Per Heyman, Red Sox nearing deal with JD Martinez

The most obvious fit of the offseason is finally happening. The Red Sox desperately need power in their lineup, and assuming the two sides make this official, Boston’s offense will be much better than it was last year.

Prior to adding Martinez, what do the projections say about the Red Sox? Fangraphs pegged Boston for 92 wins, a higher forecast than the Yankees 90. That’ll change once they update the depth charts page. Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA standings have the Yankees far ahead of Boston before this free agent addition, at 97 wins to 88. That gap will close a bit once that’s updated.

Either way, the division race just got a lot more interesting. Martinez is going to feast at Fenway Park.

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Projecting the NASCAR Prospects

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This post is horribly off-topic from Pinstripe Pundits’ typical coverage, so feel free to ignore it if you don’t care about NASCAR prospects. But this is something I’ve been working on and wanted to publish somewhere as a one-off post. Pinstripe Pundits is that somewhere. 

For the past 3+ years, I have built and refined a stats-based projection system for baseball prospects: KATOH. KATOH appeared most prominently on FanGraphs, where I covered prospects until yesterday, when I stepped down to pursue another opportunity in baseball.

In what follows, I apply a similar methodology to NASCAR prospects.

I built a statistical model using historical data that attempts to forecast each driver’s total number of top-10 finishes over his first five Monster Energy Cup seasons. (I also tried to forecast wins, but found them to be much less fluky – and obviously rarer – than top-10s. Both of those traits make wins tricky to predict.) The model considers a variety of factors to arrive at these projections, including: level of competition, finishing position, crash frequency, age, quality of equipment and sample of races run. In addition to the point estimate for number of top-10s, I have also provided two percentages for each driver: (1) The odds that he or she will record at least 60 top-10s and (2) The odds that he or she will record at least one top-10. Continue reading

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Yankees prospects in KATOH’s Top 100, and those who missed

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Chris published his top 100 KATOH prospects on Fangraphs yesterday. Here are the Yankees that made the cut:

14. IF Gleyber Torres (8.9 WAR)

26. IF Tyler Wade (7.3 WAR)

62. RHP Chance Adams (5.0 WAR)

Torres’s rank is slightly lower than the consensus, but still excellent. KATOH has always been high on Wade, who is certainly a good prospect but not one who is a top prospect in scouts’ eyes. Opinions on Adams vary by publication, but clearly KATOH is a fan.

Some of the notable Yankees prospects who fell short in KATOH’s eyes: Justus Sheffield, Miguel Andujar, Estevan Florial, and Albert Abreu. Chris let me know each of their projections:

  • LHP Sheffield: 3.3 WAR
  • 3B Andujar: 3.2 WAR
  • CF Florial: 2.0 WAR
  • RHP Abreu: 0.9 WAR

So Sheffield and Andujar are in the category of “just missed”. Mauricio Dubon was the 100th ranked prospect per KATOH, and he had a 4.0 WAR projection, not far ahead of Sheffield and Andujar.

There are a few reasonable guesses to explain why KATOH isn’t as high on these four as others:

Pitchers tend to be riskier prospects, and KATOH accounts for this, hence the suppressed forecasts for Sheffield and Abreu. Both pitchers are currently more “stuff over results” prospects at this point, which also helps explain KATOH’s evaluation. Still, Sheffield’s projection is nothing to scoff at.

Andujar’s 3.2 WAR projection isn’t bad even though it didn’t make the top-100 cut. His 132 wRC+ paired with a low 13.6 percent strikeout rate was impressive in time with both Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton last year, and his power (.183 ISO) was solid to boot. However, it’s his defense that must be holding back the soon-to-be 23 year old’s projection. KATOH uses Clay Davenport’s stats for defense, and Andujar fared poorly per those metrics in the minors last year.

When it comes to Florial, the outfielder’s strikeout rate is the culprit. He went down on strikes 31.1 percent of the time last season with Single-A Charleston and High-A Tampa, which is troublesome. It’s hard to grade out highly from a stats-only model when you go down on strikes at such a high clip.

In all, having three top-100 caliber prospects from a stats-only model’s eyes is very good. Combine that with the young talent already in the big leagues that have graduated from prospect status, and things look even better.

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Will the Yankees open the gates early for batting practice this season?

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From the New York Post:

TAMPA — The Yankees will open the gates three hours before spring training home games, allowing fans to watch Aaron Judge and new teammate Giancarlo Stanton take their thwacks during batting practice.

This is progress, I guess. I’d like to see this done during the regular season, however. As it stands, you can only see the visiting team take BP at Yankee Stadium if you arrive early enough.

It would seem like a win-win to open the stadium early enough for the home team’s batting practice to be seen. Aside from giving the fans a greater opportunity to connect with the team, it also might aid with security lines and increase concession revenue, among other things.

The caveat is the moat blocking off fans from getting up to the dugout for autographs and photo opportunities. The legends seats section is cordoned off and cannot be accessed without a ticket even prior to first pitch, so even if the Yankees were to open the gates extra early during the regular season, most fans still couldn’t get the full experience. Unless they were to change that as well, of course.

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Report: Todd Frazier joins the Mets

Cross one third base option off the board: Todd Frazier has switched boroughs. He’ll suit up for the Mets next season. After joining the Yankees last summer in a trade with the White Sox, Frazier did a respectable job on the field while making a significant impact in the clubhouse. He’ll be missed in the Bronx.

As each day passes, and now especially with Frazier now unavailable, the likelihood of Miguel Andujar becoming the opening day third baseman increases. Andujar has plenty of upside, and has been ranked as high as 14th-best prospect in all of baseball, but is less of a sure thing in the short term. ZiPS is bullish on Frazier for 2018 and forecasts 3.5 WAR for the newest Met, whereas it projects 1.2 WAR for Andujar in similar playing time.

I’m disappointed that Frazier won’t return. $17 million for two years is quite team friendly. Even though the Yankees are striving to avoid paying the luxury tax this year, it’s not like this deal would have broken the bank. That type of deal wouldn’t block Andujar either should he force his way into a starting role.

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Reminiscing upon 1998

Embed from Getty ImagesRiver Ave. Blues just wrapped up its fantastic Retro Week that covered the Yankees’ 1998 season. As a seven year-old turning eight in September, I was still pretty young at the time and don’t have too many vivid memories of that year. I recall watching the Sportscenter before school to find out about the home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, and also remember watching McGwire’s 62nd blast, but my Yankees-specific memories are pretty limited.

I have three distinct memories from that year: two games I attended over the summer and the moment Tino Martinez hit his famed grand slam against Mark Langston in the World Series.

For Tino’s World Series blast, all I remember was jumping up and down on my parents’ couch. I was going wild, for an eight year-old.

I also remember sitting in the upper deck, third base side, at a mid-September game (for my birthday) against the Blue Jays on September 12th. I don’t remember any details of the game except that David Wells pitched. Pretty nondescript.

Out of everything in 1998, though, it was a game between the Yankees and Rangers on August 13th that I have the fondest memory of. Orlando Hernandez pitched and was magnificent, striking out thirteen batters while falling just two outs short of a complete game. I was sitting with family in the upper deck behind home plate, slightly off center to the left if I recall correctly. The gradually growing excitement of the crowd as each and every strikeout amassed was something I hadn’t yet experienced in person, which left a lasting impression. Reading this great piece about El Duque on RAB last week reminded me of that game, even though it wasn’t mentioned in that particular post.

I’ve seen the 1998 team’s highlights countless times and even remember one playoff moment well, but it’s still a random game in August that has stuck with me the most. I often wish that I was a little bit older at the time so I could have appreciated what was accomplished, but I’ll gladly take what I suppose I should call my indoctrination to a Yankee Stadium crowd.

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A sign that spring training is near: non-roster invitees announced

The Yankees releasing their non-roster invitee list is a welcoming sign that spring training is on the horizon. Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like the Yankees are always one of the last teams to announce who will be joining the 40-man roster down in Tampa. I guess it’s one of those things that doesn’t really need to be rushed, as long as you have a squad show up in camp.

Estevan Florial and Justus Sheffield are the two biggest names on this list, and understandably so. They’ve received glowing reviews from various top-100 prospect lists in recent days. It’s going to be fun to get a closer look at them, but it’s actually a couple of the less-heralded prospects on this list that I’m most interested in.

Chance Adams, though I suppose he’s not necessarily “less-heralded” considering he’s cracked a few top-100 lists, will be a pitcher I have my eye on. Though he’s garnered very good results during his minor league career, I’ve never been impressed by his peripherals. He walks a few too many hitters and could stand to generate more grounders. Getting a good look at him actually pitch should help me understand how he’s consistently maintained low ERAs as he’s climbed the ladder. Hopefully he gets a fairly long look.

I look forward to seeing second baseman Nick Solak get a chance, too. The Yankees took Solak in the second round in 2016, and he’s hit well ever since. As a 23 year-old who’s already cracked Double-A, he’s not as far away from the majors as it might seem. Given the Yankees’ infield depth, it’s not inconceivable that he’ll be in the majors this year.

We’re getting closer, folks.

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Gleyber Torres and a Site Update

The Yankees won’t explicitly state this because it would end in a grievance, but this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, via Joel Sherman:

Even if Gleyber Torres showed he was fully healthy after Tommy John surgery (to his non-throwing arm) and starred in spring training, the Yankees would have reason not to promote him before April 14.

That would take him beyond the 16-day mark of the season and mean Torres could not accumulate a year’s service in 2018. Thus, the Yanks would get essentially seven years of play out of Torres rather than six before he became eligible for free agency.

I’ve written about how the Yankees should handle the current infield situation and have identified a few acquisition targets outside of the realm of the obvious options like Todd Frazier for BP Bronx.

That’s a perfect transition to our site’s current status, which has been dormant for about a year. I’ve been writing for other sites and Chris is firmly entrenched at Fangraphs, so things fell off here even though I wanted to maintain this blog. Alas, I’m going to try again this year.

My more in-depth work will be seen on BP Bronx going forward, but I still plan to chime in here from time to time. I anticipate using this site for more newsworthy items and my own reactions to them, which I think is better suited for here because BP Bronx has multiple collaborators and not just one overarching voice. Things could change over time…but that’s how I see it going for now.

 

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OOTP 18: Another great year for the baseball video game franchise

Year after year, Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP) is the top simulation baseball game available. OOTP 18 is no different. The amount of depth is incredible; from being able to play historical seasons, manage every detail of one’s controlled organization, and having complete power over customization, there isn’t much one can’t do in this game.

On a yearly basis, OOTP is a reliably entertaining and immersive game that always feels like there’s nothing else necessary to add. Sure, some minor tweaks to AI always help improve the experience, but it’s almost impossible to come up with something that this game doesn’t have. That being said, the makers behind OOTP come up with new (and great) features anyway, and this year is no different. Allow me to walk you through some of the new key additions this year, my overall thoughts on the game, and a glimpse into the first month of the Yankees’ 2017 season that I’ve played and simulated.

The biggest new features include an improved 3D mode (for those who like to manage and simulate pitch-by-pitch), a challenge mode that allows human players to compete with each other for various accolades, and the addition of the Negro Leagues in historical seasons. Admittedly, I’m probably not going to use any of these features as I prefer to take control of one team and act as the GM without the minute game-by-game details. However, I can absolutely see the appeal of those features. Here’s why:

The 3D mode adds a level of depth to the individual game simulation. It’s not going to wow you if you’re used to console baseball video games, but it certainly improves the usual text-based simulations that many are used to on a single game basis. There’s something about seeing a play unfold, even if somewhat basic graphically, that adds more than reading “Dustin Pedroia grounded out to shortstop Didi Gregorius”.

Challenge mode is a standardized goal-oriented mode that allows you to set up a classic OOTP game set up on a level playing field with other players. You won’t be competing with them head-to-head in the league set up, but rather, you can compare various accomplishments achieved in your career that are tracked on your online profile.

The addition of the Negro Leagues in historical seasons is fantastic, too. As you may already be aware, OOTP allows players to start a game back in time. So, if you start a game at some point earlier in the 20th century, the Negro Leagues can be a part of your game’s universe. Ever thought about how Josh Gibson would fare in the Major Leagues? Fire up an OOTP game, acquire him, and let the years play out. Though I prefer to play in the current year in OOTP, I have to imagine that this is a pretty neat feature for historical players.

Other more additions include updated rosters (as expected), international tournaments and fall leagues, improved AI, ability to eat salaries in trades, and more. All of those are welcomed additions, of course. An entire list of new features can be found here.

My thoughts:

For what I play OOTP for, the game isn’t overwhelmingly different from years past, but I’m not really seeking an overhaul. For me, the game is excellent as is. Yet, there are a few things that I want to point out that either (a) really draw me to this game or (b) are tweaks to this year’s version that I’m a huge fan of.

  • Retaining player salaries in trades: This a a really nice feature on the propose trade screen. In prior versions, cash could always be included in a deal (this is still available), but now the amount of a to be traded or acquired contract can be specified. This is really useful because it essentially allows money moved in a trade to be spread out over time, rather than all of the cash being included up front. It’s a small addition, and I don’t think I ever realized that it’s something I would have wanted in the past, but I’m pleased to have it now. It just adds another small piece of realism.
  • ZiPS Projection System: Perhaps this was around in the past, but I wasn’t aware that the player ratings were generated based on ZiPS, Dan Szymborski’s forecasting model. In recent years, ZiPS has fared very well (if not the best) compared to other systems in terms of accuracy.
  • Customization: There is so much that can be customized to one’s own liking in this game. For me, the first thing I always do is change the player rating system to be on the 20-80 scouting scale. That’s just one example of what can be changed in the game, as there are countless other things that can be crafted to your own liking. Seriously, name what you want to be able to amend, and you probably can. Want to change the name of your team? Go right ahead. Want the DH in the NL? Unilaterally lay the hammer down.
  • Depth of rosters: There isn’t a minor league level or prospect that has been ignored. As the GM of the team you control, you have a say in what goes on from the Major League level all the way down to the Dominican Summer League. It actually can be kind of daunting to have to evaluate and manage so many prospects within a system, but it’s a phenomenal aspect of the game that exemplifies how the creators leave no stone unturned.

Ultimately, I don’t have some sort of formal rating methodology to evaluate this game as video game reviews aren’t my trade. But if I was forced to, I’d have to give it an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale. For some, I can see how this game might be daunting to undertake given how deep and immersive it is, but keep in mind that there are so many settings that allow for one to control as much or as little as one wants. On the precipice, it seems like a game for the hardcore baseball fan like me, but given the customization options, it really can be for anyone who enjoys a simulation based game.

Where to buy?

Out of the Park Baseball 18 sells for $39.99 and is available on Steam and through the company’s website at these links:

http://store.steampowered.com/app/465650/

http://www.ootpdevelopments.com/out-of-the-park-baseball/

My OOTP Game (so far):

Now, on to the 2017 simulation that I’ve begun. The second I started my game, Hal Steinbrenner laid out a few demands: achieve a winning season (possible!), make the playoffs in the next four seasons (gee, I hope so), acquire a former MVP (whoa!), and sign Michael Pineda to an extension. Signing Pineda to an extension is a bit odd, but whatever. The acquire a former MVP award winner was surprising though! That’s a pretty big ask. Fortunately, the Yankees’ lush farm system might allow me to do that. These goals are an important facet of the game, as a player can get fired as General Manager for failing to meet some or all goals. It’s not a requirement to reach all of them, but there better be some effort in doing so. There’s also an setting to disallow the owner to fire you, if you so choose (like I said, customization is a huge plus in this game).

To this point, I’ve simulated one month into the year. That took me a few hours, as I like to take total control of the entire system, depth charts, and lineups. I plan to provide updates as the year goes along, but I wanted to give a brief review of what I’ve seen thus far. It wouldn’t make sense to write a game review later this year when I finally finish a full season.

At the end of April, the Yankees stand at .500, going 12-12 (there was one rainout if you’re wondering why I hadn’t played the 23 games the real Yankees played), 3.5 games behind first place Boston. It’s certainly not the pace of the real life 15-8 Yankees, but it’s not a start that’s put the team in a bind.

There are a handful of big news items in the first month of play, but perhaps the biggest for my Yankees team is that I decided to demote Aaron Judge to Triple-A on April 29. Gasp! In my game, he’s performed nothing like the Judge we’ve been watching in reality. In 87 plate appearances, Judge was hitting .167/.240/.308 with 3 home runs and 35 strikeouts (44 OPS+). Yuck. Aaron Hicks, meanwhile, posted a 121 OPS+ (mostly against lefties), so I decided it was time to make a change.

Judge wasn’t the only disappointment, though. For pitchers, Masahiro Tanaka had a rough April. His ERA stands at 5.51 through six starts. CC Sabathia fared poorly too, with an ERA just below the ace of the staff, 5.46. Adam Warren has had a rough go of it as well, with a sky high 7.53 ERA in 14.1 innings pitched. As for position players, Chase Headley is off to another rough start, with a 57 OPS+ (.205/.272/.325). Starlin Castro has been just as bad (58 OPS+).

On the other hand, there have been a few pleasant surprises. I mentioned Hicks before, but Jacoby Ellsbury is performing well, hitting .319/.397/.464 (127 wRC+).

How’s the back of the rotation doing? Not bad. Luis Severino was my fourth starter, and has thrown 30 innings of 3.90 ERA ball. I tabbed Luis Cessa as the fifth starter after a couple of strong starts in Scranton, and he was acceptable in three starts with the Yankees, posting a 4.42 ERA.

Gary Sanchez’ torrid 2016 carried over to 2017. He posted a 159 OPS+ in April, batting .345/.396/.607 with 5 home runs. Michael Pineda was the best pitcher, with a 3.38 ERA and 2.88 FIP in 32 innings.

More to come as I continue the simulation.

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Make Gary Sanchez part of OOTP 18’s Perfect Team Digital Cover

Anyone who has played video games in the past knows that cover art is commonplace. For sports games, there’s usually one, maybe two, star players featured on a game’s case. Out of the Park Baseball, a digital only PC/Max/Linux game, has never featured a player on the cover before (it’s digital only, duh).

Things are changing this year. Eleven (!) players will be on a “digital cover” as voted on by the OOTP community. One Yankee, Gary Sanchez, is eligible to be voted on to the team. You can vote here.

For those unfamiliar, OOTP is an incredibly immersive baseball simulation game. Essentially, it gives you the ability to run a franchise starting from today and control all facets of the organization. You can also go back in time and try to rewrite history. When the game is released on March 24, I’ll offer up some sort of commentary or review on this year’s version.

Voting results will be announced on a live stream on March 15th. For further details, see the official press release after the jump…

Continue reading

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