Klawchat 11/2/17.

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Keith Law: I was dumbfounded by truth. Klawchat.

Jake: Seems like Dodgers fans are looking to pin the blame on someone. Is it supposed to be Darvish?
Keith Law: Never a fan of putting the blame for the loss of an entire series on one player, or even just on a manager. Darvish hurt them, probably more than any other individual player, but he was far from alone. Roberts had a bad series, especially Game 5. The Dodgers’ LHB had some atrocious at bats in high-leverage spots last night. Bellinger’s error in the 1st was critical. And yet they still came within a game of winning.

J.P.: What do you make of this new complication between the Ham Fighters and the MLBPA with regards to Ohtani?
Keith Law: I actually think it’s a positive sign that everyone is trying to find a workaround. Maybe he will come over after all.

Tim: Shane baz? is it true he has plus fastball, plus slider plus cutter and average to above curveball and average change?
Keith Law: No.

Eric: After the Vegas shooting, Trump is suspiciously quiet. After the NYC attack he tweets immediately – to blame someone else. Your thoughts?
Keith Law: I think he’s playing to his base and they eat it up like soylent.

Chris : What would your offseason plan look like if your mets? Other than pray for health of Conforto, Wheeler, Matz, Harvey, Thor, Familia, and Cespedes, I’m kind of puzzled on how this team improves that much this offseason. Their health alone is what separates them from 70 and 90 wins, no?
Keith Law: I think that’s fair – their health is a bigger source of potential gains than any offseason acquisitions would be. I also would guess that would make them reluctant to spend this winter, assuming they had any money to spend, because they could spend well and still fall flat.

Pat: Hi Keith, thank you for your prospect coverage. Why is Sandy Alcantara not missing more bats? Is it lack of elite secondary stuff, little deception, is his fastball too straight? I would just think a guy that throws 100 would strike out more batters. Thanks Keith.
Keith Law: Fastball is pretty true, just hard, but velocity alone doesn’t miss bats. You need deception, movement, or spin. He will show you above-average secondary stuff but it’s not consistent. He’s also pretty young, so I’m not terribly worried.

Ed M.: Hi, Keith. I just finished reading Smart Baseball and loved every page. I’m a 36-year-old lifetime baseball fan and I love learning as much as I can about the analytical aspect of the game. One question for you: the phrase “reach/reached base safely” often comes up in your book. This isn’t meant to be a smartass question, but when does one NOT reach base safely? Aren’t all batters/runners who reach base also safe?
Keith Law: We tend to exclude reaching on an error from calculations of times on base.

Harold : Now that teams that blatantly tanked have won the the WS two years in a row, should MLB change the draft rules to eliminate Tanking?
Keith Law: They did condense the slot values of the top picks in the most recent CBA, which I think would discourage deliberately losing … but I don’t think Houston deliberately lost so much as they realized it was stupid to spend money on mediocre veterans. Buster & I discussed this on the podcast today.

Peter : Is Bobby Witt Jr closest thing we’ve seen to Harper in terms of pure talent coming out of high school? Not saying he’s just as good or that type of generational prospect.
Keith Law: No, he’s not in Harper’s class.

Lark11: Defensive shifting makes logical and intuitive sense; places fielders where hitters have higher probability of hitting the ball. That said, I’m somewhat struggling with its effectiveness. MLB BABIP by Year: 2013: .297; 2014: .299; 2015: .299; 2016: .300; and 2017: .300.
Keith Law: BABIP includes home runs, which have increased over that time period, but aren’t affected by defensive shifts. Also, aren’t exit velocities and launch angles increasing? Those should affect BABIP, or at least expected BABIP.

Eric: Thoughts on J-Up’s 5-year deal with the Halos?
Keith Law: Love it for the Angels. Yes, he’s risky, lot of volatility in his performance, but he’s a potential 5-win player and still in his peak years. He was my #1 free agent going into the winter.

Ralph: Would you rather have Pence or Trump as president?
Keith Law: I would absolutely take Hunter Pence as President over the current occupant.

Junkyard Dog: Who do you like more between Justus Sheffield and Max Fried? Who has the higher ceiling?
Keith Law: Sheffield.

Ben: We have officially arrived in an alternate reality, where fossil fuels can prevent sexual assaults and the air is TOO clean. Children need to breath dirty air to build up immunity for Christ’s sake! …..I weep for humanity.
Keith Law: The reality is that these anti-science “scientists” can say whatever they want, and their followers will just accept it.

Adam: The Braves and Coppolella drama has me thinking; Is it an open secret within your industry which GMs are despised by their peers, and what role does the media have in skewing the public perception of these men?
Keith Law: I tend to hear if people don’t like dealing with a certain GM or agent, or even a scouting director, but I think what you hear through the media lens is distorted.

Keith Law: Some food no one cares about is really good and your favorite player is awful.
Keith Law: Wrong. Everyone cares about good food.

Microsoft Excel: So do all the computers and spreadsheets in Houston get WS rings? Asking for a friend
Keith Law: Yes, one ring per vacuum tube.

Rick: Loved your newsletter, but I couldn’t help thinking how much your decision might have changed baseball history. If you had gone to the Astros, they surely would have drafted Kris Bryant, and the Cubs never would have won the World Series.
Keith Law: You’re very kind, but you failed to consider the possibility that I’d have given terrible advice and the Astros would never have sniffed the playoffs.

Hey there: Do you have a favorite/least favorite kind of player to scout (other than assholes like Chapman, or guys that can’t play)?
Keith Law: I love athletes. Granted, I can’t stand it when they have physical tools and no instincts or feel, but there’s absolutely something electric about seeing players who can do things with their bodies that even an average professional athlete can’t do.

Mike: I was wading way too deep into this with my wife last night, but now that it’s complete, where do you think this World Series ranks among those since 2000?
Keith Law: The blah game 7 hurts; I’d put this behind last year’s and 2011 for sure, probably 2001 as well. I could argue for 2002 and 2014 in there somewhere.

Roger: Should the Astros add Whitley and Tucker to their 25 man roster to start the 2018 season, or let them work in the minors for a few more months than bring them up mid-season?
Keith Law: That’s very premature.

Jim Nantz: I’m worried Conforto’s shoulder injury is going to sap his power for next year? Do you share this concern?
Keith Law: I don’t think we have any evidence either way on this.

Dr. Bob: As a Dodgers fan, I’m bummed at the end result, but I’m hopeful looking to the future. Friedman has built the right kind of organization. The team’s deep pockets has allowed it to eat dead money without hampering its ability to sign other players. We’ll see if the process adjusts the “book” that Dave Roberts seemed to be working from.
Keith Law: I wonder if Roberts is the right guy going forward, which I know sounds weird given the season they just had, but it does appear that he’s not a very good tactical manager, and I don’t know that he’s a good developmental manager, at least with young pitching. I don’t think firing him is some panacea or even a good idea, but the more I see him, the more I think they can do better. And, building off that, they’re going to have to develop young pitching soon, so they don’t have to go trade for a Darvish each July.

Roger: Do you ever really get an offseason since minor league ball is essentially now year round?
Keith Law: I’m done. The minors ended in mid-September, and I’ve already gone to the AFL.

David: Cardinals GM John Mozeliak has said an impact bat is most likely going to have to come via trade. There’s speculation the Cards will be in on Christian Yelich and Josh Donaldson, maybe even acquiring both players. Cards fans are worried two such acquisitions will deplete the farm system. Do the Cards have enough surplus prospects to make a couple of deals and not be barren? Who in this system is untouchable in your eyes? Thanks.
Keith Law: Not sure anyone could trade for both those guys and still have depth – maybe Atlanta, but even they’d have to pay with quantity – but the Cards do have a lot of prospects with value to other clubs and I don’t think they have anyone untouchable right now.

Andy: Did I miss it, or was the atrocious strike zone in the Series glossed over?
Keith Law: Nope, it came up, and I know the teams had a lot to say about it. It was game to game, though. Bill Miller’s was by far the worst. Last night was no picnic either.

Daniel: This is obviously not a small ‘if’ but if Kaprielian returns to form and stays healthy, could you see him becoming the top pitching prospect in baseball? Seemed to have that profile before he went down. Just hadn’t pitched enough yet.
Keith Law: He has #1 upside if he’s healthy. He hasn’t been healthy for a full season in pro ball, which would probably eliminate him from consideration for #1 overall.

Josh: Besides Ticket to Ride, any game recommendations for a newly-reading kid? Shorter play times would be preferred.
Keith Law: Depends on age, but I get the sense you’re talking 4 or 5, and there are now kids’ versions of TtR, Carcassonne, and Catan.

Ridley Kemp: Howdy Keith,

I have a long-ish Charlie Morton question. I’ve always been a fan of his because of his extreme ground ball rates and his ability to avoid the long ball. He’s definitely become a different pitcher this year, working up in the zone, getting more strikeouts at the expense of allowing more home runs. My question is: Is he really a better pitcher now? His ERA and FiP this year is about the same as what they were in most of his healthier years (2011,2013, and 2014). He certainly LOOKS better, but are the results that different?
Keith Law: He did just post the lowest FIP of his career, and that’s not adjusted for league/year … his ERA- was a career best, and it was just his second ERA+ over 100 (which is average) in any season over 20 IP. So yeah, I think he’s better.

Chris: Can I get an FYEAHBASEBALL!
Keith Law: Fuck yeah, you can.

Tracy: Hi Keith, I usually ask you questions related to books or current events but I actually have a baseball question—an odd one, but here goes: If you were able to go back in time and survey a particular baseball era, not just scouting players but also observing the way the game is played at that time, which would it be? For me, it would be going back to the height of the old Negro Leagues and seeing what we really missed out on.
Keith Law: Oh, 100% on that. There’s so much myth around those guys and so little facts that I’d love to see what it really looked like.

Ben: GOP tax bill apparently allows churches to endorse political candidates. Unless they plan on taxing churches, that should be illegal, no?
Keith Law: Of course it should, but nobody cares – and good luck getting anyone to agree we should tax churches. (Reminder that the Church of Scientology harassed its way into tax-exempt status.)

Jim Nantz: When will your top FA list comeout?
Keith Law: Monday.

Michael: Hi Klaw – thoughts on the Gabe Kapler hire? While I was initially in the Wathan camp, the more I have read the more I like this move.
Keith Law: I’ve known him a few years and I’m a big fan. Ideal hire for a club that will be full of young players for the next few years. Brings energy & new ideas. And he’s actually managed a year in the minors, which puts him ahead of a lot of recent managerial hires.

Bobby: Keith – thanks in advance. Love these chats. I have always thought that managers in baseball don’t move the needle much. Clearly, Cashman thinks otherwise as he is taking a risk moving on from a very good manager in the hope of finding a great one. What do you think in general re manager importance and specifically re the risk Cash is taking and the commitment he is showing (to the concept that a manager is very important).
Keith Law: I’m not clear that this was Cashman. Couldn’t it have been ownership? It feels too impetuous to be Cash.

Archie: Do you think the game is trending too much toward the 3 true outcome model? If so, what would you do to “fix” things?
Keith Law: Tighten the manufacturing specs on the ball, and raise the bottom of the strike zone (which already happened a little this year).

Casey: On a scale of doesn’t matter to existential dread, how much consternation should Dombrowski’s hiring of LaRussa give Sox fans?
Keith Law: Doesn’t matter. Doubt he has any influence.

Zach: What do you make of hearing that Darvish was tipping his pitches (according to Beltran on postgame show)? After he was traded to Dodgers, they apparently “fixed” that issue.
Keith Law: Eduardo Perez said the same for us last night – he specifically saw a hand movement. If that’s true, then the question would be why no Dodger coach picked it up after the first inning.

Michael: Hey Klaw – What do you think is the actual deal with all of the anti-sabermetrics comments across the board. These people are so angry, you’d think someone kidnapped their kids. Do you think it’s just a matter of: this is what I know, this is what I am used to, math is hard, I’m not getting younger, get off my lawn, and waaaaaa, waaaaaa – ?
Keith Law: I think many people view technology as an existential threat. And they’re not entirely wrong – Houston is replacing pro scouting with video work and analytics. Automation is affecting all industries. Beat writer jobs are disappearing because of technological changes. So I get it. But it’s evolve or die. You can’t just will away analytics because they bother you.

Mika: Do you believe it’s likely we’re living in a computer simulation? On a scale of 1-100, how full of crap is Elon Musk?
Keith Law: I think the ratio of media attention Musk receives to the quality of his commentary is too high and increasing exponentially. (And yet he’s doing some legitimately good work, like Tesla getting a hospital in Puerto Rico back online with solar panels.)

Podcast: It’s kind of funny how Game 7 pretty much turned on exactly what you said to Buster on the podcast about Hinch being more flexible than Roberts
Keith Law: I thought Hinch managed a great game last night and a great series in general, whereas Roberts didn’t seem to have a clear plan if Darvish was out that early.

Bobby: Where would you rank the Tiger’s farm system right now? Middle of the pack? Who else is likely to be dealt this winter? Thanks!
Keith Law: I haven’t started any prospect work at all, but eyeballing it, I’d say below middle of the pack.

E: Have you seen Trumps’s quote on the tax cut? Every time his words are written down and read, it reinforces just how little he knows about, well everything.
Keith Law: If this issue matters to any of you, I would suggest ignoring what the President says and focusing on what the actual tax cut/reform proposal says – and what experts say it will do. For example, they’re proposing cutting the mortgage interest deduction dramatically. The way it’s shaped, it will adversely affect homeowners who financed very expensive houses … and homeowners in very expensive real estate markets, which almost all happen to be in blue states. And that, in the longer term, would likely slow the acceleration of house prices as the real cost of buying & financing houses above the threshold increases because you lose some of the tax break. That’s one tiny bit of the proposal and already its effect is complicated.

Todd: Domingo Acevedo the next Betances or is he a legit starter?
Keith Law: Reliever for me. Out of control delivery.

Drew: First of all, thank you for all of the work you do throughout the season. I particularly appreciate your appearances on the BBTN podcast, and wanted to ask you something about that. While I agree that Darvish’s two world-class clunkers in the WS shouldn’t costs him tens of millions of dollars, do you think it makes a reunion with The Dodgers unlikely? As analytically savvy as the front office is, do you think they’re keeping fan blowback in mind?
Keith Law: No, I don’t think that would affect them, but if having him for three months told them something about him – his psyche, his preparation, whatever – that they didn’t like, that would affect their decision beyond what the data suggest.

Walt: How difficult would it be for a team to go 11-0 and break the 2005 White Sox record?
Keith Law: Entirely doable. If we had another 200 postseasons before the end of the world, which seems unlikely, some team would do it.

Andrew: Any books you can suggest on how to manage time?
Keith Law: I’ve seen books on the subject but have never read any. My advice to people who ask about my own time management is probably not great, but it’s to look at how much time you use on unproductive things each day. If you watch 2 hours of TV each night, that’s obviously your choice … but it’s 2 hours you’re not doing something that might be more productive, whether it’s work, learning, reading, being with family, whatever you value. And maybe you value TV time. Maybe you’re Alan Sepinwall and TV time is work. It’s all about what you want to accomplish during the day.

Willy: I’ve read that Eloy is a protypical RF, and I’ve read that he’s barely a LF who may and up at 1B. What do you think?
Keith Law: He’s a good RF. Anyone who said he’s barely a LF hasn’t seen him.

Joe: How easy are in-game adjustments to make for a player? I’m thinking specifically of Bellinger laying off the breaking ball down and in but am asking if that is something we should expect from players?
Keith Law: I think in-game adjustments are tough. Maybe half of MLB hitters can do that. Probably less than that.

CapePorpoise: Any opinion on the meal delivery services HelloFresh and their ilk? For couples like my wife and I with limited menu imagination, It is kind of fun to be working with fresh tarragon and dill and rosemary in these meals, and we’re definitely getting the kind of variety we’d otherwise never experience.
Keith Law: Never tried them, but I also work from home, so i have the time to go shop for food, and I actually enjoy it.

ck: Not necessarily my opinion, but if Kershaw was available for 4 IP, why not start him?
Keith Law: It’s an excellent question. I might argue that the Dodgers had 3 options to start, and they chose the worst one. (That’s a bit of a conceit – I don’t know that they knew that beforehand or that we did, and Alex Wood hasn’t really been the same guy since the last DL stint.)

Todd: Am I wrong in saying that last off season the Yankees were under rated, but now next season they’ll be way over rated? See it all the time in sports, an upstart team has a big season ahead of schedule and everyone inflated expectations.
Keith Law: Yes, that’s the typical pattern, but they could alter their fortunes depending on what they do in free agency, especially for pitching.

Andy: If you’re Cleveland, what decision are you making about Bruce, Santana, and Brantley?
Keith Law: Brantley has an option that I assume they’ll decline. The other two are just free agents, so the decision is made.

Lark11: Any early thoughts on Griffin Conine and where he’ll go in the 2018 draft? First rounder? Top half of the first round? Thanks!
Keith Law: I have been told first rounder, not top 10 type, although the college crop is weak enough that some guys will be pushed up into that tier. The UVA hitters weren’t supposed to be top 10 prospects coming into spring 2017 and ended up going 7 and 8.

Chris: Book question: I have To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis next on my to-read list. Having read your review, do you think you missed a lot by not reading Three Men in a Boat first?
Keith Law: I read Three Men in a Boat right afterward, but the other way around would have helped. It’s a quick read and in the public domain if you have a Kindle or iBooks.

CKS: Given the blatant disregard for the international free agency rules by most teams, is there any push to finally fix the problem? Or will this continue to be an issue for years to come?
Keith Law: The lesson of the Atlanta scandal is, as always, don’t get caught.

Hinkie: I know it’s very early … but … could you give us a top of the draft mock (shot in the dark guess): 1 Tigers _______ , 2 Giants ________ , 3 Phillies ________
Keith Law: Nope. It would be pure bullshit.

Kris : Should the Braves go young in rotation or trade for a pitcher?
Keith Law: If they trade, it should be for a power bat. The system has a ton of pitching but little to nothing at the corners or with power.

Alan: Favorite movie of 2017?
Keith Law: So far, Dunkirk, but I’ve only seen 12 movies so far.

Philip: If you were in charge of the A’s, would Bruce Maxwell still be in the organization?
Keith Law: If he’s guilty of threatening someone with a gun, then no, I would cut him loose.

Jeffrey: Orioles should move Machado in the offseason or mid-season? And how can they justify bringing back their whole coaching staff?
Keith Law: Should move him and Britton this winter, don’t get the sense they plan to do either (yet).

Jason: Keith, I have never had anxiety until a couple weeks ago an intruder attempted to enter our home a few weeks back. Now I feel very nervous and anxoius going to sleep. Any advice?
Keith Law: Wow, I’m sorry that happened to you. That’s a discussion to have with a doctor; when I had my worst anxiety/panic, I took Xanax to help me sleep for about a week until I could get used to a regular sleep pattern.

CapePorpoise: Have you read much John Fowles? Granted, I was much younger, but French Lieutenant
Keith Law: Only read that one. Didn’t love the unique ending.

Derek: Thoughts on Dave Martinez as the Nats new manager?
Keith Law: I’ve only heard good things about him, other than that he doesn’t interview well, which as I’ve said before is a terrible way to evaluate a manager hire anyway.

Hinkie: What do hear about Gabe Kapler, both as a new manager and as a person ?
Keith Law: O AN HE SEXY

JJ: I’m guessing this was Carlos Beltran’s last ride. If so, is he a HOFer?
Keith Law: I think he’s a borderline guy by historical standards. I’d probably vote for him.

Cindy: Austin Riley has had some great results in the AFL. I’ve read a scouting report here or there that says that he has cut down on his swing, lost some weight, and is now able to catch up with high velocity fastballs….something he couldn’t do before on a regular basis. Have you heard anything about this? How far away is he from the majors?
Keith Law: Saw him. That’s just not true – I saw velocity blow him up again, as his bat is still slow. He’s gotten better at third base, though; that was true during the season as well.

Craig: Thanks for the chat Keith, really enjoy your work. Any feeling on if Tanaka opts out or not? Would you if you were him?
Keith Law: It depends on the health of his elbow, and I doubt anyone has a great read on that other than him and the team doctors.

JJ: Three playoff managers got the axe after their post-season was done: Baker, Farrell, and Girardi. Are any of those three “game changers” that should hired elsewhere immediately?
Keith Law: No, but all three did fine jobs and none deserved to be fired based on team performance or the jobs they did on the field. (We often don’t know off field factors.)

Todd: Better in 2 years? Bregman or Moncada?
Keith Law: Bregman.

Bobby: Would anyone in their right mind actually make a play to deal for Miguel Cabrera? I’ll never say never after seeing Prince Fielder dealt but this seems impossible
Keith Law: That would be bonkers.

Josh: Thanks for answering the kid game question. I’m actually talking about a 1st grader who can handle Ticket to Ride but isn’t quite where she can read and comprehend quickly enough to make competitive decisions in real time. And our lifestyle is such that long play time like TtR is too much.
Keith Law: Splendor might be pushing it a little … but maybe not. It’s largely a color-matching game and the graphics & tokens are kid-friendly.

Corey: Also, Americans are increasingly terrible dealing with gray area or nuance. Everything in the US including obviously our politics has grown either/or, zero-sum, us vs them. People can’t accept that analytics is one tool among many. That somehow, you can only run a team with “the nerds” or the “baseball guys” but not both.
Keith Law: This would apply to many issues in our society outside of sports. But yes, the idea that using analytics means you hate scouts or coaches or humans is wrong.

Bobbo: The blurb you did for Farlight in your Paste – Best of GenCon 2017 enticed me. Also the one for Echo. did you play/obtain them? any chance of full reviews for either? thanks for the chatting!
Keith Law: I haven’t seen Farlight beyond that demo, but I hope to catch them again at PAX Unplugged. I don’t know which game you mean by Echo, sorry.

Karl in Utah: Was this year from Whit Merrifield an anomaly or do you think it is sustainable (assuming the juiced ball stays in place)?
Keith Law: I do not think it’s sustainable.

Eric Reiners: I’ve read reports that eliminating the mortgage interest deduction entirely would be one of the easiest ways for the government to boost revenues while keeping the effect on the middle/lower class as light as possible. Real estate values would initially take a hit across the board, but it’d be an effective way of tackling the deficit. I’m surprised they even took this step, to be honest, as it mostly affects rich white people. But on the other hand…they had tax cuts to rich white people to fund.
Keith Law: It would affect the middle classes more. US tax policy has encouraged home ownership for decades. Pulling that deduction entirely would amount to a regressive tax that hits the lowest-income homeowners more than the highest-income ones.

Ryan: Has Randolph progressed at all for the Phillies? For someone drafted for his pure hitting ability, he has struggled.
Keith Law: Not really. It is disappointing.

Drew: My daughter just turned three today. Any book recommendations from when yours was that age?
Keith Law: I believe that’s when I read her the first two Mary Poppins books and the first two Winnie-the-Pooh books.

Jason: It appears Keaton Huira played the field without any issues with his elbow. Assuming that continues would he skyrocket up your Top 100 lists? How high?
Keith Law: Skyrocket? He’ll be on the top 100. Let’s leave it there for now.

Harold: Sounds like you don’t want to pay your fair share.
Keith Law: On the contrary, I have no complaints at all with what I pay in taxes; if anything, I think our local/state taxes here in Delaware are too low. But I don’t see the economic benefit to reducing my taxes while raising those on lower-income households, or of giving me more of a reduction than the lower-income households get.
Keith Law: Thanks as always for all of your questions. The top 50 free agent rankings post will go up on Monday for Insiders, and I’ll be around at some point next week to chat about it. Enjoy your (sadly baseball-free) weekends.

Comments

  1. BABIP doesn’t include home runs, does it?

  2. my bad, Keith – my silly brain turned Epoch (The Awakening) into “Echo.”

  3. Billy Bob Snortin

    Lark11: Defensive shifting makes logical and intuitive sense; places fielders where hitters have higher probability of hitting the ball. That said, I’m somewhat struggling with its effectiveness. MLB BABIP by Year: 2013: .297; 2014: .299; 2015: .299; 2016: .300; and 2017: .300.

    Keith Law: BABIP includes home runs, which have increased over that time period, but aren’t affected by defensive shifts. Also, aren’t exit velocities and launch angles increasing? Those should affect BABIP, or at least expected BABIP.

    Home runs are not included in BABIP, FYI.

    https://www.fangraphs.com/library/pitching/babip/

  4. I feel like the World Series again confirmed that starting pitchers are better than relief pitchers at pitching. The middle of rotation and back end starters generally looked like great relievers. Starting is hard.

    • Larry I in L.A.

      Here’s hoping that no modern (i.e., one-inning) closer ever again gets a Cy Young or Hall of Fame vote. I’m OK with Mariano Rivera because he was dominant for such a long stretch and was also great in October, but that’s where I’m setting the bar.

  5. Yeah, KLaw’s fingers were working faster than his brain on that answer. Still, I do think it’s an interesting question. For all of the defensive shifting going on, the league wide BABIP remains fairly constant.

    2005: .295
    2006: .301
    2007: .303
    2008: .300
    2009: .299
    2010: .297
    2011: .295
    2012: .297
    2013: .297
    2014: .299
    2015: .299
    2016: .300
    2017: .300

    So, if shifting does work (which intuitively it seems like it should), then how do you explain the consistency of the league wide BABIP?

    To me, it doesn’t make sense that the teams who crack the defensive shifting code one year, significantly regress the following year. Nor does it make sense that the above average out-conversion rates of the shifting teams is offset by below average conversion rates of the other teams.

    It has to be some combination of a rising tide lifting all BABIPs and hitters making adjustments to the shift. Is it the juiced ball? The “elevate and celebrate” philosophy? Is it the declining stigma of the strikeout, leading to hitters trading “weak contact” outcomes for more “strikeout and hard contact” outcomes? Hitters changing their spray charts to offset the shift?

    I’m not sure, but defensive shifting hasn’t brought about the massive change in the game and quality of play that I thought it might.

    • Yeah, KLaw’s fingers were working faster than his brain on that answer.

      Gee, I’m so glad I took the time to try to answer your question.

      We don’t have Statcast data prior to 2015, but Fangraphs shows “Hard Contact” rising from 28% to 31% from 2015 to 2017.

  6. Sorry, Keith, didn’t mean that to come off as harsh at all! So, no offense intended. I always appreciate the responses and insight. I just meant that I knew you knew that BABIP didn’t include HRs, but that it just slipped your mind at the time, which happens to all of us; particularly me!

    • I was thinking of a different (real) problem with BABIP – that excluding HR from pitchers’ BABIP means you’re removing some of the hardest-hit balls from the pitcher’s batted-ball profile, which may in turn give us the impression that he’s better or less ‘unlucky’ than he actually was in that sample. That is probably going to become less of an issue going forward now that we have more specific data on the batted balls a pitcher allows.

  7. Keith wrote “It would affect the middle classes more. US tax policy has encouraged home ownership for decades. Pulling that deduction entirely would amount to a regressive tax that hits the lowest-income homeowners more than the highest-income ones.”

    The mortgage interest deduction (MID) mostly benefits the upper middle class and above. According to modeling estimates from the Tax Policy Center for 2017, 88.2% of the benefit will go to households with incomes over $100k, and 54.4% goes to households with incomes over $200k. In contrast only 10.5% of households making between $50-$100k use the MID. We can quibble over what constitutes the middle class but I don’t see any reason why households with incomes over $200k need incentives to purchase housing and right now over half of the beneficiaries are from the group. If anything I would argue these policies hurt those in the $50k-$100k range because they drive housing prices up in large, metropolitan areas where demand for housing outstrips the supply.

    Data found here: http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/model-estimates/individual-income-tax-expenditures-april-2017/t17-0116-tax-benefit-deduction-home

    • I don’t see any reason why households with incomes over $200k need incentives to purchase housing

      I agree. And there’s no clear economic benefit from this. But I can also tell you that the presence of the deduction has directly affected my family’s decisions on housing purchases and borrowing even though we don’t ‘need’ the benefit. If you’re giving me free money, I’m going to take it.

      In general, I’m not a fan of legislating social policy via the tax code, which is what the MID is. At one point, it may have made good sense to encourage home ownership. That’s not true today, and the MID simply distorts purchase & borrowing decisions without benefit to the economy as a whole. To say nothing of deducting interest on vacation homes…

  8. Regarding tax cuts. Income tax cuts will always benefit upper and middle income people more than low income people because many low income people do not pay income taxes. I have a small tax preparation business, around 100 clients. I would estimate that 10 of my clients do not pay any federal income tax. On the other hand, my wife and I pay enough income taxes to pay cash for a new car each year. Any tax cut that we receive is going to be larger on a dollar basis than a lower income person.

    I agree that the mortgage interest deduction benefits higher income people more. A low income person either can’t qualify for a mortgage or the mortgage won’t be large enough to cause a sizable deduction. There is no reason for the government to subsidize home ownership. It encourages people to borrow more money which artificially inflates housing prices.

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