Dee Gordon hits his first home run, two bench players push the limits of bad batting, Chris Davis keeps hitting, Clay Hensley exposes the unearned run, Derek Jeter hits cleanly in three of his five at-bats (or does he?), and more.
Five things I wanted to write about happened in last night’s games, but none of them was substantial enough on its own for an article. The solution: drop all five unrelated observations (plus a few more for good measure) into the same article draft and call it a column. Trick of the trade.
Derek Jeter goes 3-for-5 and gets accused of steroid use by this one guy I talked to
I live in a baseball discourse bubble.
It's too early to look at statistical leaderboards, but sometimes we have to anyway.
April 19, 2011: "Somehow, someway, Carlos Lee is second with a 53.2 UZR/150. I will literally eat broken glass if he finishes with a positive number this season. (Someone hold me to it.)" —This guy, who is now dead, from eating glass :(
We have such a weird relationship with April stats. I’m trying to think of anything else where we consider a 10-percent sample almost totally useless. On election night, when they show the vote totals, I start to take them seriously once 10 percent of precincts are in. If you could see only 10 percent of a human, you could still probably figure out whether he was tall, fat, into rockabilly, etc. But the first 10 percent of a baseball season is like the first 10 percent of the sausage race in Milwaukee: filled with narrative, almost entirely misleading, and a place where Randall Simon doesn’t belong.
Pinpointing the positions with the worst projections on this season's likely contending clubs.
Every year, several teams finish out of the playoffs by a handful of games, close enough to taste October but just as ineligible for post-season play as the lowliest of last-place finishers. Last season, the Red Sox and Braves were both eliminated on the season’s final day after watching what had seemed to be safe leads evaporate. Since a one-game swing for either team would have meant a much different outcome, it was tempting to look back and wonder where in the lineup they could have eked out an extra victory.
As Jay Jaffenoted in January, right field proved to be a particular weak point for both teams. Braves right fielder Jason Heyward slumped to a .254 True Average (TAv) in an injury-plagued sophomore season, and his replacements—primarily Eric Hinske, Joe Mather, and Jose Constanza—hit only .252/.294/.346 in his absence. In Boston, J.D. Drew added a 60-day DL stint for a left shoulder impingement to his lengthy injury history and hit just .222/.315/.302 when active. His replacements—mainly Josh Reddick, Darnell McDonald, and Mike Cameron—made Heyward’s look good, mustering only a .234/.282/.377 line. As a result, Braves right fielders accumulated 0.6 WARP, and Red Sox right fielders checked in at 1.3 WARP. It’s reasonable to wonder whether both teams would have made the playoffs with even average (roughly 2.0 WARP) production in right.
Jay looks at Derek Jeter's struggles trying to reach 3,000 hits and the corresponding struggles of his team last night.
It's not easy being Derek Jeter. Fresh off his 37th birthday, he is simultaneously on the precipice of making history—the first player to attain 3,000 hits as a Yankee, the 11th player to do so with a single team, and the 28th player to do so, period—and of being written off. Mere months after signing a three-year, $51 million deal (plus a player option) following a stretch of contentious negotiations, he is in the throes of the worst season of his 17-year career, his contract even more obviously an albatross than it appeared when he signed it. For a player who has always downplayed personal accomplishments in favor of team success, this is an uncomfortable time.
Brian Cashman says the Yankees aren't interested in Jose Reyes, but perhaps the GM doth protest too much.
The Golden Age of the American League shortstop has ended. Ten years ago, the game had its banner shortstops, who graced the pages of Sports Illustrated, but those pec-adorned days are long gone.
The reigning king of the AL East’s shortstops is, of course, Derek Jeter, but as The Times reminded us last week, Jeter is aging quickly. He’s currently on the disabled list for a strained calf suffered while jogging off the field. This has been the second-longest DL stint of his career, and for a player who has long played hurt and healed quickly, the next two-and-a-half guaranteed years—let alone that player option—might not fly by.
A trip through our new 1950-and-up leaderboard, including a close look at our new-formula fielding runs.
Our collection of BP-flavored single-season WARP scores currently goes back to 1950. Now that we’ve added fielding runs to the sortable choices, you can easily see the combination of offense and defense that made the top players during this period so valuable, and in some cases dragged them down from even higher perches. Herein we traipse quickly through the 20 best players of the Truman-Eisenhower years and onward.
The fielding runs featured here are the product of our new revised formula developed by Colin Wyers. As Colin says, “The difficult part of any defensive metric is estimating the batted-ball distribution among fielders. Old FRAA used season-level data about things like pitcher handedness to figure out the distribution on a seasonal level, and prorated it out to individual fielders. Now, FRAA uses play-by-play data, which allows us to use more variables (like whether or not a fielder has to hold on a runner) and to assign responsibility to each fielder based on the games he actually played in.”
This version of FRAA avoids the pitfall of subjectivity inherent in zone-based ratings. “In contrast to other popular metrics, FRAA does not use any stringer-recorded observational data,” Colin explains. “Serious discrepancies have been noted between data providers, and research has shown that in larger samples use of that sort of batted-ball data introduces severe distortions in the metrics that impede accuracy. Without evidence that the batted-ball data has redeeming value in the short term, it seems imprudent to use that sort of data in our evaluation of player defense.”