Yasiel Puig or Jeff Francoeur?

Not long ago, we had a little company trip to New York, and while we were there we swung through the MLBAM offices. As part of that visit, we had a chance to go on the Statcast Podcast with Mike Petriello and Matt Meyers. At one point, in talking with them, I blurted out Jeff Francoeur as a player comp for Yasiel Puig. I hadn’t thought about it much, in the way I usually don’t think about the things I’m saying out loud too much, but I remember a weird and uncomfortable silence. It hasn’t been a great season for Puig, and we all know what Francoeur became. The link between the two isn’t something one should want to face.

But let’s face it, and let’s face it together! When I mentioned Francoeur, I didn’t really know the statistics. Now I’ve gone to the trouble of pulling up the statistics, so what follows is a quiz, I guess. You’ll be presented with 12 prompts, each of which cites one statistic. And you’re asked to pick which player is responsible for the statistic: this year’s Yasiel Puig, or Jeff Francoeur in his 20s. (Francoeur played in his 20s between 2005 and 2013.) There are no benefits to a right answer, and there are no consequences to a wrong answer. There are only numbers and answers. Truth is its own benefit, or consequence.

Godspeed and good luck and I’m sorry?

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Pirates’ Prospect Austin Meadows, Then and Now

The Pirates are currently only four games out of the last Wild Card spot, and their star center fielder is currently under contract for two more years after this one. Regardless, that hasn’t stopped people from wondering if Pittsburgh should trade Andrew McCutchen, even if the lack of an obvious trade partner makes a deal unlikely. Usually part of the argument is that the team has a near-ready replacement in Austin Meadows.

The 21-year-old center fielder just laid waste to Double-A and is now learning the ropes at the highest level in the minor leagues. His power has finally blossomed, and he looks like the five-tool prospect that’s made him a top prospect ever since he entered affiliated baseball as a top-10 pick in the 2013 draft.

It wasn’t always super easy for the player, though. I caught up with Meadows in the Arizona Fall League last October, when he was coming off an up-and-down season that saw him slug at a below-average rate both in High-A and in the Fall League. We talked about what he needed to work on. Then I asked lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen how well Meadows has addressed those issues, so as to get the best sense of Meadows over the course of the last year.

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Eric Longenhagen Prospects Chat 6/27/2016

Projecting Astros Rookie Slugger A.J. Reed

The Astros have gotten painfully little production from the first-base position this season. Spring-training hero Tyler White stopped hitting in April, and Marwin Gonzalez hasn’t exactly stepped up to pick up the slack. Houston’s lack of offense from first is a big reason why they’ve underperformed their preseason expectations. In an effort to fill the void, the Astros have called up top prospect A.J. Reed, who figures to get the lion’s share of starts at first base from here on out.

Reed’s hit everywhere he’s played. In 2014, he lead the SEC in both on-base and slugging his junior season at Kentucky, and he closed out his draft year by slashing .289/.375/.522 between two levels of A-Ball. He enjoyed his biggest breakout last year, when he hit an unquestionably gaudy .337/.428/.604 with 34 homers between High-A and Double-A. His performance has deteriorated a bit this year, but he’s still managed a .266/.345/.509 slash line in Triple-A.

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FanGraphs Audio: Dayn Perry’s Menu of Pain

Episode 662
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 monstrous vermin on this edition of FanGraphs Audio.

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 21 min play time.)

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The Time Is Not Right to Trade Andrew McCutchen

A few weeks ago, when the Pirates got swept by the Cardinals, while also losing Gerrit Cole and Francisco Cervelli to the DL the same weekend, I noted that the Pirates might have to be a seller this summer, as their playoff odds has dropped down to 14%, and it was looking like this might not be their season. Well, in the two weeks since I wrote that post, their playoff odds have continued their freefall.

chart (36)

As it stands this morning, we’re projecting the Pirates to finish at 80-82, and with the Cubs, Nationals, and Giants all looking like they’ll finish north of 90 wins, that leaves the Mets, Dodgers, Cardinals, and Marlins all looking like Wild Card contenders, each with expected totals between 85-90 wins. To make it into the Wild Card game, the Pirates would have to leapfrog over three of those four teams; that would require them to play at over a .600 clip the rest of the season, most likely, and this doesn’t look like a team that is likely to go on that kind of sustained run.

So barring a miraculous turnaround over the next month, the Pirates are going to be sellers. According to the rumor mill, teams are already kicking the tires on Mark Melancon and Francisco Liriano, and as the deadline draws closer, it’s easy to imagine interest growing in the team’s other contract-year role players like David Freese, Neftali Feliz, and Sean Rodriguez. But with the team looking like a likely seller, attention has turned to a less-likely trade target, with speculation mounting that perhaps now is the time for the Pirates to trade Andrew McCutchen.

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The Marlins Are Doing Just Fine Without Dee Gordon

Last week, there was a little event you may have heard about called the “summer solstice.” Both calendars and my elementary-school science classes tell me that means summer just officially began. There are a few basic truths about summer’s infancy: children in your community may currently be in a state of euphoria; it’s time to plan July 4th barbeques; and, most relevant to our shared interests here at FanGraphs, there is still a lot of major-league baseball left to be played this year. As a result, the standings are largely inconsequential at the moment and still subject to massive changes before the postseason rolls around. And, yet, I’m struck by this meaningless triviality: if the season were to end today, the Miami Marlins would be a Wild Card team.

It’s not the most shocking scenario imaginable. The Marlins weren’t among the handful of rebuilding National League teams whose playoff aspirations were written off before the season even began. After all, the team boasted popular preseason picks for MVP and Cy Young in Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez, respectively. But this is also a team which last finished above .500 when Bryce Harper was a high-school sophomore… It wasn’t hard to have doubts that the Marlins would finally capitalize on their talent and actually field a winning team this summer, but the club is currently doing its part to help people forget those doubts. This past weekend, the Marlins took three out of four from the suddenly mortal Cubs to bring their record up to 41-35 and put them into a second place tie in the National League East with the scuffling Mets.

Due to the unpredictable nature of injuries and on-field performance, no team is able to perfectly execute a preseason plan — players get hurt, stars underperform and role players have breakout years — and the Marlins are no exception. One of those unexpected developments for the Marlins is that they’ve fielded one of the best outfields in the league due much less to the contributions of Stanton (currently in the midst of a career-worst season) and much more to Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich. It’s been a wellcovered storyline for the Marlins.

There’s another key way in which the Marlins have had to deviate from their preseason plan, too — namely, who they’ve played at second base.

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The Astros Have Gotten Themselves Back in It

No matter where you get your information, the Houston Astros entered the season as consensus favorites to win the American League West. Our preseason projections gave them a better than 50% chance to take the division. Forty-six of 55 FanGraphs staff members chose them to win the division. In case you think a pro-Astros bias exists on the site, whether being informed by our projections or for some other reason, consider also that Baseball Prospectus’ staff liked the Astros, as did the fine folks over at CBS and ESPN.

Y’know what’s a great way to dump a big bucket of cold water on some hot preseason expectations? Start your season 6-15. Do that, and you’ll drop your preseason playoff odds by 37% before the end of April and get FanGraphs to write an article saying you’re already in trouble. Another way: start your season 17-28. Do that, and you’ll drop your playoff odds to a season-worst 18% and get Sports Illustrated to write an article wondering if you’re already done. By that point, it was totally reasonable to have written the Astros off, May and all.

Except, y’know what’s a great way to fire those preseason expectations right back up? Win 23 of your next 31, including seven in a row near the end of June. Do that, and you’ll get your get your record back over .500, leapfrog the Mariners in the standings, get your playoff odds back to being a coin flip and get this very article written about you: the Astros have gotten themselves back in it.

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Finding Nimmo: Projecting the Newest Met

Michael Conforto was supposed to be one of the Mets’ top run producers this year. After storming through the minors last year, the 2014 draftee wound up being a crucial part of his team’s run to the World Series last year. The year 2016 hasn’t been as kind to him, however, which prompted the Mets to send him back to the minor leagues. In his place, they called up another young outfielder: Brandon Nimmo.

If you feel you’ve been hearing about Nimmo for a while, it’s probably because you have. The Mets drafted Nimmo in the first round out of high school way back in 2011: a time long, long ago, when Mike Trout was still in the minors and Matt Kemp was in the midst of an eight-win season. Although he’s been around awhile, Nimmo turned just 23 in March, making him younger than Conforto.

Based on his early performances in the Mets’ system, Nimmo looked like something of a bust. He hit just .259/.382/.374 over roughly 300 games the low minors from 2011 to -13, and then proceeded to hit a miserable .202/.306/.238 in the Arizona Fall League. Most concerning of all, he was striking out in over one-fourth of his trips to the plate.

But once the calendar turned to 2014, Nimmo began living up to his first-round draft pedigree. He broke out in a big way when he slashed .322/.448/.458 in his half-season in High-A. He came back to earth a bit following a promotion to Double-A, but still managed to put up solid numbers across the board, all while keeping his strikeout rate under 20%.

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NERD Game Scores: Noah Syndergaard Against the Unknown

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
New York NL at Washington | 19:05 ET
Syndergaard (91.0 IP, 55 xFIP-) vs. Unknown (N/A)
Were one to suggest that Noah Syndergaard faces the unknown tonight in Washington, one would appear to be advancing an existential truth that applies not merely to Syndergaard himself but rather to anyone who’s been tasked with this absurd burden of living. Because, regard: “a perpetual bout with the unknown” certainly isn’t the worst characterization of our works and days. That said, it’s also possible that one, stating that Syndergaard faces the unknown tonight, is merely noting how the Nationals hadn’t named a starting pitcher for this evening’s game. Because they hadn’t. At least not so far as Major League Baseball’s probables page is concerned.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: New York Television.

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Michael Conforto’s Wrist and the Language of the CBA

On Saturday, the New York Mets announced that the team was demoting struggling outfielder Michael Conforto, optioning him to Triple-A Las Vegas. On one hand, the Mets’ decision to send Conforto to the minors wasn’t particularly surprising, as the second-year player had been in the midst of a deep slump, hitting just .148/.217/.303 since May 1.

On the other hand, however, the timing of Conforto’s demotion was potentially a bit controversial in a different respect. As ESPN’s Keith Law noted on Saturday:

Indeed, Conforto reportedly was given a cortisone shot on Tuesday, June 14 to treat strained cartilage in his ailing left wrist.

This is potentially significant because Article XIX(C)(1) of Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement forbids teams from sending injured major-league players to the minor leagues. As the provision clearly states, “Players who are injured and not able to play may not be assigned to a Minor League club.” Instead, the CBA requires clubs to place injured major-league players on the major-league disabled list.

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NERD Game Scores: Fernandez/Kershaw Double Feature

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
Chicago NL (Hammel) at Miami (Fernandez) | 13:10 ET
Los Angeles NL (Kershaw) at Pittsburgh (Kuhl) | 20:08 ET
Does baseball — or any spectator sport, for that matter — amount to little more than an optiate of the masses, a distraction from the centralization of power among a select few whose nearly invisible oppressive force slowly corrodes our humanity? Or, alternatively, does it offer an opportunity to observe the perpetual struggle against circumstance — the agon in Greek — played out in dramatic form, to witness the outlying margins of human potential? “Yes,” is obviously the one possible answer. Today, whatever the Pastime offers, it offers it twice, first in the form of Jose Fernandez at around 1pm ET and then, later, by way of Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Chicago NL Television, Los Angeles NL Radio.

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Sunday Notes: Yonder, Yankees, Dodgers, Pitch Selection, more

Yonder Alonso hasn’t been dealt a generous hand. Drafted seventh overall by the Reds in 2008 out of the University of Miami, the Cuban-born first baseman was shipped to San Diego three years later. The trade took him from one of baseball’s most hitter-friendly venues to one of its least friendly.

Last winter, the Padres sent Alonso to the A’s, who play in an equally unforgiving yard. You have to feel for him. Injuries have influenced his production as well — he’s no stranger to the disabled list — but one can’t help but wonder what his numbers might look like had he spent the last four-plus seasons in a cozier abode.

His splits aren’t extreme, but they’re emblematic. He’s hit .257 with a .697 OPS in home games and .283 with a .739 OPS on the road. Power has been at a premium, as he has just 33 home runs in 2,051 big-league plate appearances.

Alonso has never felt a need to alter his attack plan — “Generally, the way I swing pretty much works in any field” — but he’s aware that where he’s played has impacted his career. Read the rest of this entry »

The Best of FanGraphs: June 20-24, 2016

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 and blue for Community Research.
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NERD Game Scores for Saturday, June 25, 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
Boston at Texas | 21:20 ET
Wright (98.1 IP, 102 xFIP-) vs. Griffin (33.2 IP, 112 xFIP-)
The adjusted xFIP figures for Steven Wright and A.J. Griffin are published here because they’re published for every pitcher scheduled to start in the day’s most highly rated game. Generally, this make sense: whatever a pitcher’s adjusted ERA at any moment, it’s more likely to resemble his xFIP figure going forward. But that’s only generally. Further research on DIPS theory over the last decade-plus has revealed that certain pitchers actually do exhibit signature batted-ball profiles.

Knuckleballers are one sort of pitcher of this sort. As a result, it’s not surprising to find that Wright has produced an ERA over than 30% lower than his xFIP relative to the league (106 xFIP-, 71 ERA-). Likewise, Griffin. He doesn’t possess a knuckleball, but does throw a curve that sits at just under 70 mph. Perhaps as a result of that — and a result of the interaction of that pitch with the rest of his repertoire — he’s conceded a .247 BABIP over 300-plus innings this year, only .237 this year.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Texas Radio.

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NERD Game Scores for Friday, June 24, 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
Washington at Milwaukee | 20:10 ET
Scherzer (101.1 IP, 79 xFIP-) vs. Davies (69.2 IP, 98 xFIP-)
The reader is likely aware of the how Max Scherzer is talented. The purpose of this brief entry is to note how Zach Davies, while less talented than Max Scherzer, is also probably more talented than the average major-league starter. Here’s one piece of supporting his evidence: for the season, Davies’ run-prevention and fielding-independent numbers are better than average. Here’s a second, related piece: in June, specifically, Davies has produced the 20th-best adjusted xFIP and third-best ERA among 98 qualified starters. Here’s who’s right in front of him on the ERA leaderboard: Michael Fulmer and Steven Wright. Here’s who’s right behind: Max Scherzer — a.k.a. the same pitcher who’s the pitcher Zach Davies opposes tonight.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Milwaukee or Washington Radio.

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Jameson Taillon’s Remarkable Return

Of late, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been remarkable in a rather disappointing way. On May 27, the club was 28-19 and had a 43.7% chance of making the playoffs. Two weeks later, after a sweep at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals, Dave Cameron cast considerable doubt on the Pirates’ ability to compete this season. Now, after four weeks and a 6-20 stretch, the team’s playoff odds are down to 2.7% in what figures to be a very competitive wild-card race.

Despite the disappointments of June, the Pirates continue to possess a very good, very young core in the form of Gerrit Cole, Starling Marte, and Gregory Polanco. That group provides an opportunity to stay competitive in a way most small-market franchises have found incredibly difficult. The emergence of Jameson Taillon can only help those fortunes going forward.

Still just 24 years old, it would be reasonable to assume that Taillon has been taking a fairly standard path to the big leagues, continuing to move up the ranks as he gets older and has more success. That has not been the case, however. Taillon was actually fairly close to the majors three years ago, at 21 years of age, reaching Triple-A in 2013, with a reasonable expectation of finding his way to Pittsburgh the following season. He was consistently ranked among the top 20 or so prospects since having been drafted with the second-overall pick in 2010.

That 2014 season didn’t go as planned, however, and Taillon underwent Tommy John surgery in April of 2014. A solid rehab and recovery would have put him back on the mound sometime in the middle of last season. While trying to ramp up for the rest of the season, Taillon then had surgery for a hernia, recovery from which kept him out the rest of the season. When he headed back to Triple-A this year, he had not made a competitive pitch in over two full seasons. He didn’t look rusty, though, recording 61 strikeouts and just six walks in 61.2 innings of work for Indianapolis. That earned him a promotion to the majors — and, in light of Pittsburgh’s difficulty in finding reliable and healthy starters, his stay in the big leagues should last a while.

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Brian Dozier’s Path Out of the Slump

As May came to an end, I made my way cautiously over to Brian Dozier, who was slashing .202/.294/.329 at the time. Approaching a player in the midst of a slump can go one of two ways — you can either get Brandon Moss and complete honesty about what that battle is like, or you get frustrated non-answers tinged with anger.

Dozier was more of the former — even though his numbers at the time were some of the worst of his career, particularly the ones that concerned balls in play. He didn’t mind, though, since he had a simple solution on which he was working that day. The results were immediate.

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How Much Will Yulieski Gourriel Cost?

Five weeks before the trade deadline, contenders are starting to ramp up discussions on moves that would bolster their rosters for the stretch run, but this year, there’s a wrinkle. For teams looking to add an offensive upgrade, there’s also a free agent to consider: Cuban superstar Yulieski Gourriel. The infielder was the country’s best hitter before he and his brother left the country in pursuit of Major league jobs, and MLB recently cleared him to sign on and get his career underway. Instead of giving up talent from their farm system, a team could simply spend money to add Gourriel, and the ability to upgrade with budget room only has to appeal to a number of clubs.

But, of course, the question will be how much money the 32 year old Gourriel is going to cost. Every team would take him if the price was low enough, but because of the high incentives for large-revenue teams to spend on international free agents, Cuban players have increasingly been getting significant guarantees. And, unfortunately for Gourriel, the last batch of players to cash in after leaving the island have been a miserable failure.

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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 6/24/16

Jeff Sullivan: Hello friends

Jeff Sullivan: First chat in a few weeks!

Jeff Sullivan: Let us baseball chat, posthaste

Frank: Is Teheran wearing a Red Sox uniform come August?

Jeff Sullivan: Think of it kind of like World Series odds — the Red Sox might be the team with the greatest probability, but that actual probability is likely no higher than, say, 20%

Jeff Sullivan: So few decent pitchers out there. So many teams looking. Dombrowski might be the most willing to overspend to get what he wants, but I wouldn’t exactly count on that

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