Craig Edwards FanGraphs Chat–10/10/2019


Craig Edwards: Let’s get things going. The Nationals, no matter how you define it, have now won a series.


Jaffe rhymes with Taffy: Has MLB pulled a switcheroo on balls this post season?  Looking for your take.  Thanks.


Sanford: I hate to be a conspiracy theorist…which is why Rob Arthur’s BP article this morning gives me some validation. This ain’t the 2019 regular season ball, chief. Data FTW.


Craig Edwards: So about the ball. Jay wrote about this morning.…


Craig Edwards: and like Oasis, he says definitely, maybe.


Craig Edwards: Rob Arthur also wrote about it… and like the Black Crowes, he says hitting homers is twice as hard.


Craig Edwards: JJ Cooper has a thread discussing rumors about a change in the minor league ball during the season.


JJ Cooper


1. I hope I’ll have time to do the data dive and other work needed to turn this into a story. But considering @No_Little_Plans piece on the MLB ball today, I feel I need to note there was a lot of talk of Triple-A ball changing in August, expecially in the IL.
10 Oct 2019

and like the Avetts, he leaves me a head full of doubt.


Craig Edwards: short answer, i don’t know, but it is certainly possible and I’m not even sure that if they did change it, that they did it on purpose, or at least changed it on purpose for the playoffs.


Craig Edwards: We know that MLB has control of production of the ball and they generally claim to have no idea what is going on. If they don’t know what is going on, they are choosing not to.


Lou: Pretty much all of LA wants Roberts gone, from the traditionalists to the nerds, he has to be gone right?  This was a Grady Little moment.


Craig Edwards: Be careful what you wish for. The Nats started firing managers and couldn’t make the playoffs consistently. I don’t think Roberts is a bad manager. It’s possible he could be improved upon. The problem is that it is very hard to tell if a manager will be an improvement if they haven’t managed and that limits the pool somewhat. If the players are fine with Roberts, and I have no idea, then maybe the organization just needs to make a more concerted effort to get relievers at the deadline. They didn’t need to make THAT move, but bringing in more pitchers might have helped.


pyco: What would you do to “fix” the Braves?  They can’t seem to get through the playoffs.  At some point the past negatives have to start accumulating.   Please assure me there is more to do than just waiting for the prospects to mature, because that may never happen.  Thank you.


Craig Edwards: Well, they lost to a much better team than them last year and lost in a close series that was pretty close to 50/50 heading in. That’s not terrible.


Craig Edwards: As for getting better, their young pitchers have developed some, but not at the rate they really need to take another step forward. That could end up helping their bullpen, but they should probably spend some of the mountain of cash they are sitting on to bring in better starting pitching.


Yankees: Hicks says he’s healthy. Would you bring him in over Voit, whose only major skill is OBP these days? He would be in the lineup over Urshela most likely (DJ to 3B, Gardner to LF, Stanton to DH and actually plays all game, Edwin to 1B), or leave it how it was?


Craig Edwards: If he is healthy, then yes. I think defense and baserunning would probably worth it at some point in the ALCS, particularly if Voit isn’t likely to play much.


Worse: If the Rays were to win, and the Yankees beat them and the NL, would it be seen as a “lesser” title since they didn’t beat another “superteam”? Or should we maybe shut up about “super teams” if they mostly can’t dominate the playoffs?


Craig Edwards: I think the NBAization of MLB might be a bit overblown. Yankees, Dodgers, and Astros were roughly 70% to win the title before the playoffs just like in the NBA, but if the NBA eliminated a round to get to the same as MLB, the odds would remain the same while if MLB added a full extra round like they have in the NBA, the top teams odds would go down a bunch. As to the championship not meaning as much or something, that’s just silly.


Mason Jarre: I suck at math (but this is NOT a ‘Fangraphs hates the Yankees’ question): How do the Yanks have greater odds to win the LCS than the Astros but lower odds to win the WS?

Can you help me wrap my head around that?


Craig Edwards: the astros might lose today. If they don’t they will be big favorites against the yankees and in the WS, but because they only make the LCS a smaller number of times, the chances of them winning it is a little lower.


Bread Gardner: I have to say, the umpiring I’ve seen thus far, especially ball and strike calls, has been VASTLY better than the regular season.


Craig Edwards: In theory, it should be that way. Not sure if that is actually true, but it doesn’t seem to have been noticeable, which is what you want from an umpire.


Chat Mapman: Will Smith cratered big time from September until now. Does the past 5 weeks give Ruiz a nice opening for playing time off the bat in 2020?


Craig Edwards: I think that’s probably true regardless, unless they trade him. If you have two MLB-caliber catchers, you can get them each 80 games, which for a starting catcher is like 2/3 playing time.


Whoa: If Hicks were to return (and CC might be activated as a reliever), the only injured major Yankee would be Betances (I guess there’s Andujar and Bird, but…). Guess we might see how that full team plays.


Craig Edwards: The big ones at different points were Judge, Stanton, and Severino. Judge has been back and crushing things for a while and didn’t miss that much time in the end. If Stanton gets going and Severino is anything close to what he can be, it really evens the teams. That said, I picked the Twins in the first round, so salt, etc.


the meme lives: Bryce Harper has never won a playoff series


Craig Edwards: Mike Trout’s never even won a playoff game.


Derek: Will fans ever understand that consistent playoff success (or failure) is extremely hard to achieve because of the inherent randomness of the game and the format? Like, sure, Roberts wasn’t great yesterday, but if Will Smith eats a couple extra bowls of Wheaties throughout the season then the Dodgers win and no one is really talking about it. The playoffs are awesome but also a really terrible arena in which to evaluate things about baseball!


Craig Edwards: The playoffs are great at determining a champion, but they are a reminder that no matter how good they are, they aren’t THAT much better than the Washington Nationals, which is what allows outcomes like this to happen.


Craig Edwards: I know Dodgers’ fans are freaking out now about not winning one, but the Cardinals from 2000-2005 went on a fairly similar run (missed postseason once) including a couple 100 win seasons, several NLCS’ and a WS loss, then they only made the playoffs three times in the next six years, but they won twice. It happens.


One Sad Tigers Fan: If the ball has changed as dramatically as Arthur suggests, which remaining playoff team benefits most?


Craig Edwards: I would think the Astros, if they advance, because they are the best team and a deadened ball reduces randomness. Cardinals might be helped, too, because their offense is already not great and they are in a park where it is already difficult to hit homers so the road atmosphere might be slightly less different.


Bread Gardner: Can we talk for a second about how stupid MLB has been with actually broadcasting playoff games?  Many people have had to turn to alternative sources to watch games.


Craig Edwards: This isn’t really new. TBS and FOX pay exorbitant sums of money to broadcast on cable so they get to do what they want. Fewer people have cable so they are reaching a smaller audience, but MLB Network is in as many homes as ESPN when MLB signed their first tv deal with them. Fortunately the World Series is still on FOX, so we are almost done with that for the season.


Rays Fan in Boston: If the ball has been switched, we’ve been hitting the hell out of mistakes.


Craig Edwards: When Tommy Pham gets the ball in the air, it doesn’t matter if there are feathers on the end of the ball dragging the ball down.


Bread Gardner: Did you see this?  Disgusting.  How do we, as fans, help effect change?




First off, I am extremely grateful for where I am in my career & even more grateful to be part of a first clsss organization such as the Giants. They go out of their way when it comes to the a lot of things …..
7 Oct 2019

Craig Edwards: I suppose you could write your local member of congress given they passed a bill that limited minor league wages. I’m not sure what more fans could do other than spotlighting the issue as much as possible.


Astros: I know the Astros are still the most talented team, but I don’t think it would be absurd if they didn’t make it to the WS. On this site, everyone thought they would “destroy every team in their path” (that was Meg on Monday) and that, already, hasn’t happened, even if they win. In other words, October is October.


Craig Edwards: They could also win 9 straight games and then everything will be as everyone thought. I think it is possible that everyone sometimes underestimates what a 30% chance. Something that happens 30% of the time actually happens quite a bit. Eddie Rosario got on base quite a bit. Jack Flaherty struck out a ton of batters. Both of those things happened 30% of the time this season. A 70-30 favorite is a masssive favorite to win, but it still means there is a good chance they lose.


This is Lude-i-cris: Mike Trout might never win a playoff game!


Craig Edwards: I really hope that isn’t true.


Old Narratives: Busted: Nationals. Not busted: Kershaw, Dodgers, Twins, Braves. We busted Price last year, so maybe we only get one a year.


Craig Edwards: You are forgetting the new anti-Bryce Harper narrative that has replaced the Nationals narrative. Verlander isn’t invincible might count.


Twins Fan: If the ball has been switched, that may have killed the bomba squad.


Craig Edwards: I wouldn’t go that far.


Halp: is it cemented that the careers of MadBum >>> Kershaw now


Craig Edwards: Kershaw is the best pitcher since the generation of Pedro, Maddux and Randy Johnson. I’m not sure MadBum will ever get close. Verlander and Scherzer maybe, particularly with Verlander’s late-career resurgence.


Craig Edwards: He’s not a playoff choke artist any more than Justin Verlander. He was repeatedly left in games too late or pitched on short rest, or this year out of the pen. Nobody has been asked to do what Kershaw has been asked to do as often. He’s got 10 appearances on under normal rest. Bumgarner has two, and both were relief appearances. Kershaw gets piled on because he’s now been around for a while on some teams that haven’t quite gotten done as he’s been the best player on most of those teams. That doesn’t make it fair to single him out.


Optimistic Rays Fan: Any idea who the most likely Rays player is to have success off Cole tonight? Waiting for Meadows and Lowe to come alive…


Craig Edwards: No idea. Cole doesn’t really have platoon splits. He does a lot worse, like most pitchers, when the count goes 1-0, so we could see a repeat of the Verlander strategy where we see batters take a pitch, but Cole is really good. It’s not a great matchup for anybody.


Every GM in Baseball: Isn’t it great that the best player in our lifetimes is essentially quarantined on a mediocre team!  It’s nice not having to worry about a contender getting Trout.


Craig Edwards: He’s not exactly quarantined. He’s signed two massive bargain contracts. Also, the Angels are probably going to make some noise this offseason and given the status of the rest of the AL after the Yankees and Astros, there’s some room for upward movement.


MikeM: Why do MLB broadcasters hire announcers who seem to hate the modern game?  Smoltz constantly brings up in my day BS and Costas goes on and on about nostalgia and game length.  Why not employ someone who actually likes the game?  Nobody is tuning in for Costas or Smoltz or whatever other curmudgeon is on air.  Games are a lot more fun with announcers that like what they are watching.


Craig Edwards: Why do I listen to objectively terrible songs on the radio just because I know the song or the words to the same. There is comfort in familiarity and Costas provides that comfort while Smoltz is saying a lot of things people are already thinking. Is that good for the sport long-term? Probably not.


Craig Edwards: I think about the ESPN2 Statcast broadcast which included one “typical” PBP in Benetti, one former player in Perez, and one “nerd” in Petriello and it was a great broadcast because they had fun with each other and genuinely seemed to enjoy the game they were watching and talking about it. It doesn’t have to be a Statcast broadcast. Any broadcast can have people who enjoy talking about the game and each other and audiences are going to respond to it.


Craig Edwards: Kershaw has 9 playoff starts with at least 6 innings and 0 or 1 run. Only seven pitchers in history have more. Glavine and Smoltz are in the Hall of Fame. Clemens and Schillin should be based on their record. Pettitte, as well as the other guys have a ton more opportunities. Jon Lester is ahead of him. So is Verlander. Kershaw has come up big more than almost all pitchers. He’s dominated in more than a third of his postseason starts.


Parsons: Why was Flaherty left in so long? I like the bold strategy of pulling him before the bottom of the first and letting him start game 1 of the NLCS, but what do think would have been optimal?


Craig Edwards: I think two innings would have been optimal. Dave Sheinen (sp?) in the Washington Post pointed out that maybe with Flaherty’s warmup  to start, that pitching him in another two days was never really an option. Getting ready for a start isn’t like warming up in the pen to come in for an inning, so it isn’t exactly the same as what Corbin looks set to do, for example. I don’t think there’s an objective way to make this look like a good decision. The only other thing is that Flaherty has very limited postseason exposure and getting him in one more game, even with a lopsided score, is good for him.


Craig Edwards: I would have taken him and taken the risk of losing a 13-run lead, though I’m generally in favor of win the game today, worry about tomorrow, then, this was such a weird and almost absurd situation, it would seem to have needed a pull. Dan Szymborski ran the numbers and found that Flaherty moving up to Game 1 wouldn’t have changed the series odds by more than a percent, so who knows.


Craig Edwards: Sorry if the chat transcript looks a little weird. I deleted some of the questions with an offensive name, but left the answers in.


Rays Fan in Boston: What is one thing you’ve really enjoyed about the playoffs so far and one thing you haven’t?


Craig Edwards: The uncertainty with all the comebacks. So many games have felt like they should be over, but haven’t been has been great. I don’t like narratives about players/teams/managers as chokers. Most of it is just random.


cheese: What’s next for the dodgers?  sounds like Hill wants to come back.  Go after a big arm?  A big bat?  Or just tinker as theyve done in recent years?


Craig Edwards: They need pitching and Ryu is a pending free agent. They could just bring them back, but they should have a ton of money if they want to go big…or bring in MadBum to make everyone go crazy. My guess is they do something more with the bullpen, too.


Max : Was it the right decision to walk Soto in 10th vs. bringing in Kolarek to strike him out given recent success (albeit small sample)? What gives Dodgers best chance to escape inning unscathed?


Craig Edwards: The WE didn’t change that much with the walk to Soto, in part because it was already very high. I don’t think it is wise to play for a double play ball, but in that situation your options are limited. There were probably worse decisions made in the game.


Craig Edwards: That’s going to do it for today. Big game tonight and then LCS’ start this weekend. Thanks for all the questions and keep a look out for more in game chats as the playoffs continue.

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The Dodgers failures lie with Freidman here. Three years straight, they’ve had deep position player depth, deep starting rotation depth, and big bullpen question marks. Three years straight, bullpen failures have ended their season. Having to go to Kershaw in G5 in relief is itself a reflection of not having reliable relievers – again.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. Freidman is insane.