Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, September 22, 2021 -- "Schedule and Structure"

 This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--
 
"Tony La Russa might win the AL Manager of the Year award while Aaron Boone will have people calling for his job, all because of geography."

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, September 21, 2021 -- "Pitch Clock Compromise"

 

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--
 
"If we’re going to have a clock, though, let’s use it to target the worst offenders, the one-inning relievers who make up more than half the pitchers in the game today. Watching those games last night was agonizing."

Monday, September 20, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, September 20, 2021 -- "Re-Reset"

 

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

--
 
"The Dodgers’ run prevention has reached another level in the second half of 2021. They have a 2.64 ERA, more than a half-run better than that of the Brewers. They’re allowing less than three runs a contest overall. This is the best half of pitching any team has had since 2012, and one of the best since the strike-shortened 1994 and 1995 seasons."

Friday, September 17, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, September 17, 2021 -- "What I'm Watching"

 

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--
 
"So consider what Alex Anthopoulos’s July acquisitions have contributed to the Braves’ lead in the NL East. Jorge Soler, Joc Pederson, Adam Duvall, and Eddie Rosario have hit .246/.328/.497 with 32 homers in 549 PA. That’s like trading for a four-win hitter at the deadline."
 
 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, September 16, 2021 -- "The A's Fade"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--
 
"Through July 30, the last games before the trade deadline, A’s relievers had been fourth in the AL in ERA (3.79) and eighth in FIP (4.18). Since then, the group is 13th in ERA (4.79) and 12th in FIP. In September, the A’s pen is a Superfund site."

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, September 14, 2021 -- "No Grave, Man"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

--
 
"The Mariners don’t have to make the playoffs for their 2021 season to have been a success. They identified a number of support pieces around their coming young core. They successfully launched Logan Gilbert. They traded for a four-year solution at third base after Kyle Seager."
 

Monday, September 13, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, September 13, 2021 -- "Thinking Inside the Box"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--
 
"Yesterday the Jays scored 22 runs in seven innings against Zac Lowther, Spenser Watkins, Mike Baumann, and Eric Hanhold; none of them has even proven himself capable of pitching at Triple-A, much less the majors."

Friday, September 10, 2021

Joe Sheehan Newsletter, June 22, 2021 -- "Wander Day"

 

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

--
 

The Joe Sheehan Newsletter
Vol. 13, No. 50
June 22, 2021

In a few hours, the consensus top prospect in baseball, Rays shortstop Wander Franco, will make his MLB debut. Franco, who just turned 20 in March, has torn up the minors to the tune of a .332/.398/.536 line while being far younger than the competition at every level. This season, Franco is hitting .315/.367/.586 at Triple-A Durham. That’s meaningful because Franco had yet to play above A ball due to the loss of the 2020 minor-league season. He had just 700-odd pro plate appearances coming into 2021. Franco showed over the last six weeks that he could handle better competition and that the lost year hadn’t stunted his development.

Franco is, at 20, a complete hitter. In Triple-A, the switch-hitter had a 21/12 K/BB that would be impressive for anyone, much less a hitter his age. His strikeout rate of 12% is also remarkable for this era. When he puts the bat on the ball, it’s with a controlled, level swing that generates line drives. Listed at 5'10", 185, he nevertheless generates a lot of power, as he showed on this spring training blast from the left side. He has the speed of a young man, with 27 career steals (against 21 times caught, yuck), 20 career triples, and the mobility to play shortstop. His legs will probably not be a huge part of his game past his early twenties, however. 

I’m curious to see how the Rays deploy Franco. They began the season with an established shortstop in Willy Adames, a plus defensive shortstop nominally ahead of Franco in Taylor Walls, and two other shortstop prospects in Vidal Brujan and Xavier Edwards. The Rays gave Franco some minor-league reps at both second and third in recent weeks, perhaps preparing him to share an infield with Walls in the majors. (Since his call-up, Walls has hit .237/.356/.355 in 26 games with excellent defensive numbers.) Generally, the Rays value defense over offense, so I would be surprised to see Walls play, when he plays, anywhere but shortstop.

Joey Wendle hasn’t done anything to lose his job at third (.292/.350/.491), but he can play second base. It’s Brandon Lowe who has been a disappointment (.202/.304/.399). Lowe stands to lose the most in the Franco promotion. Yet even Lowe is a league-average hitter this season; he could get some time in left field. Franco may get some DH at-bats, pushing Austin Meadows into the outfield, squeezing out Kevin Kiermaier and his .280 OBP. The Rays have built a lot of positional flexibility into their roster; they can use that to get Franco in the lineup most days.

Even after trading Adames, the Rays have four MLB-caliber middle infielders, and Brujan coming up quickly. What a ridiculous organization this is. 

The timing of Franco's promotion has garnered some notice, coming with about 100 days left in the season. That's likely not enough for him to eventually gain the “Super Two” status that would allow him to go to arbitration after 2023, rather than 2024. I don’t think that’s much of a factor, myself, mostly because I think that specific aspect of MLB's compensation structure will go away in the new CBA. It’s a kludge no one likes that dates to the 1980s, and pushing arbitration back to three years of service (or even higher as a tradeoff for earlier free agency) is one of the few chips the MLBPA has left. 

No, I think Franco is up now at about the point he was always coming up, after he showed he could handle the upper levels of the minors. Had the minor-league season started on time, parallel to the MLB season, I suspect Franco would have been up in May. If there’s an external factor here, it’s less Super Two and more Miserable Six, with the Rays losing that many contests in a row. When you get swept by the Mariners, you take a good long look in the mirror. The Rays had a three-game lead in the AL East a week ago, and now they’re looking up at the Red Sox again. They’re hitting .222/.300/.361 in June; only the Rangers have been worse. Over the six-game losing streak they’ve hit .198/.247/.343 with just 20 runs scored. Kiermaier and Brett Phillips are killing the team, which is why I think that’s where Franco will get his playing time, and even Meadows (.208/.260/.375 in June) is at some risk.

There’s no guarantee, of course, that Franco will be an upgrade. Jarred Kelenic got this treatment in the Newsletter six weeks ago and is already back at Triple-A. Gavin Lux and Jo Adell were recent top-five prospects who have yet to launch in the majors. Even Mike Trout hit .163 and was sent back down before becoming Mike Trout. 

Franco, though, is a level above most of those guys. There’s a difference of degree between being a top prospect and being the top prospect. Franco compares to Fernando Tatis Jr., to Kris Bryant, to Bryce Harper, a fully-formed player who steps into the majors ready to thrive. 

My favorite comp, though, goes back a bit further, and wasn’t in fact a top-ten prospect at the time. In 2003, 18 years ago almost to the day, the other Florida team called up a 20-year-old infielder who had also turned pro as a shortstop, and who was tearing things up in the minors. It might be a lot to ask Wander Franco to hit a walkoff extra-inning homer for his first major-league hit, but it’s in the footsteps of Miguel Cabrera that I think he will follow. Cabrera hit .268/.345/.468 as a rookie, splitting time between third base and left field. The Marlins, under .500 when he arrived, went 54-31 in the 85 games Cabrera started, snagged the NL wild-card berth, and went on to their second championship in seven seasons. 

Wander Franco is a more accomplished hitter, a more polished hitter, and a more complete player than Cabrera was at that point. He is going to step into the Rays’ lineup and be a big part of why this team wins another AL East crown.
 

Newsletter Excerpt, September 10, 2021 -- "What I'm Watching"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--
 
"The Padres may be my favorite example this year of how wins count the same all year long. September doesn’t mean more than April. The Padres were 34-19 as of Memorial Day weekend, and have gone just 40-46 since then, yet they’re still in position to lock down a playoff berth, maybe even by just playing .500 ball these last few weeks."

 

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, September 9, 2021 -- "Nine Batters"

 

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--
 
"It’s silly to get too bogged down in the stats of a seven-game winning streak, but you can notice that the Jays have won in slugfests and in pitching duels. They scored 29 runs against an A’s team that had been top-five in the AL in ERA and FIP. They have allowed just four runs to a Yankees team that had been one of the most productive offensive teams since the trade deadline. If you pull back a bit, you see the Jays are 10-1 in their last 11 dating to August 28. A team that drifted for five months is now swimming like mad."
 
 

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, September 8, 2021 -- "Mailbag"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--
 
"The “Major League” clubhouse clip got me thinking…

Who is the more believable baseball manager…James Gammon in “Major League” or Wilford Brimley in “The Natural”?

--Daniel W.

Brimley, and I love the performance, is almost playing a caricature. It’s how the part is written. I think I’d give the edge to Gammon for having a bit more to work with.

--J.

 
 
 

 

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, September 7, 2021 -- "Reset"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--
 
"The Padres’ final 25 games are against teams no worse than 68-70 as I write this. After they play the Angels the next two nights, the Padres won’t have a single sub-.500 team left on the schedule. Sixteen of their final 23 games -- not a typo -- are against the Dodgers and Giants. Ten of their final 20 -- again, not a typo -- are against the Giants."

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, September 2, 2021 -- "Competitive Balance"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--
 
Baseball has the best competitive balance of the three major sports. It’s not particularly close. The idea that baseball has bad competitive balance is something that Bud Selig lied into the air supply 25 years ago, and has been regurgitated ever since as fact. I used to say, and it still holds up, “‘competitive balance’ is code for ‘the players make too much money’.” 

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, September 1, 2021 -- "The Cardinals' Big Day"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

--
 
"It’s hard to talk about the Cards’ August performance, however, without talking about the schedule. Of their 15 August wins, 13 came against the Twins, Royals, Pirates, and Tigers. This will, in fact, be the first week since the first week of August in which the Cards don’t play the Pirates. It’s been a baby-soft slate and credit the Cards for leveraging it, but it’s not clear that we learned much about them in August. I might argue that losing five of nine to the Pirates and Tigers since August 20 is evidence that they underachieved."

 

Monday, August 30, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, August 30, 2021 -- "Call-ups"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

--
 
"When I began playing in Strat keeper leagues, September call-ups took on even greater importance. A top prospect called up for a month could get the 40 at-bats or 20 innings it took to earn a card and, in most of my leagues, a spot on the draft board. In an era before service-time consciousness, September was when Mike Piazza, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Juan Gonzalez and countless other superstars first reached the majors. No one worried about losing them seven seasons later. "

Friday, August 27, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, August 27, 2021 -- "Second Place"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--
 
"That’s the scenario we could be headed for in 2021, with the NL West champion finding itself facing the team it bested over 162 when it plays its first playoff series. (The aforementioned Mssrs. Castillo and Darvish may have a say in the matter.) In a season where team greatness has been undercut by injuries on a daily basis, the prospect of a playoff series between two teams that won 100 or more games is tantalizing. That the teams are rivals dating back a century makes it that much more delicious."

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, August 26, 2021 -- "Thinking Inside the Box...While You Were Sleeping"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

--
 
"There were 17 relief pitchers used last night. Fifteen of them, including the first 14 to enter the game, threw no more than one inning and no more than 27 pitches. Those 15 pitched in a single half-inning and then left the game. Fourteen relievers didn’t throw even 20 pitches."

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, August 24, 2021 -- "Pinstripes on Fire"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--
 
"Maybe the biggest factor is health: Giancarlo Stanton has played in 26 of the 27 games, starting 24, hitting .291/.413/.523. Aaron Judge has played in every game, starting 26, hitting .286/.385/.500. Voit came off the IL on August 8, has started 13 of 15 games, and hit .320/.382/.620."

Monday, August 23, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, August 23, 2021 -- "Bay Ball"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--
 
"What I took away is just how similar these two teams are in many ways. There isn’t a lot of star power here, but what there is mostly comes from homegrown players. The Giants are, famously, getting amazing late-career surges from Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford, anchors of the 2012 and 2014 World Series winners. For the A’s, it’s Matt Olson and Matt Chapman, the corner infielders who have reached the postseason in each of their three full seasons together and are on their way to a fourth."

 

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, August 22, 2021 -- "Offense Check-In"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--
 
"That drop in strikeout rate is meaningful. When I looked at this last month, I saw that strikeout rates were pretty consistent from one “half” to the next. A 1.1% decline in the strikeout rate in-season is a very big change, and the best argument for the idea that the use of grip enhancers had gotten out of control."

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Joe Sheehan Newsletter, August 19, 2021 -- "One Bad Offer"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

--
 

The Joe Sheehan Newsletter
Vol. 13, No. 74
August 19, 2021

We have to get to some serious stuff today, but before we do, I want to take a second to acknowledge what happened in Detroit last night. A guy hit his 40th home run of the season...and struck out his 120th batter of the season.

The Shohei Ohtani comp has always been Babe Ruth, but even Ruth never did those things in the same season. As I wrote back in June, Ruth was a true two-way player for a bit more than a year, stretching over parts of 1918 and 1919. That 1919 season is the closest comp in history for what Ohtani is doing. Ruth led the AL in home runs, total bases, and slugging percentage, just as Ohtani is doing. He threw 133 innings with a 2.97 ERA and a 3.58 FIP, Ohtani is at 100 innings with a 2.79 ERA and a 3.19 FIP.

I never believed I would see a player who could be both a great hitter and a great pitcher in the major leagues at the same time. The game has evolved so far in the century since Ruth peaked that it seemed impossible. Ohtani’s first three years in the majors, in which he was a decent hitter and an injured pitcher, only reinforced that belief. Even in April, when Ohtani was walking or hitting a quarter of the batters he faced, I didn’t think he could do this. Since a May 5 start in which he walked six men, however, Ohtani has a 90/20 K/BB and a 6% walk rate.

I don’t know what next week or next month or next year holds. I just know that I’m watching a baseball player be both the top slugger in his league, with good speed, and start once a week with excellent control and above-average results. Even writing that sentence sends a little jolt up my spine. Shohei Ohtani is having one of the best years of any athlete we’ve ever seen.

-

We’re going to have time to talk about the negotiations over a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, what it should look like, what it will look like, once the season ends. I’ve written about some of what I think the MLBPA should emphasize, what I think they got wrong in 2016, and we’ll be able to circle back to all of that this winter.

Today, I just want to focus on the offer that was leaked yesterday. If you’ve read about it, you’ve almost certainly seen it presented as “owners propose salary floor,” which is why it was leaked in the first place. The league is trying to position itself as addressing the issue of tanking by saying it will force the league’s payroll laggards to spend more on players, $100 million per team, to be exact.

While a payroll floor is in the offer, though, that’s a tiny, secondary piece of the proposal. The key to the proposal is a significant lowering of the luxury-tax threshold, from its current $210 million to $180 million, with a 25% tax on the overage. The tax threshold, which hasn’t kept pace with league revenues, was last that low from 2011 through 2013 ($178 million), and the penalties for exceeding it have become more severe over time.

That’s the bold type in this offer, not the salary floor. MLB is proposing to further hamstring the market for free agents, for the top players in baseball, by making it that much more expensive for teams to carry high payrolls. How much effect will this have? Well, we know teams treat the tax threshold as a soft cap. Whatever you think about that behavior, the fact is that just eight franchises have exceeded the threshold in the last 20 years. Just five have done so more than twice. Under the current rules, just one to three teams exceed it every year, and the threshold is a constant topic of conversation for teams approaching it.

Given that behavior, we can expect more of the same in the future. The $180 million figure would be one teams look to stay under. Per Cot’s, there are nine teams with payrolls, for tax purposes, of at least $180 million, with a total overage of $259 million. It might not happen overnight, just as it didn’t happen overnight after the 2016 CBA, but over time the $180 million figure would become a de facto cap for most teams, taking $259 million off the league payroll.

Would that be made up at the low end? Again per Cot's, there are seven teams with a payroll under $100 million, a total of $146 million under that threshold. Bringing all these teams up to $100 million -- which I assure you would become a maximum payroll for some of them as much as a minimum one -- would add $146 million to the league payroll.

Put those two calculations together -- the reduced tax threshold cutting $259 million and the salary floor generating $146 million -- and on its face this offer is designed to lop at least $100 million, about 2.3%, off what the league pays the players. Its actual effects would be greater than that, though. We know that free agency, and in fact the top end of free agency, is what drives all players' salaries. It’s why collusion was so profitable for the league in the 1980s and 2000s -- tamp down the top end of the salary scale and it lowers what everyone else can ask for in the market, in long-term deals, in arbitration.

The stated reason for the lowered tax threshold is that the revenues raised by the tax would be transferred to teams to subsidize the new payroll floor. This codifies the lie that teams with payrolls below $100 million have them that low because they can’t afford higher ones. That’s plainly false; of the seven teams currently under $100 million, all have carried payrolls of at least $100 million in the past. The Tigers paid the luxury tax in 2008, 2016, and 2017. The Indians were above $100 million from 2013 to 2019 and would have been above it last year. The Pirates, Orioles, Mariners, and Marlins all had $100 million payrolls throughout the middle of the last decade. The flippin’ Rays have had a $100 million payroll twice.

What you notice when you look at these figures is the pattern we’ve talked about ad infinitum: Teams don’t have to spend money to make money any more, not with the growth of equally shared revenues, not with the increase in local revenue sharing. The deleterious effects of the 2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement are evident in the pay patterns of these seven teams. They once tried to win and had payrolls that reflected that intent, and now they can be content to rebuild with a tiny payroll knowing their profits are assured. Their low payrolls are a choice.

Even as designed, the offer is not going to work. If no high-payroll team moved an inch, this proposal would generate tax revenue of about $62 million, enough to subsidize 40% of the rise in low-end payrolls. As we know, though, teams are going to treat the threshold as a soft cap and work to stay under it. Right now, the league is over the current tax threshold by $52 million, all from the Dodgers. That would generate $13 million in subsidies, or less than 10% of the gap between current payrolls and the proposed floor.

The subsidies are a lie, too. They’re unnecessary because every team can afford a $100 million payroll, and they’re never going to be significant because teams treat the tax threshold as a soft cap.

This isn’t a serious offer, and that it’s being treated seriously (salary floor!) is an indictment of the coverage. It would be a huge win for the league, crushing the top of the pay scale and limiting competition for the top free agents who drive everyone’s pay. It’s predicated on the myth that teams with low payrolls would choose to have higher ones if only they had more money. Its framework -- lower tax thresholds, more revenue sharing, more rules -- is the exact opposite of what the game needs.

I reacted badly to this news, and I’ve been thinking about why. Baseball has real problems, and it has been my hope that the league, the owners, would come to the table with a plan to address those problems. The game’s competitiveness issues have been driven not by a lack of money, but by an excess of it, by the disconnect between how a team plays and how much money its owners make.

The framework of this deal is all wrong, and it shows that the owners aren’t looking to address the gap between competitiveness and profitability, aren’t looking to make the sport better, but rather to further press the advantage  over the players they have gained in the last 15 years, further lock in guaranteed profits, further lessen competition. There’s nothing in this offer that’s true. The low-payroll teams don’t need subsidies. The game doesn’t need more restrictions on the market.

If I walk up to you and offer that you pay me $100 to punch you in the face, the counter to that isn’t “$80 and my stomach?” It’s to walk away. This offer is insulting, and leaves the players little choice but to ignore it. It’s not the starting point of a negotiation; it’s the first shot of a war.
 

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, August 18, 2021 -- "Fun With Numbers: Jacob deGrom"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

--
 
"You may quickly notice the pattern: The other four pitchers were all relievers. In fact, deGrom is the only starter in AL or NL history to have a four-win season of less than 100 innings. Put simply, no starting pitcher has ever done so much in so few innings."

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, August 17, 2021 -- "Fun With Numbers: Joey Votto"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

--
 
"The resurgence of Votto means a lot for his Hall of Fame case. Prior to 2021, he seemed like a Hall of Very Good candidate, his career bWAR likely to land in the low-60s gray area where most guys don’t get into the Hall."

Monday, August 16, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, August 16, 2021 -- "Best Player in Baseball Returns"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

--
 
"I come back to Tatis. Trout has out-hit him (193 wRC+ to 172), but everything else -- baserunning, position, play at that position, playing time -- points to Tatis. Had they both played a full, healthy season, I think this case would be even easier to make. A healthy Tatis would be posting a 40/40 campaign and lapping the majors in WAR. As it is, though, he’s done enough."

Friday, August 13, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, August 13, 2021 -- "They Will Come"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

--
 
"The thing about the game, though, is that it would have been great at 35th Street, across from the Red Line. It would have been great on River Avenue, with the 4 train speeding by. It was a 9-8 game with five lead changes and a walkoff homer; it would have been great in a half-empty Trop on a getaway day."

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, August 11, 2021 -- "Third Third Previews, Pt. 5 (Final)"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

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"To me, it doesn’t mitigate enough of the injury risk to warrant the move. Tatis isn’t the kind of player inclined to go half-speed at the warning track or in the gap or on a close play at third. The risk to his shoulder from diving or sliding is as much a baserunning issue as anything, and seems about the same to me at either defensive position, with the added risk now of running into a wall. This feels as much about roster management as it does injury mitigation, the Padres trying to get their best players and Eric Hosmer all on the field at the same time."

Monday, August 9, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, August 9, 2021 -- "Third Third Previews, Pt. 4"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

--
 
"Maybe it’s growing up with Harvey’s Wallbangers beating the Yankees teams of my youth, but I am conditioned to think of the Brewers as a hitting team. The 2021 version is not: tenth in the NL in OBP, ninth in SLG, ninth in wRC+. They draw some walks, steal some bases, hit some homers, but there’s no real offensive identity. Truthfully, the in-season work Stearns and Matt Arnold have done has saved them, with Adames and Tellez, with Tyrone Taylor’s call-up, with the trade for Eduardo Escobar. They have not sat still for a minute; the offense the Brewers have now is the best they’ve had all year long because of the front office."
 

Friday, August 6, 2021

Joe Sheehan Newsletter, August 6, 2021 -- "Third Third Previews, Pt. 3"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

--
 

The Joe Sheehan Newsletter
Vol. 13, No. 69
August 6, 2021

This third batch of Third Thirds is where it starts to get interesting, as it features the six teams currently considered contenders that I peg as missing the playoffs.

I put a lot of work into my preseason predictions. In part because of that, I tend to stick with them as long as is reasonable. I don’t see the point, otherwise; if you’re constantly changing your picks, you end up having put 18 teams into the playoffs at one time or another, and who’s learning anything from that? I’m not silly about it; I predicted the Twins to win the AL Central, and that’s not happening, which was reflected in their placement in Monday’s column. Similarly, I had the Giants winning 70 games, a mark they’ll reach sometime this weekend. They’re now a playoff team in my eyes.

On the margins, though, and even outside of them, if I thought you were a playoff team in March, I think you’re a playoff team in August. Keep that guiding principle in mind as you read today’s Third Thirds. 

(Note: the number preceding the team name is where I ranked them in the preseason.)

24. Seattle Mariners (58-52 record, -51 run differential)

Jerry Dipoto’s decision to trade Kendall Graveman was unpopular enough. He didn’t need to see his relievers, including addition Diego Castillo, blow saves both Saturday and Sunday. Individual games don’t move the needle on trade evaluations, but that argument isn’t going to sway the subset of Mariners fans already irate over the trade of Graveman and his ten career saves.

Last week, I wrote that Dipoto had to balance the pressure to win now with a team whose record didn’t reflect its underlying performance, against the reality of that performance and the medium-term upside the Mariners have. I think he did that, exiting the deadline with a bullpen as good as the one he’d had at the start of the week, paying a small price for a #4 starter in Tyler Anderson, and adding some desperately needed OBP by trading for Abraham Toro. Toro has started eight of the nine games the Mariners have played since coming over, seven at second base. He’s not a true talent .438/.500/.813 batter, but that 1313 OPS has been very valuable.

I nearly dropped the Mariners into Wednesday’s collection of non-contenders because they’re just not anywhere near the Blue Jays and Yankees talent-wise, not yet. In the end I let the standings sway me. The Ms are 3 1/2 games out of the second wild-card slot, 7 1/2 behind the Astros. That’s close enough for them to be considered a contender no matter what the playoff odds say. It’s enough for a series in August in the Bronx to have meaning. It’s enough for a three-game series at home against the Jays next weekend to represent an opportunity to change the story. For a team that was supposed to be a bottom feeder in 2021, that’s a win.

More wins are coming. Jarred Kelenic has, after fits and starts, started hitting like the top-five prospect he is. Logan Gilbert has a 3.23 FIP in 14 starts. Julio Rodriguez is hitting .375 for the Dominican Republic at the Olympics. Emerson Hancock and George Kirby are starring in high-A. It won’t be long before everyone has forgotten the trade drama of 2021.

Reason to Watch: After a bumpy start to his career, not even reaching the fifth inning in his first three starts, Logan Gilbert has settled in: a 3.49 ERA and a 68/16 K/BB over his next 11. The Mariners are 10-1 in those 11 games.


21. Cincinnati Reds (58-51, +3)

The Reds were swept at home by the Brewers coming out of the break, pushing their deficit in the NL Central to seven games. That series reduced their chance to win the division by enough to make the idea of big swings at the trade deadline a non-starter. They patched around the edges, collecting low-impact bullpen arms (the LIBA Plan?) and waiting for the return of injured hitters. Along with the return of Michael Lorenzen, the trades flipped the bullpen over the course of a week. The four new guys -- Lorenzen, Mychal Givens, Justin Wilson, and Luis Cessa -- have combined for 15 1/3 innings and just two runs allowed as the Reds have won nine of their last 13 to tread water in the division race.

What’s changed for the Reds has been their opportunity for a wild card. I have not been alone in assuming that three playoff teams would emerge from the NL West, and it’s still almost certain that the Giants and Dodgers will be in the tournament. The Padres, however, have stumbled, going 13-15 since the start of July, 9-8 since the All-Star break. They’ve lost contact with the Giants and are now merely a wild-card contender, and at that, one riddled by injuries. The Reds are closer to the second wild-card slot, just 3 1/2 games back of the Padres, than they are to the NL Central crown, opening up a second door for their playoff hopes.

Should the Reds have been more aggressive in light of that? This is a team whose holes up the middle have hurt them all season, but both Nick Senzel and Mike Moustakas are expected back soon. It was, more or less, too late to trade for an infielder, especially with Jonathan India doing a pretty good Willie Randolph impersonation. They might have added a center fielder, but Senzel may yet get some reps out there when he returns.

The trade deadline isn’t just about will, though we can sometimes treat it as such. Teams looking to improve have to find talent that matches their needs in the marketplace, hope for a willing seller, and match that seller’s price. They have to be in that window where adding talent for the current season makes sense relative to keeping young players around for future seasons. In the case of the 2021 Reds, they may have fallen just on the wrong side of all those circumstances.

The good news is they have internal options. Moustakas will be back in Cincinnati this weekend, Senzel next week. The team’s top pitching prospect, Nick Lodolo, was just moved to Triple-A. Its second-best one, Hunter Greene, has struggled since his own promotion to that level, but he could still land in the Reds’ pen in September in a very limited role. The Reds still are chasing two better teams, but over the season’s final seven weeks, they may finally be doing it with the best version of their roster.

Reason to Watch
: Who doesn’t enjoy Joey Votto? The 37-year-old, who has looked done a couple of times in recent years, has hit .324/.427/.853 with 11 homers in 82 PA since the All-Star break. For more, check out this great piece by Jay Jaffe over at FanGraphs.


20. Boston Red Sox (64-46, +42)

I’m a bit of a nit about the order of events and how they can warp our perceptions. The Red Sox looked like a .500 team to me at the start of the season. They will probably end up around .500, maybe a few ticks above that. The biggest reason I didn’t have them higher was their lack of depth, especially on the mound. From March 29: “A pitching staff that was thin and reliant upon players of questionable durability the last few years is...thin and reliant upon players of questionable durability.”

As it happens, the Red Sox have gotten a remarkable volume of work from those players of questionable durability. As the season grinds on, though, the quality of that work has deteriorated. The rotation ERA has climbed steadily from its April 3.94 mark, and since the All-Star break Sox starters have a 5.50 ERA in 4 2/3 innings per start. Over four months, this group is providing the run prevention you might have expected in greater volume than you could have hoped for. By doing that, however, they reset the expectations for a Sox team that, past the first five or six roster spots, doesn’t measure up to the competition in the AL East.

The Red Sox have outperformed expectations in large part because Chaim Bloom’s small moves have panned out. Signing Enrique Hernandez, trading for Adam Ottavino, drafting Garrett Whitlock...that’s seven wins found for almost nothing. Throw in Garrett Richards and Christian Arroyo (claimed on waivers last summer), and you’ve added another win, just from front-office choices. Boston’s lack of action at the deadline -- adding Hansel Robles, Kyle Schwarber, and Austin Davis in minor deals -- was frustrating to fans, but this front office should have earned some trust by now. Moreover, as I said above, sometimes the fit isn’t there. The kind of starter the Sox needed was available, but they could not match the packages for Jose Berrios and Max Scherzer. Kyle Gibson was more readily available, but adding another #3 type wouldn’t have changed the team’s status much. The Sox need a lot of pitching to stave off what’s about to happen to this rotation, and that volume wasn’t available to them.

If you look at the trades that were made, you see the problem the Sox face. They don’t have depth beyond their top three prospects. Dave Dombrowski traded a lot of it away during his tenure -- which produced a championship all the way back in 2018 -- and the Sox have drafted low and infrequently in recent years: just four top-50 selections from 2017-2020. Baseball America had them as the 20th-best farm system last winter. Bloom was hired in part to address that, to not do things like trade Triston Casas and Jeter Downs for short-term fixes. Absent that, he didn’t have much in the way of valuable prospects to trade, not the way the Yankees and Padres did. That will change over time, but “over time” is the key.

The Red Sox could fend off the pack in the AL wild-card race. Chris Sale will return next week, Tanner Houck could be an upgrade on Richards and Perez in the rotation if they’d just let him be. The team’s lineup core is fantastic. If they don’t hold on, though, and end up 86-76 and watching the playoffs, that’s not failure. It’s certainly not an indictment of what they did at the trade deadline.

Reason to WatchChris Sale comes back, by some estimates, Thursday at Fenway to face the Rays. A true #1 starter who hasn’t pitched since 2019, Sale has the ability to change the story, and moot all the above pessimism, in a hurry.


17. Toronto Blue Jays (57-49, +114)

It’s not easy to pick the team to replace the Twins in my postseason bracket. The Rays, White Sox, and Astros are all comfortable picks for division titles, but there are four good teams for two wild-card slots. I can fall back on preseason picks to slide the Yankees in there, leaving one spot for the Red Sox, A’s, Mariners, and Blue Jays.

The Jays made one of the strongest plays at the deadline, dealing the fifth pick in the 2020 draft, Austin Martin, and another top-100 prospect in Simeon Woods Richardson, to get Jose Berrios. The addition of a frontline starter gives them an above-average starting rotation, with Alek Manoah returning from the IL as well over the weekend. They added Brad Hand to bolster the bullpen as well. Their run differential (+114) is better than the three teams ahead of them in the wild-card chase combined (+103). They’re only now putting their best lineup, with George Springer, on the field regularly.

So what’s missing? Relievers. The Jays have added Hand, Adam Cimber, and Joakim Soria since Opening Day, in part because they haven’t been able to keep their relievers healthy. Even at that, this is just not a good bullpen. Jordan Romano, back in the closer role, is the one reliever in this pen you might trust to throw a shutout inning. Lefty Tim Mayza has been effective (3.08 FIP) in low-leverage work. Rafael Dolis has a 15% walk rate. Hand is just a guy now, and was available in part because his middling work helped push the Nationals out of contention. The Jays have used 28 relievers this year, and they may go through 28 more before the year ends.

That’s why I’m saying the A’s and Yankees hold off the Blue Jays. It’s a close call, and there’s every chance the Jays simply keep bludgeoning their way past their bullpen woes, backing strong starts with a lot of runs to keep from playing many high-leverage innings. The Jays have blown out their opponents -- winning by five or more runs -- 20 times. They have ten games left with the Orioles and seven with the Twins, opportunities to pad those numbers. It’s just not going to be enough, because they can’t be trusted to pull out close games with these relievers.

Reason to Watch: He’s not the MVP on the right side of his own infield, but Marcus Semien deserves recognition for moving to second base, playing the position very well and raking to the tune of .275/.340/.523. Let’s not forget him when talking about the free-agent shortstop class this winter.


12. Philadelphia Phillies (56-53, -12)

No team has changed its station more since the Third Third series began than the Phillies have. The Mets have dropped four of five while the Phillies were winning every day, including a four-game sweep of the Nationals capped by a ninth-inning comeback yesterday. They’re now just a half-game behind a Mets team that has had trouble scoring all year and that will not have Jacob deGrom until at least September.

The additions of Kyle Gibson and Ian Kennedy weren’t flashy, but the 85 or so innings the two will pitch down the stretch could save 20 runs compared to the pitchers they replace. Only the Dodgers improved more at the trade deadline. Gibson joins Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola to create an impressive top three, and Kennedy immediately becomes the best pitcher in the bullpen.

It’s just not enough. The Phillies have 13 pitchers on their active roster as I write this, per baseball-reference. Here are the FIPs of the nine I haven’t yet mentioned: 6.00, 5.85, 4.40, 4.95, 4.91, 3.32 (Ranger Suarez!), 6.16, 3.51 (J.D. Hammer, in five games), 4.66. It’s the top of the seventh, you had to hit for Wheeler in the bottom of the sixth, you didn’t score, and now you need to pick a reliever to protect a tied game. Good luck with that.

There are comps here to the team above, the Blue Jays: Strong rotation, strong offense, shaky defense, weak bullpen. The Jays are better at the good parts and not as bad as the Phillies at the bad parts. Toronto would win the NL East by seven games if given the chance. It’s probably important this year to consider just how much league and division context affects how we judge these teams; the top four teams in the AL East are arguably all better than any team in the NL East. At least one of them is going home October 3, while some NL East team is going straight to the Division Series.

The Phillies won’t be that team because they’re just too thin.

Reason to Watch: I will enjoy Bryce Harper playing meaningful games, and quite possibly stealing an MVP award in a race that’s been torn apart by injuries.


7. New York Mets (56-52, -11)

Some NL team that I had making the playoffs had to get bumped to make room for the Giants, who are just this side of a lock. The Mets made that decision a little easier by putting their weaknesses on display for four days in Miami.

Over on Slack, a reader reminded me of this, from the first week of the season:

“The Darryl Strawberry teams had the best offenses in Mets history, with only the peak of the Mike Piazza Mets, a team built heavily on outside acquisitions, challenging that group’s dominance. (Rickey Henderson had a .423 OBP, 37 steals, and 89 runs scored for that team at age 40. I miss Rickey.) The Conforto/Nimmo Mets are pushing to join that group, and I think come the end of 2021, the 2019-21 Mets will be right there with the 1986-1990 ones as far as the best lineups this team has ever had.”

(Feeling good about my plan to make this a free issue right now, yes I am.)

Mike Petriello ran a strong piece yesterday that went deep on the Mets' offense, showing that there's been no one factor holding it back: individual bad years, injuries, and the ballpark have all contributed. The biggest takeaway, for me, was this:

“Yet when they contact the ball, they're ahead of only the Cardinals, Rangers, D-backs and Pirates in terms of generating value. As we said above, they have the 24th-best quality of contact, and that's led to the fifth-worst run value on that contact -- which you might expect from a club with the sixth-fewest homers and the absolute fewest extra-base hits in baseball -- and this is the entire story right here.”

The Mets are a group of disciplined hitters who work counts and get themselves into good spots at the plate and they squander that by not driving the ball. From the standpoint of changing that, you could have hardly done better than to add Javier Baez, who swings at everything and hits the ball very hard when he makes contact. Baez also improves the defense wherever he plays -- shortstop now, second base or third base thereafter. Baez is also a plus baserunner, joining a terrible baserunning team. At a significant cost, the team’s 2020 first-round pick Pete Crow-Armstrong, the Mets got the right player for their stretch drive.

I’m leaving them here, just missing the playoffs, but there’s no team in baseball that has more variance the rest of the way. I don’t know that anyone has a grasp on how many innings deGrom, Carlos Carrasco, and Noah Syndergaard wiil pitch. This prediction, the Mets missing the playoffs, is based on a pessimistic estimate of that number. If deGrom makes five starts in September, if Carrasco is back for good, if Syndergaard chips in some innings, I’ll almost certainly be wrong.

Reason to Watch
: There are so few true leadoff men in baseball any more. Brandon Nimmo hits for average, draws walks, hits some doubles. He’s not really a center fielder, but has improved over the last two seasons. On a team with a lot of watchable players, he’s my favorite.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, August 4, 2021 -- "Third Third Previews, Pt. 2"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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"The Cardinals seem like they want to go into their own fallow period, spending less and winning less. The accidental Arenado trade forced them to try for one more season, but the lack of attention to the offense outside of the deal -- most notably the loss of Wong -- left the team short at the plate once again. That they acquired not a single hitter at the trade deadline, not even someone to backfill the worst bench in baseball, underlines the point. Truthfully, I don’t know where the Cardinals go from here. I’m not sure the Cardinals do."

Monday, August 2, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, August 2, 2021 -- "Third Third Previews, Pt. 1"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

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"Remember that the Marlins’ pitching talent is almost all imported through trades. Only Trevor Rogers (and behind him, Max Meyer) was a Marlins’ draftee. This team has a lot of experience at bringing in talent and getting the most from it. We’ve seen them give Pablo Lopez a cutter to make him more effective against lefties, and have Sandy Alcantara trade his curve for a changeup to similar effect. The combination of Luzardo’s talent and the Marlins’ staff -- Mel Stottlemyre Jr. in the majors, Scott Aldred in the minors -- could make this trade a big win."

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, July 31, 2021 -- "Dynamic Deadline Day"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

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"Hoyer and Rizzo, on the last day they could, got a lot of 'better than nothing' for the likes of Jake Marisnick and Jon Lester. They sold like they had the Glengarry leads."

Friday, July 30, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, July 30, 2021 -- "Two Big Trades"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

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"So I have to say I love that Brian Cashman, getting hit over the head with these criticisms over and over again, went out and addressed them by acquiring the most-Three True Outcomes player who has ever lived. Too many homers? Have some more homers. Too many strikeouts? You’ll eat them and like it. Not enough singles? Go watch the Mets."

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, July 28, 2021 -- "Deadline Potpourri"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

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"It’s literally Jerry Dipoto’s job to look past ERAs and save counts and evaluate players based on how well they will help the Mariners win. (We know players don’t do this because we’ve seen their All-Star voting for two decades now.) Any reasonable evaluation of these three pitchers sees them as broadly similar over a two-month period. The Mariners, lousy with pop-up righties pitching well, could afford to move the most attractive of them -- the one with the most saves -- for Toro."

Monday, July 26, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, July 26, 2021 -- "The C-Word Mariners"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

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"The Mariners, hitting .218/.294/.380 as a team, are hitting .264/.338/.471 with runners in scoring position. The team has a .290 BABIP in all situations, and a .331 BABIP with RISP. Measured by relative OPS (tOPS+), no team in baseball outperforms its baseline with runners in scoring position more than the Mariners do. No team, in fact, is even close."

Friday, July 23, 2021

Cleveland Guardians

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

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From my inbox, back in January:

A humble suggestion: Please stop using the nickname of Cleveland’s baseball team in the newsletter.

—Dave Z.

At the time, I replied, "A reasonable objection. It is something I think about, but so long as the teams go by the monikers, writing around that constantly is awkward. While you’re the first person to mention it, that doesn’t mean others don’t share the opinion.”

Well, that problem has been solved. MLB and the team announced this morning that starting this winter, the Cleveland baseball team will be known as the Guardians. The name, which has been met with some chuckles, is a deeply local reference to the “Guardians of Traffic” statues that sit on the Hope Memorial Bridge in Cleveland. 

As with hats and uniforms and ballpark food and anything involving team social-media accounts, I struggle to have a strong opinion here. The new name has a local connection and isn’t offensive to a segment of the citizenry, so it’s fine by me.

Sports nicknames are pretty much entirely nonsense; there are no trolley dodgers in Los Angeles, no giants in San Francisco, no pirates marauding on the banks of the Allegheny. We have two teams named for hosiery, two others steeped in religious concepts, one based on a system of government we rejected 250 years ago. Maybe, given all that, it’s OK for a team to have a nickname based on local architecture.

It’s more offensive to me that Francisco Lindor won’t ever wear a Guardians jersey than that the name exists at all. 

The official transition won’t come until after the season, but there’s nothing stopping me or anyone else from making the change today. While admitting I’ll probably slip and forget, the team of Bieber and Ramirez and Clase and Francona is now, for Newsletter purposes, the Cleveland Guardians.