Archive for September, 2018

FanGraphs Audio: Jay Jaffe Wants All the Chaos Possible

Episode 837
Jay Jaffe is progenitor of the very famous JAWS metric and author of the reasonably famous The Cooperstown Casebook. On this edition of the program, he discusses his efforts — by means of his Team Entropy series — to documents the possible end-of-season scenarios that would require the greatest number of tiebreaking games and facilitate the greatest volume of disorder.

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 55 min play time.)

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Sunday Notes: Josh James Is More Than a Fringe Five Favorite

Josh James has been a Fringe Five favorite this season. He’s also been a shooting star. The 25-year-old hurler began the year in Double-A, and he’s finishing it with aplomb in Houston. Since debuting with the Astros on September 1, James has punched out 27 batters, and allowed just 14 hits and six runs, in 21 innings of work.

His ascent has come as a surprise. A 34th-round pick out of Western Oklahoma State University in 2014, James went unmentioned in our preseason Astros Top Prospects list (ergo his eligibility to take up residence in the aforementioned Carson Cistulli column).

Every bit as surprising was the righty’s response when I asked him how he goes about attacking hitters.

“To be honest, I’m still trying to figure that out,” James told me on the heels of his rock-solid MLB debut. “A couple of years ago I was a low-90s guy and mixed up pitches. I’d throw curveballs in 0-0 counts, work backwards. All that stuff. Now the velo is up a little higher, so I can throw more fastballs and attack the zone a little more.”

The velocity jump is real. James’ four-seam heater has averaged a tick over 97 MPH since his call up, and he’s been told that he touched 101 earlier this summer. Getting a good night’s sleep has helped breathe more life into his arsenal. Read the rest of this entry »

Effectively Wild Episode 1276: Reviewing the Regular Season

Ben Lindbergh and Jeff Sullivan banter about the MVP races, the definition of value, Jacob deGrom, and Christian Yelich, plus an investigation into teams’ international practices, CC Sabathia’s costly hit by pitch, whether steroids were really responsible for steroid-era home run rates, and (don’t worry) Willians Astudillo. Then they review the 2018 regular season, including their favorite moments, the biggest ways baseball changed, what they learned about Mike Trout, how preseason narratives held up, teams that raised or lowered their stock the most, and the articles they most regret writing.

Audio intro: Super Furry Animals, "It’s Not the End of the World?"
Audio outro: Guided By Voices, "When We All Hold Hands at the End of the World"

Link to Sabathia HBP video
Link to Jeff Passan’s report
Link to Ben’s steroid era article
Link to Melisa Reidy-Russell comments

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On Addison Russell and What Constitutes Evidence

Recently, Cubs shortstop Addison Russell was placed on administrative leave in response to a blog post by his ex-wife, Melisa Reidy-Russell, detailing abuse she allegedly suffered at his hands. She’s since added additional context to her blog post with this interview today. In between, Ken Rosenthal reported the following:

Major League Baseball did not place Cubs shortstop Addison Russell on paid administrative leave solely because of a blog post written by his former wife, Melisa Reidy.

The post alone would not have been enough for baseball to force Russell off the field under its joint domestic violence policy with the players’ union. The league had additional credible information, according to sources familiar with its investigation.

The league’s investigation includes interviews with Reidy and numerous other witnesses, and with officials gathering additional information since Russell went on leave, sources said.

While Rosenthal’s reporting is consistently excellent, it appears as though his statement here is slightly inaccurate, or at least incomplete. The plain language of MLB’s Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy appended to the Collective Bargaining Agreement states that an accusation, without more, is sufficient to place a player on administrative leave.

Under the Basic Agreement, the Commissioner may immediately place a Player accused of a Covered Act on Administrative Leave, effective as early as the date of the Notification, and may keep the Player on Administrative Leave for up to seven (7) days, including the date of Notification, subject to the Player’s right to challenge that decision set forth below.

What seems likely is that Rosenthal is referring to MLB’s recent extension of Russell’s leave past 30 days, which, theoretically, does require additional evidence. Again, from the Joint Policy:

The Commissioner’s Office may ask the Players Association to consent to a one-time extension of the initial seven-day Administrative Leave period for an additional seven (7) days (for a total of fourteen (14) days), which consent shall not be unreasonably withheld. Alternatively, the Commissioner’s Office may defer placing the Player on Administrative Leave until the Player is either charged with a crime by law enforcement, or the Commissioner’s Office receives credible information corroborating the allegations.

This seems to be the confusion: for longer than seven days, additional evidence is required. For less than seven days, it’s not. It’s a minor point, perhaps. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not very significant.

Why I’m mentioning it here, however, is because — due to a very loud conversation occurring in our country at the moment, one that is riddled with all manner of misinformation and self-interest — there’s probably some merit to reviewing, under somewhat more sober conditions, how the law treats personal accounts like the one provided by Reidy-Russell on her blog.

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Zack Greinke’s Climb Towards Cooperstown

Zack Greinke’s final start of the 2018 season was a tour de force, one that knocked his former team, the Dodgers, out of first place in the NL West heading into the season’s final weekend. The going-on-35-year-old righty survived a rocky beginning and pitched well, drove in the go-ahead run, tormented longtime nemesis Yasiel Puig as baserunner and a pitcher, and even made a nifty fielding play, albeit one that ultimately didn’t count. It was a fitting capper to a very good season in which Greinke made his fifth All-Star team and delivered solid — but not exceptional — value given his massive contract. He couldn’t singlehandedly pitch the Diamondbacks into the playoffs, and he isn’t likely to receive any Cy Young votes, but by staying healthy and pitching at a high level, he gave his chances at Cooperstown a considerable boost.

It’s that last topic that brings me to this post, because multiple readers have asked for it in some context. I’ve touched upon the cases of several of Greinke’s peers this season, such as Felix Hernandez (here), CC Sabathia (here) and Justin Verlander (here). As we’re about to spend the next five weeks absorbed in postseason baseball, it seems like a good time to check in.

But first, let’s appreciate the resiliency and athleticism Greinke displayed on Wednesday night. Peppered for seven hits from among the first 12 batters he faced, he managed to limit the damage to two runs thanks in part to a double play off the bat of Joc Pederson that ended the second inning and a diving stab by shortstop Nick Ahmed that snared Puig’s bases-loaded, 99.9 mph line drive to end the third. That out was part of a stretch in which Greinke retired 10 of the final 12 batters he faced, with a Chase Utley walk and a Cody Bellinger infield single the only blemishes. Ballinger’s single followed a grounder up the first base line that Greinke — a four-time Gold Glove winner who has seven Defensive Runs Saved to his credit this year — gloved and then flipped to first baseman Paul Goldschmidt in time for what would have been an out had the ball not been ruled foul:

On the other side of the ball, in the bottom of the second inning, as starter Ross Stripling coughed up the Dodgers’ early 2-0 lead, Greinke stroked an RBI single up the middle to plate Nick Ahmed with Arizona’s third run. He took second on a Ketel Marte single, and then tagged and went to third on an Eduardo Escobar liner to Puig:

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Jeff Sullivan FanGraphs Chat — 9/28/18


Jeff Sullivan: Hello friends


Jeff Sullivan: Welcome to Friday baseball chat


Jeff Sullivan: Our final Friday baseball chat of the regular season


stever20: How concerned should Red Sox fans be with Chris Sale and his velocity the other night?  Was he just holding back?

Also, do you remember a bigger x factor type of situation entering the playoffs as we have Sale this year?


Jeff Sullivan: This is what’s being referred to:…


Jeff Sullivan: Pretty massive drop-off since Sale came off the disabled list

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Eugenio Suarez Is Always Adjusting

This is Cat Garcia’s second post as part of her September residency. She is a freelance baseball writer whose work has appeared at The Athletic,, the Chicago Sun-Times, La Vida Baseball, and Baseball Prospectus, among others. She is a Chicago native and previously worked at Wrigley Field before becoming a full-time freelancer. Follow her on Twitter at @TheBaseballGirl.

The Cincinnati Reds have been surprisingly interesting in 2018. Not interesting in the way your typical contending ball club might be, but interesting in some curious ways. They started off the season with an MLB-worst record of 3-15. They fired their manager, Bryan Price, after four seasons with the club. And in an unexpected move, they acquired struggling former-ace Matt Harvey from the Mets in early May.

In the middle of all of that, there has been a significant — and likely longer-lasting — bright spot. As FanGraphs’ own Jeff Sullivan recently wrote, third baseman Eugenio Suarez has continued to build upon his impressive 2017 breakout season. Suarez’s 133 wRC+ is currently tied for ninth-best in the National League. He’s already hit a career-high 32 home runs this season, and he currently has the 12th-highest ISO in the NL, just two points behind Travis Shaw.

And while his .322 BABIP is his highest since 2015, it isn’t so far off his career norms, and there is reason to believe his healthy batting line isn’t just the result of good batted-ball luck. As Sullivan pointed out in his piece, Suarez is making much harder contact than he has previously. His .373 wOBA is a career-best, while his xwOBA suggests it could even be a bit better.

Suarez told David Laurila earlier in the season that he hadn’t made any adjustments to his swing. But it seems there has been a new development on that front, one that has contributed to Suarez’s success.

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FanGraphs Audio Presents: The Untitled McDongenhagen Project, Ep. 3

UMP: The Untitled McDongenhagen Project, Episode 3
This is the third episode of a weekly program co-hosted by Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel about player evaluation in all its forms. The new show, which is available through the normal FanGraphs Audio feed, has a working name now, but barely. The show is all prospect stuff, but there is plenty of that, as the hosts are Prospect Men. Below are some timestamps to make listening and navigation easier.

0:43 – BONUS TOPIC #1: Eric runs down some instructional league notes starting with the Brewers: RHP Nash Walters, LHP Aaron Ashby, RHP Caden Lemons, RF Larry Ernesto and CF Carlos Rodriguez

2:20 – Eric continues with Rangers notes: RHP Cole Winn, RHP Owen White, RHP Michael Matuella, RHP Emmanuel Clase and briefly on RHP A.J. Alexy, RHP Reid Anderson, RHP Hans Crouse, CF Julio Pablo Martinez, CF Leody Taveras, CF Pedro Gonzalez

4:21 – Royals RHP Brady Singer, guys that seemed to increase their FVs in instructs thus far, feat. Rangers RHP Yerry Rodriguez

5:38 – Kiley shares notes from his first instructs game: Braves CF Cristian Pache, C Alex Jackson, 3B CJ Alexander

7:00 – Kiley moves on to the Tigers, SS Wenceel Perez and RHP Carlos Guzman

8:02 – And back to the Braves arms: RHP Odalvi Javier, RHP Patrick Weigel, RHP Tristan Beck

9:30 – BONUS TOPIC #2: Why instructional league games are starting to dry up

12:31 – TOPIC ONE: Draft rankings update to THE BOARD

13:23 – Adley Rutschman (C, Oregon State) as the top prospect for 2019, vs. Giants C Joey Bart (#2 overall pick in 2018), the historic comparison to Matt Wieters and the path to an amateur 60 FV

17:00 – Candidates to pass Rutschman by draft day: shortstops galore

18:30 – Will Bobby Witt, Jr. be able to hit? How will we know? Why do we hate him (according to the commenters)?

21:35 – The other elite shortstops: C.J. Abrams, Bryson Stott and Greg Jones

23:46 – Explaining the concept of Future Value (FV) tiers briefly

23:34 – Exploring the elite corner bats: 1B Andrew Vaughn, 1B/RF Michael Busch, 1B/RF Michael Toglia, RF Riley Greene

26:35 – Eric breaking down rising prep CF Corbin Carroll

27:43 – Who would we compare Carroll to historically?

29:02 – Talking about the most unique player we ranked, LHP/1B Spencer Jones

31:05 – TOPIC TWO: top organizations to win the next 5 World Series

34:44 – Eric proposes another top tier organization

35:28 – A quick conversation about manipulating service time and the non-economical approach sometimes being best, featuring Peter Alonso, Eric Lauer and Joey Lucchesi

42:25 – Kiley talks about the Yankees, what makes them successful and what teams in the top tier have in common with them

45:54 – Working through the second tier of clubs, finding the ones most likely to break through

48:39 – Kiley pinpoints a division in transition to keep an eye on the next 12 months

53:54 – TOPIC THREE: Super Mesa Bros. feat. Sandy Gaston

54:22 – Sorting through the background and context for the Cuban market

56:04 – Running down all three players’ from a scouting perspective

57:03 – Handicapping the teams with int’l pool money to spend

1:04:32 – Factoring in MLB’s ban of signings from the Mexican League, including short discussions of Isaac Paredes, Tirso Ornelas, Jose Albertos, Luis Verdugo, Reivaj Garcia

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @kileymcd or @longenhagen on Twitter or at

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 1 hr 9 min play time.)

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The Two Rookies Who Drive the Braves’ Bullpen

This past Saturday, the Braves defeated the Phillies by a score of 5-3, earning their 87th win on the season and clinching the National League East title. Needless to say, this was unexpected back in March, when the Braves entered the year with a 3.2% chance of reaching the playoffs. Then again, there were a lot of unexpected developments in Atlanta this year. It was clear entering the season, for example, that Ronald Acuna possessed considerable talent; it was less obvious, however, that he’d become one of baseball’s best so soon. It was perhaps even more unlikely that a 34-year-old Nick Markakis would earn his first All-Star selection, although that happened as well. The list of surprises goes on. Johan Camargo, Mike Foltynewicz, and Anibal Sanchez: each of these actors played an important role in the Braves’ early arrival on the national stage.

Now the minds of both fans and the players themselves turn to October baseball. While there are some legitimate reasons to regard the Braves as a long shot — the Astros, the Dodgers, the Indians, the Red Sox, you get the idea — they do still have a 2.9% chance of winning the World Series. Throw in the fact that playoff baseball can be especially random, and we could be sitting here in a month lauding World Series MVP Kevin Gausman.

The Braves do enter October with questions beyond their youth. Most of these questions relate to their pitching, especially their bullpen. In terms of both run prevention (19th in adjusted ERA) and peripherals (18th in adjusted FIP), the relief corps has been middling. The midseason acquisitions of Brad Brach and Jonny Venters for international bonus money have yielded some returns, as the two veterans have put up a combined 0.8 WAR. However, if the Braves hope to slow down baseball’s best offenses in the late innings, they’ll be relying on two rookies with very similar arsenals.

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Cardinals Ask Adam Wainwright to Save Season

Adam Wainwright made his final appearance of spring training this year on March 15. Ten days later, he was scratched from a Grapefruit League start and, shortly after that, was added to the disabled list with a hamstring strain.

The injury appeared, at first glance, to scuttle plans the club had made to give Wainwright the start for the Cardinals’ home opener on April 5. As former manager Mike Matheny said at the time about that honor:

“It’s something we put thought into,” Matheny said. “I think our fans appreciate it, what he’s been able to do. ‘Waino’ obviously has a long history with our fan base and a lot of credibility built up in this game.”

Under normal circumstances, Wainwright would have probably returned in mid-April, following a rehab appearance to ready him for major-league competition. A nine-strikeout, one-run performance from Jack Flaherty, who’d taken Wainwright’s place on the roster, reduced any necessity to rush Wainwright back. In the end, though, the Cardinals activated him for the April 5 start anyway. The former ace walked more batters than he struck out, threw just 17 of his 42 fastballs above 90 mph — only eight fastballs hit 91 mph — and failed to make it out of the fourth inning.

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