Sunday Notes: D-Backs Prospect Brandon Pfaadt Came Out of the Blue

High-performing under-the-radar prospects have been featured frequently in this space over recent months, and Brandon Phaadt fits that description to a T. Unranked coming into the season, the 22-year-old right-hander in the Arizona Diamondbacks system posted a 3.21 ERA while fanning 160 batters in 131-and-two-thirds innings. Moreover, he did so while pitching at three levels —Pfaadt’s last six starts came with Double-A Amarillo — as a 2020 fifth-round pick out of a DII school.

The Bellarmine University product pushed back slightly when I suggested that his auspicious performance came out of the blue.

“I guess it did in some people’s eyes,” said Pfaadt. “But I knew I had it all along. I had a long offseason to train, and I also think it was really important that I was able to work with three different pitching coaches this year. I got feedback from all three, and was able to take bits and pieces from each of them.”

Asked for examples, Pfaadt told me that Barry Enright (Low-A Visalia) was more mechanics-based and worked with him on the consistency of his delivery, while Shane Loux (High-A Hillsboro) was more about pitchability. At Amarillo, Doug Drabek provided an effective combination of old-school and new-school acumen. As Pfaadt put it, Drabek “knows what worked back then, and what works now.”

Pitch design didn’t play a role. Read the rest of this entry »

Effectively Wild Episode 1751: The Playoff Matchups Draft

Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley banter about teams pitching around Shohei Ohtani and a second conspiracy theory about Rays/Jays Cardgate, then rank the fun quotient of potential playoff teams and draft their preferred playoff matchups.

Audio intro: Steve Gunn, "Protection"
Audio outro: Frankie Siragusa, "I Don’t Want to See You Again"

Link to article about Ohtani’s walks
Link to lineup protection explainer
Link to Tom Tango on lineup protection
Link to Davis-West card article
Link to current playoff bracket
Link to White Sox playoff rate
Link to Ben on Foundation
Link to past SP waiver acquisitions (before)
Link to past SP waiver acquisitions (after)

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Effectively Wild Episode 1750: The Gift of the Maggi

Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley banter about the Cardinals being unbeatable, the Giants setting a record for outperforming PECOTA, the Orioles’ and Diamondbacks’ race to MLB’s worst record, the White Sox and Yankees also having identical records (and the vagaries of unbalanced schedules and divisional assignments), the saga of Drew Maggi’s call-up and demotion and the phenomenon of “phantom ballplayers,” the Phillies’ weird ways of winning, and Shane Baz in the playoffs, then answer listener emails about a Jays and Rays Cardgate conspiracy, a team of Triple-A players vs. a team of inactive ex-MLB players, completing every long extra-inning game in an end-of-season marathon, what would happen if teams could literally refuse to lose, hitters gleaning pitch locations from where the catcher sets up, and MLB’s World Series rings vs. Australian rules football’s premiership medals.

Audio intro: Daniel Johnston, "Phantom of My Own Opera"
Audio outro: The Cars, "I Refuse"

Link to Kevin Goldstein on the Cardinals
Link to Rob Mains on PECOTA overperformers
Link to Patrick Dubuque on the Giants
Link to Jay Jaffe on Wade
Link to Jay on the Orioles
Link to Phil Miller on Maggi
Link to Do-Hyoung Park on Maggi
Link to phantom ballplayers wiki
Link to Craig Goldstein on Borucki
Link to “family portrait” tweet
Link to Carleton College softball game
Link to Ben on Kratz and catching
Link to 2021 peeking controversy
Link to Jason Turbow on peeking

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Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 9/24/21

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon, folks, and welcome to another edition of my Friday chat! Today I’ve got a piece on LaMonte Wade Jr.s out-of-nowhere season and timely hitting for the Giants (…). Earlier this week, I had pieces on Jon Lester’s hot streak ( and the Orioles’ impact on the AL Wild Card race (…)

Juan S.: Last week you said Harper and Tatis were the top two MVP candidates. Has my last week changed your mind?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: It’s been quite a week, and yes, you’re part of the discussion now. I’m actually scheduled to do a piece on the NL MVP race for Monday.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I honestly don’t know how I feel about it now except to say that at first glance it looks like a real tossup between Harper/Tatis/Soto, none of them on teams that are going to make the playoffs. Beyond that, we’ll see what sways me.

Dalton Wilcox: Your favorite FA pitcher this offseason?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Probably Max Scherzer, because damn, he’s still one of the best in the game, a guy who appears as though he can be the top starter on a championship team right now. I’m of course interested to see how the Dodgers deal with Clayton Kershaw, and would think that the Mets are going to work hard to retain Marcus Stroman.

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LaMonte Wade Jr. Has Been a Difference-Maker

LaMonte Wade Jr. was hardly a household name coming into this season, just another roster hopeful buried on the Giants’ depth charts. But like several other pickups by the Giants in recent years — players coming off lousy seasons elsewhere, or ones who had never gotten a full shot in their previous organizations — he’s become an essential contributor this season. Despite barely playing in the majors before the end of May, he’s tied for fourth on the team in home runs, and has shown a penchant for collecting timely late-inning hits.

Wade’s most recent big hit came on Tuesday night. Facing the possibility of dropping into a tie with the Dodgers atop the National League West, the Giants clawed their way back from an early 4-1 deficit against the Padres before Wade drove in the go-ahead run in the ninth inning with a bloop single off ex-Giant Mark Melancon:

That was the seventh time since June that a Wade hit put the Giants in the lead in the eighth inning or later, which is tied with five other players for the major league lead. All of them — namely Michael Conforto, Aaron Judge, Austin Meadows, Jorge Polanco, and Kyle Seager — have at least 96 more plate appearances than he does, and all of those hits helped the Giants win those games. Here’s the supercut:

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Sandy Alcantara Is Becoming One of Baseball’s Best Pitchers

Sandy Alcantara has taken the next step. Already one of baseball’s better groundball-inducers, Alcantara has added the strikeout to his game in the second half of this season. In the process, he’s transformed from an above-average starter into one who is knocking on the door of ace status.

Over the last three years, Alcantara has been worth 7.2 WAR, a figure that ranks 27th among starting pitchers in that time. It has been volume-heavy value: his 3.94 FIP since 2019 grades out as just slightly above-average (93 FIP-), while his 434 innings pitched ranks ninth among all pitchers. His 21% strikeout rate and 8% walk rate scream nothing special, though his near-49% groundball rate kept the homers off the board.

Up until this season — and really up until its second half — that was Alcantara’s story. He was a very good pitcher, but there was still tantalizing potential he was seemingly leaving on the table. Even from 2019-20, when he struck out less than 19% of the hitters he faced, Alcantara’s average fastball velocity ranked near the top of the majors. Throwing both a four-seamer and a sinker, he averaged 95.7 mph with his fastballs, an 88th percentile mark. He also featured a slider and a changeup that both offered above-average called-strike-plus-whiff rates, suggesting Alcantara could better optimize those pitches for more strikeouts. If he could just strike out more hitters while maintaining his groundball rate, he had the potential to become an elite starter. And over his 12 starts since the All-Star break, that is exactly what has happened:

In the second half, Alcantara has struck out 28% of the batters he’s faced and walked fewer than 5%, all while keeping more than 50% of his batted balls on the ground. He has a 3.12 FIP over 78 innings, making him the 14th-most valuable pitcher in the game since the break. He’s been even better since August 1: with a 2.61 ERA and 2.80 FIP over 69 innings, Alcantara moves all the way up to eighth on the WAR leaderboard in that span. Read the rest of this entry »

Baseball’s Newest Pickoff Artist

We’ll start with some screen shots.

The author of that trickery is Ryan Weathers, a 21-year-old rookie for the San Diego Padres who leads all of baseball in pickoffs this season with nine. Runners have only stolen two bases off of him and he hasn’t been called for a balk yet. His pickoff proficiency has been historic, as he has retired those nine runners in only 89.2 innings, or 127 baserunners allowed. On a per baserunner basis, Weathers is having one of the best pickoff seasons of all time:

Baserunners Per Pickoff (Single-Season Leader)
Rank Pitcher Year Baserunners Pickoffs BR/PO
1 Dave Danforth 1916 131 11 11.9
2 Steve Mingori 1976 104 8 13.0
3 Ryan Weathers 2021 127 9 14.1
4 Jerry Garvin 1977 351 23 15.3
5 Steve Avery 1995 227 13 17.5
6 Steve Carlton 1977 335 19 17.6
7 Greg Smith 2008 265 15 17.7
8 Mark Guthrie 1990 201 11 18.3
9 Jack Sanford 1966 148 8 18.5
10 Eric Lauer 2018 186 10 18.6
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference
Min. 75 innings pitched

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Chin Music, Episode 31: An Absolute Abomination

With the last full week of the regular season around the corner, it’s another episode ofChin Music. This week, the wonderful Chris Crawford of NBC Sports Edge joins me from the Pacific Northwest as we discuss all things baseball and plenty of other things, too. We begin with a look at the Wild Card races, including the surging Cardinals and the constantly shifting American League East standings, with a quick tangent on city-specific pizzas. Then we get into CardGate, before discussing the future of the San Diego Padres now that their season looks like it will soon be history.

We’re then joined by special guest Jesse Sanchez of for an enlightening discussion on the past, present and future of international scouting. Then it’s your emails on R&D departments, umpire grading, DFA mechanics and guilty musical pleasures. We finish by catching up with Chris and offering a couple of film recommendations that fall on the intense side of things.

As always, we hope you enjoy, and thank you for listening.

Music by Guerilla Ghost.

Have a question you’d like answered on the show? Ask us anything at Read the rest of this entry »

FanGraphs Audio: Talking Pitching With Collin McHugh and Kyle Boddy

Episode 941

On this edition of the podcast, David Laurila offers a pair of interviews with some insightful pitching minds.

  • In the podcast’s first segment, David is joined by Collin McHugh. The Rays right-hander (and occasional podcast host) talks about what it is like to be a major league veteran in a game that is getting younger, how he feels about converting to relief, and the best season of his career. McHugh also shares his thoughts on pitcher wins, striking out the side, and the extra-innings runner, before he tells David about getting his first hit off of Clayton Kershaw and trying to strike out Prince Fielder. [2:39]
  • After that, David welcomes Kyle Boddy, founder and owner of Driveline Baseball. Kyle talks about his recent departure from the Reds, as well as the great progress he and his team were able to make while working there. Kyle also shares his thoughts on a number of exciting Cincinnati prospects, including Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Stevie Branche, Lyon Richardson, and Graham Ashcraft. [29:33]

Read the rest of this entry »

DJ Herz, Aaron Loup, and Trevor Williams on Learning and Developing Their Changeups

The Learning and Developing a Pitch series returned this summer after being on hiatus last year due to the pandemic. Each week, we’re hearing from three pitchers on a notable weapon in their arsenal. Today’s installment features DJ Herz, Aaron Loup, and Trevor Williams on their changeups.


DJ Herz, Chicago Cubs prospect

“It was 2020 spring training and I was in the pitch lab. [Cubs pitching coordinator] Casey Jacobson was with me. I threw my regular four… I never had a changeup going into pro ball. So, I threw it off my four-seam grip, and it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good, either. It was too firm, only about four miles off my fastball. Casey had me try another grip, and again it was just all right. Then, the second grip we tried was kind of Vulcan-ish.

DJ Herz’s changeup grip.

“I put it deep into the wedge between the middle and ring finger. I‘ve got the middle finger off the two-seam grip, so I can just rip down on it. I mean, the first pitch I threw like that, it was like, ‘All right, let’s stick with that one; that’s the pitch right there.’

“I went back home and just kept throwing it. I’ve always been told that the changeup is one of the hardest pitches to learn. I was determined. I said, ‘Man, I want to learn this pitch so much.’ I’d hear these interviews with guys saying that having a good fastball and a good changeup is an awesome combo, so I would throw that pitch every single day. I’d long-toss with it sometimes. I kept working on it, and it’s paid off, man. Read the rest of this entry »