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FanGraphs Audio: Employing Skepticism with Dave Cameron

by Carson Cistulli - 4/27/2015 - Comments (2)

Episode 556
Dave Cameron is both (a) the managing editor of FanGraphs and (b) the guest on this particular edition of FanGraphs Audio — during which edition he discusses the Alex Guerrero Situation, the Josh Hamilton Situation, and various other situations.

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 53 min play time.)

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The Nationals Have Lost Almost All of Their Edge

by Jeff Sullivan - 4/27/2015 - Comments (10)

A fun question from last Friday’s chat:

Comment From Zob Lerblaw
How many games do the Mets have to get ahead of the Nationals and by what date to believe they may win the east? 15 games by June 1?

Since the question was asked, the Mets lost two of three over the weekend against the Yankees. So, if you’re a believer in momentum, the Mets have a little less than they used to. On the other hand, since the question was asked, the Nationals lost three of three against the Marlins. So while the Mets lost ground to Miami, they gained on Washington, which is the team they’d be most concerned about. At this writing, with the season almost 12% over, the Mets lead the Nationals by a full seven games.

The Mets are a worse baseball team than the Nationals are. I’m not 100% certain that’s true, but I’m definitely more than half certain that’s true. There is some point at which the season record becomes more meaningful than the projected numbers, but that point comes nowhere close to as early as April, and just last year the Nationals won almost 100 games. Any system that overreacts to the early start is a bad system; from this point forward, the Nationals should realistically be expected to be terrific.

Yet, the season still feels new. It feels like just yesterday that the Nationals seemed to have the biggest division edge in baseball. Already, that edge is almost all gone. The NL East is on the verge of becoming a coin flip.

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Josh Hamilton's Return to a New Place

by Jeff Sullivan - 4/27/2015 - Comments (29)

In the moment, it’s easy to focus only on the things that annoy you, on the things that you wish would be better. The greatest challenge in the world is to appreciate the moments that you get before you stop getting them, and it becomes all the more difficult when things aren’t going like you imagined. After the moment, everything shifts. The irritating bits fade into nothing, and what remains are images of the good times. In large part these are the principles driving the Angels’ sale of Josh Hamilton to the Rangers, and perhaps here more than anywhere else, it’s evident that the same thing can always be viewed in contrasting ways. The Angels see Hamilton in one way, the Rangers see him in another, and the great question concerns which side is closer to the truth. Josh Hamilton’s truth isn’t changing; it just happens to be somewhat unknown.

At its core, this really is just a baseball move. The Angels wouldn’t be paying for Josh Hamilton to go away if they thought he could still be a productive member of a contending team. And the Rangers are taking a shot because their financial risk will be laughably small, and they’re a team that could use a helpful left fielder. The Angels think they’ll be better for this, and the Rangers think they’ll be better for this. Obviously, it’s a little more complicated. It just always tends to come down to performance.

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2016/2017 MLB Draft Rankings: Ridiculously Early Edition

by Kiley McDaniel - 4/27/2015 - Comments (30)

Over the last two weeks, my insatiable desire to rank everything manifested itself in a three-part roundup of the buzz, rumors and scouting reports of this year’s top international amateur prospects and an excessively long ranking of the top prospects for this summer’s domestic draft. Earlier this year, I mentioned the top two names already making buzz in the 2016 July 2nd class, so it only seemed reasonable to also dive into the next two draft classes as well.

For obvious reasons, there’s a lot more information available for future draft classes than for future July 2 classes, but there are still limitations to what we can know at this point.

– It’s easier now to scout non-draft eligible high school players because of the showcase circuit, but scouts aren’t focusing on them so many don’t have strong opinions, much less rankings of these players. An average scout’s knowledge about guys on this list is limited to a handful of guys that are on loaded high school teams they see regularly, a guy that really stood out at one summer event they went to, collegiates that play at major programs or that were known prospects out of high school. We have video of most of these players and will start adding it to the FG YouTube page in the coming weeks.

That means making this list is combining what I’ve seen, what scouts tell me, notes from various other sources and which underclassmen are attracting interest from advisors, which is a surprisingly good indicator.

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Dan Szymborski FanGraphs Chat - 4/27/15

by Dave Cameron - 4/27/2015 - Comments (0)

12:07
Dan Szymborski: ! Sorry for being late – my new AC is being installed today instead of back on Friday, so I was talking with the hvac guy and lost track of time
12:07
Dan Szymborski: I may have to disappear suddenly if other stuff comes up.
12:09
Comment From RotoLando
Having pitchers bat is a great idea!
12:10
Dan Szymborski: I’m on the fence – I grew up watching DH and non-DH games
12:10
Comment From Marcus Banks
Michael Pineda is the best pitcher in New York City
12:10
Dan Szymborski: Liar.

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Adam Wainwright Injury Leaves Innings Void for Cardinals

by Craig Edwards - 4/27/2015 - Comments (28)

The St. Louis Cardinals took two of the three games from the Milwaukee Brewers over the weekend, but the wins cannot wash over the losses the team suffered. Over three games, Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright, and Jason Heyward all left games early due to injury. Molina did not play on Saturday or Sunday, but has avoided the disabled list so far. Heyward apparently hurt his groin, and after lobbying to stay in the game, he is day-to-day. The biggest blow came on Saturday when Wainwright could not get out of the batter’s box, probably injuring his achilles. The Cardinals will likely be forced to play the season without their ace, leaving the team with options both internally and outside the organization, but no realistic option will make up for Wainwright’s absence.

There were injury concerns with Adam Wainwright heading into the season. After struggling in the summer months of 2014 and gutting through the playoffs with less than his best, an offseason surgery on his right elbow, the same part of his body that needed Tommy John surgery four seasons ago, raised questions about whether Wainwright would be able to carry the load for the Cardinals in 2015. His velocity and strikeouts were down to start the season, but so were his walks, and he’d been brilliant to start the season. Those injury concerns did not come forward as expected when he injured his ankle attempting to get out of the batter’s box, but with Wainwright likely gone for the season the Cardinals face a difficult task replacing one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Despite missing all of 2011 recovering from Tommy John surgery, Adam Wainwright’s 27 WAR since 2009 ranks sixth among Major League Baseball pitchers and is in the top 20 among all MLB players. His 16 wins since returning from surgery in 2012 sit even with Max Scherzer and David Price and trail only Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez among MLB pitchers. Wainwright was incredibly effective when he pitched, but just as important for the Cardinals, he provided massive amounts of innings, preventing wear on a bullpen and a rotation trying to break in young starters.

From 2012-2014, including the playoffs, he pitched over 700 innings, with over 500 of those innings coming in the last two years. Over the last two seasons’ Wainwright’s +11 WAR have accounted for more than 40% of the Cardinals starting pitching total during the time. With Wainwright, the Cardinals’ rotation has pitched very well so far this season, with a 2.39 ERA that is the best in baseball and a 3.06 FIP that ranks fifth. Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, John Lackey, and Carlos Martinez look to still make up a solid front four to the Cardinals’ rotation, but finding a fifth starter could leave the Cardinals’ scrambling for innings as they attempt to replace their ace. The Cardinals were already looking to manage starter innings this season, per Derrick Goold, and the loss of Wainwright only serves to amplify the difficulty of balancing starter innings with trying to preserve their rotation arms.

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The New Alex Guerrero Problem

by Dave Cameron - 4/27/2015 - Comments (109)

Back at the beginning of Spring Training, I wrote a piece here called Trying to Solve the Alex Guerrero Problem. In that piece, I noted that the Dodgers were in a bit of a difficult position with Guerrero, as they didn’t really have a spot for him on their Major League roster, and his contract made it very difficult to trade him and impossible to send him to the minor leagues. So, after a pretty strong spring, the Dodgers just decided to carry him as a bench piece; there weren’t a lot of alternatives, and having him pinch-hit and draw the occasional start would give them a chance to get a better idea of what he was.

I’m pretty sure they weren’t expecting this. After 24 plate appearances — seven of them coming as a pinch-hitter, a difficult job that most people struggle with — Guerrero is hitting .500 and slugging 1.273, which is the kind of offensive performance you need to rack up +1 WAR (which he already has) in roughly six games worth of at-bats. Guerrero has already been worth +8 offensive runs above an average hitter, placing him 8th on the leaderboard, in between a bunch of guys who have 50 or 60 more trips to the plate. And so now, the Dodgers have a different kind of Alex Guerrero problem.

He’s not going to keep this up, obviously, but the ability to launch seven extra base hits and strike out once in any random 24 plate appearance sample should be enough to earn you more playing time. That power/contact combination is pretty rare, and even over a tiny sample, this kind of performance already forces us to re-evaluate the pre-season forecasts: ZIPS has moved from a projected .316 wOBA to a .327, while Steamer has jumped from .297 to .318; the average of the two has Guerrero posting a 110 wRC+ going forward, making him a pretty solid hitter even after he stops with the Barry Bonds impression.

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Welcome Yourself to NERD Game Scores for 2015

by Carson Cistulli - 4/27/2015 - Comments (16)

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by viscount of the internet Rob Neyer, and expanded at the request of nobody, NERD scores represent an attempt to summarize in one number (and on a scale of 0-10) the likely aesthetic appeal or watchability, for the learned fan, of a player or team or game. What follows represents the first edition of NERD scores for 2015.

Read more about the components of NERD scores here.

***

Most Highly Rated Game
Houston at San Diego | 22:10 ET
Collin McHugh (18.2 IP, 67 xFIP-, 0.7 WAR) faces James Shields (25.0 IP, 85 xFIP-, 0.4 WAR). After producing last year a strikeout- and walk-rate differential (18.7 points) that far exceeded his previously established levels, the former has both (a) exactly matched that same differential while also (b) inducing about 25% more grounders on balls in play. Probably, if not definitely, related: McHugh has replaced about 10% of his fastballs with sliders. With regard to the Padres, the current UZR figures — published on the site for the first time last night — suggest that San Diego has had predictable difficulties in converting batted balls into outs. Despite that, the club features a 30% chance currently of qualifying for the divisional series.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Probably Houston Radio.

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FanGraphs Audio: International Concerns with Kiley McDaniel

by Carson Cistulli - 4/26/2015 - Comments (2)

Episode 555
Kiley McDaniel is both (a) the lead prospect writer for FanGraphs and also (b) the guest on this particular edition of FanGraphs Audio — during which edition he discusses a recent pro scouting trip to Montgomery, some notable high-school prospects, and the current state of the international market.

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 1 hr 12 min play time.)

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Sunday Notes: Bucs' Watson, Rox McMahon, Belle the Beast, much more

by David Laurila - 4/26/2015 - Comments (11)

Tony Watson was an All-Star last season. If you’re a casual fan and the Pirates aren’t your team, you maybe weren’t aware of that. The 29-year-old left-hander isn’t exactly a household name.

Opposing hitters know who he is. Working as a set-up man in the City of Bridges, Watson had a 1.63 ERA in 78 appearances for the NL Central squad. A year earlier, he was almost as busy and nearly as good. Ever since he was introduced to a sinker by erstwhile Bucs’ backstop Rod Barajas, in 2012, the former University of Nebraska Cornhusker has been stellar.

Watson is a big believer in establishing your fastball to both sides of the plate.

“You have to do that,” said Watson. “Otherwise, hitters can eliminate pitches and portions of the plate. When that happens, you’re basically putting it on a tee for them. I pitch off my fastball with sliders and changeups, and try to keep hitters off balance. Pitching is all about upsetting timing.”

His changeup, which he’s using more frequently – 21% in April versus 10.7% last year – is a pitch he’s always had a good feel for. He throws it with white-on-white deception, and a grip that belies its movement.

“It’s a four-seam grip, but for some reason it comes out looking like a two-seam,” said Watson. “I kind of pronate to get a little more action, and I guess my long-ass fingers have something to do with it as well.

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The Best of FanGraphs: April 20-24, 2015

by Paul Swydan - 4/25/2015 - Comments (0)

Each week, we publish north of 100 posts on our various blogs. With this post, we hope to highlight 10 to 15 of them. You can read more on it here. The links below are color coded — green for FanGraphs, brown for RotoGraphs, dark red for The Hardball Times, orange for TechGraphs and blue for Community Research.

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Is the New Turf at the Rogers Centre Really a Problem?

by Owen Watson - 4/24/2015 - Comments (78)

The Blue Jays finished their first home stand of the season at the Rogers Centre yesterday, and the discussion surrounding the games has been a little strange so far. The talk has been about the performance of the team, who have started well, but it’s also been about the artificial turf that was installed this past offseason. Is it bouncy? Is it not bouncy enough? Are the balls always rolling foul off of the first and third base lines? These are questions we end up asking when baseball is played on a surface other than grass.

That’s not to say that playing on turf is an inherently terrible thing, it’s just different, and if the choice is between playing baseball or not playing baseball in a climate that might not support grass, the choice is obvious. Still, with the news that Toronto hopes to move to an all-grass field by 2018, and with the continuing talk that seems to arise every year from playing in stadiums with artificial turf, we should look into it further.

First, the fuel for the fire. This was the play that started everyone talking about the new surface, a swinging bunt in a game from Monday of last week that took a very strange bounce in front of the plate:

Rogers_Centre_Groundout_Angle_1

Here’s a closer angle:

Rogers_Centre_Groundout_Angle_2

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Stephen Vogt Picking Up Where He Left Off

by Craig Edwards - 4/24/2015 - Comments (15)

Last season, Derek Norris and John Jaso took the bulk of the catching starts for Oakland, starting 140 of Oakland’s games at behind the plate. The duo performed well for the A’s and the 126 wRC+ by Oakland catchers ranked third in Major League Baseball behind only the Pittsburgh Pirates and Milwaukee Brewers. As the A’s tend to do, they remade their roster in the offseason sending Norris in a deal to the San Diego Padres that netted Jesse Hahn, and sent Jaso to the Tampa Bay Rays in the deal that landed Ben Zobrist. The deals cleared the way to playing time for Stephen Vogt, a 30-year old catcher with under 500 plate appearances in his career, with a decent amount of those appearances coming from first base and the outfield with the A’s in 2014.

The projections did not expect much from the Oakland catcher. The FanGraphs Depth Charts expecting a .255/.303/.398 season and producing roughly two wins. Vogt has gotten off to a great start in 2015 with a .360/.441/.700 line in 59 plate appearances including seven walks, four home runs, three doubles and one triple. The projection systems have begun to take notice. ZiPS now projects Vogt for a .259/.310/.415 line for the rest of the season while Steamer has Vogt with .265/.316/.420, already an improvement over the projections from a couple weeks ago and with his early season exploits, a two-win season has turned into one that could top three wins with the potential for more if he hits like he has over the past year. Since being called up at the beginning of June 2014, Vogt has hit .292/.341/.473 with a 130 wRC+ in 346 plate appearances.

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The Mets and Their Weak Opponents

by Dave Cameron - 4/24/2015 - Comments (82)

The Mets can’t lose, and having won 11 straight games on their way to a 13-3 record, they own the best winning percentage in baseball. On Monday, I pointed out that we have to take them seriously as contenders because of this hot start, as those wins aren’t going to be stripped away in the future even when the Mets stop playing this well. But, while the wins-in-the-bank argument is still valid, there is a pretty decent counterpoint to that argument; the Mets have essentially been borrowing from their overall expected win total by playing a collection of lousy opponents so far.

Among the 16 games they’ve played this season, we find three against a depleted Nationals team that started the year with a Spring Training roster, six games against a Braves team that projects as one of the NL’s weakest squads, four games against a mediocre Marlins team that might be worse than expected, and three against the Phillies, everyone’s pick for the worst team in baseball. In addition, 10 of their 16 games have come at home, so while home field advantage isn’t a huge factor in baseball, they have gotten a slight bump from a disproportionately low number of road games.

So, yes, the Mets have been beneficiaries of a very easy schedule so far, but how much should we have expected them to win based on their opponents to date? This is actually something we can answer now, since we publish pre-game odds for every match-up in baseball on our scoreboard page. These odds take into account the actual line-up and starting pitcher for that day, so we’re also accounting for the fact that their games against the Nationals included match-ups with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Jordan Zimmermann; facing those guys is not the same thing as facing the Nationals when they’re throwing Doug Fister or Gio Gonzalez, with no disrespect intended to two quality pitchers who just aren’t quite at that level.

By looking at the difference between a team’s average game odds for the year and their expected rest-of-season winning percentage from Opening Day, we can get a decent idea of a team’s quality of opponents. So, with some assistance from Sean Dolinar, that’s exactly what I did, and the results can be seen in the graph below.

Game-Odds-ROS-Scatter-Plot

Teams above the line have had an easier schedule, teams below somewhat tougher.

The numbers confirm what we’d expect; playing a steady diet of the Marlins, Phillies, and Braves has indeed given the Mets the easiest schedule of any team in the big leagues to date; their average game odds have put them at an expected .535 winning percentage, up 30 points over their pre-season .505 mark. The other team who has seen a 30 point spike in their average game odds compared to their pre-season expected winning percentage? The 12-4 Royals, who have baseball’s second best record. It is not a coincidence that the two teams who have started the strongest have also played the softest schedules of any team in baseball; quality of opponent matters.

But again, what we really care about is the magnitude of the factor, and with a .535 expected winning percentage based on average game odds, the Mets are still trouncing their expected record. Having a weak slate of opponents would have suggested that we think the Mets should be 9-7 after this stretch, not 13-3. This isn’t the kind of variable that explains the entirety of the Mets success so far, and we can’t just wave away 13 wins in 16 games as the sole product of having played a weak schedule. The weak schedule explains just one of their extra five wins.

And it’s not like a slate of weak opponents is any kind of guarantee of success. Of note, check out the Brewers in that graph; they had a pre-season expected winning percentage of .481, but have had average game odds of exactly .500. When you look at their overall opponents — six against PIT, three each against STL, CIN, and COL — you might not think it was a relatively easy ride, but they got really lucky in their starting pitching match-ups against the Pirates: two starts each from Vance Worley and Jeff Locke, plus a call-up start by Casey Sadler, and then one tough game against Gerrit Cole.

Misisng both Liriano and Burnett makes those games against the Pirates easier match-ups than you might think, and Andrew McCutchen sat out one of the contests as well. The Reds and Rockies aren’t very good, so combine those seven games with easier-than-expected match-ups against the Pirates, and the Brewers have actually had a pretty easy go of things as well. And yet, even after getting a good draw to start the year, they’re 3-13, and their season is effectively over already. The Mets have taken advantage of weak opponents; the Brewers inability to win the games they’ve played suggests that they might be even worse off than we think.

Likewise, the Marlins (.500 pre-season expected record, .527 average game odds) have also benefited from playing the Braves and Phillies, at least theoretically, but they haven’t capitalized on those games the same way the Mets have. While people like to cite record versus winning teams as some kind of true barometer of roster quality, the reality is that playoff teams usually just pound bad teams into the ground, then try and hold their own against the decent or good teams. The Mets and Royals have done exactly what they needed to do thus far; beat the pants off of lousy opponents.

actual-win-vs-ros-win-2015-04-23

So, yes, the Mets have had an easy schedule. No, they don’t get to keep playing the Braves, Marlins, and Phillies all year, and they will find the road more difficult when they travel to face some better opponents. But the Mets low quality of opponents to date doesn’t cancel out the fact that they’ve played .812 baseball against a slate of games where we expected them to play .535 ball, and the difference between their current winning percentage and their game-odds expected winning percentage is still the largest in baseball. No team has outperformed expectations more than the Mets, even after you adjust for the fact that they’ve played the Marlins, Braves, and Phillies 13 times.



Career Retrospective: Joe Nathan

by Paul Swydan - 4/24/2015 - Comments (25)

Joe Nathan has had Tommy John surgery before. Joe Nathan will need to have Tommy John surgery again. He has proclaimed that he intends to come try to return, but the odds are against that — 41-year-old major league pitchers are in short supply (there are just two this season). Whether he does or doesn’t make it all the way back, any subsequent seasons are unlikely to add much to his statistical ledger. And an impressive ledger it is.

A sixth-round pick in the 1995 draft, Nathan has been one of the few players left in the game who saw action back in the 90s, as he debuted for the Giants back in April of 1999. He was a starter back then, though he wasn’t particularly good. He only struck out three more batters than he walked in those 14 debut season starts. He would get another crack at starting the next season, but in his 15 starts in 2000 he struck out four fewer batters than he walked, and that was the end of that chapter.

Well, sort of. He would be a starter for the bulk of the next two seasons, at age 26 and 27, but he would do so in the minor leagues. His 2001 was an unmitigated disaster — he struck out 54 against 70 walks in Double-A and Triple-A — he walked more guys than he struck out at both levels. He was better in 2002 — 117 Ks against 74 walks, all at Triple-A Fresno — but he allowed 20 homers, had a 1.647 WHIP and 5.60 ERA. Better, but not good. He would come back up to San Fran in September for four scoreless relief appearances, and never looked back.

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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat -- 4/24/15

by Jeff Sullivan - 4/24/2015 - Comments (3)

9:09
Jeff Sullivan: Hello friends

9:09
Jeff Sullivan: Welcome to hot sexy live baseball chat

9:09
Jeff Sullivan: I’ll be your host, and I live in a time zone that is ten minutes slower than whatever your time zone is

9:09
Comment From Guest
Good morning, Jeff, glad you could join us.

9:09
Jeff Sullivan: Me too!

9:10
Jeff Sullivan: I’ll start the chat with this: per usual, I encourage you to not bother asking fantasy questions. I don’t play so I can’t give good advice, and also most people don’t care to read about your fantasy teams

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Modeling Salary Arbitration: Introduction

by Alex - 4/24/2015 - Comments (14)

This post is part of an ongoing arbitration research project and is coauthored by Alex Chamberlain and Sean Dolinar.

Feb. 25: 2015 MLB Arbitration Visualized

* * *

Sean and I share a mutual passion for knowledge and understanding how things work. Said mutual passion is magnified when regarding baseball-related matters. With that said, the mysterious arbitration process intrigues us. We joined forces to try to crack the code, so to speak, and we would like to share the fruits of our labor with you.

Players with anywhere from three to six years of service time are eligible for salary increases based on performance. Teams and players typically reach settlements outside of arbitration, but if they can’t agree on a salary figure, both sides enter the formal arbitration process, as described here by FOX Sports.

Therein resides the questions intrinsic to the process: How do teams and players decide what is an appropriate dollar-value raise in salary? How does an arbitration panel decide in favor of one side or the other?

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Brad Miller Puts On Weight, Results To Be Determined

by Eno Sarris - 4/24/2015 - Comments (20)

From the standpoint of physics, muscle begets bat speed, which begets power.

That part is simple, as physicist Alan Nathan has shown. “A 10% increase in muscle mass can lead to about a 3.8% increase in bat speed,” Nathan found, and that sort of bat speed increase can lead to an increase of 4.3% in batted ball distance.

And so this year, Mariners shortstop Brad Miller decided to put on more weight. Was it about the power? “Oh yeah. I want to get as physical as I can,” Miller admitted before a game with the Athletics this year. So he put on 15 pounds in the offseason and came into the season weighing 220, instead of the 205 he weighed to finish the season in 2014.

We don’t have yearly heights and weights for players, but we do have *a* listed height and weight for each player. Despite being of dubious quality, let’s see how Body Mass Index is related to power factors. Turns out, it is significantly related to many power stats, with Home Runs per Fly Ball providing the cleanest look:

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JABO: The Royals Are Hitting Everything

by Jeff Sullivan - 4/24/2015 - Comments (10)

I’m going to let you in on a little blogger secret: as I’m writing this post about the Royals, the Royals are actively playing the White Sox, on Thursday night. I usually try to shy away from writing about someone or something as they’re playing, because something might conceivably change, and then I could have to re-work my thesis if not abandon the article entirely. But I’m going to stick with this and cross my fingers. In fact, I can even use this to my advantage.

So, here’s a neat thing. Thursday, the Royals are facing Chris Sale! Which means for you, the reader, on Thursday, the Royals faced Chris Sale. At this writing, Sale has two strikeouts through three innings, having faced 14 batters. For Sale, it’s not his greatest outing, especially given the two runs he’s allowed. But about the whiffs: through these three innings, the Royals’ team strikeout rate has gone up.

That’s a little perspective. The Royals have been red-hot, and the Royals’ offense has been red-hot. This is a rather distinct change from the editions of the Royals we’ve seen over the past few years. We knew the team would be able to defend, and we knew the team would have a lockdown bullpen; we didn’t know the offense could do something like this. At FanGraphs, we track a stat called wRC+, which is like OPS+, but better. As I look at the team leaderboard, the Royals are second in baseball, between the Dodgers and Padres. As always, plenty of factors go into making an offense good. You can never discount the variable of good luck. But something that’s driven the Royals to this point: they simply haven’t been striking out. Their contact has been absurd.

It’s not only that the Royals have the lowest team strikeout rate in baseball. A year ago, they had the lowest team strikeout rate in baseball. The year before, they had the second-lowest. The Royals have been a contact-oriented team. What’s most notable is the magnitude of the Royals’ advantage over everyone else. Here are the lowest team rates, through some of Thursday, but not all of Thursday:

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Nick Martinez is Different, Maybe Better

by NWein44 - 4/24/2015 - Comments (9)

At some point this year, the samples will be large enough that every post doesn’t have to come with a massive disclaimer. Of course we’re dealing with minuscule samples, but interesting things can happen in minuscule samples even if they don’t provide a lot of externally useful information. In particular, the first month of a baseball season can bring some extremely unusual and compelling stat lines, especially when dealing with metrics that are designed to be useful over larger samples. Enter Nick Martinez.

Martinez was the 564th pick in the 2011 draft and likely only has a safe spot in an MLB rotation this year because he is a member of a Rangers organization that has been decimated by injuries. While we saw Martinez toss 140 innings in his age 23 season in 2014, they were bad innings. He posted a 113 ERA- and 128 FIP-, both of which are still using park factors that treat Globe Life Park as if it’s more hitter friendly than it’s played since the renovations. If we’re being generous, he pitched like a replacement level starter and you might argue he was worse.

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WAR: Batters
Adam Jones1.5
Adrian Gonzalez1.4
Mike Moustakas1.4
Jose Iglesias1.4
Lorenzo Cain1.3
WAR: Pitchers
Max Scherzer1.3
Johnny Cueto1.1
Chris Archer1.0
Felix Hernandez1.0
Collin McHugh1.0
WPA: Batters
Nelson Cruz2.15
Joey Votto1.93
Anthony Rizzo1.71
Adrian Gonzalez1.53
Lucas Duda1.35
WPA: SP
Dallas Keuchel1.62
Jake Odorizzi1.08
Chris Archer1.01
Scott Kazmir1.00
Nick Martinez0.95
WPA: RP
Andrew Miller1.18
Aroldis Chapman1.01
Joakim Soria0.91
Adam Ottavino0.80
Wade Davis0.79
Fastball (mph): SP
Danny Salazar96.3
Nathan Eovaldi96.1
Yordano Ventura96.0
Joe Kelly95.7
Matt Harvey95.7