The vision of the locals at Baseball Prospectus was always to provide BP-quality writing with a hyper-focus on individual teams, giving fans from those cities a destination site for the best analysis around. With BP Wrigleyville, Bronx, and Boston leading the way in April and Milwaukee joining the fray in late June, the locals not only delivered on that goal, but discovered some brilliant writers along the way. Here’s just a quick sampling of some of the best work from each of the four locals from their first year of existence.
The Cubs were stuck in a rut as an organization. With Theo Epstein and company in tow, many realized that more than just an upgrade in talent was needed. The entire Culture on the North Side needed to change. BP Wrigleyville EIC Sahadev Sharma explored exactly how the organization did that and how it culminated in a 97-win season and an NLCS appearance:
It was once thought that ‘Cub’ was a negative term; that’s no longer the case. But it didn’t just happen because these Cubs won 97 games in the regular season and now find themselves a day away from taking on the New York Mets for the NL crown. No, this started years ago, on the backfields in Arizona. An idea sprung up by a pair of field instructors inspired to transform the culture of an entire organization. They somehow did what some believed was the impossible: they changed what it meant to be a Cub.
Rian Watt had an amazing year at Wrigleyville, which culminated in a few trips to the clubhouse in late September (followed by postseason coverage from Wrigley throughout the playoffs). In this piece, he shared some impressions from that first experience:
The second thing I noticed was stupid. It’s so obvious that even thinking the thought makes you want to go full Homer Simpson and D’oh! yourself right in the face. It’s the kind of thing you know, looking back, that you were aware of for years but never considered fully. And it’s this: baseball players are just people, too. And they’re doing a very hard, very physical thing day after day. It hit me first while I was talking with David Ross, next to his locker at the base of the small flight of stairs that leads from the clubhouse to the main concourse. Ross was changing into his workout clothes as he spoke to me, and between my question and his answer stripped off his “K for Cancer” t-shirt to reveal a torso covered in dark yellow bruises.
Players are Human: On Quantifying Makeup and Personality –Carlos Portocarrero
It’s a theme with so many of these pieces, but Carlos Portocarrero perhaps said it best: players are human. In this piece, Portocarrero looks at just how much makeup matters when it comes to building a team:
What makes a player like Rizzo able to make these adjustments, while a guy like Patterson struggles to simply stay in pro ball despite his amazing natural talents? Is there something in their personality or “makeup” that separates the two? If so, how can we quantify that difference when it comes to evaluating players to help us pick “the right” player in the future?
Nearly two months ago, Jake Arrieta took home the Cy Young award. Even by June, suggesting such a thing would have been a bit of a stretch, but the discussion started in earnest after Arrieta threw a no-hitter against the Dodgers in the closing days of August. Sahadev Sharma profiled his rise, and the rise yet to come:
There was a time when Jake Arrieta was our little secret. People like you who watch the Cubs even when they’re heading for another lost season, and people like myself who cover this team for a living—many of us saw that something special was brewing with Arrieta last season. We were Arrieta hipsters. But on Sunday Night Baseball, Jake Arrieta went mainstream. Nine innings pitched, 12 strikeouts, just one walk, no runs, and, oh yeah, no hits.
The Nature of Yankees Fans –Nick Stellini
With the season in the rearview mirror in particularly hard-to-take fashion—at least for what Yankees fans have grown accustomed to—Nick Stellini takes on a deep look into the fan base that he is a part of:
There's being spoiled, and there's being petulant. New York sports is all about asking, "What have you done for me lately?" In a way, that's fair. But when that question is answered by looking at a sample of a few weeks and without consideration for basic outside factors like health and who the pitching savant on the mound is, it leads to ugliness and hypocrisy. Mark Teixeira was a bum until he was the best hitter on the team. Rodriguez was the bane of the team until he carried the team. Ellsbury was a terrible signing until he was a force of nature before his injury, as was Gardner. Gregorius was a terrible ballplayer and the product of a terrible trade until he settled in and became a perfectly fine shortstop. Nathan Eovaldi was a batting practice session until he wrangled his splitter and became the team's most consistent starter.
Nathan Eovaldi and the Double-Edged Splitter –Ben Diamond
In a mid-June start against his former team, Nathan Eovaldi had the worst outing of his career, lasting just 2/3 of an inning while giving up eight runs on nine hits, watching his ERA balloon to 5.12 on the season. But from there, things turned around drastically for the Yankees’ young righty:
While it may seem a bit foolish to say that Eovaldi is suddenly a significantly better pitcher based on a couple months of data, it isn’t. Eovaldi is a significantly different pitcher now, and the recent changes have made him a much better one. In terms of statistics, nothing points to his success being unsustainable. Unfortunately, there is one thing that can’t be seen in statistics that represents Eovaldi’s biggest risk.
Rodriguez at 3,000 – An A-Bomb to the Old A-Rod –Kenny Ducey
In grand Yankee fashion, Alex Rodriguez launched an opposite-field home run to record his 3000th career hit. BP Bronx’s Kenny Ducey was there and shares his thoughts from a special evening:
So when the time came for A-Rod’s big moment, his teammates were there for him. Mark Teixeira threw his bat in the air out of sheer joy when the ball landed in the right field seats. Some leaped over the dugout railing. When Rodriguez crossed home plate, there was an impromptu party waiting for his arrival atop the dugout stairs, led by two especially tight hugs from Teixeira, a longtime teammate, and Girardi, who grabbed the back of A-Rod’s jersey and gave him some personal words of affirmation.
Is Dellin Betances the Best Reliever in Baseball? –Alex Putterman
Before the idea of the three-headed bullpen monster had become reality, the backend of the Yankees bullpen was already quite terrifying. And while Andrew Miller put together one of the great reliever seasons in 2015, Alex Putterman argued that not only was Betances better, he may be the best reliever in the game:
Betances, however, holds a decisive advantage in counting stats, thanks in large part to his relatively huge workload. The 27-year-old leads baseball in innings pitched for relievers over the past two seasons, and it’s not close. The Mets’ Carlos Torres (139 innings pitched) and Jeurys Familia (135.2) are the only relievers within 20 innings of Betances’ total.
Chapman and Davis, meanwhile, trail distantly. Chapman missed about a month to injury in 2014, which likely cost him 10-15 innings pitched, but the real innings-pitched difference comes from how these three pitchers are used. Whereas Chapman is a traditional closer for a losing team and Davis is set-up man under a manager who adheres to strict bullpen roles, Betances is the closest we have to a modern-day Goose Gossage-style fireman.
Due to spending big in 2014, the Red Sox are under spending restrictions when it comes to the international free agent market for two summers. However, that doesn’t mean they will sit out the period and not add any interesting names to their system. Dustin Palmateer broke down what the Sox would do internationally with their hands tied spending-wise:
While the Red Sox will obviously be hampered by their inability to spend big on international amateurs for the next two years, there are some hidden advantages to the MLB-sanctioned handcuffs. Like the Rays, Rangers, and Cubs, the Red Sox can adjust to a quantity-over-quality approach, beefing up the lower rungs of the system with 40 or 50 lottery tickets. Unlike teams that sign players for $2 or $3 million a pop, Boston will be forced to spread its money around, perhaps wisely hedging against the volatility of 16- and 17-year-old prospects.
Building around a pair of young stars is something any team would love to do. The Red Sox have that opportunity, and BP Boston’s EIC Ben Carsley wonders if you had to choose just one of Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, who do you take?
Stop basking, because now you have to choose. You’re starting a team, and now you do need to consider probability and downside. You can only have one of Mookie Betts or Xander Bogaerts, which is a sad proposition only when you compare it to having both.
So who’s it going to be? Who are you going to build your franchise around?
Breaking Down Xander Bogaerts' New Swing –Alex Skillin
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Baseball is a game of adjustments. All young players have to make them to succeed, and Xander Bogaerts certainly wasn’t an exception. The Red Sox precocious shortstop made adjustments at the plate and mechanical changes to his swing. Alex Skillin broke those down:
This new approach has certainly aided Bogaerts’ results, but the mechanical tweaks he’s made to his swing have received far less attention.
Indeed, the subtle adjustments that Bogaerts has made to his stance have allowed him to achieve more consistency at the plate this season. Most of these changes can be viewed in Bogaerts’ pre-pitch routine as he awaits the offering from the opposing pitcher.
With David Ortiz a few months away from beginning his farewell tour, we’ll all once again see just how much he’s adored by the Red Sox and their fans. With one mammoth October blast and an equally mammoth toss of the bat, Jose Bautista strutted into the hearts of every Blue Jays fan in similar way that Ortiz is embraced in part of New England:
His is a moment to be passed down the generational ladder in Canada, like a happy and wonderful genetic disease. Because of it, he will float above the Canadian ether, bat eternally flipping, forever glowering in opposition. Jose Bautista’s homer in the seventh inning of game five of the American League Division Series against the poor, poor Rangers is one of the greatest moments in Blue Jays history, probably only behind Joe Carter’s World Series winning homer, but maybe not. The Carter homer was a World Series-winning homer, but it didn’t keep Toronto from elimination either. Bautista’s homer did.
Just How Valuable is Jean Segura’s Glove? –Ryan Romano
Jean Segura’s bat has yet to return to the impressive heights of his rookie season, but he still brings value to the table. Ryan Romano breaks down just how nice his glove work has been at shortstop:
By DRS, he’s average; by UZR, he’s subpar; but by FRAA, he’s one of the best defensive players in baseball. Since 2013, no shortstop can top him in that regard — second-place Andrelton Simmons, generally thought of as a demigod in the field, owns a “mere” 40.3 FRAA. What does FRAA see in him that the other metrics overlook?
On the first day of BP Milwaukee’s existence, Jake Moore delivered a story that should leave every taxpayer shaking their head. Though Miller Park has been around for over a decade and a half, fans are still footing the bill on the ballpark:
When the public funding for Miller Park passed in 1995, projected costs were $250 million for the stadium and $72 million for additional infrastructure, minus $90 million to be provided by the Brewers themselves. I bring this up because these figures are similar to the projected public expenditure for a potential new stadium for the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks: taxpayers are slated to pick up half of the expected $500 million tab on the proposed downtown arena. But “expected” and “projected” are critically important words. Miller Park, in reality, has cost taxpayers far more than the roughly $250 million they were expected to pay, and those costs are continuing to accumulate even today. Throughout the process, the burden has been placed on the backs of Milwaukee taxpayers, even as the Brewers franchise value has climbed to unprecedented heights.
The Brewers have been a bit behind other teams around baseball when it comes to the statistical revolution. But that will certainly change with David Stearns and Matt Arnold now running baseball operations. However, is simply getting to the same level as the rest of the league enough to get Milwaukee to where they want to be? BP Milwaukee EIC J.P. Breen explains:
The challenge for Stearns and Arnold, though, isn’t going to be whether the club can emulate successful rebuilds like the one in Houston or the one in Chicago. The real difference maker in Milwaukee will be discovering the next competitive advantage that no one has exploited, the next market inefficiency, if you will. Simply using mountains data on framing, spin rates, defensive efficiency, and the like to drive coaching methods and roster decisions won’t be enough. Houston is doing that. Los Angeles, Boston, and Chicago are doing that. The Brewers must catch up in this area, sure, but the organization must employ something new. Because all things being equal, if the Brewers simply catch up and start doing what the successful organizations are doing, the organization’s small-market status will always keep them from reaching the levels they hope to achieve. All things being equal, the four clubs mentioned above (among others) will always be able to outspend Milwaukee. That will always be the competitive advantage that trumps all when everything else is equal.
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