Effectively Wild Episode 1684: Let’s Premember Some Guys

Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley banter about Bryce Harper’s hot streak, the players at the top of the WAR leaderboard, the exploits of Byron Buxton and Nelson Cruz, the suddenly unbeatable Oakland A’s, Ben’s new favorite stat to track (Nick Madrigal’s K%+), pitcher hitting performance reaching a new nadir, and more. Then they debut a new recurring segment (and song), “Meet a Major Leaguer,” by introducing Marlins reliever Zach Pop and Rockies reliever Jordan Sheffield. They close by discussing an article about the obstacles facing women working for MLB teams and the latest biannual, Crasnick-esque ESPN insider survey about MLB’s burning questions. (Parental warning: This episode contains a trio of swears.)

Audio intro: Tom Petty, "You and I Will Meet Again"
Audio outro: Laura Marling, "Hope We Meet Again"

Link to story about Lowrie’s knee
Link to story about Lowrie’s sleeping
Link to story about James’s sleeping
Link to story about Smith’s sleeping
Link to 2021 K%+ leaderboard
Link to post-WWII K%+ leaderboard
Link to league-wide pitcher hitting stats
Link to Ben on pitcher hitting
Link to B-Ref’s new debuts page
Link to list of 2021 rule 5 guys
Link to Joon Lee’s article
Link to EW episode 1612 (with Jen Wolf)
Link to 2021 ESPN season survey
Link to Dan Szymborski on the Royals
Link to Ben Clemens on Burnes
Link to Jay Jaffe on Burnes
Link to Facebook group songs section
Link to “Meet a Major Leaguer” song

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Fastball Freddy’s Fast New Windup

There are two things that jump out to me about Freddy Peralta’s start to the 2021 season. The first is that the man once known as Fastball Freddy is throwing said fastball at a career-low rate. The second is that he’s added some new moves into his windup that may be increasing his deception. Amidst all that change are some underlying command issues that suggest he still has things to work on.

Let’s start with his windup, which I’ve become absolutely fixated on. It’s not at all the windup I remembered him having, and I’m mesmerized by it.

Like an alarm clock going from a restful existence into a blaring beep that jiggles itself off the nightstand, Peralta has added some chaos to his delivery. What once was a fairly normal over-the-head windup and cross-body release has gotten more complicated. The leg kicks up higher, his feet are more caffeinated, and he starts in a more hunched position as if to make his over-the-head motion easier to attain. His new windup is nearly a half a second faster from start to release. And did I mention his feet? His feet!

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Ross Stripling Talks Curveballs

Ross Stripling was featured here at FanGraphs last week, with the article focusing on Clayton Kershaw. Stripling shared how his former Los Angeles Dodgers teammate influenced his own career, as well as some of the things that make Kershaw elite. The Hall-of-Fame-bound southpaw’s innate ability to manipulate a baseball was part of that conversation, which took place prior to the start of the season.

Not included in that earlier piece was what Stripling — now a member of the Toronto Blue Jays — told me about how he manipulates one of his own pitches. The 31-year-old right-hander’s signature offering is a classic 12-6 curveball, which is among baseball’s best when he’s on top of his game. Here, in Q&A format, is that part of our multi-subject exchange.


David Laurila: You have a pretty good curveball yourself. How would you describe it?

Ross Stripling: “It’s a spiked curveball, and I don’t waver on the grip. I’ve never actually learned if it’s considered a knuckle curve or not, but I put my knuckle on the ball. Most people will put just their fingertip on the ball and call that a spiked curveball. I curl my finger, and put my whole top knuckle on the baseball. I also grip it as hard as I can. From there, I just rip it. Read the rest of this entry »

Yes, the Royals Can Win the AL Central

If you pulled up the AL Central standings today, you’d find that the team currently sitting at the top isn’t the favored Chicago White Sox or the Minnesota Twins, but the Kansas City Royals. While 90% of the season remains, it’s hard to object to the notion that it’s better to be in the lead at this point rather than the basement. It’s still reasonable to believe that the two preseason favorites are better teams than the Royals overall, but that doesn’t mean the season can’t end with Kansas City in possession of a golden ticket to the AL Division Series.

Long-time readers will know that I’ve never thought the Royals were particularly well run, at least not since Ewing Kauffman, the team’s owner from the 1969 expansion, passed away in 1993. During Kauffman’s tenure, Kansas City was arguably the most successful team created in the expansion era, ranking eighth in winning percentage (.517). By 1993, only two other expansion-era teams were even at .500: the Blue Jays at .511 and Houston at .501. At the organization’s peak, from 1975 to 1989, only the Red Sox and Yankees won more games, and at one point, the Royals went to the playoffs in seven of 10 seasons.

Since 1993, the organization has generally been unsuccessful. In about a quarter-century, the Royals have only had four winning seasons. While they bagged a World Series title in 2015, they only made the playoffs twice, despite playing in what was arguably baseball’s weakest division. Under Kauffman’s successor, team CEO, and eventually full owner David Glass, the team fared much worse. In 1993, Kansas City had a $40 million payroll, the fourth-highest in baseball. By the post-strike 1995 season, they ranked 21st. There they stayed, usually in the bottom third of the league and frequently in the bottom five. Since Dayton Moore’s first full season as the general manager in 2007, Kansas City has ranked 28th in wins and 22nd in payroll:

Payroll vs. Wins, 2007-20
Team Payroll Rank Wins Rank
New York Yankees $2,627,925,259 1 1246 1
Los Angeles Dodgers $2,236,600,402 3 1237 2
Boston Red Sox $2,302,517,441 2 1194 3
St. Louis Cardinals $1,617,713,889 10 1192 4
Tampa Bay Rays $818,419,932 30 1157 5
Los Angeles Angels $1,895,334,206 4 1148 6
Cleveland Indians $1,173,731,244 23 1140 7
Atlanta Braves $1,350,971,318 16 1128 8
Chicago Cubs $1,841,202,419 6 1124 9
Milwaukee Brewers $1,170,308,270 24 1117 10
Texas Rangers $1,556,372,185 12 1115 11
Oakland Athletics $949,971,231 27 1113 12
Washington Nationals $1,508,462,694 13 1103 13
Philadelphia Phillies $1,772,042,700 8 1098 14
San Francisco Giants $1,818,498,586 7 1092 15
Toronto Blue Jays $1,460,943,858 14 1078 16
New York Mets $1,728,971,294 9 1073 17
Arizona Diamondbacks $1,160,462,372 25 1068 18
Minnesota Twins $1,281,364,017 19 1061 19
Detroit Tigers $1,861,840,063 5 1060 20
Houston Astros $1,268,250,697 20 1058 21
Colorado Rockies $1,289,221,972 18 1040 22
Cincinnati Reds $1,246,221,968 21 1039 23
Seattle Mariners $1,589,181,892 11 1030 24
Chicago White Sox $1,425,636,018 15 1027 25
Pittsburgh Pirates $894,015,615 28 1016 26
San Diego Padres $1,006,395,416 26 1013 27
Kansas City Royals $1,185,768,401 22 1003 28
Baltimore Orioles $1,343,310,329 17 989 29
Miami Marlins $880,285,243 29 988 30

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Corbin Burnes’ Walkless Run Is Incredible

With apologies to Jacob deGrom, no pitcher in baseball is as hot as Corbin Burnes right now. Through four starts, the Brewers’ 26-year-old righty has allowed just one run and eight hits, and has yet to walk a single batter in 24.1 innings, that while striking out an eye-opening 40 hitters. His outings have quickly become appointment viewing — not too shabby for a pitcher with just 17 big league starts under his belt — and he’s already carved himself a small niche in the record books.

Burnes didn’t exactly come from nowhere — he was a Top 100 Prospect here and elsewhere three years ago — but his setbacks have made his rise to dominance all the more dramatic. Between pitching in a small market and thriving under pandemic conditions, he’s flown a bit beneath the radar until now, though a guy carrying a 0.37 ERA and 0.68 FIP can do that for only so long. The short version of his tale is that the 2016 fourth-round pick out of St. Mary’s College made a solid debut out of the Brewers’ bullpen in ’18, but his attempt to get a foothold in the rotation went disastrously the following year, as he was pummeled for 21 runs in 17.2 innings over four March and April turns. In between detours to Triple-A and the Injured List, he made 28 more appearances out of the bullpen but was lit for an 8.82 ERA and 6.09 FIP in 49 total innings.

Last year, however, he ditched a too-straight four-seam fastball that in 2019 had averaged 95.2 mph but had been lit for a .425 batting average and .823 slugging percentage, a malady Ben Clemens detailed during his examination of Burnes’ expanding repertoire as part of our Thursday Burnesday package. In its place, Burnes opted for a sinker/cutter combination that was utterly filthy, with the former averaging 96.0 mph and the latter 93.1. Both had elite spin rates, a common thread across Burnes’ arsenal. Via The Ringer’s Michael Baumann, “Out of 209 pitchers with enough playing time to qualify for the Baseball Savant leaderboard last year, Burnes had the third-fastest-spinning slider and cutter… the second-fastest-spinning sinker, and the eighth-fastest-spinning curveball.” Read the rest of this entry »

Decades in the Making, the Dodgers-Padres Rivalry Has Arrived

This picture of Mookie Betts looks like something out of a postseason highlight reel. It looks, in fact, very much like a picture of Mookie Betts from last October, when he made a number of game- and series-saving catches en route to the Dodgers’ World Series championship. It isn’t: it’s from April 17, last weekend, when the Padres hosted the Dodgers for a three-game set. The catch Betts was celebrating did, indeed, save the game — but it wasn’t a game that meant the difference between living and dying. It was a game that meant the difference between being 11-2 or 10-3.

Even though it might not have been life-or-death, the first meeting between the Dodgers and Padres since they squared off in the NLDS last year was a wild ride. At no point over the three games did either team have more than a two-run lead during regulation play. There were critical errors and rapidly-changing leads. There were blown saves. There were extra innings and cleared benches. When the smoke cleared and the dust settled, the Dodgers had taken two of three — but none of the three games had felt like a foregone conclusion. Game 1 saw the teams trade runs before the Padres tied it late, forcing extras; it was won in the 12th, with Joe Musgrove in left, Jake Cronenworth on the mound, and David Price at the plate. Game 2 was a pitchers’ duel, with Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish exchanging zeroes. The deciding run was a bases-loaded walk with two out — drawn by Kershaw himself. In the ninth, the Padres had the tying runs on second and third before Betts came through with a diving catch. And in Game 3, the Dodgers got an early lead off Blake Snell only for the Padres to chip away at their bullpen, eventually scoring three definitive runs in the bottom of the eighth to put the game away.

It was, in short, must-watch baseball — a worthy followup to the twists and turns of the NLDS. Game 2 of that series, in particular, when Cody Bellinger robbed Fernando Tatis Jr. of a would-be go-ahead homer and the Padres loaded the bases against Joe Kelly in the ninth, seems like a direct precursor to what we saw last week. But it’s not just that recent postseason meeting that has contributed to the burgeoning rivalry. There’s been a long history leading up to this point. Read the rest of this entry »

Dan Szymborski FanGraphs Chat – 4/22/21

Avatar Dan Szymborski: Greetings all!

Avatar Dan Szymborski: Sorry for the lost chat last week. I was getting COVID vaccine deux.

Avatar Dan Szymborski: And definitely felt awful afterwards!

ballsandgutters: Proud FG ad free member here….

So about 5 years ago you and I got in a Twitter fight about whether Carlos Beltran is HOF worthy.   I said no.      I think I’m gonna win on a technicality.     BTW – if you want to get me a beer ask Eno for a rec

Avatar Dan Szymborski: Thanks for the support! I’d grumble about you winning on a technicality but…

Avatar Dan Szymborski:

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Matthew Boyd Is Walking a Fine Line

Matthew Boyd had a tough 2020 campaign. After posting a 3.3 WAR season in 2019, Boyd’s performance cratered last year. His ERA- increased from 97 to 149 and his FIP- 93 to 128. He lost about eight percentage points on his strikeout rate (30.2% to 22.1%) while adding almost two points to his walk rate (6.4% to 8.1%). Boyd was putting close to 10 more batters per 100 faced on the basepaths year over year and the home run troubles he developed in 2019 did not subside.

Through his first four seasons in the majors, Boyd allowed home runs on 12.4% of his fly balls. That figure jumped to 18.2% in 2019 and 19.7% in ’20. Among qualified pitchers, that was third highest in the league, behind Kyle Gibson and Alec Mills. But where Gibson and Mills both posted above average groundball rates (51.5% and 47.3% respectively), Boyd only induced groundballs on 37.2% of his batted balls against. Not only were Boyd’s fly balls leaving the yard at one of the highest rates in the league, he also gave up a lot of them. All these issues culminated in Boyd allowing a .453 wOBAcon and accumulating just 0.1 WAR in 60.1 innings pitched, far off the pace he set in 2019. The former value was by far the worst in the majors in 2020. Indeed, Boyd’s wOBAcon allowed was almost 20 points worse than his next closest peer.

One of the culprits behind his 2020 demise was the degradation of his slider. The pitch was a consistent source of swings and misses in 2019; Boyd threw the slider 22.7% of the time and generated whiffs on 43.6% of swings. He increased its usage to 28.1% in 2020 but the whiff rate tumbled fell to 39.4% — still an impressive figure but given how often he throws the pitch, that is a lot of lost whiffs. He struck out batters with 52.5% of his two-strike sliders in 2020 after 58.5% in ’19, which can be attributed to more sliders finding the middle of the plate last year. Read the rest of this entry »

No Fire Puns Necessary: Corbin Burnes Transcends Comedic Headlines

I had a hard time writing the introduction for this article. Actually, strike that — I had one in mind the whole time, but I kept trying to come up with alternatives. Here’s the deal, though. I’m obsessed with Corbin Burnes (in a wholesome, “I love watching this guy pitch” kind of way), and I’ll use any excuse possible to write about him. His seeming transformation into a pitching demigod? Yeah, that certainly qualifies.

If you’re looking for the origins of both my Burnes obsession and his journey from prospect to ace, look no further than his first start of 2019. Burnes threw a gem, from a strikeout perspective at least, notching 12 K’s against a single walk. He also gave up three home runs and lasted only five innings — seems bad! The culprit was a fastball that spun ineffectively, some unholy blend of four-seamer and cutter that hitters had no trouble timing and obliterating.

Think “obliterating” is an extreme word choice? Burnes had an 8.82 ERA in 2019 and a 6.09 FIP. He gave up 17 homers in 49 innings, leading to a two-month trip to the minors. Batters barreled up 13.7% of the fastballs they put in play, which produced 10 of those homers. They whiffed on less than 20% of them, a poor result for such a hard, high-spin pitch. And he simply didn’t get the ride that four-seamers need, a prerequisite for missing bats. Read the rest of this entry »

Top 22 Prospects: Washington Nationals

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Washington Nationals. Scouting reports were compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as our own observations. As there was no minor league season in 2020, there are some instances where no new information was gleaned about a player. Players whose write-ups have not been meaningfully altered begin by telling you so. Each blurb ends with an indication of where the player played in 2020, which in turn likely informed the changes to their report if there were any. As always, we’ve leaned more heavily on sources from outside of a given org than those within for reasons of objectivity. Because outside scouts were not allowed at the alternate sites, we’ve primarily focused on data from there, and the context of that data, in our opinion, reduces how meaningful it is. Lastly, in an effort to more clearly indicate relievers’ anticipated roles, you’ll see two reliever designations, both on team lists and on The Board: MIRP, or multi-inning relief pitcher, and SIRP, or single-inning relief pitcher.

For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed, you can click here. For further explanation of Future Value’s merits and drawbacks, read Future Value.

All of the numbered prospects here also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It can be found here.

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