Should WAR(P) systems adjust their defensive measures? Okay. Now, which direction?
We heard the first blows in the nascent MVP debate of 2014 unfold just last week. At the time, Alex Gordon led all players in fWAR (by a narrow margin), largely on the basis of his extraordinary defense in left field (15 fielding runs above average, fifth highest in MLB). In response, Jeff Passan wrote that the idea of Alex Gordon as the best player in baseball was absurd.
Much wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued. To some of the doubters of sabermetrics, Gordon’s triumph on the leaderboards was yet more proof of the uselessness of WAR(P). To others, arguments against Gordon may have seemed ill-formed.
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Notes on prospects who stood out yesterday, including Mets catcher Kevin Plawecki and A's righty Dylan Covey.
Hitter of the Night: Kevin Plawecki, C, Mets (Las Vegas, AAA): 4-4, 2 R, 2 HR.
Good seasons for hitters have a tendency to get even better when they end in Las Vegas, and Plawecki is putting a solid stamp on the end of a second straight solid minor-league year. If you’re looking for some power from your catcher, Plawecki may not be your guy, though he does offer some in the gap variety. What he does do well is control the strike zone and put the barrel of the bat on the baseball.
Pitcher of the Night: Dylan Covey, RHP, Athletics (Stockton, A+): 7 IP, H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 K.
Covey took a no-hitter into the seventh inning on Wednesday, but it will go down as a rare highlight in an otherwise disappointing season. The stuff that once got him selected in the first round (in 2010 out of high school) is no longer there, though he does still throw a ton of strikes, which is something.
Properly understanding the competitive landscape can be critical to your decision-making, especially in keeper leagues.
“Analyze process, not results.” With our most important strategic decisions behind us for this season, right now is a perfectly good time to take a look at our process. A part of “The Process” that often gets overlooked—that I know I have overlooked—is projecting the competitive landscape of our leagues. In a lot of articles, I discuss buyers and sellers, but in order to determine whether we are or will be a buyer or a seller, we first need to know where we currently and will stand. This seems pretty easy: take a look at the standings, see which teams have underperformed, overperformed, and performed as expected, take a guess at what they will do in the future, and there you have it. If it is a head to head league, you can take a look at future matchups, and if it is a rotisserie league you can take a look at the categories. Done and done.
The above was nearly my exact process for analyzing and projecting my leagues’ competitive landscapes. I would pay more attention to specific rankings if I was in the race for a title or playoff berth, but that was really it. As you guessed, this process did not work out very well. While it may seem harmless, the consequences of improperly projecting the competitive landscape can be very negative, especially in keeper leagues. This can cause us to sell when we actually had a chance to compete and buy when we really had no chances of winning. We know the consequences of poor projection, so let us take a look at the causes and what we can do to improve.
If these players are on your waiver wire, they might be worth a look, depending on the format of your league.
Oscar Taveras, OF, St Louis Cardinals
The statistics haven’t quite backed up the pedigree thus far in St Louis, but Taveras has been quietly improving ever since he was plugged into the lineup nearly every day following Allen Craig’s exportation to the Red Sox at the deadline. In those 24 games, the 22-year-old outfielder is hitting .262/.311/.345 with a homer and nine RBI. So why exactly is he showing up here? Because I’ll always take a chance on a high-end prospect with a strong contact rate upon hitting the major leagues if I need a shot of upside in September. The power certainly hasn’t shown up yet, and he’s showing his mettle as a free swinger, but Taveras has been making some tweaks to his swing, including shortening it up, and the results appear positive thus far. This recommendation isn’t for the owner who needs a reliable source of fantasy production at the back of the outfield, but if you’re trying to make up some ground, Taveras could be just the sparkplug you need. —Bret Sayre
With two of the Outcomes off this week, Ben chats with Bret Sayre about his first season playing Scoresheet.
This week in the podcast:
Jared and Ian are off on their adventure through the southeast, so Ben is exposed as the weakest link. Fortunately, Bret Sayre stops by to bail us out and talk through his first Scoresheet season so far, his biggest draft regrets, thoughts on his team composition, and the stretch run as he pushes to make the playoffs. We go into detail on his rotation, bullpen, and lineup to give an example of the way you might approach the playoffs, if, you know, your team is actually that good. Take the good with the bad this week and know that next week, we should return to form.
At the heart of the biggest conversation going on in baseball right now, there is one conversation we’re not having.
We hear all about the games being too long. It’s item 1 or 2 on every listicle in the wake of Rob Manfred’s ascent to commissioner-in-waitingness. It's the subject of countless hot takes (3 balls! 7 innings! No mound visits!). It’s the subject of countless lukewarm takes that don’t deserve exclamation points (just enforce the rules on pitchers). And it often gets spliced with the discussion on pace of game, which would be a worthy one were not all the evidence presented in the form of game length.
As is often the case, internet-specific farewell addresses come off like award show acceptance speeches, complete with the sandpaper tongue stroking of all intimate associations of note, a solipsistic sandwich of fake meat, imitation cheese, and vinegar-based spread, delivered to you as consumable and delicious food despite the fact it was never intended for you to [actually] eat. I want you to eat this farewell. This farewell is for you. From the heart, I want to thank the readers of Baseball Prospectus for their curious eyes and minds, for embracing my peculiar brand of communication and pushing me beyond the assumed limitations of the medium. This will be my final article for Baseball Prospectus.
Checking in on the fantasy stocks of some intriguing minor leaguers.
When you’ve done rankings and mock drafts for two straight months, you kind of wonder… why would anyone write about anything else? Sure there are draft grades, but those aren’t nearly as applicable to fantasy.
Then it hits you like a ton of bricks. Something like a… a stock watch. No. Everyone does that. What if you just called it something else. Yes, now you’re cooking with gas. What about a Progress Report? Perfect.
The densest concentration of prospect superpowers will offer plenty to watch for this autumn.
The Arizona Fall League is the Mecca of the prospect world, giving scouts and fans the most saturating collection of prospects gathered in any one spot at any point on the baseball calendar, save perhaps the one-day Future’s Game. Unlike that all-star exhibition, however, many of the game’s top prospects will ascend to the desert to play for something more than just national exposure and that third digit on the radar gun, with 32 games to refine their skills against fellow top prospects.