Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 12/13/18

Jay Jaffe: Hey gang! Welcome to my Thursday chat, post Winter Meetings edition. I had a very good time in Las Vegas despite the dreadful layout of Mandalay Bay and the even more dreadful lack of sleep it took to get me both there and back while fulfilling my professional and personal obligations. I can only hint at how great it is to work with my fellow colleagues at FanGraphs. Anyway, there’s plenty to discuss this week, but I don’t know a damn thing about the Rule 5 draft, so please don’t ask.

Nick: Hi Jay! As a journalist, what is the most excited part of being at the Winter Meetings?  I’m sure it’s a great experience, but I’d imagine there’s quite a bit of waiting around.

Jay Jaffe: it’s great when there’s a big transaction — signing or trade — to cover on deadline but the moves for this one didn’t really rise to that standard, particularly compared to my last couple of meetings in 2014 and 2015. On a personal level, it’s awesome to see so many people whose work I respect and admire, and lately, to hear people say such kind things about my work.

Tim: What does it say about the Veteran’s committee that one of their members simply could not act like an adult on national TV when discussing their decision to include Baines? To me it says they can’t attempt even the pretense of objectivity, further hurting their credibility among the public.

Jay Jaffe: Yeah, I haven’t read the full transcript of La Russa’s comments but what I’ve seen was an embarrassment.

This applies less to La Russa than to Jerry Reinsdorf, but here’s one weird trick the Hall of Fame could do to increase the credibility of the small committees: PROHIBIT ANY EMPLOYER FROM BEING ON A COMMITTEE WHERE HE CAN VOTE FOR HIS EMPLOYEE. Second to that, make the committee large enough (maybe double in size?) with enough neutral parties (i.e., journalists and actual historians) that somebody as closely linked as a player’s ex-teammates and managers is forced to abstain from the vote on that particular candidate. It does not seem too much to ask, and yet it apparently is.

troke: Do you have any prediction of the likely landing spot for Harper and Machado?

Jay Jaffe: The more I hear about the Dodgers trying to clear payroll and their outfield logjam (see https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/instagraphs/dodgers-poised-to-deal-fro…) the more I think they’re lining themselves up for a run at Harper, and if he signs there, that probably makes Machado to Philadelphia an inevitability.

Hello: Familia contract seems like market value (or slightly below).  But is it the best use of NYM’s resources?

Jay Jaffe: The Mets’ bullpen was dreadful, particularly after he was traded. There’s always a risk when spending money on relieves, but $10 million a year isn’t ridiculous as he’s pretty good, and if you or the Mets are sweating that kind of investment, then they’re not ready to act as a big market contender.

Beetlejuice: Should TLR be included in any future veteran’s committee votes after that ridiculous outburst on MLBN the other day? He thinks he is the be-all end-all in baseball knowledge and it hurts the Hall’s brand to have him associated with them.

Jay Jaffe: Again, that was an embarrassing moment. I’m still mad about it. When you consider TLR’s previous shots across the bow AND the presence of Joe Morgan himself on that committee, it seems apparent that the Hall is trying to send a very anti- analytical message to the rest of the baseball world about its process.

William: Now that you’ve all been on MLBN, I can say that none of you Fangraphers look anything like I thought.

Jay Jaffe: We clean up well for TV! I thought both Jeff and Meg did great, and I’m a bit envious of the latter. It took me seven years of occasional spots to get on a panel with the great Jayson Stark (mostly because he was at ESPN), and I’ve only been on set, never on the same panel, as Peter Gammons. She got both on her first appearance, and sounded great in talking to them and BK to boot.

Always Question the Man: Tell me about the Rule 5 draft

Jay Jaffe: Roberto Clemente and Johan Santana are still the best Rule 5 picks ever, even after today. Also, the June amateur draft is the Rule 4 draft. I don’t know what Rules 1-3 cover.

Slothrop: What are some of the best player autobiographies you’ve read? The funniest? The most controversial?

Jay Jaffe: Jim Bouton’s Ball Four is the best, the funniest and most controversial. Veeck as in Wreck and Nice Guys Finish Last (about Leo Durocher) are stone-cold must-read classics.  I really enjoyed Sparky Lyle’s The Bronx Zoo, which I recall as being pretty funny.

Jose Canseco’s Juiced certainly shook up the industry and probably gets 2nd in the controversial class but it’s hardly the best.

Justin H: So after this year’s committee vote, does the likelyhood of Dale Murphy and Mattingly, etc. getting elected soon increase significantly?

Jay Jaffe: Yes, though I would say that the four players elected over the past two years via that format suggest longevity as the primary driver, and those two players don’t fit that description the way, say, Fred McGriff (who’s in his final year of BBWAA eligibility) and Jeff Kent (who has four more years after this) do.

Phil: What are some implementation strategies that the MLB can use to try and ramp up the activity at the winter meetings? They have made them a huge spectacle, only to provide little FA movement

Jay Jaffe: I don’t think MLB needs to do anything to goose activity for the meetings. If it happens, fine, but there’s no reason to artificially rush people to make decisions involving 10s or 100s of millions of dollars, even if there’s a heavy presence of TV cameras.

Band Wagonen: Hey Jay, Your thoughts on Mets signing Familia for $10M? Is that a great deal or should other relievers like Robertson, also get close to the $10M per year

Jay Jaffe: I’d much rather have David Robertson at $10 million a year than Familia or Joe Kelly (whom the Dodgers just signed for 3/$25M) given the strength of his track record.

Pie Eaton Contest: What does Joey Votto need to do for the rest of his career to be a likely Hall member?

Jay Jaffe: The big thing is getting to 2,000 hits; he’s at 1,729 through his age-34 season, and healthy, so that shouldn’t be a problem. Voters haven’t elected anybody from the post-1960 expansion era with fewer than 2,000, which is one reason why guys such as Andruw Jones and Lance Berkman are struggling for support.

Even if he retires before the end of his contract (2023, with an option for 2024), by the time Votto is eligible for the Hall, the electorate as a whole will be so much more well versed in the virtues of OBP and wRC+ (or OPS+, or even the new DRC+ from Baseball Prospectus) that there won’t be many voters complaining about how he only drove in 100 runs a couple of times.

carrotjuice: So I just realized that Mariano Rivera really outperformed his peripherals over his career. How much credit does he “deserve” for his career 49 ERA-  vs. his FIP- of 62 and his xFIP- of 69? As in how much was skill, and how much was a statistical anomaly?

Jay Jaffe: The longer a pitcher lasts, the more his ERA and ability to outpitch his peripherals — primarily via quality of contact and sequencing — should be credited. For a full career, the actual stats matter more than the “shoulda” ones, which is one reason why I still use bWAR in my JAWS rather than fWAR.

Michael : Do you see any 300 game winners on the horizon?

Jay Jaffe: Dan Szymborski, his ZiPS machine and I collaborated on something that was connected to Justin Verlander’s 200th win showing the odds of active pitchers getting to 300 (https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/verlander-and-the-200-win-club/). JV, Kershaw, Sabathia, Greinke and Sale all had an estimated 20% or better shot at 300 by the methodology Dan used. Now, we appear to be at a moment where starters’ usage and in particular the expectation of 200 innings per year for frontline starters is changing — which ZiPS can’t see — so I think it’s fair to dial down those odds a bit. Still, it’s a good guess that one of those pitchers emerges from the pack to get to 300.

Jay Jaffe: Oh hey, via Meg Rowley, I am informed that my HOF profile du jour, Lance Berkman, is now live and ready for its world premiere. https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/jaws-and-the-2019-hall-of-fame-ballot-…

Casual fan: did you drop an “F” bomb on national TV? I rewound it like 10 times and it almost sounded like you did

Jay Jaffe: If I had, you and I would have both heard about it, so no (I’m not even sure where in the segment it was).

Despite the fact that I am prone to working blue on Twitter, I have never, in over 10 years of radio and TV appearances, said anything to endanger any outlet’s FCC license or even draw a complaint from my hosts. I have, however, dropped an f-bomb when quoted in the Wall Street Journal. http://www.futilityinfielder.com/wordpress/2009/03/you-can-add-droppin…

Smocking in the Stocking: To paraphrase a Few Good Men, “You WANT me in that Hall.  You NEED me in that Hall!

To be serious, while I’m not advocating for Baines in particular, can you comment on the average threshold at a position for the HOF, and how it changes with time?  If one only ever deems Hall-worthy a player with credentials above the average of those already included, the average will ratchet up over time, raising the bar for future players and making past selections look dumb.  So we need HOFers with below average credentials … right?

Jay Jaffe: One of the primary goals of JAWS is to raise or at least maintain the standards of the Hall of Fame by advocating for players who do so. As we have seen, below-average players by those standards still get through, and I’m not just talking about forehead slappers like Baines and Jim Rice.

Even via the writers, recent honorees such as Craig Biggio, Vlad Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman and John Smoltz are short of the JAWS standards at their positions (Biggio’s time catching and Smoltz’s time in the bullpen hurt their numbers there, though both were otherwise otherwise obvious choices over which I have no dispute; JAWS has always struggled with relievers but Hoffman’s second in WPA; Vlad’s defensive numbers weren’t good despite his legendary arm strength), which isn’t to say that they’re bad choices, just that voters have had, and will continue to have, reasons besides my stat to vote for them.

carrotjuice: Encarnacion has just been traded to Mariners via Jeff Passan

Jay Jaffe:

In exchange for Edwin Encarnacion, Carlos Santana is expected to go to the Cleveland Indians, sources tell Yahoo Sports.
13 Dec 2018

Well, that should be a bit of fun for Mariners fans amid the otherwise dreary process of rebuilding, though I bet all things considered they’d rather have Nelson Cruz return.

Sir Nerdlington: Why do teams pass up making a Rule 5 pick when they have an open roster spot?  It’s a 50k “gamble” where it doesn’t take a lot to make that back.

Jay Jaffe: Good question, worth asking Kiley or Eric. I’d guess that one reason is because they feel they’ve got a better shot of adding value with the odd waiver pickup this time of year than with an R5 guy who has so many restrictions attached to his roster spot

Xolo: Can you explain this Encarnacion for Santana trade to me?

Jay Jaffe: Santana offers familiarity and a better glove at first base. Might mean Cleveland trades Yonder Alonso, who was a disappointment last year.

Dave: Should I go with Mexican or Chinese food for lunch?

Jay Jaffe: There is literally never a bad time for Mexican food unless you’re at a chain restaurant or one that specializes in another type of ethnic food.

Don’t order Mexican at a sushi bar and you will go far in life.

jontowerakerman: Hey Jay, do you have any thoughts on how the Harold Baines election into the HOF plays into wanting a bigger hall? Of course, despite how egregious the process was to getting there, the end result may be a harbinger for a future where the Hall tries to tell the complete story of the game.

Jay Jaffe: I don’t think it does. the more I think about it, the more I feel like this is the Hall wanting to appease the players, who feel alienated by the impact that analytics is having on player evaluation including that of the Hall process.

It’s not a mistake that Joe Morgan was on the committee.

Lou: First analytics-centric writer to make it into the HOF?

Jay Jaffe: As I wrote in The Cooperstown Casebook and referenced the other day in my brief tribute (https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/instagraphs/tv-party-from-vegas-with-a… Stark was far head of his time in incorporating advanced stats into his HOF deliberations.

I do believe that someday, when enough of us are in the BBWAA, Bill James will be honored in similar fashion to Roger Angell, who was never a part of the organization. FWIW, Christina Kahrl is the first of the BP originals to get a Hall of Fame ballot, and she’s only getting hers this year, as is BP alum Keith Law. The requirements to vote in the Spink Award election are the same (10 years of consecutive service) though I’m not sure if either voted this year, though as former ESPN colleagues of Stark, I would think that they did.

Eric Weinstein: Does Harold Baines actually owe his election to sabermetrics? It seems that he doesn’t get into the Hall without the veterans committee using him to express a backlash to sabermetrics

Jay Jaffe: quite possibly!

Wes: Jay, what do you think the Yankees do next after the Happ signing?

Jay Jaffe: decide whether or not to pursue Machado and Harper, and then act accordingly. That could mean dealing Miguel Andujar (though Didi’s injury lessens that likelihood) if they sign Manny, or making a move to lessen their outfield logjam (Frazier? Voit if Harper is willing to play 1B?).

Ray Liotta as Shoeless Joe: Meg killed it in that panel. Love Peter Gammons and Jayson Stark as well, but she sounded better prepared and more knowledgeable than the rest of the panel. Respect to the old guard, but really excited to continue to see the new breed of baseball analysts.

Jay Jaffe: Meg did great, and this is yet another reminder of how important Brian Kenny has been in bringing the voices from our corner of the world onto TV; even before he was at MLB, he had folks like Keith Law and Joe Sheehan on TV regularly.

It’s important to remember that any of us whom they put on the show are being set up for success by being asked to discuss an area of expertise in a short spot while the rest of the panel yields the floor. Gammons and Stark, with their 40-50 years in the industry, have great depth of knowledge on just about every aspect, and probably more TV experience than just about anybody else in the industry. The rest of us can only aspire to be so at ease in front of the cameras.

Ariel White: Why isn’t there a link to the article schedule and the fan ballot at the top of each article in your HoF series? Also, Are we going to get two articles today (as there was not one yesterday)

Jay Jaffe: Good point about the fan ballot/schedule – will add.

You won’t be getting two articles today, alas. The ripple effect of losing a day seals a solution that I was already considering in order to create a bit of breathing room, in that I will be doing shorter profiles on Roy Oswalt and Miguel Tejada, since neither has a fighting chance of getting 5%. Both had great careers and are better than many HOFers from a JAWS standpoint, but Oswalt, with just over 2,000 innings and no Cy Youngs, has less of a shot than Johan Santana did last year, and Tejada’s drug-related controversies doom his candidacy too.

Marshall: What made Andruw Jones such an otherworldly defender?

Jay Jaffe: As I said in his profile (https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/jaws-and-the-2019-hall-of-fame-ballot-…), shallow positioning, a quick first step, and an uncanny knack for the right routes are what made him elite. I’m sure being coached by his father from age 3 helped to give him such a high baseball IQ

Ariel White: You often write things along the lines of, “Getting to 50% — gaining eight points a year over the next two — could make his candidacy stand out among those eligible for the Today’s Game Era Committee ballot.” (From your Larry Walker article in the current series). Is there actually any correlation between doing well on the writers ballot and doing well on the committee ones? If so, is there any reason to assume that one causes the other? It seems more likely that it just means that their candidacy was good and they were noticed by both. (Alternatively does the opposite trend (and potential cause of the trend) exist – namely that if you do badly on one it hurts your case on the other?)

Jay Jaffe: One of the first things they ask both in the ballot creation process and in That Room is what kind of support a player received on the writers’ ballot. It’s VERY difficult for a sub-5% guy to even get onto those ballots — Grich and Whitaker never have, Simmons took forever, Cone and Saberhagen have been bypassed thus far, etc. Once they were on, guys like Santo and Allen, who were 5%’d and then restored in a sort of amnesty in 1985, struggled for support in that format, though the former eventually was elected posthumously. For a short time, there was a rule that only guys that got to 60% could even be considered by the VC!

All of which helps to explain the shock of Baines’ election. That he peaked at 6.1% in five turns was presumed to be yet one more strike against him in that format.

mike: can you talk about this random as heck TBR/CLE/SEA trade

Jay Jaffe: I haven’t seen who Tampa Bay got there — chatting, you know — but I do think that this has something to do with Cleveland’s familiarity with Santana, who can play defense much better than Encarnacion, and who was viewed even when Seattle acquired him as somebody likely to be dealt again.

Anxious Padres Fan: Do you think AJ Preller does anything substantial this offseason? Or is just a bunch of hot air so he can remain the mysterious GM that he clearly tries to portray himself as?

Jay Jaffe: That the Dbacks and Giants are going the rebuild/retool route makes it all the more likely the Padres can turn the corner in 2019, perhaps not unlike the Phillies last year. I suspect they’ll make some kind of splash — they were heavily linked to Syndergaard and have been mentioned as being aggressive regarding Realmuto. I’ve heard they were interested in Dallas Keuchel, too.

Hingle McCringleberry: I think the Baines decision was a colossal mistake because now everyone can make the case “well, Baines got in, why shouldn’t I?” How do we avoid Ba?ines becoming the new standard for getting in to the Hall

Jay Jaffe: The key is for the writers to understand that this shouldn’t change what they’re doing. The lowest common denominator is NOT the standard. That 94-95% voted against Baines in the past, and that we’ve seen such outcry regarding that pick, is an indicator that the writers aren’t suddenly going to drop their standards, however convoluted they may sometimes appear. Though I think this only intensifies the likelihood of the elections of both Edgar Martinez and David Ortiz.

Casual fan: How many hits do you think Votto gets by the end of it? Even if he only averages 140 for the next 5 he would be close to 2500. He could get close to 3000 right?

Jay Jaffe: I think 2,500 is the right neighborhood, as I said last April here https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-reds-slump-has-extended-to-joey-vo…

Kevbot034: When will we see some big name rookies next season (Baby Vlad, Baby Tatis, Eloy Jiminez, etc.)?

Jay Jaffe: Probably not until after the Super Two deadline, and certainly not until recalling him games their service clocks enough to retain the player in question for an extra year.

Lou: Joe Kelly is a Dodger.  Thoughts?

Jay Jaffe: I was salty here

Did they drill him in the ribs with a 95 mph fastball first?

Source confirms Joe Kelly to the Dodgers for three years and $25 million, pending physical. @Ken_Rosenthaltwitter.com/i/web/status/1…
13 Dec 2018
Jay Jaffe: That aside, Kelly has been erratic throughout his career, with performance that hasn’t close to matching this stuff. ERAs in the 4s and 5s, and FIPs unimpressive relative to other relievers.

Stuff plays and stuff pays, though. The Dodgers must think they can “fix” Kelly well enough to get value over the course of the deal, and if we’re talking $9 million per win, the bar really isn’t tremendously high.

Ray Liotta as Shoeless Joe: Encarnacion to…the Rays, not Mariners!

Jay Jaffe: welp, as noted, it’s hard to do analysis of a trade when you haven’t actually read the transaction in full.

Norris: Happ, Sabathia, and Paxton instead of, e.g., Corbin and/or Keuchel:  Are the Yankees saving cash for something else, or just being frugal this offseason?

Jay Jaffe: I don’t see Paxton and Happ as being any more of a risk than Corbin or Keuchel, and we know that the door isn’t closed on MM or BH yet, regardless of what Cashman is saying.

I don’t think they’re going to spend money just to spend money, and they may well want some slack in their payroll so as to take on salary in midseason while still staying under the tax threshold.

Ariel White: What do you think of the new DRC+? Jeter and Baines have about the same career value in the new WARP system. Trout isn’t always the best. That seems off to me, but I’ve seen the numbers (along with their variances) for predictability, reliability, and descriptivity. I feel like I’m falling into the same trap that people fell in a generation before me when they refused to accept advanced stats over their comfortable traditional ones.

Jay Jaffe: DRC+ seems promising, and was made by very smart people. I haven’t had a chance to look closely at it, and I’d like not only to do that myself but to see what sharper minds than my own have to say about it. I’m skeptical regarding why it’s suddenly OK to use one-year park factors, but again, haven’t had the chance to look closely at their reasoning.

kl: How would you rank the following prospects for the purposes of a dynasty fantasy baseball league? Victor Victor Mesa, Colton Welker, Jared Kelenic, Daulton Varsho, Corbin Martin and Dane Dunnig

Jay Jaffe: Ranked in the order of knowledge about how to differentiate these guys

1) anybody besides me, particularly colleagues Longenhagen and McDaniel
99) me

Ariel White: 7 years seems to be arbitrary for a peak. Why did you pick that? Obviously some players (like Koufax) would look much better with a shorter peak and other players would look better if the peak was 8 or nine years

Jay Jaffe: When I was using BP WARP at a time that it had a lower replacement level than it does now, there was stronger mathematical backing for that, which is why I changed from best-five-consecutive to best-seven. What I still find even having switched “currencies” is that the more years that you add, the more you might as well be using career WAR, since the correlations converge.

The goal of defining peak, even by making a subjective choice such as seven years, is that it brings different information to the process while still reflecting the reality of an institution that has been adding players for 83 years. Seven years is something of a sweet spot there, and even if six or eight works about as well, the amount of confusion that would come with changing it offsets what could be minor gains.

Kevin: Will we ever see a unanimous Hall of Fame inductee? Who do you think has best shot if so?

Jay Jaffe: 1) Mariano Rivera (since he’s first in line)
2) Derek Jeter (since he’s next in line, and has credentials even more obvious than Mo’s, justifiable resentment over his 5 Gold Gloves aside)
3) Mike Trout.

dstoetz: Jay, what do you think about Homer Bailey’s involvement in the Dodgers Matt Kemp trade talks?

Jay Jaffe: Swapping bad deals, but Bailey’s has a lower AAV ($17.5M as opposed to $20M) which helps for tax purposes.

Jay Jaffe: Whew, that chat went fast. Would love to answer more questions but my time is up here and I need to get back to eating human food. Thanks for stopping by today, and I’ll see you next week!

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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. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe.

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“Does Harold Baines actually owe his election to sabermetrics? It seems that he doesn’t get into the Hall without the veterans committee using him to express a backlash to sabermetrics”

… or simply a group of people who look at traditional stats only and for example just look at the players better than Baines in all of them?

Here are the players with more HR, more RBI and a higher career batting average than Baines:

Ted Williams
Babe Ruth
Lou Gehrig
Stan Musial
Jimmie Foxx
Hank Aaron
Mel Ott
Willie Mays
Frank Thomas
Frank Robinson

Miguel Cabrera
Albert Pujols

Manny Ramirez
Barry Bonds
Alex Rodriguez
Gary Sheffield

16 Players– 10 in the Hall of Fame, two still active (with resumes that should make them decent candidates) and four more still on the ballot who would be in if election was entirely stats-based.

I don’t think this is a good way of identifying HoFers, but for the group that is generally using 19th century stats only, I can understand how they got where they are.


Lets try another name and see how it works– Steve Garvey

He gets 33 players by the same methodology — just to save myself some work, how about one more minimum, hits.

Now he has 19 players on his list; fifteen Hall of Famers, plus Bonds, A-Rod, Cabrera and Pujols. By vet committee standards he should be coming soon.

Jim Rice is already in; his 15 are 11 HoFers, Bonds, Pujols, Manny Ramirez and Cabrera