Author Archive

Minor League Leaderboard Context

A couple days ago, Dave Appelman introduced an amazing new feature to FanGraphs: Minor League Leaderboards. This new feature will allow us track all of our favorite prospects, and learn the names of budding stars we otherwise would have missed. While the Minor League Leaderboard is an incredible tool, it is helpful, if not imperative, to take into account a player’s age and playing level. If I told you that a player had a triple-slash-line of .331/.405/.664 you might think he is a stud, but if he’s 28 and in Triple-A, it is safe to assume that the player is no prospect (there are of course exceptions).

Last season the average age of a rookie was 24.5 in Major League Baseball. This is a helpful starting point when evaluating Triple-A players. The average age of players in Triple-A last year was 28, and the vast majority of players in Triple-A are older than their Major League Rookie counterparts. While there are some 25 year olds in Triple-A that will make impacts on their respective teams, few significantly older should be considered prospects.

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Scott Boras’s Tall Tale

With Albert Pujols off the free agent board, Prince Fielder finds himself next in line to an immense pay day. Although Fielder hasn’t put up quite the numbers Pujols has, his accomplishments to date, at age 27, are nothing short of spectacular. He is the type of player that can immediately impact a line-up in a profound way, but questions of how he’ll age, remain. The main issue with Fielder is his weight, but this past week super-agent Scott Boras brought up a new component of Fielder’s body-type;

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A Random Walk with FIP

Recently, I have begun to notice more and more distain for Defensive Independent Pitching Statistics (DIPS). There is a sizable group of individuals that believe some DIPS such as Fielding Independent Pitching or FIP is a poor metric because certain pitchers consistently “outperform” their FIP. More specifically, some starting pitchers consistently have lower Earned Run Averages than their FIP implying that there is something that FIP fails to account for. While there is no denying that FIP is imperfect, I could argue that all metrics are imperfect, thus saying so is somewhat trivial. Unfortunately for those that use Matt Cain and the likes as poster boys for “Why FIP is Flawed”, a small handful of counter examples is incapable of delegitimizing a stat like FIP.

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Elias Eliminated

This past weekend reports surfaced that the current CBA had been amended, specifically with regard to draft pick compensation. According to Ken Rosenthal’s tweets, teams will no longer have to forfeit picks for signing type A Relievers. The amazing thing is that it only took us two posts and less than 100 comments to fix this problem. Okay, maybe we can’t take all the credit for changing the new CBA, but the owners and players clearly read your comments, because not only will there be no more compensation for type A relievers, but the Elias Ranking will be gone as well (starting as soon as next year). Good job, influential FanGraphs commenter!

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If Elias Used WAR

Yesterday, Buster Olney reported that Major League baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association were nearing agreement on the new CBA. Olney notes that the new collective bargaining agreement will likely address free agent compensation by getting rid of compensation picks in the first round. As I noted last week, there are many fundamental problems with free agent compensation, as we currently know it. My focus last week was on how the system unintentionally provided incentives for rich teams to not just sign one type A free agent, but sign multiple. In addition to this unintended byproduct of the system, I briefly mentioned the archaic stats used to rank type A and B players. This led me to wonder what would happen if MLB instructed the Elias Sports Bureau to use more advanced metrics.

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A Recipe for Competitive Imbalance

A new collective bargaining agreement is currently in the works. There are many issues that need to be addressed, from drug testing to the international draft, but today I am going to focus on a somewhat obscure mechanism in free agent compensation.

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Free Agent Market: Relief Pitcher

By my count there are about 55 relievers that are set to hit free agency this offseason (depending on how many options are exercised). I’m not sure it makes sense to analyze all 55 relievers so instead I will take a look at a handful of interesting cases.

Over the last five years only two relievers have averaged more than two wins above replacement; one of them is the greatest closer of all time (Mariano Rivera), the other is Jonathan Papelbon. This can be read two ways: 1) Relievers in general are not that valuable (and are often overpaid), and 2) relievers are volatile and struggle to stay significantly above replacement for an extended period.

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Comparative Advantage: A Theory of Trade

With the season nearing its end (and my team out of the playoffs), I believe it is time to start thinking about the offseason, and more specifically; trades. Trading is something that has been deeply studied in economics and international finance and it may be informative to employ economic theory to baseball. The law of comparative advantage is one such theory, and I am going to try and apply it to baseball in away I haven’t yet seen.

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Andy MacPhail Elects to Leave

This past weekend, lost in the excitement of October baseball, the Baltimore Orioles announced that their GM, Andy MacPhail, has “elected” not to return for 2012. It is unclear if he is done with baseball for good, or if he is just taking a break from the game.

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Kevin Towers and the Bullpen Redemption

Tonight the Arizona Diamondbacks stand on the brink of elimination. Their season is not yet over, though a comeback at this point would be surprising. The Brewers are the better team, and have shown it thus far. Even though their prospects of advancing are slim, their season should not be seen as a disappointment but rather quite an accomplishment.

Anyone that watched the D-Backs play in 2010 should be commended for their patience. That team won only 65 games, and a large part of their struggles has to be attributed to a young rotation and a disastrous bullpen. The Diamondbacks had by far the worst bullpen in baseball, with their relievers accumulating -2.1 WAR. The next closest team was the Mariners at -.4 WAR (also the only other team to have negative WAR). It is difficult to make a playoff run without a good bullpen, and nearly impossible with a bullpen that is below replacement level.

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Hamilton Bunts, World Gasps

Baseball is a game of mysteries: Who invented the game? Why do scouts use a scale ranging from 20 to 80? And what were the Marlins thinking when they chose their new team logo?

Yet these mysteries are but mere blips on the proverbial radar when compared to what happened tonight. It was the first game of the ALDS — and following an Elvis Andrus walk — Josh Hamilton dug in with no outs, down by eight runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. And then did the unthinkable.

Josh Hamilton bunted.

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