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06-10

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10

Prospectus Feature: DRA: Improved, Minused, and Demonstrated
by
Jonathan Judge, Robert Arthur, Harry Pavlidis, Dan Turkenkopf and Gregory J. Matthews

05-18

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4

Prospectus Feature: Assessing Barry Bonds' Collusion Case
by
Eugene Freedman

04-29

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76

Prospectus Feature: Introducing Deserved Run Average (DRA)—And All Its Friends
by
Jonathan Judge, Harry Pavlidis and Dan Turkenkopf

04-29

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16

Prospectus Feature: DRA: An In-Depth Discussion
by
Jonathan Judge and BP Stats Team

04-23

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12

Prospectus Feature: The Left-Handed Pitcher's Guide To Jon Lester's Pickoffs
by
Colin Young

04-14

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35

Prospectus Feature: How To Design A Modern Box Score
by
Jesse Krailler

04-13

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9

Prospectus Feature: HACKING MASS 2015!
by
Rob McQuown

03-31

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9

Prospectus Feature: All Spin Is Not Alike
by
Alan M. Nathan

03-27

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4

Prospectus Feature: How the Astros do Spring Training
by
Howard Megdal

03-13

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13

Prospectus Feature: Scouting With Plate Discipline
by
Jeff Moore and Andrew Koo

02-27

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9

Prospectus Feature: A.J. Preller's Offseason and the Toronto Precedent
by
Steven Jacobson

02-17

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7

Prospectus Feature: Hacking Mass Wrap
by
Wilson Karaman

02-13

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2

Prospectus Feature: The Golden Age of Immaculate Innings
by
Ian Frazer

02-12

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2

Prospectus Feature: The Genius Of Arbitration
by
Eugene Freedman

01-29

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41

Prospectus Feature: The PECOTA Release
by
Mike Gianella and Rob McQuown

01-21

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5

Prospectus Feature: Quantifying the Wobbly Chair
by
Andrew Hopen

01-13

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14

Prospectus Feature: The 2014 All Out-of-Position Team
by
Andrew Mearns

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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0

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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0

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

02-06

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0

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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0

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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0

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

01-17

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0

Prospectus Feature: Baseball Prospectus Radio
by
Will Carroll

01-14

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0

Prospectus Feature: The 1987 Free Agent Market
by
Nate Silver

01-14

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0

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

12-12

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0

Prospectus Feature: Freely Available Talent
by
Dayn Perry

12-09

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0

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

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You asked about DRA; we've got answers.

About six weeks ago, we introduced you to Deserved Run Average (DRA),1 our new metric for evaluating past pitcher performance at Baseball Prospectus. We gave you both the overview of why a new pitcher performance metric was needed and explained in detail how the metric worked and the equations we were using to get there. We even subjected one of the authors to intense questioning.

After considering the comments we received and a few additional thoughts of our own, we've made some minor revisions. Many readers also asked us for a "DRA minus" statistic that would allow them compare different pitcher seasons across different years and eras. We've done that too.

Finally, other readers asked that we break down some examples of DRA value calculations so that even if you can't (or don't want to) do the modeling yourself, you at least understand why DRA acts in the way it does, and why it does a better job than ERA and FIP in evaluating pitcher quality. We'll take these topics in order.

A Refresher
Before we begin, let's provide a brief reminder of what DRA is and how it works.

DRA is premised on the notion that while a pitcher is probably the player most responsible, on average, for what happens while he is on the mound, he is not responsible for everything. DRA therefore only assigns the runs a pitcher most likely deserved to be charged with.

DRA works through a multi-step process.


Read the full article...

In the late 1980s, the MLBPA prevailed in a collusion grievance. Does Barry Bonds have the same evidence on his side?

In 1986 Tim Raines led the National League in batting average and on-base percentage and had 5.6 WARP. He received no free agent offers the following off-season except from his former employer, the Montreal Expos. Eventually Raines re-signed with the Expos, missing all of April but still leading the National League in runs scored in 1987.

In 2007 Barry Bonds led the National League in on-base percentage and walks and had 4.1 WARP. He received no free agent offers the following offseason and never played another game in Major League Baseball.

Raines was one of the prominent players affected by collusion during the mid-‘80s. Last week it was reported that the Major League Baseball Players’ Association was processing a grievance on behalf of Bonds, alleging that the Clubs had colluded against him. To understand the strength of Bonds’ case, it helps to understand what made the case of Raines and the rest of the players who prevailed in the 1980s so strong.

Read the full article...

Baseball Prospectus is excited to announce what we believe to be the best measure of pitching ever, as well as advances in measuring pitchers' effectiveness stifling basestealers and avoiding errant pitches.

Baseball Prospectus' Director of Technology Harry Pavlidis will be chatting with readers Thursday at 1 p.m. ET. If you have any questions after reading this overview of Deserved Run Average, ask them here.

Introduction
Earned Run Average. Commonly abbreviated as ERA, it is the benchmark by which pitchers have been judged for a century. How many runs did the pitcher give up, on average, every nine innings that he pitched? If he gave up a bunch of runs, he was probably terrible; if he gave up very few runs, we assume he’s pretty good.

But ERA has a problem: it essentially blames (or credits) the pitcher for everything, simply because he threw the pitch that started the play. Sometimes, that is fair. If a pitcher throws a wild pitch, he can’t blame the right fielder for that. And if a pitcher grooves one down the middle of the plate, chances are that’s on him too. Not too many catchers request those.

However, most plays in baseball don’t involve wild pitches or gopher balls. Moreover, things often happen that are not the pitcher’s fault at all. Sometimes the pitcher throws strikes the umpire incorrectly calls balls. Other times they induce grounders their infielders aren’t adept enough to grab. And still other times, a routine fly ball leaves the park on a hot night at a batter-friendly stadium.

ERA doesn’t account for any of that. It just tells us, in summary fashion, how many runs were “charged” to the pitcher “of record.” And so, a starting pitcher who departs with a runner on first gets charged with that run even if the reliever walks the next three batters. The same starter would get charged if the reliever makes a good pitch, but the shortstop can’t turn a double play. And none of these runs count at all if they are “unearned”— an exclusion by which the home team’s scorer decides whether a fielder demonstrated “ordinary effort.”

The list of problems goes on. Pitchers who load the bases but escape are treated the same as pitchers who strike out the side. Pitchers with great catchers get borderline calls. Guys who can’t catch a break for months show immense “improvement.” Guys who are average one year wash out the next. ERA, in short, can be a bit of a mess, particularly when we have only a few months of data to consider.


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A further explanation of the reasons Deserved Run Average is designed as it is and works as it does.

This is the #GoryMath portion of the DRA rollout. If you proceed, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

A. Introduction
One of the hardest parts of any statistical investigation is defining what question it is you are trying to answer.

This is particularly important when it comes to pitcher performance metrics. What is it, exactly, that you want to know? For example:

(1) Do you care primarily about a pitcher’s past performance?

(2) Are you more worried about how many runs the pitcher will allow going forward?

(3) Or do you want to know how truly talented the pitcher is, divorced from his results this year or next?


Read the full article...

What goes through a lefty's mind when he's staring at a baserunner.

Colin Young was a left-handed pitcher who spent six seasons in the minors with the Rockies and the Red Sox, reaching Double-A with both organizations. He also, as of this season, covers the Texas League for Baseball Prospectus. Here's what he sees when he watches Jon Lester struggle with his pickoff throws.

Scrutiny is alive and well. In the days of death by analysis, we get obsessed with the subtle character flaws and moments of weakness in our superstars. We grasp at anything within our reach to knock them down a peg. So it is that we get the recent intrigue over Jon Lester’s bungled pick-off throw. Cries of the “Yips” or “Mental Block” follow, and suddenly we imagine that Lester has the mental strength of a tired 6-year-old at the end of a 10-hour excursion through Disneyland. But Lester, historically, has been as mentally tough as it comes. The dude has straight ice water in his veins. If you’re looking for someone to pitch Game 7 of the World Series, to make a 3-2 pitch with bases loaded and the game on the line, and yes, even attempt a crucial pick-off throw, I’ll take Jon Lester 10 out of 10 times.

But, numbers don’t lie, and the numbers here—the year-plus without an attempt, the 50 percent error rate on two tries this year—are astounding to say the least. Visually, we can see discomfort when he throws over to first, and quantifiably, the attempts are basically nil. These two components reasonably lead me to believe that there is something going on mentally with him.

We’ve seen plenty of guys unable to field their position as a pitcher, making errant throws to a base, overthrowing/underthrowing pickoffs, or tossing lollipops to the catcher on pitch outs or wild pitches on intentional balls. Lester’s has been magnified into a “What’s wrong with him” conversation, but his quote in the Chicago Tribune following his throwing error last week sheds some light on the situation: “When you’re not used to doing stuff like that, I got a little overexcited and threw the ball too soon.” Pickoffs are worked on during spring training and maybe a couple times a month in season, and pitchers may only get a few reps a few times a week practicing this move. I have yet to see a pitcher dedicate any great amount of time to perfecting his pickoff move following morning workouts or an intense bullpen session. In baseball talk, quality reps are what make you better; however, pickoff moves are not high on the to-do list. So one explanation is that Lester has simply fallen out of practice, it affected his ability to perform a deceptively complex move, and the lack of rehearsals snowballed. Another is that he’s just saying the right things to cover up a more severe underlying issue.

THE MENTAL GAME
For a left-hander, the pickoff move—and other means of holding the runner on—can be almost part of your repertoire. Lester, like many pitchers, appears to prefer to focus on the hitter and make a quality pitch with runners on base. There’s a case to be made for this.

Pitchers talk about focus, conviction, and execution when it comes to pitch selection and attacking a hitter. It requires a laser-like mindset dedicated to executing the pitch; Kevin Costner’s character in For the Love of the Game captures it when he tells himself to “clear the mechanism.” When runners are on base, a pitcher’s focus becomes divided and his attention is split between the runner and the hitter, detracting from his focus on attacking the hitter. Now we have two variables at play: slowing the running game and getting the hitter out.


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How do you fit an entire baseball game in a small rectangle?

Jesse Krailler runs Modern Box Score, which is experimenting with a new way of visualizing everything that happened in a baseball game. We're big fans of it, so we asked him to take us through the designs he discarded and the decisions he made.

Data visualization is hot right now. Very hot. DataVis, as the cool kids call it, is so hot that there seems to be a conference on the subject in a major city once I week. I am in an airport, returning from one such conference. That fact is only relevant to this story, because this week’s conference was the second I’ve had the pleasure of attending in person, and the first is where this whole thing got started.

In the fall of 2013, I attended a large Data Visualization conference that had a small afternoon session on sports visualizations. Most of the presenters were discussing work they had done with sports primarily popular in Europe – namely soccer and rugby. The only U.S.-based presenters had done their work in either basketball or football. With baseball having, by far, the most publicly available historic data, I was surprised that it didn’t even make an appearance in this session.

One of the presentations I watched that day was an attempt to illustrate the individual performance of soccer players over the course of a game. The developers were using a series of glyphs representing players to show things like time of possession, shots and fouls. There's little variety to events that happen in a soccer match, so the amount of information to glean from the visualization wasn’t huge.

I got back to my room that night with these presentations stuck in my head. Baseball, I thought, is desperately lacking for interesting visualizations. I’m willing to bet that 95 percent of baseball analytics articles contain, at most, heat maps and/or scatter plots. Most of them are just text and tables. While these articles contain great analysis and insights, many don’t keep my attention. I like pictures. Pretty ones, at that.

Between major-league games (almost all in my city of residence, Cincinnati) and minor league games within driving distance, I usually get to watch 5-15 games live each season. Contrary to my anti-hoarding approach to life, I have a file drawer full of scorecards from games that I’ve attended. What I like about these scorecards, and the reason I save them, is that they give me enough information to recreate the game in my head. When I become senile, my only earthly possessions will be these scorecards, and I will play these games over and over in my mind’s eye. I’ll pretend that I remember being there, but I can’t possibly, and it won’t matter because I have all the information I need to keep that illusion alive.

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Huckabay's Annual Call to Keep Immobility Next to Godliness: Maximus Aggregatus Stiffisimus Sensire (HACKING MASS) is now live for 2015, with the deadline to enter impending.

Stop the presses! Last minute upgrade! We have a new prize to announce for the winner! Deadline is Tuesday, April 13, 2015, at noon Pacific.

Read the full article...

Separating the useful spin from the rest.

Alan M. Nathan
University of Illinois

Ever since the early days of PITCHf/x, we have had unprecedented information about the movement of pitches. We now have a precise quantitative measure of how much and in what direction a pitch moves—i.e., deviates from a straight-line path. The movement is the result of the combined forces of gravity pulling the ball downward and the so-called Magnus force on a spinning baseball. It has become conventional to remove the effect of gravity, which is easily calculable, so that the resulting movement—pfx_x and pfx_z in PITCHf/x lingo—is due only to the Magnus force. I will utilize that convention in this article. It seems sort of reasonable that there ought to be some simple relationship between the movement to the spin rate. For example, if a pitch is spinning at a higher rate, the expectation is that there will be more movement. But is that expectation correct? In fact, it is not correct because, as the title of this article suggests, all spin is not alike. And that is the issue I want to discuss here.

So why is it that all spin is not alike? The reason has to do with the vector nature of the spin: It has a magnitude and a direction. The magnitude is pretty simple, since it is just the number of revolutions per minute, or rpm. Let’s talk about the direction. The easiest way to determine the direction of the spin is to use a right-hand rule: Wrap the fingers of your right hand around the ball so that they point in the direction that the ball is turning. Your thumb will then point in the direction of the spin axis.

Here are some examples. A straight overhand fastball has pure backspin and the spin axis points to the pitcher’s right. An overhand “12-6” curveball has pure topspin and the spin axis points to the pitcher’s left. A ball thrown with pure sidespin has its spin axis pointing up or down. In all these examples, the spin axis is perpendicular to the direction of motion. On the other hand, a gyroball is a pitch thrown with the spin axis perfectly aligned along the direction of motion, much like a spiral pass in football. Indeed, it is often called “bullet spin”, since that is how a bullet will spin when shot from a rifle. All of these pitches are special cases, since in general the spin axis could be pointing in any direction whatsoever.


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How a process team handles six weeks that many analysts consider worthless.

Roaming cyborgs menace outfielders shagging fly balls. Infielders need to stop after every groundball and log it at a nearby computer. When player performance drops below a certain proprietary algorithm, a trap door opens below that player on the Osceola County Stadium field, and that one-time Astro is never heard from again.

I can confirm that this is not how spring training works for the Houston Astros.

Still, spring training is a notorious breeding ground for poor decisions made on incomplete, inaccurate or just plain useless data—the sort of bad-sample trap that should drive a Process team nuts. This isn't some progressive Astros conclusion, but a generally understood reality within the sport. I heard Mets manager Terry Collins make an umprompted argument against spring performance as a decision-driver last week, and few people have pegged Collins as some kind of hyper-sabermetric strategist. And yet: no one has moved to abolish spring training. So what does a team like the Astros, whose front office is quite aware of the limitations of spring numbers, use that time for?

For a bit of evaluation—the Astros do utilize spring performance as data, though carefully, and tacked on to what the team already knows about a player. As a significant teaching period that allows the Astros to codify coaching approach throughout the organization. And as a large dose of emotional and psychological interaction that the Astros believe will have a dramatic if still unquantifiable impact on the season.

“When we show up here, it's the one time when we have 200 players in the same place, we have 60 coaches in the same place,” Astros assistant general manager David Stearns told me as we sat in his office, a few minutes before the March 20th game between the Astros and Nationals. “It's a tremendously important time for player development. So put the evaluation aspect to the side for a moment, you think about the coach-to-player ratio during spring training, and it's about as good as it can possibly get at any time of the year. And so the amount of individual attention and specified instruction that can go on between our players and our coaches is better this time of year than anything else. For me, as I look at this for the organization as a whole, that's what gets me really excited about spring training.”

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Understanding the relationship between plate discipline in the minors and future big-league success.

Not long ago, in the empty hours that fill scouts’ time between batting practice and the first pitch, I was speaking with (read: listening intently to) to an experienced scouting director. The topic of plate discipline came up. As anyone who closely follows the BP prospect team has figured out, I fall at the “extremely important” end of the spectrum when it comes to using plate discipline to evaluate prospects and predict their future success. Because of that, it didn’t take much prodding to get me to rave about a prospect I had recently seen from this scouting director’s system. The prospect, along with many strong skills, had a fantastic eye.

The scouting director’s response surprised me. He informed me his organization values plate discipline extremely highly, to the point of actually considering it a sixth tool (something we’ve seen the old-school camp dismiss in the past). I love the concept, but was stupefied because the organization in question is not one we typically think of as sabermetrically friendly. I assumed I was at a more extreme end of the spectrum on this topic, but here my views were accepted with arms open wider than I had anticipated.

Plate discipline, of course, is not a new concept in scouting. The way we view player value has brought about the current on-base renaissance within the big-league game, and that has had a trickle-down effect into the scouting world. With a better understanding of the value of on-base ability, we have changed how we evaluate prospects in some regards, at times excusing larger holes in a hit tool, for example, so long as it comes with strong on-base skills. The ability to avoid outs with better plate discipline can make up for some flaws in one’s ability to hit his way on base.

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Is it really possible to build a great team in one winter?

By the end of the 2012 season, the Blue Jays had secured their place in baseball as the definition of middling. After their 1992-1993 heyday—the culmination of 11 straight seasons of 86 wins or more—the Jays ripped off a string of seasons that would make a centrist very happy: Only twice in the next 19 years did Toronto finish in last place in the American League East, but just once did they manage to finish within 10 games of the division winner.

Once the Rays found respectability, Toronto dropped from its usual third place, finishing in fourth each year from 2008 to 2012. This was despite a respectable 400-410 record over that span, with three seasons at or above .500.

The time had come for the Blue Jays to do something big. “I’m not going to live through what we went through this season again,” general manager Alex Anthopolous told employees in October 2012, according to Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun.

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Revisiting the worst performers of 2014 and talking to the year's grand MASSter.

Sure, yes, the Royals returned to the World Series last year for the first time since 1985, and yes that was a big deal and all. But there was an even more important storyline of lost glory restored in 2014: HACKING MASS came back, baby! Our annual test of wills—specifically the will to identify the least-talented major-league players with the best chance of somehow, someway remaining in their teams’ starting lineup all year—returned from several years of hiatus.

For the uninitiated, our cherished rulebook is here for your reading pleasure.

Last year’s contest featured 819 players who averaged 181.2 total accumulated ESPN (that’s Exuded Stiff Points, Net). Our champions, the fightin’ Pianosa Bombardiers, paced the contest with 487 ESPN.

So without further ado, let’s begin! Ladies and gentlemen, your 2014 HACKING MASS All-Stars:

All Star Team

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