Archive for February, 2016

Your Stance On the Team Projections (American League)

Last week, I said I would run my next community polling project just as soon as we got ZiPS projections all uploaded and folded in with Steamer. That’s precisely the news I woke up to today, so, here we go. Steamer’s up, ZiPS is up, we have an updated playoff odds page, and here are the current American League team projections, based on the numbers and our depth charts:

AL Projected Records
Team W L
Red Sox 88 74
Astros 88 74
Indians 87 75
Blue Jays 84 78
Mariners 82 80
Yankees 82 80
Tigers 81 81
White Sox 81 81
Rays 80 82
Rangers 80 82
Angels 80 82
Athletics 78 84
Orioles 78 84
Twins 78 84
Royals 77 85

I know — you see the Royals in last. You can’t help but chuckle. Maybe you agree with it, and maybe you don’t agree with it, and in either case, it’s probably kind of funny. But, good news! This is your chance to sound off, in a way. Projections are given to you. They’re presented to you, and maybe you sometimes feel like you’re being force-fed. You’re not obligated to actually agree with what the projections are saying, and here, I want to know how the community feels about each individual team projection. I want to know where people think the projections are right on, and, more interestingly, I want to know where people think the projections are being stupid. Could be they’re not being stupid, at all, but I want to know about the perception. I ran this project a year ago, and I love it. I hope you also love it. Together, let’s crowdsource the projected 2016 American League standings. (We’ll all look at the National League tomorrow.)

Something I’d like for you to keep in mind: please vote according to what we know now. Don’t vote anticipating midseason additions or subtractions. It’s one thing if you think a team will or will not call up a top prospect, but don’t vote planning on trades. I think everything else is self-explanatory, so, have fun. For each team and each poll, I’ll offer brief commentary that serves little purpose since I don’t want to actually bias anything myself. I plan to examine the voting results later this week. Thank you and I love you!

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Ruddy Giron: Possible Sleeper in the Padres System

A month ago, I put out the most recent version of KATOH’s top-100 prospect list. The top of the list looked like this:

  1. JP Crawford
  2. Jose Peraza
  3. Orlando Arcia
  4. Corey Seager
  5. Ozhaino Albies
  6. Julio Urias
  7. Max Kepler
  8. Ruddy Giron

Seven of those eight players are consensus top prospects. Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America ranked each of the first seven in their top 100s this winter, while six of those seven — excluding Peraza — cracked Keith Law’s list. Crawford, Arcia, Seager, Albies and Urias didn’t just make those lists, but ranked very close to the top. And then, ranked eighth overall, is a prospect excluded from all the industry’s most notable top-100 lists: Ruddy Giron.


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Can We Solve Baseball’s Other Catcher Concussion Problem?

Baseball may have seemed to have solved the catcher concussion problem when it instituted new rules governing the play at the plate in 2014. Despite some hiccups, eliminating the play at the plate seems to eliminate the main source of player on player in-game violence — and the other, the play at second base, is currently under scrutiny. Despite the odd pitch to the head and outfielder into the wall, that should make baseball one of the safest sports for a young brain. The numbers, especially for catchers, provide hope.

But there is still one repetitive play that causes concussions regularly for catchers — and there might be a fix to that problem, too. A fix that seems to come with even fewer ramifications for the game.

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Baseball’s Wage Scale: An Argument for a Safety Net

Over the weekend, Pirates ace Gerrit Cole expressed some unhappiness with the organization based on his 2016 salary.

On Saturday, Cole grudgingly signed a deal for $541,000 in base salary. That’s the same amount he made last year — $531,000 in base pay play a $10,000 bonus for making the All-Star team.

According to Cole, the team’s initial offer last week was for $538,000 – which was less than his total pay last year. The team refused to go higher than $541,000.

“They even threatened a salary reduction to the league minimum if I did not agree,” Cole said.

As a pre-arb player, Cole’s salary is dictated to him by management, and per the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, he has no recourse but to accept whatever they offer. If he chose not to sign for the $541,000 they offered him, they had the power to unilaterally renew his contract at whatever price they wanted, even down to that $507,500 league-minimum number. Until a player reaches arbitration eligibility, they have no negotiating power whatsoever, so even elite players like Cole make something close to the league minimum.

MLB’s pay scale is intentionally designed to restrict the earnings of young players, with the resultant savings being passed on to veterans who are free to negotiate their wages in free agency. As with many unions, length of service is a larger factor than performance in determining wages, with younger players subsidizing the wages of older workers. Cole understands this system, and his grief doesn’t appear to be with the wage scale itself, as much as the Pirates’ implementation of their system of pre-arb raises.

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Dan Szymborski FanGraphs Chat – 2/29/16

Dan Szymborski: We get signal.

Dan Szymborski: Main screen turn on.

Rick: ZiPS projection for wRC+ is on the individual player pages, but not on the mass spreadsheet or compiled projections page. Is there any way to fix this?

Dan Szymborski: No, because I don’t calculate wRC+

Outta my way, Gyorkass: I saw on the Brewers ZiPS page that O. Arcia is projected to be a +2 WAR player. Is that all in the defense? He’s hit well, but nothing above AA ball.

Dan Szymborski: A 20-year-old hitting like that in AA isn’t something to poo-poo.

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Previewing the Best and Worst Team Defenses for 2016

Early this morning, the full 2016 ZiPS projections went live on the site. This is probably news to many of you. Surprise! Happy ZiPS day. You can now export the full ZiPS spreadsheet from that link, find individual projections on the player pages, and view our live-updating playoff odds, which are powered by a 50/50 blend of ZiPS and Steamer. This is good news for everyone, including us, the authors, because now we have more information with which to work.

And so here’s a post that I did last year, and one which I was waiting for the full ZiPS rollout to do again: previewing the year’s team defenses. It’s been a few years running now that we’ve marveled over speedy outfielders in blue jerseys zooming about the spacious Kauffman Stadium outfield, and now those speedy outfielders in blue jerseys are all World Series champions. People are thinking and talking about defense more than ever, and you don’t think and talk about defense without thinking and talking about the Kansas City Royals. Defense: it’s so hot right now. Defense.

The methodology here is simple. ZiPS considers past defensive performance and mixes in some scouting report information to give an overall “defensive runs above or below average” projection. Steamer does the same, except rather than searching for keywords from real scouting reports, it regresses towards the data from the Fans Scouting Report project compiled by Tangotiger every year. The final number is an average of these two figures, and can be found in the “Fld” section of the depth charts and player pages. It isn’t exactly Ultimate Zone Rating or Defensive Runs Saved, but it’s the same idea, and the same scale.

Let’s look ahead toward the year in defense.

* * *

The Best

1. Kansas City Royals

This is one of my new favorite fun facts: the Royals outfield defense, just the outfield, is projected for 31 runs saved, which is higher than any other entire team in baseball. And with Alex Rios out of the mix in right field and Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando stepping in full-time, Kansas City’s outfield defense should somehow be even better than it’s been in the past.

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Revisiting Baseball America’s Top-10 Prospects from 2006

Flashback to February of 2006. Lindsay Lohan has never been to jail, Steve Irwin’s alive and well, and we still have three years of Bieber-free living to look forward to. More importantly, though, Baseball America has just put out its annual top 100 prospect list.

Now that a decade’s passed, and we know how each of these players turned out, let’s look back at some of these players’ prospect years. Perhaps there are lessons to be learned — statistically or otherwise — from their case studies that might be useful in evaluating today’s prospects. Keep in mind that these players are all just anecdotes. They represent merely a few data points among thousands, and therefore shouldn’t be used to draw any sweeping conclusions. But still: real-world examples are always fun, and names and faces are a great way to bring macro-level trends to life.

Below each name, you’ll see three WAR figures. The first is that player’s historical KATOH forecast — that is, what KATOH would have projected given the relevant prospect’s minor-league numbers. The second was calculated using the formula derived by Jeff Zimmerman in this year’s Hardball Times Annual applied to each player’s 2006 BA ranking. The third is that player’s actual (positive) WAR total throughout the period of time forecasted by KATOH. (So for players 22 and younger, that’s thru age-28. For players 23 and over, it’s the first six years.)

Essentially, you have KATOH’s projection, BA’s projection, and what actually happened. I tried to glean some sort of lesson from each of these case studies, even if the lesson wasn’t particularly ground-breaking.

1. Delmon Young, OF (Profile)

BA: 20.3 WAR
Actual: 3.6 WAR

Just like everyone else, KATOH was all in in Delmon. It was kind of hard not to be. Young hit .322/.388/.538 as an 18-year-old in A-Ball, and then slashed .315/.354/.527 between Double-A and Triple-A. And he stole bases, too. He had it all, or at least it looked like he did.

His one flaw was his plate discipline. Both his strikeout and walk numbers left a little to be desired, but dwelling on those numbers feels like nitpicking. His 7% walk rate was certainly acceptable, and his 19% strikeout rate wasn’t terribly concerning (even considering that 19% then might be equivalent to 22% now). When a player is so good at everything else, you can let things like that slide. You kind of have to, or else you’d be down on nearly every prospect.

As you know, Delmon never panned out. The plate discipline was the biggest culprit — although his weight problems certainly didn’t help, either. As of this writing, Young is a 30-year-old who’s been without a team for the better part of the last year. He was a replacement-level player or worse for most of the last decade.

I guess the takeaway is to be wary of hitters who have great tools and minor-league numbers, but also possess an unrefined approach at the plate. Although, I’d be lying if I said I could have seen this coming. The strikeout rate was a warning sign, but the truth is that 19-year-old Delmon Young gave us little warning that we were in for a decade of replacement-level play. More often than not, players as talented as Young make the necessary adjustments. Sometimes they don’t.

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Rangers Sign Shortstop, Get Left Fielder

I don’t know how often Ian Desmond thinks about the nine-figure extension offer he turned down. He probably doesn’t think about it as often as people who write about Ian Desmond think about it. Desmond, after all, has to live his own life, and he still has to worry about the present and the future. Not to mention, he’s already earned some tens of millions of dollars, so it’s not like one tough decision has caused Desmond to go bankrupt. He’s doing fine, all things considered. He had the chance at a big payday, he didn’t take it, so he’s collected fewer millions — but still millions, and he could, in theory, go on to earn that whole sum anyway. Just has to prove himself on the baseball field. It’s the thing he’s best at.

In a way, it’s not fair to hold the decision against Desmond. He was justified in making his call, and now it’s in the past and no longer relevant. We have the advantage of knowing more now than we could’ve known back then, and of course what happened in 2015 made Desmond look a lot worse. His decision was a fine decision. But. But. There’s no way around the visual of all this. Desmond bet on himself as a soon-to-be free agent. He signed for one year and $8 million after spring training had already started. And he signed to play a position he hasn’t played.

Ian Desmond is doing fine. Ian Desmond is a major-league-caliber baseball player. It’s just been a hell of a drop. If it weren’t for Josh Hamilton, he might still not have a job.

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Effectively Wild Episode 828: 2016 Season Preview Series: San Diego Padres

Ben and Sam preview the Padres’ season with Cut 4 writer Michael Clair, and Jeff talks to Padres beat writer Corey Brock (at 23:31).

Sunday Notes: First Trades, Yost, Maddon, Roberts, Trout, more

It has been said that everyone remembers their first. With that in mind, I recently asked a trio of general managers/presidents of baseball operations about the initial trades they made as big-league decision makers. One of the responses began with a refutation of a report.

“Deadspin actually wrote an article about what was supposedly my first transaction,” said White Sox GM Rick Hahn. “That was trading Kenny Williams, Jr. to the Colorado Rockies (in November 2012). However, I didn’t actually do that trade. It was announced a couple of days after I became GM, but Kenny had already put that in place with Dan O’Dowd. It was a good story — it looked like an old-time mob move to settle things with Kenny’s family — but in reality it was all Kenny.

Hahn couldn’t recall his first trade — records show it was Brandon Kloess to San Diego for Blake Tekotte — but he remembers his first transaction and his first major deal. Right after being hired he re-signed Jake Peavy, and the following summer he sent Peavy to Boston in three-team swap that netted Avisail Garcia, Frankie Montas and JB Wendelken. Read the rest of this entry »