Archive for January, 2014

FanGraphs Audio: Dayn Perry Questions Everything

Episode 420
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 disconsolate 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 20 min play time.)

Read the rest of this entry »

The Cubs’ Idea So Nice They’re Trying It Twice

The Cubs weren’t going to win in 2013, and everyone knew it. The organization had begun to find its way, but it was understood it would be a long process, and 2013 would be more about development. That didn’t mean, however, that the Cubs would be inactive in free agency, and one of the things they did was sign veteran starter Scott Feldman for a year and $6 million, with an additional $1 million in possible incentives. Feldman was solid over 15 starts, and then the Cubs flipped him to Baltimore with Steve Clevenger in exchange for Jake Arrieta, Pedro Strop, and some international spending money. In that way, the Cubs turned a stopgap veteran into possible long-term resources. It was perfect execution of a classic idea.

The Cubs aren’t going to win in 2014, and everyone knows it. The organization is still on its way, and overall it’s made progress, but it’s still going to be a long process, and 2014 will be more about development. That doesn’t mean, however, that the Cubs need to be inactive in free agency, and something they just did is sign veteran starter Jason Hammel for a year and $6 million, with an additional $1 million in possible incentives. What Hammel hasn’t been, yet, is flipped for possible long-term resources. But that could be perfect execution of a classic idea.

Read the rest of this entry »

Explaining the Chris Capuano Bargain

Everybody’s interested in free-agent bargains. Regular free-agent prices always seem increasingly insane, so everybody’s interested in free-agent bargains. People ask about remaining bargains in seemingly every FanGraphs chat I either run or read, and my automatic answer has long been Chris Capuano. I don’t even think about it anymore. It’s Capuano, and then it’s on to the next question. I don’t remember when it started this way. I don’t remember what my initial explanation was. It seems about time to actually write a post about this, and as it happens, this post can even be timely.

Buster Olney wrote this morning about how free-agent prices are coming down with spring training nearly upon us. Teams have even exploited this as a strategy, figuring that, in time, players will get more desperate than the teams will. Olney also composed a few tweets, two of which are relevant to this particular Capuano-centric discussion. Now I’ll embed them, as you do.

Read the rest of this entry »

SABR Analytics Research Awards: Voting Open

Here’s your chance to vote for the 2014 SABR Analytics Conference Research Awards winners.

The SABR Analytics Conference Research Awards will recognize baseball researchers who have completed the best work of original analysis or commentary during the preceding calendar year. Nominations were solicited by representatives from SABR, Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs, The Hardball Times, and Beyond the Box Score.

Read the rest of this entry »

Jason Collette Baseball Chat — 1/31/14

Jason Collette: As the President of the Wilson Betemit fan club, it is a great day today. Let’s chat!

Comment From Mitch
Is there any hope Carlos Quentin can become relevant again?

   Jason Collette: Guys do not get healthier with age. Ideally, he’d be in the AL as a DH, but the fact he has exceeded 100 games played just 3 times in his career is not good.


Comment From Sandy Alderson
Am I going to actually pull the trigger on Stephen Drew?

   Jason Collette: You would have done it already if you were doing to do so. Milking it out only gives more leverage to he and his agent as the open market could create new opportunities with injuries that happen during camp.


Comment From Kev
Hey Jason, what do you think we can expect from Miguel Gonzalez?

   Jason Collette: No more than what he’s done so far, maybe a bit less.


Comment From Brad
If aj burnett signs with Orioles, who gets bumped from rotation?

   Jason Collette: Inserting the required “assuming he passes the physical” comment, one would have to think that adding Burnett does not initially bode well for Gausman opening the season in the rotation.


Comment From Earl
I’ve always been a fan of betemit, back when we he was a great platoon option in video games (it’s been a while for me). Anywho, what do you see him doing for the Rays this season?

   Jason Collette: For now, providing depth assuming he’s willing to report to Durham as it is tough to see him making the 25 man roster as it looks today. Ideally, he would give up switch hitting as he is simply a poor hitter from the right side but platooned effectively, I’ve always seen some hidden value in his bat from the left side.


Read the rest of this entry »

Job Posting: TrackMan, Coordinator of Baseball Analytics

TrackMan Baseball, Coordinator of Baseball Analytics

Job description

Join the TrackMan team as a Coordinator of Baseball Analytics and gain valuable experience working in a fast moving company that is operating at the intersection of sports and technology.

Reporting to the General Manager and working in close collaboration with the Director of Marketing, Analytics & Data Integrity, the Coordinator of Baseball Analytics will support all aspects of TrackMan’s data quality process and play a key role in developing insights based on TrackMan’s unique measurements.

Read the rest of this entry »

2014 ZiPS Projections – Texas Rangers

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 Texas Rangers. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Arizona / Atlanta / Baltimore / Boston / Chicago AL / Chicago NL / Cincinnati / Cleveland / Colorado / Detroit / Houston / Kansas City / Los Angeles AL / Los Angeles NL / Miami / Milwaukee / Minnesota / New York AL / New York NL / Philadelphia / Pittsburgh / San Diego / Seattle / St. Louis / Tampa Bay / Toronto.

Adjudged purely by likely wins gained relative to actual dollars spent, the Rangers’ trade of Ian Kinsler to Detroit for Prince Fielder doesn’t probably qualify as an excellent move. Team context can’t be ignored, however, as the ZiPS projection for infielder Jurickson Profar illustrates. Profar is likely to approximate Ian Kinsler’s production in 2014, is what Dan Szymborski’s computer math suggests. Fielder, moreover, represents an upgrade over whomever would have played first base or DH’ed instead of him. Ergo, the Rangers are improved overall.

Indeed, even with the acquisition of Fielder, Texas remains a club that could benefit from offensive help. Mitch Moreland’s bat profiles as just a league-average one — which, unless complemented by quite a bit in the way of run-saving defensively, conspires to make him something less than average overall. Combining him with a right-handed bat in a platoon would help that. With whom?, is the question. Michael Choice is one possibility, but he would appear to have something to offer in terms of defense.

Read the rest of this entry »

Jose Iglesias: Defense in Detroit

Early last summer, I wrote an article for Baseball Digest magazine that began with a quote from Bobby Cox. The Hall of Fame manager said, “They’ve got their RBIs in their gloves.” He was referring to weak-hitting shortstops with elite defensive ability. A few paragraphs later, I brought up Jose Iglesias.

Whether Iglesias fits that profile is a matter of debate. The 24-year-old ended up far outperforming expectations by hitting .303/.349/.386 between Boston and Detroit. He also had a .356 BABiP. The jury is still out on his bat.

There aren’t any questions about his glove. Iglesias is a human highlight reel at the shortstop position. His one-motion-catch-and-throw of an infield roller last summer was probably the defensive play of the year. His basket catch in short left field, in the ALCS, wasn’t far behind. Simply put, he makes plays no one else — OK, maybe Andrelton Simmons — can. By the eye-test, Iglesias is nothing short of brilliant.

The numbers don’t disagree. Read the rest of this entry »

Effectively Wild Episode 376: Listener-Selected Listener Emails

Ben, Sam, and special guest Ryan Sullivan answer listener emails about instant replay, roster changes, shortening the lineup, Seinfeld, and more.

Just What is One Getting in Ubaldo Jimenez?

Let’s grant that there’s pretty much always something to not like about a given free agent. Baseball has a very limited number of truly extraordinary players, and those players seldom become free agents, at least before they start getting old. So any free agent will always have a more optimistic perception, and a more pessimistic perception. But no matter what could be said about other years, it’s felt like there’s been a lot of uncertainty within this year’s free-agent-starting-pitcher class. Teams didn’t know whether they could trust Matt Garza’s elbow. A year ago, Ervin Santana wasn’t good. A year ago, Ubaldo Jimenez wasn’t good. Masahiro Tanaka has never pitched in the States. Hell, the surest thing might be A.J. Burnett, and he’s old, and he just became an actual free agent the other day. For effect, let’s repeat that the surest thing within a given player pool might be A.J. Burnett.

Jimenez is probably the most mysterious out of everybody. He’s been an ace, he’s been a wreck, and he’s been everything in between. He’s not old, but he doesn’t throw like he did when he was young. Statistically, he’s coming off a bounceback season, having posted the same adjusted FIP and the same adjusted xFIP as Zack Greinke. The strikeouts were there, even if the old velocity wasn’t. On the surface, Jimenez and Santana look similar, in that they’re asking suitors to buy in to surprisingly successful 2013s. That makes them kind of difficult to trust. With Jimenez, though, it’s even more difficult. With Jimenez, it isn’t about all of 2013.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bruce Chen and the Power of the Home Run

Bruce Chen has had a pretty weird career. He was a top prospect with the Braves, got to the Majors at 21, and had his first excellent season at age-23. And then he fell apart and became the definition of a replacement level pitcher. From 2000 to 2003, he played for the Braves, Phillies, Mets, Expos, Reds, Astros, and Red Sox. He changed teams at least once in each of those four years, and was officially a journeyman by the time he was 26.

A decade later, he just re-signed with the Royals for another $4.25 million in guaranteed money, with an option that could actually keep him around through the end of his age-37 season. This wasn’t a particularly easy outcome to see coming, given how mediocre he was for most of his career, but his late career revival is almost something of a reminder about just how much of a pitcher’s performance is driven by home run rates.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Rays, the A’s, and Seeing What Might Not Be There

Here are a couple things that we know:

  • The Rays and the A’s are lower-budget baseball teams
  • The Rays and the A’s have good ideas of what they’re doing

I suppose we can’t really prove the second one, but to the extent that results can serve as indicators, it’s hard to argue with how successful the teams have been despite their considerable financial disadvantages. Both front offices are thought of as intelligent, forward-thinking, analytical, and efficient, and they’re efficient out of necessity, because neither team can afford to flush money down the toilet. They need to try to get the most out of every dollar they spend.

Here’s another thing that we know: over the offseason, the Rays and the A’s have poured some millions into building up their bullpens. Relievers are often thought of as being lousy investments, and it seems easy enough to cobble a bullpen together on the cheap, so when the Rays and the A’s invest in late-inning vets, it gets attention. The temptation is to believe they’re exploiting some kind of inefficiency. The temptation is to believe we’ve been wrong about relievers for a while. Basically, the temptation is to believe that they’re on to something. And, you know, maybe that’s true. Maybe they’ve figured something out. Or maybe people are just looking for patterns in the sand. Maybe there’s nothing weird going on at all.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Pros and Cons of Pulling the Baseball

The advantages of pulling the baseball have been an increasingly popular analytical topic in the fairly recent past – wildly productive slash lines on pulled batted balls, especially those hit in the air, can be readily trotted out for almost any hitter. Is it really that simple? Should hitters just stride to the plate and look to pull for distance at all costs, and then expect to enjoy the riches that ensue? Doing so, upon further review, appears to have some unintended consequences. Read the rest of this entry »

Eno Sarris Baseball Chat — 1/30/14

Eno Sarris: Will be here shortly!

Eno Sarris: Lyrics of the day, might be easy for some, but very many bonus points if you get the version I’m listening to

You tell me this town ain’t got no heart. Well, well, well, you can never tell.
The sunny side of the street is dark. Well, well, well, you can never tell.

Comment From Chris
What tier in Firestone Walker in?

Eno Sarris: One, of course, I made the rules up for the Fantasy Beer League.

Comment From Justin

Eno Sarris: Yes?

Read the rest of this entry »

Steamer Projects: Philadelphia Phillies Prospects

Earlier today, polite and Canadian and polite Marc Hulet published his 2014 organizational prospect list for the Philadelphia Phillies.

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 Phillies 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 / Baltimore / Chicago AL / Chicago NL / Colorado / Houston / Kansas City / Los Angeles AL / Miami / Milwaukee / Minnesota / New York NL / San Diego / San Francisco / Seattle / Tampa Bay / Toronto.

Read the rest of this entry »

Q&A: Jesse Biddle, Philadelphia Phillies Pitching Prospect

Jesse Biddle is better than the 5-14 record and 5.3 BB/9 he logged last season with Double-A Reading. A lot better. As a matter of fact, the 22-year-old lefthander is on the verge of breaking into the Philadelphia Phillies starting rotation.

Biddle battled health issues in 2013. Diagnosed with whooping cough in April, he doggedly took the mound at less than full strength the entire season. In August, he toed the rubber with a case of plantar fasciitis.

A first-round pick in 2011 out of Germantown Friends School in suburban Philadelphia, Biddle has one of the best curveballs in minor league baseball. He also has a surprising role model. His stuff is that of a power pitcher, but Biddle is a big believer in the ways of Jamie Moyer. Read the rest of this entry »

2014 Top 10 Prospects: Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies system starts off nicely but drops off rapidly after the third slot. Serious injuries have taken a huge bite out of the rankings for players such as shortstop Roman Quinn, catcher Tommy Joseph, as well as pitchers Shane Watson and Adam Morgan. Read the rest of this entry »

Effectively Wild Episode 375: Peter Angelos and the Orioles’ Fearsome Physicals

Ben and Sam talk to Jack Moore about the history of Orioles physicals and Peter Angelos’ time with the team.

The Myth of the Royals and 2014

To me, it isn’t fair to evaluate trades in retrospect. While there can be significance there, it’ll be out-shouted by all the random noise, and you can only ever make a decision based upon the information that you have at the time. But we can still look at trades in retrospect, just to see how they worked out, and of course there’s some insight in exploring the deal that swapped James Shields and another for Wil Myers and others. Plenty was written here about the trade at the time. Shields was worth 4.5 WAR last year, and he projects for 4 WAR this year. Myers was worth 2.4 WAR last year in a partial season, and he projects for 3 WAR this year. Shields is expensive and in his contract season. Myers is cheap and under control forever. This was basically the problem all along, even ignoring all the other parts, which can’t be ignored.

I don’t think opinions of the trade have changed. Those who supported the Royals going for it still applaud the boldness. Those who criticized the Royals going for it still believe it was a poorly-timed mistake. The move was controversial enough that people have dug in to their positions, and those minds are all made up. I’m definitely still on the critical side, myself. I thought it was too short-term of a move for a team that wasn’t ready. But a lot of people have taken this one step further. There’s a common belief that, by making the trade, the Royals gave themselves a two-year window, before losing Shields to free agency. The first year is gone. So there’s one year left of the window, but really, there’s not. The truth is a lot less black and a lot less white.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Rising Price and Length of Free Agent Contracts

The 2013-2014 free agent season isn’t over yet. Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, A.J. Burnett, Stephen Drew, Kendrys Morales, Nelson Cruz, and Bronson Arroyo are still on the market and in most cases are looking for multi-year contracts. Between just those seven, I’d imagine MLB teams will probably commit somewhere between $250 and $300 million, and when they do, they’re going to push total spending on free agent contracts handed out this winter over $2 billion.

I’m not breaking any news here, but the rapid increase in free agent contracts over the last five years is still pretty staggering. Just for fun, I pulled all the data for Major League contracts signed for each of the last five years from ESPN’s free agent tracker, and dumped the data into a spreadsheet. Here are some total numbers for each of the last five free agent classes.

Read the rest of this entry »