Author Archive

Hanson Hooks on with Rangers

Once upon a time, Tommy Hanson‘s career seemed like it would be spun into legend. He was one of the best young pitchers in baseball, in one of the best organizations. Now, heading into his age-27 season, his story seems more like a particularly cruel choose-your-own-adventure story. Shoulder injuries will do that. On Monday, he agreed to a deal with the Rangers. There are conflicting reports as I write this as to whether it is a minor league or major league deal. Either way, this will be Hanson’s third team in three years, and if things don’t work out for him in Texas, this could be his last chance.

That is not to imply that Hanson has some sort of tragic career. Far from it. If you slice and dice enough data, you can find plenty of comparable cases to Hanson. By the end of his age-24 season, which was his third season in the majors, Hanson had crossed the 450-inning threshold in his career. Since the expansion era started in 1961, there have been 105 other pitchers who have accomplished such a feat. To wit:

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FanGraphs After Dark Chat – 2/4/14

Paul Swydan: Hi everybody!

Chat at 9 pm ET with Jeff and I. Get your questions in now, and we’ll answer them then!

Paul Swydan: Sorry, we’re here.
Paul Swydan: I got caught up in something.
Comment From Kev
Hey guys, which three out of the following would you want to make up your bench in an OBP league? Weeks, Ross, Ruggiano, Schierholtz, Moreland, Ludwick and Dominguez. Thanks!
Jeff Zimmerman: None
Paul Swydan: I’ll say Ross, Schierholtz and one of Moreland/Ruggiano. I can’t shake the feeling that one of them is going to have a big year at some point. Gun to my head – Moreland.

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Who Should Hit Leadoff for the Red Sox?

On Saturday, Buster Olney mused on who would hit leadoff for the Red Sox this season. And it’s an interesting question, since the Red Sox had grown accustomed to Jacoby Ellsbury at the top of the batting order. As we’ve discussed a couple of other times this offseason, it’s one of those good problems — Boston has a plethora of talented hitters, so it isn’t like they have to shoehorn a bad hitter into the top spot. But a decision still has to be made, so let’s take a look.

The first thing we want to do is look for clues. Who hit leadoff when Ellsbury was hurt? Four players took turns last season, three of which remain on the team — Dustin Pedroia (11), Shane Victorino (eight), Daniel Nava (eight) and Stephen Drew (one). Much of those came in September, when Ellsbury missed extended time. During September, the breakdown was Pedroia (11), Victorino (five), Nava (one) and Drew (one). Last year is really the only decent barometer we have. Ellsbury missed a ton of time in 2012, but most of his fill-ins are no longer around. Nava hit leadoff 25 times, but the motley crew of Mike Aviles, Scott Podsednik, Pedro Ciriaco, Ryan Sweeney, Ryan Kalish, Nick Punto and Brent Lillibridge combined to bat in the leadoff spot a whopping 88 times. It really was a debacle of a season.

In addition to it being a debacle that was perpetrated by now ex-Red Sox players, 2012′s squad also was not helmed by John Farrell. He was in Toronto. And he acquitted himself well in his two years there, so far as leadoff hitters are concerned. In 2011, Yunel Escobar was his primary leadoff hitter, as he held down the top spot for 110 games. As we know from The Book, it is best when you have one of your three-best hitters in the top spot in the order, and Escobar was indeed tied for the third-best hitter on the 2011 Jays. In 2012, Escobar started in the top spot as well, but after he started the season with a .217/.254/.274 triple-slash line in his first 24 games, Farrell turned elsewhere. Ultimately, Brett Lawrie would spend the most time in the top spot, and while he only posted a 98 wRC+ he was indeed the third-best position player on the roster.

Last season, Ellsbury wasn’t one of the three-best hitters on the Sox. In fact, by wRC+, he was seventh-best. However, a) he had been that caliber in the past, b) the Red Sox lineup was stacked last season and c) he was the entrenched guy, so moving him off the spot in Farrell’s first year in town probably was a headache that he didn’t need. In the end, it didn’t matter — the Sox outscored every other team by 57 runs. So we’ll give Farrell a pass on that decision, and turn our attention to this year with the hope that Farrell will make an effort to get one of the team’s three-best hitters in that spot this season.

So who will be the team’s three-best hitters? Well, one player we can eliminate from the discussion right away is Jackie Bradley. The youngster still carries with him much promise, but after his poor showing in 2013, his projections are modest. Of the 10 players that you would consider starters for the team, Bradley’s wOBA projection is in the bottom three or four in each system, and his projected .308 wOBA by ZiPS comes in dead last. There will inevitably be talk about him taking over at the top of the lineup, but until he puts a good half of baseball together (at least), that talk should be tempered.

Aside from Bradley, we can also rule out Will Middlebrooks and A.J. Pierzynski. Neither are good enough hitters, and it’s likely that neither is going to play frequently enough to keep the stability at the top of the lineup. With those three removed, we find the following players left:

2014 Projected wOBA
Name ZiPS Steamer FANS
David Ortiz .377 .376 .393
Mike Napoli .350 .352 .363
Dustin Pedroia .340 .348 .357
Xander Bogaerts .333 .325 .358
Shane Victorino .331 .335 .334
Jonny Gomes .327 .338 .325
Daniel Nava .322 .339 .347

As you can see, Ortiz and Napoli are projected to be the two best hitters across the board. Either would be a great choice at the top of the order, but they’ll probably fill in the two, three or four-holes. I would also rule out the Gomes/Nava combo because I like to have that consistency at the top of the lineup unless the platoon in question is so good as to justify the exception. I don’t see that here. This leaves the realistic grappling for the top spot between Pedroia, Victorino and Bogaerts.

The question at hand is whether simply to stick one of the three best hitters at the top, or whether to try and best leverage the team’s best baserunner. The Book also says that to leverage your best baserunner, put him in front of a batter who hits predominantly singles and doesn’t strike out a lot. That’s Pedroia. As much fun as it is to see Pedroia pop a laser shot over the Monster, he’s a singles and doubles hitter. During the past three seasons, the only players to hit more singles have been Elvis Andrus, Ichiro Suzuki, Starlin Castro and Michael Young. Only Robinson Cano, Adrian Gonzalez, Alex Gordon and Ben Zobrist have hit more doubles. Pedroia also keeps his strikeouts in check — only 14 qualified players have struck out in a lower percentage of their plate appearances during the past three seasons. Putting Victorino (who will likely be the team’s best basestealer/runner) at leadoff in front of Pedroia would leverage Victorino’s baserunning about as well as you could.

However, you also want the player at the top of the order to draw a lot of walks, and Victorino doesn’t really do that. You’d also be hard pressed — based on these projections — to call him one of the top three hitters in the lineup. You could definitely call Pedroia one of the top three hitters in the lineup, and Bogaerts may eventually have a case as well.

Bogaerts is really the X-factor here (you see what I did there?). The FANS expect him to be one of the team’s three-best hitters this season, and while that may be optimistic, the talent is obviously there (also, the FANS projections are pretty good, as you can read about here). Bogaerts also has a keen batting eye, which make him an ideal candidate to hit at the top of the order. He struck out a fair amount in his very brief major league debut, but a) The Book reminds us to not consider strikeouts when constructing a lineup, and b) Bogaerts’ strikeout numbers in the minors were not egregious, and he should adjust as he gets more plate appearances. If he hits right from the jump, he would probably make for a better candidate at the top of the order than would Victorino, simply from the standpoint of being able to see more pitches. Victorino was right around league average, at 3.83 pitches per plate appearance (the American League average was 3.86), but Bogaerts was up at 4.10.

Again though, it’s important to consider how the team has operated. Victorino hit in the top two spots in 115 of the 117 games he started last season, so it will likely take some extended dominance from Bogaerts and/or an extended slump from Victorino to knock him from that perch. If it’s a foregone conclusion that Victorino will be in one of the two top spots, then it would seem that the better alignment would be to have him in the leadoff spot, with Pedroia behind him in the two-hole. Eventually though, if Bogaerts develops as expected, Pedroia in the one-hole and Bogaerts in the two-hole could be a devastating combination.

FanGraphs After Dark Chat – 1/28/14

Paul Swydan: Hi everybody!

My son wants me to push X. So I did.

Anyhooo, join Jeff Z and me tonight at 9 pm ET. We can talk all about the new, which I know you’re all totally going to visit every single day, right? Cool. Cool cool cool.

See you soon!

Paul Swydan: Ok, guys, let’s do this. I forgot to mention this earlier, but Jeff will be late. He’s doing an expert mock draft that Howard Bender organized.
Paul Swydan: Yes, a mock draft in January.
Comment From Eric
In ottoneu, what happens to a team if they don’t make cuts by the keeper deadline and they have exceeded their budget and/or roster limit?
Paul Swydan: Oh, that’s a good question. Has anyone ever done this? One of the teams in my league forgot to cut people last year, but he wasn’t over the cap.
Comment From Jaack
AJ Burnett is a fantastic troll.

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Rays, Padres Fill Needs And Challenge One Another

If you had told me at the start of this week that Logan Forsythe was going to headline a seven-player trade, I’d have said that you just must be bored because nothing has been going on. After all, how often do seven-player trades happen? I mean, that’s just crazy talk. That it did actually happen, and that the headliner has compiled a grand total of 1.7 WAR is cool, in an odd sort of way. The trade is also rare in the sense that it both fills distinct needs for both clubs, but also is a bit of a challenge trade.

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The Cardinals’ Crowded Starting Rotation

Like the Atlanta Braves, the St. Louis Cardinals often have good problems. The Cardinals are likely to have a top 10 rotation in 2014, but they still have to figure out who is going to slot into the rotation, and who will be the odd men out. Men is the key word here, because the Cardinals don’t have just six options, or even seven, but rather eight legitimate candidates for the starting rotation. Let’s walk through it, shall we?

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FanGraphs After Dark Chat – 1/21/14

Paul Swydan: Hi everybody!

Welcome to another exciting Tuesday night where absolutely nothing has happened except snow, snow, snow, and I don’t even mean informer. But we’re going to talk baseball anyway, because maybe that will distract our wives from the fact that we didn’t get wood off the wood pile to build a fire tonight like she told us to this morning! Oh wait, maybe that was just me. Ssshh, don’t tell her I forgot.

9 pm ET. You do questions. We’ll do polls.

Paul Swydan: As Kanye West once said, when you try hard, you die hard. So don’t expect a lot of effort from Jeff and I. Kidding!

Let’s do this thang.

Comment From Kam
Are we just going to ignore Paul making a Snow reference?
Paul Swydan: No, you don’t have to ignore it at all.
Comment From KCFaninPA
Who do you think the Royals should go after as a #2 starter?
Paul Swydan: Hey lookie lookie, a Royals question right off the bat.

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Hope Springs Eternal For 2013 Underachievers

Not everyone has the season they want to have. Some guys underperform, some guys get hurt and others simply don’t get the opportunities to shine in ways they had hoped. It’s a new year, though, and many of these same guys will enter spring training with a good dash of the olde hope and faith. Some will be looking at fresh starts; others will be looking at new opportunities. A few others may be staring down their final opportunity.

And that’s where we’ll begin.

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FanGraphs After Dark Chat – 1/14/14

Paul Swydan: Hi everybody!

Jeff and i will be here at 9 pm ET to take all of your baseball questions. I apologize in advance for any stupid things we do because of the new Cover It Live format. Like any good American, we tend to hate new things, and while this isn’t totally new I still hate it.

Anyway, see you soon!

Paul Swydan: One sec.
Paul Swydan: Alright, let’s do this thing.
Comment From Meano Eno
Paul, when will Xander be inducted in the HoF?
Paul Swydan: Are you saying he isn’t already in the HOF? Child, please.
Comment From Kev
Do you trust Liriano for the coming year?

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FanGraphs After Dark Chat – 1/7/14

Paul Swydan: HI EVERYBODY!

Welcome to the first FanGraphs After Dark chat of 2014!!!!

I hear there’s some sort of big announcement tomorrow. Something about a Hall of something? Ah, it’s probably nothing.

Anyway, Jeff and I will be here at 9 pm ET to cram as much baseball as possible into your ever-waiting gobs. So pop some questions into the queue and we’ll see you at 9!

Paul Swydan: Two minutes guys.
Paul Swydan: OK, let’s light this candle!
Comment From jv
Who is the best keeper for 2014 season? Josh Donaldson, Trevor Rosenthal, Patrick Corbin or Kris Medlen?
Paul Swydan: For strictly 2014, I will say Donaldson. Long-term I like Rosenthal, especially if he finds his way back to the starting rotation.
Jeff Zimmerman: Donaldson, I always like taking the hitter, but it is a tough call.

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The Braves’ Good Problem

Last week, Grant Brisbee made the very salient point that the Atlanta Braves are essentially akin to a small-market team these days. Since the ballclub has stacked their team with homegrown talent, this has not been a glaring problem in years past, but this offseason we have seen them lose both Brian McCann and Tim Hudson. Which was bad, in a sense — the team has replacements at the ready, even if they might not be as good.

The real problem though — and it is no doubt a good problem — will come two-to-three years down the road. Justin Upton, Jason Heyward and Kris Medlen are set to become free agents following the 2015 season, and the next season, Freddie Freeman and Craig Kimbrel (and Brandon Beachy) are also due to become free agents. It’s pretty unlikely that the ballclub will be able to keep all five (or six, if you count Beachy). So, who should they keep?

Looking at the team’s contract situation, let’s say that they can keep three of the five. That sort of feels right. They will have three $10 million-plus contracts this year: the Upton brothers and Dan Uggla. Uggla’s contract will mercifully end at the same point that that the first trio will be up for free agency. Heading into their respective free agent seasons, this is how old they will be:

Freeman: 2017, Age 27
Heyward: 2016, Age 26
Kimbrel: 2017, Age 29
Medlen: 2016, Age 30
Upton: 2016, Age 28

The first thing that sticks out is that these guys are all very young for possibly hitting free agency. Players that age don’t often hit the free-agent market anymore. If you go back to Keith Law’s top 50 free agents from November, only 12 were under the age of 30. Two of them were Asian international free agents, two others were ranked 47th and 50th, and one was a former Braves player (McCann). It just doesn’t happen that desirable players make it to free agency this young. So, before we start in, kudos to the Braves and their player development system for accruing such talent.

Speaking in absolutes is rarely a good idea when it comes to things that have yet to occur, and that is even more true in a situation where we are years removed from a necessary decision. So we’ll just go with pros and cons for now. And even though they don’t all hit free agency in the same year, we’ll treat them as the same, because realistically the Braves will have to decide who to keep and who not to keep well ahead of them reaching free agency.

– Durability. Freeman has played in at least 147 games in each of his first three seasons, and 93% overall. That’s always a good thing.
– Hard Contact. The more line drives a player hits, the better off he’ll be, and Freeman excels in this area. In his three full major league seasons, he ranks ninth among qualified players in line drive percentage (25.2%). Over the past two seasons, only Joey Votto and James Loney have roped a greater percentage of line drives than has Freeman.
– Defense. Freeman has always had a good defensive reputation, and last year that reputation finally matched up with the metrics, as he posted his first season with both a positive DRS and UZR.
– Swing rate. Freeman has improved his BB/K in each of his full seasons, but last season his swing rate went up. He swung at four percent more pitches out of the strike zone, and 3.6% more overall. That wouldn’t be so bad necessarily, had his contact rate gone up in kind, but it didn’t. Freeman actually lowered his strikeout rate last year. This means one of two things — either Freeman is able to tow the line of swinging and missing more frequently but not actually striking out, or his luck is about to change. Given the fact that he hit .198/.265/.282 with two strikes last season, I’m going to suggest that it’s the latter.
– Power. Freeman’s ISO is still relatively middling for a first baseman. Last season, his .181 ISO was a mere five points above the league average for a first baseman. From 2012-2013, he ranked 12th out of 23 in qualified first baseman ISO. If you lower the qualification to 500 plate appearances, Freeman’s rank drops to 22nd, as players like Brandon Moss, Mike Napoli and Mark Teixeira jump over Freeman on the list.

– Youth. Seriously, players really don’t hit free agency this young these days. It’s kind of amazing that he could enter the market heading into his age-26 season.
– Defense. Heyward is one of the biggest plus defenders in the majors during his time in the Show. Since 2010, the only two players with a better UZR/150 than Heyward are Manny Machado and Nolan Arenado, and neither of them even have half the innings played that Heyward does (Arenado barely has one-fourth the innings played).
– Strikeout rate. Last season, Heyward cut his strikeout rate by nearly seven percent. Even if he doesn’t retain all of those gains, it wasn’t a total mirage. He swung less and made contact more. That’s a recipe for success, and it was borne out in his higher line drive rate.
– Durability. Shoulder, neck, abdomen, foot, knee, thumb. Heyward can have a pass for the appendix, and again for fracturing his jaw on a hit by pitch. He really didn’t have any control over those things. But he still seems to come down with a lot of owwies. He’s failed to reach 130 games played in two of the past three seasons, and his health will remain a question until he strings a couple of full seasons together.
– Speed. Heyward’s speed vanished last year. His Speed Score, as calculated in these internet pages, dropped from 6.2 to 3.2. He followed up his one good season of UBR with one that looked a lot like his first two seasons, and his wSB dropped into the red. His stolen base percentage for his career is a less-than-optimal 68%, and last year he was only successful on two of his six stolen-base attempts.

– Filth. Most pitchers don’t reach pitch values of 10 or higher on one pitch. Kimbrel has come incredibly close to doing so in three straight seasons, and he did do it last season.
– Grounders. Over the past two seasons, Kimbrel has struck out nearly 44 percent of the batters he has faced. Of those who were able to put the ball in play, nearly 50% of them hit ground balls.
– Velocity. Kimbrel has not only not lost juice on his fastball, he’s actually gained a few ticks. That won’t last forever of course, but his decline might be softer as a result of his ability to maintain his velocity these first three seasons.
– Consistency. Kimbrel is the only relief pitcher to post at least 2 WAR in each of the past three seasons.
– He’s a reliever. There are a very few relievers who have proved worthy of long-term extensions, so Kimbrel is fighting an uphill battle just by the nature of his role.
– Contact rate. Last year, batters were able to make contact off of Kimbrel much more easily than they had in the past. His contact rate was still one of the 10 lowest among qualifiers, and his strikeout rate was still one of the five highest. But Kimbrel was not head and shoulders above the rest of the game the way he was in previous seasons.
– Zone percentage. In three of his four seasons in the majors, Kimbrel has had a below-average zone percentage. Last year, he threw the fewest pitches in the strike zone yet. He doesn’t have the best control going, and if his K rate keeps declining along with his zone percentage, Kimbrel may just lose his edge.

– Control. Of the 86 pitchers with at least 300 innings pitched over the past two seasons, Medlen’s 5.2% walk rate is essentially tied for 10th-best.
– Deception. Medlen is able to live in the strike zone and maintain that good control because of his ability to consistently fool hitters. Last season, the only pitchers who were able to generate a higher percentage of whiffs per swing via the changeup than Medlen were Jarrod Parker and Stephen Strasburg. And there was a big gap between Medlen in third and Cole Hamels in fourth. Since the changeup is Medlen’s second-most frequently thrown pitch, that’s an important fact.

– Injury concerns. Medlen has now tossed 337.1 innings since returning from Tommy John surgery, which means he is already nearing the end of his honeymoon phase. By the time 2016 rolls around, if Medlen hasn’t succumbed to a second Tommy John surgery, he’ll likely be very close.
– Velocity. Since 2008 (when PITCHf/x began stabilizing), there have been 445 pitchers who have been both 27-years-old or younger and have tossed at least 100 innings in a season. Of them, only 45 have failed to average 89 mph on their four-seam fastballs, and of those, just 21 have been right-handers. Here is that list:

Name Season IP vFA
Carlos Villanueva 2011 107.0 88.9
Kris Medlen 2013 197.0 88.9
A.J. Griffin 2013 200.0 88.8
Jeff Karstens 2009 108.0 88.8
Brian Bannister 2008 182.2 88.8
Jered Weaver 2009 211.0 88.7
Kevin Correia 2008 110.0 88.7
Micah Owings 2009 119.2 88.6
Kyle McClellan 2011 141.2 88.4
Carlos Villanueva 2008 108.1 88.4
Doug Fister 2010 171.0 88.3
Darrell Rasner 2008 113.1 88.1
Mike Fiers 2012 127.2 88.0
Josh Tomlin 2011 165.1 88.0
Dylan Axelrod 2013 128.1 87.9
John Ely 2010 100.0 87.3
Josh Collmenter 2011 154.1 87.2
Andy Sonnanstine 2008 193.1 87.1
Jeremy Bonderman 2010 171.0 87.0
Shaun Marcum 2008 151.1 87.0
Josh Geer 2009 102.2 86.1

A quick scan of this list makes it very apparent that it is not an enviable one. Aside from Medlen, Jered Weaver and Doug Fister are pitchers who one would consider signing to a long-term deal, though Weaver may be somewhat of a cautionary tale. The velocity on his four-seamer dipped under 87 mph last year, according to PITCHf/x, and probably not coincidentally, his ERA and FIP rose for the second-straight season (actually, his FIP rose for the third-straight season). Medlen will be as old when he hits free agency as Weaver was last season, so if that’s what Medlen’s future is, that’s probably not a good sign.

– Lack of holes. Upton is pretty good at everything. He’s got a good batting eye, both his walk rate and swing rates are above average. He has good power as well. Both his isolated power and slugging percentages are above league average for a right fielder. His basestealing isn’t amazing, but he is over the 70% mark for stolen-base success, and over the past three seasons, his 13.1 BsR ranks 10-best in the game. He also hits every pitch well. For his career, he has positive values per 100 pitches on every pitch except the knuckleball, and he probably hasn’t seen enough knuckleballs for that to matter.
– Pain tolerance. While there are plenty of injury issues in his timeline, none of them kept him out of the lineup for very long. He played through a thumb injury in 2012 to the detriment of his statistics, and while the other issues have not been as severe, it seems likely that he has played through things that other players would not have. He has only missed 28 games over the past three seasons.
Price. Of the five players on this list, Upton might end up being the most expensive, simply because he is already far more expensive. Upton will earn more than $14 million during each of the next two seasons, so it’s hard to imagine that he would accept an extension that paid him less than that. The Braves can certainly afford to pay him a little more than that, and he should remain that valuable, at least in the short-term, but in comparison to the other five players, it puts him at a disadvantage.

Taking the situation as a whole, it seems that as of right now, Freeman and Heyward are the two you would look to lock up first. You do what you need to in order to get those deals done, particularly with Heyward. From there, things get more murky. Upton probably will be worth keeping around, but the price may not be right for Atlanta. Kimbrel may be a luxury for a team that has consistently churned out quality pitchers for two decades, and Medlen’s velocity needs to be monitored. History tells us it will dip, and when it does, so too may his effectiveness. And finally, there’s Beachy. Thanks to his shoddy health track record, he doesn’t merit much discussion at this time, but if he proves capable of being both healthy and effective over the next two seasons, the Braves will have a difficult decision to make with him entering 2016 as well.

In all, this is a good problem to have. Every team wants to have this kinds of problem, and it’s a credit to the Braves front office that they are in a position where they may be forced to pick which of their young assets they want to lock up. Unfortunately for Atlanta, their now-more-obvious budgetary restrictions leave them less margin for error.

Does Every World Series Champion Have a Hall of Famer?

Last weekend, I saw an interesting article in colleague Mike Petriello’s Twitter timeline. It was from retired Detroit News sportswriter/columnist Jerry Green, who was — for the 15th and final time — advocating for Jack Morris‘ Hall of Fame candidacy. Without getting into a line-by-line critique of the article, there were several things in the article that I did not agree with, but one thing did catch my attention:

I think it is quite sad that Morris will be left out. That the best baseball team I ever covered —the 1984 Tigers — will have not a single player in the Cooperstown Hall of Fame. Only Sparky Anderson, the manager, has been elected to the Hall of Fame. And forced to choose, Sparky opted to go into the Hall as the once-manager of the Cincinnati Reds.

Now, Green didn’t out and out declare that every World Series winner should have a member of its team in the Hall of Fame, but that was certainly the tangent that I led myself on in thinking about that passage. So, I decided to investigate — does every team have a Hall of Famer on it?

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Rangers Cross Off Final To-Do by Signing Choo

Until this afternoon, the Rangers had a fairly complete team, save for left field, which was a mixture of never-was’ and might-be’s. For a team that was struggling to keep up this offseason with its counterparts in the Bay Area and Orange County, that simply wasn’t going to cut it. A move needed to be made, and today Texas made their move by signing Shin-Soo Choo.

Currently, the starting left fielder on the Rangers’ depth chart is Jim Adduci. Last season, Adduci made his major league debut, and tallied eight hits in 34 plate appearances. Not bad, except when you consider the fact that it was Adduci’s age-28 season. With him fronting the group, the Rangers’ left field options ranked just 28th on our depth charts entering today.

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FanGraphs After Dark Chat – 12/17/13

Paul Swydan: Hi everybody! I’ll be flying solo tonight, I believe, as Jeff is under the weather. Get your questions in. This will be our last chat of the 2013 calendar year! See you soon. (polls at bottom of transcript)
Paul Swydan: One chat for the year left. One beer left. Let’s do this thing.
Comment From Sgt. Knobface
Am I crazy to believe that Middlebrooks, Boegarts and JBJ will all produce 2+WAR? Or are you crazy for not believing so?
Paul Swydan: You’re not crazy, but at the same time, I wouldn’t peg it as a likely occurence. One of them is going to fall under that bar. I’d say the least likely to fall under that bar is Bogaerts.
Paul Swydan: Sorry, baby spit up everywhere.
Comment From David
Andrew Albers or Vance Worley?

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FanGraphs After Dark Chat – 12/10/13

Paul Swydan: Hi everybody!

Join Jeff and myself – and maybe even Chris – tonight at 9 pm ET to talk some Hot Meetings and Winter Stove action. I mean, Hot Winter and Meetings Stove. I mean … you know what I mean.

Get your questions in, and I’ll get some polls up (polls at bottom of transcript). See you soon!

Paul Swydan: Hey gang, what’s shaking? Baseball things happened today. Let’s talk about them!
Comment From Joe
How many GMs read FanGraphs?
Paul Swydan: More than the average bear, I’d wager.
Jeff Zimmerman: At least half at one or another.
Paul Swydan: And when I say read, I mean, article are likely provided to them in form or another. Don’t know that lots of GMs are actively refreshing the site to see what new form of chicanery we’ve concocted each day. They have lots of stuff to do and junk.

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Indians Right To Shop Cabrera, Masterson

In the past 24 hours, we have learned that the Indians are open to at least listening to offers for both Asdrubal Cabrera and Justin Masterson. We can debate the merits of trading Masterson, but moving Cabrera is a slam dunk decision. On the whole though, the willingness to listen on two players who are nearing free agency and may fetch something juicy on the trade market shows that Cleveland is very much conducting their offseason properly.

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FanGraphs After Dark Chat – 12/3/13

Paul Swydan: HI Everybody!

Soooooooooooooooo….anything happen in the baseball world today?

My goodness. Today there was a veritable bonanza of baseball things. Let’s talk about them, shall we? Jeff Z and I will be here at 9 pm ET to talk all about it. Until then, I will put up some polls (polls at bottom of transcript), and you can pop some questions in the queue.

Also, don’t forget to buy The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2014, on sale now!

See you at 9!

Paul Swydan: Hi guys, sorry, I was on the phone. Let’s light this candle!
Comment From JonCor
In terms of all the moves, why today?
Paul Swydan: I wish I had a good answer for this. I have absolutely, positively, no idea.
Paul Swydan: Jeff will be along in a sec.
Comment From Pat
Considering their abundance of young arms, should the Mets consider trading low-upside, but steady Dillon Gee to fill their OF/SS hole?

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Belated Last Chance to Win a Free Copy of THT 2014!

So, I was supposed to run the final trivia contest for The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2014 last Wednesday, but I forgot. So I pledged on Twitter to run it yesterday, but again, I forgot. So, today, I finally present this year’s final trivia contest. Sorry it took me so long!

In case you haven’t heard, The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2014 is now available to purchase on ye ole internets. You can find my post on the book here, Dave Studeman’s post on the book here, and listen to Carson Cistulli’s FanGraphs Audio episode with Studes here.

After you’re done consuming those posts, you can buy it from Createspace (where we get the biggest cut of sales), from Amazon (in both print and for the Kindle) and from Barnes & Noble on the Nook.

Because we’re giving folk, and since it’s the beginning of the holiday season and all, we want to give you a chance to win yourself a free copy of the book. So today, tomorrow and Wednesday, we’ll be running a trivia contest based on one of the articles in the book. The first person to post the correct answer in the comments will win a free physical copy of the book (sorry, no free Kindle or Nook versions). It’s just that simple!

Today’s question comes from the article entitled “Revisiting The Book’s ‘Mano a Mano’ Chapter,” by Steve Staude. In it, Staude explores the batter-pitcher confrontation in great detail. One of the ways he does so is to create “families” of pitchers, based on their velocity and breaking ball percentage. The grid he constructed has 18 “families,” with one pitcher designated as the head of each family. Here is the grid, with 10 names removed from it:

Staude grid

Cutting to the chase, the question before you, dear reader, is this:

Can you accurately name at least five of the 10 remaining “family” heads?

Phrase your answers as such: Low Velocity, Mid Breaking Ball% = Barry Zito

If no one gets five correct, I’ll revisit and determine whose guesses are the best. I’ll consider any answer I get before the FanGraphs After Dark chat tonight.

Good luck!

The Rockies Don’t Need Justin Morneau

It’s been rumored for awhile now, but over the Thanksgiving break, the intensity of rumors linking the Colorado Rockies to Justin Morneau increased. But Morneau is not going to improve the Rockies roster any, and with the team facing a budget threshold that will not allow them to spend with the big boys, signing Morneau is simply a mistake that the club can’t afford to make.

For sake of comparison, here’s a blind projection for 2014:
Player A: .279/.327/.476, .346 wOBA, 106 wRC+, 0.8 WAR in 299 PA
Player B: .258/.330/.428, .330 wOBA, 108 wRC+, 0.9 WAR in 518 PA

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The Timing Of Free Agent Contracts Hasn’t Really Changed

As Dave Cameron noted during his weekly appearance on FanGraphs Audio on Monday, there has been a flurry of transactions in the past week. It got me wondering, is this part of a new trend, or is it really just business as usual? The answer, it seems, is the latter.

Using various Hot Stove Trackers at and Free Agent Trackers at MLB Trade Rumors, I’ve cribbed together a pretty good list of when free agents have signed over the past three offseasons. It should be taken with a grain of salt. The timing of contracts may not always be 100% correct. For instance, we learned of Yoenis Cespedes‘ signing in February of 2012, but the contract wasn’t made official until March. I listed him here in March, but he could just as easily be listed in February. There is likely to be some fudging around the edges in terms of players who signed near the end of a month. And then of course there is the possibility that I missed some free agents as well. But with those caveats, I think the data is pretty interesting. Let’s take a look:

FA 1

This is a bit of a surprise. But during the past two offseasons, there have been more November signings than there have this year. There is of course still a few days left in this November, so if an enterprising team didn’t feel like taking Thanksgiving off, they could draw this number even.

Then I thought to myself, perhaps trades help even the score. We’ve already seen one mega-trade this offseason, and there have been five this month in total (I think…I’m pretty sure). Perhaps that has made it seem like there have been more comings and goings in the early stages of the offseason. But that’s not really the case either. Last year, there were seven trades executed during November. Among them were the Tommy Hanson-Jordan Walden exchange, the deal that sent Denard Span to the Nationals and of course, the gigantic trade between the Blue Jays and Marlins that sent Jose Reyes and company north of the border. So that isn’t the reason.

Still though, it does seem like this November is a bit different. One thing that we know instinctually is that many of the signings we see in the early going are for teams re-signing holdover players. For example, Mariano Rivera was technically a free agent last winter, but no one really expected him to leave New York. So when he re-signed with the Yankees, for the most part, we shrugged our shoulders and got back to the business of creating half-baked trade scenarios. So I went ahead and sorted the signings by whether or not the player signed with the team for which he had most recently played, or if he signed with a new team. Let’s take a look:

FA 2

Here we see a bit of a shift towards this year. Since the regular season ended, 20 players have signed with new teams, as opposed to 15 and 12 in the previous two offseasons, respectively. There has also been a sense that the contracts this year have been a little meatier. With the two Cuban sensations, Jose Dariel Abreu and Alexander Guerrero, plus the deals for Jason Vargas, Jhonny Peralta and Brian McCann, we’ve had some nice multi-year deals to sink our teeth into. Last year we had B.J. Upton‘s contract, and the year before that there were the even more ill-fated reliever spending deals for Jonathan Papelbon and Jonathan Broxton, but that was about it on deals spanning more than two years. Even the two-year deals this winter have been interesting. Tim Hudson gets to (likely) finish his career in the Bay Area, David Murphy got a multi-year deal after his disastrous 2013 campaign at the dish and Marlon Byrd went from getting just an invitation to spring training to a two-year deal in the span of one year. Even the vesting option on Josh Johnson‘s one-year deal is interesting — I can’t say that I’ve seen that before.

So the numbers say not much has changed. Teams get after it early. Nearly as much business is transacted in November as in January, and sometimes more gets done in November. There have been some splashier signings this year than in the past two offseasons, but with the game swimming in money, perhaps that shouldn’t be as surprising as it has seemed.