Archive for November, 2013

The Royals, George Kottaras, and Cash

Back in March, I wrote about the alleged spring training positional battle story for the Royals’ backup catcher spot between George Kottaras. For all of Kottaras’ defensive liabilities, it was pretty clear he was going to be the choice to be Salvador Perez’ caddy in 2013 since he had a clearly superior bat to Hayes that overcame his defensive issues. As a left-handed hitter, Kottaras also provided a useful platoon player so that Perez’ off days could be scheduled versus a right-handed starter. Kottaras was a useful bench bat in general. Finally, since the Royals went out of their way to claim Kottaras off of waivers from Oakland, they clearly wanted him around.

Kottaras was indeed the Royals’ primary backup catcher in 2013, but Hayes (or perhaps Francisco Pena) seems to have gotten the last laugh. Kottaras was designated for assignment a few days ago by the Royals, and yesterday was traded to the Cubs for cash. It is essentially a minor transaction, and in itself does not make a huge difference. It might, however, help us raise questions about the Royals’ off-season strategy.

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Steamer Projects: Three Notable Minor-League Acquisitions

On Monday, Matt Eddy of Baseball America released his weekly report of minor-league transactions. On Tuesday, the present author pored over said report, with a view to identifying which players on it might have received favorable 2014 projections from Jared Cross’s Steamer projection system. On Wednesday, he (i.e. that same author) has written and published the following Hall of Fame internet post.

Projections for batters are prorated to 550 plate appearances (and 450 for catchers); for pitchers, to 150 innings (and 50 for relievers). Defensive figures (denoted by Def) account both for positional adjustment and UZR, and are presented relative to league average. Note that, in many cases, defensive value has been calculated entirely by positional adjustment based on the relevant player’s minor-league defensive starts in 2013. Pitcher WAR is calculated by using kwERA, so as to best strip out park effects, and probably also because the author has no idea what he’s doing. Listed ages are as of June 30, 2014.

Below are the three notable minor-league acquisitions of the week that aren’t the Chicago Cubs’ acquisition of former Cleveland right-hander Paolo Espino.

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FanGraphs Chat – 11/27/13

Dave Cameron: Opening up the queue a little early today because I’m not sure how many people are actually going to be around for the chat, given holiday travel. We might not go the whole hour, depending on the number of questions, but you have a better chance of getting your question answered this week compared to most.

Comment From hazel
Who’s on your HOF ballot?

Dave Cameron: Too many to name. I’d probably have ~15 guys on there.

Comment From Mo Speights
Do you think the Rays would consider trading Price to another AL East Team?

Dave Cameron: Sure, if the deal were so lopsided that they were both helping themselves and harming their division rival. I’d say that’s unlikely though.

Comment From Noah
After signing a bargain in Chris Young, what do you think the Mets will do next in free agency? Continue signing low cost low risk players are try to make a big splash?

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When Walk Years Don’t Work

The theory goes that some players can turn it on in the final years of their existing contracts on their way to free agency. The data say otherwise, as both writers and teams, have discovered. In 2013, we witnessed two contrasting examples of walk years from Ubaldo Jimenez and Phil Hughes. Jimenez seemingly flipped a switch in June, pitched like his old self and exercised an out clause in his deal with Cleveland to jump feet-first into a cash-rich free-agent crop. Then there was Hughes, a pitcher who statistically regressed in his walk year. As Buster Olney tweeted yesterday:

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Why It’s Okay That PED Players Are Getting Paid

Over the last few days, you’ve no doubt heard a lot of grumbling about the fact that players with PED histories are getting paid. You heard it a little when Marlon Byrd (career earnings: approximately $22 million) signed for a guaranteed $16 million with the Phillies, and a little more when Carlos Ruiz (career earnings: approximately $15 million) accepted $26 million to stay in Philadelphia.

But of course, that was just a prelude to the howling that came when Jhonny Peralta, with around $30 million in career earnings to his name, picked up a $53 million contract from the Cardinals — and it’s only going to get worse if Nelson Cruz, who has earned approximately $20 million in his career, actually gets the 4/$75m contract he’s reportedly asking for. Read the rest of this entry »

Effectively Wild Episode 338: Giving Thanks for Your Emails

Ben and Sam discuss the Hall of Fame and answer listener emails about brawls with Brian McCann, catcher framing, park effects, and more.

FanGraphs Audio: Dayn Perry, Holiday Travel Companion

Episode 404
Dayn Perry is a contributor to CBS Sports’ Eye on Baseball and the author of three books — one of them serviceable and one of them, against all odds, something more than serviceable. He’s also the guest on this largely unhelpful 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 11 min play time.)

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BBWAA Releases Ridiculously Crowded HOF Ballot

Today, the Baseball Writer’s Association of America has released the official 2014 Hall of Fame Ballot, and because the organization did not induct a single candidate last year, the ballot is more crowded than ever. For reference, here are the 36 names on the list, along with their career WAR.

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The Timing Of Free Agent Contracts Hasn’t Really Changed

As Dave Cameron noted during his weekly appearance on FanGraphs Audio on Monday, there has been a flurry of transactions in the past week. It got me wondering, is this part of a new trend, or is it really just business as usual? The answer, it seems, is the latter.

Using various Hot Stove Trackers at and Free Agent Trackers at MLB Trade Rumors, I’ve cribbed together a pretty good list of when free agents have signed over the past three offseasons. It should be taken with a grain of salt. The timing of contracts may not always be 100% correct. For instance, we learned of Yoenis Cespedes’ signing in February of 2012, but the contract wasn’t made official until March. I listed him here in March, but he could just as easily be listed in February. There is likely to be some fudging around the edges in terms of players who signed near the end of a month. And then of course there is the possibility that I missed some free agents as well. But with those caveats, I think the data is pretty interesting. Let’s take a look:

FA 1

This is a bit of a surprise. But during the past two offseasons, there have been more November signings than there have this year. There is of course still a few days left in this November, so if an enterprising team didn’t feel like taking Thanksgiving off, they could draw this number even.

Then I thought to myself, perhaps trades help even the score. We’ve already seen one mega-trade this offseason, and there have been five this month in total (I think…I’m pretty sure). Perhaps that has made it seem like there have been more comings and goings in the early stages of the offseason. But that’s not really the case either. Last year, there were seven trades executed during November. Among them were the Tommy HansonJordan Walden exchange, the deal that sent Denard Span to the Nationals and of course, the gigantic trade between the Blue Jays and Marlins that sent Jose Reyes and company north of the border. So that isn’t the reason.

Still though, it does seem like this November is a bit different. One thing that we know instinctually is that many of the signings we see in the early going are for teams re-signing holdover players. For example, Mariano Rivera was technically a free agent last winter, but no one really expected him to leave New York. So when he re-signed with the Yankees, for the most part, we shrugged our shoulders and got back to the business of creating half-baked trade scenarios. So I went ahead and sorted the signings by whether or not the player signed with the team for which he had most recently played, or if he signed with a new team. Let’s take a look:

FA 2

Here we see a bit of a shift towards this year. Since the regular season ended, 20 players have signed with new teams, as opposed to 15 and 12 in the previous two offseasons, respectively. There has also been a sense that the contracts this year have been a little meatier. With the two Cuban sensations, Jose Dariel Abreu and Alexander Guerrero, plus the deals for Jason Vargas, Jhonny Peralta and Brian McCann, we’ve had some nice multi-year deals to sink our teeth into. Last year we had B.J. Upton’s contract, and the year before that there were the even more ill-fated reliever spending deals for Jonathan Papelbon and Jonathan Broxton, but that was about it on deals spanning more than two years. Even the two-year deals this winter have been interesting. Tim Hudson gets to (likely) finish his career in the Bay Area, David Murphy got a multi-year deal after his disastrous 2013 campaign at the dish and Marlon Byrd went from getting just an invitation to spring training to a two-year deal in the span of one year. Even the vesting option on Josh Johnson’s one-year deal is interesting — I can’t say that I’ve seen that before.

So the numbers say not much has changed. Teams get after it early. Nearly as much business is transacted in November as in January, and sometimes more gets done in November. There have been some splashier signings this year than in the past two offseasons, but with the game swimming in money, perhaps that shouldn’t be as surprising as it has seemed.

Win a Free Copy of THT 2014!

Just as we did yesterday, we’re giving you a chance to win a free copy of The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2014. If you miss out today, don’t worry, there will be one more trivia contest tomorrow.

In case you haven’t heard, The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2014 is now available to purchase on ye ole internets. You can find my post on the book here, Dave Studeman’s post on the book here, and listen to Carson Cistulli’s FanGraphs Audio episode with Studes here.

After you’re done consuming those posts, you can buy it from Createspace (where we get the biggest cut of sales), from Amazon (in both print and for the Kindle) and from Barnes & Noble on the Nook.

Because we’re giving folk, and since it’s the beginning of the holiday season and all, we want to give you a chance to win yourself a free copy of the book. So today, tomorrow and Wednesday, we’ll be running a trivia contest based on one of the articles in the book. The first person to post the correct answer in the comments will win a free physical copy of the book (sorry, no free Kindle or Nook versions). It’s just that simple!

Today’s question comes from the article entitled “Shifty Business, or the War Against Hitters,” by Jeff Zimmerman. In it, Jeff uses data from Inside Edge to break down how teams and players shifted and were shifted against, respectively, and what the ramifications of said shifts were. It’s a great read, and in it we find the nugget for today’s trivia question. Jeff found that seven players successfully bunted a ball in play against a shift more than once. Of those seven, just one player reached base four or more times. So the question before you, dear reader, is this:

Who was the only player to successfully reach base via a bunt against a shift four or more times during the 2013 season?

If no one is able to answer that question correctly, then the secondary question is:

Name as many of the seven players who successfully bunted a ball in play multiple times against a shift in 2013.

You might want to try to answer both questions, just for funsies.

Good luck!

An Early Look at the Price of a Win This Off-Season

Over the last few years, we have analyzed nearly every notable contract signed in Major League Baseball, and one of the tools that we have used regularly is a pricing model that we often refer to as $/WAR. Basically, this calculation takes a look at the expected production from a player during the life of the contract that he just signed, then also the total cost of the contract over the length of the deal, and divides the production by the price. This calculation attempts to estimate the price paid for the expected production, and gives us an idea of what teams are paying for projected wins in baseball’s closest thing to a free market.

To be clear, FanGraphs didn’t invent this calculation, and this isn’t an idea specific to us. Doug Pappas was doing similar calculations a decade ago using a method he called Marginal Payroll and Marginal Wins. Nate Silver also wrote about the marginal value of a win during his time at Baseball Prospectus, and Tom Tango has been calculating $/WAR for contracts for years on his blog. Over the last few years, plenty of others have written about the price of a win in MLB, and there are multiple methods to perform this kind of calculation.

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Astros’ Regional Sports Network Awash In Losses And Lawsuits

Comcast SportsNet Houston went live Oct. 1, 2012, and has been in trouble ever since. Actually, the trouble may have started before the first broadcast signal beamed to homes in the Houston area. Now the network and its various constituent owners are fighting in federal bankruptcy court and in Texas state court. The situation may get worse before it gets better.

The Houston Astros own the largest equity stake in CSN Houston, at 46%. The Houston Rockets own 32% and Comcast has the remaining 22%. Comcast owns NBC Universal, which operates Comcast Sports Group — the network of regional sports networks that includes CSN Bay Area, CSN California, CSN Chicago, CSN Philadelphia, CSN Mid-Atlantic and CSN Northwest.

Not only do the Astros have a large stake in CSN Houston, but also a 20-year, rights-fee deal that was supposed to pay the team, on average, $80 million per season. That figure is in line with other recently-inked broadcast deals for MLB teams in medium-to-large television markets: the Rangers and Angels are on the high end, with deals averaging $150 million per year for 20 years. The Padres are on the low end, with a deal averaging $60 million per year for 20 years.

But what the Astros were scheduled to be paid for the broadcast rights to their games differs significantly from what they received. Forbes reported that the CSN Houston deal called for the Astros to be paid $56 million this year, but the network paid only $25 million because it didn’t have the revenue to meet its obligations.

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Q&A: Nolan Arenado, a Gold Glove Rockie Talks Hitting

Nolan Arenado excelled defensively in his rookie season. The Colorado Rockies third baseman won a Gold Glove, and he had the numbers to back it up. The rifle-armed 22-year-old ranked second at his position in assists, fielding percentage, and Defensive Runs Saved. He ranked third in UZR.

At the plate, he wasn’t as good. The right-handed hitter had a .267/.301/.405 slash line, with 10 home runs. Discipline was an issue, as his 4.5 walk rate was one of the worst in the National League.

His track record suggests Arenado will always be an aggressive hitter. His minor-league walk rate ranged between 4.8 and 8.1, and his strikeout rate between 8.0 and 13.0. Despite his free-swinging ways, he’s shown plenty of potential on the offensive side of the ball. In four-plus seasons on the farm, he hit .299/.345/.473.

Arenado talked about his offensive approach during the 2013 season. Read the rest of this entry »

Effectively Wild Episode 337: Free Agent Spending So Far/The McCann, Molina, and Smith Signings

Ben and Sam discuss the early movement on the free agent market, then break down the Jose Molina, Brian McCann, and Joe Smith signings.

FanGraphs Audio: Dave Cameron Is Annoyed by Transactions

Episode 403
Dave Cameron is both (a) the managing editor of FanGraphs and (b) the guest on this particular edition of FanGraphs Audio — during which edition he analyzes as many of the recent transactions as he can tolerate.

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 35 min play time.)

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Joe Smith: Boring Name, Decent Reliever

Joe Smith, who has long contended with Scott Baker and Jim Johnson for The Most Boring Name in Baseball, reportedly signed a three-year, $15.75 million deal with the Angels over the weekend. This might seem like another multi-year contract of the sort bloggers like to complain about, but I don’t think that conclusion is self evident. The more important question might be how this fits into a coherent off-season strategy for the Angels to improve their run prevention.

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Can Diamondback Jake Lamb Survive?

Knock on wood, I certainly hope so. This piece isn’t about sending a tribute to the area, rather it is a discussion of the composition of the minor leagues and those who reach the major leagues.

While this article became a study of a the California League’s population, the concept began when I was thinking about Jake Lamb’s prospect status. Lamb signed with the Diamondbacks last June and I stumbled upon him during his first Spring Training with the club — he ranked among the 10 best prospects I saw in Arizona. Intrigued, I followed his injury-riddled season closely and thought he would never garner the attention I believed he deserved because of his old age and collegiate pedigree (though, Hulet ranked him higher than anyone else this off season!).  Suddenly, I found myself buried in Excel attempting to discover what Jake Lamb’s chances were to become a major leaguer.

Statistical studies of prospects are difficult because the minor leagues are vast and rife with variables and failure. There are 189 teams across 16 full-season, short season and rookie leagues, each stocked with talent that may never make a major league 25-man roster. With over 5,000 minor leaguers vying for 750 MLB roster spots it can be easier to study the successes.

Studying only the players who reach the major leagues may be easier, but often such studies snag on “survivorship bias.” Survivorship bias may be present when a study’s population consists of a select group amongst a larger class. If one is going to study success, it’s wise to study failure too. For a demonstration of survivorship bias, read Dave Cameron’s post on The Value of Hunter Pence.

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Steamer Projects: Arizona Diamondbacks Prospects

At the end of last week, polite and Canadian and polite Marc Hulet published his 2014 organizational prospect list for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

It goes without saying that, in composing such a list, Hulet has considered the overall future value those prospects might be expected to provide either to the D-backs or whatever other organizations to which they might someday belong.

What this brief post concerns isn’t overall future value, at all, but rather such value as the prospects from Hulet’s list might provide were they to play, more or less, a full major-league season in 2014.

Other prospect projections: Chicago AL / Miami / Seattle.

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Win a Free Copy of THT 2014!

In case you haven’t heard, The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2014 is now available to purchase on ye ole internets. You can find my post on the book here, Dave Studeman’s post on the book here, and listen to Carson Cistulli’s FanGraphs Audio episode with Studes here.

After you’re done consuming those posts, you can buy it from Createspace (where we get the biggest cut of sales), from Amazon (in both print and for the Kindle) and from Barnes & Noble on the Nook.

Because we’re giving folk, and since it’s the beginning of the holiday season and all, we want to give you a chance to win yourself a free copy of the book. So today, tomorrow and Wednesday, we’ll be running a trivia contest based on one of the articles in the book. The first person to post the correct answer in the comments will win a free physical copy of the book (sorry, no free Kindle or Nook versions). It’s just that simple!

Today’s question comes from the article entitled “The Most Storied Postseasons.” In it, Dave Studeman details the 10 most storied postseason careers, using ChampAdded as his metric of choice. Studes ran the list both before and after the 2013 postseason, and there were changes. The question before you today, dear reader, is this:

Which player got bumped off of the 10 most storied postseason career list, and which player played his way onto it during the 2013 postseason?

To win the free copy, you have to get both parts of the answer correct.

Good luck!

Jhonny Peralta and the Price of Nerd Favorites

Over the weekend, the Cardinals signed Jhonny Peralta to a four year, $53 million contract. I think it’s fair to say that, heading into the off-season, he was expected to sign for much less. The Tigers didn’t bother making him a qualifying offer. He was coming off a 50 game suspension for using PEDs. Some teams that expressed interest in him saw him as an outfielder, not a shortstop, and his offensive production levels aren’t that fantastic for a corner OF. He was so overlooked that Carson Cistulli even forgot to include him in the Contract Crowdsourcing series, but the general consensus from other contract prognosticators was something in the range of $20 million over two years.

But Peralta landed a deal for twice as long and more than twice as much money, as the Cardinals spent aggressively for the right to fill their shortstop hole without trading from their base of young talent. They could have acquired a cheaper shortstop from a financial perspective, but the cost of talent would have been substantial, so they chose to spend their monetary resources rather than their physical ones. Eno’s already talked about some of the risks and rewards of signing Peralta, so rather than rehash that post, I wanted to talk about Peralta’s price, and perhaps how we should have seen this coming.

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