Archive for July, 2013

Royals Acquire Decent Platoon Outfielder, Pay Real Price

Not only are the Royals not sellers, they’ve actually made a prospect-for-veteran swap on deadline day. To help shore up their right field situation, they sent RHP Kyle Smith to the Astros in exchange for outfielder Justin Maxwell.

Maxwell is a solid role player, athletic enough to play all three outfield spots and with enough ability to provide some offensive value. In 763 big league plate appearances, he’s posted a .319 wOBA/97 wRC+, and UZR/DRS have liked his defensive contributions as well. Add it all up, and he’s racked up +3.8 WAR in just over a full season’s worth of playing time.

However, that’s a very defense-heavy number, and we’re dealing with 1,500 innings of outfield play from a 29-year-old. You have to regress his expected defensive contributions a good deal, which is why both ZIPS and Steamer forecast him to be roughly an average defender over the rest of the season. It doesn’t kill Maxwell’s value entirely, but he’s very unlikely to continue to produce at a +3 WAR per season pace.

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Orioles Acquire Bud Norris and his Platoon Problems

Bud Norris is heading to Baltimore, it looks like. Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Orioles will send the Astros the much-traveled LJ Hoes along with a second prospect and a draft selection to Houston in exchange for Norris, who is under team control through 2015. At first, it may seem like a flawed prospect isn’t much to pay for a proven, cost-controlled starter who has struck out over 21% of the batters he’s faced so far in his career, but on the other hand, Norris has deep flaws that make his acquisition less of a steal and more of a gamble.

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Diamondbacks Swap Ian Kennedy Dollar for Bullpen Quarters

Understand that this is the trade deadline, so things are kind of busy. When things are kind of busy, you don’t have time to think about each individual thing in sufficient depth. The analyses you read today should be fine, but maybe they’ll miss some points. Maybe, right here, I’m missing some points. But the Diamondbacks traded Ian Kennedy to the Padres, and as far as Arizona is concerned, I can’t help but feel underwhelmed.

The whole deal is such: Kennedy is going to San Diego. In return, Arizona gets Joe Thatcher, Matt Stites, and a compensation round B draft pick. Kennedy’s 28, and he’s got two more years of team control. Thatcher’s 31, and he’s got one. Stites is 23 and relieving in Double-A. The draft pick is a high-but-not-too-high draft pick that’ll add to Arizona’s bonus pool. As intended, the Diamondbacks have improved their current bullpen. They’ve also cleared a little salary. And the Padres bought low on a potential quality starter.

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2013 Trade Deadline Chat Extravaganza

Dave Cameron: Welcome to the FanGraphs Trade Deadline Chat Extravaganza. I’ll be here from 12-1, followed by Jeff Sullivan, then Eno Sarris, then Carson Cistulli will take you to the trade deadline at 4:00. I’ll come back at 4:00 and hang out for a bit to wrap up all the straggler deals that wander in after the deadline.

Dave Cameron: Obviously, we’ll be mostly focused on trade reaction/speculations today, but if nothing happens, we’ll talk about other stuff too. This isn’t going to be a typical Q&A, and we’ll try to keep it more real time then playing catch up on a backloaded queue, but I’d guess we’ll sneak in some regular questions here and there as well.

Comment From Guest
Yesterday on Twitter someone (I think Bowden) mentioned that the Cardinals should pursue Chris Owings with DD blocking his way at the MLB level. If they could make this happen at the deadline without giving up Taveras, Martininez, or Wacha do you think it improves the team (significantly) in the short term and long term? Also, excluding those 3, what do you think it would take? Maybe a package of Joe Kelly and Kolten Wong for Owings and something?
P.S. Your piece on Lee yesterday was excellent.

Dave Cameron: I wouldn’t give up Kolton Wong for Chris Owings straight up. Terrible plate discipline, PCL power.

Comment From Rexel
Do the teams realise the deadline is today?

Dave Cameron: They also realize that you can make trades in August, especially with the kinds of role players that are available.

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Daily Notes: Meeting of the Corey Kluber Society Today

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

1. Meeting of the Corey Kluber Society Today
2. Today’s MLB.TV Free Game
3. Today’s Complete Schedule

Meeting of the Corey Kluber Society Today
The Purpose of This Post
The purpose of this post is, firstly, to announce a meeting — in this case, at 7:05pm ET today (Wednesday) — of the Corey Kluber Society. Secondly, it’s to publish — for the reader’s pleasure — three accounts by noted personages of Corey Kluber and the eponymous Society.

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The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

The Fringe Five is a weekly exercise (introduced in April) wherein the author utilizes regressed stats, scouting reports, and also his own heart to identify and/or continue monitoring the most compelling fringe prospects in all of baseball.

Central to this exercise, of course, is a definition of the word fringe. The author recognizes that the word has different connotations for different sorts of readers. For the purposes of this column, however — and for reasons discussed more thoroughly in a recent edition of the Five — the author has considered eligible for the Five any prospect who was absent from all of three notable preseason top-100 prospect lists.

That said, it should also be noted that in cases where the collective enthusiasm regarding a player’s talent becomes very fevered — like how the enthusiasm collectively right now for Philadelphia third-base prospect Maikel Franco is very fevered, for example — that will likely affect said player’s likelihood of appearing among the Five, given that the purpose of the series, at some level, is to identify prospects who are demonstrating promise above what one might expect given their current reputations within the prospect community.

With that said, here are this week’s Fringe Five:

Chad Bettis, RHP, Colorado (Profile)
This marks the second consecutive week in which Bettis has appeared among the Five, and third overall. It’s possible, however, that it will be his last, as he’s scheduled to make his major-league debut on Thursday against Atlanta. Bettis has been excellent for Double-A Tulsa, recording a 68:13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 63.0 innings. The right-hander has received considerable praise both for his fastball (which sits at 93-95 mph) and slider. As the very dark footage below indicates, however — from a recent start against Angels affiliate Arkansas — his changeup might also be an excellent pitch.

Like this changeup:

Bettis Coward CH SS 4th

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Tewksbury’s Notebook: Notes on the 1992 Braves

Earlier this month, former St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Bob Tewksbury took us through his outings against the 1992 Chicago Cubs. He did so with the help of his old notebook, which includes scouting reports, pitch-selection data and results from specific at bats. Also on its pages are mechanical reminders and notes on adjustments he planned to make in the future.

Tewksbury, now a mental skills coach for the Red Sox, won 110 games in 13 big-league seasons. In 1992, he went 16-5, with a 2.16 ERA and finished third in National League Cy Young Award voting. His repertoire included a 47 mph curveball.

In the second installment of Tewksbury’s Notebook, he takes us through his notes on the 1992 Atlanta Braves. Tewksbury faced the National League champs twice, each time allowing a pair of runs over eight innings. Read the rest of this entry »

Effectively Wild Episode 255: Listener Emails Like Never Before

Ben and Sam answer listener emails about the consequences of abolishing the trade deadline, baseball’s war on PEDs, time traveling front offices, and more.

Red Sox Gain Peavy, Lose Little

Earlier Tuesday, a lot of the talk was about whether or not the Red Sox ought to go for it and trade for Cliff Lee. Lee, of course, is an ace, a rare breed, but he’s also paid like one, and reports suggested the Phillies were holding out for a wheelbarrow of prospect talent, along with complete contract assumption. People occupied both sides of the conversation, but it didn’t look like a wise idea for the Sox, given how much they’d have to give up for one individual shorter-term interest. The Red Sox really wanted a starter, but they also really wanted to not give up their top-level young talent. It was up to them to find a way.

Later Tuesday, the Red Sox got their good starter. According to reports, the Red Sox and White Sox couldn’t work out a straight-up Jake Peavy trade, but then they got the Tigers involved and a deal was struck. Peavy is off to the other Sox, while the Tigers are up one Jose Iglesias and the White Sox are up one Avisail Garcia. And, of course, there are some other bits. The complete summary:

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A’s, Angels Engage in Intra-Division Challenge Trade

After a rumor filled day with no real action, it looks like the last night before the trade deadline is going to bring some actual deals, and the A’s have gotten the ball rolling by picking up infielder Alberto Callaspo from the Angels in exchange for minor league infielder Grant Green.

This is an interesting trade for a number of reasons.

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Indians Add Marc Rzepczynski Because Why Not?

The Indians traded for Marc Rzepczynski. They traded Juan Herrera to get him. Tuesday is the day before the MLB non-waiver trade deadline, and so far this is Tuesday’s only trade to take place. Despite all the rumors involving bigger names, only these players have been swapped, and most baseball fans probably literally couldn’t care any less. It’s a trade of one non-prospect for a reliever who’s spent most of the year in Triple-A. But being that it’s a move involving a contending team — the Indians! — we might as well talk about it a little bit.

The Indians have been in the market for a lefty reliever, and Rzepczynski is a lefty reliever. To date the Indians’ lefty relievers have been Rich Hill and, sometimes, Nick Hagadone. They asked about better relievers than Rzepczynski, but they didn’t like the prices, so they picked up Rzepczynski for the cost of a body and a paycheck. He’ll go right into the bullpen, and he’ll be looked to to pitch to good lefty hitters in the later innings. He’s one of them very minor additions that could feel like a very major addition in a close, important game.

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FanGraphs After Dark Chat – 7/30/13

Paul Swydan: Hi everybody!

The perpetual rebel intellectuals – aka Jeff, me and maybe even Chris – will be here at 9 pm ET to talk trades, trades, TRADES, TRADES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Get your questions in, and I’ll get up some sweet, sweet polls action (posted at bottom of transcript). See you soon!

Paul Swydan: Both of the acquisition polls should read “most impactful this season.” I only made that clear on one of them.

Chris Cwik: I’m ready to light this candle. Just waiting for Swydan

Paul Swydan: So, there MAY be a three-way trade tonight:

but there is DEFINITELY going to be some three-way chatting, because the menage a chat is back, BABY!

Comment From Guest
So is this one of those “Very special FG’s After Dark Chats” like those very special episodes of bad tv series of the 80’s and 90’s?

Paul Swydan: Yes. Yes it is.

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Dodgers Risk Little in Signing Brian Wilson

While a couple of trades were executed for seemingly reasonable prices yesterday, the asking price on deals has generally seemed higher than in past years. With that in mind, the Dodgers took a step to try and improve their club without making Casey Blake for Carlos Santana Part Duex by signing free-agent reliever Brian Wilson. It’s a no-risk deal on both sides, and if it works it could pay dividends for the Dodgers down the stretch.

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Batted Ball Types and Handedness Matchups, in General

Last month, I did a two-part analysis that showed what happens — strike out-wise — when, say, a pitcher who strikes out 15% of batters faces a batter who strikes out 20% of the time. As a special bonus for you all, I included a few hundred other K%-matchup types too. I made handedness matchups central to the study, as I think it’s pretty well-established that you can expect a hitter to strike out more often against same-handed pitchers. That is, if I was trying to give an expected result for a righty batter against a lefty pitcher, I looked only at the hitter’s past performance rates against lefties and the pitcher’s history against righties. Before I moved on to performing a similar analysis on batted ball types (grounders, liners, outfield fly balls, and infield popups), I wanted to see whether handedness matchups mattered to these as well.

For this study, my sample was all non-switch-hitting batters from 2002-2012 with at least 300 PA against lefty pitchers plus at least 300 PA against righties. I’d have gone by number of batted balls, except I’m throwing some non-batted ball stats into the analysis.

Let’s get right to it — the following table shows the chances that handedness really makes no difference to each stat, according to paired t-tests:

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The Marlins Offense Cannot, Does Not Hit

I would say we are watching history, but the “we” who is actually watching the Marlins has to be limited to just about the 50 players present at any game, the managers, the broadcasters, and the odd Florida resident who fell asleep during the SunSports “Inside the Rays” special on Sam Fuld and then awoke to find a Marlins game on television.

The Marlins offense is bad. It is very bad. If you want to hear about the redeeming elements of the Marlins offense, this article may not be much help. Yes, Giancarlo Stanton is to home runs what Moses is to water-spewing rocks — he hits them — but the remainder of their eclectic crew of rushed prospects and aged veterans has offered little praiseworthy bat-action.

And if the situation deteriorates even a little, if their narrow balance of awful totters or teeters just a bit worse, this offense has a chance to engrave its poor results in the most inglorious stone of history: Worst offense of modern times.
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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 7/30/13

Jeff Sullivan: Hey guys and welcome to this chat

Comment From JEB
Gasp…are you actually, on time?!

Jeff Sullivan: lol no

Jeff Sullivan: Let’s talk about baseball and the trade deadline!

Jeff Sullivan: Let’s not talk about fantasy baseball

Jeff Sullivan: And if you ask me for a ROS projection, and I tell you to go to FanGraphs, it’s because they have better ROS projections than my human brain does

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Cliff Lee and the Cost of an Ace

With the Phillies finally admitting that they’re not going anywhere fast, Ruben Amaro is talking to teams about Cliff Lee. The Red Sox are reportedly showing the most interest, and despite the fact that Boston is on Lee’s 21 team no-trade list, those are almost always negotiable, and Lee would probably rather play for a winner than an aging team with no clear path to get back on track. So, in a market that has been mostly littered with back-end starters and bullpen pieces, there’s finally a bonafide ace in play.

Make no mistake, Cliff Lee is an ace. Over the last three calendar years, Lee has thrown 660 innings and posted +16.4 WAR, coming in behind only Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, and Felix Hernandez. He’s not a low FIP/high ERA guy either, as his RA9-WAR is +16.5. No matter how you evaluate pitchers, Cliff Lee is one of the best pitchers in the game. He may not be the hardest thrower in the world, but his command and overall repertoire allow him to dominate opponents just the same as if he throw 100 mph.

But acquiring Cliff Lee, Bonafide Ace, will come at a very high cost, and depending on what Philadelphia is asking for, the Red Sox might very well be better off walking away. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Notes: A Brief Review of Brandon Beachy’s Season Debut

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

1. A Brief Review of Brandon Beachy’s Season Debut
2. Today’s MLB.TV Free Game
3. Today’s Complete Schedule

A Brief Review of Brandon Beachy’s Season Debut
Undrafted out of Indiana Wesleyan University in 2008 following his junior year there, but subsequently signed that summer by Atlanta for $20 thousand out of a collegeiate wood-bat league in Virginia, right-hander Brandon Beachy proceeded to move rapidly through the Braves system. After recording strikeout and walk rates of 26.5% and 5.7%, respectively, in 208.0 innings in the minors, Beachy made his major-league debut in 2010. The following season, he was excellent, posting an 82 xFIP- and 2.8 WAR in 141.2 innings. After 13 starts in 2012, he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery. His start last (Monday) night against Colorado at home was his first in the majors since June of last year.

What follows is a brief review of same.

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The Economics of Baseball’s War on Drugs

People sometimes ask what initially got me interested in economics. The truth is that one of the first things that caught my attention was an application of supply-and-demand graphs that explained the war on drugs. What seemed like a set of policies with unpredictable effects actually had some very predictable — and undesired — consequences. Applying these concepts to Major League Baseball’s war on performance-enhancing drugs is naturally an article I was destined to write. I’ll start off by running through the basics of supply and demand for illegal drugs, show the concepts I found so fascinating years ago, and then show you how well they apply to what MLB is trying to do with PEDs and with Biogenesis in particular. I understand that drugs are a somewhat sensitive topic, and I have no interest in preaching any normative points of view. I will instead trust that readers can think of my commentary as descriptive, and not assume any agenda. I’ll also be peppering in references to The Wire throughout, because I’m definitely never going to get to do it again.

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Effectively Wild Episode 254: Are Wealthy Teams Winning?/Pushing the Trade Deadline Back

Ben and Sam revisit the question of whether wealthy teams are winning (and will win) more, then discuss a proposal to push the trade deadline back.