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 ...

Showing posts with label Sports. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sports. Show all posts

Legends whose production is understated

 The premise here is simple. There are legends across baseball history that, while they might get credit for being great players, don't quite get the statistical recognition they deserve from cursory glances of their pages. This will be due to missing information that isn't necessarily reported as missing. 

Mike Piazza

I'm not sure if anyone would contest the claim that Mike Piazza is the best offensive catcher of all time (outside of Josh Gibson, so let's just say post-integration to simplify things). However, not many would argue him at the best overall catcher of all time. Why not? Well, he was a bad defensive catcher. Or, at least, guys were able to run on his weak arm. Total zone helps fill in a lot of the picture for his defensive performance. On FanGraphs, Piazza is listed as having -52.2 career runs below average for the positions he played: -25 total zone from the pre-tracking era, -22 stolen base runs from 2002 to 2006, and -5.2 UZR from his bumbling first base performance in 2004. After one last hoorah as a catcher for the Padres in 2006, he became a full time DH in Oakland in his final season. That season, 2007, happened to be the first season that pitch FX allowed for high quality pitch framing metrics. Sometimes you might wonder why Yadier Molina's defense "improved" so drastically after his 2007 campaign. Now you know. 

This is an issue for Piazza because, while his shortcomings were front and center with the defensive metrics available during his time, his strengths were not. A Tom Glavine quote I saw in this 538 article, which I'll admit was a long forgotten inspiration for this post, summarised Piazza's plight. "Yeah, he wasn’t the greatest thrower. That unfortunately translated into people thinking that some of [his] other game wasn’t as good as it was. He called a good game. He received the ball fine. He blocked balls fine. But so often catchers are defined defensively on how well they throw and there’s much more that goes into just being a good defensive catcher than being able to throw."  Fortunately, baseball prospectus actually does have some framing data from an antiquated era. Piazza boasts an impressive +96.9 framing runs, which would vault him into 2nd among post-integration catchers in career WAR. Of course, this ignores the fact that framing stats didn't exist for other legends as well. Gary Carter's framing scored excellently in the twilight of his career, so can you imagine what he would have been during his prime? Yogi Berra has no data on him at all, but let's just break him down a little: a lot of anecdotal evidence suggests that Berra handled pitching staffs excellently. He happened to be the primary catcher for a team that owned a timeshare in the World Series, the catcher for the team that maintained the league's best ERA from 1948-1961, a stretch in which Berra caught 134 games per season. We'll never know for sure, but there's plenty of reason to think that Berra was an elite pitch framer. So, Piazza wasn't the only underrated catcher, but that's the point. 

There are so many facets to the sport that everything won't be quantified in the moment, especially from a historical perspective. For catchers, this is especially true. Pitch framing was an unidentified talent that even MLB front offices*** ignored until very recently. With the advent of these new metrics, one has to wonder the next frontier to be conquered. We have noisy statistics like rCERA* that are a sort of on/off for catchers that can at least give us an insight into which catchers' true value isn't being captured. However, like on/off in the NBA,  noise is not the only issue. Playing time is not random; managers decide when catcher will play, and that creates bias issues that are not automatically solved with large samples. Still, we can look at the top 3 by this measure: Yadier Molina, Jeff Mathis, and Salvador Perez, and gain some insight. Molina is probably the best defensive catcher of all time, at least on par with Yogi Berra. Jeff Mathis is famous for his ability to work with pitching staffs. Perez is a 5 time gold glover, and it's not like he was winning those awards because the voters were pouring over his rCERA: that's an independent correlation. Of course, Perez is infamous for his destitute framing ability, and is one of the most polarizing players in the league today. A guy known for his excellent leadership, ability to control the run game, and being a literal backstop right behind the plate, it wouldn't be surprising for him to rank highly in this sort of all encompassing metric. However, I would hesitate to excuse his poor framing with this metric; it's just too uncertain. One thing we do know: Perez' only real backup in his healthy seasons was Drew Butera. Drew Butera sucks. 

*I want to establish that I do not know whether or not rCERA is used to explain the difference between DRS and on/off, or is its own standalone stat. The former would make a lot more sense, but would be more difficult to conceive. It might explain why Perez ranks so highly and Jonathan Lucroy**, a framing god, so poorly. I don't know. There isn't enough proper explanation on the internet.

**Another explanation for Lucroy. During his framing heyday of 2010-2014, his main backup was Martin Maldonado, an excellent defensive catcher. Maldonado was +3 and Lucroy was -7. Guys like Gregg Zaun, a good defender, and this other guy that I forgot, a DH masquerading at catcher, didn't make much noise in that department. Ultimately, the team's rCERA didn't add up to 0 in that stretch. I don't understand this stat. If someone finds an in-depth explanation of this metric, please send it to me at gadarod12@gmail.com. It's intuitive enough, but the important specifics are lacking. 

***MLB front offices discovering pitch framing, among other things, has been a disaster for the human race. Stop giving pitchers the upper hand, and stop making batters (rightfully) compensate by trading strikeouts for power. And stop letting teams carry any number of pitchers on the roster that allows them to do "bullpen games". Stop letting pitchers throw to first base whenever they damn please. And don't listen to any of the pricks in the MLBPA(I'm not anti-players, just a little annoyed in some specific scenarios) who think that, despite that apparent uptick in injuries that is clearly due to pitchers throwing as hard as they possibly can for their weekly inning, limiting this nonsense will increase injury risk. 

Rickey Henderson

I'm not going to actually write why I think this at the moment, I just don't want to forget. This is an opportunity for you to figure out what makes Rickey Henderson underrated before I explain it. Assuming the 10 people who somehow find this blog care enough to read this far. 

Connor Norby

 Legitimately great hitting and discipline ability. Fringy 2nd base defender but can still play there. I'd give him at least a 45+, soon to be 50 if he continues to progress this year. 

Andrew Vasquez

 This guy is interesting. The Dodgers traded for him in 2021 after he had some very nice AAA production with the Twins. He did well in the Dodgers minor league system as well in 6 innings, but only pitched 2 innings in the major leagues. Go back and watch those two innings. His a lefty that throws this incredible curveball basically every pitch, while rarely mixing in some 91 MPH sinker/cutter looking pitch. Giants hitters looked absolutely flabbergasted by that curveball. The Dodgers non tendered him in November, which makes me wonder what was wrong with him. They clearly liked him enough to give him a shot in the MLB but proceeded to only give him a cup of coffee, and despite the fact that he drank that cup of coffee very well, he still didn't impress them enough to stick around. Maybe they think no one else will try to sign him and they could get him back on a minor league deal, but I'm hoping that someone does pick him up because I don't want the Dodgers to have their cake and eat it. 

Throwaway comps for top prospects

I'm just documenting some of my thoughts on top prospects by comparing them to past MLB players.

Adley Rutschman:Matt Wieters

They are both switch hitting Oriole catchers who were top prospects. Adley is all but a lock to have a better career than Wieters, and is a better prospect than Wieters was, but they are generally similar players from my knowledge. People probably don't realize that Wieters had a 5.7 fWAR season at age 25 and a 4.5 fWAR season at age 26 before injuries consumed him whole. One of the more impressive things about the 2014 Orioles, who won 96 games, is that they were missing Manny Machado and Matt Wieters, their best player and still one of their better guys, for most of the year. Adley should hopefully hit for more power than Wieters and stay healthier.

CJ Abrams:Carl Crawford

They are both uber athletic left handed hitters with tremendous contact skills and a game based around speed. Abrams is currently a middle infielder, but it seems like he will trend to the outfield given the Padres middle infield situation. I do not know of Carl Crawford was ever a middle infielder, but B.J. Upton was, so that's a transitive similarity. AJ Preller would be ecstatic if Abrams became the caliber of player that Crawford was, but it's definitely not the most unlikely outcome. 

Elijah Green:somewhere between Keon Broxton and B.J. Upton, maybe a ceiling of Byron Buxton

My mentioning of Upton reminded me of Elijah Green, one of the top prospects in this year's draft. He has top tier raw power and athleticism, but there are a lot of question marks about his hitting. Keon Broxton was actually not that bad of a player for a bit, due to his defense and power output, but his poor discipline and bat to ball skills prevented him from being a good everyday player. B.J. Upton was a very good player for a while, and similar to Broxton, he possessed strong center field defense with good home run power. A key difference between the two was Upton's well above average plate discipline, which allowed him to produce at a high level. Byron Buxton doesn't have the track record of Upton, as his story is yet to be told, but that's probably a good idea of the ceiling of a super toolsy center field prospect like Elijah Green. Keep in mind that Buxton does have exceptional bat to ball skills that Green currently lacks, but he also doesn't have the discipline that Upton has. Buxton is one of the better players in the MLB in my opinion, and the Twins extended him for a lot of money. Buxton's main issue has been health, but he wasn't a perceivable superstar level player until his power breakout in the middle of 2020's shortened season. Buxton's home run barrage from August 6th of 2020 onward was quite the spectacle in real time, and he continued that into 2021 with something like an 1100 OPS in the first month before getting hurt in early May. He "only" had like an 890 OPS after the injury, and ended the year with a 171 OPS+ and 4.5 WAR in 60 games. This has gone off of a little bit of a tangent but I really like Byron Buxton. 

Julio Rodriguez:George Springer

Springer was never a good defensive center fielder, but he still possessed the combination of fielding ability and athleticism to man the position. This seems to ring true for Rodriguez; it seems like he is destined for being an above average defender in a corner outfield spot, which is the equivalent of a below average center fielder. The comparisons here obviously don't stop at the defense. Springer and Rodriguez both have powerful righty bats that represent a quietly dangerous onslaught of offensive production.  Springer had questionable hitting abilities as a prospect but massively improved on them in his big league career, while JRod seems to already have a well rounded game at the plate. I just see two very well rounded hitters and I think a Springer comp, while very lofty, is completely reasonable for a stud prospect like Julio.

David Hamilton:Kolten Wong

Hamilton is regarded as an elite defensive prospect, and whatever numbers ZiPS uses to project defense would indicate an even stronger profile, as the system has him penciled in for 12.3 defensive runs in 104 games. Given Wong's gold glove history playing the middle infield, there is a quick connection to make. Obviously, there are plenty of good middle infield defenders, so why Kolten Wong? They're both lefties with swings that resemble each other. Wong has transformed himself into an exceptionally disciplined hitter, and Hamilton's carrying offensive skill is his willingness/ability to take walks.  Hamilton's issue is his complete lack of power, something that Wong has struggled with to a lesser degree. Wong beats him in the more vague "hitting" area, which is the most important part of a player's ability and the reason that prospects are so hard to project. If David Hamilton comes close to Kolten Wong's abilities on offense, he will be an exceptional player for the Red Sox, and there's a reason that he isn't considered one of the better prospects in baseball. However, they share undeniable similarities. Wong is also a good baserunner, although Hamilton might actually be better.

I'll update this document with more comps as I think of them. 

Felix Valerio

 If you give his video a cursory look, you will think "hey, this guy is kind of like Jose Altuve", and he is. However, it would be irresponsible to be high on a sleeper prospect because he has a similar playstyle to former sleeper prospect who became one of the best players of his time. But no matter how you look at it, Valerio has performed exceptionally well at every level at a very young age, and it is genuinely uncanny how similar his playstyle and statistical profile is to Jose Altuve's. If he was a guarantee to be as good as Jose Altuve, he would be a 75 FV prospect, and that is ridiculous, but I don't think it would be too crazy to put him in the 45+ FV tier, as opposed to a 45 (which is what FanGraphs' Eric Longenhagen has him at), with a potential to breakout this year. One difference between him and Altuve is that he isn't perceived as a blazing runner, and a lot of Altuve's early career success was due to his top end speed. However, I haven't spent the time to look up how Altuve's speed was perceived a prospect. Scouting reports often don't reflect how guys are once they reach the MLB, so maybe midgets like Valerio and Altuve get underrated in that regard. 

Scott Effross

 Scott is a reliever for the Cubs. He is around 27 years old, he throws right handed with some sidearm action, and he is seemingly pretty good. From what I have seen of him pitching, he gets a lot of whiffs on seemingly mediocre stuff. His delivery has a lot of deception and his command is pretty good, albeit a bit inconsistent. Off the top of my head, he struck out like 11 batters per nine while walking under 1 batter per nine in a small major league stint of like 15 innings. That probably won't be sustained, but it definitely inspires confidence. His minor league performance was also solid and adds a little confirmation to his big league dominance. 

For whatever reason, he doesn't have much in terms of a scouting report on him. He shouldn't exactly be seen as Neftali Feliz, but I'm surprised he didn't even get the 35+ FV tag on FanGraphs. His age and apparently underwhelming stuff on the surface probably didn't draw the eye of any scouts, but it's surprising that even after a strong MLB debut he didn't even make the list. Regardless, I have a lot of confidence that he is a better than league average ERA pitcher as a reliever. 

If I were to list some of his flaws (reasons for regression here), I have a couple in mind. His command is good, but he straight up misses on a lot of pitches and that is not a great sign. He definitely relies a lot on deception, so hitters/team scouts should be able to figure him out even if he has maybe a strong season or two. His short-term outlook should be fantastic, but it's possible that he will be a flash in the pan. It's also possible that he is just genuinely good and will be a nice reliever for the Cubs as they try to get back into contention. 

Geraldo Perdomo

 This guy has been a prospect for a while, and let me tell you that he is underrated. Let's establish that he is a plus defensive shortstop, making him a very valuable defensive asset. His weakness is his power. He is a lot weaker than he should be, but it seems to be consensus that he could possibly improve his strength and subsequently his power. If he does, he will be a legitimate superstar. If not, he still has a shot to be a genuinely great player.

His discipline is fantastic. He reportedly had a swing change in the middle of 2021 that correlated with a minor league breakout that made its way into the majors near the end of September. After watching his at bats in the majors in April and September of this year, he looks like he figured a lot out. He had like a 988 OPS in the 7ish games he played in Sep/Oct against the Giants, Dodgers, and Rockies. Not exactly a massive sample, and he obviously is not quite as good as a 988 OPS, but that strong performance doesn't hurt his outlook. He seems notably likely to become an above league average hitter. I'm not putting too much effort into this, but if you're reading this, then go read some actual scouting reports on him and keep everything I said in mind while researching him.

Jhonathan Diaz

 *brief content warning*

From a very quick examination and viewing of Angels pitcher Jhonathan Diaz, I like what I see. His a 25 year old lefty who pitched towards the end of 2021. He wasn't particularly impressive at the major league level from a peripheral level, striking out too few and walking too many hitters. However, he could have some good potential.

His raw stuff isn't great, but I really like his command. He dots the corners with his changeup very frequently. He throws his changeup so much that he often does make mistakes with it, but the overall package is great. It didn't seem like he liked his fastball very much. As a prospect, he is known for a great sweeping slider and I agree with that assessment. He performed very well in AA/AAA in 2021. FanGraphs only has him as a 35+ FV prospect but I would at least pencil him in for a 40 FV if not 40+. His ceiling might be underrated because he isn't a great power pitcher. 

Thoughts on Babe Ruth

 George Herman Ruth, known colloquially as Babe Ruth, is considered by many to be the greatest baseball player of all time. He was the original home run hitter, breaking the single season home run record 4 separate times in his career. 

While he is statistically the most productive hitter of all time, there are some things to consider. For one, in the 1920s, African Americans were not allowed to play in the MLB. Naturally, this shrunk the talent pool. With fewer players getting the opportunity to compete for playing time in the league, the overall talent level of the league would decrease. This means that Ruth's era adjusted metrics, which compare him to the league average player at the time, were comparing him to a lesser league average player than that in later years. His 197 wRC+, while still impressive, isn't nearly as shiny.

Babe Ruth also enjoyed another distinct advantage that he wouldn't benefit from today: the knowledge that home runs are good. Ruth put up home run totals that would be insane even today. In the 1920s, however, they were otherworldly. As I said earlier, he broke the single season home run record 4 separate times. The first time he broke it was in 1919 with the Red Sox, slugging just 29 home runs.  29 home runs in the modern MLB might not even net you a top 10 MVP vote. The year before, he lead the league with 11 home runs, although that didn't break any records.  He followed that league leading stretch with a 54 home run season, and then a 59 home run season in 1921. These days, he would no longer had the strategic advantage that he held today. 

I do not buy into the idea that athletes today are greek gods compared to athletes of the past. The notion that humans have evolved significantly over just a couple generations is strange to me. One advantage athletes of today do have over athletes of the past is information. Information has a big impact on performance, but it just isn't something that is inherent to the athlete themselves. Here is a relevant example:

Pitchers in the 1920s pitched complete games with regularity. This mean that one individual pitcher had to alter his game in order to consistently get through all 9 innings. An obvious downfall of this strategy is that pitchers will get tired, batters will get familiar with them, and chaos will ensue. People running baseball teams have realized how detrimental it can be to keep a pitcher in just for the sake of it. You will still see workhorses like Zack Wheeler pitching some complete games, because he is good enough to do so on occasion, but that is an exception to the rule. I personally don't love the death of superstar inning eating starting pitchers. Unfortunately, that is not a part of the game that can be fixed with a reasonable rule change, and the fact of the matter is that managing pitchers' workloads is very much the right strategy. This strategy suppresses offensive output, and the lack thereof would make it easier to hit.

While it is true that pitchers today are more difficult to hit than the hurlers of yore, I heavily disagree with the claim that Babe Ruth wouldn't hit today's pitching. Granted, he would certainly have an adjustment period, but he would figure things out eventually. It's not like he didn't face hard throwers in his day. He absolutely shredded Walter Johnson, who was estimated to have thrown in the mid to high 90s. Mid to high 90s back then was even more impressive given the fact that pitchers were putting more effort into their control. Again, it's not like Ruth held his own against the great Walter Johnson. He dominated him, as if he were just another pitcher. Adam Ottavino would strike out Babe Ruth the first time he sees him. Give Ruth a couple months to acclimate to modern pitching, and he would be back to dominating. He probably wouldn't produce at a rate double the league average, but he would still be one of the best hitters in baseball.

If I were to compare Babe Ruth to any modern player, it would be Joey Gallo. Gallo, like Ruth, is a guy who tries to have the best possible approach at all times. Since Ruth became a full time hitter, only 13 hitters with over 2000 plate appearances have a higher era adjusted strikeout rate. Ruth struck out 90% more than the average hitter. The only guys ahead of him that I recognized were Dave Kingman, Bo Jackson, and Hack Wilson. Gallo, who is often associated with being a strikeout machine, only struck out 67% more than the league average hitter. Some might question using such a method to compare hitters over eras, but I'm using it for the sake of simplicity. Babe struck out so much because he was aiming for the fences. Maybe he was just an egomaniac who wanted to statpad his home runs, or maybe he knew what he was doing was the optimal strategic approach. Either way, Ruth and Gallo have a lot of similarities. Insane home run power, incredibly high strikeout rate, and an approach that emphasizes them both. Babe was a better "pure hitter" than Gallo, at least in terms of just getting hits, and that's about it in terms of big differences. Gallo is a more physically appealing athlete, although Ruth wouldn't do terribly in that department if he weren't such a pleasure seeking fellow. 

Interesting fact: Babe Ruth put up 80 outfield defensive runs in his career, per some very accurate defensive metrics. This includes a 19 run season in 1923.

Watch out for Evan Carter

 This will be brief. It was generally believed that the Rangers reached when the drafted Carter in the second round in 2020, but at this point it seems like the Rangers made a great move. Carter showed incredible discipline in A ball, walking 23% of the time. He is very "projectable" in terms of his power because of how long he is, and given his great actual hitting tools, we might be looking at a guy with an incredibly high ceiling. The Rangers might have a bright future if they play their cards right. 

Brayan Rocchio

The Cleveland Guardians have a very promising farm system, and Brayan Rocchio might be their best prospect.

I have watched him play a good amount, and I have a few things to say. There is little reason to doubt his 70 fielding grade from FanGraphs, as his defense is tremendously smooth. His main knock is his power, but I don't think it's much of a concern. Obviously it would be nicer if he had power, but he has the ability to drive the ball, which is what matters. The power will come as he develops. His batting stance is very similar to Francisco Lindor, although he obviously lacks Lindor's exceptional raw power.

Speaking of Francisco Lindor, he might be severely underrated at this point. The dude had the second best start to a career for a shortstop behind ARod. Noisy defensive metrics have masked his defensive excellence, not because they underrate him, but because outlier DRS totals for other defenders overshadow Lindor's consistent dominance. Statcast had him at like +15 runs at shortstop this year, and that isn't a fluke, at least not a big one. +15 runs at shortstop makes him like a +23 runs on defense, meaning that he was around a 4.5 WAR guy in 2021 in just 125 games. This is coming in a major down offensive season in which he was extraordinarily unlucky. Since Statcast started tracking defensive output, Lindor has thrown up +77 runs at shortstop, which comes out to around 14 runs per 150 games. Some regression is due even with the large sample, but I would say with some confidence that Lindor ranges from +7ish to +13 in terms of true talent at short. Throw in the shortstop positional adjustment and his true value at short should range from 15 to 21 runs. Using his conservative Steamer offensive projection, that would make him around a 5.5 WAR player. I also think Steamer is underrating his offensive capabilities.

Anyways, let's talk about Rocchio. He is a switch hitter like Lindor and attacks the ball similarly. He is nicknamed "the professor" because of how smart he is. His "feel for contact" is a great sign and he might be able to convince Guardians fans to forget Lindor. At just age 20, he threw up a 135 wRC+ in 203 plate appearances at the AA level. FanGraphs isn't loading properly but this is something that only a select few shortstops have accomplished, like Javier Baez, Corey Seager, and Carlos Correa. Those guys did much better than a 135, but I didn't put too much thought into this segment. 

Point is, Rocchio is a plus "hitter" (which is what really matters as a prospect) with elite shortstop defense and a great baseball IQ. He has a very high floor and ceiling, and should be one of the top prospects entering 2022. I'm not sure if he will be, since FanGraphs has only done reports on the Athletics, Cubs, and Angels. 

Edit: speaking of Francisco Lindor, I was looking through some old scouting reports and I noticed that, while he was the best prospect in the Indians system, the scouts weren't particularly high on his power. The lines between Rocchio and Lindor are blurred. It's not likely that Rocchio comes close to what Lindor has accomplished/will accomplish, but there are a lot of very direct similarities. 

Miguel Sano should never touch a first base glove ever again

Not going to get too in depth with actual data here, but I'll start with something.

Miguel Sano is projected to be at -14 defensive runs at first base in 2022. To be clear, I'm not talking about positionally adjusted defensive value. I'm talking about defensive runs specifically at first base. After positionally adjusting, we get a crisp -27 defensive runs for Sano in 2022. His offense would have to be tremendous in order to justify playing time. He's not a terrible hitter; he is pretty good, but not nearly enough to be a good everyday starter. That is unless, of course, we think outside the box.

One positive in Sano's game is his cannon of an arm. The behemoth of a ballplayer can sling it. The 6'4", 280 pound man is also not notably slow; his speed is below the league average for sure, but he's not Albert Pujols. The question is: can the guy play right field? The short answer is not really. He certainly wouldn't be a good defender in right. The real question needs to be: is Sano's value maximized playing a corner outfield position?

Miguel Sano has played 312 innings in his career in right field, and they came in 2016. He didn't exactly impress. A -6.7 UZR/150 indicates that he would be around -14 on defense, which is a massive boost as compared to his abysmal time spent at first. Just for reference, his -17.9 career UZR/150 at first is even worse than his projected total of -14. It's worth noting that Sano was 23 when he played in right, and was much faster than he is now (well above league average, actually. The dude used to be a shortstop. Absolutely insane.) Sano would probably be a lot worse today, but the samplesize is also ridiculously small, so I wouldn't necessarily count him out in right field.

You might be wondering: "Why not put him at DH?". This is a great question. He definitely should play DH. Unless he has some untapped potential in right field, DH is a perfect spot for him. There is no reason to make him worry about fielding; just let him hit. However, if there ever is a scenario in which he does need to play the field, it should not be first base. I cannot understate just how atrocious he is at first base. Psychologically, it might make sense to put the big lumbering power bat at first. This does make sense if he is an unknown quantity. Usually, when a player moves down the defensive spectrum, he improves (or at least holds his own, because moving down the defensive spectrum implies regression. Regardless, players should do better at easier positions.) This is not the case for Sano. Sano cannot handle first base, and would be better off playing a more conventionally difficult position. This would allow the Twins, or any team employing Sano, to get a conventional first baseman that can hit as well as Sano while also not being a liability out there. Those types of players are relatively inexpensive due to the surplus of good hitters that are not athletic enough to play the rest of the field effectively. Just look at how CJ Cron has been paid over the years. 

This applies to a few other guys. Josh Bell is another main example, since he is just a less exaggerated version of Sano from a value perspective. Bell has been considerably more atrocious in the corner outfield than Sano has, so Bell's value is probably best maximized as a DH. Then you have a guy like Bobby Dalbec, who is a potentially skilled defender that just hasn't gotten acclimated to the first base position. As a natural third baseman with fantastic athleticism, it might make sense for the Red Sox to get Dalbec off of first. They could try Rafael Devers at first, since he doesn't exactly handle the hot corner very well. They could also just trade Dalbec to a team that doesn't have a third baseman, maximizing value for both sides. 

The point of this post was to demonstrate the opportunity cost of having an awful defensive first baseman. There is a reason that the DH position exists, but there might be other alternatives as well in the case of an emergency. Just refer to the title.

Late 2000s Underrated MLB Team

 C: Russell Martin

1B: Kevin Youkilis

2B: Chase Utley

3B: Chone Figgins 

SS: J.J. Hardy

LF: Nick Swisher

CF: B.J. Upton

RF: J.D. Drew

DH: Jim Thome

I had this list typed up for a while and I didn't plan to publish it. I mainly went on blogspot because it saves my work and works as a nice document to type on. That said, I will type my thoughts on each of these players. Very little research was done (at least for this piece), so don't get really upset if I get something wrong. 

Russell Martin was a very underrated player, as you might already know. He was a very solid hitter at the catcher position, although that's not what he was known for. It was his top tier pitch framing that made him an immensely valuable asset. If your standards for HOF heavily rely on the idea of value in terms of winning games, then you should probably consider Martin for the hall. He was just that good. 

Kevin Youkilis, known colloquially as the greek god of walks, was a tremendous player for the Red Sox. He could play both first and third, playing third when Adrian Gonzalez was traded to Boston in 2011. Billy Beane and Paul Depodesta of Moneyball fame loved this guy as a prospect. They were almost able to get him in a trade for next to nothing, but young Red Sox GM Theo Epstein knew what they were up to and put a quick end to that idea. He tore up the majors for a while with his incredible plate discipline and strange batting stance, and was a massive fan favorite for his intensity at the plate.

I wrote a very in depth article about how Chase Utley was one of the best players in MLB history, and you can check it out in the sports section. Long story short, he was awesome.

Chone Figgins, from my memory, was an incredible baserunner and solid hitter. His production for the Angels was truly dynamic, although he slowed down after signing a large contract with the Mariners. "Chone Figgins" is also a badass name. 

J.J. Hardy was a tremendous defensive player who saw a late career power breakout. He couldn't hit very well overall, but his home run power at a premium position allowed him to be a great asset for the Brewers and Orioles. I remember he and Troy Tulowitzki being at the top of the home run leaderboard in 2011, and thinking "wow, this guy isn't as good as Tulo, but he is quite good." His 2011 season was definitely not a perfect indication of his true talent but regardless he was a really good player.

I don't know if Swisher was actually that underrated, but he was pretty awesome. He was another guy that Billy Beane loved, but this time it was in the draft. Billy thought he should have been the first overall pick, and was elated to be able to draft him in the middle of the first round. It's interesting that he thought that, because he was completely right. Swisher wasn't some raw power, elite defensive athletic freak that had the "potential" to be as good as Ken Griffey Jr. He was just a great hitter who had a very high chance of being a well above average major league player. People tend to not pencil in those types of guys as first overall picks, no matter how good they are, so it's impressive that Beane managed to do so. 

B.J. Upton was almost certainly not underrated, but I am still including him. He was well known due to his role on a very successful Tampa Bay team. His hitting skill left a lot to be desired, but he had tremendous power and was a great defender in center field. I'm not sure if he goes by Melvin or BJ at this point, but either way, he was a really fun player that I recognize from my childhood. 

J.D. Drew was actually very underrated. For whatever reason, Red Sox fans hated him. He signed a pretty large contract because he was really good. Bill Simmons claimed that he wasn't "clutch" for some reason. This is ironic because Drew ended up tossing out a multitude of clutch hits, including but not limited to his grand slam against the Indians (yes, they were the Indians at the point. Now the Guardians.) in the 2007 ALCS, his walk off ground-rule double against the Rays in game 5 of the 2008 ALCS, and his go ahead 2 run shot vs the Angels in the 2008 ALDS. He was an exceptional player that, I guess, made the game look too effortless and rubbed fans the wrong way.

Jim Thome was just a god tier hitter. No matter the age, no matter where he went, he just hit a lot of homers. The dude posted a 177 wRC+ in 340 PAs at the age of 39, without the assistance of a comically good BABIP. 612 homers, apparently. I vaguely knew both of those stats but I searched them up to verify. Thome was on that Indians team of the 1990s that contained an onslaught of top hitters. Imagine just being a pitcher and having to face Jim Thome, Roberto Alomar, Manny Ramirez, and some other dudes that I'm forgetting. Don't forget that one of their mediocre hitters, Omar Vizquel, was an exceptional defender. It's a shame that that core never won anything. More on Omar Vizquel: sexual misconduct aside, I feel like a lot of people misjudge him (as a player, to be perfectly clear). Obviously there are the people who genuinely think he is a Hall of Fame caliber player, which I find to be a bit of a stretch. On the other hand, there are copious amounts of people that believe that he just wasn't a good player. That population has a very low median age, probably a bit lower than where I'm currently at. Vizquel was not a good hitter relative to the league average, but this was a time when all of the best hitter+athlete combos weren't shoved at short. Shortstop is a difficult position, and while the league average shortstop these days produces somewhat well at the plate, this wasn't always the case. The replacement level for shortstop is the same as its always been, but people might not understand just how good the modern generation of shortstops is. The dominance for Hanley and Tulo was not a normal thing at the time. Then, all of a sudden, we saw Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story, Corey Seager, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts come out of the clouds at once. On top of that, possibly the best shortstop of all time Fernando Tatis Jr. spawned just a bit later. Then Wander Franco comes along to make things look even crazier. Notice how I haven't even mentioned guys like Tim Anderson and Bo Bichette. The point is, major league talent has moved towards playing the shortstop position, and people don't realize just how good these players are. When they underrate these players, and they compare past shortstops to these players, they tend to believe that the Vizquels of the world were actually just random bums who are overrated by old people. 

  One reason that Derek Jeter is so highly regarded is that it was once uncommon for a shortstop to be so good offensively. The league average shortstop in Vizquel's time put up around an 80 wRC+. These days, it is near 100. This is not because shortstop has become an easier position defensively, it is because teams are putting their most talented baseball players at shortstop. Anyways, Vizquel was a well above average player in his time. That was a long rant about in support of a player that I do not care for. 

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 know who Chase Utley is. "Longtime 2nd baseman for the Phillies", "a really good player", and "the guy who killed Ruben Tejada" could all be phrases people use to describe this guy. At his best, Utley was a very well known player. His popularity expanded within Philly fandom such that Mac from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia wrote a letter professing his love to him. Phillies fans know just how good he was, and they love him for it. Mets fans, on the other hand, are not so fond of him.

I've always gotten the sense that Utley is perceived as a really good, but not great, fan favorite type of player. A "you hate to play against, but love to have him on your team" type guy. This reputation massively undersells just how fucking good Chase Utley was.  Chase Utley is not just a good player. He is not just a great player. Chase Utley is a hall of famer. Scratch that: Chase Utley is one of the best players of all time.

This claim might seem a little absurd, but you just have to hear me out. Let's start with some pretty basic numbers. In his career, he slashed a very respectable 275/358/465. That comes out to a 118 wRC+. He hit 259 home runs, stole 154 bases, whatever. All of this screams "good player", but that's obviously not my claim. Everyone knows that Utley was a good baseball player. Since I am not just arguing that he was a good player, I need to try a bit harder. 

Thanks in large part to his +76.2 estimated baserunning runs and +117.2 estimated defensive runs, Utley ranks 68th in fWAR among all position players since integration with 62.9. Notice that I am using fWAR instead of rWAR. This is because fWAR doesn't use an incredibly noisy metric for its defensive input, a metric that impressively manages to simultaneously overfit and be less descriptive. My point is that I'm not out here arguing that Andrelton Simmons is a hall of famer. If you really want to know, Utley actually had a higher career rWAR than fWAR (64.5>62.9). While I do not care very much, at least you can sleep soundly at night knowing that I didn't cherrypick Chase Utley's career WAR total. 

Anyways, a 62.9 career WAR total is quite impressive. Around 60 WAR seems to be a general benchmark for fringe hall of famers, and Utley surpasses it. He is just behind deserving hall of famers Roberto Alomar (63.6), Duke Snider (63.5), Ernie Banks (63.3), etc. and is ahead of guys like Andre Dawson (59.5), Ichiro Suzuki (57.8, although this doesn't really do him justice, but a bit more on that later), and Vladimir Guerrero Sr. (54.5). Just in terms of runs produced above a theoretical freely available player, Utley is a pretty clear cut Hall of Famer. However, as I started explaining earlier, I think I can do much better than just citing his career WAR next to other hall of famers. Before I do that, however, some things need to be clarified.

A lot of people will respond to that most recent WAR argument by saying "WAR isn't everything." In some cases, that is a true statement. If you want to evaluate the current best players in baseball, simply pulling up the previous season's WAR leaderboard would be a mistake. There are a lot of reasons why this would be a mistake, but they all boil down to "small sample size." However, if you assume that a player's WAR represents the true WAR that he would post after a functionally infinite amount of simulations, then WAR quite literally is everything. Imagine this scenario. You're heading into the 2022 season, and you have to pick between two shortstops. One shortstop is guaranteed to produce 8 wins above replacement over 150 games. One shortstop is guaranteed to produce 6 wins above replacement 150 games. You take the one who produces 8 wins above replacement 100% of the time, no matter how he gets to those 8 wins, because winning is the goal. 

WAR, as calculated for baseball, is an amalgamation of estimated batting, fielding, and baserunning runs. FanGraphs and Baseball reference calculate batting and baserunning very similarly, and for the most part it is pretty easy to represent how a player produced in the past on that side of the ball. Defense is a whole different animal, and we are still a pretty long ways away from really getting a measure of "true production" for fielders. Unlike hitting, you cannot attribute a play to a defender based purely on the box score result, so there is a lot of gray area. When Juan Soto hits a single, you would know; it would be a lot more difficult to determine whether or not he prevented one in the field. Tracking data can only go so far, and can only measure value so much. Because of this, it is always important to take advanced defensive metrics with a grain of salt, and it is probably best to assume that the most conservative output is also the most accurate. 

 Offensive output is still imperfect as well. A good example is Ichiro, who, in his prime, produced around 1 more win per season than he "should" have, as measured by win probability added.  Win probability added is an almost perfect estimator of past production, but the issue lies in the significant variance that comes with it. In terms of win probability, players that overperform their "peripherals" (WPA neutralized for the leverage) one year do not tend to replicate their overperforming in the following season. If a player was expected to put up 0 WPA (league average) based on his counting stats, but he put up 2 WPA, you would still expect him to put up 0 WPA the next season. 

However, given Ichiro's unique playstyle and the large sample that he overperformed in, it would probably be fair to say that a stat like wRC+(or any stat that composites hits, walks, home runs, etc.) has a somewhat significant bias against him. Ichiro is an outlier in this regard, but there are probably less extreme cases in which wRC+/wOBA slightly misrepresent a player's true ability. Baserunning is also imperfect, as it, like fielding, doesn't have as much information to draw from. A ball being ever so slightly misplayed by a fielder could be the difference between scoring and getting thrown out, resulting in a different BsR on plays in which the baserunner made an equally "good" play. Baserunning production estimators probably are more accurate than defense estimators, but the point is that there remains a lot of gray area. 

None of that really matters to my actual point. WAR, in its purest form, is an all-encompassing stat that literally is "everything" and should be treated as such. When playing time differs (like a starting pitcher vs reliever) then this would not necessarily be the case, but in this context it is. All else equal, a player who produced an average of 7.5 WAR per season is objectively better than a player that produced an average of 7 WAR per season, because more wins are better. "All else equal" doesn't just apply to my point about playing time/player roles; there is also the matter of sample size in terms of evaluation.

The reality of baseball is that players' "true talents" do not fluctuate nearly as much as people want to think. It would be fair to assume that Christian Yelich was a better baseball player in 2018-2019 with the Brewers than he was with the Marlins, but not by nearly as much as his production would indicate. Production is very unstable, but true talent isn't. When someone points to a player's best statistical season as their "peak", they are actually subconsciously doing some subtle cherry picking. Players do change, mainly via aging (both ways) and injuries, but for the most part they stay the around the same. 

It's not impossible for players to improve on their game later in their career to the point that they are noticeably more productive. Marcus Semien is definitely a better player now than he was in 2016; same goes for Gerrit Cole. Barry Bonds was a much better player after he started eating healthier. I already mentioned Christian Yelich. It's just that these cases are few and far between, and often their changes in skill are still over exaggerated. On the topic of Marcus Semien, he is definitely a guy that I would expect to still be really good heading forward, but play significantly worse than he has over the past 3 seasons. (UPDATE: the Rangers signed Marcus Semien for a lot of money after I wrote this, and that might not have been the wisest decision. Only time will tell, I guess.) With this type of thinking, we can identify which players were truly better than others at their best, albeit with a good amount of uncertainty. When doing so, we will realize just how good Chase Utley was.

"He's a power hitting second baseman, Dee, you know how rare that is in the National League?" Mac's line defending his enjoyment of Chase Utley is more meaningful than you might think. Utley averaged 29 home runs per 150 games from 2005-2009, and if you take a look at the leaderboards, the only players to homer more often than him were first baseman, DHs, and some corner outfielders who sucked at defense. He combined his home run power with a good walk rate, strikeout rate, and ability to convert balls in plays into hits.  This culminated in a 138 wRC+ from 2005-2009, trailing only a bunch of fat 1B/DH types and Alex Rodriguez, who was also starting to cultivate mass as well. Utley wasn't the most dangerous hitter in the game, but he was up there. He did this while simultaneously, as Mac kind of alluded to, being the best defensive 2nd baseman in the game (sorry, Nick Punto). With 2nd base being somewhat of a premium position, his defense becomes that much more valuable. Not only was Utley a top hitter and defender, but he was also one of the best baserunners in the game. His stolen base totals weren't high, but he made the best of the attempts he had. His career 88% stolen base rate might be the best all time (don't quote me on that), and doing so on decent volume allowed him to produce 39.2 more runs than expected on the basepaths in that stretch.  Utley was as well rounded as a player can be, and when you sum the parts of his game, he looks a lot more valuable than you could possibly imagine.

Just to be clear, looking at Utley's production from the 2005-2009 would be an example of cherrypicking, but the effects are minimal. Utley didn't actually get consistent playing time until 2005, and 2009 was his age 30 season, when players tend to start regressing sharply. His 2010 season was also around what you would expect from a year of aging, and that's not included in the sample. He quickly fell off after 2010, but I would attribute that almost 100% to age as opposed to natural regression to the mean. 

Mickey Mantle, Barry Bonds, Joe Morgan, Mike Trout, Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez, Ted Williams, Rickey Henderson, Stan Musial, Wade Boggs, Mike Schmidt, Albert Pujols, George Brett, Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, and Chase Utley. If you read all of those names, it would seem like I listed all of the best players post integration and then added in Chase Utley at the end for comedic effect. However, all of these guys share one thing in common: they are the only position players in MLB history (post integration) to post 5 different seasons in which they surpassed the 7 fWAR mark. Here's Chase Utley's fangraphs page in case you don't believe me. Again, these are the best players of all time. This isn't some Thaddeus Young type stat; we are looking at an all encompassing value metric and our cutoff is an integer. Having a single 7 WAR season is difficult. Doing it twice is very rare. Doing it five times? Well, as you can see, only the best have done it.

I'll backtrack a little. I must admit that this stat is clearly cherry picked, and I can prove it. Among these players, Utley ties for last in seasons surpassing that mark with 5, tied with Mantle, Morgan, Henderson, Brett, and Robinson. In said seasons, he ranks second last in WAR per season, 7.7, just ahead of Frank Robinson. It would be fair to say that Utley is the worst of these players (although peak Utley, I would argue, was better than peak Robinson), but that isn't exactly a stain on his legacy. Those are almost all of the agreed upon best players of all time, and Utley is right there with them. 

The majority of these players had fantastic longevity, and as a result had a lot more "prime" seasons to choose from. Take Frank Robinson for example. He seemed to be at his peak until around age 34, and since he debuted at age 20, his "prime" self had 15 opportunities to post a WAR over 7. Utley, on the other hand, was called up at age 24 and didn't get consistent playing time until age 26. In his first full season, he posted a 134 wRC+ and 7.2 fWAR. Not something you see every day. He then proceeded to post 5 CONSECUTIVE 7+ WAR seasons before father time caught up to him. It is theorized that the average "ager" starts to significantly worsen after they reach the age of 30, so it wouldn't be a stretch to say that what we saw from Utley in that span actually was his "true talent". Perhaps it would be prudent to include Utley's slightly worse but still fantastic age 31 season in the sample to avoid overestimating his ability. Even so, that comes out to around 7.3 WAR per season. Again, ridiculously good. Not impressed? Go and find any great player at all, look at his long term peak with respect to aging to avoid cherry picking. If you did this correctly, and didn't choose one of the guys that I already listed, then you probably found a player that was not as good as Chase Utley. 

I believe there are only 4 players in the current MLB that are currently better than Utley: Mike Trout, Fernando Tatis Jr., Juan Soto, and Ronald Acuna Jr.. Trout definitely was better, and the three guys I mentioned probably are as well (although I cannot say that with much certainty), but otherwise there just aren't many guys that truly stack up to Utley. The only other active player who was once better than Utley at his peak was Albert Pujols. Mookie Betts had an argument, and he could prove me wrong with a 2018-2020 Mookie-esque 2022 season, but his "struggles" in 2017 and 2021 would lead me to believe that he was not as good as his 2018-2020 production would indicate. Yadier Molina, Miguel Cabrera and Buster Posey come close, but they still don't cut it. That's just how good Utley was. Chase Utley wasn't some decent fan favorite. At his peak, he truly was one of the best players of all time, and he deserves more recognition. 

Pitch Framing: MLB's Biggest Market Inefficiency, or Poorly Evaluated Skill?

Back in the heyday of the Moneyball Oakland Athletics, MLB front offices ignored a very important part of hitting: the ability to draw walks. Billy Beane and the A's took full advantage, acquiring players that were not very good on the surface, but were quite adept at taking the base on balls. In doing so, they managed to get productive players in their lineup for a very low cost. All of this is well known. This was a glaring market inefficiency and has since been covered up. MLB front offices are a lot sharper now, and it is very difficult to find significant market inefficiencies by examining past production. However, there might exist an exception to this rule: pitch framing.

I find it strange that MLB teams often ignore pitch framing, because it seems like a pretty common talking point among evaluators. Modern day catchers definitely put an emphasis on framing. Take Gary Sanchez for example. Gary is one of the least skilled defensive catchers we have ever seen, but he is smart. At the cost of his reputation, he sells out his blocking ability to frame pitches, and it works. He still isn't a productive framer, but he manages to not be a liability behind the plate because of his good approach. This anecdote supports the idea that teams put pressure on their catchers to be really good pitch framers. Teams care about framing, but to what extent?

The pitch framing skill gap is not what it used to be; just a decade ago, the difference between the worst and best pitch framers was around 50 runs. 50 runs is the difference between a league average player and a first ballot hall of famer in his prime. In 2021, the difference was just 31 runs, and that's despite Salvador Perez being a very weird outlier. Most catchers who suck at pitch framing, like Ryan Doumit and Carlos Santana (yes, he played catcher), generally suck at the catcher position in general. There is no chance that Doumit or Santana would have logged so many innings at catcher if they played today. Then you have Salvador Perez, who is by all accounts an incredible defensive catcher. Perez' issue is that umpires either have a personal vendetta against the Royals pitching staff, or they just want Salvy to look bad. Despite this, Perez gets playing time at catcher because of his impressive skills outside of framing. Without these skills, he would have certainly been moved to a DH/1B role.  Anyways, the point is that catchers place more of an emphasis on pitch framing than they used to. The Ryan Doumits of the world are gone, and even just a mediocre framer like Zack Collins is now one of the worst liabilities in the sport. Teams want their catchers to lie to umpires as much as possible, but are they willing to pay money for it?

The first graph shows all free agent signings among catchers since 2019 and their projected Steamer WAR not including their projected framing runs (Steamer didn't project pitch framing before 2019, so I can't move the sample back any further). Perez's massive extension with the Royals is not included, but it would only strengthen my theory.  The second graph shows the same thing except pitch framing is including in the projected WAR. It might be hard to tell from just eyeballing the graph, but there is a stronger relationship between salary and non-framing WAR (Pearson R value of 0.86 for non framing and 0.8 for framing).

To further examine this discrepancy, we should look at how pitch framing correlates with the residual for the second graph. The residual represents the difference between the actual salary and the expected salary given a projected WAR value that factors pitch framing.

As we can see, the more you were "underpaid" by teams, the higher the likelihood that you were a good pitch framer. This is a very good indication that teams are not even considering pitch framing as a genuine skill that can be predicted using statistics. The fact that you are more likely to predict how much a player's market value when you ignore their pitch framing acumen is enough to make this claim. However, there is more information to be considered.

The previous graph showed the residual for a WAR value that factored framing; the one you see on the right is the same thing except it uses a framing-agnostic WAR projection. As we can see, there is a *very* slight upper trend. All else equal, a catcher with good framing projections will tend to get slightly more than he *should. Maybe teams do want to pay for pitch framing, but their evaluation of pitch framing wildly differs from that of the public's.

It's hard to say which reality is true, but there are two possible scenarios here. The first is that teams do not use measurable framing statistics to project value for catchers. That much is pretty self explanatory. The second is that teams do very much care about pitch framing, but the measurement methods they use wildly differ from the public data that we have. This seems a little unlikely; it would make sense that evaluation methods differ, but framing is not particularly difficult to evaluate. We have pitch by pitch data with a strike zone overlay that can very quickly determine whether or not the umpire made the correct call, and with a large sample it should be pretty easy to see which catchers are stealing strikes. However, it is possible that teams control for a lot more than just the results of the pitches, and that creates a large gap between how players are publicly and privately evaluated. It's hard to say what is going on without actually asking the people making these decisions. All we know is that someone is misevaluating catchers.

*how much he should get if you assume that pitch framing is not a real skill with any value.

The Mariners Won the Abraham Toro Trade

 Very recently, the Seattle Mariners shipped relief ace Kendall Graveman to the Houston Astros for relief pitcher Joe Smith and Abraham Toro, a young third baseman. The Mariners also sent the scuffling reliever Rafael Montero to houston. Fans were not pleased about this trade; Mariners fans, to be exact. Kendall Graveman has posted a 0.82 ERA this year, and Abraham Toro is just some bum! One of those statements is true: Kendall Graveman had, at the time of the trade, posted a 0.82 ERA. That is an unequivocal truth. However, Abraham Toro is not some bum. In fact, the Mariners made out like bandits in this trade. They got a legitimately good starting infielder for half a season of a decent reliever. 

I am mainly just writing this blogpost so that my take is timestamped for when, in a couple years, people will probably realize that it was really stupid to be upset over the Toro trade. I will admit that I am not writing this at the time of the trade, I am writing it a few days after. Toro has already homered twice in his first 6 plate appearances as a Mariner, and he already has a double tonight. At the time of the trade, Toro had something like a 90 wRC+. Playing in Minute Maid Park, a 90 wRC+ will not look nearly as appealing in terms of a triple slash line. I think he was at an OPS around 680 at the time of the trade. Even at that clip, however, this would be an easy win for the Mariners.

Kendall Graveman is a good reliever, but he is not as good as many think. A former starter for the Oakland Athletics, he signed for pennies for Seattle in 2020 and continued to struggle. A move to the bullpen was in order, and he became a reliever during the 2020 season. In 2021, he broke out. His ERA is not sustainable, but his 9.27 K/9, 2.18 BB/9, and 53.9% groundball rate is good for a 3.12 xFIP, which could be sustained. He will not actually sustain 3.1 level peripherals, as individual performance is still noisy, but in terms of what he can control, he has been around a 3.1 ERA caliber reliever this year. That is very good, but the issue is that he only has half a season remaining. One half season of a decent reliever is not worth much at all. Compare that to Abraham Toro, who has 4.5 years of control remaining on his deal, and the Mariners come out looking very nice. Before the trade, Steamer projections had projected a 104 wRC+ for Toro the rest of his age 24 season. That is not just good, that is very valuable for a guy who can player 2nd base. The reality is that Toro should be a reliable 2-3 win player even, if he doesn't reach his potential, base on his current profile. If his MLB stats are so poor, why is this the case?

Toro was the third ranked prospect in the Astros system when he graduated in 2020. He struggled a bit in the MLB, but he played sparingly. This trend continued through the start of 2021, as he was ice cold to start the year. He was sent to the minors in late April, and that is when he seemingly figured things out. He slashed 352/485/593 in the minors and walked more than he struck out, all good for a 171 wRC+. After he got called up, he posted a 104 wRC+ with the Astros in limited time. Since he has been traded, his wRC+ on the season has skyrocketed to 110 and since his dominant minor league stint, it is all the way up to 120. This is a tiny sample size; he is probably not as good as a median 120 wRC+. That would be absurd. However, his solid statistical track record in the minors, his ranking as a prospect, and his solid MLB performance post April 2021 demotion point towards a pretty solid career for Toro. The Steamer projection for him, which is all the way to a 106 wRC+, confirms that he is a very good asset. 4.5 years of an above average hitting 2nd/3rd baseman is incredibly valuable. Graveman's half season of theoretically good relief performance pales in comparison.

I do want to apologize for constantly throwing around wRC+.  It is both boring to constantly cite the same stat and potentially confusing for people who do not understand said stat. wRC+ is an all-encompassing past production hitting stat, higher is better, 100 is league average. Not much meaning outside of that. If a player has a 130 wRC+ in a season, he isn't a 130 wRC+ player, he just put up a 130 wRC+ in that specific sample. I'm just documenting my opinion on Toro. 

Reexamining the 2007 MVP Race

 As a Rockies fan, the 2007 National League MVP race was a highly controversial affair. The Phillies' shortstop, Jimmy Rollins, acquired 16 first place votes, and the Rockies' Matt Holliday raked in 11. Prince Fielder, the powerful first baseman of the Brewers, got 5. As a result, Jimmy Rollins became the 2nd straight Phillies player to win MVP after Ryan Howard won it in 2006 for some reason. Was this the right decision? Should Matt Holliday have taken it home that year, or was Rollins the right pick? Maybe someone else should have won it?

Jimmy Rollins ranked 7th in the National League in fWAR in 2007. Matt Holliday ranked 5th. Prince Fielder ranked 16th. Somehow, that trio of studs made up the top 3 of the MVP race. Of course, the voting took place back in 2007, where fWAR and general sabermetrics were not so mainstream, so the voters should get some slack. Additionally, fWAR (or just WAR in general) is probably not the way to go in regards to MVP voting. This will be the main emphasis of this article. Still, I believe it is prudent to examine a few of the players that were more statistically deserving of the award, at least relative to replacement level.

David Wright ranked first in the NL in fWAR in 2007. He had a 151 wRC+, played 160 games, and was a very good defensive third baseman. He finished 4th in voting behind the aforementioned trio of studs, so the voters kind of knew what was up. The Mets had a major collapse at the end of the 2007 season, which likely cost Wright his crack at the MVP. Is that necessarily fair? No, not necessarily. Quite unfair actually, especially after considering that the Mets collapse was more a result of their terrible pitching in those final games, as opposed to an offensive slump. Narrative-based MVP voting in baseball is a slippery slope, and it might have cost Wright a well-earned MVP. So, did David Wright deserve the MVP? Stay tuned.

Albert Pujols is arguably the greatest first baseman of all time, and while he did have an offensive down year in 2007, he was still quite deserving of the award. One thing to consider was that he had his best defensive season of an already elite defensive career that was littered with deserving gold gloves. He put up 13.1 UZR runs and 23 DRS runs (these are positionally adjusted), which is absolutely exceptional for a first baseman. He ranked 2nd in the NL in fWAR, but the Cardinals went just 78-84 and didn't even sniff the playoffs. Is that his fault? Again, obviously not. However, it can explain why he didn't get the votes, finishing just 9th in total voting.

On a per game basis, Chase Utley was the clear best player in the NL in 2007. Despite playing in just 132 games, he posted 7.7 fWAR, and he would have easily led the NL in that department had he stayed healthy. The Phillies did win their division, so that can't be used against him, but I think his lack of playing time turned away potential MVP voters. Utley finished 8th in MVP voting.

As I said earlier, WAR based on linear outcomes of batted ball results (wOBA) shouldn't necessarily be the determinant of the most valuable player award. It can be a good indicator, as it represents past production very effectively. However, the offensive stats can be improved upon, at least when purely evaluating the merits of past events. Enter Win Probability Added. It is important to note that WPA is not very stable and is not a great indicator of true talent, but it is a very objective measure of how much a specific player added to their team's likelihood of winning a given ballgame. WPA takes the expected winning percentage of the team before and after the player's at bat. It is a pure offensive metric. I think it needs to be heavily considered when voting for MVP.

In 2007, the WPA leader in the national league was Prince Fielder. That might explain the 5 first place votes he got. I do not believe that those 5 voters really dove into the WPA numbers, but they were around the game, and they probably saw what Fielder was doing on a nightly basis. Did Fielder deserve MVP? Well, I don't think so. WPA is a pure hitting stat, and it does not include defense or base running. He was a terrible defensive first baseman and a not good baserunner. When adjusting his WPA for those failures, he falls out of the first place running. Albert Pujols ranks 2nd in WPA, and he was an elite defender. The other usual suspects, Holliday, Wright, Utley, and Rollins rank 5th, 8th, 10th, and 14th respectively. Holliday was a mid defender with unremarkable baserunning, so it's hard to put him over Pujols, at least not yet. David Wright was not as good at defense as Pujols, but he makes up for the differential with their pretty significant baserunning gap (6.4 BsR for Wright, -4.9 for Pujols. Almost a full win difference.) Utley was an elite defender, similar to Pujols, but he wasn't close enough offensively to justify getting the award. It seems like the award should come down to Wright and Pujols, and I think Pujols has the slight edge. Don't leave yet, there is a lot more to come.

What if I am still looking at this all wrong? How valuable is a player that is dominating opponents on a nightly basis, but doing so for a team with no shot to win it all? What is he actually contributing? After all, all he is doing is hurting his team's draft position for the next season. That's where cWPA comes in. cWPA, or championship WPA, takes a player's WPA and weights it depending on how much the game will affect his team's chances of taking home the World Championship. It gets a lot more extreme in the playoffs, but examining the metric for the regular season is still an interesting endeavor. When we look at the cWPA leaders in the NL in 2007, a new candidate emerges: Padres first baseman, Adrian Gonzalez. Adrian Gonzalez, while a great player for his career, wasn't that special in 2007. While solid, a 123 wRC+ for a bad defensive first baseman is just not MVP material. However, he singlehandedly improved his team's chances of winning the World Series by 8.8% during the regular season. Why is that the case?

On September 21st of 2007, the San Diego Padres were 85-67, sitting in comfortable position for, at the very least, a wild card appearance. A big series against the Colorado Rockies, who were 81-72 and putting some serious pressure on the Padres, would commence later that night. In the first game of the series, the Rockies took a 1-0 lead into the 9th inning. Leading off the inning, Adrian Gonzalez stepped into the batters box with the Padres having just a 19% chance to win. He delivered. He sent a Manny Corpas fastball into the right field seats, tying the game at 1. Despite going just 1 for 6 on the night, AGon had a 0.44% cWPA, or he increased the Padres' World Series probability by 0.44%. The home run itself must have been significantly higher, but I am unable to access the play by play cWPA. Unfortunately for AGon, but fortunately for the Rockies, the Padres didn't even win this game. They failed to score the rest of the way and Brad Hawpe hit an incredibly long opposite field home run to give the Rockies the win.

Despise the poor aggregate performance, going 1-6, that game was his 7th best of the regular season in regards to cWPA. As the race got tighter, he would put up a few more absurdly valuable games. As the days wore on, the Rockies continued to look scarier and scarier in the Padres' rearview mirror. Just 2 games ahead of the Rockies with 3 to play, AGon went 2-4 with a double and 2 walks in a 6-3 Padres win over Milwaukee. He improved the Padres chances of winning it all by 0.76% that day. He followed that up with yet another excellent performance the following day in a game in which the Padres could have clinched a playoff birth. Despite his performance, the Padres lost 4-3. The Padres lost the next day as well, so they would be forced to take on the Rockies in a tiebreaker for the National League Wild Card. This is where the cWPA numbers got a little crazy.

Trailing 3-0 early in the tiebreaker at Coors Field, the Padres needed some offense. They got that by loading the bases for Gonzalez. He smacked a grand slam and the Padres took a 4-3 lead in the 3rd inning. Despite the grand slam, AGon didn't even rank first in cWPA among hitters for the game. 

The Padres and Rockies continued to battle until extra innings. In the top of the 13th, Padres' Scott Hairston hit a 2 run bomb off of Jorge Julio, giving the Padres an 8-6 lead. Scott Hairston, who had a 95 wRC+ in the regular season as a whole, ranked (t)4th in the entire MLB in cWPA in the regular season. He posted 4.1 cWPA in that single game, which would have ranked 10th in the MLB for the year. Of course, this game wasn't close to over. The fat lady was suspiciously silent. The Rockies rallied in the bottom half of the inning against one of the greatest closers in MLB history, Trevor Hoffman. After Troy Tulowitzki doubled to score Kaz Matsui, making it an 8-7 game, Matt Holliday came to the plate. At that point, the Rockies had a 54% chance to win. Holliday hammered a flyball deep to right field, and it careened off the wall, allowing Holliday to slide in safely at third base with a triple. As a result, the Rockies had a 94% chance to win. A 40% increase on one swing of the bat in the biggest possible regular season game is quite the momentum shifter. Jamie Carroll drove him in on a completely uncontroversial sacrifice fly, and the Rockies punched their ticket to the NLDS. Holliday finished the game with a 5.05% cWPA, which would have ranked 7th in the MLB (just behind Scott Hairston's season total). Additionally, Holliday finished the season with 8.7% cWPA, just a tick behind Adrian Gonzalez' first place total.

What are we to make of this? Who deserved MVP, Adrian Gonzalez or Matt Holliday? Well, just going by cWPA, AGon was a tick better, but when adjusting for defense and baserunning, Holliday is the clear winner. Win probability metrics are not properly adjust for park, so Holliday is a little overrated by such a stat, but not by as much as normal production metrics. This is because, as a result of playing in such a crazy offensive environment, extreme outlier performances will have little impact on the WPA.

The phrase "Most Valuable Player" is up to some subjective interpretation. If it just means the best player in regards to scoring as many more runs than the replacement player as possible, then WAR should really be the only metric you're looking at, with an eye towards potential issues with defensive metrics. It could mean something a little different; not the most runs produced on a wins scale, but the most actual wins produced, which is measured effectively with WPA and adjusting for defense/baserunning. Or, the MVP could be the player who gives his team the best chance at winning a championship. In this case, cWPA (with appropriate baserunning and defense adjustments) is the way to go.

I do not think cWPA should be the sole determinant for the offensive side of MVP. It is just way too noisy. As I demonstrated with the Rockies/Padres game, just a handful of plays in such a high leverage situation can completely alter an entire season's of work. On one hand, the measure is pretty objective and accurately paints a picture of a player's contributions. On the other, it's really difficult for a player to control their circumstances, and in extreme cases, it just wouldn't be fair to determine MVP based solely off of cWPA. It is important to remain biased towards greatness when looking at such an award. Barry Bonds in 2004, no matter his cWPA(he ranked first by a wide margin, but just pretend that he didn't), deserved MVP. Mookie Betts ranked behind Alex Bregman in cWPA in 2018, but should Bregman really have won MVP over a player with Mookie's production, just because he played on a 108 win team and rarely played in high leverage? cWPA should be a key factor, but general performance should also be considered. 

After all of this, who really deserved the 2007 MVP? I think it comes down to five players: Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Holliday, Albert Pujols, David Wright, and Jimmy Rollins. If championship leverage wasn't a factor,  or if the 2007 Cardinals were even moderately competent, I would easily give it to Pujols as a result of his exceptional WPA and defense. I don't think it would be close. However, Pujols' season, while quite passable, just wasn't dominant enough to justify giving it to him over a guy who actually played in important games. He is out. Adrian Gonzalez, while quite clutch, was simply not that impressive in the season as a whole, so he is out as well. Only Holliday, Rollins, and Wright remain. The next step of this process will be to compare Wright and Rollins, who are in a much similar boat. Wright had a cWPA of 4.1%, and Rollins had a cWPA of 4.3%. Rollins and Wright were both very similar on defense. It's important to note that Wright was obviously a better hitter, as Wright's 151 wRC+ dwarfs Rollins' 119. Heading forward, without the benefit of hindsight, I would take David Wright 10/10 times purely based on his 2007 season. However, as I have stated many times, I don't think that's what the MVP award should be about. It should be about the player's aggregate contributions to his team's chances of winning it all, with a bias towards legitimate greatness. David Wright was very good in 2007. He was not historically good. Wright's 2007 at the plate was definitely greater than Rollins', but as we can see with the cWPA,  Rollins was technically more valuable at the plate. Combine that with similar defense and Rollins' incredible (and efficient) base stealing ability, and it is easy to see Rollins as the superior MVP candidate. 

After all of this noise, we are down to two players: Matt Holliday, and Jimmy Rollins. I swear this was not intentional. The two players who finished 1 and 2 in the actual MVP voting are my top 2 candidates, despite what I said at the beginning of this article. With the information and understanding that I have in 2021, I got the same results as the people in 2007. On one hand, it makes sense. I'm looking at metrics that will be very closely related to narratives that emerge late in the season. An MVP voter who is closely paying attention to the game but doesn't have much of an analytical understanding can see stuff that statistic-minded baseball fans might miss. Looking at things from different perspectives can result in new and better opinions.

So, I ask one more time, who deserved the 2007 MVP? Jimmy Rollins, or Matt Holliday? Holliday has the clear cWPA advantage, but that is purely the result of one singular game. Remove that game 163 and Rollins would be the easy choice. After all, that's basically what I did with Adrian Gonzalez. However, Adrian Gonzalez just wasn't that good. A 2.6 fWAR just does not cut it for MVP no matter how you look at it. Holliday, on the other hand, had a 151 wRC+ and a 6.9 fWAR. Defensive metrics aren't too kind to Rockies players, and Holliday still managed to have a decent UZR, which is something to consider. Rollins, on the other hand, had just a 6.5 fWAR, which is worse than Holliday. Hardcore analysis here. 

My final verdict is that Matt Holliday did deserve the MVP, although it was a very tough decision. He was basically just as good as Rollins through the first 162 games, and then he had the single clutchest hit of the entire MLB season in the 163rd battle. I don't think it is a huge deal either way, but game 163 should definitely lean the award in Holliday's favor. I am a Rockies fan, so you might think I'm biased, but if you know me then you'll know I am actually as unbiased as a biased fan can get. My biggest surprise of this article was that the MVP voters generally knew what they were doing, so kudos to MLB MVP voters for having good judgement.

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.