Craig Edwards FanGraphs Chat – 9/24/2020


Craig Edwards: Quick plugs and then we will get rolling. I have taken a look at the major awards in both leagues this week.


Craig Edwards: and NL Cy Young should be out today or tomorrow.


Cueto’s Shimmy: Can you explain why tracking a sinking/tailing fastball on two different planes, down and armside, is easier for hitters than a rising fastball on just one plane of movement? It just doesn’t make sense intuitively.


Craig Edwards: Think about where you want the ball to hit the barrel of the bat. You want to meet the ball where it is coming from, leading to a slight uppercut, but getting just a tiny bit under it still leads to good outcomes. If you swung not knowing if it was a rising or sinking fastball and you miss, the rising (not really rising) is going to cause the bat to go under the ball, but if the ball is sinking, you are still likely to make contact because you were aiming a bit higher.


Marshall: Are strikeouts overrated in pitcher evaluation? I really like the idea of using xwoba instead of FIP in WAR.


Craig Edwards: xwOBA includes strikeouts. Strikeouts are guaranteed outs and definitely not overrated. FIP and xwOBA are very similar in terms of WAR. They both use strikeouts and walks. FIP-based WAR uses homers and popups while xwOBA uses expected outcomes on all contact. FIP-based WAR also adjusts for park while xwOBA shouldn’t theoretically need to.


Guest: What do the cardinals do with Carlos Martinez? Just seems like he doesn’t have the command to start or the stuff to be a good reliever


Craig Edwards: I would be hesitant to base many decisions on performances this season, particularly with pitchers. Add in the fact that Martinez was trying to come back as a starter in a weird training camp, then got COVID-19, then was immediately put in the rotation, and this season looks like another wash for Martinez. I think you put him in a competition for a rotation slot next season and if he doesn’t look ready to go five or six innings, then make the bullpen his destination. I don’t think you toss out that possibility given this season as he has looked decent in spurts. Let’s also see what his velocity is with a normal offseason and training camp.


Jon: Any hint on the NL Cy?


Craig Edwards: I’ll say that your view will depend a lot on how much you want to try and factor strength of opponent into your evaluation because the pitchers faced substantially different opponents and only made 11 or so starts on the year.


Jon: Does FIP take into account HR/FB?


Craig Edwards: I takes into account homers. If you wanted to give the pitcher an average HR/FB rate, then you can look at xFIP.


Glen McReynolds: Hi Craig, which of the fringe wild card teams (STL, CIN, MIL, SF, PHI) do you see as the scariest/have the potential to contend?


Craig Edwards: I think you have to start with Cincinnati’s rotation, particularly in terms of getting out of that first round. Philadelphia might have a similar advantage if they can get in. After that, I’d put Milwaukee and St. Louis in a similar tier, but Milwaukee’s offense would need to perk up. Then the Giants.


Marshall: Right now the Dodgers are slated to face the Reds. How many of the other likely playoff teams do you think the Dodgers would rather face?


Craig Edwards: I would think Giants, Marlins, Cardinals of the playoff teams currently in.


lgm: hi! re: Dustin May, it seems like his peripherals are a bit alarming for a 2.77 ERA: 6.75 k/9, 2.4 bb/9, 88% strand rate, babip .231. If I were defending him in debate club, how could I make the case that his regression won’t be inevitable or that bad?


Craig Edwards: This is his first extended run in the majors, and he isn’t likely to give up so many homers in the future, which will help him if the BABIP and LOB% go in the wrong direction. A 2.77 ERA is still on the low side, though he is still going to have the Dodgers defense and ballpark to help him in the future. I think the strikeout rate goes up slightly, the walk and homer rate go down a bit, and there isn’t as much regression happening because he’ll get better with experience.


Glen McReynolds: Do you think the outcome of the playoffs could affect the number of playoff teams we have going forward? For instance, if the Reds make it to the WS, would that decrease (or maybe even increase) the chances that MLB sticks with expanded playoff?


Craig Edwards: I doubt it. I think expanded playoffs is more about money so that will be the issue that would need to get worked out between the players and the owners. If the Reds won the World Series, it would be a great story and I think people would like it given they would have to beat four good teams in a row in a short series.


Guest: When doing advanced metrics in the future that will have to use data from this bizarre 2020 season, what do you think we should be doing to account for it? Treat it like any other season, ignore it altogether, scale it up to 162 games, something else?


Craig Edwards: In terms of expectations, you just can’t weight 200 PA like they are 600 PA, so you have to regress some and use aging. Picking out what is sustainable and what isn’t will be a somewhat difficult task that will need individual analysis and scouting.


MVP: Trout isn’t leading in WAR so stats don’t count this year, right?


Craig Edwards: They count, but are a reminder that the season is weird.


Pumpsie Green: Where does the bidding for one year of Bauer’s services start and end? $35 and $40 million?


Craig Edwards: It’s a good question. He’ll have the QO attached to him, which hurts more if he only wants a one year deal compared to multiple seasons. I’d be a little surprised if he ended up with more than $35 million. He’s having a great year and is in good position to cash in if he wants to, though this offseason is highly unusual, but I think there is going to be a mental block with most teams bidding more than that for one season with a QO plus the likelihood of being the competitive balance tax.


Sam: is the Cardinals offense as bad as it looks?


Craig Edwards: It probably isn’t as bad as it looks, but the 94 wRC+ seems pretty representative. The offense wasn’t good last year, and they didn’t do anything to make it better this year. It’s a reasonable result.


Marshall: Is the Dodgers’ Will Smith really good?


Craig Edwards: I think so.


Steve Falter: Other than Goldschmidt, can you convince me that the rest of the everyday lineup are complementary and replacement level players?  They do have a lot of pitching talent and depth, but they just don’t have enough good regulars.


Craig Edwards: I think that’s a bit harsh. Both Paul DeJong and Kolten Wong are good players. Harrison Bader and Tommy Edman are at least average. Same with Yadi. Dylan Carlson probably is, too, with considerable potential for more. Defense matters. The Cardinals offense isn’t good, but the defense makes the pitching staff look better than it is.


Cueto’s Shimmy: Do Japanese hitters who come to MLB get pumped fastballs until they adjust or is that just a myth that they can’t handle heaters?


Craig Edwards: I think almost all new hitters, no matter where they are from get pumped with fastballs until they prove they can handle them.


Pumpsie Green: Which organizations with more than one long-term contract could you see pressing a reset, a la the A-Gon Red Sox? If I were a GM with money to spend, I’d start with calls to the Rockies, Astros, Cubs and Mets.


Craig Edwards: I’ll be fascinated to know which GMs actually have money to spend. I’m not sure how the Cubs can really do a reset. With all their expiring contracts, they are sort of stuck for one more year. The Astros aren’t going to back down yet. The Rockies are certainly going to get a lot of calls if they are willing to trade Arenado at a discount. And the Mets only real long term deals are deGrom and Cano. They won’t trade the former and they can’t trade the latter. I might be on the phone with Arizona.


Guest: Has the Cardinals’ front office fallen behind? Or is it really ownership limiting spending reflecting poorly on them? Do we just give Randy Flores’ draft strategy more time to materialize before judgement?


Craig Edwards: They might not be as advanced as they once were, but it is hard to say they are really falling behind as much as they are closer to the middle after being ahead. They still do a good job drafting and developing. Oh, Mikolas, and Kim all look like solid signings. They’ve continued to be competitive despite never drafting high or going through a rebuild. It’s just a risk-averse organization and sometimes it takes those risks to get stars, and the Cardinals haven’t had anyone like that in a while. Let’s not forget they won the division just last year.


Pumpsie Green: Do you agree with Jay that Arenado and the Rockies are stuck with each other, or do you think a trade will be worked out?


Craig Edwards: I think that’s most likely. He’s got the opt-out after next year that absolutely tanks his trade value. The Rockies would have to eat a bunch of the future contract to make any deal possible.


bosoxforlife: Do you think that 2021 will open with full capacity in the stands?


Craig Edwards: I’m not hugely optimistic about that.


Guest: Dylan Carlson is a new hitter and does not get pumped with fastballs (no Cardinal does though)


Craig Edwards: He’s somewhat unusual in that regard.


Rob: Will Ozuna be the most sought after RH power hitter this offseason? What will starting number be for interested teams?


Craig Edwards: That depends if you consider JT Realmuto a power hitter, I suppose. The FA market is hard to predict, but four years and 60M-80M seems likely.


bosoxforlife: Following up on my previous question. What will the free agent market look like without any certainty about fans and the effect on revenue and what might be the position of the MLBPA? How can there be negotiations under this cloud?


Craig Edwards: It will be difficult. This offseason was always going to be ugly with the FA available and teams tightening their budgets ahead of the CBA negotiations. Now, we are going to have a non-tender nightmare flooding the market with competent players. If it ends up that fans still can’t attend games next season, there might be more negotiations though with a full season likely possible, I’m not sure the players are going to be too inclined to give up much, if anything ahead of the CBA ending. Owners will have more to lose if they hold up the season for some reason.


John S.: Which is a bigger offseason need for the fish? Hitting or bullpen?


Craig Edwards: Never bullpen for a team that is on the verge of contention. The bullpen is for teams who are already there. Hitters are a lot more predictable.


Guest: You just know 2-3 of the division winners are gonna lose in the first round and it’s gonna make this whole postseason suck.


Craig Edwards: I think it will still be fun and give fans a chance to know players they might not otherwise. It also depends on which division winners lose. The AL has a great group of non-division winners while the NL doesn’t.


Rob: How nasty do you except negotiations for the new CBA to get? There seems to be virtually no trust between the owners and the players right now. They’d be crazy to work themselves into another lockout, wouldn’t they?


Craig Edwards: I think they will be bad. I wrote about why it won’t look like this season at one point. Here it is.…


Al: Is it realistic to expect Jesus Luzardo to pitch over 170 innings next year?


Craig Edwards: That’s probably in the ballpark. I’d take the under, but if he were healthy the whole season, 170 seems like a reasonable figure.


Joe Don: Boom! You run the Rangers. Do you trade him or extend him?


Craig Edwards: I would extend him. I think there’s a real opportunity right now for teams to sign players to contracts they might not otherwise be able to. I’m not sure teams see it the same way, though. Certainly the Dodgers, did.


Craig Edwards: And now my NL Cy Young piece is out there to read:…


Craig Edwards: I got a question about JT Brubaker I can’t find right now, but I’ll say that I worry batters will eventually lay off his pitches as so few are in the strike zone. He has good pitches, but command was always the concern.


Soto Shuffle: The Nats lineup today features Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes batting 3/4 – who has tanked harder, 2008 Nats or 2020 Nats?


Craig Edwards: Last year’s Nats team was 24-32 after 56 games. This year’s team is 23-33. The shortened season is a weird one.


bosoxforlife: Can the absolutely astounding number of star players hitting around the Mendoza line be attributable to the players seasonal rhythm being completely thrown off. There are currently 25 qualified hitters hitting under .220 including Yelich, Carlos Santana and Altuve. Do you think the balance is getting out of control?


Craig Edwards: I think the pitchers were more ready than the hitters to start the season because hitters have to react to something that is hard to practice against. I do think there’s a bit of an imbalance going on right now that causes hitters to be even more power-conscious which leads to lower averages, but that’s not really the hitters’ fault. Unjuice the ball, shrink the strike zone, and expand and I think balance gets restored.


Craig Edwards: That’s going to do it for me today. Thanks for all the questions.

Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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