Ben Clemens FanGraphs Chat – 4/25/22

2:01
Ben Clemens: Hey everyone, welcome to the chat. I’m going to give the queue a few minutes to fill up while I get some food for Ruby; I’ll get started in a few minutes

2:05
Ben Clemens: Alright, let’s go!

2:05
Farhandrew Zaidman: How did Evan Phillips fall through the cracks into the Dodgers lap? He seems like a guy guy. Same could be said for Bickford!

2:06
Ben Clemens: I was writing about the Rays’ bullpen for today, and it feels like the Dodgers are kinda similar

2:06
Ben Clemens: They’re really good at working with pitchers to get the most out of them

2:06
Ben Clemens: Phillips and Bickford both look more like guys since coming to the Dodgers, I don’t think that’s a coincidence

2:07
Dk: Tylor Megill sure looks like he’s for real doesn’t he? Can he be the next Mets ace when Scherzer and deGrom are gone?

2:07
Ben Clemens: I mean, can he? I suppose so

2:07
Ben Clemens: Do I think he’s likely to be? still no, but I’m starting to believe more

2:09
Ben Clemens: I think that his current swing-and-miss rate seems fair

2:09
Ben Clemens: Looks about right given his pitch mix

2:09
Ben Clemens: He didn’t need that extra velocity he showed in the first game, and it’s a good thing, because it looks like it was somewhat short-lived

2:09
Derek: Can we take a moment to marvel at Ronald Acuna Jr.? I know it’s AAA, but coming off a torn ACL and immediately making high-level professional baseball look like child’s play as a 24 year old is just wild… Can’t wait til he’s back up in the bigs! (which, whenever that is, will be none too soon for the Braves…)

2:09
Ben Clemens: I mean…. he’s one of the best players in baseball

2:10
Ben Clemens: I’m not surprised that he’s playing like one of the best players in baseball

2:10
Ben Clemens: But I am overjoyed that he’s coming back

2:10
Wireless Joe Jackson: The dead ball doesn’t seem to be bothering Byron Buxton much.  That was quite a walk-off!

2:12
Ben Clemens: Buxton is so good. I thought about different ways I could say this, but honestly, that’s all I’ve got. He’s always been one of the most talented players in the game, and the question was whether he could stay healthy. That question hasn’t been answered. But yeah, he’s one of the best players in the game!

2:12
B’Ryce Hammer’s Luscious Locks: Challenge trade idea: Yelich or Belinger, who ya taking?

2:14
Ben Clemens: In fantasy? Gimme Yelich. He’s gonna play every day no matter what, he’s hitting the crap out of the ball, and his walk rates help a lot in OBP leagues. I’m still worried that Bellinger is going to fall back into his 2021 form, and that’s less playable than Yelich

2:15
Ben Clemens: In real life? Gimme Bellinger, because you can walk away in a year if things aren’t working and he’s younger. Yelich is signed through 2028, that’s a long time

2:15
Farhandrew Zaidman: We are approaching 1968 levels of offensive decline. Balls that should be home runs are dying at the warning track. Batting average is way down. K/HR is way up. I don’t really have a question here, just shouting my thoughts into the ether.

2:17
Ben Clemens: Shout out to Mike Petriello for this statistic. In the stadiums that already had humidors installed, offense in those parks is barely down: .003 of OBP, .005 of SLG

2:17
Ben Clemens: In the parks where they put in humidors, OBP is down 35 points, SLG down 107

2:17
Ben Clemens: WHY DID THEY DO THIS

2:18
Ben Clemens: sorry that’s on pulled fly balls and line drives, which I should have specified

2:18
Ben Clemens: Basically, the hits that are most valuable and most punished by a less-lively ball

2:19
ben simmons’ jumper: has Tony La Russa brought a horrible curse upon the white sox?

2:20
Ben Clemens: Yeah, the curse of having an octogenarian manage. I haven’t written a ‘what is Tony doing?’ article yet but I definitely could. Leury Garcia leadoff is not my idea of a party

2:21
Ben Clemens: It’s not like we didn’t see this coming, by the way. ‘Can Tony La Russa manage in 2021’ was a question the minute he was hired

2:21
Yo-Yo: Since May 1 of last year, Yadier Molina is hitting .233/.274/.312, for a 63 wRC+. His framing last year tanked, placing him 61st out of 81 catchers (min 100 innings). Knizner’s good start seems to be mostly luck, and his framing was even worse last year, at 77th. Prospect Herrera hasn’t been able to solve upper-minors pitching yet. Should the Cardinals acquire a catcher, or will nostalgia win out — to the detriment of the club? They are in the perfect spot on the win curve, where even a minor upgrade could dramatically improve their odds of winning the Central.

2:21
Ben Clemens: They are not acquiring a catcher, so this is going to be a theoretical answer only

2:26
Ben Clemens: I think that if they just played Molina way less, things would be better for everyone. He’s just not an everyday catcher at this point in his career. On a Cards broadcast recently, one of the announcers mentioned that they spoke to Yadi and that he doesn’t like catching on one knee anymore because he’s out of shape and ‘you don’t really steal too many strikes that way anyway, just once in a while’

2:26
Ben Clemens: This is on a day where he was scheduled to get a rest day but demanded to play because it was his last game in Miami.

2:27
Ben Clemens: If I were the Cardinals, I might just play him anyway for the nostalgia tour. One win in 2022 is probably not worth the long-term vibes you’d lose by cutting him loose

2:27
Ben Clemens: But he’s 100% not the best option if they want to win now.

2:27
Greg: Concern level for Bryan Reynolds’s early struggles?

2:28
Ben Clemens: 6 out of 10. I didn’t really buy into his breakout last year; Kevin and I left him off of our top 50 trade value list because we were skeptical of his jack-of-all-trades skillset holding up

2:30
Ben Clemens: And that’s more or less what has happened; everything is just a little worse and the result is scary. I don’t think he’s this bad, but it definitely shows the perils of buying into a breakout like Reynolds’s, where there’s no obvious carrying tool but just lots of good stuff

2:32
Ben Clemens: That’s unfair to Reynolds; I think he’ll hit for average no matter what, think that’s a real skill for him. But I’m not shocked he’s struggling

2:33
Lou Perltzman: If you didn’t believe in Reynolds in the first place how can your concern level be at a 6?

2:34
Ben Clemens: You can not believe in someone relative to consensus and still see them as a good baseball player. I didn’t think Reynolds was a true-talent 76 wRC+ hitter. Plus, presumably Greg was asking how concerned he should be. I’m not exactly sure what you’d like me to say there haha

2:34
joe schlabotnik: would you rather: team of all 90th percentile fielders with 90 wrc+ or team of 110 wrc+ with all 10 percent fielders

2:35
Ben Clemens: Definitely the first. I haven’t actually done the math, though I’m pretty sure that favors the fielders, but I just like watching good-fielding baseball

2:36
Teddy: Is Wander a top 5 player in the league at this very moment? (Trout, Soto, Harper, Shohei…?)

2:37
Ben Clemens: Right now, I don’t think so. I also don’t think Harper is, though. You’re missing Jose Ramirez, who definitely makes my list.

2:38
Ben Clemens: I’d take Vlad over Wander at the moment, though I can see that being close.

2:38
Ben Clemens: If you’re being honest with yourself, would you take Wander over Marcus Semien for the rest of the year? I’m not sure I would

2:39
Ben Clemens: Wander obviously has the much higher upside long-term, and he’s off to a great start, but let’s pump the brakes a little. Oh, also, Buxton

2:39
Derek: Is 12.5 K/9 Eric Lauer here to stay? (probably not, I know, but…) Do the Brewers belong in the same pitching development tier as LAD & TB?

2:39
Paulie: Are you buying an Eric Laurer breakout ?

2:41
Ben Clemens: I’m gonna write about Lauer later this week because I’m very curious what’s going on there. He’s throwing harder, he’s using both of his quite good breaking pitches more often, I love both of those changes

2:42
Ben Clemens: I haven’t done enough digging to say much more than that definitively, but I think I picked the wrong  Milwaukee pitcher to break out (I’m on Adrian Houser for the 25th consecutive year seemingly)

2:42
Homer: Garrett Whitlock should be starting, right?

2:45
Ben Clemens: Yeah, and it looks like he will be going forward. Simply put, he’s too good to not be starting. I don’t know how his stamina is going to look as they stretch him out, but he was a starter in the minors and has the variety of pitches and platoon skill to do it. It’s just a matter of building up the innings. I think that if he weren’t a rule 5 pick he would already be a full-time starter, they just wanted to keep him on the roster right away last year, and the best way to do that was relieving

2:45
Angel Hernandez: Have you seen all the attention I’ve been getting today? It rocks. One of the best performances of my career

2:47
Ben Clemens: If the league wants robo umps, they should just let Hernandez call more games

2:49
Ben Clemens: It’s honestly a travesty. Most umpires these days are pretty good. Hernandez isn’t, he’s not getting better over time, and he’s a big fan of the ump show to boot. I know there are difficulties in removing umpires, and that Hernandez has already sued the league (for age discrimination, I believe), but c’mon man, enough is enough. The baseball world has all been Kyle Schwarber at some point in the last few years

2:49
Sodo Mojo: Do you see Ty France as a top 5 1b moving forward?

2:49
Ben Clemens: No

2:51
Ben Clemens: There are some good first basemen! I think France is a good player, but top 5? C’mon. I’ll take Freeman, Olson, Muncy, Vlad, Goldschmidt, and Alonso right away, and then think about people after that

2:52
Ben Clemens: Now, if we’re talking rest of career, maybe? He’s a lot younger than Goldschmidt and I don’t know how Alonso will age. But that’s overreacting to a hot start. Ty France is a great hitter, and that should be enough, we don’t need to hyperbole him up to make that true

2:52
Farhandrew Zaidman: In Matt Brash’s interview with Pitching Ninja, he said he basically sets up middle-middle and lets the ball do the work for him. Seems like other young lively arms could do well to follow the same advice.

2:52
Ben Clemens: 100% yes. The Orioles are doing this already this year, and the Astros use this approach in the minors

2:53
Ben Clemens: One-target pitching is catching on, and I think it’s just going to get more and more popular. Very few pitchers throw flat, boring stuff anymore. Command seems to be the limiting issue; their pitches just move SO much

2:53
Leo: Okay, so maybe not top 5 1B, but does France have a good shot at an all-star selection this year?

2:53
Ben Clemens: Yes I do

2:54
Dan: What does Kyle Schwaber have to do with Angel Hernandez?

2:54
Ben Clemens: Boy are you in for a treat

2:54
Ben Clemens:

2:55
Ben Clemens: I absolutely LOVE Hader’s reaction, too. Kind of a ‘wow that was a strike? great’ face

2:56
Joey Baggadonuts: Understanding that he’s still just 22 – Kelenic has just looked godawful so far. Does he go back to AAA if he continues to struggle this badly? If the M’s let him play through it, what’s a realistic expectation from him rest-of-season? Does he have any chance of becoming a guy?

2:57
Ben Clemens: I think that the boring but correct take is that of course he still has a chance of becoming a guy. he only has 435 major league PA’s so far. But I’d have him back in Triple-A; he’s not helping the team win right now, but sitting him in the majors seems counterproductive

2:58
Ben Clemens: If they’re going to let him play through it, I’d shade our projectoins down slightly. We think he’s basically an average hitter but I am not buying a 26% strikeout rate when he looks so lost

2:58
Guest: Maybe it’s the novelty of them being new to the best teams circuit, but the jays are a very cool team. The Yankees are incredibly unlikeable as a group of guys. Mariners once again seem like a blast. Who you got for coolest club

2:59
Ben Clemens: Yeah, it’s the Jays for me too. They have a lot of fun players, they appear to be having fun while playing, and they score a lot. I am a big fan of pitching, I write more about pitching than hitting, but I’m not going to act like I don’t like dingers and doubles

3:01
Ben Clemens: After that, I’m also enjoying the Rays; I often enjoy the Rays, I like their whole a bunch of guys you’ve never heard of vibe, and having some awesome starting prospects makes that fun too

3:02
Ben Clemens: The Cubs are kinda sneaky fun, I love watching Seiya. The Mets, too. Giants, Marlins; it’s a good year for fun teams, at least in my biased opinion

3:02
TB: Did you say Yelich is hitting the crap out of the ball? Did this just start?

3:02
Ben Clemens: It did not. He’s among the league leaders in hard hit rate and has been all year

3:02
Ben Clemens: Now, is it all into the ground? Indubitably!

3:03
Ben Clemens: But yeah, that’s a real thing. He’s kind of going back to pre-Milwaukee Yelich, tons of loud contact but all on the ground

3:03
FTLT: How much longer do the Padres leave Abrams in the bigs? He doesn’t look ready and he’s taking playing time away from Kim, who doesn’t look great but still looks better than Abrams. It can’t be good for his development to fail in the bigs over mashing in the minors, right?

3:05
Ben Clemens: Yeah, I don’t like it. I was perplexed by his callup just b/c of his weird 2021 (he barely played due to injury), but I thought hey, maybe the Padres know what they’re doing here. I guess they just wanted to give him a shot? But I think they should let him acclimate to high-minors pitching in Triple-A before trying him out in the majors full time

3:05
Matt (Oceanside): Dang Ben! How could you mention the Jays as the coolest team because they have fun and not mention Hanser Alberto and his dancing in the dugout. The dude not only is funny, he looks like he genuinely looks like he enjoys every part about putting on an MLB uniform

3:05
Ben Clemens: You’d have to be a monster to not enjoy Hanser Alberto

3:06
Ben Clemens: And here’s a Dodgers shout out; I was in LA last weekend (not yesterday, 8 days ago) and went to Golden Road after a Dodgers day game

3:06
Ben Clemens: It was really fun, the vibe was excellent and the beers were really good. They had a lot of cool Dodgers gear and it generally made LA feel like a good baseball town

3:06
Joey Fart: Does Paul Blackburn look legit or just a “hot streak”?

3:07
Ben Clemens: a)wonderful username, keep it coming

3:09
Ben Clemens: b)I think it’s a hot streak? I like the way he’s now separating out his cutter into a cutter and slider, I’m willing to believe that will up his whiff rates, but he’s just not missing enough bats to be THIS long-term. A decent bulk starter sure, but he’s really on one right now

3:09
Farhandrew Zaidman: Big oof there Ben, the vibe at Golden Road is decent but the beer is not. Firestone Walker in Venice/Marina Del Rey is the choice.

3:09
Ben Clemens: Oh, hard disagree. I like Firestone Walker just fine but Golden Road is exactly the beer I’m looking for when it’s 70

3:10
Ben Clemens: And sunny with low humidity, the LA ideal

3:10
Ben Clemens: I tend to like sours, which m akes me like Golden Road more

3:10
Guest: dodgers broadcast out of this world. Casually talking about how player development works. Very in tune with how baseball works in 2022. Nats broadcast might as well be an old man talking to his son about nothing in particular. The disparity is shockingly large. Baseball won’t progress for fans if the people narrating it can’t explain how it’s changing

3:12
Ben Clemens: The Dodgers broadcast is good, and the Nats’ is bad. That’s just true. I don’t think it has to mean more than that; there are always bad broadcasts. In my opinion, the Cardinals are a bottom-5 broadcast, and it doesn’t seem to stop Cardinals fans from liking the team, etc

3:12
Ben Clemens: I wish that broadcasts were more open-minded but I think that’s just a long slow process

3:12
Grant: I’ve been on a mission to find out why Kyle Tucker hits sixth in the lineup, even with a righty on the mound, despite being their second best hitter (early struggles aside). Any thoughts?

3:12
Ben Clemens: So, you see, lineups are supposed to go R/L/R/L/R/L

3:13
Ben Clemens: This is known

3:13
Ben Clemens: The Astros happen to have a lefty who is an obvious fit for 4 and a lefty who is an obvious fit for 2

3:13
Ben Clemens: What’s a manager who insists on staggering his lineup to do?

3:14
Ben Clemens: I mean, I’d just hit Tucker two and probably Brantley 5, but I’m not Dusty Baker

3:15
Farhandrew Zaidman: It is entirely possible that the stadium prices of Golden Road have colored by opinion of them overall.

3:15
Ben Clemens: Yeah that’s fair. I like beers more when I don’t know what they cost at a baseball stadium

3:15
Moonlight Graham: And the charm of GKR isn’t their baseball discussions but the chemistry and non baseball stories

3:17
Ben Clemens: I’m gonna marginally disagree here. I think that is true to some extent, but that the broadcast wouldn’t work if Gary didn’t work hard to know ‘modern’ baseball stuff. He’s really good at challenging the hidebound nonsense that Keith and Ron are prone to at times (they’re older baseball players, it’s natural)

3:18
Ben Clemens: If he let them skate more often when they make dubious claims about the way baseball works, I think that would take away from the broadcast

3:18
Ryan: Hitting Tucker 6th is obviously not optimal, but it’s not like there’s a single guy above him who is a bad hitter. Besides, isn’t lineup efficiency only responsible for like half a win a season over old-timey conventions?

3:18
Ben Clemens: Yeah it’s a small effect. I’d do it because it’s better, but given the Astros’ lineup is all good hitters, it’s not a huge deal. it’s not like they’re running out Leury Garcia second and Tucker 6th or anything

3:18
Ryan: Is Zack Collins real, or is this a hot streak?

3:19
Ben Clemens: Yes to both, please

3:20
Ben Clemens: He’s not gonna keep these numbers up with a 3% walk rate and 33% strikeout rate, but you can just look at his minor league numbers and see that he’s a good hitter

3:20
Ben Clemens: I think he got screwed up a little bit by the continuing ups and downs last year, and that he’s definitely a bit stretched as a catcher. He’s probably a lefty DH/1B long-term, maybe with some extra flexibility. But yeah, i think he’s a guy, a major-league-playable bat

3:21
If you don’t know, now Ynoa: Is this the modern way to construct a lineup:  high OBP guy first, then your best hitters to maximize at bats and forget handedness?

3:21
Ben Clemens: I think handedness matters in some situations. The best example I have of this came from talking about it with Jeff Zimmerman

3:22
Ben Clemens: The Phillies have basically two good lefties, Harper and Schwarber. Stacking those two guys next to each other in the lineup would not be particularly wise

3:22
Ben Clemens: It just makes it too easy for your opponent to deploy their best lefty specialists when they know their leverage will be maximized

3:23
Ben Clemens: But short of that, I wouldn’t care too much about handedness. Like, if the Astros went r/l/r/l/l/r

3:23
Ben Clemens: That’s not very different!

3:23
Ben Clemens: Alright, I’m gonna go heat up some lunch. Made some delicious garlic chili chickpeas last night, and I’m starving

3:24
Ben Clemens: Have a great day everyone, and may your week of baseball be filled with comeback wins and consistent strike zones

3:24
Ben Clemens: Next week, I want to talk about board games and games and stuff, so if you’re a regular chatter, PLEASE hit me up early





Ben is a writer at FanGraphs. He can be found on Twitter @_Ben_Clemens.

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szielinskimember
20 days ago

Re: Reyonlds.

I thought it’s April was the answer to such questions?