On the Radar: Vol. 1

Over the course of the season, I have a lot of topics that pop into my head to either write about or discuss on the podcast and as such, they are incorporated into those mediums. Sometimes I think of things that just aren’t deep enough for their own article and maybe don’t even fit well on a particular pod.

This article, which I plan to run the rest of the year if it is met well, plans to address those topics. It’ll be a handful of smaller topics that I couldn’t fit into any other article or podcast during the week. Sometimes it might be 2-3 sentences, other times it will be 2-3 paragraphs and it can range from a particular player to an interesting stat that I think is worthy of at least some attention.

An Ascending Angel

Taylor Ward first got my attention way back in 2018 when he came up in mid-August as a non-catching catcher meaning he had catcher eligibility but wasn’t slated to play there in the majors. It was carryover from his 2017 minor league eligibility and some outlets left him there despite only playing 3B in 2018, even in the minors. I scooped him in a couple leagues and thought I struck gold when he had hits in four of his first five games.

Sick confirmation bias, Paul.

He hit .154/.220/.299 the rest of the way in 127 PA and only remained as someone of note to me in an MLB The Show context because he was catcher eligible on that game and made for a nice emergency backstop in a particular game mode they have called Battle Royale. Other than that, I wasn’t paying much attention to his 54 games of 89 wRC+ play over the next two seasons and frankly wasn’t paying him much mind through his first month of games this year (.697 OPS in 90 May PA).

As the playing time steadied, so too did his numbers and his .802 OPS in 86 June PA with 3 HR, 13 RBI, and 12 R (for context, those are paces of 24-101-93) put him back on the radar (hey, that’s the title!) for me. He has spent the month bouncing around the outfield and now finds himself more consistently in the middle of the lineup (just 1 gm out of the top 6 lineup spots in his last 15). He has been picked up in most deep leagues at this point, but I think it’s time to start considering him in shallower formats where you need some outfield pop. I even included him in last week’s Watchlist.

Home/Road Streamers

A quick look at the biggest home/road splits in wOBA by team.

No surprise that Colorado tops the list with a 95-point split: .348 at home ranks 3rd, .253 on the road ranks 9,000,000th… ok, it ranks 30th but by 26 points over Kansas City. Rockie Road for sure, right Nick?

Speaking of the Royals, they have the third largest difference going from a formidable .324 at home that ranks 12th to that .279 mark which is bested (or is it worsted?) by Colorado’s road ineptitude.

The Reds are in between the Rockies and Royals (what is it with R-named teams having big splits?) with a 49-point split, though unlike their R-named brethren, you shouldn’t be eager to stream against them on the road as they still rank 14th with a .302 wOBA.

Some ballpark alterations aiding lefties have fostered a substantial home/road split for the Los Angeles Angels. As a team they are hitting to a .345 wOBA at home and a .300 on the road, so like the Reds they aren’t exactly a team to attack on the road despite the 45-point split, but just be very careful with sending your pitchers to the Big Halo… or whatever they call their stadium. The aforementioned lefties have a league-best .379 wOBA at home that dips to .313 on the road (10th-best).

The other teams at least one standard deviation above average:

-The Orioles leverage their excellent home park to post a .322 at home while toting just a .279 on the road

-Are we properly afraid of the Braves at home? They have a .340 wOBA at the stupidly named Truist Park and have the 3rd-best home wOBA since 2019 at .348, behind only Colorado (.354) and Houston (.351)

-The Blue Jays and Cubs both have 35-point splits, but the similarities end there. The Jays are a heavy “Avoid” home (.355 wOBA is 1st) and away (.320 wOBA is 5th) while the Cubs are a team to maybe be careful with at home (.323 wOBA is 13th) but then a potential streamer target on the road (.288 wOBA is 25th)

On the other side of the ledger, only two teams have even a 10-point change favoring their road work:

-The Mariners experience an 18-point jump on the road, going from a league-worst .285 to a .303 mark that sits 12th

-Another AL West team sees the other significant road jump with the A’s going from .311 (18th) to .324 (3rd) once freed from their poop-infested stadium

Marlins Reeling in Another Gem?

The fact that the Miami Marlins have the 6th best starter ERA despite a combined 7.3 innings from Sixto Sánchez and Elieser Hernandez is very impressive. The trio of studs – Sandy Alcantara, Pablo López, and Trevor Rogers – are carrying the load, but now Zach Thompson has entered the mix and made a splash four starts into his MLB career.

The 27-year-old righty has a 2.00 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in 18 innings of work thanks in large part to a 34% K rate. His fastball or fastball-related (cutters fall under the fastball class) pitches have been particularly strong. He has a 15% swinging strike rate on his four-seamer and cutter combined which ranks 6th in the league among the 174 starters with at least 200 thrown.

The guys ahead of him include some absolute studs: Max Scherzer 18% on 817 pitches, Jameson Taillon 17%/602, Corbin Burnes 17%/789, Jacob deGrom 16%/621, and Carlos Rodón 16%/750. That doesn’t mean Thompson is a locked in stud, but it is great company to be with at the outset of his career. Taillon hasn’t been studly this year, but I still like his core skillset quite a bit.

After an unspectacular debut in Boston (3 IP/2 ER/1 K), he has run through the Braves at home (5 IP/0 ER/6 K), the Cubs on the road (4 IP/1 UER/7 K), and the Nationals at home (6 IP/2 ER/11 K). He is headed to Truististist Park this week so be careful if you scooped him up this weekend given what we just learned about Atlanta’s home prowess. Another gem in a tough venue against a strong team would be a great step for Thompson.

Rays on the Rise?

With the bevy of injuries that have decimated the Tampa Rays rotation, they could be in line to make some additions via trade, but we know from their history that they will look internally, too.

Luis Patiño is already garnering some attention after three straight 5-inning outings in Triple-A – all scoreless outings, I might add – and might’ve been called up this week if the Rays had more than 5 games.

I would encourage you to keep an eye on Shane Baz, too. The 22-year-old righty was recently promoted to Triple-A and has been excellent with a 1.29 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 38% K, and 6% BB in 14 innings thus far. Patiño will no doubt get the call first as he is already on the 40-man roster, but Baz might not be far behind.





Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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SucramRenrutmember
1 year ago

Can you give a quick explanation of why matchup evaluation tends to use wOBA instead of wRC? In evaluating matchups I’ve seen some discrepancies between the two for a given team and wRC seems to pass the eye test on what rosters are stronger hitters overall. Thanks.

Bobby Muellermember
1 year ago
Reply to  SucramRenrut

Here’s my take:

wRC is a cumulative stat, so a team with more plate appearances has a chance to accumulate more wRC (weighted Runs Created). For example, the Dodgers and Blue Jays have the same wRC (397), but the Dodgers have 3035 plate appearances to the Blue Jays 2873, which means the Blue Jays have accumulated more wRC on a per plate appearance basis. They’ve had a more productive offense this season, which you wouldn’t know by just looking at wRC.

wOBA is a rate stat, which makes it better to use when looking at teams that have played a different number of games.

A third statistic that is often mistakenly used for fantasy baseball is wRC+. It takes wRC and converts it to a rate state by adjusting for league and ballpark effects. In fantasy baseball, you don’t want to adjust for park effects because the scoring environment very much matters in fantasy baseball.

The Rockies are the best example of this. At home, they have a .348 wOBA, 3rd in baseball for home teams, but their wRC+ at home is just 93, which is 23rd in baseball. If you use wRC+, you would think having your pitchers face the Rockies in Coors is a good idea (93 wRC+), which it definitely is not (.348 wOBA).

The Rockies are the most extreme example of this. The difference between their rank at home in wOBA (3rd) and their rank at home in wRC+ (23) is 20, but there are other teams with a difference of 6, 7, or 8 spots.

Over the years, I’ve posted a couple comments pointing this out to FanGraphs authors who used wRC+ for fantasy baseball and they have disagreed with me on this, so I’m glad to see Sporer using wOBA instead of wRC+.

cartermember
1 year ago
Reply to  SucramRenrut

Anytime I ever try to think about wrc+ in regards to fantasy I think of Nolan Arenado vs Brandon Belt. Belt has been a significantly better hitter for his career, yet Arenado was a first round draft choice last year and Belt is usually on the waiver wire at some point every season in 12 men. Like context neutral if they both went to the same stadium they would likely be close (belts walks don’t help as much in 5×5) but fantasy wise Arenado always played at Coors and belt played where lh went to die (pre 2020 Park adjustment).

Phone is about to die, but off hand there were seasons where Arenado went like 297 41/110/108/3 and Belt went like 275 17/74/60/0 and Arenado had a 118 wrc+ and belt a 136. That is why park adjusted is basically worthless for fantasy. Hitters Park not only do your batted balls play better, you get a ton more at bats.

OddBall Herrera
1 year ago
Reply to  carter

The short of it is that it’s silly to value adjusted stats too highly for fantasy, because the stats you’re scored by aren’t adjusted for league or ballpark.

The only spot I check wRC+ for fantasy purposes is for minor leaguers, because in that case I *do* care how well they are playing in a context-neutral sense.