Archive for May, 2015

NERD Game Scores for Sunday, May 31, 2015

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
Kansas City at Chicago NL | 14:20 ET
Ventura (54.1 IP, 94 xFIP-) vs. Wada (10.0 IP, 64 xFIP-)
This past Wednesday in the electronic pages, contributor Jeff Zimmerman examined the relationship between pitcher velocity and a number of batted-ball types. One revelation from that post: that, as velocity declines, a pitcher is likely to concede more home runs per batted ball. Or, rendered into the form of the graph, this:

The discovery is both (a) not shocking but also (b) of some assistance to understanding the relationship between the gap (whether positive or negative) which certain pitchers exhibit between their expected FIP (xFIP) and ERA numbers. While xFIP relies on the supposition that home-run allowance will regress to a league-average rate, what Zimmerman’s work suggests is that pitchers who feature higher than average fastball velocities are likely to outperform their xFIPs; those who feature lower than average velocities, to underperform them. Of some relevance, is this, to Cubs starter Tsuyoshi Wada, who (a) is a candidate to produce impressive fielding-independent numbers, but also (b) sits at only about 89 mph.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Chicago NL Television.

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Sunday Notes: Featherston, Bass, Knucklers & Eddy R

Financially, being on the Angels roster is a plus for Taylor Featherston. The major league minimum is $507,500 and he’d be making a fraction of that down on the farm. Developmentally, it’s a different story. Being in Anaheim is a minus for the 25-year-old infielder.

Featherston is languishing on the end of Mike Scioscia’s bench. He has just 31 plate appearances on the season. That’s what happens when you can’t be sent to the minors without first passing through waivers and being offered back to your old club. A fifth round pick by the Rockies in 2011, the former TCU Horned Frog was claimed by the Cubs in last December’s Rule 5 draft and subsequently swapped to the Angels for cash considerations.

“For 30 minutes I thought I was going to be a Cub,” said Featherston, who had 53 extra-base hits last year for Colorado’s Double-A afilliate. “My phone was blowing up. I was working out, and my trainer was yelling at me to put it down and focus on my lift. I had hundreds of texts and calls saying, ‘Congratulations, Chicago.’ The next thing I know, the script was flipped and I was in LA. It’s been a fun ride.”

It’s also been an exercise in frustration. Featherston has but a lone base knock in 27 at bats. It’s easy to picture him removing splinters from his backside when Scioscia calls his name. To his credit, he’s taking a glass-is-half-full approach. Read the rest of this entry »

NERD Game Scores: Carlos Frias Against a Sea of Troubles

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
Los Angeles NL at St. Louis | 19:15 ET
Frias (28.2 IP, 102 xFIP-) vs. Wacha (57.2 IP, 107 xFIP-)
Dodgers right-hander Carlos Frias suffered the slings and arrows less of outrageous fortune during his most recent start and more of the San Diego Padres batsmen (box). Facing 25 hitters, Frias recorded zero strikeouts, conceded two walks, and allowed 10 runs on 12 hits. One, in his most generous mood, might note that the Padres recorded hits on nearly half their balls in play against Frias. That same one, however, would find it difficult to ignore how Frias exhibited little feel for his release point over the duration of four mostly unpleasant innings. Despite those innings, Frias still owns slightly above-average fielding-independent numbers as a starter — plus also a swinging-strike rate and average fastball velocity that place him roughly 1.0 and 1.5 standard deviations, respectively, above the starting-pitcher mean.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: St. Louis Radio.

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The Best of FanGraphs: May 25-29, 2015

Each week, we publish north of 100 posts on our various blogs. With this post, we hope to highlight 10 to 15 of them. You can read more on it here. The links below are color coded — green for FanGraphs, brown for RotoGraphs, dark red for The Hardball Times, orange for TechGraphs and blue for Community Research.
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FanGraphs Audio: Craig Edwards’ Inaugural Appearance

Episode 565
Craig Edwards has contributed and/or still contributes to SB Nation Cardinals blog Viva El Birdos and Yankees blog Pinstripe Alley. He now definitely contributes every day to FanGraphs. He makes his inaugural appearance here on 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 54 min play time.)

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Jeff Hoffman Surprisingly Polished in Return from Surgery

The Blue Jays’ farm got stronger last week, as last summer’s first-round pick, right-hander Jeff Hoffman, made his pro debut for High-A Dunedin. Hoffman was in the mix to go #1 overall last year until he underwent Tommy John surgery just before the draft and slid to ninth overall. The 6-foot-4 righty has the size and athleticism to support his frontline starter stuff, which was already back in his first regular season after surgery.

Fastball – 65/75

Hoffman came out establishing his fastball and showed his premium arm speed, sitting 95-98 and touching 99 mph early on. The pitch had life up in the zone and, when located down, the heater had good run and sink. It’s a heavy pitch that has the ability to swallow up opposing hitters’ barrels. In the second inning, Hoffman was leaving the pitch up and out over the plate, causing it straighten out. He was hit hard and loud that inning, but that was the only bump in the road.

Hoffman allowed four runs on four hits that inning, but put up zeros in the other four innings, scattering another four hits. He also showed the ability to hold his premium velocity while working out of the stretch, sitting 93-97 mph. The fastball command was better than I anticipated, as well. Even though he was getting squeezed a bit, Hoffman was regularly working the fastball to both corners and moving it up and down in the zone. Fastball command is usually one of the last traits to return after an injury like his, so it’s an encouraging sign to see glimpses of it this early.

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Cal Poly Pomona’s Cody Ponce Still in Play for First Round

Cody Ponce entered the spring as a potential first-round pick following a breakout summer in the Cape Cod League. That’s still the case now just two weeks before the draft, and I saw why during his Sunday start against Tampa in the Division II World Series, which was played at USA Baseball’s National Training Complex in Cary, N.C.

In the Cape, the Cal Poly Pomona right-hander sat 92-94 mph, touching 97, and combined his fastball with a hard cutter, curveball and changeup. That’s the same four-pitch mix he’s working with now, although the stuff wasn’t as sharp in my look compared to the reports from the summer. Still, he’s logged 62.1 innings this spring on his way to a 1.44 ERA with 54 hits allowed, 14 walks and 67 strikeouts so far this season, albeit against inferior competition.

At no point over the last 10 years has Cal Poly Ponoma produced a player that was drafted inside of the top-10 rounds. Ponce, who ranks No. 23 on Kiley’s latest draft board, will certainly end that streak and likely become the program’s highest-drafted player since 1983, when the Dodgers selected left-hander Mike Munoz in the third round.

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Noah Syndergaard’s Big Day and the Six-Man Rotation

On Wednesday, Noah Syndergaard had a day he is likely to hold onto for quite some time. The 22-year-old Mets rookie pitched into the eighth inning, struck out six players, didn’t walk a single batter, allow an extra base hit, or allow a single run to cross the plate while he was on the mound. It was an impressive outing, and Syndergaard’s first four starts have gone well, also. To wit: the right-hander has averaged just over six innings per outing with 22 strikeouts against five walks, and is currently sporting a 2.55 ERA and equally impressive 2.60 FIP. Big things are expected of Syndergaard as the Mets try to make the most out of potential contention this year while simultaneously limiting the number of innings he pitches to save his arm both for October and also the years to come. Determining how to keep pitchers healthy can be challenging, especially when Syndergaard has outings like he did against the Phillies.

Syndgergaard’s last start against the Phillies was impressive because of fastballs like this:

Curves like this:

The start will be most memorable, however, because of this:
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JABO: The Pirates’ Terrific Budget Offseason

With Thursday’s 11-5 drubbing of the Padres, the Pirates have won seven straight games. It’s a well-timed winning streak, on the heels of what were previously mounting concerns. And the Pirates are very much in the thick of it, if you can say there’s even a thick of anything when it still reads “May” on the calendar.

The Pirates are 25-22. Not bad. Also potentially a bit misleading. Based on their runs scored and allowed, their record should be better than that. Based on their expected runs scored and allowed, their record should be better than that. I know that’s a weird thing to think about, since runs are runs and wins are wins, but trust me that wins and losses aren’t the only indicators of team performance and ability. We can also say this: at FanGraphs, the rest of the way, we have the Pirates projected as a top-five team.

Which is all to say, hey! The Pirates are pretty good. Not only have they been pretty good, it looks like they ought to remain pretty good, especially now that Andrew McCutchen has rediscovered his swing. Now, these days, times are different. Suddenly, it’s not strange to think of the Pirates as being a good team. But there was some concern here because between 2014 and 2015, the Pirates lost Russell Martin to free agency. They didn’t want to; he just got too expensive. Martin was one of the team’s best players. To say nothing of other guys they also lost, including Edinson Volquez, Ike Davis and Travis Snider. Martin was certain to be difficult to replace, and the Pirates understood that from the start.

So how did the organization conduct itself over the winter, with a key piece leaving for $82 million in the other league? The Pirates are anything but a big-budget franchise, so they focused, as always, on efficiency. And while it’s been only two months — so no chapters are closed — it looks like the Pirates had themselves an excellent offseason. An offseason that cost them less than what the Blue Jays invested in a catcher.

Let’s run some of this down. I’ll highlight some individual acquisitions.

Read the rest at Just A Bit Outside.

Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 5/29/15

Jeff Sullivan: Boy! It’s a chat

Jeff Sullivan: And you’re invited!

Comment From Trader Joe
Is Strasburg broken or a good buy low opportunity?

Jeff Sullivan: While I recognize this as a fantasy question, it’s also a real-baseball question, so I’ll let it slide. The stuff is there. There’s no clearly obvious indication of injury, and the Nationals do have some depth to use if they were more genuinely concerned. I think what we’re seeing is mechanical, and I think Strasburg straightens it out. Look for a far, far better second half

Comment From Jeff
A lot of people probably expected more out of Phil Hughes this year, just based off what he did last season. Safe to assume he won’t return to last years form? Ks are down, and HR/FB % has doubled from last year. Time to drop, and move on?

Jeff Sullivan: He is still doing the same thing in one way: he’s getting ahead in the count crazy often. He’s pounding the zone with strikes, like never before, save for 2014

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