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Wild World Series Tactics: 2012-2014

While Even Year Magic was in full swing from 2012-2014, there were plenty of other great World Series storylines. There was Mathenaging, Yostseason, and even Jon Lester fielding bunts. With such an action-packed set of games, let’s get right to it.


The Tigers brought a mostly-sweet lineup to the table: Austin Jackson was a leadoff beast, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder provided thump from the three and four slots — and yes, Omar Infante batted second in a season where he had a .283 OBP, but they can’t all be perfect decisions. Anyway, Infante had a career OBP of .308, which is — wait, no, that’s still bad. That one’s on Jim Leyland.

The Giants featured the fifth-best offense in baseball, a lineup with almost no holes all the way down, depending on how you feel about Brandon Crawford and Grégor Blanco. In Game 1, that deep lineup overpowered Justin Verlander. There were no key points in the game, no weird decisions — sometimes your dominant pitcher just gets hit. Heck, Barry Zito even had an RBI single. Can’t win ‘em all. Read the rest of this entry »

FanGraphs Live! Wednesday: OOTP Brewers, Noon ET

The Brewers just keep winning. The Brewers just keep getting hurt. Something has to give, but on this stream, we’ll do our best to work through the injuries and keep the party going. Read the rest of this entry »

OOTP Brewers: Taking Stock

Sometimes the math just works out perfectly. Coming into today, our fictional OOTP Brewers have played exactly one third of their season. At 32-22, we’re atop the NL Central by four games, an outcome I would have happily accepted before the season started. Let’s take a look at how we got here before considering our next steps.

First, let’s talk NL Central. The division isn’t the four-way race that many pundits expected before the year began. In fact, the Cardinals have faded more or less completely out of contention:

NL Central Standings
Team W L GB RDiff
Brewers 32 22 3
Cubs 28 26 4 14
Pirates 26 27 5.5 34
Reds 25 28 6.5 -22
Cardinals 21 34 11.5 -48

The true surprise in the division is the Pirates. Keyed by Chris Archer and Joe Musgrove, they’ve allowed the fourth-fewest runs against in the league. On the offensive side, Josh Bell is having a solid year; his 128 wRC+ and 17 home runs pace the team. But despite the hot start, problem spots remain: the team is 11th in the NL in overall wOBA, as well as 11th in FIP. It isn’t hard to imagine the run-scoring numbers moving down to match the peripherals, which would leave the Pirates on the fringes of the playoff chase. Read the rest of this entry »

Ah-Seop Son Sure Does Walk a Lot

After the initial sugar rush of watching live KBO baseball faded, I’ve settled into a comfortable routine. While I work and relax throughout the day, I’ll watch some KBO action from the night before, either the English language feature game or a Twitch rebroadcast in Korean. In that way, I soak in the atmosphere of baseball almost by osmosis, sometimes focusing closely on a play but sometimes just listening to the sound of it.

At some point, however, I started to get a sense of déjà vu. Hey, that Ah-Seop Son guy is on base again. Hey, did he walk? That was a nice at-bat there, but haven’t I seen this before? It turns out that yeah, that was the case. Through 61 plate appearances in 2020, Son has drawn 14 walks. That’s a cool 23% walk rate. I wasn’t just imagining things — 14 games, 14 walks. He truly is just walking all the time.

Some quick backup before we cover what’s going on this season: Son has been a mainstay in the Giants lineup for the last decade. Since 2010, his worst wRC+ was a 112 showing in 2019, with a 151 wRC+ effort in 2014 his best overall year. For the most part, he’s been a metronomic presence at the top of the lineup, as his career stats attest — he’s a career .323/.395/.471 hitter, which works out to a 134 wRC+. That’s something like career Will Clark — relative to a weaker competition level, of course.

That career .401 OBP says a lot about his on-base prowess, and indeed, Son’s career walk rate is a robust 11.3%. He’s never been much of a slugger, but the combination of gap power, 20-homer pop at his (and the league offensive environment’s) peak, and an all-fields, line-drive approach have made opposing pitchers careful around the plate, and he’s been willing to take his walks. Read the rest of this entry »

Gio González and Steven Matz Ace the Easy Part

Gio González has a very particular set of skills. No, it’s not rescuing his kidnapped daughter — it’s something far more useful for baseball. Or, it was — until 2020. González, and Steven Matz as well, are simply otherworldly when it comes out to striking out opposing pitchers.

That probably seems weird to you, because those guys aren’t exactly prolific strikeout artists. Take a look at the top 10 pitchers in pitcher strikeout rate (since 2015, minimum 100 PA):

Pitcher-Pitcher Strikeout Rate, 2015-2019
Pitcher K% PA
Robbie Ray 57.8% 232
Stephen Strasburg 56.1% 221
Jack Flaherty 54.3% 105
Jacob deGrom 54.2% 249
Noah Syndergaard 52.9% 208
Steven Matz 51.7% 180
Madison Bumgarner 50.0% 244
Max Scherzer 49.5% 279
Gio González 49.2% 246
Aaron Nola 49.1% 224

That’s eight pitchers with high-octane, face-melting stuff…and González and Matz hanging out in rarefied air. Read the rest of this entry »

FanGraphs Live! Tuesday: OOTP Brewers, Noon ET

Corbin Burnes is now out for the year in our OOTP simulation. Josh Lindblom 린드블럼 won’t be back until August. Should we go big in the trade market? Cobble together a rotation out of spare parts in Triple-A? The world is our oyster, so long as the world mostly consists of mediocre pitching. Read the rest of this entry »

Wild World Series Tactics: 2010-2011

This series is careening headlong towards a conclusion. The Giants are in the building, winning World Series in droves. The Rangers are around, with Ron Washington telling players about the difficulty of playing defense, and also batting whoever he wants wherever he wants. And the decisions — well, they’re still baffling. But enough exposition. Let’s get right to it.


Ah, yes, the inevitable-in-hindsight even-year Giants. It’s easy to think of these teams in retrospect as scrappy overachievers. But they had an excellent lineup — leadoff hitter Andres Torres had a career year (125 wRC+, 6.3 WAR) and led off, and six other above-average hitters followed him, in roughly comprehensible order. The team finished sixth in baseball in non-pitcher wRC+; they were a legit offense.

The Rangers were a different story. Elvis Andrus had his worst offensive year — and led off. Michael Young, already on the decline, batted second. Mitch Moreland strangely batted behind Bengie Molina in Game 1 — against right-handed Tim Lincecum. Texas might have had the better names, but the Giants had the better offense in 2010.

In Game 1, it showed. There weren’t any interesting decisions to make, because the Giants hung seven runs on Rangers ace Cliff Lee and another four on the bullpen. Bruce Bochy mixed and matched a total of six relievers, but the game never got too close for comfort. Game 2 was more of the same — Mitch Moreland batted behind a defense-first catcher (Matt Treanor this time) and the Giants obliterated the Texas bullpen en route to a 9-0 pasting. Read the rest of this entry »

Ben Clemens FanGraphs Chat – 5/18/20

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OOTP Brewers: The Corbin That Burnes Twice as Bright Burnes Half as Long

On Sunday, Christian Yelich powered the virtual Brewers to an emphatic 9-3 victory over Trevor Bauer and the Reds. It was part of a week long five-homer outburst, the driving force behind a .303/.361/.818 slash line. And it brought Yelich to 2.9 WAR on the season, the third-best tally in the majors. In other words, Yelich is picking up right where he left off in 2019.

So, too, are the Brewers. That rout was part of a 3-1 series victory over the Reds. The other series of the week was a 2-1 triumph over the Cubs. Together, they left us eight games over .500 and in first place by four games in the NL Central. Perhaps most impressively, the team’s run differential is now positive despite a 25-run loss earlier in the year.

But the good times weren’t universal. In Thursday’s contest against the Reds, starter Corbin Burnes felt a twinge in his shoulder as he pitched in the third inning. He left the game and immediately returned to Milwaukee for an MRI, which revealed severe shoulder inflammation. Within a day, team doctors ruled him out for the remainder of the season — he’ll hopefully be ready for rehab over the winter and pitch the entire 2021 season, but 2020 is out of the question at this point.

The pitching casualties are starting to pile up. Burnes joins Josh Lindblom 린드블럼 and Alex Claudio on the out-for-quite-a-while list — Lindblom will be able to begin rehab assignments in late July, while Claudio is out for the year. Brett Anderson is, for the moment, healthy, but he’s already hit the IL twice this year with forearm stiffness and a hamstring strain. There’s no guarantee he’ll be able to keep it together the rest of the season. Read the rest of this entry »

COVID-19 Roundup: Manfred Announces Testing Plan

This is the latest installment of a series in which the FanGraphs staff rounds up the latest developments regarding the COVID-19 virus’ effect on baseball.

Rob Manfred Lays Out a Testing Plan

On Thursday night, commissioner Rob Manfred released details of the league’s plan for protecting players and personnel upon the start of the baseball season. In an interview on CNN, he laid out some key bullet points of their design:

  • Players and on-site personnel will be tested multiple times a week, using an MLB-owned lab that previously conducted PED tests.
  • Should anyone show any symptoms, they will be immediately tested, regardless of the regularly planned testing schedule
  • Additionally, anyone who has been in contact with any individual who tests positive at any point will immediately be tested as well
  • Anyone testing positive will be quarantined, effective immediately, until they have tested negative twice in a one-day span

Further details will likely emerge in the coming days. For now, it represents a meaningful step forward in the league’s planning, at least publicly. Until now, every plan we’ve heard has been couched in hypotheticals: assumptions of testing availability, general assurances that they are considering the issue, and so on. This plan is concrete and covers contingencies. Read the rest of this entry »