Author Archive

Manny Machado Is Also Amazing

On Monday, we talked a bit about Bryce Harper, and the fact that he is making a legitimate run at Mike Trout for the title of best player in baseball. Harper is somehow building off of last year’s dominant season, and at 23, he’s taking his remarkable performance up another level. But Harper isn’t the only 23 year old superstar playing near the beltway, and remarkably, he hasn’t even been the best player in the area this year. That title belongs to Manny Machado.

Through the first couple weeks of the season, Machado ranks second in the majors in batting average (.407), fourth in on-base percentage (.467), and second in slugging percentage (.796). This across-the-board dominance means that his .530 wOBA edges out Harper’s .526 wOBA for the top spot on the leaderboard, and Machado is the primary reason the Orioles are in first place in the AL East. While he has been overshadowed by the remarkable early-career success of Trout and Harper, and to some extent by Carlos Correa‘s arrival last summer, it’s important to realize just how great Machado has become.

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Dave Cameron FanGraphs Chat – 4/20/16

12:01
Dave Cameron: Happy Wednesday. Let’s go ahead and talk some baseball.
12:04
mike: who is a guy you are higher on that your colleagues are lower on? and vice versa?
12:05
Dave Cameron: Well I haven’t polled all my colleagues, so I’m not sure I have a great baseline to compare against. But I get the general feeling that I’m higher than most people on Kyle Hendricks.
12:05
matt: Giolito an ace someday? how soon?
12:06
Dave Cameron: I’d say it’s not a great idea to project any pitching prospect as an ace. There’s just so much that can go wrong between dominating the minors and reaching that level in the big leagues.
12:06
max: do you see joey gallo fitting into the Rangers plans? if so, how?

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Trevor Story and Sample Size

Trevor Story hit another homer last night, his league-leading eighth home run of the season. That’s eight home runs in just 13 games, totaling 59 plate appearances. He also hit a double, giving him 12 extra base hits on the year; Josh Donaldson is the only other player in the majors in double-digits, and he has 10. At this point, it’s pretty clear that, while still a player with holes in his swing, Trevor Story hits the ball really hard when he does make contact.

Last night’s home run, for instance, was hit at 108 mph. It was the eighth ball he’s hit this year that left the bat with an exit velocity north of 105. For reference, here is the full list of the 13 players that already have eight or more balls hit at 105+.

Most 105+ Exit Velocities
Player Results Total Pitches
Carlos Gonzalez 15 215
Domingo Santana 13 230
Mark Trumbo 12 178
Manny Machado 11 175
Carlos Correa 10 189
Gregory Polanco 9 223
Josh Donaldson 9 248
Trevor Story 8 245
Giancarlo Stanton 8 219
J.D. Martinez 8 169
Bryce Harper 8 186
Danny Valencia 8 160
Jonathan Schoop 8 147
SOURCE: BaseballSavant.MLB.com

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Bryce Harper Is Catching Up to Mike Trout

Since the 2012 season, the question of the best player in baseball has been pretty boring. Mike Trout busted onto the scene with a +10.3 WAR season as a 20 year old, and he’s since dominated the sport in a way that has rarely been seen in the game’s history. There were good players having great seasons in Trout’s shadow, but no one put up any real serious challenge to the idea that they were a better player than Trout. But now, that might be changing, as Bryce Harper is putting together a realistic run at the title of the best player in baseball.

Obviously, Harper’s 2015 season was outstanding, as he won the NL MVP by wrecking opposing pitchers on a daily basis. But because of how good he was last year, it can be easy to forget that Harper is still just 23 years old, and he appears to be getting even better.

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There Are Reasons to Worry About Dallas Keuchel

The Houston Astros are not off to the start they had hoped for. At 3-7, they find themselves in last place in the AL West, and ahead of only the winless Minnesota Twins in the American League overall. The cause of their slow start? The pitching, which ranks 27th in ERA and 24th in FIP. The back end of the rotation has been particularly lousy, with Collin McHugh, Doug Fister, and Mike Fiers having combined to allow 23 runs in 29 innings. And yet, those aren’t the Astros starters I’d be most concerned about right now. Instead, I’m a bit worried about reigning Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel.

From a results perspective, he’s been okay-ish, with a 3.55 ERA through his first two starts. But the underlying numbers during those first two starts are a bit concerning. First, there’s this.

Brooksbaseball-Chart (9)

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Dave Cameron FanGraphs Chat – 4/14/16

11:59
Dave Cameron: Thanks for joining me on a Thursday this week. Spent a lot of time flying back to NC yesterday, so thanks to Eno for filling in.
11:59
Dave Cameron: Now we see if the Thursday crowd is any different!
11:59
Gary Gorr: How did you enjoy your time in Toronto and at Pitch Talks?
12:00
Dave Cameron: Pitch Talks was great. One of the most fun baseball events I’ve been to, and excited to be part of a bunch more this summer. If you have a chance to go to one, you definitely need to do so. They’re a blast. Toronto itself was also great, but a bit cold. Try to be warmer, Canada.
12:00
John: Is it possible to trade for a coach? I feel like teams would part with pretty high level prospects for Ray Searage
12:01
Dave Cameron: Yes, it happens, but rarely. Lou Piniella was traded, for instance. Usually it’s more of a guy-wants-to-leave situation, though, and the team gets compensation for letting him out of his contract. I don’t think teams could or would trade a coach against his will. And Searage doesn’t want to leave Pittsburgh.

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FanGraphs and Pitch Talks Are Coming to Boston

Over the last few years, we’ve done a random collection of events in cities around the country, usually calling them something like FanGraphs Live. We’d get a few of our staff members together to hang out with a bunch of our readers, spend a few hours talking baseball, and generally have a great time. We always meant to do more of them, but the logistics of finding places to host the events always served as something of a barrier, so they ended up being scheduled sporadically.

Well, for those who were hoping for more of these kinds of events, we have some good news. We’ve teamed up with the guys behind the Pitch Talks series, and as they roll out their baseball speaker series across the U.S., we’re going to be pretty heavily involved, with our writers as part of the show and friends of FanGraphs joining in for some fun discussions. I was up in Toronto for the two year anniversary show last week, and it was a blast, with roughly 600 Blue Jays fans packing out a music venue for a few hours of fantastic discussion and mildly-drunken banter about the game we all love. We are really looking forward to helping bring that kind of fun to more cities around the U.S.

For the first stop on the tour this summer, we’re coming to Boston.

Pitch-Boston

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Trevor Story Sorta Looks Like J.D. Martinez

The Orioles are 5-0, Ross Stripling almost threw a no-hitter in his Major League debut, and Eugenio Suarez apparently doesn’t make outs anymore, but those were all just footnotes of the first week of the 2016 season. There’s only one big story in MLB right now, and no, that’s not another easy setup for a pun based on Trevor Story‘s last name. Okay, maybe it is. They’re so easy!

But despite Trevor’s made-for-headline-writers last name, it’s his performance that keeps him in the news. After finally failing to hit a home run on Saturday, the first time in five big league games that he didn’t go yard, Story launched another one last night, bringing his season total to seven. No one else has more than four. 16 teams have fewer home runs than Trevor Story right now. He has as many long balls as the Mets, Marlins, Pirates, and Angels combined.

So, yeah, welcome to the big leagues, kid. It’s not often that rookie shortstops put on this type of show, and no player of any type has ever hit for this kind of power in their first week in the Major Leagues.

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Dave Cameron FanGraphs Chat – 4/6/16

12:01
Dave Cameron: Hey all. I’m a bit under the weather at the moment — kids are disease factories — and I have to drive to the airport to fly to Toronto this afternoon, so we might not make it a full hour today. But I’ll do my best.
12:02
Gerald: Braves have stated they “don’t want to trade Ender Inciarte”…but will they trade him by 8/1?
12:02
Dave Cameron: Depends on how their first half goes. If they’re hanging around .500 and see a legitimate chance to contend next year with Swanson and/or Albies added to the roster, then no. If they’re playing .350 ball and see that 2017 is a likely rebuilding year too, maybe.
12:03
KI: Aaron Sanchez induced 16 whiffs yesterday, including 4 off his change up. Has this combined with a spring where he barely walked anyone changed your thoughts on him?
12:04
Dave Cameron: Certainly starts like this help. I’ll remain skeptical of the dramatic command improvement until he does it over a longer period of time, but if he strings together a few of these, the prognosis will definitely get a lot better.
12:04
primantis: Has Trevor Story’s performance in the first two games caused you to adjust your thoughts on his long term outlook, and if so how? Just two games, but the HRs were all no-doubters.

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2016 Opening Day 2.0 Live Blog

2:05
Carson Cistulli: Testing and sibilance and testing and sibilance.
2:05
Sean Dolinar: Hello?
2:05
Carson Cistulli: Sean. Hello.
2:06
ASUfool: you’re both alive
2:06
Sean Dolinar: Jeff should be here in a few.
2:06
Pie: Damnit Yankee Stadium, get a roof!

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Five Things I Believe About the 2016 Season

It’s Opening Day 2.0, so in what is becoming an annual tradition, let’s talk about some things I believe about what we’re going to see this year. These aren’t things I can definitively back up with evidence, but they are things that I think could be proven true as the year goes on. You can take them with all the necessary grains of salt, but as we head towards 2016, here are the five things that I believe for this year.

The game’s young hitters will usher in an offensive revival.

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2016 Opening Night Live Blog

8:30
Dave Cameron: Happy Opening Night everyone.
8:30
Dave Cameron: And welcome back, baseball.
8:32
CamdenWarehouse: Player/Team is on pace for impossible amount of stat for the year!!!
8:32
Dave Cameron: Chris Archer’s ~400 strikeouts seems perfectly attainable.
8:32
Andrew: Something I haven’t seem mentioned is that I don’t really see any impact SPs being available at the deadline a la Price/Cueto/Hamels. Am I missing anyone or will it be more difficult for a team to upgrade their pitching during the season than it’s been in recent years?
8:33
Dave Cameron: Tyson Ross is pretty good.

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2016 Opening Day Live Blog

12:46
august fagerstrom: why do we have to boo people on Opening Day
12:46
august fagerstrom: hi everyone
12:47
The Dude of NY: Opening day has me exited like this.
12:47
Wily Mo Money Mo Problems: Could you please explain the Pirates’ lineup construction to me? I realize that the analytics support moving Cutch to the 2 hole, but it seems to be coming at the expense of moving Freese to 3. A top 4 of Jaso, Harrison, McCutchen, and Marte just seems like it *has* to be more productive, but am I looking at this wrong?
12:48
august fagerstrom: Freese batting 3rd is a bit odd.
12:49
august fagerstrom: McCutchen hitting second definitely seems like the right move. Surprised 3-5 isn’t some combo of Marte, Polanco, Cervelli, Harrison

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How It Could All Go Wrong for the Cubs

The 2016 season hasn’t started yet, but we already know one thing; everyone loves the Cubs this year. Whether you go by projection systems, gambling odds, expert predictions, or general pre-season hype, it’s pretty clear that the Chicago Cubs are the team to beat in 2016. Our forecasts expect them to win nearly 60% of their games and our playoff odds give them a 94% chance of reaching the postseason. Expectations couldn’t really be much higher.

But if there’s one thing baseball is particularly good at, it’s reminding us all how uncertain we should be about predicting a specific future for one player or even one team. In the aggregate, we can do a decent job of forecasting large groups, but for individuals or single teams, the range of possible outcomes is still really large. Last year, for instance, the Nationals had almost exactly the same projections as the Cubs do now, with a .585 projected winning percentage and a 94% chance of reaching the postseason. But instead, they won 83 games and watched the playoffs at home.

So, before the Cubs start playing games that count and things start threatening to go wrong, let’s take a look at what could cause the Cubs to follow in the Nationals path.

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The Most Important Players of 2016

Mike Trout is the best player in baseball, and losing Trout would cost the Angels more wins than the loss of any other player would cost any other franchise. But even with Mike Trout, we’re only projecting the Angels for 80 wins this year, and unless some of his teammates step up, the Angels might not be a factor in the postseason race this year. So, while no one is as singularly valuable as Trout is, there are some players whose performances might end up swinging a division race one way or another, especially because we don’t really know what they’re going to be.Today, let’s look at a few players with a wide range of potential outcomes who could play a critical role in determining whether their team ends up in the postseason this year.

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Dave Cameron FanGraphs Chat – 3/30/16

12:01
Dave Cameron: It’s the final Wednesday before Opening Day.
12:01
Dave Cameron: Let’s chat about the 2016 season, what to expect, last minute roster decisions, or whatever other baseball ideas come to your mind.
12:01
Luis Sojo: Who are the front-of-the-rotation pitchers most likely to be traded to contenders this season?
12:02
Dave Cameron: If Tyson Ross isn’t traded at some point in the next few months, the Padres really screwed up.
12:02
Dave Cameron: Beyond him, maybe Sonny Gray if the A’s collapse again?
12:03
Pennsy: Percent chance Jayson Werth finishes this season a starting outfielder?

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Let’s Find Rusney Castillo a New Home

Well, the Rusney Castillo era in Boston appears to be over before it ever really began. Signed to a six year, $72 million contract back in August of 2014, Castillo didn’t impress in his rookie season, and now, he appears to not have a job in Boston.

With Chris Young around as an obvious platoon partner for Holt, the decision to start Holt in left field leaves Castillo without a path to any real playing time, as Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley are both very good defenders in their own right, and so the team won’t even be in need of a late-game defensive replacement. And with Andrew Benintendi looking like the team’s left fielder of the future, this was going to be Castillo’s shot at holding down a regular job; he’s unlikely to ever get another real crack at it in Boston now, barring an unforeseen injury.

So it’s probably time Castillo to get a change of scenery. The Red Sox don’t need a $10 million fifth outfielder, Castillo won’t benefit from sitting on the bench, and while he has minor league options remaining, sending him to Triple-A apparently isn’t in the plans.

That leaves a trade as the obvious solution, though Castillo’s contract — he’s due $56 million over the next five years — will be an obstacle for teams pushing up against their budgetary constraints. The Red Sox will likely have to eat some of the money or take back an overpriced contract to offset the money, but that should be doable. So with that said, let’s look at the best options to find Castillo a new home before Opening Day.

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Jesus Montero Provides a Reminder

While the Mariners won’t officially confirm the news until later today, Jesus Montero is currently on waivers, free to any team who wants to pay the $20,000 waiver fee and is willing to put Montero on their roster. This is quite the downfall for a guy who, not that long ago, was drawing comparisons to some of the best hitters in baseball.

“In terms of hitting ability, Montero can be a Manny Ramirez or a Miguel Cabrera,” [New York Yankees general manager Brian] Cashman told ESPN New York’s Ian O’Connor. “As a catcher, he’s got a cannon for an arm. As far as everything and what I want him to be, I want him to be Jorge Posada.”

Cashman added, “He has a chance to bat third or fourth. He has the potential to be a beast in the middle of our lineup.”

And before you start thinking that Cashman was simply participating in the Yankee-prospect hype machine, this is what he said about him after he traded him to Seattle for Michael Pineda.

In a tweet Friday night, Bergen Record columnist Bob Klapisch quoted Yankees general manager Brian Cashman saying, “To me, Montero is Mike Piazza. He’s Miguel Cabrera.”

To this point in his career, Montero has 865 plate appearances and a 92 wRC+, which puts him in the Orlando-to-Asdrubal tier of Cabreras, rather than the Miguel tier for which Cashman hoped. A guy who hits like a shortstop but can’t run or play the field isn’t much of a big leaguer, which is why the Mariners are willing to give Montero away to anyone who wants him. And why Montero serves as a reminder about how little certainty we should have when it comes to forecasting the future performance of hitters.

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The Dodgers Aren’t Wasting Clayton Kershaw’s Prime

There’s a weird narrative going around with regards to the Dodgers right now. Somehow, the team’s lavish spending on international prospects has been construed as a sign that the team isn’t committed to winning in the short term. Or something. I’ll let Dylan Hernandez’s words from the LA Times try to explain it better.

This was the risk the front office assumed with its long-term plan, which is to be in 2020-something what the World Series favorite Chicago Cubs are now. That strategy explains why the pitching staff consists of primarily spare parts while tens of millions of dollars are being invested in Latin American teenagers.

There’s some logic to the idea, except you wonder if the team’s decision makers are looking too far ahead to recognize the opportunity right in front of them — specifically, that Clayton Kershaw is theirs for at least three more seasons.

At the end of the 2018 season, Kershaw will have the option of doing what Zack Greinke did over the winter and void the remainder of his contract. Greinke didn’t return. Kershaw might not, either.

The three-year period coincides with Kershaw’s prime years; the three-time Cy Young Award winner turned 28 on Saturday.

It’s puzzling why the Dodgers aren’t maximizing their chances of winning a World Series while this once-in-a-generation pitcher is on their roster.

Let’s look at some facts.

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Dave Cameron FanGraphs Chat – 3/23/16

12:04
Dave Cameron: Alright, let’s do some chatting.
12:04
Dave Cameron: The Positional Power Rankings are underway, we’re 10 days from the start of the season, and we’re probably about to see some contract extensions announced in the next week.
12:04
Dave Cameron: So plenty to talk about.
12:04
BakedBean: Jeff and Paul laughed at my questions about Joe Kelly potentially putting it together this year and having a breakthrough. Will you do anything other than laugh at this notion? Is it really so absurd to think Joey might reach his potential?
12:05
Dave Cameron: It’s not absurd at all. The stuff is good, the peripherals are good. He won’t be an ace, but he could very well be a perfectly capable mid-rotation starter.
12:05
Biscuit: Any chance Tyler White ends up with 450 AB’s this year?

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