Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat -7/11/19

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon, folks, and welcome to today’s chat. Just moments ago I filed my lengthy tribute to Jim Bouton, who passed away yesterday [Update: https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/pitcher-author-everyman-hero-jim-bouton-1939-2019/]. He had a massive impact not only on the culture at large, but on me personally, as I crossed paths with him several times. Thus I’m more than a little verklempt. I’ll begin the chat in  few minutes, after I take a breather and order lunch. Your patience is appreciated.

Xolo: How much do you think Syndergaard might bouce back by simply getting away from the Mets?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Given the state of their wretched defense, which ranks last in the NL in UZR and Defensive Efficiency, quite a bit. For one thing, he’s got a 3.98 FIP compared to a 4.68 ERA, and additionally has received below-average pitch framing. For another, the atmosphere in that clubhouse may well be a factor, particularly considering the recent change in pitching coaches. I’d imagine he pitches much better if he changes scenery, and I do think that if the Mets commit to dealing him, he would be the deadline’s top target, ahead of Bumgarner.

Dave from Modesto: I apologize if this seems combative, but why did you feel the need to bring up “service time shenanigans” in the first sentence of your article about the Home Run Derby? And do you legitimately feel that the only reason Alonso wasn’t promoted last season was service time concerns? (defense, playing time available given other guys on the roster, 40-man concerns played no role?)

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Major League Baseball and its teams use the All-Star week festivities to highlight the product they’re offering. I think a marquee event during which people are taking stock of the sport most pressing issues — the CBA, the home run tide, etc — is a perfect time to highlight its efforts to undermine its own product. And no, I don’t believe there’s any other credible explanation for Alonso’s belated arrival outside of financial ones, given that he’s proven to be defensively adequate.

J: Highly recommend Xifu over on Livingston and Nevins for lunch. Don’t think they deliver but it’s like $5 for a huge spicy and sour soup with 10 dumplings.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Thanks! I’ve been there a couple of times but not recently. I did order from Oh Dumplings, so we’re sort of of the same mind right now. Mmmm dumplings.

BleacherRat: Can you express your opinion on Bumgarners value going into the trade deadline😊

Avatar Jay Jaffe: It’s somewhat depressed relative to his peak and the fact that he becomes just a two- (or three-) month rental. His velocity has rebounded but his strikeout rate is nothing special. From 2013-16, every year he had a K%+ of at least 120, where now he’s at 108 https://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=pit&lg=all&qual=y…. Hi numbers are also disguised by his pitching in a very favorable park; he has a 95 ERA- and 94 FIP-, compared to career marks of 82 and 87. He’ll bring back something of value if dealt, but it won’t be a game-changer for SF.

BenZ: Even without factoring defensive value, Mike Trout has been 47.1 offensive runs above average so far this season. That is more than Carlos Santana and Alex Bregman combined. Or exactly Dan Vogelbach AND Mookie Betts AND Jorge Polanco combined. I just thought you should know this.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: You are preaching to the choir.

Overbearing Padre: If you were Preller, what would you offer the Mets for Syndergaard?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: A big problem with a Padres-Mets matchup for Syndergaard is that the Mets already face logjams in two areas where the Padres have surplus, namely corner outfield (Renfroe, Reyes, Franchy, Myers) and middle infield (Urias). If I’m BVW, I’m trying to build a deal that brings back Chris Paddack or MacKenzie Gore, because the blowback from trading Syndergaard is going to be harsh, and receiving a potential top-of-the-rotation arm would soften that. The problem with expanding the deal in order to get that — say, by including Dominic Smith — is that the Padres already have Eric Hosmer parked at 1B for the next half-century or something. I don’t think the two teams fit together well, but maybe a 3-team blockbuster could work.

Mitch: What say you, did MLB doctor baseballs purposefully to increase offense as Verlander asserts?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I wouldn’t go that far. As Meredith Wills wrote recently (https://theathletic.com/1044790/2019/06/25/yes-the-baseball-is-differe…), MLB’s own committee documented numerous minor manufacturing changes from recent years that together have yielded a much more aerodynamic ball. On the one hand, I think that was largely an unintended consequence, though the gradual rise in home runs wasn’t something that concerned the league or teams until the past couple of years.

That said, it seems ridiculous to think that MLB, which now owns Rawlings, is unaware of the company’s processes and their potential impact. As I’ve written before (See BP’s 2012 book Extra Innings), the construction of the ball has been somewhat shrouded in secrecy, and the league never offers anybody who has scientific insight to discuss what’s going on. Bottom line, though, I think the league needs to listen to the Verlanders and dial this back somehow.

Sirras: If you’re a bit further into downtown, Yaso Tangbao also has fairly good dumplings

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Eh, I’m much closer to that one and it’s … OK at best. I feel like I can never get out of there without spending $15-20 for a multi-item lunch that’s in the spirit of the “Shanghai street food” that they’re selling.

Steve from Shreveport: Quick follow up to the Alonso call-up time question. They mostly played Dom Smith and Jay Bruce at first in September- Smith was their top 1B prospect going into the season and hadn’t had consistent opportunities at first before September, and Bruce was a guy they were trying to showcase at 1B for trade purposes. Alonso wasn’t on the 40, and they would have had to DFA someone to bring him up. Would the benefits of promoting Alonso, would the benefits have outweighed the costs?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: It’s a fair point about Smith, but Bruce  — man, that contract was obsolete the day it was signed. As for DFAing somebody, the flotsam on the roster of a 77-85 team isn’t worth a second thought. God forbid they risk losing Corey Oswalt (hypothetically speaking) by trying to outright him.

Fang Raphs: Congrats to Bubba Starling on finally getting his MLB call-up! Nice to see a prospect who didn’t live up to expectations grinding his way to the highest level in spite of all the setbacks.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good for him! I know that my old Prospectus colleague Jason Parks, now the director of pro scouting for the Diamondbacks, must be happy, as he touted and documented Bubba’s ups and downs.

Changing ball: I assume the ball has always changed and we simply have the tools at our disposal to know it now. Do you think knowledge of the ball will affect future Hall voters’ analysis of player worthiness or do voters tend to look at what the player did in his era?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: The past quarter-century has turned high home run totals — 500 and above — from being an automatic Hall of Fame qualifier to something eyed with suspicion due to the influx of PEDs and the era’s soaring home run rates. That plus we now have the tools to more fully measure players’ value than just triple crown stats. I imagine that 10 or 20 years from now, an increasingly sophisticated electorate will have internalized most of this.

brad: Jay, if 1 WAR is worth about $6-8M, and I have heard it quoted higher, and trout averages 9ish WAR a year, also WAR isn’t linear so  the more WAR in one player ie one roster spot the more value it should have, then isn’t trout worth about $65-80M per year?  I don’t hear people saying he signed “cheap”, but it seems like he did…. what am I missing? yes he wasn’t a FA, but he was getting close to it

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Allow me to let Craig Edwards make the case, as he did upon Trout signing his extension https://blogs.fangraphs.com/mike-trout-leaves-money-on-the-table-again…

Matt W: The most underrated thing to do before a Mets game is go to flushing and eat your weight in dumplings before the game. I always suggest Dumpling Galaxy to first-timers, though if you’re more adventurous I say go to Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao for the soup dumplings. Or go to Corner 88 for duck buns, only $1 each, grab a dozen to take in to the stadium.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I appreciate the tip and will gladly share it. Dumplings for all!

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Speaking of which, here’s a track shared by Stereolab (one of my all-time favorite bands) upon announcing the reissue of Emperor Tomato Ketchup earlier this week. It’s called “Freestyle Dumpling” https://stereolab.bandcamp.com/track/freestyle-dumpling

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Damn it, I just realized my lunch order didn’t go through. Damn you, Seamless!

LenFuego: Since 1908, only 25 players have had more than the 27 HRs that Lourdes Gurriel Jr. has hit through his first 118 games (including 7 games where he got no more than 1 plate appearance).  He is now lifetime .291 with 27 HRs through 477 plate appearances, and seems to be getting better, not worse.  Is it possible this guy is way better than people are giving him credit for?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Let’s remember that Gurriel is doing this at a time when home run rates are at an all-time high. Historical comparisons that center solely on home run totals need to be taken with a grain of salt in that context. Yes, Gurriel may be better than initially believed, but he’s also being rewarded for adapting to the game’s current conditions. Note that last year he had a 1.32 GB/FB ratio, where now he’s flipped that to 0.87. The rewards for elevating the ball have never been higher, and while it’s great that he’s adapted, it doesn’t make him unique.

v: Will Encarnacion be the first non-PED-accused 500 HR guy not to make the hall? (not sure if Sheffield counts)

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Encarnacion is 36 and has 405 homers, but his offense is becoming increasingly one-dimensional, so I don’t think it’s a guarantee that he makes it to 500, particularly if he expects to keep making $20 million a year.

Sheffield appeared in the BALCO report, and by his own account did use PEDs, albeit with a more plausible explanation than just about every other player mentioned. See https://blogs.fangraphs.com/jaws-and-the-2019-hall-of-fame-ballot-gary…

Jake m : Would I be ridiculous to propose the White Sox should go after Puig this offseason? Last three seasons Puig has had an .820 OPS overall. During that same time frame the right field for the white sox as a whole has had a .715 OPS- I get he is inconsistent and can be considered mercurial, although I never really bought that narrative myself and enjoy watching Puig have a good time. I feel he’d be a major upgrade for the sox and an OF composed of Eloy, Luis Robert, and Puig sounds fun as hell.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: It will be very interesting to see how Puig’s free agency is regarded. I do think his reputation will work against him, and that teams might be leery of the impact he’ll have on their clubhouse. That said, offhand the South Side seems like it might be a good fit. I guess we’ll see.

BleacherRat: What are your thoughts on the SF Giants super expensive core of non-hitting hitters? Posey, Crawford, Longoria

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Time remains undefeated, and the Giants’ rebuilding effort was overdue. Posey is probably a Giant for the duration of his career unless he wants out, and that contract will be difficult to move even if that’s the case. Trading for Longoria appeared to be a big risk at the time, and it hasn’t played out well. Crawford is a player on whom they should have tried to sell high at the first inkling of a rebuild.

LenFuego: There is nothing “shenanigans” about a major league team following the rules that were collectively bargained by the players to time the period of a player’s controllability with the period he is most useful to the team.  Save your denigrating language for the rules themselves, not the teams that smartly follow those rules.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: As Sheryl Ring pointed out several times during her tenure at FanGraphs, there’s the letter of the rule and the spirit of the rule, and those two things differ when it comes to the way that teams manipulate service time. Just because something is legal doesn’t make it ethical, and I’ll take the players’ side on this one.

Save your outrage for the executives who are compromising the on-field product.

Sweetie Pie: Hey Jay. Who do you foresee performing better 2nd half: Corey Seager or Paul DeJong? On the SP side, Archer or Musgrove? Any commentary?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’d have to look more closely at the indicators, but my hunch on the position player side is DeJong, who’s presumably healthy. It’s a shame that Seager was just heating up before he got hurt, and as we saw during April, he had a very hard time recovering his old form. As for Archer vs. Musgrave, the demonstrated upside of the former is much higher, but man is he lost in the weeds right now, so I’ll go with Musgrove.

Draftnik: With 3 more healthy years — not at his 2019 149 ERA+, but something closed to league average — Cole Hamels would be above 3,000 strikeouts, around 200 wins, plus in the 65-70 range in WAR. Plus 100 IP in the ostseason with good numbers. Does that starting pitcher make the Hall?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think CC Sabathia’s case will be a harbinger of what’s to come for Hamels, assuming he can stay healthy enough to reach those milestones. He won’t have the Cy Young award, but he will have the championship, and that might be enough.

kd: Jay.   As a writer, how do your pre-conceived notions impact your writing?  Do you make a special effort to “let the data take you where it may”?  I ask this, since we live in a world now where the loud voices have a story they want to tell and, thus, find the data that can support that story (and leave the rest behind).

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Because there are so many things to pay attention to — so many players to track, and story lines to attend to — just about every time I analyze a player I have to do so from a fresh perspective. People ask me to check into Joey Votto (for example), whom I’ve maybe seen half a dozen plate appearances from this yer, and I have to catch up, so it’s incumbent upon me to approach the data with a fresh eye.

I may have strong opinions, and on Twitter you can get the impression that sometimes I have a hair trigger, but by body of work shows that I’m not a hot-take artist. By the time I publish something, I’ve poured hours of research into it, chosen and checked every word choice, and then and it’s passed through the filter of an editor whose job description includes protecting writers from their worst impulses and habits. Part of the joy of this job is letting the data take you to unexpected places. I wouldn’t sacrifice that.

Chris: Why hasn’t Cleveland been more interested in available outfielders? The mariners and Padres have cheap, controllable excess players and yet nothing

Avatar Jay Jaffe: The answer probably is similar to the reason that they botched things this winter; their budget. That said, it’s unfair to judge a team on the caliber of players they’re linked to via the rumor mill, because that can include a lot of misdirection and public relations expectation management (I wrote about this in the context of the White Sox’s public dalliances with Harper and Machado this winter https://blogs.fangraphs.com/harper-or-machado-megadeal-would-be-out-of…). Let’s see whether they can fill their glaring needs, or cut corners again.

Dan: Manfred coming into office said MLB saying the game needed more offense, and by mid-2015 it had it. Would it really be that hard to use the pre-2015 baseball as a model to “redesign” the ball? As a long-time fan I find the 2019 game as Verlander said, “a joke.”

Avatar Jay Jaffe: If the equipment and materials have changed, it might be difficult or cost-prohibitive to backtrack directly, but I do think MLB will have to try to find a reference point to target if they’re to take an active attempt to restore order in the home run department. I’m not sure the 2014 ball, which produced the lowest home run rates in around a quarter century, is where they want to be either.

Balked: In terms of the old-timer pitchers pre data revolution, how much do we know about skills vs. today’s players? Just wondering if a guy like Christy Mathweson would be like Jason Vargas in today’s game or still exceptional.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: that’s a tough one. I think what we always have to keep in mind is that our era-transpanted players would have modern means of training, nutrition, video, etc.  And I will never believe that Christy Mathewson, renowned throughout the game as a gentleman of the highest order, should be compared to Jason Vargas, a chump who should have been much more severely reprimanded for his threats of physical violence against Tim Healey.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: OK folks, my dumplings have arrived and I’m famished. Please keep an eye out for the Bouton tribute, and thanks for stopping by today.

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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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1) It actually is against the rules to hold someone down strictly for service time reasons is it not? Which is why players like Kris Bryant filed grievances about it. It’s just basically impossible to really prove that that’s the reason. So, I don’t think it is correct to say that owners are just following the rules as they were bargained. They just know they can get away with it if they say “he needs more work on defence”.

2) Seriously, who cares if it’s the smart thing to do by the numbers? It is the wrong thing to do. It sucks. It means fans don’t get to see a potentially great player. It means players don’t get paid as well. 7 years from now tell me how much joy you got out of not seeing Vlad in the majors for a whole year when he should have been there. But really, numbers can tell you the rational thing to do, but there actually are many times when the rational thing to do is not the right thing to do.


It’s not the ‘wrong’ thing to do anymore than it’s wrong for players to keep contractually guaranteed money if they fail to play well.

As noted above, these are the terms of a mutually agreed upon, collectively bargained structure.

And of course it’s also false that “the executives who are compromising the on-field product“. It’s possible that could be the case over a given week or month – but not over the life of a deal. Which is what a thoughtful front office should be concerned with.

My thanks to those who called Jaffe out on his pettiness; it’s consistent on this topic. At one point FanGraphs was focused more on things like intelligent allocation of resources and less on ideological axe-grinding.


They’re actually not allowed to keep people down for service time reasons. That is why no gm can ever tell the truth about why someone is being held in the minors. It is easy for them to get around this, which is why it happens all the time, but it is not, in fact, following the collective agreement.

Anyway, we’re all probably going to boil alive in the rising ocean one day because corporations just innocently wanted to allocate their resources intelligently.