Archive for May, 2014

FanGraphs Audio: Merrie Olde Craig Robinson

Episode 453
A native of England and current resident of Mexico City, Craig Robinson contributes both to NotGraphs and also Flip Flop Fly Ball (of which site he’s the proprietor). He’s also the 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 5 min play time.)

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The Best of FanGraphs: May 27-30, 2014

If you missed the inaugural post of The Best Of FanGraphs, you can do so here. In case you don’t feel like clicking through though, here is how this post is structured:

We’ll pull from the whole FanGraphs family, picking 10-15 stories that we feel you really should read before the week draws to a close. The links are color coded — green for FanGraphs, burnt sienna for RotoGraphs, purple for NotGraphs, dark red for The Hardball Times and blue for Community. They are listed in this order as well in each day, just for the sake of consistency.

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NERD Game Scores for Saturday, May 31, 2014

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by viscount of the internet Rob Neyer, and expanded at the request of nobody, NERD scores represent an attempt to summarize in one number (and on a scale of 0-10) the likely aesthetic appeal or watchability, for the learned fan, of a player or team or game. Read more about the components of and formulae for NERD scores here.


Most Highly Rated Game
Atlanta at Miami | 16:10 ET
Ervin Santana (57.2 IP, 85 xFIP-, 0.9 WAR) faces Jacob Turner (33.2 IP, 100 xFIP-, 0.1 WAR) in a contest that features two of the league’s most appealing clubs, according to the probably wrong metric devised by the author. The Atlantans, for their part, have produced the league’s most excellent relief pitching numbers and second-best defensive-run figures; the Miamis, a cumulative hitting line among the league’s top third despite featuring a roster which earns that same league’s lowest collective payroll.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Atlanta Radio.

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Intent, Execution, and Edwin Encarnacion

Thursday afternoon, I wrote something up regarding Edwin Encarnacion’s power-hitting hot streak. Within a few hours of publishing, Encarnacion hit another home run, and within an hour or so of that home run, Encarnacion hit another home run. Twice, he went deep against Royals ace James Shields, and though the Blue Jays ultimately lost the contest, Encarnacion further demonstrated that he’s one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball. His April slump isn’t forgotten — I’m referring to it right here — but now it’s the sort of thing we can all laugh about. All of us who are not pitchers.

One of Encarnacion’s homers on Thursday came against a fastball, and the other came against a cut fastball. The homers themselves looked like ordinary Edwin Encarnacion homers, as he launched both of them high and out to left. But what caught my attention was something else going on. Something involving Shields and Salvador Perez. The thing we always observe is what a pitch actually is. The thing we don’t always observe is what a pitch was supposed to be.

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The Best and Worst Teams, Two Months In

Four weeks ago, I introduced Expected Run Differentials, using the various linear weights tools we have on the site to construct a metric to evaluate a team’s performance without any timing or sequencing factors. Essentially, this method just counts up the context-neutral value of positive or negative events a team allows, and gives us an expected result if every team had distributed those events in the same manner. While run differential strips timing out of the conversion from runs to wins, this construct strips out timing from the runs themselves, and gives us the most sequencing-free look at a team’s overall performance to date.

Since it’s been nearly a month, let’s go ahead and update the numbers and look at what we can learn from them. There’s a lot of information in the table, and each column is sortable, so you can see where teams stand either by runs scored or allowed, expected runs scored or allowed, run differential or expected differential, or the differences in each section. The table is presented by expected run differential, from best to worst, and a reminder that the differences are set so that positive numbers are always favorable for the team.

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“I Wish We Could Get Guys Like That”

Weird things about baseball fascinate me. One of those things is the concept of discarded players. Every once in awhile, you’ll see a player doing well and think to yourself, “Hey, wasn’t he on our team at one point?” David Carpenter is one such player. Watching him face the Red Sox this week, I couldn’t help but think that it would be sure nice if the Sox had him right now instead of Craig Breslow. Sure, the world will keep on spinning, and Carpenter wouldn’t make or break the 2014 Red Sox, but every little bit counts, and the Red Sox gave him away for free after just five weeks on the roster. In situations like these, we often jokingly say (or at least I do), “Hey, I wish we could get guys like that!”

I don’t mean to pick on the Red Sox, because every team does this. If you scan rosters, you’ll find one such player on just about every roster. And originally, my intention was to run down that list and look at them all individually. But then I got a look at this trade. On July 31, 2010, the Atlanta Braves traded Gregor Blanco, Jesse Chavez and Tim Collins to the Kansas City Royals for Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth. Take a look:

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FG on Fox: The Astros Might Not Suck

Entering Friday, the Houston Astros feature the longest winning streak in the majors — and a rookie slugger on a home-run tear.

Thursday’s 3-1 victory over the visiting Baltimore Orioles was the Astros’ sixth consecutive win. The streak started with the final two games of a four-game series in Seattle and included a three-game sweep in Kansas City. No, wait: Make that a clobbering of the Royals.

The Astros certainly earned their status as a punch line, losing 100-plus games in three consecutive campaigns. Before this season, the Astros had lost more games in the last three years than 15 different teams had lost in the last four.

The perception is that the Astros are an experiment, and the perception is that the experiment is a long ways from completion. The Astros still get no respect, and they had a miserable beginning to 2014. But don’t let the start and the history fool you. The Astros, 23-32 through Thursday, are actively shedding their losing reputation and are perhaps, no longer a punch line.

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What Happens When A Pitcher Goes Right Down The Middle?

The other week when I wrote about pitches that come in well out of the zone and what happens with those pitches, some discussion in the comments focused on the opposite – what happens right down the chute? If a pitcher is wasting 0-2 pitches, surely he’s firing down the center on 3-0, and if pitchers sometimes miss wildly outside, they probably miss to the meat of the plate on occasions, too.

There have already been 2,535 pitches thrown in 3-0 counts this season (2,227 if we exclude intentional walks), according to the awesome new HeatMaps here at Fangraphs, and so our knowledge of what happens when pitchers are far behind has a solid base. And thanks to data since 2012, we know why pitches have a strong incentive to fight back from 3-0, even with one strike – there is, obviously, an appreciable drop in expected on-base percentage in a 3-1 count, and there’s little chance the batter swings 3-0, anyway.

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NERD Game Scores for Friday, May 30, 2014

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by viscount of the internet Rob Neyer, and expanded at the request of nobody, NERD scores represent an attempt to summarize in one number (and on a scale of 0-10) the likely aesthetic appeal or watchability, for the learned fan, of a player or team or game. Read more about the components of and formulae for NERD scores here.


Most Highly Rated Game
San Francisco at St. Louis | 20:15 ET
Madison Bumgarner (65.2 IP, 79 xFIP-, 1.2 WAR) faces Adam Wainwright (81.0 IP, 77 xFIP-, 2.2 WAR). While a reasonable person might suppose otherwise, the innings figure published here for Wainwright actually is not a misprint: indeed, he (and three other pitchers, it appears) has already crossed the 80-inning threshold. Another threshold he’s crossed (alone in this case) is the three-win one — when calculating WAR by means of runs allowed, that is, and not FIP.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: San Francisco Radio or Television.

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Prospect Watch: Keeping The Walks Down

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.

Orlando Castro, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates (Profile)
Level: High-A   Age: 22   Top-15: N/A   Top-100: N/A
Line: 55.2 IP, 46 H, 18 R, 41/7 K/BB, 2.91 ERA, 2.77 FIP

While he’s not remotely physically imposing, this little lefthander knows what he’s doing.

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