Ben Lindbergh convenes a roundtable of hitting analysts—Robert Orr from Baseball Prospectus, Esteban Rivera from FanGraphs, and Ryan Parker, formerly of Baseball Prospectus and the Los Angeles Angels—to diagnose the problems with free agent Cody Bellinger’s much-diminished bat and recommend how to revive it. They also discuss their approaches to analyzing hitting, coachability, the differences between public and private hitting analysis, the importance of mashing mistakes, the Angels, and more. Then (1:15:03) Ben closes with a Past Blast from 1934 and a few followups about Bellinger, tweets, and assists on strikeouts.
Audio intro: Wednesday, “Cody’s Only”
Audio outro: The Killers, “Cody”
Link to Dan Szymborski on Bellinger
Link to story on Bellinger’s shoulder
Link to story on Bellinger’s leg
Link to Chris Gilligan on Bellinger
Link to Ken Rosenthal on Bellinger
Link to Prospects Live on Bellinger
Link to Bellinger vs. Musgrove K
Link to Versalles SABR bio
Link to SwingGraphs
Link to SwingGraphs data
Link to Esteban on Acuña
Link to Esteban on vertical bat angle
Link to Robert on crushing cookies
Link to Rosenthal on Angels moves
Link to Joon Lee on the Angels system
Link to EW with Clay Bellinger
Link to 1934 story source
Link to Biele article series
Link to story on Ella Black
Link to Jacob Pomrenke’s website
Link to Jacob Pomrenke on Twitter
Link to MLBTR on Harper’s TJ
Link to Blue Jays tweet
Link to Canseco at Vice
Link to Canseco on time travel
Link to assists story 1
Link to assists story 2
Link to assists story 3
Link to assists story 4
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Hunter Renfroe was probably getting tired of Milwaukee anyway. After spending the first four years of his career in San Diego, he will join his fifth team in five years as the Brewers sent the 30-year-old outfielder to the Angels in exchange for pitchers Janson Junk, Elvis Peguero, and Adam Seminaris.
Starting with the Los Angeles side of the deal: the Angels know what they’re getting in Renfroe. He’s a bat-first corner outfielder who relies on power to make up for what he lacks in on-base ability. After a poor showing in 2020, he bounced back with a 113 wRC+ in ’21 and posted a nearly identical season in ’22, good for a 124 wRC+ in the tougher offensive environment. He hit 60 home runs between the two seasons and posted a .315 on base percentage in both. He’s projected to make $11.2 million in arbitration this year, then move on to yet another team in 2024 as a free agent.
Renfroe owns a career wRC+ of 136 against lefties versus 97 against righties and has often been viewed as a platoon candidate. He improved his wRC+ to 120 against righties in 2022, however, after putting up 101 wRC+ in 2021. And while his defense isn’t to OAA’s liking, DRS and UZR both tend to rate him right around average, and his excellent arm helps to make up for what he lacks in range. He’ll slot into the outfield next to Mike Trout and Taylor Ward. Steamer projects the trio for 10.3 WAR — a big improvement after Los Angeles got just 0.3 WAR from its left fielders last year, good for 27th in the league. Even though Steamer expects Renfroe to take a step back next year, his projection of 2.0 WAR would patch a significant hole. Read the rest of this entry »
These 2023 projections are guaranteed to be awful, wrong in many ways ranging from tragic to comic. But despite being absolutely premature and littered with horrible misses, projected standings at this point are actually quite useful, and useful is the best description any kind of predictive model can strive for. Standings at this point are a poor predictor of the 2023 season — and even the eventual 2023 projections themselves — but what they are able to do is give a “state of the union” estimate for each team. These standings represent the best estimates ZiPS can make at this point about where a team sits in the league’s pecking order, based solely on the players currently under contract with the team. It’s hard to get where you want to go if you don’t know where you’re starting.
The methodology I’m using here is the same one I use in the regular season, and as such, it isn’t identical to the one we use in our Projected Standings. So how does ZiPS calculate the upcoming season? Stored within ZiPS are the first through 99th percentile projections for each player. I start by making a generalized depth chart, using our Depth Charts as an initial starting point. Since these are my curated projections, I make changes based on my personal feelings about who will receive playing time, as filtered through arbitrary whimsy my logic and reasoning. ZiPS then generates a million versions of each team in Monte Carlo fashion — the computational algorithms, that is (no one is dressing up in a tuxedo and playing baccarat like James Bond).
After that is done, ZiPS applies another set of algorithms with a generalized distribution of injury risk, which change the baseline PAs/IPs selected for each player. Of note here is that higher-percentile projections already have more playing time baked in than lower-percentile projections before this step. ZiPS then automatically “fills in” playing time from the next players on the list (proportionally) to get to a full slate of plate appearances and innings. Read the rest of this entry »
The 2023 free-agent market is crawling with former league MVPs. The recently crowned Aaron Judge is coming off one of the best position player seasons in recent memory. Multiple contenders have already checked in with 2020 AL winner José Abreu, who at age 35 is still quite a productive hitter. The 2011 AL MVP, Justin Verlander, is about to turn 40 but is nonetheless one of the top pitching targets available after a unanimous third Cy Young Award season. Andrew McCutchen seems to have played a thousand careers since his MVP win in 2013 and is on the lookout for a new home after playing out a one-year deal in Milwaukee. And then there’s the youngest of the bunch, 27-year-old Cody Bellinger, who was non-tendered by the Dodgers last Friday nearly three years to the day after his crowning as the 2019 NL MVP. The centerfielder was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn around $18.1 million in his final arbitration year in 2023; instead, with a high ceiling at a relatively low cost, he’ll be the archetype of a bounceback candidate wherever he lands.
Bellinger’s struggles since his MVP campaign have been well documented. After a mediocre follow-up season in the COVID-shortened 2020, his production dropped dramatically in ’21, as he hit .165/.240/.302 and was one of 16 players to finish with -1.0 WAR. He’s battled a string of injuries in that period, too, including multiple shoulder dislocations and a fractured left fibula, that led to missed time and a steep decline in contact quality and production; his wOBA fell from .414 in 2019 to .337 in ’20 to .237 in ’21. Read the rest of this entry »
How do you explain a fall in performance from a superstar player in their age-24 season? It’s hard to make any concrete conclusions, but there are always certain observations that can help us understand what happened, and when it comes to Ronald Acuña Jr., many of us are eager to know. In the first four seasons of his career, he was undeniably one of the best players in baseball, and in the last two, albeit both shortened for different reasons, his power had begun to take off. In 2020 and ’21, before he tore his ACL, he maintained an ISO above .300.
Oh yeah, about that ACL. It’s not a common injury in baseball, so we don’t have much history to go off, but there is no denying its impact on Acuña’s swing and athleticism. Depending on the stage of your career and sport you play, an ACL tear can impact you differently. When it came to Acuña, a special athlete, I thought there would be an immediate bounce back. Perhaps that was an unfair assessment. This is a major injury for such an explosive player, and it’s understandable that it would take time to recover and get the necessary level of proprioception back. That’s not to say he wasn’t successful in 2022; he put up three months with a 130 wRC+ or better and ended at 114 overall. But that isn’t close to his pre-2022 career mark of 140. I’m confident he can get back to that point. How? He’ll have to reignite his ability to keep the ball off the ground and in the air.
Sorry to simplify things so much. It’s a personal pet peeve of mine to say a hitter just needs to stop hitting so many groundballs; it’s such an obvious suggestion for any hitter or swing type. But it’s the case here. From 2019 to ’21, Acuña didn’t have a ground ball rate above 38%; in ’22, that figure skyrocketed to 47.7%. That was a career high, 5.4 percentage points higher than his rookie season. Even in the months where he was stellar, it wasn’t because he returned to his previous batted ball profile; he only had one month all year with a groundball rate under 42%. Read the rest of this entry »
The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the 2023 Contemporary Baseball Era Committee ballot. For a detailed introduction to this year’s ballot, use the tool above. An introduction to JAWS can be found here.
Content warning: This piece, and the original pieces to which it links, contains details about alleged domestic violence and sexual impropriety. The content may be difficult to read and emotionally upsetting.
The Baseball Writers Association of America may be done with these guys, but the Hall of Fame isn’t… yet. Eleven years ago, one of the most talented classes of first-year candidates landed on the writers’ ballot. From a group that included Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling, not to mention Craig Biggio, Kenny Lofton, Mike Piazza, and Sammy Sosa — as well as four holdover candidates subsequently elected by the writers, and three chosen by the Era Committees — the writers elected no one, pitching their first shutout in 17 years. Voting hasn’t been the same since. While Biggio and Piazza were eventually elected by the writers, the quartet of Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, and Sosa were not. Their continued presence on the ballot, and the rancorous debate that surrounded their candidacies, at times gummed up the process, diverting attention away from other compelling candidates and souring many participants and observers on the entire endeavor, if not the institution itself. The politics of glory, indeed.
The polarizing public debate surrounding candidates linked to performance-enhancing drugs — a group that at the time included not just Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa but also Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro — led the Hall’s board of directors to change the rules mid-candidacy by reducing players’ windows of eligibility from 15 years to 10. Where Hall president Jeff Idelson said in 2011 with regards to PED-linked candidates, “[W]e’re happy with the diligence of the voters who have participated, and the chips will fall as they fall,” once it became apparent that Bonds and Clemens were trending towards election, the institution put its thumb on the scale via board member Joe Morgan’s open plea for voters not to consider steroid users. Morgan’s letter conveniently sidestepped the likelihood that some steroid users — and numerous known users of another performance-enhancing drug, amphetamines — had already been elected. Read the rest of this entry »
During Game 3 of the ALCS, Jeff Francoeur noted that 10 of the 12 pitchers who had surrendered postseason home runs to Alex Bregman were All-Stars, eliciting a comment about how Bregman hits well against good pitching. That’s undoubtedly a fun fact, but the notion has been rattling around my brain for the last couple weeks. I’ve definitely heard stories about players who hit good pitching, but I’ve never heard of anyone looking at splits based on the quality of the pitcher on the mound.
The main problem with that idea is a logical one. Break down any batter’s performance into its constituent parts, and you’ve entered a zero sum game. If you’re at your best against great pitchers, that means you’re hitting worse against everyone else. It’s hard for me to imagine that there are many players who fare better against Justin Verlander than they do against, well, anyone on the Nationals.
There could be players who are less bad than average, but if I had my choice of superpowers, I’m not sure that’s the one I’d pick. It would definitely help out in the playoffs, but over the course of the season, batters see a lot more average and poor arms than they do great ones. I’d rather perform well the majority of the time. Read the rest of this entry »
Ben Lindbergh and Meg Rowley banter about omissions from their Baseball Twitter draft, a few transactions (including the Kyle Lewis trade, the Gio Urshela trade, and multiple shortstop swaps), the Angels acquiring average players, the Dodgers non-tendering Cody Bellinger, the Phillies extending Dave Dombrowski, the new BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot and Ben’s ballot decision, a series of sports-betting investigations, a college-baseball trailblazer, comeback players of the year, and more, plus Stat Blasts (54:28) about Aaron Judge and intra-team WAR gaps, the most unique players put out, consecutive innings with double plays, and the timing of game-winning runs, a Past Blast (1:04:06) from 1933, and an Angels postscript.
Audio intro: Adrianne Lenker and Buck Meek, “Angels”
Audio outro: Mimi Roman, “Never Ramble, Never Gamble, Never Roam”
Link to Heyman tweet
Link to Baer tweet
Link to Nightengale tweet
Link to Bautista tweet
Link to Justin Choi on Lewis
Link to Baumann on shortswaps
Link to MLBTR on Dombrowski
Link to MLBTR on Bellinger
Link to Jay on the BBWAA ballot
Link to Jay on the committee ballot
Link to EW on Ben’s ballot last year
Link to NYT sports-betting thread
Link to NYT sports-betting article 1
Link to NYT sports-betting article 2
Link to NYT sports-betting article 3
Link to NYT sports-betting article 4
Link to Olivia Pichardo news
Link to comeback players story
Link to Ryan Nelson’s Twitter
Link to WAR-gap Stat Blast data
Link to putouts Stat Blast data
Link to game-winning-runs data
Link to Rob Mains on comebacks
Link to 1933 story source
Link to SABR on Browns ownership
Link to MLB.com on the Browns
Link to SABR on Jackie in Montreal
Link to Jacob Pomrenke’s website
Link to Jacob Pomrenke on Twitter
Link to MLBTR on the Renfroe trade
Link to tweet about Renfroe and Trout
Last Tuesday’s 40-man roster deadline led to the usual squall of transaction activity, with teams turning over portions of their rosters in an effort to make room for the incoming crop of young rookies. Often, teams with an overflow of viable big leaguers will try to get back what they can for some of those players via trade, but because we’re talking about guys straddling the line between major league viability and Triple-A, those trades tend not to be big enough to warrant an entire post.
Over the next few days, we’ll endeavor to cover and analyze the moves made by each team, division by division. Readers can view this as the start of list season, as the players covered in this miniseries tend to be prospects who will get big league time in the next year. We’ll spend more time discussing players who we think need scouting updates or who we haven’t written about in the past. If you want additional detail on some of the more famous names you find below, pop over to The Board for a more thorough report.
The Future Value grades littered throughout these posts may be different than those on the 2022 in-season prospect lists on The Board to reflect our updated opinions and may be subject to change during the offseason. New to our thinking on this subject and wondering what the FVs mean? Here’s a quick rundown. Note that because we’re talking about close-to-the-majors prospects across this entire exercise, the time and risk component is less present here and these FVs are what we think the players are right now. Read the rest of this entry »
Another Pirates reliever has been picked up by the Yankees, and his name is Junior Fernández, owner of 54 career innings pitched in the majors with St. Louis and Pittsburgh. This past season, he finished with a 5.79 FIP in 18.2 innings; his career FIP sits at 5.57, so he hasn’t had much success in the league so far. So what exactly do the Yankees see in him?
Like many relievers in the Yankees’ bullpen, Fernández throws high-velocity sinkers and boasts an above-average ground ball rate: 58.9%, a very similar clip as Jonathan Loáisiga. That all sounds very similar to another Yankees pickup from the Pirates: Clay Holmes. But Holmes’ sinker is of the turbo ilk that forces its way down with bowling ball action; this past season, the vertical movement on that pitch was 21% above league average. Fernández’s is much more vertical neutral. In fact, the comparison to Loáisiga is much more appropriate. The table below shows how Fernández’s sinker specs compare to Loáisiga’s:
The two pitchers have similar extension, release points, and movement profiles. The entry into the zone in terms of horizontal and vertical approach angles isn’t all that far off either. Overall, we’re looking at very similar pitches, and Fernández throws his even harder by about a tick. This alone is a good starting point to explain why the Yankees were interested enough to scoop him up off waivers. Read the rest of this entry »