Jay Jaffe FanGraphs Chat – 4/16/24

Avatar Jay Jaffe: Good afternoon, folks, and welcome to my Tuesday chat. Apologies for the technical glitch in terms of the pre-chat queue but we should be up and running.
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Pouring one out for Whitey Herzog, the Hall of Fame manager best known for piloting the Cardinals to the 1982 championship and two other pennants.
Avatar Jay Jaffe: And pouring another one out for Carl Erskine, a true mensch who not only helped the Dodgers to five pennants and their 1955 championship — and threw two no-hitters as well — but became “a fierce champion of human rights, racial equality and, when his late son Jimmy was born with Down syndrome, became immersed in fighting for people with special needs.”

The Hall of Fame honored Erskine with the Buck O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award last summer https://www.indystar.com/story/sports/2024/04/16/indianas-carl-erskine…

WinTwins0410: Jay, I hate to “remember some guys” too much to start a chat, but it seems like we’ve lost a lot of interesting baseball guys lately — Ken Holtzman, Whitey Herzog, Carl Erskine, Fritz Peterson, Jerry Grote and even Pat Zachry.  Curious if you plan to do a full-on article about Whitey.  I am hoping you will!
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Forgot about Holtzman, who was a big part of the A’s three straight championships and holds the record for most wins by a Jewish pitcher (174).
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’m thinking about whether I can pull off a Herzog tribute in a timely fashion.
bringbackpologrounds: Do you see Altuve parlaying his outstanding start into serious MVP contention?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Obviously he won’t maintain that. But can he contend for an MVP award at age 33? Color me skeptical. Obviously he remains an excellent hitter, but he’s had a hard time staying healthy, with just 90 games last year and 141 the year before. Most of his time missed was due to the broken thumb he sustained in the World Baseball Classic, but he hasn’t played 150 games in a season since 2017. It would certainly be something to see if he did, though!
Volpe: Not at THIS level, but, the way people thought Volpe’s rookie year was going to be his offensive talent forever is pretty surprising. Not everyone is his new RF teammate.
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Baseball fans tend to be impatient, and one byproduct of the Prospect Industrial Complex is that highly-touted young players who don’t deliver immediately cause some seriously irrational reactions. That Volpe actually had a pretty decent rookie season at age 21 was camouflaged by his .209 AVG
Avatar Jay Jaffe: He’s hitting .373/.464/.542 but interestingly enough has only barreled two balls (4%). I know Esteban Rivera is going to take a closer look for us soon.
Phil: Guys like Tyler O’Neill fascinate me. Former top prospect under 30 with a six-win season in the past should be capable of producing another similar, if healthy. As a Red Sox fan watching him play, I don’t understand how he got a reputation as a non-hustler, if that even is his reputation. Assuming his latest injury really is just a few forehead stitches, how shocked would you really be if he outdoes his 2021 season?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I thought Oliver Marmol calling out O’Neill in April last year during a wet game for not running hard was one of the most bush league acts i’ve seen from a major league manager in awhile
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Guy has a significant history of leg injuries, is running on a wet track, and was thrown out by Acuña? Maybe you take him aside and address your perception of the issue, but embarrassing a player publicly like that, woof.
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Anyway, as i noted last week before he got banged up again (https://blogs.fangraphs.com/mookie-who-tyler-oneill-is-the-hottest-hit…), O’Neill is off to a strong start, hitting the ball much harder than in 2022 or ’23, and I suspect the health of his legs has a lot to do with it. Not sure if he can match 2021 but if he can stay healthy he’ll be the most productive Sox outfielder since Mookie.
Idiotic Failson: Is Goldy cooked?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Hmm. He’s not hitting the ball hard, is chasing more, and has a lot more swing-and-miss than usual. 28.6% strikeout rate, 2.4% barrel rate, 54 wRC+. He did decline notably from 2022 to ’23, but I think it’s more likely he’s dealing with something injury- or mechanics-related than it s an even more dramatic fall-off, though he is 36.
Bardo Bill: Suppose Xander Bogaerts has like 9 more 3-WAR seasons in a row (with some reasonable year-to-year variation) before tailing off in the last couple years of his career. Ends his career with something like 65 WAR, ekes out 3000 hits. But it’s also like a 112 wRC+ for his career with mediocre defense. Is that (and should it be) a hall of fame career?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Eh, probably. Right now he’s at 39.4/34.7/37.1 for career/peak/JAWS. Assuming that peak score remains untouched and he gets to 65.3 WAR, that’s a 50 JAWS, which wouldn’t be a slam dunk on its own but when combined with 3,000 hits is pretty clearly gonna get a guy into Cooperstown.
Matt VW: With his season ending injury, Trevor Story will post 3.5 bWAR in the first three years of his Red Sox contract. Xander Bogaerts posted 10.3 bWAR over the first two years of the same span, with nearly a full season to add on.

I know no one tries to get hurt, but this casts the Red Sox’s determination to part with Bogaerts in a pretty bad light. How much of this was foreseeable and how much just bad luck?

Avatar Jay Jaffe: The Red Sox have made some pretty dubious choices when it comes to seeing some of their homegrown stars off in recent years— Lester, Mookie, Bogaerts — but hey, John Henry’s gotta be happy with that payroll flexibility, right?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Given the Coors Field factor and his elbow and shoulder woes it was always a bit tricky to get a feel for what Story’s offense would look like once he changed teams, but some of this is just bad luck. Then again, there’s a reason he cost $140M to Bogaerts’ $280M, so at least some of this was pretty apparent that they were taking a step down.
seth r: pitchers stuff++ arms fall off more than ever and teams don’t mind grinding 22y/o hard throwers into dust, how does MLBPA protect pitchers who don’t make it to free agency? force a different arb process for pitchers to get them paid earlier?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I wish I knew. Over half the union is pitchers, and so many of them are willing to chase velocity in the face of injury risk — whether it’s to hang onto a big league bullpen spot or to net that pre-free agency extension that acts as a safety net — that I’m not sure you could get them to agree on a tack to take in negotiations. The players really do have to prioritize getting paid earlier in their careers in general, and the situation with pitching injuries only calls attention to it even more. Not everybody can be Spencer Strider, netting a record-setting extension that guaranteed generational wealth just a year and change into his big league career.
the person who asks the lunch question: What’s for lunch?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: A reuben sandwich, sadly not as hot as it should have been because the driver seemed to get lost in my neighborhood, winding up a few blocks south and 10-15 minutes later than expected.
Kevin: I recently read some considered baseball to have been Jackie Robinson’s fourth best sport. Have you been to the Jackie Robinson Museum, and if so, what did you think of it?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I do wonder about Robinson in other sports; at UCLA he lettered in basketball, football, and track as well as baseball. His older brother Mack won a Gold Medal as part of Jesse Owens’ relay team in 1936, and Jackie won an NCAA championship in the long jump. I do find it hard to believe baseball was the least of those sports but he was obviously pretty special as an athlete.

I visited the Jackie Robinson Museum in late 2022 and enjoyed it. It’s not very big, so easily doable in about 90 minutes or so, but it was very well done. A bit text-heavy for kids, but worth bringing them if that’s what you have in mind.


Lance Lynn HR Machine: Did the Royals themselves think their off seasons moves and player development would be this much of a success? Or do you think this season is even already exceeding their best expectations?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I liked the Lugo and Wacha moves but I doubt even the Royals saw those as transformative. And let’s not forget that early records can be particularly distorted by quality of competition. The Royals are 5-0 against the White Sox, 6-6 against everybody else; they also went 3-0 against an Astros team whose rotation is pretty depleted. They may well be the Royals team that turns the corner, and I’m particularly impressed with Bobby Witt Jr. so far, but let’s see where this goes.
Jason: Are the Dodgers actually giving to give Pages a legitimate chance or is he going to get the last season Michael Busch treatment?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: it’s not clear yet. This is mainly as a fill-in for Heyward’s roster spot, which effectively puts him in the short half of a platoon with Outman, though it’s more crowded than that, with the two Hernandezes and Chris Taylor also out there. If he hits, he’ll stick around but I suspect this is a short-term thing for now
Ske: The NLC has had a fun start to the year. After 10% of the season, which team do you think has the best chance to pull away?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t think anyone’s going to pull away. We had the five teams forecast for something like 77.5-83.5 wins, and nobody’s 10-5 or 11-6 start upends that; on the contrary, the range is now 80.6 to 84.1. This is going to be a summer-long grind.
TomBruno23: Looking at the active leaders in W and not sure anyone gets to 175 to pass Holtzman regardless of their religion.
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Maybe some of them need to go to synagogue more often
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Gerrit Cole has 145 wins, and I think I feel comfortable taking the “over” on 30 remaining wins, if nothing else.
Guest: How do you handle a top prospect like Jackson Holliday who starts off so poorly?  Send him back to the minors?  Stick with him?  Something else?  Seems like a very tough decision since you don’t want to sap his confidence, but also don’t want to hurt the MLB team.
Avatar Jay Jaffe: you have to give him more than 19 PA, which is all he has so far (one hit and 10 strikeouts, yikes). If you don’t do that, then calling him up was a waste of everybody’s time, and sending him back down is probably going to do more harm than good. I can’t imagine the Orioles haven’t thought this through already  — you have to at least consider that this might happen when you make such a move, and have a plan in place. Maybe it’s 3 weeks, or 50 PA or something, but you need to see whether he can adjust and how he handles the adversity. I think a lot of it depends on stuff that’s not visible to us from outside or that we run the danger of projecting our own concerns into his head. But I will give the Orioles the benefit of the doubt and believe they have a plan in place.
Phil: You are very right about the downside of Prospect Fever. When I was in my teens or early twenties, I remember being disappointed in a few guys (Darren Bragg, Arquimedes Pozo) who had gotten publicity because they’d been acquired in significant trades. But guys who just worked their way through the minors were blank slates from a fan’s perspective, and it made it more exciting when somebody took off, and more normal if it took them a couple years to do so. I will never forget seeing Mo Vaughn in his first season, seeing the ball come off his bat and realizing, oh, this is the real thing. I know it’s weird on an analytics site to say I want to know less information, but I do think there’s a happy medium when it comes specifically to long-term projection of 19-year-old kids.
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think at least some of the impatience comes with people wanting to get an edge in their fantasy leagues or dynasty leagues or whatever. In fantasy if a guy can’t help you today he’s not much good and you might as well find someone who can rather than wearing a rough rookie season.
the guy who asks the questions: How real is the Yankees pitching? It looks worse when you go from ERA to FIP to xFIP
Avatar Jay Jaffe: A 2.93 ERA with a 4.00 FIP is pretty damn good considering they’re without Cole. I think Cortes is their biggest concern among their starters, as three of his four outings — all but the one against the weak-ass Marlins — have been pretty crummy. The other thing I’d worry about is that the bullpen isn’t striking many guys out; in fact, their 17.5% K rate is second-to-last in the majors, and their FIP is nearly twice their ERA (4.69 to 2.38). I expect a lot of regression there.
Mets: All 16 games they’ve played this season have come against team with a .500 or better record (maybe partly because they’ve played the Mets) and they’re hanging in there without Senga, JD & a struggling Lindor. Are they better than what we think/thought?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: We forecast them for 80.8 wins and 81.2 losses. So far they’re 8-8. Yes, they’ve done it without Senga and Martinez, and with Lindor not hitting, but are you expecting a 161 wRC+ out of D.J. Stewart and 115-120 from Baty, Taylor, and Marte? I think they’ll continue to be a .500ish team
War2D2: Trout is mashing like Trout of yore. What injury do you think will waylay him this time? My bet is on losing a toe to a freak glazing accident.
Avatar Jay Jaffe: let’s just say that I want him to stay away from all bungee-related activity
O’s Fan: What do you think the Orioles should do with Santander?  Deadline trade, extension, qualifying offer, or let him walk after the season?  He’s off to a slow start but I would expect him to be around his career norms when all is said and done,
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Looking at the roster and the surplus of young talent coming through, I’ve suspected that Santander could be a July trade chip, particularly if Cowser or Kjerstad force the issue.
Reid Detmers: Am I legit or is it too small of a sample size?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: it’s a small sample with 2 of his 3 start against the same team (Red Sox) but those spikes in his fastball and changeup whiff rates bear watching. Both are getting different movement than in the past, so I wonder if something has changed mechanically. Keep an eye out.
WinTwins0410: Jay, congratulate me. I was just named the Hall of Fame’s CEO. In addition to me making the Casebook *finally* available in the bookstore/gift shop, I’ll make another big decision to overhaul the Eras Committees. See what you think about this. Whereas now we have on a three-year rotating basis: 1) pre-1980 players and non-players including Negro Leagues players; 2) post-1980 players; and 3) post-1980 managers/executives/umpires; I’ll change it to the following: A two-year cycle in which Year 1 consists of one ballot for pre-1980 players and one separate ballot for Negro Leagues players and Year 2 consists of one ballot for post-1980 players and one separate ballot for all non-players. Do you see that as an improvement? (I do.) Or, should the Eras Committees return to evaluating Eras Committee players from more than just two time periods? And should the Committees review players from the longer-ago periods a bit more often? (to prevent the Dick Allen/Ron Santo risk of dying before induction)
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Congratulations! I like your plan and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think having the Negro Leagues (and pre-Negro Leagues Black baseball) candidates considered on one track is essential to whatever replaces the current system.
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’m fine with considering older eras less frequently but it’s a difficult balance. Considering Bill Dahlen and Lefty O’Doul once every 10 years made sense because they were dead, but once every five years for guys in their 80s and 90s just bad luck.
Edward: Any “concern” with Judge?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: A bit, yeah. He’s not hitting the ball as hard as usual, though he’s short of his .241 xBA and .467 xSLG. he’s also not striking out as much or even swinging as much, so I do wonder about that oblique issue he battled in March. If it’s hurting him to swing, they have a problem.
kingmitch: What are mookie betts weaknesses? if any?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: It sometimes takes him two bounds to leap over tall buildings, and I’m told he has a tendency to underseason his pasta sauces just a bit.
John: If Mookie Betts retires right now, is he a Hall of Famer?  I say yes, and consequently submit that McCutchen should be, too, even if his peak isn’t quite as high
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Huh? Betts is 31, has been playing at an all-Star Level since he was 22 and has 66.6 bWAR, some of which comes from being 156 runs above average in the field. Cutch is 37, hasn’t played like an All-Star since he was 28, and has 48.6 bWAR, in part because he’s 77 runs below average in the field. They’re not close.
Head of the Breakfast Nook: If you give up 11 hits in 0.2 innings, the odds you are tipping some of your pitches must be fairly high.  Right, Hunter Brown?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Seems pretty likely to me, especially that he got just one swing and miss out of 40 pitches. Teams tend to be pretty cagey when it comes to acknowledging whether a guy is tipping, mainly because it only invites more scrutiny of a pitcher’s every move, so we may not always get the truth.
birds: Writers tend to give franchise icons bonus points when it comes to HOF voting (presumably they feel more famous/important to the sport when they’re so important to a team).  Do you have an easier time voting for guys like that?  Like, is Larry Walker an easier choice than Gary Sheffield?  Is there anyone borderline you think is tipped over the line by franchise-hero status?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t think Walker was a particularly easy choice in that regard as he actually split the heart of his career between the Expos and Rockies. I do think it’s harder for a guy like Sheffield to get elected because he bounced around so much, sometimes because he agitated his way out of town.

To the extent that being a franchise icon has weighed into my voting I’d say it’s a pretty small bonus that comes from being part of a run of sustained success. I’ve only gotten to fill out four ballots and the ones who come to mind in this are Ortiz with the Red Sox (he’s pretty low in JAWS) and Utley with the Phillies. “Icon” is a bit of a strong word but I did throw Pettitte a vote this past year in part due to his role in the Yankees’ dynasty.

Zach: How long do the Dodgers give Lux to figure it out? He looked fine in spring but he doesn’t look close offensively at the moment. I guess his surprisingly elite defense at second might buy him more time. At some point, they have to see if Trey Sweeney, or maybe a Vargas move back to second, would be better for the team, right?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: as I just found out about the move at the start o this chat I haven’t read anything about the rationale but it may be that the Pages move puts a squeeze on Lux by bumping Taylor and/or Kiké to more infield work while Lux sits. But I think he’s still got some runway to figure it out.
Danny: I always read your responses in Nick Offerman’s voice. Not sure how that happened, but I thought you should know.
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’ll take it! (scowl while eating a big plate of bacon)
Doc: Doc Gooden has been in the news recently?  With his short, but historic, peak and traditional bold face achievements (ROY, Cy, No-Hitter, 3 Rings), where would you rank him among the gut of post-Seaver/Palmer/Carlton/Sutton/Niekro types outside the Hall?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I was glad to see Gooden’s number retired by the Mets. I think it’s forgotten how good a career he had given the high-profile problems he had. I have him 87th in S-JAWS, which is below a bunch of guys I’ve endorsed (Cone, Saberhagen, Stieb, Santana, Hamels, Hershiser) and some I’m more lukewarm about (Pettitte, even given the aforementioned vote), Buehrle, Hudson. He’s above Oswalt and Félix. None of them had a season like Gooden’s 1985, though. Holy hell was that something.
Theeeeeeeee Yankees Win: The thoughts of anyone but John Sterling calling Yankees games seems sacrilegious. I’m in my mid-20s, so he’s all I’ve ever known! In reading about his career, I noticed he’s never been nominated for the Ford C. Frick Award. What would it take for John to be honored by the Hall? 35 years calling games and being the voice of the last dynastic run this sport has seen have to be worth consideration!
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I’m surprised Sterling has never been nominated but stylistically, he’s not everybody’s cup of tea, and beyond the national voices, you’ve got a lot of competition for recognition because there are a lot of broadcasters who were iconic within their regional markets.  

I can’t say that Sterling was my favorite announcer, but I grew fonder of him as the years passed, and particularly always appreciated tuning into a Yankees game with him and Suzyn as we hit traffic on the way back to NYC from our annual Cape Cod trips. Like the rest of this drive is gonna be a goddamn slog but we’ve at least got a ballgame to distract us.

Sterling is attached to a whole lot of mostly-positive memories. He’s beloved within the industry and particularly within the Yankees organization, and I wish him all the best in his retirement.

Jordan Montgomery: Much like pitchers appearing to value maxing out on their velocity and stuff, are teams doing the same? Why did it seem no one valued Jordan Montgomery’s ability to offer 175+ good, if not great, innings?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I don’t think it was that nobody valued it, it was that they didn’t value it at the price Boras was asking, and particularly when he was asking for it, after teams were pretty locked into their budgets. That he fired Boras as his agent and will likely go through all of this again next year is pretty telling.
Farhandrew Zaidman: Re: Pages – CT3 has looked dreadful and Kiké hasn’t looked much better. Obligatory “it’s april” but maybe the beginning of the end for LA’s two super-Util guys?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Certainly not out of the question. Taylor has been dancing along the edge of a cliff since 2022
Arjay: Jack Leiter seems to have gotten his walks under control and is still a K machine. Is this the Rangers not wanting to waste any bullets before he gets hurt?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: I think it’s as much about the disarray within their rotation, with Bradford hitting the IL, Heaney struggling, and the returns of deGrom, Scherzer, and Mahle being several months away. Leiter only threw 85 innings last year so he’s probably not going to be heavily used overall; his innings right now could be very valuable to the team.
Yelich? More like Yelouch: Yelich had a good few weeks to start the season! If he stays healthy/has an all-star level year, and repeats it next year, is he on any kind of track for HoF consideration? What kind of seasons does he need to have moving forward to really move the needle? (best case scenario being another couple of 7 win years)
Avatar Jay Jaffe: He’s really fallen off since that 2018-19 peak, with just a .407 SLG from 2020-23. he’s at 40.4 bWAR and has just three seasons above 3.8 WAR. Gonna need a bunch of 5+ seasons, and i’m skeptical he has them in him.
Insert Witty Name Here: Re: Hunter Browns last start, I watched it the day after, and most of the hits were from breaking balls that didn’t break and were middle middle.
Avatar Jay Jaffe: “What did you think of his execution?”
“I’m in favor of it.”
Avatar Jay Jaffe: Whoa, where did the time go?
Avatar Jay Jaffe: It’s time for me to pack up and hit the road. Thanks so much for stopping by. We’ll do this again soon (but probably not next week because my parents are in Brooklyn and my kid has no school due to Passover). Until then, take care…


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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