J.A. Happ & Market Rate

JA Happ Pirates

Last night, the Blue Jays signed J.A. Happ to a three-year, $36 million contract to return to Toronto. That takes one option off the board for the Pirates this offseason, as they look to fill the open spot(s) in the back of the rotation.

Happ, who hadn’t posted a seasonal ERA under 4.00 since 2010 and had never had a FIP under 4.00 in his career, wound up pitching to a 3.61 ERA & 3.41 FIP in 2015, thanks in large part to his final 11 starts in Pittsburgh. While he had the benefit of facing some easier NL opponents, two of his better starts (by Game Score, they were his two best) of the year came against the St. Louis Cardinals in the heat of a pennant race. In all, he somehow, someway managed a 1.85 ERA across 63.1 innings, while solidly increasing his strikeout rate (9.81 per nine) and decreasing his walk rate (1.85 per nine). He was dominant.

And, because of it, he got paid.

I’ve seen many fans saying it was too much cash — I don’t disagree, and it seems the Pirates don’t disagree either (I’m guessing they also didn’t agree with the number of years). However, these are the dollars that teams are facing on the open market.

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Pirates Offseason Notes 11/24/15

19 weeks until Opening Day…

You can check out last week’s offseason notes HERE.

2016 Schedule

— To accommodate ESPN’s effort to televise a number of 2016’s Opening Day games, the Pirates-Cardinals opener has been moved up a day to Sunday, April 3rd. First pitch will be at 1:05 at PNC Park, marking the first game of the MLB season. Opposed to just the traditional Sunday night game on the season’s first day, Pirates-Cards will be one of three (Blue Jays-Rays at 4:00; Mets-Royals at 8:00).

— It was also officially announced that the Pirates and Marlins will play two games in San Juan, Puerto Rico on May 30 and 31 to honor the legacy of Roberto Clemente.

— The Pirates’ spring training schedule was released. Grapefruit League play begins on Tuesday, March 1st. The Pirates will wrap-up spring ball with an exhibition against the Reds in Indianapolis on Saturday, April 2nd.

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Pirates Offseason Notes 11/16/15

20 weeks until Opening Day…

Recent Stuff on the Blog

— Last week’s Offseason Notes
MLB Win Curve in the Expanded Wild Card Era
— Visualizing the Range of the Pirates’ Outfield in 2015
— Pages: Depth Chart / Payroll / Spray Charts / PITCHf/x

Rumor Mill

— Jon Heyman of CBS Sports had some rumors on the Pirates’ front last week, first mentioning that, unsurprisingly, Mark Melancon is being shopped. Heyman specifically says the Bucs’ closer is “out there for the taking.” The Pirates will look for value in return for their top reliever who enters his final year of team control and will command a salary upwards of $10 million through arbitration this winter. It wouldn’t be dissimilar (in terms of timing, payroll allocation, etc.) from the trade that brought Melancon to Pittsburgh and sent then-closer Joel Hanrahan to Boston.

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Visualizing the Range of the Pirates’ Outfield in 2015

One of my favorite posts last year was my first attempt at visualizing the range of the Pirates’ outfield. Thus, I wanted to take another crack at it for 2015.

Using the data that is fed into MLB Gameday (and easily made available through Jeff Zimmerman’s BaseballHeatMaps.com), we can easily grab some (x,y) batted ball coordinates. These locations are by no means perfect, and not as precise as what is produced by Baseball Info Solutions or made available to teams in the form of HITf/x or Statcast, but they’re good enough for our simple use.

It’s also a bit difficult to find exact play types or events, but with the at-bat descriptions, we can extract data points for phrases like “[batter] flies out to left fielder Starling Marte” or “lines out to center fielder Andrew McCutchen” or “out on a sacrifice fly to right fielder Gregory Polanco.” It’s even tougher to pinpoint every ball they didn’t snag within reach, so for now, we’ll only focus on balls that were converted into outs.

First up: Starling Marte, winner of the Fielding Bible, Gold Glove, and Wilson Defensive Player of the Year awards in left field.

Starling Marte Range

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MLB Win Curve in the Expanded Wild Card Era

Major League Baseball has now used a 10-team, two-Wild-Card postseason format for four years. Expanding the playoff field by two teams — one from each league — has obviously made it, in theory, “easier” to reach the postseason (even if you’re only there for one game).

With 120 team-seasons completed in the expanded Wild Card era (30 teams over four seasons), we can estimate a team’s playoff chances based on the number of games they won. This does not make predictions about the future, but rather just models what was observed in the past (with logistic regression, where the dependent variable is categorical — made playoffs = 1; did not make playoffs = 0).

This is known as the “win curve.”  While it can be taken further and broken down to find the marginal value of each additional win for a specific club, for right now I’m only concerned about this simple question: about how many wins does a team need to make the playoffs?

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