Archive for Angels

Matt Shoemaker on Splitter-Heavy Aggression

Matt Shoemaker dominated the White Sox this past Saturday. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim right-hander threw a complete-game, six-hit shutout while walking no one and striking out a season high 13. Per Brooks Baseball, 58 of the 114 pitches Shoemaker threw were splitters, 49 were either two- or four-seam fastballs, and seven were sliders.

The splitter usage jumps out even more than the pitching line. Shoemaker throws his signature offering 35% of the time — the most of any starter — but Saturday’s 50%-plus ratio was akin to that of relievers like Koji Uehara, Hector Neris and Zach Putnam. A heavy diet of splitters for nine innings is highly atypical.

Just last month, Jeff Sullivan wrote about Shoemaker’s increased reliance on the pitch, and how it has helped him to elevate his game. Intrigued by the article, and having recently written about Putnam, a longtime friend of Shoemaker’s, I went directly to the source for further information. It turns out that the splitter is only part of the reason he’s been pitching as well as he has.

Shoemaker, who has a 2.37 ERA over his last 11 starts, shared his thoughts on the subject in early July.

———

Shoemaker on upping his mental game: “The biggest thing for me has been a mental adjustment. There are small mechanical things I’ve worked on in bullpens, like trying to keep my weight back, but it’s more of a mental thing. Every time I go out there, I need to have good intent with every pitch. Every one needs to have a purpose. When you focus that way, you’re more aggressive and there’s more behind the ball. There’s no fussing around.

Read the rest of this entry »


Dino Ebel on Positioning Angels in the Outfield

One of Dino Ebel’s responsibilities as Mike Scioscia’s bench coach is positioning the outfielders. It’s a data-driven task. Ebel — now in his 12th season with the Angels — relies heavily on information provided by the front office and scouting staff. When you see Kole Calhoun move in several steps or Mike Trout shifting into the opposite-field gap, you can be sure it was done with probability in mind.

Ebel explained what goes into positioning the Anaheim outfield prior to a recent game at Fenway Park.

———

Ebel on positioning the outfield: “We look at spray charts and who is pitching. We look at the last 150 at-bats to the last 1,000 at-bats, or whatever it is they give us. Our front office provides us with a lot of data and we put it all together. We have an in-house guy who does the dots.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Worst Called Ball of the First Half

A few months ago, Carson ran his broadcaster crowdsourcing project. When the results rolled in, reviews for the White Sox home TV broadcast were mixed. That being said, people had a lot of good things to say about Jason Benetti, who’s a newer presence to the production. I bring this up because I’m about to quote Benetti, and I’m about to quote Benetti because, well, you’ll understand. What did the worst called ball of the season’s first half look like? We’ll get to that. But here’s the White Sox TV reaction:

Benetti: Oh, that’s ball one. And maybe only because Perez dropped it.

Stone: Right down the middle, belt-high.

Benetti: Some folks on the web like to pick out the worst non-strike call of the season. That gets calculated by some baseball fans who watch the game at length. And we — that is a definite possibility for worst ball of the season.

You’re all right, Jason Benetti. You’re all right. And you nailed that son of a bitch.

Read the rest of this entry »


Of Course Mike Trout Is Stealing Bases at an Elite Rate, Again

Yesterday afternoon, Dylan Floro made his major-league debut. Anyone who has ever pitched has pictured what it would be like to stand on a major-league mound for the first time. The dream of striking out the first batter you face. The fear of giving up a home run on your first pitch. There are countless different ways to envision that first trip to the mound playing out, but I somehow doubt Floro ever pictured this happening on the ninth pitch of his major-league career:

That’s a lead-footed future Hall of Famer attempting a steal of second to draw a throw and set up the current greatest position player for a steal of home. That really happened. Albert Pujols stole second and Mike Trout stole home, because in baseball anything is possible. But part of what stood out about this play, beyond the fact that Mike Freaking Trout stole home, is that it served as a reminder that Trout has re-emerged as one of the best base-stealers in the game.

Yesterday, Jeff Sullivan outlined adjustments Trout is making at the plate which have enabled him to sustain his mind-boggling consistent run of greatness — a run which is now in its fifth (!) season. The fact that he’s continually evolving, adjusting, and growing as a player is just one part of what has made Trout such a joy to watch. One of those well-documented changes for Trout came when he lost a bit of speed after swiping 82 bags across his first two full seasons, 2012 and 2013. During the next two years, he didn’t steal nearly as many bases, but the loss in base-running value was offset by the fact that he simultaneously grew into a significant increase in power. 

Slowing down while adding power in his 20s — even his early 20s — was a logical enough progression that we came to accept Trout’s new norm. But now something strange is happening.

Mike Trout Since 2012
G SB CS ISO
2012 139 49 5 .238
2013 157 33 7 .240
2014 157 16 2 .274
2015 159 11 7 .290
2016 86 15 1 .252

Base-stealing Mike Trout is back? Fifteen stolen bases through 86 games puts him on pace for a 28-stolen-base season — more stolen bases than he’s recorded in the past two seasons combined. That’s still not quite the rapid pace of his early seasons, but it’s a remarkably surprising development, nonetheless.

Read the rest of this entry »


Here’s How Mike Trout Is Evolving

So many good players right now. Let me fluff that up. So many great players right now. For Major League Baseball, it really is a kind of embarrassment of riches. Dave just wrote about Josh Donaldson earlier. He’s great. Kris Bryant? He’s great. Francisco Lindor, Manny Machado, Jose Altuve — all great. These are just great position players, of course. These players, and so many more, deserve all the attention they can get. But still, there’s Mike Trout. The current leader in position-player WAR is Mike Trout. Over the past calendar year, the leader in WAR is Mike Trout. Going forward, the leader in projected WAR is Mike Trout. Mike Trout Mike Trout Mike Trout. It’s hard to believe we ever stop thinking about Mike Trout.

Or maybe it’s not? Everything good in our lives, we take for granted. At least, given enough time. And while Trout isn’t boring, consistency is boring, and since becoming a regular Trout hasn’t posted a wRC+ under 167 or over 176. At some point we all run out of original ways to remind ourselves that Trout is fantastic. His supporting cast doesn’t help. Now it seems like 80% of conversations about Trout concern whether the Angels should trade him.

I can’t speak to the real purpose of Valentine’s Day, but it functions as a day of appreciation. Not that you should require a scheduled push to appreciate your partner, but, again, we take good things for granted, because it’s how we’re programmed. A Mike Trout FanGraphs post is similar. Take a minute. Think about Trout. And, wouldn’t you know it, but the man is evolving. He’s not as static as he seems.

Read the rest of this entry »


Tim Lincecum on His Hip, Curveball, and a Comeback

Tim Lincecum used to be freakishly good. He no longer is. Hampered by hip woes, the 32-year-old right-hander went from winning Cy Young awards and tossing no-hitters to the precipice of pitching oblivion. His velocity down and his ERA up, he succumbed to surgery last September.

He’s on the comeback trail, but not with the team he helped win three World Series. The former Giant signed with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in May, and debuted with his new club in mid-June. His performances have been underwhelming. In four starts, the once-overpowering righty has allowed 29 hits in 18 innings. His fastball is averaging a pedestrian 89 mph.

The extent to which Lincecum can return to his old form remains to be seen. His surgically-repaired hip appears to be holding up, and his damaged psyche is healing as well. He’ll likely never be an elite power pitcher again — or a power pitcher at all — but he feels he can be a productive starter. Only time will tell.

Lincecum talked about his early development as a pitcher, and his career going forward, prior to a recent game at Fenway Park.

———

Lincecum on pitching: “When you’re younger, you don’t have a plan. You either trust your stuff or you don’t, or you just throw it and hope. I always trusted my stuff. My fastball didn’t always play, but my curveball made my fastball better. That’s what I could execute. Some guys have an idea of how they can pitch — what pitches they should throw in what counts — but guys like me just end up throwing the ball and trusting it. There’s an aspect of that even at this level. You have a plan, but you’re basically throwing the baseball. It all depends on how well you can execute.

Read the rest of this entry »


Mike Trout Wants Your Curveballs Now

Mike Trout is, once again, the league leader in position-player WAR, and league leaders in position-player WAR tend to do some incredible things. Trout just did an incredible thing on Monday, and we should talk about it. With two strikes, against Collin McHugh:

No, you didn’t see that wrong. Eyewitnesses are notoriously unreliable, because memories are notoriously unreliable, but the thing about eyewitnesses is that they witness things once. You can witness this as many times as you want. Loop it over and over and over again. This pitch. It went for a dinger.

trout-low-2

Read the rest of this entry »


The Angels Have Had a Month of Clayton Kershaw

There are a lot of really good Clayton Kershaw fun facts, and he seems to generate countless more every start. He’s the best there is, and the best always produce the best statistics. I think my favorite Kershaw fun fact for now, though, is this: in 2013, he allowed a .521 OPS. In 2014, he allowed a .521 OPS. In 2015, he allowed a .521 OPS. This year, he’s somehow even better, and that doesn’t make any sense, but this year is still going. The fun fact captures the years completed, and it teaches you everything you need to know about Kershaw in a matter of seconds. He’s impossible, and he’s impossibly consistent.

Over the past few weeks, spanning five starts, Matt Shoemaker has allowed a .516 OPS. He’s walked one of 144 batters, while striking out 48. Now, Clayton Kershaw, Matt Shoemaker ain’t. Through the season’s first six starts, Shoemaker had allowed more than a run per inning. He was horrible! Now he’s Kershaw. He’s not really Kershaw, but, it makes you wonder, what’s the significance of looking like Kershaw for such a stretch of time?

Read the rest of this entry »


Identifying the Ideal Candidate(s) for the Four-Man Outfield

On Monday, I aimed to identify the ideal candidate for the five-man infield, inspired by the radical defensive alignment implemented by Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller of the Sonoma Stompers in their new book, The Only Rule Is It Has to Work. I’ve since finished reading the book, and discovered Lindbergh and Miller also deployed the five-man infield’s cousin: the four-man outfield. A follow-up only makes sense.

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 1.33.48 PM
The Stompers play a four-man outfield against the Pacifics’ Jake Taylor in San Rafael. (Source)

The boxes to check for our five-man infield were this: lots of ground balls, lots of ground ball hits, ground balls sprayed all over the infield, fly balls with predictable tendencies (either extreme pull or extreme oppo).

For our four-man outfield, it’s essentially the inverse. We want all of the following to be true of our batter:

  1. He hits a bunch of air balls
  2. He sprays those air balls all over the outfield
  3. He has very predictable ground-ball tendencies

I didn’t use OPS on fly balls as a box to check because OPS on fly balls includes homers, and those can’t be defended against anyway. Remove homers, and the sample gets real noisy, and to me, it didn’t help us in our search. The hitters we’ve identified ended up being good hitters anyway.

So, the hitter that appeared at the very top of our five-man infield spreadsheet was Howie Kendrick, and he checked every box. Made plenty of sense. He was the only hitter to check every box, and I was a bit surprised there weren’t more. Spoiler alert: I’m not totally convinced by any of our four-man outfield candidates. At least not as convinced as I was about Kendrick. But it’s grounds for some interesting discussion nonetheless!

Read the rest of this entry »


Huston Street on (Imperfect) Stats

Huston Street isn’t an expert on analytics. Nor does he claim to be. But he’s by no means a neophyte. The veteran closer is more knowledgeable about advanced stats than the average player. He also has some strong opinions.

A little over a year ago, Street shared his negative view of FIP in one of my Sunday Notes columns. This past spring, I approached him at the Angels’ spring-training facility, in Tempe, to get his thoughts on shift strategy. I ended up getting a lot more than that. A simple question segued into what might be best described as a stream-of-consciousness look at the state of analytics, in classic Street style.

———

Street on defensive shifts: “I’m a big believer in match-ups when it comes to shifts. When they’re done really well, they’re based on the individual match-up and not on a general approach to shifting. Half the league throws 96 and the other half throws 93. Then there’s me, who throws 90.

Read the rest of this entry »


The One-Third Season Mike Trout Update

We’re doing it. It’s happening again. We’re forgetting about Mike Trout. It’s like collectively, we’re a second-grade teacher with a real-life wizard in our classroom and yet we never call on him or her to be the volunteer for any of the science experiments, so as not to single out the wizard kid while also ensuring that we remain impartial to the other, more normal children, except we know damn well that the normal kids would rather see the wizard kid perform science experiments rather than do it themselves. Call on the wizard kid! Mike Trout is right there!

Y’know how I know we’re forgetting about Mike Trout again? It’s June 1. We’re one-third of the way through the baseball season. Trout has been tagged in exactly one FanGraphs post since Opening Day. It was a post about whether Bryce Harper is better than him. Since that post, Harper’s hit .207 with a 115 wRC+. Trout’s slugged .641 with a 198 wRC+.

For the year, Trout’s been the most valuable position player in baseball. He’s been a top-three bat mixed with a top-three base-runner. He’s seventh in the league in on-base while also ranking among the league’s top-20 power hitters. He’s projected to finish the season with 9.7 WAR (yawn, but it’s not 10), which would give him 47.3 WAR over his first five full major-league seasons. And that’d be the ninth-best five-year peak of any hitter, ever. And Mike Trout is 24.

Even though we, the collective second-grade teacher, don’t call on the wizard kid in class, we’d be lying to ourselves if we said we weren’t curious what he or she were doing at all times. We’re curious what the wizard kid does at recess, we’re curious what the wizard kid eats for lunch, we’re curious what the wizard kid does at home, we’re even curious how the wizard kid gets to school. Broom? Honda Odyssey? Intangibility?

We want up-to-the-minute updates on the developments of wizard kid’s life, so we should want up-to-the-minute updates on the developments of Mike Trout’s game, too. Let’s now briefly discuss five things that are different about Mike Trout.

* * *
Read the rest of this entry »


Matt Shoemaker Borrows From the Tanaka Playbook

Every player, of course, goes through ups and downs, but not every player has the same range between the peaks and the valleys. Take Matt Shoemaker. Just a few weeks ago, there was an argument that he could be the worst starting pitcher in the majors. Even the Angels didn’t know what to do with him, and the Angels are in no position to be picky. Through six starts, Shoemaker had an ERA north of 9, and he’d allowed a slugging percentage close to .600. He looked like the major-league version of the non-prospect he was once considered. He was in over his head. Every at-bat was a nightmare.

Over the last three starts, Shoemaker’s allowed five runs. Better yet, he’s managed 28 strikeouts with just a pair of walks, and two outings in a row now he’s ripped off double-digit whiffs without a single free pass. Since the somewhat arbitrary date of May 12, Shoemaker’s allowed a slugging percentage of .256, a thousandth of a point better than Jake Arrieta. Shoemaker isn’t one of the best pitchers in baseball, and he isn’t one of the worst pitchers in baseball, but he’s looked like both, within a very short time frame. The rebound here has been extreme.

What’s been the key for Shoemaker’s turnaround? Maybe he polished his mechanics. Maybe he’s clearer of head. Maybe almost anything. But there’s certainly one thing that does stand out, which is Shoemaker adopting the Masahiro Tanaka strategy. Tanaka simply doesn’t throw many fastballs. Shoemaker as well has gone with something else.

Read the rest of this entry »


Scouting the Dodgers’ Electric Cuban Righty, Yadier Alvarez

Cuban righty Yadier Alvarez was the $16 million crown jewel of the Dodgers’ 2015/2016 international free-agent class. It was the second-highest bonus ever given to an international amateur and reports on Alvarez prior to last July were so good that I ranked him #1 on my J2 board at the time. Alvarez ventured stateside this spring and has consistently pitched every fifth day, only missing one start to attend the birth of his child. Reports coming out of Camelback Ranch have been superlative. On Monday, I got to see it for myself along with a number of other interesting prospects.

Yadier Alvarez, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Current Level: Extended Spring Training, Age: 20.2, Height/Weight: 6’3/180
Signed: IFA at age 19 on July 2, 2015 out of Cuba by LA for $16.0 million bonus

Alvarez was electric. After opening his start with a few fringe fastballs, he began to loosen up and was sitting 92-97 before long. He has been up to 100 this spring, which is especially notable given that there were rumors over the offseason that his velocity had been down. Mixed in along with the fastball was an 82-86 mph slider with late, two-plane bite. It flashed plus, but the line between that pitch and his 76-82 mph curveball was sometimes blurry. The curveball is a bit more vertically oriented than the slider and Alvarez decelerates his arm a bit to throw it, but it flashed average and it should solidify there once he becomes more comfortable with its release.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Garrett Richards Injury and the Mike Trout Question

For the last week or so, the Angels have been pretty vague about what’s going on with Garrett Richards. He missed a start due to “fatigue” and “dehydration”, but they hadn’t given any real indicators that his arm was bothering him. Apparently it was, however, as Jeff Passan dropped this bomb this morning.

This is a huge blow to the Angels, not only because Richards is really good, but because the Angels pitching staff without him is atrocious. Here’s what our current depth chart forecast for Anaheim’s starting rotation looks like, with Richards included.

#25 Angels


Name IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP LOB% ERA FIP WAR
Garrett Richards   159.0 8.4 3.2 0.7 .298 72.7 % 3.39 3.41 2.8
Hector Santiago 140.0 8.1 3.5 1.1 .292 74.2 % 3.89 4.29 1.3
Jered Weaver 137.0 5.6 2.5 1.4 .288 70.0 % 4.54 4.84 0.5
Nicholas Tropeano 114.0 8.5 3.3 1.1 .303 71.6 % 4.09 4.03 1.1
Matt Shoemaker 84.0 7.6 2.3 1.2 .298 71.5 % 4.04 4.07 0.9
Andrew Heaney   62.0 7.5 2.6 1.0 .301 72.0 % 3.83 3.91 0.7
C.J. Wilson   40.0 7.6 3.7 0.9 .295 70.8 % 4.06 4.14 0.4
Tyler Skaggs   39.0 8.7 3.2 0.8 .294 73.7 % 3.42 3.60 0.6
Kyle Kendrick 16.0 5.3 2.3 1.2 .292 71.5 % 4.23 4.59 0.1
Total 790.0 7.6 3.0 1.1 .296 72.1 % 3.93 4.08 8.4

Hector Santiago is a FIP-beater, so he’s better than that projected WAR makes him look, but after him, it’s a dumpster fire. And in Passan’s story, he notes that Andrew Heaney may also need Tommy John surgery, so we might be crossing his ~60 innings off that list as well, if his rehab-to-avoid-surgery plan isn’t successful. And Tyler Skaggs just went for an MRI after getting scratched from a Triple-A start last week; the current diagnosis is biceps tendonitis, but it’s an arm problem for a guy with a history of arm problems.

At some point in the not too distant future, the Angels rotation could be Santiago-Weaver-Tropeano-Shoemaker-Kendrick, which wouldn’t be good enough to contend even if supported by the offense of the 1927 Yankees. And the 2016 Angels aren’t exactly an offensive behemoth.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Angels and Giants Are Making Unprecedented Contact

Is it still cool to talk about contact hitting, or are we past that? I don’t think we should be past that. Not yet, not as long as the Royals remain the defending champions. So, you remember all this stuff. It was a big part of the Royals conversation during last year’s playoffs. Yeah, the Royals had a really strong bullpen, and an incredible team defense, but they wound up mostly defined by their insistence on putting the ball in play. For better or worse, that’s the association. The Royals were the contact team. As a matter of fact, they were arguably the best contact-hitting team since at least 1950. I personally don’t care too much about what happened before 1950, not when I’m talking about statistics.

The Royals are a loyal organization, so they brought back a lot of their players. There’s been a little mixing up, but for the most part they’re still the familiar Royals, so it shouldn’t surprise you they’re again running a low strikeout rate. It’s a pretty sticky metric, strikeouts. As much as the Royals have put the ball in play, though, they’ve so far been surpassed in that regard. Filter out pitchers, and the Royals have baseball’s seventh-lowest rate of strikeouts. They’re a little higher than the A’s. They’re a little higher than the Marlins. And so on, and then there are the two standouts. To this point, at least as far as not striking out goes, the Angels and Giants have been on another level.

Read the rest of this entry »


Players’ View: The Difference Between Left and Right Field

If you look at the positional adjustments for Wins Above Replacement on our website, it looks like left and right field are equally valuable, and the second-easiest positions to play on the field. Generally, that seems about right — first base is where you put your slugger, and the corner-outfield spots is where you put your other sluggers.

And yet, if you look for bats that qualified for the batting title (and didn’t play catcher, the most platooned position on the field), you’ll find that there are fewer left fielders than any other position, and significantly so. Only 15 left fielders qualified last year. Even shortstop had 20 guys who reached that threshold. If you look at the Fans Scouting Report, left fielders were better defensively last year (overall and in almost every component) than they had been before in the life of the Report.

It seems that there’s a bit of a difference between left and right field, and in the types of players who are playing those positions. So I thought it made sense to ask the players what the difference actually was. It’s not as easy as putting the better arm in right field because he has a longer throw to third base.

Tim Leiper, Blue Jays first base coach: “The nuances for me… when the ball is hit directly at you, it’s learning how to open up toward the line. If you’re in right field and it’s a right-handed hitter, and he hits it directly at you, he probably stayed inside the ball and it’s going to slice to the line a little bit. Same thing with a left-handed hitter to left field. But I find that left-handed hitters actually have more slice to the ball than right-handed hitters. That’s probably because they’re right-hand dominant. The spin is different. I think the right-handed hitter’s balls have a lot more chance to stay true. I also think some outfielders maybe open up in one direction better than the other.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Garrett Richards Changeup Watch

The Angels lost to the Cubs 9-0 on Monday. Garrett Richards didn’t allow all of those runs, but he did allow more than zero runs, so he took the loss. He needed 97 pitches to go five innings, and he allowed six hits and three walks, so it’s not like Richards just had the game of his life. If I were most people, I’d probably take this opportunity to write some happy words about Jake Arrieta. But I’m not most people, and I’m particularly enthusiastic about Richards’ changeup. Yesterday kicked off the slate of games that matter, and Richards threw nine changeups. Why is that important? Last season, Richards threw one changeup. The season before, he threw all of 15. This is a legitimate thing, now. Richards is going to try to throw changeups. Now we’re going to watch all of Monday’s.

Read the rest of this entry »


This Is a Garrett Richards Changeup

There’s not a lot of footage out there of Garrett Richards throwing a changeup. This is because he would pretty much never throw a changeup, and this is because doing so never made him feel all that comfortable. So, in the past, Richards wouldn’t throw many changeups, but, below, you can see Richards throw a changeup from just a few weeks ago. As a bonus, I’ll also include an additional changeup, thrown on Tuesday.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Crowd: Angels Have Riskiest Roster in Baseball

Last week, I ran a little crowdsourcing project in which I asked you all to assign some made-up risk points – between one and five of them — to each and every roster in the major leagues. It was inspired by a passing comment from my weekly Tuesday chat, and it got me thinking about overall team volatility.

And, perhaps volatility is the word I should’ve used, rather than risk. I asked people to consider factors like average age of the team, proven vs. unproven players, injury risks in key contributors, and organizational depth. But risk implies you’ve got something to lose, and so even though I included a disclaimer that read, “This isn’t about how good or bad a team is. The Braves shouldn’t automatically be more risky than the Cubs just because they’re a worse baseball team. Try and think of each team’s amount of risk in a vacuum, relative to its own general skill level,” I should’ve known that, since the Braves aren’t really risking anything this year, they’d show up with a low risk rating no matter what.

So I probably screwed up my own project with a poor word choice and skewed the results a little bit, but we can still talk about some pretty interesting nuggets of information that came out of the results, and if you’re interested in reading that, well, you’ve come to the right place.

Getting back to that projected performance vs. projected team risk topic, here’s a graph plotting the two against one another:

RiskGraph1

The average risk rating was exactly 3.0. Definitely, worse teams were given lower risk ratings, and better teams were given higher risk ratings. Only three teams projected for a record better than .500 had significantly below-average risk ratings. The six worst projected teams in baseball had risk ratings barely above 2.0.

You see that dot way out on the right, though, and that’s the dot that was at the heart of this whole project. The point was to find the team you all found most risky, and no matter what the results were, there was always going to be a team. That team was the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, with a weighted risk rating of 4.3.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Best Outfield In Baseball

Early next week, our Positional Power Rankings are going to turn to the pitching staffs. I’m slated to write about the top 15 starting rotations, and if I were to begin writing that piece now, I’d end up discussing how the Dodgers have the best starting rotation in the game. This is a controversial statement, because the Dodgers are built upon fragility, and they’ve already had something like 27 pitchers injured. How could the Dodgers possibly have a better rotation than, say, the Mets? The Mets roll four or five deep. They have three could-be aces. It’s easy to love the Mets; it’s correct to love the Mets. The argument for the Dodgers is that they have plenty of depth, and it’s also — importantly — that they have Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw’s not hurt, and Kershaw is basically two aces in one. No rotation has a better starting point.

I’ll write about that next week. I’ll write about it using many of the same words. When ranking the best groups, I think people have a bias toward even spreads over something more top-heavy. All of this here also functions as a spoiler. The PPR series runs down the rankings at every individual position, but a question a lot of people like to debate is, which team has baseball’s best outfield? We’ve had this conversation before, a year ago or something, when fans would compare and contrast the Marlins and the Pirates. Those remain two very good outfields. Yet based on what we have on FanGraphs, baseball’s best projected outfield for 2016 will play half its games in Anaheim.

Read the rest of this entry »