Adam Wainwright’s Recent Resurgence

Adam Wainwright wasn’t supposed to be pitching this season. After a 13-year run that had become increasingly injury-plagued since 2015, he was contemplating retiring at the end of 2018. His five-year contract extension, which had been paying him almost $20 million annually, was expiring at the end of the year and he had spent the majority of the season on the injured list with elbow inflammation. At 37 years old with a very successful and storied career under his belt, no one would have questioned him if he had hung up his spikes.

Wainwright returned to the mound for four starts in September and rediscovered his feel for pitching, even if his results didn’t exactly match. He allowed 12 runs in just over 22 innings in the final month of the season despite posting a 3.21 FIP during that stretch. Instead of a last-minute retirement tour, those four games became the building blocks for his resurgence this year.

It turns out the Cardinals weren’t ready to part with Wainwright either. They re-signed him to a one-year, incentive-laden contract with a $2 million base salary. With Carlos Martinez injured and then sent to the bullpen, Michael Wacha ineffective and also relegated to relief, and Alex Reyes not yet ready for prime time, the Cardinals have had to rely on Wainwright a little more than they were supposed to. Read the rest of this entry »


FanGraphs Saberseminar Boston Meetup: August 9

Saberseminar, the excellent annual baseball research conference, is just a few weeks away and that can only mean one thing: it’s almost time for FanGraphs’ Saberseminar meetup at Meadhall in Kendall Square! As we have in years past, we’ve reserved space on the bar’s mezzanine level and ordered some tasty snacks to share. We’ll kick things off at 7 p.m., just in time to have a beer and watch the Red Sox take on Mike Trout and the Angels.

Event Info
Friday, August 9th from 7 to 10 p.m.
Meadhall, Upper Mezzanine
90 Broadway, Cambridge, MA

In addition to many of Saberseminar’s presenters, there will be a number of FanGraphs folks in attendance, including Jay Jaffe, David Laurila, Rachael McDaniel, David Appelman, Sean Dolinar, FanGraphs alum Paul Swydan, and yours truly. It should be a fun evening of good beer and good conversation, and we hope to see you there. Until then, please enjoy this GIF of Mookie Betts being charming.


Concussions Have Pushed Francisco Cervelli’s Career to a Crossroads

It’s been a strange couple of weeks for Francisco Cervelli. The 33-year-old Pirates catcher, who hasn’t played since May 25 due to a concussion, was quoted as saying earlier this month that he was giving up catching due to the toll of multiple concussions, but on Saturday, he refuted that report. Either way, his career appears to be at a crossroads, and his situation serves to remind us just how vulnerable catchers are to such injuries.

Cervelli — whose surname means “brains” in Italian, hence the nickname “Frankie Brains” — began the season in a slump and was hitting just .193/.279/.248 when, in a game against the Dodgers, Joc Pederson’s broken bat struck him in the mask:

He was placed on the seven-day injured list, and after undergoing several rounds of tests, wasn’t cleared to resume baseball activities until late June. It was the sixth documented concussion of the catcher’s 11-year major league career; he suffered one with the Yankees in 2011, two with the Pirates in 2017, and two last year. While he served primarily as a backup during parts of seven seasons (2008-14) with New York — a period that included a near-full season exile to Triple-A and a 50-game Biogenesis-related PED suspension — he’s been the Pirates’ primary backstop since arriving in a November 2014 trade for reliever Justin Wilson, one that rates as quite the heist given that Wilson’s 1.5 WAR in his lone season in the Bronx (though Yankees general manager Brian Cashman did flip him to the Tigers for Chad Green and Luis Cessa, a move that’s still paying dividends). Read the rest of this entry »


Ronald Acuña, Free Swinger

Ronald Acuña had Steve Cishek right where he wanted him. He had worked the count to 3-0, and with a man on first base, Cishek was in a tough situation. The Cubs led by only two, and that put Cishek in quite the bind. Walk Acuña, and the tying run would be aboard with no one out. Give him a pitch to hit, and the game could be tied in a single swing. Acuña waited, Cishek dealt, and the result:

Cishek, no doubt, made the exact pitch he was hoping for. Still, it was a tremendously aggressive swing from Acuña, at a pitch that he couldn’t do much with. No real harm done — Acuña walked on the very next pitch. Cishek, as it turns out, was wild that day — he’d walked Freddie Freeman before Acuña, and he walked Nick Markakis after him to load the bases. All three scored, and the Braves won. Still, what was Acuña doing swinging there? Cishek had thrown seven straight balls to start the inning. The Braves weren’t punished for Acuña’s aggression, but the swing seemed a bit out of place. Read the rest of this entry »


Chris Stewart on His Catching Career and Hanging up the Spikes

Chris Stewart was never supposed to be a catcher.

In 1999, Stewart was slated to be his Moreno Valley, CA high school’s starting shortstop as a junior. But after the starting catcher quit the baseball team to join cheerleading, and the backup missed months with appendicitis, Stewart was thrust into the role.

“The coach, with no catchers left, comes up to me and says, ‘Hey, do you want to catch?’” Stewart recalls. “I tell him, ‘No. Why would I want all the bumps and bruises and bad knees? This sounds like a ridiculous idea.’ He’s like, ‘Well, you’re all we have left, so you’re catching.’” Read the rest of this entry »


Effectively Wild Episode 1405: The Rookie Mistake

EWFI
Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley banter about Meg’s visit to Cleveland, the Giants’ perplexing situation heading into the trade deadline, Edwin Jackson’s next destination, and the approaching addition of ads to MLB jerseys. Then they answer listener emails about whether Mike Trout’s popularity among stat-savvy fans stems from his lack of playoff appearances, the “strikeout player of the game,” whether clutch matters more at lower levels, whether players or coaches could try to doctor data in the age of tech-driven development, a Dallas Keuchel postgame comment, and showing sympathy for injured players, plus bat-dog discussion, a Stat Blast on pitchers who’ve thrown both immaculate innings and three-pitch innings, and a tribute to the late, great Rob McQuown, beloved Baseball Prospectus stat wizard.

Audio intro: Juliana Hatfield, "Everything’s for Sale"
Audio outro: The Coral, "Answer Me"

Link to Trout promo
Link to Zooperstars! mascot characters
Link to story about 1988 Cone column
Link to Keuchel’s “so-so” pitch
Link to video of Piscotty/Rengifo play
Link to picture of Rookie the bat dog
Link to list of immaculate innings
Link to list of three-pitch innings
Link to Rob McQuown’s BP article archive
Link to order The MVP Machine

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Eric Longenhagen Chat 7/17/19

12:08
Eric A Longenhagen: Hey, sorry you guys had to wait. Wrapped a call about the international stuff just now, let’ get to it…

12:09
Eric A Longenhagen: Only big thing to point to is that we put spin rate for most of the 2019 draft picks on The Board: https://www.fangraphs.com/prospects/the-board/2019-in-season-prospect-…

12:09
CJ: Michael Baumann has been really good in Double A, including a no hitter last night. What is his ceiling?

12:11
Eric A Longenhagen: He’s working really heavily with his fastball and a harder cutter (new pitch this year) while other pitches take a back seat. There may be a repertoire depth issue that makes it hard for him to be a traditional starter, but he looks like a good big league arm of some kind now. He’s broken out, certainly, I just wouldn’t expect him to be a star rotation piece.

12:11
CJ: Any DSL guys that you are excited about that may not be well known?

12:13
Eric A Longenhagen: There’s relatively no lag on when we know about someone and stick them on The Board, so almost everyone we have info on is on there. I have two more Blue Jays DSL names I need to ask around on (Montero and D’Ozoria). I guess Alvin Guzman is one we have stuffed really good

Read the rest of this entry »


2019 Trade Value: #21 to #30

Like Max Scherzer, deGrom’s contract has deferrals that affect his trade value. (Photo: Keith Allison)

As is the annual tradition at FanGraphs, we’re using a week around the All-Star Game — when the industry pauses to take a metaphorical breather — to take stock of the top-50 trade chips in the sport. For more context on exactly what we’re trying to do here, see the Honorable Mentions post linked at the top of the page.

For this post and the four to follow, I’ll present a graphic (by way of the wizard Sean Dolinar) breaking down each player’s objective skill level (represented, in this case, by a five-year WAR projection from ZiPS), contract/team-control details, rank in last year’s series, and then year-by-year details of age, WAR, and contract through the end of 2023, although a couple players have control beyond those five years, and some, you’ll notice, show projections for fewer years to reflect when those players reach free agency. For those readers who are partial to spreadsheets rather than blocks of text, I’ll also include all of the players we’ve ranked so far in grid format at the bottom of the post.

It should be noted that the ZiPS WAR forecasts influenced the rankings a bit. For players who were bunched together, it acted as an impartial tiebreaker of sorts, but the industry opinions I solicited drove the rankings.

With that said, let’s get to the next 10 spots on this year’s Trade Value list.

Five-Year WAR +12.6
Guaranteed Dollars
Team Control Through 2024
Previous Rank
Year Age Projected WAR Contract Status
2020 24 +2.5 Pre-Arb
2021 25 +2.5 Pre-Arb
2022 26 +2.7 Arb1
2023 27 +2.6 Arb2
2024 28 +2.3 Arb3
Pre-Arb
Arb

Paddack was acquired from the Marlins in 2016 for Fernando Rodney, a move that looks like highway robbery in hindsight. Paddack blew out his elbow three starts after the trade and wasn’t a big prospect at that time; he’d had gaudy numbers in Low-A at that point, but had signed for $400,000 in the eighth round and was a fastball/changeup type with feel and a below average breaking ball. Paddack has come on a lot since then and is basically a No. 3 starter in his age-23 rookie season, and looks like he’s traveling the James Shields path. Read the rest of this entry »


Jimmie Sherfy and a Fair Chance

Bucky Jacobsen represents one of the rarest flavors of big leaguer: the rookie who succeeded and yet never got a second chance. An old 28 when he debuted in 2004, Jacobsen hit .275/.335/.500 in 42 games. His beefy build, bald head, and big bat made him a hero in Seattle; to this day you’ll occasionally see “Jacobsen” jerseys around the ballpark.

But those 42 games constituted the entirety of his career. A knee injury ended his season prematurely and recovery from surgery sidelined him for most of 2005. The Mariners released him that summer and he was out of the game completely two years later.

Such a quick rise and fall was naturally disorienting. In a recent Corey Brock profile at The Athletic, Jacobsen described the nagging feeling that he’d unjustly lost something: “To have success in the big leagues and then not be allowed to continue that? That felt unfair.”

We all know what it’s like to fall just short of our dreams; the Triple-A veteran who plateaus at the highest level is an easy guy to empathize with. But there’s something just as sad about the guys who get their chance, succeed, and fade away, like the dream itself never mattered.

***

When you’re on the fringes of a big league roster, you develop a few peculiar rooting interests. You certainly want to play — you need to play, need to show why you deserve your spot on the team. But, if you’re a reliever of a certain stripe, some outings are more dangerous than others. You can call it the Goldilocks Theory of a big league audition.

If you’re the last man in the bullpen, you don’t really want to see the starter struggle. If the starter struggles, then the team needs someone to soak up innings. That person will be you, and in 2019, the inning sponge tends to get wrung out in Triple-A. Read the rest of this entry »


Zack Wheeler’s Injury Is Latest Dent in Mets’ Deadline Plans

Adding injury to the ongoing insult that is their 2019 season, the Mets have placed Zack Wheeler on the 10-day injured list due to what the team described as shoulder fatigue and what the pitcher himself defined as impingement. The 29-year-old righty’s condition has been described by sources as “not a serious concern,” and the timing still leaves open the possibility that the pending free agent could return before the July 31 trade deadline and demonstrate his fitness for potential suitors. Nonetheless, the news puts a significant dent in whatever plans the Mets may have to retool amid a season gone awry.

Back in January, after signing free agents Jed Lowrie, Wilson Ramos, and Jeurys Familia, as well as trading for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, rookie general manager Brodie Van Wagenen boldly told reporters, “I look forward to showing people that we’re a team to be reckoned with. Let’s not be shy on wanting to be the best and I fully expect us to be competitive, to be a winning team. Our goal is to win a championship and it starts with the division. So come get us.” Last Friday, with the Mets 40-50 as they began the second half — fourth in the NL East, 13.5 games out of first place, and second-to-last in the Wild Card race at seven games out — Van Wagenen conceded, “They came and got us.”

Ouch. As the trade deadline approaches — and this year, there’s only one deadline, with no August waiver period during which teams can buy time for injured players to heal — it’s time for Van Wagenen to break up this non-dynasty. In a market light in frontline starting pitching, Wheeler figured to be an attractive rental option due to his combination of performance (more on which momentarily) and price (he’s making just $5.975 million). He’s drawn attention from the Braves, Brewers, Red Sox, Yankees, and probably other teams as well. Read the rest of this entry »