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FanGraphs Chat – 8/22/12

What Is Nick Swisher Worth?

An unintended consequence of Melky Cabrera’s 50 game suspension has been an uptick in the amount of conversation about what Nick Swisher is going to get as a free agent this winter. Swisher has been elevated in the free agent outfielder ranks, and is probably #2 behind Josh Hamilton on the list of interesting OF bats that will be looking for new deals this winter.

So, this newfound interest in Swisher’s value led to a column from Jon Heyman, in which he discusses this very topic.

Word going around is, Nick Swisher, the Yankees’ eternally upbeat rightfield power supply, may seek a “Jayson Werth contract” when he hits free agency at the end of the year.

To baseball fans, that is well-known to mean $126 million over seven years. In other words, it’s a lot more money than most folks have guessed so far for Swish.

Second-hand or not, some Yankees people have heard that’s the figure Swisher is thinking about and may at least shoot for, and one other source who’s spoken to Swisher said that, indeed, Swisher has shown real interest in Werth’s deal. It’s believed the two sides have had no extension talks yet, as it is team policy to wait for free agency, except in rare cases.

While the $126-million figure is two to three times more than most of the estimates for Swisher, free agency brings some surprises. The Werth deal, for instance.

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Cubs Bet Big on Starlin Castro’s Improvement

Two months ago, Dale Sveum said this about shortstop Starlin Castro, who forgot how many outs there were on a potential double play ball:

“It’s something that’s obviously unacceptable at any time,” Sveum said Monday.

“Whether we could have turned the double play or not is irrelevant to not knowing how many outs there are in the most important part of the game. These things have got to stop happening or he’s going to stop playing.

“These kind of things are things that my son does in high school, maybe.”

Well, I’m pretty sure Castro won’t be getting benched any time soon, as the Cubs have reportedly agreed to sign him to a seven year, $60 million contract extension that should be finalized in the next week or two. The deal contains a team option that gives the Cubs control over Castro through the 2020 season, buying out up to four free agent seasons in the process.

So, yeah, Castro’s job security isn’t really a question anymore. The question now is whether this was the right bet for the Cubs to make.

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Dan Szymborski FanGraphs Chat – 8/20/12

Comebacker Of The Year

Paul just put up his early look at the Comeback Player of the Year, but while this headline is similar, I’m going to talk about something quite different. A couple of days ago, Keith Law was being asked about comeback players on Twitter, and I jokingly suggested that perhaps the award should go to the guy who hit the most ground balls to the pitcher, sometimes referred to “comebackers”, at least by me anyway. Based on his terrible results and lack of power, I guessed that Yunel Escobar might rank pretty highly on the list.

In fairly quick order, several people started requesting just such a list, and so I hit up query-master Jeff Zimmerman, who came through as always, presenting me with a list of batters who had hit into the most groundouts where the pitcher got an assist. We are not giving any extra credit for hitting into double or triple plays – this is simply a straight count of balls hit back to the pitcher that resulted in an out.

The long awaited results for Comebacker Of The Year (So Far) after the jump.

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MLB To Test Expanded Replay Next Week


Major League Baseball owners have agreed to test two different advanced replay systems live during games starting next week, and if they prove accurate they could precede an overhaul of the system for the 2013 season, sources told Yahoo! Sports.

MLB will analyze a radar-based system and a camera-based system, both similar to the one used in tennis for down-the-line fair-or-foul calls. Yankee Stadium and Citi Field will be the guinea-pig parks for the systems, which have been installed recently.

The use of the systems will be strictly in the background and for analysis. Because the number of questionable plays during games is likely to be limited, MLB plans to do extra testing on non-game days. Before implementing the technology in its 30 ballparks, the league wants to ensure its accuracy is up to standard.

As Jeff Passan notes in the article, this is essentially an accuracy gauge test, and the system has to show MLB officials that it can provide a definitive improvement on things like fair/foul calls. The fact that they’re testing it does not mean that they’re going to decide to use it, or that it could be implemented quickly, or that Bud Selig is aware that a lot of fans of his sport are in favor of expanded replay.

However, trying it out is better than continuing to proclaim that there aren’t enough people writing letters decrying the lack of technology used to help umpires get as many calls correct as possible. At least this gives us some hope that the test may go well, that MLB officials may see the value in expanded replay, and that we may be headed towards a day when the officials on the field have access to the same (or better!) information that everyone watching on TV has.

It’s a small step, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Which Recent Perfect Game Was The Hardest?

Yesterday, Felix Hernandez went 27-up, 27-down against Tampa Bay, becoming just the 23rd pitcher in baseball history to throw a perfect game. Amazingly, this was the sixth perfect game in the last four years, as Felix joins the company of Mark Buehrle, Dallas Braden, Roy Halladay, Philip Humber, and Matt Cain as the newest members of the club.

Back when Cain threw his perfect game in June — striking out 14 games in the process — I looked at where that game ranked in history, and noted that it was in the conversation with Kerry Wood’s 20 strikeout performance and no-hitters from Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax as one of the best games in history. While Game Score does a pretty good job of scaling relative performances, however, it doesn’t evaluate for context — park, league, opponent, etc… So, that’s what I set out to do today.

It’s simply more work than I have time for to go through every perfect game in history to evaluate the quality of the opponent, the park the game was played in, and the run environment of the day, but with the help of Jeff Zimmerman, I was able to look at the most recent six. Thanks to the fantastic custom leaderboard feature here on FanGraphs, it is not that difficult to compile the statistics of a specific group of players, like for instance the batters who were matched up against a guy who threw a perfect game. From there, we can look at the relative strength of the batters that each pitcher had to face.

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King Felix Is Perfect

Source: FanGraphs

27 batters faced, 12 strikeouts, 15 other outs.

In June, I put Matt Cain’s perfect game in historical perspective. This one by Felix Hernandez might not have matched Cain’s strikeout total, but it’s still one of the great single game pitching performances of all time.

Hats off to King Felix, who is more than deserving of the nickname.

Melky Cabrera Suspended For Failing PED Test

MLB’s official account just sent out the following message on Twitter.

Melky Cabrera’s suspension begins immediately, and since the Giants only have 45 games remaining in their schedule, this effectively knocks him out for the remainder of the regular season and the NLDS, should the Giants qualify for the playoffs. Losing Cabrera in the midst of their pennant chase will obviously hamper those efforts.

Cabrera was in the midst of the best season of his career, hitting .346/.390/.516, and had accumulated +4.5 WAR in 501 plate appearances. Taking his bat out of the Giants line-up creates a significant offensive hole, and this news probably makes the Dodgers the favorites to win the NL West.

This will also have massive ramifications on Cabrera’s future, in all likelihood. He is eligible for free agency at the end of the season, as a guy heading towards his age 28 season who had put together two straight terrific seasons, he was likely in for a significant payday. This failed test will certainly cast a cloud of suspicion on Cabrera’s breakout performance from last year (which was caused by a significant jump in power), and teams will likely be very wary of giving a significant contract to a player coming off suspension for PEDs.

Rather than pointing to the contracts received by the likes of Torii Hunter and Aaron Rowand, teams will now be equating him to the likes of Jose Guillen and Manny Ramirez. If this list of PED suspensions on Wikipedia is accurate, then as far as I can tell, no player has ever signed a deal for more than two years after previously failing a drug test, and nearly every player on the list had to go year to year for the remainder of their career.

Most other players who have failed drug tests have either been at the end of their careers — and thus easily avoided — or have already been under contract. How Major League teams approach Cabrera’s free agency should be a fascinating story. He’s probably gone from looking at a 5+ year contract to hoping for a one-year “pillow contract” where he can attempt to get through 2013 without any failed drug tests and hope that he can sustain a high quality performance, and the list of teams who are willing to take the PR hit to bring in a guy coming off a failed PED list is probably not that large. Cabrera has instantly gone from being one of the prizes of the winter to being a guy who will probably not have many suitors.

This failed test may end up costing Cabrera in excess of $60 to $70 million this winter. Because of the timing of the suspension, this may be the highest cost any player has ever paid for failing a drug test.

Just to settle my curiosity, I’ve set up a poll (after the jump) to see how this news affects your willingness to employ Melky Cabrera on your own. If you were a Major League GM and Cabrera offered to play for you at whatever number you considered to be a reasonable price — whether that’s the league minimum or $5 million — would you sign him? Or do you simply now see Cabrera as a guy you wouldn’t want on your roster because of the bad PR and the belief that he’s going to take a big step backwards if he stops using testoserone?

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FanGraphs Chat – 8/15/12