Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 10/10/23

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon, folks, and welcome to my first solo October chat of this postseason. I hope you’re enjoying the playoffs so far or at the very least are faring better than the Dodgers.

I did a quick piece on last night’s Phillies-Braves game and its wild finish (https://blogs.fangraphs.com/late-homers-wild-final-play-help-braves-kn…), and before that a piece on Sandy Alcantara’s Tommy John surgery (https://blogs.fangraphs.com/sandy-alcantaras-volume-and-velocity-lead-…). Anyway, on with the show…

Zips user: How did you feel about the playoff format?  Is 4-5 days off a disadvantage to bye teams?  Is a three game series really worth it?  Why not a one game play-in ?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’m on record as disliking this current format, both because of how diluted the field becomes when you start including the league’s sixth-best team, because the advantages of winning the division aren’t great enough (the third seed has to play), and because best-of-three is so random that it tells us almost nothing about who’s the better team.

I much preferred the 5-teams-per-league format because i thought the one-and-done Wild Card game was the appropriate penalty for qualifying without  winning the division, but it’s worth noting that for all of the handwringing that goes on every year, the off-time between the end of the regular season and the start of the Division Series there was the same as it is for the recipients of the bye under the current format.

Zips user: Jay,  what is your view of catching framing?  Should it be in WAR or not?  The umps don’t miss much any more and robots are coming within two years.  Does it make sense to have a 10-20 year period where framing is in WAR but not before or after ?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I do believe framing should be part of WAR and wish we had it going much further back. I don’t think its value will go away entirely because it seems quite clear we’re not getting a full ABS (automatic ball and strike) system but more likely a challenge system, and even that has a ways to go before it’s ready for the majors. But even if that weren’t the case, we should be using the data we have for the period where it was relevant.

Fungible Pitching: Regarding modern SPs throwing fewer innings than in past eras, thus being less likely to accumulate HoF-caliber WAR/etc, does the bar really need to be lowered in order to induct a comparable amount of SPs as in the past? After all, SPs now are trained and paid to be interchangeable. They’re becoming role players, by design. No individual “Fame” there.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t agree with you that they’re all trained to be interchangeable — there’s a clear spectrum of ability, quality, and “fame.” The best make some of the highest salaries in the sport, and even with reduced workloads, starting pitchers generally have a larger impact upon the game than any other player.

For Hall purposes, I believe the appropriate thing is to identify and reward the best pitchers of the era, which is a bit tougher now given the way things have changed. Not saying there has to be a quota system but a Hall without representation of an era’s best becomes weaker as an institution.

>this guy<: if MLB actually G.A.F. about the higher seeds being rewarded, then the playoffs wouldn’t keep getting more inclusive, right? there wouldn’t be a multi-day bye if there were only 2 or 4 teams, but on the other hand: sweet, sweet TV money, so…

Avatar Jay Jaffe: MLB has decided it wants a money-generating tournament more than it wants a system to reward the best team, but it’s worth noting that it would take something like a best-of-75 games for true talent to win out with the regularity we believe we’re getting from a 7-gamer

shortstop: Do you have Astros fatigue? I don’t even care about the cheating anymore, I’m just sick of watching them play every October

Avatar Jay Jaffe: On an emotional level moreso than an intellectual/professional level. The Astros have their share of interesting players, and for the most part I enjoy writing about them if I have reason to.

Mitchell: Beginning with the 2017 season, the Dodgers have won 100 or more games in five of the last six full seasons, and in the seventh, pandemic-shortened 2020 season in the middle they went 43-17, a .717 winning percentage. Is this the most impressive run of regular season excellence in MLB history? The only analog my cursory search revealed was the Yankees’ run of five 100 win seasons in seven beginning with 1936.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Quite possibly. By winning %, run differential, and a standard deviation score that combines the two, their 2017-21 and 2018-22 teams came out on top in a study I did last year, revisiting an older study from 2020. https://blogs.fangraphs.com/ousted-dodgers-drive-home-disconnect-betwe…

Avatar Jay Jaffe: My study only went as far back as 1961, the start of the expansion era. I think that with the shorter schedule and the lack of integration, it’s tough to compare post-1960 teams to ones in the 1930s or whatever, but somebody could do that study with the same methodology if they wanted to.

Guest: I have a friend that’s convinced that the Dodgers roster is built for the regular season and not for the postseason. He’s been saying this for a few years now – that it’s more a roster depth that can win a lot of regular season games than high variance players that can get hot in a short series, and that it’s continually hurt them in the playoffs. I tend to think it’s more about injury and short season luck (2020 they were very healthy). What’s your take?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think it’s a mix of both. Depth is at a greater premium over the 162-game season, and the Dodgers’ resources allow them more depth than most. This year’s injuries (and Urias’ admin leave) have compromised what was already one of their most questionable pitching staffs as far as depth, and that’s a big part of the reason they’re on the brink of elimination.

Matt Kory: Hey Jay! Hope all is well! Tried any great beers lately?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Hey Matt! I haven’t been posting beers much becuase I haven’t been using Twitter much but lately I’ve been drinking several of Threes Brewing’s lagers such as their What Might Have Been Helles Lager and their Hereafter Oktoberfest Lager. Also Industrial Arts Power Tools hazy IPA.

Cameron: Do you think it’s time to make the division series a best of seven? I personally think so.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Probably — the longer the series the more likely the better team wins, but the difference between 5 and 7 isn’t massive. The big issue with that is it pushes the end of the World Series later, so you’re either going to have to reduce the schedule a bit (which gets into the $ question with the union) or create more doubleheaders in order to keep to a similar calendar

M’s Fan: Could Gleyber Torres be a target for the M’s?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: He’d definitely be an upgrade but a short-term one as he’s got just one more year of arbitration eligibility

Natitude Adjuster: If the O’s lose tonight, does their streak of 91 consecutive series of not getting sweeped officially end?  Or is there some technicality here that would have it continue?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: this isn’t like, say, a single-season home run record where there’s a clear demarcation and some controversy over the record holder. Either you’re calling the streak “regular season only” or “including postseason”

BLT: Phillies and Braves each rostered a reliver without much/nearly any MLB experience for the post season.  Do you see value in having an arm that batters haven’t faced in a pressure packed short series?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Yes, if the manager trusts him enough to find a use for him in some spot

Tony The Tiger: The simplest solution to solving playoff madness is less off days in the postseason. Teams are playing a totally different ballgame in terms of roster construction and strategy. Screw the travel day, bring back daytime playoff baseball!

Avatar Jay Jaffe: MLB’s advertisers are probably less interested in that due to the lower tv ratings for day games.

Prince: Any plan to finish your series on SPs just outside the Hall?  As a Mets fan, I can’t help but feel as if Cone and Johan may be the two biggest misses on the pitching side this century.  It seems crazy to me that the Hall is big enough for Catfish Hunter and Red Ruffing but not David Cone.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I had hoped to get to it in September but it slipped through the cracks. Check back in January, perhaps

Bernie: Any thoughts about Eppler?  Is this purported investigation just an opportunity to take Cohen down a peg or two over something everyone does?  Or do you think there’s more behind the curtain than a little Phantom IL action?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: My understanding is that the occurrence is pretty common, so it seems odd that Eppler is being singled out for this, but I don’t know if there was an instance that was particularly egregious or handled with a particular lack of tact. Frankly if this was Mets-related I would have expected a Wilpon to be involved.

Michael: Will Chris Paddock be a starter for the Twins next year?  Thanks.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think at the very least he’ll compete for a spot in spring training, and with Gray and Maeda both reaching free agency the rotation may have an opening, but I also think that beyond his rookie season, Paddack has been rather fringy as a starter and he’ll have to pitch better than he did in 2021-22 to keep a spot

v2micca: Is it safe to say that given his elite production in the last two seasons, Freddie Freeman is now firmly on a hall of fame pace?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Not sure I’d say firmly but he’s really made up some ground in the past few seasons, and is more likely than not to make it. Wrote about him here. https://blogs.fangraphs.com/cooperstown-notebook-the-2023-progress-rep…

Peter: Once the Braves clinched the division, they seemed to kind of go on this laxicdazical strut and lost games to the Phillies, Marlins, Nationals, etc. And while it might just be tiniest sample, the last *good* Dodgers series was their fight against the Giants in 2021 where they were playing to win on the final day of the season. Is there perhaps a different way we could measure the break by looking at early clinchers vs. late clinching and whether the weeks of less intense play actually changes behavior in the playoffs?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’ve studied the relationship between September performances and October success and never found much correlation; this is the most recent iteration https://blogs.fangraphs.com/the-cardinals-impressive-winning-streak-do…

I have not specifically tried to identify early vs. late clich teams but I suspect you’d again find little relationship. I know MLB.com did recently publish a list of early clinchers (https://www.mlb.com/news/mlb-teams-that-clinched-earliest-c294803488) but I haven’t done anything with it.

Sirras: What is the best walk-up song you’ve heard in person?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: In 1999 when he was in the midst of his throwing problems, Chuck Knoblauch used “Public Enemy No. 1.” At least that’s how I remember it.

>this guy<: If you were the Cubs’ GM and Mr Ricketts opened the wallet, you would target ____?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, hoping to get one of them. As with every other team

Guest: In no way was this why they lost, but were you a fan of Roberts burning all his ph options in the 6th?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I was fine with it. You’re down by 3 runs and you don’t know when you’re going to get another situation with 2 or 3 on base at the same time, and you’re not facing the opponents’ best late-game relievers yet, so you have to go for it.

Kyle: If Justin Turner wants a 2-3 year deal at age 39, will there be contenders lining up to offer him one? Or will he have to settle for a team that primary wants him to eat ABs and be a clubhouse leader for young players, like the Pirates or Nats?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: There’s probably no three-year guarantee out there for him but more likely a two-year deal similar to the one he’s on and could opt out of. The difference between this year and last year, however, is that he played so little afield (~400 innings) that it will be hard to sell him as an everyday infielder

RG: Where can I find details on postseason compensation for players? My understanding is their salaries are for work completed in spring training and through the regular season, so the team doesn’t owe them extra salary for playoff games. I believe most pro leagues give bonuses to the teams and players for winning rounds in playoffs, but doesn’t this mean that every home playoff game is an absolute goldmine for the team? Huge sales, tv money, merch, food and beer sales, and no on-field payroll costs?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: The gate receipts are divided between the league and the players based on a percentage-based system over certain games. Maury Brown explained it here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/maurybrown/2022/11/25/with-addition-of-wi…

Dmytro: Was arguing with a buddy.. could Barry Bonds hit a HR at this age against a grooved pitch if he stepped into the box?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Probably, especially if Lance Lynn is pitching

Wireless Joe Jackson: Yo, where all the postseason game chats at?  Seriously, I love those and they’re often not very well advertised or don’t have a published schedule.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: They’re not an everyday occurrence, but I’m sure we’ll have at least another day/night of them soon

v2micca: Do the Padres just run it all back out there in 2024 and hope for better results?  It feels like they started coming together down the stretch, but it was just too late to make up lost ground.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think we’ll see some kind of shakeup, because they need to cut payroll and replace Snell. My guess is that they deal Soto and perhaps Cronenworth as well

Justin: Do you feel like Miguel Cabrera is an underrated all time great, like in the mold of a Frank Robinson or Eddie Murray? Without me being able to provide any support for my feeling or perspective, am I out of line to say he should’ve gotten a lot more attention with what he achieved?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think there’s a massive gulf between Frank Robinson and Murray or Cabrera — something on the order of 40 WAR and that’s before getting into Robinson’s pioneering role as the game’s first Black manager and as an executive.

Cabrera had a great career and is on the short list (along with Murray) of players with 3,000 hits and 500 homers. As for impacts, he won the Triple Crown and two MVP awards, one of which inflamed a culture war that still hasn’t entirely ended. I don’t think he’s particularly shortchanged for positive attention. That said, the last seven years of his career were an utter waste in terms of his performance, and he had off-field issues that diminish his standing as well.

Justin: Will Yanier Diaz be the best offensive catcher since Mike Piazza? Diaz’s statcast numbers are pretty awesome for a backstop

Avatar Jay Jaffe: He had a very promising rookie season but let’s not get ahead of ourselves by comparing him to the best-hitting AL/NL catcher of all time. He can still be an excellent player without measuring up

Wireless Joe Jackson: Chat-related:  Will we get an Esteban Rivera game chat?  I’m pretty sure that would be really interesting, in the sense that he’s going to notice things that I wouldn’t during the game.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: He’s got a great eye for the game, indeed. I don’t know what his schedule is like, so maybe reach out to him on social media to ask

Prince: How much should playoffs impact HOF candidacy?  Lindor is a more appealing candidate than Correa from their statline, but how much should one consider Correa’s sterling postseason stats?  (Obviously, this was probably a big component of Ortiz’s candidacy.)

Avatar Jay Jaffe: It’s a subjective decision made by each voter as to how to weigh postseason contributions. Correa’s case is a bit more muddied than most for obvious reasons, but he’s definitely had some big moments. More likely than not it won’t be an either/or decision regarding Lindor and Correa; the Hall certainly has room for both if they maintain the excellence they’ve shown thus far (though Correa really needs this season not to be part of a downward trend)

Given the Stakes: Was that the single most exciting play in baseball history?!

Avatar Jay Jaffe: More exciting than Mazeroski’s World Series-ending homer in 1960 or Thomson’s Shot Heard ‘Round the World? Probably not. But pretty special nonetheless.

Iso Joe: How are you feeling about the Twins chances of pulling off the upset given their better rotation depth with Gray starting today, potentially Ryan tomorrow and Pablo Lopez lurking in a potential Game 5 with Houston only being able to use Verlander either on short rest or having to be saved up for a decisive game?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think a lot depends on whether Cristian Javier pitches to the level we know he’s capable of. The Twins have a real shot here but the Astros aren’t going to roll over for them

Refugee: What did we miss about the Rangers? ZiPS and PECOTA projected 79 wins, which they “only” over-performed by 11, but their record by base runs adds another excess 7 wins. They did this mostly without Jacob Degrom and without Jung, Seager, and Heim for stretches of the season. You can’t predict the Montgomery and Chapman trades, obviously.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: For one thing, Jung, Semien, Seager, Heim, and García all outdid their projections by a notable margin, though on the flip side obviously deGrom got hurt, and their rotation collectively fell short of its projection and the bullpen, ugh.

The Oriole Bird: More likely HOFer: Gunnar Henderson or Adley Rutschman?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Gunnar, because there’s a big difference between reaching the majors at 22 and doing so at 24. Doesn’t mean I think Adley lacks the talent to make it, just that a later start makes it a bit harder

Cat Latos: Can we pour one out for Kershaw?  I can’t imagine LAD is gonna stay alive long enough for him to pitch again, and he’s gotta be looking pretty hard at retirement.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I dearly hope we haven’t seen the last of Kershaw because that would be a bum note to go out on. It’s possible that defeat and the pursuit of 3,000 strikeouts motivates him to return for another year, but we don’t know exactly what’s going on inside that shoulder, and if it’s something major I’m not sure he has the stomach for an arduous rehab. We’ll see

John: I’m a rabid follower of all things HOF.  And I love watching the tracker each year as the votes roll in but I wonder whether writers should not give their votes to Thibs until the last day votes can be submitted.  I feel like the early release of votes along with rationales creates group-think and influences how people who are late submitters vote

Avatar Jay Jaffe: the “groupthink” was there long before the ballot tracker — writers discuss their ballots with each other, and coalesce around certain candidates; how else to explain the gradual or sharp increases in voting % from times before the Tracker and social media made election season into a spectator sport? The Hall itself is happy to get the extra attention that comes with the slow drip of ballot releases; they could certainly vocalize a dislike of the current state of things if they felt it was harming interest in the elections, but they have not.

Anon21: Should Atlanta start Elder or Smith-Shawver tomorrow? Elder has been looking extremely fatigued for weeks and probably would not have gotten a start if Morton wasn’t hurt; Smith-Shawver probably has more in the tank but is maybe just not Major League ready, per Alex Eisert’s recent article.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think either way you’re probably getting into the bullpen pretty quickly. Small sample but Smith-Shawver’s got terrible numbers against lefties whereas Elder is pretty level, and that may be a factor in the decision.

Tyler: Do you think there’s any value in comparing a total team WAR, particularly when comparing teams from different years? I ran this by Tom Tango on Twitter a few years back and he basically said it wasn’t worthwhile.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: It’s not something I make a habit of comparing across seasons, tbh. More useful comparing in-season as far as single or aggregate positions or parts of a pitching staff go, for my purposes.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Like for Replacement Level Killers, which teams are getting the least from their second basemen, or which team has the most valuable rotation, stuff like that.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: OK folks, I’m on a shorter pitch count than usual and have to pack it in. Thanks so much for spending some time here today! Enjoy the rest of the Division Series round and hopefully we’ll do this again next week.

Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011, and a Hall of Fame voter since 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe... and BlueSky @jayjaffe.bsky.social.

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