Dave Cameron FanGraphs Chat – 9/23/15

11:52
Dave Cameron: It’s Wednesday, so let’s chat. The awards races are interesting, a few of the playoff races are still worth watching, and there’s always off-season speculation for those of you whose teams aren’t exactly fun to watch right now.

11:52
Dave Cameron: The queue is now open, and we’ll start in 10 minutes.

12:03
Dave Cameron: Okay, we’ll start up in a second. I have to clear the queue of some immature morons first.

12:05
Comment From JD Martin
which team that isn’t really considered a favorite but will make the playoffs do you think has the best chance at having a deep playoff run?

12:06
Dave Cameron: The Dodgers. I think they’re getting a bit lost in the shuffle in the NL right now, but that is still one really scary team.

12:06
Comment From Bill
Should Kris Bryant get MVP votes?

12:06
Dave Cameron: Not first place ones, but middle of the ballot, yes.

12:07
Comment From primantis
Last week you agreed that the arbitration process results in below market salaries for young players, which lines up with the players union’s goals. How did the union get independent arbitrators to go along with their desired pay structure?

12:08
Dave Cameron: The system is structured around awarding raises of certain amounts based on how you perform the previous year and how your career performance stacks up against other players with similar levels of service time. If you go through the process multiple times, you’ll have received multiple raises, so naturally, you’ll get more money than if you’re going through it the first time.

12:09
Comment From Sebastian
Which pitcher, in terms of ROI, is going to be the best signing this off season?

12:10
Dave Cameron: Probably some guy with an injury history who will stay healthy for the first time in a while. The Scott Kazmir/Brett Anderson types have a very high ROI when they don’t break down.

12:10
Comment From Pale Hose
According to playoff odds there is roughly a 50% chance of the world series winner being one of Dodgers, Blue Jays, or Royals. Would you take that group of three or the field?

12:10
Dave Cameron: I’ll take the field, because the playoff odds don’t know Greg Holland is broken.

12:11
Comment From Avery
Do you think the Braves will make any big FA moves this offseason?

12:11
Dave Cameron: I doubt it. I’d see them making more trades than FA signings.

12:11
Comment From Andrew
If you’re the Yankees (or other WC team), how would you pitch the WC game? lead off with Miller or Betances? leave the other for a high leverage situation?

12:12
Dave Cameron: I’d bullpen game any single-elimination playoff game I was in, and try to exploit as many match-ups as possible. So maybe start a guy like Pineda (if he’s healthy) and let him face nine batters or so, then go with Miller, then Betances, then play the left-right match-ups from there.

12:12
Dave Cameron: And Miller and Betances would be getting six outs each.

12:13
Comment From Robert
Joe Maddon said yesterday that he’s not ruling out “bullpen days” during the playoffs. What do you think about that as a strategy on the non-Arrieta/Lester days? Seems like mixing and matching Hammel, Hendricks, Wood, Richard, and Cahill for 3-4 innings each could be a pretty good strategy.

12:13
Dave Cameron: Even 3-4 innings is probably too many. Those guys should never hit in a postseason game. Let them pitch until their spot in the line-up comes up, then PH.

12:14
Dave Cameron: (Never is too strong. If it’s an early blowout or something, then you let them pitch longer.)

12:14
Comment From Colin
What are the odds of the pitch clock being implemented at the major league level next season?

12:14
Dave Cameron: Slim.

12:14
Comment From Max Kepler needs a good nickname
In the event of a Dodgers-Mets NLDS, could the Dodgers theoretically gain some kind of advantage by doing this: Announce Kershaw as the Game 1 starter and have the Mets start their vs.-LHP lineup (with guys like Lagares and Cuddyer), only then to remove Kershaw after he throws one pitch (as is required by the rules) for Greinke, who has been secretly warming up somewhere hidden. Kershaw would then be available to start Game 2. Obviously Mattingly would never do this, but would it work?

12:15
Dave Cameron: I don’t know where you have Greinke “secretly warming up”, and the idea of purposely deceiving your opponent in that way would be seen as highly unsportsmanlike.

12:17
Dave Cameron: That said, I do think it is worth considering “starting” with a few different relievers so that the opponents can’t really start a specialized line-up. So, instead, maybe you announce Yimi Garcia as the starter, and even if the Mets know Kershaw is coming in by inning #2 or #3, they’ll have to let some RH hitters face RH relievers once if they want to start their anti-LHP line-up.

12:18
Comment From Pete
Matt Kemp has 23 HR, 98 RBI and +9 in SB. Was the trade really THAT BAD? And will there be a market…any market…for him this Winter?

12:19
Dave Cameron: Yes, the trade was a disaster. Kemp has been worth +0.4 WAR, and continues to prove he’s a 1B/DH without the bat to make him a star at the position. No one would take that contract this winter.

12:20
Comment From Matt the Man
With the way the red sox have been playing lately, do you think they will be contenders for 2016?

12:20
Dave Cameron: Depends on how Dombrowski re-arranges the roster. I think they’ll be in the mix, probably.

12:21
Comment From Joel
Dave, what did you think of the Brewers GM hire?

12:21
Dave Cameron: By most reports, Stearns is a very bright guy and will probably do quite well there. It will be interesting to see how much power he’s given, though.

12:22
Comment From Colin
Who wins the AL/NL Wild Card games?

12:22
Dave Cameron: I’ll take the Yankees against any other WC team unless the Indians sneak in there and get to throw Kluber (unlikely at best). The NL game will probably be a toss-up.

12:23
Comment From Bob L
Which non-playoff team is positioned best for 2016?

12:23
Dave Cameron: Probably the Red Sox. The Blue Jays are likely to take a pretty big step back next year.

12:23
Comment From Barry
% Harper ever has a season this good again?

12:23
Dave Cameron: 10%

12:24
Comment From Toronto Fan
Should I be worried? I feel like I should be worried. Our bullpen and hitting seem to be having a late swoon.

12:24
Dave Cameron: Recent performance doesn’t mean much for the postseason. Just get there and you’ll probably be fine.

12:25
Comment From mtsw
What percentage of the increase in offense in 2015 can be chalked up to an exceptional rookie class? Rookies in 2015 hit better compared to the rest of the league than any year since 2000.

12:25
Dave Cameron: It has to be some of it. There’s no question that the wave of young hitters that have come up the last few years are much better than the group from 4-5 years ago.

12:25
Comment From senpaisanto
should jake arrieta receive MVP votes, too?

12:25
Dave Cameron: End of ballot ones, perhaps.

12:26
Comment From James
Hey Dave, what should do the Rangers do with Yovani Gallardo after the season is over? I imagine they’ll give him a qualifying offer, but with his peripherals do you think they bring him in long term?

12:27
Dave Cameron: I definitely wouldn’t want to go long-term at FA prices with an SP with a 15% strikeout rate in this day and age.

12:27
Comment From Robert
Arrieta is already 60 IP past his previous career high and he’s exceeded 110 pitches five outings in a row. Should there be any concern about him? I tend to think the fact that he’s pitched in so few stressful innings makes the raw inning/pitch counts a little misleading.

12:28
Dave Cameron: He doesn’t really look like he’s wearing down. I wouldn’t be too concerned, and there’s nothing really to be done about it anyway. Maybe back off of him in his last couple of starts, but he’s not a young kid and flags fly forever.

12:29
Comment From Not THAT Dave Cameron
What’s your take on how various teams value/measure defense, and do any teams stick out to you as being ahead of the curve when it comes to properly quantifying it? Jason Heyward’s potential FA contract seems like the kind of thing that might drop some jaws in some front offices and get shrugs of “Yeah, that sounds right” from others.

12:31
Dave Cameron: I think most of the teams advantages on defensive data right now is related to positioning, not necessarily player evaluation. So they probably have a much better idea of how to maximize the effectiveness of the defenders they do have, but I don’t think any team has yet cracked the code to projecting future defensive value to any large degree.

12:31
Comment From Ralph
why not a 3WC game, or 7 DS games?

12:31
Dave Cameron: You’d have to condense the regular season or you’d be playing the World Series in the snow.

12:32
Comment From Guest
Are maddon’s “bullpen days” just piggybacking with different marketing? Maybe this is the way to a shift in pitcher usage toward shorter and more frequent outings.

12:33
Dave Cameron: Piggybacking is a more structured setup, where Pitcher A goes, then Pitcher B goes, and you have it planned out ahead of time. A bullpen game should be more responsive, so if Pitcher A is an RHB and gets in trouble with a few LHBs coming up, he gets swapped out quickly for an LHP in order to squash the rally.

12:33
Comment From Ray
Corey Seager will be starting meaningful games in October – true or false?

12:33
Dave Cameron: True

12:33
Comment From Josh in DC
During the playoffs, we sometimes see starting pitchers throwing for one inning because their throwing schedules allow it. I love this, and I can’t figure out why we don’t see it in the regular season more often. Any thoughts? (Feels like the kind of thing this site has probably already written about.)

12:34
Dave Cameron: Teams are trying to reduce their starters workloads during the regular season, not increase them.

12:34
Dave Cameron: During the postseason, the incentives flip, and you care more about short-term payoffs than long-term risks.

12:34
Comment From The Average Sports Fan
If a manager goes with a bullpen game in the playoffs, and it blows up in his face. Does it ever happen again? Or does the strategy have enough merits to survive a failure?

12:35
Dave Cameron: The reality that pitchers perform better in shorter outings, and that hitters perform better against pitchers after multiple in-game looks, is basically an indisputable fact. As long as we stay with this playoff format, with these off-days built in, teams will move more and more towards more pitching changes and shorter outings for those on the mound. There’s too much at stake to not do it.

12:36
Comment From mtsw
Top of the 9th, bases loaded, 2 outs, your team is up one run. Barry Bonds is at bat, Mario Mendoza is on deck and the other team has no pinch hitters available. Do you IBB Bonds and walk in the tying run or pitch to him?

12:36
Dave Cameron: Pitch to him.

12:36
Dave Cameron: If you walk him when trying to paint the corners, so be it.

12:37
Comment From Peter
People often talk about pitchers splits the 1st/2nd/3rd time through the order. Isn’t this fairly misleading? Seems like the vast majority of pitchers will make it through the order twice most starts, but often get pulled somewhere in the 3rd time they’ve only faced the top of the lineup. So of course you’re going to look much worse the 3rd time through the order, on average you’re facing better hitters.

12:38
Dave Cameron: The differences in performance on times through the order is much, much larger than the differences in talent level between hitters in different positions in the batting order, especially since the top 2 hitters in many line-ups aren’t that great.

12:38
Comment From Pirates Hurdles
Why not WAS with Harper/Rendon/Max/Stras and gaining financial flexibility?

12:39
Dave Cameron: They’re not gaining financial flexibility as much as they are losing a bunch of good players. But sure, they’re in a good position for next year too.

12:39
Comment From Prisoner of WAR
I have to disagree on Harper only having a 10% chance of repeating this season. He may have 15 or more years to play!

12:39
Dave Cameron: It’s hard to beat +10 WAR.

12:40
Comment From Toronto Fan
“Blue Jays are likely to take a pretty big step back next year.” Can you expound on that?

12:41
Dave Cameron: They’re going to lose Price, in all likelihood, and it’s very unlikely that Donaldson will have this kind of year again. They probably won’t be able to replace Estrada’s performance even if they bring him back personally. Guys like Bautista, Encarnacion, and Martin will be a year older.

12:42
Dave Cameron: They should be good again, but probably not this good.

12:42
Comment From Mandatory High Socks
So, can we confirm Billy Burns > Billy Hamilton? Ham’s got more steals, but Burns is a much, much better hitter.

12:42
Dave Cameron: And a much worse fielder.

12:42
Comment From Patrick
Who are your top 3 favorites to win the WS in order?

12:42
Dave Cameron: Blue Jays, Dodgers, and Cardinals probably.

12:43
Comment From Chaz
Do you really believe the NL wildcard game is a tossup with Arrieta pitching for the cubs?

12:43
Dave Cameron: Gerrit Cole doesn’t suck.

12:44
Comment From Pete
Where do you stand on Puig in 2016 and beyond: MVP caliber player, all star, above-average, average or a bust?

12:44
Dave Cameron: I’d guess above-average with some all-star years.

12:45
Comment From Chris
What do you make of the Jackie Bradley enigma? (at the plate; there’s no enigma about his fielding). In the minors–including this year–he was a steady performer. In the majors, he’s alternated between being epically hot and equally awful. What gives?

12:45
Dave Cameron: His surge has been power-based, because he probably realized he’s not going to make enough contact in the big leagues to make his skillset work. High K guys who rely on hitting the ball 400 feet are boom-or-bust players, since their value is condensed into fewer positive plays.

12:46
Comment From American Churl
Of all the big-money starting pitches who will be free agents this offseason, who do you think is the best bet? Price, Cueto, etc.

12:46
Dave Cameron: Price is the lowest risk, which is why he’ll cost the most.

12:46
Comment From Prisoner of WAR
You had a long back-and-forth about randomness and predicting sequencing last week. It made me wonder if teams (or sabr-types) consider stats that may only be meaningful at the extremes. Let’s say there are 1-5% of players who are consistently clutch (e.g. BA-RISP or pitchers stranding runners) and 1-5% who consistently choke, while the vast majority have no trend either way. Are people looking for these outliers?

12:46
Dave Cameron: Yes, people have been looking for evidence of clutch players forever. They’ve never really been found.

12:47
Comment From Matthew
Do you think there will be a push to remove the automatic playoff spot for division winners and just have the top 5 teams in each league seeded by overall record?

12:47
Dave Cameron: No. MLB adde the second wild card in part to make the division races mean something again.

12:48
Comment From primantis
Your explanation does not hold water. An independent arbitrators function is not to compensate the player at market value, not to compensate according to “the system”. But they do the latter, not the former.

12:48
Dave Cameron: No, that’s not the arbitrator’s job at all. The arbitrator is there to decide which side made their case more effectively, and pick between one of the two sides. If the player files at $3 million, and the team files at $2 million, the arbitrator can’t say “this guy is clearly worth $10 million.”

12:49
Comment From Brian L
Regarding the wild card all-reliever strategy: Are relievers more volatile than good starters? While 3 relievers throwing 2 innings each may be expected on average to produce a lower ERA than one 6-inning solid starter, I would think the starter has a lower variance band around that projection, due to both talent level (relievers generally are relievers b/c they have worse control) and inability to get a rhythm, or more chances for someone to have an off day. So maybe you expect the relievers on average to perform better, but it becomes a riskier proposition in a 1 game sample because of the higher error bars. Wondering if you have any insights around that hypothesis?

12:49
Dave Cameron: It’s been suggested plenty of times, but there’s no real evidence to support the theory.

12:50
Comment From Ralph
Would you rather have two Betts or one Harper?

12:50
Dave Cameron: Two Betts will cost less than one Harper.

12:50
Dave Cameron: Ignoring cost, I’ll take Harper.

12:52
Comment From Jason
What do the Dbacks need to do to be in postseason contention next year? The offense has been pretty good, they have 2 elite position players and a good one in Peralta, as well as a good #2 or #3 in Corbin. Do you think they can re-tool the pitching staff in one offseason?

12:53
Dave Cameron: Not really, no. I think this is likely Pollock’s career year, and you have to expect steps back from him and Goldschmidt next year; sustaining this level of play is just very difficult. The pitching staff is poor, and the offense will probably be worse next year.

12:54
Comment From Ryan
I get that the projections love the Dodgers, and clearly they’re very talented, but do their odds of advancing in the playoffs seem high to you?

12:54
Dave Cameron: Depends a bit on health. If they can get all their regulars at close to 100% for the postseason, including Puig and Turner, they’re still the best team in the NL, and two of the next three best teams have to beat each other to qualify for the DS, weakening their crop of opponents.

12:57
Comment From mtsw
Which would you prefer: 1) expand WC to 3 games 2) expand World Series to 9 games?

12:57
Dave Cameron: Probably the longer WS. I’d love to force teams to play five straight games in the WS so that the playoffs and regular season rosters and player usage mirrored each other more closely.

12:58
Comment From Prisoner of WAR
Both Betts are less likely to be simultaneously injured than one Harper.

12:58
Dave Cameron: But one Betts is more likely to be injured at any time than one Harper. So you raise your floor but lower your ceiling. It’s all a series of trade-offs.

12:59
Comment From Skore
Nationals: Reload or Rebuild?

12:59
Dave Cameron: You don’t rebuild when you have guys like Harper in their primes.

1:00
Dave Cameron: Okay, that’s going to do it for me today. Thanks for hanging out, everyone. I’ll be back next Wednesday.





Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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Initial thoughts on David Stearns in Milwaukee? When’s a reasonable target for the Brewers next playoff season?