About EJ Fagan

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

Expansion Won’t Help Run Scoring

MLB run scoring is down. A lot:

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There are many causes of decreased run scoring. Jeff Zimmernan at The Hardball Times thinks that one solution is to expand the number of MLB teams:

Why should there be expansion? One reason is the run scoring environment. Run production has dropped from from a steroid-era high of 5.1 runs per game per team in 2000 to 4.1 last season. Pitching is now the dominant force in the game. The last four times the majors expanded, runs increased as the pitching talent was spread thinner. Looking at the two seasons before an expansion of teams and the two seasons after, the average increase in runs scored per game was a third of a run. Without expansion and if things remain static, scoring will likely go even lower as pitching talent becomes more and more concentrated.

This is an interesting, testable hypothesis: when there is a more concentrated talent pool of potential MLB players, run scoring decreases. So, I tested it. Below is a basic OLS regression with MLB run scoring as the dependent variable, and the number of MLB teams divided by the US population as an independent variable, controlling for the designated hitter. Here’s what came out:


Screenshot 2015-01-30 23.33.05

Okay, don’t get scared off by the scary statistics! The important thing on this table is that little P>t value next to ‘teamsper.’ That test statistic shows no statistically significant relationship between the ratio of MLB teams to the population and the number of runs scored per game. The designated hitter, on the other hand, is responsible for an additional .34 runs per game, all else being equal. Continue reading Expansion Won’t Help Run Scoring

IIATMS Podcast Episode 35: Top 30 Yankee Prospects

It’s two for one this prospect week! Domenic and I discuss the IIATMS Top-30 Yankee prospects, posted earlier today. You can download the episode here or grab the podcast RSS feed here. [iframe style=”border: none” src=”//html5-player.libsyn.com/embed/episode/id/3314249/height/360/width/640/theme/standard/direction/no/autoplay/no/autonext/no/thumbnail/yes/preload/no/no_addthis/no/” height=”360″ width=”640″ ]

Episode 34 – Prospect Week, Max Scherzer

It’s a prospect week podcast! Domenic and I talk about Yoan Moncada, Max Scherzer, and some of our favorite prospects. We’ll be back on Friday to discuss the IIATMS top-30 prospect list.

You can download the episode here or grab the podcast RSS feed here.

[iframe style=”border: none” src=”//html5-player.libsyn.com/embed/episode/id/3310101/height/360/width/640/theme/standard/direction/no/autoplay/no/autonext/no/thumbnail/yes/preload/no/no_addthis/no/” height=”360″ width=”640″ scrolling=”no”] Continue reading Episode 34 – Prospect Week, Max Scherzer

Breakout Candidate: Miguel Andujar

[caption id="attachment_71837" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Andujar 2014 Courtesy of Shane Roper/MiLB.com[/caption]

If I had to pick one prospect to have a break out (defined as being rated a top-50 prospect in all of baseball a year from now) 2015 season, it would be Miguel Andujar.

Andujar was one of the most notable Yankee July 2nd signings in 2011. He spent most of his age 17 and 18 seasons working out at the Yankee facility in Tampa. Some success the second time around with the GCL Yankees (.323/.368/.496 batting line in a small sample) earned him an aggressive promotion to Charleston to start 2014, where he was the 4th youngest player in the South Atlantic League.

At first glance, the numbers don’t look great: .267/.318/.397 with a solid 15.7% strikeout rate. But I think a deeper dive reveals a lot of good news. Here are his splits and park-adjusted rates:

Park adjusted batting line: .279/.328/.420 (.362 wOBA)
Vs. LHP: .188/.211/.250 Vs. RHP: .295/.355/.449
Home: .250/.296/.362 Away: .281/.337/.427
First Half: .212/.267/.335 19.4 K% Second Half: .319/.367/.456 14.9 K%
Those splits should be music to all of our ears. They scream the profile of a talented but inexperienced prospect who found himself during the 2014 season, and check all the boxes. Young hitters tend to struggle against left-handed hitters, because they don’t see many of them. They improve as they gain experience. And Charleston is a brutal place to hit for power as a right-handed hitter.

Top that off with an above-average projection on defense, lots of power projection left in his growing body, and baseball’s new premium on right-handed power, and Andujar starts looking like a real stud.

What kind of 2015 season would land him in the top-50? I think something like his second half line: .319/.367/.456 and a late July promotion to Double-A would do it. Baseball America already ranked him #10 in a deep system this year, so Andujar is well regarded by people watching closely. Continue reading Breakout Candidate: Miguel Andujar

Chart: Where the Yankees Position Players Stack Up

The Yankees have made a lot of moves to improve their hitting and defense during this offseason. You know about all of those. But what cumulative effect have these moves produced?

The following chart shows three different numbers by position: the fWAR produced by Yankees playing that position in 2014, the fWAR produced by the average major league team, and the Steamer projections for the Yankees at the position in 2015:

YankeesWARPositionsThe Yankees project to add about 7 WAR over last year. And that’s assuming they get 0 WAR out of designated hitter, which I think they can beat.

You can see that the Yankees project to improve in right field, shortstop, designated hitter and second base, stand pat at catcher, 1st base, center and left, and decline at third base. That all sounds reasonable to me.

You can really see how Derek Jeter and Brendan Ryan at short and Carlos Beltran, Alfonso Soriano and Ichiro in right and DH killed the Yankees last year. Just getting those positions and DH to replacement level would have put them in the playoffs. A 1-win projection player like Didi Gregorius doesn’t seem so special, but he represents a 3+ win improvement over 2014. Continue reading Chart: Where the Yankees Position Players Stack Up

Yankees Sign Stephen Drew to 1-Year Deal

The Yankees have signed Stephen Drew to a 1-year, $5 million + incentives deal:


We can relegate the Refsnyder/Pirela spring training competition to Bubba Crosby territory.

Some quick thoughts:

  • This should make Brendan Ryan expendable. Drew gives the Yankees a second MLB-caliber shortstop on the roster. If Gregorius gets hurt, Drew plays. Jose Pirela is potentially much more useful as a bench player than Ryan.
  • I think Drew gets a pass for 2014, for reasons we should all be familiar with. He was a pretty good player in 2013. If he can play a solid 2nd base, I think he’s a 1.5+ win player. If he fails to hit well, Refsnyder can take his place while Drew becomes a bench player.
  • There is going to be a lot of yelling about how the Yankees didn’t give Refsnyder a chance. That’s crap. This is a 1-year deal, and Refsnyder has only 77 games of Triple-A experience. He isn’t going to be hurt waiting in the minors. If he hits well enough, he’ll force his way onto the roster.

Continue reading Yankees Sign Stephen Drew to 1-Year Deal

A Better Bullpen Part 1: Why Baseball Accidentally Made Up the Closer Position

Why did major league teams evolve to designate their best relief pitcher as the closer, who enters the game only in save situations? It began in the 1950s, when relief pitchers started to pitch more innings than starting pitchers:

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Teams carried fewer relief pitchers before the 1980s. Generally, they had just one or two “firemen”, who are ace relief pitchers. They almost always entered the game before the 9th inning with men on base. Bruce Sutter was the first relief pitcher to start more than 20% of his games in the 9th inning. John Franco was the first pitcher to hit 50% in 1987, and Lee Smith broke 75% in 1994. As far as baseball history goes, the modern closer is a very new thing. Continue reading A Better Bullpen Part 1: Why Baseball Accidentally Made Up the Closer Position

Fangraphs Projection: Yankees 3rd Best Defense in MLB for 2015

Over at Fangraphs, Jeff Sullivan posted their 2015 UZR projections by team. The Yankees, who were an average defensive team last year, project as the 3rd best team in the majors in 2015 at +29 runs, in large part thanks to the additions of Didi Gregorius and Chase Headley.

Of course, that +29 number is highly regressed. The 3rd best team in 2014 ended up at +49 runs, or just over +6 wins above average. If the Yankees are that good defensively, they could make a lot of contact pitchers look pretty good next year. It might even make the team good enough to be a stealth contender for a wild card spot.

The full rankings:

Continue reading Fangraphs Projection: Yankees 3rd Best Defense in MLB for 2015

Nathan Eovaldi, Domingo German and the Rebuildingish Yankees

The Yankees made a trade today:


Pitching prospect Domingo German was also included.

My initial reaction–which I think is representative of a lot of Yankee fans–was disgust. Martin Prado was in a lot of ways the perfect player for the 2015 Yankee thanks to his ability to play lots of positions and Eovaldi posted a below-average ERA in 199 innings in 2014. But the more I think about the trade, the more I like it. Why? Because the Yankees are finally starting to rebuild their roster.

Eovaldi had always shown a ton of promise, but took a huge step forward in 2014. He’s always had one of the best fastballs in the league, but finally improved his control enough to post a 3.37 FIP and 3.0 fWAR. He’s only 24 years old, so there is definitely room for improvement. Even without improvement, Eovaldi is a big upgrade over the back end of the Yankee rotation, is under team control for 4 more seasons. I don’t think anyone is going to miss 5th starter David Phelps when Eovaldi is on the mound. Continue reading Nathan Eovaldi, Domingo German and the Rebuildingish Yankees