Monday, December 23, 2013

What is an Ace? 2013

After the 2011 season I asked, and attempted to answer, the question, "what is an ace"?

It's time to do that again.

Ok.  While Kershaw is the aciest of aces right now, that's not really the answer that we're looking for.

What I did was to take the average of every starter's fWAR and RA-9 WAR.  Then I used that number to group pitchers into groups of (roughly) 30 - 30 aces, 30 number 2's, etc.  Then, I looked at the average performance of the pitchers in each group.

Here's what I found:
*click to embiggen

There's a couple of interesting things to note.

One is that the best 30 pitchers in baseball are, far and away, the best group.  They strike out the most hitters, they walk the least hitters, they give up the least home runs, they have the lowest BABIP, they're the best.  That's not surprising when guys like the above-picture Kershaw, Cliff Lee, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Matt Harvey and Yu Darvish are in the ranks.

The second interesting thing is how similar the #3, #4 and #5 groups are in terms of performance.  Look,
#3 18.2% K, 7.2% BB, 3.85 ERA, 4.06 FIP, 4.04 xFIP, 4.13 SIERA
#4 18.7% K, 8.2% BB, 3.89 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 3.96 xFIP, 4.09 SIERA
#5 17.4% K, 6.9% BB, 4.26 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 4.02 xFIP, 4.12 SIERA

In many ways, every way other than walks really, #4 starters outperformed #3 starters.  Well, in every way except for number of starts and innings.  Number 3 starters made about 7 more starts and pitched almost 50 more innings than #4 starters.  Similarly, #5 starters were a little worse than both #3 and #4 starters but what really limited them from producing value was that they made 12 less starts and pitched half as many innings as #3 starters.

The third point is similar to the above.  Starters not in the top five accounted for more starts and more innings than the best pitchers in baseball.  That makes sense when you stop to think about it, there are more bad pitchers than elite ones, but we don't think about just how important it is for the other starters to make their starts so these guys don't have to.

As I mentioned when I first did this little exercise after the 2010 season,

Next time your team signs a pitcher with a 10 - 8 record and 3.99 ERA in 160 innings realize just what you are getting.  One of the top 100 pitchers in the league.  

The numbers are a little different now - now the average #3 is 10 - 9 with a 3.85 ERA in 158 innings - but the point remains the same; the average baseball fan vastly underrates pitcher performance.

Contract Analysis: Chris Perez (&Jamey Wright)

The Dodgers have agreed to a deal with Chris Perez.

Perez is the former Cleveland Indians closer who was also busted for ordering shipments of marijuana to come to his house under his dog's name.

When Perez was first released by the Indians I hoped the Dodgers would give him a look.  Obviously, they did.

Unfortunately, I took another look as well.

Over the last 3 seasons Perez:
K'd 20.7% of hitters, walked 8.6%, gave up line drives 21% of the time, 3.73 ERA, 4.21 FIP, 4.18 xFIP, 3.67 SIERA, 0 fWAR, 1.4 RA-9 WAR

Let's compare those numbers to the numbers of recently released Ronald Belisario:
K'd 20.1% of hitters, walked 9.7%, gave up line drives 21% of the time, 3.24 ERA, 3.36 FIP, 3.46 xFIP, 3.16 SIERA, .7 fWAR, .9 RA-9 WAR

*stats from FanGraphs

Belisario is, more than arguably, better than Perez, but the Dodgers decided to let Belisario walk away. I don't understand.

But, that's the past.  How about the future?
STEAMER and Oliver projections project:
Perez for 21.4% K's, 8.3%BB's, 4.12 FIP and -.1 WAR per 55 innings
Belisario for 19.4% K's, 10.1 BB's, 3.73 FIP and .2 WAR per 55 innings

Belisario still comes out better.

Terms of Perez' deal haven't been released, but hopefully it's nothing more than a couple of million with incentives.

Jamey Wright also signed.  I like this move better.
How do his numbers look?
Last 3 seasons:
K'd 19% of hitters, BB'd 9.4%, gave up line drives 19% of the time, 3.32 ERA, 3.60 FIP, 3.69 xFIP, 3.41 SIERA, .6 fWAR, 1.3 RA-9 WAR.

and STEAMER and Oliver projections?
18.8% K's, 9.0% BB's, 3.64 FIP, 0.9 WAR per 55 innings.

*stats from FanGraphs

He looks like the best of the bunch.

That leaves the Dodger bullpen looking something like:
Closer - Kenley Jansen 68.3 innings, 13.0 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 2.18 ERA, 2.35 FIP, 1.2 WAR
HL R - Brian Wilson 32.3 innings, 8.6 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 3.27 ERA, 3.39 FIP, 0.3 WAR
HL L - Paco Rodriguez 46.7 innings, 10.9 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 3.02 ERA, 3.10 FIP, 0.4 WAR
ML L - JP Howell 50.7 innings, 7.9 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 3.42 ERA, 3.64 FIP, 0.1 WAR
ML R - Chris Perez 55.7 innings, 8.3 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 3.88 ERA, 4.12 FIP, -0.1 WAR
LL R - Jamey Wright 42 innings, 7.3 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 3.61 ERA, 3.64 FIP, 0.1 WAR
LL R - Brandon League 61.7 innings, 6.2 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 3.76 ERA, 3.72 FIP, -0.1 WAR

With the following waiting in AAA
Chris Withrow - 64.3 innings, 9.5 K/9, 4.7 BB/9, 3.58 ERA, 3.81 FIP, 0.1 WAR
Jose Dominguez - 49.3 innings, 8.9 K/9, 5.3 BB/9, 4.15 ERA, 4.15 FIP -0.1 WAR
Onelki Garcia 47.7 innings, 8.0 K/9, 5.6 BB/9, 4.37 ERA, 4.53 FIP, -0.4 WAR
Scott Elbert - 24.3 innings, 8.5 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 3.52 ERA, 3.84 FIP, 0.0 WAR
Javy Guerra - 55.3 innings, 7.3 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 3.98 ERA, 3.95 FIP, -0.2 WAR

*Combined projections from STEAMER, Oliver, and ZiPS

These moves push Chris Withrow to AAA.
Elbert and Guerra are out of options and will need to be traded or released.
Rule V pick Seth Rosin doesn't look to have a spot and will have to be offered back to the Mets (along with $25000) or a trade will have to be worked out.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

2013 Pitcher Plus

I've taken the following stats: line drive %, ground ball %, fly ball %, infield fly ball %, home run per fly ball %, walk %, strike out %, SIERA for every player that pitched in the majors in 2013 and divided their rate by the rate for their league.  I further separated starters and relievers.

Two examples,
*click to embiggen

For Kershaw, his LD%+ of 108% means that he gave up line drives at 108% of the league rate - 8% more than the average NL starter.  His BB%+ means that he walked hitters at 66% of the rate of the average NL starter.

Kenley Jansen's SIERA indicates that his SIERA was 41% of the league average SIERA.

Here's the link to the complete spreadsheet.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A quick note on lead-off hitters

The prevailing wisdom for a long time was that lead-off hitters needed to be fast and steal lots of bases.

The modern wisdom is that lead-off hitters need to get on base.

I was involved in a discussion regarding this and broke out the Excel sheet so I figured that I'd do a quick post.

I took a look at how often runners score compared to their ability to steal bases and their ability to get on base.  I looked at all hitters from 2013 who had more than 200 PA's.  I looked at runs scored/PA.  I looked at SB/PA.  And I looked at OBP.

Here's what I found.

You can see that in the top graph of Runs & OBP.  As OBP (the horizontal axis) gets bigger the number of runs per plate appearance also gets bigger.  

In the bottom graph as the number of stolen bases per plate appearances per plate appearances gets bigger so does the number of runs per plate appearances.  But the relationship is not nearly as well defined as in the top graph.

The number in each graph, the r-squared value, tells the strength of the relationship between the two variables.  A perfect correlation where in each instance as one variable goes up so does the other would have an r-squared of 1.  A correlation where the two variables had nothing to do with each other would have an r-squared of 0.

We can see that the r-squared for the bottom graph (stolen bases and runs scored) is .09.  That's very close to zero, meaning there's very little relationship between stolen bases and the number of runs scored.  In the top graph, the r-squared is .34.  That's a much stronger relationship between OBP and number of runs scored.  

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Cards Squared

I took a look at just how much depth the Saint Louis Cardinals have.

Former Dodger Prospects in 2013

It's the time of the baseball year where we look at team's prospects.

Prospect lists are coming out.

We wonder who our teams could trade our prospects for or what prospects they could get in return.

We wonder if our prospects will make the metamorphosis from prospect to big leaguer.

Well, I'm going to take a quick look at how former Dodger prospects have fared with other teams.

These 10 pitchers have been recently traded by the Dodgers and appeared in the majors last season: Nate Eovaldi, Josh Lindblom, James McDonald, Steven Ames, Steve Johnson, Rubby de la Rosa, Josh Wall, Allen Webster, Luis Garcia, and Brian Morris.

They combined to go 17-31 in 372 innings last season with a 5.03 ERA, 4.68 FIP, 4.57 xFIP, 4.60 SIERA and -.6 WAR.

Overall, it doesn't look like the Dodgers gave up too much value.
The best performer was Nate Eovaldi who was traded for Hanley Ramirez.  Eovaldi was 4-6 with a 3.39 ERA in 106 innings for the Marlins last year.  He had ad 3.59 FIP, 4.15 xFIP and was worth 1.5 WAR.  That was a solid season, but certainly nothing like what Hanley Ramirez (5.1 WAR) did.

Other than that, there wasn't much success.  Josh Lindblom (traded with Ethan Martin for Shane Victorino) pitched 31 innings for the rangers with a 5.46 ERA but 4.42 FIP and 4.50 xFIP worth .4 WAR.

Two highly thought of pitching prospects were traded to Red Sox in the mother of all trades Gonzalez, Crawford, Beckett, Punto trade.  Allen Webster and Ruby de la Rosa went 1 - 4 with a 7.78 ERA (6.26 FIP, 5.19 xFIP, 4.84 SIERA) worth -.4 WAR in 42 innings.

The hitters the Dodgers traded fared a bit better.  Carlos Santana, Andrew Lambo, Tony Abreu, Blake DeWitt and Andy LaRoche combined to hit .265/.359/.448 for a .352 wOBA which was 27% better than the league average hitter in 830 PA's.  Their overall WAR was 3.9.

Most of that was Carlos Santana who went to the Indians in 2008 for Casey Blake's salary.  Santana hit .268/.377/.455 in 642 PA's.  That's good for a .364 wOBA (35% better than the league average hitter) and 3.6 WAR.

The Dodgers have traded more than a few players over the last few seasons, only two of them (Eovaldi and Santana) provided substantial value in 2013.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Dodger infield: Juan Uribe and Mark Ellis

The Dodgers didn't pick up Mark Ellis' option for about $4 million.

Now he's signed with the Cardinals.  I don't know for how much, but I'd guess something around $3-$4 million.  

The Dodgers didn't feel they needed Ellis as a starter after acquiring Yasiel Puig Jr Alexander Guerrero.    I hope they are right, but I don't see a reason that they shouldn't have picked up Ellis' option.  If Guerrero is capable of manning the position from Opening Day then the Dodgers shouldn't have had much problem trading Ellis (the Yankees still don't have a starting 2Bman).  At least that way they would have picked up something in return instead of letting him go for nothing.  And, if Guerrero isn't ready, then they have a perfectly acceptable starting 2Bman.  

That he signed with the Cardinals is somewhat interesting.  Dodger fans won't forget that it was the Cardinals that dispatched the Dodgers from the playoffs last season.  Cardinal fans know that the Cardinals are in much the same situation as the Dodgers at 2B this year.  Where LA has Alexander Guerrero, Stl has Kolten Wong.  Wong is a highly rated prospect but has the same questions as Guerrero - can he repeat his success at the major league level.  The Cards got Ellis as insurance.  The Dodgers went without.

The more important move, though, was the Dodgers re-signing Juan Uribe.  While I was hoping that the team would sign, first, Joel Peralta (who went to the Cardinals), then, Omar Infante the Dodgers ended up with Uribe.

Everyone knows how terrible Uribe was in 2011 and 2012 so I won't post the grisly numbers.  As bad as he was those 2 years he was that good in 2013.  He went from hitting at about half of the league rate to hitting 16% better.  Some of it was batted ball luck (.240 BABIP to .322 and 4.5% HR/FB rate to 10.5%), the rest was...I don't know.  His peripherals are all similar.  Some was made of Uribe being in better shape.  Hard to believe that is the entire cause.  

Anyway, expectations have to be tempered regarding Uribe.  He's probably not going to be as good in 2014 as he was in 2013.  ZiPS, STEAMER and Oliver projections have Uribe hitting .243/.304/.392 and 2.2 WAR in 550 PA's.  That sounds about right.  That's a bit worse than league average hitting combined with some plus defense making Uribe a useful player.  

Also hard to overlook Uribe's place in the clubhouse.  According to AJ Ellis, "If you ask everyone in this clubhouse who is their favorite teammate, 95 percent will tell you Juan Uribe"

If Uribe provides 2 WAR of value in 2014 then he will have earned nearly all of his $15 million contract before it's half over - good value despite the forthcoming comments from people when Uribe's hitting exactly as described above.

After Peralta and Infante were taken off the market, Uribe was really the only reasonable choice.  That the Dodgers got him is no problem.

Let's all hope for 2 more seasons of the Uribear.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Will Smith trade: A-Ok(i) for the Brewers

The Milwaukee Brewers traded Aoki to the Royals for Will Smith.

#Brewers announce trade of Norichika Aoki to #Royals for Will Smith.

 Aoki's been a good player the last 2 seasons for the Brewers since coming over from the NPB.  But he was in his last year of his very team-friendly contract and Khris Davis was knocking at the major league door.

STEAMER and Oliver combine to project Aoki for a .288/.355/.393 line and 2.4 WAR per 600 PAs
STEAMER and Oliver combine to project Kris Davis for a .253/.331/.449 line and 1.7 WAR per 600 PAs

That's roughly equal contributions.  Aoki looks to be a bit better but it's less than a WAR and there could certainly be some error bar overlap.

Will Smith was a pretty highly rated prospect for the Royals.  He made 16 decent starts for the Royals last season.  Putting up a remarkably consistent 4.66 FIP, 4.64 xFIP, 4.69 SIERA line.  The Royals moved him to the bullpen this season, which can't really be seen as a good thing since their rotation was so bad, and he was excellent as a reliever.  He K'd over 30% of the hitters he faced while only walking about 5%. He had a 3.53 FIP, 2.50 xFIP and 2.05 SIERA.  The last 2 numbers being particularly dominant

In giving up Aoki, a good, but but not much more than good, player the Mariners got back about the max of what could be expected.  A pitcher who looks like a better than average reliever who'll cost basically nothing for 3 seasons and who could work his way into the starting rotation.

For the Royals...I don't like it as much

We saw that Aoki was projected for about 2.4 WAR per 600 PA's
The same projections have David Lough and Maxwell producing about 1.9 WAR per 600 PAs

Aoki's acquisition is only about a .5 WAR upgrade.

For that, they give up the same thing that Milwaukee acquired - Will Smith and his above average relief work and possible ability to start.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Brian Wilson: what (not) to expect

A lot of rumors about Wilson coming back to pitch for the Dodgers next season.

I'd be ok with that.  I might prefer someone like Joaquin Benoit though.  STEAMER projects Wilson for a 3.50 FIP next season and Benoit for a 3.16 FIP.

The latest rumor has Wilson taking a 1 year deal with a player option for 2015.  I'm not a fan of player options.  If Wilson pitches well, he can opt out and become a free agent.  If he's terrible, or injured again, the Dodgers are on the hook for however many millions.

But that's all kind of besides the point of this post.

Wilson only faced 49 major league hitters last year, so looking at his .66 ERA (or 2.02 FIP or 2.82 xFIP or 2.66 SIERA) isn't really helpful.

What we can look at are his pitches.  The common refrain was that Wilson's pitches were back.  Were they?

In 2009 and 2010[/URL] Wilson's pitches were like this
62% 4-seam fastballs at 97.0 MPH with 3.4 inches of horizontal movement and 8.9 inches of vertical movement.
35% cutters at 89.5 MPH with 2.5 H-movement and 1.4 V-movement

This season Wilson threw
70% cutters at 89.5 MPH with .5 H-movement and 3.9 V-movement
15% 4-seam fastball at 94.4 MPH with 4.4 inches of H-movement and 8.2 inches of V-movement
13% sinkers at 94.4 MPH with 8.6 inches of H-movement and 6.1 inches of V-movement

First thing that's easy to notice is that Wilson has greatly increased his cutter usage.  He's maintained his speed on his cutter but the movement is much different.  His cutter now has virtually no horizontal movement but he's added a bit of vertical movement.

In 2013 13% of Wilson's pitches were classified as sinkers.  Does he throw a sinker now?  I don't know.  His sinker is similar to his 4-seam fastball in terms of speed and direction of movement.  Were those sinkers just fastballs with a different movement?  Maybe.

Either way, his fastball has lost about 3 MPH.  Depending if those sinkers are misclassified fastball or not, his movement might be similar, or he's gained significant horizontal movement.

As I said, I'm ok with the Dodgers bringing Wilson back.  We just shouldn't expect him to be the 2009-2010 version or his 2013 results.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Ronaldo Belisario is Jim Johnson

Jim Johnson was traded tonight from the Baltimore Orioles to the Oakland A's for Jemile Weeks.  Johnson will make $10 million dollars this year.

Ronaldo Belisario might get non-tendered by the Dodgers because they don't want to pay him about $3 million.

But, they are the same guy - outside of 100+ SAVEZ for Johnson

Over the last 3 years
Belisario: 20% K's, 10% BB's, 63% Ground balls, 3.36 FIP, 3.46 xFIP, 3.16 SIERA, 3.88 TIPS
Johnson: 17% K's, 6% BB's, 61% Ground balls, 3.30 FIP, 3.47 xFIP, 3.07 SIERA, 3.92 TIPS

And last season,

Johnson gave up 0 runs in 60 of his 74 outings
Belisario gave up 0 runs in 58 of his 77 outings

Johnson gave up 1 or 2 runs in 12 of his 74 outings
Belisario gave up 1 or 2 runs in 17 of his 77 outings

Johnson gave up 4 runs once and 5 runs once
Belisario gave up 4 runs once and 5 runs once

*Johnson's game log
*Belisario's game log