Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 4/18/23

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon, folks! Welcome to another edition of my weekly chat.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I just went live an hour ago with my deep dive into the news that a Salt Lake City-based group has thrown its hat in the ring to bring an expansion franchise to the city where I grew up — a possibility I was immediately dismissive of last week.  https://blogs.fangraphs.com/salt-lake-citys-bid-for-a-major-league-exp…

Avatar Jay Jaffe: (I’ve reconsidered)

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Yesterday I had a quick look at the impact of Corey Seager’s latest injury https://blogs.fangraphs.com/the-loss-of-corey-seager-threatens-the-ran…

Anthony: What the heck is going on with Alek Manoah? He’s been brutal so far after being great last year.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good question. I haven’t seen much of him but I notice that his velocity is down a bit, and he’s getting hit very hard (7.43 xERA, woof). A quick look at his Stuff+ data shows that the scores for both his fastball and slider have particularly receded, (103 to 98 on the former, 111 to 101 for the latter,), with his overall Stuff+ and Pitching+ (including location) falling from 100 to 94. Velocity, shape, movement, I’m not sure what’s up but I’d guess he’s got some mechanical issues  to iron out.


Alex: Last September, you wrote a piece about Juan Soto’s season-long slump last year. Evidently, it’s continued. His batting eye remains otherworldly, but his contact quality hasn’t, and it’s hard to know what to do with that.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Actually, his quality of contact seems to be all right but he’s not getting the results.  18.2% barrel rate is great, .164 AVG compared to a .254 xAVG, .361 SLG compared to a .522 xSLG, .316 wOBA compared to a .400 xwOBA. He’s got a very high pull rate (47.7%) and I think he may be a bit messed up on the mental aspect of hitting, getting a bit pull-happy as he tries to compensate for Petco’s configuration.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: There’s also this:

Juan Soto is still having a hard time adjusting to the pitch clock. He specifically lamented there not being enough time coming out of the on-deck circle to get himself ready and begin plate appearances.

“There’s no time at all. You can’t even play mind games anymore.”

17 Apr 2023
Avatar Jay Jaffe: He’s going to have to figure it out of he wants that big contract, but I’d worry much more if his actual and x-stats were reversed

Farhandrew Zaidman: How we feeling about the Atlantic League test tube rules this year?

MLB will use the Atlantic League as its rule-change test lab again. This year’s rules:

*Designated pinch runner. Can enter at any time, then return later.

*A one-disengagement rule (it’s two in MLB).

*The return of the Double Hook! If the starter exits early, so does the DH.

18 Apr 2023
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t see the need for a one-disengagement test; two is a decent limit that’s already boosted stolen bases 41% on a per-game basis

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’d limit the designated PR by attaching him either to a single player for the entire game or to a one-time return of the guy being pinch-run for.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’m open-minded about the double-hook

Arizona: How are the Dbacks still starting Bum over Pfaadt?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Man, i don’t know. If he really was just dealing with fatigue then skip a turn. He’s dogmeat out there; his Stuff+ is just 86 and his Location+ is down form 99 lat year to 93 this year. The beatings will continue whether or not morale improves; it’s the fastball and curve that need help. https://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=pit&lg=all&qual=0…

Avatar Jay Jaffe: By the way, somebody asked about getting Stuff+ onto individual player pages. It’s something we’re looking into. In the meantime, you’ll notice that for the links to Bumgarner and Manoah, I’ve created custom one-player pages to easily compare 2021, ’22 and ’23 at a glance.

Ben: Ok, Jorge Mateo isn’t going to hit .350 and lead the majors in WAR but with his defense and base running, if he’s turned into a .260/.310/.460 hitter he’s probably a top 5 short-stop–how much of this is for real?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: it’s a bit early to say how much of it is for real but everywhere I look on his page, from chase rate, zone-contact rate and swinging strike rate to strikeout and walk rates, to statcast numbers I see improvements all over the place — if not numbers that support his current level. Note his .297 xBA and .493 xSLG, those would be plenty good if he can maintain them.

I note that he’s hitting a ton of groundballs, which doesn’t work for everyone but when you’ve got 99th percentile speed it’s another story. He does seem to be worth a closer look.

Austin: Jeffrey Springs was killing it for my fantasy squad. Do we know when he’ll be back?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: gah, what a bummer. based on what I’m reading (er, skimming) I’d guess it could be at least two months, maybe three or four

Anthony: It’s November ’23 and we are looking back at the Dodgers saves by reliever breakdown. What does that look like?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Woof, I just looked and they’ve got three saves so far, two from Evan Phillips and one three-inning job from Andre Jackson. I’d guess they wind up with Phillips and Graterol in double digits and Miller with a few. Not gonna be a lot because 90 wins ain’t happening and I’m starting to wonder about 81.

Tony Two Bags: Why do people think Rendon is washed? He’s hitting harder than he ever has, is making more contact than he ever has, isn’t a groundball machine, and his plate discipline has been elite thus far. I’m not sure what I’m missing

Avatar Jay Jaffe: In the age of social media, you’ll always have some edgelords treating the burial of a player as a competitive sport and others who let their emotions over a player wrecking their fantasy team three years ago take over. It’s silly.

Now, would anybody who told us we were fools for believing Jarred Kelenic had a future please tape a giant “Kick Me!” sign to their butts? I won’t actually kick you…

Yeah Well Hiura Towel: Salt Lake City? I don’t think I’ve ever heard it mentioned before as a potential MLB city. Is there a “there” there?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I wrote 2,500 words about it, have a look.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: in short, a potential bid has some things to recommend it and perhaps distinguish it from other competitors, but one almost unfathomably large issue looms

Yeah Well Hiura Towel: Lol I didn’t even see you had just written about SLC. Oops.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: fair enough

Brandon Belt: should I be concerned?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: 46.2% strikeout rate suggests something is very, very wrong, and he does have a lot of injuries in his history. Not saying he’s done but maybe call his next of kin to do a wellness check.

Mike M: I enjoyed your piece about an expansion team in SLC.  But what you didn’t discuss is what would be a good name for the team.  Any suggestions?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I do love the Bees, which harkens back to their original PCL entry in 1915 and refers to Utah’s slogan as the Beehive State. The Utah Stars harkens back to their ABA championship in the mid-’70s, but I think Nashville is using Stars as well. Lakers is probably a bit too cheeky given the big issue I referred to and I think there’s already a team using that one (I joked in the 1980s that the Jazz and Lakers should have traded names). I’d need to think about it longer to get some better ones in the mix.

Tiger Fan: Any 25 and under current players you think will eventually will end up in the HOF?  In the past you have said Juan Soto (most current WAR) had the best shot, but he looks dreadful right now.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: See above re: Soto — i do think he’ll be fine. Wander Franco, Ronald Acuña Jr. and even Fernando Tatis Jr. would be my best guesses for others but I am less than convinced. Wrote about Acuña the other day https://blogs.fangraphs.com/ronald-acuna-jr-s-bat-is-nearly-all-the-wa…

Avatar Jay Jaffe: not loving the early reads on his defense and sprint speed but the bat obviously still plays

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Tatis will have to be a model citizen if he’s going to get there. Yes, it’s easy to point to the fact that no PED-suspended player has been elected, but 20 years from now the story may be very different.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Franco is hitting the ball harder, for the person who was wondering about that in this space a few weeks ago

Tiger Fan: Who do you think will have the better career going forward…Wander Franco or Julio Rodriguez?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Oh, duh, Julio is another one I’d add to that list.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t know who will have the better career of those two, I just want to make sure I get to watch!

Tungsten Arm Ohtani: If Ohtani’s overriding goal in free agency is to win a World Series (assume the money is essentially equal and geography is not a consideration), which team should he pick?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Might be the Dodgers… or the Braves. Good lord is the latter bursting with young talent and unlike the Dodgers they’ve locked those guys up with ridiculously low contracts (which I don’t love but must point out).

Jaime: If the Yanks and Angels discussed a straight up Trout for Judge trade, who says no?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Judge.

Tiger Fan: What would Shohei Ohtani have to do going forward to be considered a top 10 player of all time?  Be a productive 2 way player until the age of 40 and about 100 WAR?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t know that we can’t already say that. After all, in AL/NL history we’ve never had a player *sustain* a high level of success batting and pitching; even Babe Ruth was in transition for parts of a couple of seasons.

I don’t particularly expect Ohtani to be able to do both at a high level until he’s 40; not to get too bleak but the odds are somewhere along the way an arm injury might at least threaten his career on the mound (it’s already happened once). IMO if he gets to 10 years of major league appearances he’ll have my Hall of Fame vote.

TKDC: After Cabrera retires, next year, will Mike Trout be the only legitimate active position player to unequivocally call a “future hall of famer”?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: No because I think the tipping point has already been reached for Betts, and we’re not far off on Arenado, Machado, and Goldschmidt.

Tungsten Arm Ohtani: Inspired by watching a lot of little league and many, many comical misplays, what is the worst play you have ever seen a MLB player make?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Ruben Rivera’s baserunning (with a legendary call by Jon Miller) comes to mind

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Manny Ramirez inexplicably cutting off Johnny Damon comes to mind as well

Addison: How does the Toronto catcher situation shake out? Kirk hasn’t done much. Jansen’s been terrible. Varsho’s a strict outfielder?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’m surprised that Varsho hasn’t caught at all yet because at least some of his value is tied up in his ability to do so. Beyond that I don’t get the impulse to cut and run on the other two two weeks into the season (somebody else asked about trading Kirk but maybe that was a fantasy question).

Avatar Jay Jaffe: BTW since there are a lot in the queue — i generally don’t answer fantasy questions because I haven’t played it in any form in over a decade. If one has a non-fantasy angle to it i might delve in but your odds aren’t high unless it’s pretty big.

TIL: How can average exit velocity be low but hard hit percentage be high? Looking at Cristian Javier.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Javier’s average exit velo of 88.4 and hard-hit rate of 41.85 aren’t really at either extreme; the former is in the 54th percentile, the latter the 39th. Doesn’t seem all that remarkable to me especially this early in the year.

Learner: How can I improve my knowledge on in and out of zone contact rates? Are there any articles you recommend?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: My suggestion is to look at our leaderboards and compare guys to league average to get a feel as to where the centers of the various metrics are as well as who the outliers are.

I did really like this piece by Dave Cherman on plate discipline metrics, which does mention both of the ones you cited but also others as well. https://www.pitcherlist.com/a-beginners-guide-to-understanding-plate-d…

Loren: SLC resident here. I had the same initial reaction as you did, but was encouraged after reading your article. Is there any chance that SLC could be a relocation site for the A’s or Rays,   or is the Miller ownership group essential to make it happen?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Hi Loren, thanks! I have to think that the Miller family is pretty key to getting the bid on the map. One thing I didn’t really expound upon in the article is that the Millers’ experience in the area gives them a pretty good understanding of the cultural mores of a state where the Mormon Church casts a long shadow. I think an outside owner could easily blunder him/herself into a difficult position without appreciating the sensitivities in play there. The Millers obviously have long-standing ties to the business community of the city and state as well and that’s tough to replicate for any ownership group.

Nestor Cortes: …is just a legitimately very good starting pitcher now. They should extend.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Wouldn’t surprise me if they do… if Cortes is open to it.

T: Any worries about Strider with slightly less velocity?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Not yet. Remember, he didn’t enter the rotation until May 30 of last year. He’s going to have to pace himself to carry a larger complement of innings, so maybe he’s backing off a bit.

Benjamin: The Phillies as a team have a .371 BABIP. That’s 30 or 40 points higher than the next highest team. Ever seen anything like that? I know it’s early, but it feels like the sum of all of their batters’ plate appearances gets you to a decently sized sample.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Via the FanGraphs Library (to which I still owe a JAWS article. Someday), individual hitter BABIP stabilizes at around 800 balls in play, and I imagine that you probably need a team sample of at least that size to tell you anything. The Phillies are at 428, so I don’t think I’d get too worked up about this yet, but it bears noting as something to watch! https://library.fangraphs.com/pitching/babip/

Farhandrew Zaidman: Dustin May got hit around a bit last night….his velo is down ever so slightly and his K/9 is comically low. Too early for conclusions?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: God, that was ugly. His Stuff+ numbers are great, but his swinging strike rate is way down and his contact rate is way high. Not quite sure what’s going on other than maybe throwing the sinker too much. Ben Clemens wrote about him here https://blogs.fangraphs.com/early-season-pitch-modeling-standouts/

Bobo: Which rookie would you rather start tonight, Jameson or Bradley?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Bradley, if only because he’s a Ray not a Diamondback

J: Trey Mancini has seemed basically cooked since his trade to Houston. What are the chances he rebound to an above average hitter at this point?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Jeez, those numbers don’t look good. He’s 246 PA into his Astros career and Houston, we have a problem.

Birds: Did Jose Abreu just get on the late-career Miggy path?  Batting eye and contact ability hang around a while, but power suddenly evaporates?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t know but Houston may have another problem, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he does suddenly fall off given his age. I think somebody on staff is planning to write about him soon; we’ll see if they turn something up.

20longyears: I know it’s too good to be true, but suppose the Cutch renaissance lasts all year and he puts up a 4-WAR season. He’s already very likely to finish the season with 300 HR, 400 2B, 2000 hits, and 200 SB. Would his career and peak WAR getting thus nudged upward make him a HoF candidate?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I really like Cutch but I don’t see it as realistic. Here’s where he is:

Center Field (29th):
47.8career WAR |38.47yr-peak WAR |43.1JAWS |4.1WAR/162
Average HOF CF (out of 19):
71.6 career WAR | 44.7 7yr-peak WAR | 58.1 JAWS | 5.4 WAR/162

Avatar Jay Jaffe: A 4-WAR season takes him to 50.1/39.4/44.8, still nowhere close to being a serious candidate, though he might linger on the ballot like Torii Hunter.

Bring Back Blueno: How many Jaffes are out there? If we see another person with the last name Jaffe, what is the probability that you’re related to them?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: It’s a pretty common name in that it was slapped on a lot of immigrants at Ellis Island. I don’t know that I’m related even distantly to any of the other Jaffe writers out there except my cousin Lisa Jaffe, a journalist who writes primarily about the health care industry

Birds: I like to play a game: which qualified batter will be the last to draw a walk?  Your current choices are Kiermaier, Michael Taylor, and Yonathan Daza

Avatar Jay Jaffe: This is essentially a revival of the DiSars! https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/521/the-daily-prospect…

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Named after walk-averse Angels infielder Gary DiSarcina

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’ll go with Daza, who has the lowest career walk rate of the three at 6%.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: OK folks, lots of good questions today but I have to call it — lots to do and tonight is my official 8th wedding anniversary (I’ve made spaghetti and meatballs per my wife’s request — bigger plans for date night this weekend). Thanks so much for stopping by, and we’ll plan to do this again next week. In the meantime, don’t go swimming in the Great Salt Lake.

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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