Archive for May, 2014

FanGraphs Audio: Merrie Olde Craig Robinson

Episode 453
A native of England and current resident of Mexico City, Craig Robinson contributes both to NotGraphs and also Flip Flop Fly Ball (of which site he’s the proprietor). He’s also the 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 5 min play time.)

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The Best of FanGraphs: May 27-30, 2014

If you missed the inaugural post of The Best Of FanGraphs, you can do so here. In case you don’t feel like clicking through though, here is how this post is structured:

We’ll pull from the whole FanGraphs family, picking 10-15 stories that we feel you really should read before the week draws to a close. The links are color coded — green for FanGraphs, burnt sienna for RotoGraphs, purple for NotGraphs, dark red for The Hardball Times and blue for Community. They are listed in this order as well in each day, just for the sake of consistency.

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NERD Game Scores for Saturday, May 31, 2014

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by viscount of the internet Rob Neyer, and expanded at the request of nobody, NERD scores represent an attempt to summarize in one number (and on a scale of 0-10) the likely aesthetic appeal or watchability, for the learned fan, of a player or team or game. Read more about the components of and formulae for NERD scores here.


Most Highly Rated Game
Atlanta at Miami | 16:10 ET
Ervin Santana (57.2 IP, 85 xFIP-, 0.9 WAR) faces Jacob Turner (33.2 IP, 100 xFIP-, 0.1 WAR) in a contest that features two of the league’s most appealing clubs, according to the probably wrong metric devised by the author. The Atlantans, for their part, have produced the league’s most excellent relief pitching numbers and second-best defensive-run figures; the Miamis, a cumulative hitting line among the league’s top third despite featuring a roster which earns that same league’s lowest collective payroll.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Atlanta Radio.

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Intent, Execution, and Edwin Encarnacion

Thursday afternoon, I wrote something up regarding Edwin Encarnacion’s power-hitting hot streak. Within a few hours of publishing, Encarnacion hit another home run, and within an hour or so of that home run, Encarnacion hit another home run. Twice, he went deep against Royals ace James Shields, and though the Blue Jays ultimately lost the contest, Encarnacion further demonstrated that he’s one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball. His April slump isn’t forgotten — I’m referring to it right here — but now it’s the sort of thing we can all laugh about. All of us who are not pitchers.

One of Encarnacion’s homers on Thursday came against a fastball, and the other came against a cut fastball. The homers themselves looked like ordinary Edwin Encarnacion homers, as he launched both of them high and out to left. But what caught my attention was something else going on. Something involving Shields and Salvador Perez. The thing we always observe is what a pitch actually is. The thing we don’t always observe is what a pitch was supposed to be.

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The Best and Worst Teams, Two Months In

Four weeks ago, I introduced Expected Run Differentials, using the various linear weights tools we have on the site to construct a metric to evaluate a team’s performance without any timing or sequencing factors. Essentially, this method just counts up the context-neutral value of positive or negative events a team allows, and gives us an expected result if every team had distributed those events in the same manner. While run differential strips timing out of the conversion from runs to wins, this construct strips out timing from the runs themselves, and gives us the most sequencing-free look at a team’s overall performance to date.

Since it’s been nearly a month, let’s go ahead and update the numbers and look at what we can learn from them. There’s a lot of information in the table, and each column is sortable, so you can see where teams stand either by runs scored or allowed, expected runs scored or allowed, run differential or expected differential, or the differences in each section. The table is presented by expected run differential, from best to worst, and a reminder that the differences are set so that positive numbers are always favorable for the team.

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“I Wish We Could Get Guys Like That”

Weird things about baseball fascinate me. One of those things is the concept of discarded players. Every once in awhile, you’ll see a player doing well and think to yourself, “Hey, wasn’t he on our team at one point?” David Carpenter is one such player. Watching him face the Red Sox this week, I couldn’t help but think that it would be sure nice if the Sox had him right now instead of Craig Breslow. Sure, the world will keep on spinning, and Carpenter wouldn’t make or break the 2014 Red Sox, but every little bit counts, and the Red Sox gave him away for free after just five weeks on the roster. In situations like these, we often jokingly say (or at least I do), “Hey, I wish we could get guys like that!”

I don’t mean to pick on the Red Sox, because every team does this. If you scan rosters, you’ll find one such player on just about every roster. And originally, my intention was to run down that list and look at them all individually. But then I got a look at this trade. On July 31, 2010, the Atlanta Braves traded Gregor Blanco, Jesse Chavez and Tim Collins to the Kansas City Royals for Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth. Take a look:

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FG on Fox: The Astros Might Not Suck

Entering Friday, the Houston Astros feature the longest winning streak in the majors — and a rookie slugger on a home-run tear.

Thursday’s 3-1 victory over the visiting Baltimore Orioles was the Astros’ sixth consecutive win. The streak started with the final two games of a four-game series in Seattle and included a three-game sweep in Kansas City. No, wait: Make that a clobbering of the Royals.

The Astros certainly earned their status as a punch line, losing 100-plus games in three consecutive campaigns. Before this season, the Astros had lost more games in the last three years than 15 different teams had lost in the last four.

The perception is that the Astros are an experiment, and the perception is that the experiment is a long ways from completion. The Astros still get no respect, and they had a miserable beginning to 2014. But don’t let the start and the history fool you. The Astros, 23-32 through Thursday, are actively shedding their losing reputation and are perhaps, no longer a punch line.

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What Happens When A Pitcher Goes Right Down The Middle?

The other week when I wrote about pitches that come in well out of the zone and what happens with those pitches, some discussion in the comments focused on the opposite – what happens right down the chute? If a pitcher is wasting 0-2 pitches, surely he’s firing down the center on 3-0, and if pitchers sometimes miss wildly outside, they probably miss to the meat of the plate on occasions, too.

There have already been 2,535 pitches thrown in 3-0 counts this season (2,227 if we exclude intentional walks), according to the awesome new HeatMaps here at Fangraphs, and so our knowledge of what happens when pitchers are far behind has a solid base. And thanks to data since 2012, we know why pitches have a strong incentive to fight back from 3-0, even with one strike – there is, obviously, an appreciable drop in expected on-base percentage in a 3-1 count, and there’s little chance the batter swings 3-0, anyway.

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NERD Game Scores for Friday, May 30, 2014

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by viscount of the internet Rob Neyer, and expanded at the request of nobody, NERD scores represent an attempt to summarize in one number (and on a scale of 0-10) the likely aesthetic appeal or watchability, for the learned fan, of a player or team or game. Read more about the components of and formulae for NERD scores here.


Most Highly Rated Game
San Francisco at St. Louis | 20:15 ET
Madison Bumgarner (65.2 IP, 79 xFIP-, 1.2 WAR) faces Adam Wainwright (81.0 IP, 77 xFIP-, 2.2 WAR). While a reasonable person might suppose otherwise, the innings figure published here for Wainwright actually is not a misprint: indeed, he (and three other pitchers, it appears) has already crossed the 80-inning threshold. Another threshold he’s crossed (alone in this case) is the three-win one — when calculating WAR by means of runs allowed, that is, and not FIP.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: San Francisco Radio or Television.

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Prospect Watch: Keeping The Walks Down

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.

Orlando Castro, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates (Profile)
Level: High-A   Age: 22   Top-15: N/A   Top-100: N/A
Line: 55.2 IP, 46 H, 18 R, 41/7 K/BB, 2.91 ERA, 2.77 FIP

While he’s not remotely physically imposing, this little lefthander knows what he’s doing.

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Q&A: Matt Martin, Detroit Tigers Defensive Coordinator

The Detroit Tigers have a defensive coordinator this season. The role is being manned by Matt Martin, who joined the coaching staff shortly after Brad Ausmus was hired in November. Martin came to Motown with nearly two decades of experience as a minor league manager, coach and infield coordinator.

His job isn’t to reinvent the wheel. The 44-year-old was brought in to help make the Detroit defense more efficient. Metrics are part of his process, as is fine-tuning fundamentals. Much like his manager, Martin is a combination of old-school and new-school.

According to Baseball Info Solutions, the Tigers have 66 shifts on balls in play [as of Tuesday] – the seventh fewest in baseball – and two Shift Runs Saved. Nuanced positioning is far more prevalent. Even when it’s only a step or two, it’s by design – and it’s effective. Ian Kinsler has seven Defensive Runs Saved, which trails only Kolten Wong among second baseman. Miguel Cabrera, who was -18 as a third baseman last season, has two Defensive Runs Saved at first base.

Martin discussed defensive alignments – including The Big Papi shift and the importance of instincts – when the Tigers visited Boston earlier this month. Read the rest of this entry »

Effectively Wild Episode 460: Nelson Cruz, Ryan Braun, and the Post-PED Good Life

Ben and Sam banter about the Royals, then catch up with the boys of Biogenesis.

Edwin Encarnacion is Hunting

One of the coolest stories taking place right now is the emergence of George Springer in Houston. Springer is among the more interesting prospects in recent years, and after a bit of a rough introduction to the majors, Springer’s caught fire. He homered again Wednesday, and over the course of the last month, Springer’s gone deep nine times, ahead of Yasiel Puig, Giancarlo Stanton, and Troy Tulowitzki. Springer’s been one of the best power hitters in the world, and over that month, he’s also hit 40% fewer home runs than Edwin Encarnacion.

Encarnacion stands at 15 dingers in 30 days, and over those 30 days, that’s more home runs than have been hit by both the Cardinals and the Royals as whole teams. Previous to the hot streak, Encarnacion had gone deep just once, prompting people to worry that something was wrong. If something was wrong, it was resolved in a damned hurry, and now Encarnacion is among the Blue Jays who have led the team into a playoff position. It’s interesting to examine some of Encarnacion’s recent trends. It’s interesting, too, to compare those against larger ones.

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Down and Away: The Best Location

Yesterday, David Appelman unveiled our new heat maps, and I love them. As I noted yesterday, the linear weights graph is especially awesome, as it allows you to see where a particular hitter or pitcher is having success, and not just settling for incomplete answers like outcomes on balls in play, which ignores all the variable outcomes that happen on takes, or on swings that don’t put a ball in play. Being able to highlight a player’s overall performance on all pitches is a big step forward for the heat map concept in general.

But beyond even just individual players, there is some really fascinating information available. Based on his discussion with Chris Young, Eno got David Appelman to generate some great charts of league-wide averages for groundballs and home runs. And now, with the release of the heat map tool for all pitches on a league-wide basis, we can begin to say some pretty interesting things about pitching to specific parts of the strike zone.

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League Average Heatmaps!

With the addition of the new heatmaps, we have a new tool that lets you whip up league average heatmaps.


The tool can be conveniently accessed under the “leaders” section in the site’s main navigation.

Chris Young Challenges the Data

“You should go look at the research again and see what the charts say,” Chris Young, the Seattle Mariners pitcher, emphatically told me one afternoon this season. We were talking about high fastballs and he didn’t agree with something I’d said.

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What Makes a Team Good at Replay Challenges?

We’re somewhere between 25% and 33% into the 2014 season, which means we’re about 25% to 33% into the first season of the Instant Replay Era. Stylistically, I didn’t need to capitalize that, but it makes it feel like a bigger deal. In 2024, it won’t be a big deal, but instant replay is still a shiny new toy that we’re playing and tinkering with, so it seems like a more important thing at the moment. There are a bunch of new rules, new strategies, and new things for managers to think about. So, to paraphrase Ed Koch, how we doing?

Jeff Sullivan, in his handsome wisdom, already talked about replay’s affect on the time of the game. The gist — games are a little longer than last year, but games have been getting longer for some time, so it’s hard to say definitively how much replay has affected that. At the time of this writing, there have been 773 games played. According to Baseball Savant’s replay database (point of order — this is my informational source going the rest of the way), there have been 389 challenges, 60 of which have been issued by umpires. That comes out to just about a challenge per every two games. Is that a lot? We don’t know! May isn’t quite over, but there isn’t much difference in challenges between this month and April. So far, managers have found their stride when it comes to challenging calls.

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Eno Sarris Baseball Chat 5/29/14


Eno Sarris: and yes I feel ya strutter

Emmanuel Camaiti:

Eno Sarris: I’m here!

Eno Sarris: In an hour, my piece in which Chris Young yells at me publishes.

Comment From Graham
Sup Eno? I need help in the BA category badly, but without sacrificing too severely in the counting stats. Which two of these guys would you rather have: Bonifacio, Odor, Legares, Wong, or Owings?

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Quarterly Report – Mark Buehrle

Over a quarter of the 2014 season is in the books and the sample sizes are creeping toward a representative level. Over the past couple of weeks, we have been taking somewhat deeper looks at some of this season’s more noteworthy players and performances to date. “Noteworthy” doesn’t always mean “best”, though it does in most cases. Today, we’ll take a look at the first quarter performance of Mark Buehrle, who notched his ninth win of the season on Tuesday night. Exactly what is going on here? Has Buehrle found another gear late in his career, ascending to a new level of performance? Or is he simply Mark Buehrle, guy who takes the ball every fifth day, walks no one, pitches to contact, fields his position, and keeps his club in the ballgame, with no bells and whistles? Read the rest of this entry »

NERD Game Scores for Thursday, May 29, 2014

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by viscount of the internet Rob Neyer, and expanded at the request of nobody, NERD scores represent an attempt to summarize in one number (and on a scale of 0-10) the likely aesthetic appeal or watchability, for the learned fan, of a player or team or game. Read more about the components of and formulae for NERD scores here.


Most Highly Rated Game
Pittsburgh at Los Angeles NL | 22:10 ET
Gerrit Cole (64.2 IP, 91 xFIP-, 0.3 WAR) faces Dan Haren (62.2 IP, 89 xFIP-, 0.8 WAR). The former, according to PITCHf/x, has produced the third-highest average fastball velocity this season (95.6 mph) among 101 qualified pitchers. For a moment’s worth of amusement attempt to guess the first two pitchers by that same measure. Afterwards, resume your wild search for distractions from the abyss.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Los Angeles NL Television.

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