Fun With Narratives: How 3 Offseason Targets Can Be Portrayed in the Best and Worst of Ways
Image courtesy of © David Kohl-USA TODAY SportsSince we have talked so much about Madison Bumgarner, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Josh Donaldson this offseason, I will use my personal “next three” offseason targets for the Minnesota Twins in this exercise.
Sure Bet: Dallas Keuchel is a multi-time All-Star, World Series champion and just four years removed from winning the Cy Young Award for the Astros. Over the past six seasons, Keuchel has only had an ERA over 3.75 once, and simply does not allow home runs, with a career HR/9 of just 0.91. Keuchel finished 2019 incredibly strong, posting a 2.55 ERA in 53 innings from Aug. 14 through the end of the season.
Washed Up: While Keuchel has a Cy Young to his name, that was four years ago and he simply isn’t the pitcher he used to be. Over the past two seasons, Dallas has posted a 4.06 FIP and a very pedestrian 6.9% K%. Keuchel will be 32-years-old heading into the 2020 season, and operating with a fastball that averaged a velocity of just 88.4 MPH in 2019.
Sure Bet: Julio Teherán is just 28-years-old and has seen his ERA decrease in each of the past three seasons, highlighted by his 3.81 ERA in 2019. Teherán is coming off of a 2019 season in which he posted a career best K/9. With spin rates on his fastball and curveball in the 70th and 84th percentile respectively, Teherán certainly has the pitching arsenal to be successful. Additionally, Teherán is an incredibly healthy and durable pitcher, as evidenced by >170 IP in each of his past seven seasons.
Washed Up: While Teherán had a solid 3.81 ERA in 2019, the numbers point to this coming more from luck than skill as shown by his 5.26 xFIP. Teherán has been walking more batters than ever before, posting a 4.30 and 4.28 BB/9 in each of the past two seasons. Teherán has posted an xFIP of greater than 4.00 in each of the past five seasons, and with a fastball that has declined in velocity each of the past three seasons, things might be getting worse rather than better for the Colombian right-hander.
Sure Bet: From 2017-19, Eric Thames trails only Cody Bellinger, Freddie Freeman and Paul Goldschmidt in OPS by first basemen (min. 750 PAs). Thames’ power is legit, too. In 2019, of first baseman with at least 300 plate appearances, Thames was fourth in SLG and second in ISO. Thames is not butcher at first base either, posting a positive DRS for Milwaukee last season.
Washed Up: While Thames put up solid power numbers in 2019, it largely came at the expense of his plate discipline. In 2019, Thames was third of all first baseman with a K% of 29.3. Thames also has not shown that he can be a consistent option at first base, playing in less than 100 games in three of his five seasons in the MLB. Thames isn’t getting younger either — while he has only been in the majors for five seasons, the first baseman is already 33-years-old. Additionally, moving away from the hitter-friendly confines of Miller Park would seemingly call for a statistical decline and disappointing 2020 for Thames.
Baseball is a numbers-driven sport and statistics are extremely vital in evaluating the past and predicting the future performance for a player. As you can see from the examples above though, narratives can change completely based on what statistics are being used (and withheld) for a given player.
What are your thoughts on the various narratives being pushed for this crop of free agents? How do you navigate reading the narratives that people write or tweet and formulate your own opinion when there are so many statistics out there? Leave a comment below and get the conversation started.
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