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2020 MLB Awards Predictions

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So, I try to do this every year, and every year I do reasonably well in predicting the end-of-season awards as voted upon by the media members of the BBWAA.

This year? I have no idea what is going to happen. A combination of work, pandemic, side projects and other interests has really taken away from my focus on baseball in 2020. So honestly I have no idea who is set to win these awards. But lets do some educated guessing, with the help of some of my favorite national baseball writers.


AL MVP: Well, if you use the old adage “best player on the best team,” you end up with Brandon Lowe on the Tampa Bay Rays. Is Brandon Lowe getting MVP buzz? Of course not. Could you pick Brandon Lowe out of a lineup? Yeah me neither. He’s the only guy on the Rays who hit double digit homers but he’s hitting just .269 on the season and posted a 2.1 bWAR, nearly a full win below some of his compatriots in the league. Tampa is a team effort with great starters and even better relievers that probably won’t go far in the playoffs.

No, this award seems to be coming down between two hitters:
– D.J. LeMahieu of the Yankees, who had a monster batting season and really carried a team that was missing its two best hitters for half the season.
Jose Abreu, who also blew up this year, hitting .317 with 19 homers in 60 games to lead the resurgent and dangerous White Sox into the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade.

I like the Abreu narrative. I’ll go Abreu 1, LeMahieu 2 and Trout getting sympathy 3rd place votes for yet another playoff-less season for the Angels. Cleveland’s leading slugger Jose Ramirez continues to mash in anonymity and should be in the conversation for 3rd here as well.


NL MVP: well, its pretty clear that the three best hitters this year in the league were all in the NL. Freddie Freeman, who has never finished in the top 3 in MVP voting amazingly, blew up this year, posting an OPS figure above 1,100 and really continuing to show why he’s consistently year in, year out one of the most underrated hitters in the league. Meanwhile, Mookie Betts quietly led the league in bWAR with a 3.4 figure in just 60 games (that’s projecting to a 9-win season in a full year), but a good chunk of that WAR is defense-related (which some writers struggle to evaluate). Lastly you have our own Juan Soto, who just put up a 212 OPS+ season (the 26th best single season OPS+ figure EVER), became the youngest player to ever lead the league in BA, and posted 2.9 offensive bWAR in just *47 games* (that’s a 10-win offensive season projected to 162 games, before taking away his defensive correction which drags him down from an overall bWAR perspective). And none of this even recognizes any of the guys in San Diego (specifically Fernando Tatis Jror Manny Machado) who have rocketed that team to respectability quickly.

Honestly, I think the narrative gets Freeman the award, given that he’s never come close to winning it anymore. The award goes Freeman 1, Betts 2 and Soto 3. Maybe Tatis takes 3rd over Soto, penalizing the Nat for his false-positive Covid test that cost him a chunk of the season.


AL Cy Young: I think it has to be Cleveland’s Shane Bieber, who gets the pitching “triple crown” in the AL: he leads the league in Wins (8), ERA (1.63) and Strikeouts (122, which worked out to an astounding 14.2 K/9 rate). His ERA+ figure was 281, good for the 3rd best single season figure … EVER.

I’m not even sure who fills out the rest of the AL bracket: perhaps Toronto’s Hyung-Jin Ryu 2nd for his solid performance in his debut Toronto season, and then Dallas Keuchel, who posted a sub 2.00 ERA for the White Sox.


NL Cy Young: this race is a mess. If it were me, i’d be seriously considering Max Fried of Atlanta, who was basically unhittable all year (7-0, 2.25 ERA), but who got hurt and did not pitch enough innings to even qualify for the ERA title. But Cincinnati’s Trevor Bauer was even more unhittable, posting some astounding numbers this year: just 5-4 as a W/L record but his ERA was a league leading 1.73, he also led the league in WHIP with an amazing 0.795 figure, he posted a 276 ERA+ (the 5th best seasonal figure ever), and he struck out 12.3 K/9. Just amazing.

I think it goes Bauer 1, Fried 2 and then someone like Yu Darvish or Jacob deGrom 3rd, to recognize their excellent seasons as well.


AL Rookie of the Year: who knows: there’s been so many debuts this season, it has been hard to keep track. I’ll go with who I see getting more sportswriters buzz; Kyle Lewis of Seattle.

NL Rookie of the Year: I think the narrative gives it to San Diego’s Jake Croneworth, who exploded out of nowhere to have a solid rookie season at the age of 26. Yes, there’s some eye popping figures coming from Milwaukee rookie reliever Devin Williams (53 strikeouts of 100 batters faced, or a 17.7 K/9 rate, good for an ERA+ of … get this …. 1375!), but he’s a middle reliever. we’ll see how the voters evaluate him.


Managers of the Year: how do you possibly evaluate managers in a short season like this? I default to “manager of the team that surprised people the most and snuck into the playoffs.” Following this theory i’ll go Rick Renteria of the White Sox in the AL(who improved from going 72-89 last year to 35-25 this year) and Don Mattingly of the Marlins in the NL (whose Marlins won just 57 games last year). San Diego’s Jayce Tingler deserves votes here too, as does Cincinnati’s David Bell.

There you have it.

MLB Rotation Ranks heading into 2020

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Scherzer: the #1 on the #1 rotation. photo via wp.com

Scherzer: the #1 on the #1 rotation. photo via wp.com

Every off-season I find myself meticulously tracking Starting pitching movement, with a working XLS that attempts to quantify the rank of every rotation in the majors.

Before we get too further into the pre-season, and these ranks start to get obsoleted as we find out that some starters are going to head into surgery or to the DL, i wanted to get this out there.

Previous years of doing this

  • 2019 Cubs #1, Nats #4.  Probably overvalued Cubs, undervalued the Dodgers, Rays and Astros.
  • 2018: did not do the analysis, but Houston led the league in ERA, FIP, fWAR
  • 2017: Cubs #1, Mets #2.  Cleveland and LA Dodgers really the best.
  • 2016: Mets #1, Cardinals #2.  Mets and Nats ended up being the best on the season.
  • 2015: did not do the post.  Cubs, Nats, Dodgers the best.
  • 2014: Cards #1.  Nats ended up being the best rotation by most measures.
  • 2013: Nats #1, Tigers #2.  In the end, Detroit really was the best rotation.

Here’s my rankings of the Starting Rotations of every team in the majors.

Raw data, which includes a ton more detail including movement, starters still out there, and color coding indicating whether i think a pitcher is a #1, a #2, a #3 or lower is here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1gztFB_MIkVLd-Bzw9SuSYJxE709eHOPAsAZL8nzsiPw/edit?usp=sharing

Notes: i have these roughly grouped for discussion.  Each of these groups of rotations are in the correct order, but are relatively close enough that if you wanted to argue within the grouping I wouldn’t probably push back too much, but i’d put any of the teams in one group ahead of any team in the next group.

1. Washington:  Max Scherzer Stephen Strasburg Patrick Corbin Anibal Sanchez Joe Ross
2. Texas:  Corey Kluber Lance Lynn Mike Minor Kyle Gibson Jordan Lyles
3. Los Angeles Dodgers:  Clayton Kershaw Walker Buehler David Price Julio Urias Alex Wood
4. New York Mets;  Jacob deGrom Noah Syndergaard Marcus Stroman Steven Matz Rick Porcello

Yes, i’ve got our home team #1.  I think the top 3 are all three Aces (meaning, they’re all among the top 15-20 arms in the league), and the Nats are the only team that can make that claim.  Texas has completely remade their rotation, adding an ace in Kluber, adding the back-end of their rotation via FA this off-season and I really think they’re in a position to make some noise.  LA comes in third, and yes I still have Kershaw as an “Ace” for now, but Buehler is probably the best arm of the bunch.  the Mets are a speculative #4; is Snydergaard really an Ace?  What happened to him last year?  If he returns to form, the NL East becomes that much more difficult to navigate for all the teams involved.

5. Tampa Bay:  Blake Snell Charlie Morton Tyler Glasnow Yonny Chirinos Ryan Yarbrough
6. Houston:  Justin Verlander Zack Greinke Lance McCullers Jose Urquidy Rogelio Armentos
7. Philadelphia:  Zack Wheeler Aaron Nola Jake Arrieta Zach Eflin Vincent Velasquez
8. Cincinnati:  Sonny Grey Luis Castillo Anthony DeSclafani Trevor Bauer Wade Miley
9. Atlanta: Mike Soroka, Mike Foltynewicz, Cole  Hamels, Max Fried, Kyle Wright

Tampa is a hard one to rate, b/c of their use of the “Opener” so much.  Houston takes a hit by letting Cole go and replacing him with someone who I couldn’t pick out of a lineup.  I think Cincinnati’s rotation may prove to look quite mediocre if Grey and Bauer in particular don’t produce.  Atlanta has five talented guys who all could step up and make them really tough to beat, so watch out.

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10. Oakland:  Sean Manaea Frankie Montas Mike Fiers Jesus Luzardo Chris Bassitt
11. St. Louis:  Jack Flaherty Dakota Hudson Miles Mikolas Adam Wainwright Kwang-Hyun Kim
12. New York Yankees:  Gerritt Cole Luis Severino Masahiro Tanaka J.A. Happ Domingo German
13. Toronto:  Hyung-Jin Ryu Chase Anderson Matt Shoemaker Tanner Roark Shun Yamaguchi
14. Minnesota:  Jake Odorizzi Jose Berrios Kenta Maeda Homer Bailey Randy Dobnak
15. San Diego:  Chris Paddock Garrett Richards Drew Pomeranz Zach Davies Dinelson Lamet
16. Cleveland:  Mike Clevinger Shane Bieber Carlos Carrasco Aaron Civale Adam Plutko

Oakland could look a lot better fast if Luzardo lives up to his #2 starter hype.  Its also noteworthy that no matter where you rank Oakland’s rotation pre-season, they produce.  I think i had them in the bottom five last year and they won 97 games with a bunch of #4 starters.  So who knows.  The Yankees are #12, which also seems amazing for a 103 win team that ADDED perhaps the best right hander in the game … but they fall off fast AND they seem to have lost Severino for the season (which is not accounted for here), so they may be actually worse.  Toronto’s got 3 new starters and some unknowns: is Ryu going to be an Ace or a 4th?  Cleveland is the lowest team with an “Ace” in the rotation

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17. Arizona:  Robbie Ray Luke Weaver Mike Leake Merrill Kelly Alex Young
18. Milwaukee:  Brandon Woodruff Adrian Houser Brett Anderson Freddy Peralta Eric Lauer
19. Chicago Cubs:  Kyle Hendricks Yu Darvish Jon Lester Jose Quintana Alec Mills
20. Boston:  Chris Sale Eduardo Rodriguez Nathan Eovaldi Martin Perez Matt Hall
21. Chicago White Sox:  Lucas Giolito Dallas Keuchel Reynaldo Lopez Carson Fulmer Gio Gonzalez
22. Colorado:  Jon Grey German Marquez Kyle Freeland Antonio Senzelata Jeff Hoffman
23. San Francisco:  Jeff Samardzija Johnny Cueto Tyler Beede Kevin Gausmann Drew Smyly
24. Los Angeles Angels:  Shohei Ohtani Julio Teheran Jamie Barria Andrew Heaney Dylan Bundy

this is a logical stopping point (the #24 ranked Angels) because this is clearly the end of teams that are “trying” in 2020.  And you might push back on the notion that some of these teams are even trying (Boston, SF, etc).  Its still kind of amazing to me that the White Sox are ranked this low, given the pedigree of their prospect-laden rotation and the fact that they added a recent cy Young winner in Keuchel this past off-season.  Boston takes a hit as we hear that Sale may start the season on the DL.  Lastly what to make of LAA?  Is Ohtani goign to compete and be an ace?  If not they need production from a bunch of #5 starters or else they waste even more of Trout (and now Rendon‘s) careers.

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25. Seattle: Marco GonzalesYusei Kikuchi Justus SheffieldKendall GravemanJustin Dunn
26. Pittsburgh:  Chris Archer Joe Musgrove Steven Brault Trevor Williams Mitch Keller
27. Kansas City: Danny DuffyBrad KellerJake JunisMike MontgomeryJesse Hahn
28. Detroit:  Matt Boyd Jordan Zimmermann Daniel Norris Spencer Turnbull Ivan Nova
29. Baltimore:  John Means Alex Cobb Asher Wojciechowski Dean Kremer David Hess
30. Miami:  Sandy Alcantara Caleb Smith Jose Urena Jordan Yamamoto Pablo Lopez

All 6 of these teams i have as actively “tanking” in 2020, so not surprisingly they’re the bottom 6 rotations.  A couple of these rotations don’t even have what i would consider even a #3 starter, and among all 6 of these teams I only see two acquisitions this off-season that project into their rotations.  Miami, the lowest ranked rotation, made its sole starting pitching acquisition of the off-season a rule-5 drafting of our own former prospect Sterling Sharp, which is pretty telling.  Baltimore has added a bunch of depth but it all projects as just that; depth.  4-A or minor league starter depth.

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That’s it.  What do you think?

 

Obligatory Post on the 2020 Hall of Fame class

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Jeter waves to the fans in his last home game. AP photo via abcnews.com

Jeter waves to the fans in his last home game. AP photo via abcnews.com

Its that time of the year, so that means Hall of Fame Ballot time.  BBWAA Writers should have mailed in their ballots by 12/31/19, and we should start seeing a glut of “this is who I voted for and why” posts come out this week.

How many years have I been doing this post?  Basically as long as we’ve had the blog.  Here’s (by class) 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011.  Dunno what happened for the 2016 preview; must have been busy or something right at the end of the year in 2015.

I know lots of people have lost faith in the Hall of Fame, are tired of reading analysis like this, etc etc.  Fair enough; feel free to move on.

Here’s two key links for you, if you’re still reading.

My consideration of candidates for the Hall, unlike my consideration of a lot of stuff in baseball, does include “feel” in addition to stats.  I know Jay Jaffe  has his great JAWS thing that tries to do both peak and longevity.  I know b-r.com has a bunch of metrics per player.  That’s all great.  But it isn’t the hall of stats, it isn’t the hall of WAR.  Its the Hall of Fame.  Its the hall of marquee players from their day.  I look at the players I’d vote for and … they’re the guys you paid money to see.  They’re the arms that were on the mound and you gave the opposing team little chance.  They’re the sluggers who you wanted up in the 9th inning of a tie game.  That’s what makes the game exciting and that’s the lens I like to use when judging players.  Yeah its subjective and partisan; so is every person voting in the BBWAA.  Even Jaffe admits there’s stats and then there’s consideration in his excellent article linked above.

With my imaginary ballot, here’s how i’d vote.  Since there’s a limit of 10 players per ballot, I’ll list these players in rough order of voting priority to start:

New to the 2020 Ballot Candidates:

  • Absolute Yes on Derek Jeter
    • Jeter may very well join Mariano Rivera as a unanimous electee; I can’t see any logical reason why a sane voter without a grudge would not vote for him.
    • I’ve seen people online actually ask if his tenure as the face of the Miami Marlins ownership group will harm his candidacy.  I sure as hell hope not: he’s clearly enacting the policy of his ownership group, and his playing qualifications have absolutely nothing to do with his management career.  But, since we live in the “Hot Take” universe of twitter-length arguments, I’m sure someone will withold a vote for some personal reason (and then will stay anonymous like the chicken-sh*t voters who continue to do so).
  • Slight pause on Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi
    • Abreu’s accumulation stats really added up, but he was never seriously in consideration for anything close to being the best player in the league at any point in his career.
    • Giambi had a torrid 3-4 year stretch where he was perhaps the most feared hitter in the league.  His slash line in 2001 was a ridiculous .342/.477/.660.  And he didn’t even win the MVP (he lost out to the narrative-driven Ichiro Suzuki despite producing nearly two more wins of value).  But … this was basically it for Giambi; he dominated at the height of the PED era and admitted (in leaked Grand Jury testimony) that throughout his peak he took BALCO products, steroids and HGH.  There’s just no way he’s ever getting in.  But man he was a slugger in his prime.
  • No on everyone else, and i’m not sure there’s anyone really close.
    • there’s one guy on the ballot (Heath Bell) who had less career bWAR than Mike Trout had in 2019.  In case you still held on to some belief that relievers are the game changing players that they’re made out to be by some sportswriters.

Returning Ballot Candidates

I’m not re-litigating these candidates, since i’ve written many times on them in the past.   Plus, most of these guys have been on the ballot so long that, frankly, nobody wants to hear your justification any more.  Its like politics; reading my blog post isn’t going to change your opinion on the Impeachment inquiry.  I’m sure the Cooperstown guys can’t wait for Bonds and Clemens in particular to age off the ballot; this is t heir 8th year of 10.  Almost there.

  • Yes on Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Curt Schilling, Manny Ramirez
  • More Tepid Yes on Fred McGriff, Larry Walker
  • Almost ready to say Yes on Gary Sheffield, Scott Rolen, Andruw Jones
  • Pass for now on Jeff Kent, Sammy Sosa, Todd Helton, Lance BerkmanAndy Pettitte, Roy Oswalt
  • No on Omar VizquelBilly Wagner, Bobby Abreu, Jeremy Giambi,  and the rest of the 2020 class not already discussed

Its Walker’s 10th and last year on the ballot, typically a time when people give him a bump.  He was at 54% last year; can he get to 75%  It’ll be tough.  its a thin ballot, which means lots of guys are going to get votes who may not normally get them.  Will it be enough?

So i’ve got absolute Yes’s on five guys, tepid Yes on another two, then would probably throw the “almost ready” three guys on to fill out the ballot of 10 names.

I vote Yes on (in order): Jeter, Clemens, Bonds, Schilling, Ramirez, McGriff, Walker, Sheffield, Rolen, Jones.

Predictions?  I’ll say Jeter and Walker get in.

(side observation; on the Hall of Fame tracker this year, we’re seeing really odd things in some of the ballots so far.  For the first time in a while, there’s not 10 obvious candidates even for bigger-hall proponents like myself.  And we’re seeing voters actually remove votes from players they voted for last year … but not completely filling out the ballot. (??)  Explain that to me: how do you vote for a guy one year then the next … you don’t, and you’re not taking away that vote for an other players?   We also are seeing some real questionable ballots; one guy voted solely for Jeter this year and removed 7 others he had on his previous ballot.  Why would you do that??)

 

Gold Glove awards versus advanced stats for 2019

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Arenado well represented on these leader boards this year. Photo via legitsports.com

Arenado well represented on these leader boards this year. Photo via legitsports.com

(whoops, forgot to post this earlier this off-season)

Every year I have kept a spreadsheet with each year’s Gold Glove award winners and then shown how the leading advanced statistical measures listed out the best in the league.

Here’s the same post for past years: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013.

In 2019, for the first time in a while, I think the selectors really did an excellent job picking the Gold Glove winners in each league.  Of the 18 winners, I think 15 of them were spot-on, inarguable selections.  And the 3 that I quibbled with each still led in some statistical categories, or were selected by the blue-ribbon Bill James-led panel of fielding Bible winners.  So you’d be hard pressed to even argue that those three were troublesome selections.  There’s no Derek Jeter esque selection (he won the Gold Glove in 2005 posting a -27 DRS figure) and no Rafael Palmeiro esque selections (he won the GG in 1999 playing just 28 games in the field and DHing the rest).  I feel like the selection committee is really getting good at picking the best defenders in the league.

Here’s your 2019 GG winners:

PosAL GG WinnerNL GG Winner
CRoberto PerezJT Realmudo
1BMatt OlsonAnthony Rizzo
2BYolmer SanchezKolten Wong
SSFrancisco LindorNick Ahmed
3BMatt ChapmanNolan Arenado
LFAlex GordonDavid Peralta
CFKevin KiermaierLorenzo Cain
RFMookie BettsCody Bellinger
PMike LeakeZack Greinke

I had quibbles with the following players (along with counter arguments):

  • Nick Ahmed: did not lead the NL in Fangraphs all-encompassing Defensive Statistical measure (Paul deJong), nor UZR/150 (Miguel Rojas), but was the top SS in DRS and in Baseball-Reference’s Total Zone.  Ahmed was given the Fielding Bible award though (as we’ll see in a moment) but missed out on the Wilson defensive POTY award to Andrelton Simmons (which seemed to be a reputation award).
  • David Peralta: This is a very slight quibble; Peralta missed out on officially qualifying for some of the Fangraphs lists by virtue of missing a bunch of time; otherwise he’d have gotten a clean sweep of statistical and named awards.  Marcell Ozuna was pretty much #2 across the board in all statistical categories.
  • Lorenzo Cain: Cain wasn’t the leader in a single statistical category, but was the Fielding Bible and Wilson POTY.  Harrison Bader was the CF leader in both Fangraphs total Defense and UZR/150, while our own Victor Robles ended up leading the qualified DRS candidates in the NL.

Lets look at other fielding awards for 2019:

Fielding Bible

PosFielding Bible Winner
CRoberto Perez
1BMatt Olsen
2BKolten Wong
SSNick Ahmed
3BMatt Chapman
LFDavid Peralta
CFLorenzo Cain
RFCody Bellinger
PZack Greinke
UtilCody Bellinger

Every Fielding Bible recipient in 2019 also matched a Gold Glove winner; a first that I can remember.

Wilson Defensive POTY

PosWilson Defensive POTY
CRoberto Perez
1BFreddie Freeman
2BKolten Wong
SSAndrelton Simmons
3BMatt Chapman
LFDavid Peralta
CFLorenzo Cain
RFAaron Judge
PZack Greinke

Simmons seems like (as i said above) an award based on his reputation for years being the best defender in the league.  He’s not that anymore.  I’m not sure where the Freddie Freeman award came from; he did not lead any defensive measures in 2019.  The Aaron Judge award wasn’t too egregious; he led DRS in the AL, one of two primary defensive stats I like.

Fangraphs DEF stat (for a definition see here: https://library.fangraphs.com/defense/def/); it’s basically a combo state that tries to equate all players into one stat using positional adjustments.

PosAL Fangraphs Stat Avg (Def)NL Fangraphs Stat Avg (Def)
CChristian VazquezJT Realmudo
1BMatt OlsonAnthony Rizzo
2BYolmer SanchezKolten Wong
SSMarcus SiemenPaul DeJong
3BMatt ChapmanNolan Arenado
LFAlex GordonMarcell Ozuna
CFKevin KiermaierHarrison Bader
RFMookie BettsCody Bellinger
Pn/an/a

So, 11 of the 16 GG winners are here, for about 70% match rate.  That’s not too bad.  A couple of the deltas we’ve already discussed (Ozuna and Bader).  Both SS figures resulted in different leaders here versus the GG winners, oddly.  But for the most part, this state predicted the GGs well.

Ultimate Zone Rating averaged over 150 games (UZR/150):

PosAL UZR/150NL UZR/150
Cn/an/a
1BMatt OlsonAnthony Rizzo
2BYolmer SanchezKolten Wong
SSFrancisco LindorMiguel Rojas
3BMatt ChapmanNolan Arenado
LFAlex GordonMarcell Ozuna
CFKevin KiermaierHarrison Bader
RFMookie BettsCody Bellinger
Pn/an/a

This is one of my two go-to defensive stats; it does suffer from Short Sample Sizes so you really need a full season, but the range factor it measures does seem to tell a good story about how much ground the defender covers.  Its interesting to go through and look at certain players UZR/150 machinations; when Mike Trout and Bryce Harper were hurt, their UZRs plummeted accordingly.

In 2019, 11 of the 14 GG winners also led their leagues in UZR/150, a great showing.  Two of the three outliers are guys we’ve already talked about (Ozuna, Bader).

Defensive Runs Saved (DRS)

PosAL DRSNL DRS
CRoberto PerezJT Realmudo
1BMatt OlsonChristian Walker
2BYolmer SanchezKolten Wong
SSWilly AdamesNick Ahmed
3BMatt ChapmanJosh Donaldson
LFMichael BrantleyDavid Peralta
CFKevin KiermaierVictor Robles
RFAaron JudgeCody Bellinger
PZack GreinkeMax Fried

this figure is often the go-to stat for people: I like using it in conjunction with UZR to tell a more complete picture.  DRS is context-sensitive; if you (for example) reach over the fence to save a grand slam … you get 4 defensive runs saved added to your total for the year (as opposed to the fact that you just made one out, albeit a tough one).  Its an accumulator stat … but its also worth noting that a player can accumulate a lot (or cost his team a lot) in a short amount of time.  So often times the DRS leaders don’t technically “qualify” by ABs or percentage of games played like other stats show.

DRS leaders include our own Robles, Josh Donaldson, Judge (in the only stat he led), and have some random players not present on any other stat.  So its kind of hard to depend on this stat for the purposes of saying, “So and so was the best defender at his position this year.”

Baseball-Reference total Zone

PosAL Total Zone rTOTNL Total Zone rTOT
CRoberto PerezJT Realmudo
1BYuli GurrielChristian Walker
2BYolmer SanchezKolten Wong
SSWilly AdamesNick Ahmed
3BMatt ChapmanNolan Arenado
LFRobbie GrossmanDavid Peralta
CFMallex SmithManuel Margot
RFAaron JudgeAustin Slater
Pn/an/a

This is B-R’s equivalent to Fangraphs total Defense stat … and its always had issues.  I’m not sure why.  but for 2019, in only was in line with the GG winers half the time, and was the only stat that had a number of players listed as the leader.  Its the least dependable advanced defensive stat of those listed here.

Baseball Prospectus FRAA: I gave up on it this year b/c BP has gone to a subscriber model, and you have to be a subscriber in order to get sortable stats on their page.

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So that’s it.  Not sure if there’s much interest in this stuff but its something I track every eyar so I thought i’d post it.

Another Year … another set of crummy Gold Glove picks

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I guess we should just pencil in Molina's name every year until he retires. Photo via wikipedia

I guess we should just pencil in Molina’s name every year until he retires. Photo via wikipedia

The winners of the 2018 Gold Gloves were announced on 11/4/18 … and once again, there’s a slew of poor selections among the winners when you look at the league leaders of defensive metrics.

Here’s the 2018 Gold Glove Winners:

PosAL GG WinnerNL GG Winner
CSalvador PerezYadier Molina
1BMatt OlsonAntony Rizzo/Freddie Freeman
2BIan KinslerDJ LeMahieu
SSAndrelton SimmonsNick Ahmed
3BMatt ChapmanNolan Arenado
LFAlex GordonCorey Dickerson
CFJackie Bradley Jr.Ender Inciarte
RFMookie BettsNick Markakis
PDallas KeuchelZack Greinke

Of these 18 winners, I’ve got problems with at least 5 of them.

  • Yadier Molina: wins his 9th Gold Glove, yet he was not the NL leader by any C statistical measure, nor was he the Fielding Bible catcher selection for 2018.   Wilson Contreras was the NL leader in Fangraphs total defense stat and in Baseball-Reference’s Total Zone, while Jeff Mathis was the NL leader in DRS and FRAA.  Molina actually posted a NEGATIVE DRS, and was ranked 11th in the NL among catchers with more than 500 innings (i.e. basically full time catchers).   He posted the DRS figure as the Nationals’ Matt Wieters, who nobody in the majors is claiming to be a fine defensive catcher.  This was clearly a “reputation selection” for a guy who yes at one time was inarguably the best defensive catcher in the sport, but who just played his age 35 year and has no business winning a Gold Glove over other more deserving candidates.
  • DJ LeMahieu wins his third Gold Glove, yet was flatly outshined by the Cardinals’ Kolten Wong, who nearly swept the defensive metrics.  Wong was the NL leader in Fangraphs total defense, UZR/150, and DRS, LeMahieu was the league leader in FRAA and Baseball Reference’s total Zone, which honestly are the two weakest defensive metrics.  It isn’t that LeMahieu isn’t good: he was 2nd to Wong in the three categories Wong led … but the award should go to the winner.  Wong was the Fielding Bible award winner for good reason.
  • Jackie Bradley, Jr: wins his first Gold Glove, but was selected over an obvious candidate.  Kevin Kiermaier may have only played 88 games this year, but in those 88 games he put up league-leading numbers in DRS. UZR/150 and Fangraphs total defense; imagine what he would have done in a full season.  In fact, this seems to be the one thing working against Kiermaier (the 2016 Gold Glove winner): he missed out in both 2017 and 2018 thanks to not qualifying for the batting title (an odd statement for a fielding award).  Bradley Jr. showed great range (he was near the league leaders in UZR) but actually had negative DRS.   In the end, Bradley was probably the deserving choice of players who didn’t miss half the season, so my nits are slight here.
  • Ender Inciarte: wins his 3rd GG, and this might also be a “reputation award” because the NL had at least two more deserving candidates.  Lorenzo Cain was the Fielding Bible award winner, and led the NL in Fangraphs total Defense and DRS.  Harrison Bader led the league in UZR/150 and FRAA.  Inciarte was second to Cain across the board among qualified CFs … so why wasn’t he the winner?
  • Nick Markakis wins his third GG … in somewhat of a “down year” for NL right fielders.  Its hard to say who the deserving winner here was: Yasiel Puig led qualified (and all) RFs in DRS, Jason Heyward led in the two iffy stats FRAA and B-R’s total zone.  Markakis posted just barely positive figures for both DRS and UZR/150, and there’s only 6 “qualified” RFs on the list … so I guess Markakis isn’t the worst possible choice.  Bryce Harper, coincidentally, had an abhorrent year defensively.  Which is really weird, because last year he posted BETTER numbers across the board than those that just won Markakis a Gold Glove.  It almost makes you wonder if Harper wasn’t nursing yet another hidden injury all year.  Or maybe he was just 100% disgruntled and not trying (he certainly hit like it)  But I digress.

Here’s a series of tables showing the league leaders by various other fielding measures:

PosFielding Bible Winner
CJeff Mathis
1BMatt Olson
2BKolten Wong
SSAndrelton Simmons
3BMatt Chapman
LFAlex Gordon
CFLorenzo Cain
RFMookie Betts
PZack Greinke
UtilJavier Baez

The Fielding Bible awards are a part stat, part committee-led selection process spearheaded by Bill James (yes the same Bill James who said that all players were replaceable. Great take for an employee of a MLB ball-club).  And the Gold Glove awards managed to miss fully 1/3rd of the FB awardees this year.

PosAL Fangraphs Stat Avg (Def)NL Fangraphs Stat Avg (Def)
CSalvador PerezWilson Contreras
1BMatt OlsonFreddie Freeman
2BIan KinslerKolton Wong
SSAndrelton SimmonsPaul deJong
3BMatt ChapmanNolan Arenado
LFAlex GordonKyle Schwarber
CFKevin KiermaierLorenzo Cain
RFMookie BettsIsaac Galloway
Pn/an/a

This table is the Fangraphs Defense Runs Above Average stat, a combination of DRS and UZR that attempts to get the best of both worlds of the individual defense stats.  DEF aligned the best with the GG Winners, matching up 56% of the time.

PosAL UZR/150NL UZR/150
Cn/an/a
1BMatt OlsonBrandon Belt
2BJoey WendleKolton Wong
SSAndrelton SimmonsMiguel Rojas
3BMatt ChapmanJohan Camargo
LFAlex GordonKyle Schwarber
CFKevin KiermaierHarrison Bader
RFMookie BettsChristian Yelich
Pn/an/a

This table is the UZR/150 leaders.  UZR is a range factor stat,normalized to 150 games to take out small sample sizes, and I’ve limited the leaders to those who played at least 500 innings this year at the position in question.  Its not a counting stat so it can be skewed if a fleet-of-foot player makes a ton of flashy plays.  Interestingly, UZR/150 did a great job predicting the AL gold glove winners … but did not align with a SINGLE NL winner.  I also found it fascinating that the NL leader for left fielders was none other than Kyle Schwarber who has been frequently denigrated for his lack of defensive prowness.  Well, stats don’t lie; maybe its time to re-think the Chicago slugger’s contributions.

PosAL DRSNL DRS
CMike ZuninoJeff Mathis
1BMatt OlsonBrandon Belt
2BIan KinslerKolton Wong
SSAndrelton SimmonsNick Ahmed
3BMatt ChapmanTravis Shaw
LFAlex GordonAdam Duvall
CFKevin KiermaierLorenzo Cain
RFMookie BettsYasiel Puig
PZack GreinkeLuis Severino

This table shows league leaders in DRS; Defensive Runs Saved.  Its a counting stat, so the more innings you play the more you can accumulate.  And, its a contextually driven stat, which can result in some random skewing.  For example; lets say you reach over the fence and catch a potential home run with the bases loaded; this results in 4 DRS.  But all you did was make one fly ball catch of slight but not exceedingly extensive difficulty.  This leads to some wild variations in DRS for some players.  For example; Mike Trout (widely considered to be a fantastic CFer) has posted these full season DRS figures in his career: 21, -11, -12, 5, 6, -6 and 8 in 2018.  So, who is Mike Trout the center fielder?  Is he the guy who posted a 21 DRS in 2012 (an amazingly good figure), or the guy who posted consecutive seasons of -11 and -12 the next two years (pretty bad), or the guy who posted an 8 DRS in 2018 (good enough for 5th among qualified CFers, but just 12th in baseball among all CFers for the year and behind our own Michael A. Taylor, who put up 10 DRS in part time duty).  I dunno.  This is why you look at multiple defensive stats.

PosAL FRAANL FRAA
CMax StassiJeff Mathis
1BAlbert PujolsAnthony Rizzo
2BRougned OdorDJ LeMahieu
SSMarcus SemienBrandon Crawford
3BMatt ChapmanJustin Turner
LFJustin UptonCorey Dickerson
CFLeonys MartinHarrison Bader
RFAaron JudgeJason Heyward
PMarcus StromanClayton Richardson

This table shows the Baseball Prospectus Fielding Runs Above Average, which tries to roll all the metrics and defensive contextualization into one stat.  This stat routinely does the worst job predicting Gold Gloves; this year it matched up with just 4 of the 18 GG winners.

PosAL Total Zone rTOTNL Total Zone rTOT
CSalvador PerezWillson Contreras
1BMatt OlsonBrandon Belt
2BJoey WendleDJ LeMahieu
SSCarlos CorreaNick Ahmed
3BMatt ChapmanNolan Arenado
LFAndrew BenintendiCorey Dickerson
CFJackie Bradley Jr.Starling Marte
RFMookie BettsJason Heyward
Pn/an/a

The last table here shows Baseball-Reference.com’s attempt at a defensive stat; one called Total Zone.  They’re really hard to find on their main page, but they’re there.  This stat tries to create a “runs above average” based on plays made combining the output of several other defensive rate stats.  But something seems amiss with this stat: the three AL outfielder leaders for the FRAA defensive metric ALL played in Boston.   Andrew Benintendi, Bradley and Betts swept the lead.  Is there something weird about Fenway that lead FRAA to get skewed results or is this a coincidence?  Might be a coincidence since Bradley and Betts are both league-best calibre defensive players, but its also worth noting that two of the three FRAA leaders in the NL outfield play in Pittsburgh.   FRAA also wildly overrates Catcher defense; most of the guys in the top 20 are catchers.


I know defensive stats are not perfect.  Which makes WAR figures imperfect as well.  But they’re the best we have, and looking across all of them gives the best viewpoint into ranking and evaluating defenders.  I just wish the people voting on these awards did the same.

 

My 2018 End-of-Season Awards Predictions

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Another season, another MVP runner-up for Trout at the behest of another player? PHoto via redsox life

Another season, another MVP runner-up for Trout at the behest of another player? PHoto via redsox life

Hi there.  Its time to write about the “silly season” of baseball.   Its my annual awards predictor piece.

Here’s my predictions for how the awards will go.  Important note: This is not necessarily how I believe the awards should go, it is how I think the current electorate will vote …  though I do tend to believe that the MVP award in particular is not just about naming the WAR leader in the league.  And I also tend to favor giving a pitcher the Cy Young and a non-pitcher the MVP.  But feel free to discuss in the comments if you think i’m wrong.  I can be argumentative either way 🙂

How do I think the voting will go?

  • AL MVP: Betts
  • NL MVP: Yelich
  • AL Cy Young: Snell
  • NL Cy Young: Scherzer, changed mind to deGrom after reading the tea leaves
  • AL Rookie: Ohtani
  • NL Rookie: Acuna
  • AL Manager: Melvin (Oakland)
  • NL Manager: Snitker (Atlanta)

 

Discussion/Reasoning

  • AL MVP: Mookie Betts is the best player on the best team, always a good place to start with MVP thoughts.  Yes, once again Mike Trout is having a phenomenal year, and once again he toils on the West Coast and for a team out of the playoff race.  I’m eternally sympathetic to those who think MVP should not include team performance … and i’m perennially finding myself agreeing with “old school” sentiments that ask a simple question; how can you be the most valuable player when your team isn’t a factor for most of the year.   Also in the mix would be Betts’ teammate J.D. Ramirez, the Oakland phenomenon Matt Chapman, Houston WAR leader Alex Bregman, and Cleveland stars Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor.  My personal hedge statement here: I’d be rather surprised if Betts did not win.
  • NL MVP: Christian Yelich has really exploded late in the season to put his name into this discussion.  But the question may end up being this: is this one of those weird years where no dominant, obvious position player candidate steps up and thus the award goes to a pitcher?  I’d suggest this might be possible … except that the top 3-4 pitching candidates all play for non-playoff teams.  And that doesn’t match the narrative.  I’m going to go with Yelich, then the top NL pitchers right behind him, with perhaps Javier Baez,  Nolan Arenado and Freddie Freeman getting some votes as their respective “best player on a playoff team” status.  Coincidentally … did you know that Anthony Rendon is 2nd in the NL in fWAR behind Yelich?  I certainly didn’t.  Personal Hedge statement: I’d still be shocked if a pitcher for a non-playoff team won here, and would find it hard to vote for one of these other position players mentioned.
  • AL Cy Young: Blake Snell.   This might be an interesting case of whether you’re wow’d by conventional stats or not.  Snell has a sub 2.00 ERA, but he’s doing it thanks to a ridiculously low BABIP, which drags down is fWAR and puts him well down the league leader list.  Meanwhile in bWAR … he’s the top AL pitcher, ahead of his competition for this award.  I think the fact that he’s put up the numbers that he has playing in the AL East and having fully 25% of his starts this year come against Boston and the Yankees is pretty amazing.  I’d vote Snell.  Also in the mix here: Verlander, Cole, Sale, Kluber, Bauer.  Personal Hedge: wouldn’t be surprised if this went to Verlander or Sale instead.
  • NL Cy Young.  Max Scherzer  Yes i’m convinced that his broaching the 300k mark put him over the top, despite the unbelievable season that Jacob deGrom had.  I could be wrong; maybe the electorate has now advanced to the point where they recognize that a guy who finished 10-9 was indeed the best pitcher of the year.  We’ll see.  Either way, I sense these guys go 1-2.  After them, look for Aaron Nola Kyle Freeland, and Patrick Corbin.  Personal Hedge: deGrom is getting enough “holy cow look at this season” buzz that it wouldn’t really surprise me if he won.  And he’d be completely deserving.  Btw, as the off-season narratives grew, I became less and less convinced I had this one right.  Writing this ahead of the awards, I think deGrom wins.
  • AL Rookie: Shohei Ohtani: it shouldn’t be close honestly.  He had a 4.0 WAR season, clubbing more than 20 homers and looking pretty darn solid on the mound before the inevitable elbow injury derailed his season and cost him 60 games or so.   Only Gleybar Torres is close; this should be a unanimous vote and I hope Ohtani comes back from injury sooner than later.  Personal Hedge: a vote against Ohtani is really a bad one honestly.
  • NL Rookie: Ronald Acuna; its Acuna or Juan Soto, both of whom had historic seasons at a young age.   Acuna’s monster September pushes him over the top, and his stat line for the season is just slightly better than Soto’s, despite the missed time.  By narrative, Soto would have this hands-down though; he advanced from Low-A to putting up a 4-win season as a 19yr old, has had perhaps the 2nd or 3rd best teen-aged season in the long history of our game, and might have been in the MVP race had the Nats won the division.  Hedge: I begrudgingly have to admit that Acuna is slightly better, and rookie status isn’t given context (ie, its not part of the equation that Soto started the year in Low-A and Acuna was in AAA and a known #1 overall prospect).
  • AL Manager: hard not to say that Bob Melvin‘s performance taking an expected also-ran to nearly 100 wins isn’t the Mgr of the year.  He’s on his like 18th starter of the year, he’s winning with a bunch of non-prospects, he’s turned trash into treasure (Blake Treinen).
  • NL Manager: Brian Snitker, who took the NL east by 8 games in a complete surprise based on nearly every pundit’s pre-season predictions.  No other NL playoff team was really this big of a “surprise” so he gets it.

 


Actual Award Results added as they were awarded (updated post-publishing).  Finalists announced 11/4/18.

My prediction results: 7 for 8 (missed on my initial deGrom prediction).

Links to other awards that I didn’t predict this year (again, updated post-publishing as they’re announced)

Other links to awards worth noting


 

So, how much did Shohei Ohtani just cost himself?

34 comments

Ohtani signs with the ... Angels? photo via theatlantic.com

Ohtani signs with the … Angels? photo via theatlantic.com

We now know that Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani has signed; he’s going to the Los Angeles Angels … or in other words, the other baseball team in Los Angeles.  His selection of that team seems to have been driven by a desire to be on the West Coast, his apparent desire to be on an AL team to open up the DH opportunities in-between his starts … and his insane desire to leave literally tens of millions of dollars on the table.

I was listening to a podcast where some guy was trying to argue that Ohtani was actually making a “good” business move by coming over now.  I was flabbergasted.  The guy’s main argument was that by coming over now, he gets to free agency two years earlier and thus can get more money then.  But it gave zero credence to the fact that he’s going to be costing himself literally tens of millions of dollars by playing for MLB min salaries for three years.

I thought i’d try to map out just how ridiculously bad his financial decision was to leave Japan now versus in two years, when he’d be 25 and would be an unrestricted FA.  So, using some simple guesses and projections, here’s an attempt to discuss just how much money he’s leaving on the table.

By coming over now, he is subjecting himself to the same rules as any other IFA; he gets the maximum bonus that the Angels can offer ($2.315M after they acquired some bonus money just ahead of the signing).  He’ll play for the MLB minimum the next three years.  Then he’ll enter arbitration, with the caveat that any shenanigans in the contracts he may sign to buy out arb years will probably be voided by MLB.  So we’ll use the records for 1st/2nd/3rd year eligible arb players as benchmarks.

By year:

  • 2017: $2.315M bonus
  • Age 23-25 seasons: 2018, 2019, 2020: MLB minuimums or there abouts; lets assume he gets good raises and earns $545k, $800k and then $1.1M (Mike Trout owns the current record for pre-arb player salary of $1M).
  • Age 26 season in 2021: 1st arb year; $10M, which is Ryan Howard‘s current record for first year arb eligible players … and which is significantly higher than the 1st year record for pitchers (Dallas Keuchel‘s $7.25M).
  • Age 27 season in 2022: 2nd arb year: $11.3M
  • Age 28 season in 2023: 3rd arb year: $15.5M
  • Age 29 season in 2024: 4th arb year (why does he get a 4th year?  Because what’s stopping the Angels from keeping him in Spring Training until a few weeks have passed and keeping him for an extra year?  Wouldn’t you?): $19.75M.

So, adding that up; assuming he matches the absolute highest figures in arb figures and doesn’t sign an extension, he’d earn $61.31M in bonus and salary by the time he’s reached Free Agency.

Versus ….

  • 2018: plays in Japan at his current salary of about $2.378M
  • 2019: does the same.

And in 2020, he comes over here completely unencumbered and signs a massive deal.   The pundits that i’ve read, when asked what he’d be worth on the open market right now, say between $200M and $240M in total value.  Their argument would be that he’d easily be the best FA on the market, he’s got better stuff than any pitcher out there (he sits upper 90s, touches triple digits and per Dave Cameron of fangraphs has spin rates the equivalent of Luis Severino … all while producing at the plate and being an 80 runner).   $200-$250M is a crazy contract to try to project to … so lets assume, for the sake of argument, its a $25M AAV deal (which is probably light, but makes the point anyway).  To then cover the same years as the above scenario:

  • 2020, 2021,2022, 2023,2024 at $25M/per.

So that’d be $125M plus his two years of Japan salary.  That’s a difference of about $65M just between now and 2024 … and that assumes several key points (that he gets the arbitration record each year, that he continues to get his ridiculously cheap $2.3M Japanese salary, and that he “only” gets $25M AAV).

Odds are that the actual difference would be much higher, since he’s likely to get a lot more than $25M AAV.  Why?  Because unlike typical Pitcher FAs we see in the majors … he’s still in his early 20s, he’s got no injury history … and he can hit!  So if you think he’s likely to get closer to $35M AAV … then add another $50M to that $65M gap above and now you see why people are saying he’s making a $100M mistake.

Yes, Ohtani will be making bank through endorsements.  So he’s not going to be hurting for cash.  But the life of a pro athlete can be fleeting; you get as much as you can, as soon as you can, because there’s no guarantees about what happens tomorrow.  Ohtani might blow out his elbow twice in four years and he’s out of the league before he even hits free agency.  Or he might turn into the next Roger Clemens.  He’s making a huge gamble though in order to “compete” against the best now versus in a couple years.

(I think I got the above scenario right … let me know if there’s some detail of his contract that I missed).

 

Written by Todd Boss

December 12th, 2017 at 10:11 am

Ask Collier & Happy Thanksgiving

28 comments

Why do so many people think TRADING Harper is the way to win the 2018 World Series? Photo via fanragsports.com

Why do so many people think TRADING Harper is the way to win the 2018 World Series? Photo via fanragsports.com

A nice little surprise just before the Turkey day weekend: an ask Jamal Collier post on mlb.com.


Q: Would you consider trading Harper? I am one of his biggest fans, and I know the desire to win next year, but would the return be worth it in the long run?

A: Forensicane; don’t bother reading this next answer, because you’re not going to like it.

Teams attempting to WIN THE WORLD SERIES in the coming year do not trade their marquee players.  Not only that, but teams attempting to win don’t trade one of the best players in the league.  \

Not only that, but lets say for the sake of argument that the Nats WERE willing to trade Harper.  He’s got one  year of control left.  He’s set to make north of $20M in 2018.  He’s an injury risk.  And he’s absolutely going to Free Agency.  How much does anyone really think he’ll realistically fetch in trade right now?  If he were cost controlled or had multiple years of control left (like an Adam Eaton or a Jonathan Lucroy when he fetched a lot a couple years back) he’d get a kings ransom.  But he’s not; he’ll cost a significant portion of a team’s payroll in 2018 and gets just one year of service.

And then there’s this: why does anyone think this ownership group will trade him??  For many years, we’ve asked why the Angels hold on to Mike Trout and “waste” his talents on a sub-.500 team.  The answer is always the same: the owner in Los Angeles doesn’t want to move his marquee asset.  Why does anyone think that the Lerner group isn’t thinking the same thing?  Baseball is still relatively “new” in this town, still fighting it out for the casual sports fan.  What kind of message does it send to the casual fan base if you move your most marketable asset?  Who else on the Nats is getting goofy TV spots with national telecom companies?

So, no, the team isn’t trading Harper, nor should they.  Instead they should be doing *everything* they can to win in 2018 before he (and many others) walk out the door.  And (lets not forget), while I think its a certainty that Harper is in NY or LA in 2019 … we also were pretty sure Stephen Strasburg was heading out the door too, so you just never know.

Collier also expresses similar exasperation at the number of these questions he’s getting, then re-iterates many of the arguments above.


Q: You don’t list Adam Lind as a possible signee. Why not? Is it that Brian Goodwin can fill that role … but who is the backup first baseman?

A: I think Lind could resign … similarly to the way that Stephen Drew thought he could parlay his successful 2016 into a starting gig for 2017, Lind probably thinks the same.  Finding veteran bat-only beefy 1B/PH types on the open market is not tough; the Nats have specialized in this for years.  So they’ll do what they always have done; wait out the market, sign someone on the cheap later in the off-season if they get desperate, or otherwise have a cattle call in spring training for the backup bench bat.

Its worth noting that, much like one-year relievers, sometimes you catch lightning in a bottle with your pinch hitters and its worth cutting bat early, not later.  Consider some of the year over  year stat lines for our primary bench bats recently:

  • Adam Lind: great in 2017 (.303/.362/.513): can he repeat that in 2018?
  • Clint Robinson: awesome in 2015 (.272/.358/.424), then awful in 2016 (.235/.305/.332)
  • Chris Heisey: adequate in 2016 (.216/.290/.446), then fell off a cliff in 2017 (.162/.215/.270)
  • Tyler Moore: fantastic in 2012 (.263/.327/.513), then a combined .216/.264/.362 over PT roles the next three seasons before finally getting cut loose.
  • Chad Tracy: good in 2012 (.269/.343/.441), then not so good in 2013 (.202/.243/.326)

And some of these guys never even had a “good” season (ahem, Matt Stairs).

So, perhaps the smart thing to do is to let Lind go (as well as Albers for similar reasons) and try some one new.

Goodwin as a backup 1B??   No, that doesn’t make a ton of sense (he’s only 6’0″ and is an outfielder by trade), but he could feature as a backup outfielder easily enough.  Honestly, the “backup 1B” if Ryan Zimmerman goes down for any length of time probably is Daniel Murphy, with his position getting covered by Wilmer Difo.

Collier notes that it was the Nats who declined their part of the $5M mutual option, which somewhat surprised me honestly.  I would have thought it would have been the player to decline that and shoot for something more.  Nonetheless, it makes the odds of a reunion a bit lower. 


Q: Can you do a bit of an explainer about the new luxury tax rules, where Nats are with respect to threshold right now, and how that’ll inform Rizzo’s offseason (speculating anyway)?

A: Without going into it in great detail (I have a post about Nats payroll coming soon), right now as we stand I have the Nats 2018 payroll at about $170M in “real dollars” (counting arb estimates and deferred payments), but about $10M  higher in the eyes of MLB’s luxury tax calculators thanks to the Strasburg and Scherzer deals.  The team broached $190m with last season’s mid-season transactions and thus became a luxury tax spender for the first time (which will cost them significantly if they were to go after a QO-attached free agent, not that I think they will).

The luxury tax threshold for 2018 is $197M (see this wikipedia page for the link and figures).  So, I suppose the team has about $17M or so of “wiggle room” for transactions this off-season plus next mid-season.  That isn’t a lot, and all the high-priced players on our payroll are either key pieces or immovable (thanks Matt Wieters).   So unless they swing a huge salary, or trade some young assets in payroll-offsetting moves, I think the team will do very little this off-season.

Collier notes similar sentiments.


 

Q: Last year, the four top outfielders were out due to injuries for extensive periods of time. Shouldn’t they have six top-notch outfielders to draw from next year?

A: Easy to say in theory, harder in practice.   You generally only care 4 or perhaps 5 outfielders on a 25-man roster … so how do you make an argument to your 5th and 6th “top-notch” outfielders that they have to hang out in Syracuse for half the season until they’re needed?  Not to mention options statuses, 5-year veteran limitations and other things that get in the way of stuff like this.  This isn’t the 1950s when you could just stash players all over without regard to service time issues.

No, the better way to go is to have your named starters, then depend on your prospect depth to cover things.  And honestly, that’s kinda where the Nats are.  Going into 2018 without any moves, you’re looking at:

  • Starting OF of Eaton, Taylor and Harper.
  • 4th and 5th outfielders Goodwin and Stevenson, both prospects that we developed and being paid the MLB min.
  • 6th outfielder in the name of Victor Robles, who is just one of the best prospects in the game.
  • 7th and further depth still with the likes of Bautista or perhaps the Cuban Yadiel Hernandez who is 30 and could be closer than we think.  We have Jose Marmolejos on the roster still; couldn’t he fill in at LF even if he’s primarily a 1B?  And then there’s further-away prospects like Daniel Johnson, who hit pretty well between Low-A and High-A, seems like he’ll start in AA in 2018 and might push his way up.

That’s not too bad.  Btw, how good defensively is our OF projected to be in 2018?  Eaton at a corner in 2016 was one of the best in the majors, Harper has consistently been a positive-metric fielding RF with one of the best arms in the game, and Taylor just showed how statistically he rivaled the best defensive center fielders in the game.  You can’t discount this fact, and it will show itself next year as more fly balls are turned into outs.

Collier likes where our OF depth is.


Q: Why should we believe in Dave Martinez? What makes him different ?

A: I have not weighed in on the manager selection yet.  I thought firing Dusty Baker was a mistake, and that the team did not need to break in a new manager in the critical transition year of 2018.

Nonetheless, Martinez does click some boxes for me; he was a successful player with a long career and can command respect from even the veterans on this team.  He may not have direct managerial experience, but 10 years as Joe Maddon‘s bench coach is nothing to shake a stick at.  He had interviewed for vacancies for years, and deserved a shot.  Details of his contract show that he’s severely under-paid and this probably factored into the team’s decision to hire him (for whatever reason, this team remains “cheap” at the manager’s position), but I think he can do the job.

What makes him different?  Well, he’s clearly learned the “ropes” of managing underneath the game’s best, and in that position he would have had many opportunities to evaluate Maddon’s decisions, privately decide what he would have done, and then seen how things play out.  So he should be able to take the best of what the Cubs are doing and augment those experiences with those opinions he had that were not necessarily taken but which he believed were right.   I’m hopeful that his regime will go well.

Collier notes the points above, but also very fairly says that in reality we have no idea how he’ll manage here since he’s never done so before.  

 

My 2017 End-of-Season Awards Predictions

9 comments

Stanton may have solidified his NL MVP. Photo unk via rantsports.com

Stanton may have solidified his NL MVP.
Photo unk via rantsports.com

Hi there.  Its time to write about the “silly season” of baseball, now that they’ve announced the finalists for each of the major awards.

This year, I changed the way I have traditionally written this post and did not bother to check the pulse of the awards (or look at Players of the Month) until season’s end, since they’re generally useless for predicting these major awards.  So no running narrative of who was “in the lead” for the MVP at the all-star break.

Here’s my predictions for how the awards will go.  Important note: This is not necessarily how I believe the awards should go, it is how I think the current electorate will vote …  though I do tend to believe that the MVP award in particular is not just about naming the WAR leader in the league.

The writers have to submit their ballots at the end of the season; I finished this post in early October but waited until the awards season to arrive to publish it.  Thus, it contains no inclusion of any post-season accolades or accomplishments since the votes were already in before the playoffs started.   Therefore, I’ve left in my gross errors once the 3 finalists were announced.

How do I think the voting will go?

  • AL MVP: Altuve, Judge, Ramirez, Betts, Simmons (perhaps Kluber/Sale as 5th place vote-getters instead of their teammates)
  • NL MVP: Stanton, Arenado, Goldschmidt, Bryant, Rendon
  • AL Cy Young: Kluber, Sale, Severino, Carrasco, Verlander
  • NL Cy Young: Scherzer, Kershaw, Strasburg, Greinke, Jansen
  • AL Rookie: Judge unanimously, then Benintendi, Gurriel
  • NL Rookie: Bellinger unanimously, then DeJong, Kyle Freeman
  • AL Manager: Molitor (Minn), Francona (Cle), Girardi (NYY)
  • NL Manager: Baker (Wash), Lovullo (Ariz), Counsell (Mil)

Actual Award Results added as they were awarded (updated post-publishing)

My prediction results: 7 or 8, missing badly on NL Mgr of the year.

Links to other awards that I didn’t predict this year (again, updated post-publishing as they’re announced)

Other links to awards worth noting


Discussion:

  • AL MVP : I’ve got Altuve over Judge in a race that shouldn’t be that close.  Altuve was dominant all year, holds a sizeable advantage in bWAR (more than a win) over any other AL hitter and is the heart of the best team in the league.  Judge would be the winner had he had a 2nd half similar to his 1st half, and was the clear winner of the “Narrative” conversation.   However, Altuve’s defensive additions and Judge’s distinct lack of “clutchness” (he was dead last or close to it in terms of clutch hitting).  Judge just loses out at doing what just a couple of players have ever done; win the RoY and MVP in the seam season (Fred Lynn, .  Outside the top two, I think it could be any one of a slew of guys.  I think Trout‘s injury costs him in the race but he still is named on a bunch of ballots, but not enough to overcome Betts (who gets votes as Boston’s best player).  I think Jose Ramierez should be in the discussion as Cleveland’s best hitter, but he toils in anonymity for the most part and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sale/Kluber slide into 5th.  Also, don’t sleep on Andrelton Simmons, who has become a force on both sides of the ball this year.  With the finalists announced; I did get the top 3 correct at least and feel like i’ve got the right order.
  • NL MVP: I think Stanton‘s monstrous season (he has nearly 30 more homers than the next best NL hitter) puts him over the top in a year when the best NL teams (Washington, Los Angeles in particular) do not have dominant offensive players leading the way and making their case.  Washington’s best WAR position player is Rendon, who wasn’t even named an All-Star, and the Dodger’s best position player by bWAR is Justin Turner, who isn’t exactly mentioned in the MVP talks.  I think the 2nd and 3rd place votes go to the clear leaders of the two surprise wild card teams (Arenado and Goldschmidt), then 4th and 5th go to Rendon and Kris Bryant in some order.  Bryant has been amazingly quiet despite continuing to be a top player and being the defending MVP; perhaps its Cubs fatigue after their amazing win last fall.  Joey Votto fails to get mentioned despite his amazing season toiling for the last place Reds.   With the finalists announced; I was shocked that the voters gave Votto the votes to get into the top 3; again, more evidence of the electorate getting “smarter” and appreciating the best performances.  I still think it goes Stanton 1st, Goldschmidt 2nd, Votto 3rd.
  • AL Cy Young: Despite Sale‘s 300 strikeout season, Kluber leads the league in most every pitching statistical category and should win this award.  Sale got blasted in one of his last starts of the season, possibly changing some voter’s impression of him at the death of the season.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the voting is really close though.  Past the top two it could be anyone: Verlander stayed in the same league and caught on fire upon his trade to Houston, Luis Severino will get the attention of the many NE-focused voters.  I have no idea who might come in 5th; Carrasco has been great, but it could also be some random closer.  With the finalists announced; I did get the top 3 right at least but feel like its going to be really, really close between Sale/Kluber.
  • NL Cy Young: Both the leading candidates missed time due to injury, but Scherzer only missed a couple of starts and has sizeable lead on Kershaw in both bWAR and in total Ks.  I could see either guy eventually winning though; you can make arguments for either.  Kershaw will have many more innings than he has last year, when he still managed to come in 5th in the vote, and he’ll have a significant lead in ERA.  Past these two, there’s a slew of good hurlers who deserve recognition.  Strasburg has put his name firmly in the argument with his scoreless inning streak, and ironically as of mid-September neither Stras or Scherzer was the bWAR pitching leader on his own *team* (Gio Gonzalez was).  Former Nat Farmhand Robbie Ray has had a great season, as has Greinke, as has Alex Wood and his gaudy W/L record.  3/4/5 could go a number of ways.  And don’t forget Kenley Jansen, who gave up about as many earned runs this year as he did unintentional walks.  Some even mention Jacob deGrom as a back of the ballot guy, but I think there’s enough voters impressed by Jansen’s season that he’ll make it in there.  With the finalists announced; I got the top 3 right and think i’ve got the right order too.
  • AL Rookie: No surprise here; if Judge doesn’t win unanimously then someone needs their vote revoked.  More interesting will be predicting the 2nd and 3rd place guys.  Did Benintendi (the pre-season favorite) do enough?  Did Gurriel and his Rookie of the Month award lift him?  Are there any pitchers worth mentioning?  Keith Law mentioned Oakland’s Matt Olsen as a good 3rd place player but he didn’t play nearly as much as these others.  Rafael Devers?  Who knows.  With the finalists announced; I missed on Mancini versus Gurriel, but again that’s your 3rd place winner in this one-horse race.
  • NL Rookie: As with Judge, this should be unanimous as well, with Bellinger setting a rookie HR record for the Dodgers (who are easily the most illustrious of teams when it comes to rookie history).  Does pre-season RoY favorite Dansby Swanson even get mentioned on ballots after his struggle of a 2017 season?  Who comes in third in the NL?  With the finalists announced; I missed on Bell versus Freeman but either way they’re playing for 2nd place.
  • AL Manager: The Twins went from 100 losses to the playoffs; I think Molitor wins this narrative-driven award thanks to this feat.  Franconia might get it b/c of Cleveland’s amazing winning streak.  With the finalists announced; Missed on Hinch versus Girardi, but does not change my prediction.
  • NL Manager: I can’t see how Baker does NOT win this award,given the ridiculous injury issues he worked around and the whole-sale bullpen change at mid-season.  With the finalists announced; Baker does not even make the top 3.  I guess my homer-ism missed out here.  I got just one of the 3 finalists right, with the voters picking Dave Roberts and Bud Black instead of Baker and Counsell.  Re-guessing now that I see the finalists I think Bud Black is the new favorite, with Arizona’s Lovullo 2nd and Roberts third.

 

 

Who *really* should be in the HR derby? 2017 edition

6 comments

Stanton is your defending champ .. and one heck of a slugger. Photo unk via rantsports.com

Stanton is your defending champ .. and one heck of a slugger. Photo unk via rantsports.com

I know some think the HR derby is a sham.  However I like it, I love the new format (timed instead of by outs), and the results speak for themselves; by some accounts tickets for the HR derby are going for more money than the All Star Game itself.  And this year seems rather compelling, with the defending champ and inarguable holder of the league’s current title of ‘Best slugger” in Giancarlo Stanton the #1 seed in his home town, set to hopefully face off against the #2 seed Aaron Judge, who is busy setting Statcast exit velocity speed records and running away with both the AL MVP and Rookie of the Year award (last time someone’s done that?  Ichiro Suzuki in his “rookie” year in Seattle).

So we know they got Stanton and Judge right; who else is in this year’s tourney and who *should* have been there?

Here’s a link to the 2017 HR Bracket.   Your seeds are:

  1. Giancarlo Stanton
  2. Aaron Judge
  3. Cody Bellinger
  4. Mike Moustakas
  5. Miguel Sano
  6. Charlie Blackmon
  7. Justin Bour (shout out to the Westfields HS and George Mason alumni Bour!  Also worth noting; he was a 25th round pick; bully for Bour to even be in the majors, let alone slugging his way onto the national stage)
  8. Gary Sanchez

I’m with Logan Morrison here: half field makes no sense compared to who *should* be in.  In my perfect world, here’s who i’d have in the tourney.  This is a combination of looking at the 2016 HR Derby field,  2017 home run leader board, the 2017 hit tracker longest home run list, the Statcast exit velocity/average HR length figures, and my own personal opinion.

By Seed:

  1. Giancarlo Stanton; defending champ and clear #1 seed.
  2. Aaron Judge: 2017 HR leader
  3. Mark Trumbo: last year’s #1 seed and was a monster in the derby.
  4. Bryce Harper: perhaps a homer pick, but he’s clearly a masher of the ball and deserves to be in this tourney.  He turned it down yet again in 2017.  I don’t know why.
  5. Kris Bryant: A Harper-Bryant first round would be just like their school-boy days in Las Vegas.
  6. George Springer2nd in the league in homers right now.
  7. Kris Thames: great reclamation story, has 20+ homers in his return to the majors.
  8. Cody Bellinger: the LA rookie has had nearly as impressive a breakout season as Judge.

If I could go 9-16, I’d probably throw in guys from this list:

  • Yoenis Cespedes: his prior HR Derby wins were legendary
  • Justin Bour: he can put a hurt on the ball
  • Kyle Schwarber: I love the look on his face when he really mashes one.
  • Joey Gall0: another power-first guy who can really back into one.
  • Miguel Sano: a deserving participant this year.
  • Marcelle Ozuna: can’t believe this guy is playing CF for the Marlins.
  • Paul Goldschmidt: he’s definitely one of the elite home run hitters in the league.
  • Mike Trout: people don’t think of him as a slugger … but he’s got his fair share of 480-foot moon shots on his resume (yes I know he’s injured right now; this is my “theoretical” derby!)

And in the “not a young whipper snapper anymore” division, I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing any of these guys in an expanded field:

  • Mike Napoli; just for the beard.
  • Nelson Cruz: believe it or not, he’s the league leader in homers for the past three 3+ seasons inclusive, by a sizeable margin over #2.
  • Edwin Encarnacion: #2 behind Cruz in total homers; I know he’s having a down year after leaving Toronto but he’s still a slugger and a half.
  • Chris Davis: you don’t just fall into 50+ home run seasons.
  • Jose Bautista: for the bat flips and ensuing brawls
  • Mark Reynolds: this era’s version of Adam Dunn
  • Albert Pujols: only makes sense to have the active HR leader in the field.

What do you think?  Did I miss anyone obvious?

Oh a prediction: I like the two top seeds to advance, with Stanton beating Judge in an anti-climactic final.