Sunday Notes: Willson Contreras Stars in Will Craig’s Theatre of The Absurd

Javier Báez and Will Craig were the main protagonists in the tragicomedy that took place in Pittsburgh on Thursday. In a re-scripting of Merkle’s Boner, “El Mago” was cast as the hero, while the rookie first baseman co-starred as the unwitting villain. Given their respective roles, it’s understandable that they’ve received the lion’s share of attention for what transpired.

A supporting actor deserves his own acclaim. Largely overlooked — but no less important — were the actions of Willson Contreras. Had the Chicago catcher not made a mad dash toward home plate, panic and mayhem wouldn’t have entered the equation. Craig would have simply tagged Báez, relegating the latter’s amusing backpedal to a quickly-forgotten, footnote.

I brought that up to Pirates manager Derek Shelton on Friday.

“Yeah, I mean the one thing Contreras did was, he never gave up on the play,” responded Shelton. “He continued to run, and that was an important factor. He just continued to play, and finish the play. Unfortunately, it turned out against us.”

His thoughts on his ball club’s turning a routine play into Theatre of the Absurd?

“Move on from it,” said Shelton. “If we could all live our lives without making any mistakes, it would be really fun. But that doesn’t happen. Move on.”

Brandon Hyde and Will Venable have moved on from Chicago, where they
shared a clubhouse with Baez and Contreras as members of the Cubs coaching staff. I reached out to both for their perspectives on what will likely go down as the season’s craziest play. Read the rest of this entry »

Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 5/28/21

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New York Can’t Catch a Break

You won’t find many joint Yankees/Mets fans, but if such a bizarre chimera exists, it’s been a rough few days for pitching health. On Tuesday, Noah Syndergaard made a scheduled rehab start for the St. Lucie Mets. He departed after only an inning, and he’s now been shut down for six weeks. Meanwhile, Corey Kluber made his first start since no-hitting the Rangers, only to leave after three innings. The Yankees placed Kluber on the Injured List and announced that he won’t throw for at least four weeks, with a return date still unknown.

Weird hypothetical New York fans aside, there’s an obvious link between these two situations. Both teams are suffering greatly in the wave of injuries currently sweeping baseball, and how both teams deal with the loss of their pitcher will do a lot to determine the outcome of their respective East divisions. Injury management is nothing new, but these two come at particularly pivotal times for both teams.

Syndergaard’s setback isn’t immediately devastating to the Mets. He was still likely more than a month away from returning to the major leagues, and the Mets planned around his absence. They acquired pitching in bulk this offseason; Taijuan Walker, Joey Lucchesi, Carlos Carrasco, and Jordan Yamamoto are all newcomers who the team expected to provide some coverage this season.

With Jacob deGrom looking no worse for the wear after a brief IL stint, the Mets are fine at the top of their rotation. Marcus Stroman, too, has been solid. Things dip from there — Walker, Carrasco, and Yamamoto are all on the IL, and Carrasco hasn’t pitched yet this year — but deGrom and a reasonable followup is all you need for an acceptable rotation. Walker will likely be back soon, to boot — he’s already throwing live batting practice. Read the rest of this entry »

Eric Longenhagen Prospects Chat: 5/28

Eric A Longenhagen: Howdy from Tempe, let’s do it

AJ: Odds we ever get a NYY rotation with the 3 Luis: Severino, Medina and Gil

Eric A Longenhagen: All in a rotation? Like 10%?

Todd: Royals brass hyped Nick Pratto’s change big time before season. How much are you buying on him? Is he up to a 50?

Eric A Longenhagen: I think what I wrote on the Royals list holds up, not a 50. Still has holes but definitely better now, has the look of a piece but not a 50. I 50’d Alonso and Hoskins, it’s tough to be a 50 1B.

Dave: When do you think you’ll do your first mock? Enough info now to start connecting team to players?

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Whose High Home Run Was the Most Impressive?

It’s true – compared to previous seasons, hitters are struggling against pitchers. The league batting average is the lowest it’s been in decades even if you exclude pitchers, the strikeout rate the highest. It’s easy to point fingers at the people tasked with making contact, but really, there’s no simple defense against a triple-digit heater followed by a wipeout slider.

But sometimes, the hitters fight back. They’re world-class athletes after all, and are capable of actions we can only dream of. Hitting a baseball 400 feet for a home run is one such example, but let’s go a step further. What about home runs hit off of seemingly impossible pitches? Today, I wanted to look at the four highest home runs hitters have belted out this season, then determine which one is the most impressive. This unfortunately means I had to leave out Jazz Chisholm’s homer off Jacob deGrom, as the pitch wasn’t high enough, but don’t worry, you can read about it here.

With that introduction out of the way, let’s meet the candidates alongside their home runs. The first batter up is Willians Astudillo:

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Checking in on the Hitter’s Count

There is a lot to dissect when it comes to understanding the increase in strikeouts in baseball. Pitchers at the plate are striking out at a higher clip than ever, but even when filtering out their plate appearances, we’re still seeing yearly increases in strikeout rate. A continued increase in velocity and an improved ability to spot fastballs up in the zone was always going to boost strikeouts, but we are also coming to shifts in pitching approach that are directly attacking long-standing hitter’s comforts, making even hitter’s counts unpredictable.

Since I’ll be going through league-wide pitching trends, it’s useful to take a quick glance at pitch usage for the year.

Pitch Usage in the Statcast Era
Season FB% SL% CT% CB% CH% SF% KN% XX%
2015 57.7% 14.7% 5.6% 9.1% 10.8% 1.4% 0.6% 0.5%
2016 56.7% 15.2% 5.7% 10.2% 10.3% 1.4% 0.6% 0.5%
2017 55.6% 16.3% 5.5% 10.6% 10.3% 1.3% 0.4% 0.5%
2018 54.9% 16.9% 5.6% 10.5% 10.7% 1.3% 0.1% 0.5%
2019 52.5% 18.3% 5.9% 10.6% 11.1% 1.4% 0.0% 0.4%
2020 50.5% 18.8% 6.6% 10.6% 11.9% 1.6% 0.0% 0.3%
2021 50.9% 19.8% 6.4% 9.9% 11.7% 1.4% 0.0% 0.4%

Fastball usage is holding steady from last year at just over 50%. In addition, the increase in slider usage continues, taking a chunk out of curveball usage. Still, the takeaway is that we’re approaching true 50/50 fastball/non-fastball usage splits over all counts, and it’s probably here to stay. Read the rest of this entry »

Top 65 Prospects: Texas Rangers

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Texas Rangers. Scouting reports were compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as my own observations. As there was no minor league season in 2020, there are some instances where no new information was gleaned about a player. Players whose write-ups have not been meaningfully altered begin by telling you so. As always, I’ve leaned more heavily on sources from outside of a given org than those within for reasons of objectivity. Because outside scouts were not allowed at the alternate sites, I’ve primarily focused on data from there, and the context of that data, in my opinion, reduces how meaningful it is. Lastly, in an effort to more clearly indicate relievers’ anticipated roles, you’ll see two reliever designations, both on my lists and on The Board: MIRP, or multi-inning relief pitcher, and SIRP, or single-inning relief pitcher.

For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed, you can click here. For further explanation of Future Value’s merits and drawbacks, read Future Value.

All of the numbered prospects here also appear on The Board, a resource the site offers featuring sortable scouting information for every organization. It can be found here.

Read the rest of this entry »

FanGraphs Audio: Kris Atteberry and Jared Sandler Issue Grades

Episode 924

This week on FanGraphs Audio, we ask a pair of broadcasters to evaluate the performance of their clubs before welcoming a new contributor to the pod.

  • To start things off, David Laurila welcomes Kris Atteberry, broadcaster for the Minnesota Twins, and Jared Sandler, broadcaster for the Texas Rangers. David asks Kris and Jared to judge their teams based on how they’ve done this year, keeping in mind that preseason expectations certainly affect the grading curve. They talk about Franmil Reyes’s batting line vs. Kenta Maeda, Adolis García’s wrestling career in Cuba, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa playing with motivation — and backing it up. They also discuss how easy it is to root for Kyle Gibson before considering the problems created by Willians Astudillo’s incredible contact skills and if it is possible to not strike out enough as a batter. [2:39]
  • In the second segment, Ben Clemens is joined by Justin Choi to discuss some of their recent articles at FanGraphs. Ben keeps researching sliders in The Shadow Zone, while Justin has taken a closer look at Bryan Shaw‘s pitch mix. Also, what is fueling Adrian Houser’s success? And what is Hyun Jin Ryu doing differently this year? Finally, Ben and Justin consider the merits of a pitcher having a velocity differential versus a variety of velocities. [36:28]

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Chin Music, Episode 15: Super Weird Exotic Nonsense

It’s a long weekend, folks, so get it started with another episode of Chin Music. The co-host chair stays away from New York, as the always wonderful Ben Clemens joins me from San Francisco to yammer about baseball and other things. We start by talking about the hottest team in baseball (that’s the Rays) and the hottest player in baseball (that’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr.) before delving into HatGate (not the ugly ones, the ones loaded with sticky stuff). We’re then joined by our first listener of the week, a public defender in a major metropolitan area who wishes to remain anonymous and offers some fascinating insight into the legal system. Then it’s emails, and they are good, but one doozy really takes the cake. From there it’s a Moment of Culture, catching up with Ben, and then departing.

As always, we hope you enjoy, and thank you for listening.

Music by the Belgian punk monsters Cocaine Piss.

Have a question you’d like answered on the show? Ask us anything at Read the rest of this entry »

Effectively Wild Episode 1700: Dirty Secrets and Naked Truths

Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley banter about Javier Báez and Will Craig combining on a baffling blooper, a naked streaker seizing the moment during a rain delay at Nationals Park, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt’s objection to a foreign-substance inspection (and how MLB should respond), an update from New Era about its short-lived “Local Market” caps, and Francisco Lindor’s protracted season-starting slump, then answer listener emails about legalizing sticky stuff for bad teams and whether umps would improve if they didn’t rotate around the field.

Audio intro: Passenger, "The Wrong Direction"
Audio outro: Teenage Fanclub, "I Need Direction"

Link to video of Báez/Craig play
Link to GIF breakdown of Báez/Craig play
Link to Yakety Sax version of video
Link to 2012 Astros play
Link to Sam’s single-play breakdown
Link to video of streaker
Link to another video of streaker
Link to still image of streaker
Link to Shaker Samman on the streaker
Link to story about banning fans
Link to story about Shildt
Link to video of Shildt ejection
Link to video of Shildt’s comments
Link to The Athletic on foreign substances
Link to Ben on foreign substances
Link to Tony Adams Bauer video
Link to Patrick Dubuque on breaking the rules
Link to EW episode on foreign substances
Link to WaPo on the New Era caps
Link to Lindor’s Baseball Savant page
Link to Lindor’s worst 44-game stretches
Link to Deesha Thosar on Lindor
Link to Russell Carleton on changing positions

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