Archive for October, 2012

Royals Bet on Ervin Santana, Inflation

The Angels had until today to decide whether to exercise Ervin Santana’s $13 million option or pay him a $1 million buyout and make him a free agent. After a miserable 2012 season, it was pretty obvious that they weren’t interested in picking up the option, so today, they shipped him to Kansas City.

The deal, as reported by Ken Rosenthal, is Santana and cash for LHP Brandon Sisk. Given that the Angels could have made Santana go away for $1 million and that Sisk is a 27-year-old reliever who has never pitched in the Majors, it’s a pretty safe bet that the Angels aren’t kicking in much more than that $1 million they would have owed either way. The Royals are almost certainly going to have to pay $11-$12 million of Santana’s salary in 2013.

So, is he worth that kind of cash? Well, maybe.

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Baseball’s Most Selective Hitter

Generally speaking, a decent proxy for a batter’s understanding of the strike zone is his O-Swing% — that is, the percentage of pitches outside of the zone at which he offers. The lower that figure, the less often a player is offering at pitches outside of the zone. The less often a player is offering at pitches outside of the zone, the more likely he is both to draw walks and (one assumes) swing at better pitches inside the zone.

As to the first point, that is borne out by the numbers: O-Swing% and walk rate correlate rather tightly. Consider the following graph, for example, which includes the O-Swing%s (from the PITCHf/x zone) and walk rates for all 143 qualified batters from 2012. (Note: average O-Swing% among this population is 28.9%. Standard deviation is 5.7%.)

As for the second point, however — that O-Swing% necessarily indicates a better idea of the strike zone — it recently occurred to the author (who isn’t very sharp) that perhaps these are not the same thing. Anyone who ever saw Mark Bellhorn bat, for example, will know that it’s sometimes possible for a player not only to refrain from swinging outside of the zone, but also to avoid swinging altogether. There is a difference, however, between selectivity — which we’ll define, for the sake of this post, as “ability to discern between balls and strikes” — and a refusal to swing the bat. The former, we reason, is a good thing; the latter, less so.

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Giving the Gold Glove Voters Some Credit

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t planning on writing about the Gold Gloves today. They were announced on a Tuesday evening at 10 pm eastern, having been delayed because ESPN2 had a racing program go overtime. Or at least that’s what I gathered on Twitter, because I wasn’t watching them. It seems like these awards are getting the recognition they deserve based on their years of hilariously poor selections.

But, in this afternoon’s chat, there were a lot of Gold Glove related questions. Most of them were outrage based, wanting to know who was the biggest snub or who was the worst recipient of the award. There were jokes about Adam Jones. People are good at making fun of the Gold Gloves, because for a long time, the Gold Gloves have been the most mockable award in sports. At this point, they might as well change the cliche to death, taxes, and making fun of bad Gold Glove selections.

And, of course, there were some bad Gold Glove selections this year, so there has been mocking today. But, perhaps lost in the annual tradition of scorn heaping is the fact that there’s pretty clear evidence that the managers are getting better at this.

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Dodgers Make Haste to Re-Sign Brandon League

Following Sunday’s conclusion of the World Series, there began the relatively brief Quiet Period — a period of time during which teams have exclusive negotiation rights with pending free agents. After the Quiet Period, anybody can reach out to anybody. Any player can sign with any team that he wants. The Los Angeles Dodgers had a pending free agent in Brandon League, and they didn’t want to risk exposing him to the open market, so Tuesday night, word got out that the Dodgers had signed League to a three-year contract.

With a fourth-year vesting option, based on games finished. As is, the three guaranteed years are worth $22.5 million. That is, the Dodgers signed League to a three-year, $22.5 million contract. The contract could end up being bigger than that, when it’s all said and done. We can all agree that paying this sort of money for a non-elite setup man would be ridiculous. And that isn’t what the Dodgers have done, as Ned Colletti says that League will be the team’s closer going forward. Closers make more money. It’s in the very definition of “closing”.

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The 2012 Carter-Batista Award

Award season is upon us. Perhaps this dates me (or at least my methods) as a blogger, but to me, this is a fun time to bust out a series of awards and rankings based on stats and metrics with varying degrees of usefulness. Today I will begin with the 2012 Joe CarterTony Batista Award for the hitter whose 2012 RBI total most exaggerates his actual offensive contribution.

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The Market for Dan Haren

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have until Friday to decide what they’re going to do with Dan Haren. The team has a $15.5 million dollar option for 2013 or it can choose a $3.5 million buyout, which would make Haren a free agent. There’s no doubt there will be suitors for Haren — should he hit the free-agent market — but the question the Angels are probably trying to figure out is if there’s a market for him at $12 million.

If the Angels can find a trade partner, it’s likely they’d pick up the $15.5 million option and send $3.5 million in cash with Haren for whatever parts would be acceptable in return. This is obviously preferable than absolutely nothing for $3.5 million, and it’s not out of the question that the Angels might find a middling prospect or perhaps a useful bullpen piece. Or, another option would be to simply pay the man with the hope he can regain the form that saw him average better than 5 WAR in the past seven seasons. Given their recent dangling of Haren on the trade front seems to suggest the team thinks such a hope is foolhardy.

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FanGraphs Chat – 10/31/12


National TV Ratings for World Series Tell Only Part of the Story

First, the national TV ratings for the World Series were released. The lowest in history! Lower than the last time the San Francisco Giants played in the World Series! Then came the commentary about how boring the series was — how it lacked national stars, how the ratings show interest in baseball is dying.

Stop. Baseball is alive and well. It’s simply not consumed on a national level and hasn’t been for some time.

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Daily Notes: Contract Crowdsourcing, Starters (Part 3)

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of Daily Notes.

1. Contract Crowdsourcing: Starting Pitchers (3 of 3)
2. SCOUT Leaderboard: Dominican Winter League Hitters
3. Video: Marcell Ozuna Swinging a Lot

Contract Crowdsourcing: Starting Pitchers (3 of 3)
Free agency begins this coming Saturday. FanGraphs is asking readers to estimate the years and average annual dollar values likely to be received by certain notable free agents. We continue today with the third third of this free-agent class’s notable starting pitchers. (Click here for more on the contract crowdsourcing project.)

Other positions: Catchers / First Basemen / Second Basemen / Third Basemen / Shortstops / Corner Outfielders / Center Fielders / Designated Hitters / Right-Handed Relievers / Left-Handed Relievers / Starting Pitchers (Part 1) / Starting Pitchers (Part 2).

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Effectively Wild Episode 73: Did the Dodgers Overpay for Brandon League?/Are Gold Glove Voters and Defensive Stats Learning to get Along?

Ben and Sam discuss the three-year deal the Dodgers gave Brandon League and reliever salaries in general, then talk about whether Gold Glove voters and advanced defensive stats agree more often than they used to.


White Sox Re-Sign Jake Peavy for 2/$29M

Faced with a $22 million team option for 2013 or paying Jake Peavy a $4 million buyout and letting him hit free agency, the White Sox went with Door #3; re-sign him to an extension that lowers his annual payout but keeps him in Chicago through 2014 and gives them a team option for 2015.

The new deal is worth $29 million guaranteed, with a few million of that likely being a buyout of the 2015 option, so Peavy’s salary each year is probably going to be $13 or $14 million. Given his performance history, that’s a bargain if he stays healthy. Of course, with Peavy, that’s a bigger if than with most.

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The Qualifying Offer and You

Hello there, friends. If you are a fan of the San Francisco Giants, congratulations on your recent world championship. If you are a fan of the Detroit Tigers, the opposite of that. If you are a fan of any other team, then for at least the last week or so you’ve probably been looking forward to the start of the offseason. The offseason is when baseball teams are most able to change themselves, and a changed baseball team is a better baseball team. Or at least that’s the hope, if only sometimes the reality.

The offseason means trades, but the offseason also means rumors and the offseason means free agency. Thanks to the new CBA that before long we’ll be able to stop referring to as the “new CBA”, free agency is going to look a little bit different from how it used to. I’m referring specifically to free-agent compensation, and at the core here is the concept of the “qualifying offer”. That’s a term you’re going to see thrown around — that’s a term you’ve already seen thrown around — and we should discuss it. It’s not that complicated, so if you’re unclear about qualifying offers and if you have a few minutes, lend me those few minutes.

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A Quick Walk Through The New Hot Stove Rules

With the World Series behind us and free agency officially kicking off on Saturday, the Hot Stove season is now upon us. While it’s unlikely that you’ll see anyone change teams immediately, there are always some free agents that sign pretty quickly, setting the market for others to follow. Before we get too far into evaluating the moves and the contracts of the winter, though, I thought it would be useful to walk through some of the changes that the new CBA has brought on that have a direct impact on free agency and will likely have a trickle down effect on trade evaluations.

Obviously, the biggest change is the overhaul of the free agent compensation system. Gone are the ridiculous Elias ratings that separated players into Type A or B free agents, taking with it the necessary component of offering arbitration to a pending free agent in order to collect that compensation. Instead of offering arbitration, teams must now submit a qualifying offer equal to the average salary of the 125 highest paid players in the game – this year, that works out to $13.3 million. In essence, a team that wants to be compensated for losing a free agent has to be willing to bring that player back for $13 million in 2013, which will greatly reduce the amount of players who get tagged with a compensation requirement.

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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat – 10/30/12


Daily Notes: Contract Crowdsourcing, Starters (Part 2)

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of Daily Notes.

1. Contract Crowdsourcing: Starting Pitchers (2 of 3)
2. SCOUT Leaderboard: Arizona Fall League Pitchers
3. Assorted Remarks Concerning Arizona Prospect Chase Anderson

Contract Crowdsourcing: Starting Pitchers (2 of 3)
Free agency begins this coming Saturday. FanGraphs is asking readers to estimate the years and average annual dollar values likely to be received by certain notable free agents. We continue today with the second third of this free-agent class’s notable starting pitchers. (Click here for more on the contract crowdsourcing project.)

Other positions: Catchers / First Basemen / Second Basemen / Third Basemen / Shortstops / Corner Outfielders / Center Fielders / Designated Hitters / Right-Handed Relievers / Left-Handed Relievers / Starting Pitchers (Part 1).

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Dominican Walk Rates Over Time

Last week, Jorge Arangure wrote a nice piece on the lack of plate patience among Domican hitters. The article was helpful in illustrating the conditions that reinforce the oft-cited Dominican baseball adage that “you can’t walk off of the island.” It also inspired me to take a little look at the historical numbers among Dominican-born players to see if there’s been any change in walk rates over the years.

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Effectively Wild Episode 72: How Many Members of the Angels’ Rotation Will Be Back?/Predicting the First- and Last-Place Teams of 2013

Ben and Sam discuss the decisions the Angels are about to make concerning Dan Haren and Ervin Santana and talk about what their 2013 rotation will look like, then predict 2013’s division/World Series winners and last-place teams.


2012 Postseason: Officially Where Offense Went to Die

Sunday night, when last there was baseball, Miguel Cabrera stood in against Matt Cain in the bottom of the third with a runner on base. In a 1-and-1 count, Cabrera lifted an offspeed pitch into right field, and off the bat it looked like a fairly routine fly ball. But on this night in Detroit, no fly ball was a routine fly ball, and Cabrera’s just continued to carry and carry. It kept on carrying until finally it carried over the fence and gave the Tigers their first lead of the whole World Series. Gusts of wind turned a probable out into a two-run dinger. According to the Home Run Tracker, Cabrera’s fly lost seven feet of distance due to the low temperature, but it gained an incredible 44 feet of distance due to the wind. Under standard conditions, it’s calculated that the fly ball would have been a home run in zero ballparks.

On a chilly night, Miguel Cabrera batted under hitter-friendly conditions, and he took advantage of them. It wouldn’t be enough for the Tigers, of course, and that isn’t what this is about. Rather, this is about the rarity of hitter-friendly conditions over the course of the 2012 playoffs. Or if you prefer, this is about the rarity of hitters taking advantage of what hitter-friendly conditions there might have been during October.

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FanGraphs Audio: Dave Cameron Analyzes All Baseball

Episode 266
FanGraphs managing editor Dave Cameron analyzes all baseball — and, in particular, the part of baseball concerning Gregor Blanco, Marco Scutaro, and the Giants’ particularly able roster construction. Also: Tim Lincecum, future reliever (in the tradition of Willie Hernandez)? And, finally: free agency, which starts soon.

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 40 min. play time.)

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Leaderboards: Non-Pitchers

There’s a new positional option for the leaderboards labeled NP (Non-Pitchers). This will exclude all players that qualify as pitchers from any of the batting leaderboards.

This works at both the team and league levels as well, making it easier to compare teams across leagues.