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Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 4/30/21

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon, folks, and welcome to another edition of my Friday chat! Later today I’ll head up to Yankee Stadium for my first game of the year — my first since last September 16, when Kyle Higashioka hit three home runs in a game I covered (though my attentions were elsewhere when it came to subjects) and my first as a fan since September 19, 2019.
Avatar Jay Jaffe: And that’s enough housekeeping for now
Estevão: Mookie Betts is the fifth best hitter on the Dodgers? Thoughts
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Betts has been a bit banged up; he missed a couple days due to lower back stiffness and then got drilled on the right forearm. I don’t think there’s much to worry about here; his 121 wRC+ is still solid, and the Dodgers do have a bunch of good hitters, though their recent slide suggests they’re missing Cody Bellinger more than before, and their depth has taken a few other hits.
bob: with the Wilpons blessedly gone, does the Worst Owner In MLB crown pass to Dick Monfort?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: without a doubt, yes.
Gil: The boo birds are out in Queens for Lindor and Conforto. I don’t expect them to perform this poorly all year but do you see anything in their profiles that gives you pause about ROS performance? Or is everything they’ve done so far still in SSS territory?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Lindor’s walk rate and groundball rate are both well above his career norms. I wonder if he’s having a harder time adjusting to a new set of pitchers than expected, and also if there’s anything mechanical going on with his swing. One thing we often see when players switch teams is that they tend to press, which manifests itself in a higher O-Swing%, but that doesn’t seem to be happening here.
Avatar Jay Jaffe: As for Conforto, likewise a TON of grounders and very, very few barrels. Again, might be mechanics, and I wonder about any self-applied pressure going into his walk year.
Avatar Jay Jaffe: but who knows, that’s all guesswork. Most likely both of these guys will sort themselves out in due time
Wireless Joe Jackson: No digital love for MLB WAR leader Byron Buxton?  He still isn’t walking much, but replacing half his strikeouts with extra base hits is really working out for him.
Raphie C: The Padres are going through it with elbow injuries in a seemingly unprecedented way. How much of this can be tied to the new ways of high velo baseball vs. Larry Rothschild vs. plain dumb luck?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’m sure that there’s no way you’re going to get any kind of without-a-doubt link between the new ball and a cluster of injuries on one team, and it probably has less to do with one pitching coach than it does with some combination of dumb luck and the training staff.

That said, the Padres really have had a cluster. 11 pitchers in the organization have undergone Tommy John surgery since last March, and Dinelson Lamet had a UCL sprain. The handling  of Lamet and Mike Clevinger has raised some eyebrows as they seem to be convinced they can send these guys back out there sooner rather than later.

CoryMC: Which of Carson, Kelly, and Guerrero do you think is most likely to keep up their incredible pace?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Vladito. He had the highest ceiling to begin with and is now producing barrels galore. He won’t hit for a 220 wRC+ but he’s gonna wind up well above last year’s 112.
Bighurt: Jerry reinsdorf is the worst
Avatar Jay Jaffe: There are a lot of things I don’t like about Reinsdorf — particularly the extent to which he’s wielded among owners  and his involvement in the game’s economics — but you don’t see the White Sox doing the kinds of shit that Monfort does, continually alienating star players and squandering resources.
45 blows billygoats: First time, long time…Les Royales have been an eye opener to start the year. When do they tap into that Tripple-A SP talent and get serious about the year, and who gets the nod first? Thanks and I’ll take your answer off the air…
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Doing exactly 30 seconds of homework on this — i had intended to pull up the Royals’ Top Prospects list but Eric hasn’t finished it, oops — I’d say Daniel Lynch, in June. I suspect that like most teams, the Royals want to “balance near-term and long-term priorities” (cough) and also want their minor leaguers to get some competitive game action after missing out last year .
Judson: Jay, how close is Aroldis Chapman to having a decent case for the Hall? Always seems dominant but isn’t talked about as close to Hall-worthy, from my perspective.
Avatar Jay Jaffe: He’s probably on the path but with just 555.1 innings, he doesn’t show up on my WAR-WPA-WPI/LI leaderboard and he’s just 34 on the all-time saves list. Plus he’s not much fun to write about since his DV suspension. It’s tough to greet his case with the usual enthusiasm
Estevão: I’m not concerned about Betts I simply believe the order os Seager, Bellinger, Turner, Muncy, Betts, Smith
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Don’t forget Chris Taylor, whose 138 wRC+ since the start of last year is only three points below Betts in that span.
sdz: Is BA and OBP the new inefficiencies? Everytime I look at the boxscores, I notice many players cannot buy a hit. Thanks.
Avatar Jay Jaffe: We’re in an age where, home runs aside, pitchers have the upper hand thanks to ever-increasing velocities, Last  year’s .245 batting average was the lowest since 1972’s .244, and we’re at .232 now, which may owe in some measures to small samples, cold early-season temperatures, and the new ball as well as the velo stuff and a failure of hitters in general to change their approach with two strikes.
Joey Moppo Stan: This past calendar year alone, the Athletic has done two fantastic oral compendiums about Greinke and Votto. In addition to their superlative stats, how much do stories like these (advancing narratives about their personalities within the game) help for building a Hall of Fame case among general voters? Particularly someone like Votto where the numbers might not immediately jump out at you.
Avatar Jay Jaffe: It certainly can’t hurt, and i think both of those guys are particularly going to benefit because they’ve been so weird and cool in addition to being great.
Appa Yip Yip: Zack Greinke refused to pay for guacamole on his burritos because the price went up 50 cents and he didn’t want to let the burrito place win.
Avatar Jay Jaffe: like I said.
Jeff: Kris Bryant with a nearly .300/.400/.600 slash to open the year, knocked 5% of his 2020 K rate. Does anyone care or has he kinda been marketed out of being a premier player?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’m sure a number of potential trade partners and teams in the market for a third baseman next winter care.
Cueto’s Shimmy: Say a pitcher sits 91-93 and touches 95. Is that variability because they are making conscious choices to trade command for velocity or more just natural variation?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: some variation and some conscious choice. The really good pitchers are able to add and subtract velo without too much fuss. If you’ve been seeing 95 with one kind of movement and you suddenly get 93 with different movement, that might be enough to mess with you.
Matt W: With the bombshell that just dropped re:Alomar, do you think MLB, Toronto and the Hall have reacted appropriately?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: even based on what little we know — that this is a workplace-related allegation stemming from Alomar’s post-playing and post-HOF election period — it seems a little strong, but it’s possible that the facts warrant the severity. An investigation into the conduct of an MLB-employed individual found some serious wrongdoing, serious enough to put him on the ineligible list rather than a mere suspension. The team with which he’s most identified immediately moved to distance itself from him rather than noodling around. The Hall, which has no precedent for evicting an elected player, showed its typical restraint.
Tommy: The Red Sox have a very weird short stop situation upcoming. Xander really can not play SS anymore, and with the combination of his opt out and the free agents available this offseason, do the Sox go out and get a player? and if so what happens with Xander?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: there might be a trade with Bogaerts winding up at 3B, but I think that would take a restructuring involving Bogaerts’ opt-out, possibly using Arenado’s reworking as a model (retains the right to opt out but gets an extra guaranteed year)
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I can’t see them trading Devers unless they feel like there’s no way they can retain him
Scott K: Re: Alomar   Let’s not forget he also spit in the face of an umpire during an argument.  Not a great role model.
Jay T: It seems to me that Joey Gallo is struggling.  However, he has a wRC+ of 126.  Is his current walk rate really that valuable?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: outs are baseball’s clock, and he’s doing his best not to run out the clock with that high walk rate and OBP. In a lineup where the players hitting behind him aren’t producing that will have slightly less value than in the abstract; because of sequencing, a team will be more likely to fall short of its expectations for scoring. Indeed, the Rangers expected R/G via BaseRuns is 0.09 below their actual scoring, so Gallo’s situation might be part of that.
Casey: Hi Jay. I was wondering your impressions on Gary Sanchez? Mine, living in Seattle, might be different from someone living in NYC. Strange player. “The kind of player that gets a manager fired”. Takes good at bats. Needs a trade? Very “low motor”
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I wrote about Sánchez yesterday. Not in the piece but I think that his relationship with Joe Girardi was strained and may have been a factor in the Yankees moving on, but I would not use the term low-motor to describe him. He has a reputation within the org as a hard worker even if he  doesn’t project the kind of bullshit eyewash stuff that tabloid-minded suckers tend to fall for. Don’t be one of those suckers.
Sodo Mojo: Mailhot had a good article about Longoria and Seager this morning.  Is there anything short of going full Beltre that Longoria can do to revive his HOF chances?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Longoria’s 18th in JAWS at a position that’s under-represented in the HOF (there are just 15) but the problem is that I can make a stronger case for each of the non-HOFers in the vicinity above him before I finish my morning coffee: Rolen, Nettles, Boyer, Bell, Bando, Allen. His 42 score on the HOF Monitor is higher than Bando’s (35) but Sal at least played a key position within the A’s dynasty and had more All-Star apperances. Longoria is going to have to stick around and reach some milestones if he’s going to sniff the Hall, I think.
Juan: Is John Means for real?  3 xERA over the past 2 seasons now
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Means was pretty good in 2019 (78 ERA-, 93 FIP-) so I don”t think this is sudden.
White Sox Fan: Anyone that says Jerry Reinsdorf is the worst owner in MLB or the NBA is grossly ignorant of how well he not only takes care of former players but employees in general. Two of my friends that served beer back in 2005 at Comiskey were not only flown down to Houston for game 4 of the WS along with many other employees and family but also received genuine WS championship rings.
Avatar Jay Jaffe: This is part of what I was talking about before. Reinsdorf has a reputation for loyalty that sits well with his former players and employees, as opposed to the Wilpons and Monforts of the world.
Matt: Hey Jay, what do you make of Max Fried’s rough start? Opposing batters are hitting him hard way more frequently than in the past and I’m having a hard time diagnosing it just based on what I can find in Statcast numbers.
Avatar Jay Jaffe: He’s thrown 11 innings and strained a hamstring. It’s possible he was already having trouble with the hammy before he hurt it running the bases. I wouldn’t squint at the stats too hard beyond that.
Dan: It seems like writers post more articles on their chat days. Is this real or just my imagination? If it’s real is it something intentional by you or meg?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I have no idea whether it’s “real” or not. It’s something for me to do as I wait for my chat queue to fill, especially while knowing that I may get questions about a piece I’ve written. Seems worthwhile to make it easier to find my work, no?
Cueto’s Shimmy: How is the Giant’s rotation doing this? I can buy bounce back,  years from a healthy DeSclafani and Wood, but Sanchez can barely get over 90 mph. Gausman is an ace apparently? Cueto found (then lost) the fountain of youth?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Tony Wolfe took a look the other day, noting that again, the samples are small and that any of those pitchers might be ripe for a deeper dive in the near future.…

I think what we do know is that under Farhan Zaidi, the Giants have found some useful players that other teams had written off — Mike Yaz, Donovan Solano, Gausman — and it stands to reason they’d hit on some others. Whether they can all sustain it, who knows.

Casey: Regarding Aroldis, I think it’s unfair to to discredit a baseball career when 1) Nobody was there when the incident happens 2) Nobody knows the people involved 3) Everyone has had shitty days, or has treated someone poorly in their life. If I had heard that Aroldis was an obvious, repeated, terrible criminal person that would be one thing, but his overall behavior and play doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm at all. All the moralizing has rendered the hall of fame rather gross to me in some ways. Its people standing in the way of people who were excellent at baseball, delighted to judge them it seems.
Avatar Jay Jaffe: MLB found enough evidence to suspend him. Full stop.
Isolated Thinker: It’s the Yankees, so the consensus is that they will be fine.  But was replacing Tanaka with 2 injury recovery projects instead of a solid #2 a mistake?  Seems like they may have taken Tanaka’s importance for granted. Most of their other starters have question marks regarding injuries as well.
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I agree with you on Tanaka — with Kluber, Taillon, Germán, and Severino combining to throw 1 major league inning last year, it seemed to me that they needed some certainty in the middle of the rotation, a good ol’ League Average Innings Muncher (LAIM) as we used to say in order to mitigate the risk. We’ve seen some flashes of encouraging signs from the first three of those guys but not sustained quality yet. We’ve also seen good stuff from Mike King this year, and Deivi Garcia last year, so maybe they do have enough pitching with out Tanaka, but right now it’s not obvious.
Guest: Will the Mariners send down White? He can’t seem to hit at all.
Avatar Jay Jaffe: just looked at the numbers and woof. I’d think yeah, they have to send him down at some point because there’s no use in playing a 1B with a 35 wRC+ and Statcast numbers that , if not quite that bad, are still pretty bleak.
Andoru: So the Angels’ staff is underperforming all their peripherals by about a run and a half. Do you see their results improving by as much?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think they’ve got some defensive problems. Their defensive efficiency — the rate at which they turn batted balls into outs — is .657, 21 points worse than the next-worst AL team and 41 points lower than league average. their 17-point wOBA-xwOBA gap is the majors’ largest. This isn’t all on the pitchers, at all.
Avatar Jay Jaffe: As to what’s going on there, I’d have to look more closely but thank you for a potential article idea
Kyle: Reinsdorf and Monfort have nothing on Bob Nutting. He’s not a meddler but he is content to sit by and let his front office run things into the ground, at least until he finally fired Neal Huntington a couple years ago.
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Nutting deserves mention, for sure. Not sure I’d put him past Monfort yet, or Wilpon. But I can understand if Pirates fans feel differently.
Guest: Any thoughts about Carlos Rodon in the early going?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Yes. My thoughts: wow! Happy to see it happening given what he’s been through
Vermonty Python: Most likely Gary Sanchez scenario: 1) traded in July as salary-offset when the club acquires a pitcher 2) non-tendered after the season?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: one or the other is quite possible. He has almost no trade value right now so he’d have to start hitting, at the very least, but I’d think he’d be an interesting change-of-scenery candidate
Andoru: Yeah, Stassi, Lagares, and Rendon hitting the IL at the same time was definitely not fun. Suzuki is an inferior defensive catcher, Walsh has no business in the outfield, and Pujols has no business on the field, period.
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Re: Angels
greg: are joey gallo’s days as a 40 HR hitter over?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: on the one hand, he hasn’t hit 40 homers since 2018, and there’s now a new baseball that may be making it harder to hit homers. On the other hand, his new ballpark appears to be more conducive to fly ball carry than his old one according to a new Baseball Savant feature Mike Petriello showed off earlier today…

That, and the fact that Gallo has shown a maximum exit velocity of 114.3 mph this year suggests we shouldn’t count him out.

Guest: Giants and Royals… best teams in baseball?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: It’s October 2014 all over again! Enjoy it while it lasts.
Avatar Jay Jaffe: OK folks, I’ve got a bunch of things to do before I head up to the ballpark but thank you so much for stopping by this chat. Stay safe, get those vaccinations if you haven’t already, and let’s do this again next week!


Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe.

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