Archive for June, 2017

July 2 Sortable Board and Rules Primer

The 2017 July 2 signing period is set to begin on Sunday. Here is the 2017 J2 Sortable Board with tool grades and scouting reports for the players whom I believe to be the best in the class. The changes made to the J2 process when the last Collective Bargaining Agreement was ratified in November are significant and have impacted the way teams approach signing players; altered how a given class’s talent is distributed throughout baseball; changed players’ earning power; and, at least for now, forced prospects to consider how to best time their decision to sign.

Before diving into the details pertaining to this year’s class, allow me to suggest some prerequisite reading should this be your first time navigating FanGraphs’ scouty pages. If the 20-80 scale and scouting terminology is new to you, this piece will be helpful. If you’d like more context on the previous July 2 rules as we discuss the way the new CBA has changed them in this article, I suggest this.

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Effectively Wild Episode 1078: Bring on the Banter

EWFI

Ben Lindbergh and Jeff Sullivan do an all-banter episode about Takuya Nakashima, Dustin Fowler, the latest on home runs and the baseball, an Aaron Judge intentional walk, too many Tylers, the significance of baseball’s lowest-ever average Leverage Index, the Reds’ still-disastrous pitching staff, and more.

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NERD Game Scores for June 30, 2017

Devised originally in response to a challenge issued by sabermetric forefather 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.

How are they calculated? Haphazardly, is how. An explanation of the components and formulae which produce these NERD scores is available here. All objections to the numbers here are probably justified, on account of how this entire endeavor is absurd.

***

Most Highly Rated Game
New York AL at Houston | 20:10 ET
Pineda (87.1 IP, 79 xFIP-) vs. McCullers (81.2 IP, 60 xFIP-)
One might be inclined to think that, on account of how good Chris Sale has been this year, that he’s certainly recorded the top expected FIP mark (xFIP-) among all qualified pitchers. It’s actually true that he’s done that. It’s also true that so has Lance McCullers, though. Entering play today, both pitchers have produced a park-adjusted xFIP 40% better than league average. Only one of them is expected to pitch tonight, however. McCullers is who.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Houston Radio.

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The New Relief Ace in Anaheim

If you had told the Angels before the season started that they would be in the thick of the Wild Card race approaching Fourth of July weekend, it’s likely they would have been pleased. Our preseason projections suggested they were an 83-win team and so far they are on pace for 82 wins. They’ve outplayed their run differential and their raw statistics slightly, but they looked like a roughly average team and have played like a roughly average team.

What’s noteworthy is that they’ve managed to stay on this pace despite losing Mike Trout to injury more than a month ago. It’s not news that the Angels are as good as we thought they were, but the fact that they’ve stayed on track without the services of the game’s best player sent me searching. With all due respect to Martin Maldonado, Cameron Maybin, Andrelton Simmons, and Eric Young (?!), it’s the bullpen that has stood out so far, and that bullpen has been led by Blake Parker.

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Joey Gallo Embodies Modern Baseball and the Rangers Are Cool with That

If you were to pick a face, a player, to represent where baseball is trending, Joey Gallo might be the one.

This post isn’t intended to serve as an endorsement of Gallo as an elite player, but rather to suggest that he embodies its trends as well as anyone. The game continues to include more home runs, more strikeouts, more walks, and fewer balls in play — to the angst of some (many?). Gallo is one of the Three True Outcome kings in the sport, a point detailed by one of FanGraphs’ community writers earlier this year.

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Picking the 2017 American League All-Stars

Yesterday, I put on my dictator hat and suggested how I would fill out the National League All-Star team, if it was entirely up to me. Today, we’re going to do the American League, which is, in comparison, underwhelming. Actually, underwhelming is an underwhelming description for what it was like to assemble this roster after doing the NL yesterday. It was essentially an exercise in saying “wait, really, these are my choices?” over and over.

There are, of course, some really exciting talents in the American League. And there are guys having really great All-Star caliber seasons. But there are shockingly few players who fit both of those criteria, as basically all the big names that you’d expect to be here haven’t had seasons good enough to justify their presence. Mike Trout? Injured. Miguel Cabrera? 115 wRC+. Manny Machado? 86 wRC+. Josh Donaldson? Missed a good chunk of the first half, and hasn’t been great since coming off the DL.

As I noted yesterday, I lean towards the All-Star game being a reward for a player’s performance to this point, with track record a factor but a less important one than how you’ve played this year. That’s why they have the event every year; to honor the players playing like stars this season. In the first half of the 2017 season, the stars of the AL mostly haven’t played like stars, and the guys who have are not guys you would have pegged for the All-Star team before the year started.

So, prepare to be underwhelmed by the names to follow. This is just what the league has given us.

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Tampa Bay’s Second-Half Attendance

This is Michael Lortz’ fifth and final piece as part of his June residency at FanGraphs. Lortz covers the Tampa Bay baseball market for the appropriately named Tampa Bay Baseball Market and has previously published work in the Community pages, as well. You can find him on Twitter, as well. Read the work of all our residents here.

During my month here at FanGraphs, I’ve given an overview of the Rays’ attendance problems, detailed their need to attract millennials, compared them to other small-market teams, and discussed how their marketing strategy differs from local minor-league competition. Today, I want to end my time as June resident by talking about how baseball attendance in Tampa Bay will fare in the second half of 2017.

On June 24th, the Rays played their 41st game at Tropicana Field this year. Their average attendance at that point was 14,930. Of course, this is the lowest average attendance of any team in the Major Leagues, but it is also the Rays’ third-lowest midseason average attendance since 2007. Only in 2007 (when they were still the Devil Rays) and 2015 (the first post-Maddon year) was average attendance lower at the halfway point.

The following graph depicts Rays’ average attendance at Game 41 since 2007.

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The Fringe Five: Baseball’s Most Compelling Fringe Prospects

Fringe Five Scoreboards: 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013.

The Fringe Five is a weekly regular-season exercise, introduced a few years ago by the present author, wherein that same author utilizes regressed stats, scouting reports, and also his own fallible intuition to identify and/or continue monitoring the most compelling fringe prospects in all of baseball.

Central to the exercise, of course, is a definition of the word fringe, a term which possesses different connotations for different sorts of readers. For the purposes of the column this year, a fringe prospect (and therefore one eligible for inclusion among the Five) is any rookie-eligible player at High-A or above who (a) was omitted from the preseason prospect lists produced by Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, John Sickels*, and (most importantly) lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen and also who (b) is currently absent from a major-league roster. Players appearing on any updated list — such as the revised top 100 released last week by Baseball America — will also be excluded from eligibility.

*All 200 names!

In the final analysis, the basic idea is this: to recognize those prospects who are perhaps receiving less notoriety than their talents or performance might otherwise warrant.

*****

Jose Miguel Fernandez, 2B, Los Angeles NL (Profile)
Like every player included among this edition of the Five (with the exception of Zack Granite, who has nowhere to go besides the majors), Fernandez received a promotion this week — in this case, from Double- to Triple-A. It was only temporary (he returned to Tulsa yesterday), but not irrelevant. While it’s almost too obvious even to render into print, these promotions serve as votes of confidence from the organizations to which the players belong. That’s relevant to the author’s decision-making insofar as clubs naturally possess much better information about their prospects than a weblogger sitting at a coffee shop in Maine.

Questions persist about Fernandez’s second-base defense. No questions appear to remain about his offensive profile, however. He possesses the lowest strikeout rate in the Texas League among qualified batters and a better-than-average isolated-power figure.

Here he is taking some pleasure in his work earlier this week:

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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 6/30/17

9:09
Jeff Sullivan: Hello friends

9:09
Jeff Sullivan: Welcome to Friday baseball chat

9:09
Bork: Hello, friend!

9:09
Jeff Sullivan: Hello friend

9:09
Jeff Sullivan: I’ve missed you

9:09
Edwin: Approximately what % of Wins are attributed to Starting Pitchers?  Any idea?

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It’s Tough Being a (Very) Tall Pitcher

This year, we’ve seen the debut of two 24-year-old lefties who have taken their own paths to the big leagues. Jordan Montgomery in New York and Sean Newcomb in Atlanta both look like they’re dealing, but they’ve had to work to get here. Listed at 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-5, respectively, it’s worth wondering if their height has slowed down the development of their command, if it’s taken them longer to get their impressive levers in the right places. There’s some evidence that might be the case. But these two pitchers remind us that there are very few absolutes when it comes to mechanics, and that even tall pitchers are as different from each other as they are from the general population.

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