Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 3/23/20

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon and welcome to the rescheduled, on-the-fly version of my weekly chat. It’s been a rough eight days since we last connected here, for you as surely as it’s been for me, but last night I saw a flicker of hope via a YouTube broadcast from Busan, South Korea, where the Lotte Giants (who employ FanGraphs alum Sung Min Kim) played an intrasquad scrimmage, with former MLB hurlers Dan Straily and Adrian Sampson starting for their respective squads.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I wrote more about that in today’s COVID-19 roundup, as well as some other developments involving a minor league advocacy group and the use of Marlins Park as a spot for drive-through testing https://blogs.fangraphs.com/covid-19-roundup-flickers-of-hope-and-even…

Avatar Jay Jaffe: The hope for the KBO is that they can start their season in mid-April, in which case I plan to become as well-versed as possible in the league, because baseball.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Last year I did a bit of poking around KBO stat sites when the Blue Jays brought up Ryan Feierabend, a lefty who remade himself as a knuckleballer while pitching for the Nexen Heroes and KT Wiz https://blogs.fangraphs.com/ryan-feierabend-and-the-disappearing-knuck…

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Anyway, I’m chatting here with my 3 1/2-year daughter and her partner in crime, our mutt Sandy, underfoot. The queue is filling slowly. I’ll start tackling questions but if there’s a delay in my responses, it’s because I’m keeping the apartment from burning down or at least sticking two LEGOs together.

STRAY: Will we see 125+ games this season?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Right now, it doesn’t sound like we’ll get anything close to that. Via Craig Edwards’ article last week (https://blogs.fangraphs.com/how-many-games-can-mlb-realistically-play-…), opening the season at the beginning of June — probably a best-case scenario to allow for the resumption of spring training given the May 10 target to lift restrictions on gatherings of 50 or more people — would yield a season of 100 games, give or take a few.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I can’t see the union agreeing to play baseball into deep into November, or playing something on the order of a month’s worth of doubleheaders, in order to boost the total.

Dave: I was laid off. GF and I both don’t have health insurance. Our quarantine was broken at 2am by someone we do not trust. Any positivity would be deeply appreciated.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’m so sorry for your current situation. That sounds like a lot of worst-case scenarios coming true at once. I’m hopeful that your luck turns for the better, and that you remain healthy despite your exposure. If the occasional reading at FanGraphs helps to boost your mood, so much the better.

Dan: When comparing players at the same position, is the positional adjustment of WAR adequate? For example, Musial vs. Rickey Henderson. The latter played far more games in OF, while Stan spent half of career at first base. Does dWAR and positional adjustment cover that, or does an additional adjustment need to be made bc Henderson played a more difficult position?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: dWAR adjusts for that. While we understand positional adjustments to be single numbers (1B -9.5 runs per 1,350 innings, LF -7 runs per same), in actuality each player’s adjustment is individualized based on where he spent those innings.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: For Musial, who — just to pull an example from his B-Ref page — split his 1955 season between first base (947.2 innings), right field (342.2 innings) and left field (28 innings) — his adjustment (Rpos) is -8.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Note that those adjustment numbers change over time, as patterns of defensive plays made change as well (fewer bunts, more strikeouts, etc).

JT: last night, i re-watched alomar’s hr in 1992 againt eckersley. more broadcasters should be replaying historic games. and suck it, oakland. suck it.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: as my attention was spotty during the 1991 and ’92 postseasons, I’m not sure i’ve ever seen that one before this.  

Avatar Jay Jaffe: The home run completed a comeback from the Jays being down 6-1 in the seventh inning and facing a possible evening of the series at two games apiece. it was the fourth hit Alomar collected that day; he also walked. The Jays won in 11 when Pat Borders’ sac fly brought home Derek Bell, though it took until Game 6 for Toronto to clinch its first pennant.


Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’ll have what s/he’s having.

Mike: Just for fun I was trying to come up with team-specific JAWS numbers (e.g. what was Willie Wilson’s JAWS for his time in KC). Given that most players don’t spend 7+ years on one team, I went with 3 years for the peak score. Is this a reasonable bastardization, or would you take a different tack?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’ve never really considered using JAWS in that context because as you say, many players don’t spend that long with a team. I don’t mind if somebody does it, particularly if they note what they’re doing and why — as you’ve done. Carry on.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: gonna do a quick Play Index thing. In the meantime, since there aren’t many questions in the queue, I’ll open the floor to you along the lines of our staff picks for favorite games to rewatch (https://blogs.fangraphs.com/our-favorite-games-to-rewatch-part-2/). Unlike our mandate to use only official YT or MLB.tv feeds, you can get it from anywhere so long as it’s streaming. Playoffs, regular season, whatever. I’ll share ’em here if you provide a link.

Sweaty Vedder: What player has the lowest WAR for 15+ year career? 20+year career?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Play Index time, so I’mma work in bWAR….

The lowest bWAR of any position player with at least 15 seasons appears to be infielder Tommy Thevenow with -5.7 from 1924-38.

I can’t easily find a 20-year-low because World War II gaps keep messing with my searches (which  are plate appearance based not year based) so I’ll put this aside for the moment.

Guest: How did the 1994-95 suspension of play affect HOF worthiness/eligibility?  Think we’ll see an affect from the current suspension on borderline guys who miss out on preciously-needed WAR, Ws, RBIs, whatever people care about?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: It didn’t have much effect on eligibility, since for Hall purposes the 10-season requirement boils down to at least one game played in that season. The outage probably contributed to Fred McGriff missing out on 500 home runs, which would have been a boon to his HOF case, and likewise Harold Baines (who also missed time during the 1981 strike) falling short of 3,000 hits, and of course he was elected via the 2019 Today’s Game ballot anyway.

One who comes to mind as somebody who could have been helped by playing out the 1994 season is Kenny Lofton, who of course went one-and-done on the 2013 ballot. Via B-Ref, he led the AL in WAR and was on an Indians team that had a real shot at a title.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think this is probably a good topic for a future article, so with my daughter pawing the keyboard, I’ll file that away for another day.

JT: get up on this

Avatar Jay Jaffe: my daughter pointed to this game to share

Guest: 2015 Mets/Dodgers 2015 NLCS.  Greinke v. deGrom, 1-run game for all the marbles.  Rookie Syndergaard pumping an inning in relief.  Lots of fun.  

Avatar Jay Jaffe: and that one

showmeyourtatis: Do you have a favorite baseball clip on YouTube that you re-watch when you are most bored? I enjoy watching the Pujols at-bat against Lidge in the postseason but there are soooo many….purple monkey dishwasher

Avatar Jay Jaffe: One that immediately comes to mind is Tim Raines’ May 2, 1987 performance against the Mets, which ended his collusion-driven absence. He went 4-for-5 with a walk, bookended by a triple off David Cone and a decisive home run off Jesse Orosco — and the game was called by Vin Scully.  

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I watched that game live on NBC’s Game of the Week. Raines was one of my favorite players and one of the best in the game. Had he played a full season that year, he might have won MVP, which likely would have accelerated his HOF election

Josh: Was listening to Effectively Wild and Ben was talking about Wes Ferrell. I was wondering how you personally balance the fact that pitchers in the past before pitch counts and such routinely burned out quickly, even while amassing quite a bit of value early. Do you have any personal adjustments for some of these things or just go “that’s too bad” and then move on?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: From a JAWS standpoint, more innings in a given season tends to yield higher WARs and thus higher peak scores. Ferrell’s 54.3 peak score (best seven seasons) — which includes his considerable offensive contributions — is the best thing he has going for him on the advanced stat front.

This has less to do with Ferrell and more to do with 19th century pitchers but I am thinking about a workload adjustment to WAR7 for pitchers. I futzed around with it last summer but mothballed it once playoffs, Hall season, and free agency rolled around. It’s probably a topic I’ll explore in the coming weeks.

Pat: My favorite to watch on YouTube is the Kirk Gibson AB vs Eckersley..with Vin Scully on the call of course. 8 minutes of baseball heaven..& I’m not even a Dodgers fan!

Pat’s Bat: My favorite baseball clips to watch are Bonds v. Gagne and the Kevin Mitchell bare handed catch

Guest: Pujols off Lidge – yes!

Avatar Jay Jaffe: would love it if you folks add links to the clips you suggest, though those are easy enough to Google.

Eric: If there’s no baseball this year, how do you think that will effect prospects?  I’m thinking along the lines that they’ll continue to age, yet not continue to develop their skills.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Even in the context of partial seasons — let’s not ponder the loss of a full one just yet  — it’s a real bummer to think about lost developmental time for prospects, especially given the way the game’s economic structure already works against them.

JT: suck it odor!


Pat: Here is Gibby vs Eck. I was wrong, it’s close to 10 minutes.

STRAY: When you can check out the Mid-West Baseball League (MWBL) http://www.straybaseball.com/mwbl – It’s our way of being little Kids & still loving the game.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I had to spend a couple of minutes poking around the site to figure out it was an APBA Baseball For Windows league and not Out of the Park or something else. It looks like you and your pals have devoted a lot of time and effort into the league and it history, which is cool.

I just got a media copy of OOTP, which I had never played before — I gave up any kind of gaming to start moonlighting as a writer 20 years ago. I’ll be writing about that experience and my impressions of the game at some point, hopefully soon

Guest: Pujols ruins Lidge:

Pat’s Bat: Kevin Mitchell

Matt V: My favorite clip is baseball Rashomon: a great moment, and an interesting window into the difference that perspective makes. The video gets fuzzy in places, but the calls are really what matter

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Oh man, i was in a Boston bar for that one. Emma was on a panel for something that took us up there and the group went out for beers afterwards, and my first thought after watching it was “there goes Jim Leyland’s  shot at the Hall of Fame.” Which may or may not be true but that’s what came to mind.

Hopeful White Sox Fan: THe Mark Buehrle perfect game was a thing of beauty.  2 hrs and 3 min, his hardest pitch was 88MPH.  God I miss that guy.  It was playing on MLB yesterday.

Pat’s Bat:

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Bonds vs. Gagne there

JAWS: How will you factor this season, if it happens, in players’ JAWS scores, particularly if it affects WAR7?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: as with players who missed time due to military service or the strike, it’s context that I note in the grand scheme of things rather than an explicit formula. I might note for example, that this player probably lost 10 WAR and two peak seasons to WWII, and that we should be mindful of that if he doesn’t quite measure up to the standards at his position.

Pat: & Detroit fans will go their graves saying the ump squeezed Benoit on the pitch prior to the Ortiz grand slam. That is the one baseball game that still sticks on my craw to this day.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Every fan understandably believes that the ump squeezed or otherwise screwed the pitcher who then gave up the big one. I know Padres fans who will forever believe that Mark Langston got the shaft on a 2-2 pitch whose call went in favor of Tino Martinez in Game 1 of the 1998 World Series, just before he hit a game-breaking grand slam. it’s the nature of fandom.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Ok folks, I’ve more or less burned through the queue and have a stomach that’s growling. Time to make myself a bowl of fancy ramen for lunch.

The intersection of my work-from-home experience, my well-stocked fridge, and my use of cooking as coping mechanism is the fanciest bowl of 99¢ Shin Ramyun in all of Brooklyn.
18 Mar 2020

Be well, folks. I know it’s tough out there for you as your health and livelihoods are threatened by the virus and the closures — it’s tough here too in New York, and we could all use some baseball and some good news. We’ll do what we can to provide some diversions here at FanGraphs, and we hope that you’ll check in when you can.

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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