Author Archive

An Unexpected Development

In April of 2009, FanGraphs CEO David Appelman announced that his growing site would be adding two part-time writers effective immediately or something like immediately. Having produced some vaguely analytical work for my own weblog, I sent a collection of story ideas, a CV, and an overwrought cover letter to the email address provided in his announcement. In a turn of events that speaks both to Appelman’s discretion as a leader and his capacity for identifying talent, he made a decision that would benefit FanGraphs for some time — which is to say, he hired someone else.

As if to prove, however, that even the most towering intellects aren’t immune from errors in judgment, Appelman and his future managing editor Dave Cameron would undo their good work just a few months later. Acting on a recommendation from Jonah Keri, who’s culpability in this process can’t be overstated, Appelman and Cameron invited me, at the beginning of August 2009, to begin contributing twice a week to fangraphs dot com.

To suggest that my first posts at the site were met with a “mixed response” would be to make full use of the rhetorical device known as “euphemism.” While I received no actual threats of bodily harm to my person, that didn’t prevent my person from crawling into the fetal position and weeping like a child. And while the vigor with which some readers expressed their dissatisfaction was probably unnecessary, the basic gist of their comments — namely, that I was single-handedly ruining whatever goodwill FanGraphs had cultivated with the public — seemed, at times, to possess merit.

When I asked Appelman if I should stop, lest I topple his fledgling empire, he suggested I not do that. “Keep going,” in fact, was more or less the tenor of his message. And whether that was the soundest advice or not, it seems in retrospect to have worked out. I have kept going for over nine years, enjoying (like other FanGraphs writers) an editorial freedom and collaborative spirit that is rare for any publication. One of Appelman’s great strengths as this site’s guardian has been to trust his writers. It’s an ethic from which I’ve benefited as a contributor and which I’ve attempted to preserve as an editor.

Starting today, however, I will no longer serve as a writer or editor for this site. After a tenure that has lasted far beyond even my most optimistic projections, I’m leaving FanGraphs to become a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.

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FanGraphs Audio: Dayn Perry Files a FOIA Request

Episode 843
Dayn Perry is a contributor to CBS Sports’ Eye on Baseball and the author of three books — one of them not very miserable. He’s also the safe pedestrian 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 1 hr 5 min play time.)

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FanGraphs Audio: Autograph Stories with Jay Jaffe

Episode 842
Jay Jaffe is progenitor of the very famous JAWS metric and author of the reasonably famous The Cooperstown Casebook. On this edition of the programs, he discusses Willie McCovey’s autograph and other people’s autographs. Also: important dates for Hall of Fame season. And: how there’s a shark tunnel at the Winter Meetings.

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 44 min play time.)

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Which Managers Could Still Fake It as a Player?

At roughly the 10-minute mark of Dan Szymborski’s most recent appearance on FanGraphs Audio, that same guest proposes — partly in response to Game Three of the World Series and partly as an installment in the chronicles of the absurd — a rule change that, if adopted, could have some implications for how teams think of a coaching staff. Specifically, he suggests that, in those games where a team has exhausted its full complement of hitters — such as the Red Sox did during their 18-inning marathon against the Dodgers — that a manager should be allowed to take the field for his club. Although he doesn’t say it, the same could presumably be true on the pitching side, as well.

The sight of a manager actively involved in a game wouldn’t be unprecedented, of course. While utilized rarely over the past half-century — and not in any real way since Pete Rose served in that capacity for the Reds from 1984 through 1986 — player-manager was a pretty common job title in the earliest days of the game.

Recent seasons have provided managerial surrogates, of course. During the final years of his career, Jason Giambi played the part of friendly uncle just as much as he did pinch-hitter. One could say the same for Julio Franco and Matt Stairs and Jim Thome. Chase Utley was referred to as “dad” by teammates for the bulk of the 2018 season. Bartolo Colon is older than a number of actual managers.

While some players have persevered into their early 40s, Rose’s performance reveals why there’s probably little demand for a player-manager proper in the current version of the game. By his third year on Cincinnati’s roster, the 45-year-old Rose was able neither to hit nor run nor field at a major-league level. Those are, one notes, basically all the ways in which a ballplayer can create wins for his team. Nor does this even account for all the ways the manager’s role has evolved in 30 years. With the volume of data made available by front offices, coaches of all sorts have had to develop skills that would be foreign to many of their predecessors.

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Contract Crowdsourcing 2018-19: Kikuchi and Rosenthal

Free agency begins soon! As in other recent offseasons, FanGraphs is once again facilitating this offseason a contract-crowdsourcing project, the idea being to harness the wisdom of the crowds to the end of better understanding the 2018-19 free-agent market.

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FanGraphs Audio: Dan Szymborski Introduces the Offseason

Episode 841
Dan Szymborski is the progenitor of the ZiPS projection system and a senior writer for FanGraphs dot com. He’s also the guest on this edition of the program, during which he reviews the lessons he did and also didn’t learn during the World Series. Also: the distinction but not the difference between luck and a skill that’s just undetectable. And: a status update on ZiPS projections.

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 50 min play time.)

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Contract Crowdsourcing 2018-19: Ballot 8 of 7

Free agency begins five days after the end of the World Series. As in other recent offseasons, FanGraphs is once again facilitating this offseason a contract-crowdsourcing project, the idea being to harness the wisdom of the crowds to the end of better understanding the 2018-19 free-agent market.

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Contract Crowdsourcing 2018-19: Ballot 7 of 7

Free agency begins five days after the end of the World Series. As in other recent offseasons, FanGraphs is once again facilitating this offseason a contract-crowdsourcing project, the idea being to harness the wisdom of the crowds to the end of better understanding the 2018-19 free-agent market.

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Contract Crowdsourcing 2018-19: Ballot 6 of 7

Free agency begins five days after the end of the World Series. As in other recent offseasons, FanGraphs is once again facilitating this offseason a contract-crowdsourcing project, the idea being to harness the wisdom of the crowds to the end of better understanding the 2018-19 free-agent market.

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2018 World Series Game Two Live Chat

7:52
Craig Edwards: Welcome everyone. We’ll get things going in a moment, so keep the questions coming, but first a poll.

7:52
Craig Edwards:

Who wins tonight?

Dodgers (46.1% | 36 votes)
 
Red Sox (53.8% | 42 votes)
 

Total Votes: 78
7:57
Dan Szymborski: GRAVY FRIES

7:57
Dan Szymborski: I like opening with a non sequitur.

7:58
Dan Szymborski: We are hear for the base ball match. Thank you all for joining us on your telematronic typescribers.

7:58
Bjorn from Swedish Sex Dungeon: How many “The Price is Wrong” headlines if Price scuffles?

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Contract Crowdsourcing 2018-19: Ballot 5 of 7

Free agency begins five days after the end of the World Series. As in other recent offseasons, FanGraphs is once again facilitating this offseason a contract-crowdsourcing project, the idea being to harness the wisdom of the crowds to the end of better understanding the 2018-19 free-agent market.

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Contract Crowdsourcing 2018-19: Ballot 4 of 7

Free agency begins five days after the end of the World Series. As in other recent offseasons, FanGraphs is once again facilitating this offseason a contract-crowdsourcing project, the idea being to harness the wisdom of the crowds to the end of better understanding the 2018-19 free-agent market.

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2018 World Series Game One Live Chat

8:06
Jay Jaffe: Hey folks, it looks like I’m throwing out first pitch here! Welcome to our World Series Game 1 chat.

8:06
Joe: As writers, do you prefer this kind of matchup of big money teams with lots of stars, or is it better to have an underdog?

8:07
Dan Szymborski: Yah, boo.

8:07
DodgeGuys: I just wanted to say thank you for the wonderful work you all do. Looking forward to your coverage of the World Series! Hope it’s a good one!

8:07
Jeff Sullivan: It isn’t all wonderful

8:07
Carson Cistulli’s Moustaches: Would Yasiel Puig benefit spiritually from growing out a moustache in homage to that sported by Bill “The Butcher” Cutting from Gangs of New York?

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Contract Crowdsourcing 2018-19: Ballot 3 of 7

Free agency begins five days after the end of the World Series. As in other recent offseasons, FanGraphs is once again facilitating this offseason a contract-crowdsourcing project, the idea being to harness the wisdom of the crowds to the end of better understanding the 2018-19 free-agent market.

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Contract Crowdsourcing 2018-19: Ballot 2 of 7

Free agency begins five days after the end of the World Series. As in other recent offseasons, FanGraphs is once again facilitating this offseason a contract-crowdsourcing project, the idea being to harness the wisdom of the crowds to the end of better understanding the 2018-19 free-agent market.

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FanGraphs Audio: Editor Talk with Meg Rowley

Episode 840
Meg Rowley is the managing editor of The Hardball Times. She’s also the guest on this edition of the program, during which she reviews some of the recent work at THT. Also: the discreet charm of Alex Bregman. And: the miracle of Josh James.

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 1 hr 0 min play time.)

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Contract Crowdsourcing 2018-19: Ballot 1 of 7

Free agency begins five days after the end of the World Series. As in other recent offseasons, FanGraphs is once again facilitating this offseason a contract-crowdsourcing project, the idea being to harness the wisdom of the crowds to the end of better understanding the 2018-19 free-agent market.

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Aaron Judge Would Win a Literal Heart & Hustle Award

Every year since 2005, the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA) has selected one player for what’s known as the Heart & Hustle Award. The distinction is intended to honor “an active player who demonstrates a passion for the game of baseball and best embodies the values, spirit and traditions of the game.” The idea is to recognize traits such as “determination” and “desire” and other qualities one appreciates in ballplayers but abhors in friends.

These considerations are, of course, typically absent from the pages of FanGraphs dot com. That’s the case for a number of reasons, but mostly because — as critics of the site have long suspected — our mothers never loved us. Indeed, certain employees of FanGraphs never even had mothers, but instead emerged fully formed from an algorithm devised by Billy Beane and Bill James when they co-wrote Moneyball. The author of this post can admit to shrinking merely at the thought of human touch.

No, it is typically the province of FanGraphs not to celebrate baseball’s humanity but to snuff it out wherever it emerges, like a game of compassion whack-a-mole. If a certain corner of the media landscape is to be believed, we have conducted our work with great success. Baseball, in the opinion of some, has been rendered an almost entirely joyless husk of its former self.

But the job isn’t yet complete. Some people appear still to be deriving pleasure from the game. And so, in this publication’s great tradition of joylessness, I present the current document — one in which I endeavor to answer a question that nobody has asked. That question, specifically? Something along these lines: “What if, instead of honoring the most passionate of ballplayers, the Heart & Hustle Award were presented based on the literal size of one’s heart and also a very obscure, technical definition of hustle?”

Let us go then, you and I… to a tedious summary of the author’s process for answering that question.

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FanGraphs Audio: Dan Szymborski Analyzes All the Postseason

Episode 839
Dan Szymborski is the progenitor of the ZiPS projection system and a senior writer for FanGraphs dot com. He’s also the guest on this edition of the program, during which he examines which managers have produced the best performances of the postseason. Also: Szymborski’s argument for playing Matt Kemp at shortstop. And: a status update on the forthcoming projections for 2019.

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 49 min play time.)

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2018 Fringe Five: Summary and Results and Discussion

Introduction
The Fringe Five is a weekly regular-season exercise (introduced a half-decade ago) conducted by the author with a view to identifying and monitoring the most notable of those rookie-eligible minor leaguers omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, John Sickels, and (most importantly!) FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel* — and all their attendant midseason lists, as well. Nearly every week during the minor-league season — except for those during which the vagaries of life have interfered — the author has submitted the names of five “compelling” minor leaguers, each name attended by a brief summary of that prospect’s most relevant credentials.

*Note: Baseball America’s list was excluded this year not due to any complaints with their coverage, but simply because said list is now behind a paywall.

Generally speaking, the word compelling has been used to designate those prospects who possessed some combination of the following:

  1. Promising offensive indicators; and
  2. The ability to play on the more challenging end of the defensive spectrum; and
  3. Youth relative to minor-league level; and
  4. A curious biographical or statistical profile.

With the minor-league regular season having been complete now for over a month, the author has finally escorted his carcass to the keyboard with a view towards presenting this document, a summary and discussion of the Fringe Five for 2018.

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