Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 4/4/19

12:01
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Hey folks, welcome to my first solo chat of the 2019 regular season. I’ve got a short thing on Randal Grichuk’s extension up this morning (https://blogs.fangraphs.com/randal-grichuk-joins-the-extension-parade/) plus yesterday’s big piece on catcher framing and its impact on Hall of Fame consideration (https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/framing-the-hall-of-fame-cases-for-mar…). on with the show!

12:02
RR: Are projections updated as the season goes on? The Mets won the last 2 games but their Proj wins fell… Not sure how that is possible without the underlying team strength changing. Any ideas?

12:04
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Our projections are updated, yes. I don’t know the specifics of why the Mets went down in this instance but it could result from revisions in estimated playing time on their team or elsewhere in the league. If, for example, the Braves were to sign Kimbrel, that would improve their projection and take a bite out of the competition’s projections, with the effect felt most within the division (since that’s who they play the most frequently).

12:05
Ray Liotta as Shoeless Joe: Small sample size, etc., but this sure seems like the season of bullpen meltdowns.

12:06
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Via our splits, nine teams have bullpens with ERAs over 5.00 right now, and seven teams have bullpen FIPs over 5.00. That’s <checks notes, pulls out slide rule and abacus, does math> not great.

12:07
Andrew: Trevor Rosenthal is having a really rough start: 3 appearances, 7 runs, 0 outs. I can’t remember the last time I saw someone fail to record an out in his first 3 appearances in a season.

12:10
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Via the Play index, only one other player besides Rosenthal has failed to record an out in his first three appearances of the season, namely Rich Hill in 2014, during his wilderness years period. He made two fruitless appearances in July with the Angels and one in August with the Yankees. http://bbref.com/pi/shareit/cka8c

12:11
Ray Liotta as Shoeless Joe: Is Davey Martinez in over his head? As much as I want to believe that a manager doesn’t have that great an effect on a team’s performance, this guy just baffles me.

12:14
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Nothing makes a manager look as inept or opens him up to more kvetching and scrutiny than when the relievers he calls upon fail to do the job, and Martinez has certainly had a lot of that during his short tenure with the Nationals.

Some of that is on the front office — I argued a few weeks ago that the additions of Rosenthal and Barraclough did not appear to be enough of a retooling of a unit that was 12th in the NL in WAR in 2018 (0.6).

That said, there have been other complaints about Martinez, some with regards to his in-game maneuvering and some re his leadership. I’ve heard that it’s harder to go from being a bench coach to a manager than it looks because one’s position relative to the players changes. Easier to be a pal/advocate as coach than as manager.

12:15
Avatar Jay Jaffe: So maybe that’s part of it? We shall see.

12:15
Matt: Are you worried about any pitchers after a week’s worth of games? Anyone who might be hiding an injury or just have lost it, whatever “it” is?

12:18
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Rosenthal being a mess in his return from TJ is disconcerting, but there aren’t a lot of other guys I’m worried about at this stage.

This chat will take a brief pause while I deal with the arrival of my building handyman to confer some information regarding maintenance. Apologies for the delay, shouldn’t be long…

12:21
Mike: Does any topic make the saber community more irrational and angry than framing value?

12:26
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t think it’s “the saber community” per se so much as it’s the passers-by who are less well versed in such topics but may stumble upon something such as my McCann/Martin piece and have their preconceptions challenged.

I think most of us who, say, are familiar with player valuations using WAR understand that there are limitations to the stat, particularly on the defensive side with regards to sample sizes and the agreement of multiple metrics. Framing is just one extension of that, a relatively new one.

To somebody not used to the concept, the idea of their being a 30-40 run difference in catchers, top to bottom (or even more than that, the further back one goes) seems radical, and the concept of ambiguity with regards to calling balls and strikes really tends to inflame such people less familiar with the f/x-Statcast gray zones of pitching.

12:28
Felipe: I heard Sutcliffe the other day on an ESPN telecast (Cards & Bucs) say that he thought lowering the mound back to pre-1969 level would elevate offense and reduce pitcher injuries. is there any data or research that has been done recently to support that idea? And would you be in favor of that?

12:34
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Google and you can find scientific papers that suggest that lowering the mound could reduce the forces in play on shoulders and elbows, which would in theory translate to a lower injury risk. Here’s one, for which I can only read the abstract.  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1440244018310685

The idea that lowering the mound would reduce offense is based upon the 1969 lowering of the mound, which did indeed help increase offense. At the time that was done, MLB also redefined the strike zone, which from this vantage makes isolating the effects of the two changes impossible.

12:35
Avatar Jay Jaffe: MLB has a long history with tweaking the strike zone in order to restore the balance of the batter/pitcher dynamic. I’m much more in favor of tweaking the definition (particularly w/r/t the bottom of the zone) before dealing with changes in the mound specs, though I have far less problem with the idea of lowering the mound by a couple inches than I do with the idea of increasing the pitching distance, which I think will produce a shitshow when it’s done in the Atlantic League this summer.

12:35
Outta my way, Gyorkass: Lots of talk about the shaky Brewers pitching staff has happened this offseason, but is it that inconceivable that they have their bases covered? Another high leverage bullpen arm is expected back soon in Jeffress, an even 75% Jimmy Nelson will be a gigantic boost, and if anyone in the minors (like Zack Brown) is ready and contributes, that staff all of a sudden looks much better.

12:42
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t think one can take for granted that Jeffress will be as good as he was last year given his shoulder woes (likewise for Nelson given his long string of injuries), or that Hader can reproduce his 2018 showing. I do think that the organization’s recent reputation gives them better odds of coming up with another breakout performer  — either from within the organiation or outside — who can help. When I wrote about Knebel’s injury on Monday (https://blogs.fangraphs.com/banged-up-brewers-bullpen-loses-knebel-for…), I suggested Taylor Williams, if he improves his command, and noted that Devan Fink looked at the possibility of Chase Anderson’s shortened repertoire helping him take a step forward. Brown is a guy Eric and Kiley think will be a multi-inning guy soon (https://blogs.fangraphs.com/top-32-prospects-milwaukee-brewers/). I suspect the Brewers will spend the first couple months of the season running through their internal options before making a major move.

12:44
nico: Hi Jay, thanks for taking the time to chat. Ron Kulpa’s performance last night was the most pathetic display I’ve seen from an umpire in a good long while. Odds of an official rebuke from MLB?

12:46
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Wouldn’t surprise me if he’s suspended for a game. I wouldn’t expect much more than that, though, at least publicly.

12:48
Avatar Jay Jaffe: BTW your screen name reminds me of a chance to wander off-topic to say that I’ve been watching (over the course of the last two nights, after my wife has gone to bed) the Nico 1988 movie, about the former Velvet Underground adjunct vocalist/Factory Girl’s later years. Grim story but an interesting one with a standout performance by Trine Dyrholm. See https://www.rollingstone.com/movies/movie-reviews/nico-1988-movie-revi…

12:48
Janus: I skied a day at Snowbird last week with a foot new and it dumped at least 6″ while I was there! You make it out this season?

12:51
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I skied once while I was visiting my parents in early February, and did get some powder, which was great — my first time in four years getting to ski. Alas I had to cut that back from a planned two days in part due to the rotator cuff strain that I’m still rehabbing; I spent my lone day on skis with my right arm doing as little as possible, flicks of the wrist instead of full-on pole usage.

My 77-year-old father told me he passed the 1 million vertical feet mark for this season. He’s had one hip replaced and is due for the other at some point, but he can ski the f out of that mountain.

12:51
Eli: Can you talk Yankee fans having flashbacks of the Ben Fransisco era off the ledge?

12:55
Avatar Jay Jaffe: This is a better team than the 2013 one that used Francisco, but injury stacks can make even the most well-stocked organization look threadbare, and right now that’s what’s happening. The good news is that the Red Sox have been bad, too, but the bad news is that it could be awhile before the Yankees’ lineup and rotation is whole — and that may well be the difference between winning the division or going the wild card route, though I think they’ll still make the playoffs.

12:57
PD: It’s April, but Mikolas’s first two starts could have gone better. Is it too early to be worried?

12:58
Avatar Jay Jaffe: April may be the cruelest month to T.S. Eliot, but one week into the season is too early to be worried about anybody who has not suffered a major injury.

12:58
Jeffry: Looking at the lineup the Nationals trotted out yesterday, is it possible that we overrated them going in to the season? With Turner on the shelf, they’re hugely reliant on Rendon and two very young (albeit talented) kids in Soto and Robles, who like any player that young will have ups and downs. Comparing that to the other three contenders in the division, particularly the Phillies and Mets, and I’m just not that confident in them right now.

1:01
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Losing Turner is a blow, but my big worry, as noted, is their bullpen. I think the kids will be fine, and it’s worth noting that Adam Eaton is healthy. We’ll see if Brian Dozier and Ryan Zimmerman bounce back. This team could fall apart, as with last year, but for the moment it’s reasonable to assume they’ll be in the thick of the NL East race.

1:01
JoeyBoomBats: Chris Sale was throwing 88-89 the other night in Oakland. One start after throwing 92. After throwing 95 last year.  There’s obviously something wrong.  The Red Sox can read the stadium gun as well as I can. How can they not shut him down?

1:05
Avatar Jay Jaffe: The Red Sox just invested a big chunk of change in Sale and did a physical as part of that process; if he had structural issues, we’d know. The team appears to have a plan for him which includes not expecting him to be throwing 95 right now. Here’s a thing from CBS Sports’ RJ Anderson, quoting Alex Speier of the Boston Globe (I can’t get behind the paywall at the moment):

Alex Speier of the Boston Globe explained Wednesday that Sale isn’t achieving his usual extension — think the deepness of his release point — because he’s being more mindful of his plant leg rather than whipping it forward and around to produce maximum velocity: “On Tuesday, Sale’s delivery was controlled. His left leg often landed adjacent to his right leg, much farther up the mound. He wasn’t reaching for extra extension, not roaring down the slope of the mound.”

1:06
Avatar Jay Jaffe: So, the short answer is that he/they are working on mechanics. If you want to set yourself on fire and run screaming through the streets over that, be my guest, but my money is on They Have an Idea of What They’re Doing.

1:06
Matt: Why are the Dodgers so consistent at building mediocre bullpens?

1:11
Avatar Jay Jaffe: The Dodgers have spent a lot of money on other areas while skimping on the bullpen, in part because they have a surplus of arms and figure that they can use that depth to their advantage. Last year we saw guys like Stripling, Urias, Ferguson, Wood and Maeda start and relieve, and the plan calls for something similar this year.

That said, I don’t like the Joe Kelly signing. Would like to have seen them go for somebody higher caliber like Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, or David Robertson, all of whom are making more money. It’s entirely possible they’ll regret passing on those guys in favor of Kelly.

1:11
Matt: Who will be the next NL player not named Pete Alonso to win an MVP and has he (or she) been born yet?

1:12
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Well, by definition somebody in the NL will win the MVP award this year. I think I chose Harper in our staff picks.

1:12
Kevin: After last night’s “bush league” play from Machado, I’m wondering if teams were turned off by his on-field antics during his free agency. Do you believe this is why teams were hesitant about signing him?

1:15
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think Bob Brenley and Steve Berthaiume were bush league in applying that term to Machado over that specific play, but there’s little doubt that some teams shied away from him due to his reputation for on-field mischief, which goes back further than last October. And I think ultimately some of those teams will regret passing on him.

1:15
Derek: Your piece on McCann/Martin (and catchers in general) was very interesting. Did anything particularly surprise you or change your mind re: HOF chances for any of those guys as you were researching and writing it?

1:21
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Thanks. What surprised me is that Molina, Martin and McCann all look like much closer to borderline guys — closely clustered as well — when we balance what we know about framing with a framing-neutral perspective. In the end I think that the idea that McCann and Martin are Hall of Famers will be too radical for some people to digest, and they’re both likely to fall short of 2,000 hits, which will make election nearly impossible anyway.

One thing I’m wondering re: framing is whether anyone can tease a signal out of pre-1988 numbers. For the 1988-2007 period, Baseball Prospectus uses data on called strikes and balls from the pitch count era to estimate framing from before we had f/x and Statcast. What I’d like to know — and I’m sure I’m hardly alone — is whether one could similarly apply the kind of mixed model correlation to staff strikeout and walk data to find out how Reds pitchers fared with/without Johnny Bench, for example.

1:22
Maury: Enjoyed the article on McCann + Martin ‘s HOF chances w/ the new framing data. I remember in the original article there was slight adjustments made to career WAR for pitchers during that era. Is there going to be an upcoming article on pitchers whose HOF chances are helped/hurt by the new data, or are the effects too diluted to really impact a pitchers career value?

1:26
Avatar Jay Jaffe: for a variety of reasons too long for a single chat question, I don’t use pitcher fWAR — which has been adjusted to account for framing — in JAWS. I use Baseball-Reference’s version of WAR, which has no framing component for catchers (or really, they don’t apply the framing component from DRS in their measurements) and thus no need to credit/debit pitchers for their counterparts’ framing. I might have to reconsider that stance down the road, but the effect on any pitcher is small, and for the current era’s pitchers we’re already talking about different standards due to reduced workloads.

1:26
Ianetta: What is your solution to the exponential increase in strikeouts? Lowering the mound or moving it back a few feet?

1:28
Avatar Jay Jaffe: 1) adjusting the definition of the strike zone. 2) lowering the mound if that doesn’t produce enough of an effect.

as noted before, I’m hesitant to mess with the pitching distance. The mechanics are so ingrained that I think all hell will break loose if we start expecting pitchers who have spent their adult lives perfecting the break on a pitch 60’6″ away to suddenly have to deal with 62′ or whatever.

1:28
LFC Mike: Hi Jay. Thoughts on closer situation in Minnesota and Boston?

1:30
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Wrote about Boston/Kimbrel here recently https://blogs.fangraphs.com/the-separate-paths-of-craig-kimbrel-and-th…

Regarding the Twins: my thought is go sign Kimbrel. because he’s there for the taking and they don’t have the CBT threshold to worry about.

1:31
Jake: Hey Jay, hope you’re doing well. Would you go over or under on 3 WAR for Yoan Moncada this season?

1:33
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Over. The guy put up 2.0 WAR as a 23-year-old, even with the flaws in his game (lack of contact being the major one). It’s not hard to imagine growth from that base given how high people were on him not too long ago.

1:33
Damian: Dansby Swanson showing signs of life. Is he back on track after a lost season?

1:34
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I haven’t seen him yet. The numbers suggest reasons for optimism — he’s homered twice and has walked a lot — but I don’t a 5-game sample really tells us anything. We wouldn’t call this a breakthrough if he had a week like this in June

1:35
bosoxforlife: How far down the roster will teams go in this extension frenzy? Grichuk was a surprise and then David Bote, not even a regular, locks in for 5 years.

1:38
Avatar Jay Jaffe: A rising tide lifts all Botes.

Sorry.

I do think this says that the Cubs expect Bote to have a bigger role going forward and it’s not hard to imagine that given a combination of factors, including Zobrist being in his final year and Russell being on thin ice. Offhand, I’m not sure a lot of teams are going to be signing their versions of Bote to extensions, but who knows?

1:38
Greg: Is this the year Bellinger becomes a legitimate superstar for the Dodgers?  Also, did you offer the handyman a glass of water (or something stronger)?

1:39
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I expect Bellinger to play closer to the guy we saw in 2017 than in ’18, and yeah, that’s a star.

No, i did not offer the handyman a glass of water. He didn’t stick around long enough.

1:39
Lou: Is your building handyman more like Fred Mertz, Mr Furley, or Schneider from One Day at a Time?

1:39
Avatar Jay Jaffe: No.

1:40
Matt: When will the Rays be in a new stadium? I love watching the team, but watching them play in that sterile, dingy dome takes all the joy out of watching their games on TV.

1:40
Avatar Jay Jaffe: The year 2525 looks about right.

1:40
Slurve: more impressive…4 HRs in a game or 20 Ks by one pitcher?

1:41
Avatar Jay Jaffe: We’ve seen far fewer of the latter, and while the conditions for it may be more favorable right now in terms of higher K rates, the risks of pursuing that, pitch-count-wise, are higher as well.

1:41
Vogdor Burninate : What’s your feeling about the new catcher framing metrics and the way they skew this new statistical generation vs. all other evaluations of catchers, which, were primarily as hitters?  Do you like it?  Do you care?

1:41
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I just published close to 3,000 words on the matter.

1:42
Vogdor Burninate : Jeff Mathis has the 23rd best defensive catcher value ever.  He also has a total of 6 WAR.  Thoughts?  Brad Ausmus and Ryan Hanigan also on this list of extreme glove first guys.

1:42
Avatar Jay Jaffe: All the pitch framing metrics in the world won’t make Jeff Mathis into a competent hitter, but they do help to explain why he has a major league job.

1:42
Dylan: How is Rosenthal’s WAR at 0.0 when there are several pitchers, including relievers, who are in the negatives?

1:43
Avatar Jay Jaffe: How is anybody worried about calculating WAR on April 4?

1:43
Avatar Jay Jaffe: You’re going to see some anomalies at this stage given small samples. Don’t sweat it.

1:44
Archimedes: What does Miggy need to do to make sure he gets in the HOF? Does he need to have another good WAR season? Or is the Pujols method of just “put up counting stats” each season good enough?

1:44
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think he’s capable of more than Pujols at this stage but really, the resumé is full enough for Cooperstown.

1:45
Missing Dinger: Rockies offense is really struggling, something like 3 runs scored in their last 40 innings. What needs to change?

1:48
Avatar Jay Jaffe: they need to stop hitting .197/.245/.283 as a team. I’m pretty sure they can manage that, and that Arenado and Blackmon and Murphy aren’t going to slug .321 or worse. I’m not a big believer that playing Ian Desmond every day is a good idea.

1:48
Ben: Why are all of the Yankees getting hurt? Most players on the IL (or DL) ever?

1:49
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I can’t believe Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman have instituted a mandatory knife fight before each game. That seems counterproductive.

Injuries happen, and when it rains, it pours. I don’t think there’s any rhyme or reason to what’s going on, and I’m pretty sure it’s not a record.

1:49
PM: Could the slightly odd David bote extension be a signal that the Cubs think that the universal DH is coming?

1:50
Avatar Jay Jaffe: U-DH won’t come until the next CBA at the earliest, after the 2021 season. Seems a bit early to be planning for that like this.

1:50
Jay Jaffe fan: Can a case be made for Tony Fernandez as a Hall of Famer?

1:50
Avatar Jay Jaffe: not a credible one.

1:50
Jkim: SMALL SAMPLE SIZE ALERT: It seems to me that JOe Kelly’s problem seems to be his inability to locate the high fastball and low curveball combo that allured the Dodgers to sign him  

I found Joe Kelly’s problem
The first two are his heatmap & pitch type & location from the postseason when he was really really good. Mostly high fastballs in the corner and low curveballs down & away.

@dodgers_randi @jay_jaffe @ChadMoriyama

2 Apr 2019
1:51
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Saw this on Twitter the other night. Makes some sense

1:51
Taylor M: Hey Jay! Thanks for the chat. If you could change the way Wins are awarded for pitchers, would you and how would you?

1:52
Avatar Jay Jaffe: My change is to ignore the win. It’s about as interesting and relevant as who serves as witness to a signed legal document — somebody’s name has to go there, I guess.

1:53
Sluggo: Ozuna is likely headed to DL for a while.  My feeling is that Jose Martinez is 30 and likely not going to get any better.  Tyler O’Neill is the better defensive OF and needs an opportunity.  What say you?

1:53
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I suspect both figure into the Cardinals’ plans, which is why they’re still around.

1:53
Matt W: Is the Eovaldi deal the biggest head scratcher of the offseason? I get that he had a great postseason, but he still seems like a #4-type starter.

1:54
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Seemed like a bit of an overpay at the time, but that there’s some upside that’s yet to be tapped; maybe the Sox think he can be a #3.

1:54
Taylor M: How much less likely would it be for a player like Vlad Jr. to make the HOF if he played 1B rather than 3B. What would their overall JAWS need to be/their 7year (per position). I’m trying to understand why they are so content to play him there when he clearly looks like he won’t make it there. Note: I’m not suggesting Vlad Jr. will be a sure thing, just using him as an example.

1:58
Avatar Jay Jaffe: No team is planning for their prospect, even the son of a HOFer, to make the Hall of Fame and designing his career with that goal in mind.

That said, the JAWS averages are about the same for 1B and 3B (54.8 and 55.7). The difference is how players at the two positions accrue value. At 1B, the bat has to do all the work because there’s not a lot of credit to be had even for good defense. At 3B, even average defense has significantly more value than it would at an easier position.

The thing about defense is that it’s easier to improve there through hard work than other aspects of the game, which is why it’s fine for the Blue Jays to challenge him and see how long he can hold out — particularly at a time when there are fewer balls in play.

1:58
Avatar Jay Jaffe: OK folks, I’m out of time. Blanket advice: no, the first week of the season probably hasn’t given us clear clues about what ______ is going to do. Hang tight and wait for the sample sizes to increase!

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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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