Archive for May, 2013

The Worst of the Best: The Week’s Wildest Swings

Hey there, people I’ve almost certainly never met before in my life, and welcome to the second part of the eighth edition of The Worst Of The Best. This right here is a link to the second part of the seventh edition, from last Friday. Here’s a link to all of the posts in the series, if you want something organized. In the earlier post today, a probably attractive commenter asked why I even bother with these introductions, instead of just getting right to the list. There are a few reasons! One, these posts include HTML jumps, and we don’t want to have .gifs right on the FanGraphs front page. We actually do care about load times. Two, because I never like to repeat introductions, I’m curious to see how I’ll be starting these things in September. I’m experimenting on myself. And three, it’s convenient to have a little explanation of what’s going on in each post, just in case someone is new to the series. Sure, I could just post a link to an explanation, but I hate links. The Internet relies too heavily on links. It’s more reader-friendly to provide all the necessary details in the same place. I care about you. We care about you.

We’re going to talk about wild swings, or swings at pitches that weren’t close to being strikes. What you see below will be a top-five list of the wildest swings, from between May 24 – May 30. It’s based on PITCHf/x and there are screenshots and .gifs, albeit fewer images than in the wildest-pitches post. Eliminated are checked swings and swings on hit-and-runs, because I’m a scientist and these were scientific determinations. This week, I’m also providing for you a bonus! That’s one fewer bonus than last week, but one more bonus than you should rightfully expect. Cherish this. Off we go.

Read the rest of this entry »

FanGraphs Audio: The Largely Incoherent Matt Klaassen

Episode 343
Matt Klaassen is a PhD candidate in philosophy and (relatively speaking) long-time contributor to the site. 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 1 hr 17 min play time.)

Read the rest of this entry »

The Worst of the Best: The Week’s Wildest Pitches

Hey there everybody, and welcome to this week’s edition of The World’s Most Zaniest Desks, wherein we discuss outlandish desks of all shapes and sizes. You “wood” “knot” believe what we have in store! I’m just kidding, this is the first part of the eighth edition of The Worst Of The Best. For the first part of the seventh edition, from last Friday afternoon, go right here. And then keep on following links until you get all the way back to the first part of the first edition, which is important somehow. If you’d like to read about desks and desk types, here’s this link. I apologize for misleading you before. That was dastardly.

Here we talk about pitches that were far away from the center of the strike zone. You’re going to see five of them, and I eliminate intentional balls, because otherwise you’d just see five intentional balls, and I wouldn’t have anything interesting to say about them. “The pitcher wants to walk this batter intentionally, or ‘on purpose’.” It’s a PITCHf/x-based top five, and I think this time around I have 18 images. So get ready for all of those, if that requires preparation on your part. We’re covering May 24 – May 30. Some pitches that just missed: Cody Allen to Joey Votto on May 28, Gio Gonzalez to Adam Jones on May 27, and Rick Porcello to Clint Barmes on May 28. In Porcello’s defense, you don’t want to pitch Barmes anywhere in the strike zone. The list is coming; won’t you join me?

Read the rest of this entry »

Jim Leyland’s Curious Choice of Relievers

Thursday night, the Tigers got yet another great pitching performance from their starting rotation, as Doug Fister struck out 12 over seven shutout innings. But a couple of hours after he came out of the game the Tigers walked off extra-inning losers, and it was basically all manager Jim Leyland’s fault.

Read the rest of this entry »

Breaking Down The Best Rotations Of All Time

The Detroit Tigers starters currently have a 2.54 FIP, which translates into a FIP- of 62, easily the best in baseball. In fact, it’s easily the best FIP- in baseball history, and as I wrote a month ago, Detroit’s starters have a chance to write themselves into the history books with their 2013 performance. But, instead of just writing a post updating their pace — they’d basically need to post a FIP- of 83 the rest of the way to break the record for best FIP relative to league average — I thought it might be interesting to look at how the best rotations in baseball history dominated.

For instance, the narrative around the Tigers current rotation mostly has to do with their strikeouts. They are on pace to shatter the all time record for strikeouts by a rotation, and the swing-and-miss stuff possessed by guys like Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer makes it easy to credit the strikeout rate as the primary driver of their success. However, once you compare the individual components to the league average, their strikeout rate becomes just a part of the story, and maybe not even the biggest part.

Read the rest of this entry »

Carlos Santana Looks Backward and Moves Forward

Detroit was supposed to run away with the 2013 American League Central. It may still happen, but at the moment, Cleveland is right there with them. The revitalization of Justin Masterson and the emergence of Zach MacAllister have kept the pitching afloat, and free-agent signings Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, and Mark Reynolds have been a big boost to the offense. Other factors could be mentioned, but Carlos Santana becoming perhaps the best hitter on the team seems significant both for this season and beyond.

Santana was the big prize of the 2008 trade that sent Casey Blake to the Dodgers. Santana has always hit well, particularly for a catcher, since coming up to the majors in 2010. While it was enough to cover for his deficiencies behind the plate, in 2012 his drop in power was troubling. In 2013, the 27-year-old Santana might be becoming the superstar that some envisioned when he was a prospect. Despite having a poor May at the plate, his overall season line still stands at .294/.396/.503 (147 wRC+, second-best among qualified catchers, just behind Joe Mauer’s 148). While it is still early, after 202 plate appearances, Santana’s better performance seems to be based primarily on two things: the return of his pre-2012 power, and a significantly higher BABIP. One or both may be an early-season blip, but there are at least some signs that Santana has made some important and perhaps long-term improvements.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mike Newman Prospects Chat – 5/31/13

Mike Newman: Hello all, thanks for joining me today! We’ll get started in about 15-minutes. While you wait, please check out my piece from earlier today on June leaders for the top prospect in baseball heading into 2014.

Mike Newman: Also, last week I angered a few readers who ripped me a new one for getting frustrated at chatters for not reading up on my work before asking questions. I wanted to apologize for that.

Mike Newman: You know what. I’m here, questions are in the queue, let’s get this started a little early….

Who’s The No. 1 Prospect?: June Edition

Entering May, Minnesota Twins Byron Buxton was my favorite to seize the label of number one prospect in baseball entering 2014. Diamondbacks pitcher Archie Bradley ranked second as he pushed through High-A and finished April in the Southern League. Shortstop Francisco Lindor of the Cleveland Indians debuted in the third spot after a dominant month offensively. Twins’ Miguel Sano, claimed the fourth spot, as well as the label of best power hitting prospect in the game. Rounding out the top five was Boston Red Sox prospect Xander Bogaerts, who received a partial mulligan for a weak April due to his being the highest rated prospect in baseball entering 2013 not expected to surpass rookie at bats/innings pitched limits.

Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Notes: Corey Kluber Shall Be Appreciated, Post-Haste

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

1. Featured, Free Game: Tampa Bay at Cleveland, 19:05pm ET
2. A Different Notable Game
3. Today’s Complete Schedule

Featured, Free Game: Tampa Bay at Cleveland, 19:05pm ET
Regarding the Author’s Attention, What Has Come to It
It has recently come to the author’s attention that Cleveland right-hander and figurative saint among saints Corey Kluber is not universally appreciated by the teeming, gross, unlettered public.

Read the rest of this entry »

John Jaso is a Catcher First

There’s a reason catchers often make great managers and coaches. The mindset that you get from watching every play unfold from behind the plate can inform practically every play. And so, when you find out that John Jaso is an asset with the bat and on the basepaths, it’s no surprise that you can trace these things back to his training behind the plate.

Read the rest of this entry »

Q&A: Jimmy Rollins, Supreme Defensive Shortstop

Jimmy Rollins has been one of the best defensive shortstops in the game. Currently in his 14th season with the Philadelphia Phillies, the charismatic 34-year-old has won four Gold Gloves. Among shortstops who have played at least 10 seasons, he is second all-time in fielding percentage, behind only Omar Vizquel. Advanced metrics also show him in a favorable light.

Rollins has put up some pretty good offensive numbers, too. He has more than 2,000 hits, nearly 200 home runs and more than 400 stolen bases. But when all is said and done, he will be remembered most for his glove.

Rollins talked about his defensive game when the Phillies visited Fenway Park earlier this week.

Read the rest of this entry »

Effectively Wild Episode 214: B.J. Upton and Fixing Mechanical Flaws/Scouting and the International Draft

Ben and Sam discuss B.J. Upton’s slump and mechanical flaws, then talk about the impact an international draft would have on scouting.

Understanding Your Patterns

Sometimes, when I’m supposed to be working, I read things that don’t have anything to do with baseball. Sometimes I’m able to salvage that lost time by twisting my new information into a vaguely baseball-y angle. So it’s been today, when, this morning, I scanned Erik Klemetti’s Eruptions blog. There’s a good new post up, focusing on the matter of trying to predict earthquakes around the globe. (Hint: don’t do it.) I can’t think of a way to write about baseball-y earthquakes. But within that post, toward the start, is a discussion about patterns, and the perception of them where they sometimes don’t exist. Now this — this could be something to put up on FanGraphs.

Contained within the post is a link to this piece at Scientific American. The author talks about “patternicity,” or, as he puts it, “the tendency to find meaningful patterns in meaningless noise.” This might be a pretty familiar concept to you, and the author advances an evolutionary argument for its existence. There’s a reason, it’s asserted, that we’re so good at finding patterns. There’s a reason we try to find patterns where no patterns exist.

Read the rest of this entry »

For Prospects, Age Can Be More Than Just A Number

The importance of prospects’ ages is frequently debated. Comparing one’s age to the age of to his competition adds significant context, but age is just a number. Age alone hardly provides enough context to discern its true relevance to an individual’s performance.

In one instance, a player’s age without further evidence is meaningful — when a player is young for his league, it demonstrates his organization’s confidence in his abilities. Each player development department knows its players best. They monitor their players’ development daily on and off the field. Over time, an organization builds the largest observation sample of its own talent and it is in the best position to evaluate its players. To be clear, a player’s age relative to his league does not make him a prospect. His abilities do. When a prospects is placed in an advanced league it is a confirmation of his abilities by his organization. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s Time to Take the Pirates Seriously

As I write this, the Pittsburgh Pirates are tied for the second best record in baseball. They also happen to be tied for second place in their own division, because the Cardinals are the only team with a better record while the Reds have matched Pittsburgh’s 33-20 start, making the NL Central the most competitive and most interesting division in the sport right now. The Cardinals are Reds are both excellent teams, and we should expect both to continue to win at a good clip over the rest of the year, but what about the Pirates? Is this another first half mirage that will lead to a second half collapse, or do Pittsburgh fans finally have a contender to root for?

I think the answer to both of those questions is probably yes; the Pirates are playing over their heds and will likely regress over the next four months, but their strong start and their overall talent level should keep them in the race to the very end.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Few Good PawSox

When I realized that the Pawtucket Red Sox were coming into town, I was actually pretty excited. There was a chance to see pitchers Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa and position players Jackie Bradley Jr., Jose Iglesias, and Bryce Brentz, and that’s quite a bit of quality on a Triple-A team. By the time the PawSox rolled into town, however, only three of those players were still with the team. De La Rosa had a mild injury to his side the Tuesday before the team came to Louisville, and he would skip his next start. And Jose Iglesias was promoted before the games I intended to watch. Three solid prospects remained. Read the rest of this entry »

Eno Sarris Baseball Chat — 5/30/13

Eno Sarris: here in seven

Eno Sarris: lyrics of the day! I actually think this guy sounds like Bruce Springsteen on quaaludes. Am I crazy?

Everything I love is on the table
Everything I love is out to sea

Comment From person hscer
I picked Ryan Zimmerman and Eric Stults in Fangraphs The Game yesterday. Go me. If only I had picked Dioner Navarro, but at least Erik Kratz hit ONE HR.

Eno Sarris: Grats

Comment From FIFA
Hi ES, approximate date of J-Fer shutdown? thanks.

Eno Sarris: I think he can throw 150 IP this year.

Read the rest of this entry »

It’s Wacha Time

You can knock ’em down, but you can’t knock ’em out.

The St. Louis Cardinals’ pitching staff has been decimated by injuries early on in 2013, but the club continues to receive strong performances from rookie pitchers thanks to one of the deepest minor league systems in the game. The next pitching prospect to throw his hat into the ring will be 2012 first round draft pick Michael Wacha, who will face the Kansas City Royals in his big league debut tonight.

Read the rest of this entry »

An Inning with Carlos Marmol’s Command

Carlos Marmol doesn’t have the highest career walk rate in baseball history. That honor belongs to Mitch Williams, who walked one of every six guys he faced. But Marmol isn’t far behind, and he’s the leader among actives. Marmol has a higher career walk rate than Jason Giambi. He has a higher career walk rate than Brian Giles and Mike Schmidt and Jeff Bagwell. Walks are just part of the package, and Marmol isn’t some kid anymore, so it’s not like they’re about to go away with a mechanical tweak. This is in part due to the fact that Marmol is hard to hit, so he ends up in a lot of deep counts. This is more in part due to the fact that Marmol has had really lousy command.

Control is said to be the ability to throw strikes. Command is said to be the ability to hit spots. We don’t have a measure of command, but we can assume that a guy with Marmol’s walk rate doesn’t list it as a strength on his hypothetical English-language pitcher resume. The walks are part of the reason the Cubs see Marmol as expendable. They’re part of the reason he doesn’t have much of a market, and they’re part of the reason he’s no longer closing. Everybody knows command is a Carlos Marmol weakness. And now we have fun with a quick project.

Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Notes: Three True Outcome Leaders and Laggards So Far

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

1. Three True Outcome Leaders and Laggards So Far
2. Today’s MLB.TV Free Game
3. Today’s Complete Schedule

Three True Outcome Leaders and Laggards So Far
Recently in these pages, Cleveland corner infielder Mark Reynolds characterized his hitting approach for the benefit of David Laurila, saying, “I would say my swing is… a controlled train wreck. I just get it down and let it eat.” Will the comment win him a much deserved Pulitzer Prize for Joyous Remarks? It remains to be seen. What it reveals beyond his gift for the language, though, is the means by which he has consistently found himself among the league’s leaders both in strikeouts and home runs.

Below are the current leaders and laggards by all three true outcomes — both by overall percentage and then by averaged z-score (i.e. average standard deviations from the mean in all three categories). Numbers don’t include Wednesday games.

Read the rest of this entry »