Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 8/8/19

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Hello, sports fans! Welcome to another edition of my Thursday chat. In 24 hours, I’ll be arriving in Boston for this week’s Saberseminar along with several of my colleagues, and if you’re in the area tomorrow night, we’d like you to join us for some snacks, adult beverages, and baseball chatter https://blogs.fangraphs.com/instagraphs/fangraphs-saberseminar-boston-…

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Now, on with the show…

Chris: What would it take for you to advocate the MVP for someone who didn’t lead the league in war?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t think one has to go strictly by a WAR leaderboard to choose an MVP. First off, we have multiple versions of WAR that have different inputs, both with regards to pitching models and defensive metrics, and each of them can help illuminate different aspects of what we’re trying to reward.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Second, we can certainly bring some other stats and context there. WPA and clutch metrics can be part of the discussion. Absences due to injury (that player may have missed some games but been better on a prorated basis as far as WAR is concerned, or he may have come up big while a key teammate was injured), changes in role, particularly strong performances against a division rival or down the stretch… The bottom line is that we don’t need to be slaves to the decimals. The WAR leader is still gonna be the WAR leader whether or not he gets the hardware.

Jim: Tony’s article got me thinking… how many homeruns would Cruz need to hit to even have a shot at the HOF? Or will the PED suspension be too much to overcome regarldess?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Given that we have yet to see a previously suspended player elected, and that even some players who hit a metric ****-ton of homers and weren’t suspended but were otherwise connected to PEDs  haven’t been elected either, I think it’s pretty clear that homers alone aren’t going to get Nelson Cruz into the Hall of Fame.

Nor should they. The guy has ~37 WAR by both B-Ref and FanGraphs. He’s 64th among right fielders in JAWS. There are a number of right fielders I can mount reasonable arguments for — Larry Walker Dwight Evans, Reggie Smith, Sammy Sosa, Bobby Abreu, Bobby Bonds, Gary Sheffield, Tony Oliva — and all are like 30 to 50 spots higher in JAWS than Cruz.

Dave: I saw your Twitter comments about FoD. What is your favorite baseball film? I’d probably go with Moneyball.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: The original Bad News Bears is hands down my favorite, and a movie I’ve seen more times than I could count. I like Bull Durham, Major League, Eight Men Out (historical inaccuracies and all), Bingo Long and the Traveling All-Stars, Sugar and maybe a few others that I’m forgetting (even the BNB sequels), but I’m mostly mistrustful of baseball movies because of the way that Hollywood piles on unearned sentimentality.

J: Is there any plan to put +stats on player pages? It would make comparisons across a player’s career a lot simpler.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’d like to see it happen as well. Not out of the question at all but just not atop the priority list at the moment.

Mind of Maddon: Meg brought it up in her chat the other day, but WAR doesn’t include value for positional versatility. In fact, in many cases there is a penalty because the player isn’t typically as good at a different position (though the team may absolutely require it due to injury, etc.). Shouldn’t there be value here? Thinking specifically of Bellinger and Heyward (the Cubs absolutely need his WAR to take a hit because they are sans a decent CF)

Avatar Jay Jaffe: well, there’s something in there to account for that, but not easy to see, and it may not fully capture value in the way that we interpret. The player’s positional adjustment is weighted by his playing time at the two positions, which helps to offset what is likely to be lesser defense at the harder position with the larger adjustment.

From the FG glossary:

Catcher: +12.5 runs (all are per 162 defensive games)
First Base: -12.5 runs
Second Base: +2.5 runs
Third Base: +2.5 runs
Shortstop: +7.5 runs
Left Field: -7.5 runs
Center Field: +2.5 runs
Right Field: -7.5 runs
Designated Hitter: -17.5 runs

Heyward has mixed RF and CF and currently has a positional adjustment of -2.5 runs, which prorates to -3.5, four runs better than if he’d spent the entire season in RF.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Now, is there a more intangible value to that versatility? Probably. It may help alleviate a platoon mismatch, or allow a team to overcome an injury or a very uneven player (a good hit/no-field guy) at another position. But what’s there is a start.

jkim: Joe Kelly might be the best reliever the Dodgers have.

I don’t know what to do w/ this fact but last 20 IP he has a 1.74 ERA and 32Ks

Avatar Jay Jaffe: He’s shortened his repertoire — favoring his two-seamer and curve more than his four-seamer — and turned his season around. He’s so streaky that it’s tough to think this situation will hold, but for the moment he’s giving the Dodgers what they’re paying for.

Chris: Will the Orioles A) dfa Chris Davis B) fire Hyde C) neither D) both will be let go

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I haven’t heard about the root of the beef that led to the altercation between Davis and Hyde was, but I don’t think this ends well for the first baseman who’s carrying a 55 wRC+. The Orioles have given Davis every chance to rebound from last year’s nightmare, but sooner or later, the new(ish) regime  needs to be allowed to treat his contract as the sunk cost that it so obviously is, and get on with trying to turn this team into something besides fodder for an imagined Season 6 of The Wire.

Urshela, Tauchman, Voit…: Is this just good luck or are they really doing something different with these older nonprospects?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think the Yankees have combined some amount of luck with good scouting and analytics to uncover these guys. It’s worth noting that they’ve generally reduced their groundball rates and reap the rewards that have come with hitting the ball in the air with greater frequency.

On the subject of the Yankees, today I’ve got a piece that’s centered around the Gleyber Torres injury scare and the volume of the team’s injuries (with some comparisons to the rest of the league) that makes mention of the incredible results they’ve gotten from their reinforcements https://blogs.fangraphs.com/gleyber-torres-is-the-yankees-last-man-sta…

Dennis: My biggest problem with BVW is the contradicting moves he seems to do. He signs d’Arnaud only to release him 3 weeks later. He trades for Stroman then trades away Vargas to his competition for nothing. He gives up good prospects for JD Davis like he is a everyday player, but then they don’t start him everyday. Trades a prospect for Wilmer Font then releases him…      In your opinion, is there some great reasoning behind these moves or is this GM just so impulsive?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Ramos, Grandal, Mesoraco, d’Arnaud — BVW made a mess of the catching situation from the get-go but it was pretty clear that Vargas would be traded away at the deadline given the way he angered the brass by threatening the Newsday reporter and then refusing to apologize. That’s bush league stuff from a very marginal pitcher. You may have noticed that he hasn’t pitched better in Philly so far, and that the gap between the two teams has closed. As for Davis, nobody doubted that the guy can hit, but he’s a lousy defender (-14 DRS between 3B and RF) who has been part of the problem in a league-worst defense.

Look, their current hot streak shouldn’t distract from the fact that the Mets are dysfucntional, and what you perceive as an impulsive GM should generally be attributed to a father-son owner/COO combo that has a miles-long reputation for micromanaging.

v2micca: Has Donaldson earned himself a 4 year deal with 25m+ AAV this off season?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Donaldson has played very well (132 wRC+, 3.4 WAR) but I would be shocked if somebody commits $100 million to his age-34 to -37 seasons. We don’t live in that world anymore.

JustCurious: This is a take really disliked among analytic baseball fans (which I like to think I am a part of). But, we always talk about the different marginal value of wins (i.e going from 60 to 61 or 100 to 101 doesn’t matter much, 86 to 87 does). Should the MVP voting take that into account? If Yelich and Bellinger are close in WAR I’d vote Yelich because without him his team doesn’t sniff the playoffs (assuming the Brewers get in or almost do). I guess it goes to the definition of Most Valuable (i.e best or player who added the most value to his team).

Unrelatedly, do you think pitcher fielding and hitting should factor into the Cy Young voting?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think increasing a team’s chances at making the playoffs with that kind of marginal bump is a fair element to bring to an MVP argument. Not sure it would be the deciding factor for me but it’s not ridiculous to consider.

Pitcher fielding is already incorporated into his run prevention in one way or another, more explicitly in bWAR (based on runs allowed) but also in fWAR (which treats popups as strikeouts, and some of those are caught by pitchers).

Chris: Favorite baseball movie – Sandlot

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’ve never seen it, TBH. I know a lot of people love it but I was 23 when it came out and didn’t even hear of it for another decade. Felt pretty weird to seek out a kids’ movie at that stage.

Tom C: Does this weaker, albeit good season by mookie betts change the outlook on his HOF potential? Or is it a case where the one all-time great season he has carries his WAR totals enough to make him a strong candidate even if he averaged around 4 wins/600 Pa

Avatar Jay Jaffe: by bWAR he’s got last year’s 10.9 WAR plus a 9.7 season (2016) under his belt, and he’s still on pace for about a 6-WAR season. He’s played about the equivalent of five full seasons over six years and nonetheless has a WAR7 of 39.7, where the average right fielder is at 42.1. I’m not worried yet.

As noted yesterday in connection with birthday boy Mike Trout’s approach of Mickey Mantle for the 3rd-highest WAR7 among CF, I will have a JAWS-flavored look at some of the year’s big gainers soon.

Mickey Callawin?: Should the Mets sign Joe Panik?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Feels like the org has a good volume of Panik moves already.

Seriously, no, not unless they see something easily fixable in him that the Giants didn’t. If Cano’s done for the year, they still have McNeil for 2B, which should help clear up their outfield logjam, and ideally they eventually get Jed Lowrie back.

Kiermaier’s Piercing Green Eyes: If you haven’t seen The Battered Bastards of Baseball, do put that on your list.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Great movie but it’s a documentary and I wasn’t including those on my shortlist.

Ian Howard: Lynn earned another Gallows Pole as PitcherList would label it (most whiffs on the day) and I’m amazed he has been so effective this year. Looking at his K-BB% compared to 2017-18 is pure insanity. Looking at GB, FB, Hard Hit%, etc. I’m not seeing anything that stands out. What do you feel was the biggest step he has taken this year that has resulted in him being so much better than he ever has? Biggest thing I’m seeing is his FB has become much more effective. Curve is generating more whiffs this year, but wOBA/xwOBA on his curve is actually worse this year than it was last year.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Multiple Lynn questions in the queue. I haven’t looked closely at him this season but Craig Edwards has, not once (https://blogs.fangraphs.com/lance-lynn-al-pitcher-war-leader/) but twice (https://blogs.fangraphs.com/instagraphs/lance-lynn-is-now-a-cy-young-c…). Read those and stop by his chat, which begins in about an hour.

Matt W: Did you see that random reliever on the Rangers throwing 99mph cutters? I think his name is Clase? We are truly living in a golden age of velocity.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think Ben Clemens is writing about him (Emmanuel Clase) for tomorrow.

Dave: Who can stop the Dodgers in the NL? Themselves?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Their bullpen.

Zach: Do the Rangers give Nick Solak a chance at 2B soon or continue to ride out Odor and his subpar performance for a 3rd straight year?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I would think they start giving Solak a look soon, or at least get Danny Santana (whom I covered yesterday https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-unexpected-danny-santana-breakout/) more playing time at 2B. Odor has stunk on ice (73 wRC+) and I’m not sure how much longer they should live with it.

Jake, not from State Farm : If you could add Barry Bonds to the Hall but, in order to do so, you had to take someone out of the Hall, who would you pick? Would you go based on production (or lack thereof) with someone like Baines or would you go classic-Hall and choose based on character and take out someone like Ty Cobb?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: If I wanted to be feisty, I’d evict Cap Anson for his role in setting the so-called gentleman’s agreement that created the color line, but if I’m sticking to performance, the obvious choice is Tommy McCarthy, a 19th century outfielder who has by far and away the lowest JAWS and is in only because he was an innovator (primarily the hit-and-run play and the outfield trap). He’s got no business in there.

a ron sanchez: is aaron sanchez magically better in Houston or is Seattle just really bad?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: You may have noticed that Houston has done very well in helping its pitching acquisitions tap into their strengths. Cole, Verlander, Pressley, etc. Now Sanchez. I don’t expect him to throw no-hitters the rest of the way but it seems entirely possible his remixed repertoire is just what the doctor ordered.

Dale: Will Scherzer be able to make enough starts this year to earn his 4th Cy Young?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Over the past few seasons we’ve seen Cy Young voter penalize Kershaw, Sale, and Bauer for missing time. Not out of the question it could happen to Scherzer, but if he’s back soon and continues to pitch well, he’s got a shot. It helps that Hyun-Jin Ryu has missed a couple starts, too.

Matt: Yanks are (I think) 22 HRs behind the Twins with 48 games to go. Any chance they can reclaim their HR title this year?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: The gap is 21, and it’s not inconceivable. Suppose the Yankees continue their same per-game clip (1.78 HR/g), they’d finish at 288. if the Twins, who have averaged 1.96 HR/g,  slip to 1.31 per game the rest of the way (a 150-homer pace, which used to be pretty solid), they’d finish with 287.

Ryan: If you could select one current GM to run your favorite team, whom would you choose?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: good question. This past trade deadline notwithstanding, I still marvel at the way Brian Cashman runs the Yankees, and I’ve watched him more closely than any GM for the entirety of his career. Theo Epstein, too. I’m pretty impressed by the likes of Luhnow and Friedman but both orgs have had some lapses that raise questions about how they manage.

Archer: Do you think power bats age better with the new ball? Meaning will we see more Cruz and Encarnacion-type players excelling in their late 30s as DHs?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t think “the new ball” is going to be around forever. I expect we will continue to see MLB and Rawlings working towards a product that fits more comfortably into expectations for the 21st century game. I also think that our understanding of player aging and the current economic are going to continue to work against DH-type old players; they’re not going to get $20M+ AAVs anymore

CFH: As players’ are peaking younger and declining sooner, will there have to be a major shift in hall of fame standards work? Seven year peak WAR seems like it might not be a good indicator of stardom going forward

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Why wouldn’t it be? If players are more likely to be productive at younger ages, the timing of their best seasons might change but they’re still going to have to put up a volume of excellent ones.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Guys who become mediocre at 30 and disappear at 35 still aren’t getting in

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Also, look, i’m glad that voters and interested bystanders use JAWS, and that those of us invested in the institution’s processes have tried to define standards, but we don’t control the entire voting body, and aside from the basics (10 years minimum in the majors, retired at least 5 years, not banned for life) there are no official standards. It’s all open to interpretation

The Baseball Bandit: How disappointing are the Phillies? For all the hype that they’ve  built they are underachieving so hard

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Disappointing but let’s not forget that their #2 starter is pitching through a bone spur that will need surgery, their bullpen has lost just about every key member to injury at some point, and they lost McCutchen and Herrera for the season by the beginning of June. That’s a lot to overcome. Certainly fair to ding Harper for an underwhelming year and to be critical of the lack of a better 3-5 in the rotation to begin with, but a lot of this has just been bad luck.

Nate: Since you will have a HOF vote when all of today’s active players are eligible, which players are you confident (barring scandal) you will be voting for?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Trout, Pujols, Votto, Posey, Kershaw, Verlander, Greinke, Scherzer, probably Sabathia… extending it to recently retired guys that I’ll get to vote for, Ichiro, Beltre, Beltran, Utley, and Mauer.

Ben: Due to his age and play, is Gleyber on track to make the HOF? 22 years old, two All-Stars already, plays a position that doesn’t have a ton of HOF representation.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: a player having success at that young an age has a much stronger chance of making the Hall than one who doesn’t arrive until 23 or older. that said, Gleyber’s defensive metrics are pretty unremarkable, and he’s totaled just 5.4 bWAR in his two seasons, so I don’t think we have anything beyond his early arrival that really suggest he’s on his way

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Also, with 22 honorees plus Derek Jeter awaiting election this winter, shortstop is well-represented in the Hall. The glaring omissions are 19th century guys, Dahlen and Glasscock, which is a contrast to the other positions.

Lerrapin Lou: Which is more likely–Kyle Hendricks finishes a career that more resembles Andy Messersmith/Mel Stottlemyre or a Hall of Fame pitcher?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Considering the impact of injuries on those two pitchers’ careers — neither had an age-34 season, and only Messersmith had an age-33 one — those aren’t comps I’d make. Hendricks’ lack of velo,d modest K%, and bWAR history (only in 2016 was he above 3.6 WAR) tells me there’s no way he’s winding up in the Hall, though

EARLE: in reference to Jake’s Cobb question, have you read Charles Leerhsen’s A Terrible Beauty? Cobb wasn’t a choir boy by any stretch but it seems his current reputation as a virulent, violent racist is unfair. (and the result of the work of one particular reporter in the ’60s)

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Yes, and I highly recommend the book. It has changed some of my thinking on Cobb, particularly when it comes to understanding the way that Al Stump’s unflattering depictions have permeated the modern perception of him.

seattlecougar: Other than searching the Blog Search, is there a better way to view older blog posts about a player than the five most recent listed on their player page? Specifically for players with a ton of RotoGraphs content (e.g., Matthew Boyd) it would be really helpful to be able to click a “See More” link here to find additional content.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: FG/RG writers can see more when logged in but this feature has not been granted to the masses yet. Let’s hope that it gets there though

pumpsie: You CAN have whoever you want in your HOF. Just make your own, or in my case, just follow yours. The one in Ohio is just a business, really, and could be bought and sold like a pizza franchise. I put far more stock in the JAWS HOF than the one that gets all the publicity.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: psssst, the one in Ohio is for football. I’m glad  you enjoy JAWS, though! And I agree that one aspect that separates the Baseball Hall of Fame from the rest is that any fan who cares enough has his or her own personal pantheon. Wrote about that a bit in The Cooperstown Casebook.

Drew: Re: GMs:  Theo seems like a good pick because of the World Series contenders he has built, but do the free agent signings (Heyward, Crawford, Darvish, Chatwood, Lugo etc.) give you pause? I’d let him run my team, but I’d keep a close eye on the big-ticket signings.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: yes, that’s fair. Cashman’s FAs haven’t all come up roses (Ellsbury, woof) but he’s done better since wresting control from the Tampa cabal

Hal: Do you think MLB should be thinking about ways to lower strikeouts, or would that involve too radical a change?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think it’s worth experimenting with tweaking the strike zone and the mound height, which are time-honored ways of restoring the pitcher/hitter balance.

Adam: Is it possible that most of the Dodgers’  playoff bullpen consists of just their extra starters?  Depending on injury and innings limits, could we be looking at most of Urias, Gonsolin, May, Maeda, Hill, Stripling coming out of the pen?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Some number of that group almost certainly will be throwing key relief innings, but you still have to consider that the Kenley Jansen of 2011-17 is probably not coming back, and that Pedro Baez has regressed.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: OK folks, I’m out of time for today. Thanks for stopping by, and please join us in Boston if you’re around tomorrow!

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... and Mastodon @jay_jaffe.

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