Friday, May 30, 2008

On The Rise: Minnesota Twins

The Minnesota Twins, this offseason have started rebuilding their organization by trading Johan Santana and letting Torii Hunter sign with the Angels. From these two deals they collected back Carlos Gomez, Deolis Guerra, two pitchers of no relevance, and two draft picks. The Twins had to make these moves because they are run by Carl Pohlad the Billionaire owner who can't spend more that $60 million on his players per year, a cheapskate. This offseason they locked up two young, talented core players to contract extensions and traded for Delmon Young to bolster their lackluster offense. They are currently in 2nd place in the Central Division but maybe headed for a bumpy ride, the one that comes when rebuilding.

The Twins have a good young nucleus of hitters. Their production revolves mostly around whether Joe Mauer, their catcher and number 3 hitter and Justin Morneau, their first basemen and cleanup hitter are hitting. This offseason their new GM Bill Smith(their old GM, the excellent Terry Ryan retired) recognized their need for better hitters and realized that there are a lot of young OFers available. He acquired two, one in the Matt Garza deal and one in the Santana deal. Now their offense has 5 powerful forces and hope for Alexei Casilla and Jason Kubel to develop into superb hitters as well. Their lineup looks something like this: Carlos Gomez(CF), Casilla(2B/SS), Mauer(C), Morneau(1B), Michael Cuddyer(RF), Delmon Young(LF), Kubel(DH) and of course their two replacement level players Brendan Harris and Mike Lamb. This club's lineup has a great dynamic to it because they have a Reyes type player leading off, a young Luis Castillo batting second, the 3-7 hitters are great hitters and have power, while the last two spots, SS and 3B need some work.

This organization traded away its top two pitchers this offseason in hopes of appeasing their cheapskate owner. One being Matt Garza and the other being the best pitcher in baseball, Johan "I HATE the NL" Santana. Now, since these trades brought them 3 OFers, Brendan Harris, 2 Replacement Level AAA starters and a young stud pitcher in Deolis Guerra, you might assume that they currently have no pitching. Well guess again. This season they've put an extremely formidable rotation together even though they replaced Johan Santana with Livan Hernandez, ya that's right Livan Hernandez. They still have a bevy of young pitchers on their team, this made them able to trade Matt Garza and Johan Santana to fill other needs. They've got Boof Bonser who's so terribly average, Kevin Slowey, who's fastball isn't so slow(he'll be an ace), The young outstanding Nick Blackburn(my personal favorite), Glen Perkins the southpaw and injured starters Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker. They also have a good bullpen but this year their top setup man, Pat Neshek, is injured, Dennys Reyes has been ineffective and Juan Rincon hasn't been the same without his steroids.

I'm not so familiar with the Twins minor league system, but since I've been a baseball fan for quite some time now I've realized that the Twins specialize in churning out a lot of quality young arms. Their farm system today is still stocked with young arms, including the three, Deolis Guerra, Kevin Mulvey and Phil Humber, that they received in the Johan Santana trade. Their top prospect is an outfielder named Ben Revere and I believe he is extremely talented.

All in all the Twins are in good shape, for competition this year and in years to come. It's a pity that this team will have to be ripped apart in 3-5 years because of Carl Pohlad.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Art of Postseason Play

Postseason play is the hardest element of baseball to predict. The reasons for this is a) all teams that make it to the postseason are good and therefore tightly bundled together talent-wise and b) anything could happen in a 5-7 game series. If you look back at last year you'll see that the Rockies made it to the World Series but were easily defeated by the Red Sox. The Red Sox, according to Bill James' Log-5 method had a 60.8 percent chance of winning the World Series. This means that if the Red Sox had played out the entire 7 game series against the Rockies, the Red Sox would've won 4.256 of them. But the Red Sox won 4 of 4 from the Rockies, so how does this follow? In 4 games the Red Sox should've won 2.5 but instead they won all four. The Red Sox succeeded in part because of luck and partly because they had a top closer, a great defense and a great rotation.

The in season stats with the highest causation of playoff success are to have a closer with a high WXRL(Win eXpectancy adjusted for Replacement Level), a high team FRAA(Fielding Runs Above Average and a high team K Rate. The Red Sox were in the top five in all of these and the Rockies were middle to bottom in all three topping out at 13th in Closer WXRL. But these stats only account for a total of 11% causation of a world series ring, so where's the other 89%? Another 4% is caused by other in season stats while the other 85% is luck. That's right LUCK. So how do you succeed in the postseason? By putting your team in the right situation to get lucky.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Why Billy Beane is a Great GM

I believe that I've found the answer to why Billy Beane is a good GM and excellent at finding talent. After just reading an article about why he hasn't been successful in the postseason, I've decided to go back to Moneyball to see if I could find the answer as to why he's such a smart GM. And I found it.

I believe that Billy Beane had a life changing experience while playing the game of baseball. As written in Moneyball, Billy Beane had all the talent but he just didn't have the mental makeup that other young players had. The reasons are: first, because he was a perfectionist, second, because he didn't know how to accept failure, and third, because he was smarter than all the other players. These things that hindered him as a player help him succeed as a GM. He has an exceptional sense for picking ballplayers with the right mindset and makeup for playing baseball.

In his playing days, Billy Beane was picked in the first round, 23rd overall in the '80 draft by the Mets and was rushed through their system. He was drafted on the basis that he was a terrific athlete with all the tools a scout could wish for. The only problem was that he had low self esteem and a poor self image. Because of this, Billy Beane never succeeded as a hitter. The reason is that every time he had a bit of a slump, he had a mental breakdown. He could not accept his failure and this caused himself to fail more. This all took a toll on Billy. But since he's a smart guy, he learned from his problematic career as a ballplayer. His methods for finding talented players are drawn from his playing career. He suggests not to draft high schoolers early in the amateur draft, to judge players by what they have accomplished and not by what they can accomplish, not to draft athletes but ballplayers and to draft guys that are mentally fit for playing the game of baseball. All these traits make up the exact opposite player that he was, meaning that every year he makes sure not to draft himself.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Baseball in a Transition

I believe the game of baseball is in a transition. The MLB has just gone through the "juiced age" and are now done with it. This means less homers and less power. No more 60 homer seasons, no more 70 double season. I think this is bad for baseball because we'll be seeing more Luis Castillo type players. These guys just put the ball in play and hope for the best. Managers will be doing more hit and runs, steals and bunts which all have way to much risk involved and are deeply flawed because outs are the most valuable thing in baseball.

I think steroid testing is good but the MLB can't afford to go back to that age before steroids which had tons of Luis Castilloesque players who give up many outs. 3.2 billion people didn't go to watch their favorite teams last year for pitching duels. MLB is at an all time high in revenue in part because of the steroid era. Almost every fan would rather watch a homerun marathon than a shutout, this is what the steroid era had accomplished, making a homer a very frequent play(and making the game of baseball more exciting). Obviously fans like seeing homers and runs scored(or fans are becoming more intelligent) and therefore attendance numbers were at an all time high last year. I hope the MLB can adjust and therefore stay the same.

I've come to a Conclusion

I'm sorry about the fact that I'm going to to write about the Mets and Willie Randolph but I feel like I need to because I finally understand this situation fully(and I'm a die hard Mets fan). I'm also writing about something tactical that happened in last night's game so I guess it qualifies for this blog. I hope I won't have to write about the Mets again.

Last week Moises Alou went on the DL for the Mets. In this event the Mets called up a catcher named Raul Casanova meaning that they would now be carrying three catchers. Against the Braves Ryan Church received a mild concussion while trying to break up a double play, he has not started since because of dizziness. Last night(yesterday in NY) I looked at the Mets lineup and saw that Brian Schneider, a .253/.323/.375 hitter, was batting 6th and I asked myself, is Willie out of his mind??? He could've instead batted the rookie Nick Evans(in AA had a .538 SLG) 6th.

The 7th inning answered my question as to if Willie Randolph has truly lost his mind. I finally understood why these smart writers were saying that Willie should be fired because he's a terrible tactician. It was the top of the 7th, one out, runners on 1st and 2nd and Mets down 3-1. Brian Schneider's up, I thought to myself, I know he'll strike out but it's okay Nick Evans is on deck. Guess what? Schneider struck out! Then Willie the genius decided to pinch hit for Nick Evans with Ryan Church, the guy who is still woozy from the blow to the head. I said to myself, if Willie was planning on pinch hitting Church to win the ballgame why didn't he pinch hit for the inferior batter in Schneider, after all the point of having three catchers on your roster is to have flexibility and to be able to take your catcher out of the game whenever you want to. And of course Church swung way late on three 89 MPH fastballs from Aaron Cook for the third out.

Boy was I pissed after that. I realized that Randolph really is a horrible tactician not using the advantage(having three catchers)
he created for this kind of situation. I would have batted Evans 6th in the batting order and pinch hit for Schneider with Ramon Castro. I know that lineups don't really matter and managers are all similar, but in this case they both did matter and in the study BP did on managers confirmed that since managers basically all use the same methods, the difference between the best and worst managers would be a small difference something around 2.5 wins a season. Well 2.5 more wins for the Mets last year and they'd have been in the playoffs. Please, someone take Willie off our hands.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Why Rich Teams are Losing their Edge

In baseball today, teams are hiring young smart GMs who know what their doing to run their teams. The worse teams in the MLB were the first to do this, meaning that the small market teams have these smart young guys who are building their team through the minors which is a much cheaper way to build a team. What is happening in baseball now is that players decline rapidly after the age of 32 instead of 35-37. This might be because of the drug policy it might not be, we don't know. What this means is that players are past their peak when entering free agency. Also, now all these small market teams are locking up their young players. What have we realized so far?

1) The best players never reach free agency
2) Free Agents are usually past their prime
3) Free Agents are expensive and probably not worth the 1 or 2 draft picks
4) Free Agents are very expensive

Obviously, if the Royals, Rays and A's are 3 out of the top 4 teams in the AL then you know the small market teams are doing it right. Look at it this way. One side spends more money, has older players and is always mediocre to good and the other side spends money on player development, have young exciting players and while their developing the young talent the fans suffer through 100 loss seasons. As a fan, wouldn't you rather watch a young mediocre team more than an old mediocre team? Of course you would, the young team will get better the old team will decline. The only big market team to have a smart new generation GM is the Red Sox and look how that has turned out(winning 2 World Series in in 4 years). Why can't other big market teams learn. The Yankees, Mets and Cubs just aren't getting it done anymore. It makes sense, if you look at the past the Giants signed Bonds in '96 I believe and he was the best hitter in baseball for all his 12 years with the team. This doesn't happen anymore. Teams have to adjust, big market teams have to adapt and realize FA's are overrated and expensive and that they could invest the same money in player development and international scouting and have a much better team in the long run.

All rich teams base themselves through free agents and expensive trades(even the Red Sox do this), which is proven to be a flawed system while small market teams are putting a tenth of that money into player development and international scouting and coming up with diamonds. The D-Backs, the Brewers and the Reds are all doing this now and look how it has turned out. In baseball 26-28 is the average age players peak, so what would be better to get 29 year olds or 18-22 years olds? You tell me

On The Rise: Kansas City Royals

The KC Royals, led by Dayton Moore(John Scheirholz protege) a smart young GM are on the cusp of contention in his 2nd full season. He didn't quite accomplish what his mentor did(get to the playoffs in his first season as GM of the Braves and win 14 straight division titles) but he's not doing to badly either. He's stockpiling arms in order to find his own Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz and Avery and he might already have three of them. The Royals are being built around two young stud hitters, Alex Gordon and Billy Butler. These guys bothl have .320/.420/.520(AVG/OBP/SLG) potential and 40 homer potential. Imagine that, two guys under the age of 25 that'll be with your club for the next 5 years and can possibly make up the best 3-4 punch in baseball starting next year. This team(if I said this two years ago everyone would've laughed at me) and the Rays will probably be competing for AL Pennants in years to come.

The Royals as I mentioned previously have a few great young starters along with a superb young closer that Mr. Moore got in the Rule 5 Draft. Lets start with the closer. Joakim Soria is 24 years old and is dominating the league with an ERA of .98(no I didn't make a mistake) through 18 1/3 innings pitched. Although his BABIP is freakishly low at .144 he's a closer and his peripherals are outstanding. BB/9-1.96, K/9-10.8 and HR/9-0.49 these numbers are outstanding but remember he's a closer. Right now he's the Royals closer but he could be a starter and they might convert him back into a starter after the year. The Royals signed their ace, Gil Meche, last year to a mega 5 year $55M contract, they also have three young starters who are excellent in Zach Grienke, Brian Bannister and Luke Hochevar(the 1st overall pick in '06). They have an average bullpen but who has a great one today. My advice is using Soria in relief and letting him pitch 180 innings from the 'pen.

As I said before their hitting will be based around #3 Alex Gordon and #4 Billy Butler(in the lineup) for the next 5 years at least.
They also have a great outfield with Jose Guillen, David DeJesus and Mark Teahen(from LF-RF) but they're aging and for some of them their best baseball is behind them. They also have a young middle infield with Tony Pena at SS and Alberto Callaspo at 2B but Pena can't hit and Callaspo is not the greatest fielder. They could use upgrades at C,1B,SS and RF if they plan to compete for world series' but they do have some pieces to trade and have a solid farm system. Their top prospect is also a SS but he'll probably switch positions.

They have the 9th best farm system according to BP but have only one top tier prospect in Mike Moustakas. This guy is an excellent hitter but needs to improve defensively if he wants to stay at SS. As I said before the Royals are stockpiling arms so almost all their other top prospects are pitchers. They have two low-mid level prospects that play OF but they'll probably won't be anything special but you never know.

All in all the Royals could use some improvements in hitting and fielding but their farm system could bare fruit and they have superb young pitching. You know what they say "Pitching wins Pennants".

Around The Diamond: The Outfield

The corner outfield position was always a hitter's position because RF and LF are two of the easier positions to field. In recent years RF and LF have turned into extreme power positions along with 1B because in the 90's and early 00's many baseball players were on steroids hence hitting tons of homers so they needed a position for only hitting homers. Why LF and RF? Because who do you think hits homers? I think it's the extremely large guys that are defensively inept and therefore play LF or RF. Now, most corner outfielders only hit homers, doubles, walk or strikeout. The only reason why such a player is playing baseball is because the homerun is the best play in baseball.

Centerfield on the other hand is the most overrated position defensively. According to Bill James C,SS,2B and 3B are all harder positions to field. Recently centerfielders have gotten much better at hitting. Most centerfielders now are either good hitters, extremely fast or five tool players like Carlos Beltran, Chris Young and Jacoby Ellsbury. In the minor leagues right now are a bunch of future five tool CFers in the Mold of Carlos Beltran. There are a lot of these guys, for example: Carlos Gomez, Cameron Maybin, Justin Upton, Fernando Martinez and Colby Rasmus to name a bunch. Soon every major league team will have a complete player playing centerfield similar to a Carlos Beltran.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Two Battles in Baseball

In baseball, unlike most sports, there are two battles going on at all times. One is the home team vs. the away team(team a vs. team b) and the second is the batter against the pitcher. This makes baseball a unique sport because the batter vs. pitcher matchup is on a microscopic level and the team a vs. team b matchup is on a macroscopic level. There are 162 games a season but tens of thousands of batter/pitcher matchups. This is why baseball is based around statistics. The reason for this is that you can turn all those pitcher/batter matchups into wins and losses much easier than offense/defense matchups into wins and losses.

The whole point of baseball is to get an edge. If the league average ERA is 4.20 and you're playing a team with an ERA of 4.70 you have a better chance to win. This is why the Red Sox have been so successful. They've have an above average rotation and they get on base at a freakishly high rate. The Yankees can never have a bad season because their hitters see 4.1 pitches per PA(the league average is around 3.6) and the more pitches you see the better the chance is of getting on-base. This way even if the Yankees start the season badly they'll end up doing well because the chances of going .500 with your team seeing 4.1 pitches per PA is nearly impossible.

The way baseball works is like this. You make the pitcher work(throw a lot of pitches) in every PA therefore getting on-base more often and tiring out the pitcher. The more you get on base the more runs you score and the more the pitcher tires out. As long as you keep the game close while you're tiring out the pitcher you'll win(most of the time) because every teams' weakness are their middle relievers and if you get to them, your chances to drive in runs increase by a lot. Just take the Mets-Yankees game Saturday afternoon(I live in Israel therefore I'm 7 hours ahead), the Mets kept it close, tired out Andy Pettitte and then blew the game open when Kyle Farnsworth came in. You know what happens when you score runs? YOU WIN GAMES!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

On The Rise: Tampa Bay Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays have an extremely bright future. They have the number one farm system in the MLB and they just locked up James Shields, Evan Longoria and Scott Kazmir(it hurts me to say his name) just some of their prized young talent. Who's responsible for this amazing turnaround? Andrew Friedman and Stuart Sternberg(yes, both jews). Stuart Sternberg is their principal owner and he's opened his wallet for this team and Andrew Friedman is the GM(or Executive VP of Baseball Operations) and in two and a half years has made the Rays one of the best looking young teams in baseball.

They can now compete with the Yankees and Red Sox in terms of hitting because they are stocked from 1B-DH in great hitters. Their hitters average age is 27 and they don't even have all their top prospects in the majors yet, meaning that in 2009 their oldest position player after Carlos Pena will be Carl Crawford. They have Dioner Navarro-an okay hitting catcher, Carlos Pena-a guy that started hitting when he came to TB(had 46 homers last year), Akinori Iwamura-an average hitting 2basemen, Evan Longoria-the young kid that will be a great hitter, Jason Bartlett-an all glove no hit SS, Carl Crawford is self explanatory, B.J. Upton-has experienced a resurgence after finally finding a position and their RF/DH platoon of Cliff Floyd, Gabe Gross, Erik Hinske and Johnny Gomes. Althogh the Sox and Yankees have more patient hitters, this is just the start of something great for these hitters in Tampa that will be there for a long time.

Their pitching had a ton of holes going into last year and are now all figured out. They acquired Edwin Jackson, their four starter, James Shields became great and they got tremendous contributions from their system(Andy Sonnanstine, JP Howell, Jeff Neimenn). This offseason they acquired Matt Garza in a blockbuster deal with Minnesota trading Delmon Young because they needed more pitching. Now the Rays have one of the best rotations with Kazmir, Shields, Garza, Jackson, Sonnanstine and Jason Hammel, another young guy, having to be the swingman because of no space in the rotation. Their oldest starter is 24 years old and just signed a contract extension(I told you I don't like to say his name). Friedman has filled the Rays bullpen out nicely signing Percival to be their closer and letting Dan Wheeler and Al Reyes shift down to setup guys. They also have JP Howell-a young left hander, Gary Glover-a great waiver wire pickup and Trevor Miller a veteran left hander to round out the Pen. In a year the Rays will have a huge problem because they already have 8 starters for 5 spots and have 4 more in the wings, so look for them to make an interesting move.

Their minor league system is the best in the MLB and they have the number one pick in this years draft. The only holes in that team are C, SS(doesn't hit well), RF and they have an aging closer(they might also need a little more power, maybe). The SS hole will be filled by 2009 with Ried Brignac one of the Rays top prospects that'll be excellent in the years to come. RF is a little bit more far off but Desmond Jennings is a great hitter and could hit like an average SS-2B right now at the age of 20 in the MLB if he was called up. Eduardo Morlon was picked up in the Delmon Young trade and he has terrific stuff, could be in the majors by July but I highly doubt that. To fill the catcher hole, first of all Dioner Navarro isn't so bad and second of all they're probably going to draft a catcher with the number one pick. They also have four of the top 30 and 3 of the top 15 pitching prospects in baseball with David Price(the first overall pick last year), Wade Davis(a tall righty with great stuff), Jacob McGee(a hard throwing lefty) and Jeremy Hellickson(a young right hander). So good luck playing the Rays from 2009-2015.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Around The Diamond: Shortstop

A shortstop is the most athletic player on the baseball diamond. Since they have to be great fielders(second hardest position) they aren't expected to be as good of hitters. The mid 90's and early 00's produced new SS's never heard of, great hitting shortstops. They were A-Rod, Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra and Miguel Tejada all in the mold of Cal Ripken. A-Rod and Nomar were the only ones in this group that fielded well, the rest of them were below average fielders. The same two have shifted positions, A-Rod, although being a much better fielder than Jeter let "The Captain" stay at short while Nomar switched because of injuries to 1st Base/3rd Base. A-Rod is now the best player in baseball and in the top five hitters in baseball while the rest have all fallen. Jeter is still a great hitter but his power is slowly declining. One thing they all had in common was that they weren't so fast(except A-Rod's 40-40 season) and didn't have the best arms. Now a lot of SS's have both great arms and speed but are much worse hitters than Jeter and Nomar like Rafael Furcal and Jose Reyes.

Which style would you rather? The great fielding, good hitting, OK power, great arm, plus speed guy or the below average fielding, excellent hitting, great power, decent arm, decent speed guy. Defense is extremely underrated right now because there is no exact way of judging their contributions compared to hitting but I think defense is almost as important as hitting and therefore I would take the Furcal over the Jeter type player.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Flaws in SLG and its Relatives

Slugging Percentage is a flawed stat because it divides TB by AB's. What's wrong with this? Most MLB players have more AB's than TB's but what if they didn't? What if player X got called up to the majors and in his first 11 PA's had 10 walks, 1 homer, 10 steals and 10 caught stealings, this would mean player X's SLG would be 24/1=24 yes he would average 24 total bases per at-bat. How is this possible? It's not, that's why SLG is flawed. TB(total bases) includes walks which AB's don't, only PA's include walks. Since SLG is flawed ISO is also flawed because ISO is just SLG-AVG. Also, what's the point of OPS? It just adds OBP and SLG, that's like adding 2B and RBI's and calling it a stat. It has no meaning whatsoever.

My proposed ways to fix these problems are:
a) To change SLG to (TB-CS)/PA this way you can't have someone averaging more than 4 total bases per PA/AB
b) To get rid of OPS or to equalize OBP and SLG and then average them(or something like that)
c) To change ISO's formula from SLG-AVG to [(TB-BB-HBP-SB)/AB]-AVG=ISO+(my invention)

Baseball's old stats have so many flaws it's ridiculous. I'm just pointing out one but there are many more like OBP(arguable), RBI's, Defensive Stats, Saves, Holds and ERA. Baseball Prospectus is putting together many stats that solve these problems like EqA(equivalent average, accounts for all offensive facets) for OBP, EqR(equivalent runs) for RBI's, FRAR(fielding runs above replacement) for D stats, NRA(normalized run average) for ERA and Leverage(measures game importance based on the level it was at when the game started) for bullpen appearances. I think everyone should put all these phony stats behind us and start using these new clear stats.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Connections Between Stats and what they Tell Us

There are some some stats that are linked to other stats and therefore telling us the true outcome of that stat. I think it would be interesting if I go through most of them. The first being the connection between strikeouts and batting average. Although batting average has a 43% chance of changing from year to years it's been proven that people with a lot of strikeouts tend to have lower averages annually while players that don't strike out as much tend to be less predictable with some years having a high average while other years a low one. What this means is that a guy like Carlos Beltran can have his average sore to the .300's one year(2003) but have it drop dramatically the next year to the .260's(2004). A guy like Adam Dunn on the other hand, has a career batting average of .247 and has never hit higher than .266 but if you look at his average year by year they're pretty consistent because of the fact that he strikes out once every 3.5 ab's. As you see the lower amount of strikeouts you have the better chance your average could go up and down while if you strike out a lot you'll consistently have a low batting average. The reason for this is that the less you strike out the more chances you have to get a hit because the best thing you can do is to put the ball in play.

A hitter that hits a lot of doubles but not a lot of homers one season can expect an increase of home runs and a decrease in doubles the next. The reason for this is that both doubles and homers are symbols of power and therefore if you just miss them one year the next year you have a much better chance of getting that extra 5-10 feet and therefore more homers. This also works with walk rate and ISO(SLG.-AVG.=Isolated Slugging). If you have a high walk rate that means you take pitchers deep into counts so there is a bigger chance that the pitcher will then throw you a good pitch after you've fouled back 4 straight and have tired him out, thus increasing ISO which rates your pure slugging ability. A player that has a high walk rate and a middling ISO can expect an increase in ISO the following year becasue of the amount of pitches he sees and vice versa, if a player has a high ISO, meaning he hits many eXtra Base Hits, his walk rate will go up the following year in fear of getting pounded, a la Barry Bonds after his 73 homer season.

Now to go to newer stats. If hitters have a low BABIP(batting average on balls in play) you can expect their batting average to go up because your BABIP should always be at the same level as your BA. If his BA is low and you know they aren't career .240 hitters then they've just been having bad luck hitting balls in play and therefore you know it'll change soon. The same thing goes for LD%(line drive rate) and hits. If a player has a high LD% but isn't getting as many hits(AVG) as you would expect him to then you know his BA and hit rate will go up. Now, with a stat called HR/FB you can see if a power hitter is finished or is just having bad luck. If a guy that usually hits 30-40 homers a season isn't hitting them out, you could look if he's hitting it to the outfield and it just isn't getting that last push(Carlos Beltran) or if he's just stop hitting balls to the outfield(Frank Thomas).

Pitchers have peripheral stats like K/BB, K/9, BB/9, HR/9 and BABIP(used in the opposite way) to help us determine if a player is having good luck(Cliff Lee), bad luck(Jonny Cueto) or is pitching at his best. If a pitcher has a low ERA and bad peripherals or a great BABIP you know he won't keep up his performance, but if a guy has a 3.50 ERA and great peripherals you know he'll keep it up. How does all this help us predict? Because you can analyze a player's performance and then use all these methods to see if he'll continue to have success or if he's just a fluke. You can also use them to see if he'll have another good year or drop off or have a breakout year. I thought this would be an extremely cool post idea, so here it is. Tell me if you enjoyed and learned anything from this post.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Ethics of the Game of Baseball: Hitting

I think it's time for me to look back at an original post of mine and to talk about some questions that have been brought to my attention regarding the post. The first question I'll get back to later because I'm not fully satisfied with the answer and the second question is whether left handed hitters hit left handed pitchers better than right handed hitters hit right handed pitchers. I did a little research(if anyone has ever heard of a study that's been done on this please notify me) and I found that it's not even close. Right handed hitters hit right handed pitchers almost the same as their regular slash stats(AVG/OBP/SLG) but left handed hitters hitting against left handed pitching is a huge mismatch deflating on average the player's average by 30 points, his OBP by 50 points and his SLG by 100 points while righty, righty matchups only deflated a right handed batter's performance by 15 points in AVG, 20 points in OBP and 25 points in SLG.

I believe the answer to why this is, is the same reason why lefties are more dominant pitchers than righties. The answer to that is because right handed batters growing up while playing in little leagues rarely saw left handed pitching but always faced right handed pitching, as for left handed hitters they only saw right handed pitchers also therefore boosting their stats against righties by even more. What this means is that a hitter naturally has the advantage(weird term because hitters never have an advantage in baseball, it's more of being ahead of the curve) over its opposite armed pitcher, so if right handed hitters got used to facing basically only right handed pitchers when they were young it got them better at hitting the same handed pitcher while left handed batters got extremely good at hitting right handed pitchers because they're opposite armed and they faced them a lot. The downside of this for the lefty batters is that they barely face any lefty pitchers so their value to hit against them decreases therefore giving the right handed hitter the edge in the same armed hitter-pitcher matchup.

My second issue is that if the optimal lineup is in descending OBP order and your best player has your highest OBP(David Wright) who'll drive in the runs Wright did batting 3? In this case scenario the Mets are either having Jose Reyes or Luis Castillo batting 4,5 and don't tell me they drive in runs like David Wright does! This is proven through SLG, even though it's a deeply flawed stat we'll use it for this instance. If David Wright's on second and Castillo is up and he hits a single(SLG .372) it moves Wright to third, but if Wright was up with Castillo on second there's a higher chance of Wright hitting an eXtra base hit(SLG .546) and even a single might plate Castillo.

The answer to this question that I recieved was that proven through simulations descending OBP was the optimal lineup so that's what it is. But I like to think, as is written in baseball books(the same with the lineup studies), that sims can't produce lifetime situations and in real life there's pressure and weakness and other factors that can't be accounted for in a sim. I've come to the assumption that you have to not only account for OBP when constructing a lineup but also SLG and incorporate which spots in the lineup, leadoff the most times during the course of a game/season and therefore have guys that get on base to lead off innings. Even though I'm obsessed with lineup construction the difference between the optimal and least optimal lineup is about one win per season so it's not so bad if your team is using "the worse" lineup because it's barely a difference.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Around The Diamond: Third Base

Everyone thinks that 3rd base is one of the easier positions to field, but that's not true it's actually harder than centerfield according to Bill James because 3rd basemen get more balls than centerfielders do. 3rd basemen are a little less athletic and are not as good with the glove than shortstops but hit better than them. SS is the most comparable position to third base mainly because they're on the same side of the infield so they basically have the same throw.

Third basemen are starting to become excellent hitters in the mold of David Wright and Ryan Braun(now in LF). These guys like Evan Longoria, Josh Vitters and Alex Gordon are excellent hitters and tremendous athletes. Most third basemen now are tremendous athletes first, great hitters second and good fielders third. The reason why people like David Wright win Gold Gloves over better fielders like Chipper Jones is because David Wright is so flashy and is a human highlight reel because of his athleticism so even though he makes plenty of errors he's so exciting to watch. Third basemen are very good hitters now and field very well and are probably the best position all around meaning that there are plenty of third basemen that are great fielders, great hitters and have speed(five tool players) like Carlos Guillen.

In the future, a prototypical third basemen will be like David Wright because there are so many guys like him now at the hot corner. These guys will all be great hitters that get on base and are five tool players. Third base will become the new cornerstone position of a franchise.

Around The Diamond: Second Base

Second base according to Bill James is the 3rd hardest position to field after catcher and shortstop. You could say that second basemen are shortstops except with lesser arms(range,strength). Since second base commands more on defense second basemen aren't expected to hit as well as other players, like a 3rd basemen or a leftfielder.

Now, I believe a new breed of second basemen have been born. These guys hit extremely well but don't play any position well enough and don't have enough power to be first basemen. I don't know what used to happen to these guys, but now they're all playing second base. Guys like Chase Utley, Dan Uggla and top minor league prospects Adrian Cardenas for the Phillies and Matt Antonelli of the Padres form the top echelon of this new breed. Utley was a 3rd basemen in high school and Uggla a first basemen while Antonelli played 3rd base and catcher in college and Cardenas played short up until this season. These guys for some reason are all being shifted over to second base because of either not having a good enough arm(Chase Utley), not playing well on defense(Adrian Cardenas, Matt Antonelli) or not hitting for enough power(Dan Uggla). But since 2nd base is a tougher position to play than 3rd base I don't fully understand why guys like Utley and Antonelli get shifted over to 2nd. It has to be that they can't make the throw from 3rd at all, otherwise the move is senseless.

Second base is now in a transition stage switching from speedsters and good defenders to guys who can hit homers or just can flat out hit. This means instead of having a Luis Castillo(hint, hint) type player, teams are starting to get guys like Ian Kinsler(Omar make the call) a guy who has an okay glove but hits well and gets 20 homers a year(that's as much as Delgado). What this means is that teams are starting to realize that runs are too precious for one guy in the lineup not to be able drive them in and also realizing that the home run is the best play in baseball.