Why the multitude of first-base options can result in suboptimal decisions, and how to avoid falling into the trap.
Good Monday and, more importantly, good Martin Luther King Day to everyone.
Unrelatedly, we go from the catcher position, the least productive offensive position (likely a result of all the ways catchers can impact the game defensively), to first base, one of the most productive offensive positions, likely a result of the limits on the way a first baseman can impact the game defensively. Talk about pointing out contrast because I didn’t know how to get rolling on this article.
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Is there an inefficiency to be exploited by taking so-so center fielders and playing them in a corner?
The Mariners have added Jarrod Dyson and Mitch Haniger to their outfield this offseason and they already had Leonys Martin. The Rays traded Drew Smyly for a group of prospects, which they insisted (to at least some extent) include Mallex Smith, and they already had Kevin Kiermaier. I think the Mariners and Rays made these trades because they thought high-end corner outfield defense was undervalued.
Within an unusual and thought-provoking trend, there is an extremely unusual and extremely thought-provoking subtrend.
With the year winding to a close, Baseball Prospectus is revisiting some of our favorite articles of the year. This was originally published on May 26, 2016.
We, as an internet, have thoroughly discussed the player opt-out, but oversaturation and (a lack of) timeliness have never stopped us before here at Tools of Ignorance and they will not stop us now. In December, at the beginning of the height of player opt-out-mania, I wrote about why this contract structure might have increased in popularity. I hypothesized, among other things, that players might be valuing the opt-out and flexibility it brings more than teams valued it, or that players were just flat out overvaluing the opt-out, or both. It felt right; it felt like it made sense.
After the Indians took the first two games of the series in Cleveland, the Blue Jays turn to Opening Day starter Marcus Stroman to avoid falling behind 3-0. The Indians, meanwhile, will start Trevor Bauer as they look to continue their loss-free postseason.
Must-win home games for the Dodgers and the Giants.
The Nationals moved up 2-1 on the Dodgers with Monday’s decisive 8-3 victory. To celebrate, both teams have decided to make my life a living hell and put off announcing their Game 4 starters until well after my deadline. Seriously, we don’t know which of Best Pitcher in the World Clayton Kershaw or Wunderkind Julio Urias will be taking the ball for Game 4, nor do we know if Dusty Baker will line up Joe Ross or Reynaldo Lopez to face L.A. We don’t know anything, other than that the Dodgers are in the hot seat.
Rich Hill vs. Tanner Roark in Washington and Jeff Samardzija vs. Kyle Hendricks in Chicago.
The Nationals, with Tanner Roark taking the mound, look to even the series in Game 2 after their Game 1 comeback came up one run short. Rich Hill, previously disabled by blisters, will take the mound for the Dodgers.
How will Tuesday affect the decisions of Buck Showalter moving forward?
Buck Showalter most likely regrets his decision not to use Zach Britton in this year’s AL Wild card game. Regret, though, can be a tricky phenomenon. For instance, regret likely played a large part in Showalter’s decision to not use Britton. How so? Well, when Showalter was quoted defending his decision after the game as saying that “it’s an away game,” he was really saying that he feared using Britton only to have a lesser pitcher blow a lead in a save situation with Britton unavailable. Showalter was saying that he feared he would regret making a decision that could lead to that sequence of events.
This type of decision, one in which we make a decision in the attempt to avoid what we imagine to be the worst outcome possible (as opposed to trying to make the best decision possible), is fairly common place. How many times have you not applied for a job because you do not know if it would be any better than your current job? How many times have you not asked someone on a date that you wished you had? How many times have you not raised your hand in your class when you had a question? How many times have you decided to go back to the same restaurant instead of trying the new place? How many times at that same restaurant have you ordered the same thing? We so often choose the devil we know versus the devil we do not know, we so often choose the safety of the routine and of inaction often for no other reason than our being people—social organisms wired to fit in, wired to not do anything we might come to regret. It is therefore not surprising that even people at the top of their fields like Showalter could convince themselves into making poor decisions if only to avoid future regret.
Practically every major trade in baseball fits into the same mold. Why isn't there more variety?
By all accounts we just wrapped up a thrilling trade deadline. The volume, the drama, the last minute-ness, the quality of players—both major and minor leaguers—was more than those looking to be entertained could have hoped for. Those (if such a population exists) looking for variety in trades, though, were likely disappointed. Sure, we got a good, redundant major leaguer for another, somewhat redundant, major leaguer trade in the Matt (Duffy and Moore) swap, and a salary dump (Liriano to the Blue Jays), but every other trade was minor leaguers for major leaguers (usually on contracts expiring at this or next season’s end). There are tons of variations within this type of trade, but it is all the same kind of trade. This type of trade, of course, makes sense—teams that have a chance to win this year value certain players more than teams that do not have such a chance; and when two teams value a player a differently, there is always an opportunity for a trade.
But, why then, do certain players that should be valued differently (such as Jeremy Hellickson) not get traded? Also, how is it possible that over the past 10 years, no two teams have said, “I like your third baseman more than my third baseman and you like my third baseman more than your third baseman” and just swapped them? Or how has this not happened for any other position? We see this once in a while with sixth starters and inconsequential relievers, but we never see this with any primetime players. Why don’t we see this? I believe there are several contributing factors that I will discuss below. I also believe there are several (or more) contributing factors I have not thought of and, thus, will not discuss below.
The Cubs are a well-run organization who, relative to other buyers this summer, seemed to overpay for Aroldis Chapman. Do we need to reframe their choice?
Esteemed colleague and possessor of a terrific first name, Jeff Long, recently wrote about why teams in contention might pay a lot for relievers, even though, as Long writes, “It’s a formula that the sabermetric community sometimes finds difficult to rationalize. Relievers pitch so few innings and are so volatile that their value is almost certainly lower than that of the prospects dealt for them.” As to why teams in contention do this anyway, Long concludes that when the playoffs come teams cannot simply accumulate WARP; they need to actually win individual games, and really good relievers help teams do so. That makes sense to me. It makes sense to me why teams add relievers to improve their chances of winning right now even if they are going to end up accumulating less WARP from a given trade. But what does still does not quite make sense to me is why Aroldis Chapman was so expensive compared to other relievers or other players traded at the deadline.
How expensive was it? Please find an email from me to Chris Crawford, and Crawford’s responding email below: