Effectively Wild Episode 1245: Moving Manny

EWFI
Ben Lindbergh and Jeff Sullivan break down the five-for-one deal that sent Manny Machado to Los Angeles, discussing the players changing teams, the short- and long-term implications for the Dodgers and Orioles, and the ripple effects for the rest of the trade market. Then they reflect on the latest national discourse about marketing Mike Trout, review the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game, wrestle with how to handle the revelation of Josh Hader’s reprehensible tweets, and analyze the historic excellence of José Ramírez and Francisco Lindor.

Audio intro: Bob Dylan, "When the Deal Goes Down"
Audio outro: Razorlight, "Los Angeles Waltz"

Link to Jeff’s Machado post
Link to the Angels’ Trout tweet
Link to thread about Trout’s red-carpet outfit
Link to podcast conversation about marketing Trout
Link to Sheryl’s Harper post
Link to Ben’s article about Ramirez and Lindor

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The Dodgers Have Rented the Market’s Only Superstar

Among qualified hitters, Manny Machado currently ranks eighth in baseball in wRC+. He ranks 12th in baseball in WAR, despite some ugly defensive numbers that might not reflect his actual talent. This isn’t just a flash in the pan, either; the projections the rest of the way have Machado as a top-ten value. Which is all to say, Manny Machado is all kinds of good. He’s an incredible player months away from becoming a free agent, and it’s been clear he’d be traded since shortly after the season began. It was only a question of where, and for how much. Today we have our answers.

Machado plays for the Dodgers now. The Dodgers had been thought of as a favorite from the moment they lost Corey Seager. They held off for a while — maybe the Orioles couldn’t pull the trigger, or maybe the Dodgers thought they might clever their way in another direction. We are, though, where many people assumed we would eventually be. The Dodgers have rented a new superstar, and the Orioles’ rebuild is finally underway. It will never hurt worse than it hurts at this instant.

Dodgers get:

  • Manny Machado

Orioles get:

With the trade, we learn more about the price of a star-level rental. Let it not be suggested the Dodgers got Machado for cheap. You could see all five of the players going the other way reaching the majors. In rumors, Machado had been linked to teams like the Phillies, Brewers, and Diamondbacks. That’s undoubtedly part of the whole idea.

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Manny Machado Is Now Obviously a Dodger

Manny Machado has to get a new uniform from someone.
(Photo: Keith Allison)

After a few days of something more substantive than speculation, the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers appear finally to have conducted official business with each other. Eduardo A. Encina and Ken Rosenthal outline the particulars of that business via social-media platform twitter dot com:

At the very center of the trade, of course, is Manny Machado, one of the best major leaguers currently authoring one of his best major-league seasons. Machado will help the Dodgers address a shortstop position that has created uncertainty for the club ever since starter Corey Seager was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery at the beginning of May. Machado is projected for slightly more than two wins over the rest of season — about a win more than Chris Taylor (who’s received most of the starts at short in Seager’s absence) and also about a win more than a combination of Cody Bellinger, Enrique Hernandez, and Joc Pederson (who’ve received most of the center-field starts with Taylor at short).

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The Worst Called Strike of the First Half

As is tradition during the All-Star break, yesterday I wrote about the worst called ball of the first half. Per usual, it was a called ball on a pitch more or less right down the center of the zone. It always has to be that kind of pitch, given the method behind the research in the first place. Called balls like that aren’t very common — there’s no reason for them to be very common — but they always exist. Or, at least, to this point, they have always existed. Baseball has always given me something.

When you write about the worst called ball, it’s also obligatory to write about the worst called strike. The worst called ball is the ball closest to the center of the strike zone. The worst called strike is the strike furthest from the nearest edge of the strike zone. I don’t look forward to this post as much, because the balls down the middle are just funnier to me. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to learn, or nothing to appreciate. Every bad call is special. Let’s look at the call that’s been the most bad.

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The Manager’s Perspective: Alex Cora on Baseball in Puerto Rico

Alex Cora knows baseball in Puerto Rico inside and out. The Red Sox skipper was born and raised in Caguas — he still lives there in the offseason — and he’s served as the general manager of Team Puerto Rico. He knows the talent, the culture, the history. Ditto the challenges. From the 1989 decision to subject players from the U.S. territory to the amateur draft, to the ravages of Hurricane Maria — those are just two examples — the road to MLB success is often anything but smooth.

The talent speaks for itself. Rich history aside — there are four Hall of Famers, including Roberto Clemente — two dozen Puerto Rico-born players are now in the big leagues, and five of them saw action in last night’s All-Star Game. Cora himself is notable. Not only did he play 14 seasons (and earn a World Series ring), the team he’s leading boasts baseball’s best record in his first season as an MLB manager.

———

Alex Cora: “We’re in a great place right now, as far as talent and impact players. I’m obviously managing, too, which is something different. I’m the second one from Puerto Rico in the history of the game [after Edwin Rodriguez].

“People point at the draft as a huge ‘game changer,’ saying that Puerto Rico got affected negatively because of it. I’ve always said that it was just a matter of time for us to adjust and get back to the heydays of the 1990s when we had seven or eight All-Stars. We had a lot of impact players back then.

“Now you take a look and you have Francisco [Lindor], you have Carlos [Correa], you have Javy [Baez], you have Enrique Hernandez. There’s Eddie [Rosario]. We have a few pitchers now with Edwin [Diaz] and Jose [Berrios] and Joe [Jimenez]. Obviously, the catching position has always been solid. We have one guy that is great, in a debate for the Hall of Fame. Yadi [Molina].

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Betts, Ramírez, Trout, and the Blistering Pace

Roughly a month ago, Mike Trout appeared headed towards history. On June 20, I took time out from gorging myself on lobster rolls and clam strips during my Cape Cod family vacation to put together a table showing the short list of players who reached 6.0 WAR before the All-Star break. After 74 games, Trout was on pace to finish at 13.8 WAR, the third-highest total for a position player in history, behind only the 1923 and 1921 seasons of Babe Ruth (15.0 and 13.9 WAR, respectively).

A funny thing happened on the way to the break, however: Trout fell into his first true slump of the year, and both Mookie Betts and José Ramírez have closed the gap such that the trio is in a virtual tie atop the leaderboard at 6.5 WAR. This is the first time since 1975 — as far back as our splits in this area go, alas — that three players have reached even 6.0 WAR by the All-Star break, though even that relatively recent history shows such a pace is nearly impossible to maintain.

Before I dig in, it’s worth noting that, while we generally refer to what transpires before and after the All-Star break as the season’s first and second halves, those are generally misnomers, since the pause in the schedule usually happens well after the 81st game of the season and at a slightly different point from year to year. So far in 2018, the average team has played 96 games, similar to the averages in 2013 (94) and 2014 (95) but well ahead of those in 2015 and 2016 (89 games) or 2017 (88 games). Thankfully, so long as we’re taking the trouble to prorate to 162 games, we can cope with this.

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Is the Baseball Dead?

The first month of the season was marked by cold weather throughout much of the country. It seemed to have an adverse affect on offense, with power numbers particularly affected. MLB players put up an isolated-power figure of .156 this March and April, which was the lowest mark since April of 2016. Rob Arthur, who has performed extensive research on the juiced ball, noticed the ball wasn’t traveling quite as far in early April even after accounting for weather — this despite a barrage of homers in the spring. Alex Chamberlain conducted some research of his own and determined hard-hit balls and barrels weren’t doing as much damage as in previous seasons, and he wondered if baseballs had been de-juiced. It’s an interesting question that deserves further research.

Chamberlain speculated that MLB had taken the juice out of the ball, potentially through the use of humidors. He found that hitters had to hit the ball harder to get it out of the park. He also observed that, when controlling for exit velocity and launch angle, batted balls weren’t quite doing the same damage as in years past. He concluded that, since we are now well past the cold-weather days of April, the change in batted balls this season is meaningful.

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2018 Trade Value: #21 to #30

Noah Syndergaard’s velocity is a mixed blessing in terms of long-term value.
(Photo: Keith Allison)

As is the annual tradition at FanGraphs, we’re using the week of the All-Star Game — while the industry pauses to take a metaphorical breather — to take stock of the top-50 trade assets in the sport. For more context on exactly what we’re trying to do here, see the honorable-mentions post linked at the top of the page.

For this post and the others in this series, I’ve presented a graphic (by way of the wizard Sean Dolinar) breaking down each player’s objective skill level (represented, in this case, by a five-year WAR projection from ZiPS), contract/team-control details, rank in last year’s series, and then year-by-year details of age/WAR/contract through 2023, although a couple players have control beyond those five years. For those readers who are partial to spreadsheets rather than blocks of text, I’ve also included all the players we’ve ranked so far are in grid format at the bottom of the post.

The ZiPS WAR forecasts did influence the rankings a bit: for players who were bunched together, it acted as an impartial tiebreaker of sorts, but the industry opinions I solicited drove the rankings.

With that said, let’s get to the next 10 spots on the Trade Value list this year.

Five-Year WAR +20.8
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2023
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2019 25 +3.1 Pre-Arb
2020 26 +4.0 Pre-Arb
2021 27 +4.3 Arb1
2022 28 +4.6 Arb2
2023 29 +4.8 Arb3
Pre-Arb
Arb

Ohtani was ticketed before the season to appear much higher than this, but some concern about an imperfect UCL has now turned to what most feel is an inevitable Tommy John surgery at some point during the course of his six controlled years. If you remove much of this year on the mound from his cost-controlled seasons, take away another 12-18 months for surgery, and add to that some uncertainty about whether the stuff/feel/stamina comes all the way back, and we’re now talking about three or four years of a premium but somewhat risky talent. If you look around, that’s roughly where he’s landed as far as comps. While the expectation of health has shifted south a bit since Opening Day, the evaluation of his talent has moved north a bit, both as a pitcher and hitter, following his uneven looks in spring training.

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Kiley McDaniel Chat – 7/18/18

12:09

Kiley McDaniel: Hello and welcome to this baseball chat. First some links

12:09

Kiley McDaniel: Eric wrote about how African American players stood out at the Futures Game and also in the 2019 draft class and what that could mean: https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-futures-game-was-black/

12:10

Kiley McDaniel: And I’m currently going through the annual trade value rankings, with 21 thru 30 likely getting posted during this chat: https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/2018-trade-value-31-to-40/

12:10

Tony Womack: Sanchez’s WAR projections seemed low. Would his ranking differ if he was projected 3-4 WAR?

12:11

Kiley McDaniel: Struck me as a little low as well. The WAR figures for catchers impact the rankings the least, since they don’t include framing and the non-WAR abilities that catchers bring to the table (handling a staff, mental game, etc.) are the most notable of any other position.

12:11

Sats: Is Victor Victor Mesa a potential top 25 prospect, and what kind of grades would you put on his tools

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What Do You Think of Your Team’s Manager?

Last weekend, the Cardinals fired manager Mike Matheny. Several teams are and were doing worse than the Cardinals in the standings, but then, the Cardinals hold themselves to a certain standard, and there were mounting concerns regarding not only Matheny’s strategy, but also leadership skills. The clubhouse seemed to be fracturing around him, so management pulled the trigger in the hopes that the season and roster might be salvaged. The response was immediate, and nearly unanimous: It was about time. Over the years, no other manager seemed to attract such a degree of internet criticism.

In a podcast after the firing, Ben Lindbergh and myself wondered who might take Matheny’s place. Not with the Cardinals — that’s Mike Shildt — but on the internet at large. Matheny was probably the most criticized manager in baseball. Now he’s out of work, which means someone else will become the most criticized manager in baseball. Who, though, will it actually be? That conversation led me to this broader polling project. This felt like a question to take straight to the FanGraphs community.

If you’ve been around for any length of time, you know how these things work. Below, you will find a poll for every team. There are actually two polls for the Cardinals. For the sake of consistency, I have to ask about Shildt, but I’m also asking about Matheny, despite the fact that he’s gone. Anyway, for each poll, the question is simple: What do you think of the manager? We don’t talk about managers here a whole lot, but they wouldn’t get paid what they do if they didn’t matter, and I want to evaluate the landscape of community opinions.

I’d ask that you only vote in polls for teams that you care about and follow pretty closely. If you don’t have much of an opinion, that’s fine, and I’m collecting that information, too. Don’t worry if you don’t know whether a manager is actually good. We don’t know if any managers are actually good or actually bad. I just want to know what you all think, because you know more about your own managers than I do. So who am I to pretend I’m all-knowing?

As far as the question is concerned, keep in mind the extent of a manager’s responsibilities. First and foremost, a manager is supposed to serve as a leader of men. Do you sense that a given manager is an effective leader? An effective communicator? The strategy does also matter, too. Do you love or hate how a given manager uses his bullpen? Does he seem particularly creative, or especially stubborn? Compare the current manager to previous managers. Compare to other active managers, if you’d like. I know it basically comes down to gut feelings, but if you have a gut feeling, I want to record it. God knows I can never get enough of another polling project.

Thank you all in advance for your participation. We’ll look at the results either later this week, or early next week. Then we’ll see which manager might take Matheny’s place as an internet punching bag. And we’ll look at everybody else, as well. Who doesn’t love a 1-through-30 ranking? With your assistance, we’ll have that very thing coming up.

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Did Bryce Harper Cheat in the Home Run Derby?

The 2018 Home Run Derby was an awesome spectacle despite what appeared, on paper, to be a lackluster field. Bryce Harper, who somehow has 173 career homers and is still just 25, won the event in a dramatic finale that saw him best fellow catcher-turned-outfield-slugger Kyle Schwarber.

Or did he?

Yes, that’s #Justice4Schwarber trending on Twitter. My personal favorite hashtag, though, was this:

In short, the Twitterverse (mostly, to be fair, Cubs Twitterverse) was abuzz with the sentiment that Bryce Harper won the Home Run Derby by cheating. Specifically, by doing this:

You can also see that video here. In terms of what it shows, it’s pretty obvious: during the last minute-plus of his final round, Ron Harper (who, by the way, has alarmingly immense limb musculature) didn’t wait for Bryce’s batted balls to hit the ground before tossing another pitch to his son. It’s also pretty clear that, absent those extra pitches, Bryce wouldn’t have been able to catch Schwarber. As Jay Jaffe explained yesterday (emphasis mine):

[T]he 25-year-old Nationals superstar did have his back to the wall in the final round against fifth-seeded Kyle Schwarber, but with nine homers in the final minute — on 10 swings by my count, though ESPN’s broadcast said nine in a row — he tied the Cubs slugger’s total of 18. On the second pitch of the 30-second bonus period, he lofted a 434-foot drive to center field, then did a two-handed bat flip as the crowd went wild, and quickly handed the trophy to his barrel-chested father, Ron, who had pitched to him[.]

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The Futures Game Was Black

Because they feature such a high concentration of pitching talent and because everyone’s stuff plays up in short stints, Futures Games are often fast-moving, low-scoring affairs. Since the game’s inception in 1999, for example, a team has scored three or fewer runs on 18 occasions. That was not the case on Sunday, however, as baseball’s top prospects combined for eight home runs. In the end, Team USA defeated Team World by a score of 10 to 6.

The end result of a prospect showcase like the Futures Game is essentially meaningless. Batting practice and infield/outfield drills, which occur before the cameras even turn on, are more informative. But, to me, the scouting-related feats of strength and athleticism seen throughout Sunday’s festivities (which I promise to address further down) were secondary to another development — namely, the number of and the performances by the game’s African-American players.

Only 7% of big leaguers are African-American, which is way down from about 27% during much of the 1970s. Articles about the declining number of black athletes in baseball have been written so frequently over the last half-decade that I assume readers are at least somewhat familiar with the issue, but if you’d like background, USA Today conducts the annual census. Like any shift of this magnitude, a confluence of variables is probably at the heart of what has caused this decline. Some of those are probably cultural, and this aspect of the decline is one about which people are quick to speculate , but, as a 29-year-old white guy, I’m not exactly qualified to discuss the African-American experience and how it does or does not intersect with baseball.

But I know the scouting process and, like many systems and processes in the United States, it has grown increasingly less suited for economically disadvantaged people — and people of color in this country are disproportionately poor. Showcases and travel ball are becoming a more significant aspect of scouting and player development in youth baseball. These cost money for the participants — to say nothing of flights to and from places like Florida and Arizona for several tournaments a year, mandated hotels in these locations, and the cost of breakable wood bats and other equipment. To take one example, each of the 328 teams participating in this week’s 2021 Class/Under 15 World Wood Bat Association Championship in Atlanta had a $2,500 entry fee, and it costs spectators $55 for a tournament pass and $5 to park. Baseball is a skill-based game and those skills are best refined against high levels of competition, but it’s expensive for an individual kid to play the kind of high-level baseball that helps develop those skills.

When I broach this subject with people in baseball, I’m met with some resistance from individuals who think the game is incentivized to mine as much talent as possible and that, poor or not, talent will be discovered. And while I agree with this premise, I think there are young athletes in this country who have the physical capability to play professional baseball but whom the scouting industry will never discover because that talent is never cultivated.

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FanGraphs Audio: Dan Szymborski, Full-Time Employee

Episode 823
Dan Szymborski is the owner-operator of the ZiPS projection system. Previously a contributer to Baseball Think Factory and ESPN Insider, he has recently become FanGraphs’ newest full-time employee. He’s also the guest on this 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 39 min play time.)

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The Worst Called Ball of the First Half

Only days ago, the Red Sox trailed the Blue Jays 8-7 going into the top of the eighth. The Blue Jays might be long past the point of playing for anything, but the Red Sox are still actively trying to hold off the Yankees, and so, with that in mind, every game of theirs is important. The eighth inning was given to Joe Kelly, and with his first pitch, he hit the first batter. With his third pitch, he allowed a single to the second batter. The third batter was Justin Smoak, and consecutive changeups ran the count to 1-and-1. Catcher Sandy Leon expected a breaking ball. Kelly threw a changeup instead.

The pitch — that pitch — was called a ball, with Leon ducking out of surprise. The pitch, of course, was down the middle of the plate, but instead of 1-and-2, the count became 2-and-1. Also, because the ball got away, the runner on second moved up to third. Two pitches later, Smoak hit an RBI single. On the very next pitch, Kendrys Morales hit an RBI double. The Blue Jays pulled away, eventually winning by six. Kelly and Leon were left to wonder how they got crossed up. They were left to wonder, as well, how an obvious strike became a critical ball.

That was almost the worst called ball of the season’s first half. The actual worst called ball, however, came only three days before. Leading up to the All-Star break, we had a little run of these things.

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Players’ View: Learning and Developing a Pitch, Part 17

Pitchers learn and develop different pitches, and they do so at varying stages of their lives. It might be a curveball in high school, a cutter in college, or a changeup in A-ball. Sometimes the addition or refinement is a natural progression — graduating from Pitching 101 to advanced course work — and often it’s a matter of necessity. In order to get hitters out as the quality of competition improves, a pitcher needs to optimize his repertoire.

In the seventeenth installment of this series, we’ll hear from three pitchers — Matt Barnes, Cam Bedrosian, and Jesse Chavez — on how they learned and/or developed a specific pitch.

———

Matt Barnes (Red Sox) on His Curveball

“I was in Double-A (Portland) with Brandon Workman and Anthony Ranaudo, and I think we were in Trenton, playing the Yankees at their place. I’d just pitched the day before and my curveball wasn’t good. They were like, ‘Try using a spiked grip.’ I was like, ‘I’ve never done it before.’ They said, ‘We both use it,’ and the rest is history. We started playing catch with it and I’ve had that grip ever since.

“Why did it work better for me than a conventional grip? I don’t know. There are little things in baseball. People could be saying the same thing to you, but one verbiage just latches on and allows you to understand it. The grip just felt natural to me. It felt easier to spin the baseball. What you’re trying to do is spin it as fast as you can, downward, to create the action, yet still be able to command it. I wasn’t able to do that with the grip I had before that, and what they showed me worked. Read the rest of this entry »


Why the Cubs and Yankees Should Swap Tyler Chatwood and Sonny Gray

I know what you’re thinking even before you complete the first paragraph of this post: Sheryl’s trade proposal probably sucks.

I don’t blame you. Most trade proposals suck. As we pass the All-Star week contemplating trade value, though, I thought I’d take an opportunity to indulge myself by imagining a deal that makes too much sense (in my head, at least) not to happen. I contend that, before this year’s July 31 trade deadline, the Chicago Cubs should trade Tyler Chatwood to the New York Yankees for Sonny Gray.

One flaw is immediately apparent: contending clubs rarely make trades with other contenders. Why would they? Teams bound for the postseason are typically looking to add present talent while surrendering players with future value. Both the Cubs and Yankees are contenders. Both Chatwood and Gray are major leaguers. So already this is improbable. Because of their struggles, though, Chatwood and Gray actually possess unlocked future value, though — future value that another club, in my opinion, is more likely to unlock.

I’ve written about both pitchers this year. Both have struggled. Let’s start with Chatwood. When I examined his season back on May 22, he had a 3.14 ERA despite an 18.3% walk rate and 102 FIP-, the latter figure mostly on the back of an unsustainable 3% HR/FB. Since then, his walk rate has actually increased; since May 22, he’s recorded an 18.8% walk rate. That’s bad. Not only has Chatwood produced the highest walk rate among pitchers with 30 or more innings this season, but his 18.6% mark would actually represent the second highest among qualifiers* since the integration of baseball.

*The highest mark since integration is 20.3%, produced by Tommy Byrne in 1949. Improbably, Byrne still managed to record a 92 ERA- that year — that is, he prevented runs 8% better than a league-average pitcher. Overall, Byrne made 170 starts in the majors and logged 1362.0 innings, posting a career walk rate of 16.8% but still managing a 103 ERA-.

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2018 Trade Value: #31 to #40

Jose Altuve will not be constrained by your “aging curves.”
(Photo: Keith Allison)

As is the annual tradition at FanGraphs, we’re using the week of the All-Star Game — while the industry pauses to take a metaphorical breather — to take stock of the top-50 trade assets in the sport. For more context on exactly what we’re trying to do here, see the honorable-mentions post linked at the top of the page.

For this post and the others in this series, I’ve presented a graphic (by way of the wizard Sean Dolinar) breaking down each player’s objective skill level (represented, in this case, by a five-year WAR projection from ZiPS), contract/team-control details, rank in last year’s series, and then year-by-year details of age/WAR/contract through 2023, although a couple players have control beyond those five years. For those readers who are partial to spreadsheets rather than blocks of text, I’ve also included all the players we’ve ranked so far are in grid format at the bottom of the post.

The ZiPS WAR forecasts did influence the rankings a bit: for players who were bunched together, it acted as an impartial tiebreaker of sorts, but the industry opinions I solicited drove the rankings.

With that said, let’s get to the next 10 spots on the Trade Value list this year.

Five-Year WAR +14.5
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2024
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2019 23 +2.8 Pre-Arb
2020 24 +3.0 Pre-Arb
2021 25 +3.0 Arb1
2022 26 +2.8 Arb2
2023 27 +2.9 Arb3
Pre-Arb
Arb

I feel like I’m supposed to kick this off with a Ferris Bueller reference, but I couldn’t come up with anything fitting. Walker is one of the rare prospects who gets the coveted “has a chance to become be an ace” label that’s only true of a handful of pitchers on Earth at a given time. For all the (rightful) handwringing about how scouts don’t truly understand upside when guys like Joses Altuve or Ramirez can emerge as the best hitters in the game after never appearing on a top-100 list, the group of aces who weren’t at some point described as a potential ace is basically just Cliff Lee, and he was touted in the minors.

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The All-Star Game Is the Worst Part of All-Star Week

Of all those 1970s disaster movies, the worst one for me has always been The Swarm. Featuring an impressive cast, with names such as Michael Caine, Henry Fonda, Richard Chamberlain, José Ferrer, and Olivia de Havilland (along with many others), the film’s stars muddle their way through roughly three uninteresting hours, all the time looking like they had accidentally wandered in from other, more interesting movies. Every star gets his or her own cameo, and typically a random death, like when the bees destroy a helicopter or when the bees derail a train or when Henry Fonda decides to test a vaccine by giving himself a large dose of it and crossing his fingers. I’ll leave any connection between that last misfortune and the Orioles’ most recent offseason to the reader.

Despite the ambition of the film, what it lacked was any sense of fun, any sense of purpose for having assembled such talent. And that’s why it works as an able metaphor for the All-Star Game. There are a lot of great things about All-Star Week. The Futures Game gives the wider public what is, for many, their first look at players like Hunter Greene or Peter Alonso. As used to be the case for the All-Star Game, many of the players involved in the Futures Game are facing off each other for the first time — in this case, thanks to rosters constructed of players from across the minor leagues. That kind of unfamiliarity is rare to see at the major-league level, both because of free agency and also interleague play, the latter of which is now a daily occurrence. But my colleague Travis Sawchik has more on that!

The Home Run Derby is nonsense in a lot of ways, but it’s fun, glorious nonsense, which takes one important aspect of baseball (hitting for power), fills it with helium and cotton candy, and then sends it on its merry way. While cotton candy oughtn’t be the foundation of a every meal, it’s fine for an occasional celebration. As Jay Jaffe noted this morning, last night’s Home Run Derby captured this atmosphere perfectly. The participants were all clearly having a blast and that kind of feeling is infectious. Watching Bryce Harper come from behind in the finals, smacking nine consecutive homers to pass Kyle Schwarber is one of those Big Moments© you remember 10 years later, the kind of thing that makes watching baseball a joyful experience.

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Meg Rowley FanGraphs Chat – 7/17/18

12:00
Meg Rowley: Good morning all, and welcome to the chat!

12:01
Meg Rowley: As I mentioned last week, there is likely to be a bit of shifting around with the Tuesday schedule in the weeks to come so that we aren’t doubling up on chats.

12:01
Meg Rowley: But until then, here I am!

12:01
Waltharius: Why would LAD need Machado? They have enough hitting in Taylor at SS, and Turner at 3B

12:03
Meg Rowley: It allows them to move on from Forsythe. Heyman had a tweet on how they’d shift around the infield and I imagine it’s pretty close to what you’d see.

12:03
Rox Rox Purple Sox: Rockies have a ton of infield prospects in the pipeline (Bregman, Hampson, Welker). Do you think those guys factor into a decision to resign LeMahieu this year, or are they too far away?

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How Realignment Could Improve the All-Star Game

During FanGraphs’ editorial weekend in Denver last month, this correspondent excused himself to spend some time in the Rockies clubhouse and Coors Field press box. There I found MLB.com Rockies beat writer Thomas Harding realigning baseball in his reporter’s notebook.

This contributor finds playing expansion czar to be an interesting thought exercise. Soon that afternoon, some Mets beats writers also joined the discussion, sharing their thoughts. Anytime there is a realignment-based post on this Web site or elsewhere, it tends to generate interest. Many of us like to play commissioner.

We’re almost certainly headed toward a future of 32 teams. MLB is in its longest expansion drought in the modern era. Rob Manfred has expressed a desire to expand — and preferably to add at least one international location. One of the major benefits Manfred has cited in the move to 32 teams is the ease of scheduling it would create. Namely, the game would not have to schedule a constant, rotating interleague series.

In fact, it would allow MLB to dramatically reduce the need for interleague play altogether.
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