Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 8/29/19

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon, folks, and welcome to another edition of my Thursday chat. While I wait for the queue to fill, a couple of housekeeping notes. First off, either next week or the week after, I will be migrating my chat to another day, not because I don’t love you Thursday regulars (well, most of you) but because my daughter’s preschool schedule requires a bit of juggling responsibilities within our household. People always ask, “Won’t somebody think of the children?” and here, I have.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: So please do not be shocked if my next chat is on, like, a Monday or a Tuesday (the day is still TBD). Embrace the change.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Second, my piece on Aaron Judge’s recent hot streak, and the great team home run race between the Twins and Yankees, is up here. I think I set a personal best for bells and whistles — GIFs, vids, tables, spray charts — added to a piece, and so you will have plenty of things to entertain you but most notably, a Judge sentencing baseballs to die.  https://blogs.fangraphs.com/aaron-judge-is-mercilessly-punishing-baseb…

stever20: what do you think is wrong with Jansen?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Velocity. Via Pitch Info, here’s his progression for his cutter:
2016 94.2
2017 93.5
2018 92.7
2019 92.1

Avatar Jay Jaffe: That’s two full clicks gone, and with it some movement — about 2 inches of horizontal movement and an inch of vertical movement. Not great, Bob!

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Now, how much of that is mechanical versus physical, I don’t know, but it’s a pretty big deal for the Dodgers, perhaps the biggest one facing them over the next two months

Bebo: Which rebuilder do you think is most likely to make a Braves-like jump to the playoffs next year?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: IMO, it comes down to the Padres and White Sox. The path to the playoffs might be a bit easier in the AL given that I am not so sure the Indians are going to remain a force, but that’s just dart-throwing. It’s a question worth a closer look

Al Gone Quinn: Is Aquino an on base machine? Has reached base safely (H, BB, HBP) in 23 of his last 24 games.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: not with that walk rate (7.8% in MLB, 6-7% in upper minors). He’s got power for days, but his plate discipline has been a weakness in the past.

Here it’s worth remembering that Orlando Cabrera had a 63-game on-base streak in 2006, a year that he had a .335 OBP. It happens but that doesn’t mean it was likely to happen.

!!!: So, do you think the Red Sox have a realistic chance of sneaking into a wild card slot?  Which of the other contending teams seem most vulnerable (in your opinion)?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: They’re 5 games out of the 2nd WC and four behind the Rays, whom they visit for four games in late September. Their playoff odds are at 9.8%. They seem to have finally come up with a competent bullpen but their rotation is falling apart. A chance? Yes. A realistic chance? Not so much.

I am not bullish on the Mets remaining in contention based upon what I’ve seen over the past 5 days. Woof.

Steaming Hot Fajitas: If the Astros or Dodgers don’t reach the World Series, it’ll be considered a disappointment. Can the same be said for any other teams?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Well, the Yankees are the only other team with more than a 10% chance of winning the WS according to our odds — 13.5%, so double that for reaching. Clearly not a sure thing, but high enough that there’s gonna be some heartache if they fall short

Nick: The last 10 runs that Kershaw and Verlander have given up have come via solo HRs.  How long until we can go back to a de-juiced ball?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: it really is telling just how far out of whack things are when these guys are posting great K/BB ratios and getting punished for pounding the strike zone anyway by the occasional long ball. I’ll bet we see a different ball next spring, but whether MLB/Rawlings will utter a peep about it is less likely

Guest: Mark Cahna is pulling the pull more and swing less outside the zone, you do believe in the breakout?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I had a bit about him in yesterday’s ESPN Plus/Insider thing (https://www.espn.com/mlb/insider/story/_/id/27479047/which-mlb-most-im…), revisiting last week’s Most Improved Position Players list – he replaced Tim Anderson. I noted within that while he had increased his pull rate significantly, the thing about that is that teams counter it with more shifts, which will take a bite out of the ol’ BABIP sooner or later. It’s good that he’s chasing less and walking more, so i think some of the improvement will stick, just not all of it, particularly at his age (30).

v2micca: Which do you think has hurt Jansen’s cutter more, losing 2 clicks or losing 2 inches of movement?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: They go hand in hand, generally the pitch will move less with less velo, but we know batters can hit the everloving **** out of a straight fastball, so the movement might be more important. The trend, however, is being driven by the velo loss.

Derek: Does Trout have a reasonable shot at retiring as the home run king?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: beyond his own health and well-being, i guess some of that depends on how much the baseball changes. If he gets to 50 this year (needs 7), and plays through age 42, he would need to average 31.5 a year the rest of the way. Which seems doable IF — and I cannot stress this enough — he remains healthy.

Guest: Joe Musgrobe will finish with about 160ish innings pitched and 3ish WAR. If you’re the Red Sox, wanting to get back to the playoffs and compete in October, and I can guarantee you that Joe Musgrove posts those exact numbers next season, would you take 2020 Musgrove over Chris Sale and his uncertainty?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: There’s an old Bill James study that maybe he repeated more than once but the take-home is that the guy with the higher upside and higher variance is going to add more championships in the long run. The Red Sox have Sale under contract anyway, but they’ll need to replace Porcello, and aiming for a Musgrave type seems realistic given their payroll constraints.

Trent: The playoff hopes for the Phillies and Mets are looking pretty dim.  Which team has a better chance of making the playoffs in 2020?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’ll go with the Mets here because Syndergaard’s laid egg last night notwithstanding, they have a stronger rotation foundation to return to than the Phillies.

D: On Mookie Betts, which WAR value do you think is closer to the truth: bWAR or fWAR? Based on some statcast info, my guess is that fWAR is doing a better job of sorting out his defense from Jackie Bradley’s.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: It depends what you’re trying to measure. DRS strives to account for as much as it can based on what happened while UZR builds in a lot more regression. Which flavor you prefer is a matter of task and taste.

v2micca: I keep hearing intelligent people speculate that Ronald Acuña could one day be the player to knock Trout off of the best player in baseball throne.  I freaking love Acuña and love watching the kid play.  But, is he really that good, or are we setting up unrealistic expectations for him?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I love Acuña but I think that’s a stretch. He’s at 4.9 WAR this year, Trout was at 10.1 at age 21, and has basically reeled off 10-win type seasons every year like he can just copy them at Kinko’s. Sparky Anderson’s line about Johnny Bench and Thurman Munson in the 1976 World Series applies. “Don’t ever compare nobody to Johnny Bench; don’t never embarrass nobody by comparing them to Johnny Bench.”

Roger: Is there anything that could happen to prevent Trout from winning the AL MVP?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: A bout of DJ LeMahieu Fever, though the likelihood is probably less if he doesn’t win the batting title or, y’know, turns back into DJ LeMahieu.

Cove Dweller: Am I correct to assume that John Sherman will have to sell off his interest in Cleveland in order to purchase KCR?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Yes, he absolutely has to divest

Bigbopper: How many teams do you think Randal Grichuk is an everyday starter? Had an argument with friends the other day, curious what your estimate is

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Not many, if he’s putting up a 0.5 WAR season. That’s not just second-division regular territory, that’s last place/rebuild placeholder, so you’re maybe talking about half a dozen teams, most of whom will come up with better ideas later in the year anyway.

v2micca: I was thinking, if Ohtani could effectively field a corner position, would an effective use of him be to start him in the field, have him take over pitching for one or two high leverage outs starting in the 5th inning.  Move him back to his position, and then continue bringing him in as needed for high leverage outs for the rest of the game?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: IIRC, you lose the DH once you move a position player to the mound, so that’s a problem. So is the assumption that Ohtani or any player is going to be so rubber-armed that you can just send him to the mound willy nilly several times without worrying about the physical effects (beyond his normal pitch count) seems to be a stretch.

hi: How do you prefer to pick the question you answer? Most relatable to other chat members? Areas you can provide best insight? Easiest to answer? I imagine most FG guys have different answers

Avatar Jay Jaffe: like Abe Simpson, a little from Column A, a little from Column B, and so on. Usually it’s areas of best insight (very few prospect questions and almost no fantasy one) driving the choice, but I also pick the low-hanging fruit if I can be succinct, insightful and/or funny.

Gila Monster: Say a Statcast records a player with an elite sprint speed(98th percentile), but scouts put a 55 on his speed. How should I resolve that difference?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: If it’s Statcast, I want to know sample size before I answer that, but considering that speed grades are generally based on time to first base, I’m very skeptical this is actually a situation that comes up often

Pie: I know it’s early, but how do you see Bregman’s beginning stage HOF outlook?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: He’s 25 and banking his second season of 6+ bWAR. That’s pretty solid. 2 minutes in B-Ref says there’s 42 guys who have done that 2x through age 25, and I count 16 of them in the Hall (some are not yet eligible, or even active). The frequency obviously goes up as you add the # of 6-win seasons.

Cito’s Mustache: Do you think Cavan Biggio will ever be more than what he currently is? As in a low AVG, 20/20 threat who walks a ton? Basically a 2 WAR player.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Our prospect guys put a 40 FV grade on him just this past spring, which translates to a bench guy in the 0-0.7 WAR range, so being a 2-win guy, implying a 50 FV grade, would be a very positive outcome. But if he keeps slugging .362, he’s not going to get there.

Chris Antonetti: Do I pick up Corey Kluber’s option for 2020?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: For most teams, a $13.5 million option with a $1 million buyout — with another $14 million option tacked on if you pick that up — should be a no-brainer to pick up, particularly given the eroding state of the free agent market. Now, the Indians know more about Kluber’s medicals than anybody, which may given them additional insight as to how likely he is to bounce back from his early-season struggles. They also are pretty damn cheap, so maybe they screw this up even if the medicals are good, but I think they keep him

Matt: What’s your take on the spat this week between Sean Rodriguez and the Phillies fans?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: For as good as it may feel to vent like Rodriguez did, no player is ever going to win that war. The mob remains undefeated.

Alan: Russell Martin and Brian McCann are both among the top 10 catchers in career WAR; a lot of that is defense. I’m a little skeptical … In your opinion, are they legit HOF candidates?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’m definitely in the minority on this one but given how much we’ve learned about framing, I don’t think it’s implausible at all, and wrote about it back in the spring https://blogs.fangraphs.com/framing-the-hall-of-fame-cases-for-martin-…. I don’t think you can elevate Yadier Molina beyond the stats to “must-have HOFer” without doing the same for them.

By the time they’re eligible, we’ll have a better perspective on what we might call the Peak Framing era and may have also found ways to tease out pitch framing pre-1988 based on WOWY strikeout and walk rate models, not to mention staff handling. Obviously, the effects won’t be as large because of the noise level and need for regression but that kind of stuff might show us how rare their accomplishments are.

Matt: Update: The Yankees are 8 HRs behind the Twins.

Avatar Jay Jaffe:

Avatar Jay Jaffe: From today’s Judge piece

twowood: is the ball really juiced?  or simply the victim (?) of better manufacturing process?  seems like that is a huge question.  if juiced, simply revert.  if the ‘pill’ or whatever is now perfectly spherical and centered and removes the randomness from ball to ball, how do you reasonably walk that back? or have i missed this discussion somewhere?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: As Meredith Wills has said, “juiced” is a loaded term because it implies intent, Has the ball changed? Yes, demonstrably, and due to several changes in the way that it’s manufactured that were intended to be improvements. Was it a conscious attempt to increase the number of homers? Eh, i think the more plausible explanation is that when the changes yielded more homers, MLB went along with it instead of thinking too hard about the ramifications, and now we’re several steps down the road and appearing to need some intervention. How that will happen, I don’t know, but tweaking the pill, the yarn, the drying process, and so on — there are a lot of points of entry. The reality is that they need to be tested. Does anybody have the phone number for the commissioner of the Atlantic League?

Guest: Would you pick up Corey Kluber’s option in 2020?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Yes.

Guest: I meant independent of long-term or contract considerations, would you rather bet on Sale next year or take 160 above-average innings

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Sale, unless the medicals show me otherwise.

Sicnarf Loopstok: Are we seeing the last of Rougned Odor in Texas?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: He’s signed through 2022 but been an utterly terrible player for 2 years out of 3. It’s not that much money to consider him a sunk cost and move on but they can’t seem to quit him.

Dfan: I’m very impressed with May’s two-seamer, both speed and movement. Do you think he should throw it more and not try to work in his other pitches so much?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: He’s throwing it 49% of the time, per Pitch Info. That’s probably too much — only 5 guys with at least 80 IP are throwing it that frequently: Chirinos, Arrieta, Davies,  Lucchesi, and Matz. Also, it seems pretty silly to tell a 21-year-old top prospect to stop working on other pitches; he’s a talented youngster but not a finished product.

Just for FanGraphs: Do teams still abuse the 10 day IL with starters this season.  I remember hearing about it all the time in 2017, particularly with the Dodgers, and don’t think I’ve been seeing it lately, but I can’t think of any reason why they wouldn’t do that (loophole abusing aside).

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I haven’t seen the numbers for this year but the perception/belief that teams were abusing it is one reason why the IL minimum will go back to 15 days next year.

Gila Monster: But wouldn’t even a couple Statcast times be a larger sample than the scouting go sample size? Don’t scout typically grade speed and pop time on sample sizes of a game or two and assume they are relatively consistent unless they hear someone with radically different results. My examples are Tim Locastro and Lane Thomas.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: By the time a guy is drafted and reaches a prospect list, he has been subjected to far more than one or two games worth of scouting. Amateur scouts, pro scouts, cross checkers, prospect evaluators… the list is long.

J: The Cubs play the Cardinals 10 times in their last 13 games. This will make for some pretty exciting series, but isn’t that a bit much? Seems the schedule keeps getting stranger and stranger with the unbalanced schedule.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: it seems that every year people cite one high-concentration September pairing as proof that unbalanced schedules don’t work, but let me tell you, the only thing worse than an unbalanced schedule is a balanced one, as the AL had in the 1980s. That’s hot garbage even before you consider the additional air miles teams have to log. With a playoff spot on the line, would you rather the Cubs and Cardinals were getting more games against the Marlins and Padres in September instead of duking it out?

3 in 5: Discussing players who have no business being mentioned being anywhere near the HOF has become a thing. Martin and McCann? Refer back to aforementioned Sparky quote. I feel better now.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Don’t embarrass this question by comparing it to the one above.

Trevor: Is speed the most underappreciated aspect of Cody Bellinger’s game?  He’s second in MLB in home to first time, per Statcast.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Speed and athleticism, yes. He’s a hell of an outfielder.

Jaf Jayye: What happens first – a winning season in Baltimore or Trump impeachment?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: A new president.

Wilson: The Pirates and Rockies start a series today; which of those teams has been more disappointing?  And which has higher hopes for next year?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: The Rockies, who made the playoffs in back to back seasons and appeared to have one of the strongest rotation cores in the game. It’s all fallen apart.

Ryan: Does the sale of the Royals have a discernible impact on their timeline to become competitive again?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t think we know enough to answer that with any certainty, but given how little David Glass cared about winning — how loathe he was to pour resources into the team — the answer is that it’s probably accelerated, but woof, that farm system ranks 26th on The Board, so don’t hold your breath.

Jake: Why isn’t Gallegos closing for the Cardinals if he’s that much better than Martinez?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Without some kind of situation to incite change — a string of blown saves or an injury on Martinez’s part — I’m guessing that there’s a lot here that comes down to rookie vs. high-paid vet with an ego, and a manager hoping that the latter can pitch up to what he was a few years ago before the injuries.

Jim: If you have to choose one of the 2017 Yankee “Baby Bombers” – Severino, Judge and Sanchez – which do you think has the highest chance of ever making it to the HoF? I would guess Sanchez, simply because of positional adjustment but curious about your thoughts.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Despite the late start I go with Judge, because Sanchez can’t stay healthy and has eroded defensively.

Brandon Nimmo: You don’t think i can save the season?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: From what, exactly?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: OK folks, I’ve got lunch and heirloom tomatoes to buy, so i’m calling it here. thanks so much for stopping by, and keep an eye out for an announcement on my future chat schedule.

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 small point- the Cubs/Cards only play each other 7 of the last 10 games. Seems fairly reasonable.