Archive for June, 2016

Mets Hitters Couldn’t Be Less Clutch

Let’s face it: As the Mets go, there’s no shortage of things to worry about. The team overall remains in a decent position, but now there’s concern regarding two pitchers’ elbows. Meanwhile, Matt Harvey still doesn’t quite look like himself. David Wright is probably done for the year. And the lineup just isn’t producing runs. Injuries haven’t helped, and Michael Conforto’s collapse didn’t help, but the pitchers are getting so little margin of error. Things in New York are frequently tense. They’re tense today. It feels a little like last season, before the season turned beautiful.

I can’t say anything about Steven Matz. I can’t say anything about Noah Syndergaard. I can’t say much about the various injuries, or about Conforto’s chances of getting it going. I don’t know where the Mets are going to go, and their struggles have helped open the door for the Marlins. What I can say is this: Offensively speaking, the Mets have been impossibly unclutch. It shouldn’t continue like this. Of course, what’s done is done.

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The Great Yankees Bullpen… Sale

The New York Yankees aren’t completely out of the 2016 postseason race, but they’re also not trending up. The team has done little this season to make anyone think they’re playoff-bound or anything more than a .500 team. Masahiro Tanaka has been good and CC Sabathia is having a nice bounce-back season, but Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, Luis Severino and Ivan Nova haven’t been able to keep the ball in the park, giving up 52 homers in 274.1 innings. On offense, the only above-average hitter is a 39-year-old Carlos Beltran, and he’s having trouble staying on the field. The strength of the team is an historically great bullpen, and if the team is willing to give up on this season, they could get quite a return over the next month by dealing Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and maybe even Dellin Betances.

The Yankees are currently 37-39 with a negative-34 run differential*. They’re nine games back in the division and six games out of the last wild-card spot, needing to pass six teams to get there. Our projections have them going 44-42 the rest of the way, thereby ending the year at exactly .500. BaseRuns says the Yankees have played like a team that should be 33-43. While the team’s peripheral pitching stats suggest the team has outperformed their results a little bit (4.43 ERA and 4.00 FIP), we’re still talking about a team that might be .500 if things had worked out better, not a team that looks like a contender. The team’s best playoff odds are likely behind them and the team has a roughly 6% chance at the postseason right now.

*Numbers before play on Wednesday.

chart (2)

So in all likelihood, the team should be sellers. That said, a team of veterans with long-term contracts doesn’t generally make for the most appealing trade partner. If he’s still healthy, Carlos Beltran should be in demand, and it’s possible that Nathan Eovaldi might bring something back, but the strength of the Yankees has been the bullpen, and if they’re going to sell, that’s where they’ll get the greatest return.

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July 2 Scouting Reports, Prospects 11-25

Below are scouting reports on the prospects ranked 11-25 on my 2016 July 2 Sortable Board which you can find here. Most of the players discussed below, as you’ll see on the board, are of the 35 FV variety. So too are the unranked players listed below them on the board. The group highlighted here separated themselves from the rest primarily because of (a) a more realistic likelihood to play a premium defensive position and (b) perceived upside. Scouting reports on the top-10 players will run tomorrow. We’ll also have a “best of the rest” rundown of other players in the class next week.

11. Yordy Barley, SS, Dominican Republic (Video)

Barley is a plus runner with twitchy and athletic defensive actions, a lightning quick transfer and a plus arm. His footwork and hands need polish but he has the physical ability to be an above-average defensive shortstop at maturity. Offensively, Barley is smooth and graceful, he has loose, whippy wrists and sprays contact to all fields. The body has some room to fill out and add some power while retaining the speed for shortstop, and Barley’s swing has the natural loft to hit for some power in games. The feel to hit is a little raw and Barley probably won’t ever have more than fringe-average bat-to-ball and game power, but that kind of offensive profile from a good defensive shortstop who also provides value on the bases is a good everyday player. He is expected to sign with the Padres for about $1 million.

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Congress Is Asked to “Save America’s Pastime”

Rightly or wrongly, minor-league baseball teams believe the ongoing, class-action lawsuit over minor-league players’ wages presents something of an existential threat. As has been previously discussed here on a variety of occasions, the litigation contends, in short, that many minor league players’ salaries — which can run as low as $3,300 per year — violate the federal minimum wage and overtime laws.

Even though minor-league teams are not actually responsible for their players’ salaries — minor leaguers are instead paid by their respective major-league franchise — they still fear that a ruling in the players’ favor could be vitally injurious to their interests. As the argument goes, if major-league teams are forced to incur higher payroll costs, then they will likely cut back on other subsidies that they may currently provide to their minor-league partners.

Moreover, the minor leagues worry that, in some cases, MLB teams may potentially even decide to terminate their relationship with one or more of their minor-league affiliates in order to reduce costs. While most of the higher-level minor-league teams would likely survive such an scenario, the minor leagues fear that a victory for the players could spell doom for some of their lower-level franchises, especially those residing in particularly small metropolitan areas.

As a result, the minor leagues announced 18 months ago that they would petition Congress for relief, asking the legislature to pass a law protecting the industry from the federal minimum wage and maximum hour laws. A year and a half later, these efforts finally came to fruition, when a bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives last week proposing to formally exclude minor-league baseball players from the federal minimum wage and overtime protections. Read the rest of this entry »

Picking the 2016 American League All-Stars

The All-Star Game is just a couple of weeks away, so it’s time for the annual tradition of deciding which really good players get acknowledged and which really good players get left out. The fact that there’s no shortage of ways to define who should make the All-Star team doesn’t help; is it about just gathering as many big namem players as possible every summer, about rewarding the players who have performed the best so far this year, or some combination of the two?

I tend to lean towards rewarding in-season performance, while using career track record as secondary variable to help make the decision when picking between multiple worthy players. Yes, some guys are going to have great half-seasons and end up on the team despite not truly being long-term stars, but I prefer that over jogging out the same 34 names every summer just because they’re the guys we’re used to recognizing as stars, regardless of what they’ve actually done that season. To me, the All-Star Game is a reward for the players who are playing at a high level, and what you’ve done this season is the most important variable in selecting the rosters.

For my selections, I’m adhering to the MLB rules, so we’re picking 22 position players and 12 pitchers, and every team has to have a representative. Yes, even the Twins. Because some positions are performing much better than others — I’m looking at you, sorry sack of 2016 AL catchers — I did take some liberties with how many players get carried as reserves at each spot, but overall, I tried to pick a team that would satisfy the requirements of how the game is managed and still rewards 34 guys who deserve to make the trip to San Diego this summer. And injured players aren’t eligible for my picks, as I’m just going with players who are healthy enough to play in the game in a couple of weeks.

On to the roster!

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Eno Sarris Baseball Chat — 6/30/16

Eno Sarris: Listen I heard this on Jason Schwarzman’s show and it’s some sort of Doobie Brother cover played on like a casio and I know that sentence is way up its own ass but I dunno I like it.

Bork: Hello, friend!

Eno Sarris: Hello!

Bob Dobolina: Worried about Samardzija? Dude’s getting knocked around.

Eno Sarris: here’s the weird thing, if you look at his peripherals, they are exactly the same as last year. The balls in play results are different.

Eno Sarris: I think he’s a highish ERA okay WHIP meh strikeouts guy basically. 3.75/1.25/7k9

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Who Will Hate Robot Umps the Most?

Ever since Eric Byrnes used a computer to help umpire an independent-league baseball game last year, and then Brian Kenny took up the mantle of #RobotUmpsNow on the MLB Network, I’ve been fascinated with the idea that robot umpires will soon call strike zones in baseball. The more I talk to players about it, though, the more I doubt that it’s an eventuality. Because the players, well, the players are going to hate it.

I can’t speak for all players, obviously. I haven’t talked to all of them. But I’ve talked to plenty on both sides, even ones I can’t quote here, and the biggest endorsement I could get was a tepid version of “It’s going to happen.”

So instead of asking each player what they thought about robot umpires, I changed the question a bit. Instead, I asked pitchers, catchers, and hitters, “Who will hate robot umps the most?”

The short answer? Everyone. The long answer? Much more interesting.

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NERD Game Scores: Examining the R.A. Dickey Question

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by sabermetric nobleman 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
Cleveland at Toronto | 19:07 ET
Carrasco (56.0 IP, 80 xFIP-) vs. Dickey (95.2 IP, 109 xFIP-)
More than one reader over the past month-plus has suggested — in only the most congenial possible terms, naturally — that perhaps Toronto right-hander R.A. Dickey isn’t entirely worthy of his high marks here. This is a fair sort of criticism to make. If one looks into his or her heart and finds that it’s unmoved by the prospect of R.A. Dickey, regardless of whatever charms Dickey’s knuckleball possesses — this is, essentially, a kind of Truth.

Here’s why Dickey is so well received by the haphazardly constructed pleasure-algorithm featured here. When the author first introduced a sort of prototype of NERD to readers at this site, there was something resembling consensus among those same readers — or at least those compelled to raise their internet voices — that Dickey, who has never possessed great velocity or the promise of youth or excellent fielding-indepedent numbers, ought to receive a bonus for the knuckleball. The solution: to provide a bonus to all pitchers calculated by multiplying the frequency with which they threw a knuckleball (KN%) by five. Since then, only Dickey and (now) Steven Wright have benefited from the adjustment, essentially receiving about extra four points above and beyond their leaguemates.

Ought the knuckleball bonus to be eliminated? Ought it, at the very least, to be decreased slightly? Perhaps. Readers are invited to comment on the matter with civility in the space below. Or invited to dismiss the entire matter as an absurd thing in an ocean of absurd things.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Cleveland Radio.

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This Might Be the End for Alex Rodriguez

Two opposing things can be true, I believe. Superstar players are probably the last to know when they’ve come to the end of the line. Declines can be so gradual they’re tough to detect if you’re just taking things day by day. If you listen to the players, they’ll insist they remain capable, even after they’re probably not. On the other side of the coin, no one loves to bury good players too early more than writers. We’ve all probably done it at some point. I did it way too early to Raul Ibanez. Countless people did it way too early to David Ortiz. We start looking for any signs of age-related decline, and then when one or two show up, we tend to assume that’s it. Good players know how to make adjustments. That’s what allows them to be good players.

So with Alex Rodriguez, right now, we’re…somewhere. Rodriguez says he’ll be okay, and he says he loves to prove doubters wrong. Not that Alex Rodriguez has much of a history of being doubted, but, anyway. Rodriguez has his pride, and he also has terrible numbers. He’s 40 years old! But then, the Yankees’ best hitter is 39 years old. It would be very easy to conclude that Rodriguez is finished. The Yankees have started to put him on the bench. We should probably be more patient — this is still Alex Rodriguez we’re talking about. The talent is in there. It’s just, the numbers paint a picture, and it’s a picture of a changed and worse ballplayer. That much cannot be argued.

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Effectively Wild Episode 916: State of the Standings: AL West

As the regular season’s midpoint approaches, Ben talks to Joe Sheehan about the state of the AL West.