Archive for September, 2014

AL Wild Card Game Live Blog

7:57
Jeff Sullivan: Time for someone’s dream to die! It’s the AL wild-card playoff!

7:58
Jeff Sullivan: A’s

7:58
Jeff Sullivan: A’s

7:59
Comment From Henry
Hey Mariners fans–your bandwagon team of the postseason?

7:59
Jeff Sullivan: For some reason I always end up pulling for the A’s. Dave’s hardly a Mariners fan and he can’t speak for himself yet

8:00
Comment From Sgt. Pepper
I’m on antibiotics and painkillers for an infection so I can’t drink so if you would drink extra for me it would be greatly appreciated.

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Discussing the Line-Ups for the AL Wild Card Game

The AL Wild Card game rosters and line-ups are out, and there were a few interesting decisions made. Let’s look at those decisions, while remembering that the expected outcome in choosing the alternative is mostly the same, as line-up decisions don’t matter all that much in the grand scheme of things. They can matter a little bit, though, and in a winner-take-all elimination game, every little bit is worth talking about.

Firs, the A’s line-up against James Shields, with their projected wOBA by Steamer:

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Why Starting Edinson Volquez Isn’t A Bad Idea

The marathon regular season is over, and the middle-distance sprint that is the playoffs is about to begin. The Pirates will host the Giants on Wednesday in the NL Wild Card game, and now that the dust has settled, it appears that righty Edinson Volquez is the Bucs’ choice to take on Giants’ ace southpaw Madison Bumgarner. Many have pointed to Volquez’ relatively lofty 4.15 FIP as a rationale to bypass him in favor of other options – my gut is that the Pirates have chosen the right guy. Read the rest of this entry »


A Few Pieces of Advice for Ned Yost

Tonight, the Royals and A’s play a single-game elimination to determine the winner of the American League Wild Card, with the winner going on to face the Angels starting on Thursday. Both teams have their best starters on the mound, and Jon Lester versus James Shields is about as good a match-up as you can hope for in a winner-take-all contest. With these two starters, strong defenses, and a pitcher’s park as the venue, we shouldn’t expect a ton of runs to be scored in tonight’s game.

And so the managers for each squad are likely going to feel the pressure to try and steal a run here or there, knowing that in a low run environment, every little advantage could turn out to be the difference between advancement or the end of the team’s season. So, against that background, let’s offer Ned Yost some friendly pieces of advice.

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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 9/30/14

9:01
Jeff Sullivan: Everybody ready to baseball chat?

9:02
Jeff Sullivan: One minute late this time! New recent record!

9:02
Comment From Jim
Is Fangraphs looking at replacing FIP with SIERA as the main ingredient to pitcher WAR?

9:02
Jeff Sullivan: I don’t think we’ve ever even discussed SIERA in our meetings for years

9:03
Jeff Sullivan: Granted, Dave and Dave talk about things I’m not privy to, but I haven’t heard anything to that effect

9:03
Comment From Xolo
Best team that didn’t make the playoffs?

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Breaking Down Madison Bumgarner

The Giants saved their ace for the Wild Card game. Though Madison Bumgarner has been a snot-rocket champion for some time, and a top pitcher, he’s turned it up a notch the last two seasons. A couple adjustments — one in approach and the other in mechanics — seem to have fueled this latest improvement. Those changes can also provide us the nitty gritty to watch for when he takes the mound with the Giants’ postseason on the line tomorrow.

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Green Lights Going Wrong, 2014

A little over two years ago, shortly before I joined FanGraphs, Yoenis Cespedes faced Tyler Robertson, who is a pitcher, and got ahead in the count 3-and-0. There is no more favorable count than 3-and-0, which meant Cespedes was in the position of power, and then he went and completed what for my money is one of the most memorable plate appearances in recent baseball history. Memorable to me, if to nobody else.

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Edinson Volquez, Starting The Most Important Game Of The Year

Three years ago, Edinson Volquez was one of the worst pitchers in baseball. Two years ago, thanks in large part to calling Petco Park home for the first time, he was just okay, putting up a 1.1 WAR season that is still his second-best WAR year ever. One year ago, he was one of the worst pitchers in baseball, but even that requires some further detail, because the Padres took the exceptionally rare step of DFA’ing him less than a week before the September roster expansion when they didn’t even have a full 40-man roster. When the Dodgers picked him up for depth a few days later, he didn’t make the NLDS roster, then never threw a pitch when he was surprisingly added to the NLCS roster.

On Wednesday, Volquez is going to start for the Pirates in the one-game, no-tomorrow NL wild card game against the Giants. Oh, baseball. You’re so great and terrible and weird, all at the same time.

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Effectively Wild Episode 545: The AL Play-In Game Preview Show

Ben and Sam discuss the AL wild-card showdown between the A’s and the Royals.


FanGraphs Audio: Dave Cameron Analyzes All Postseason

Episode 490
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 the looming playoffs and, notably, the mid-week wild-card games.

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 36 min play time.)

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Return of the James Shields Changeup

The Royals made a trade for James Shields and evaluators had things to say about it. The Royals, for their part, were confident in their belief that Shields could help push the team to its intended destination, and on Tuesday, before a partisan audience, Shields will start the Royals’ biggest game in decades. It’s fitting for a man nicknamed Big Game James, and though a big part of the reason for that is the convenience of his first name rhyming with Game, this is how the Royals drew it up. They wanted to get to games that matter, and then they wanted to give the baseballs that matter to James Shields.

Good pitchers aren’t defined by any single quality, unless you grant the quality of being good. There’s a lot that goes into being a top-of-the-rotation starter, and while, say, Clayton Kershaw has an incredible slider, he’s not incredible because of his slider. Jon Lester has an incredible cutter, but he’s not incredible because of his cutter. Good pitchers, like all things, are complicated to understand, but there are most certainly standout skills. Kershaw does have a standout slider. Lester does have a standout cutter. And James Shields? Shields is good at a lot of things, but he’s known for having a standout changeup. Or, he was. And now he is again, but there was a time that the pitch went missing. It’s been an interesting year for the best pitch in Shields’ arsenal.

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Henderson Alvarez and Being Worse Than a Coin

You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting for this to happen. Sure, probably nobody else noticed that it happened, and Henderson Alvarez himself probably didn’t notice that it happened, but, let’s not be judgmental. You have your things, and I have mine. This is one of my things.

Let’s break hitting down to a level that’s so simple it barely even applies to real hitting in the first place. As a hitter, you want to hit the ball hard. To hit the ball hard, you want to maximize your swings at hittable pitches, and minimize your swings at less hittable pitches. The strike zone mostly captures the hittable pitches, and a pitch taken in the strike zone will count against you for a strike. So to make things excessively simple: you want hitters to swing at strikes, and you don’t want hitters to swing at balls. Generally, a swing at a strike is a good decision. Generally, a swing at a ball is a bad decision. The most disciplined hitters in baseball will swing at a lot more strikes than balls.

Conveniently, we can establish a discipline baseline. What’s the worst discipline one might ever expect? That would be an even blend of swings at strikes and swings at balls. That would suggest zero discipline at all, and that’s the approach we’d expect if swings were determined by flipping a coin. If everything were 50/50, a hitter would have an O-Swing% of 50% and a Z-Swing% of 50%. To somehow perform worse than that would hint at the existence of anti-discipline, which I don’t even know how I would explain.

Henderson Alvarez is best known for being a baseball pitcher. Because his employer’s in the National League, he also sometimes has to be a baseball hitter. This past season he came to the plate 67 times. Henderson Alvarez’s discipline was worse than a coin’s.

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The Record-Setting 2014 Rockies

As the headline notes, the Colorado Rockies set a record this year, but it’s not the kind that they’re going to want to celebrate: they tied the 2006 Indians for the biggest negative difference between their BaseRuns expected record and their actual finish, at least for the years in which we have BaseRuns data, which covers 2002-2014.

Their actual record was 66-96, good for just a .407 winning percentage. Their expected record by BaseRuns was 77-85, a mediocre-but-not-awful .476 winning percentage. By actual record, the Rockies were the second worst team in baseball, but by BaseRuns, they were “only” the 10th worst team. What went wrong?

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Rio Ruiz Keeps Raking, but Scouts Still Have Reservations

When our other prospect writers submit scouting reports, I will provide a short background and industry consensus tool grades. There are two reasons for this: 1) giving context to account for the writer seeing a bad outing (never threw his changeup, coming back from injury, etc.) and 2) not making him go on about the player’s background or speculate about what may have happened in other outings.

The writer still grades the tools based on what they saw, I’m just letting the reader know what he would’ve seen in many other games from this season, particularly with young players that may be fatigued late in the season. The grades are presented as present/future on the 20-80 scouting scale and very shortly I’ll publish a series going into more depth explaining these grades. -Kiley

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The MVP and the DH Adjustment

No designated hitter has ever won the Most Valuable Player award. Barring a surprise, that will not change this season. Victor Martinez has had a amazing year, but he is not going to be the American League MVP. (I have a feeling he does not have much of a shot at being the National League MVP this year, either.) Who knows where he will end up in the balloting, but does outside of some Twitter arguments the day the winner is announced, will anyone really care about the down-ballot voting?

According the metric everyone loves to hate, Wins Above Replacement, that sounds about right. Martinez is not even close to the top. This might really bother some people. After all, one could argue that Martinez has been the best hitter in the American League this season. The problem with WAR, from the Martinez partisans’ perspective, is the positional adjustment for the DH.

This is not a post about where exactly Victor Martinez should be in the MVP discussion this season. The question is whether anyone would really have a shot at being the most valuable player according to WAR if they DHed all season.

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The Most Extreme Home Runs of 2014

The regular season is over. While that is sad in many ways, it’s also exciting in a few other ways. One of those ways: We have postseason baseball! That’s the best kind of baseball. Another lame, nerdy way: We have complete data sets! Yes, this is something I actually get excited about. Leading up to the conclusion of a regular season, everything is “projected,” “on pace,” or “so far for the season.” Now, everything is final. While, at the All-Star Break, I could only give you the Most Extreme Home Runs of the First Half, now I can replace “first half” with a definitive “2014.”

Before we begin, I’d like to give a shoutout to both ESPN’s Home Run Tracker and, of course, BaseballSavant, for making this glorious research possible.
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Dan Szymborski FanGraphs Chat – 9/29/14

11:58
Dan Szymborski: It’s party time!*

11:58
Dan Szymborski: * Any promises of a party to not indicate that there will be a party

12:00
Dan Szymborski: First up though, our usual business. Presidents fighting for some strange reason!

12:00
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12:00
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12:02
Comment From Xolo
The Fangraphs profile last week made it seem like Tomas is going to be a +3ish WAR player. Does that sound right?

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2014’s King Of Driving In Runners

On Sunday, Adrian Gonzalez had two hits, including his 27th homer of the season, and drove in three runs in the Dodgers’ season-ending 10-5 win over Colorado. Already all but guaranteed to lead the NL in runs batted in, the three he brought in yesterday ensured that he’d top Mike Trout and lead all of baseball for RBI for the first time.

Before you wonder why FanGraphs is suddenly acting as though RBI is a real stat that means anything, worry not. I think it’s useless. You, most likely, do too, and we all already know why, because it’s largely based on opportunity and teammate performance, and that adds far too much noise to consider it useful as an individual stat. If you’re not an everyday player, you won’t have an impressive RBI total. If your teammates don’t get on base ahead of you, you won’t have enough chances to rack up those RBIs. Relying on it as an indicator of talent can cause more harm than good, too, like when Brandon Phillips was seen as having a great 2013 last year in the midst of his decline because the Reds offense was lucky enough to have Shin-Soo Choo leading off rather than Drew Stubbs (2012) or Billy Hamilton (2014).

It’s barely been one paragraph, and I’ve already probably spent far too much time even talking about why this is a flawed stat. You already know this. Unfortunately, we can probably agree that the majority of general baseball fans don’t quite agree with that, if only based on how many references to “RBI” I saw regarding Gonzalez on Twitter. Gonzalez himself, more understandably, took note as well: Read the rest of this entry »


FG on Fox: How The Players Would Vote

The end of the season means it’s time for the playoffs, of course. But it also means that it’s time to vote on awards that reward regular season work. The players also vote on awards — and since they’re voting on their peers, they have a unique perspective on the exercise.

The players vote on something called the Player’s Choice award. And since I’m tasked with voting for the Player of the Year at FanGraphs, I thought it would make sense to ask the players for advice.

I asked two questions of a wide variety of players. The first was about their general process in deciding on their vote. I wanted to know what stats they looked at how they made their decision. The second was whether or not they thought a starting pitcher could rival a position player as the best player in baseball.

Let’s take the questions, one at a time, and see what the players said.

Read the rest on Just a Bit Outside.


The Playoff Odds, Now That We’re There

The postseason begins tomorrow, and we have our 10 contenders for the crown: Anaheim, Detroit, Baltimore, Oakland, and Kansas City in the AL, and Los Angeles, St. Louis, Washington, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco in the NL.

Two of these teams will be eliminated by the end of the day on Wednesday. Let’s take a look at the early odds for the Wild Card games, based on our depth charts model and the season-to-date stats model.

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