Free agency begins five days after the end of the World Series. As in other recent offseasons, FanGraphs is once again facilitating a contract-crowdsourcing project, the idea being to harness the wisdom of the crowd to better understand and project the 2020-21 free-agent market.
This year, we’ve added a few new features to the ballots based on reader feedback. You now have the option to indicate that a player will only receive a minor-league contract, or won’t receive one at all. We’ve elected to show averages from the 2017-2019 seasons so that this year’s shortened slate doesn’t skew the numbers, but we’ve also included 2020 stats as a point of recent reference. 2020 salary figures represent players’ pre-pandemic contract amounts. Statistics are prorated to full season where noted; the projected WAR figures are from the first cut of the 2021 Steamer600 projections.
Below are ballots for eight of this year’s free agents — in this case, yet another group of pitchers. Read the rest of this entry »
While there’s still a bit of baseball left to be played, this is always the time of the year when I dissect the current season’s ZiPS projections. Baseball history is not so long that we suffer from a surfeit of data, and another season wrapped means more for ZiPS to work with. ZiPS is mature enough at this point that (sadly) the major sources of systematic error have been largely ironed out, but that doesn’t mean that the model doesn’t learn new things from the results.
2020 was a highly unusual season (for very unfortunate reasons); its shortness will hopefully provide us some insight into baseball played in a truncated format. In terms of projections, I tend to have a conservative bent, and I like to be very careful about making sure I know which things have predictive value before I integrate them into the myriad models that make up the various ZiPS projections. A lot of my assumptions going into this season required far more guesswork than usual; I had no idea how teams would actually use prospects in a shorter season, what the injury rates would look like once we brought COVID-19 into the mix, or if we would even complete a 60-game slate.
In light of the risks involved, I kept player totals in the playing time model lower than I would have in a normal season, but I had little clarity into what the league’s COVID-19 case rate would be over the course of the season. Even the way-smarter-than-me epidemiologists didn’t know and I, alas, didn’t major in mathemagical science. With more volatility in projected roster construction, the ZiPS standings gave larger error bars than I’d expect over a “normal” 60-game season, but I wasn’t really sure if that was right.
In the end, the strangest thing to me was just how normal everything turned out being. After an inauspicious start to the season — with testing delays the first weekend of summer camp, early outbreaks on the Marlins and Cardinals, and poor team communication as to just what the rules were — I wasn’t optimistic. But in the end, 28 of the 30 teams played all 60 games, and the two teams that didn’t, the Tigers and Cardinals, were ready and able to play their missing games if they were needed to decided the standings. Read the rest of this entry »
Below are ballots for eight of this year’s free agents — in this case, yet another group of starting pitchers. Read the rest of this entry »
Tom House doesn’t need an introduction within baseball circles, and that’s especially true when it comes to pitching. His credentials are impeccable. A big-league reliever throughout the 1970s, the now-73-year-old went on to have an extensive coaching career, not only in MLB, but also in NPB and at the amateur level. A co-founder of the National Pitching Association, and the author of several books, House has been referred to as “the father of modern pitching mechanics.”
House addressed a variety of pitching topics — and shared a handful of interesting anecdotes — earlier this week.
David Laurila: Let’s start with pitch counts. Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said during an NLCS media session that he was “blown away” to learn that Max Fried had never thrown more than 109 pitches in a game, adding that a career-high should be closer to 140. He also suggested that once Fried got into his rhythm he might have been able to throw 200 pitches. What are your thoughts on that?
Tom House: “From research, there are three things that keep a pitcher’s arm healthy: workloads, number of pitches, [and] his functional strength and mechanical efficiency. The research goes all the way back to Paul Richards, who was the general manager of the Orioles. Richards was the first guy, when he had ‘the baby birds,’ the four 20-game winners. He intuited that 100 pitches was about when most pitchers start getting into muscle failure — this assuming they have pretty solid mechanics and some functional strength. The 100-pitch idea grew from there, and has kind of become the standard.
“What it boils down to is, if you can pitch… I’m going to give you a resource. If you go to ASMI.org and look for age-specific pitch totals, Glenn Fleisig and a bunch of us did the research. I know for a fact that Nolan Ryan had a 260-pitch outing one time, and came back four days later and threw a two-hitter. He was with the Angels, and I think threw 14 or 15 innings. But with pitch totals, a blanket 100-pitch per game is kind of the standard right now. Everybody works forward and backwards from there. Read the rest of this entry »
With the 2020 Fall Classic between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Rays knotted up at 1-1, the FanGraphs crew spends some time analyzing the state of each pennant-winning club.
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Below are ballots for seven of this year’s free agents — in this case, another group of starting pitchers. Read the rest of this entry »
On Wednesday night, Nick Anderson hung a curveball. Will Smith greeted it rudely:
Two batters later, Anderson faced Edwin Ríos with a chance to get out of the inning. As Eric Longenhagen noted on our Twitch stream at the time, Anderson hung another one:
Luckily for the Rays, Ríos didn’t quite time that one up. Anderson followed it up with another curve, which bounced, and he escaped the inning. Things could have gone much worse, however, and Eric and I mused that Anderson might want to take a look at what was causing his pitches to float in like that.
It seems pretty obvious that Anderson’s breaking ball, a biting snapdragon that seems to pack two inches of horizontal break into the last 10 feet of its homeward path, is at its best when it drops most. There’s only one problem with that theory: the data. Take a look at Anderson’s curve in 2019, broken up into quartiles based on vertical break:
Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller discuss the first two games of the World Series, touching on Clayton Kershaw’s Game 1 excellence, the Dodgers’ discipline, Dave Roberts’ pitcher usage, the status of Rays reliever Nick Anderson, the Game 2 breakout of Brandon Lowe, and the outlook for the rest of the series. Then they banter about the differences and similarities between early baseball and the modern game and answer listener emails about the gap between pitchers’ regular-season and postseason ERAs, the best way to lose a series after going down 0-3, the folly of chasing wins by using top relievers while trailing, and when the count is truly even.
Audio intro: Dispatch, "Even"
Audio outro: Dressy Bessy, "Call it Even Later"
Link to Craig Goldstein on Kershaw
Link to Pedro Moura on May/Gonsolin
Link to ESPN World Series roundtable
Link to SABR 50 at 50
Link to Sam on the six types of playoff games
Link to Spink passage
Link to Russell Carleton on keeping leads small
Link to 2019 league splits by count
Link to Ben on shifting against righties
Link to FanGraphs playoff coverage
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Between Randy Arozarena’s remarkable postseason and Mookie Betts’ tour-de-force, there have been plenty of standout performances this October. But what Corey Seager has done in the playoffs is just as impressive. He earned the NLCS MVP award after completely demolishing the Braves pitching staff with nine hits, including five home runs and two doubles. His homer in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the World Series marked his seventh dinger of the postseason, the most hit by any shortstop in a single playoff year.
For Seager, this October has been the culmination of a year in which he’s returned to form. After injuring his elbow in early 2018, which led to Tommy John surgery, he struggled to regain his previous level of production the following season. From 2015 through April of 2018, he posted a 133 wRC+, winning the NL Rookie of the Year award in 2016 and earning All-Star honors in both ’16 and ’17. Last year, his offensive production fell to just 13% above league average, and he missed about a month of the season with a hamstring injury. But the late start to the 2020 campaign was a blessing in disguise for Seager, as the additional time off allowed him to heal and strengthen himself. Here’s how he described the state of his body to Pedro Moura of The Athletic:
“Last year especially, I just wasn’t physically as strong as I’d have liked to have been. Your body kind of changes. You get tired, things start changing positions on you. Just being strong again and being healthy again has definitely helped that.”
In 2019, Seager’s hard hit rate was just 38.2% and his average exit velocity was just 88.8 mph, both career lows. Both of those marks rebounded to career highs in 2020: a 55.9% hard hit rate and a 93.2 mph average exit velocity. That’s a stark illustration of his rebuilt strength. Read the rest of this entry »
Below are ballots for seven of this year’s free agents — in this case, the first group of starting pitchers. Read the rest of this entry »