Archive for December, 2016

Effectively Wild Episode 1000: The Old and the New

In Sam’s last show as co-host, he and Ben talk to Astros pro scouting director Kevin Goldstein. Then, Ben talks to incoming co-host Jeff Sullivan before Jeff leaves on a fantastically timed vacation.

FanGraphs Q&A and Sunday Notes: The Best Quotes of 2016

In 2016, I once again had the pleasure of interviewing hundreds of people within baseball. Many of their words were shared via the FanGraphs Q&A series. Others came courtesy of my Sunday Notes column. Here is a selection of the best quotes from this year’s conversations.


“I look at my role of GM as a systems manager. I’m focused on our infrastructure and how our system is working. How the seven or eight departments within baseball operations are carrying out our philosophy and vision.” — Billy Eppler, Angels general manager, January 2016

“As the wheels keep turning — as baseball evolves — teams are going to start using their best relievers to get the biggest outs. They’re not going to keep putting them in a box where they only pitch the ninth. And the teams that are early adopters are going to reap the most benefits.” — Burke Badenhop, itinerant reliever, January 2016

“I called time out and proceeded to walk off the field. Billy Williams, the umpire, said, “Cro, where are you going?’ I said, ‘I don’t play in lightning. I don’t like lightning. We have spikes on. We could die out here.’ I went into the dugout and it took 15 minutes to coax me out of there.” — Warren Cromartie, former Expos outfielder, January 2016 Read the rest of this entry »

Effectively Wild Episode 999: The One Before 1000

In their penultimate show as co-hosts, Ben and Sam answer listener emails about baseball amnesia, iconic photos, Mike Trout hitting lefty, designing ballparks, and more before reminiscing about how they almost didn’t do email episodes.

Effectively Wild Episode 998: The Podcast’s (and Baseball’s) Future

Ben and Sam announce Sam’s upcoming departure from the podcast and Effectively Wild’s future at FanGraphs with Ben and Jeff Sullivan, and then discuss several big questions about baseball’s next 50 years.

2017 ZiPS Projections – Seattle Mariners

After having typically appeared in the very famous pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have been released at FanGraphs the past few years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Seattle Mariners. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Arizona / Atlanta / Boston / Chicago NL / Cleveland / Detroit / Houston / Los Angeles AL / San Diego / San Francisco / Tampa Bay / Toronto / Washington.

Here’s the very easiest way to determine if a club is likely to possess at least an average collection of field players: determine if all the field players in question receive a forecast of two wins or better. Where the Seattle Mariners are concerned, that’s more or less the case.

The hypothetical right-field platoon of Seth Smith (410 PA, 1.4 zWAR) and Guillermo Heredia (523, 0.9) might represent a weak spot — as might a platoon of Dan Vogelbach (508, 1.0) and Danny Valencia (419, 1.4) at first. In both instances, however, there’s at least a path to competence. Beyond that, basically every other position in the starting lineup — including a left field occupied by the recently acquired Mitch Haniger (517, 1.9) — is average or better. Nor does this account for the nearly elite contributions of Robinson Cano (644, 4.2) and Kyle Seager (653, 4.8).

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Next Year’s Free-Agent Hitters Offer More of the Same

While the free-agent march of the offseason continues to crawl along — due in no small part to the lack of appealing options — it might be helpful to look ahead to next winter. The starting pitching of next offseason’s free-agent class is set to mark a vast improvement over the present class. This year’s collection of free-agent hitters, meanwhile, seems to be composed mostly of corner outfielders, first basemen, and designated hitter-types, with few up-the-middle options. Next year’s class appears likely to include plenty of bat-first options available, but the group does have a very good catcher, a very good center fielder, and quite a few third baseman from which teams can choose, as well. Ultimately, however, next year’s crop of position players is going to look an awful lot like this one.

One of the reasons next year’s free-agent hitting class will so closely resemble the current one is that a number of players on the market this offseason figure to appear there again next season. Here are the players who’ve agreed to a one-year deal of one sort or another:

Free-Agent Holdovers for 2017-18
Name 2016 WAR 2017 Age 2017 WAR Projection
Neil Walker 3.7 31 2.4
Carlos Gomez 0.9 31 2.2
Matt Holliday 0.7 37 1.9
Welington Castillo 1.7 30 1.7
Carlos Beltran 2.3 39 0.9
Mitch Moreland 0.4 31 0.7
Jon Jay 1.1 32 0.6

That’s already seven players of some relevance. Nor does that include current free agents like Jose Bautista, Brandon Moss, Mike Napoli, Mark Trumbo, and Matt Wieters who could sign one-year deals if a satisfactory market fails to develop for them before the end of this offseason.

The top names in the table above, Carlos Gomez and Neil Walker, will seek to re-establish their value in 2017. Gomez had a good run at the end of this past season with the Rangers, and while many thought he might get a multi-year deal, he opted to go back to Texas to take a run at a bigger paycheck in a year. Neil Walker chose to accept the qualifying offer extended to him by the Mets, largely due to an injury that ended his season in August and hurt his appeal to clubs at the same time. If he has a healthy 2017 season, he should be in line for a solid multi-year deal. If Matt Holliday hits the two-win mark like his projection estimates, he’ll likely be in line for another similar deal, not unlike how Carlos Beltran parlayed a solid season into a nice one-year deal with the Astros. Castillo’s value might dependent on his reputation defensively, while Jay and Moreland will have to outperform expectations to have a real market next year.

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Effectively Wild Episode 997: The Game Show Show

Ben and Sam discuss the seemingly aimless Oakland Athletics and bring on two unwitting contestants (Eric Roseberry and Steve Givarz) to play the first Effectively Wild game show, “Name that Oakland A’s Position Player.”

Effectively Wild Episode 996: The Second Draft of Things About Baseball

Ben, Sam, Grant Brisbee, and Jeff Sullivan produce a sequel to Episode 500 by drafting 12 more things about baseball.

The Link Between Travis d’Arnaud’s Set-Up and Struggles

In 2015, Travis d’Arnaud was one of the league’s best power hitters. His .218 ISO placed him in the neighborhood of sluggers like Joey Votto and Kris Bryant. Following the season, Steamer projected that d’Arnaud’s ISO would be fourth best among catchers, and 24% better than 2015’s league average.

But that power was absent this past year, as d’Arnaud’s ISO fell by two thirds. At .076, it was one of MLB’s worst 10 marks, ranking the Mets catcher amid weak-hitting middle infielders like Dee Gordon, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Ketel Marte. d’Arnaud’s overall output took a huge hit, as his wRC+ sank to 74 this year after reaching 130 in 2015. That 56-point plummet is among the 1.1% worst year-to-year differentials of all time (minimum 250 PA). A decline this severe is unusual — and particularly surprising for a player who looked like a burgeoning star in 2015.

How did this downturn happen? In other cases, we might point to injuries or small sample sizes, but there’s reason to think that more was at play for d’Arnaud in 2016. That’s because he struggled with a longer swing in the 2016 season, generated by his bat wrap.

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Ender Inciarte Is Staying in Atlanta a Little Longer

The pieces are starting to come together for the rebuilding Braves. Though they’ve spent their winter stocking up on veteran starting pitchers and piratey-looking utilitymen, it’s been a winter spent with an eye looking to the future. None of the players whom Atlanta has added are standing firmly in the way of a young prospect, and they all make the team just a little bit better for their debut at their new taxpayer-funded stadium.

The extension of Ender Inciarte is a different matter. This isn’t a move that allows the future to happen, it’s one that shows what the future is going to look like. Inciarte has been given $30.525 million to stick around for an extra two years, and the Braves hold a $9 million option for an additional year after that. If that sounds cheap for a young, three-win center fielder, it’s because it is. Here’s how the deal breaks down.

Inciarte Extension Breakdown
Year Age Earnings (Millions)
2016 (Signing Bonus) 25 $3.5
2017 26 $2
2018 27 $4
2019 28 $5
2020 29 $7
2021 30 $8
2022 (Club Option) 31 $9, $1.025 Buyout

MLB Trade Rumors’ arbitration projections pegged Inciarte to earn $2.8 million this offseason, and assuming he’d been his usual productive self this year, he would’ve gotten a good raise next winter. Still, this seems like a real steal. Even if you assume Inciarte will record only the 2.4 wins for which Steamer projects him in 2017 and also assume that wins are going for $8 million a piece this offseason (when $8.5 million is more likely), it’s still likely that Inciarte will produce more than $100 million in on-field value over the next five years.

Ender Inciarte’s Contract Estimate — 5 yr / $115.1 M
Year Age WAR $/WAR Est. Contract
2017 26 2.4 $8.0 M $19.2 M
2018 27 2.6 $8.4 M $22.3 M
2019 28 2.6 $8.8 M $23.4 M
2020 29 2.6 $9.3 M $24.5 M
2021 30 2.6 $9.7 M $25.8 M
Totals 13.0 $115.1 M


Value: $8M/WAR with 5.0% inflation (for first 5 years)
Aging Curve: +0.25 WAR/yr (18-27), 0 WAR/yr (28-30),-0.5 WAR/yr (31-37),-0.75 WAR/yr (> 37)

As you can see, this deal saves the Braves a lot of money in the long run, and it gives Inciarte some immediate financial security. Atlanta will now have more money with which to play in free agency and in acquiring players in trades as they look to morph into a contending club.

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Top 19 Prospects: Detroit Tigers

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the Detroit Tigers farm system. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from my own observations. The KATOH statistical projections, probable-outcome graphs, and (further down) Mahalanobis comps have been provided by Chris Mitchell. For more information on thes 20-80 scouting scale by which all of my prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this. -Eric Longenhagen

The KATOH projection system uses minor-league data and Baseball America prospect rankings to forecast future performance in the major leagues. For each player, KATOH produces a WAR forecast for his first six years in the major leagues. There are drawbacks to scouting the stat line, so take these projections with a grain of salt. Due to their purely objective nature, the projections here can be useful in identifying prospects who might be overlooked or overrated. Due to sample-size concerns, only players with at least 200 minor-league plate appearances or batters faced last season have received projections. -Chris Mitchell

Other Lists
AL Central (CHW, CLE, DET, KC, MIN)
NL Central (CHC, CIN, PIT, MIL, StL)

Tigers Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Matt Manning 18 R RHP 2020 55
2 Christin Stewart 23 AA OF 2018 50
3 Beau Burrows 20 A RHP 2020 45
4 Tyler Alexander 22 AA LHP 2018 45
5 Michael Gerber 24 AA OF 2018 45
6 Joe Jimenez 21 AAA RHP 2017 45
7 Dixon Machado 24 MLB SS 2017 45
8 Derek Hill 20 A OF 2021 40
9 Jose Azocar 20 A OF 2020 40
10 Kyle Funkhouser 22 A- RHP 2019 40
11 Jacoby Jones 24 MLB OF 2017 40
12 Adam Ravenelle 24 AA RHP 2017 40
13 Gerson Moreno 21 A+ RHP 2019 40
14 Sandy Baez 23 A RHP 2019 40
15 Hector Martinez 20 R SS 2021 40
16 Arvicent Perez 22 A C 2020 40
17 Kevin Ziomek 24 A+ LHP 2018 40
18 Spencer Turnbull 24 A+ RHP 2018 40
19 A.J. Simcox 22 A+ SS 2018 40

55 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Sheldon HS (CA)
Age 19 Height 6’6 Weight 185 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
60/70 50/60 40/50 30/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Has recorded 46 recorded in 29 pro innings.

Scouting Report
Manning is the prototypical prep righty. He has tremendous size, throws hard, is a terrific athlete (he was committed to Loyola Marymount to play baseball and basketball) with great bloodlines (his father played in the NBA) and has exhibited a nascent feel for a potentially dominant curveball. Any high-school pitcher cooking with that list of ingredients is a slam-dunk first-round pick, and Manning was clearly the second-best high-school righty in the 2016 draft.

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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 12/23/16

Jeff Sullivan: Hello friends

Jeff Sullivan: Welcome to Friday baseball chat

Jeff Sullivan: I’ll let you know now this will be my last chat for a little while since right after Christmas I’m going on vacation

Jeff Sullivan: I’ll be back on January 13, which happens to be a Friday, which means I’ll be chatting, which means that time I’ll be asking *you* guys what’s been going on in baseball!

Bork: Merry Christmas, friend!

Jeff Sullivan: Hello friend

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We Still Haven’t Seen the Best of Noah Syndergaard

If you’ll allow me to make whatever the opposite of a hot take is, I’ll go ahead and assert that Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in the majors. This is almost a law of the universe, at this point — a law I don’t intend to contradict here. As for who’s next on the list, though, there’s more room for reasonable debate. One might ask, “Who’s the second-best pitcher in major-league baseball?”

In fact, I did ask it. According to the highly unscientific poll I took of my Twitter followers, Max Scherzer is an extraordinarily popular answer – and for good reason! Over the past four seasons he’s posted a 2.95 ERA, 2.90 FIP, averaged 263 strikeouts a year, and won two Cy Young Awards. You could also make cases for guys like Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, and the always underappreciated Johnny Cueto. For any of those pitchers to be the second-best pitcher in baseball, though, they’d have to surpass the guy who generates exceptional results while commanding what I might argue is the most jaw-dropping starting pitcher repertoire we’ve ever seen: Noah Syndergaard.

There’s a video-game performance quality to what Syndergaard does on a baseball field that I’m not sure we’ve seen since Barry Bonds retired. We’ve had elite players, sure – Kershaw and Mike Trout are pretty dang good, after all – but there’s a real “this shouldn’t be humanly possible” quality to Syndergaard’s pitching.

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2017 ZiPS Projections – San Francisco Giants

After having typically appeared in the very famous pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have been released at FanGraphs the past few years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the San Francisco Giants. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Arizona / Atlanta / Boston / Chicago NL / Cleveland / Detroit / Houston / Los Angeles AL / San Diego / Tampa Bay / Toronto / Washington.

A cursory examination of the club’s field players reveals a theme: almost all of them receive both a better-than-averge (a) strikeout and (b) fielding-runs projection. Nor should this be very surprising: Giants batters produced the second-lowest strikeout rate in the majors last year and the second-most defensive runs. Buster Posey (512 PA, 5.1 zWAR) is well acquitted by both measures. Brandon Crawford (575, 4.3) receives something closer to a league-average strikeout-rate projection; on the defensive side, however, the combination of his fielding mark (+9) and hypothetical positional adjustment (something like +7, probably) produce about 1.5 wins, rendering him league-average player almost without any consideration of his offensive skills.

Overall, the position-player side of things appears well suited to avoiding the awful. If an area of weakness remains, it’s in left field, where Jarrett Parker (449, 1.4) and Mac Williamson (389, 0.6) are expected to form a platoon. Even that combination, though, appears capable of providing wins at a league-average rate.

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How Bad Could a Pitch-Framer Possibly Be?

Thursday afternoon I spent a few minutes talking about pitch-framing with Michael Baumann and Ben Lindbergh. I was on their podcast for a segment to talk about my entry in this year’s Hardball Times Annual, and in the course of the conversation, Ryan Doumit’s name came up. As a big-leaguer, Doumit mostly stayed under the radar, but pitch-framing research exposed his crippling weakness. The numbers made him look bad. Not just bad-bad. Not just run-of-the-mill bad. Extremely bad. Extraordinarily bad. Doumit, as a receiver in 2008, is charged with -63 runs at Baseball Prospectus.

It wasn’t a one-year fluke. For his career, Doumit’s framing was worth almost -200 runs. If you look at his FanGraphs page, you see 8.2 career WAR. Fine role player, average bat. Add in framing, though, and he plummets to a WAR of nearly -12. Doumit goes from being useful to toxic. All because of something we couldn’t even measure a decade ago.

You’d be justified in wondering whether these numbers are accurate. I have trouble believing in them myself. That’s just so, so much value given away. However, allow me to offer this evidence. Doumit caught more than 4,000 innings. Other catchers on his teams caught twice as much. When Doumit was catching, the pitchers allowed 5.34 runs per nine innings. When someone else was catching, the pitchers allowed 4.90 runs per nine innings. That difference, over Doumit’s innings total: 213 runs. Something bad was happening there.

I’ve gone off course. I’m not here to pick on Ryan Doumit. He earned salaries totaling more than $22 million. He did it! But thinking about Doumit made me wonder. How bad could a pitch-framer possibly be? What would be the lower bound? I can’t give you a realistic answer, but I can give you estimates.

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Cleveland Signs Edwin Encarnacion

Cleveland came so, so, so close to the World Series crown just a couple months ago. It probably doesn’t hurt the way it hurt Red Sox fans in 1986, since they didn’t lose in the worst way imaginable, but it probably stings pretty hard, even now. Cleveland fans have likely buoyed themselves with the thought that with Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar back at full strength, and with a whole season of Andrew Miller, 2017 could bring a return trip. Bring the boys back and win it the second time around, the same way their American League Central brethren, the Kansas City Royals, did before them.
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Effectively Wild Episode 995: Manny Machado’s Midriff

Ben and Sam banter about Ivan Nova, early Hall of Fame voting, and a potential fat player, then answer listener emails about Mark Melancon and strikeouts, splitting the Rookie of the Year award, a renegade league, two-way players, CBA loopholes, changing the schedule, and the best possible highlights.

Ivan Nova Slipped Through the Cracks

The Marlins gave Edinson Volquez two years and $22 million. Now, I know what you might be thinking: The Marlins might have to issue bigger guarantees in order to convince players to join them. But I don’t know that for sure. What I do know for sure is that Volquez turns 34 next summer. Last season he had a worse-than-average ERA, a worse-than-average FIP, and a worse-than-average xFIP. Those same three things apply, also, to his overall career numbers. Volquez isn’t much. Fifth starter, perhaps.

The Pirates have given Ivan Nova three years and $26 million. Now, I know what you might be thinking: I should add in the modest performance-based incentives. But I just want to deal with the guarantee. Nova turns 30 in a matter of weeks. Last season he had an average ERA, an average FIP, and a better-than-average xFIP. This was supposed to be a terrible offseason to look for free-agent starters, but the Pirates still seem to have gotten something of a deal.

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The Twins Should Take Jose De Leon While They Can

The Dodgers want Brian Dozier, the Twins terrific second baseman. The Twins, rightfully so, want a lot for an excellent player due just $15 million in total over the next two seasons. Based on public reports, the two sides have agreed that young RHP Jose De Leon would go to Minnesota if a deal gets done, with the current stalemate surrounding what else the Dodgers would have to add to De Leon to get the Twins to make the swap. But while the Twins should obviously extract as much as they can from Andrew Friedman, they’d probably also be wise to not pass up the opportunity to acquire De Leon, since this might be their last chance to get him for a while.

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Eno Sarris Baseball Chat — 12/22/16

Eno Sarris: hey this is sort of holiday like

Bork: Hello, friend!

Eno Sarris: hello

hooha: Where would you recommend finding decent ADP data this early in the fantasy baseball season?

Eno Sarris: Couch managers has some stuff up.

hooha: drink of choice for christmas dinner?

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