Author Archive

Mets’ Sale To Steve Cohen Is Biggest in MLB History

After a deal with Steve Cohen to purchase the New York Mets was nixed last year due to issues of continued team control, the Wilpons looked for other suitors only to end up back with the hedge fund billionaire. According to Sportico, the deal values the Mets at $2.42 billion. Cohen will assume 95% ownership of the team, increasing his stake from 8%; the Wilpon family will retain control of the remaining 5%. The transaction will not include the Mets’ regional sports network SNY, a cash cow currently controlled by the Wilpons’ Sterling Equity with a 65% share.

The sale is the largest in MLB history, and given the franchise’s $391 million value at the time of the Wilpons’ purchase in 2002, it’s also the most profitable in terms of total dollar amount. Here are MLB franchise purchase price valuations since 1988 in chronological order:

And here’s profitability compared to the previous valuation:

In terms of annual profits based on the valuation of the franchise when it was bought and sold, the Mets’ deal is a little closer to the middle at around 9%. There’s an argument that being only a little bit above average isn’t great, though being above-average on a debt-laden team in the middle of a pandemic looks to be a pretty positive outcome. Here’s where the Mets’ sale stacks up in terms of its annual increase in value after inflation:

Before we get to Cohen, let’s take a look back at the Wilpons and how we got here.

From Initial Investment to Full Control

Fred Wilpon reportedly originally bought 5% of the Mets in 1980 when Doubleday & Co. purchased the team for $21.1 million. Six years later, Nelson Doubleday and Wilpon joined forces to purchase the club at a value of around $80 million. It wasn’t until 16 years after that that Wilpon and his family gained full control of the club, though the purchase was not without controversy. The sale price valuing the club at $391 million was set by an appraiser and initially contested by Doubleday. He argued against the price due to a number of factors ranging from:

Wilpon being “in cahoots” with baseball to force him to accept less-than-market value for his 50 percent of the Mets to baseball “manufacturing phantom operating losses” as part of its labor strategy.

Doubleday relented on his claims after the Wilpons agreed to quadruple the money owed at the time of sale from $28 million to $100 million. In the end, the Wilpons paid just $135 million to purchase the other half of the club from Doubleday due to team debt that was subtracted from the purchase. For about $1 million in 1980, $40 million in 1986, and $135 million in 2002, the Wilpon family gained full control of the Mets. Read the rest of this entry »

Craig Edwards FanGraphs Chat – 9/17/2020

Read the rest of this entry »

The Unlikeliest No-Hitter

No-hitters are unlikely feats. Navigating 27 outs against a group of professional hitters without allowing a single hit takes a tremendous amount of skill. Still, the list of pitchers with a no-hitter might appear to be somewhat random, with hurlers like Hisashi Iwakuma, Mike Fiers, and Chris Heston making an appearance. Since that Heston no-hitter in 2015, there have been 14 complete game no-hitters. Of those 14, five have been thrown by Cy Young award winners: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Jake Arrieta (twice). Former ace Cole Hamels has a no-hitter, ace-when-healthy James Paxton has one, and current ace Lucas Giolito just completed another. Recent history suggests about half of the pitcher who throw no-hitters are aces or something close to it, while half were aces for a single day. Alec Mills’ no-no against the Brewers on Sunday falls in the latter category, a journeyman righty who pitched his way to history.

Mills’ story deserves telling, though because he’s been an afterthought for much of his career, it wouldn’t be a surprise if you hadn’t heard it before. He was a walk-on at Tennessee-Martin before developing into their ace. Heading into the 2012 draft, Baseball America noted his good “control of an upper-80s fastball that bumps 90 mph at times” as well as “a slurvy breaking ball and nascent changeup.” He was drafted in a round — the 22nd — MLB would prefer doesn’t exist and sent to a rookie-league likely to be disbanded come 2021. He moved slowly through the minor leagues, needing Tommy John surgery early on, but pitched well all the way up through Triple-A in 2016 and made three appearances for the Royals that season.

As spring training began in 2017, the Royals designated Mills for assignment to make room for Jason Hammel on the 40-man roster. He was traded to the Cubs a day later and then missed most of the season with bone chips in his elbow. Mills was never ranked too highly on prospect lists, and the “pitchability righty” and “back-end starter” designations that appeared on the Cubs’ 2019 prospect list run pretty consistently with reports dating all the way to the draft eight years ago. Mills pitched well in a multi-inning relief role and had two good late-September starts against the division-winning Cardinals last season. If not for Jose Quintana’s injury before the start of the 2020 campaign, Mills wouldn’t have made the rotation, though Paul Sporer did mention that “a pair of breaking balls, including a new slow curve (67.6 mph)… [had] yielded a career-best 13% swinging strike rate” in our pre-season Positional Power Rankings.

Entering Sunday’s game, Mills had played pretty much as advertised. He wasn’t striking out many hitters, but posted a slightly above-average walk rate and solid groundball rate. He used his sinker to get those groundballs, but left the pitch up enough to surrender five of his eight homers on a pitch he throws about a third of the time. Those homers and a lack of strikeouts meant a 5.22 FIP entering Sunday, 14% below league average, though perfectly acceptable for an end-of-the-rotation starter. His 4.74 ERA was better and pretty close to league average, though the difference between his ERA and FIP was likely due in large part to a solid Cubs’ defense that has also helped Yu Darvish, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and the rest of the Cubs’ staff to lower figures than their Statcast data expects. Read the rest of this entry »

A Brief Note on Lou Brock’s Relatively Low Career WAR Total

Later today, Jay Jaffe will give Lou Brock the longer look his career and place in history deserve, but I felt it was worth delving into a subject that comes up from time to time when baseball analysts discuss the St. Louis stalwart’s accomplishments. Since his passing on Sunday, I’m sure many a modern fan has looked up Brock’s stats page, found his 43.2 career WAR, and opted to either discount WAR as a stat or Brock as a player, along with the writers who voted him into the Hall of Fame on the first try. I would caution against either approach.

Wins Above Replacement is an incredibly useful framework for comparing players to their peers and across eras. It’s also impossible to quantify every aspect of a player’s game, and it gets harder the further we get from the present. Brock presents a rather unique case, one I’ve written about in the past. The outfielder was an above-average batter for a very long time (only 23 batters in the last 70 years have more than Brock’s 11,238 plate appearances and 109 wRC+). He wasn’t just a singles hitter either, as his power was roughly average during the run-starved 1960s, but he’s obviously more well-known for what he did with his legs. Metrics available at the time Brock played serve to diminish his WAR in a manner that left most of his peers unaffected.

To wit, of Brock’s 187 offensive runs above average, 75 were due to stolen bases. Unfortunately, this misses all of the other runs Brock created advancing on batted balls, which would likely give him somewhere between five to 10 wins above his current WAR. His peers have fewer potential issues in this regard because the majority of their runs come from hitting, meaning WAR misses little of their career production, while Brock gets uniquely penalized. Read the rest of this entry »

Craig Edwards FanGraphs Chat – 9/10/2020

Read the rest of this entry »

The Brewers and Braves Combined for 48 Runs Yesterday

Yesterday, I wrote an article about the ugly state of Atlanta’s current rotation. Last night, their run of rough starting pitching continued when Tommy Milone gave up eight runs in just 3.1 innings. While that outing might make my piece seem timely, and almost prescient, Milone’s start proved to be immaterial because the Braves scored 11 runs in the second inning and averaged three runs per inning over next six frames. In that same piece on Atlanta’s rotation, I noted that the team has scored at least seven runs in six of its last 10 games. Yesterday, the Braves’ offense met that mark four times over, beating the Marlins 29-9. And Atlanta wasn’t alone in its offensive explosion yesterday, as earlier in the day, the Brewers beat the Tigers 19-0.

To get a sense of what the Braves and Brewers did, let’s take a quick look at the team-by-team offensive numbers produced yesterday:

Team Offense on September 9
Braves .489 .569 .979 .615 290
Brewers .467 .556 .978 .614 290
Marlins .342 .395 .632 .423 171
Giants .351 .415 .514 .394 158
Orioles .350 .435 .450 .393 153
Mets .303 .361 .697 .435 180
White Sox .297 .342 .514 .358 129
Padres .267 .371 .500 .373 136
Rangers .281 .351 .406 .329 99
Yankees .200 .333 .400 .324 106
Athletics .161 .333 .258 .285 82
Angels .200 .282 .343 .276 76
Dodgers .225 .311 .375 .294 85
Rockies .229 .270 .429 .297 77
Royals .278 .278 .333 .264 67
Indians .188 .278 .281 .253 55
Diamondbacks .171 .250 .286 .238 47
Astros .129 .156 .323 .200 31
Reds .133 .212 .233 .204 23
Pirates .129 .250 .161 .205 23
Blue Jays .188 .188 .313 .211 33
Mariners .161 .229 .226 .206 30
Cubs .100 .129 .100 .109 -34
Tigers .071 .071 .143 .087 -43
TOTAL .250 .325 .436 .327 107
Braves/Brewers .478 .563 .978 .615 290
Rest of Baseball .222 .293 .369 .288 82

Read the rest of this entry »

The Braves’ Rotation Has Been Completely Dismantled

Entering the season, the Braves looked to have a solid rotation. Mike Soroka was returning after a very good rookie season. Max Fried’s first year as a full-time starter showed promise. Mike Foltynewicz seemed to have discovered his old form in the second half of the season after a disastrous first half. Veteran lefty Cole Hamels was added to the group to provide solid innings. Kyle Wright was going to get a shot at the fifth spot with Sean Newcomb, Touki Toussaint, and Bryse Wilson potentially in the mix. Here’s the current status of those eight pitchers, projected to start this season for the Braves:

Results From Braves Projected Starters
Name SP IP SP WAR Current Status
Mike Soroka 13.2 0.3 Out for the Year
Max Fried 50 1.8 10-Day IL
Mike Foltynewicz 3.1 -0.3 DFA, Cleared Waivers
Cole Hamels 0 0 45-Day IL
Kyle Wright 19 -0.4 In Rotation
Sean Newcomb 13.2 -0.2 Alternate Site
Bryse Wilson 0 0 Bullpen
Touki Toussaint 17.2 0 Alternate Site
Total 117.1 1.2 Yikes

Fried was having a fantastic breakout season before an alarming drop in velocity resulted in a stay on the Injured List for a lumbar strain. The hope is that he will return from the IL when eligible a week from today, though at that point, there will be just 10 games left in the season. It might come as a surprise to look at the above table and discover that the Braves are in first place with a 24-18 record. Based on that, you might think the substitutions beyond the group listed above stepped up and had great seasons. But while prospect Ian Anderson has been good, great starts haven’t been coming out of the woodwork. Here’s the set of staring pitchers not listed above:

Results From Braves Fill-In Starters
Name IP WAR Status
Ian Anderson 15 0.4 Rotation
Josh Tomlin 17.1 0 Rotation
Tommy Milone 6.1 0 Rotation
Robbie Erlin 16 0 Bullpen
Huscar Ynoa 5.2 -0.2 Alternate Site
Total 60.1 0.2 Yeesh

Read the rest of this entry »

Unpacking the Yankees’ Three Week Nosedive

On August 17, the New York Yankees finished up a 6-3 victory against the Boston Red Sox and extended their win streak to six games. The team was 16-6 on the season and had the best record in baseball. They then commenced a seven-game losing streak on their way to a three week stretch during which the club went 5-14, bringing its season mark to 21-20. In a 162-game season, 19 games is less than 12% of the season, but this year, it represents nearly a third of the season and nearly half of the team’s games played thus far. With just 19 games left to go, another 5-14 stretch would push the Yankees out of the playoffs. While that scenario isn’t likely — our Playoff Odds have the Yankees at 89% odds entering games today — it’s worth exploring what’s gone wrong and whether we can expect it to continue.

To take a broad view, here are the Yankees’ major-league ranks with the season split between their good and bad stretches:

Yankees’ Major League Ranks
Through 8/17 127 1st 1.2 15th 1.2 9th
8/18-9/7 80 25th 1.4 14th -1.4 30th
Overall 106 12th 2.5 16th 0 24th

The offense and relief pitching have fallen off a cliff while the starting pitching has remained middle of the pack. It’s fair to say that the rotation should be better, but it has been about as effective during the free fall as it was when things were going well. Gerrit Cole has had a run of bad starts and James Paxton has been dinged up; Michael King has had one good start and one bad one during this stretch, while Jordan Montgomery has had some clunkers, too. Still, Masahiro Tanaka has pitched well and Deivi García and J.A. Happ have turned in some decent starts. The rotation has underperformed expectations the entire season (Yankees starters ranked first on our preseason Positional Power Rankings), but they’ve been more average than bad pretty consistently. Given that the Yankees have had four doubleheaders in the last three weeks, the rotation has arguably held up pretty well. If Paxton were healthy and Cole was pitching as expected, the rotation would be one of the best in baseball. That they aren’t is hurting the team, but it’s hardly the sole source of New York’s troubles. Read the rest of this entry »

How Did Austin Nola Become So Danged Valuable?

San Diego’s big move at the deadline involved acquiring Mike Clevinger. Of course, they made a number of smaller moves as well, adding relievers Trevor Rosenthal and Taylor Williams, catcher Jason Castro, and designated hitter/first baseman Mitch Moreland. All of those deals made a ton of sense, but the one that jumps out, the deal that makes you wonder what exactly is going through A.J. Preller’s head, involved giving up a good prospect in Taylor Trammell, along with a few other useful players, for a package headlined by 30-year-old catcher Austin Nola and his 377 big league plate appearances. I suspect it caused many to ask, “Who is Austin Nola?” and “Why was he so valuable?”

Before we get to Nola, let’s first acknowledge that our evaluations of Taylor Trammell might be a bit off. He graded out as a 55 Future Value-level prospect when traded from the Reds a year ago, but he fell to a 50 on the Padres list this season, projecting to be an average regular. That’s a very good prospect, and one of the top 100 in the game, but he isn’t a surefire starting left fielder. As such, it’s possible Trammell’s trade value is slightly lower than the prospect consensus. Of course, we also need to mention that the Padres sent multiple other players to Seattle in power reliever Andres Muñoz, potential role player Ty France, and 24-year-old catcher Luis Torrens, whose development has been slow since joining the Padres as a Rule 5 pick before the 2017 season. And while the Padres did get two other relievers in Austin Adams and Dan Altavilla, explaining the Nola-Trammell swap as resulting from a drop in Trammell’s value doesn’t quite do enough, as even with a dip, he still provides a decent amount of value and the other players included add more to the trade. To really explain the deal, we need to explain Austin Nola, a player any team could have signed less than two years ago.

Nola was a fifth-round pick by the Marlins back in 2012 and signed for $75,000. This is what Baseball America had to say in their report:

Austin Nola has been drafted twice already, never higher than the 31st round. He was playing at a higher level as a senior, having played with younger brother Aaron, a right-hander who should be a high draft pick in 2014. The 6-foot, 188-pound shortstop plays with confidence, especially on defense, where his hands are sure and his feet surprisingly nimble considering his below-average speed. He lacks impact with his bat, though he has improved his plate discipline and contact ability slightly over the course of his career. He’s a career .296 hitter who gives consistent effort and performance while lacking upside.

Already 22 years old when he was drafted, by 2014 Nola was playing in Double-A and putting up an average hitting line. In the Arizona Fall League, he captured the attention of Carson Cistulli and on the 2015 Marlins prospect list, he merited mention by Kiley McDaniel as “a solid utility type that’s just good enough at shortstop to play there for stretches while he hits liners gap to gap.” There was little to no power in his game and after a nondescript 2016 season, the erstwhile editor of FanGraphs noted that Nola “continued in 2015 to exhibit the sort defensive value and contact skills typical of the overlooked prospect. The almost complete lack of power in both cases, however, renders [Nola] unlikely to provide much value in the majors.” Read the rest of this entry »

Craig Edwards FanGraphs Chat – 9/3/2020

Read the rest of this entry »