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Bonus points for the comprehensive range of your survey, appraising not only the 1987 Topps set, but also the 1987 Topps Traded set.
David Foster Wallace described the Canseco pose as "the defecatory posture of all athletes at rest." I think of this line whenever the camera's on <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=18209">Mike Scioscia</a></span>, who has perfected the look.
Over at The Ringer, <a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/author/ben_lindbergh">Ben Lindbergh</a> and Mitchel Lichtman published a piece today that addresses this question. The answer is yes: pitch speed affects batted ball distance, although not by much. The bigger finding was that today's baseballs appear, under analysis, to be "juiced" and that this has a larger effect than pitcher velocity on batted ball distance.
There's been a lot of discussion about the hitter side of the home run equation. Changed approaches, reduced strikeout stigma, et cetera.
I've been wondering about the pitching side of the equation. We've seen starters' share of the game diminish and league-wide movement toward the bullpen construction of 7th-inning guy, 8th-inning guy, and closer. But there isn't an unlimited supply of shutdown relievers. When the starter only goes five or six innings and it's not clear yet that the high-leverage guys should be brought in, the less dominant relievers come in to eat innings and the fans settle in for a long night. That's how it seems to go, anyway.
I'm wondering if the numbers bear this out. I'd theorize that, if they did, we'd see a larger number of low-scoring games than in years past, a larger number of high-scoring games, and fewer games near the median. If each team has a dominant starter or two and three or four dominant relievers, you might expect to see those guys be involved in a lot of 3-2 ballgames (or 14-3 ballgames), while the weaker pitchers are involved in more games where it's like 9-6 (or 14-3).
Wow, <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=109165">Brendan McKay</a></span>. An <span class="statdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/glossary/index.php?search=OFP" onmouseover="doTooltip(event, jpfl_getStat('OFP'))" onmouseout="hideTip()">OFP</span></a> of 70 as either a pitcher or a hitter? Wow.
So, he's got a realistic role 60 designation as a pitcher, or a realistic role 55 as a right fielder. You're advising the GM. Do you recommend that the team make him a hitter or a pitcher?
I support frivolity on BP and I vote.
I also agree that BP is plenty awesome on the serious stuff.
What does a Scooter have to do to get a plug from a fellow Scooter?
<span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=107554">Corbin Burnes</a></span> must be the oldest guy in double-A, considering that Corbin Burnes' son was in "Major League."
I appreciate this article -- so much rich detail! It's worth noting that Buxton will remain 23 for the duration of this season. He could be in a completely different cohort of comparables by the time 2017 draws to a close.
Welcome, Parker! I'm glad to see you here. And I always enjoy BP's mechanics analysis articles.
It seems that if an activity is complex enough and provides a sufficiently rich experience, it will endure.
What are your thoughts on <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=67355">Hector Neris</a></span>? His name is only slightly less cool than Barraclough's and he seems to have a similar profile (i.e., a solid chance to assume the closer's role and a good bet to provide strong ratios and K's regardless).
I realize you have to stop with the one-star relievers at some point. It seems like high-K setup men grow on trees these days.
Jesus Quintana was last seen bowling with <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=56426">Liam Hendriks</a></span>.
Would you consider adding <span class="statdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/glossary/index.php?search=DRA" onmouseover="doTooltip(event, jpfl_getStat('DRA'))" onmouseout="hideTip()">DRA</span></a> to these rankings? It's nice to have a number on one's cheat sheet that allows for a regression check.
Thank you for these lists. I always find them helpful.
Do you think there's a way to win in a competitive league with nothing but three-star-and-below outfielders? I look at the three-star group and see a whole bunch of production. Am I crazy to think that it's a good strategy to grab top-shelf infielders while they're available, then backfill in OF? (I keep trying this, although it hasn't gotten me a championship in quite a while!)
Thank you, Mike! I like it when BP's rankings challenge my assumptions. Getting my questions answered is icing on the cake.
It seems you're down on <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/player_search.php?search_name=Miguel+Sano">Miguel Sano</a></span>. Everyone knows he's got the potential to bust your batting average, but is he such a slouch there that he deserves to be ranked in a different tier than <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=68156">Maikel Franco</a></span> and <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=99963">Jake Lamb</a></span>? I mean, 25 home runs in 495 plate appearances, and no one thinks it's a fluke.
I'm trying to write a witty limerick. What rhymes with "Chass"?
Thank you for a great introduction to the series! Looking forward to each installment.
<span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/player_search.php?search_name=Yusmeiro+Petit">Yusmeiro Petit</a></span> wasn't good this year, but last night I wondered if the Nats made a mistake leaving him off the NLDS roster.
I think with the playoffs, you can not only be a kid again -- you can even be a kid for the first time. My wife grew up in a family that didn't care much for sports. She got to be a casual fan of the game by watching with me. But then at the playoffs, something happened. We caught game 5 of the 2012 NLDS at Nationals Park -- Nats and Cardinals fans know the one. It was magic, it was euphoria, and then ... crushing loss. My easygoing wife, who remains fairly indifferent to sports, still bristles when the Cardinals are mentioned.
I renew my BP subscription for beautiful writing just as much as for cutting-edge analysis. BP has provided a lot of both over the years. This is one of the most beautiful pieces I've read at BP. Thank you, Meg.
This strikes me as good general life advice, and you strike me as a wise soul. I've enjoyed and learned from your work here at BP. Thank you and enjoy whatever comes next!
This is great!
Thank you, Sam, for your great work at BP over the years. I'll miss seeing your articles here but will look for them at ESPN. I hope "Effectively Wild" will continue forever.
As a Twins fan, I've been reading <a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/author/aaron_gleeman">Aaron Gleeman</a>'s work for years, too. He writes beautifully and has stood out as an unflinching critical thinker in a baseball community that lacked such writers for far too long. He's a good addition to BP. Congratulations, Aaron.
My favorite <a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/author/sam_miller">Sam Miller</a> article. Thank you for the reprise.
In the Puckett video, he fields the ball in front of the Metrodome center field fence -- you can tell by the "408 FT." in the background. Everything else takes place in the Coliseum. It looks like they got <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=17826">Kirby Puckett</a></span> (and possibly <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/player_search.php?search_name=Brian+Harper">Brian Harper</a></span>) to show up for an actual video shoot in Minnesota, but had to settle for a simulated Rickey.
Psst: It was Paul Tsongas. He was an important conservationist in addition to being a failed presidential candidate.
I enjoyed seeing <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=395">Bartolo Colon</a></span> in the right-hand column of the first table, just between <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/player_search.php?search_name=Vladimir+Guerrero">Vladimir Guerrero</a></span> and <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=271">Sammy Sosa</a></span>. Who would have picked him as the last man standing among that set of players?
I'd be interested in an article on this general subject. The idea that a guy has nothing left to prove in the minors seems to be the dominant one when we're talking about marquee prospects. Thus, teams like the Twins come in for a lot of criticism when they call up and send down players like Berrios or Buxton.
So, what explains the decision of Twins management to do the "yo-yo" thing anyway? Is it really pure ineptitude? I have to think that other factors are at play.
There's the obvious struggles of the players themselves, for one. Could it be that they're better off sorting things out in the minors, and have more confidence to lose in the majors than to gain just by "toughing it out"?
Then there are the other players fighting for a chance. A guy like Alex Wimmers is probably never going to be a mainstay on a championship team. But does the organization have an interest to see that guys like Wimmers be shown that they'll be given a fair shake if they put in their time? Is it too sentimental to say that motivating the "org guys" by showing that they have a legitimate chance at a call-up has to feature into management's thinking to some degree? These aren't impact players, but they're worth something, right? Maybe Wimmers won't be on the next Twins World Series team, but maybe he can do better for the Twins' major-league club than Berrios can at this moment. What's that worth to an organization, and what does his promotion signal to other members of the club?
Sam, I hope you'll write a piece soon to break the already-broken news. You of all people deserve a valedictory BP article with 143 comments expressing congratulations and happy-sadness.
I really enjoyed this. An hour or more per pitcher? I knew these guys spent a lot of time with video, but wow.
Also, I've got to try to work "gives me the ass" into my vocabulary.
I see the Stealers Wheel reference but not the Dylan ... either I'm showing off or showing my ignorance.
In his MLB career to this point, Buxton has a .207 <span class="statdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/glossary/index.php?search=TAv" onmouseover="doTooltip(event, jpfl_getStat('TAv'))" onmouseout="hideTip()">TAv</span></a> and still he has managed to produce a positive total in <span class="statdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/glossary/index.php?search=WARP" onmouseover="doTooltip(event, jpfl_getStat('WARP'))" onmouseout="hideTip()">WARP</span></a> (0.5). That's how good he has been in center field, and as a Twins fan his defense certainly passes the "eye test." The day before his demotion, that sixteen-inning game, Buxton put on the best defensive show I've seen in person. The range, the reads, the arm -- he has it all. When the hitting comes along, it's going to be fun.
People wondered about the decision to send down <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=67098">Eddie Rosario</a></span> and replace him with <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=57919">Robbie Grossman</a></span>. Maybe the Twins wanted Rosario to get a good look at Kepler and realize that they're in direct competition for the third outfield job in Minnesota. Rosario is good but, even with a team struggling like the Twins, he's not so good that he's guaranteed not to be the odd man out.
And I assume you mean "ad nauseam."
<span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/player_search.php?search_name=Miguel+Sano">Miguel Sano</a></span> aficionados, take note: he appeared in just 9 games as a 3B and 2 games as a 1B in 2015. Given the Twins' plans to mix and match at DH and 1B, their insistence that they will try Sano in the outfield, and their professed commitment to <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=46607">Trevor Plouffe</a></span> at third, it could be a while before Sano is eligible anywhere but UT in fantasy baseball.
I appreciate the positive spirit of this piece and the anecdotes about Hall of Fame attendance. Going to the Hall of Fame was a formative experience for me when I was a kid. It's just a pure joy. And even if you think the voting process has big problems, you should still go -- there's much more to the museum than the room with the guys with the plaques. In that sense, the Hall's membership is broad above the BBWAA's poor power to add or detract.
One thing I just have to get off my chest: If you're a voter who voted for someone last year, didn't vote for them this year, and didn't cast 10 votes ... I'm not going to say you're not taking it seriously, necessarily, but you've got some explaining to do.
There is also the consideration that due process often doesn't enter the equation when it comes to domestic violence. Women have many reasons not to take a case of domestic violence to a trial; they may not want to see a loved one jailed, regardless of the gravity of the offense, or they may not want to subject themselves to the difficulty and humiliation of a trial. In this context, it seems generally accepted that baseball and other sports have an obligation to set down rules for players' conduct off the field. Those rules can and should apply whether or not criminal charges are brought.
The way that .jpg is cut, the Fine American Gentleman appears to have the world's most luxuriant chest hair.
<span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=1476">LaTroy Hawkins</a></span> came up with the Twins during their most painful years, the years of relocation threats and contraction threats, not to mention very bad baseball. He arrived in the same bitter year that <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=17826">Kirby Puckett</a></span>'s career abruptly ended, when Puckett woke up one day unable to see out of one eye.
Hawkins blended in well with the badness. He saw a lot of action because the team was terrible, but his <span class="statdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/glossary/index.php?search=ERA" onmouseover="doTooltip(event, jpfl_getStat('ERA'))" onmouseout="hideTip()">ERA</span></a> never drifted below 5.00 in the old millenium. You would never have been surprised to see his career end at any given moment.
Even after he finally landed in the bullpen for good in 2000 and started to experience some success, you still wouldn't have been surprised to see his career end at any of several junctures. Like his age 32 season, in which he put up a 1.52 <span class="statdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/glossary/index.php?search=WHIP" onmouseover="doTooltip(event, jpfl_getStat('WHIP'))" onmouseout="hideTip()">WHIP</span></a>. Or his age 37 season, when his ERA hit 8.44 in 14 appearances. Who would have bet that he had five productive years left in the tank?
Honestly, having grown up watching him play for those terrible Twins teams, I never stopped being surprised when LaTroy Hawkins landed with another team. Once he got past age 35 or so, my surprise was mixed with ever-increasing respect. Maybe it's that I've been entering my "decline phase" years at roughly the same time he has.
Whatever the case may be, I've appreciated seeing the tributes come his way this year and this was a good one. Thanks, Brendan.
<span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/player_search.php?search_name=Jose+Bautista">Jose Bautista</a></span>'s bat flip seems pretty important in the context of the narrative on Dyson's anger.
Three words to make my day: "by <a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/author/sam_miller">Sam Miller</a>."
I've been wondering if <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=45568">Jonathan Papelbon</a></span> extracted an agreement from the Nationals, formal or informal, that he wouldn't be asked to do anything but close games in the "traditional" way. Papelbon had a veto of a trade to the Nationals, and his contract with the Phillies had an option that vested only if he closed a certain number of games. <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=83019">Mike Rizzo</a></span> guaranteed that option for 2016, with no strings attached that I've read about. But I wonder if there are strings that we don't know about, whether contractually or just in terms of an understanding between the team and Papelbon.
This isn't to say that <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/player_search.php?search_name=Matt+Williams">Matt Williams</a></span> wouldn't be inclined to use the bullpen the way he does even in the absence of such an agreement. But it has been remarkable to see him stretch the other relievers the way he has and use Papelbon so infrequently that I wonder if his hands are tied somehow.
This was hilarious.
<span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=78149">Terry Ryan</a></span> was reportedly in attendance at Berrios's start last night. His next start could be with the Twins.
I'm always proud when I understand the references in the introductory line. (Incidentally, that album is one of my favorites for a late-night fantasy draft.)
That article is great.
I've often wondered if bad procrastination problems indicate that you might have ADHD. Do they go hand in hand?
Wow, this is cool. It's a lot to take in -- makes me appreciate what scouts do.
As a fan of the Nats and Twins, I'd like to note that five years ago today, the Twins traded <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=49829">Wilson Ramos</a></span> for <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=45624">Matt Capps</a></span>.
Of course, it's not a terribly comparable deal. Pivetta hasn't been touted the way Ramos had been, Papelbon is far better than Capps, and the Nationals are in a stronger position than the 2010 Twins were. That said, both of these teams have fared poorly with the trade-for-mercenary-closer strategy in the recent past. It will be interesting to evaluate this trade in five years.
I just noticed that the Phillies' playoff odds are at 0.0 percent. Then I checked ... and they have been there since June 12.
The Brewers were also at 0.0 playoff odds for a while. Maybe the Phillies could improve their chances by trading for Hernan Perez.
Even in Minnesota, it's a rare treat to get a Sano day in July!
Give him a baronetcy: Lord Byron.
As if on cue, <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=101617">Stephen Gonsalves</a></span> just got promoted to High-A Fort Myers.
Why was the farmer's cell phone bill so big?
Because he hoes rows in different area codes.
<span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=31323">Brooks Conrad</a></span> ... wasn't he the ancient convict librarian in "The Shawshank Redemption"? I believe he was played by the pitchman for Miracle Gro.
So glad to see a prospect-focused podcast is back! Thank you.
Regarding <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=70917">Trea Turner</a></span>, does anybody know if baseball rules or the terms of the trade require the Padres' affiliate to give him playing time until the deal closes? Barring a rule or an agreement of some kind with the Nationals, it seems like the club would serve itself better by giving someone else the playing time.
Gsellman and Kieboom are 80-grade honkbal names.
And in his first at bat, he struck out on three pitches. Clearly he needs more seasoning in the minors.
Strikingly, the Twins have avoided arbitration altogether since "going there" with <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=1490">Kyle Lohse</a></span> in 2006. It seems to be a hallmark of their management strategy.
Are there other teams that avoid arbitration as a matter of course?
Beard is often the last tool to mature. There's still potential here.
Typo! That should be:
Hypothesis: The Grind wears down players on bad teams more than good teams, because winning is energizing and losing is demoralizing.
The results don't seem to bear out that hypothesis, given that the managers between Buck Showalter and Tito Francona on the 2014 leaderboard all presided over poor teams. But I'm wondering: Might those managers be even better than this index suggests? To keep morale high in a down year for a team -- or at least to attenuate the effects of morale-killing losses -- seems like a more noteworthy accomplishment than to attenuate the Grind on a playoff team.
Conversely, it can't be good to be low on this list when your team is performing well (I'm looking at you, Ned Yost and Mike Matheny).
Never-ending sadness drifts from one side of Chicago to the other. It's like the El Nino and La Nina of baseball.
Also ... you can't spell "minuscule" without "minus." It's one of the BP staff's favorite words and by far the most frequently misspelled:
Sorry! I just had to say something.
Jason is now a Cubs scout (not to be confused with a Cub Scout).
We hardly knew ye, Everth Cabrera.
This is really interesting stuff. Thank you!
A related question: I'm going into the second season of a dynasty league. Prices at the beginning of the auction were sky-high, with significant value in the middle of the draft (say, picks 50 - 150). The league's inflation factor is based on a player's performance over the past year, meaning that the best players of 2014 can be kept only at a premium (on top of the premium paid at auction for the premiere players). What do you think is the best strategy when deciding which players to keep? Should I pay the premium for my best players in an attempt to head off uncertainty and assure that I have some top talent? Should I keep only the bargain players, saving my auction dollars for whichever top guys get tossed back into the draft?
This was a really insightful piece on an intriguing player. As a guy about to enter his age-35 season, I have more than one reason to pull for a comeback by Aaron Hill.
The 30s are great, by the way. It becomes clear that you're entering the physical decline phase, but the benefits of experience more than make up for it in your average off-the-diamond life. In baseball terms, I have developed a more patient approach and am more able to make adjustments than I was in my 20s.
The way I see the game has changed, too. I have more respect and admiration for guys on both sides of the age spectrum -- for the extraordinary maturity and discipline of the guys in their teens and early 20s on the one hand, and for the ability of the oldsters to overcome their physical decline on the other hand.
Thank you! You're right, of course: Bradley is discussed in the article on Cleveland's top 10 prospects. For some reason his player card doesn't link back to that article yet, so my desultory/lazy search didn't turn up the other information. Appreciate your reply!
This appears to be the first time Bobby Bradley has been mentioned at Baseball Prospectus. The 1996 birthday and .369 TAv in rookie ball certainly catch the eye. Any other thoughts on him?
When I saw the headline "Dodgers Land Kendrick," I thought they had saved the Twins from themselves. Alas, wrong Kendrick.
I've been looking for someone who's bullish on Billy Hamilton. What I've been seeing, here at BP and elsewhere, is doubt that he can make the adjustments needed to hit better than he did in the second half of 2014. Any particular reason for optimism that he can adjust?
Josmil Pinto's own defense and Kennys Vargas's bat are two other things standing (or squatting) in Pinto's way. Ron Gardenhire praised his defense as improved during his September call-up and said he worked hard at it. I'd be interested in a second opinion from BP if anyone has thoughts on Pinto's work behind the plate.
Thank you for writing this, Sahadev. Last night I was surprised at my emotion as I thought about Taveras's lightning swing and unguarded great smile. Today I find myself thinking about the other people I've known who have died in car accidents, all of them way too young. Please drive carefully, everyone.
Am I correct to think that the butterflies come with enhanced powers of perception? Can one see and hear more acutely in a fight-or-flight state? If so, the potential benefits for a baseball player are obvious and might offset some of the negative effects of the compromised fine motor ability. I have found it helpful when I play violin to think positively about the butterflies: shakes or not, that nervous energy gives me an extra boost at performance time that I can't get when I'm practicing. I hope there's something more to that line of positive thinking than self-deception.
Maybe Chapman's fastball should be considered hors concours, just to keep things interesting.
I'm going to try this stuff out. Thanks, Ryan!
Matt Williams also cited Buster Posey's previous at bat, in which he lined out and seemed to have Zimmermann timed, as justification for the move.
In the moment, I wanted Williams to leave Zimmermann in the game. But who knows? In a parallel universe, a BP author may have posted a column invoking the times-through-the-order penalty and wondering about Williams' slow hook.
Good use of "blockbuster offseason deal."
I did it: I cast the first place vote for Ron Gardenhire, in a paroxysm of Twins-fan sentimentality. The Twins needed a new manager and I'm glad they made the move they made. But I felt like making a gesture of appreciation to the man for 13 years of service. If anyone's appalled, sorry. I promise I put actual thought and care into my votes in the non-manager categories.
Enjoying these IBA updates!
(Sheepishly hoping no one saw this comment. I spoke too soon!)
What would John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, have to say? His invention hinged on the history-changing insight that bread can serve as a vehicle for meats and/or other ingredients that would otherwise be unseemly to consume without the use of fork and knife. For Montagu, form followed function: he wanted to eat without fussing over dishes. Would this man have shunned the first sandwich had his cook presented him with a frankfurter in a half-cleaved baguette? He would not. The 4th Earl of Sandwich was nothing if not a practical man. He did not stand on ceremony, nor did he let the conventions of his epoch preclude him from eating a substantial, utensil-free repast while playing cards. Clearly, then, any loosely systematized arrangement of bread-borne ingredients, eaten literally out of hand, without utensils, fits the original definition of a sandwich.
But let us follow Montagu's stunning insight and brave example to their logical conclusions, lest we allow convention to obscure the possibilities inherent in his vision. If form followed function for Montagu, then the components of the original sandwich must have mattered less to him than the concept of the non-utensil food delivery system. Had he lived to see their invention, might it not be that Montagu would have bestowed the proud name of his earldom on chips and salsa, pita and hummus, injera and lentils, or even marinara sauce dipped from the jar with a large uncooked pasta shell?
David McCarty = Todd Walker = Craig Biggio. Old comps are fun!
I think you've touched on something important here. What's often discussed as a pace problem strikes me, in some ways, as a presentation problem. As the author points out, at the ballpark the pace of the game feels relaxed and congenial; I agree with him, too, that the same pace at home feels bogged down and, all too often, tedious. A good team of announcers goes a long way toward solving the pace problem of the televised game: presentation is so important. And it's been a long time since a lot of us have seen or heard good announcers regularly. Unfortunately, that's especially true in postseason games.
Another way I've thought to solve this problem is to quit my job and move to the West Coast, so I'm more awake for the games. Maybe part of the pace problem is a getting-old problem....
I hope some day we'll get to see a video montage of Jason's scouting tryouts. I'm imagining something with a soundtrack by Foreigner or Journey. Jason is seen performing scouting drills, such as charting pitches with both hands at the same time. Grizzled scouts look on -- first with dismissive glances, then in later scenes with growing recognition of his prowess. Jason drives a battered El Camino from one ballpark lot to another while, on split screen, a zigzagged map documents his progress. Jason emerges from a McDonald's bathroom as a scout with a stopwatch nods approvingly. In the final scene, Theo Epstein shakes his hand and issues him a radar gun and a pair of pleated khakis. The grizzled scouts and Epstein share a laugh, then applaud. The camera zooms in slowly on Jason's beaming face. A tear forms in his eye and we recognize that in his moment of triumph he is thinking of his teacher, the recently deceased Kevin Goldstein.
I'm going to be the dumb guy and ask about "Sevin." My guess is it's a movie or TV reference of some sort? Google mostly directs me toward a pesticide.
Differences of opinion are great! What informs your different take on the relative value of Raimel Tapia, Nick Williams, and Josh Bell vis-a-vis the midseason top 50 rankings of Jason Parks and company? Does it all have to do with ETA?
Daytona built an extra warning track to prepare the regular warning track for the approach of ROCK SHOULDERS.
I clapped out loud when I saw that Effectively Wild will continue. It's nice to be the one DC commuter in the Metro car who, instead of looking stony sad or reading some boring law journal or trade press article, has a huge grin on his face.
As the trajectory of article quantity has gone up, the quality at BP has gone up along with it. It's incredible, because the content has always been high-quality. But I think you're right that the beer-and-tacos experience has become richer in the past few years. We readers see a different game because of the way the scouting and statistical information have become more fully articulated and more fully integrated over the past couple of years. And anyone can see that you deserve a healthy share of the credit for that, Ben. Thank you.
I like to start my day with this column. Today's featured great writing and analysis, as usual.
The Nationals got some ridiculous jumps in tallying their five steals last night. Jason Castro made some strong throws, including the one on Werth's steal, and almost nailed both him and Denard Span. Scott Feldman seemed indifferent to the presence of baserunners; in fact, one of the steals was an Anthony Rendon swipe of third on which he had such a lead that Castro didn't even attempt a throw.
That was fast -- thank you!
I wonder if a unified theory of catcher value that incorporated framing and blocking would push the best and worst catchers into uncharted WARP territory. Could it be that Yadier Molina has had an 18 WARP season, or a bad catcher has cost a team eight or nine wins? That's a whole lot of runs that the Twins' catchers have lost for the team.
This might well have been answered elsewhere, but do framing runs added get taken into account in WARP and FRAA calculations? (Full disclosure: I haven't yet clicked all of the links embedded in the article, which may well hold the answer to my question.)
That's a remarkable statement on Michael Lorenzen, especially given Robert Stephenson's continued success at the same level. What's the BP staff's take on Lorenzen and the improvement of his stock? Are you willing to go as far as this scout goes and push him up to #1 in the system?
Could you please post the Henderson Alvarez/Domonic Brown GIF here when you have a chance, for those non-Facebook cable-cutter types?
I demand an Albuquerque Isotopes Special Bulletin.
You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things! O you hard hearts, you cruel men of Rome, knew you not Dalton Pompey?
Whoa: An 80 shortstop glove. I don't remember if it was on the Up and In podcast or on Fringe Average, but I remember Jason saying that's the rarest 80 grade out there, with some longtime scouts never having applied it to anyone but Ozzie Smith.
I wish I had this series of articles when I was playing baseball.
In a GIF, everyone has 80 repetition.
Thank you for your reply. I tried to find some instances where "leverage" was used and the context provided clues to what the author means. It seems to connote a power-oriented approach, as you suggested in the third paragraph of your answer.
On Stephen Piscotty: "can shorten up or add length/leverage to stroke." (articleid=22759)
On Colin Moran: "swing has some leverage and power potential." (articleid=22796)
On David Dahl: "swing is more short to the ball and linear than leveraged for over-the-fence." (articleid=22525)
I also saw a Washington Post video on Bryce Harper's swing (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kP8rhRg-4Mw) in which "leverage" came up in the narrative. In that video, his front leg is described as a "fulcrum." That made me wonder which was more elementary, my understanding of physics or my understanding of swing mechanics. (Both, probably.)
I can't wait to watch Harper hit in DC this year.
One term I've heard used in describing Harper's swing is "leverage." It's never been clear to me what leverage could mean in the context of a swing, and I don't think I've seen you use it in your articles for BP. If Harper does have a high-leverage swing, what exactly does that mean? Or, if "leverage" isn't a useful term in describing hitting mechanics, what do you think people are trying to describe when they use it and how could it be put more aptly.
Thank you for the great writing, Ryan. I've learned a lot from your series of articles.
I missed that piece on Chris Sale the first time around -- pretty awesome.
He reminds me of Beaky Buzzard.
May I suggest posting a deadline to buy tickets? It may spur people to make a decision and would give you some planning time if, at the deadline, an event hadn't garnered sufficient interest.
Agreed, and in light of comments below I'll add that I'm more than fine with the mix of humor and analysis.
I recommend the Effectively Wild podcast. Ben and Sam have gone into great detail about each team in their season preview series, which wraps up this week with PECOTA's projected top performers.
I'm really excited for this series.
One mantra that didn't come up is "Keep your weight back." What role does weight transfer play in the process, if any? In the gather/load phase, you mention not getting too much weight "stuck on the backside." I'd be interested to hear more about that.
I want to keep loving Hosmer, but I'm feeling compelled by the argument that his hitting approach simply won't produce the power that was projected for him. (As with Joe Mauer, the effects wouldn't hurt his real-life value so much as his fantasy value.) Messrs. Karaman and Kantecki: Any specific reasons you think that you can't spell "Hosmer" without "homer"?
A feeble, lengthy attempt, but I spent so much time on it I thought I'd throw it up there:
The object of baseball is to score more “runs” (points) than the other team. Two teams take turns attempting to score runs. One team tries to score runs, while the other team tries to prevent runs from being scored. Members of the team trying to score take turns with the “bat” (a big stick), with which they try to hit the ball. The ball is thrown to these “batters” by a member of the other team, the “pitcher.” He tries to throw the ball into a defined area (the “strike zone”) in such a way as to prevent the batter from hitting the ball well, or at all. Behind the pitcher are the “fielders,” who try to catch or stop the ball if the batter hits it. The next two paragraphs will discuss the batters' attempt to score runs; the subsequent paragraph will clarify the role of the fielders and pitchers.
A team’s batters score runs by running to four numbered “bases” (targets). These bases are called first, second, and third base and home plate; players always run to the bases in that order. To score a run, one team’s batters must reach each base in order without the arbiters of the game, umpires, declaring them “out.” Put another way, the umpires must call the batters “safe” at each base, sequentially. Once a batter reaches first base safely, he becomes a “runner” and remains a runner until he is called out (see below) or reaches home plate safely. If a runner reaches home plate safely, his team is awarded a run. Runners may not pass each other (if they do, they are called out) and must each have a base to occupy (so to speak), meaning that only three runners may be “on base” at a given time. (The hitter is “on” home plate, sort of.)
A batter generally advances to first base (thus becoming a runner) in one of three ways: (1) if he hits the pitched ball into a defined area of the field of play (this is called a “fair ball” or a ball hit into “fair territory”); (2) if the pitcher throws four balls outside the strike zone; or (3) if the pitcher hits the batter with the thrown ball. A batter who hits a fair ball over the fence may advance all four bases and score a run. This act is called a “home run.” (Women are said to be stimulated by the home run.) When a batter advances to a base, any runners already occupying bases also often advance. Runners may advance without a batter advancing, but do so at their own risk; if they succeed without being called out, they have executed what is known as the “stolen base.”
Meanwhile, the other team’s members try to prevent runs by getting players out. They usually do this in four basic ways. (1) The pitcher can get the batter out without assistance from the fielders by throwing three “strikes” to the batter. Balls thrown into the strike zone and not swung at can be called strikes by the umpires. So can any ball swung at and missed. Balls hit into the part of the field not defined as fair territory are called “foul balls” and also count as strikes. The third strike—at which point the batter is called out—may not be on a foul ball, but it may be on a “foul tip,” a lightly-batted ball, if the fielder behind home plate (the “catcher”) catches the ball before it hits the ground. (2) A batter is out if he hits the ball and one of the fielders catches it before it hits the ground. (3) A batter is out if he hits the ball to a fielder, who throws it to another fielder who is at the base and touching it (a “force out”). Force outs may only be recorded in situations where the runner is compelled to run to a base, such as when the batter hits the ball and is attempting to reach first base or when a runner at first base is forced to run to second base because the batter is on his way to first base. (4) A batter is out if a fielder holding the ball touches (or “tags”) the runner with the ball (or the ball inside his fielding implement, the “glove”) while the runner has no part of his body on a base.
Once the fielding/pitching team records three outs, it becomes the batting team and the batting team becomes the fielding/pitching team. When each team has batted and three outs have been recorded on either side, an “inning” is complete. Games usually last nine innings. Extra innings are added if the ninth inning is completed and the score is tied. The team hosting the game—the “home team”—has the advantage of batting last in each inning. Thus, the home team has the final chance to outscore the “visiting team” if, in the second half (or “bottom”) of the ultimate inning, the home team has fewer runs.
Thank you for your reply. I totally agree with your reliever strategy and understand why BP would hesitate to devote more time to analyzing relievers.
I hesitated to post my question and my little poll. It felt forward and a bit presumptuous. But I went ahead because BP is so clearly receptive and responsive to reader feedback. The site's responsiveness adds serious value to our subscriptions and undoubtedly contributes to an active and loyal readership. I know you all put in significant extra time to respond to readers' questions and I really appreciate it.
(Upvote for no)
(Upvote for yes)
For feedback/future planning purposes, I wonder if there would be interest in the BP community in coverage of non-closers. I understand the reasoning behind using classic fantasy baseball stats to determine the rankings. That said, I'd guess that many BP readers' leagues use stats that make non-closing relievers valuable (such as holds and K/9).
So, poll for BP readers: Does your league use stats that make non-closing relievers valuable (such as holds and/or K/9)?
The fantasy coverage this year has been world-class. Thank you, guys!
Love this series!
Anyone care to take some guesses on the names in the upcoming entries in the pitchers' series? My guesses for all-time slider, change, and command: Steve Carlton, Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux.
This was an enjoyable, informative podcast. One suggestion for future episodes: Give credit for the music you use, at least by giving the name of the performer or act.
Love the column, love the list. Verlander's ranking vis-a-vis Wainwright's is striking, though. What's written about Wainwright applies equally to the year-younger Verlander, don't you think?
You're right--that was easy! Thank you.
I'm the guy who's new to auction drafts. I'd love to print out the tables, but I can't figure out how to get more than about fourteen players' worth of rankings to show up on the page. That's true even in printer-friendly mode.
Any way to make the tables printer-friendly? I don't know if what I'm asking for is easy or totally unreasonable, so thanks either way for the very useful information!
Related question: Does any team have two role-8 pitchers in the major leagues right now? (Verlander and Scherzer? Lee and Hamels?)
Love the rankings! I wonder if anyone else would share my interest in a "cheat sheet" summary at the end of the series. At draft time, I find it helpful to have a six-column, one-page position player cheat sheet next to the computer. As guys get taken, I cross them off of my paper list, eliminating the need to toggle the electronic queues. The automatic rankings are especially unhelpful in dynasty leagues; a printable one-page cheat sheet of the players ranked in this series would be super useful on draft day.
Man, I really whiffed on that Sporcle quiz.
To pick up on a theme in today's Effectively Wild, here's the top of the BRR leaderboard:
10. Adam Eaton - 4.2
9. Elvis Andrus - 4.4
T-7. Desmond Jennings and Jacoby Ellsbury - 4.5
T-5. Brett Gardner and Ian Kinsler - 4.7
4. Jonathan Villar - 5
3. Ben Revere - 5.9
2. Michael Bourn - 6.1
1. Billy Hamilton - 10.8
To answer a question Sam raises in the podcast: a "Sophie's choice" should be understood as a choice between two options, both of which are agonizing and either of which will cause the chooser everlasting anguish and regret, even though s/he has no option but to make the choice, because if s/he doesn't then both of the agonizing things will happen. It's analogous to the "would you rather" game, except that the things that happen affect other people, and the choices are not humorous in the least.
In popular usage, I've seen "Sophie's choice" used, as Sam did, to describe a situation that is in no way comparable to the choice that Sophie has to make.
Also, since we're raising cultural awareness, Sophie's Choice was a novel (by William Styron) before it was a movie.
Also, since the last paragraph makes me sound snooty, I haven't read the book or seen the movie. (But I did have to read the excerpt of the book containing the choice. It's much more fun to watch baseball than to read excruciatingly sad literature, let me tell you.)
Fascinating, Doug. Based on mechanical analysis, are you able to conjecture how Old-Time and War-Time Pitchers' velocity would compare to that of today's pitchers? One might conjecture that Modern-Time Pitchers throw the way they do because they can throw harder that way. Or is it simply that they can more readily get away with the risks that physical inefficiencies present, given advances in surgery and contemporary norms of bullpen use?
Interesting: Masahiro Tanaka is not the first Masahiro Tanaka to become part of an American team's system. He's the Japanese Brian Giles.
It depends on the dynamics of one's league -- how much managers value last year's numbers versus how much people try to out-think each other on the basis of projections -- but Carpenter could be the value pick of the tier. His runs could fall by 20 percent and he'd still be in triple digits. Plus, Carpenter has such solid bat-to-ball skills that he plays well whether your league counts things like AVG and total bases or favors SLG or OPS. If you're willing to trade five HR and ten SB for consistent run production and bat-to-ball skills, Carpenter is the man with the tools. (Sorry.)
Your first misstep was the candle. Mr. Brian Kenny's smile is naturally phosphorescent and would have supplied adequate lighting for your meal.
I'm surprised by Schilling's exclusion, too, but I'm glad BP isn't the Borg and I disagree that the non-Schilling voters are marginal contributors.
It's instructive and gratifying to see the variety of opinion here. The exercise goes to show that 75 percent of votes is a high threshold, and that significant disagreements remain even among "enlightened" baseball analysts on who deserves election to the Hall.
Were there any instructions given to the voters beyond those presented in the article? For example, were voters advised to vote solely based on whom they think should be elected, without giving consideration to what other voters might do?
Fascinating! Thank you for the link.
I enjoyed the implication in the first article that you have to be truly desperate to move to Tucson.
In addition to controversy and an apparent inability to contextualize careers, as John Douglass put it so well, there appears to be game theory going on in the vote. Jayson Stark's piece today illustrates what I mean: an element of his vote was based on his conclusion that many deserving candidates would not get the requisite support not only to gain election, but to remain on next year's ballot. For this reason, he voted, for example, for Jeff Kent, both because he finds Kent deserving and because he wants him to be back for consideration next year. By the same token, he left Bonds and others off of his ballot, even though he thinks they deserve election.
Stark can't be the only voter to adopt such a strategy. And, given the vagaries of the Veterans Committee, I wonder if the last sentence of Zachary's essay will remain true. I sincerely hope the BBWAA lifts the ten-vote limit before the 2015 election.
I see! I wonder if Ben has analyzed Criger's framing.
Can anyone shed light on why Lou Criger received seven votes? Was he a legendary fielder behind the plate, or a model of character? He's the only player I haven't heard of on this list, and apart from Connie Mack has by far the lowest WAR(P) of anyone to receive votes.
This is a fascinating, insightful, and entertaining read. I'm so excited about this series.
One question and one unsolicited suggestion:
1. In the table at the top of the piece, what does the "Rubber / 3rd" mean?
2. Might more 20/80 grades be added to future pieces (e.g., for individual pitches and/or the components of the delivery that Doug Thorburn breaks down in his analyses)? One of the things I love about this series is that it helps place in context the grades assigned to players and skills in the prospect pieces on the site.
Thank you for this awesome, awesome work.
Looking forward to the new podcast! FYI, I get the podcast via iTunes subscription and it doesn't seem to be loading properly. (I got today's Effectively Wild, so I think there might be a problem on the Fringe Average end.)
This is a great idea for a series and I look forward to reading it regularly.
I have two questions, one about Morneau and one about the format of the series. On Morneau, the article mentions that his bat speed has declined, and also that he has a late trigger. Has he always had a late trigger, or could it be that post-concussion he reacts more slowly to pitches? (As a Twins fan, I feel like he's gotten slower to react since the injury, although I might just be seeing what I expect to see.) If the trigger hasn't always been slow, but has slowed more recently, is that something typical of older players, or something that might be reversed if Morneau's brain is still healing?
About the format: Why don't the batted ball data (GB, FB, LD) add up to 100 percent?
Agreed completely on the last sentence. It's hard to find a single descriptor for the type of player that seems to get run out of the Twin Cities. The phenomenon Peter and I were describing goes like this: guy gets criticized in the Minneapolis/St. Paul media for having some kind of attitude problem or being unwilling to adjust; guy leaves; guy plays well for another team when allowed to be himself. It's exasperating, and Ortiz is exhibit A in favor of the argument that the problem predates the Bill Smith era.
I'd describe this phenomenon slightly differently, and as not one but two problems for the Twins.
First, they have a problem with what you might call "challenging" or "obstinate" players: those who either stick out in a hierarchical system or those whose skill sets don't lend themselves well to the educational tenets of that system. The ones that come immediately to mind are David Ortiz (couldn't learn to hit the other way, and maybe got too fiery in defending his approach); Francisco Liriano (seemed discouraged by repeated injunctions to "pitch to contact"); Matt Garza (also didn't respond well, but, like Ortiz, got fiery about it); and Kevin Slowey (a guy who seemed too cerebral and too sulky for the liking of Ron Gardenhire and Rick Anderson).
Second, they have a problem with blabbing about their challenging/obstinate players. There's way too much revealed about the players who don't "go along" in the Twin Cities media, and some of it comes directly from Gardenhire's and Anderson's mouth. It's condescending, counterproductive, and against the basic rules of clubhouse conduct. Maybe it's Midwest plain talk and honesty, but Gardy and Anderson could benefit from a crash course in platitudes from Terry Francona or Derek Jeter.
In his newsletter today, Joe Sheehan makes a compelling case that this trade was a salary dump and a precursor to a big free agent signing. Without cribbing his analysis, I'd agree. It's almost irrelevant that the Tigers didn't receive much in return--although, in their defense, left-handed pitchers don't grow on trees. (On that note, the Nationals will miss Krol more than the Tigers will need him; no southpaws remain from their 2013 bullpen now that Krol and Fernando Abad are gone.)
And I don't see it as surprising at all that the Tigers would trade Doug Fister instead of Rick Porcello. Even if moving Porcello would have cleared slightly more salary room this year, he's almost five full years younger than Fister and has far greater upside. He stands to benefit more than any other Tigers pitcher from Detroit's improved defense and his track record indicates that his K rate will increase, too.
Let me just, uh, find a cash machine.
It might not be just such a simple, uh, you know?
Good point. The 2013 Red Sox had an analogous construction: they had a few clear stars and weren't exactly an inexpensive team, but when they spent on free agents prior to the season they opted to spread out the wealth rather than pick up two or three marquee players.
Of course, the Core Wins theory evinced here is more for the small- and medium-market teams than for the big spenders. Few teams have the luxury of spending $150M+ on free agents in a single offseason. So, the A's are a better case study for those who would advocate a strength-in-numbers approach.
Fun stuff! A question (and not a critique veiled as a question): Do any of MLB's rules entail that certain of these moves would require an official lineup card adjustment? Obviously, no one talks to the umpire before putting on the shift, but could you move your left fielder to right field and vice versa without "officially" changing their position in the lineup?
This is a fascinating study and a compelling method. I hope that BP will invite you back to present any follow-up work that you do.
In response to the last paragraph: The first sentence seems more apt than the second. Core Wins appears to be an imperfect measure of where teams' near-term focus ought to lie, in part because a handful of teams (chiefly the Yankees) have much more money to throw around than the others and in part because other teams (notably the Blue Jays) have a lot invested in a core that isn't particularly young, such that they should be aiming to win now even if their Core Wins score wouldn't suggest as much.
Accordingly, one could take the Core Wins score and adjust it to create a "Win-Now Index" by factoring in how much money a team has committed, as well as how much money a team has left to throw around. A Win-Now Index might also factor in the strength of a team's farm system to account for the possibility of upgrading via trade. (If a "farm system" score would be a viable possibility, one could also use it to create a "Core Strength" index that focused more directly on a team's long-term viability, as indicated by the youth and "controllability" of the players in its system.)
What in God's holy name are you blathering about?
Fernando Abad did decently in yeoman's work for the Nationals last year. I hope his trade signals that they have plans to upgrade their corps of left-handed relievers.
Very true. In the past couple of years BP seems to have rebranded itself, to great effect, as a well-rounded baseball think tank. Fans get high-quality analysis, analysts and prospective scouts get a platform with a distinguished imprimatur, and MLB teams get a new pool of talent from which to draw.
BP has always been the place to find the best statistical analysis; now, it's evidently the go-to scouting site as well. In my opinion, the expansion and professionalization of the prospect coverage has been the most visible and most welcome development in BP's brand since I first subscribed. Jason Cole and Zach Mortimer have been key to this development, and clearly we can trust Jason Parks to bring in the best available talent to take their place. Congratulations all around, and thank you for the quality work.
I sympathize with your complaint. Sam may not have realized that 80 is the legal threshold for a mental handicap.
I suspect that the downvotes came for three reasons. First, this is the sort of complaint that may be better registered privately, by e-mail. Second, the suggestion that someone's job should be on the line is pretty harsh. Third, we've grown accustomed to a high degree of responsiveness here at BP, which is great, but we can't count on every comment to get a response from the authors.
Kris Johnson is not the world's most exciting pitcher, but a lefty swingman would be more useful to the Twins than a righty reliever, no? Neither he nor 27-year-old Duke Welker have a lot of upside at this point, so role and context seem to matter more than they might in a swap involving younger players.
It is the first-ever role 8 rating for Overall Future Potential--although last year there wasn't a Realistic Role designation. For reference, I'd be curious to see who (or how many) might have earned a role 8 last year if there had been a distinction between Future Potential and Realistic Role. Profar? Taveras?
That was a terrific article--thank you for the recommendation, Ben!
A rubber guy. Whatever you say bounces off him and sticks to Nick Punto.
Wow, is Darrell Evans underrated.
You know, it would be fun to have an "underrated index" of some sort. You could approach it in a couple of ways. Approaching it one way, you could use it as a way to test hypotheses about why players are underrated; for example, to test Levine's theories, you could assign values to being a center fielder, being a good fielder, being a good baserunner, and so on. Then you could spit out the results and see who appears on the list and if they're actually underrated (in terms of, say, honors such as MVPs or inclusion in the Hall of Fame). Approaching it another way, you could use it as a way to assign a value to how much someone got snubbed; for example, you could find for each player (place on WARP leaderboard) - (highest place in MVP ballot). Fill in a value for a non-appearance (maybe 11?), add up the "snub scores" over the course of a career, and you have a rough underrated index.
Yep. Someone else should do that so I can read about it.
P.S. Fangraphs put McCutchen ahead of second-place Carlos Gomez by 0.6 WAR and ahead of fourth-place Paul Goldschmidt by 1.8 WAR. (Matt Carpenter came in third.) Baseball-reference put Gomez in the lead, 0.2 WAR ahead of McCutchen and 1.3 WAR ahead of third-place Goldschmidt. So, the article's criteria don't apply to the 2013 NL MVP race.
Still, to my larger point, there will be no hue and cry in our community when McCutchen wins the NL MVP this year. Not that there should be.
I don't think this single piece is particularly anti-Cabrera. But it's part of a larger Trout-versus-Cabrera narrative, the underlying question of which plays into the hands of whatever you want to call people that have a bone to pick with WARP and spreadsheets and the like. Put it this way: Why not write write this article about Paul Goldschmidt (1B, 7.5 WARP) versus Andrew McCutchen (CF, 6.1 WARP)? (Perhaps McCutchen didn't meet the multi-source criterion, winning out in others' metrics. But the question is still revealing.)
Assuming McCutchen wins--and I think he'll outdistance other NL players in the MVP voting more than whoever the AL winner is--he provides an interesting counterexample, in hypotheses 2 and 4 in particular. There's a narrative element to the MVP voting that's harder to measure but,I'm guessing, even more important than the factors considered in this piece. The MVP award usually goes to a player that plays exceptionally and is part of a feel-good story. He's on a successful team; he's a good guy; he's been a solid player for a while and this is "his year" (the "Paul Newman's Oscar for The Color of Money" argument); and so forth.
Trout is part of a feel-bad story. Goldschmidt is part of a feel-meh story. That's a key reason they won't win. And to be sure, it's unfair and illogical.
I see where you're coming from; I'd choose a different word than "subjective" to describe WARP and related numbers, though. These numbers seek to remove the subjective from consideration to the extent possible, by defining and measuring aspects of the game that can be defined and measured. The whole intent of such an exercise is to remove the viewer's subjective biases when assigning value to a player. This exercise is, of course, incomplete; there are aspects of a player's value that cannot be measured. Few here would argue otherwise.
What WARP and related numbers are is assumption-based. For one, they assume accuracy in the underlying measures. Some of the measures may be more reliable than others. I would agree with your suggestion, for example, that defensive metrics have their problems.
I agree even more with your second paragraph. Although I expect that Miguel Cabrera will win the MVP again this year, and I agree with the author that Mike Trout should have won in 2012 and should win in 2013, it's a stretch to suggest that Cabrera has (or will have) "robbed" anyone. He plays a poor third base, but he's good enough there to hold down a valuable defensive position and free up space for Prince Fielder in the lineup. He's arguably the best pure hitter and the best power hitter in the game. He was a key piece of a championship-caliber team. Trout is a deserving MVP candidate (and again, I think he should win and should have won), but Cabrera is no Jackie Jensen.
So, I don't think the measures evoked here are subjective. I also don't think that there's really a SABR-versus-the-world fight going on anymore in the places that really matter--be it front offices or the pages of leading baseball publications such as BP. But I can see why the piece provoked your reaction. For my part, I think that our statistically-minded community advances its cause more effectively when arguing something positive--such as its advocacy for Bert Blyleven's inclusion in the Hall of Fame--than when trying to knock something down.
In short, I'm with this piece as far as it's pro-Trout, and against it as far as it's anti-Cabrera.
A lot of teams would take Dan Straily's "back-end production" from their second or third starter. Okay, he doesn't have stuff and he needs all of O.co's space to keep the ball in the park. But his ERA and FRA matched closely last year, and he's never had an injury of note. Are there red flags that suggest he'll regress, or is Straily a back-end starter only in the context of the Athletics's rotation?
Do some of the head shots remind anyone else of elementary school photos in the 1980s? My mom would never pay extra for the Cool Blue or the Electric Green.
Grip, finger pressure, and sunscreen come immediately to mind.
You should order a medium shirt if you like a neat fit, and a large if you prefer it looser or need overflow space for your rig.
The shirts make reference to concepts discussed frequently in the prospect coverage here at BP, and even more frequently on BP's Fringe Average podcast. Each can be defined succinctly but can only be fully understood through deep meditation, preferably undertaken while bathing (as during a ritual Bath Night--a secular holiday invented by Yahoo! personage Jeff Passan) and watching a GIF of Yu Darvish throwing all five of his pitches simultaneously. As a primer:
* "Want" refers to a prospect's desire to do what is necessary to reach the show. It was covered most extensively on the Up and In podcast. In those prospects having the most want, the want is said to be almost visible, as an aura.
* "Rig" refers to a prospect's comportment, attitude, and execution when faced with a competitive challenge. The term is anatomical in origin and bears both a metaphorical and a conceptual relationship to "balls" and the "ballsy." Strictly speaking, however, rig encompasses more penis.
* "Sparkle" cannot be defined. Just as we know that the wind exists, although we cannot see it, so do we know that sparkle exists because we see its traces. The most successful attempts at a proof of the existence of sparkle focus on Tom Selleck's mustache and Adrian Beltre's noggin.
* "Wet" refers metaphorically to the scout's state after witnessing a particularly appealing prospect. As with "rig," the reference is sexual. I live in my parents' basement and cannot speak from personal experience, but I believe it has something to do with vaginas.
* "Slack" describes the devil-may-care attitude that ... fuck it, I'm done with this definition.
I wish I could trade some AL ROY votes for extra NL ROY votes. It felt wrong to leave several NL rookies off of my ballot.
"No threat to bunt" (insert Dusty Baker joke).
This series is so ambitious and richly informative. Thank you.
Oops--and passed balls.
To add to the delightful trivia: Carlton Fisk's only black ink scores were in triples and HBP.
Baseball should create a designated runner position just for Billy Hamilton.
Let's compile a list of fish-named baseball players! I'll start:
* Mike Trout
* Mike Carp
* Catfish Hunter
* Dickie Thon (that's French for Tuna)
* Carlton Fish
P.S. The article I'm thinking of, by Nate Silver, appears here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=16335
What I don't remember is whether the longer piece that the article refers to -- which appeared in Baseball Between the Numbers -- addresses the concept of a "reverse bandwagon effect." The article strongly suggests that such an effect is unlikely, stating that even a large reduction in regular season ticket sales should not deter an owner from having a fire sale if it allows the team to rebuild and enhance its playoff odds.
As I recall, the marginal value of a win increases as a team reaches a record that puts them in playoff range. I'm less sure of how much value a win loses as a team moves farther from contention, but I seem to remember that wins for teams out of the race are worth less to the team. These win values are based on findings that attendance and revenues increase markedly when a team is in contention, but don't vary much as you move from middling to poor. The implication would be that, yes, fans turn away as a team gets lousier, but not in such great numbers that it wouldn't behoove a team to go from middling to poor in a given season if such a strategy puts them in contention more quickly than staying in a middling rut for a long time, without the benefit of a near future that puts them into the marginal-value-added territory that comes with playoff contention. I bet other readers can correct me if I'm wrong and can find the original article I'm thinking of as I write.
All that said, the Orioles face relatively new regional competition in the Nationals. Add the rhetoric on Peter Angelos around these parts, and one might be led to believe that, after years of losing and owner interventions gone wrong, O's fans might be more ready to jump ship than fans of other teams. I don't buy this logic -- O's fans are as loyal as they come, ownership problems or not -- but it may be that regional factors make a rebuild more difficult to swallow in some places than in others, leading to the "reverse bandwagon effect" that you describe. I don't know of studies looking for this effect, but again I'm sure that other readers can point them out if they're out there.
When a player has hickeys in his bat path, is that a sign that his approach may be caddywhompus?
Danny Espinosa was gutting out a torn shoulder labrum before he had to gut out the broken wrist, at which point he was gutting out both. Are his problems all injury related or not? And, if they are all injury related, are the injuries so bad that people feel like he won't ever be the same, or is there some hope for a bounce-back? Espinosa is terrific in the field and also had serious pop. To hear a utility future placed on him is sad.
I thought my dad was the only person in the world who said "caddywhompus."
I like this column and I like the new format. Thank you.
Is a catcher allowed to step forward and receive the ball where Yogi Berra did in attempting to tag out Jackie Robinson?
Fielding metrics seem to be less widely accepted and possibly less accurate than pitching and hitting metrics. Is that fair to say? And, if so, is there any consideration of giving them less weight in the equations for DIPS and WARP?
The player card for Jose Pujols seems to be for a pitcher in the Yankees farm system.
Also, to ask the obvious question: Is he related?
I enjoyed that turn of phrase, too. And the whole article is BP at its best. The big-picture analysis provides historical context for the teams' respective short-term and future needs and revisits the legacy of the Soriano contract. The player analysis combines statistical and interview-based insights, marrying the objective and the subjective elements of the story. As always, the response to reader questions is quick and insightful and the writing polished and engaging.
The only omission I see is of a cheap shot at the Outfield of Sunk Costs. Vernon Wells and Alfonso Soriano, together at last!
I wonder if football fans are getting as annoyed about constantly hearing the name Puig as I was about constantly hearing the name Tebow a couple of years ago.
I hope so. Puig it up, Hit List!
The title is misspelled. It should read "The Cole-Up."
A player with such a poetic game should have a nickname that suits: Lord Byron.
This is great stuff. Thank you.
The last scout/FOT quoted in this article puts a potential 70 on Byron Buxton's hit tool and says he might eventually have as much raw power as Miguel Sano, implying a potential 80. That takes my breath away as a Twins fan.
Mike Trout and Eric Davis are put forward as comparable players. Are they 70 hit / 80 raw players? Who or who else earned both labels? And, as a reality check, can you think of any players who got touted as having 70 hit / 80 raw tools and then flamed out or disappointed at the major league level?
Why are the Phillies standing behind Royals hats and vice versa?
That new disclaimer is nice and helpful and all, but I miss the indignant comments about the teams' rankings.
Is it true that only Harper has the whiff of a once-in-a-generation talent? I suppose that, in a literal sense, there can only be one of those in each generation. But we've got such an embarrassment of 20- and 21-year-old riches on our hands with these three guys that it has become easy to lose sight of how historically good each one is in his own right. When is the last time we have seen three guys this young and this promising enter the league simultaneously? (That's not a rhetorical question, by the way.)
This made my Friday morning.
I don't use down-votes to disagree with people, so I'll just say that I'm pro-GIF and I vote! GIFs add richness to this article and to the site's analysis in general.
I support using a Jim Leyland quote in every show.
Roger Bernadina doesn't throw a change.
Why do you continue to let AHLF rank the teams? He displays a clear Melmac bias.
I had to refresh my iTunes page this morning to get the podcast to download. Other than that, no problems here.
Why does the Hit List page get to look so much more futuristic than the rest of the Baseball Prospectus pages? Even the comments look more futuristic. I'm not sure that's fair.
It's comparatively easy to see how a pitcher with a majestic Golden Age windup generates momentum, but I have a hard time discerning how a pitcher generates momentum from the stretch. Does it all have to do with the pivot?
Everyone interested in this topic should read Adam Sobsey's encomium to Hak-Ju Lee, and pray that Lee doesn't join the list.
Dampness and precipitation could be the culprit. It makes intuitive sense to me that managers would send their runners less often on wet basepaths.
It could also be a massive groundskeeper conspiracy.
Let's not play fast and loose with our 80 grades. Snyder's mustache/mullet combo is magisterial by today's standards, but in the '80s its value over replacement was much lower than it would be today.
For all-time mustache/mullet tool, I would nominate Dan Gladden. Then again, maybe my own childhood biases inform this choice.
Top grit tool in the minor leagues: Cutter Dykstra
Top MLB grit: Nick Punto
All-time tool: Rooster Cogburn
You need magic hands if you're going to grow up playing catch with Raul Mondesi.
Nicely done, Jason.
I've been looking forward to the "tool series" -- thanks, Jason!
More broadly, and to build on David Schwalb's point, I was just thinking this weekend that fielding represented a potential "growth area" for BP. Especially given how much the various fielding metrics disagree with each other, and given how much individual players' FRAA can vary from year to year, I would love to see more stuff on how to evaluate fielding from a scouting point of view. (To take an example from this year's annual, what does it mean when we read that Alcides Escobar needs to work on his "footwork"? What might we look for in a shortstop who is excellent or needs work in this area?) This is exactly the kind of thing I had in mind -- what to look for when you watch a guy throw.
It would also be cool to see analysis of the mechanics of fielding in the mold of Doug Thorburn's analyses of pitching mechanics. I love Thorburn's use of GIFs to help elucidate the component motions of a pitcher's delivery.
"The rest of the lineup was filled with Baltimore's normal starters, save for Cal Ripken, who was on the disabled list at the time."
I'm continuing to enjoy this series. There's been some criticism of the format, but I have come to prefer the brief capsules and the commitment to an ordered list over the tiered approach. In smaller redraft leagues in particular, where "targeting" works more readily on draft day, order matters.
With the next list, I'll be interested to hear if there are guys for whom you might reach. I can think of a few young starters I'd take ahead of some of the injury-prone veterans at the bottom of this installment.
I thought that link in the first paragraph was going to take me to a Wilco song.
You know, Eric, another way to think about it is if you had used steroids, your knee ligaments might have popped earlier under the strain of larger muscles. Who knows -- your decision not to use may have lengthened your career.
I also washed out in JV, but in a fall league that I signed up for not knowing what it was -- a league for really, really good players -- I faced the varsity guys. One guy, who was drafted in a late round out of high school and went to a Division I college, threw an 85-mile-an-hour fastball and a knuckle-curve. Fortunately I didn't have to face him very often because he was on my team. It was scary just to catch the ball when he was warming up; hitting his pitches was, for me and most other guys in the league, nearly impossible. I often think about this guy when watching major league pitchers. It blows my mind that his velocity was in Jamie Moyer territory -- that stuff's not "slow" by anything but a ridiculous measure.
By the way, I finished 0-for-the-season in that fall league. But I had the GWRBI on a sacrifice fly in the championship game! Ah, the glory days.
How long do you think it will take Dylan Bundy to pass Ted, Al, and McGeorge on the list of World-Famous Bundys?
That's a much better way to look at the relative positional value of catchers. With their lower expected playing time factored in, you're right that there's plenty of value after the high-priced guys go off the board. Thank you for answering my question!
I've enjoyed the Keeper Reaper series for deep analysis on some of the most intriguing players in fantasy baseball. And I'm also happy to see the position-by-position lists starting up. Thanks and looking forward to more of the new content!
On catchers: I wonder if you could gain a strategic advantage by looking at catchers not as rich this year, but as scarce. I did a little unsophisticated exercise with the new PECOTAs: I created an eight-column table, with one column for each position, then arrayed players in each column by VORP. Then I put a little mark next to each player who was a "difference-maker" in the counting stats (R, HR, RBI, SB). I set the bar fairly high for difference-making, at 75 each for runs and RBI and 20 each for SB. My thinking was that, in a weekly scoring league, these are guys who would hit roughly a homer a week, or steal roughly a base a week, or get roughly three runs and/or RBI a week.
Using this definition, I found only five difference-makers among catchers. Two of them, Wilin Rosario and J.P. Arencibia, are difference-makers only in home runs, and they stand a good chance of killing you in AVG (or killing you even more if you use OBP). A third is Mike Napoli, who adds RBI to home runs but has that hip injury. And then there are the other two, Buster Posey (R, HR, RBI) and Joe Mauer (R, RBI).
Meanwhile, the next shallowest position, second base, has eleven difference-makers, including seven multi-category difference-makers. Every other position has at least 14 (shortstop) and as many as 27 (first base) difference-makers. The upshot is that there's plenty of production to be had later in the draft at every position.
So, back to my question -- and acknowledging that my method is unsophisticated -- couldn't you gain an advantage by snapping up Mauer or Posey, knowing that you could get good production later out of other positions and secure a significant leg up in a position that, comparatively speaking, is rather hitting-weak?
I always look forward to this day. Thanks, guys!
What if the Tigers literally clogged the bases -- that is, ran them wearing clogs?
Could we get PECOTAs in early October next year? I play in an exclusive dynasty league that prefers to draft on Columbus Day.
P.S. I should cite my source:
Agreed -- this article changed my view of the Soriano signing, but one piece of missing context is the Nationals' decision in December not to re-sign Sean Burnett, saying that he "was not a fit financially." Burnett is a solid lefty reliever (caveat: he recently had a bone spur removed) at a lower price point. How does signing Soriano make more sense for the Nats than re-signing Burnett?
In case you were wondering, Charlie Furbush got away with the IBB WP shown here, although the Mariners went on to lose the game.
Earlier in the inning, Furbush had picked off base-stealer extraordinaire Coco Crisp (on whose unimaginable base-stealing genius see R.J. Anderson's piece at http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=19196). Perhaps feeling amped and cocky, he proceeded to walk Jemile Weeks, who then stole second and, as shown here, advanced to third on the IBB WP.
(Other references: box score at http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/OAK/OAK201207080.shtml)
Thanks! That's impressive. And I'm surprised at the 81% success rate around the league. I would suspect it has to do with teams' attempting a steal of third only when there's a high expectation of success.
It's interesting that the two successful steals shown here are of third base. Do we have stats for success rate in stealing third? And do we know how teams/players with high base-stealing efficiency compare to the low end in terms of (a) how often they attempt a steal of third and (b) how often they succeed?
Great analysis and amazing video. I don't think I've ever before learned so much about pitching from a single article.
Will Carroll, Steven Goldman, and Christina Kahrl do.
He has a trick pitch -- the Manship lollipop.
Thanks! I'll try to send some friends over for a visit.
Just to be clear: Is everything on the site free today, or is everything published today free today?
"Aroldis Champman" is a fortuitous typo.
Obviously, the humor wasn't for everyone, but I loved the piece.
Nothing intelligent to say -- just that I found this fascinating. Thank you!
They are the parthenogenetic sons of Barry Jones.
The order is determined by the Adjusted Hit List Factor. Hover over the "AHLF" at the top of the page; there's a brief explanation and a link to a detailed Jay Jaffe article on how the Hit List is ordered.
The second GIF shows that what Jarrod Saltalamacchia is actually doing is going HOOCCCCCCCCHHHHHHHHH. *PTU*
He's so fast he makes the field look smaller. It looks like the bases are set at Little League distances.
I have to ask: Are you related to Bo Belinsky?
"Diamond’s walk rate is either going to increase naturally, or become a giant outlier. Should the more likely outcome occur and Diamond’s hit rate stay high, the floodgates are going to open."
Correct me if I'm wrong, but if Diamond's walk rate this year had been double what it has been so far, his WHIP would be 1.27 instead of 1.19. This year, that would mean he'd be more comparable at this point to Jeremy Hellickson, Henderson Alvarez, Brandon McCarthy, and Kevin Millwood. Those comps aren't that far off, to judge by K rate, and that company isn't too bad. "Floodgates" seems a bit much, don't you think?
I could have sworn that Kent Hrbek tried to cover Joe Niekro's emery board with his foot after it flew out of his pocket.
Good point! For the 20 end of the scale, the GIF could be a random ceremonial first pitch.
The scout on Bob Gibson's pitch: "It's a 70, maybe an 80." *Maybe* an 80? I suppose I wouldn't know, but it's hard for me to imagine a nastier-looking pitch.
You know what would be cool? An article that showed GIFs of pitches on the 20-80 scale, with accompanying descriptions explaining why they rate the way they do.
I have it on good authority that the second he signs, he's the No. 1 prospect in the White Sox system by a wide margin.
Did any of the picks get Lasik recently? Because "Debaser."
I'll bet you outdo Jason Giambi in Witty Remarks Per Day. I'm seriously impressed by how funny this column is, day in and day out.
This story serves as a nice case study of the differences in the flow of information pre- and post-internet. I was born in 1980, visited the Hall of Fame in 1987, and grew up knowing Abner Doubleday as the father of baseball. To my knowledge, I didn't learning otherwise until I was at least a teenager. My family is well-read and my dad an ardent fan of baseball and its history. Still, it was quite possible for us not to find out that the myth had been exploded, in the 1950s, the 1960s, and again in 1983. (Of course, it's also quite possible that my dad knew and told me early on, and that I wasn't listening!)
By contrast, had the myth survived until, say, January 2012, every baseball fan, even casual fans, would have learned of its explosion almost immediately.
This edition of Pebble Hunting pairs nicely with BP's piece on 11 Memorable Breakdowns, Antics, and Tirades:
Totally agree! My comment was meant to question the odds of anyone's playoff chances being 0.0% in May. There's more to baseball than making the playoffs, and believing your team can still make the playoffs in the face of overwhelming evidence that they're probably not going to make the playoffs is one of those things.
...and the Twins and Royals join the Astros with a 0.0% chance of making the playoffs. Fans of those teams, stop watching now. It's over.
On this note, how is it that the Astros' playoff percentage is 0.0%?
Not that I disagree....
As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a right-handed pitcher.
I would add that I love seeing pieces on BP that have a "how to play baseball" angle. I realize that's not generally what BP is all about, but any article that breaks down the mechanics of the game has added benefits for anyone interested in teaching kids how to play. So thanks!
I just watched several Billy Hamilton videos, and I noticed that he wears batting gloves and keeps another pair in his back pockets. Is it some sort of signature style, or do other players do it, too?
A fine piece of work, Mr. Miller. I enjoyed sticking it to The Man by reading it.
Sorry I'm late to the pi party!
Two AL Central teams have pi pairings among players with retired numbers: the Twins (Harmon Killebrew (#3) and Kent Hrbek (#14)) and the Indians (Earl Averill (#3) and Larry Doby (#14)). As far as Wikipedia knows, they're the only two teams to have retired the pi jerseys.
Liriano has 12 Ks and 1 BB in 8 spring training IP thus far. To the extent that spring training stats matter, these are the ones to watch with Liriano.
The talk from Twins camp suggests that they're trying to keep it simple with Liriano this year. Pitching coach Rick Anderson is telling him to "stay tall" in his delivery for consistency's sake. They seem to be backing down from the "pitch to contact" talk of recent years, and just want Liriano to avoid big walk numbers.
Thank you for a bit of optimism on the Twins' outlook for 2012. Twins fans will take what optimism they can get, caveats or no.
Even if Ryan Doumit were capable only of playing DH and outfield for the Twins, you could still argue that he represents an improvement over Jason Kubel. But Doumit should keep Drew Butera out of the lineup. That's a major improvement to the team in and of itself, even before you consider the Mauer-spelling effect.
Made me laugh to beat the band.
I'll miss seeing your passion about the living game and its living history on these pages. Thank you.
I think you might be on to something here, SC. The Jason Marquis signing could be seen as a continuation of a groundball-pitchers-and-gloves strategy (the only problem being the current lack of gloves). Of course, the departures of J.J. Hardy and Orlando Hudson stand as evidence that even among glove men, Twins' management may not see the value of their assets until they belong to someone else.
For Twins fans grasping and reaching for a leg of hope, pitching coach Rick Anderson recently disavowed past attempts to coax Francisco Liriano into "pitching to contact." (See http://bit.ly/xMTFnd, a St. Paul Pioneer Press article in which Anderson says the main thing they want Liriano to do is maintain mechanical consistency by "staying tall" in his delivery.) Perhaps upper management has seen the light and told Anderson and Ron Gardenhire to shut up and let Franchise pitch. One would hope so.
This was a dazzling tour of baseball history, a poignant reflection on our mortality, and a prudent reminder of the constant need to have a backup plan. Thank you.
Ron Gardenhire, via the Twins' site on mlb.com: "I plan on [Doumit] being an everyday player some way or another."
In "player to be named later" deals such as the Epstein/Carpenter transaction, what prevents a team from giving the receiving team the least valuable player in their system? Is there some kind of rule, or do PTBNL deals take the form of gentlemen's agreements, wherein it's understood that no one will trade with you in the future if you give a PTBNL of insufficient worth?
Maybe I'm slow, but I don't understand the "Pos Draft Spot" column in the last table. In the words of double-rainbow guy: What does it mean?
No apology necessary -- thank you for your answer!
Terminology question: What does it mean to be a "good five player" or a "good six player"?
There are enough context clues that I gather the higher the number, the better. Are these whole-player equivalents to the 20-80 tool grading system?
Thanks! And a quick search shows you're right -- wiggle's come up eleven times since 2006. I've got some remedial reading to do.
...but I should admit that the first thing I think of when I hear "King Kamehameha" is the "South Park" song "Kyle's Mom's a Bitch."
Also, Kevin -- I don't think I've seen a fastball described as having "wiggle" until now. Is Shelby Miller's fastball eccentric, or are there pitchers with comparable fastball movement to his?
Kamehameha is also a historical figure. He's pretty big in Hawaii.
When is the last time a team had two under-25 players with the potential of Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper?
> I hope the info is good enough to overcome that.
What a piece! It's fun to read and an impressively well-written parody, but it's also impressive as an homage to the kind of extremely talented player often referred to in these parts as "organizational depth." Not that we should mince words, tolerate subpar performance at the MLB level, or feel sorry for anyone good enough to play professional baseball at any level -- but this was a refreshing, even touching, reminder of what it must be like to be a player whose "prospect status" is gone.
Thank you for the picture and the terrific family anecdote, too.
Sidney Ponson. Also, please kill this thread before the Twins get ideas.
This is great. Thank you!
A nice addition would be definitions of terms such as "optioned," "selected," "designated for assignment," and "outrighted." They could appear when you "hover" over the words, as happens with SNLVAR and such.
As a Twins fan, I'll corroborate this and R.J.'s original piece: Michael Cuddyer is no great shakes in the field. That said, it's hard to imagine Ron Gardenhire putting a non-glove man (or at least a player who isn't expressly an infielder) up the middle. The fact that Cuddyer could hit might actually have diminished the odds that he'd ever appear at second base for the Twins. This is the team that shipped out J.J. Hardy and Orlando Hudson because we wanted "more speed up the middle." I'm half joking, but my point is that Cuddyer might have been a good enough hitter to have warranted a try over some of our second-sack options over the past decade.
It's still true that Cuddyer is not a strong fielder. Two qualities help to compensate. First, he has a strong arm to help keep runners at bay. Second, he's willing and able to be a warm body anywhere on the diamond in a pinch -- he even pitched a scoreless inning (with two walks, IIRC) for the Twins last year. That's worth something, especially in a guy who can hit as he can.
I like Michael Cuddyer as much as the next Twins fan, but I feel like the difference between his power and Josh Willingham's has been understated. Target Field has not been kind to home run hitters generally, but as Christina Kahrl pointed out in her take on the Willingham transaction, it has actually been a slightly favorable home run environment for right-handed hitters. Nonetheless, Cuddyer's power numbers went down over his first two years in the new field. Meanwhile, as has been pointed out, Willingham's power has been consistent over the years in some of the most hostile power environments this side of San Diego. Even unadjusted, his power numbers are better than Cuddyer's. If park effects, isolated for right-handers, are any indication, Willingham could prove to be a substantial power upgrade over Cuddyer in the Twins' outfield.
Yes. Capps was a Type B free agent.
Capps acknowledged that he pitched through pain last season, which may account for the increased HR rate and diminished K/9. Even if he returns to form, though, it's hard to justify paying him $4.75 million and giving up a sandwich pick in the process.
Under Don Newcombe's entry, Sam Magile = Sal Maglie.
P.S. Regarding the first paragraph of the above: I've noticed, Mike, that you give careful attention to the introductory material in many of your other pieces. Thank you for continuing to lay the groundwork so methodically and clearly when you present your findings.
Also, I wanted to thank you for the general introduction to DIPS. It was a great refresher and the best such general introduction I can recall seeing on Baseball Prospectus.
It would be wonderful if BP had a page giving an introduction to advanced metrics. My dad loves baseball and is not shy of numbers, but he didn't end up using the gift subscription I gave to him very often because the advanced metrics daunted him. I tried to send him introductory-type articles when they appeared, but really most articles on the site assume a significant level of familiarity with advanced metrics. That's okay and necessary -- you can't explain the genesis of BABIP every time you want to talk about it, and there are the glossary definitions -- but I would bet that my dad's not the only newcomer to the site who felt like he'd just never be able to "get it" and gave up.
I would also bet that for many other readers who do stick with the site, even among those of us who visit the site regularly, advanced metrics still feel like a second language, which we speak with varying degrees of facility and in which we still don't feel completely fluent. A section of the site devoted to a general introduction to advanced metrics would be great for those of us who never systematically studied advanced metrics (and would like not to have to leave this site to do so -- call me lazy!).
Thank you again for a terrific article. It's exciting new stuff, and a great encapsulation of the foundational concepts of DIPS.
I excitedly explained this article to my wife, and she said, "Baseball is the nerdiest sport ever." So true!
Oops, the Red Sox picked up Scutaro's option for 2012. So much for my trenchant analysis.
The Pollyanna Twins fan says: I guess we should be glad because Twins management seems to be paying attention to OBP.
The backseat GM Twins fan says: For that price, couldn't we at least have picked up Marco Scutaro?
It may have been a bad idea for the Twins to have committed to Mauer and Morneau to the extent that they did. Now that they have done so, though, there's no turning back. For better or for worse, they are the core of the team. Their contracts are too large to move. And in any event, at their best they are a good core. The only way to play is to act as if the team will contend now and plan accordingly, since there's no help in AAA or even AA, and nobody who could be offered in a trade to rebuild at those levels. The Twins should be focusing long-term and short-term and leaving the medium term (say, 2013 through 2018, when Mauer's contract finishes) to sort itself out.
There are reasons to be worried about the Twins' future and wary of the new/old leadership. But for what it's worth, the old crew may have new marching orders.
Word out of Minnesota is that the decision to fire Bill Smith came only recently, after a meeting in which he proposed changes less sweeping than the owners envisioned. Perhaps the owners envision a fundamental change in the "Twins way" of finesse pitching and scrappy hitting. It could be that they share the view that the front office has bowed too much to the will of Ron Gardenhire. Gardy clearly didn't appreciate what he had in 2010, and that team was built on a new and promising model that very much departed from the "Twins way." Ryan could be just the guy to nudge the team back in the new direction it seemed to be taking before it needlessly and disastrously changed tack post-2010. He's a "baseball man" and a "front-office man," diplomatic but forceful enough that the team should know who's in control of personnel decisions.
Talk of a reduction in payroll is disturbing. The Twins don't need to rebuild or win now: they need to do both. With Mauer and Morneau locked in, the Twins need to build a team that's ready to go if they return to health and productivity. At the same time, the only hope down on the farm is in the lower levels. To the extent that we build for the future, it should be for the late years of Mauer's contract and thereafter.
It's a mess up and down. Ryan has been in a similar situation before and succeeded. My hope is that he was brought in as a man who can deftly reshape the "Twins way" and handle the two-pronged mission of winning now and building for the future. My fear is that he'll use the past formula for success, which, as discussed, was a success only in the context of the weak AL Central. I think the hope and the fear are equally justified.
Mr. Goldman is an observant, eloquent, and entertaining baseball writer. I don't begrudge him his muse, even if it's the Yankees.
Not only did Nolan Ryan remain in the game after the Robin Ventura beatdown -- he proceeded to no-hit the White Sox for the remainder of the game. Now *that's* rubbing salt in the wound!
When I was a kid, I brought my Catfish Hunter Mizuno to every Twins game I attended, hoping to get my ball. (It was a well-worn glove, autographed on the thumb by Randy Bush, whose signature my mom stood in line at the grocery store to obtain for her probably insufficiently grateful six-year-old.) Even when we sat in absurdly remote upper-deck seats during the 1987 ALCS and the 1991 World Series, I had that glove, just in case. Dave Kingman once hit a fly ball into the Metrodome roof, so hey -- anything could happen.
Twins fans would prefer to forget most of what happened for the rest of the 1990s, but it was late in the decade when "anything" finally did happen to me. By then I had traded in the Mizuno for a Dale Murphy Rawlings, which of course I brought dutifully to every game. We were sitting in the left field bleachers -- or rather, the blue, plastic, sunless bucket seats of the 'Dome -- and we were higher up than I wanted to be. I always explained to my dad that we'd have a better chance of getting a ball closer to the field, but he'd always bring up "sightlines" -- as if I cared about those! -- and we would take our place 25 rows up or so.
Even at that altitude, the glove turned out to be an inadequate defense when Dave Winfield hit a line drive straight at my face. The moment was confusing; I remember a general scramble for life in the three-row vicinity of the ball's deadly path. Then, from my cowering position, I saw the ball rattling around under the upturned seats. I scrambled through the peanut shells and I had it!
It turned out to be Winfield's last grand slam. After the game, my dad and I stood in the rain next to the runway with a handful of devoted autograph hounds. Half an hour or so passed, then the players began to file out. They walked past quickly, eyes on the ground, but Winfield stopped when he heard my prepubescent shout: "Mr. Winfield! Your grand slam!" I shielded the ball like a baby bird all the way to Washington Avenue. The autograph faded anyway -- cheap pen, sunny bedroom -- but who cares? It's still my ball.
Steven, any time you have occasion to discuss broader social issues within the context of a baseball analysis, please go for it.
Steven Goldman, is that you?
Of course -- topspin causes the ball to drop. I wrote that last part a bit hastily; my boss had just caught me reading BP instead of working! Thank you for the explanation.
That looks painful.
This is probably a stupid question, but how does a sidearm screwball display any of the lateral motion normally associated with the pitch? It's intuitive that a righty's screwball, thrown over the top, would break away from a lefty hitter. I thought that was because it spun around the ball's north-south axis, so to speak. Then why doesn't it follow that the same hand action would make the ball spin around its east-west axis when thrown sidearm? It seems to me that a sidearm screwball should "rise" more than it should break laterally.
Great piece, Jay. I'm consistently amazed by how well everyone at BP seems to know every team. It's one thing to follow your home team religiously, but to do it for all of MLB is impressive.
That said, I'd nominate bullpen mismanagement above rotation frustration. Putting Slowey in the 'pen was a poor move, and I'd add that the Twins have shown as much lack of grace as Slowey has in their remarks to the media about him (and Liriano). Reupping Pavano was questionable, although at the going rate for starters the duration and size of his deal didn't look that bad in March. As for the rest of the starters, Twins management knew the upside (above-average command across the unit) and the downside (low K rate) and there was little they could do about it in the immediate term but to hope for a repeat of the success the rotation saw in 2010.
But while the Twins were right to let Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier walk -- and I think they should have offered Guerrier arbitration first, he being a Type-A -- they could have re-signed Jon Rauch for a song. Moreover, they could have added any of several good relievers cheaply in the late offseason (though I will grant that 20-20 hindsight helps us to define "good" where the likes of Kyle Farnsworth and Todd Coffey are concerned). Paying for relief pitching may be a cardinal sin, but it should have been apparent to the front office that the Twins lacked relief help in the minors, and that Jim Hoey wasn't going to cut it. Good relief pitching covered a multitude of the starters' sins in 2010, and now it's doing the opposite, covering some of the achievements of the admittedly lackluster rotation.
This is a bummer, man. But thank you both for replying.
At the outset of the Mauer piece, several possibilities for bilateral weakness in the legs were presented. The rest of the piece was devoted to one possible diagnosis: a disc injury. Was there a reason for ruling out the other possible diagnoses?
I want to believe that it's something less severe....
Thanks for writing about this frustrating issue. I hope it spurs MLB to get its act together and work out a deal to get rid of the blackouts.
As an aside, I enjoyed the first paragraph. I remember fishing with my dad in northern Minnesota at night, looking for a signal for the Twins broadcast. We ended up somehow picking up a Tigers game. That's how I learned who Ernie Harwell was.
In interviews, Justin Morneau has said that his doctors told him that any future concussions would be treated as a "new injury" once the symptoms of the July 2010 concussion cleared. He made it sound as if he will be no more susceptible to concussions than anyone else once he has fully healed.
To this non-expert, it seems evident that multiple concussions have increasingly dire effects. However, I'm wondering if that statement holds only in the case of unacknowledged or untreated concussions -- NFL players who "toughed it out" and then suffered a lifetime of aftereffects.
Questions for the experts, then: When Morneau comes back, will another concussion be a "new injury," treated depending on its severity alone with no attention to Morneau's concussion history?
I realize that the skull and crossbones have to do with his back injury, too, so this isn't an implicit criticism of the rating. And I appreciate very much your earlier writing on Morneau's recovery process, which is the most concise and informative thing I've read in the months I've been following his case. Thanks in advance if you have time to respond to this question.
You have united the Hairstons, forming Voltron Hairston. You can't lose!
A general article on "Tools Comparables" would be a great addition to the BP site. When I see that Domonic Brown has 55 speed, for example, I know that means he's above average. But to which established major leaguers could I compare him? It would be really useful to have a one-stop article or table, laying out comparables for each tool, at 5-point intervals. As far as I can tell, there isn't anything like that on BP or anywhere else.
This is a great concept. I'd love to see more of the 2010 outliers, even if the PECOTAs beat them to the press.
Al Tuna is my new favorite mascot name.
This article made me wonder about the 1951 Giants and the odds of their overtaking the Dodgers that season. I wondered what the odds were that such a thing should have taken place.
Naturally, BP already answered the question -- although it was framed in the opposite way, in an article about the worst collapses in MLB history:
I was surprised to learn that the '51 Dodgers had only the second most spectacular collapse in history.
That Beltran image is pretty shocking. There's a fine line between this question and a WATG inquiry, but are there any other players that come to mind who are trying to play through more pain than we realize?
I agree with that. If a personnel decision is made, subscribers should know about it. But if it's a contract dispute or something to that effect, it's apparent by now that BP prefers to keep things close to the vest while negotiations take place. It's as laudable a business practice for them as it is for the Twins.
If it's not a contract dispute, it's clearly something else that BP and Will don't want to talk about.
Not to get high and mighty on everyone -- I'm curious, too, as Will's one of my favorite columnists. But I like and trust him and BP, and will keep following both even if they separate. And the circumstantial evidence doesn't make it clear to me that that's an eventuality or even a likely possibility.
I can think of many reasons that a BP writer, BP, or both would want to keep quiet with respect to the unexplained absence of the writer. Some things aren't our business.
To expand on the point, why should any ballplayer be expected to say anything colorful or honest?
First, we shouldn't expect baseball players to have the wit or tact of a diplomat. Public relations is part of their work these days, but skill in public relations isn't a prerequisite to their getting the job.
Second, lack of diplomatic skill can get a player into trouble. Too much honesty can, too. See, respectively, Torii Hunter and Alex Rodriguez. Safer to stick to cliches.
Jay, thank you for a strong, analytical piece worthy of one of the game's greatest hitters and most complicated personalities.
Masochistic BP readers may find one of the moralizing columnist's tomes that Jay spoke of in Jayson Stark's ESPN.com column today. It might be worth reading, just to remind yourself why you pay for a BP subscription.
P.S. I should note that in the past, you suggested that Strasburg wasn't affected by the inverted W to begin with, but that people mistook his scapular loading for an inverted W.
Will, you've made two passing references to the so-called inverted W in the past, both dismissive. Everything I can find on the inverted W seems to lead back to one source, Chris O'Leary. Given that Strasburg was one of the pitchers that O'Leary and his followers marked as at-risk due to the inverted W thing, could you please let us know (a) who, if anyone, other than O'Leary argues for or against the dangers of the inverted W, and (b) why you're dismissive of inverted W phobia? Thanks.
Those unfamiliar with what I'm referring to may view O'Leary's inverted W lesson here:
Kevin, thank you for the Org Watch series. I like that this one treats three division rivals, and hope that there's one coming for the exciting young aspirants to the NL East crown.
Ken, thank you for making an argument that I don't think I've seen in the replay debate: replay would help umpires. It would reinforce their authority and reduce the pressure on them to be perfect every time. It's apparent that nobody feels worse about this episode than Jim Joyce; with a simple booth review, we'd be writing about a perfect game and he'd be where he wants to be, in the footnotes (or not there in the story at all).
One criticism of the Twins' system has seemed to remain consistent: that they don't draft and develop power hitting sufficiently well. Denard Span's recent BP interview, in which he said that he was taught to "slap" the ball, provides a decadal bookend to David Ortiz's notorious comments, also published by BP, on the Twins wanting him to hit "like a little [female dog]." Granted, you wouldn't think the Twins have a serious power problem to look at the current lineup, but to judge by your team reviews there don't seem to be (m)any mashers down on the farm.
So: Have the Twins made strides in drafting and developing power, or is that one area in which they could still improve?
Thanks for replying, Will!
Earlier this week (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=10324), you wrote that it looks unlikely that Brian Roberts will start the season on the field. He's reportedly making his spring training debut tonight, and John Perrotto has him in the opening day lineup. Anything to add about Roberts' back, or are we just going to have to wait and see how he does tonight?
Funny, I saw Punto batting ninth and had the opposite reaction: That's the biggest thing the Twins have to worry about this year? Sweet!
Speaking of Tobi Stoner, Christina, have you ever read the novel Stoner, by John Williams? Great book.
Can anyone find an image of the McCutchen escutcheon?
Will, may we have a comment on Justin Verlander? Whoever wrote his season synopsis in the BP annual wasn't too sunny about his workload.
A good list, but clearly you didn't have the displeasure of owning Andy Sonnanstine in 2009. He's also the sixth Rays starter on the list, which brings me to my question: What do you think the chances are that that honor will go to Jeremy Hellickson instead, and what would you expect of him?
I agree: reading is the key. It's illogical for a reader to ask you to rank, say, Jose Lopez and Skip Schumaker. They're apples and oranges. If you want home runs, draft Lopez; if you're in a league with OBP, maybe Schumaker is your safer choice. That's the sort of decision that each fantasy manager needs to make for himself or herself -- and that's the beauty of the tiers, because these guys are comparable in their combination of moderate upside with significant downside, even though they're not "rankable." The tiers instruct managers to put them on the draft list in around the same place, and make a pick based on need.
I'd advise reading, too, because I think you're one of the best writers on the site. You're also one of the most attentive readers of, and responders to, subscribers' comments. Thanks, and keep up the good work.
Thank you very much, Marc. It's a good list, as usual, with helpful analysis. Count me among those who love the new equally-weighted tier format.
1. Has your inbox given you a sense of how many BP readers still use the standard 5x5 in fantasy baseball -- and in particular, how many use batting average? I'm used to adjusting lists like these for OBP/OPS, and I know how entrenched AVG is in everyday commentary and, presumably, fantasy. Still, I'd love to see BP be Shaw's unreasonable man, and try to adapt the fantasy world to the real-life stat one.
2. Can any fantasy baseball writer avoid the "I wish Adrian wasn't in Petco" trope? If I were a Padres fan I'd be sick to death of seeing writers wish him out of San Diego.
That is amazing. I share your hope that whoever buys it will donate it to the Hall.
PU stands for pop-ups, in case anyone else didn't know! (It would be useful to put "PU" in the glossary; it seems to me that it's a less standard stat than, say, GB or FB, which are found there.)
Christina was asked in yesterday's chat to make a prediction about playing time in the Rockies' outfield in 2010. Her answer -- "Dexter Fowler doesn't lose that much playing time to [Carlos Gonzalez], and Ryan Spilborghs keeps getting the short straw" -- would seem to suggest that she thinks more highly of Fowler than CarGo. The comment about Spilborghs might also suggest that she sees neither as a "perennial All-Star" possibility.
Would either of you care to comment? I'd be interested to hear more extended impressions of two guys who were very exciting last year.
Enhanced deep-history content. I'd like to be able to do player-to-player comparisons more easily, rather than calling up whole seasons' worth of data, or one player at a time, to compare players of different eras.
Just as important, I'd like to see deep-history articles, like Steven Goldman's profile of Paul Waner, become a much more regular feature of BP. Articles such as these would be all the more welcome in the long offseason.
At the risk of sounding snarky -- which isn't my intent; just want to answer your question -- I'd want to see any new content for which I was asked to pay before I made the decision to pay for it.
As a quick follow-up: I take it that historical earning power accounts both for raw market size and different stadia's differing profitability? As a Twins fan, you can imagine why I'm asking....
Craaap. I forgot Tug McGraw.
Quiz is certainly the top reliever-turned-actor, as viewers of "The Baseball Bunch" with Johnny Bench and the Kool-Aid Man can attest.
This interview made me wonder what BP has had to say about pitch counts in the past. Here are a few search-saving links for those who had the same thought. First, the full complement of archived BP articles containing "pitch count":
Next, Rany Jazayerli's 1998 article on Pitcher Abuse Points:
To clarify, I was referring to Will's statement that "consistency and availability are two traits that I don't think get measured well." Will didn't ignore the stats; he applied an admittedly subjective correction to account for what he saw as their limitations.
Those who would apply only statistical measures in making their decision still need to choose and weight the stats. It isn't true to say that Lincecum swept the board among the newer measures, either; see the posted WARP3 and SNLVAR results.
Maybe Will got a little cute with language, or just had Thanksgiving on his mind. But he made it clear that Carpenter's time lost to injury, which the stats can't fully account for, tipped the balance for him. Given that argument, it's easy to see why Haren made it onto his ballot, and hard to argue against his top three.
Forgive me, God and America, but I was really, really hoping that the Tynan departure would be a convenient excuse to retire "God Bless America" altogether.
Agreed -- pace is important in baseball, aesthetically and practically, and in my opinion its dramatic slowing over the years is a much bigger human-element problem than bad calls. Replay would only exacerbate this problem.
MLB should shorten pre- and in-game ceremonies; enforce the "pitch clock"; get rid of all of the travel days between playoff games; sign a TV deal that allows the playoffs to unfold continuously, rather than having to pause to fit a predetermined TV schedule that has nothing to do with series outcomes; and do something about time-calling for hitting-armor adjustment.
Let's lobby for all of these things and then lobby for umpiring reform.
That said, maybe there's a middle ground. A head ump, for example, could sit in a booth and use pitchFX to call balls and strikes. He could also -- within a predetermined and very short period of time after a given play (fifteen seconds?) -- make use of replay to overrule an egregious call. Such a system would eliminate a managerial power of appeal but serve as a check on human error in umpiring.
Lance Berkman should be suspended for the rest of the season for saying such mean things about the Astros organization.
I thought I recalled reading a few weeks ago that pins in wrists were becoming commonplace, and, relatively speaking, not too much to worry about. So the comment about the screws in Kevin Slowey's wrists makes me worried, and confused. Maybe it's apples and oranges we're talking about, but what's the difference between the plain-jane pins and the serious screws?
I got stuck on the first point of methodology:
"First, we need to know how much marginal revenue each team is likely to bring in, based on its win total and market size. To do this, we'll use Nate's MR/MW curve, updated for 2009 revenues. We'll then assign each team a market-size factor based on its 2007-2008 gate receipts."
Wouldn't basing market size on gate receipts be a poor indicator of market size where big markets have bad teams? The fact that last year's receipts affect this year's management decisions notwithstanding, it would seem that the potential for marginal profits from a boost in attendance would be greater in a place like DC, where half the stadium is empty almost every night. I would think, therefore, that using gate receipts as an indicator of market size would actually understate the revenue-generating potential of improvements in attendance.
Are you talking about a play Joe Morgan made in high school ball? Or are you talking about the other Joe Morgan?
Thank you for saying what I've been thinking about the "fourth outfielder" concept for some time. Players of McLouth's ilk prove to be capable, valuable starters for Major League teams not in the megabudget category.
Also, I wonder about the extent to which "the industry has voted" in this deal. Is it clear that McLouth was shopped aggressively before settling for a trio of players I see as middling at best? Another rich pennant contender in the NL East, and at one in the NL Central, could use an upgrade in the outfield almost as much as the Braves could have done.
MLB.com reports that Joe Beimel has signed with the Nationals: http://tinyurl.com/d5degt
The Nats now have a nice lefty reliever and a Steven Wright look-alike.
Hey there Wick!
I agree with you that Span will see more PT than this chart predicts, but it will come at Delmon's expense and not Gomez's. Gardy values attitude and fielding, a little too much for my taste (and for that of the general BP-reading public), and Delmon is questionable in the former and atrocious at the latter. To the extent that a single lineup will predominate, I think that Span will wind up leading off, with Gomez supplying Ozzie Guillen-like speed and smallballishness from the 9 hole.
Crede should outperform his projection here, too, and will bat seventh (or sometimes fifth) given Gardy's general preference for lefty-righty alternation in his lineups. I know I'm a homer, but I see promise in this lineup, particularly in positions three through seven. It's sort of a Furcal-less Dodgers-light, with no one but the fourth hitter fitting the archetype for his lineup position and yet comprising in total a solid set of interchangeable parts that should play better than it looks.
I had Kuroda last year, and even in a deep league he was a frustrating player. On his good days, he was stellar, even if you discount a few freaky-high K totals. On bad days, though, he was Daniel Cabrera-esque. The WHIPs he posted on those days cannot be attributed to ground ball base hits here and there, either -- he issued a lot of free passes.
Does anyone have observations on why he imploded when he did, and why so completely?