Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 2/28/19

Jay Jaffe: Howdy, folks! Welcome to another edition of my Thursday chat. I’ve almost survived a work week as the solo parent of a 2 1/2 year old monster (Emma’s at a Poynter Inst thing in Florida ’til Friday), but lemme tell ya, it’s nearly killed me. The PT has started for my shoulder, so that’s not killing me, and I’ve got a fresh piece on the not-so-fresh start Ian Desmond’s had in Colorado. https://t.co/sNXE7SKsdo

Anyway, on with the show…

Jon: Jay thoughts on a couple unheralded prospects?

Jay Jaffe: My thought is this: I’m not very qualified to herald the unheralded ones. You know what I’d like to see, though? Top 100 lists from the past, updated and re-ranked to account for what’s transpired since. I’m thinking of a 4x BA top 100 guy like the Rockies’ Ryan McMahon, who has like 200 MLB PA under his belt now and is technically not a prospect but is still young enough to become something other than what that small-sample line looks like.

Sam Miller: Are you the next podcast co-host?

Jay Jaffe: Hah, nobody has asked me to co-host a podcast. Unfortunately, i don’t even get much chance to consume ours (or any of the well-regarded ones), since I have no commute and can’t listen to people talk while I write, nor can Ben Lindbergh or Meg Rowley speak rhythmically enough for me to use their podcasts as gym listening.

Hakuna Machado: If Tatis Jr has a great ST, does he get a quick callup mid/late April or is he destined for a 2nd half callup?

Jay Jaffe: given that he has only 92 games of Double-A and none of Triple-A, I don’t see any reason he’d be rushed to the majors on such a quick timeline. And remember, it’s easy to be fooled by spring training performances.

Morbo: As a soon to be first time dad do you have any advice either baseball or life related?

Jay Jaffe: 2 things that help me: 1) from the point when your wife is basically too pregnant to do much and onward through the early months, think hard about anticipating her needs and those of the kid. Plan ahead, volunteer to be the go-fer, etc. 2) try to avoid the “I can’t wait until…” type of anticipation regarding the baby’s development. It all goes by so fast and each phase has its rewards as well as its drawbacks.

Oh and 3) the period at about 6 months when s/he can sit up but not yet move around is the best.

resumeman: Do you know if they’ve rolled ZIPs into Steamer for the Depth Charts projections, or if not when that’ll happen?

Jay Jaffe: the switch has just been flipped https://blogs.fangraphs.com/instagraphs/2019-zips-are-live/

Kristen: Will/should TEX just release Choo and eat $42 mil?  Calhoun hasn’t exactly earned a roster spot with his play and Choo has been productive when healthy.

Jay Jaffe: I don’t see any reason to cut bait so as long as those two situations hold, though I question how much more Calhoun can gain at Triple-A.

Syndergaardians of the Galaxy: Will Brandon Nimmo’s next contract include a no-chicken-cooking provision?

Jay Jaffe: Just reading that tweet made me queasy, and it certainly fits in with a certain LOLMets sensibility; I think there are past players and managers/coaches/execs who could f up a piece of toast, let alone a piece of chicken.

That said, I think there’s also a continued conversation to be had regarding teams needing to invest more time and resources into teaching players about nutrition and life skills when they’re in the minors, especially as cheap fast food is the default.

We all leave home eventually, and somebody has to teach us how to do this stuff. I’m lucky that my mom did, but not everybody is so fortunate.

Sonny Slayhern: Who brings back the most in a trade for NYY: Clint Frazier or Estevan Florial? Clint’s had his injury concerns, and former top prospect, while Estevan is a tooled up CF prospect. Seems like with Hicks, Stanton, and Judge in it for the long haul, one of them can be squeezed out.

Jay Jaffe: From what I can glean via Kiley and Eric’s writeups (and others outside the fold) I think Frazier brings back more in trade because he’s basically ready, so long as his concussion symptoms are not an ongoing issue (which is a sizable “if), whereas Florial is further from the majors and has serious contact issues that make him the more volatile of the two.

Dave: Grapefruit or Cactus league?

Jay Jaffe: I don’t really like giving either state my tourist dollar but Arizona ballparks are closer together, making it easier to see more on a single trip.

this seems like a good place to mention that next Friday, March 8, we’ll be having a meetup at Two Brothers Scottsdale Tap House & Brewery. I’ll be there, as will a whole lot of our staff and contributors. Come have a beer and a bite! https://blogs.fangraphs.com/fangraphs-meetup-scottsdale-march-8/

Syndergaardians of the Galaxy: If Trout puts up another Trout year in 2019, then retires to pursue an advanced degree in meteorology, does the hall really keep him out?

Jay Jaffe: Pfft, like he’s going to pass up a shot at $300 or $400 million dollars. Come on.

Marc: Any plans to update the Free Agent tracker any time soon?

Jay Jaffe: With Jeff’s departure and Craig on paternity leave, we’ve been a bit short-handed in a few areas. hopefully that changes soon. I’ll convey this message to the Appropriate People

Jay Jaffe: message conveyed

Jesse: Any chance Miguel Andujar repeats or improves from last year, or was he playing way over his head?

Jay Jaffe: the bat’s real, though that 4.1% walk rate suggests pitchers can find ways to exploit him that they have not yet taken full advantage of yet. The real question is whether he can shore up his defense enough to stick at third base.

Jung Ho Kang Bang: Is Bruce Bochy a Hall of Fame manager?  Are there objective criteria we can use to analyze managers or do they just feel like HoFers or not?

Jay Jaffe: There’s no real JAWS-like system out there, though my former colleague Cliff Corcoran did try to hash out some objective standards for a piece at the Athletic a few months ago https://theathletic.com/467756/2018/08/10/is-mike-scioscia-a-hall-of-f…

IMO, the combination of longevity and multiple pennants (if not championships) is key. Bochy’s three championships and ranking in wins (11th, with a shot at 10th) make him a lock for the Hall. Even with a sub-.500 win %, he stands out as a much stronger candidate than Piniella, Davey Johnson and Charlie Manuel (all of whom have been on one of the past two Today’s Game ballots), Scioscia, Dusty, or Leyland.

Andrew: Amed Rosario had a terrible start to his career, but he’s a former 60 FV prospect, looked GREAT in the second half last year, and is looking good in ST. Do you think he’s set for a big step forward this year or do you see this as a SSS mirage?

Jay Jaffe: Former 65 FV prospect, by our boys’ reckoning. He’s entering his age-23 season, and won’t have the organization’s godawful allegiance to Jose Reyes to contend with this year. I wouldn’t give up hope yet.

Reprobate: Good answer to Morbo on parenthood. I’d only add that once they reach the point that you can get a good night’s sleep, it’s all gravy – until they reach puberty. Then you’ll ask, like I did, if using a cattle prod is legal.

Jay Jaffe: A close college friend who was sending his only son to college the same weekend as my daughter was born (we are the extremes among our circle of friends) described parenthood to me as a line that rises with a pretty constant slope until the kid reaches puberty, followed by a steep, steep plummet. So yeah, I think you’re right.

Phil Diggety: I see people complaining about the 3-batter-minimum rule, but would baseball really be worse off without LOOGYs? Isn’t it better to just have the best pitchers pitch? Would we really lose much strategy?

Jay Jaffe: I don’t miss the declining presence of the LOOGYs, but I do think the 3-batter rule is intrusive in ways that the 20-second clock or even a potential pitching distance change are not. I’d rather see a roster limitation on the number of pitchers a team can carry — with safeguards regarding the Injured List (formerly the Disabled List), option rules, 2-way players and position players pitching — than in-game limits. Each team has the same, limited number of pitchers; how they deploy them is at the manager’s discretion.

Hello: Any thoughts on Kyler Murray?

Jay Jaffe: I can’t say I blame him for making the choice that he did given the limitations he’d face early in his professional baseball career.

resumeman: Are detailed spring stats available at the site (or do you know of another)? I am of course mainly looking for underlying stats like exit velocity, spin, etc. I couldn’t seem to get the BaseballSavant search to work for Spring stats and was wondering if there’s another source

Jay Jaffe: We don’t have ’em, and I don’t know about spring availability. Check with @darenw or @mike_petriello on Twitter

Marc: Thanks Jay! This is honestly the easiest way (at least for me) to see what poor saps are still being squeezed out of a job in March

Jay Jaffe: I’m told that the FA Tracker thing had something to do with a data feed, but that we’ve got some manual updates coming

isaacmeep: Say an Ohtani-like player were to put up something like a 40 WAR career at both hitting and pitching, for a sum total of 80 war.  He’d probably fall short of HOF standards at both, but combined would you think he’d get into the HOF?

Jay Jaffe: Yes

Jay Jaffe: Pulling off a high-level career that is without precedent would make him an easy pick for the Hall.

Hanging with Mr. Cooperstown: Regarding spring stats like velocity – not sure who, but one of the FG writers is keeping this amazing document going – I’ve saved it to my favorites and don’t remember who, but it definitely came from FG! https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1tGp4Hm-94yUZliKGsXdM4FOr2eNDXs…

Jay Jaffe: That looks like the work of Jeff Zimmerman

Morbo: When did the DL change to the IL? And, were there any additional rule changes to go along with the name change?

Jay Jaffe: Announced earlier this month. No rule change accompanying the change in nomenclature. It will be tough to break the habit of using the DL acronym, but I support the reasoning behind the move. https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2019/02/08/baseball-got-it-disab…

Trevor: Steamer predictions Daniel Murphy and Vlad Jr. to win the NL and AL batting title this year.  Which is more likely?

Jay Jaffe: Murph, because my Lord, the Blue Jays could very well keep Vlad Jr. down on the farm long enough to prevent him from getting enough PA to qualify. And given their clear desire to suppress his future earnings, it’s probably in their interest to do just that.

Name: If there is eventually a woman who makes it to the MLB and she has an otherwise unnoteworthy career (<5 WAR) does she make it to the hall?

Jay Jaffe: Doubtful, especially because it would be tough to reach the necessary 10-year minimum. More likely to be  honored with the Buck O’Neil award, or have a new award created in her honor.

Reprobate: Steamer loves Vlad Jr. but isn’t impressed with Tatis Jr. How Come?

Jay Jaffe: I’d guess that their contact rates make a huge difference. Tatis has a strikeout rate of at least 24% every year so far (27.7% last year), Vlad Jr 13.4% or lower (10.6% last year)

Joao: What’s your take on Max Scherzer chances for the HoF? Could 200W & 3000 K be a new benchmark of sorts?

Jay Jaffe: I think whatever Max does from here onward, he’s on the Pedro/Halladay path — multiple Cy Youngs plus clear dominance over an extended period is good enough. I do think 200/3000 is probably the trad-stat combo that makes for a good rule of thumb

M: This isn’t, strictly speaking, a baseball question, but what’s to stop a team from both front-loading and de-facto deferring money in a contract in order to game the luxury tax. For instance, say the Dodgers offered Harper a 15 year deal with at 50million per seasons 1-5, then a player option for seasons 6-15 at 5 million/season. It gets Harper a huge annual payout, a 300 million guarantee while reducing the luxury tax hit. Plus, at 5 million/season after year 5, Harper is almost guaranteed to opt out… I mean, if he doesn’t opt out, you’re stuck with a pretty high luxury tax number but not a huge commitment of actual dollars, but that gamble seems like it would be worth it for the dodgers.

Jay Jaffe: For luxury tax purposes, there’s more to calculating AAV than simply $/years when opt-outs are involved. IIRC, Joel Sherman has written about this but I wasn’t able to find it in my 60-second Google search

Anonymous: More catchers playing today will make the HoF than deserve to. Y/N?

Jay Jaffe: LOL, have you seen the state of catching today? I think Posey and Molina make it (I’m less on board with the latter but resigned to the inevitability) but it’s not like we’re going to see a flood of completely underqualified guys making it. Martin and McCann are on their last legs, Lucroy wasn’t able to live up to that near MVP year, Grandal already has a PED suspension to his name. who else could break from the pack?

Anonymous: Nomar Mazara has hit exactly 20 HR in 3 straight years, and is 23 years old. There. That’s a thing you’re thinking about now.

Jay Jaffe: Along with Ian Desmond, Nomar Mazara needs to join the launch angle revolution. 55% GB rate isn’t going to cut it.

pumpsie: Now that everyone associated with MLB – owners, players, managers, media – is directly profiting from gambling, does the argument against Pete Rose in the Hall stand up for you still? How can MLB even have that rule anymore?

Jay Jaffe: I’m not comfortable with MLB’s new relationship with the gambling industry but Rule 21 (“”Any player, umpire, or Club or League official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform, shall be declared permanently ineligible.”) isn’t going anywhere, and to hell with Pete Rose, who knew exactly what he was getting into, and never showed anything close to the kind of contrition and reform necessary to reconsider his ban.

DJ Tanner: Is Muncy going to be playing every day for the Dodgers? Or will Roberts rotate guys like the end of last season.

Jay Jaffe: I think the Dodgers’ hope is for more of a set lineup than they had late last year, but I do suspect there will still be moving parts. I also think that now that the Dodgers are in the mix for Harper, things could still change, particularly given that the Pollock signing pushed Bellinger out of the CF mix (except for maybe spot duty), which in turn has an impact on how much playing time Muncy gets.

Josh: How worried should I be about Kershaw? I’m pretty worried

Jay Jaffe: I don’t think there’s any point in worrying until a) a structural issue is found; or b) his Opening Day availability is threatened. For all we know, right now he’s going through a dead arm period (muscle fatigue), which most pitchers face at some point in the spring, and given his stated desire to regain his lost velocity was working a bit too hard in the winter. FWIW, yesterday’s throwing session went “pretty well”

Andrew Friedman said Clayton Kershaw’s throwing session went “pretty well.”
28 Feb 2019
Morbo: Were you also disappointed that Craig Edwards’ “A Modest Proposal” failed to include cannibalism in its solution to service time manipulation?

Jay Jaffe: I’m disappointed that cannibalism isn’t more of a topic in ALL of our FanGraphs coverage.

scottz: How often do you think we will see a pitcher come in, retire a batter, and then suddenly have a “shoulder twinge” that forces them out of the game, but resolves before the next game?

Jay Jaffe: I think that if there were a 3-batter minimum rule adopted, it would come with a rule to prevent such obvious chicanery. A player being removed for injury purposes would need a mandatory DL stay, or maybe a choice between that and x days of unavailability while remaining on the roster.

Anonymous: Will Ohtani have a better career pitching or hitting?

Jay Jaffe: Given that his pitching career has already hit its first bump, and that there will always be more that can go wrong on that end, I think he’ll have a longer (and probably better) career as a hitter, but I do hope we get more of what we saw in 2018 before that ends.

Phil: What can we expect from Scott Kingery this season, especially with the news that Cesar Hernandez might miss the start of the season? Can this guy break out this year?

Jay Jaffe: Well, I don’t think Kingery could be much worse than he was last year, and I suspect that playing him at his natural position (where he made just 4 appearances last year) would help. So would not swinging at 40% of pitches outside the strike zone.

Tyler: Do you think doing away with the “save” statistic would have a salutary effect on HOF voting?  As it is, people like Trevor Hoffman and Wagner are receiving votes primarily because they racked up a large number of a contrived and meaningless statistic; meanwhile, players with much better HOF credentials like Schilling, Rolen, and Walker can’t get in.  Killing saves seems like it could free up votes for more deserving candidates in HOF voting in the future.

Jay Jaffe: On the contrary, i think most people (including voters) would lose track of relievers if the save statistic were to vanish without being replaced by some other kind of measure. Going just by innings and either flavor of WAR without at least a nod towards some kind of special intangible regarding their ability to finish games, I think the reasons for recognizing a player with 1/2 or 1/3 the workload of a starter kind of dry up.

Sonny Slayhern: What FA utility man deal do you like the best this offseason in terms of cost, future production, and opportunity with the new team . Jed Lowrie at 2/20M with NYM, DJ Lemahieu at 2/24 with NYY, or Marwin Gonzalez at 2/21M with Minny?

Jay Jaffe: I like the Marwin deal the most because he’s still got the most ability to shortstop of that trio (even if the metrics don’t love him), and I think that an infield with Schoop and Sano could well require him to play regularly at one spot for an extended period.

Name: Realmuto?

Jay Jaffe: he just finished his age-27 season, has a 111 OPS+ and 13.0 bWAR to his name; even if he’s the best catcher in the game at this particular moment, that resumé to date is not one with a very plausible HOF path.

Matt W: MLB should have just renamed it the “deactivated list” so we could keep our precious acronym

Jay Jaffe: Disguyaintplaying List

Benny: What are your thoughts on Matt Thaiss? If you had to give him a comp who would it be?

Jay Jaffe: If his nickname isn’t Thunder then we as a species have failed, and should walk into the ocean holding hands.

Beyond that, I have no thoughts on him that you couldn’t glean from reading the prospect capsule written by somebody who had heard of him before 12 pm today.

eamuscatuli14: Of these 4, who is the biggest HOF snub? Also who is most likely to be inducted? Minnie Minoso , Dick Allen, Tony Oliva, Jim Kaat

Jay Jaffe: Minoso’s position as an integration pioneer (“Orestes Minoso was the Jackie Robinson for all Latinos,” — Orlando Cepeda) who was robbed of playing time by the color line and the informal quota system in place afterwards puts him at the front of the line, IMO. I think he and Allen should be HOFers, and will get there eventually (hopefully not posthumously in the latter’s case). I am not very supportive of the candidacies of either of the other two players based on JAWS, but they’ve come close in Committee voting and I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them beat the first pair to the punch, which, ugh.

pumpsie: Have you made your peace with the Harold Baines thing? He’s no Rabbit Maranville, after all.

Jay Jaffe: Of the two, I’d rather have Maranville in the Hall, because at least in his own time, he was viewed as an elite player, and our estimates regarding defensive value are rougher the further back in time you go. There is no ambiguity about whether Baines belongs in the HOF, IMO.

Jay Jaffe: All right, sports fans, I’ve reached my pitch count. Thanks for stopping by today! No chat next week due to Arizona travel, but I hope some of you make it to next Friday’s meetup!

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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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Dave T
Dave T

To M’s question about gaming the luxury tax by including a player opt-out with very low salary years after the opt-out: there is (not surprisingly) CBA language that addresses this issue. Those mechanics are also (not surprisingly) rather complicated and therefore not conducive to a chat answer from Jay.

The mechanics are that, for luxury tax purposes, the calculation isn’t flat AAV if some of the annual salaries after a player opt-out are less than either (a) 80% of the lowest annual salary prior to the opt-out or (b) 75% of the overall contract AAV. A contract structure could game the first one by putting at least one low salary year prior to an opt-out, but then the second one (less than 75% of AAV) comes into play. In broad terms, if a contract meets either of those criteria, then luxury tax numbers are re-weighted toward the years before the opt out relative to a flat AAV.

Also, if the player opts out, there’s a true-up so that the team still recognizes any actual paid salary that’s over and above what’s been recognized for the luxury tax. If, for example, the cumulative total for years before a player opt-out is $120 million of salary paid but only $100 million recognized for the luxury tax, then that $20 million excess is recognized by the team when the player opts out. Between higher luxury tax rates for consecutive years over the threshold, but also higher surtax rates for being $20 million over and then $40 million over, it’s complicated on whether trying to put more luxury tax value in one year is good or bad for a team. There are scenarios where a team would like it (stay under the luxury tax for a few years, then go over for only one year) but also scenarios where the team would rather spread out the money (if the team is over by a few million anyway most years, but then a big one-year luxury tax number pushes the team up to $20+ million over the luxury tax line).

Dave T
Dave T

I forgot to mention hat these provisions are on pages 121 and 122 of the CBA – http://www.mlbplayers.com/pdf9/5450407.pdf