Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 8/4/20

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon, folks, and welcome to today’s chat. While I wait fo the queue to fill, a bit of housekeeping…

Here’s my piece from today on Aaron Judge suddenly pulling the ball again https://blogs.fangraphs.com/aaron-judge-is-pulling-the-ball-again/

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Here’s yesterday’s piece on the opt-outs of Lorenzo Cain, Yoenis Céspedes et al https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/as-the-coronavirus-halts-teams-cain-ce…

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Here’s today’s FanGraphs must-read, Jon Tayler’s interview with epidemiologist Zachary Binney https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/epidemiologist-zachary-binney-on-whats…

Avatar Jay Jaffe: And here’s a lovely little tribute to the late Terry Cannon of the Baseball Reliquary and Shrine of the Eternals by John Schulian http://www.thestacksreader.com/terry-cannon-the-great-enthusiast

BB: Think we ever see Yo play again?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Yes, I think so, particularly if the designated hitter is here to stay in the NL (and I think it is) but given his injury history, he’s unlikely to find a guaranteed multiyear deal.

Dodger fan: While I don’t condone throwing at batters the length of the Kelly suspension baffles me. It’s the equivalent of a 22 game suspension in a full season. Is mlb not adjusting the suspensions to the length of the season? Or have they decided that cheaters not only don’t get punished but actually get treated (in protection) better than non cheaters?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Even as somebody who has advocated for longer penalties for pitchers who intentionally throw at hitters’ heads, I found the 8-game suspension (22-game equivalent as you say) to be egregious. MLB has shown that the length of its suspensions depends heavily on precedent, and the fact that the league has been reluctant to go to something like 15-20 games under normal circumstances raises the question of why now. Yes, Kelly’s history (he was suspended 6 games a couple of years ago) and the COVID-19 mandate might play into that, but if the league was serious about players violating the protocols on-field, why weren’t more players disciplined?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: As for the “cheater” thing, I don’t really see the point of relitigating the Astros’ sign-stealing case. The league traded immunity for information, and there’s no way that a suspension handed down by Manfred would have stuck because there was nothing in the CBA towards that end (though now there are new rules covering that area).

Joe: Judge has to be the early leader for MVP, no? Especially once his defensive metrics pick up

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’m not sure we can get too worked up about MVP candidates so long as Judge is barely outhitting <squints at notes> Hanser Alberto and Donovan Solono

Avatar Jay Jaffe: But he’s off to a hot start, and more than most of the players on the upper reaches of the leaderboard, figures to stick around. It would be fun to see what he can do if he stays healthy for a whole season, even a fragmentary one

Guest: Franchy Cordero: 1 K in 25 PAs and not a single soft-hit ball. Reason for optimism despite the early numbers?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Getting worked up in either direction over 20 or even 50 PA is generally a fool’s errand. That Cordero is averaging 94.5 mph exit velo is interesting but he’s got a 2.3 GB/FB ratio, so he’s not tapping into that power often enough (though admittedly, he does have 70-grade speed. There’s plenty of reason to be optimistic about Cordero based on his power-speed combo, but I don’t think we’ve learned a lot that we didn’t know in two weeks, other than that he’s hopefully healthy.

Marko from Tropoja: Excluding this shortened year, how many more 5+ WAR seasons does deGrom need before he’s on the Scherzer late-bloomer HOF path? 2? 3?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: if it’s just 5-WAR seasons, more like at least 4; if he had four of exactly 5.0, he’d be at something like 56/43/49 JAWS, which is slightly ahead of where Cole Hamels is, but with a much higher peak.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: From a JAWS standpoint, he needs Cy Young-caliber seasons in the 7.0 vicinity to really make up for lost time.

Human Rain Delay: Opinion on Bellinger’s funk? Or just “April”?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: He funked the hell out of one last night, 108 mph, 35 degree launch

Cody Bellinger has the #Dodgers within one run in the ninth after a solo home run. #mlb #padres
4 Aug 2020
JJ: in re to the kelly punishment, Manfred specifically called against throwing against the Astros in the offseason.  That combined with Kelly’s history probably played into the 8 game suspension.  Everyone was warned, he intentionally threw at 2 players anyways.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Fair point, though I still think we’re still talking something closer to 15 games based on a full season.

here’s an interesting thread from labor lawyer Eugene Freedman, who has written for us in the past

There are a couple things here. First, 8 games is worth about 22 games in a regular season, so it’s out of proportion. But, MLB referenced prior discipline for Joe Kelly for intentional throwing at another player. Progressive discipline provides for increasing penalties 1/

Joe Kelly and Dave Roberts suspended for Dodgers-Astros incident:
29 Jul 2020
Jorge Posadism: I asked Ben this question yesterday but do you know if anyone has looked into umpires being rusty after the long layoff? And do you know how one would if someone hasn’t done it yet?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I doubt anybody has looked into this because i don’t think we’ve had many cases of long layoffs for umps. I guess you’d want to look at their called strike accuracy but I have no idea what the year-to-year correlations for that are like, or how many calls you need before a sample stabilizes.

Human Rain Delay: Odds that the season is cancelled? Seems likely we won’t get a full 60 game schedule.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Who knows? Obviously, MLB is determined to bluster and blunder ahead in the face of even simultaneous single-team outbreaks. I think if it’s shown that the virus can cross teams through on-field play, that might give pause, but the only thing I’d bet on is that MLB will do less than most of us think they should do.

Gil: While I want the Astros to be punished as much as anyone, people seem to be missing the fact that many players and fans are advocating for punishments that were not negotiated into the CBA which is why the Astros got off so light in the first place. The MLBPA was never going to allow their players to be made examples of. It’s part of what they’re supposed to fight against. What else is supposed to happen exactly especially now that there are punishments on the books for sign stealing? We can’t retroactively enforce them

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good points here. People want to be angry, and they’re still angry at the Astros, and that’s their right — but that doesn’t mean you can just go off the books to punish them beyond what the CBA says.

Human Rain Delay: Like or dislike 7inning Double header rules? Seems reasonable,but still funny to see a CG at low pitch count.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t love the rule, but so long as it’s contained to this season, I’m fine with it.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Particularly given the rash of pitcher injuries we’re seeing. Read Eno here https://theathletic.com/1961073/2020/07/29/baseballs-predicted-injury-…

Chris: Does fangraphs tag blog posts by team so that it’s sortable by team?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Yes. See https://blogs.fangraphs.com/category/yankees/ or whatever team your choice is (scroll down in the Categories column on the far right column of the page).

Mike Ortman: Will we see Shohei pitch again?  Will the Angels say enough of the experiment, or does he have pitching built into his contract?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’m writing about Ohtani for tomorrow. Still awaiting MRI results, which I imagine we’ll get later today. I’d guess it’s quite possible he doesn’t get to pitch competitively this year based on the injury, but unless he decides to pack it in — or has re-torn his UCL — I’m skeptical that we’ve seen the last of his attempts to pitch.

James: Did you catch any of Paddack v the Dodgers last night? He looks like a three pitch pitcher now.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Only a little, as I was writing the Judge piece and spinning some funky Lee Dorsey compilation, so I didn’t really have much time to focus on Paddack.

Human Rain Delay: Kershaw at 93 mph. Is that significant, or just in context to not throwing at that speed 2+ years ago?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: significant in the context of his own performance. Via Pitch Info, he averaged 92.3 mph in that start, which is faster than either of the past two seasons. Let’s see if he can maintain that over multiple starts before trying to read much more than that into it, but it’s a good sign

Carter: Let’s play a little career-homerun before and after:  Can any combination of players beat Hank Aaron Judge?  If you’re loose with the spelling, you could make a good effort with Ted William(s) Clark, or Eddie Mat(t)hew(s) Holliday, or Darrell Evan(s) Longoria.     But as far as legitimate candidates, I’m stuck on the likes or Lou Brock Holt.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Hmm, Hank Aaron Judge gets 755 + 112 = 867 homers. I’ve got Frank Robinson Cano at 586 + 325 = 911.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Can think of some other combos that will get you over 700: Jeff Barry Bonds, Gary Alexander Rodriguez

Jason: Outside of yesterday’s 6th inning and that one Ohtani inning, the A’s haven’t been able to hit at all. Do you think they get back to being an above average lineup or are they not as good as everyone thought?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I still think they’ll be fine. Chapman and Olson haven’t produced but there’s no reason to think that they won’t come around

Beane: Asstros losing Osuna for season, maybe more (want a second opinion that’s not TJS) … A’s chances at division title?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: If the door is open for the A’s, it has far more to do with the loss of Verlander than Osuna.

Chris: Will the Marlins have to dfa 18 players to return their 58 man 40 man to 40 when players return from covid?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I was wondering the same thing. Don’t really know the answer yet. Have to think they get some leeway on that front, either officially from the league or as a courtesy (teams not claiming guys they outright)

BASEBALL SZN: It’s starting to look like 2019 wasn’t a fluke for Gio Urshela and that he is here to stay.  Do you agree?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Something definitely changed with regards to his swing and approach. Jake Mailhot had a look last August https://blogs.fangraphs.com/gio-urshela-powers-up/

WinTwins0410: Jay, in your 4/25/2019 chat, you wrote that Frank Tanana had more in common with C.C. Sabathia (who I think we all agree is headed to HoF eventually) than Jamie Moyer (https://blogs.fangraphs.com/jay-jaffe-fangraphs-chat-4-25-19/). Could you expand on your thoughts on Frank and the HoF? The facts: Fine pitcher, lots of wins (240), 57.1 WAR, and high strikeout total (2,773 — more than Spahn, Christy Mathewson and Bob Feller), but also that 3.66 ERA. Three questions: 1) Not Cooperstown-worthy, in your view? 2) If not, did Tanana really deserve to have gotten *zero* votes when he was up on his lone time on the writers’ ballot? (Even Moyer drew 10 votes in his sole year on the ballot.) And 3) Could you see Frank eventually sneaking onto a future small-committee ballot?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Tanana was briefly a top-shelf pitcher early in his career, with strikeout and ERA titles, and two top-4 finishes in the Cy Young voting by the time he was through his age-23 season. His 28.2 WAR to that point is 6th among post-1900 pitchers behind Feller, Walter Johnson, Blyleven, Gooden, and Mathewson. https://stathead.com/sharing/n9mk8 Then he hurt his arm through overuse, his profile changed, and he became a crafty lefty who stuck around forever and was basically league average for about 16 years.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Sabathia was a top-flight pitcher for longer, while Moyer was really a late bloomer. I don’t really see much cause to put Tanana in the Hall of Fame, but he’s a Hall of Very Good guy for sure

Farhandrew Zaidman: I saw a quote from Bellinger today that he reverted to last year’s swing after the changes he made this offseason didn’t appear to be working thus far. What’s the logic behind changing an MVP swing in the first place?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Some guys have one swing they stick with, others are always tinkering despite their success. Cal Ripken was a notorious tinkerer, for example. Physical state, a drive to improve, and the constant cat-and-mouse game of adjustments all play into the mindset of a tinkerer, I’d say

Guest: Thought’s on Alonso’s struggles so far?  About the only good thing has been his walk rate…

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I haven’t watched him for more than a few PA but his quality of contact hasn’t been anywhere near as good in terms of both GB/FB and exit velo. He might have some mechanical issues that need fixing. It’s worth a closer look, given how bad he’s been

Dave: What’s for lunch?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: leftovers from Han Dynasty, which is finally back up and running after 4 1/2 months of closure. I love their Dry Fry Pork even if it does give me the sweats.

gabekaplerscoconuts: How many games to teams like the phillies really need to play?It seems insane to play 57 games in 56 days with all the injuries and the likelihood of more postponed or cancelled games

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I can’t see them getting to 60, but maybe 55? it might depend on whether or not they’re in the playoff picture.

Laffey Tuffy: Are there any players that you’re following this season in foreign leagues?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I still keep an eye on the KBO, but it’s tougher now with MLB up and limping. I’m mostly just tracking the names that became familiar to me during my several-week immersion — Jose Miguel Fernandez, Mel Rojas Jr., Sung-Bum Na, Euiji Yang — but there are some guys who have emerged since then that I’m curious to learn about .

P: Bieber>Judge 2020 AL MVP

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Bieber has been impressive, no doubt, and he may be a legit Cy Young contender. I’d be surprised if he or any pitcher gets much traction in an MVP race given that he’s likely to pitch at most 12 games.

Dodger fan: Re manfreds comments that just makes things worse. It’s sounds like mlb has a double standard where the Astros get preferential treatment

Avatar Jay Jaffe: They’re getting a fair bit of protection from MLB in light of the threat of actual injury to their players, but I don’t think they’re getting preferential treatment.

Guest: Sonny Gray is fire again, and as an A’s fan, it’s so great to see. What’s going on here: praise to the Reds, blame to the Yankees, or is just Sonny re-finding Sonny?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think it has a lot to do with reuniting with Derek Johnson, who was his pitching coach at Vanderbilt and is now the pitching coach of the Reds. Eno Sarris and Trent Rosecrans had a good piece about the two and the Reds staff last year https://theathletic.com/1166326/2019/08/29/how-reds-pitching-coach-der…

Farhandrew Zaidman: Starting pitchers league-wide are averaging just over 4.5 IP/GS, which has obviously resulted in fewer W for SP. With traditional SP counting stats being considered less and less for Cy Young voting each year, is this the year we see the dam break?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Hey, the Cy Young winner may have more wins than Jacob deGrom did in one of his CY seasons.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think we’ve already seen the adjustment take place. Voters are looking at things besides win totals — strikeouts, ERA, FIP, WAR (both flavors) and more

Re: Ohtani: Didn’t the MRI results come back yesterday? Revealing a forearm strain?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: My bad, yes they did. Brain cramp on that one. Grade 1-2 flexor pronator strain, out 4-6 weeks. Not good as far as pitching again this year unless things go very well.

Your Name: So I just read a piece by some Braves columnist talking about why Puig would not have been a good fit in Atlanta (fine), and then asserting “it is not surprising to many people he tested positive for the coronavirus”. Am I wrong in thinking that’s a pretty sleazy  and crappy thing to say?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: that is a shitty and unprofessional thing to say

the487: Grover Cleveland Alexander Rodriguez

Avatar Jay Jaffe: alas Grover Cleveland Alexander (better known as Pete) only hit 11 homers in his career

Pumpsie Green: Is GB% one of those stats that cements fairly early in a career, say like K%? Or is it more volatile year-to-year? Thinking about Vlad Jr specifically.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: you’re welcome to go digging for a more recent study but groundball rate and GB/FB head the list for year-to-year correlations via this https://blogs.fangraphs.com/basic-pitching-metric-correlation-1955-201… . That has a lot to do with a pitcher’s repertoire and style of pitching; few pitchers make full overhauls that change them from groundballers to flyballers.

WisconsinRev: Since WAR is a counting stat and since a 3 to 4 WAR season in 2020 would be really good is there any way to “adjust” JAWS so that a 3 WAR season is more valuable in a shortened 2020 season than in a usual season? Or is JAWS already factoring in shortened seasons (due to injuries, etc.)?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t make any mathematical adjustments for strike years or war years when it comes to JAWS, but it’s context that should definitely be taken into account. For example, Kenny Lofton leading the AL with 7.2 WAR in 1994 but losing about 1/3 of the season to the strike and winding up a couple points short of the standard in JAWS shouldn’t really change anybody from a yes to a no.

Your Name: Is this a year when pitch speed ratings are being determined by different technology? I’ve noticed DeGrom seems 1-2mph faster, and you were talking about Kershaw. Are velocities showing a bit higher across the board?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Statcast changed technologies, from TrackMan radar to Hawk-Eye cameras. I haven’t seen anybody do a comparison to see if the new tech is giving significantly different readings but I’ve heard that it’s been a scramble to get the new system up and running given <broad gesture at everything> so yes, I think it’s possible we’re seeing some data distorted by that. To what extreme, I can’t say

Mike Ortman: In Cooperstown Casebook, you often reference that 2000 hits has been an unofficial prerequisite set by the voters to get into the HOF.  Personally I think it should be case by case, but in general they aren’t wrong.  Or at least there are more deserving guys that have crossed the 2000 hit line.  Who are your top five sub 2000 hit HOF candidates?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Roughly in order: Minnie Miñoso, Dick Allen, Bobby Grich, Thurman Munson, Andruw Jones, and eventually Chase Utley

Kiermaier’s Piercing Green Eyes: How cheating is Moises Alou Gehrig? (825)

Avatar Jay Jaffe: LOL, points for creativity there.

Rockland C: If I look up the Marlins opening day roster and then compare it to whatever their active roster is in tonight’s game, will it be as easy as simply seeing which 18 players aren’t on the current roster in order to tell which players are out with covid?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: We know a bunch of names but not all of them, but chances are that the rest will be placed on the COVID-19 injured list, which will ID the rest.

Nick: Re: HRs: Hank Aaron Boone actually beats Judge (for the time being) and look out for Joe Carter Kieboom in a couple decades! (signed, irrational Nats fan)

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good catch on Boone (126 homers to Judge’s 112).

Human Rain Delay: Thoughts on playing normal baseball in extras, then consider it a tie after 12 inning? Like they do in Japan?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I greatly prefer that rule, honestly. The KBO uses it as well. IIRC, last year there were 7 ties among 10 teams in a 144-game season, the equivalent of 24 in a full MLB season

Human Rain Delay: Think there’s a chance for mlb to cap games played at 50 or 55 to allow all teams to play the same amount?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: As a possible fallback, it makes some sense.

Panda Sandoval: I don’t know how to evaluate MLB hitters when watching games on TV other than by results. Any tips to get me started learning more about visually assessing swings from broadcasts?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: It’s very tough; a lot of it needs to be done after the fact, and even if you’re looking at GIFs/video, you have to contend with off-center cameras and such. It’s worth looking at the Statcast data both for batted balls and for zone breakdowns.

WinTwins0410: Jay, is there a HoF case for Sal Bando, in your estimation?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Wait, I have something for this… an outtake from an ESPN insiders piece on each team’s most deserving player outside the Hall; ultimately I changed to McGwire for the A’s but here’s what I wrote about Bando:

“The line for third basemen to get into Cooperstown starts in Oneonta,” I wrote in The Cooperstown Casebook, my 2017 tome about my Hall of Fame research. Indeed, with just 15 third basemen enshrined, fewer than any other position besides catcher, there’s a sizable handful of worthy honorees on the outside looking in, starting with Scott Rolen and Dick Allen but also including Ken Boyer, Graig Nettles and Bell. Not to be forgotten from this list is Bando, who debuted with the A’s in 1966 and served as their regular from 1968-76, a span that includes their three straight championships and five straight AL West titles.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Like many of the aforementioned third basemen, he combined power (242 career homers with a high of 31, and five seasons of at least 20), patience (at least 80 walks in a season six times, with a high of 118, and eight seasons in the AL top 10), and above-average defense (+36 runs, though no Gold Gloves at a time when Brooks Robinson was an automatic choice). Bando finished among the AL’s top 10 in WAR seven times from 1969-78 (the last of those as a Brewer), and his seven-year peak score of 44.4 exceeds the position’s standard (43.1) though his JAWS is a bit below (53.0 verus 5.7 for the standard). A short-ish career (just 110 games after age-35, and 8,289 career PA) left him well short of 2,000 hits (1,790), and his .254 batting average doesn’t help, but he would be a decent selection given his prominent role in the green-and-gold dynasty.

Mike Ortman: Let’s ask one question in honor of Terry Cannon, who will be greatly missed.  Who would be your top three candidates for the Reliquary?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: ooh, let me pull up the list from this year’s candidates

Avatar Jay Jaffe: John Thorn, whose writing and research has greatly illuminated our understanding of the game all the way back to its origins.

Hideo Nomo, for his work as a trailblazer in opening up the game to players from Japan

Melissa Ludtke, for her pioneering work as a reporter who fought battles that paved the way for other women to cover baseball

Terry: How did Willie Davis (60 WAR) not even make it onto the HOF ballot?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think it had something to do with his going to Japan and then escaping notice once he returned, though there may be more nefarious readings of his case.

daro: What the Twins needs to win it all? an Ace? more RP?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: For me the issue is the starting pitching. Rich Hill is already hurt again, and I don’t see a frontliner that can match up with the game’s aces in a short series.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Folks there are a ton of good questions in the queue but my dance card for the rest of the afternoon is a full one. Thanks so much for stopping by, and let’s do this again next week! Stay safe.

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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3 years ago

Frank Thomas Brunansky is at 792. I think the Frank Robinson Cano will be the winner until Judge eventually mashes his way up the career list.

I was somewhat amazed to learn that Grady Sizemore has the same amount of career home runs as Kevin Youkilis. I never realized Grady even put together enough of a career to get 1k hits, 150 home runs, and 27 bWar.