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COVID-19 Roundup: Players Submit Their Latest Offer to MLB

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

MLBPA Proposes 89-game Season With Full Prorated Salaries, Expanded Playoffs For Two Years

The Major League Baseball Players Association has submitted to ownership a proposal that includes an 89-game 2020 season at the full prorated salaries the two sides agreed to in March, according to multiple reports.

The players’ intended regular season would begin on July 10 and finish on October 11, followed by an expanded playoff field that includes 16 teams — eight from each league — instead of the usual 10. That expanded playoff field would also be used in 2021 under the players’ plan. Tuesday’s proposal also mentions the players providing “broadcast enhancements” throughout the year including in the playoffs, which would seem to include things like wearing microphones on the field during play. Finally, the proposal includes opt-out rights for all players that would allow any player to forgo the season while also forfeiting the year of salary and service time. Players designated as high-risk due to conditions with COVID-19 comorbidity however, or those co-habitating with a high-risk person, could opt out without losing any salary or service time.

Previously, the players had offered a 117-game season with full prorated salaries, along with similar modifications made to the next two postseasons. MLB countered on Monday with a 76-game season that would pay players just 50-75% of their prorated salary. Read the rest of this entry »


The Samsung Lions’ Rotation Has Turned the Tide

If you were one of the enthusiastic baseball fans who got an early start on tuning into ESPN’s first several broadcasts of the Korean Baseball Organization, there’s a good chance you’re already somewhat familiar with the Samsung Lions. The network carried their games four times in their first week of coverage, and the Lions spent a good amount of that time losing. A 4-0 loss to the NC Dinos on KBO Opening Day quickly turned into a three-game sweep, during which the Lions were outscored 16-5. They bounced back with two series wins against the Kia Tigers and Kiwoom Heroes, but that was undone by a stretch of seven losses in eight games, which set the Lions’ record back to 5-12.

The sluggish start was an unwelcome one for an organization that went from winning four straight Korean Series championships from 2011-14 to missing the playoffs entirely in each of the last four seasons. With a 60-83-1 record in 2019, the Lions are coming off the second-worst season by win percentage in the history of the franchise. Fortunately for them, however, the last couple of weeks have seen them trending in a much better direction. They’ve won seven of their last 10 games, including two series victories against the Dinos and Twins — the top two teams in the KBO by record. And the difference in that turnaround has been the team’s starting rotation.

Through the Lions’ first 17 games, they allowed 106 runs, the second-highest total in the KBO. During their 7-3 run, they’ve allowed just 43 — the second-fewest in that time frame. That’s a significant improvement, and the team’s starters have been the driving force behind it. In fact, the rotation was already beginning to turn the corner two full weeks ago. Here’s a breakdown of the team’s starter and reliever splits from the first 13 games, compared to their last 14:

Samsung Lions SP/RP Splits
Game Range Starter ERA Bullpen ERA
1-13 6.75 3.67
14-27 2.95 5.85

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COVID-19 Roundup: A Dark Week For Minor Leaguers

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

Some Minor Leaguers Have Pay Extended, While Others Still Await Word

With the end of the month rapidly approaching, major league baseball teams are running into a deadline of sorts for whether or not they will continue to pay minor league players in the midst of what is all but certain to be a cancelled MiLB season. One of the first teams to announce their decision on this matter was the Oakland A’s, and as my colleague Dan Szymborski discussed in his Wednesday roundup, the news wasn’t positive — A’s minor leaguers will not receive their $400-per-week stipends after May 31. That set a rather ominous tone, but fortunately, many teams in the past 48 hours have come forward with renewed guarantees to their prospects. Here’s a table of what we know about which teams have promised future stipends to minor leaguers, and for how long.

Breakdown of Pay Commitments to Minor Leaguers
Team Paid through
Angels May 31
Astros May 31
Athletics May 31
Blue Jays May 31
Braves June 30
Brewers June 30
Cardinals June 30
Cubs June 30
Diamondbacks June 30
Dodgers June 30
Giants June 30
Indians May 31
Mariners August 30
Marlins August 30
Mets June 30
Nationals May 31
Orioles June 30
Padres August 30
Phillies June 30
Pirates May 31
Rangers June 30
Rays June 30
Red Sox May 31
Reds May 31
Rockies May 31
Royals May 31
Tigers May 31
Twins May 31
White Sox June 30
Yankees May 31

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Chang-mo Koo Is Always Ahead

Modern baseball writers are a somewhat spoiled bunch. If you’re writing a story about an MLB player, you have seemingly countless resources at your disposal to gather more statistics than you might know what to do with. For example, say that I wanted to write about Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Shane Bieber. His player page on this site lists any standard or advanced metric I could want, along with info on things like how hard he throws his fastball and how often opponents chase his pitches out of the zone. If I see he struck out 259 batters in 2019, and want to know how many other pitchers in the live ball era struck out at least 250 batters in just their second big league season, I can use Baseball-Reference’s Play Index to find the answer. If I want to get more specific, and learn how many times Bieber struck out a right-handed hitter with a breaking ball out of the zone, Baseball Savant’s search feature has me covered there too.

When it comes to writing about foreign professional leagues, however, the wealth of information isn’t quite so grand for the American writer. Sites like MyKBO.net and Statiz are great resources, and our KBO leaderboards tell us a lot of great stuff — like the fact that NC Dinos left-hander Chang-mo Koo 구창모 leads all pitchers in both ERA and FIP after four starts – but if you want to dig into why or how he’s doing that, we don’t have the pitch-by-pitch data to identify things like velocity, spin rate, or how batters are performing against individual offerings. That hasn’t diminished my curiosity about Koo, though, so I used the tools available to me — Twitch and ESPN archives of game broadcasts, a notepad, and my own two eyes — to track his pitches over his first four starts, in the hope that doing so would reveal something interesting. Fortunately, both for myself and my editor who enjoys for me to have story ideas, it did. Read the rest of this entry »


COVID-19 Roundup: Players, Executives, Experts Weigh in on Health Protocols

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

MLB’s Extensive List of Health and Safety Protocols Is Being Dissected

Last Saturday, a 67-page document laying out all of the health and safety measures considered necessary for a 2020 major league season was reported by The Athletic. In the week since, voices from inside baseball as well as the public health and epidemiology fields have weighed in on what the proposal means, where it goes too far, and where it falls short.

Beginning with medical experts — since they really are the most important voice here — the perspective seems to be that MLB’s proposal is extensive and thoughtful, but the actual execution of it will be challenging. That was the sentiment communicated by Andy McCullough and Marc Carig in a story for The Athletic that ran Thursday. Part of the challenge could be ensuring that measures are taken as seriously as they should be for as long as possible. If MLB’s protocols are effective, it will mean the virus isn’t spreading throughout clubhouses. That will make the threat seem less dangerous, which could lead to people letting their guard down and no longer following the rules as closely.

Troublingly, the steps toward that false sense of security has already begun. In a report by ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, players openly wondered why so many restrictions would be necessary in an environment where everyone has tested negative for the virus. As doctors have warned, however, false negatives exist, and allowing everyone to proceed with life as normal would be very risky regardless of test results. Read the rest of this entry »


COVID-19 Roundup: MLB Organizes Health Protocols for 2020 Season

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

MLB’s COVID-19 Health and Safety Guidelines Laid Out In 67-Page Document

On Saturday, Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic obtained a lengthy document that meticulously outlines the health and safety measures MLB considers key to holding a 2020 season. Those protocols cover everything from how the game will be played on the field to what the behavior of players and essential team employees should look like away from the ballpark, and serve as yet another glimpse into just how physically and mentally challenging it will be to play baseball in the middle of a global pandemic.

One can read the details of the proposal as a bulleted list in Rosenthal and Drellich’s report, or absorb them in the day-in-the-life example Jeff Passan worked out at ESPN. Both reports paint an image of baseball in 2020 in which the reminders of what’s currently happening in the world are constant, unrelenting, and bleak. During games, non-playing personnel must wear masks in the dugout and may be relegated to the stadium seats, where they must sit at least four seats apart from and two rows behind each other. Once a baseball has been put in play and touched by multiple players, it’ll be tossed aside and replaced with a new one. Between pitches, players are encouraged to be as distanced from one another as possible. Read the rest of this entry »


Buried in the LG Twins’ Lineup, a Korean Baseball Great

On the mound is Ricardo Pinto. He’s 26 years old. At 6-feet and 195 pounds, he has a muscular build that immediately makes him look like an athlete. He’s struggling through this particular appearance, thanks to command issues and some iffy defense behind him, but he hasn’t really been hit hard. His low-to-mid 90s heat is on the faster side of what Korean Baseball Organization hitters typically see, and he leans on it heavily.

At the plate, with the bases loaded and two outs, is Yong Taik Park 박용택. He’s 41 years old. He wears glasses in the batter’s box. As he awaits each pitch, he stands with his front foot resting nearly on the edge of the box behind him. At 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, he doesn’t differ dramatically from Pinto in size, but his baggier uniform makes him look tall and thin.

Pinto begins his violent delivery, and Park brings his front foot square with the plate. As the ball approaches, he twitches it slightly, perhaps as a way to subtly maintain his timing. Finally, at the last moment, his bat explodes through the baseball as Park uncorks his whole body to turn on a pitch high and tight. It’s a gorgeous left-handed swing, and it produces a bases-clearing double.

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COVID-19 Roundup: MLB’s Plans Begin to Take Shape

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

MLB To Communicate Return Plans Early This Week

Major League Baseball owners and commissioner Rob Manfred will convene over a conference call Monday to approve plans for the league’s return, according to a report by Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic. If approved, a proposal will be passed on to the players’ union on Tuesday.

The details of the proposal, Rosenthal says, are likely to address many of the questions that have been batted around in the public sphere over the last few weeks. Spring training would get rebooted for three weeks in mid-June, setting up a regular season that begins in early July and lasts between 78 and 82 games. Teams would open in their home ball parks where possible, and play regionalized schedules that include only teams in their typical divisions and those in opposite league’s corresponding division (AL East teams would face AL and NL East teams, and so on). Teams whose home cities are not containing the virus at the level the league requires could temporarily locate to their spring training sites. Rosters could be expanded to include 45 to 50 players.

This proposal would also expand the playoffs from five to seven teams in each league. Each No. 1 seed would get a first round bye, while the other two division winners and the top Wild Card team would host the three other Wild Card teams in a best-of-three Wild Card round. Read the rest of this entry »


COVID-19 Roundup: Indians Give Target Return Date to Players

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

Cleveland Tells Players to Prepare For Season To Start July 1

Speaking to players and other members of their organization via Zoom, officials with the Cleveland Indians provided a target date of July 1 for the start of MLB’s regular season, according to a report by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. According to the story, that July start date would follow a three-week “Spring Training” period beginning around June 10. Both of these dates are “fully expected to change,” but are supposed to act as placeholders for members of the organization as they plan for what this season could have in store.

While this is just one team, these dates mirror those communicated in a somewhat controversial tweet sent by former major league infielder Trevor Plouffe on Monday. Because it was sent by a former nine-year big league veteran, the tweet gained some steam, even getting corroborated by Plouffe’s former teammate Phil Hughes. Meanwhile, some established MLB reporters such as The Athletic’s Keith Law disputed the reports, saying no date has been proposed. Read the rest of this entry »


The Wait Is Over in the KBO

Even the first home run of the NC Dinos’ season turned out to be an exercise in waiting.

It had been more than five weeks since the Korean Baseball Organization’s regular season was originally scheduled to begin, and nearly eight weeks since sports across North America came to a near-uniform halt in response to the accelerating spread of COVID-19. Then, just as ESPN was preparing to broadcast the KBO season-opener between the Dinos and the Samsung Lions, rain intervened, delaying the game’s start by about 30 minutes.

Finally, just before 2:30 AM on the east coast of the United States, viewing audiences got their first spark — a towering fly ball down the right field line in the top of the fourth inning off the bat of Na Sung-Bum, disappearing somewhere over the foul pole. But ESPN commentators Karl Ravech and Eduardo Perez, calling the game on a remote feed from their own homes, struggled to find the ball, warily calling a home run only as Na began to circle the bases. A replay review ensued and lasted for several minutes, with a tricky camera angle seeming to show the ball flying directly over the pole.

After several moments, the homer was confirmed. It was the first run scored in a nationally televised regular season baseball game this year, and it set the Dinos on a path to their 4-0 victory over the Lions.

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