Archive for White Sox

Avisail Garcia, Dayan Viciedo, and Giving Up on Potential

The Chicago White Sox have had an interesting offseason. Even if you share Jeff’s view that they aren’t yet a very good team, you can’t deny that they made some nice additions this winter. The Sox added Melky Cabrera, David Robertson, Zach Duke, Adam LaRoche, Jeff Samardzija, and Emilio Bonifacio to a roster that included superstars like Chris Sale and Jose Abreu and very good players Adam Eaton and Jose Quintana.

The problem for the White Sox, of course, is all of those nice additions were replacing talent vacancies. As Jeff noted, the Sox got better but becoming Wild Card contenders or challenging the Tigers for division supremacy was a tall order given where they started. Even after the spending spree, they have serious issues behind the plate, at second base, at third base, in right field, and at the back end of the rotation.

It’s a roster that’s moving in a good direction, but it’s still pretty rare to see teams with that many serious holes make a legitimate playoff push. There’s no doubt the Sox are working to build a winner in the relatively near future. You don’t have the winter they had without a focus on the next one to three seasons, which naturally seems to hinge on Avisail Garcia in the short term to some degree.

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Chris Sale Finds Another Great Pitch

I’m not sure that we talk about how great Chris Sale is often enough. That’s relatively easily explained, I suppose; after all, with offense down across baseball, there’s more great-looking starting pitchers than ever, and even just within Sale’s division last year we found Corey Kluber, James Shields, Yordano Ventura, Max Scherzer, David Price, Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander, and Phil Hughes. You don’t have to go too far to find an interesting starter to talk about these days.

Sale finished third in the AL Cy Young balloting, but a distant third, not picking up a single first-place vote. That was primarily due to an early-season trip to the disabled list that left him unable to match Kluber and Felix Hernandez in innings pitched; otherwise, on a rate basis, he was every bit the equal of the AL’s two best starters. But we know that Sale is incredible, and we know that in 2014 he began to be a different kind of incredible, as Jeff Sullivan noted in June. Sale began to diminish usage of his fearsome slider, the one that he’d collected more than half of his strikeouts in 2012-13 with, in hopes that fewer sliders would help maintain the health of his arm.

That was in June. Now it’s January. We have a full season of data to look back upon, and three things should be pretty immediately clear. One, Sale really did use the slider less over the course of the year as compared to 2013: Read the rest of this entry »


Courtney Hawkins: Are 2014′s Improvements Enough?

About 16 months ago, I wrote this 3,000-word-plus diatribe about Courtney Hawkins, attempting to make sense of how a 2012 mid-first-round pick could collapse from a .284/.324/.480 line in his post-draft 2012 season (complete with reaching High-A at age 18) to an abysmal .178/.249/.384 mark in 2013 (complete with ghastly 37.6% strikeout rate).

For some, those numbers were grounds for Hawkins’ dismissal as a prospect; for others, his youth and level made that immediate, severe pessimism seem a bit over-the-top and premature; he did manage to slug nineteen homers in 103 games in the midst of all that whiffing, at least. The thought of this latter group was that Hawkins would repeat High-A in 2014 as a 20-year-old and that the tools that made him a first-round pick would again surface as he grew into the level.

A glance at the big outfielder’s 2014 end-of-season results shows that those who held out hope for improvement weren’t off base. Hawkins came through with a .249/.331/.450 line this past season, good for a .352 wOBA and 117 wRC+. He cut his strikeout rate to a more workable 27.8% while raising his walks from 6.8% to 10.3%. If his 2013 season didn’t exist, statistically-minded prospect-watchers would look at Hawkins’ age-20 campaign and declare it a solid success, or at least say he met expectations.

In this piece, I want to look beneath this superficial dramatic improvement and examine what drove Hawkins’ improvements, with an eye toward where his 2014 modifications might lead him in the future.

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How Good of a Defender is Adam Eaton?

Even before all this recent activity, it was pretty apparent the White Sox had the makings of a good core. In fact, the existence of the core is probably in large part what drove all this recent activity. There’s an opportunity to be seized, and the White Sox had plenty of financial flexibility to play with. Clearly, Jose Abreu is a star-level player. Clearly, Chris Sale is a star-level player. Clearly, Jose Quintana is a borderline star-level player. And then there’s Adam Eaton. Eaton, unquestionably, is a part of the core. But how valuable he is depends on where you’re looking.

Looking at Baseball-Reference, last year Eaton was baseball’s fourth-most valuable center fielder, with a WAR over 5. However, looking at FanGraphs, he wound up more middle-of-the-pack, with a WAR under 3. There are a few different reasons for the disagreement, but mostly this is about defense. Here at FanGraphs, we make use of UZR. Over at Baseball-Reference, they make use of DRS. Most of the time, the metrics get along, but it’s both interesting and frustrating when they don’t, and with regard to Adam Eaton, they most certainly do not get along.

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2015 ZiPS Projections – Chicago White Sox

After having typically appeared in the very hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have been released at FanGraphs the past couple years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Chicago White Sox. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Atlanta / Colorado / Los Angeles AL / Miami / Milwaukee / Oakland / Tampa Bay.

Batters
On the strength of his five wins, Jose Abreu was worth approximately $30 million in 2014. Should he regress a little but still manage the 3.5 WAR projected here by ZiPS, Abreu will have produced approximately $50 million in value over the first two years of the six-year, $68 million contract he signed in October of last year. Even if he ultimately opts in to arbitration (which he’s permitted to do — and almost certainly will do, at this rate — under the terms of his contract), the probability remains that Abreu will have provided an excellent return on investment.

Elsewhere around the field, it’s more difficult to find such optimism. As noted by Jeff Sullivan on Monday, the White Sox’ rate above average only at first base and DH according to the Steamer projections. Indeed, ZiPS paints a similar portrait — with the exception of center field Adam Eaton, perhaps, for whose 2015 season it’s decidedly more encouraging.

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The White Sox Still Aren’t a Very Good Team

The White Sox won’t stop. I mean, at some point they will, because they’ll have to, and maybe they’ve reached that point now that they’ve signed Melky Cabrera, but Rick Hahn and the rest of his front office have had an incredibly busy month, adding to a roster that featured a handful of big-leaguers and not too much else. I had a thought, in early November, to write about the few teams who I figured wouldn’t be contenders in 2015. The White Sox were among them. I didn’t write the article, because I didn’t like it, and now I’m glad I didn’t because the front office has had maybe the most active few weeks in the league. It’s pretty clear that the team intends to win.

I still don’t think the White Sox are ready to win. This is where there’s a bit of important nuance: I don’t think the White Sox are ready to win, but I don’t have a great disagreement with the direction of all the activity. Generally speaking, I like what Rick Hahn has done, and he’s certainly managed to build fan enthusiasm around a team many were prepared to ignore not even that long ago. Why not spend, if you can spend? Why not improve, if you can improve? The White Sox haven’t lost too much of long-term value in making all these additions. I just think, despite everything, there’s not enough in place. It’s not an easy thing to do, to turn a pretty bad team into a pretty good team in a couple of months.

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Two Different Ways to See Melky Cabrera

Maybe the most important thing you learn early on in any basic stats class is that you can’t just throw out data. At least, not just because you want to, and not just because the data doesn’t fit. Just about all information is legitimate information, and you simply have to decide how heavily to weight it. Take Chase Headley, for example. No one figures he’s going to hit 31 dingers again, like he did in 2012, but the reality is that Headley did have a seven-win season just a few seasons ago, and we can’t justifiably ignore that. It’s a part of his record, and it hints at his true-talent level, or at least where it was in San Diego that one time. Because of that year, Headley gets a more favorable projection, and I don’t think you can argue that away.

If you’re going to eliminate data from a sample, you need to have a damn good reason. You need to be able to prove that the data is irrelevant. If you’re a research scientist, maybe the data came out of an experiment run you know you messed up. You accidentally buffered a solution to the wrong pH. As baseball fans, we’re not research scientists, but we’re still always looking for reasons to eliminate data. This is basically the same thing as having a disagreement with a given player projection. Overall, the projections do well, because they don’t eliminate data. But we’re always trying to beat them. Last year gave reason to eliminate prior data from J.D. Martinez. The White Sox saw reason to eliminate prior data from Zach Duke. And now the White Sox have also signed Melky Cabrera for three years and something like $42 million. Cabrera’s another interesting case, like Duke — he didn’t just overhaul his mechanics, but there’s something about his record that makes you wonder how much you should care about his 2013.

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Michael Ynoa Gets New Life With White Sox

By the time the Jeff Samardzija trade became official Tuesday at baseball’s winter meetings in San Diego, Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn was fielding secondary questions about the chances of extending Samardzija’s contract beyond 2015. Most — if not all — of the questions reporters asked Hahn pertained (fairly) in some way to Samardzija, who gives the White Sox a formidable top of the rotation with left-handers Chris Sale and Jose Quintana. It’s possible, however, that another player the White Sox received in the deal with the Oakland Athletics will get a chance to help his new team long after the coming season.

Billed in 2008 as a generational talent who had the signing bonus to prove it, 6-foot-7 right-hander Michael Ynoa is getting a fresh start with the White Sox after struggling with serious injuries, reaching bloated expectations and getting frustrating results since turning pro. In a secondary scrum with reporters that came after the TV cameras shut off, Hahn was excited to talk about Ynoa after trying to explain — for a third or fourth time or 20th time — that the matter of Samardzija’s contract wouldn’t be resolved that day.

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Why Does Jeff Samardzija Give Up So Many Homers?

Jeff Samardzija will call The Cell his new home, and this shark has never regularly infested waters as unfriendly as these before. After calling neutral or pitcher-friendly parks and leagues home so far in his career, the former wide out is is now in a tighter spot. And he’s already given up homers so far in his career. But why? Why has he been homer-prone?

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The White Sox Load Up, Look Interesting, Remain Nimble

Are the White Sox going For It? A move like signing Adam LaRoche to a two-year deal might have looked like advanced place-holding with a chance of contention, but signing a reliever (Zach Duke) to a long-term deal (three years!) sends a slightly different message, especially when examined together.

Adding Jeff Samaradzija looks entirely different. Trading a solid prospect like Marcus Semien for an upper-middle class rotation stalwart just one year from free agency suggests the White Sox have designs on something greater than just existing in 2015. Signing a high-priced closer like David Robertson to a long term deal? That’s an act of aggression, a shot across the rest of their division’s bow and signal of intent to all Wild card comers. They didn’t just add a closer, they added one of the better relief pitchers in baseball, a valuable strikeout machine who looks like he can survive when his fastballs wanes.

Adding more good players? That’s a recipe for a good team. But is it enough?

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On Jeff Samardzija and Trade Value

The White Sox deal for Jeff Samardzija still hasn’t been officially announced, but everyone is acting as if it’s a done deal. Kenny Williams is openly talking about trying to sign Samardzija to an extension, and at this point, it seems like an announcement could easily come before I finish writing this post. The deal is expected to be centered around infielder Marcus Semien, with a couple of prospects heading to Oakland as well.

Update: the official deal is Samardzija and Michael Ynoa for Semien, Chris Bassitt, Josh Phegley, Rangel Ravelo.

As has often been the case when a premium player gets traded lately, the perception of the deal seems to be slanted towards the buyer of the trade. Jeff Samardzija is really good, and while he’s only under control for one more year, it’s one cheap year with an exclusive chance to sign him long term. Or, failing that, the right to make him a qualifying offer at the end of the season and get a draft pick if he leaves via free agency.

And realistically, with starting pitchers, fewer years of team control can actually be described as fewer years of risk, and can actually be a feature rather than a bug. The White Sox might only be trading for Samardzija’s 2015 season, but the flip side of that coin is they’re not on the hook for his 2016-2021 seasons if he blows out his elbow. For franchises that have been burned by giving out big contracts to starting pitchers, Samardzija represented something like the best of both worlds.

And yet, at the same time that multiple teams were falling all over themselves to give Jon Lester $150 million, Samardzija was traded primarily for a lower ceiling middle infielder who was seen as a back-end Top 100 prospect at best, and has probably seen his stock fall a little bit with inconsistent MLB performance since. Marcus Semien and some stuff is not exactly an overwhelming return, and certainly seems to be less than what the Phillies are seeking in return for Cole Hamels, for instance. So, did we overrate Samardzija’s trade value, or did the A’s make a bad deal here?

The easy answer to that question is to just look at what Samardzija cost the A’s to acquire a few months ago and decide that the A’s didn’t get enough in return. After all, the same pitcher cost them Addison Russell in July, and Marcus Semien is no Addison Russell. But while Jeff Samardzija himself hasn’t changed in the last few months, his trade value has taken a nosedive, because instead of buying two playoff runs, the White Sox are only buying one. Additionally, they’re buying Samardzija in a market where teams have a plethora of alternatives, while the A’s bought Samardzija when there weren’t any quality free agents to sign.

Back in August, I looked at the cost of buying wins at the trade deadline, and my back-of-the-envelope calculations suggested that prices may be as high as double what they were the previous winter. Samardzija himself is both less valuable now than he was in July, and the market price for acquiring talent is less than it is at midseason, so we can’t simply say that the A’s should have gotten a similar return to what they gave up few months ago.

So let’s try to quantify what Samardzija’s trade value might actually have been. Given the prices being floated for Lester, it seems that the going rate for an elite starting pitcher is probably in the $8 million to $9 million per win range. Samardzija conservatively projects as a +3 WAR pitcher for 2015, though you could argue for something closer to +4 WAR if you buy into his 2014 performance as legitimate improvement rather than career year. What’s the market rate for one year of a pitcher at this level? Those price estimates would suggest something in the range of $25 to $35 million on a one year deal; the latter seems more realistic, given what Lester’s about to sign for.

And that doesn’t even include the value of the qualifying offer, which adds another $5 to $15 million in value, depending on how aggressively you value draft picks. That leaves us with a combined value of somewhere in the range of $30 to $50 million. Let’s split the difference and just call it $40 million. We don’t see those kinds of salaries because teams would rather borrow from the future than hit up their owners for that kind of cash on a one year outlay, but given the amount of money in the game and the lack of risk that a one year deal brings, it’s a justifiable salary.

Samardzija is actually due $9-$10 million for 2015, so he brought about $30 million in additional value to the table. That’s a lot, certainly, but we can be fairly certain that teams value their elite prospects at more than that amount. The rumored price tag for Yoan Moncada, for instance, is in the $60-$80 million range, and that’s with all the extra risk that comes with evaluating an international player who hasn’t played in the states yet. The best prospects currently in the minors probably have a market value north of $100 million at this point.

So Samardzija wasn’t bringing back Addison Russell, or anything close to it. Not in the winter, when free agent alternatives exist, and not with just one playoff run left. So is Marcus Semien worth anything close to $30 million by himself? Maybe.

If you think he’s a league average second baseman right now, as Steamer projects him to be, then it’s actually a pretty easy argument to make. After all, Yasmany Tomas — who seems to project as roughly a league average outfielder — just got $68 million in guaranteed money from the Diamondbacks, and that contract included a fourth-year opt-out, so if he hits his upside, it really turns into $36 million for four years and then the D’Backs lose him to free agency. Semien’s skillset won’t be valued the same as Tomas’ right-handed power, but we have a very recent example of a team betting big on a 24 year old with no big league track record who doesn’t project as a superstar.

And while Semien’s skills may be valued less than Tomas’ skills, the contract terms are certainly far more favorable. Essentially, Semien is signed to a one year, $500,000 contract with five team options beyond that. If he plays well and they keep him through all five arbitration years, he’s probably going to make somewhere in the range of $20 to $30 million through his team controlled years, so to be worth $30 million in value above his paychecks, he’d have to be worth $50 to $60 million over those six years.

$10 million per year currently buys you Jason Hammel, Billy Butler, Nick Markakis, or Andrew Miller. Each of those four project for something like +1 to +2 WAR players in 2015, and each project to get worse as their contracts go forward. Is it unreasonable to expect Semien to be better than any of those four in 2015, or to improve as he reaches his prime? Steamer thinks he’s likely a +2 WAR player for 2015, on par or better than Asdrubal Cabrera, who the crowd projected for $33 million over three years. If an aging Cabrera is worth 3/$33M, is it really absurd to suggest that Semien would have a market value of 6/$50M?

As I noted in the piece about star player trade value last week, it seems like there’s currently a disconnect between the public and the teams themselves about the value of mid-level talents. If you think it’s an easy task to find capable +1 to +2 WAR players who can fill holes and perform reasonably well, then this trade makes no sense, because Marcus Semien would have little value. But Major League teams clearly do not think that it’s easy to find above-replacement-level pieces, because they’re paying a mint to get low-upside role players this winter.

Marcus Semien and some stuff feels like a light return for Jeff Samardzija, just like Drew Smyly and Nick Franklin felt like a light return for David Price, and Martin Prado and stuff felt like a light return for Justin Upton. At some point, we need to stop expecting the market value of very good players on short-term deals to be elite talents who could turn into superstars. Instead, it appears that the market value of these kinds of players is lower-ceiling, big league ready players who look like they could perform at roughly a league average level for multiple low cost years.

That kind of production might not be as sexy, but getting the equivalent performance of a $10 million player for the league minimum has legitimate value. Marcus Semien might not ever turn into anything more than just a nice little second baseman, but nice little second baseman aren’t so easy or cheap to acquire as we might think. As another trade piles up suggesting that this is what teams can expect in return for short-term frontline starters, we probably need to calibrate our expectations accordingly.

Jeff Samardzija is very good and very valuable. Marcus Semien is less good, but maybe not that much less valuable.


David Robertson’s Awesome, Strange Arsenal

You’re not going to get anywhere using dollars per projected wins when it comes to relievers. Not usually. You have to pay a premium if you’re buying an established closer with a multi-year track record — that’s what the past shows. And so if we look at David Robertson, and the four-year, $46 million deal he just received from the White Sox through that lens, we won’t find happiness.

But what happens when we investigate how this reliever with below-average velocity has managed to be so dominant for the last four years? Does the deal look better?

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Looking for Value in the Non-Tenders

The list of non-tenders is out. Time to dream!

It’s actually a very tough place to shop, even if there are a few names that seem attractive this year. Only about one in twelve non-tenders manages to put up a win of value the year after they were let loose. Generally, teams know best which players to keep, and which to jettison.

You’re not going to get 12 non-tenders in your camp in any given year, but there is a way to improve your odds. It’s simple, really: pick up a player that was actually above replacement the year before. If you do that, you double your chance of picking up a productive major leaguer. So let’s look at this year’s market through that lens first.

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White Sox Turn $25 Million Into Adam LaRoche

There’s kind of a talking point here, about how much the qualifying offer cost Adam LaRoche a few years ago. Following a career year in 2012, LaRoche was extended a qualifying offer, and a market never developed, so he re-signed with the Nationals for two years and $24 million. LaRoche now is older, and he’s coming off a similar offensive season with seemingly worse defense, and with no threat of compensation attached, he signed with the White Sox for two years and $25 million. Imagine what he might’ve been able to get before, were it not for the draft-pick concerns?

A few things. Firstly, yeah, markets get depressed by qualifying-offer extensions. That’s just a part of things right now. Secondly, inflation. The $24 million and $25 million aren’t directly comparable. Thirdly, LaRoche’s contract with the Nationals was actually quite reasonable. He projected for about 2.4 WAR the next year, so his contract projected to pay him about $5.6 million per win, near the average at the time. As I look right now, LaRoche is projected for 1.5 WAR in 2015. So this deal projects to pay him about $10 million per win, well above the assumed average. It’s not that LaRoche was necessarily underpaid before; it’s that now he seems likely to be overpaid.

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The Top-Five White Sox Prospects by Projected WAR

Yesterday afternoon, Kiley McDaniel published his consummately researched and demonstrably authoritative prospect list for the Chicago White Sox. What follows is a different exercise than that, one much smaller in scope and designed to identify not Chicago’s top overall prospects but rather the rookie-eligible players in the White Sox system who are most ready to produce wins at the major-league level in 2015 (regardless of whether they’re likely to receive the opportunity to do so). No attempt has been made, in other words, to account for future value.

Below are the top-five prospects in the White Sox system by projected WAR. To assemble this brief list, what I’ve done is to locate the Steamer 600 projections for all the prospects to whom McDaniel assessed a Future Value grade of 40 or greater. Hitters’ numbers are normalized to 550 plate appearances; starting pitchers’, to 150 innings — i.e. the playing-time thresholds at which a league-average player would produce a 2.0 WAR. Catcher projections are prorated to 415 plate appearances to account for their reduced playing time.

Note that, in many cases, defensive value has been calculated entirely by positional adjustment based on the relevant player’s minor-league defensive starts — which is to say, there has been no attempt to account for the runs a player is likely to save in the field. As a result, players with an impressive offensive profile relative to their position are sometimes perhaps overvalued — that is, in such cases where their actual defensive skills are sub-par.

5. Trayce Thompson, OF (Profile)

PA AVG OBP SLG wRC+ WAR
550 .215 .285 .378 84 1.1

As he had in 2013, Thompson spent all of 2014 in the Double-A Southern League. In roughly the same number of plate appearances as 2013, he recorded roughly the same walk and strikeout rates, roughly the same number of home runs, and roughly the same slash line. Despite the similarity between those two seasons — and seeming lack of development — Thompson’s projection for 2015 is about half a win greater than it was for 2014. Reason No. 1: Steamer puts more emphasis on recent performance, and an adequate season in the high minors is more valuable than a slightly better one in the lower levels. And No. 2: Thompson is still ascending towards his peak, so the any age curve adjustment is bound to help him.

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Evaluating the Prospects: Chicago White Sox

Evaluating the Prospects: RangersRockiesDiamondbacksTwinsAstrosRed SoxCubsWhite Sox & Reds

Scouting Explained: Introduction, Hitting Pt 1 Pt 2 Pt 3 Pt 4 Pt 5 Pt 6

The White Sox system is better than in recent years, definitely helped by the addition of 2014 #3 overall pick LHP Carlos Rodon, only the White Sox second top 10 overall pick since 1990.  The White Sox mixed drafting history has ticked up recently, with their top two picks in their last two drafts (Rodon, Adams, Anderson, Danish) all showing up on this list with 50+ FVs (no small feat), joined by a power arm acquired from the Red Sox in one of the few White Sox dump trades in recent years.

Chicago’s system isn’t exceptionally deep, but recent solid drafts and an increased presence in Latin America have helped the system, along with an increased focus on young players.  Jose Abreu, Chris Sale, Adam Eaton and Jose Quintana didn’t qualify for the MLB growth assets list, but that’s two stars and two above average everyday players, all in their control years that were acquired for below market prices.  Combine that with an improved farm, the upper tier of which is mostly at the upper levels, and that gives White Sox fans some hope that, with another step forward from the big league team, success could be sustained for awhile.

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Jose Abreu Vs. the Scouting Reports

Today’s the day that Jose Abreu wins the 2014 American League Rookie of the Year Award. Seems like they’re doing a whole announcement show, and nothing’s official yet because they don’t want to spoil the suspense, but the suspense has already long been spoiled, by Abreu and by the rest of the AL rookie class. There’s been a little bit of chatter that Abreu might have an MVP case. Now, he’s not going to have an MVP case, as reflected by the voting, but if a guy is getting talked up in some circles as a dark-horse MVP, he’s your Rookie of the Year.

A little over a year ago, the White Sox signed Abreu to a six-year contract. At that point, it looked like a heavy investment in a player whose value would be entirely tied up in his bat. Now, Abreu’s looks like one of the more valuable contracts in the game, as he’s coming off a season that saw him answer most of the questions about his productivity. Abreu wasn’t an outstanding defender at first base. He wasn’t a stealth quality base-runner, so everything really did come down to the hitting, but the hitting was phenomenal from start to finish, and it seems worthwhile now to reflect upon Abreu’s scouting reports around the time of his signing.

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Adam Dunn as a Pitcher

The year is 2014. Barack Obama is the President of the United States. Oil is selling at $98.29 per barrel. Ebola is spreading in Sierra Leone. A European space probe, after 10 years of orbit, will soon connect with the comet it is intended to study. And Adam Dunn pitched in a regular season baseball game last night.

This is like the Ben Revere home run of position players pitching. This is what we’ve all been waiting for, even if we didn’t know it before last night.

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 9.10.37 AM
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Jose Abreu: Now a Complete Hitter

You might not have heard, but Jose Abreu is a pretty good hitter.

Who am I kidding, you’ve heard about that by now. You also probably heard he just wrapped up a 21-game hitting streak. That’s the second-longest streak in the majors this season. You might have heard it was the second time this year he’s had a hitting streak of at least 18 games. He’s a rookie. Rookies don’t really do that. Then you might have heard that those two hitting streaks were separated by just one game. That means you probably heard, or at this point just deduced yourself, that Jose Abreu recorded a hit in 39 of 40 consecutive games. During that second hitting streak, you might have heard he had a stretch of 10 consecutive plate appearances in which a pitcher failed to get him out. These are all really good things to say about a hitter.

Prior to Abreu reaching base in 39 of 40 games, he had reached base in 7 of his last 10. Prior to that, he was on the disabled list with a foot injury. That stint on the DL serves as a pretty convenient place to split Abreu’s season into two halves. What you see looks like two different hitters:
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Investigating The Worst Strike Zone of 2014

Let’s talk for a second about Scott Carroll, a generally unknown right-handed 29-year-old rookie pitcher for the White Sox, although this isn’t really going to be about Scott Carroll. He doesn’t throw all that hard, topping out at around 91 mph. He doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts, but he also doesn’t limit walks particularly well, leading to the second-worst K%-BB% in baseball, minimum 80 innings. When he survives, it’s because of a somewhat-decent ability to get grounders. If and when the White Sox are good again, he’s probably not going to be a big part of it, but for a back-end starter on a bad team, you get by with what you can. Needless to say, Carroll exists in the big leagues on a razor-thin margin of error, though he’s occasionally capable of bursts of brilliance, like taking a one-hit shutout into the seventh inning against the Red Sox last month.

With all that working against him, for Carroll to succeed, a lot of things have to go very right. You’ll be forgiven if you didn’t pay much attention to Saturday’s huge Carroll/Yohan Pino matchup between the fourth-place White Sox and last-place Twins, but now matter how unimportant a game may seem, there’s always something of interest to be found. Unfortunately for Carroll, what he found was umpire Gary Cederstrom having what looked like a very bad day.

A really bad day, actually. Thanks to the wonderful Baseball Savant, we can look at umpires and see who called the most supposed strikes (per the PitchF/X zone) as balls. Since the start of 2013, this game ranked pretty highly… Read the rest of this entry »