Archive for July 2009

How many runs is Torre costing the Dodgers?

July 30, 2009

Matt Kemp is awesome. He is most certainly one of the best players in the N.L. The biggest reason from his jump to borderline all-star to one of the best players in the N.L comes from his improved plate discipline. He has the same contact % last year and this year (56 vs 54), but he is swinging at less bad pitches (26.1 O-Swing% this year vs 31.5% last year). This has lead to not only a lessened K rate, but also a better walk rate. With his usual high average and now respectable 9% BB rate, Kemp has brought his OBP into the .380s-good enough for 2nd on the Dodgers. But Kemp’s value is being seriously misused by Joe Torre. Kemp should be hitting 2nd each and every game. Instead, Kemp is slotted in the 7th and 8th hole day in and day out. Just how much is this costing the Dodgers? Well let’s find out.

Let’s compare Kemp to the usual #2 hitter, Orlando Hudson. Hudson currently has a wOBA of .352. Kemp has a wOBA of .383. This is a pretty large discrepancy, and it is costing the Dodgers a substantial amount of runs.  Let’s assign a baseline PA amount to each player of 600. Hudson is worth 10.95 runs above a replacement hitter over 600 PAs [(.352-.331)/1.15]*600. Kemp is worth 27.13 runs per 600 PAs over a replacement hitter [(.383-.331)/1.15]*600.

So, what does this all mean? In a study published in Baseball Between the Numbers, it was found that each spot a batter moves down in the lineup means 18 less PAs per season. That means that Hudson would get roughly 108 more PAs per year if he spent the entire season in the 2 hole and Kemp spent the entire season batting 8th. So let’s go through the math again and see how many runs the Dodgers would gain by putting Kemp 2nd and Hudson 8th.  Let’s say Kemp would get 654 PAs in the 2 hole, and Hudson would get 546 PAs in the 8th spot (a 108 PA difference). Kemp is worth 29.57 runs batting 2nd. This is a 2.44 run difference. Hudson would be worth 9.97 runs if he was batting in the 8th slot. A difference of .98 runs. This is a total difference of 3.42 runs, or .342 wins. This is not a lot, but we also have to take into account the fact that less valuable hitters than Kemp would be receiving less PAs while he would receive more if he was moved up to the top of the order. The math gets redundant, so I’ll spare you, but the difference is close to 10 runs, or one win. This could be the difference between winning the division and sitting at home. Of course the Dodgers are far and away the best team in their division, so this isn’t a costly mistake Torre is making, but it is still worth noting.

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Put down the pipe, Brian Sabean

July 29, 2009

It’s being reported that the Giants traded prospect Tim Alderson for Freddy Sanchez.

Alderson equals a solid pitching prospect who could anchor a potentially awesome staff that could also include Lincecum, Cain, and Madison Bumgarner. Sanchez equals a decent player that most likely will be gone at the end of the year. Horrible move.

Seriously. When I first heard this I thought the trade was a joke.

Clifford, the Big Red Phillie

July 29, 2009

Today the Phillies received Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco for Carlos Carrasco, Jason Knapp, Jason Donald, and Lou Marson. In other words, the Phils stole from the Indians and have a made a convincing case that they are the team to beat in the National League.

Lee is one of the better pitchers in all of baseball, and his presence in the rotation along with Cole Hamels makes for a tough team to beat come October. To get him, they didn’t need to give up their best pitching prospect in Kyle Drabek. They didn’t need to give up their best hitting prospect in Dominic Brown. They didn’t even need to give up Major League pitcher J.A. Happ. Lee instantly upgrades the Phillies and his option for 2010 is just $9 million. With Rollins, Howard, and Utley all getting older, the Phillies window for more World Series titles is now and this trade allows them to be favorites this season and next season. They made the right move going for Lee, and they didn’t sell the farm.

Hell, if the Phillies want to be awarded another title this instant, they can still send Happ, Drabek, and Brown to Toronto for Halladay and have three Cy Young caliber pitchers on their staff. Not to mention they have an MVP candidate in Chase Utley.

Passing the time

July 29, 2009

It’s been a couple days since we’ve posted as we have been busy. To keep things active here, here’s a good story on the principles of Moneyball and Billy Beane. I personally thought it was a good read.

tERA, the Pitching Metric of the Future

July 25, 2009

The year is 2050. Tim Lincecum Jr.-using the same famed delivery of his Hall of Fame father-has just won his 2nd consecutive Cy Young award. Lincecum Jr. lead the league in wins, ERA, and WHIP. These stats have almost become obsolete in determining the winners of the major MLB awards. That’s right, even the BBWAA has adopted the use of deep statistical analysis to determine who the best hitters, pitchers, and rookies are. Lincecum Jr. also was the far-and-away leader in a few key advanced statistics like FIP, WAR, tRA, and the newly created but widely used True ERA (tERA).

tERA, since its creation in 2009, has been a giant work in progress. In fact, the stat only became relevant recently once the sample size became large enough. That’s right, it took nearly 40 years to gather all of the data needed to create the most flawless pitching metric the SABR community has seen.

With the wide-spread use of HIT /fx beginning in April of 2009, tERA began its epic journey to become the greatest pitching statistic of all-time. So, what exactly is tERA? Well, it is the first truly DNPS (Defense Neutral Pitching Statistic). Using the trajectories and bat speed of each ball hit into play tERA will measure the exact percentage of times a batted ball will go for a single, double, triple, or out. For example, say a batter with the bases empty hits a ball with x velocity and y trajectory and it lands at location z, tERA will have enough data (40 years worth) to determine how that play turns out with a completely average fielding team. Let’s say the aforementioned ball would drop in for a single 20% of the time, get past the defender for a double 45% of the time, and be caught for an out 35% of the time. This play would then be worth (.29)(.20)+(.45)(.49)-(.35)(.20)=.2085 runs against. Unlike statistics before it such as FIP that paid zero attention to the situation of the game, tERA will be able to level upon itself because each play will measure a pitchers true ability. Complicated linear weights will be used to calculate the tERA for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc batter of each inning because tERA is a completely neutral statistic. In other words, the pitcher can be held 100% accountable for his actions as expressed by tERA. Let’s run through an example. If the first batter of an inning hits a ball in the exact same location with the exact same trajectory as the previous example, we obviously have a situation where there is a base runner on first 20% of the time, a base runner on second 45% of the time, and no base runner 35 percent of the time. To make the math a little simpler, let’s say that the next batter hits home run. That is a play worth 1.00 runs with bases empty, 1.74 with a runner on first, and 1.60 with a runner on second. We then have to take the result of the first batter and use leveling to get the true value of this second outcome. The math looks like this: (.20)(1.74)+(.45)(1.60)(.35)(1.00). This equals .348+.72+.35=1.418 runs against. In this situation, the pitcher has given up two runs, but because a truly average defensive team would have made the first play 35% of the time, the pitcher is only held accountable for 1.6265 runs.

And therein lies the beauty of tERA. Every pitcher will be judged against the exact same baseline, with regards to game situation (read: “clutch”), and with a highly perfected way to measure truly earned runs.  tERA truly revolutionized the way baseball was looked at from an analytic perspective, and judging the value of pitchers has never been easier.

Holliday to Saint Louis…ugh

July 24, 2009

I am a huge Cardinals fan. I received news of our acquisition of Matt Holliday via ESPN texting me earlier today while I was with a few of my fellow Cardinals fans friends. I alerted them of the news, and, predictably, everyone was very excited. Most of them only vaguely knew of Brett Wallace, and all they cared about was getting an MVP caliber player to “protect” Pujols. At this time I was very upset with the trade. We just traded away a future Joey Votto type contributor for 1/2 a season of a 4-5 win player. I also knew that this trade made us immediately better. Rick Ankiel is not a starting outfielder. He has been dreadful this year, and despite a home run last the Cardinals could not have relied on him to be a middle of the order contributor. Yes his BABIP is low (accompanied by a low LD% as well), and yes ZiPS projects a .333 wOBA for the rest of the year, but this still someone who cannot be relied on.

So, let’s do some simple math to see what exactly the Cardinals are getting. Holliday is projected to post a .370 wOBA over 276 PAs. That is roughly 9.36 runs above a replacement level LF (.039/1.15*276). Add on the 3.5 runs he is on pace to save with the glove, and Holliday should be worth around 1.3 wins as a Cardinal. Assuming last year’s average wOBA of .331, we find Ankiel will be worth 3.27 runs above replacement with the bat (.02/1.15*188). His defense is hard to quantify, but I think it is safe to assume he is slightly worse than Holliday in the field. So we are talking about essentially giving up a huge piece of the Cardinals future in Brett Wallace for less than half a year of Matt Holliday. This is a terrible trade…

Unless the Cardinals win the World Series or this trade shows the best player in the game that the Cardinals are committed to winning, which in turn will help them sign Pujols long term when his contract expires. Until then though, epic fail for John Mozeliakak.

Pitcher of the future

July 23, 2009

Recently I was reading someone claim that Tim Lincecum is and will be the best pitching since Pedro Martinez.

So that got me thinking, is Tim Lincecum really the best pitcher since Pedro Martinez? After looking at it, I could only find one challenger. No it’s not Johan Santana. From 2004-2006, Johan posted consecutive 7+ WAR seasons, as well as K/BB ratios of 4.91, 5.29, and 5.21 in order. However, Johan did that in his age 25-27 seasons. While still impressive, in his age 24 and 25 seasons, Lincecum is putting up similar if not better seasons. Linecum still has a long and bright future ahead of him where he could put up even better numbers, while Johan’s numbers have gone down just about each season since 2006.

So who is the one person who could challenge Timmy for best pitcher since Pedro? Felix Hernandez.

Yes, this pick is mainly based on age and how successful he’s been at such a young age. In 2006 when Timmy was 22, he was pitching in Washington for the Huskies. In 2006 when Felix was 20, he was pitching in Washington for the Mariners.  To the tune of a 3.91 FIP, 2.93 K/BB, and 3.8 WAR no less.

At the tender age of 23, Felix has a 2.75 FIP, 3.61 K/BB, and 4.6 WAR, to complement his career 3.53 FIP and 2.87 K/BB. Again, he is 23. King Felix should still continue to get better and better. He could be crazy good. Although it was his rookie season, when Timmy was 23 he had a 3.63 FIP, 2.31 K/BB, and 3.2 WAR. This was in the NL West no less.

This was a quick post/analysis but to sum: King Felix is damn good and considering his success at the pro level at such a young age, he could be the one who is called the best pitcher in baseball since Pedro. Not Lincecum.