Out of left field, 10/17 edition

Out of left field is a semi-regular offering about topics that I’d like to address, but may not need 1,000 plus words of analyzation.  In no particular order of importance:

Joe Maddon, meet Buck Showalter.

Sunday night with the game tied at 1 entering the bottom of the 9th, Cubs manager Joe Maddon went with Brian Duensing and John Lackey to keep the Dodgers at bay.  Wade Davis, the Cubs’ best reliever, watched along with the rest of us as Justin Turner hit a three run home run off Lackey to win the game for the Dodgers.  Maddon said after the game that he held Davis back as he wanted to use Davis in a save situation.

My first thought:  When “non-baseball people” use statistics such as wRC+ to evaluate players, they’re derisively called nerds.  But when “baseball men” like Showalter and Maddon blow playoff games because they want a certain pitcher to get a certain stat, they still maintain their genius label.

Tip: All decisions should be driven by information, but it needs to be the right information.

Todd Frazier – keeping it real, part 12.

As I’ve noted here before, there’s nothing to dislike about Todd Frazier, and that’s a problem when it comes to honestly evaluating performance.  He plays hard, he’s a smart base runner and along with Greg Bird and Aaron Hicks, have massively improved the Yankees defensively.

And since joining the Yankees, he’s been a little better than what he was in Chicago for a year and a half.  He’s gotten on base at a .365 clip, which when added to good base running, gives you a plus offensive player (but barely – his 2017 wRC+ of 108 and his OPS+ of 105 are good for a middle infielder or catcher – OK for a 3rd baseman).  And according to both Baseball Reference and Fangraphs he’s about a 3 win player – in other words, a legitimate MLB starter.  We’ll come back to that…

But as I’ve said numerous times before, the most common mistake fans, and sadly, MLB front office personnel make, is relying on small sample sizes for evaluations and projections.  Because the reality is Frazier is a free agent at the end of this season, and based on his performance over the past two years, there’s no way the Yankees should make an offer to keep him.

Yes, even if the Yankees win the World Series with Frazier going all Sandoval on the competition.  (Pablo Sandoval…remember him?)

Among 17 MLB 3rd basemen who qualified for the batting title, Frazier was 13th in both OPS+ and SLG. His 2017 .428 SLG (.423 with the Yankees) was below the league average, which may seem confusing at first considering his 27 Home Runs that placed him 8th among 3Rd basemen.  It shouldn’t be confusing – it just illuminates that he doesn’t do anything else: He’s last in hits among 3B and second to last in doubles.  Factor in that the MLB baseballs in 2017 are essentially orange sized golf balls and he whether or not he even hits HR ongoing is a legitimate question.

Back to his WAR:  A three win player is a legitimate starter, in the absence of a better option.  The Yankees have Chase Headley – who is only a tick less valuable than Frazier – signed through next season, with multiple options beyond Headley: Gleyber Torres, Tyler Wade, and Miguel Andujar all have minor league resumes that suggest they can be starters in the majors, if not better than an average starter.

I get rooting for the hard-nosed hometown kid who doesn’t shy away from the spotlight – it’s fun to see.  But if the Yankees are serious about limiting payroll (which is another discussion), this should be the last we see of Frazier in a Yankee uniform.

On May 12th of this season, I wrote that C.C. Sabathia was done.  I’m so glad I could not have been more wrong.

Since then, C.C. has held opponents to a .296 OBP and a .399 SLG.  Like you probably, I had to check that again, because the league averages are .324 and .429 respectively.  And even though I normally don’t pay too much attention to intangibles, his performances following Yankee losses plus his manager’s opinion of C.C.’s clubhouse value would make him tough to lose.  C.C. is a free agent at the end of 2017 – I’m fine with doing what the Yankees essentially did with Andy Pettitte – just give him one year contracts for whatever, for however long he wants to pitch.

Clash of the Titans (cough, cough…)

Tonight’s matchup of Sonny Gray and Lance McCullers is an interesting one.  Both are legitimate Major Leaguers with good stuff.  But both have been on uncomfortable to watch declines as 2017 goes on.

On May 27th, McCullers had a 2.48 ERA.  Since then it’s been it’s been 6.07, with opposing batters reaching 36% of the time.

Gray had an ERA of 3.26 on August 21st – it’s been 4.04 since.  Not quite as bad decline as McCullers but Gray has allowed a frightening 10 HR in that time, for a more than 2 per 9 inning ratio.

One could say that Gray hasn’t been as bad as the long balls have made it look, and that McCullers has been better since returning from the DL in September.  I tend to agree with that take.  I don’t think we’re going to see the pitching performances like Kuechel, Verlander and Sabathia have given us in this series, but I wouldn’t expect a football score tonight either.

As always, thanks to Baseball Reference and Fangraphs for the stats.

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