Houston Astros Excel at the Trade Deadline. Acquire Scott Kazmir, Mike Fiers, and Carlos Gómez

Houston Astros Excel at the Trade Deadline. Acquire Scott Kazmir, Mike Fiers, and Carlos Gómez

The Houston Astros have surprised everyone not just at the trade deadline, but this season as a whole. The consensus among competent baseball analysts was that the Astros were at least a year away from contending, and probably two. I was certainly among those in that camp. They are currently atop the AL West and are tied with the Yankees for the second best record in the AL. They are so much better than I expected them to be.

At the beginning of the season, Fangraphs projected the Astros to have a true talent of a 79-83 team with a 4.8% chance to win the division and a 9.8% chance for the Wild Card. Now they’re expected to be an 89-73 team with a 68.9% chance to win the division. They’re tied for 6th in all of baseball in offense when adjusted for league and park effects. They have had some HR/FB luck at 14.5%. Their pitching staff is second in the majors with a 3.83 DRA. The team’s cFIP, however, is 11th in baseball. Obviously that’s still good, but that 98 cFIP means there’s some regression coming their way. That’s probably partially the result of the bullpen’s .243 BABIP.

Other than what I just mentioned, I see nothing in the numbers to indicate that the Astros performance this season hasn’t been completely legitimate. Their batted ball data and cluster luck numbers don’t show anything especially flukish. The Houston Astros are the real deal and have arrived ahead of schedule. GM Jeff Luhnow, his scouting department, and his analytics department deserve a ton of credit. We all knew that they’d get here soon, but not this soon. Realizing that this Astros team is the real deal, Luhnow smartly decided to make big moves at the deadline to help separate the team from the Angels.

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New York Mets Make Questionable Trade for Yoenis Céspedes

New York Mets Make Questionable Trade for Yoenis Céspedes

If I weren’t a lifelong Mets fan, I probably wouldn’t be writing up this transaction. There are many other moves that have been made by other teams that I find much more interesting, and I’d like to write those up too. For some reason my fandom is compelling me to analyze this trade. Maybe it’s so I can find a reason to like this trade more. I don’t know. I’ve always prided myself on my objectivity, but sometimes it fails me when it comes to my team. Fortunately I have the self-awareness to realize when my objectivity is failing me and when it’s not. For example, I absolutely believe in everything I wrote about the Mets previous transactions. The reason why I included the word “questionable” in the title is because I’m still trying to reach a firm conclusion on the trade.

Before I go any further, a few words on the failed Carlos Gómez trade1: This would’ve been a trade I would’ve really liked. He would’ve bolstered our center field offense and be under control through 2016. Obviously, it fell through, and it’s all a case of he said, he said between the Brewers and Mets. If the Mets claim that they were scared off by the condition of Gómez’s hips is true, then I completely support their decision to back out of it. I don’t like players with bad hips. I was against the Matt Kemp trade when it happened and look how that turned out. If the Brewers claim that Mets were too cheap is true, then the Mets deserve to be excoriated for backing out of the deal. That’s embarrassing.

Céspedes is an awkward fit for the Mets. Curtis Granderson is firmly planted in right field, the defensive wizardry of Juan Lagares is in center, and Michael Conforto is in left. It also makes you wonder what they do with Michael Cuddyer’s corpse when he comes off the DL. Céspedes would be a huge offensive upgrade over Lagares in center field, but you have to wonder whether or not he can handle the position. Even the best case scenario would have him as a huge defensive downgrade over Lagares2.

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Toronto Blue Jays Going All In. Acquire David Price and Troy Tulowitzki.

Toronto Blue Jays Going All In. Acquire David Price and Troy Tulowitzki.

The Blue Jays are officially going for it with their acquisitions of David Price and Troy Tulowitzki. The team is currently seven games back of the Yankees in the AL East but only two games behind the Twins for the second Wild Card slot. I normally don’t approve of going for it when the Coin Flip game is your ceiling, but the Jays currently have the longest playoff drought in baseball. They haven’t made the postseason since they won the 1993 World Series. According to Fangraphs playoff odds, the Blue Jays now have the best chance to grab the second Wild Card slot and a 44.8% overall chance to make the playoffs. Put another way, the Jays have a good chance of overtaking the Twins and the Orioles for the Wild Card. Better still, having an ace like David Price significantly increases their chances of winning the Coin Flip game1.

The Tulowitzki trade is what I found especially shocking. Afterall, why would the best offense in baseball look to upgrade its lineup? The funny thing is that the trade happened late at night, so baseball fans got quite a surprise when they woke up in the morning! Although Tulo certainly didn’t fill a need, he is certainly an upgrade over José Reyes. Tulo’s 121 wRC+ that ZiPS projects for him for the rest of the season is obviously an improvement over Reyes’ projected 108 wRC+. Oh, before I go any further, as a result of the gentleman who left a comment in my last post, I find it more necessary than ever to make the following clear about projections:2





Have I made myself clear? Good.

Moving on, Tulo is also a giant upgrade defensively over Reyes. Combined with Josh Donaldson, the Jays have a left side of the infield that rivals the Orioles defensively. Tulo is at least a plus defender, though real scouts might rate him even higher, while Reyes is getting to the point where he’ll no longer be playable at shortstop. His defensive metrics the last five years have been terrible. It appears that age and injury have taken their toll on his range. A conservative estimate would have Tulo as a one win upgrade over Reyes, with the upside to provide significantly more than that.

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The New York Mets Make Ill-Advised Panic Trades to Acquire Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, and Tyler Clippard

The New York Mets Make Ill-Advised Panic Trades to Acquire Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, and Tyler Clippard

Well, it finally happened. All the members of the media who have a poor understanding of baseball analysis and who don’t understand the talent gap between the Mets and the teams in front of them in the standings finally pressured the team into making a couple of panic trades that do nothing to move the needle. The media and Mets fans who approve of the trades defend them by saying that the moves make the team better. While technically true, the players acquired improve the team by a negligible amount. If the Mets do make the playoffs, it’ll be because of luck and not anything that these players contributed.

Since I don’t have any clout in the baseball world, there was nothing I could do to influence the fans and media members who kept ripping the Mets for not making a deal at the deadline. I wrote up an analysis describing the difference in true talent between the Mets and their main competition for a playoff berth: The Nationals, Giants, Pirates, and Cubs. To summarize what I had written, the Mets should absolutely make a deal, but one that sets the team up for the future as well as the now. Making a panic trade to put a band-aid on the gaping, blood-gushing wound that is the Mets offense isn’t going accomplish jack squat but hurt the team in the future.

I have found too many writers and analysts who don’t understand this. I was especially surprised at ESPN’s Buster Olney for writing multiple articles to this effect and complaining about it on Baseball Tonight. Olney is a writer whom I respect and who has a good head on his shoulders when it comes to modern baseball analysis, so i was surprised to see him constantly grasping at this low hanging fruit. Just because the Nationals only had a small lead over the Mets doesn’t mean that they’re slightly better than the Mets. A team’s record in what was then early July can be incredibly deceptive as to what the team’s true talent is. Like I discussed in my aforementioned post, the reason why the Mets were so close to the Nationals in the standings is because of a lot of good luck on the Mets part and a tremendous amount of bad luck for the Nationals. They suffered from injuries from Stephen Strasburg, Jayson Werth, Anthony Rendon, and Ryan Zimmerman, not to mention Ian Desmond suddenly turning into a replacement level player. The Mets are currently one game back with a projected difference of run differentials between them and the Nationals of 39 runs. That means that the Mets need a > 5 win improvement in order to overtake the Nationals for the division. That’s the equivalent of acquiring Mike Trout or Bryce Harper. What do you think is going to happen to that win gap once Strasburg, Werth, Rendon, and Zimmerman come back, even if they’re not at 100%? Uribe, Johnson, and Clippard will be fortunate to make up 1 win. It’s one thing when fans don’t understand this, but why don’t Olney and others who are paid to analyze the game understand this?

The Wild Card is a different story. The Mets have no shot at catching the Pirates for the first Wild Card slot. The Giants are currently in the second Wild Card slot and they’re three games ahead of the Mets with a projected difference in run differentials of 16 runs. That means the Mets need to improve themselves by 5 wins in order to catch up. Again, why don’t people who are actually paid tons of money to analyze baseball understand this?

According to Fangraphs, a week ago before these trades were made, the Mets had a 13.4% chance to win the division and a 10.3% chance for a Wild Card. Now their chances skyrocketed up to a 15.3% chance for the division! Their Wild Card chances have actually dropped to 9.4% for the Wild Card! It’s actually all within the error for one week. These are not statistically significant changes, really. Good job, good effort, Mets front office!

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I Love Zack Greinke, But…

I Love Zack Greinke, But…

In his most recent start, Zack Greinke extended his scoreless inning streak to 43.2 with eight shutout innings against the Washington Nationals. He is now 15.1 innings away from tying Orel Hershiser’s record of 59 consecutive scoreless innings, which coincidentally was also with the Dodgers. Until he either breaks the record or loses it, his starts are going to be must watch TV.

Zack Greinke has become a personal favorite of mine. I was actually at his first start of the season. I love the guy’s personality, especially his blunt, brutally honest nature. I’ll never forget the time when he was taking questions at a press conference and was forced to endure the pointless, stupid, meaningless questions that are always asked at such things. It took one bad question for him to blurt out, “Are these questions going to get better?” My hero.

Greinke is a unique individual. He was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder in 2006, though he likely had it long before he was diagnosed. In fact, Greinke said he probably had it since high school. It’s also likely where his bluntness comes from. Thanks to medication, he has the problem under control1. He appears to be more social than he’s ever been. I’m proud of you, Zack.

If you read this site with any kind of regularity, then you’ve read many complaints I’ve written about the extremely low quality of baseball analysis that is demonstrated by players and coaches. This does not apply at all to Zack Greinke. He may very well be one of the smartest baseball minds in the game. He’s a true baseball junkie who tries to learn as much as he can. Greinke enjoys going to minor league games and was thrilled when the Dodgers asked him for input on the draft. He also appears to have at least a fair understanding of sabermetrics, which is odd for a player2 I love sabermetrics, but let’s face it, players don’t need to know much about the subject. Knowing the advanced stats isn’t going to help a player perform any better. They’re essential for front offices because they’re the ones evaluating players and making baseball decisions. I do believer, however, that players should have some kind of familiarity with advanced stats so that they understand how management is evaluating them.

In the days leading up to the All-Star game, Greinke defended Clayton Kershaw’s performance to date, saying that his teammate had great peripherals. Like I mentioned in my All-Star piece, he was right. Kershaw was still Kershaw, he had just suffered from a lot of bad BABIP and HR/FB luck. Greinke also recently said something else that was very smart: That he was better in 2009 when he won the Cy Young award. Again, he was right.

Now you may be wondering how that could be when he has a 1.37 RA9 right now and a 2.51 RA9 in 2009. Like I discussed in the aforementioned All-Star piece, Greinke has enjoyed a ridiculous amount of good luck this season. He has benefited from a .232 BABIP and 6.1% HR/FB. That all adds up to a 3.05 xFIP. He also has a very unsustainable 89.9% strand rate. In 2009, Greinke had a roughly equal xFIP, but a better FIP. That’s because he had a tiny 4.5% HR/FB, but a better strikeout rate, though his walk rate was a bit worse. His BABIP was actually a little high. To understand how impressive Greinke’s 2009 was compared to now, we need to dig even deeper.

It’s common knowledge among baseball fans that the Royals have an elite defense. However, in 2009 that could not have been further from the truth. It was the worst defense in baseball by a wide margin. By comparison, the Dodgers have a roughly league average defense. In 2009, not only did Greinke had to pitch to a DH as opposed to another pitcher, but he also had to face stronger competition. The Twins and the Indians were top-ten offenses in baseball, while the Tigers were roughly in the middle of the pack. Let’s take a closer look at the competition he’s face this season.

To see a list of the teams that Greinke has faced in 2015, click here. Of the nineteen games Greinke has started so far, he’s faced an offense that ranks above the major league median3 only three times: The Giants and Cardinals in pitcher-friendly Dodger stadium, and the Nationals on the road. However, the Nationals offense comes with a major caveat. They are ranked 13th in the majors in total offense, but that number is greatly inflated by Bryce Harper. If you filter out Harper’s Ruthian offense, the Nationals 96 wRC+ plummets to an 82 wRC+4! The Nationals offense outside of Harper is tied for the Phillies for the second worst in all of baseball! That team is really missing Ryan Zimmerman, Jason Werth, and Anthony Rendon.

Basically, Greinke has beaten up on a lot of weak competition.

  • He has faced the Brewers, Phillies, Mets, and Braves.
  • He faced the Rockies twice at home.
  • He faced the Marlins twice, one of which was without Giancarlo Stanton.
  • He faced the Cubs, a team with the sixth worst offense in baseball. They just don’t have much in the way of hitting outside of Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant. It looks like having Kyle Schwarber up is really going to help them.
  • Although it was in hitter-friendly Globe Life Park, Greinke’s start against the Rangers was without Prince Fielder in the lineup.
  • One of the biggest benefits that Greinke has enjoyed so far is facing the Padres four times, more than any other team so far. They have the fourth worst offense in baseball.

The best way to compare 2009 Greinke to 2015 Greinke is with the new, most advanced pitching statistics recently revealed by Baseball Prospectus: Deserved Run Average (DRA) and Contextual Fielding Independent Pitching (cFIP). In 2015, Greinke has a phenomenal 1.91 DRA but an unremarkable 86 cFIP. However, in 2009 Greinke had an excellent 2.78 DRA and a phenomneal 55 cFIP. This season no starting pitcher has a cFIP below 65, which belongs to Max Scherzer. The reason why Greinke’s DRA is better in 2015 and his cFIP was better in 2009, besides luck, is because of the run-scoring environments in which he pitched. In 2009, the AL had a combined .334 wOBA. The 2015 NL has a .308 wOBA. That’s 4.82 R/G versus 3.98 R/G. That’s a big difference. If 2009 Zack Greinke was pitching this season with same amount of luck as 2015 Zack Greinke, he’d have an RA9 below 1.00.

Be careful about putting too much weight on ERA or RA9. They’re informative stats, but they can be deceptive. If the season were to end today, Greinke would probably win the Cy Young award. However, Max Scherzer is the better choice. He has a better FIP, K%, and BB%. He also has a better cFIP and DRA. He has clearly outperformed Greinke, he just hasn’t had the benefit of all the good fortune that Greinke has enjoyed.

You’ve probably heard that Bryce Harper had some things to say after he last faced Greinke. He shouldn’t have said it, if for no other reason than it looked like sour grapes. Harper has had enough difficulties ingratiating himself with baseball fans. The problem that Harper had with Greinke was that he believed he was being given “five to six inches” off the plate. Well, that’s not unusual for pitchers versus left-handed hitters. Let’s take a look at how the strike zone was being called versus lefties that day, courtesy of the indispensable Brooks Baseball:

Max Scherzer was the opposing pitcher that day, and it looks he was getting his fair share of calls off the plate too. That’s just one game, though. Grantland’s Jonah Keri recently wrote about Greinke himself, and in the article he stated that Harper was right, although calling it from just one outing is getting lucky. Keri cited research done at ESPN which concluded that Greinke has “nabbed strike calls on 12.2 percent of pitches out of the strike zone at which hitters didn’t swing. That’s the eighth-highest rate among 97 qualified starters.” Again, more luck in favor of Greinke.

Back to the scoreless inning streak that Greinke is on, he’s faced six different teams. Four of those teams are in the bottom six offensively in all of baseball. The other two are the Nationals and Rangers, both of whom have caveats that I’ve already mentioned. Greinke has pitched excellently during the streak, but streaks like this don’t happen without a lot of luck involved. I’ll still be rooting for him. The streak is fun, and like I said, he’s one of my favorite players!

  1. If you’re suffering from depression or anxiety or some other kind of mental disorder, then please, please seek help. There’s no shame at all in admitting that you need help, and there’s plenty of help out there for those who need it. 
  2. Dallas Keuchel has also expressed a strong interest in sabermetrics. 
  3. If you click on that link, you can see that the current league median for offense is a 95 wRC+. 
  4. I don’t know what the normal way is to filter out a player’s performance from his team, but with Harper it was really easy. At age 22 he’s the youngest player on the team, so I just set the age filter for 23 and up! 
Yasiel Puig, Don Mattingly, and Other Thoughts on the Los Angeles Dodgers

Yasiel Puig, Don Mattingly, and Other Thoughts on the Los Angeles Dodgers

I came across this article from L.A. Times reporter, Houston Mitchell, where he reprinted some emails he received of ideas from fans on how to improve the Dodgers. He asked for these emails in a previous article lamenting a Dodgers series loss to the Mets at home, a series where both Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke pitched.

It’s a clear overreaction to one series, and the fan responses reflected that. It’s not a big deal at all, really, as fans will be fans. I’m not going to fault fans for being human, emotional creatures. I’m not going to fault people who aren’t paid to cover or analyze baseball for making bad baseball suggestions. As I mentioned in my All-Star game post, fans are, in general, better analysts than most baseball “experts,” anyway.

The reason why the Dodgers lost to the Mets at home with two of the best pitchers in the NL is because baseball is crazy random and anything can happen over the course of three measly games. I understand that isn’t a satisfying answer because it’s human nature to want reasons for everything, but it really is that simple. What I found perplexing is this sentence from Mitchell:

“…right now, this team is not winning the World Series.”

Um, what? Because of a disappointing series? The Dodgers are the best team in baseball! According to Fangraphs playoff odds, they have the best odds to win the World Series out of any other team! They have the third-best run differential in baseball and are projected to have the best going forward. Adjusting for league and park effects, they have the best offense in baseball. If we look at their pitching staff using two of the most advanced pitching metrics from Baseball Prospectus, they lead the league with a 3.74 DRA and their 94 cFIP is fourth best. To put that in more qualitative terms, the Dodgers pitchers have pitched the best so far and will continue to be one of the best going forward.

Of course, no team is perfect. For example, the Dodgers have a glaring hole at shortstop. I lauded the Jimmy Rollins trade, but it has been a disaster. He’s been a sub-replacement level player this season. It’s an example of good process, bad results. Beyond that there really isn’t a ton of places for the team to improve.

I understand that there is a considerable drop-off in the starting rotation after Kershaw and Greinke, but Mike Bolsinger and Brett Anderson have been quite good. Depending on what flavor of WAR that you choose, Bolsinger and Anderson have been above average starting pitchers so far. The catch is that they have both overperformed to a certain degree. Bolsinger has a low 6.3% HR/FB and Anderson has a low 17.5 K%. The good news is that Bolsinger’s 97 cFIP indicates that he should be a league average pitcher for the rest of the season. Unfortunately, Anderson’s 109 cFIP is rather pessimistic of his future performance, likely because of his low strikeout rate. Anderson and the replacement level fifth starters that the Dodgers have been trotting out there could use some upgrading.

The Dodgers might be just fine if they stand pat at the deadline, but of course they should try to make some moves. Teams should always be looking to get better. In a game with the high level of variance that baseball has, that’s especially important.

The fan suggestions in Mitchell’s article had two recurring themes: Trade Yasiel Puig and fire manager Don Mattingly. I’ll cover Mattingly first.

I am fully on board with firing Don Mattingly. He’s a horrific in-game tactician who has refused to learn from his mistakes. That’s especially egregious under the new leadership of President Andrew Friedman and GM Farhan Zaidi, who come from strongly analytical backgrounds. Some of the reasons cited by the fans for firing Mattingly were odd, but I agree with their wishes even if I don’t believe that their reasoning is sound.

It is said that a poor manager will cost his team 2-5 wins a season. Four or five wins sounds like a lot, but if a manager is capable of causing that much damage, them Mattingly qualifies. The problem is that there are countless managers who are terrible when it comes to lineup construction, bullpen management, and other in-game tactics. They still generally like to go by “feel” and other subjective nonsense like that instead of objective evidence. The good news is that if anybody can find the right guy, it’s Friedman and Zaidi. The right new manager could be a multi-win upgrade over Mattingly. Again, though, it’s easier said than done.

I completely understand the criticisms levied at Mattingly. What I don’t understand, however, is the vitriol against Yasiel Puig. Have the minds of Dodger fans been polluted by the media’s smear campaign against him? Or are the fans selected in Mitchell’s article an unrepresentative sample of how Dodger fans feel about Puig? If you’re a Dodger fan who can inform me on the situation, please feel free to do so in the comment section.

Puig has been, at worst, a top ten outfielder in baseball since he broke out two years ago. Adjusting for league and park effects, his bat is tied for seventh in all of baseball in total offense since 2013. In fact, according to ZiPS projections1 for the rest of the season, Puig is the best offensive contributor on the Dodgers. This season his offensive numbers have been a little down due to injury (he’s missed half his games), and a BABIP and HR/FB that are lower than his career rates coming into this season. Other than the fact that he’s hitting less ground balls in favor of line drives, which is a good thing, his batted ball rates look the same. There’s every reason to believe that he’ll experience some positive regression. Puig’s defense still needs to improve, however. The guy has a cannon for an arm, a legit 80, but he’s only a 55 overall fielder according to Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs. You can probably guess why. Too many mistakes and misplays in the outfield. It’s a shame, because he could have great range with his 70 speed, but it just hasn’t happened yet.

So to summarize, Puig is a true talent .368 wOBA player who is an above average right fielder and is only 24 years old. According to McDaniel, here are his scouting grades:

  • Hit: 70
  • Raw Power: 65
  • Speed: 70
  • Field: 55
  • Arm: 80
  • Overall value: 75

And Dodger fans want to trade this guy??? Why? Because he is reportedly not a great clubhouse guy who tends to rub his teammates the wrong way? Give me a break. One gentleman wants to trade Puig because he’s “not a team player.” You’ve got to be kidding me. I have no idea what not being a team player is even supposed to mean. Baseball is succession of individual events. It’s not like this is basketball where somebody can be a ball hog and hurt the team. Another gentleman said that he’s “Mr. Entitlement and is a liability.” If anybody wants to enlighten me on how his personality is negatively affecting his on-field performance and that of his teammates, and how that translates into extra losses, then I’m all ears. Otherwise, statements like the ones I cited are nothing more than baseless opinions. Talent wins baseball games, not personality.

If I were a GM, I’d be more than happy to acquire a 4-5 WAR player even if he were ten times as selfish and unpleasant as Puig is portrayed to be. There are too many deluded people who would prefer to have a player that makes them feel all warm and fuzzy inside as opposed to one that actually helps his team win games. As Molly Knight recently put it, “The Hall of Fame is littered with men who were not popular in their own clubhouses.”

The best part about Puig is that he is locked up through 2018 and with an annual average value of only $6.5 million! The catch is that there is a clause in Puig’s contract that allows him to opt into arbitration for the last two years of his deal, which he will almost certainly do. That could easily double the $14 million he is contracted to make during that time2. That is still a tremendous value, especially for a team swimming in money like the Dodgers. Even the Tampa Bay Rays could easily take on his contract. That may be the best value of any player not on a rookie deal.

Last season, Fangraphs Managing Editor Dave Cameron ranked Puig fifth in his trade value column. He called Puig’s contract a “ridiculous bargain.” Cameron is in the middle of his 2015 trade value rankings, and while I expect Puig to drop down, I’m sure it won’t be by much.

Because the fans in Mitchell’s column don’t understand Puig’s on field value and grossly put too much weight on his clubhouse impact, the trade suggestions they made are way off in most cases. Again, he’s a top ten outfielder who is locked up through 2018 and making peanuts. That demands a tremendous return. The Dodgers have a strong major league team, but their farm system is in the process of weakening considerably. They promoted Joc Pederson within the past year, Corey Seager will likely be called up soon, and Julio Urias will likely be up next year. To give an example of what I’d ask for if I were Zaidi, I’d ask for two top-tier prospects, a quality major league starting pitcher, and one or two relievers to fortify the bullpen. Perhaps if I could get a higher caliber starting pitcher, I’d ask for just one top-tier prospects and one or two B-level prospects instead.

The good news for Dodgers fans is that Friedman and Zaidi are smart enough to understand Puig’s true value. I doubt they trade him for anything short of a king’s ransom, and that’s if they trade him at all.

Let’s go over some of the fans’ suggestions. Some people said some things that are completely wrong, but I try not to be too critical of people who aren’t paid to write about baseball.

  • Trade Yasiel Puig for Cole Hamels: Never going to happen without a third team getting involved. A rebuilding team like the Phillies doesn’t need Puig. Acquiring him instead of the A-level prospects that Hamels could fetch would mean that the Phillies are highly unlikely to be competitive until after Puig hits free agency. As incompetent as GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has proven to be, there’s no way he trades Hamels to the Dodgers without getting Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, or Julio Urias back in return, and that’s just for starters. And no, there’s no way that the Dodgers part with both Puig and one of those prospects.
  • Trade Yasiel Puig for some combination of Johnny Cueto/Aroldis Chapman/Todd Frazier: If the Reds decide that they’re rebuilding, then they’re unlikely to trade for Puig for the same reasons that the Phillies wouldn’t. I also don’t see why the Dodgers would want Frazier when they have Corey Seager, who is likely to end up at 3rd base anyway. Frazier is also 29 and has likely peaked. As elite a reliever as Chapman is, he’s still just a reliever and he only has one more year left on his contract. Cueto would just be a rental. Even packaged together, Cueto and Chapman would not be enough to give up Puig. If Cueto were willing to sign an extension as part of the trade and Chapman were included, then MAYBE the Dodgers do the trade. It could make the team a few wins better overall but at the cost of $150- 200 million. I think that’s too high of a price to pay, especially since Zack Greinke is likely to opt out of his deal after this season, but the Dodgers might not care.
  • Play Scott Van Slyke more: The fan who suggested this seems to believe that Puig’s very presence on the team is a detriment and that Van Slyke would be an improvement. Based on everything I’ve written so far, I hope that you understand how incomprehensibly, terribly wrong that is. I bring this up because I have found Van Slyke to be a bit intriguing in recent years. Last season was a complete fluke that was fueled by a .394 BABIP and 17.2% HR/FB. I do believe, however, based on his batted ball rates and ZiPS projection, that his true talent level lies in the 2-3 WAR range. The knock on him is that he has large platoon splits. For his career, his wOBA is 72 points better against lefties than righties. He mashes lefties, is serviceable against righties, and is a very good defensive left fielder. That’s a good baseball player. Unfortunately, as somebody who is about to turn 29, this is as good as he’s going to get.
  • Trade Yasiel Puig for Dee Gordon: I nearly choked on my coffee when I read that. On the bright side, Gordon is under team control for as long as Puig is. On the not bright side, as I’ve written multiple times before, Gordon is nowhere near as good as he is made out to be. Gordon’s success is BABIP-fueled, he hits for no power, and runs into too many outs on the basepaths. He’s maybe 50% of what Puig is. If the Dodgers wanted Gordon back, they could accomplish that by using a lot less than Puig.
  • Trade Yasiel Puig for Scott Kazmir: He’d be a rental and Puig would be much too high of a price to pay. He wouldn’t even make the team better overall. Kazmir is an above average pitcher, while Puig is a top ten outfielder. That would probably cost the Dodgers 1-2 wins this season. Furthermore, the A’s don’t have a strong enough farm system to even out the trade with prospects.
  • Call up Corey Seager: By far the best suggestion. DFA Jimmy Rollins and put Seager there. If Seager really can’t play shortstop, then maybe Justin Turner can handle it through the end of the season. What would be lost on defense would easily be made up for on offense. This would likely be at least a 2-win upgrade.

The Dodgers are the best team in baseball. They’re not perfect, and could stand to make a move or two at the trade deadline, but they’re still an excellent team. You’ll be fine, Dodger fans. Most importantly, understand how good Yasiel Puig really is. You don’t have to like him, but he’s arguably the best offensive contributor on the team. I’ll end with this hilarious suggestion from a fan in Mitchell’s column:

“Remove the geeks from the Ivory Tower (aka the front office) and replace them with bonafide baseball men.”

That’s some 80-grade get-off-my-lawn analysis from Grandpa, here. How about this: Let’s allow the people who know nothing about baseball analysis but have trained their whole lives to play baseball play, and let the professionals who have actually studied baseball analysis full-time for their entire professional lives make the baseball operations decisions. The reason why the Dodgers hired Friedman and Zaidi is because they figured out that is what makes the most sense. So far they currently have the best team in baseball.

  1. Let me remind you that projections are NOT predictions. They are a measure of true talent level. 
  2. It might be less than that, but certainly not more. Arbitrators evaluate position players based on triple crown stats. 
My 2015 MLB All-Star Game Selections (Part 2)

My 2015 MLB All-Star Game Selections (Part 2)

For my full breakdown of the problems with the All-Star game and suggestions for fixing it, click here. Part 1 has a discussion of the All-Star game and my NL picks. Here, I discuss my reactions to the selections and reveal my AL picks.

I think the fans did a respectable job with the starters for the All-Star game. The same cannot be said for the players and managers. This is some of the worst work that I’ve ever seen them do for the pitchers and reserves. It’s almost farcical. It’s like I keep saying time and time again: Players and coaches are the worst at baseball analysis and player evaluation1. They keep saying that they know best because they played, but I never see it come out. They never demonstrate that they know better. They say things that are either meaningless, dead wrong, or so obvious that anybody could’ve said it. Their strengths lie in how to play the game (mechanics, approach, etc.) and scouting type information, yet they rarely if ever share that kind of knowledge.

This year’s crop of pitchers and reserves strongly suggests that they were selected based on pitcher record, ERA, Saves, and triple crown stats over half a season. Players and coaches make the BBWAA look progressive. Further more, NL manager Bruce Bochy made choices that favored his own team and shunned his rival. Bochy not selecting Clayton Kershaw from the rival Dodgers looks really bad. Really bad. AL manager Ned Yost did better, in all fairness. He did not appear to show any biases against divisional rivals. His only demonstration of favoritism was the inexplicable selection of Kelvin Herrera. He ranks 13th in WAR going back to 2014. He’s good, don’t get me wrong, but not as good as he’s shown. He has benefited from the elite Royals defense and Salvador Pérez. Selecting him over some of the players that he omitted is inexcusable.

The biggest travesty of the selections is the omission of Clayton Kershaw and Corey Kluber. How on earth can you have an All-Star game, an event that has always been intended to showcase the best talent in baseball, and not include last season’s AL Cy Young winner and NL Cy Young and MVP winner? Furthermore, what is Bochy’s and Yost’s rationale for excluding these pitchers from a game that actually counts? Because Kershaw was 5-6? Because Kluber was 3-9? If that’s the case, then seriously, Bochy and Yost, do you guys know anything about baseball? I’m not surprised that Yost is a dinosaur that goes by pitcher record, but I expect better of Bochy. Obviously this doesn’t apply since the All-star rosters aren’t their own teams, but in 2015, any manager that is so far behind the times that he is using pitcher record in his evaluations of starting pitchers should be fired.

Corey Kluber has had an excellent season so far. He has a 29.4 K%, 5 BB%, and 2.45 FIP. The reason why his 3.94 RA9 is so much higher than his FIP is because of a .341 BABIP and the Indians defense sucks. The Indians pitchers also suffer from some of the worst cluster luck in baseball. Going by Baseball Prospectus’ new advanced pitching stats, Kluber has an excellent 2.88 DRA and 65 cFIP. That cFIP is tied for second in the AL with Chris Archer. Chris Sale is in first. I have no doubt in my mind that the Royals excellent analytics department has something just like DRA and cFIP, and could’ve advised Yost if he had only asked.

Bochy not selecting the greatest pitcher on the planet is a giant middle finger to the All-Star game. Half a season does nothing to change that fact after four years of utter dominance. While Kershaw’s season isn’t as good as his 2014, he has still been outstanding. Furthermore, those who are saying that Zack Greinke is now the best pitcher on the team are dead wrong. Greinke is a great pitcher, but his results this year can be attributed to being one of the luckiest players in baseball this season. His opposing hitters have a low .243 BABIP and 6.5% HR/FB. He’s also benefiting from an extremely high strand rate of 89.4%. Kershaw, on the other hand, is suffering from a .301 BABIP against him, which is worse than it seems since he appears to be one of the rare breed of pitchers who can limit hits on balls in play. What has really hurt Kershaw this season has been his 16.2% HR/FB, which is almost 10% higher than his career rate going into this season! And that’s in a pitcher’s park! If we go by xFIP, which normalizes HR/FB, Kershaw’s 2.12 xFIP is over a full run better than Greinke’s 3.28 xFIP! Going even further, Greinke has a good but unremarkable 91 cFIP, while Kershaw’s is an excellent 73.

Not only should Clayton Kershaw be in the All-Star game, he should inarguably be starting it. What Max Scherzer has done in half a season does not outweigh what Kershaw has done in multiple seasons.

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