Affordability Base Ball

I’m trying to save up a bit to get to Chicago in July for PitchFork Fest (and some BeerGraphs/FanGraphs events), so I haven’t been buying beer as expensive as I’m used to. Thank god for Red Chair NWPA from Deschutes. I’ve written about the beer before, but it was $7.99 for a six pack at Safeway, and I thought that made it deserving of another shoutout. It’s helping save my pocketbook while also quenching my thirst!

We just updated four days ago, but I wanted to check in anyway.

I talked to Mark Trumbo about getting the most out of his skillset. He doesn’t walk much and he isn’t a great defender, but he works on both, and it looks like diligently. He impressed me enough that I went and traded for him in a dynasty league, even though it was an OBP league.

I made that trade using Josh Hamilton, who is swinging and missing way too much, and Jed Lowrie, who was coincidentally the subject of my second interview/profile of the week. Lowrie has been unfortunate with injuries, but talking to him about his statistical profile was also interesting.

If you get a little mad this week, don’t do this.

Even with velocities down in April, these pitchers are worse off. Weird thing is, it’s a pretty good list of pitchers, as in the pitchers on the list are excellent. But lower velocity in April does increase chances of injury and further velocity loss.

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Beer Made Me Angry Base Ball

I had a beer this past weekend that made me angry. Just for a second — after all it was my son’s first birthday party, the weather was perfect, friends everywhere and babies splashing in the baby pool — but it made me angry. Hop Shortage from Knee Deep Brewing in Sacramento. I like Knee Deep’s Hoptoligist, and their Tanilla sweet porter. But the Hop Shortage was just too much hops. And I love hops. But this was too much. I called it a “jump the shark” moment. It also made me wonder — since I love certain beers that others consider too hoppy — if ‘hop balance’ exists. Perhaps spreading the hops around to different kinds makes for better beer. Some of the worst beers I’ve had were the ‘single hops’ series from Hermitage. One note better be fantastic if you’re going to try and make a song out of it. And Hop Shortage was like my baby boy, bashing that gong over and over again. I mean seriously, who buys a gong for a baby.

Last week, I was in San Diego. Love that city, if mostly for the beer variety you can get at your average Vons. Didn’t make it to a brewery, but I did get to interview a few Padres. I made some mistakes — I mistook Dale Thayer for Cory Luebke because he was sitting at his locker (with audio!), and I sat in Carlos Quentin‘s chair until I leaped about a foot in the air when he came back to it — but also had some success. Chase Headley talked to me about hitting for power in PetCo (dicey) and also his relationship to numbers. Numbers can screw you up, is part of the story, but it’s also interesting to see how his swing has changed over the years. And then I talked to Luke Gregerson about how he avoids platoon splits with just one secondary pitch — the slider — when he told me he has a few sliders. Three or seven to be exact.

For fantasy, I worked up Anthony Rendon (with some Nolan Arenado) and Justin Masterson. Masterson is Jamaican, so I want to love him, but he only has two pitches, and they’re both pitches with platoon issues. After projecting Billy Hamilton last week, I took a look at which guys were making more contact this year, since that’s one of the first stats to become reliable. And, as always, Wednesdays is Saves and Steals day at RotoWorld.

Trying to make it out to Chicago this summer, but need to pay some bills. I could fit another piece into my schedule, if you know someone that’s looking!

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Clubhouse Comfort Base Ball

Trying to get comfortable in the clubhouse isn’t easy. I’m obviously the low guy on the totem pole, and approaching the stars hasn’t been fruitful yet. Since I’m splitting time between the Giants and A’s clubhouses, I’m going to be low man for a long time. So I’ll get comfortable. There’s a lot of really interesting conversations to have with players that aren’t the head honchos, anyway.

Like this week, when Athletics starter Jarrod Parker told me that his trainers kept him from throwing sliders after he had Tommy John surgery, I was so interested I practically invaded his personal space. Then I tested his assertion by checking post-TJ surgery pitchers and their slider usage. That was really fun for this nerd.

Earlier in the week, I wrote a post about Jason Castro‘s butt. Okay, it was about catcher framing. But his butt was in there. With GIFs!

A trio of fun pictures for you: Modern dance at a baseball game, huge things in little baseball player’s hands, and boobz (sort of).

For roto purposes, I broke down the on-fire former Giant Nate Schierholtz, and then went nerdy on Billy Hamilton‘s speed.

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Existentialist Base Ball

Every once in a while I get a question about the reason d’etre for this site — why? I don’t write a ton of personal stuff here, and even the beer stuff is starting to get funneled towards BeerGraphs — which should launch any week now.

The answer is not sexy. I started this site for my family. They aren’t into twitter, they don’t facebook that much, and I didn’t want to send them emails all the time. So I wrap up my writing here as often as I can, and that’s why, so there.

But the hope is also that as I get paid better to do the writing I do, I can write a little bit less, and start writing some extra stuff here. So it won’t always be a wrap-up site.

For now, let’s wrap some shit up.

I’ve been going to the ballpark now for a couple of weeks, and access is great. Talking to the players produces stories with great velocity, and adding stats to their responses ‘fills them out’ in a way I like. I talked to Sean Doolittle about making one pitch work for him, and I was able to compare his release points to other pitchers’ release points, and also find a ‘pitch’ comp for him. I talked to the Mets hitting coach about Lucas Duda, and he pointed me to some changes Duda made to his pre-pitch movement. That was tough to back up with stats, but I did find some pictures that seemed to back the coach. This week, I talked to Rockies’ pitcher Jhoulys Chacin on ground balls and his curve ball, and one thing he said was definitely backed up by the numbers. And then Brandon Crawford told me part of his excellence on defense was because he was comfortable with his starting pitchers, who he’d been behind his whole career. And the numbers added some spice to that assertion, too.

Speaking of the Giants, I broke down Buster Posey vs Derek Jeter just for fun. Not because I’m a huge Jeter fan boy, but because they were both young stars that found success immediately and became cornerstones at important defensive positions up the middle. The post allowed me to talk about catcher defense, catcher aging, and a lot of different interesting issues.

I hope I don’t get in trouble uttering the words ‘fantasy baseball’ around the players. I did with Dexter Fowler and he was cool about it. We’ll see how it goes the next time that slips out of my mouth.

I had some fun with images too, this week, as we actually have some baseball to capture. Jose Fernandez is the hot young pitcher in Florida, and some have questioned his changeup, his third pitch. Well, this is his third pitch. It looks great. Chris Tillman threw a curveball — his second pitch — and it meant a lot to me today for some reason.

Over at Getting Blanked, I found the prospects that people can’t agree on last week, and then this week I summed up the closer research again, because some advancement has been made. Turn out, velocity and strikeouts are the best harbingers of closer changes.

Oh and Jon Miller and K&K talked FanGraphs on the KNBR wrapup! Awesome sauce.

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New Season Base Ball

It’s the new season and yet it’s just another season. That sounds wrong. It’s a new season, and so you get all the ups that come with it. But it’s also life, being cyclical. In that honor I had two beers — one that I had enjoyed before, and one that I had never had before.

The first emphasized the cyclical nature of sport well. Stone‘s Enjoy By 4/1/13 has a date on it even. You’re supposed to reach for the next one once the expiration date has passed. But man, it benefits from fresh hops. Hops is a preservative, and it dies out. By making you drink it fresh, Stone is making sure you get the right taste. It’s the same kind of idea behind the limited release of Pliny the Younger by Russian River. You can get Enjoy By easier though, and if you spot it, buy it and drink it.

The second beer was new, a fresh beginning. I don’t love Deschutes‘ beers, but their seasonal stout Black Butte XXIV is good enough, though pricy, and I loved their Obsidian Stout — on nitro cask at my local, so full of park effects. Their Red Chair NWPA does not need park effects to be enjoyed. It reminds me of another great IPA — Lagunitas Sucks. If you can get your hands on a Red Chair, do. It’s not even a big-hops triple-IPA monster. It’s fresh, it’s clean, it’s sweet, and it’s just bitter enough to make the package work.

I’ve been hard at work since we last hung out.

After sitting behind home plate for three innings of a spring game, I had plenty of reasons to be skeptical of the stats that the game had provided. So I wrote them up — mostly about how Jarrod Parker was approaching that game, and maybe his bad results weren’t such a big deal. Of course, Parker had a bad debut against the Mariners tonight. Just one game.

Then I was looking at Domonic Brown because I had drafted him way too many times and wanted to see if the cheap outfielder with power and speed could do anything at the plate this year, finally. Turns out his swing is like night and day from last year. That makes me like him more this year, because what he was doing last year was not working.

My first day at the ballpark did not go swimmingly. I was a rookie and I showed it. I didn’t do my best. But thankfully Sean Doolittle was gracious enough to talk to me for a while about pitching and how he mostly just uses one pitch — but makes it work. Makes me want to find a way to quantify deception. Just how useful is something like the glove waggle Ryan Dempster does? It has to show somewhere.

My friend in marketing asked me about fan stereotypes. I asked my coworkers, and my coworker in marketing told me about Google Correlate, where you can find search terms correlated with your search term. In other words. Atlanta Braves fans want to know about crawdads. I might not have helped my original friend out much, but it was fun.

On the fantasy side, I showed my sleepers, found pitchers that can elicit pop-ups, made my 10 Bold Predictions, talked about why young guys are often a bad bet in yearly leagues… and made what was perhaps a dud of an April Fool’s post. Win some, lose some.

Happy new season!

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Season Get Here Already Base Ball

Hopefully this comes across the right way — I wrote the best piece of my baseball writing career this week, and I’m pretty proud of it. I can do better, and it’s not changing anyone’s life, but I do think it’s a blueprint that I’ll follow in the upcoming year as I interview baseball players. Not all of them will be as cool as Joey Votto, who talked with me for a long time about the science of hitting for power and average. Some will pants me. Some have already given me the million-mile stare. It’s okay! If I turn one of these out every once in a while, it’s okay. You might recognize the approach as the same I took with Ryan Vogelsong, Sergio Romo, George Kontos and Brandon Belt at San Francisco Giants’ Media Day.

The Brewers signed Carlos Gomez to an extension and I like it. Looks like one of those things that should work out even if the player regresses from his peak performance. In other words, should Carlos Gomez not show the same power that he showed last year, the deal will be fine. If he continues to mash the ball and play great defense in center, the deal will be great .

We finally got the redesign done at RotoGraphs, so now all your draft resources for fantasy baseball are easy to find. If you’re looking for a list of ‘my sleepers,’ this is so far my best list. Next week I’ll do some bold predictions that will also have my sleepers on it. And then I’ll probably do a list of players that ended up on the most of my teams. If you want a one-stop shopping, easy fantasy baseball strategy read, I did a ‘draft kit’ piece for Sports on Earth that was on MLB.com for a bit, which is fun because I edited for MLB.com once upon a time. I also used my Votto research to find good bets for power and batting average at Getting Blanked this week.

A friend sent me a picture of old-timey baseball guys in high socks. But, other than the underwear ads in the back, the most interesting thing was the call for civility because ladies were present. Someone found the full text of the billboard and posted it in the comments section. That was a fun little interlude.

Speaking of interludes, I chat about baseball on FanGraphs every Thursday at noon. Come on by!

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Raising Arizona Base Ball

Sorry it’s been so long. This time of the year is when fantasy freaks don’t return your phone calls — they’re drafting dude, drafting. Pretty much non stop.

When not drafting (and, really, with slow e-mail drafts I’m *always* drafting), I managed to write some pieces.

I thought the Dodgers were crazy to start Hanley Ramirez at shortstop and an actual shortstop (Luis Cruz) at third base. But when I looked into the defensive numbers, it wasn’t actually so crazy. It kind of works, and it has the ancillary benefit of coddling their malcontent star, to put it cynically.

After talking to Sergio Romo and finding out he idolized Greg Maddux, I went into the numbers and actually found similarities between the Giants’ reliever and the Braves’ Hall of Fame starter. At least I now know why Romo doesn’t have platoon splits — his arsenal is better described as sinker/slider than fastball/slider, and the former can neutralize opposite-handed batters, while the latter has platoon problems.

The Mariners are hitting the tar out of the ball (is there tar in a baseball somewhere?). They’ve bought some new players that have some power. Their fences are coming in. I still don’t quite believe their power surge is going to head North with them.

I had a little fun with the fact that the Mets released a cap that is to be used for postgame interviews. Really. What’s next?

We redesigned the fantasy page at FanGraphs, and now you have all sorts of goodies sitting right there at www.fangraphs.com/fantasy. Our rankings came out and I gathered them all in one place for you. Our depth charts are almost finished, and they are in one place. Hopefully this is a big step towards making FanGraphs a premier fantasy baseball site.

On the fantasy tip, I also wrote this light, easy, all-in-one fantasy baseball draft kit for Sports on Earth. If you don’t want to read hours and hours of fantasy baseball, this could be the kit for you. I also recapped relevant research on hitting the edge of the strike zone, and using strikeouts *minus* walks instead of divided by.

This week it’s Arizona again, hopefully with some player interviews.

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