Author Archive

Carlos Ruiz: The Best Catcher In Baseball?

Off the top of your head — if you had to name the catcher who’s having the best season — which player would it be?

Your first guess might be Yadier Molina, considering he’s been such a steady, well-rounded player who posted five seasons in a row with more than +3 wins. But maybe it’s Joe Mauer, the guy who’s returning to form after his injury. Or maybe defensive stud Matt Wieters gets the nod? But don’t forget about Buster Posey, who is still young and has so much talent.

If you’d guessed any of those players, though, you’d be wrong. The catcher who’s having the best 2012 is none other than 33-year-old Carlos Ruiz. Say it with me now: “…Him?”

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Can’t Shake Jake (Arrieta)

When it comes to prospects and young players, I’m an absolute sucker for tools. Yes, I’m one of those idiots who reaches for B.J. Upton in fantasy drafts. I still follow Mark Prior’s career closer than I should. And the news that Scott Kazmir has started a comeback attempt piqued my interest. I was bullish on Mark Trumbo coming into this season based solely off his insane power, and I near-hopelessly believe that Derek Holland will blossom into an ace one of these years.

In recent years, one of my recurring crushes has focused on Baltimore Orioles starting pitching prospects. Remember how they had a trio of young studs who were supposed to carry the franchise to new heights? Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta were supposed to be The Future. Unfortunately, so were the Hindenburg and the RMS Titanic.

So when Arrieta started off his 2012 season on a dazzling streak of success, I was initially skeptical. After all, Arrieta is 26 years old and he’d shown no sign of putting things together. He was way too wild (11% walk rate) in the past, and even if he were limiting his walks, what were the odds he could keep it up? But then I caught another glimpse of his mid-90 mph fastball and his stellar curveball, and I picked him up in the FanGraphs staff ottoneu league. What can I say, I’m a sucker.

Immediately following this —  of course — Arrieta went into a dark period, and his season line is about what you expected coming into the year. His 6.13 ERA is the second-worst in the majors among all qualified starters, edging out Tim Lincecum by about a third of a run. He hasn’t thrown a pitch at 90% the speed of light, but the end result has been about the same.

And yet, call me crazy. I still believe in Jake Arrieta. Even if the Orioles don’t.

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FanGraphs Library Expansion

If you have dropped by the FanGraphs Library recently, you may have noticed that the place has a bit of a new look. Ben Duronio, Bradley Woodrum, and I have recently finished expanding the Library to include more information, so now there are individual subject headings — with multiple articles under each heading — on the following new areas:

Wins Above Replacement

We’ve always had sections for Offensive Stats, Defensive Stats, Pitching Stats, Win Probability Stats, and Sabermetric Principles, but considering the importance of PITCHF/x and WAR, I’ve always been disappointed that we didn’t have fuller sections on each of them. Now we do, and with all the pages we wrote on each, you should be able to answer almost any question you have on either topic.

Want to know how Pitching WAR is calculated or read the explanation behind why we use FIP as the basis of pitcher evaluation? Curious about the concept of “replacement level”? Want to know what a certain PITCH F/x abbreviation represents? Or how to interpret certain charts or data? We have you covered.

We’ve also added a full section going in-depth on some of the more confusing Business aspects of baseball, like how service time, the luxury tax, and revenue sharing each work. It also includes a section detailing all the changes in the most recent CBA agreement.

As always, feel free to contact me on Twitter if you have any questions. Enjoy!

2012 Organizational Rankings: #10 – Tampa Bay

Jeremy Hellickson and Re-Defining BABIP

There aren’t many mainstream writers out there who are willing to tackle sabermetric concepts with players, so I have to give Marc Topkin from the the Tampa Bay Times a tip of the hat for mentioning BABIP to Jeremy Hellickson. Not only did he mention a sabermetric statistic to a player, but he brought one up that makes Hellickson look bad:

“Yea, I just got lucky on the mound,” Jeremy Hellickson says dryly. “A lot of lucky outs.” […]

“I hear it; it’s funny,” Hellickson said, not quite sure of the acronym. “I thought that’s what we’re supposed to do, let them put it in play and get outs. So I don’t really understand that. When you have a great defense, why not let them do their job? I’m not really a strikeout pitcher; I just get weak contact and let our defense play.”

First of all, I have to agree with Craig Calcaterra on this one: I couldn’t give a rats patootie if Hellickson knows about or understands BABIP. Sabermetrics is a field most helpful to front office personnel and managers, and while some players find it useful, players don’t need be saberists in order to be good players. And anyway, it’s never going to be the successful players that stumble upon sabermetrics; it’s always going to be the borderline players, the ones looking for any sort of possible advantage to help them get ahead. So should I be annoyed that Hellickson is poo-pooing BABIP? No, not in the least. Good on him.

Instead, this article caught my eye for a different reason: it refers to BABIP primarily as a measure of luck. Hellickson had a low BABIP, which therefore meant he was lucky on balls in play last year. Any pitcher with a low BABIP is therefore “lucky”, and any pitcher with a high BABIP is “unlucky”.

This is a common perception about BABIP, and one that used to be in favor among sabermetric circles. Heck, I subscribed to this philosophy three or four years ago, and I used “luck” as a quick way of describing BABIP to the uninitiated. But these days, that’s an outdated mindset and, quite frankly, misleading.

BABIP is one of the most important sabermetric concepts, but it’s also one of the most misunderstood. What does BABIP tell us? What doesn’t it tell us? Let’s explore.

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FanGraphs Library Update

Thanks to all your suggestions earlier this off-season, the FanGraphs Library has now been re-edited and rejuvinated in preparation for the 2012 season. Every stats page has been updated with new context tables — they are not year-specific anymore — and each page has been beefed up with more detailed and accurate information.

— Curious about what the formulas are for xFIP, wRAA, or SIERA? We have those, and many more.

— Wondering what the wOBA weights were for 1990, or maybe 1945? Or even 1900? Got it.

— Where can you find historical FIP constant values? We have those too.

— Need to find the league-average ISO back in 1956? Or league-average HR/FB rate in 2002? You can find links to historical, league-average leaderboards on every statistics page.

— Need a handy context chart for a specific stat that you can copy and paste into a blog article? The new context charts are easy to highlight and copy/paste from setting to setting.

There are more changes planned for the coming months — additions this time, not just edits — so stay tuned.

Glen Perkins Signs Extension with Twins

It doesn’t get talked about very often, but spring training serves a dual purpose for many teams. Not only is it a time to get their players warmed up and ready for the regular season, but it’s also a perfect time for teams and players to finalize contract extensions. Free agent acquisitions are finished for the year and the off-season madness is in the past, so teams have the free time to focus on locking up their players. Coming into today, there had already been seven extensions signed since the beginning of spring training…and the Twins just added number eight:

The Twins have signed left-hander Glen Perkins to a three-year, $10.3MM extension, the team announced. The SFX client was already under contract for $1.55MM in 2012, so the deal covers the 2013-15 seasons. It includes a club option for 2016.  (MLB Trade Rumors)

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Matt Moore Unleashed: What Should We Expect?

The Tampa Bay Rays are notorious about being extra slow and cautious with their pitching prospects, but once those pitching prospects reach the majors, watch out! Contrary to how many teams operate, the Rays rarely put their young starters on a strict innings limit in the majors, and according to GM Andrew Friedman, they’re not about to start with Matt Moore:

Friedman said rookie LHP Matt Moore’s innings will be watched but don’t have to be limited because he’s been “built up in a pretty systematic way” in the minors. (Marc Topkin, Tampa Bay Times)

Moore was ranked the #2 prospect in baseball this morning by Baseball America, which got me thinking: how have top-ranked pitchers fared in the past during their rookie season? If given a full work-load, how do these pitchers typically perform?

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Gary Carter: The World Loses a Smile

I am too young to have followed Gary Carter. I never met him, never read any books about him, and I can’t claim to have any specific connection with him. I knew he was a great ballplayer and somewhat of an iconic figure, but up until yesterday, that’s around where my knowledge stopped and began.

So I’m not about to attempt to write an obituary for Carter; if that’s what you’re looking for, there are numerous touching obits out there. I can’t stop reading them myself, and I recommend you at least read one in remembrance of Carter.

I suppose I could use this space to do a career retrospective. To look at how Carter stacks up against other all-time great player. To celebrate some of the finer moments of his career. Matt Klaassen had one of these earlier today, but for some reason, I’m feeling very un-FanGraphs-y right now.

We spend a lot of time here focusing on facts. Statistics. Data. Scouting reports. Things that can help us better evaluate players and teams, and make judgement calls about how they will do in the future, if they belong in the Hall of Fame, etc etc. We analyse, we parse, we dissect. Whether our motivation is for improving our fantasy baseball skills, becoming a more knowledgeable fan, or gaining a more pure understanding about this childish game, we’re all here searching for a higher Truth.

But on moments like this, statistics get thrown out the window. Heck, baseball gets thrown out the window. And it’s in these sort of moments where I’m reminded why I first started following baseball to begin with.

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Contract Extension Comps for Adam Jones

The Baltimore Orioles recently avoided going to an arbitration hearing by signing Adam Jones to a one year, $6.5 million contract, but there are still rumblings about a long-term deal being in play. According to Ken Rosenthal, the Orioles have started to explore the possibility of signing Jones to a long-term deal, as well they should. Jones currently has one more year of arbitration left before becoming a free agent, and considering that he’s a young +2 to +3 win player with the upside for more, he’s the sort of player the Orioles should be hoping to build around.

Rosenthal reports that Jones wants at least a five-year extension, so that got me curious: what would a five-year extension for Jones look like? Are there any players in a similar situation to him that have signed extensions recently?

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