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Yu Darvish Makes a Trade-Off

During my junior year of high school, I took AP Economics. I found the class to be pretty interesting, and I look forward to continue studying the subject further. But this is a baseball website, and you probably don’t want to be hearing about the classes I took while in high school. However, there was an important concept I learned in AP Economics that applies to a baseball situation I recently discovered. That is, the idea of the trade-off. The trade-off is one of the most basic economic principles, something so basic that it’s subconsciously part of all of our decision-making processes, whether we decide to acknowledge it or not.

One person cannot do everything, and every decision made is at the expense of the other options. There is opportunity cost, and when calculating important decisions, one must weigh the benefits of their choice versus the costs associated with giving other choices up. That’s exactly what Yu Darvish has done this season. Read the rest of this entry »


Bad-Ball Blasts: Out-of-Zone Home Runs in 2019

The other night, I was texting a friend of mine while simultaneously running one of my many queries on Baseball Savant. My “trivia” prompt was pretty simple: “Hitter with the most home runs on pitches outside the zone. Go.” His response was five words. “Javy is the obvious guess.”

Javier Báez was indeed the correct answer. The Cubs’ shortstop, who is known for his free-swinging tendency, has left the yard 28 times this season. Seven of those pitches weren’t even in the strike zone. Only seven hitters this season have at least five out-of-zone homers:

Out-of-Zone Home Run Leaders
Player Team Total
Javier Báez Cubs 7
Christian Yelich Brewers 6
Manny Machado Padres 5
Nolan Arenado Rockies 5
Yuli Gurriel Astros 5
Gary Sánchez Yankees 5
Maikel Franco Phillies 5
Stats through games played on Wednesday, August 7.

The names on this list are pretty interesting, and as you might expect, there are some similarities between them. Since Báez was the “obvious guess,” it made sense to consider whether most of these players were of a similar free-swinging variety. Generally speaking, they are. Six of the seven names on the list have an O-Swing rate above the league-average mark (31.4%), but what’s fascinating about the rest of this group is that Báez still sticks out, even if he’s not an outlier by the mathematical definition: Read the rest of this entry »


J.D. Davis Is Leading the Mets’ Charge

As Ben Clemens succinctly put it on Tuesday, “Here come the Mets.” If you have read Ben’s piece, I’m not going to bore you with the same details. If you haven’t, you should go do so.

In short, the Mets were bad, and now they’re good. But even with this current stretch of newfound dominance, their seemingly high-octane offseason remains a mixed bag. Edwin Díaz and Robinson Canó still haven’t lived up to their high expectations after being brought in from Seattle, Jed Lowrie hasn’t played a single game due to a calf injury, and Jeurys Familia won’t stop walking hitters. For all the talk about how good the Mets’ offseason was, it’s still not those players who are leading the charge. That is, save for this one obvious exception:

The Mets’ Offseason Acquisitions by WAR
Player Position Acquired PA/BF 2019 WAR
J.D. Davis INF/OF Trade (Houston) 297 1.6
Robinson Canó INF Trade (Seattle) 346 0.4
Wilson Ramos C Free Agent 364 0.3
Edwin Díaz RP Trade (Seattle) 196 0.2
Justin Wilson RP Free Agent 89 0.0
Luis Avilán RP Free Agent 81 0.0
Jed Lowrie INF Free Agent 0 0.0
Adeiny Hechavarría INF Free Agent 147 -0.1
Jeurys Familia RP Free Agent 173 -0.5
Stats through games played on Tuesday, August 6.

In a sense, J.D. Davis has been the Mets’ savior. As they’ve heated up, he has not only been one of their best offensive players but also one of the best bats in baseball. In the 30-day period between July 8 and August 6 — as the Mets’ playoff odds have increased by 35 points — Davis has slashed .385/.468/.615 in 77 plate appearances. His 187 wRC+ during this time is the seventh-highest in baseball. His defense has limited his overall value a touch, but even still, his 0.9 WAR in this time period ranks 32nd out of 181 qualified position players. Read the rest of this entry »


The Dodgers Need to Fix Tyler White’s Fastball Problem

When it was completed, the Tyler White deal didn’t rock many (if any) boats. It was a minor move: The Dodgers acquired White from the Astros in exchange for Andre Scrubb, a 2019 Rule 5 eligible right-handed pitcher who had most recently been throwing in Double-A.

White has been scuffling of late, but a quick look at his offensive performance from the previous two seasons makes clear why the Dodgers find the first baseman intriguing. White’s bat has been significantly above league-average at times, even if his defensive profile limits his overall value:

Tyler White’s Career Numbers
Year Age PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ WAR
2016 25 276 .217 .286 .378 .287 81 -0.2
2017 26 67 .279 .328 .525 .356 127 0.2
2018 27 237 .276 .354 .533 .377 144 1.5
2019 28 267 .218 .318 .319 .284 78 -0.4

Read the rest of this entry »


Braves Bolster Bullpen With Chris Martin

In a trade that may or may not dissolve Coldplay, the Braves cushioned their bullpen on Tuesday night by acquiring right-handed reliever Chris Martin. Per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, the Braves obtained Martin from the Rangers in exchange for Triple-A lefty Kolby Allard.

The Braves currently have a fairly large lead over the Nationals atop the NL East, and we have them as the favorite (68.5%) to win the division. To this point, the bullpen has been one of Atlanta’s few weaknesses. Braves relievers have posted a 4.75 FIP and accrued -0.1 WAR this season, the sixth worst total in baseball. Walks have been particularly problematic for this crew, as they’ve allowed an 11% walk rate, the second worst mark in the league. A high strand rate has masked the issue somewhat — the ‘pen has notched a 4.03 ERA — but Atlanta needs reinforcements.

Martin should help. After dominating in the NPB — he posted a 91-to-13 K/BB in 88.1 IP back in 2017 — he’s pitched well since returning stateside the following year. In 2019, he’s been fantastic, and he sports a 3.08 ERA (62 ERA-) in 38 innings. His 26.5% K-BB rate is the 15th-highest among the 182 relievers with at least 30 IP, and he recently went nearly two months without walking a batter. He’s also pitched in plenty of stressful situations: Among Braves relievers, only Luke Jackson has a higher average leverage index this year than Martin. Read the rest of this entry »


Nicholas Castellanos Crushes Fastballs, but That’s About It

Evidently, Nicholas Castellanos doesn’t love playing in Comerica Park.

“This park is a joke,” he told Chris McCosky of The Detroit News on July 21. “It’s to the point where how are we going to be compared to the rest of the people in the league in terms of power numbers, OPS, slugging and all that stuff when we got a yard out here that’s 420 feet straight across center field?”

As we approach the July 31 trade deadline, it appears likely that Castellanos won’t have to call Comerica home for much longer. The Tigers are 30-67, and as MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reported on Wednesday, they are “virtually certain” to trade him by the deadline. But a change of scenery might not be the solution to Castellanos’ problems. Playing the majority of his games in Detroit isn’t why the outfielder has taken a slight step back this season (130 wRC+ in 2018; 114 wRC+ in 2019).

First, let’s dispense with Castellanos’ claim. Here are Castellanos’ 2019 home and road splits:

Castellanos’ Home/Road Splits
Split PA AVG OBP SLG HR BB% K% wOBA wRC+
Home 206 .267 .303 .414 3 5.3% 21.8% .308 90
Road 209 .303 .368 .553 8 9.6% 20.6% .382 141
Statistics through games on July 23.

Those are some pretty drastic splits, but it’s clear that Castellanos is not being hindered by the effects of Comerica Park. The wRC+ split ⁠— which, as we know, adjusts for park factors ⁠— tells the full story. While Castellanos has been a better hitter on the road than at home, it’s not the fault of the ballpark. Read the rest of this entry »


The A’s Deserve Your Attention, Again

On this date one year ago, the baseball season was in the midst of its brief halt for the All-Star Game in Washington, D.C. For the Oakland Athletics, it felt as if the season was just getting started. Through the end of May, the team had merely been average, at least by the most traditional statistic: win-loss record. On May 31, the A’s were 29-28. But a 68-37 record (a 105-win pace) over their final 105 games turned a decent season into an excellent one. The A’s finished 97-65, the franchise’s best record since 2002, en route to capturing the second AL Wild Card spot.

In 2019, the Athletics are writing the script to a sequel. On May 31, the team was again 29-28, but since that time, their 26-13 record is the second-best in the American League and the fourth-best in baseball overall. During this stretch, their pitching has been remarkable:

Best Pitching Staffs Since June 1
Team Innings ERA FIP xFIP K% BB% WAR
Nationals 331.0 3.43 3.67 4.07 24.9% 7.0% 6.8
Athletics 351.2 3.63 3.93 4.58 19.9% 6.5% 6.5
Dodgers 358.1 3.09 3.67 3.68 26.2% 6.2% 5.9
Rays 379.2 4.08 3.85 3.82 25.8% 7.2% 5.6
Indians 331.0 3.70 4.10 4.09 26.6% 7.6% 5.2

Read the rest of this entry »


Chris Stewart on His Catching Career and Hanging up the Spikes

Chris Stewart was never supposed to be a catcher.

In 1999, Stewart was slated to be his Moreno Valley, CA high school’s starting shortstop as a junior. But after the starting catcher quit the baseball team to join cheerleading, and the backup missed months with appendicitis, Stewart was thrust into the role.

“The coach, with no catchers left, comes up to me and says, ‘Hey, do you want to catch?’” Stewart recalls. “I tell him, ‘No. Why would I want all the bumps and bruises and bad knees? This sounds like a ridiculous idea.’ He’s like, ‘Well, you’re all we have left, so you’re catching.’” Read the rest of this entry »


A Mathematical Approach to Predicting the Home Run Derby

Tonight, sluggers from around the league will repeatedly hit baseballs very far distances. Yes, I am technically describing the Home Run Derby, but in 2019 baseball terms, we might as well call it “Monday.”

Even in this era of three true outcomes, juiced baseballs, and many, many home runs, I’m still looking forward to tonight’s Derby. It’s a fun event, and for a sport that so desperately needs to follow through on its promise to “let the kids play,” the Home Run Derby is one of those opportunities for baseball to showcase how fun it truly is.

On a different level, I am also excited to see Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Pete Alonso, and Josh Bell hit jacks 500 feet; Carlos Santana attempt to win in front of the home crowd (a la Todd Frazier or Bryce Harper); and Joc Pederson show off that smooth swing.

But I am also enthused by the very format of the Derby. First introduced in 2015, the bracket-style competition adds to the drama. These current rules have been in place since 2016:

“Eight players participate in the derby in a bracket-style, single-elimination timed event. Each player has four minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. Hitters are awarded an additional 30 seconds if they hit two home runs over 440 feet (130 m). Hitters are also allowed one 45 second timeout to stop the clock (two in the finals).

The eight competing players are seeded 1-8 based on their home run totals. While the lower seed hits first, the higher seed hits second in all rounds. The round ends if the higher seed exceeds the total of the first hitter. In the event of a tie, three sets of tiebreakers are employed: first, a 90-second swing-off (with no timeouts nor bonus time awarded); second, each player gets three swings; whoever hits more home runs in the three swings will be declared the winner; thereafter, sudden death swings will occur until the tie is broken.”

One added benefit of the bracket-style Derby is the March Madness-like prediction contest. This year, Major League Baseball is offering a $250,000 prize to the winner of their online bracket competition. So while I do very much enjoy watching the Home Run Derby and gawking at these hitters’ raw abilities, I also enjoy filling out my bracket. Read the rest of this entry »


Edwin Díaz Is Worse, but to What Extent?

Last Thursday, after Edwin Díaz’s meltdown in Philadelphia — five runs allowed in 1/3 of an inning, including the game-tying and game-winning home runs — I tweeted about Díaz’s 2019 performance in comparison to his 2018 performance. I argued that Díaz wasn’t that much worse this year compared to last, citing his strikeout-to-walk numbers and his xFIP. In response, others felt that Díaz had experienced a significant drop-off, contending that an increase in hard contact allowed as well as a lower strikeout rate suggested a serious fall in performance.

This discussion is what prompted this post. My followers and I agreed on one main point: Díaz is worse this year. Where we disagreed is more complicated: Just how much worse is Díaz, and why?

First, it cannot be understated just how good Díaz was in 2018. In 73.1 innings with the Mariners, he posted a 1.96 ERA and a 1.61 FIP. His 38.2% K-BB rate was the highest among all relievers with at least 10 innings pitched, and his 3.5 WAR ranked second. Seattle sold high on Díaz, trading him (along with Robinson Cano) to the Mets in December in a seven-player deal. They received Justin Dunn and Jarred Kelenic, and while it’s far too early to declare a winner of this trade, the Mariners’ end looks quite strong so far.

This season, Díaz has been undeniably worse. As alluded to above, his strikeout rate has experienced a dip, but his K-BB rate still ranks eighth among the 174 qualified relievers through the end of June. This drop is probably not due solely to regression, but it’s still worth noting that Díaz has only fallen from the 99th to the 95th percentile in the statistic. He’s still elite in that regard. Of course, strikeouts and walks aren’t the only things that matter, but relievers have less of an opportunity (at least compared to starters) for batted ball luck to even out within one season. One bad outing, like Díaz’s against the Phillies, can influence their full season numbers pretty significantly. Díaz has allowed 17 earned runs this season (4.78 ERA). Twelve of them have come across just three outings. Read the rest of this entry »