How Did Nolan Arenado Get So Good At Defense?

Over the last two years, only one National League third baseman has had better defensive numbers than Nolan Arenado. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 9/2/14

Live Blog Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 9/2/14
 


NERD Game Scores for Tuesday, September 2, 2014

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
Seattle at Oakland | 22:05 ET
James Paxton (39.1 IP, 79 xFIP-, 0.7 WAR) faces Sonny Gray (178.0 IP, 92 xFIP-, 2.9 WAR). As recently as August 10, Oakland had a four-game lead over Anaheim and possessed odds of 79% and 90%, respectively, of winning the AL West and qualifying for the divisional series. Pretty convincing, those figures. As of Tuesday morning, however, only Kansas City faces less certainty with regard to the playoffs than the A’s. Emil Cioran’s mother was correct, then, one finds, when she told that same anguished Romanian philosopher: “Whatever people try to do, they’ll regret it sooner or later.”

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Oakland Radio.

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Is Dustin Ackley Fixed?

They encountered one another on a major-league field for the first time this past weekend — the first two picks of the 2009 draft, the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg and the Mariners’ Dustin Ackley. The two names are forever linked in Mariner lore, as it was their ill-timed winning streak at the end of the 2008 season that landed both players in their eventual homes. Strasburg made the Mariners look silly on Saturday night, but Ackley got in a solid counterpunch, drilling a late homer that cost the Nationals’ righty his shutout, ending his night a bit earlier than expected. Truth be told, the Mariners’ return on their first-round selection has looked better of late, as Ackley’s second-half surge has helped keep his club firmly entrenched in the wild-card race. Which is the real Dustin Ackley? The one that struggled for the better part of the last three seasons, or the guy who has shown up for the last month and a half? Read the rest of this entry »


FG on Fox: Danny Farquhar’s Arm Slot, By Organization

It makes sense, on a day like Labor Day, to highlight the struggles of a middle reliever. Even a great one like Danny Farquhar has had to work hard to find his niche on the fringes of the big leagues. Turns out, some of Farquhar’s particular success has come from ignoring management even.

If you remove the guys that have closed for their teams this year, Farquhar is probably the eighth or ninth best middle reliever in the game right now. He’s done it with lots of strikeouts based on 93-94 mph gas and a great cutter/curve combo. And the best command of his career.

It’s been a long winding road to this point. And it’s required ignoring some of the voices in his ear.

Read the rest on Just a Bit Outside.


FG on Fox: Mike Trout and a League-Wide Trend

Note: this was originally published last Friday. Just not here! Whoopsadoodle!

If you’ve watched an Angels game lately, you’ve probably seen it. If you’ve just read about the Angels lately, you’ve probably heard about it. Every hitter in baseball has his own relative hot zones and relative cold zones, but Mike Trout‘s been running a particularly interesting heat map.

It looks something like this:

troutheat

The general message being sent: Mike Trout has been absolutely killing pitches down in and beyond the zone. Yet, he’s been struggling against pitches up. You can see it in color form, as above, or you can see it in numerical form. Against pitches in the lower third of the strike zone this year, Trout’s slugged a spectacular .875. Against pitches in the upper third of the strike zone this year, Trout’s slugged a feeble .211. The former is among the best in the league. The latter’s among the very worst.

Everyone’s picked up on it by now. Trout, I’m sure, knows what’s going on. This is information that’s been noted repeatedly on ESPN and the MLB Network. Based on this, it seems like Trout shouldn’t actually be all that difficult to put away. But, yeah. He’s probably on course to win the American League’s Most Valuable Player award. And despite what the numbers say, Trout’s seen more low pitches than high pitches. To this point, 11 percent of his pitches have been in that upper third. And 14 percent have been in the bottom third. It seems odd, but Trout is just an extreme example of a league-wide trend.

Read the rest on Just A Bit Outside.


NERD Game Scores: Price and Kluber Action 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
Detroit at Cleveland | 16:05 ET
David Price (203.1 IP, 72 xFIP-, 4.6 WAR) faces Corey Kluber (192.2 IP, 72 xFIP-, 5.8 WAR). Following a pair of victories against Kansas City — and a probably imminent, but also currently suspended, third win from Sunday’s game — Cleveland is now a non-negligible participant in the race for the AL Central. Even omitting that suspended game, the Clevelanders now possess better than 5% odds of winning the division — up from less than 2% entering play Saturday. Endeavoring to aid their clubs’ respective causes are Price and Kluber, two of the American League’s probably five most likely candidates — along with Felix Hernandez, Jon Lester, and Max Scherzer — for the Cy Young award.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Cleveland or Detroit Radio.

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NERD Game Scores for Sunday, August 31, 2014

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
Milwaukee at San Francisco | 16:05 ET
Kyle Lohse (165.2 IP, 109 xFIP-, 1.7 WAR) faces Madison Bumgarner (185.0 IP, 78 xFIP-, 3.5 WAR). While the Giants have won the first two games of their series against the Brewers, the Dodgers have lost their first two games in San Diego. The result: a net gain of over 10 percentage points for San Francisco to their chances of winning the division — a gain which is perhaps most effectively depicted by the GIF below featuring the standings and playoff odds for all NL West clubs both from two days ago and then also this morning. (Click to enlarge instantly.)

Giants Giants

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: San Francisco Radio or Television.

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Sunday Notes: Olson’s Pop, Porter, McClendon, Carter, Dahl, Beimel Revival

Matt Olson epitomizes power and patience. The 20-year-old Oakland Athletics prospect leads the California League in home runs (36) and walks (116). Playing first base for the Stockton Ports, he has a .260/.403/.540 slash line going into the final two days of the minor league season.

Olson has fanned 136 times, but he projects as more than an all-or-nothing slugger. Drafted 47th overall in 2012 out of a Georgia high school, Olson has a smooth left-handed stroke and an advanced approach for someone yet to take his first legal drink. The former Parkview prep acknowledges his pop, but temperance is his M.O.

In the opinion of Stockton manager Ryan Christenson, Olson “is a very patient hitter” and “has done a better job of refining his strike zone and isn’t missing his pitch when he’s getting it, which is why his power numbers have spiked.” The young longball specialist isn’t letting his moon shots go to his head.

“I don’t look at myself as a power hitter, but I’m going to get that label because of the power numbers,” said Olson. “I have that capability, but I’m just trying to put up good ABs and if I get a pitch in my zone, I put a good swing on it. I’m not necessarily set on one specific pitch, but I’m also not up there whaling at everything.”

Christenson was Olson’s manager in low-A Beloit last year, where the youngster hit .225 and finished second in the Midwest League in home runs (23) and strikeouts (148). This season Christensen is seeing a player who is a year older and wiser, and doing a better job handling the inside fastball. According to scouts, Olson has struggled when busted inside. Read the rest of this entry »


FanGraphs Audio: Dayn Perry Plumbs Myriad Depths

Episode 477
Dayn Perry is a contributor to CBS Sports’ Eye on Baseball and the author of three books — one of them not very miserable. He’s also the guest on this edition of FanGraphs Audio — during which episode Perry engages both in figurative and actual plumbing.

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 53 min play time.)

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Play

NERD Game Scores: An Evening with Mike Fiers

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
Milwaukee at San Francisco | 21:05 ET
Mike Fiers (35.0 IP, 78 xFIP-, 0.9 WAR) faces Jake Peavy (163.2 IP, 111 xFIP-, 1.3 WAR). Since his early August promotion back to the majors, Fiers has been excellent over four starts, recording the second-highest strikeout rate (33.3%), third-lowest park-adjusted xFIP (63 xFIP-), and second-lowest park-adjusted ERA (32 ERA-) among the league’s 116 qualified starters in August. He is, for example, the sort of pitcher a club with the fourth-best odds of qualifying for an NLDS might want starting against the club with the fifth-best odds of doing that.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: San Francisco Radio or Television.

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The Best of FanGraphs: August 25 – August 29, 2014

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, purple for NotGraphs, dark red for The Hardball Times and blue for Community Research.
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De Leon and Beras: Extreme Youth in the Rangers System

When our other prospect writers submit scouting reports, I will provide a short background and industry consensus tool grades. There are two reasons for this: 1) giving context to account for the writer seeing a bad outing (never threw his changeup, coming back from injury, etc.) and 2) not making him go on about the player’s background or speculate about what may have happened in other outings.

The writer still grades the tools based on what they saw, I’m just letting the reader know what he would’ve seen in many other games from this season, particularly with young players that may be fatigued late in the season. The grades are presented as present/future on the 20-80 scouting scale and very shortly I’ll publish a series going into more depth explaining these grades. -Kiley

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Different Process, Same Results for Andrelton Simmons

“With his defense, he doesn’t need to do much at the plate” is a common refrain heard in regards to the best defensive players in the game. Elite players at premium positions get a lot of rope, so valuable is their glove work. Especially at key, up-the-middle positions, the offensive bar is set so low that any contribution from the game’s best defenders can be considered a bonus.

In 2013, Andrelton Simmons was among the most productive players in baseball, thanks to his beyond-superlative defense. To the surprise of many, Simmons also slugged 17 home runs, offsetting his struggles to get on base to produce a nearly-league average season. His 91 wRC+ surpassed the average shortstop last season, which is a recipe for a successful season. If you hit better than most of the peers while definitely fielding better than most of your peers, you’re doing something right.

As 2014 began, Simmons and the Braves were clearly not content with his production levels and vowed to change him, to bring his swing under control and make him a more complete hitter. In June, Braves hitting coach Greg Walker explained to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that it was a matter of identity for Simmons, one he needed to adjust. “You’ve got to make a decision on what type hitter you want to be. Do you want to be low-average guy, a power guy, and deal with a lot of failure?”

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Jonny Venters Is Broken Again

News broke last night that Braves reliever Jonny Venters has yet another torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow. This comes a day after the Braves shut down Venters’ rehab program after the pitcher felt discomfort. We now know why he felt said discomfort.

Venters had joined a growing group of pitchers like Brian Wilson, Joakim Soria, and, more recently, Jarrod Parker who all required a second Tommy John Surgery. According to our own Jeff Zimmerman’s TJS database, were Venters to get a third surgery, he would be the second pitcher to ever do so. The first was Jason Isringhausen.

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Alex Gordon, UZR, and Bad Left Field Defense

Since Alex Gordon moved into first place in position player WAR (although he’s now second again), quite a bit of back-and-forth discussion has occurred on if he is this season’s best position player. Most of the talk revolves around how much stock  should people put into defensive statistics. Our own Dave Cameron has already taken a stab at the subject earlier in the week. Alex Gordon is getting close to two wins of value from his defense, a considerable jump from his previous seasons. After looking at the inputs used for UZR, it is not Alex Gordon‘s performance going to new levels, but the lack of talented defenders in left field making him seem better.

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Called Up: Dilson Herrera

There will be more of these with September call-ups looming and with 50 Future Value as the cut-off for who gets a post, Herrera just barely qualifies.  Take a look at the Rangers list or yesterday’s Rockies list to get an idea of what 45 and 50 FV means.  The last of the 50 FV prospects is generally around the 150th best prospect in the game.

Thanks to Jeffrey Paternostro for the above video.

Hit: 45/55, Game Power: 45/50, Raw Power: 50/50, Run: 50/50+, Field: 45/50, Throw: 45/45+

Note: From now on, when I list scouting grades for a player in an article, they will appear on his player page in real time, so pop over to Herrera’s page and marvel at technology.

Using the process from the org prospect list format, the triple slash line upside for Herrera is .280/.345/.430.  This is taking the projected tools above, converting them into stats (i.e. 55 bat converts to .270s batting average), then rounding up a bit (how much for each tool depends on the player) to account for “upside” rather than “projected output.”

Dilson Herrera is a bit of a grinder, with one scout comparing him to Mark Ellis.  That may not be what Mets fans are hoping for from a hotshot prospect that hit his way from A-Ball to the big leagues in his age 20 season, but part of the appeal with Herrera is how quickly he reached his ceiling (or close to it).

He was a known prospect on the July 2nd circuit from Colombia but only got a $220,000 bonus, with multiple millionaires from him class looking like total busts already.  This was due in part to Herrera’s 5’10 stature, the fact that he wouldn’t fit at shortstop in the big leagues, he isn’t a quick-twitch athlete and his swing is a little funny.  He’s worked his way to being an average second baseman, which was also in doubt at one point, and will post average to slightly above run times.

Herrera loads his hands up (behind his ear) rather than back (at or below shoulder height) like most hitters do.  This normally creates length to a swing, with the quick downward motion to start a swing often leading to more downward motion than is necessary and a loop to the swing path.  Herrera has had to prove it for the past few years, but he has very good awareness of the bat head, feel to hit, bat control or whatever you want to call it and he makes more consistent hard contact that almost any other hitter with this swing.

Being this advanced at the plate at 20 often leads to All-Star upside, but as I mentioned above, Herrera isn’t that kind of guy physically.  He’s a solid 50 for most scouts and he may reach that ceiling by Opening Day next year.  Not bad for one of the two players (along with Vic Black) the Mets received from Pittsburgh last season in exchange for two rentals (Marlon Byrd and John Buck).


Nicholas Minnix Baseball Chat – 8/29/14

11:39
Nicholas Minnix: Hello, folks! Hope you’re doing well. I’ll be with you at the top of the hour.

12:01
Comment From Tom
Votto droppable in an eight-team league?

12:01
Nicholas Minnix: Yes. But you waited this long! :D

12:02
Comment From Vic
Does Syndergaard deserve some Sept starts?

12:02
Nicholas Minnix: Deserve is a heavy word. Don’t think it’d hurt to give him one or two.

12:03
Comment From Guest
You ok with starting Peavey and Lackey this weekend?

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Library Update: Offense (Off)

One of the great things about FanGraphs is the ever increasing number of stats and features available on the site. One of the downsides of that is that if you miss the initial announcement, things can get awfully confusing awfully quickly. In my efforts to update and expand the FanGraphs Library, I noticed a number of stats that slipped through the cracks and failed to get their own entries after debuting on the site. Today, we are correcting one of those absences.

One of our most prominently displayed statistics is Offense, or Off if you’re checking out the leaderboards or player pages. We rolled Off and Def out about a year ago as simple combinations of stats we already offered on the site, but if you weren’t hanging out on FanGraphs in mid-September 2013, you might not have known what they meant. Off is simply batting and base running runs above average added together and tells you about a player’s total offensive value relative to league average. It is a cumulative stat, so it is based on the quality and quantity of your performance. To learn more, check out the new entry in the Library.

As always, feel free to contact me on Twitter @NeilWeinberg44, in the comments, or during my weekly chat at 3pm eastern on Wednesdays with any and all FanGraphs and stat related questions.


NERD Game Scores for Friday, August 29, 2014

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
Milwaukee at San Francisco | 22:15 ET
Wily Peralta (162.0 IP, 99 xFIP-, 0.7 WAR) faces Ryan Vogelsong (150.0 IP, 108 xFIP-, 1.1 WAR). Despite a 1.5-game lead over the latter, Milwaukee currently possesses almost the exact precise chance of winning the NL Central as St. Louis, featuring odds of 44.5% (according to the methodology used by FanGraphs) against the Cardinals’ figure of 44.3%. The Giants, meanwhile, are among a small group of clubs whose odds of making the divisional series continue to hover around 50%. Not grounds for Highest Possible Drama, the aforementioned circumstances, but at least Reasonably High Drama.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: San Francisco Radio or Television.

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