Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 5/9/19

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Hi folks, welcome to another edition of my weekly chat. I ducked out last week to see Noah Syndergaard have himself a day, and just got a piece about the Nationals’ annual dumpster fire off my plate, hence my tardiness. Give me a couple minutes to order some lunch and we’ll light this candle.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: OK, I’m back.

Ray Liotta as Shoeless Joe: Can’t wait to read your piece about the Nationals. Spoil something for me…is the entire article about how Davey Martinez is out of his league?!

Avatar Jay Jaffe: While I eventually turn my attention to the recent firing of the pitching coach and the vultures circling Martinez, the gist of what I wrote is that their problems have been driven by a dreadful defensive performance; they’re either last in the NL or last in the majors in several advanced defensive metrics. Injuries — particularly to Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon — have been part of that, but the bullpen has been a festering sore for years. I think Mike Rizzo and Tigers-era Dave Dombrowski might actually be the same person when it comes to skimping on bullpen budgeting.

lunch: why is it that every year all the pundits pick the nationals to win the east, and then every year they just kind of…….flail about? Is there some explanation for why they seem so much better on paper than their actual performance?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Via our Steamer and ZiPS projections  — which in general are pretty good as those things go — the Nats have been projected to win the NL East in each of the past two seasons, but injuries, some of them completely unforeseeable (Victor Robles’ elbow, Trea Turner’s finger) have had a major impact, and have exposed their lack of depth. At the same time, the bullpen woes are a repeated and foreseeable problem, which, when combined with the revolving door at manager, points to Rizzo as the culprit.

Al Gone Quinn: My man, Edgar Martinez, made it into the HOF this year, but in my opinion it’s a pyrrhic victory if Bonds, Clemens & Schilling are denied, which would taint the entire HOF. What do you place the odds that these 3 guys with incredible careers reach the Hall in the next 3 years?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Schilling is almost certain to be elected in the next two seasons unless he further self-sabotages, which, with a presidential election on the horizon, is quite possible. Bonds and Clemens may well be hosed given their loss of momentum in the past two cycles. They’re polarizing candidates, the sides are VERY dug in, few minds are being changed, and the turnover of the electorate has slowed. I’d put their odds at maybe 1-in-3 or 1-in-4 of being elected by the writers. I’m interested to see where incoming president Tim Mead stands on the issue relative to Jeff Idelson, and while I’ve heard great things about him in general from members of the media, I suspect that he wasn’t chosen without the Hall board of directors feeling as though he wasn’t going to be a radical in that area.

CubFan: While it’s only been 10 games Vlady has struggled out of the gate, just like Trout and Bregman did. But at what point do you start getting concerned that he just isn’t ready yet? How long of a leash do the Jays give him?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I haven’t given it much thought, but Craig Edwards has a piece up today on the very topic.  https://blogs.fangraphs.com/lets-freak-out-about-vladimir-guerrero-jr/

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think this paragraph gives you the flavor:

Given the expectations, it’s easy to call a .162/.244/.189 slash line with a 23 wRC+ disappointing. It is disappointing. Just like the 29 wRC+ Paul Goldschmidt has put up over the last 14 days. Or the 35 wRC+ from Corey Seager during the same time period. Mitch Haniger’s wRC+ over the last two weeks is a measly 49. Ronald Acuña Jr.’s is barely better at 51, with Jose Altuve just ahead at 56. It’s possible the latter numbers have escaped your attention. It’s okay to have missed them or to even have known about them and ignored them because we know they aren’t an accurate representation of the talent level these players possess. But when a player comes up from the minors for the first time and doesn’t break out immediately, second thoughts can creep into the backs of our minds about can’t-miss prospects who missed.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Due to his name and his circumstances, there’s been an incredible amount of pressure heaped on the 20-year-old, but 41 PA doesn’t tell us any more about him than it does about any other player. Don’t panic.

Steve: How do we get more guys like Mike Petriello in team broadcast booths?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I missed last night’s broadcast, alas, but Mike has done great in that capacity in the past. It’s going to take courage on the part of producers to keep such experiments going. It will probably also take some amount of demographic change. Nearly 20 years into my own scribbling about baseball I can tell you that Olds will resist fancy stats, so it’s going to take generations that grew up with them before they’re the norm in booths.

Mark: The orioles don’t have much to get excited about on their roster but John Means has pitched really well. This guy was never a ranked prospect but has supposedly added 2mph to his fastball and improved his change. Has he turned into a prospect?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t know much about Means but he did turn up among the top 10 in pitchers working in the upper third of the strike zone or above when I wrote about Chris Paddack yesterday (https://blogs.fangraphs.com/chris-paddacks-relentless-attack/), and the numbers say he’s getting good results there, and overall, including a higher groundball rate. He’s 26, and, of course, TINSTAAP, so prospect probably isn’t the right word to use, but it does appear that there’s reason for optimism, and probably a closer look.

Dennis: Whats for lunch Jay ?

Andy: Why do you always order lunch during out chats?  Convenience?  Or is the ability to keep fresh lunch items available drastically reduced due to presence of tiny human?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: My work pattern is such that i often have to finish up my daily article int he morning, when the stats and I have both refreshed. I generally leave the house to buy lunch, in part because it’s tough to keep a loaf of bread from going south before I finish it and in part because taking a break to walk around and maybe run an errand is a necessity. Thursday is a particular squeeze to get lunch given my 12 pm chat times, and if there are no leftovers in the fridge (as is the case today) the alternative is going only an hour and change before stopping for my daily bite.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I went with a relatively new discovery, a place that specializes in chinese dumplings. Fried shrimp dumplings and a lamb mo, which is spiced, braised lamb on two round pieces of bread, with pickles. Tasty so far

Gary Sanchez: I can still hit.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Thankfully, yes, but the defense appears to be going backwards in terms of framing and blocking. Slugging .679 is a good way to avoid being run out of town on a rail, but in the NY market that defense is always going to be a hot-button issue.

dondybala: The way Louis Roberts is playing in the White Sox system can you see him moving into the top 25 of your top 100.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: It’s not MY Top 100, it’s that of Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel, and given that he was already number 43 this spring, the odds are that performance and graduation helps him into the midseason top 25. I’d ask either of those guys for an informed opinion, though.

Chewbacca: How do you pronounce your last name?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Jaffe rhymes with taffy.

Dennis: The other day the Mets had Adeiny Hechavarria in the leadoff spot, in what analytics world does that make any sense?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Jesus Alou, i missed that completely. That’s some Yostian wishful thinking right there. Callaway has only done it once, and it was on a day when Jason Vargas was starting, so maybe he was sending a message upstairs — we don’t have a chance today anyway — kind of like when Joe Torre used Enrique Wilson in right field in 2002.

cavebird: Anthopoulos begs to differ about Rizzo and Dombrowski being the worst about skimping on bullpens.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: the difference there is budget. The Nationals and Tigers are/were in tax territory on very stars-and-scrubs oriented rosters. The Braves are just being cheapskates. They’re awash in young arms, so you’d figure they’d mix and match some of their talent, but there was no impediment to them signing Kimbrel.

Kristen: Joey Gallo looks like an MVP candidate.  O-swing% way down from last year.  Is this his year?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: from 32% to 22% in the O-Swing%, and a SwStr% that’s dropped from 18% to 15%. There’s reason for optimism that he’s turning a corner, I think.

Erik Guy: Are you seeing anything from Altuve that causes concern, he’s at his career best walk rate, but K’ing more than ever before.  He looks caught in between in all his AB’s, taking fastballs and swinging at off speed outside the zone.  Just a career worst slump, or more there?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I haven’t watched him much but the numbers say he’s very out of whack. .224 BABIP, 18.6 % IFFB, 52% pull — that’s all very strange. His xwOBA is similar to last year, though, and his exit velo is actually up slightly. He’s probably worth a closer look.

Urias coming back?: SD seems likely to bring Urias back up soon, right? He has nothing left to prove at AAA, they definitely have room in the IF, and they may actually be competitive?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’d think so. He’s hitting .329/.415/.720 at AAA, Kinsler’s below the Mendoza line, and Ty France isn’t tearing up the pea patch at third base, so playing him either at second or short would appear to be an option until Tatis returns, though that could happen as soon as this weekend.

Scully: Hey Jay! Long-time lurker, first-time question asker. As a Yankees watcher, how do you feel about the weekday 6:35PM starts? Are you a 1PM weekend start-time guy, or do you enjoy weekend nighttime baseball?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’m all for the 6:35 starts. Went to Yanks-Sox the night that they pounded Chris Sale in a game that took 2:23 to play and was home by 10 pm. I like weekend night games, especially in the summer when it’s hot as hell, but day baseball is fun, too.

Steve: What do the Mets have against JD Davis his average exit velocity is 91.9 that is 43rd in MLB isn’t that worth something?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Even without Jed Lowrie or Dominic Smith, the Mets have an overstuffed infield, so it’s not surprising Davis isn’t an everyday player. As for that 91.9 mph exit velo, he’s also got a 50% groundball rate, so some of that velo is wasted. He’s been a nice addition for the Mets, but he may well be a candidate to flip once everybody is healthy.

Domingo German: What did I change to find the consistency of this year, and can it be taught to others who are post hype?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Mechanical consistency is a factor. When you can repeat your delivery, pitches go where you want them to go. Sung Min Kim had a good look recently https://blogs.fangraphs.com/domingo-german-is-finding-consistency/

TOOTBLAN: What are your thoughts on the Red Sox’s White House visit today?  Do you have any concern that the divide between those players attending and those players that are not will have fallout in the clubhouse?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: As anybody who follows me on Twitter can probably guess, I wouldn’t have gone. I would like to have seen somebody from among the nearly all-white group of attendees acknowledge the split and stand in solidarity with his teammates of color. Instead we see David Price highlighting a pointed Steve Buckley tweet (

I just feel like more than 38k should see this tweet…

Alex Cora has confirmed newspaper report he will not make the trip to meet the president. So basically it’s the white Sox who’ll be going.
6 May 2019

) and then backtracking once it got attention. Not great, Bob.

I don’t know how this is going to play out in the clubhouse, but winning papers over most divides, at least temporarily, and the Sox are 13-6 since starting 6-13. Cora made his point but I think has the ability to keep the team focused, so I’d bet this passes.

JuanTeixeiraBeer: Any chance Kinsler gets DFA’d once Tatis Jr returns from IL?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: They signed him to a two-year deal while knowing that his bat was going soft; they value his defense and his veteran herbs and spices, and I think see him as being their version of Dodgers-era Chase Utley. I’m highly skeptical they’re going to cut bait this quickly. https://blogs.fangraphs.com/padres-land-a-bargain-in-kinsler/

Bobby from DuPont Circle: Rizzo has doomed the Nationals to eternal failure because he sat Strasburg in 2012.  One player is never more important than the team.  The baseball gods have responded.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: That’s a stupid and simplistic take.

jv: What’s the Chinese dumpling place? Am hungry and live in Downtown BK

Avatar Jay Jaffe: It’s called Oh! Dumplings. Worth a shot, I’d say.

I heart beisbol: Miguel Andujar is coming back from what was originally perceived as a serious injury. He’s struggled at the plate so far. Gio looks like a great defensive 3B and an average hitter. Are you worried about Andujar’s ability to produce this year and/or his playing time?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: The Yankees have a roster logjam coming, and I think Urshela has played his way into a longer stay. I suspect that if Andujar doesn’t start hitting, and doesn’t make the most of his limited looks in the field, then surgery may loom. And given that Gregorius is finishing up his throwing program and is about to return to hitting activity, I’d say that we may be closer to the end of the Tulowitzki era than the beginning.

Rudy: Do you Gleyber Torres as a future star or a serviceable regular?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Star. Let’s remember that the kid is 22. He’s got a 114 wRC+ under his belt in 158 games in the bigs, and 2.4 or 3.4 WAR depending upon which flavor of defensive metric you look at, that while being somewhat stuck in between a move to a new position and an injury-related return to his old one. He’s handling it all quite well given the circumstances.

Dave: Do you think they performance of the Cubs top 4 starters is sustainable?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: As with the first half of last year, there’s a very big gap between Lester’s low ERA and higher FIP; he got knocked around good in the second half. I expect regression there. On the other hand, I don’t expect Darvish to keep stinking up the joint if he’s actually healthy. In the big picture, i think the rotation will be fine

Guest: Do the Red Sox still have a chance at the division? They’re finally at 500 after the putrid first two weeks.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: As Joe Torre always counseled Yankees teams that struggled early in the season, the first job is getting to .500, and so mission accomplished. They’ve got some issues but they’ve weathered some pretty rough ones. The bullpen hasn’t burned down Fenway Park, and Chris Sale appears to be coming around. they’ll need some reinforcements but this is still a winnable division.

Jung Ho Kang Bang: On the Bonds question, why don’t the Giants give him a single at bat to reset his Hall clock?  Would that actually work?  He certainly wouldn’t be the worst hitter on that team even at 54 tears of age.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Playing again would reset Bonds’ clock, yes. Even so, the commissioner’s office could quite conceivably reject any contract between him and the Giants just as Fay Vincent did with 68-year-old Minnie Minoso and the White Sox circa 1990. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1993-09-30-sp-40546-story.html

careagan: If Ryu keeps his ERA around 2.00 for another 100 innings or so (not a given at all considering his history), what sort of deal does he get in the offseason?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Probably something in the neighborhood of 3/$50M with an option, either club or vesting due to his age and injury history.

Guille: Jarrod Dyson had a 300/400/500 April. Finally getting his chance at leadoff (against righties, of course). I´ve always thought the Royals pigeonholed him out of a Juan Pierre type career. On the other side, Hosmer barely plays replacement level baseball but gets nine figures contract.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Life isn’t fair, but we’ve got about 2100 PA that say Dyson’s not enough of a hitter to start, and 90 PA to begin his age-34 season that say otherwise, so excuse my skepticism there.

Prospector: Whose playing time is most endangered by the return of Jed Lowrie: Todd Frazier, Brandon Nimmo, or Jeff McNeil?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Well, it ain’t gonna be McNeil given his hitting. My guess is Frazier, who’s really struggling. I thought he’d bounce back with the Mets, but this is the very first time in my 49 years of life that I’ve been wrong. My apologies to everyone.

Lee: Boston’s bullpen has been pretty darn good this year.  Maybe they are onto something by not putting huge dollars into it?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: 4.01 ERA (87 ERA-) and 4.05 FIP (93 FIP-). Very good relative to expectations, but let’s not go overboard just yet. I see too many walks and homers to feel reassured that they’re for real.

Guest: When you go to games, do you treat it as a fan or as a journalist?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: More the latter. When I’m in the press box, I’m a journalist, of course, and I don’t fully shed that when I’m in the stands. I’ve been part of a partial season ticket package with the Yankees since 1998 and a BBWAA member since 2011; the Yankees for whom I could root for unabashedly as a fan are just about all gone (Sabathia and Gardner are the last), and even then, being objective about them isn’t difficult.

That said, I was having a conversation about this with a longtime Yankees beat writer the other day, though, and we talked about the fact that it’s a good idea not to lose touch with what it’s like to be a paying customer for the games and see it through their eyes. I value the ability to experience the game both ways.

Josh: What are your expectations for Julio Urias? Really seems like he has his stuff back, which is incredible in and of itself, but what is your feeling for this season? How many innings would you anticipate this season?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: My guess is that going forward, the bulk of his season will be in the bullpen, with the occasional spot start. I’ve heard estimates of 100-to-125 innings and 70-to-100 from different sources; I’d lean towards the latter range.

Matt W: JD Davis is not a very good defender…

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Yes, the numbers say he’s stretched at third base, to say the least.

Guille: This article https://blogs.fangraphs.com/i-wanna-be-like-mike-trout/ suggests (I understand) that Jose Altuve has below average Power. He actually has a .497 SLG and .177 ISO for the past 3 years. What am I missing? Is Ben just wrong here?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: “Trout hits for power, so our mystery player will need to hit for good (but sub-Troutian) power. Scratch both Joey Gallo and Jose Altuve from the list. “

That does not read as below average at all.

Oscar’s Gamble: How do you feel about Bobby Abreu for the Hall of Fame? From 1998-2005 fWAR has him as the most valuable RF and 4th most valuable position player after Bonds, Rodriguez, and Andruw Jones. He is 1/2 players in MLB history with 400+ SB, 1,350+ RBI, and 1,400+ BB over a career (Bonds). Abreu is also 1/14 players with 7+ 100 R/100 BB seasons (Gehrig, Ruth, Thomas, Thome, Williams, Henderson, Morgan, Mantle, Foxx, Ott, Bonds, Schmidt and Bagwell).

Avatar Jay Jaffe: See

I think Abreu is a one-and-done, sadly. Spoke about him recently with @TimothyRRyder metsmerizedonline.com/2019/01/mmo-ex… and there’s a bit more here twitter.com/JoshuaGruber1/…

@jay_jaffe Do you think Bobby abreu will get below 5% in the voting next year? His stats portray a borderline HOFer but seems like a guy who would fall below 5% like Edmonds or Lofton. Thoughts?
17 Jan 2019

. Excellent hitter, not an ice cube’s chance in hell of getting to 75%.

York: Not to be too pessimistic about their seasons so far, but would Votto and Kershaw be Hall of Famers if they retired today?  It seems they may not be adding much to their JAWS scores over the coming years . . . .

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I would vote for both without a single regret today. I don’t think either is done, but I do think Votto, in particular, is going to need to make some adjustments given his recent struggles.

Roger: The Reds are 8th in run differential, 11th in the BaseRuns’ standings, and 12th in 3rd Order Win Percentage.  They are also 7 games under .500 and 7.5 games back in the division.  Do they have hope for the playoffs?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: No. Some steps forward, but they’re not going to break through in the NL Central this year given the strength of the competition.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: OK folks, that’s it from me today. Thanks for stopping by — you’ve given me a few ideas for articles as well as a pleasant couple of hours of baseball chatter. All the best until next week.

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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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