Archive for October, 2012

Royals Bet on Ervin Santana, Inflation

The Angels had until today to decide whether to exercise Ervin Santana’s $13 million option or pay him a $1 million buyout and make him a free agent. After a miserable 2012 season, it was pretty obvious that they weren’t interested in picking up the option, so today, they shipped him to Kansas City.

The deal, as reported by Ken Rosenthal, is Santana and cash for LHP Brandon Sisk. Given that the Angels could have made Santana go away for $1 million and that Sisk is a 27-year-old reliever who has never pitched in the Majors, it’s a pretty safe bet that the Angels aren’t kicking in much more than that $1 million they would have owed either way. The Royals are almost certainly going to have to pay $11-$12 million of Santana’s salary in 2013.

So, is he worth that kind of cash? Well, maybe.

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Baseball’s Most Selective Hitter

Generally speaking, a decent proxy for a batter’s understanding of the strike zone is his O-Swing% — that is, the percentage of pitches outside of the zone at which he offers. The lower that figure, the less often a player is offering at pitches outside of the zone. The less often a player is offering at pitches outside of the zone, the more likely he is both to draw walks and (one assumes) swing at better pitches inside the zone.

As to the first point, that is borne out by the numbers: O-Swing% and walk rate correlate rather tightly. Consider the following graph, for example, which includes the O-Swing%s (from the PITCHf/x zone) and walk rates for all 143 qualified batters from 2012. (Note: average O-Swing% among this population is 28.9%. Standard deviation is 5.7%.)

As for the second point, however — that O-Swing% necessarily indicates a better idea of the strike zone — it recently occurred to the author (who isn’t very sharp) that perhaps these are not the same thing. Anyone who ever saw Mark Bellhorn bat, for example, will know that it’s sometimes possible for a player not only to refrain from swinging outside of the zone, but also to avoid swinging altogether. There is a difference, however, between selectivity — which we’ll define, for the sake of this post, as “ability to discern between balls and strikes” — and a refusal to swing the bat. The former, we reason, is a good thing; the latter, less so.

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Giving the Gold Glove Voters Some Credit

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t planning on writing about the Gold Gloves today. They were announced on a Tuesday evening at 10 pm eastern, having been delayed because ESPN2 had a racing program go overtime. Or at least that’s what I gathered on Twitter, because I wasn’t watching them. It seems like these awards are getting the recognition they deserve based on their years of hilariously poor selections.

But, in this afternoon’s chat, there were a lot of Gold Glove related questions. Most of them were outrage based, wanting to know who was the biggest snub or who was the worst recipient of the award. There were jokes about Adam Jones. People are good at making fun of the Gold Gloves, because for a long time, the Gold Gloves have been the most mockable award in sports. At this point, they might as well change the cliche to death, taxes, and making fun of bad Gold Glove selections.

And, of course, there were some bad Gold Glove selections this year, so there has been mocking today. But, perhaps lost in the annual tradition of scorn heaping is the fact that there’s pretty clear evidence that the managers are getting better at this.

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Dodgers Make Haste to Re-Sign Brandon League

Following Sunday’s conclusion of the World Series, there began the relatively brief Quiet Period — a period of time during which teams have exclusive negotiation rights with pending free agents. After the Quiet Period, anybody can reach out to anybody. Any player can sign with any team that he wants. The Los Angeles Dodgers had a pending free agent in Brandon League, and they didn’t want to risk exposing him to the open market, so Tuesday night, word got out that the Dodgers had signed League to a three-year contract.

With a fourth-year vesting option, based on games finished. As is, the three guaranteed years are worth $22.5 million. That is, the Dodgers signed League to a three-year, $22.5 million contract. The contract could end up being bigger than that, when it’s all said and done. We can all agree that paying this sort of money for a non-elite setup man would be ridiculous. And that isn’t what the Dodgers have done, as Ned Colletti says that League will be the team’s closer going forward. Closers make more money. It’s in the very definition of “closing”.

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The 2012 Carter-Batista Award

Award season is upon us. Perhaps this dates me (or at least my methods) as a blogger, but to me, this is a fun time to bust out a series of awards and rankings based on stats and metrics with varying degrees of usefulness. Today I will begin with the 2012 Joe CarterTony Batista Award for the hitter whose 2012 RBI total most exaggerates his actual offensive contribution.

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The Market for Dan Haren

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have until Friday to decide what they’re going to do with Dan Haren. The team has a $15.5 million dollar option for 2013 or it can choose a $3.5 million buyout, which would make Haren a free agent. There’s no doubt there will be suitors for Haren — should he hit the free-agent market — but the question the Angels are probably trying to figure out is if there’s a market for him at $12 million.

If the Angels can find a trade partner, it’s likely they’d pick up the $15.5 million option and send $3.5 million in cash with Haren for whatever parts would be acceptable in return. This is obviously preferable than absolutely nothing for $3.5 million, and it’s not out of the question that the Angels might find a middling prospect or perhaps a useful bullpen piece. Or, another option would be to simply pay the man with the hope he can regain the form that saw him average better than 5 WAR in the past seven seasons. Given their recent dangling of Haren on the trade front seems to suggest the team thinks such a hope is foolhardy.

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FanGraphs Chat – 10/31/12

National TV Ratings for World Series Tell Only Part of the Story

First, the national TV ratings for the World Series were released. The lowest in history! Lower than the last time the San Francisco Giants played in the World Series! Then came the commentary about how boring the series was — how it lacked national stars, how the ratings show interest in baseball is dying.

Stop. Baseball is alive and well. It’s simply not consumed on a national level and hasn’t been for some time.

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Daily Notes: Contract Crowdsourcing, Starters (Part 3)

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of Daily Notes.

1. Contract Crowdsourcing: Starting Pitchers (3 of 3)
2. SCOUT Leaderboard: Dominican Winter League Hitters
3. Video: Marcell Ozuna Swinging a Lot

Contract Crowdsourcing: Starting Pitchers (3 of 3)
Free agency begins this coming Saturday. FanGraphs is asking readers to estimate the years and average annual dollar values likely to be received by certain notable free agents. We continue today with the third third of this free-agent class’s notable starting pitchers. (Click here for more on the contract crowdsourcing project.)

Other positions: Catchers / First Basemen / Second Basemen / Third Basemen / Shortstops / Corner Outfielders / Center Fielders / Designated Hitters / Right-Handed Relievers / Left-Handed Relievers / Starting Pitchers (Part 1) / Starting Pitchers (Part 2).

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Effectively Wild Episode 73: Did the Dodgers Overpay for Brandon League?/Are Gold Glove Voters and Defensive Stats Learning to get Along?

Ben and Sam discuss the three-year deal the Dodgers gave Brandon League and reliever salaries in general, then talk about whether Gold Glove voters and advanced defensive stats agree more often than they used to.