Players to Watch in 2019

This is one of my favorite articles to write each year because, when all is said and done, I can go back to this article and pat myself on the back for the correct calls I made. And usually, I just ignore the misses and say “hey, who can really predict this stuff anyway?”

Last year, I made some good calls and some not-as-good calls. The two most notable picks were Miles Mikolas and Mike Clevinger. Mikolas threw 200.2 innings with a 2.83 ERA and 5.03 K/BB ratio after not throwing a major league pitch since 2014. Clevinger threw exactly 200 innings, setting career bests in ERA (3.02), K/BB ratio (3.09), WHIP (1.155), and FIP (3.52).

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The Case for the Hall: Todd Helton

Helton’s career was, for the most part, quietly great. He was not the subject of any controversy and once he earned the starting gig after the departure of Andres Galarraga, he just stayed on the field and hit. He was, without question, one of the best hitters in baseball during his tenure in the bigs—from 1999 to 2005, a span of seven seasons he triple-slashed .341/.442/.621—but never won an MVP award and only finished once in the top five. In 2000, unquestionably his best season, he triple-slashed .372/.463/.698 (!!!!), each leg of which led all major league players, and also hit 42 home runs and drove in a league-high 147 runs.

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My 2019 Hall of Fame Ballot

An unfortunate circumstance of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s decision to limit voters to selecting players is that, occasionally, a player who deserves a plaque in Cooperstown does not get one. The 10 player limit on ballots is out of place in today’s Hall of Fame voting landscape where, by my evaluation this year, 18 players on the ballot are at least worthy of very serious consideration for admission to Cooperstown. I’m not suggesting that the folks in charge of setting the Hall of Fame voting rules should remove the restriction entirely, but what’s stopping them from expanding the ballot to 12 or 13 players? Nothing except tradition.

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The Case for the Hall: Scott Rolen

When all was said and done, Rolen finished his career as one of the best defensive third basemen of all-time who also carried an above-average bat for the majority of his career. The trouble is that Rolen was never seen as a team leader, and never led the league in any statistical categories. For voters that are all-in on triple crown stats, Rolen’s leave something to be desired—his 2077 hits would be the lowest total of any third baseman enshrined since World War II and his run and RBI totals are good, but nothing spectacular. Additionally, his reputation as a “clubhouse cancer,” as some teammates in Philadelphia referred to him, is doing him no favors.

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The Case for the Hall: Andruw Jones

According to Fangraphs’ Defensive Runs Above Average stat (DEF), which attempts to measure a player’s value relative to others at his position and relative to other positions, Jones’ DEF is 278.8, first among all outfielders to ever play the game of baseball. Jones’ DEF is eons ahead of second place Willie Mays’ DEF, which is a mere 100 runs lower at 170.1. The gap between Jones’ 278.8 DEF and Mays’ 170.1 DEF is larger than the gap between Mays’ DEF and 27th-placed Chet Lemon’s 63.3 DEF. And Baseball Reference agrees with Fangraphs—they credit Jones with 234.7 runs saved from fielding, first among all outfielders ever.

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The Case for the Hall: Larry Walker

Some people prefer to elect folks who had long careers only, but Walker was so good during his prime that the fact that he only played for 17 years should not come back to bite him. JAWS, which is a metric that takes a player’s career rWAR and averages it with their 7-year peak rWAR gives Walker a 58.7 JAWS. The average Hall of Fame right fielder has a JAWS of 57.8, which is right around what Walker has. Keep in mind that WAR already penalizes Walker for his home ballpark, so these numbers include an adjustment for Coors. I don’t like to use WAR as the be-all end-all stat, but it’s good to use as a benchmark and Walker measures up perfectly.

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Time to Change it Up: An Examination of Changeup Usage and Effectiveness from 2015-2018

A 2010 study conducted by Dave Allen over at The Baseball Analysts suggested that all else equal, pitchers should try to avoid throwing their changeups to same-handed hitters and should be more willing to throw their changeups to opposite-handed hitters. 2010 was nearly a decade ago and baseball statistics, technology, and data manipulation have come quite far since then, so we figured we would investigate Allen’s claim that a changeup thrown to an opposite-handed hitter should be more effective than one thrown to a same-handed hitter. Our findings were unexpected.

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