The Top-Five Dodgers Prospects by Projected WAR

Earlier today, Kiley McDaniel published his consummately researched and demonstrably authoritative prospect list for the Los Angeles Dodgers. What follows is a different exercise than that, one much smaller in scope and designed to identify not L.A.’s top overall prospects but rather the rookie-eligible players in the Dodgers’ system who are most ready to produce wins at the major-league level in 2015 (regardless of whether they’re likely to receive the opportunity to do so). No attempt has been made, in other words, to account for future value.

Below are the top-five prospects in the Los Angeles system by projected WAR. To assemble this brief list, what I’ve done is to locate the Steamer 600 projections for all the prospects to whom McDaniel assessed a Future Value grade of 40 or greater. Hitters’ numbers are normalized to 550 plate appearances; starting pitchers’, to 150 innings — i.e. the playing-time thresholds at which a league-average player would produce a 2.0 WAR. Catcher projections are prorated to 415 plate appearances to account for their reduced playing time.

Note that, in many cases, defensive value has been calculated entirely by positional adjustment based on the relevant player’s minor-league defensive starts — which is to say, there has been no attempt to account for the runs a player is likely to save in the field. As a result, players with an impressive offensive profile relative to their position are sometimes perhaps overvalued — that is, in such cases where their actual defensive skills are sub-par.

5. Joe Wieland, RHP (Profile)

150 7.3 2.5 1.1 3.99 0.7

Wieland has been well acquitted by the projections for some time now, having produced considerably above-average strikeout- and walk-rate differentials through much of the minors but having been delayed en route to any sort of substantial major-league trial by an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery and which caused him to miss much of the last two seasons. He enters 2015 with his health, however. Given the Dodgers’ rotation depth, Wieland is a candidate to begin the season in Albuquerque. Alternatively, he might join the bullpen, in which capacity he’d likely post better per-inning numbers than his projections here indicate.

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Aaron Hill’s Polarizing Defense

The way in which people evaluate defense fascinates me. Not because I find defense fascinating, per se, but because it strikes me as a very different evaluation process than the one most people use when evaluating offensive performance. I think this applies to both casual and die-hard fans, just to varying degrees.

Offensive evaluation is largely based on basic accounting. As a fan, analyst, or someone directly connected to the game, you weigh a player’s offensive actions against one another to develop an idea of their performance. Some people might choose to use a linear weights structure, or some might think only in RBI or RISP, but the methodology is largely consistent for each person. Each plate appearance is weighed based on its importance and not on the outcome.

Some will choose to treat each PA pretty equally, some will choose to place a lot of weight on certain moments, but it’s a predictable process. When evaluating defense, I believe things get much less clear.

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Teams Who Have Tightened the Belt

As an MLB team, it’s awful hard to reduce your payroll. All those long-term contracts you agreed to years ago come equipped with incremental annual raises, and then the free agent market inflates every year in the meantime. Cutting payroll can’t happen by accident: it’s a shift in organizational direction across all tiers of the operation.

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Creating an Expected Payroll for all MLB Teams

When it comes to making demands about improving a team’s roster, a fan’s simplest complaint is that the team is not spending enough. Ownership is the easiest target for criticism because they sign the checks. There is a lot of information hidden from the public and even the players when it comes to a team’s finances. Many assumptions are made, but still questions persist: Are the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves cheap? Are the Detroit Tigers outspending their market for a shot at a championship?

Without delving deeply into the finances of individual teams, the answers are not easy to come by. Even if everyone got a look inside the books, there would be reasonable differences regarding subjective definitions of the word cheap. What we can do is take a look at recent spending patterns within baseball. Looking at the known financial aspects of a franchise and attendance, a comparison can be made within the ranks of ownership. The owners might very well all be cheap, and that we cannot know for sure, but we can find out which franchises are cheaper.
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Eno Sarris Baseball Chat –

Eno Sarris: Good morning from the FanGraphs house in Phoenix!
{“author”:”Anthony David”}:
Comment From mymaus
Is there anywehre on FG where I can get an export of Steamer projections with PT/IP adjusted by FG staff? It looks like these adjusted stats are only used in team projections. They would be EXTREMELY valuable to download.
Eno Sarris: I maybe mistaken, but I believe all projections not labeled “Steamer 600″ are powered by our depth charts.
Comment From Matt
Will Prince Fielder bounce back?
Eno Sarris: I’m optimistic for him this year, but I do think things like this will continue to crop up.

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Joe Mauer as Joey Votto

2014 was not a normal year for the two Joes. Both Joey Votto and Joe Mauer dealt with fallout from injuries, with Votto not having effective use of his lower half, and Mauer possibly dealing with lingering effects of a concussion sustained in 2013. For both players, the injuries affected overall production when they played, but it was especially acute in the power department for Votto. Joe Mauer, with the exception of one year in which his home run to fly ball ratio was off the charts, never had much power to begin with.

Both Joes still posted wRC+ numbers north of 100 in their playing time in 2014, because that’s what both Joes do, almost without fail. Votto and Mauer are some of the best contact hitters in the game, and that’s what we’re going to focus on today. Yes, they share other traits as well: they’re both 31, left-handed, and they walk a lot, with Votto being a particular master in that category. Maybe they both also have the same type of small dog, or are baritones.

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Evaluating the Prospects: Los Angeles Dodgers

Evaluating the Prospects: Rangers, Rockies, D’Backs, Twins, Astros, Cubs, Reds, Phillies, Rays, Mets, Padres, Marlins, Nationals, Red Sox, White Sox, Orioles, Yankees, Braves, Athletics, Angels & Dodgers

Top 200 Prospects Content Index

Scouting Explained: Introduction, Hitting Pt 1 Pt 2 Pt 3 Pt 4 Pt 5 Pt 6

Amateur Coverage: 2015 Draft Rankings, Top 2015 July 2 Projected Bonuses

The Dodgers; system isn’t especially deep, but that should be changing soon. The new regime made a shrewd deal with Miami to add underrated youngsters C Austin Barnes and SS Enrique Hernandez. This illustrates both the focus on value from the top two Dodgers execs’ small market backgrounds (Andrew Friedman in Tampa and Farhan Zaidi in Oakland) but their willingness to leverage the Dodgers’ financial advantage to acquire young players. I wrote two days ago about the latest intel on the Dodgers’ plans to spend big in the international market.

While the depth should be shored up soon, the high level talent is as abundant here as any other system in baseball, with my 4th, 6th and 11th prospects in baseball. This top three offers upside, certainty and a short-term MLB ETA, with Holmes and Verdugo just behind them offering upside in the lower minors from the 2014 draft class. I have the Dodgers’ system as 5th in the game right now, but I’ll give a final answer on that when I finish all 30 lists.

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JABO: MLB’s Hidden Cold Wars

When it comes to trading, almost every team plays favorites. Perhaps a former co-worker is now running another club, making conversations easy and player valuations similar. Or perhaps two GMs just happen to get along well, and when one needs to make a minor deal to round out his roster, he’s comfortable asking his friend for help before polling the rest of the league. There are plenty of reasons why some organizations just fit as better trade partners than others.

This goes the other direction as well. Many teams are hesitant to make trades with their division rivals, not wanting the player they gave up on to come back and haunt them for 19 games per season, or in the case of trading a young prospect, for years into the future. Shipping a player across the country, or even to the other league, minimizes the chances that your home town fans will be regularly reminded that not every trade works out in your favor.

Of course, for a few teams that share a large market, there is another franchise in the other league that happens to also be a challenging trade partner. If you want to avoid your fans seeing the traded player turn into a star, having him play for the in-town rival is probably the worst case scenario, which is why trades between market sharing teams are pretty rare. The Cubs and White Sox, for instance, haven’t made a trade since 2006 — the Neal Cotts for David Aardsma blockbuster — and hadn’t made a deal before that one since 1998. The A’s and Giants haven’t made a deal since 2004, when Oakland bought Adam Pettyjohn from the Giants for cash; they last made a deal with players going both directions back in 1990. The Mets and Yankees last swapped players in 2004, when they exchanged Mike Stanton for Felix Heredia.

But beyond those easily explainable barriers to making a deal, I was curious which other franchises have engaged in long cold wars. Whether for philosophical reasons or just because they haven’t ever matched up, which teams just don’t make trades? Thanks to the particularly nifty Trade Partner tool from Baseball-Reference, we can highlight the teams who seem least likely to make deals with each other, even without the in-division or in-market explanations.

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Marijuana and the Joint Drug Agreement

Last week’s report that Josh Hamilton could be facing an imminent suspension from Major League Baseball following an alleged violation of his drug treatment program has brought a renewed focus on MLB’s Joint Drug Agreement (JDA), and in particular its treatment of non-performance enhancing drugs. As I noted last week, in addition to PEDs and stimulants, the JDA also restricts MLB players’ use of various “drugs of abuse,” including: THC, hashish, marijuana, synthetic THC, cocaine, LSD, ecstasy, PCP, GHB (the date rape drug), and various opiates (oxycodone, heroin, morphine, etc.).

Interestingly, not all of these drugs are treated equally under the JDA. In particular, the JDA specifically carves out three – marijuana, hashish and synthetic THC – for special treatment. Although this carve-out wasn’t relevant to my post last week given the nature of the allegations against Hamilton, based on some of the comments it appears that MLB’s marijuana policy is of particular interest to some readers.

Because the JDA provisions governing drugs of abuse rarely come up, though – Jon Morosi reported last week, for instance, that no MLB player has been suspended for using an illegal narcotic since Josh Hamilton was himself suspended back in 2004 – relatively little attention has been paid to the intricacies of MLB’s marijuana policy.

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Locking Up Brian Dozier

It’s the early days of spring training, with the exhibition games just kicking in, and “the best shape of my life” stories still fresh in our memory. It’s also the latter days of contract extension season, with many players expressing their desire to put such talks on hold once the real games begin. One potential extension candidate who may soon be locked up for the intermediate term is Twins’ second baseman Brian Dozier. His is an interesting case; this is no flashy, long-time high-end prospect we’re discussing here. Dozier has kind of crept up on people, quietly becoming a better major league player than he was a minor league prospect. Who and what is Brian Dozier, and is he the type of player to whom the Twins should make a major commitment?

One fact that is not in doubt is that Dozier was an exceptional pick in the 8th round of the 2009 draft out of Southern Mississippi, signing after his senior season. He was a starter from the get-go at Southern Miss, their regular shortstop his last three seasons. This was no tooled-out mega-prospect; Dozier was a ballplayer, the grinder type that a club hopes can learn to handle the wooden bat at the lower levels of the minor leagues. He was pretty young for his class, not turning 22 until May 15, a trait that has proven to correlate with professional success for both college juniors and seniors. Basically, the Twins were getting a junior age-wise, while paying him a discounted senior rate in the draft.

Though Dozier did bat a solid .298-.370-.409 in just over 1600 minor league plate appearances, those numbers aren’t quite as impressive as they seem. First, they’re influenced significantly by the gaudy .353-.417-.438 line he put up straight out of the draft in the rookie level Appalachian League. Even more importantly, in that and all of his other minor league seasons, Dozier was not among the younger players at his minor league level. He didn’t notch his first Double-A at bat until age 24, in 2011, though he certainly did perform well once he got there, unfurling a .318-.384-.502 line at New Britain.

Each season I compile an ordered list of minor league position player prospects based on their offensive performance relative to their league and level, adjusted for age. It basically serves as a follow list, with traditional scouting methods then utilized to fine-tune it. 2011 was the only year in which Dozier qualified for this list, at #185. Many defensively-oriented major league shortstops and catchers ranked near that level on my minor league list. Dozier was not seen as a future MLB shortstop in the minors, however, nor was he seen as particularly defensively-oriented. For him to start in the majors, his bat, and particularly his power potential, needed to develop.

And develop it has. Brian Dozier hit all of 16 homers in 1613 minor league plate appearances, but has already hit 47 in the major leagues in barely more major league plate appearances, hitting 23 in 2014 alone. How has he done it, and what is the near-term prognosis for his performance going forward? Let’s take a deeper look at his offensive game by analyzing his 2014 plate appearance outcome frequency and production by ball-in-play type data. First, the frequency information:

FREQ – 2014
Dozier % REL PCT
K 18.2% 98 49
BB 12.6% 162 92
POP 14.4% 178 97
FLY 31.4% 110 72
LD 19.0% 90 21
GB 35.3% 84 16

Though Dozier did strike out 129 times in 2014, he did so in 707 plate appearances, which ranked among AL leaders. His K rate percentile rank of 49, therefore, was quite acceptable for a reasonably powerful hitter. His ability to draw a walk is arguably his foremost offensive strength; he posted a 12.6% walk rate, good for a percentile rank of 92. He is not afraid to work a count, and put up a very low swinging strike rate of 5.9%.

His BIP frequencies, however, are just as unimpressive as his K and BB rates are impressive. He ranked among MLB leaders in popup rate at 14.4%, for a 97 percentile rank. Most big popup guys are big power guys, and with all due respect, Dozier doesn’t quite fit in that category. His line drive rate percentile rank is also quite low at 21. That isn’t a huge deal, as liner rates fluctuate much more than those of other BIP types, and he did post a 62 mark in 2013. What is a bit worrisome is the imbalance between his fly ball (72) and ground ball (16) percentile ranks. Dozier is on the verge of becoming one of the very few players in any given year to hit more fly balls than grounders; such hitters’ performance (such as Nick Swisher and Raul Ibanez in 2013-14, to name two) tends to decline significantly the next season.

To this point, we have not taken BIP authority or direction into account. As we shall see, both are pretty central to what Dozier is today and could be tomorrow. Next, let’s get a better feel for his BIP authority by taking a look at the production by BIP type data:

PROD – 2014
FLY 0.243 0.764 101 98
LD 0.713 0.885 111 109
GB 0.272 0.333 135 127
ALL BIP 0.301 0.520 97 96
ALL PA 0.237 0.335 0.409 113 111

Dozier’s actual production on each BIP type is indicated in the AVG and SLG columns, and it’s converted to run values and compared to MLB average in the REL PRD column. That figure then is adjusted for context, such as home park, luck, etc., in the ADJ PRD column. For the purposes of this exercise, SH and SF are included as outs and HBP are excluded from the OBP calculation.

On the surface, Dozier’s actual 2014 performance seems to be fairly well supported by his batted-ball authority; the contextual adjustments for each BIP type are quite small. His actual 101 REL PROD on fly balls is adjusted slightly downward to 98 ADJ PRD, with fairly similar adjustments for liners (from 111 to 109) and grounders (135 to 127). For all BIP combined, his actual 97 REL PRD and 96 ADJ PRD marks are almost identical. Adding back the K’s and BB’s gives him a solid boost to a 113 REL PRD and 111 ADJ PRD. In a vacuum, Dozier’s actual 2014 numbers give a very accurate portrayal of the underlying granular data.

But there’s a catch. Brian Dozier has now established himself as one of the most extreme pull hitters in the game. I have developed a fairly simple statistic called “pull ratio”. It is calculated separately for fly balls, line drives and ground balls. For a righthanded hitter, it is (number of balls hit to LF + LCF)/(number of balls hit to RCF + RF). A typical righthanded hitter might have a pull ratio of a little over 1:1 on fly balls, about 2:1 on liners, and 4:1 on grounders. Dozier’s marks were 2.35 for fly balls, 3.17 for liners, and 6.20 for grounders in 2014.

Extreme pulling is generally a hallmark of a player harvesting power near the end of a career, when it’s basically all that he has left in his offensive game. The most comparable 2013 pull factors were posted by the likes of Jonny Gomes, Raul Ibanez, Chris Young and Andrelton Simmons; three guys who appeared cooked in 2014, and another who is struggling to find an offensive identity. Dozier didn’t become an extreme puller to extend his major league career; he did so just to have one, at least as a regular, in the first place.

What is the potential harm in this approach moving forward? It comes in several forms. First, even though he’s righthanded, infield shifts await Dozier. He batted .272 AVG-.333 SLG on grounders in 2014, above MLB average, and it was supported by solid BIP authority. That assumes a typical defensive alignment, however. At the very least, one would expect infield overshifting to cut Dozier’s grounder production to MLB average (.245 AVG-.267 SLG), which would cut his overall ADJ PRD from 111 to 106. A drop in grounder production to say, .200 AVG-.220 SLG, might be a perfectly reasonable expectation for an overshifted extreme puller; that drops his overall ADJ PRD even further to 99.

That isn’t the biggest risk related to his extreme pull tendency. First of all, let’s temporarily forget about the existence of LCF in the above pull ratio calculation. Ignoring that field sector, Dozier’s fly ball pull ratio would be 1.41, and his grounder pull ratio would be 4.60. He is an “extreme extreme puller” who hits an inordinate number of batted balls toward the LF line. Sit the third baseman on the bag, and his 10 ground ball doubles go away. Dozier hit an incredible 52 fly balls to the LF sector in 2014 — more than Miguel Cabrera, Giancarlo Stanton and Mike Trout combined. He hit 22 of his 23 homers to that sector, with the other one barely in the LCF sector. A great deal of them were of the “just enough” variety, in HitTracker parlance. This too, is the mark of a hitter whose power isn’t built to last.

Why is this a big deal? For part of the time I was with the Mariners, Jose Lopez was a regular infielder. He too hit almost all of his homers to the exact same spot, to his extreme pull side. Lopez had more raw and useable power than Dozier, Dozier a superior eye. Pitchers develop a book on such hitters, and over time will give them nothing they can pull for distance. Hitters must then adjust, or perish. Unfortunately for such hitters, extreme pulling is quite often their last adjustment. Dozier has not shown an ability to hit a ball even reasonably hard the other way in the air, on a line, or on the ground. Pitchers are going to pitch him away, and all Dozier is going to be able to do is draw a walk……for a little while at least, until that skill begins to decline as his ability to inflict damage erodes.

Every club needs Brian Doziers in their system. He is an overachiever who has constantly figured it out as he has advanced, through college, into the minors, and then into the major leagues. To become a starter at that level and have some success, he has had to totally sell out to the short term fruits of extreme pulling. Pitchers are now likely to have the last word. To borrow a contemporary nightly news sound bite, one doesn’t know whether a deal is bad until the particulars of that deal are known. There are certainly terms which would make a Dozier deal look good from the Twins’ perspective. Chances are, though, that a long-term deal for Dozier would look at 2014’s 23 homers and 4.6 WAR as a base expectation rather than the career peak that it more likely represents, and that wouldn’t likely end well for the Twins.

Demography of the Good Player, Part I: Amateur Origins

Recently, Jeff Sullivan wrote a piece here attempting to answer a question notable both for its simplicity and importance. The question: how many good players were good prospects?

As Sullivan notes, one typically finds the question pursued in reverse: of this or that group of prospects (top-10 prospects, top-100 prospects, etc), how did they fare in the major leagues (if they even made it that far)? There’s great utility in this sort of information — in particular where our understanding of prospect valuations is concerned. An appearance by a young player on one of these prospect lists tends to indicate, if not certain future value, at least present trade value. In other words: even those prospects who fail to record even one plate appearance or innings — even they are capable of possessing significant value.

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The Smallest Big Free Agent Signings

With Spring Training slowly motoring into life, that means another cash-flush free agency session has come to its conclusion. In truth, though, maybe we should think of this time of year — extension-signing season — as the time and place where all of the true money is spent.

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Importance of Market Size, Attendance and TV Revenue on Payroll

The New York Yankees’ and Los Angeles Dodgers’ payrolls continue to dominate when it comes to paying players. Not coincidentally, those two teams have the best local television deals in Major League Baseball. On average, the two will receive more than $300 million annually over the course of their deals, per Forbes. As more teams cash in with big local television deals — the Arizona Diamondbacks are the latest — it’s becoming clear no team will receive anywhere near the haul the Dodgers and Yankees have enjoyed. How much those local deals impact payroll is less clear.

The revenue from local television contracts is subject to revenue sharing, with one-third of the annual rights money going into the overall pool. The money produced from an ownership stake in a television network does not go into the revenue sharing pool. Local television deals are not the only source of revenue for teams. Teams are getting more and more money from national television deals. Smaller market teams are getting revenue sharing money from the bigger teams. Attendance at 81 home games brings in a great deal of revenue. Then, for that money to translate to payroll, there needs to be an ownership group willing to spend the money they receive.

Payroll does not directly translate to wins, and there is evidence that overall, the correlation between payroll and wins is decreasing. However, the correlation between wins and Opening Day payroll last season (.28) is in line with the the four year average (.29). Looking at a number of different factors and comparing them to payroll can provide a better idea of the factors affecting spending.

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The Frightening Prospect of a Good Matt Harvey Curveball

Matt Harvey hasn’t been featured in these digital pages since the illustrious David Temple pointed out in early August that the Mets right-hander was throwing again after 2013 Tommy John surgery. With his coming start on Friday against the Tigers in the Grapefruit League, Harvey is about to be pitching again to major league hitters; that is not only cause for much celebration, but also cause for his goodly reintroduction into the halls of our analyses and postulations.

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Tim Lincecum’s Last Best Chance

What you probably already know is that next winter’s free agent starting pitching crop has the potential to be historic, not only due to the amount of talent currently unsigned beyond 2015 but for the hundreds of millions of dollars they’ll surely command. With the obvious caveat that extensions for some of these guys are possible before they hit the market, just bask in the names entering the final years of their contracts.

There’s David Price, and Jeff Samardzija, and Johnny Cueto. Over there, you’ve got Rick Porcello and Mark Buehrle and Doug Fister. Next to them, Jordan Zimmermann and Yovani Gallardo and Scott Kazmir. Say hi, Mike Leake and Hisashi Iwakuma and Mat Latos, and also Justin Masterson and Kyle Lohse. There’s Bud Norris and Ian Kennedy and Wei-Yin Chen out there as well, to say nothing of the near-certainty that Zack Greinke exercises that opt-out.

It’s a simply stunning collection of names, and it’s going to make the July trading season fascinating, as well as provide Philadelphia even more incentive to move Cole Hamels while they can. Lefties, righties, young, old, flamethrowers, junkballers, whatever you want in a pitcher, you’ll be able to find it on the menu.

Oh, and there’s also Tim Lincecum. Hi, Tim Lincecum. Read the rest of this entry »

Your Opinions of the Team Projections

So, as you know, it’s been an exciting week. There is baseball! There is baseball, with major-league teams playing against other major-league teams, and sometimes non-major-league teams. Some players have hit dingers, and some pitchers have struck some guys out. Meanwhile, on this very website, we’ve launched 2015 playoff odds, having uploaded all the 2015 ZiPS projections. Those projections have been blended with Steamer to yield the somewhat familiar 50/50 projections that we ran with all last year.

Upon the addition of ZiPS, I ran a polling project I’d already run once before in the offseason. On Monday, I asked you to vote in polls about the 30 individual team projections. I wanted to see where people stand closer to the season, with fuller projections out there, and with a greater understanding of what the rosters are going to be. A polling project means nothing without analysis, so this is that analysis, with sufficient votes having rolled in. I don’t think waiting another few days would change anything. The post itself will probably go pretty quick, since there’s little that requires explaining.

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How the Playoff Odds Have Changed in a Year

As of just a short while ago: 2015 playoff odds! The odds we ran through last season are back, with division chances, wild-card chances, World Series chances, and so on and so forth. With meaningful player movement basically complete, with few important roster competitions, and with both Steamer and ZiPS folded in, these are your preseason odds, missing only injuries that happen over the next four weeks. Granted, an injury to, say, Mike Trout could change things quite a bit, but these odds shouldn’t change very much before the real baseball starts. This is a big day for those of us who are obsessed with checking the page 20 times a week. Even though there won’t be a reason to do that for a while, it’s just nice to see the page populated with numbers.

The same page was populated with numbers last March. Numbers based on Steamer, ZiPS, and author-maintained team-by-team depth charts. Which is to say, numbers calculated by the same processes. It seems those numbers are no longer available on the internet, but I’ve had them saved in a folder, so I thought now would be a fun time to look at how the numbers have changed for each team since just before last season. In a way it’s a snapshot of the last 12 months. In another way it’s not that at all, but let’s not dwell on semantics. Relative to last year, who’s going into this season with bigger expectations? On the flip side, who’s most trying to focus on the bigger picture?

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An Account or Description of a Real Baseball Game

Base and Ball

The purpose of this post is to announce — for the benefit, in particular, of those readers who possess responsibilities which might preclude them from monitoring very closely such developments — the purpose is to announce not only that spring-training baseball has begun in earnest, but also that audio and visual of same is now officially available by way of MLB.TV and probably by other means, as well.

The image embedded above depicts a moment from the Yankees-Phillies contest currently underway in probably Clearwater, Florida. In it, New York right-hander Nick Goody delivers a pitch to Philadelphia third baseman Cody Asche. What sort of pitch? It’s not immediately apparent. The result of the at bat? The reader is surely capable of finding that sort of information. As in most cases, the precise details are immaterial. One is satisfied to learn, merely, that this excellent and useless pastime continues.

The Precedent for a Craig Kimbrel Changeup

As pitchers go, Craig Kimbrel‘s been doing all right. Over the last three years, he leads baseball in adjusted ERA. “Well,” you say, “ERA can be misleading.” Absolutely so! Conveniently, over the last three years, he also leads baseball in adjusted FIP. “But,” you add, “FIP can be misleading in its own way.” Definitely. Observe, then, that, over the last three years, he also leads baseball in adjusted xFIP. For Craig Kimbrel, it’s been a clean sweep.

And he’s done it with two pitches: a really good fastball, and a really good curveball. Just using our pitch-type run values, the last three years, Kimbrel ranks second in fastball value per 100 pitches. He also ranks second in curveball value per 100 pitches. Usually you don’t want to read into this stat too much, because pitching sure is a complicated activity, but the right idea here is conveyed. Kimbrel has a good fastball, and he has a good breaking ball, and so he hasn’t needed anything else. He’s about as close to unhittable as a pitcher can humanly get.

With that in mind, this is delicious:

Meanwhile, Braves newcomer Jonny Gomes swung at some Kimbrel offerings and missed a few, including one that appeared to be a … changeup?
Chris Johnson (another in the group that faced Kimbrel) told me he threw a couple of change-ups,” said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who was watching pitchers on another field when Kimbrel threw.

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Brian Dozier And Extensions for Position Players

Last spring, Mike Trout, Jason Kipnis, Starling Marte, Jedd Gyorko, Matt Carpenter, Yan Gomes, and Andrelton Simmons all received contract extensions buying out free agent years before they had even hit arbitration. The spring before last Anthony Rizzo, Paul Goldschmidt, and Allen Craig signed similar deals. The deals ranged from Gomes’ $23 million guarantee to Mike Trout’s $144.5 million deal. As players file into camp and prove their health, more extensions are likely on the way.

The recent pitcher contract extensions tend to pay more for potential, but on the position player side, present production is more prominent. Of the players signed to extensions in the last two springs, every player had already shown himself to be at least above average, if not an All-Star quality level player. Here are the players who have signed the past two springs as well as statistics for the season prior to signing the extension.

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