Introducing the 2016-2018 Sortable Draft Ranking Boards

I announced yesterday my looming exit from FanGraphs to join the Atlanta Braves later this week. It wouldn’t be me unless I went out with a bang, so we’re rolling out sortable boards for the next three draft classes today, all of them months in the making. Here’s the current draft order, though it will change as free agents move around this offseason.

For the 2016 class, I ranked as far as I felt like there was some separation (63 players), then gave you 101 additional players who project for the top 3-4 rounds. For the 2017 class, I gave you a ranked top 30 then 42 additional players who have already emerged as early round prospects. For the 2018 class (that’s high school sophomores and the incoming college freshman who were high schoolers eligible for the draft last summer) I gave you 30 players and, within that 30, included four high schoolers who already have scouts excited. The additional players in the 2016 and 2017 sortable boards who aren’t ranked are grouped by pitcher/hitter and high school/college and then ranked roughly in order of my preference within those listings.

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Terrance Gore and Fixing Baseball’s Broken Replay System

When exactly was it that you realized baseball’s replay system was broken? I’m very pro-replay, but I had my suspicions regarding implementation when the system was announced. The introduction of replay should, in my opinion, represent an effort to get more calls correct, but baseball saw an opportunity to give another decision to the managers and, in doing so, create more drama, more or less copying football’s own challenge system. Even so, up until yesterday I remained pro-replay because, organizing principles aside, more of the calls were made correctly under replay than would have been without it. Then Terrance Gore stole third base.

The first six innings of yesterday’s Royals/Astros was tight. Then, in the top of the seventh with one out and the Astros holding a 3-2 lead, Sal Perez was hit by a pitch. Royals manager Ned Yost removed Gore and put in pinch-runner extraordinaire Gore. I say extraordinaire because, previously in his career, he had swiped 11 bases without getting caught (including last postseason). He promptly made it 12 of 12 by taking second base rather easily. Then, with two outs and Alex Rios batting, Gore took off for third base. Here he goes!

That’s Gore stealing third. Jason Castro’s throw arrived just ahead of Gore but it was to the foul side of the bag and, as you can see, Gore’s foot clearly got in ahead of the tag. The third base umpire agreed, calling Gore safe.

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Marco Estrada: AL Contact Manager of the Year

Coming into the postseason, the Blue Jays were regarded widely as the favorites to win it all. A historically great offense, a souped-up roster fueled by the trading deadline acquisitions of Troy Tulowitzki and David Price… what could possibly go wrong? Well, the vagaries of postseason randomness quickly paid them a visit, and within 24 hours from the first pitch of Game 1, they had found themselves Hanser Alberto-ed within one game of extinction.

Until Marco Estrada saved them, at least temporarily. A journeyman who turned 32 this summer and who, until this year, had never even pitched enough innings in a season to qualify for an ERA title. The same guy who this season nosed out the likes of Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh and Sonny Gray for AL Contact Manager of the Year honors.

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Age, Salary, and Service Time on the Playoff Rosters

The eight teams playing in the Division Series all built their teams in different fashions. The Astros and Cubs appear to be at the end of rebuilding projects and ready for an extended run at contention. The Rangers have a mix of holdovers from their runs a few years ago, some young players and an infusion in the form of Cole Hamels. The Royals’ combination of process and prospects allowed them to begin a surprising run one season ago. The Blue Jays built a dynamic offense which they supplemented with major moves at the deadline. The Cardinals are in the midst of continuing contention, the Dodgers have spent their way to the top, and the Mets were mired in mediocrity before young pitching and Yoenis Cespedes aided their surge into the playoffs. The teams come with different experience and payrolls.

It’s no secret that the Dodgers have the biggest payroll in the game by close to $100 million over the second-place Yankees. Also fairly well known is that a considerable amount of that money is going to players who are no longer on the team — and many of whom, in fact, were never even on the Dodgers at all this year. Dan Haren, Matt Kemp, Brandon League, and Brian Wilson were responsible for $45 million all on their own. Despite all of the dead money on the Dodgers’ payroll, however, they still have considerably more money on the field compared to the rest of the teams still competing for a World Series.

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Jason Heyward Did a Cool Thing No One Cares About Today

What I like about this little InstaGraphs section is that it allows for plays to be highlighted even if they don’t turn out all that important. Given what the Cubs pulled off Monday, it would be weird to dedicate a whole front-page post to a home run hit by Jason Heyward. Not a lot of people even clearly remember a home run being hit by Jason Heyward. The Cubs did well to smother the memory of that dinger with all the dingers of their own. On InstaGraphs, though, I don’t have to care what matters. An InstaGraphs post is almost like a footnote. Let’s you and I watch a footnote.

The Cardinals made it a game again when Heyward went out and clobbered an outside breaking ball. Though the Cubs wouldn’t relinquish the rest of their lead, it did at least make for some nervous moments. And you’ll notice it wasn’t a bad pitch. It wasn’t even a strike. Jake Arrieta threw Heyward a 1-and-1 ball, and Heyward took it the other way for a homer. Arrieta had previously allowed one home run over the span of 412 plate appearances. A run like that is made all the more remarkable when you realize sometimes home runs can just be the result of simple bad luck.

According to PITCHf/x, the home-run pitch was 15 inches away from the middle of home plate, meaning it was more than six inches off the outer edge. That makes it the third-most outside pitch hit for a home run by a lefty in 2015. Heyward is topped only by Chris Davis and Freddie Freeman, and you can see screenshots below:


The thing that stands out here — Davis was pretty far up in the box. Freeman was pretty far up in the box. Heyward was more in the middle, so he had to reach out that much more, accomplishing something close to full extension. While Davis and Freeman hit pitches that were more outside, by a little bit, Heyward’s might’ve been the most outside, relative to his body. I don’t know. It was far away, is the point.

He also hit a line drive, instead of a classic dinger. According to the ESPN Home Run Tracker, under ordinary conditions, Heyward’s home run would’ve left precisely one major-league ballpark. Arrieta has now allowed 11 home runs in 2015 — three of them had just enough juice to leave one stadium. Home runs can come out of nowhere. Even when you, the pitcher, have done nothing to deserve them. Sometimes good pitches get hit out. Sometimes pitches that are just plain well out of the zone get hit out. The most amazing thing about Arrieta is that this hasn’t happened more. Maybe now it’s going to. Baseball is stupid like that. Baseball always wants to prove that it’s smarter than you.

That’s a review of what Jason Heyward did. It mattered for some minutes. No one’ll remember it a week or two from now. Yesterday, it was outnumbered by other extraordinary things. Further extraordinary things will take place in the weeks ahead. So many little things are remarkable, and baseball just ties them all together and advances from one to the next almost without ever stopping. And you thought baseball needed to move faster.

Steven Matz on Learning the Curve

When Steven Matz takes the bump against the Dodgers tonight, he’ll probably throw a curve once out of every five pitches. He’ll probably throw it more often than his changeup, even. And that will be remarkable for those of those who have watched Matz on his uneven path through the minor leagues.

It might even be remarkable to Matz, who talked to me about the pitch earlier this year. “I’ve really struggled with the curveball,” he admitted.

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(Mis)handling David Price

David Price now has a victory to his name in the American League Division Series, but it’s probably not how anyone imagined he would get it. In yesterday’s game, with the Blue Jays up by a score of 7-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning, manager John Gibbons took out R.A. Dickey in favor of his staff ace, installing Price into a game that was, except in the case of a cataclysm, already well in hand. Price threw 50 pitches, giving up six hits and three runs, thereby eliminating him from starting Wednesday’s deciding Game 5 in Toronto.

Yesterday, Dave wrote about how the Jays shouldn’t use Price out of the bullpen during Game 4. That article was predicated on a simple assumption: that the score of the game would be close, and a high leverage situation would push Gibbons to go to the best pitcher he had available. That method of thinking is an understandable one, and a decision many managers would make with little hesitation.

That wasn’t the case in Game 4, however. To illustrate, take a look at the Win Expectancy chart for yesterday’s game, with a highlight on the point at which Price was summoned from the bullpen:

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 8.44.28 AM

After Robinson Chirinos singled to center with one out and Delino DeShields then flied out to center — the former being the event that sealed Dickey’s fate — the Rangers’ Win Expectancy was just 3.2%. If the argument is that Price was brought in to stifle any perceived danger, there’s isn’t really a good case for it: Chirinos’ single was a blip, a faintest hint of danger, and Dickey had been pitching well in the game up until then.

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TBS, Please Fix Your Strike Zone Graphic

The playoffs have been a bit of a roller coaster so far. The postseason started off with dominating pitching performances from aces on the road, but then yesterday, the four games were mostly slugfests, with batters obliterating the “good pitching always beats good hitting” mantra. We’ve seen teams win with speed, power, pitching, defense, and sometimes just good luck; the games have been wildly different and wildly entertaining.

But if there’s been one consistent theme on a nightly basis, it’s been that fans of of the Cubs, Cardinals, Mets, and/or Dodgers have felt like they were getting absolutely screwed by the home plate umpires strike zone. During nearly every game of the two NLDS series, Twitter has lit up with complaints from fans who think the zone is far too wide to both sides of the plate. Now, you might say Twitter is a platform built on getting people to give knee-jerk reactions in real-time without considering the accuracy of their comments, and I’d agree with you, but the differences in number of complaints between the zones in the ALDS and NLDS have been very obvious.

And that’s because the ALDS games have been broadcast on Fox Sports 1 or MLB Network, while the NLDS games have been broadcast by TBS. And, for whatever reason, the visual box that TBS has chosen to represent the strike zone during their broadcasts is ridiculously small.

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August Fagerstrom FanGraphs Chat – 10/13/15

August Fagerstrom: Hi everyone! I do these now. Apologies for not being Kiley McDaniel, and furthermore for knowing little-to-nothing about prospects. You can ask me about literally anything else though! I’ll be back around noon to get things rolling
August Fagerstrom: ok, hi!
Comment From Kevin
So the Astros cannot possibly recover from that right?
August Fagerstrom: Sure they can! If anything, last night’s game highlighted how crazy and unpredictable baseball can be. I’m not sure game-to-game momentum is really a thing, especially when you have a good pitcher on the mound and a good team
August Fagerstrom: Also, Johnny Cueto hasn’t exactly looked like an ace since the Royals acquired him. Baseball is weird
Comment From Marc
Could the ALDS have gone any better from MLBs perspective?

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The Best Thing About All Nine Jorge Soler Plate Appearances

One of the great intrigues of the postseason is that when the final page turns on the regular season, the book slams shut. Anything that happened in the previous 162 games is firmly in the past, and anyone lucky enough to play more than that is granted a second chance to change something about the way his season is ultimately remembered, whether for good or for bad.

Forget what happened in the regular season; right now, Jorge Soler looks like a star. Carlos Correa is the clear-cut Rookie of the Year, and why would anyone question that Dallas Keuchel deserves the Cy Young Award? Haven’t you been paying attention?

Never mind that just 72 hours ago, Soler was still coming off a disappointing rookie season, Correa still trailed Francisco Lindor by more than a win on our WAR leaderboard, and Keuchel’s season-end line was still about indecipherable from David Price‘s. By being on a playoff roster, every player is afforded the opportunity to write a new chapter of their history; those three happen to be taking advantage.

Jorge Soler, specifically, is having himself quite a time. There’s a problem, though, with trying to analyze a three-game stretch that covers nine plate appearances. The problem is that sometimes you end up with slash lines like 1.000/1.000/2.750, and those are just three silly numbers with slashes between. With nine plate appearances worth analyzing, it feels far more instructive to isolate them. That’s the only way you’re going to get anything out of it, at least. Rather than try to make too much out of Soler’s last nine plate appearances, let’s just find the best part about each one.

Plate appearance #1: walk

Best thing: Jorge Soler drew a walk!


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JABO: The Double Play That Wasn’t

After getting a pair of home runs and an RBI double from superstar rookie shortstop Carlos Correa, the Astros took a 6-2 lead into the top of the eighth inning. Protecting a four run lead just six outs to go, Houston had a 96.8% chance of winning, which would have put advanced them to the ALCS to await the winner of the Blue Jays/Rangers series.

Then Will Harris gave up consecutive singles to Alex Rios, Alcides Escobar, Ben Zobrist, and Lorenzo Cain, as the Royals singled their way back into the game. With the go-ahead run suddenly at the plate, the Astros turned to left-hander Tony Sipp to go after Eric Hosmer, but Hosmer continued the single streak, plating another run and keeping the bases loaded. The lead was down to 6-4 and the tying run was in scoring position, with Kendrys Morales, the team’s most productive hitter this year, stepping to the plate. The team’s chances of winning had fallen to 55.6%.

But even with the Royals roaring back and Morales a quality hitter, there was also some upside to the at-bat. Morales is a double play machine, frequently hitting ground balls with men on base, and lacking the speed to prevent the opponents from turning two on just about any ball hit on the infield. Morales hit in 24 double plays this year, fifth most in baseball, and if Sipp could just get him to keep the ball on the infield, the Astros could put the comeback to a halt in a hurry.

Sipp did his job, and Morales did exactly what the Royals did not what him to do; hit a one-hop bouncer back to the mound. But everything that happened after Morales hit the ball is a reminder of just how small the differences can be between winning and losing.

Sipp just missed fielding the ball himself, and if he had gloved it cleanly, that’s a 1-2-3 double play, cutting down both the run at the plate and Morales at first base. That would have been the most perfect outcome the Astros could have hoped for, but the ball ricocheted off Sipp’s glove and out to shortstop.

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How the Royals Cheated Death

Well, it happened again.


I don’t need to remind you what happened last September 30, because it was one of the more memorable playoff games of our era. And then Monday, the same thing and the same team repeated. Many of the specific details weren’t alike, but the feelings were all the same — a game that was effectively over, followed by a sense of witnessing the improbable. A year ago, the Royals rallied two times. Monday, they rallied just once. Yet the odds they faced at the lowest points were similar, and thus similar odds were overcome. It doesn’t take long to develop a reputation for this. Luke Gregerson must find the Royals unkillable.

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NLDS Game 3: The Cubs Win Loudly

The sun was still out when the first pitch was thrown in today’s Cubs-Cardinals Game 3. That’s as it should be. Wrigley Field is all about day baseball, and with a five o’clock start, the skies didn’t begin to darken until the fourth inning.

Right from the get-go, the crowd was sonorous, and without need of “Get loud!” prompting from the video board. A fervent fan base with 100-plus years of woe in their collective conscience doesn’t require help. (Not that kind, anyway.) And kudos to Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts for recognizing it. As the Chicago Tribune’s Paul Sullivan pointed out, Ricketts has decreed that no such artificial nonsense will besmirch the NL’s oldest venue.

Wrigley roared as one when Kyle Schwarber homered in the second. Two innings later, Starlin Castro equaled the rookie’s feat and the fans roared again. When Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo went back-to-back in the fifth, it was downright deafening. Read the rest of this entry »

Contract Crowdsourcing 2015-16: Day 1 of 15

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 giant and large 2015-16 free-agent market.

Below are links to ballots for five of this year’s free agents, all of them catchers.


Alex Avila (Profile)
Some relevant information regarding Avila:

  • Has averaged 352 PA and 1.0 WAR over last three seasons.
  • Has averaged 1.3 WAR per 450 PA* over last three seasons.
  • Recorded a 0.3 WAR in 219 PA in 2015.
  • Is projected to record 2.3 WAR per 450 PA**.
  • Is entering his age-29 season.
  • Made $5.4M in 2015, as part of deal signed in January of 2014.

*That is, a roughly average number of plate appearances for a starting catcher.
**Prorated version of final updated 2015 Steamer projections available here.

Click here to estimate years and dollars for Avila.

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Noah Syndergaard Brought a Slider to the Playoffs

The primary downside of the Chase Utley play over the weekend was that it happened, and that Ruben Tejada paid an unnecessary price for fielding his position. The secondary downside is that, because the play happened, it’s all anyone really wants to talk about, at least as far as that series is concerned. Which is too bad, because there’s a lot else going on, and as an example, I’d like to take a moment to discuss Noah Syndergaard. Syndergaard didn’t get the Game 2 win, but for a while he did impress, and he’s just generally fun to talk about.

One thing to talk about: Syndergaard made an immediate impression. There’s evidence that pitchers throw harder in the playoffs, and Syndergaard didn’t do much to hide his own adrenaline. According to Brooks Baseball, during the year, Syndergaard’s fastball averaged 98.1 miles per hour in the first inning, and 97.7 in the second. Against the Dodgers, it averaged 100.2 in the first inning, and 99.5 in the second before settling down. Of Syndergaard’s 20 fastest pitches of the year, he threw 13 on Saturday, all in the first three frames. Syndergaard was very conspicuously feeling it, and it took the Dodgers a while to catch up.

But if it’s the velocity that brings you in, it’s the rest of Syndergaard’s repertoire that keeps you engrossed. Already, Syndergaard throws one breaking ball with a nickname. Against the Dodgers, Syndergaard featured a second breaking ball, one he hadn’t played with much before.

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Saying Farewell

Today, the Braves made an announcement, and I happen to be part of it.

Wednesday will be my last day as Lead Prospect Analyst here at FanGraphs, as I’ve accepted the position of Assistant Director of Baseball Operations with the Atlanta Braves. The staff has been great to work for, particularly the guys who decided to take a chance on me: David Appelman and Dave Cameron. They gave me all the resources I asked for and all the support I could imagine for my sometimes odd-sounding ideas.

I think we accomplished something special in setting at least a new template for covering scouting and player development, if not a new standard. My 2016, 2017 and 2018 draft rankings will come out tomorrow, and I have one more project that will be rolling out soon. I was only able to finish about half of what I had set out to accomplish here, so I’m disappointed that I left some of my ambition on the table, but the opportunity I was given for a new challenge was too great to pass up.

In my new job, I’ll be working with arguably the best group of scouts in baseball and coming aboard under new GM John Coppolella. I’ve known Coppy for a while, dating back to when he was my boss with the Yankees for my first baseball operations job, in 2005, while I was still in college. I’m all in on his vision for running a front office and also building an organization, with his fingerprints already all over the organization. John Schuerholz and John Hart are legends and they have arguably the most impressive resumes in the game; I’m thrilled to work for them. It also seemed like the office could use a guy not named John.

I’ll be brief explaining my role, as I’ll be there to learn and contribute behind men with more experience than me. In short, I’ll be doing many of the same things I did for FanGraphs: contributing to the draft and international signings, scouting the minor leagues and doing what I can to improve the big league product, all of these from both a scouting and analytics perspective. I am grateful for everything the FanGraphs family has done for me and to you guys for reading and participating in the process. I look forward to this new challenge and will do everything I can to ensure that it includes multiple World Series titles.

Thanks to everyone for reading, and for all the feedback — positive and negative — that you’ve offered me over my time here. Keep reading FanGraphs, and start watching the Braves; I’m looking forward to what both organizations do going forward.

Carlos Correa Did It Again

Early in Monday’s game between the Royals and Astros, Yordano Ventura tried to come inside against Carlos Correa, and he hit him. A little less early in the same game, Ventura again tried to come inside against Correa, and this time Correa did the hitting:

This calls for the usual screenshots to highlight the event’s subtle absurdity. The moment of contact, paused:


Clearly, an inside pitch, off the plate, although the stupid camera angle messes with our perception. Thankfully, the Gameday window doesn’t operate with a senselessly off-center angle:


Now you get it. First-pitch fastball, inside, not particularly close to being a strike. And yet, a dinger! And not one of the cheap dingers. This one was clobbered, even though the pitch was more than eight inches inside from the inner edge of home plate.

It’s not the first time Correa has done this. A 2015 leaderboard of right-handed hitters who’ve homered on pitches at least a half-foot inside from the edge of the strike zone:

  • Carlos Correa, 3 such home runs
  • Matt Duffy, 2
  • several players, 1

Correa leads baseball in this admittedly arbitrary category, and only he and Duffy have done this multiple times. Correa’s Monday home run was one of the most inside pitches hit out of the yard on the year, and while one could argue Correa would be better off taking these pitches instead of swinging, since he won’t always go deep, Correa has proven his ability to turn inside pitches around. He can, at least, do more damage on these pitches than most. It’s not an accident — he works hard on keeping his hands in, which is what lets him get out in front of these.

Correa just batted a third time while I was writing this. The first two times, Ventura tried to work him in. The third time, Ventura tried to work him away. Correa slashed a tie-breaking double down the line in right field. He’s good at that too.

Projecting Matt Reynolds, Ruben Tejada’s Replacement

And I thought I was done writing about prospect debuts for the year. With Ruben Tejada out of commission following his controversial rendezvous with Chase Utley, the Mets added 24-year-old Matt Reynolds to their NLDS roster for tonight’s game. Tonight marks Reynolds’ first time on a big league roster, so assuming he gets into a game this October, he’ll accomplish the rare feat of making his big league debut in the playoffs.

As you can probably imagine, this doesn’t happen all that often. Reynolds would be only the second player in modern history to break into the big leagues during the postseason. The most recent case was Mark Kiger, who debuted as a defensive replacement for Oakland in the 2006 ALCS. The only other case that I’m aware of happened in 1885, when some guy named Bug Holliday did it. There was also Chet Trail, who was on the Yankees 1964 World Series roster as a “bonus baby” due to a technicality, but never got into a game. So, yeah, this is an oddity.

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McCullers-Ventura Hardest-Throwing Possible LDS Matchup

The first inning has just ended between Kansas City and Houston at the latter’s home field (box). Starters Yordano Ventura and Lance McCullers have already touched 97 and 96 mph, respectively, with their fastballs according to’s Gameday data. Nor would it be particularly surprising for either starter to continue sitting at those velocities: among all the possible starting-pitcher matchups in these divisional series, the two involved in this game are likely to record the highest average combined velocity between any two starters.

Regard, by way of illustration, the following table, which features the top-10 average fastball velocities recorded by pitchers on postseason teams. Note that velocity figures are those produced by relevant pitcher in starting capacity alone. FB% denotes fastball frequency.

Average Fastball Velocity, Possible LDS Starters
Name Team IP FB% FBv
1 Noah Syndergaard Mets 150.0 61.7% 97.1
2 Yordano Ventura Royals 163.1 57.6% 96.3
3 Matt Harvey Mets 189.1 60.9% 95.9
4 Carlos Martinez* Cardinals 174.2 56.9% 95.3
5 Jacob deGrom Mets 191.0 61.8% 95.0
6 Jake Arrieta Cubs 229.0 50.7% 94.6
7 Lance McCullers Astros 125.2 53.8% 94.5
Vincent Velasquez* Astros 38.0 67.6% 94.5
9 Aaron Sanchez* Blue Jays 66.0 76.5% 94.4
10 Steven Matz Mets 35.2 68.4% 94.3
Carlos Frias* Dodgers 71.1 56.3% 94.3
*Omitted from LDS rotation/roster.

Had St. Louis right-hander Carlos Martinez not been shut down due to a shoulder strain, a hypothetical encounter between he and Jake Arrieta would have possibly produced a greater combined velocity. In his absence, however, McCullers and Ventura are likely to receive the distinction.

The Culmination of the R.A. Dickey Experiment

The scientific method begins by asking a question. Ask a question, do some research, and form a hypothesis. Once you’ve got your hypothesis, it’s time to do a little testing. Or, to employ a more lively word, experimenting. Once the test, ahem, experiment is underway, data is collected and analyzed, leading to new questions, new hypotheses and new experiments.

Over in Toronto, a season’s worth of question-asking, researching, hypothesizing, experimenting, analyzing, refining and retesting has been taking place, slowly building up to a grand experiment that will take place on the national stage when the Blue Jays have no room left for error with everything on the line. More likely than not, the experiment will go over just fine and Toronto’s hypothesis will be confirmed. Even if the experiment doesn’t go over fine, the hypothesis could hold water. There still exists the chance, though, that the test tubes suddenly begin to boil over, sending the experiment awry and the laboratory into a frenzy with no time left for reevaluating and retesting.
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