E.J. Fagan been blogging about Yankee baseball since 2006. He is a Ph.D. student at University of Texas at Austin.

Author Archives: EJ Fagan

Putting This Year’s IFA Haul in Perspective

Much has been written about the Yankees signing ten of the top thirty international free agents this season. But how much talent have the Yankees landed, really?

I’m not going to pretend to know more about the specific players that the Yankees signed than what I’ve read on MLB.com and Baseball America. I did, however, go back and look at Baseball America’s top international free agent list five years ago, and checked in on the status of the top-25 players. The result:

2 really great signings (Sano and Profar), 6 players with varying prospect potential (including Gary Sanchez, probably the bet of the group), and 17 busts. If the Yankee haul follows the same pattern, they’ll emerge five years from now with roughly half that–a top-10 prospect, two or so top-100 prospects, and a fringey player or two.

Not bad, huh? Obviously, we’re looking at a sample of one year, but a quick glance at 2008 and 2010 show similar bust rates.…

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Chart: MLB Run Scoring Continues to Fall

When I last wrote about run scoring in late May, the early returns were a little mixed. Thanks in part to a relatively strong April for MLB hitters, the decline in MLB run scoring had stabilized, and even ticked up a little bit. That did not hold up this season, and MLB run scoring continued to decline:

So what is happening? We know that the decline can’t be blamed on increasing use of specialized bullpens. Batted ball types haven’t changed much:

Strikeout rates, on the other hand, have ballooned:

That strikeout trend is pretty insane. But it should also be noted that MLB BB% tied its record low in 2014.

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Bring on Rob Refsnyder

Rob Refsnyder is the best middle infield prospect in the Yankee system above A-ball, and it isn’t close.

Refsnyder followed up his breakout 2013 season (.293/.413/.413 between Charleston and Tampa, 148 and 119 wOBA+ respectively) with an arguably stronger start to the 2014 season. He’s currently hitting .320/.367/.522 (118 wOBA+) for Trenton.

Those are two very different batting lines. 2013 Rob Refsnyder was a hitter primarily creating value by drawing a lot of walks and making a lot of contact, but hitting for very little power. 2014 Rob Refsnyder is a hitter who is still making a lot of contact, but drawing very few walks and hitting for twice as much power. Look at this peripherals:

Here’s the crazy part: Trenton is overall an average ballpark for the Eastern League as far as run scoring for right-handed hitters. However, Trenton has a huge power split for a right-handed hitter. The park has a very strong 109 right-handed park factor for singles, but a below average 95 park factor for doubles and triples, and an absolutely abysmal 79 park factor for home runs.…

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MLB Run Scoring Decline Part 1: It’s Not About The Bullpens in 3 Charts

Last week, I posted a graph showing the history of MLB run scoring since 1946. The graph showed a steady decline in run scoring since it peaked in 2000, including a fairly precipitous drop over the last 4 years.

The most common thing, other than the exit of PEDs, that I’ve been hearing from commentators trying to explain the drop has been the growth of ‘power bullpens’ or ‘specialized bullpens.’ Generally, they’ll point to relievers throwing 96 coming out in the 7th inning, and talk about how that just didn’t happen a few years ago. Up until I started looking at the evidence, I believed that this was a big explanation for the decline in run scoring.

But not so much. Let’s start with RP usage:

This chart could be a post on its own. It’s pretty cool to watch relief usage grow over time. After four decades of growth, the starter/reliever shares of innings stabilized. 2014’s usage patterns are not significantly different from 2000’s.…

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Chart: MLB Run Scoring Since 1946

I have only one short piece of commentary to add to this, but I’m a big enough baseball geek to just stare at this chart and think about the possibilities:

Here’s the one piece of commentary I’d like to offer: How far does the current trend in run scoring go? NL run scoring (the better barometer, since the DH changed AL run scoring substantially) is pointed in the direction toward the Deadball Era. Will it keep going and bottom out that low? We’ll see. Personally, I think it will if MLB doesn’t change the rules.

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One Quarter of the Season of Yankee Hitting in Two Charts

It feels like the season just started yesterday, but we’ve played 25% of the 2014 season so far. It’s a good time to measure the Yankee hitters against the rest of the American League. How are they doing?

First, the hitters:

The Yankees have done a good job of limiting the damage at their weak positions (2b, SS) and pulling ahead at their best positions (1b, 3b, OF). The one exception being at catcher, which has somehow become the 3rd best-hitting position in the AL (behind 1b and DH), despite downright horrible production by Brian McCann.

WAR is a difficult stat to use through 1 quarter of the season due to small sample sizes on defense, so take this next chart with some skepticism. Yankee hitters by WAR and playing time so far:

Can you see Carlos Beltran‘s WAR? Nope, because he is sitting at -0.1. The Yankees could definitely use the real Carlos back in the lineup, but the one they’ve seen so far is just not worth the poor defense.…

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Updated: MLBAM Has iTunes Remove Fan Podcasts from Directory, Including the IIATMS Podcast

I did not notice it until Stacey sent an email around, but I received this email this morning:

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 11.06.01 AM

Presumably, any podcast with team names in it were put on some ridiculous hit list by some incredibly stupid MLBAM employee, and given to iTunes. However, it’s unclear exactly what the criteria was, because Aaron Gleeman’s Gleeman and the Geek podcast was also taken down.

Rest assured, the podcast is still available on our publishing service, and embedded here on the blog. You can grab our RSS feed here.

We will absolutely speak more about this on the podcast tonight, but I’d like to add one quick thought right now: This is an incredibly stupid move by Major League Baseball. Someone over there just does not understand what makes their game a multi-billion dollar industry. Our podcast (and blog) is a passion project that makes no real money, provides free advertising for the New York Yankees and Major League Baseball, and (we hope) helps keep thousands of passionate Yankee fans engaged in the game they love.…

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Among AL Contenders, Yankees Among the Healthiest Out of Spring Training

Spring training statistics are so irrelevant that it is counterproductive to even look at them most of the time. Even doing so with full knowledge of their irrelevance threatens confirmation bias. Spring training is about trying new things, getting into playing shape, and tightening screws. With a few exceptions, the only thing that I really...

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Does Pitch Framing Make Brian McCann the Yankee MVP?

Baseball defense is hard to measure. Catcher defense is even harder. There are a lot of different aspects of catcher defense, including:

  1. Controlling the running game
  2. Actually fielding the ball
  3. Preventing passed balls and wild pitches
  4. Pitch framing and umpire psychology
  5. Game-calling and pitcher psychology

For the longest time, #1 was all we looked in stats like WAR. #2 a comparatively small part of the game while also being difficult to measure. #5 is anyone’s guess. Some work has been on #3, but I’m not sold on it yet. That leaves us with #4: getting umpires to call balls as strikes, and strikes as strikes.

Measuring pitch framing is actually pretty easy. We have Pitch/Fx data about where a ball ended up. We have a good idea of where the strike zone should be. Therefore, we can count up pretty large sample sizes of called strikes that should be balls, and called balls that should be strikes. Do the math, and you know how many more strikes a catcher was able to call versus the average.…

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