Chase Utley: One of the Best Ever

If you are reading this, there is a remarkably decent chance that you are a somewhat invested baseball fan. As a baseball fan, you probably ...

The Astros-Are they Good?

 Remember when Jose Altuve sent the Astros to the World Series with his walk off home run off of Aroldis Chapman in the 2019 ALCS? I do. It was rather enjoyable. A lot has happened since then. In November of 2019, the Astros were exposed for using some moderately legal methods to steal signs. I say moderately legal because I am yet to find a rule that actually says that they were generally not allowed to do what they did, beyond some minor violations that teams like the ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS got away with. ANYWAYS... are they a good team heading into 2021? In this article, we will potentially answer that question.

Coming off of arguably the most dominant 3 year stretch in MLB history, the Astros were really not that good in the 2020 regular season. That begs the question: Is this because they were finished with their cheating ways? Yes. The Astros massively regressed because they stopped knowing the exact pitch that would come in every single at bat. It's pretty proven, too. The Astros had a 121 wRC+ in 2017, a 110 wRC+ in 2018, a 126 wRC+ in 2019, and a 100 wRC+ in 100. For those who are not aware, wRC+ is an all encompassing hitting stat that indexes a hitter's, and in this case a team's, offensive production to league average. For every point of wRC+ over 100, the batter's production was 1% better, and vice versa. So as we can see, the Astros offense was just league average in 2020. This massive regression proves that the Astros can no longer be good as they have stopped cheating. Well, this isn't really true. 

The Astros were just league average in the regular season, but come playoff time, they started to break out the big lumber once more. The Astros weighted on base average, which is the offensive input for wRC+, was just 0.311 in the regular season. In the playoffs, it was 0.338. Let's put that into perspective: the 2019 Dodgers had a 0.338 wOBA in the regular season. They scored 886 runs and won 106 games. The 2019 Reds have a 0.312 wOBA in the regular season. They scored 701 runs and won 75 games. The Astros offense massively improved in the playoffs, facing the best pitching competition. Funnily enough, they still didn't match their 2019 wOBA of 0.355, which was historically good, but they were obviously a different offensive team in the playoffs.

So the Astros offense was just middling in the regular season, but great in the playoffs against better pitching? What gives? Literally, and I mean literally, just statistical noise. That's it. Their offense was always good. Guys like Altuve and Correa were slumping in the regular season, but come on guys! Deep down, we all knew that they would be just fine. Altuve, specifically, dominated the playoffs, hitting home runs like it was nobody's business. They made it all the way to the ALCS, where they almost came back down 3-0 against the Rays, but they faltered in game 7. Heading into 2021, they will be just fine.

Losing George Springer was a big blow to the team's lineup, but getting Yordan Alvarez back will be legitimately huge. I don't know if I can overstate just how good a healthy Yordan Alvarez is. Sure, he might just get hurt again, but let's cross our fingers. Altuve seemed to figure out his hitting yips, so now hopefully he will get working on his throwing yips, and become even more powerful than he was before. The Jason Castro/Martin Maldonado platoon at catcher is very very good, and they still have a really damn good lineup.

The issue seems to be the pitching. This is because they can no longer cheat. The thing about the Astros' projections is that guys like Cristian Javier are very poorly projected, but honestly I think that they will figure something out with a guy like Javier's stuff. Unfortunately, Justin Verlander will not be there to join the Astros rotation. Speaking of Justin Verlander, remember back in like 2016 or maybe 2017 when he said that the MLB needs to crack down on sign stealing, and then he was traded to a team with a pretty intricate sign stealing scandal, and said nothing? Isn't it almost like even the most outspoken assholes about that type of stuff do not actually care enough to say stuff about it? 

Let's talk about Pedro Baez for a second. The Astros signed him for quite a bit of money, and honestly I'm not quite sure what they were doing. On the surface, he is fine. He has maintained a really damn good ERA throughout his career. However, his peripherals are absolutely terrible. He walks way too many guys and doesn't force too many groundballs, all on top of a pretty low strikeout rate. He has been skating by with a really low home run per fly ball rate, which is something that he really shouldn't be controlling. When you adjust xFIP for the true home run rate, you get FIP. Even with the home run adjustment, he still has overachieved his career FIP by over half a run. This can be explained by a few things. The first is noise. Pitching performance is noisy and it's not THAT unlikely that a random pitcher overachieves his peripherals pretty heavily for over 300 innings. The second can be the Dodgers defense. I haven't verified this but I am assuming that the Dodgers are a very good defensive team, and when you have a good defense behind you, your ERA will go down. Finally, there is a very small chance that Pedro Baez is a true overachieving chad. Maybe this is why he waits 40 seconds in between each pitch. Waiting so long pisses off the batter so much that he will not convert flyballs into home runs. I digress. 

The Astros are a smart team ran by a seemingly smart GM in James Click, so I wouldn't be surprised if they have additional info that says that Baez' ERA is actually sustainable. With that being said, I wouldn't be too surprised if they're just paying for his ERA as well. I do know that James Click used to work at baseball prospectus, and baseball prospectus seems to think DRA is a good stat for some reason, so maybe he is just deluded into thinking that DRA actually matters. I'm done writing this dumb article. 

The Red Sox will Rebound

 It is a little odd that, heading into a season, a big market team like the Red Sox can be so underrated by the general public. Maybe it has something to do with the high expectations for the franchise. If the team is expected to be dominant, and the reality is that they are not a "sure" thing, then they will become underrated. Let's say the Red Sox as a franchise are expected, by the public, to be good enough to win 90+ games every year. If they are projected to do so, then people are happy. But let's say, instead of being "projected" to win 90 games, they are "projected" to win just 81 games. (I'm putting "projected" in quotes, because I'm not talking about actual projection system, I'm talking about the general talent of the team.)

If they are around an 81 win team, as they seem to be this season, they are publicly perceived as one of the worst teams in baseball. It's actually shocking how quickly they get dismissed. Even their own fans are incredibly negative, and they should be the ones that are paying the most attention! The Red Sox are not some elite team that should be penciled in to make a title run. However, they are a very solid team that should be getting a little more attention than they currently have been given. 

The 2020 Red Sox went 24-36 and finished with the fourth worst record in the MLB. Their pythagorean win loss wasn't much better, as they scored 292 runs and allowed 351 runs, good for a 25-35 pythagorean expectation. So, how can they be good? Well, for one, it was only 60 games, and for another, they really weren't that bad. 

Red Sox position players were 10th in the MLB in offensive+defensive runs in 2020. This might not sound too remarkable, but a top 10 overall offensive+defensive team really isn't too shabby. I know what you might be thinking: "Well, if they were so good at offense, then why did they lose so many games? This article sucks!" That is a great question. They lost so many games because they were 2nd last in the MLB in park and league adjusted ERA, just ahead of the Tigers. Pitching is pretty important, I will admit. So why did they allow so many runs? The answer is simple: their opponents crossed home plate an ample amount of times.

To get to an actual point, the Red Sox were 2nd last in ERA but they were actually last in Field Independent Pitching, a stat that combines strikeouts, walks, and home runs, three stats that pitchers can control, into an estimated ERA. This helps confirm that the pitching staff wasn't a victim of their defense, they just were not productive. HOWEVER, they weren't THAT bad, either. It is proven that a pitcher cannot control their home run/flyball rate. The Red Sox as a team ranked last in home run/flyball rate. When you look at xFIP, which replaces actual home runs estimated home runs based in the league average home run/flyball rate and the team's flyball rate, they were 20th in the MLB. So you take the 10th best position player group and the 20th best pitching group and you get a pretty respectable team.

Obviously, past results don't actually have any impact on the future. They can add predictive value, but it is more prudent to evaluate the individual players as a sum of a hole. Teams change every year, and so have the Red Sox. They signed Garrett Richards, a decent starter, to shore up the rotation. Chris Sale could be coming back around midseason, and he is one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. They traded for Adam Ottavino, who is not fantastic but is a minor upgrade over who they already had. On the offensive side they signed low end power hitters like Hunter Renfroe and Enrique Hernandez, traded for Franchy Cordero, who has insane power, and also picked up Marwin Gonzalez, who is a good depth piece. Chaim Bloom knows what he is doing.

When we take the projections of the Red Sox roster on FanGraphs, their median outcome is a projected 85-77 record. They are given a 33.7% chance to make the playoffs as they currently sit. The reality is that they are not a terrible team and management has given them a good chance all things considered. Speaking of management, Alex Cora is back. Maybe he will teach them how to be dirty cheaters en route to a guaranteed ring. In all seriousness, Cora is a great manager and the Sox should be on their way to a good future with the people they have in charge. This article was kind of dry but if you read all the way, good for you. 

Are the White Sox Good?

 It is a good question. Are the Chicago White Sox good? In a historical sense, no, they are not. They haven't made the playoffs in a full season since 2008. They won the World Series in 2005, but that roster wasn't very good. Props to them for the run they had, but... not the most impressive title team that we have seen. Another great question would be: Is this article filler? That is a great question. Anyways, before 2005, the White Sox hadn't won a World Series since like 1917, which was worse than the Red Sox curse. Additionally, they weren't even good like the Red Sox were. However, this isn't what the article was supposed to be about. 

Are the 2021 White Sox good? I would have to say yes. Yasmani Grandal is the best catcher in baseball and no one even talks about him when talking about the White Sox. Luis Robert makes thirst trap Tik Toks for some reason, but he has some of the purest raw power I've ever seen, especially for a center fielder who will be a gold glover at some point. Combine that with Tim Anderson getting exceptionally lucky and Yoan Moncada looking incredibly swaggy, and you have a lineup. Oh yeah, I forgot about Eloy Jimenez, who can absolutely fuck on occasion. For my next segment, I will use some actual content.

Look at this graph. It calculates the relationship between earned run average of a reliever and their win probability. As you can see, there was kind of an exponential relationship as we got to the top so that's why I rolled with. The White Sox signed Liam Hendrix to a lot of money recently, and he has maintained around a 1.8 ERA in the past 2 seasons. If he maintained it for 2021? His win probability added would be around 2.5. Keep in mind, WPA is relative to league average. That is, a 0 win probability added would be league average. So if Hendrix maintained a 1.8 ERA, he would be 2.5 wins more valuable than an average reliever. This is very valuable and this would make him well worth the contract. However, he will not be worth 2.5 wins, at least on average. If we use his ZiPS projections, which are pretty high on him, we get a 2.88 ERA and around a 1 WPA (I don't have the equation on hand, just eyeballing it.) Is this worth the money? Well, that gets pretty philosophical. 1 WPA is not the same as 1 WAR, it is better, since WAR is above replacement, and WPA is above average. WPA is also a lot more noisy than WAR since it uses literal win probability instead of a stat like ERA which is context neutral. Be that as it may, I don't quite know how to value relievers in that regard. If you can add 1 win above average in just 60 innings, is that more valuable than adding 2 wins in 200 innings? It's legitimately hard to say. It does depend on the roster, and I guess when you have the specific roster at hand, it could become a lot easier to calculate. If you're a team gushing with pitching depth like the Rays, a guy like Hendriks could be more valuable. He provides something in those 60 innings that is nearly impossible to find elsewhere. On the other hand, you could have a team like the Angels, whose pitching depth is clearly questionable and could use more resources spent on a breadth of innings as opposed to concentrating high efficiency into just a handful of innings. This can be calculated easily when the roster is actually at hand, but sometimes it is hard to evaluate a deal like the Hendriks deal in a vacuum when there are so many other potential results.

That got out of hand in a hurry, and I actually ended up putting some effort into this article, so let's just scan the White Sox pitching staff before leaving. Lance Lynn is an absolute horse and a based chad, and his inning eating ability is a good balance to Hendriks high efficiency, low inning value. Dallas Keuchel is kind of a product of a bygone era but he is interesting, although I don't necessarily trust the White Sox defense to hold him up. Be that as it may, he had great results last year, so what does it really matter? Lucas Giolito is just kind of there but also is really good, like legit good, y'know? ZiPS thinks he is the best pitcher in baseball. That is, debatable, but you never truly know. Dylan Cease is pretty boom or bust at this point and Carlos Rodon is, uh , not great.  He's not actually that bad, but the White Sox could maybe afford to get some insurance in the 5 hole. They might get that in Michael Kopech, but I would perhaps even go a bit further and trade for Jacob Degrom. That would be a solid addition.

A look at the Fernando Tatis Jr. Contract

 This article won't be too in depth, but it will generally give a good summary of this deal and whether or not it is a good deal.

Fernando Tatis Jr. just signed a 14 year, $340 million dollar extension with the Padres. At first glance, this is a comical steal. From ages 23-36, a healthy Tatis would be expected to post around 84 Wins Above Replacement. That is, 6.5 WAR per season until age 30 when he loses half a win every year from that point onward. Using this calculation, the Padres will be paying around $4.03 million dollars per WAR produced by Tatis. The current pandemic-impacted market is around $6.4 million/WAR. On the surface, this looks like a huge steal for the Padres. Does this hold up?

For one, it is a little unfair to assume that Tatis will play 150 games per season for the rest of his career, as is expected in the original calculation. I don't have the data at hand, but I doubt that many players played 150 games per season from ages 23-36. Now that I think of it, I actually can check this. Give me just a second... I got it. 150 games per season for 14 years equates to exactly 2100 games played. Since integration, just 14 players have surpassed 2100 games from ages 23-36. All of them besides Pete Rose and Rafael Palmeiro, who were hall of fame talents, seem to be Hall of Famers. The most recent stretch was Albert Pujols playing 2108 games from 2003-2016. Tatis will be good enough to get that many starts, that is not a concern. The concern is that he would be healthy, especially later in his career. To get an arbitrary but reasonable number for his games played, I will look at Alex Rodriguez' games played from ages 23-36. He played 2011 games, or 143 per season. Tatis and ARod are both very similar players, so I think this works out. 

Using said playing time total, Tatis is now "only" projected for 79.5 WAR, which comes out to 4.27 $/WAR. This still remains a massively team-friendly contract, so what could we be missing? Well, the Padres already had 4 years of control over Tatis remaining. He was still going to make money, but a lot less than what he would make on the open market. The next step of this examination will be to calculate how much he would have made over the next 4 years. 

It isn't entirely easy to do so, but a good comparison would be Mookie Betts of the LA Dodgers. If not for the pandemic, Mookie would have made around $58 million in his last 4 years of his rookie deal. Only 3 of those years qualified for arbitration, and I'm pretty sure that Tatis qualified for the thing where a young star gets 4 years of arb and just 2 years of getting paid nothing. If this is confusing, I apologize. Anyways, you take the 58 million that Mookie made and then take Juan Soto's 2021 contract, as he is on the same track as Tatis, and you get 66 million. Inflation is a thing, and Tatis probably would have made a little more money than Mookie as a result, so let's just say Tatis was essentially on a low-risk, 4 year $70 million dollar deal. In practice, the Padres replaced that deal with a 4 year, $100 deal in exchange for a 10 year, $240 million dollar extension. To put it simply, they basically just gave him a 10 year, $270 million dollar extension on top of what he would have gotten already. If the Padres signed theoretical 26 year old Fernando Tatis Jr. to a 10 year, $270 million dollar extension, and he played 143 games per season, they would be expected to pay $4.9/WAR. I think this is the best measurement for the deal and it remains a huge steal.

Tatis provides value beyond his WAR as well. For one, concentrating 6.5 WAR into just 143 starts is more valuable than signing 3 separate 2.5 WAR players and getting 7.5 WAR in around 430 starts. Playing time, just like WAR, is a scarce commodity, and a true superstar player gives a team the chance to give playing time to different positive WAR players and ultimately win more games.  This is difficult to articulate without using poor and incorrect logic, but basically a team that has the ability to give more playing time to positive WAR players benefits from concentrating resources into one 6 WAR player instead of spreading it across multiple 2 WAR players. For a team without the depth necessary, it does not matter. However, those teams won't be competing for playoff spots anyways.

Tatis is arguably the face of baseball and easily one of the most marketable athletes in the game. The value he provides when the Padres gain popularity as a result of his name and performance is completely unknown, but there is definitely additional financial value in having a guy like Tatis on your roster. 

This article got off the rails, but the point is that the Padres did a great job with this Tatis extension and that they set themselves up handsomely for future success. As for Tatis, he did just fine. $340 million dollars is a lot, even after like half of it gets removed for taxes. Considering the diminishing marginal utility of money, I doubt that the difference between $340 million and around $600 million (which is probably what his market value is, lol), is a big deal. He eliminates all of his risk and gets to play baseball in San Diego for 14 years, which sounds fun enough. 

All QBs are bad except for Tom Brady

 Tom Brady, also known as Touchdown Tom, is the world's greatest American. He has the most touchdowns in NFL history, will have the most yards by around October or November of this year, and obviously has 6 rings. A bunch of unintelligent people seem to believe that he is not the greatest of all time. Why? Because they are unintelligent.

A common argument that is actually moderately coherent is that Peyton Manning, also known as Choketon, was simply a better statistical QB and therefore is better. The statistics implied are production metrics like DVOA, EPA/play, etc. Peyton is, in fact, more productive than Brady in regards to these numbers. Is it because he is better? No. Peyton Manning had absurdly good receivers with incredibly continuity for his entire career. He started his career with Marvin Harrison (Marshall Faulk, the best receiving back of all time, was there too.) The Colts added Reggie Wayne a few years later and Peyton had two hall of fame receivers in the same huddle for over half a decade. Don't forget Dallas Clark, who was a super useful tight end, and Edgerrin James, an elite running back. Running backs don't matter in the modern NFL, but 2004 was a long time ago. I digress.

In the 2013 season, the Broncos top 4 targets in my opinion were Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Julius Thomas, and Wes Welker. Thomas is one of the most talented receivers I've ever seen. Decker was also really good. They didn't produce great in the year prior, but when considering that Tim Tebow was their QB, they were incredible. This all doesn't mention Julius Thomas, a freak athlete who paired perfectly with Peyton's weak arm but good accuracy. The 4th receiver on this historic Broncos team? Wes Welker. The same Wes Welker who terrorized NFL defenses for 4 straight seasons. From 2009-2012, the Patriots had by far the most dominant offense in the NFL. They could not be stopped. Sure, Randy Moss, although washed, helped in 2009. Rob Gronkowski was fucking absurd and Aaron Hernandez was one of the better tight ends in the league as well. The best weapon of this bunch, however, was Wes Welker. Brady to Welker is an iconic duo. Welker signed with the Broncos after another super productive 2012 season, and his role was massively diminished in a much more talented receiving room. Don't get me wrong, the 2012 Patriots had fantastic receivers. Arguably the best group of Brady's career. He also led the league in every single counting metric. Anyways, Brady's best weapon was a measly 4th option on the 2013 Broncos. Peyton was carried by his receivers.

What about Aaron Rodgers? Well, from 2014-2020, the Packers have been top 3 (?) in PFF pass blocking grade every single year. This is not normal. Rodgers, or Fraudgers, had some insane offensive lines thrust in front of him. How did he do? Well, his 2014 was great. He dominated defenses and won MVP. No complaints there. His 2015 was awful. He was average in about every productive stat and the Packers limped into the playoffs as a result of his horrendous performance. Remember, this is the best offensive line in the league. Jordy Nelson was hurt, but he still had Randall Cobb and Davante Adams (who wasn't nearly as good as he is now, but still.) 2016? Rodgers was incredibly mediocre for the first 10 games before having a great stretch to end the season. The Packers had Jordy back, and still had Cobb, Adams, and the best offensive line in football. After performing terribly in 2017 before and after his injury, Rodgers went into 2018 with high hopes. He failed yet again. With Davante Adams, who had developed into a star, the best offensive line in football, and a very strong run game, the Packers offense was incredibly mid. Why? Aaron Rodgers is a FRAUD. That's why. With a new coach, similar results came upon is in 2019, Rodgers was a little better, and the Packers lucked into 13-3, but he was not that good. So far in 2020, Rodgers is probably going to win MVP. His first legitimately great season since 2014 nets him yet another meaningless MVP. He still had the 2nd best offensive line in the league, behind the Browns. Davante Adams is now one of the most dominant receivers on a down to down basis in NFL history. The Packers savvy and precise playcalling saved Rodgers from having to drop back many times in a game. His average intended air yards was incredibly low. Rodgers was not asked to win games. He was asked to just make the throws, and he did. Except against one team.

For some reason, the Bucs were the only team to figure out the Packers offensive line. The Packers are known for basically just holding and getting away with it, but Todd Bowles knew how to cook up schemes that would disrupt that. Rodgers was horrendous against the Buccaneers in week 6. He is so easily rattled that he fell apart at the first sign of adversity, in this case being Jamel Dean's pick six. His first impressive game of the season came against the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship game. Every other game of the season, he waddled behind his incredibly offensive line and had everything handed to him. Against the Bucs, he actually had to make plays. He was still brutally average in regards to efficiency, with a 0.13 EPA/play(this removes the fumble), since he isn't that good. He completely sold the game by scoring 3 points off of 3 turnovers. However, I was impressed that he didn't completely implode at the first sign of adversity.  The point is that Rodgers sucks.

Are there any other QBs that morons like to argue are better than Brady? Joe Montana has kind of died out in popularity, and his literal only argument is that he didn't lose a Super Bowl. This is moronic because it implies that Brady's legacy would be better had he lost to the Chargers in 2007, Ravens in 2011, and Jaguars in 2017. Marino is rarely brought up. He was very good, but people really just talk about how good his arm was. Brady also has a great arm. Congrats. Anyone else? Lamar Jackson is one of my favorite QBs in the league and the only QB I've seen produce in terrible situations similar to Brady. I also am not insecure about Patrick Mahomes, who is really fucking good. Otto Graham was probably better than Brady in a pure relative to their era sense, but who really cares? I also think Kyle Trask could give him a run for his money but everyone doesn't watch his film so they think he is bad. This post got out of hand in a hurry.