FanGraphs Audio: Dave Cameron Analyzes All Trades

Episode 583
Dave Cameron is both (a) the managing editor of FanGraphs and (b) the guest on this particular edition of FanGraphs Audio, during which edition he discusses all (read: most) of the trades that happened toward the end of this previous week. It is guest hosted by David G. Temple, so don’t be alarmed when the host’s voice is much more pleasurable than what you were expecting.

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 39 min play time.)

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The Blue Jays Potentially Irrelevant Advantage

With last week’s additions of Troy Tulowitzki and David Price, the Toronto Blue Jays made themselves into a legitimate postseason contender, adding two of the game’s best players to a roster that was already pretty solid. Our rest-of-season forecast now has the Jays with the best projected winning percentage in the American League going forward, and while they’ll likely have to win their win into the division series through the Wild Card game, the Jays look like they could be a dangerous team in October. Price, along with bullpen upgrades Latroy Hawkins and Mark Lowe, gives them a good bit more pitching depth than they had previously, and Tulowitzki adds another quality hitter to a line-up that was already overflowing with offensive weapons.

But the more I look at this roster, the more I begin to wonder whether we’re overlooking one potentially significant flaw in this team’s construction, especially when it comes to the postseason. A week ago, when writing about the Tulowitzki acquisition, I noted that adding a good hitter to a good line-up could actually provide non-linear positive returns, above and beyond just that single player’s individual abilities, because getting guys on base leads to better outcomes for everyone else in the line-up. As I wrote then, we shouldn’t be too concerned about diminishing returns from the Blue Jays already having “enough” offense.

One aspect of the Jays line-up I didn’t talk about enough, however, was the fact that you can have diminishing returns based on line-up construction. Specifically, if you line up too many hitters from one side of the plate, your team will probably score fewer runs than would be expected based solely on overall batting lines, as a line-up that is dominated by same-handed hitters becomes a fairly easy match-up for the opposing manager in important situations. And while Troy Tulowitzki is an excellent player, the Blue Jays line-up may now lean too heavily to the right side.

Here is where the Jays non-pitchers stand relative to the rest of baseball in 2015 performance against RHPs and LHPs, to this point in the season.

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JABO: The Return of Yoenis Cespedes

It has been argued that being the worst at something is as impressive as being the best. After all, both sides of a bell curve are equally proportional. Nothing like starting an article off with some distribution humor! But more germane to this, a baseball website, is that this is yet another way the Mets outfield is not impressive. They are not good to be sure, but also not the worst. And yet, as far as teams that still aspire to the playoffs go, the Mets outfield might be among the worst outfields. Curtis Granderson is having a nice season at the plate and Michael Conforto is an exciting young player but one good player and a dash of hope does not make a productive outfield. This is why the Mets sprung for Yoenis Cespedes at the trade deadline. Thank God for the Wilpons!

As his famous video shows, Cespedes is a man of many talents, only a few of which translate directly to the baseball diamond. His arm is like one of those plastic whip things that throws tennis balls for dogs at the park. His swing is powerful like one you’d see in a whiffle ball league. His pig barbecuing skills are at least a 75 on the 20-80 scouting scale, but sadly those skills are wasted on a baseball player. Even so, Cespedes has harnessed those other skills and become a productive major league player if not the transcendent star some thought when he came on the scene.

But a cursory glance at his stats shows a difference between his offensive production in his rookie season in 2012 and that in the following two seasons. His home runs were present the whole time, but the other skills had settled into a degrading state. The issue was which was the real Cespedes? The one from his stand-out rookie campaign in 2012 that came with power and above average on-base ability, or the one from the following two seasons who sold out for power at the expense of just about everything else?

Read the rest on Just a Bit Outside.


Cardinals Billion-Dollar TV Deal and In-Market Streaming

As digital technology and internet speeds have improved, there has been an increasing realization that consumers do not — or should not, given the incredibly powerful cable providers — need to subscribe to massive cable bundles with hundreds of channels. Netflix has shown people the amount of programming they could have for under $10 per month, and iTunes and Amazon have allowed people to purchase individual shows while Hulu has provided a combination of both options. HBO Now has lent optimism to the idea that consumers will soon be able to purchase their desired channels a la carte.

For years, MLB.tv has provided both the best and worst aspects of meeting consumer needs, providing an incredible amount of games to fans at a generally acceptable price, but accepting big cash outlays to blackout local games and help keep the current cable bundling model alive. While the St. Louis Cardinals’ new television contract, the latest in a line of local billion-dollar deals, is another example of increasing awareness in Major League Baseball that the current cable model will not last forever. How long it will last is still a matter of great debate.

In many ways, the Cardinals new deal is similar to the deal signed by other teams over the past few years. Despite a market that ranks behind Orlando, Cleveland, and Sacramento, and just ahead of Portland, Charlotte, and Pittsburgh in terms of households, the Cardinals were able to sign a lucrative deal due to incredibly high local ratings and generally high interest in the ballclub. According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the deal is set to pay the Cardinals more than a billion dollars over 15 years, an amount that does not include a signing bonus or a 30% stake in FoxSports Midwest, with any revenue received from station ownership not subject MLB’s revenue sharing.

The Cardinals, in the last three seasons of their current deal, are receiving between $25 million and $35 million with the new deal starting close to $55 million in 2018 when the new contract begins. Over the life of the contract, the yearly payout will increase to around $85 million, according to Forbes, who estimated that the new deal increased the value of the Cardinals’ franchise to $1.6 billion, a $200 million increase over their estimate at the start of the season. Read the rest of this entry »


Rays Call up Richie Shaffer

With a 52-54 record and a meager 10% chance of making the playoffs, there likely won’t be much reason to pay attention to the Rays over the next two months. Simply put, it’s unlikely they’ll be playing too many more meaningful games from here on out. However, the Rays just got a bit more interesting today. They called up former first round pick Richard Shaffer from Triple-A Durham, who’s been one of the best hitters in the minor leagues this season.

Shaffer’s hit the crap out of the ball this year. The 24-year-old slugger opened the year in Double-A, where he hit .262/.362/.470 in 175 trips to the plate. The Rays promoted Shaffer to Triple-A in May, and he made it immediately clear that he was one of the best hitters at that level too. His .261/.353/.592 performance yielded a 168 wRC+, which is the second highest mark of any hitter with at least 200 plate appearances in the International League this season, trailing only Jerry Sands.

Shaffer’s 2015 performance has been undeniably excellent, but he hasn’t always enjoyed that same level of success. In 2013 and 2014, he posted wRC+s of 99 and 112, respectively. Since Shaffer was a bat-first prospect, that performance pushed him to the fringes of the prospect radar. At first glance, it might appear as though Shaffer’s 2015 breakout came out of nowhere, and that it’s only a matter of time before the unfeeling hand of regression pushes him back towards mediocrity. But there’s reason to believe that Shaffer’s improvements are for real, and that he very well might be the hitter his 162 wRC+ in Triple-A suggests he is. Read the rest of this entry »


Dan Szymborski FanGraphs Chat – 8/3/15

11:59
Dan Szymborski: Baseball time!
12:00
Dan Szymborski: Well, baseball chat time!
12:00
Dan Szymborski: Going to start lightning round strictly at 1 and try to get through it quickly – I have a very busy afternoon today.
12:00
Dan Szymborski: At least I got my sleep back from the deadline over the weekend!
12:01
Comment From Dann
How long before the A’s cut Ike Davis? He’s basically Daric Barton.
12:01
Dan Szymborski: Well, they kept Barton around forever

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The 2015 Strike Zone, Through July

With strikeout rates soaring and run scoring dipping to generational lows in recent seasons, word came in the offseason that the Competition Committee would be monitoring the expanding strike zone in 2015. Given the scrutiny it is receiving at the league level, I have been tracking the strike zone over the course of the season, with updates at the end of each month. At the following links you can find the updates from the end of April, May and June.
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Wade Davis Deserves Better Than Some Footnote

On August 24, 2013, the most popular movie at the box office was Iron Man 3. The troublesome pop song Blurred Lines was all over our radios. The Boston Red Sox had the best record in the American League, and the Atlanta Professional Baseball Club led the National League. Were we ever so young?

Also on that date, Wade Davis had a start against the Washington Nationals. He ended up losing the game, giving up seven earned runs in six innings. He struck out four and gave up a home run. Remember that last part for a minute.

Wade Davis’ start on August 24, 2013 was, as of this writing, the last start he’d ever have. This was not insignificant, as he was the other half of the James Shields trade — a trade that saw a somewhat-significant package of prospects being sent to Tampa Bay. The Royals thought they were getting a top-notch starter and another with some potential. Through most of 2013, they got a top-notch starter and whatever Wade Davis was. Shields would go on to have two productive seasons for Kansas City, as Davis continued to struggle in the starter’s role and be moved to the bullpen.

A “demotion” to the bullpen is rarely a high point for a pitcher, but for Davis, it could not have been more advantageous. After being sent to the pen, Davis would go on to dominate in the relief role (more on that later). As it happens, August 24, 2013 was a positive turning point for Davis. It would also be the beginning of an impressive — if not quirky — streak. August 24, 2013 was the last time Davis would give up a home run for almost two years.

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Grading the 58 Prospects Dealt at the Trade Deadline

This breakdown starts with the Scott Kazmir deal on July 23, but there weren’t any trades from the 16th to the 23rd, so this covers the whole second half of the month, trade-wise, up until now. I count 25 total trades with prospects involved in that span that add together to have 58 prospects on the move. Check out the preseason Top 200 List for more details, but I’ve added the range that each Future Value (FV) group fell in last year’s Top 200 to give you an idea of where they will fall in this winter’s list. Also see the preseason team-specific lists to see where the lower-rated prospects may fall within their new organization.

40 FV is the lowest grade that shows up on these numbered team lists, with 35+ and 35 FV prospects mentioned in the “Others of Note” section, so I’ll give blurbs for the 40 FV or better prospects here. I’ve also linked to the post-trade prospect breakdown for the trades I was able to analyze individually, so click there for more information. Alternately, click on the player’s name to see his player page with all his prior articles listed if I didn’t write up his trade.

I opted to not numerically rank these players now, but I will once I’ve made the dozens and dozens of calls necessary this fall and winter to have that level of precision with this many players. Look for the individual team lists to start rolling out in the next month, with the 2016 Top 200 list coming in early 2016. Lastly, the players are not ranked within their tiers, so these aren’t clues for where they will fall on the Top 200.

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NERD Game Scores: Big Ongoing New York Area Drama 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.

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Most Highly Rated Game
Washington at New York NL | 20:08 ET
Zimmermann (128.2 IP, 104 xFIP-) vs. Syndergaard (86.2 IP, 80 xFIP-)
As he’s done in each of the two previous editions of this same daily exercise, what the author has done in this edition of it is to alter indiscriminately the NERD score of a game between playoff-contending division rivals to better reflect the consequences of that game’s result — and the opportunity for drama facilitated by those consequences. The division rivals in question are Washington and New York’s National League club, and I’ve taken the liberty of increasing the haphazardly derived score of their game from 7 to 8, thus creating a tie between that particular encounter and the one scheduled between the Angels and Dodgers (itself a promising matchup).

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: New York NL Television.

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Sunday Notes: Felix, Shark, Archer, Sale, Castellanos, more

My first piece for FanGraphs was an interview with Felix Hernandez. That was in May 2011, when Hernandez was 25 years old and coming off a Cy Young season. Four-plus years later, I’m still here and King Felix is better than ever.

Earlier this summer, I asked the Seattle Mariners ace to compare then to now.

“I’m a little different,” Hernandez told me. “I don’t throw as hard anymore. I was 95-96 (mph) back in 2011, and I’m 91-93 now. But I’m a little smarter. I try to throw on the corners and down in the strike zone, and I mix with my breaking balls.”

I reminded Hernandez that he called himself smart in our earlier interview. In retrospect, was that accurate? Read the rest of this entry »


Projecting the Prospects from Smaller, Miscellaneous Trades

This was a crazy trade deadline. Dozens and dozens of players changed teams, including several stars who were dealt in the final days. I did the best I could to keep up with my KATOH posts for all of the trades, but still let a few smaller deals fell through the cracks.

In this post, I catch up on the guys I missed. There are no blue-chip prospects here, but a few of the players listed below have decent shots of being big-league regulars in the near future. I put together brief write ups on the more notable prospects from these deals, and then merely listed the guys who are unlikely to ever be impact major leaguers. (Note: WAR figures denote WAR through age-28 season.)

Zach Davies, Milwaukee Brewers, 5.8 WAR

Zach Davies has spent the 2015 season in Triple-A, where he’s pitched to an excellent 2.84 ERA and a similarly excellent 3.10 FIP. He doesn’t throw particularly hard, but he’s still managed to post average-ish strikeout and walk numbers in Triple-A, which is no small feat coming from a 22-year-old. Furthermore, he’s managed to induce plenty of ground balls (54% ground-ball rate according to MLBfarm), which helps explain how he’s allowed just four homers in over 100 innings on the year.

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NERD Game Scores: New York Area Baseball Contretemps

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.

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Most Highly Rated Game
Washington at New York NL | 19:10 ET
Ross (32.2 IP, 67 xFIP-) vs. deGrom (127.1 IP, 79 xFIP-)
Were the author better at anything, he would integrate into the haphazardly derived NERD algorithm some manner of variable to account for those games in which division rivals — both possessing some non-negligible chance of winning that same division — face each other. I am not better at anything, however, and so what I’ve done instead is to alter indiscriminately the NERD score for this Washington and New York rencontre. Unaltered, it receives a score of 8 — or actually just one point fewer than the Angels-Dodgers game. For those readers, meanwhile, who count themselves among the nerd orthodoxy and are prepared to abide by whatever game the haphazardly derived algorithm dictates, then observing a couple hours of Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout oughtn’t prove very difficult.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: New York NL.

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The Best of FanGraphs: July 27-31, 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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Cubs Look for Depth, Add Dan Haren and Tommy Hunter

During the winter meetings this past December, we heard about Dan Haren‘s fierce desire to stay in Los Angeles as a member of the Dodgers, with the right-hander even going so far as to say he would retire if he were traded. Dodgers’ GM Andrew Friedman called Haren’s bluff, shipping him to Miami with Dee Gordon in what turned out to be a chain of events resulting in the Dodgers nabbing Howie Kendrick from the Angels. With this trade deadline, there was no such threat of retirement from Haren: he’s now moving to Chicago to add depth to the Cubs’ rotation.

Though the Cubs kicked the tires on some of the better pitching help on the trading block, there was never really the sense that they needed to pull that particular trigger, as their rotation currently sits in the top five in baseball for ERA, FIP, and xFIP. With a starting four of Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, Jason Hammel, and Kyle Hendricks — each of whom have made at least 20 starts this season while contributing at least 2.0 WAR — the Haren deal represents a depth move to fill innings in that fifth starting slot down the stretch. Given Haren’s impending free agency this winter, the move is also purely about 2015.

Haren should be an upgrade 0ver the Cubs’ current weak options for their fifth starting spot. Even though he’s dealt with a continued velocity decline (his average fastball velocity has fallen 4 MPH since 2011, down to 86 MPH this season), he’s found a way to make it work, relying on his curveball and cutter more to post numbers that, on the surface, look good (namely a 3.42 ERA in 2015).

The ominous news comes when we dig a little deeper: he currently owns the highest strand rate of his career (82.5%), the lowest BABIP (.248) and is showing extreme fly ball tendencies this season (he’s second-highest among qualified starters in fly ball rate, at 49.1%). That final issue could become a problem with the move to Wrigley, as he’s going from a very pitcher-friendly home park in terms of home runs to a more neutral home run setting. Giving up home runs has always been an issue for Haren, and they could pose a serious problem should that high fly ball rate mix poorly with a less forgiving environment.

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Padres Negotiate With All, Strike Deal With None

Every season, teams play roughly 100 games before the trade deadline. During that time, there are two kinds of teams: buyers and sellers. As sellers, it is their job to give buyers a hard time to trade worthwhile players to the buyers in exchange for players to be used in the future or moving financial obligations that selling teams no longer wish to possess. By all accounts, the San Diego Padres were clearly in the sellers’ camp, yet they held on to all of their players, both potential short-term rentals like Justin Upton, Joaquin Benoit, and Ian Kennedy and longer-term players like Tyson Ross and Craig Kimbrel. The Padres have desirable players on their team, and the decision to hold onto all of their players is curious, although they did make a small move, acquiring lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski.

After the trade deadline passed, Padres general manager A.J. Preller was said to believe the Padres had a chance to make the playoffs this season:

The Padres, as presently constituted, do not look like a playoff team. They are 49-53 with a -53 run differential, and BaseRuns, which strips out sequencing, indicates the Padres have actually been pretty lucky, as their BaseRuns record is actually five games worse than their present one. Our projections do not seem to hint at any great improvement moving forward either, as the team is projected to finish with an 80-82 record. They are currently eight games out in their division and 7.5 games out of the wild-card spot. More troubling than the deficit in the standings, they would have to pass four teams that all appear to be as good or better than the Padres to make the postseason. Their current playoff odds are under 4% for this season. Preller is either delusional or he simply could not get the type of return on his players that he expected. Given the huge amount of rumors associated with the Padres over the last few days, it is fair to assume the latter.

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Projecting the Prospects in the Cespedes Trade

Just minutes before the non-waiver trade deadline, the Mets finally landed the offensive spark plug they were looking for. They swung a deal for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for pitching prospects Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa. Here’s what my fancy computer math has to say about these two minor league hurlers and their respective big league futures. Read the rest of this entry »


Pirates do Pirates at Deadline: Neat Little Moves

The Pirates seem to be perennial buyers at the trade deadline, and though there’s often pressure on the team to make the big move for an ace or a big first baseman, they usually make smaller moves that cost them less. So, in getting reliever Joakim Soria for infielder JaCoby Jones, lefty starter J.A. Happ from the Mariners for Adrian Sampson, and Michael Morse from the Dodgers for Jose Tabata, they spent this year’s trade deadline doing exactly what they’ve done in the past: working around the edges, making neat little moves.

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Deadline Day Transaction/Rumor Omnibus Post

At the winter meetings last year, there were so many concurrent trades that I literally couldn’t finish typing the news to one post before I had to start on the next, and finally, I just gave up and created an omnibus post for all the trade announcements at one time. Given that there are still a good number of potential deals on the table for today, I’m going to follow the same strategy today, but get a jump on things, putting the catch-all post up early, so we can use this to put up tidbits of deals as they come out. We’ll be continually updating this post, mostly with things from various Twitter feeds, throughout the day, and will be writing longer reactions to the trades after they happen.

Below, you’ll find a running list of “rumored deals.” Once they turn from rumor into deal, they will go to the bottom of the page, under “done deals.” The “rumored deals” will be updated with the most recent rumor moving to the top of the block. Got it? Good, keep it.

RUMORED DEALS

Dodgers Moving Alex Wood Already?

The Aroldis Chapman Market

Oh Boy — Or Not

Craig Kimbrel’s Market

All the Nerdy Teams Want Tyson Ross or Carlos Carrasco

DONE DEALS

Mets Get Yoenis Cespedes, Not Jay Bruce

A’s Get Felix Doubront


Twins Get Kevin Jepsen

Blue Jays Get Ben Revere

Cubs Get Dan Haren

Blue Jays Get Mark Lowe

Cardinals Get Jonathan Broxton

Orioles Get Gerardo Parra


Mets Finally Land Big Bat in Yoenis Cespedes

On the back of a terrific young rotation, the Mets are contender-ish this year, and so for the last few months, there has been a steadily increasing cry to improve the team’s feeble offense. After all, the Mets position players are 27th in wRC+, and even after acquiring Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson, this was an offense that didn’t really inspire much confidence. And so, the Mets have been looking for a slugger they can stick behind (or maybe in front of) Lucas Duda, and after walking away from Carlos Gomez on Wendesday night, they’ve reportedly landed Yoenis Cespedes right before the deadline.

The cost was a couple of solid but not spectacular prospects. Michael Fulmer is the headliner in the deal, and while Kiley McDaniel gave him a 45 FV grade before the season, he told me he’d bump him up to a 50 based on the improved slider and command he’s shown this year. Still, it’s mostly a toss-up whether he’s a starter or a reliever, and he’s sticking with his Joba Chamberlain comparison, so this isn’t exactly a premium pitching prospect that the Mets just surrendered. Luis Cessa, the second prospect, is more of just an arm-strength guy with average secondary stuff; Kiley mentioned he’s still a 40 FV and compared him to the pitching prospects the team gave up to get Uribe and Johnson last week.

The big concession here is that they only control Cespedes through the end of the season, as he’s not the multi-year player they were looking for earlier. After the Gomez deal fell apart, and they apparently decided not to meet the Reds asking price for Jay Bruce, rentals were really the only options on the table, so at least they got the best rental position player left. Cespedes is currently in the midst of the best season of his career, already putting up +4.2 WAR in the first 100 games of the year, though he shouldn’t be expected to keep playing at that level; the Mets are probably buying about +1.5 WAR over the remainder of the season.

In fact, for all the long-running talk about the Mets as a landing spot for Troy Tulowitzki, Cespedes actually projects to be a better player over the rest of the 2015 season. His combination of power and quality defense make him a well above average player even in a normal year, and the Mets are acquiring him when he’s performing at the peak of his abilities. And they got to keep most of the best parts of their future in tact in order to do it.

So, realistically, the questions are more about how Cespedes fits in New York than whether about this is a fair price to pay for a good player; it pretty clearly is, given the other trades we’ve seen this week. But while the Mets have long been searching for offense, Cespedes is still a bit of an awkward fit for New York.

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