I case you missed it, the draft happened this week! The Rule 4 draft, that is, which is of amateur players from the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. There's also the Rule 5 draft, which is of players that have been languishing in teams' minor league systems. There's also the Rule 6 draft, which is of bat boys and bat girls (and bat dogs, in some cases) who are unhappy with their current situations and wish to open themselves to new opportunities.
There aren't many external factors, other than bad press, that would force MLB teams to install additional protective barriers at their ballparks: On Broken Bats, Protective Netting, and the "Baseball Rule", by Nathaniel Grow, FanGraphs
Until courts begin to consistently hold teams liable for fan injuries, MLB is unlikely to require that additional netting be installed in its parks. In economics terms, fan injuries from flying bats or balls are currently an externality – a cost of doing business that teams are not required to shoulder, and therefore one that is not reflected in the price that they charge for their tickets.
Indeed, teams currently have little financial motivation to take greater precautions to avoid fan injuries, as they are not legally responsible for any injuries that do occur, but could potentially see the demand for some of their most expensive seats decline should they install an additional barrier between fans and the field. If teams were held legally accountable for their fans’ injuries, however, then this financial calculus would change.
At this point in the season, the baserunners:runs relationship throughout the game is still pretty scattered: Visualizing Run Conversion Efficacy, by AD, Banished to the Pen
The above graph and subsequent speculation are attempts to understand what has happened so far this year. With two-thirds of the 2015 season remaining, I suspect that teams will find themselves moving closer to that regression line for the same reason Pythagorean-based projections tend to be generally accurate. I also suspect that sequencing — the way teams cluster their hitting and other getting-on-base actions– explains a not-insignificant portion of teams’ deviations from the charted regression line, and that, at least early in the season, a team might reasonably prefer the current position occupied by Detroit and San Francisco to the one occupied by Minnesota.
It's downright impossible to assign and distribute the true amount of blame and credit for a certain play or game, but win probability is probably our best option: Who Really Won Game 6 of the 2011 World Series?, by Russell Carleton, Baseball Prospectus
I know that there are plenty of people out there who are wondering why I chose win probability. It has the unfortunate property of being a stat that is heavily influenced by the context of what’s going on (some would call that its greatest strength), but I think it’s the best story-telling stat that we have, and sometimes it’s nice to tell a story. This methodology could be adapted to fit a linear-weights type of model. One just needs to figure out the linear weights for each step along the way and pro-rate the credit out properly. The nice thing is that this system gives us a more fine-grained idea of what happened than the double-accounting system of everything being credited to the batter and pitcher, simultaneously. In this system, if an event is much more a matter of the pitcher doing something, then the batter shouldn’t take all of the credit. We can also measure a little more directly the contributions of luck. Have some teams gotten luckier than others in their outcomes?
But if there’s a lesson in this one, it’s an appreciation for how many things have to go right even in the space of a half inning. Not everyone got involved, but if Theriot drops the throw from Descalso on the force out, the course of Ranger history probably changes. But he didn’t, even though he didn’t turn two. Even in a half-inning where the win probability didn’t change all that much, there’s a lot to unpack. And this goes on all season long.
Bad-ball hitters are better at hitting bad balls!: The anatomy of a bad-ball hitter, by Henry Druschel, Beyond the Box Score
Indeed, they're much lower, and that's before taking into account their increased whiff rate on swings at pitches outside the zone. Clearly, this group loses a lot more when they go outside the strike zone, so it's no surprise to see them do it less.
All together, this seems like a simple argument. But this is showing more than just "players who swing at pitches outside the zone are probably pretty good at hitting those pitches." What's important is the ratio of their out-of-zone performance to their in-zone performance. To me, this suggests that perhaps the notion of players in the bad-ball category having bad eyes might be overstated. It's not that they don't recognize balls, but that they have a different hitting zone than most batters, and as such "ball" isn't the same as "a bad pitch to swing at" for them. That's not clear from this, however, just wild speculation.
Yay for hitches! Seriously!: Hitch Men, by Ryan Parker, Baseball Prospectus
Some hitters do in fact have an issue with their hitch that leads to bad outcomes, but it’s a double-edged sword as that same hitch also helps their rhythm and feel in the batters box. Javy Baez wracks up strikeouts and whiffs even with killer bat speed. His hitch helps create this bat speed, but it puts him in a terrible position to use that speed as he keeps his hands too high and tips his bat very late in sequence. Rather than abandon the hitch, I would love it if Baez came back to Wrigley with pretty much the same movements, just a little lower and a little earlier in his sequence.
If you’ve made it this far, let me level with you: There will be many coaches, evaluators, and players who call a well-done hitch a load, a gather, or something else. That’s completely fine. If you want to go back through this article and control F “hitch” and replace it with your word of choice, go right ahead. The idea of not limiting motion is the key idea. What I’m trying to do is take away some of the taboo associated with the word “hitch.” A hitch is not bad. A bad hitch is bad just like any other aspect of the swing.
Minor leaguers are competitive, sure, but do they really want to win?: Does Anyone Here Want to Win?, by Brendan Gawlowski, Baseball Prospectus
At the major-league level, this makes some sense. The players on the field during a major-league game have graduated from the ranks of the malnourished and underpaid. Their team’s express goal is to win games, and players are compensated handsomely to help achieve that objective. There are also powerful incentives for an individual to play well and ultimately help his team: young players dread the thought of returning to the minors, while veterans often have performance-based incentives in their contracts. Even the most selfish player can recognize that a successful team lifts all boats. Better teams will attract more All-Star Game appearances, more awards, and more opportunities for personal glory in the playoffs and World Series. Ultimately, players at the big-league level have a strong impetus to win, whether they personally care about their teammates or not, and a fan at a major-league game can reasonably assume that most of the athletes on the field are emotionally invested in the outcome of the game beyond the ramifications for their own personal statistics.
Minor-league games, on the other hand, are played on a much different landscape, and the same assumption doesn’t hold. Many minor leaguers view their teams as stepping stones, and understandably their focus is on improving their skills so that they can graduate through the system. Additionally, it’s rare for a minor leaguer to spend more than a year or two in the same town. The brevity of a player’s tenure in a particular place robs him of the chance to connect with the city and his teammates, and it can be difficult for a player to care about the league standings when he might be somewhere else in a week or two. There’s very little enduring loyalty from a player toward his team in the minor leagues.
Exceedingly lopsided trade demands, like the one Ruben Amaro Jr. reportedly demanded for Ben Revere, are actually pretty common!: What to Do When You Read a Silly Trade Rumor, by Jeff Sullivan, FanGraphs
And consider the case of the Astros. Do you remember this? These were actual leaks of stored internal information. They wanted Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman for Bud Norris. Alternatively, for Norris, they wanted Xander Bogaerts. They wanted Lucas Giolito for Lucas Harrell. They offered Jarred Cosart and Delino DeShields for Giancarlo Stanton. The Astros were embarrassed by the leaks, and they reached out to other teams to apologize, and while some argued that bits of the information were inaccurate, there weren’t any whole denials. That was a window into how a front office operates, and based on the Houston example, they kept starting with lopsided proposals. The Astros front office has drawn its own criticism over the years, but its perception couldn’t be more different from the perception of Amaro, and yet here we are. Both of them have been linked to comical nonsense. And the only stuff we know to be true is the stuff involving Houston.
Throwing a no-hitter doesn't make you better, not does it make you worse. No-hitters mean NOTHING! (Okay, that might be a bit drastic.): Scott's Miscellany — The Start After a No-Hitter, by Scott Spratt, FanGraphs
Seventeen of the 30 pitchers had a better ERA in the rest of their starts after the no-hitter than they did before it, and an even split of 15 of the 30 pitchers had fewer pitches per game for the rest of the season. In other words, there’s nothing there. Pitchers have generally been unaffected by their no-hitters for the rest of that season.
The other major question I had was whether the fatigue of throwing a lot of pitches in a no-hitter affected the pitcher going forward. I was surprised to discover that in only six of the 33 no-hitters did the pitcher throw 125 or more pitches. Of course, Santana and Beckett were two of those pitchers, so I was predisposed to be alarmed by the high totals. In truth, even the pitchers with those higher pitch totals showed unremarkable before and after splits. Santana was the only one of the six that sharply declined in performance. Even looking at just the pitcher’s next starts, there was little effect. There is a small negative relationship between pitches thrown in the no-hitter and pitches thrown in the next start, but it is also a weak relationship (r-squared of 0.08).