Much of the info in this post is from an article on engadget. I became aware of the situation as I was working to build an IFTTT applet that would change my office lights to red if a website went down and I got an email about it from Uptime Robot. That applet can probably still be made but just not using Gmail anymore as a trigger.
Google’s push to tighten third-party API access is already going to cost the world Google+, but a change that more of you might notice is coming to IFTTT. The service sent out emails alerting users that their “recipe” scripts involving Gmail triggers and an action that could create a draft will go away as of March 31st. According to Google, the shift is a result of the Project Strobe sweep it announced last October.
IFTTT said it worked with Google to keep the integration that will support triggers to Send an email, or to Send Yourself an email, but the API lockdown that’s coming would’ve required too much work to change its services. Otherwise, integrations with Google will still be the same, but anyone relying heavily on the automated scripts may want to double check things before they get a surprise in a few days.
On Feb. 13, 25-year-old ace Aaron Nola agreed to a four-year contract extension with the Phillies. A day later, 26-year-old Max Kepler and 25-year-old Jorge Polanco agreed to five-year extensions with the Twins. The following day, Yankees ace Luis Severino, who turned 25 a few days later, signed a pact with the Yankees. The deals marked the beginning of a historic spree of extensions.
From mid-February through Thursday, 27 players had agreed to extensions worth a total of 132 years and $2.045 billion, according to data from the MLBTradeRumors.com extension database analyzed by FiveThirtyEight. There has never been a flurry of activity like this: March represented the most dollars ($1.126 billion) and years (58) awarded in contract extensions in a one-month period that we’ve seen.
While veteran stars including Nolan Arenado, Chris Sale and Mike Trout all signed massive extensions this spring, players with little major league experience made up the majority of the deals. Fourteen of the players — including reigning NL Rookie of the Year Ronald Acuna, who signed a $100 million extension last week, and fellow Brave Ozzie Albies, who signed a much-discussed extension Thursday — were so early in their careers that they were not yet eligible for salary arbitration, which generally requires a player to accrue three years of major league experience before becoming eligible to negotiate for significant raises. Eight others were at least a year shy of six years of service time, the amount required to become a free agent. In 2019 to date, players signing extensions have forfeited 51 combined arbitration-eligible seasons and 69 future free-agent years. The deals also include club options covering 25 seasons.
Buying out the arbitration and free agency years of younger stars for the purpose of controlling and reducing payroll costs was a practice pioneered in the early 1990s by John Hart, then general manager of the Cleveland Indians, who watched great Pittsburgh Pirates teams broken up prematurely because of escalating player costs. While extensions had since become common practice, the activity had slowed in recent seasons as young stars like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado seemed intent on hitting the open market as soon as possible.
So what’s behind the extension surge this spring? Why are MLB teams intent on avoiding arbitration and locking up young stars? It may be because arbitration wasn’t working to begin with — at least from the perspective of the teams.
Under arbitration, a player and a team each puts forth a salary amount to a panel of arbitrators, who then must decide on one of the two figures. In the past two offseasons, players have totaled more wins than losses in arbitration cases against the owners — the first time that’s happened in back-to-back years since 1989-90. Through 2015, owners had won 58 percent of all arbitration cases, according to Forbes.
This winter, Gerrit Cole ($13.5 million) and Trevor Bauer ($13 million) were among the six players to win their cases against their clubs. Arenado and the Rockies avoided a hearing, which is common practice, by signing a one-year, $26 million deal — a record for a player eligible for arbitration.
“We’re going to be seeing $20 [million] and $30 million salaries regularly in arbitration,” one agent told us. “They [MLB teams] are going to try and push back on that. How do you do it? You pull those guys out of the system.
“Every time the teams see a seam in the defense, they exploit the shit out of it and they are really good at it,” the agent said. “They are capitalizing on good players they have been watching through the draft, through the minor leagues, and who are represented largely by unqualified or under-qualified agents. The teams have scouting reports on agents the very same way they have on opposing hitters and pitchers. They have heat maps. They know our tendencies, they know who will go to arbitration, who won’t, whose business is failing and they need to vest their fees.”
The agent noted that teams look at arbitration as an important battleground and have scores of analysts that compile data for these cases. By taking players out of the arbitration system, the teams not only cap earning potential for those players, but they also reduce salary comps for other players. Agent Scott Boras described the MLB’s aggressive approach with young players and extensions this spring as “snuff contracts” — or an attempt to snuff out future markets.
Greg Dreyfuss, an associate general counsel for the union and the MLBPA’s director of analytics and baseball operations, also sees a link between the wave of extensions and players’ recent arbitration wins. The union and players have closed the data gap between clubs in making their cases. Dreyfuss says agents and players are educated on the market. While MLB payrolls remain stagnant, the records for largest arbitration salaries have been set in the past two years. The average salary of an arbitration-eligible player in 2011 was $2.73 million; that increased to $3.97 million this year, a 45 percent jump, according to analysis of MLBTradeRumors.com data.
The total dollars and players in the arbitration system has jumped from $393.6 million and 144 players in 2011 to $789.6 million spread among 199 players this last offseason, growth in part due to the game trending younger — meaning that there will be more 20-somethings entering arbitration.
“Nine of the 10 largest one-year contracts in the history of salary arbitration have come in the past two years, and overall, arbitration salaries have kept pace with the rise in industry revenue over a 10-year period,” Dreyfuss told FiveThirtyEight. “Recently a lot of really good players in that process have stood up and said, ‘No, I’m not just going to take what you give me,’ and they’ve fought for what they consider a fair salary. So, I do think there’s some correlation between players succeeding in arbitration and clubs wanting to take players out of that process.”
While spending efficiently is always a goal for teams, how these clubs have handled free agency in recent winters may be a motivating factor in some players’ decision-making. Even Trout, the game’s best player, expressed reservations about entering the open market when he signed a record extension (which is also a bargain for the Angels) this spring.
“I kind of saw what Bryce and Manny went through and it drew a red flag for me,” Trout said. “I talked to Manny and Bryce. It was a tough couple months in the offseason. They put it perspective in my mind.”
Not all extensions are club-friendly. Drefyuss notes that there have also been a number of veteran players who have agreed to extensions that will pay them lucratively into their mid-30s.
“Players agree to extensions for a variety of valid reasons, and there are any number of factors involved in their decisions,” he said
One key decision a player must make when considering an extension is how much financial upside to concede for the sake of job and financial security. In dealing with future risk, teams face less downside than individual players do. While a team can absorb a poor contract, a player is one injury or decline in performance away from having his career trajectory significantly altered.
Acuna and Albies look like future superstars, yet they signed deals that could potentially cost them nine figures in future earnings. White Sox top prospect Eloy Jimenez signed a six-year deal with two club options before he ever took a major league at-bat, limiting his financial upside. Those are the types of club-friendly deals that some on the players’ side have criticized. There is also an argument that individual players ought to consider not just themselves but their peers and future major leaguers when considering a long-term deal — and that they should wait until they are at least arbitration-eligible.
“If guys aren’t going through the system, if all the young [stars] are signing before they get there, then we are not going to have those posts to hold on to,” the agent said of salary comps. “I don’t think this is teams trying to screw with the free agent market. They are trying to take the best young players out of the arbitration system.”
Toronto outfielder Randal Grichuk, 27, said the Blue Jays began negotiating with him last month during spring training in the midst of the extension spree. He eventually signed a five-year, $52 million extension.
“The way I looked at it was taking guaranteed money, setting my family up for life, it’s hard to turn down,” Grichuk said. “If I leave a few dollars on the table now, I’m going to just be finishing my 31 season [after his deal expires] going into free agency. If I produce well, I’m going to be young enough to make some more. And if I’m not able to, whether due to injuries, failures, anything happens, I’m still set for life.”
Grichuk was into his arbitration years when he signed his extension, but he didn’t take issue with young stars like Acuna opting for financial security earlier along in the process.
“He could have probably waited and got more, but it’s tough to talk negatively about a guy who just got $100 million and is set for life,” Grichuk said. “What’s the difference between $100 [million] and $200 [million]? His kids’ kids’ kids won’t have to work? … I think it’s one of those things where his life changes completely.”
Neil Paine contributed research
You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the numbers tucked inside the news.
The National Enquirer, supermarket-tabloid fixture and fervent supporter of President Trump, is on the selling block. American Media Inc., its owner, is “actively seeking to sell off” the publication, according to Washington Post sources. A hedge fund manager whose company controls AMI reportedly became “disgusted” with the Enquirer’s reporting, which led to the decision to sell. In 2014, the tabloid sold an average of 516,000 copies per issue — a number that fell to 218,000 in December, according to the Alliance for Audited Media. [The Washington Post]
A new human species, which lived at least 50,000 years ago, was discovered in a cave in the Philippines, according to new research in Nature. The species is being called Homo luzonensis. The bad news for H. luzonensis — other than being extinct and all — is that they probably stood less than three feet tall. [The New York Times]
Tax returns and the hypothetical and actual releases thereof are all the rage these days, and Elizabeth Warren released hers yesterday. She and her husband reported $846,394 in adjusted gross income in 2018. Over $300,000 of that came from writing. Speaking of which, I need to have a talk with my editor. [CNN]
The New Zealand parliament voted 119 to 1 to ban most automatic and semi-automatic weapons. The vote came less than a month after 50 people were killed in attacks on two mosques in Christchurch. The lone no vote came from the sole member of the libertarian ACT party. [Associated Press]
In San Francisco earlier this week, the city’s Board of Supervisors unanimously rejected an apartment complex, which would’ve contained 15 below-market-rate units, “because it would cast an evening shadow on a South of Market park.” Specifically, the building would’ve cast a shadow for 100 minutes on the longest day of the year, covering an additional 18.24 percent of the park in darkness. [San Francisco Chronicle]
Should first-term Democrats such as Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib worry about getting primaried? Some in their party are already discussing recruiting challengers, but out of 626 total freshmen who served between 1999 and 2018, nine have lost primary challenges since the 2000 election, my colleague Nathaniel Rakich writes. That’s a 1.4 percent rate of defeat, compared to 1.1 percent for all representatives over that period. [FiveThirtyEight]
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If you see a significant digit in the wild, please send it to @ollie.
As the world’s greatest golfers convene in Augusta, Georgia, this week for the Masters, it’s time for every sports fan’s annual rite of spring: wild speculation about whether Tiger Woods can add a fifth green jacket to his closet. Picking Woods used to be a trendy bet; then it began to feel like a totally futile exercise. Well after he last won the event in 2005, there was a period when Woods was in the news constantly for everything except golf success. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago that Woods’s relevance as a winning golfer seemed finished, along with his bid to chase down Jack Nicklaus’s record for all-time majors won.
But that all changed last season, when Woods put everything back together again to finish eighth on the PGA Tour money list and win the season-ending Tour Championship in September. Now Woods is back, in his best position in years to win another Masters. According to VegasInsider, Woods has the third-best odds of any player to win this weekend; he’s also playing even more inspired golf than he did during last year’s comeback campaign. But at age 43, will this be one of Woods’s last chances to win at Augusta before his days of being a viable champion are over?
Certainly, Tiger has been outplaying many of his much younger rivals these past few seasons. Since the end of his lost 2017 campaign, Woods ranks sixth among qualified1 PGA Tour players in total strokes gained per round, trailing only Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood. He’s mostly regained his old mastery of irons on approach shots and still has some of the game’s best feel for shots around the green. In terms of strokes gained, Woods is picking up 1.67 shots (relative to the average player) per round so far in 2019, an even better mark than the 1.60 he posted last season — which itself was easily his best performance in five years.
One of the most impressive aspects of Woods’s early play this season has been improved accuracy off the tee. According to the PGA Tour, Woods has hit 65.2 percent of possible fairways on his drives this season, which ranks 54th out of 214 qualified players. That might not sound amazing, but by Woods’s standards, it is ultraprecise accuracy. Last year, he hit only 59.4 percent of fairways, which ranked him 127th, and he struggled to break 55 percent over the four injury-plagued seasons before that. (Even during his really great pre-scandal/injury seasons, hitting fairways was an Achilles’ heel. In 2007, when he made the most money playing golf of his career, Woods ranked 152nd in driving accuracy and failed to hit 60 percent of fairways.) When Woods is scuffling, the first indication is often a wayward drive that requires subsequent artistry just to make par.
With the help of that improved accuracy, Woods now ranks 72nd in strokes gained on drives this year — he was 100th last year — and ninth in strokes gained from the tee to the green, picking up 1.48 shots per round before ever setting his spikes on the putting surface. Classic Tiger was always a tee-to-green monster, ranking either first or second in the category every healthy season from 2006 to 2013, so his strong performance in that category this year is another signal that Woods is returning to vintage form.
It’s also a very good sign for his chances at Augusta. That’s because, as Todd Schneider wrote about for FiveThirtyEight a few years ago, the Masters often comes down to a player’s skills with the long clubs — contrary to the tournament’s reputation for being a putting contest.
Great PGA Tour players generally assert themselves most on approach shots and drives anyway, gaining about 4 strokes relative to average from tee to green for every extra shot they pick up on putts. But the recent history of Masters winners also suggests that a great long game is the true prerequisite for winning the green jacket. The average winner since strokes gained was first tracked in 2004 (excluding the 2016 and 2017 winners, Danny Willett and Sergio Garcia, because they lacked enough PGA Tour rounds to qualify for official leaderboards) ranked only about 86th in putting performance per round but 35th in strokes gained off the tee, 32nd in strokes gained on approach shots and 18th in total strokes gained from tee to green.
|PGA Tour Rank|
|Year||Masters Winner||Off Tee||Approach||Around Green||Tee to Green||Putting||Total|
Strokes gained tee-to-green was the top category (or tied for the top) for 46 percent of the Masters winners over that span,2 and 62 percent of winners ranked among the Top 10 in the statistic — like Woods does this year. (This is consistent with my previous research that driving distance and approach accuracy are the two secret weapons players can possess at Augusta, causing them to play better in the Masters than their overall scoring average would predict.)
I haven’t mentioned Tiger’s putting numbers yet, and with good reason. Woods used to be the greatest putter in the world, but so far this season he ranks just 74th in strokes gained with the flatstick, adding only 0.19 shots above average per round. Last year, he was better — 48th on tour — though he still wasn’t the putting maestro who once showed me and countless others the fundamentals of a great stroke. However, Augusta has frequently seen putters who rank far worse than Woods win during the era of detailed PGA Tour tracking data. (In fact, more than half of qualified Masters winners since 2004 have ranked worse than 78th in putting.) Putting performance is so random from year to year — much less from tournament to tournament or even round to round — that it’s a lot easier for a good tee-to-green player to get hot on the green for a weekend than for a good putter to suddenly have an uncharacteristically amazing weekend off the tee.
Because of all this, it’s not hard to understand why Woods is a strong 12-to-1 bet to win the Masters. But it’s also not hard to imagine that this could be the 43-year-old’s last, best chance to win another green jacket. Using our research on historical major winners from a few years ago, here’s what the aging curve for championship golfers looks like:
That spike in wins for players in their early 40s came from 42-year-olds Ernie Els, Darren Clarke, Payne Stewart, Tom Kite and Gary Player, and it was the last actual uptick on the chart — and Woods is now on the wrong side of it. Jack Nicklaus famously won his final major at age 46, but most great golfers are largely done winning by their early to mid-40s. And the game has only gotten younger in the twilight of Woods’s career; while the average major-winner in our data set above (through 2014) was 31.9, that number is just 29.6 in the years since. With his own early career dominance and popularity, Woods has inspired a younger generation of gifted golfers that he now must do battle with.
Woods is a special talent and in the conversation for the greatest golfer ever.3 He’s playing as well heading into Augusta as he has in a long time and excelling in exactly the right categories. But between aging effects and his own injury history, he may never have a better shot at winning another Masters than he does right now. Once upon a time, Tiger was legendary for pouncing on every opportunity left in front of him. We’ll just have to see if he can summon that ability yet again.