Ryan Schimpf and the Great Old Rookie

It was roughly a month ago that I wrote the post that Ryan Schimpf made necessary. Schimpf is 28 years old, and 28-year-old rookies tend not to merit a lot of attention. There have obviously been some great, older players to produce fantastic debut seasons — like Ichiro Suzuki, for example, or Jackie Robinson. This post, however, isn’t concerned with those players who were kept from the game because they played professionally elsewhere or were unable to play due to systemic racism. Rather, the present post attempts to remedy the lack of awareness for players in a situation like Schimpf’s — older players who make the most of their opportunity — both this year and in those that preceded it.

While Schimpf is certainly the best of the lot this season, he’s not alone among older guys in their rookie seasons this year. The chart below shows the rookies who are at least 27 years old and have recorded at least 100 plate appearances (and who didn’t sign as professional free agents before the season e.g. Byung-ho Park).

Old Rookies in 2016
Name Team Age PA HR AVG OBP SLG wRC+ Off Def WAR
Ryan Schimpf Padres 28 226 16 .242 .367 .613 155 17.8 -4.2 2.1
Jarrett Parker Giants 27 136 5 .254 .375 .430 123 3.5 -3.2 0.5
Jeremy Hazelbaker Cardinals 28 197 11 .250 .309 .506 111 2.2 -4.5 0.4
Whit Merrifield Royals 27 220 2 .271 .305 .381 81 -2.5 6.0 1.1
Shawn O’Malley Mariners 28 193 2 .238 .318 .343 85 -3.5 0.2 0.3
Brett Eibner – – – 27 127 5 .209 .270 .391 72 -4.1 3.9 0.4
Tyler Holt Reds 27 170 0 .213 .292 .260 50 -9.9 -2.6 -0.7

Jeremy Hazelbaker took a path fairly similar to Schimpf, moving from the Red Sox to the Dodgers to the Cardinals, who finally gave him a bit of a chance this season. Parker was drafted by the Giants, has hit in virtually every stop and debuted last year for San Francisco — and is back with the team this season after spending much of the season in the minors. Merrifield progressed slowly with the Royals, eventually making Omar Infante expendable, but ended up back in the minors last month with Kansas City giving Raul Mondesi a shot. Shawn O’Malley was drafted 10 years ago and received only brief exposure at the major-league level in both 2014 and 2015 before appearing this season. Eibner was traded for Billy Burns earlier this year, and the A’s are making a bet that Eibner’s success in the minors can translate to the bigs if given the chance. Tyler Holt is a speedy, low-power player who has gotten to the majors in each of the past three years.

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Jake Arrieta Has Developed a Problem

Any Cubs fan could tell you Jake Arrieta just doesn’t seem quite right. This has been the case for a number of weeks, or months, and we’ve touched on it before. It’s funny to think about the hand-wringing over a pitcher sitting on a sub-3 ERA. But, he really has gotten meaningfully worse, and he’s the staff ace of a World Series favorite. Cubs fans don’t have a whole lot of negatives right now. Arrieta might be turning into one, and he had a clunker against Pittsburgh just Monday.

Last week, I wrote about the curious disappearance of Arrieta’s unbelievable slider. It hasn’t killed him or anything, with the fastball picking up the slack, but that’s not something Arrieta would’ve wished for. The slider going away is a symptom of something. I can present to you now another symptom of something. And it’s related to the slider’s deterioration — Arrieta’s developing a platoon split. He’s having some trouble with lefties, and, it turns out there are lefties everywhere.

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KATOH on the Cape: Projecting Cape Cod League Hitters

The college baseball season wrapped up in June when Coastal Carolina defeated Arizona in the College World Series, but most of the top college players’ seasons don’t end when their team’s season does. Players with dreams of going pro often spend the summer months playing in collegiate summer leagues to gain extra reps and exposure. Teams in these leagues are composed entirely of college players, and — unlike at the college level — hitters use wooden bats instead of metal ones.

The most well known of these leagues is the Cape Cod Baseball League, which aptly takes place along Cape Cod in Massachusetts. The Cape attracts most of the best college players, and many of today’s stars spent their college summers playing there. Josh Donaldson, Evan Longoria, Buster Posey and Mark Teixeira are just a few notable alumni.

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KC’s Chris Young Versus Three Boston Batters

Chris Young faced three batters in the sixth inning of last Friday’s game at Fenway Park. Pitching in relief of starter Ian Kennedy, the Royals right-hander came on with one out, a runner on second base, and Kansas City leading the hometown Red Sox 5-1. He allowed a run-scoring single to Dustin Pedroia, then retired Xander Bogaerts and David Ortiz to end the inning.

Two days later, Young talked about the at-bats, the role of luck, and how his pitching approach is influenced by a home run he gave up in 2005.

———

Young on facing Pedroia: “A lot of variables go into it, but I’m big on looking at the reports. With Pedroia’s numbers off fastballs, and what he does against sliders, in the back of my mind I was thinking, ‘Alright, I probably need to get him out with a slider.’ The fastball he covers pretty well. If I do throw a fastball, it’s got to be in a specific location.

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August Fagerstrom FanGraphs Chat — 8/30/16

11:55
august fagerstrom: Yo! Chat will start shortly after the top of the hour

11:55
august fagerstrom: In the meantime, listen to this new Bon Iver single that I have not been able to quit replaying:

11:55
august fagerstrom: I’m not even a particularly huge Bon Iver fan, but I can’t get enough of the new sound he’s displayed on the three singles. Insanely hyped for this new record. Love the new direction

12:09
august fagerstrom: ok!

12:09
august fagerstrom: let’s begin

12:09
Brett W: Your chat might be more efficient and effective if you lead with the curve.

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Corey Kluber, Jose Fernandez and Maximizing Your Weapons

Back in March, before the season began, our own Jeff Sullivan was interested in a way to potentially improve Corey Kluber. Kluber, of course, was already one of the game’s very best pitchers, but even the best can get better. Clayton Kershaw‘s gotten better seemingly every year he’s been in the league. Kluber could stand to improve as well. Sullivan’s idea for improving Kluber more or less went like this:

Kluber, at least in theory, could benefit from throwing more cutters and curves, and fewer fastballs. The fastball could still remain the primary pitch, but maybe the cutter would become a co-primary weapon. And the curve would show up in greater amounts, particularly in lesser-expected situations.

Reasoning being, Kluber possesses one of the few best cutters in baseball. Kluber possesses one of the few best curves in baseball. The fastballs Kluber throws have graded out as below-average pitches, and yet Kluber’s always led with the fastball. And so the thinking went, fewer fastballs, more cutters and curves, and you wind up with a better pitcher.

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FanGraphs Audio: Eric Longenhagen, Lead Prospect Analyst

Episode 678
Lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen is the guest on this edition of the pod, during which he discusses the recently promoted Jeff Hoffman and Luke Weaver of Colorado and St. Louis, respectively; the recently promoted and immediately demoted Jorge Alfaro of Philadelphia; and finding the ideal seat.

This episode of the program either is or isn’t sponsored by SeatGeek, which site removes both the work and also the hassle from the process of shopping for tickets.

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 05 min play time.)

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Play

NERD Game Scores for Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by sabermetric nobleman 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
Los Angeles NL at Colorado | 20:40 ET
Hill (82.0 IP, 85 xFIP-) vs. Anderson (83.0 IP, 82 xFIP-)
There are a number of strong candidates for facilitating Baseball Pleasure on today’s schedule: this game in Colorado, for example, featuring a Dodgers club for which wins are particularly valuable right now; another game in San Francisco, featuring a Giants club for which wins are particularly valuable right now; and a third game in Baltimore, featuring a Blue Jays and Orioles club, both of which would find some value in a win. What this particular contest offers that the others don’t is a pair of left-handers (a) who have been quite effective and (b) about whom there’s still quite a bit to learn. Among his many virtues, Rich Hill throws a curveball that resembles no one else’s. As for Tyler Anderson, he invites comparisons to Clayton Kershawagainst Corinne Landrey’s will.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Los Angeles NL Radio.

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Two Ways Dansby Swanson Is Being Pitched Like a Slugger

Dansby Swanson is dapper. Dansby Swanson is exciting. Dansby Swanson should have great plate discipline and a good hit tool. And Dansby Swanson is a major leaguer. These things are all true. Dansby Swanson may also be a slugger in the future, but he’s not yet. That’s weird, though, because he’s being pitched like a slugger in two key ways.

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Behold a Genuinely Outstanding Pitch

Someone submitted something to my chat last Friday:

CapnZippers: Seth Lugo’s curveball averaged 3300 RPM last night. That spin rate is almost 10% higher than the next guy. Holy Moly! Mets maybe found a gem?

The same day, Mike Petriello sent out a relevant tweet:

I made a note to do some digging. To be honest, I don’t have a lot to add. As has been measured, Seth Lugo has thrown an outstanding curveball, in terms of its spin rate. It’s outstanding not because it’s amazing; it’s outstanding because it stands out. The average spin rate is way higher than anyone else’s. As a different way to demonstrate that, I pulled up all the individual games with the highest-spin curveballs, from Baseball Savant. Lugo, in the majors, has appeared in 10 games in which he’s thrown at least one curve. A leaderboard:

lugo-spin

Lugo dominates the spin charts in the way that Aroldis Chapman dominates the velocity charts. This isn’t a one-off fluke — Lugo has an exceptional breaking ball. The question is whether Lugo himself will become a quality pitcher, but this should at least get you to raise your eyebrows.

It’s really too soon to say how much this means. It’s not an easy thing to analyze an individual pitch, and Lugo won’t go anywhere if his other pitches don’t play well, too. Everything works together. There is some evidence that high spin is correlated to reduced slugging. And there’s evidence that high spin is correlated to increased whiffing. The evidence isn’t strong, but it makes sense intuitively, and again, this is all complex. It’s fair to say that Lugo’s curveball is interesting, without going any further. I don’t know how interesting this should make Lugo as a player, but I know that now I’ll keep my eye on him. I didn’t have any reason to think about him before.

By velocity and movement, the best comparison for Lugo’s curve in the PITCHf/x era is Brett Myers‘ curve. Myers threw a phenomenal curve for an entire decade. Garrett Richards has another comparable curve, but he’s never thrown it much. Jake Arrieta‘s curve also compares well, so that’s promising. Lugo’s curve appears to be a major-league pitch. A major-league out pitch, even. We’ll see about the other pitches.

Lugo picked up his first-ever big-league strikeout on a curve. It’s with a clip of that curve that I’ll leave you today.

How interesting an arm is Seth Lugo? I don’t know. “More” would be one answer.


Ivan Nova Is Getting Happed

A year ago, when the Pirates were alive in the playoff race, they made what felt like a fairly uninspiring deadline trade for J.A. Happ. Happ was almost a giveaway, and no one really batted an eyelash about the Pirates’ tiny upgrade, but then they made some very minor tweaks and Happ pitched the rest of the season like one of the better starters in the league. There was, at one point, an actual conversation about whether Happ should start the one-game playoff opposite Jake Arrieta. Things were weird.

This year, with the Pirates alive in the playoff race, they made what felt like a fairly uninspiring deadline trade for Ivan Nova. As I recall, news broke after the actual deadline had passed, and it was a small story because Nova didn’t have a lot of value. Nova, also, was almost a giveaway. The move drew criticism, with many saying the Pirates weren’t doing enough. Ivan Nova, after all, is no Chris Sale.

Guess what? Nova has started five games for Pittsburgh, and in those games the Pirates are 5-0. He’s run a sub-3 ERA, and while his strikeouts haven’t spiked, he’s sitting on one walk. One walk, out of 121 batters faced. Nova walked three of 23 batters in his final start with New York. All of a sudden, the Pirates have turned Ivan Nova into a strike machine, and it’s funny what happens when you have a pitcher who consistently gets ahead. The batters, you see, do worse.

As with Happ, the Pirates haven’t had to do anything drastic. Nova’s repertoire looks mostly the same. Nova’s delivery looks mostly the same. Ray Searage himself has said that Nova’s been easy to work with because there’s just not much to do. If the Pirates have done anything, it’s just encourage Nova to pitch with more confidence. Through July of this year, Nova ranked in the 15th percentile of all pitchers in rate of pitches thrown while ahead in the count. In August, Nova ranks in the 88th percentile. Where he was consistently behind, now he’s consistently ahead. This is all very fundamental.

We can look at Nova’s rolling zone rate over time:

nova-zone

The Pirates have Nova working in the zone more often. As for a rolling-average plot of first-pitch-strike rate:

nova-first-pitch-strike

First-pitch strikes more often. And the differences here aren’t huge. I’m going to show you pitch-location heat maps, comparing Nova through July to Nova in August. You can tell that the heat maps are, I don’t know, siblings? They’re just definitely not twins.

nova-locations

The Pirates have Nova working up a little more, and they’ve shifted him a bit, over the plate. Where Nova, previously, was a nibbler with his fastball, now he’s less focused on trying to stay on the edges. Very generally, Nova still has a familiar-looking pitch pattern, but there’s just more confidence there, so there’s more aggressiveness, too. He’s not a strikeout pitcher, and he’s not going to be a strikeout pitcher, but there’s nothing wrong with a low-walk pitcher who can work in the 90s. The Pirates can generate outs behind him.

The explanation might be obvious. Nova no longer is pitching in the American League, and he’s no longer working in AL East ballparks. PNC Park is very forgiving, and maybe Nova just needed to believe that not every fly ball is a threat. This doesn’t necessarily have to be Ray Searage magic. Maybe the Pirates simply identified the right guy to add. Nova hardly cost them anything. Now he’s working to cost some other team a potential playoff spot.


Scouting Julio Teheran, Major-League Starter

Leading up to the trade deadline, there was quite a bit of discussion at this website about Atlanta RHP Julio Teheran regarding his value and whether or not it was prudent for the Braves to move him at this juncture. I was often asked in chats about what I thought about the situation, Teheran’s value, etc. I responded that, going forward, I thought Teheran was a league-average starter, a No. 4 worth around two wins annually. There was some adverse reaction to that, which is understandable given that Teheran has made two All-Star teams before turning 26 and had already contributed about 2 WAR this season when I opined. Conversely, he’s also got a career FIP approaching 4.00 and has seen a drop in his average fastball velocity this year.

The Braves came through Arizona for a four-game set with the Diamondbacks last week and I was in attendance for Teheran’s start on Wednesday to get an in-person look at an arm that has undergone a substantial metamorphosis since his days as a prospect and one that will likely be on the market this winter. I try to hit a major-league game every now and then, just to remind myself for what I’m supposed to be looking in the prospects I see. I thought evaluating Teheran would make for an interesting piece, so I did it.

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The Padres Are Running Towards History

A few weeks ago, Jeff Sullivan wrote about the Padres spectacular baserunning this year. I didn’t see that post, because I was in Oregon shopping for a house when he published it. So this morning, I started writing about the Padres spectacular baserunning, and then Jeff tapped me on the shoulder and informed me that my post was redundant. 2016 has gone so badly for the Padres that even when we try to write about them, even that gets messed up.

But thankfully, I’ve noticed something that wasn’t true when Jeff wrote his post on August 11th that is still interesting enough to justify this post. His post focused on the Padres overall baserunning success, looking at every factor involved in a team’s aggressiveness and success on the bases. I want to point out the Padres insane success at taking bases after contact. To illustrate their success, here’s a graph of the top 10 team UBRs for 2016, which measures the runs added or lost by a team through non-stolen base baserunning, so things like going first-to-third or second-to-home.

2016 Non-SB Baserunning

The Padres are #1, at almost +16 runs; the Indians are second, at +10 runs. The Padres are six runs better than the next best team at this on the year; only four other teams are even six runs better than average by UBR this year. This is an area where the Padres are an island to themselves; no one is even close to being as good as they are this.

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Here Is a Powered-Up Addison Russell

My hunch is that it’s easier for pitchers to make adjustments on the fly than hitters. In part this is because pitchers are simply more in control — they can aim for different areas, while hitters simply have to respond. Pitchers also get more and longer breaks between appearances, and sometimes a pitch can just click. Everybody everywhere is always tweaking something, and I’m no authority, but I’d guess that hitters make their biggest changes over offseasons. That’s when they have the best opportunity to identify a flaw and get to overwriting the old muscle memory.

Yet you do see midseason adjustments. Some players are just better at adjusting than others. Some players are more aware of themselves than others. Some adjustments stick, and some adjustments fade away. Muscle memory is a fickle thing. I can tell you that Addison Russell has changed on the fly. For a while, it seemed like he’d need to either improve his contact or improve his power. His power now is trending up. He is 22 years old.

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Rich Hill Truly Curveballs Like No One Else

As if Rich Hill needs another way to be unique. How many other pitchers experience their career breakout at 35 and become one of the best in the league? How many other pitchers throw their curveball half the time? How many other pitchers who typically throw overhand freeze batters by occasionally dropping to sidearm? How many other pitchers speak fluently about their pitch axis, perceptual velocity, vertical and horizontal planes, and name drop DRA in interviews? Hell, how many other pitchers develop blisters on their fingers which require more than a month to heal? Rich Hill doesn’t need another thing to make him unique, and yet here we are.

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Kevin Newman on Hitting (His Way to Pittsburgh)

The Pittsburgh Pirates knew they were getting a good hitter when they made Kevin Newman the 19th-overall pick in the 2015 draft. Not only did he hit .337 in his three seasons at the University of Arizona, he won a pair of Cape Cod League batting titles along the way. There wasn’t much power — just two home runs as a Wildcat — but he fanned a grand total of 48 times in over 700 plate appearances.

Newman is still putting his bat on the baseball. In 95 games between High-A Bradenton and Double-A Altoona, the 23-year-old shortstop is slashing .328/.391/.435. He’s even showing a little pop. On the season, he has 21 doubles, a pair of triples, and five home runs.

Newman talked about his line-drive approach prior to a recent game in Portland, Maine.

———

Newman on his hitting approach: “I try to hit low line drives all over the field. I know myself as a hitter — I’m a singles-doubles sort of guy — and I want to stick to my strengths. My swing plane is short and level through the zone. I try to hit a line drive over the second baseman, a line drive over the shortstop. Read the rest of this entry »


Eric Longenhagen Prospects Chat 8/29

 

11:02

Eric A Longenhagen: Morning all. Going to be a shorter chat than the usual hour and a half as the Rangers and Padres AZL game for today was moved up to 10am and I want to see Alex Speas. I’ll give you a couple more minutes to get questions in since so far an overwhelming ratio of the ones in the queue are about 25 year olds.

11:06

CarrotJuice: Do the Orioles have any prospects that could be if any use for this season? (Sorry, but I accidentally clicked send before I finished the question before)

11:07

Eric A Longenhagen: If you would have asked my this before the season I would have said Tanner Scott and Jason Garcia could come up late in the year and add some juice to the pitching staff but neither has been very good this year. I suppose Park Bridwell? Not really any clear candidates.

11:07

GPT: You’ve seen Sandro Fabian over the course of the season, final thoughts? His stats have held up. Is he a top 15-20 in the system type player?

11:09

Eric A Longenhagen: Body lacks projection (I think) but solid bat speed, natural loft and timing. Not a CF for me but a solid little prospect. 15-20 in the system feels right, would be ahead of the system’s pure relief arms and Clayton Blackburn for me.

11:09

Great8: Morning! Which young Rays SS do you think has the brighter future? Rondon or Fox? Do you think either will be Allstar quality players? Thanks

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NERD Game Scores for Monday, August 29, 2016

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by sabermetric nobleman 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
Toronto at Baltimore | 19:05 ET
Estrada (137.1 IP, 107 xFIP-) vs. Miley (134.0 IP, 101 xFIP-)
Toronto and Baltimore currently feature the second- and fifth-greatest point adjustments to their respective NERD scores by way of the methodology explained tortuously further down in this post. What that means, practically speaking: their games are of greater consequence than other teams’ — this game, in particular, because each clubs’ divisional odds are directly influenced by the performance of the other club. There’s considerable urgency here, is the point, like an episode of a BBC detective series in which there’s considerable urgency.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Baltimore Television.

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New Interactive Splits Tool!

We’ve created an interactive splits tool that allows you to create your own custom reports by combining splits of various metrics. All the splits that FanGraphs hosts are featured here, along with some new ones — including times through the order, outs and day/night.

The controls have three different sections: stats, splits and group by.

Kris Bryant Splits Tool Overview

The “Stats” bar allows you to toggle between the three different groups of stats we currently host on a player’s split page. This isn’t too different from the standard, advanced and batted-ball tabs we feature elsewhere on the site.

The “Splits” bar is the most important control within the splits tool; this is where you can select which splits are applied. When no splits are applied, you’ll get the full season stats. When a split is applied like “vs. LHP,” you’ll get only the plate appearances against a left-handed pitcher. If you add another split like “Groundballs,” you’ll get all ground balls against left-handed pitchers. As you add splits from different categories, you’ll narrow the number of plate appearances.

Kris Bryant Splits Menu

The splits which are applied appear as blue blocks above the table. If you wish to remove a split, either click the “X” on the split or unselect it within its menu.

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NERD Game Scores for Sunday, August 28, 2016

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by sabermetric nobleman 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
Minnesota at Toronto | 13:07 ET
Gibson (106.0 IP, 104 xFIP-) vs. Dickey (154.1 IP, 113 xFIP-)
By the coin-flip methdology used at this site — which seems to best represent how human minds conceive of postseason odds — both Toronto and Boston feature roughly an equal chance either of winning the division or securing a wild-card spot or of not qualifying for the postseason at all. With just a month or so left in the season, in other words, basically every outcome is equally possible. The consequences of each game are considerable. This is an example of one such game.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Toronto Radio.

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