HomeTrending MLB NewsJay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat - 4/30/24

Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 4/30/24

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2:00
Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon, folks, and welcome to another edition of my Tuesday chat!
2:02
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’m a bit late in setting this up today as I was scrambling to file a piece on Padres knuckleballer Matt Waldron that will actually run tomorrow.
2:02
Avatar Jay Jaffe: We’ll give this a few minutes for the queue to fill up and for me to finish this structurally unsound turkey sandwich.
2:06
the person who asks the lunch question: What’s for lunch?
2:09
Avatar Jay Jaffe: My usual go-to when I make a sandwich at home: Boar’s Head cracked pepper smoked turkey on Arnold Country White bread with mayo, mustard (eye-watering stuff from Philippe The Original, home of the French dip), sliced cucumber, and Potbelly Giardiniera (ikyky).
2:09
Yeah Well Hiura Towel: Jay, how long til we get a real gambling scandal in MLB? i.e. one actually involving players betting or providing insider info?
2:11
Avatar Jay Jaffe: i remain skeptical that there’s any player stupid enough to do this, but then if you asked me in 2015 whether this country would get as stupid as it has, I wouldn’t have thought so. And yet here we are, one pandemic, two impeachments, one attempted coup and an existential threat to democracy later.
2:12
Josh: Where are you on Andy Pages? Above-average regular going forward or worried about the swing and miss, still?
2:15
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far given that he’s coming back from shoulder surgery, which generally tends to sap a hitter’s power. I think he’ll always have swing and miss issues but like prime Chris Taylor be able to offset that with his power and general offensive ability. He’s got a 132 wRC+ right now, and while I don’t expect him to maintain that, I think he has a shot at being the most productive of the Dodgers’ outfielders besides Teoscar Hernández.
2:15
Talfred: Although Volpe has come back down to earth after his hot start, have we seen enough to say with confidence that he’s a significantly better player than he showed last year?
2:18
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think he’s improved a fair bit, but his underlying Statcast numbers suggest it’s pretty sublte; he’s actually barreling the ball less often and his x-stats are pretty similar. Where he’s really improved is in controlling the strike zone; his swinging strike rate has dropped from 12.5% to 6.5% as he’s shaved about 5 points off his chase rate. I think we’re due for a closer look at him soon.
2:18
BLEES: Edwin Diaz throwing a USDA Certified Meatball last night was just what the doctor ordered for this Cubs offense. If they can hang above .500 until Belli and Suzuki are back are they the team to beat in the NLC?
2:22
Avatar Jay Jaffe: It’s a long season and nobody is going to run away with the NL Central. The Cubs’ lineup has a ton of players who aren’t producing, and their run prevention is nothing special. I do think they have to be pleased with Shota Imanaga’s first month, and likewise Michael Busch.
2:22
Travis: Is it time to be concerned about Acuna yet? He looks rooooough and the numbers back it up
2:24
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’d be a little concerned given how dramatically his numbers have eroded — strikeout rate more than doubled,  not hitting the ball as hard (xSLG down about 280 points!). not sure what’s going on but this just proves that Mookie Betts should have been the NL MVP last year .
2:26
Matt VW: Thinking about your article on below replacement level vets, Xander Bogaerts is off to a pretty bumpy start too. He’s not that old, but is at a moment in his career where we might infer the start of a decline phase for a middle infielder. Is this more of an “it’s April” thing, or do the underlying date indicate some cause for more than usual concern?
2:29
Avatar Jay Jaffe: His numbers are bad but I’m not terribly concerned yet. His xBA and xSLG are very similar to both 2022 and ’23, but he just hasn’t gotten his money’s worth. I do wonder if the position change is having an impact on his offense.
2:29
Travis: I mean, baseball players aren’t any smarter than any other athletes and you just had a scandal in the NBA, and multiple gambling suspensions in the NFL
2:31
Avatar Jay Jaffe: You’re right, though I do think that MLB rightfully making an example of Pete Rose by banning him for life looms large. And hey, maybe the NBA’s lifetime ban of Jontay Porter will resonate across sports and provide a cautionary tale of what’s at stake.
2:31
Underperforming Vets: What do you think of Arozarena and Bogaerts? Both have been brutal to start the year and we’re over the 100 PAs mark.
2:32
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Arozarena was in yesterday’s piece linked above. He’s been trying to use the whole field more, but it’s costing him some productivity.
2:34
Rick: You mentioned Castellanos in your below replacement article and he does look terrible. Swinging at everything off the plate. Looks like Baez chasing. Not that long ago he was a good hitter. Do you think he eventually turns it around or totally cooked?
2:37
Avatar Jay Jaffe: If you look at Castellanos’ last five seasons, he’s netted 3.6 WAR, which means that in the four years besides 2021, he’s at replacement level thanks to his defense and slightly below league-average offense. He’s just not a very good ballplayer these days. He’s only 32 so I wouldn’t count him out entirely, but I suspect he’s got adjustments to make if he’s going to be productive again.
2:37
MikeD: Aaron Judge is on pace to hit into 48 DPs, which would shatter the MLB record, and has a BABiP 50 pts. below his career average. Cause for concern, meaning the first signs of age regression, or just a slow start?
2:39
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I wrote about Judge last week (https://blogs.fangraphs.com/a-look-at-aaron-judges-season-opening-slum…), and since then he’s hit .333/.448/.708 with three homers, so yes, it’s pretty clear that I fixed him.

Realistically, he’s never going to produce like 2022 again, and his swing requires a fair bit of maintenance but I hardly think we’ve seen the last of him as an offensive force.

2:40
v2micca: It’s early, but last nights Braves Mariners game has to be frontrunner for Pitching duel of the season.
2:42
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I had to interrupt writing about Waldron to check in on that game in case at least one of the no-hit bids got more serious. I only really saw its denouement, alas, but the graphic the Root Sports broadcast showed just before the Mariners got their first hit was interesting:
2:42
Avatar Jay Jaffe:
2:43
Anon21: The balls are deader. (37 PA/HR this year, 33 PA/HR last year over the same period.) Could this be disproportionately hurting teams like the Braves whose approach was optimized for the livelier ball? Just trying to understand why Acuña, Riley, and Olson are all doing poorly and seemingly getting worse.
2:46
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t think that teams really plan their construction around the liveliness of the ball, which we’ve seen can change from year to year. Somewhat on the note of the ball, I will be having a look at the early-season home run situation later this week.
2:48
Sodo Mojo: The Mariner’s offense has been fairly woeful so far this year.  Do you think Garver, Raley, and Polanco will rebound or are the Mariners going to have to do some significant shopping at the deadline?
2:51
Avatar Jay Jaffe: The whole offense has mostly been bad; even Julio Rodríguez has an 88 wRC+ right now. I strongly suspect that regardless of whether those particular hitters rebound, if the Mariners are contending for a playoff spot, Jerry Dipoto will do some shopping.
2:52
M’s Fan: Once Woo returns, do the the M’s have the best rotation in baseball?
2:52
Avatar Jay Jaffe: They project to have the second-highest WAR of any rotation for the rest of the season, so I’d say that they’re in the running for the title of “best”
2:57
Vance: With Holiday sent down, what do you think the chances are that Baltimore calls up Mayo or Norby over the next month or two to take Urias’s at-bats?
3:00
Avatar Jay Jaffe: More likely Mayo (who’s playing 3B) than Norby (who’s playing 2B) if we’re just talking about Urias’ playing time, but I wouldn’t be tremendously surprised if Holliday is back before either is called up.
3:01
BLEES: Which NL team outside of Atlanta and the Dodgers has the best shot to secure a bye this year?
3:03
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Our Playoff Odds give the Cubs and Phillies the best chances (13.4% and 12.1%) but my gut says the latter has a better chance. They’re the stronger ballclub of the two and i just don’t see the NL Central producing one of the league’s top two teams.
3:04
danny: is Jo Adell finally breaking out offensively? not too much data yet but xwoba looking great and k rate drop especially encouraging
3:06
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Yeah, it’s not a lot of data (59 PA, 40 BBE) but he’s swinging a lot less and making contact a lot more, and that’s a very good sign.
3:07
Crazy Question: What would Sonny Gray have to do to get into the HoF? I see very few SP from this era getting in unless the standards change. I don’t think he currently has any chance, but he seems to be aging like a fine wine. If he can put up a 5 WAR seasons with STL, and then stick around as an average SP until 40, does that give him any shot?
3:09
Avatar Jay Jaffe: With Gerrit Cole out, nobody’s piling up innings these days, but Gray is especially not piling up innings, having qualified for the ERA title just once in the past three years. He’s in his age-34 season and has three seasons of at least 5.0 bWAR; I think he’s going to need a bunch more before he even gets talked about in HOF terms.
3:09
AL Central Casting: I’ve read articles suggesting specific players give up switch-hitting because they are particularly poor from one side. It seems to me there would be a difficult learning curve to doing so, since they’d not only be giving up the platoon advantages based on physics and geometry, but also the fact that they’d be seeing same-side pitching for the first time in a long while (if ever). Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to the team to just platoon them as much as possible? Related question: with the increase in specialization in baseball, will there be a time when switch-hitting is nearly extinct?
3:12
Avatar Jay Jaffe: The thing about platooning is that it doesn’t happen in a vacuum; you need the right roster construction to pull it off, and even then it carries a cost as to what you can do with the rest of your bench. My gut tells me that a player who’s struggling with switch-hitting can probably adapt without too much trouble given the low bar for improvement, but I don’t have data at hand to back that up. Would be interesting for somebody to study.
3:14
Tommy: Which divisional race are you most excited to follow through October? Other than Dodgers probably running away with the NL West, the other five should have pretty tight races
3:15
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Probably the AL East since it’s the one I get to see the most from my NYC vantage. But it would be really wild if the AL Central turns into a 3 or 4 team race.
3:15
Elliott: How does Vladdy Jr. have a hard hit% of 54% and a .351 slugging%, bad luck or something else?
3:15
Avatar Jay Jaffe: His groundball rate is above 50% and he’s pulling the ball less than ever. Not sure what is going on there but I can imagine Blue Jays fans are tearing their hair out.
3:17
Re: Nats: With all these young shortstops (Henderson, De La Cruz, Volpe, Abrams) what would their extension numbers be? Are they all in Bobby Witt territory?
3:22
Anon21: I don’t mean that the Braves planned their approach around the ball per se–I mean they’ve adopted a fairly all-or-nothing approach to hitting that’s predicated on the expected value of the “all” (making good contact). If that expected value has meaningfully decreased, it could leave them high and dry.
3:25
Avatar Jay Jaffe: They’re making great contact — first or second in the majors in EV, barrel and hard-hit rates. But they do hit a ton of grounders (5th in MLB), and have a middle-of-the-pack strikeout rate so I’m not really seeing how that translates to an all-or-nothing approach.
3:25
Alex Anthopoulos:

If you are ducking because you vehemently stated that Betts shoud have been the MVP, then you know that something is not right in it. Care to broaden?
3:26
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Just having a little fun winding humorless Braves fans up after getting an endless amount of shit from them for suggesting that — gasp — Betts might be worthy of the award last year.
3:26
Dilly Dog: Think PCA ends up going back down, or if he hits he sticks?
3:28
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think he could be up and down for at least the first half of the season but it does depend on how quickly Bellinger returns and the extent to which Crow-Armstrong hits. If they’re in a race late in the season, it’s clear that they value his speed and defense enough to keep him around even if it’s just as a bench piece.
3:30
Johnny: Is NOLAN JONES cooked – or is his horrible start due to his injury?
3:32
Avatar Jay Jaffe: is a 25-year-old guy who had a 135 wRC+ last year and just went on the IL for a back injury cooked? Is that what you’re asking?
3:32
Joey Doughnuts: Has there ever been a position player in MLB history with as steep of a rise and subsequent fall as Kris Bryant? I feel like people don’t talk about this nearly enough.
3:35
Avatar Jay Jaffe: MVP in his age-24 season, replacement level-ish from his age-30 onward? I’m struggling to think of a parallel quite as dramatic, though I’ll note that Jeff Burroughs was an MVP at 23 and then totaled just 3.2 WAR from ages 28-34.
3:36
André René Roussimoff: Are the Daulton Varsho’s offensive improvements for real? Thanks, Jay.
3:38
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Color me skeptical at least for the moment. While he’s become more selective at the plate, he’s not hitting the ball hard at all, and both his xBA and xSLG are down about 40 points from last year, when they more or less mirrored his actual production.
3:39
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Sizemore was a star but not an MVP and champion; Bryant had much further to fall.
3:39
Tim: I really like the Mets city connect but others have ripped them. What say you?
3:40
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I liked the jerseys OK but I think they look ridiculous with the white pants.
3:40
Re: Kris Bryant: Cody Bellinger?
3:41
Avatar Jay Jaffe: We’re not there yet — or rather, he does seem to have pulled out of his nosedive — but like Bryant, he does have the MVP/champion combo heights to fall from.
3:42
Re: Sonny Gray: I agree at the moment Gray doesn’t have the numbers, but more of a hopeful. He is 9th on the active pitcher bWAR list wtih some sure fire HOF above him but retiring soon. Cole, Nola, and Wheeler are the only others from this generation to look to even have a chance with good aging. I don’t think we will see many pitchers putting up 50 WAR careers and it seems someone hitting that mark could potentially become the HoF criteria if you want any pitchers in.
3:43
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Short answer to a long topic: I think we’re more likely to experience a drought in pitchers being elected than in the standards being lowered dramatically.
3:45
Avatar Jay Jaffe: OK folks, that’s enough out of me for today. Just remember: everybody who’s struggling right now is either washed up, cooked, or just totally through. Panic now, and again tomorrow!
3:45
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I kid, I kid. Thanks for stopping by, and remain calm. We’ll do this again soon…

 

Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011, and a Hall of Fame voter since 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe… and BlueSky @jayjaffe.bsky.social.

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