Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 5/4/20

12:03
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon, folks, and welcome to the May 4th edition of my chat. While the queue fills up, I’m going to take a moment to bang out an Instagraphs entry on some very exciting news: ESPN and the Korea Baseball Organization have struck a deal to carry English-language broadcasts — one a day, six days a week. Yes, for most of us, the hours will be inconvenient, but if you have a TiVO or DVR you can time-shift and watch at your convenience, which is what I’ll be doing when I can. More details shortly.

ESPN will air six KBO games per week. Here’s the schedule for this week!
4 May 2020
12:22
Avatar Jay Jaffe: and I’m back

12:23
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Sorry for the delay, but that news is too exciting not to share. Anyway, on with the chat…

12:24
E: Without looking, where does Adrian Beltre rank in all time hitter WAR?

12:25
Avatar Jay Jaffe: (without looking): easily within the top 50.

(looking via B-Ref): 27th all-time.

(looking via FanGraphs): 33rd all-time.

12:25
mmddyyyy: Is peak score consecutive years?

12:27
Avatar Jay Jaffe: For JAWS? No. When I first created the metric for the 2004 election cycle, I was using best five consecutive seasons, with allowances for military service and major injuries, but I switched to best seven seasons at large within the first 18 months. It’s funny and maybe a bit frustrating that the confusion still persists 15 years later, and something of a cautionary tale as far as changing a metric once it’s been introduced.

12:27
glt4dc: We’re watching the ESPN bio on Michael Jordan/Bulls dynasty, I’m not a huge NBA fine but it’s quite good.  Anyhow, my son and I were wondering, what are other 10-part sports stories that could be pitched to ESPN where could plausibly claim to attract a potentially sizable audience.  All the ones we immediately came up were NBA topics (LeBron, Kobe, Dennis Rodman, Golden State Warriors dynasty), but we had a hard time coming up with an MLB-themed one.  What would you pitch in terms of players, dynasties, etc., from the past 3 or 4 decades that could work?

12:29
Avatar Jay Jaffe: The first one that comes to mind would be on the resurgence of the Yankees, centered around their 1996-2009 span of championships. A Moneyball/analytics one centered around the A’s and incorporating the successes of the Moneyball-with-Money teams such as the Red Sox, Cubs, and Astros.

12:29
Avatar Jay Jaffe: The Red Sox’s and Giants’ spans of championships, the rise of Mike Trout, the sign-stealing scandal… I’m not sure if those could all sustain 10-episode arcs but probably good for at least five episodes.

12:31
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Oh, and maybe one combining Adrian Beltre and Bartolo Colon,  strange career arcs and fun players in the age of social media.

12:31
Ed: Why does the draft have to change at all? What affect does the stoppage have on the draft process itself?

12:35
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good question that could be the subject of an entire piece or series. Lots of factors here. Teams love cost certainty and want to decrease spending on amateurs and limit their options in terms of who they can play for, not only those in the US but also those outside the country, which is why eventually there will be an international draft. The union needs a bargaining chip, particularly one that doesn’t take money out of their own pockets — remember, each draftee is a threat to take the job of a union member. Teams believe that the structure of the current minors is unwieldy with too many extra levels (the impetus for contraction) and so with fewer job openings upcoming, they can shorten the draft. Also, with the current outage, revenue is going to take at least a short-term hit, and so the amount of money available for bonus pools is shrinking.

12:35
mmddyyyy: Where would you slot Mike Trout into the LAA lineup?

12:36
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I really like the trend of batting the best hitter in the lineup second, to get him that extra PA once in awhile and to hopefully get somebody on base ahead of him.

12:37
Spa City: Opening Day July 4th – President Trump throwing a ceremonial 1st pitch for the defending champion Washington Nationals’ game, with the largest American flag ever made stretched across the outfield. It would be one of the greatest moments in baseball history. Our country could use a unifying moment like that!

12:38
Avatar Jay Jaffe: For as excited as I will be when baseball returns, I don’t think there’s anything Donald Trump could do anymore that would create a moment of national unity. I’ll leave it at that.

12:39
Matt: As a Phillies fan, which KBO team should I root for?

12:43
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Offhand i know that the Samsung Lions have ex-Phils Ben Lively and David Buchanan (but no longer Darin Ruf, who signed with the Giants — MLB’s Giants, not the KBO’s) and the NC Dinos have Aaron Altherr. How highly you regard them may be a different story given that  one reason they’re in the KBO is that they couldn’t cut it in Philly, but I do think that for those unfamiliar with the league, some familiar names are probably the starting point.

Beyond that, I’m attempting to cobble together a rooting guide for Wednesday. Also worth knowing: Dan Kurtz, the keeper of MyKBO, was raised in Pennsylvania and is a Phillies fan. You can read Part 1 of my interview with him here: https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/nothing-lost-in-translation-meet-dan-k…

12:43
Jeff: Why is the language uses by media and fans so relentlessly owner friendly?  Is it because deep down we are all magnates? If we just believe

12:46
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think the average fan is still somewhat resentful of the fact that s/he is likely making far less money than the MLB minimum and, given short-term frustrations with watching players struggle and fail — baseball, after all, is a game of failure — believes they should be more easily replaced. I think both fantasy baseball and the advanced statistics movements have helped to reinforce some of the worst tendencies about thinking this way, and I do believe it’s the job of a conscientious writer to attempt to push back at this way of thinking, if only to highlight how easy it is to fall into this trap and treat players as stat-generating robots.

12:46
Binging Ben: Currently binging the sopranos and silicon valley. How about you?

12:48
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Here at Casa Jaffe-Span, we don’t binge so much as work in a rotation that gets us about one episode of each a week. Currently rewatching Justified, catching up to Billions (we’re not quite to the new season yet), two episodes into the Plot Against America and about five eps into Hunters. Solo, i just finished Altered Carbon (knocked down The Expanse and the end of Mr. Robot previously) and am now onto the final season of Homeland.

12:48
Jeff: Do you think Torkelson has a shot to skip the minors? He’s played a crazy amount of baseball as an NCAA intern

12:50
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’m probably not the right person to ask here but I think it’s more likely that some team games his service time than fast-tracks him to the majors without even a day in the minors.

Separately, I’d like to point out that Torky was the neighbor of my cousin Allan in Petaluma, CA. So I’m extra-hopeful that he succeeds.

12:51
Phan: Chase Utley, in my opinion, deserves to be in the HoF, but I get how he may come across as an on-the-fence player. What are your thoughts on Utley deserving to get in vs not?

12:52
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think Utley is eminently worthy — he’s 11th in JAWS and above the 2B standard — https://blogs.fangraphs.com/retiring-mauer-and-utley-both-worthy-of-co… but his late shot in the majors, his falling short of 2,000 hts, and the extent to which his WAR is boosted by outstanding defense and baserunning numbers mean that he will not have an easy time of it once he hits the 2024 BBWAA ballot. But I’d vote for him without a moment of hesitation and I hope that he’ll have a real shot as the electorate evolves into a more advanced stat-friendly one.

12:53
Jeff: I cannot be the only person who thinks it’s funny that 2020 baseball opened up with a sign stealing hunt led by one of the owners. Sign stealing! Steal all the signs and do all the steroids, wtf does anyone  care?

12:53
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Based on the comments around the league since the Astros’ scandal first reared its head, it’s pretty clear that the players care about sign stealing, which should tell you something.

12:54
Short term memories: Every sports player/fan/employee is going through a rough patch, without question, as is everyone. But of the entire sports community, would you say the Astros are the biggest winners out of all of this since it puts more time between them and the scandal? It’s bound to ease the ice cold reception once games resume.

12:56
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think the Astros and Red Sox are beneficiaries of not having to immediately face the music — the boo birds from around the league — due to the COVID-19 delay. I will say that the outage has given many of them a chance to make visible contributions to their communities, in terms of financial support. George Springer and Alex Bregman come to mind.

12:56
Alex: Joe Posnanski has written about “defensive magical thinking” regarding Dave Winfield. That is, he can hold the contradictory ideas that the statistics correctly say he was a bad outfielder and yet looked like a tremendous, athletic one, at the same time. He can believe what he knows to be wrong, in a sense. Can you think of a player who inspires similar cognitive dissonance for you?

12:58
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’d say that the perception of Jack Morris as an elite pitcher versus the actual stats regarding his run prevention and postseason prowess are another example, albeit one that I don’t fall for, and likewise Omar Vizquel regarding his fielding and the metrics. I’d have to think harder about what players induced the blind spots for me, because I look at enough data that it tends to shape my perceptions moreso than just watching.

12:59
Alex: You and I both harshly disagree with his views, but would you still vote for Schilling for the hall?

1:01
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I have included him on nearly all of my virtual ballots since he’s been eligible. I will consider him for my actual one, when I get it in December, but  — let’s just say a lot can happen between now and then, and the fact that my work has helped to promote his candidacy within the electorate has released me from any sense of obligation that I “owe” him my actual vote.

1:01
Jobie: Does Benintendi bounce back this year? How about Mazara?

1:03
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I do think Mazara was very much in need of a change of scenery. I think Benintendi is young enough to turn things around but yikes, that was an ugly step backwards he took last year, and I haven’t really looked into why, but it’s rare to see a player’s swinging strike rate jump like that (from 7.5% to 11.6%) without there being something physically wrong.

1:04
WinTwins0410: Jay, does Dennis Martinez have a chance of ever making it onto a small-committee HoF ballot?  What are your thoughts?

1:07
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Dennis Martinez’s rebound from years lost to alcoholism is an inspiring story, and in many ways, he was sort of the Bartolo Colon of his time — a guy who came back from oblivion to become a beloved elder statesman. That said, I think outside of the win total (245) I don’t see anything that really says he should be on a ballot. 106 ERA+, 2,149 K, minimal black ink, 67 on the Hall of Fame Monitor, 41.0 JAWS (140th among starting pitchers). He’s a Jamie Moyer type candidate.

1:07
James: I think you’d still be getting questions about consecutive/non-consecutive years for JAWS regardless of changing the metric in the first 18 months.  It’s a pretty natural question to have, and I doubt it’s related in any way to a decision you made 15 years ago.  Most of the people asking probably weren’t even aware of the original formula

1:07
Avatar Jay Jaffe: A plausible theory.

1:07
Ron: If MLB resumes but MILB is still suspended, how do teams keep players ready to step in for injured or struggling players? Especially for pitchers, it seems very difficult to keep people ready to play without a minor league system.

1:08
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I suspect that teams will be keeping some number of players in reserve, playing intrasquad games somewhere so as to get instruction and remain on the ready in case reinforcements are needed. But we’ll see.

1:10
Dave: After becoming an ad-free member, ordering merch, etc., is the best way to support FG just to come to the page once or twice (or more) per day?  I genuinely don’t know how advertisers count/consider page view stats– nowhere near my area of expertise– but I feel very strongly that I’d like FG to survive.

1:15
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Thanks for your concern as well as your support, Dave!

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1:15
Jeff: When is Kris Bryant delivering that .300/.400/.600 season deep down we all know is coming?

1:15
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Maybe this year? It would be great to see, because it would mean that we have a season.

1:16
Travis: Looking ahead at future potential Hall of Famers, it looks like there’s a dearth of LF players coming down the pipeline (not counting young ‘un’s like Soto, because way too soon). Does any other position seem to have a similar dearth of candidates? is there any reason that the LF seems stacked? Is there a “Best LF candidate” out there that I’m just missing?

1:18
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Left field is currently a wasteland for upcoming candidates, as the top three are Ryan Braun (42.7 JAWS and no chance in hell given his PED suspension and the unique ugliness underlying it), Matt Holliday (39.4 JAWS), and Brett Gardner (37.2 JAWS). The best hope for the future is probably Christian Yelich, with 31.8 career bWAR and JAWS through his age-27 season, and some low-hanging fruit as far as boosting his peak score.

1:18
Sam: Why do we only tend to try to use the character clause as a disqualifying factor (e.g. Schilling)? If a player is penalized for their personal flaws, shouldn’t we reward the good guys with a little bonus?

1:22
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I explored this in The Cooperstown Casebook. Before Mark McGwire hit the ballot in 2007, it was very rare to see the character clause mentioned, and when it was, it was generally in a positive light. Frankly, I don’t put any stock in the clause given that it was written by a commissioner who spent his entire 24-year tenure upholding the game’s segregation, but I don’t begrudge anybody for deciding that they can’t look at themselves in the mirror for supporting somebody who is known to do some Really Bad Shit. .

1:22
Pirates Hurdles: I would thing a common cognitive dissonance category would be the speedy leadoff types that seem so disruptive when watching but often produce woefully low WAR.

1:25
Avatar Jay Jaffe: a fair point. I wasn’t a Juan Pierre fan but I was/am a huge Ichiro fan, though I think WAR puts him in a proper context — he’s remarkably close to the standard for a guy who didn’t come stateside until age 27. His 6 seasons in the top 10 in bWAR testify to the fact that that type of player can have value.

1:25
viceroy: How do you feel about way to super duper early HOF odds on Acuna, Franco, Soto? Any other young studs I’m missing?

1:26
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Acuña and Soto are off to great starts thanks to their early arrivals, but beyond that I don’t think we should dwell on their chances too much. https://blogs.fangraphs.com/instagraphs/acunas-hall-of-fame-chances-ar…

1:27
Isolated Thinker: Are official Fangraphs face coverings in the works?

1:27
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Not to my knowledge. If there’s a supplier out there who is doing branded ones, please bring it to our attention and we’ll look into it.

1:27
Jonathan: Debating if my future son should hit lefty or righty: lefties have more platoon advantages, but they’re generally much, much worse against same handed pitchers. Is the trade off worth it?

1:28
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think it’s worth experimenting with as a kid but going with what feels the most natural, and not overthinking it or overpressuring said kid.

1:28
Sir Nerdlington: I desperately want baseball but can’t get into 330am KBO game airings. Why not tape delay? I think the mouse is run by monkeys.

1:28
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Why look a gift horse in the mouth?

1:28
Jeff: Who are the KBO talents we should legit be excited about seeing?

1:29
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Check with Part 2 of my interview with Dan Kurtz of MyKBO tomorrow — we’ve got a bunch of players to keep an eye on.

1:29
mmddyyyy: How many MVP awards would a player have to win to make the Hall if all their other seasons were replacement level?

1:29
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Tough to imagine one even getting the requisite 10 years if seven of them were replacement level.

1:29
Derek: Thanks Jay for all the great work you and the rest of FanGraphs have continued to pump out through the duration of this pandemic! I am sure it hasn’t been easy to come up with content but really the quality of work that is this site’s standard hasn’t dipped at all to my eyes, and it’s greatly appreciated!

1:31
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Thanks for following along! We’re grateful for your support. It’s not easy working under these conditions — many of us have to juggle child care duties in addition to work — but I’m thankful for every day that I get an idea good enough to turn into an article. And some of them come from our readers, so keep it up, folks!

1:31
MSW: It might be tough to convince to ESPN to air a long doc with so many subtitles, but I would love a 10-parter on Ichiro, Nomo, Matsui and the wave of Japanese players around that time. I bet there’s some fascinating stories.

1:31
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I like that idea a lot.

1:32
LK: Is Robinson Cano a burden for the Mets?  If he plays 2B most days he will be taking plate appearances away from guys like Dom Smith and J.D. Davis.

1:33
Avatar Jay Jaffe: If he hits like he did last year (93 wRC+), then yes, Cano is a burden, particularly on a roster with so many mismatched parts. That said his track record is pretty exceptional (125 wRC+), and  if he’s healthy, I’m not yet ready to say that he’s incapable of producing at an above-average clip.

1:34
Cube Jockey: can a player that has fallen off the hof ballot start the clock over again if they make it back to the majors? ala a Minnie minuso promo stunt?

1:37
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t think the rules are clear enough to account for this example, as we’ve never seen it before in the wild. If a player were Five Percented off the ballot, he would likely have to wait until he was eligible for the Era Committee to get another chance. I suppose it’s possible that the Hall and BBWAA could decide collectively to re-start a player’s candidacy but that would need to be a special case.

UPDATE: I misremembered; see below

1:37
Dave: What is the name of the LA area museum featuring Interesting baseball stories and cases? Have you been there? If so, is it worth a visit?

1:38
Avatar Jay Jaffe: The Baseball Reliquary and yes, I’ve visited a couple times but I think it’s moved. It’s now on the campus of Whittier College.

1:38
WinTwins0410: Jay, re: Cube Jockey’s question,  Jose Rijo is the best example of a player who fell off the HoF ballot (5% rule) but then did a comeback later that same year (2001), and he wound up on the HoF writers’ ballot again in 2008 (his last game was in 2002)

1:39
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Whoops, yes, that’s right. 2001 (0.2%) and then ’08 (zero votes).  Amending the answer above.

1:41
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Ok folks, it’s time for me to go tend to the irons I have in the fire. Thanks for stopping by, and do check out some KBO action on ESPN tonight/tomorrow if you get the chance!

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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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Hank G.
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Hank G.

Tough to imagine one even getting the requisite 10 years if seven of them were replacement level.

I give you… Johnny Lemaster.

12 seasons, only two above 0 WAR, and those two weren’t MVP type seasons either.