Archive for February, 2013

Umpires are Improving

Fact: one of the most exciting areas of study right now is catcher defense, and catcher pitch-framing. A little bit of the shine is off, but we’re still making discoveries, and the whole thing is exciting because at last we’re able to put some numbers to something that’s long been suspected or known. Previously, we were left with guesswork and anecdotal evidence. Now we have an understanding of who’s good and who’s not good, and though it’s all still evolving, more and more people are aware of it, and more and more people are talking about it.

Yet conversations about pitch-framing are seldom just about pitch-framing. Practically every time it comes up, the conversation turns to whether or not this ought to be left to skill. Sure, some catchers receive better than others, and it can make a meaningful difference. But why should it be that way? Why can’t umpires just call consistent strike zones for everybody? Why can’t we just have automated, perfect strike zones, to even the playing field? And so on and so forth. It’s exciting that we’ve identified pitch-framing as a talent, but people are split on whether or not they want this talent to keep having an effect.

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Joba Wants to Start. Yankees Want it to Stop.

When it comes to Joba Chamberlain and the Yankees, the phrase “star-crossed” comes to mind. On Wednesday, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News quoted Chamberlain saying that he still believed he could be a starting pitcher. Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman responded with snark: Girardi said, “I’d like to catch one more game, too,” and Cashman said, “We’re down an outfield bat… see if he can play center.”

The next day, Joel Sherman of the New York Post slammed Chamberlain, criticizing him for “his look-at-me side” and called him “a 5-year-old,” and “a physical red flag.” “It seems very unlikely Chamberlain will be re-signing with New York after the season,” writes Mike Axisa. “That makes me sad.” How did it come to this?
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On Spring Training Game Pace

As the resident FanGraphs Game Pace Cares-A-Lot-About-er, I know it can be weird to talk about pace and watchability, because to prefer a faster pace could be interpreted as not really liking baseball that much. One could argue that a “true fan” cares only about the outs and the score and minds not the speed at which the conclusion is approached. But I know I can’t help what I care about, and I care about things like pace and duration. As such, I’ve gotten to wondering about how spring-training speed matches up with regular-season speed. Are the games this time of year longer? Are they shorter? Are they exactly the same? If there are differences, what might they mean?

So far in 2013 spring training, at this writing, 83 games have been completed. That’s not a whole lot of games, but that’s a meaningful sample of games, and it’s what I’ve examined. In every official game box score, the length of the game is displayed toward the bottom. I’ve gone through and compiled all the data and performed some elementary math on it, as you do. As a potentially unwelcome spoiler alert, the results are not astonishing.

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Job Listing: Indians Executive Development Fellow

Title: Executive Development Fellow (EDF), Baseball Analytics

The Executive Development Fellow (EDF) for Baseball Analytics will be exposed to all facets of the Indians baseball operations during this intensive, structured 12-month immersion into the organization. The EDF will participate in a comprehensive orientation program, regular feedback meetings and a cross-functional mentorship program to facilitate enhanced organizational and career development.

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WBC Tapei’s Slugging First Baseman, Yi-Chuan Lin

The World Baseball Classic nears like an orange and pink dawn, a dawn that breaks once every three years — so like an Alaskan dawn. But Americans, in general, are not setting their alarm clocks. We and our brother Canadians have not taken to the tournament with the equal fervor of many foreign baseball fans.

I suspect one reason is limited knowledge of the foreign rosters. Outside of the main North American teams — the USA, Canadian, and DR rosters — we struggle to recognize more than a handful of players.

So let’s try to wrest away some passion from these non-American, non-Canadian types and learn a bit more about the other teams! Particularly, let’s examine Taiwan’s three best sluggers. Why Taiwan? Your humble author speaks a little Mandarin. Taiwan speaks a lot of Mandarin. It’s like a match!

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The WBC, March Madness Style

Four years ago, I wrote a post on “Fixing the WBC” that revolved around one primary suggestion: move the timing of the event to mid-season. Many of the reservations that teams have about their players participating in the event have to do with the injury risks of getting away from a normal pre-season workout, and moving the event to mid-season — in that piece, I suggested just replacing the All-Star Game with the WBC and making the break a few days longer — would eliminate that primary concern.

However, it’s not a particularly realistic suggestion. The All-Star Game is a big money maker for Major League Baseball, and a sport as steeped in tradition as MLB isn’t going to simply cast it aside once every four years. While fully represented WBC squads playing meaningful games would almost certainly be more entertaining than any AL/NL All-Star clash, MLB’s preference is clearly for both events to be highly successful, rather than choosing one over the other. Just from a financial perspective, canceling the All-Star Game is probably a non-starter, so even if I think the WBC would work better mid-season, it’s probably not a feasible idea.

However, I do think that there’s one aspect of the mid-season WBC suggestion that could easily be ported over to the current timeframe and would make the event both more enjoyable and increase participation from MLB players: make the entire event a single elimination tournament, March Madness style.

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Eno Sarris Baseball Chat — 2/27/13

Zack Wheeler And “The Zing”

Zack Wheeler’s spring debut set the prospect world abuzz as the right-hander showed elite stuff in two scoreless innings of work. Having seen him pitch twice for the Augusta GreenJackets in 2010, Wheeler’s outing is an example of projection blooming into production.

Reading through older reports while watching Hotel Transylvania left me looking for “The Zing”, or the moment when one becomes smitten with a prospect knowing he’ll be special. Wheeler provided one of those in 2010 when I wrote,

“Wheeler had a definite “wow” factor which the overwhelming majority of prospects simply do not have. Behind Julio Teheran, he’s the second best pitcher I have ever seen at the level and has true impact starter upside.”

Seeing Wheeler pitch in Grapefruit League action is an opportunity to reflect on memories from three seasons ago, and identify areas where he has grown. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Notes: On Spring Run Environments, In Case You Care

Table of Contents
This edition of the Daily Notes appears not to have a table of contents.

On Spring Run Environments, In Case You Care
In yesterday’s edition of the Notes, the author published the earliest possible returns regarding league averages for spring training this year — both for the two spring leagues as a whole, and for the Florida and Arizona leagues separately.

A curious reader named Dan — who likely possesses multiple graduate degrees and even more lovers — asked how the spring stats so far in 2013 compared to last year’s spring-training numbers. What this post does is provide the answer to that particular question — while, perhaps, asking several more.

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Taijuan Walker’s Journey

Taijuan Walker is an elite pitching prospect. Despite the TINSTAAPP rules, Walker has ranked in the top 15 of the major top 100 lists, and he’s Seattle’s No.1 or No. 2 prospect, depending on the list. Walker’s 2012 line, however, was a little underwhelming. He posted a 4.69 ERA and 4.04 FIP, and during the couple chats I’ve done with Mike Newman, I’ve seen quite a few questions about whether we should be worried about it. The answer is no, but I thought it warranted a longer, more detailed answer.

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