Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 3/30/20

12:03
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon, folks, and welcome to today’s chat, where I plan to talk about baseball in at least some shape and form. I hope you’re doing all right; the Jaffe-Span household is trying to keep it together in downtown Brooklyn, where we’ve got a reasonable stockpile of supplies and are taking plenty of precautions when we do need to walk our dog (Sandy) and get our daughter some outdoor exercise.

12:05
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Some housekeeping: Please read this message from David Appelman. Like just about everyone else in the world of sports, we’re facing some lean times, and we hope that you’ll think of us.  https://blogs.fangraphs.com/a-fangraphs-update-were-asking-for-your-he…

12:06
Avatar Jay Jaffe: The Ringer’s Bryan Curtis has a piece about our situation and those of several other sports media outlets https://www.theringer.com/2020/3/30/21199460/coronavirus-sports-media-…

12:06
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’m currently working on an obituary of Jimmy Wynn, the Toy Cannon — a highly-underrated ballplayer who was a stathead favorite. That will run tomorrow.

12:06
Avatar Jay Jaffe: And now, on with the show…

12:06
Dave: How is Sandy doing?

12:09
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Sandy  — our mutt, whom you can follow on instagram at @sandybrooklyn — is doing all right but has a lot of pent-up energy. She gets her daily walks and some exercise when we throw the ball down our 40-foot hallway, and my daughter is learning to make her sit and do a few other commands. She is very confused by yoga and other indoor exercise, which of course has become part of our routine

12:09
Matt Klentak: is it more likely we see a shortened season or no baseball till 2021

12:11
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I still think it’s more likely that we see a shortened season than none at all. It may be an oddly shaped one in terms of the possibility of starting with empty stadiums, neutral site postseason stuff with an expanded field, maybe even seven-inning doubleheaders (but I doubt that), but last week’s agreement between the league and the union, and the comments by Tony Clark, made it clear that MLB wants to do *something* rather than nothing, even if things get weird. I’m going to retain hope, and I think you all should as well. After all, it’s still only March 30, not July.

12:11
Nolan: If MLB decides to start the season with the All-Star game, as some have suggested they should, how would or should the All-Stars be selected?  Go with last year’s teams again?  Pure fan voting, even in the absence of statistics on which to base those votes?  Something else?  Seems like it could be significant if players have bonuses in their contracts related to All-Star selections.

12:13
Avatar Jay Jaffe: As with the actual ASG, I think a combination of selection methods is appropriate, with fans, managers, and players all getting to weigh in. And because the game is such a marquee event, I do think there will be one. I recall the second “half” of the strike-torn1981 season resuming with the ASG; if it gets late enough, making the ASG the season opener is fine by me.

12:13
Hank Mardukus: Jay – assembling a quarantine content playlist. You get to add two movies to it, what are you picking?

12:17
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good question. Hmmm. I find the Royal Tenenbaums to be endlessly watchable (most of the Wes Andersons fit that bill), as well as the first two Godfathers, Goodfellas… damn, this is hard.

One thing I’ve been going back to, a stress reliever in terms of viewing, is Apollo-related documentaries. I’ve been a big space nerd ever since seeing The Right Stuff in movie theaters, and it’s a favorite non-fiction topic beyond baseball. One movie that I dearly love and would constitute my official pick is For All Mankind, a 1989 doc consisting of restored footage of Apollo missions, with a great and memorable Brian Eno soundtrack https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/For_All_Mankind. It’s on the Criterion Channel, if you’re into that sort of thing, and there’s an option to overlay the names of the astronauts and other figures (such as flight director Gene Kranz) onscreen. Also available via DVD

12:17
Avatar Jay Jaffe: As for the other pick, let’s go with Tenenbaums to keep the chat moving

12:17
Royal pain: Jay, please ask David to set-up a Donate button.  Already have $50 sub.  Thanks.

12:18
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I will relay that message!

12:18
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Thank you for your support, all of you who are members, whether old or new.

12:18
Travis: I have to imagine that this will make for a good article in the coming weeks, but: with this delayed season/potential no season, who is most hurt in their pursuit of Cooperstown by missing out on a prime season? I’d have to think players like Josh Donaldson, Jacob deGrom, and Joey Votto might need all the additional compiling stats they can get, and missing out on prime years (or comebacks, in Votto’s case) could hurt.

Follow up – likely the writers take that into account when voting? (a la the “Harold Baines Veterans Committee/3,000 hits vote)

12:18
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Will tackle that very subject, perhaps as soon as this week.

12:19
Dave: Do you think the lack of business will put a bunch of MiLB teams out of business? And do you think that baseball would still contract 40 of those teams if they lose 20 to the economy this year?

12:22
Avatar Jay Jaffe: That’s a good question and I don’t know the answer but I do think some fraction will go under; whether it resembles the cut list MLB created this past winter is unclear.  

Given the plans to contract the amateur draft in both 2020 and ’21, it does seem clear from the agreement hammered out last week (see https://blogs.fangraphs.com/mlb-and-the-union-hammer-out-a-deal-and-hu…) that the league and the union are paving the way for fewer players to enter the amateur ranks in the coming years. That’s not great news for anybody.

12:22
Matt Klentak: top 3 defensive catchers you’ve watched with your own eyes?

12:26
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’ve been impressed, even transfixed, by Russell Martin, whom I’ve probably watched more than any catcher over the past  decade and a half. The numbers mostly support this as far as his being an outstanding framer; I’ve always thought highly of his blocking ability as well, as he’s shown great mobility, but the numbers there aren’t overwhelming.

Beyond that, it’s probably the two obvious choices, Ivan Rodriguez and Yadier Molina.

12:27
Curtis: Skyped a synced-up Ken Burns Baseball Inning 1 last night with 3 other baseball-starved buddies. We all cued it up and started at (roughly) the same time.  Was lost in baseball nostalgia for 2 hours…it was awesome…HIGHLY RECOMMEND (the format…feel free to substitute the movie though it was unanimously our choice)

12:28
Avatar Jay Jaffe: oh, that sounds really cool, and an idea worth sharing. My wife, who for years ran a Bad Movie Night with a half-dozen college friends who had also settled in Brooklyn, attempted to do that a couple weeks ago with the Cats movie, but with only one person streaming and sharing it, the technical difficulties proved insurmountable.

12:29
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I will say that I highly encourage everybody out there in isolation-land to figure out a way to Zoom/Skype/Google Hangout with friends, chat over a beer or a cup of coffee or some kind of shared experience. It’s been a great chance to reconnect with friends from all over the country and it’s given my morale a boost. A++ would do again, repeatedly

12:30
Sam: Despite a relatively short career, and playing only in small markets, I’ve always been fascinated by how good Brian Giles’ career was. Seems like he was mostly swept under the rug. What was the perception of him during and shortly after his career/peak? Perhaps any rumblings of HOF support?

12:34
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I wrote about Giles for the 2015 ballot series https://www.si.com/mlb/2014/12/24/jaws-2015-hall-of-fame-ballot-brian-… He had a very solid career of 50+ WAR, but got a late start, not playing 100 games in a season until his age-26 campaign, and because he was such a disciplined hitter, he fell 103 hits short of 2,000 — the line below which nobody from the post-1960 expansion era has been elected. Giles, who did have some ugly domestic violence stuff during and after his career, was completely shut out in the voting, and I don’t see him being anywhere near the top of the list to get reconsidered.

12:34
Jason N: If a bumper crop of talent joins MLB over a few year period does that mean the number of HoFers could be higher for that generation, or are we focused more on the top x% of players and therefore some great players fall short?

12:37
Avatar Jay Jaffe: it takes decades upon decades to gain a true understanding of the HOF frequency of a given period, given the combination of waiting periods, ballot eligibility windows, and the committee process. The reality is that the limits in ballot size — 10 spots for BBWAA, 4 for committee — create bottlenecks. We have seen a record number of players elected in recent years, but that’s done more to flesh out an underrepresented era than to saturate it. I’ve written about historical levels of representation in my five-year outlooks and virtual ballots, and even with the latest flood, we’re nowhere near the max.

12:38
Grand Admiral Braun: Fun fact on Burns’ Baseball: The Ruth-centered episode – “A National Heirloom” was originally going to be called, “That sonofabitch.”

12:38
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’d never heard that one

12:38
WAR: I’ve noticed the best players in past eras accumulated significantly more WAR than most of today’s stars. Is it simply an issue of rest for position players (I know that is part of it for pitchers) or is there more to it? Also, I’ve been a member, but encouraged my fantasy baseball league cohorts to join the site. We all use it!

12:41
Avatar Jay Jaffe: The higher WARs from eras past represent a larger spread of talent between the best and worst players — the replacement level was lower in the time of Honus Wagner or Babe Ruth or whoever than it is today. Ideally one can use a timeline adjustment to help normalize that; Baseball Prospectus’ WARP3 was one such attempt, but it’s not built into any of the current versions of WAR(P) so far as I know.

12:41
Grand Admiral Braun: When not figuring in difficulty of era, Hornsby is the greatest right-handed hitter of all time. I have doing a deep dive on all the greatest right handed hitters — if Trout can continue for a tad longer…man. 175wRC+ during his current 8-year peak.

12:42
Avatar Jay Jaffe: at the very least we’re seeing one of the five or 10 best players ever in Trout. I think you can probably boil it down to Ruth, Mays, Bonds, and Trout for the all-time Rushmore.

12:42
I Used to be Mel Clarke: How does service time work under the new agreement for the Super Two Deadline and player’s like Nick Madrigal?

12:44
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Assuming there is a season, any service time will be prorated. So if a Madrigal or somebody plays 60 games in a 120-game season, he’ll receive credit for half of a standard service-time year (172 days), so 86. The top 22% of players with two-plus years of service time the ones who become Super-Twos, will still be qualified in that manner.

12:44
Avatar Jay Jaffe: if there’s no service time, “anyone currently on a 40-man roster, 60-day injured list or an outright assignment to the minor leagues with a major league contract would receive 2020 service time equaling what the player accrued in 2019.”

12:45
Avatar Jay Jaffe: that’s from the AP report last week. https://apnews.com/6b2b49b2aadbc859c407c774ef172b2f

12:45
Rob: How much has Harold Baines’ induction messed up determining who is and isn’t a HOFer?

12:47
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Eh, it did lower the JAWS standard among RF by like a full point, but that was the highest at any position so it wasn’t a huge deal. I think it’s hurt more in perception than actuality. The idea that if Baines is a HOFer everybody can thus make a slippery-slope argument that, like, Nick Markakis should be in, or that EVERYBODY who’s in is just a joke — both of those hurt the credibility of the institution, but the odds of lightning striking on that level again anytime soon still seem very small.

12:47
John: Glad to see you are doing a story on the Toy Cannon.  I hope you look closely at his offensive production.  He generated a ton of oWAR per hit –

12:48
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Looked this up last night and it will be in the story: Wynn has the 3rd highest bWAR of any player with a lifetime batting average of .250 or lower, behind only Graig Nettles (who has a commanding lead and is HOFworthy IMO) and Darrell Evans.

12:48
Coffee: Cant wait for my new FanGraphs mug! Though by “cant wait” I mean I have no problem waiting as its not an essential supply so please don’t feel any need to rush my mug order. Thanks for all you guys do at FanGraphs!

12:49
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I love my FG mug, so much so that when I accidentally broke the handle awhile back I glued it back on, and it’s now survived at least 6 months.

12:49
Avatar Jay Jaffe: And thank you for the support !

12:49
John: have you ever critically gone back and looked at your hall of fame metric and asked whether you are missing anything?  If you had to add a second big metric what would it be ?

12:56
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’ve used JAWS through 17 election cycles, including the past 14 or 15 in its present form (7-year at large for peak instead of 5-consecutive). I’d like to believe that I’ve always kept a critical eye on it, ensuring that the system wasn’t flagging too many or too few candidates due to its construction. When it flagged Tony Phillips as worthy in the 2005 class, that was a sign that 5-consecutive (my choosing) and BP’s replacement level (not my choosing, but clearly too low, using the 1899 Cleveland Spiders as the floor, more or less) weren’t working right for the cause. Both soon changed, and I think subsequently, the system does a better job at avoiding false positives.

I’ve always freely acknowledged that there’s a whole bunch of relevant stuff such as awards, postseason, and historical importance, that can’t be quantified to the same degree as WAR-based value, and that JAWS is better used as a first-cut metric than as a binary yes/no final answer.

12:56
Avatar Jay Jaffe: One final thought on the topic: there’s nothing like spending 3 1/2 years writing a book to get a real idea of your metric’s strengths and weaknesses.

12:56
Tony Z: How does a short season impact the value of rookie pitchers such as McKay and Puk?

12:58
Avatar Jay Jaffe: If they can stay healthy through the outage and ramp up successfully, I think they might have greater value than before, since whatever innings caps they face will cover a larger share of the season. Just pulling #s out of the air, but if Puk was targeted for 120 innings, the A’s previously would have needed another starter to cover another 40-50 IP. Now, they’re less likely to need that guy, again assuming the pitcher in question is healthy.

12:58
DL80: This might be an odd one, but could Dave give us an update on things and how/if us buying memberships helped? A lot of people bought them after his post (including me), and it would help to know that it made a difference. And what else can we do to help?

12:59
Avatar Jay Jaffe: We greatly, greatly, greatly appreciate your support and I would presume that we will keep you updated in some form, if and when we determine additional ways to show that support.

12:59
mike: How does one reconcile one’s ethical beliefs with continuing to give money to billionaires and millionaires that just agreed to screw over entry level employees?

1:03
Avatar Jay Jaffe: the baseball industry employs thousands upon thousands of people at many levels, from hourly employees to $30M-plus players. A whole lot of us don’t like how those at the low end are being screwed, and I can understand if somebody makes the choice to give up on supporting baseball right now on that basis. However, I personally don’t think the best way to combat inequity is to withdraw support entirely, it’s to stay and fight for better outcomes.

1:04
eloquentboot: Hey Jay, hope all is well for the fangraphs employees! Wish I could do more to help, but unfortunately I like many of you guys am in a bit of a tricky spot with employment. Fangraphs while “non-essential” has been one of my favorite things in life for many years.

1:10
Avatar Jay Jaffe: We understand that what we do isn’t an “essential” service by most definitions, at least to our readers, and we’re sympathetic to the fact a good chunk of our audience is feeling squeezed right now, or worse, even out of jobs. That sucks, no doubt, and we hope that things improve for you – and for all of us.

To those of us on staff at FG, baseball IS essential, as it’s our primary way of making a living, paying the mortgage or rent, buying food and essentials, and so on. For this household, in which my wife edits the national MLB vertical for The Athletic, baseball is VERY essential. We’re lucky to be employed in this industry, we bust our asses to give you our best work, and we hope that there are enough of you out there to fit us into your lives and your budgets in ways that can help to sustain us through this lean time.

1:11
WinTwins0410: Jay, what explains the difference between the support that Jack Morris got for the HoF (solid vote totals and eventual committee enshrinement) vs. the nonexistent support that David Wells got?  Why in your opinion did voters not give David Wells more love?  (There is that 4.13 ERA, I know.)  A cursory glance of their stats and honors (and I know fewer and fewer writers only make cursory glances, but still) shows their careers to be not terribly dissimilar

1:12
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Popularity, and in particular the appreciation and perhaps over-rating of Morris’ Game 7 1991 work is all that separates him from Wells, whose JAWS case is stronger (44 spots higher in the rankings) and whose full postseason ledger is better, too — just without a similarly signature moment. https://www.si.com/mlb/2012/12/20/jaws-and-the-2013-hall-of-fame-ballot-david-wells

1:13
FanGraphs Membership: I know that on an individual level, it’s a relative pittance, but what would be more helpful for Fangraphs – me purchasing a $20 membership with ads or a $50 membership without ads?  I assume the site makes much less than $30/year from me on ad revenue, which would make the latter better, but wanted to ask.

1:14
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’m not sure but I think your logic is correct. We’ll take what we can get, either way, and we thank you.

1:14
Sam: Who are some players who the average fan would be surprised by the strength of their HOF case? Conversely, who are some players whose fame outstrips the strength of their case?

1:14
Avatar Jay Jaffe: grabbing this to put in the article idea folder

1:15
Mad Joe-Don: How many headaches could be avoided if the Hall of Fame came up with some loose definition of a hall of famer? “A player who is one of the best in the game over a period of years” or something like that.

1:16
Avatar Jay Jaffe: it’s loosely defined in the official voting rules (https://baseballhall.org/hall-of-famers/rules/bbwaa-rules-for-election):

5. Voting: Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.

6. Automatic Elections: No automatic elections based on performances such as a batting average of .400 or more for one (1) year, pitching a perfect game or similar outstanding achievement shall be permitted.

1:18
Avatar Jay Jaffe: While I’m not a fan of the “character clause” aspect for reasons that are well-publicized, I think the Hall has deliberately avoided setting baselines because the game evolves over time. It’s pretty clear based on #6 that the record/ability stuff pertains to sustained work rather than one amazing accomplishment.

1:18
bk: Jay, how does the arbitration rule work where you can cut someone before the season for 1/6th of their arb determined number? Could NYM project Thor’s recovery far enough into 2021 that they’d choose to walk away? Or are there injury rights a player has?

1:19
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think this is the rule to which you’re referring:

http://m.mlb.com/glossary/transactions/non-guaranteed-contract

1:23
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Under that, I suspect — but don’t know — whether the Mets have any remedy for this year unless they cut him now, before they can project his trajectory. They could in theory non-tender him next winter, but I think so long as there’s any hope he can pitch in 2021, he has too much trade value to dump.

1:23
Jeff: Yu Darvish woulda coulda shoulda passed 2500 innings between the NPB and MLB with a sub-3 ERA and RA9. What does he have to do to get any HOF attention?

1:27
Avatar Jay Jaffe: First of all, he has to pitch in parts of 10 MLB seasons; 2020 would be his eighth. That said, he’s unlikely to wind up with HOF-caliber MLB numbers barring a sudden and sustained return to his 2012-14 form, and the precedents of Hideo Nomo and Hideki Matsui tell us that Darvish’s NPB record won’t be part of most writers’ deliberations; this is the National Baseball Hall of Fame, not the International Baseball Hall of Fame.

Ichiro, OTOH, has a very clear HOF case —including the 3000 hit milestone — without considering his NPB stats.

1:29
Derek: Is there any way to just donate to the site? I am in the extremely fortunate position of being able to work from home and in an industry that is actually seeing an increase in business (probably temporary, but still…). I’d love to be able to contribute more to such a great website. Is buying a 2nd membership the best way to go?

1:30
Avatar Jay Jaffe: A gift membership might be one way to go! I have some ideas to carry to our staff meeting today and hope that we come out of that able to communicate ways for those of you who want to do even more than you’ve already done.

1:30
Avatar Jay Jaffe: OK folks, I’m going to call it a day on this chat. THANK YOU all for showing up, and for your expressions of support — written, verbal, financial. We’re doing our best to be here for you, and we hope to continue that beyond this current games-free period.

Stay safe, and good luck out there.

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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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