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After Acquiring Machado, Dodgers Need Relief

The Dodgers have shaken off their early-season blues and climbed from 10 games below .500 to 10 above in the space of two months. They just made a huge splash with their Manny Machado acquisition — you can read about their lineup upgrade, their improved odds and the prospects they surrendered — but that doesn’t mean that president of baseball operations Andrew Freidman and general manager Farhan Zaidi can lie back in their hammocks sipping daiquiris through the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline, as the team still has at least one other area of glaring need: the bullpen.

Before digging into their need to relieve their relievers, it’s worth considering the state of their rotation. The Dodgers have dealt with a variety of injuries thus far such that they have just one pitcher who’s made at least 18 starts — one who has spent the whole season in the rotation without interruption, basically — namely Alex Wood. Whether by accident or design, only four other teams can make that same claim: the upstart A’s (Sean Manaea), resourceful Rays (Blake Snell), and two also-rans, the Blue Jays (J.A. Happ) and Marlins (Jose Urena). The fading Angels, who have been working with a six-man rotation (more or less), have no starter who’s taken more than 17 turns.

From the Dodgers’ original starting five, Kenta Maeda (16 starts), Clayton Kershaw (13), Rich Hill (11), and Hyun-Jin Ryu (six) have all spent time on the disabled list, with Ryu still present there due to a groin strain so severe that you’d be excused for crossing your legs reflexively. Fill-ins Ross Stripling (14 starts) and Walker Buehler (10) began the year in the bullpen and the minors, respectively. Including call-ups Caleb Ferguson (three starts) and Brock Stewart as well as openers Daniel Hudson and Scott Alexander (one apiece), the team has used 11 starters, as many as the Marlins and more than all but the A’s, Angels, Mets (12 apiece), and Rays (14).

Despite the patchwork arrangement, the Dodgers have gotten very good work up front. Their starters’ 10.2 WAR is second in the NL and fourth in the majors, and by both ERA- (86) and FIP- (83), they’re first in the NL. The group has pounded the strike zone (19.8% K-BB, first in the league and second in the majors) while also keeping the ball on the ground (45.7% GB rate, tied for third in the NL and the majors) and in the ballpark (1.03 HR/9, third in the NL and fifth in the majors).

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Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 7/19/18

Jay Jaffe: Howdy folks, and welcome to today’s chat. It’s been said in connection with Ted Williams’ final game that “Gods do not answer letters” — that’s John Updike, in his famous New Yorker piece — but somebody on high has brought us color footage of his final home run and highlights from his final game. Don’t miss this:….

Ray Liotta as Shoeless Joe: Brad Hand and Adam Cimber for Francisco Mejia. Discuss.

Jay Jaffe: I joked on Twitter that the entirety of my analysis beyond recalling that Mejia had a 50-game hitting streak two years ago was Jeff Spicoli saying, “Hola, Mr. Hand”

Jay Jaffe: That’s from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, a staple of my teenage and early adult viewing, and a movie that you damn millennials (stands up from lawn chair and shakes cane) probably know nothing about. Well, rent it on your electric sousamaphones!

Jay Jaffe: Seriously, Mejia is a very nice get, and as a non-prospect guy I’ve never heard of Cimber. You’re probably better off asking Eric or Kiley about that and about how much catching Mejia will do going forward, though I’d bet the Padres will give him every chance to stick there.

Jkim: Shouldn’t the Dodgers look to trade someone like Toles & obviously Forsythe for bullpen help?

THey’d need to add a prospect to sweeten the deal obviously.

Idk how the trade will work out but I think Oh could be a good addition to their bullpen

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Betts, Ramírez, Trout, and the Blistering Pace

Roughly a month ago, Mike Trout appeared headed towards history. On June 20, I took time out from gorging myself on lobster rolls and clam strips during my Cape Cod family vacation to put together a table showing the short list of players who reached 6.0 WAR before the All-Star break. After 74 games, Trout was on pace to finish at 13.8 WAR, the third-highest total for a position player in history, behind only the 1923 and 1921 seasons of Babe Ruth (15.0 and 13.9 WAR, respectively).

A funny thing happened on the way to the break, however: Trout fell into his first true slump of the year, and both Mookie Betts and José Ramírez have closed the gap such that the trio is in a virtual tie atop the leaderboard at 6.5 WAR. This is the first time since 1975 — as far back as our splits in this area go, alas — that three players have reached even 6.0 WAR by the All-Star break, though even that relatively recent history shows such a pace is nearly impossible to maintain.

Before I dig in, it’s worth noting that, while we generally refer to what transpires before and after the All-Star break as the season’s first and second halves, those are generally misnomers, since the pause in the schedule usually happens well after the 81st game of the season and at a slightly different point from year to year. So far in 2018, the average team has played 96 games, similar to the averages in 2013 (94) and 2014 (95) but well ahead of those in 2015 and 2016 (89 games) or 2017 (88 games). Thankfully, so long as we’re taking the trouble to prorate to 162 games, we can cope with this.

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A Derby That Delivered the Goods

Walk-off. Walk-off! WALK-OFF! Bryce Harper won the 2018 Home Run Derby at Nationals Park in dramatic and impressive fashion, needing less than the full complement of time to beat his opponents in all three rounds. At ease in front of the hometown fans showering him with cheers, the Derby’s No. 2 seed and the only contestant with previous experience rose to the occasion each time. After dispatching seventh-seeded Freddie Freeman and third-seeded Max Muncy in the quarter- and semifinals, the 25-year-old Nationals superstar did have his back to the wall in the final round against fifth-seeded Kyle Schwarber, but with nine homers in the final minute — on 10 swings by my count, though ESPN’s broadcast said nine in a row — he tied the Cubs slugger’s total of 18. On the second pitch of the 30-second bonus period, he lofted a 434-foot drive to center field, then did a two-handed bat flip as the crowd went wild, and quickly handed the trophy to his barrel-chested father, Ron, who had pitched to him:

In a field that was somewhat lacking in star power, with no Mike Trout (who’s never participated), no Aaron Judge (who did not defend the title he won as a rookie in 2017), no Giancarlo Stanton (who won in 2016 but then was upset in his home park last year), and no player from among the season’s top five home-run totals for the first time since at least 2008, Harper — the biggest name from among the eight participants, even if he has struggled by his own standards this season — took center stage. He became just the third player to win the Home Run Derby (which began in 1985) in his home park, after the Cubs’ Ryne Sandberg in 1990 and the Reds’ Todd Frazier in 2015.

Frazier’s win came in the first year of a format that has turned the event from a three-hour slog into a vastly more entertaining spectacle that ran just over two hours. Instead of swinging until having made 10 “outs” (non-homers), players have four minutes to hit as many homers as possible, with the caveat that a ball can’t be pitched until the last one landed. Each player gets one 30-second timeout in the first two rounds and two timeouts in the finals. A player hitting two homers projected by Statcast to have traveled at least 440 feet unlocks an extra 30 seconds of bonus time.

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Previewing the 2018 Home Run Derby

With apologies to the 1960 television show that became a staple of ESPN Classic, the Home Run Derby has been around since 1985, but it wasn’t until the last few years that Major League Baseball found a format that was vastly entertaining: a head-to-head single-elimination bracket setup with timed, four-minute rounds and 30 seconds of bonus time added for hitting two 440-foot homers, as measured by Statcast. In 2015, the first year of that format, Todd Frazier, then of the Reds, became just the second player in Derby history to win in his home park; the Cubs’ Ryne Sandberg was first in 1990. In 2016, the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton won at Petco Park, and last year, rookie Aaron Judge beat Stanton on his home turf in Marlins Park — a pair of ideal results that will be tough to top.

Indeed, one of the big drawbacks of the Derby has been its failure to attract a full complement of the game’s elite sluggers; to the extent that complaints about MLB’s failure to market its stars to full advantage rings true, here’s a very good example. Mike Trout has never participated, and Bryce Harper has just once, in 2013. With the Derby and the All-Star Game at Nationals Park in Washington, DC, Harper is back, but he’s the only member of the eight-player field who has participated in a previous Derby. There’s no Judge this year, no Stanton, and no J.D. Martinez or José Ramiréz either. In fact, according to the Washington Post, this is the first year since at least 2008 without a player from among the majors’ top five in homers participating. Just two of the current top 10, the Brewers Jesus Aguilar (sixth with 24, but leading the NL) and Harper (tied for seventh with 23) are involved, and of the eight contestants, just one is from an AL team, the Astros’ Alex Bregman. Let’s call it what it is: a comparatively weak field.

Perhaps that’s because the myth of a post-Derby curse persists; what fall-off there is generally owes to regression in players’ rate of home runs per fly ball, which can owe something to luck. Anyway, these dinger displays are still fun, even in this homer-saturated age, and the timed format is much, much, much better — so much so that I’d even be willing to call Chris Berman out of retirement to repeat that phrase — than the previous slog, during which a batter might take pitch after pitch looking for the right one, and an hour in the competition might go by before somebody was eliminated. That wasn’t compelling television.

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Utley’s Chase for Cooperstown

Joe Mauer got there, but Chase Utley won’t. By there, I don’t mean the Hall of Fame, at least not directly, but the 2,000 hit plateau, which has functioned as a bright-line test for BBWAA and small-committee Hall voters for the past several decades. As I wrote back in April after Mauer collected his milestone hit, voters have effectively put an unofficial “Rule of 2,000” in place, withholding election from any position player below that level whose career crossed into the post-1960 expansion era, no matter his other merits. For anyone holding out hope that Utley would stick around long enough — while playing well, of course — to reach that marker, Friday was a rough day.

At a press conference at Dodger Stadium on Friday afternoon, the 39-year-old Utley announced that he would retire at the end of the season, forgoing the second year of a two-year, $2 million deal he signed in February. With “only” 1,881 hits over the course of his 16-year career, and less than half a season remaining, he’ll fall short of the marker.

After beginning the press conference by deadpanning that he’d signed a five-year extension, Utley said:

“I transitioned to a part-time player, something new for me, but I took it in stride… Also, a part-time strength coach, part-time pitching coach, occasionally part-time catching coach as well as a part-time general manager. The thing I’m having the most difficult time with is being a part-time dad. So that’s really the reason I’m shutting it down. I’m ready to be a full-time dad.”

While evolving from Phillies regular to Dodgers reserve/elder statesman, Utley has collected at least 100 hits just once in the past four seasons, and has just 30 this year. As injuries to Justin Turner, Corey Seager and Logan Forsythe decimated the Dodgers’ infield this spring, he appeared in 36 of the team’s first 40 games, 22 as a starter, and as of May 11 (through 38 games, selective endpoint alert!), he was hitting .271/.370/.412 with a 13.0% walk rate and a 114 wRC+ in 100 plate appearances. With Forsythe and Turner both back in the picture, however, and with Max Muncy hitting his way into regular duty, Utley went just 1-for-26 without a walk from May 12-29, after which he missed 20 games due to a sprained left thumb. Since returning, he’s made just four starts in 20 games, going 7-for-20 in that span, albeit with some big plays off the bench.

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How Ken Giles Became a Minor Leaguer

Ken Giles did not have a good night on Tuesday. Called upon in the top of the ninth inning to protect the Astros’ 4-0 lead over the A’s, he served up three straight singles over the course of eight pitches, allowing one run and bringing the tying run to the plate in the form of Matt Olson. On the heels of a visit from pitching coach Brent Strom after back-to-back hits by Mark Canha and Jed Lowrie, manager A.J. Hinch didn’t like what he saw, and after a first-pitch single by Khris Davis, came out to get Giles, who… didn’t like what he saw either. The closer appeared to have some choice words as he handed over the ball.

The A’s wound up tying the game in the ninth, with all three runs charged to Giles’ room, and they went ahead, 5-4, in the top of the 11th. The Astros nonetheless rallied for two runs in the bottom of the inning, scoring the winning run in bizarre fashion, when A’s catcher Jonathan Lucroy made a hash of Alex Bregman’s swinging bunt:

Giles was reportedly not in the clubhouse after the game, and by Wednesday afternoon, he was a Fresno Grizzly. He’d been optioned to the team’s Triple-A affiliate in what general manager Jeff Luhnow called “a baseball decision.”

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Descalso and Avila Hurl Their Way into Weird History

Even in these days of bloated, 13-man pitching staffs, it’s not uncommon for a position player to take the mound. With the season roughly halfway done, there have been 30 outings by position players thus far — not including two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani, who’s in a class by himself — which means we’re almost certain to see what, at the very least, is an expansion-era record (more on which momentarily). Despite that increasing commonality, Wednesday night brought a rarity that’s worth appreciating — a few of them, in fact — in the Rockies’ 19-2 trouncing of the Diamondbacks (box).

Yes, it was a game at Coors Field, where wackiness reigns thanks to the high altitude, and unfortunately, the circumstances were triggered by an injury. Diamondbacks starter Shelby Miller, making just his fourth major-league start since returning from Tommy John surgery, was lit up for five first-inning runs via two walks and four hits, the most important coming in the form of an Ian Desmond homer.

Though he completed the inning, Miller needed 37 pitches — a bit extreme given his recent injury, but take it up with manager Torey Lovullo — and began feeling elbow tightness by the end of his abbreviated stint. Reliever Jorge De La Rosa, who knows all about the horrors of Coors Field as he spent nine freakin’ years (2008-16) calling it home, came on in relief and allowed four runs in the second inning and three in the third via homers by Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez. He got the hook with two outs and the Diamondbacks trailing 12-1. While T.J. Mcfarland got the final out of the third, Lovullo pulled him due to stiffness in his neck, and then Yoshihisa Hirano allowed four straight hits and three runs after retiring Desmond to start the fourth.

At that point, Lovullo effectively said, “To hell with this,” and called upon second baseman Daniel Descalso — who had already pitched four times in his nine-year major-league career, including May 4 of this year against the Astros — to take the hill, with Chris Owings coming off the bench to play second base. It didn’t go well at first, Nolan Arenado greeting Descalso with an RBI single and then Gonzalez following with a three-run homer, bringing the score to 18-1. Fortunately, Descalso settled down and wore it like a champ, lasting 2.2 innings and 36 pitches and retiring eight of the next 11 batters he faced, with the only run in that span arriving via a solo homer by pitcher German Marquez.

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Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 7/12/18

Jay Jaffe: Howdy, folks, and my apologies for the tardiness — my browser, which was bearing the load open tabs from about five different articles (including published ones on Shin-Soo Choo, Noath Syndergaard and Yadier Molina plus forthcoming ones on Daniel Descalso’s pitching and Ken Giles melting down), crashed and needed a reset. On with the show…

Bob: Should Sheffield really be a dealbreaker for the Yankees getting Machado?  I know his arm is electric, but do you miss out on a HoF’er because you won’t let go of a guy who hasn’t mastered his control problems in the minors?

Jay Jaffe: Even if Machado may be a future Hall of Famer, the Yankees would be giving up six-plus years of a very good pitching prospect for what amounts to a 2 1/2-month rental to fill a need that they already have covered reasonably well by either Didi Gregorius or Miguel Andujar, plus whatever need might have for Sheffield’s services later this season. That’s a very steep price to pay, and I can’t blame the Yankees for searching for alternatives.

Bo: Is Dansby Swanson going to hit enough to stay as an everyday player?

Jay Jaffe: He’ll be able to produce on both sides of the ball — remember, the offensive demands for a shortstop are relatively low — well enough to stay as a regular, yes. Even with an 85 wRC+ this year, he’s been worth 1.2 WAR thanks to above-average glovework (+3.4 UZR, +11 DRS). Based upon his track record, he’s projected to hit better ROS, and as a 24-year-old, can expect some growth in his offensive skill over the next few years. If Andrelton Simmons can become an above-average hitter in time, I don’t think it’s beyond Swanson.

stever20: how crazy was what Arizona did last night with their pitching?

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Yadier Molina’s Climb Towards Cooperstown

Yadier Molina was added to the NL All-Star team on Monday, replacing the injured Buster Posey, who’s been slowed by a bout of inflammation in his right hip and recently received a cortisone shot. Molina’s addition is just the first of a wave that will dull some outrage over the most obvious snubs from Sunday’s roster announcement; on the AL side, Jed Lowrie was named as Gleyber Torres’ replacement on Tuesday. As Molina is a Star Player of a Certain Age, his ninth selection to the Midsummer Classic in a 10-year span (he missed 2016) set off another round of everybody’s favorite parlor game, Is He a Hall of Famer?. You know I can’t resist buzzing in for that one.

But first, the selection. Molina, who turns 36 on July 13, is having a pretty good season, particularly for a guy who missed a month due to [crosses legs uncomfortably] emergency groin surgery necessitated by a foul tip. He’s currently hitting 274/.317/.484 with 13 homers in 240 plate appearances, and while his on-base percentage is nothing to write home about — how is it a guy who spends half the game minding the strike zone for his pitchers can walk just 5.4% of the time? — his slugging percentage is his highest since 2012, his best offensive season. His 115 wRC+ is his highest since 2013, and it’s lifted his career mark to an even 100. Of the 23 catchers with at least 200 PA this year, that 114 wRC+ is tied for sixth overall. Both MLB leader J.T. Realmuto (149) and fourth-ranked Willson Contreras (122) are already on the NL All-Star squad, with the latter elected the starter.

While Molina’s offense is in a good place in 2018, his defense appears to be off, and not only because he’s thrown out just four out of 19 stolen-base attempts (21%, nearly half of his 41% career mark). Via FanGraphs’ version of catcher defense (which isn’t UZR), he’s 2.4 runs below average, including two below average in the stolen-base component of Defensive Runs Saved. Via the non-pitch-framing version of DRS, he’s four runs below average, while via the framing-inclusive version, he’s two below average. Via Baseball Prospectus’ Fielding Runs Above Average, which includes framing, he’s 2.3 runs above average overall and 3.7 above in the framing component. Via our version of WAR — which, again, does not include framing — Molina’s 1.3 WAR is tied for ninth among catchers overall. Some of that is the impact of his injury; prorate all of the catchers with at least 200 PA to 600 PA and he’s a rounding error out of fifth:

Top Catchers by 2018 WAR, Prorated to 600 PA
1 J.T. Realmuto Marlins 290 .317 .368 .551 149 3.5 7.2
2 Francisco Cervelli Pirates 231 .247 .381 .468 132 2.3 6.0
3 Willson Contreras Cubs 332 .279 .367 .453 122 2.5 4.5
4 Yasmani Grandal Dodgers 291 .243 .340 .450 118 1.7 3.5
5 Kurt Suzuki Braves 239 .275 .343 .455 116 1.3 3.3
6 Yan Gomes Indians 258 .251 .314 .447 104 1.4 3.3
7 Yadier Molina Cardinals 240 .274 .317 .484 115 1.3 3.3
8 Wilson Ramos Rays 303 .291 .340 .479 127 1.6 3.2
9 Buster Posey Giants 326 .282 .362 .404 113 1.7 3.1
10 Gary Sanchez Yankees 265 .190 .291 .433 97 1.2 2.7
Min. 200 PA.

Thus it’s fair to say that his selection isn’t just about 2018 performance but about his reputation and bigger-picture productivity, and as I noted in Monday’s reaction piece to the NL starting outfield of Bryce Harper, Nick Markakis, and Matt Kemp, I’m not one to sweat that.

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The Prospect of a Trade Looms over Rehabbing Syndergaard

It’s been awhile since something went right for the Mets, but on Sunday, Noah Syndergaard traveled the 20-odd miles from Citi Field to Coney Island and didn’t gorge himself on 74 Nathan’s hot dogs in 10 minutes. Nor did he suffer a sword-swallowing mishap, or have his hair charred by a fire-eater with questionable control. In his first competitive outing since May 25, a rehab start for the Low-A Brooklyn Cyclones, the 25-year-old righty singed Staten Island Yankees hitters with fastballs that sat at 98 mph and touched 99 during a five-inning, 71-pitch outing that could pave the way for his return to the majors later this week, and perhaps an audition for a blockbuster trade later this month.

Syndergard hasn’t pitched in the majors since being scratched from his May 30 outing due to a strained ligament in his right index finger. Unsurprisingly, he had a bit of extra adrenaline early in his return, beginning with six straight balls. He issued a four-pitch walk of leadoff hitter Alex Junior, who followed with a steal of second. Junior took third on a single by Josh Breaux and scored on a wild pitch, the first of two that Syndergaard uncorked on the afternoon. That run was the Yankees’ only one of the day, however, and after Breaux’s single, Syndergaard retired nine of the next 10 hitters and allowed just one additional hit, a fourth-inning single by Frederick Cuevas. That single was followed by another steal and a wild pitch on a strikeout that put Syndergaard under pressure, but he escaped by getting Eduardo Torrealba to line into an unassisted, inning-ending double play. Syndergaard then completely overwhelmed the Baby Bombers in a 10-pitch, two-strikeout fifth. Read the rest of this entry »

I Think I Love This NL All-Star Outfield

Bryce Harper, Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis walk into a bar and… [squints at notes]… will be the starting outfield for the NL in the 2018 All-Star Game.

That’s not a joke. Nor is it a travesty, or justice served, or the result of any single organizing principle beyond their simultaneous eligibility for the honor. Barring any scratch due to injury, it’s a reality, one that demonstrates the potential strangeness that can occur when fans get to vote to choose the starting lineups for both leagues. Those lineups, along with the reserves and Final Vote participants, were announced on Sunday evening.

We go though this every year, and across this vast country, there’s no doubt some complaining about who’s worthy or unworthy of selection. If you care enough, you can probably find an egregious snub, a player whose omission will spike your blood pressure and cost you followers on Twitter when you surround your 280-character case for the guy with enough expletives. Me, I don’t vote for All-Star teams anymore and generally dread writing about the selections, but this trio is different. Seldom does a single unit – one league’s infield or another league’s outfield or a bullpen or whatever — shine a light on the fundamental conflicts that come into play when choosing a team.

Even once you acknowledge that the game is first and foremost an exhibition for the fans, who, after all, are the ones responsible for the vote, you run up against the question of criteria. Are the selections simply supposed to represent the hottest players over the first 80-something games of the season? The most accomplished players from around the league? The biggest stars on the most successful teams? Or the players whose true talent level over a large sample size suggests that they’re actually the best? You could go any one of those ways and get different answers — or find fault with any of them, as well.

Of the three starting NL outfielders, Harper was the easiest to predict, whether you measure from the moment in April 2015 when MLB officially anointed the Nationals to host the game — just before the 22-year-old fourth-year veteran set the Senior Circuit ablaze en route to an MVP award — or this spring, when the 25-year-old began the year by homering six times in Washington’s first nine games. While the performance gap between him and Mike Trout continues to grow, Harper is the one of the pair with more public exposure thanks to things as varied as the Sports Illustrated cover at age 16 and the Nationals’ four trips to the playoffs during his short career. He’s the one with the more outsized public persona, the wild hairdos, and the higher total of jerseys sold, at least as of last October.

I hate the handwringing over MLB’s perceived lack of a transcendent national star on par with LeBron James or Tom Brady — the “The Face of Baseball” conversation, in other words — as much as anyone, but Harper is about as Face of Baseball as you can get in 2018. And that’s not “even when he’s hitting .218,” that’s “especially when he’s hitting .218,” because beyond whatever advantages Harper has in name recognition among fans, there’s the growing understanding that .218 doesn’t represent the quality of Harper’s 2018 season, or his true ability.

No, Harper’s not having his best year by any stretch of the imagination, and yes, he’s been caught in a prolonged slump, making less frequent contact with pitches inside the zone than ever (76.6%, compared to a career mark of 84.3%) and getting eaten alive by infield shifts (40 wRC+ on contact, down from 107 last year and 81 for his career). Thanks to his 21 homers (second in the league) and 76 walks (first), though, he’s still got a .374 on-base percentage (15th in the NL), a .472 slugging percentage (26th), a 122 wRC+ (also 26th), and 1.5 WAR. In other words, he’s still a very productive hitter even in a down year, and over a larger timeframe — from the start of 2017 until now, for example — he’s still one of the game’s top dozen hitters by wRC+ — and the only one among that dozen who’s eligible to play the outfield for the NL this year:

MLB wRC+ Leaders, 2017-2018
Rk Player Team PA HR AVG OBP SLG wRC+
1 Mike Trout Angels 908 58 .309 .448 .628 186
2 J.D. Martinez – – – 856 72 .314 .383 .671 171
3 Aaron Judge Yankees 1064 77 .283 .414 .607 169
4 Jose Altuve Astros 1068 33 .343 .408 .525 156
5 Joey Votto Reds 1100 44 .310 .444 .527 155
6 Jose Ramirez Indians 1035 53 .309 .382 .586 154
7 Freddie Freeman Braves 913 44 .310 .404 .567 152
8 Nelson Cruz Mariners 964 61 .281 .370 .549 148
9 Giancarlo Stanton – – – 1073 80 .276 .363 .588 147
10 Paul Goldschmidt D-backs 1059 56 .291 .398 .554 144
11 Carlos Correa Astros 796 37 .297 .376 .522 143
12T Bryce Harper Nationals 880 50 .277 .395 .544 141
12T Kris Bryant Cubs 976 38 .290 .401 .519 141
14 Anthony Rendon Nationals 902 37 .294 .385 .526 137
15 Mookie Betts Red Sox 1036 46 .288 .372 .524 135

In other words, Harper is a damn solid choice to start the 2018 All-Star Game, warts and all. Besides, did you think they were gonna play the game in DC without him?

In some ways, Markakis is the anti-Harper, a 34-year-old player who’s in his 13th big-league season. While he’s taken home a pair of Gold Glove awards, he’s never before sniffed an All-Star team, though he probably deserved it in 2008 based on a first half with a 138 wRC+ and 3.6 WAR, fourth in the league. He, too, has actually been on the cover of an issue of Sports Illustrated, jumping in the air to celebrate a victory along with fellow Orioles outfielders Endy Chavez and Adam Jones for an October 1, 2012 cover story written by David Simon of Homicide and The Wire fame, but unless you’re an Orioles or Braves fan, you probably couldn’t pick him out of a police lineup unless he was wearing his jersey. Hell, a late-season broken thumb cost him a playoff appearance in 2012, though he did hit a big two-run homer off Justin Verlander in Game Two of the 2014 Division Series.

After nine years with the Orioles, Markakis signed a four-year, $44 million contract with the Braves in December 2014, a deal that was greeted with reactions ranging from “Huh?” to “What?” especially because the team had just traded away the more talented Justin Upton and Jason Heyward amid their rebuilding effort. For the first three years of the deal, he served as little more than a durable (but apparently not fully healthy) placeholder, averaging 158 games, a 100 wRC+ (.280/.357/.386), and 1.1 WAR a year for a team that averaged 69 wins. Yet when the Braves were ready to turn the corner towards contention, Markakis stepped up and joined Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies as a middle-of-the-order force. He’s handling breaking pitches better than he has in years. His average exit velocity is up 3.1 mph over last year, to 91.4 mph, good for 34th out of 292 qualifiers, and his .391 xwOBA is 61 points higher than last year and 48 higher than in any other year since Statcast was unveiled.

Overall, Markakis is hitting .322/.389/.490 for a 135 wRC+; his 113 hits ranks first in the league, his batting average third, his on-base percentage sixth, his wRC+ tied for 12th, and his 2.5 WAR tied for 18th and tied for third among NL outfielders:

NL Outfield WAR Leaders, 2018
1 Lorenzo Cain Brewers 317 8 .290 .394 .435 127 3.4
2 Kyle Schwarber Cubs 307 17 .249 .376 .498 129 2.6
3T Nick Markakis Braves 398 10 .322 .389 .490 135 2.5
3T Brandon Nimmo Mets 280 12 .262 .386 .515 148 2.5
5 Ben Zobrist Cubs 271 6 .294 .387 .429 123 2.3
6 A.J. Pollock D-backs 186 11 .289 .355 .590 147 2.3
7T David Peralta D-backs 356 15 .291 .354 .508 130 2.2
7T Starling Marte Pirates 317 10 .278 .328 .457 112 2.2
7T Christian Yelich Brewers 318 11 .285 .362 .459 120 2.2
10 Matt Kemp Dodgers 297 15 .319 .360 .549 146 2.0
11T Chris Taylor Dodgers 361 10 .257 .338 .461 119 1.8
11T Brian Anderson Marlins 395 6 .282 .359 .407 113 1.8
11T Cody Bellinger Dodgers 359 17 .234 .320 .475 116 1.8
11T Odubel Herrera Phillies 365 15 .281 .335 .469 117 1.8
15 Albert Almora Jr. Cubs 283 4 .326 .365 .452 120 1.7
16T Jason Heyward Cubs 283 5 .280 .339 .421 104 1.5
16T Kiké Hernandez Dodgers 247 15 .230 .313 .475 113 1.5
16T Corey Dickerson Pirates 317 6 .308 .341 .458 114 1.5
16T Bryce Harper Nationals 388 21 .218 .374 .472 122 1.5
20T 8 players 1.4

If you’re going by a larger timeframe than just the past three-and-a-half months, there’s no justifiable logic by which Markakis could be an All-Star, but as a hot hand on what might be the NL’s biggest surprise team (unless it’s the Phillies, who are actually tied with the Braves atop the NL East), he’s the type of selection that fans often make. And while he takes a back seat to 46-year-old Satchel Paige, 42-year-old Tim Wakefield, 40-year-old Jamie Moyer, and other older first-time All-Stars, there’s something endearing and cool about Markakis making it, particularly given that until his selection, he ranked second in career hits (2,164) among players who had never made an All-Star team and began their careers after 1933, the year of the first All-Star Game. If Nick Markakis can persevere that long before becoming an All-Star, then buck up, Buttercup, because good things are in store for you, as well.

Which brings us to Kemp, whose two previous All-Star appearances, in 2011 and -12, date back to when he was the toast of Tinseltown. In the first of those years, Kemp was voted the NL’s starting center fielder during a season in which he wound up one homer short of becoming just the fifth player in history to go 40/40 in homers and steals; as it was, he led the NL in homers (39), RBIs (126), total bases (353), and WAR (8.3) while ranking second in wRC+ (168). He won a Gold Glove, and while he finished second to Ryan Braun in the NL MVP voting, he landed an eight-year, $160 million dollar extension, setting a record for an NL player. While he got off to a sizzling start the following year, back-to-back left hamstring strains limited him to five plate appearances in a two-month span and forced him to the sidelines for the Midsummer Classic.

Thus began a string of increasingly frustrating seasons during which Kemp’s production on both sides of the ball sank; the Dodgers traded him to the Padres in December 2014, eating $32 million of the $107 million remaining on his deal. On July 30, 2016, the Padres sent him to the Braves along with $10.5 million in exchange for infielder Hector Olivera, who was under suspension for a domestic-violence incident, owed $28.5 million for 2017-20 once he was reinstated, and immediately released upon completion of the deal. As I noted in late April, the trail of bad paper attached to Kemp came full circle this past December, when the Braves dealt him back to the Dodgers for Charlie Culberson, Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy (collectively owed more than $50 million for 2018) and another $4.5 million, a move designed to help the Dodgers get under the competitive balance tax threshold.

Though Kemp had homered 77 times from 2015 to -17, he hit just .269/.310/.470 (107 wRC+), posted the majors’ worst outfield defense by UZR (-33) and DRS (-50), and produced a net of 1.4 WAR for his $64.5 million salary. The Dodgers, with an outfield logjam, weren’t even expected to roster him come Opening Day, presumed instead to have plans of trading him to a DH-friendly team or releasing him. Nonetheless, Kemp showed up to camp having lost a reported 40 pounds, played well during spring training, and became the beneficiary when Justin Turner’s broken wrist opened up time for Kiké Hernandez in the infield.

Improbably, Kemp proceeded to hit for a 144 wRC+ during the Dodgers’ otherwise dismal April and is now batting .319/.360/.549 with 15 homers and a 146 wRC+, which ranks seventh in the league, second among the league’s outfielders (sorry, Nimmo), and second on the Dodgers, who would be closer to Triple-A Oklahoma City than NL West-leading Arizona if not for his unlikely resurgence. No, his defense isn’t great (-1 UZR, -3 DRS), but it’s not gut-shot bleeding awful the way it was during his first round of stardom. His 2.0 WAR may rank just ninth among NL outfielders, but I don’t see any more compelling redemption stories of his caliber above him.

Perennials, first-timers, redemption stories… let’s face it, All-Star selections aren’t just about choosing the best in the league, and they probably never were. Sure, the unlikely trio’s AL counterparts — namely Trout, Mookie Betts, and Aaron Judge rank as the majors’ top three outfielders by WAR not just over the 2018 season but including 2017, as well. Still, with something on the order of 70 roster spots between the two teams once the dust settles on injuries and inactives, it helps to have some variety, a few guys here and there who check the various narrative boxes that release the different neurotransmitters during the game’s pitching changes.

Grieve if you want to over the slight of Cain, whose fourth-ranked WAR merely netted him a reserve role. Bemoan the fate of Nimmo, who’s already suffered the indignity of being a 2018 Met, for being left off not just the NL roster but the Final Vote ballot, as well. Scream all you want about the unfairness of the process, the need to reform this bloated affair because the unwashed masses can stuff the electronic ballot boxes, or because there are too many rebuilding teams that mandate automatic recognition, or because collectively these guys can’t hold a candle to a Frank RobinsonWillie MaysHank Aaron starting trio. I’m happy for Harper, Markakis, Kemp and the fans who chose them. For once, I’m seeing this particular 24-ounce cup of overpriced ballpark beer as half-full instead of half-empty, and my day is better for it.

Shin-Soo Choo Is Streaking

In an AL West where the Astros and Mariners appear playoff bound, the A’s are resurgent, and the Angels have generated their share of interest thanks to the play of Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, the Rangers’ season hasn’t been a whole lot of fun. A slew of early-season injuries quickly buried them, and it wasn’t until June that they posted their first month above .500 (14-11, and now 39-49 overall).

Even so, they’ve offered reasons to watch, and one lately has been the play of Shin-Soo Choo. On Wednesday, the 35-year-old outfielder/designated hitter homered off the Astros’ Gerrit Cole, extending his streak of consecutive games reaching base to 44; he later singled off Cole, as well. Alas, Choo sat on Thursday night, forestalling his chance to tie Odubel Herrera for the longest on-base streak in the majors over the past two seasons. He’s been nursing a mild right quad strain for at least a week, sitting out two games while Adrian Beltre DH-ed.

On-base streaks don’t get the same kind of love as hitting streaks, in part because of the historic primacy of batting average and the romanticization of Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak from 1941, which might be one of the sport’s unbreakable records. As it happens, the record for consecutive games reaching base via a hit, walk, or hit-by-pitch (not an error or a dropped third strike) is held by DiMaggio’s rival, Ted Williams, who reached base 84 straight times in 1949. But guess who’s tied at No. 2, at least going back to 1908, the period covered by the Baseball-Reference Play Index:

Longest On-Base Streaks Since 1908
Rk Player Team Start End Games
1 Ted Williams Red Sox 7/1/1949 9/27/1949 84
2T Joe DiMaggio Yankees 5/14/1941 8/2/1941 74
2T Ted Williams Red Sox 7/19/1941 4/18/1942 74
4 Orlando Cabrera Angels 4/25/2006 7/6/2006 63
5 Mark McGwire A’s 9/16/1995 6/18/1996 62
6 Jim Thome Indians-Phillies 7/28/2002 4/5/2003 60
7 Will Clark Rangers 9/6/1995 5/11/1996 59
8T Barry Bonds Giants 6/27/2003 9/20/2003 58
8T Barry Bonds Giants 8/16/2001 4/20/2002 58
8T Duke Snider Dodgers 5/13/1954 7/11/1954 58
11T Derek Jeter Yankees 9/24/1998 6/5/1999 57
11T Frank Thomas White Sox 9/27/1995 5/31/1996 57
11T Wade Boggs Red Sox 5/27/1985 7/31/1985 57
11T George Kell Tigers 5/13/1950 7/9/1950 57
15T Ryan Klesko Padres 4/9/2002 6/14/2002 56
15T Mike Schmidt Phillies 8/16/1981 5/8/1982 56
15T Arky Vaughan Pirates 7/18/1936 9/11/1936 56
18T Stan Musial Cardinals 8/8/1943 10/1/1943 55
18T Harry Heilmann Tigers 8/17/1922 6/12/1923 55
18T Ty Cobb Tigers 4/25/1915 6/28/1915 55
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference
In games where player had at least one plate appearance.

On May 14, 1941, the day before he began his 56-game hitting streak, DiMaggio went 0-for-3 with a walk against the Indians’ Mel Harder. And while he was held hitless by Harder’s teammates Al Smith and Jim Bagby on July 17, ending that streak, he did walk in his second plate appearance that day, keeping the on-base streak alive. He then collected hits in each of the next 16 games before going 0-for-4 without a time on base in the opener of an August 3 doubleheader against the St. Louis Browns.

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Dexter Fowler and the Cardinals’ Foul-Up

While Matt Carpenter has turned his season around after a dreadful start, and Marcell Ozuna and Kolten Wong made strong showings in June after struggling previously, Dexter Fowler has yet to get going. In fact, the Cardinals’ 32-year-old right fielder ranks among the league’s worst hitters and least valuable players, and lately he’s been losing time to younger alternatives — all of which is surprising given his recent track record. He wound up in the headlines earlier this week when Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak singled him out publicly in a weekly podcast spot with a team broadcaster, questioning Fowler’s level of effort and energy in a manner rarely seen these days, at least from the type of model organization that the Cardinals fancy themselves.

It was bush-league stuff, particularly given its timing, as Fowler was preparing to go on paternity leave for the birth of his second child and thus unavailable to respond directly.

Speaking to Dan McLaughlin for the Scoops with Danny podcast, Mozeliak said of Fowler:

“I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and question his effort and his energy level and those are things that I can’t defend. What I can defend is trying to create opportunities for him, but not if it’s at the expense of someone that’s out there hustling and playing hard. I think everybody just needs to take a hard look in the mirror and decide what they want that next chapter to look like. In Dexter’s case, maybe taking a brief timeout, trying to reassess himself and then give him a chance for a strong second half is probably what’s best for everybody. I’m hopeful to touch base with him in the near future to really just decide what makes the most sense, but clearly he’s not playing at the level we had hoped.”

Ouch. Within that statement, Mozeliak didn’t identify whether it was teammates, coaches, managers, front office personnel, or angry fans — a cross-section of observers, not all of whose opinions should carry equal weight — complaining about Fowler. Nor did he cite instances where Fowler failed to hustle, the discipline for which would generally fall upon manager Mike Matheny. Think Nationals manager Matt Williams pulling Bryce Harper for failing to run out a ground ball to the pitcher circa 2014 or Dodgers manager Dave Roberts benching Cody Bellinger earlier this season — two cases of a manager transparently using a young star to set an example for a slow-starting team. And in saying “I’m hopeful to touch base” with Fowler, Mozeliak all but admitted that he was airing laundry publicly instead of first going to the player to discuss whatever problems had arisen. This isn’t the way well-run 21st century baseball teams typically function.

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Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 7/5/18

Jay Jaffe: Hey everybody! Thanks for stopping by today’s chat. Hopefully, you enjoyed the July 4 holiday and returned with a similar number of fingers as you had previously. Before we get into the questions, I’d like to call your attention to my upcoming appearance at Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, DC on July 14, where I’ll be signing copies of The Cooperstown Casebook and ESPN’s Keith Law will be doing the same for Smart Baseball; we’ll both discuss our books and field questions. It’s the night before the All-Star Futures Game, so if you’re in town for the event, please stop by!…

And now, onto the questions….

Pio: DRS thinks Machado is a historically bad shortstop and UZR thinks he’s just regular bad. Which one do you think is closer to the truth?

Jay Jaffe: In general, I tend to prefer DRS to UZR because of the additional observational input beyond just batted ball type (both of which do have their biases, admittedly). But I think a good strategy when viewing defensive metrics is to be wary of the outliers, and DRS tends to have more than UZR does — the spread from top to bottom is generally wider. So I’ll go with garden-variety bad instead of historically bad.

Oh Mets…: I saw somewhere that the Mets are viewing Flores as their piece to move since hes controllable – but is there really any appetite at all for him? Can’t imagine the return would be that great.

Jay Jaffe: I saw the same thing and thought simiarly. Flores is a decent lefty-masher who’s stretched as a regular, and his defense on the left side of the infield is generally Not Good. He’s a useful spare-part pickup for a contending team but trading him isn’t going to do anything to change the course of the Mets’ org.

Greg: A question I never thought would be worth asking — is Nick Markakis worthy of a qualifying offer this offseason? If so, would he turn it down?

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The Twins’ 2018 Has Been a Mess

It would be an exaggeration to say that nothing has gone right for the Twins since the 2018 season began. After all, they’ve won 35 games, which is more than the Orioles, Royals, or White Sox have done. They finished June with their best record of any calendar month (13-14, .481). Their big-league pitchers have avoided Tommy John surgery this year, Target Field has not burned down, and the last time we checked, none of their players has been sucked into an interdimensional vortex.

Still, yuck. This was supposed to be a much better and more interesting team, with 24-year-old center fielder Byron Buxton its centerpiece in the wake of last year’s second-half breakout (.300/.347/.546, 130 wRC+, 2.7 WAR). Buxton was a promising part of a Twins group that become the first team to rebound from a 100-loss season with a playoff berth.

The Twins were also one of the most active and intriguing clubs the winter, exploring the possibility of trading for the Rays’ Chris Archer, making free agent Yu Darvish a credible nine-figure offer, and taking advantage of the weird slowness of the market by buying bargains in bulk. They signed Lance Lynn, Logan Morrison, Michael Pineda, Addison Reed, Fernando Rodney, and Zach Duke, all without committing more than two years or $16.75 million to any of them.

While they may have avoided falling knives when it comes to Archer and Darvish, the Twins were swept by the Cubs at Wrigley Field this past weekend and fell to 10 games below .500 for the first time since the end of 2016. Their playoff odds, which stood at 28.7% at the start of the season, were down to 1.2% entering Tuesday. They’re a big reason the AL Central is on track to be the worst division since 1994 realignment; at 18-33 in games outside that division, their .353 winning percentage is right on target with the entire division’s collective .354 mark in such games.

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Matt Harvey Is Getting It Together

After being traded by the Mets to the Reds on May 8, Matt Harvey more or less fell off the national radar. That tends to happen for guys with ERAs approaching 6.00. As the 29-year-old righty continued to pitch unremarkably, there was little reason for the Mets or their fans to lament the trade — or at least to regard his departure as one of the top-23 or so calamities to befall them during the first half of the 2018 season.

Lately, though, Harvey has been pitching better — if not at the same level of his dominant 2012-15 form, then certainly better than the latter-day palooka who was tagged for a 5.93 ERA and 5.01 FIP in 212.1 innings from the start of 2016 to the point of the trade. On Sunday in Cincinnati, on the heels of two increasingly promising starts, he recorded his best outing yet as a Red, taking a perfect game into the fifth inning against the Brewers and finishing with his longest scoreless appearance since August 28, 2015.

Harvey retired the first 12 batters he faced on just 41 pitches before Travis Shaw slapped a 95 mph fastball through the left side of a shifted infield. He gave up just one other hit, a sixth-inning single to Brad Miller amid a downpour that had begun at the top of the frame. After that hit, the umpires called out the tarps, and the 54-minute rain delay finished Harvey’s day. Over his 5.2 innings, he issued zero walks, a feat he hadn’t accomplished in a start of at least five innings since April 6, 2017 against the Braves. He also struck out six, matching a season high set on June 21 against the Cubs (more on which shortly). His 12 swings and misses represented the highest total he’d produced since June 10, 2016 against the Brewers. Via Brooks Baseball, his four-seam fastball averaged 95.6 mph and reached 97.2, while his slider averaged 89.6 and reached 92.0.

It wasn’t quite vintage Harvey, and it’s worth noting that the Brewers’ lineup lacked Lorenzo Cain (currently on the disabled list for a groin strain), Christian Yelich (sitting for his third straight game due to back tightness), and Jesus Aguilar, three of the team’s top four hitters this year by wRC+. (Eric Thames, the fourth of those, started for Agular.) Still, it was Harvey’s third strong outing in a row against a contender. He allowed two runs in six innings in the aforementioned June 21 outing against the Cubs, and then one run in 6.2 innings against the Braves on June 26. Over the course of those three outings and 18.1 innings, he allowed just 13 hits and three runs while striking out 14 and walking just two (and plunking three). His three outings before that were nothing to write home about (14 runs in 16.1 innings, with five homers, six walks, and 12 strikeouts against the Rockies, Padres and Cardinals), but it does seem as though he’s turned the corner after two-plus seasons of struggling amid injuries.

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Matt Carpenter’s Turnaround

On Tuesday night against the Indians in St. Louis, Matt Carpenter enjoyed one of the best nights in the history of a Cardinals hitter, going 5-for-5 with a double and a pair of homers. Given a chance to become the first Cardinal to hit for the cycle since Carlos Beltran on May 11, 2012, and the 19th since 1908 — all he needed was a triple — Carpenter instead capped the team’s 11-run outburst with a 399-foot homer off reliever George Kontos. He had collected a 368-footer off Corey Kluber in the first.

As colleague Craig Edwards pointed out in the wake of that performance, Carpenter has been the game’s hottest hitter this side of Mike Trout lately:

Admittedly, May 16 is an arbitrary endpoint, but it not only coincides with the offensive nadir of the 32-year-old infielder’s season, it happened to mark the halfway point between Opening Day and his big night. The Cardinals had played 39 games up to the point when Carpenter broke out by going 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles against the Twins at Target Field, and his 5-for-5 showing came during the team’s 78th game. Here’s the split through Wednesday’s game:

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Why Can’t the Rockies Put Together an Outfield?

This past Saturday, with the FanGraphs staff in attendance at Coors Field, the Rockies honored their 25th anniversary team, which was selected last December. The pregame ceremony was a chance for fans to cheer franchise favorites such as Todd Helton, Larry Walker and Ellis Burks — and a missed opportunity as well, because given the state of the Rockies’ offense, you might be forgiven for thinking that those old-timers could outplay the team’s current regulars. Save for a four-game sweep during which they piled up 37 runs on the hapless Mets, the Rockies have gone 4-17 since May 29, falling from first place to fourth in the NL West race at 38-42.

I kid about the old-timers, but not entirely. As I sat in the Captain’s Deck in high right field, viewing the sprawling expanse of grass while chatting with my colleagues, I conceded for the umpteenth time that I simply don’t know why the Rockies can’t assemble a productive outfield. I’ve puzzled over it at Sports Illustrated. I’ve puzzled over it on a weekly basis in my FanGraphs chats. Now I’ve puzzled over it in person, and I still have more questions than answers.

The current unit, which primarily consists of Gerardo Parra in left, Charlie Blackmon in center and Carlos Gonzalez in right, entered Wednesday hitting .274/.326/.437, which wouldn’t be awful if it were produced at sea level, but their 90 wRC+ ranks 14th among NL outfields. Because of the club’s home park, there’s a lot of air in those raw numbers; the Padres’ outfield is at 96 wRC+ based on a .251/.312/.397 line. The Rockies look even worse when defense is brought into the equation, as that trio — plus Noel Cuevas, David Dahl, Ian Desmond and Mike Tauchman, the others they’ve used — has combined for -6 UZR (10th in the league), and lest you think they’ve been shortchanged by that metric, their -26 DRS is dead last by five runs. It’s UZR that’s included in our version of WAR, and even with that more favorable number, their 0.6 WAR is last as well. (All stats through Tuesday unless otherwise indicated.)

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Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 6/28/18

Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon, folks, and welcome to today’s chat, my first in two weeks after time spent on Cape Cod with family and in Denver meeting our readers and my fellow staffers — and checking out Coors Field for the first time.

That visit had me wondering about the Rockies’ recent problems in assembling a productive outfield, which I wrote about for today…

Meanwhile, I’ll have an InstaGraphs page for this up later today, but if you’re a Washington DC area resident a visitor who will be in town for the All-Star Futures Game, you’re invited to a book signing at the great Politics and Prose, where Keith Law (ESPN Insider prospect expert and author of Smart Baseball) and I (author of Cooperstown Casebook) will sign and discuss our respective books on Saturday, July 14 at 6 pm. See… for more details in the interim.

Jay Jaffe: With that out of the way, let’s get to the questions!

Jeff: So with no Mets baseball to watch all summer, what should I do with all this free time?

Jay Jaffe: Read some books, spend time with family/children, devote yourself to a cause, sign up for MLB TV and watch other teams… there’s plenty to do, and you will survive. You might even be healthier for it.

Fred: What kind of HOF case is Arenado building, and how do you think playing in Coors will affect his chances?

Jay Jaffe: Arenado’s years old and in his sixth season. If he keeps playing as he has been thus far in 2018, he’ll have four seasons in the vicinity of 6 bWAR (or better), a strong foundation to build upon along with the more traditional measures. Voters have had a hard time figuring out what to do with the credentials of Larry Walker given his time at Coors, and they’re likely to do the same when it comes to Todd Helton, who become eligible this winter and is in the vicinity of the JAWS standard at first base (, above on peak and below on career WAR. I think Arenado will be in better shape because of the perception and impact of his highlight-film defense, but it’s still probably an uphill battle for any Rockies player.

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