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12-15

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9

Prospectus Feature: The Surprising Math Teams Use to Value a Compensation Pick
by
Jeff Quinton

12-09

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9

Prospectus Feature: How Far Did That Fly Ball Travel (Redux)?
by
Alan M. Nathan, Jeff Kensrud, Lloyd Smith and Eric Lang

12-05

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11

Prospectus Feature: The Yankees and the Toothless International Spending Limits
by
Dustin Palmateer

11-04

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6

Prospectus Feature: The #Sources Season
by
Matthew Trueblood

11-03

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32

Prospectus Feature: The Decision that Decided a World Series
by
Dustin Palmateer

10-09

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39

Prospectus Feature: Check Out This Obnoxious Cardinals Fan
by
Brian Gunn

10-08

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6

Prospectus Feature: Aaron Judge and the Question of Long-Armed Hitting Prospects
by
Jeff Moore

10-07

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1

Prospectus Feature: The Great Octoberness Rankings
by
Miles Wray

09-23

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11

Prospectus Feature: Colin Moran and the Matter of Draft Status
by
Jeff Moore

08-29

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38

Prospectus Feature: Roast A Parks
by
BP Staff

02-28

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0

Prospectus Feature: The Downfall of Denny McLain
by
Mark Armour

02-28

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0

Prospectus Feature: The Eddie Award
by
Jeff Bower

02-26

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0

Prospectus Feature: 2003 IHOF Veterans Committee Results
by
Neal Traven

02-26

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0

Prospectus Feature: The Injury Nexus: A Look at Pitcher Injuries
by
Nate Silver and Will Carroll

02-21

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0

Prospectus Feature: PECOTA At Altitude: A Review of Major League Hitters in Colorado
by
Nate Silver

02-20

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0

Prospectus Feature: Touring the Minors: The Pacific Coast League
by
Keith Scherer

02-19

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Prospectus Feature: Where Does the Money Go?: Taking a Look at Major League Payrolls
by
Doug Pappas

02-18

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0

Prospectus Feature: Could Relegation Work?
by
Derek Zumsteg

02-11

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Prospectus Feature: The Yankees' Seven-Man Rotation
by
Nate Silver

02-06

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Prospectus Feature: Playing the Armchair Arbitrator
by
Nate Silver

01-31

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0

Prospectus Feature: Top 40 Prospects Roundtable
by
Baseball Prospectus

01-28

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0

Prospectus Feature: Expanding the Playoffs: Drawing Guidance from the NBA
by
Jeff Bower

01-28

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0

Prospectus Feature: Expanding the Playoffs
by
Jeff Bower

01-24

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Prospectus Feature: That's the Chicago Way
by
Keith Scherer

01-23

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0

Prospectus Feature: Breaking Out
by
Nate Silver

01-22

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0

Prospectus Feature: The Midsummer Classic: Making it More Than Just an Exhibition Game
by
Doug Pappas

01-21

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Prospectus Feature: The Appearance of Misconduct: A Conspiracy Theory Worth Considering
by
Tim Walker

01-17

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Prospectus Feature: Baseball Prospectus Radio
by
Will Carroll

01-14

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Prospectus Feature: The 1987 Free Agent Market
by
Nate Silver

01-14

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Prospectus Feature: A Brief History of the Veterans Committee
by
Neal Traven

12-12

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Prospectus Feature: Freely Available Talent
by
Dayn Perry

12-09

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Prospectus Feature: 2002 STATLG-L Internet Hall of Fame
by
Neal Traven

12-04

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Prospectus Feature: The Forty Million Dollar Question: Building the 2003 Expos (Part Two)
by
Scot Hughes

11-26

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Prospectus Feature: 2002 HACKING MASS Results: All Players, By Position
by
Baseball Prospectus

11-26

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Prospectus Feature: 2002 HACKING MASS Results: All Players, By Name
by
Baseball Prospectus

11-26

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Prospectus Feature: 2002 HACKING MASS Results: All Players, By ESPN
by
Baseball Prospectus

11-22

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Prospectus Feature: The Forty Million Dollar Question: Building the 2003 Expos (Part One)
by
Scot Hughes

11-07

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Prospectus Feature: The Arizona Fall League
by
Jonah Keri

10-31

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Prospectus Feature: Evaluating the Dowd Report
by
Derek Zumsteg

10-28

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0

Prospectus Feature: Player Cards
by
Clay Davenport

10-11

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Prospectus Feature: The Curse of The Budbino
by
Jeff Angus

10-10

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0

Prospectus Feature: Breaking Balls: A Stroll Through the Mailbag
by
Derek Zumsteg

08-23

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Prospectus Feature: Touring the Minors: Organizational Overview: Los Angeles Dodgers
by
Keith Scherer

08-08

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Prospectus Feature: Breaking Balls: Unbalanced
by
Derek Zumsteg

08-07

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Prospectus Feature: Touring the Minors: Organizational Overview of the St. Louis Cardinals
by
Keith Scherer

06-21

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Prospectus Feature: Baseball's Brave New World
by
Gary Gillette

06-12

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Prospectus Feature: Touring the Minors: Goin' Through Mobile
by
Keith Scherer

06-05

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Prospectus Feature: Draft 2001: The First Round
by
Joe Sheehan

06-05

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Prospectus Feature: Sifting Through the Discount Bin
by
Jonah Keri

05-24

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Prospectus Feature: 6-4-3: Rounding the Bases
by
Gary Huckabay

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Why does the value a team places on a draft pick seem to change from situation to situation?

“The Yankees never made an offer to David Robertson; determined they’d rather sign Andrew Miller and get the draft pick [compensation] for Robertson.” – Buster Olney, via Twitter

All other factors equal, it is preferable to sign a free agent who is not attached to a qualifying offer than a free agent that is QO-attached. This is obvious. What is not obvious is by how much, or whether that “how much” is always constant from free agent to free agent for each team. First round pick protection, competitive window, payroll limit, state of one’s minor-league system, and upcoming draft class will all determine how each team costs (values) losing a draft pick. According to traditional financial, economic, whatever-you-want-to-call-it theory, weighing these factors all makes sense. But, according to traditional theory, each team would individually weigh the cost of giving up a draft pick equally across all QO-attached free agents. Example time:

Team X puts the cost of losing its first round pick at $8M. Absent the qualifying offer, Team X values Max Scherzer at six years, $150M and Ervin Santana at two years, $25M. Taking the cost of losing a first round pick into account, Team X should value Scherzer at 6 years, $142M and Santana at 2 years, $17M.

Cool, makes sense. Alas, mental accounting, which posits that “people spontaneously generate their own mental accounts, and where we place these boundaries subtly (but profoundly) influences financial decision making,” indicates that our traditional theories may be oversimplifying things here. Specifically, it notes that we create topical accounts, in that our decisions are altered by the context of the situation. Whereas most think it absurd to drive 15 minutes down the road to another car dealership to save $75 on a $25,000 car, many will stand in line for an hour in the middle of the night to save that same $75 on a $250 smart phone.

Question: What does this have to do with QO-attached free agents?

Answer: Given the use of topical accounts, we could hypothesize that if GMs categorize Scherzer as an impact player and Santana as a role player—and are less willing to give up a draft pick to get a mere role player—that teams might be either (i) undervaluing the cost of the QO when valuing top free agents (saving $75 on the car) and (ii) overvaluing the cost of the QO when valuing lower-end free agents (saving $75 on the smart phone).

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The distance a fly ball travels depends to a large degree on which lot of baseballs it came from.

How Far Did That Fly Ball Travel (Redux)?

Alan Nathan#, Jeff Kensrud*, Lloyd Smith*, Eric Lang#

#Department of Physics, University of Illinois

baseball.physics.illinois.edu

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How the Yankees and other teams are breaking the international signing system.

With the recent signing of 16-year-old Colombian outfielder Bryan Emery, the New York Yankees completed a Shermanesque raid of Baseball America’s international top prospects list, nabbing a staggering 10 out of the top 30 (and four of the top 10!) players available for the 2014-2015 signing period. And they did so while setting ablaze what’s left of Major League Baseball’s international spending rules, a system that was implemented when the CBA was redesigned in 2012 in part, however clumsily, to curb international spending and promote competitive balance.

Emery is, like most young international prospects, more project than finished product, with an expected big-league arrival time around the midpoint of Giancarlo’s Stanton’s 13-year contract extension, and that’s if everything goes right. As Ben Badler describes, “there’s breakout potential given the swing and tool package, but it may take him time for his game skills to catch up.”

More interesting than Emery, who was apparently targeted for the Padres prior to Josh Byrnes’ dismissal as general manager in June, is the Yankees’ international strategy in general, which essentially boils down to “sign everyone.” It’s a strategy New York has used in major-league free agency a time or two, but one they’ve generally neglected in the international realm, perhaps because major investments in young foreign talent take time to pay dividends, something that hasn’t always fit the Yankees’ win-now-at-all-costs blueprint.

***

Part of the goal of the 2012-2016 CBA was to limit spending on amateur players, with soft spending caps instituted in both the Rule 4 amateur draft and the international amateur market. While most general managers, scouts, and baseball executives (and anyone else with a say in the matter) opposed the spending restrictions, team owners generally welcomed the prospect of writing smaller checks to unproven talent. The players’ union, for all of its strength, is historically flimsy when the bargaining rights of non-union players are concerned.

Under the current rules, teams are assigned international signing bonus pools based on records in the previous season. In the 2014-2015 signing period, for instance, the international bonus pools range from just over $5 million (Houston Astros) on the high end to $1.87 million (St. Louis Cardinals) on the low end. Each team receives four slot values ranging from No. 1 to No. 120 plus a $700,000 base, allowing clubs to trade bonus pool dollars for other players or slot values. The Cubs and Braves, for example, recently completed a trade that netted the Braves an additional $800,000 in international bonus pool flexibility.

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Starting in November, we accept a different sort of journalism from our baseball writers. Should we?

Matthew Trueblood writes about baseball at Armside Run. You can reach him by email or on Twitter at @Arm_Side_Run.

There’s a great essay by Bart Giamatti, written just after the end of the 1977 season, called “The Green Fields of the Mind.” It’s both laconic and flowing, hopeful and somber. It perfectly captures a certain moment in the life cycle of a baseball fan, and it’s full of the warmth, pensiveness, and realism fans need in order to get through the winter in good spirits.

It belongs to another generation.

We no longer bemoan the absence of baseball all winter, the way we might have in 1977. Free agency was a new and ill-established phenomenon then; it’s now a winter-long event unto itself. The winter trade market is livelier, although fewer total trades are made because of all those free agents. Baseball no longer abandons us; it just turns uglier. The rhythm of the offseason is much more jagged than that of the season. The stories we read are less and less focused on the game itself as the winter drags on. It all becomes about who’s going where, and when, and for whom.

There’s a whole new set of jargon one must learn in order to follow the Hot Stove maneuvering. It lacks any of the charm of “painting the black” or “worm burner,” though. There’s no imagery in it, no blood flowing to it. During the offseason, reading about baseball is all about trying to parse the intentionally opaque language reporters use to describe their (invariably) anonymous sources on the latest rumor.

Anonymous. That’s the key word. It isn’t necessarily an evil word, for a reporter, but it sure is a vexing one. In all arenas of American journalism, anonymous sourcing is “much more universal than it was in the Sixties,” according to Dan Okrent, but the Society of Professional Journalists still takes caution and reticence as its official approach to the use of unnamed sources. The director of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting went a step further in a recent lecture, openly decrying the practice, and in particular, its proliferation in places where it feels unneeded.

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One last look at the decision to hold Alex Gordon, from every angle.

A single play in the 2014 postseason captivated the baseball world: Alex Gordon’s three-quarters trip around the bases as the Giants’ outfield botched Gordon's line-drive single in the last inning of the World Series. And how could it not? Game Seven, two outs in the bottom of the ninth, down by one, and Gordon—the Royals’ best hitter—facing the suddenly untouchable Madison Bumgarner with a ring on the line. Nate Silver, immediately after the play ended, tweeted the following:

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It's that time of year: St. Louis in the postseason, its fans in the spotlight, the rest of the country unhappy. We let a Cardinals fan defend the Best Fans In Baseball.

Brian Gunn grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and for years ran a Cardinals’ fan blog called Redbird Nation. A former guest contributor to sites like The Hardball Times and Baseball Analysts, he now works as a screenwriter in Los Angeles. We around here like him a lot, and we like his writing a lot, which is why we are letting him do the one thing the Internet generally does not abide: Stick up for Cardinals fans.

***

When I was growing up in St. Louis I’d sometimes be hanging out with my grandma, and the city of Dallas would come up in passing. Like we’d hear someone mention the Dallas Cowboys, or J.R. Ewing would be on TV, or we’d see some news clip about something that happened in Dallas. And every time my grandma would seethe with anger and mutter through her teeth: “Ooo, I hate Dallas!”

If you asked her why, she’d reply, matter-of-factly, “’Cause they killed Kennedy.”

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Aaron Judge has long arms. Hitters with long arms have swing-and-miss issues. Do two sentences make a destiny?

Few things scare scouts off a hitter more than high strikeout totals. We’re trained to look past the numbers and to see just the player, rather than be swayed by, for example, gaudy numbers in an extreme hitting environment or against inferior competition—or the reverse. But high strikeout totals are one number that can set off scouts’ alarms. Even the most successful minor-league hitters can, and usually will, struggle when they get to the majors if they have extreme swing-and-miss issues. As George Springer showed this year, a hitter with extreme strikeout tendencies can still be productive; that production might just come with a painfully low batting average.

A few weeks ago, I talked about how predetermined biases about a player can affect the evaluation process, especially with prospects for whom expectations play a large part. In the case of Yankees outfield prospect Aaron Judge, however, even if we can strip away all of the background information, forget about his success in college and forget that he was selected in the Yankees in the first round, we can’t ignore that he is a tremendously large human being. I mean, he’s just massive.

We know certain things that are generally pretty true about tall hitters. They typically hit for more power than their shorter counterparts, and at the same time, they generally swing and miss more. Part of that is due to the aforementioned propensity for power (as powerful swings tend to bring whiffs), but part is due to physics. Taller hitters have longer arms, and long arms make for long swings. The longer a swing, the more holes in it.

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What makes a moment slow-motionable? What makes a moment made for soft focus and sepia? What will make you cry this month? It's complicated.

Throughout the playoffs, sportswritin' fella Miles Wray will be writing for us about the production of postseason baseball. What Miles takes that vague phrase to mean will be as much of a surprise to me as it will be to you. Here’s his first piece.

Allow me to propose a new term for the baseball lexicon: Octoberness. Noun. Used in a sentence: “Derek Jeter joyously dogpiling with Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Bernie Williams sure is peak Octoberness.

Octoberness, along with all of playoff baseball, is something just slightly separate from regular baseball; not necessarily better or worse so much as easier to recall, easier to retell, easier to manipulate. Regular baseball is feeling your arms sunburn as the losing manager slowly strolls out to pull another reliever in an 8-2 game. Octoberness is David Ortiz launching a ball over the Monstah at midnight, his breath misting in the air as he rounds the bases. Regular baseball is Aramis Ramirez. Octoberness is David Freese.

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What are we talking about when we talk about disappointment?

"(A box score) doesn't tell how big you are, what church you attend, what color you are, or how your father voted in the last election. It just tells what kind of baseball player you were on that particular day."Branch Rickey

If only it were still that simple. Back when Rickey was making personnel decisions for major-league organizations, and those last three traits were actually factors in how people were judged, it was a lot easier to evaluate a ballplayer without knowing too much about him. But with phones and tablets now as essential to the scouting toolbox as a stopwatch, with three different prospect rankings appearing on players’ Baseball-Reference pages, with signing bonuses public (and publicy debated), with the conversation about some players’ draft stock now rivaling the lifespan and intrigue of a presidential primary, that’s no longer the case.

Colin Moran is not a bad baseball player. The University of North Carolina doesn’t recruit bad baseball players. Bad baseball players don’t get popped sixth overall in the major-league draft. And bad baseball players don’t hit .296 between High- and Double-A, as Moran did in 2014, his first full year among the professional ranks.

Yet to hear many evaluators talk—to hear me at certain points during this season—you might think Moran is just terrible. Throughout a season of sitting behind home plate, I saw no player inspire more head shakes, shoulder shrugs and eye rolling than Moran. "How was this guy the sixth-best amateur player in the country last year,” I heard from more than one scout. I wasn't terribly kind in my initial write-up of Moran, saying "I came away feeling very underwhelmed with the player."

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Many a day has passed, the night has gone by, but still I find the time to put that bump off in your eye.

Sam Miller: So with Jason Parks gone, we thought it was appropriate that the staff assess his tenure here and make sure that his future employers know what they're getting: A guy who will write the occasional scouting report in the voice of Bud Cort's character in Electric Dreams; a guy who will push to sign every cast member from the Venezuelan remake of The Outsiders based solely on the way they wrap cigarette boxes in their t-shirt sleeves; and so on.

So, everybody: Now's the time to pile on. Consider this something like a roast. Profanity follows.

Joe Hamrahi: Everything is fair game here folks!

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February 28, 2003 4:37 pm

Prospectus Feature: The Downfall of Denny McLain

0

Mark Armour

It was classic McLain: charming, cocky, arrogant, reckless. A rebel or a punk, take your pick, and your choice likely depended on your age and your politics. Just 24 years old, McLain had played by his own rules his whole life, and as the first 30-game winner in baseball in 34 years, he could get away with just about anything.

On September 19, 1968 at Tiger Stadium, Detroit right-hander Denny McLain was cruising along in the top of the eighth with a 6-1 lead over the New York Yankees. He had won his 30th game five days earlier, and the Tigers had already clinched the American League pennant. When Yankee first baseman Mickey Mantle came to bat with one out and nobody on, McLain let Mantle know that he would give him whatever pitch Mickey wanted. Mantle signaled for a fastball letter high, McLain delivered it, and Mantle hit it into the right field seats for his 535th career home run. Although McLain was coy after the game in the locker room, everyone knew what had happened.

It was classic McLain: charming, cocky, arrogant, reckless. A rebel or a punk, take your pick, and your choice likely depended on your age and your politics. Just 24 years old, McLain had played by his own rules his whole life, and as the first 30-game winner in baseball in 34 years, he could get away with just about anything. He knew it. He had a prickly relationship with his teammates, managers, and the fans, all of whom he was apt to criticize in the press. Bill Freehan, his catcher, once wrote, "The rules for Denny just don't seem to be the same as for the rest of us."

On the mound, he was a gunfighter. He pulled his hat brim down so low that he had to cock his head upwards to see the signs from his catcher. He worked fast and without deception. He used fastballs and hard sliders for the most part, challenging the hitter with every pitch. If a batter hit the ball hard, the next time up McLain would give him the same pitch in the same location.

Off the field, McLain's life was equally carefree and, it would turn out, even more reckless. His idol was Frank Sinatra, not so much for his singing voice but because he exuded wealth and power. He was an accomplished organist--he played the Ed Sullivan Show, headlined gigs in Las Vegas, cut a few records. He flew his own airplane.

In 1969 McLain and Pete Rose co-authored an instructional booklet called "How to Play Better Baseball." The project likely did not require that Rose and McLain get together to work on the book, which is unfortunate. If they had, they would have discovered that they had a lot in common.

McLain won the Cy Young Award, MVP, and the World Series in 1968, and won the Cy Young again in 1969 when he won 24 games. He made $100,000 from the Tigers, and at least that much off the field. He seemed to be living the dream life. And suddenly, he wasn't.

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February 28, 2003 4:31 pm

Prospectus Feature: The Eddie Award

0

Jeff Bower

The phrase "a walk is as good as a hit" has echoed through our noggins since Little League. Though not exactly true, the ability to reach base without putting the ball in play is a valuable offensive weapon; advances in sabermetrics have enabled us to quantify the value of a walk and hit-by-pitch quite precisely.

As a guy who regularly leads his slow pitch softball team in walks, I have an appreciation for players who find ways to take a leisurely stroll to first base. Ron Hunt's maddening ability to get some part of his body in front of a pitched ball, Dale Berra's knack for having his bat tick the catcher's leather, Lance Blankenship coaxing four wide ones while hovering around the Mendoza Line--all are uncanny talents.

This study is designed to identify hitters that had the greatest percentage of their offensive game as a result of walks and hit-by-pitches. This is very different than leading the league in the counting or rate statistics attached to those categories. Ted Williams led the American League in bases-on-balls eight different times, but was such a force at the plate that he still would have been an outstanding offensive player had he walked half as often. The idea is to recognize players who made the slow walk up the first baseline an art form, who were and are somehow able to finagle pitches outside the strike zone despite being less than imposing figures with a bat in their hands.

After monkeying around with various combinations of on-base percentage, batting average and slugging percentage, I tossed them aside and settled on the following formula, calling the result the "Walking Man Quotient" (WMQ):

WMQ = 1.5*(BB+HBP) / (H+TB+1.5*(BB+HBP)+SB)

The denominator is part of the basic formula that Clay Davenport uses to calculate Equivalent Average (EqA). Dividing it into the walk and hit-by-pitch components approximates those components as a percentage of the hitter's total offensive output. Patient sluggers like Williams and Mickey Mantle will occasionally have a high WMQ in years when their numbers are down, but the players with the best ratios will neither hit for average nor power while still collecting scads of walks and hit-by-pitches.

With that background, here are the Top 20 single-season WMQs of all-time (post-1900, minimum 400 plate appearances):

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