Archive for July, 2017

Scouting Willie Calhoun and the Yu Darvish Return

Yu Darvish was traded to Los Angeles ahead of the deadline. In return, Texas got three good pieces, including one very entertaining one who will be ready to contribute to the big club soon.

Dodgers get
RHP Yu Darvish

Rangers get
DH Willie Calhoun
RHP A.J. Alexy
INF Brendon Davis

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With Sonny Gray, the Yankees Are World Series-Ready

The A’s were never going to hold. There was simply too much for them to lose. Sure, the rumors flew around, but they never made sense, as the A’s aren’t stupid. The A’s were never going to hold, and the Yankees were always the obvious match. They stood to gain the most in the short-term, and they stood to gain the most in the long-term. An agreement felt virtually inevitable, and while there were tugs on either side, there’s nothing like a deadline to push negotiators toward a decision. As time ran out, the A’s and the Yankees finally came together, as one would’ve figured they would.

Yankees get:

  • Sonny Gray
  • $1.5 million in international bonus money

A’s get:

The Yankees get to sell it as a move for a good starting pitcher in which they didn’t have to give up their absolute top-tier prospects. The A’s get to sell it as a move for three talented young players, each of whom could make a big-league splash. Neither interpretation would be incorrect — that’s how the spin goes when you’re dealing with a system as deep as New York’s. The A’s did well to get what they did, and there’s something to dream on with all of these players, yet the bigger takeaway for now is that the Yankees have taken another step forward. Their transition period is complete, and they’re now ready to try for a title.

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Scouting Dustin Fowler, James Kaprielian and Jorge Mateo

After months of scouring the market for another starting pitcher and weeks of industry chatter suggesting it would likely, eventually, be Sonny Gray, the Yankees have acquired the righty shortly before the trade deadline. It came at a fairly steep price. Below is analysis of the prospects sent to Oakland in the deal.

Yankees get

  • RHP Sonny Gray
  • International bonus slot

Athletics get

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The Best Reliever Traded at the Deadline

Evaluating relievers is difficult given their small sample of work in any given year and their volatility from year to year. But, given the fact that the most active sector of the trade deadline ended up being relievers, it makes sense to put them all in one place and wonder who got the best one. Might there be a surprising answer since the Padres ended up holding Brad Hand’s production on their roster?

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Projecting Dustin Fowler and Jorge Mateo

The Yankees traded for Sonny Gray. Below are the projections for the prospects the Athletics received in exchange for Gray’s services. Although he is a major part of this trade, I do not have a projection for James Kaprielian, who has thrown just 29 innings as a professional and zero since April 2016. WAR figures account for the player’s first six major-league seasons. KATOH denotes the stats-only version of the projection system, while KATOH+ denotes the methodology that includes a player’s prospect rankings.

Dustin Fowler, OF (Profile)

KATOH: 9.0 WAR (28th)

KATOH+: 8.8 WAR (18th)

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Astros Add Francisco Liriano, Plan an Experiment

For a second straight deadline period, Francisco Liriano is reportedly on the move. This time the lefty is heading from the Blue Jays to the Astros for outfielder Nori Aoki and a outfield prospect Teoscar Hernandez

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The Red Sox Now Have a Second Good Reliever

Although the Red Sox have been stuck in a slump, they’re still hanging onto a playoff position, and they’re barely behind the Yankees for first. The Sox have a bullpen that ranks third in baseball in WAR, and, even better than that, they have a bullpen that ranks first in baseball in Win Probability Added. The bullpen, you could say, has been the least of Boston’s problems, and yet, we say it every deadline — every good team could use another reliever. And in Boston’s case, their success has been primarily driven by the almost literally unhittable Craig Kimbrel. What the Red Sox haven’t had so much of is reliever depth, being without both Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith. And so, Monday has brought the following move:

Red Sox get:

Mets get:

(Note: pending medicals!)

The Mets recently picked up A.J. Ramos, signaling that they intend to try to contend again next season. Moving Reed is hardly surprising, then — he’s a 28-year-old stretch-run rental. What the Mets have received is a trio of right-handed minor-league relievers measuring at 6-foot-2. As usual, any one of these young players could suddenly emerge to become a relevant big-leaguer. Yet the Sox haven’t subtracted from the top of the farm, and now they’ve grabbed one of the more extreme relievers around.

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2017 Trade Deadline Day Chat

Travis Sawchik: Happy Trade Deadline Day, folks

Travis Sawchik: T-minus four hours until the non-waiver deadline …

The String Cheese Incident: Think the Tigers are done, or do you see another piece (Kinsler, Iglesias, etc.) moving today?

Travis Sawchik: Tigers seem committed to moving pieces so I could see another trade or two … not sure what the market is like for Kinsler. …. They need to do better than the J.D. Martinez return

Benny from the Glock: Would Yankees push for Darvish if Gray fell through?

Travis Sawchik: Darvish is a shorter-term option, of course, but it seems logical that they would target him if Gray fell through

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Adrian Beltre Joins the 3,000-Hit Club

Take a knee for a minute to appreciate just how great Adrian Beltre is. (Photo: Keith Allison)

When you think of Adrian Beltre, the first thought that comes to mind might just be his defense. In the early parts of his career, that was his bread and butter. He does, after all, rank 19th all-time in Def, and 10th since the color barrier was broken in 1947. By the time he retires, top 15 in Def is well within his reach.

And yet, Beltre is just as prolific as a hitter! He’s been one of the best players ever on both sides of the ball. Yesterday, he became just the 31st member of the 3,000-hit club. That’s pretty amazing. It’s pretty much an automatic ticket to the Hall of Fame (don’t worry, Rafael Palmeiro will get there some day via some Veteran’s Committee). Beltre also ranks 15th in doubles, 38th in home runs, 21st in total bases and 21st in extra-base hits.

He doesn’t rank quite as high in rate statistics — his .195 ISO ranks 308th out of 3,953 qualified players, for instance. That’s still really, really good, but it doesn’t stand out quite as much. But he has been really good for a really long time. And he’s still playing well. If he’s not at the top of his game, he’s pretty close, and doing a lot better than a lot of other players at the time of their 3,000th hit. Let’s take a look:
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The Trade Deadline Isn’t As Important As We Think

My first year covering Major League Baseball was in 2013, when I reported on the Pirates for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. If you recall, that was also the year that the Pirates ended the longest consecutive stretch of losing seasons — 20 of them — in major North American professional sports history.

Immediately after the non-waiver trade deadline passed that season, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington arrived at a makeshift podium in a conference room in the depths of PNC Park. He was asked to explain why he had not executed a trade to strengthen a club trying to secure not only its first winning season since 1992, but also its first playoff appearance since that season. Read the rest of this entry »

Cubs Win Justin Wilson Bidding War

While Zach Britton is the big name, and Brad Hand has been priced like an even bigger name, Justin Wilson might have actually been the most sought after reliever on the market this week. Basically every contender in baseball wanted him. The finalists were reportedly the Dodgers, Astros, Nationals, and Cubs, and the Tigers really couldn’t have asked for a better group to have bidding up the price on their best trade chip.

In the end, it appears that the Cubs put the offer on the table Detroit liked most. While the deal isn’t official yet, the teams are reportedly reviewing medical information, which means it should be done soon.

The deal is reportedly as follows.

Chicago Receives
Player Position Age 2017 WAR Rest of Season WAR Contract
Justin Wilson RP 29 0.9 0.5 Arbitration for 2018
Alex Avila C 30 1.9 0.8 Free Agent after 2017
ROS WAR is based on ZIPS/Steamer projection of 24 IP for Wilson and 170 PA for Avila.
Detroit Receives
Prospect Position Age Level Prospect Rank
Jeimer Candelario 3B 23 Triple-A #4, 50 FV
Isaac Paredes SS 18 Low-A #17, 40 FV
Prospect Rank is based on Eric Longenhagen’s preseason team write-ups.

The strong market for Wilson reflects the way the game has changed. He’s only been a closer for a couple of months now, and he has just 14 career saves. His ERA last year was 4.14. He’s never been an All-Star. Yet all of the best teams in baseball wanted him, because despite the lack of accolades, Justin Wilson is really good.

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Rockies Get Catcher in Severe Decline, Improve

Catchers are unique, and catchers are tricky. There are always questions about how any new player will fit in, but if you want a new left fielder, you can just go get a new left fielder. Catchers are more complicated, because they occupy leadership roles, and they need to be familiar with entire pitching staffs. For reasons like those, you don’t often see everyday catchers dealt in the middle of the season. Jonathan Lucroy was an exception last summer, when he was traded from the Brewers to the Rangers. And now he’s exceptional again, having been traded from the Rangers to the Rockies. Lucroy, teams are willing to believe in. Lucroy must be considered fast to adapt.

The two trades have Jonathan Lucroy in common. What they also have in common is that, like the 2016 Rangers, the 2017 Rockies are looking to go to the playoffs. But there’s one dramatic difference. Lucroy, a year ago, fetched high-level prospect talent. That was talent he was worth. Lucroy, this year, has fetched a player to be named later, or cash. I could make the same statement. Lucroy’s stock has plummeted — and yet, that even being the case, he can still make the Rockies a better baseball team.

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Projecting the Prospects Traded on Friday Night

Three minor-ish trades went down on Friday night. The Mets acquired A.J. Ramos from the Marlins for Merandy Gonzalez and Ricardo Cespedes; the Nationals acquired Howie Kendrick from the Phillies for McKenzie Mills; the Orioles acquired Jeremy Hellickson from the Phillies for Garrett Cleavinger and Hyun Soo Kim.  Below are the projections for the prospects who changed hands. WAR figures account for the player’s first six major-league seasons. KATOH denotes the stats-only version of the projection system, while KATOH+ denotes the methodology that includes a player’s prospect rankings.

None of the players dealt last night are top prospects, and as a result, their likelihood of outcomes graphs are heavily skewed towards “no MLB”. Kyle Glaser recently found that fewer than one in five prospects traded at the deadline contribute more than one positive WAR season. All three of these pitchers seem like good bets to fall into that bottom four-fifths.

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Jaime Garcia Traded to New York, Becomes Poor-Man’s Mike Piazza

The New York Yankees had been in the trade market for a starting pitcher — or at least had been rumored to be in it — even before Michael Pineda was felled by an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. While a trade prior to Pineda’s injury was seen as a luxury, it became a necessity once he was out for the season. They fulfilled that necessity this morning, when they acquired Jaime Garcia — whose two trades in a week, with the final one landing him in New York make him a very poor man’s version of Mike Piazza.

Before we get into this trade, can we just acknowledge the bizarro world detail of it? Per Joel Sherman:
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Sunday Notes: Lars Anderson is a Fighting Dog (as is Manny Ramirez)

Lars Anderson likes to experience new things, and he’s currently doing so on the other side of the world. One year removed from a season in the Dodgers system, the 29-year-old former top prospect in the Red Sox organization is playing with the Kochi Fighting Dogs, an independent team in Japan’s Shikoku Island League. One of his teammates is Manny Ramirez.

Anderson — featured in this column a few years ago — had gone from shooting star to minor league role player, and riding the pine wasn’t his cup of tea. As he told me recently, “I love playing baseball. I do not love watching it.” He began daydreaming about places that interested him culturally, and also had professional baseball. Japan was at the top of his list.

Conversations with Terrmel Sledge and John Bowker — each of whom had played in both MLB and NPB — followed. The Fighting Dogs made an offer, and come the third week of March, Anderson arrived in Kochi.  

Things have gone well. The Shikoku Island League plays a split season — “there are no official games in June and July due to the rainy season” — and Anderson finished the April-May first half leading the league in home runs. Facing pitchers “with a wide range of ability” he was second in RBIs, and in the Top 10 in batting average. The second half of the Fighting Dogs schedule begins tomorrow.

Along with Anderson, Manny Being Manny will remain with the team. The two have known each other since they were teammates with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs in 2014, and not surprisingly Anderson has an appreciation for the enigmatic one-time superstar. Read the rest of this entry »

The Best of FanGraphs: July 24-28, 2017

Each week, we publish north of 100 posts on our various blogs. With this post, we hope to highlight 10 to 15 of them. You can read more on it here. The links below are color coded — green for FanGraphs, brown for RotoGraphs, dark red for The Hardball Times and blue for Community Research.
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Effectively Wild Episode 1090: What a Bummer


Ben Lindbergh and Jeff Sullivan banter about humorless umpires and the on-deck circle, Michael Blazek and disaster starts, the MLB promotion of Aaron Bummer (and the nickname “Bummer” in baseball), the Brewers, Jaime Garcia and the Twins, the latest Mariners-Rays trade, Adrian Beltre’s book-worthy career, and David Price’s arm issues.

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Tim Anderson, Paul DeJong, and Terrible Plate Discipline

This is not just about the Cardinals’ shortstop Paul DeJong. He’s the subject of the sarcastic tweet below, but the point is that this sort of sentiment — surprise at a walk from a player with poor plate discipline — is increasingly more common in today’s game.

It’s true, he walked! It’s also true he hasn’t walked much this year, and that he strikes out a lot. For the season, he has coupled a 2.6% BB% with a 31.3% K%. Yikes! But, with today’s power environment, this sort of plate discipline is more…allowable. Used to be, if you struck out four times for every walk, you just didn’t have a spot in baseball. That’s not true any more.

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Justin Wilson’s Old New Pitch

Justin Wilson used to throw more than a modicum of curveballs, but that was when he was a starter. The Detroit Tigers closer largely shelved the pitch a few years ago, as it had been serving primarily as a get-me-over option. He didn’t feel it was beneficial out of the bullpen. As Wilson explained to me in June, “it was kind of loopy — the action just wasn’t there — so it definitely wasn’t a put-away pitch.”

The 29-year-old southpaw came into 2017 wanting to resurrect it — sort of. Mostly, he wanted a lower-octane offering to augment his bread-and-butter. Since becoming a reliever, Wilson has relied almost exclusively on a fastball and a cutter.

“I wanted something to slow guys down,” explained Wilson, whose days in Motown — if trade rumors are to be believed — are numbered. “When a hitter saw a scouting report on me, everything was hard. My fastball. My cutter is hard. There was nothing with a speed change. I worked on that over the winter, and kept it going into the spring.”

Over the course of the current campaign, Wilson’s breaking ball has been inconsistent and somewhat difficult to define. Pitch data suggests it’s a slider, the lefty considers it more of a curve, and depending on the day, either could be more accurate than the other. Read the rest of this entry »

The Mariners and Going All-In

The Mariners are a decidedly mediocre team. They are 51-52. They have averaged 4.7 runs per game and given up an average of 4.8 runs per game. Their BaseRuns record is actually one game worse than their actual record, but that’s pretty darn close. They are projected to win half of their remaining games. When you include baserunning, their offense is 15th in the majors. Their defense ranks 18th, three runs above average. Their starters rank 23rd in WAR and their relievers 21st.

In other words, nothing about this Mariners team says go for it, yet the team has dipped its toes in that water acquiring bullpen help in the form of David Phelps and a potential bottom-of-the-rotation starter in Marco Gonzales. Despite their mediocrity, there are rumors the Mariners will dive all the way in this season, attempting to acquire Sonny Gray. And, it does make a little sense.

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