Effectively Wild Episode 1960: Seventy-Six Percent Led the Big Parade

EWFI
Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley banter about Scott Rolen’s election to the Hall of Fame, Billy Wagner, Andy Pettitte, and relievers vs. starters as Cooperstown candidates, the Adalberto Mondesi trade (and a wager about Mondesi and Shohei Ohtani), and (32:40) more ways in which baseball stands out from other sports. Then (45:00) they talk to FanGraphs senior writer (and The Cooperstown Casebook author) Jay Jaffe about Rolen’s trajectory, the rest of the voting results, the typical ballot in 2023, the election outlook for 2024, frustrating Hall of Fame arguments, and more. After that (1:21:36), they end with a follow-up about extra players on the field and an in-person Past Blast from 1960 (and Jacob Pomrenke).

Audio intro: Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris, “Rollin’ On
Audio interstitial: Van Morrison, “Dweller on the Threshold
Audio outro: Joel Plaskett, “Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’

Link to HoF voting results
Link to Petriello on HoF 3B
Link to parents’ reaction video
Link to Rolen’s Reddit spoiler
Link to Griffey/Piazza Reddit spoiler
Link to Rolen Stathead query
Link to B-Ref newsletter
Link to Ben on not voting
Link to Ben on not voting again
Link to Jeff Passan on not voting
Link to Andy McCullough on not voting
Link to Mark Armour tweet
Link to reliever JAWS list
Link to FG on the Mondesi trade
Link to B.J. on Mondesi in 2018
Link to B.J. tweet about MVP Mondesi
Link to Ohtani signing reaction episode
Link to Meg/Barnwell/Adler episode
Link to @OldTakesExposed
Link to baseball exceptionalism wiki
Link to curling scoreboard info
Link to golf scoreboard photo
Link to Jay on the results
Link to Jayson Stark on the results
Link to Ben on Mauer
Link to Rob Parker tweet
Link to Ron Cook column
Link to Verducci video
Link to The Cooperstown Casebook
Link to Hershberger story source
Link to 1960 story source
Link to 1960 Winter Meetings (SABR)
Link to SABR on MLB schedule changes
Link to Jacob Pomrenke’s website
Link to Past Blast wiki
Link to Shapiro quotes

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Red Sox Find Their Shortstop, Trade For Adalberto Mondesi

Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox have spent most of the offseason with a big hole up the middle of their infield. With Xander Bogaerts departing in free agency, Boston had no true shortstop on the roster. While Enrique Hernández and Christian Arroyo each made a handful of starts at the six on Bogaerts’ off days, neither is a true shortstop and both are needed to man the other up-the-middle positions, where the team still lacks depth. Yesterday, the Red Sox at least partially filled that hole, trading left-handed reliever Josh Taylor to the Royals for switch-hitting infielder Adalberto Mondesi and a player to be named later.

A healthy Mondesi is one of baseball’s most exciting position players to watch. Most fans likely know him for his top-of-the-charts speed, which he shows off in all facets of his game. Let’s start with the most visible one: baserunning. Mondesi has multiple seasons under his belt with an average sprint speed above 30 feet per second, making him one of the most electric runners in the game. Since his debut in 2016, 44% of his competitive runs have been defined as bolts, a mark bested by just four others during that time. Of course, Mondesi has also used his speed to steal bases, and his combination of aggressiveness and efficiency has allowed him to put up ludicrous stolen base numbers despite never getting a full season’s worth of plate appearances:

Plate Appearances Per Stolen Base Leaders, 2018-22
Player SB PA PA/SB OBP
Adalberto Mondesi 119 1157 9.72 .289
Mallex Smith 88 1157 13.15 .326
Billy Hamilton 81 1103 13.62 .282
Jon Berti 76 1126 14.82 .335
Dylan Moore 65 1073 16.51 .317
Starling Marte 133 2473 18.59 .348
Jonathan Villar 112 2161 19.29 .320
Trea Turner 149 2922 19.61 .357
Dee Strange-Gordon 58 1150 19.83 .294
Ronald Acuña Jr. 107 2297 21.47 .370
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference
min. 1000 PA

Read the rest of this entry »


A’s Prospect Zack Gelof Profiles as Another Brick in the Wall

Zack Gelof
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Zack Gelof doesn’t profile as a boom-or-bust prospect. Coming off of a season that saw him reach Triple-A at age 22, the University of Virginia product is a near lock to perform on the big stage — not as a headliner, but rather as a solid contributor to a lineup that is currently patched together with Band-Aids. The low-budget Oakland Athletics need all the help they can get, so getting Gelof — ditto the higher-ceilinged Tyler Soderstrom — to the big leagues is an organizational priority.

Drafted 60th overall in 2021, Gelof slashed .270/.352/.463 with 18 home runs this past season, with the bulk of his action coming with Double-A Midland. The right-handed-hitting infielder added three more homers in the Arizona Fall League, and it is his power potential that most stands out for our lead prospect analyst. When I asked Eric Longenhagen for a snapshot scouting report on Gelof, he told me that “it is definitely a power-over-hit profile at this point,” adding that while his 70% contact rate wasn’t great, his “peak power and barrel rates were very encouraging.”

When I asked Gelof for a self-scouting report, he chose not to cite specific strengths, but rather his all-around skillset and desire to get better.

“I’d say I’m a really athletic infielder who likes to compete,” the Delaware native told me during his stint in the AFL. “But I try not to think about who I am and what people scout me to be. I just worry about working on basically every area that I can. I want to perform on the field and be the best player that I can be.” Read the rest of this entry »


Pablo López Has No. 2 Starter Potential in 2023 — If He Can Make a Slight Change

Pablo Lopez
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, what felt like months of Pablo López trade rumors finally came to fruition, as he was sent to Minnesota (along with two prospects) for reigning batting champion Luis Arraez. (For an in-depth breakdown of the trade, check out Ben Clemens’ summary here.) In theory, the trade should help both rosters: the Twins needed pitching depth, and the Marlins needed offensive help. For this piece, I’m going to focus on how López can recover the best version of himself that we saw in 2021 before he missed much of that season’s second half.

López established himself as an above-average starting pitcher in the shortened 2020 season, when he threw 57.1 innings with a 3.61 ERA and 3.09 FIP. The main reason for his success: he bought into the idea of throwing your best pitches more often, throwing his four-seamer and changeup over 60% of the time for the first time in his career. That success carried over into 2021, when he threw 102.2 innings with a 3.07 ERA and 3.29 FIP, followed by a hot start to 2022. But from the middle of June through the rest of the season, he kept tossing up clunkers.

López Performance by Month
Month FIP K% BB% Ch Whiff%
April 1.66 27.10 4.70 46.9
May 3.73 26.20 7.60 40.3
June 4.65 22.00 7.30 37.6
July 3.92 24.00 8.50 30.9
August 4.43 19.70 8.50 31.1
September 3.55 23.40 5.80 20.0

The short story is that hitters stopped whiffing at López’s changeup. He had a slight recovery in the final month, but as you can see in that pitch’s whiff rate and his strikeout rate, that wasn’t him at his best. His repertoire hinges on both righties and lefties swinging at and whiffing on changeups. It’s the key to his success, and it will need to be the focus if he hopes to return to his 2021 form.

So why did hitters swing and miss less at López’s changeup as the season went on, and is it directly related to the pitch itself?

To answer that, it’s worth considering first what a changeup is: a deception. And in order to deceive, you have to make the hitter believe something else is coming. To do that, you must throw your complimentary pitch regularly and in an ideal location. In the case of the changeup, you usually pair it with a four-seamer or sinker; for López, it’s the four-seamer. The success of those pitches goes hand in hand; if one is off, then the performance of the other could be in jeopardy. To go into more detail: if the shape of one changes and no longer tunnels as well with the other, then the combination isn’t as deceptive.

That seems to have been the case with López. Below is a table of his four-seamer/changeup metrics from the last few seasons:

López 4-Seamer/Changeup Specs
Year Pitch Active% Measured Axis Inferred Axis
2020 4-seamer 80.5 1:25 12:56
2020 Changeup 85.5 1:59 2:48
2021 4-seamer 80.2 1:32 12:58
2021 Changeup 90.5 2:08 2:50
2022 4-seamer 66.2 1:19 12:31
2022 Changeup 83.7 2:02 2:50
SOURCE: Alex Chamberlain’s Pitch Leaderboard

The difference is jarring. López didn’t have pure backspin on his four-seamer to begin with, but a change in shape from the low-80s in Active% (also known as spin efficiency) to 66.2% completely alters a pitch’s shape and, as a result, its effectiveness. Even though his changeup metrics were relatively the same from 2021, the change in the fastball negatively impacted the entire arsenal. If a hitter can distinguish between those two pitches because of shape and/or location, they are less likely to be fooled by either one.

This negative development for López can be traced directly to an injury suffered when he took a liner right off the right wrist on June 10. After that, his performance was sporadic, and more importantly, his release point and pitch location changed:

López 4-Seamer Release and Location
Month Avg. Horizontal Release Avg. Vertical Release Avg. Horizontal Location
April -2.14 5.5 0.02
May -2.09 5.5 0.05
June -2.06 5.48 -0.05
July -2.13 5.34 -0.01
August -2.15 5.37 0.02
September -2.09 5.48 0.17

During his rough patch in July and August, his release point moved down and closer to third base. This slight change perfectly tracks with a loss in active spin. By getting further around the ball, your finger and seam orientation at release are less on top of the ball and more on the side. To get more backspin, you ideally release the ball closer to the top of your fingertips. A change in grip strength that could be the result of a wrist contusion would have a direct impact on these components and cause compensations that take time to realize and adjust to. And while López felt healthy enough to throw 180 innings last year, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t compensating.

When combing through the video, it’s easier to see the change in release. Below are four total clips; the first two are from April, and the two after are from July and August.

There are a few things I want to address. First, López’s altered release point can be traced back in his delivery to a slight change in the use of his glove side. Comparing his throws in the spring to those in the summer, you can see that he’s altered the way he turns his glove over at peak lead arm extension. Early in the year, he only had a slight quarter turn in his glove; in the second half, he progressed into a full turnover.

That subtle difference creates two different reciprocal movements. A reciprocal movement is one that is a direct result of another; if you throw a ball up, it must come down. The same principle works for the body. A change in direction of the glove turn affects the direction of torso rotation, which then affects the angle or position of the throwing arm at release. (The kinetic chain!) That’s an area where he and his coaches can look at when discussing how he can make the proper mechanical adjustments to recover his fastball shape.

It’s important, too, to note how important that recovery will be for López’s tertiary pitches as well. When you lose one of your primaries, hitters can more easily sit on the pitches that aren’t as effective in the arsenal. For López, that pitch was his cutter. After two seasons with a wOBA under .325, the pitch was wrecked in 2022: a .447 wOBA and .321 batting average against. Its downfall can also be traced to his four-seamer, as the pitch went from the mid-50s in spin efficiency to the mid-30s. He may only throw it 10% of the time, but it was still a huge liability. Hopefully whatever mechanical adjustments López makes to recover his four-seamer can filter down to that pitch as well.

Injuries in general can be tough to overcome in the middle of a season. For a pitcher, that difficulty increases with anything related to their arm. A contusion may not be a long-term health concern, but López’s second half shows how something that looks insignificant can lead to detrimental short-term compensations. Luckily for him, this is the type of thing that shouldn’t take any drastic adjustments to fix, and he already has a blueprint for success from his 2020 and ’21 campaigns. With the help of a new coaching staff in 2023, his two-pitch combo should give him and the Twins an above-average starter for the next couple of seasons.


2023 ZiPS Projections: San Francisco Giants

For the 18th consecutive season, the ZiPS projection system is unleashing a full set of prognostications. For more information on the ZiPS projections, please consult this year’s introduction and MLB’s glossary entry. The team order is selected by lot, and the next team up is the San Francisco Giants.

Batters

The Giants are a good team. They certainly didn’t feel like one for much of the middle portion of last season, but after a disappointing home sweep by the rival Dodgers in mid-September, they mopped up the Rockies and Diamondbacks and banked enough wins to get back to the .500 mark. Bringing in Michael Conforto as a decent starter/reclamation project meaningfully upgrades the outfield, and the Mitch Haniger signing was practically a bargain for a player who could be a top-tier designated hitter again if healthy. There’s a real solidity to the roster; no one on the infield has an impressive projection, but they have a lot of those guys on hand. Without even being aggressive, there are six or seven players on the team who could take one of the non-first base infield jobs and be at least passably adequate in the role. The problem here and in the outfield, however, is that the Giants can’t combine their 1.5-to-2.5 WAR guys together into three-to-four WAR players like piles of Legos. You could go full horror movie and try to sew David Villar to Wilmer Flores, but you won’t get an All-Star in the mix, just a couple of very angry players, an arbitration case, and a visit from the local constabulary. Platoons don’t really count here, either, as you can’t get a thousand plate appearances from a single platoon!

It’s not that Giants didn’t try. They were, after all, very close to inking Aaron Judge to a monster deal, talked seriously with pretty much every big free agent hitter out there, and were even the prospective employer of Carlos Correa before all of the drama that ended with the star shortstop returning to the Twins. So unlike a team with a need that it simply didn’t address, the Giants were cognizant of the weak part of their team — the lack of a big star to build around offensively — and tried very hard to correct that situation. The problem is that when the season starts, there’s no credit given for attempted WAR. Whether you fail to land a star after giving it the ol’ college try or because you’re the Cincinnati Reds, the result is the same: that player wearing someone else’s uniform. Read the rest of this entry »


Yandy Díaz, Artificial Turf, and Earl [Expletive] Weaver

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Insofar as I’ve given thought to who my favorite manager of all time is, my favorite manager of all time is Earl Weaver. He exemplified the ideal shouting, dirt-kicking, umpire-haranguing baseball boss; every image and video of a red-faced Weaver screaming up at an umpire a foot taller than him is a blessing upon our society. But the man was legitimately a tactical mastermind; if baseball could be influenced by coaches the way other sports can, we’d talk about Weaver the way soccer people talk about Rinus Michels.

A lot of “great managers” really just manage a lot. Weaver, despite his hyperactive and combative personality, knew to keep his hands off his offense and let the multiple future Hall of Famers on his roster cook. Weaver’s overall recipe for success usually gets cited as “pitching, defense, and three-run homers” or something similar.

Take it from the man himself, in a (mock) radio interview for a Manager’s Corner segment with Tom Marr in 1982:

Marr: Bill Whitehouse…from Frederick, Maryland, wants to know why you and the Orioles don’t go out and get some more team speed.

Weaver: Team speed! For Christ’s sake, you get [expletive] [expletive] little fleas on the [expletive] bases gettin’ picked off, tryin’ to steal, gettin’ thrown out, takin’ runs away from you. Get them big [expletive] who can hit the [expletive] ball out the ballpark and you can’t make any [expletive] mistakes.

Marr: Well, certainly this show is gonna go down in history, Earl!

Read the rest of this entry »


Rolen Into Cooperstown: BBWAA Voters Avoid Shutout

Dilip Vishwanat-USA TODAY Sports

The following article is part of Jay Jaffe’s ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2023 Hall of Fame ballot. For a detailed introduction to this year’s ballot, and other candidates in the series, use the tool above; an introduction to JAWS can be found here. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.

There’s joy in Cooperstown after all. Amid considerable pessimism heading into Tuesday regarding the prospect of any candidate receiving at least 75% from the writers on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot, Scott Rolen gained entry after all. The top returning candidate on this year’s ballot received 76.2% of the vote from the writers, thus completing one of the greatest comebacks in modern electoral history. When he debuted on the 2018 ballot, Rolen received just 10.2% of the vote; no other post-1966 candidate has rallied from such meager beginnings to cross the 75% threshold via the BBWAA voters.

A masterful, athletic defender with the physical dimensions of a tight end (he was listed at 6-foot-4, 245 pounds), Rolen excelled on both sides of the ball. The 1997 NL Rookie of the Year went on to make seven All-Star teams, earn eight Gold Gloves, and star for two pennant-wining Cardinals teams, with a World Series performance that helped the Redbirds win it all in 2006. He ranks third among third basemen in Baseball Reference’s version of fielding runs, and by most measures he also ranks among the position’s top 15 or 20 hitters. Even given that injuries significantly curtailed several of his seasons, and that he played his final game at age 37, that offense/defense combination is enough to place him 10th among third basemen in both career WAR (70.1) and JAWS (56.9). Read the rest of this entry »


A Glimmer of Hope for Scott Rolen and Todd Helton

USA TODAY Sports Copyright (c) 2007 Byron Hetzler

With only a few hours to go before the results of the BBWAA’s 2023 Hall of Fame balloting are announced, the widespread assumption is that the voters will pitch their second shutout in three years and their fifth since voters returned to annual balloting in 1966. Not only is there no slam-dunk candidate with the milestones and squeaky-clean reputation that portends a first-ballot election, or a returning candidate who’s the equivalent of a gimme putt away from 75%, but the highest share of the vote from among the 201 ballots published (just over half of the expected total) shows no candidate receiving more than 80.1%. Given that voters who don’t publish their ballots ahead of the announcements tend to be more conservative when filling them out, at best we’ve got a nail-biter ahead of us for the top two candidates. As of Monday evening, Jason Sardell, the top prognosticator for election results for three years running, forecast only about a 13% chance of a candidate being elected. He hasn’t updated the odds in the 21 hours since, which has added just 18 ballots to the pile, but I believe these will suffice:

If you’re looking for a glimmer of hope for Scott Rolen and Todd Helton, I do have one. Here’s a table showing all of the candidates who have received at least 70% via the pre-announcement ballots since 2014 (“The Tracker Era”):

Pre-Election Published Ballots vs. Final Results Since 2014
Player Year Public Pre Elected % of Ballots Change
Ken Griffey Jr. 2016 100.0% YES 99.3% -0.7%
Mariano Rivera 2019 100.0% YES 100.0% 0.0%
Derek Jeter 2020 100.0% YES 99.7% -0.3%
Greg Maddux 2014 99.5% YES 97.2% -2.3%
Randy Johnson 2015 98.5% YES 97.3% -1.2%
Chipper Jones 2018 98.4% YES 97.2% -1.2%
Pedro Martinez 2015 98.0% YES 91.1% -6.9%
Tom Glavine 2014 95.3% YES 91.9% -3.4%
Vladimir Guerrero 2018 94.8% YES 92.9% -1.9%
Jim Thome 2018 93.1% YES 89.8% -3.3%
Roy Halladay 2019 92.2% YES 85.4% -6.8%
Frank Thomas 2014 90.1% YES 83.7% -6.4%
Edgar Martinez 2019 89.7% YES 85.4% -4.3%
Tim Raines 2017 88.8% YES 86.0% -2.8%
Jeff Bagwell 2017 87.6% YES 86.2% -1.4%
John Smoltz 2015 87.1% YES 82.9% -4.2%
Mike Piazza 2016 86.3% YES 83.0% -3.3%
Craig Biggio 2015 84.2% YES 82.7% -1.5%
David Ortiz 2022 83.4% YES 77.9% -5.5%
Larry Walker 2020 83.2% YES 76.6% -6.6%
Mike Mussina 2019 81.5% YES 76.7% -4.8%
Scott Rolen 2023 80.1% ? ? ?
Ivan Rodriguez 2017 79.5% YES 76.0% -3.5%
Todd Helton 2023 78.6% ? ? ?
Trevor Hoffman 2018 78.2% YES 79.9% 1.7%
Craig Biggio 2014 78.0% NO 74.8% -3.2%
Jeff Bagwell 2016 77.7% NO 71.6% -6.1%
Barry Bonds 2022 77.6% NO 66.0% -11.6%
Edgar Martinez 2018 77.4% NO 70.4% -7.0%
Curt Schilling 2020 77.3% NO 70.0% -7.3%
Mike Piazza 2015 76.2% NO 69.9% -6.3%
Roger Clemens 2022 76.1% NO 65.2% -10.9%
Tim Raines 2016 75.4% NO 69.8% -5.6%
Curt Schilling 2021 74.1% NO 71.1% -3.0%
Barry Bonds 2021 73.7% NO 61.8% -11.9%
Roger Clemens 2021 73.2% NO 61.6% -11.6%
Trevor Hoffman 2017 72.7% NO 74.0% 1.3%
Vladimir Guerrero 2017 72.3% NO 71.7% -0.6%
Scot Rolen 2022 71.2% NO 63.2% -8.0%
Barry Bonds 2020 70.9% NO 60.7% -10.2%
Barry Bonds 2019 70.7% NO 59.1% -11.6%
Roger Clemens 2019 70.7% NO 59.5% -11.2%
Mike Mussina 2018 70.2% NO 63.5% -6.7%
Roger Clemens 2020 70.0% NO 61.0% -9.0%
2023 percentages based upon 199 ballots published.

As I noted in my election day preview, of the 14 candidates who received 75% to 85% via ballots published prior to the results, the average differential between those shares and their final results was a drop of 5.6% overall, and 4.4% once you exclude Bonds/Clemens/Schilling, whose baggage created a resistance to their candidacies that doesn’t apply to any of the others here.

While on the one hand just two out of 10 instances in which a candidate received less than 80% resulted in his election that year, the data has been consistent, in that everybody receiving 78.2% or higher has in fact ended up across the finish line. Sardell’s forecasting, which groups voters based upon the number of candidates they include and their electoral stance on PED users, is certainly more sophisticated than this quick-and-dirty table. But as we count down to the announcement, we at least know that there’s something to be said about the possibility of Fred McGriff having company in Cooperstown on July 23.


Michael A. Taylor Is the Second Center Fielder the Twins Needed

Michael A. Taylor
Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Hello, and welcome to today’s episode of Twins Trade Talk. I’m your host, Ben Clemens, ostensibly a writer at FanGraphs but now an exclusive chronicler of Twin City swaps. Last week, Minnesota traded AL batting champion Luis Arraez in a deal I absolutely loved. If that’s the main course, Monday’s move was dessert:

Let’s start here: I love this trade for both sides. Michael A. Taylor has been a quality contributor when healthy for much of his career, and his last two seasons in Kansas City encapsulate his career well. In a sentence: very good outfield defense is valuable. Taylor hit a paltry .249/.304/.357 in blue and gold, but he was still worth 3.5 WAR (by our calculation, 5.7 per Baseball Reference) over roughly 1,000 plate appearances because he’s one of the best outfield defenders around. Depending on which defensive metric you’re most fond of, he’s either first (DRS), first (UZR), or second by one run (OAA) among all outfielders over the past two years. Read the rest of this entry »


The Bunt Double Is on the Verge of Extinction

Reese McGuire
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s something Joey Votto said while serving as a guest commentator in the Cincinnati broadcast booth in August: “The best in the game are matching the style of the game. The style of the game changes.” He was talking about hitting, but his point lined up with one of my favorite baseball metaphors. I often think of the game as an ecosystem. The players who thrive are the ones who are either built for or can adapt to the current game; changes to the style or the rules will always favor some players at the expense of others.

Changes will also favor some plays over others. As the infield shift rose to prominence, routine groundouts to shallow right field were fruitful and multiplied. Now that the shift has been outlawed, they’ll likely be pushed to the brink of extinction, and they’re taking one of baseball’s most exciting plays with them.

FanGraphs loves bunt doubles. This is a brief history of the bunt double by Jake Mailhot. This is a how-to manual for bunt doubles by the sainted Jeff Sullivan. In fact, he wrote about bunt doubles kind of a lot. As the shifting ecosystem means that bunt doubles are likely going the way of the dodo, it’s time to write the final chapter of their story. Read the rest of this entry »