Sunday Notes: Brian Vikander Likens Greg Maddux and Jered Weaver to Boris Spassky

Why was Greg Maddux as good as he was? In the opinion of longtime pitching instructor Brian Vikander, the biggest reason is that Maddux took baseball-is-a-chess-match to whole new level. Moreover, he did so in much the same manner as that with which Boris Spassky tackled the likes of Bobby Fischer.

That Vikander and I happened upon that particular subject is somewhat ironic. When we spoke earlier this week, it was to discuss his assertion that Steve Dalkowski threw 110 mph. Vikander is the co-author of a book about the legendary left-hander, who along with having extraordinary velocity was the antithesis of Maddux when it came to command. “Dalko” walked 1,236 batters in 956 minor league innings.

(We’ll hear from Vikander on Dalkowski and velocity in the coming week.)

“A big part of pitching is preventing on-time contact,” said Vikander, whose three-plus decades of experience includes working with Tom House and a plethora of professional hurlers. “Maddux was able to take all of the components — pitch selection, sequencing, location, and movement — and put them together to do that. It wasn’t any different than a Grandmaster in chess; it was like Boris Spassky. Most people don’t understand how that unusual opening would be used in a World Title game. Bobby Fischer did, but there aren’t many who are capable of that level of thinking.”

Vikander cited Miguel Cabrera as an example of a hitter capable of thinking along with pitchers in grandmaster fashion. He offered Ted Williams, with whom he’d conversed with over the years, as second example. In Vikander’s view, it’s that ability which separates “the truly great ones” from mere mortals. Read the rest of this entry »


Effectively Wild Episode 1619: Pink Hair Don’t Care

EWFI
Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley banter about the Effectively Wild community’s Secret Santa exchange beginning again, a new podcast featuring former EW guest (and oldest former living player) Eddie Robinson, and two more Scott Boras quotes, then reflect further on Kim Ng’s hiring and review listeners’ responses to a recent podcast discussion about picking a new rule to differentiate MLB’s leagues. Then (44:32) they talk to 15-year-old Canadian pitcher Raine Padgham about throwing 83 miles per hour, playing with and against boys, her origin story as a player, gaining velocity and protecting her arm, pink hair, and her aspirations to play professionally.

Audio intro: Ben Kweller, "The Rules"
Audio interstitial: Stevie Nicks, "Listen to the Rain"
Audio outro: David Crosby, "Other Half Rule"

Link to EW Secret Santa
Link to Eddie Robinson’s podcast
Link to Eddie Robinson interview episode
Link to Boras interview
Link to Rachael on Kim Ng’s hiring
Link to Raine’s 83 mph pitch
Link to Raine’s website
Link to Raine’s YouTube channel
Link to article about Raine’s pitch
Link to second article about Raine’s pitch
Link to third article about Raine’s pitch
Link to 2019 article about Raine
Link to 2017 article about Raine

 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


Presenting a Mock Non-Tenderizing

Before I get to the names, if you missed Monday’s post, you’re going to want to read that straight away. Please know that this doesn’t preclude anyone else on staff from offering their own opinions on this matter. I also think readers should know how I put the list together. Similar to the recipe for my mock drafts, I’m using a combination of informed speculation by industry folks and myself, with some concrete dope mixed in. My own speculation is driven by:

  • Weighing each player’s ability and importance to their team against their projected arbitration number (duh).
  • How their team/front office has behaved in the non-tender market before.
  • Whether the team behaves in a cost-conscious way, generally.
  • Whether the team has behaved in a cost-conscious way lately due to the pandemic (ops layoffs, decisions on player options, etc.).
  • If there are major league-ready prospects behind said player.
  • Miscellaneous, subjective stuff, like strongly-perceived player/team discord and whatnot.

Let’s take a quick peek at each club’s number of non-tenders since 2015 so we’re all on the same page for the second category above. The table below is sortable.

Non-Tender by Club Since 2015
Team Non-tenders Notes
D-backs 10 Mostly injured pitching, one toolsy bust (Souza), and several third or fourth catchers.
Dodgers 3 Bottom-of-the-roster pitching.
Padres 11 Most of these occurred five-ish years ago during peak rebuild.
Rockies 6 The only player non-tendered lately is Sam Howard.
Giants 9 Six of these came in 2019.
Cardinals 3 None since 2016
Brewers 11 Eight players over the last two years.
Cubs 13 Often marginal pitching
Reds 13 Often light-hitting types.
Phillies 4 One hitter from each of the non-catching categories above.
Braves 10 All have been hitters since 2017.
Marlins 1 Henderson Alvarez coming off shoulder surgery
Nationals 4 Injured arms (Craig Stammen, Koda Glover) and light-hitting Ben Revere.
Mets 1 Wilmer Flores.
Yankees 2 Injured pitching (Domingo Germán, Jacob Lindgren)
Red Sox 3 Two last offseason, one (Marco Hernandez) essentially replaced by a Rule 5 pick.
Blue Jays 7 Often marginal pitching and catching
Orioles 6 None yet under Mike Elias.
Rays 3 Somewhat surprising given their market size.
White Sox 11 A mix, but mostly injured pitching.
Indians 5 Marginal pitching, Kevin Plawecki.
Twins 4 C.J. Cron, Robbie Grossman, marginal pitching.
Tigers 5 James McCann, marginal pitching.
Royals 11 Semi-hyped prospects who plateaued in the upper-minors.
Rangers 13 Almost all pitching, most of it injured or which fell short of expectations.
Astros 4 Mike Fiers, Chris Carter, Aaron Sanchez, Chris Hermann
Mariners 4 Two high-variance bats and injured/marginal pitchers.
Athletics 7 Pitching that’s both injured and relatively expensive (Graveman, Treinen, Fiers)
Angels 6 Mostly marginal arms.

I’m not just touching on the players for whom there’s an argument to non-tender; I’m trying to predict these as best as I can. Like my mock drafts, the goal is to try to predict what will happen, not say what I think should happen. I don’t even bother mentioning some arbitration-eligible stars, like Cody Bellinger and Lucas Giolito, for reasons I hope are obvious. These go alphabetical by team name. Read the rest of this entry »


JAWS and the 2021 Hall of Fame Ballot: Tim Hudson

The following article is part of Jay Jaffe’s ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2021 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.

At the turn of the millennium, on the heels of six straight sub-.500 seasons, the Oakland A’s enjoyed a competitive renaissance. From 2000 to 2003, they averaged 98 wins per year, good for a .606 winning percentage that ranked second in the majors, an eyelash behind the Mariners (also .606 but with one more win in that span). They made the playoffs in all four of those seasons, three by winning the AL West, and they did it all despite shoestring budgets that regularly placed their payrolls among the majors’ bottom half-dozen. The ability of general manager Billy Beane to exploit market inefficiencies in crafting a low-cost roster gained fame via Michael Lewis’ 2003 book Moneyball, but underplayed in a tale that emphasized on-base percentage, defense, and quirky, misfit players was a homegrown trio of starting pitchers — Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito — who were central to the A’s success. Drafted out of college, the “Big Three” asserted their spots among the AL’s top pitchers despite a lack of overpowering stuff.

The oldest of trio was Hudson, a skinny, undersized righty (generally listed at 6-foot-1 and 160 pounds) who relied on his low-90 sinkerball to generate a ton of groundballs, as well as a diving split-fingered fastball, slider, and change-up to miss bats and keep hitters off balance. An Alabama native who was drafted out of Auburn University in the sixth round in 1997, Hudson reached the majors just two years later, and quickly emerged as a frontline starter able to shoulder annual workloads of 200-plus innings, belying his modest frame. In a 17-year career with the A’s (1999-2004) and later the Braves (2004-13) and Giants (2014-15), Hudson helped his teams reach the postseason nine times, but both the pitcher and those teams experienced more than their share of hard luck in October. Only at his final stop, in San Francisco, did Hudson’s teams even make it to the League Championship Series, but in 2014, he was a key component of the Giants’ World Series-winning squad.

Though he made four All-Star teams, received Cy Young consideration in four seasons, and won well over 200 games while cracking his league’s ERA and WAR leaderboards seven times apiece, Hudson does not have an especially strong case for Cooperstown, particularly once one looks beyond the superficial numbers. While he’s expected to receive a smattering of support from BBWAA voters in a year where the ballot traffic is comparatively minimal relative to recent cycles, he might not even draw the 5% needed to remain on the ballot. Even so, his outstanding career is worthy of review. Read the rest of this entry »


2021 ZiPS Projections: Los Angeles Dodgers

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for nine years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Batters

Some years, the World Series champion is clearly not the best team in baseball; instead, it’s a club that, through a combination of luck and timing, goes on an October run en route to the Commissioner’s Trophy. That was not the case in 2021. The Dodgers played in the same division as the National League’s second-best team this season, the Padres, and still bested them by six games, a 16-win pace per 162 games. Even with surprising down years (relatively speaking) from Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy, this lineup pummeled opposing pitchers from pole-to-pole, scoring nearly six runs a game and setting a franchise-high wRC+ at 122. Sure, it’s different to do that over 60 games than 154 or 162, but it’s still an impressive feat for a club with such a long history and deep roster of Hall of Famers.

With only one championship available per season, aggressively trying to win isn’t always met with a proportional reward. In this instance, the Dodgers went all-out to rent the services of Mookie Betts, with no guarantee he’d re-sign with them, and then inked him to a long-term deal with one of the richest payouts in major league history in the middle of a global pandemic and corresponding economic meltdown. Betts was as good as advertised — just one Freddie Freeman away from an MVP trophy — and the Dodgers earned a championship. Score one for positive incentives!

The team’s to-do list on the offense is relatively small this winter. Replacing Justin Turner is a priority — bringing him back for a year or two strikes me as the best mutual opportunity — but with a championship already in the bag and the team so strong elsewhere, the Dodgers may not feel compelled to be aggressive as they would have been in a similar situation a year ago. In extremely limited big league time, Gavin Lux hasn’t been great so far, but he remains a top prospect, he’s still very young, and this organization isn’t known for panicking when it comes to its best prospects. Read the rest of this entry »


A Conversation With Arizona Diamondbacks Prospect Drey Jameson

Drey Jameson is one of the more-intriguing pitching prospects in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ system. Drafted 34th overall in 2019 out of Ball State University, the 23-year-old right-hander possesses a lean frame — he is listed at six-foot-even and 165 pounds — yet he consistently pumps mid-to-high-90s gas. Moreover, the secondary pitches he throws from a deceptive delivery all grade out as plus. A native of Greenfield, Indiana, he entered the year ranked 13th on our 2020 D-Backs Top Prospects list.

Jameson discussed his repertoire and how COVID-19 impacted what would have been his first full professional season during the final week of Arizona’s fall instructional league, which wrapped up earlier this month.

———

David Laurila: What should people know about you as a pitcher?

Drey Jameson: “I’d say I’m kind of electric, kind of fast-twitch with a really fast arm. It’s more like [deception]; I’m not a guy who is standing tall on the mound and has that straight downhill with his fastball. And my stuff separates. With my changeup… I’m a probation guy, so my changeup works really well for me. Outside of that, I consider myself a fierce competitor who goes out and attacks guys.”

Laurila: You’re listed at six foot and 165 pounds. Is that still accurate?

Jameson: “I’m six foot, but I’m ranging anywhere from 170 to 178. I guess I’m usually around 175.”

Laurila: When our 2020 Diamondbacks Top Prospects list came out, your writeup included, “His high-maintenance delivery is hard to repeat.” Is that accurate? Read the rest of this entry »


FanGraphs Audio: If Craig Edwards Ran the Mets

Episode 897

While baseball playoffs are still underway in Asia, the major leagues continue to have their own exciting happenings early in the offseason. In this week’s episode, the FanGraphs crew is ready to talk Japanese championship matchups, curious PED suspensions, and one influential executive’s career arc thus far.

  • At the top of the show, David Laurila is joined by Jim Allen of the Japan Baseball Weekly podcast. Jim has covered Japanese baseball for many years, and the pair look ahead to the 2020 Japan Series, which starts this weekend. Do the Yomiuri Giants stand a chance against the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, who are seeking their fourth consecutive title? David and Jim also check in on the former major leaguers who played in Japan this year and talk about how difficult that transition can be. [2:45]
  • Next up, Jay Jaffe and Craig Edwards discuss Robinson Canó’s second PED suspension and what that means for him and the Mets. The club was already eager to spend money under new owner Steve Cohen, but how does not having to pay Canó’s 2021 salary affect their plans? Craig has a strategy, and it indeed involves some big free agents. [23:15]
  • Finally, Eric Longenhagen and Jon Tayler discuss Theo Epstein’s departure from the Chicago Cubs. The team is at an undeniable crossroads as they face some difficult roster decisions, and the person arguably most important to their rebuild and 2016 championship is now out the door. Meanwhile, Epstein’s own statements suggest self-reflection on his personal impact on the sport of baseball — for better or worse — inspiring Eric and Jon to assess him and his journey through the same lens. [45:22]

Read the rest of this entry »


Job Posting: Tampa Bay Rays Research and Development Intern

Position: Research and Development Intern

Job Description:
The Tampa Bay Rays are in search of their next Research and Development Intern. Their R&D group helps shape their Baseball Operations decision-making processes through the analysis and interpretation of data. They are seeking those with a passion for baseball and a desire to contribute through mathematics, data analysis and computation. Their next intern will be an intellectual contributor that can work both individually and collaboratively, coming up with interesting research questions to explore, find ways to answer those questions with the data at their disposal, communicate the results of their research, and work to apply their research outcomes to improve how the Rays organization operates. The Rays want to work with people who care about being good teammate, want to make a positive impact on their organization, have an innovative spirit, and will explore new ways to make them better. Does this describe you?

Responsibilities:

  • Develop strong skills in statistical modeling and quantitative analysis of a variety of data sources, for the purpose of player evaluation, player development and strategic decision-making
  • Learn methods for communicating complex research findings to a variety of Baseball Operations audiences
  • Design research inquiries with the potential to yield immediately actionable findings within the Rays organization
  • Work collaboratively with and assisting other members of the department with your areas of expertise
  • Collect in-game data to support operational needs of the department
  • Ad hoc research and analysis in support of general Baseball Operations tasks

Read the rest of this entry »


Crowdsourcing Kris Bryant and Other Non-Tender Candidates

Earlier this week, Eric Longenhagen wrote about the looming non-tender deadline and the expectation that the number of available players after the December deadline will increase relative to normal. While the deadline will reveal which arbitration-eligible players have been tendered contracts and which will be made free agents, there will be some trade and waiver activity ahead of the deadline as well. Some players are likely to be placed on waivers to spur a trade while others could be moved before it reaches that point. Last season, the A’s traded Jurickson Profar to the Padres just ahead of the non-tender deadline. The Orioles placed Jonathan Villar on waivers ahead of his eventual trade to the Marlins, and Miami kept busy by claiming Jesús Aguilar off waivers from the Rays. Other players will reach agreements on a contract with their teams ahead of the deadline to avoid uncertainty.

While there should be considerable activity ahead of and at the deadline, it’s a bit unclear just how big the names that move in the next few weeks will actually be. To that end, I am asking for your assistance in assessing expectations around the non-tender deadline by focusing on the biggest names. Each player will have three options:

  1. Tendered a contract by his current team.
  2. Traded or waived and tendered a contract by his new team.
  3. Non-tendered and heads to free agency.

The player’s estimated 2021 salary from MLB Trade Rumors (which also appear on our RosterResource payroll pages) is in parentheses. For these purposes, treat reaching agreement on a contract ahead of the non-tender deadline the same as a player being tendered a contract by his current team. We’ll look at the results next week. Thanks for your help! Read the rest of this entry »


Effectively Wild Episode 1618: Robinson Canózolol

EWFI
Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller banter about Representative Cedric Richmond’s retirement from the Congressional Baseball Game after a Ruthian two-way career, discuss Theo Epstein stepping down from the Cubs (and at least temporarily leaving baseball) and Robinson Canó getting suspended for the entire 2021 season after testing positive for steroid use, and share a Stat Blast about the first ever-LOOGY.

Audio intro: The Nerves, "Working Too Hard"
Audio outro: Chance The Rapper, "Same Drugs"

Link to Nathaniel on the Congressional Baseball Game
Link to Nathaniel’s EW interview episode
Link to Tom Verducci on Theo
Link to Joe Posnanski on Theo
Link to Theo’s farewell letter
Link to Theo’s comment on aesthetics
Link to 2016 EW discussion about Theo
Link to story about Cubs layoffs
Link to story about Dodgers layoffs
Link to Jay Jaffe on Canó’s suspension
Link to Ken Rosenthal on Canó’s suspension
Link to story about 2020 PED testing
Link to Ben on Canó’s 2018 suspension
Link to Geoff Baker on Canó’s 2018 suspension
Link to the Boston Globe on PED pressures
Link to THT article on the origins of the LOOGY
Link to Ben on LOOGYs and the three-batter minimum

 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