How many recent contract extensions would the team that bestowed them still sign?
It’s not always easy finding something to say about a fresh new contract extension. Most of them appear to be basically club-friendly, and follow a template set by previous players. Furthermore, they generally cover so much time that it’s even more impossible than usual to predict just what the player is likely to do that far out, and just what the team is likely to need that far out. Shoot, a lot of times they don’t even kick in until a time far enough into the future that our predictive powers go poof.
But we’re a few years into the extension era, and a lot of these moves are starting to have actual histories to judge. At the very least, we can look at the extensions signed two years ago and decide anew whether the teams should be happy or disappointed with the extensions they’ve signed. We can see whether these turn out as universally club-friendly as I tend to expect.
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Sam plays GM and auctions off Chicago's most valuable trade bait to the highest bidder.
Around this time of year, we hear plenty of trade offers that are offered, and demands that are demanded. It’s wise to take all of these with loads of salt. Sometimes rumors get leaked because they are self-serving; sometimes they get leaked once they’ve been passed around and distorted; sometimes by the time they get leaked they’re outdated. And, of course, there are many, many more offers/discussions/demands that don’t get reported. Without the full range of context, it’s hard to really evaluate what we do hear.
What we wanted to do here is conduct an experiment to see what sort of range of offers really would develop when a dozen or so teams are kicking the tires on a hot trade deadline piece. We declared Jake Peavy available to the highest bidder. And we assigned 11 contending teams to 11 writers; each writer, playing the role of GM, fashioned a bid for Peavy. Unlike mock trades that purport to balance both sides’ interest (but rarely do), these are purely calculated: they reflect only the self-interested desires of GMs who really want a player but really don’t want to give up any more talent, or take on any more money, than they have to.
Throwing paper airplanes is big at ballparks. Where did the planes come from, and what do they signify?
Game story template: Clever juxtaposition, personal detail, pun, or fun fact; summary of what happened in the game (winner, key performance); nut graf putting larger significance of win/loss into context; quote from manager; transition into chronological description, over course of a few paragraphs, of game’s action, perhaps interspersed with quotes from relevant players; quote from pitcher/offensive hero/Torii Hunter; description of the paper airplanes in the stadium; conclusion.
“As the game ground to a crawl in the late innings,” the LAist wrote last week, “each pitch taking on more importance on both sides, the scene throughout the stadium began to resemble the opening scene of M.I.A.'s ‘Paper Planes’ video. As the crowd of 50,796 got more and more restless, they decided to make their own entertainment, to give themselves something to cheer for as plane after plane get [sic] tantalyzingly close to touch [sic] the field.”
Welcome to another episode of GIFs and Words and Jokes and Nonsense. It's a special All-Star edition of GIFs and Words and Jokes and Nonsense, so enjoy the All-Star related GIFs, words, jokes, and nonsense.
This was something I never noticed until I did, and now I notice constantly, just like how I can no longer not notice that pitchers have absolutely no idea where they're throwing the ball. The other day I suggested that nobody in a park (except the scouts and, in some cases, the manager) actually watches 10 pitches in a row. Well, then.
A primer on the Twins' Caleb Thielbar, who started his career with 20 scoreless innings.
After 20 scoreless innings to start his career, Caleb Thielbar this week allowed his first run, on a front-row home run by Ben Zobrist. While he no longer has the 0.00 ERA, he has still allowed the lowest OPS in baseball against lefties, and his lead over no. 2 Alex Torres is as big as Torres’ lead over no. 18 Rex Brothers. Lefties are 1-for-30 against Thielbar, with a single, a walk, and 13 strikeouts: .033/.063/.033.
He’s also a contender for this year’s Kratz Award for Kratzing. Thielbar was released from the Brewers’ minor league system in 2011, because he was throwing 84 mph without any sort of changeup as a starter. He went to play for the independent league St. Paul Saints, who happen to be his hometown independent league team. Also, the Twins’ hometown independent league team. They signed him, sent him to High-A as a 24-year-old, watched him clean up his mechanics and pitch pretty well over parts of three minor league seasons (particularly against lefties), and brought him up for low-leverage scrub work. He’s in high leverage now. Twins fans call him … hang on, let me make sure I have this right... yup. Meat Raffle. Twins fans call him Meat Raffle.
How pitchers can throw more pitches inside the strike zone and walk more batters (and vice versa).
I remember once that there was an article (not written by me, but it might as well have been; I’ve certainly written a version of this article before) that looked at a batter’s increased walk rate and concluded that it was due to... not swinging at as many pitches outside the strike zone. Colin Wyers tweeted something in response that went something like, but not exactly like, this: “uh no doy.” I try to keep that tweet (or at least something like that tweet) in mind, because it’s easy to find explanations that are already embedded in that which you seek to explain. Baseball generally obeys its own physics. Player is struggling because his heat map looks awful. Fielder’s numbers are down because fielder isn’t making plays in front/in back/whatever of him. Pitcher is walking more batters because pitcher is throwing fewer pitches in the zone.
But what about when that last one isn’t true? There are 179 pitchers who threw at least 1,000 pitches last year, and have thrown at least 500 pitches this year. The correlation between year-to-year changes in zone rate and changes in unintentional-BB rate is fairly modest: about .4. That means there must be a lot to not walking batters other than throwing pitches in the strike zone.
One of baseball's most dominant pitchers versus baseball's worst batters.
PECOTA ran a bit more than 1,000 hitter projections for 2013. The worst line it forecast was a .177/.205/.245 line from Elier Hernandez, an 18-year-old who had just hit .208/.256/.280 in short-season ball. The next worst was for Gabriel Rosa, who had just hit .245/.314/.406 in the Arizona instructional league, and who was forecast to hit .171/.200/.251. The average pitcher this year has hit .133/.162/.180, well below either player’s forecast.
So let’s take PECOTA’s word for it, and accept that major-league pitchers are, generally, worse hitters than every hitter in the majors, and every hitter in the high minors, and if not every hitter in the low minors then most. Let’s say they’re worse than every hitter in Nippon Professional Baseball, and every hitter in the Mexican League. Let’s further assume that they’re worse than a large number of hitters who have washed out of the minors because, through positional inflexibility and unsexy ages and generally limited upside and utility, are no longer allowed to take up organizational space—all the Eddy Martinez Esteves out there. How many is that? Around 500 big leaguers, around 3,000 minor leaguers, no fewer than 1,000 players scattered around foreign professional leagues, certainly dozens if not more college kids, a handful of extremely advanced high schoolers, and the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Eddy Martinez-Esteve desaparicidos. Let’s say that your average pitcher is the 10,000th-best hitter in the world.
Craig Kimbrel's small margin between best reliever ever and best reliever of right now.
My current favorite fun fact, a fun fact that I’ve repeated in chats, on Twitter, on Ben Lindbergh’s award-winning podcast, and now in an article, is this: In 2012, Craig Kimbrel struck out more batters on three pitches than Justin Verlander did. It’s got everything I like in a fun fact: It favorably compares a player to a more famous player; it compares his accomplishment in one context (in this case, an opportunities-based context) to an accomplishment in a much more favorable context; it uses a statistic that isn’t really a statistic so much as a description and thus has more descriptive impact than a traditional statistic; it’s not an easily dismissed small sample size; its cheats aren’t obvious, if they exist at all; and it captures not just a player but an era, the era of the ridiculous strikeout reliever. It got to the heart of the thing, which was that Craig Kimbrel was so good that you wondered whether he actually posed an existential threat to baseball itself.
Kimbrel has been awesome this year. You could take his pitching line and a time machine back to 1976 and it would look so scary to that generation that the Russians might bomb Huntsville, AL to prevent the Kimbrel from ever being developed. It’s a spectacular line! But it doesn’t take much for a Fun Fact Machine to become just a great player.