Archive for White Sox

Brewers as Buyers: Milwaukee Reportedly Acquires Swarzak from White Sox

White Sox general manger Rich Hahn isn’t messing around.

And the Brewers are asserting themselves as buyers, at least modest ones.

Chicago is reportedly sending reliever Anthony Swarzak to Milwaukee for Triple-A outfielder Ryan Cordell.

Hahn began an inspired rebuild of the White Sox this winter and was widely applauded for the return he received for stars like Chris Sale and Adam Eaton.

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Belated Trade Analysis: White Sox Acquire Eloy Jimenez and Co.

Several trades occurred while I was on vacation. I’m profiling the prospects involved in those deals in a belated nature. First among these is the deal that netted the Chicago Cubs LHP Jose Quintana. A breakdown of the big league side of that trade is available here.

Just a reminder of the players exchanged:

Cubs get

  • LHP Jose Quintana

White Sox get

The blockbuster’s headliner was power-hitting outfielder Eloy Jimenez, who has arguably the best in-game power projection in the minors. That power was preordained by Jimenez’s broad-shouldered 6-foot-4 frame which, even when he was 16, seemed to promise exceptional future raw pop. Jimenez’s body has developed a bit faster than many had expected (at age 20 he’s already closer to 250 pounds than his listed 205) and helps him generate power from foul pole to foul pole. At times, Jimenez barely squares up pitches and is still able to drive balls to the wall for extra bases, seemingly by accident. He’s very likely to hit and hit for power, the latter perhaps at an elite level, placing him firmly in heart of whatever batting order he occupies as a base-clearing force.

Defensively, Jimenez’s below-average speed and average arm relegate him to an outfield corner and, probably, left field. But the bat is going to profile anywhere Jimenez ends up on the defensive spectrum.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 7/24

Daily notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Dawel Lugo, 3B, Detroit (Profile)
Level: Double-A   Age: 22   Org Rank: 9   Top 100: NR
Line: 2-for-5, 2 HR

Notes
It isn’t always pretty, but Lugo finds all sorts of ways to get the bat on the ball and hit it to all fields. His aggressive approach produces game power beneath what he shows in batting practice, but Lugo manages to put the ball in play consistently. Not all scouts like him at third base, citing lack of range, but he has the arm for it and his hands are okay. It’s certainly a corner profile, defensively, and seemingly one without prototypical game power, but Lugo certainly looks like he’s going to hit. He at least has the makings of a high-end platoon or bat-first utility man.

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The White Sox’ Big Bets On Risk

On Tuesday, the White Sox completed their latest trade, sending Todd Frazier, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle to New York for a trio of prospects and Tyler Clippard, who was included as a salary offset. In the span of four major trades, the team added 15 minor leaguers, including most of their best-ranked prospects now. And when you look at where these guys rank on the Baseball America mid-season Top 100, it’s easy to see why White Sox fans are excited about the organization’s now-bright future.

CHW’s Recently Acquired Prospects
BA Rank Pre-Season Rank Player Position
1 1 Yoan Moncada 2B
5 11 Eloy Jimenez OF
20 24 Michael Kopech SP
36 37 Blake Rutherford OF
59 23 Reynaldo Lopez SP
75 40 Lucas Giolito SP
83 90 Dylan Cease SP

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Projecting Yoan Moncada

After they shipped Todd Frazier to the Yankees in exchange for prospects earlier this week, the White Sox replaced him on their roster with Yoan Moncada. Moncada was hitting a healthy .282/.377/.447 at Triple-A, highlighted by his 12 homers and 17 steals. He hits for average, hits for power, steals bases, and even draws walks. Very few players can hit like Moncada does while also providing value in the field and on the bases. That’s why he was a fixture at the top of midseason prospect lists this summer. Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus both ranked him No. 1, while Keith Law put him at No. 13.

But for all his strengths, Moncada has some weaknesses that we shouldn’t overlook. Most notably, he strikes out a bunch. Moncada’s struck out in over 28% of his trips to the plate this year. Though it’s been somewhat hidden by his high batting averages, Moncada has had a lot of trouble making contact against minor-league pitchers. This suggests he’ll have even more trouble doing so in the big leagues, which is exactly what happened in Boston last September when he struck out 12 times in 20 plate appearances.

There’s also the matter of Moncada’s defense. He’s primarily played second base since emigrating from Cuba, and the prognosis for minor-league second basemen isn’t great. The fact that he’s already been deemed “not a shortstop” is a knock against him in KATOH‘s eyes. Furthermore, his defensive metrics at second base aren’t great. He’s been right around average there by Clay Davenport’s fielding data this year and was several ticks worse than average last year. This suggests he may not be a defensive asset in the infield.

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Projecting the Prospects in the Yankees-White Sox Trade

The Yankees plugged holes at first base and in the bullpen last night when they traded for Todd Frazier, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle. In exchange, they sent Tyler Clippard to the White Sox, along with prospects Blake Rutherford, Ian Clarkin, and Tito Polo.

Below are the projections for the three players whom the White Sox receive. WAR figures account for the player’s first six major-league seasons. KATOH denotes the stats-only version of the projection system, while KATOH+ denotes the methodology that includes a player’s prospect rankings.

Blake Rutherford, OF (Profile)

KATOH: 1.0 WAR
KATOH+: 2.7 WAR

The Yankees took Rutherford 18th overall in last year’s draft out of high school. He’s spent his first professional season at the Low-A level, hitting .281/.342/.391. Altogether, he’s been a bit underwhelming, especially since his performance has been helped by a .341 BABIP. His 18% strikeout rate isn’t bad, per se, but it’s a little high considering the low level of competition he’s faced, especially given his lack of power. Defensively, Clay Davenport has him as a -7 defender in just 36 games in center this year, although that sample is obviously tiny. Additionally, Rutherford is already 20 years old, making him a year older than most 2016 high-school draftees.

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Yankees Build a Super Bullpen and Find a Real First Baseman

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman needed time and salesmanship to sell ownership on a dismantling at last year’s deadline, as he explained to FanGraphs earlier this spring.

It perhaps took less time to convince ownership to return to status as buyers, to build a potentially dominant bullpen, and to prevent — if only momentarily — the division-rival Red Sox from addressing one of their most glaring weaknesses.

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Yankees Reportedly Go Shopping From Red Sox Wish List

The Red Sox need a third baseman — at least, if they’re not going to give Rafael Devers a shot, like I think they should — and maybe some more relief help. This isn’t any kind of secret. Dave Dombrowski is even openly talking about it. And Todd Frazier, a walk-year player on a team trading everything that isn’t nailed down, was an obvious fit. He’d have been a fit if they wanted to keep the spot open for Devers, since he could have played some first base too, potentially giving them an upgrade over Mitch Moreland if Devers came up and mashed.

Like every other contender, they could also use another reliever or two. Their bullpen has been good so far, but also heavily worked, and no one every really has enough good bullpen arms. The White Sox were also selling good relievers, including a young controllable arm that Jeff just wrote up today. A deal between the two Sox franchises seemed like an obvious fit.

So, of course, the Yankees are apparently getting in the way, and according to reports, are closing on a deal for Frazier, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle.

Chase Headley has been decent enough at third base that Frazier would probably play first base in New York, or at least give them options to run some platoons at the corner infield spots with Frazier bouncing between the two spots. But for New York, this is probably more about getting two more good arms for a bullpen that has been pretty lousy so far, and then keeping Frazier away from their division rival because why not?

Given what Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle cost, I’d imagine this trio is going to fetch a decent return, depending on how much of Robertson’s salary the Yankees are picking up. If they’re absorbing all of the ~$18 million he’s owed through next season, that might lighten the package a bit, but Kahnle was likely going to cost a lot, given his dominance this season and remaining years of control. Odds are the Yankees simply outbid the Red Sox, and I wouldn’t be surprised if making sure the Red Sox didn’t get better easily was at least partly about the reason the Yankees got involved here.

Since the deal isn’t yet done, we don’t know what price New York is paying, but I certainly wouldn’t want to try and come back against this potential bullpen in October. Kahnle, Robertson, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman would be a pretty rough group to try and score off of.


The White Sox Have Another Major Trade Chip

The White Sox already traded their most valuable asset. By shipping Jose Quintana to the Cubs, Rick Hahn got the trade deadline moving. And you could safely assume that Hahn and the White Sox aren’t finished — David Robertson is likely to go somewhere soon. Ditto Todd Frazier. Ditto maybe a few other guys. The White Sox are selling, and this is what a sale looks like. There’s little sense in keeping present assets when the focus is squarely on the future.

It might feel like Quintana was the last major splash. Frazier won’t fetch very much, and Robertson comes with a pricey contract. I have a name for you, though, and it’s a name we’ve previously discussed. Now, around trade-deadline time, the prices for good relievers skyrocket. Every team in contention wants a better bullpen, and good relievers can be leaned on more heavily in the playoffs. It makes a certain amount of sense, and earlier, Dave submitted one reliever name who’s mostly off the radar. Me, I want to revisit Tommy Kahnle. Kahnle’s going to be a tricky one, because on the one hand, he’s just Tommy Kahnle, but on the other hand, holy crap. Maybe you haven’t seen what’s been happening.

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Projecting the Prospects in the Jose Quintana Trade

The first domino of the 2017 trade deadline fell yesterday, as the Cubs swung a deal with their crosstown rivals for Jose Quintana. Quintana has been one of the best pitchers in baseball the past few years, so he understandably brought back a substantial prospect haul. The Cubs coughed up top prospects Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease in the deal. Both are possess enticing upside, but neither has put up dominant numbers in the low minors. As a result, KATOH is relatively low on both.

A couple of lower-tier prospects, Matt Rose and Bryant Flete, were also included in the deal.

Below are the projections for the four players whom the White Sox receive. WAR figures account for the player’s first six major-league seasons. KATOH denotes the stats-only version of the projection system, while KATOH+ denotes the methodology that includes a player’s prospect rankings.

*****

Eloy Jimenez, LF (Profile)

KATOH: 4.7 WAR (87th overall)
KATOH+: 11.5 WAR (12th overall)

Jimenez is undoubtedly the centerpiece in this deal. The 20-year-old Dominican left fielder ranked fifth and eighth on Baseball America’s and Baseball Prospectus’s lists, respectively. After missing the season’s first few weeks with a shoulder injury, Jimenez has hit .271/.351/.490 at High-A. He hit a loud .329/.369/.532 in Low-A last season. Over the winter, Eric Longenhagen praised Jimenez’s power potential, ranking him No. 15 on his preseason top-100 list.

He’s got 70 raw power right now, flicking lasers over the left-field wall with ease during BP and stumbling into wall-scraping homers he barely squares up in games. I think he’s going to have elite power in his mid-20s and there’s solid feel for contact here, too.

My KATOH system is a tad skeptical of Jimenez due to his near-complete lack of defensive value and 20% strikeout rate in A-ball. Still, it sees a good deal of promise in his power and youth. For someone Jimenez’s age, 24 homers in 154 games at A-ball is impressive, regardless of what position he plays.

To put some faces to Jimenez’s statistical profile, let’s generate some statistical comps. I calculated a Mahalanobis distance between Jimenez’s A-ball performance and every season since 1991. In the table below, you’ll find the 10 most similar seasons, ranked from most to least similar. The WAR totals refer to each player’s first six seasons in the major leagues. A lower “Mah Dist” reading indicates a closer comp.

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Cubs Accurately Rate Underrated Jose Quintana

There’s a fairly prevalent belief that teams should be reluctant to trade with other teams in the same city. Something to do with rivalries, or whatever. You don’t want to have a valuable former asset helping out some other club just a few miles away. Indeed, if you examine trading histories, these moves are fairly uncommon. Baseball has established a precedent by which intra-city ballclubs seldom come together for a swap. However, that’s stupid. The Cubs and White Sox realize that’s stupid, and so, as of Thursday morning, we’ve got ourselves a blockbuster.

Cubs get:

White Sox get:

It’s long been fairly obvious that Quintana was going to get moved. While he’s a long-term asset, he’s really a short-term asset under long-term control, and the White Sox probably would’ve liked to have moved him last winter. Seeing Quintana get dealt isn’t surprising. It’s also not surprising to see the Cubs jump on a cost-controlled, somewhat young starter. This has been the rumor for what feels like years. They developed their bats, and they’ve needed to acquire pitching. Quintana is said pitching. Everything about this makes sense, once you move beyond whatever shock you might feel about the two Chicago teams reaching an agreement. This is a sensible exchange. It’s also a total doozy.

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Cubs and White Sox Pull off Jose Quintana Blockbuster

It’s pretty rare these days when MLB teams get to announce a big transaction on their own, as most things leak out ahead of time, and we get a few days of speculation before a deal is finally complete. But this morning, the White Sox just threw out a shocker.

We were pretty sure the White Sox were going to trade Quintana, and it seemed pretty clear the Cubs needed another starting pitcher, but the presumption was that the Chicago teams wouldn’t strike a deal, given their history of not really making trades together. They hadn’t completed a trade between teams since 2006, when Neal Cotts was traded for David Aardsma, and before that, it was 1998’s Matt Karchner for Jon Garland deal.

But this time, apparently, the fit was too perfect to pass up just because they share a city. The White Sox wanted to continue to load up on future upside, and there are few prospects in the game with more long-term value than Jimenez, who Baseball America just ranked #5 overall in their midseason update. Eric Longenhagen put a 60 FV on him before the season began, and he’s gone on to hit .271/.351/.490 as a 20-year-old in high-A ball. He’s still several years from the big leagues, but he’s got some of the biggest power upside in the minors, and the White Sox have time to be patient.

Cease is a pretty nifty second piece himself, as a 21-year-old who can get his fastball into the high-90s and was destroying the Midwest League this year. Like Jimenez, he’s got a ways to go before he’s a big leaguer, but there’s plenty of potential here.

Rose and Flete are your typical add-ons in trades like this. Neither one even made the honorable mentions section of Eric’s Cubs list this spring, and it would take some unexpected development for either to become a contributor in the big leagues. This deal is about Jimenez and Cease.

As expected, Quintana didn’t bring back quite the return that Chris Sale did, but this looks like a very nice return for the White Sox. They continue to pick upside and long-term value over proximity to the Majors, and when you collect prospects like this, your success rate will naturally be lower. But if they hit on a few of the guys they’ve acquired over the last year, they’re going to find a franchise player or two to build around. With Moncada, Jimenez, Kopech, Cease, Giolito, and Lopez, the White Sox have six pretty interesting upside plays to hope on now.

Jeff will be around in a bit with a longer write-up on this deal, and will focus more on how this helps the Cubs. But they needed another good pitcher, and now they have one they can keep around for a few more years. The Dodgers and Nationals shouldn’t forget about the Cubs just yet.


Chicago Meetup — Thursday, July 13

It’s that time of year again. Time to gather around adult beverages (drink specials to be determined) and small plates (free thanks to FanGraphs, October, and The Athletic!) and talk baseball with some of your favorite writers. Thursday, July 13th, at 7pm at Local Option in Chicago, we have invited the writers, analysts, and brewers below (and a few more off list) to come and be merry with you in the back of the bar.

This is a 21-and-over event. No tickets required.

See you soon.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 6/29

Daily notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Jacob Nix, RHP, San Diego (Profile)
Level: Hi-A Age: 21   Org Rank: 7   Top 100: HM
Line: 9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 11 K

Notes
A groin strain sidelined Nix until late May. Since returning, his fastball has been in the mid-90s, touching 97, and his curveball flashes plus. He has an inning-eater’s build (I have a Jon Lieber comp on the body) and throws lots of strikes. He’s rather firmly an overall top-100 prospect.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 6/27

Daily notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Durin O’Linger, RHP, Boston
Level: Short Season Age: 23   Org Rank: NR   Top 100: NR
Line: 4 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 1 R, 6 K

Notes
O’Linger isn’t exactly a prospect — his fastball sits in the 86-88 range and he’ll flash an average changeup — but of note due to his recent, historic postseason run at Davidson during which the senior threw 502 pitches over six appearances in a 16-day span. Rest was not a priority for O’Linger, who was so sure he had no future in pro baseball that he was set to attend the University of Florida’s pharmacy school in the fall. The 23-year-old is pitching with house money in the New York-Penn League right now.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 6/21

Daily notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Pedro Gonzalez, CF, Colorado (Profile)
Level: Short Season  Age: 19   Org Rank: 7   Top 100: NR
Line: 4-for-5, 2B, BB, SB, CS
Notes
Gonzalez spent much of extended spring training in the Dominican Republic. Colorado doesn’t have an AZL team, so Gonzalez went directly from the DR to Grand Junction, his second year at that affiliate. Because of this, it has been hard for clubs, even those who place a heavier priority on complex-level scouting, to get eyes on Gonzalez. He remains physically projectable at a lean, broad-shoulder 6-foot-5, 190, and he’s a plus runner under way.

His defensive instincts draw mixed reviews, but he has the speed to stay there and try to polish his routes over time. If he fills out, slows down, and has to move to a corner it probably means he’s grown into enough power to profile there, at which point it will become imperative that he quell his desire to chase breaking balls off the plate.

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The Making of Tommy Kahnle

CLEVELAND — Tommy Kahnle is persistent.

The visiting clubhouse at Progressive Field features an arcade-style video-game machine that allows the user to choose from a variety of original Nintendo and Sega games. Kahnle, who will turn 28 next month, is old enough to have remembered the 1990s and played the eight-bit game systems. For two days in the clubhouse, he tried his hand at a variety of the games he played as a kid, more interested and focused on beating the games, more willing to hit reset and begin anew after each failed victory, than anyone else in the clubhouse.

And it is perhaps — in part, at least — that sort of persistence which has allowed a once wild arm DFA’d by the Rockies in November of 2015 to emerge as one of the most dominant relievers in the game. Jeff Sullivan recently investigated Kahnle’s curious and dominant April, and Kahnle has only continued to be something of the Craig Kimbrel of the AL Central.

The only pitcher striking out a greater percentage of batters than Kahnle (47.3%) this season is Kimbrel himself (55.6%).

More exhibits of evidence:

Top K% among relievers
Name K%
1 Craig Kimbrel 55.6%
2 Tommy Kahnle 47.3%
3 Corey Knebel 46.3%
4 Dellin Betances 46.1%
5 Kenley Jansen 44.8%
6 Trevor Rosenthal 44.6%
7 James Hoyt 42.4%
8 Andrew Miller 40.2%
9 Chris Devenski 38.9%
10 Joe Smith 38.0%
11 Carl Edwards Jr. 37.9%
12 Justin Wilson 37.4%
13 Jerry Blevins 37.1%
14 Blake Parker 36.8%
15 Wade Davis 36.5%
16 Andrew Chafin 36.4%
17 David Robertson 36.3%
18 Greg Holland 36.0%
19 Roberto Osuna 34.7%
20 J.J. Hoover 34.7%

The only pitchers featuring superior K-BB% marks are Kimbrel (50.5 points) and Kenley Jansen (44.8).

The other amazing Kahnle Fact: he has the fourth-lowest zone-contact rate among relievers (71%). Batters both chase out of the zone and struggle to hit him in the zone. It’s an attractive combination. He has now sustained this success for better than a third of the season.

Kanhle has always had good stuff. His four-seam fastball ranks seventh in velocity among relief pitchers’ fastballs, and 31st in whiff-per-swing rate, according to the Baseball Prospectus PITCHf/x leaderboards. He said he throws a traditional four-seam fastball but the pitch has some natural cutting action.

He’s second among reliever in whiff per swing (56%) on his primary secondary offering, a darting changeup.

While his fastball velocity is up from 94.6 mph in 2014 to a career-best 97.9 mph this season, while his changeup has better fading action away from Coors Field as one would expect, the secret to Kahnle’s success actually isn’t a secret at all.

“Getting ahead of hitters, really,” Kahnle told FanGraphs. “It’s tough to get guys out when you are falling behind a lot. It’s even tougher to strike guys out when you are not ahead. I would credit it to me getting ahead and these adjustments to mechanics.”

Kahnle has trimmed his walk rate to a career-low 6.6% this season, down from a 16.6% last season. His career average is 13.1%. His first-pitch strike rate has jumped to 60.4% from 52.8% a season ago, and from 52.3% for his career. His zone percent has increased to 50.5% from 47.3%.

For his career, Kahnle has been ahead of hitters in 214 plate appearances. In 239 plate appearances batters have been ahead of Kahnle. But this season, through Sunday, Kahnle has been ahead in the count 36 times compared to the hitter being ahead 23 times.

Consider the old Kahnle, and this infamous walk-off walk from last June:

And the new Kahnle dotting 100 mph:

With a wipeout changeup:

He’s more often getting heading in counts and is more often producing two-strike anxiety in hitters, as his swinging-strike rate has jumped from 10.8% to 17.0%.

Said Chicago White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper to The Athletic back in April: “The only thing between him and staying here forever is just throwing his fastball, his breaking ball, his change over the plate.”

And Kahnle is throwing his pitches more often over the plate.

Consider the fastballs he threw to left-handed hitters last season:

his season ….

And this season:

Kanhle credits some mechanical changes and work with Cooper to turning his career around. He has worked to lower his leg kick since last season. “I used to come up a little too high… It would cause a lot of things to go on,” Kahnle said. He also tried to have his back leg not dip quite as much as it did earlier in his career, causing him to elevate pitches and get inconsistent with his release point. He also developed a glove “tap” last year to get his “arm out quicker.”

But the most important change, he said, was keeping his head focused longer on its target, the catcher’s glove.

“A lot of people had talked about keeping my head on line, but I had never understood what they meant,” Kahnle said. “I kind of figured it out towards the end of the spring this year.”

Sometimes players don’t understand the language of a coach, sometimes there is a communication gap, and Kahnle said he had to develop a feel for what coaches meant by “staying on line.”

One day in Arizona this spring, he decided he was going to focus on the catcher’s glove as long as his he could. He was going to keep his focus there as close to his release point as he could, until his delivery took him somewhat dramatically to the first-base side of the pitching mound.

“I finally started doing it. I guess it worked,” Kahnle said. “All of the sudden, this year, it started clicking.”

And if Kahnle has really found a new level, if he’s really given the rebuilding White Sox a relief ace on the cheap, then it will be one of the better finds of the 2015-16 offseason.

The story of Kahnle is one of persistence and it’s also one of failure. This a pitcher who, like so many others before him, failed to pitch successfully at Coors Field. It was pitching at Coors that perhaps accelerated Kahnle’s realization that he had to make changes, that he had to be open to significant adjustments.

“Especially when I started to fail in Colorado, I knew I needed to change some things,” Kahnle said. “It was last offseason I really started to work on some things.”

Pitchers shed by the Rockies often come with a discount because they come with messy performance lines. But Collin McHugh figured it out at sea level in Houston after leaving Coors Field, as has Juan Nicasio in Los Angeles and Pittsburgh, as has Drew Pomeranz (at times) in San Diego and Boston. If you were willing to take a project, there was upside in Kahnle. A failed Rockies pitcher with stuff, a willing and persistent experimenter. Kahnle is looking more and more like he’s reached a new level, an elite level.


An Annual Reminder About Defensive Metrics

This is now the third consecutive year in which I’ve written a post about the potential misuse of defensive metrics early in the season. We all want as large a sample size as possible to gather data and make sure what we are looking at is real. That is especially true with defensive statistics, which are reliable, but take longer than other stats to become so.

While the reminder is still a useful one, this year’s edition is a bit different. Past years have necessitated the publication of two posts on UZR outliers. This year, due to the lack of outliers at the moment, one post will be sufficient.

First, let’s begin with an excerpt from the UZR primer by Mitchel Lichtman:

Most of you are familiar with OPS, on base percentage plus slugging average. That is a very reliable metric even after one season of performance, or around 600 PA. In fact, the year-to-year correlation of OPS for full-time players, somewhat of a proxy for reliability, is almost .7. UZR, in contrast, depending on the position, has a year-to-year correlation of around .5. So a year of OPS data is roughly equivalent to a year and half to two years of UZR.

Last season, I identified 10 players whose defensive numbers one-third of the way into the season didn’t line up with their career numbers: six who were underperforming and four who were overperforming. The players in the table below were all at least six runs worse than their three-year averages from previous seasons. If they had kept that pace, they would have lost two WAR in one season just from defense alone. None of those six players kept that pace, and all improved their numbers over the course of the season.

2016 UZR Early Underperfomers
1/3 DEF 2016 ROS DEF 2016 Change
DJ LeMahieu -3.7 2.8 6.5
Eric Hosmer -11.7 -8.7 3.0
Todd Frazier -3.1 1.0 4.1
Jay Bruce -15.5 0.3 15.8
Adam Jones -4.9 -2.9 2.0
Josh Reddick -6.1 -0.2 5.9

The next table depicts the guys who appeared to be overperforming early on. If these players were to keep pace with their early-season exploits, the rest-of-season column would be double the one-third column. Brandon Crawford actually came fairly close to reaching that mark; nobody else did, however, as the other three put up worse numbers over the last two-thirds of the season than they had in its first third.

2016 UZR Early Overperfomers
1/3 DEF 2016 ROS DEF 2016 Change
Brandon Crawford 11.9 16.1 4.2
Jason Kipnis 4.7 4.4 -0.3
Dexter Fowler 4.7 2.7 -2.0
Adrian Beltre 9.0 6.2 -2.8

Just like with the underperfomers, all four of overperformers had recorded defensive marks six runs off their established levels. Replicating those figures over the rest of the season would have meant a two-win gain on defense alone. Again, no one accomplished that particular feat.

A funny thing happened when I ran the numbers for this season. There weren’t any outliers of a magnitude similar to last season or the season before. It’s possible you missed the announcement at the end of April, but there have been some changes made to UZR to help improve the metric.

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Jose Quintana’s Lost Home-Run Suppression

After the White Sox traded Chris Sale, rumors flew that Jose Quintana would be on the move soon, as well. Quintana has been quite good for Chicago, but the club had no designs on contending in 2017. With four more years of control at under $40 million, Quintana was a valuable trade chip. The White Sox were right to expect a return for Quintana that rivaled their hauls for Chris Sale and Adam Eaton. Those demands weren’t met, however, and the White Sox entered the season with Quintana as their ace.

Looking at Quintana’s line so far this season — he has a 5.60 ERA and 4.28 FIP — it’s hard to imagine that his current trade value remains as high as it was this offseason. The main problem has been home runs. Let’s take a closer look.

First, some good news: Quintana has actually increased his strikeout rate relative to previous seasons. That mark stands at to 23.0% currently, higher than his career average of 20.1% and last year’s 21.6%. His walks have gone up, too, though: up to 8.6% from his career average and last year’s average around 6%. A 40% increase in walks is definitely something to note, but more alarming is Quintana’s home-run rate. Here are Quintana’s relevant home-run statistics during his career:

Jose Quintana and Home Runs
Year HR/9 HR/FB
2012 0.92 10.5%
2013 1.04 10.2%
2014 0.45 5.1%
2015 0.70 8.6%
2016 0.95 9.5%
2017 1.40 13.0%
Career 0.84 9.1%

Quintana has been pitching in a tough pitcher’s park for the duration of his career, so the regularity with which he’s suppressed home runs would appear to be a bit of a skill at this point. That said, there’s definitely been a departure this season from his established levels. His walks seem to indicate he’s not quite the pitcher he has been, but a lot of other indicators check out. His velocity seems decent enough. He’s getting first-pitch strikes. He’s pitching in the zone roughly the same amount and swings in and out of the zone don’t seem overly alarming. The home runs are only a big deal to the extent they have a tangible effect on Quintana’s stat line.

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Baseball’s Toughest (and Easiest) Schedules So Far

When you look up and see that the Athletics are in the midst of a two-game mid-week series against the Marlins in late May, you might suspect that the major-league baseball schedule is simply an exercise in randomness. At this point in the campaign, that’s actually sort of the case. The combination of interleague play and the random vagaries of an early-season schedule conspire to mean that your favorite team hasn’t had the same schedule as your least favorite team. Let’s try to put a number on that disparity.

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