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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Kiley McDaniel Chat – 10/16/18

2:12

Kiley McDaniel: Sorry for the delay and the weird day but I’ll be traveling tomorrow so here we are. Still working on some projects behind the scenes that you guys will see soon. Have some preliminary FA projections (105 of them!) if you guys are into that, starting work on prospect lists, doing some work on THE BOARD and new features with Sean Dolinar, podcast is coming weekly and working on some research for the THT annual and some stuff with Craig Edwards that will be coming in the next week or two that I think you’ll really like. Warning: we will quantify everything, even the stuff you don’t want us to.

2:12

Tommy N.: How much do you think Eovaldi gets this offseason? 3 years $40M?

2:12

Kiley McDaniel: My guess was 3/45 at first blush, so yeah something like that

2:13

Nate: How do scouts balance the “eye test” and analytics when evaluating talent?

2:15

Kiley McDaniel: Well that’s about a 5,000 word article if we’re breaking down both how the execs and scouts do it. In short, scouts are instructed by most teams to avoid analytics and allows the professionals in the office to apply them, since some scouts will see tiny sample size hitter split data and apply that info incorrectly and skew the report, for instance. In reality, most teams show scouts exit velos and spin rates so they aren’t in the dark, but they generally don’t know how to use it, so they’re given very basic instructions like “round up if the curveball spin rate is x and you graded it y but it’s a borderline grade,” and stuff like that. On the amateur side it’s almost not used at all by scouts other than the basic stuff you can see like this college hitter is striking out 30% of the time, we all know that’s bad.

2:15

GPT: Updated thoughts on Giants front office search?

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NLCS Game Three Turned on Decision to Let Buehler Hit

With his stellar performance down the stretch — including in the Game 163 tiebreaker that won the NL West — Walker Buehler may have supplanted Clayton Kershaw as the Dodgers’ ace. In Monday night’s Game Three of the NLCS, manager Dave Roberts nonetheless went a bridge too far with the 24-year-old fireballer. For five innings, the young righty had pitched brilliantly, if not flawlessly, against the Brewers, allowing just a lone run. But that run loomed large. For the third time in the series, the Dodgers had failed to put a dent in the Brewers’ starter, and so they entered the bottom of the fifth trailing 1-0 against Jhoulys Chacin, who to that point, had allowed just two hits and two walks (one intentional) himself.

On Chacin’s fourth pitch of the inning, Yasmani Grandal — who has had a rough series on both sides of the ball — dunked a slider into left field for a ground-rule double. Enrique Hernandez lined out to bring up Buehler, who to that point, had thrown 78 pitches and struck out eight while yielding just two hits and one walk. The Brewers had done their damage in the first inning, when Ryan Braun followed a six-pitch walk to Christian Yelich with a scorching double to left field for the game’s only run. From there, Buehler had settled down, striking out the next four hitters and retiring 14 of 16. He was dealing.

Nonetheless, the Dodgers offense was gasping for air, and Roberts had a full and rested bullpen thanks to the off day. He’d stacked his lineup with lefties — Joc Pederson, Max Muncy, and Cody Bellinger — against Chacin, who struggles without the platoon advantage. That left Roberts with a bench full of righties, namely Brian Dozier, David Freese, Matt Kemp, Chris Taylor, and, if necessary, backup catcher Austin Barnes. No doubt the skipper had his eye on using some of those righties to combat lefty Josh Hader later in the game. Still, Freese, Kemp, and Taylor all posted a wRC+ of 113 or better against righties this year, though only Taylor had been that strong last year. Of that trio, both Freese and Taylor handled sliders from righties well this year, with wOBAs of .388 and .336 according to Baseball Savant; over the past three years, however, only Taylor (.350) has been above .300 among that trio.

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Job Posting: Boston Red Sox Analyst

Position: Boston Red Sox Analyst

Location: Boston, MA

Description:
The Boston Red Sox are seeking an Analyst for the team’s Baseball Analytics department. The role will support all areas of Baseball Operations while working closely with the SVP/Assistant GM, Director of Baseball Analytics, and the department’s team of analysts.

This is an opportunity to work in a fast-paced, intellectually curious environment and to impact player personnel and strategic decision making.

Responsibilities:

  • Statistical modeling and quantitative analysis of a variety of data sources, for the purpose of player evaluation, strategic decision-making, decision analysis, etc.
  • Effectively present analyses through the use of written reports and data visualization to disseminate insights to members of the Baseball Operations leadership.
  • Maintain working expertise of leading-edge analytics, including publicly available research and novel statistical approaches, in order to recommend new or emerging techniques, technologies, models, and algorithms.
  • Other projects and related duties as directed by the Director, Baseball Analytics, and other members of Baseball Operations leadership.

Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree in an analytical field such as statistics, predictive analytics, data science, engineering, applied math, physics, quantitative social sciences, computer science, or operations research.
  • Demonstrated experience with baseball data analysis.
  • Advanced understanding of statistical methods or machine learning techniques.
  • Proficiency with modern database technologies including SQL.
  • Demonstrated experience with programming languages (e.g., R or Python).
  • Demonstrated ability to communicate technical ideas to non-technical audiences using data visualization.
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office (Excel, PowerPoint, Word).
  • Demonstrated work ethic, passion for baseball, and strong baseball knowledge, including familiarity with current baseball research and analysis.
  • Attention to detail while also having the ability to work quickly and balance multiple priorities.
  • Experience working for a major league club preferred.
  • Ability to work evening, weekend, and holiday hours is a must.
  • Other programming and database skills are a plus.

To Apply:
To apply, please send an email to analyticsresume@redsox.com with the subject “Office Analyst”. Please include the following items/answer:

  • Updated resume
  • Example of analysis you’ve done, preferably related to baseball.
  • What is a project that you believe would add substantial value to a baseball team? Please describe the project and provide an overview of how you would complete it.

Effectively Wild Episode 1283: Hey, Look, a Playoff Episode

EWFI
Ben Lindbergh and Jeff Sullivan banter about the lack of non-playoff banter and discuss the first two games of each championship series, touching on Clayton Kershaw bias, Matt Barnes curveballs, the finer points of pitcher-batter matchup stats, Josh Hader as a starter vs. as a reliever, the upcoming games, and much more (including a Brandon Woodruff-filled snippet of last week’s Patreon-only broadcast).

Audio intro: The Black Keys, "Just Couldn’t Tie Me Down"
Audio outro: Fleet Foxes, "Ragged Wood"

Link to Jeff’s Barnes post

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How Do You Feel About This Ball Down the Middle?

I just polled you all about something last Thursday. I asked you how you feel about the diminishing role of the starting pitcher in the modern game. I don’t know what I expected, which meant I’d be surprised by *any* results, but here’s where things stand — 23% of you are neutral. Yet 57% of you have a negative opinion, while just 20% of you have a positive opinion. That’s almost a 3-to-1 ratio. We’ll see how things evolve over time, as we become increasingly accustomed to how pitching staffs are used, but there’s clearly a collective sense of loss. The audience likes to think of the starter as the protagonist. The protagonists shouldn’t be killed off in the fourth or fifth inning. Leaves too much of the story.

Now I’m going back to the well again. I have another question for you all. This isn’t about some sort of trend within the game. Rather, this is about one call. But really, it’s about how calls are made in general. It’s about how you prefer that judgment be rendered. We’re going back to Saturday’s Game 1 of the Red Sox/Astros ALCS. Let’s all watch Joe Kelly throw a curveball down the middle.

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Lenny Dykstra Was Indicted Again

Art imitates life, and vice versa. I wouldn’t presume to call the words I scribble on these electronic pages “art” — and yet they, too, seem to imitate life. You see, way back in February, back before 26 of baseball’s 30 teams had been eliminated and hope still sprang eternal, I wrote about former Mets and Phillies outfielder Lenny Dykstra and his fantastic claims of extorting umpires. Dykstra, it should be noted, took a surprising amount of pleasure in what was, if true, undoubtedly an illegal exercise.

Now, on the topic of the former illegal exercise, one finds the following recent reprot:

To be fair, this isn’t Dykstra’s first run-in with the criminal justice system.

Since retiring from baseball, Dykstra has served prison time for bankruptcy fraud, grand theft auto and money laundering, and he declared bankruptcy in 2009, claiming he owed more than $31 million and had only $50,000 in assets.

Cocaine and methamphetamine charges don’t represent new territory for an ex-ballplayer: Esteban Loaiza pled guilty to the same this past August. A so-called “terroristic threat” would appear to be something altogether different, though.

Under Section 2706(a) of Title 18 of the Pennsylvania State Code, the crime of “terroristic threats” is defined thusly:

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Interface Updates to Splits Leaderboards

We’ve rolled out some interface updates to the Splits Leaderboards.

The biggest change is the addition of quick splits and a ribbon control interface. The quick splits represent the most frequently used splits: home/away, handedness, and starting pitcher/relief pitcher. To keep the control area of the board condense, we implemented a ribbon / tabbed interface for the controls. If you would still like to see everything at once, you can click “Show All”.

The data export button has been moved closer to the data grid and will now export only the data and stats on the current board.

We are in the process of designing more data features and stats for this board. And if you notice any bugs or errors, please let us know.


Matt Barnes Threw 14 Curveballs in 15 Pitches

There was a moment where Sunday’s Game 2 might’ve unraveled. David Price left the mound to a Fenway Park standing ovation, because he left the mound with a lead, but he also left the mound in the top of the fifth with two runners on in a one-run game. That meant it was up to the Red Sox bullpen to get 13 outs. It was, most immediately, up to Matt Barnes to get out of a jam. And within three pitches, the Astros got a break.

Barnes got ahead of Marwin Gonzalez with two quick strikes. At that point, Barnes came back with a breaking ball low. Gonzalez swung, and he came up empty, and that appeared to be that, but according to home-plate umpire Vic Carapazza, Gonzalez had tipped the ball before it landed in the dirt. So instead of Barnes getting out of the inning, he’d have to try again. Replays couldn’t confirm a foul tip, but a foul tip is a non-reviewable play. It was like watching a dramatic turning point in progress.

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Seth Lugo, Collin McHugh, and Ryan Meisinger on Developing Their Sliders

Pitchers learn and develop different pitches, and they do so at varying stages of their lives. It might be a curveball in high school, a cutter in college, or a changeup in A-ball. Sometimes the addition or refinement is a natural progression — graduating from Pitching 101 to advanced course work — and often it’s a matter of necessity. In order to get hitters out as the quality of competition improves, a pitcher needs to optimize his repertoire.

In this installment of the series, we’ll hear from three pitchers — Seth Lugo, Collin McHugh, and Ryan Meisinger — on how they learned and developed their sliders.

———

Seth Lugo, Mets

“I’ve pretty much developed my pitches through repetition, especially my breaking pitches. My sinker, as well. I didn’t have them coming out of high school. I didn’t learn my sinker until Low-A. All of my pitches really came after that season.

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Small-Sample Theater in the Postseason: The Justinification

We’re now two games deep in both League Championship Series, which makes it a good time to take stock of some of the small-sample stuff that makes up the postseason. As before, I’ll note that there’s always some danger in ascribing too much meaning to the numbers underlying the wins and losses. That said, it’s difficult not to notice certain trends and, having noticed them, not to connect them with what we’ve seen over the course of the regular season. Inclusive of the Wild Card and Division Series rounds, as well, here’s what has caught my eye over the past week.

Justin Time I

On the heels of last year’s championship run, Justin Verlander continues to stand out in October — relative not only to the other frontline pitchers of this current postseason but to a generation of October veterans. Here’s a quick look at the nine starters who have taken two turns thus far in this postseason, ranked by cumulative Game Score (Version 2):

Pitchers with Two Postseason Starts in 2018
Player Team IP H R HR BB SO ERA FIP GSv2
Wade Miley Brewers 10.1 5 0 0 1 5 0.00 2.52 131
Justin Verlander Astros 11.1 4 4 0 6 13 3.18 2.49 129
Gerrit Cole Astros 13.0 9 6 1 2 17 3.46 2.05 127
Hyun-Jin Ryu Dodgers 11.1 10 2 1 0 12 1.59 2.23 124
Chris Sale Red Sox 9.1 6 4 0 6 13 3.86 2.34 113
Clayton Kershaw Dodgers 11.0 8 5 1 2 5 3.27 4.02 106
Luis Severino Yankees 7.0 9 6 0 6 9 7.71 3.20 83
Mike Foltynewicz Braves 6.0 5 5 2 7 10 7.50 7.70 71
David Price Red Sox 6.1 8 7 3 6 4 9.95 10.94 53
GSv2 = Constant + 2*Outs + Strikeouts – 2*Walks – 2*Hits – 3*Runs – 6*HR. Here I’ve applied the constants from the regular season for the AL (40) and NL (38), which centered the season average at 50.

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Jhoulys Chacin’s Matchup Problem

After throwing Jhoulys Chacin on short rest for the division title two weeks ago and then in Game Two of the NLDS against Colorado shortly after that, Brewers manager Craig Counsell opted to skip Chacin for the first two games of the NLCS against the Dodgers. As I noted last week, the move made sense: while Chacin functions as the club’s nominal ace, the Brewers nevertheless gained an advantage over the Dodgers by throwing two left-handed starters.

The plan very nearly worked: Milwaukee took the first game of the series, then took a 3-2 lead into the eighth of Game Two before the bullpen coughed up the victory. With the series headed back to Los Angeles, Chacin will get his first start of the NLCS after eight days of rest. The Dodgers could provide some matchup problems for Chacin.

Jhoulys Chacin has always had platoon issues. By that standard, this season was no different. Against right-handers this year, Chacin struck out 24% of batters, walked 7%, and gave up a homer to one out of every 56 batters. When at a platoon disadvantage, however, Chacin struck out just 15% of batters, walked 11%, and gave up a homer to one out of every 37 batters he faced. The Dodgers — thanks in part to lefties Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, and Joc Pederson, and also switch-hitting Yasmani Grandal — put up an MLB-best 124 wRC+ (non-pitchers) against right-handed pitching this season. It’s clear, in light of this, why Counsell might have avoided using Chacin for a few games after a heavy recent workload and a couple lefty options. Moving Chacin’s game to Los Angeles also meant moving away from Miller Park, the third-best stadium in baseball for left-handed home runs. The Dodgers do play in a park that is homer-friendly for lefties, but not to the extent of Milwaukee.

The thing to watch, in particular, will be how Chacin’s slider fares against Dodgers hitters. This season, the Dodgers have been one of the very best teams in baseball against right-handed sliders, per Baseball Savant.

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Dan Szymborski FanGraphs Chat – 10/15/18

12:00
Dan Szymborski: Noon: A Time for Chats

12:00
Bear32: Buxton?  What’s going on?

12:01
Dan Szymborski: Well, besides injuries, I don’t have the foggiest clue.

12:01
Jim Leyland Palmer: With taking a step back in his second year and his colossal struggles this postseason, has your outlook on Cody Bellinger changed?

12:02
Dan Szymborski: Tempered slightly (the year, not the small sample of six specific games), but not really changed.

12:02
Dan Szymborski: Nobody thought that 143 OPS+ was a baseline that he’d only go up from. A step back was expected.

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Elegy for ’18 – Philadelphia Phillies

“I love September, especially when we’re in it.”

Willie Stargell

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”

– Albert Camus

“@*%(#*&%.”

— Phillies fans, 9/18

The Setup

What precisely makes a dynasty is a point of some contention. Many believe that, however strong a run a team produces, if that run ends in something less than multiples titles, then the result can’t possibly be considered dynastic. I’m a little more liberal with the term than most, however, and I think the late-00s and early-10s version of the Phillies can rightly be regarded as a dynasty, simply for the length of time for which they remained one of the best clubs in the league. As for championships, they claimed just the one, but it’s also a lot easier to win the World Series when only two teams qualify for the playoffs, as was the case in baseball for a long time.

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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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Sunday Notes: Brewers Broadcaster Jeff Levering Looks at Bullpens, Sees Value

Jeff Levering has had a bird’s-eye view of bull-penning at its best. Perched alongside Bob Uecker in the Milwaukee Brewers radio booth, he’s gotten to watch Craig Counsell adroitly shuttle relievers in and out of games, most notably since the calendar turned to October. One thing he hasn’t seen — at least not often — is starters going deep into games. Brewers starters threw just 847 innings in the regular season, the fewest among teams that advanced beyond the Wild Card round.

A few months ago I asked Levering if he could share any observations, and/or opinions, on the current state of the game. He brought up pitcher usage.

“Baseball is trending to specialization, especially with how bullpens are being constructed,” said Levering. “You’re asking starting pitchers to give you five or six innings. You don’t have many guys like Max Scherzer where you can say, ‘All right, he’s going to give us seven or eight innings today, no matter what.’”

Levering proceeded to mention last winter’s free-agent environment. Rather than being priorities, as they had been in the past, starting pitchers were almost an afterthought. Lucrative offers were neither plentiful nor quickly-coming. Read the rest of this entry »


Gregorius’s Tommy John Surgery Lights the Hot Stove

At the Yankees’ end-of-season press conference at Yankee Stadium on Friday, the team revealed that shortstop Didi Gregorius will undergo Tommy John surgery and, as a result, miss a substantial portion of the 2019 season. For better or worse, the announcement of his absence threw plenty of fuel on a hot-stove fire that’s been lit early by the Yankees’ elimination, as this would appear to intensify the team’s interest in pending free agent Manny Machado.

First, Gregorius. Manager Aaron Boone believes that the 28-year-old injured his right elbow while retrieving a rebound off Fenway Park’s Green Monster during one of the AL Division Series games, though general manager Brian Cashman said that when the team acquired him from the Diamondbacks in December 2014, he already had a partial tear that was “asymptomatic” and that the current tear was “the finishing part of something that was a sleeping giant.”

Either way, it’s a bummer. Gregorius is coming off a breakout season in which he recorded a .268/.335/.494 like with 27 homers, 10 steals, a 122 wRC+, and 4.6 WAR. All but the batting average represent career highs. He did all of that while missing 16 games in August and September due to a bruised left heel and then five games in late September due to a cartilage tear in his right wrist. Playing through the latter injury, he went 4-for-17 with a double in the Yankees’ five postseason games.

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Brewers Pass Over Ace to Gain Advantage

With the presence of two analytically driven clubs in the NLCS, much of the attention paid to the series will focus on how each team responds to moves made by the other in an effort to gain the upper hand. For the Brewers, one area particularly well suited for creative decision-making is the rotation. As documented by Jeff Sullivan last week, Brewers starters recorded the highest collective ERA of all this year’s playoff teams after accounting for league and park. The weaknesses of the rotation, however — in the hands of a club willing to ask questions — also represents an opportunity for creative solutions.

Consider: in the team’s incredibly important Game 163, manager Craig Counsell opted for the team’s best starting pitcher, Jhoulys Chacin, on short rest. Then, in Game One of the Division Series against the Rockies, the Brewers piggybacked Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes before going with Chacin on short rest again for the second game of the series. Counsell bypassed Wade Miley until Game Three of the Division Series and passed over Gio Gonzalez entirely.

For the series with the Dodgers, though, those final two pitchers, Gonzalez and Miley, have been named as the starters for Games One and Two, respectively — even though nominal ace Chacin is available on full rest. In this case, however, the use of the two lesser pitchers might ultimately give the Brewers and advantage,

The Brewers employed a bit of gamesmanship with regard to their probable starters for the NLCS, waiting until just yesterday to announce their choices. How they deploy their rotation, though, could have a real effect on the starting lineup selected by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. To get a better sense of what I mean, let’s start by examining the potential lineups for the Dodgers with the right-handed Chacin on the mound versus either of the two left-handers.

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The Dodgers’ Other Legal Matter

Earlier this week, I examined the federal grand jury probe currently looking into possible misdeeds by the Los Angeles Dodgers in Latin America. Even in a best-case scenario, it would appear as though the organization (or, at least, individuals associated with the organization) is in some real trouble.

According to a report yesterday from the Daily Beast’s Adam Rawnsley, however, it would appear as though the Dodgers have been named in conjunction with a completely different matter, as well. From Rawnsley’s piece:

The email from the manager of a Hampton Inn in Glendale, Arizona, stunned the Los Angeles Dodgers. A minor-league player recently signed by the team had been accused of harassing and then sexually assaulting a hotel housekeeper. The situation, the manager wrote, was “unacceptable.”

“I guess for a few weeks now [the player] has been making remarks and asking her to go out with him,” the manager wrote in an email to a team official that was obtained by The Daily Beast. “She keeps telling him that she has a boyfriend and is not interested but he still keeps making comments. . . . On Sunday things elevated where she was cleaning another room and he came up behind her and grabbed her,” the email continued. “She pushed him back and he came back and grabbed her yet again. She told him that she wasn’t interested and that he needed to leave and he did.”

While the unnamed minor leaguer’s conduct is certainly worthy of some attention in and of itself, the incident is perhaps even more notable both for (a) the Dodgers’ behavior in its wake and (b) the larger implications for domestic-violence policy (or its absence) in the minor leagues.

Regarding the first of those points, Craig Calcaterra provides some further information.

According to internal emails, the Dodgers investigated the incident and, by all indications, believed the maid’s account. High-ranking officials were in the loop, including then-head of player development Gabe Kapler who said in an email that he was “embarrassed for our organization.” Another Dodgers official said that the player was lucky not to be in jail. The police were not called, it seems, as the maid did not wish to alert authorities.

As to the housekeeper’s motivations for not reporting the incident(s), I won’t address that here. There are many possible reasons. If one takes as credible the maid’s account of events, however — which the Dodgers themselves appear to have done — it’s likely that the unnamed minor leaguer’s conduct amounts to a criminal act of some kind (which is relevant for reasons I’ll discuss below).

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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 10/12/18

9:04

Jeff Sullivan: Hello friends

9:04

Jeff Sullivan: Welcome to Friday baseball chat

9:04

stever20: what do you make of the Dodgers having Urias on the LCS roster?

9:05

Jeff Sullivan: So the word is out that Urias is on the roster to replace Alexander. Both, of course, are left-handed

9:07

Jeff Sullivan: I think in one sense there’s a general disappointment that Alexander hasn’t been better. He’s a guy with an awful big platoon split. Urias isn’t so good against lefties, but he’s better against righties, and even though he had something of a lost season he might well currently have the fresher arm

9:07

Jeff Sullivan: Little doubt that, at or around 100%, Urias should be a more effective pitcher than Alexander is

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