Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 6/13/19

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon, and greetings from Wellfleet, Massachusetts, where I’m just beginning my 10-day stay  — working the rest of the week, then on vacation — but contending with some nasty weather that temporarily knocked out our Internet connection this morning. Hopefully it holds out for the next 90 minutes or so; check @jay_jaffe on Twitter in case there’s a sudden gap in the conversation here.

Justin: I know it’s early, but what’s wrong with Machado? You mentioned on the pod Manny is not doing damage with 1st pitches? Anything else you’ve noticed? As a Padres fan I hope you don’t have to write a piece about his struggles anytime soon…

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t really have a good answer for this yet; he’s on my list of players to look into, but something else usually pops up, perhaps because I’m still not clear about what’s going on. He’s barreling the ball less but still averaging above 90 mph in terms of EV. There’s a big gap between his xwOBA (.375) and wOBA (.330) despite slightly better sprint speed, so it may be something of a run of bad luck.

v2micca: We have generally examined the amount of run support that a Pitcher receives.  But is there value in more closely examining the defensive support for his specific innings.  Instead of looking at a team’s aggregate UZR, DRS, and BABIP allowed, instead breaking it down to the UZR, DRS, and BABIP allowed for that pitcher’s specific innings?  I just wonder when we see a pitcher under or over performing his peripherals for a stretch how much it might correlate to his defense over or under performing their aggregate defensive metrics for his innings during that period.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: given how sketchy defensive metrics are in small sample sizes, I am skeptical that working with UZR and DRS in such increments would give you more signal than noise. BABIP, sequencing, and batted ball info (including Statcast now) give us a lot of information to help tease out the gap between a pitcher’s actual and expected results.

Brood550: If and when the Mets go into sale mode.  Who’s untouchable?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: If I’m GM, everything is up for grabs except Alonso, deGrom, Conforto and maybe McNeil, though that doesn’t mean I’d sell low on Syndergaard, Diaz, or Nimmo.

Mariners Fan: Jay thank you for hosting the chat.  Edwin Encarnacion is having his best season since 2015 and is playing passable defense at first base.  He has no future for him in Seattle but given his profile doesn’t have a ton of trade value.  Do you think he gets traded and if so where?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I do think EE gets dealt but his destination and the return will depend upon how much $ the Mariners absorb. Milwaukee (where Jesus Aguilar has struggled), Texas (if they remain in contention) and even Cleveland (which needs all the help it can get offensively) make some sense. Cripes, I’d play him at 2B (as he did on May 10 versus the Yankees for one inning) instead of Kipnis given the latter’s bat death.

Kevin: What’s up with Josh Donaldson? His quality of contact is great, but his results are anything but.  Is it simply bad luck?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: he’s averaging a scorching 93.0 mph for his EV, but for the second year in a row, his groundball rate is in the 45% range and his GB/FB ratio is above 1.3. My initial impression is that he’s not elevating the ball often enough.  Plus he’s pulling the ball more than 50% of the time, and losing hits to the shift. https://www.fangraphs.com/splitstool.aspx?playerid=5038&position=3B&sp…

Bread Gardner: Any thoughts about FiveThirtyEight’s Elo-style team ratings?  I don’ think FanGraphs has anything quite comparable.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Don’t bring me down, Bruce! ELO is somewhat underr — oh, wait.  Conceptually I get what Elo is trying to do but I’ve never really looked at what 538 is doing with it in the baseball realm.

Bo: Now that it’s mid-June, is it safe to say Dansby Swanson has figured something out?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: mostly, though given that he’s just about reached last year’s HR total in half as many games, while his BABIP and K/BB ratio remain virtually unchanged, I wonder if it’s just the juicier baseball or just a correction from last year’s unexpectedly bad showing

Brood550: At what point do teams with weak or non-existent farm systems have to start thinking about trading controllable young talent?  Also, along that line what type of return would trading say like a Juan Soto type net in today’s game?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I can sort of understand where a team in dire financial straits might trade a guy who’s in his arb years, but trading a player like Soto — over whom you have club control though 2024 — is the equivalent of chewing off a limb to escape. You *really* have to re-think what you’re trying to accomplish and whether the cost is worth it. The most likely outcome is a bloody and painful mess

Enquiring mind: Do you ever wonder if MLB umpires play fantasy baseball with some of these calls, or are they not allowed? And would it affect them in anyway, Just always been curious.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t know this for certain but I’d bet (haha) that they’re not allowed to play fantasy baseball. And no, I don’t wonder about that even when they make bad calls. The job is incredibly hard to do with the naked eye and the power to use technology to second-guess the most hair-splitting calls. The problem is that umpiring isn’t a meritocracy, so we get some mediocre ones who persist and come to occupy very high profile spots in marquee events.

Pat: Does Verlander have one of the all time weird seasons going? .152 batting average against & only 28 runs allowed in 100 innings, but, 17 HR’s? It’s like the only time he allows a run, it’s on a HR.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: It’s a weird season, but then again so is everything when you’ve got record home run rates. He’s “only” 11th out of 84 in ERA – FIP differential and 26th in HR/FB rate. I think his season merits a closer look and will plan something for when I return to regularly scheduled programming.

In the words of the irascible Francis from Stripes, “You just made the list, buddy.”

JZ: What’s up Jay? What are your thoughts on Caleb Smith for ROS? Recently dropped by the top team in my league, and I’m trying to figure out why. Thanks!

Avatar Jay Jaffe: He’s giving up a lot of homers, and has the third-lowest GB/FB ratio among qualifiers, but in that ballpark, I would bet on his very high HR/FB rate regressing, particularly because his Statcast numbers don’t suggest he’s getting hit particularly hard. I think he’d be worth picking up.

ryan: re: Machado’s issues……he is striking out at a clip that’s (statistically) significantly higher than last year, perhaps that’s something to look into….chasing, more swings and misses…?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: yes, his swinging strike rate is a career high 11.9 %,and his K rate is much higher as well (from 14.7% to 21.3%). So yes, a closer look at his zone and pitch breakdowns would seem to be in order.

Ralph Rowdie: Who ends their career with a higher WAR, Scherzer or Kershaw? Who ends up with the better overall HOF credentials?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Kershaw is 3 years younger and has a 7.5 bWAR  and 5.0 JAWS lead. He would also appear to be better positioned to win a championship soon given the direction of the two pitchers’ respective organizations as well. Even given their recent workload differences, I don’t see enough to put Scherzer past Kershaw in that context. I think they both will make the Hall and would vote for both even if they never threw another pitch

Ginger Slugger: Is there a scenario where C. Frazier remains in the lineup when Judge and Stanton are back?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: yes, because Brett Gardner isn’t hitting much for the second straight season. The gap between Gardner and Frazier in defense and the big LF in Yankee Stadium will still mean Gardy gets some playing time. It could be interesting if they are indeed all healthy at once

Bend it like Mandowescence: Jay, thank you as always for giving us your time so generously.

I wonder if you’d like to offer an opinion on something my friends and I have been debating for a few weeks … do you think that removing the current third strike call on a ball bunted foul have an appreciable effect on the game?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: As in, would it bring back more bunting? I’m not seeing it having much impact given how hard it is to bunt well.

Tom: is goldy done?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’m not ready to panic given the way he pulled himself out of last year’s slow start — we’re not in Joey Votto territory yet, with back-to-back downturns — but let’s just say I’m glad I don’t owe him $130 million over the next five seasons.

Puddin Head: Are you buying Kingery’s breakout? Can he lead the Phillies in wRC+ this year?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t see him maintaining a .613 SLG and am skeptical he’ll lead the Phillies in wRC+ over a full season, particularly while walking 4.2% of the time. I think he’s worth playing every day at this point, and expect him to be pretty good going forward.

Bo: Would “Truist Park” immediately be in the bottom-three of stadium names?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: yes. SMH

Bo: Julio Teheran has been excellent aside from a couple bad innings. What’s different besides not giving up HRs?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Slightly higher groundball rate, better HR/FB, and less trouble with the curve. Batters slugged 1.130 (!) against the pitch last year and .540 the year before; they’re at .364 now, albeit in just 11 PA ending with the pitch. SSS all over the board with those numbers, and I don’t see huge differences all of the place.

Super : Where is the line for a so called super team? .550, .600, .650? There are 5 teams above .600 so that might be an overall line. And big gaps below

Avatar Jay Jaffe: .600 is a 97-win team, which is garden variety excellent, not a superteam. .650 is probably a better line for that, but I have a hard time anointing anyone that at a time when we’ve got so many teams not competing — quite possibly at least 5 with 100 losses.

Dave: Recs for activities on the Cape with a toddler?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good question. I guess we’re about to find out. Having a devoted mother-in-law/grandmother certainly helps.

My 2 1/2 year old daughter loves sand as if it were gold itself, so a lot of beach time is in order on this front. Sand castles, digging, shell/rock collecting, crab chasing… we’ve got a lot of that in store.

troke: Travis Shaw contact rate plummeted this year, which seems to be the source of his problems. The player pages don’t seem to show splits for plate discipline. Any idea if his contact rate is up after his return from the IL?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: He’s 4-for-21 with a 34.6% strikeout rate in six games since returning. I’m gonna guess that’s NOT an improvement.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I do wonder how long his right wrist has been bothering him given that he had to deal with it last year, too.

Stroman: When am I traded and what do I bring back?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Sometime in July and a top-50ish prospect plus a lottery ticket. His lack of durability and inconsistency, not to mention having just one more full season of club control, will limit the return.

Corey Kluber: Will I be an Indian on August 1st?  And if so, will they exercise my option for 2020?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: yes and yes. I don’t see the Indians selling low on Kluber or passing up another chance to pinch pennies by holding onto him.

STL Cardinals : If only we had a cheap, controllable, middle of the order first baseman.  Y’know, someone like Luke Voit.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Those 14.2 innings of Chasen Shreve were totally worth it, man.I mean, they still have him in the minors and could maybe get another 14.2 out of him this year.

Usage Police: You use “given” a lot. Sometimes correctly, but other times in place of “because,” which isn’t correct. Just FYI. I would want to know this type of thing, so that’s why I’m telling you.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Given that you seem to be paying attention to something very strange and minor, I’ll publish your observation. not that i’m givin’ a shit about word choices in this informal context.

John: Was looking back through Nomar’s career and his peak was even more impressive than I remember.  How close did he come to realistic HOF chance?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: His 43.0 bWAR is right at the peak standard for shortstops but he fell way short of 2,000 hits and never really had a chance.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Ok folks there’s a break in the weather which means the rest of the Jaffe-Span clan wants to get lunch. That’s it for me today. I will probably break my vacation silence to chat next week, though. Until then, thanks for stopping by!

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... and Mastodon @jay_jaffe.

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