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ZiPS Time Warp: Jim Fregosi

There’s a kind of depressing infamy that comes with being a player on the losing end of a lopsided trade. Players like Glenn Davis, Ernie Broglio, and Larry Andersen are more famous for the players they were traded for than anything they did in their own careers. It’s an unfair bit of notoriety, too; there’s not much cosmic justice involved when Harvey Kuenn, who played in 10 All-Star games, is remembered more for a decision to trade Rocky Colavito he didn’t make rather than being a .314/.360/.426, 23.5 WAR hitter in seven full seasons with the Detroit Tigers. Jim Fregosi is another star who’s a member of this unfortunate club.

In the case of Fregosi, his run as an elite shortstop might actually be a distant third in the ol’ memory banks. If you asked a random baseball fan in 2021 what they know about him, at least one who isn’t an Angels fan, you’d likely get one of two responses: his status as the player traded for Nolan Ryan or his 15-year post-playing career as a manager for four teams, most famously those notorious misfits, the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies. But when Mike Trout blew through the Angels record for the most career WAR for a position player, the previous holder wasn’t Tim Salmon or Brian Downing or Darin Erstad or Bobby Grich. It was Jim Fregosi. Read the rest of this entry »


April Hitting Stats Mean Nothing… Except When They Kinda Do

As part of my exhausting shtick, I like to respond “April!” to questions in my chats involving player performances in the season’s early going. This is effective shorthand when someone wants to know if, say, George Springer is a bust because he’s put up a .480 OPS in his first two weeks in the majors. It’s also dead wrong. April stats, in their proper context, are meaningful.

“But Dan, a few weeks of baseball is a tiny sample!” That’s correct, but you have to take into consideration the underlying reasons projections can prove to be inaccurate. It’s not just that things change, though they do — pitcher X learns a sweet knuckle-curve or bitter Y realizes that not hitting everything into the ground might be good — it’s that it’s challenging to gauge where players stand in the first place. Players’ stats themselves aren’t even perfect at this. Tim Anderson hit .322 in 2020, but that doesn’t actually mean his mean batting average projection should have been for .322. We don’t actually know if a theoretical player was “truly” a .322 hitter, a .312 hitter who got lucky, a very unlucky .342 hitter, or a .252 hitter who made a deal with a supernatural or extraterrestrial entity. A .300 hitter isn’t observed, they’re inferred.

The way most, if not all, in-season projections (or any projections, really) function is by applying what we call Bayesian inference. We won’t get into a full-blown math class, but in essence, it simply means that we update our hypotheses to take new data into account. And for players, data comes in all the time: every pitch or swing of the bat is new information about a player. It’s valuable information, too, as only the last handful of seasons have much predictive value and recent performance is the most useful. Read the rest of this entry »


Dan Szymborski FanGraphs Chat – 4/8/21

12:03
Avatar Dan Szymborski: April!

12:03
Avatar Dan Szymborski: April.

12:03
LFC Mike: The over/under for the answer  “It’s April” has been set at 5 and a half for this first chat after a week of baseball. And now….the man you would let punch you in the face and then give you his autograph….Heeeeeeeere’s  DAN…

12:03
Avatar Dan Szymborski: Aprilteen

12:03
Guest: FYI – the current link on the homepage for this chat 404’s

12:03
Avatar Dan Szymborski: Should be working now!

Read the rest of this entry »


Rougned’s Reign in Texas Is Officially Over

The long Rougned Odor era in Texas has ended. On Tuesday, the Texas Rangers traded their second baseman, the incumbent since 2014, to the New York Yankees for minor league outfielders Antonio Cabello and Josh Stowers. The trade represents the final dismantling of the team’s longtime Odor-Elvis Andrus double play combo, a process that began last September when the cellar-bound team benched both players.

The interests are clear for both sides of this minor trade. The Rangers had already all but moved on from Odor despite the two seasons remaining on the six-year, $49.5 million contract he agreed to before the 2017 season. The second baseman didn’t even make the team’s final roster cuts this spring; he was designated for assignment last week. So getting two players in return for a guy they were willing to let go for free had to be attractive to the Rangers. In 2017, Odor was still just 23 and coming off two very solid seasons as the starter, albeit with some notable flaws. Odor’s power was always compelling, but his glovework was inconsistent, and though his contact rates weren’t that lousy, he still had abysmal strikeout-to-walk ratios. Odor never really developed an ability to leverage plate discipline into actual performance. For example, where the league tends to slug about .650 after 1-0 and 2-0 counts, Odor was only about 50 points above his career slugging percentage in these situations.

ZiPS didn’t anticipate much growth from Odor from age-23 on due to these issues, but thought he would at least plateau as a low-OBP hitter with excellent power for a second baseman and a below-average glove that wasn’t so abysmal as to force a move off the position. Read the rest of this entry »


Shoulder Injury Leaves Tatis, Padres Hoping For the Best

The Padres used this past offseason to gear up in order to face the Dodgers on equal terms and end Los Angeles’ streak of division titles at eight. One key element in that plan is the presence of Fernando Tatis Jr., the team’s superstar shortstop, who the team recently inked to one of the richest deals in sports history — a 14-year, $340 million pact. But as the poet Robert Burns once wrote, the best-laid schemes of mice and men go oft awry; in this instance, a mighty swing through an Anthony DeSclafani knuckle-curve on Monday night, resulted in Tatis doubled over in pain on home plate.

Though there’s currently no word how much time Tatis may miss, any absence would be a blow to the Padres and to baseball, too, as he’s one of the sport’s brightest, most marketable young stars. It’s no fun for the owner of the troublesome left shoulder, either, particularly given how Padres manager Jayce Tingler described the injury after his team’s 3–2 loss to the Giants:

[It] comes out, comes back in, and so he’s been dealing with that, and obviously tonight, it was the first time we’ve kind of seen it in game action from swinging or anything like that. So, we’ll see how it goes tomorrow, but he’s going to get more tests tomorrow.

Tatis’ shoulder was acting up during the spring, so it would be hard to describe this as a completely isolated incident, though this is almost certainly the worst one. The injury has been diagnosed as a subluxation, which is a partial dislocation of the shoulder. The pain itself was clearly bad enough, but the larger problem is that the type of injury has a high rate of reoccurrence. While this condition isn’t necessarily traumatic or painful — one of my closest friends had a similar hip condition in high school, and it was only occasionally excruciating — it’s a bit of a problem for someone who makes his living swinging very hard at baseballs. Some experts in the field have already discussed, from afar, the possibility of surgery, which could endanger Tatis’ 2021 return. And while the prognosis is less bleak for hitters than it is for pitchers, shoulder injuries can be problematic long-term.

UPDATE: Padres general manager A.J. Preller announced before Tuesday’s game that Tatis would be placed on the injured list, but that surgery would not be required. Per The Athletic’s Dennis Lin, Preller said that Tatis has a slight labrum tear but that his physical exam was “pretty uneventful,” and that the team will go the “rest-and-rehab route” with the hope that Tatis is ready to return in 10 days.

The resulting consequences of Tatis’ injury are largely unknown at this point, as this happened just last night. But we can probably put some kind of bounds on it: He certainly won’t be in the game on Tuesday, nor did DeSclafani’s pitch literally retire him. Let’s first run some projections for the Padres, based on games through Monday evening, on the NL West both without the injury and in the worst-case scenario that Tatis misses the rest of the season.

ZiPS Projected Standings – NL West
Team W L GB Pct Div% WC% Playoff% WS Win% #1 Pick
Los Angeles Dodgers 99 63 .611 56.9% 40.9% 97.8% 14.8% 0.0%
San Diego Padres 98 64 1 .605 43.1% 53.0% 96.1% 12.3% 0.0%
San Francisco Giants 75 87 24 .463 0.0% 2.4% 2.4% 0.1% 0.5%
Arizona Diamondbacks 69 93 30 .426 0.0% 0.1% 0.1% 0.0% 5.9%
Colorado Rockies 63 99 36 .389 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 28.2%

The healthy projections are still quite close to the ones to begin the season. While a lot can happen in a week, both of the NL West front-runners have played solid but not spectacular baseball against the division’s lesser lights. The Dodgers have a slightly better position, but ZiPS already expected them to have a slightly better record, given that they opened the season with a four-game set against the Rockies, the computer’s pick for the worst team in the majors.

ZiPS Projected Standings – NL West (Tatis Out for Year)
Team W L GB Pct Div% WC% Playoff% WS Win% #1 Pick Avg Draft Pos
Los Angeles Dodgers 100 62 .617 71.5% 26.6% 98.1% 16.5% 0.0% 28.3
San Diego Padres 95 67 5 .586 28.5% 61.6% 90.1% 8.9% 0.0% 26.0
San Francisco Giants 76 86 24 .469 0.0% 2.8% 2.8% 0.1% 0.4% 10.8
Arizona Diamondbacks 69 93 31 .426 0.0% 0.1% 0.1% 0.0% 5.4% 6.4
Colorado Rockies 63 99 37 .389 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 27.8% 3.4

Losing about 15% of your division-winning scenarios is a significant setback, but Tatis is a terrific player, so this is to be expected. However, a projected worst-case scenario still leaves San Diego at 95 wins, the second-highest total in baseball. They’d win five of baseball’s six divisions with that total. Unfortunately, the division they play in is that sixth one.

I’m not sure it could be classified as good news, but San Diego’s depth mitigates the effect of the Tatis injury. The team has Jake Cronenworth, Ha-seong Kim, and Jurickson Profar available to cover the middle infield, a situation that many teams would be happy with as the Plan A. Imagine if the Padres had instead made no plans this offseason at shortstop, and the team was forced to go with replacement-level talent at the position.

ZiPS Projected Standings – NL West (0-WAR Padres Shortstop)
Team W L GB Pct Div% WC% Playoff% WS Win% #1 Pick
Los Angeles Dodgers 100 62 .617 83.1% 15.4% 98.6% 17.9% 0.0%
San Diego Padres 92 70 8 .568 16.8% 62.5% 79.3% 6.1% 0.0%
San Francisco Giants 76 86 24 .469 0.1% 3.4% 3.5% 0.1% 0.4%
Arizona Diamondbacks 70 92 30 .432 0.0% 0.2% 0.2% 0.0% 5.2%
Colorado Rockies 63 99 37 .389 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 25.3%

A much worse plan B is enough to send the Padres down into the thick of the wild card race, to the extent that they’d have to fight with the Braves (at least in the projections) to get a guaranteed game at home in the playoffs. It’s even enough to get San Francisco’s divisional odds to round up to a non-zero number!

Other effects, such as loss of performance due to the shoulder problem, are a bit speculative at this stage. An injury like this is always unwelcome, but this is survivable for the Padres. But the best thing for San Diego and fans of baseball as a whole is for Tatis to return, swinging hard, and challenging for the NL MVP title. Even for Dodgers fans, wouldn’t it be more fun to beat your rivals when they’re at their best?


Fletch Returns: Angels Ink David Fletcher to Long-Term Deal

The Angels locked up their second baseman on Opening Day, inking David Fletcher to a five-year contract that will keep him in Anaheim through at least the 2025 season. In addition to the baseline guaranteed money ($24.5 million), there are two club option years at $8 million and $8.5 million. Both option years have buyouts for $1.5 million, the first one bringing the contract to the headline figure of $26 million.

Fletcher has been a find for the Angels, and I daresay that he’s outperformed the original expectations for him. Drafted as a shortstop out of Loyola Marymount, he avoided the wacky error totals that many middle infield prospects put up in the low minors. Still, his offensive profile wasn’t seen as having enough upside to propel him to the top of the team’s prospect lists. The consensus going into 2018 was generally that he would be a utility infielder, though a dependable one.

Notably, even the lukewarm evaluations had nuggets of Fletcher’s later success. John Sickels gave Fletcher a C+, but praised his reliability and noted him as a player who could surprise.

David Fletcher, SS, Grade C+: Age 23, a sixth-round pick in 2015 from Loyola Marymount, hit .266/.316/.339 with 20 doubles, three homers, 20 steals, 27 walks, 55 strikeouts in 448 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A; easy to under-estimate, old-time scouts would have called him an “intangibles” player; runs well, but throwing arm is nothing special and hitting power is below average; all that said, he is a very reliable defensive shortstop how outplays his mediocre defensive tools with positioning, instincts, and impressive reliability: has a .982 career fielding percentage at short; most likely a utilityman but might surprise eventually; ETA 2018.

Here at FanGraphs, Eric Longenhagen gave Fletcher a 40-grade in 2017 but had praise for his contact skills.

A draft-eligible sophomore at Loyola Marymount, Fletcher projects to carve out a big-league job as a utility man capable of competently playing both middle-infield positions, a terrific outcome for a sixth-round pick.

Fletcher is an above-average straight-line runner but not an especially twitchy athlete, and he’s able to play short despite fringey range and an average arm because of polished but unspectacular actions, hands, and good instincts. His bat is quick, his stroke short but effortful. Fletcher projects as a fringe hitter with 40 raw power and less than that in games.

As for ZiPS, it saw Fletcher as merely a .237/.276/.304 hitter with above-average defense at second in the majors in 2018, so I cannot claim that my work nailed his rise either! ZiPS didn’t really start getting interested until after 2018 when it translated his full season at .274/.314/.394 but at 13 runs better than average at second.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Hopefully-Not-Too-Regretful 2021 ZiPS Projections, National League

The teams are ready and the rosters are (mostly) set, making it the appointed time for the electrons that make up the projections to dance in their required formations. This is the last run of the projections before the season starts, making these the Official ZiPS Projected Standings© for the 2021 season. Thursday starts the six-month marathon that determines which prognostications will achieve fame and which will attain infamy.

So, how do the ZiPS projected standings work? ZiPS makes baseline playing time projections heavily informed by our Depth Charts; after all, ain’t nobody going to beat Jason Martinez in this space. But rather than assuming that the baseline playing time is the playing time, I use a generalized model to estimate the range of playing times a player might see. So in some ZiPS simulations, Mike Trout will play 162 games. Sometimes he’ll play 130 games or 100 games; less often, he’ll play five games or even none. Then ZiPS fills in the “missing” playing time, giving a lot more playing time to Jo Adell and Juan Lagares in center in those injury seasons. Sometimes they’re injured, too; in projection No. 435,221, center field is primarily covered by Brandon Marsh and Scott Schebler. ZiPS then uses the percentile performance projections to (somewhat) randomize what versions of every player we get. There’s a generalized model here as well, as players will tend to get more time when they’re playing better and less when they’re not. After a million runs of this, using the actual schedules and opponents, ZiPS has its standings.

Yesterday, we looked at the American League. Today, we’ll finish the ZiPS offseason with the final 2021 National League projections.

ZiPS Projections – National League East
Team W L GB Pct Div% WC% Playoff% WS Win% #1 Pick
Atlanta Braves 91 71 .562 45.5% 30.0% 75.6% 7.1% 0.0%
New York Mets 91 71 .562 44.7% 30.1% 74.9% 7.0% 0.0%
Washington Nationals 83 79 8 .512 6.5% 13.7% 20.2% 1.2% 0.0%
Philadelphia Phillies 80 82 11 .494 3.2% 8.1% 11.3% 0.6% 0.0%
Miami Marlins 68 94 23 .420 0.0% 0.1% 0.1% 0.0% 7.1%

Read the rest of this entry »


The Hopefully-Not-Too-Regretful 2021 ZiPS Projections, American League

The teams are ready, and the rosters are (mostly) set, making it the appointed time for the electrons that make up the projections to dance in their required formations. This is the last run before the season starts, making these the Official ZiPS Projected Standings© for the 2021 season. Thursday starts the six-month marathon that determines which prognostications will achieve fame and which will attain infamy.

So, how do the ZiPS projected standings work? ZiPS makes baseline playing time projections heavily informed by our depth charts; after all, ain’t nobody going to beat Jason Martinez in this space. But rather than assuming that the baseline playing time is the playing time, I use a generalized model to estimate the range of playing time. So in some ZiPS simulations, Mike Trout will play 162 games. Sometimes he’ll play 130 games or 100 games; less often, he’ll play five games or even none. Then ZiPS fills in the “missing” playing time, giving a lot more playing time to Jo Adell and Juan Lagares in center in those injury seasons. Sometimes they’re injured, too; in projection No. 435,221, center field was mainly covered by Brandon Marsh and Scott Schebler. ZiPS then uses the percentile performance projections to (somewhat) randomize what versions of every player we get. There’s a generalized model here as well, as players will tend to get more time when they’re playing better and less when they’re not. After a million runs of this, using the actual schedules and opponents, ZiPS has its standings.

Let’s start with the American League.

Read the rest of this entry »


2021 Positional Power Rankings: Bullpen (No. 1-15)

Earlier today, Eric Longenhagen previewed baseball’s lesser bullpens. Now, Dan Szymborski takes a look at the relief corps projected to be the league’s best.

Over the last 10 to 15 years, there have been gradual changes to how bullpens are built and deployed. Clubs are more willing than ever to admit that their closer is simply the best pitcher on their roster rather than one blessed with magical abilities, able to secure the final outs of a game where lesser men would fail. Closers are still a fairly big deal, mind you, but the trend of late has been to talk more about bullpens in terms of the entire unit, rather than just the closer and his backing band. As such, that’s how we rank them. There’s not a lot of turnover this year, with 11 of the top 15 teams from last season returning.

It will be interesting to see what effects the shortened 2020 season has on bullpen usage in 2021. By the time we get to October, it will have been two years since any pitcher threw 200 innings, and teams are likely going to protect their starters more than usual this season. Nobody really knows what the long-term effects will be of throwing pitchers into a 162-game marathon after a weird, shortened sprint season, one that featured two spring trainings set three months apart. Tommy John surgery may have a high success rate these days, but that doesn’t mean anyone wants to flirt with it.

We sometimes pooh-pooh the value of bullpens because of their volatility, but the fact is, the share of innings thrown by relievers has steadily increased over the last half-century, with their proportion of innings going from just over a quarter in the mid-70s to nearly half last year.

Forty-four percent of innings in 2020 were thrown by relievers and there’s no reason to expect a sudden reversal in 2021. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that 20 years from now, there’s no actual distinction between starters and relievers, with those classifications largely considered a relic. That’s still speculative, but for now, even if a reliever can’t match the value of a Jacob deGrom, bullpens have a very real effect on who makes the playoffs and who pops bubbly in late October. Read the rest of this entry »


Dan Szymborski FanGraphs Chat – 3/25/21

12:05
Avatar Dan Szymborski: Hello, been trying to figure out why it’s not on the front page!

12:05
Avatar Dan Szymborski: Oh wait, NOW it is!

12:05
Avatar Dan Szymborski: lol

12:05
Dave: Legend you would most want added to MLB The Show 21?

12:06
Avatar Dan Szymborski: I don’t know who is in it yet!

12:06
Avatar Dan Szymborski: I want to see some 19th century mustache petes

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