Ben Lindbergh and Jeff Sullivan banter about beard grooming, the indy-league exploits of Rafael Palmeiro, Patrick Palmeiro, and the Chinese national team, the Padres-Indians trade involving Brad Hand, Adam Cimber, and Francisco Mejía, the Orioles' commitment to rebuilding, post-publication regrets about articles, the worst example of umpiring they've ever seen, and the state of the standings as the second half starts, then answer listener emails about what (if anything) is wrong with Gary Sánchez, Nick Markakis's timing (and fashion choices), calling fractional balls and strikes, round-number bias and the 100-pitch limit, paying Mike Trout for promotion, a .500 team without injuries or fatigue, and why certain teams try to tread water rather than rebuild, plus a Stat Blast about the durability of relievers and a reminder about listener Michael Mountain's 35-day, 30-ballpark road trip.
- Reliever value over time
- Gary Sanchez
- Partial strikes
- Nick Markakis
- fatigue-less team
- round number bias
- Why rebuild
- Rafael Palmeiro
- Chinese national team
- Brad Hand trade
- The Orioles rebuild
- Worst called strike
- The Standing so far
- Mike Trout and Bryce Harper's response to commissioner
- Shohei Ohtani
- Baseball stadium journey
- Brandon: Hey, another email question here. What the hell is wrong with Gary Sanchez? He's obviously having a very down year. He touted a 130 wRC+ on the back of a .278/.345/.531 slash line, versus a 96 wRC+ (not awful, but not good) with a .190/.291/.433 slash line this year. After researching him some more, I haven't found anything that jumps out at me as to teams or pitchers adjusting. His Pull%/Center%/Oppo% and Soft%/Med%/Hard% haven't really changed by more than a couple percent. He's seeing a bit more breaking balls than last year, but only by about 3% (fastball % has gone from 48.9% to 45.2%). He seems to be hitting breaking/offspeed pitches worse across the board in terms of runs above average per 100 pitches. His eye hasn't seemed to change in terms of O-Swing% and Z-Swing%. Nothing really seems to be causing this tremendous downturn in a young player. In talking with my friend about this, he suggested that maybe the shift is really hurting him. In looking at this his shift data on FanGraphs, he's gone from an 81 wRC+ to a -12 wRC+ with no shift, versus a 68 wRC+ to a 50 wRC+ against the shift. Is there an explanation of how a player can become so bad at hitting against a normal non-shifted lineup for a pull hitter while remaining relatively level against a shift? And why the hell is he so bad? Is there anything that pops out to you that I've missed?
- Anonymous: After seeing Jeff's "worst strike of the first half" piece, we had a lunchtime discussion about the following: if/when a robot strike zone is introduced, what if balls and strikes no longer had to be integers? BP uses a called strike probability model, so in theory the league could accomplish the same thing. You could get roughly half credit for borderline pitches, and in theory a batter could reach a count with, say, 3.05 balls and 2.95 strikes and then the pitcher would only have to kinda get the ball near the plate to strike you out, etc. Thoughts? I'm way in, at least for one game to see how it works.
- Bobby: With all the talk about weird contract structures and Mike Trout wanting to avoid the spotlight, what are the chances that a team would offer Tout extra money in free agency if he agrees to be more marketable? Surely any team that signs Trout will want to show off their newest asset, but if the best they can do is print his giant face on a white t-shirt they're probably going to have trouble attracting new fans. So, do you think a team would be willing offer him an extra $50 million or so in PR incentives, and do you think Trout would agree to it? Maybe he could skydive/bungee jump while wearing a Superman costume, wrestle a grizzly bear to avenge actual trouts everywhere, or just appear in a few more commercials every year.
- Ben in Silver Spring: I know Markakis has been a semi-regular topic on the show this year, but David Laurila's article yesterday got me thinking about this player I was already a big fan of. While in Baltimore his looks and "Save the Bay" ads were one of very few things which could convince my wife to join me for a few minutes of baseball. And, you know, he was good for that team for a long time. Laurila attributes much, or at least some, of his success this year to his timing. Markakis attributes his timing to studying film of pitchers and committing the various deliveries etc. to memory. It seems reasonable this could be a skill with a measurable effect. Do we know much yet about how these types of mental acuity can contribute to an aging player avoiding decline, and even improving? It's one of those things that feels a little too ephemeral for mathematic analysis but nonetheless it can't be nothing, can it?
- Tim: Take an average team from any given year with a true talent level of exactly .500 going into the season. This team is average in every way except injuries and fatigue. They play a game and wake up the next day like it's the first game of the season, and everyone is in the "best shape of their lives" and healthy at the beginning of each new day. What's their record at the end of the season?
- Chris: When we discuss how long a starting pitcher should stay in a game, the conversation seems to always center around 100 pitches being a good measurement for when they should be taken out. However, this feels like a really good example of round number bias, and thus an inefficiency in game management. Even with all of the scrutiny that's paid to pitch limits in youth leagues and concern over wearing out the rotation, we still gravitate towards the nice round number as being the limit, no matter who the pitcher is or what their throwing style is. Is this a case where round number bias is hurting analysis on a non-trivial level, or is the math just imprecise enough that using 100 as a baseline is close enough?
- Michael: I have been thinking about this for a few weeks now and thought it might be a good question for you guys to delve into. What drives a team to adopt the model of the Rays, as in a team that runs low payrolls while trying to construct roughly .500 rosters hoping for a good year? What makes a team follow this model versus say the tanking model of the Astros, Phillies, etc? Obviously payroll is a factor, but at the same time we see teams like Cincinnati and Kansas City following the latter model. My other question is what would it take for say the Royals to pivot to this "middling" success model? How does a team just start doing this? Also do you think it would require a successful campaign for other teams to start copying, like say a 2019 World Series Tampa Bay team? I feel as though the bleak future of the AL Central should make this a tantalizing option for one of those non-Indian teams.
- Only 48% of position players were worth 3 WAR in 2 consecutive years, 52% of starting pitchers, and only 45% of relievers repeated a 1 WAR performance in consecutive years.
- The top 200 relievers lost 52% of there value in 2 years, and it's the most valuable loss in all the playing groups.
- Rafael Palmeiro in 27 games (105 PA) is slashing .291/.419/.519 in an independent league comparable to high A, he is out OPS-ing his son.
- "This is a guy who lied to the government so he's already kind of a dick" - Jeff on Rafael Palmeiro.
- "That is basically everything" - Ben on the Orioles GM listing things the team needs to improve on.
- "I know this is your line but, wait what" - Ben to Jeff after seeing the bad call video.
- The Orioles and the royals are 30 games out of the second wild card spot already.
- Michael Mountain is finally starting his ballpark tour as mentioned in Episode 1169.