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