Ben Clemens FanGraphs Chat – 6/26/23

2:01
Ben Clemens: Hey everybody, welcome to the chat. I’m gonna keep this one fast and focused today while I work on the top 50 trade value list – I’m solidly in ‘hone and rehone my rankings so that I can turn them over to outside eyes’ mode right now

2:01
Guest: Is there any info on when strikeout rate becomes highly predictive for a player’s career stats, in terms or at bats? Subjectively It feels like a guy like Kelenic has crossed a ‘point of no return’, while, say, Volpe still has time

2:01
Ben Clemens: I don’t have a great answer for you here b/c I think it depends a lot on how you get to those strikeouts, in addition to just having them

2:02
Ben Clemens: Players can make approach or swing changes that shift things around later in their career, even. But I do agree that around two seasons in I start to think eh, this might not be fixable’

2:02
Matt: Do you think the Phillies will make the playoffs?

2:03
Ben Clemens: I’m sure this is not the answer you’re looking for but I think our odds do a great job, it’s a real toss up that will depend on health

2:03
Ben Clemens: Speaking of which:

2:03
Matt: Have you looked at the data to see what might be happening with Harper’s power outage?

2:04
Ben Clemens: I have not. It’s definitely a possible topic for the weeks ahead, but I’m cognizant of not trying to do too too much in terms of big open ended looks at players while also in my busiest season

2:04
Ben Clemens: I suppose that’s a long-winded way of saying ‘great question, no clue’

2:05
Injured Toe: Would the Angels be one team that might take Donaldson off the Yankees hands?

2:05
Ben Clemens: They’ve already taken SO MANY third basemen off of other teams’ hands

2:06
Tiger Fan: With word of Jobe’s stellar 2023 debut and newfound cutter, how high could a healthy and dominant season in the low minors jump him in prospect evaluations? The stuff seems intact for a top-50 guy, but I recognize health and proximity matter.

2:06
Ben Clemens: I mean… does that matter? It matters what he does, not what happens to his prospect evaluations

2:07
Ben Clemens: I’m not exactly a there’s no such thing as a pitching prospect guy, but I think I kiiiiind of am? His stuff looks good enough that I think he’s gonna get a chance to show it in the big leagues if he stays healthy

2:07
Guest!: Why have the O’s under Elias been so much more successful developing hitters than pitchers?

2:07
Ben Clemens: They seem pretty good at developing relievers!

2:08
Ben Clemens: I don’t really know the answer to this, I do think there are sample size issues though. I wouldn’t be comfortable saying they can’t figure out pitching, but they’ve had a string of successes on the hititng side for sure

2:08
Insert Witty Name Here: Made a trade in fantasy, wanted to know if you agree with my process.  Gave up Strider and Elly for Freeman and Dansby.  I’m hedging against Strider getting hurt, ATL will need him for the playoffs, and what happened last year makes me think he’s going for a phantom or maybe even real IL stint for a few weeks.  Elly’s value can’t be higher, and his BABIP is way too high for this to be sustainable.  Getting Freeman and Swanson gets me a much safer floor, while they’re not at their peak levels, I think I’d be getting a 1st RD talent at my weakest position (1B) and Dansby can get me at least 85% of Elly’s 90th percentile outcome.  Sorry for the word vomit, anything you’d disagree or counter with?

2:09
Ben Clemens: I think this makes a lot of sense; I’m not a fantasy expert by any means but ‘bank good performances’ makes sense to me, particularly b/c I agree with you about the Braves maybe trying to keep Strider fresh

2:10
Jeff: How would you handle the Abreu situation in Houston? Sunk cost, test the trade market?

2:11
Ben Clemens: I don’t think so, to be honest. He’s been much better in the past month and I think that really matters. The Astros are surely keeping tabs on him but I think giving him a bit more rope makes sense

2:11
Rays Fan 5: When are the rest of the organizational prospect ranking lists going to be released?

2:12
Ben Clemens: As we finish them, which is how this stuff has generally worked

2:12
Sonny: Bryan Bello looks like the first homegrown Red Sox SP since Clay Bucholz. Not a question, just pointing out it took nearly 20 years for one of the richest and most forward thinking orgs to develop a single starting pitcher

2:12
Ben Clemens: Starting pitching is wild, huh?

2:13
Ben Clemens: No one doubts that the Red Sox are using a lot of resources and trying to develop good starting pitching

2:13
Ben Clemens: they just…. haven’t

2:13
Ben Clemens: Bello looks really good though, I’m excited to see some updated ZiPS on him as I keep doing trade value stuff

2:13
C-Low: Thoughts on how Os deploy Westburg and whether Mateo or Frazier get benched?

2:16
Ben Clemens: I could see Frazier getting benched. I don’t think they’re benching Mateo, his defense is just too important to them

2:16
jas: Given Jordan Walker’s batting line, do you think his value is legitimately more than negated by his defense? Things like that seem like they start dipping into context

2:17
Ben Clemens: I don’t think it is, but I’m willing to believe that it’s close

2:17
Ben Clemens: He’s realllllly bad defensively. Like, just abysmal

2:18
Ben Clemens: I don’t think that he’ll keep being this level of bad, but his defense is truly hurting the Cardinals a lot

2:18
mac: what would you consider adequate evidence that a team needs different hitting coaches? the yankees lineup having those hitters and the second-lowest OBP in the league, combined with Aaron Hicks instantly reverting to a very good player with new coaches, seem pretty firmly damning of dillon lawson and co.

2:20
Ben Clemens: I basically wouldn’t be able to get there without some kind of access to internal data

2:20
Ben Clemens: We just don’t have the info we need from the outside

2:20
bosoxforlife: I fell out of my recliner when Maldonado bunted with runners on 1st and 3rd and no outs in the 10th last night. Do you agree that this is a contender for worst attempted play of all time?

2:20
Ben Clemens: I didn’t see this play so I’m now going to look it up

2:21
Ben Clemens: Yeesh bases loaded but yeah this was bad

2:23
FannyGraphy: Hello Ben, as hitters age, what is usually the first skill to go? Or is there like a typical order? Like first their Eye, then their contact skills, then their power? Not including fielding or arm or baserunning. Or is it completely player dependent

2:23
Ben Clemens: I think it’s pretty close to player dependent, with one big caveat

2:23
Ben Clemens: speed is always decreasing

2:24
Ben Clemens: there’s just no way around that

2:24
New UK fan: I can’t help but think of approach in vaguely moralistic terms. It seems like something that a player or prospect could easily fix, if only they’d try just a little bit harder. I assume that’s not the case and it’s just as hard to fix as, say, in-zone swing-and-miss?

2:25
Ben Clemens: Hard to say for sure, but I’m confident in saying this: these guys are all working tremendously hard for the most part

2:25
Ben Clemens: Sure, could some people try harder? no doubt

2:25
Ben Clemens: but there are millions of dollars at stake

2:25
Ben Clemens: it’s a really good motivating factor

2:26
Ben Clemens: it’s wild how hard the average baseball player works

2:26
Mike Rizzo: Lane Thomas seems to be a guy now? With 2.5 seasons left do I sell high or see him as part of my next winner?

2:26
Ben Clemens: this is as sell high as sell high can be imo

2:27
Ben Clemens: not because I think he’ll turn into a pumpkin overnight, but because he certainly might, and meanwhile the Nats aren’t gonna be contending that soon anyway

2:27
greenfrog: Do you have any idea why Alek Manoah went from Cy Young candidate last year to a total bust this year at age 25? Seems like stuff, control, confidence all fell off a cliff

2:27
Ben Clemens: I really really do not

2:27
Ben Clemens: I’m having a ton of trouble figuring out what to think about him trade value wise

2:28
Ben Clemens: I really had him high up the list last year and don’t know what to do about it

2:28
JHench: Following Mac’s question, what point does having multiple starters in a long 0-for slump, as the Pirates do (Suwinski, Bae, Hedges, Castro), become an offense indictment of the organization, as opposed to a run of bad luck?

2:28
Ben Clemens: like, a realllllly long time

2:28
Ben Clemens: ehhhh, no, that’s not fair

2:28
Ben Clemens: How long does it take to become an indictment of the hitting coach? forever

2:29
Ben Clemens: how long does it take to become an indictment of the front office? faster

2:29
Ben Clemens: like, they’re playing Austin Hedges a lot

2:30
Ben Clemens: don’t get me wrong, that man plays great defense, but clearly he’s not a good offensive player, it’s not like they were blindsided by that

2:30
Sloth: Where do you stand on Pablo Lopez now that his exciting early-season work has come back down to earth somewhat?

2:31
Ben Clemens: Still very high on him. I think he looks like a solid 2/3 kinda guy, the stuff tick up seems real though I am not convinced he’ll ever quite ‘pitch to his fip’, like I do think there’s some hard contact that is hard to ignore there

2:32
Evan: Predictions for who wins AL West? Rangers haven’t looked as strong lately and I’m just not buying that the Astros are this mediocre. Plus I refuse to believe Trout will ever get extended playoff experience, as much as it saddens me to say it.

2:32
Ben Clemens: Yeah I kinda lean Astros as weird as it sounds given what the standings look like right now

2:32
ScottyW: Speaking of Hicks… is his performance with Baltimore sustainable?  What would his ROS outlook be based solely on his time in BAL this year (admitting SSS)?

2:32
Ben Clemens: Like, obviously it’s not?

2:33
Ben Clemens: I regret to inform you that Aaron Hicks is not a true-talent 161 wRC+ hitter

2:34
Ben Clemens: I’ve been meaning to write about Hicks, I’ll find a way to sooner rather than later I think

2:34
Dusty’s Wristband: Martín Maldonado hasn’t posted 1 war since 2018. What’s kept him on the Astros roster for so long? Is it just intangibles?

2:34
James: The real question re: Maldonado is why he was batting at all in a late and close situation. Did Yainer Diaz kick Dusty’s dog?

2:35
Ben Clemens: Yeah they just seem to value his game calling and other hard to quantify catching skills way more than we as outside observers do

2:35
Ben Clemens: I think they’re wrong, for the record

2:35
Will: Regarding the Orioles’ relative success with hitters rather than pitchers, it is important to note that their starters have improved tremendously, and that both Gibson and Lyles have been much better for them than for other teams in recent years.  And that they have spent all their early draft picks on hitters.  I think the pitching program has been pretty successful–you noted the relievers already.

2:36
Ben Clemens: Yeah, decent point

2:36
Tel: Additional evidence on poor hitting coaches by Yankees – Volpe figuring out the problem with his swing while watching video over dinner with his minor league buddy (a problem even noticed by John Smoltz on a FOX broadcast a couple of weeks before) while the Yankees hitting coaches hadn’t figured it out (apparently – could also be Volpe not listening)

2:37
Ben Clemens: I won’t really consider this to be evidence, sorry to say

2:37
Ben Clemens: Good anecdata at best

2:37
Shaq_drizzle: How does fWAR, statcast, and bWAR differ so much on Taylor Walls? Fangraphs says he is not a very good defender. Reference says he’s basically the greatest defender of all time. Statcast says fire him into the sun, bottom 1%.  Meanwhile, the Rays lobby for him to get gold gloves

2:37
Ben Clemens: so, we use Statcast data

2:37
Ben Clemens: OAA

2:37
Ben Clemens: so that’s why the two of us are right

2:37
Ben Clemens: or rather

2:37
Ben Clemens: right in line

2:38
Ben Clemens: That said, I think he’s a good defender but I trust what Statcast is saying, that he’s having a bad season defensively

2:38
Kvn: Have you taken irony at the Yankees’ expense into account when evaluating Aaron Hicks wrc+ projections though?

2:38
Ben Clemens: Look, hRC+ (hoped runs created plus) has very different outputs

2:39
Fishman: Is Eury Perez just the best SP in the game inning-for-inning at this point?

2:39
Ben Clemens: I’m writing about Eury for tomorrow, actually

2:40
Ben Clemens: And I’d say no, he is not the best starter in baseball. But he’s pretty dang good and I think that people are getting the wrong idea if they lose him in the flood of recent pitching debuts

2:40
Shaq_drizzle: But the Rays loved running out a backup shortstop with a 70 wRC+, and then touting him as a gold glove candidate. They can’t be that wrong.  Walls has to be doing something that stat cast didn’t picking up on, because they’re not giving him 500 PA if he’s truly an awful defender.

2:40
Ben Clemens: You can have a bad defensive season and still be a great defender

2:40
Shaq_drizzle: And FYI, Taylor Walls was bottom 3% last year. Something’s off.

2:41
Ben Clemens: Yeah, look, Statcast is sometimes kinda weird on the Rays for whatever reason, but I don’t think they’re super wrong here

2:41
Ben Clemens: here’s a good mike petriello thread on walls

2:41
Ben Clemens:

Happy Friday. Let’s do a defense thread again.

A guy with shockingly good metrics: Daulton Varsho (+13 OAA as an outfielder).

A guy with shockingly poor metrics: Taylor Walls (-7 OAA. I do know DRS likes him better.)

Varsho first.

9 Sep 2022
2:42
Phil: I always assume that teams lobbying for Gold Gloves is more about building clubhouse good will than anything meaningful. The Red Sox made a halfhearted attempt for Hunter Renfroe–and then promptly traded him for a defensive specialist.

2:42
Ben Clemens: Oh 100%

2:43
Ben Clemens: That has a lot to do with it

2:43
Steve O: Have you looked at AAA pitching lines for top prospects? Seems like the ABS is screwing with pitchers. Lots of pitchers are pitching terribly in AAA and performing better in MLB. Bobby Miller, Taj Bradley, etc.

2:43
Ben Clemens: Yeah, some are doing better and then not doing well int he bigs, though, so I am inclined to just say that it’s noise until I do a further deep dive into it

2:43
Ben Clemens: That’s a pretty hard thing to disambiguate, I’d say

2:44
Ben Clemens: like, is it ABS, is it a few of the players, etc.

2:44
Matt VW: Is there some secret sauce to the Marlins overachieving at this point, or is it mostly just luck in one run games?

2:45
Ben Clemens: i KNOW that marlins fans would vastly prefer it to be some secret sauce, but I’m sad to say that c’mon, surely it’s not

2:45
Ben Clemens: the odds that it’s some new thing are just low

2:45
Ben Clemens: the odds that it could keep going? sure, why not

2:45
Anon21: Any chance that the increase in interleague play will get rolled back? Reduces intrigue in division races, increases travel, creates a lot of matchups with no history and lower stakes. I liked it better when I knew only about 20 of the biggest names in the AL.

2:46
Ben Clemens: No chance.

2:46
Ben Clemens: I’m not sure whether I agree with you on this one, to be clear. I’m not an NL or AL fan, but I kind of like that my dad knows more AL players now

2:46
Ben Clemens: But that toothpaste is not going back into the tube

2:46
Ben Clemens: Getting the Yankees to more stadiums is a one way train

2:47
Guest: Fernando Tatis in the top 10 again?

2:48
Ben Clemens: No spoilers. But also, yeah for sure!

2:48
Shaq_drizzle: They’re sitting Isaac Paredes vs lefty’s and Brandon Lowe (vs RHP) so that they can play on Taylor Walls at third base and second.  I can’t buy that the most analytical team in baseball has Billy Brickhands with a slapdick bat playing over Aranda, Paredes, and Lowe (and choosing Walls over the original slapdick, Xavier Edwards).  Something has to be skewing his metrics.

2:49
Ben Clemens: what I don’t think you’re getting here, and I’m not trying to say this in a mean way or anything, is that the metrics can be right and the rays can still think that what they have described, correctly, as happening isn’t likely to keep happening

2:49
Ben Clemens: I dno’t really have a horse in this particular race

2:49
Ben Clemens: but ‘the rays are doing a thing so they must be right and the metrcis must be wrong’ does not convince me

2:50
Steve Cohen: Do my Mets deserve a pass for trying to buy an winning MLB team while allowing the farm to grow? Process feels right even if there was a cheaper way to do it. Really thought I could Steinbrenner a winning club.

2:51
Ben Clemens: I think i agree with this

2:51
Ben Clemens: the process is hardly perfect and I think that you can make a solid argument that buck is starting to hurt more than he helps

2:51
Ben Clemens: But yeah, I think the idea of trying to build up the farm while spending an ungodly sum of money to keep the big league team cruising is good

2:52
bosoxforlife: On a scale of 1-100 how shocked are you that both the Mets and Cardinals are this bad?

2:52
Ben Clemens: pretty surprised

2:52
Ben Clemens: more by the Cardinals than by the Mets, the Mets had a lot of pitching health uncertainty and also a tougher division

2:52
SC: A friend of a friend works for the Rays. Met them at a Yankees Rays game a couple of months ago and Taylor Walls came up. They were really really insistent that publicly available analytics were out of line with the Rays internal analytics on Walls and that Walls was being severely underrated and the org loved him. Just FWIW

2:52
Ben Clemens: I mean

2:53
Ben Clemens: I’d be very concerned if you had a friend who works for the Rays, and he said “Oh yeah Taylor Walls sucks, we’re running him out there to troll Tom Tango”

2:53
Baty for Coco Crisps: If Acuna has a 30/70 season but Arraez hits .400, does Arraez win MVP?

2:54
Ben Clemens: I’d give it to Acuna but I’m not sure what the voters would do

2:54
Marshall: Last week I had an epiphany that Tony Gonsolin has the 2nd highest ERA+ through 60 starts in the last 100 years (only Dwight Gooden was better). Since I realized this, Gonsolin has had two straight bad starts. How good do you think Gonsolin is?

2:55
Ben Clemens: I think he’s a solid third starter who likely gets flattered by the Dodgers putting him in situations to succeed with a wonderful defense behind him

2:55
Ben Clemens: Maybe a weak two?

2:55
SC: I guess the key part was that the Rays were aware of the public data vs their own private data

2:56
Ben Clemens: Again, I

2:56
Ben Clemens: d be really worried if they weren’t

2:56
Phil: If Arraez hits .400 he will definitely win MVP. If you’re an AP writer, how do you explain to your editor voting any other way? It would be the biggest story in years, much bigger than Acuna having a really good but fundamentally Acunalike season.

2:57
Ben Clemens: I’m not sure the voters have to explain things to their editor, actually

2:57
Ben Clemens: but yeah, I think that a lot of people would vote for a .400 hitter b/c he hit 400

2:57
Izzy: I saw the article on Alexis Diaz earlier today. Do you think he’s elite going forward, or just having an elite season.

2:58
Ben Clemens: I’d say having an elite season just because I don’t trust relievers that much in the long run

2:59
Ben Clemens: but he looks very very good to me, i’d be happy to have him as my team’s closer unless I had one of the ultra elite type guys

2:59
Ben Clemens: Clase and so on

2:59
Sonny: Acuna going 40/60 for a division winner would outweigh Arraez hitting .400 on a 3rd place team

2:59
Ben Clemens: I agree with you, to be cdlear, I’m just not entirely sure that we’re the voting constituency

2:59
McGraw45: My dad grew up in San Diego and made me a Padres fan. I blame him for my frustration in life.

2:59
Ben Clemens: Presented without comment

2:59
Who’s Fabio?: Do you still dust off the ole Exploding Kittens deck?  Did they go too far with expansion packs or does that keep it interesting?

2:59
Ben Clemens: Only very occasionally but I do like the game

2:59
Ben Clemens: therea re just a lot of games these days

3:00
David: Not a question, just a comparison.  The Alek Manor situation reminds me a lot of another Toronto Blue Jays pitcher–Ricky Romero.  After winning 15 games with a 2.92 ERA in 2011 (when he was 26 and following two other good years), Romero fell apart the following season in 2012, with his ERA+ falling from 146 to 73, his ERA ballooning to 5.77, and issuing a league-leading 105 walks.  He pitched 4 more games in 2013 and never pitched in the big leagues again.

3:00
Ben Clemens: Let’s hope not!

3:01
Ben Clemens: Alright, it’s noon and I’ve got to get out of here. Thanks a lot for spending time with me today and discussing all kinds of things

3:01
Ben Clemens: I really appreciate the questions, and I apologize if I didn’t answer yours, hopefully I’ll pick yours next time. Have a wonderful day, everyone





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

6 Comments
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bosoxforlifemember
10 months ago

and there are people who actually believe in defensive metrics??????????

johndarc
10 months ago
Reply to  bosoxforlife

The teams do, so yeah.

bosoxforlifemember
10 months ago
Reply to  johndarc

Which metric?