Archive for March, 2013

Daily Lineup Information

On our live scoreboard page we now have each game’s lineup for the day. This information from now on should be available as soon as the teams announce their lineups each day, usually many hours before the game.

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We’re also now using this same data to power the “Starter” field in FanGraphs: The Game, so you should know if a player is in the lineup much sooner than before.

If you think things are delayed, or there’s no lineup for a game where you think there should be, please let us know!


FanGraphs Audio: My 92-Year-Old Grandfather

Episode 318
The host’s 92-year-old grandfather, a guest on FanGraphs Audio when he was merely a 91-year-old grandfather, is the guest on this edition of FanGraphs Audio, as well. Discussed: how sugar is poison. And also: tips for everyone on accentuating your physical assets.

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 34 min play time.)

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FanGraphs: The Game 2013!

Good news everyone! You can now make your picks in FanGraphs: The Game for the 2013 season!

For those of you who played last year, you will be able to change the team of any of your players up until you first spend money. So, if you want your players to be on new teams, I advise doing it before you make any picks. You can do this on the settings page.

In addition, your player will keep all of his stats from the 2012 season and continue on to year two of his career.

Lastly, if you had autopick set last year, it has now be unset. If you want to keep playing with autopick on, you will need to make your autopick selections again.

And for those of you who are rookies to FanGraphs: The Game…

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Bidding Farewell to Johan Santana

Johan Santana will go down as one of the game’s best pitchers. I say ‘go down’ because after the news yesterday that Santana has probably re-torn the anterior capsule in his left, or throwing shoulder. Will Carroll said this was about the worst news that Santana could have received. Given how lengthy Santana’s rehab was the first time, and given the fact that he is set to be a free agent at the end of this season, we may have seen the last of the lefty with one of the deadliest changeups in baseball history.

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Giants Wisely Lock Up Buster Posey Forever

If you hadn’t noticed, Major League teams have decided that the best way to use their current financial windfall is to keep their best players for essentially their entire careers. It wasn’t long ago that single team lifers like Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn were the outliers, but now, it is becoming unusual for an elite player to not sign a mega-contract with his original franchise. Just in the last few years, we’ve seen the following players commit to spending the great majority of their careers with just one Major League team:

Joe Mauer, Joey Votto, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Evan Longoria, Felix Hernandez, Matt Kemp, David Wright, Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, Yadier Molina, Ryan Zimmerman, Justin Verlander, Adam Wainwright, and now Buster Posey.

Maybe not all of these players will stay with their current teams for the duration of these contracts, and a few might end up going elsewhere after these deals expire to squeeze an extra year or two out of the end of their careers. These aren’t necessarily contracts “for life”, but they do cover enough of the prime years of the game’s best players that it ensures that their legacy will be forever tied to one franchise. This represents a significant shift for Major League Baseball since free agency began.

Great players still change teams, of course. Albert Pujols left the Cardinals. Prince Fielder left the Brewers. David Price is almost certainly going to leave the Rays. Robinson Cano might leave the Yankees, though I’ll believe that when I see it. It isn’t true that every great player now retires with the team that brought him to the Majors. But there’s no question that MLB teams are moving to make that the more common occurrence, and fewer stars are waiting to get to free agency before cashing in on massive paychecks.

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Justin Verlander Summits Money Mountain

For much of the offseason, Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, and Clayton Kershaw were non-literally linked. All three have been among the most consistently outstanding starting pitchers in the world entire. All three were to enter 2013 two years away from free agency. So all three were to entertain thoughts of signing long-term contract extensions. Felix signed first, re-upping with the Mariners for the rest of days. Now, Friday, with the season just about upon us, Verlander has signed second, re-upping with the Tigers for several days himself.

Depending on how you think about things, Verlander has signed either a seven-year contract or a five-year contract. Verlander was already under contract for $20 million in each of the next two seasons, but upon the new agreement some of the language concerning those two seasons has changed. In any case, after Verlander makes $20 million a year for two years, he’ll make $28 million a year for five. The breakdown:

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2013 Prospect Sleepers: American League

The Major League Baseball off-season has been a busy one in terms of prospect coverage at FanGraphs. First came the Top 15 Prospects lists, then the overall Top 100 Prospects list, and now finally a breakdown of 30 interesting sleeper prospects for the coming year. We looked at one player for each of the National League teams earlier this week, and today we’re rolling out 15 more prospects – one for each of the American League clubs.
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Andrew McCutchen’s Controlled Aggression

Patience has been a big part of Andrew McCutchen’s game since his arrival in Pittsburgh in 2009. The two-time All-Star walked in at least 10 percent of his plate appearances in all four of his MLB seasons.

For McCutchen, consistency has come with patience. His first three seasons saw wOBAs of .363, .359 and .360 respectively. The jump from All-Star to MVP candidate came in 2012, as McCutchen hit .327/.400/.553 and set career highs in all three slash-line stats as well as ISO (.226), home runs (31) and RBI. And it also came with an added bit of aggression at the plate — controlled agression, but aggression nonetheless.

McCutchen set another career high in 2012: he swung at 45.2 percent of pitches, an increase from 40.9 percent in 2011 and 40.8 percent career. But it was controlled aggression: his zone swing rate went up six percent against just a two percent rise in out-of-zone rate, and according to Baseball Prospectus, most of the extra swings were on pitches over the middle third of the plate (see career and 2012 swing rates). More swings in this zone can only be a good thing; more swings means more contact, and McCutchen has a .640 slugging percentage on contact over the middle third of the plate.

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Letting and Not Letting Them Pull

Sam Miller wrote recently about how almost everything he writes serves to lead to a fun fact (or a “factoid”). Sam is one of my favorite writers, and one of my biggest ongoing influences, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’m much the same way. Most of the time, I write about fun facts, and the words just dress the facts up. Sometimes they make the facts look nicer, and sometimes they just get in the way. Right now, they’re getting in the way. I just have some facts for you, and then I’ll shut up.

Not all balls in play are created equal. Of course, there are bunts, grounders, liners, and flies, and fliners too if you want to be obnoxious about it. But if you want to bucket balls in play differently, there are pulled balls, balls up the middle, and balls to the opposite field. These categorizations get less attention, but they can be pretty significant. How a guy’s balls in play are distributed can tell you something about how he’d fit in a certain park. And pulled balls tend to do a lot more damage than not-pulled balls. Intuitively, we know this to be true; looking at the numbers, we also know this to be true.

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2013 FanGraphs Staff Predictions

After last year’s rousing success that included tabbing Albert Pujols for AL MVP, Devin Mesoraco for Rookie of the Year, and Arizona as the National League champions, we’ve decided to make fools of ourselves again. Yes, predictions are basically worthless, even ours. Yes, they’re still kind of fun, and provide a useful reminder of what we all thought was true before the season started. So, here’s the FanGraphs Staff predicting 2013.

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Mike Newman Prospects Chat – 3/29/13


Confusion Still Reigns Over Possible Changes To MLB’s Pension Plan

Last week, ESPN’s Adam Rubin reported that Major League Baseball owners were considering a proposal to “eliminate pensions” of non-union personnel — everyone from scouts to  secretaries who work in the general manager’s office. The story included a quote from MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred who said, essentially, that MLB wasn’t eliminating pensions entirely, but amending MLB’s program to allow teams “more flexibility.”

The story led to a great deal of hue and cry, and perhaps rightfully so: Baseball isn’t a distressed industry. Quite the contrary. As Forbes reported Wednesday, the average MLB team gained 23% in value over the last year, the result of a new $12.4 billion dollar national TV contract, skyrocketing local TV contracts and the revenues generated hand-over-fist by MLB Advanced Media. Manfred wasn’t willing to admit that certain owners are simply looking to spend less money on retirement benefits going forward — even in this era of immense prosperity in baseball — but it’s hard to draw a different conclusion.

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Daily Notes: Live from Cardinals Camp in Jupiter

Table of Contents
Today’s edition of the Daily Notes has no table of contents, it appears.

Live from Cardinals Camp in Jupiter
The author spent part of Thursday afternoon on the backfields at Jupiter, Florida’s Roger Dean Stadium, spring home both to the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals. It was a camp day for the Cardinals, and the observations which follow are from a game between that club’s Double- and Triple-A rosters.

While reading them (i.e. the following observations), the reader would do well to remember that the author is an amateur in every respect.

On Jorge Rondon and His Fastball
Right-hander Jorge Rondon pitched only an inning today, but definitely threw harder than any of the five or seven or whatever other pitchers who appeared in the game. All told, he threw maybe six total pitches in that one inning — all of them, so far as I could tell, fastballs at ca. 96 mph — and induced three ground-ball outs. There’s not a lot to be deduced from his appearance — except this, of course: Jorge Rondon throws at 96 mph. Matt Eddy reported a similar velocity in a minor-league transactions piece back in October (when St. Louis added Rondon to the 40-man roster), adding that the 24-year-old reliever also has “a nice mid-80s slider.”

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Domonic Brown Has Made Some Changes

It’s been five years since Domonic Brown cracked the public consciousness as a five-tooler in the Phillies system. Five up and down years. Three of those years, he failed to impress in short samples with the big league team, and yet the team’s outfield crumbled around him gradually. So this year, playing time in the outfield is embarrassingly available. Domonic Brown made some changes, and looks to be ready to capitalize, finally.

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Effectively Wild Episode 170: Jason Parks on Podcasting, Prospect Ranking, and Player Development

Ben and Sam talk to Jason Parks about the forthcoming Fringe Average Podcast and BP prospect book, the ranking process, and how player development differs between teams.


The Unthinkably Exceptional Scott Kazmir

Wouldn’t you know it, but Scott Kazmir is relevant again. Jeremy Bonderman is relevant again, too, and that’s also amazing, but Kazmir’s actually got himself a big-league rotation job and that gives me an opportunity to talk about an incredible Kazmir fun fact. I could’ve talked about it anyway, even if Kazmir were completely off the radar, but now it’ll be less insignificant. You’re thinking about Scott Kazmir, and here’s another thing to think about him.

Pitching with the bases empty is different from pitching with at least one runner on. For many pitchers, the delivery changes, and of course the situation and the intensity changes. The defense changes. Things change when there are people on base, so it can be informative to look at the base-state splits. In such situations it’s always important to remain aware of small sample sizes, but when you get to talking about whole careers, those concerns by and large go away.

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Cactus League Prospects: Sussman’s Take

Mike Newman and I traversed the back fields of Cactus League last week. When we weren’t berating one another with insults, we analyzed the prospects we watched.  After hours of back and forth we decided to memorialize our differences in “Dueling Prospects Lists.” So that we don’t taint our lists, we haven’t discussed these rankings or the analysis with each other. 

You can see Mike’s list here, if you’re so inclined.

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Cactus League Prospects: Newman’s Take

In Arizona, J.D. Sussman and I hit the back fields together to scout talent from the Mariners, Indians, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Rangers and Cubs. Each of us took notes, collected radar gun readings, worked angles and collected the best information we could.

Back from the warm weather, we decided to rank the 10 best prospects we scouted together to highlight differences in opinion and player preference. Scouting is an inexact science. Prospect followers tend to pit opinions of writers against each other, but of course there’s room for dissent and discussion even among friends and colleagues.

Here’s my top-10 of players I liked the most. J.D.’s list will follow in an hour.

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Mariano Rivera and Father Time: Comebacks After 40

Mariano Rivera turned 43 last November. There was wide speculation that he would retire at the end of the 2012 season, until his 2012 season ended with an untimely season-ending injury, and Rivera decided to try to make a comeback so that his last season could occur on his terms.

But even though Mariano Rivera’s career is full of unprecedented moments, that does not mean that it will be trivial for him to come up with another. Baseball has been played in America for the better part of two centuries, and unprecedented things are generally unprecedented for a reason: they are extraordinarily unlikely. So how many players have been able to play effectively after losing a full season in their 40s?
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Why Replacement Level?

This morning, we announced that we’d come to an agreement with Sean Forman of Baseball-Reference on a unified replacement level, allowing both WAR calculations to measure players on the same scale. In that post, though, I didn’t spend much time talking about why replacement level is the baseline to begin with, so I thought it was worth taking a little bit more time to talk about why replacement level is a necessary concept.

After all, we’re all used to metrics that use average as a baseline, and average is easily defined and measured. Why not just measure everyone against league average, and use WAA instead of WAR?

There are two answers to that question, really. Let’s tackle them in order of importance, beginning with the playing time issue.

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