Archive for February, 2014

The Significance of Pitching to the Park

This post isn’t about Ervin Santana, who remains a free agent. This post was inspired by fly-ball pitchers, and, interestingly, Santana is no longer one of those, despite his reputation. Definitely, he’s still somewhat homer-prone, but his groundball rates have been creeping up over a few years. He’s pretty neutral, but still, people see him as this fly-ball guy, and so as rumors have flown around, people have questioned the wisdom of certain places being potential destinations. Would you really want a fly-ball guy in, say, Baltimore? Would you really want a fly-ball guy in Toronto? Those are pretty homer-friendly parks. In theory, they’re not suited to Santana’s skillset.

So there’s a question to research: how much does it matter? How much are fly-ball guys hurt by homer-friendly parks? How much do fly-ball guys benefit from non-homer-friendly parks? Beyond the simple park factors, of course. Everybody gives up more homers in more homer-friendly parks, but we know how to adjust for that. What can we say about fly-ball pitchers after that adjustment, for example? Hopefully, you follow. If not, well, I’m still typing. Maybe you’ll start following soon.

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FanGraphs Audio: A Dayn Perry Executive’s Brunch

Episode 428
Dayn Perry is a contributor to CBS Sports’ Eye on Baseball and the author of three books — one of them not very miserable. He’s also the high-powered 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.)

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Crowdsourcing “Minor” Spring Training Health Problems

As we reach the beginning of the Cactus and Grapefruit League schedules, pitchers are starting to ramp up towards opening day. It’s no longer just long toss and stretching, but now, they’re expected to throw actual innings at a physical effort level approaching what they’d do in the regular season. And, naturally, some players are experiencing some issues while ramping up, with some even heading off to get MRIs.

We know that these kinds of strains and pulls and soreness are pretty common in February and March, but what we don’t know — or at least, I don’t know — is how often these reported spring training issues turn into something more serious. Plenty of people out there have tracked and continue to track the “Best Shape Of His Life” group, but as I read about a few more pitchers going to the training room today, I wondered why we’re not tracking pitchers who report spring training pain, in order to learn what percentage of guys who have to undergo treatment in February and March end up on the DL in April through September.

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Steamer Projects: Oakland A’s Prospects

Earlier today, polite and Canadian and polite Marc Hulet published his 2014 organizational prospect list for the Oakland A’s.

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 Oaklanders 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 / Atlanta / Baltimore / Boston / Chicago AL / Chicago NL / Cincinnati / Cleveland / Colorado / Houston / Kansas City / Los Angeles AL / Miami / Milwaukee / Minnesota / New York AL / New York NL / Philadelphia / Pittsburgh / St. Louis / San Diego / San Francisco / Seattle / Tampa Bay / Texas / Toronto.

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Exceptional Defense Touches Everyone

Here’s something that should be pretty evident: If you’ve got a ground-ball pitcher, you want him pitching in front of a strong infield defense. Likewise, if you’ve got a fly-ball pitcher, you want him pitching in front of a strong outfield defense. I feel like I don’t even need to explain the thought processes. How many times did people express concern over Rick Porcello starting for last year’s Detroit Tigers? Porcello’s a ground ball guy. Last year’s Tigers started Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder at the corners. Intuitively, that could’ve been a problem.

OK. As presented on FanGraphs, the UZR era stretches back to 2002. Over that span, last year’s Tampa Bay Rays had one of the best infield defenses, at +50 runs. Not surprisingly, ground-baller Alex Cobb posted an ERA well below his FIP. More surprisingly, fly-baller Matt Moore showed an even bigger positive difference. Let’s flip things around. The 2004 New York Yankees had one of the worst outfield defenses, at -68 runs. Not surprisingly, fly-baller Javier Vazquez pitched below his peripherals. More surprisingly, ground-baller Jon Lieber showed an even bigger negative difference. These are just carefully selected individual examples, but they help to set up a bigger-picture study.

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Top 10 Prospects: Oakland Athletics

Oakland has an interesting system because a lot of the players on the Top 10 list are unproven. The 2014 season will be an interesting one for the organization as many of those players are poised to either take big steps forward or big steps backward. Read the rest of this entry »


Effectively Wild Episode 396: Your Emails, Answered

Ben and Sam answer listener emails about scouting based on one swing, how much GMs know, paying young players, psyching out opponents, and more.


The Ball that Allowed for the Rest of a Miracle

I don’t even remember what I was looking up on YouTube this morning, but there, in the sidebar, was this, and it just had to be clicked on.

It was, of course, a legendary baseball game, the rare regular-season game that interests more than just fans of the two teams involved. It wasn’t supposed to be anything special from the outset, but most people understand what happened that day — the unbeatable Seattle Mariners took a 14-2 lead over the Cleveland Indians into the bottom of the seventh, and the Cleveland Indians won.

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Idle Observations from a Single Game of Alex Guerrero

The Los Angeles Dodgers signed Cuban emigre and infielder Alexander Guerrero this offseason, with a view (it would seem) towards installing him at second base for the 2014 season. Because Guerrero didn’t participate in the most recent World Baseball Classic and because there’s little in the way of other extant footage of him and because there’s only so much his Cuban league stats can tell us — regardless of how responsibly they’re translated — there’s naturally an air of mystery surrounding him. Indeed, Guerrero’s two plate appearances during the Dodgers’ spring-training opener on Wednesday against Arizona were the first which offered competitive footage of him in any sort of broadly available way.

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Another Way of Explaining Mike Trout’s $50 Million Valuation

Mike Trout is reportedly close to signing a long term deal with the Angels that will value the free agent years he’s giving up at around $30 to $35 million apiece. At the time he signs the deal, he’ll almost lock in the largest single season salary ever guaranteed to a Major League player, topping the $33 million that Clayton Kershaw will earn in the last year of his freshly minted extension. And even with that, he’s still going to be drastically underpaid.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a few conversations with folks where I’ve unsuccessfully tried to explain why Trout is worth something between $40 to $50 million per year for his free agent years. In a time where even the best free agents are signing for half of that, it’s a tough sell, and I’ve realized that most people just generally don’t believe that Trout is twice as valuable as other star players.

So, this post is an effort to help illustrate the dramatic gulf between Trout’s value and the kinds of players that are signing for $20 to $25 million per year. I’m going to try to make the math as non-scary as possible, and avoid using fancy acronyms or models that rely on black box data. We’re just going to deal with the basics.

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Will Andrelton Simmons Hit?

One of the major pieces of breaking baseball news in recent days was the Braves’ signing of shortstop Andrelton Simmons to a seven year, $58 million contract extension. This is big news partially because Simmons is arguably the first, youngest and least experienced player to earn such a deal primarily because of his defensive excellence. That excellence is supported by both the metrics and the scouting eye, and he is almost universally regarded as the single most valuable defensive player in the game. We’re not going to focus on his glove today, however. Simmons was far from a total zero with the bat last year, hitting 17 homers, not an insignificant sum at his end of the defensive spectrum. It will be Simmons’ development with the bat that will eventually determine whether the Braves get great value from this deal instead of an average to solid return. Today we’ll take a closer look at his offensive profile to get a better feel as to what the future holds. Read the rest of this entry »


Eno Sarris Baseball Chat — 2/27/13

11:47
Eno Sarris: ola, see you soon

12:00
Jesse Reinier Nieuwenhuijzen:

12:00
Eno Sarris: That should wake us all up.

12:00
Comment From John Stamos
Yeah! Baseball chat!

12:00
Eno Sarris: I’m excited too.

12:00
Comment From Smack Breinke
Are you ready for the 90 win Mets?!

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Steamer Projects: Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects

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

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 Pirates 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 / Atlanta / Baltimore / Boston / Chicago AL / Chicago NL / Cincinnati / Cleveland / Colorado / Houston / Kansas City / Los Angeles AL / Miami / Milwaukee / Minnesota / New York AL / New York NL / Philadelphia / St. Louis / San Diego / San Francisco / Seattle / Tampa Bay / Texas / Toronto.

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Miguel Cabrera: Developing Predator

This began with an observation: Since 2008 — covering the bulk of the reliable PITCHf/x era — Miguel Cabrera has swung at just under 47% of pitches with the bases empty, and just over 53% of pitches with a runner or runners on. Now, in that span, 130 different players have faced at least 10,000 pitches. Out of all of them, Cabrera has the biggest positive difference in swing rate. As it happens, Derek Jeter has the biggest negative difference in swing rate, but maybe that’s a different article. Cabrera has swung more with men on; and at bats with men on are more important at bats.

I wanted to dig deeper.

The next step was to break things down by year, to see if there might be a developing trend or a steady pattern. As is often the case, I have to express my gratitude for the existence of Baseball Savant. This table suggests one thing:

Year None On Runner(s) On Difference
2008 47% 54% 8%
2009 47% 55% 7%
2010 44% 54% 10%
2011 45% 52% 6%
2012 46% 53% 6%
2013 50% 52% 2%

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Stetson Allie, Pittsburgh Pirates Power-Hitting Prospect

By now, the Stetson Allie story is well known. Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates out of a Cleveland-area high school in 2010, the big right-hander had a 100-mph fastball and little idea where it was going. Less than 30 innings into his professional career, his pitching days were over. He became a corner infielder with plus raw power and a lot of swing-and-miss.

Allie’s story remains mostly unwritten. Still just 22 years old, he is coming off a Jekyll-and-Hyde first full season as a position player. In 66 games at low-A West Virginia, he hit a loud .324/.414/.607, with 17 home runs. In the same number of games at high-A Bradenton, he hit .229/.342/.356, with 4 home runs.

There is no doubting Allie’s potential as a hitter. There is even less doubt about his comfort zone. A fish-out-of-water on the mound, he feels right at home in the batter’s box. Allie revisited his work-in-progress transition, including why he struggled as a pitcher, earlier this week. Read the rest of this entry »


2014 Top 10 Prospects: Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates have one of the strongest systems in baseball. The club boasts both depth and impact talent. What’s also impressive is that fact that the club has impressive prospects both on the mound and in the field. The Pirates have also done a nice job of acquiring talent through both the amateur draft and the international free agent market. Read the rest of this entry »


Effectively Wild Episode 395: 2014 Season Preview Series: Cleveland Indians

Ben and Sam preview the Indians’ season with Susan Petrone, and Nick talks to MLB.com Indians beat writer Jordan Bastian (at 21:16).


How’d We Do a Year Ago?

I’m probably not being biased at all when I say we offer a lot of different great features here at FanGraphs, but I’m personally a huge huge fan of our projected standings and playoff-odds pages. Now that we have ZiPS folded into the mix, things are pretty complete, and it’s exciting to be able to see the numbers whenever one wants to. The numbers are based on depth charts maintained by some of our own authors, and they’re living and breathing, so you can see the direct impact of, say, the Phillies signing A.J. Burnett. (It lifted their playoff odds about four percentage points.) FanGraphs is always improving, and these additions have been a big recent improvement.

Now, as discussed briefly yesterday, we never want the projections to be actually perfect. Thankfully, that’s never going to be a problem, on account of the damned human element. But we do want the projections to be meaningful, because otherwise, what’s the point? We want the data to be smart and more right than wrong. So that brings to mind the question: how did things go last year, in our first thorough experiment with depth charts and team projections?

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Playoff Odds Comparison: FanGraphs vs. A Sportsbook

With the recent addition of the ZiPS projections to the present site, the playoff odds that are also available within these electronic pages now feature both the ZiPS and Steamer figures as the raw material for those calculations.

“How do those playoff odds compare, for example, to what might be offered by a notable sportsbook?” a weblogger with an interest in producing content might wonder. “Yes, how do those FanGraphs playoff odds compare to what’s offered by a sportsbook?” a reader might wonder, as well, as part of his or her attempt to locate a distraction from whatever work ought to be done right now.

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The New Old Chad Qualls

I’ve been thinking about Chad Qualls this week, because… well, because no one can stand thinking about Ervin Santana any longer, probably, but also because when I wrote about the Astros a few days ago, I linked to an Eno Sarris post over at RotoGraphs about the Astros bullpen. Eno briefly touched on how Qualls, who had been reliably the butt of jokes for several years, had returned to his old mechanics, helping him have something of a quietly successful 2013.

Since Qualls signed with Houston during that insane first week of December when there were approximately 40 new signings each day, we never really wrote him up, instead touching on him here and there. While that’s partially because middling relievers don’t always deserve their own posts, mechanical changes are always a bit fascinating when it comes to changes in performance — just check out the difference in where Jayson Werth held his hands during his monster second half last year. That being the case, I thought it’d be interesting to track down the source there and check this out.

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