Archive for March, 2017

Effectively Wild Episode 1039: Is Defense Still Winning the Analysis War?


Ben Lindbergh and Jeff Sullivan banter about the end of the offseason, a Canada-only Clayton Kershaw, and Drew Smyly’s health status, then discuss whether the advancement of technology and the latest sabermetric insights still favor defense over offense, or whether hitters have started to even the score.

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FanGraphs Audio: Chris Carter Is a Cardboard Box

Episode 728
Managing editor Dave Cameron is the guest on this edition of the pod, during which he discusses the unconscionably thorough positional power rankings; explains why contract extensions for certain types of players (such as Jose Ramirez) seem not to have benefited from inflation for half a decade; and suffers through a tortured metaphor in which Chris Carter is likened to a Finnish cardboard box.

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Audio after the jump. (Approximately 34 min play time.)

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Are the Yankees on the Verge of a Clubhouse Culture Shift?

TAMPA, Fla. — From the outside looking in, it doesn’t seem like the Yankees are having all that much fun. This spring Yankees manager Joe Girardi said the voluminous red mane of Clint Frazier had become a “distraction” so the Yankees made the problem disappear.

FanGraphs’ own Nicolas Stellini wrote about the Yankees’ “War on Fun” several weeks ago.

So a couple weeks back when I was in Yankees camp, I was curious to enter clubhouse and get a sense if these guys are having any fun or if the volume of media, the franchise’s tradition and expectations, and the military-style grooming standards prevent light-heartedness.

While I suspect the industry is a long ways away from quantifying the value of clubhouse chemistry and culture, it was interesting that the Cubs and Indians seemed to have a lot of fun en route to capturing league pennants last season. And in college football, all-about-fun Clemson beat serious-all-time Alabama in the championship game. Maybe fun is making a comeback. Back in January I wrote about that time Dabo Swinney met Joe Maddon and how they learned they were more similar than they were different.

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The Dodgers have a Weakness, and They’re Addressing it

Back when I was a beat writer covering the Pirates, manager Clint Hurdle had a practice each spring camp when he and front office staffers would identify one area that was a weakness a season earlier and try to improve upon it. Rather than focus on many things, Hurdle would try to sharpen one area. One year it was defensive alignment, another year it was pitcher’s hitting ability and in 2014 it was the club’s two-strike approach.

In 2013, the season when the Pirates returned to the postseason and ended a run of 20 consecutive losing seasons, the Pirates pitched well, shifted often, and used an MVP season from Andrew McCutchen to record 94 wins. One thing the club didn’t do well is hit with two strikes. The club finished 26th in the game with a .474 two-strike OPS.

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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 3/31/17

Jeff Sullivan: Hello friends

Jeff Sullivan: Welcome to Friday baseball chat

Bork: Hello, friend!

Jeff Sullivan: Hello friend

Query: The chat will begin soon!

Jeff Sullivan: I have good(?) news!

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Presenting Your 2017 AL Cy Young Winner: Lance McCullers

This morning, Paul Swydan posted our Staff Predictions for the 2017 season. Because most of the people who write for FanGraphs, RotoGraphs, or The Hardball Times are at least a little bit data-oriented, the picks end up being pretty similar to what our projections say. The Cubs have the best team in the NL Central, and statistically, they have the best chance of winning the division, so they’re the logical choice for everyone to predict as the NL Central winner. Mike Trout is the logical pick for AL MVP, now that voters have shown they’ll give him the award even if his team doesn’t win, because he’s the best player in the league. And so on and so on.

But as we’ve noted before, projections are not predictions. Projections are the mean outcome in a probability distribution, and aim to identify the area in the middle of a bell curve. But the most likely outcome in of a series of possible outcomes may itself still be quite unlikely. A curve with probabilities of 10%, 15%, 25%, 25%, 15%, and 10% would result in a projection around the 25% probability marks, but you wouldn’t want to confidently predict that the 25% outcome is likely to occur, because 75% of the time, your prediction would be “wrong”.

So, if you look at the staff predictions table, you’ll notice that I made a few non-traditional picks. I went with the Yankees in the AL East, for instance, and I picked Lance McCullers to win the AL Cy Young. I don’t think the Yankees are the best team in their division, nor do I think McCullers is the best pitcher in the American League, but the fun thing about baseball is that, in one season, the results aren’t governed by the bell curves. Weird things happen, and since our predictions are just meaningless guesses, we might as well have fun with them and try to give ourselves a chance to say “I told you so!” in six months.

But I didn’t pick Lance McCullers to win the Cy Young just to be contrarian. While it’s pretty likely that a Chris Sale or a Corey Kluber has higher odds of winning right now, a healthy McCullers might have better odds than his reputation would suggest.

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FanGraphs 2017 Staff Predictions

Hello friends. With the countdown to the season tantalizingly close to zero, it’s time to tell you what we actually think is going to happen this season. We’re not always great at this, and I don’t think you’d want us to always be great at this, because frankly, that’d be terribly boring. But we do like to conduct the thought exercise of who is going to reach the postseason, because it’s good fun and also because it helps us frame our expectations for the season.

Last season, we were able to identify seven of the 10 playoff teams successfully, though not necessarily in their correct postseason positions. Will we do as well or better this season? Only time will tell. As is often the case, some teams got the overwhelming majority of the love, and some teams got coal in their baseball stocking.
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2016 AL Contact Management by Pitch Type

Earlier this offseason, I spent some time reviewing the overall contact management performance of AL and NL ERA qualifiers. Exit-speed and launch-angle data was used to determine how pitchers “should have” performed on balls in play, and when the smoke cleared, CC Sabathia and Kyle Hendricks were named the 2016 AL and NL Contact Managers of the Year.

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Comparing and Contrasting This Year’s Prospect Rankings

A few weeks ago, lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen published FanGraphs’ top-100 prospect list. Baseball America recently performed a similar exercise, as did Baseball Prospectus, Keith Law, and John Sickels.

On the whole, there’s a lot of consensus among these rankings. Although the order varied, all eight of Andrew Benintendi, Dansby Swanson, Amed RosarioAlex ReyesGleyber Torres, Eloy JimenezYoan Moncada,  Brendan Rodgers and Austin Meadows ranked within each outlet’s top 20. Fifty-nine players made every single top 100. The point of this article, however, isn’t to celebrate those similarities, but to point out the differences. In what follows, I identify the prospects that each outlet ranks higher and lower than the “establishment,” and look at how the various outlets compare to each other. Brace yourselves for an onslaught of tables and plots.


List of Lists

Firstly, here’s the consensus prospect list. I hard-coded all unranked players as having ranked 210th, since Sickels ranked just over 200 names. The “Avg. Rank” column below is a simple average of all the rankings.

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My Favorite Reliever of the Month

Here’s an excerpted note from the top of a FanGraphs player page you’ve presumably never visited:

RotoWire News: Pruitt has made the Opening Day roster for Tampa Bay, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. (3/30/2017)

Here’s Topkin, writing a little about Pruitt. Here’s Bill Chastain, also writing a little about Pruitt. I should tell you that the specific Pruitt here is Austin Pruitt, who is a 27-year-old right-handed pitcher. A quote from the team:

“We’ve got unique situations where guys can provide lengthier innings,” [manager Kevin] Cash said. “I think looking at it, Austin will be used as a multi-inning [guy]. But those multi-inning roles could come in a 2-1 ballgame. We wouldn’t hesitate to do that with him.”

Pruitt has been a starter, in the minors. He’s about to be a reliever. A particular kind of reliever, a kind of reliever that might be becoming increasingly prevalent. I like Austin Pruitt a lot, and so, allow me to try to sell you on him.

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