Archive for February, 2012

White Sox Keenyn Walker Is All Tools

Last June, the Chicago White Sox plucked outfielder Keenyn Walker from the junior college ranks with the 47th overall pick in the amateur draft. After seeing him in person late in the 2011 season, it became apparent the organization tried to have their cake and eat it too to some extent with the selection of Walker. How so? For a touch under $800,000 in signing bonus, Walker has tools better than players I’ve scouted who have received two to three times as much in signing bonus, but his baseball skills are on par with somewhat skillful teenagers seen at the level.

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Second Wild Card Spot “A Go” for 2012

According to Ken Rosenthal on Twitter, Major League Baseball and the Player’s Association have come to some sort of agreement that will allow for the possibility of expanded playoffs beginning this season, and an announcement to that effect will come tomorrow.

At the beginning of the month, Jayson Stark highlighted some of the issues with expanding the playoffs for 2012 after the schedules had already been set. Because the dates for the end of the regular season (October 3rd) and the beginning of the World Series (October 24th) are set in stone and cannot be moved, the league had to figure out how to get the play-in games (and any potential tie-breakers) into a three week window that already needed to house the Division and League Championship series. As Stark noted, the most likely way to handle this issue was to eliminate a day off during the Division Series, so the five game sets would be played out over six days.

I’m all in favor of contracted schedules for playoff series that do more to emulate the pace of the regular season. Teams have been able to manipulate the off days in the postseason schedule to lean heavily on just a few pitchers, and a more compact schedule should make depth more valuable in the postseason. I’d consider that a good thing.

However, the regular season schedule is created with travel in mind. When a team has a cross country flight, they often have a travel day to assist them in getting to their destination, or will play a “getaway” afternoon game that gets them in the air with enough time to still get some sleep in their new city that evening. Since MLB cannot control the geographical distance between Division Series opponents, it is quite possible that we could have a first round match-up between teams 2,000+ miles apart – say, for instance, the Angels and the Red Sox. That would be problematic if the schedule for the Division Series called for games on October 6th, 7th, 9th, 10th, and 11th.

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If Nothing Else, JPA Should At Least Stick Around

I have no idea if JPA — which sounds like the name of some backwoods, Alaskan air strip (or, sure, Brazil) — is an actual nickname for the Toronto Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia, but his name is surprisingly long (13 characters, not including the space), which is nuts, considering his name is actually just one name and two letters (my name, in the short version — Brad Woodrum — is only 11 characters); so what I’m saying here is that I couldn’t fit “J.P. Arencibia” in the title. But he still certainly deserves the post.

Last year, the Blue Jays handed their chief catching duties to 25-year-old Arencibia, and he promptly clobbered some 23 home runs and began looking like the legitimate heir to homer-happy, walk-disenchanted John Buck — from whom he received his starting role. Arencibia’s homers came with an uninspiring .282 OBP, putting him at a less-than-awesome .309 wOBA and 92 wRC+.

A lot of hope is riding on J.P. Arencibia — not only has he shown some early promise, but he also comes with a solid pedigree. As recently as last year, Marc Hulet rated him as the No. 3 prospect in a deep Blue Jays system. In 2012, JPA will once again saddle up as the Jays’ starting catcher, but how will he do?
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Daily Notes for February 29th

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for the thing that’s now called Daily Notes.

1. Injury Reports
2. Other Assorted Headlines
3. GIF: Josh Banks’s Kunckleball

Injury Reports
Freeman Injures Knee, Out Maybe Two Weeks
Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman has a sublux (partial dislocation) of the right kneecap after being injured during a fielding drill near the end of Tuesday’s workout, reports David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution almost verbatim. MLB.com’s Mark Bowman notes that the injury occurred as Freeman was attempting to pick a low throw out of the dirt and might force the Braves first baseman to miss upwards of two weeks — i.e. how long it took him to recover after suffering a similar injury in May 2010 at Triple-A Gwinnett.

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Catcher Pitch Blocking & WAR Update

Back in October, Bojan Koprivica wrote an excellent research piece on determining the difficulty of blocking every major league pitch.

Our WAR implementation now includes Bojan’s pitch-blocking algorithm dating back to the 2008 season. This impacts catchers only, with a maximum range of +/- 7 runs per season. The vast majority of catchers will see a change of +/- 2 runs or less per season.

We’ve also included two new stats in our fielding section: CPP and RPP.

CPP – The expected number of passed pitches.
RPP – The number of runs above / below average a pitcher is at blocking pitches.

You can check out these leaderboards to see which catchers have benefited the most since 2008 and here are the RPP leaderboards for individual seasons since 2008.

Much thanks goes out to Bojan for helping us get his metric up on the site! We will be updating CPP rand RPP weekly (possibly daily) throughout the 2012 season.


FanGraphs Chat – 2/29/12


MLB Draft: High School Arms To Watch

After such a talent-laden draft class last year, it is quite easy to feel a bit underwhelmed with the upcoming crop of players for the 2012 MLB Draft. That does not mean the draft class is bereft of big league talent or necessarily poor. It simply reflects just how good the ’11 group of draftees was largely thought to be. Plenty of quality players exist in the ’12 draft class.

Much of the talent lies within the high school arms. The hype surrounding prep pitchers tends to increase as we inch closer to June, as reports stream in throughout the high school baseball season regarding increased velocity, growth spurts, and improved control of offspeed pitches. Thus, the rankings will ebb and flow with unknown names climbing the list after stellar high school seasons, impressive private workouts, and well-established pitchers falling after mediocre seasons. It happens every single year.

Despite the fluidity of the overall rankings, certain names routinely top the charts. They will be the ones to watch this spring. Here are ten names (featuring brief scouting reports based upon online video and various online scouting reports) in no particular order with which to familiarize yourself prior to spring baseball:

RHP Lucas Giolito — Harvard-Westlake (Studio City, CA)

Giolito is largely considered the best prep arm — if not the best arm, period — in the draft. He sits in the low-to-mid 90s with his fastball, but can reportedly run it up to 97 MPH (or higher) on a good day. His curveball is a legitimate out-pitch with two-plane break that can be thrown for strikes or spiked into the dirt, while his changeup remains a work-in-progress. Scouts love his 6-foot-6 frame and believe he has some room to fill out.

On Tuesday 2/28: Giolito threw 6.1 IP of one-hit baseball with eight strikeouts and no walks. He reportedly hit 100 MPH on the radar gun multiple times in the first and second innings.

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Broadcaster Rankings (TV): #20 – #11

Introduction and #31
#30 – #21

Beginning in late November, we’ve spent much of the offseason asking readers to rate the television broadcast teams (on a scale of 1-5 for charisma, analysis, and then overall) for all 30 major-league clubs — with the intention, ultimately, of determining which broadcasts might best reflect the sorts of inquiry and analysis performed here at the site. (Click here for more on this project.)

Below are the 20th- through 11th-ranked television broadcast teams, per the FanGraphs readership.

But first, three notes:
• Teams are ranked in ascending order of Overall rating. Overall ratings are not merely averages of Charisma and Analysis.
• I’ve attempted to choose reader comments that are either (a) illustrative of the team’s place in the rankings or (b) conspicuously amusing.
• A complete table of ratings and ballots cast will appear in these pages Friday.

20. Pittsburgh Pirates
Broadcasters: Some combination of Greg Brown, Tim Neverett, Bob Walk, Steve Blass, and John Wehner
Ratings (Charisma/Analysis/Overall): 3.1, 2.9, 3.0

Three Reader Comments
• “Walk and Brown are very good, Blass and Wehner are pretty weak. Neverett has the chops but lacks the personality in his short time on the job.”
• “Tim N. and Wehner are probably the least annoying combo, but also the least frequent.”
• “They truly detract from the experience of enjoying a game on TV, which is basically the worst thing one can say about announcers.”

Notes
There’s some disagreement among respondents as to whom, precisely, is most deserving of their scorn — besides Blass, perhaps, about whom readers are mostly unified in their scorn. Speaking anecdotally, I found this interview by Bob Walk with Charlie Morton from last May to be enlightening.

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Filling Oakland’s 3B Hole: Conor Gillaspie

Oakland was dealt a moderate blow this month when third baseman Scott Sizemore went down with a season-ending ACL injury. Our very own Jack Moore looked at some of the implications yesterday. With limited depth at the position, as noted by Jack, the A’s now are scrambling to find a replacement and the obvious options are not that enticing. The search may not be all that difficult or hopeless, though, since a cost-effective option can be found in nearby San Francisco.

Conor Gillaspie, 24, was a supplemental first round draft pick (37th overall) in 2008 — the same draft that saw the club acquire catcher Buster Posey with the fifth-overall selection. With 25-year-old Pablo Sandoval, already manning the Giants’ hot corner, Gillaspie is an afterthought who’s set to spend a second straight season at triple-A.

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FanGraphs After Dark Chat – 2/28/11


FanGraphs Audio: Whatever, Dayn Perry

Episode 147
In this episode, both host and guest Dayn Perry attempt a “reading” of the recent Ryan Braun press conference as if it were a text — a technique borrowed from the discipline known as Cultural Studies. And, as will someday happen to the hearts of everyone reading this, they (i.e. host and Dayn Perry) fail completely. Also discussed: Al Hrabosky, gangs.

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 37 min. play time.)

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Big Money Rides off into the Sunset

The eldest of the flying Molina trio, Bengie Molina officially hung up his cleats Monday, though technically they hadn’t been used in well over a year. And while the news of his retirement flew under the radar a bit — perhaps due to not playing in over a year, and perhaps because it was overshadowed by Yadi’s extension — today we’ll try provide an adequate appreciation for just how good he was over his 13-year career. Read the rest of this entry »


Sizemore Leaves Oakland With Third Base Wasteland

It has been a bad spring training for Sizemores. Besides Grady’s seemingly annual injury, Athletics’ third baseman Scott Sizemore fell to an ACL tear earlier yesterday and will be lost for the entire season. For as deep as the Athletics have made their outfield this winter, their infield is paper-thin. It becomes obvious as manager Bob Melvin attempts to sell his team’s depth on the left side of the diamond:

“In his absence, we feel we have some viable options in Adam Rosales, Eric Sogard and Josh Donaldson. They can all bring something to the position,” Melvin said.

Donaldson is a catcher prospect with a .795 OPS in two seasons at Triple-A. Rosales has a .281 career wOBA and is coming off a broken foot in 2011. Eric Sogard has played 25 professional games at the position and brings a similar minor league track record to Donaldson. Although the A’s could just slog their way to a third or fourth place finish with these three players, chances are they will at least take a gander outside of the organization to fill the void left by Sizemore’s injury.

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Top 15 Prospects: Tampa Bay Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays organization has separated itself well from the mentality that once saw the organization make some interesting choices during the original expansion draft of 1997 and then make a big slash in the free agent pool with the likes of Fred McGriff, Wade Boggs, and Roberto Hernandez (and later Jose Canseco). That approach – an immediate win-now mentality – crashed and burned very quickly with no organizational depth to fill in the big league gaps. The club has spent the last few years developing in-house – and high-ceiling – talent with the likes of David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, and Evan Longoria. This is the recipe for success for a club that cannot afford to battle the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox for the highest payroll in the American League East division. The organization enjoyed a plethora of picks before the third round of the 2011 draft and, while they picked some very intriguing prospects, I would still describe the haul as more quantity over quality. A number of over-drafts were made within the selections to keep the budget reasonable for the small-market-minded team.

1. Matt Moore, LHP
BORN: June 18, 1989
EXPERIENCE: 5 seasons
ACQUIRED: 2007 8th round, New Mexico HS
2010-11 TOP 10 RANKING: 2nd

Moore enters the 2012 season with perhaps as much hype as any other rookie hurler in the last five to 10 years, save for a fella named Stephen Strasburg of Washington. The lefty has a chance to be as good or better as fellow-home-grown-southpaw David Price, although he was acquired out of the college ranks and selected first overall in 2007. Moore, an eighth rounder from that very same draft, is a much better story in terms of the organization’s player development. He has a chance to be as good or better than some of the other prep arms nabbed in the first round of that draft including: Jarrod Parker (Arizona, now with Oakland), Madison Bumgarner (San Francisco), Phillippe Aumont (Seattle, now with Philly), Blake Beavan (Texas, now with Seattle), Chris Withrow (Los Angeles NL), Tim Alderson (San Francisco, now with Pittsburgh), Michael Main (Texas, now with San Francisco), and Rick Porcello (Detroit). Signed for $115,000, Moore is head and shoulders above anyone else taken in the eighth round; the next best prospect selected in that round would be a toss up between Trevor Reckling (Los Angeles AL) or Jay Voss (Florida, now Detroit). Moore’s repertoire features three potentially plus pitches in a 91-97 mph fastball, nasty curveball and solid changeup. He has all the makings of a No. 1 starter who should eat up tons of innings with a solid frame and worry-free mechanics. The Rays club could feature a killer starting rotation in ’12 with the likes of David Price, James Shields, Moore, Jeremy Hellickson, and either Wade Davis or Jeff Niemann.

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Tom McNamara: Scouting the Mariners Draft

Tom McNamara is playing a major role in the Mariners’ rebuilding efforts. Seattle’s scouting director for each of the past three drafts, McNamara added a franchise cornerstone when he took Dustin Ackley with the second-overall pick in 2009. A year later, he selected a raw high school right-hander named Taijuan Walker — now the team’s top-prospect — 43rd overall. Last June, he boldly nabbed left-hander Danny Hultzen with the second pick of a draft considered to have been one of the deepest in years.

McNamara talked about his scouting philosophy — including what he has learned working under Jack Zduriencik — and the decisions to take Walker and Hultzen.

——

On scouting Hultzen: “About two weeks before the draft we set up our board. We’re running around, seeing players all spring, and then we get into that room and start ranking the players. I keep it simple. We take the best guy and Dan fit that bill for us.

“I saw Dan pitch in high school, so we had a history with him. We saw him all three years in college and he improved each year. He was a Friday-night guy at Virginia, in a good conference, and [last year] I got to see him four times against pitchers who went in the first three rounds. We’d had our eyes on him all spring and wanted to make sure we saw him as much as we could.”

On Zduriencik‘s role in the draft: Read the rest of this entry »


2012 Steamer Projections on FanGraphs!

The 2012 Steamer Projections are now available on FanGraphs courtesy of steamerprojections.com. Massive thanks to Jared Cross, Dash Davidson, and Peter Rosenbloom for putting these together and letting us display them on FanGraphs.

The Steamer projections did quite well in last year’s Forecaster Challenge.

All the usual bells and whistles apply, including FanGraphs+ integration on the projection pages, integrated 5×5 ADP rankings, projections on the player pages, and active roster team filtering.

We are only displaying players that have more than zero plate appearances or innings pitched. AVG/OBP/SLG for batters and ERA for pitchers are projected for additional players in the downloadable spreadsheets.


SABR Analytics Conference

We’re just over two weeks away from the first annual SABR Analytics Conference, and it is shaping up to be a pretty fantastic event. The last time we talked about it, only a few speakers had been publicly announced, but the guys over there have been steadily announcing more and more great additions, and now the full agenda is out for all to see. Some of the daily highlights include:

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Daily Notes: Five Notable Injury Situations


Ack.

With the beginning of Spring Training comes actual reports of actual baseball players. Today’s edition of Daily Notes looks at five injury situations from the earliest days of spring camps.

Tampa Bay’s Moore Has Slight Abdominal Situation
Rays left-hander Matt Moore missed his scheduled batting practice session on Monday due to a mild lower abdominal strain, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Apparently — again, per Topkin — the strain become evident on Friday, while Moore was throwing a bullpen. Moore, as FanGraphs readers likely already know, has been among the top three players on basically every top-whatever prospect list and also signed a decidedly team-friendly contract this offseason. Moore struck out 15 of the 40 (37.5%) major-league batters he faced following a late-season promotion last year.

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Cardinals Extend Yadier Molina At Premium Rate

Yadier Molina is one of my favorite players in the sport. His combination of elite defensive skills and developing offense gives him a real argument to be considered the best catcher in the sport, and he’s one of the main reasons the Cardinals have been a contending team since he took over as their regular catcher in 2005. And, beyond just his on field value, Molina is remarkably entertaining to watch, as his footwork and arm strength allow him to do things that most catchers can’t even dream of.

However, as much as I love Molina, I figured his contract extension talks with the Cardinals would end with him re-signing for something like $40 million over four years with some sort of vesting option at the end of the deal. Instead, he’s reportedly agreed to a five year contract with St. Louis worth between $70 and $75 million, per Ken Rosenthal, which would be the third richest deal for a catcher in the history of the game – only Joe Mauer ($184 million) and Mike Piazza ($91 million) made more in a single contract. Given the enormous gap between what I thought Molina would sign for and what he actually got from St. Louis, my initial reaction is that this was an overpay by the Cardinals. Even as good as Molina’s defense is – and as limited as our abilities are to accurately value catcher defense right now – they’re still signing up for the age 30-34 seasons of a catcher who has carried a pretty heavy workload up to this point in his career. At $14 million per year, Molina is going to have to remain one of the game’s best catchers in order to justify the salary. What are the odds that he’ll still be an elite player in 2017?

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Myers to Close in Houston But Why

Brett Myers is headed back to the closer’s role in Houston. He should be a decent closer. But why, from a team standpoint, would the building Astros shift a capable 200-inning resource into a 70-inning role?

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