Author Archive

Well, the Orioles Are Doing it Again

The other day, I wrote that the Yankees have so far been the best team in baseball. I stand by that, in that nothing has changed in the limited time since, but there’s one measure where the Yankees are no longer on top. It’s the simplest and also most meaningful of all measures — win-loss record. The Yankees are an excellent 21-10. The Orioles are a slightly more excellent 22-10. Powered by a six-game winning streak, now it’s the Orioles who have baseball’s best record, and, well, to get into this, we’re going to need to get into some background.

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The Yankees Have Been the Best Team in Baseball

It’s not supposed to be the Yankees’ time — not yet. I think we’ve all sensed a coming resurgence, given their resources, and given their farm system. We knew the Yankees would bounce back eventually, and it’s considered a foregone conclusion they’re going to grab at least one of the big-name future free agents. But this year — this was supposed to be an average year. Maybe a wild-card year, one of those years where, if everything went right, the Yankees could scrape to 85 or 90 wins. The division was going to belong to the Red Sox. How could that division not belong to the Red Sox?

Still might. Red Sox are good. But everyone’s aware of the Yankees, now. They opened the season 1-4, losing consecutive series to the Rays and Orioles. Yet they just pulled off a road weekend sweep in Wrigley Field. If you sort the regular standings, the Yankees have baseball’s best winning percentage. If you sort the nerd-friendly standings, the Yankees have baseball’s best BaseRuns winning percentage. By outcome and by process, the Yankees have been better than anyone, and what might be truly frightening is just how much has gone wrong.

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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 5/5/17

9:04
Jeff Sullivan: Hello friends

9:04
Jeff Sullivan: Welcome to Friday baseball chat

9:04
Bork: Hello, friend!

9:04
Jeff Sullivan: Hello friend

9:05
Trader Joe: True or False?: Rockies would be better off trading LeMahieu for pitching and calling up Ryan McMahon to play 2B.

9:05
Jeff Sullivan: That seems very false

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The Arizona Baserunning Juggernaut

Since the start of the 2015 season, the Diamondbacks have been easily baseball’s best baserunning team. They’ve been baseball’s best baserunning team in terms of stolen bases, and they’ve been baseball’s best baserunning team in terms of other kinds of advances. Baserunning isn’t one of those components that makes or breaks a roster, given that it’s more peripheral or secondary than anything else, but the longer something like this goes on, the easier it is to recognize.

In this very season, the Diamondbacks are at it again. That’s the second-place Diamondbacks, the wild-card-spot-occupying Diamondbacks. A few years ago, by our numbers, as a team they were 13 runs better than average on the bases. Last season, they were 18 runs better than average. This season, they’ve already been about 12 runs better than average. They didn’t do anything noteworthy on this particular afternoon, but that’s what a team gets for facing Max Scherzer. The team’s still been elite, and they’ve played only 30 games.

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It Remains a Game of Constant Home Runs

A few minutes ago, I turned on a game between the A’s and the Twins, which is a sentence no one has ever written before. I turned the game on just in time to see Jharel Cotton pitching to Danny Santana. You might not know very much about Danny Santana. In fact, you probably don’t know very much about Danny Santana. That’s okay. Context clues. Relatively speaking, he’s a little dude. Hits a bunch of grounders. Utility player; reserve; Minnesota Twin. Here’s what Santana did:

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I Guess Now Trevor Cahill Is Good

Before the start of the year, the Padres’ starting rotation was the butt of so many jokes. They essentially had to build it out through free agency, but not even through the appealing parts of free agency. More like the Jered Weaver parts. Here and there, there was occasional speculation the Padres could go on to have one of the worse rotations in recent memory. At the same time, people held the Cubs in the conversation for having maybe the best rotation around. It was certainly one of the best a season ago. Why would anything change? Cubs good. Padres bad. These statements were inarguable.

We’ve completed just a sixth or so of the season. You should be sticking to many of your preseason thoughts. But let me just show six numbers. Here’s how the Cubs’ rotation has done:

  • ERA-: 109
  • FIP-: 109
  • xFIP-: 94

And here’s how the Padres’ rotation has done:

  • ERA-: 106
  • FIP-: 106
  • xFIP-: 95

The Padres are basically right in the middle in WAR. It’s been a mixed bag of results, but overall it’s been fine, even slightly more effective than the Cubs. It’s a strange place for us to be, and surprising group effectiveness is driven by surprising individuals. Trevor Cahill has earned a front-page post.

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There’s Another Yankee Taking Off

The Yankees have gotten off to a surprising start, sitting in a first-place tie in the AL East even despite having mostly played without Gary Sanchez. These being the Yankees, there’s not much that happens under the radar, and I’ve already fielded a number of chat questions about a reasonably young outfielder with a high walk rate and a 191 wRC+. He’s helped to power the Yankees to where they are today, far exceeding expectations with a slugging percentage of .640. Aaron Judge, also, has been terrific.

Judge, in fact, has been the club’s best player. For one month, he’s played at his ceiling, and he’s become a household name just as a function of his highlight home runs. Yet Aaron Hicks, too, has also been playing at his ceiling. Where Judge is a 25-year-old prospect, Hicks is a 27-year-old post-prospect, if you will. Until now, he felt a little like a bust. It might still end up a bummer of a season. But maybe, just maybe, for Aaron Hicks, it’s clicking.

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The Upside of the Chaotic National League

On Effectively Wild the other day, I mentioned to Ben Lindbergh how so much recent news has been kind of depressing. Madison Bumgarner is super good, and now he won’t play for a while. Noah Syndergaard is super good, and now he won’t play for a while, either. Adam Eaton is super good, and he won’t play again for an even longer while. Shelby Miller is done for the season because of a torn elbow ligament. Starling Marte is serving a half-year suspension for inexplicable cheating. The Giants are disappointing, the Mets are disappointing, and so far everything I’ve mentioned directly involves the National League.

Yet for any one thing that goes wrong for a team, that can be spun as good news for rivals. Not that I think the Dodgers were specifically hoping for Bumgarner to get injured or anything, but, I’m losing track. There’s obvious downside in so many of the things that have happened in the NL. No one likes when good players can’t play. But on the plus side, doors have been opened. Thanks to the events of April and the first day of May, the National League is a lot less predictable. Which, to me, makes it a lot less boring.

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Francisco Lindor’s Finding His Inner Mookie Betts

I spend a lot of time thinking about who could be the next Mike Trout. There’s not a good answer yet. Nobody is the next Mike Trout. Francisco Lindor is not yet as good as Mike Trout. Do not under-appreciate Mike Trout! He’s amazing. Everybody take a moment to remember how Mike Trout is the very best that there is. Okay, good, thank you for doing that.

When I think about other potential 9-WAR players, though, my default is to consider elite defenders who might suddenly add some power. Because, of course, they’d be starting from a high baseline, and how many players have we seen add considerable pop over the past few seasons? I’ve had my eye on certain guys, and it’s Lindor who’s presently catching my attention. Lindor is an elite defender. Check. He occupies a premium defensive position. Check. We know he has a steady and disciplined approach. Check. Now we could be seeing the emergence of power. Lindor is 23 years old.

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The Worst Offensive Month in Royals Team History

I didn’t realize the Royals have lost nine games in a row. When it’s come to disappointing baseball, most of my attention was focused on teams like the Blue Jays, Giants, Mets, and Mariners. Every team mentioned here has under-performed, but sure enough, the Royals stand at 7-16, with baseball’s worst record. The upside, I suppose, is that they were once 7-7, but that’s damning with faint praise, since losing nine straight can derail even a wonderful season. The Royals have had a horrible week and a half.

As you examine things, it’s not like the Royals have experienced some kind of team-wide collapse. The defensive metrics paint a confusing picture, and the rotation has been better than the bullpen, but the Royals’ run prevention has surprisingly been a tiny bit better than average. The Royals aren’t out there just constantly getting smoked. Nearly the entirety of the problem is captured by the headline just above. Hitting. Teams need to hit. The Royals haven’t hit. It’s not unreasonable to suggest they’ve actually hit worse than ever.

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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 4/28/17

9:03
Jeff Sullivan: Hello friends

9:03
Jeff Sullivan: Welcome to Friday baseball chat

9:03
Bork: Hello, friend!

9:03
Jeff Sullivan: Hello friend

9:03
Sock Therapy: Is Aaron Judge the messiah

9:03
Jeff Sullivan: Some people are made in something superior to God’s image

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The White Sox Have Had One of the Best Pitchers on the Planet

One of the classic criticisms of the front-page entries on FanGraphs is that it can sometimes look like writers are just scanning different leaderboards until they find a subject. Now, there’s nothing actually wrong with that, I don’t think. That’s why the leaderboards exist — so we can all learn from what they say. It’s not like we can easily and automatically keep track of everything by ourselves. Still, I understand where the criticism comes from. And so I’d like to be up front here: This post is about something I didn’t expect to see on a leaderboard. There’s no deeper inspiration. But when I saw a player’s line, I knew I couldn’t not write about it.

In the early going this season, the White Sox have been a pleasant surprise! They’re hanging tight with the Indians, and they’re well ahead of, say, the Royals. One element that’s driven the White Sox has been the pitching staff, and, specifically, the bullpen. Even coming into the year, the team had Nate Jones and David Robertson, so the bullpen wasn’t likely to be terrible. To this point, it’s second out of all big-league bullpens in ERA-. It’s first in K-BB%. That…isn’t what anyone expected. And now, a plot.

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Your Thoughts on Some of the Best and Worst Hitters

On Monday, I asked for your help in evaluating these five hitters who have gotten off to wonderful starts:

On Tuesday, I asked for your help in evaluating these five hitters who have gotten off to terrible starts:

The 10 polls accumulated thousands upon thousands of total votes. I was looking for you to select projected rest-of-season wRC+ marks, and you graciously participated in tremendous numbers. I don’t always follow up on my poll posts; sometimes I just want the polls to start a conversation, and sometimes I don’t think the data is worth a follow-up entry. But here I’d like to show you how the FanGraphs community voted. As a sneak preview, I’ll tell you now that apparently the community thinks Suarez is officially a better hitter today than Bautista is. Weird game!

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The Most-Changed Teams Since Opening Day

Projections. Do you not like reading that word? Don’t worry about it. I don’t particularly like writing that word, and I know full well that it can be a major turn-off. It doesn’t help that there’s not a great alternative way to express the same idea. When you’re talking about projections, you typically have to say “projections” somewhere. It’s inelegant, but it is what it is.

Some people don’t like projections because projections aren’t always right. Perfectly legitimate, even if it holds the model to an impossible standard. That being said, overall, the better projections are better than human guesswork. I’ve never seen convincing evidence that people are better at seeing the baseball future than projections are, and so the projections live on, referred to constantly. This has all been a long way of getting to the point that, hey, I’m about to build a post around our team projections. I want to compare projections today to the projections we had the morning of the first day of the season.

It’s not that hard to do, using the information readily available on our Playoff Odds page. You could do it yourself! But you don’t have to. Because, look below. When we start getting games under our collective belt, fans and readers ask us which of our ideas have changed. We all have our own individual ideas about players and teams, but changes in the projections tend to be closely linked. So let’s quickly examine changes at either end of the spectrum.

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Approaching the Joey Gallo Threshold

By the middle of their game on Tuesday, the Rangers were getting blown out. It hasn’t been a great start, overall, for the ballclub. But as Joey Gallo stepped up to the plate, the broadcast kicked it over to reporter Emily Jones, who talked about how Gallo had been a more than capable fill-in for the injured Adrian Beltre. The broadcast put up a nearly screen-wide graphic of some of Gallo’s impressive early statistics, and then they cut away just in time to see Gallo charge up another hack.

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Help Evaluate Some of the Game’s Worst Hitters

Hello! Yesterday I posted this. In that post, I briefly discussed five outrageously hot offensive starts — specifically, those achieved by Eric Thames, Bryce Harper, Eugenio Suarez, Mitch Haniger, and Aaron Judge. I solicited feedback in the form of a rest-of-season wRC+ projection for each bat. Although I didn’t include every hitter off to a scorching start, I touched on five of significant interest, and your overall participation level has been great. Thank you for that — without participants, these polls would be super embarrassing.

Comments and tweets were left suggesting I run a similar post, focusing on guys who’ve been bad hitters. This has happened because humans love symmetry, and also because it’s just simply the obvious thing to do. So now, same thing, with different players owning very different numbers. Again, the post below doesn’t cover everyone who’s mired in a slump — sorry for those of you who want to read about, say, Carlos Gonzalez or Keon Broxton or Jonathan Lucroy. I’ve chosen five players and stuck with five players, and I’d love it if you’d participate once more. There’s no such thing as a participation trophy, but if there were, you could get one! All for placing an internet vote. (Actually up to five internet votes.)

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Ariel Hernandez Might Already Be Elite

The Cincinnati Reds are young and rebuilding, so it’s not too much of a surprise that, this year, they’ve had more players make their major-league debuts than any other team. Yesterday, a pitcher named Ariel Hernandez showed up for the first time. He was tasked with some early innings in relief of an unsuccessful starter. Although it’s never easy to make one’s first-ever big-league pitches, some of the pressure is off when your team’s already losing 10-4.

Hernandez entered in the bottom of the fourth. In this post, I’d like to try something. He entered with one out. It took him six pitches to get out of the inning. Hernandez completed two more innings afterward, but I want to look at those six pitches alone. And here’s the idea: I want to estimate Hernandez’s projected ERA at each instant. That is, I want to take a stab at his rest-of-season ERA given only the information provided to me. I knew nothing about Hernandez before, and the same presumably goes for many of you. He’s working now to fill up a blank slate.

Here goes nothing! Six Ariel Hernandez pitches. His first six meaningful pitches, against major-league hitters.

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Kyle Hendricks Has Been Too Easy to Hit

There’s something odd about the Cubs’ starting rotation, and I wrote about it last week. All five pitchers have been working with reduced velocity, relative to where they were last season. When it happens to one guy, it’s a potential problem. When it happens to five guys…I suppose it’s a potential *huge* problem, but it’s also a potentially deliberate pattern. I speculated as much, offering that the Cubs might be trying to back off their main arms since they’re coming off an extended season, and preparing for another.

Jake Arrieta has been okay, reduced velocity or not. The same goes for Jon Lester, who looks like the same pitcher. However, it’s a different story when it comes to Kyle Hendricks. Like the other starters, Hendricks isn’t throwing as hard as he used to. But then, Hendricks is sitting on a 6+ ERA. He specialized in command and soft contact. Now he has worse command, and he’s allowing hard contact. As far as Hendricks is concerned, something seems awry, although it looks to me to be mechanical.

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Help Evaluate Some of the Game’s Best Hitters

Slowly but surely, we’re getting into the fun part of the season. I mean, it’s all fun, even parts of spring training, but now that we’re approaching the end of April, elements are starting to shake out. Certain teams have had legitimately great starts, and certain other teams are in significant trouble. Sample sizes everywhere remain small, but they’re growing large enough that we can begin to seriously wonder about changed performances. What’s more fun than a player who’s changed his own true talent? After the first few games, we can throw any number of names against the wall. By now, there’s just a little more clarity.

In this post, I call for your help. It’s a poll post! Below, you will find the names of five hitters who have gotten off to extraordinary starts. They’re five of the more interesting hitters in the game today. Every player gets a short description, and a poll. I want to know how good you think they actually are. Just for the few of you who might like to complain: Obviously, I’ve not included every interesting hitter off to a promising start. There’s no Freddie Freeman or Ryan Zimmerman or Aaron Hicks. I’ve chosen these five because these are the five I have chosen. Participate or don’t. (Please participate.)

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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 4/21/17

9:06
Jeff Sullivan: Hello friends

9:06
Jeff Sullivan: Welcome to Friday baseball chat

9:06
Bork: Hello, friend!

9:07
Jeff Sullivan: Hello friend

9:07
Sterling Mallory Chris Archer: How do you envision Marte playing when he comes back?

9:07
Jeff Sullivan: I don’t imagine much of anything is going to change

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