Archive for March, 2015

FanGraphs After Dark Chat – 3/31/15

Paul Swydan: Hi everybody!

I haven’t talked to Jeff yet, but assuming he is in, tonight will mark the glorious return of the Menage a Chat! That’s right, Chris Cwik, newly of Yahoo! Big League Stew but always a FanGraph’er at heart, will e back in the building!

So get your questions in, and we’ll see you at 9 pm ET. And remember, this time next week there will be baseball on. As Luke Cage/Power Man would say, Sweet Christmas!!!

See you soon.

Paul Swydan: Hi guys! The menage a chat is back!

Chris Cwik: What’s up, nerds?

Jeff Zimmerman: Who let Chris in?

Comment From Dylan
Oh god, not Cwik.

Comment From charles darwin
micah johnson? next big 2B??? whats your take???

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Zach McAllister’s Attempt at the Carlos Carrasco

Carlos Carrasco is probably not the first to pull off the Carlos Carrasco, so perhaps I shouldn’t be terming it as such, but, recency wins over everything. Carrasco, for quite some time, was a frustrating and incomplete potential starting pitcher. Early last year, he worked out of the Indians’ rotation. He was subsequently moved to the bullpen, where his game unsurprisingly picked up. Then he moved back to the rotation, where his game more surprisingly maintained. Early as a starter, Carrasco’s fastball averaged about 93. Out of the bullpen, it averaged almost 96. Back in the rotation, it averaged about 96. Carrasco is now a sleeper who might be way too good to actually qualify as a sleeper.

Topically, Carrasco has this teammate, named Zach McAllister. Like Carrasco, McAllister has worked out of the Indians’ rotation in the past. Like Carrasco, he’s also been bumped to the bullpen. McAllister was just recently named the Indians’ No. 4 starting pitcher for 2015, prevailing over guys like Danny Salazar and the re-injured Gavin Floyd. Salazar’s the one with all the hype, on account of his extraordinarily electric arm. McAllister, though, might be something more than you figured. His assignment might not be only temporary, as there are signs he, too, is pulling off the Carrasco.

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The Top-Five Mariners Prospects by Projected WAR

Yesterday, Kiley McDaniel published his consummately researched and demonstrably authoritative prospect list for the Seattle Mariners. What follows is a different exercise than that, one much smaller in scope and designed to identify not Seattle’s top overall prospects but rather the rookie-eligible players in the Mariners system who are most ready to produce wins at the major-league level in 2015 (regardless of whether they’re likely to receive the opportunity to do so). No attempt has been made, in other words, to account for future value.

Below are the top-five prospects in the Seattle system by projected WAR. To assemble this brief list, what I’ve done is to locate the Steamer 600 projections for all the prospects to whom McDaniel assessed a Future Value grade of 40 or greater. Hitters’ numbers are normalized to 550 plate appearances; starting pitchers’, to 150 innings — i.e. the playing-time thresholds at which a league-average player would produce a 2.0 WAR. Catcher projections are prorated to 415 plate appearances to account for their reduced playing time.

Note that, in many cases, defensive value has been calculated entirely by positional adjustment based on the relevant player’s minor-league defensive starts — which is to say, there has been no attempt to account for the runs a player is likely to save in the field. As a result, players with an impressive offensive profile relative to their position are sometimes perhaps overvalued — that is, in such cases where their actual defensive skills are sub-par.

t5. John Hicks, C (Profile)

415 .220 .262 .314 64 0.5

Between Hicks and Tyler Marlette (below), the latter is probably the overall more impressive prospect. Marlette was drafted out of high school (Hicks, college); received a signing bonus of about $650 thousand (Hicks, about $250 thousand); and earned a promotion to Double-A in just his age-21 season (while Hicks only first appeared there as a 23-year-old). For 2015, however, they profile as almost the same player, projected by Steamer to produce roughly identical offensive lines while both benefiting — deservedly so, it would appear based on McDaniel’s analysis — from the catcher positional adjustment. Should something happen to Jesus Sucre, Hicks would be an entirely acceptable replacement. Even if something doesn’t happen to Sucre, that might still be the case.

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Meet Odubel Herrera: The Phillies Opening Day Center Fielder

Last weekend, Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg indicated the team is moving Ben Revere from center field to left field to make room for Odubel Herrera — a speedy slap hitter they plucked from the Rangers in the rule 5 draft last winter. Although he’s second baseman by trade, Herrera apparently showed enough outfield range this spring to convince the Phillies brass that he could play a passable center field. Or at least they think he can be better than Ben Revere, who’s known for taking circuitous routes every now and then.

Making the Phillies outfield isn’t exactly a challenge these days, especially with Domonic Brown slated to start the season on the disabled list. Herrera will likely be flanked by Ben Revere in left and some combination of Darin Ruff and Grady Sizemore in right. Cesar Hernandez is also in the mix, but he’s probably less consequential than any of the players I’ve already named. It comes as no surprise that the Phillies ranked in the bottom four for all three outfield spots in this year’s positional power rankings.

Even so, Herrera didn’t have his roster spot handed to him. He’s earned it with a strong spring. The 23-year-old has hit .321/.356/.339 this spring with 6 steals. He didn’t just beat up on A-Ball pitchers either. According to Baseball-Reference’s opponent quality metric, his average opponent has been a Quad-A pitcher, on average. Spring numbers aren’t all that predictive, but they also aren’t entirely useless. And for players like Herrera with such a limited track record against quality pitching, even the smallest piece of data helps. Read the rest of this entry »

Kris Bryant Not the Only MLB Player Sent Down

The Chicago Cubs made big news yesterday when they demoted Kris Bryant as he is clearly better than other players remaining on the major league roster. Leaving Bryant aside, there are several other prospects throughout the majors who will not get starting roles with their teams who might already be better than the players ahead of them, including fellow Cubs prospect Javier Baez. There are myriad reasons to keep a player in the minors, some related to service time, some related to player readiness, some related to lack of urgency to win, and some due to sunk costs already on the major league roster.

Below are four players who could help their team now, with three players on teams that could contend, but will likely not make the major league roster. Other players who were considered, but not discussed in depth below are Rob Refsnyder on the New York Yankees, Alex Meyer and Miguel Sano of the Minnesota Twins, Archie Bradley of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Joey Gallo of the Texas Rangers and potentially Micah Johnson of the Chicago White Sox. The numbers below come from the FanGraphs Depth Charts. All plate appearances are prorated to 600 and all innings pitched are prorated to 180.
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Division Preview: AL West

Yesterday, we kicked off our look at each division by going through the NL West. Today, we’ll do the AL version from the land of pitcher’s parks.

The Projected Standings

Team Wins Losses Division Wild Card World Series
Mariners 88 74 45% 25% 9%
Angels 87 75 36% 27% 8%
Athletics 83 79 14% 21% 3%
Astros 78 84 5% 9% 1%
Rangers 73 89 1% 2% 0%

There are two pretty strong contenders at the top, two somewhat interesting teams hanging around the middle, and a likely also-ran. The top of the AL West is unlikely to be as strong this year as it was a year ago, but the low-end of the division should be somewhat better, and the race is open enough to remain interesting all year long. Let’s take a look at the teams.

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Kiley McDaniel Prospects Chat – 3/31/15

Kiley McDaniel: Hello. Kiley is here.

Comment From Nick
Nick is here.

Kiley McDaniel: Good to hear from you Dr. Nick. Hi everybody.

Comment From Jared
Can you remember a draft class where so many top prospects have suffered injuries?

Kiley McDaniel: I can’t, but it always bothers me when Bill Simmons announces every NFL/NBA season is the craziest one he can remember, so I don’t want to fall into that trap. Maybe it’s the normal amount of injuries, but since this class kinda sucks, we’re just noticing it more since top 10 guys are going down instead of fringy first rounders.

Comment From sir nerdlington
How do you see an international draft being implemented?

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Searching for the True Matt Adams

Many people were disappointed with Matt Adams in 2014. Most were probably fantasy owners. In real life, Adams had a solid year, and hit a really important home run off of the best pitcher in baseball during a really important playoff game. You might remember the one:


Being the first lefty to homer off of Clayton Kershaw’s curveball and clinching a playoff series in the process is a job well done in most books. There are a lot of different ways to excel in baseball, and Adams was certainly above-average offensively in 2014 (116 wRC+) — he just wasn’t the type of good that most people wanted out of him, the type in which 30 baseballs leave the yard. He was something other than expected in 2014, but that doesn’t mean he should be considered a disappointment.

Still, the awesome power potential that he flashed in limited time during 2013 (.220 ISO in 108 games) specifically didn’t reach expectations last year, so that area of letdown is at least somewhat understandable. It’s easy to get swept up in the hype when a player hits eight home runs in one month (September of 2013), but the fact remains: Adams’ true offensive output is still a question, and perhaps more than ever following a 2014 that differed substantially from 2013.

Already documented in these fine digital pages were some of his adjustments to the shift during the early part of last year, but let’s aim to answer that true talent question in depth today. What batted ball trends and adjustments did we see from him in 2014, and what might they tell us about his potential 2015? Who is the real Matt Adams: might he return at some point to his 2013 form, bashing homers left and right, or might he be more like the 2014 version moving forward?

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Taking A Step Back: Steve Pearce and Lorenzo Cain

Last week’s article on Danny Santana’s 2015 projected offensive decline generated some interesting feedback, so I decided to circle back and focus on a couple more players whose detailed batted-ball info suggests significant 2015 decline. I couldn’t pick two more dissimilar players if I tried; this week’s subjects are the Orioles’ 2014 everyman-savior, Steve Pearce, and the Royals’ postseason breakthrough star, Lorenzo Cain. The eyes and the numbers tell markedly different stories for a variety of reasons, but for both players, a preponderance of the arrows are pointing downward for the upcoming season. Read the rest of this entry »

Marcus Semien Is a Shortstop Now

At a lazy spring pre-game meeting with Bob Melvin a few weeks back, he mentioned off-hand that Marcus Semien wasn’t going to play every day. For half a second, it seemed we had a bit of a scoop on our hands, an emerging platoon at shortstop for the Athletics. But then, that was worth a confirmation — “You just mean he’s an Athletic, right?”

Yeah, Melvin said, “We don’t play anyone everyday. But when he’s playing, he’s playing short.” Less of a scoop, but still interesting, was this confirmation of what Billy Beane said during the winter meetings about Semien’s new-ish position.

Here’s a player that had played all over the diamond in Chicago, coming to a new team to take over one position as a starter. That hasn’t happened much before. In fact, only four players since 2002 have left one team as a utility man and arrived on their new team as a shortstop — Adeiny Hechavarria, Craig Counsell, Jed Lowrie, and Julio Lugo.

The manager and the player were upbeat about what the position switch would mean for his defense. As the latter three names show, it isn’t a move that’s usually done with defense standouts, but there might be something about focusing on one position that helps.

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The Anatomy of a Mike Trout Double Play

Probably should have seen this one coming. Last week, FanGraphs overlord David Appelman announced some minor improvements to the way WAR is calculated on the site, one of them being the inclusion of a double play avoidance stat (wGDP). Shortly thereafter, managing editor Dave Cameron wrote a post regarding The Thing Adam Dunn Was Surprisingly Great At (hint: it was avoiding double plays) and mentioned, in passing, that Mike Trout happened to be the very best at that particular thing last season.

As a quick refresher course, I’ve created an entirely underwhelming flowchart which I believe accurately represents the state of Major League Baseball in the year 2015. My sincerest apologies go out to Sean Dolinar, for I assume this single-handedly ruins all the hard work he’s done over the past couple months in an effort to unify and improve the site’s graphics.



So that’s how we got here. A new stat was born, and, like clockwork, Mike Trout just so happened to be the best at it. Well, he was last year at least. In 2014, Trout led the MLB by creating an additional three runs above average by avoiding the double play. If you want take it back a bit further, here’s what a top-15 leaderboard looks like over the last three years, or since Trout has been a full-time regular:

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Effectively Wild Episode 646: 2015 Season Preview Series: Los Angeles Dodgers

Ben and Sam preview the Dodgers’ season with Molly Knight, and Sahadev talks to True Blue LA’s Eric Stephen (at 32:54).

FanGraphs Audio: Dave Cameron on Service Time, Inevitably

Episode 544
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 not Kris Bryant exclusively, but also definitely Kris Bryant at some point.

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 41 min play time.)

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FanGraphs Audio: The Super Wrong Kiley McDaniel

Episode 543
Kiley McDaniel is both (a) the lead prospect writer for FanGraphs and also (b) the guest on this particular edition of FanGraphs Audio — during which edition he discusses, almost by accident, most of the top-10 prospects for the 2015 amateur draft.

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 59 min play time.)

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Brian Matusz as a Potential Starter

In 2011, Brian Matusz had one of the worst seasons imaginable as a pitcher. At the end of Spring Training, he suffered an intercostal strain and missed the first three months of the season. In his first start back, he gave up one run in 5 2/3 innings pitched, struck out three and walked none. In his next eleven starts, broken up by a stint in the minor leagues, he pitched 44 innings, struck out 35, walked 24 and gave up 18 home runs. There have been roughly 7,000 pitcher seasons over 40 innings in the last 20 years. Brian Matusz’ 3.26 HR/9 is the highest of all of them. Matusz was given another shot to start the next season, but was sent to the minors in July and when he returned, it was as a reliever, the role he has had ever since.

There have been some discussions about moving him back into a starting role. Baltimore does not currently have an opening for him, but there have been rumors that another team could trade for him and try to recapture the talent that once made him Baseball America’s number five prospect in all of baseball. In his recent Sunday Notes column, David Laurilia asked him if he enjoyed starting more and he answered, “Absolutely. No question.” The Orioles had been ramping up Matusz with starter innings, getting up to four innings on March 20th, but have since limited him to one inning performances, readying him for the role he has held the last two seasons for the Orioles.
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Evaluating the Prospects: Seattle Mariners

Evaluating the Prospects: Rangers, Rockies, D’Backs, Twins, Astros, Cubs, Reds, Phillies, Rays, Mets, Padres, Marlins, Nationals, Red Sox, White Sox, Orioles, Yankees, Braves, Athletics, AngelsDodgers, Blue Jays, Tigers, Cardinals, Brewers, Indians, Mariners, Pirates, Royals & Giants

Top 200 Prospects Content Index

Scouting Explained: Introduction, Hitting Pt 1 Pt 2 Pt 3 Pt 4 Pt 5 Pt 6

Draft Rankings: 2015, 2016 & 2017

International Coverage: 2015 July 2nd Parts One, Two & Three, 2016 July 2nd

The Mariners have done a nice job in amateur acquisition the last few years, evidenced by 4th round, well-below-slot college senior signs LF Patrick Kivlehan and LHP Ryan Yarbrough in the 45 FV group on the list. Seattle has always spent money internationally and there’s clear evidence of that below. As noted in the Gareth Morgan scouting report, the Mariners have shown a clear preference for right-handed power in the amateur markets in recent years, but taking Alex Jackson 6th overall last year was a slam-dunk decision on a guy Seattle didn’t think would make it to their pick. There’s a nice mix of international and domestic, high upside and high certainty, hitter and pitcher, etc. I have this system in the middle third of the org rankings, with plenty of upside guys that could help raise that ranking next year.

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Weighing Javier Baez’s Terrible MLB Debut

To say Javier Baez had a rocky start to his big league career would be an understatement. After tearing up the minor leagues to the tune of .274/.331/.541, the 21-year-old rookie hit a putrid .169/.227/.324 in 52 games with the Chicago Cubs last year. His on base percentage was the lowest of any hitter who recorded at least 200 plate appearances last year.

Baez’s atrocious performance had a lot to do with his alarming strikeout numbers. Swing and miss has always been part of Baez’s game, but his contact issues rose to unprecedented levels once he began facing big league pitching. In Double-A and Triple-A, Baez posted strike out rates of 29% and 30% respectively, but whiffed 42% of the time in the majors

Baez’s contact problems were unprecedentedly chronic. Just 59% of his swings resulted in contact, which is the lowest mark we’ve seen in the PITCHf/x era. However, Baez’s Contact% only tells part of the story. It reveals that many of his swings didn’t lead to contact, but doesn’t tell us why. Read the rest of this entry »

Dan Szymborski FanGraphs Chat – 3/30/15

Dan Szymborski: I am here, LIVE FROM SUPLEX CITY

Comment From RotoLando
I’m here for the free breadsticks

Dan Szymborski: Crap, was I supposed to get breadsticks?

Dan Szymborski: I’m saving the complete non-baseball Qs for the Lightning Round

Comment From Xander
I’m not well versed in statistics but is there some measure of confidence that zips or steamer calculates with each player’s projection? If so, is this published on the internets somewhere?

Dan Szymborski: I publish probabilities of various levels and milestones on the spreadsheet, but not a specific 95% confidence interval or something

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Division Preview: NL West

We’re just a week from Opening Day, and while our Positional Power Rankings series is designed to give an overview of each team’s strengths and weaknesses, it’s still helpful to look at each team in the context of their division. So, today, I’m kicking off our divisional previews, and we’ll knock out each division — going west to east — over the rest of the week. Today, we’ll start with the NL West.

The Projected Standings

Team Wins Losses Division Wild Card World Series
Dodgers 91 71 73% 13% 13%
Padres 83 79 16% 24% 3%
Giants 80 82 8% 16% 1%
Diamondbacks 74 88 2% 4% 0%
Rockies 74 88 1% 3% 0%

Our forecasts suggest that there’s a clear favorite at the top, two teams in a pretty close fight for second, and two also-rans who are unlikely to make a serious push for the postseason. Let’s take a closer look at each team.

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JABO: Anthony DeSclafani On His Changeup

Thirty-three innings into his major league career, Anthony DeSclafani was traded to the Reds. The Reds braintrust must have seen a few things they liked about his arsenal, and now it looks like he’s got a rotation spot. He’s got a good fastball, a decent breaking ball, and good command, that much most people agree on, even as they doubt him. So much of his future, though, hangs on the quality of his changeup.

Ask the pitcher to sum himself up, and you get what you might see the first time you take a look at DeSclafani’s numbers. “I’m an aggressive pitcher, especially with my fastball,” he said before a spring game. “Attacking hitters, going after guys — I just like to attack the strike zone, really.”

DeSclafani walked just two batters per nine in the minors, and only five in his first 33 major league innings. Last year, the league’s starters threw 56% fastballs, and the 24-year-old Marlin threw 70% fastballs. He was in the zone 49% of the time last year, and the league average was 42%. He knows himself well. His short description of himself is decent.

But most agree that he has a good fastball and decent command. And also that his breaking ball is good. It got 19% whiffs last year, and the major league average is around 14%.

Still. Batters had an OPS of .850 against his slider last year. That might be because major league hitters can be ready for those fastballs and breaking balls when the pitcher is obvious in trying to even the count.

“You have to be able to throw any pitch in any count,” DeSclafani says he learned last year. The league threw breaking balls 20% of the time in counts with zero or one strike last year, and then upped that to 30% in two-strike counts. DeSclafani went from 20% to 40% slider usage once he got two strikes, and maybe that was too predictable.

But part of the issue here is the depth of repertoire. If he had more faith in the curve or the change, he’d have another weapon at his disposal in those moments.

The curve is almost a total unknown. “Just started throwing a curveball at the end of the year last year, in September,” the pitcher admitted. He had thrown it before, but it wasn’t any good. “It was a below-average pitch so I kinda canned it. Fixed the mechanics, and I spike it now.”

Read the rest on Just a Bit Outside.