Archive for December, 2016

Effectively Wild Episode 1000: The Old and the New

In Sam’s last show as co-host, he and Ben talk to Astros pro scouting director Kevin Goldstein. Then, Ben talks to incoming co-host Jeff Sullivan before Jeff leaves on a fantastically timed vacation.

FanGraphs Q&A and Sunday Notes: The Best Quotes of 2016

In 2016, I once again had the pleasure of interviewing hundreds of people within baseball. Many of their words were shared via the FanGraphs Q&A series. Others came courtesy of my Sunday Notes column. Here is a selection of the best quotes from this year’s conversations.


“I look at my role of GM as a systems manager. I’m focused on our infrastructure and how our system is working. How the seven or eight departments within baseball operations are carrying out our philosophy and vision.” — Billy Eppler, Angels general manager, January 2016

“As the wheels keep turning — as baseball evolves — teams are going to start using their best relievers to get the biggest outs. They’re not going to keep putting them in a box where they only pitch the ninth. And the teams that are early adopters are going to reap the most benefits.” — Burke Badenhop, itinerant reliever, January 2016

“I called time out and proceeded to walk off the field. Billy Williams, the umpire, said, “Cro, where are you going?’ I said, ‘I don’t play in lightning. I don’t like lightning. We have spikes on. We could die out here.’ I went into the dugout and it took 15 minutes to coax me out of there.” — Warren Cromartie, former Expos outfielder, January 2016 Read the rest of this entry »

Effectively Wild Episode 999: The One Before 1000

In their penultimate show as co-hosts, Ben and Sam answer listener emails about baseball amnesia, iconic photos, Mike Trout hitting lefty, designing ballparks, and more before reminiscing about how they almost didn’t do email episodes.

Effectively Wild Episode 998: The Podcast’s (and Baseball’s) Future

Ben and Sam announce Sam’s upcoming departure from the podcast and Effectively Wild’s future at FanGraphs with Ben and Jeff Sullivan, and then discuss several big questions about baseball’s next 50 years.

2017 ZiPS Projections – Seattle Mariners

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 Seattle Mariners. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Arizona / Atlanta / Boston / Chicago NL / Cleveland / Detroit / Houston / Los Angeles AL / San Diego / San Francisco / Tampa Bay / Toronto / Washington.

Here’s the very easiest way to determine if a club is likely to possess at least an average collection of field players: determine if all the field players in question receive a forecast of two wins or better. Where the Seattle Mariners are concerned, that’s more or less the case.

The hypothetical right-field platoon of Seth Smith (410 PA, 1.4 zWAR) and Guillermo Heredia (523, 0.9) might represent a weak spot — as might a platoon of Dan Vogelbach (508, 1.0) and Danny Valencia (419, 1.4) at first. In both instances, however, there’s at least a path to competence. Beyond that, basically every other position in the starting lineup — including a left field occupied by the recently acquired Mitch Haniger (517, 1.9) — is average or better. Nor does this account for the nearly elite contributions of Robinson Cano (644, 4.2) and Kyle Seager (653, 4.8).

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Next Year’s Free-Agent Hitters Offer More of the Same

While the free-agent march of the offseason continues to crawl along — due in no small part to the lack of appealing options — it might be helpful to look ahead to next winter. The starting pitching of next offseason’s free-agent class is set to mark a vast improvement over the present class. This year’s collection of free-agent hitters, meanwhile, seems to be composed mostly of corner outfielders, first basemen, and designated hitter-types, with few up-the-middle options. Next year’s class appears likely to include plenty of bat-first options available, but the group does have a very good catcher, a very good center fielder, and quite a few third baseman from which teams can choose, as well. Ultimately, however, next year’s crop of position players is going to look an awful lot like this one.

One of the reasons next year’s free-agent hitting class will so closely resemble the current one is that a number of players on the market this offseason figure to appear there again next season. Here are the players who’ve agreed to a one-year deal of one sort or another:

Free-Agent Holdovers for 2017-18
Name 2016 WAR 2017 Age 2017 WAR Projection
Neil Walker 3.7 31 2.4
Carlos Gomez 0.9 31 2.2
Matt Holliday 0.7 37 1.9
Welington Castillo 1.7 30 1.7
Carlos Beltran 2.3 39 0.9
Mitch Moreland 0.4 31 0.7
Jon Jay 1.1 32 0.6

That’s already seven players of some relevance. Nor does that include current free agents like Jose Bautista, Brandon Moss, Mike Napoli, Mark Trumbo, and Matt Wieters who could sign one-year deals if a satisfactory market fails to develop for them before the end of this offseason.

The top names in the table above, Carlos Gomez and Neil Walker, will seek to re-establish their value in 2017. Gomez had a good run at the end of this past season with the Rangers, and while many thought he might get a multi-year deal, he opted to go back to Texas to take a run at a bigger paycheck in a year. Neil Walker chose to accept the qualifying offer extended to him by the Mets, largely due to an injury that ended his season in August and hurt his appeal to clubs at the same time. If he has a healthy 2017 season, he should be in line for a solid multi-year deal. If Matt Holliday hits the two-win mark like his projection estimates, he’ll likely be in line for another similar deal, not unlike how Carlos Beltran parlayed a solid season into a nice one-year deal with the Astros. Castillo’s value might dependent on his reputation defensively, while Jay and Moreland will have to outperform expectations to have a real market next year.

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Effectively Wild Episode 997: The Game Show Show

Ben and Sam discuss the seemingly aimless Oakland Athletics and bring on two unwitting contestants (Eric Roseberry and Steve Givarz) to play the first Effectively Wild game show, “Name that Oakland A’s Position Player.”

Effectively Wild Episode 996: The Second Draft of Things About Baseball

Ben, Sam, Grant Brisbee, and Jeff Sullivan produce a sequel to Episode 500 by drafting 12 more things about baseball.

The Link Between Travis d’Arnaud’s Set-Up and Struggles

In 2015, Travis d’Arnaud was one of the league’s best power hitters. His .218 ISO placed him in the neighborhood of sluggers like Joey Votto and Kris Bryant. Following the season, Steamer projected that d’Arnaud’s ISO would be fourth best among catchers, and 24% better than 2015’s league average.

But that power was absent this past year, as d’Arnaud’s ISO fell by two thirds. At .076, it was one of MLB’s worst 10 marks, ranking the Mets catcher amid weak-hitting middle infielders like Dee Gordon, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Ketel Marte. d’Arnaud’s overall output took a huge hit, as his wRC+ sank to 74 this year after reaching 130 in 2015. That 56-point plummet is among the 1.1% worst year-to-year differentials of all time (minimum 250 PA). A decline this severe is unusual — and particularly surprising for a player who looked like a burgeoning star in 2015.

How did this downturn happen? In other cases, we might point to injuries or small sample sizes, but there’s reason to think that more was at play for d’Arnaud in 2016. That’s because he struggled with a longer swing in the 2016 season, generated by his bat wrap.

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Ender Inciarte Is Staying in Atlanta a Little Longer

The pieces are starting to come together for the rebuilding Braves. Though they’ve spent their winter stocking up on veteran starting pitchers and piratey-looking utilitymen, it’s been a winter spent with an eye looking to the future. None of the players whom Atlanta has added are standing firmly in the way of a young prospect, and they all make the team just a little bit better for their debut at their new taxpayer-funded stadium.

The extension of Ender Inciarte is a different matter. This isn’t a move that allows the future to happen, it’s one that shows what the future is going to look like. Inciarte has been given $30.525 million to stick around for an extra two years, and the Braves hold a $9 million option for an additional year after that. If that sounds cheap for a young, three-win center fielder, it’s because it is. Here’s how the deal breaks down.

Inciarte Extension Breakdown
Year Age Earnings (Millions)
2016 (Signing Bonus) 25 $3.5
2017 26 $2
2018 27 $4
2019 28 $5
2020 29 $7
2021 30 $8
2022 (Club Option) 31 $9, $1.025 Buyout

MLB Trade Rumors’ arbitration projections pegged Inciarte to earn $2.8 million this offseason, and assuming he’d been his usual productive self this year, he would’ve gotten a good raise next winter. Still, this seems like a real steal. Even if you assume Inciarte will record only the 2.4 wins for which Steamer projects him in 2017 and also assume that wins are going for $8 million a piece this offseason (when $8.5 million is more likely), it’s still likely that Inciarte will produce more than $100 million in on-field value over the next five years.

Ender Inciarte’s Contract Estimate — 5 yr / $115.1 M
Year Age WAR $/WAR Est. Contract
2017 26 2.4 $8.0 M $19.2 M
2018 27 2.6 $8.4 M $22.3 M
2019 28 2.6 $8.8 M $23.4 M
2020 29 2.6 $9.3 M $24.5 M
2021 30 2.6 $9.7 M $25.8 M
Totals 13.0 $115.1 M


Value: $8M/WAR with 5.0% inflation (for first 5 years)
Aging Curve: +0.25 WAR/yr (18-27), 0 WAR/yr (28-30),-0.5 WAR/yr (31-37),-0.75 WAR/yr (> 37)

As you can see, this deal saves the Braves a lot of money in the long run, and it gives Inciarte some immediate financial security. Atlanta will now have more money with which to play in free agency and in acquiring players in trades as they look to morph into a contending club.

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