Archive for February, 2014

The Significance of Pitching to the Park

This post isn’t about Ervin Santana, who remains a free agent. This post was inspired by fly-ball pitchers, and, interestingly, Santana is no longer one of those, despite his reputation. Definitely, he’s still somewhat homer-prone, but his groundball rates have been creeping up over a few years. He’s pretty neutral, but still, people see him as this fly-ball guy, and so as rumors have flown around, people have questioned the wisdom of certain places being potential destinations. Would you really want a fly-ball guy in, say, Baltimore? Would you really want a fly-ball guy in Toronto? Those are pretty homer-friendly parks. In theory, they’re not suited to Santana’s skillset.

So there’s a question to research: how much does it matter? How much are fly-ball guys hurt by homer-friendly parks? How much do fly-ball guys benefit from non-homer-friendly parks? Beyond the simple park factors, of course. Everybody gives up more homers in more homer-friendly parks, but we know how to adjust for that. What can we say about fly-ball pitchers after that adjustment, for example? Hopefully, you follow. If not, well, I’m still typing. Maybe you’ll start following soon.

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FanGraphs Audio: A Dayn Perry Executive’s Brunch

Episode 428
Dayn Perry is a contributor to CBS Sports’ Eye on Baseball and the author of three books — one of them not very miserable. He’s also the high-powered guest on this edition of FanGraphs Audio.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 1 hr 17 min play time.)

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Crowdsourcing “Minor” Spring Training Health Problems

As we reach the beginning of the Cactus and Grapefruit League schedules, pitchers are starting to ramp up towards opening day. It’s no longer just long toss and stretching, but now, they’re expected to throw actual innings at a physical effort level approaching what they’d do in the regular season. And, naturally, some players are experiencing some issues while ramping up, with some even heading off to get MRIs.

We know that these kinds of strains and pulls and soreness are pretty common in February and March, but what we don’t know — or at least, I don’t know — is how often these reported spring training issues turn into something more serious. Plenty of people out there have tracked and continue to track the “Best Shape Of His Life” group, but as I read about a few more pitchers going to the training room today, I wondered why we’re not tracking pitchers who report spring training pain, in order to learn what percentage of guys who have to undergo treatment in February and March end up on the DL in April through September.

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Steamer Projects: Oakland A’s Prospects

Earlier today, polite and Canadian and polite Marc Hulet published his 2014 organizational prospect list for the Oakland A’s.

It goes without saying that, in composing such a list, Hulet has considered the overall future value those prospects might be expected to provide either to the Oaklanders or whatever other organizations to which they might someday belong.

What this brief post concerns isn’t overall future value, at all, but rather such value as the prospects from Hulet’s list might provide were they to play, more or less, a full major-league season in 2014.

Other prospect projections: Arizona / Atlanta / Baltimore / Boston / Chicago AL / Chicago NL / Cincinnati / Cleveland / Colorado / Houston / Kansas City / Los Angeles AL / Miami / Milwaukee / Minnesota / New York AL / New York NL / Philadelphia / Pittsburgh / St. Louis / San Diego / San Francisco / Seattle / Tampa Bay / Texas / Toronto.

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Exceptional Defense Touches Everyone

Here’s something that should be pretty evident: If you’ve got a ground-ball pitcher, you want him pitching in front of a strong infield defense. Likewise, if you’ve got a fly-ball pitcher, you want him pitching in front of a strong outfield defense. I feel like I don’t even need to explain the thought processes. How many times did people express concern over Rick Porcello starting for last year’s Detroit Tigers? Porcello’s a ground ball guy. Last year’s Tigers started Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder at the corners. Intuitively, that could’ve been a problem.

OK. As presented on FanGraphs, the UZR era stretches back to 2002. Over that span, last year’s Tampa Bay Rays had one of the best infield defenses, at +50 runs. Not surprisingly, ground-baller Alex Cobb posted an ERA well below his FIP. More surprisingly, fly-baller Matt Moore showed an even bigger positive difference. Let’s flip things around. The 2004 New York Yankees had one of the worst outfield defenses, at -68 runs. Not surprisingly, fly-baller Javier Vazquez pitched below his peripherals. More surprisingly, ground-baller Jon Lieber showed an even bigger negative difference. These are just carefully selected individual examples, but they help to set up a bigger-picture study.

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Top 10 Prospects: Oakland Athletics

Oakland has an interesting system because a lot of the players on the Top 10 list are unproven. The 2014 season will be an interesting one for the organization as many of those players are poised to either take big steps forward or big steps backward. Read the rest of this entry »

Effectively Wild Episode 396: Your Emails, Answered

Ben and Sam answer listener emails about scouting based on one swing, how much GMs know, paying young players, psyching out opponents, and more.

The Ball that Allowed for the Rest of a Miracle

I don’t even remember what I was looking up on YouTube this morning, but there, in the sidebar, was this, and it just had to be clicked on.

It was, of course, a legendary baseball game, the rare regular-season game that interests more than just fans of the two teams involved. It wasn’t supposed to be anything special from the outset, but most people understand what happened that day — the unbeatable Seattle Mariners took a 14-2 lead over the Cleveland Indians into the bottom of the seventh, and the Cleveland Indians won.

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Idle Observations from a Single Game of Alex Guerrero

The Los Angeles Dodgers signed Cuban emigre and infielder Alexander Guerrero this offseason, with a view (it would seem) towards installing him at second base for the 2014 season. Because Guerrero didn’t participate in the most recent World Baseball Classic and because there’s little in the way of other extant footage of him and because there’s only so much his Cuban league stats can tell us — regardless of how responsibly they’re translated — there’s naturally an air of mystery surrounding him. Indeed, Guerrero’s two plate appearances during the Dodgers’ spring-training opener on Wednesday against Arizona were the first which offered competitive footage of him in any sort of broadly available way.

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Another Way of Explaining Mike Trout’s $50 Million Valuation

Mike Trout is reportedly close to signing a long term deal with the Angels that will value the free agent years he’s giving up at around $30 to $35 million apiece. At the time he signs the deal, he’ll almost lock in the largest single season salary ever guaranteed to a Major League player, topping the $33 million that Clayton Kershaw will earn in the last year of his freshly minted extension. And even with that, he’s still going to be drastically underpaid.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a few conversations with folks where I’ve unsuccessfully tried to explain why Trout is worth something between $40 to $50 million per year for his free agent years. In a time where even the best free agents are signing for half of that, it’s a tough sell, and I’ve realized that most people just generally don’t believe that Trout is twice as valuable as other star players.

So, this post is an effort to help illustrate the dramatic gulf between Trout’s value and the kinds of players that are signing for $20 to $25 million per year. I’m going to try to make the math as non-scary as possible, and avoid using fancy acronyms or models that rely on black box data. We’re just going to deal with the basics.

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