The Cardinals’ Bold Baserunning Decision That Failed

On Saturday, the Cardinals battled back from deficits of 6-1 and 8-3 to find themselves trailing by just one run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Yadier Molina had just singled off Mets closer Edwin Diaz. Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty came in off the bench to pinch run. Kolten Wong hit a high blooper that found its way in between second baseman Jeff McNeil and a diving Michael Conforto. Flaherty, showing some of his inexperience on the basepaths, twice looked back at the play instead of focusing on third base coach Pop Warner as he was heading toward third base when the ball hit the ground. He then ran for home.

This is how the play moved forward from there.

We can see Flaherty stumble a bit at third, though that stumble doesn’t look like it made a huge difference as the throw beat Flaherty by about 10 feet. With the benefit of hindsight, we know that the decision to send Flaherty ended the baseball game and handed the Mets a victory. As for the decision-making at the time of Warner’s choice to send Flaherty home, that deserves a closer examination.

The first step in looking at the decision to try and tie the game is establishing how much benefit the Cardinals would receive if Flaherty was safe and compare that to the loss if Flaherty was thrown out. We know that getting thrown out ends the game, so the Cardinals win expectancy in that scenario is of course zero. There are two other scenarios, with the first being if Flaherty stays. The Cardinals would then still be down by one run, but they would have runners on second and third base with two outs and Paul Goldschmidt stepping up to the plate. The second scenario is if Flaherty scores the tying run and Paul Goldschmidt steps up to the plate with a runner on second base. Read the rest of this entry »


The Sinker Paradox

Two things are very much true in modern baseball, and they’re in seemingly direct contradiction with one another. The first hardly requires any introduction: fly balls are leaving parks like never before. There’s almost no point in linking to a story about it, because there’s no way you haven’t heard if you are reading this website, but what the heck, here’s Ken Rosenthal talking about it. Baseball in 2019 is a game of home runs — allow fly balls at your own risk.

At the same time, the two-seam, sinking fastball is going extinct. The trend started a while ago, and it doesn’t look like it’s stopping anytime soon. Cutting sinkers has worked, kind of, and progressive teams like the Astros and Rays are leaning into it. Heck, overhand arm slots and high-spin four-seam fastballs are the hallmarks of modern pitching. Teams are looking for them in draft picks and getting young pitchers to throw more of them.

Think about those two things for a second. Fly balls are more dangerous than ever, but the pitch that is best at avoiding fly balls is on the decline. It’s a mystery worthy of Sherlock Holmes, and today I’m throwing on my deerstalker hat. The first thing we need to do is confirm that fly balls really are worth more than ever. This might seem trivial, but it’s worth doing, if only to figure out just how much more fly balls are worth these days. Read the rest of this entry »


Roster Roundup: June 15-17

Below you’ll find a roundup of notable moves from the past few days, as well as future expected moves and a Minor League Report, which includes a list of recent major league debuts and a few players who are “knocking down the door” to the majors. For this column, any lineup regulars, starting pitchers, or late-inning relievers are considered “notable,” meaning that middle relievers, long relievers, and bench players are excluded. You can always find a full list of updated transactions here.

Lineup Regulars

Cincinnati Reds
6/16/19: SS Jose Iglesias placed on Paternity list

Iglesias is out of the lineup for the second consecutive day on Monday due to the birth of his daughter. The 29-year-old entered the month with a .308/.340/.443 slash line, but he has just six hits in his last 33 at-bats. A few days away could be just what he needs. Jose Peraza, who is being used in a super-utility role, has started both games at shortstop in Iglesias’ place.

Depth Chart | Roster Resource Read the rest of this entry »


Brett Anderson, Anthony Swarzak, and Jimmy Yacabonis Explain Their Signature Sliders

Pitchers learn and develop different pitches, and they do so at varying stages of their lives. It might be a curveball in high school, a cutter in college, or a changeup in A-ball. Sometimes the addition or refinement is a natural progression — graduating from Pitching 101 to advanced course work — and often it’s a matter of necessity. In order to get hitters out as the quality of competition improves, a pitcher needs to optimize his repertoire.

In this installment of the series, we’ll hear from three pitchers — Brett Anderson, Anthony Swarzak, and Jimmy Yacabonis — on how they learned and developed their sliders.

———

Brett Anderson, Oakland A’s

“My go-to has always been my slider. I’ve evolved into more of a sinker guy now, but at the same time, my slider has kind of been my bread and butter for however long I can imagine. It’s what I get my swings-and-misses with.

“I knew I had a chance to pitch on the varsity team as a freshman [in high school]. I wasn’t going to go in there with a fastball and a changeup only, so I started throwing a curveball. It was a spiked curveball, because I have huge palms and short fingers. I’ve never really been able to throw a conventional breaking ball because of that; everything just kind of slipped out.

“I started off with that get-me-over curveball, just to have something that spun against varsity kids. It was like a 12-6. Then I started throwing one that was straighter and it cut a little bit. I kind of morphed that one into a slider. It’s the same grip essentially, but two different pitches. I get on top for a curveball, usually just to get ahead, or to get back in the count; it’s to steal strikes. The slider is more of my put-away. I spike both pitches, the slider and the curveball. Read the rest of this entry »


Angel Hernandez’s Lawsuit Against MLB Just Got Really Interesting

Last year, we discussed one of the most important and underreported legal issues facing baseball: the discrimination lawsuit umpire Angel Hernandez filed against Major League Baseball. In the 10 months or so since we last checked in on the case, however, things have taken a couple of really interesting turns.

First, the case is no longer pending in federal court in Ohio, instead having been transferred (over Hernandez’s objection) to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. This isn’t in and of itself a major development; the benefits of what lawyers call “forum shopping” (filing a case in what is perceived to be a friendlier jurisdiction) are both absolutely real and also generally overstated. That said, the major benefits to a given friendly forum for a litigant aren’t likely so much in the expected outcome of a case, but rather in the procedural details involved in getting there. Perhaps no single issue drives forum shopping more than the rules and procedures governing fact discovery (the part of the lawsuit where the parties can ask written and oral questions and obtain each other’s relevant documents). Fact discovery procedural rules can sometimes vary widely between jurisdictions, and practitioners will sometimes choose a forum with the friendliest discovery rules to their side.

Why does this matter? Because Angel Hernandez’s lawsuit is now embroiled in a particularly interesting discovery dispute, and the court deciding it won’t be the Ohio forum Hernandez and his lawyers originally anticipated. You see, earlier this year, Major League Baseball sent this subpoena to the MLB umpires union. A subpoena is a special kind of demand for production of evidence, usually documents or testimony, which is issued by a litigant in a lawsuit and backed by court authority. Ignoring a subpoena is generally a bad idea because you can be held in contempt of court. Instead, if you don’t want to answer it, you have to ask the court to quash the subpoena and give a legal reason why. (Note: the word is “quash,” not “squash.” I’ve heard too many people – lawyers and laypeople alike – move to “squash” a subpoena. All that means is that you are wrapping your subpoena around a vegetable.) Read the rest of this entry »


Dan Szymborski FanGraphs Chat – 6/17/2019

12:02
Avatar Dan Szymborski: “Dan Szymborski is chatting now.”

12:02
Avatar Dan Szymborski: OH GOD HE ISN’T PANIC

12:02
Avatar Dan Szymborski: Now I am.

12:02
The Other Dave: Is there ANY hope left for the Reds at this point? Or should they start exploring some trade scenarios? It just feels like if everything clicks, they should be a very good team. They just can’t seem to win any 1-run games.

12:03
Avatar Dan Szymborski: It kinda sucks, but their poor fortune is baked into the cake.

12:03
Avatar Dan Szymborski: Yeah, they’re 8 games under their Pythag. But the thing is, you don’t get those games back. You expect them to match their Pythags going forward, not get an extra helping from the good luck carnitas.

Read the rest of this entry »


Everything You Need to Know About the Intentional Balk

By now, most baseball fans have probably heard about Kenley Jansen’s intentional balk. If you haven’t, let me catch you up to speed.

The rarity occurred on Friday night. It was the top of the ninth inning. The Dodgers held a 5-3 lead over the Cubs, and Jansen was on the mound to close out the victory. The inning started nicely, as Jansen struck out Carlos Gonzalez, but the Cubs did not go down cleanly. Thanks to an error from first baseman Matt Beaty, Jason Heyward reached second base. David Bote then struck out, leaving Victor Caratini as the only roadblock between Jansen and his 20th save.

The oddity commenced when Jansen yelled, “I’m going to balk,” following the strikeout of Bote. Read the rest of this entry »


Major Leaguers Behaving Like Children

Before the season, the San Francisco Giants were expected to be bad, and the Milwaukee Brewers were expected to compete for a playoff spot. So far this year, the Giants are 30-39 with a -82 run differential, last in the NL West. The Brewers are 40-31 and first in the NL Central. Both teams have been more or less what we thought they were. With that in mind, you probably didn’t have much reason to watch Friday night’s Brewers-Giants clash. If you did watch it, however, you caught a singularly bizarre series of plays that highlighted the absurdity and joy of baseball.

In the bottom of the seventh with one runner aboard, the Brewers called on Alex Claudio to keep the Giants off the board. Down 3-2, Milwaukee couldn’t afford to let the Giants pad their lead any further, and the lineup set up perfectly for Claudio, a side-arming lefty with extreme career platoon splits. With Kevin Pillar standing on first, the Giants had four lefties in a row due up, and Claudio is on the Brewers more or less solely to get lefties out.

With Alex Claudio on the mound, there’s a certain minimum amount of weirdness involved in every pitch. His pre-pitch routine is hypnotizing — a few torso-and-arm shakes, an uncontrollable toe tap, and finally a corkscrewing, impossibly angled sidearm release. He looks like a kid impatiently sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room, right up until he explodes into a tremendously athletic delivery. Here, watch him throw an 84-mph sinker past Steven Duggar for the first out:

As much fun as it is to watch Claudio pitch, it would be hard to call this inning fun if he did his job and set down the three lefties in order. The Duggar at-bat made it look like that was a possibility. Even if 84-mph sinkers that strike out major league batters are fun, there’s a limit to how much fun an inning can be to watch if nothing happens. Fortunately, things were about to get weird. Read the rest of this entry »


Yankees Acquire Edwin, Continue to Stockpile Power

Edwin Encarnacion is 36 years old now, but age hasn’t stopped him from mashing baseballs. Among qualified American League hitters, he ranks 12th in wRC+ (139), leads the league in home runs (21), and is fourth in isolated power (.290). He’s accrued 1.7 WAR, which is pretty good at this point of the season, especially given his subpar defense. Of course, nobody is employing Encarnacion for his glove.

When Seattle acquired Encarnacion this past offseason, everybody knew he’d be traded sooner rather than later. The Mariners are in the midst of a rebuild and are reportedly “trying to trade everyone” before the July 31 deadline. Encarnacion, with his age and contract, was an obvious candidate to be moved.

It only took until the middle of June for the Mariners to find a suitor. The Yankees now employ Edwin Encarnacion.

Yankees Get:

  • 1B/3B/DH Edwin Encarnacion (though it’s likely he’ll primarily be a DH)

Mariners Get:

Let’s touch on the Mariners’ return first before talking about the big parrot in the room. Juan Then was actually a Mariners farmhand two years ago. The Yankees acquired Then (and minor league hurler JP Sears) during the 2017-18 offseason in exchange for Nick Rumbelow.

Then is only 19 years old and he’s still in rookie ball. Prior to this season, Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel ranked Then as the No. 31 prospect in New York’s system, noting that he is “advanced for his age” but has “middling stuff and physical projection.” It’s worth noting that Then seems to have developed a better fastball in the Yankees system. But again, it’s awfully hard to project a 19-year-old who hasn’t reached full-season ball. We know he’s a young arm of some promise, but the delta in his potential outcomes is very wide.

As an interesting side note, reports suggest that the Mariners chose to deal Encarnacion to the Yankees because New York was willing to absorb more money than other interested clubs. By prioritizing salary flexibility, Seattle’s move is somewhat reminiscent of how the Marlins handled the Giancarlo Stanton trade, in which the Yankees gave up significantly less player value to bring in another slugger because they were able to take on big money. It’s not ideal for rebuilding teams to prioritize monetary value over player return on transactions, but it is what it is. Money is a big part of how organizations operate, and sometimes you’re going to see deals like that. Read the rest of this entry »


Effectively Wild Episode 1390: Baseball’s Biggest Mystery

EWFI
Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller banter about the Yankees acquiring Edwin Encarnacion and some surprising names near the top of the MLB home-run leaderboard, Kenley Jansen’s intentional balk, and a fun fact starring Hyun-Jin Ryu, then reckon with some of the most perplexing player seasons of 2019, focusing on the enigma that is the boom-and-bust trajectory of Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez.

Audio intro: The Olivia Tremor Control, "Mystery"
Audio outro: The Beach Boys, "You’re Still a Mystery"

Link to video of Jansen balk
Link to video of Segura baserunning play
Link to 2018 trade value rankings
Link to order The MVP Machine

 iTunes Feed (Please rate and review us!)
 Sponsor Us on Patreon
 Facebook Group
 Effectively Wild Wiki
 Twitter Account
 Get Our Merch!
 Email Us: podcast@fangraphs.com