Friday, April 19, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, April 19, 2024 -- "Time Comes For Everyone"

 

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The flip side of that is older position players are being chased out of a sport that moves too quickly for them. Last year, 12.6% of plate appearances were taken by players 33 and older. Ten years ago, and noting that pitchers were taking some of these, the figure was 16%. Twenty years ago, it was 21%. Before you start yelling at me about steroids, note that in 1983, forty years ago, it was also 21%.
 
 

Monday, April 15, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, April 15, 2024 -- "Fun With Numbers: Roster Resources"

 

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Running at this from a different direction...from 2017 through 2019, 17 teams won at least 95 games in a season, and of those, nine used fewer than 50 players. From 2021 through 2023, 14 teams won at least 95 games, and just one (the 2022 Astros) used fewer than 50 players.

What we could be seeing is a change in how teams run up player counts. For most of baseball history, you went into the season with your guys and stuck with them until injury or poor performance or a sell-off forced you to change. If you didn’t have to deviate much, if you didn’t have to go off script, it showed up in your win-loss record.
 
 

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, April 11, 2024 -- "Thinking Inside the Box"

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I wonder if the problem isn’t Judge, but his context. Judge is seeing fewer strikes than he ever has, and fewer first-pitch strikes. Opposing pitchers seem to have decided that they’ll take their chances with Giancarlo Stanton, who has hit .202/.286/.442 the last two seasons. Stanton has been better than that so far this year, .256/.289/.605, albeit with a 36% strikeout rate, but that line isn’t going to change pitchers’ minds.

Protection, as popularly known, is a myth. Hitters do not perform better based on the quality of the batter behind them in the lineup. What is real, though, is weak protection: If the gap between two hitters is wide enough, the first batter will see an uptick in his walk rate. Aaron Judge leads the AL in walks drawn and is top-25 in fewest strikes seen among all qualified hitters. Put all this together, and I wonder if Judge -- whose swing/take decisions are a mess right now -- is struggling to adjust to not seeing enough hittable pitches.

 

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, April 9, 2024 -- "The Demon, Running Wild"

 

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There is no clean or easy solution. Pitcher injury rate is related to the strikeout problem, but the solutions that could best address the strikeout problem -- rostering fewer pitchers and moving the mound back -- do nothing to change the incentive structure and could possibly put pitchers at more risk. Even if you could modify the game played at the MLB level, it would take decades for those changes to affect behaviors in scouting, in player development, in amateur ball. It took us 40 years to get here. It may take 40 to get back.

Friday, April 5, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, April 5, 2024 -- "More A's Nonsense"

 

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This is now on Rob Manfred. Manfred wants to get the expansion process started before he leaves office in January 2029, and he remains trapped by his commitment to get the A’s and Rays’ situations settled before doing so. Manfred is willing to allow all manner of nonsense from John Fisher so long as it allows him to say the A’s situation is settled and now the league can consider expansion.

It’s not settled, though, and Manfred’s insistence on backing Fisher’s plays because they get him closer to expansion isn’t working. The A’s are moving further from stability with each bad deal Fisher makes, and there’s no end to them in sight.
 
 

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, April 2, 2024 -- "NL Lineups"

 

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Reds: Injuries are affecting player usage in a way that seems to simplify David Bell’s choices. Will Benson is playing every day, batting second against righties, ninth against lefties. Jonathan India, who was supposed to become a utility player, is moving between the only two positions he’s ever played: second base and DH. Bell is doing some complex platooning with India, Nick Martini and Santiago Espinal; and with Jake Fraley and Stuart Fairchild. Bell has done a good job making lemonade.
 
 

Monday, April 1, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, April 1, 2024 -- "AL Lineups"

 

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Guardians: Andres Gimenez batted second against the two righties, sixth and seventh against the lefties. David Fry didn’t play against the righties, then batted fourth and fifth against the lefties. Stephen Vogt, at least through four games, has Bo Naylor and Austin Hedges in a platoon behind the plate, Will Brennan and Ramon Laureano in a platoon in right field. If we learned nothing else about Vogt this weekend, it’s that he looks like a platoon manager. I like it.

Tyler Freeman seems to be first choice in center for the moment, starting three games. Estevan Florial served as the DH twice, batting eighth. I have a thesis that states if your DH is batting that low in the lineup, you’ve picked the wrong DH. 
 
 

Friday, March 29, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, March 28, 2024 -- "Season Preview, Teams #3-1"

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2. Chicago Cubs (96-66, 785 runs scored, 653 runs allowed, first in NL Central)

No line in my preseason prediction piece got more attention than this one, which positioned the Cubs as worthy challengers to the Dodgers and Braves. There’s no one reason I have them slotted this highly, but rather a combination.

The Cubs have a great defense, a great manager, and a lot of young pitching coming. They run back an offense that was 12th in wRC+ last year, eighth in the second half. They’re going to be a great story this year.

Newsletter Excerpt, March 27, 2024 -- "Season Preview, Teams #6-4"

 

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The Phillies have finally put a full team around the star core. We know what Bryce Harper and Trea Turner and Zack Wheeler can do. Turner, who got off to that miserable start as a Phillie, still ended up with a three-win season, a 111 OPS+, and the most perfectest basestealing year ever (30 SB, 0 CS). He was a top-ten player in the NL in the second half and is my pick for NL MVP in 2024. Harper came back too quickly from Tommy John surgery and didn’t hit a single home run for nearly two months from late May to mid-July. In the season’s second half, he hit .296/.413/.583. We saw Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman take on Ronald Acuña Jr. and Matt Olson last year. Turner and Harper have that kind of upside together.
 
 

Newsletter Excerpt, March 27, 2024 -- "Season Preview, Teams #9-7"

 

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The Orioles, who have the second-lowest CBT payroll in baseball, let Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery go elsewhere rather than chip away at the 2024 profits -- and they would have been paid out of the profits, believe that. They traded for Burnes, but as should be clear, they still have more young players than they know what to do with. Letting Mayo and Norby rake for the greater glory of the Norfolk Tides while Dylan Cease dons Padres colors is a mistake.

Newsletter Excerpt, March 26, 2024 -- "Season Preview 2024: Teams #12-10"

 

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The one area in which we should be able to project a big improvement is in the bullpen. Last year’s group was 23rd in ERA, 18th in FIP, and 24th in strikeout rate. If the Cardinals chased floor for the rotation, they pursued strikeouts in the pen. Andrew Kittredge, Ryan Fernandez, and Riley O’Brien should lengthen the pen and miss bats in the process. (Keynan Middleton has the dreaded strained forearm and may never join this group.) Moving Matthew Liberatore out there could help as well. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Joe Sheehan Newsletter, March 25, 2024 -- "Season Preview 2024: Teams #15-13"

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The Joe Sheehan Newsletter
Season Preview 2024: Teams #15-13
March 25, 2024

It doesn’t always work out that my projected top 12 teams in baseball are the 12 playoff teams, but that is the case this year. As I wrote in the last issue, though, don’t get too caught up in the ordering. There’s a virtual tie in the middle of the bell curve.

15. Boston Red Sox (83-79, 776 runs scored, 752 runs allowed, fourth in AL East)

I seem to have been higher on recent Red Sox teams than most. For all the errors made by ownership, the team on the field is turning over in an intriguing way. They’ve identified the defense as a problem and have taken steps to address it, trading for Tyler O’Neill and Vaughn Grissom, and now putting Ceddanne Rafaela on the Opening Day roster. Rafaela should immediately be one of the game’s best defensive outfielders, and a pasture of O’Neill, Rafaela, and Jarren Duran would be an enormous upgrade over last year’s group. Wilyer Abreu may also be on the roster as the fourth outfielder, which would further limit Masataka Yoshida’s innings out there.

Fenway Park messes with outfielders’ raw statistics, making something like Defensive Efficiency Rating misleading. Outs Above Average, based on Statcast data, shows the Sox as having the eighth-worst outfield in the game in 2022, fifth-worst in 2023. This year’s group will be better than that, and that’s the biggest reason I have them rated this highly.

Yoshida as a bat-only player intrigues me as well. Adding all that defense will have an effect on the team OBP, and Yoshida should be a salve for that. He tired badly in the second half last season and lost the thread at the plate, with just seven walks after the All-Star break. Even with that, he had a 14% strikeout rate and an 81/34 K/BB over the full season, ending with a .289/.338/.445 line and 8-for-8 stealing bags. Left alone to DH he will be less likely to tire and should be the OBP/doubles contributor the Sox signed him to be.

The biggest concern here has to be the pitching, especially the starting rotation. The only big swing Craig Breslow took in his first year, signing Lucas Giolito, turned into a big whiff when Gioiito tore his UCL. He will miss 2024. Having traded Chris Sale for Grissom, Breslow is left with the same shallow rotation that undercut recent Sox teams, again pretending Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock are full-time starting pitchers instead of very good relievers.

Houck has both an enormous third-time-around split (.303/.391/.566) and his performance collapses after he goes 50 pitches in a game:

               AVG   OBP   SLG   K%  BB%
Pitches 1-50  .205  .284  .294  27%   8%
Pitches 51+   .290  .370  .464  22%  10%


Houck’s career high is 119 innings, and he threw 114 2/3 last year. There is very little reason to think he’s a major-league starting pitcher. Insisting he can be one hurts both the rotation and the bullpen.

Whitlock has almost an identical profile -- loses effectiveness in a hurry, gets blasted the third time around, has no track record of carrying a starter’s workload. Boston’s insistence that these two can be MLB starters is baffling and frustrating. Just sign Jordan Montgomery already.

Houck and Whitlock would lengthen a bullpen that should be pretty good in the seventh through ninth innings, though with age and injury risk in both Kenley Jansen and Chris Martin. Josh WInckowski helps, as his own experiment with starting is over, and lefty Brennan Bernardino was a very good matchup guy as a 31-year-old rookie. All these pitchers will benefit from the better outfield defense.

The Upside: The improved defense drives a big drop in run prevention, and even in a rough AL East is enough to push the Red Sox into the playoff picture at 89-73.

The Downside: Injury and indecisiveness mean that Alex Cora never settles on a lineup or defensive alignment, a problem exacerbated by the collapse of the back end of the rotation. The Sox allow 800 runs and slip under .500 at 78-84.

Electric Youth: With Ceddanne Rafaela making the roster, we’ll see if Cora’s insistence that he’d only do so if he were the everyday center fielder holds. Rafaela, like Jarren Duran and Mookie Betts before him, is a converted infielder, and like Betts, Rafaela looks like he’ll be a plus-plus outfielder. He can run like crazy -- 115/32 SB/CS in the minors -- and drive the ball. To quote Keith Law, though, he “might swing at a butterfly if it flew within 10 feet of him.” It’s an entertaining, and highly watchable, package of skills.


14. San Diego Padres (84-78, 714 runs scored, 670 runs allowed, third in NL West)

The Dylan Cease trade is exactly what they needed, replacing Blake Snell with the right-handed, more reliable version of Snell, and doing it for two years at a reasonable price in talent. They didn’t swindle the White Sox, who need to collect talent as they embark on a rebuild; they did, however, acquire a playoff starting pitcher without dealing one of their top four prospects, depending on how you view Thorpe. It was worth three wins to this projection, given the low quality of pitchers Cease bumps in San Diego.

Adding Cease for a reasonable price does underline the path they took to get there. Could they have traded for Cease with Dylan Lesko or Robbie Snelling instead of Thorpe, and retained Juan Soto in the process? This lineup badly misses Soto, and the dropoff from him to Jurickson Profar and other waiver bait in left field is as steep as any team faces this year.

Cease provides stability to a rotation loaded with question marks. Michael King is continuing a return to starting, and hasn’t carried a full workload since 2018. The Padres, fresh off their success with a similar case in Seth Lugo, can be confident about managing King. Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove combined for just 41 starts last season, and that number has to rise to the 50s. The internal depth here is very weak, across the roster.

The Padres are a riddle. How much regression to the mean can you project from any team in one-run and extra-inning games if that team bled off two key contributors in the offseason? Snell and Soto were worth 12 wins to the 2023 Padres, which is about the gap between their underlying performance and their 2023 record. Which factor will pull more strongly on the 2023 team? In making projections, I use last year’s third-order record rather than actual record as a baseline, but I was flummoxed a bit about whether that was still relevant here.

The other complicating factor is the manager. I was a critic of Mike Shildt’s work with the Cardinals, and see the change from Bob Melvin as a significant downgrade, the largest drop in managerial quality in baseball. I suspect what will happen, though -- as we saw in Texas last year -- is that the performances and outcomes in close games will regress to .500, and Shildt will get a lot of the credit for it.

The Upside: They get 110 starts from the top four starters, and pristine health helps them moot the depth issue and get back to the playoffs at 87-75.

The Downside: Things go wrong and Shildt is absolutely not the person to make them right. The bottom of the lineup is a disaster on the way to 73-89.

Electric Youth: The decision to make 21-year-old Jackson Merrill a center fielder was defensible only to the extent that Merrill was going to be left alone in center, rather than asked to play three positions a week. Merrill, who certainly has the tools of a center fielder, started and played every inning of the Padres’ two games in Seoul in center. It’s a good sign for the team’s top prospect, someone who might win NL Rookie of the Year.


13. Texas Rangers (84-78, 844 runs scored, 794 runs allowed, third in AL West)

Projecting the Rangers is a damned near impossible task, because no matter what the current reports are, I have no confidence in my ability to project the number of starts Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom will make. ZiPS has 24. Rotowire, Steamer, Derek Carty’s The BAT, and Ariel Cohen’s ATC all say 19. I want to take the under on all of it, and that’s how I get the 2024 champs who won 90 games at 84-78.

I’m also pretty low on the bullpen. Bruce Bochy got a ring by loading up on three relievers in the playoffs, all three pitching as well for a month as they ever have. If you’ll recall, though, the Rangers’ bullpen was a problem for most of last season. In September, as they chased a division title, Rangers relievers were 25th in ERA and 23rd in FIP. They’ve added two old relievers in David Robertson and Kirby Yates, pitchers who could be effective, unavailable or both over six months.

Balanced against all this is that, hoo boy, are they going to score runs. This team is going to look like the classic Rangers teams from various eras, ones that had to win 7-5 and 8-7 most nights. The Rangers are running back the team that was third in MLB with a 114 wRC+, third in OBP, third in runs scored, and upgrading its two weak spots with two top-five prospects in Evan Carter and Wyatt Langford. I have them leading the AL with 844 runs scored, and I might well be low. Three of the projected five best hitters on the 2024 Rangers -- Carter, Langford, and Corey Seager -- combined for just 611 MLB PA last year.

It’s just a matter of whether they can stay in very crowded AL West and AL wild-card races until the pitching gets back to full strength. They got a lot of good work last year from the likes of Andrew Heaney and Dane Dunning, and if that back end can just be average-minus, just keep from losing games by themselves, the Rangers will be well-positioned if and when their best starters return.

The Upside: They push above 900 runs scored and pitch just well enough to make that work, then shoot past the Mariners and Astros with a 38-22 finish to a 94-68 season.

The Downside
: The shaky bullpen and back end make Rangers games highly entertaining runfests, but not enough of them go the Rangers’ way as they miss the playoffs at 81-81.

Electric Youth: Evan Carter came up at the end of last year, hit .306/.413/.645 in September and then .300/.417/.500 during a run to a championship...and he’s already like the girl in that meme watching her boyfriend check out someone else. Wyatt Langford, 22, the #4 pick in last year’s draft, destroyed four levels of the minors, including posting a .539 OBP at Triple-A, and he’s made the Rangers’ roster off a .375/.429/.732 spring. He’ll DH to start the year because the Rangers have three good outfielders, but he has the speed to be plus in either corner.
 
 
 

 

Newsletter Excerpt, March 25, 2024 -- "Season Preview 2024: Teams #18-16"

 

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That’s the Yankees, at least today. As I wrote two weeks ago, they’re built around Gerrit Cole and Aaron Judge. One of those guys might be a zero in 2024, and the other will be managing minor injuries probably for the rest of his career. Brian Cashman worked to lengthen the roster this year after last season’s team fell apart without Judge, but it won’t be enough if Cole doesn’t pitch. Even Juan Soto won’t be enough. This prediction pegs Cole at 12 starts and 65 innings, and I’ll take under 18 and 100 for the limit. 
 
 

Newsletter Excerpt, March 23, 2024 -- "Season Preview 2024: Teams #21-19"

 

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The Tigers are trying to end a run of five straight full seasons with a bottom-six OBP. They traded for Mark Canha, declined Miguel Cabrera’s option, are giving over playing time to some young hitters like Colt Keith and Parker Meadows. They’re not going to have a good offense, but with four starters 24 and younger, including breakout candidate Spencer Torkelson, they may have a passable one, and a passable one could be enough, with this pitching, to contend. 
 

Friday, March 22, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, March 21, 2024 -- "Season Preview 2024: Teams #24-22"

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This is the Brewers, though, so there’s a limit to how bad they will be and how long before they will be good again. From Doug Melvin to David Stearns to Matt Arnold, the Brewers have foregone hard rebuilds in favor of a more traditional approach, where bad years happen while the team is almost always looking to get better and succeed in the short term. So in trading for Burnes, the Brewers added two players who should become immediate contributors in shortstop Joey Ortiz and lefty starter-for-now DL Hall. They signed Rhys Hoskins to a two-year deal to play first base. They locked up center fielder Jackson Chourio, one of the top five prospects in baseball, through his twenties. The Brewers don’t tank.
 
 

 

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, March 20, 2024 -- "Season Preview 2024: Teams #27-25"

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I was as surprised as anyone to see that the Royals ended up as my pick for “most improved team,” pegged to be a whopping 18 games better this year. That still doesn’t make them good, mind you, just better. They weren’t really a 55-win team a year ago, and signing Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha raised their floor quite a bit. The Royals have struggled terribly to develop their own pitchers, and importing 45 starts of a 3.65 FIP -- You’re welcome to project more starts. I won’t -- is a boon.
 
 

 

Newsletter Excerpt, March 19, 2024 -- "Season Preview 2024: Teams #30-28"

 

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The transition from the last few years of the Rick Hahn rebuild, which produced two playoff teams but was undercut by a lack of ownership investment, to the first Getz contender, will happen on the field. Top-ten prospect Colson Montgomery will take over at shortstop soon, and Thorpe will be on the mound in the second half. Lefty Noah Schultz, Cuban third baseman Bryan Ramos, and catcher Edgar Quero are all 2025 White Sox, maybe making appearances later this year. Next year’s White Sox won’t lead off the season preview. 
 
 

2024 Predictions

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AL East: Blue Jays
AL Central: Twins
AL West: Astros
 
Wild cards: Orioles, Mariners, Rays
 
NL East: Braves
NL Central: Cubs
NL West: Dodgers

Wild cards: Phillies, Cardinals, Diamondbacks

 

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, March 14, 2024 -- "Season Preview 2024: 2023 Report Card"

 

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Jacob deGrom under 11.5 wins (-120) (W)
Luis Castillo over 11.5 wins (-115) (W)
Blake Snell over 10.5 wins (-115) (W)


Betting deGrom unders has put gamblers’ kids through college the last couple of years. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, March 13, 2024 -- "Season Preview 2024: Electric Youth"

 

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Young players are taking over. The weighted average age of all hitters last year, as calculated by Baseball Reference, was 28.0. That’s the second-lowest figure since 1979.

These Kids Today... (lowest average age, hitters, 1980-2023)

2019   27.9
2023   28.0
2018   28.1
2022   28.2
2017   28.3

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, March 12, 2024 -- "Reading Through Rotowire"

 

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With a generous nod towards Juan Soto, Cole and Judge are the Yankees. The two accounted for 42% of the team’s bWAR last year, 29% over the last three years. Losing one of them would be disastrous, and any missed time by either chips away at their chances in the crowded AL East and AL wild-card races. It’s rare for any team to have an important week in March, but this is becoming one for the Yankees.

Monday, March 11, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, March 11, 2024 -- "Sometimes a Fantasy"

 

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You have to take three catchers in the best-ball format, so I would reach a bit for Danny Jansen in the 21st and 22nd rounds. Because catcher playing time can be fraught, having three starters gives me the best chance at avoiding zeroes and even negative weeks. Jansen has 32 homers in 549 PA over the last two seasons.
 
 

Newsletter Excerpt, March 10, 2024 -- "Gary Huckabay"

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Thirty years after Gary and his hand-picked group published the first BP annual, the site continues on as a place for great baseball writing and analysis. We spent a lot of time talking about BP’s legacy Saturday, but the takeaway from the day is that Baseball Prospectus is still building one.
 
 

 

Monday, March 4, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, March 4, 2024 -- "Zack Wheeler and the Phillies"

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As we head into the 2024 season, the Phillies are more complete than they have been since the 2000s, projected to be average or better at the plate, in the field, in the rotation, and in the bullpen. (Sidebar: Unit rankings for all four phases will be a part of the 2024 season preview series, starting late next week.) Some of that rating relies on Rojas hitting enough to hold the center field job, keeping Schwarber’s glove in his locker, and you can pick at the bench and the team age as well. Still, this looks like the third-best team in the NL, if a bit behind the Braves in the East.

 

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, March 2, 2024 -- "Matt Chapman Signs"

 

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In the bigger picture, though, this is just exacerbating the Giants’ bigger problem. They keep missing out on the best players in free agency, which isn’t entirely their fault, but then they spend a lot of money on these average, maybe average-plus players to fill in the gaps. Last year, it was Mitch Haniger and Michael Conforto and Sean Manaea and Ross Stripling. This year, it’s Chapman and Jordan Hicks and Jorge Soler, plus a trade for Robbie Ray. To repeat a phrase, it’s movement, but is it action?
 
 

Friday, March 1, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, March 1, 2024 -- "The New Rules, Reprised: Epilogue"

 

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"When you evaluate the rules changes from a marketing perspective, they were wildly successful, with 90% of that being the pitch clock. Fans liked it, the media liked it, the players mostly signed on to it, and we didn’t have any nightmares, any playoff games decided on clock violation with a 3-2 count and two outs in the ninth inning."

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, February 29, 2024 -- "The New Rules, Reprised: Basestealing"

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We can see the impact of these changes in one small table:

         SB    CS  
2022   2486   811
2023   3503   866

Diff  +1017   +55


The new rules helped add more than a thousand steals at a 96% success rate. Those aren’t really stolen bases, those are buy-one-get-one-free bases. 

 

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, February 27, 2024 -- "The New Rules, Reprised: The Pitch Clock"

 

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Why did it work? I was wrong about the players. I expected far more resistance from the players to the new rule set, to being rushed, and it never happened. Oh, there were occasional complaints, but by and large, the players, and especially the pitchers, just...played faster. Why they couldn’t have done it without the clock remains a mystery, but there is little question that putting them on the clock sped them up in a way that shaved close to a half-hour off game times.
 
The pitch clock worked. The games were shorter and fans were happy about it. The players accepted the change, and the ones who objected were...handled. I was wrong. 

Monday, February 26, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, February 26, 2024 -- "The New Rules, Reprised: Defensive Positioning"

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The shift is an effect, not a cause. The cause is pitchers are witches, and everything about the modern game begins with that point. Mandating that teams play bad defense because you don’t want to address the pitcher issue is an embarrassment to the game’s leadership and a disservice to the fans.

 

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, February 25, 2024 -- "Cody Bellinger Signs"

 

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Just noodling on one potential lineup...

Ian Happ LF
Christopher Morel DH
Cody Bellinger CF
Seiya Suzuki RF
Michael Busch 1B
Dansby Swanson SS
Nico Hoerner 2B
Yan Gomes C
Nick Madrigal 3B


That puts Tauchman on the bench, and likely PCA and Davis in Triple-A. You can season to taste, but that looks like the nine men who will start for the Cubs on Opening Day. Throw in the homegrown pitching depth that will lengthen the staff, and the Cubs look like the NL Central favorite.
 
 

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, February 22, 2024 -- "Broken Senga Piece"

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"The uncertainty as to when Senga might return makes it hard to predict exactly what the cost to the Mets will be. Senga is projected as a three-win contributor by Steamer and ZiPS, a little less than that by PECOTA. If he is healthy in three weeks and on the CitiField mound in May, he’ll retain most of those projections. The specific injury, though, makes it hard to be optimistic. Kyle Wright suffered a capsule injury and went from winning 21 games to pretty much losing two years of his career. Brandon Woodruff will miss all of 2024 following anterior capsule surgery."
 
 

 

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, February 21, 2024 -- "Most Interesting Camps"

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"It’s a fascinating camp beyond the frustration over their inaction. The Red Sox have some very exciting outfield prospects in Wilyer Abreu and Ceddanne Rafaela. Were Alex Cora to play those two with Jarren Duran, the Sox would have one of the best defensive outfields in baseball. Tyler O’Neill complicates that alignment, of course. In the infield, Trevor Story might be playing for his career after two seasons lost to injury. Vaughn Grissom, acquired for Chris Sale, takes over at second base. Neither member of that keystone combination is guaranteed to be a viable option; they combined for 0.1 bWAR last year."
 

 

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, February 20, 2024 -- "Catching Up"

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After two weeks of position-player rankings in the Newsletter that didn't lend themselves to excerpts, we're back with a more conventional Newsletter, and excerpt, today.

To get once-a-week free editions of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, email freesheehannewsletter@gmail.com.
 
Today's excerpt:
 
"Rendon’s remarks made him baseball’s main character for the day, which made me think about the conundrum players face when talking to the media. We want them to be honest, but perhaps not too honest. There are 1200 players on 40-man rosters, and I guarantee you Rendon isn’t the only one who sees playing baseball as a job and not much more. Many players, most even, do love the game, but baseball is no different than any other career in that sometimes, you end up doing it because it’s what you’re good at and it’s where you can make the most money."
 
 

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, February 6, 2024 -- "Royal Witt Cheddar"

 

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"Even if you just consider it a 7/148 contract, it’s a very good one for the team. They get the meat of Witt’s career, his next seven seasons through age 30, for less than market value. They get to hold a press conference this week and point to Witt and say, 'Royals fans, you can get invested in this guy. Buy the jerseys. Come to the park. Tell your kids. (p.s. Vote to give us money.)' They’ve bought a level of credibility that all the Hunter Renfroes and Adam Fraziers weren’t going to provide. "
 
 

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, February 4, 2024 -- "The White Sox"

 

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"In four decades, Reinsdorf has rarely invested in the team. They did run some top-five payrolls in the wake of the 2005 title, but over the last decade, the White Sox have had more bottom-ten payrolls (four) than top-ten (one). Cot’s has them 23rd for 2024, and more than 10% of that money is going to Andrew Benintendi on what is both a) an overpay and 2) the biggest free-agent deal in franchise history. Reinsdorf’s unwillingness to act like the steward of a $2 billion asset that received a large public subsidy, and instead run his team like the Middle-Class Pirates, is the biggest reason the Sox are in this mess."
 
 

Friday, February 2, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, February 2, 2024 -- "Brewers/Orioles Trade"

 

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"The era of big tanking is over, mostly because MLB reduced the benefits of being very bad. What we’re seeing now, though, is something harder to get a grip on, something more insidious. Good teams, teams with reasonable chances to win a division, are valuing future wins more than present wins. The Brewers didn’t have to trade Corbin Burnes. They did anyway."
 
 

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, January 31, 2024 -- "Rogers Centre"

 

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"I wonder whether the smaller outfield was a factor here; with the fences in the gaps moved in from seven to 16 feet, outfielders had less ground to cover, and were perhaps better able to steal hits. It’s hard to separate this, however, from the Jays’ personnel improvements; they added Kevin Kiermaier and Daulton Varsho specifically to, well, steal hits. One year of games just isn’t enough to tease out whether it was the park or the players."
 
 

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, January 30, 2024 -- "Transactions Catchup"

 

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"There were 11 position players 31 and older, in all of baseball, who were worth at least three bWAR last year. There were 14 in 2022, 21 in 2021, 12 in 2019. The extent to which baseball has become a twentysomethings’ game cannot be exaggerated. All of these contracts I’ve been picking at, Hoskins and Hunter Renfroe and Jeimer Candelario and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez...all of them have in common betting on players in their thirties in a league where above-average players in their thirties are going extinct. It’s why I keep questioning Matt Chapman’s value, too."

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, January 25, 2024 -- "The Disappearing Starter"

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"The last couple of years, just two pitchers under 24 have thrown even 150 innings in the pros. Those 16 pitchers on BP’s Top 101 averaged 92 1/3 innings last year. The group from ten years ago, even with those teenagers on it, averaged 114. MLB teams, really the entire business, took the lesson of Pitcher Abuse Points -- stop overworking your youngest arms -- and overlearned it. They’re now trapped in a cycle where they just pitch everyone less, and pitchers still get hurt, so they pitch them less, and they still get hurt, and now the top prospects in baseball are working less than Jeff Bezos’s hair stylist...and they still get hurt."
 
 

 

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, January 23, 2024 -- "The Voting"

 

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"Looking ahead, you’ll have 1,237 ballot slots open up next year (Beltre, Helton, Mauer, Sheffield, one-and-dones), and just one obvious Hall of Famer coming on in Ichiro. CC Sabathia, who will have strong support, also becomes eligible. Felix Hernandez seems like someone who sticks around for a few years, maybe Dustin Pedroia as well. By and large, though, it will be a good year for holdovers to pick up votes from those voters who look to fill out their ballots."
 
 

Monday, January 22, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, January 22, 2024 -- "The Giants"

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.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $79.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

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"Farhan Zaidi has gone into the last two winters with a good plan. When he hasn’t been able to execute that plan, though, he’s driven off the road, squandering money on the worst kinds of free-agent signings and trades. The Giants have lost ground, not just to the Dodgers, but to the Diamondbacks. This is a critical year for them, as if they don’t succeed, they may face both a front-office overhaul and the need to start over around Webb, Luciano, Harrison, and the rest of a pitching-heavy farm system."

 

Friday, January 19, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, January 19, 2024 -- "AL West and NL West 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.

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"One thing that keeps surprising me is how many teams have simply taken the winter off. The Astros have added one major leaguer -- backup catcher Victor Caratini -- and a handful of fringe arms to fill out their Triple-A staff (former National and Dodger Wander Suero might be the highlight here). They haven’t lost too much, either; Martin Maldonado was gone once Dusty Baker retired, while Michael Brantley also retired after just 57 PA last year and Hector Neris is testing free agency after a 1.71 ERA/3.83 FIP season."
 
 

 

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, January 16, 2023 -- "The Snellinger Principle"

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"The Snellinger Principle is related to this idea. It says:

"If giving a player a huge contract would have been ridiculous a year ago, it’s probably still ridiculous now. "
 
 

 

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, January 9, 2023 -- "Cards Hire Chaim Bloom"

 

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"While I can’t blame Blake for the Cardinals’ pitching in 2023, I can conclude that being an MLB team’s pitching coach is a difficult position from which to also rebuild an organization’s overall approach. In hiring Bloom, the Cardinals are backfilling behind Blake with an eye towards eventually having an organization that builds modern pitchers, and an MLB pitching coach sympatico with that approach. As was the case for Bloom in Boston, it’s important to manage expectations. The Cardinals signed Kyle Gibson and Lance Lynn this winter; they’re not going to lead the league in strikeouts or Pitching Ninja GIFs for a while."