Is it time to bring back the Herb Washington-style dedicated pinch-sprinter?
We all have radical ideas that we’d like to see implemented: the all-reliever pitching staff, the perfectly optimized lineup, the corner outfielders swapping based on batter handedness, etc. Until somebody puts them into play, they’re just ideas. What Charlie Finley did, then, was a favor to us all: He took one of those ideas and put it in play. And when it failed, we got to move on. We never had to talk about it again. For once, a crazy idea tried, tested, and settled.
What the terms of Mike Trout's rumored extension tell us about Mike Trout.
Back in the summer of 2012, when it became clear that Mike Trout was doing something we had never seen from a player his age, the word of the day was “adjustments.” Yes, Trout was accomplishing amazing things, and there was little doubt that he would be a phenomenal player, probably a Hall of Famer. But his legacy—would he be a Hall of Famer like Willie Mays, or a Hall of Famer like Andre Dawson?—would come down to adjustments.
The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.
Not a subscriber?
Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.
The biggest gaps between 2013 and 2014 pitcher projections.
It’s a feeling we’ve brought up a lot this winter: Pitchers seem like they are capable of changing our minds much more quickly than hitters can. A bump in velocity (like Ubaldo Jimenez) or a move to the bullpen (Will Smith) or a return after years away (Scott Kazmir) can radically reshape how we assess a pitcher's future.
Which suggests we should be open to radically different projections for a pitcher from year to year, and yet! There’s a case to be made that this unpredictability should actually make a projection system even more conservative when evaluating pitchers. As quickly as a pitcher can change our minds about him, he can unchange our minds, lose the velocity or move back to the rotation or undergo a surgery that fixes him. So, when in doubt, regress.
The biggest gaps between 2013 and 2014 hitter projections.
At the back of the BP Annual, on page 562, among the PECOTA leaderboards, there’s one table for WARP Declines and another for WARP Improvements. The guys on these lists are a hodgepodge of stories, but mostly these players are on the list because PECOTA hasn’t changed its mind on them. Colby Rasmus had a good year last year? PECOTA acknowledges it, but it hasn’t changed its mind about Rasmus. Decline. Dan Uggla was terrible last year? PECOTA adjusts downward some but basically hasn’t changed its mind about Uggla. Improve. The WARP decline/improvements tables are essentially regression leaderboards. These are guys who did something unexpected but, in PECOTA’s estimation, didn’t really change.
Which player is most likely to experience a run of sustained sub-replacement seasons?
The year was 2007, and America’s outlook had never been brighter. A young Arkansas governor named Bill J. Clinton had just been elected president with promises of universal hearth care for everybody’s hearths. An inventor named Steve Jobs was tinkering in his garage on a machine that would one day be called the Splash-Proof Thermapen Thermometer. And a shortstop in Seattle named Yuniesky Betancourt was doing amazing things that we would never see again: Topping replacement level.
On Puig's performance against fastballs, and young hitters' performance in general.
When you think of a young hitter, you probably imagine a kid who can catch up to a fastball but struggles to lay off breaking balls and off-speed stuff outside the zone. There’s no “used to be a thrower but now he’s a pitcher” equivalent for hitters, but if there was it would likely be used to describe a batter who learned how to lay off tough sliders. When Yasiel Puig came up last year and couldn’t lay off sliders, and teams responded by throwing him sliders, it surprised nobody.
There’s some confirmation bias at work here. Try as we might not to, there’s a tendency to create cultural profiles for players, and also to create age profiles for players, and probably also to create behavioral profiles for players. So Puig—young, by appearances a bit out of control, Latin—seems to the prejudiced mind to be a guy who would be a free-swinger, and perhaps a guy who would swing and miss at sliders out of the zone. And he is, and he does! Just don’t throw that guy a fastball and you’ll be fine.
There are certain things that seem so obvious that I can’t even conceive of a counterargument. Then somebody presents a counterargument! This is why places like BP exist, to provide the counterargument to the obvious, and expose the nuance, and remind us of how often we only see one part of something. Nothing is ever so obvious as you think.
I’ve been horrified by player opt-out clauses for five years. They have always seemed to be terrible for the club, unless they come with some significant discount that the player takes to have that clause in his contract. (We’ll never know whether this discount is there, because each player’s maximum price is difference; eyeballing such deals—like Masahiro Tanaka’s, for instance—I’d argue that there’s no clear evidence of such a discount.)
“The hottest debate among the Angels' minor-league staff: Who is faster, Trout or new Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos?” “My guess is Trout is more explosive in the first 20 to 30 yards, but Bourjos would catch him and nip him at the wire at 100 yards. Everyone would like to see them race.” “We’ll probably never get to see the Bourjos vs Mike Trout race even though I think people would pay to see it.” “Alas, the Angels said Sunday that such a race will almost certainly never happen. ‘We talked about it in the spring,’ said manager Mike Scioscia. ‘But we don't want four blown hamstrings.’” “The Angels will not hold a match race to determine who is faster, but if home-to-first base times are the measure, Trout gets the nod.” “(Trout’s) response: ‘Oh I don’t know. We don’t race. You’ll never know. … No one will ever know.’”