Join me and Kevin Goldstein this afternoon at 1:00 PM PT/4:00 PM ET for another Prospect Film Session live on the FanGraphs homepage, or our Twitch channel. We’ll be discussing my looks at the unique co-op scrimmages going on in Arizona and the prospects therein, including Jarred Kelenic, Erick Pena, Davis Wendzel, Nick Loftin, the prospects I wrote about here, and more. Read the rest of this entry »
Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley banter about the seemingly building backlash to the extra-innings automatic-runner rule and Dusty Baker’s comments about anti-Astros heckling, then (19:51) bring on high performance coach Gary McCoy to discuss his epiphany about preventing player injuries, the importance of deceleration, how he helped a team in Taiwan have an injury-free season, the problems with innings limits and pitch limits, how MLB teams should be handling players in a season following a light workload, how and why teams are investing in sports science, how motion-tracking technology and artificial intelligence can help prevent injuries, and more.
Audio intro: Durand Jones & The Indications, "Make a Change"
Audio interstitial: Parquet Courts, "Picture of Health"
Audio outro: The Posies, "Take Care of Yourself"
Link to Ginny Searle on the automatic-runner rule
Link to Dusty on heckling
Link to Joe Lemire on Gary and the Brothers
Link to Gary’s LinkedIn page
Link to study on injury rates in 2020
Link to Mike Petriello on teams managing workloads
Link to J.J. Cooper on innings limits
Link to study on innings limits
Link to second study on innings limits
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On this episode, I’m joined by the eminently intelligent and charming Steven Goldman, who serves as my co-host for the week. We start with some hot takes on hot starts and socially gross restaurants. From there, we are joined by special guest Bradford William Davis of the New York Daily News to discuss the complicated political and economic issues behind MLB’s decision to move the All-Star game from Georgia to Colorado. As a bonuses, Bradford also attended the Rangers’ fan-packed home opener, so we spend some time on that as well. From there, it’s onto emails and all sorts of tangents. As always, we hope you enjoy, and thank you for putting up with how damn long this thing has gotten.
Music by Interesting Time Gang.
Have a question you’d like answered on the show? Ask us anything at email@example.com. Read the rest of this entry »
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On this week’s episode, Brendan Gawlowski is joined by Patrick Dubuque of Baseball Prospectus to discuss the Korea Baseball Organization’s 2021 season.
Brendan and Patrick each recently wrote KBO previews, and they spend the episode going over what to expect from the league this year. How will Shin-Soo Choo fair in his return? Who are the most exciting rookies? And why does Patrick think Brendan is wrong about the KBO playoff structure?
The pair also discuss the normalization of bat flips, the weirdest rule in the KBO, why Patrick won’t speak ill of Matt Williams, and the biggest differences between the leagues.
Finally, Brendan and Patrick run down all 10 teams and where they expect them to finish this season.
Read the rest of this entry »
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Ben Lindbergh, Meg Rowley, and FanGraphs writer RJ McDaniel banter about a controversial walk-off hit by pitch call involving the Mets’ Michael Conforto, the early success of exciting Tigers Rule 5 pick Akil Baddoo, and unexpected fauna on the field, then conduct the second annual Effectively Wild Team Fun Draft, in which they draft all 30 teams in order of how fun they are to follow in 2021.
Audio intro: Dean Martin, "Just for Fun"
Audio outro: The Donnas, "Friday Fun"
Link to Conforto HBP video
Link to RJ on Baddoo
Link to RJ on the Coors Field cat
Link to cat Statcast video
Link to RJ on the angry goose
Link to first Team Fun draft
Link to Ohtani wave video
Link to Rosenthal’s Bauer report
It took until the late innings of their seventh game of the season, but the 2021 A’s have finally showed they have some fight in them. After losing the first six games of the season by a combined score of 50–13, Oakland was en route to loss No. 7 in a listless Wednesday matinee against the Dodgers, entering the bottom of the seventh with just a single hit and trailing 3–1. Then Matt Chapman halved the deficit with his first homer of the season and, two innings later, opened the ninth with a single to center. A walk, bunt and sacrifice fly scored him to tie the game, and a walk-off single by Mitch Moreland ended things in the 10th, at long last etching a “1” into the Athletics’ win column.
Oakland was the last team in baseball to secure its first win of the season, and by facing Houston and Los Angeles right out of the gate, those wins were always going to be hard to get. But the A’s aren’t a bottom feeder; they were division champs last year and 97-game winners in each of the two previous seasons. But the first week of the season shows how much weaker this year’s edition may be, and that can be traced directly to the effort, or lack thereof, that went into building this roster.
Dylan Bundy’s career has hardly flown under the radar. He was arguably the top pitching prospect in baseball when he debuted, and his subsequent injury troubles made the next part of his career a well-known cautionary tale. When he returned to effectiveness in the second half of 2019, then broke out in 2020, it was a story arc we’ve all seen before: the post-hype prospect makes good.
While you might know that, you probably don’t know the secret skill that’s powering Bundy’s resurgence. It’s not a high-octane fastball — he’s lost that since his prospect days. It’s not a gaudy swinging strike total — he’s no slouch in that department, but nor does he excel. What Bundy does best is loop breaking balls through the strike zone and coax batters into taking them. He might be baseball’s best at it, and the piles of free strikes he racks up power the rest of his game.
Want a quick visual before we dig into the numbers? Tim Anderson is a free swinger, but even on 0-1, he couldn’t unlock his bat against this slider:
Want it with a curveball? Watch Bundy demonstrate the low and away boundary of the strike zone to Adam Eaton:
Tim Anderson is a befuddling player. Over the last two-plus seasons, he has posted a 133 wRC+ despite a minuscule walk rate (3.3%) that is the third lowest among all players with at least 500 plate appearances, ahead of only slap hitters José Iglesias and Hanser Alberto. That puts a lot of pressure on his ability to produce on contact. So far, so good: In that same time frame, he has a .390 BABIP, tops among all hitters and a full eight points above the next closest player (coincidently, his teammate, Yoán Moncada). The normal expectation is that a BABIP figure that high is unsustainable, and the projection systems tend to agree. The FanGraphs Depth Charts pegged Anderson for a .336 BABIP in 2021 and, correspondingly, a batting line just three percent better than league average.
If Anderson is going to be a productive hitter, then, one of two things needs to happen: He sustains a BABIP that is not just 100 points above the league average but also one of the best figures of all-time; or he improves in plate appearances that do not end with a ball in play. So how likely is either?
Let’s start with the BABIP. Anderson does not hit the ball especially hard. In the last two seasons, he ranked in the 33rd and 40th percentile, respectively, in hard hit rate, according to Baseball Savant. Last season he almost doubled his barrel rate, going from 5.1% in 2019 (23rd percentile) to a career-high 10.1% (65th), but that 2020 figure constituted all of 16 batted balls. Nor has he shown too much selectivity in his career or discriminated against pitches within or near the strike zone, as you can see in the sea of red below.
Last April, the familiar sensations of spring still came around. Birds chirped at their full-throated volume, flowers bloomed, and pollen never stopped making me sneeze. One thing was noticeably absent though, enough so to make me question whether I actually knew what month it was. An April without baseball cast a strange and ill-fitting emptiness on an already bleak situation. No games to watch, no checking the schedule, and no bus rides downtown, surrounded by similarly clad folk, all of us on our way to watch the hometown nine.
This April, conversations of “getting back to normal” are dominating the zeitgeist. With an end table full of masks, a dry social calendar, and boxes upon boxes of takeout still piling up, I didn’t totally feel like we were getting back to normal until Opening Day. The yearly tradition of waking up on the season’s first day, staring at the slate of games with pulsating heart eyes, and settling in for the first 10 AM game on the West Coast, is something I cherish more than my own birthday. As many people can likely attest, missing out on that made it feel like last year didn’t even count.
It’s not just the act of watching baseball that delivered recognizable comfort, though. It’s also the minutiae of the broadcasts. Chuckling at Keith Hernandez saying “fundies”, or screaming “Ronald Torreyes!” at the Yankees’ in-game trivia question, is to remember what it was like to live our lives before they were halted. Sure, we eventually got those things last year, but to have them back on schedule, they way they always used to be, was the sweetest balm baseball could provide. Read the rest of this entry »