Dinos — and Baseballs — Soaring in Early Weeks of KBO Season

Through the first two weeks of the Korea Baseball Organization season, the NC Dinos have dominated the rest of the league, jumping out to an 11-2 start. On Tuesday’s ESPN-televised game, they beat the defending champion Doosan Bears, who have come back to the pack with a record of 8-5, that after handing the Dinos just their second loss of the season on Wednesday. The Dinos’ success thus far is worth a closer look, even from 7,000 miles and a language barrier away.

In Tuesday’s game at the Bears’ Jamsil Stadium in Seoul — the venue they share with the LG Twins, but like all KBO games thus far this year one devoid of fans due to the pandemic — the Dinos pounced on 23-year-old righty Young-ha Lee 이영하, the Bears’ third-best starter last year, for three first-inning runs, sending all nine hitters to the plate (Do KBO fans argue over the definition of “batting around” the way MLB fans do? I’m not here to create an international incident). Second baseman Min-woo Park 박민우 led off with a double and scored two batters later when designated hitter Sung-bum Na 나성범 singled.

Na took second on a balk, then scored on a single by catcher Euiji Yang 양의지, who himself came around to score thanks in part to a wild pitch and an infield single off a deflection. The Dinos ran the score to 4-0 in the second as Park drew a walk, took second on a very long single by center fielder Aaron Altherr 알테어 off the base of the outfield wall, advanced to third when Yang was hit by pitch to load the bases, and scored on a sacrifice fly by third baseman Sok Min Park 박석민.

(A note to users: in case you’re wondering how to get your fix of play-by-play action after the fact, MyKBOstats offers English-language box scores. When possible, each box score page also offers links to highlights and the full replay on YouTube, all the more reason to drop by.) Read the rest of this entry »

Speed Bumps Aside, a Mentally Stronger Ty Buttrey Was Pretty Good Last Year

Ty Buttrey had an up-and-down first full big-league season last year. The downs tended to come in clumps. In a pair of early-September outings, the Los Angeles Angels reliever was charged with seven earned runs in just two-thirds of an inning. Prior to that there was a three-game stretch in late July where he allowed seven earned runs in two-and-a-third innings. Take those stink bombs out of the equation and Buttrey would have finished 2019 with a 2.34 ERA, rather than the rocky-by-comparison 3.98 that went into the annals.

Not that he wants, or deserves, a pity party. Unlike duffers, hurlers don’t get mulligans. Once it becomes an official game, everything you do ends up on the ledger.

I caught up to Buttrey at Fenway Park a handful of weeks after his July speed bump. When I asked him for a synopsis of his season as a whole, he pointed to occasional overuse of a 97 mph heater that, velocity-wise, ranked in the 96th percentile among his big-league brethren.

“Early in the year, I was doing pretty well mixing my pitches,” Buttrey told me. “I was feeling comfortable and having a lot of success. Then I had a couple games about three months in where I start getting really fastball heavy. I was throwing way too many and ended up needing to go back to the drawing board.” Read the rest of this entry »

FanGraphs Prep: Build and Test Your Own Projection System

This is the third in a series of baseball-themed lessons we’re calling FanGraphs Prep. In light of so many parents suddenly having their school-aged kids learning from home, we hope is that these units offer a thoughtfully designed, baseball-themed supplement to the school work your student might already be doing. The first and second units can be found here and here.

Overview: A two-week unit centered around building and testing your own projection system.

From the simplest forecasts to the most complex projection systems, one of the most challenging questions to try to answer with statistics is predicting player performance from one year to the next. We do this by using their past stats to create an estimate for their future performance. Accounting for other factors like age and injury adds complexity, though not necessarily accuracy. In this unit, you’ll create a simple projection system and then test its accuracy.

Learning Objectives:

  • Identify and apply a weighted mean.
  • Gather and organize data from various sources.
  • Construct a weighted projection using historical data.
  • Explain why a projection system produces errors.
  • Identify and apply Mean Absolute Error.
  • Identity and apply Root Mean Square Error.
  • Evaluate which projection error to use for a given problem.
  • Review a projection system and adjust to fit data.

Target Grade-Level: 9-10

Read the rest of this entry »

The Many Journeys of Billy Hulen

Not far from Igerna, California, the home of the once-missing B.R. Logan, is the city of Yreka. Yreka, now the seat of Siskiyou County, is a place that holds onto its history as part of the Wild West — you can take a walking tour of historic buildings through the city, and municipal websites still tell the tale Mark Twain himself wrote about the town’s naming. With a population of 7,765, it’s a quiet place, held by the low noise of the nearby Shasta River.

Back at the turn of the century, though, Yreka was a gold rush boomtown. The city was founded as a mining settlement in 1851, and it didn’t take long for the bustle to begin. Its streets were full of people; there was a steady stream of immigration, with Chinese communities establishing themselves not long after the town was incorporated. The Yreka Flats, as they came to be known, ended up being a prodigious source of gold, sustaining the town for decades after it was first discovered there.

And that’s where our story begins — just a few years after the greatest game of baseball ever played in Southern Oregon. Our hero, as it turns out, was a resident of Ashland, Oregon, the antagonists in that contest; one imagines him reading the Ashland paper, shaking his head at the violence and treachery of that undefeated Grants Pass team. His name was Billy Hulen, and by the time we meet him in 1906, his titles were already plentiful: “The Kid,” Phillie and Senator, the best left-handed shortstop you’d ever seen, survivor of spring-training malaria, Northwestern League champion, member of the Order of Elks and the Knights of Pythia, and — most importantly — one of the most beloved baseball players up and down the Pacific coast.

He was in Yreka that February tending to his gold claim. One day, he headed north to Seattle on some non-specific business. A month later, no one had heard from him. None of his many friends had seen him — not since he had passed through Ashland without even telling his wife he was going to be in town. And so, on March 20, the call was put out for friends of Billy Hulen — in Vancouver and Everett, Ashland and San Francisco, all the way to St. Louis, where he was under contract for the next season — to begin searching for him. Billy Hulen simply had to be found. Read the rest of this entry »

Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 5/19/20

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon, folks, and welcome to the first edition of my Tuesday FanGraphs chat, not to be confused with the Monday chats that weren’t working, schedule-wise, or the Thursday chats that prevailed before my daughter started preschool. Anyway, I’m here, wiping the sweat from my face after quickly slurping down a spicy bowl of Shin Ramyun, and it’s no coincidence that I just turned on the ESPN KBO replay of the NC Dinos and Doosan Bears. Let’s talk some baseball!

David: What are the chances we get mlb baseball in 2020?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think it’s more likely than not – maybe 2-to-1 in favor — but it’s not going to be ideal, and it will be controversial with regards to the risk factors, the level of testing relative to the population at large, and the protocols with regards to a player testing positive. Buckle up.

C M Keller: I was looking at JAWS for relievers and was surprised to see that Rollie Fingers – a second-ballot Hall of Famer and universally acknowledged top closer of his era – was so low in the rankings. Was he overrated, or is current WAR rating of modern one-inning closers not well-suited for evaluating relievers of, say, 1990 and earlier?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: WAR doesn’t work tremendously well for relievers in the first place, and Fingers wasn’t elite at run prevention (120 ERA+, compared to 126 for Gossage, 132 for Smith, 136 for Sutter, 141 for Hoffman, 147 for Wilhelm, and 205 for Rivera). He had a distinctive mustache and played a prominent role on some playoff and championship teams (oh, what might have been had he been healthy enough for the 1982 World Series), so he did have the Fame going for him, but he just wasn’t as dominant as some of his HOF peers.

Sonny: Really appreciate you making this time to chat. Working from home with a toddler these days is no joke. It reminds me of…wait, hold on…Get down from there! How did you get on top of the Fridge!?!…sorry I’m gonna have to call you back.

Read the rest of this entry »

FanGraphs Live! Tuesday: OOTP Brewers, Noon ET

Corbin Burnes is now out for the year in our OOTP simulation. Josh Lindblom 린드블럼 won’t be back until August. Should we go big in the trade market? Cobble together a rotation out of spare parts in Triple-A? The world is our oyster, so long as the world mostly consists of mediocre pitching. Read the rest of this entry »

Wild World Series Tactics: 2010-2011

This series is careening headlong towards a conclusion. The Giants are in the building, winning World Series in droves. The Rangers are around, with Ron Washington telling players about the difficulty of playing defense, and also batting whoever he wants wherever he wants. And the decisions — well, they’re still baffling. But enough exposition. Let’s get right to it.


Ah, yes, the inevitable-in-hindsight even-year Giants. It’s easy to think of these teams in retrospect as scrappy overachievers. But they had an excellent lineup — leadoff hitter Andres Torres had a career year (125 wRC+, 6.3 WAR) and led off, and six other above-average hitters followed him, in roughly comprehensible order. The team finished sixth in baseball in non-pitcher wRC+; they were a legit offense.

The Rangers were a different story. Elvis Andrus had his worst offensive year — and led off. Michael Young, already on the decline, batted second. Mitch Moreland strangely batted behind Bengie Molina in Game 1 — against right-handed Tim Lincecum. Texas might have had the better names, but the Giants had the better offense in 2010.

In Game 1, it showed. There weren’t any interesting decisions to make, because the Giants hung seven runs on Rangers ace Cliff Lee and another four on the bullpen. Bruce Bochy mixed and matched a total of six relievers, but the game never got too close for comfort. Game 2 was more of the same — Mitch Moreland batted behind a defense-first catcher (Matt Treanor this time) and the Giants obliterated the Texas bullpen en route to a 9-0 pasting. Read the rest of this entry »

The Biggest Losers in a Seasonless Season

While we can hope there’s a 2020 season that provides both quality baseball and sufficient safety protocols for players, team personnel, and those who work in the game’s orbit, a lot of things have to come together to make such a season happen. A number of COVID-19-related health concerns and continued issues between labor and ownership could cause the season to stall before it ever starts.

In a very real sense, if this happens, everybody loses. But in a baseball sense, the consequences of a lost 2020 season won’t weigh equally on every team. While we maintain the fiction that every team enters the season with a real chance to win the World Series, our story’s ending is more like that of one of those German fairy tales; even if Ron Gardenhire is unlikely to be eaten by a wolf, the Detroit Tigers were always long shots to go 70-92.

Teams had different ideas about what they wanted to accomplish in 2020, and for some teams, this season was more crucial for their long-term goals — in one way or another — than it was for others.

Cincinnati Reds

Many analysts, myself included, have bemoaned the lack of ambition many teams have displayed the last few offseasons, with winning clubs seemingly most concerned with not paying luxury tax penalties or spinning tales of financial hardship too fanciful even for the Brothers Grimm. Read the rest of this entry »

Effectively Wild Episode 1543: The Best Baseball Spectator Experiences

Ben Lindbergh, Sam Miller, and Meg Rowley banter about MLB’s proposed in-game distancing measures and what degree of difference from the norm would prevent the game from still looking like baseball, then draft and discuss their favorite highly specific ways in which to follow a baseball game, whether in person or from afar.

Audio intro: Sloan, "Listen to the Radio"
Audio outro: Ezra Furman, "Watch You Go By"

Link to ESPN report about safety protocols
Link to The Athletic report about safety protocols
Link to Yates Twitter thread
Link to Ben Clemens on socially distanced baseball
Link to AP report on MLB’s financial claims
Link to Baseball Prospectus analysis of MLB’s financial claims
Link to FanGraphs analysis of MLB’s financial claims
Link to order The MVP Machine

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COVID-19 Roundup: MLB Organizes Health Protocols for 2020 Season

This is the latest installment of a series in which the FanGraphs staff rounds up the latest developments regarding the COVID-19 virus’ effect on baseball.

MLB’s COVID-19 Health and Safety Guidelines Laid Out In 67-Page Document

On Saturday, Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic obtained a lengthy document that meticulously outlines the health and safety measures MLB considers key to holding a 2020 season. Those protocols cover everything from how the game will be played on the field to what the behavior of players and essential team employees should look like away from the ballpark, and serve as yet another glimpse into just how physically and mentally challenging it will be to play baseball in the middle of a global pandemic.

One can read the details of the proposal as a bulleted list in Rosenthal and Drellich’s report, or absorb them in the day-in-the-life example Jeff Passan worked out at ESPN. Both reports paint an image of baseball in 2020 in which the reminders of what’s currently happening in the world are constant, unrelenting, and bleak. During games, non-playing personnel must wear masks in the dugout and may be relegated to the stadium seats, where they must sit at least four seats apart from and two rows behind each other. Once a baseball has been put in play and touched by multiple players, it’ll be tossed aside and replaced with a new one. Between pitches, players are encouraged to be as distanced from one another as possible. Read the rest of this entry »