Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley banter about Joe Maddon’s firing, the impact and end of the Angels’ 14-game losing streak, and whether the Angels or Phillies are in a worse position for the future, Tony La Russa’s intentional walk on a 1-2 count, whether the weather and the humidor can explain MLB’s sudden upticks in fly-ball distance and home-run rate, the testing of experimental, legalized sticky stuff in the minor leagues, Hunter Greene’s rain-shortened run at a Statcast no-hitter, how the Cardinals and Rays played a nine-inning game in less than two hours, Joey Bart’s demotion and the wide range in the performance of this season’s promoted top prospects, the return of Stephen Strasburg (sort of), an update on Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich and observations about Alex Bregman, David Robertson, Sandy Alcantara, Willians Astudillo, and Tony Gonsolin and the Dodgers, the teaser for the latest TV adaptation of A League of Their Own, Angel Hernandez filing an appeal over his discrimination lawsuit, the Rays’ Pride Night debacle, a NYT crossword conflating plate appearances and at-bats, and pedantry about whether home-run hitters are actually on base, plus a Past Blast about 1861.
Audio intro: Nick Lowe, “14 Days”
Audio outro: Imperial Teen, “One Two”
Link to Jay Jaffe on Maddon
Link to Sam Blum on Maddon
Link to Rosenthal Q&A with Maddon
Link to Ohtani’s streak-ending highlights
Link to story about signature significance
Link to James Fegan on La Russa
Link to Ginny Searle on La Russa
Link to Ben Clemens on La Russa
Link to broadcast clip of La Russa IBB
Link to La Russa explanation video
Link to Seager 1-2 IBB
Link to Trout 1-2 IBB
Link to Ballpark Pal home-runs thread
Link to Alan Nathan on Twitter
Link to Mike Axisa on homers and Greene
Link to Evan Drellich on MiLB sticky stuff
Link to Sam on Statcast no-hitters
Link to Greene’s batted balls allowed
Link to short Rays-Cardinals game
Link to MLB.com on McClanahan
Link to pitcher pace leaderboard
Link to Jay on Bart’s demotion
Link to Ben on the minors-to-majors gap
Link to MLB.com on Strasburg
Link to David Laurila on Bregman
Link to Ben on Longoria
Link to Jay on Gonsolin
Link to Astudillo scoring video
Link to A League of Their Own teaser
Link to story about Hernandez’s appeal
Link to Hernandez at Umpire Scorecards
Link to Ginny on the Rays
Link to Emma’s crossword tweet
Link to tweet about NL Central losing streak
Link to Richard Hershberger’s Strike Four
Link to 1861 story source
Link to Cabrera’s spring hidden-ball trick
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As anyone who does a lot of work with projections could likely tell you, one of the most annoying things about modeling future performance is that results themselves are a small sample size. Individual seasons, even full ones over 162 games, still feature results that are not very predictive, such as a hitter or a pitcher with a BABIP low or high enough to be practically unsustainable. For example, if Luis Arraez finishes the season hitting .350, we don’t actually know that a median projection of .350 was the correct projection going into the season. There’s no divine baseball exchequer to swoop in and let you know if he was “actually” a .350 hitter who did what he was supposed to, a .320 hitter who got lucky, or a .380 hitter who suffered misfortune. If you flip heads on a coin eight times out of 10 and have no reason to believe you have a special coin-flipping ability, you’ll eventually see the split approach 50/50 given a sufficiently large number of coin flips. Convergence in probability is a fairly large academic area that we thankfully do not need to go into here. But for most things in baseball, you never actually get enough coin flips to see this happen. The boundaries of a season are quite strict.
What does this have to do with projections? This volatile data becomes the source of future predictions, and one of the things done in projections is to find things that are not only as predictive as the ordinary stats, but also more predictive based on fewer plate appearances or batters faced. Imagine, for example, if body mass index was a wonderful predictor of isolated power. It would be a highly useful one, as changes to it over the course of a season are bound to be rather small. The underlying reasons for performance tend to be more stable than the results, which is why ERA is more volatile than strikeout rate, and why strikeout rate is more volatile than the plate discipline stats that result in strikeout rate. Read the rest of this entry »
Given their success over the past half-dozen years and the strength of their preseason projections, it’s no surprise to find the Dodgers owning the National League’s top record (37-20, .649) while continuing to hold the league’s highest Playoff Odds (98.4%) and highest odds of winning the World Series (15.5%). What’s unusual is that they’ve done it with Clayton Kershaw missing about half the season thus far and with both Walker Buehler and Julio Urías struggling to regain their front-of-the-rotation form. Instead it’s been Tyler Anderson and Tony Gonsolin — two pitchers we initially projected to throw fewer than 100 innings as starters — leading the way in a rotation that has the majors’ lowest ERA (2.65).
On Thursday, Anderson’s scoreless streak came to an end at 28 innings against the White Sox, thanks in part to a ball that parkour’d its way into becoming a triple, but so far this year, he’s ridden an improved changeup to unexpected success. The night before that, it was Gonsolin holding Chicago to one run over six innings while helping to halt a three-game losing streak, the Dodgers’ second within a nine-day span. In the process, the 28-year-old righty took over the official NL ERA lead, at least for the moment, via a 1.58 mark. He’s pitched 57 innings while the Dodgers have played 57 games, but he’ll slip below the qualifying threshold again before he next gets the ball.
Regardless, Gonsolin is showing signs of a breakout, and at the very least enjoying his longest sustained run of major league success. Though he’s pitched for the Dodgers for four seasons — and largely pitched very well, with a 2.48 ERA and 3.50 FIP in 199.1 innings — it’s been in fits and starts. The ninth-round 2016 pick out of St. Mary’s College of California debuted in the majors three years later but that year was yo-yoed between Los Angeles and Oklahoma City, totaling just six starts, five relief appearances, and 40 innings. In 2020, Gonsolin totaled eight starts, one relief appearance, 46.2 innings, and three times being optioned to the Dodgers’ alternate training site. Last year, he spent two separate stretches on the injured list due to recurring right shoulder inflammation, not debuting until June 9 and then spending all of August and part of September sidelined. He made a career-high 13 starts plus two relief appearances but finished with just 55.2 innings. Read the rest of this entry »
FanGraphs readers are a smart bunch. Though the comments can sometimes unravel into a series of shouting matches, the usual atmosphere is encouraging and collegial. For example, here’s a thought-provoking question I received a few weeks ago and my reply to it:
This is from an article I wrote about Framber Valdez and how he was on pace to shatter his own historic groundball-to-fly ball ratio. A five-man infield in any other circumstance would be out of the question, but consider just how many grounders Valdez generates. Among starters with a minimum of 200 innings pitched since 2020, he’s first in groundball rate (66.7%) by a wide, wide margin. With so few balls heading towards the outfield, does it make sense to reinforce the infield instead? It’s an intriguing inquiry, one that I promised would receive an answer. So here goes! Read the rest of this entry »
On this edition of FanGraphs Audio, we talk to another major league general manager before some banter about recent writing on the site.
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Audio after the jump. (Approximate 62 minute play time.)
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I thought this week couldn’t get any better. I got to write about bunts, one of my favorite things to do, and about the Giants picking up tiny edges, another personal favorite. I got to write about Yordan Alvarez and how people underrate him; now I can cross that off my yearly to-do list. But Thursday took the cake. Have you seen this nonsense?
"When was the last time you saw somebody intentionally walked on 1-2?"
"Doesn't happen often."
— White Sox Talk (@NBCSWhiteSox) June 9, 2022
"When was the last time you saw somebody intentionally walked on 1-2?"
"Doesn't happen often."
— White Sox Talk (@NBCSWhiteSox) June 9, 2022
I love writing about bad intentional walks. I love writing about bad managerial decisions. But I can’t really wrap my head around this one, hard as I try. Let’s try to do the math, such as it is, while keeping in mind that no amount of math is going to make this make sense.
Let’s start at the top. Trea Turner is an excellent hitter, and Bennett Sousa is a lefty. Turner boasts average platoon splits for his career. Sousa has hardly pitched in the majors, so let’s just consider him an average lefty. With a runner on second and two outs, passing up an excellent righty hitter against your lefty pitcher is standard operating procedure. Read the rest of this entry »
With Meg Rowley on the road, Ben Lindbergh talks to a trio of guests. First (4:10), he’s joined by Mr. King, the creator of Northwoods Baseball Sleep Radio, to talk about baseball as ASMR, crafting a fictional league, broadcaster, and collection of players, replicating the soothing, white-noise sounds of a baseball broadcast, putting his listeners to sleep, and more. Then (34:32) Ben brings on coach and journalist John W. Miller to examine how the rise of private travel baseball clubs and pay-to-play tournaments has reshaped youth baseball and excluded some kids from the sport, discuss the ramifications from Little League to the major leagues, and propose some solutions. After that (1:18:12), former major leaguer (and former EW guest) John Poff rejoins, along with John Brave Bull and Ardyce Taken Alive from the Standing Rock Reservation, to talk about their histories, explain their efforts to bring baseball to kids at Standing Rock, and ask the EW audience for help (plus a reading of a Poff poem). Finally (1:50:05), Ben shares a baseball-history anecdote from 1860.
Audio intro: Julie Andrews, “Stay Awake”
Audio interstitial 1: Dave Dudley, “George (and the North Woods)”
Audio interstitial 2: Peter, Paul and Mary, “Right Field”
Audio outro: Raye Zaragoza, “Driving to Standing Rock”
Link to Baseball Sleep Radio website
Link to Baseball Sleep Radio on Spotify
Link to FG post on Baseball Sleep Radio
Link to the real Northwoods League
Link to Bloomberg on white noise podcasts
Link to The Universal Baseball Association
Link to old baseball broadcasts on YouTube
Link to old baseball broadcasts on archive.org
Link to GameChanger Plays Announcer post
Link to John Miller on youth baseball
Link to John on improving youth baseball
Link to Tom House baseball-size tweet
Link to McCutchen at The Players’ Tribune
Link to Pittsburgh Hardball Academy site
Link to info on the Dream Series
Link to RBI Baseball site
Link to article on commercializing youth sports
Link to data on youth sports participation
Link to John Miller’s baseball resume
Link to John Miller’s website
Link to John Poff’s SABR bio
Link to John’s first podcast appearance
Link to Poff Stat Blast episode
Link to Standing Rock Reservation wiki
Link to KLND website
Link to Community Alliance Group website
Link to John’s North Dakota Quarterly poems
Link to John’s GoFundMe fundraiser page
Link to Richard Hershberger’s Strike Four
Link to 1860 story source 1
Link to 1860 story source 2
As anyone who does a lot of work with projections could likely tell you, one of the most annoying things about modeling future performance is that results themselves are a small sample size. Individual seasons, even full ones over 162 games, still feature results that are not very predictive, such as a hitter or a pitcher with a BABIP low or high enough to be practically unsustainable. For example, if Luis Arraez finishes the season hitting .350, we don’t actually know that a median projection of .350 was, in fact, the correct projection going into the season. There’s no divine baseball exchecquer to swoop in and let you know if he was “actually” a .350 hitter who did what he was supposed to, a .320 hitter who got lucky, or even a .380 hitter who suffered misfortune. If you flip heads on a coin eight times out of ten and have no reason to believe you have a special coin-flipping ability, you’ll eventually see the split approach 50/50 given a sufficiently large number of coin flips. Convergence in probability is a fairly large academic area that we thankfully do not need to go into here. But for most things in baseball, you never actually get enough coin flips to see this happen. The boundaries of a season are quite strict.
What does this have to do with projections? This volatile data becomes the source of future predictions, and one of the things done in projections is to find things that are not only as predictive as the ordinary stats, but also more predictive based on fewer plate appearances or batters faced. Imagine, for example, if body mass index was a wonderful predictor of isolated power. It would be a highly useful one, as changes to that over the course of a season are bound to be rather small. Underlying reasons for performance tend to be more stable than the results, which is why ERA is more volatile than strikeout rate and why strikeout rate is more volatile than plate discipline stats that result in strikeout rate.
MLB’s own method comes with an x before the stat, whereas what ZiPS uses internally has a z. I’ll let you guess what it stands for! I’ve written more about this stuff in various places such as here and here, so let’s get right to the data for the first two months of the MLB season. Read the rest of this entry »
Even if you aren’t a Braves fan, you probably have a general idea of how their season is going so far. Max Fried? He’s still good, and still the ace for the defending world champions. Kyle Wright has taken a step forward and Charlie Morton has taken a step back. The hitters? You pretty much know them all; Dansby Swanson, Austin Riley, Ronald Acuña Jr., and Matt Olson lead the offense this year.
If you’re paying the barest bit of attention, you’d already know all of those names. They either starred in last year’s postseason, made headlines in a big offseason trade, or starred early in this season. When you get to the bullpen, though, you might be lost. Remember that stalwart relief crew from the playoffs? Will Smith has been abysmal, half a win below replacement level. Tyler Matzek has an ERA above 5, a FIP above 5, and an xFIP above 6. Luke Jackson hasn’t even pitched this year; he tore his UCL before the season and will miss the entire year.
Some of that slack has been picked up by new names. Kenley Jansen has been solid. Spencer Strider is electric, though he’s now a starter — nice problem to have. But the fourth member of last year’s bullpen quartet, A.J. Minter, is making up for the rest of his cohort’s absence. He’s off to the best start of his career, and one of the best starts of any reliever in baseball.
In some ways, Minter is like a lot of other relievers you’ve seen. His best pitch is a high-spin, high-velocity fastball. He backs it up with a breaking pitch that’s somewhere between cutter and slider, 90 mph with a touch of horizontal break. To keep righties honest, he also has a hard changeup. There are a lot of relievers who fit that general mold, and until this year, you might have easily lost Minter in the crowd.
Why bring him up, then? Surely, he’s just on a good streak, a few weeks and home runs away from just being another plus reliever instead of an unsolvable hitting riddle with an ERA around 1. Maybe that’s true. Maybe this is as good as Minter will ever be — and to be clear, it’s as good as most pitchers will ever be. But I’m interested in something else:
Yes, Minter is throwing fewer pitches in the strike zone than ever. He’s also walking batters at a career-low rate (excluding a 15-inning cameo in 2017 that I’m leaving off my charts). That makes about as much sense as clicking on a pop-up ad, but let’s see if we can disentangle what’s going on here.
Read the rest of this entry »
Since the day he was selected with the second pick of the 2018 draft out of Georgia Tech, Joey Bart was considered the heir apparent to Buster Posey. His progress to the majors was closely tracked, and when Posey opted out of playing during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season for family reasons, Bart arrived in the majors ahead of schedule. When Posey retired suddenly last fall after a stellar age-34 season, all eyes turned to Bart as well. His major league career thus far hasn’t gone as hoped, however, and on Wednesday the Giants optioned the struggling backstop to Triple-A Sacramento.
With Posey putting together an All-Star season as he helped the Giants to a franchise record 107 wins, Bart was left with some oversized shoes to fill, but he began the season with great fanfare, homering on Opening Day off the Marlins’ Sandy Alcantara. Alas, the 25-year-old backstop has hit a meager .156/.296/.300 with four homers in 108 plate appearances overall. He started 21 of the team’s first 34 games, capped by a ninth-inning homer off Albert Pujols (!) on May 15, but after that, he started just eight of 20 games, going 2-for-25 with 15 strikeouts.
Particularly with the team going 9–11 in that span, and 3–5 in the games Bart started, the Giants felt some adjustments were in order, and that they would best be made in the minors. Via The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said, “Our sense was it was weighing a little more on Joey. It’s one thing to be struggling and still feel like the team is firing on all cylinders. That allows you to be in a better mindset. But when it starts weighing a little more, an intervention makes sense.”
Via the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser, Zaidi said, “We still think Joey is an everyday catcher… In the broader scheme of things, we thought it made sense to get him a little bit of a reset. We’re very open to the notion that at-bats at Triple-A out of the spotlight can help get a guy on track.”
Via MLB.com’s Maria Guardado, manager Gabe Kapler reiterated the team’s commitment to Bart but said, “The number one message is that he has some adjustments that he needs to make.” More:
Kapler said the Giants would like to see Bart even out his shoulders and hips, as well as have more of a gather on his front side to help him cut down on some of the swing-and-miss in his game and tap into more of his right-handed power. The first order of action, though, will be to give Bart a bit of a breather following one of the more challenging stretches of his young career.
As for that swing-and-miss, while Bart’s overall 81 wRC+ is nothing to write home about, it’s only three points below the major league average for all catchers. Of much greater concern is his 45.4% strikeout rate, the highest of any player with at least 100 PA:
In the 74 plate appearances in which he’s reached two strikes, Bart has hit just .060/.160/.104; that’s 4-for-67 with eight walks, a homer, and a 66.1% strikeout rate. That’s not much better than what major league pitchers hit with two strikes on them in 2019 (.076/.103/.093) while striking out 67.8% of the time. Read the rest of this entry »