 110 20.3% 4.2% 106 33.8% 38.8% 27.4%
Gonzalez 89.2 93.7 85.5 4.9% 28.1% 22.7% 44.3% 114 20.0% 4.3% 106 49.1% 34.3% 16.6%
Santana 90.8 93.5 90.1 7.0% 30.1% 18.3% 44.5% 88 18.3% 16.2% 103 53.4% 28.6% 18.0%
Canha 90.4 93.4 88.6 5.7% 34.5% 17.8% 42.0% 104 19.8% 6.8% 102 42.8% 34.5% 22.7%
Carter 92.6 97.3 84.4 4.5% 47.3% 18.4% 29.8% 131 32.8% 12.4% 100 39.6% 36.3% 24.1%
Mauer 89.5 93.8 87.1 0.8% 19.4% 24.1% 55.7% 90 16.8% 10.1% 96 30.5% 37.5% 32.1%
Napoli 89.8 94.6 84.6 4.8% 37.3% 15.5% 42.4% 108 25.2% 12.2% 96 39.3% 35.9% 24.8%
Morrison 91.1 92.6 90.8 4.0% 35.0% 16.3% 44.7% 75 15.9% 9.2% 92 41.7% 34.3% 24.0%
Loney 85.9 87.0 86.2 2.1% 30.9% 24.2% 42.7% 73 8.8% 5.9% 90 38.2% 33.6% 28.2%
AVG 90.7 94.2 87.8 3.7% 32.3% 20.6% 43.4% 123 20.0% 9.2% 117 42.1% 33.9% 24.0%

Most of the column headers are self explanatory, including average BIP speed (overall and by BIP type), BIP type frequency, K and BB rates, and BIP by field sector (pull, central, opposite). Each players’ OPS and Unadjusted Contact Score (CON) is also listed. For those of you who have not read my articles on the topic, Contact Score is derived by removing Ks and BBs from hitters’ batting lines, assigning run values to all other events, and comparing them to a league average of 100.

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The Historically Lousy Clutch Hitting of the 2015 Reds

Most of the discussions surrounding the Cincinnati Reds during the past calendar year has centered around what to do with an aging core of players that are careening toward free agency on a club with little chance of competing. That’s the right type of conversation to have in the Reds’ situation – a situation in which Joey Votto had a historically great season on a last place team. We’ve known for a while what the Reds should do, and they’ve already started the rebuild by trading Aroldis Chapman and Todd Frazier. There is unquestionably more to be done, and more that will be done. There’s another interesting angle to their 2015 season, however, and it’s an issue that turned a season that was expected to be not-so-great into the second-worst record in baseball: the issue of clutch hitting.

“Clutch” — as we are discussing it today — is the measure of how well a player or team performs in high leverage situations vs. context-neutral situations. I implore the interested reader to examine the full rundown on our glossary page, but what we’re really talking about is the importance of the situations in which players produce or don’t produce. There has been some evidence that a “clutch skill” might exist – that some players are simply better in certain situations than others – but there is usually a lot of variability for players from year-to-year, and any true skill is likely to have a small impact.

Take, for example, Josh Reddick: he had a Clutch rating of -3.89 in 2012, the worst since Bob Bailor in 1984 (-3.84). That means he was responsible for “losing” his team almost four games due to his performance in high leverage situations. The next year (2013), Reddick had a Clutch rating of just -0.18, or right about average. Poor fortune, bad timing – these things happen, and sometimes they happen an extreme number of times in the same year. Because of this, Clutch isn’t really predictive, and is much better utilized as an indicator of what has already happened.

That brings us to the Reds, and measuring team-wide Clutch statistics. There are two versions of Clutch for teams: pitching Clutch and batting Clutch. The Reds were actually above average when it came to pitching Clutch, sitting just below the middle of the pack with a 1.16 rating. For comparison, the Oakland A’s were the worst Clutch pitching team in 2015 at -6.05; this is one of the reasons why they were so terrible in one-run games, and it’s the main reason why they were the biggest underperformer in recent BaseRuns history.

However, on the other side of the ball, the Reds were historically terrible in Clutch situations. How terrible? Let’s just cut straight to the chase — here are the 15 worst Clutch hitting teams since 1974 (the first year we have Clutch data available):

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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 2/12/16

Jeff Sullivan: Hello friends

Jeff Sullivan: Welcome to the last Friday baseball chat before spring training?

BossMan: Mark Teixeira HOFer?

Jeff Sullivan: Can’t see it. He’d need to have an amazing back half of his 30s to even have a chance

Lee: Expectations for Blake Swihart?

Jeff Sullivan: Below-average offense overall, but not by too much, and the Red Sox in general will be satisfied with their catcher position

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Baseball’s Most Improved Defender, by the Numbers and Eyes

It might be the biggest debate in baseball, statistically speaking. We’re well past RBI and pitcher wins, by now. WAR is a big debate, but not so much because of the offensive statistics, or the baserunning figures. WAR is debated largely due to the thing I had in mind when I wrote that first sentence, the one about the biggest debate in baseball, statistically speaking: defense.

There’s still a strong “eye test” contingent. Folks who believe you just can’t put a number on defense. On the other side, there’s a staunch numbers crowd. The crowd that argues, well, you can’t see every play from every defender, and you also can’t ignore or probably even be aware of your own internal biases; I’ll stick with the numbers. Where it gets real tricky is that, even within the numbers-oriented crowd, there’s some skepticism of those very numbers. There’s some concerns with the methodology. Defensive shifts make things extra tough.

So for the most part, we shrug our shoulders and accept that, for as far as these things have come over the years, we’ve still got to do some leg work. If we really want to gain an idea of a player’s defensive ability, we’ve got to just take it all in, and look for clues along the way. What does each defensive metric say? When they agree on one thing or another, we’ve got ourselves a clue. How about errors? They’re not the best, but they’re not worthless. Do they line up with what we saw in the advanced stats? Clue. Check out some spray charts, or Inside Edge. Watch some film, and read some scouting reports. Plenty of clues to be found in there, especially given all you’ve learned along the way. Do all this, and you’ll have a pretty good idea. Even if one number or one play or one quote goes against what you’ve concluded, that’s the point; your body of research holds more weight than that one thing that purports to invalidate your findings.

* * *

Each year, Tom Tango does a fun little project called the Fans Scouting Report. The nature of the project, essentially, is to crowdsource the eye test. There’s plenty of ways to use the data, and I’ve settled on one, for now. I wanted to look for improvement, and I wanted to look for agreement, using both the eye test, and the advanced numbers. I used three sources of defensive metrics (UZR, DRS, FRAA) for fielders with at least 500 innings in 2014, and 2015. I averaged those to get component defensive runs above average figures, and then, I compared against the Fans Scouting Report’s numbers. Using some z-scores, I could come up with an overall ranking of agreed-upon improvement.

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KATOH Projects: Detroit Tigers Prospects

Previous editions: Baltimore / Boston / Chicago AL / Chicago NL / Cincinnati  / Cleveland / Colorado.

Earlier this week, lead prospect analyst Dan Farnsworth published his excellently in-depth prospect list for the Detroit Tigers. In this companion piece, I look at that same Detroit farm system through the lens of my recently refined KATOH projection system. There’s way more to prospect evaluation than just the stats, so if you haven’t already, I highly recommend you read Dan’s piece in addition to this one. KATOH has no idea how hard a pitcher throws, how good a hitter’s bat speed is, or what a player’s makeup is like. So it’s liable to miss big on players whose tools don’t line up with their performances. However, when paired with more scouting-based analyses, KATOH’s objectivity can be useful in identifying talented players who might be overlooked by the industry consensus or highly-touted prospects who might be over-hyped.

Below, I’ve grouped prospects into three groups: those who are forecast for two or more wins through their first six major-league seasons, those who receive a projection between 1.0 and 2.0 WAR though their first six seasons, and then any residual players who received Future Value (FV) grades of 45 or higher from Dan. Note that I generated forecasts only for players who accrued at least 200 plate appearances or batters faced last season. Also note that the projections for players over a relatively small sample are less reliable, especially when those samples came in the low minors.

1. Michael Fulmer, RHP (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 3.8 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 50 FV

Fulmer enjoyed a breakout season with the Mets last year and kept it going after he came to the Tigers in the Yoenis Cespedes deal. Both his strikeout rate and walk rate improved as he made the jump from High-A to Double-A in 2015, giving him the lowest ERA — and second lowest FIP — in Double-A last year.

Michale Fulmer’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Marc Barcelo 3.6 0.0
2 Anthony Swarzak 4.2 2.0
3 Ricky Nolasco 3.9 14.4
4 Scott Linebrink 4.1 4.2
5 Jordan Zimmermann 3.2 17.6
6 Justin Duchscherer 4.0 3.9
7 Mark Brownson 3.6 0.3
8 Mitch Talbot 3.7 1.2
9 John Thomson 2.8 9.8
10 Luis Andujar 3.4 0.0

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Finding Yovani Gallardo’s Company

By the time this gets published, Yovani Gallardo might have agreed to a multiyear contract with the Orioles. Maybe that hasn’t happened yet, because I don’t know the future, but this is one of those situations where you think you do know the future, because Gallardo landing with Baltimore feels inevitable. I’m going to guess Gallardo knows it, and I’m going to guess the Orioles know it. It’s like a smaller-scale version of the Chris Davis talks, where both parties are about tired of tugging the rope. If there’s not yet an agreement, it stands to reason there will be soon.

If and when Gallardo signs with the Orioles, it’ll be underwhelming. It’ll feel like an overpay, like a lot of other pitcher contracts, and though that right there is a reason to believe our scale of expectations is just off, Gallardo doesn’t feel like the most excellent bet. Some people will be able to talk themselves into it, pointing to Gallardo’s experience, and saying he’s seen as a bulldog. The deal won’t single-handedly cripple the Orioles, and Gallardo might just prevent enough runs to make it work. There’s just that one trend, though. Gallardo comes off as an insufficient talent for an insufficient roster.

Let’s talk for a few minutes about that trend. You know the one.

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FanGraphs Audio: Dave Cameron on Baseball’s Broken Thing

Episode 631
Dave Cameron is both (a) the managing editor of FanGraphs and (b) the guest on this particular edition of FanGraphs Audio, during which edition he discusses international free agency, the prospect of an international draft, and a stirring (!) alternative to said draft.

This edition of the program is sponsored by Draft, the first truly mobile fantasy sports app. Compete directly against idiot host Carson Cistulli by clicking here.

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 41 min play time.)

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How Corey Dickerson Fits the Rays and the League

It shouldn’t take a lot to understand why the Rays went and picked up Corey Dickerson. In general, it was a pretty classic Tampa Bay move: they dealt more expensive and conspicuous talent for under-appreciated talent and team control. Jake McGee is very obviously good, but Dickerson is his own brand of productive, and he ought to remain affordable for years. The Rays have been doing things like this for the better part of a decade.

That’s what’s most important: Dickerson should remain a quality hitter, and he fits within Tampa Bay’s budget, whereas McGee was pricing himself out. Yet you can find even more appeal in the specifics. Dickerson’s also a good match for an organizational trend, a trend that’s being mirrored by the rest of the league.

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MLB Owners’ Next Big Potential Moneymaker

Major League Baseball is a profitable enterprise, and (not surprisingly) MLB owners tend to benefit from that profitability, generally through revenues directly related to operating those franchises. However, MLB owners have also profited from ventures only partially related to MLB ownership, as well. They’ve made money owning television stations that also happen to air the games of teams they own. Owners are also in the process of spinning off the non-baseball related arm of MLBAM for billions. Notably, MLB owners have begun capitalizing on another revenue stream: developing the land near their teams’ ballparks.

When the Atlanta Braves announced they were leaving a 20-year-old Atlanta-based stadium for a new one out in the suburbs of Cobb County, it took many by surprise. Cobb County made an appealling offer to the Braves, and one of the Braves’ promises was a $400 million mixed-used land development surrounding the stadium. While this has some likely benefits for Cobb County, it has the potential to be very beneficial for the Braves, as well — and it was one of their reasons for leaving Atlanta.

Bucking the trend of pro teams seeking stadiums and arenas closer to the city center, the Braves’ new facility will be part of a 60-acre development near Cobb Galleria mall. Plant compared it to new ballparks in Cincinnati, San Diego and Houston, as well as L.A. Live, which hosts the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers and the NHL’s Kings at Staples Center.

“With our current location, we couldn’t control that process,” Plant said. “This site allows us to do that.”

In Cincinnati, the Reds have their Hall of Fame across the street. In Houston, the Astros took over Union Station. However, the first major attempt to control an entire area of land around the stadium had mixed results. In San Diego, real estate developer JMI, owned by John Moores, the previous owner of the Padres before a messy divorce forced the sale of the team, built up the area around the park, mainly with housing after original plans for more office buildings had to be scrapped due to economic conditions. The area is still in flux, as it was also a potential site for a new stadium for the San Diego Chargers.

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The Yankees: The Most Underrated Team in Baseball

In my regular Wednesday chat this week, this question popped up:

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 11.18.27 AM

Interestingly, a few days before, I’d been thinking about the narrative of the Yankees heading into 2016, and how so much of it is being driven by their lack of free agent spending this winter. It’s almost historically unprecedented for the Yankees to sit out an entire free agent class, but this winter, the team decided to make their upgrades through the trade market instead, and thus have not signed a single player to a major league contract this off-season. With the Red Sox stocking up for another run, the Blue Jays likely to still be a force, and the Rays and Orioles doing enough to keep themselves around .500, the Yankees are in the unusual position of being something of an afterthought in the AL East.

Thus, we get questions like this one from Christian, asking for some hope that his team might contend in 2016. Well, fear not, Christian; not only do I think there are reasons to think the Yankees are legitimate contenders, I think they might actually be the most underrated team in baseball heading into the season.

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The Hardest Pitches in Baseball to Lay Off

One of the great virtues of baseball is its abundance of individual, miniature virtues, which are appreciated to varying extents by some, and perhaps go unnoticed by others. Maybe one of the small things you enjoy looking for is what a player does with his batting gloves upon reaching first base. Is he a back-pocket kinda guy? Give them to the first base coach? Hold ’em in one hand while he runs the bases? Keep them on the entire time? Or how about a pitcher’s tendencies between pitches? When does he go to the rosin bag, and how often? Does he walk around the mound, or kick dirt? Take off the hat, run the fingers through the hair? Lick the hand? You could just be enthralled by a very particular type of pitch — say, a backdoor two-seam fastball, or a splitter in the dirt. Maybe you’re captivated by the different ways in which players react when they feel slighted by questionable calls.

We enjoy baseball, in a larger sense, because of the competition, and the displays of human achievement. The storylines, and the lessons to be learned. Our childhood, and a sense of both geographical and familial pride. On a more primitive level, we probably just find pleasure in watching dingers and heaters. But it’s the little intricacies that we only notice after countless hours playing and watching the sport that we adopt as our own and grow attached to that give us a deeper appreciation for the game that we love.

One of my favorite small pleasures in baseball is a well-executed check swing. Baseball is such a reactionary game, where the margins are in the milliseconds, and the check swing is a beautiful tug of war between a human’s physical reactionary ability and cognitive reactionary ability. The moment a pitcher releases that breaking ball destined for the dirt, the hitter’s first reaction is to hunt, and his limbs are set in motion. Yet, instantaneously, like an evolving caveman playing with fire, the brain kicks in and says “Nuh uh uh, remember what happened last time?” and sends that signal to the limbs to stop what they’re doing just in time to lay off the pitch that would’ve been strike three, had the brain waited a split-second longer to intervene.

But the brain doesn’t always get that signal out in time. Whether by fault of the batter or by virtue of the pitcher, you as a batter are sometimes halfway through your swing when you have the dreadful realization that, “Crap, I shouldn’t be swinging right now.” Some batters have a greater ability to halt their ill-advised swings than others, and on the other hand, some pitchers have a greater ability to prevent check swings. Some pitchers can throw junk ball after junk ball that hitters just can’t lay off. Using BaseballSavant’s PITCHf/x search, I was able to identify these pitches, those which batters had the hardest time laying off last year. Let’s dive in.
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Eno Sarris Baseball Chat — 2/11/16

Eno Sarris: be here soon! in the meantime, this track is awesome
Chad: Is Danny Duffy gonna get a rotation spot?
Eno Sarris: I guess he can keep Chris Young at arms length, but I doubt he has much more than 100 IP.
Barney: When can we expect to see Zips projections added to player pages?
Eno Sarris: Once they all done!
Miketron: Could Raisel outperform Carlos Carrasco this year or am I going too far?

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The Astros Are in a Sweet Spot

As of Wednesday night, there were 57 position players projected via our depth charts to produce three wins or more. The Astros had four of them: Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Carlos Gomez and George Springer. That they had four of these 57 players isn’t especially unique. Houston is one of five teams to have at least four such players. But what is interesting is just how much room these four have to grow. If they hit their strides at the same time, the Astros could end up being a scary team.

How am I measuring who has the most room to grow? Via the FANS projections, of course. One of the things that I love most about our FANS projections is that they are good for pegging guys who may be on the cusp of a breakout or breakdown. In other words, they generally take into account some of the context that the computer-generated projections don’t (or can’t). We generally like to highlight some of the differences between the FANS projections and the projection systems like Steamer and ZiPS, and often this can be a good way to frame the upcoming season.

Let’s do that right here, grouping together the players on the aforementioned five teams.

Depth Charts vs. FANS, 2016 Projections
Team Players Depth WAR FANS WAR Diff
HOU Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Carlos Gomez, George Springer 14.3 19.6 5.3
TOR J. Bautista, J. Donaldson, E. Encarnacion, R. Martin, T. Tulowitzki 20.0 25.1 5.1
SFG Brandon Belt, Matt Duffy, Joe Panik, Buster Posey 15.1 19.8 4.7
KCR Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez 14.0 17.8 3.8
CHC Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward, Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist 19.3 20.8 1.5

The Blue Jays do well here, nearly as well as the Astros, but it should be noted that they are the one team here which features five players and not just four. That the Astros are still capable of producing a higher total difference between the Steamer and FANS figures displays the magnitude of the phenomenon with which we’re working.

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Evaluating the 2016 Prospects: Detroit Tigers

Other clubs: Braves, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Indians, OriolesRedsRed Sox, Rockies, White Sox.

To say the Tigers have had a “type” is an understatement. They have consistently brought in hard-throwing pitchers with either command or secondary-pitch questions, and most of them have ended up as relievers by the time they make it to the big leagues. As Kiley pointed out in last year’s rankings, it’s hard to fault the Tigers’ process, as they continue to develop enough talent to reinforce their big league team via trades, and Mike Ilitch has had no problem spending money to fill in the gaps with free agents.

When 2015 didn’t go according to plan, they were able to replenish their stock by trading from the underachieving parent club. And to their credit, they have started to target a more diverse group of players in the draft and internationally. There is still a lack of impact talent in this group, but a lot of depth and interesting prospects that will contribute to a winning club.

I would draw attention to the rankings that differ from other lists, but honestly, most of the grades are so similar you could shuffle them around and we would be saying the same thing. For just a few from the top end, I buy into Christin Stewart‘s power potential despite him being a recent draftee who didn’t used to have much pop. I would bet I also have more faith in Mike Gerber‘s steady skill set than most. Otherwise, some guys are lower, some are higher… I can’t argue with anyone who disagrees on these guys because there aren’t big differences between a lot of them, especially on the pitching side.

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How You Defined an Ace

A week ago, I thought we’d try something fun. Not everything I think is going to be fun actually turns out to be fun, but this one generated some pretty good feedback. Starting from the position that it’s impossible to arrive at a consensus definition of “ace,” given that it’s a subjective term applied to different pitchers by different people, I tried to gather some information from the community so we could see what you all seem to believe. I gave you the names of 20 current starting pitchers, and for each I asked a simple yes-or-no question — is the pitcher an ace? Thousands of you took the time to participate in the project, for almost literally no payoff.

Whatever payoff there is is to follow. I’ve collected all the voting results, and I think there’s a good amount to be learned. The data is always the best part, and though we still don’t have a word-by-word definition for an ace, it appears that there are some rules, of varying importance. Spoiler alert: the community agrees that Clayton Kershaw is an ace, as he got a “yes” vote in 99.3% of polls. He was included mostly as a test, because I’m always curious how many people are actively trolling any polling project I try to run. They’re always out there. And while 0.7% of voters is a small percentage, in this case that’s 44 people. That’s 44 original thinkers! I’m glad you guys found a means to brighten your day.

So, never trust a small fraction of the community. Trust the entirety of the community! I think that’s how this is supposed to work.

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Job Posting: Miami Marlins Baseball Analytics Intern

Position: Miami Marlins Baseball Analytics Intern

Location: Miami


The Baseball Analytics Intern will assist Baseball Operations decision-making through the analysis and research of baseball information. The specific day-to-day responsibilities of this position will vary depending on the baseball calendar, but it requires a general knowledge of how to use objective data to answer baseball-related questions, with a strong preference for a candidate possessing an established foundation of statistical and database management skills.


  • Perform advanced statistical analysis on large datasets in order to assist in the decision-making of the Baseball Operations department.
  • Expand upon existing analytical strategy by improving existing resources and creating new databases, models, and reports.
  • Perform ad-hoc research projects as requested and present those results in a concise, straightforward manner.
  • Monitor publically available baseball research.
  • Provide administrative support and complete general intern duties as requested.


  • Understanding of and passion for the game of baseball.
  • Ability to communicate baseball analytics concepts to individuals with diverse baseball backgrounds.
  • Strong work ethic, attention to detail, and ability to self-direct.
  • Ability to work evenings, weekends, and holidays during the season.
  • Bachelor’s degree or relevant practical experience required.
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite required.
  • Familiarity with current state of freely available baseball research required.
  • Knowledge of ball tracking data (e.g. Pitch F/X, TrackMan, etc.) strongly preferred.
  • Experience with relational databases and SQL strongly preferred.
  • Experience with R statistical software package strongly preferred.
  • Experience with at least one scripting language (e.g. Perl, Python, Ruby) a plus.

This position is compensated.

To Apply:
Interested applicants can email their materials to