NERD Game Scores: Ante-Meridian Baseball Opportunity

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


Most Highly Rated Game
San Francisco at Washington | 11:05 ET
Bumgarner (108.1 IP, 82 xFIP-) vs. Strasburg (57.1 IP, 90 xFIP-)
Roughly 240 years ago on this date, American colonists declared independence from the tyranny of British rule — an event to which the Washington Nationals pay homage each July 4th (i.e. today) by declaring independence from the tyranny of afternoon and night baseball. Fortunately for all involved, the latter event generates much less in the way of bloodshed and political turmoil. Also fortunate, is this: that this year’s edition of the ante-meridian game features starting pitchers Madison Bumgarner and Stephen Strasburg, each of whom possess objectively compelling traits according both to the methodology laboriously crafted by the author and also just everybody’s normal judgment.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: San Francisco Radio or Television.

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NERD Game Scores: A Chris Archer Resume-Building Event

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


Most Highly Rated Game
Tampa Bay at New York AL | 19:05 ET
Archer (109.0 IP, 61 xFIP-) vs. Tanaka (53.1 IP, 79 xFIP-)
To the degree that the reader is a human person, that same reader likely holds the opinion that the process of updating one’s resume is among the most tedious activities one is compelled to endure. Indeed, Greek mythology reveals to us that, when Zeus condemned Sisyphus for the latter’s hubris, he gave Sisyphus the option either of rolling a boulder uphill for all eternity or re-writing his cover letter to better reflect his passion for streamlining workflow. The choice was easy.

The advantage of working primarily as a Major League Baseball Pitcher is that one’s performance, whether positive or negative, is recorded by a number of well-known media outlets. As such, one isn’t compelled to dedicate much time or effort in the resume department. In fact, the present media outlet reveals that Chris Archer is currently among the most likely candidates to be recognized at year’s end as the American’s League’s top pitcher. One finds, for example, that he’s produced the third-best park-adjusted xFIP among all qualifiers, and also the fourth-best pitcher WAR. This game against the division-leading Yankees represents an opportunity to make his case even more strongly.

Readersí Preferred Broadcast: Tampa Bay Radio.

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The Best of FanGraphs: June 29-July 2, 2015

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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Two Carlos Carrascos In Two Weeks

Carlos Carrasco‘s Wednesday night ended with a smile, but few others were smiling, as Joey Butler broke up a would-be no-hitter in the ninth with two outs and two strikes. Throw in the fact that Butler’s liner just barely sailed over Jason Kipnis and you could argue Carrasco came as close as you can come to a no-hitter without pulling it off. Still, it was rather obviously the performance of a lifetime — Carrasco struck out Rays hitters 13 times, and he missed a full 30 bats. The line-drive hit came on pitch no. 124; Carrasco’s previous season high was 114.

A performance like Carrasco’s is interesting on its own. Yet in this case, it’s even more interesting in context. Carrasco dominated the Rays on July 1, just missing a no-hitter. Carrasco got knocked around by a very similar Rays lineup on June 19, getting pulled with a 10-hitter. The Rays, in other words, got to go up against Carlos Carrasco twice in two weeks, and the first time around, they got the better of him. But it turned out that didn’t give them an advantage. In the second game against the same team, Carrasco simply pitched like someone else.

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Lefty Jason Groome Leads Top 15 from 2016 Draft Showcase

USA Baseball’s Tournament of Stars is an annual event held in Cary, N.C., that serves as a tryout for the 18U national team trials roster. Six teams that include more than 100 players compete in a tournament-style showcase over six days, and USA Baseball selects 40 players for the trial roster who then compete for 20 spots on the team that will go to the World Baseball Softball Confederation 18U World Cup, set for Aug. 28-Sept. 6 in Japan.

For scouts, TOS represents the No. 2 stop on the high-school summer showcase circuit after PG National, and it’s a prime opportunity for evaluators to watch many of the nation’s best draft-eligible high-school players do battle against each other while hitting with a wood bat. Often, showcase performance factors heavily into a prep prospect’s evaluation and helps put relatively unknown players on the map. This was the case for Cardinals first-rounder Nick Plummer, whose outstanding play on the summer circuit carried more weight since he played in a Michigan high-school league that starts the count at 1-1, thus complicating the evaluation. Another recent example is Manny Machado, who emerged from relative obscurity and turned heads at the 2013 TOS and East Coast Pro showcases. He became a high-level follow for Florida area scouts entering the spring, and you know the rest.

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The Contact Score Multiplier

Many of my recent articles in this space have centered upon assessment of batted ball quality for hitters. In this day of StatCast and Hit f(x), discussion of such information has intensified in the public realm, and with it has come much misunderstanding. There is a whole lot more to batted ball quality than authority itself. The Mariners hit the ball much harder than the Cardinals, but aren’t nearly their equal as an offensive ballclub, for instance. Today, let’s examine the relationship between hitters’ contact score and their OPS+, based on their K and BB rates relative to the league. Read the rest of this entry »

A History of Josh Donaldson in Foul Territory

If a person came up to you and made the claim that Josh Donaldson was the best player in baseball, you would actually have to refute his or her case with legitimate evidence. If someone said Rajai Davis was the best player in the league, you could just roll you eyes and get on with your day, but Josh Donaldson is close enough to the top of the list that a counter-argument is required. Is he a better player than Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Paul Goldschmidt, or even Bryce Harper? Probably not, but he’s worth considering.

He’s worth considering, in large part, because he’s a great hitter. Donaldson ranks 18th in wRC+ since 2013 (min. 500 PA) at 140. An average defensive third baseman with a 140 wRC+ is something like a 6 WAR player over a full season. But, as I’m sure you know, Donaldson is not an average defensive third baseman. He’s one of the very best.

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Putting Chris Sale’s Strikeout Streak in Historical Perspective

By striking out 12 St. Louis Cardinals hitters on Tuesday night, Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox tied Pedro Martinez’s record for striking out at least ten hitters in eight games in a row. The feat is an impressive one, requiring a consistent level of performance for more than a month. Only four pitchers have had such a streak last more than five games, per Baseball Reference’s Play Index (Much of the data throughout this piece comes the Play Index).

Year Games IP BB ERA SO
Chris Sale 2015 8 60 9 1.80 97
Pedro Martinez 1999 8 62 8 1.16 107
Randy Johnson 2001 7 56 13 1.93 90
Pedro Martinez 1999 7 53.2 13 1.51 84
Nolan Ryan 1977 7 60 45 2.55 90
Randy Johnson 2002 6 50 14 1.08 79
Randy Johnson 2000 6 45.1 11 1.99 71
Randy Johnson 1999 6 49 11 1.84 65
Randy Johnson 1998 6 51 10 2.29 74
Pedro Martinez 1997 6 50.2 15 1.78 72
Nolan Ryan 1972 6 54 25 1.33 76

During the streak, Sale has an ERA of 1.80 and a 1.27 FIP while striking out 42.5% of hitters. Counting only strikeouts during the streak, Sale’s 97 Ks would be tied for ninth with Sonny Gray for strikeouts for the entire season in the American League. WIthin Sale’s current streak is a five-game span where Sale struck out at least 12 hitters every game which is also tied with Pedro Martinez (as well as Randy Johnson) for the longest streak in history. As it stands, Sale’s 141 strikeouts and 35% K-rate are number one in baseball. Although unlikely, Sale has an outside shot at becoming the first pitcher to achieve 300 strikeouts since 2002 when both Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling achieved that mark for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Read the rest of this entry »

The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

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

Central to the exercise, of course, is a definition of the word fringe, a term which possesses different connotations for different sorts of readers. For the purposes of the column this year, a fringe prospect (and therefore one eligible for inclusion in the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above both (a) absent from the most current iteration of Kiley McDaniel’s top-200 prospect list and (b) not currently playing in the majors. Players appearing on any of McDaniel’s updated prospect lists or, otherwise, selected in the first round of the current season’s amateur draft will also be excluded from eligibility.

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Dave Cameron FanGraphs Chat – 7/2/15

Dave Cameron: Chatting on Thursday this week because Kiley happened to be in NC yesterday and wanted to grab lunch, so this all feels a bit strange. And to make it even stranger, we’re going to start and end a little early today; the queue is now open, and we’ll go from 11:45 to 12:45.
Comment From hscer
On a scale of negative billion to +10, how surprised would you be to learn that Chris Davis and Ian Desmond lead MLB with four 4-strikeout games?
Dave Cameron: I certainly wouldn’t have expected Desmond to be on there over guys like George Springer.
Comment From Pale Hose
Can we expect this to get weird? We are used to weird on Thursdays.
Dave Cameron: Next Thursday, the weird will return, I’m sure.
Comment From Joss
Eno’s piece on the submarine riser got me wondering. Do you think there are effective pitches not yet invented?

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Introducing: The Submarine Riseball

“Have you ever heard of a submariner throwing a riseball?”

Athletics Media Relations and Broadcasting Coordinator Zak Basch almost had a crazy look in his eye as he asked. But as soon as I understood what he was asking, there were two intense people in that Oakland dugout, contemplating insane things. Because it’s almost an impossible idea, the riseball released from a submarine angle. They physics of releasing the ball down under makes it almost impossible to get backspin on the ball, and backspin is what gives fastballs “rise” — backspin helps the ball drop less than you’d expect, given gravity.

That’s why, when you ask current submariners, they mostly just shake their head. “I’ve heard stories of this myth before,” laughed Javier Lopez of the Giants. He struggled to name any active low-slot pitchers that have ever thrown a riseball on purpose.

But it’s not impossible. Basch, a former pitcher for the University of Nevada (Reno) himself once threw one in game action, and it only took a couple dozen failed attempts to get there. Just to get an idea of how difficult it is to get backspin on the ball from that angle, Basch modeled the delivery and spin for a traditional submarine fastball and then how you might throw a rising fastball.

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The July 2 Sortable Board

Kiley initially rolled this feature out a few weeks ago, but with signing day’s arrival, we wanted to make this more prominent on the site today, so we’re re-running the initial post. The board has since been updated many times and is current with the latest information.

The July 2 Board is both sortable and able to be sorted.

Today we’re unveiling the sortable board for the July 2nd international signing period. This works mostly like the sortable draft board (which is also still accessible by means of a tab at the top of the page) with some different columns, for obvious reasons. The top-41 players are ranked based on my preference from seeing these players and talking to scouts about them, not in order of industry consensus or projected bonus, though you can sort by bonus if that’s what you’re looking for. The other players listed are not ranked, just sorted based on expected bonus, so long as I think they’ll get $300,000 (the most that the teams in the penalty can offer) or more. You can also check the international article archives for more info on many of the players listed here.

The projected bonus represents what I think the player will get, not what I think they’re worth, and the projected team is listed if I’m over 50% sure that will be where the player lands (with many of the projected teams having been certain for months or even a year). Many of the higher-profile players without a team listed are still working out for teams in the last month and are far from signing. I’ll add tool grades and reports for more players next week, but these 69 players should quench your thirst for July 2 knowledge, though I’m sure a couple guys omitted from the board will get bigger bonuses than expected.

These are the top players that are currently subject to the international bonus pools, which reset next Thursday on July 2, so older Cuban free agents (there aren’t any notable ones eligible to sign at this time) won’t appear here. Five other notable Cuban players absent here are one status email from MLB away from being added to the list. RHP Vladimir Gutierrez, CF Yusnier Diaz and RHP Norge Ruiz are the best of that group and all project to get multiple millions in a signing bonus, but are all expected to fall under $10 million, at least right now. CF Randy Arozarena and SS Alfredo Rodriguez are also in this group and are more six figure to low seven figure type prospects.

Team-Focused Update

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NERD Game Scores: Jose Fernandez Dramatic Return Event

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


Most Highly Rated Game
San Francisco at Miami | 12:10 ET
Cain (Season Debut) vs. Fernandez (Season Debut)
With few exceptions, three conditions must exist for a game — a game of any sort — to hold any sort of appeal for spectators, irrespective of what other variables might be present.

Three conditions, as follow:

  1. The players must (mostly) follow the rules; and
  2. The players must give the impression that they’re trying to win; and
  3. There must exist some consequence to the result, such that victory produces a positive outcome; defeat, an undesirable one.

For today’s Marlins game, like most other Marlins games, no more than one and a half of those criteria are likely to be met — and yet it would be difficult for a reasonable party to argue that this afternoon’s contest possesses anything less than great appeal for spectators. The reason: today represents the return of Miami right-hander Jose Fernandez from the elbow injury that afflicted him last May.

Whatever the severity of that injury, it would appear as though this version of Fernandez bears considerable resemblance to that previous, ecstatic one. He produced strikeout and walk rates of 33.7% and 6.1%, respectively, over five starts and 24.2 innings between High- and Double-A as part of his rehab, sitting at 94-96 mph, it would appear, during the last of those.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: San Francisco Radio or Television.

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A Brief History of Non-Star All-Stars

Let the record show that I am all about Omar Infante starting the All-Star Game. As Grantland’s Bill Barnwell recently stated at the beginning of his fantastic article regarding below-replacement players who’d received MVP votes: “Baseball has a rich historical tapestry of stupidity.” May anarchy reign. Whatever.

Inspired by Barnwell’s spirit of inquiry, I wanted to discover which All-Stars finished their season with negative WAR — a destiny, it should be noted, that neither Steamer nor ZiPS project Infante to fulfill (barely). Read the rest of this entry »

San Francisco Has the Best Infield in Baseball

The San Francisco Giants began the season with what appeared to be an adequate, but perhaps underwhelming, infield. Buster Posey was the star at catcher and Brandon Belt seemed like a solid young first baseman. Brandon Crawford looked to be a decent glove-first shortstop while not much was expected from Joe Panik at second — and even less than that was expected from Casey McGehee at third base. McGehee could not quite catch fire the way he had done in Miami the previous season and has since been replaced by the previously unknown Matt Duffy. Nearly halfway through the first half of the Major League Baseball season, however, the Giants’ quintet of infielders has been the best in all of baseball.

Buster Posey has been right in line with his very high expectations, and Brandon Belt has been solidly aboveaverage as expected, but Panik, Crawford, and Duffy have vastly exceeded expectations in 2015. The group as a whole was projected for 12.4 wins before the season according to the FanGraphs Depth Chart projections. Those players have already accumulated nearly 13 wins and have more than half of the season to go. That number is the best in MLB this season.


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Chris Heston Is the Giants’ Latest Find

Chris Heston was listed on only two of the six major preseason prospect reports. John Sickels listed him in his “Others” section at the end of his top-20 list, and FanGraphs’ own Kiley McDaniel placed Heston 14th on his list. Kiley called him an “inventory starter” but did allow for some potential as well. Here was his final sentence on Heston:

Heston may be one of the small percentage of potential #5 starters that turns into more, but we’ll need to see how he performs his second time through the league.

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JABO: The Padres Should Go For It

It’s safe to say that the first half of 2015 hasn’t gone the way the Padres would have hoped. After making a number of surprisingly aggressive moves over the winter, the organization expected to contend for a playoff spot, but after another loss last night, the team now stands at just 37-42. Entering July at five games under .500 puts them closer to rebuilding teams like the Braves and Diamondbacks, and they’re only barely ahead of the Reds, who are widely expected to start moving some of their best players as the trade deadline draws near.

Over the next month, General Manager A.J. Preller and his staff will have to make some tough decisions. For instance, Justin Upton is a free agent at the end of the year, and a return to San Diego seems unlikely, so if the Padres don’t trade Upton before August 1st, they risk letting him leave for nothing more than a single draft pick as compensation. In a trade market with few sellers, and even those who are selling lacking impact hitters to sell, Upton could fetch a nice return, perhaps bringing back a decent approximation of what Preller sent to Atlanta to get Upton in the first place.

But despite the fact that we currently estimate their odds of making the playoffs at less than 10%, I don’t think the Padres should sell Upton, or any of their other players who would be attractive chips on the trade market. Even with the odds stacked against them, I think the Padres should keep this group together and hope for the best.

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Kendall Graveman on Cutters, Contact and Spin Rates

Kendall Graveman pitches to contact with a sinker and a cutter. He throws the former better than half the time and the latter nearly a quarter of the time. Working down and skirting sweet spots is his thing. Punch-outs aren’t. The rookie righty has a worm-killing 47.4% ground-ball rate, but fans a paltry 5.66 batters per nine innings.

Obtained by the A’s as part of last winter’s Josh Donaldson package, Graveman is inducing plenty of outs. The 24-year-old Mississippi State product has allowed just 12 runs over his last eight starts. The stingy outings were preceded by a month-long stint in Triple-A following five mixed-bag performances to begin the season.

Graveman discussed his repertoire and approach, including how TrackMan data has influenced each, when Oakland visited Fenway Park in early June. Read the rest of this entry »

Eno Sarris Baseball Chat — 7/1/15

Eno Sarris: heyo! weird day! be here shortly.
Eno Sarris:
Comment From hooha
Thirsty Thursday has now become Wet Your Whistle Wednesdays
Comment From hooha
Wacky Wednesday?
Comment From Good Wood
All hail Cesar Hernandez!
Comment From hooha
If you’re here chatting today, does that mean tomorrow is Friday?

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Winning and Losing the Strike Zone Game: Midseason Update

Welcome to one of those posts that’s basically just a bunch of words around one table. The function of the words is to try to explain what the table is saying, but if you don’t need that interpretation, you can just look at the numbers and be on your merry way. Look at the time you can save. It’s like you made your day longer!

I wrote this post once already, when the season was roughly a quarter over. Now the season’s roughly two quarters over, so I thought it could be useful to issue an update on the data. The question being answered, to some extent: which teams have most benefited from favorable strike zones? Which teams have been hurt, meanwhile, by unfavorable strike zones? It might seem like a complicated thing to dig into, but it’s really quite easy, and you could do it yourself in a matter of minutes using numbers we have on our leaderboards.

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