Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 6/13/23

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon, folks and welcome to a special edition of my Tuesday chat. I’m a few days into the annual family trip to Wellfleet  — this is the seventh year in a row that my wife, my daughter, and my mother-in-law have rented this house — and the wi-fi is a bit dodgier than back in Brooklyn, but I always like to do a chat from here if I can.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: As it’s a two-week trip, it’s something of a working vacation, with the work front-loaded. Today I did a piece on Nick Castellanos’ rebound from a dismal 2022 https://blogs.fangraphs.com/nick-castellanos-is-mashing-again

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Yesterday I took a look at the impact of Pete Alonso’s hand injury https://blogs.fangraphs.com/skidding-mets-lose-pete-alonso-when-they-c…

Liam: Making it to any CCBL games while you’re out there?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Yes, we’re planning to get down to at least one Orleans Firebirds games. I think we have four to choose from in terms of their home games. Haven’t looked at rosters or fully sketched out a calendar yet.

mike: The Twins seem to have painted themselves into a corner here, and just need to hope Buxton and CC and Polanco hit…..Kepler hasn’t hit for three years, would you move on?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: They’re committed to Buxton and Correa long-term, and when you do that, you have to be prepared for the occasional lag in production but hope they eventually approximate something closer to their projected capability. As for Kepler, he’s been a fixture in the lineup since 2016 and still has just two seasons of above-average production to show for it, and those came in 2019-20. It’s past time to move on, and worth seeing what Matt Wallner can do even if he does have some holes in his game.

Guest: Is Joey Bart worth anything that could upgrade the Giants roster?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Doubt it, at least if you’re thinking short-term. As a catcher who’s supposed to be able to hit and has five years of control remaining, he has some value but he’s struggled in multiple major league opportunities at this point is more of a project than a prospect. He’d probably bring back something along those lines — a lower-level arm or two, or maybe somebody for the fringes of the major league roster.

Steve: How common is it to have a world champion team (baseball) with no hall of famers?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: not uncommon though it can take a long time to shake out. The 1981 and ’88 Dodgers don’t have one unless you count manager Tommy Lasorda (and Don Sutton’s cameo in the latter season, though he was gone well before the playoffs). The 2002 Angels don’t have one, and the ’06 Cardinals didn’t until Scott Rolen was elected this year. The 2008 Phillies still don’t, who knows if we’ll ever see one from the 2010, ’12, and ’14 Giants besides Bochy, or the ’16 Cubs…

JT: While I agree with the release of Bass, should I be depressed that had been a star player (let alone a politician), the comments would have skated, right?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t know that to be true, and I’d prefer to think that the Blue Jays messing up the Bass situation in spectacular fashion is an outlier, with many other teams more quick to call a player to the carpet and  hold him accountable.

catcher hell: there’s no way Willson Contreras can continue to be this bad all year, right?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: It doesn’t look good but a peek at his Statcast expected numbers shows he’s 51 points short of his xBA, and 101 short of his xSLG. He’s had some terrible luck, and the Cardinals really haven’t helped him settle in. Talk about messing up in spectacular fashion

Bandon Brelt: are you buying the Marcell Ozuna resurgence? since 5/1 he’s 4th in wRC+ among qualified hitters after being bottom five in April

Avatar Jay Jaffe: it will take more than 6 weeks of good hitting to convince that a guy is past two full years of absolutely stinking on ice.

Dan the Man McGRAWWWW: If Arraez is able to hit .400 for the year, how much would that increase his hall chances? Not that there is much there to begin with but I have to imagine it would stand out as a once in a lifetime achievement

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Eh, his Hall of Fame case and anyone else’s is still primarily going to be build upon career totals, and we’re talking about a player with fewer than 600 career hits and 13 bWAR. .400 could make a difference if he’s a borderline candidate but won’t get him there by itself.

Tacoby Bellsbury: The Cardinals have the worst record in the NL. How do you see the rest of the season going for them?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: At some point I think Mozeliak throws Marmol under the bus to protect his own poor roster construction, but I’d also expect the trade of an outfielder for some pitching. If I’m DeWitt I probably consider firing Mozeliak anyway because this is a spectacular mess.

The Better Upton: How does Justin Upton compare to the average HoF outfielder? I recall some excellent years in Atlanta and in Arizona.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Even as a player who reached the majors at 19 and put together a great season at 23, he never really put together a run that suggested he was Hall-bound; he averaged 2.8 WAR in the five seasons after that 5.5-WAR campaign, and after 2018, he couldn’t stay on the field or above replacement level due to injuries.

O’stradamus: Is it just me or is it odd that the O’s continue to be hesitant with promoting their top prospects?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Maybe a little but perhaps not as much as some would suggest, at least if we’re talking just the past two seasons. You want your prospects not to be overwhelmed at the major league level, and for the most part, Adley Rutschmann and Gunnar Henderson have been quite successful since arriving; the latter had a rough April but the Orioles didn’t farm him out. There was obviously a chorus to promote Grayson Rodriguez but he’s now back in Triple-A after getting hit for a 7.15 ERA.

Tyler Wells: Is my start to the season legit?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Pretty legit. ERA’s more than a run better than the FIP, but it’s in line with the xERA. Alex Eisert wrote about his new cutter and remixed arsenal here https://blogs.fangraphs.com/wells-and-kells-a-cutter-case-study/

Cubs: Are the Cubs actually building towards anything? The farm is middling with nothing but depth pieces. The young guys on the MLB roster don’t look like key pieces on a good team. Ownership/FO won’t spend or make trades (unless its selling for 18 year olds). Fear its back to mediocre but good enough to sell bleacher tickets and beer snakes.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: They did just sign Dansby Swanson for $177 million so I don’t think you can say the front office won’t spend, but the roster is a real mixed bag, and they seem to be sorting through which young players can help them and which can’t. I don’t think the big problem is that they’re not getting production out of Matt Mervis or Hayden Wesneski so much as it is that the playing time they’re giving to veterans like Mancini, Taillon, and the since-departed Hosmer has been so unproductive. If you’re in a rebuild, you want to see what the youngsters can do, and that can take time. Watching veterans take their playing time does no good, and the deadwood-cutting has to start there.

Captain ACAB: How do you pronounce your last name? Is it one syllable or two?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Jaffe, rhymes with taffy.

Bedtime story: Will T. Story be at full strength when he comes back? I’m unsure of the track record for hitters after UCL repair.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Generally they come back pretty close to full strength, though with Story figuring out what full strength may be a bit harder due to his other injuries and the Coors effect. I would expect him to be a better offensive player than the last two seasons

Marshall: Tony Gonsolin continues to be great at preventing runs, but my sense is most people in the industry don’t think he’s “for real”. I wish I knew how to look up which starters have had a better era+ 300 innings into their career, but nobody comes to mind. How good do you think he really is?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Gonsolin is pretty darn good when he’s healthy, but he’s had a hard time maintaining his health, and so it’s tough to trust those smaller samples especially when they produce extreme BABIPS (.177 this year! 216 career) and a wide ERA-FIP split. He seems to be a different pitcher when his fastball averages 93 or greater in an outing, versus when it slips below, which is prone to happen because of his fragility.

Gil: Following up on your Alonso piece: is performing to expected levels the best path to contention for the Mets in your eyes? Or do you foresee potential moves? Honestly, this feels like we’re headed to 1992 worst team money can buy territory but I could also be a jaded Mets fan seeing the worst a team can play and deciding that is their true talent level

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t think this team is anywhere close to as bad as it looks, but I don’t know what you do when Verlander, Lindor and McNeil are among the biggest underproducers. You’re not trading any of them, so the best you can do is tweak things around the margins — and I’m not sure how much more money you can pour into the roster without starting to burn through the prospects. Is it worth trading Ronny Mauricio for a starting pitcher?

Theoretical: If Francisco Alvarez continues to bat at or under .250 but keeps hitting home runs, how many homers would he need to get to in order to win ROTY?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: 32.3

Avatar Jay Jaffe: it’s not going to matter because Corbin Carroll is probably the NL ROY anyway. Hell, he might be the MVP.

Captain ACAB: Do you listen to any non-Fangraphs related baseball podcasts?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: as I don’t commute, can’t listen to a podcast while writing, and need music for workouts, I only listen to podcasts once in a blue moon. Kevin Goldstein’s was the closest I ever had to a regular listen, and that’s long gone.

Sammy So-so: Do you think Gary Sanchez carves out several more years of major league service time, even if as a backup? The bar is so low and it doesn’t seem like all his skills have completely vanished. Thanks.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Yes, I think he still has something left in the tank, though I don’t expect him to keep slugging .592.

Warren: Spending a week in Truro in July, favorite Cape league stadiums to check out?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’ve only been to a couple, and Orleans works very well for us — it’s supposed to be the best of the venues. Brewster, the other one I’ve been to, was fine, though.

Captain ACAB: Who is your favorite not very good baseball player from your youth?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I will always have a particularly soft spot for Mickey Hatcher, whose first major league homer happened during my first encounter with Vin Scully, on a family drive to California while listening to Don Sutton’s 50th shutout. Hatcher of course came up huge in the 1988 World Series, so I’m buying the drinks if we’re ever at the same table.

Gil: Posey isn’t a HOFer in your eyes? Just didn’t do it for long enough?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Welll, there’s a brain cramp on my part considering i’m the guy who wrote this:

Guest: What chance do the Pirates have of winning their division?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t see how any of the five NL Central teams can possibly win the division.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: But if somebody has to, maybe it is the Pirates, who are a whole lot more fun than they’ve been in awhile.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: If the Brewers could keep their rotation healthy and effective I’d favor them, but Corbin Burnes has been rather ordinary, Brandon Woodruff, Wade Miley and Eric Lauer are all hurt, and that lineup hardly looks imposing.

Captain ACAB: What player do you feel is JAWS “most wrongest” about in terms of their value or HOF worthiness?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Lou Brock, perhaps. 3,000+ hits, and had the single-season and career stolen base records. Dynamic, smart player who served a huge role on 3 pennant winners and two champions, but just 37th in JAWS in LF, two spots above the bottom-scraping Chick Hafey.

Yankees Fan: Why don’t the Yankees, given their roster construction and injury problems, do a better job of playing their prospects elsewhere? Peraza in center, Wells in LF/1B, etc. It worked well for the Cubs in the late 2010’s to have guys able to play multiple positions and the Yankees just sit there with their hands up in the air when their hitters are injured.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: They did move Cabrera off the infield last year and it worked well, but he stopped hitting this year. Peraza has his hands full handling major league pitching, so i don’t see where having him take up the outfield is going to help, and likewise, moving Wells, a catching prospect to the outfield in midseason isn’t going to happen if they still believe in his ability as a receiver (I know our prospect team has soured on him, but he has yet to log an inning in the outfield this year).

Avatar Jay Jaffe: LeMahieu has multiposition ability but it’s not so sexy when he’s not hitting. It would be great if they could suddenly mint Ben Zobrists on demand but that’s harder to do than you suggest.

Castellanos: Will the Phillies be okay without my geopolitical expertise?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I hear that they believe Schwarber is a better candidate for secretary of state.

ADHD+: What can the Cardinals expect from Jordan Walker for the rest of the year? Does he stay up in the majors?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: the guy’s hitting, which is more than I can say for the other outfielders besides Nootbar, who’s injured, so I think he has to stay up. I don’t think he’ll maintain the
.314/.385/.514 line and 10% strikeout rate he’s had since coming back but it wouldn’t surprise me if he winds up with the highest wRC+ of their outfielders.

Doug: Tatis keeps doing his thing, would MLB balk at having him at the all-star game if he’s not voted in?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: If Bartolo Colon can make an All-Star team post-suspension [and, as a reader reminded me post-chat, Jorge Polanco as well], I don’t see why Tatis couldn’t, assuming the performance merited it.

Vermonty: When will the Yankees wise up and trade away (and stop acquiring) injury prone players?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Tomorrow.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: They’ll trade every single player on the roster, introduce the Wells-Peraza-Cabrera outfield, start Deivi Garcia like he’s Old Hoss Radbourn, and storm to a pennant.

Phil: Following from Ben Clemens’s piece on low BAs today–would a guy with a BA below 200 but an above average OBP and, say, 550 HRs have a shot at the Hall? Assuming no scandals and competent but unstellar defense.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Hall voters have historically overvalued batting average, and penalized players with lower marks; that’s why it took Harmon Killebrew, with his .256 AVG and 573 homers, four years to get in. Even today,  have a hard time imagining a player with a sub-.250 AVG getting elected, but it’s not like we have anybody who’s a threat to reach 550 homers with a low AVG waiting in the wings

Steve E.: You could also have said, “Rhymes with daffy.” sunglasses

Avatar Jay Jaffe: True, and I used to enjoy reading about the “Daffy Dodgers” of the Babe Herman era.

Phil: Thanks for chatting on your vacation!

Avatar Jay Jaffe: it’s not quite a vacation, at least not yet. I’m up here for two weeks and put in about one week of work spread across that time, mostly front-loaded

Chichikov: Any former prominent FG writers who took front office jobs (Cameron, Fagerstrom, Sullivan, Cistulli, etc.) in new/different roles than what they wrote in their original departing articles?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I haven’t kept tabs on all of them but Cameron has moved on from the Padres to the Mariners, in the role of senior director of player procurement.

Ben: If Arraez someone hit .400 for the season with 6 WAR and the Marlins miss the playoffs, but Acuna has 9 WAR and the Braves win the East, how close would the MVP vote be? Would it depend on how many HR and SB Acuna gets?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: In a scenario like that, my money is on Acuña as the MVP given the multiple dimensions of his game and the tie-in to the Braves success

Avatar Jay Jaffe: ok folks, it’s time for me to catch a few rays on the deck before doing a radio thing. Thanks so much for stopping by. Stay tuned as to whether I get another one of these in next week. Until then, happy baseball!

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, and a Hall of Fame voter since 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe... and BlueSky @jayjaffe.bsky.social.

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11 months ago

I believe Jorge Polanco was also an All-Star the year after a PED suspension.