JABO: Troy Tulowitzki Is More Aggressive, Less Productive

Troy Tulowitzki has been in the news lately because of his desire to be traded away from Colorado (and then his desire not to be), but less publicized is the fact that he’s also in the midst of one of the least productive offensive stretches of his career. His above average walk/low strikeout plate approach has done a 180 this year, with the Rockies shortstop currently posting a career-low walk rate and career-high strikeout rate. With the trade rumors continuing to swirl, we have to wonder: what’s going on with Tulo?

Since first being promoted to the major leagues in 2006, Tulowitzki has shown one of the best all-around toolsets at the shortstop position: he’s hit for power, he’s walked at an above average rate, and he’s limited his strikeouts. Those abilities, combined with great defense, have made him one of the best players in baseball when healthy. Following another season that hinted at what could be if he was able to stay on the field, his numbers have been less than stellar in 2015. In addition to a conspicuous lack of home run power, other parts of his game have fallen off. To start with, let’s take a look at his career walk and strikeout rates compared to league average, updated with this season’s numbers:

Tulo_K_BB_Rates

As we can see, a slight uptick in strikeout rate might not be terribly worrisome, given the fact that we only have just over a month and a half of the season under our belt. However, the almost total cratering of Tulowitzki’s walk rate is concerning: after a career built on walking at an above average clip, he now has the 7th-lowest walk rate in the majors among qualified hitters. It’s unusual to see such a drastic decrease in walk rate among an established player, and it requires some attention.

Read the rest on Just a Bit Outside.


NERD Game Scores for Monday, May 25, 2015

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.s

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Most Highly Rated Game
Washington at Chicago NL | 14:20 ET
Roark (20.1 IP, 119 xFIP-) vs. Wada (4.2 IP, 39 xFIP-)
Among pitchers who’ve (a) thrown at least 100 total innings over the last three seasons and also (b) recorded at least half their appearances in a starting capacity — among pitchers who meet both those criteria, Washington right-hander Tanner Roark has produced the fourth-greatest difference between his park-adjusted ERA and xFIP figures. Among pitchers who’ve thrown at least 200 innings and meet the other relevant criteria, Roark ranks second by that same measure. Raising the innings threshold to 250 innings places Roark atop the table — and raising it to 1000 innings eliminates every pitcher from the sample and renders the endeavor wholly meaningless.

A table expressing most of the above in mostly numeric form appears below. (Note that X-E denotes the difference between xFIP- and ERA-).

# Name Team GS% IP xFIP- ERA- X-E
1 Chris Young - – - 82.5% 199.2 135 85 50
2 Nick Martinez Rangers 86.8% 195.1 134 94 40
3 Danny Duffy Royals 86.4% 212.0 117 78 39
4 Tanner Roark Nationals 62.1% 272.2 101 70 31
5 Hector Santiago - – - 76.4% 324.1 118 89 29
6 Tyler Chatwood Rockies 100.0% 135.1 105 78 27
7 Miguel Gonzalez Orioles 95.4% 380.1 112 87 25
8 Matt Moore Rays 100.0% 160.1 110 86 24
9 Jarred Cosart - – - 100.0% 280.0 112 88 24
10 Kyle Hendricks Cubs 100.0% 126.0 103 80 23

It’s improbable but not impossible that Roark possesses some collection of skills that will allow him to continue preventing runs at his established levels while also recording fielding-independent numbers at his established levels. As PG Wodehouse’s insouciant aristocrat Psmith advises, however, one ought never to confuse the former (that is, the improbably) with the latter (the impossible).

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Chicago NL Television.

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FanGraphs Audio: Kiley McDaniel Analyzes All Swan Colors

Episode 564
Kiley McDaniel is both (a) the lead prospect analyst for FanGraphs and also (b) the guest on this particular edition of FanGraphs Audio — during which edition he discusses Nassim Taleb’s black-swan theory with regard to short right-handed pitchers in the amateur draft, how that same theory might apply to position players, and a pair of minor leaguers with unusual (if also promising) profiles.

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 1 hr 14 min play time.)

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Play

NERD Game Scores: A Carlos Frias Data-Point Special 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 Diego at Los Angeles NL | 16:10 ET
Shields (55.1 IP, 74 xFIP-) vs. Frias (24.2 IP, 91 xFIP-)
For those, like the author, who operate under the notion that Dodgers right-hander Carlos Friasowing to a combination of arm speed and command — that Carlos Frias possesses the tools to develop into an above-average major-league starting pitcher, what this game represents is not an opportunity to wholly confirm or refute that hypothesis, but rather to collect another data point in a series of data points that might ultimately aid in answering that question. For those, like the author, who also aren’t immune to the charms of fermented beverages, it represents an opportunity to collect that data point while consuming same.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Los Angeles NL Television.

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Sunday Notes: Funky Lefties Holiday Edition

Bruce Chen retired on Monday, which makes this a good time to talk about Michael Roth. Chen closed out his career with the Indians, and Roth, a fellow southpaw, signed with Cleveland this past off-season. That’s not their only connection.

A few days before Chen made his announcement, I suggested to the 25-year-old former Angel that he’s similar to the crafty 37-year-old. It turns out I wasn’t the first to do so.

“Bruce told me that after I finished throwing my second bullpen of the year,” explained Roth, who is 5-1 with a 2.39 ERA in eight starts for Triple-A Columbus. “He looked at me and said, ‘Wow, we’re exactly the same; we throw exactly the same way.’

“There are things in his repertoire I like to use. He drops down with his fastball, and throws a drop-down slider. He’ll flip his curveball in, 0-0, and I’m throwing my curveball more this year – a slow curveball. I mix and match angles and throw four different pitches, so I really enjoy talking to Bruce about how he approaches hitters.”

Charles Nagy, who took over as the Columbus pitching coach when Carl Willis left for Boston, agreed there are similarities. He also sees differences, one of which is in Roth’s favor. Read the rest of this entry »


NERD Game Scores for Saturday, May 23, 2015

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
Chicago NL at Arizona | 22:10 ET
Arrieta (52.0 IP, 70 xFIP-) vs. de la Rosa (53.0 IP, 89 xFIP-)
Of some interest regarding this game — besides the matchup featuring two above-average starters — is the quantity of young players its likely to feature. Consider: per Baseball Reference, Chicago has recorded the lowest average batter age (weighted by at-bats) among all major-leauge clubs; Arizona, the second-lowest such mark (tied with Houston). The Cubs, one notes, feature three regulars currently participating in their age-24 season or something less than that: Kris Bryant (147 PA, 1.3 WAR), Addison Russell (112 PA, 0.5 WAR), and Jorge Soler (180 PA, 0.3 WAR). The Diamondbacks feature that same thing, as well, in Ender Inciarte (174 PA, 0.5 WAR), Chris Owings (152 PA, -0.3 WAR), and Yasmany Tomas (98 PA, 0.4 WAR). If not an entire fountain of youth, this encounter certainly offers at least a lawn sprinkler or maybe bidet of youth.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Chicago NL Television.

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The Best of FanGraphs: May 18-22, 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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Graph: Chris Archer Among the Greats

Earlier today, the present author utilized a nearly coherent metaphor involving astronomy to illustrate a point about Tampa Bay right-hander Chris Archer — namely that, not unlike how a star is both luminous and hot, so is Chris Archer’s future as a pitcher simultaneously luminous and also bursting with heat.

There are a number of statistical indicators one might consider when attempting to evaluate a pitcher’s likelihood for future success. One of the most expedient, however, is to assess his capacity to produce both strikeouts and ground balls at a rate better than league average. What follows is a graph that plots those two metrics against each other for all qualifiers thus far in 2015.

Archer Graph

The data points in the top right corner represent a small sample of those pitchers who’ve managed to record decidedly above-average figures by both metrics — and the names associated with those data points are noteworthy. Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw, and Corey Kluber: as a group, they’ve received five Cy Young awards total and have produced a three of the top-five pitching WAR figures since the beginning of 2014. As for Tyson Ross, he’s also recorded excellent numbers — and would produce even more excellent ones were he to exhibit slightly better command.

Archer, meanwhile, hasn’t exhibited problems with either command or control this year. He features one of the hardest fastballs among qualifiers and has also recorded one of the most unhittable sliders among starting pitchers this year, as well. To find him among the top candidates for the American League Cy Young award at the season end would be an exercise in not-surprise.


The Oakland A’s Defense Errs Toward Infamy

The 2015 Athletics have been talked about more than one might expect given their place in the standings. It might actually be because of their place in the standings that they’re getting talked about so much. Having a record in one-run games of 2-13 will do that to a team. They’re unlucky. Their bullpen has chosen the worst possible times to implode this season. And, while this hasn’t gotten as much attention, their defense has been a serious problem, so much so that they might be one of the worst overall defenses in the past 15 years if they continue this level of play.

Those defensive issues are mostly on the back of the infielders, especially third baseman Brett Lawrie and shortstop Marcus Semien (the latter leads all MLB infielders with 15 errors and was profiled on these digital pages just last week). Last night, with a game against the Rays in the eighth inning, it looked like the A’s might put up a zero in the error column, which is more of an exception than a rule in 2015. Then this happened:

Lawrie_Error

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Why Do We Care About the Spitball?

Much of (baseball) history comes down to who you believe. Let’s take Gaylord Perry, for example. Here’s an excerpt from his Society of American Baseball Research bio:

Following the season, the rules committee finally outlawed the practice of a pitcher putting his hand to his mouth anywhere on the pitcher’s mound, instructing the umpire to call a ball upon each infraction. According to Perry’s later confession, spitballers had to learn to use foreign substances like Vaseline or hair tonic, rather than saliva. In Perry’s words, “That rule virtually eliminated the pure spitball in baseball. I had the whole winter and spring to work out an adjustment. It wasn’t easy.” Prior to the rule change, Perry would touch his cap and mouth, and fake a wipe of his fingers. Now he had to get his moisture somewhere else on his person, and also learn a new series of elaborate decoy moves. He spent the winter practicing in front of the mirror. After a rocky spring training, he managed just fine.

Seems pretty bad. And at the end of his long, illustrious/infamous career, Perry would actually be ejected for having a ball covered in vasoline. But then, consider his Hall of Fame plaque. Its second sentence reads:

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Lucas Duda, Everyday Player

Over the last six months, Lucas Duda has probably heard a lot about last season’s .180 batting average against left-handers. A quick search reveals more than half a million hits for “Lucas Duda .180” and all the results in the first five pages were relevant. Fortunately for Duda, that unsightly .180 batting average in just 125 plate appearances is not relevant when it comes to evaluating him as a hitter. Duda had an excellent season in 2014 that saw him record 30 home runs and establish himself as one of the better hitters in the league, despite questions persisting about his ability to handle left-handed pitching. With two home runs yesterday off left-handed pitchers, Duda equaled his total from all of 2014 in one day. With four of his five home runs on the season coming off of southpaws complementing his power surge against righties from last season, Duda has helped cement his status as an everyday player and removed the prospect of a platoon from the equation.

After Duda’s poor results against left-handers last season, the New York Mets could have placed Duda in a platoon, benching him against lefties. Duda never had particularly good minor-league numbers against lefties, either, reinforcing the logic of such a move. After the signing of Michael Cuddyer, there was some talk of letting Cuddyer take plate appearances at first base against lefties and making Duda a straight platoon player. After the signing, Duda said all of the right things but maintained confidence that he could still hit lefties. Read the rest of this entry »


Saber Seminar Tickets Now on Sale

This is my favorite nerd-conference event of the year, and I’m looking forward to participating once again. If you’re in the Boston area that weekend, this is a must-attend conference, and if you’re not in the Boston area, you should think about coming anyway. It’s a blast, and raises tens of thousands of dollars for cancer research at the same time. I give it my full endorsement. Come hang out with us.

Tickets are now on sale for Sabermetrics, Scouting, and the Science of Baseball 2015.
They can be purchased through Ticketleap by following the link.

This year’s conference will happen August 22nd-23rd in Boston, MA, at Boston University’s Jacob Sleeper Auditorium. Our keynote sponsors are FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus.

We’ve assembled a stellar cast of speakers from across MLB and the baseball research community. We’ll have demonstrations from the bleeding edge of performance-enhancing technology. And we’ll have a fun, friendly, community event that raises a ton of money to fight cancer.

Tickets are only $140, with special prices of $65 for full time students. The best part of this exceptionally well valued ticket is that 100% of our ticket proceeds go directly to the Jimmy Fund, a Boston area charity that funds cancer research and patient wellbeing.

For more information including a growing list of speakers, directions to the event, and full pricing information, please visit our website at saberseminar.com.

We work very hard to make Saberseminar the most entertaining, thought-provoking, and charitable baseball event of the year. Come join us in Boston this summer!


Alex Reyes’s Weakness Isn’t That Strong

Cardinals pitching prospect Alex Reyes is putting up some gaudy numbers in High-A Palm Beach. Through seven starts, the 20-year-old owns a sparkling 1.78 ERA and an equally sparkling 1.80 FIP. FIPs below 2.00 don’t come around all that often, even in the minors. In fact, Reyes’s mark is the lowest among qualified pitchers in the Florida State League.

Given these figures, it goes without saying that Reyes has done plenty of things right this year. But there’s one particular aspect of his performance that really jumps off of the page: his strikeout rate. Reyes has struck out 58 of the 142 batters he’s faced this year, which gives him an Aroldis Chapman-esque 41% strikeout rate. That’s a higher rate than any qualified starter in affiliated baseball this year. Read the rest of this entry »


JABO: What Could the Reds Get for Chapman and Cueto?

It’s been known for a while that the Reds are in a difficult place. Stuck somewhere between contending and rebuilding, they’ve had good talent — but not enough of it — and it figured they’d have to make some decisions in 2015. There was sense in trying to win — in this wild-card era, it doesn’t take much — but, failing that, tearing down appeared to be the right course. And while it’s not like the outcome has already been determined, the 2015 Reds are coming into focus.

And they’re not great. Nor are they good. And at a few games below .500, it doesn’t seem like this is the year. Odds are, these Reds aren’t going to win the World Series. Now, to be fair, the World Series odds work against every team, and that’s not always a reason to sell off valuable pieces. But, for the Reds, this is Johnny Cueto‘s contract year. Next year is Aroldis Chapman‘s contract year. Doesn’t make much sense to keep Cueto if you’re not contending down the stretch. And without Cueto for 2016, it’??s tougher to see Chapman belonging. Contention-wise, the Reds aren’t in a good position. But trade-wise, they’ve got some power.

Since the end of the winter, we’ve been waiting to see where the Phillies might send Cole Hamels. The rest of the trade market has been relatively unclear, because pretty much every other team had better chances of playing competitive baseball than this year’s Phillies. We have heard recently that the Brewers are somewhat open for business. The Rockies seem open to mixing things up, even if those things don’t yet include Troy Tulowitzki. But the Reds could offer two of the premier pieces. Cueto’s as good as almost any other starter. Chapman’s definitely as good as any other reliever. In one course, they could be dealt separately; in another, they could be packaged.

So it leads you to the question: What might the Reds be able to get back for their ace starter and their ace closer?

Read the rest at Just A Bit Outside.


Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 5/22/15

9:19
Jeff Sullivan: Welp, no good excuse today

9:19
Jeff Sullivan: Literally slept through my alarm for the first time in years!

9:19
Jeff Sullivan: So just think, this could’ve started *even later*

9:19
Comment From Bret
How long can Anthony Gose sustain this BABIP?

9:20
Jeff Sullivan: You mean the BABIP that starts with a 4 and where the 4 is followed by a 6?

9:20
Jeff Sullivan: I can buy him as a high-BABIP type — I can’t buy him as Ichiro on line-drive steroids.

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The Best 40 Games of Zack Cozart

It probably doesn’t shock you to learn that the three best hitting Reds so far this year all play the infield. Based on what you know about the Reds, it’s only slightly shocking to learn that Jay Bruce isn’t in the team’s top three in wRC+, but Todd Frazier and Joey Votto are obviously right up there and Brandon Phillips, while sometimes overrated, isn’t a bad hitter. Except Brandon Phillips isn’t number three on the list. That was a test. It’s actually Zack Cozart and his 127 wRC+ through 144 PA this year.

As a learned baseball fan, you’re immediately jumping to the conclusion that Cozart has had a nice little run during the first couple months of the season, but there is simply no way he’s actually this good. It’s a totally defensible position to weigh Cozart’s first 1,799 PA from 2011-2014 more highly than the 144 from 2015. That’s just good science. Entering 2015 you had an opinion about how good Cozart is at hitting and 36 games isn’t going to change that.

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NERD Game Scores for Friday, May 22, 2015

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
Oakland at Tampa Bay | 19:10 ET
Kazmir (49.2 IP, 92 xFIP-) vs. Archer (54.2 IP, 68 xFIP-)
A protostar, in astronomical terms, is a region of matter in space that, by some combination of condensing matter and pressure, forms a hot and spinning mass which, with the addition of even more matter, itself develops into a main-sequence star. A protostar, in sporting terms, isn’t really a thing. Were it a thing, however, it would likely denote Tampa Bay right-hander Chris Archer, which pitcher has the sixth-best expected FIP and eighth-highest average fastball velocity among all qualified pitchers. One has the opportunity to observe him today by means of the Rays’ excellent center-field camera.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Tampa Bay Radio.

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MLB Scores a Partial Victory in Minor League Wage Lawsuits

Eight Major League Baseball teams won an initial victory on Wednesday in two federal lawsuits contesting MLB’s minor league pay practices under the minimum wage and overtime laws. At the same time, however, the judge denied the league a potentially more sweeping victory in the cases.

The two lawsuits were filed in California last year by former minor league players who allege that they received as little as $3,300 per year, without overtime, despite routinely being required to work 50 or more hours per week during the playing season (in addition to mandatory off-season training). MLB and its thirty teams responded to the suit by challenging the plaintiffs’ claims on a variety of grounds. Wednesday’s decision considered two of these defenses in particular.

First, 11 of the MLB franchises argued that they were not subject to the California court’s jurisdiction and therefore must be dismissed from the lawsuit. Second, all 30 MLB teams argued that the case should be transferred from California to a federal court in Florida, which they argued would be a more convenient location for the trial.  In its decision on Wednesday, the court granted MLB a partial victory, agreeing to dismiss eight of the MLB defendant franchises from the suit due to a lack of personal jurisdiction, but refusing to transfer the case to Florida. Read the rest of this entry »


The Potential New J.D. Martinez

As far as health is concerned, the Orioles have had something of a middle-infield catastrophe, with injuries to J.J. Hardy, Ryan Flaherty, and Jonathan Schoop. Injuries sometimes force teams to do creative things, and what we saw Buck Showalter do was push Steve Pearce to second base on the fly. Pearce had never played the position before, but Showalter liked his potential over the somewhat defensively-challenged Jimmy Paredes, even though Paredes had experience. That wasn’t the whole story, though: Paredes remained at DH. Showalter said he still wanted to keep that bat in the lineup.

Which is a funny thing to say about a guy who’s been a terrible hitter for most of his big-league career. Granted, it’s not like Paredes has a decade-long track record, but through his first four years, when he batted almost 500 times, his wRC+ ranked right between Yuniesky Betancourt and Freddy Galvis. There are reasons why Paredes was dumped by the Astros, when the Astros couldn’t afford to be liberal with their dumps. Showalter, though, has been a believer. You could say he’s seen some things. And right now, if you sort by wRC+, with at least 100 trips to the plate, Paredes finds himself sandwiched by Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Cabrera. What those players have in common with Betancourt and Galvis is that they’re players in major-league baseball.

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LSU’s Alex Bregman Firmly Among the Top-10 Draft Prospects

I’m not usually compelled to make a seven-hour round trip to scout one player, but that’s what I did last weekend when I drove from my home in Raleigh, N.C., to Columbia, where South Carolina hosted Louisiana State in both teams’ final regular season series before the SEC tournament. The featured attraction was LSU shortstop Alex Bregman, who ranks No. 4 on Kiley’s draft board and went sixth in his mock draft at the time of this writing.

A 29th-round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2012, Bregman has been hitting from the moment he stepped onto campus in Baton Rouge, winning the Brooks Wallace Award as the nation’s best shortstop in his freshman year. Offensively, he took a step backwards in his sophomore campaign, but seems to have added a bigger power element to his game as a junior this season, slashing .329/.417/.577 with nine home runs and 29 stolen bases through 55 games.

A native of Albuquerque, N.M., he grew up playing travel ball with Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart. Because of that friendship and the fact that the organization drafted him three years ago, it’s hard to see Bregman falling past Boston at seventh overall. But as Kiley noted in his most recent mock draft, teams ahead of Boston have eyes for him as well.

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