Author Archive

Alex Chamberlain’s 10 Bold Predictions for 2024

One bold prediction for each position, in order (except there’s two each for outfield and starting pitcher). No preamble. Just go.

1) Jake Rogers is a top-12 catcher.

Rogers does not boast an especially unique skillset among catchers: he hits for power and not much else. To Rogers’ credit, however, he hits for a lot of power, definitely for catchers and even relative to non-catchers, too. With his strong pulled fly ball tendencies his path to 20-plus home runs is relatively frictionless.

Carson Kelly, a former 2nd-rounder and top-100 prospect, watched his blue-chip prospectdom expire long ago. Aside from breaking out during 2019’s juiced-ball season and a decent showing in 2021 he has unquestionably disappointed. He figures to fulfill the shallow side of a possible platoon with Rogers, one that would net him the usual one-fourth of the available plate appearances. That leaves perhaps 450 PAs, rather than the 360 PAs he’s projected for and that he accumulated last year, to push Rogers over the top as a catching option.

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2024 Draft Recap: Tout Wars (15-Team OBP Auction)

This is my fourth year in the 15-team mixed league auction, with batting average replaced by on-base percentage (OBP). No one tracks these things closely (except for Josiah Tindor), but I’ll be the first to admit I’ve fared quite poorly in this league. If my memory serves me correctly, I finished 14th, 8th, and 15th. That’s… pretty bad! Embarrassing, even. I expected to perform badly in my first year — I have never quite gotten the grasp of 15-team leagues, with 12 teams being the sweet spot for me, and I had never played in an OBP league before. In 2022, with a year under my belt, it went better but it still wasn’t great.

Last year, though, was an unmitigated disaster. It was time to face the facts: I simply hadn’t devoted enough time and attention to fantasy baseball. My daughter was born during the 2020 season, so before the 2021 season she was still small and decidedly less of a rascal, which allowed me to prepare as I normally would. But as she has gotten older I have found myself with less and less free time. I thought I could simply ride the momentum of my existing knowledge of the player pool. To some extent, it worked; the 2022 season wasn’t so bad, although it was my first losing (overall negative ROI) year since 2011. That should’ve been enough of a red flag. 2023 was somehow worse and, frankly, downright humiliating.

I told myself, not again. Read the rest of this entry »

Further Investigation of Justin Steele’s “Fastball”

Last year, Justin Steele verged upon pitch-tracking-era history:

If you don’t know how this ends, my exceptionally dim-witted-but-nevertheless-talented colleague and friend Alex Fast jinxed it in spectacular fashion:

Nevertheless, the streak remains interesting because Steele is up to his same antics.

Only four pitches have been thrown 500 times this year and allowed just one home run. Here they are, in order of total pitches thrown and accompanied by total plate appearances (PA) completed:

  1. Steele’s four-seamer (725 thrown, 199 PA)
  2. Kevin Gausman’s splitter (622, 160)
  3. Jordan Montgomery’s sinker (584, 170)
  4. Hunter Greene’s slider (516, 100)

It’s one thing to accomplish this feat at all; it’s another all together to do so with a fastball (kudos to J-Mont, but a sinker ain’t a four-seamer). Here is the top of the list of only fastballs that have allowed one or fewer home runs, ordered by most thrown. The gulf between first and second from a volume standpoint is astounding:

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The Miller Family Budding Ace Spectacular

It’s not quite sh*tposting, but it’s close: I post a cryptic poll on Twitter and just let it do its thing. It is, to frame it in this week’s Internet meme jargon, my “beige flag,” my desire to sow chaos by dripping a drop of blood into shark-infested waters.

Here’s my most-recent artistic masterpiece:

It seemed like Mason, Bryce, and Bobby all tied or set some kind of record this season, each of them one-upping his predecessor from the the prior week or month or whatever it was. It’s all happening so fast, these Millers.

The poll went exactly how I expected: Read the rest of this entry »

2023’s First Rounder with a Bullet

It’s like second Christmas.

Ryan Bloomfield of BaseballHQ has conducted this exercise every year for some time now. It’s one of my favorite exercises, if only because it has yet to fail us in at least eight years. (I’m pretty sure there were representatives from 2014 and before, too, and Bloomfield has simply tastefully truncated the list for us.) But, also, it shows the possible potential impact of a late-round draft pick. Obviously, you don’t want to waste any picks. But if you know where to look, it feels less random.

The common thread connecting these players is at least one extreme outlier tool—or five well-above-average tool. Dallas Keuchel was MLB’s reigning ground-ball king. Jonathan Villar had 80-grade speed. Aaron Judge has 80-grade power; Luke Voit, 70-grade with above-average contact skills. Cedric Mullins and Adolis García are five-tool guys. Blake Snell was a burgeoning ace who spiked a lucky ERA and 21 wins but was otherwise deserved of his rank. The only questionable one here is Ketel Marte because of the timing: he hit 32 home runs when the ball was at its liveliest and has yet to replicate that kind of power. But his hit tool is plus-plus, and sometimes all it takes is lucking into a little bit extra in one of the other categories to push you over the top. Perhaps the biggest takeaway is it’s much easier to sike first-round value as a hitter than as a pitcher.

So, who could it be this year? Let’s use the general categories outlined above as the framework for identifying potential first-round silver bullets. Keep in mind this is mostly for fun, but also it is deadly, deadly serious. In order of National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) average draft position (ADP): Read the rest of this entry »

Alex Chamberlain’s Five Bold Predictions for 2023

When I first started writing eight years ago, it felt necessary to provide a garrulous prologue about bold predictions, their meanings, the ethos behind the endeavor, et cetera, et cetera. Years went on, and that prologue grew leaner and leaner until we reached last year’s respectfully concise quip:

No prologue, just bold predictions. Bold, but not stupidly bold, and actionable in a way that can tangibly affect your fantasy season (for better or worse). Let’s go.

That still applies here, but I do want to say something: I am disappointed that I don’t have this year’s ________. Last year, it was Steven Kwan; the year before, Josh Rojas; before him, Jake Cronenworth; Jeff McNeil; José Ramírez; the hits keep on coming. No one stands out to me that way this year. That makes me sad. Disappointed, too, especially in myself. It’s not for lack of talent. It’s for lack of my time. I wish I had more time to immerse myself in the depths of the minor leagues.

I could probably rattle off a name or two that have a similar chance as those aforementioned. But it wouldn’t carry the same conviction. And conviction is the name of the game. So, sadly, there is no This Year’s Steven Kwan for 2023. I expect to remedy this issue next year. Please forgive me in the meantime.

OK, housekeeping’s complete. Let’s get into it, for realsies. (Note: the order here does not indicate preference or confidence. I randomized it!) Read the rest of this entry »

Tout Wars: 2022 Review + 2023 Draft Recap

The 2023 season marks my fifth year in Tout Wars. My tenure to date can be characterized graciously as mediocre; I accomplished a head-to-head semifinals appearance (a benched Kole Calhoun home run away from a finals appearance) in my 2019 debut but succeeded it with consecutive ghastly, basement-dwelling finishes and last year’s extremely turbulent middle-of-the-pack showing.

Entering my third year of the 15-team 5-by-5 roto mixed league auction (salary draft) with on-base percentage (OBP), I feel like I’ve finally found my footing. I had little enthusiasm for fantasy baseball in its pandemic-shortened 2020 season, and the 2021 season was my first after my daughter was born. Needless to say I had (and still have) a lot less time (and sleep) to prepare than I did in my glory days. And having freshly moved from 12-team head-to-head to 15-team OBP, playing a new format against a high level of talent, I got absolutely clobbered. Last year marked my second in 15-team OBP, and it went a little better.

I vowed to do better this year, despite the impositions—my performance last year gave me a faint glimmer of hope that I could—but that, of course, remains TBD. Truthfully, I have less time than ever before. But I don’t want that to be an excuse. I just knew I’d have to be more focused at the draft table. I think I was. I’ll get to all of that shortly.

First, a review of last season:
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pFIP: Pitch Height, Launch Angle, and the FIP Framework

A summarized version of this post was originally presented as part of PitcherList’s PitchCon online baseball conference for charity to support the ALS Association.

Pitch location, especially pitch height, enables pitchers to augment hitters’ launch angles. This is hugely important for pitchers given that hitters exert outsized influence on exit velocities (EVs), while pitchers exert little influence on EV. As such, EV is more predictive of hitter success than launch angles are. Yet EV remains at the mercy of its launch angle counterpart; a 115-mph blast isn’t half as valuable on the ground as it is in the air. A pitcher can improve his chances of inducing those suboptimal launch angles by weaponizing optimal pitch locations.

There’s a corollary to this for pitchers: capital-S ‘Stuff’ is more predictive of pitcher success, yet it’s pitch location that primarily dictates the outcome of a pitch or plate appearance. Max Bay, now of the Astros’ R&D department, once said Stuff makes a pitcher “resilient” to bad locations–it allows more room for mistakes. But mistakes are still made, and for the majority of pitchers, they are made (or avoided) largely through pitch location.

How sensitive, then, is launch angle to pitch height? If we raise or lower a pitch by an inch or a foot, how much can we expect the resultant launch angle to change? How much can we expect rates of ground balls (GB%), line drives (LD%), fly balls (FB%), and pop-ups (PU%) to change? Read the rest of this entry »

Alex Chamberlain’s Five Bold Predictions for 2022: A Review

Here’s the original post. No dilly-dallying, let’s dive in.

1) Steven Kwan is a top-30 outfielder.

Kwan walk more than he stuck out, and while he only hit six home runs, he stole 19 bases and slashed .298/.373/.400 (124 wRC+). Only five qualified hitters had a better strikeout-to-walk ratio (K/BB), and only Luis Arraez had a lower swinging strike rate (SwStr%). Ultimately, Kwan finished the season 19th among outfielders on Razzball’s Player Rater. The haters will point to volume (he accumulated 622 plate appearances) but Kwan finished 20th among qualified outfielders on a per-game basis—that is, ignoring volume.

You may remember Kwan started the season scorching hot, then predictably fell back to earth, which entailed a somewhat grueling slump. Da Haters pointed to this slump as an indication of Kwan’s lack of viability as a Major Leaguer rather than simple gravity. The slump actually cost Kwan some starting time—he could’ve notched 700 PA if the Guardians didn’t lose faith in him in May, like everyone else did—but he rebounded by showcasing his tools. More excitingly, his counting stats increased as the season wore on, and he compiled three home runs, seven steals, and a .309 average in September alone.

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Reckless Fun with Pitch Comps for New Pitches

Using my Pitch Leaderboard, I identified every “new” pitch* thrown during MLB’s glorious first weekend. Then, using my Pitch Comps tool, which uses pitch specs (like velocity, spin rate, movement, and release points) to compare pitches to one another, I wanted to see if I could make any quantifiable declarations about the quality of these pitches in small samples. I can’t write about everyone, so I’ll select the most interesting ones (in my humble opinion).

(*Including existing pitches from rookies for whom we now finally have MLB statcast data as well as existing pitches thrown by players who missed all of 2021 due to injury. It will be interesting to see if the latter group looks measurably different post-injury than they did pre-injury.)

At the end of the season, I’ll revisit to find out these comps were actually indicative (i.e., “predictive,” in a sense) of quality, but it’s also strongly possible the comps will change as samples grow. This is very experimental, but it’s something I’ve wanted to try in the past but hadn’t found the motivation to do.

Why pitch comps? I know I am prone to bias watching a handful of pitches from a pitcher. I can’t scout because I can deceive myself into just about any conclusion (and I think the same can be said for most of us, whether we like it or not).

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