Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 9/22/20

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon, folks, and welcome to the final week of the 2020 regular season. In connection with that, I have the latest installment of my Team Entropy series here: https://blogs.fangraphs.com/team-entropy-2020-still-on-the-tables/

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Yesterday I looked at Justin Verlander’s Tommy John surgery and its impact on the Astros’ postseason rotation as well as his pursuit of some big milestones https://blogs.fangraphs.com/justin-verlanders-tommy-john-surgery-throw…

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Meanwhile, not mine but i just finished reading a piece from The Athletic about the mid-’80s White Sox as early pioneers in biomechanics, complete with video of Tom Seaver’s drop-and-drive delivery https://theathletic.com/2079123/2020/09/22/with-tom-seaver-as-a-model-…

Avatar Jay Jaffe: OK, on with the show

Cito’s Mustache: If both #8 seeds were to upset the #1 seeds in the 3-game Wild Card series, would that give MLB pause to making the expanded postseason format permanent? A little chaos is good IMO. But too much, and the issue of fairness comes into question.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: First, I think it’s important to remember through all of this that the players have a say in any new postseason format. I suspect that they will have it drilled into them that expanded playoffs increasingly reward mediocrity and could hit them in their wallets. Any expansion beyond the pre-2020 format needs to incentivize teams to win their divisions

Avatar Jay Jaffe: and battle for best records rather than finishing around .500

Kylo Hondrocks: What sort of contract do you think Kris Bryant would have gotten this offseason had he won his service time grievance (which he should’ve won)?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Well over $200 million, probably something in the general ballpark of Arenado’s deal. Not gonna happen now with this injury-wracked season

Mountie Votto: Who do you think the Reds would be more likely to have a shot against, LA or the Cubs?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: the Cubs. Reds have really struggled against lefties (85 wRC+) and in Kershaw and Urias, Dodgers have a stronger lefty presence than Cubs (Lester)

Travis: Assuming Sonny Gray comes back at full health, are the Reds the leading candidate to make a first round upset? That top three of the rotation could very easily dominate in a three game series, and the bullpen seems to have overcome its early season struggles. (Granted, the Offense sure seems to live or die by the Three True Outcomes)

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Bauer, Castillo and Gray in any kind of order wouldn’t be fun for any opponent, but half the battle is hitting, and the Reds just haven’t produced offense at a level that gives them a strong shot

Trent Hauser: How will or should projection systems handle 2020 stats?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: That’s a question better directed at Dan Szymborski than myself, and a daunting challenge to consider. I do think you can’t give it the same kind of weight as a full season. Sixty games is just sixty games, about 37% of a full season, and so somebody is going to have to figure out the weights

Truman: Hey Jay I had a question regarding the hall of fame case of Mark Buehrle, do you see him being a one and done or is he someone who might hang around on the ballot with no true threat of getting in.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think given his two no-hitters and World Series ring he has a nonzero shot at reaching 5% given the weakness of the ballot but i’d be surprised if he even approaches Pettitte’s level of support (10-11%)

Nick: I saw recently that 4 of the 5 MLB teams with the longest playoff droughts are in line to make the playoffs this year.  How long until the Mariners finally break their streak?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: They’ve had some good signs this year, with Kyle Lewis developing, Kyle Seager rebounding, and the Gonzalez/Sheffield/Dunn rotation core, but I guess it depends on whether the playoffs are expanded. I do think that the AL West is vulnerable to a shakeup, as it’s clear that the Astros are due for a reshaping given so many free agents (plus Verlander’s injury)

Anderson: Who has a better career ahead of him: Jared Walsh or Mike Yastrzemski?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’d lean toward Yaz despite the age gap as he’s built the longer track record and can play the more difficult positions.

Guest: How about Freddie Freeman? He might win the MVP this year, which would help his Hall chances. His age similarity scores on BRef from ages 21-29 are all Eddie Murray. So I compared their stats from ages 21-30 (this is Freeman’s age 30 season), and they are remarkably similar, however Murray is far ahead in bWAR. Still, if Freddie hits well over the next 5 years, he’s probably in.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Freeman is building a decent case but he’s going to need to reel off some 5- or 6-win seasons (via bWAR, he has just two of the former and one of the latter) as his peak score is just 31.9 versus a first base standard of 42.7. Also, I’d still lean towards Tatis or Betts as my NL MVP

oh my goodness gracious!: Kris Bryant has what is considered a serious oblique injury, what is the prognosis for his 2021 season?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: If it’s just oblique it shouldn’t have an impact on 2021. If there’s more to it than that, well, that’s a different story

Upset: At what point do you even consider it an upset in this season? 4/5 is probably too close, 3/6 could be a big gap (Astros being terrible…), and so on. Teams, aside from the Dodgers really, haven’t had time to fully separate from the pack.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think short of the Dodgers losing in the first round there’s just not enough separation between the teams to call the lower seeds winning upsets on the level of, say, the 1987 or ’88 World Series

James: Will you adjust JAWS to deal with the 2020 season at all?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: no moreso than I’ve done for wars or strike seasons. they’re all important context to bring to the discussion beyond a simple comparison of is this number big enough. Relative standing among players across larger timespans isn’t going to change much, and I don’ think anybody should be penalized for missed time.

James: How do you think Bauer will do on his first free agent contract?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: He’s said as recently as this year that he will only sign one-year deals. So, i expect a one-year deal. Wouldn’t surprise me if it’s got incentives in it given that his two best seasons were relatively abbreviated (2018,27 starts 175.1 innings being theother one)

Nick: Do you follow the HOF voting in sports other than baseball?  Are there any favorite NFL, NHL, etc. players you think should be in their respective Halls of Fame?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: not really. Every now and then I see an NFL or NBA player who I recall from the periods when I followed more closely making it or being snubbed and it captures my interest for a moment, but that’s about it.

Larry Jones: Final NL 4 spots, who is in? There are 5 teams with >50% odds, and the Giants at 36%. The Giants also have four left against San Diego, who might have the fourth seed locked up and nothing to play for by the time they play.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: See today’s Entropy entry. Only one full game separates the Reds, Phillies, Brewers, and Giants but the latter two are sub-.500 in intradivisional play, four and five wins behind, respectively.

Mike Ortman: Yadi is closing in on that very helpful to ones HOF case 2000th hit. How high do you think he will make it on JAWS when his career is done?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t think it’s his JAWS that’s going to get him in so much as his reputation and pitch-framing metrics (which aren’t included in the version of bWAR used for JAWS). But JAWS-wise, in a best-case scenario maybe he adds another 3.0 WAR over two or three seasons, which would push him from a virtual tie for 23rd to 20th — still about eight points below the standard.

bill: What do you think of Yelich’s HOF chances? Obviously early.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: his 0.5 WAR this year is a blow after two 7-win seasons but even with 50% fewer games played than Fab Freddie Freeman, his seven-year peak score of 31.8 is a bit closer to the standard in LF than FFF is at 1B. He’ll have to bounce back, obviously, but if he did nothing but deliver a bunch of 5-win seasons for the next half decade before fading he’d probably be in really good shape

Cito’s Mustache: I know it’s a super small sample of 177 games, but Vlad Jr couldn’t play third base, and looks equally bad at first. How good will he need to be at the plate in order to carry a DH profile to a Hall of Fame career? Peak Edgar Martinez for like 12+ years?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: you know what? let’s see him post a 120 wRC+ in a single season before worrying about whether he can do 147 wRC+ across 2000+ games

Travis: Do you ever get dejected by HoF politics?  It’s clearly not (nor was it ever) the place to recognize the best in the game.  With the anti-SABR sportswriting (mostly from 1995-2015ish), I found myself losing respect for those who vote in the players.  Add in the Bonds/Clemens b.s., and my question is this: why have we not found a better institution upon which to aspire?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Hall politics can be a big bummer, yes, but a) the Hall is about more than just the plaques and dumb annual debates; and b) there’s no alternative in stature. If I started the Statgeek HOF it would still be just a list of players, not a physical location that brings people together year after year

Jake: Out of all the articles you’ve written this year, which is your favorite?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I had a run of pieces in April-May like the Cooperstown shutdown one and the minor league contraction one and the interviews with Josh Lindblom and Eric Hacker that I was pretty happy with as those were things that made me exercise different skills than I generally utilize on a day-to-day basis — a lot more talking to people

Sammy So-so: I know it’s a strange, short season, but fWAR has Rick Porcello as the the 13th most valuable pitcher in the NL, almost equal to Zack Wheeler and Brandon Woodruff. Is this just FIP noise or am I missing somethng?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Low walk and homer rates versus high BABIP. I’m generally less fWAR oriented for pitchers than your average FG staffer and have a hard time putting too much stock into this with just two months of data

Jake: Why did you create JAWS? In other words, what idea/problem did you have that led you to create JAWS?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Between  New Bill James Historical Abstract and his Hall of Fame book i was thinking a lot about the Hall, was frustrated by the  but found that his HOF Monitor and Standards metrics weren’t geared towards handling high offense eras, nor did Win Shares do enough to account for the growing understanding of replacement level. Thus, I decided to take Baseball Prospectus’ relatively new WARP out for a spin to see what it said about who was in the Hall and who was outside, and I found some glaring omissions, particularly Santo and Blyleven.

Erik: Tony Gonsolin or Jake Cronenworth for NL ROY?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Both credible choices but I’d lean Cronenworth

Nolan: Who is Devin Williams, and how did he become the most valuable reliever in baseball?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: until a couple weeks ago I had very little idea either

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Here’s what I wrote for an ESPN Insider piece on top rookies that ran last week https://www.espn.com/mlb/insider/story/_/id/29894934/top-mlb-rookies-2…

2. RHP Devin Williams, Milwaukee Brewers
The one exception to my 30-inning minimum threshold is the owner of the most unhittable pitch in baseball. A 2013 second-round pick, Williams was waylaid in the minors by Tommy John surgery and subpar command, but since moving to the bullpen, he’s been able to pump his fastball as high as 100 mph, pairing it with an 85 mph changeup against which batters have collected just one hit — a Kolten Wong single on Monday — on his first 48 at-bats ending with the pitch. That lethal 1-2 punch has helped him strike out 52.6% of the batters he has faced, tops for any pitcher in baseball with at least 10 innings.

Go check out what Jake Mailhot wrote here https://blogs.fangraphs.com/devin-williams-and-the-unicorn-changeup/

Erik: Re: Bauer: He’s also said he very much wants to pitch every 4 days.  Do you think any team would commit to allowing him to do so?  It seems risky for the team, given the potential injury risk or effect on Bauer’s performance, but perhaps the one-year contract length that Bauer also wants might help mitigate the risk from the team’s perspective.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: it’s really hard to accommodate one pitcher going every 4 days while the others go longer between turns — the lengths of time vary for these creatures of habit, which I think is why you don’t see teams doing it.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: It’s been awhile since I diagrammed it out but take a normal year’s schedule or at least a couple months of it, pencil Bauer in every 4 days and see how it works for the other pitchers as you try to throw them every 5 days

WinTwins0410: Jay, why hasn’t Tommy John done better in small HoF committees?  Huge counting stats, underwent the most famous sports medical procedure in history, played for winners, WAR a solid 62.1.  Peaked at 31.7% with the writers, yet on the small committees, constantly below vote disclosure levels.  And with his 18%-or-less level in December (tiny voting group of 16, I know), it’s likely that his small-committee vote percentages always have been well below his peak percentage with the writers.  I know you don’t support John’s candidacy, but I’m curious what specifically you think small committee voters have disliked about him.  Poor run prevention?  Misfortune of playing in an era of 300-game winners?  Anything else?  (In your 1/6/2020 chat, you called him an outstanding compiler but rarely dominant, and only fleetingly among the league’s best.)

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think there are a few things going on:
1) lack of dominance (no Cy Youngs, low K total);
2) high concentration of dominant pitchers from the era (six with 300 wins, 10 in HOF, all but one with better ERA+ than John’s 111)
3) lots of other strong candidates from what’s now the Modern Baseball Era (the elected Trammell, Morris, Simmons and Miller, and now Whitaker and Evans)

Avatar Jay Jaffe: With a maximum of four votes, and other guys on the ballot who won MVP awards such as Murphy and Parker and Munson, it’s easy to run out of room

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Memo to “Guest” and “Different Guest”: i see that you have the same IP. Move along.

Rick: Vlad Jr. turning in a 0.1 WAR season in 2020 ought to be ___ for Blue Jays fans: merely disappointing? legitimately worrying? outright alarming?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: merely disappointing given the progress made by just about every other young(ish) player in their lineup. Bichette, Biggio, Teoscar, Gurriel, Rowdy, even Grichuk. Vlad Jr. doesn’t need to be a savior, he just needs to find his position and hit.

Lorenzo: What do you envision happening to the Mets front office after the season ends?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think they bring in a new president of baseball ops, build out the scouting and analytics departments, maybe give BVW and Rojas one full season before making those changes.

Ben: Are there any players who have better Hall of Fame chances than they did circa January 2020? Obviously chances went down for players with poor/nonexistant years (Bryant, Altuve, Sale, etc) And even players with good years (Machado, Betts, Rendon, etc) got a lot less WAR than they were projected for in a full season. But what about guys like deGrom (if he wins CY), Luis Robert, Nelson Cruz, etc. or would even they have been better off with a full season and their original projections?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think deGrom is the one that could really benefit, with a third CY – his case would become like that of no other three-time Cy winner given his late start and low win totals.

Pat’s Bat: Has Buster Posey’s decision to sit out the season hurt his HoF case?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: It hurts his counting stats and his push towards 2,000 hits but I can’t ding him for that. He’s already caught more games than Mauer (who’s still higher in JAWS, ahem) and the mileage is showing.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’d vote for Buster without hesitation.

chicagodan1: How much more do you think Max Scherzer has to do to lock down a HOF berth? He is 36 and has one year left on his current contract.

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think he’s pretty close. He’s 223 strikeouts away from 3,000, 26 wins away from 200, and still pitching well (leads NL in FIP, top-5 in K). By this time next year we might be talking about him the way we did Verlander a year ago.

sam: when will the orioles next make the playoffs?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: A lot depends upon how quickly the Red Sox rebound but the emergence of the Blue Jays, while the Rays and Yankees are strong, won’t make it any easier. Let’s go out on a limb (haha) and say that they won’t make it before the end of Chris Davis’ contract (which somehow runs through 2022)

Beeks: What is the difference in calculation between bWAR and fWAR, and why aren’t you as big a fan of fWAR?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: My big issue is on the pitching side. fWAR is driven by FIP (strikeouts, walks and homers), completely independent of defense, whereas bWAR is driven by actual runs allowed, with adjustments for defense and quality of opponent. I do also prefer DRS (used in bWAR, and now accounting for infield shifts) to UZR (used in fWAR, which doesn’t account for shifts) but the fact that the latter does have some regression built in is worth something.

Marshall: Kershaw is having a fantastic year by traditional metrics (especially ERA and WHIP), but his WAR seems relatively low (26th among pitchers), presumably because he’s not racking up tons of strikeouts. Is he having a “great” season, or just a “nice” season?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Kershaw has the NL’s 2nd-lowest walk rate and 7th highest K-BB%, but his big issue is the big fly; his 1.0 HR/9 is like 12th-lowest of 26 NL qualifiers. he’s pitching at a 5-WAR clip over a full season, a bit better than the past few years, but not at the level of his Cy Young campaigns.

Sean: Predictions for awards?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Too much to think about during a chat given so little separation at the top for so many awards.

Rick: Would you rather rely on Cole Hamels or Jon Lester to win you a playoff game as this point in their careers?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: No.

Chris: With Luis Robert falling apart this month, is Kyle Lewis the run away rookie of the year?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Dunno about runaway but he was my pick circa that article last week — stronger offense, and considering defensive metrics a bit soft given the sample sizes

Rick: Is Tanner Houck a legitimate reason for hope for the Red Sox 2021 rotation?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Longenhagen had him as a 40 FV guy at the outset of the season. He’s a guy who can help but i wouldn’t expect him to be a frontliner

Curtis: Who is currently the most glaring omission from Baseball’s HOF?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Miñoso, Allen, Grich, Whitaker are probably my top four. Also coming around to the idea that the Hall needs to find a way to honor Curt Flood for more than just his playing career

Avatar Jay Jaffe: OK folks, that’s as much time as I have today. thanks so much for stopping by. note that next week’s chat may be preempted by actual playoff baseball but that I’ll be particpating in some chat at some point

Ben: Did you mean Kershaw has the 7th *highest* K-BB%?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: whoops, yes

Sean: Given the chaos in the NL I’m rooting for Cleveland and Toronto (Buffalo?) to sweep their opponents to add some chaos to seeding in the AL. Would make an interesting last few games of the season no?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: That’s what Team Entropy is all about, at least in this dumb year

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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