Archive for Blue Jays

A Partial Defense of the Team That Traded Noah Syndergaard

It is abundantly clear which team won the R.A. Dickey trade. Acquiring Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, John Buck, and Wulimer Becerra from the Blue Jays for Dickey, Josh Thole, and Mike Nickeas in December 2012 has paid off for the New York Mets in a big way. This isn’t a particularly controversial opinion in need of detailed supporting evidence, but Spencer Bingol covered the particulars of the Mets’ heist several months ago, even before Noah Syndergaard turned into a starter who pitches like a lights-out closer.

Barring something unexpected, the Mets will have gotten more wins at a lower price from their part in the trade than the Blue Jays will have from their part in the trade by the time Dickey’s contract expires at the end of this season. Then the Mets will continue to reap the benefits for several more seasons while d’Arnaud, Syndergaard, and Becerra remain under team control. There’s no way, in an absolute sense, to spin this as anything but a win for Mets and a loss for the Blue Jays.

This kind of retrospective analysis is valuable, but it is a bit simplistic. The interesting question isn’t which set of players performed better; that’s obvious.  The interesting question is if the Blue Jays would have been better off not making the trade.

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Marco Estrada on Spin, Speed Differential, and Simplicity

Marco Estrada is notable in several respects. The 32-year-old Blue Jays right-hander has elite spin rate and perceived rise on his four-seam fastball. He also has a bugs-bunny changeup; last year, the speed differential between his heater and his change was the most extreme among qualified pitchers. His BABIP is routinely well below average.

He’s also coming off a career-best season. Estrada made 28 starts for Toronto in 2015 and logged a 3.13 ERA. If the W-L column interests you, he finished 13-8.

The erstwhile National and Brewer has made a pair of starts so far this season, both against the Red Sox. He discussed his signature offerings, and his keep-it-simple approach, following the second of the two outings.

———

Estrada on emerging as a front-line starter: “I added a pitch — I added a cutter — and I think that’s helped me out a lot. My mindset has completely changed. But… I get that all the time. People act like I’ve never done this before. If you look back to 2011, 2012, 2013, those were good seasons. Everybody seems to remember 2014, which was my worst season. Then I followed that up with my best season.”

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Joe Biagini: Playfully Irreverent Rule-5 Blue Jay

Baseball has had its share of colorful characters over the years. Yogi Berra, Bo Belinsky, Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Mark “The Bird” Fidrych. The list goes on and on.

Now we have Joe Biagini. The 25-year-old former 26th-round pick is pitching out of the Blue Jays bullpen after making the team as a Rule 5 pick out of the Giants organization. His personality might best be described as playfully irreverent. Biagini throws mid-90s heat with his right hand, but his quips, which come fast and furious, are straight out of left field.

Biagini shared his atypical story, and some gloriously-sarcastic one liners, when Toronto visited Fenway Park over the weekend.

———

Biagini on his surprising rise to the big leagues: “I think everything up to this point has been a surprise. Right now, it’s a surprise honor to get to speak to you and answer your questions. Honestly.

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KATOH Projects: Toronto Blue Jays Prospects

Previous editions: Arizona / Atlanta / Baltimore / Boston / Chicago AL / Chicago NL / Cincinnati  / Cleveland / Colorado / Detroit / Houston / Kansas City / Los Angeles (AL) / Los Angeles (NL)Miami / Milwaukee / Minnesota / New York (AL) / New York (NL)  / Oakland / Philadelphia / Pittsburgh / San Diego / San Francisco / Seattle / St. Louis / Tampa Bay / Texas.

Yesterday, lead prospect analyst Dan Farnsworth published his excellently in-depth prospect list for the Toronto Blue Jays. In this companion piece, I look at that same Toronto farm system through the lens of my recently refined KATOH projection system. The Blue Jays have the 28th-best farm system in baseball according to KATOH.

There’s way more to prospect evaluation than just the stats, so if you haven’t already, I highly recommend you read Dan’s piece in addition to this one. KATOH has no idea how hard a pitcher throws, how good a hitter’s bat speed is, or what a player’s makeup is like. So it’s liable to miss big on players whose tools don’t line up with their performances. However, when paired with more scouting-based analyses, KATOH’s objectivity can be useful in identifying talented players who might be overlooked by the industry consensus or highly-touted prospects who might be over-hyped.

Below, I’ve grouped prospects into three groups: those who are forecast for two or more wins through their first six major-league seasons, those who receive a projection between 1.0 and 2.0 WAR though their first six seasons, and then any residual players who received Future Value (FV) grades of 45 or higher from Dan. Note that I generated forecasts only for players who accrued at least 200 plate appearances or batters faced last season. Also note that the projections for players over a relatively small sample are less reliable, especially when those samples came in the low minors.

*****

1. Richard Urena, SS (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 6.2 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 45 FV

Although he played the entire year as a 19-year-old, Urena belted 16 homers as a shortstop in A-ball. His 21% strikeout rate and 3% walk rate speak to his unrefined plate discipline, but Urena’s so good in other areas that KATOH doesn’t much care.

Richard Urena’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Juan Bautista 4.2 0.0
2 Brandon Phillips 6.6 11.5
3 Sean Rodriguez 4.5 6.0
4 Teuris Olivares 4.2 0.0
5 Kevin Witt 4.3 0.0
6 Brent Butler 4.8 0.0
7 Adam Jones 7.0 22.0
8 Tony Batista 3.9 13.3
9 Trevor Plouffe 5.4 4.4
10 Jose Ortiz 5.1 0.3

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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.”

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Evaluating the 2016 Prospects: Toronto Blue Jays

EVALUATING THE PROSPECTS 2016
Angels
Astros
Athletics
Blue Jays
Braves
Brewers
Cardinals
Cubs
Diamondbacks
Dodgers
Giants
Indians
Mariners
Marlins
Mets
Nationals
Orioles
Padres
Phillies
Pirates
Rangers
Rays
Red Sox
Reds
Rockies
Royals
Tigers
Twins
White Sox
Yankees

The top of the Blue Jays system saw an almost complete overhaul with the trades and promotions of the past year. It obviously has been for the best, as many of the organization’s first-year contributors played well last season — even if the minor leagues appear a little barren at a quick glance. Fortunately, the system remains filled with a lot of upside at the lower levels, and recent drafts have only helped to strengthen that depth, even if it is of the higher risk variety.

Anthony Alford is the only impact bat I see, with a few potentially useful position players in above the 45+ future-value line. Rowdy Tellez and Richard Urena both have upside with the bats, but each has enough question marks to keep them from being reliable prospects to project at the big-league level. I still like Max Pentecost‘s chances of becoming an average producer, though that possibility is very dependent on his ability to return to health.

The pitching side is a bit stronger at the moment, headlined by Conner Greene and Sean Reid-Foley. I like both of their chances of remaining starters and being solid contributors, and there are a slew of lower-level hurlers with interesting qualities that could jump up this list by next year.

The strength of this system may be in the 40+ FV players and those who are just off the list. That group is filled with tremendous raw athletes, bounceback candidates and recent draftees with moderate upsides. While those kinds of profiles are risky for counting on any one prospect, the sheer volume of guys they have in those categories bodes well for a couple of them putting things together and moving toward higher end of the list.

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Riding the Waves of BABIP Variance with Chris Colabello

When Chris Colabello’s first ball in play this season, a line drive with a recorded exit velocity of 103 mph, went directly into the glove of opposing shortstop Brad Miller, it seemed a cruel yet fitting reminder that nothing is given at the start of a new season.

Not even for Colabello, who appears to have used a strong 2015 season to finally lock down a secure job in the major leagues. He produced offense at a level 42% above league average last year when controlling for park factors, and he did so for a playoff team, eventually forcing his way into more than the short side of a platoon with Justin Smoak. He’s not set to play every day for the Toronto Blue Jays this year, but he should have the larger share of a time-split at first.

He appears to have, at long last, made it. Assuming he can keep it up, that is, which few think is a certainty. For most of his baseball career, people have been looking for reasons why Colabello won’t succeed, even now that he’s doing so.

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Aaron Sanchez Aced His Test

FanGraphs uses Slack in order to keep all the writers in communication, and it’s in there that we claim post topics so that we don’t accidentally overlap. A couple days ago, I made a soft commitment to write about Aaron Sanchez‘s secondary stuff, regardless of how he actually did on Tuesday. The way I figured, one way or the other, it was going to be worth an article. Now, what I didn’t know was that the Rays/Blue Jays game would end with a very 2016 type of controversial call. That’s overshadowed everything else, and few care anymore about how Sanchez did in the earlier innings. But I’m here to fulfill my commitment. And, guess what: I’ve long been a Sanchez skeptic, as his being a starter is concerned, but he had a wonderful, wonderful outing, before the Jose Bautista slide. He made it very easy to be encouraged.

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Jose Bautista and the New Slide Rule

That didn’t take long. Just a few days into the season, we have a controversial play relating to the slide rule instituted this offseason. Last night, trailing 3-2 in the top of the ninth with the bases loaded and one out, Toronto Blue Jays batter Edwin Encarnacion hit a ground ball to Rays third baseman Evan Longoria. Longoria threw to second base to force out Jose Bautista, who had been running from first base. As second baseman Logan Forsythe attempted to throw the ball to first base for an inning-ending double play, Bautista’s arm caught Forsythe’s foot, Forsythe’s throw went awry, Encarnacion was safe, and two runs scored. Officials overturned the call, ruling that Bautista violated Rule 6.01 for interference and Encarnacion was declared out at first, ending the game in favor of Tampa Bay.

Those are the basic facts of what happened last night, and while the interpretation of the rule might be subject to criticism, there can be little dispute about what happened. There is also likely little dispute about the impetus of the new rule — player safety — and that last night’s play had little to do with player safety. That leads to a couple questions. Like, was the rule interpreted correctly? And like, should the slide rule cover plays like Bautista’s when little harm is likely to come on the play?

Before we take a look at the play, let’s consider the precise language of the new rule itself. Rule 6.01(j) is the relevant one here, titled “Sliding to Bases on Double Play Attempts”. So what does the runner have to do?

If a runner does not engage in a bona fide slide, and initiates (or attempts to make) contact with the fielder for the purpose of breaking up a double play, he should be called for interference under this Rule 6.01.

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Aaron Sanchez’s Place in Toronto’s Rotation

Aaron Sanchez wants to be a starter. Most pitchers want to be a starter. Jesse Chavez and Gavin Floyd want to be starters, too, and they all might deserve it, which is the current conundrum in Toronto. Not that having too many qualified starters is a bad thing, per se, but it presents the team with some tough choices, choices that could complicate things down the line.

At the very least, Toronto can feel good about their depth. The top of their rotation might not match the firepower of their contending peers, but they’ll be sending two seemingly competent starters to the bullpen at the end of Spring Training, with Drew Hutchison heading to the minors as perhaps the eighth starter on the depth chart.

As I’m writing this, I’ve come upon a tweet by Jon Heyman who was present in Blue Jays camp the other day and reported that Chavez is set to the head to the bullpen, so in fact it looks like the last rotation spot is down to two. And Chavez to the pen makes sense anyway; he’s had the worst spring of the three, for what it’s worth, but more importantly, he’s done the swingman thing in the past. Each of the last two years, he’s seamlessly shuffled between relieving and starting — not something everyone can do — and so he doesn’t necessarily need to be stretched out right now to be able to contribute to the rotation later down the line. And Chavez will need to contribute to the rotation later down the line. Pitching is fickle.

So we’ve got Gavin Floyd and Aaron Sanchez, and in that same Heyman tweet I linked, he seemed to suggest Floyd has the leg up on the last spot. Sometimes with Twitter, it’s hard to tell what’s being reported and what’s being speculated, but there’s clearly some sort of sense that Floyd could be the leader in the clubhouse.

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Intentional-Walk Immunity, Featuring the Blue Jays

If aliens landed on Earth and, rather than asking about our political systems or scientific accomplishments, inquired about the last 20 years of baseball philosophy, one of the things you would highlight is the growing disdain for the intentional walk. Certainly, there are times when an intentional walk makes sense, but one of the fundamental lessons of the era is that giving the other team a free base runner is typically foolish.

As Ben Lindbergh wrote at FiveThirtyEight, managers are increasingly aware of the downside of the intentional walk, and as a result, they’re are on the decline across the league. Billy Beane didn’t wake up one morning, discover intentional walks were bad, and begin a crusade against them or anything, but intentional walks have clearly fallen out of favor as teams, writers, and fans have gotten on board with a more data-friendly approach to the game.

As such, we’ve trained ourselves to see intentional walks negatively by default and praise teams that don’t issue them. If teams are issuing fewer intentional walks, we normally see that as a positive sign, so forgive me for the investigation I’m about to undertake to explore the opposite.  In 2015, the Blue Jays both (a) possessed an exceptional offense and yet (b) were on the receiving end of a shockingly low number of intentional walks.  What was the rest of the league thinking?

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Previewing the Best and Worst Team Defenses for 2016

Early this morning, the full 2016 ZiPS projections went live on the site. This is probably news to many of you. Surprise! Happy ZiPS day. You can now export the full ZiPS spreadsheet from that link, find individual projections on the player pages, and view our live-updating playoff odds, which are powered by a 50/50 blend of ZiPS and Steamer. This is good news for everyone, including us, the authors, because now we have more information with which to work.

And so here’s a post that I did last year, and one which I was waiting for the full ZiPS rollout to do again: previewing the year’s team defenses. It’s been a few years running now that we’ve marveled over speedy outfielders in blue jerseys zooming about the spacious Kauffman Stadium outfield, and now those speedy outfielders in blue jerseys are all World Series champions. People are thinking and talking about defense more than ever, and you don’t think and talk about defense without thinking and talking about the Kansas City Royals. Defense: it’s so hot right now. Defense.

The methodology here is simple. ZiPS considers past defensive performance and mixes in some scouting report information to give an overall “defensive runs above or below average” projection. Steamer does the same, except rather than searching for keywords from real scouting reports, it regresses towards the data from the Fans Scouting Report project compiled by Tangotiger every year. The final number is an average of these two figures, and can be found in the “Fld” section of the depth charts and player pages. It isn’t exactly Ultimate Zone Rating or Defensive Runs Saved, but it’s the same idea, and the same scale.

Let’s look ahead toward the year in defense.

* * *

The Best

1. Kansas City Royals

This is one of my new favorite fun facts: the Royals outfield defense, just the outfield, is projected for 31 runs saved, which is higher than any other entire team in baseball. And with Alex Rios out of the mix in right field and Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando stepping in full-time, Kansas City’s outfield defense should somehow be even better than it’s been in the past.

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Sorry, Joey Bats: You Aren’t Worth $150 Million

Yesterday, Jose Bautista addressed his contract situation, and he didn’t exactly mince words.

“I did not go to them. They asked me a question, ‘What would it take to get it done?’ and I gave them an answer. It’s not an adamant, drawn lines in the sand or anything. Simply questions were asked, I felt like for this process to go down smoothly there didn’t need to be any time wasted and efforts wasted for either party. If this is going to happen, they should know what it takes, and I told them the number because they asked me,” he told ESPN’s Britt McHenry.

In comments to reporters Monday, Bautista said the Blue Jays came to him with their question two weeks ago. He said he is “not willing to negotiate.”

“I’m not going to sit here and bargain for a couple of dollars,” he said, adding later, “They either meet it or it is what it is.”

So, what is Jose Bautista’s magic number? Well, according to TSN, it’s five years, $150 million.

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What Jay Bruce Is Missing

Well, a new team, for starters. What Jay Bruce is missing is a new team. Rather, a new team is missing Jay Bruce. Twice now, the Reds have reportedly been on the verge of trading Bruce. First, to the Mets at last year’s trade deadline, more recently to the Blue Jays, just last night. Twice, Bruce has reportedly been on the verge of being dealt, and twice, the deal has fallen apart.

Maybe that tells you something about Jay Bruce. Or maybe it tells you something about the other players in the deal, as both deals collapsed due to medical hangups concerning the players whom the Reds were attempting to acquire. In July, it was the Reds who backed out of the proposed deal that could have netted them Zack Wheeler, in the midst of his recovery from Tommy John Surgery. Last night, it wasn’t even Michael Saunders‘ bum knee that gave the Reds pause.

Neither proposal fell apart because of Bruce, specifically, but that doesn’t mean the failed deals don’t tell us something about Bruce, because they do. What they tell us about Bruce is this: thus far, teams have only appeared willing to give up already-injured players for him.

Which is shocking, given where Bruce’s career was just two years ago. Just two years ago, he was a 26-year-old Gold Glove-caliber right fielder who doubled as one of the game’s most prolific home run hitters. Now, the Reds are struggling to rid themselves of his salary for anything more than damaged goods.

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The Blue Jays and Phillies Try the One-Man Outfield

While it’s technically true that both the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies are Major League Baseball teams, their 2015 seasons were different in a number of non-superficial ways. Yes, they both employed Ben Revere last season, but it’s difficult to find other substantive similarities between the 93-69 AL East champion Blue Jays and the 63-99 cellar-dwelling Phillies.

The Blue Jays had a 117 wRC+, while the Phillies registered a meager 86. The Blue Jays had an average, or slightly better, pitching staff (93 ERA-, 100 FIP-) and the Phillies were among the worst (120 ERA-, 111 FIP-) in the league. On defense, the Blue Jays sported a +15 DRS and +1 UZR while the Phillies delivered a -92 DRS and -31.1 UZR. The Blue Jays were good and the Phillies were not. That comes as a surprise to no one, even as we pause to note that the Phillies took steps to put their franchise on the right track during the same period.

These two very dissimilar clubs, however, did have one pretty interesting similarity during the 2015 season. They both flanked excellent center fielders with horrible defenders in the corners.

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MLB Farm Systems Ranked by Surplus WAR

You smell that? It’s baseball’s prospect-list season. The fresh top-100 lists — populated by new names as well as old ones — seem to be popping up each day. With the individual rankings coming out, some organization rankings are becoming available, as well. I have always regarded the organizational rankings as subjective — and, as a result, not 100% useful. Utilizing the methodology I introduced in my article on prospect evaluation from this year’s Hardball Times Annual, however, it’s possible to calculate a total value for every team’s farm system and remove the biases of subjectivity. In what follows, I’ve used that same process to rank all 30 of baseball’s farm systems by the surplus WAR they should generate.

I provide a detailed explanation of my methodology in the Annual article. To summarize it briefly, however, what I’ve done is to identify WAR equivalencies for the scouting grades produced by Baseball America in their annual Prospect Handbook. The grade-to-WAR conversion appears as follows.

Prospect Grade to WAR Conversion
Prospect Grade Total WAR Surplus WAR
80 25.0 18.5
75 18.0 13.0
70 11.0 9.0
65 8.5 6.0
60 4.7 3.0
55 2.5 1.5
50 1.1 0.5
45 0.4 0.0

To create the overall totals for this post, I used each team’s top-30 rankings per the most recent edition of Baseball America’ Prospect Handbook. Also accounting for those trades which have occurred since the BA rankings were locked down, I counted the number of 50 or higher-graded prospects (i.e. the sort which provide surplus value) in each system. The results follows.
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Lorenzo Cain and A.J. Pollock Sign Atypical Contracts

In yet another sign that baseball season is coming ever closer, the arbitration process this year is coming to a close. Many players signed one-year deals before the teams and players exchanged numbers last month, while others exchanged numbers and struck one-year deals. A few players have actually gone to arbitration. Four players — Lorenzo Cain, Josh Donaldson, J.D. Martinez, and A.J. Pollock — agreed to two-year deals with their teams, buying out no free-agent seasons, but ensuring both parties that arbitration would not be necessary next year. These two-year deals are common and typically come with a discount for the team. For the four players who signed this season, however, there was no discount.

The arbitration process is set up to provide a discount to teams in the years just before free agency. The players get their first taste of actual millions while the team retains control of the player at a price much less than what the market would yield — all without having to mark a multi-year commitment. Some players sign extensions which takie them through free agency while others are non-tendered and set free by clubs who think that even the small, arbitration-produced salaries are too much compared to the expected production.

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Let’s Craft an Extension for Jose Bautista

Last night, the Jays avoided arbitration with Josh Donaldson, agreeing to a two year deal that gives him nearly $29 million in guaranteed income, and helps the team avoid a second huge raise next year if Donaldson has another great year. The team had publicly stated their desire to get Donaldson locked up long-term, but as a Super Two coming off an MVP season, Donaldson had plenty of leverage to get paid while still retaining his ability to hit free agency after the 2018 season. The team can still revisit a longer deal with Donaldson if they wish, but most likely, this two year deal signifies that he’s not looking to sell any of his free agent years at prices the Blue Jays are currently willing to pay.

So, now, with that piece of business out of the way, the Blue Jays focus can turn towards a more pressing contract issue: what to do with star outfielder Jose Bautista. The face of the franchise, Bautista is in the final year of his contract, and will likely be the best hitter on the market next winter if the Blue Jays can’t sign him to an extension this spring. Both sides have publicly stated an interest in getting a deal done, though with the Jays bringing in Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins from Cleveland to run their baseball operations department, there’s some expectation that the club will operate a bit more conservatively, and that could limit their willingness to pay Bautista the kind of money that would convince him to forego free agency.

On the other hand, there’s clearly a lot of sentiment towards just giving Joey Bats whatever he wants, and the team will face significant negative backlash if they let Bautista leave, at least in the short-term. So even with some expected belt-tightening, let’s see if we can construct an extension that both sides would be happy with.

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The End of the Terrible Number-Two Hitter

If you’ve recently spent time with other humans, it’s likely that you noticed that they tend to be overconfident about how well they understand the world around them. Think of all of the people you know who have tried to weasel their way out of admitting they were wrong even when presented with strong evidence that they had misinterpreted a situation. Humans are bold and unapologetic in their declarations and do not like it when you point out that they’ve made a serious error.

It’s hard to criticize people for that when it seems to be a pretty fundamental aspect of the species. It’s not good or bad, it simply is. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy little moments when someone makes a compelling argument and then the world totally destroys their hard work by changing around them.

For example, two political scientists once wrote a book called Congress’ Permanent Minority? Republicans in the U.S. House which was the first major scholarly account of how a minority party operates when it expects to be in the minority for the foreseeable future. It’s a well-researched book and was well reviewed when it came out. Unfortunately for the authors, it came out in January of 1994, just 11 months before the Republicans would win control of the House for the first time in 40 years. It was a perfectly fine analysis, it was just totally detached from the reality of American politics almost immediately.

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The Hidden Moves of the Offseason

The word “move” is used in the context of an offseason to denote any number of varying transaction types. A trade is a move. A free-agent signing is a move. A player being designated for assignment is a move, or claimed off waivers, or sold to Japan. Players coming and going from rosters are the moves of the winter, and they’re the means by which the public tends to evaluate a team’s offseason.

The calculus for the outlook of the upcoming season is constantly changing throughout the offseason as these myriad moves transpire. When a team signs a star free-agent pitcher, we know that that team is several wins better than they were the day before. When a rebuilding club trades away its slugger in the final year of his contract for prospects, we understand that they’ve dropped a couple wins for the upcoming season.

But there’s another sort of move that happens during the offseason that’s more subtle, and it, too, changes the calculus of the upcoming season, though it often seems to be overlooked. We spend so much time and effort analyzing who “won or lost” the offseason that it’s easy to forget how much change should be expected from a team’s returning players. The Rangers didn’t go out and sign Yu Darvish this offseason, but he is expected to be a valuable addition to this year’s roster, an extra four or so wins added without any kind of traditional offseason move. Without doing anything, the Rangers rotation looks significantly better than it did at the end of last year.

Six years ago, Dave Cameron wrote a short post on this site titled 2009 Is Not a Constant. I recommend you read it, and sub in “2015” for “2009” when applicable, but here’s a relevant passage anyway:

We all know about career years and how you have to expect regression after a player does something way outside the ordinary, but regression doesn’t just serve to bring players back to earth after a big year.

Regression “fixes” a lot of problem spots from the prior year, even if the team doesn’t make a serious effort to change out players. The Royals got a .253 wOBA out of their shortstops a year ago. I don’t care how bad you think Yuniesky Betancourt is, you have to expect that number to be higher this year. They didn’t do anything to improve their shortstop position this winter, but the level of production they got from the position in 2009 is not their expected level of production for 2010.

You cannot just look at a team’s prior year won loss record – or even their pythagorean record – make some adjustments for the off-season transactions, and presume that’s a good enough estimator of true talent for the 2010 team.

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