Adam Wainwright Stays in St. Louis for 2020

In his career, Adam Wainwright has started 330 games, pitched in 410, and thrown 2209 and a third innings, including the postseason. Every one of those games has been in a St. Louis Cardinals uniform, and for at least one more season, his 16th season in the majors, the 38-year-old will pitch for the redbirds. The Cardinals announced the news, though has of this writing, terms have not been disclosed.

Update: Ken Rosenthal is reporting the deal is for $5 million guaranteed with $5 million in potential incentives. The guarantee looks to be a bit of a bargain given Wainwright’s 2019 and is under both Kiley McDaniel and the crowd’s estimates.

Wainwright turned 38 years old near the end of August, but that didn’t stop him from putting up a solid regular season campaign with an even better postseason. He ranked 29th on our list of Top 50 Free Agents, with Kiley McDaniel and the crowd expecting a one-year deal worth between $8 million and $10 million. I wrote the blurb that accompanied those predictions, and noted that Wainwright was in line for a much better deal than the one he had to settle for a year ago:

Heading into last offseason, Adam Wainwright couldn’t have been thrilled to find himself at a point in his career where he had to accept a contract with a low guaranteed salary and a ton of incentives based on games started, but he looks to be in much better shape after meeting those incentives in 2019. The 38-year-old started 30 games and put up a league average FIP and ERA. He was even better in the postseason, with 19 strikeouts in 16 and two-thirds innings to go along with just three walks and three runs. His fastball sits at just 90 mph, but heavy use of his signature curve keeps hitters off balance. It’s difficult to envision Wainwright and the Cardinals separating after 15 seasons, and after the year he just had, his guarantee should be a bit higher than the $2 million he got last winter.

Read the rest of this entry »

RosterResource Free Agency Roundup: AL West

In the third of a six-part series — you can see the AL East here and the AL Central here — I’ll be highlighting each team’s most notable free agents and how it could fill the resulting void on the roster. A player’s rank on our recently released Top 50 Free Agents list, along with Kiley McDaniel’s contract estimates from that exercise, are listed where relevant. In some cases, the team already has a capable replacement ready to step in. In others, it’s clear the team will either attempt to re-sign their player or look to the trade or free agent markets for help. The remaining cases are somewhere in between, with in-house candidates who might be the answer, but aren’t such obvious everyday players to keep the team from shopping around for better options.

Here’s a look at the American League West.

Houston Astros | Depth Chart | Payroll

Gerrit Cole, SP
FanGraphs Top 50 Free Agent Ranking: 1
Kiley McDaniel’s contract projection: 7 years, $242M

Wade Miley, SP
FanGraphs Top 50 Free Agent Ranking: 32
Kiley McDaniel’s contract projection: 1 year, $9M

It would be impossible to replace Cole, who might just be the best pitcher on the planet right now. With a projected payroll that is currently above $200 million for next season, the Astros do not appear to be in a strong position to re-sign the 29-year-old. But that doesn’t put them in desperation mode, by any means.

The return of Lance McCullers Jr., who missed all of 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery, will help to offset the potential loss of Cole and give the Astros a formidable trio to lead their rotation along with Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke. Pitching depth is also strong with Jose Urquidy in line for a rotation spot and several others capable of helping out in 2020. But considering that Verlander and Greinke will be 37 and 36, respectively, on Opening Day, and McCullers hasn’t pitched in a game since last October, they aren’t expected to stand pat this offseason. Read the rest of this entry »

Meg Rowley FanGraphs Chat – 11/12/19

Meg Rowley: Hey pals, will get started in a second here, just need to fetch a cup of coffee.

Meg Rowley: Ok, am returned, caffeine in hand.

Meg Rowley: A few things to highlight from today:

Meg Rowley: Jay made the case for Ted Simmons to be in the HOF:…

Meg Rowley: David Laurila continued his excellent pitching series with a look at the evolution of a couple of changeups:…

Read the rest of this entry »

Ted Simmons’ Election to the Hall of Fame is Overdue

This post is part of a series concerning the 2020 Modern Baseball Era Committee ballot, covering executives and long-retired players whose candidacies will be voted upon at the Winter Meetings in San Diego on December 8. It is adapted from a longer version included in The Cooperstown Casebook, published in 2017 by Thomas Dunne Books. For an introduction to JAWS, see here. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.

2020 Modern Baseball Candidate: Ted Simmons
Player Career WAR Peak WAR JAWS
Ted Simmons 50.3 34.8 42.6
Avg. HOF C 54.3 35.1 44.7
2472 248 .285/.348/.437 118
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

Ted Simmons was one of baseball’s true iconoclasts. He denounced the Vietnam War, wore his hair long, nearly became a test case for the Reserve Clause, and was as conversant in 18th century fireplace utensils (yes, really) as he was the tools of ignorance and the curveballs of opposing pitchers. Oh, and he could switch-hit well enough to rank among the position’s best offensively. With eight All-Star appearances, he was hardly unheralded, but Simmons nonetheless tended to get lost among the bounty of great catchers from the 1970s. Seven of the top 16 in the JAWS rankings hail from that decade, including three of the top four, namely Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, and Carlton Fisk. Simmons wasn’t quite their equal, but he ranks 10th, just ahead of Modern Baseball ballot-mate Thurman Munson (12th), with Gene Tenace (13th) and Bill Freehan (16th) not far behind.

Such a concentration of top-tier players at a single position in a given time period is hardly unprecedented, even among those already enshrined. Using the Hall’s own definition of activity — at least one game played in a given season — five enshrined catchers were active every year from 1929-37 except ’30. Every other position except third base (which like catcher, has just 15 enshrinees, the lowest at any position besides relievers) has stretches with six or seven active players, with the seven left fielders from 1975-76 the largest of the recent concentrations. Read the rest of this entry »

Do Clean Innings Matter?

If you watched any baseball at all this postseason, the topic of using starters as relievers probably came up. The Nationals used the tactic frequently, and the Cardinals, Dodgers, Braves, Yankees, Twins, Astros, and A’s all had at least one pitcher who was primarily a starter appear in relief. And when those pitchers came in, the same concern was always raised. “Hey,” the concern roughly goes, “this team should put the starter in at the beginning of the inning to put him in the best position to succeed.”

Teams mostly stick to this advice. But I’ve never been one to take rules like this for granted. After all, plenty of other baseball aphorisms turned out to be nothing but high-minded nonsense. Bat your best hitter third. Bunt runners into scoring position. Focus on batting average. The list goes on.

Some of those are nonsense. But there’s a kernel of logic to using only starters with a clean start to an inning. Starters are creatures of habit, with complex pre-game routines designed to get them to peak readiness just in time for the start of a game. Take them out of this environment, ask them to get ready on a moment’s notice, and they might not be completely up to speed when they step on the mound.

It’s not that starters can’t handle having runners on base, in other words. After all, starters pitch with runners on base all the time. Instead, the issue is that with runners on base, the first batter a pitcher faces is sure to be important. Could it be that starters simply aren’t throwing at 100% for the first batter they face when they’re coming into the game in relief?

To test this theory out, I looked at every instance of a starter pitching in relief in the playoffs over the last five years. It’s inherently a limited sample, but starters pitch in relief in the regular season in very different circumstances, and I deemed them different enough that the playoff data would be more relevant. I bundled mid-inning appearances and start-of-inning appearances together; after all, my theory is that insufficient warmups cause pitchers to underperform against the first batter, regardless of the base/out state. Read the rest of this entry »

A Deep Dive Into My National League Rookie of the Year Ballot

Voting for baseball’s various awards is a small part of BBWAA membership, but it’s an undeniably cool part of it, one of the things you dream of doing when you’re a kid. As a member of one of the BBWAA’s smallest city-chapters, I’ve been fortunate to be asked to vote in most of the years I’ve been in the BBWAA, and it’s a responsibility I take quite seriously. I loved baseball for decades before I was employed in the game’s orbit, so it’s important to me to get my microscopic contribution to its history right.

This year, my vote was for the National League Rookie of the Year award. While you only submit three names on your official ballot and I was reasonably sure of who those names would be, my rough draft contained 10 players. I make ballots that are longer than necessary for the express purpose of making sure I’m exercising proper due diligence. Going into my ballot for the 2017 National League Cy Young award, I did not expect Gio Gonzalez to rank fifth (he was eighth in WAR in the NL), but I felt — and still do — that it should be more than a FIP ranking. There’s a philosophical quandary when it comes to BABIP-type measures, after all, and it’s hard to entirely chuck out success that actually occurred simply because that success isn’t necessarily predictive.

Here’s my final 10-player ballot for National League Rookie of the Year. (Naturally, I only submitted three names, as that’s all the form has space for, and because I didn’t want to leave the BBWAA’s secretary-treasurer, Jack O’Connell, questioning my functional literacy.)

10. Kevin Newman (.308/.353/.446, 110 wRC+, 2.4 WAR)

Several other players could have taken the final spot on my imaginary ballot. Some readers will probably object to me leaving off Sandy Alcantara and his 2.4 WAR, but his worse xFIP (5.17) than FIP (4.55) meshes with something that ZiPS saw in Alcantara’s 2019. The system is exceptionally skeptical of Alcantara’s low HR/9, and while I don’t dismiss performance that isn’t predictive outright, there were a lot of excellent back-ballot candidates, and it was enough for him to miss the ballot. You can even shave another couple of runs off from his -0.2 WAR as a hitter.

Merrill Kelly lost -0.6 WAR as a hitter, enough to demote the reliable-if-unexciting innings-eater. Dakota Hudson‘s FIP-ERA difference was simply too large for me to overlook. Adrian Houser got too much of his value from low-leverage situations. Christian Walker’s numbers weren’t thrilling for a first baseman. Some of these objections are quibbles, but this was a very close decision. In the end, I went with Kevin Newman, who hit as well as Walker did while playing three infield positions. Given how volatile defensive numbers are, I didn’t want to be overly reliant on one year’s worth of data at short, which is what I’d have ended up doing in a straight WAR ranking.

9. Mike Yastrzemski (.272/.334/.518, 121 wRC+, 2.2 WAR)

Of the players on the ballot, Li’l Yaz is the one of whose future performance I’m most skeptical. Teams have been wrong about minor league veterans many times in the past, but I’m still not sure they were completely wrong about Yastrzemski. A .251/.342/.442 career line in Triple-A doesn’t scream starting major league corner outfielder, but I can’t deny that his performance actually happened. He also put up his 2.2 WAR in relatively few plate appearances. And it’s worth noting that ZiPS has always liked his defense in the corners, and there’s a real chance that his true ability may be closer to his DRS (+8) than his UZR (+0.8), adding a few runs of value. Read the rest of this entry »

Dylan Bundy, Cory Gearrin, and Dereck Rodriguez on the Evolution of Their Changeups

Pitchers learn and develop different pitches, and they do so at varying stages of their lives. It might be a curveball in high school, a cutter in college, or a changeup in A-ball. Sometimes the addition or refinement is a natural progression — graduating from Pitching 101 to advanced course work — and often it’s a matter of necessity. In order to get hitters out as the quality of competition improves, a pitcher needs to optimize his repertoire.

In this installment of the series, we’ll hear from three pitchers — Dylan Bundy, Cory Gearrin, and Dereck Rodriguez — on how they learned and developed their changeups.


Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles

“I’d tried a circle change, and throwing with these two fingers [the middle and ring], but I never could do it. First of all, it doesn’t make sense to throw with those two fingers when you don’t throw any other pitches with them. You throw every pitch with the [middle and pointer], and your thumb, right? I kind of got around to, ‘Why try it?’

“I decided to spread my fingers over the two seams — this was in 2016 — and while I don’t know if you’d consider it a split, I call it a split. Some people only consider it a split if you full on choke it. For me it’s not a choke so much as a spread. When you bring your thumb up, really far up to the side of the ball, that way you get the action. If your thumb is underneath the ball, you get more straight drop, if that makes sense. You’re throwing against your thumb.

“I first threw a four-seam [changeup] — same grip, same spread — but then, two years ago… actually, no. Last year was the first time I started doing a two-seam grip instead of a four-seam grip. My thought process had been to try to make it look exactly like my heater, because I thought hitters could read spin, but I was told that hitters can’t make up their minds on spin that quick. I was told, ‘Don’t worry about that; don’t worry about the spin, worry about the action.’ That’s when I went to the two-seam split-change. Read the rest of this entry »

What the Crowd Tells Us About Free Agent Trends

Every year, FanGraphs asks our readers to provide contract predictions for the game’s top free agents and every year, our readers do an admirable job with their winter forecast. The predictions for this offseason’s most notable free agents can be found in our Top 50 Free Agents post; if you prefer a sortable, filterable table where you can easily see all the predictions, plus players’ actual contracts (when signed), we have that option as well. While their predictions are important and valuable to the site, I hope our readers will not take offense when I say that over the last few years, their contract prognostications have not been as good as they were in the past.

Going back to the winter prior to the 2014 season, here is what our readers predicted teams would spend, as well as the actual dollars spent, by year, with some figures coming from this 2018 post and Max Rieper’s prior research:

Free Agent Contract Crowdsourcing Results
Year Players Crowd ($/M) Contract ($/M) Difference % Difference
2014 43 1320.8 1366.9 $46.1 M 3.5%
2015 45 1396.0 1498.4 $102.37 M 7.3%
2016 52 2340.0 2215.0 -$125.0 M -5.3%
2017 42 1441.0 1147.0 -$294.0 M -20.4%
2018 50 1711.0 1279.0 -$432.0 M -25.3%
2019 63 2068.3 1707.4 -$360.9 M -17.5%
TOTAL (’14-’19) 295 10277.1 9212.6 -$1064.4 M -10.4%

Over six offseasons, the crowd’s predictions were roughly a billion dollars too high. That total is only about 10% off, which doesn’t seem so bad. Looking at the individual years above, we can see that the billion dollar difference is housed almost entirely in the last three winters. From 2014 through 2016, the crowd fluctuated a bit but with over five billion dollars in predicted salary, the crowd was off the actual mark by just $23 million, less than half a percent off the total amount. Over the last three seasons, major league payrolls have remained static. The lack of upward movement in spending has come almost entirely at the expense of free agents, who make up roughly two-thirds of total payroll. Based on the crowdsourced predictions, it’s fair to say that readers expected payrolls to rise. The lack of a decent increase in 2017 was a surprise, as was the fact that there was no upward correction in 2018. Last year, readers were closer than they had been the previous two offseasons, but still missed the mark by 17% compared to the actual contracts signed. Read the rest of this entry »

Job Posting: Marlins Baseball Analytics Intern (Full-Season)

Job Title: Intern, Baseball Analytics

Department: Baseball Operations
Reports To: Director of Analytics
Location: Jupiter, Florida
Job Classification: Hourly/Non-Exempt

Position Summary:
The Analytics Intern will assist Baseball Operations decision-making through the analysis and facilitation of baseball information. The specific day-to-day responsibilities of this position will vary depending on the baseball calendar, but will revolve around analyzing and troubleshooting baseball data. A competitive candidate will be an excellent communicator and possess an established foundation of analytical skills. The position will report to the Director of Analytics.

Essential Functions:

  • Facilitate information flows and effectively communicate analytical products across departments.
  • Expand upon Marlins analytical strategy by creating new applications and reports.
  • Improve and refine existing processes for the Baseball Operations Department.
  • Perform ad-hoc research projects as requested.
  • Present analysis and research results in a complete, concise, and engaging manner.

Qualifications & Requirements:

  • Strong work ethic, attention to detail, and ability to self-direct.
  • Demonstrated baseball research, experience visualizing data, and/or strong technical acumen.
  • Ability to communicate baseball analytics concepts to individuals with diverse baseball backgrounds, including coaches, scouts, and executives.
  • Understanding of and passion for the game of baseball.
  • High level of familiarity with the current state of baseball research.
  • Ability to work extended hours including evenings, weekends, and holidays from February – October 2020.

Suggested Education & Experience:

  • Undergraduate or graduate degree in a field that emphasizes analytical problem solving skills, such as mathematics, computer science, engineering, law, or medicine.
  • Understanding of advanced forecasting techniques is strongly preferred.
  • Meaningful work experience with Tableau, SQL Server, R, and/or Python is strongly preferred.
  • Understanding of the governing documents of Major League Baseball, such as the Official Baseball Rules, is strongly preferred.
  • Ability and desire to learn other programming languages as needed.
  • Baseball/softball playing experience is a plus.

To Apply:
Please apply with your resume, cover letter, and other supporting materials (relevant past projects) on TeamWork Online here.

The content in this posting was created and provided solely by the Miami Marlins.

Effectively Wild Episode 1455: The Fifth Free-Agent Contracts Draft

Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller banter about the baffling trade rumors swirling around Mookie Betts, Francisco Lindor, and Kris Bryant, try to discern why they would be on the block, discuss how the likelihood of the top-rated team winning the World Series compares to the likelihood of the best team taking the title in other sports, and then conduct their fifth annual free-agent-contract over/under draft.

Audio intro: Ben Kweller, "Free"
Audio outro: The Only Ones, "You’ve Got to Pay"

Link to Rob Arthur on ticket prices and attendance
Link to Neil Paine on “paper champions”
Link to study on how often the best team wins
Link to blog post about how often the best team wins
Link to FanGraphs top 50 free agents
Link to MLB Trade Rumors top 50 free agents
Link to EW competitions and drafts
Link to order The MVP Machine

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