Baseball News

  • Now in the Bullpen, Chase Anderson Should Change His Repertoire

    Posted sometime

    As the Brewers lined up to open their division-winning 2018 season, right-hander Chase Anderson took the hill. By shutting out the Padres over six innings, allowing just one hit and striking out six, Anderson pitched the Brewers to the Opening Day victory, helping them win their first of 96 games.

    Now, almost exactly one year later, Brewers manager Craig Counsell has announced that Anderson will be moving to the bullpen, opting to roll with a rotation of Jhoulys Chacin, Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta, and Zach Davies to begin the season instead.

    This move is interesting for a number of reasons. First, it is true that Anderson has pitched poorly this spring, posting a 6.19 ERA across 16 innings. He’s allowed 11 runs, four homers, struck out 13 and walked four. But, for what it’s worth, Davies (7.17 ERA) and Burnes (5.79 ERA) haven’t looked much better, and each of them comes with fewer years of starting experience than Anderson.

    The Brewers also have injuries in their bullpen and may need more depth there, something Anderson can provide. Both Jeremy Jeffress (dealing with a sore right shoulder) and Corey Knebel (out indefinitely with a partial tear of his UCL) are expected to begin the season on the Injured List. Still, it’s probably a bit unreasonable to expect Anderson to make this quick of a transition from being a starter to a reliever who can replace either Jeffress or Knebel, both very good backend arms. But maybe this move could be good for him and his performance.

    He has tested out a new delivery in hopes of replicating the success he had in 2017 (3.2 WAR in 141.1 innings) after a disappointing 2018 (0.4 WAR in 158 innings). Clearly it hasn’t worked in the early going (and he actually ditched it), but a 72-batter sample during spring training probably isn’t enough to come to a true conclusion.

    Nonetheless, Anderson is a reliever now, which could mean many different things. Our Depth Charts projections peg him for 45 innings out of the bullpen, at a 4.55 ERA, producing -0.2 WAR. We still expect him to make a 13 starts and pitch 75 innings out of the rotation, producing 0.4 WAR as a starter. Due to rounding, Anderson’s total projected WAR comes out as 0.3.

    Chase Anderson’s 2019 Depth Charts Projection
    Games Starts Relief Appearances Innings ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 WAR
    58 13 45 120.0 4.55 4.85 7.83 2.95 0.3

    It wouldn’t be fair to call Anderson a “failed starter” by any means, but a la Andrew Miller or Wade Davis, it’s probably not unreasonable to expect Anderson’s stuff to play up out of the bullpen. He’ll be able to throw more pitches at max effort, allowing him to dial up the fastball.

    Anderson’s “max effort” fastball velocity might be somewhere around 95 or 96 mph. According to Brooks Baseball, the fastest pitch Anderson has ever thrown was 97.5 mph, in 2017. Here is a chart showing his max fastball velocity each year:

    He probably won’t be pumping 95 or 96 mph out of the bullpen every game, but at this velocity, Anderson would still be throwing his fastball above the 2018 average for a relief pitcher. Plus, Anderson could put away some of his more ineffective pitches like his sinker (.473 wOBA allowed in 2018) or his cutter (.335 wOBA) in favor of his curveball (.241 wOBA) or his changeup (.262 wOBA). Since he won’t be moving through the order two or even three times, his traditional five-pitch mix won’t be necessary, at least while he’s working in the bullpen.

    Anderson’s 2019 success might not fully be dependent on if (or when, perhaps) he decides to shrink his repertoire. As mentioned above, his 2017 season was much more dominant than his 2018; much of that success can be attributed to a HR/FB rate (8.6%) that was, by far, the lowest of his career. It jumped back up to 15.9% last year.

    Hitters crushed his four-seamer, tagging it for 15 of his 30 home runs allowed. Considering he threw the fastball the most last year, it does make sense that he allowed the majority his homers with the pitch. He still threw the fastball 41% of the time and allowed 50% of his home runs with it. His sinker, too, was problematic; he used it 13% of the time and allowed 23% of his home runs with it.

    (Interestingly enough, Anderson allowed seven home runs on his sinker in 2018. From 2014 to 2017, he allowed a total of nine home runs on the same pitch.)

    Chase Anderson’s HR Allowed
    Pitch Pitch% HR Allowed % of HR Allowed
    Four Seamer 41% 15 50%
    Changeup 19% 3 10%
    Curve 18% 3 10%
    Sinker 13% 7 23%
    Cutter 10% 2 7%

    Anderson’s sinker has never been great. This chart shows Anderson’s wOBA allowed on his sinker by year and where that mark has ranked among all five of his pitches, with highest being the worst:

    Results On Chase Anderson Sinker
    Year wOBA allowed Rank In Repertoire
    2018 0.473 Highest
    2017 0.354 Highest
    2016 0.347 Middle
    2015 0.374 Highest
    2014 0.339 Second-Highest

    By wOBA, Anderson’s sinker has been his worst pitch in three of his five major league seasons.

    Maybe decreasing Anderson’s repertoire will help. It allows him to put away his two most ineffective pitches, focusing on a fastball, curveball, changeup mix that could easily improve his results. His fastball velocity will also probably jump, making that pitch more effective in of itself. There’s a lot to like there.

    Who knows where Anderson’s ceiling lies as a reliever. He probably won’t become baseball’s next relief ace, but maybe this is a new opportunity for him to improve upon an underwhelming 2018 season.

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  • RCL Update: End Of Leagues

    Posted sometime

    We’re really winding down on draft season now, with official games starting on Thursday.  This is the last Tuesday without baseball for some time and I’m giddy about it. We’re sitting at 73 Razzball Commenter Leagues right now (12 more than last year!) and 64 of those have drafted.  Only two of our legacy leagues remain undrafted with ECFBL and the ‘Perts League drafting late Wednesday night. Nothing like waiting until the last moment. All of our leagues are full as of now, but if we have any dropouts, make sure you’re following myself (@MattTruss) and/or @Razzball on Twitter.  That tends to be the first place I go to blast out league openings. If you didn’t get in on the fun, well, there’s always next year, don’t procrastinate so much next season! Speaking of fun, I had fun going over the new and improved ADP data by taking a look at the ADPs of all Grey’s Sleepers. Even though the ADP Sheet is Razzball-centric it can still give you some interesting tidbits of information.  So, let’s do some last minute cramming for those final drafts and see what we can see.

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  • 2019 Bold and Brazen Predictions: Saying Goodbye

    Posted 39 minutes ago

    We all know what it’s like to part with a loved one; An ex-girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband/lover/sidepiece/sugar daddy/sugar baby, and we know how painful it can truly be. I…I can’t believe I’m saying this…but after much self-reflection the time has come for me to part with my alter ego…Tehol Beddict.

    You see, Tehol was the person I wanted to be in real life; peaceful, spiritual, focused on dominance, a total sex-addict, someone who was sought after for advice, and other than the moments I go back to Twitter or when I’m screaming at people in traffic, I honestly feel like I’ve become this person in 2019 (other than the sex-addict part…I’m celibate). Also, my friends and family can’t seem to understand that this is me, as they can’t comprehend why if it was me it wouldn’t say my real name. My freaking father says he can never find my work online, so basically I’m making this maneuver to assist the elder folk. You know, the elderly, though slow, and dangerous behind the wheel, can still serve a purpose, so it’s important we help them out whenever possible. Wonder if he struggles this mightily in searching for porn???

    Anyway, most of my old readers have most likely moved on to new writers…who are we kidding! They have been biding their time, strategizing and plotting for my triumphant return,  organizing a masterful battle plan to destroy all who oppose me, and believe me, it melts my heart guys/gals. Say one thing for Tehol…errr, LT, say that he loves his supporters like the children he never wanted. (I almost deleted this 100 times as it’s extremely difficult to say goodbye to the legend, but it’s time to rip the sutures out and bleed my own blood, and festoon the walls of Razzball with it.)

    If you have no clue what I’m speaking of, or have no clue who or what I am, prepare yourself for next level savagery, for play around, I do not. Let’s get down to business, shall we?

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  • Sabermetrics news: The Opener is changing how WAR is calculated

    Posted 2 hours ago

    A Rick Ankiel comeback; if the Yankees spent like it was 2003; how the Opener is changing WAR

    FanGraphs | Audrey Stark: Hey, we know her! Audrey writes about Rick Ankiel, who is trying to come back once again, this time as a reliever at age 39. He underwent primary repair of his UCL, which is a new method of avoiding Tommy John surgery. Seth Maness attempted this as well, yet it resulted in inconsistency and a trajectory to the Atlantic League. I would imagine Ankiel’s fate could be the same.

    Baseball Prospectus | Ginny Searle ($): The Yankees spend less of their revenue on payroll than they once, and if they spent like they did in 2003, for example, when their payroll was near to 75% of revenue, they could have signed both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado without batting an eye, or they could have dealt a myriad of shorter-term deals without any consequences, like for a Josh Donaldson or Garrett Richards, as an example.

    The Ringer | Ben Lindbergh: Ryan Yarbrough is a “bulk guy” after the Opener, and you can bet he’s going to be hurt by arbitration due to not having any starts. It’s also breaking WAR, where reliever WAR is calculated using a different replacement level than starters, which has been corrected in one version. It shows how fungible WAR really is as a statistic, causing saberemetricians question whether pitchers should be put in buckets of “starter” and “reliever” or on a continuum from starter to opener.

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  • Baseball Podcast: Overall Ranks are Meaningless. Let’s Talk About Ours

    Posted 3 hours ago

    DT and B_Don are dipping back into the the sausage rankings this week on the world’s #1 fantasy sausage pod, this time discussing their overall rankings. Find out which players they each have ranked outrageously high or unacceptably low, and how you might want to utilized overall rankings in general.

    The guys also talk about what actually matters when looking at spring training performance along with which players are rising or falling this spring. Some of the names thrown around include Alex Reyes, Ryan McMahon, Zack Wheeler and Nick Senzel. The show builds to a climax discussion of auction strategy and execution. Speaking of climax, insert the sausage in your ear-hole while it’s still fresh!

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  • Anthony Rendon and Alex Bregman Are the Same, and Also Different

    Posted 4 hours ago

    If you watch enough baseball, players start to blend together in your brain. You know what I’m talking about — Corey Seager is injury-prone Carlos Correa. Ozzie Albies is caffeinated Jose Altuve (no small feat, since Altuve is a Five Hour Energy spokesperson). Newly minted $100 million man Alex Bregman is Anthony Rendon with good hair. The Bregman/Rendon comparison occurred to me even before I saw Bregman play. A highly-drafted college third baseman with an excellent all-around game? More power than you’d think despite a swing that seems designed to put the ball in play? Probably a little better at baserunning than you’d expect, even if he isn’t a burner? Yeah, that pretty much covers both guys.

    Nothing Bregman has done since reaching the majors has changed this early comparison in my mind. Between 2017 (Bregman’s first full year in the bigs) and 2018, he’s recorded a 141 wRC+ to Rendon’s 140. Bregman has walked 11.3% of the time, Rendon 11.6%. Bregman has struck out 13.7% of the time to Rendon’s 13.6%. Bregman has a .219 ISO; Rendon’s is .230. Bregman has 50 home runs; Rendon has 49.

    You get the general idea — both players have been incredible, and both have done it in really similar ways. Rendon has been worth 13 WAR over the past two years, second-best among third basemen. Bregman has been worth 11.1 WAR, good for fourth. Here’s another thing they have in common — they were both among the most extreme swing-rate changers from 2017 to 2018. Plot twist, though! It was in opposite directions. Bregman decreased his swing rate by the third-most among qualified hitters, while Rendon increased his by the second-most. Yes, we’ve finally found a place where Anthony Rendon and Alex Bregman are different — extremely different.

    For Alex Bregman, 2017 must have been a mix of satisfaction and frustration. His 217 PA in 2016 exhausted his rookie eligibility, and while he held his own in his first big league action (114 wRC+), he looked very much like someone struggling to adjust to big league pitching. He struck out in 24% of his plate appearances, light years higher than his 10% career minor league rate (and 7.5% college rate). His swinging strike rate was 11.8%, meaningfully above league average. In short, he didn’t look like the hitter scouts expected him to be.

    2017 was a huge step in the right direction — a 15.5% strikeout rate probably still felt quite high to him, but made a lot more sense for someone with his talents. Still, though, Bregman’s full-season line fell short of his minor league numbers — he hit .284/.352/.475, good for a 123 wRC+ and 3.5 WAR, a better than solid regular but not quite an All-Star. The Astros won the World Series, and it’s obviously hard to beat that thrill, but Bregman probably felt like he hadn’t unlocked his full potential.

    In 2018, Alex Bregman’s swing profile changed completely. He went from the 56th-lowest Swing% among qualified batters to the 5th-lowest, which isn’t a thing you do by half-measures. He swung 7.7% less overall. He swung 8.6% less at fastballs and 6.7% less at secondary pitches. He swung 5.8% less often at balls, 5.9% less often at strikes. He swung 12% less often on the first pitch. About the only place where he didn’t decrease his swing rate was with two strikes, where he actually swung a touch more often (58.2%) in 2018 (the league average is a touch above 60%). Why make this change? Some of it comes down to organizational philosophy. As hitting coach Dave Hudgens said in an interview in 2017, “I don’t want guys swinging at a pitch unless they can do damage. If you go in with that mind-set, you’re not going to miss your pitch as often.”

    Pretty much every Astro has decreased their swing rate over time, though none to quite as striking a degree as Bregman. Why did the change help him so much in particular? I can’t speak for Bregman, but I do have a theory. See, Alex Bregman isn’t the biggest guy in the world. He needs to work for his power — he can’t just Aaron Judge-it up there and hit everything out. Where does that power come from? Well, in the center of the strike zone or inside, with a small splash of up and away:

    That’s Alex Bregman’s slugging by zones in 2018, and that’s just common sense. One small problem, though. Here’s where Bregman swung in 2017:

    Look, I’m no pattern scientist, but I can tell that’s not ideal. There are just too many swings in zones where he isn’t generating that much power. Even worse, Bregman doesn’t swing and miss much, so he was making contact with those inside pitches, both high and low, and not doing much with them. The pitches off the inside edge are especially damaging for someone who relies on getting the barrel on the ball to hit for power. Here’s Bregman’s 2018:

    Ahhhh, much better. Alex Bregman was swinging at too many pitches, both balls and strikes that weren’t in his preferred part of the strike zone. He decided to be more selective and hunt a pitch to hit early in the count, and boy did it pay off. There was an important auxiliary benefit as well. In 2017, Bregman saw a middle-of-the-pack 14.5% of his plate appearances reach a 2-0 count (league average is about 14%). In 2018, that climbed to 18.7%. 2017 Bregman got to a 3-1 count 9.7% of the time. 2018 Bregman did it 14.4% of the time. What about 3-0 counts, that mythical Shangri-La of batting? Bregman was dead on league average in 2017, 4.6% of plate appearances, before seeing them 6.8% of the time in 2018. In each case, he went from middle-of-the-pack to one of the top 20 batters in baseball in terms of reaching those counts. Not only was Bregman swinging at better pitches when he swung early in counts, he was reaching hitters’ counts more often. That’s a recipe for success.

    Okay, the story of swinging less often and getting better at hitting is easy to tell. Admit it — when I got to the evidence backing up Bregman’s improvement, you switched to skim mode, looking for pictures and clever turns of phrase, because you didn’t need to see the proof. I get it — that one just makes intuitive sense. Swinging markedly more, though? That’s not an adjustment I expected. And when I say swinging more, I really do mean swinging more, by the way. Rendon swung at 7.3% more of the pitches he saw in 2018 than he did in 2017. He swung more at fastballs. He swung more at secondary pitches. He swung more at pitches in the zone, and he swung more at pitches out of the zone. If you’re getting an inverse Bregman vibe here, I’m with you. It’s gratifying that the answer isn’t as simple as “Oh Rendon just got better.” If he magically swung more at pitches in the zone without increasing his chase rate, we’d just chalk it up to going full Votto. If he started ambushing fastballs without swinging more at filthy curves, hey, good work, no further analysis necessary! Luckily, it’s not quite that simple.

    Rendon didn’t show the same marked improvement in 2018 that Bregman did, but that’s largely because he was already great in 2017. He slashed a sensational .308/.401/.533, good for a 141 wRC+, and his 6.7 WAR was a career high. There wasn’t much impetus to tap into more of his power, because he’d just hit for a career-high ISO. Strike out less? He had a career-low strikeout rate in 2017. Walk more? You guessed it — a career-high walk rate. Rendon didn’t need to change his batting approach to improve, because he was firing on all cylinders already. 2018, then, was more a story of Rendon adjusting to what pitchers threw him.

    To wit: Rendon has always been a high-contact hitter, but he’s generally been a very patient hitter as well. In 2017, he was in the 10th percentile among qualified hitters in terms of first-pitch swings. Despite this, pitchers were pretty careful with Rendon. They threw pitches in the strike zone slightly more than league average and fastballs slightly more than league average, but basically treated him like an average batter. In 2018, pitchers pushed the envelope a little bit more. They upped the percentage of 0-0 pitches in the strike zone from 55% to 58.5%. They upped the percentage of fastballs from 68.2% to 70.7%. Maybe batting Rendon earlier in the lineup changed how many strikes he saw, though there’s not much evidence of that. Mostly, pitchers seemed to just try to steal a few more strikes against a patient but formidable hitter.

    How did Rendon respond? Well, as I mentioned above, Rendon was in the 10th percentile of 0-0 swingers in 2017. In 2018, he moved up to the 45th percentile, raising his swing rate by 9%. Here’s the most obvious way to think about it: In 2017, if you threw Rendon a first-pitch fastball in the strike zone, he swung 27.5% of the time. More than two thirds of the time, that’s a free strike. In 2018, he swung 45.5% of the time, a tremendous increase. That was bad news for the pitchers facing Rendon — his wOBA was a comical .534 when he put the ball in play on these swings, with six doubles, a triple, and three home runs in 35 results. This targeted aggression was definitely part of Rendon’s plan for 2018, and it worked to perfection. Pitchers fed Rendon first-pitch hittable fastballs, and he feasted.

    For the most part, this was a brilliant adjustment. The main downside of swinging more on the first pitch is more 0-1 counts, and Rendon is the exact kind of player to minimize that downside. He’s reached an 0-1 count 1675 times in his career and compiled a 94 wRC+ in those plate appearances. If that sounds uninspiring, well, MLB as a whole has put up a 65 wRC+ after 0-1 over that time frame. Rendon’s phenomenal contact rate keeps him alive in pitcher’s counts, and he took advantage of that fact in 2018 to look for more pitches to hit early in the count.

    How did Rendon’s decision to swing more on the first pitch pan out? Well, his wRC+ fell from a career-high 141 to … 140. His strikeout rate increased from a career-low 13.6% all the way to … 13.7%. His xwOBA actually rose, from .378 to .388. All of these numbers, by the way, vastly outstripped his projections. ZiPS had Rendon striking out 16.1% of the time on the way to a 119 wRC+, while Steamer pegged his K% at 16.3% and his wRC+ around 121. In short, Rendon beat the regression bug, and he did it by evolving. In 2019, Rendon projects to have a 127 wRC+ and a 15.2% strikeout rate. Can he make another adjustment to keep defying gravity? Only time will tell.

    So, there you have it. Alex Bregman and Anthony Rendon are almost an exact match at surface level. If you enhance, enhance, enhance all the way down to the swing level, though, they’re nearly perfect opposites. Bregman picked a new approach to focus on his strengths. Rendon picked a new approach to take advantage of pitchers’ tendencies. The two approaches went in exactly opposite directions, and yet they were both right. Sometimes baseball is amazing.

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