Archive for December, 2017

FanGraphs Q&A and Sunday Notes: The Best Quotes of 2017

In 2017, 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, while others came courtesy of my Sunday Notes column. Continuing what has become an annual tradition, here is a selection of the best quotes from this year’s conversations.

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“Jerry (Dipoto) is extremely professional about returning calls and texts, open to ideas, and not afraid to make moves, particularly in terms of trading prospects. It’s amazing how many conversations get shot down almost immediately, but Jerry will listen and engage.” — John Coppolella, Braves GM, January 2017

“I think you’d be surprised. There are a lot of hitters in the big leagues right now that can’t hit a good fastball. Because of their status, everybody thinks they can crush a fastball, so pitchers are reluctant to throw it to them. They don’t have to be.” — Jim Leyland, former manager, January 2017

“You end up with a really ugly, flat slider. It’s basically a nothing fastball that doesn’t do anything except go about 400 feet. To the hitter, it’s a cookie. As a pitcher, you don’t want to serve up cookies.” — Larry Andersen, Phillies broadcaster, January 2017

“Bobby (Valentine) left him in. Sojo gets a hit, and we lose. They win and the World Series is over. The first thing Bobby says to me is, ‘Hey, don’t forget now; you’ve got to cover my ass.’” — Dave Wallace, former pitching coach, January 2017 Read the rest of this entry »


Effectively Wild Episode 1156: The Winners and Losers of MLB’s Next Five Years

EWFI

In the last episode of 2017, Ben Lindbergh and guests Joe Sheehan and Rany Jazayerli analyze the Rockies’ Wade Davis signing and offseason attempt to build a super-bullpen, then reprise an old exercise by picking (and dissecting) the teams they think will win the World Series in the next five years and the teams they think won’t make the playoffs in the next four years, discussing the future of rebuilding, the vast divide between baseball’s best and worst teams, and much more along the way.

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2018 ZiPS Projections – Chicago White Sox

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Chicago White Sox. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Batters
To get a sense of where the White Sox currently reside along the win curve, consider this: nine days ago, the ZiPS projections for the Miami Marlins — a team actively attempting to divest itself of talent — appeared at this site. The players most likely to occupy a starting role for that team received a total of roughly 16 projected wins from Dan Szymborski’s computer. Chicago’s starters, meanwhile, earn just 11 WAR or so between them — this even though, because of the DH slot, the White Sox actually feature an additional field player in their hypothetical Opening Day lineup. It’s possible, in other words, that the White Sox’ positional core is only two-thirds as strong as the Marlins’. That isn’t what one would characterize as an “ideal” prognosis.

First baseman Jose Abreu (667 PA, 2.6 zWAR) unsurprisingly receives the club’s top projection. Since his arrival in 2014, he’s been the club’s best player, rivaled only by the departed Adam Eaton during that same interval.

White Sox’ Top-Five Players by WAR, 2014-17
Name PA AVG OBP SLG wRC+ Off Def WAR
Jose Abreu 2660 .301 .359 .524 139 107.2 -58.2 14.5
Adam Eaton 1933 .290 .362 .422 118 52.9 7.6 13.1
Todd Frazier 1001 .220 .311 .454 104 5.8 2.9 4.3
Avisail Garcia 1805 .275 .330 .419 104 5.8 -30.1 3.5
Alexei Ramirez 1279 .261 .295 .383 87 -22.1 6.9 2.9

Notably, it wasn’t Abreu, but rather Avisail Garcia (565, 1.4), who led the club in wins this past season. ZiPS forecasts significant regression for Garcia in 2018, however: indeed, even with the benefit of a projected .339 BABIP, his batting average is expected to drop 50 points. Are you familiar with Yolmer Sanchez? A lot of people in the world aren’t. He finished third on the club in WAR this past season, though. ZiPS calls for him to do that again.

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Wade Davis and the Long-Term

Today, the Rockies agreed to sign Wade Davis to a three year, $52 million contract, capping an off-season of bullpen spending that also saw them give $27 million each to Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw. The Rockies’ plan couldn’t be more obvious, as they are loading up on relievers in the hopes of bullpenning their way through October. With their trio of free agent relievers pushing Adam Ottavino, Chris Rusin, and Mike Dunn to earlier-game situations, the Rockies now have one of the deepest bullpens in baseball. If they were able to roll out that group in the postseason, they could be dangerous.

The problem remains getting to October, however. We projected the Rockies for 79 wins before they signed Davis, so adding him will move the forecast up to 80 wins, most likely. And if you think that’s just Steamer being overly negative, it’s not just us.

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Top 25 Prospects: Pittsburgh Pirates

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from my own observations. The KATOH (stats-only) statistical projections, probable-outcome graphs, and (further down) Mahalanobis comps have been provided by Chris Mitchell. For more information on the 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. *This post was updated with prospects acquired in various offseason trades (McCutchen, Cole) after its initial publication*

Pirates Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Mitch Keller 21 AA RHP 2019 60
2 Austin Meadows 22 AAA OF 2018 55
3 Shane Baz 18 R RHP 2021 50
4 Colin Moran 25 MLB 3B 2018 50
5 Cole Tucker 21 AA SS 2020 50
6 Ke’Bryan Hayes 20 A+ 3B 2020 50
7 Lolo Sanchez 18 R OF 2021 45
8 Taylor Hearn 22 A+ LHP 2020 45
9 Luis Escobar 21 A RHP 2021 45
10 Bryan Reynolds 22 A+ OF 2020 45
11 Kevin Newman 24 AAA SS 2018 45
12 Steven Jennings 19 R RHP 2021 45
13 Stephen Alemais 22 A+ SS 2020 40
14 Kevin Kramer 24 AA UTIL 2019 40
15 Oneil Cruz 19 A INF 2021 40
16 Sherten Apostel 18 R 3B 2022 40
17 Jason Martin 22 AA OF 2019 40
18 Conner Uselton 19 R OF 2022 40
19 Calvin Mitchell 18 R OF 2022 40
20 Will Craig 22 A+ DH 2019 40
21 Travis MacGregor 20 R RHP 2021 40
22 Nick Burdi 24 AA RHP 2018 40
23 Dovydas Neverauskas 24 MLB RHP 2018 40
24 Edgar Santana 26 MLB RHP 2017 40
25 Braeden Ogle 20 R LHP 2022 40
26 JT Brubaker 24 AA RHP 2018 40
27 Clay Holmes 24 AAA RHP 2018 40
28 Pedro Vasquez 22 R RHP 2020 40

60 FV Prospects

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2014 from Xavier HS (IA)
Age 21 Height 6’3 Weight 195 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
60/60 55/60 40/45 50/70

Aside from a May back injury that sidelined him for a month, Keller had a successful 2017 and reached Double-A in August. He struck out 116 hitters in 116 innings, against just 32 walks, while continuing his career-long avoidance of the home run. He has surrendered just 13 homers in 317 career innings. The foundation of Keller’s profile is grounded in his fastball and fastball command. He was throwing only in the upper 80s the fall before his senior year of high school, but Keller’s velocity began to increase as the draft approached, and it has continued to do so. His fastball now sits 93-96 and touches 97.

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Effectively Wild Episode 1155: Hoffman Kluber Meets the MarlinTigers

EWFI

Ben Lindbergh and Steven Goldman answer listener emails about the best and worst times to write about baseball (and the most and least rewarding ways to do it), Nolan Ryan’s Cy Young Award goose egg, Trevor Hoffman vs. Corey Kluber and Hall of Fame standards for relievers, Brandon Belt vs. Eric Hosmer, gaming the luxury-tax rules, the feasibility of one team signing both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, combining the Marlins and Tigers into one competent team, the catching implications of instituting robot umps, and the problem with too many teams rebuilding at once, plus a Stat Blast on some of the most prolifically losing players of an earlier era.

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Effectively Wild Episode 1154: Orioles Angst and Cooperstown Questions

EWFI

With Jeff Sullivan on vacation, Ben Lindbergh brings on The Ringer’s Deputy Editor (and Binge Mode co-host) Mallory Rubin to talk about the Orioles’ bleak, in-between offseason and her wishes concerning Manny Machado. Then Ben talks to The Ringer’s Zach Kram and the Cincinnati Enquirer’s C. Trent Rosecrans about BBWAA Hall of Fame voting patterns, C. Trent’s latest ballot, and the future of Hall of Fame voting.

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2018 ZiPS Projections – Milwaukee Brewers

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Milwaukee Brewers. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Batters
The Brewers entered the 2017 campaign, in theory, as a rebuilding club. Between 2015 and -16, the organization had traded Khris Davis, Mike Fiers, Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy, and Jean Segura, all of whom had served as regulars for the team. In their place emerged a collection largely of unproven, if promising, talent — but not one, it seemed, designed to compete in a division that also featured the defending world champions.

What happened instead is Milwaukee led the NL Central into late July and missed a Wild Card slot by a mere game. The club’s position players ranked 17th in the league by WAR, which seemed improbable after the exodus of talent.

The successful 2017 team, however, doesn’t necessarily represent a baseline for the 2018 one. While one might expect the projections for the next iteration of the Brewers to reflect a club prepared to take another leap forward, that’s not what one finds here. Only two players, Domingo Santana (566 PA, 2.3 zWAR) and Travis Shaw (573, 2.7), are forecast by Dan Szymborski’s computer to transcend the two-win threshold. Meanwhile, both of the club’s starting middle infielders, Orlando Arcia (599, 1.4) and Jonathan Villar (526, 1.0), profile as something more like useful part-time players than first-division regulars.

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Sunday Notes: Dick Enberg Was an Iconic Broadcaster

Dick Enberg died on Thursday, at the age 82, in La Jolla, California. His roots were in Michigan. Born in Mount Clemens, Enberg lived on a farm in Amada and attended college in Mount Pleasant. He went on to cultivate an inimitable broadcast style and become known to sports fans everywhere.

To say that Enberg reached the pinnacle of the profession would be an understatement. He called some of the biggest games in college basketball history, several Super Bowls, and more than two dozen Wimbledons. As the voice of the California Angels, and later the San Diego Padres, he was behind the microphone for nine no-hitters. Two years ago, the Baseball Hall of Fame honored him with the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence.

Enberg was reportedly as good of a person as he was a broadcaster and based on my brief interactions with him that’s certainly true. When I first met Enberg, we spoke of our shared Finnish heritage and small town Michigan upbringings. He couldn’t have been more congenial. I recall walking away impressed that a legend could be so humble.

It is by no means hyperbolic to call Enberg a legend. Here is what two of the best broadcasters in the business had to say when I asked them about his passing.

Len Kasper, Chicago Cubs: “I was very saddened to see the news. Dick was one of the first big time national sportscasters I remember hearing as a kid. I took a special interest in his work because he went to Central Michigan University, just a few miles from where I grew up. I was fortunate to get to know him a little bit when he joined the Padres TV booth and we had several great conversations. The word iconic gets thrown around lazily in our business, but if Dick Enberg wasn’t an iconic broadcaster, I don’t know who was. I will throw out one other thing. His tennis work was totally underrated. I watched a ton of it in the ‘80s and ‘90s and he was the #1 voice of THAT sport too! He did everything! Versatile, knowledgeable, understated, he had everything you’d want in a national broadcaster.” Read the rest of this entry »


The Best of FanGraphs: December 18-22, 2017

Each week, we publish in the neighborhood of 75 articles across 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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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 12/22/17

9:03

Jeff Sullivan: Hello friends

9:03

Jeff Sullivan: Welcome to Friday baseball chat

9:03

Jeff Sullivan: My last Friday baseball chat for a while!

9:03

ToMcN: Hey Jeff! what’s the hold up with Otani being added to the player pages/projections?

9:04

Jeff Sullivan: We have an Ohtani player page and projection now. I added him to the Angels’ depth chart about an hour ago but those can take a little while to update on the public-facing side

9:05

Jeff Sullivan: Here’s the player page: http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=19755&position=P

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2018 ZiPS Projections – Los Angeles Dodgers

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for half a decade. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Batters
Dodger field players recorded the second-most WAR collectively in the majors this past season, and all but one (Chase Utley) of the club’s top-13 players from 2017 remains under contract for 2018. Unsurprisingly, the projections below are almost uniformly strong.

Both first baseman Cody Bellinger (607 PA, 4.4 zWAR) and shortstop Corey Seager (666, 5.7) remain subject to a Young Driver Surcharge when patronizing any of this country’s major rental-car providers. When not busy securing dependable transportation at a competitive rate, however, they occupy their time creating runs as professional ballplayers. ZiPS calls for that pair to produce roughly 10 wins just between the two of them in 2018.

If one is intent on identifying a weakness — or at least an uncertainty — within the depth chart, then left field appears to be the best candidate. Joc Pederson (475, 2.4) was optioned to Triple-A in mid-August and absent from much of the postseason, raising some questions about his job security with the present iteration of the club. Even he is forecast to produce wins at an above-average rate, however.

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Effectively Wild Episode 1153: Johnny on the Spot

EWFI

Ben Lindbergh and Jeff Sullivan banter about the perplexing potential end to Manny Machado trade rumors, then bring on former major leaguer and current fun-fact star/national treasure Johnny O’Brien to discuss his life and career with the Pirates, Cardinals, and Braves in the 1950s, becoming a reluctant two-way player (and experiencing immediate, surprising success), his signing by Branch Rickey, being a “bonus baby” and skipping the minor leagues, playing in the Harvey Haddix game, forming half of the only double-play duo of twins in MLB history, playing without his twin for the first time, playing for both great and terrible teams and both with and against baseball legends, being buddies with Bing Crosby, and more.

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The Dodgers’ Attempt to Beat the Market

Over the course of a few days during the winter meetings, it seemed like all that was happening was that free-agent relievers were signing multiyear contracts. And not just multiyear contracts — reasonably expensive multiyear contracts. Both Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw got three years. An incomplete selection of the relievers who got two: Brandon Morrow, Tommy Hunter, Juan Nicasio, Joe Smith, Anthony Swarzak, Steve Cishek, and Pat Neshek. These are all good pitchers. They deserve what they’ve gotten. But people are still relatively unaccustomed to seeing non-closers get $8 million a year. This is the bullpen age, indeed.

As the run on relievers was taking place, a common refrain was that teams were looking to sign the next Brandon Morrow, or the next Anthony Swarzak. Not that Morrow or Swarzak didn’t still get their money, but neither was considered valuable a year ago. They popped up, almost out of nowhere, and they became deadly weapons. So, teams figure, why wouldn’t there be other pop-up relievers? Why spend so much on a guy if you think you can find the next bullpen breakthrough?

Every team is looking for the next pop-up. It’s not easy to spot success before success. The Rangers think they have someone in Chris Martin, and I wrote about him, but he’s been terrific in Japan. It’s a different sort of gamble. Wily Peralta and Yovani Gallardo have signed with the Royals and Brewers, respectively, but they might still start. I don’t know if they’re necessarily considered the same kind of pop-up targets. This all leads me to Tom Koehler. I wanted to find a pitcher who’s been identified as a potential next Swarzak or Morrow. The Dodgers signed Koehler for $2 million, and if he hits all his incentives as a reliever, the salary tops out at $2.95 million. He’s under control for 2019, and the Dodgers see him in the bullpen.

Koehler, this past season, was bad. He had an ERA of almost 7. The bulk of his career has been spent as a starter, and there’s a perfectly good chance his 2018 goes off the rails. And yet the Dodgers think they might see something, something that could handle high-leverage situations. What is it the Dodgers are thinking? I’d like to give it my best guess.

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FanGraphs Audio: A Phone Call with Kiley McDaniel

Episode 792
Kiley McDaniel is the former lead prospect analyst for FanGraphs.com and, more recently, a member of the Atlanta Braves’ front office. He’s also a future employee of FanGraphs.com and the guest on this edition of FanGraphs Audio.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 34 min play time.)

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Eno Sarris Baseball Chat — 12/21/17

8:07
Eno Sarris: …

12:01
Broseph: You pointed me toward Sam dyson in 2016, and James Paxton in 2017. Whose your 2018 difference maker who can be acquired cheaply now?

12:01
Eno Sarris: Yo I am here

12:03
Eno Sarris: I’ve been into Walker Buehrler (best curve by movement and velo, opportunity, going back to starting), Carlos Rodon (third best starter’s changeup by movement and velo last year), and I still like Treinen and Manaea as lower cost back end pitchers at their positions.

12:04
Art Vandelay: Gordon, Granite, and a couple lower Twins’ prospects for Archer. Do the Rays hang up?

12:05
Eno Sarris: probably not enough for a pitcher getting paid less than ten mill a year.

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Indians Sign Fly-Ball Poster Boy Yonder Alonso

The Indians have their Carlos Santana replacement.

On Thursday evening, Cleveland agreed to a two-year, $16 million deal with air-ball revolution poster boy Yonder Alonso. The contract includes an option for a third season.

There were a number of potential first-base fits for Cleveland in a deep class that included other left-handed options like Matt Adams (who reached a one-year, $4 million deal with Nationals), Mitch Moreland (two years, $13 million with Red Sox) Lucas Duda, and Logan Morrison. Eric Hosmer’s ask, and perhaps inconsistency, likely pushed him out of consideration for the club.

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Twins Prospect Tom Hackimer on Being a Pitching Nerd

Tom Hackimer loves Driveline, uses a Motus Sleeve, and is one class short of earning a physics degree from St. John’s University. In other words, Minnesota’s 2016 fourth-round pick is a pitching nerd. He’s also an intriguing prospect. In 43 relief appearances this past season, the sidearming 5-foot-11 right-hander logged a 1.76 ERA and 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings between Low-A Cedar Rapids and High-A Fort Myers. He followed that up with a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League.

Hackimer discussed his scientific and methodical approach, which includes slow-motion video and the modeling of his motion after Joe Smith’s, earlier this month.

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Tom Hackimer on being a pitching nerd: “Before I knew that I was going to be any good in baseball, I thought I would go to grad school and get a degree in civil engineering. I like to build things. That seemed like a logical step, as civil engineering would be building things on a bigger scale, such as bridges. I’ve always thought that would be cool.

“As it pertains to baseball… I try to build things that will help me. My senior year of college, I built sort of a pitch-tunneling device. At least that’s what it was in theory. It was basically a window that I could change the height of. I put it 20 feet in front of the mound and would work on throwing all of my pitches through it, wanting them look the same all the way up to that point, at least.

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Daniel Nava and the Human Rain Delays

Earlier this offseason, as part of an info-taining post illustrating the influence a single batter can exert on game pace, Jeff discovered that Marwin Gonzalez was taking f-o-r-e-v-e-r between pitches this past season.

I followed up shortly after that with a piece in defense of pitchers, as I suspected much of the blame for the slowing pace of play could be assigned to batters.

While the hot stove is slowly warming this offseason, let us not forget that the biggest change we’ll observe in major-league stadiums next season could be the appearance of pitch clocks. Buster Olney reported last month that the introduction of a pitch clock is a distinct possibility.

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Effectively Wild Episode 1152: The Pod Calling the Ketel

EWFI

Ben Lindbergh and Jeff Sullivan banter (and bantler, again) about what they’ve learned about antlers and antler-rubbed bats, the Evan Longoria trade, Derek Jeter’s town-hall event with Marlins fans, and Jeff’s breakout-player pick for 2018 (and breakout player-picking philosophy). Then they debut a new Stat Blast theme song by Jessie Barbour, do a Stat Blast about Matt Adams, Adam Lind, and a player who shouldn’t have switch hit, and answer listener emails about paying minor-league players, Jason Heyward opting out, the Yankees’ prospects with Michael Schur in their rotation, what the Braves could do with their tiny international bonus pool, and a baseball Bachelor, then follow up on their discussions of a team with no coaches and Shohei Ohtani signing shenanigans.

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