Archive for December, 2011

Where The Free Agent Value Was Last Winter

When the calendar rolls over to January, teams traditionally start to go bargain hunting in the free agent market, shopping for players in the open box section of talent. Some of these “previously owned” goods are more damaged than others, but most of them come with significant health questions, and they’re often guys who underwhelm with mediocre physical abilities. Especially on the pitching side, the bargain bin is generally full of soft-tossing contact pitchers with below average strikeout rates, often coming off some kind of recent arm surgery.

It’s generally hard to get too excited when your team starts shopping for one of these blue light specials. Paul Maholm? Jeff Francis? Kevin Millwood? No one rushes to buy season tickets when these signings are announced. However, last year, no area of free agency provided a better return on investment, and honestly, it wasn’t even close.

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FanGraphs Glossary: The Winter Cleaning

As pointed out on Twitter today, there’s some good news for baseball fans today: the wait until Spring Training is officially half over. The middle of February is looking closer and closer now that January is a few days away, so before we know it, pitchers and catchers will begin their yearly migration down to the warmer climes. Our long, dark teatime of the soul is all but over.

But this is bittersweet news. Yes, the wait until Spring Training is almost over, but the coming month and a half is typically the slowest, most painful time of the offseason. The Winter Meetings have passed and baseball news has slowed down to a crawl, so there isn’t much to keep us baseball-philes content. This January promises to be more eventful than most, considering Prince Fielder is still on the market and there are multiple potential trades that may happen, but I’m not about to set my expectations too high.

Since things can get so slow this month, this is typically the time of the year when I update and re-edit the Sabermetric Library — a mid-winter cleaning, if you will. I haven’t begun dusting out the cobwebs yet, though, as I’d love to get input on what people would like to see this time around. And so…

  • Are these any pages in the Library you think badly need an edit? Is there anything you’d like to see added to any particular page?
  • Are there any new pages or articles you’d like to see added to the Library?
  • Any new links that I should be sure to include in the Library?

In short, if you have any ideas on how to improve the glossary here at FanGraphs and to make it more useful, please share! I’ll be spending the next month or so making edits and changes, and I welcome any ideas.


Memories of Melvin Mora

Melvin Mora has reportedly announced his retirement. I will admit that I was a bit surprised to find out that Mora is going to turn 40 in February. I knew he was a “late bloomer,” but I had not processed just how late. Upon his retirement, it is worth reflecting Mora’s curious development as well as taking a look at one of his most exciting in-game moments.

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Is Byrd the Word For Washington?

The acquisition of Gio Gonzalez certainly bolstered the Nationals starting rotation and bumped up their postseason odds. It wasn’t a splash of the Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder ilk but with Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, Gonzalez will help form a fairly formidable trio. However, the Nationals aren’t finished just yet.

In addition to their rumored interest and pursuit of Prince Fielder to replace Adam LaRoche at first base, the Nationals are also in the hunt for a centerfielder. Last season, they expressed interest in both Michael Bourn and B.J. Upton. The former was eventually traded to the division-rival Braves, while the latter posted a .449 wOBA in September as the Rays won the Wild Card on the season’s final day.

But the Nationals are still looking to shore up their outfield. Center field remains a legitimate weakness on a team with sights on significantly improving and potentially contending for a playoff berth. As it currently stands, there are four realistic options: trade for Marlon Byrd, trade for B.J. Upton, sign Coco Crisp, or shift Jayson Werth over while installing someone else in right field.

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FanGraphs Q&A: The Best Quotes of 2011

Since joining FanGraphs eight months ago, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing a number of people within baseball. Many of them had interesting things to say. So continuing a tradition that began when I was at Baseball Prospectus, I’m ending the year with some of the highlights. Without further ado, I give you The Best Quotes from FanGraphs Q&A 2011:

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“I don’t try to strike out people, but sometimes they swing and miss.” — Felix Hernandez, May 2011

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Tom Milone and the Whole Velocity Thing

Because you’re the sort of person who would do such a thing, you’ve likely found yourself, at one point or another, having dirty thoughts about the major-league equivalencies (MLEs) for soft-tossing, and recently traded, left-hander Tom Milone.

If, somehow, you’re not that sort of person, perhaps you’ve wandered to this site by accident. In any case, here’s a recap of what you would’ve found there:

In 2010, pitching at Double-A Harrisburg, a 23-year-old Milone posted a zMLE line (that’s ZiPS MLE) of 151.3 IP, 27/27 GS/G, 6.78 K/9, 1.84 BB/9, 1.01 HR/9, ca. 3.92 FIP.

In 2011, pitching at Triple-A Syracuse, a 24-year-old Milone posted a zMLE line of 145.2, 24/24 GS/G, 7.84 K/9, 0.99 BB/9, 0.62 HR/9, ca. 2.72 FIP.

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Samson Is Wrong: Marlins Aquarium Is 2nd to Rays

The Miami Marlins just announced plans to give their new ballpark an aquarium theme, and they have already installed two 450-gallon fish tanks. One each will be along the first- and third-base lines — the fish safe in soundproof, shatter-proof glass. In an exclusive interview with MLB.com, team president David Samson explained: “The reason this has never been done before, is not that it can’t be done…. It’s because no one thought to do it.”

But Samson is wrong. In fact, the other Florida team got there first. All the way back in the hazy mists of 2006, the then-Tampa Bay Devil Rays installed a 10,000 gallon aquarium — with 22 Cownose rays — beyond their outfield wall in right-center field. The Rays Touch Tank is still there, and the number of Rays’ rays has increased to 30. It was controversial at the time because the team offered to donate $5,000 to charity — half of it to the Florida Aquarium — any time a batter hit a home run into the tank. But both the team’s and the aquarium’s officials took pains to maintain that the rays themselves were not in danger.
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How Great Was Edgar Martinez’s Bat?

While we’ve spent the last few days talking about the Hall of Fame, and this post is somewhat inspired by discussions about Edgar Martinez’s worthiness for enshrinement in Cooperstown, this isn’t really a post about whether or not he deserves induction. I get why people are hesitant to vote for a guy who spent most of his career at DH, had a relatively short career, and who played in an era that saw offensive records shattered left and right. I might not agree with their conclusions, but Martinez is a bubble candidate, and legitimate cases can be on both sides of the coin.

However, one of the arguments that I’ve seen more often this year is that Martinez simply wasn’t a great enough hitter to overcome his lack of defensive value. This argument was laid out most plainly by Jeff Fletcher in his explanation of why Martinez is not getting his vote. He looked at Martinez compared to his contemporaries, and sums up his stance with this line:

So if I’m going to vote him in based solely on his bat, he’d better be an absolute slam dunk offensive HOFer…

The argument that a career DH needs to be an elite, premium hitter for induction is valid, and a standard I would argue for as well. I just disagree with Fletcher that Martinez was not that kind of elite, all-time great hitter.

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Baseball’s New Year’s Day Babies

Flash forward a couple days from now.

It’s New Year’s Day, around 6:00 p.m. You’re on the couch or in your favorite comfy chair. You’ve watched too much football — for which you care little. You’re hungry but too tired or lazy to do anything about it. You switch on the local news and find the most obvious, repeated story of New Year’s Day: “Who was the first baby born in [your city] in 2012?”

It’s a thing. I don’t know why it’s a thing, but somewhere, someone decided it was interesting and important to keep track of the first baby born in each community every year. As if that distinction made the baby special for reasons other being born a few minutes after Dec. 31, thus preventing his or her parents from claiming an extra tax deduction for the prior year.

But this is America, and we keep track of these things. And since baseball is as American as apple pie and wireless surveillance, let us do the American thing and take note of the major league baseball players who were born on Jan. 1.

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Ryan Madson: Loser of the Offseason

Ryan Madson has had a successful career spent entirely with the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies signing of Jonathan Papelbon early in the offseason effectively ended that chapter of Madson’s career, but he entered the offseason as either the best or second-best available closer.

Madson was going to get paid, and it was just a matter of which team would see past his “inexperience” at the position and opt for his services over, say, Heath Bell or Francisco Cordero.

Unfortunately, best laid plans haven’t come to fruition, and it seems with each passing day that he will end up being the loser of the offseason: a very good player forced to sign for less than he would have had he hit free agency a year earlier or later.

Because so few remaining teams have both the need and payroll flexibility to give a multi-year deal to a closer, it’s looking like Madson’s first foray into free agency will result in his eventual employer getting a bargain.

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