Author Archive

FanGraphs Prep: Wins, Runs, and Pythagoras

This is the second in a series of baseball-themed lessons we’re calling FanGraphs Prep. In light of so many parents suddenly having their school-aged kids learning from home, we hope is that these units offer a thoughtfully designed, baseball-themed supplement to the school work your student might already be doing. The first unit, on constructing a team’s Hall of Fame, can be found here.

Overview: A one-week unit centered on the Pythagorean Theorem and Pythagorean Expectation.

The Pythagorean Theorem is a fundamental principle in geometry that describes the relationship between the three sides of a right triangle. In baseball, the Pythagorean Expectation describes the relationship between runs and wins.

Learning Objectives:

  • Identify and apply the Pythagorean Theorem
  • Identify and apply the Pythagorean Expectation
  • Explain the relationship between runs and wins
  • Evaluate various example problems and apply mathematical reasoning to solve them

Target Grade-Level: 9-10

Read the rest of this entry »

FanGraphs Prep: Build Your Own Team Hall of Fame

As you may recall, a few weeks ago, we asked for your feedback on FanGraphs Prep, a new project we’re embarking on in light of many parents suddenly having their school-aged kids learning from home. We thought we might be able to use baseball as a teaching tool, and give parents a way to keep their kids engaged with their school work. Since then, we’ve spoken with a few current and former educators to get our bearing and try to design units that are useful to parents and students. For instance, Jake, the author of today’s unit, has a Masters in Teaching with a certification in Secondary (Middle & High School) Social Studies. He taught in Washington public schools from 2010 to 2012, and also worked for a local non-profit serving at-risk youth from 2010 to 2014, where he developed curriculum and a behavior management system.

This is our first effort in the series, and before we get to our lesson, we thought we should lay out what FanGraphs Prep is, and what it is not. These are not meant to be a substitute for your student’s existing curriculum. Curriculum design is not our primary occupation, and if the last few weeks have reinforced anything, it’s just how much skill and expertise it takes to guide students’ learning and design educationally enriching materials for them. What we hope is that these lessons offer a thoughtfully designed, baseball-themed supplement to the work your student might already be doing. We’ll endeavor to provide clear learning objectives, as well as activities or problems for each unit, and offer some pointers for how to tailor the lessons for students who might not fall into each unit’s target grade level. And we want to hear from you on what works and what doesn’t. This week’s lesson skews more heavily toward the writing side of things, but others will tackle math subjects more directly. They’ll be pitched to a variety of grade levels. We welcome your feedback on what other subjects would be useful to you. Thank you for reading the site. Now, on to this week’s lesson! – Meg Rowley

Build Your Own Team Hall of Fame

Overview: A two-week unit centered around the Hall of Fame.

You’ve just been appointed the director of your favorite team’s Hall of Fame. Your first task is to evaluate a single player for possible election to the Hall. Then, you’ll build a new set of criteria for election and determine which players are eligible. Read the rest of this entry »

COVID-19 Roundup: A Labor Deal Is Finalized

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

Yesterday, the United States overtook China and Italy in terms of the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, becoming the world leader. While there are over 82,000 confirmed cases, the true number of infections in the U.S. continues to be underreported due to testing deficiencies. As the U.S. domestic situation continues to worsen, things are seemingly under better control in parts of Asia. A locally transmitted infection was reported for the first time in three days in China, and the country’s government has decided to bar the entry of foreign citizens in a continued effort to combat the spread of the virus. It highlights a stark difference in the response to this crisis by the two countries.

A Deal Is Reached Between MLB and the Players Association

With much of the baseball world watching the classic games included as part of the Opening Day at Home festivities, MLB and the MLBPA continued negotiations over what to do in the event of a cancelled season, with a deal reportedly reached in the afternoon:

Read the rest of this entry »

COVID-19 Roundup: Minor Leaguers Get Some Relief

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

With work in so many industries disrupted by COVID-19 and the efforts to limit its spread, many individuals have felt the financial pressure of work stoppages or even layoffs. Those in the baseball haven’t been immune to this pressure. Earlier this week, Major League Baseball and all 30 clubs agreed to relief for the seasonal ballpark employees that have been left jobless with the delayed start to the season, pledging $1 million per team. Yesterday, after a loud and persistent public outcry, we finally saw the financial situation of the league’s minor league players addressed, if only temporarily.

MLB Announces a League-Wide Initiative to Support Minor League Players

After a handful of teams announced earlier in the week that they would continue to pay their spring training per diems, the policy was officially adopted as a league-wide, temporary solution for all minor league players:

Every team will provide each minor league player a lump sum equal to the allowances that would have been paid until the beginning of the minor league season on April 8. There are a few exceptions, and no solution has been announced for how to handle compensation between April 9 and the beginning of the upcoming season, whenever that might be. MLB and the teams are still working on a long-term plan. Read the rest of this entry »

Austin Pruitt Is the Astros’ Latest Pitching Project

The Astros received some bad news about Justin Verlander’s health yesterday after he left his spring start early on March 8. The results of his MRI showed a lat strain and he’s been shut down without a timetable to begin a throwing program. His availability for opening day is definitely in jeopardy and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him miss at least the first month of the season as he ramps up his workload during extended spring training.

Losing Verlander for any amount of time is concerning for the Astros because their depth behind him is rather lacking, as Jay Jaffe explained yesterday. The loss of Gerrit Cole, Wade Miley, and Collin McHugh has left the back end of the Astros rotation rather open. And with Verlander out for the foreseeable future, that opens up another spot temporarily. Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers Jr., and Jose Urquidy should hold down the first three places, leaving two to a group filled with question marks. Josh James, who was likely leading the competition for the fifth spot, likely earned a role in the rotation with Verlander’s injury. That means the battle for the final spot comes down to Austin Pruitt or Framber Valdez, with Forrest Whitley an extreme long shot.

Both Pruitt and Valdez have collected less than 200 innings at the major league level, though Pruitt is already 30 years old while Valdez is just 26. Neither has been all that impressive during their short big-league careers. Valdez has the raw stuff, including a plus curveball and a mid-90s fastball, but he simply can’t control it. Pruitt doesn’t have the same raw stuff, but his repertoire has elements that are intriguing. There may be enough there that the Astros can tinker with to help him reach his ceiling. Read the rest of this entry »

Another Extension Season Is Upon Us

Last winter, a whopping 33 contract extensions were signed between the end of the World Series and early April, nearly as many as the previous two offseasons combined. In all, over $2.2 billion in new money was guaranteed to these 33 players, with seven of those extensions crossing the nine figure mark. It was the largest total outlay for contract extensions in a single offseason in baseball history, beating the previous record set during the 2011-2012 offseason.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the rash of extensions signed last year was the diversity of the types of players teams extended. Established stars like Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt, and Chris Sale all signed massive contracts befitting their status as legitimate stars. Then there were players like Nolan Arenado, Xander Bogaerts, and Jacob deGrom, all members of the most common group of players to sign extensions: young, established players on the verge of hitting free agency.

In recent seasons, we’ve seen more and more players sign long-term contracts before reaching arbitration, like Alex Bregman, Blake Snell, and German Márquez all did last year. The newest frontier for contract extensions moves even earlier on the arbitration timeline. Some teams are now extending their top prospects before or not long after they make their major league debuts — Eloy Jiménez, Ronald Acuña Jr., and Brandon Lowe all fell into that category last year. Read the rest of this entry »

Unlocking Juan Soto’s Power Potential

On Friday, reporter Sarah Langs wrote an article entitled, “Juan Soto is even better than you think he is.” Soto is already good. Like, really good. And he’s only 21 years old. Langs took Soto’s 2020 ZiPS projections and envisioned the continued growth he could see this upcoming season. If the projections hold up, we could be seeing a historic season from the young Dominican, as Langs explained:

“The only players to have multiple qualified seasons with a 140 or higher wRC+ before their age-22 seasons are Mel Ott (3), [Mike] Trout, Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby and Ted Williams. Each of those players’ outstanding starts to their young careers resulted in a Cooperstown plaque, except for Trout, who’s still active but by all measures seems headed there, too.”

ZiPS projects a 5.5 WAR season for Soto with a 149 wRC+, a seven point increase over his 2019 mark. Only six other players are projected to accumulate more WAR and just three are projected to post a higher wRC+ than Soto. After placing second in Rookie of the Year balloting and a year after placing ninth in the NL MVP voting, Soto has a strong case to be one of the early frontrunners in the NL MVP race heading into this season:

Juan Soto, ZiPS projection
2018 0.338 0.225 20.0% 16.0% 145
2019 0.312 0.266 20.0% 16.4% 142
ZiPS 2020 0.323 0.270 18.7% 16.7% 149

Read the rest of this entry »

There Are Some Diamonds at the Back of Arizona’s Rotation

Players have reported to camp, bullpens are being thrown, and batting practice is being taken. Spring training is nearly in full swing with a full slate of games scheduled for Saturday. Every spring, the various position battles being waged on every team’s roster are often the most interesting storylines to follow.

This year, a surprising position battle opened up in Arizona. Last weekend, Mike Hazen, the general manager of the Diamondbacks, confirmed that there would be an open competition for the fifth spot in Arizona’s rotation. With Madison Bumgarner added during the offseason and Robbie Ray still in the fold, it looks like the D-backs have just one open spot. Luke Weaver should be fully healthy after recovering from his forearm strain that wiped out nearly four months of his season last year. Mike Leake, who is dealing with a fracture in his non-throwing hand this spring, likely has a spot in the rotation locked up too. Many assumed Zac Gallen, acquired by the D-backs at the trade deadline last year, would have earned that last spot with his impressive rookie campaign, but apparently that’s not the case. Instead he’ll have some competition in the form of Merrill Kelly and Alex Young.

The fifth spot in the rotation is probably Gallen’s to lose, but both Kelly and Young bring intriguing profiles to the table that make this position battle a little more interesting than it may seem. Here’s a quick look at what ZiPS sees from this trio. Read the rest of this entry »

Good News, Bad News for Cleveland

On Friday, the Cleveland Indians found themselves in the middle of a classic good news, bad news situation. It was encapsulated by this tweet from their official Twitter account:

First, the bad news. While participating in preseason drills earlier in the week, Mike Clevinger partially tore the meniscus in his left knee. After his surgery on Friday, the club announced a recovery timeline of six-to-eight weeks. The short end of his rehab timeline would put him on track to rejoin the team just after Opening Day. But since he’ll have missed all of spring training, it wouldn’t be surprising if he was brought along conservatively. Depending on how much time he needs to ramp up for the season, it’s possible he’d miss as much as the first month. Read the rest of this entry »

Diamondbacks Sign Another Veteran to an Extension

A little over a month ago, the Diamondbacks signed David Peralta to a three-year, $22 million contract extension. It was a little odd to see Arizona commit to the veteran outfielder for the next three seasons. The 32-year-old was in his final year of arbitration, but the total value of the contract made it a low-risk move for the club and a risk-mitigating decision for Peralta. On Monday, the Diamondbacks were at it again, this time signing Nick Ahmed to a four-year, $32.5 million extension.

Ahmed was also in his final year of arbitration so the new deal buys out his first three years of free agency. But unlike Peralta, Ahmed was facing an ugly arbitration hearing to fight over just $350,000. Ahmed was seeking $6.95 million while the Diamondbacks countered with $6.6 million. The soon-to-be 30-year-old will instead take home even more than he bargained for in 2020 — reportedly a $6 million salary but with a $1.5 million signing bonus — as well as long-term security over the next four years.

Along with Peralta, Ahmed represents a core-adjacent player who should provide solid production for the team as they move into the second year of their soft reset. With Madison Bumgarner and Starling Marte now on board as well as a restocked farm system, the Diamondbacks look poised to challenge for the National League Wild Card. It’s a shame an NL West rival had to go and acquire a former MVP right fielder, all but locking up the division in February. Locking up Peralta and Ahmed to affordable contracts now gives Arizona cost certainty for the next few seasons as they look to graduate a number of prospects over the next couple of years with the payroll room to add additional talent via free agency. Read the rest of this entry »