Archive for White Sox

Young Relievers Lighting Up Leaderboards, Radar Guns

Perhaps we should be used to this by now. Just four years ago, Craig Kimbrel was just some guy who walked more than 18 percent of the batters he faced. Now, he’s Craig Kimbrel. In the same timeframe, Drew Storen went from talented rookie set-up man to closer on a suddenly not terrible Nationals team. In their wake, young relievers like Kenley Jansen, Kelvin Herrera, Trevor Rosenthal, Addison Reed and others have taken the baseball world by various degrees of storm. And there was this Aroldis Chapman guy, too.

This season has been no different. Seemingly anonymous relievers have been springing from the figurative woodwork to capture spots on the top of various reliever leaderboards, most notably K% and velocity. Let’s meet some of them, shall we?

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In Celebration of Chris Sale

Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball, and by definition, that makes him also the best pitcher in the National League. In the American League, though, things are not quite as clear. The AL is home to a handful of truly excellent pitchers, and differentiating between them is the ultimate in picking nits. The last four Cy Young Awards have been won by Max Scherzer (still awesome), David Price (him too), Justin Verlander (yep), and Felix Hernandez (ditto), and they’re all still — for now, at least — in the American League. Yu Darvish hasn’t won a Cy Young Award yet, but he was the consensus favorite among the FanGraphs staff in our preseason picks. That’s a pretty fantastic starting five, and I’d have no qualms with anyone making an argument on behalf of any one of those as the AL’s premier starting pitcher.

But the more I watch him pitch, the more I think I might just pick Chris Sale.

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A Week with Jose Abreu

It is inarguably a great thrill to bear witness to the major-league debut of a top pitching prospect. It felt, for example, like the nation set aside whatever else it was doing to watch Stephen Strasburg blaze his way through the Pittsburgh Pirates on ESPN. You hear about the makeup and you hear about the stuff, and when it comes time for the debut, you’re looking for the pitcher to confirm the expectations you’ve had for him for months, if not years. You want evidence the guy’s as good as you already believe. Pitching prospects are aces long before they’re actual aces.

It’s a very different story with a player like Jose Abreu. He’s a prospect, yes, and there’s excitement there, sure, but Abreu is more of an unknown, no matter how much the White Sox committed to him. With a lot of inexperienced players, you’re looking for expectations to be confirmed. With Abreu, you’re looking for expectations to be set. This is the discovery period — we’re all learning the things we’re supposed to know about Jose Abreu down the road. What is there to be said about Jose Abreu after just his first week?

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What is a Jose Quintana?

The White Sox aren’t close, but they’re building a long-term core. Earlier in the week they signed starting pitcher Jose Quintana to a five-year contract with two more years of club options. Appropriately, given the player, the news didn’t capture the nation’s interest. In fact, the biggest immediate effect was Quintana could stop being such a nervous, uncomfortable wreck. It’s a smaller deal than Starling Marte‘s new contract with Pittsburgh, in both guaranteed money and in relevance to the average fan’s interests.

There’s something here, though. Something one wouldn’t expect. Quintana’s 25 years old. Last year, by WAR, he was tied for 24th among major-league starters — neck and neck with the likes of Homer Bailey, Madison Bumgarner and Patrick Corbin. By RA9-WAR, he was tied for 23rd, equal to Jordan Zimmermann and Chris Tillman. He made all of his starts, and he threw 200 innings. A season ago, ever so quietly, Quintana was one of the better starters in the majors. Which leads  to this: What the heck is a Jose Quintana?

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On the Recent Alterations to Jose Abreu’s Steamer Projection

In the past week, the Steamer projections for Cuban emigre and presumptive White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu have changed a couple of times, from a line of .292/.381/.554 to .279/.364/.518 to .272/.356/.541. For many, this might be confusing. For some, these changes might only serve to underscore for them the fact that projections are, not unlike life itself, totally and irretrievably absurd. Many others probably didn’t even notice, have no opinion and have already stopped reading this paragraph.

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You Have to Get Them to Swing *and* Miss

It’s a simple thing to say, but there’s an important interplay between the swing and the miss when it comes to pitching. In order to get a swinging strike, you need to get the batter to swing and you need to get them to miss. These are, in effect, two different skills, even if the best pitchers are awesome at both. And so it’s not surprising that we have two different metrics for that moment — whiffs per swing (whiff% in some places) and whiffs per pitch or swinging strike rate (swsTR% here). We probably need both. Is one better?

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The Braves, Jason Heyward, File-to-Trial & Arbitration

The Braves are going to arbitration with Jason Heyward over $300 thousand dollars. It’s a wonderful sentence, full of so many words that could set you off in a million different directions. And so I followed those strings, talking to as many people involved in arbitration as I could. Many of those directions did lead me to denigrations of arbitration, and of the file-to-trial arbitration policy that the Braves employ. There’s another side to that sort of analysis though. Arbitration is not horrid. File-to-trial policies have their use. This is not all the Braves’ fault.

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The Difficulty in Projecting Jose Abreu

The marriage of scouting and statistics is well past the honeymoon stage in most front offices, but there are times when it’s easier than others. A college player out of a big program in an established baseball conference? Talk to the nerds, get a stat translation, get a projection, pair it with the qualitative analysis from the scouts. Boom. Date night.

Not to push this analogy too far, but working with Cuban players is more like a seven-year itch in the pairing: Neither side is completely happy with what they’ve got. In the case of Jose Abreu in particular, the scouts have a few competitions, a handful of games against Liechtenstein perhaps, spread out over many years. They can do their best with video.

The quants? They’re in even more trouble when it comes to Cuba.

Doesn’t mean they can’t do their best. Now that we’ve got a few projections in hand for the new White Sox first baseman, let’s take a look. We know the stakes are high — Abreu is no Rey Ordonez, he’s got no glove value to fall back on and the requirements to be a major league first baseman are stiff.

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2014 ZiPS Projections – Chicago White Sox

After having typically appeared in the entirely venerable pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections were released at FanGraphs last year. 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: Arizona / Atlanta / Baltimore / Boston / Cincinnati / Cleveland / Colorado / Detroit / Los Angeles NL / Miami / Minnesota / New York AL / New York NL / Philadelphia / San Diego / Seattle / St. Louis / Tampa Bay.

Batters
Despite having performed no rigorous analysis on the matter, the author nevertheless feels comfortable asserting that it’s difficult for a club that features just one above-average hitter — it’s difficult for that sort of club to win very much. Unfortunately, barring any sort of further offseason acquisitions, this appears to be the sort of club with which the Chicago White Sox enter the 2014 season. According to ZiPS, the next-best projected batting line after Cuban emigre Jose Abreu‘s 129 OPS+ is the 97 OPS+ shared both by Adam Dunn and Avisail Garcia.

That Cuban emigre Jose Abreu’s No. 1 comp is Paul Konerko might amuse the reader — on account of Konerko is more or less the player whom Abreu is replacing, that is. This particular comparison also serves as a pretense upon which to remind the reader that all comparable players pertain only to the age-season into which the projected player is entering. So, for example, the season of interest regarding Konerko as it pertains to Abreu is the former’s age-27 one — which, besides a deflated BABIP, wasn’t a bad one.

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DBacks Land Closer, Further Build White Sox Core

The easiest part of the three-way Mark Trumbo trade to forget was the White Sox’s part. Given that we all call it the Mark Trumbo trade, of course a lot of interest followed Trumbo to the Diamondbacks. And given that it was the Angels giving Trumbo up, people have wondered about the return. But the White Sox were in there as a necessary component, and they arguably got the best of it, turning Hector Santiago into one-time quality Arizona prospect Adam Eaton. Eaton, now, is considered a potential part of the long-term White Sox core.

Monday, the White Sox and Diamondbacks struck again, and this time there was no third party. Being a team in little present need of a closer, the Sox gave up Addison Reed. Being a team in little present need of an extra third baseman, the DBacks gave up Matt Davidson. The focus for Arizona, again, is getting better right away. And the focus for Chicago, again, is adding another potential part of the long-term White Sox core. While it’s a trade I wouldn’t want to call lopsided, I like it more for Rick Hahn than I do for Kevin Towers.

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D-Backs Make Headlines While Angels, White Sox Make Gains

When Kevin Towers took over the Diamondbacks as general manager, one of the first things he did was make a trade. In Mark Reynolds, he had a 27-year-old entering his first year of arbitration eligibility. The big righty had clear strikeout problems, and he wasn’t known to be an asset anywhere in the field, but what made Reynolds was his power. Strength was his defining characteristic, and to that point Reynolds owned a career 108 wRC+ while being worth about eight WAR. In short, he was simultaneously flawed and useful, and Towers gave him up to the Orioles in exchange for a couple relievers. One of them is all right.

Towers is still in charge of the Diamondbacks as general manager, and the most recent thing he’s done is make a trade. As had been rumored for a good while, Towers pulled the trigger on a deal to bring in Mark Trumbo. Trumbo is a 27-year-old entering his first year of arbitration eligibility. The big righty has clear strikeout problems, and he’s not known to be an asset anywhere in the field, but what makes Trumbo is his power. Strength is his defining characteristic, and to this point Trumbo owns a career 111 wRC+ while having been worth about seven WAR. In short, he’s simultaneously flawed and useful, and Towers got him from the Angels in exchange for Adam Eaton and Tyler Skaggs. Both of them could be quality young players.

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How To Shop In the Non-Tender Market… Successfully

I imagine that, for a front office exec, there’s nothing quite like the buzz you get from picking up another team’s non-tender and getting value from that player. Maybe it’s just ‘one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor,’ but in a business where one sector of the market has to continually work to find value in surprising places, it’s an important moment.

But is there much success to be found in the bargain bin? These are players that their own team has given up on — and we have some evidence that teams know more about their own players than the rest of the league, and that players that are re-signed are more successful. What can we learn from the successes and failures that we’ve seen in the past?

To answer that question, I loaded all the non-tendered players since 2007 into a database and looked at their pre- and post-non-tender numbers.

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FanGraphs Audio: Nathaniel Stoltz, Digested

Episode 402
Nathaniel Stoltz is a very thoughtful prospect writer for FanGraphs et al. He’s also the guest on this terribly pleasant edition of FanGraphs Audio.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 48 min play time.)

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Play

2013 Disabled List Team Data

The 2013 season was a banner season for players going on the disabled list. The DL was utilized 2,538 times, which was 17 more than the previous 2008 high. In all, players spent 29,504 days on the DL which is 363 days more than in 2007. Today, I take a quick look at the 2013 DL data and how it compares to previous seasons.

To get the DL data, I used MLB’s Transaction data. After wasting too many hours going through the data by hand, I have the completed dataset available for public consumption.  Enjoy it, along with the DL data from previous seasons. Finally, please let me know of any discrepancies so I can make any corrections.

With the data, it is time to create some graphs. As stated previously, the 2013 season set all-time marks in days lost and stints. Graphically, here is how the data has trended since 2002:

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Steamer Projects: Chicago White Sox Prospects

The relentlessly Canadian Marc Hulet published earlier today his first organizational prospect list of the 2013-14 offseason — in this case, for the Chicago White Sox.

It goes without saying that, in composing such a list, that Hulet has considered the overall value those prospects might be expected to provide either to the White Sox or whatever other organizations to which they might someday belong.

What this brief post concerns isn’t overall value, at all, but rather such value as the prospects from Hulet’s list might provide were they to play, more or less, a full major-league season in 2014.

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Tony Bucciferro and the 23-Year-Old Strike-Thrower Question

Quick: Who led minor league pitchers in FIP this year?* You might guess one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, such as Archie Bradley, Taijuan Walker, or Robert Stephenson. Or you might rack your brain thinking about 2013 breakout A-ball pitchers like C.J. Edwards, Tyler Glasnow, or Edwin Escobar. In either case, you’d be wrong, because the answer is little-known White Sox pitching prospect Tony Bucciferro.

*Minimum 80 IP. Giants relief prospect Derek Law had a lower FIP in 77 2/3, but I wanted to isolate starters.

Bucciferro’s 2013 numbers are certainly something to behold. Across three starts in the Rookie-Advanced Appalachian League and 13 outings (12 starts) in the Low-A South Atlantic League, he amassed 96 strikeouts, six walks, and a mere three homers allowed in 90 2/3 innings, good for a 1.74 FIP (2.48 ERA). Those numbers seem impossible to ignore, and yet Bucciferro registers barely a blip on the prospect radar. In this post, I will examine why he’s been successful, why he’s been ignored, and take a systematic look at how pitchers with this sort of statistical profile fare.

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Jose Abreu’s Swing

There has been no shortage of opinions regarding the Chicago White Sox’ signing of Jose Dariel Abreu.  We have seen how his statistics match up to other recent Cuban defectors before the jump, as well as heard differing scouts’ opinions regarding how those stats will translate stateside. I will not try to add to either of these discussions.  I think the stat comparisons to Puig and Cespedes are interesting enough without my additional input, and I have not actually seen Abreu in person to judge his athleticism or bat speed.  I do not know anything about his makeup besides what has already been repeated by scouts and former teammates.

What I have not heard anything about is how people view his swing.  I made a comment in Dave’s article the other day disputing the importance of bat speed in favor of efficiency, and so I felt motivated to continue that conversation here.  Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes happen to be two of the most explosive athletes in the game, so their exploits may not be very predictive.  On top of his fellow Cuban natives, Abreu has been compared to Miguel Cabrera due to his size and “lack” of athleticism (side note: too many people mistake foot speed for athleticism; rotational athletes are a completely different breed from track stars).  Pretty tall order, since even 1/4 of Cabrera’s production would result in a pretty solid value for the ChiSox.  Even with a very good swing, I think it would be ridiculous to expect the same generational types of seasons from the Cuban slugger.  The first hitter I thought of when I saw Abreu’s swing was Buster Posey.

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In Awe of Jose Iglesias

I’m a big fan of games that summarize entire skillsets. To pick one example, on May 25, 2012, Adam Dunn DH’d and went 1-for-4 with a homer, a walk, and three strikeouts. To pick another example, on July 16, 2004, Wily Mo Pena went 1-for-4 with a homer, no walks, and three strikeouts. I like a game in which a player puts everything about himself on display, and Jose Iglesias had just such a game Monday night. Against the White Sox, Iglesias made two easy outs. In his third at-bat, he picked up an infield single. And though the White Sox emerged victorious by four, the game was of little consequence to either team; what most people are talking about is what Iglesias did to Josh Phegley in the bottom of the sixth.

It wasn’t anything mean, except that it kind of was. The Gameday play-by-play offers, understatedly:

Josh Phegley grounds out softly, shortstop Jose Iglesias to first baseman Prince Fielder. Jordan Danks to 2nd.

That doesn’t exactly do the play justice. Iglesias drew oohs and ahhs from the other team’s audience, and Phegley didn’t think to stage a protest. The out recorded, Iglesias got back on his feet and returned to his position. Ever the professional, at no point did Iglesias crack a smile. Most of the observers were simply too stunned. At the plate Monday night, Jose Iglesias was quiet. In the field Monday night, Jose Iglesias was an afterburner.

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Mariano Rivera’s Week of New Things

Mariano Rivera is in the process of completing a farewell tour, getting recognition even within rival ballparks. Just on its own, this tells you a few things. One, Rivera is on the verge of retirement, preparing to officially hang up his spikes, figuratively if not literally. Two, Rivera has been great. Great and beloved and unanimously respected, but mostly, great. Players who weren’t great don’t get the Rivera treatment. Few players, really, get the Rivera treatment. Fans in other cities are saying goodbye to one of the greatest pitchers the game’s ever seen. Three, Rivera’s seen a whole lot. He’s had a long enough career to establish himself as a hall-of-famer — and to make an impression on every place he’s been to — so there aren’t many things Rivera hasn’t seen, that he hasn’t experienced. He’s given everything he’s had to baseball, and he’s squeezed baseball for everything it’s worth.

Some of the only things Rivera hasn’t experienced are different varieties of failure. He has, simply, been too good, too consistently and reliably good, to fail often. He has failed before, sometimes memorably, but there have been plenty of ways in which he hasn’t failed, and ways in which he never will. At the moment, though, Rivera’s experiencing something he’s never experienced before. For the first time in his big-league career, Rivera’s blown three consecutive saves. He hasn’t been through everything, but he’s been through one more thing than he had been.

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Red Sox Gain Peavy, Lose Little

Earlier Tuesday, a lot of the talk was about whether or not the Red Sox ought to go for it and trade for Cliff Lee. Lee, of course, is an ace, a rare breed, but he’s also paid like one, and reports suggested the Phillies were holding out for a wheelbarrow of prospect talent, along with complete contract assumption. People occupied both sides of the conversation, but it didn’t look like a wise idea for the Sox, given how much they’d have to give up for one individual shorter-term interest. The Red Sox really wanted a starter, but they also really wanted to not give up their top-level young talent. It was up to them to find a way.

Later Tuesday, the Red Sox got their good starter. According to reports, the Red Sox and White Sox couldn’t work out a straight-up Jake Peavy trade, but then they got the Tigers involved and a deal was struck. Peavy is off to the other Sox, while the Tigers are up one Jose Iglesias and the White Sox are up one Avisail Garcia. And, of course, there are some other bits. The complete summary:

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