Author Archive

Teams to Avoid When Streaming

Last time out we took a look at which teams you should attack when going fishing for streams, targeting favorable splits, and identifying any offenses carrying under-the-radar weaknesses. But this time we travel to the mirror dimension, looking for the teams that should make your oh-no-no list when looking for streams.

Remember, just because a team is bad, in general, doesn’t mean they’re necessarily bad in every specificity. Bad teams can look good in some spots, and good teams can have exploitable weaknesses.

If you don’t believe me, just ask the Rays, who strike out against right-handers at comparable rates to the Tigers and Rangers. Or the Orioles, who are last in run value (per 100 pitches) versus RHP but are the best in baseball versus LHP. Read the rest of this entry »


Teams to Target When Streaming

Having officially gotten more regular-season baseball than we got in 2020, let’s check in on some team offensive trends. At least those trending poorly. Because while it’s still less than three months of baseball, it’s enough to start getting a handle on which teams you should exploit for streaming gains, and who you should avoid.

Matchups are obviously king in streaming but not all bad teams are the same. At least, not in terms of how they fare against each hand, both in general performance and strikeout tendencies. The Baltimore Orioles have the worst record in baseball, as well as the worst run value (per 100 pitches) against right-handed pitchers. However, you play a dangerous game when streaming a leftie against the Orioles, as their 1.29 RV/100 and .353 wOBA vs LHP are the highest in baseball, while their 20.4% K% is beaten only by the 16.8% K% of Houston.

Using Run Value (per 100 pitches), wOBA, xwOBA, and K%, we’ll see which teams currently look like the juiciest targets when considering a stream and then take a look at some of their matchups with starters who are currently rostered less than 50% in Yahoo leagues. Read the rest of this entry »


Crushing Heaters

Let’s talk about the hard stuff. Fastballs, that is. Because what was true 50 years ago, is still true today. But the splendid one put it best:

“You have to hit the fastball to play in the big leagues.”

– Ted Williams

If you want to have any chance against the whiffle ball cheese currently being thrown by the modern game’s spin-rate savants, you’ll first have to deal with the unprecedented amount of fire in the velocity game. Simply put, if you can’t smoke the heaters, good luck with all of the rest.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the batters having the most success against four-seamers and sinkers in 2021, and what it might mean for the rest of the season. Read the rest of this entry »


How They Swing in the Shadows

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to fans. It is a dimension as vast as the width of two balls and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and dark, between strike and ball, and lies between the pit of a batter’s fear and the summit of his bat’s knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Shadow Zone.

The entire zone can be divided into four attack zones, starting at the heart, and moving out to the shadow zone (the width of a ball on the inside and outside of the strike zone), which is followed by the chase and waste zones.

We’ll be focusing on the shadow zone, home of pitcher’s pitches and balls framed to strikes, looking first at the players who are offering at these borderline pitches the least in 2021. However, swinging less at shadow pitches doesn’t guarantee success and some hitters are better served by being more aggressive. Like most things, it’s a case-by-case situation. Read the rest of this entry »


Time to Cut Bait?

We’re now halfway through May and there are plenty of high-investment hitters who continue to struggle. I’m generally shy about moving on from hitters early but you can also only be dragged down for so long before doing something. Whether that means benching, trading, or just cutting.

With that in mind, let’s look at five struggling hitters who were taken in the first 10 rounds and were expected to be stalwart starters in 2021 but have instead fallen flat.

*Any mentioned values are calculated using the FanGraphs auction calculator, using a 5×5, 12-team league (one catcher) setup. Read the rest of this entry »


The New Nasty

Talent changes are easier to identify with pitchers earlier in the season, as changes in velocity, pitch shape, and pitch mix are more readily apparent. Change isn’t always good and turning one bad pitch into a good one isn’t a guarantee of success but it’s a pretty good start.

When a pitch has seen dramatically different results against it, chances are something changed, whether solely involving the aforementioned qualities above, or how the pitches fit together as part of a player’s pitch mix whole. Change is everywhere and ongoing, we just have to find the where and (hopefully) why.

Using Run Value (RV/100 pitches) as our barometer, we’ll see what we can see about which pitchers have seen the most dramatic turnaround with one (or more) of their offerings. Remember that RV is the total run impact, according to the base-count state when the pitch was thrown. The more negative, the better. Read the rest of this entry »


Shapeshifters: Sliders

It seems we spend most Aprils ballyhooing about what should and shouldn’t be believed, what can and cannot be discussed. Some valid, some not. What I believe can sometimes get lost in early season analysis – or missed completely – is what the data (whether in April or September) can tell us beyond the numbers and beyond the sample.

Intent.

Good or bad, change or no change, we can find intent within data, regardless of sample size. Because, simply speaking, professional baseball is played by humans who are trying to be good at baseball. And like most humans, they will attempt to do more of what gets them a reward (being good at baseball) and less of what gets them a punishment (being bad at baseball).

If you start from there and work backward, intent can help you with analysis when the sample size is lacking. This can be more telling in regards to pitchers, at least early in the season, as they are the first-mover in baseball’s 1-on-1 battles, chooser of their path on every pitch.

Read the rest of this entry »


Ride the Seam-Shifted Wake

With Statcast replacing their Trackman (radar-based) cameras with the new Hawkeye (optical-based) system in 2020, what we’re now able to see on the field has taken another giant leap forward. What was once inferred is now being observed and those observations have led to ground-breaking work by Barton Smith, Driveline Baseball, and others in fully parsing the forces in play when it comes to pitch movement.

I highly recommend the above readings (and a host of others) for a more in-depth explanation but here are some cliff notes for those new to the concept of seam-shifted wakes:

Every baseball spins in a certain direction, spinning around a certain axis, resulting in a certain movement. The old method of determining spin direction was to use the movement measured by Trackman and work backward to infer what the spin axis should have been. Or, “the baseball moved this way, it must have spun in this direction”.

Hawkeye’s cameras, however, are able to observe what the spin axis actually is after leaving the pitcher’s hand. When comparing the two measurements (inferred and observed) the deviation between the two can tell whether more forces than the downward one of Magnus are at play.

The work of Smith and at Driveline has centered around how the seam orientation of the pitched baseball in flight is informing those “side forces” and how best pitchers can attempt to keep their seams in the place most conducive for their desired movement. Sounds difficult but it’s certainly possible and pitchers have been doing it unknowingly as long as baseball has been played, playing with and cycling through grips in search of the elusive nirvana that is “I just found one that works”.

Read the rest of this entry »


Don’t Let FOMO Sink Your Ratios Early

We can be dumb about pitching. Rather, we tend to be not as smart in April as we are later in the season. As the year goes on and we get more information about the skills that pitchers (and their opponents) have, we naturally get more choosy with who we’re willing to start.

In April, however, we’re still all high off of draft prep and are more willing to believe whatever narrative sold us on them in the first place. We put aside obvious questions like, “What if Chris Paddack still has a terrible fastball?” and  “But isn’t he still Andrew Heaney?”, instead going full bore with, “Good enough to draft, good enough to start!”. At least until the wheels come off.

The simple reason to raise your bar for starting early in the season is that this is when we know the least about the pitchers themselves, as well as their opponents’ general offensive prowess, strikeout rate, win likelihood, etc. Compared to what we’ll know later in the year, we’re often flying blind in April, at least in terms of the pitchers outside of the top tiers. And yet at the time when we’re the least informed, our bar for starting is often the lowest.

Obviously, you want to avoid bad starts all the time but I aim to be even more risk-averse early in the season because I want maximum flexibility later in the year. Acquiring good ratios (whether via FAAB, the wire, or trade) is expensive (or impossible) later in the season while scrounging for wins and strikeouts can be cheap. That is, at least they are if you don’t need to stress about ratios when doing said scrounging.

August and September may seem far away but focus on keeping your ratios shiny early and you’ll give yourself more avenues for doing business later.

Let’s go deeper on a few of the shakier options you may be tempted to roll with early, but just remember to choose wisely.

Read the rest of this entry »