Author Archive

The Top 10 Prospects Currently by Projected WAR

Recently, in these pages, Marc Hulet released his midseason top-25 prospect list — designed, that particular post, to sort out the best prospects in baseball according to overall future potential. What follows is a different thing than that — designed to identify not baseball’s top prospects, but rather 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 such as that recently released by Hulet.

*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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NERD Game Scores for Tuesday, July 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
Miami at Atlanta | 19:10 ET
Jacob Turner (63.2 IP, 102 xFIP-, 0.4 WAR) faces Mike Minor (83.1 IP, 97 xFIP-, 0.2 WAR). Despite having produced almost a precisely league-average park-adjusted xFIP as a starter, the former was removed from the rotation in mid-June after conceding what might rightly be classified as an excess of runs. A reasonably successful month in the bullpen, however, has earned him a return to starter’s duties — the burdens of which role will someday crush his spirit, because every man’s respective burdens eventually crush him.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Atlanta Radio.

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FanGraphs Audio: Davey Cameron Analyzes All Baseball

Episode 464
Davey Cameron is both (a) the managing editor of FanGraphs and (b) the guest on this particular edition of FanGraphs Audio — during which edition he does what he was born to do.

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 33 min play time.)

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NERD Game Scores: Potentially Due Enthusiasm for T.J. House

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
Cleveland at Minnesota | 20:10 ET
T.J. House (45.0 IP, 89 xFIP-, 0.0 WAR) faces Kris Johnson (8.1 IP, 103 xFIP-, -0.1 WAR). The former, in his rookie season, has recorded both a park-adjusted xFIP (89 xFIP-) and strike rate (65.9%) nearly a standard deviation above the mean produced by those pitchers to have recorded 20-plus innings as a starter. While his low-ish arm slot (pictured below) isn’t ideal for neutralizing right-handed batters, he’s done so well enough over nine appearances (including eight starts) to record fielding-independent numbers superior to league average.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Cleveland Radio.

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NERD Game Scores: Clayton Kershaw Appointment Television

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
Los Angeles NL at St. Louis | 20:05 ET
Clayton Kershaw (96.1 IP, 46 xFIP-, 3.7 WAR) faces Carlos Martinez (63.0 IP, 100 xFIP-, 0.4 WAR). One will recognize the former as the pitcher to have produced the entirely best park-adjusted xFIP among all starters this season — a figure, his 46 xFIP-, that would represent the best such mark by a qualified starter since 2002 (i.e. as far back as that particular metric is available). Kershaw’s start at St. Louis’s Busch appears likely to be one of only two opportunities this whole season to observe the left-hander pitching in front of a straight-on center-field camera.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: St. Louis Radio.

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NERD Game Scores: Largely Concerning the American West

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 Los Angeles AL | 21:05 ET
Felix Hernandez (144.1 IP, 63 xFIP-, 5.2 WAR) faces Garrett Richards (123.1 IP, 83 xFIP-, 3.2 WAR). After years of exhibiting very excellent armspeed and reasonable control in the minor and then major leagues, the latter has produced a laudable season to date, recording strikeout and walk and ground-ball rates all on the ideal side of average. Richards’ Angels and the opposing Seattlers both currently possess better than 15% odds of qualifying for the divisional series.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Seattle Radio.

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FanGraphs Audio: Mike Petriello Digests the Aiken Situation

Episode 463
Mike Petriello is the founder of Dodgers Digest (née Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness) and a contributor to FanGraphs. He’s also the guest on this edition of the podcast, during which he summarizes the Brady Aiken situation from start to (nearly) finish.

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 35 min play time.)

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NERD Game Scores for Friday, July 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.

***

Most Highly Rated Game
San Francisco at Miami | 19:10 ET
Madison Bumgarner (127.0 IP, 82 xFIP-, 2.1 WAR) faces Nathan Eovaldi (119.2 IP, 106 xFIP-, 2.0 WAR). The pleasures of the former are nearly, if not entirely, conspicuous. Regarding the latter, however, one finds that he currently sits third among 94 qualified pitchers by average fastball velocity (95.7 mph) while also throwing strikes at a rate (66.4%) about a standard deviation better than league average, as well. By way of reference, here are some figures produced by starters who’ve recorded both fastball velocities and strike rates at least a standard deviation better than the mean: 90 xFIP-, 101 ERA-. And among those who lack that distinction: 106 xFIP-, 110 ERA-. All things being equal, not surprisingly, throwing hard strikes is of some benefit to the end of run prevention.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: San Francisco Radio or Television.

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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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All of Tommy La Stella’s Extra-Base Hits in One Weblog Post

Tommy La Stella doesn’t have the lowest isolated-power figure of the 310 batters to have compiled 150-plus plate appearances this season. Indeed, he has the 19th-lowest. What distinguishes La Stella from the 18 players above him on that particular laggardboard, however, is that La Stella has also recorded a park-adjusted batting line above league average. La Stella’s ability to draw walks (he has a 10.8% walk rate) while limiting strikeouts (and 11.4% strikeout rate) — plus the influence of a probably fortunate .333 BABIP — have all conspired to produce a 107 wRC+ over 176 PAs.

Nor is any of this unexpected, really. Over parts of four minor-league seasons, La Stella recorded about a third more walks than strikeouts. This past March, both Steamer and ZiPS projected La Stella to produce an above-average park-adjusted offensive line. Right now, in mid-July, both Steamer and ZiPS project La Stella to produce an above-average park-adjusted batting line for the rest of the season.

The utility of a player with minimal power will always be a concern. What La Stella’s first 40-plus games as a major-leaguer suggest, however, is that, given sufficiently competent plate-discipline skills, a batter can render himself useful despite an almost total absence of power.

In fact, La Stella has produced so few extra-base hits that a sufficiently motivated weblogger could theoretically compose an entire post featuring animated GIFs of those same extra-base hits without unduly taxing either the relevant site’s server or a reader’s capacity to load that post comfortably.

As I say, one could theoretically do that. One could also actually do it, as well — in fact, has actually done it, today and here.

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FanGraphs Audio: Dave Cameron Analyzes All Trade Value

Episode 462
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 meditates on the relative trade values of Paris versus Berlin, for example.

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 43 min play time.)

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Top Performances of the Futures Game by Game Score

It is now a True Fact of History that the Futures Game — which annual contest features the most notable prospects within all of baseball — took place yesterday (Sunday) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. There are a likely number of ways in which one could speak about the game intelligently. The author is prepared to utilize close to zero of them.

No, what I’ve done instead is to hide within that safest of spaces — i.e. the spreadsheets facilitated by my personal edition of Microsoft Excel.

On a recent edition of FanGraphs Audio, managing editor Dave Cameron and I briefly revisited a post written for these pages by Tom Tango in 2011 on the topic of pitching game scores and which version (of the four he introduces) might best represent a pitcher’s single-game performance.

I have no intention of weighing in, specifically, on which of the four really does best represent a player’s performance in a game. As a means to further acquainting ourselves with certain prospects, however, I’ve calculated game scores for every pitchers and hitter who appeared in yesterday’s contest.

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NERD Game Scores for Sunday, July 13, 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.

***

Most Highly Rated Game
Toronto at Tampa Bay | 13:40 ET
R.A. Dickey (119.0 IP, 109 xFIP-, 0.9 WAR) faces David Price (139.2 IP, 69 xFIP-, 2.8 WAR). The former has recorded the second-fastest working pace among 95 qualified pitchers; the latter, the absolute slowest. To suggest that this observation constitutes grounds for a “stirring narrative,” however, would probably represent an instance of overstatement.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Toronto Radio.

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NERD Game Scores for Saturday, July 12, 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.

***

Most Highly Rated Game
Washington at Philadelphia | 19:10 ET
Stephen Strasburg (119.1 IP, 68 xFIP-, 2.7 WAR) faces Cole Hamels (100.1 IP, 89 xFIP-, 1.9 WAR). The latter has prevented runs at a more characteristic rate over his late two appearances. After entering his July 1st start with a 2.63 xFIP and 3.70 ERA, Strasburg has conceded only three earned (and overall) runs over his last 14.2 innings — which is to say, a mark more similar to the latter and not the former of the aforementioned figures.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Washington Radio.

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FanGraphs Audio: Ben Badler on Matters International

Episode 461
Ben Badler (@BenBadler) writes for Baseball America, for which publication he provides all manner of prospect-related coverage, with a decided emphasis on the international market. He’s also the guest on this 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 37 min play time.)

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Play

NERD Game Scores for Friday, July 11, 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.

***

Most Highly Rated Game
Oakland at Seattle | 22:10 ET
Jeff Samardzija (115.0 IP, 86 xFIP-, 2.4 WAR) faces Felix Hernandez (136.1 IP, 62 xFIP-, 5.1 WAR). One notes, with regard to the latter, that his most recent start — over which he produced an 8:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 55% ground-ball rate — actually served to slightly increase (i.e. make worse) his park-adjusted xFIP. That’s likely the most economical way of indicating that Hernandez is in the midst of an excellent season. A less economical way would be to paint a large portrait of Hernandez astride a pile of corpses, each corpse representing a batter Hernandez had retired this season.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Seattle 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: Day of Bullpen Planned in Seattle

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.

***

Most Highly Rated Game
Minnesota at Seattle | 22:10 ET
Yohan Pino (21.2 IP, 105 xFIP-, 0.6 WAR) faces Tom Wilhelmsen (47.0 IP, 96 xFIP-, 0.1 WAR). Following the decision to move Felix Hernandez‘s next start back to Friday and, simultaneously, to demote right-hander Taijuan Walker to Triple-A Tacoma, Seattle has decided to use only relief pitchers against Minnesota today. A half-hearted inspection of the internet reveals that the White Sox attempted a nearly similar thing on April 30th of this year (although Hector Noesi, who’d made only relief appearances until that point, has gone on to record only starts since then). Otherwise, the most recent example of such a strategy appears to be that instance last September 1st when Jamey Wright started for Tampa Bay — a game, however, which will have been played just after late-season roster expansion.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Seattle Radio.

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Prospect Watch: A Statistical Report on Every First-Rounder

Just over a month has passed since baseball’s amateur draft in early June, and a majority of the players selected during the first round of same have now both (a) signed with the relevant selecting club and (b) recorded either a plate appearance or inning as an actual professional.

What the author has done for this edition of the Prospect Watch is to produce a pair of leaderboards (one for batters; one, pitchers) of the aforementioned first-round selections, with a view towards monitoring the early production of these players. Links to the relevant FanGraphs leaderboards are available here: Batters / Pitchers.

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NERD Game Scores: Return Engagement of Rubby de la Rosa

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 Boston | 19:10 ET
Chris Sale (87.1 IP, 72 xFIP-, 2.9 WAR) faces Rubby de la Rosa (32.1 IP, 75 xFIP-, 0.7 WAR). The former is the best pitcher in the baseball who also resembles a child’s stick-figure portrait of a baseball pitcher. The latter returns to the majors after having compiled a series of five starts in late-May and June over which he recorded strikeout and walk rates of 24.0% and 6.4%, respectively, while also producing an above-average ground-ball rate and while also-also producing one of the league’s highest average fastball velocities.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Boston Radio.

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