Archive for April, 2013

FanGraphs After Dark Chat – 4/30/13

Paul Swydan: Hi everybody!

Join us live at 9 pm ET for all of the baseballing action that you’ll let us cram down your cramhole! Get your questions in now, and I’ll put up a bunch of polls too, because polls are fun.

Chris Cwik: My fantasy team had a -3 yesterday. Screw fantasy baseball. Let’s talk actual baseball.

Paul Swydan: Just finished listening to Katy Feeney tell Buster Olney why the schedule is the way the schedule is on his podcast. I remember meeting with Katy waayyyyy back in 2006, and getting the chance to ask her the same questions. She’s the best. Let’s do this!

Paul Swydan: 2006? 2005 maybe? Whatever. I’m old.

Comment From jeff
why does cj wilson suck so much?

Paul Swydan: Well, it’s not because he uses Head & Shoulders, that’s for darn sure!!!

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On an Intentional Ball Thrown to Albert Pujols

Monday night and Tuesday morning, the A’s and Angels played a game for the ages, a 19-inning affair that saw the hosts rally in the ninth and the 15th before walking off in the game’s seventh hour. The game featured 18 runs and nearly 600 pitches, and in the end, the A’s improved to 15-12, while the Angels fell to something much worse than that. Generally, such games are immediately thought of as turning points, and generally, such games don’t go on to work that way. But this was a game that few will forget, regardless, simply because the duration grew to be so extreme.

FanGraphs isn’t in the business of issuing game recaps, particularly several hours after the fact. But still, some attention to the game should be paid, and I’m electing to focus on a particular intentional ball. With two out in the top of the 11th inning, Grant Balfour intentionally walked Albert Pujols. We consider the 3-and-0 pitch.

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Very Urgent Scouting Report: Skip Schumaker, Pitcher

While it goes without saying that the present site is required reading for all of baseball’s most progressive front offices, it’s also the case that no post at the site today will be read more hungrily or with such hunger as this one — which post is a very urgent scouting report on Skip Schumaker, who both (a) is a middle infielder for the Dodgers and (b) threw a scoreless inning for that same team on Monday night (box).

Schumaker’s fastball — in relief, at least — bears striking resemblance to an average major-league one, sitting at about 88-90 mph and with similar rise and arm-side run.

Irrefutable proof of same is contained within this animated GIF:

Schumaker FA

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Josh Hamilton Is Swinging Himself Into Oblivion

Josh Hamilton is the most aggressive hack in baseball. This isn’t news, of course, but to put his hacktastic ways in context, here is where Hamilton’s swing rates rank among batters with 500+ PAs in the last year.

O-Swing%: 42.7% (150th of 151)
Z-Swing: 82.0% (151st of 151)
Swing%: 57.9% (150th of 151)
Zone%: 38.8% (151st of 151)
Contact%: 64.9% (151st of 151)

The only guy who has swung the bat more often than Hamilton is Delmon Young, but 46.1% of the pitches Young has been thrown have been in the strike zone. Hamilton is pitched around more than any other hitter in the game, and yet he swings more often than anyone, with the exception of one replacement level scrub.

Josh Hamilton has always been an aggressive hitter. Josh Hamilton has a career major league batting line of .301/.360/.542. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?

Well, it is broke(n), but most importantly, this isn’t the approach that made Josh Hamilton an elite Major League player. This approach is new, and if he doesn’t make some changes in a hurry, he’s on his way to becoming the new Ryan Howard.

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Stetson Allie, Pirates Press The Reset Button

Stetson Allie sat, staring at the ground as Rockies farmhand Drew Beuerlein verbally tore into him. Moments before, the 240-pound Allie delivered a glancing blow on a home plate collision, unable to jar the ball loose from the 24-year-old catcher. As teammates took the field, Allie continued to sit as if he’d been shaken up during impact. The pitcher-turned-first-baseman eventually rose to his feet and gingerly took two steps towards the third base dugout before he quickened his pace.

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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 4/30/13

9:02 Jeff Sullivan: I’m the least late I’ve been in months!
9:02 Jeff Sullivan: Reminder #1: I am not a fantasy baseball expert
9:02 Jeff Sullivan: Reminder #2: I am not a baseball expert
9:02 Jeff Sullivan: Remember #3: There are hundreds, if not thousands of questions submitted in the queue over the course of a chat, so I have no prayer of keeping up.
9:02 Jeff Sullivan: Now we begin with the baseball chat!
9:03 Comment From BlueJaysFan1
omg help. say something nice. do something helppppp!

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Daily Notes: Regarding Yu Darvish’s Start Tonight, Mostly

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

1. Featured Game: Chicago AL at Texas, 20:05 ET
2. Other Notable Games (Including MLB.TV Free Game)
3. Today’s Complete Schedule

Featured Game: Chicago AL at Texas, 20:05 ET
Regarding This Game, What Makes It Notable
In terms of what makes this game notable, that’s largely due to how Texas right-hander Yu Darvish is starting it for Texas.

Regarding This Game, What’d Make It Even More Notable
What’d make this game even more notable is if Texas right-hander Yu Darvish were somehow starting it for Chicago, instead.

Regarding Yu Darvish, What Makes Him Notable
When you talk about a pitcher, you’re talking about someone whose objective is to prevent runs. And when you talk about a pitcher’s ability to prevent runs, you’re generally talking about his ability to record strikeouts and induce ground balls while also limiting walks. Darvish has done those things to such a degree (39.8% K, 8.1% BB, 59.0% GB) as we would expect him to concede fewer than two earned runs for every nine innings.

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More MLB Highlights Now On YouTube, But It’s Not All Skittles And Puppies

Major League Baseball Advanced Media and YouTube announced an expanded partnership on Monday that will result in thousands more hours of baseball highlights that will be available for free on the video site. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the content of the highlights and the timing of their availability on YouTube will continue to be strictly controlled by MLBAM. In other words, fans with dusty VHS collections will continue to receive take-down notices from MLBAM and YouTube if they upload their favorite games or highlights.

Still, the expanded MLB-YouTube agreement is a step in the right direction for baseball fans hungry for free content.

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Q&A: Mike Carp, 1.364 OPS [Small Sample Size]

The sample size is small — just 24 plate appearances — but the numbers still jump off the page. Four weeks into the season, Mike Carp is hitting a stratospheric.455/.500/.864. Seven of his 10 hits have gone for extra bases.

The 26-year-old outfielder will obviously come back to earth, but he still might be one of the best under-the-radar acquisitions of the off-season. The Red Sox acquired him from the Mariners in February for a PTBNL.

Carp was an enigma in Seattle. In parts of four seasons, he hit .255/.327/.413 and occasionally drove baseballs long distances. What he didn’t do is prove that he could stay healthy and provide consistent production. Jettisoned to Boston, he is intent on proving he is capable of both. Only time will tell, but Carp is swinging a hot bat.


Carp on his hot start: “Being healthy is a big part of it. I missed a lot of time last year with the shoulder injury, so it’s about finding my rhythm. The more reps I get, the better I see the ball and better rhythm I have.

“I wasn’t getting at bats the first couple weeks of the season, but I’ve gotten a few lately and that’s helped me lock in a little more. I feel great at the plate. I’m just trying to stay short and use the whole field. I’m going up there with a good plan and sticking to it. I kind of got away from it [Saturday] and had a rough night, but I rebounded [Sunday] and got back to what’s working for me.

“I’m itching for as many at bats as I can possibly get, but I also understand the concept of a team. We have a very deep bench and it’s nice to be able to keep guys fresh.”

On hitting at Fenway Park: Read the rest of this entry »

Effectively Wild Episode 192: Stephen Strasburg’s New Injury Scare/The Underhyped Manny Machado

Ben and Sam discuss the news about Stephen Strasburg’s forearm and talk about why Manny Machado’s performance this season hasn’t gotten more attention.

Two Days Most Curious: Pitchers on the Go

One of the best things about really getting into the regular season is that we’re starting to get some meaningful data. One of the best things about getting meaningful data is that it’s accompanied by a lot of meaningless data. True insight can be gleaned from the former, but fun? You can have fun with both. Let’s talk about pitchers stealing bases.

A year ago, pitchers combined for seven stolen-base attempts. The year before that, they also combined for seven, and the year before that, they combined for three. Then six, then ten, then 12, then seven, then nine…it isn’t often that pitchers get on base, but it also isn’t often that, once on base, pitchers attempt to steal. Pick your favorite reason, or combine them. They want to avoid injury. They want to conserve their energy. They aren’t properly trained for aggressive base-running. They don’t want to distract their hitters. They don’t want to give up a rare opportunity to not watch from the dugout. They want to actually exchange words with the first-base coach. Nobody thinks about pitchers stealing because pitchers don’t steal. On April 25, Cliff Lee tried to steal. On April 26, Andrew Cashner tried to steal.

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FanGraphs Audio: Dave Cameron Answers Baseball Questions

Episode 330
Dave Cameron is both (a) the managing editor of FanGraphs and (b) a guest on this particular edition of FanGraphs Audio — during which edition he answers questions concerned predominantly with baseball and the analysis thereof.

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 38 min play time.)

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WAR: Imperfect but Useful Even in Small Samples

This morning, Jon Heyman noted an odd thing on Twitter:

He was quoting Baseball-Reference’s WAR calculation, and the two are indeed tied at +1.7 WAR on B-R. Here, we have Bryce Harper (+1.5 WAR) ahead of Starling Marte (+1.2 WAR), but the point still basically stands; WAR thinks Harper (1.200 OPS) and Marte (.835 OPS) have both been pretty great this year, with just a small (or no) difference between them. What Harper has done with the bat, WAR believes that Marte has mostly made up with his legs in baserunning (+3 run advantage) and defense (+3 run advantage), as well a slight bump from getting 12 extra plate appearances.

There’s no question that Harper has been a better offensive player, but there are questions about the defensive valuations, because defensive metrics aren’t as refined at this point as offensive metrics are. It is much easier to prove that Harper has been +10 runs better with the bat this year than it is to prove that Marte has been +3 runs better defensively by UZR, or +7 runs better defensively by DRS. There are more sources for error in the defensive metrics, and Heyman’s tweet led to a discussion on Twitter about the usefulness of including small sample defensive metrics in WAR.

I’ve written before about the strong correlation between team WAR and team winning percentage, and others have followed up with similar analysis more recently. However, all those articles have focused on full season or multi-season data samples, and since the question was raised and I hadn’t yet seen it answered, I became curious about whether WAR would actually correlate better at this point in the year if we just assumed every player in baseball was an average defender.

Essentially, if we just removed defensive metrics from the equation, and evaluated teams solely on their hitting and pitching, how would our WAR calculation compare to team winning percentage? And how does WAR correlate to team winning percentage based on just April 2013 data, when we’re dealing with much smaller sample sizes?

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The Astros Are Trying To Make Lemonade

The Astros are not a good baseball team. But, as Tyler Kepner detailed in the New York Times this weekend, they are a baseball team with a plan. Whether or not that will lead to wins this season is another matter, but the fact that they have a plan is shining through, even amidst the deluge of runs allowed. Read the rest of this entry »

Not Quite Explaining Ryan Dempster

As you read this, the Boston Red Sox have the best record in all of major-league baseball, unless you’re reading this at least a few days after it was published. The Red Sox’s success is less of a surprise than the Blue Jays’ lack of success, but nobody expected Boston to start this well, and the organization is well on its way toward restoring the city’s confidence in the team. The Red Sox have gotten to this point by getting valuable contributions from their position players and from their pitchers. That will not be the only obvious sentence in this post.

We should pause to acknowledge what the Boston pitching staff has done to date. If the season were to end today, we’d all be left wondering, “wait, what?” But eventually we’d get over it and look at the statistics, and the statistics would show that the Red Sox have the highest team pitching strikeout rate in baseball history. As a team, the Sox have struck out 26.7% of opposing batters, and second place would be the…2013 Tigers, at 25.8%. Third place would be the…2013 Reds, at 23.3%. Fourth place would be the…2013 Royals, at 23.2%. So times have changed and strikeouts are up, but for the sake of perspective, the Red Sox as a team have a higher strikeout rate than both Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax. This is, of course, a team effort, but the greatest individual contribution so far has been made by Ryan Dempster.

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The Blue Jays Are In Trouble

Before the season season started, members of our staff took a shot at prognosticating the season, despite the fact that we all know You Can’t Predict Baseball. Of the 31 authors who participated, 15 of them — myself included — selected the Blue Jays as the favorites to win the AL East, and nine of the 16 who didn’t pick Toronto to win their division had them as a wild card club. The Blue Jays off-season makeover convinced most of us that they were a good team with a good shot at playing in October.

It might only be April 29th, but there’s a pretty good chance that 24 of us are going to end up being wrong, because while we’re still in the first month of the season, the Blue Jays season is in jeopardy.

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Francisco Lindor, Simply Elite

When the Indians selected Francisco Lindor 8th overall in the 2011 draft, he possessed a high floor and upside. Drafted out of Montverde, Florida, he was an accomplished shortstop but questions about how long it would take his bat to develop surrounded the young Puerto Rican. In his full season, Lindor has put rest to any doubt whether he will be one of the game’s brightest stars. Coming into 2013 he was ranked 20th by Marc Hulet, 9th by my colleagues at Bullpen Banter, and 8th by myself and early returns suggest he has staked his claim on next year’s top spot.

Lindor projects to be an elite defender, if he isn’t already. While not he’s a burner – his time from home to first is consistently a shade below four seconds, great but not excellent for the position – his defensive range can be attributed to the quickness of his first step, not his speed. His ability to covers yards of dirt in a single step is bolstered by his confidence using his backhand on balls hit towards third base. At 19 years old, his instincts actions at shortstop are remarkable making Mike Newman’s nickname for him – “Bruce Lee Lindor” – oddly fitting.

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Dan Szymborski FanGraphs Chat – 4/29/13

Dan Szymborski: Welcome to my weekly FanGraphs chat, YOUR prime source for mean-spirited answers and vague references to games only über-nerds play (h/t @ChrisRauch83)

Comment From chris
The only discernible difference for Ervin Santana this season is he is throwing a 2-seamer 12% of the time compared to less than a percent for his career, according to PITCHf/x. xFIP is at 3.22. His LOB% is high at 89%, though. Is this a new and improved version or just a mirage?

Dan Szymborski: Probably somewhere in the middle. He’s really pitching well this season, so he’s going to crush his projections at least.

Dan Szymborski: Santana’s had runs of awesomeness before, so don’t get *too* excited quite yet.

Comment From Matt H
Jason Collins. Awesome, or the awesomest?

Dan Szymborski: I am always in favor of rich, attractive, athletic men coming out. It reduces the competition for people that look like drunk albino apes, like me.

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Adam Wainwright is Fire

Through five starts, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright has a 1.93 ERA, 1.09 FIP, and 2.13 SIERA. Of the 144 batsmen to face Wainwright, 37 struck out and just 1 walked — Bryce Harper in the 6th inning of last Tuesday’s game. Wainwright has induced a career-high 55.8% groundball-rate; he has held opponents to 8 earned runs, 9 runs total, scattered across 37 and 1/3 innings.

Wainwright is not “on fire.” He is fire. Butane lighters hang pictures of him on their bedroom walls. Local volunteer firemen warn children about Wainwright during school visits.

So how does an excellent pitcher produce results like a deity pitcher? For Wainwright, the tactic appears to be: (a) Throw a full spectrum of fastballs, (b) select from that fastball spectrum at an increasingly unpredictable rhythm, and (c) pitch against the right teams.
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Daily Notes: Now with NERD Scores Everywhere

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

1. Announcement: NERD Scores Now Available
2. NERD for Pitchers: Leaderboards and Formula
3. NERD for Teams: Leaderboard and Formula
4. Today’s Complete Schedule

Announcement: NERD Scores Now Available
The purpose of this announcement is to inform the reader that NERD scores are now available and will be a fixture in the Daily Notes for the remainder of the season.

“What is a NERD score, even?” a reasonable person might ask. It’s this, in fact: an attempt to summarize, in one number (on a scale of 0-10), the watchability, for the learned fan, of a player or team or game. It’s also this: a response to a challenge issued by Rob Neyer to the author in May of 2010.

Below is a discussion of pitcher and team NERD, specifically — along with leaderboards for each and relevant current formulae.

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