Javier Baez is as good as we thought he might be, just...completely differently.
Great players comes in all shapes, with all kinds of skills, and so do great prospects. Yet there’s some great players or even good players that were great prospects that projected to hold totally different skills than the ones they ultimately ended up with. What happens when you successfully project how good a prospect will become as a major-league player, but totally miss on what kind of player he will become?
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There's a lot riding on comebacks by Michael Brantley, Kyle Schwarber, and A.J. Pollock.
Michael Brantley was one of baseball’s best all-around outfielders in 2014 and 2015, hitting a combined .319/.382/.494 with 35 homers, an MLB-high 90 doubles, 38 steals, and more walks (112) than strikeouts (107) in 293 games. He easily led Indians position players in WARP during that two-year span and placed third in the AL MVP voting in 2014. And then he missed nearly the entire 2016 season following offseason shoulder surgery, appearing in just 11 games and seeing zero action after mid-May.
Which young pitchers does PECOTA see as having breakout potential in 2017?
“Breakout” can mean different things to different people. It can mean a prospect or untested young big leaguer establishing himself as a valuable regular. It can mean a relative unknown becoming an impact player. It can mean a well-known star making the leap to full-blown superstar, perhaps even following up a “breakout” one year with an even bigger “breakout” the next. Your own definition may vary, but in PECOTA’s case “breakout” is all about out-performing track records.
PECOTA assigns each player a “breakout rate” for the upcoming season based on their odds of beating their established level of recent performance by at least 20 percent, with historical player comps serving as an important factor. Because the entire system is based on regressed-to-the-mean, 50th percentile projections, breakout rate identifies the players most likely to leave that in the dust for their 70th, 80th, and 90th percentile upsides.
Hal Steinbrenner asked a question without really wanting to know the answer.
I made a mistake: I thought about this from the player’s perspective. I thought about the player. Or perhaps, I thought about it as mostly mattering with respect to individual players, as mostly serving to modify their behavior. On Thursday, Hal Steinbrenner reminded me of my error.
Jon Lester should be just fine without David Ross and the rest of baseball can learn something from the Cubs' catching plan.
For the past three or four years, one of the things we have known about baseball—just known, without question or reservation—is that David Ross was a vital part of Jon Lester’s success. Recall that Ross (who, we all knew, was an elite pitch framer) stepped in as the Red Sox’s primary catcher when Jarrod Saltalamacchia (in addition to being a terrible defender) got exposed by good pitching during Boston’s 2013 World Series run, and then became Lester’s personal catcher beginning in the spring of 2014.
Lester had a 2.02 ERA and held opponents to a .581 OPS when working with Ross that season, before being traded away from his new partner at the trade deadline. He still pitched well for the A’s, who paired him up with Derek Norris, but his opponents' OPS rose by about 50 points, and then the 2014 Wild Card Game happened.
Kyle Hendricks might be a lot closer to Greg Maddux than he thinks.
One of the challenges of bringing BP's new pitching data to light is figuring out whether it’s useful and how we can leverage it to better understand what is happening on the field. As mentioned previously, we look at this in much the same way we look at pitch movement or velocity; we need to figure out how these tunnels data points interact with other components of a player’s performance to unlock a deeper understanding of what is happening.
Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks is a perfect subject to start with. As we mentioned in "Two Ways to Tunnel," Hendricks has some of the smallest pitch tunnels in all of baseball. Hendricks is often compared to Greg Maddux (including by us!), and we can see how he is in fact like Maddux in certain respects. It gives us an idea of how he’s successful, but only an abstract one. That is, we rationalize Hendricks’ success because we’ve seen Maddux do it before, but we don’t really know how all of the moving pieces come together.
In order to better understand how Hendricks is successful, we’ll have to dig into some of our new data to see what that can tell us about how he pitches.
Hendricks has steadily learned how to strike out opposing batters, increasing his K% by 55 percent from 2014 to 2015 and 2016, and it’s clear the effect that has had on his game. In fact, Hendricks’ new-found ability to strike batters out has resulted in him becoming one of the best pitchers in baseball as he has posted a sub-3.50 DRA over each of the past two seasons despite getting dinged for pitching (and winning an ERA title) in front of an elite defense.