Archive for November, 2016

The A’s Just Added a Cheap Breakout Slugger

Last year, the A’s couldn’t play defense. Matt Joyce isn’t really going to help with that. Last year, the A’s couldn’t keep their pitchers healthy. Matt Joyce isn’t really going to help with that. And, last year, the A’s couldn’t hit very much. Matt Joyce is probably going to help with that.

Here’s the deal — around this time of year, we write about a lot of transactions. We don’t write about every transaction, but we cover the majority of multi-year free-agent signings. Not every one of those signings is interesting. It took me forever to find something to say about Edinson Volquez, and I don’t even like the post that I wrote. Joyce has now signed with the A’s for two years and $11 million, meaning he got half of Volquez’s guarantee. Many of you have figured out this is a post about Joyce, and so you want to just leave and read anything else. But this one is interesting. Joyce is interesting. A few times during the season, I wanted to write him up, but I never got around to it. Now I have a reason, as the A’s might’ve found another cleanup hitter.

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2016 Hitter Contact-Quality Report: NL Second Basemen

With the Winter Meetings on the horizon, our position-by-position look at hitter contact quality continues, using granular exit-speed and launch-angle data as our primary guides. On Monday, it was the AL second-sackers’ turn; today, we turn to their senior-circuit counterparts.

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Win a Free Copy of THT 2017!

Have you heard? The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2017 is now available for sale. You can check out the table of contents and read some excerpts from the book here. When you finish that you can purchase it Amazon in either print or Kindle form.
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Chris Sale and Giving Up a Stud

Yesterday, Ken Rosenthal published a piece over on FoxSports arguing that, if a team wants to put themselves in the Chris Sale sweepstakes, they should consider parting with one of their “can’t touch” players.

“Can’t do that.”

That’s the phrase baseball people often use when confronted with the possibility of trading a top young player. Can’t do that. Won’t do that. Don’t even go there.

The availability of White Sox left-hander Chris Sale, however, creates a different landscape — or at least, it should.

Rarely, if ever, have we seen a pitcher obtainable under circumstances like this.

Sale, 27, is not simply one of the game’s top aces. He also is under club control for three more years — and priced well below market value at less than $13 million per season.

The White Sox, then, are justified in setting an exceedingly high bar for Sale, and should not settle for less when they start hearing the proverbial “can’t do that” from one team after another.

Rosenthal goes on to list six players who fit the criteria of a cornerstone player, the kind that Rosenthal believes Sale should bring back in return as the foundation of a deal. Those players? Alex Bregman, Andrew Benintendi, Rougned Odor, Julio Urias, Trea Turner, and Dansby Swanson.

Rosenthal is right that Sale, based on his elite performance and remarkably underpriced contract, is worth this kind of player. It’s why he ranked as the 15th most valuable asset in the game in this summer’s Trade Value series, ahead of all six of those players. But if I’m one of the teams trying to make a deal for Sale, I’d still be inclined to try and say “no thanks” to a deal built around those kinds of players.

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Dave Cameron FanGraphs Chat – 11/30/16

Dave Cameron: Happy Wednesday, everyone. Hopefully not the last day with actual baseball news for a while.

Dave Cameron: The CBA expires at the end of the day, so this should be an eventful 12 hours.

Dave Cameron: We can chat about that, or about the off-season, or how fast things cook at altitude — which I may not have correctly accounted for in making Thanksgiving last week.

Brad: Hey Dave, I know you aren’t the prospects guy here, but what’d you think of the Atlanta-Seattle deal for minor leaguers? Is there any hope on Jackson turning it around?

Dave Cameron: He’s, what, 20? There’s always hope with anyone that young. But can anyone think of a successful big leaguer who hit this poorly in A-ball? Anyone?

Dave Cameron: Toss in the reports that his body has gone the wrong way and makeup questions, and I don’t know that I’d be too optimistic.

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The Dodgers’ Payroll Situation Is Far from Dire

The Los Angeles Dodgers have been incredibly successful on the field under the Guggenheim Group, winning four straight division titles and twice coming within two games of a World Series appearances. Not only does the club possess a massive television contract with Time Warner, but they’ve also drawn more than 3.7 million fans in every season under the current ownership group. The team has also been at the top of Major League Baseball payrolls — and, including competitive-balance tax money, has paid out roughly $1.2 billion in salaries over the past four years. There are rumblings that those payroll figures could come down quite a bit, with a detailed piece from Bill Shaikin in the Los Angeles Times indicating how and why payroll could be reduced.

Shaikin does a good job separating the Dodgers’ debt issues from their payroll concerns. While obviously related at some level — both matters are relevant to the Dodgers’ financial health — the one doesn’t necessarily affect the other. According to the current (and expiring) collective bargaining agreement, teams are forbidden from carrying a franchise debt in an amount greater than eight to 12 times the team’s earnings. (The exact multiplier depends on a few different factors not worth exploring here, and how earnings are calculated and why it matters are explained in this comment.) The rule exists to ensure the financial security of all MLB teams, limit outside influences, and make certain that teams aren’t in danger of going under. The Dodgers’ ownership group has been given five years as a grace period before the rule applies to them, giving them another year to address their debt.

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Michael Conforto and the Development of Pull Power

Though it’s not entirely clear why, it nevertheless appears to be the case that the direction of a batted ball matters when you’re attempting to model the distance over which that same batted ball will travel. Perhaps it’s because of the “slice” balls exhibit off the bat. Perhaps it’s because they exhibit less slice when batted in the direction of the pull side. Perhaps the geometry of the field is somehow responsible for distorting the results. I don’t know. A physicist would be able to tell you more!

Anyway, direction matters, and so it looks like pulling the ball is good for power, even if you keep launch angle and exit velocity constant. And that’s relevant today because Michael Conforto is relevant today. With the return of Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets, the club has one outfielder too many. Both the Mets and their 29 hypothetical trade partners are probably wondering about Conforto’s future production. Which version of him is real: the one that raked in 2015 and September of 2016 or the one who hit 10% worse than league average for three-and-half-months this past season?

I already found earlier this month that Conforto’s “barreled” balls weren’t ideal — and perhaps that it was a result of having hit too many of them to center and left (i.e. the opposite) field.

But you hear coaches say that “pull power comes last,” that a player develops his ability to pull the ball later in the development process. In fact, Don Mattingly said almost that exact thing about Christian Yelich a few months ago to our August Fagerstrom.

From Fagerstrom’s post (bold is mine):

“I still think there’s room for him to grow,” Mattingly explained. “He still hasn’t really truly learned how to pull the ball. When he learns how to pull the ball, he’s going to be really scary. Because they’re not going to be able to do some of the things they do to get him out now when he finds that next angle. Once he gets that next piece in there, he’s going to be one of the best hitters in the game.”

So common wisdom suggests that pull power develops with age. Our data suggests that Conforto barreled too many balls to the opposite field. Is it possible that age will allow Conforto to barrel more balls to the pull side?

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2017 ZiPS Projections – Toronto Blue Jays

After having typically appeared in the very famous pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have been released at FanGraphs the past few years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Toronto Blue Jays. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Chicago NL / Washington.

The Blue Jays find themselves in a strangely enviable position right now, if ZiPS is to be believed. The loss both of Jose Bautista (510 PA, 3.1 zWAR) and Edwin Encarnacion (576, 3.6) to free agency creates obvious areas of weakness for the club, nor does the combination of Ezequiel Carrera (381, 0.5) and Melvin Upton Jr. (433, 0.4) appear to be what the metaphorical doctor ordered so far as compensating for those losses. That said, every other position on the team (with the exception of first base) is occupied by a capable starter. Translation: the roster can be improved easily by the installation of even just average players in the corner-outfield slots (and/or first base). The Blue Jays’ reported interest in Jay Bruce and Dexter Fowler (the latter of whom received a three-win projection from ZiPS) is unsurprising, as a result.

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Effectively Wild Episode 982: Scouting the Yankees and Signing the Cespedes

Ben and Sam banter about a scene from Major League, an Adam Jones tweet, and the return of Nora Morse, then talk to BP’s Jeff Paternostro about the Yankees’ farm system, the Mets’ Yoenis Cespedes signing, and the future of international free agency.

FanGraphs After Dark Chat – 11/29/16

Paul Swydan:

Did you miss us?

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha (12.2% | 27 votes)
A little bit (19.0% | 42 votes)
Who are you? (27.1% | 60 votes)
Make with the questions, chat boys (41.6% | 92 votes)

Total Votes: 221
Paul Swydan:

Do you like the Mets resigning Yoenis Cespedes?

YES! (56.1% | 156 votes)
Meh (38.4% | 107 votes)
NO! (5.3% | 15 votes)

Total Votes: 278
Paul Swydan: Oh, hi

Paul Swydan: Crap, I spaced on my own chat.

Deez: Whur you is? Yous late holmes!

Paul Swydan: SO LATE!

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