Back in 1975, Joe Torre played out his last season as a third baseman, Pedro Guerrero toiled in the Dodgers’ farm system, and a researcher named Ellen J. Langer published a study that would become a staple of the as-yet-unpopularized field of behavioral economics.
In the study, researchers allotted one group of participants lottery tickets with pre-assigned numbers. They gave another group blank tickets, asking them to fill in the numbers themselves. Then, they attempted to buy the tickets back. The result, since replicated and disseminated in more readable forms by the work of Daniel Kahneman, revealed an illogical human bias: The participants who wrote down their own numbers were more reluctant to sell back their tickets—exhibiting far greater confidence in their choice (despite the absence of any reason to feel that way) and far more motivation to see it through than those who had their numbers handed down.
Playing for a voluntarily terrible team makes it hard to cash in star-caliber performance for the full star treatment a player deserves. That’s why, if you failed to look closely enough, Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman might have slipped his graduation into true superstardom right under your nose last season. Don’t feel bad; he even has PECOTA fooled.
Two emerging, 24-year-old, left-handed sluggers square off in this week's installment.
Today we’re going to take a look at a pair of emerging 24-year-old sluggers, Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman and Kansas City’s Eric Hosmer. Freeman put together a breakout campaign in 2013, posting the third-best season of all first baseman, and, after a slow start, Hosmer rebounded with a scorching final four months of the season to finish eighth at the position in standard 5x5 leagues. When you look at the future of the first-base position these are two of the premier young players in the game, and Mike Gianella has listed them back-to-back as four-star options for 2014. Mike’s list gives a slight nod to Hosmer as the preferred option, but it’s clearly a pretty tight battle. Let’s take a look under the hood and see what these two look like mano-a-mano.
If you look only at the surface stats you’d be tempted to give Freeman the nod. He posted a better average last season (.319 to Hosmer’s .305) and owns a better career mark (.285 to .277) over a comparable number of plate appearances. But a “not so fast!” caveat is all kinds of warranted here. Freeman’s 2013 campaign was fueled by a very high (and very likely unsustainable) .371 BABIP, and his 11.6 career SwStr% is almost three points higher than Hosmer’s. Freeman chases about 2.5 percent more balls out of the zone than Hosmer, and he makes contact with pitches in the zone almost seven percent less often. Hosmer’s disastrous sophomore campaign in 2012, meanwhile, was fueled in part by a dismal .255 BABIP—a number that carried over into the first two months of 2013 as well. Assuming the flowers and heartfelt apology Hosmer gave to Lady Luck last June keep him out of the doghouse, he’s the better bet to produce a higher average going forward.
Paul Goldschmidt leads off this list of the best long-term assets at the position heading into 2014.
Because dynasty-league rankings are relatively league-dependent, I set up parameters for ranking the players below (and the ones who will follow at other positions). The list here presupposes a 16-team standard dynasty format, where there are no contracts/salaries, players can be kept forever and owners have minor league farm systems in which to hoard prospects. So feel free to adjust this as necessary for your individual league, whether it’s moving non-elite prospects without 2014 ETAs down if you don’t have separate farm teams or moving lower-risk, lower-reward players up in deeper mixed or only formats.
First base is the place you need to get offense these days if you want to compete, and after a strong first ten or so names, the rest of the options can get a little more dicey than you’d like to see. It’s not a particularly strong pipeline for prospects, but that’s not terribly uncommon for the position—the pipeline is often just as wide for players who have defensive deficiencies than it has been for strict first base prospects in the last decade or so. That won’t be any different in 2015, when Miguel Cabrera and Joe Mauer join the fold.
Scouts' takes on Andrew Cashner, Freddie Freeman, Burch Smith, and other interesting players.
Many of our authors make a habit of speaking to scouts and other talent evaluators in order to bring you the best baseball information available. Not all of the tidbits gleaned from those conversations make it into our articles, but we don't want them to go to waste. Instead, we'll be collecting them in a regular feature called "What Scouts Are Saying," which will be open to participation from the entire BP staff and include quotes about minor leaguers and major leaguers alike.
Jose Fernandez put a damper on the Dodgers on Monday, but their recent performance is still historic.
The Monday Takeaway
When the Dodgers took the field last night, they did so nearly two months removed from their last string of consecutive defeats. They had logged seven separate winning streaks of four games or longer since their last losing streak. And over that 53-game span, they were 42-11.
Matched up against fellow first-year starter Hyun-jin Ryu, Jose Fernandez set out to do what the likes of Matt Cain, Cliff Lee, and Stephen Strasburg could not: prevent the Dodgers from rebounding immediately from a rare loss. The young right-hander needed 109 pitches to complete six innings, but he held Don Mattingly’s club to two runs (one earned) on four hits and three walks, striking out eight along the way. With help from A.J. Ramos, Chad Qualls, and Steve Cishek, Fernandez came out on top in the “ace-off” and dealt the Dodgers their first two-plus-game skid since June 20-21.
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.
Pegging BP's favorites in both leagues, both in the standings and for the major awards.
Today we reveal the Baseball Prospectus staff predictions for the division standings and the major player awards (MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year) in the American and National Leagues. Each staff member's division standings predictions may be found later in the article. Here, we present a wisdom-of-the-crowds summary of the results. In each table you'll find the average rank of each team in their division with first-place votes in parentheses, plus the results of our pre-season MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year voting.
For the MVP voting, we've slightly amended the traditional points system in place that has been used elsewhere, dropping fourth- and fifth-place votes to make it 10-7-5 for the MVP Award, and the regular 5-3-1 for the Cy Young and Rookie of the Year Awards (that's 5 points for a first-place vote, 3 points for a second-place vote, etc.). Next to each of these selections we've listed the total number of ballots, followed by the total number of points, and then the number of first-place votes in parentheses, if any were received.