Talking about Fox's Game of the Week blackouts, spring training stats and defensive value in left field...
Some things to talk about as I try and ignore how many of these I'm guilty of in any given week...
1) Fox dropping Game of the Week blackouts
Good news for you out-of-state Astros fans, as the new Fox Sports channel has unexpected benefits. Remember all those Fox Game of the Week Saturday night blackouts, when you couldn't see a game because it was a regional broadcast and you weren't in Houston's region?
Well, they're gone, as Fox is dropping the blackout portion of its deal:
Fox agreed to lift its national TV blackouts for the Game of the Week. Starting in 2014, fans will be able to watch any Saturday out-of-market game on MLB.tv (or Extra Innings on cable). For example, if you’re a Red Sox fan living in Los Angeles, and the Fox/Fox Sports 1 Game of the Week in LA is the Dodgers versus the Mets, you’ll be able to watch the Red Sox game on MLB.tv or Extra Innings.
The bad news is more long-term for baseball fans, as playoff games will begin to shift away from the network Fox broadcasts and move to the cable channel. As Wendy Thurm notes here, that means baseball will have fewer postseason games on network TV than both the NHL and NBA starting in 2014.
As an Astros fan, you're probably more worried about games getting broadcast in the Houston area on CSN Houston, but eventually the Astros will be back in the postseason. How much of an impact will this have on you? How many of you have a sports package now through your cable/satellite company?
2) Spring training home run comparison
Have you been getting excited about spring training statistics? Were those home runs George Springer or Marc Krauss hit enough to upset you that they were cut? Well, here's a nice study to deflate any optimism over spring power stats. There just isn't much correlation between spring hot streaks and season long power output.
Taking a look at home run leaders since 2008, only three out of the 11 home run leaders hit 30 or more home runs during the regular season. Of the 11 home run leaders, the average home run total for the regular season was just 15. The following chart gives the home run leaders each year since 2008.
Check out the chart at the link above, which include former Astro Chris Johnson. CJ hit eight bombs in 2010 but managed just 11 in that brief stint in the majors later that season. More importantly, the players who hit 30 or more and did show up on this list already had a history of being high-octane home run hitters.
Guys don't suddenly display tons of power in the spring and have that carry over to the season.
3) Defensive positions and value
As an interesting side discussion on the spring training cuts, Chris Carter's defense in left field came up. Some of you were pretty pessimistic on his defensive value out in left field, which got me thinking. How good are most left fielders around the game?
Thanks to FanGraphs, we have a load of defensive metrics to look at in comparison. We can also sort by just the players who were in left field. The results are pretty, well, average. On the whole, the major league average for Defensive Runs Saved was two last season. The ML average for Fielding Runs was -16.2 for left fielders. Of the 12 qualified left fielders, only six had five or more DRS. Of the 16 qualified left fielders, only five had Fielding Run numbers of 10 or more.
Most left fielders are pretty bad. The worst left fielders in the game last season were Josh Willingham and Carlos Gonzalez, who each had -13 Defensive Runs Saved. Twelve different Houston left fielders combined for -9 Defensive Runs Saved last season. That means the difference between the worst fielding left fielders in MLB last season and what Houston had was just four DRS.
There are some problems with this quick analysis, taking into account park factors and the variability of defensive metrics. However, if Carter can take walks and hit home runs, he'll be plenty valuable even in left field.