Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 5/16/19

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon and welcome to another edition of my (mostly) weekly FanGraphs chat. I’m going to take a couple minutes to let the queue fill up; in the meantime, here’s yesterday’s piece on Tommy La Stella, who made me look smart by homering again just hours after its publication https://blogs.fangraphs.com/tommy-la-stella-is-doing-mike-trout-like-t…

Avatar Jay Jaffe: And here’s about 30 minutes of me discussing baseball on the Wharton Moneyball podcast https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-wharton-moneyball-post-game-…

Big Joe Mufferaw: Do you think Jeter gets 100% like Mo?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: It *should* happen; lousy fielding metrics aside, there’s no defensible reason why a professional who has done his homework would neglect to include a player who ranks among the all-time top 10 in hits while playing a pivotal role on five championship teams and seven pennant winners, that while completing the feat of spending 20 years in the Big Apple spotlight without getting involved in any notable scandal.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Will it happen? it’s entirely possible some asshole out there holds a grudge, and let’s face it, Jeter isn’t winning any friends in his current gig running the Marlins. But if I had to bet, I’d bet yes, he gets 100%

Big Joe Mufferaw: Can you explain to me why writers treat Steroid offenders differently? Like voters will hate Palmeiro and Sosa, but chose to completely ignore Ortiz’s failed test for example. Is it because of how they like the guy? His Career? I don’t understand

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Slow down there, Big Joe. A few point: NOBODY has actually voted for Ortiz, because he won’t become eligible until the 2022 BBWAA ballot, to be voted upon in 2021. Many people feel that the survey test, for which the players were promised anonymity, — anonymity compromised by an illegal seizure — and no threat of suspension belongs in a different class than the failed tests.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Those results of both Sosa and Ortiz were leaked to the press, and yes, they were treated differently in the court of public opinion, largely because of some belief that the former had betrayed the public by — gasp — pursuing home run records.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: And then there’s the fact that the commissioner himself basically said that there were results from that survey test that would have been challenged by arbitration had they occurred in a penalty-phase testing, which basically exonerates anybody who is alleged to have failed.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Some voters care about all of this, and some of them don’t. My own standard, used on my virtual ballots to date and my real ones starting with the 2021 ballot, are to not vote for players who failed an actual, penalty-phase test, but to write off the survey test results, about which we know very, very little (a handful of positives out of ~100) as part of the “wild west era” where there was simply no enforcement.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: anyway, moving on…

Cartulo: Good morning Jay! (Still morning here in Peru). It’s 05/16, how sold are you that the playoff spots in the AL are already set? To me it seems like the only ? is who’s gonna win the East. Cleveland is toast.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think that we’re basically talking about six teams for five spots, with the Astros a sure bet, and the AL East more likely to produce both Wild Card teams, with the Central winner the division’s only representative. And if I had to guess, it’s Cleveland on the outside looking in due to their rotation injuries, ridiculously lax approach to the past winter, and the weird struggles of Jose Ramirez.

Big Joe Mufferaw: Do you think Harold Baines will REALLY impact the future quality of HOFers?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Not among the writers, many of whom take it at least somewhat personally that a guy whom they overwhelmingly rejected several times has nonetheless gotten in thanks to a very stacked deck on the Era committee. But I do worry about the possibility of the Baines election signaling lower standards in future Era Committee voting, both because this has happened before (particularly in the Frankie Frisch/Bill Terry Veterans Committee years) and because the Hall’s hand was so visible in this particular election, with chairman of the board Joe Morgan on a panel rife with the potential for cronyism.

AM: Ryan Braun has the 3rd highest wRC+ in the month of May – do you think it’s more likely he’s figured something out or that it’s just small sample funkiness?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good health has been fleeting for Braun, who hasn’t played more than 140 games since 2012. Even in the Statcast era, he’s had stretches where his rolling exit velocity was higher (see https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/savant-player/ryan-braun-460075?stats=s…), so I’m guessing this is just a period where the stars are aligning for him rather one that represents a true point of inflection.

Andrew: On Altuve…he hasn’t “looked” quite right so far, and the numbers back that up…has he changed his approach (increase in K%, FB%, decrease in contact % = selling out for power?) or is his knee issue lingering and affecting his mechanics (in your opinion)?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: When I wrote about Altuve earlier this week (https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/injury-has-interrupted-the-rare-jose-a…), I didn’t really spend any time dwelling upon the possibility that his slump has been the product of a lingering injury, though it’s fair to wonder if I undersold that. Hinch described his woes as a combination of anxiousness and bad mechanics with regards to not using his lower half, which *could* describe compensating for an injury, and he does have only one stolen base, though his Statcast sprint speed is actually higher this year than last.

Rabbinical College Guy: Will Caleb Smith be the best starting Marlins pitcher at the end of this season? How would you rank the Marlins starters ?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: By a country mile, yes — barring injury, of course. After Smith, it’s probably Pablo Lopez, whose strikeout and walk rate are much improved, his 5.93 ERA notwithstanding, and then maybe Trevor Richards ahead of Jose Urena and Sandy Alcantara. or maybe not. It’s bleak, man.

Pat: How do you feel about pitcher hitting & it’s effect on JAWS? Noticed Greinke is ahead of JV, mostly due to hitting WAR. Obviously, Greinke deserves credit for being a good hitter, but, JV doesn’t even get the opportunity for more than handful of AB’s a year (Less than 60 career PA’s) due to being in the AL.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I specifically chose to include pitcher hitting in JAWS, and i don’t worry a whole lot about the impact on current players because the spread is relatively small — 7 WAR top to bottom among active players with at least 100 career PA, and skewed towards the positive (4.9 for Greinke, -2.2 for Charlie Morton). 21st century pitchers will have to be judged against something of an adjusted standard anyway. I don’t think putting up a zero relative to those two extremes is going to be a dealbreaker, but having said that, it will be worth noting when we’re talking about Sabathia and Verlander compared to Greinke and Scherzer and Kershaw.

Jaffe rhymes with Taffy: remember when Boston was in trouble and Seattle couldn’t lose?  Is it time to say goodbye to SSS?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Different stats become more reliable at different points, so you can’t just “say goodbye to SSS” with regards to everything. But based upon the findings of my former Baseball Prospectus colleague Derek Carty, at the team win-loss level, after 16 games, a team’s current record is more predictive than finishing at .500 (as the largest sample of teams inevitably does). That said, if you’re incorporating multi-year performance, it’s at the 48-game level where a team’s current record becomes more predictive than a weighted average of its last three seasons.

Al Pal: Not a question, just wanted to directly tell you that I just finished the Casebook, and loved it. It also compelled me to immediately purchase A Terrible Beauty, which is now in my queue behind Wright Thompson’s Cost of These Dreams, and the Sawchik/Lindbergh MVP Machine. Thanks for all your work, and such a wonderfully informative book.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Thank you for the kind words, and for your support! I’m looking forward to the Sawchik/Lindbergh book — both of those gentlemen already have quality books under their belts.

Daniel: Is Mike Soroka heading to the Hall of Fame?  Does the same precociousness that indicates a hitter is on a HOF track due to early age/career success translate to pitchers?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I haven’t studied it to the same degree, but there’s probably something there. Injuries and early workload may well be a confounding factor. The topic is worth a closer look.

Al Pal: Upon his 40th birthday, I fell down a rabbit hole looking at Brandon Webb’s stats and Peak JAWS. Came out saying while I don’t think he is necessarily deserving of the Hall, he has a compelling case.

Is there anyone in the vain of Webb for you that misses the 10-year requirement but warrants a few considerations of what they did in their time – Addie Joss style?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I can’t think of any other player offhand whom I’d feel strongly enough about besides Mike Trout, if he were to suddenly become incapacitated.

For those unclear on what Al Pal is asking, a player must participate in 10 seasons (one game is enough) to be considered for Hall purposes, and Webb had only seven, though he did accumulate 33.0 bWAR in that span. Among pitchers not in the Hall — and excluding Al Spalding, who’s in as a pioneer — the highest bWAR and JAWS for a player with fewer than 10 seasons belongs to Noodles Hahn (44.1/44.1/44.1) from 1899-1906, but i’ve never heard anybody suggest he had been unduly slighted, and I don’t think his case is that strong.

Billy Beane: Man, Rachael McDaniel is a really good writer. I don’t know if she does analytics in the same way most of the other FanGraphs people do, but she can write.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: She’s one hell of a writer. I think it’s great that she’s part of our team. We don’t have to stick to serving a dozen different variants of chocolate ice cream when there’s a whole world of flavor beyond.

Roman Numeral Three: Is there a particular position that you feel is vastly unrecognized/underrepresented in the baseball HOF?  If so, why ?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Third base and catcher both have 15 players recognized for their MLB playing careers, as opposed to 19-26 (IIRC) at the other positions. I think most of it has to do with the voters’ difficulty in balancing the offensive and defensive requirements at those positions, which have changed over time. 3B used to be a defense-first position due to the prevalence of bunting, and while catching has always been a defense-first one, the ability to measure that defense has changed over time; it used to have a lot more to do with shutting down the running game than it does now.

I have 10,000 words on the history of 3B treatment by Hall voters in the aforementioned Cooperstown Casebook, and have spent a lot of time writing about catchers — Mauer, Molina, Martin, McCann, mPosey, and more — and the impact of framing online.

Max: How far off for Brendan Rodgers 20 hr, 10 stl, .290 avg. for ros?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: If he had a full season, those numbers wouldn’t seem unreasonable based upon his Steamer and ZiPS projections, but playing time is going to be an issue, at least if the Rockies aren’t completely bailing on Hampson and McMahon, neither of whom is lighting it up. Let’s also remember that Rodgers has had injury woes in the past, and could be sent down quickly if he struggles.

Ralph Rowdie: Before the nerve thing which young pitcher were you more excited about: Glasnow or Paddack?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Paddack, mainly because of the novelty of his being a rookie who had kind of slipped between the cracks of the prospect hype machine as opposed to Glasnow, who spent four years on Top-100 lists teasing us. Which isn’t to say that I’m not excited to see the latter turn the corner and show us what he’s got. Hope he gets well soon.

Overbearing Padre: Are the Pads recouping Tatis’s service time by not activating him past ten days on the IL?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: No, if he lands on the IL while playing in the majors, it’s all MLB service time.

Matt W: In hindsight, maybe passing on Gio Gonzalez was a bad idea for the Mets? It’s mid may and they are starting Wilmer Font in what are essentially white-flag games.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Passing on Gio was definitely a mistake on the Mets’ part, particularly while stubbornly insisting that Jason Vargas was a perfectly solid #5.

Jay: bless the guy who cares enough to rank the Marlins starters

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I wouldn’t have given it much thought except for the fact that I’m writing about them for tomorrow. They’re 10-31, which means they’ve slipped below the Throneberry Line.

Ben: I’m glad the Cubs banned that racist fan. But how is it possible to justify banning a fan for a hand signal yet paying millions to domestic abusers?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: It’s a jarring contrast, and the Cubs have done a shit job of handling the Russell situation.

That said, one can easily see why it’s happening. It costs effectively nothing, in both dollars and public opinion, to ban the fan. Releasing Russell, even if it’s the right thing to do (which it is), means writing off a player who under optimal circumstances may produce $50 million to $100 million in on-field value over his next three seasons. Businesses have a tough time doing that, particularly when they know that their loss could be somebody else’s gain.

William Mays: Manny Machado is just starting to hit. What was the problem, both in Los Angeles and now San Diego?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Machado hit for a 121 wRC+ in LA, one point above his current career mark, and was worth 2.4 WAR in 66 games, which prorates to 5.9 for a full season. If that’s a problem, I’ll take eight of them to fill out my lineup, please.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: As for San Diego, he started the season hitting a lot of grounders, something he’s gone through before. He also wasn’t getting inordinately bad results when putting the first pitch in play. I don’t know that there was anything underlying that other than small-sample weirdness.

David Dodger fan: Cody Bellinger is on pace for over 13 WAR at the quarter way point. I know some regression is expected but what WAR do you think he’ll end up with? at what point is it likely that he will have a historic season?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Well, his depth charts ROS projection is for 4.3 WAR, which is an 8-win season overall. I’d imagine the distribution is heavily in the 6-10 range with very little chance he’d go much beyond that.

AJ Preller’s Godson: How soon should my godfather DFA Ian Kinsler?  Is it time yet?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: They signed him to a two-year deal. They’re not DFAing him anytime soon.

Norman: If the Angels hang around in contention and the Indians do not, is Trevor Bauer a good target for LAA?  He’d fit within their (dismal) rotation; LAA can easily accommodate even a large 3rd year arb salary in 2020; and the LAA farm system has improved to the point where they have the prospects to complete a deal.  Or is this all just wishful thinking grounded in a sadly unrealistic dream of seeing a Trout-led contender?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t see the Angels hanging around given their atrocity-level rotation, but given the improvement of their farm system over the last couple of seasons I think they at least have the prospects to make a big move. not sure if Bauer’s the direction I’d aim, though.

Rich: The Astros’ lead over 2nd place in the AL West is as large as the entire spread in the NL Central.  What team in the AL West will actually challenge the Astros first?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: A time-traveling version of the 2020 Astros, maybe.

Dellin’s Donuts: Has the excellent, yet extremely small sample size performance, given the Yankees some potential players that can return some trade value once all the horses are back? Urshela and Maybin both can’t be optioned, and would have to clear waivers before going back to AAA, and Tauchman is in his last option year, granted he’s probably performed the least of the bunch. I know Urshela is the least likely to be traded with the Andujar news, but just wondering.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Well, since Tauchman can be stashed at AAA and Andujar is done for the year, leaving Urshela, the question really pertains to Maybin, who’s on the 8th team of his career and the 5th since the start of 2017. We’re talking about 48 PA worth of strong performance, not a fundamental career turnaround, so no, i don’t think he brings back a whole lot in trade.

G.O.A.T Milk: Trade Kris Bryant for Scherzer.  Thoughts?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Not happening.

George of the jungle: Is Yelich in Trout’s league now?  Are they 1 and 1A or is Trout still in an atmosphere by himself?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t think we can say anybody is really in Trout’s league, which isn’t just to say a potential 10-win player but a player who’s a strong bet to be in that ballpark on a perennial basis. Betts and Ramirez, who flanked him on the WAR leaderboard last year aren’t getting anywhere close to 10 WAR this year, and Yelich had “only” 7.6 WAR last year, which is a great season but still not close to 10 WAR.

Rick: Better Hall of Fame chance: Chris Sale or Bryce Harper?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Harper based upon the early start, Sale based on the career to date, but both with major concerns at this point. I think it’s more likely that the healthy Harper adjusts, recovers and has a long and excellent career, where Sale’s shoulder woes and velo loss suggest that his career could only be as long as his current contract.

Richard: I realize Andrelton Simmons is on pace for a HOF worthy JAWS ranking. But what if he never makes an All Star team? Could a guy get elected to the HOF if he couldn’t get elected to a single All Star team?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’d be skeptical about a guy with 0 All-Star appearances getting elected but I also think that it’s a slim likelihood Simmons never gets one. I’d bet that the combination of his strong play and reputation, measured against the lack of a single appearance to date, coudl get him named as a reserve as soon as this year’s ASG.

Cameron: The Marlins are on pace to lose 120 games this year? Over/under that number?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: A topic I’ll explore tomorrow.

JN: Is this Amed Rosario’s breakout? xBA finally looks great.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: He’s been more or less league average offensively but the defensive numbers are absolutely dreadful — not just his SSS individual ones but the team-wide inability to convert balls in play into outs. A topic I explored last week https://blogs.fangraphs.com/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-of-team-defe…

Avatar Jay Jaffe: OK folks, I’ve lost track of the time and have to take my ball and go home (metaphorically speaking, as my bed is about 20 feet from my desk). Thanks for stopping by for another week of fun baseball chatter!

Billy Beane: Bill and Marty Bergen are the most interesting baseball family, in my opinion. They combined for -17 WAR and 3 axe murders. Barry and Bobby Bonds are in second place with 212 WAR and 0 axe murders.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: LOL had to include this. On that note…

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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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Original Greaser Bob
Original Greaser Bob

Jay Jaffe: It’s a jarring contrast, and the Cubs have done a shit job of handling the Russell situation.

Hi Jay. When are you going to apply your faux outrage to the Astros & Dodgers? Or will you like the rest of the commentariate here remain hypocrites?