Author Archive

Taijuan Walker’s Journey

Taijuan Walker is an elite pitching prospect. Despite the TINSTAAPP rules, Walker has ranked in the top 15 of the major top 100 lists, and he’s Seattle’s No.1 or No. 2 prospect, depending on the list. Walker’s 2012 line, however, was a little underwhelming. He posted a 4.69 ERA and 4.04 FIP, and during the couple chats I’ve done with Mike Newman, I’ve seen quite a few questions about whether we should be worried about it. The answer is no, but I thought it warranted a longer, more detailed answer.

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The 20-80 Scale, Saber Style (Again Yet Different)

After taking a look at how scouting grades for tools might grade out statistically, I’m back to look at how some of our other commonly used metrics measure in regard to standard deviations. On Tuesday my goal was to look at each tool individually, and I focused, as a result, on making sure there were enough innings pitched and at-bats to at least indicate there was something going on. Today, I’ll look at metrics that look more at the whole player, so while I’ll continue to use the 20-80 shorthand, we’ll also talk about where players slot in the grand scheme of things. As you will see, some of the bins will match up with some of our preconceived notions, but it’s always good to confirm some things. Without further ado …

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The 20-80 Scale, SABR Style

When scouts evaluate the players on the field, they use a 20-80 scale as shorthand to describe a player’s tools and/or his overall ability. Receiving a 50 on the scale means that one is major-league average, and for every 10 points up or down the scale, the scout believes the player is one more standard deviation above or below major-league average. An 80 is incredibly rare because one would have to be 3 standard deviations above the mean (or in the top 0.1-0.2 percent of players), and it’s a representation of the truly, truly elite. But the question becomes what those grades represent. When someone says that a player is an [insert grade], what should we actually expect them to do statistically at the major-league level? Armed with some advanced statistics and z-scores, I went to find out.

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Is the Corner Outfield Profile Changing?

The Indians outfield defense is going to be really good. As Jeff Sullivan noted, the addition of Michael Bourn makes the outfield defense very good as it pushes two good center fielders (Michael Brantley and Drew Stubbs) to the corners. That last part is what really struck me about the move. Over my roughly 17 years of watching baseball, I’ve always been told that a corner outfielder is a guy who can hit and hit for a lot of power, indicating that it’s an offense-first position. But during the past five years or so, we’ve seen players like Brett Gardner, Carl Crawford, Ben Revere, Brantley, and now Stubbs moved to a corner, seemingly indicating that teams are more willing to accept less power in exchange for more OBP, speed, and defense. So I decided to do a little investigating.

The first step was to look at how the offensive production of corner outfielders has changed in the recent past.

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Christian Bethancourt Suffers from Goldilocks Syndrome

Bill Baer coined the term “Goldilocks Syndrome” to describe when we, as fans, get discouraged with a player or prospect because he isn’t perfect or what we hoped he would be, and Christian Bethancourt isn’t “just right”. Signed out of Panama in 2008, Bethancourt had elite potential behind the plate with good athleticism and an incredibly strong arm. The concern, however, was whether or not he could hit enough to even get the stellar defense to the majors, and four years after his signing, there are still serious concerns about Bethancourt’s bat, especially after hitting .243/.275/.291 in AA Mississippi. Bethancourt’s stock has predictably, and deservedly, fallen from the top prospect ranks, but while he’s no longer a “top prospect”, what can we still expect from him?

The chances of Bethancourt becoming a star have, indeed, fallen. One of Bethancourt’s most common comparisons is Yadier Molina because of their strong arms and inability to hit early in their careers, and the hope was (and still is to some degree) that Bethancourt can make the offensive improvements that Molina has.

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