Archive for January, 2015

FG on Fox: Why Starling Marte Might Be an MVP Candidate

Starling Marte was already one of the kings of hidden value. Metrics like Wins Above Replacement (WAR) have loved him, despite his average power, and despite his ugly ratios of strikeouts to walks. One contributing factor has been that he’s played half the time in an extremely pitcher-friendly ballpark, but this goes well beyond that. Marte has done a little bit of everything.

Forcing mistakes? Last season, Marte reached base 14 times on defensive errors. No one else in baseball exceeded 12. It’s an open question as to whether forcing errors is any kind of sustainable skill, but it makes sense that Marte puts pressure on the defense with his speed. Right there, you’ve got 14 outs that turned into non-outs. That’s one example of hidden value.

And while Marte has drawn just 66 walks as a big-leaguer, he’s also reached base another 44 times on hit-by-pitches. No one wants to be hit by a pitch, and Marte has been hurt by getting drilled, but reaching base is valuable, and Marte has this additional means. Over the last two years, Marte is the league leader.

Then there’s the matter of baserunning. Marte’s been caught stealing a whole bunch of times, but he’s also been successful a whole bunch of other times, and baserunning is about more than just stealing anyhow. It’s also about awareness, about being able to take extra bases when opportunities present themselves, and overall, the last two years, Marte has been worth about 13 runs more than average with his legs. That ranks him sixth, between Elvis Andrus and Mike Trout.

Of course, there’s also the defense. Marte is a corner outfielder who’s good enough to be a center fielder. By one metric — UZR — Marte has been worth almost 20 runs more than the average left fielder. By Defensive Runs Saved, he comes in at double that. Nobody questions that Marte is an outstanding defender, covering a lot of ground in what’s a relatively expansive section of the PNC outfield.

With everything he’s done, Marte has demonstrated that he’s a quality player, and a definite building block. He’s been one of the better players in the National League, and he’s been a huge reason behind the Pirates’ return to relevance. All that’s been missing have been a few developments within the box. Except, perhaps, those developments might’ve already taken place.

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Effectively Wild Episode 606: The Baseball-to-Cricket Conversion

Ben and Sam talk to international baseball and cricket coach Julien Fountain about his efforts to turn marginalized minor leaguers into well-compensated cricketers.

The Rays’ Kind of Fastball

A couple weeks ago, the Rays signed Everett Teaford to a minor-league contract. Even if you noticed it, you forgot it, because people tend to forget all these minor-league acquisitions, and if you remember Teaford for anything, it’s not for being good. After being not good for the Royals, Teaford spent last year in Korea, where he had a league-average ERA. I don’t know if he changed something; I don’t know if the Rays saw something. But I know I can look at Teaford’s PITCHf/x page on Brooks Baseball, and he’s flashed something of a live heater. The vertical-movement column shows a pitch’s movement relative to a pitch thrown with no spin. The league-average four-seamer comes in just shy of 9 inches. Teaford’s been a little north of 10. That’s where you start talking about rise.

And when you talk about rising fastballs, you’re talking about something of great interest to Tampa Bay. They don’t actually rise, of course — they just don’t sink as much as normal fastballs. And while Teaford might not throw a single pitch for the Rays in the regular season, his fastball, at least, looks like it could fit in. The Rays have something going on, and while they’re not the only team with the idea, they seem like the most aggressive in the implementation.

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Last Year’s Minor-League WAR Leaders, If That Existed

Even for those among us who, for whatever reason, derive no particular spiritual nourishment from the Judeo-Christian tradition, it’s difficult to ignore the charms and actual, real wisdom provided by the Book of Ecclesiastes from the Old Testament. The author of that particular text is noteworthy both for his concision and his clear-eyed observations, announcing at the beginning of the text (for example), “Meaningless! Meaningless!… Everything is meaningless” and also noting that “All things are wearisome.” Rarely has truth been uttered more truthfully.

It’s also the first chapter of that Book within which the author proclaims, “What has been done will be done again; / there is nothing new under the sun.” For anyone who has ever bothered to produce an idea inside his or her own dumb head, this sentiment resonates loudly. For it’s just as soon as one has completed the manufacture of an idea, that said idea is accompanied by a gnawing sensation — namely that someone else, in some other place, has probably manufactured that idea before.

This happens to me a lot. For example, I recently had the pleasure of discovering that two of my favorite words, when combined together, form an elegant portmanteau to describe that class of dining establishment — Hooters, Tilted Kilt, etc. — known for employing scantily clad waitresses to compensate for the fact that the cuisine is poor and life is terrible. Upon further examination, however, I learned not only that the term breastaurant is already in wide use, but that it has, in fact, been registered as a trademark by a third such dining establishment (something called Bikinis Sports Bar & Grill) with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

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Draft Video Breakdown: Ian Happ

OnDeckDigital is a new company run by former big league pitcher Randy Flores that films, logs and stores video on their website of multiple angles from some of the top amateur baseball games around the country. They have an exclusive contract to video the prestigious Cape Cod League and have expanded into colleges, high schools and youth events as well. Numerous MLB teams already subscribe to their service and we wanted to show FanGraphs readers what the video and information from OnDeckDigital can do.

I chose arguably the top draft-eligible hitting prospect from the Cape, OnDeckDigital made a highlight reel with their video from the Cape and Matt Rose and I give some analysis for context to what you’re seeing. All of their video is HD, available on mobile devices and is easily sharable to social media. You can learn more at

Ian Happ, 2B, Cincinnati (NCAA) & Harwich (Cape Cod League)
6’0/205, B/R, Draft Day Age: 20.8, Draft Ranking: 13th

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The Top-Five Atlanta Prospects by Projected WAR

Earlier today, Kiley McDaniel published his consummately researched and demonstrably authoritative prospect list for the Atlanta Baseball Club. What follows is a different exercise than that, one much smaller in scope and designed to identify not Atlanta’s top overall prospects but rather the rookie-eligible players in the Atlanta system who are most ready to produce wins at the major-league level in 2015 (regardless of whether they’re likely to receive the opportunity to do so). No attempt has been made, in other words, to account for future value.

Below are the top-five prospects in the Atlanta system by projected WAR. To assemble this brief list, what I’ve done is to locate the Steamer 600 projections for all the prospects to whom McDaniel assessed a Future Value grade of 40 or greater. Hitters’ numbers are normalized to 550 plate appearances; starting pitchers’, to 150 innings — i.e. the playing-time thresholds at which a league-average player would produce a 2.0 WAR. Catcher projections are prorated to 415 plate appearances to account for their reduced playing time.

Note that, in many cases, defensive value has been calculated entirely by positional adjustment based on the relevant player’s minor-league defensive starts — which is to say, there has been no attempt to account for the runs a player is likely to save in the field. As a result, players with an impressive offensive profile relative to their position are sometimes perhaps overvalued — that is, in such cases where their actual defensive skills are sub-par.

5. Jace Peterson, 2B (Profile)

550 .230 .297 .314 74 0.1

Two other players besides Peterson — both outfielder Zoilo Almonte and right-handed reliever Juan Jaime — are projected by Steamer to produce about 0.1 wins for Atlanta, as well. Composing whole paragraph for all three of that group, however, would seem to constitute an example of Overenthusiasm in Action. In any case, among the triumvirate, Peterson appears to have the greatest likelihood of finding a half-regular role with the parent club. Despite last season’s vigorously unsuccessful cameo with the Padres (58 PA, -27 wRC+, -0.6 WAR), Peterson nonetheless continued to exhibit above-average contact skills in the high minors — in addition, that, to occupying a place along the more challenging end of the defensive spectrum.

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Eno Sarris Baseball Chat — 1/29/15

Eno Sarris: I’ll be here shortly shorty

Eno Sarris: Let’s start off mellow

{“author”:”Billy Valds”}:

Comment From Carl
You can target one player in a trade — are you going after Paul Goldschmidt (8th round keeper) or Anthony Rizzo (20th round)?

Eno Sarris: Give me Rizzo and the 12 rounds!

Comment From Miketron
How intrigued are you with Travis Snider now that he is in Baltimore?

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An (Admittedly Crazy) Rule Change Proposal

Earlier in the week, Rob Manfred laid out some ideas that the sport could consider to both increase run scoring and improve the pace of play. While those seem like competing priorities, there is some evidence that both can be obtained simultaneously, though it seems unlikely that either restricting the shift or implementing a pitch clock would move the game in both directions. Instead, if MLB wants to make changes that serve both interests, they should probably pick a different approach.

If there’s been one significant change to the game over the last 30 years that has both extended the amount of standing-around-doing-nothing time during games and tipped the balance in favor of run prevention, it has been the expansion of the modern-day bullpen. Jonah Keri and Neil Paine covered this well in a piece at FiveThirtyEight last August, and because I like the graph they used in their piece, I’m going to steal it and embed it below.

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Pre-Spring Divisional Outlook: NL Central

Periodically over the next few weeks, I’m going to take an early look at the six divisions in a slightly unorthodox manner. Utilizing batted ball data, we’ll go back over the 2014 season and attempt to calculate each club’s true talent level. Making adjustments for teams’ offensive and defensive K and BB rates and team defense, we’ll calculate each team’s true talent 2014 won-lost record. Then, we’ll take a look at the current Steamer projections for 2015, evaluate key player comings and goings, and determine whether clubs are constructed to be able to handle the inevitable pitfalls along the way that could render such projections irrelevant. The second installment of this series features the NL Central. Read the rest of this entry »

How Good of a Weapon Did Drew Hutchison Find?

Have I mentioned lately how helpful the chats can be when it comes to finding things to write about? You guys don’t know how valuable you are. Dozens upon dozens of questions, if not hundreds upon hundreds, and out of those questions, longer posts can occasionally germinate. This is one of them! Because I’ve noticed a recurring kind of question about Drew Hutchison, and how much he might be capable of in 2015.

Pulling an example, from earlier January:

Comment From BJ Birdie
Drew Hutchison had a 26% k rate and 7% walk rate in second half of 2014 after changing his slider (slower, more vertical movement), what do you think his chances of a major break out are in 2015?

Dave Cameron: I think the research has shown that trying to use second half performance to predict future breakouts is a fool’s errand.

Dave’s right, of course. The smart thing to do is to always bet against a breakout, as foretold by an encouraging second half. But that’s also boring, and one figures encouraging second halves can sometimes mean something for the season to come. We’re all just here to analyze, right? So, let’s do some analysis. What on earth was the deal with Drew Hutchison’s slider?

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