January 21st, 2011. That’s the day I got a phone call from David Appelman that changed my life.
I’d moved to California and was trying to make a full-time go of writing about fantasy baseball for a living, but my wife — as amazingly supportive as she’s been — had been wondering when I might be able to contribute more to the household. David’s call was a lifeline, a rope to a sinking writer, and I’ll never forget it. A job. Writing about baseball. Amazing.
Other than giving me a chance to do this for a living, David also gave me a chance to connect with you readers here at FanGraphs, readers I count as probably the best of the internet, and sometimes I feel like I’ve written for all of the internet. Maybe I have some authority on the matter. You guys are awesome, believe me.
This will be my last post for FanGraphs for now, post number 2,202 when you add them all up. Details to come, but I’m excited for this new chapter, and I will still see you around, but not on these pages.
Read the rest of this entry »
The Mets reportedly continue to look for infield help this winter with a view to improving their team for the 2018 campaign. According to Ken Rosenthal, three of the targets for New York are free agents — specifically, Todd Frazier, Eduardo Nunez, and Neil Walker. Pirates infielder Josh Harrison is a fourth. The cost of acquiring any of the first three is pretty straightforward: about $30-40 million, according to our crowdsourced estimates. As for Harrison, the issue of “cost” is more complicated.
According to Rosenthal, the Pirates want Brandon Nimmo in return for their versatile infielder. Superficially, that seems to make sense for the Mets. Nimmo is probably a fifth outfielder after Michael Conforto gets healthy. As for Harrison, he’d probably start. That’s a good trade-off for New York, right?
In one way, yes. But then there’s also that agonizing question every club is compelled to face when pondering the trade of a young player: what could he become? What’s his upside?
One way of answering that question with regard to Nimmo, specifically, is to focus on his process and look at other players who have a similar one. Nimmo is a player with a good eye, a nearly even batted-ball mix, and a certain degree of power. Also, his outfield defense looks decent. Let’s get exact about those facets of his game and look at other players with similar games.
This is the time of year when top-100 lists begin to emerge. Baseball America and Keith Law, for example, have both released their annual lists just in the past week. Other outlets will follow soon.
While our eyes tend to look for new additions, for the players who have zoomed to the top — Ronald Acuna and Shohei Ohtani are sexy names, after all — there are also players who drop off the lists each year. Maybe most visible this year was Mickey Moniak, who fell off the Baseball America top-100 list entirely after appearing 17th there last year. Maybe he’ll recover; it wouldn’t be the first time. And even if he doesn’t, maybe there will be the slight solace that his won’t be the biggest such decline in list history.
Cardinals righty Jack Flaherty didn’t have what you’d call a “flawless” introduction to the majors. While he had some luck missing bats over his roughly 20 innings, he allowed too many walks and really struggled once batters made contact. His 6.33 ERA was 50% worse than league average after accounting for park and league.
The 22-year-old did, however, do one thing right: he threw 87 excellent sliders. The sliders were so excellent, in fact, that Flaherty recorded better numbers on the pitch than anyone else in the second half — just better than the ones thrown by Clayton Kershaw and Garrett Richards. Maybe he can learn something from those other two and help parlay his excellent slider into more excellent outcomes.
Manny Margot had a breakout within a breakout last year. After accounting for his offensive and defensive contributions, the Padres’ rookie center fielder was worth roughly two wins in slightly less than a full season’s worth of plate appearances. Even for a player who was highly touted as a prospect, producing league-average work at 22 years old represents, in itself, a kind of breakout.
Hidden within that strong end-of-year line was a drastic change in the second half, though. Margot started hitting the ball in the air. That’s a change that has powered many other breakouts. But before we book the skinny center fielder for all of the homers next year, we have to ask: what’s happened with launch-angle surgers in the past?
After a couple false starts earlier in the week, the Houston Astros finally acquired right-hander Gerrit Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates last night. As Travis Sawchik notes, the deal makes sense for both teams: the re-tooling Pirates get a collection of useful players, all within close proximity to the majors; the Astros, meanwhile, receive two years of a pitcher with a great arm and history of success. It’s mutually beneficial.
There’s a third party that might benefit from the deal, however, and that’s Cole himself. He might be worth more in Houston than anywhere else.
As a major leaguer, Cole has been either good or really good in each of his five seasons. There’s always this sense, however, that the former No. 1 pick could be great. Earlier this week, Travis Sawchik proposed one way that Cole could perhaps unlock the remaining upside in his 27-year-old arm –namely, by throwing his fastball less. In this way, his move to the Astros represent an opportunity: not only is Cole’s secondary stuff ready for more action, but his new team is uniquely suited to help this adjustment along.
I have an early, hazy memory of Benito Santiago explaining to a reporter the approach that had led to his game-winning hit moments earlier. “I see the ball, I hit it hard,” said Santiago in his deep accent. From which game, in what year, I can’t remember. Also, it isn’t really important: it’s a line we’ve heard before. Nevertheless, it contains multitudes.
We know, for example, that major-league hitters have to see well to hit well. Recent research at Duke University has once again made explicit the link between eye sight, motor control, and baseball outcomes. This time, though, they’ve split out some of the skills involved, and it turns out that Santiago’s deceptively simple description involves nuanced levels of neuromotor activity, each predictive of different aspects of a hitter’s abilities. Will our developing knowledge about those different skills help us better sort young athletes, or better develop them? That part’s to be determined.