Archive for Offseason Notes

The Hidden Minimalism of Home Run Distance

The first season of South Park debuted in 1997. I was a freshman in high school. An episode came out in December of that year that involved the school putting on a Christmas program, only all the parents wanted it to be either non- or universally-denominational, so the whole thing ended up being performed in unitards and it was all very cold and strange. One of the jokes circled around the fact that the music was composed by Philip Glass. Out of the group with which I was watching, I was the only one who laughed at that joke, because I was the only band nerd in the group who had any idea who Philip Glass was.

The joke fit the narrative. This was a play stripped of all decoration and pomp being accompanied by minimalist music. It was also an easy joke, because jokes about minimalist music are fairly easy to make. There’s no guitar riffs, there’s no hook, there’s no chorus. It starts with an idea. That idea is built upon, added to, modified, deconstructed, rearranged. Then, at the end, it’s right back to where it started. No matter how different or unique things get in the middle, that original idea is just under the surface — always present. It imitates life more than any other style of music. Life throws us all kinds of garbage, but it’s tragically repetitive. Babies, new jobs, weird guys on the bus, movies — they are all tiny differences, tiny theme changes, from the pulsing march of our lives. Baseball, more than any other sport, mimics that as well. There’s a beginning, there’s a bunch of wonderful and heartbreaking stuff in the middle, and then it ends. The day before Opening Day is the day after the last World Series game. Over and over — rinse, repeat. Read the rest of this entry »


Offseason Notes for February 24th

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of Offseason Notes.

1. Three Notable College Series
2. Projecting: Steamer Projections for Pitchers
3. Video: Kenley Jansen Strikes Everybody Out

Three Notable College Series
College baseball began last weekend, and, in the absence of the professional game, it actually serves as a reasonable proxy — for the present author, at least.

Below are three notable weekend series. For each entry, I’ve provided the broadcast times (ET) for the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday games, respectively. All games are available streaming on CBS Sports ULive unless otherwise noted. (In the event that you’re curious about ULive, I wrote a review earlier this week on it.)

Texas (12) at Stanford (2): 8:30pm, 4:00pm, 4:00pm
Stanford right-hander Mark Appel and third baseman Stephen Piscotty both appeared in Albert Lyu’s recaps of college baseball’s opening weekend (pitchers, hitters). Texas features sophomore third baseman Erich Weiss, whom the OLIVER projection system already basically regards as a major-league hitter.

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Offseason Notes for February 23rd

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of Offseason Notes.

1. Thing You Might Like: Hall of Very Good
2. Projecting: General ZiPS Projection, v. 1
3. Improving Video: Juan Francisco Homers

Thing You Might Like: Hall of Very Good
Noted baseballing analysts and gentle, gentle lovers Sky Kalkman and Marc Normandin have launched a Kickstarter page for to support an e-book project called The Hall of Very Good. The Hall of Very Good, in their words:

[I]s meant to celebrate the careers of those who are not celebrated. It’s not a book meant to reopen arguments about who does and does not deserve Hall of Fame enshrinement; rather, it’s meant to remember those who, failing entrance into Cooperstown, will unfairly be lost to history.

–snip–

This is not a numbers-driven project (although our contributors lean analytical in their views). Our plan isn’t to be overbearing with numbers and spreadsheets to convince you that these players are worth remembering. What we want to do, instead, is accomplish that same task through stories.

Among the writers who have agreed to contribute, one finds Rob Neyer and Joe Posnanski and me. And Old Hoss Radbourn and Will Leitch and me. And Craig Calcaterra and Josh Wilker and me.

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Offseason Notes for February 22nd


Just consider it.

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of Offseason Notes.

1. Assorted Headlines
2. Prospecting: Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects
3. Video: Nolan Arenado Swinging a Lot

Assorted Headlines
Cleveland Trades De La Cruz to Texas
The Cleveland Indians have traded left-handed pitcher Kelvin De La Cruz to Texas for cash, reports ESPN.com’s Richard Durrett. De La Cruz was recently designated for assignment after Cleveland’s signing of Casey Kotchman. According to Indians Prospect Insider, De La Cruz, 23, has both good velocity (91-93 mph) on his fastball and excellent break and depth on his curve. The problem — and the minor-league walk rates definitely support this notion — is fastball command. In just under 180 Double-A innings, De La Cruz has walked 15% of opposing batters.

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Crowdsourcing MLB Broadcasters: Cast Your Ballots

This edition of Offseason Notes is actually a compilation of work from other editions of Offseason Notes.

Since late November, FanGraphs has been asking readers to rate the television broadcast teams for all 30 major-league clubs — with the intention, ultimately, of determining which broadcasts might best reflect the sorts of inquiry and analysis performed here at the site. (Click here for more on this project.)

Now the ballots for all 30 teams (including two for the Dodgers, to honor the contributions of Vin Scully) have been created, and can be accessed by clicking on the relevant links below.

Ballots will be accepted until Friday, February 24th, at 5pm ET, and results will be released next week. If the project is ultimately successful, a similar effort for radio broadcast teams is a possibility.

If you have any questions or note any errors, don’t hesitate to utilize the comment section below.

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


Offseason Notes for Presidents Day


George Washington famously had a pocket full of horses.

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of Offseason Notes.

1. Projecting: ZiPS for Pittsburgh
2. Video: Gerrit Cole in the AFL
3. Crowdsourcing Broadcasters: Kansas City Television

Projecting: ZiPS for Pittsburgh
Dan Szymborski has published his (30th, I think) ZiPS projections of the offseason — this, for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Below are some of the notable ones, accompanied by very rough WAR projections (for hitters per 600 plate appearances and pitchers per 200 innings). All numbers assume major-league competition. OPS+ and ERA+ are park-adjusted.

Starling Marte, CF, 23: .279/.320/.421, 100 OPS+, 2.6 WAR600
Nate McLouth, CF, 30: .243/.340/.391, 98 OPS+, 2.6 WAR600
Alex Presley, LF, 26: .275/.324/.426, 102 OPS+, 1.7 WAR600
Garrett Jones, RF, 31: .252/.317/.432, 101 OPS+, 1.6 WAR600

Again, I think maybe the league-average wOBA I’m using (.320) is lower than the one in the ZiPS universe, so just look at the numbers relative to each other. As of now, Alex Presley is slated to begin the season as the Pirates starting center fielder, but Presley’s hold on the position is probably pretty tenuous — or, certainly more so than Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata‘s holds on their respective positions. Note that the very rough WAR projections above include only positional adjustments, but not defensive runs, which means that prospect Starling Marte (regarded as a plus defender, even in center) is likely better than Nate McLouth (-12.9 UZR/150 in 4486.0 career innings). Presley’s offensive projection is actually more optimistic than I would’ve expected.

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Offseason Notes for February 17th


Scott Kazmir will throw for scouts on Friday.

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of Offseason Notes.

1. Assorted Headlines
2. Video: Cuban MVP Jose Abreu, Hitting a Homer
3. Crowdsourcing Broadcasters: Washington Television

Assorted Headlines
College Baseball Season Starts
If I’m not mistaken, today represents the first day of the college baseball season. In any case, it represents the first edition of Baseball American Aaron Fitt’s Weekend Preview series for 2012. It’s a pretty mammoth work, that, but the weekend’s featured series appear to include 10th-ranked Vanderbilt at No. 2 Stanford and Cal State Fullerton (25) at Florida (1). The former series features Stanford right-hander Mark Appel — making the Friday night start for the Cardinal — and can apparently be viewed on the internets via CBS Sports ULIVE.

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Offseason Notes for February 16th

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of Offseason Notes.

1. Two Headlines: Branyan, Kazmir
2. Projecting: ZiPS for San Diego
3. Video: Vince Belnome, James Darnell, Speed Metal

Two Headlines
Yankees Sign Branyan
The New York Yankees have signed 36-year-old Russell Branyan to a minor-league contract, according to the internet a week ago. Branyan posted his first ISO under .200 last year since a 42-plate appearance run in 1999, with Cleveland. Still, this is a strong signing: the Yankees lost their primary DH when they traded away Jesus Montero to Seattle. While they might still very well sign Johnny Damon or Raul Ibanez or Hideki Matsui, Branyan is low-cost alternative as the left-handed bat in the DH spot.

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Offseason Notes, With Some Cespedes Projections


There’s no law against enjoying this video.

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of Offseason Notes.

1. Four Projections for Yoenis Cespedes
2. A Fifth Projection for Yoenis Cespedes
3. Crowdsourcing Broadcasters: Toronto Television

Four Projections for Yoenis Cespedes
As you are very likely aware, Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes agreed to a four-year, $36 million contract with Oakland on Monday. Naturally, the next question to ask is, “How well will he play in the majors?”

Below are projections from four different sources — with some serious caveats. Caveat No. 1: from what I can tell, only the the ZiPS slash-line below is adjusted for park. This is a big deal, as the Coliseum depresses wOBA by about 5% for both left- and right-handed batters. Caveat No. 2: the WAR projections are per 600 plate appearances and very rough. Each one is derived merely from the slash line, working under the assumption that Cespedes is an average major-league center fielder. (If Cespedes is merely an average corner outfielder, remove about a win from each of the WAR600 projections.) Also, in terms of run environment, I’ve used league-average wOBA of .320. Caveat No. 3: generally speaking, I have no idea what I’m doing. If you sense any errors here, do not hesitate to inform me of same in the comments section below. The idea here is merely to put some offensive projections on equal footing with each other.

Now here are those projections, from most to least optimistic:

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Offseason Notes: A Graph of Pitcher Height vs. GB%

Today’s edition of Offseason Notes is a graph.

Because I’m painfully disatisfied with the present, I spend a lot of my time thinking about the future. And because I spend a lot of my time thinking about the future, I spend a lot of time thinking about baseball prospects. And because I spend a lot of time thinking about baseball prospects, I spend a lot of time reading scouting reports of baseball prospects — which form of literature (i.e. the scouting report) I consider more important than most of what else is available in the entire Western Canon.

In reading scouting reports, I freqently see it suggested — as regards pitchers — that height is important because it allows a pitcher to throw on a “downhill plane.” Frequently, in those cases where a pitcher throws on a downfill plane, it is also suggested that doing so will allow said pitcher to induce ground balls (and, in turn, prevent home runs) with more frequency.

I do not intend to dispute the logic of this reasoning — nor to suggest at all that this is a statement made by every author of the literary form known as the scouting report — however, knowing that right-hander Chris Young both (a) is 6’10” and (b) has a career ground-ball rate in the high-20%s, I grew curious.

Accordingly, I looked at both the the height and ground-ball rate of every pitcher with more than 150 batters faced (i.e. the sample threshold at which ground-ball rate becomes reliable), 2002-11.

Here is the result:

As one will note by the r-squared, there is basically no connection whatsoever between height and ground-ball rate (and some internet browsing reveals that David Gassko reached a similar conclusion at the Hardball Times in 2006). Of course, not every pitcher has the same angle of release: Tim Lincecum, for example, throws almost straight over the top, while Justin Masterson is the rare starter to throw from a sidearm angle. Generally speaking, however, while there might be some advantage to pitcher height and the ability to throw on a downhill plane, it isn’t showing up in ground-ball rates.

Thanks to Mr. Jeff Zimmerman for running the sweet query that provided the above date.


Offseason Notes for February 13th


Oakland Coliseum, minutes before first pitch.

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of Offseason Notes.

1. Projecting: ZiPS for Oakland
2. Unhelpful Video: Tom Milone Homers
3. Crowdsourcing Broadcasters: Texas Television

Projecting: ZiPS for Oakland
Dan Szymborski has published his ZiPS projections for the Oakland A’s. Below are some of the notable ones, accompanied by very rough WAR projections (for hitters per 600 plate appearances and pitchers per 200 innings). All numbers assume major-league competition. OPS+ and ERA+ are park-adjusted.

Seth Smith, RF, 29: .245/.322/.408, 97 OPS+, 1.7 WAR600
Smith, acquired this offseason in a trade that sent right-hander Guillermo Moscoso and left-hander Josh Outman to Colorado, isn’t interesting in and of him self, but rather because his 97 OPS+ represents the highest projected mark on the entire Oakland roster. As Szymborski notes, “[T]he offense is going to be god-awful.” Having said that, both Coco Crisp (2.4 WAR600) and Kurt Suzuki (3.3 WAR600) are likely to be more valuable relative to their positions than Smith.

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Offseason Notes for February 10th


The Klaw!

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of Offseason Notes.

1. Prospecting: Keith Law’s Top-100 Prospect List
2. Video: Hak-Ju Lee and Julio Teheran
3. Crowdsourcing Broadcasters: Tampa Bay Television

Prospecting: Keith Law’s Top-100 Prospect List
Keith Law has published his top-100 prospect list for 2012. (Insider only.)

Here are some notes on same:

• Regarding the top-est of the top prospects, they’re all generally where you’d expect. Law ranks Mike Trout first of the Trout-Bryce HarperMatt Moore triumvirate. Manny Machado at fourth overall is probably slightly higher than on other lists you’ll see, but not particularly so. Atlanta right-handed prospect Julio Teheran at 18th overall is decidedly lower than on other lists. (Teheran was, for example, ranked fourth, fourth, fourth, and sixth, respectively, by Baseball America’s Jim Callis, J.J. Cooper, Will Lingo, and John Manuel on their top-50 lists from the BA Prospect Handbook.)

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Offseason Notes for February 9th

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of Offseason Notes.

1. Various Farm Rankings
2. Projecting: ZiPS for Texas
3. Video: Mike Olt in AFL Rising Stars Game

Various Farm Rankings
With many prospect lists having already been completed, or at least nearing completion, a few sites/publications have released farm, or organizational talent, rankings. Here are some notable top fives.

Baseball America
This is from their handbook, which means (I think) that it’s from Decemeber, which means that it doesn’t account for the trade that sent A.J. Cole, Tom Milone, Derek Norris, and Brad Peacock to Oakland for Gio Gonzalez.

1. Washington Nationals
2. Texas Rangers
3. Kansas City Royals
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
5. Toronto Blue Jays

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Offseason Notes, With a Table re: Velocity and xFIP


Even without his excellent secondary pitchers, Stephen Strasburg would probably be decent.

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of Offseason Notes.

1. Table: Starting Pitcher xFIP by Fastball Velocity, 2002-11
2. Projecting: ZiPS for Miami
3. Crowdsourcing Broadcasters: Seattle Television

Table: Starting Pitcher xFIP by Fastball Velocity, 2002-11
Over the last couple days, I published a twopart piece looking both at (a) the accomplishment that is Michael Pineda‘s combination of fastball velocity and control and (b) which pitchers from the high minors last season were capable of at least approximating Pineda’s 2010 in Double- and Triple-A.

As part of the second piece, I included a table that looked at xFIP by different “buckets” of velocity — from less-than 85 mph, increasing incrementally by 1 mph all the way to greater-than 95 mph. What might not have been entirely obvious is that the data sample included only the 612 starting pitchers from 2002 to ’11 who walked 7% or fewer batters.

So, below, I’m publishing another version of that table with the full sample of 1708 player seasons. This is xFIP by velocity for every pitcher, 2002-11, who threw 50 or more innings and made at least half of his appearances as a starter. The # sign is the number of player seasons, 2002-11, in that particular bucket; the xFIP is the average xFIP of all the player seasons in that bucket; and STD is the standard deviation of xFIP for the player seasons in that bucket.

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Offseason Notes: DR’s Escogido Wins Caribbean Series

Today’s edition of Offseason Notes concerns the Caribbean Series entirely.

Escogido Wins Caribbean Series
Despite losing 7-0 to Venezuelan entry Tigres de Aragua, Dominican side Leones del Escogido clinched the Caribbean Series last night with the 4-3 loss of their only mathematical competitor, Mexico’s Yaquis de Obregon, to Puerto Rican club Indios de Mayaguez. (Scoreboard.)

In fact, Obregon was winning their game 3-2 heading into the bottom of the eighth, but conceded one run each in the eighth and ninth innings to lose the game.

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Offseason Notes for February 6th


The curiously formidable Estadio Quisqueya.

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of Offseason Notes.

1. Caribbean Series Notes
2. Video Tribute to Caribbean Series, Set to AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell”
3. Crowdsourcing Broadcasters: San Francisco Television

Caribbean Series Notes
Current Standings
Here are the current standings of the Caribbean Series, after four days of games, presented in a sortable HTML table.

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Offseason Notes for February 3rd


Not Joe Saunders.

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of Offseason Notes.

1. Caribbean Series Notes
2. Projecting: ZiPS for Arizona
3. Crowdsourcing Broadcasters: San Diego Television

Caribbean Series
Scores from Yesterday
Puerto Rican team Mayaguez defeated Venezuelan Winter League champion Aragua, 3-1 (box).

Escogido of the Dominican Winter League defeated Mexican Pacific League side Obregon, 2-1 (box).

Notes on Those Games
• Mayaguez right-hander Nelson Figueroa did this: 6.2 IP, 8 K, 2 BB, 0 HR.
• There was precisely one extra-base hit between the two games: Mayaguez center fielder Jesus Feliciano‘s second-inning ground-rule double.
• Right-hander Jairo Asencio recorded the save for Escogido, striking out two in an inning of work. Asencio was the boss of the DWL for much of the season, finishing second on the SCOUT pitching leaderboard.

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Offseason Notes: A Brief Guide to the Caribbean Series

Today’s edition of Offseason Notes concerns the Caribbean Series entirely.

Programming Note: Caribbean Series Begins Today
As noted previously in this column, the Caribbean Series begins today in Santo Domingo.

The first game, between Aragua (of the Venezuelan Winter League) and Mayaguez (Puerto Rican Winter League) begins at 1:45pm ET. Obregon (Mexican Pacific League) and Escogido (Dominican Winter League) play later in the day, at 5:55pm ET.

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Offseason Notes for February 1st


This same truck once brought Jose Lopez from Seattle, WA to Peoria, AZ.

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of Offseason Notes.

1. Assorted Headlines
2. Projecting: ZiPS for Cleveland
3. Crowdsourcing Broadcasters: St. Louis Television

Assorted Headlines
Teheran and Delgado Possible Bullpen Options
Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez told David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Tuesday that top pitching prospects Julio Teheran and/or Randall Delgado would be bullpen options in the event that they didn’t, either one of them, make the opening-day rotation. John Sickels recently ranked the pair first and third overall in the Atlanta system; Baseball America has them in the spots. The clubs already has what would appear to be five able starters in Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, Brandon Beachy, and Mike Minor.

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Offseason Notes: Entirely About the Caribbean Series


Scholars maintain that the translation was lost hundreds of years ago.

Caribbean Series Begins Thursday
With the victory on Monday of Dominican Winter League team Escogido over Cibaenas, the four teams for the very entertaining Caribbean Series — which begins Thursday, February 2 — have been decided.

Here they are, with links to team pages and a list of players whose names and/or faces you’re most likely to recognize:

ARAGUA (Venezuelan Winter League)
Edgardo Alfonzo, Seth Etherton, Wilson Ramos.

ESCOGIDO (Dominican Winter League)
Julio Borbon, Jose Constanza, Andy Dirks, Francisco Liriano, Julio Lugo, Jordan Norberto, Denis Phipps, Fernando Rodney, Aneury Rodriguez, Fernando Tatis, Pat Venditte.

MAYAGUEZ (Puerto Rican Winter League)
Jeff Dominguez, Ruben Gotay, Martin Maldonado, Eddie Rosario, Ramon Troncoso.

OBREGON (Mexican Pacific League)
Alfredo Amezaga, Luis Ayala , Karim Garcia.

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