Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New MLB CBA: The Rich have an easier time getting richer

First, the boring, gory details.


Highlights from MLB Trade Rumors

The new agreement is terrible for low revenue teams.

There are numerous restrictions on spending for amateur players (the draft, international free agents).  Amateur players are one place where low revenue teams have a competitive advantage against large market teams.

Here's a list of how much teams spent on draft bonuses in 2011.  You'll see teams like the Pirates, Royals, Rays at the top of the list.

Here's a list of international signing bonuses.  Again, Pirates, A's, Twins, Astros at the top.

Obviously, high-revenue teams are going to have an advantage signing major league players.  These players are also less risky.  If you pay $10 million a year for Rafael Soriano you have a much better idea of what you're going to get out of him than if you give a $3 million bonus to a 16 year old kid from the Dominican.

High revenue teams don't need to take as many risks on amateur players because they can sign more stable major league players.

Low revenue teams aren't going to be signing the best players and have to take risks on players in the draft and international free agents.  Spending $2 million on a player that might bust or might turn into Miguel Cabrera is their most efficient way to acquire star players.

The new CBA limits their ability to do that.

Friday, November 18, 2011

2012 Free Agent Team

Building a team from scratch using all free agents.  Get Boras' number on your speed dial.

I set myself a $100 million payroll limit and tried to estimate what each free agent would sign for.

I used the following as references

This is the team that I came up with

First, this was hard.  $100 mils don't but what they used to.  It also shows the importance of having cost-controlled players on your roster.

There were 2 starting catchers on the free agent market.  Hernandez and Barajas.  As a Dodger fan I've had enough of Barajas.  Max Ramirez is a minor league free agent.  He played for every team last season.  He was a highly touted prospect at one point.  Just 27 next year there's a miniscule chance he figures it out.

First Base
Prince Fielder.  My hypothetical team won't be around in 5 years when concerns about Prince's aging due to his physique will likely be manifesting.   My team was light on offense.  Prince changes that.

Second Base
The Baltimore Orioles are about to let the cat out of the bag on Matt Antonelli.  I think he can play.  He's raked all over the minor leagues.  I don't know what the O's are paying him, but I'll match it.

Third Base
Wilson Betemit.  A little scary over there.  Betemit can hit, but the defense is ugly.  I still think he's underrated and can provide value in excess of his contract.

I'm not gambling on Reyes or Rollins.  I'll take the steady production of Clint Barmes.

Backup Infielder
Esteban German.  Mostly because I can get him on a minor league deal, I think.  He's got a bit of history of being able to play.  He's right-handed, so he can hit for Betemit against lefties.

Left Field
Always been a fan of the underrated DeJesus.  I finally have my chance to sign him.  Hopefully, it's not too late as age is starting to show. He's still a plus defender in left and can survive in center.

Center Field
Covelli 'Coco' Crisp.  It's him, Sizemore, or Ankiel.  I think Coco has the best chance of spending some productive time on the field.

Right Field
Josh Willingham.  My other player who can hit.  My pitching staff won't like all the runners advancing to 3rd on singles to right, but whatcha gonna do?

Backup Outfielders
DeWayne Wise.  Remember this?  Wise can play some D.  For the minimum salary, I'll take it.

Utility Players
Jerry Hairston.  One of the few utility players that can actually play defense at multiple positions as opposed to just standing there with a glove on.  If Antonelli flops, Hairston can take over at 2nd as well.
Ryan Doumit.  One of those utility players that just stands there with a glove on.  I'm more interested in his batting gloves though.  A left-handed hitter off the bench is always useful.  As is someone who can squat behind the plate.  He'll get some time in the OF and if Prince skips the game for the buffet.

Starting Pitching
This is where it's really hard.  I thought about blowing my money on CJ Wilson instead of Prince, but thought that was actually even riskier.  Pretty sure Prince will put up at least a few big seasons.

The number 1 guy that I knew I wanted was Jeff Francis.  Three straight years of an ERA around 5 will scare off some teams so I can get him below his actual worth.

Now I have to go injury guys.  Bedard and Harden.  Not gonna build a strong pitching staff on this budget without taking some risks.  If these guys can stay healthy for 120 or 150 innings they can put up value well in excess of their salary.

I filled out the rest of my roster then came back to this spot.  What pitcher could I get for around $10 million.  I offer a 1 year $7 million contract with an option for another year to a bunch of guys.  Whoever accepts it first gets it.  Marquis and Pineiro should be happy with that.  And when they pitch I can put Doumit in the OF.

Doug Davis.  Can you give me one more year old man?  The 6.50 ERA last year says, "no".  The 100 total innings pitched last year and 4.50-4.80 ERA estimators say, "maybe".  If not, Kenshin Kawakami will be a phone call away in AAA.

I'm not really gonna mess with hit.  I'll invite a bunch of guys to spring training on minimum deals and see who can make the team.  Maybe it'll be some of those guys I listed, maybe it won't.

There you go, $100 million in free agents.  Using some very quick WAR projections, I get my team winning about 78 games.  I tried to be overly conservative, so maybe this is a .500 team.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Contract Analysis: Jamey Carroll

Not to suggest that Minnesota is not the most interesting place in the world...

They've signed Jamey Carroll for 2 years and $7 million.

The Dodger's were panned when they signed Carroll for 2 years and $3.8 million.  Now he's making twice that per year.

He certainly helped himself with his play in LA.  Prior to coming to LA Carroll averaged 1.8 fWAR per 500 plate appearances.   In his 2 years in LA he averaged 2.4 fWAR per 500 plate appearances.  The increase was mostly with the bat.  Prior to LA Carroll offense as measured by wRC+ was 15% less than the league average.  With LA he hit 5% better than the league average.  Colletti certainly got his money's worth.  Will new Twins' GM Terry Ryan get the same return?

It's hard to predict a player playing his age 38 and 39 seasons will improve upon what he's done.  It's hard to say that that player will remain the same.

Let's assume that Carroll's offense will hold constant.  He didn't have any crazy BABIPs.  He hit line drives.  He took walks.  He made contact.  No out of control power numbers.  In fact, Carroll's 2010 and 2011 numbers are pretty similar to his career numbers.  Is increase relative to the league, is because the league average decreased.  I think this makes it more likely that Carroll keeps on chugging along.

Defense may be a different story.  Apparently, Carroll will be the Twins' starting SS.

Carroll was signed to be a backup IFer with LA.  He ended up playing more than was likely expected since Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, and Juan Uribe couldn't stay healthy. Carroll played: 770 innings at 2B, 73 innings at 3rd and 1080 innings at SS.  That's not a lot of innings but:

2010 2B: UZR/150 = 11.4
2010 SS: UZR/150 = 4

2011 2B: UZR/150 = -8
2011 SS: UZR/150 = -6

A weighted average gives us -2 UZR/150 at 2B and -1 UZR/150 at SS.

That both went from positive to negative is a concern.

According to Tom Tango's Fan Scouting Report
In 2011 Carroll rated 3.34 on a scale of 1 - 5
In 2010 Carroll rated 3.45 on a scale of 1 - 5

Not much difference there.

Hard to draw too many conclusions about his defense.

On to the chart...

If Carroll gets 500 PA's I expect him to be worth about 2 fWAR.  He put up 2.2 fWAR in 510 PA's last year.  He seems to be able to defy aging, so instead of the .5 WAR dropoff I'm taking .25 WAR off in 2013.  Assuming $5.25 million per WAR and 5% inflation, we get the following:

*Click to make bigger

The Twins can expect $13 million of surplus value from Carroll.  That's a lot of leeway.  Carroll would only need to put up 1.3 WAR this year to earn the money for both years of his contract (1.3*5.25=7).  So there's not much risk for the Twins.

Even if Carroll falls apart he sure to be an upgrade over what happened last year.  Twins shortstops (Trevor Plouffe, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Matt Tolbert, and Alexi Casilla) combined to hit .238/.292/.320 and produce -1.4 WAR (prorated by innings at SS).

Carroll hit .290/.368/.344 for reference.  Spending $3.5 million this year for a 3.5 WAR improvement is pretty efficient use of resources.  We won't talk about the $3 million they are paying Nishioka.

Carroll is certainly a better player than Juan Rivera and Rod Barajas.  2011 Dodgers who both signed for 2 years and $8 million this week.

It'll be interesting to see how the market for guys like Clint Barmes and Jerry Hairston pans out.  

Contract Analysis: Jonathan Papelbon

The Phillies are apparently close to signing Jonathan Phapelbon for 4 years and $50 million.

This after a reported 4 year $44 million deal for Ryan Madson didn't materialize yesterday.

This seems like a lot of money for a reliever.

Papelbon has averaged about 66 innings a year over the last 6 seasons.  At that rate Papelbon will pitch (66*4) 264 innings with the Phils.  Or about 20 innings more than what Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander or CC Sabathia will give you in 1 season.  Halladay is the best pitching in baseball.  Anyone think Halladay is worth $50 million a season?

Now, to be fair, Papelbon does pitch more highly leveraged innings than Halladay.   This is measured by pLI

Halladay's pLI for last season was 1.1.  His career pLI is 1.05.  A number greater than 1 means that he's been involved in slightly higher leverage than average (1.0) situations.
Papelbon's pLI for last season was 1.69.  His career pLI is 1.83.  His pLI in 2009 and 2010 was over 2.00.

Papelbon has produced 15.1 WAR in 429.3 career innings.  That's 2.3 WAR / 66 innings
Halladay has produced 69.8 WAE in 2531 career innings.  That's 1.8 WAR / 66 innings

Maybe there is some evidence that Papelbon should be paid a higher per inning rate than Halladay.  But over twice as much?

On to the chart...

*Click to inPHlate the size of

The chart assumes that the value of 1 WAR is $5.25 million (5% more than last season) and inflation continues at 5% per year.  It also assumes that Papelbon produces 2.5 WAR in 2012 and 2013 and decreases to 2.0 WAR in 2014 and 2015.  I feel that this is an optimistic prediction.

With those parameters we get Papelbon's expected production to be almost exactly $50 million.  Remember, that's if everything goes right.  Papelbon has to pitch, for the next 4 seasons, at a level greater than he's pitched the previous six years.

Now, the Phillies do have a lot of money.  They are in a position to try and win now with a core of Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Utley, Howard, Pence, Victorino, Chooch, etc so they do have more reason to 'go for it' than some other teams.

They also have to find a shortstop, outfielder, and part-time first baseman for next season.

An aggressive move for Philly.

For kicks, let's see how the numbers would have looked with Madson.

Madson has produced 1.3 WAR per 66 innings over the last 4 seasons.  Quite a bit less than Papelbon.

If we re-create the chart with Madson as a 1.5 WAR pitcher this year and next and 1 WAR in both 2014 and 2015 we get:

*Click to make Madsoningly larger

Madson produces 5 WAR worth $28 million while being paid $44 million, putting the Phillies $16 million in the hole.

Maybe Phillie Phans should be dancing a little jig

OTHER Contract Analyses:
Willie Bloomquist
Ryan Braun
Adrian Gonzalez (plus Mark Teixeira and Ryan Howard)
Clay Buchholz

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Contract Analysis: Willie Bloomquist

The DBacks and Willie Bloomquist agreed to a 2-year $3.8 million deal today.

Pretty meh deal.

Bloomquist has produced 1.3 WAR in 845 career games.  That's about .3 WAR per a full season (prorated for 600 PAs).

He's got no bat, career .317 OBP and .337 SLG (almost exactly the same last year) which is 21% below the league average offensively.

His glove isn't much either.  -20 career runs by UZR and a 45 out of 100 on Tom Tango's Fan Scouting Report.

He's considered a utility player and played 2B, SS and the OF for the DBacks last year.  However, his OF defense is -13 runs per 150 games according to UZR.  His play in the infield is about average (1.2 and -0.9 at 2B and SS respectively).  If the DBacks left him as a backup IFer he might be worth half a win over a season.

Hard to imagine the DBacks don't have someone in the minors who could provide half of a win at a quarter of the cost.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Trade analysis: Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez


Pretty even trade in my mind.

Both teams are dealing from a position of strength:
The Giants have Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Vogelsong and Zito in the starting rotation
The Royals have Gordon and Francoeur in left field and right field.  Rookie Lorenzo Cain, picked up in the Greinke trade, figures to get his shot in CF.

Both teams are receiving a position of weakness
All Giants outfielders combined produced just a few more WAR than Melky's 4.2 last year.
Royals' starters were among the worst in the AL in ... well ... about every stat.

Both players are going into their final arbitration years.  Melky made $1.25 million last year and figures to make around $4 million this year.  Sanchez made $4.8 million and will probably make around $6 million this year.

Melky is coming off of the best season of his career.  Sanchez is coming off of the worst of his.

I'm a bigger Melkman supporter than most, but I don't expect him to repeat his 2011 where he hit .339/.470 with 44 doubles, 5 triples and 18 home runs.  Melky's 2011 slugging percentage was about 24% higher than his career average.   Melky is probably more of a 2-3 WAR player than a 5 WAR player.  That's still better than anyone the Giants rolled out in 2011.

Sanchez has been a pretty steady contributor since becoming a full time starter in 2008, averaging 2.4 fWAR per season.  Last year was derailed due to some injuries.  Sanchez' injury was to his ankle, not his arm, so he's more likely to come back without too much attrition.

The most likely outcome of this trade is both players put up about 2.5 WAR while being paid between $4 and $6 million.

Melky is a little cheaper, and hitters are surer things than pitchers, generally.  So San Fran throws in another prospect, Ryan Verdugo, to make up the difference.

Verdugo is a 24 year old AA lefty pitcher.  He started 25 games last year, but was a reliever previously. As a reliever he had high strikeout rates (35%) while also walking his share (15%).  As a starter, both rates dropped (24% K's and 11% walks).  As a starter he doesn't look like more than a #5.

To sum up.  Two teams improve weaknesses by dealing equally valuable players from a position of strength.

Baseball America: Minor League Free Agents 2011

Baseball America has compiled a list of the 537 minor league players who were granted free agency on November 2nd.

A few interesting names:

Guys you've heard of division:
Mark Prior
Kenshin Kawakami
Kei Igawa

Former prospects who didn't pan out:
Andy Marte
Brandon Wood
Jeff Clemente
Scott Moore

Guys with some major league experience division:
Andy Tracy
Angel Berroa
Ruben Gotay
Brendon Harris
Royce Ring
Brett Carroll
Corky Miller
Nick Johnson
John Maine
Willy Taveras
Jorge Cantu
Chris Aguila
Jeff Supan
Mark DeFelice
Mike Lamb
Dave Bush
Josh Barfield
Scott Podsednik
Pedro Feliz
Bobby Kielty
Travis Ishikawa
Nate Robertson
Manny Corpas
Kyle Davies

Guys with amusing names division:
Gookie Dawkins
Chris Jakubauskas
Austin Bibens-Dirkx
Ian Gac
Joe Bonadonna
Boof Bonser
Sharlon Schoop
Jetsy Extrano

Guys with famous lineages division:
Mark Worrell
Koby Clemens
Preston Mattingly
Toby Gardenhire

Players I'd most like my team to sign division:
Matt Antonelli
Max Ramirez
Kenshin Kawakami

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

MLBTR 2011 Free Agent and Trade Market Series


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hitter vs Pitcher match ups. They don't mean a thing.

The 2011 MLB Playoffs is coming to a close.  One, maybe two games remain.  Which team wins will come down to which team plays the smallest ball, gets the clutchest hits, and whose manager makes the shrewdest moves.

Inevitably, some of those moves will be based on hitter vs pitcher match ups.  We'll hear that Ian Kinsler is 0 for 8 in his career against Octavio Dotel.  So, we'll expect Dotel to face Kinsler in any high leverage situations late in games.  Should we expect Dotel to continue to retire Kinsler?  Should we expect Kinsler to go 0 for 9 against Dotel?  0 for 10?  0 for 20?  0 for 50?

This blog post was brought about by my reading this article by Tom Tango.   In the comments section there is a link to this article by Dan Fox.   Both articles are good reads and written by much smarter and better writers than I - so read them.

In the second article, Dan Fox posts a table with the most statistically significant batter owning pitcher match ups from 2003 to 2005.  These 10 batters combined to go 132 for 296 for a .446 batting average against their bitches the pitchers they faced.

If the narrative is true, that a hitter who hits .446 against a pitcher will be likely to continue to succeed against that pitcher, then we should be able to look back and see continued above average performance.  So, do we?

Uh...no.  The same hitter vs pitcher matchups resulted in an 18 for 77 performance from 2006 onwards.  That's a .234 batting average.  

Hitter vs pitcher match ups are just not statistically relevant sample sizes.  

Here are the links to the baseball-reference hitter vs pitcher match ups I looked up.

Monday, October 24, 2011

2012 ZiPS Projections

AL East
Red Sox

AL Central
White Sox

AL West

NL East

NL Central

NL West

2011 Player Review/Prediction Review

2011 Player Review/Prediction Review

About a year ago I made predictions for a few major league players’ 2011 season.  The season is over and it’s time to see how I did.


The first player was Austin Jackson.  Jackson was coming off of a Rookie of the Year season with the Tigers. 

Jackson’s 2011 BABIP looked higher than he’d be able to sustain.   Jackson had hit line drives in 24% of the time in 2011.  I thought he’d be closer to 20% line drives and a BABIP of .340.

I was also concerned about his strikeout rate.  I thought he would walk a bit more ( 7.5%) in 2012 while striking out a bit less (26%).

 Overall, I predicted a .260/.320/.370 line in 2012 for Jackson. 

What’d he do?
He hit .250/.317/.374.  His BABIP was .340 with a line drive rate of 16%.  He increased his walk rate to 8.4% while his strikeouts also increased to 27%. 


The nextplayer was Clay Buchholz.  Buchholz was coming off of a tremendous season with Boston where he went 17 – 7 with a 2.33 ERA. 

Buchholz had an outstanding BABIP (.265) and LOB% (79) in 2010 that I contributed to his low ERA and, which, I didn’t think he’d be able to sustain.

My prediction for him was somewhat incomplete as I only predicted an ERA between 3.50 and 4.50.

Buchholz’ season was also incomplete.  He only managed 14 games and 83 innings before going on the DL in mid-June with a back injury. 

In those 83 innings he did about what we’d expect in terms of walks, strikeouts and home runs.  However, he did continue to post a low BABIP (.264) and high LOB% (79).  Still, his ERA was 3.48. 


The thirdplayer was Atlanta’s Nate McLouth.  McLouth’s 2010 was terrible.  After being a very productive hitter in 2008 and 2009 he completely fell apart. 

McLouth struck out a lot more in 2010 (20%) than over the rest of his career (17%).  I couldn’t find much reason for that to continue and expected his strike out rate to move back towards his career rate.

McLouth’s BABIP also took a nosedive.  His career rate was around .280 and his 2010 BABIP was just .220.   I thought that his 2011 BABIP would be a lot closer to .280 than .220. 

McLouth also showed a decrease in power.  He was hitting many more balls on the ground than in the air or as line drives.  That saps power. 

I predicted McLouth to come back somewhat in 2011.  I was pessimistic in saying he’d hit: .240/.330/.400.

What’d he do?
He did drop his strikeouts back down (16.2%).  His BABIP did go back up (.270).  His power remained nonexistent (.104 ISO).  He hit more balls on the ground, the least fly balls of his career and ended up with a .228/.344/.333 line. 


I predicted a .347/.401 season out of him based on a 22% LD rate, 6% walk rate and 13% K rate and .332 BABIP.

He had a 22% LD rate.  He walked a bit less than I anticipated (5.3%) and struck out much less (10.5%).  He came up a bit short of my projection though with a .315/.382 line. 

A large part of that was BABIP.  Despite having almost the exact batted ball profile that I predicted he only had a .298 BABIP.   A .634 BABIP on Line drives and .108 BABIP on fly balls are to blame. 


The next player reviewed was Zack Greinke

Greinke is best known for his amazing 2009 season where he won the Cy Young award with a 16 – 8 record and 2.16 ERA.

In my first post I suggested that that season represented a perfect storm of performance and luck for Zack and we shouldn’t expect that type of season going forward.   Greinke is more a very good pitcher than he is a Hall of Famer.  I stated that Greinke’s 2011 should look like his 2007, 2008, and 2010 seasons. 

Last November I predicted a 33 start, 220 inning, 60 walk, 190 strike out 3.50 ERA season for Zack.  That was before Greinke was traded to the weaker hitting NL and broke some ribs playing basketball.   

Greinke ended with 28 starts, 172 innings, 45 walks, 201 strike outs and a 3.83 ERA.

But Zack had one weird season. 

In May and June Greinke was striking out batters like a fiend (11.5/9 innings or 30% of batters faced).  He wasn’t walking anyone (1.7/9 innings or 4% of batters faced).  But he had an ERA north of 5. 

 This was unprecedented.  Here is a list of the 20 pitchers in baseball who had more than 10 K's per 9 while walking less than 2 per 9.  None of them had ERA's higher than 3.23.  

A .350 BABIP and Left On Base % in the mid 50's was the culprit.  That bad luck couldn't hold up, course, and Greinke ended the season with a much more respectable .318 BABIP and 70% LOB while continuing to strike out over a batter per inning and walk next to no one.  His unlucky May and June hurt his overall ERA but his defense (and luck) independent statistics show him as a pitcher who should have had an ERA closer to 3 than 4.  


Hill was coming off of a horrific 2010 where he hit only .271/.394 coming off of .330/.499 2009.  A lot of the poor 2010 was BABIP related.  He had a .196 BABIP in 2010.  There were problems though, 11% line drives being the biggest and a shift to hitting more fly balls. 

I speculated that the increase in fly balls could have been because of his 2009 season which featured a 15% HR/FB rate that led to 36 home runs.  Chicks dig the long ball so, perhaps, Hill was trying to hit more homeruns. 

I hoped he would up his line drive rate to 15% and cut out some fly outs.  I predicted a .255/.307/.411 line in 540 at bats with 26 doubles, 17 home runs, 38 walks, 76 strike outs and a .260 BABIP
He didn’t get there.  Hill ended up hitting .267/.299/.356 in 520 at bats with 27 doubles, 8 home runs, 35 walks and 72 strike outs with a .268 BABIP.

I basically nailed everything except the power. 

In my original post I noted that Hill had an up and down HR/FB rate.  Some seasons 3% of his fly balls ended up as home runs and other seasons five times as many left the yard.  This was a down year as only 4% of his fly balls ended up as home runs. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pitching Wins Championships: 2011 MLB playoffs

"Pitching wins championships"
That's the adage.  Or at least it has been the adage since the New York Yankees made Babe Ruth a full time pitcher back in 1920.

Let's see how the adage is holding up in the 2011 playoffs

8 teams, 4 from each league, made the post season.  Where did they rank in terms of pitching prowess?

Phillies #1 in NL
Brewers #4 in NL
Cardinals #7 in NL
DBacks #11 in NL

Yankees #4 in AL
Tigers #6 in AL
Rangers #7 in AL
Rays #8 in AL

I've ranked the teams in order of an average of FIP, tERA, and SIERA.  These are defense independent metrics.  I use defense independent metrics because I want to isolate how the pitchers did without considering a good or bad defense behind them.

Every team, except the Diamondbacks, were in the top half of their league.

How about offense?
Cardinals #1 in NL
Brewers #2 in NL
DBacks #5 in NL
Phillies #6 in NL

Rangers #2 in AL
Yankees #3 in AL
Tigers #4 in AL
Rays #5 in AL

I've ranked the teams by wRC+.  Again, every team ranked in the top half of the league.

You can see that the teams ranked a bit higher in hitting than pitching.  The lowest ranked hitting team was the #6 Phillies.  Half of the pitching teams ranked lower than #6.

Let's look at the individual matchups
Phillies (#1 Pitching, #6 Hitting) vs Cardinals (#1 Hitting, #7 Pitching)
Brewers (#4 Pitching, #2 Hitting) vs DBacks (#5 Hitting, #11 Pitching)
Yankees (#4 Pitching, #3 Hitting) vs Tigers (#4 Hitting, #6 Pitching)
Rangers (#7 Pitching, #2 Hitting) vs Rays (#5 Hitting, #8 Pitching)

The Cardinals' #1 offense bounced the Phillies' #1 pitching staff.
The Brewers had the advantage in both offense and pitching, and knocked the DBacks out.
The Tigers' inferior pitching and offense managed to send the Yankees home early (or right on time, depending)
The Rangers had the advantage in both offense and pitching, and sent the Rays back to Florida.

In the second round:
The Cardinals' #7 pitching and #1 hitting beat the Brewers' #4 pitching and #2 hitting
The Rangers' #7 pitching and #2 hitting beat the Tigers' #6 pitching and #4 hitting

The two teams in the World Series both had the 3rd best (or 2nd worst) pitching staffs among payoff teams while having the best offenses among playoff teams.

One of them will win the championship.

Probably the one that pitches better (or hits worse).

*All stats from FanGraphs
*Data does not take into account changes made during the season (Cardinals acquiring Edwin Jackson, etc)
*Copious amounts of sarcasm

Friday, September 30, 2011

2011 Playoff Rotation Rankings

Texas' CJ Wilson will throw the first pitch (and at least the 2nd and 3rd as well (barring an injury)) of the 2011 MLB playoffs that start in just a few hours when the Rays take on the Rangers.

How he, and the other 32 (or so) starters, throw those pitches will go a long way in determining what team will walk off the field sometime around Halloween as World Series Champions.

Since starting pitching is so important in playoff series, I'm attempting to rank each playoff team's starting rotation.

What I've done is:
Find the average innings per start for each expected playoff starter.
Average FIP, xFIP, tERA and SIERA to find the number of runs each starter is expected to give up per 9 innings

Find the average number of innings per start for all the starters expected to make playoff starts.
Find the weighted average (weighted by innings) of the expected number of runs all starters are expected to give up per 9 innings.

Subtract each pitchers' expected number of runs from the weighted average to find each pitchers' runs saved compared to average (negative numbers indicate more runs saved).
Multiply each pitchers' expected number of runs saved by their average innings pitched divided by 9 to get the expected number of runs saved per start.

*Notes: National league pitchers were given a .25 runs per 9 penalty to account for differences between the leagues (DH, etc...)
The penalty for pitchers (Edwin Jackson) who pitched in both leagues was weighted by innings pitched in each league.
FIP, xFIP, tERA, SIERA data is from FanGraphs
Innings pitched and games started data is from Baseball-Reference
For pitchers who both started and relieved during the 2011 season, only their starting innings were used to calculate IP per start.  However, their FIP, xFIP, tERA and SIERA numbers from relief innings were included (except for Josh Collmenter, who is the only starter to pitch a significant number of relief innings.  I did not use his tERA or SIERA numbers at all.  Only FIP and xFIP from his starting innings).
For the Yankees, because their top 4 starters is a jumbled mess, I used the top 3 starters and 1/3 of each of Bartolo Colon, Phil Hughes and AJ Burnett.


The results:
National League

*click to make bigger

Quelle suprise!  The Phillies' rotation is expected to be the best, by far, in the NL; giving up 1.34 runs less than the average playoff team.  Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee were the two best pitchers in the sample at -.73 and -.53 runs per start.  Zack Greinke was 3rd with -.52 runs per start.  

The DiamondBacks had the worst rotation with the starters expected to give up 1.72 runs more than the average group of starters.  

The other NL teams were below average as well.

In the

American League

The Tampa Rays have the best rotation; with a caveat.  I had no idea what to do with game 1 starter, Matt Moore.  Moore has started 1 game this season and he struck out 11 batters in 5 innings.  I averaged his season (9 innings) tERA and SIERA with his pre-season ZIPs projection.  This method gave him a .51 runs saved per 9 innings (a bit better than CC Sabathia).  I don't know how comfortable I am with this but there is some historical precedent for rookie pitchers faring well in the post-season. 

The Yankees' rotation fares worst with only Sabathia projecting to be better than average.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why Baseball is F’n Awesome! 2011 Final day AL Edition

Final day of the season.  Boston Red Sox and Tampa Rays tied for the final playoff spot.  A win for either team will continue their season.  

Dustin Pedroia singles and homers to give the Red Sox a 3 – 2 lead.

At the same time the Yankees were pummeling the Rays 7 – 0

Then the rains came in Boston; delaying the game

We have to assume that the Red Sox players were A) feeling somewhat confident with a lead and the Rays looking like they would be beat and B) watching the Yankees/Rays as the Rays began to come back.  

Then, with the Rays down to their last strike, Dan Johnson, hitting .103 on the season, does this

Game tied.  Going to extra innings. 

The Red Sox and Orioles remain scoreless as:

In Tampa the  Yankees get the first two batters on base in the top of the 12th.  With the score tied, nobody out, and runners at first and third the Yankees have a 82% chance of winning the game when an outstanding defensive play by Rays’ star Evan Longoria erases the Yankees' runner at 3rd and doubles the Rays’ chance of winning to 42%.   A strikeout and groundout leave the game tied in the bottom of the ninth.

In Boston, Jonathan Papelbon retires the first two batters that he faces in the ninth.  With a 3-2 lead and only one out remaining, Boston has a 95% chance of winning the game. 

Chris Davis hits Papelbon’s first pitch for a double.  Boston still has an 86% chance of winning the game.  Papelbon throws 2 balls, then Nolan Reimold swings and misses at two fastballs.  Boston is one strike away from winning when Reimold hits a ground rule double over the right centerfield fence.  

3 – 3 game. 

One ball and one strike later Robert Andino comes to bat

Red Sox have to root for the Yankees to beat the Rays so Boston and Tampa can play one game tomorrow for the playoff spot.  If Tampa wins Boston goes home. 

Bottom of the 12th in Tampa. 

After an Upton strike out, Evan Longoria who's already homered and saved a run with his glove comes up to bat.  

What does collapse look like in graph form?

And from the other perspective

Baseball is F’n Awesome!!!!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Matt Moore-iarty: The next big thing?


Moriarty's Matt Moore mad his first major league start yesterday.  By all accounts it was a successful one.

Moore pitched 5 innings, facing 20 batters.  11 of those 20 batters (55%) struck out.  1 managed a walk.  4 had base hits.  0 scored.

Watch for yourself.
Highlights and Other Notes:
16: Derek "Captain Clutch" Jeter strikes out on a 96 mph fast ball to begin the game
24: Derek "The Captain" Jeter reflects upon his recent contract and the prospect of facing Moore for the next two seasons
30: Mark Teixiera can't decide what to do with an 86 mph change up.  So he takes it down the middle for strike 3.
Next 40 seconds: various New York Yankees flail haplessly at a variety of offerings from Moore.
1:10 Greg Golson strikes out on a wicked breaking ball
1:21 Derek Jeter strikes out again
1:55 Moore's last K of the night.  93 MPH fastball that Eduardo Nunez isn't particularly close to.  

Obviously, the 11 strikeouts and 1 walk are the most impressive numbers.  The early concern about Moore was his walk rate.  In 2009, in A-ball, he walked over 5 per 9 innings; 13% of all batters faced.  He's improved since then and showed very good control in this start.  But the strikeouts are what people will focus on.  Moore will not continue to strike out half of the batters he faced.  Zack Greinke leads all major league starters in K% and he's at 28%.  Doubtful that Moore is two times as good as the best major leaguer.  There is every reason to think Moore will continue to send major leaguers back to the dugout empty-handed, though.

In his minor league career (500 innings) he's struck out about 30% of the batters that he's faced.
The Yankees swung and missed at 18% of Moore's pitches.  The major league average is about 8%.

Why so many swinging strikes and strike outs?

Changing Speeds

A 10 mile per hour difference from one pitch the the next is significant.  Something about disrupting a hitter's timing.


Three distinct grouping of pitches.

In the upper right-hand corner are the fastballs.  Between 92 and 98 miles per hour with 7 to 14 inches of horizontal movement (moving towards left-handed batters).

Below those are his changeups.  Ten miles per hour slower than the fastball, but with the same type of horizontal movement.

To the left of those are the sliders.  82 to 84 miles per hour and breaking 0 to 5 inches in the opposite direction.

A batter has a bout 2 tenths of a second to decide whether to swing and where to swing.  In two tenths of a second a batter facing Moore has to decide if the pitch is coming at 98 miles per hour or 82 miles per hour.  Is it going to break towards him 2 feet or away from him 2 inches?

Matt Moore is going to be good.  He already is.

*Data from FanGraphs and BrooksBaseball.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Clayton Kershaw owns the Giants

Clayton Kershaw just finished off his 20th win of the season with a little help from Javy Guerra and a little more help from Kenley Jansen.

Kershaw's 20 wins and 2.27 ERA only begin to tell the story.  Kershaw has struck out 27.5% of the batters that he has faced this season.  That percentage trails only Zack Greinke who has struck out 28.8%.  Justin Verlander is third with 26%.

Kershaw's 6% walk rate is about 20th in the league.  Impressive enough but look at Kershaw's improvement in that area:
2008: 11.1%
2009: 13.0%
2010: 9.6%
2011: 6.0%

Kershaw is rightfully a Cy Young candidate this season.
The NL Contenders:
Roy Halladay 18 - 6 2.41 227.6 innings, 2.18 FIP, 2.44 tERA, 2.61 SIERA, 8.0 fWAR
Clayton Kershaw 2.27 20 - 5 226.3, 2.37 FIP, 2.48tERA, 2.63 SIERA, 6.8 fWAR
Cliff Lee 16 - 7 2.38 219.6, 2.59 FIP, 3.07 tERA, 2.62 SIERA, 6.5 WAR
If I had a vote, this is the order that I would rank them.

A lot of ascii characters to say that Kershaw has been pretty damn good.

But he's been David Beuwulf to the Giants' Goliath Grendel.  Not to imply that the Giants' offense is, by any stretch, not terrible.  Just a play on the word "Giant".  Anywho...

Some Giants fans found it necessary to 'rub it in the faces' of the Dodgers that LA had passed on Tim Lincecum to draft Kershaw.  After Lincecum exploded on the scene it seemed there might be something to the Giants' smugness.

I've mentioned before, that Kershaw is just now as old as Lincecum was when he debuted.  And it looks like Kershaw has the advantage going forward as Lincecum has dropped off the pace established by his first few years.

Kershaw has certainly had the advantage this season.  Kershaw has faced the Giants 6 times.  The Dodgers have won 5 of those games.  In four of the games he matched up against Kershaw, with the Dodgers winning each contest.

Kershaw's total line in those games.
5 - 0 1.05 ERA in 42.7 innings.  30.4% strike outs.  5.0% walks.  1.58 FIP and a Batted Ball FIP of 1.89.

pwnage!  As the kids say

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Manager Review: Tony LaRussa

Tony LaRussa is oft labeled a genius for his managerial decisions.

He is also oft derided for such.

The observed line between genius and fool can be a thin one.

In yesterday's game between the Cardinals and Reds LaRussa faced a decision:
The game was tied 2-2 in the bottom of the 8th inning.  Lance Berkman had just hit a 1 out single.  LaRussa replaced Berkman with pinch-runner Corey Patterson.

The Cardinals did not score and lost the game 3 - 2 in 10 innings.

Some believe that LaRussa, having pinch ran for Berkman, should have attempted to steal 2nd base with Patterson.

With Berkman on 1st and 1 out in the bottom of the eighth of a tie game, the Cardinals had a 60.2% Win Expectancy.

If Patterson were to steal 2nd the Card's WE would increase to 64.8%

If Patterson were to be caught stealing 2nd the Card's WE would fall to 52.4%

Patterson has stolen 13 bases this season.  He's been caught stealing 9 times.   That's a 59% success rate.

.59 X .648 = .38  This represents the WE of Patterson successfully stealing
.41 X .524 = .21  This represents the WE of Patterson being caught stealing

.38+.21 = .59 which is slightly less than the .602 WE the Cards had if the runner stayed put.  The stolen base attempt in that situation decreases the Cardinals chance of winning the game.

NOTE: This does not include the relative offensive and defensive skills of the players; only the base-out states.

Not stealing the base is probably the right move.

Was pinch running for Berkman the right move?

With a league average runner on 1st, the Cardinals had a 60.2% chance of winning the game.
Berkman is less than a league average runner.  According to FanGraphs, Berkman has cost his teams 11 runs more than an average player with his base running since BSR was first calculated in 2002.
Patterson is a better than average base runner.  Why else pinch run?  According to FanGraphs, Patterson has been worth 15 runs more than an average base runner since 2002.

Prorated to 600 place appearances, Berkman's base running is 1 run below average while Patterson's is 2 runs above average.

According to Baseball-Reference, Berkman advances an extra base (see B-R for definition) 35% of the time and scores from 1st on a double 40% of the time.

According to Baseball-Reference, Patterson advances an extra base 54% of the time, and scores from 1st on a double 50% of the time.

Using Patterson as a pinch runner definitely increases the Cardinals chance of scoring the go-ahead run in the 8th inning.

I would say, at 11:30 at night after waking up at 5AM and working a 16 hour shift, that the decision to pinch-run Patterson for Berkman, increased the Cardinals chance of scoring in the 8th inning from 3 to 5 percent.

I am not a huge fan of Tony LaRussa: baseball manager, but it is hard to say that his managing in this situation was particularly grievous 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Jered Weaver: Contract Analysis

The California Los Angeles Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim locked up their ace, Jered Weaver, for 5 years and $85 million over the weekend.


Jered Weaver flys a bit under the radar, but he's one of the top pitchers in the league.

Since he debuted in 2006, Weaver is tied for tenth in the league in ERA with Roy Oswalt (minimum 700 IP).  ERA isn't a great way to judge a pitcher though.  But, Weaver stacks up no matter the metric:
Innings Pitched - 20th
Strikeouts - 15th
Strikeout Percentage - 18th
Strikeouts per Nine Innings - 20th
Walk Percentage - 23rd
Walks per Nine Innings - 21st
WHIP - 7th
FIP - 17th
tERA - 9th
SIERA - 26th
Wins! - 10th
Runs Saved - 9th
Wins Above Replacement - 8th

Using FIP-, Weaver has been 16% better than the average pitcher over the course of his career.

He's been ever better the last two seasons.  FIP-has him over 25% better than a league average pitcher in 2010 and 2011.

A look at Weaver's FIP, tERA and WAR numbers shows his ascent.
2006 3.90, 3.68, 2.6
2007 4.06, 3.76, 3.1
2008 3.90, 4.12, 3.4
2009 4.04, 3.96, 3.9
2010 3.06, 2.79, 5.9
2011 2.84, 2.78, 5.2

Weaver has jumped into the stratosphere of major league pitchers.  Since 2010 Weaver is:  10th in FIP, 3rd in tERA, and 4th in WAR


So, what's he worth?

I've looked at a few other new contracts (Clay Buchholz, Jamie Garcia, Adrian Gonzalez, Ryan Braun). Using the same parameters, I come up with the following chart:

I expect Weaver to be worth approximately $135 million over the course of the contract.  He's getting paid $85 million so the Angels are coming up $50 million in the roses.

There are a couple of other things to consider though.  First, the $85 million is guaranteed.  Weaver could (insert random accident, injury or other debilitation here) in the next 5 seconds and never pitcher again.  In that case the Angels would be getting zilch for their money.  This is the reason that players rarely get paid their full market value for multiple-year contracts.  The team is assuming most of the risk. Weaver's only risk is that he pitches even better than expected and is leaving money on the table.

The other thing to consider is the market.

Two recent contracts for similar starting pitchers were Justin Verlander (5 years $80 million) and Felix Hernandez (5 years, 78 million).  Weaver's deal looks pretty much in line with those.  Verlander signed his deal two years ago, and with an extra year of team control left.  Hernandez signed his the same time as Verlander, and with the same service time, but at the age of 24 instead of 27.  That should allow Seattle to pay for his increase years instead of a few of his decline years.

Taking that into consideration, Hernandez' deal looks amazing for the Mariners.  The Verlander and Weaver deals are coming to be what we expect for these types of pitchers.

If you're still young enough, go out and learn a curveball.

*Cot's Baseball Contracts

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Andre, the Giant

So, apparently this is funny.

I really didn't think so.

But, when paired with this video and the phrase, "Luis Ayala has apparently stolen Andre Either's glove"...

...It's still not that funny.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

White Sox: Quintuple Triples


The Chicago White Sox hit 5 triples against the Cleveland Indians last night.

There have been 43 games with 5 or more triples. 35 games with exactly 5 triples, 6 games with 6 triples, 1 game with 7 triples and...

Most triples ever in a game was 8, by the Pittsburgh Pirates against the St. Louis Cardinals on May 30th 1925. Glenn Wright, Kiki Cuyler, Clyde Barnhart (2), Max Carey (2), Pie Traynor, and Eddie More hit the triples. St. Louis also had a triple by Bobby O'Farrell. The Pirates' 105 triples that year, lead the league.

On October 6th 1929 the White Sox gave up 5 triples to the Tigers as they did on June 4th 1978 to the Royals.

Twice, the White Sox have hit 6 triples in a game.
May 20th 1920 against the Senators. Happy Felsh (2), Fred McMullin (2), Joe Jackson, and Eddie Collins.
Then again on September 17th 1920 against the Yankees. Swede Risberg, Happy Felsh (2 again), Joe Jackson (again, 2 this time), Eddie Collins (again).

Those 12 triples represent almost 1/3 of the 37 triples the White Sox hit that year.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Yakety Sax: Dodger Baserunning (8/15/2011)

As usual,

Play the music

and play the plethora of videos featuring Dodger base running mishaps.

Kemp thrown out at home (aka...a triple play).  The Dodgers had runners at 1st and 2nd.  James Loney grounds up the middle into a double play.  Using The Win Probability Enquirer at The Hardball Times we find that the Dodgers Win Probability with Kemp being thrown at at home was .447.  If Kemp had held at 3rd, with two outs the Dodgers WP would have been .485.  The play cost the Dodgers 4.2 points of WP.

Dioner Navarro thrown out at home.  Navarro was on 2nd after a ground rule double.  Justin Sellers singled to CF.  Navarro being thrown out left the Dodgers with a WPA of .518.  If Navarro had been held at 3rd the Dodgers would have had 1st and 3rd no outs, a WPA of .633.  The play cost the Dodgers 11.5 points of WP.

Andre Either doubled off of first base.  Ethier was on first after a walk.  Kemp lines to CF and Jerry Hariston made a diving catch.  Ethier was thrown out scrambling back to 1st for the 3rd out of the inning.  The Dodgers' WP at that point was .438.  If Ethier had stayed up, LA would have had a runner on 1st with two outs, a WP of .467.  The play cost the Dodgers 2.9 points of WP.

And, to top it off, the final play of the game, Matt Kemp doubled off of first base.  With the game being over, and the Brewers up 3 - 0, the Dodgers had 0 WP.  If Kemp had not been doubled off the Dodgers would have had a WP of .013.  The play cost the Dodgers 1.3 points of WP.

4 plays decreased LA's chance of winning by 19.9.

Trade Analysis: Delmon Young to Detroit

The Detroit Tigers acquired OF Delmon Young from the Minnesota Twins today in exchange for P Cole Nelson and the oft-traded PTBNL.

Young will likely take playing time from Magglio Ordonez.  How have they stacked up this season:

Young: .292 wOBA and 0.6 fWAR in 325 PA
Maggs: .260 wOBA and -1.0 fWAR in 289 PA

The Tigers have 42 games remaining.  If we replace Ordonez's expected production with Young's for the rest of the season at 4 PA's per game (and give 2 games off for math's sake), we get Young having 160 PA's remaining.  Over that many PA's Young will be worth about 8 more runs than Ordonez (at their current level's of production), about a full Win Above Replacement.

Detroit currently has a 2.5 game lead over Cleveland so, each and every win is important.

One thing to consider though, is that Young's defense has been worth 3.9 runs this year per UZR.  Young's UZR the preceding 3 seasons:
There has been some improvement there, but it is entirely possible that Young is still a negative defender; most scouts would agree.  If we change Young's defense runs to assume he's actually a -10 defender then Young projects to be worth only about a third of a win better than Magglio over the rest of the season.

According to Cot's, Young is being paid $5.375 million this season.  That's means about $1.4 million remains on Young's contract this year.  If 1 WAR is $5 million then 1/3 of 5 WAR is $1.6 million.  Can't argue with the economics of the deal.  Though, I wouldn't argue with them anyway.  'Flags fly forever', they say, and making the playoffs brings a lot of money into an organization.  Teams in contention need to make these type of upgrades.

The player, Cole Nelson, going the other way is a big (6'7") live left-throwing-arm who strikes out a few guys and walks more than a few.  That describes a lot of guys who pitch in A-ball like Nelson does.  He doesn't appear to be anything to get too excited about.

*Stats from FanGraphs