Ben Clemens FanGraphs Chat – 2/17/2020

1:59

Ben Clemens: Hey everyone, and welcome to the chat. There’s a lot of baseball going on, even if you ignore the Astros drama.

2:00

Ben Clemens: Also, we can talk presidents — though to keep politics out of it, let’s limit to Presidents from before WW2. That way you can be assured of my least informed and most ridiculous takes.

2:00

Ben Clemens: And with that, let’s go.

2:00

Roast Turkey Stearnes: We know about the Astros, Red Sox and (maybe) Yankees running sign-stealing schemes so far.  How many teams do you think do it in some (borderline or illegal) way, and how much of the anger at the Astros is based on them seemingly have simply done it better than everyone else?

2:00

Ben Clemens: I think almost every team is doing *something*, though way more along the lines of the Red Sox ‘try to learn signs, then teach the batters the signs sow hen they get to second it works.’

2:01

Ben Clemens: I think the reason there’s been so much issue with the Astros is a combination of 1) they went further in this scheme than most/all 2)they were successful doing it 3)they ruffled a lot of feathers across baseball over the past few years by consistently insisting they just did everything better than everyone else and had a secret sauce

2:01

Ben Clemens: When you’re bragging about your methods and systems of optimizing baseball

2:02

Ben Clemens: And it turns out that some of it is just ‘oh we stole signs’

2:02

Ben Clemens: People get annoyed

2:02

Jerome: Seems very unlikely at this point that Jorge Mateo makes A’s roster. He’s out of options and was given a 45 FV last year by Kiley and Eric, which means it’s unlikely he would go thorugh waivers unclaimed. If you were the A’s, would you trade him now to minimize the downside risk of their leverage decreasing (or him playing bad) as spring progresses, or o you hold, hope he plays well, thinking that his value probbaly wont decrease during spring?

2:03

Ben Clemens: I think they have to hold onto him through Spring Training. I’m not saying he’s likely to beat out Barreto or Kemp (or Neuse), but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.

2:04

Ben Clemens: And I think most teams will be happy to pick up someone like Mateo at the end of Spring Training, just as much as they would be at the start. I don’t think they’d necessarily get a lot for him, but I don’ see why the return would go down during ST unless he gets hurt.

2:04

tomerafan: Thoughts on the minor league pay increase?  Article coming?

2:04

Ben Clemens: Yes indeed, Rian Watt is writint about it.

2:05

James: It feels like the electronic strike zone is inevitable, and coming sooner than I think a lot of us expected. Obviously there will be a lot of repercussions we can’t yet envision, but specifically, how do you think this will affect players on the far edges of framing? For instance, is Austin hedges going to be out of the league? Is Zack Collins a legitimate catcher?

2:05

Ben Clemens: Yeah it’s going to be a really big deal. Austin Hedges with no framing is probably not a major leaguer.

2:05

Ben Clemens: I’m less sure about Collins, because it’s not as though the only concerns around his catching were framing — there’s also the injury risk from the wear and tear, it’s tough for some people to catch every day and not get beaten up.

2:06

Ben Clemens: Eric talked about this a decent amount in the podcast he did with Meg on the Top 120 list, but he’s been bumping good-hit bad-receive catchers up the list a bit

2:06

CT: Am I crazy to think Mercado can hit .285 with 15 HRs and 30 SBs?

2:08

Ben Clemens: I would say you’re optimistic if you think that it’s his median outcome. That’s around the average he’s topped out at in the minors, and he hit 15 homers this year but if you look at his swing, it’s not exactly a home run swing.

2:08

Ben Clemens: When I looked at estimating HR/FB rates based on distribution of exit velocity, he stacked up towards the bottom of the league.

2:09

Ben Clemens: He could get there via playing time, of course — Steamer has him projected for 15 in 600 PA

2:09

Ben Clemens: vs. his 15 in 482 pa last year.

2:09

Ben Clemens: But they also have him at .256, soooo

2:09

Conley: On the pitcher/batter individual player stats, what do the abbreviations mean for each stat like for example is FA fastball?

2:09

Ben Clemens: So Pitch Info uses this classification:

2:10

Ben Clemens: FA=four-seam, FC = cutter, FS = splitter, SI=two-seam/sinker

2:10

Ben Clemens: And then the rest are kind of whta you think: CH= changeup, SL = slider, CU=curve

2:10

Brood550: Can Arraez duplicate last year’s Average with more pop?

2:11

Ben Clemens: Can? sure. Is it anywhere near likely? I really don’t think so. He’s never really hit for much power, so the path to more extra base hits is via doubles, I think.

2:12

Ben Clemens: That said, I haven’t done a deep dive on him, and if something changes in his swing to unlock power, then maybe? it’s tough though b/c so much of his value comes from how long he keeps the ball in the zone, how rarely he whiffs

2:13

Gil: I saw that B-P seems to be pretty bullish on the Mets chances to win the division while Fangraph sides with the Nats. Who do you think takes the division? As a Mets fan, it feels like the team is betting mostly on the bullpen to improve (which was the same wish last year) and it seems like that has blown up in the team’s face before.

2:13

Ben Clemens: I’m bullish on the Mets. We have them reallllllly close, to be fair, like 5 points of winning percentage close.

2:15

Ben Clemens: I think it kind of comes down to how you feel about the Nats’ old-guy depth against the Mets’ thin-ish roster.

2:15

Ben Clemens: Like if you think that Kendrick + Cabrera + Zimmerman are going to provide a ton of useful plate appearances

2:15

Ben Clemens: Then the Nats’ depth really matters.

2:15

Ben Franklin: thanks for talking about framers today…..#respect.

2:16

See! You! Later!: Grade my fantasy team name: “Max Scher, Zer” (from Hamilton the musical)

2:16

Ben Clemens: I think I’d go with “Literally what I said was ‘Yeah, Scher Zer'” from Super Troopers

2:16

Ben Clemens: but I like yours too

2:16

The Ghost of Wade Boggs: If you were going to construct a baseball team made up of presidents, who would you pick and where would you play them, and why?

2:17

Ben Clemens: Hm, I don’t know a ton about presidential athleticism. If you’re getting them at the age they were when they became president, which makes sense, let’s see:

2:17

Ben Clemens: I’d want Ford, W Bush, Obama, Teddy Roosevelt, and Kennedy for sure

2:17

Ben Clemens: Combination of age and athleticism

2:18

Ben Clemens: Maybe James Madison as an Eddie Gaedel style pinch hitter

2:18

Ben Clemens: Lincoln might be a great pitcher, he was tall.

2:18

Ben Clemens: That’s all I have off the top of my head.

2:18

Dave: Lincoln pitches, Teddy at C, Washington 1B and Ford CF

2:18

Yasiel Puig: Any hope for me to sign before the season starts?

2:19

Ben Clemens: Oh for sure. With no comp pick attached, this isn’t a wait for the draft thing. I think something’s going to pan out, even if it’s just a pillow contract, before too long.

2:20

Ben Clemens: I haven’t really heard rumblings of what’s keeping Puig unsigned, but presumably there’s a money disconnect. There are plenty of teams who would be improved by having Puig as their third outfielder if the terms were right.

2:20

PartyGuy69: Did you see John Henry’s statement released today about the Betts trade? People are still up in arms, but I thought it was reasonable. Seems like people are just going to be upset about moving a generational talent no matter what.

2:20

Derek: Any thoughts on John Henry’s “letter to Red Sox fans” he put out there? Seems incredibly tone-deaf and more like pouring fuel on the fire than anything else…

2:20

Ben Clemens: So

2:20

Ben Clemens: I didn’t find the statement particularly compelling, personally.

2:21

Ben Clemens: The whole ‘there is a cost to losing a player to free agency’

2:21

Ben Clemens: What does that mean?

2:21

Ben Clemens: Like, you no longer get the player at a discount rate?

2:21

Ben Clemens: Tough, man, I’m sad for you.

2:22

Ben Clemens: But I think it’s a statement that you can read whatever you’d like into.

2:22

Ben Clemens: If you think the Red Sox weren’t competing anyway this year, then you’ll like it. If you think they’re blowing up a good team for Alex Verdugo and some dollars, you won’t like it.

2:22

Ben Clemens: I doubt it’s done much to change people’s minds, and it was a divisive trade obviously

2:23

Campbell: Who are the Brewers top-5 starters right now?

2:23

Ben Clemens: Sadly I’m sixth on the depth chart :(.

2:23

Ben Clemens: No, uh, Woodruff Lindblom and Lauer I thikn are locks

2:24

Ben Clemens: Woodruff b/c he’s the best, the other two because of the Brewers going out to acquire them this offseason.

2:24

Ben Clemens: After that, I really like Adrian Houser.

2:25

Ben Clemens: Risky, but I think he has a ton of upside

2:25

Ben Clemens: And then they’ll give Peralta and Burnes looks, but I think Burnes’ just awful 2019 will probably leave them a little gunshy

2:26

Ben Clemens: I see that we have Brett Anderson listed as the fifth starter, but I’m skeptical he’ll hold up. And Shelby Miller is a sneaky guess for fifth starter.

2:26

New Bork: Washington also very tall. W and Trump were baseball players in their youth

2:26

Ben Clemens: I’ve been mostly trying to stay away from people who were old when they became president. But yeah W would be my second pick after Ford.

2:26

Eric: What about Houser?

2:26

Ben Clemens: Yeah I really like him.

2:27

Ben Clemens: He’s someone I’ve been meaning to sit down and write about, I think there’s just really a lot there. I think his pitch mix is kinda weird, b/c who throws four pitches and still throws 2/3 fastballs?

2:28

Ben Clemens: But I think there’s just a ton to work with and that if he can decide which fastball he wants to throw, and which secondary to pair with it, you could see a big step forward quickly.

2:28

6’11” Bottom: Gun to your head, highest upside between Spencer Howard and Grayson Rodriguez?

2:28

Ben Clemens: Probably I would be too afraid to pick

2:28

Ben Clemens: What with the gun to my head.

2:29

Ben Clemens: But, uh, Rodriguez?

2:30

Ben Clemens: Younger, bigger frame, also I’m mainly guessing?

2:30

Safety Stegosaurus: Which board game would you most want to see played where the players are all former presidents?

2:30

Ben Clemens: Diplomacy

2:30

PartyGuy69: Regarding the actual Red Sox baseball team as constructed: what in the hell are they going to do with that rotation? Sale may be delayed to start the year and outside of ERod, there’s no one they can really bank on. They don’t even have a real fifth starter right now! Velazquez? Johnson? Opener/BP games every 5th? Yikes.

2:31

Ben Clemens: Yeah haha uh, David Price would be pretty useful right now.

2:31

Ben Clemens: I think they’ll probably sign a bulk fifth starter type guy in spring training.

2:31

Ben Clemens: Maybe Andrew Cashner??

2:31

Ben Clemens: Kind of like the Yankees did with Gio last year, though they ended up not using him

2:31

Ben Clemens: (probably not Cashner, I just like suggesting reunions)

2:32

Ben Clemens: But if Sale’s not ready, it’s thinnnnnnnn

2:32

Alex Wood: Where do you think I will slot in for the Dodgers rotation?

2:32

Ben Clemens: It’s going to depend a lot on which Alex Wood they get.

2:32

Ben Clemens: I wrote about him earlier this offseason:

2:32

Ben Clemens: And I pretty much stick to what I said there.

2:33

Ben Clemens: Wood’s peak is suuuuper high, though he’s not particularly likely to reach it

2:33

Ben Clemens: For a team like the Dodgers, getting him and Nelson and just hoping something clicks (Treinen too really) seems like a great idea.

2:33

Ben Clemens: But most likely outcome? Part of the rotating gang of Urias, may, Stripling, Gonsolin

2:34

Guest: Julio Urias is gonna start how many games this year?

2:35

Ben Clemens: Related: we have him at 23 starts and mainly a starter. That sounds right ot me, if maybe a few games high

2:35

Ben Clemens: I think that right now he’s clearly a step ahead of Wood for the fourth starter spot. And boy do they have a lot of lefties. But if Wood and May (or Wood and Gonsolin or any combo of two pitchers) are just on fire, they’ve shown that they’re happy to move Urias back to the pen

2:35

Ben Clemens: So there’s relief risk for sure.

2:36

Campbell: “Have no fear of perfection. You’ll never reach it.” -Salvador Dali, talking to Alex Wood

2:36

PartyGuy69: You may have covered this in previous chats, but what are your favorite board games for two people to play? Wife and I want to get into them but not sure where to start.

2:36

Ben Clemens: Oh sure. Depends if you want a co-op or competitive game. I think Seven Wonders Duel is awesome for competitive, as is Asante (or Jaipur, they’re very similar)

2:37

Ben Clemens: Code Names Duet and Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective are probably the games my wife and I play most on the co-op side.

2:37

cavebird: H.W. Bush played first base in college; he’s got to be in the lineup.

2:37

Ben Clemens: Didn’t know this. Add him.

2:37

Campbell: Where would a rotation of: Urias-May-Gonsolin-Stripling-Wood rank in the NL on their own?

2:37

Ben Clemens: Oh man. That rotation would have SO MUCH risk

2:38

Ben Clemens: Between Wood and Urias’s injury history and May still being young enough that you’d want to limit innings.

2:38

Ben Clemens: But let’s see, I’d take the Nats, Mets, Reds over them for sure

2:38

Ben Clemens: Cubs

2:38

Ben Clemens: Braves

2:39

Ben Clemens: And then I think they’d be somewhere int he next tier

2:39

Ben Clemens: Like Cardinals rotation? it’s close. Padres?

2:39

Ben Clemens: Maybe after the Cardinals and Padres, but before the Phillies?

2:39

Ben Clemens: Somewhere in that level I think.

2:39

Ben Clemens: But with REAL downside risk.

2:39

Derek: I know we’ve kind of settled into this environment of super teams and tankers, so the skids have kind of been greased for this in the last few years, but holy cow the Dodgers are LOADED.

2:40

Ben Clemens: These Dodgers are ridiculous. I tihnk the NL West is probably too good for them to win somehting stupid like 120 games.

2:40

Ben Clemens: But their taxi squad would probably win the NL West.

2:40

Kraken: For speculative saves, rank Karinchak, Clase, Nick Anderson…..Thanks!

2:40

Ben Clemens: I haven’t read enough about the Karinchak/Clase situation to know what’s going on there.

2:41

Ben Clemens: Which means I mainly default to Jason and Roster Resource.

2:41

Ben Clemens: And he has Clase ahead of Karinchak, but close

2:41

Ben Clemens: That makes sense to me

2:41

Ben Clemens: Karinchak’s command is always a question mark, enough so that I don’t mind having him behind Clase even though Clase is a wild card still.

2:42

Ben Clemens: I guess my point is: Nick Anderson please.

2:42

Ben Clemens: He might actually just be the closer now?

2:42

Ben Clemens: Tampa spreads it out, of course

2:42

Ben Clemens: But he’s probably the best reliever in a loaded pen for a team that will get a lot of saves.

2:43

Bay Area Resident: What are the chances that the A’s win the AL West?

2:43

Ben Clemens: Missed this one earlier, but I do like A’s questions. I tihnk they’re less than 10% to win the West, because the Angels are nipping at their heels (or maybe they’re nipping at the Angels’ heels? it’s close)

2:44

Ben Clemens: And the Astros should still be big favorites

2:44

Ben Clemens: They cheated, that’s for sure,b ut that doesn’t mean they’re not full of great players.

2:44

NotGraphs Revivalist: Hey Ben, what’s your outlook on Max Fried in 2020? Noticed Steamer’s FIP projection on him is very similar to Flaherty, Syndergaard, Kershaw, and Clevinger, and he had a really nice second half

2:45

Ben Clemens: Love Fried. Probably not quite to the level of Flaherty, who I’m most bullish on of the pitchers you listed, but solidly in the next tier.

2:46

Ben Clemens: And I definitely like him more than Soroka, though I’m not sure thats a popular opinion.

2:46

I am the Walrus: Did the inclusion of Price and $15M get the Bosox more, less or the same return than if they didn’t include him at all?

2:46

Ben Clemens: I don’t know! I think I’d pay more?

2:47

Ben Clemens: Like if my team signed Price to a 3/48 deal right now I’d be sooooo in

2:47

Ben Clemens: But then it kind of feels like they got zero or negative for him?

2:47

Ben Clemens: It’s truly baffling

2:47

Ben Clemens: And an underratedly weird part of the trade.

2:47

Guest: Your take on information asymetry during spring training vs. the regular season.  That is, teams know their own players more than their competitors during spring training. What are the impacts on dealing the player?

2:48

Ben Clemens: I think in the days before pervasive data scouting and cameras and stuff, this might have been moe of a big deal?

2:48

Ben Clemens: Might be more of a question for Eric to be honest.

2:48

PartyGuy69: Am I the only one who finds it strange that Vlad Jr now seems to be a secondary thought for many? He was a mega world class prospect this time last year, was merely decent as a young rookie, and now it’s borderline crickets on the kid. Have we just been spoiled by the absurd rookie seasons we’ve recently experienced to a point that we’ve become dismissive of those who don’t immediately explode? Seems harsh.

2:48

Ben Clemens: That is 100% what happened, and it’s crazy.

2:49

Ben Clemens: Not everyone is Soto and Acuna.

2:49

Ben Clemens: His ‘bad season’ wasn’t even that bad (offensively)

2:50

Ben Clemens: like, Steamer projects him for a 127 wRC+, ZiPS for a 125 OPS+

2:50

Ben Clemens: That’s an elite hitting third baseman. Now the defense?

2:50

Ben Clemens: A yikes a

2:50

Everyone: I am Soto and Acuna

2:50

Dave: What are the chances Darvish is lost again this season?

2:52

Ben Clemens: I don’t find it all that likely. I thought that his struggles last year were overblown; he had this weird combination of walk rates that weren’t really supported by peripherals (combination of getting squeezed on calls and batters happening to foul off a lot of balls late in counts rather than early)

2:52

Ben Clemens: And then also just tremendously bad luck on contact.

2:52

Ben Clemens: So I was a believer even when he was bad, and then he got a LOT better

2:52

Derek: Do you play fantasy baseball, Ben? Seems like kind of a mixed bag among FanGraphs writers whether they do or not.

2:52

Ben Clemens: I didn’t last year but I’m going to this year.

2:53

Ben Clemens: I’ve been an on and off player throughout my life, and trending towards playing more.

2:53

Ben Clemens: I kind of think that given how much I’m reading and looking at it, and how much I like building projection systems and su ch

2:53

Ben Clemens: I might as well

2:53

Derek: Yu Darvish was like other-worldly good down the stretch last season! Seems like he “figured things out” around the all-star break.

2:54

Ben Clemens: Yeah, I pretty much agree with that, though I’d differ by saying that he figured it out even earlier than the All Star break

2:54

John: Somone earlier in the hour brought up the Yankees as a team that maybe was being looked into (in addition to the Astros and Red Sox who we know already were). Are there actually any whispers that they (or the Brewers, Dodgers) had been looked into or just people throwing stuff out there?

2:55

Ben Clemens: I haven’t seen any confirmation of the Yankees being investigated, but it comes down to the fact that they’ve already been disciplined for it and that Beltran played there for a while

2:55

The Ghost of Wade Boggs: I’d say Grover Cleveland should merit some consideration for the president team, assuming he can pitch like Grover Cleveland Alexander

2:55

Ben Clemens: I’m having a side conversation with my wife and dad right now about presidents

2:55

Ben Clemens: And I inadvertently called the President Grover Cleveland Alexander

2:56

Dan: Is there a way to see how someone is predicted to play assuming they trough trades or injuries to the presumptive starter become their teams starter? Multiplying predictions by 2 or 3 or whatever seems a poor workaround.

2:56

Ben Clemens: You might have to ask Dan about this one. The projection systems should have the correct platoon splits and pinch hit penalties and stuff

2:57

Ben Clemens: but they aren’t exposed

2:57

Ben Clemens: One thing you can do is manually do your own de-platooning

2:57

Ben Clemens: Like, estimate the % of time the player you’re looking at would have the platoon edge in his current situation

2:57

Ben Clemens: Compare to what they’d have if they were an every day starter

2:58

Ben Clemens: And then water down their stats based on that.

2:58

Ben Clemens: A good rule of thumb is that a lefty will have about a 1.08x advantage againstn a right-handed pitcher

2:58

Ben Clemens: And a righty will have a 1.05x advantage against a left-handed pitcher

2:58

Ben Clemens: Luckily, you can probably just ignore people’s actual numbers and use those estimates, because it takes forever for platoon data to be meaningful (for batters)

2:59

Derek: Wait so we talked about which presidents would be good baseball players, but… Which baseball players would be good presidents? (I submit Mike Trout, because obviously.)

2:59

Ben Clemens: Sean Casey was nicknamed the Mayor, so I’d throw him on the list.

2:59

Ben Clemens: (I think it was him? Been a while since I’ve thought about him)

3:00

Ben Clemens: I’m not sold on Trout. He’s too into the weather.

3:00

Ben Clemens: What about Fernando Perez? I’ve loved hearing him talk when he’s on podcasts, he’s a great writer, generally seems very likeable.

3:00

The Ghost of Wade Boggs: Jim Bunning was a senator, so possibly him

3:00

Dave: If Trout is president and he uses a sharpie on a map, atleast it’ll be accurate?

3:01

Ben Clemens: Trout should just run NOAA

3:01

Also Ben: Any idea why righty hitters have a slightly smaller average platoon advantage than lefty hitters? Is it just…physics?

3:01

Ben Clemens: Don’t think it’s physics, though I can’t be sure. The Book speculated about this, and one of their reasons was that the population of right-handed pitchers was too large

3:01

Ben Clemens: Artificially, because they get the platoon advantage more often

3:02

Ben Clemens: So the average talent level of righty pitchers is lwoer than that of lefties.

3:02

Ben Clemens: True talent, ex-platoon

3:02

Ben Clemens: But I havent really seen a study that could confirm that.

3:02

Johnny5Alive: I know just last season the mets felt like the dodgers “knew what they were going to throw”

3:03

Ben Clemens: Yeah look you can’t take baseball players at their word on this stuff all the time, they are very defensive and assume people are trying to steal from them

3:03

Ben Clemens: Because that’s the best way to keep people from doing it

3:04

Ben Clemens: But I haven’t investigated that specific allegation enough to know.

3:04

Ben Clemens: My guess is that MLB is now grudgingly investigating all of these so that they don’ get blindsided by a media revelation again

3:04

Darragh: For the platoon difference, wouldn’t a contributing factor just be that lefty hitters are more accustomed to righty pitchers than the righty hitters are to lefty pitchers? Most pitchers are righties, meaning batters get accustomed to seeing the ball come from that slot.

3:04

Ben Clemens: Another good reason too!

3:05

Tatis Jr.: Can I strap the Padres to my back and carry them to a second place NL West finish?

3:05

Ben Clemens: Yes for sure. Though I think Machado and Pham will be doing some of the carrying too.

3:05

Matt: Bryce Harper is insanely rich, has lived in Washington DC and likes to drape himself with American flag paraphernalia. What other qualifications does one need to become president?

3:05

Ben Clemens: Psh, you think living in DC is a qualification?

3:05

Ben Clemens: But hm, maybe. He’s charismatic which seems like a plus.

3:06

Ben Clemens: Great in press conferences.

3:06

Ben Clemens: “That’s a clown question, bro” is an all time line.

3:06

Ben Clemens: Yeah put Harper in the mi.

3:06

The Ghost of Wade Boggs: I’d say Grover Cleveland Alexander should merit consideration for president, assuming he can policy like Grover Cleveland

3:06

SpaceMan: What’s up with Brock Holt? Do you think he’ll be signed soon? Seems like a good utility guy.

3:07

Ben Clemens: When I did my biggest holes on each contender series, I kept wanting to suggest a team sign Brock Holt to cover their problem

3:07

Ben Clemens: I eventually had to redo some of them because I said like ten teams should sign him and it got stupid

3:07

Ben Clemens: So yes, I don’t get it. The Cardinals in particular should be calling him.

3:07

TC: who do you think has a better 2020 … Manae or Stroman?

3:08

Ben Clemens: I’ll take Stroman.

3:08

Ben Clemens: Little skeptical of Manaea unless his velo comes all the way back

3:09

Ben Clemens: It’s weird like, I think that I at least naturally think of Manaea as better than he is b/c he threw a no hitter and then got hurt

3:09

Ben Clemens: And I think, man, if he could just have kept pitching

3:09

Ben Clemens: But it’s not as though he was particularly insane even in the no hitter season

3:09

Dave: So, righties make up the vast majority of the population. So intitially, the vast majority of the players bat and throw right handed.  However, because of the platoon advantage, leftie players are given preference and as you rise up in levels, lefties become a greater percentage of the total pool of players.    So in order to succeed and advance at the lower levels, righties need to be able to handle other righties.  No one really gets tested in a meaningful way against lefties until the highest levels

3:10

Ben Clemens: Kind of a combination of the two above explanations.

3:10

Ben Clemens: It’s totally reasonable that lefties have a bigger ‘natural’ platoon advantage for weird selection reasons, though

3:10

Ben Clemens: Is the point

3:11

Matt: If you could (had to?) have one Pirates starting pitcher on your team for 2020, who would you take?

3:11

Ben Clemens: Musgrove

3:11

Ben Clemens: I’ll have an article about him out tomorrow actually

3:11

Ben Clemens: Bigggggg fan

3:11

Ben Clemens: I’d take Keller next, though

3:12

Ben Clemens: I like their rotation quite a bit actually. If Archer is good again, at least.

3:12

Ben Clemens: It’s the hitters that are the problem.

3:12

Ben Clemens: Someone asked above about Josh Bell, and I still buy in, even though his second half was gross

3:12

Ben Clemens: But Bell, Reynolds, … Frazier…?

3:12

Ben Clemens: It gets thin fast

3:12

Alex: Do you think that by season’s end, we end up learning the true story regarding the buzzer allegations?

3:12

Ben Clemens: Nah

3:13

Ben Clemens: I don’t think I believe they used buzzers. I’m unsure.

3:13

Ben Clemens: But even if they did, I don’ think we’ll find out.

3:13

Matt: Buy Bell enough that the Pirates should keep him, or should he be Cherington’s next trade chip?

3:13

Ben Clemens: Ugh. Probably trade?

3:14

Ben Clemens: Nah, you know what, keep

3:14

Ben Clemens: I don’t think his profile is super valuable in trade generally

3:14

Ben Clemens: So unless someone bowls them over

3:14

Ben Clemens: I think they should keep him and hope he goes nova. The tools are there.

3:14

Alex: There are an increasing amount of teams that are on the record saying they asked the league to investigate the Astros, yet nothing transpired until Fiers came out. Do you know if anybody has Manfred why the league seemingly did nothing until that point?

3:15

Ben Clemens: I don’t want to wildly speculate

3:15

Ben Clemens: BUT I STILL WILL

3:15

Ben Clemens: C’mon, they hoped it would go away

3:16

Ben Clemens: This story is SO BAD for baseball

3:16

Ben Clemens: I’m sure Manfred was just hoping nothing would come of it.

3:16

Ben Clemens: All these stories get traction because they come out in the media.

3:16

Ben Clemens: That’s a big benefit of journalism. And not the ‘hey look at this guy’s new data’ stuff I do here, but asking questions getting answers journalism.

3:17

Carlos Correa: Ok, you caught us. Alex Bregman was using a buzzer, but it was only to know when his Panera order was ready.

3:17

Ben Clemens: 🙂

3:17

Baby Yoda: Seems like Bregman is the biggest % user of the trashcanbang system and also one of the least apologetic (along with Correa’s weird apologize-but-also-F-you). Do you think one Astro* takes most of the retaliation/public scorn or does it get spread around?

3:17

Ben Clemens: I think Bregman will take the most heat for it.

3:18

Ben Clemens: Both because it seems like he was using it on the highest percentage of his at-bats based on Tony Adams’ data and because of his I-don’t-want-to-be-here-and-screw-you-guys apology

3:19

Ben Clemens: I found Correa’s apology to be honest, and I think I’d feel very conflicted were I in his spot. Maybe I’m biased, but I’m likely to give a pass to people who I think are tryin to reckon with it.

3:19

Fan: Do the astros break the record for most hit batters in 2020?

3:19

Ben Clemens: They shouldn’t, because hitting batters is stupid.

3:20

Ben Clemens: It’s caveman justice that has weirdly been grandfathered into modern society.

3:20

Ben Clemens: With real chances of serious harm.

3:20

Ben Clemens: But yeah, I think they will.

3:20

Brood550: Are you expecting a drop in production team wide for the Astros, without the aids they were using and the distraction the ongoing saga is causing?

3:20

Ben Clemens: This is an interesting question that’s hard to work out from the actual data we have.

3:21

Ben Clemens: But some of the RotoGraphs guys have been discussing a more certain view

3:21

Ben Clemens: Which is that the Astros will likely see a big uptick in HBP (see above)

3:21

Ben Clemens: Which comes with an increase in injury risk

3:21

Ben Clemens: A reasonably serious increase in injury risk

3:22

Matt: What are the odds that Astros pitchers were also cheating in some way that won’t be sustained once they leave the team? In other words, if Cole has a down season is it most likely a) random variance/injury b) he was cheating in Houston or c) his limited mortal mind can’t handle the unfathomable pressure of pitching in THE BIG APPLE

3:22

Ben Clemens: Most likely? Gotta be a)

3:23

Ben Clemens: I’d even put c) ahead of b)

3:23

Ben Clemens: Though not in the words you used 🙂

3:23

Ben Clemens: But I am willing to believe that pitching with intense scrutiny all the time is tough for some people. I do not think Gerrit Cole is one of those people, but who knows?

3:23

That Guy: When civil justice gives the perception of failure, caveman justice is the only recourse left. Or that’s the justification that’ll be used I wager. Which is why it was so important MLB did this right the first time (and they clearly didn’t)

3:24

Ben Clemens: Right, I agree with you that that is why it will happen. I don’t think it should, but I worry that it will.

3:24

Ben Clemens: I’m not sure what MLB could have done around player suspensions, and to some extent I think their hands were tied.

3:25

Ben Clemens: But I’m shocked they didn’t go more salt-the-earth on the Astros rank and file front office

3:25

Ben Clemens: That’s how you get situations like James Click saying they have a zero tolerance policy for cheating while he’s employing people who have leaked email correspondence about something they unironically called the Dark Arts

3:25

Ben Clemens: Like, MLB had those emails.

3:25

Ben Clemens: BECAUSE WE GOT THEM LEAKED FROM MLB

3:26

Ben Clemens: And they thought, you know what, we won’t talk about these.

3:26

Ben Clemens: What?

3:26

Alex: in all honesty, do you expect the league (despite Manfred’s threats) to have difficulty doing much in the way of suspending pitchers who retaliate? I have to imagine given the immunity the Astros players just got, both the pitchers and the MLBPA would appeal vigorously

3:26

Ben Clemens: I do actually.

3:27

Ben Clemens: I’m not saying they’ll win every case, but they could start issuing much longer HBP suspensions, tomorrow.

3:27

Ben Clemens: And like, what’s the arbitrator really going to do if it’s applied consistently?

3:27

Ben Clemens: (Note: I am not a lawyer)

3:28

Ben Clemens: Now, if they, say, suspend Jose Urena six games for intentionally drilling acuna

3:28

Ben Clemens: And then someone 30 for hitting Bregman

3:28

Ben Clemens: Yeah, appeal city

3:28

Ben Clemens: But if they just beef up HBP suspensions overall I can see that working

3:29

Danny Almonte: If MLB were confident that the Astros were the only offenders, do you think that they would

3:29

Danny Almonte: have given a harsher punishment? Basically, something like a postseason ban would be difficult if 10 teams ended up stealing signs.

3:29

Ben Clemens: Nope!

3:29

Ben Clemens: Jim Crane is Rob Manfred’s boss

3:29

Ben Clemens: At least partially

3:29

Ben Clemens: I feel pretty confident that baseball will attempt to downplay all the remaining investigations

3:30

Ben Clemens: But I think the reason the Astros weren’t more harshly punished is because Manfred thought the punishments he levied would appease the public.

3:31

Ben Clemens: I’m not 100% confident in this answer by any means

3:31

Ben Clemens: But it’s a strong feeling

3:31

Baby Yoda: I can’t remember a time when literally 29 teams’ worth of players and even execs (ok maybe 27-28) were so willing to absolutely rip another team and its players. ON RECORD.

3:31

Ben Clemens: Yeah this aspect has been the most surprising of the whole scandal to me

3:31

Ben Clemens: No one, no one, is shocked that the Astros went over the line.

3:32

Ben Clemens: If I had polled you guys before the 2019 season.

3:32

Ben Clemens: ‘A team is running a massive coordinated cheating scheme. Who is it?’

3:32

Ben Clemens: You’d all pick the Astros

3:32

Matt: But I’d be rooting so hard for it to be the Cardinals

3:33

Ben Clemens: Haha sure. Or the Yankees, or the Cubs, or whoever.

3:33

Ben Clemens: But likely?

3:33

Ben Clemens: Gotta be the Astros

3:33

Ben Clemens: But anyway, I think that plays into the willingness to go on the record.

3:33

Ben Clemens: It’s also telling, I think, that I’ve heard a lot less disdain towards former Astros

3:34

Ben Clemens: Everything about that team rubs baseball people the wrong way.

3:34

Ben Clemens: And it must feel *great* to get to drag them through the mud now.

3:34

Dave: Didn’t a Cardinal FO guy go to prison?

3:34

Ben Clemens: He did indeed! Ironically, for hacking into the Astros’ front office system

3:34

Ben Clemens: Well, hacking is a strong word

3:35

Ben Clemens: Luhnow’s password on the Cardinals had been Eckstein123

3:35

Ben Clemens: And so this guy just tried that, and it worked?

3:35

Ben Clemens: That would be interesting to re-litigate now.

3:35

Ben Clemens: Because Chris Correa (the jailed Cardinals employee) claimed that hte Astros had stolen proprietary Cardinals data

3:35

Ben Clemens: And that he was searching for it

3:35

Ben Clemens: Doesn’t excuse it by any means

3:36

Ben Clemens: But just amusing moreso in retrospect

3:36

I Like Her Not: This is kind of getting out of hand.  Your league’s best player (Trout) is commenting negatively on this and is surprised there were no player suspensions.  I think MLB has to go back to the drawing board and think about player suspensions.  You can’t have the “rest of the league” versus the Astros in this sort of way.

3:36

Ben Clemens: I don’t really think they can go back on the player suspensions.

3:37

Ben Clemens: I think they wished they did something different?

3:37

Ben Clemens: Wish*

3:37

Ben Clemens: Like, if MLB knew it would play out this way they would have behaved differently for sure.

3:37

Baby Yoda: All of the still-there ’17 Astros* seem to have a “why’s everyone so mad?” attitude.  What’s the over/under on when Correa, Bregman, Crane et al “get it”?  All Star Break?

3:38

Ben Clemens: That’s definitely some of it. And I kind of get why the people who remain are more defensive about it

3:38

Ben Clemens: Because they hvaen’t eperienced it from a different viewpoint

3:39

Ben Clemens: Doesn’t mean they’re right, but it would be ESPECIALLY weird if Marwin Gonzalez was giving interviews like “And I’m mad the TWINS don’t cheat’

3:39

Ben Clemens: It’s a lot easier to express remorse when it’s explicitly not about something you might still be doing, but something you did

3:39

Brood550: With all this being said about the Astros.  Would you keep Schwarber over Brantley in an OPS league?

3:40

Ben Clemens: Yeah gimme Schwarber there I think.

3:41

Ben Clemens: I don’t think anything is gonna happen to Brantlely?

3:41

Ben Clemens: Like he’s so far down the chain as to not be on it.

3:41

Ben Clemens: But I just like Schwarber more in an OPS league.

3:41

Dave: How much would the optics improve if Daryl Morey took over the Astros?

3:41

Ben Clemens: Right, because everyone loves what the Rockets are doing to the NBA.

3:42

Ben Clemens: Haha I dunno, they’d improve!

3:42

Ben Clemens: But I think the Rockets’ recent tilt into iso-heavy hero ball has riled a lot of fans, and the whole Clint Capela thing could make their games a bit of a circus.

3:42

Ben Clemens: I personally hate watching the Rockets.

3:42

Ben Clemens: But I find what Morey is doing interesting.

3:43

Ben Clemens: And his outspoken gaffes seem a lot less, well, evil than the Astros’ front office.

3:43

Ben Clemens: He’s protesting what he finds to be an unfair regime instead of intimidating women

3:43

Ben Clemens: Seems better!

3:43

Matt: What is the damage to MLB financially if you compare the ideal way to handle this to the way they did handle it? Sure players are mad, but I don’t think any fans are refusing to watch based on the punishments. If anything, its keeping the story in the news cycle longer and fans are looking forward to see how teams react once the season starts. The cheating scandal taints the Astros past accomplishments, but will MLB lose fans or money going forward?

3:44

Ben Clemens: I doubt it, which is why I don’t think Manfred will truly be in trouble with the owners.

3:44

Cardinals: did someone say thin rotations?

3:44

Ben Clemens: Okay I’ll answer this shortly

3:44

Ben Clemens: But

3:44

Appa Yip Yip: Best player to be president is obviously Curtis granderson

3:44

Ben Clemens: Obviously

3:44

Ben Clemens: I’m ashamed I missed this one

3:44

Ben Clemens: Not close, Granderson

3:45

Ben Clemens: As to the Cardinals rotation being thin: it’s weird.

3:45

Ben Clemens: It’s thin at the top, particularly with Mikolas being hurt

3:45

Ben Clemens: But then their 6-10 or whatever are pretty good

3:45

Ben Clemens: Austin Gomber is legit if healthy, Ponce is a fine 5th starter, Woodford is a fine break glass in case of emergency type.

3:46

Ben Clemens: And that doesn’t even count KK

3:46

Dave: Does anyone even talk about the Astros scandal once real games start?

3:46

Ben Clemens: Yeah, because people will give interviews about it and pitchers will hit batters.

3:46

Ben Clemens: But it’ll die down some.

3:46

Danny Almonte: Any idea on how bad a hitter has to be for it to make sense for a batter to sacrifice bunt?

3:47

Ben Clemens: It’s contextual. I’ve been noodling around the idea of writing an article about a rule of thumb

3:47

Ben Clemens: But something like this framework?

3:47

Dave: Isn’t CMart going to start again?

3:47

Ben Clemens: That’s the plan. I’m kind of unclear how many innings you should assume he’ll throw, though.

3:48

Chris: Is Carson Fulmer going to make the White Sox?

3:49

Ben Clemens: I think so. They should keep trying to make it work. And he was in David Laurila’s column this Sunday, and I liked what I read:

3:49

Ben Clemens: Now, doesn’t mean he’s fixed, but it seems like a worthwhile gamble for them.

3:49

Andrew: With Cole Hamels being now injured, any chance that Felix makes the Braves rotation at least initially?

3:49

Ben Clemens: Yeah I think so.

3:50

Ben Clemens: He’s probably their 6th-best starter, depending on how you feel about Wright and Wilson being ready

3:50

Ben Clemens: Time to start a lightning round for the five remaining minutes of this chat:

3:50

Dave: Is Austin Riley destined to be a AAAA player?

3:51

Ben Clemens: Nah, think he can be an okay-glove third baseman with enough power to make it work

3:51

Derek: Imagine like 10 years ago if Cole Hamels and Felix Hernandez were in the same rotation…

3:51

Ben Clemens: Right? Felix’s decline is just so sad.

3:51

Derek: (also Cole Hamels has maybe the greatest spoonerism name imaginable)

3:52

Ben Clemens: I won’t step on Grant Brisbee’s spoonerism shoes but it’s an excellent one

3:52

PartyGuy69: Better career going forward: Carson Fulmer or Michael Fulmer?

3:52

Ben Clemens: Contrarian in me says Carson, so I’ll go with it.

3:52

Dave: Is Tyler ONeill ever a legit starter?

3:52

Ben Clemens: Yeah

3:52

Ben Clemens: Not like an All Star

3:52

Ben Clemens: But there’s enough there.

3:52

Andrew: Who’s the next pitcher to get a FA contract that even approaches Cole’s? Buehler?

3:52

Ben Clemens: Boy, I don’t know. Maybe someone not in the majors yet.

3:53

Ben Clemens: But of current pitchers, it’s like Buehler/Flaherty/JOse Berrios if he realllllly goes nuts the next few years

3:53

Ben Clemens: Berrios is a much longer shot

3:54

Ben Clemens: I’m tempted to put E-Rod on there too as a wild card

3:54

Dave: Yasiel Puig signs with_____

3:54

Ben Clemens: pencil, frustrating his lawyer

3:54

Guest: Beiber

3:54

Guest: severino

3:54

Ben Clemens: Eh, mayyyybe bieber

3:54

Ben Clemens: Sevy injury issues

3:54

Ben Clemens: Don’t see it.

3:55

Ben Clemens: I was tempted to say Bieber though

3:55

Matt: Do you have any special preview of ZiPS 2020 projected standings? Another website’s projection system has some… unexpected projections for the NL East. Do you have any thoughts on how the top four teams in that division will finish?

3:55

Ben Clemens: I don’t. But my personal ranking is Mets/Nats/Braves in a top tier with roughly equal chances

3:55

Ben Clemens: Biiiiiiiiig gap to Phils

3:55

Andrew: What team do you think has the most variability this year? As in the range of win outcomes you would predict would be the largest.

3:55

Ben Clemens: White Sox and DBacks for me

3:55

Ben Clemens: White Sox b/c so many young dynamic players, DBacks b/c projections haaaaaate them

3:56

Ben Clemens: But I think they might be pretty good

3:56

Ben Clemens: Weird team

3:56

Ben Clemens: And with that, I’m going to call it a wrap.

3:56

Ben Clemens: Thanks so much for chatting today, guys.

3:56

Ben Clemens: I had a great time, and got to plug some of my old articles as a bonus :).

3:56

Ben Clemens: Could have done with a little more nonsense, but I think we did well enough with the Presidential baseball team.

3:57

Ben Clemens: See you next week.

3:57

Ben Clemens: Same bat time, same bat channel.

We hoped you liked reading Ben Clemens FanGraphs Chat – 2/17/2020 by Ben Clemens!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs




Ben is a contributor to FanGraphs. A lifelong Cardinals fan, he got his start writing for Viva El Birdos. He can be found on Twitter @_Ben_Clemens.

newest oldest most voted
TJ
Member
Member
TJ

Wasn’t Dennis Martinez’s nickname “El Presidente”? Maybe he’d make a good president.

bookbook
Member
bookbook

The standards for what makes a “good” president have become so meaningless that I don’t know how you’d judge? (Insults minorities? Check. Insults and assaults women? Check. Lies, cheats, and steals? OK. Ty Cobb or Pete Rose or Milton Bradley would be the most presidential.)