Author Archive

NERD Game Scores: Rich Hill Simultaneous Return and Debut

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
San Francisco at Los Angeles NL | 22:10 ET
Cueto (173.2 IP, 85 xFIP-) vs. Hill (76.0 IP, 84 xFIP-)
With the exception of a five-pitch appearance on July 17, from which he was forced to depart because of a troublesome blister, left-hander Rich Hill hasn’t produced an actual start-start since July 7th, when he recorded 10 strikeouts in six innings against the Astros in Houston. Tonight marks not only his return to the mound after that extended furlough, but also his debut as a Dodger, by which team he was acquired at the trade deadline.

Hill’s most notable quality, of course, is the capacity to throw a curveball that replicates precisely — according even to scientists, probably — the dimensions of a Fibonacci spiral. Regard:

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Los Angeles NL Television.

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NERD Game Scores for Tuesday, August 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
San Francisco at Los Angeles NL | 20:10 ET
Bumgarner (175.2 IP, 86 xFIP-) vs. Maeda (136.2 IP, 91 xFIP-)
There are those who will tell you — on the subject of this sport about which we all care — there are those who’ll say that “the name of the game is getting wins.” Couriers of misinformation, is what this lot are. Look in any reference text of your choice, and you’ll see: the name of the game is baseball. So neither believe them, nor accept the ride they’ve offered, because it could very likely end in the abduction of your person.

This isn’t to say, of course, that wins aren’t important. They represent a sort of currency. Collect a sufficient number of them and you — you, in this case, being a major-league baseball team and not merely one who’s attempting to escape the woeful burdens of the workday for a moment — and you can exchange them for admission into the postseason.

What’s notable about the Giants and Dodgers at the moment is that they possess an almost identical number of wins, the former with 68, the latter with one more than 68. And if the Giants win tonight, both clubs will possess one more than 68 wins — and both sit atop the NL West. The consequences of the game are considerable, in other words. We watch, our breath teeming with bate.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Los Angeles Television.

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NERD Game Scores for Monday, August 22, 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 Baltimore | 19:05 ET
Strasburg (145.1 IP, 79 xFIP-) vs. Bundy (75.0 IP, 104 xFIP-)
The Baltimore Catechism, a Catholic text used for relating the tenets of that religion to (predominantly) children, was introduced (according to no fewer than one internet sources) in 1885 at a gathering of American bishops known as the Third Council of Baltimore. Tonight, one finds a different council of Baltimore, involving not a collection of ecclesiastics, but rather two of the league’s most compelling starters and also one club (the Orioles) facing real consequences with every win and loss. A catechism is unlikely to be authored during the course of tonight’s proceedings, except in the broadest sense — and then maybe in even a slightly broader sense than that.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Washington Radio.

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NERD Game Scores for Sunday, August 21, 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
Stroman at Cleveland | 13:10 ET
Stroman (153.2 IP, 80 xFIP-) vs. Kluber (163.0 IP, 79 xFIP-)
In the great tradition of utilizing arbitrary endpoints to the end of supporting an offhand observation, here’s an observation on the topic of Marcus Stroman supported by data produced between arbitrary endpoints.

The observation: Toronto starter Marcus Stroman is a better pitcher now than before the All-Star break.

The supporting data, in the form of a table:

Marcus Stroman, Before vs. After All-Star Break
Period IP TBF K% BB% GB% xFIP
Before 116.0 490 16.9% 6.7% 59.9% 3.72
After 37.2 155 27.7% 3.2% 60.6% 2.50

Stroman has produced a distinctly higher strikeout rate, lower walk rate, and even slightly improved ground-ball rate since early July. This is indisputable. What’s more disputable: the import of the All-Star break in this development. In point of fact, what has the author done besides merely examine Stroman’s splits and relate the contents of two different rows? Nothing. Nothing, is what the author has done.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Cleveland Radio.

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NERD Game Scores for Saturday, August 20, 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 Cleveland | 19:10 ET
Sanchez (152.1 IP, 83 xFIP-) vs. Tomlin (137.0 IP, 98 xFIP-)
Arguments surrounding end-of-season awards tend to invite discourse of the least civil variety — as well as a perversion both of logic and rhetoric. The “race,” as it were, for the American League Cy Young award is notable, however, for its unlikely participants.

Regard, a table of the top AL pitchers this season by a combination of WAR (which is wins above replacement calculated with FIP) and RA9-WAR (which is WAR calculated with runs allowed per nine innings):

Top AL Pitchers by 50/50 WAR
Name Team IP WAR RA9 5050
1 Jose Quintana White Sox 157.2 4.0 5.2 4.6
2 Aaron Sanchez Blue Jays 152.1 3.6 4.9 4.3
3 Corey Kluber Indians 163.0 4.3 4.1 4.2
4 Chris Sale White Sox 160.2 3.8 4.3 4.1
5 Masahiro Tanaka Yankees 161.0 4.1 3.8 4.0
6 Cole Hamels Rangers 160.2 2.5 5.0 3.8
7 Danny Duffy Royals 132.0 3.0 4.4 3.7
8 J.A. Happ Blue Jays 150.1 2.7 4.6 3.7
9 Justin Verlander Tigers 167.1 3.4 3.9 3.7
10 Rick Porcello Red Sox 165.0 3.0 4.2 3.6
RA9: WAR calculated with runs allowed (and not FIP).
5050: the average of WAR and RA9.

Of course, some of these pitchers — Hamels, Sale, even Kluber now — possess a reputation as ace-types. (Although, how one would define “ace-type,” this is undertain). The two best pitchers by this metric, however, are more novel. Jose Quintana, of course, was acquired by the White Sox after having been granted minor-league free agency. Sanchez, for his part, has regarded the strike zone as a mere suggestion until this season.

By these numbers, specifically, Quintana is the favorite. But there’s also a strong case to be made for Sanchez. He’s pitching tonight for the Blue Jays. It’s allowable to observe him do it.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Cleveland Radio.

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FanGraphs Audio: Dave Cameron Recapitulates Saberseminar

Episode 676
Dave Cameron is the managing editor of FanGraphs. During this edition of FanGraphs Audio, he provides a summary of events from Saberseminar 2016, explains the logic of the Blue Jays’ front-office turnover despite that club’s considerable recent success, and meditates briefly on the absurdity of revocable waivers.

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 47 min play time.)

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Play

NERD Game Scores for Friday, August 19, 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 Detroit | 19:10 ET
Porcello (158.0 IP, 93 xFIP-) vs. Fulmer (120.0 IP, 87 xFIP-)
Red Sox hitters who aren’t also otherwise employed as pitchers have produced a collective 116 wRC+ this year, the best such mark in the majors. “How does that compare to other clubs over the last half decade?” a reasonably curious person might ask. Better than the 2013 Red Sox, is the answer. But not as good as the 2011 Cardinals, though. And not as good as the 2011 Red Sox, either. But better than the 2013 Tigers. But less good than last year’s Blue Jays.

It’s the fifth-best mark, is another version of the answer. Another, more succinct version.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Detroit Radio.

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The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

The Fringe Five is a weekly regular-season exercise, introduced a few years ago by the present author, wherein that same author utilizes regressed stats, scouting reports, and also his own fallible intuition to identify and/or continue monitoring the most compelling fringe prospects in all of baseball.

Central to the exercise, of course, is a definition of the word fringe, a term which possesses different connotations for different sorts of readers. For the purposes of the column this year, a fringe prospect (and therefore one eligible for inclusion in the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) received a future value grade of 45 or less from Dan Farnsworth during the course of his organizational lists and who (b) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, and John Sickels, and also who (c) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing on a midseason list or, otherwise, selected in the first round of the current season’s amateur draft will also be excluded from eligibility.

In the final analysis, the basic idea is this: to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

*****

Zack Granite, OF, Minnesota (Profile)
There are real indications that Granite is an asset in the field. Per the methodology employed by Baseball Prospectus, for example, he’s saved roughly seven runs defensively this season after recording a 12-run mark in 2015 — in both cases with a positional adjustment right around zero. Per Clay Davenport’s model, meanwhile, Granite has saved 10 runs in center this year — over roughly a half-season’s worth of games. Those minor-league fielding metrics are supported by other signs that Granite both has excellent speed and uses it well. Like how he’s recorded the fourth-most stolen-base runs in all of Double-A, for example. And like how’s produced the third-highest speed score among the 150 qualified batters across that same level.

Nor does this acknowledge Granite’s promise as a hitter, which he continued to exhibit this past week. Regard: in 29 plate appearances since the last edition of the Five, the 23-year-old struck out just once while also drawing two walks and hitting three triples. He continues to possess one of the very lowest strikeout rates across all Double-A.

Here’s footage from one of Granite’s recent triples:

Dinelson Lamet, RHP, San Diego (Profile)
The circumstances of Lamet’s signing were a bit unorthodox. Unlike most top international prospects, who sign as teenagers, Lamet didn’t receive a contract with a major-league organization until about a month before his 22nd birthday, signing with the Padres out of the Dominican for $100,000 at the end of the 2013-14 free-agency window. Lamet began the following year in the Low-A Midwest League and experienced success almost immediately, exhibiting both plus velocity and the capacity to miss bats.

He’s been particularly excellent of late, recording no fewer than seven strikeouts in each of his last five starts for Double-A San Antonio, producing strikeout and walk rates of 37.6% and 6.4%, respectively, in 27.0 innings over that interval. As for the repertoire, it remains encouraging, including a fastball that sat at 92-94 mph for Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser in May — a start during which Lamet appears to have paired an improving changeup with his already useful slider.

Here’s a footage of that slider from Lamet’s most recent start, if one were to have viewed that start through some manner of funhouse mirror:

German Marquez, RHP, Colorado (Profile)
“Who, precisely, is German Marquez?” appears to be a question to which the author should have known the answer before this week — because, for example, the most immediate answer is “a 21-year-old right-hander who’s struck out nearly 30% of the batters he’s faced over his first two Triple-A starts.” Young pitchers who dominate older competition in menacing run environments — these are instantly notable sorts of pitchers.

Here are some other relevant answers to the question of German Marquez’s identity:

  • A former international free agent signed by Tampa Bay out of Venezuela in 2011 for $225,000.
  • Part of the compensation received by Colorado from the Rays in exchange for Corey Dickerson.
  • The owner of a fastball that “touch[es] 98 mph” and also a “plus curveball.”
  • The 79th-best prospect according to one version of Chris Mitchell’s newest iteration of KATOH.
  • Not German. Seemingly not even a little bit.

Max Schrock, 2B, Washington (Profile)
This represents Schrock’s fifth appearance among the Five proper, moving him up to sixth place on the arbitrarily calculated Scoreboard that appears at the bottom of this post. Regarding the precise implications of that achievement — this will ultimately be for posterity to decide, if and when posterity finds itself with almost nothing else to do. What’s notable about it for the moment, however, is that Schrock has only been eligible for the Five since the end of June, when he was promoted to High-A Potomac.

Schrock’s numbers over the past week weren’t particularly impressive on the surface. In 35 plate appearances, he produced a line of .250/.314/.406 — not substantively different, that, than the Carolina League average of .258/.333/.385. Schrock did it while striking out just twice, however — or in less than 6% of his plate appearances — and adding two doubles and a home run (recording a .156 ISO). This combination of elite contact skill and average-or-better power continues to define Schrock’s minor-league career.

Jaime Schultz, RHP, Tampa Bay (Profile)
While certain players have appeared among the Five more often than reason might dictate — owing to some manner of intoxicating power they exert over the author’s spiritual intellect — the case is quite the opposite for Schultz: he appears here almost against the author’s will. Indeed, there is a pretty solid argument to be made for the improbability of Schutlz’s success — or, at least his success as a starter — in the majors. Like the systematic lack of command he’s exhibited at basically every level, for example. And also like how the Rays have neglected to promote him even once despite the fact that he’s a 25-year-old who’s now recorded over 250 pretty strong innings between Double- and Triple-A.

But here one finds Schultz, nevertheless — in this case, on the strength (generally) of the arm speed he continues to possess and (specifically) of his two most recent starts. Which, here are the three most relevant figures from those starts:

  • Innings: 13.2
  • Batters: 53
  • Strikeouts: 21

For those without a calculator at hand, what one finds here is about a 40% strikeout rate for Schultz. The 9% walk rate that accompanies it also represents a strong mark in the context of Schultz’s pitching oeuvre.

The Next Five
These are players on whom the author might potentially become fixated.

Dawel Lugo, 3B/SS, Arizona (Double-A Southern League)
Nathan Orf, 2B/3B, Milwaukee (Triple-A Pacific Coast League)
Fernando Romero, RHP, Minnesota (High-A Florida State League)
Ildemaro Vargas, 2B/SS, Arizona (Triple-A Pacific Coast League)
Brandon Woodruff, RHP, Milwaukee (Double-A Southern League)

Fringe Five Scoreboard
Here is the top-10 list of players who have appeared among either the Fringe Five (FF) or Next Five (NF) so far this season (which is to say, today). For mostly arbitrary reasons, players are assessed three points for each week they’ve appeared among the Fringe Five; a single point, for each week among the Next Five.

Fringe Five Scoreboard, 2016
Name Team POS FF NF PTS
1 Sherman Johnson Angels 2B 12 5 41
2 Greg Allen Indians OF 8 6 30
3 Ildemaro Vargas D-backs 2B/SS 6 3 21
Jharel Cotton LAN/OAK RHP 5 6 21
5 Aaron Wilkerson BOS/MIL RHP 5 2 17
6 Max Schrock Nationals 2B 5 1 16
7 Tim Locastro Dodgers SS 4 3 15
Yandy Diaz Indians 3B/OF 4 3 15
9 Jaime Schultz Rays RHP 4 2 14
10 Chad Green Yankees RHP 4 1 13

NERD Game Scores for Thursday, August 18, 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
Houston at Baltimore | 19:05 ET
Musgrove (18.1 IP, 66 xFIP-) vs. Gausman (120.1 IP, 90 xFIP-)
The prospect of Joe Musgrove‘s start tonight in Baltimore isn’t the sole reason for this game’s high score per the definitely fatuous algorithm designed by the author to measure watchability. That said, the right-hander’s early success is compelling for its relative novelty. Over his first 18.1 innings as a major leaguer (including two starts and an extended relief appearance), the 23-year-old has recorded strikeout and walk rates of 31.3% and 3.0%, respectively — figures which are generally the province either of relievers or Clayton Kershaw. Musgrove doesn’t feature overwhelming velocity, but has managed to avoid hard contact with his fastball while turning to his slider for strikeout, using that pitch on over 50% of his two-strike counts.

Musgrove used the slider to record six of the seven strikeouts in his most recent start, as documented by this video footage:

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Baltimore Television.

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FanGraphs Audio: Eric Longenhagen in Just One Area Code

Episode 675
Lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen is the guest on this edition of the pod, during which he shares some notes from the Area Code Games on the top high-school prospects (including RHP Hunter Greene and OF Jo Adell and) of the 2017 draft; supplies a sort of prospect retrospective of Toronto second baseman Devon Travis, the former 13th-round selection who’s already produced two wins this season in limited time; and reluctantly answers a question about Tim Tebow’s future in baseball.

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 11 min play time.)

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Play

Dan Szymborski FanGraphs Chat – 8/15/16

12:00
Dan Szymborski: Another Monday at noon, so I’m coming home to you guys, with my own blood in my mouth.
12:00
Otis Redding: Can the Orioles keep pace in the AL East? Will 3 AL East teams make the playoffs?
12:01
Dan Szymborski: I think they can – other teams have weak spots too. It won’t help though if Miley is execrable instead of lousy.
12:01
Dan Szymborski: I think the two AL East runners-up end up being the wild card, though it’s obviously quite uncertain.
12:01
senpaisanto:
12:01
Hickey: Are these baby Bronx bombers or whatever the hell the media calls them, the real deal for seasons to come? Or do the Yankees trade as usual for a quality player that washes out in 2 years

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The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

The Fringe Five is a weekly regular-season exercise, introduced a few years ago by the present author, wherein that same author utilizes regressed stats, scouting reports, and also his own fallible intuition to identify and/or continue monitoring the most compelling fringe prospects in all of baseball.

Central to the exercise, of course, is a definition of the word fringe, a term which possesses different connotations for different sorts of readers. For the purposes of the column this year, a fringe prospect (and therefore one eligible for inclusion in the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) received a future value grade of 45 or less from Dan Farnsworth during the course of his organizational lists and who (b) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, and John Sickels, and also who (c) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing on a midseason list or, otherwise, selected in the first round of the current season’s amateur draft will also be excluded from eligibility.

In the final analysis, the basic idea is this: to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

*****

Greg Allen, OF, Cleveland (Profile)
This represents now Allen’s eighth appearance among the Five proper, the best such mark among all players besides Sherman Johnson, for whom the author has exhibited irrational exuberance and for whom the author will likely continue exhibiting irrational exuberance. As for Allen, on the other hand, most exuberance for him at the moment can be supported reasonably well. Since his promotion to Double-A Akron in late July, his plate-discipline numbers have eroded in the way one would expected of a batter who’s facing more difficult competition. His isolated-power figure has actually increased, however.

Regard, those last two sentences in the form of a table:

Greg Allen, High-A vs. Double-A
Level PA BB% K% ISO
High-A 432 13.4% 11.8% .104
Double-A 65 6.2% 13.8% .155
Difference -7.2% +2.0% +.051

A brief examination of the facts reveals that the league-average ISO marks for the (High-A) Carolina and (Double-A) Eastern Leagues are .128 and .129, respectively — basically identical, in other words — which indicates that Allen’s greater number in the latter isn’t merely a product of a more potent run environment.

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NERD Game Scores for Thursday, August 11, 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 AL at Boston | 19:10 ET
Pineda (125.1 IP, 77 xFIP-) vs. Rodriguez (57.2 IP, 115 xFIP-)
When the author’s haphazardly constructed algorithm for determining the watchability of a game recommends a Red Sox-Yankees contest as the day’s most promising — when that sort of thing happens, I understand the disappointment Victor Frankenstein must have experienced when faced with the great disaster of his experiment. Like Frankenstein, I’m abhorred by my creation. Like Frankenstein, I would probably not mind if it incinerated itself at “the Northernmost extremity of the globe.” But it’s only an algorithm. So it can’t even do that.

On the plus side, hot, hot, hot prospect Andrew Benintendi is likely to start once again tonight.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Boston Radio.

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NERD Game Scores: A David Phelps Unsolved Mystery

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
San Francisco at Miami | 12:10 ET
Samardzija (141.0 IP, 104 xFIP-) vs. Phelps (58.2 IP, 81 xFIP-)
Over the first four years of his career — during which he operated in mostly a swing role — Miami right-hander David Phelps sat at roughly 91 mph. Through July of this year, working exclusively out of the bullpen, Phelps recorded an average fastball velocity of 94-95. This past Friday, making his first start of the season, Phelps sat at 94-95 — and actually more like 95-96 with his four-seam fastball. As with most other pitchers, Phelps at 94-95 is markedly different than Phelps at 91. Which version of Phelps appears today is a mystery to be solved by everyone at about noon simultaneously.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: San Francisco Radio or Television.

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A Data Point in the Matter of Brandon Woodruff’s Command

Attempts to measure and/or quantify command have proven elusive. It’s a different thing than control, almost certainly, and it likely isn’t fully represented by control-oriented metrics such as walk rate or zone rate or first-pitch strike rate. Command is informed not merely by a pitcher’s capacity to throw strikes but rather by his body’s ability to execute the pitch his mind — and his catcher and maybe his manager — has requested.

Of course, the reader needn’t rely on a loathsome weblogger’s views on the matter. Here’s actual major-league pitcher Ryan Buchter meditating on the same concept in a post published by Eno Sarris just today.

When he’s stuck in a bad count, the lefty digs in. “I just pick out a spot and throw a ball just out of the zone,” he says. “To right-handers, I miss off the plate away. I’m not going to give in. I’m not going to throw the ball down the middle and hope it works out. It’s not like I’m wild. I’m not throwing fastballs to the backstop or in the dirt. I’m just not giving in to hitters. If I’m throwing outside, I’m just throwing outside. Even if it’s a lefty up and a righty on deck, and I fall behind, I don’t give in. That’s my game.”

Buchter cites a certain instance in which he’s throwing balls out of the zone on purpose. Superficially, he’s exhibiting poor control. In reality, he’s demonstrating good command.

Despite entering the season having produced only modest success in the low minors, right-handed Milwaukee prospect Brandon Woodruff was nevertheless well regarded. Of Woodruff, Dan Farnsworth wrote the following in his evaluation of the Brewers system:

One Brewers source put Woodruff’s status best: his numbers don’t do his talent justice. He still has plenty of potential with a quality delivery and stuff, and has had stretches of real dominance in the past year and a half. He will start in either High-A or Double-A, and the Brewers are hoping this is the year he really puts himself on the map, with his ongoing oblique issue from last year hopefully behind him.

The current post exists because Woodruff has recently put himself on the map real hard. After producing one of the top strikeout- and walk-rate differentials (22.2 points) across all High-A, Woodruff has recorded almost exactly the same numbers with Double-A Biloxi. Over the past month, the effect has been exaggerated. In six starts and 38.0 innings since July 8, Woodruff has recorded strikeout and walk rates of 32.4% and 2.9%, respectively. For reference, consider: Woodruff’s strikeout mark would represent the highest among qualified Double-A pitchers by over seven points; his walk, the lowest by half a point.

The strikeouts are almost certainly informed — in part, at least — by Woodruff’s terrific arm speed. Two years ago, erstwhile lead prospect analyst Kiley McDaniel conveyed reports of Woodruff’s fastball sitting in the 94-97 mph range. More recent observations suggest the right-hander is currently visiting the upper bound of that range with regularity. Pat Kelly, coach of Southern League rival and Reds affiliate Pensacola, recently referred to Woodruff’s four-seamer as a “97 mph fastball.” Meanwhile, Woodruff’s pitching coach with the Shuckers, Chris Hook, suggested that the velocity of the pitch has been “anywhere from 95 and 97.” All things being equal, velocity is a benefit.

The combination simultaneously of Woodruff’s physical tools and in-game success — the sort of success (measured by strikeouts and walks) that’s predictive of future success, as well — suggest that he’s probably well-equipped to handle major-league batters in the near future. Not to dominate them, necessarily, but certainly to compete against them. Which, even that might seem like an optimistic assessment of a pitcher who entered the season absent from every top-100 list and ranked as the Brewers’ 31st-best prospect before the season per Baseball America. But pitcher development is swift — marked not by slowly rising and descending trend lines but jagged and improbable improvements and attrition — and reassessments of pitchers have to be appropriately swift, as well.

The purpose of this post is to serve as a sort of reassessment of Brandon Woodruff. But only accidentally. In reality, the purpose of this post was merely to serve as a sort of annotation to the video footage that appears at the top of it. That footage is from the top of the fourth of Woodruff’s most recent start, against the Pensacola club mentioned previously. After Pensacola shortstop Zach Vincej quickly fell into an 0-2 count, Biloxi catcher Jacob Nottingham called for a fastball on the outside corner. Nottingham settled into a kind of split, not unlike the sort Tony Pena used to assume with the Pirates and Red Sox and probably other teams. Woodruff threw a fastball directly over that outside corner for a called strike three.

What can one pitch reveal about whoever’s thrown it? Well, this particular pitch reveals that, no fewer than one times, Brandon Woodruff has exhibited flawless command of his fastball. That’s an improvement over zero times — anyone would have to agree. And there’s what else this pitch has done — namely, to provide any sort of pretense upon which to contemplate Brandon Woodruff.


NERD Game Scores for Tuesday, August 09, 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
Cleveland at Washington | 19:05 ET
Bauer (119.0 IP, 100 xFIP-) vs. Scherzer (156.2 IP, 79 xFIP-)
After reaching a high of 92% on July 20, Cleveland’s probability of winning the AL Central has declined to the 75% mark at which it currently rests, per the methodology used at this site. The Detroit Tigers have been largely responsible for that alteration, reducing their deficit in the division to merely 2.5 games. The projections remain optimistic about Cleveland, however, calling for them to expand upon their lead before the end of the season. That likely won’t happen tonight, however: Max Scherzer and the Nationals are favored — above and beyond whatever sort of advantage home field might impart.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Washington Radio.

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FanGraphs Audio: A Study in Nonsense with Jeff Sullivan

Episode 674
Jeff Sullivan is a senior editor at FanGraphs. He’s also the curious little guest 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 12 min play time.)

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Play

Dan Szymborski FanGraphs Chat – 8/8/16

12:03
Dan Szymborski: Boom.
12:04
Joe Musgrove: How’d you get your writing start? I’m wondering for post-mlb work?
12:05
Dan Szymborski: Whether or not that’s the real Joe Musgrove, I got my writing start arguing with WebTV/AOL Users on usenet, which was kind of the Twitter of the mid-90s.
12:05
Dan Szymborski: That also makes me sound really old. Writing really just takes an opinion and practice.
12:05
Matt: Hi Dan. I missed you.
12:05
Dan Szymborski: Now that sounds like a lie.

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NERD Game Scores for Monday, August 08, 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.

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Most Highly Rated Game
San Francisco at Miami | 19:10 ET
Cueto (155.0 IP, 84 xFIP-) vs. Fernandez (131.2 IP, 57 xFIP-)
This brief entry begins and also mostly ends with an examination of the following graph, which depicts the season-long trajectory of the National League clubs which currently possess the top-five probabilities of reaching a divisional series.

chart (2)

Notably, two of the lines here represent clubs that are also clubs involved in this game tonight. The Giants possesses about a 62% chance of qualifying for the NLDS; the Marlins, about a 21% chance. Which is to say: this contest features real consequences for each team. Which is to say: what else can one demand of this game that is simultaneously human and all-too-human?

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: San Francisco Radio or Television.

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NERD Game Scores for Sunday, August 07, 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.

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Most Highly Rated Game
Boston at Los Angeles NL | 19:10 ET
Price (150.2 IP, 75 xFIP-) vs. McCarthy (29.1 IP, 90 xFIP-)
On the one hand, here’s a game featuring two clubs, in Boston and Los Angeles, at the very height of postseason uncertainty; on the other, here’s a second game featuring two other clubs, in Houston and Texas, that belong to the same division. The numbers suggest greater certainty regarding their respective postseason odds (with the Rangers qualifying, the Astros not) but their game also possesses greater consequences. There’s no wrong choice is the point. Although, that said: there’s no right choice, is a second and valid point.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Los Angeles NL Television.

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