Who really stepped up to miss bats, and who will need to try a little harder in 2017.
On Tuesday, George Bissellbroke down the landscape around the league with respect to strikeouts. Unsurprisingly, he found that K’s are continuing to rise for both starters and relievers. However, with the shrinking workloads being given to starters, it’s getting harder and harder to find those true fantasy assets who can accrue massive strikeout totals. Today, we will look at some of the pitchers who over performed or under performed their expected value in this category.
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Arguing about the Hall of Fame is an annual tradition, but catchers have been getting a raw deal for decades.
One of the best things about getting worked up about the Hall of Fame is how many ways one can go about it. It’s an infinite wellspring, a source of eternal frustration for the mathematicians and a constant delight for the artists, for those who prefer dialogue to proof. There’s no shame, I think, in either preference. The Hall of Fame is a silly institution within an already silly pastime, a trumpet fanfare played by kazoos. It is picaresque.
Three options present themselves: one can ignore the spectacle, secure in their own knowledge of what greatness is, and content in the isolation of certainty. Or one can enjoy the show as a passive observer, as we do with the games themselves, perhaps going so far as to wager on them. Or, finally, one can join the performance themselves, wade into the fray and willingly be Mad Online.
We all need a way to get through the offseason, but don't get Mad Online.
There’s nothing reassuring about the offseason. Despite the countdown clock trending toward zero on Pitchers and Catchers Report Day, the hot stove season is fraught with tension that is diametrically opposed to the fun and good tension of the actual season. Will my team trade its only fun player? Will they get a good return? Will I have to be Mad Online for a few days about 20-year-olds who may or may not ever play in the majors? Will there even be baseball or will a labor conflict rob me of my sweet, sweet reward (update: we’re okay on this score at least)?
While the hot stove can be fun and I certainly wouldn’t blame anyone for refreshing Twitter every three seconds to see if your team landed a top free agent. But the agita and heartbreak the hot stove season provides is not exactly constructive: it’s like rooting for the stock market without even the pittance of a payout. And so we’re left to try to find substantive material to draw from the detritus of minor-league free agent signings, prospect lists, and days-long arguments over the wisdom of signing Zach Duke or whoever else to a three-year deal.
This is of course why and where narratives come in. Narratives, for anyone who hasn’t followed sports for more than three minutes, are these grand arcs that every team seemingly is forced into occupying by the writers who cover them, whether nationally, locally, or in-between.
For example: is your team a championship contender? Are they a sleeper team? Does your management get it? Does your management even know what IT is? How many stats are you using? Are you using enough? When do your good players get to come up to the majors? When are your good players going to leave your team for the Red Sox? Are the Yankees back? Does baseball need the Yankees to be back? Is tanking un-American? Are YOU un-American? What does Donald Trump mean for baseball? Is baseball the anti-Trump? What would the 30 teams’ logos look like as Donald Trump?
You get the idea. We write these overarching ideas as a media base for a fairly mundane reason: there’s simply nothing much to say during the offseason. You’ll notice this if you watch for how many Yoenis Cespedes reaction pieces came out within hours of him signing back with the Mets the other day. People are starved for real, honest-to-god baseball content, and the instant any move, trade, or injury happens, content bursts from our collective media unconscious so quickly that every angle, second angle, contrarian angle, and meta-angle is covered within 24 hours. I dare you to find a new way to say that Yoenis Cespedes signed a four-year deal with the Mets: you can’t.
And so we’re left with these larger stories that we ourselves get to shape, build, and develop. This is awfully convenient, since they’ll never run to a clear conclusion or leave us without something to write on. A player can only re-sign with their team so many times; the Yankees can be ascendant or in decline forever, in any number of different permutations and variations. We get content, you get something to read during the offseason to distract from the painful business-ness of the whole affair. Seems fair, right?
When it comes time to negotiate the next CBA, perhaps Scott Boras could help the players reclaim lost ground.
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement has been struck, though not yet fully articulated to the public. We know enough to make some firm statements, though, like these: Tony Clark, the successor to a weak union chief, was determined to be a stronger one, but turned out not to be good enough at the job for his strength or weakness to matter.
The MLBPA has faced an existential threat almost since its inception, and has had a constant need ever since then for a top executive with extensive legal training and experience, and a dogged, shrewd, relentless demeanor. In Marvin Miller, Donald Fehr, and Gene Orza, they had just that. Michael Weiner, by all accounts an exceptionally gracious, thoughtful, and competent man, nonetheless lacked the tenacity of his forebears and let the union down.
The speed merchants sat atop the mixed league valuations in 2016. Should we expect more of the same in 2017?
Welcome to my fourth annual look at retrospective player valuation at Baseball Prospectus. Over the next few weeks, I will be writing a series of articles examining how players performed from a fantasy perspective in 2016. This is the fifth article in a series of six. The first four articles in the series focused on NL-only and AL-only leagues. The final two posts examine mixed leagues, with this article examining hitters.
Before I dig in, here is a brief description of the charts below. (If you have been reading along for the entire series, note that there are some changes for the mixed league articles).
We are in uncharted territory with this category, so let's make a plan.
Nearly a quarter of all major-league plate appearances (21.1 percent) ended with a strikeout last season. A decade ago, that number was just 17.1 percent. Isolated from broader historical context, those numbers don’t accurately reflect the scale of the league-wide rise in strikeout rate over the last decade. Pitchers struck out opposing batters at the highest rate in the modern era, which dates back to 1947 (according to Sam Miller on a recent episode of the Effectively Wild podcast), in each of the past nine seasons. Meanwhile, walk rates have remained relatively stagnant, ebbing and flowing between seven and nine percent, during the same period.