Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 7/5/18

Jay Jaffe: Hey everybody! Thanks for stopping by today’s chat. Hopefully, you enjoyed the July 4 holiday and returned with a similar number of fingers as you had previously. Before we get into the questions, I’d like to call your attention to my upcoming appearance at Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, DC on July 14, where I’ll be signing copies of The Cooperstown Casebook and ESPN’s Keith Law will be doing the same for Smart Baseball; we’ll both discuss our books and field questions. It’s the night before the All-Star Futures Game, so if you’re in town for the event, please stop by!


And now, onto the questions….

Pio: DRS thinks Machado is a historically bad shortstop and UZR thinks he’s just regular bad. Which one do you think is closer to the truth?

Jay Jaffe: In general, I tend to prefer DRS to UZR because of the additional observational input beyond just batted ball type (both of which do have their biases, admittedly). But I think a good strategy when viewing defensive metrics is to be wary of the outliers, and DRS tends to have more than UZR does — the spread from top to bottom is generally wider. So I’ll go with garden-variety bad instead of historically bad.

Oh Mets…: I saw somewhere that the Mets are viewing Flores as their piece to move since hes controllable – but is there really any appetite at all for him? Can’t imagine the return would be that great.

Jay Jaffe: I saw the same thing and thought simiarly. Flores is a decent lefty-masher who’s stretched as a regular, and his defense on the left side of the infield is generally Not Good. He’s a useful spare-part pickup for a contending team but trading him isn’t going to do anything to change the course of the Mets’ org.

Greg: A question I never thought would be worth asking — is Nick Markakis worthy of a qualifying offer this offseason? If so, would he turn it down?

Jay Jaffe: In general, from a team standpoint I think it’s a much better idea to give a QO than not; there’s not really such a thing as a bad one-year deal, and the team gets a compensation pick if he signs elsewhere. I think Markakis’ performance merits a QO.

That said, I think the QO system can be a harsh blow to a midlevel player’s free agency, particularly in the wake of a winter where teams found excuses not to spend money. I don’t like the system even though the impact has been dialed down somewhat by the new CBA.

AA: How much more do you trust playoff projections after the trade deadline? Projecting the Diamondbacks before JD Martinez last year was clearly different than after.

Jay Jaffe: Projections center around the most likely outcomes, and JD hitting 29 homers in 62 games is so far off the charts it shouldn’t even enter your mind as a remote possibility of seeing again in your lifetime.

stever20: So what do you think the problem(s) with the Nationals is/are?  Will the schedule softening up give the Nats a real shot to get back in the race?

Jay Jaffe: The Nationals have gotten dreadful offensive production from catcher, first base and second base due to injuries, and subpar work from Bryce Harper as well. — all at a time when the Braves and Phillies have come out of their respective rebuilding programs more quickly than anticipated. The upcoming schedule should help, but getting better heath and production from those spots is the only way they’re going to go as far as initially expected.

JMac: Hello Jeff. Concerning Jose Ramirez BABIP is currently sitting at .276 should we expect a increase in production over the next month? Building on the success he has already had this season?

Jay Jaffe: Jeff? JEFF?! J-Dog my dude, you’ll have to ask the question to the right person if you want an answer.

BoJackDonkeyMan: Bryce Harper…washed up..discuss

Jay Jaffe: this is stupid. The guy is 25 years old and in a slump. You’d have to be a drooling moron to think he’s washed up. Is your stock of saliva dwindling?

AA: How many games back do the Nats have to be on deadline day to consider trading Harper?

Jay Jaffe: 87 1/2 games back

D: Is the wild-card set up unfair? (I say yes.) A 100 win team from the AL East appears destined to be forced into a play-in game while a far inferior team will skip straight to the playoffs.
I find the “well they should win the division” answer unsatisfying. It’s like saying “if the umpires are paid off, you should find a way to beat paid-off umpires.”

What do you think?

Jay Jaffe: I don’t think there’s a single system that will please all of the people all of the time. Scratch that, I know there’s no single system that will do that, whether you add teams to the postseason format or expand the wild card to best-of-3 or switch to a balanced schedule (yuck). I do think MLB giving division winners a leg up over wild card teams is a better move than not doing so.

The important thing to remember is that MLB’s playoff format is a tournament, and in a tournament, there’s always a luck-of-the-draw component as well as a chance that David knocks off Goliath.

David: Please give this depressed Twins fan something to look forward to watching for the rest of the season….

Jay Jaffe: I painted a dark picture the other day (https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-twins-2018-has-been-a-mess/) but I still think there’s hope in the long run. Eddie Rosario has been great, Byron Buxton can’t possibly be worse than he’s already been, Jose Berrios is legit, Kyle Gibson is apparently good, and Fernando Romero showed promise.

David: Who do you give your NL ROY vote to – Acuna or Soto?

Jay Jaffe: Right now I’d lean Soto but we’ve got nearly half a season — more games than the two players have combined to play — ahead of us before we have to choose.

Neal: Does Tyler O’Neill find regular playing time in StL? Is he a likely trade candidate?

Jay Jaffe: I wrote about the Cardinals’ Dexter Fowler mess in a piece that should be up at some point today. O’Neill is tearing it up at Memphis but unless the team makes a move or loses a player to injury, I don’t see how he gets regular playing time in 2018, particularly if the Cardinals are trying Jose Martinez in rightfield again in order to get Jedd Gyorko back in the lineup. Maybe that makes him a trade candidate to get that killer piece (Machado?) but I don’t know.

Scott: CC Sabathia is having another solid season. If he pitches like this until he’s 40, what are his Hall chances?

Jay Jaffe: I wrote about CC’s Hall chances earlier this year https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-reinvention-of-cc-sabathia/

If he can keep this up for a few more years it certainly will help his case, which right now feels a bit borderline; he’s low on JAWS and unlikely to get to 300 wins, though 250 is close, and his 3,000th strikeout is in the cards for next year if he returns. Right now he’s said that returning is 50/50, so I wouldn’t wager too hard on all of this continuing until he’s 40, as I imagine he’s got a pretty good idea of how much he has left in the tank.

Tyler: If Dwight Evans was a border line HOF, how was Gwynn a first ballot HOF?   Evans had more Fwar, not by much but still.

Jay Jaffe: This isn’t hard to understand. Multiple batting titles have long been a ticket to Cooperstown (for pretty much everybody besides the defensively inept Bill Madlock, at least) as has 3,000 hits, and Gwynn had a ton of that stuff as well as All-Star appearances and other accolades where Evans did not (8 Gold Gloves but just 3 All-Star Games). WAR didn’t exist during either player’s career.

Bill: Max Muncy for real? Any holes in the swing that pitchers will eventually catch on to?

Jay Jaffe: I haven’t looked at his heat maps but 20 HR by the ASB suggests he’s real, particularly on a team that turned Justin Turner and Chris Taylor from fringe players into stalwarts.

Mike: When does Buxton return?

Jay Jaffe: My guess is sometime after the All-Star break.

Anonymous Coward: Since Braves Twitter has been arguing about it recently: if you had to pick one to play SS, Johan Camargo or Dansby Swanson?

Jay Jaffe: Swanson. I haven’t heard anybody suggest that Camargo is an MLB SS long term.

Pio: A lot’s being made after Lebron to the Lakers and Boogie to the Dubs about how there’s no loyalty in NBA, not like there is in MLB but isn’t that a bunch of crap? How many of the huge monster FA contracts that are going to be handed out in the next couple of years are going to be re-signings?

Jay Jaffe: Regardless of the sport, the concept of loyalty in the age of free agency is crap used to brainwash fans into siding with billionaires against millionaires.

Ted: Should the Nats at least consider selling? Gonzalez would seemingly be the best available starting pitcher on the trade market. Flip Herrera. Trade Murphy. Harper may not bring back a Machado-like haul, but he’d definitely get something good. And of course, if they really wanted to clean out a great farm system like the Yankees’, put Scherzer on the table.

Jay Jaffe: I think that would be a remarkable and shocking reversal of course and don’t see it happening. Remember, Mike Rizzo — who has had the full backing of ownership — canned Dusty Baker after a pretty successful season in order to make a change, and if he’s going to punt on that roster at the halfway point, that’s a scathing indictment of his own command of the organization.


And again, I think the Nationals’ woes have far more to do with injuries and health than any kind of misjudgment of the talent on hand.

Justin: Rougned Odor, hot streak or turnaround?

Jay Jaffe: He’s got the walk rate and OBP up into moderately acceptable territory, and the O-Zone% has come down, to the point that he’s no longer a sub-replacement level player. But if he can’t restore the power while maintaining that, I’m not sure he’s much more than a placeholder.

Not JMAC: Hello JAY. Concerning Jose Ramirez BABIP is currently sitting at .276 should we expect a increase in production over the next month? Building on the success he has already had this season

Jay Jaffe: He’s hitting the ball pretty hard (avg ex velo 89.7) and his wOBA and xwOBA are very close (.419 and .413) already. He’s got the speed to outproduce a lower wOBA, so there’s maybe a bit of headroom, but I wouldn’t bank upon it too heavily, and don’t see much cause for concern.

Orange: Assuming the Mets trade DeGrom and Thor before the deadline, how many seasons are they saving from a full rebuild to being a contender?

Jay Jaffe: There’s no way they trade both, because of the hit they’ll take in terms of PR and at the gate, but maybe if they did they would cut a three-year turnaround to a two-year one. I honestly have no idea.

Alec: Nationals division odds of 43.5% are ________?

Jay Jaffe: based upon the assumptions of healthy players returning to form. Still seems very plausible.

Scott: There’s talk in the NBA about eliminating the conferences because of the disparity between the two. Have you heard any similar discussions about the leagues in MLB?

Jay Jaffe: Not in the context of disparity so much as the long-term thinking when it comes to expanding to 32 teams and trying to get a bit more geographic uniformity without being constrained by historical league ties. Some of the ideas being thrown around, such as what Jayson Stark wrote about at the Athletic recently (https://theathletic.com/390737/2018/06/13/stark-how-mlb-expansion-coul…) and what Tracy Ringolsby (Baseball America) and I (while still at SI.com, https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/10/19/major-league-baseball-expansion-prop…) wrote about last fall are probably too radical for the near future.

I can’t believe it was October when I wrote about that. THought it was January or so. Time flies.

Brett: How will Gleyber’s DL stint impact that Yankees moving in to the ASB?

Jay Jaffe: They have a ton of infield depth — Drury, Walker, Torreyes, Wade — so if it’s a short-term thing it shouldn’t matter much. And I haven’t heard anybody indicate it’s not a short-term thing, at least not yet.

Johnny Coconuts: Since April, J.A. Happ’s monthly K-rate and GB rate have gradually declined. How do you think this will affect his trade value?

Jay Jaffe: He’ll still be one of the best options in a weak slate of them. He’s not going to bring back the next Gleyber Torres, but that doesn’t mean the Blue Jays shouldn’t trade him.

Brett: Can we go seeding by records in each league to fix playoff formatting/wild card troubles?

Jay Jaffe: That was essentially what was done in the single-wild card era. The consensus within the game was that it rewarded the non-division winner too much. So here we are.

Will: When Lindor was a minor leaguer I thought his floor was Vizquel (which is really high praise, but that type of player) and his ceiling was a Roberto Alomar type… high average, doubles power, great defense. With this power, could he be even better than Alomar? Long way to go of course, but he’s blown past his projections.

Jay Jaffe: I think the power and the ability to play shortstop instead of second base give him a higher ceiling than Alomar.

Jay Jaffe: – a brief break while I iron out some editorial issues on today’s Fowler piece. Back soon –

Da Bum: Any signs of a Dozier rebound? Been a bad first half.

Jay Jaffe: see above-linked Twins piece. I expect some positive regression but maybe he’s just no longer elite.

Mach-ado About Nothing: What are the 2-3 teams you see Machado with after the deadline? Is there a front-runner in your mind?

Jay Jaffe: I’ve said the Cubs and Indians in various contexts before. At times it’s sounded like the Phillies could be in the mix too. I don’t really see the Dodgers tearing up their farm system to get him despite rumors

Slapshot: Do you consider the version of Javy Baez that’s played so far this season to be peak Baez?  Or more of a sign that he’s finally put all his immense talents together and this is his real breakout season?

Jay Jaffe: The guy is swinging at 48% of pitches outside the zone! And walking 3.7% of the time! He’s a hell of an entertaining player but I still don’t think he’s a finished product.

Tyler: What is a reasonable return for Mike Moustakas?

Jay Jaffe: a couple of low-level prospects who haven’t broken into anybody’s top 100

tyler: I should have phrased that differently, you said that Evans was a border line HOF.  You know about Fwar and modern metrics.  Evans also had more total bases then any player in the 80’s that is no small feat.

Jay Jaffe: Dwight Evans was an excellent player who might have been more widely hailed in a different era. As it was, his best offensive and defensive years didn’t really coincide so he only dented the bWAR top 10 twice, and I have him below the JAWS standard in RF. There are a whole lot of RF worthy of further consideration, including Boston predecessor Reggie Smith.

Jay Jaffe: Folks, there are a lot of good questions in the queue but I have to pull away for some editorial confabulation. Thanks for stopping by this week!

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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