Meg Rowley FanGraphs Chat – 3/1/18

Meg Rowley: Hello, and welcome to the chat.

Fix the Rox: Been watching the Rockies since their inception, and honestly believe this year’s pitching staff (rotation, bullpen) could be their best-ever overall group. VERY worried about the offense as a whole, though. Am I right to be?

Meg Rowley: It is one of the weirder things about this offseason that they seem content with what they have on offense. They should add another bat, and there are bats to be had! They should go get one of those! It is neat in the sense that it is peculiar that a CO team’s strength is the pitching, but they had a team wRC+ of 87 last year. That is less neat.

Jake Arrieta: What do you think the probability is I’m still unsigned by Opening Day?

Meg Rowley: Very low. You might be signed by the end of this chat! (she says, not knowing anything secret or special) The fact that you aren’t already a Brewer is weird to me, though maybe Philly is going to just get a bunch of pitchers and have some fun.

Sam: Dansby Swanson: Bounce-back candidate or is he just what he is at this point?

Meg Rowley: It would be hard for him to be as bad as he was last year, so in that sense, sure he’s a bounce-back candidate. How big a bounce? Ehhhhhh… the fact that we never really saw sustained dominance in the minors makes me nervous. Sometimes this stuff works out, but our expectations are clearly diminished.

Tugs: I finished a book last night!

Meg Rowley: Hey good job! I hope it was a good book. It is hard to beat a good book, and now with live baseball going, so it will be so much harder to find the time to read.

Less is More: Your thoughts on the idea of reducing the number of regular season games to ~150?  More off days = more rest = fewer injuries, etc, etc?

Meg Rowley: I think it is a good idea. Who knows how big an impact it would ultimately have on injury rates (plenty of dudes get hurt in April) but I can’t imagine how these guys stand let alone play baseball by game 162. Sure they are world class athletes, but it is a crazy grind.

2-D: I’m pretty sure injuries are preventing this from happening, but how much more appealing would Ichiro make himself if he told teams he wanted to pitch in addition to being a position player?

Meg Rowley: I doubt that much, honestly. It isn’t as if he’s an impact arm at this point, despite how otherwise entertaining his relief appearance was.

Billy: The Twins were a huge surprise to everyone last year. Who is this year’s surprise team?

Meg Rowley: I don’t know if you can call a team that got Ohtani a surprise but maybe the Angels. I liked their other offseason moves a lot. But really, I could see the Phillies being much better much earlier than they’re meant to be at this stage of the rebuild, especially if they grab a couple starters.

aw: Hey Meg, do you know when the 2018 playoff odds will be launched?

Meg Rowley: We haven’t set a firm date just yet, but should be around the middle of this month.

For All You Kids Out There: Am I crazy or are people sleeping on the Mets this year? Above avergae rotation, bullpen and offense, but projected for 81-82 wins?

Meg Rowley: I don’t think people are really sleeping on them. They could be good! Most folks are happy to admit that last year was a health disaster and that if that improves, they could be good. I think the skepticism comes from 1) counting on pitchers to stay healthy and 2) they’re the Mets. They had such a Mets offseason! Plus, it is going to be hard to win that division and there is a lotttt of competition for those wild card spots.

Ryan: Obviously anything can happen during the season, but does it seem like this season’s division winners would be the “easiest” to predict in recent years? AL East seems to be the only division without a very clear favorite.

Meg Rowley: I agree with you that a lot of things seem pretty predictable and so I was tempted to say yes but then remembered that there is always weirdness. Remember when everyone thought the 2015 Nationals were a lock? Or the 2015 Red Sox? Or the 2015 Not-Royals? Man, 2015 was real weird!

velo: What’s your take on holding catchers in keeper leagues?  So few elite options each year and on top of that the volatility from year to year seems higher than other positions.  With Willson Contreras ermerging last year, I’m curious if he’ll follow a Posey like consistent path or Lucroy who fell off recently.

Meg Rowley: So please also ask this of someone who knows what the heck they are talking about BUT a friend of mine who knows what he is doing recently asked me to talk him into holding on to Mike Zunino in a keeper league, which makes me think that as in life, catcher is very shallow and you should probably hold on to a good one and just hope it is fine?

21sausage: Do we know anything about the 2018 ball? Can we expect that the changes to the ball last year will remain in place for the coming season?

Meg Rowley: It would seem awfully funky if the ball, which MLB continues to insist is the same as it ever was despite all sorts of evidence that it is different, suddenly took a sharp turn back to 2015. I suspect it will be largely unchanged this year.

Secret Moose: Your thoughts on Korean baseball?

Meg Rowley: I wish that it were, in a multitude of ways, easier to watch here! I should take this opportunity to plug the work that our February resident Sung Min Kim has been doing, much of which has focused on the KBO. You can find his work here:

Meg Rowley: He just published a new piece, and will have one more as part of his residency.

Lloyd Braun: Am I crazy or should the Indians be going after Arrieta/Cobb/Lynn to see if they can get a solid SP on a discount? It’s hard not to be disappointed that they haven’t done anything to close the gap with HOU and NYY.

Meg Rowley: I mean, they aren’t so far off from the Yankees. At 93 wins, we have them projected within a win of New York, and significantly ahead of the Twins. That rotation is projected to be the second best in baseball just barely behind the Astros. Personally, I’d be more annoyed that Yonder Alonso was the bat they went for, but these are high class problems to have.

goms: On board for an increase in bat flips? I think we should be rewarding quality bat flips. Also, how funny would the first MLB bat flip that was simply a kinda deep fly out be?

Meg Rowley: This happens! People have done this! I like bat flips, so please don’t take this as an anti-bat flip stance, BUT if I were a major leaguer I would never ever ever ever ever bat flip for fear of this exact scenario. It’s why I’m a fan of the Cano bat drop. It still looks bad ass, but is also much easier to recover from if you guess incorrectly.

Korean: Who is the best NL team this year? Still the Dodgers? OR are the Cubs back w/ the Darvish signing?

Meg Rowley: They are so very, very close, you could talk me into either no. 1 and 2 combo. They are both very good.

Fidrych Scratched: Was Edwin Diaz converted to a relief role because he can throw 102 or because he lacked a third pitch?  In the event the Mariners find another acceptable closer in Altavilla or Vincent or Nicasio, should the Mariners hand Diaz a cutter and return him to a starting role?

Meg Rowley: My understanding of the story is that it was the lack of a third pitch; the velo really jumped after the move to the bullpen, and he became special when he paired it with a more effective slider. I can’t really see them monkeying with his role.

Fidrych Scratched: I’m sorry.  Did the Diaz question snap something in your mind?

Meg Rowley: Apologies, got a phone call from my mom, which made me worried something awful had happened but nope, she just wanted to confirm movie plans.

Donger: Beer or liquor?

Meg Rowley: Depends on the occasion. And wine is also good.

Mr. Freeze: Re: the 2015 baseball – did you see the 538 baseball xray  article? Thoughts? Think MLB might admit the ball was changed, intentionally or not?

Meg Rowley: I will admit that I have only read half of the piece, though it is sitting in a tab, waiting to be finished. If they haven’t admitted that it has changed by now, it seems like they never will, barring someone finding emails from Manfred saying something like “Hey change the ball, we want HOME RUNS FOR EVERYONE.”

Uncle Rico: The pace of this chat is grueling

Meg Rowley: Hey now, it is rude to ignore your mom.

Fidrych Scratched: Does elite bunting skill come back into the game as a way of screwing the shift giving speed-power hitters a way to build on-base skills without necessarily having a great batting eye?

Meg Rowley: There do seem to be more teams using the bunt as a way to beat the shift, but I can’t see it being more than a tool to keep guys honest. You have to make teams shifting make sense before bunting against said shift is a viable countermove, after all.

DodgerBob: Depth charts had Houston at, I think, 90 wins last season and 101 wins this season.  Am I forgetting something or is Verlander the only significant difference (+ aging)?

Meg Rowley: Well don’t forget, they traded for Gerrit Cole. Plus I imagine some of that is more optimistic projections for guys like Bregman and Morton.

CamdenWarehouse: You should definitely use your bocce balls.  Lawn bocce drinking games are great.

Meg Rowley: I am truly very excited.

Steve: Do you think it would wise for some rebuilding teams like the White Sox, Braves and Padres to sit out the 2018-2019 season and spend on the 2019-2020 free agent class? The idea would be that likely the Yankees, Dodgers and Phillies would spend their cash on the free agent class of 2018-2019.

Meg Rowley: This is going to feel like I am not answering your questions, but boy does it depend on who, for how much, and how young they are. The Padres are a ways out and you know, just put a bunch of money into Hosmer. I will say that I think there is some value in being willing to spend when you are close, but not quite there yet. Sometimes you’re ready to win sooner than you thought and then you look around and realize “Hey it is so handy to have a [insert very good, difference making player] hanging around already.”

JT: What is the most overrated team in baseball right now? Most underrated?

Meg Rowley: This is tricky because the good teams are really, really good. They’re like, obviously good. And often, very complete. Maybe (MAYBE, do not yell ok?) the Yankees just a tinnnnny bit, but honestly, only a tiny, tiny bit because the starting pitching is only projected to be (looks at projections) *only* the 7th best staff in baseball. The good teams are so good! I like that Brewers team a lot but I think others do to.

Eldridge Cleaver: The Jon Lester signing by the Cubs is a good example of why you would sign a big free agent a year before your competitive window opens.  And it worked out well for the Cubs.

Meg Rowley: Now, it doesn’t always work out quite that well. Sometimes you’re the Mariners and getting Cano doesn’t get you all the way there. But it gets you importantly closer, and entices other guys to sign, etc. Plus I’m a fan of giving your fans baseball that is more watchable, even in the lean times.

Slurve: Wouldn’t an opt out after 2 year deal be exactly what the Mariners need from Arrieta? or would they be worried they’d be on the hook for the whole deal (What’s the percentage of those with opt-outs not opting out?)

Meg Rowley: Well the M’s don’t seem to want to spend on a free agent at all, but that might be part of the concern. I like this question more generally though because I am very curious to see what happens with opt outs generally. There is definitely value there, but I wonder how or if this offseason changes how they are perceived. I wonder if guys are less likely to take advantage, thinking that the market might be less than favorable to free agents generally.

goms: Any unique proposals to limit tanking?

Meg Rowley: I don’t know how unique this is, and I would need to learn a lot more about it before I could say how exactly it would work, AND it would be a very significant change, but I’ve been wondering about relegation a lot lately.

Kolby: If you had to, what other two teammates would you bet hits more HRs than Stanton/Judge?

Meg Rowley: Stanton and Gary Sanchez? Is that cheating? That’s probably cheating. Non-Yankee division… Joey Gallo and some Ranger (maybe Odor)? Maybe George Springer and Altuve? That would be fun. We’re all still super into that funny tall/short visual, yeah?

AdamZ: Wouldn’t a salary floor, but less restrictions on signing amateur talent limit tanking?

Meg Rowley: I don’t think a single thing does it, and I don’t think anything reduces the incentives to zero. And I don’t think baseball needs there to be zero tanking. I do think it would be better for baseball and the humans who play it if there were less not-winning happening, though not all of that not-winning is tanking.

Johnny : What makes baseball fun for you?

Meg Rowley: A lot of things, including the community of folks around it, but honestly, it is as simple as the batter/pitcher match up. It is so amazing that humans can pitch like they do. It is also so amazing that other humans ever get hits against them. So amazing!

Meg Rowley: Alright, I have to get going so I can do a bit of editing. Thanks for all the great questions. Apologies for what I didn’t get to, and for taking a phone call. Be nice to your moms, but also to chatters. Until next week!

We hoped you liked reading Meg Rowley FanGraphs Chat – 3/1/18 by Meg Rowley!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs

Meg is the managing editor of FanGraphs, the host of FanGraphs Audio, and the co-co-host of Effectively Wild. Her work has appeared at Baseball Prospectus, Lookout Landing, and Just A Bit Outside.

newest oldest most voted

I don’t mean to sound cheesy, but the additions of Meg, Sheryl, and Jay (and others iI may have forgotten) have really livened up the writing here. I still love the old/remaining writers and miss Dave, but I like that there has been some different focus with the new blood.

The ability to flag obvious spam/troll comments has also been a welcome addition! Now the community (including me) needs to come around to the idea that upvotes are for good contributions and downvotes are for irrelevant contributions, not whether you agree or disagree with someone’s argument.