Monday, May 23, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, May 23, 2022 -- "Cardinal Rules...Changing?"

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 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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"In April, the team had a 96 wRC+, tenth in the NL, squeezing out a tick over four runs per game. In May, the Cardinals have the best offense in the NL, a 127 wRC+, scoring 5.6 runs per contest."

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, May 18, 2022 -- "A Peculiar Decision"

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 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.

--
 
"A one-off decision to bat Andrew Vaughn ninth is small potatoes. La Russa’s explanation, though, shows that he simply doesn’t understand why he’s making the move or, for that matter, remember why he did what he did and how he did it a decade ago."

 

Monday, May 16, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, May 16, 2022 -- "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 has been 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.

--
 
"Toronto’s performance is pretty easy to explain. The Jays’ offense hasn’t come close to expectations, with a 98 wRC+ and just 130 runs in 35 games, less than four a game. The left side of the infield has been a disaster, with Bo Bichette (.234/.275/.345) and Matt Chapman (.182/.259/.347) combining for almost 300 PAs of a .270 OBP, most of it in the top half of the order. "

Friday, May 13, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, May 13, 2022 -- "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 has been 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.

--
 
"When you add hit batsmen to walk rate, you see what’s happened in recent seasons. These non-events for purposes of action have pushed the Free Base Rate to turn-of-the-century levels. Combined, the elevated walk and HBP rates are propping up OBP in a league hitting .234, providing enough baserunners to keep scoring above eight runs a game for the moment, but again, not making baseball any more entertaining. If the league pushes for even a moderately aggressive pitch clock in 2023, with an intention to create more hittable pitches, the unintended consequence could be a record level of non-events -- walks and hit batsmen."

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Baseball and Television

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 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. 12, No. 104
December 9, 2020

It started a bit more than 80 years ago.

Oh, you can go back further if you want, back to Philo Farnsworth and Vladmir Zworykin and Kenjiro Takayanagi, developers of the technology we would come to know as “television.” For our purposes, though, it started on August 26, 1939, at Ebbets Field, with a doubleheader between the Reds and Dodgers. Those two games, less than four hours between them, called by the legendary Red Barber, were the first major-league ones sent over this new medium. 

It’s possible no one watched Bucky Walters go the distance in the Reds' win, nor Dolph Camilli have a big second game for the Dodgers. Television was still something of an experiment, the first sets having gone on sale in the U.S. just a few months prior to that late-summer ballgame. W2XBS, a predecessor of WNBC-TV, was broadcasting in fits and starts, airing some news, some sports -- including that Dodgers doubleheader -- some performing arts. Dick Vitale was born that summer, and Lily Tomlin, and Valerie Harper, three people who would eventually ride television into our homes and our hearts. 

The men who ran baseball were already aware of the value of their game to broadcasters, of course. The rights to cover the World Series on radio brought in $100,000 as early as 1933, despite the wariness of Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. At the local level, though, the new technology was feared more than it was welcomed. Owners protected their attendance fiercely, and believed that radio broadcasts would undercut demand for tickets. In the ‘30s, the three New York City teams entered into an agreement that their home games could be aired over the radio, but not their road contests. As radio grew in popularity, though, the value of the broadcasts -- both in generating direct revenue and in promoting the team -- overcame the initial objections. 

It was a simple equation back then. A business would pay the team to be the sole sponsor of the broadcasts, which went out over the air for free. In return, the sponsor would interject advertising for its product into the broadcast. The ballgame brought people to the radio, a captive audience for the ad message. The players, the teams, the front office, the owners ... they didn’t have to do anything extra. The ads were worked into natural breaks in the game or, over time, folded into broadcasters' calls. By the time television arrived, radio had established the rules. 

Baseball would take advantage of those rules. Rights fees to air the World Series grew tenfold in the 1940s. Come the 1950s, ABC and then CBS paid to air a Game of the Week. Blackout rules kept these games from being true national telecasts, but in the cities where they did air, they were incredibly popular. At the local level, though, the old fears still carried the day. It wasn’t until 1965 that baseball allowed the Game of the Week to air in cities with MLB teams. Owners still guarded their gate receipts, still saw fans watching baseball on television not as potential customers, but lost ones. Their business was putting on baseball games in front of crowds, crowds that would buy tickets and beer and hot dogs, park in their lots, and return again and again. Television was an intrusion on that business model.

The sheer amount of money involved, however, was too much to ignore. When ABC began showing their weekly ballgame in 1953, less than half of all American households had a TV. A decade later, more than 90% did. Television was replacing radio in American living rooms, was replacing radio as the way American companies reached American consumers. By the mid-1960s, national TV contracts were bringing $6 million a year to baseball, and local broadcast deals generated a total of more than twice that

The tipping point in this story comes in 1967. For almost two decades, baseball was happy to take TV’s money without its input. The only concession was the way inning breaks lengthened a bit to allow for advertising. In 1939, when Barber called that doubleheader for W2XBS, the average game ran 2:06. Twenty years later, it was 2:34. For the most part, though, baseball operated the same way it had before the war: Owners were in the business of baseball, not the business of television.

In ’67, MLB played its All-Star Game in prime time for the first time, and it blew up. Half the televisions turned on in the country were tuned in to watch the NL beat the AL 2-1 in 15 innings. The 1968 All-Star Game, also played in prime time, drew similar numbers. When the 1969 game, played during the day due to a rainout, attracted half the audience of ’67 and ’68, the penny dropped. Bowie Kuhn went to NBC with the idea of moving a World Series game to prime time. On October 13, 1971, Game Four of the World Series was played under the lights of Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. 

It’s something when you see how quickly it happened. As of October 12, 1971, there had never been a World Series night game. Since October 24, 1987, there has never been a World Series day game. It took 16 years for baseball to turn its crown jewel into just another television program. 

In 1971, MLB’s national television revenues were $16.5 million per year. 

In 1987, MLB’s national television revenues were $171 million per year.

MLB was no longer just in the business of baseball. It was also in the business of television.

That shift explains the decisions made over the following 30 years, and likely as not, every decision that will be made from this point forward. In 1990, MLB ended relationships with NBC and ABC stretching back decades to sign a four-year deal with CBS for $275 million a year. That deal, however, ended the Game of the Week; CBS broadcast just 12 regular-season games, squeezing them in on weekends between its NBA obligations in the spring and its football obligations in the fall. It was a deal designed by a television network, not a baseball league, dispensing with the regular exposure, the rhythms of that weekly showcase, because it wasn’t what the network needed.

It was also a spectacular failure. CBS lost hundreds of millions on the deal, burdened in part by having two World Series featuring just one U.S. team (the Blue Jays won the AL pennant in 1992 and 1993) and just six playoff games, in total, featuring teams from Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago. The contract was perceived to be such a disaster that baseball was unable to find an acceptable broadcast partner as it came to an end. In 1994 and 1995, it formed The Baseball Network in partnership with ABC and NBC, ended the broadcast national Game of the Week entirely, and, most notably, introduced realigned leagues and expanded playoffs.

Baseball was now thinking like a television executive: Create the kind of games TV likes, and toss the ones it doesn’t. Pennant races still drew some national attention, but you couldn’t rely on having them every year. An extra round of playoffs, though, was money in the bank. Literally. If it cheapened the regular season a bit, if it lowered the bar for success, if it meant a second-place team could win the World Series, well, that’s a baseball concern, not a television one. 

The first year under this plan was lost to the strike, but the second, in 1995, produced an epic five-game Division Series between the game’s biggest brand and the game’s biggest star. When Ken Griffey Jr. slid across home plate to defeat the Yankees in Game Five, it was great baseball, but more importantly, it was great television. So great, in fact, that it brought bidders back to the table: $1.4 billion over the next five years from Fox, NBC, and ESPN. What strike?

The numbers have only risen since then. From 2001-06, MLB brought in $650 million a year from ESPN and Fox. From 2012-19, that figure, with Turner now chipping in, was up to $1.5 billion a year. In part to address complaints about how the one-wild-card system affected competition, MLB added two playoff teams and set up one-game elimination rounds -- catnip for TV executives -- in each league. Again, any concerns as to how this would lower the quality of playoff teams were dismissed. It was about programming, not baseball.

The rise in rights fees wasn’t entirely about America returning to its first sports love, though. In fact, it had very little to do with baseball, the game, at all. The original animating relationship between sponsors, the audience, and broadcast content was falling apart. First VCRs, then DVRs, meant that television viewers could more readily ignore commercial breaks in their favorite shows. Pay-cable channels, which first broadcast Hollywood -- and lesser studios -- movies, began to produce commercial-free shows of their own, dragging eyeballs away from the broadcast networks. As high-speed Internet access became commonplace, Americans looked away from their televisions entirely in favor of web content. When people wanted to laugh or cry or get lost in a show, they had options their parents could not have dreamed of.

When they wanted to cheer, though, they needed sports. Sports broadcasts largely had to be consumed live for maximum enjoyment, so they held more of the television audience, as that audience splintered, than entertainment shows did. The rights to air sports gained value, both nationally and locally. Rights fees soared as competition grew. Regional sports networks largely replaced over-the-air channels as the rightsholders for regular-season baseball, and those RSNs needed baseball’s volume, those six games a week for six months, to fill their air. Baseball didn’t necessarily need to be good to be valuable; it just needed to be. It was programming.

This is where we are now. Fifty years ago, baseball teams were businesses built on bringing people to the ballpark, giving those people a good team to watch, a fun day in the sun, so they would come back again and again. The better the team, the more money you could make. Television was an additional revenue stream, valuable but not dominant. 

Today, baseball teams are television programming, their value largely tied to a schedule that sends them out 162 times a year, mostly at night, when people are home watching television. National television money, split 30 ways and guaranteed whether you win 25 games or 125, will bring each team more than $60 million a year come 2022. Every team is paid at least $20 million on a local deal as well, money that goes into the local-revenue-sharing pool and is redistributed to prop up teams in smaller television markets. Loosely speaking, television pays the players -- total TV revenue is roughly equal to league payroll. Tickets, stadium revenue, sponsorships, licensing and everything else pays non-playing staff, expenses and accounts for the profits. 

So we shouldn’t be surprised when the people who run baseball think and act like television executives. There were complaints about the way the 2020 schedule was set up; many fans would have liked to see games, played without fans in attendance, scheduled throughout the day, but most were played at night in the home team’s market. That’s because it was best for the RSNs broadcasting the games. The expanded playoffs? They were designed to sell ESPN and TBS the manufactured drama of short-series baseball. The condensed Division Series and LCS rounds? Scheduled that way so the World Series schedule would be unchanged, pleasing Fox. 

There was no one moment when it happened. From 1967 to 1971 to 1987 to 1994 to 2012 to now, television just became a little more important, and baseball just a little less important, at every turn. Guaranteed TV money is no longer just part of the deal; it has become the whole deal.

So now, in 2021, we have the league looking to keep the TV-pleasing expanded playoffs, even if it means further diluting the regular season, turning more September games into exhibitions, shifting the focus from the very best teams in baseball to the ones trying to stay above .500. Television doesn’t care about September. It cares about October. Television doesn’t care about races, it cares about series.

There’s no one standing up for baseball now. Thirty years ago, Fay Vincent got cashiered in part because he stood in the way of this, opposed the interests of television in defense of the interests of baseball. Baseball learned to never let someone like that in the room again. Baseball is no longer distinct from television. The people who run baseball, and the people who own baseball teams, think of themselves as providers of television programming first and foremost.

This affects every conversation we have about the game. A sport that sees itself as television programming will not notice how little happens outside the center-field camera angle. Strikeouts and home runs are exciting! Maybe, but if you’re in the second deck down the left-field line, what is spin rate or a well-framed slider to you? A sport that cares more about its postseason than its regular season will broadcast its disdain for the latter by shortening its games just to get them out of the way, and by using gimmicks to get them over with. It’s all just a seeding exercise, why are you even watching? There’s Only One October. A sport that cares more about TV ratings than attendance will price its tickets and beer and hot dogs with little concern about whether you watch from Section 228 or your couch. 

Right now, baseball isn’t a sport. It’s programming. Every decision the league and the owners make is through a camera lens, and until that changes, every lousy 21st century trend will continue.

 

 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, May 11, 2022 -- "Thinking Inside the Box, Reid Detmers Edition"

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 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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--
 
"Come to think of it, a complete game is pretty rare and a complete game with two or fewer strikeouts is a unicorn. Since 2016, just three pitchers have completed a nine-inning game with fewer than three strikeouts: Detmers last night, Brad Keller in 2020, and Ariel Jurado, going eight innings in a road loss in 2019. Over those same five seasons, there have been 21 no-hitters, including 15 solo no-hitters."

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, May 10, 2022 -- "The Dead (Ball) Sox"

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 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 Sox are hitting .228, which isn’t that far off the league mark of .233. The shocking thing is that a team that had a middle-of-the-pack walk rate last year and returned pretty much its entire lineup is now last in MLB with a 6.1% walk rate, and last with 62 unintentional walks drawn."

Monday, May 9, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, May 9, 2022 -- "The Big Questions"

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 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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--
 
"There’s going to be tinkering, however, whether we like it or not. What we want to start thinking about is not what changes we want to see from the current game, but whether there is an optimal version of baseball for which we should be aiming. Should baseball be a ten-runs-per-game sport? Nine? Eight? 14? How long should a game take? I’ve written about this before, but the people who think a baseball game should take two-and-a-half hours are crazy; the last time games ran an average of 2:30 was in 1977 and the players were all smaller, skinnier, and weaker. Games ran 2:50 in the first half of the 2000s, and that’s an optimistic goal."

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, May 5, 2022 -- "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 has been 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.

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--
 
"What do you think should be done about the pitchers? Move the mound back/lower the mound? Or is there something less drastic you want to see first?

--David M.



"They should move the mound back. The refusal to do this, to address the unbelievably obvious fact that pitcher size and skill has made a distance set 130 years ago obsolete, is an indictment of everyone involved. If you were building baseball today, you’d never put the mound and the plate that close together." 

--J.
 
 

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, May 4, 2022 -- "Yankees Put League Over A Barrel"

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 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 lack of barrels means that the Yankees aren’t expected to allow much production. They’re second in baseball in expected slugging allowed, second in expected wOBA allowed. There’s just not much fluke in these numbers."
 
 

 

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, May 3, 2022 -- "The Strike Zone"

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 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.

--
 
"Automated ball-and-strike calling isn’t just a tool to get the calls right. It can be a tool to get the game right."

Monday, May 2, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, May 2, 2022 -- "Bleeding Reds"

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 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 pitching and defense will be better, but there’s a chance the offense doesn’t bounce back to being competitive. They miss Jesse Winker’s OBP and Eugenio Suarez’s power, not least because Jake Fraley, part of the return in that trade, has provided neither. This is a shockingly old lineup for a team nominally in a rebuild: The Reds haven’t given a single at-bat to a player under 25, and the four Reds with the most playing time are all 31 and older. "

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, May 1, 2022 -- "April Offense Wrap-Up"

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 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.

--
 
"Baseball’s run environment, dangerously close to the eight-runs-per-game mark at which fans disappear, is being propped up by high walk and HBP rates. That’s not exciting. When the bat hits the baseball, there’s not more excitement, just more flyball outs. Some of those are exciting; most are not. The strikeout rate is still near all-time highs. Again, some of those are exciting, most are not."

Friday, April 29, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, April 29, 2022 -- "20 R/G"

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 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 free-runner rule is worth a tenth of a run per game to the overall stats. A full 2% of the runs in MLB this season have been scored in extra innings, despite those extras accounting for about half of one percent of all innings played."

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, April 27, 2022 -- "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 has been 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.

--
 
"With all that, the Jays are third in the AL in runs scored and fifth in wRC+ because they can score with a single swing of the bat. For all the backlash over home runs, for all the complaints about how hitters swing the bat now, no one’s been able to articulate an argument for team scoring that’s better than “hit the ball hard and far.” Power -- and yes, strikeouts -- is the fastest way to score runs, to hang crooked numbers, and to win games. When that changes, whether by putting oil-soaked balls into play or mandating that batters hit with tennis rackets or whatever else MLB chooses other than “throttling back the pitchers,” we can talk. Until then, #ballgofarteamgofar."

Monday, April 25, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, April 25, 2022 -- "Black and Blue Sox"

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 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 question of what happens now hovers over this group. The next starter up is Johnny Cueto, a 36-year-old whose decent 2021 season -- a 4.08 ERA and 4.05 FIP in 115 innings -- was his first good work since 2016. Jimmy Lambert took Giolito’s place for two starts and didn’t get out of the fourth inning either time. For his career, the 27-year-old righty doesn’t have an ERA below 4.00 at any level above A ball."

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, April 24, 2022 -- "Fun With Numbers: 3000"

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 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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"Whether any of these guys, or Ramirez and Bogaerts behind them, or Juan Soto and Wander Franco behind them, reach 3,000 hits depends on factors outside of the players’ control. Remember, the problem is getting worse. The league batting average during Soto’s career is .247. During Franco’s career, it’s .243. Good luck, fellas."

Friday, April 22, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, April 22, 2022 -- "Another Intentional Walk Story"

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 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 in Detroit, the Yankees were trying to win, and that meant going after Miguel Cabrera with strikes in the first, the fourth, and the sixth, and it meant ducking him in the eighth to get a matchup between a tough lefty reliever and a lefty batter who struggles with lefties. To face Cabrera would have been to place spectacle, to place Cabrera himself, ahead of the game. No one is bigger than the game. What Aaron Boone did yesterday wasn’t offensive, wasn’t an insult, wasn’t all that big a deal. He was trying to win a baseball game, which is the only thing we can ask from everyone involved when we buy a ticket."

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, April 19, 2022 -- "Baseball's New Baseballs"

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 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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"Pitchers miss bats better than they ever have. When they don’t, the new baseball keeps them safe from harm. The lost home runs are just becoming flyball outs. In 2021, batters hit .225 on flyballs and slugged .914. Those numbers are .194 and .562 this year. No, I don’t think that’s just April or small sample size or a shortened spring. Statcast is reading the same things. It projects an expected slugging of .969 on flyballs this season. The actual number is .721. It projects a wOBA of .504. The actual figure is 100 points lower.

"It’s the baseballs."

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, April 14, 2022 -- "Culture War"

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 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 decision to take Kershaw out or leave him in is neither easy nor obvious, and turning one side of a 55/45 call into black and the other side white is a waste of time and effort. This wasn’t about analytics, it was about health, and navigating gray areas, and dealing with people, all the things a manager is hired to do. Get off Roberts’s back."
 
 

 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Season Preview 2022: #1, Los Angeles Dodgers

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 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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1. Los Angeles Dodgers (101-61, 811 RS, 601 RA, first in NL West)

A reader asked me if we would be on #117Watch again this year. I pegged the Dodgers for 113 wins last year, a figure that put the all-time record for wins within reach. Alas, the Dodgers lost a lot of one-run and Calvinball games early in the season, costing them a shot at history. They ended up tying the franchise record for wins with 106 despite a 6-13 mark in extras and being swept in their only seven-inning doubleheader of the season.

We may have seen the peak of this Dodger era. Their best team was the 2020 version, the one that only got to play 60 games (and won 72% of them) and then went on to win a neutral-site World Series. Last year’s team was a continuation of that group, and it went 106-56. The teams combined won more than 2/3 of their games over two years, a wild standard.

This year’s is a step down from that group. The core is aging out of its prime, with 32-year-old Freddie Freeman joining the team. Mookie Betts and Trea Turner are 29, Chris Taylor and Max Muncy are 32, Justin Turner is 37. The younger players are question marks, beginning with 26-year-old Cody Bellinger. This isn’t “the Dodgers are over” by any means -- they are the best team in baseball -- but it is an acknowledgement that their upside is a bit lower than it was in recent years.

Their depth has taken a bit of a hit as well. They traded Josiah Gray and Keibert Ruiz for two months of Max Scherzer and a year-plus of Trea Turner. Trevor Bauer has been on mock suspension for nine months and a real one is likely coming soon. Corey Seager, Enrique Hernandez, Joc Pederson, and Kenley Jansen have all left in free agency, to varying impacts. Clayton Kershaw is still effective, but basically day-to-day for 180 days.

None of this is the difference between making the playoffs and not, between winning the division and not. It’s just the difference between being the greatest team ever and not. The rotation may be shaky, especially at the back end, at least until the Dodgers are comfortable promoting Bobby Miller and Ryan Pepiot. Julio Urias’s start in Denver over the weekend was scary for his lack of velocity; we’re wired at this point to worry over that sort of thing, though it could also just be a dead arm.

I’m not at all sure adding Craig Kimbrel to the bullpen makes it better. Since winning the World Series with the Red Sox in 2018, he has a 3.67 ERA and a 3.88 FIP, well below average for a high-leverage relief pitcher. He’s walked 11% of the batters he’s faced, and his 40% strikeout rate no longer stands out the way it did when he was a Brave. Having Kimbrel around serves Dave Roberts’s desire to have a binky for the ninth inning; we’ll have to see if Roberts is willing to set aside that binky should Kimbrel continue to pitch poorly.

The Dodgers, like the Rays in the AL, have set the bar so high that criticism is almost unfair. The two teams are competing as much with themselves and their track record as they are with the Giants and Padres, with the Red Sox and Blue Jays. These last five or six grafs are grading the Dodgers on a curve they set. Relative to the other 29 teams, they’re the best.

Random Player Comment
: There’s a short list of players on whom the 2022 season will pivot. Jacob deGrom is one. Mike Trout is another. Christian Yelich and, pick one, Aaron Nola or Zack Wheeler. Jose Berrios. Cody Bellinger is part of that group. The 2019 NL MVP was one of the worst players in baseball last season before turning in a big playoff run. Still just 26, Bellinger’s inability to handle fastballs last year made him look 46. Bellinger’s good defense means the Dodgers can play him in center if he's average or even a little below average at the plate. It’s not yet clear whether he can even get back to that level.

Season Preview 2022: #12, Boston Red Sox

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 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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12. Boston Red Sox (84-78, 832 RS, 780 RA, fourth in AL East)

It’s the Red Sox, not the Blue Jays or Dodgers, who I have leading MLB in runs scored. The addition of Trevor Story and the expected emergence of Bobby Dalbec lengthen a lineup that already had an excellent core of peak and pre-peak talent. The Sox are going to print runs, with Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts likely to be among the ten most valuable position players in the league. The Sox may even get an in-season boost from first-baseman Triston Casas, one of the game’s top prospects.

All this offense may be needed, because the Red Sox are going to allow close to five runs a game. The rotation is cobbled together and short an ace, with Chris Sale two years removed from Tommy John surgery and out for two months at the start of the season with a broken rib. The Sox will lean heavily on Nathan Eovaldi, the oft-injured righty who was quietly one of the best starters in the AL a year ago. Behind Eovaldi, though, are nothing but question marks. Can Tanner Houck hold up for a full season of starts? Was Michael Wacha’s late-season effectiveness a sign that he can return to being a full-time starter? How many innings will Rich Hill pitch, and will any of them be the sixth inning of a give game? Is James Paxton going to be late-season option?

Remember that these pitchers work in front of a shaky infield defense. No team in baseball allowed a higher batting average on ground balls last year, and it wasn’t all that close.

Red Sieve (AVG, hits on groundballs, 2021)

            AVG      H
Red Sox    .273    482
Orioles    .260    453
Royals     .255    448
Phillies   .254    459
A’s        .254    430 

The bullpen behind this group can be effective, led by 2021 rookie sensation Garrett Whitlock. The concern, and this was on display Opening Day, is that Alex Cora has to lean too much on his pen, especially Whitlock. Sox starters, as a group, won’t work deep into games, which increases the load on Whitlock, Jake Diekman, and Matt Barnes at the back end, but also on Matt Strahm (a longtime Newsletter favorite), Hirokazu Sawamura, and Ryan Brasier in the fifth and sixth. It’s a high-maintenance pitching staff, with a bullpen that will throw as many innings as that of any good team in baseball.

Fortunately, Alex Cora is good at what he does. Cora was one of the few managers whose presence caused me to adjust a record upward, if just by a game. That game might be critical for a Sox team trying to fend off improved squads in Minnesota, Seattle, and Anaheim, all vying for those new playoff berths. It says here they will, if just barely.

Random Player Comment: I haven’t counted, but I would be surprised if the player I have on the most fantasy teams this year isn’t Bobby Dalbec. Influenced in part by the research of John Laghezza, I pushed Dalbec up my ranks -- and the Sox projection accordingly. Dalbec seemed to find something in the second half, improving his walk rate and plate discipline, which allowed him to get to his great power in games. He hit .268/.344/.611 after the break. I like him for .250/.320/.520 and 35 homers this year.

Friday, April 8, 2022

Season Preview 2022: #13, St. Louis Cardinals

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 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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13. St. Louis Cardinals (84-78, 708 RS, 694 RA, second in NL Central)

The Cardinals’ Opening Day lineup threw me for a loop, with two switch-hitters wrapped around seven straight righties against Pirates righty J.T. Brubaker. It may have just been a fan-service thing, starting Albert Pujols and batting him fifth so the Cards fans could welcome him home.

Since a few people asked me... The Pujols signing is fine. He can platoon at DH with Corey Dickerson or Lars Nootbaar, pinch-hit for the catchers and shortstops, play first base once every couple of weeks. Paul Goldschmidt doesn’t miss much time, so having a below-average backup first baseman isn’t a big deal. Pujols did hit lefty pitching last year, and has done so even in his dotage. He may not be the best use of a roster spot, but he’s not too far from it and there are some reasonable soft factors in play.

The risk is that this goes the way of Ken Griffey Jr.’s return to Seattle, where the player is clearly done and an awkward conversation must ensue. As uncomfortable as Pujols’s end in Anaheim was, it will be worse if the Cardinals need his roster spot in June because Nolan Gorman is hitting .370 in Triple-A.

The Cardinals snuck into the playoffs last year on homers and defense, and they’re running back pretty much that entire team. Steven Matz is here to take Kwang Hyun Kim’s innings, and Dickerson will be the lefty bat Matt Carpenter no longer was. Their top nine players by 2021 playing time all return, a group that was worth 27 WAR in total. They get anything like that from these nine guys again, and they’re most of the way back to the playoffs.

The pitching staff is a bit less stable. The Cardinals are leaning heavily on broken pitchers getting healthy, with Dakota Hudson and Jordan Hicks taking up two rotation spots. Most importantly, the team needs Jack Flaherty to get back to where he was in 2019. He pitched poorly in 2020, missed three months last year with an oblique strain, and starts this one with shoulder inflammation. The Cardinals have the opposite of a stars-and-scrubs roster, so losing one guy isn’t fatal. Flaherty, though, is the one starter they have who can be a six-win pitcher, an ace. They need him on the mound to reach their peak.

Random Player Comment: At some point during the offseason I landed on Paul Goldschmidt and was floored to see that he’s over 50 bWAR through age 33. That’s 70% of a Hall of Fame career, and at 33 he was worth six wins for a playoff team. I have never, for a second, thought of Goldschmidt as a Hall of Famer, but two good years is going to push him close to 60 WAR, and that’s where your Hall case comes down to how much the voters like you.