Bryan is an author of Baseball Prospectus and the head of our Training and Reference department.
Bryan Grosnick: Hey there, everyone! Due to an extremely limited selection of chat questions, I'm going to provide some very long (potentially off-topic) answers to your queries today, and there may be a bit of delay between them. Rest assured, if you have a question for me, I'll take a crack at it. And thanks a bunch for joining me today!
Dusty (Colorado): How much training and referencing do you for Wander Javier? What's his upside? Thank you Mr. Grosnick.
Bryan Grosnick: I'm going to answer this question reading the words "Wander Javier" as "Baseball Prospectus". So thank you for this question.
The point of our reference and training department is to do a few things really well. First, we want to help our users understand the baseball concepts and statistics we talk about regularly. We also want you to be able to actually use the site and all of the cool stuff we provide as best we can. And we also want to help our authors, developers, and staff members communicate and collaborate while understanding those same things.
So when it came time to roll out our new DRC+ metric, I saw my job as to help create an entry point for people who want to understand it. I worked with Jonathan to create that video you can find at our new DRC+ Showcase page (https://www.baseballprospectus.com/drc-deserved-runs-created/) and the Introduction to DRC+ article explaining the concept and usage at a high level. We want you to know as much as we can about it. Going forward, I'll be trying to do some similar things as we delve into the details behind how it is built and what pillars make up the DRC framework.
We'll also be backtracking a little bit. We intend to do a similar thing with our DRA- metric, which is very similar to DRC+, but for pitchers. I want people to use WARP the same way they use the WAR metrics found at Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs, so we'll talk about that some too. And, with the help of the rest of the staff, we'll be revitalizing the site Glossary to make it more usable.
Most of all, we're going to thrive off feedback from our userbase. If there's something you don't understand, we'll try to explain it. If we don't understand it, we'll work until we do. If there's something you want to see in a certain way, we'll try it out. You can give me any feedback you've got.
tallahassee (Chatham, NJ): Does Jeremy Jeffress close to start the season? Do Hader or Knebel take it away from him?
Bryan Grosnick: I think this depends a lot on what the Brewer want to do with the "closer" role. If they value having a guy who is "restricted" to the ninth inning, rather than a floater who's tasked with entering a game at the highest-leverage spots, then I think that either Jeffress or Knebel are going to be in that spot ... but I might put Corey Knebel there instead. He had a bad run for a while last year, but I think CK is the more talented pitcher. Hader is too valuable as a roving weapon (plus managers don't usually like lefty closers) for him to be shoehorned into that one-inning, ninth-inning role.
nschaef (NYC): Who's your surprise contender for next year a la the Oakland A's of 2018?
I understand the offseason is in its larval phase, so perhaps this answer could serve as a prediction about that as well.
Bryan Grosnick: I did not see the A's coming in 2018 (which was documented on the DFA Podcast here at the site), so I *may* not be the right person to ask. Now, if you ask me the Athletics were a bit of a one-hit wonder; I don't expect them to be quite as good in 2019 as they were last year ... so is there another team that could have a "pop-up" season people don't see coming? I think there is: the Chicago White Sox. Now, let me preface this by saying I absolutely DO NOT think the White Sox are a playoff team this year, just like how I didn't think the Athletics were a playoff team last year. But the Sox do have enough young impactful talent to make a run if everything goes right, and they'll be buoyed by the fact that two of the other teams in the division are built out of paper-maché, and both the Twins and the Indians have either plateaued or gotten worse (so far). The White Sox would need to make a couple of moves to build up the 2019 team with veterans, but I actually kinda loved the Alex Colome trade for them. Three more small moves like that and we can start talking.
tallahassee (Chatham, NJ): Does Nelson Cruz play 5 games in the outfield this season?
Bryan Grosnick: No. That's because I predict he goes to an American League team, and it's smarter to DH him than play him in the field. Which team? I'm guessing the Astros, or the Rays, or the Athletics if they make one of their weird trade-for-prospects-then-sign-a-guy trades. None of those three highly analytical teams wants to put Cruz in the outfield unless they're forced to, and I'm not sure there will be enough of a push to put him in the OF during interleague play. I think this is a hard no, and I think we're all going to be a little pissed when he signs with Houston.
Brady (With my dog, Hawkeye!): I donâ€™t think I fully understand the different between a park rating and a park factor. Could you explain the differences to me? Also, looking back, did previous park factors overestimate the recent change in some ballpark environments (for example, Minute Maid Park going from hitter friendly to the best pitchers park in the league)? Was that due to the added variable of the altered ball? And do your park ratings show a steadier, more accurate view of how ballpark environments have recently changed
Bryan Grosnick: Hey there, Brady. This is an excellent question. Our "park ratings" are outputs of the system, and they tell us how much a park affects hitters or pitchers, and to what level. The important thing here is that these are established as outputs.
"Park factors" are usually *inputs* to a system, and they're adjustments that are applied to statistical models before the end result is created. They're used to tune the models.
Basically, in the DRC+ model, we don't assign a "park factor" as part of the inputs ... the mixed model approach doesn't have one number that we use to adjust a player's DRA or DRC as part of the system. But at the end of the model, we establish a number that's the "park rating" that we can use as a reference point that can tell us–for a given year–how the park affected offense.
Everything that the DRA/DRC model does is based off single years, so there's actually MORE variability in how parks affect offense from year to year (because of the ball or fence changes or whatever). Most statistical models use three-year park factors as inputs. While that number is more likely to shift from one year to the next, it actually makes the year-by-year analysis more accurate.
(I think I've got everything right here, but this is actually a pretty in-depth statistical question.)
Joey Wendle (Tampa, FL): Am I going to be better this year?
Bryan Grosnick: It seems really unlikely. Against all odds, Wendle was pretty good last year, but his DRC+ of 103 wasn't really in line with any of his previous performance. In the high minors (and his brief stints in the majors), he produced a good bit less value. Last year was his age-28 season, so while it's possible to project it as a breakout, it seems much more likely that it was a peak. While it's certainly possible, I think the odds are much more likely that he'll either continue to hit at this near league-average level, or regress a bit.
When PECOTA's released next year, I'm sure it will be able to give you a more statistical answer.
tallahassee (Chatham, NJ): Who is going to be this yearâ€™s Acuna/Buehler?
Bryan Grosnick: I deeply loathe these questions. Can't we just let guys be themselves, rather than trying to make them fit into a particular box? These are two very special young players, and I'm not certain anyone who comes up in 2019 is going to fit the mold of "incredible young, well-rounded up-the-middle-superstar" outfielder or "here's my fastball, fuck you" starting pitcher. Maybe Forrest Whitley could perform as well as Buehler, but I'm not sure he'd get there in the same way. And I wouldn't put any position player prospect in baseball next to Acuna ... but Jo Adell probably comes closest.
dillont32 (New York): I am new to the site, so please excuse my ignorance. But with DRC+ how do you know a single is more valuable than a walk? Intuitively, doesn't making the pitcher throw more pitches add more value to an at-bat than a single that can end the at-bat in less than four pitches? Maybe I am incorrect in my thinking.
Bryan Grosnick: No worries at all, Dillon. Here we're talking about the *result* of the play, not the means of the play. A single is more valuable than a walk because it can move the runners more than one base, where a walk has no action on the play and only allows the runners to move a single base at max. Sure, it may be more valuable to make a pitcher throw more pitches than not, but a plate appearance that ends in a single rather than a walk could use up an equal number of pitches. And an intentional walk doesn't use up any pitches anymore!
AJ (Boston): The Red Sox seem to have had an issue developing talent since Cherington left. I know DD traded away some talent, but those that haven't graduated havent gone on to be impact players either. Do they have a more of drafting/player ID issue, or player development issue? Seems more on the pitching side, given the lack of homegrown pitching talent since Lester/Buchholz...
Bryan Grosnick: So, I think there are a number of factors at play here. It's very, very hard from the outside to identify whether failure to "develop" a major-league talent comes from the player themself or the development process ... or how much credit to assign to any one party. For example, do you give 100% of the non-player credit for Andrew Benintendi to Ben Cherington for drafting him, or do you give some of it to Dombrowski for developing him? How much? Do you only look at first-round picks or big signing bonuses, or down the line? And especially with pitchers, how much do you assign "blame" for an injury to *any* party?
Developing a home-grown starting pitcher is really hard, and we haven't come close to the timeframe where we'd be able to judge that for Dombrowski given that he started with the team in the middle of 2015. Ask me again in three years.
Dusty (Colorado): Now that you read the question the way you wanted to read it.
Could you please tell me what you think about Wander Javier's upside?
Bryan Grosnick: (Still reading all instances of "Wander Javier" as "Baseball Prospectus".)
I think Wander Javier has tremendous upside. Almost unlimited upside. Nobody works harder than Wander Javier. And Wander Javier is filled with enormously talented people who do their best, oftentimes in part-time roles. The work that the statistical and operations and product development team put into Wander Javier is incredible, and now that the new owners are in place, I think you'll see even more forward momentum. 2019 is going to be a huge year for Wander Javier, with a lot of really interesting surprises.
Elvis Andrus (Texas ): Was I dreaming or did 2017 happen? Could it happen again?
Bryan Grosnick: You were dreaming but it did happen. I think there may have been something there that is accounted for by the "juiced" ball and a good hot streak and will not happen again. It's always possible, but that home run spike was so out of character that the odds are probably against it.
Duhbear (Vermont): I'd love to be able to look back and see trends in stats like DRA and DRC as the season progresses. Are there plans to make something like a graph of in-season 15 game-average available for trending players performance?
Bryan Grosnick: As far as I know, this isn't in the works. But letting us know what you want (and how you want it presented) is an important thing for us, so if it's something that's useful to you, let us know in these chats, send us emails, drop us lines. We can't promise anything, but we are all about giving the people what they want when we can.
Bryan Grosnick: Thanks for chatting with me today, everyone. Don't forget to check out all of the tremendous articles that we're putting out this week related to DRC+, as well as the consistently-great Short Relief and fantasy content at the site. Hope you have an excellent back half of the week.