Author Archive

Jose Altuve and the Point of No Return(?)

Ominous title, I know, but in all fairness: Jose Altuve sports a paltry .207/.267/.322 (65 wRC+) line. The former consensus 2nd-overall pick who hit .298 with a career-high 31 home runs last year may seem like an unlikely collapse candidate on the surface.

Unfortunately, the cracks began to show last year. For one, Altuve all but stopped running; when he did run, he fared poorly, succeeding in only six of 11 attempts. Moreover, his .298 average, while excellent, was a far cry from his best (.346) and post-breakout five-year peak from 2014 through 2018 (.331). These are the obvious signs of wear.

A lightly critical evaluation might have concluded Altuve would still be a valuable commodity in 2020. Average draft position (ADP) data confirms this suspicion; a post-pandemic-onset ADP of 40.12 (37th overall), per the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC), ain’t nothing to sneeze at.

Yet my work on launch angle tightness in December, while illuminating and fun to research, shined a spotlight on an interesting and very specific data point: Altuve.

A tight launch angle (small standard deviation) is not always good, and a loose launch angle (large) is not always bad, but by and large the overall trend holds. Perhaps a more effective way to use tightness is to compare it historically for each player. While Altuve never had elite tightness, it was consistent, and he was an elite hitter, and that’s all that mattered. So it alarmed me to see his launch angle loosen up in 2019:

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Randy Dobnak, Probable Great American Hero

It’s easy to dismiss Randy Dobnak, to turn him into a punchline. When 99.99% of baseball fans were introduced to Dobby last fall, they learned two things:

  1. When he wasn’t pitching, he worked part-time as a ride-share driver to help pay the bills (an altogether separate indictment of MLB and its broad moral shortcomings), and
  2. He has a handlebar mustache.

That’s just enough, but also plenty, to undercut a grown man’s legitimacy. It’s this very illegitimizing, I hypothesize, that has allowed Dobnak to fly under fantasy radars, even as he demonstrates nonzero aptitude on the mound.

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Alex Chamberlain’s Five Bold Predictions for 2020

These hallowed pages have borne (bore? beared? how am I even a writer?) witness to many bold predictions — some good, most bad. Last year’s hits and near-hits include Kirby Yates, Jeff McNeil, Mike Tauchman, and Domingo German; previous hits include Jose Ramirez, Madison Bumgarner (not being an ace), Matt Chapman, and Miles Mikolas, among others, as well as other near-hits not worth repeating.
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Sometimes, bold predictions aren’t entirely so. I try to make my predictions legitimately bold (bordering on impossible), actionable, and strategic. It’s not helpful for someone to boldly predict Giancarlo Stanton will hit 25 homers in a 60-game season, however fun a prediction that may be.

It’s (less than) half a season, so you get half the predictions, although I’ll include some less-bold low-hanging fruit at the end, for posterity.

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ERA Estimators, Pt. III: Future

I semi-recently had the honor of presenting at PitcherList’s PitchCon online conference to help raise money for Feeding America. My presentation, “ERA Estimators: Past, Present, and Future,” discussed, well, exactly what it sounds like it discussed. Over three posts, I will recap and elaborate upon points made in my presentation.

In the first two parts of this series (1) (2), I reviewed every manner of estimator, from the classics (FIP, xFIP, SIERA) to new-fangled doohickeys (Baseball Prospectus’ DRA, Statcast’s xERA, Connor Kurcon’s pCRA, Dan Richards‘ FRA). Today, we march forward, envisioning a future that may already be upon us.

ERA Estimators, Part III: Future

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Launch Angle, Pitch Location, and What Pitchers Can(not) Control

I spend a lot of time bothering Connor Kurcon. He’s a smart dude with a certain intuition about baseball and a certain ability to apply that intuition to produce tangible results that invariably reflect his hypotheses. He devised Predictive Classified Run Average (pCRA), an ERA estimator that outperforms the big three (FIP, xFIP, and SIERA). He also created a dynamic hard-hit rate which, to me, was astoundingly clever and a superior accomplishment to pCRA (although maybe he disagrees).

Anyway, like I said, I bother him a lot, he tolerates me, we bounce ideas off each other. The journey starts there, with my incessant annoyance of him, but also it starts here, with this Tom Tango axiom: exit velocity (EV) is the primary predictive element of hitter performance (as measured by weighted on-base average on contact, aka wOBAcon) — significantly more so than launch angle (LA). Some of the inner machinations of Tango’s mind:

I won’t speak for Kurcon, but I think this finding helped guide his work on the dynamic hard-hit rate. I also think it inspired his foray into replicating this effort for pitchers or, at the very least, his attempts to determine the most predictive element of pitcher performance. Which leads us to this tweet that (spoiler alert) is actually not stupid at all:

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ERA Estimators, Pt. II: Present

I semi-recently had the honor of presenting at PitcherList’s PitchCon online conference to help raise money for Feeding America. My presentation, “ERA Estimators: Past, Present, and Future,” discussed, well, exactly what it sounds like. Over three posts, I will recap and elaborate upon various talking points from the presentation.

If the previous post was an elementary look at the “big three” estimators (FIP, xFIP, and SIERA), I hope this one is a little more illuminating.

ERA Estimators, Part II: Present

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ERA Estimators, Pt. I: Past

I semi-recently had the honor of presenting at PitcherList’s PitchCon online conference, which raised a good chunk of money for Feeding America. My presentation, “ERA Estimators: Past, Present, and Future,” discussed, well, exactly what it sounds like. Over three posts, I will recap and elaborate upon various talking points from the presentation.

I hoped to make this content accessible to all levels of (fantasy) baseball fandom. With that in mind, the content throughout, but especially in this first post, may feel a bit remedial to the common FanGraphs/RotoGraphs reader. Nor do I claim this content to be necessarily original or expansive; the array of articles comparing and arguing the merits of the “big three” ERA estimators (FIP, xFIP, SIERA) and more is broad. You can find a wealth of information in FanGraphs’ glossary already, if not elsewhere.

However, if this does happen to be your first exposure to ERA estimators or you are familiar with them but don’t necessarily understand their innards, then I hope you find this launching-off point beneficial.

ERA Estimators, Part I: Past

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Alex’s Best Dudes for 2020 (Part 2 of 2)

Yesterday, I posted the first 15 out of 30 of My Dudes who I have been drafting at each “round” of 12-team drafts, per National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) average draft position (ADP) between March 16 and April 8. Here are the last 15! Plus! As a bonus, I’ll briefly chronicle 10 players I’ve been targeting for my bench depth in 15-team leagues as well. Enjoy!

Thirty of My Dudes (One for Every Round), Part 2

Round 16: Christian Vázquez, BOS C (ADP 192.11)

I came away from my deep dive on Vázquez surprised by how impressed I was with his profile. He’s not an elite hitter or anything, but I’ll take a catcher who can hit 20 homers with an average that won’t kill you. (All of the projection systems have taken the hard under on his power this year, by the way. I’ll smash the over, but I don’t expect another 25-homer pace or anything.)

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Alex’s Best Dudes for 2020 (Part 1 of 2)

Last week, I highlighted my 20 favorite mortal locks for 2020. Effectively, I compiled a list of 20 hitters and pitchers (primarily hitters) who have historically out-performed their current average draft position (ADP), such that, barring injury or unforeseen decline, they should do so again with ease.

Here, I will highlight one, and only one, player in each round (assuming a 12-team format) who (1) is not a mortal lock and (2) I found myself targeting frequently in drafts this year. Again, given draft season has mostly come and gone — and given that this season may never play out — I figure I could do this this one time. Granted, I still have two home leagues to draft, so it’s possible this could backfire. Oh well!

This doesn’t need a substantial prologue. Here are the first 15 of 30 players I have found myself strongly considering at their National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) average draft position (ADP) data from March 16 through April 9 (130 drafts).

Thirty of My Dudes (One for Every Round), Part 1

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Alex’s Mortal Locks for 2020*

The season may not happen, and nearly all of my industry and high-stakes drafts are complete (not my home leagues, though), so I feel like it’s as good a time as any to publish My Guys — or, not My Guys, exactly, but The Guys I Absolutely Can’t Ignore at Their Prices. I’ll call this latter group, for short, my mortal locks. Incidentally and hardly coincidentally, the overlapping portion of the Venn Diagram of My Guys and my mortal locks is quite large.

My mortal locks (a term my uncle uses that I absolutely love): the guys who I can nearly guarantee will turn a profit at their National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) average draft position (ADP). The average draft produces a 65% return on investment (ROI). In other words, that’s a 35% loss, or roughly $90 of a $260 auction budget poorly spent. If you can at least break even, let alone turn a profit, on every player on your roster, you are already setting yourself up for success. It’s nearly impossible, but it doesn’t make it a bad goal.

If you Google “mortal lock,” the first result is a website called waywordradio.org, in which it defines mortal lock as “a cinch, an odds-on favorite, a guaranteed thing or event.” The next result, though, is Urban Dictionary — far more reputable — which defines mortal lock as “a bet that is virtually guaranteed winner, but in reality it is just a coin flip.”

This post embraces both definitions. My mortal locks are mortal locks precisely because they have proven to be as close to guaranteed as anything or anyone else. In reality, nothing is guaranteed. But I’ll convince myself something must be.

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