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In Remembrance of Roy “Doc” Halladay

Harry Leroy Halladay III was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays with the 17th overall selection in the 1995 MLB First-Year Player Draft.  He was barely 18 years old at the time.  Throughout his time in the minor leagues, the pitcher, who now went simply by Roy Halladay, was a coveted prospect, reaching as high as #12 on the Baseball America Top 100 prior to the 1999 season.  Halladay surpassed rookie limits during the 1999 season, but the following year is generally more remembered as the anecdotal beginning of an eventual Hall-of-Fame-caliber career.  Among all pitching seasons with at least 50 IP, Halladay’s 10.64 ERA (48 ERA+) in 2000 was, and still is, the worst of all time.

The next season was much kinder to Halladay, as he posted a 145 ERA+; in 2002 he made his first AL All-Star team.  The first of two Cy Young awards “Doc” would receive came in 2003, when he pitched 266 innings and had a 3.23 FIP, along with an rWAR of 7.55.  The next two seasons were injury-plagued for Halladay, and he pitched a mere — by his standards — 274.2 innings in them combined, while running a 142 ERA+.  Fully healthy over the next four years, Halladay averaged 233 IP, never contributing fewer than 220 in a season.  In that stretch, only CC Sabathia produced a higher fWAR than Halladay, who was also first in IP, sixth in ERA, and eighth in FIP among all qualified pitchers in that span.  Halladay was performing at an elite level over a huge volume of work.  Doc Halladay was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies after the 2009 season.

This is where everything becomes more personal to me.  As a Phillies fan, I can clearly remember my middle-school self watching Halladay start many games for my favorite team.  The fondest of these memories is from the 2010 season, May 29 to be exact.  On that night Halladay took the mound opposing then Florida Marlins ace Josh Johnson.  Johnson was excellent that season, leading the NL in ERA and the MLB in FIP.  My 10-year-old self knew the game would be something spectacular.  Indeed, the game was spectacular.  The Phillies won 1-0 behind a complete game with 11 Ks from Halladay.  He had pitched a perfect game.  Later that season came an even more famous performance from Halladay.  He tossed a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds in Game 1 of the NLDS, only the second postseason no-hitter in history.  Sure, the Phillies would later fall in the NLCS, but the magic of Halladay’s season never was forgotten.  He won his second Cy Young that year.

However great 2010 was, my clearest memory of Roy Halladay pitching comes from 2011.  United with Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt, Halladay led the Phillies to 102 wins that season.  Unfortunately, what I remember best is Game 5 of the NLDS.  With the series tied at 2 games apiece, the Phillies handed the ball to Halladay for the deciding Game 5.  The Cardinals countered with one of Doc’s best friends, Chris Carpenter.  In total, just one run was scored in that game.  Rafael Furcal led off the game with a triple, and scored when the next batter, Skip Schumaker, doubled.  No more runners would cross the plate.  All told, both pitchers had incredible games.  Halladay had a game score of 72, 44% better than a league-average start.  The bitter portions of the memory are linked not to Halladay, but to the futility of the Phillies offense.  Roy Halladay could transcend even the bitterest of memories.

Time and age eventually caught up to Doc, and he did not pitch well in 2012 or 2013, seasons that were riddled with DL stints.  He retired following the 2013 season, and consensus in the industry was that he would be standing in Cooperstown giving a speech five years following this.  Additionally, some predicted that he would return to the game in some manner, as a pitching coach or something of the like.  First, however, he would take a few years to himself to pursue other interests.  Unfortunately, one of those interests was piloting, and, as fate would have it, he will never give a Hall of Fame speech.  Halladay loved flying planes, often tweeting about it.  Hauntingly following the advice of a quote attributed to several people, what he loved killed him.

In a 16-year MLB career, Roy Halladay compiled 2749.1 IP, 2117 K, a 65.4 rWAR, a 3.38 ERA, and a 3.39 FIP.  But does that really matter?  What matters is how Doc touched the lives of people around him.  It is cliché to say someone was a better person than they were a player, but he really was, and that’s saying something with his résumé.  Whether it was taking care of his family, being a good friend, providing a strong role model, or going to the Philadelphia Zoo with a persistent fan, Halladay improved the lives of those around him.

Goodbye, Roy “Doc” Halladay.  You truly did make the game better for all of us.  We are all so lucky to have been witnesses to your career and life.  You will be sorely missed.


Who Is the Greatest Second Baseman Ever?

It was when I was in sixth grade that I first began to seriously examine baseball.  I made my first annual Top 100 MLB players list that year.  Of course I didn’t know about advanced stats at the time, so Miguel Cabrera was atop that list.  Ironically that was before his Triple Crown.  Brian Kenny had educated me by then, and Trout has been first on every list since.  Anyway, back to the point, I also received the Bill James Historical Abstract that year, and became obsessed with his all-time rankings.  There was his all-time Top 100, and a Top 100 at each position.  Thinking about this the other day, it occurred to me how unusual the second-base rankings were.  Far be it from me to question the Godfather of Sabermetrics, but they seem wrong to me.  Here is the Top 10:

  1. Joe Morgan
  2. Eddie Collins
  3. Rogers Hornsby
  4.  Jackie Robinson
  5. Craig Biggio
  6. Nap Lajoie
  7. Ryne Sandberg
  8. Charlie Gehringer
  9. Rod Carew
  10. Roberto Alomar

Again, this seems wrong, but it is Bill James I’m refuting, so some research is probably required.  First, let’s rank the group by career rWAR:

  1. Rogers Hornsby 128.7
  2. Eddie Collins 122.2
  3. Nap Lajoie 104.8
  4. Joe Morgan 99.6
  5. Charlie Gehringer 79.6
  6. Rod Carew 76.7
  7. Craig Biggio 65.5
  8. Roberto Alomar 65.2
  9. Ryne Sandberg 64.2
  10. Jackie Robinson 59.4

Career rankings are tricky, because at some point a great peak is better than a long career.  Volume does matter.  Players like Robinson, who played only 10 seasons, suffer in career totals.  Let’s see the players ranked by the total fWAR from their four top seasons.  The group is ranked here by four-year peak:

  1. Hornsby 45.6
  2. Morgan 38.7
  3. Collins 38.0
  4. Lajoie 36.4
  5. Robinson 33.2
  6. Gehringer 30.8
  7. Carew 28.7
  8. Sandberg 28.1
  9. Biggio 26.9
  10. Alomar 25.7

That’s nice.  We now know who the best among the group were for their career and for condensed excellence.  However, simply having a long career doesn’t mean a player is the best, nor does having the best brief period of dominance.  Luckily, there’s JAWS.  JAWS is a system used for ranking players that combines career WAR and WAR over a player’s seven-year peak.  It is often used for analysis of Hall of Fame candidacies.  Let’s check out our group when using the JAWS system:

  1. Hornsby 100.2
  2. Collins 94.1
  3. Lajoie 83.8
  4. Morgan 79.7
  5. Gehringer 65.6
  6. Carew 65.4
  7. Sandberg 57.2
  8. Robinson 56.8
  9. Alomar 54.8
  10. Biggio 53.4

After seeing these three lists it is evident that only four of the ten are in the running for the title of being the top second baseman of all time:  Collins, Hornsby, Lajoie, and Morgan.  So far all I’ve used to evaluate these players is WAR.  Now, WAR is definitely a great tool, but it is not the only tool.  How about comparing the remaining four players in a few other ways?  Let’s see career wRC+ and Def for starters.

  • Collins:  144, 68.3
  • Hornsby:  173, 126.5
  • Lajoie:  144, 86.3
  • Morgan:  135, 14.0

Hornsby is the top-rated player in both wRC+ and Def.  He lead all three lists of WAR metrics.  This doesn’t really look close.  Why then did Bill James have both Morgan and Collins ahead of Hornsby?  He was clearly the best hitter of the three, so then why?  He led both of them in defensive value, so that can’t be why either.  Maybe it’s baserunning?  Let’s check out these three players (sorry Nap Lajoie) in BsR.

  • Collins 42.3
  • Hornsby -1.8
  • Morgan 79.0

Here we go!  Finally, a reason to question Hornsby as the greatest second baseman.  Morgan was first for Bill James, so clearly he believes that the mediocre baserunning of Hornsby and the tremendous baserunning of Morgan makes a huge difference.  Let’s concede hitting to Hornsby, and focus on the two final candidates in just fielding and running the bases.  For their careers the difference in fielding was 112.5 runs, while in baserunning it was 80.8 runs.  Hornsby still wins.  No matter how it is examined, Hornsby always comes out on top.  The greatest second baseman in baseball history is Rogers Hornsby.


Kris Bryant, Josh Donaldson, and Manny Machado

Every offseason I do a top 100 MLB players list.  Around the new year is when I start to consider this list seriously, beginning by naming the best player at each position.  Usually, about half of the 10 positions (excluding DH) are close, and the other half are runaways.  This year there is a position that goes beyond even calling it close: third base.

The hot corner currently claims three of the probable top five players in baseball in 2016 NL MVP Kris Bryant, 2015 AL MVP Josh Donaldson, and three-time AL All-Star Manny Machado.  Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw would of course round out the top five, with players like Mookie Betts and Jose Altuve just missing.  Ranking all of the top players against each other, however, will be discussed in a later article.  For now the focus will stay on the three incredible third basemen.  On the top 100 prior to the 2016 season, Donaldson was the highest-ranked 3B, coming in at #2 overall behind only Trout.  Machado was close behind Donaldson at #9 overall, while Bryant was third at the position in the #18 slot.  But 2016 has now come and gone, and all three of these players had spectacular years.  Now how do they rank?

Let’s start with WAR over the last two seasons, since that’s how long Bryant has been in the league.  For purposes of being fair, we’ll use rWAR.

  1. Josh Donaldson 16.3
  2. Kris Bryant 14.3
  3. Manny Machado 13.5

Well, according to WAR, Donaldson is the clear champion of the position.  He has been worth far more than his competition over the past two seasons.  Just for the record, two players whom I am certain people will try to argue belong with this group in the comments, Adrian Beltre and Nolan Arenado, finish well behind Machado in rWAR.  As useful as WAR is in comparing players, it is not a be-all-and-end-all ranking.  How do the three title players of this article order in OPS+?  This will be the last two seasons as well.

  1. Donaldson 151
  2. Bryant 142
  3. Machado 130

Donaldson wins handily again.  Baseball is about more than just hitting.  How about baserunning?  I’ll rate by XBT% and BsR.

  1. Bryant 51% XBT%, 14.4 BsR
  2. Donaldson 39%, 4.2
  3. Machado 46%, 0.7

Here we go — a list that isn’t topped by Josh Donaldson.  Of course Kris Bryant is a very good baserunner, so this was to be expected.  What’s interesting to me is the edge Donaldson has over Machado despite taking the extra base 7% less of the time.  This can be attributed to Donaldson being on base more often.  Aside from hitting and baserunning, there is defense.  How are these three by the top metrics there?  DRS and UZR/150 should serve this purpose well, again using the past two seasons.

  1. Machado 21.0 UZR/150, 27 DRS
  2. Donaldson 15.5, 13
  3. Bryant 13.1, 7

Bryant is hurt in DRS by his flexibility in positions, but the UZR/150 makes up for that.  Machado is in another world when compared defensively to these competitors.  He is simply incredible on defense.  This, however, does not make up for his being behind both Bryant and Donaldson in hitting and baserunning.

It seems that Donaldson should place first in the position, with Bryant second and Machado third.  One thing is bothering me about this entire analysis, though.  The 2015 and 2016 seasons are being counted as the same in terms of importance.  That should not be.  I’ll re-rank the group by rWAR, weighting 2016 over 2015.  A weight of 1.75:1, or 7:4 in whole numbers.

  1. Donaldson 21.88
  2. Bryant 20.34
  3. Machado 18.50

Well, the order is the same as the original list using WAR, even if the two leaders are much closer.  How about using wRC+?  The weights will remain at 1.75:1.

  1. Donaldson 425.3
  2. Bryant 396.8
  3. Machado 359.8

Donaldson is still the best offensive player.  He still is the best at the position.  One factor is still not being taken into consideration: age.  Donaldson will be in his age-31 season in 2017, meaning he should be entering into a decline.  Bryant will enter his age-25 season, and Machado his age-24.  They should both be improving.  Steamer projections clearly buy into this improvement, at least for Machado, who is projected to have the highest WAR of the three.  Until this actually comes to fruition, however, Bryant’s superior numbers will keep him above Manny Machado.

How to handle the age factor?  In the WAR lists I included, Donaldson’s an average of 10.8% better than Bryant, and he’s 19.5% Machado’s superior.  It seems unlikely that a combined Donaldson decline and Bryant or Machado improvement would make up this gap.  Even if it was more likely, the numbers that have already occurred would take precedence over the numbers that may occur.  Donaldson is still the champion of the hot corner.  The top three third basemen in the MLB right now are:

  1. Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays
  2. Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs
  3. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

Imagining Shohei Otani as a True Free Agent

We all know about Shohei Otani, but in case you are the one baseball fan who doesn’t, he is possibly the best baseball player in the world.  Otani turned 22 years old in 2016.  Although he did not have enough plate appearances to qualify, if he did, Otani’s 1.004 OPS would have led the country (of Japan).  In 382 plate appearances, he posted a slash line of .322/.416/.588, in addition to hitting 22 home runs.  That sounds like a very good player who would draw serious interest from MLB teams if posted.  However, that’s not all.  Otani also posted a 1.86 ERA in 140 IP with an 11.2 K/9.  He owns the NPB record for fastest pitch, at 165 km/h (102.53 mph).  The pitching stats alone would have every team in the MLB drooling.  Combine this with his hitting, and Otani might just be the best baseball player in the world.  And the best baseball player in the world is not going to paid like his title suggests.

The problem is that Otani will not yet be 25 after next season.  The new CBA keeps all international players under 25 from being exempt of the bonus pool system.  A tweet from Jim Allen reported that Otani still wishes to be posted after the 2017 season, when he will be 23 years old.  According to an excellent Dave Cameron article also on FanGraphs, the most money Otani could receive is $9.2 million.  This figure would be equivalent in 2016 to a player worth approximately 1.15 WAR.  Otani would surely be worth more wins than 1.15.

At first I wondered if this would make Otani the most underpaid player in the MLB.  Before that question could be answered, however, I had to answer a more important one: how much would Shohei Otani be worth in wins and, by extension, in dollars?  To make this more interesting, let’s make it a one-year deal, in which Otani would be paid the 2017 projected average price of $8.4 million per win above replacement.

The NPB has no available WAR figure, and no OPS+ or ERA+ was offered either.  Unfortunately, I could not find NPB league totals, so no calculating OPS+ or ERA+ on my own, at least not accurately.  I’ll use MLB league totals to find these numbers, but it is an obvious flaw in my research.  If anyone can find NPB totals for me, post the link in the comments, and I’ll gladly redo the study with those figures.

So, using the MLB totals, here are Otani’s numbers in 2016.  OPS+ 170.  ERA+ 225.

Those numbers look really good.  If these were for an MLB player, he would be by far the best player in the league.  How good were the numbers of other Japanese players before and after they were posted though? Let’s see, using three pitchers’ ERA+ and three hitters’ OPS+.  First the pitchers, including what Otani would hypothetically produce in 2017 by what the others produced.

Masahiro Tanaka:  2013 (NPB) 305; 2014 (MLB) 138

Yu Darvish:  2011 (NPB) 274; 2012 (MLB) 112

Hisashi Iwakuma:  2011 (NPB) 163; 2012 (MLB) 121

Shohei Otani:  2016 (NPB) 225; 2017 (MLB) 113

Now for innings pitched, another component required for the crude WAR I’ll project.

Tanaka:  212.0; 136.1

Darvish:  232.0; 191.1

Iwakuma:  119.0; 125.1

Otani:  140.0; 112.2

The raw numbers of IP and ERA+ can be converted into a metric (PV) that I can change into WAR.

Tanaka:  85.227 PV; 3.3 WAR

Darvish:  103.932; 3.9

Iwakuma:  73.552; 2.0

Otani:  63.911; 1.7

Pitching, Otani would be projected for a 1.7 WAR.  That is worth $14.28 million in real value.  Now for batting, which will be OPS+.

Ichiro Suzuki:  2000 (NPB) 157; 2001 (MLB) 126

Hideki Matsui:  2002 (NPB) 205; 2003 (MLB) 109

Kosuke Fukudome: 2007 (NPB) 155; 2008 (MLB) 89

Otani:  2016 (NPB) 170; 2017 (MLB) 107

That is the quality component of WAR.  Plate appearances now for quantity.  As a side note, because I’m not factoring in defense, oWAR is going to be used instead of WAR.

Ichiro:  459; 738

Matsui:  623; 695

Fukudome:  348; 590

Otani:  382; 540

Now for my metric to convert to oWAR.  I’ll call it OV.

Ichiro:  115.305 OV; 6.1 oWAR

Matsui:  93.179; 3.1

Fukudome:  63.012; 0.6

Otani:  68.180; 0.9

On offense Otani would have a 0.9 WAR.  This translates into $7.56 million.  For a one-year deal using real value, Otani should receive $21.84 million, while producing a 2.6 WAR.  But what about a long-term deal with market value instead of real value?  Using Bill James’ stat of projected years remaining to determine the length of the deal, it would be 10 years.  The first year would not have a salary of $21.84M, but $13.72M.  This year was easy.  Now for the next nine years.  First, we’ll examine his pitching value.  I won’t bore you with all the calculations.  This article is tedious enough without it.  Just the pitching WAR for each year.

2018 2.1; 2019 2.9; 2020 3.9; 2021 4.8; 2022 5.9; 2023 5.7; 2024 3.8; 2025 2.1; 2026 0.7

Now the oWAR for each of the seasons:

2018 1.6; 2019 2.3; 2020 3.0; 2021 3.8; 2022 4.5; 2023 5.3; 2024 4.7; 2025 3.1; 2026 1.7

The total WAR for the years are as follows:

2018 3.7; 2019 5.2; 2020 6.9; 2021 8.6; 2022 10.4; 2023 11.0; 2024 8.5; 2025 5.2; 2026 2.4

Over the course of the 10-year deal, Otani would have a total WAR of 64.5.  This is not what he would likely produce.  My projections are — ahem — optimistic.  These are the numbers he could produce if played as both a pitcher and a semi-regular hitter.  Using real value and these WAR figures, Otani would have a real value of $689.14M.  You can read that number again.  I had to do a double-take.  Go ahead and do one too; it’s still $689.14M.  That is real value — however, not market value.  The market value is the much more important, and interesting, number.  What the market value turns out to be, $249.01M, is still massive, but at least the $24.901M AAV is more reasonable in the market.  In fact, this is likely what he will receive when posted, if he is eligible for this kind of deal.  It will be a shorter deal than 10 years, but the AAV should be in line with what I projected.

However, Otani is a mind-boggling player, so no contract, no matter how mind-boggling it may seem, is out of the question for him.  Even $689.14M.


Ranking the Importance of the Five Tools

A good friend of mine with whom I argue about baseball often once posed a very interesting question to me.  He asked me, if I were to build a team completely devoid of one tool, which tool would I want to be missing?  In the ensuing argument, I was asked to rank the tools from least to most important for team success.  I put the order as arm, speed, fielding, contact, and power.  It was not until later that day that it struck me just how great a question he had asked.  Now, several months later, I will attempt to quantify the tools.

The rules for this study will be simple.  Two teams will be assembled for each of the five tools.  Each team will be considered league-average in every tool but the one for which they are being evaluated.  One of the teams for each tool will be the best possible in that one area, and the other will be the worst possible.  The runs lost from league-average by the worst possible team will be subtracted from the runs gained by the best possible teams.  The larger the difference, the more important the tool.  The teams will have one player for each position (minimum 250 PA, 450 Inn).

Note:  Pitchers are not included.  Losing arm does not mean losing value from pitchers.

Power

The players on the teams for power will be determined using isolated power.

Best Possible Team:  C) Evan Gattis (.257); 1B) Chris Carter (.277); 2B) Ryan Schimpf (.315); 3B) Nolan Arenad0 (.275); SS) Trevor Story (.296); LF) Khris Davis (.277); CF) Yoenis Cespedes (.251); RF) Mark Trumbo (.277)

This group has a combined ISO of .276, which would put their team OPS+ at about 115.4.  An average team has 6152.6 PA in a season.  Using these figures, they would score 836 runs as a team, compared to the 725 of an average team.

Worst Possible Team:  C) Francisco Cervelli (.058); 1B) Chris Johnson (.107); 2B) Jed Lowrie (.059); 3B) Yunel Escobar (.087); SS) Ketel Marte (.064); LF) Ben Revere (.083); CF) Ramon Flores (.056); RF) Flores

The combined ISO for this team was only .072, making the OPS+ about 87.8.  Runs scored for this team would then be 636.

Difference between BPT and WPT:  200 runs

Contact

The players on the teams for contact will be determined using K%.

BPT:  C) Yadier Molina (10.8); 1B) James Loney (10.1); 2B) Joe Panik (8.9); 3B) Jose Ramirez (10.0); SS) Andrelton Simmons (7.9); LF) Revere (9.1); CF) Revere; RF) Mookie Betts (11.0)

Collectively, this team would strike out in 9.7% of their plate appearances.  League average in 2016 was 21.1%, meaning the BPT is 11.4% better than league average.  The team would score 807 runs.

WPT:  C) Jarrod Saltalamacchia (35.6); 1B) Chris Davis (32.9); 2B) Schmipf (31.8); 3B) Miguel Sano (36.0); SS) Story (31.3); LF) Ryan Raburn (31.3); CF) Byron Buxton (35.6); RF) Sano

This high swing-and-miss team would strike out in 33.9% of plate appearances.  This is 12.8% higher than average.  The team would score 632 runs.

Difference between BPT and WPT:  175 runs

Fielding/Arm

As it turns out, there are really not stats for exclusively measuring a fielder’s arm.  Baseball-Reference has Arm Runs Saved, but that is not for infielders.  Additionally, the stat I originally wanted to use for Fielding, UZR/150, is not available for catchers.  To remedy both of these problems, I elected to use DRS.  DRS is available for all positions, and it takes a fielder’s arm into account.  Because I will not be taking values for fielding and arm on their own, fielding will receive about 60% of the total difference in the category.  The remaining 40% will be attributed to arm.

BPT:  C) Buster Posey (23); 1B) Anthony Rizzo (11); 2B) Ian Kinsler/Dustin Pedroia (12); 3B) Arenado (20); SS) Brandon Crawford (20); LF) Starling Marte (19); CF) Kevin Kiermaier (25); RF) Betts (32)

Kinsler and Pedroia tied for the lead at second base, so I just listed both of them.  The brilliant defensive team would be 162 runs better than the average in the field.  Of these, 97 will be attributed to fielding and 65 to arm.

WPT:  C) Nick Hundley (-16); 1B) Joey Votto (-14); 2B) Schimpf/Daniel Murphy/Rougned Odor (-9); 3B) Danny Valencia (-18); SS) Alexei Ramirez (-20); LF) Robbie Grossman (-21); CF) Andrew McCutchen (-28); RF) J.D. Martinez (-22)

The team of these players, who look like pretty good players, would have a -148 defensive value.  The value to fielding is -89 runs, and -59 for arm.

Difference between BTP and WPT (Fielding):  186 runs

Difference between BTP and WPT (Arm):  124 runs

Speed

Speed presents a problem.  It is valuable on the basepaths, obviously, but it is also valuable in the field.  More speed means more range.  Speed Score is a stat that represents the importance of both, but it does not translate well into value.  I decided to go with FanGraphs BsR, even though it does not measure speed in the field.  That value can be circumvented by routes and reactions anyway.

BPT:  C) Derek Norris (1.8); 1B) Wil Myers (7.8); 2B) Dee Gordon (6.2); 3B) Ramirez (8.8); SS) Xander Bogaerts (6.1); LF) Rajai Davis (10.0); CF) Billy Hamilton (12.8); RF) Betts (9.8)

This speed roster is a team that anyone would like to run out every day.  It is a young and athletic team.  Even so, based on speed alone, the team is just 63 runs above average.  That is the lowest value above average for any BPT.

WPT:  C) Molina (-8.7); 1B) Miguel Cabrera (-10.0); 2B) Pedroia (-4.5); 3B) Escobar (-5.6); SS) Erick Aybar (-3.9); LF) Yasmany Tomas (-5.5); CF) Jake Smolinski (-3.4); RF) Tomas

The lead-foot team is 47 runs below average.  That is the closest to average of any WPT.  Speed clearly has the least impact of the five tools.  I regret not putting it last.

Difference between BPT and WPT:  110 runs

Conclusion

I will admit that I was wrong.  Arm actually has some real value.  My excuse, I guess, is to say that it slipped my mind that arm is important for infielders as well as outfielders.  That should not have happened, and I am a little upset I made that mistake.  Fielding also beat out contact, which I did not expect.  I do not even have a defense for this one, as I do not know what I was thinking.

In all honesty, this post was written to win an argument.  However, it does have a deeper purpose.  This answers the question posed so many years ago in Moneyball.  If a general manager can afford to buy players with only one tool, which tool should it be?  This information is probably not new to any front office in baseball, but it is something to remember when considering small-market strategy.

Anyway, here is the official list of the five tools by importance, at least for 2017.

1.  Power

2.  Fielding

3.  Contact

4.  Arm

5.  Speed


The Real Best Reliever in Baseball

The best relief pitcher in baseball is not who you think he is. Most of you probably would not even include him in the top 10. If I were to take a poll on who is the best relief pitcher in baseball, the top voted would likely be Zach Britton, Dellin Betances, Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Andrew Miller. I will say that it is none of them. To illustrate my point, I will compare this mystery pitcher’s numbers to all of their numbers. Nothing too scary, just xFIP, K/9, and ERA. I also will not just tell you which pitcher produced which numbers. Where would be the fun in that? I will compare the numbers of all six pitchers and walk you, the reader, through determining which one is the best.

Pitcher A: 1.18 xFIP; 14.89 K/9; 1.45 ERA
Pitcher B: 1.92; 13.97; 1.55
Pitcher C: 1.17; 16.84; 1.16
Pitcher D: 1.75; 15.53; 3.08
Pitcher E: 2.41; 13.63; 1.83
Pitcher F: 2.09; 9.94; 0.54

At first glance, Pitcher F’s ERA of 0.54 is likely what stands out most. Alas, even calling him only by a letter cannot mask Britton. He has the lowest K/9 by far and the second-highest xFIP, so Britton is effectively taken out of consideration.

Pitcher D has an ERA over a run higher than any of the others. His K/9 and xFIP fit in the range but do not stand out. Thus, Dellin Betances is out as well.

Of the remaining four, Pitcher E rates the worst in each of the three categories. Goodbye, Kenley Jansen.

That leaves us with Pitcher A, Pitcher B, and Pitcher C. In this group, B is the worst across the board. Aroldis Chapman leaves the conversation.

Pitcher C is better than Pitcher A in all three statistics. Andrew Miller bows and exits.

Carter Capps stands victorious.

Yes, I know Capps did not pitch in 2016. I used his 2015 numbers. They stack up just as well against the elite relievers from that year as well. It is true that Capps pitched only 31 innings in 2015, but the stats I used are rates. Maybe a larger sample would have dragged him into mediocrity, but I doubt it. Capps was ahead of the field by such a large margin that even with regression in his 2017 return he would be #1.

I am crazy for saying Carter Capps is the best relief pitcher in baseball. Or am I, really? If Capps pitches as well in 2017 as he did in 2015, just over a larger sample, I believe many of you will agree with me. Some of you may even agree with me after reading this.

So, let me be the first to say it: Carter Capps is the real best relief pitcher in baseball.