Travis Sawchik FanGraphs Chat

12:00
Travis Sawchik: Welcome to Sawchik Chat V

12:01
Travis Sawchik: Let’s get started, shall we?

12:01
Erik: Roughly what percentage of MLB hitters would benefit by swinging with more of an uppercut? Are we talking everybody except Billy Hamilton, or more like a quarter to a third of hitters? And what profile of hitter would fit into that group?

12:03
Travis Sawchik: (The swing path was the subject of my Monday morning post, FYI …. http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/can-more-mlb-hitters-get-off-the-ground/) Erik, I would say the majority to vast majority of hitters would benefit form more loft and fly balls. Hamilton is one that probably would not, but he’s an exception. Hey, Christian Yelich, get the ball in the air!

12:03
Bork: Are you surprised that Hammel only received $16M? That elbow must be a big question mark.

12:03
Travis Sawchik: There’s gotta be something going on with the arm/shoulder/elbow, right?

12:03
Pie: I don’t like the Patriots.

12:03
Travis Sawchik: Well, Brady is approaching 40 so this has to end eventually … right?

12:05
Will: Who do you value more over the next 5 years, Brandon Belt or Eric Hosmer? Both are entering prime years for positional players.

12:05
Travis Sawchik: Hosmer is younger, but I like where Belt’s OBP and approach is headed … I wish he’d play in different home part …But I’d take Belt

12:06
David: Is there a stat for how well players perform after days off?

12:07
Travis Sawchik: I’m not aware of a public one. I’m sure teams are trying to quantify this effect and are increasingly scheduling off days.

12:07
Travis Sawchik: Teams want that video game type energy bar

12:08
JimLindeman15: Cardinals RH Relief depth chart: Oh, Rosenthal, Broxton, Bowman, Tuivailala, Socolovich. Landing spot for Joe Blanton?

12:08
Travis Sawchik: I like Joe Blanton for about every team. Why is he still available? Why are we not bullpening?

12:08
ChiSox2020: Why don’t the Sox try trading Quintana to the Cubs for their top 3 prospects? Jimenez/Happ/Candelario seems like the only thing impeding is the in-town rivalry.

12:09
Travis Sawchik: I’m not sure if it’s the only thing, but the in-town rivalry shouldn’t be much of a consideration if a FO is operating rationally. Plus, these clubs are in different phases (rebuild vs. defend title)

12:09
George is Curious: Does Buxton finally have his breakout season in 2017?

12:10
Travis Sawchik: Mild breakout? I expect him to have his best year and establish himself as a regular. He’s too talented not to

12:11
James: Which CF/leadoff hitter do you think will have a better season from a fantasy perspective, Fowler in STL or Eaton in WAS?

12:12
Travis Sawchik: I like both but I’d rather have Eaton’s consistently: three straight .360 OBP, 115-119 wRC+ seasons … And if Harper’s back nearer his 2015 self, he should score some runs

12:13
Tom: When does Quintana get dealt and where do you see him landing?

12:13
Travis Sawchik: I’ll play. Near the deadline and to a team in the NL Central

12:14
Curtis: Behind Kershaw, how would you rank the Dodgers 10 man rotation?

12:14
Travis Sawchik: I like Hill as a clear No. 2, I love the depth

12:14
Babe Lincoln: Do you think Cutch will be an average defensive CF in 2017? In 2018?

12:15
Travis Sawchik: Pirates announced yesterday – way to bury the news – that McCutchen is moving to RF. More on that later today at FanGraphs

12:15
Matt: If you were a magician, would your grand finale trick be to saw a chick in half? You know – because of your name and all.

12:16
Travis Sawchik: Smoke and mirrors, I will show you some time

12:16
Sim: Name a pitcher who no one is really talking about but will make a big impact this season.

12:17
Travis Sawchik: Aaron Nola might have been the unluckiest pitcher in baseball last season. He’s the closest thing we have to a RHP Rich Hill

12:17
Dan: First Travis chat–what topics are on the table? Fantasy? Real baseball? Politics? Oreos? Minor leagues?

12:18
Travis Sawchik: Let’s stay away from politics, I think the rest of the world has that covered … Anything else goes

12:18
Sirras: To what extent do you think Hammel’s market was damaged by a perceived signaling effect by the Cubs? That is, other teams thinking “well, the Cubs could use a starter and they let Hammel walk. He must be hurt/injured/at risk.”

12:19
Travis Sawchik: Yeah, that’s interesting. When you see a big-money club coming of a WS title, a club with pitching depth concerns, it certainly could create pause. We have no idea what the medicals look like, but I don’t think the Cubs helped him

12:20
Gest: Can you please approximate how much surplus value Votto has in a trade?

12:21
Travis Sawchik: Tough question given the age and contract length… the end might not be pretty but I like him in the short term. I would have liked to have seen him in Toronto and playing in those AL East ballparks

12:21
JD15: How do you pick the topics you write about? Seems like you wrote 100 articles last month. Do you keep a list or just browse and find something you’re interested in once an article is complete?

12:22
Travis Sawchik: I try to have a running list, but be flexible to accommodate newsier items. I find a good question tends to lead to more questions

12:22
Erik: Do you know of any hitters who have increased their launch angle and gotten worse? It seems as though there must at least be some downsides, otherwise everyone would do it, right?

12:23
Travis Sawchik: I don’t know that many guys have tried changing their swing paths significantly as GB/FB rates across the game have been stable. But we are probably only hearing about the success stories

12:24
Rick Hahn: Please tell me who surfaces in the Quintana sweepstakes. I’m getting a bit antsy.

12:24
Travis Sawchik: Patience is a virtue, Rick. And that contract allows for patience and for an ideal market to develop … Of course with every pitcher, you risk injury and depletion of market

12:25
Hector: How do you personally feel about Bryce Harper? Do you think his down year last year was more due to his injuries or the league adjusting to him (or a mixture of both)? I find it hard to believe that a guy who posted a wRC close to 200 in 2015 all of a sudden doesn’t have it anymore. His BB rate was elite last year and stole some bases under the great tutelage of the first-base coach so should we look at that and say he can turn it around if healthy next year?

12:25
Travis Sawchik: I suspect he was hurting last year. I think he’s a generational talent but I do worry about the amount of injuries he’s suffered

12:25
jon: Mike Montgomery and $10 million or Jason Hammel, 2017 only?

12:26
Travis Sawchik: I want to say Hammel, but the Cubs are really smart and know a lot more than anyone else about this decision so Montgomery

12:27
Ian: Gary Sanchez is going to bust. I am right because _______. I am wrong because ______…. ?

12:27
Travis Sawchik: He’s not going to sustain a 40% HR/FB mark but he’s a star and just about every team would love to have him

12:27
Von Schloss: Who do you think has a better season, the Marlins or Rays?

12:27
Travis Sawchik: Rays. I like the SP and their SP depth

12:28
Czechjustin: Knowing the Pirates clubhouse, how does an all star player such as Andrew McCutchen handle the move? What are the clubhouse dynamics/ disruptions of this outfield realignment in Pittsburgh?

12:30
Travis Sawchik: This is a great question. It’s interesting how teams handle that dynamic with the raw, cold data. Why didn’t the Yankees move Jeter to 2B like 15 years ago? McCutchen did not want to move off the position, which is likely in part why we didn’t see it earlier. But it’s a four-year trend and the small-market Pirates need to create as much value as possible. Also, he’s not a long-term fixture in the clubhouse

12:30
Pinstripe Wizard: With so many times trying to improve their defense, is offense the new market inefficiency? Is this why Billy Beane appears to not care about defense?

12:30
Travis Sawchik: I think this is true to an extent. There’s always a balance there and few two-way, impact players

12:31
Pinstripe Wizard: Which franchise is in worse shape: Padres or Tigers? Sure the Tigers are better this year, but in overall outlook, I’m not convinced.

12:31
Travis Sawchik: I’m intrigued with the Padres’ farm system, not so much with the Tigers’

12:31
5 Run Homer: So about the Pirates changing the OF (Polanco LF, Marte CF, McCutchen RF)… why McCutchen in right? Doesn’t he have a noodle arm?

12:32
Travis Sawchik: He does have a poor arm, but the idea is it’s easier to hide a suspect OF in right field at PNC Park and Mike Petriello had some great research showing McCutchen is better going to his right

12:33
Travis Sawchik: But maybe McCutchen and Polanco should switch spots at certain road venues

12:34
Kiermaier’s Piercing Green Eyes: I want expansion to happen so division realignment kicks the Rays out of the AL East into a much weaker division with the Braves and Marlins or something. Is this a reasonable thing to root for?

12:34
Travis Sawchik: In a 32-team future, the Rays belong with the Braves and Marlins in a division

12:34
Ryan: What’s a better strategy in a new startup 26 man roster dynasty league..? We get a $260 auction budget but players monetary values go away after the drafts completion. Go for cheaper young talent to fill the roster, or go heavier on multiple stud guys I love like mookie and supplement roster with dollar players later?

12:36
Travis Sawchik: Everyone loves Mookie, but is going to take up a fifth of your budget …. As a generally philosophy target youth, maybe some vets coming off down seasons (or Harper), and invest in a couple corner young, position-player stones

12:37
E: the NBA keeps separate stats, available publicly, of players after 0, 1, 2 days rest etc. Seems weird if it isnt available somewhere

12:37
Travis Sawchik: Someone help us out if it is available for MLB … Resting players has been ‘a thing’ for more years in basketball than MLB

12:38
Andrew: How do you think GMs and Agents communicate nowadays? Mostly texting? Phone calls? Both?

12:38
Travis Sawchik: Like anyone else these days, mostly texts …. but depends on age of exec and agent, too

12:39
Steve: Not sure if you do fantasy questions but as a Gary Sanchez owner I’d probably be foolish to not sell high on his hype in light of his 40% HR/FB rate, no?

12:39
Travis Sawchik: Explore the market, and seek an outrageous return, but don’t sell just to sell

12:40
BillyF: Dear Mr. Sawchik: What do you think will be the future of the Marlins franchise for the next 5 years? Won’t it be time for it to change ownership despite the latter managed to make profit out of this franchise?

12:41
Travis Sawchik: There’s not been many franchises for sale despite the skyrocketing values, I suppose that tells us that owners are doing quite well. …. especially with no payroll floor to worry about and player age declining

12:41
Hector: In an OBP/BB league, what do you think of a strategy where you stock up on positions with players who were consistent the last few years yet your OF is high-risk high-reward (I am thinking Harper, McCutchen, Pollock, Bautista)? So I will have an elite infield yet my outfield could look like that.

12:42
Travis Sawchik: I like it. I really like Harper, Pollock and Bautista to return profit in 2017

12:42
Nobody Important: Will the DH in both leagues happen before an expansion?

12:42
Travis Sawchik: I’m not a DH fan, but it seems like we’re headed there

12:43
Bri Guy: Do you think the league figured out Jake Lamb in the 2nd half or are you comfortable chalking it up to regression/wrist injury?

12:44
Travis Sawchik: His plate discipline remained stable in the second half but his SLG dropped from .612 in the first half to .380 in the second, so that suggests it could be injury related

12:45
Nick: So I was looking at Brian McCann’s Baseball Prospectus page and…. does he at least have a bit of a HOF argument? His 2008-2011 was incredible and he’s approaching 60 WARP. I guess the question is are we confident enough in BP’s framing numbers to say he’s been that awesome of a player?

12:46
Travis Sawchik: I haven’t explored this, but his peak was great. Can’t wait for the framing aspect of HoF debates in the coming years

12:46
Babe Lincoln: (I know that Cutch is supposed to play RF in 2017, but I’m asking for a friend who is thinking about trading for him.)

12:48
Travis Sawchik: McCutchen’s four-year defensive decline (+5 DRS in 2013 to -28 DRS last season) suggest he’s done as an average defensive CF … If the bat rebounds, he can still produce value there in the short term. I suspect he’ll sign his next contract to play LF with an American League team

12:48
Tim: Do you think Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano will be better next year?

12:48
Travis Sawchik: Yes and Yes

12:50
Joe: Why aren’t more people excited about Kevin Gausman? Arguably a top 15 AL pitcher last year.

12:51
Travis Sawchik: I think people like Gausman, but I don’t think many are expecting him to suddenly become a dominant No. 1 …. He’s posted back-to-back 4.1 FIPs

12:51
Curtis: How many different types of pitches do pitchers actually throw? Will we see a new type of pitch anytime soon?

12:52
Travis Sawchik: A new pitch? Someday, perhaps, but physics only allows a baseball to make so many movements and do so many different things. Maybe we’ll see more true curveball usage, maybe someday a team/instructors will figure out how to teach more to adopt knuckleballs

12:53
Curtis: What is your favorite advanced stat & why?

12:53
Travis Sawchik: I’m really interested in the Statcast batted ball data right now

12:53
Don: Which happens first, Angels make the playoffs or Mike Trout finishes outside the top 3 in MVP voting?

12:54
Travis Sawchik: I don’t see the playoffs in the Angels’ near-term future, so I’ll say Trout outside the top 3.

12:55
Curtis: Who will be the most surprising 20+ HR guy of 2017?

12:56
Travis Sawchik: Hmmmm. Jose Ramirez? GB/FB trending the right way and some of those 46 doubles will turn into homers, perhaps. Does Buxton count?

12:58
Don: Who is the best remaining free agent in your opinion?

12:58
Travis Sawchik: I like Blanton

12:58
Travis Sawchik: I think he can fill a valuable multi-inning relief role for someone

12:59
Travis Sawchik: Napoli did hit 34 homers last year …. but his October was ugly and he’s 35

12:59
JD15: Any big (non FA) moves remaining before spring training starts or is everyone pretty set at this point?

1:00
Travis Sawchik: Activity is usually quieting down at this time … but Rick Hahn still has Quintana and a phone

1:02
James: Apparently Washington has stated Joe Ross will be competing for a starter spot this spring training. How much value do you put in this? Seems to me Joe Ross is likely the best #5 starter in all of baseball up there with Matz if all the Mets pitchers are healthy.

1:03
Travis Sawchik: Washington’s rotation looks great … not sure about depth. And I wonder if they would have been better off keeping their young arms and signing Fowler

1:04
Randall Simon: Remember when Manny Ramirez cut off Johnny Damon’s throw?

1:05
Travis Sawchik: It’s right there with the Jeter flip

1:05
Tom: Will MLB ever start their postseason games earlier (LCS & WS)? One of the nice things about the Super Bowl is that whole familes can watch. The earliest a WS game got over this year was past 11:30 on the East Coast. Baseball is really shooting itself in the foot with younger generations right?

1:05
Travis Sawchik: Baseball start times are too late. Let’s play an afternoon WS game

1:06
DJ : Does Clay Buchholz figure himself out in a new setting and with less pressure? He wasn’t too bad in relief last season

1:07
Travis Sawchik: I’m curious to see what het does. He wouldn’t be the first pitcher to benefit from leaving the AL East for the NL. I saw first hand what AJ Burnett and Ivan Nova were able to do

1:07
Stevil: Your thoughts on Reese McGuire? Pittsburgh has/had several interesting backstops in their system, but were you a little surprised when they moved him to Toronto?

1:08
Travis Sawchik: That was a weird trade. Felt like a pure salary dump. I think the opinions have cooled on McGuire, but he’s still supposed to have an elite pop time and solid defensive skills. Not sure he’s ever going to hit

1:08
DJ : On Opening Day, who will the best free agent still available

1:09
Travis Sawchik: Pick one (or more) of the bat-only type still available

1:09
Logan: If the Rays have a dreadful season, would they be open to trading Longoria? He makes so much sense for the Braves who happen to have the best farm system in baseball.

1:10
Travis Sawchik: The Rays are always open to accumulating surplus value … And we’ve seen a small-market team like the Pirates willing to move its Face of the Franchise this winter

1:11
Steve: Statcast is really cool, but is there anything teachable from it? You can’t exactly go tell your pitcher to throw a curve with x RPM and a hitter to hit everything at Y degrees

1:12
Travis Sawchik: You can show a hitter what types of launch angles get what types of results, and if a swing change is resulting in more exit velocity, etc … Pitchers can see how stuff is working independent of results….So it is a really valuable too for teaching

1:12
Isaac S: What do you expect from Michael Conforto this season

1:13
Travis Sawchik: Conforto is a Statcast star. I believe in Statcast. I think he’ll continue to learn and the underlying skills will produce better results

1:13
Youngman: Do you think the Braves are in the playoff picture in 2018?

1:14
Travis Sawchik: That might be a little aggressive … but I love what the Braves are doing and things could come together quickly for them

1:14
Joe : Because JD Martinez broke out so late in his career, would you expect a different aging curve for his career?

1:14
Travis Sawchik: Yeah, he’s an outlier so his mid 30s production could be on a different level

1:14
Rick Hahn: Who will end up being the best of the prospect haul? Moncada, Kopech, someone else??

1:15
Travis Sawchik: Moncada might struggle early with contact … But you have to like the tool set and overall skill set

1:15
Andrew: If Andrew Cashner throws 150 innings with an ERA around 4.10 that’s a success, right?

1:15
Travis Sawchik: Yes, but it didn’t happen in the NL West, I don’t think it’s happening in Texas

1:16
Matt: Hypothetically, let’s say I have Byron Buxton on my fantasy team, and I live down the street from Byron’s – a great Italian beef spot in Chicago. Which Byron provides more value to me in 2017?

1:16
Travis Sawchik: Can’t go wrong but you can enjoy a mild Byron Buxton breakout while enjoying great Italian beef. Win-win

1:16
Erik: What makes you say that it seems like we’re headed towards a DH? That statement gets repeated often, but since having the DH is basically binary (it exists or it doesn’t exist) it’s rather difficult to make incremental progress.

1:17
Travis Sawchik: It gets the MLBPA another job in a starting lineup and owners and fans generally seem like like run scoring

1:18
The Dark Knight: Do you think I have a full recovery to ace status this season?

1:19
Travis Sawchik: I miss the 2013 You….I haven’t seen much evidence of that returning, but some players take longer to get it back post TJS

1:19
Steve: At a certain point doesn’t the HOF get big enough that it loses it’s exclusivity?

1:20
Travis Sawchik: No. Not as long as it’s still a small percentage of the playing population of a given era. I think 90s are probably under-represented as Brian Kenny and others have noted

1:20
Yinzer Dave: Has the crossing guard asked if you agree with the Pirates decision of moving Cutch to RF? (It’s obviously the right choice, just want to know the buzz on Washington Blvd).

1:21
Travis Sawchik: The Crossing Guard does not think McCutchen is long for Pittsburgh. I believe he likes Marte in CF. A full year of Marte in CF should be fun for the locals here in Western Pa.

1:21
Czechjustin: Travis, You’ve mentioned Malcolm Gladwell before. Have you read “Blink”? Do first impressions (scouting, evaluating) have a high value in MLB?

1:23
Travis Sawchik: Yes! I love Gladwell’s work. I have to think there is some type of initial bias formed that is hard to get beyond. I think that’s true of our everyday experience. Teams might do well to self-scout their scouts on this and try and make adjustments (More important in amateur scouting, I would suspect)

1:23
Todd: not being a fan of the DH is like being a fan of watching a punter try to throw a pass – stupid

1:25
Travis Sawchik: Disagree. I like the extra decisions for managers and it should also produce quicker games, which MLB seems to want…. Moreover, if a team really gets into bullpening you could produced an advantage through more PH at-bats … Also, if a pitcher is buzzing people up-and-in he has to step in the box. And Bartolo Colon! Too much good stuff

1:25
Dan: Please rank young corner OF for dynasty purposes: Benintendi, Dahl, Mazara, Judge

1:25
Travis Sawchik: Ben, Mazara, Judge and Dahl

1:26
Jordan: I’m a big Pirates fan. Doesn’t it seem to make more sense to have Marte play LF in PNC rather than center? How many times do we see him get the guy trying to take second on a base hit down the line? Or run balls down in the notch?

1:26
Travis Sawchik: Left field in PNC Park is a really difficult place to play…With this move, the Pirates are risking moving two strengths (LF, RF) to cover up for one weakness

1:26
Frank: Robinson Cano hit a career high 39 home runs at age 33. I don’t have a question, I just think that’s amazing.

1:27
Travis Sawchik: That is amazing

1:27
Erik: Watching punters throw passes is awesome. In any game where a punter throws a pass, that pass is probably the most exciting play of the game.

1:27
Travis Sawchik: Agreed!

1:27
Joe: Better ex rays(haha x-ray) lefty in 2017: Matt Moore or Drew Smyly?

1:27
Travis Sawchik: Smyly

1:28
A cat: Baseball is emphasizing youth, but will careers become shorter because teams will try to manipulate arb clocks?

1:29
Travis Sawchik: Teams are managing clocks … which is a logical, rational approach to business. MLBPA didn’t do much to help itself in the new CBA

1:29
Ben: Do you play ottoneu? If so, what do you think of $5 Lamb for $10 Britton in the FG points format? Thanks.

1:29
Travis Sawchik: I don’t, but perhaps I should as a new FG employee

1:30
Frank: Which surprise player in both the NL an AL would you pick to lead each league in HR’s this season? My picks are Miguel Sano in the AL and Joc Pederson in the NL. Post hype sleeper alert!!

1:30
Travis Sawchik: Sano could do it with 600 at bats

1:31
Boom Baby: Biggest surprise 20 hr hitter for 2017? Nick Markakis

1:31
Travis Sawchik: You win

1:31
Dan: Mexico City, Montreal…what other expansion sites seem obvious?

1:31
Travis Sawchik: I love those two choices … and think MLB will be in both cities at some point this half century

1:31
georgehermanski: Your opinion of the Steamer projection for Eric Thames?

1:32
Travis Sawchik: The translations have been really good with foreign pro guys, so I trust. Brewers did well there

1:32
JT: Why is Montreal always brought back up when expansion is discussed? I think losing a team should disqualify you from getting a new one

1:33
Travis Sawchik: Montreal drew well in the 1980s, multiple 2 million-plus seasons … Ask Jonah Keri for more reasons!

1:33
Justin: Can Mike Zunino be a 2.5+ WAR player? He made solid improvements in SSS last season even with a BABIP in line with his career average. Can his improve BB rate translate to better contact overall?

1:33
Travis Sawchik: Yes, especially if we’re using bWARP and including receiving skills

1:34
Travis Sawchik: That music you hear brings us to the close of this chat …. Thanks for all the great questions. I have to go and create some more content for you. Same place/time next week for episode VI

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A Cleveland native, FanGraphs writer Travis Sawchik is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, Big Data Baseball. He also contributes to The Athletic Cleveland, and has written for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, among other outlets. Follow him on Twitter @Travis_Sawchik.

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rosen380
Member

“David: Is there a stat for how well players perform after days off?”

All players would be a lot of data, but if you wanted to check particular ones, just dump some gamelog data into Excel and you could get some basic stats at least…

IE, Mike Trout for his entire career averaged 36.3 HR/600PA when he didn’t play a MLB game the day before and only 27.0 when he did, but his rates of singles, doubles and triples were lower.