Archive for December, 2013

Baseball’s Anti-TTO Ballpark

I can recall a handful of baseball stats that have just blown me away upon first viewing. Most recently, I was floored by advancements in pitch-framing research, and now I can’t think about any catcher without looking up how well he does or doesn’t receive. Obviously, PITCHf/x was sort of world-changing right away, and the same goes for the glimpses we’ve had of HITf/x. Years and years ago, I thought we solved almost everything with general batted-ball data, and I also remember opening a book and seeing batting averages and slugging percentages against specific pitch types. And there was an article I read in the Hardball Times, talking about various park factors. Some of them have been obvious for a long time. But it wasn’t until that day that I realized parks can affect outcomes like strikeouts and bases on balls.

There’s every reason for that to make sense. Every single ballpark is different, so in a way, every single ballpark’s version of baseball is different. The baseball will look different to the batter, and how the batter sees the ball is sort of one of the game’s fundamental components. The batter’s decision and swing lead to everything else. But what this isn’t is intuitive, or easily explained. People don’t pay much attention to these park factors, because they’re weird and ultimately not that important. Yet they exist and ought to be acknowledged, and one park in particular is extreme in a number of ways.

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Jamey Wright Improving With Age

Jamey Wright turned 39 on December 24, and he celebrated by signing a one-year deal worth $1.8 million with the Dodgers. As far as offseason signings go, it’s a relatively minor one, and coming as it did in the midst of the holiday season and the far bigger stories of Shin-Soo Choo and Masahiro Tanaka, it — quite reasonably — went unmentioned here. In fact, as far as I can tell, the last time he was even mentioned on the regular FG site was way back in 2009, and even that was a Jeremy Affeldt article that barely referenced Wright.

That’s neither surprising nor unexpected, because Wright’s claim to fame — if he even has one — is that he’s been surviving on minor-league deals for longer than most current players have even been in the big leagues. After eight consecutive years making seven different teams as a non-roster invite, he’s finally managed to collect a big-league deal for the first time since 2005. That’s great for him, but is otherwise a minor piece of trivia in the larger baseball world.

Still, we’re talking about him today because — well, okay, because no one can stand to talk about the Hall of Fame any longer — his age 35-38 seasons have looked like this:  Read the rest of this entry »

My Theoretical 2014 Hall of Fame Ballot

Ballots for Hall of Fame voters are due today. While I am a member of the BBWAA, I have not been in the organization for the requisite 10 years, so I do not have a vote for the Hall of Fame. But I still have opinions, and so, here is my hypothetical 2014 ballot. If you’re interested, here is my ballot from last year, where I voted for Bagwell, Piazza, Schilling, Biggio, Raines, Walker, Martinez, Bonds, Clemens, and Trammell. Because of the 10 vote limit, several of those players are getting bumped this year; hopefully the BBWAA does away with the arbitrary limitation and lets people vote for whoever they believe is worthy of enshrinement in the future.

On to my 2014 picks, listed in order from strongest to weakest candidate. For players who are holdovers from last year’s ballot, I just copied and pasted what I wrote a year ago.

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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 12/31/13

Jeff Sullivan: I KNOW

Jeff Sullivan: I know I know I know

Jeff Sullivan: So let’s just move on and talk baseball and pretend this never happened

Comment From big boy brandon geluso
late brah ya heard?

Jeff Sullivan: At some point down the road we’ll all look back and this will be a delightful character trait

Jeff Sullivan: See this is why I always chat for like two hours

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How Can We Better Study Team Depth?

We know that Billy Beane has joked before that his stuff doesn’t work in the playoffs. And we know that, at least this time around, his Athletics team is built on depth and getting value out of the back end of his roster. These things seem to go hand in hand: your sixth starter and sixth infielder may mean a lot during the season, and they may not even make your post-season roster. But can we study this more rigorously in an effort to estimate the true value of depth?

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FanGraphs Q&A: The Best Quotes of 2013

In 2013, I once again had the pleasure of interviewing a variety of people from within baseball. This year’s list includes 51 major league players — not counting the dozens who contributed to the Player’s View series — 38 top prospects, 16 coaches and managers and several others who fall into other categories.

Here is a selection of the best quotes from the 2013 FanGraphs Q&A series. Read the rest of this entry »

The Crowd Speaks: Masahiro Tanaka’s Contract

A few hours ago, I put up a crowdsourcing form for you guys to project what Masahiro Tanaka will sign for in the next few weeks. Now that we’re up to about 700 entries, I’d say our sample is large enough to post the results.

First, some graphs, because the word is in our name.


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Contract Crowdsourcing: Masahiro Tanaka

Since it’s Masahiro Tanaka day here at FanGraphs — Tony and I both wrote about him this morning — and because I find our reader’s expectations of contract prices to be endlessly fascinating, let’s go ahead and break out the Contract Crowdsourcing series again for MLB’s newest sort-of-free-agent.

This won’t be an exactly apples to apples comparison to the other 47 crowdsourced free agent contracts you guys already did, since we now have information about the market rate for players this winter and how teams are reacting to having more money than ever before, but it should still be a fun exercise. As usual, the form is below, though because I made this one, it won’t be as pretty as the ones Carson created a few months ago. As my wife will tell you, I’m more function over design, so it’s just a plain and simple two step form. We’ll collect a representative sample of the readership, and then I’ll publish the results either later this afternoon or tomorrow morning.

Two simple questions: how many years will Tanaka sign for, and what will the AAV of his salary be in those years? Note that because we know that the posting fee is going to be $20 million, there’s no need to forecast that, so you should only include the salary Tanaka will receive, and then his total cost will be the forecast years and dollars plus $20 million. But don’t include the $20 million. Really. Don’t do it. Just the AAV of what he’ll receive. Got it? Okay, go.

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Dan Szymborski FanGraphs Chat – 12/30/13

Dan Szymborski: You know what I hate? When sportswriters are seen as the bottom of the writing pyramid, slack-jawed mouth-breathers too stupid to do anything else with their lives.

Dan Szymborski: You know what I hate more? When the BBWAA voting members do their very best to prove them right.

Dan Szymborski: Welcome to today’s edition of the Very Angry Zim chat.

Comment From Dan
Do you have Zips by you ATM? Curious what Zorilla’s defense looks like at other positions in +/- terms

Dan Szymborski: I don’t, windows is updating there.

Comment From Mike
Every year ZiPS predicts Ben Rever will hit a HR and I laugh. Can you go into the process that leads to such a crazy projection? If he’s “rounding up to 1” is he slowly dropping from 0.8 HR to 0.6 HR or something?

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Masahiro Tanaka and Prospect Valuation

Masahiro Tanaka was finally posted last week. Now, for the next 25 days or so, he’s going to be the center of the baseball world, for all the reasons Tony talked about this morning, and the month long courting of Tanaka is going to end with him likely signing a deal that costs a similar amount to Shin-Soo Choo or Jacoby Ellsbury. Perhaps more, on an annual average basis, since his deal is likely to be for six seasons instead of seven, and teams will have to pay a $20 million posting fee in addition to the salary they negotiate with Tanaka. My guess is that he ends up at $120 million over six years, so the total cost will be 6/$140M with the posting fee, putting his final bill just slightly behind the 6/$147M that Zack Greinke went for last winter.

It is going to be, by far, the largest contract ever given to a player who has yet to play in the big leagues. Including the posting fee, Daisuke Matsuzaka cost the Red Sox about $100 million, while Yu Darvish cost the Rangers about $110 million. And those deals dwarf all of the contracts given to other international players: Jose Abreu got $68 million this winter after defecting from Cuba. Previously, Hyun-Jin Ryu went for $62 million including the posting fee paid to his Korean team, Yasiel Puig got $42 million (plus some potential arbitration payouts that could raise that number substantially), and Yoenis Cespedes got $36 million over four years. Even going back a few years, we see Aroldis Chapman at $30 million and Leonys Martin at $15 million.

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One Year Makes A Big Difference In Cincinnati Outfield

I was recently doing some research for an ESPN article using our depth charts, and a few observations came to mind:

1) No one has any idea what to make of Alexander Guerrero;
2) The Astros are actually getting some respect, and the Marlins aren’t; and
3) Wow, would you look at the non-Jay Bruce members of the Cincinnati outfield? Read the rest of this entry »

2014 ZiPS Projections – Tampa Bay Rays

After having typically appeared in the entirely venerable pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections were released at FanGraphs last year. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Tampa Bay Rays. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Atlanta / Baltimore / Boston / Cleveland / Los Angeles NL / Miami / Minnesota / New York AL / Philadelphia / San Diego / Seattle / St. Louis.

Certain clubs over the past 20 or so years have featured celebrated pairs of teammates: Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire*, for example, who played together on the late-80s Oakland clubs or David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez on the mid-aught Boston ones or, more recently, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder with Detroit. It’s entirely possible, however, that the combination of Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist is more formidable than any of those in terms of all-around production. Defensively, based on their ZiPS projections, each is at least as valuable afield as a league-average shortstop (and a bit more than that, in Longoria’s case).

With regard to the precise location of certain players on the depth-chart graphic below, one is compelled to acknowledge that, as in recent seasons, manager Joe Maddon is likely both to utilize platoons more than is suggested by that same graphic and also probably to use the DH slot for the sake of flexibility rather than as a lineup spot merely for, say, Matt Joyce alone. It would be interesting to see outfielder and right-handed-batting Brandon Guyer receive a substantive number of at-bats after several decent offensive seasons at Triple-A.

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Tanaka-Fest: This Is Going To Be Insane

The month spanning Christmas Day to Jan. 24 is going to be something unlike we have seen in recent baseball history. We could call it “The Month of Tanaka,” but I prefer to look it at as a 13th sign of the zodiac, one that will showcase all of the good, the bad and the ugly in the baseball business. The ultra-predictable United States sports calendar—which can basically be programmed a year in advance—is about to be given quite a jolt. The posting and eventual signing of Masahiro Tanaka has the potential to become the ultimate month-long sports reality show. You don’t think so? Consider this: Read the rest of this entry »

Ervin Santana and Some New Kind of Weapon

If you’ve ever been on Twitter, Ervin Santana probably follows you. Or at least, whoever’s in charge of Ervin Santana’s Twitter account. That account seems dead set on making some kind of impact. The same can’t be said to the same extent of Ervin Santana’s agent, Jay Alou, whose account is decidedly less active, but just the other day Alou happened to tweet out something of particular interest, that caught the attention of many:

Santana’s currently a free agent without a home, and as far as we can tell there hasn’t even been much in the way of negotiating progress. Everybody has been waiting on Masahiro Tanaka, because everybody likes Tanaka better than the domestic starting pitchers on the market. Now that Tanaka’s been posted, the rest of the pitcher market should move forward, meaning soon Santana can start really talking money. In part to help entice suitors, Santana seems to be working on a new pitch. The idea is self-improvement, and it’s never a bad idea to improve.

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FanGraphs Audio: Dave Cameron Analyzes All Foreign Affairs

Episode 410
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 discusses Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka and other international concerns.

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 37 min play time.)

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2014 ZiPS Projections – Seattle Mariners

After having typically appeared in the entirely venerable pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections were released at FanGraphs last year. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Seattle Mariners. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Atlanta / Baltimore / Boston / Cleveland / Los Angeles NL / Miami / Minnesota / New York AL / Philadelphia / San Diego / St. Louis.

ZiPS projects Robinson Cano, Brad Miller, and Kyle Seager to produce the most wins among all of Seattle’s field players this next season. The latter two differ from the first insofar as they’ll make entire truck loads less of American currency in 2014. The triumvirate all share a common trait, however, insofar as none of the three ever appeared on a Baseball America top-100 prospect list — a statement intended not as a comment on the great work done by BA, but merely on the unique paths shared by each.

By all appearances, Corey Hart and Logan Morrison will actually share left-field and DH duties in 2014, an arrangement which the author hasn’t depicted on the very attractive depth-chart graphic below not because he was unaware of it (i.e. the arrangement), but because it would have been tedious and largely unnecessary extra work.

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Effectively Wild Episode 355: The Last and Longest Show of 2013

Ben and Sam answer listener emails until Sam’s battery dies.

Effectively Wild Episode 354: The 2013 Time Capsule

Ben and Sam pick the season’s biggest baseball stories.

Steamer Projects: Houston Astros Prospects

Earlier this week, polite and Canadian and polite Marc Hulet published his 2014 organizational prospect list for the Houston Astros.

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 Astros 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: Arizona / Chicago AL / Miami / Minnesota / New York NL / San Diego / San Francisco / Seattle / Toronto.

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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 12/24/13

Comment From Dave
Do you hate your boss for making your work today? Do you wish he’d tell you to just bag it and go do something else instead?

Jeff Sullivan: He didn’t make me work today! I’m doing this of my own volition, but I figure I’ll only chat for an hour or so before doing something else with or near the family

Jeff Sullivan: But that depends on the audience. If everybody’s otherwise occupied, I’ll get rid of this and no one will ever know it attempted to happen!

Comment From Evan
Where does Balfour go now? Crain?

Comment From Sam
Do you think the Rays are favorites to land Balfour at this point?

Jeff Sullivan: Balfour’s going to be an interesting one — the Rays will be in there provided his price is lower than it was, but if the Mariners get somewhat bold or miss out on other targets they’ve been asking about a veteran closer type and Balfour could now cost a lot less than Rodney

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