Author Archive

NERD Game Scores for Saturday, June 28, 2014

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by viscount of the internet 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
Chicago AL at Toronto | 13:07 ET
Chris Sale (71.1 IP, 71 xFIP-, 2.3 WAR) faces Marcus Stroman (36.0 IP, 93 xFIP-, 0.5 WAR). With regard to the former, Jeff Sullivan recently noted within these pages that, in an attempt to decease the risk of injury, that Sale has made an effort to throw his changeup more often, his slider less. Indeed, one finds that, over the three starts Sale has recorded since Sullivan’s piece, that the left-hander has thrown his changeup almost precisely a third of the time. By way of comparison, his changeup usage in 2013 was over 10 percentage points less than that. His slider usage over those three starts, meanwhile, is much lower than in 2013: 13% vs. 29%.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Toronto Radio?

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FanGraphs Audio: Dayn Perry on the Good Life

Episode 457
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 guest on this regrettable edition of FanGraphs Audio.

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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NERD Game Scores for Friday, June 27, 2014

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by viscount of the internet 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
Cincinnati at San Francisco | 22:15 ET
Johnny Cueto (116.0 IP, 77 xFIP-, 2.6 WAR) faces Madison Bumgarner (102.2 IP, 78 xFIP-, 2.1 WAR). An idle and largely superficial inspection of the latter’s player profile reveals that, despite having recorded over 800 innings and 15 wins, that Madison Bumgarner is still just 24 years old — and remains that way for another month-plus. A stirring accomplishment, that — and yet not enough to prevent the sun from expanding and swallowing earth whole in five billion years.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: San Francisco Radio or Television.

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On the Topic of Jesse Hahn’s Success

San Diego right-hander Jesse Hahn, absent from probably every preseason top-100 prospect list everywhere, has produced four starts of considerably high quality in June — the first four starts, one notes, of Hahn’s entire major-league career. What follows is an interview conducted by the author (a noted dummy) with his own equally dumb self, for some reason, regarding the state of things with Jesse Hahn.

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Managing editor of FanGraphs, Dave Cameron, encouraged you to write about Hahn today, suggesting something to the effect that he’s “your type of guy.” With the understanding that no one reading this really cares about you, specifically, explain what Cameron probably meant by that comment.

I believe what he was referring to is how I generally exhibit undue enthusiasm for the exploits of fringe-type prospects. Hahn, as one who was absent from the usual top-100 lists but who has produced results, matches that profile.

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NERD Game Scores for Thursday, June 26, 2014

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by viscount of the internet 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
Colorado at Milwaukee | 20:10 ET
Christian Friedrich (6.0 IP, 175 xFIP-, -0.1 WAR) faces Wily Peralta (95.1 IP, 94 xFIP-, 0.9 WAR). Despite having recorded the seventh-youngest average batters’ age among major-league clubs, Colorado has also produced the seventh-most park-adjusted runs. For this and other reasons — all of which the author would enthusiastically address over reasonably priced rakija at seaside caffe bar in Split — that same Rockies club features a perfect NERD score at the moment.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Milwaukee Radio.

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The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

The Fringe Five is a weekly regular-season exercise, introduced last April by the present author, wherein that same ridiculous author utilizes regressed stats, scouting reports, and also his own heart 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 both (a) absent from all of three notable preseason top-100 prospect lists* and also (b) not currently playing in the majors. Players appearing on the midseason prospect lists produced by those same notable sources or, otherwise, selected in the first round of the current season’s amateur draft will also be excluded from eligibility.

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NERD Game Scores for Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by viscount of the internet 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
Washington at Milwaukee | 14:10 ET
Stephen Strasburg (100.0 IP, 65 xFIP-, 2.8 WAR) faces Marco Estrada (89.2 IP, 112 xFIP-, -0.8 WAR). The latter has produced a strikeout-walk differential of 14.1 percentage points — a stat, that, which correlates highly with run prevention and a precise figure, that, which ranks 32nd among the league’s 95 qualified pitchers. What else Estrada has produced, however, is 24 home-runs allowed over 15 starts and ca. 90 innings. “Is there something wrong with Estrada? Ought the Brewers replace him with minor-leaguer Jimmy Nelson?” These are questions being asked by Americans today.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Milwaukee Radio.

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FanGraphs Audio: Dave Cameron Analyzes All Imperfect Game

Episode 456
Dave Cameron is both (a) the managing editor of FanGraphs and (b) the guest on this particular edition of FanGraphs Audio — during which edition he discusses, among various and sundry topics, Clayton Kershaw’s nearly perfect game.

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 39 min play time.)

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The Most Improved Pitchers Thus Far by Projected WAR

What follows represents an attempt by the author to utilize the projections available at the site to identify the five starting pitchers whose per-inning WAR projections have most improved since the beginning of the season.

For every pitcher, what I’ve done is first to calculate his preseason (PRE) WAR projection prorated to 150 innings, averaging together Steamer and ZiPS forecasts where both are available. What I’ve done next is to calculate the prorated WAR for every pitcher’s rest-of-season (ROS) WAR projection (again, using both Steamer and ZiPS when available). I’ve then found the difference in prorated WAR between the preseason and rest-of-season projection.

When I attempted a similar exercise two months ago, I used updated end-of-season projections instead of prorated rest-of-season ones. The advantage of the latter (and why I used it on last month’s edition of this post, as well) is that it provides the closest available thing to an estimate of any given player’s current true-talent level — which, reason dictates, is what one requires to best identify those players who have most improved.

Only those pitchers have been considered who (a) are currently on a major-league roster and (b) have recorded at least 20 innings at the major-league level and (c) are expected to work predominantly as a starter for the duration of the season. Note that Projection denotes a composite Steamer and ZiPS projection. PRE denotes the player’s preseason projection; ROS, the rest-of-season projection. Inning estimates for both PRE and ROS projections are taken from relevant pitcher’s depth-chart innings projection. Data is current as of Tuesday.

5. Tom Koehler, RHP, Miami (Profile)
Projection (PRE): 154 IP, 6.4 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9, 4.56 FIP, -0.1 WAR
Projection (ROS): 81 IP, 6.7 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9, 4.53 FIP, 0.1 WAR

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NERD Game Scores for Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by viscount of the internet 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
Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay | 19:10 ET
Jeff Locke (26.1 IP, 81 xFIP-, 0.7 WAR) at Chris Archer (86.0 IP, 95 xFIP-, 2.0 WAR). The former entered last week’s game against Cincinnati with one of the most appealing aesthetic profiles of any major-league starter. Despite striking out only two of the 22 batters he faced in that same contest (box), Locke threw roughly two-thirds of his 83 pitches for strikes, worked quickly, and still exited the game with a swinging-strike rate this season (12.0%) superior to Madison Bumgarner‘s and Max Scherzer‘s and Zack Greinke‘s and Michael Wacha‘s and Yu Darvish‘s.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Tampa Bay Radio.

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NERD Game Scores for Monday, June 23, 2014

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by viscount of the internet 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 Seattle | 22:10 ET
John Lackey (103.1 IP, 82 xFIP-, 2.7 WAR) faces Felix Hernandez (113.1 IP, 60 xFIP-, 4.4 WAR). The difference between Hernandez’s WAR and that having been produced by second-placeman Yu Darvish is — as of very early Monday, at least — is equivalent to the difference between Darvish’s WAR and Nathan Eovaldi‘s, the latter currently 30th among qualifiers by that measure. With regard to John Lackey, one finds that has has actually improved upon last year’s fielding-independent numbers, which numbers were considered a pleasant surprise after some dismal recent seasons care of the right-hander.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Boston Radio.

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NERD Game Scores for Sunday, June 22, 2014

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by viscount of the internet 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 Arizona | 16:10 ET
Madison Bumgarner (94.2 IP, 78 xFIP-, 1.9 WAR) faces Michael Bolsinger (30.0 IP, 83 xFIP-, 0.1 WAR). While the virtues of the former are mostly conspicuous, one notes that the latter has produced excellent fielding-independent numbers, as well, including strikeout and walk rates of 20.1% and 5.8%, respectively, and a park-adjusted xFIP nearly 20% better than league average. Of note regarding Bolsinger: his cutter (ca. 65%) and curveball (ca. 33%) account for nearly 100% of the pitches he’s thrown this season.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: San Francisco Radio or Television.

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NERD Game Scores for Saturday, June 21, 2014

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by viscount of the internet 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 Oakland | 16:05 ET
Rubby de la Rosa (25.1 IP, 76 xFIP-, 0.4 WAR) faces Jesse Chavez (86.0 IP, 89 xFIP-, 1.4 WAR). The former has been excellent over four starts for the Red Sox — those starts, incidentally, representing the first he’s made at the major-league level since 2011. Among the pitchers who have recorded 20-plus innings as a starter, de la Rosa’s park-adjusted xFIP (76 xFIP-), swinging-strike rate (11.2%), and average fastball velocity (94.4 mph) are all more than a standard deviation better than the mean.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Boston Radio.

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Prospect Watch: Changeups Likened to a Cartoon Rabbit’s

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.

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For reasons that remain opaque even to himself, the author has composed the present edition of the Watch by, first, searching the internet for instances of the phrase “bugs bunny changeup” since April 1st of the currently year and then, second, identifying which of the changeups in question belonged to pitchers who are both rookie-eligible and also tied to a major-league organization at some level. The five prospects who follow are the resulting results.

Note: players marked with an asterisk (*) are recent draftees who remain unsigned.

Jeff Antigua, LHP, Chicago Cubs (Profile)
Who He Is
A native of Santo Domingo and current 24-year-old left-hander in the Cubs system.

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NERD Game Scores for Friday, June 20, 2014

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by viscount of the internet 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
Atlanta at Washington | 19:10 ET
Mike Minor (53.0 IP, 95 xFIP-, 0.1 WAR) faces Stephen Strasburg (94.0 IP, 66 xFIP-, 2.6 WAR). The latter has produced a park-adjusted xFIP (66 xFIP-), swinging-strike rate (12.0%), overall strike rate (67.5%), and average fastball velocity (94.3 mph) all at least one standard deviation better than the mean among those pitchers who’ve recorded 20-plus innings as a starter. He’s also one of just seven pitchers projected to produce a WAR of 2.0 or greater over the remaining three-plus months of the season.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Washington Radio.

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NERD Game Scores for Thursday, June 19, 2014

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by viscount of the internet 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
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh | 12:35 ET
Homer Bailey (84.2 IP, 93 xFIP-, 0.5 WAR) faces Jeff Locke (20.1 IP, 72 xFIP-, 0.6 WAR). The latter, who notably outperformed his mediocre fielding-independent numbers for much of last season’s first half, has produced decidedly not mediocre ones of those (see: 17 strikeouts vs. 1 walk) through three starts and 20.1 innings. According both to the present site’s PITCHf/x data and also Brooks Baseball’s, Locke has increased his sinker usage considerably (to the near exclusion of his four-seamer) while also throwing the changeup more often.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Cincinnati Radio.

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The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

The Fringe Five is a weekly regular-season exercise, introduced last April by the present author, wherein that same ridiculous author utilizes regressed stats, scouting reports, and also his own heart 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 both (a) absent from all of three notable preseason top-100 prospect lists* and also (b) not currently playing in the majors. Players appearing on the midseason prospect lists produced by those same notable sources or, otherwise, selected in the first round of the amateur draft will also be excluded from eligibility.

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Prospect Watch: The Best & Worst of Gregory Polanco So Far

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.

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Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh (Profile)
Level: MLB   Age: 22   Top-15: 1st   Top-100: 17th
Line: 37 PA, 5.4% BB, 13.5% K, .371/.405/.457 (.414 BABIP), 147 wRC+, 0.3 WAR

Brief Introductory Note
Very celebrated Pittsburgh outfield prospect Gregory Polanco made his major-league debut last Tuesday. So far as assessing what sort of player Polanco is, that week of data isn’t overwhelmingly helpful. Moreoever, the author isn’t the sort of person who’s qualified to make substantive comments regarding a batter’s swing mechanics or the most likely way in which said batter’s body will develop.

What I can do, however, is utilize a couple of tools available here at the site and render some relevant footage into GIF form.

What follows is a brief examination of Polanco’s first week in the majors utilizing those same skills — with a view towards reviewing, for entertainment purposes only, Polanco’s best and worst moments afield and at the plate.

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NERD Game Scores for Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by viscount of the internet 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
Seattle at San Diego | 22:10 ET
Felix Hernandez (106.1 IP, 64 xFIP-, 4.0 WAR) faces Andrew Cashner (69.1 IP, 87 xFIP-, 1.5 WAR). The former, despite the heights of his previously established levels, is projected both by Steamer and ZiPS to record the best single-season WAR mark of his career. The latter, whose heights have been less high, is nevertheless also projected to produce his top WAR mark.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Seattle Radio?

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The Top 10 Prospects Currently by Projected WAR

What follows is an exercise not very different from that one performed on a slightly larger scale by the author at the very beginning of the season and more modestly about a month ago. As was the case with those posts, this one represents an attempt to identify the rookie-eligible players* who are most ready to produce wins at the major-league level (regardless of whether they’re likely to receive the opportunity to do so). What it is not is an attempt to account for any kind of future value — for which reason it’s unlikely to resemble very closely those prospect lists which are typically released by more qualified writers at the beginning and middle of the season.

*In this case, defined as any player who’s recorded fewer than 130 at-bats or 50 innings — which is to say, there’s been no attempt to identify each player’s time spent on the active roster, on account of that’s a super tedious endeavor.

To assemble the following collection of 10 prospects, what I’ve done first is to calculate prorated rest-of-season WAR figures for all players for whom either the Steamer or ZiPS projection systems have produced such a forecast. Hitters’ numbers are normalized to 550 plate appearances; starting pitchers’, to 150 innings — i.e. the playing-time thresholds at which a league-average player would produce approximately a 2.0 WAR. Catcher projections are prorated to 415 plate appearances to account for their reduced playing time.

Owing to how the two systems are structured, the majority of the numbers which follow represent only the relevant prospect’s Steamer projection. Players eligible for the list either (a) enter their age-26 season or lower in 2014 or, alternatively, (b) were signed as international free agents this offseason.

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