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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 12/9/16

9:06
Jeff Sullivan: Hello friends

9:06
Jeff Sullivan: Welcome to a somewhat abbreviated Friday baseball chat

9:06
Bork: Hello, friend!

9:06
Jeff Sullivan: Hello friend

9:07
CamdenWarehouse: I’m not the only one who like the Eaton trade for the Nationals, am I?

9:07
Jeff Sullivan: Not at all. It doesn’t take a lot to get pushed over the edge. If you believe in WAR and also believe Giolito is kind of overrated, you like the deal. If you think Eaton is just an average hitter and Giolito is about to break out as an ace or a No. 2, you don’t like the deal

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Adam Eaton Is the Nationals’ Newest Star Player

You might remember that, last year, the Nationals didn’t get who they wanted. They made a strong run at Yoenis Cespedes, but they obviously didn’t win. They made runs at Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist, too, but they didn’t win there, either. They ultimately wound up with Daniel Murphy, and Murphy worked out fantastic. The season worked out fantastic. The Nationals pulled off a significant pivot.

There’s been more pivoting this week. The Nationals made a run at Chris Sale, and they lost to the Red Sox. They made a run at Andrew McCutchen, and they couldn’t reach an agreement. So the front office quickly turned to Adam Eaton. You could think of Eaton as being the Nationals’ Plan C, and he’s not so sexy a splash as the others. And yet he’s good, incredibly good, arguably even McCutchen-good, and he’s the newest star player on the Nationals’ roster. All the Sale talks made the deal move fast. It must have been an exciting trade to complete.

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Carlos Gomez Has a Home in Texas

Think about the teams that need to make the most of the year ahead. The Red Sox, certainly, will now be under a lot of pressure to roll through the playoffs. That’s the consequence of working how they’ve worked. The Royals will face a lot of pressure in a different way, because it looks almost certain that 2018 and beyond will be a challenge. For Kansas City, this could be their last competitive season in a while. And then you get the Rangers. The Rangers’ situation and the Royals’ situation aren’t too dissimilar. The Rangers are probably a little better off, but the long-term picture isn’t so sunny. This’ll probably be the last year with Yu Darvish and Jonathan Lucroy.

So the Rangers need to maximize what they have. They also need to try to do that without doing any more harm to the long-term outlook. Enter Carlos Gomez on a one-year deal. It’ll be an important year for both parties. Gomez is looking for a pillow season, a chance to re-establish some value in a friendly place so that next offseason he could really score. The Rangers are trying to give it what could be one last go. Gomez still isn’t without his big giant upside, as the Rangers try to keep up with the Astros.

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White Sox Begin Teardown in Best Way Possible

At least as far as recent history goes, Chris Sale might’ve been unprecedentedly valuable as a trade asset. We just haven’t seen trades with pitchers so good, signed for so long, to such affordable salaries. It’s fitting, then, that the White Sox convinced the Red Sox to make the recently unprecedented decision to move baseball’s top prospect. There’s nothing fun or painless about initiating a rebuild. It can get fun pretty quick, though, when you land a player like Yoan Moncada.

In all honesty, it’s not entirely clear the White Sox got more for Sale than the Braves got a year ago for Shelby Miller. There are two ways you could interpret that. One, you could choose to believe the White Sox didn’t get enough. But, two, no, that’s not right. This is the price of an ace-level starter, and this just further goes to show how badly the Diamondbacks screwed up. I guess that’s not what’s important now. What’s important now is the White Sox have officially decided to pivot, and this is a hell of a first step.

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Red Sox Get Underrated Reliever for Underrated Return

Last season, there were 129 relievers who threw at least 50 innings. Cody Allen ranked 12th in strikeout rate. Tyler Thornburg was one slot ahead of him. Craig Kimbrel ranked 15th in K-BB%. Tyler Thornburg was one slot ahead of him. Ken Giles ranked tied for 20th in adjusted FIP. Tyler Thornburg was one slot ahead of him.

Thornburg didn’t draw a lot of attention, having a breakout year in a crowded bullpen on a go-nowhere Brewers team. He’s now become professional property of the Red Sox, him and his three years of arbitration eligibility. While Thornburg might’ve been off the general radar, he’s a big addition as a controllable setup guy for a team that wanted to make its bullpen more dominant. In return for an underrated power righty, the Brewers are getting their own underrated package. Dave Dombrowski has dipped into his farm again, and other front offices like when he does just that.

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Why the Nationals Would Trade Lucas Giolito

Around the trade deadline, there was ever so briefly a rumor that the Nationals might entertain the idea of moving Lucas Giolito for Andrew Miller. It didn’t happen, and more importantly, it wasn’t true, but I wrote up a quick little post entitled The Case for Trading Lucas Giolito. The circumstances haven’t changed very much in the months since. Giolito is in the news again, mostly in connection with Chris Sale rumors. It’s possible that, by the time you read this post, Giolito will be property of the White Sox! The White Sox would be happy about that, because Giolito remains incredibly talented. He’s also been a declining asset. Since the end of July, Giolito kept on not retiring major-league hitters. He’s a 22-year-old top prospect, but there are more questions about him than ever.

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The Royals’ Last Ride

Not long ago, I was thinking about the teams that might elect to rebuild next. The only really obvious candidate was and is the White Sox, who could begin the process at any moment. After them, I thought about the Diamondbacks, who might be a half-year away. The Orioles might be approaching their own cliff. The Tigers have already expressed a desire to get younger and cheaper. And so on. A team I didn’t think about enough was the Royals. In my head, I still associate the Royals with having so recently won a championship, but now that’s behind them. What’s ahead of them is a future that seems like it’s going to be very tricky to navigate.

Now isn’t the time for the Royals to start blowing it up. The Royals shouldn’t dismantle, not this week, not this winter. I don’t think that would really help them avoid the coming reality. But from the looks of things, 2017 is going to be it. Already, the Royals achieved the greatest success. The cost of that pursuit will begin to take its toll.

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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 12/2/16

9:02
Jeff Sullivan: Hello friends

9:02
Jeff Sullivan: Welcome to Friday baseball chat

9:02
Bork: Hello, friend!

9:02
Jeff Sullivan: Hello friend

9:02
Matthew: Why are so few players throwing palmballs anymore? Are other pitches that much more effective?

9:03
Jeff Sullivan: Pretty sure it accomplishes similar things to the changeup and/or splitter

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The Most Atypical Players in Baseball

Greetings! Yesterday, I wrote about how Billy Hamilton is a freak. If you didn’t read the post, let me save you some time. First of all, yeah, you kind of already knew that. But, statistically, he’s gone almost without comparison. I looked at all regulars and semi-regulars through age 25, going back to 1961, and I examined their batting, baserunning, and defense. Based on my analysis, Hamilton stands out, with his closest comp being Julio Cruz. To this point, he’s been a terrible hitter. He’s also been an elite runner and defender. Highly unusual!

Related to that, I felt somewhat inspired. That was a post about how Hamilton is atypical. Who else these days is atypical? Who these days is the most atypical? What follows is a quick and similar analysis. Of course, you haven’t seen the last of Hamilton’s name.

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Billy Hamilton, the Absolute Freak

Some people track the passing of time through watching their children. Other people track the passing of time by looking at what time it is, and comparing that to a previous time, from back in the past. I tend to track the passing of time by thinking in baseball terms. I can’t really help it, and sometimes it takes me by surprise. It feels like just yesterday that Billy Hamilton was one of the most exciting and polarizing prospects in the sport. Now Hamilton is the subject of some trade rumors, because he’s entering his arbitration years and the Reds aren’t going to be good any time soon. Life comes at you fast. (Faster than Billy Hamilton!) (But not actually that fast.)

I don’t need to explain Hamilton to anybody. At least, not anybody on FanGraphs. Runs fast, doesn’t hit. It feels like a somewhat typical profile. Maybe thinking about Hamilton causes you to think about Willy Taveras. We’ve all seen players kind of like this. I’d like to demonstrate that Hamilton is particularly extreme. While Hamilton has maybe disappointed a few observers, he’s been his own sort of player.

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The Nationals Work Best for Andrew McCutchen

Teams have gotten pretty good about handling trade rumors. The teams themselves don’t operate any differently, but whenever any big name is discussed, you just about always hear the team isn’t shopping him. Rather, the front office will frequently indicate it’s open to anything. “Listening to offers,” as if there’s any other way. Big names still get traded as often as ever, but teams try to reduce anxiety in the meantime. They don’t want people stressing out until or unless there’s something worth stressing over.

The Andrew McCutchen offers have taken on a different feel. At first, it felt like, all right, maybe the Pirates would be open to trading him. But Wednesday, reports emerged that the Pirates are the ones being aggressive. I don’t know if that’s coming from the Pirates organization or somewhere(s) else, but this is pretty unusual. Pair that with the news that Austin Meadows will be playing an outfield corner and you definitely get the sense McCutchen’s days with the Pirates are numbered.

As Ken Rosenthal and others have written, it looks more likely than ever that McCutchen’s going to be dealt. If it happens, it would hardly be a shock to see it happen before the end of next week’s winter meetings. McCutchen is still to be considered a premium outfielder, so any number of teams would love to pick him up. After examining the landscape, though, I don’t see a better fit than the Nationals.

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The A’s Just Added a Cheap Breakout Slugger

Last year, the A’s couldn’t play defense. Matt Joyce isn’t really going to help with that. Last year, the A’s couldn’t keep their pitchers healthy. Matt Joyce isn’t really going to help with that. And, last year, the A’s couldn’t hit very much. Matt Joyce is probably going to help with that.

Here’s the deal — around this time of year, we write about a lot of transactions. We don’t write about every transaction, but we cover the majority of multi-year free-agent signings. Not every one of those signings is interesting. It took me forever to find something to say about Edinson Volquez, and I don’t even like the post that I wrote. Joyce has now signed with the A’s for two years and $11 million, meaning he got half of Volquez’s guarantee. Many of you have figured out this is a post about Joyce, and so you want to just leave and read anything else. But this one is interesting. Joyce is interesting. A few times during the season, I wanted to write him up, but I never got around to it. Now I have a reason, as the A’s might’ve found another cleanup hitter.

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Making Yoenis Cespedes Look Better

Yoenis Cespedes never really wanted to leave New York, and now he won’t have to. He’s re-signed with the Mets for four years, and it’ll cost the team $110 million and a no-trade clause. It’s the news of the day, and presumably the news of the week, as Cespedes was considered the best player on the free-agent market. Not even that long ago, one wouldn’t have expected the Mets of all teams to be able to make this sort of splash.

They say Cespedes makes an intangible impact. I don’t have much to say about that. They say Cespedes is the straw that stirs the Mets’ drink. I don’t have much to say about that. They say Cespedes might not age very well now that he has his long-term guarantee. I definitely don’t have much to say about that. I want to talk to you about the details. The stupid little crap that might only matter to readers of FanGraphs. Let’s talk about Yoenis Cespedes’ WAR, and how we might be able to make him look better.

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Edinson Volquez Is So Many Pitchers

The top priority for the Marlins is boosting the pitching staff that suffered a devastating blow upon the death of Jose Fernandez. That can’t be forgotten, but at the same time, it’s as good as unfair to other pitchers to lead with this, because Fernandez could have no suitable replacement. The Marlins were robbed of one of the greatest talents on the planet. The Marlins just signed Edinson Volquez. Volquez has his things he can do, but he’s a far cry from being a franchise cornerstone. The more the Marlins attempt to move on, the more we’re all reminded of what they’re trying to move on from.

The Marlins did need some kind of starter. Edinson Volquez is some kind of starter. They gave him two years and $22 million, even though last year Volquez had an ERA in the mid-5s. A couple years ago the Royals gave Volquez an almost identical contract following an ERA of 3.04. Behold the death of ERA! Anyhow, the analysis here is simple. The last three years, Volquez has averaged about 1.6 WAR. Plugging that into our contract tool and accounting for Volquez’s age yields an estimated two-year contract worth…$22 million. Super. What gets me here isn’t Volquez joining the Marlins. It’s the story of Volquez, and the story of many a live-armed starting pitcher.

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Was the Jean Segura Trade Really the Mitch Haniger Trade?

The Mariners, who are operating with a pretty short-term competitive window, added Jean Segura right before Thanksgiving. Segura has been driving the headlines, and it’s no mystery why. He finished last year with a 5.0 WAR, and, for the sake of reference, that tied him with Joey Votto. It put him in front of Xander Bogaerts. To go a little more traditional, Segura led the National League in hits by 10, ahead of Corey Seager. It was a breakthrough season for the 26-year-old, and his ability to play shortstop plugs what had been a glaring hole. There’s no question that Segura fits the profile of a headliner.

Many who’ve written about the Mariners’ side have written about Segura. Many of the quotes from Jerry Dipoto have been about Segura. But, at risk of sounding like Dave, I have to wonder — was Segura really the Mariners’ best get? Or will we eventually reflect on this as being the move that brought Seattle Mitch Haniger?

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Where Chris Sale’s Numbers Fell Off a Cliff

There’s no such thing as a bad reason to talk about the best players in baseball. Chris Sale is one of them, and it would make sense to write something about him just because. I mean, who doesn’t like to think about Chris Sale! Bring him up the next time you’re having a conversation with a baseball fan friend. It doesn’t even have to be a conversation about baseball itself. Just bring him up out of nowhere. Provided the other person knows who Chris Sale is, you’ll be able to observe the conversation get happier.

But, wouldn’t you know it, but Sale now is a popular topic. See, the White Sox might finally be ready to sell, and if they are, Sale could go in a blockbuster. As such, there’s additional reason to write about him. You know how good he is. You know his general profile. Weird delivery, workhorse, bit of an edge, favorable contract. Sale has as much value as almost anybody, and his numbers are pretty to look at. I’ve got a fun fact for you, related to those numbers. In one regard, Sale’s last two years have been something of a roller coaster.

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The Ongoing Rise of the Pitch-Framing Floor

The Hardball Times Annual. You should buy it! The whole thing is good, probably. I’m admittedly biased because I wrote for the damned thing. My topic this time around was pitch-framing, and the article appears in the book, and in the book only. Everything in there is a book exclusive. That’s the way books work.

Now, here’s the deal: In the interest of maximizing sales, I’m probably not supposed to cover ground I already covered in my essay. But as you’ve presumably heard, the Twins signed Jason Castro Tuesday afternoon, and there’s an angle here I don’t want to let pass by ignored. So, it’s time for some overlap. In the book, I talk about all of this theory stuff in greater detail. But Castro going to Minnesota only further raises the floor of the worst pitch-framing teams.

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The Most Dominant Pitcher in the Minors*

The most dominant pitcher in the minors pitched in the majors. But he didn’t pitch much, as a September call-up, and he wasn’t very good, and you probably don’t know him. He gave up a home run. Walked four and whiffed five. About a hit an inning. He wasn’t handling high-leverage assignments. For all intents and purposes, his big-league work was almost invisible.

And yet, the most dominant pitcher in the minors was extraordinarily dominant, in the minors. He is but 23 years old, and he isn’t going away. He’s not about to change anyone’s offseason plans. He’s not about to get dealt in a blockbuster. He’s a prospect. He’s a prospect who’ll get an extended chance to build on what he’s already done.

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The Season’s Worst Home Run

The season’s worst home run was a major-league home run. It was hit clean over a major-league fence, against a major-league pitcher, and it didn’t have to bounce off of the head of a major-league outfielder. The season’s worst home run was, objectively, more physically impressive than anything I’ve ever accomplished. I’ve climbed some tall mountains. It’s like walking up really cold and slippery stairs. Nobody would be amazed by anything I’ve done. I’m sitting here amazed that anyone can hit any major-league pitches.

So the point here isn’t to criticize. Everything in baseball is remarkable. But, very simply, there are better home runs, and there are worse home runs. Not all home runs are equally impressive, correct? It follows, therefore, that there would be a worst home run. A least-impressive impressive thing, if you will. Below, you get to see the worst home run of 2016. It was allowed by Chris Sale, and it was hit by Troy Tulowitzki.

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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 11/18/16

9:04
Jeff Sullivan: Hello friends

9:04
Jeff Sullivan: Welcome to Friday baseball chat

9:04
LudeBurger: If you’re late again, I swear to all holy heck…

9:04
Jeff Sullivan: I’m late literally every week

9:04
Bork: Hello, friend! Apologies for my absence last week.

9:04
Jeff Sullivan: Hello friend

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