Archive for February, 2015

FanGraphs Audio: The Splendid Dayn Perry

Episode 536
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 definitely splendid 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 48 min play time.)

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The Cubs Vs. a Decade of Projections

Earlier, I published a post including this graph:


Of all the things that stand out, perhaps nothing stands out quite like the Cubs. Over the last 10 years, they’ve won 55 fewer games than they’ve been projected to win, and while there are some quibbles you can have with blending all the years and all the projection systems, at the end of the day, projections aren’t too dissimilar and they haven’t changed super dramatically over the decade, and no one comes particularly close to matching the Cubs’ level of disappointment. At -55, they’re separated from the next-lowest team by 19 wins.

I don’t think there’s really anything predictive, here. I’d never bet on a given team beating or undershooting its next-year projection. Certainly not based on what it just did. But -55 seems worthy of investigation. What can we find out, about why this might’ve happened? What traits or events might’ve contributed to the Cubs coming off as such a disappointment?

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The Top Performances of College Baseball

What follows does not constitute the most rigorous of statistical analyses. Rather, it’s designed to serve as a nearly responsible shorthand for people who, like the author, have considerably more enthusiasm for than actual knowledge of the collegiate game — a shorthand means, that is, towards detecting which players have produced the most excellent performances over the first weeks of the college season.

As in the first ever edition of this same thing from last week, what I’ve done is utilize principles recently introduced by Chris Mitchell on forecasting future major-league performance with minor-league stats.

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The Blue Jays Need Maicer Izturis To Be Useful

The Blue Jays have new players up and down their lineup — Russell Martin, Justin Smoak, Josh Donaldson, Michael Saunders, Devon Travis, etc. Dalton Pompey basically qualifies here as well. But one incumbent player may end up being just as, if not more, important than all of the new acquisitions — middle infielder Maicer Izturis.

Signed early in free agency after the 2012 season, Izturis hasn’t really done what the Blue Jays had hoped he would in a Toronto uniform. He was, by WAR, the worst position player in the game in 2013, and then he missed all but 11 games in 2014. Ankle and knee injuries were culprits, though the ankle injury in 2013 may not explain the near-career low walk rate and career-low pitches per plate appearance. Either way, Izturis hasn’t gotten good results for awhile.

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The Pirates’ Road Home Run Problem

At first, it looked like pitchers that play their home games in extreme parks have extreme home run splits — that pitchers in pitchers’ parks go on the road and give up more home runs than expected. But it turns out, it might just be a Pittsburgh Pirates problem.

Staffs that leave the six most pitcher-friendly parks to go on the road have a 10.5% home run per fly ball rate, we found. But if you remove the Pirates (12%), that number for other six drops to 10.3%, very much close to the 10.1% sample average.

Take a look at the road homer per fly ball rates per team over the last five years. There’s a clear outlier.

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JABO: Every Single Team Has a Chance

Do you like an origin story? This post was originally going to be about the nature of spring-training optimism. Among players, even, not just fans. It seems like, every single February, when players show up to camp, you get quotes from everywhere about how a given team has a great bunch of guys, and if they play the kind of baseball they’re capable of, there’s no reason the season can’t be magic. I started looking for such quotes for every single team. The way I figured, they had to be out there. And as a matter of fact, I even found one for the Phillies. The same Phillies whose own front office has finally admitted that the team is rebuilding, and contention seems years off.

In case you’ve somehow been in the dark, this year’s Phillies are supposed to be bad. I mean, they aren’t supposed to be bad, but they’re expected to be bad, relative to every single other team. FanGraphs has the Phillies projected for the worst record in baseball. So does Baseball Prospectus. I’m not telling you anything new. Probably going to be a rough year in Philadelphia. But, you know who has opinions? Jonathan Papelbon. Here, he talks to Jim Salisbury about the possibility of being traded.

Toward the bottom of the post:

Papelbon said the Blue Jays would “fit his criteria” because they project as a contending club, but he was quick to add that he believes the Phillies can still be a contender, despite management’s charting a rebuilding course.

“If we come out and play the baseball we’re capable of playing then I plan on being right here and righting the ship here,” he said. […] “My storybook ending here is sneaking into the wild card and getting hot in the playoffs with these Phillies.”

It’s not exactly “we’re getting those rings,” but Papelbon has a certain level of confidence, a level that isn’t shared by Cole Hamels or the people in charge. Papelbon doesn’t see this as an impossible mission. And, wouldn’t you know it — it’s not an impossible mission. Let’s talk about how teams do, relative to how they’re projected to do.

Read the rest on Just A Bit Outside.

Trevor Bauer and the Lost Screwball

Trevor Bauer is a lot of things – former first round pick, pupil of Ron Wolforth’s unique coaching style, permanent breakout candidate, and now part of a rotation in Cleveland that many predict will be one of this year’s best. Bauer is a part of the current and future plans for Cleveland, but he’s also a work in progress: a not yet fully realized starter that suffers from real control problems on the mound. The most intriguing thing about Bauer isn’t his upside, however — it’s the fact that he throws a pitch almost totally lost to the modern game: the screwball.

Today, we’re not going to speculate on what Bauer might accomplish this year. Instead, we’re going to focus on the screwball, a pitch thrown by just one or two other pitchers in the majors. It’s an exceedingly rare pitch, and we’re going to look at how he throws it, and see where it fits in his arsenal.

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10 Years of Team Performance, 10 Years of Team Projections

I’ve got a post going up at JABO today. It might’ve already gone up, I don’t know — I’m writing this in advance, and I wrote that post in advance, and I’m not in charge of when they publish the content that’s been sent their way. But today, there is this post and that JABO post, and within the latter, you will see the following image:


You’re smart enough to get this. That’s a whole decade of information, showing single-season projected team win totals, and single-season actual team win totals. You observe both a relationship, and a fair amount of noise. I suppose I don’t need to spoil that other post. Read that other post, whenever it’s published. Read that other post twice! Click click click!

Yet seldom do we dig into historical team projections. There are reasons for this, but now that I’ve gone to the trouble of gathering all the necessary data, there’s some other stuff we can do. There’s a lot of other stuff we can do; I have done a small amount of it.

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Kiley McDaniel Prospects Chat – 2/27/15

Kiley McDaniel: Some hiccups with CoverItLive, but think we’re good to go now. Should get an hour in here but leaving soon to see Ian Happ/Maryland draft matchups this afternoon at the PG Complex, then Iowa RHP Blake Hickman jumps in the mix tomorrow.

Comment From hi

Kiley McDaniel: hi

Comment From Jheff
How concerning is Max Pentecost’s shoulder surgery?

Kiley McDaniel: Long-term it shouldn’t be a problem, but in the insta-reactions to every first round pick, he obviously loses a little stock to those types of people

Comment From Colby
A lot of other red sox prospects are getting a ton of press this off season, how do you feel about Michael Kopech?

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Oswaldo Arcia and the Relentless 3-0 Hack

Last week, I wrote a post in which I drew a comparison between Oswaldo Arcia and phenom George Springer. All things considered, the two are far from similar players, but this was strictly an offensive comparison. Even then, it wasn’t perfect, but it was something! Springer and Arcia had the two worst in-zone contact rates in baseball, yet carried two of highest isolated slugging percentages. They don’t hit the ball very often, but it’s worth it when they do. For that, they’re both interesting and worthy of a comparison.

This time, there is no comparison. There couldn’t be. Because nobody was even remotely like Oswaldo Arcia in 3-0 counts last year.
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2015 National League Payroll Breakdown

Yesterday, we broke down the payrolls in the American League. This post repeats that exercise for the National League. The average Major League Baseball payroll in 2015 is roughly $122 million. With top-heavy payrolls, the median comes in lower at around $112 million. In 2014, the average payroll in the AL East on Opening Day was $135.1 million, narrowly edging the NL West’s $135 million. With sizable increases for both the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants, the NL West is now the highest-salaried division in the majors.

NL Payroll by DIvision
Figures from Cots with minimum salaries added to create a 25-man roster.

The NL West has a healthy monetary advantage over the NL East and the NL Central due principally to the Dodgers and Giants. Eleven of 15 NL teams have payrolls below the MLB average. Only the Dodgers, Giants, Washington Nationals, and Philadelphia Phillies have payrolls above $120 million.
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Effectively Wild Episode 624: 2015 Season Preview Series: Pittsburgh Pirates

Ben and Sam preview the Pirates’ season with Sarah Sprague, and Sahadev talks to Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Pirates beat writer Travis Sawchik (at 23:22).

Two Eras of Francisco Rodriguez

Doug Melvin, a few days ago:

Melvin wouldn’t comment on the state of possible talks with the Phillies, but acknowledged the lines of communication have remained open with “K-Rod.”

“I don’t know if it’s active, but we still have conversations,” Melvin said. “Mark deals more with that. (Agent) Scott (Boras) keeps calling Mark.”

You know how this goes. Sometimes, Boras has problems finding the right level of demand among 30 baseball front offices. But he’s skilled enough to know that he’s always got more options, as, above 30 baseball front offices, are 30 baseball owners or ownership groups. Said executives are easier to persuade, as they’re in charge of the money, and they tend to know a little less about roster management. So, long story short, Boras has gotten the Brewers to make another commitment to Francisco Rodriguez, this one for at least two years and $13 million. It happened above the general manager’s head, but it’s not a nightmare; Rodriguez remains a useful pitcher, and the Brewers remain on the positive side of the be-a-seller threshold. This is an example of ownership caving, but it’s not a godawful fit.

As is often the case, what I find interesting here is less about the contract, and more about the player. The contract is fine. Maybe a little heavy, I don’t know. But Rodriguez himself has had a particularly fascinating career. So this is a good opportunity to call attention to the transition he’s largely been able to pull off. Rodriguez is still just 33 years old, yet he debuted when he was 20, and his career has had two distinct stages. Rodriguez, at least as a player, has evolved.

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Please Observe as an Imbecile Crafts His First Pref List

Just over four years ago now, I wrote a post for this site called Dollar Sign on the Scout. A nod, that title, to an excellent work of non-fiction by Kevin Kerrane. The basic goal of the post was to identify those scouts who had created the most surplus value for their respective clubs — which is to say, had signed the players who produced wins above and beyond the sort their respective signing-bonus dollar figures would typically fetch on the open market. For the purposes of that study, I used Victor Wang’s then mostly current work on prospect valuations (updated multiple times in the interim). I also used the signing-scout data made available for each prospect by Baseball America in their annual handbook documenting such players.

By this methodology, the top scout over the five-year period between 2006 and -10 was Detroit’s Bill Buck, who was given credit for signing Cameron Maybin, Rick Porcello, and Justin Verlander — which triumvirate received nearly $10 million in bonuses, but whose rankings among Baseball America’s top-100 prospects at various points suggested they’d produce over $70 million more than that for the club in terms of overall value.

The thing about Porcello and Maybin and Verlander, though, is that they were all drafted in the first round, and first-round signings are typically the result not merely of a single, unkempt bird-dog following his intuition down a dusty, rural two-track, but rather of a decision made by a collection of front-office employees — including crosscheckers, a scouting director, and the general manager. As such, it doesn’t entirely make sense to credit an area scout with the signing of first-round draftee.

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2015 American League Payroll Breakdown

We recently took a look at payroll by team as well as changes since the start of 2014. Interleague play, the advent of the Wild Card, and the addition of the second wild card has broadened the scope of competition in baseball. Multiple playoff spots in each league are fought for outside of the divisional format causing competition between teams in different divisions. However, the second wild card also increased the emphasis of winning the division and trying to avoid a 50/50 play-in game before making the divisional round. The current schedule format also increases the importance of the division with an unbalanced schedule. Teams play games within the division in close to 50% of their games.

The divisions are not on the same footing financially with the American League East outspending the rest of the divisions. The average payroll by division are below. The black line represents the Major League Baseball average of roughly $122 million.

AL Division Payroll
Figures from Cots with minimum salaries added to create a 25-man roster.

The average payroll in the AL East is much greater than the rest of the league with more than a $20 million advantage over the other two divisions. Surprisingly, the AL West comes in lower than the AL Central despite big payrolls from the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels. There is a great deal of disparity within the divisions.
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Going to the Well: Studying Velocity and Leverage

As a matter of self-preservation, I don’t listen to what Curt Schilling says very often. The guy could pitch, however, so when he’s talking about throwing baseballs, not the other stuff, I tune in. When he happened to be on television last year (talking about throwing baseballs), he said something about “going to the well”. Schilling was referring to a starting pitcher getting into trouble — giving up a few hits, walking a batter — and then having to dip into a metaphorical “well” of grit and determination (and most likely velocity) to get out of the inning without further damage.

We know baseball games find themselves at fulcrum points: high leverage situations where the outcome of one at-bat can tip the balance of win expectancy one way or the other. Thinking about Schilling’s “well” comment further, I wondered – how does a starting pitcher’s velocity change in different leverage situations? Does it increase above the pitcher’s usual average when men are on base or when the game hangs in the balance, as we might expect it to?

Does the well really exist?

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Eno Sarris Baseball Chat — 2/26/15

Eno Sarris: let’s start today off with a bang


Comment From Jack
How good is soler this year? Better than Cespedes?

Eno Sarris: Yes!

Comment From Jack
Betts or Soler in a keep forever league

Eno Sarris: See I’ve been thinking about this one and don’t know it’s like choosing between my sons. One has the plate discipline down, and .300/15/35 ceiling. The other is Mr. Power, and he has .280/35 type upside. Betts has the higher floor with regard to outcomes, Soler has the higher playing time floor.

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Josh Hamilton and MLB’s Joint Drug Agreement

Wednesday’s news that Josh Hamilton could be facing an imminent suspension from Major League Baseball has set off a wave of speculation regarding not only the possible cause of the suspension, but also its potential length. Given Hamilton’s history, some have assumed he may have had a relapse of his earlier substance-abuse problems, triggering a possible suspension under MLB’s Joint Drug Agreement (JDA).

Although we presently have very little concrete information regarding Hamilton’s situation, here is what we do know: Mike DiGiovanna broke the news on Wednesday afternoon that Hamilton was in New York City meeting with MLB officials regarding a potential suspension. Ken Rosenthal reported later that, according to an unnamed baseball executive, Hamilton’s transgression was “worse” than a performance enhancing drug (PED) violation.

More alleged details emerged Wednesday evening, with Jon Heyman reporting Hamilton had confessed to a drug relapse involving “at least cocaine.” Heyman went on to report that Hamilton would be placed in MLB’s drug-treatment program as a first-time violator.

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Giving Carlos Martinez the Pitch-Comp Treatment

This is clearly a toy I love playing around with. Please just don’t ask me what it means. I don’t know what it means to say that Henderson Alvarez almost has Felix Hernandez’s changeup. It’s just a statistical observation, like any other. This is all way too new for me to know if it has any substance. If nothing else, it adds some color, right? We are a people somewhat obsessed with player comps. We love comps for young players, because they allow us to pretend like we can see their futures. This is kind of along those lines, at least with regard to the unproven. Carlos Martinez is unproven. Let’s analyze Carlos Martinez.

The Cardinals intend for Martinez to be a starting pitcher, a role in which he’s only dabbled in the major leagues. At this point he’s the favorite to open the year as the No. 5 starter, and while the Cardinals have pursued other arms on the market, that has more to do with a potential lack of depth. Of course, there are Martinez skeptics. There are skeptics of every pitcher who has yet to start and succeed. Frequently, those skeptics come away looking smart! But we don’t know if Martinez is going to develop. All we know is his age, and the kind of arm he has.

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The Death Of Head-First Sliding, Hopefully

Last week, Nick Punto informed the Diamondbacks that he’d be taking the year off, deciding not to report to camp even though he had signed a minor league contract with the club earlier this winter. Though he claimed he wasn’t retiring, Punto is 37 and just put up a 73 wRC+ for Oakland, so it’s easy to imagine that his career is over. Despite his small stature and non-existent power, Punto managed to turn a solid glove, positional versatility, and a good eye (career 10.4% walk rate) into a career that spanned parts of 14 seasons.

He found himself as the tongue-in-cheek face of one of the most shocking transactions in baseball history — 2012’s “Nick Punto trade,” which you might remember more for including Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and a quarter-billion dollars worth of contracts — and carved himself a niche as baseball’s foremost jersey-shredding expert. As far as careers go, you could do a lot worse than all that, not to mention the approximately $23 million he made during his playing days.

Wait! Don’t go anywhere. This isn’t going to be a full Nick Punto career retrospective. I swear. What this is going to be is a hope, a prayer, that Punto’s probable departure from the game takes along with it one of baseball’s most frustrating blights, the thing that he might be known for above all else: the head-first slide, particularly into first base.

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