Archive for February, 2017

FanGraphs After Dark Chat – 2/28/17

Paul Swydan:

What is the best Netflix original show?

Master of None (11.7% | 18 votes)
Black Mirror (11.1% | 17 votes)
Bojack Horseman (15.6% | 24 votes)
Narcos (14.3% | 22 votes)
Luke Cage (3.2% | 5 votes)
Jessica Jones (4.5% | 7 votes)
The Get Down (0% | 0 votes)
Orange Is The New Black (9.1% | 14 votes)
The OA (1.9% | 3 votes)
Other (say in comments) (28.1% | 43 votes)

Total Votes: 153
Paul Swydan:

On what team did you most like Bartolo Colon?

Cleveland (15.9% | 34 votes)
Expos (13.6% | 29 votes)
White Sox (3.7% | 8 votes)
Angels (4.2% | 9 votes)
Red Sox (2.3% | 5 votes)
Yankees (2.8% | 6 votes)
A’s (5.1% | 11 votes)
Mets (40.8% | 87 votes)
Braves (3.7% | 8 votes)
I never liked him (7.5% | 16 votes)

Total Votes: 213
Paul Swydan: Hi everybody!

Felix: Best Netflix show is Daredevil

Graves: Netflix original: Ultimate Beastmaster

Caffeind: Daredevil or Stranger Things

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Baseball’s Newest Slider Machine

I first heard of Chaz Roe in December of 2010, when he was traded straight-up for Jose Lopez. It wasn’t a promising thing; it was more like, hey, in 2009 Lopez hit 25 home runs, and in 2010 the best he could get in a trade was Chaz Roe. Roe, since then, has bounced around without quite establishing himself. He is, at this point, a 30-year-old man, who is now with his tenth organization, one of which having been an independent outfit named the Lemurs. Roe has traveled all over the place. He’s been sufficiently intriguing to get a number of looks, yet insufficiently effective to stick. Such is the career of an eighth or ninth reliever.

By now, I’m sure Roe doesn’t feel too secure. He’s probably hesitant to ever unpack any bags, and his current employer — the Braves — remains in the midst of a rebuild anyway. If Roe’s bad, he could go. If Roe’s good, he could go. The future’s uncertain, but at least Roe is now giving it his best shot. He’s running out of time to build a more stable career, so late last season, he started using his best pitch a lot more. It sounds so simple to us. It seems almost obvious. You can now count Chaz Roe among the slider machines.

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Scott Boras’s Increasingly Popular Play Call: The End-Around

The Scott Boras influence on the Nationals’ roster is “inescapable” wrote Washington Post scribe Barry Svrluga on Monday.

Svrluga calculates that, after the Matt Wieters signing, nine players on the Nationals’ projected Opening Day roster will almost certainly be Boras clients, their contracts totaling $551.4 million.

When Dave Cameron examined the curious signing of Wieters by the Nationals earlier this month the FanGraphs editor wrote:

The lesson, as always; if you’re not sure where a Scott Boras client is going to sign, Washington is always a safe guess.

At the plate, Wieters isn’t clearly better than Norris, even with the latter’s miserable 2016 as our most recent data point. …. Statcorner has Norris at +22.5 runs from framing in his career, while Wieters is at -20.9. Prorated to 10,000 pitches, that’s roughly +6.5 per season for Norris and -3.2 for Wieters, so about a 10 run swing between them per year.

The Nationals needed help. They needed to bolster their bench, they required bullpen help, and reportedly added Joe Blanton Tuesday. What they didn’t need was Wieters, a poor receiver with a middling bat. With Wieters, Boras appears to have sold ice to an arctic village. It was a surprising fit, only it wasn’t, as Boras and Nationals owner Ted Lerner have developed something of a deal-making relationship.

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FanGraphs Audio: Making the New Over/Under Prospect Game

Episode 719
Lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen is the guest on this edition of the pod. On this episode, he and the idiot host set the over/under WAR figures for the home edition of the Over/Under Prospect Game, which readers can play by clicking here.

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 1 hr 10 min play time.)

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The Over/Under Prospect Game: Home Edition

During the former’s most recent appearance on FanGraphs Audio, Eric Longenhagen and the host of that program played what they called the Over/Under Prospect Game. The rules of the game are discussed in greater detail within the pod episode. In short, though, this is how it’s played:

  • Contestant A nominates a rookie-eligible player.
  • Contestant A also sets an over/under figure for that player’s WAR in 2017.
  • Contestant B chooses the over or under.

The results of that experiment are published here. But why this current post exists is because multiple readers suggested that they, too — with a view to holding at arm’s length the burdens and worries of life — would like to participate in the Over/Under Game, as well. So what this post does is announce the existence of such a game for readers of

Play the Over/Under Prospect Game: Home Edition by clicking here.

For this edition of the Game, Longenhagen and I have set over/under WAR figures for 10 players, five batters and five pitchers. What sort of batters and pitchers? Rookie-eligible ones, is what kind — specifically, the rookie-eligible ones who’ve received the highest plate-appearance and innings-total projections per this site’s depth charts.

The rules of the Home Edition are as follows:

  1. Choose the under or over for each prospect listed.
  2. Choose an innings total for Ty Blach — as tie-breaker in event that multiple contestants finish with most correct guesses.
  3. The winner will receive a gift certificate for Barrio Queen in Scottsdale, Arizona, equivalent to price of pitcher of sangria plus tax.

Ballots for the Home Edition of the game will be accepted until Sunday, March 5, at 11:59pm ET. Any questions? Don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments section below. Also don’t hesitate to listen in breathless, real-time action to the making of the Home Edition on FanGraphs Audio.

Play the Over/Under Prospect Game: Home Edition by clicking here.

Robert Gsellman and Changing Paradigms

This morning, Eric Longenhagen released his list of the Top 20 Mets prospects, giving kudos to an underrated system led Amed Rosario, who Eric noted could be the #1 prospect in the game when next year’s Top 100 rolls around. Right behind him, Eric went with Robert Gsellman, the Jacob Degrom lookalike who ended last year in Queens, helping pitch the Mets to a Wild Card berth. This was a bit of a deviation from where Gsellman has ranked on other lists, as Baseball America had him as the #7 prospect in the Mets system, while had him at #5. Eric, though, put a 55 FV grade on him, the same rating as many of the best-known pitching prospects in the game, such as Michael Kopech, Tyler Glasnow, and Jose De Leon.

Given Gsellman’s track record, it’s not surprising that he would engender some pretty different points of view. A 13th round pick, he was a run-of-the-mill pitch-to-contact guy for most of his minor league career, running strikeout rates as low as 13% in Double-A as recently as 2015. As Eric noted, he mostly sat in the low-90s and pitched primarily off his fastball, so between not being much of a prospect when drafted to not having an out-pitch against low-level hitters, there weren’t a lot of reasons to get too excited about Gsellman’s future.

But then last year, the velocity began to tick up a bit, and he got his strikeout rates up closer to league average in both Double-A and Triple-A, which earned him enough notice to get a big league callup when the injury plague hit Queens and the team needed another starter to help down the stretch. And then, once he got to the big leagues, he was nothing short of spectacular, running a 2.42 ERA/2.63 FIP/3.38 xFIP in 45 innings of work. As a Major Leaguer, his fastball sat at 94, generated a bunch of groundballs, and his secondary stuff was good enough for him to post an above-average strikeout rate. Besides the fact that five of his seven starts came against the Braves and Phillies, there was basically nothing to argue with in his big league performances.

So, Gsellman is a great test case for how evaluators weight different types of information. On the one hand, we have four years of minor league data suggesting that he doesn’t get enough strikeouts to be a high-end big league pitcher, and you almost always want to go with four years of history over a month’s worth of data. On the other hand, not only is Gsellman’s performance in the majors the most recent data, but it also provides some pretty clear evidence that he’s not throwing the same stuff he was as a minor leaguer who didn’t miss bats. What you think of Gsellman’s future likely depends on how much importance you put on long-term track record versus how willing you are to believe that a small sample performance that doesn’t match the history suggests a change in skillsets.

Before PITCHF/x and Statcast, I’d probably be in the “small sample size” camp, pointing out that even including 2016’s improved minor league numbers, KATOH is still comparing him to guys like Aaron Cook, and suggesting we don’t get too excited about a small handful of starts against poor competition. But thankfully, with better data, I think we now better understand of the limits of yelling “small sample size” about everyone, and we have tools that allow us to more regularly identify guys whose track records lose relevance after a significant shift in skills. And when you read Eric’s write-up and look at what Gsellman threw in the big leagues, I think there’s enough evidence to suggest that not only is the optimism warranted, but that it’s possible that we’re still undervaluing him even now.

Let’s put the minor league numbers aside for a minute. Let’s just talk about raw stuff. In the big leagues, Gsellman primarily threw a sinker that averaged 94, ran his four-seam fastball up to the high-90s on occasion, and threw a couple of breaking balls and a change-up ranging from 82-89. Using the always-nifty pitch descriptions from Brooks Baseball, which turn the data into scouting-report style write-ups, this is what Gselllman’s stuff looked like in the majors last year.

His sinker generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers’ sinkers, generates a very high amount of groundballs compared to other pitchers’ sinkers and has well above average velo. His fourseam fastball has slightly above average velo. His cutter generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers’ cutters, has heavy sink and is a real worm killer that generates an extreme number of groundballs compared to other pitchers’ cutters. His curve is slightly harder than usual. His change is basically never swung at and missed compared to other pitchers’ changeups, is much firmer than usual and results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers’ changeups. His slider (take this with a grain of salt because he’s only thrown 18 of them in 2016) is thrown extremely hard, is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers’ sliders and has primarily 12-6 movement.

Despite the difference between calling his primary hard breaking ball a slider or a cutter, this matches up well with what Eric wrote, and the first sentence really emphasizes why Gsellman destroyed big league hitters last year. A 94 mph sinker that generates both an “extreme” number of swinging strikes and generates a “very high” number of groundballs is a huge weapon. For instance, here’s the leaderboard of swinging strike rate on sinkers from 2016.

2016, Whiff/Swing on Sinkers
Rank Pitcher Whiff/Swing%
1 Vincent Velasquez 26%
2 Carlos Carrasco 22%
3 Yu Darvish 20%
4 Jake Arrieta 20%
5 Steven Matz 20%
6 Robert Gsellman 19%
7 Brandon Finnegan 18%
8 Robbie Ray 18%
9 Yordano Ventura 17%
10 Noah Syndergaard 16%

Probably not a coincidence that there are three Mets on that list. Also not a coincidence; most of these guys are really good. Darvish, Arrieta, and Syndergaard are three of the game’s most elite pitchers, and Carrasco isn’t far behind. Guys who throw swing-and-miss sinkers have a great foundation, and Gsellman’s sinker put him in the top tier of bat-missing with the pitch.

But Gsellman might also be different from most of those guys, because his sinker also generated the 12th highest GB% of any sinker in MLB last year. In general, the guys who get high whiff rates on their sinker don’t also get high grounder rates. For instance, Velasquez had the highest whiff rate but the fourth-lowest grounder rate. Out of the 119 pitchers who threw at least 200 sinkers last year, Darvish ranked 79th in groundball rate, Arrieta ranked 65th, and Ray ranked 87th. Brandon Finnegan, the least encouraging comparison on the whiff rate list, ranked 110th.

The only other pitcher who ranked in the top 20 in grounder rate on his sinker and top 10 in whiff rate with the pitch was Carlos Carrasco, who ranked 19th in GB% with his sinker; Ventura was 22nd and Syndergaard was 24th, for the record.

So, yeah, Gsellman’s sinker. This looks like it might be a pretty special pitch. If all we knew about him was that he threw that, then there would be plenty of reason for optimism. But the good news doesn’t end there.

His minor league track record shows a guy who is able to pound the strike zone, and he did the same thing in the big leagues. This isn’t a Daniel Cabrera situation, where a guy with a great fastball is unable to throw strikes and puts himself in hitter’s counts where guys can sit on it and crush a predictable offering. As Eric notes, Gsellman’s entire thing as a minor leaguer was fastball command, only now he’s apparently commanding a sinker that might be among the best in the game.

The primary knock against Gsellman now is that the breaking balls still aren’t great, and as Eric notes, the change-up is kind of terrible. As, as a sinker-heavy right-hander who is probably going to move towards the slider as his primary breaking ball — he’s a Met, after all — there seems to be some risk that he might be vulnerable to left-handers. But then, there’s this.

Gsellman’s Splits, MLB 2016
Platoon BB% K% GB% xFIP wOBA
Vs LHB 10% 28% 49% 3.13 0.267
Vs RHB 7% 19% 58% 3.60 0.292

Platoon splits are one of the things that can show up pretty quickly, especially if a guy has a limited repertoire that only works against one type of hitter; it’s almost impossible for a sinker/slider right-hander to accidentally strike out a bunch of lefties if he’s throwing from a low-arm slot. But that wasn’t Gsellman’s story, as he struck out a higher percentage of lefties than righties, and still got a bunch of grounders from them as well. His breaking stuff might not scare left-handers much, but it seems like the fastball is good enough to pitch off of against hitters from either side, and while we shouldn’t put any stock in the reverse-platoon aspect of things, it’s at least encouraging that lefties didn’t torch him in the big leagues.

So, based on what he threw in the majors last year, it seems difficult to cling to comparisons to guys like Aaron Cook or Mike Leake. Gsellman looks like he has one of the best sinkers in the game, sitting at 94 with movement and command. The secondary stuff isn’t great, but realistically, there doesn’t seem to be a huge difference between what Gsellman was throwing in the big leagues last year and what Aaron Sanchez rode to an All-Star appearance in Toronto. Sanchez throws a tick harder, but he’s an example of what a heavy sinking fastball that also misses bats can do, even for a pitcher that doesn’t do a lot of other stuff at a high level.

Without a true knockout breaking ball, he probably won’t run elite strikeout rates, but the reality is that a guy who throws strikes and gets groundballs doesn’t also need an elite strikeout rate to be a good pitcher. Even if he settles in as more of a Marcus Stroman or Sonny Gray, guys with roughly average strikeout rates, that’s still a high-end arm, and the profile doesn’t look too different from what Garrett Richards was earlier in his career, showing that these guys do add strikeouts as they develop sometimes.

Of course, not every velocity spike is long-lasting, and the story changes a bit if Gsellman goes back to throwing 92 instead of 94. Health certainly is no guarantee. But I think this might be one of the times where what a player was previously might be having too much of an impact on what we think he is now. Eric certainly wasn’t conservative in giving Gsellman a 55 FV grade and putting him in the upper tier of pitching prospects around the game, but I wonder if even that might be underselling the value of a big league ready arm who throws what Gsellman throws.

There just aren’t that many guys commanding 94 sinkers that miss bats and get ground balls. It’s easy to look at the rest of the stuff and say that it’s not special, but if he had another special pitch, he’d be the best pitching prospect alive. As is, he looks pretty good to me, even without a knockout breaking ball. And if he develops one, well, good luck National League.

KATOH’s 2017 Top-100 Prospects

It’s that time of the year again. Baseball America recently published their top-100-prospects list, as have Baseball Prospectus, Keith Law and MLB Pipeline. Eric Longenhagen will be putting out his top-100 this spring, too. Below, you’ll find my KATOH projection system’s take on baseball’s most promising rookie-eligible players.

As usual, hitters far outnumber pitchers on these lists, by about three to one. The reason for this, I think, is two-fold. Primarily, it’s just that even the best pitching prospects are risky. They get hurt; they lose velocity; they move to bullpen — all with little notice. Even the pitchers who do pan out are less likely to sustain their success over several years than their hitting counterparts. Secondly, KATOH does not directly account for pitchers’ velocity (or any other measure of “stuff”). If I were able to include a measure of fastball velocity, for example, I imagine most of the top pitching prospects would project more favorably. There isn’t an obvious scouting analogue for hitters that is glaringly omitted by the numbers.

The first top-100 list ranks prospects by KATOH+, which takes into account players’ performance, age, height and ranking on traditional prospect lists. This is the more “accurate” version of KATOH. As it did previously, this incorporates a player’s rank on Baseball America’s top-100 list. However, this version also folds in Eric Longenhagen’s FV ranking for the players who weren’t ranked by Baseball America, ensuring borderline top-100 guys aren’t dinged as hard as non-prospects.

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Eric Longenhagen Prospects Chat, Where is Tebow?

Eric A Longenhagen: Good morning everyone, we’ll keep things tight to an hour today as I wrap up the Washington prospect list and move on to New York (AL).

Eric A Longenhagen: Here’s the Mets list:

Eric A Longenhagen: let’s begin

Slamboni: What are your thoughts on Anderson Tejada? Still young and has room to grow, but his numbers intrigue me

Eric A Longenhagen: I like him. Good bat speed, you’re right that the body has more to give and there’s already some power in there, not sure he’s a shortstop but the bat projects fine at second base and if he does stay at short he could be a star. Was raw vs any offspeed stuff in AZL but showed some ability to adjust.

Fred: Do you prefer Allard or Braxton Garrett?

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Joe Blanton Finally Finds a Home

Before today, the last post containing information about Joe Blanton on the baseball news aggregator MLB Trade Rumors went up on February 2nd. He was one of the seven remaining players in the right-handed reliever section of the site’s list of free agents, alongside players like Jerome Williams and Jonathan Papelbon who have fallen victim to the passage of time. Blanton is 36 years old, with 1723.1 regular-season innings’ worth of mileage on his right arm. Our Depth Charts projection system looked into its cybernetic crystal ball and foresaw just 0.7 WAR for him this year. In a way, it’s not surprising that Blanton didn’t have an employer until today, when he signed with the Nationals.

But it’s also quite strange that he couldn’t find a deal until now, and that he didn’t find more than $4 million for a year (and, in typical Washington fashion, $3 million of that sum is deferred). He’s been just as valuable as Shawn Kelley these last two years, ever since he was reborn from the pitching ashes as a reliever. Blanton’s career was through, collapsed under the groaning weight of home runs surrendered. He didn’t appear in a big-league game in 2014, and then reappeared as a member of the Royals’ bullpen the following year. He’s been a valuable relief workhorse ever since.

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Max Fried and the Braves’ Risk Tolerance

Max Fried is a dude again.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that it is so. Being a dude in baseball is much preferable to being just a guy.

After a lengthy rehab from Tommy John surgery and a shaky return, Fried finished the 2016 minor-league season by striking out 44 against seven walks in 25 innings over his final four starts. He touched 97 mph and the knee-melting curveball was back. According to the reviews out of Braves camp, he has picked up this spring where he left off in the fall:

You might recall that Fried was once the second-best pitcher on his high-school team, behind staff ace Lucas Giolito, but was talented enough to go seventh overall in the 2012 draft.

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