• NFBC Best-Ball, Points League, 10 Team Draft Recap: The Self-Driving Car Of Drafts

    Posted 10 hours ago

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    So, Rudy says to me, “You should get into a Best-Ball league?”  And I replied, “Is that a fantasy league where everyone drafts in blue Polos like you work at Best Buy?”  Then I saw those three little dots like he was typing something, then they disappeared.  Then I saw the three dots again, and, alas, they disappeared again. Finally, he responded, “You don’t think that do you?”  After googling what Best-Ball was, I replied, “No, jokes, man, jokes!”  So, I got myself in my first Best-Ball league.  Everyone likely knows what it is, but, if you don’t, it’s when you draft a team and the computer manages it for you by choosing who are the best players, and you get those stats.  It’s basically one fantasy league removed from the robots taking over and killing us all. Drafting with me in my league was Elon Musk, Issac Asimov–Okay, I keed.  Anyway, here’s my NFBC Best-Ball, Points League, 10 team draft recap:

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  • 2019 Positional Power Rankings: Starting Rotation (No. 16-30)

    Posted 11 hours ago

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    We closed out the position players with right field this morning. Now we move to the pitching side, starting with bottom half (16-30) of the starting rotation rankings.

    There are some easy similarities to be found between the clubs on this list. There are several that have one or two generic, No. 4 quality veteran arms without much raw stuff. The better clubs have a couple more No. 4 types beyond that, with either durability or track record as the concern, while the lower-ranked clubs have a bunch of lesser, unproven prospects and guys who should top out as sixth starters or long relievers.

    One of the more interesting clubs is Toronto, which has two young starters who have shown No. 2 or 3 upside (Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez), three veterans with consistency or durability issues on one-year deals (Matt Shoemaker, Clayton Richard, Clay Buchholz), a couple of intriguing prospects who can contribute in some way this year (Ryan Borucki, Sean Reid-Foley, Trent Thornton), and a few depth guys. Cincinnati falls along the same lines, with Luis Castillo as the anchor and Anthony DeSclafani as the injured but talented second piece, then three veterans in walk years (Sonny Gray, Alex Wood, Tanner Roark), and some post-hype prospects (Tyler Mahle, Cody Reed, Michael Lorenzen, Lucas Sims, Sal Romaro).

    On the younger side, both the Padres and the Braves could have a full rotation of recently-graduated prospects, though the Braves probably won’t with Julio Teheran, Kevin Gausman, and Mike Foltynewicz likely taking up a couple of spots in the rotation while the kids fight it out for what is left. San Diego’s top five in projected innings were all prospects at this time last year except for Matt Strahm, who’d only lost his eligibility by a few innings. Behind them, the Pads have even more young arms coming, with Mackenzie Gore, Luis Patino, Adrian Morejon, Michel Baez, Anderson Espinoza, and Ryan Weathers all within a few years of possibly reaching their mid-rotation or higher potential.

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  • What the New On-Field Rules Could Mean for Baseball’s Labor Strife

    Posted 14 hours ago

    By now, you already know – thanks to Dan Szymborski’s breakdown – that Major League Baseball and the MLB Players’ Association agreed to rule changes for the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Dan provided an analysis of the on-field repercussions of these new rules, but there are other consequences as well – for the first time, it appears the MLBPA might be making inroads in its cold war with the league.

    Let’s start with the most momentous development – one that actually had nothing to do with the rule changes. Per Jeff Passan at ESPN:

    Perhaps the most important part of the deal isn’t the elimination of August trades, the tweaking of All-Star Game starter selections, the incentives for stars to participate in the derby, the elimination of one-out relievers or the addition of a 26th player next year. It’s the provision that the sides will begin discussing labor issues imminently, far earlier than they typically would with a CBA that doesn’t expire until December 2021.

    Those discussions, sources told ESPN, will center on the game’s most fundamental economic tenets — not only free agency but other macro issues with deep consequences. The bargaining over distribution of revenue could be the most difficult gap to bridge, with teams clearly paring back spending on aging players while players chafe at the notion that those 30 and older are no longer worthy of the deals they received in the past. While a compromise could be reached in distributing more money to the younger players whom the current system underpays, the complications of doing so warrant a long runway for discussions.

    Now, if you’re a cynic, you might think that merely getting the league to the table doesn’t constitute much of an accomplishment, as the league doesn’t actually have to agree to anything. After all, the Collective Bargaining Agreement gives MLB the right to unilaterally change virtually any on-field rule it wants to without the permission or agreement of the union.

    That said, the league doesn’t really have anything to gain financially from beginning negotiations now; record profits and the current CBA term mean it doesn’t have to negotiate anything. If the league had no intention of making at least a few concessions, it might not come to the table at all. And beginning negotiations simply for public relations might not be a good legal strategy because bad faith talks – where one side basically tells the other why they’re wrong – are a waste of money and tend to inflame tensions, not tamp them down. An MLBPA spokesman provided me with a statement from Executive Director Tony Clark, who considered the deal “an important initial step towards a broader dialogue about meeting the more substantive challenges our industry faces in the near and long-term.” (As an aside, I wonder if the reference to “the industry” instead of the “league” might suggest a focus beyond just the major leagues; it will be fascinating to see if minor league salaries become a focus of the new talks, especially given the Blue Jays’ decision to raise minor league wages and recent reports that the issue may finally be of interest to MLB.)

    Further, guaranteeing a 26th roster spot all season is a big win for the union, as it essentially creates at least thirty more full-time jobs. These are jobs the league didn’t have to agree to create – remember, Rob Manfred could have just imposed the remaining rules himself, without the union’s agreement – but it did so, without a corresponding concession. The winner of the All-Star game gets a guaranteed million dollars, which is a lot of money considering that this award is nearly twice the major league minimum, and more than the salary of most of 2018’s participants.

    So why make these concessions? It’s obviously early, and I’m not privy to the actual dialogue within the league office. But it at least appears that the league is finally considering a work stoppage, and the legal battles that would come along with it, as both a possible and unacceptable outcome. Part of that undoubtedly has to do with the union’s new chief negotiator, Bruce Meyer. Meyer is in no small part responsible for the percentage of revenue guarantees for players in the NFL, NHL, and NBA collective bargaining agreements. Major League Baseball is the only one of the four major North American mens’ sports leagues without such a guarantee, and the league is probably concerned that Meyer would make such a guarantee a sticking point in 2021 talks. Extending an olive branch now allows for the league to take a harder line on this issue later, particularly from a public relations perspective, particularly given Meyer’s history with MLB’s attorneys.

    Major League Baseball is chiefly represented by (among other attorneys and law firms) a firm called Proskauer Rose.

    There are a handful of law firms that strike fear in the sports world. None, though, is quite like Proskauer Rose. The New York-based firm has represented all of the major sports leagues — NBA, WNBA, NFL, NHL, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer — produced two commissioners (David Stern and Gary Bettman) and trained a legion of attorneys to outmaneuver players’ advocates. Many Proskauer attorneys eventually work for leagues, teams or key companies in sports. To the extent professional sports connects to one law firm, it’s Proskauer.

    Proskauer represented the Marlins when Jeffrey Loria sold the team to the group led by Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter. They’ve represented the league when it’s been sued, including in the minor league minimum wage cases. When the league gets in trouble, it hires Proskauer.

    And Bruce Meyer has had success against Proskauer before. In 2016, for example, when Meyer worked for the National Hockey League, player Dennis Wideman was suspended 20 games by commissioner Gary Bettman. Wideman appealed and the suspension was cut in half by a neutral arbitrator, pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement Meyer helped to negotiate. (The arbitrator in question, James Oldham, also handles baseball arbitrations.) Proskauer, on behalf of the NHL, fired the arbitrator and sued the union, arguing that Bettman’s initial suspension should stand. Meyer, representing the union, won handily.

    Now, Meyer, as good as he is, isn’t a panacea for labor unions, as he himself admits. He’s lost to Proskauer more than once, and he is the first to concede that protracted legal battles between leagues and unions have a lot of collateral damage for players.

    Adversaries criticize Proskauer for what one described as its “lock out first, ask questions later” approach. But they concede that such tactics have produced results. “It’s been an effective strategy,” said Bruce Meyer, a partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, who has represented players’ unions. Although, he adds, “I don’t think it’s a magic pill.”

    The current absence of major clashes is probably short-lived, said Mr. Meyer. “There’s a lot of money at stake for both sides. When there’s a lot of money at stake, you see these big battles.”

    But part of that is also due to the structural mismatch inherent in labor disputes: the league will always have more money and more resources, while the players have to miss paychecks and potentially decide whether to dissolve their union in order to seek recourse in court. As a result, Meyer’s talents notwithstanding, the league will always have a significant advantage in labor disputes. In the event of a lockout or work stoppage, ownership is far better equipped to deal with a long-lasting impasse than the players are – particularly young, pre-arb players, who would face legitimate financial pressure should their $550,000 annual salaries disappear for more than a few weeks. Recent call-ups from the minors would be in even worse shape. So this agreement shouldn’t be taken as a sign that MLB is quaking in its proverbial boots at the thought of a confrontation with Meyer and the MLBPA. This could be a bit of strategy on MLB’s part, offering small concessions now while preparing for larger fights ahead. It may be a sign of nothing more than the league taking the union more seriously as an adversary. After all, not everything went the MLBPA’s way. The three-batter rule certainly isn’t good for players, the union notably didn’t agree to it, and Manfred imposed it unilaterally.

    But that’s still progress. In a very real sense, that MLB was willing to come to the table at all could demonstrates a real breakthrough in the cold war between the league and union, even if merely agreeing to negotiate isn’t a guarantee that the labor disputes of the past couple of years are behind us. For fans dreading the very real prospect of a work stoppage, it’s hard to not be at least cautiously optimistic in the wake of these developments.

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  • Framing FanGraphs

    Posted 15 hours ago

    How does FanGraphs’ new framing data compare to Baseball Prospectus’ and StatCorner’s?

    The sabermetric movement is long past questioning the value of pitch framing. At this point, it is settled doctrine. While pitch blocking and pop time used to be considered the most important defensive skills for catchers, we now know their ability to steal a few extra strike calls carries much more weight.

    Last week, FanGraphs updated their metrics to include catcher framing. This is welcome progress, and their valuation of catcher defense should be more in line with Baseball Prospectus, who incorporated framing years ago.

    With FanGraphs joining the party, it’s a good time to evaluate some different framing metrics to see how they compare to each other. This includes FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus as well as StatCorner—a useful site that has its own framing data.

    Let’s start with looking at the overall leaders. By averaging all three framing metrics, here are the players who were the most valuable framers in 2018:

    Yasmani Grandal takes the top spot, followed closely by Jeff Mathis. This is almost entirely the reason Mathis still has a job. The range of the three metrics can actually be rather large. Looking at Tyler Flowers, Baseball Prospectus liked his pitch receiving 8.6 runs better than StatCorner.

    Catchers can giveth and catchers can taketh away. Here are the ones that cost their teams the most runs last year:

    According to Defensive Runs Saved, Francisco Lindor saved 14 runs last year. Willson Contreras was even worse than the opposite of Lindor, just from poor pitch framing. Again, we see tremendous variation between the metrics. All three sites have all these players rated as strongly negative, but StatCorner evaluates Salvador Perez’s work 12.7 runs worse than Baseball Prospectus.

    Framing is essentially a counting stat. With more opportunities to receive pitches, catchers can gain or lose more framing runs. Therefore, starting catchers will have higher peaks and lower valleys. To get a more accurate representation how each catcher performs, we need to adjust for playing time.

    Here are the leaders of the three metrics (averaged once again) adjusted for 1000 pitches received:

    Again, this is what keeps Jeff Mathis employed. We also see why the Dodgers felt comfortable letting Yasmani Grandal walk away— Austin Barnes’ framing is top notch.

    Here’s the flip side of that leaderboard:

    Just as unadjusted metrics skew heavily towards players with more playing time, adjusted metrics can give us extreme examples from players with very little. Andrew Susac only played seven games at catcher last year. He’s a non-roster invite with Baltimore, and he probably won’t make the team. Anyone who can’t crack the Orioles roster truly is not a major leaguer.

    Isiah Kiner-Falefa gets something of a pass, given that he spends more time as an infielder. Defense-first backups A.J. Ellis and Michael Perez are more surprising inclusions on the anti-leaderboard.

    Regarding those ranges, it’s clear that the metrics vary from each other, sometimes profoundly. Usually, it’s StatCorner that appears to be the outlier. Here are correlation scores for each of the metrics compared to each other:*

    • StatCorner and Baseball Prospectus: 0.72

    • StatCorner and FanGraphs: 0.68

    • Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs: 0.96

    For perspective, easy stats that we all measure the same way would have a correlation score of 1.0. If we compared, say, home run leaders across different sites, the leaderboards would be identical, because it is indisputable that Khris Davis hit 48 and J.D. Martinez 43.

    There is no way to tell who’s right or wrong, but Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs evaluate framing almost as identically as home runs. StatCorner’s metrics differ considerably, though there is still a fairly strong positive correlation. Here’s how all three look together:


    StatCorner evaluates framing consistently lower overall. Theirs is the highest framing score for only 18 out of 115 catchers, whereas they were the lowest for 88 of them. They were the median for just six players, and three were tied with zero on all three metrics. (Kyle Farmer, Rocky Gale, and Taylor Davis, all of whom barely played).

    The sum of all framing runs across MLB was -322.2 according StatCorner, 33.6 going by Baseball Prospectus, and -0.4 using FanGraphs. This is probably caused by philosophical differences. If you believe framing runs should be compared to MLB average, the sum of everything should be zero. If you believe that poor framing can cost more runs than good framing can prevent, the number does not have to be zero. However, given that StatCorner’s metric is called Runs Above Average, they should probably adjust upward by about 322 runs.

    Overall defense is arguably the most difficult aspect of player performance to evaluate. UZR says Anthony Rendón made a positive contribution of 5.9, but DRS gave him a -6. Baseball Prospectus’ FRAA rates him at -5.7, while Baseball-Reference credits him with -0.4 dWAR. That’s four different ways to measure defensive value, and we still have no idea whether Rendón was good or bad!

    The nuance of catching is vastly different than any other position. From the dawn of baseball until about a dozen years ago, we completely missed the mark. Framing is one of the most important defensive skills to evaluate correctly. It’s encouraging to see strong correlations from three different metrics, especially Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs. Now that both major stat sites evaluate framing so similarly, we can be confident that public framing data is some of the most accurately measured defensive data available.


    *For correlations, data for all 115 catchers who caught more than one inning in 2018 was used. Sorry, Joe Mauer and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.


    Daniel R. Epstein is an elementary special education teacher and president of the Somerset County Education Association. In addition to BtBS, he writes at www.OffTheBenchBaseball.com. Tweets @depstein1983

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  • Ride the Wave: Opening Weekend Streamers

    Posted 16 hours ago

    Now that the stupid spring training is nearly over, we can focus on some real baseball. No more gas can pitchers or football players like Tim Tebow dropping fly balls. We get real baseball and more importantly, real statistics!  

    In my first season with Razzball, I’m going to release a streaming article every weekend for the coming week. Seeing as how I play in numerous Yahoo Pro Leagues, we will focus on Yahoo ownership percentages. Our baseline in these articles is going to be 50 percent ownership or lower. While we will include two-start pitchers, the goal here is to find guys who are going to help your ratios. Streaming on Yahoo is critical and hopefully, this article will help lighten the load from the bums that blow up your ERA and WHIP. This opening weekend will be a bit tricky in terms of guessing who will start but we have a good idea of who should be on the mound and who they’ll be facing. So, with that in mind, let’s get started with some pitchers in San Diego. 

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  • Can’t Spell Humidor Without HR, Chase Field After Year One

    Posted 17 hours ago

    This time last year, the baseball world was predicting the downfall of Chase Field as a hitter’s haven to the tune of a 25%-50% drop in offensive production with an uptick in pitching expected to benefit from the new humidor. After a season of the new Chase Field, I wanted to review the data and see where the drop off landed.

    If you’ve been following me, you know that I was a bit skeptical that we would be looking at that kind of change in production. From my Chase Field article last year, “Home runs across the league were down, away teams actually hit more home runs in Coors in 2002 than 2001, and the culture in baseball was starting to turn away from the steroid era.” Basically, Coors was used as the case study for what would happen in Arizona, but there were a number of factors that came into play outside of the raw numbers.

    I’m not going to rehash that article, but will examine the numbers to see where Chase Field landed on the scale of hitter friendly to pitcher friendly parks. If we start with the basics, we can look at how Chase Field finished in park factors for 2018. I typically utilize FanGraphs for their park factors, but they have not updated for 2018 yet, so, I looked at ESPN. As you can see below, home runs were down in 2018 compared to 2016 and 2017, but not compared to 2015. However, runs and hits were both 4 year lows in 2018 with the humidor.

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  • 2019 Positional Power Rankings: Starting Rotation (No. 1-15)

    Posted 20 hours ago

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    Last week, we covered most of the position players as part of our positional power rankings. Earlier today, Meg Rowley covered right fielders, before Kiley McDaniel took you through the 16th-through-30th ranked rotations. Now, we get to the good stuff.

    The American League comes out firing on the top 15 list with the first three entrants made up of the reigning kings of the West and Central, as well as this year’s projected East champion. The Senior Circuit takes over from there, with seven of the next nine rotations, including two from the East and three from the Central divisions. Those staffs have been the talk of the offseason, as the top four in the NL East are all contenders to win the division while all five NL Central clubs could carve out a realistic scenario that finds them atop the group and headed to the playoffs.

    The ever-dwindling workloads of starters are made clear as just six pitchers are projected for 200-plus innings; meanwhile, six clubs have just one (or fewer) arms tabbed for even 180 frames. The No. 2 ranked team doesn’t get anyone to 175, yet their depth is on display with six guys who could capably put up 100-plus innings. On the other end, some teams made this list purely on the strength of their top five, so any injuries could be catastrophic to their season outlook.

    It’s probably a safe bet that at least one of the arms on here with a sub-70 inning projection ends up delivering 130-plus in a breakout campaign, but without a crystal ball to identify which injuries will create such a path, it’s hard to know exactly who that will be right now. My guesses would include Domingo German, Seth Lugo, Jordan Lyles, and Jerad Eickhoff. Last year’s were Walker Buehler, Jack Flaherty, and Zach Eflin, which perhaps means that I should include prospects Forrest Whitley and Alex Reyes, but they almost feel too easy.

    Who is your favorite breakout pitcher on these 15 teams, and which is your favorite team in the 11-15 range to break the top 5?

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