Fun With Small Sample Sizes

High End

Jed Lowrie’s running a 183 wRC+, 8th in all of baseball among qualified players. In 11th, three spots behind him is Asdrubal Cabrera.

Matt Joyce has the third best walk rate in all of baseball.

Corey Dickerson leads all of baseball in Fangraphs defensive runs. And bWAR.

Chad Bettis is tied for third place in pitching bWAR.

Ryan Flaherty is second in MLB in OBP.

Low End

Joey Votto, the Greek God of Hitting, is rocking a prodigious 71 wRC+.

Gary Sanchez is running a 64 wRC+.

Logan Morrison has a .086 batting average.

Kyle Hendricks has the 5th worst FIP in all of baseball.

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NBA Rookie of the Year

This year’s Rookie of the Year race in the NBA is, as in most years, highly contentious.

Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers, the first overall pick of the 2016 draft, missed all of the 2016-17 season with a foot injury, and is thus technically in his rookie season. He’s averaged 22.5 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 11.6 assists per 100 possessions and .162 win shares per 48 minutes on a 22.5% usage rate and 55.7% true shooting percentage. He’s one of three players to average 15, 8, and 8 per game this season, along with Russell Westbrook and LeBron James. He’s lethal in the passing lanes on defense, and is one of the most gifted playmakers in the league. Because of the abnormal size of the Sixers’ starting lineup and rotation, he’s guarded 1-4 this season and done so exceptionally all year, to the tune of a 3.5 Defensive Box Plus/Minus. 

Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz, who was selected 13th in the 2017 draft, has put up 30.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists per 100 possessions and .095 win shares per 48 minutes on a 29.1% usage rate and a 54.1% true shooting percentage. Mitchell has been forced into a lead scorer role for the Jazz with the departure of Gordon Hayward in free agency and an injury to Rudy Gobert, and has stepped up magnificently. He’s practically been a walking bucket all year, is a solid defender at guard, and was integral to the Jazz making it to the playoffs. 

The fact of the matter is that Ben Simmons has been a transcendent player in his rookie season. He’s an elite playmaker and defender, and deserves the rookie of the year award comfortably. Mitchell has him beat in scoring volume, but Simmons is comfortably better at everything else. Both men, along with Celtics wing Jayson Tatum, look like they’ll be exceptional NBA players. but for this year, Simmons has been the best by leaps and bounds.

MLB Predictions

AL MVP: Mike Trout, CF, Los Angeles Angels

NL MVP: Bryce Harper, RF, Washington Nationals

AL Cy Young: Chris Sale, SP, Boston Red Sox

NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

AL Reliever of the Year: Chad Green, RP, New York Yankees

NL Reliever of the Year: Kenley Jansen, RP, Los Angeles Dodgers

AL Rookie of the Year: Shohei Ohtani, SP/DH, Los Angeles Angels

NL Rookie of the Year: Ronald Acuna, OF, Atlanta Braves

World Series: New York Yankees over Chicago Cubs in 7 games.

Pay NCAA Athletes

No man can say, in earnest, that college sports are truly amateur endeavors. In every way outside of pay, they’re treated as if they’re employees. Schools make oodles of money off of billboards, jerseys, and ticket sales, amongst other things, and the players don’t even have the option to earn money off of their likenesses without punishments.

The solution here is quite simple. As the students can’t effectively use the scholarships they’re goven in many cases, they should be allowed to bargain for whatever wage/bonus/etc they feel is just when they’re being recruited. They do what is, in effect, a full time job for their time in college, and the scholarship that holds little actual value doesn’t do enough to even up the transaction. These young people bring in a bounty for their schools, and should be compensated commensurately.

 

 

The Yankees’ Imminent Additions

The Evil Empire is on the rise again. After a youth movement led the New York Yankees coming within one win of a World Series berth, and Brian Cashman masterfully weaved a way to both get under the luxury tax and trade for last year’s National League MVP, Giancarlo Stanton, before the bountiful 2019 summer, the future looks as bright as ever.

The Bombers have a strong core of mostly cost-controlled players, which should only improve with top prospects Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres projected by Fangraphs to make contributions to the big league club in 2018.

Torres has serious pedigree, as a Baseball America top 10 prospect in the last 2 seasons, after moving to the Yankees’ organization in the trade that sent Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs. According to Kiley McDaniel and Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs, he projects as a plus hitter, especially for second base, with a 60 grade future hit tool and 55 grade future game power (20-80 scale). Overall, they peg Torres as a 60 grade future value prospect and the 12th best prospect in all of baseball.

Andujar, the 14th ranked prospect in baseball, should be another welcome addition to the Yankees’ young core. He’s got a crazy arm (70 grade) at third base, along with 55’s for his future hit and game power tools. He had an 5 game cameo with the big league club in 2017, and raked, albeit in a tiny sample size. With the addition of Brandon Drury from the Arizona Diamondbacks, he has a little bit of leeway with regard to when he gets called up, which increases the likelihood of one or both staying down in Scranton for a couple of weeks so that they have an extra year of service time.

 

Baseball’s Biggest Problem

The biggest problem facing Major League Baseball, bar none, is its regressive, exploitative wage structure.

For the first six full years of a player’s major league service time, he makes below market value for his services. For three or four years, depending on when he’s called up, a player makes the league minimum. It goes without saying that this is detrimental to labor, as regardless of a man’s output, he’s paid less than a tenth of what a win above replacement is worth on the open market. This creates obscene excess value, even outside of extremes like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Clayton Kershaw.

In the 2017 season, the Boston Red Sox got 2.6 wins above replacement out of outfielder Andrew Benintendi. With a conservative estimate of a win above replacement being worth about $6.5 million, his 2017 season was worth $16.9 million dollars on the open market, and he only earned the league minimum, which was $535,000. continueaboutgulf

The arbitration system, which kicks in after the years at league minimum, is not much better for labor. Again, the system of players and teams bargaining over salary to an arbitrator suppresses wages and breeds resentment between teams and labor. It’s in the team’s best interest to downplay the abilities of their layers, and the outdated nature of the data that is allowed to be used in arbitration creates a gulf between value and earnings, on top of the depression that arbitration intends to create.

This offseason, with the luxury tax’s harsh penalties making it into something of a hard salary cap, many of the league’s best free agents are still without teams because teams are unwilling to meet their demand in years and/or salary. In the past, players have been able to make up for lost earnings in their min/arbitration years with big paydays in free agency. But if at no point a player can earn true market value for his abilities, the system must be changed.

Arsenal & The Age Curve: The Alexis and Ozil Replacements

At the start of the 2018/19 season, at least one of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil will likely be donning a new team’s colors. Despite the dent this will leave in the squad, the opportunity to start a shift in the squad towards youth must be taen.

The losses of Ozil and/or Sanchez will solidify the club’s standing as 6th best in the league, and the lack of quality past them will almost definitely force a lengthy rebuild. Such a rebuild will require the North London club’s star attackers to be replaced swiftly with promising, pre-prime attackers.

Such holes will be virtually impossible to fill perfectly, but a choice of two of these four men, or some of similar playing and/or age profiles would be a step in the right direction.

Florian Thauvin, Marseille, age 24

After his perceived flop at (absolutely dysfunctional) Newcastle United in the Premier League, Thauvin has been nothing short of exceptional back in France. He turns 25 in two weeks, so he’s on the older side of the names that should be considered, but his output more than makes up for it. He’s top 5 in expected goal contributions per 90 in Ligue 1, assists over 2 and a half shots per 90 and takes nearly four himself. He’s proven himself to be an exceptional player in a very good league, and should be the first name on the shortlist.

Malcom, Bordeaux, age 20

At only 20 years of age, Malcom is playing remarkably well for Bordeaux. He’s 18th in Ligue 1 in expected goal contributions per 90 (0.52) amongst players with over 700 minutes played, and that should only improve with a move to Arsenal and away from complete and utter freedom to fire off pot shots from distance. He contributes directly to nearly 5 shots per game, and is one of only 23 players to average at least 2 shots and 2 key passes per 90, and is younger than all of the others to do so. At 20 years of age, he’ll have multiple years of prime level output remaining when the rebuild should be completed, providing both a lengthened window and more margin for error in the coming years. David Ornstein of BBC Sport has confirmed the club’s interest in Malcom as a replacement for Alexis, which is a great sign for the rest of the retool.

Richarlison, Watford, age 20

Richarlison, like his compatriot, Malcom, is performing like a man many years his senior for a midtable club in a top 5 league. He’s taken over three shots per 90, and over two in the penalty area thus far in nearly 2000 PL minutes. This output, for Watford, at 20 years old bodes incredibly well for his profile going forward, especially given a move to a better creative club. A minor flag on his game is the relative lack of creative output, with barely one shot assist per 90, but shot volume like his at his age makes up well for it.

Nabil Fekir, Lyonnais, age 24

Fekir has recovered remarkably after a knee injury in 2015 cast doubts over whether or not he would live up to his massive potential. He’s contributed to over a goal per 90, directly contributes to over five shots per 90, and completes over 3 take-ons per 90. This absurd production would be a welcome addition to the club, and he would almost certainly jump at a move to the Emirates.