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?  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