We Have a Pop-Up Controversy

Think about what you know about hitters and pop-ups. Pop-ups, for all hitters, are bad. They might as well be one-pitch strikeouts. And, you know who doesn’t hit them? Joey Votto. You know that Joey Votto pretty much never hits a pop-up. It’s among the many things that make him extraordinary. Joe Mauer also doesn’t really hit pop-ups. Christian Yelich. Ryan Howard. Shin-Soo Choo. On and on. And there’s Howie Kendrick. Kendrick doesn’t hit pop-ups. But:

That was tweeted at me yesterday. And when I checked the live statistics on FanGraphs, Kendrick had an infield fly. Yet when I check those same statistics today: nothing. It’s as if it’s been erased. Here is the batted ball in question:

Fielded comfortably by the second baseman. We’d all identify that as a pop-up, right? In one sense, then, Kendrick did pop up yesterday. You could say it’s the most important sense. Yet, here’s the leaderboard, when I look at everyone who’s batted at least 500 times over the past three calendar years. This is why this matters. (It doesn’t matter-matter, but, you know.)


Kendrick is the only guy with double zeros. Everyone else has hit at least one infield fly. So, what are we supposed to do, here?

In truth, it’s not that much of a mystery. We get batted-ball data from Baseball Info Solutions, and they have a specific definition of what makes an infield fly. Yesterday, when I checked the live stats, those were getting fed in by MLB Gameday, and that has a different, looser definition. So Kendrick’s fly ball was a pop-up by one definition, but not by both. If you take the BIS data as gospel, Kendrick objectively remains without such a blemish. But you can’t really say Kendrick hasn’t hit a pop-up. He just hasn’t hit one particular kind of pop-up.

Heck, this was just a matter of weeks ago:

The last time I checked, the BIS cutoff was 140 feet. That is, any fly ball hit more than 140 feet wouldn’t count as an infield fly. Kendrick still hasn’t popped up within the infield. But these flies flew only a little beyond 140. And now that we have Statcast, we can try to run some numbers ourselves. We’re still going to have to define things arbitrarily, and Statcast sometimes has trouble picking up batted balls hit at extreme angles, but let’s just see what we can do for 2016. Why don’t we set a cutoff at a launch angle of 60 degrees?

Joey Votto has zero such batted balls. Christian Yelich, zero. Joe Mauer, one. Howie Kendrick, one. Starling Marte, one. I don’t know how many batted balls are missing from the sample, so it’s not authoritative. But, it’s something. No definition of a pop-up is going to be the definition of a pop-up. This is the issue with bucketing. But Howie Kendrick either has a pop-up or two, or he doesn’t. According to the numbers we have here, Kendrick hasn’t popped up once in three years. That’s amazing! It still, no matter what, reflects a legitimate ability of his, but his is a soft zero. There’s no arriving at a one true answer.

Howie Kendrick most certainly doesn’t hit pop-ups. Except for the rare occasions when he does. Welp?

The Worst Called Ball On Record

Last Monday, in what was a pretty critical game against the Mariners, Josh Donaldson got ejected in the seventh inning. Officially, he was ejected for arguing balls and strikes, but, unofficially, he was ejected for being a jerk. During his seventh inning at-bat, Donaldson tried to check a swing, and he disagreed with the determination that he didn’t check it enough. A couple pitches later, Donaldson was called out on a pitch that was probably below the zone. That was too much, and Donaldson expressed himself, and that was that. Donaldson wasn’t likely to hit again, so the ejection didn’t mean much, but he felt like he was getting screwed. Josh Donaldson belligerently wondered aloud why he couldn’t catch a break.

If only he knew then what he might know now. I don’t want to say that Donaldson deserved a break. A grown man needs to be able to control himself. But borderline calls are luck, and given enough time, luck will even out. Several days ago, Josh Donaldson felt like he was unfairly struck out. Friday night in Toronto, Donaldson was in the box for the very worst called ball of the entire PITCHf/x era.

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Steve Clevenger and the Precedent for Insensitive Comments

Seattle Mariners’ backup catcher Steve Clevenger is not particularly sympathetic to the Black Lives Matter movement. Rather than keep his feelings on the matter to himself, however, he decided to share them with the world on Thursday afternoon in the following tweets:


Not surprisingly, the public response to Clevenger’s comments was swift and unforgiving. Within hours, the Mariners released an official statement distancing the team from the remarks. And although Clevenger later apologized for the tweets, the Mariners nevertheless announced on Friday that the team was suspending him without pay for the remainder of the season.

On the one hand, the impact of the suspension on Clevenger will be relatively modest, as he was already on the 60-day disabled list with a broken hand, and thus was unlikely to play again for the Mariners this season. On the other hand, however, by being suspended without pay, Clevenger will forfeit the roughly $32,000 he would have earned over the season’s final 10 games.

It does not appear as though Clevenger will challenge his punishment, according to a report by Maury Brown. If Clevenger were to change his mind and file an appeal, however, then it is possible that he could get his suspension reduced by an arbitrator. Specifically, although Major League Baseball and its teams generally have the legal right to punish players in this manner, Clevenger could argue that a suspension of this length is at odds with those handed down in similar, prior cases.

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Clayton Kershaw Experimented On the Rockies

One of my favorite things about baseball is how Clayton Kershaw has never been able to master a changeup. There’s absolutely no one in baseball who needs a changeup less than Clayton Kershaw, but, drive is drive. He’s been frustrated by his own lack of progress, because as far as he’s concerned, he’ll forever see room for improvement. He still has an ERA. Runs are mistakes.

Kershaw wants to be better. It doesn’t matter to him how silly that sounds. He’s willing to try different things, and that brings us to this past weekend, when Kershaw and the Dodgers blew out the Rockies. We’re going to fast-forward to the seventh inning, when the Dodgers were up by eight runs. Actually, no, before we do that, here’s an image from Texas Leaguers. Kershaw’s estimated 2016 release points:


Three pitches stand out. Here’s the high one, from April:

You might’ve forgotten about that. The baseball season is long. Anyway, now, seventh inning, facing the Rockies. Here’s Kershaw throwing a pretty ordinary Kershaw-y pitch to Nolan Arenado:

Real good pitch. Here’s the following delivery:

You see that? So, Arenado singled. He was shortly eliminated. With two outs, up came Gerardo Parra. A typical Kershaw pitch:

And, the very next pitch:

You see Parra look out at the mound. Arenado did the same thing. That’s presumably because Kershaw gave them both a sudden, weird, different look. I’ll use screenshots now. The first of the two shown Parra pitches:


The second of the two shown Parra pitches:


Look at the arm. Look at the release point. Two times in the seventh inning, with the leverage about as low as it can get, Clayton Kershaw dropped down. He threw one ball, and he threw one strike, which earned a strikeout. Here’s a one-image comparison, with the ordinary release point shown by the yellow dot:


Just as Clayton Kershaw doesn’t need a changeup, he doesn’t need a second slot. He’s already the best at what he does in the game. But, I mean, what’s the harm? Especially at 8-0? I’m going to guess he’s tried this a few times in the bullpen. Might as well see if it plays in a game, with the playoffs coming up. Anything for an edge. I suppose even the best players have to work hard to remain the best.

I will say, Kershaw’s low-slot delivery doesn’t look so smooth. It doesn’t quite seem comfortable, and maybe you shouldn’t expect it to. That’s not how he’s thrown, but that second fastball was perfectly located, and you don’t need to be flawless if you’re offering a second look, for the surprise of it. The ball gets to the catcher in less than half a second. That doesn’t give hitters much time to process. I wonder if this was Kershaw’s idea, or if he’s been having conversations with Rich Hill. Hill loves his unpredictability. Imagine Hill’s deception with Kershaw’s stuff.

Or, don’t. The result would be terrifying. And besides, there’s not yet any indication this is going to keep up. For the time being, all we know is that Clayton Kershaw tried an experiment two times in a low-leverage inning. Maybe that’s all we’ll ever see. Or maybe, you know, it’s not. What am I, God?


As shown in the comments, Kershaw was indeed inspired by Hill. And it turns out the strikeout pitch to Parra was the fastest pitch Kershaw has thrown in 2016, by a few tenths of a point. So.

NERD Game Scores for September 26, 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
New York NL at Miami | 19:10 ET
Colon (184.1 IP, 101 xFIP-) vs. Undecided (N/A)
It’s generally regarded as unwise to alter the results of a statisical model due to the existence of additional, seemingly relevant information. “If there’s additional, seemingly relevant information,” goes the reasoning, “then merely incorporate it into the model itself.” Regardless of what the best practices are for such a thing, the author has altered the NERD game scores for today’s Mets-Marlins game because (a) these so-called “NERD game scores” are the product less of a statistical model and more just a distillation of the author’s own biases, anyway, and (b) there’s hardly any way to integrate “horrible death of a beloved young person” into a model reliably. If one is inclined to fill his or her role as spectator today, then this is likely the best means by which to fill that role.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Miami Radio.

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FanGraphs Audio: Eric Longenhagen, Live from Instructs

Episode 684
Lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen is the guest on this edition of the pod, during which he discusses the Fall Instructional League — like what it is, for example; speculates wildly on how many 15-year-olds in the world are capable — like Brazilian Eric Pardinho is capable — of throwing 90 mph; and cites a real-life instance of a club using spin-rate data to draft a high-school prospect.

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 12 min play time.)

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I Can’t Wait to Tell My Son About Jose Fernandez

The lens that I watch baseball through has shifted many times. Growing up, the game was a thing I aspired to, a dream for my future. Somewhere along that path, the internet became a thing, and somehow, I ended up seeing baseball as a thing to write about, as I found community with other fans while I lived thousands of miles from where I grew up. Most recently, the way I see the game has begun to evolve again, as I have a son headed towards his second birthday, and I wonder what our relationship to baseball will be. Frequently, now, I think about how I’m going to introduce him to baseball, and what parts of the game might draw him in.

Yesterday, the idea of showing my son how fun baseball can be got a bit more daunting, as the game lost its seminal ambassador for the sport as an opportunity to experience unbridled enjoyment. Yesterday, my son lost the opportunity to watch Jose Fernandez. Not just to watch Jose Fernandez pitch, but more importantly, to watch Jose Fernandez love the game of baseball.

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NERD Game Scores for September 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
St. Louis at Chicago NL | 20:08 ET
Martinez (182.1 IP, 94 xFIP-) vs. Lester (191.0 IP, 84 xFIP-)
The point of this daily exercise is, pretty immediately, to identify that game or those games which are most likely to facilitate joy for the spectator. There are occasions, however, on which one is less inclined to seek out that sort of joy. The news of Jose Fernandez‘s death early this morning would appear to represent one of those times. That said, it’s difficult to provide a full-throated endorsement of any game. For one so inclined to observe a contest of some consequence, however, this one is probably it. The Cardinals possess nearly even odds of qualifying for a wild-card berth. The pitching matchup is also quite strong.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Chicago NL Television.

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José Fernández Was a Joy

José Fernández died in a boating accident early this morning. He was a lot of things to a lot of people. First and foremost, he was Cuban. Cuban baseball players turn up frequently enough in the United States that we sort of discount how hard it must be for them to get here, from the island. We should not do that, as it is extraordinarily difficult. It is a journey that most people born in this country likely have no way of comprehending, and so we don’t try to. But Fernandez’s journey started there.

José Fernández was a prisoner. After his stepfather succeeded on his 14th try to defect from Cuba, he would eventually earn enough money for Fernández and his mother to try. Caught, Fernández would spend time in a Cuban jail among murderers, his only crime trying to leave Cuba, to pursue a better life. As a 14-year-old. From a 2013 profile by Grantland’s Jordan Ritter Conn:

He doesn’t ever want to think about the food again — “I have no idea how I would even describe it in English,” he says, “but believe me, you don’t want to know.” He tries not to remember all those bodies cramped into so little space. And he doesn’t let his mind dwell on the inmate killings. “To them, their lives were already over,” Fernández says. “What did it matter to them if they killed you? That’s just one more murder.”

José Fernández was a son. When he finally successfully did escape the undercover Cuban agents and police whose job it is to turn back defectors, his journey was just beginning. Again, from Ritter Conn:

And then he remembers the splash. He heard it one night while he was making small talk with the captain. After the splash, he heard the screams. A wave had crashed over the boat’s deck and swept Fernández’s mother out to sea. He saw her body and before he had time to think, he jumped in. A spotlight shone on the water, and Fernández could make out his mother thrashing in the waves about 60 feet from the boat. She could swim, but just barely, and as Fernández pushed his way toward her, he spat out salty water with almost every stroke. Waves — “stupid big,” he says — lifted him to the sky, then dropped him back down. When he reached his mother he told her, “Grab my back, but don’t push me down. Let’s go slow, and we’ll make it.” She held his left shoulder. With his right arm — his pitching arm — he paddled. Fifteen minutes later, they reached the boat. A rope dropped, and they climbed aboard. For now, at least, they were going to be OK.

José Fernández was going to be a father. As Emma Baccellieri noted over at Deadspin this morning, Fernández had announced to the world not even a week ago that his girlfriend was expecting. Now, that child will grow up without his or her biological father.

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Sunday Notes: Dickerson, Velo Bias, Melancon in DC, more

Corey Dickerson’s numbers with the Tampa Bay Rays aren’t as good as they were last year with the Colorado Rockies. That’s not surprising. Coors Field is an extreme hitter’s park and Tropicana Field leans pitcher.

For Dickerson — acquired over the offseason in a trade for Jake McGee — his new ballpark hasn’t simply leaned. It’s tilted precipitately. The lefty-swinger is slashing a robust .280/.313/.576 on the road, but only .205/.262/.367 at home. Only seven of his 23 home runs have come at The Trop.

There is also a chasm in his positional splits. In a close to identical number of plate appearances, Dickerson is hitting a healthy .278/.325/.511 as a left fielder, but only .216/.262/.457 as a designated hitter. Paired with the pressure of wanting to thrive in his new environs, the unfamiliar role proved burdensome.

“It was tough at first,” admitted Dickerson, who downplays his change of venues. “I was DHing a lot, which is something I wasn’t used to. You have all this time between at bats, and what happened is that I started critiquing every at bat. You have expectations for yourself, and because I wasn’t having success, I was trying to change. I was trying to be perfect, and this game isn’t perfect.” Read the rest of this entry »

NERD Game Scores for September 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
Arizona at Baltimore | 19:05 ET
Ray (166.0 IP, 80 xFIP-) vs. Miley (151.1 IP, 100 xFIP-)
Baltimore’s postseason odds have remained between 25 and 75% — which is to say, closer than not to 50% — since basically the beginning of the season, as the following graph illustrates.


As that graph also illustrates, Baltimore’s postseason odds remain in the 25-75% range today — in no small part due to an extra-inning victory on Friday that allowed them to stay on pace with a Detroit club that currently occupies the second wild-card spot. Detroit and, in the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals also play games of considerable import today.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Baltimore Television.

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The Best of FanGraphs: September 19-23, 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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Chase Utley Hustles for History

Rewinding the clock roughly 11 months, we’d find Chase Utley in a very different place. He had just completed a .212/.286/.343 season that led to 423 plate appearances of replacement-level value. He was the subject of significant (justified) criticism for tackling Ruben Tejada and breaking his leg during the NLDS. Then 36, Utley was staring into the twilight of his career and it didn’t look like there were a lot of great days left.

Utley is a borderline Hall of Famer, delivering five Cooperstown-level peak seasons from 2005 to -09 and then five more well above-average seasons from 2010 to -14. His problem has always been that a good portion of his value has been tied up in defense and base-running. Given his slightly late debut, accumulating the sort of counting stats one often requires to earn 75% of the vote is probably out of reach. He’s not a slam-dunk case, but from an objective statistical sense, he’s worthy of consideration.

Players of Utley’s caliber often need a narrative to lift them over the last hurdles of a Hall of Fame candidacy. Unfortunately for Utley, it looks like his final notable act is might be having injured another player and ushering in a rule named for his transgression. Perhaps he’ll carry the Dodgers to a World Series this October, but if he doesn’t, might I suggest one final argument in favor of Mr. Utley’s election. Chase Utley is a week away from joining one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs.

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A Dialogue on the Urgent Matter of Jharel Cotton’s Cutter

In light of Oakland right-hander Jharel Cotton‘s minor-league success, his major-league success (which includes a 1.50 ERA over three starts) isn’t an entirely surprising development. More surprising, perhaps, is how he’s achieved that success — less by means of his celebrated changeup and more by means of his barely-ever-mentioned-once cut fastball.

Curious as to what might explain this development — and curious, generally, about what constitutes a successful cutter — I contacted pitch-type enthusiast and mostly tolerable colleague Eno Sarris. What follows is the product of our correspondence. The author’s questions appear in bold, Sarris’s in normally weighted typeface.


Because I’m not the foremost expert on anything, Eno — except perhaps the length and breadth of my own personal weakness — I’m also not an expert on Jharel Cotton. That said, it’s probably also fair to say that I’ve followed him with some interest. He finished atop the Fringe Five leaderboard last year (tied with Matt Boyd and Sherman Johnson). He finished among the top 10 on that same arbitrarily calculated scoreboard this year, too.

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“Pitch” Pilot: The Right Woman for the Job

“Pitch”, FOX’s new hour-long drama, premiered last night. It was a strong first episode, both dramatic and entertaining. It presents a likable yet complex protagonist in Ginny Baker (played by actress Kylie Bunbury), while also introducing us to a supporting cast that has the potential to be compelling.

What follows is a recap of the show. As such, there are spoilers below, so consider yourself warned if you haven’t set seen the first episode.

We join Ginny as she’s getting ready to head to Petco Park for her major-league debut. A 23-year-old right-handed screwball pitcher who’s been in the Padres organization for five years, she is laser focused on mentally preparing for her spot start, uninterested in any outside distractions. Accompanied by her agent, Amelia Slater (Ali Larter) and social-media manager, Eliot (Tim Jo), she’s greeted by throngs of excited fans waiting for her outside of the ballpark.

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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 9/23/16

Jeff Sullivan: Hello friends

Jeff Sullivan: Welcome to Friday baseball chat

Jeff Sullivan: Beginning on time for the second week in a row, for the *first* time in probably history?

Spooks: This has been said in the past, but since I’m still holding on to a sliver of hope for the Mariners wild card, does Felix get the ball?

Jeff Sullivan: This is actually a really interesting question. Felix almost certainly isn’t the best starter on the team, not at this point. So you have to try to figure out the value of sentimentality, of trying to tell a story. Is there any sort of greater meaning to giving Felix the ball? Does it matter? How close is the balance between rooting for players and rooting for teams?

Dustin: Who farted more in the car, you or Cameron?

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Weak Contact and the American League Cy Young Race

Over in the National League, differing philosophical differences could shape the voting for the Cy Young award. Unless voters choose to embrace a closer like Zach Britton or look at only wins, however, we don’t have the same type of arguments over which to rage in the American League. In the AL, for example, there’s no pitcher with a massive, Kyle Hendricks-like difference in ERA and FIP. There’s no Clayton Kershaw-size innings gap between most of the contenders. Rather, the AL offers a large group of deserving candidates. To decipher which candidate is the most deserving, we’re going to have to split hairs. Let’s start splitting by discussing weak contact and its role in the candidates success.

To determine potential candidates for the Cy Young, just as I did for the National League, I looked at those in the top 10 of both RA/9-WAR as well as the WAR used on this site. If the pitcher appears among both groups, he’s included below. I also included J.A. Happ because he has a lot of pitching wins, and whether you agree or disagree with the value of a pitching win (I honestly had no idea Happ had 20 wins before beginning to write this, if you want to know the value this author places on them), some voters will consider them, so he’s on the list. A few relevant stats, sorted by WAR:

American League Cy Young Candidates
Team ERA AL Rank FIP AL Rank WAR
Corey Kluber 3.11 3 3.19 1 5.2
Chris Sale 3.23 7 3.38 3 5.2
Rick Porcello 3.08 2 3.44 4 4.7
Masahiro Tanaka 3.07 1 3.50 5 4.7
Jose Quintana 3.26 8 3.52 7 4.6
Justin Verlander 3.22 6 3.61 10 4.4
Aaron Sanchez 3.12 4 3.57 9 3.6
J.A. Happ 3.28 9 3.92 17 3.1

Those top four candidates seem to have the most compelling cases. Of those candidates, only Sale doesn’t appear among the top five of both ERA and FIP, but he also leads the AL in innings pitched this season. Rick Porcello has presented a strong argument for his candidacy in recent weeks, Tanaka leads the league in ERA, and Kluber looks to have best combination between FIP and ERA. There probably isn’t one right way to separate these candidates, but one aspect of the season at which we can choose to take a look is the impact that weak and strong contact has made in turning batted balls into outs.

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NERD Game Scores for September 23, 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
Kansas City at Detroit | 19:10 ET
Duffy (169.2 IP, 87 xFIP-) vs. Fulmer (148.2 IP, 94 xFIP-)
For as bananas as the National League’s wild-card picture has become — featuring three clubs in a sometimes virtual, sometimes actual real tie — the American League’s version has become roughly that same number of bananas. As of this morning, five clubs continue to possess at least a 10% probability of qualifying for a berth according to this site’s methodology:

American League Wild-Card Odds, Bananas
Blue Jays 83 69 .546 1.0 88.4 73.6 .537 75.9%
Tigers 82 70 .539 0.0 87.4 74.6 .543 57.6%
Orioles 82 71 .536 -0.5 86.6 75.4 .513 33.9%
Astros 81 72 .529 -1.5 85.8 76.2 .532 16.6%
Mariners 80 72 .526 -2.0 85.5 76.5 .547 12.9%

Second-place Detroit has never possessed playoff odds much above 60% this year. A victory tonight would likely allow them to cross that particular threshold. Helping them in that endeavor is young right-hander Michael Fulmer, who either should win the Rookie of the Year or shouldn’t per Jeff Sullivan.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Detroit Radio.

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How to Judge the Atlanta Braves’ Rebuild

Atlanta Braves fans are waiting for their team to be consistently good again. After winning the division handily in 2013 but losing in the NLDS, the team fired general manager Frank Wren at the end of the following year. They replaced him with a duo: president of baseball pperations John Hart and GM John Coppolella. These two combined with longtime Braves executive John Schuerholz to form the team’s new brain trust.

They began rebuilding immediately. That offseason they sent familiar faces Evan Gattis, Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel, Justin Upton and Melvin Upton Jr. all packing. They signed longtime Oriole Nick Markakis. Midway through 2015, the team traded Alex Wood. After the season, they dealt Andrelton Simmons and then Shelby Miller. The only notable names remaining from Wren’s time were Freddie Freeman and Julio Teheran.

Two years after the regime change, I wanted to evaluate their efforts. But first, I needed metrics. How does one evaluate a rebuild? After pondering the subject, I landed on three aspects: team run differential, time, and payroll flexibility. Below I discuss how the Braves are doing in these areas.

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The Most Extraordinary Team Statistic

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the Rangers’ success in one-run games. They actually lost by one run yesterday, but if you’ve been paying attention, that was the first time that’s happened all season, probably, and one game doesn’t upset the whole pattern. The regular season is just about done, and the Rangers have put together an incredible stat. That’s — well, it’s incredible. I don’t need to provide any other words.

It’s tricky to write about these things, and I wasn’t looking to cover this in the familiar way. We’ve all read a number of articles about what the Rangers have done. We’ve all read articles before about similar teams doing similar things. It’s boring to say “luck,” and it’s tired to say “luck,” and with the playoffs around the corner pointing toward luck is additionally irrelevant. The Rangers have done what they’ve done, and their fans have been able to enjoy it. There’s no taking any of that enjoyment back for math-y purposes.

I’ve just been amazed by how the Rangers have stood out. They’ve won 77% of their one-run games. The Yankees are in second at 69%. Then you have the Tigers at 62%. Thinking about the Rangers got me wondering: Is this the most extraordinary team statistic of the year? I’ll tell you right now: It’s not! Follow along below.

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