Archive for November, 2015

Where Jordan Zimmermann Is Trending Up

With Jordan Zimmermann, it’s so easy to focus on the downside. You’ve got a pitcher, coming up on 30, who’s already had Tommy John surgery once. He just posted a second-half ERA north of 4 despite playing in a woeful division, and he just lost a bunch of strikeouts, and he also just lost some fastball velocity. Every pitcher has red flags, and Zimmermann might have one or two more than usual. We’re all to some extent risk-averse, so it might not immediately seem like a great idea to guarantee Zimmermann $110 million over five years. In an ideal world, you’d like a bit more certainty.

Not that there’s ever such a thing as certainty. Someone as certain as, say, Carl Crawford dropped 8 WAR in between leaving the Rays for the Red Sox. Certainty is a lie, and beyond that, it’s not like Zimmermann wasn’t most recently good. By whatever measure, he had a three-win season. It was his fifth in a row. Zimmermann does actually seem fairly steady, even if you figure he peaked in 2014.

And underneath, Zimmermann has something going on. Most people are concerned with what’s physically going on. And, admittedly, what I’m going to highlight has an unclear link to ultimate performance. But Zimmermann has been changing himself, and in one way, he continued something he began two years ago.

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With Happ, Blue Jays Complete Purely Cromulent Rotation

With the signing of J.A. Happ to a three year, $36 million contract, the Blue Jays seem to have turned the corner on their 2015 ace, David Price. So in that sense, for Blue Jays fans, the Happ signing is not a Happ-y occurrence… Has everybody left? Okay! Time to get down to business. While we are all focused on the big-name free agents, like Price, picking their new and surely happy homes, the almost-AL Champs north of the border have been somewhat quietly going about the business of doing lots of business, and that business has been assembling a rotation that can take advantage of their offense.

Happ is the third starting pitcher the Jays have brought in or back since the season ended. Recall that they re-signed Marco Estrada to a two year deal, and then traded Liam Hendriks to Oakland for Jesse Chavez. Now they bring back Happ, a member of the Jays as recently as 2014. With R.A. Dickey and Marcus Stroman, that’s five starting pitchers under team control for next season. While Happ represents likely the last and largest free agent outlay by the Blue Jays organization for a starting pitcher this offseason, that doesn’t mean the team is completely done. With Happ, the team has $92 million committed to seven players in 2016 and none of those seven are Josh Donaldson, meaning adding an eighth player will make that figure meaningfully larger. Last season Toronto spent $137 million, their highest payroll ever, and though reports are a bit conflicting, they don’t seem likely to go much beyond that if at all for 2016. Assuming that’s all true, fitting David Price’s salary in would have meant cutting some muscle from the payroll, and doing that likely would have meant cutting muscle from Toronto’s greatest strength, their offense.

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The Worst Opposite-Field Hitter on Record

The Red Sox signed one of the Chris Youngs — the one who can hit. Terms haven’t yet been announced, or at least, terms hadn’t yet been announced when I first heard about this, and I haven’t bothered to check again since. It doesn’t really matter. He’ll get some millions over some years, and it will be neither great nor terrible, and whether Young is a success will probably come down to about five or ten swings per season. If they’re doubles or homers, terrific. If they’re outs, bad investment. So it goes with the role players. So it goes with everybody.

It’s fun that there are multiple Chris Youngs. It’s all the more fun they’re both weird and exceptional, extreme representations of ordinary profiles. The pitcher is unusually tall, and he throws unusually slow, and he generates an unusual amount of fly balls. The outfielder is also strange, and here’s a plot of part of his career profile:

chris-young-ranks

Young hits a ton of balls in the air. A relative ton of those remain close to the infield. Young pulls the majority of his balls in play. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Young is sitting on a pretty low career BABIP, despite having a good amount of footspeed. Young isn’t the most difficult hitter to defend. You tend to know where the ball’s going, and then it’s a matter of covering as much of that limited ground as possible.

So, yeah, both Chris Youngs are fly-ball machines. They both get pop-ups and run low BABIPs. These are neat and coincidental fun facts. But let’s focus on that pull rate. Also, on the inversely-related opposite-field rate. Young does his damage hitting to left and left-center. He’s the worst opposite-field hitter we have on record.

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JABO: Honoring the Minor League Home Run King

Usually, the retirement of a 37-year-old journeyman who spent the vast majority of his 20-year career in the minor leagues is not a cause for reflection by most fans of major league baseball. A cause of wonderment, perhaps, at the drive of a player who would, year after year, continue to play past the point at which a full-time major league dream seemed out of reach. That assumes, however, that the player wasn’t incredibly accomplished, and just this past season set the minor league record for home runs. All of it assumes the player isn’t Mike Hessman, the modern-day embodiment of Crash Davis.

Hessman’s is a true baseball life – not that of a storied major league slugger, or a fire-balling ace who won 300 games – but a player who epitomizes the never-say-die attitude at the heart of many a great sports story. That perseverance deserves recognition, and today, we’re going to highlight Hessman’s career through a few key facts and graphics to try to capture just how special and zany it was.

First, the easy one: the home runs. Hessman hit a lot of them. Out of a total of 454 professional dingers, he hit 433 in the minors, 14 in the majors, six in Japan, and one while playing in Venezuela. Take a look at his career home runs by level:

Hessman_HRs_Level

It took Hessman almost six years to make it to Triple-A after being drafted by Atlanta out of high school, but when he arrived, he stuck around. While he would compile 109 games in the major leagues with the Braves, Tigers, and Mets, his most permanent team was the Toledo Mud Hens, the Triple-A affiliate for the Detroit Tigers. He spent five years bashing a combined 140 homers for them between 2005 and 2009; in 2015, he reunited with them to add on another 16, including his record-breaking 433rd, a fitting go-ahead grand slam to left:

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Effectively Wild Episode 775: The Happ/Zimmermann Contract Conundrums

Ben and Sam discuss the perplexities of the J.A. Happ and Jordan Zimmermann signings.


Tigers Sign Perfectly Fine Zimmermann to Perfectly Fine Deal

For four consecutive years, the Detroit Tigers sat comfortably atop the throne of the American League Central Division. Last year, they relinquished that reign and did so in dramatic fashion, fielding the franchise’s worst rotation since the 119-loss Tigers of 2003 while plummeting to last place in the division.

Clearly, the Tigers were going to add a pitcher or three in the offseason. The question was, would it be a series of band-aids to stop the bleeding, or something bigger to put them back on the attack? On Sunday, that question was answered, when the Tigers agreed to terms with Jordan Zimmermann.

Those terms, precisely, are five years and $110 million, which is less than the 6/120 that our crowdsourcing project predicted. In past years, the crowd has tended to err on the low side, especially with high-profile free agents, so any time a guy signs for less, it looks good for the team.

In fact, if you start with Zimmermann’s +3 WAR Steamer projection for 2016, assume he ages somewhat well and factor in inflation, Zimmermann’s contract comes out as a carbon-copy of what would be considered the fair, market price:

Jordan Zimmermann’s Contract Estimate — 5 yr / $109.4 M
Year Age WAR $/WAR Est. Value
2016 30 3.0 $8.0 M $24.0 M
2017 31 2.8 $8.4 M $23.1 M
2018 32 2.5 $8.8 M $22.1 M
2019 33 2.3 $9.3 M $20.8 M
2020 34 2.0 $9.7 M $19.4 M
Totals 12.5 $109.4 M
Assumptions
Value: $8M/WAR with 5.0% inflation
Aging Curve: +0.25 WAR/yr (18-27), 0 WAR/yr (28-30),-0.25 WAR/yr (31-37),-0.5 WAR/yr (> 37)

What the Tigers are paying for here is consistency. This is a team that gave 147 innings to Buck Farmer, Kyle Lobstein, Kyle Ryan, and Randy Wolf last year, and a team whose only qualified pitcher was Alfredo Simon. Even at the top of the rotation, there’s former workhorse Justin Verlander, who looked like his old self once returning from injury but still needs to prove he can throw 200 innings again; Anibal Sanchez, who has either been hurt or ineffective each of the last two years; and Daniel Norris, who’s never thrown more than 150 innings in professional ball and just had a cancerous growth removed from his thyroid.

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The Best Young Pitcher in the World

This post was written by the team behind NEIFI, a projection system and systematic evaluation methodology about which you can read more at their site. They also tweet @NEIFIco, and have started their own blog as well.

We’re NEIFI. We build decision systems for teams, systems that produce both evaluations and valuations. Increasingly, there’s a need for such systems to work globally, both in the literal and metaphorical sense of the word; decision makers must be able to intelligently compare the relative values of draft picks, Korean free agents, a prospect, and 30-year-old big leaguer with two years and $30 million left on his contract. We’ve now been working explicitly with international leagues for about five years, and for much longer with domestic evaluations and valuations. We believe our methodology helps to put players from wildly different contexts on a neutral playing field for cross-comparison.

A few weeks ago, members of the Baseball Writers Association of America chose Jake Arrieta as the recipient of the 2015 NL Cy Young Award, even though it’s generally agreed upon that Clayton Kershaw is currently the best pitcher on the planet right now. NEIFI has little interest in awards voting (or the subsequent debates), but we do enjoy estimating the future. Here’s how our system projects the top 10 overall talent levels among starting pitchers going into 2016, simply on a rate basis. This uses the ERA scale; league average is fixed at 4.00, and an average SP is around 4.13:

Top SP Projections for 2016
Name 2016 Age
Kershaw, Clayton 2.35 28
Fernandez, Jose 2.75 24
Sale, Chris 2.87 27
Arrieta, Jake 3.01 30
Scherzer, Max 3.03 32
Otani, Shohei 3.08 22
Keuchel, Dallas 3.13 29
Kluber, Corey 3.15 30
Price, David 3.15 31
Strasburg, Stephen 3.16 28
Darvish, Yu 3.19 30
SOURCE: neifi.co

So we actually cheated: there are 11 pitchers included there, because as you may notice, one of them is not currently pitching in Major League Baseball. Shohei Otani’s dominance may not be groundbreaking news if you follow Japanese baseball to some degree, but we find that it’s still interesting to put his projectoin in this context. And for the sake of corroborating his gaudy ranking above, consider Darvish, who actually played for the same team in Japan.

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The Obstacles for the Underpowered First Baseman

Last Monday, Eno Sarris published a post here examining the possibility — based on some reasonable questions regarding the positional adjustments which inform WAR — that giant, large slugger-types are more valuable than our typical assumptions about the market have previously indicated. Eno’s conclusion: they’re still probably not (more valuable, that is). For whatever benefits these sluggers might receive from a revision of those positional adjustments, it probably doesn’t compensate for the other deficits generally tied to this type of player.

Eno’s work rests largely on this thread of logic: first basemen (and designated hitters) aren’t particularly great long-term free-agent investments because power tends to age poorly. There is, one finds, an assumption embedded within this claim — i.e. that the value of first basemen is tied strongly to power. And the assumption is supported by evidence. Regard: in 2015, first basemen and designated hitters produced the highest isolated-power figure (ISO) among all position types. In 2014, first basemen and designated hitters also produced the highest ISO among all position types. The year before that, in 2013, first basers and DHs produced the highest ISOs. This is very probably the case for every other season, as well. Nor is this a surprising development: in order to compensate for the runs they’re unable to save on the defensive side of the ball, first basemen have to produce more runs on the offensive side of it. Compiling extra bases is the most expedient means of doing that.

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KATOH’s Top 100 Prospect List for 2016

Please note that this is not the most recent list. An updated version can be found here.

Last week, I published a 2,000-plus word primer on the KATOH projection system I use to forecast prospects. Most notably, I discussed the improvements I made to the model and also explored how well individual minor league statistics can predict big league success. Today, I’m back with the end result of all of my math: KATOH’s top 100 list.

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Sunday Notes: Cecil Fielder, Wagner, Firpo, Ducky, more

Four players propelled baseballs over the left field roof at old Tiger Stadium. Frank Howard, Harmon Killebrew and Mark McGwire did so in visiting uniforms. Cecil Fielder was the lone Detroit Tiger to achieve the feat.

Mammoth power was required to reach that rarefied air. The left field fence was 340 feet from home plate, and the roof above the second deck was 94 feet high. Those dimensions were in effect from 1938-1999, a time period that encompassed nearly 10,000 games.

Fielder donned the Olde English D from 1990-1996, and he loved home cooking. The jumbo-sized slugger averaged 35 dingers in his time as a Tiger, and he was especially productive at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. In 514 career games at Tiger Stadium, he had a .514 slugging percentage (how’s that for symmetry?).

“It was my place,” Fielder told me recently. “Great backdrop, great fan base. That ballpark was tailor made for me.”

Tiger Stadium was a relatively cozy 325 feet to right field, but it was no bandbox for right-handed hitters. Along with being 340 to left, it was a hefty 440 to straightaway center. That didn’t matter to Fielder, who could clear fences at Yellowstone, and in any direction. Read the rest of this entry »


Effectively Wild Episode 774: The Thanksgiving Emails Episode the World Didn’t Want You to Hear

Ben and Sam banter about troublesome software (for some reason), then answer emails about constructing sensible trades, solving moral hazard, subbing for Andrelton Simmons, and what makes free agents happy.


One Marcell Ozuna for Sale

People tend to make too much of leverage. If you’re looking to trade a player, and you announce a list of the player’s weaknesses, weaknesses no one else knew about yet, sure, that would be bad for negotiations. That also doesn’t happen. What does happen, sometimes, is that a team gets tired of a player, and expresses a willingness to trade him, and the negative opinion doesn’t matter, because what matters is the market’s demand, and the market just wants to know if a player is good or not. All you need are for two or three teams to agree that a player’s pretty neat. Talks’ll take off from there, no matter what.

This is where the Marlins seem to be with Marcell Ozuna. They grew frustrated with Ozuna — and with his agent — in 2015, and when that hoax recording came out, it was still entirely believable. Based on all the chatter, Ozuna now finds himself on the block, as the Marlins want to turn him into something else. But the Marlins souring on Ozuna isn’t going to diminish his price, because teams everywhere have called them, and those teams aren’t competing against the Marlins; they’re competing against one another. Tuesday night, reports emerged that the Mariners were heavily involved in talks, and though nothing appears to be imminent, there’s enough smoke to suggest Ozuna could be headed elsewhere within a couple weeks.

It’s not often you get to observe a situation like this. When that’s the case, it makes sense the Marlins would be in the middle of it.

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Two Versions of Jed Lowrie

Major League Baseball interrupts this Thanksgiving holiday week to announce that Jed Lowrie has been traded from the Astros to the A’s in exchange for minor-league reliever Brendan McCurry. Perhaps it’s a move you find a little strange — Lowrie is in his 30s, and he’s due real money for at least another couple years. He’s going from one team with a very low payroll to another, and last year, the team adding Lowrie won 18 fewer games than the team shedding Lowrie. Typically you see trades like this in the other direction, but for the Astros, Lowrie was no longer a necessary piece. And the A’s are forever on the bubble, trying to avoid any kind of major tear-down. The A’s want to try to contend again. Having Liam Hendriks and a hopefully healthy Sean Doolittle addresses what last year was a catastrophic problem.

That’s the whole idea, in short. The Astros didn’t need Lowrie, and they’ll take the financial flexibility and the interesting young reliever. McCurry could have a real future, and he could have it soon. The A’s, meanwhile, are happy to have Lowrie back at a modest cost, and they like his flexibility. From one perspective, he gives them depth; from another perspective, he gives them trade options. A healthier A’s team could be a .500 ballclub, and a .500 ballclub is always close to the hunt. Okay, everything checks out.

The thing I find most interesting isn’t the Astros’ position, nor is it the A’s position. It isn’t McCurry, either. It’s Lowrie himself. Just how good is Jed Lowrie, really? There’s room for very reasonable disagreement.

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Wei-Yin Chen and the Art of Changing Speeds

On Tuesday, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports published a short column suggesting Wei-Yin Chen could be among the first free agent pitchers to sign. The column also included that agent Scott Boras is prepared to make the case that Chen is worth a higher AAV than what Rick Porcello earned last offseason, putting his yearly price tag north of $20 million.

When Morosi sent out a tweet that read “Is Wei-Yin Chen a $20 million-per-year pitcher? Or more? My column:” it was met with a frenzied response from The People of the Internet. Now, $20 million annually does seem a bit aggressive. But our crowdsourcing project pegged him for $13 million AAV, Dave Cameron thinks it will be closer to $16 million, and Cameron also named Chen as one of the five bargain buys of the offseason at that price. All it takes is a few teams to agree with Cameron’s assessment, and Chen’s price tag could be driven up near Boras’ demands.

The response to Morosi’s column shouldn’t be too surprising, for several reasons. For one, you should know that The People of the Internet are notoriously reactionary and easily agitated. Two, people almost always think players should earn less than what they actually end up making. And three, Wei-Yin Chen is probably better than most people think. He doesn’t blow people away, so he’s not a sexy pitcher, but he’s ran 3.44 ERA over the last couple years, and he’s done so in a hitter’s park in the AL East. His ERA- over that time is one point better than Chris Archer’s, the same as Stephen Strasburg’s, and one point worse than Madison Bumgarner’s.

I’m certainly not suggesting Chen is on, or even near, the level of an Archer, Strasburg, or Bumgarner, but he’s been about as durable as they come the last couple years with the results to boot. I’m not here to put a price tag on Wei-Yin Chen — I’ll let the market decide that — but Morosi’s column got me thinking about Chen, and thinking about Chen got me thinking about something else.

You’ll notice a couple paragraphs above that I only used ERA to evaluate Chen. Usually, we like to look at both ERA and FIP, and more information is always better, but Chen’s one of those tricky guys who seems to have proven himself as a FIP-beater, having outperformed his fielding independent numbers by nearly half a run since entering the league. Oftentimes, these FIP-beaters are guys who can consistently generate soft contact, and those kind of guys are among my favorite in baseball to think about right now.

On a related note, I explored how Dallas Keuchel goes about getting his soft contact last week. There’s plenty of ways to go about doing it, which makes it so fun to investigate. One of Keuchel’s methods is repeatedly pounding the first-base edge of the plate with two-seamers and changeups that tail away from the strike zone, hitting off the end of the bat against righties and jamming lefties.

That’s Keuchel’s method. Chen ranked sixth in the league in soft contact percentage this season, just three spots behind Keuchel. Chen’s got a method too.

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How Much Should Teams Spend on Kenta Maeda?

Reports indicate that Japanese righty Kenta Maeda met with the Hiroshima Carp this week and requested to be posted. He hasn’t been posted yet, but when things like this get public, there can be a growing pressure on the team to fulfill their star’s wishes. We’ve already looked for a comp for Maeda, but how can we use that data to answer the next question on the checklist: how much should teams shell out for him?

The way posting now works, there’s a max bid — $20 million — and any team that reaches that max bid is able to negotiate with the player. Those rules make it a worse deal for Japanese teams, who have their income capped, and for the American teams, who have to outbid the other teams with deep pockets and can no longer suppress the yearly salary much beyond the $20 million in posting they had to spend to get to the table.

It’s better for the player, because he can get a deal more like a free agent deal, and because he also gets to choose where he’ll play. And since that’s true, it’s probably less likely that the whole process gets egg on its face the way it did when Hisashi Iwakuma failed to sign with the Athletics that one year.

In any case, we’re talking about $20 million to get to the table, and then a slightly more limited open market. And the teams would probably like to bake in some of the risk they face in signing a player who hasn’t yet played in the major leagues.

When we took a look at comps, we got a Young Kenshin Kawakami or an Older Aaron Nola, and neither pitcher actually exists right now. Projecting Nola out five years based on 77 major league innings in order to price Maeda seems like a bad deal. Zeroing in too much on what a 34-year-old Kawakami did in America also seems like the wrong direction.

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Alex Gordon a Value Buy in Free Agency

Alex Gordon has been a really good, perhaps slightly underrated, player over the last five seasons for the Kansas City Royals. An untimely injury limited his role during this most recent regular season, but he was a big part of the club’s playoff runs each of the past two seasons and played a major role in Kansas City’s first World Series title in 30 years. Thanks to a team-friendly contract extension after his breakout 2011 season, the Royals have paid him just $37.5 million over the last four years, including two potential years of free agency. Although Gordon, heading into his age-32 season, is not reaching free agency at an ideal age, given his production he is still likely to receive a deal totaling around $100 million. The question for the Royals and the rest of the league is, will he be worth that kind of money into his mid-30s?

Gordon has hardly gone unnoticed as one of the best, if not the best, player on the two-time American League champion and reigning World Series titleholder. However, due to the way he’s produced his value — including above-average defense in an outfield corner — it’s possible that Gordon is slightly underrated heading into free agency. Over the last five seasons, he has been one of the very best players in baseball, as evidenced by the WAR leader chart below.

Position Player WAR Leaders, 2011-2015
Name PA WAR
Mike Trout 2877 38.5
Andrew McCutchen 3358 33.4
Miguel Cabrera 3233 29.9
Adrian Beltre 3102 27.3
Joey Votto 2887 26.5
Jose Bautista 2921 26.1
Robinson Cano 3398 25.9
Buster Posey 2618 25.6
Alex Gordon 3176 25.1
Ben Zobrist 3229 24.7

The next five players on that list are Josh Donaldson, Dustin Pedroia, Jason Heyward, Evan Longoria, and Giancarlo Stanton. Gordon has put up a well-above average 123 wRC+ during that time after struggling from 2007 to 2010 as he adjusted to major league pitching following just one full season in the minors. Alex Gordon and Jason Heyward’s name have come up together this offseason as similar players for good reason.

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Dave Cameron FanGraphs Chat – 11/25/15

10:48
Dave Cameron: So, as you guys can see, we’re testing out a new piece of chat software today. I chose today for the test run since I expect this will be a lower traffic day, given Thanksgiving tomorrow, so while we’re still going to answer your questions, I also wanted to use this to get some feedback from you guys on how the software is working (or not working). So feel free to let me know what you guys see, and we’ll play around with this system to see if it’s something we want to switch over to.

11:58
Dave Cameron: Alright, since this is a bit of a beta test for this new software (built by a FG reader, by the way), we’ll start a couple of minutes early. Definitely interested in hearing your feedback as we go along.

11:59
Andrew: Now baseball related…when evaluating a past free agent contract, should the distribution of production be taken into account? If we were to look at Shane Victorino from ’13-’15 – $39 million for a total of about 6 wins, but all 6 wins came over the course of a single season. Is that more valuable, less valuable, or equally as valuable as if he were to have 3 2-win seasons?

12:00
Dave Cameron: There are differing schools of thought on this answer, with some people absolutely convinced that wins are non-linearly valuable, so a +6 WAR season is worth way more than three +2 WAR seasons. I don’t think that’s really true in practice, though, at least not to a huge degree. If there’s a multiplier, I think it’s probably something like 1.1x instead, so maybe one +6 WAR season is worth +6.6 WAR compared to three +2 WAR seasons being worth +6 WAR, or something to that effect.

12:01
Eric: up or under, 50% chance Redsox land David Price?

12:02
Dave Cameron: I’d say under, because he might just not want to play there, and at some point, the marginal difference between $220 million versus $205 million or something isn’t going to change his lifestyle.

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Win a Free Copy of THT 2016!

Have you heard? The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2016 is now available for sale. You can check out the table of contents and read some excerpts from the book. When you finish that you can purchase it from our independent publishing platform, Createspace, in print form, or from Amazon in print form, and also digitally on Amazon for the Kindle.

But wait, there’s more! Because we’re giving folk, and since it’s the beginning of the holiday season and all, we want to give you a chance to win yourself a free copy of the book. So today and tomorrow (and yesterday), we’ll be running a trivia contest based on one of the articles in the book. The first person to post the correct answer in the comments will win a free physical copy of the book (sorry, no free Kindle version). It’s just that simple!
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A Primer on a New and Improved KATOH

My role here at FanGraphs is to write about minor league players. Nearly all of my articles focus on the output from my KATOH projection system, which produces long-term forecasts for players who are still in the minor league phase of their careers. Today, I’m unveiling some updates to my model that will be reflected in my analysis from this point forward.

I’ve been meaning to work these updates into KATOH for quite some time now, but haven’t had the chance to finish up until now. Some pieces of this took a bit longer than expected, and day job stuff along with this year’s onslaught of prospect debuts pushed things to the backseat a bit. But I’m all caught up now and ready to unveil my new and improved KATOH. Here we go!

Rather than just putting out a straight leaderboard, I thought I’d use this as an opportunity to explain some of the inner workings of KATOH. I wanted to say something more insightful than “These are the best prospects because math.” That’s why this piece runs 2,000+ words without reference to a single baseball player. If you’re just interested in the output rather than the nitty-gritty, check back after Thanksgiving for KATOH’s top 100 list. I just wanted to get all of this background stuff down in one place, rather than cluttering future pieces with extra information.

*****

Obligatory Technical Details

The general framework of my model is largely the same as it’s always been. As I did in the past, I deployed a series of probit regressions to see what factors are most predictive of major league performance. For each player, I generated probabilities that he would achieve certain benchmarks through his age-28 season: play in the major leagues, earn at least 1 WAR, earn at least 2 WAR, etc. These percentages gave me a probabilistic outlook for each player, and enabled me calculate an “expected value” for his WAR through age 28.

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Unlocking James Paxton

Theory: the Mariners want to be good soon. I haven’t talked about that with anyone in the industry, so I might be way off, but it’s the assumption I’m going to work with. Another assumption follows: if the Mariners want to be good soon, they probably figure James Paxton could and should be a part of it. The Mariners, probably, want Paxton to become a major contributor as soon as the season ahead. Toward that end, Paxton needs to stay healthy, and the healthy version of Paxton needs to do better.

There’s nothing worth saying about Paxton’s health. Hopefully he doesn’t get hurt. I don’t know why he gets hurt, and I don’t know how he can stop. You cross your fingers. But as far as being better is concerned? Most everything comes down to mechanical repetition. And health, of course, plays some role in that. Out of more consistent mechanics, the Mariners would like Paxton to improve his location. They’d like him to improve his changeup. And there’s another idea, which I already wrote about once some months ago.

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