Craig Edwards FanGraphs Chat–8/8/2019


Craig Edwards: Working on finishing up a piece. Will be here in just a few minutes. Keep those questions coming.


brad: Craig, Can you describe in details how great Lance Lynn has been this year, how he actually has been unlucky, there fore it is 100% legit and how this is exactly how he pitched in 2012-2015 adjusted for more K’s in today’s game?  Thank you.


Craig Edwards: We talking about AL pitching WAR leader Lance Lynn? He’s been great this season and his ERA keeps creeping down to get closer to his fantastic FIP. It’s not like his performance is all FIP, either. BRef has Lynn second in the AL and BPro had him first last I checked. a 3.60 ERA in this environment playing in Texas is fantastic and CY Young worthy.


Craig Edwards: Just in case you want to catch up on Lynn.


Craig Edwards: I will also say that his cutter is a little better than it was in St. Louis which certainly helps, but he had stretches in St. Louis where it looked like he was about to break out into something like this, but injuries usually got in the way.


Pogo: Xander Bogaerts has been a -17 DRS shortstop with a defensive value of 5.3. DJ Lemahieu has been a neutral to positive DRS contributor with positional versatility worth 3 runs defensively. Why, when calculating WAR, would a bad shortstop be still more valuable than a quality utility infielder? Seems like you shouldn’t be punished for being an okay first baseman when filling in


Craig Edwards: Most of the answer lies in the fact that WAR here at FanGraphs uses UZR as opposed to DRS. UZR says Bogaerts has been mostly average at shortstop. I wouldn’t get too worked up over single season defensive numbers. It takes a few years to get a real sense of how good a player is on defense anyway.


Rusty: Craig – I’m using Data Camp to hone my R and PYTHON skills. Which of the two would you say is most helpful in the baseball realm? Thanks so much!


Craig Edwards: I couldn’t tell you which is more helpful. If you look through team employment postings that we have here on FanGraphs, many of them specify certain skills needed.


Craig Edwards: Overall, when thinking about skills that will be useful to a potential career in baseball, I would say ask yourself a question you don’t know the answer to, then try to find out the answer. Someone has probably done the work before you so figure out how they did it. Keep asking yourself questions and then going about finding out the answers, teaching yourself or through a class the skills you need to find the answers. Learning something because you are curious about how it works is likely to be more worthwhile than learning something you think will be useful to someone else.


Dfan: What do you see as May’s role with the Dodgers the rest of the season and playoffs?


Craig Edwards: I expect at some point he’ll head to the bullpen and be a weapon in the playoffs. The Dodgers obviously disappointed at the trade deadline given their current bullpen, but they’ve pieced it together before and May might help them doing it again.


Dplyr: Who do you think is more likely to win the World Series: (1), the Astros or Dodgers, or (2), the field?


Craig Edwards: Our playoff odds think that’s a pretty good bet with the Astros at 28.7 and the Dodgers at 16.9 for a total of 45.6 versus 54.4 for the field. GIve me one more team and I take them, but right now, I still lean field.


Jason: Craig…Is Randy Arozarena for real, or do you think he’s another Tommy Edman?  Two week hot stretch then back to being under a replacement player.  Thanks!


Craig Edwards: Last year, Arozarena bounced between Double-A and Triple-A and couldn’t seem to get it together at the higher level. He’s not old at 24, but it has taken him some time to advance. His skills are based on hitting the ball hard as he doesn’t have that much power. He is one of a mess of outfielders the Cardinals have where we don’t really know who is better than the other, which might lean toward the unknown and seeing what Arozarena can do.


pumpsie: Next year, Arizona has 9 guys on either expiring contracts or in their last year of arb-eligibility, the most in MLB. What do you think things will look like for the D-backs a year from now?


Craig Edwards: They have an interesting setup. Ray, Peralta, Lamb, and Walker are the main players so the club has a bunch of that dreaded playroll flexibility. I would expect the team to be a soft contender in the offseason, adding players who won’t affect the long term too much so that they have a shot, but leave themselves a bit of an out and moving the pending FA at the deadline or offering the QO so that they can get back at it for 2021.


Norm: Ten years from now, will we be looking back and shaking our heads at how Hall of Famer Justin Verlander managed to finish 2nd in Cy Young voting to both Rick Porcello and Lance Lynn?


Craig Edwards: He’s also finished second to Blake Snell and David Price. Winning once with potentially four second-place finishes is pretty crazy no matter who you lose to.


Dplyr: So you would take group (1) over the field if group (1) is the Astros, Dodgers, or Nationals? This would make the totals 50.2 versus 49.8.


Craig Edwards: That makes sense. Sure.


Sean: Zac Gallen looks like he has some really good upside. The fastball and changeup are both excellent pitches and he was using both his cutter and curveball very effectively last night. Where do you see his potential?


Craig Edwards: I think his potential is less in his upside and more in his floor. He’s been missing bats, but walking a lot of guys too and his homers aren’t going to stay this low forever. I think the strikeouts and walks will both get lower and he’ll give up more homers, but should be a pretty reliable at least league average starter.


Jobu: How should Cardinal fans feel about Goldschmidt trade?


Craig Edwards: The trade was an objectively good one. They traded away a potentially good catcher and kept another similar catcher while moving a starting pitcher with reliever/innings concerns who wore down every year plus a low draft pick and lower-rated prospect. They received one of the best hitters in baseball, even if for just one season. Weaver started off well but has been hurt. Kelly looks exactly as advertised while Goldschmidt hasn’t hit as well as he’s been expected to. That’s not awful.


Craig Edwards: That they then took all of the risk in an unnecessary extension that paid market value pricing, it is okay to feel a bit burned by that because it wasn’t something they had to do.


Jobu: Why did the Marlins trade Zac Gallen?


Craig Edwards: They are shooting for upside. We could argue they are selling high on Gallen, who a year and a half ago was the third player in the Ozuna trade and getting Jazz Chisolm, whose status has dropped a bit, but it still considered one of the better prospects in baseball. Eric talked about this a bit in his piece on the trade, but the Marlins are looking for stars. Gallen isn’t likely to be a star, but Chisolm could be and those are the types of players the Marlins are looking for. They just need a couple guys to get there and then it is on them to supplement those stars with a decent roster instead of doing wht they did a few years ago.


tslammer: Am I expecting too much out of Eloy this year or do you see some holes in his batting that I should be wary of. Maybe just patience is needed.


Craig Edwards: He seems to be a bit streaky this season, which doesn’t seem too unusual for a 22-year-old making his debut. Before he got hurt the last time, from May 22 through July 16, he hit 14 homers in 175 PA and had a 128 wRC+. He’ll have a lot more periods like that in the future than the couple of slumps he’s endured this season.


Texas: Are the Facebook/YouTube broadcasts working? Is baseball winning more fans?


Craig Edwards: The Youtube broadcasts seem better than Facebook. When we talk about whether it is working, MLB has a couple problems. One, is providing access to the game to young fans and 2) is getting young fans in the first place. Providing free games to the kids without cable (with internet access, which is another issue), serves to strengthen a potential fan whose parents might not have cable and putting the games on platforms kids use might make them more aware of the game generally, which is like advertising to a hard to reach group.


pumpsie: Everyone knew the Astros would ‘fix’ Sanchez by having him throw more four-seamers up in the zone. Right? Teams won’t trade with Houston because they know that’s what they will do. I’m sure the Blue Jays and Sanchez knew it, too, but they let him shake off the catcher any time he was asked. Why? Did Sanchez slow-play himself on to a contender for his last couple years before free agency?


Craig Edwards: Sanchez has always had some reliever risk, and been hurt for times as well which is going to make his performance pretty inconsistent. We can talk about the Astros fixing him, but take a look at Sanchez’s last two starts with the Blue Jays. Maybe more teams should have been paying attention not to how Sanchez could be fixed, but to how well he was actually pitching at the time.


Ryan: How would you assign odds to teams in the NL Central on winning the division? FanGraphs currently gives the Cubs a 77.5% chance of winning the division which seems pretty high.


Craig Edwards: They’ve got a three-game lead with less than a third of the season to go and the best team on paper. Hard to know exactly how the bullpen might affect things or Contreras being out, but three out of four doesn’t sound too out of the ordinary.


Chat Mapman: Which premium prospect regresses more, Hiura or Tatis?


Craig Edwards: Hiura is on a 4.8 WAR pace while Tatis is at 6.5. As a percentage of their current WAR, I think Hiura regresses more.


Trevor: Is Bryce Harper just a solid, 3.0-3.5 WAR/year player at this point?  And if so, how should the Phillies feel about that contract?


Craig Edwards: He’s still a 3.5-4.0 win player right now and that still looks pretty good for $25 million for the next five years. The eight years after that, probably not, it is hard to think he’s not going to have a few really good season mixed in there that make him worth the total value of his contract given the way much of the salary is essentially deferred.


pumpsie: Completely agree on your Sanchez point. The Blue Jays and Astros both had their reasons, but when a trade seems light the questions should be about what the other 28 teams were NOT doing. And thanks so much for the chat!


Matt W: With McNeil suddenly showing some power, are we looking at a real star-level player here? Right now he’s like vintage Altuve without the steals. Also just adopted a very good, very adorable puppy.


Craig Edwards: The puppy is no doubt a good dog, though I’m doubtful on McNeil’s stardom. His ISO is .200 in the flyingest fly ball season (average for non-pitchers this year is .186). I think he’s good, but more in a Whit Merrifield way than a Jose Altuve way.


Sean Sligo: Is there a general feeling among MLB team front offices the Astros are doing something sneaky or illegal when it comes to “fixing” pitchers or their approach in general? Seems to me all they’re doing is what many major corporations have done for years. Using statistical analysis to project and initiate more profitable outcomes.


Craig Edwards: There’s the whole substance on the fingers issue, but leaving that aside, everyone made too much of Justin Verlander’s decline when he had still been a very good pitcher. Gerrit Cole had been injured, but was an ace not too far in the past. Wade Miley was “fixed” by the Brewers. Charlie Morton was pretty good before he was hurt. THe Astros definitely improve the pitchers that get into their organization, but teams that win tend to get a lot of attention for things they do well so we see a ton of attention placed on the Astros. It’s not magic, they are just good at identifying pitchers with strengths that aren’t being fully utlitized and have had their valued lowered. It’s not easy or simple, but it isn’t magic, either.


Matt: Jorge Soler has quietly cut his O-Swing% and SwgStk% to below league average since June. Is this a new approach? Can he be successful with the ability to hit a breaking ball?


Craig Edwards: Soler looked good before he got hurt last year so I think he can be successful, but defense is going to keep him from being more than 2-3 win player unless he turns into J.D. Martinez.


Blake M: Will the Cardinals make any front office changes after this season?


Craig Edwards: Nothing too big. I’m sure there will be some shuffling around like there already has been on the development and data side, but the team is competitive and is going to draw a ton of fans this season. There’s going to be some people upset about the season if they miss the playoffs, but people were pretty upset last year and Paul Goldschmidt was enough to turn the public back toward the team. If they do miss the playoffs, I expect they’ll need to make another similar move for next season, likely with a starting pitcher and that will be viewed as enough.


tan mom: do you think it’s possible mozeliak looked at his roster and felt it really wasn’t worth upgrading/trading for something?


Craig Edwards: I don’t think that’s possible. The team was in first place and deserved to be so. I think the team didn’t want to get burned on a trade so they played it safe.


Matt: Is the new goal for team to just perennially contend and hope they luck into a WS title? Teams used to seem to push all their chips in to win a title, but the resulting barren farm system and bad contracts resulted in 1-2 years of being WS favorites before being forced to burn it to the ground and embarking on a 5-year rebuild. It seems like teams would rather consistently be a sustainable 90-win team by maintaining a farm system and avoiding albatross contacts. Fans keep coming to the park as their team is good enough to at least contend for a WC and maybe they over-perform into a WS(a team does it every year)


Craig Edwards: Just like two years ago, everyone was worried that with teams tanking and getting really good, teams would only want to try and win if they could get to 95 wins or more. Every team has a different calculus for what works for them. Some teams and franchises can undergo a hard rebuild/tanking phase that generally happens after a team has already been bad. Average teams don’t often get dismantled to tank. I think if a team could be competitive every year, they would prefer that, but that’s hard to do. I think the Red Sox are more or less fine with their average team and barren farm system given the results of last season. A franchise needs to do what it can to energize a fan base. For some, it is a big push. For others it is maintaining a competitive team. In the end, most of these moves and decisions are made in the offseason and the trade deadline doesn’t have too much bearing on the situation, even if we like to think it does because it is happening now.


dude: Do you think that AI will eventually be able to evaluate baseball players better than any scout or analytics guy can?


Craig Edwards: Hrabosky? No way.


Ryan: Hi Craig, thanks for the chat. I enjoyed your Mike Trout article. Do you think Mike Trout helps us appreciate WAR more than WAR helps us appreciate Mike Trout?


Craig Edwards: Thanks. Here’s that article.


Craig Edwards: I think that WAR helps us make a case that might be fairly obvious but isn’t completely obvious. As to the question, I think it is the latter. It’s hard to process just how much better Trout is than the rest of the league year in and year out. That he does it every year is amazing. No other stat really shows just how far ahead Mike Trout is to the rest of the game, and that’s why it helps better understand the game and just how good Trout is among players all time.


Craig Edwards: Thanks for all the questions this week. Until next time.

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Ben Clemens

Hey Rusty- my guess would be that you’re fine with either Python or R, but that being nimble in sql is more important than either. I have really been liking Python for running some random Monte Carlo stuff, and r and pandas do similar big data stuff, but every role needs sql even if you don’t do heavyweight data crunching.

That said I have literal no formal training and have just been learning via code academy and Google, so take this with a grain of salt.