Today’s chat transcript is now available. Topics include Game 7, Mike Trout trades, and when/how to rebuild.
We’ve all heard an announcer harp on the importance of throwing first pitch strikes. They ramble about the tone of the at bat, the aggressiveness of the hitter, and most importantly – the data. We’ve studied the importance of first pitch strikes for a long time. Nearly 10 years ago, Craig Burley found only eight percent of first pitch strikes were converted into hits during the 2003 season. Meanwhile, the difference between a 1-0 and 0-1 count is about 20 points of average, 90 points of on base percentage, and 40 points of slugging. Based on linear weights, Burley finds the value of a first pitch strike to be 0.07 runs. So, we accept the importance of first pitch strikes. Let’s put a pin in that for now.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have received adequate pitching from their starters. Over 30 games, Angels starters have a 3.87 ERA, 4.04 FIP and 4.01 xFIP. They’re not world beaters by any means – they’re 17th in starter WAR and 11th in RA9-WAR. Adequacy can take you far in the majors, especially when your offense features Mike Trout. The Angels have managed a 15-15 record, and they trail the Oakland Athletics by just 3.5 games.
Now you have two paragraphs – one about the importance of first pitch strikes and one about Angels starters. Can you guess where I’m going with this? Read the rest of this entry »
This spring, the Colorado Rockies made the unusual decision to break camp with six outfielders. If any roster had the right personnel to overload in the outfield, it was the Rockies. Infielders Josh Rutledge, DJ LeMahieu and Charlie Culberson have plenty of utility (Rutledge did not make the club out of spring training). Backup catcher Jordan Pacheco can also play the infield corners, as can Michael Cuddyer. With Justin Morneau an uncertainty entering the season, the club probably planned on using Cuddyer at first base with some regularity. Additionally, Cuddyer, Morneau and Carlos Gonzalez can be considered injury risks. IN FACT, Cuddyer is already on the disabled list.
So we’ve covered why the Rockies could carry six outfielders: utility. But why did they want to carry them?
The Cleveland Indians weren’t supposed to make the playoffs in 2013. They did, briefly, thanks to a 10-game winning streak to end the season. But analysts, pundits and other words for sports bloggers were not impressed enough by the Indians come-from-behind success to predict a return engagement in 2014. Maybe they’re right. As of this writing, Cleveland resides in the basement of the American League Central, but they’re also just two-and-a-half games behind the division-leading Detroit Tigers.
One thing seems certain: Some very smart people are working for Team Cleveland. In addition to their focus on those intangible things we’ve had such a hard time measuring — like manager influence and chemistry — the club has also made some smart decisions about the roster’s composition.
Read the rest of this entry »
Saturday was not the best day for the Yankees. Ivan Nova was shaky throughout his first three starts. The Yankees really needed him to eat his share of innings in preparation for a Vidal Nuno-led bullpen day on Sunday. Instead, Nova got spanked. He lasted just four innings, allowed eight runs, four home runs, and partially tore his UCL. The latter item is the worst of an ugly list. Dellin Betances stretched out to 1.2 innings, burning him for Sunday. Matt Daley threw 1.1 innings and allowed six runs. Rather than burn another reliever, the Yankees turned to Dean Anna.
For those who subscribe to FanGraphs+, you have access to informative blurbs on nearly every major league player’s page. When writing about Brandon McCarthy for FG+, Jason Collette credited him with 80-grade social media presence. McCarthy is one of the good guys; he’s likable and easy to root for on many levels.
McCarthy’s had a weird start to the season. His first outing of the season was a mixed bag. In past seasons, his sinker topped out around 91 mph, but this year he has averaged 93 mph with the pitch. He allowed six hits and one walk in that inaugural outing and stranded only 35.7% of his base runners. OK, that’s some unlucky sequencing. Surely the increased velocity will return positive results in the next few outings. Right?
During his April 5 start, he allowed five fly balls. Three of them left the yard. His most recent turn was more impressive. He allowed one fly ball, which left the park. Add it up and McCarthy looks to have some bad luck dragons on his side. He now leads the league with a 41.7% HR/FB ratio, compared with his career rate of just 9.8%.
Insert generic disclaimer about sample sizes. Remind audience not to read too much into seven games.
Whew. Now that we’re through the disclaimer, let’s reflect on the glory that is one week of baseball. The AL East and AL Central are led by the Tampa Bay Rays and Detroit Tigers. Not surprising. Nor is it a shock to find the Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates sharing the top spot in the NL Central. Then we notice the Seattle Mariners leading the AL West. Cool. The NL West is back in the hands of the San Francisco Giants – at least for now. And in the NL East, the Miami Marlins raced out to an early lead. Let’s look at how they’ve done it.
Brad!!!!! I need your fantasy guidance this afternoon!!! Should I start Yordano Ventura in Detroit? Over/Under an ERA of 3.50?
: Because you have no time to decide, I’ll do this one early.
Yordano was on my short list, he projects to about 1.1 fewer innings than Anibal if you’re able to rework your roster.
: I think Ventura will do fine. Detroit has terrible hitting conditions today, which works in his favor.
: Ok my dog has finished pooping. We can start.
You are not Eno. Please explain
Coming off their first playoff appearance in a thousand years, the Pittsburgh Pirates find themselves in a tough spot. On paper, they’re clearly second-best in their division. A whopping 30 out of 31 of us predicted the St. Louis Cardinals will win the National League Central. We did pick the Pirates to take the second wild card, by a thin margin over the Cincinnati Reds. Our depth charts predict the Pirates to be the sixth-best team in the National League. Per WAR, they’re in a virtual heat with the Atlanta Braves. However, nobody (except me) is taking the Colorado Rockies seriously — so maybe they’re actually predicted to finish fifth.
In any event, it’s clear the Pirates are in a position where every marginal run counts. As it turns out, they have a position that could potentially be improved by many runs if only it weren’t for service time considerations. And no, it’s not first base.
What do we have here? For an explanation of this series, please read this introductory post. As noted in that introduction, the data is a hybrid projection of the ZIPS and Steamer systems with playing time determined through depth charts created by our team of authors. The rankings are based on aggregate projected WAR for each team at a given position. The author writing this post did not move your team down ten spots in order to make you angry. We don’t hate your team. I promise.
Also, keep in mind that these lists are based on rosters as of last week, so weekend transactions are not reflected in the rosters below. In some cases, teams have allocated playing time to different reserves than these depth charts show, but because they’re almost always choosing between near-replacement level players, the differences won’t move the needle much if at all.
Well, we got through six of these things last week and perhaps the most consistent observation was that the Marlins infield is atrocious, but the outfield is here to buck that trend. At least, right field will, as the Marlins are one of five teams that are nearly indistinguishable at the top, followed by seven next-tier groups, and then the rest of the league is probably engaged in some private grumbling.
The graph says there are no superstars here, but I’ll definitely take the over on at least one of the top five posting a six win season.