Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 5/23/19

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon folks. I’m in a brief delay here as I get today’s piece, on the Indians’ failing offense, off my plate. Back in about 15 minutes.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: OK folks, I’m back. Couldn’t quite beat the clock…

JD Drew Barrymore: Is the Indians offense really failing? D- maybe? What’s the key to a turnaround? JRam getting right probably would go a long way on its own

Avatar Jay Jaffe: The Indians have the largest wRC+ fall-off from last year to this one 26 points (104 to 78); they’re scoring 1.13 fewer runs per game. Jose Ramirez’s slump has been brutal, but their failure to secure some production from their corner outfielders — which was quite apparent all winter — has really bit them hard as well. Note that they’ve withstood the losses of Kluber and Clevinger reasonably well; it’s the offense that’s let them down.

stever20: How much longer will the Nats give Dave Martinez?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I honestly don’t know, but yikes, those vultures must be getting tired of circling. I wouldn’t be surprised if his number comes up by the end of this month; if they get embarrassed by the Marlins in this upcoming four-game series, as the Mets did with their three-gamer, that could be all she wrote.

JD Drew Barrymore: What’s been your favorite unexpected great performance this season to date?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Two that stand out: Cody Bellinger turning into an MVP candidate in the NL, and Joey Gallo hitting for average while retaining his power in the AL. I’d also add Hyun-Jin Ryu turning into an ace, and Domingo German pitching quite well for the Yankees.

John: Hey Jay, I was looking at Baders 12 BB% and was wondering how much hitting in front of the pitcher adds to the %?   Also, when does the walk rate start to stabilize for the year?  Isn’t it around 140 PA?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: For stabilization, I’ve seen estimates of both 120 PA and 200 PA, but yes, hitting in front of the pitcher does have an impact on walk rates, though I don’t have an easy way to isolate the effect. Last year’s number eight hitters in the NL walked at an 8.6% clip, just 0.1% below the overall league average — we probably wouldn’t expect that given the quality of hitter in that spot.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Bader has walked 10.3% of the time as a #8, 7.3% elsewhere in the lineup.

Moltar: So once GM Brodie flames out, do you think there’s any chance MLB will either appoint or convince ownership to hire a true President of Baseball Operations? I know that they’ll never force the Wilpons to sell, but they must recognize that there needs to be a baseball person with authority over Jeff Wilpon for this franchise to ever realize its potential.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: LOL, no. It’s very clear that MLB will continue to take a hands-off approach to the Mets ownership. Precedent says that the threshold for the league meddling in ownership issues is pretty high; baseball ops dysfunction isn’t something they’re going to touch, only the type of financial mess that prevents the team’s ability to remain solvent, à la the McCourt-era Dodgers.

Voldemort: Do you see Gleyber Torres as a future superstar?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Yes. I said this recently but people seem to forget he’s doing what he’s doing (135 wRC+, 1.6 WAR compared to 1.9 all of last season) at age 22 while playing a more difficult position. Beyond the stats, he’s got incredible poise, which gears him well for success in the Big Apple spotlight

Voldemort: What’s going on with Trevor Bauer? He went from cy young contender to poop

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t exactly know, but I see that his walk rate and fly ball rate are both up considerably relative to last year, as is his HR/FB. He’s backed off his breaking ball usage considerably (rom about 40% to 28%) and is getting fewer chases while allowing more hard-hit balls; his average exit velo is up from 87 to 90.5. He merits a closer look.

FIP/Fwar: Jay, do you think FanGraphs puts too much emphasis on K/BB in measuring pitchers? I have a hard time believing that Scherzer has been 0.6 WAR better than every other pitcher in baseball this year, even when you think of it in terms of “this is what it should have been accounting for other factors”.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I have to admit that I’m far more comfortable with the bWAR-based pitcher WAR, centered on actual run prevention, than the fWAR’s FIP-based numbers, but I think it’s useful to have both, and let’s remember that the Nationals’ defense has been freakin’ atrocious; he’s got a .356 BABIP, about 90 points higher than last year, though his FIP is actually about 1/3 of a run lower. Some interesting correlations here:

This is potentially a pretty big deal (small sample caveat). @zcrizer explains fully here:


23 May 2019
Voldemort: Thoughts on Hiura? Do you think he’ll lock down the 2B job? It seems to me like he either hits the ball well or strikes out. That K rate he supposedly cut down is back.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I wrote about Hiura briefly for today’s ESPN Insider/Plus piece ($) http://www.espn.com/mlb/insider/story/_/id/26802765/prospects-ready-he…. I think he can certainly help the team but it’s not clear yet how much rope Shaw has to reclaim his job, or what kind of shape his wrist is really in, though his slump and his lack of production appear to be related. Hiura’s 13-to-1 K/BB ratio thus far is alarming, but I’d give him some time to adjust before panicking.

Cameron : Should Gio Urshella be in the All Star Game as of right now?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: It would be pretty lonely if he were to show up tin Cleveland today, since none of the other All-Stars will be there until July 7.

More seriously, Urshela is having a nice, out-of-nowhere season in about 2/3 of the playing time that guys like Alex Bregman, Matt Chapman, Yoan Moncada, Rafael Devers and even Hunter Dozier have had, so I’d have a tough time putting him in the top three, which would more or less be the cutoff for the number of 3B who get to go. Let’s see where things sit in a month.

j0seph: Pick one: beer or baseball?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I reject the premise, as there’s no earthly reason to pick just one.

Cameron Kear: Do you think the AL Central is the Twins division to win?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Our playoff odds give them an 80% shot at the division, to 20% for the Indians, so I’d say they’re in the drivers’ seat.

Hypocrite Buster: Why aren’t you read Fangraphs excoriating the Dodgers for not dropping Urias like you did for the Cubs. Video evidence isn’t enough or is the politics?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: As somebody who had high hopes for Urias, this is *very* disappointing, and it makes me queasy to think of how the estimations of his present and future talent could play into his handling.

But having said that, the level of severity in the Russell and Urias matters appears to differ quite greatly — there’s a long litany of allegations of ongoing abuse from Russell’s ex — and both Russell and the Cubs have said some dubious things both while the investigation was going on and since his suspension. The Urias situation has yet to play out in full, but the fact that he has been reinstated from administrative leave suggests that it was a far more minor matter, and that discipline, if any, will be much lighter. Neither he nor the Dodgers have commented on the matter to any great substance other than to indicate that they’re letting the process play out. That’s not to excuse what he’s done, but let’s see how this unfolds before attempting to make a full comparison of the two cases.

JoeyBoomBats: Sure seems like Dansby Swanson is “putting it all together” doesn’t it? Scouts 1, Analytics Guys 0.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good lord, your urge for self-gratification is intense enough that you should lock yourself in the bedroom and maybe put a sock on the door.

I don’t recall any major contrast between the scouting and analytic communities when it came to Swanson; he was a top five prospect here, just as he was at Baseball America. The stats say he stunk last year (and the year before) and doesn’t this year. One could say the same thing about many players.

Xolo: If the Nats really fall off and decide to trade Scherzer and/or Strasburg, how are they going to handle their weird contracts? Is there even a precedence for them?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I haven’t seen anything to seriously suggest they’ll trade either player, but aside from the large amounts of money remaining I don’t see why the structure has much impact; deferred money is deferred money. That said, Strasburg’s opt outs after 2019 and ’20 would have to be baked into the package, and it’s also worth   pointing out that Scherzer will have 10-and-5 rights by the end of this season.

Zoop: Luzardo more likely to be called up before or after the all star break? Would it depend on the A’s record?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I included Luzardo in the aforementioned ESPN piece. My understanding on him is that a best case scenario has him returning around the All-Star break. I’d guess that the A’s performance between now and then will play into whether they push to do so beforehand or not, though you know they’re not going to take undue risk with such a prized prospect. I’d bet he doesn’t come up until after mainly because stuff happens with young pitches.

Kurupt FM: Have you looked at Justin Smoaks numbers? Walking as much as he strikes out and his hard hit rate is over 50% but the guy is lugging around a low 100s wRc+. Ultimate bad luck or an underlying issue?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Offhand, I’d guess it’s mostly luck. His exit velo is in the 86th percentile, and his xwOBA is in the 96th percentile, but there’s a 73 point gap between his .418 xwOBA and his .345 wOBA, which is the fourth-largest out of 307 players who have seen at least 300 pitches.

Bill: Can you recommend an article/explanation for basic understanding of advanced stats?  Most baseball fans I know understand the classics and WHIP, KK/BB, WAR etc but not necessaily FIP, xFIP, bWAR etc…

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Our Sabermetric Library series covers lots of these, such as https://library.fangraphs.com/pitching/fip/, https://library.fangraphs.com/pitching/xfip/ and https://library.fangraphs.com/misc/war/. B-Ref explained their version of WAR here https://www.baseball-reference.com/about/war_explained.shtml

connor: Free Luis Urias!!!  When will this happen?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’d bet pretty soon. He’s another one in that ESPN piece. He’s tearing up the PCL while Kinsler decomposes.

King James: It seems like the Nationals will end up with no championships in the Harper-Strasbourg-Rendon era. How much blame do you put on GM Mike Rizzo for that? What’s frustrating to me is it seems like the same issues continue to plague them(bullpen, bad manager)

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Given the star-level talent, the frequent high-level free agent expenditures and the revolving door at manager, the blame really has to center on Rizzo. To be fair, the Nationals have maintained a strong farm system on his watch that has helped fuel their ongoing efforts, but the dismissals of Davey Johnson and Dusty Baker in favor of rookie managers he could more easily keep under his thumb has backfired greatly.

Prospector: Remember when we wondering where Jeff McNeil was going to earn ABs in a crowded Mets lineup?  Yeah, me either.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Alas, I just saw that he landed on the IL with a bad hammy. But yes, he’s been excellent, and hardly the reason for the Mets’ woes.

Gary Sanchez: So I was probably genuinely struggling with that groin injury all last year, huh? (I’m surprised I only have 1.2 WAR, but I was also injured, of course.)

FFM: Paddack RoY?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Elements of the New York media certainly did something less than cover themselves in glory by doubting the existence of Sanchez’s injury. That said, his decline as a pitch framer is eating into his value.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: whoops, hit fire on the Paddack q too quickly. I’d put him, Pete Alonso, and Mike Soroka on the top tier thus far, but there’s still a lot of baseball to play, and Paddack will probably face an innings limit. Tatis got off to a great start and could play his way back into the picture too.

MM: Hi Jay!  Have you heard any news about Joe McCarthy, Rays?  Back injury in spring training was supposed to be minor, but he hasn’t played yet.  Has he been excoriated?!

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I have a list of known idiots who would name their child Joe McCarthy. WTAF, man.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t know what’s going on with him; the last injury update I saw was early April. I know that the Rays are tighter-lipped than most when it comes to minor league injuries but I’d check out the various blogs and prospect hounds, who would have a better idea than I do.

Voldemort: Jay – I’m all for this new opener/bullpen strategy. But is it a little crazy to you that the Rays are rolling with just 2 traditional starters in their rotation?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Well, they did have Glasnow alongside Snell and Morton before he got hurt, and what’s weird is that Chirinos’ starts have generally been pretty solid. At some point, they hope to get both Honeywell and De Leon back from Tommy John surgery. In the meantime, they’re playing to their strengths and it largely seems to be working.

Me: Everyone was talking about how Nomar Mazara was going to improve, but then talk went quiet. What’s the deal with him?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: He continues to hit the ball on the ground too often and doesn’t walk enough. I wonder if he’ll ever fulfill his potential, or if a change of scenery (or coaches) would help, which isn’t to say that I’m advocating a coaching change — i couldn’t name the Rangers’ hitting coach offhand, and whoever he is has to worry about the whole team, not just one guy.

troke: Mets-iest headline of the year: “Mets’ Robinson Cano suffers quad injury running out grounder days after being criticized for not hustling.”

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Another great day in Metsiness. That train is never late. Check out David Roth’s latest on the team https://deadspin.com/do-not-let-the-barrage-of-mets-failures-distract-…

j: It seems every time I go to Greenlight someone’s buying your book. I’m sure you probably get the numbers, but just thought you’d like to know you really do seem to be driving some business to support independent bookstores. Nice to see.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Wow, I’m flattered to hear that. I actually have almost no knowledge of the sales numbers — the royalty statements are like nine months behind — and none regarding where the books are being sold unless Greenlight contacts me to sign one, which hasn’t happened in awhile. I’m happy to do my part in supporting indie bookstores though!

Zach: With McNeil and Cano hitting the IL, will J.D. Davis do enough to lock down a starting spot the rest of the season?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’m not sure Davis’ defense is good enough to do that, and at some point, Jed Lowrie is presumably going to show up, unless he’s thought better of it after reading the headlines. I do think it’s possible that the Mets cut bait on Frazier when Lowrie returns.

Royally Homer: Alex Gordon got a shot at HOF?  I’d guess pretty low going into the season… but now?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: What? No. he has 37.0 career bWAR into his age-35 season. The Hall of Fame position players at that age/level are mostly the Frisch guys — Bottomley, Lindstrom, Youngs, Hafey, High Pockets, Lloyd Waner — plus the mediocre catchers (Schalk and Ferrell). Maybe if he comes back from the dead to head a committee that includes Dayton Moore and Ned Yost…

Thor: What you think of Endgame?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Haven’t seen it yet. My interest in the MCU is sporadic and limited by the realities of parenthood — Emma will sneak out to see the movies in the theater but rather than pay for a babysitter, I’ll watch them at home when they hit streaming or DVD. I’ll manage to avoid enough spoilers in the meantime, just as I have for their other movies (I just watched Age of Ultron, to tell you how fast I’m moving on this).

Cool Papa: Hey Jay, 2 questions. 1) What’s up with Joey Votto? He doesn’t seem right but his plate discipline stats are not far off his career averages. Concern level that this is the beginning of the end? 2) Nolan Arenado ‘feels’ like a HOFer already but given Larry Walker’s and Todd Helton’s up hill battle with induction, what kind of stats does he need to pile up in order for the BBWAA to overlook the Coors Field effect?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Lots of Votto questions, and I don’t know the answer off-hand, so maybe I’ll take a closer look in an upcoming piece.

As for Arenado, he’ll have an advantage over Helton and Walker thanks to his defensive numbers and the ample footage that supports them, but he’s still going to have to remain productive offensively. I’d say that if he winds up in the ballpark of Helton’s career hit and homer totals (2,519 and 369, respectively), he’ll be a lock thanks to the added value of his defense.

Jeff: When do the Indians start shopping Ramirez or Lindor?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Two years from now, maybe. ON that note, my Indians piece is live https://blogs.fangraphs.com/indians-drop-cargo-retain-baggage-from-off…

Voldemort: Do the yankees trade for another starter? If so, who?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: My guess is that they make a strong run at Keuchel rather than trading.

Guest: There was an article recently (Hardball Times maybe?) about Tony Gwynn’s almost .400 season.  Cody Bellinger was over .400 as recently as yesterday.  Got me thinking, what’s the latest in the season that someone (qualified batter) has been above .400  since Gwynn?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t know the definitive answer to that but a few minutes of poking through B-Ref game logs among the guys who have hit at least .370 in a season since then shows that Nomar Garciaparra was hitting .403 as of July 20, 2000 (Game 1). Gwynn was above .400 as late as July 14, 1997.

Tom: More longevity as a power 1b that sticks for years to come, Hoskins, Alonso or Vogelbach?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’d go with Alonso. That bat speed is incredible.

Scott: It looks like Pedroia’s not going to do much more to help his Hall case going forward. Does he have a chance?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Probably not, based on his 1,805 hit total and the Rule of 2000.

T(win)s: After nearly a decade of mediocrity, do you see the Twins being able to sustain some success past this season? Solid team, solid farm, new management, and minimal long term contracts all add up to promising future.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: They have a nice core of young talent, and this regime’s move from the team’s decades-long addiction to pitch-to-contact types seems promising, for sure.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: OK folks, i’ve reached my pitch count. Thanks again for stopping by, and we’ll see you next week!

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
3 years ago

“…and both Russell and the Cubs have said some dubious things both while the investigation was going on and since his suspension. ”

Such as?