Effectively Wild Episode 1964: Our Favorite Transactions

EWFI
Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley banter about pre-Opening Day milestones and the upcoming EW season preview series, then (7:59) draft and discuss their favorite offseason transactions (and non-transactions), followed by a Past Blast from 1964 (1:16:19) and a Stat Blast addendum (1:21:18) about Pinky Higgins, Roxie Lawson, and hits-related records.

Audio intro: Marshall Crenshaw, “You’re My Favorite Waste of Time
Audio outro: Ward White, “1964

Link to Red Sox Truck Day
Link to Guardians Truck Day
Link to Phillies Truck Day
Link to season preview series wiki
Link to 2021 preview podcasts
Link to list of transactions
Link to Ben on K.C.’s outfield
Link to FG on the Varsho trade
Link to Ben Clemens on Varsho
Link to Ben L. on the Mets and Correa
Link to FG on the Twins and Correa
Link to FG SP depth charts
Link to Heyman’s Correa report
Link to FG on the Cruz signing
Link to FG on the McCutchen signing
Link to FG on the Hill signing
Link to FG on the Bogaerts signing
Link to FG on the Turner signing
Link to FG on the Devers extension
Link to story on NESN and boos
Link to FG on Murphy/Contreras
Link to ESPN on the Arenado decision
Link to FG on the Syndergaard signing
Link to The Athletic on Syndergaard
Link to FG on the Renfroe trade
Link to FG on the Anderson signing
Link to FG on the Estévez signing
Link to FG on the Contreras signing
Link to FG on the Green signing
Link to The Athletic team grades
Link to 1964 story source
Link to SABR on the ’64 Meetings
Link to commissioner’s powers paper
Link to David Lewis’s Twitter
Link to David Lewis’s Substack
Link to news on YouTube TV and MLBN
Link to story on Orioles lease
Link to Dan Moore EW episode
Link to Bradbury thread on Camden
Link to FG team projections
Link to The Core Stat Blast episode
Link to Higgins vs. Lawson H2H
Link to story on consecutive hits
Link to story on hits recordholders
Link to story on Higgins record
Link to other mention of Higgins record
Link to first story about spiking
Link to second story about spiking
Link to third story about spiking
Link to fourth story about spiking
Link to Craig Wright on spikings
Link to Higgins SABR bio
Link to Lawson SABR bio

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Alex Lange Loves His Curves But Not His Edges

Alex Lange
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The role of the closer is diminishing every year, but it seems like no one told the Tigers. Only five different Detroit relievers recorded a save last season, tied for the lowest total among all 30 teams. Over the past five years, only 13 Tigers have earned a save. No other team has had fewer than 17 different pitchers save a game in that time; the Rays have had 35. In the last ten years, the Tigers have had only 28 players save a game, still the lowest total in the sport. The Rays, for comparison, have had 57 different pitchers record a save since 2013.

In part, this is because Detroit hasn’t been very good. When save situations are few and far between, there is less need to spread around the closing opportunities. Yet it’s not all about the wins and losses. For the past decade, the Tigers have had a go-to closer nearly every year. From veteran relievers like Joaquín Benoit, Joe Nathan, Joakim Soria, and Francisco Rodríguez to younger arms like Shane Greene and Bryan Garcia, the Tigers have shown a tendency to name a singular closer and hand him the ball in the ninth.

It seemed like this trend might finally have come to an end when A.J. Hinch took over as manager, but Gregory Soto recorded the majority of his team’s saves in 2021 and prompted Hinch to name him the closer that October. In 2022, the Tigers had one of the deepest bullpens in baseball and easily could have opted for a closer-by-committee, but Hinch stayed true to his word. Soto earned 30 of their 38 saves and took the mound in the majority of save situations. Read the rest of this entry »


In Which I Talk Myself Into Adolis García

Adolis Garcia
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers are a bit of an odd team. Every offseason, someone does a thought experiment to build the best team solely out of free agents; in fact, some months ago I posed a similar question about the Orioles. But even my hypothetical 2023 O’s had three top-10 prospects to throw into the mix. What does a team look like if it’s starting entirely from scratch?

A little awkward, as the Rangers can attest. When they traded Joey Gallo to New York in 2021, the cupboard was basically empty. Since then, they’ve done an admirable job acquiring talent in trades and on the free-agent market, but they haven’t made much progress on the road back to playoff contention. A 94-loss campaign in 2022 got manager Chris Woodward and longtime baseball ops head Jon Daniels fired, and new manager Bruce Bochy surely would not have come out of retirement so he could compete for third place in the AL West.

The Rangers have plenty of star power, particularly after adding Jacob deGrom in free agency, but plenty of questions remain about their ability to fill out a competitive lineup. And Adolis García might be the player upon whom their success hinges. Read the rest of this entry »


Job Posting: Red Sox Senior Developer

Senior Developer, Baseball Systems

Location: Boston, MA
Department: Baseball Operations
Status: Full-Time

Description:
The Senior Developer, Baseball Systems position will be a member of the baseball operations software development team, and is responsible for the design, development, and support, of all baseball systems. This individual will work closely with members of baseball operations to understand business requirements that drive the analysis, design, and development of quality baseball systems and solutions. This senior developer will collaborate closely with the Director of Baseball Systems, colleagues on the software development team, and baseball operations personnel from all departments.

Responsibilities:

  • Create leading-edge baseball solutions together with the software development team and others on new and existing baseball systems
  • Lead the design and implementation of the software architecture and embrace a software engineering mindset
  • Lead the software development process of critical baseball applications, including requirements gathering, analysis, effort estimation, technical investigation, software design and implementation, testing, bug fixing, and quality assurance
  • Responsible for the design and development of databases, web services, graphical user interfaces, and other aspects of web and desktop applications
  • Actively participate in the architecting, deployment, and maintenance of system solutions in a cloud-based environment
  • Actively participate with colleagues in design reviews, code reviews, and exercise best practices
  • Work closely with baseball analysts to design and implement solutions to their modeling and data needs
  • Respond to and resolve technical problems and issues in a timely manner
  • Identify and implement creative solutions for technical challenges
  •  

Qualifications/Characteristics:

  • TECHNICAL SKILLS:
  • Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Software Engineering, Computer Engineering, or a related field
  • 6 or more years of development experience using some combination of C#, C++, Python, Typescript, JavaScript, T-SQL, ServiceStack, Angular, React, Vue, or other frameworks, with a focus on responsive & progressive web applications. 
  • Strong database design and development experience, especially with MS SQL Server
  • Experience integrating systems and data using third-party APIs and web services
  • Experience with cloud technologies from Azure, AWS, or GCP are a plus
  • Experience with R is a plus
  • Design experience with Zeplin, Photoshop, or similar applications, are a plus
  • Experience with source control tools such as Git, TFS, or similar

 

  • GENERAL SKILLS:
  • Ability to work autonomously and as a team in a fast paced environment
  • High level of attention to detail with the ability to multi-task effectively
  • Comfortable working remotely using Zoom, Teams, Slack, Trello, and other tools to communicate with all team members
  • High degree of professionalism and ability to maintain confidential information
  • Excellent organizational and time management skills
  • An understanding of baseball, common terms, and analytic measures, are a plus

The Red Sox (or FSM) requires proof of being up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment, subject to applicable legal requirements. Up-to-date means having received all recommended COVID-19 vaccination doses in the primary series and a booster dose(s) when eligible, per CDC guidelines.

Prospective employees will receive consideration without discrimination based on race, religious creed, color, sex, age, national origin, handicap, disability, military/veteran status, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression or protected genetic information.

To Apply:
To apply, please follow this link.

The content in this posting was created and provided solely by the Boston Red Sox.


Baltimore Orioles Top 38 Prospects

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Baltimore Orioles. Scouting reports were compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. This is the third year we’re delineating between two anticipated relief roles, the abbreviations for which you’ll see in the “position” column below: MIRP for multi-inning relief pitchers, and SIRP for single-inning relief pitchers. The ETAs listed generally correspond to the year a player has to be added to the 40-man roster to avoid being made eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Manual adjustments are made where they seem appropriate, but I use that as a rule of thumb.

A quick overview of what FV (Future Value) means can be found here. A much deeper overview can be found here.

All of the ranked prospects below also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It has more details (and updated TrackMan data from various sources) than this article and integrates every team’s list so readers can compare prospects across farm systems. It can be found here. Read the rest of this entry »


FanGraphs Audio: Dan Hayes Celebrates Joe Mauer, Michael Baumann Talks Baumann

Episode 1010

On this week’s show, we consider the career of a potential Hall of Famer before getting to know one of our writers better.

  • With Joe Mauer destined for the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame and set to arrive on the Cooperstown ballot for the first time this year as well, Jay Jaffe felt it appropriate to chat with Dan Hayes of The Athletic about the hometown hero. Jay and Dan discuss how stellar Mauer was despite a relatively short resume, and how the brutality of the catcher position combined with the brutality of his concussion symptoms only makes his performance even more impressive. The pair agree Mauer should probably be a slam-dunk pick for the Hall, but they expect some debate about it along the way. [4:02]
  • After that, Ben Clemens is joined by Michael Baumann for the latest edition of FanGraphs Backstories. We get the story of Michael’s sportswriting career before ending up at FanGraphs, including grad school and stops at Crashburn Alley (RIP) and The Ringer. Michael also shares some of his favorite baseball memories from over the years, the most notable of which actually concern college and Little League ball. Finally, Ben and Michael discuss the 2023 SABR Awards (both have nominated pieces) and how their writing styles have adapted to FanGraphs. [27:15]

To purchase a FanGraphs membership for yourself or as a gift, click here.

To donate to FanGraphs and help us keep things running, click here.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @dhhiggins on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximate 65 minute play time.)


At This Point in Giancarlo Stanton’s Career, Health Is the Main Barrier to Success

Giancarlo Stanton
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

In baseball, there are two sounds that can’t quite be matched: the pop of the catcher’s glove after a sizzling fastball, and the sound of the ball being crushed by the meaty part of the barrel. No one is more familiar with the latter than Giancarlo Stanton. In the Statcast era, no hitter has consistently hit the ball as hard as he has; his otherworldly bat speed leads to some of the most impressive batted balls you’ll ever see.

Stanton’s outlier ability to hit the ball like it came out of a rocket will always raise his floor as a hitter compared to the average player. If you hit the ball like he does, even pounding it on the ground isn’t a huge concern. That doesn’t mean Stanton is impervious, however. You can’t post an exit velocity if you swing through the ball, and if he were to start making less contact, it would be a problem. In 2022, Stanton’s hit tool looked closer to that of Joey Gallo than Aaron Judge, which led to his worst full season in pinstripes by wRC+, and perhaps since his rookie year all the way back in 2010. His .211 batting average and .293 on-base percentage were both more than 50 points off his career marks. And while that decline could be partially attributed to Stanton entering his mid-30s, that’s not the only factor at play here.

Stanton’s season was marred by injury. He constantly dealt with lower leg injuries; ankle tendinitis, a calf strain, and a bruised foot all messed with the way he interacted with the ground, and it showed at the plate. As a rotational athlete, your ability to exude force into the ground is directly tied to the stability of your lower half. When a hitter’s stride foot lands, it sends energy into the ground that shoots back up for the lower half to absorb. If you stomp on the ground, there is a wave of energy that recoils through your legs and hips that you must control if you want to transfer that energy into your swing. Any hitter’s ability to do this would be disrupted by a single lower leg injury. That only worsens when you deal with injuries on both sides of your body like Stanton did, which can lead to multiple energy leakages that completely throw off your swing. For Stanton, those can be seen in the atypical movement of his feet before and during his rotation.

I’m going to show you exactly what that looked like, but first, let’s detail some of the ways Stanton struggled relative to previous seasons from a statistical perspective:

Giancarlo Stanton’s Performance in New York
Year wRC+ AVG Zone Contact % wOBA v. Fastballs PA
2018 128 .266 76.6 .415 705
2019 139 .288 77.3 .365 72
2020 143 .250 74.7 .428 94
2021 137 .273 76.5 .410 579
2022 115 .211 71.0 .320 452

Stanton’s drop in performance can be seen in his increased whiff rate in the zone and general performance against fastballs. A general rule of thumb is that great hitters crush fastballs. If a pitcher makes a mistake with a heater in the middle of the plate, they will pay the price. That becomes more difficult as velocity rises, but that’s where the great hitters set themselves apart from good hitters. Stanton has never been one to be overwhelmed by high velocity; in fact, he’s always been well above league average. But his injuries compromised his connection to the ground, and as a result, he struggled. The table below details his performance against high-velocity fastballs as a Yankee:

Stanton Against 95+ MPH Pitches
Year Total Seen wOBA
2018 397 0.375
2019 63 .374
2020 54 0.640
2021 393 .359
2022 403 .294

Stanton has dealt with soft tissue injuries for his entire tenure in New York, but he has still hit when he’s been on the field, including against high-velocity fastballs. But his .294 wOBA against this group of pitches was .017 points below league average and a big drop from his .359 mark in 2021, which was .049 points higher than the league average. This regression can be zoomed out on a more macro level, too. Stanton’s performance in the heart of the zone against fastballs also changed from 2021 to ’22:

Stanton Against Fastballs In Heart
Year Overall wOBA/xwOBA Overall K% wOBA/xwOBA Behind in Count K% Behind in Count
2018 .440/.460 13.5 .461/.469 28.9
2019 .261/.310 14.0 > 10 pitches > 10 pitches
2020 .526/.547 14.7 > 10 pitches > 10 pitches
2021 .459/.501 15.2 .493/.523 35.7
2022 .444/.382 34.1 .307/.259 56.3
SOURCE: Baseball Savant

There are a few takeaways from this. First, the drop in xwOBA in 2022 tells us Stanton’s expected stats were significantly worse than previous years on fastballs in the heart. He managed to keep his wOBA relatively high, but it seems like there was at least a little bit of luck involved. Next, when we focus in on in-zone fastballs when Stanton was behind in the count, you can see a precipitous drop from previous seasons. Like any great hitter, he would make pitchers pay for mistakes in the heart of the plate even when he was behind in the count, but that wasn’t the case last year. And while he is naturally a guess hitter, he seemed to rely too heavily on those guesses, and it resulted in many poor at-bats. A hitter of this caliber missing fastballs in the heart of the zone this much when behind in the count is a tell-tale sign that something is wrong. Those are the types of things you do when your body feels different and you can’t get to pitches you’ve always crushed.

To understand what I’m talking about, let’s run through a sequence where Stanton just looked off. This at-bat is from mid-July, after he suffered a right calf strain in late May and right around the time when he began missing time due to his left ankle. He started 2–0 on two fastballs out of the zone, then got three straight in the heart of the plate:

Pitch 3 (2–0 count)

Pitch 4 (2–1 count)

Pitch 5 (2–2 count)

This is a perfect in-game example of him letting fastball mistakes go by. One of the reasons Stanton has been such an incredible hitter for so long is that he creates his bat speed with minimal movement; his swing is shockingly quiet for somebody so large. On his two swings in advantage counts, his feet are dancing, especially in the first. He has a natural scissor kick from a closed stride, but it looks like he is losing grip on the ground before his swing gets going. Every hitter guesses or cheats at some point in an at-bat, but if they’re wrong, they can usually fight off a center-cut pitch with two strikes. Despite another fastball in the heart of the plate, Stanton couldn’t get a swing off. When your lower half isn’t properly connected to the ground, it can be difficult to rotate! As he took the pitch down the plate, you can see him enter extreme ankle eversion (ankle collapses inwards). Stand up and try to take a swing like that. Not so comfortable, right?

To illustrate that point further, here are a few swings from earlier in the season when Stanton’s feet are near neutral through the entire swing.

May 12

May 16

May 21

Each of these swings resulted in batted balls with exit velocities over 114 mph, a typical range for Stanton. But more importantly, his movements were quiet from his knees down. Relative to the swings against Cincinnati, there is no exaggeration of movement in any one part of his lower legs. In his home run swing against Dylan Cease, he uses his typical toe tap on his front foot and subtle scissor kick in the back foot to stay closed. There is no back foot slide like in July. These are fully healthy swings where Stanton maintains his connection to the ground from the beginning of rotation through contact.

Unfortunately for him, the compensations he showed in July only got worse through the end of the year.

August 29

September 24

October 1

From August on, Stanton was healthy enough to be on the field as other Yankees hitters faced injuries of their own, but he was clearly not close to 100%. These three swings can either be tied to his injured left ankle being unable to stay connected to the ground, or to his back foot not being strong enough to compensate for the energy leakage in his lead foot/ankle. In the first swing, his back leg slides way out because it’s attempting to do all the work for his body. The second swing is weeks later; he made an adjustment but still leaked into the same early ankle eversion in his back leg that we saw in July. It’s not impossible to hit like this, but when you’re struggling with stabilization, it’s not ideal.

His swing in early August is the most extreme example of how early ankle eversion can impact your lower half. It caused him to lose his back leg entirely, along with his posture. Those movements cut off his swing path, leading to his barrel being unable to cover the outer half. If you go back to Stanton’s swings from earlier in the year, you can see the best ones all come with athletic, straight posture. He’s a big dude, and to have success, he needs a stable base to control his body. This is obvious for any athlete, but as players age and lose a little bit of baseball skill, health and body control become more and more important. I’m not necessarily saying Stanton is losing skill; his first two months show that he seems to be okay. But he might be entering a stage of his career where he has less room for error and injuries like this compromise his skills and expose the biggest hole in his profile: swing and miss. I’m sure Stanton will be conscious of this heading into 2023.

Injuries have plagued Stanton for a while now, but as he heads into his mid-30s, health is more important than it’s ever been. His swing needs to stay quiet to make the most of his outlier strength. None of these injuries were major long-term concerns, but they were enough to compromise his swing and performance. Assuming he enters 2023 fully recovered from these issues, there is no question in my mind he still has the skills to deliver a 130–140 wRC+ season each year. But he will need to be conscious of how any injury impacts his swing as he enters the latter half of his career.


Sal Bando (1944-2023) and a Missed Date for Cooperstown

Darryl Norenberg-USA TODAY Sports

Third basemen have been underrepresented within the Hall of Fame since the institution’s inception, but one of the greats finally gained entry last week, when the BBWAA elected Scott Rolen in his sixth year of eligibility. Four days before the Hall called Rolen’s name, the baseball world lost another great third baseman when Sal Bando died at the age of 78 due to cancer. With better luck and timing, Bando might have been enshrined as well, with his passing felt far beyond Oakland and Milwaukee, the two cities where he spent his 16-year major league career.

Plenty of onlookers and even some voters had a hard time wrapping their heads around the election of Rolen, a great two-way third baseman whose all-around excellence — power, patience, elite defense, good baserunning — and stardom for two Cardinals pennant winners (one a champion) somehow wasn’t enough for those who expected him to measure up to Mike Schmidt, his predecessor in Philadelphia. Or Chipper Jones, his longer-lasting contemporary. Or… Don Mattingly or even Mark Grace because, uh, reasons. To them the notion of Bando as a Hall of Famer might seem even more unthinkable, but then they’d merely have a lot in common with the crusty scribes of four or five decades ago who helped to give Hall voting its bad name.

Bando spent 16 years in the majors (1966-81) with the A’s and Brewers, making four All-Star teams while most notably serving as the team captain and regular third baseman for an Oakland powerhouse that won five straight AL West titles from 1971-75 and three straight World Series from ’72 to ’74. An intense competitor with a high baseball IQ and a quiet lead-by-example style, he didn’t have quite the popularity or flair of teammates Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, or Vida Blue, but within the green-and-gold’s three-ring circus, he had those stars’ respect. “Sal Bando was the godfather. Capo di capo. Boss of all bosses on the Oakland A’s,” wrote Jackson in his 1984 autobiography. “We all had our roles, we all contributed, but Sal was the leader and everyone knew it.” Read the rest of this entry »


Sliding Headfirst: Jaime Barría and the First-Pitch Slider

Jaime Barria
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Since early in our history, FanGraphs has been tracking pitch type linear weights, or pitch values organized by pitch type, based on both Baseball Info Solutions and PITCHf/x pitch type data. While metrics like wRAA and wRC+ look at run generation through the outcomes of plate appearances, the idea behind pitch values is to take a more granular look. The outcome of each pitch changes the run expectancy of any plate appearance, and pitch value is a method for quantifying the overall impact of all of a player’s pitches, not just the pitches that end plate appearances, as most metrics do. In the form of pitch-type linear weights, we use these pitch values to evaluate the performance of pitchers’ specific pitch types — or hitters’ ability to hit them — either on an absolute basis with stats like wFB (runs above average on all fastballs) or on a per-pitch basis with stats like wFB/C (runs above average per 100 fastballs).

Pitch values can also be a useful way to evaluate how pitchers (or hitters, for that matter) have fared in specific counts. Executing pitches in particular situations to get ahead in counts is a crucial part of a pitcher’s approach, and at times, it feels like we narratively underestimate the impact that the outcome of an early-count pitch can have on the rest of a plate appearance. In 2022, firing a first-pitch strike was enough to drop an opposing hitters’ wRC+ from the normalized average of 100 to 68; missing on the first pitch gave hitters enough of an advantage to lead to a mark of 130, just about in line with recent years. That’s roughly the difference between Kyles Tucker and Isbel.

2022 MLB wRC+ Through Each Count
Count 0 Strikes 1 Strike 2 Strikes
0 Balls 100 68 22
1 Ball 130 90 38
2 Balls 179 130 68
3 Balls 265 212 144

My colleague Ben Clemens has written on the strange historical practice of pitchers grooving fastballs right down the middle to start plate appearances and the perhaps even stranger practice of hitters letting them get away with that. But those practices are fading away, Ben writes, and in an analytical era in which teams are looking for every advantage, the first pitch is being recognized for what it is: a frontier of pitch value opportunity, a first chance to lower the expected scoring outcome of the plate appearance.

In 2022, the strongest performer overall on first pitches was none other than Angels reliever Jaime Barría, who finished with a summed run value of -10.1 on the opening offering, nearly two runs better than any other pitcher despite facing just 316 hitters. On a per-pitch basis, Barría’s performance was even more exceptional: his -.032 runs per first pitch were nearly twice that of any other pitcher with as many as 300 batters faced. It’s worth mentioning that there are limits to what we can glean from this data; around 300 pitches is a relatively modest sample size, and Piper Slowinski warns us that pitch value is more effective as a descriptive stat than a predictive one. Barría is a true outlier here, but as we indulge in taking a look at what was new in his approach, we should do so without assuming he’ll be able to reproduce these numbers in the future. Read the rest of this entry »


Hunter Brown Is Framber Valdez in a Justin Verlander-Shaped Container

James A. Pittman-USA TODAY Sports

Sportswriters are a miserable bunch. We slog through box scores and transcripts of quotes from practice and write about games that will be forgotten in hours. Then Hunter Brown falls out of the sky.

The Astros’ new starting pitcher not only has a windup like Justin Verlander’s, he grew up outside of Detroit and idolized Verlander as a kid! Can you believe it? That’s a human interest story fit to make J. Jonah Jameson spit out his stogie and forget all about those pictures of Spider-Man.

Even their repertoires look similar: An upper-90s four-seamer thrown about half the time, accompanied by a slider and a curveball. It’s the meat-and-two-sides combo you’ll find at most barbecue joints. There are differences, of course. Verlander throws his slider more than his curve, while Brown is the opposite. Brown also throws everything harder than Verlander does; his secondaries clock in about 6 mph faster than the three-time Cy Young winner’s.

Regardless, people look at Brown and say the baseball equivalent of “he has his mother’s eyes.” So why does Brown perform more like Framber Valdez? Read the rest of this entry »