Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Beyond the BoxScore

I'm now doing pretty much all my baseball writing on BeyondtheBoxScore.com, Marc Normandin's new site. So this is pretty much just going to not do too much for a while.

Thanks for your readership, though!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

David Wright

After a sort-of slow start, Wright has put together an exceptional first month:

4.20 P/PA
.270 BA
.395 OBP
.503 SLG

Just worth noting.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

What's going on?

I'm sure all 4 or 5 of my loyal readers want to know: where the hell are the posts? Well, here's a bit of a wrap of what's been going on:

1. I am now writing at Baseball Rants, Marc Normandin's site. He does a good job; he's thorough and writes very often.

2. I've written two things there: a look back at the Mets-Marlins deals in '98, and a small entry called "Romeo and Juliet and Calvin Pickering."

3. I will write Met entries (like Series Wrap-Ups) less frequently here, and they won't be as specific and formatted. They'll be longer than the last one, though, which was just a disgrace.

4. The Baseball Hour on WZBT 91.1 FM in Gettysburg (with my friend Craig Knox) saw its last broadcast of the spring. Finals start on Sunday here, and I don't think I'll have time for one more.

5. The Mets seem to be playing in a lot of laughers early on, so I'll take a look at that tonight after outlining a Chapter of my IR textbook.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Series Wrap-Up: Mets at Marllies

Series Wrap Up: Mets at Marllies

Results of the Series

Splits all around.

Marlins: 9-7
Mets: 8-8
Phillies: 8-8

Top Performers
Coming soon
Mets: Victor Diaz
Marlins:
Phillies:

Worst Performers
Coming soon
Mets:
Marlins:
Phillies:

One sentence summary:

Two offensive explosions propel the Mets to a very acceptable split.

Longer summary:

Time constrains are going to prevent this entry from being particularly detailed, but a few observations:

- The Mets are an average team at this point. Injuries to the pitching staff have hurt, and they desperately need Benson to come back strong.
- The Marlins have underachieved thus far, considering how great their pitching has been at times.
- The Phillies can hit and will hit better than they have. Question is, will the pitching keep up?
- Heilman didn't have it, although he experienced some "bad luck" with some softly hit balls in the first. By the third, he was getting destroyed.
- Pedro's looking damn good.
- The BBboys both got hit hard in Philly. Zambrano still shows flashes, but not too impressive.
- 7 homers in a game in Philly? A couple were just fly balls, but Piazza's was a moonshot and Wright's was a laser.
- Speaking of David Wright, he's currently walked in 6 of his last 7 games, putting up a .220/.361/.440 line.
- Reyes is still walkless, now with a .278/.278/.458.
- Victor Diaz leads the NL in secondary average (.650), and his line is .325/.460/.675. I ask again: where did this come from? I'm still thinking that this is a bit flukish, but it's very, very intriguing.

So in other news, I posted an article on Baseball Rants. It was something I'd been working on, so it doesn't really fit in with much of anything. But it was an interesting little project.

Next series: Washington Nationals at New York Mets

Friday, 4/22, 7:10 PM - Esteban Loaiza v. Tom Glavine
Saturday, 4/23, 1:10 PM - Tomo Ohka v. ?
Sunday, 4/24, 1:10 PM - Livan Hernandez v. Victor Zambrano

Monday, April 18, 2005

Series Wrap-Up: Marlins at Mets

Results of the series

Mets take 2 out of 3.

Marlins: 6-6, 2 games back
Mets: 6-6, 2 games back

Top Performers

Mets: Aaron Heilman - 9 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 7 K
Marlins: AJ Burnett - 9 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 5 K, 1 HR

Worst Performers

Mets: Wright and Reyes - .059/.158/.118
Marlins: Carlos Delgado - atrocious defense, a lot of bitching about the strike zone, 3/11, 5 K, 0 EBH

One sentence summary:

An excellent first two games from the Mets, but as the late and great George Harrison would say, "All Things Must Pass."

Longer summary

I've been staring at this for the last hour or so, mixed in with the occassional sentence for my French homework:

.278/.278/.407

That's the current season's line on Jose Reyes, who has had 80 plate apperances since his last walk.

This disturbs me greatly.

But that's not the mood of this entry. The Mets took 2 out of 3 from the Marlins, which is pretty much the best you could have hoped for against Beckett, a vengeful Leiter, and Burnett.

The key to this series was the determined and masterful performance from Aaron Heilman, whose brilliant performance and Game Score of 89 are currently the best of the young season. I would have voluntarily called Friday's game a throwaway, hoped for some offense against Leiter, and then flipped a coin for Sunday, hoping for 2 wins but tolerating 1. Heilman refused to pitch a throwaway game and Beckett didn't have it.

Am I "drinking the Kool Aid" on this start? Well, not yet. I've got the packet of the Kool Aid powder on my desk, but it's not getting opened. This was one start which far exceeded anything he's EVER done as a professional. You'd have to go back to his days at Notre Dame to see anything like this from Heilman. But there were a few things that could portend well:

- Heilman returned to his "natural" delivery, the one that he used in college. In the minors, the Mets changed his delivery for some odd reason and it didn't work all that well in the bigs.
- Heilman LOOKED tough on the mound, from the few facial expressions I got from the highlights. He'd always looked scared out there, and I went to a game where I could see that from the upper deck behind home plate.
- He worked both sides of the plate. One of the knocks on Heilman from the past is that he always seemed to shy away from working the inner half of the plate, and it hurt him a lot (the thinking was that this stemmed back to college and the aluminum bats).
- He was pretty much untouchable in that game. There's obviously something there. It's a matter of putting it all together, which I guess is the major problem for most players that don't pan out.

Heilman goes on Wednesday against the Marlins, again, so we'll see if they figured out some problems in his delivery. I'm still thinking that Heilman could be a really good reliever; the delivery and approach in that last start reminded me of Eric Gagne. But, who knows? This one's out of the realm of statistical analysis at this point.

Pedro / Leiter on Saturday was an electric game. I was at work for most of it, but by the time I got back to the dorm to put it on, the crowd was rocking. (Yes, for some odd reason, I get the WB11 in Gettysburg, PA.) Pedro's stuff was so on that he fooled Piazza for 3 wild pitches, which was the cause of the Marlin run scoring. Looper blew another save, but anyone who expects elite closing from Looper's not realistic. He is what he is - a serviceable closer who is better suited for getting righties out than shutting the door every time.

Tom Glavine didn't have it on Sunday, giving up a couple of runs before recording an out. David Wright bailed him out with a nifty double play in the first, but they were down 2-0 a bit too soon. Kaz Matsui didn't help out in the 3rd, when he botched a couple of plays that don't go into the book as errors, There, the Marlins added the decisive third run, and Burnett cruised to victory, save a few hiccups.

Wright and Reyes have looked shaky over the last week, and they collectively earned the honor of "Worst performers" with an abysmal AVG/OBP/SLG. But I am much, much higher on Wright than I am on Reyes, and my rationale was proven in Sunday's game. Wright worked out an 11-pitch walk from an 0-2 count against a dominant AJ Burnett. Reyes? His longest was 5 pitches, and he averaged all of 2.75 P/PA. Wright's 5.67 P/PA in that game is actually LOWER than it could be; obscured by the fact that an at bat that was growing to be a pretty long one was ended on an ill-advised 3rd out on a steal attempt from Doug Mientkiewicz (I'll put this on Randolph, not Doug).

I'm pretty confident that Wright will stop "pressing" or "slumping" or whatever you'd like to call it at some point and start roping doubles at a nice rate. I'm also pretty confident that Reyes will show more flashes and drive the batting average up over .300 a few more times this year. The skill set of Reyes is seductive, but I get the feeling that a lot more Met fans wouldn't be as high on him if he were playing in, say, Pittsburgh or somewhere else. That all said, he DOES have special tools and he's unbelievably fast. And, as John Sickels mentioned recently, some of those guys, like Torii Hunter, can pan out. (More recently, Sickels posted some toolsy prospects that never did pan out. There are many more prospects that don't pan out than those that do.)

OK, that last paragraph was a bit too much of justifying both sides of an issue. I'll simplify it: the possibility of Reyes not panning out scares me, and his lack of patience is only augmenting my fear.

Last guy: Victor Diaz. Is there anyone hotter right now?

34 PAs, .321/.441/.500

Let's not go crazy, but early returns are showing an incredible increase in patience. I can't recall anyone so dramatically increasing their pitch selection in one year, so I look at this as a quirk of sample size. But it sure looks nice, and the man can hit the ball hard.

Number of the series

71.4 - percentage of the National League's pitchers with complete games that were at Shea Stadium when Burnett finished off his second one of the season. Aaron Heilman, Pedro Martinez, Josh Beckett, and Dontrelle Willis (who also has 2) were the others.

Next two series: Phillies and Marlins

Monday, 4/18, 7:05 PM (PHI) - Kaz Ishii v. Randy Wolf
Tuesday, 4/19, 7:05 PM (PHI) - Victor Zambrano v. Vicente Padilla
Wednesday, 4/20, 7:05 PM (FLA) - Aaron Heilman v. Josh Beckett
Thursday, 4/21, 7:05 PM (FLA) - Pedro Martinez v. Al Leiter

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Phillies

The Phillies have two players who I think could be very good (or very valuable in trade) that are being somewhat wasted in their current roles.

1. Ryan Howard - Put me in the camp of "undecided" on Howard...here's his minor league numbers from last year:

AA Reading (Park Factor: 1029, League Factor: 1029): 433 PAs, .297/.386/.647
AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre (Park Factor: 1035, League Factor: 986) 127 PAs, .270/.362/.604
Majors: 42 PAs, .282/.333/.564

These are pretty outstanding, but 29.7% of Ryan Howard's plate appearances in '04 were strikeouts. That's an awfully high number of K's; I don't like that in the minor leagues. What will good major league pitchers do to him??

To put it into perspective, the highest K percentage in the bigs last year (among qualifiers) was Adam Dunn, whose was 28.6%. My fear remains about this guy....

To say that Howard doesn't have potential isn't fair; his power is unquestionable. But they're letting him sit in AAA and really wasting him there. I don't really know where they could stand to improve (centerfield? third base, perhaps?), but I'm sure they could, and Howard is a valuable way to do that.

Bottom line: I have my doubts, but that doesn't mean that I'm right, and that certainly doesn't mean that baseball people agree with me. I'm sure that someone rates Ryan Howard as a major prospect and power hitter....why not cash out now?

2. Ryan Madson - It seems that 1 game can really dictate what happens in a career:

2/3 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 3 HR, 1 BB, 0 K

That's Madson's 1 career start. He's had 1 start and he pitched, well, horrendously. He was pretty well decimated by the White Sox at US Cellular.

But out of the bullpen, he was outstanding.

51 G, 76.3 IP, 17 R, 14 ER, 3 HR, 18 BB, 55 K, 1.65 ERA

One of the most overlooked players last year, he's graduated to being a middle reliever in their pen. I look at these numbers and some pretty solid minor league numbers and I say this:

1. This guy should be starting.
2. This guy could be closing.

I say he should be starting because I'm willing to give a guy a second chance...

(at this point, a lot of my entry was erased b/c instead of typing it up in notepad, I opted to just put it in Blogger. Shows how much I know).

Quickly, to wrap this up:

- His peripherals aren't as exceptional as his stats, but they're pretty good....
- He had very solid control numbers in his last two minor league seasons: in AA in 2002, he walked 2.8 per 9, and in AAA in 2003, he walked 2.4 per 9. This continued in the bigs in 2004.
- He's a groundball pitcher: 1.94 G/F ratio last year.
- He appears to be batter-neutral; lefties don't do much better than righties (subject to sample size).
- Tim Worrell is 37.
- He has limited homers very, very well throughout his minor league career: 40 homers in 733.3 minor league innings and only a few last year.
- He's only 24 years old.
- And, finally, he's started ONE game and was then relegated to the bullpen.

Madson's wasting away in middle relief, IMO.

I wish I knew a way to wrap this all up....but these two players DON'T have real spots on the team....Howard should be traded. Madson? I don't know....

Either way, I like him a lot this year and if he were tradeable, he'd be at the top of my list of low-cost guys I'd like on my team.

Series wrap coming tomorrow....

Friday, April 15, 2005

Series Wrap-Up: Astros at Mets

Results of the Series

Mets sweep 3 games.

Astros: 4-4
Mets: 4-5

Top performers:

Astros: Roger Clemens - 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 K, 77 GS
Mets: Kaz Ishii - 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 5 K, 71 GS

Worst performers:

Astros: Jeff Bagwell - 3/15, 4 K
Mets: Mike Piazza - 1/10, 1 BB, 1 K, 14.2% throwing rate

One sentence summary:

Quality starts, some lucky hits and some bad Houston defense propel the Mets to the sweep.

Longer summary:

This is cool:
- The Reds swept the Mets.
- The Astros then swept the Reds.
- The Mets then swept the Astros.

It's early.

I don't get to watch the games, but from the few highlights I saw on SportsCenter and from the radio broadcasts via MLB Gameday, the Mets were NOT hitting it hard in this series.

They did pitch well, though.

29 IP, 23 H, 7 R, 14 BB, 22 K, 0 HR, 2.17 ERA, 3.13 FIP

If you'd like to see why they won these three games, it starts from those numbers. If you're allowing 2 runs per game, you're going to win a vast majority of your games. At this level, pitching IS extraordinarily valuable...but no staff could sustain a 2.17 ERA consistently.

The hitting was....well, not good, as the team put up a .238/.300/.267 line on the series. Additionally, a LOT of those hits were not hit well (the Reyes run scorers in Games 2 & 3, pretty much everything in the 8th inning in Game 1). No homers hit. There was a stiff wind blowing in at times; quite a few home runs died on the way to the track. It's difficult to park adjust at this point in the season, but that made pitching so much more enjoyable.
Zambrano allowed 13 baserunners in 6 innings in Game 3, and only 3 of them scored. Now, either Zambrano is particularly good as stranding runners somehow, or the weather kept a few balls in the park and made it tougher to hit. I'll take the latter; from what I've heard, Z didn't have it. I'm still a Zambrano supporter, though....

I feel partially vindicated for my pessimism about the Astros this season; they did not play well at all in this series. Their defense was weak, their bullpen sucked, and, more importantly, they didn't hit at all. If they go anywhere this year, it's going to be the rest of the team tugged to an exhausting run by the starters. This offense just isn't going to produce enough (especially while Berkman's out), and this pen is garbage + Lidge. Not a great formula for success. But we'll see what the future holds for them; I think that they'd be best off trying to unload some guys at the deadline and build for the future. But where do you start? The 'Stros aren't exactly stacked with major league caliber talent in the minors....

Back on the Mets. Some things I noticed with the hitters, with an emphasis this time on P/PA:

- Wright's cooled off a bit since his hot start. But he's seeing pitches and has walked 5 times in the young season; he's averaging 4.08 P/PA.
- Reyes may not be walking yet, but he IS seeing more pitches in this young season, bringing up the P/PA to a respectable 3.79. If he keeps it there (I doubt this), I would not be as vehemently opposed to the lack of walks. Speaking of which, it's been 68 plate appearances since his last walk....
- Kaz Matsui! Scratched cornea! Contact lenses? What? I still think that Kaz can have a nice year for the Mets at second. His defense is not as bad as the 2 early errors would seem; he's got solid range at second. And some nice hits of late. He's also proven himself to be an astute bunter, which worries me, actually. I get the feeling that Randolph will fall in love with the sacrifice whenever Reyes is on base....3.50 P/PA so far, but a very nice 3.97 last year.
- Piazza looks lost at the plate / sounds lost. I can only imagine how hard it must be in the early going. Out of 106 qualifying hitters in the NL, Piazza ranks #91 in P/PA. (Wright ranks #29, and Reyes is a bit below the median at #57.) Such a change from the past.

And with some pitchers:

- Tom Glavine got the strike calls on the corners, it seemed, and posted a nice 6-inning outing. What a difference an ump makes, but this is not a good omen for your second starter. Nor is going only 6 innings.
- Ishii was mighty impressive against Clemens, going pitch-for-pitch with the Rocket and really holding the 'Stros in check. Ishii has a history for fast starts, though; Ishii's career April and May stats make him resemble someone who would garner a few Cy Young votes.

32 G, 32 GS, 191.2 IP, 18-7, 141 H, 11 HR, 128 BB, 157 K, 3.15 ERA

But the FIP of all that is a 4.31...and he has spent his brief career in a pitcher's park. And, even in these (which one could consider his best split you can find), he still doesn't quite average 6 innings per start and he's incredibly wild. I'm not convinced, and it's going to take a while to sell me.
- Zambrano, Ishii, Glavine, and Pedro all have innings questions (Pedro due to the 100-pitch threshold, Glavine due to age, Ishii and Zambrano due to walks). Kris Benson might be their most dependable innings guy by the end of the year. The starting pitching is a bit above average, I'd say, but without the innings, the bullpen can really, really take its toll.
- Yusmeiro Petit in AA so far: 7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K. Heath Bell in AAA: 5 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 R, 8 K. I'm hoping that they start raising the pitch count limits for Petit, but I'm REALLY hoping that they call up Bell. Soon. For all the stupid nagging injuries in the early going, nothing wrong in the pen. A bit unfortunate, no?

So there you have it. The team crawls back to 4-5, but they haven't looked all that impressive doing it....the big plus through this is that while Floyd is hurt and Cameron is hurt and Matsui went down and the bench is thin, they're still competing. Cameron will come back by May, I'll assume...Floyd won't play more than 100 games....

I'm conflicted about this series....I'd say that two impressive wins against the Marlins this weekend and a return to .500 (6-6) would ease my concerns a bit.

Bottom line: There have been some bright spots, but this was perhaps the ugliest sweep they've had in a long time. Stick it in your back pocket, Mr. Randolph, and the season forges ahead.

Last thing: I hate to be an alarmist, but if Piazza continues his slump, they're going to have to drop him in the order.

Number of the Series:

.309 - The combined slugging percentage of the two teams in the three games.

Next Series: Florida Marlins v. New York Mets:

Friday, 4/15, 7:10 PM - Josh Beckett v. Aaron Heilman
Saturday, 4/16, 1:10 PM - Al Leiter v. Pedro Martinez
Sunday, 4/17, 1:10 PM - AJ Burnett v. Tom Glavine

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Bullpen Usage

Another solid debate on Primer:

http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/files/primer/discussion/27542/

This one's about an article on FoxSports.com, stating that the 9th inning might actually be harder to pitch in than the seventh. As usual, the discussion brought up the 2003 Red Sox bullpen experiment. People like to refer to that as "closer by committee."

"Closer by committee" was not a flawed philosophy, IMO. It didn't work b/c the Red Sox had a crappy bullpen. Here's what Epstein did throughout that season to fix it:

  • May 29, 2003: Traded Shea Hillenbrand to Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for Byung-Hyun Kim.
  • July 2, 2003: Todd Jones signed as a free agent.
  • July 22, 2003: Traded Brandon Lyon and Anastacio Martinez to Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Mike Gonzalez and Scott Sauerbeck.
  • July 30, 2003: Traded Phil Dumatrait to Cincinnati Reds in exchange for Scott Williamson.
OK, so the Sox added Sauerbeck, Williamson, Kim, and Jones to their pen...their pen was BAD to start the year. Usage didn't matter; ability did.

Anyway, to me, there are a few "flaws" in bullpen usage that could be pretty easily fixed:
  • In extra inning games on the road, some managers insist on saving their best reliever for the save situation. This is a completely illogical mindset, IMO.
  • "Closer by committee" is a bit of a misnomer. Let's bring out the best pitcher for the toughest batters. Example: 3-4-5 up in the 8th, up by a run. Who do you go to if you're, say, the Astros? Chad Qualls? Or Brad Lidge? I'd bring in Lidge for the big bats.
  • Based on the guys in the pen, I would also pitch my closer on fewer days but for more innings. Say the starter goes 7 and I'm in a tie game. My relief ace hasn't thrown in a couple of days....maybe it's best to give him 2 innings there instead of one.
  • If up by 3 in the 9th against the bottom of the order, don't waste your closer. It just adds unnecessary wear to his arm and could hurt you for the next day's game.
  • Ideally, you'd want to go to your closer with the bases loaded in the 7th rather than with the bases empty in the 9th....but "warming up" a pitcher makes that difficult (that's a point I try to ignore when pitching that philosophy). If trouble starts down the stretch, get the closer up.
I have no statistical basis for my opinions on this one, but I think that there IS a better way than what we see now. Even yesterday with the Red Sox-Yankees. Psychologically, it made sense to go to Rivera there (b/c Rivera was desperate for a save against those guys). But I'd want to save Rivera for a closer (no pun intended) affair.

I think that the reason that the closer system has become the preferred model is because it leaves the fewest questions for the manager to answer at the end of the game. Wille Randolph had it easy after Looper blew the save on Opening Day. I mean, who else could he have turned to, there? How can a reporter criticize him for going to his closer in the 9th? Only the rabid lunatic fans and those who fear The Wrath of DunnTM (me) were pushing for Koo to stay in the game, and for me, that was partially Met-fan paranoia seeping through. Without a true closer system, you'd lose a few more games in the 9th, one would think. And those are the toughest losses to swallow....the ones where the opponent gets to jump around home plate in a synchronized manner (never understood that ritual, btw).

The point was made in the thread a lot, though, and it shows: managers have little creativity when it comes to bullpen usage. If you've only got 1 really good reliever (or even good reliever), why not use him for more than an inning but on fewer days? With a team like the Dodgers, it makes a bit less sense, b/c Brazoban and Gagne is pretty potent in the 8th and 9th. But the scariest games for the opponent are the ones that are over by the 7th. I want the manager in the other dugout to be pressing during the whole game, worrying that it's a 7 inning game somehow. He may play for one run rather than a big inning in the 6th because he's scared of coming out with nothing. Something like that. Most teams don't have the relievers to make a game a 7-inning game (or even a 6 2/3 inning game if you show the propensity to bring in Lidge with 2 on and 2 out in the 7th), but if you can create that, say, 30 times in a season, that could be a difference.

Here's the bigger stretch: get more guys who are tooled to be starters and go with a 4-man rotation. I'll go with the Phillies, this time, as my example:

Starters
1. Randy Wolf
2. Jon Leiber
3. Vicente Padilla (if healthy)
4. Gavin Floyd

Bullpen (no order)
Brett Myers
Cory Lidle
Ryan Madson
Terry Adams
Rheal Cormier
Billy Wagner
Robinson Tejeda

Myers, Lidle, Madson, Adams, and Tejeda (he's a walks-crazy minor leaguer) all have innings potential (that is, they've started before and with some frequency). You can play with them based on matchups and have your starters pitch fewer innings.

Again, I have no backing for any of this; I have neither the time nor the know-how to prove that point, and I doubt that it's applicable all the time. Lack of creativity, though, from these teams. If the Phillies find themselves 10 out come June 10, why not give something like this a shot? You could unload the Todd Worrells of the team who wouldn't serve much of a purpose under this to relief-desperate teams in the hunt (Houston? Mets? Cincy?) and probably net a couple of intriguing prospects.

That's enough unsubstantiated speculation for the day....

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Phil Garner

Strikes again!

He failed to bring in Lidge without a lead and loses the ballgame....

Clemens goes 7 strong. 0-0 is the score.
Goes to Chad Qualls for 2.
Then John Franco for a batter!
Then Dan Wheeler!

But no Lidge. Mets win in 11. Lidge hasn't thrown a pitch.

The object should be to GET to the later innings. Then worry about the win....this is so intuitive and it gets screwed up so often, it just boggles my mind.

Monday, April 11, 2005

1999 Draft - Top 10

1. Devil Rays - Josh Hamilton
2. Marlins - Josh Beckett
3. Tigers - Eric Munson
4. D'Backs - Corey Myers
5. Twins - B.J. Garbe
6. Expos - Josh Girdley
7. Royals - Kyle Snyder
8. Pirates - Bobby Bradley
9. A's - Barry Zito
10. Brewers - Ben Sheets

I see three bona fida star pitchers in that Top 10. The reason why I bring this up is that I was thinking about Moneyball and how it was referenced that Beane opted for Zito over Sheets, even though the "scout pick" was Sheets.

When Moneyball was written, it was quite obvious who the better pick had been. Zito was in the midst of a Cy Young season and one which made losing Giambi and Damon easier to stomach. Sheets was breaking into the bigs and experiencing some growing pains (although showing some potential). Beckett had shredded minor league hitters, but he hadn't yet established himself in the bigs and I think had been injured already.

So where are we now (as of Opening Day)?

Josh Beckett - 26 wins, 430.3 IP, 9.22 K/9, 3.45 BB/9, 116 ERA+, .136 ISO allowed, 3.54 FIP
Barry Zito - 72 wins, 981 IP, 7.10 K/9, 3.41 BB/9, 132 ERA+, .127 ISO allowed, 4.01 FIP
Ben Sheets - 45 wins, 825.7 IP, 7.47 K/9, 2.10 BB/9, 107 ERA+, .160 ISO allowed, 3.78 FIP

In terms of career accomplishments, the nod goes to Zito, who has already won a Cy Young and, if he turns it back around this year, will have 100 wins by the age of 28. That's fairly incredible.

Sheets has made the biggest strides, putting up a Cy Young caliber season last year. His 264/32 K/BB is quite outstanding. His career numbers don't show how improved he was last year.

Beckett may be the best of the three if he ever fixes his blister problems. My so-called "scout's eye" thinks that Beckett has the best stuff of the three of them, but that's entirely too subjective. You can make a case for any of them on that account, and Beckett's the guy I get to see the most often b/c he pitches in the NL East. In other news, he's also the youngest of the three.

FIP is NOT park adjusted, and I think that accounts for Beckett's very low FIP to start out his career. I would take those numbers with a grain of salt, and I can't find good 3-year average park factors to adjust for park.

I went into this without an opinion I was trying to prove; I'm merely trying to formulate one right now. I don't know which guy will be the best draft pick in the long run. Steve Phillips, former Met GM and current ESPN writer, said in a chat:

Barry started showing signs of weakness in 2004. Left handed hitters dominated him during the season. His velocity has dropped off some and he has difficulty throwing the curve for a strike. Hitters have realized they should take the curve and sit on a mediocre fastball. Zito has become very hittable and very ordinary.

I don't know how much I buy into this. Zito's Ks went back up last year, and it's two bad starts. I'll give him time.

I think, as of now, Barry Zito was the best of the draft picks based on the speed with which the A's got their returns. Zito, again, already has 72 wins. Wins are fairly useless as a pitching evaluator, but that's an awfully high number for a young guy. If Zito's career has peaked, then the only error in that pick was not maximizing returns on Barry through trade. Beane doesn't think it is; he cites Zito's flawless injury record, among other things.

The best of the three when it's all said and done? I don't know. Sheets did make major strides last year, and his DIPS were spectacular. Zito's already had a nice little career. And Beckett already has a World Series ring, one which he was instrumental in acquiring for the Marlins.

If I had to pick one skill among these three that was best, it's Sheets' control. It has improved markedly over the last 3 years, including last year, when he posted a 1.2 BB/9, which is incredible for such a power pitcher. Randy Johnson has never approached that; his lowest was actually last year, with a 1.6.

So I've failed in my objective; nothing is jumping out at me that says that one will be best. Typical sabermetric tenets say that Zito won't survive as long because he's not a power pitcher, but hell, Greg Maddux wasn't a power guy, either. And Zito does strike people out (usually).

This is an interesting topic; the three will always be intertwined for me and I will follow their careers with interest. And, who knows? Maybe Bobby Bradley cracks the bigs this year and adds a fourth interesting guy to this group.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Series Wrapup: Mets at Braves

Results of the Series

Braves win 2 out of 3.

Braves: 4-2
Mets: 1-5

Top Performers

Mets: Jose Reyes - .500 BA, 1 HR, 1 2B, 3 R, major baserunning error; Pedro Martinez - 9 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 9 K, 0 HR
Braves: John Smoltz - 7.3 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 15 K; John Thomson - 7 IP, 9 H, 1 R, 1 HR, 0 BB, 5 K

Worst Performers

Mets: Aaron Heilman - 5 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 2 HR, 3 K; Victor Diaz - .000 BA, 2 K, poor defense
Braves: Rafael Furcal - .071 BA, 0 HR, 1 RBI

One sentence summary:

Pedro and Beltran prevent near disaster and a sweep.

Longer summary:

What's the significance of 1 game?

It's difficult to determine. One game doesn't go a long way in the long run. But for the Mets, there might be something to that "demoralized" theory. The Mets hadn't seen a lead for 43 innings and were being dominated by a fantastic John Smoltz, who had one of the best outings I've ever seen. But he kept a slider up in the zone, and Beltran pulled it. Out.

I'm happy to say that I offered a first guess, during the game, that the Braves should've taken Smoltz out after 7 because of a rising pitch count. But he was frankly overwhelming until the Beltran at bat.

I give credit to Reyes for redeeming himself for his baserunning blunder with his critical at bat in the eighth. He saw 5 pitches and roped a single to right. Cairo bunted Reyes over to second, and then Beltran earned his paycheck. Floyd followed, and Wright hit a bomb as well. And the Mets got the elephant off of their backs.

Friday and Saturday, the team looked lethargic and hit that way. In fact, here are some stats on the first 25 innings of this series for the Mets:

94 AB, 22 H, 4 BB, 30 K, .234/.265/.319

Pretty atrocious from the Mets, and I don't care what you hit with RISP; you're not going to score runs that way.

The 8th inning for the Mets:

7 AB, 5 H, 1 BB, 1 K, .714/.818/2.143

You can see the difference.

Give credit to John Thomson, who was not a bad pitcher with the Mets and who has really figured it out, it seems. He's a groundball guy and was impressive.

Also due credit is Victor Zambrano, who continues to show flashes of potential, even in a mediocre outing. He was hurt by his defense but can be unhittable at times.

Not due credit is Aaron Heilman, who grooved a horrendous pitch with the bases loaded that Jordan sent to dead center. I think we've seen enough of Heilman as a starter, but I was doing some reading, and I came across this:

Big East pitcher of year has excellent control, good mechanics and could be first college pitcher drafted. Overpowers hitters with sinking fastball that hits 92-94 mph and induces lots of groundouts. Has been one of nation's top strikeout artists past three seasons. Future as major league closer likely. Needs to continue development of slider and changeup.

He DOES have good stuff. He was hitting the mid-90s with his fastball, and his breaking pitches were "disappearing" at times. Let's put him in the pen. See what happens. He can't be much worse than what's out there.

Game Three's Bullets:


  • Pedro Martinez was superb today. Not just good, superb. As I've said, he's a treat to watch, and it's great to be able to see a future Hall of Famer every 5th day before he's completely washed up. DIPS is a very valid system, but Martinez was jamming hitters all day and "inducing" pop-ups. I wonder what kind of control he has over that....
  • David Wright's catch in the second will get overlooked, but it was one of the most outstanding catches I've seen in a very long time...into the sun, over the shoulder. They're a much better team defensively this year; it's evident in the early going, in most places...
  • John Smoltz was as good as John Smoltz has ever been today, and his first seven innings were as dominant as any seven innings I've ever seen. The number of swings at splitters that just fell off the table and the number of 0-2 counts are the best indicators. This is a game where I'd like to look at "contact frequency allowed." There were a ton of swings and misses. My thought is that he may be a 100-or-so pitch pitcher at this point. I would consider setting a limit around there for him, if I were Cox.
  • Cairo and Castro, the two subs, had nice games, picking up 4 of the 6 hits in the first 7 innings. I can see why he sat Matsui, but why has Piazza had two off days in five games? Didn't Willie say that he's not necessarily going to give Piazza the day-game after the night-game off?

Quick hits: You've gotta wonder what Willie's going to do if Martinez were in a situation with Pedro in a closer game with a higher pitch count.....Petit threw 3 perfect innings in AA on Saturday....Pedro's two Game Scores were 64 and 87....The pitching staff has struck out 9.91 per 9 innings....The 10 Met home runs have accounted for 14 of their 22 runs, or 63.6% of their scoring.

Number of the series:

50.0 - the percentage of outs in Sunday's game from strikeouts.

Next Series: Houston Astros v. New York Mets

Monday, 4/11, 1:10 PM - Andy Pettitte v. Tom Glavine
Wednesday, 4/13, 7:10 PM - Roger Clemens v. Kaz Ishii
Thursday, 4/14, 7:10 PM - Brandon Backe v. Victor Zambrano

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Brad Wilkerson

Brad Wilkerson has improved in categories consistently over the last 3 years:

Adj. Isolated Power (using PECOTA's method of counting 2Bs and 3Bs as the same):

2002: .187
2003: .188
2004: .240

BB/PA

2002: .134
2003: .148
2004: .154

K/PA

2002: .267
2003: .257
2004: .221

SecAvg

2002: .361
2003: .379
2004: .441

Aaron Gleeman wrote an article last year that I thought of when I looked at these numbers (I linked the article right before posting).

So, is Brad Wilkerson on the cusp of eliteness? Is this the year? Gotta love those trends, though, and his fantastic first week.....
--------------------------------------
(written after the Mets game)

I do think that Wilkerson is a very, very good player, and he could take another step forward this year (cut down on his K's again, hit a few more homers). He's also a prototypical stathead draftpick, before it was really fashionable (I have no idea why the 'Spos picked him...but here's what SI.com has from a while back, all the way back in 1998):

37. Brad Wilkerson, of-p, U. of Florida, Owensboro, Ky., 21
(L-L, 6-0, 193, .347, 196, 68, 21, 63, 18)
Pitcher vs. player ?'s still exist; some fear another Drew situation.
He pitched in college, too, but he was an overwhelming hitter. Here are his three seasons:

1996: .407/.547/.635
1997: .386/.507/.767
1998: .347/.538/.743

Yeah. Fantastic college numbers, in an age where the stats weren't as scrutinized. He went to AA in 1999, where in a full season, he demonstrated....a below average season. His only real plus was his walk-rate; he walked 42 times and struck out 38 times in 422 at bats, leading to a .370 OBP.

In 2000, Wilkerson smoked the ball for half a season in AA, crushing AA pitching for 36 doubles in 229 at bats, putting up an impressive .336/.441/.590 line and earning a midseason promotion to AAA. He didn't hit as well, but the walks remained throughout the next two years of minor league ball. (I'm curious where he was listed in 2002's top prospects lists. I don't have any with me here.) In 2001, he got 117 at bats in the bigs for a relatively long cup of coffee (call it the Venti at your local overpriced Starbucks), and again, put up an on-base of 99 points above his very low batting average. Necessity or faith got him a spot in the lineup in 2002, where he did not disappoint. He's improved steadily since then, and he's starting out 2005 on a high note.

I like Wilkerson a lot. He was one of the first guys I saw when I'd seriously started to look at walks and such as important, and when rumours (I love the British spelling) surfaced of his name going to the Mets, I was hopeful. They never did materialize. Can you blame the 'Spos? They've got themselves a heck of a ballplayer now....

I do expect Wilkerson to improve again this year, partially due to his second half stats:

First half: .232/.354/.464
Second half: .280/.394/.534

We don't know how RFK will play, but Wilkerson's improvements from 2003 are greatly magnified b/c 2003 was a very hitter-heavy year, and 2004 was more of a pitcher's year. I'd tab him for a 140 OPS+ and at least to become a more common name around baseball for this season. I just hope he saves his best games for the Phils, Marlins, and Braves....

The Sabermetric Transformation

At some point, it happens...for some reason, we ask the question: are we evaluating this right?

It happpened to me a bit differently, and it was almost 4 years ago that it happened. But I'll give some background.

I'm 18 years old now, a college freshman. I started watching baseball in 1994 (at the tender age of 7). So you can imagine how depressing it was to have my first season cancelled by something I barely understood and only could decipher with the help of my dad's disappointment and WFAN.

But there was nothing I looked forward to more than the opener in 1995. It was April 27, I think, and the Mets were playing the Rockies. I listened to most of that game, as I listened to Gary Cohen and Bob Murphy paint the ageless Brett Butler's leadoff at bat...it was a nice thing. And I was hooked.

The next few years weren't "die-hard." I was still a young guy then, but by 1996, I'd deciphered a lot of what was happening. The Yankees weren't going to beat the Braves that year! The Braves were really good....oh wait. Got that one wrong, there.

I was good at math in those days (while I'm still OK at math, I hate it, unless it has to do with baseball), so I loved reading the box scores. Numbers telling the results. Batting average was king for hitters. Steals were great, too.

The next step in my evolution was a text-based simulator: Baseball Mogul. My friend bought it, and, luckily, you didn't need the CD to run it. So I played it very frequently (usually in spurts). I best remember the game for it's usage of great names like "Bytch Honry" instead of Butch Henry.

I got a newer version of Mogul two years later, and that one, I took very seriously. Two stats ended up catching my attention in that game: "Production" (which is known more commonly as OPS) and "Team Defense" (which is either DER or 1-BABIP). My friend Craig (who is as into this stuff as much as or more than I am) and I would play that frequently as well, sitting at the computer for hours. One of the interesting things was a fictional league from the 1940s and 50s that we did. I was the Giants and played my games at the Polo Grounds....and I lost a lot of games b/c of bad defensive outfielders in the corners. I replaced them, my Defense score went up, and my pitching improved. I found that interesting.

The turning point, though, was certainly high school. As an eighth grader in 2000, I boldly predicted that the Mets would go to the World Series. They did, for reasons much different than the ones I thought would get them there. But that was cool, and I really thought I'd figured the game out. I remember not being too happy with who won the MVP in 2000 (I think I wanted Piazza to get it, but Kent won. This persuaded me to do the next part of this....).

Come spring, the teachers were describing our options for summer reading. The list of books we had was OK, and I was pretty settled on reading April Morning and 3 other books for sophomore year. But the other option was the "Independent Summer Learning Experience," where we'd pick a topic that interested us, do some research, and then write 10 journal entries describing the process. I spent a week or two trying to come up with a topic to no avail, but towards the end of Biology, I came up with one. I presented it to the teacher, and he said it was good.

"To devise a statistic to determine the league's most deserving MVP winner."

I was young and stupid with this stuff in those days (now I'm just older and stupid), but I had no idea about the field of sabermetrics being so involved and scientific. I just thought that there were numbers and no one ever bothered to adjust them. I was quite wrong.

So there were two main places that really swayed me, and it wasn't reading or finding Bill James that did it (that came after these guys):

Stephen Tomlinson's Blue Jays Abstract
Introducing XR

Tomlinson's work was like reading Darwin's The Descent of Man as a creationist. This guy was projecting the number of wins the Blue Jays would get and was doing a really good job of it. How? Could I do this with Mets stats?

But his little primer for GMs and his article on Paul Johnson's ERP were most influential.

His warnings:

Attention general managers: always check the runs produced formula as part of your evaluation of a ball player.
Attention general managers: always, always, always check the park factor before evaluating yours or other teams' talent.
Attention general managers: always check what you have in your minor league system, or what you can acquire from someone else's system, before investing in "proven" players.
Attention general managers: always check on which side of 27 a player's age is when evaluating the player.
Attention general managers: compute the estimated number of wins a player will add to your team before spending millions.

Wait, 25-29 is the peak? I thought a player's prime was 28-32! Park-adjusted numbers exist?

John Olerud was the selling point in all of this. Tomlinson outlines why the Jays should have kept Olerud, whose production was undervalued in comparison to Joe Carter b/c of RBIs (I did kinda figure out the RBIs thing on my own; players with no runners on base aren't going to get RBIs). And I remembered how solid Olerud was for the Mets (and how he was one of my favorite Mets) in 1997-1999.

ERP was the other eye-opener: ((3*1B)+(5*2B)+(7*3B)+(9*HR)+(2*BB)+(SB)-(Outs*.61))*.16 = ERP. Something that simple could estimate a player's value? At the bottom of that article was the XR formula. So I googled it and came to the second article on that list.

XR was like ERP, but it worked for me more...I dunno why. Furtado made a convincing case, and I still frequently use XR. So the components of XR were definitely part of my little MVP formula, for which I was beginning to realize how much deeper I'd have to go for all of this. I wasn't at the cutting edge; this was developed.

My two other things I thought I needed to add to the XR for my project:

- winning percentage
- BA with runners in scoring position.

Then I found David Grabiner's Clutch Hitting Study, and he's saying that clutch hitters don't exist! And he can prove it! This was all quite a bit for me to handle as a traditionalist.

Stolen bases were risky and not worth very much. Walks were worth almost as much as hits, in the XR formula. Sacrifice bunts are only worth .04 runs? It was all very different.

After much thought, I opted not to put in the BARISP into my formula, so I just had a winning percentage adjustment. (It was something like adding 30*winning percentage to the XR formula; I don't even remember now.) I still believe that BARISP is important to determine value because hits that are with runners on are worth more in a game-context (we see this now with the Win Expectancy approach). But in terms of player evaluation, it's really not worth much.

The project got a 96. I felt bad for the female English teacher who graded it. I think that it was all so foreign to her that she just gave me a 96 to say, "well, I can't give you anything higher because this could possibly be bad, but I can't penalize you for going in depth."

I was now starting to apply this line of thinking to my everyday baseball-watching. I'd watch players in disdain at times when the sac bunt would be dropped (a single is worth 12 times that, was my thought). I still hadn't embraced it all.

My next attack was pitching. It occurred to me that pitchers' ERAs can be skewed by one horrendous game, when, in reality, giving up 30 runs and giving up 9 runs in the first inning are pretty close in terms of negative value. If you could break down a pitcher's pitching performance into 1 number based on the innings and the runs allowed, you'd be grading them more fairly and rewarding the pitchers who gave you the best chance to win the game. (I called the stat "Earned Win Percentage." Basically, if a pitcher did this, the average team would win _____% of the time.) It ended up just being a stat to see which start was better from a pitcher, which was flawed inherently.

Example: 9 innings, 0 runs got a score of 100.00%. 8 innings, 0 runs got 98.25%, because the only start that could beat it was the 9,0. This progressed in similar fashion on two lists: the innings-favoring list and the runs-favoring list.

I wrote an article for Baseball Primer, because I really thought I had something. In retrospect, it was dumb. It wasn't well-researched because I didn't have the time or the information available (to compile numbers, I literally combed through Sportsline boxscores, putting them into Excel). Several times after this, I tried to make a similar model based on probability, but the system always broke down while I was getting my numbers (negatives would come into play, which hurt it a lot). I do think that the idea still has some potential, and if a pitcher's stats seem weird, I look at the game logs to see if it's consistent or b/c of one really bad game.

One of the things I always liked to do was to calculate the numbers myself. I didn't just want to read the statsheets, I wanted to make an Excel spreadsheet that did the calculations myself. That was always my problem with Michael Wolverton's SNWL. While the stat is great, it's too complicated for me to program and too detailed for me to memorize.

As time progressed and I read more stuff, I gradually accepted a lot of the tenets of sabermetrics. "Wasting outs" is not good. OPS is a quick and dirty stat but it counts singles twice. The "three true outcomes" are the most important skills in pitching (I kind of disagree with this; I think that G/F ratio is a bit more important than homers, but that's not all that original, either).

Perhaps it was because watching the New York Giants has been so painful of late, but I find myself counting the days until Spring Training in November. That's why I have this blog. I won't profess to be particularly insightful; occassionally, I'll come up with something, but it's rare. But I want to do something with it, more than just watch. I host a radio show on 91.1 WZBT, Gettysburg, on Sunday mornings here, about baseball (The aforementioned Craig is actually willing to wake up and call over the phone to talk over the air). It was my childhood goal to be an announcer or a sports writer, but I've largely abandoned that and made it into a hobby (I now want to teach history to pay the bills). So I write here these days and I read other people's stuff. I remember a few years ago, another friend of mine almost set up a sports site to do some form of coverage, called FLSports, but it never got off the ground. Which was alright; there's always other ventures, like this one here.

So yeah, I love baseball. I play Out of the Park baseball now, which is like "Baseball Mogul EXTREME" with all sorts of other factors. If I lived before the age of computers, I'd be a child of Strat-o-Matic, I'm sure. I love baseball history, too, although I don't know as much about it as other forms of history, which is sadly disappointing, at times. I wrote a friggin' college essay on wishing I were at the October 3, 1951 ballgame at the Polo Grounds. Yeah, I'm a nerd.

I'm happy to be here, though, and even as I sit at my desk at 12:36 and finish this up, having listened to another Met loss, it's good. The game is alive and well; steroids haven't killed it. The next crisis won't kill it either. And I'll be watching. Or listening.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Series Wrap-up: Mets / Reds

I'm going to try this for a bit....this'll be the series-wrapup feature, and I will do all my Met stuff here. Other entries will be more on random baseball.

Results of the series

Mets: 0 W, 3 L (0-3 season record)
Reds: 3 W, 0 L (3-0 season record)

Top performers

Mets: David Wright, 4 for 9, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 BB, .625 OBP
Reds: Joe Randa, 5 for 11, 2 HRs, 7 RBIs, 1 2B, 1 BB

Worst performers

Mets: Mike DeJean and Braden Looper, 1.3 innings, 6 hits, 7 runs, 2 BB, 1 Ks, 3 HRs allowed
Reds: David Weathers, 1.3 innings, 4 hits, 2 runs, 1 BB, 0 K (and left with the bases loaded today).

One sentence summary:

It's going to be a long year, Met fans.

Longer summary:

I don't know how much stock you can put into the "demoralizing ballgame" theory, but if there ever were one, it was Monday's season opener for the Mets. Taking a 6-4 lead into the 9th, if you blinked, you missed Adam Dunn tie the game. If you got a quick snack, you came back and saw the Reds mob Randa at home plate. The one supposedly dependable guy in this bullpen blew it, too; it wasn't Heredia or Aybar or Koo or anyone else that Met fans fear pitching.

With some reservations, I put a great deal of stock in second half numbers. It was the reason that I took Santana in the first round in both fantasy leagues I'm doing; while his DIPS numbers and stuff weren't as exceptional as his typical stats, his second half was other-worldly. Looper went the other way in the second half, and most lacking was his strikeout rate....

First half: 7.88 K/9
Second half: 4.54 K/9

The drop there is over 42%. It's definitely worth keeping an eye on.

The other two games weren't as close or compelling. In Game 2, Glavine didn't pitch well, and the 'pen was shaky again. The damage this time was from Mike DeJean, who somehow defaulted into a setup role this offseason, and he all of a sudden was getting credit for being a good reliever. He pitched well for a small stretch last season, that was it. I don't understand where that came from.

In Game 3, we see a completely normal and expected outcome when Kaz Ishii pitches:
1. Walk a few guys early.
2. Give up a few runs on a hit or two.
3. Walk more guys, but work around it.
4. Strike out a solid amount of batters.
5. Give up another run or two before getting taken out with a runner (or two) left on.
6. Watch runner(s) score.
7. Repeat every 5th day.

As far as the Mets go, the oversight that is witnessed here was not in the fact that the bullpen is weak. It's that they're wasting roster spots on journeymen, rather then pitchers with potential. The results would most likely be similar.

The five journeymen that the Mets are carrying and some career info:


  • Mike DeJean: 34 years old, 4.31 career ERA (114 ERA+), 1.51 WHIP, 6.34 K/9, 4.18 BB/9. Dejean looks like an OK option for middle relief. He can be plagued by inconsistency; his games in Baltimore were very poor, especially control-wise. After coming to NY, he became a different pitcher, striking batters out at a very high rate and avoiding walks for a 4.8 K/BB. Very nice last year. But this was in 21.3 innings; the sample size is awfully small.
  • Manny Aybar: 35 years old, 5.05 career ERA (87 ERA+). Enough said. Aybar earned this spot solely on his spring training, which didn't bother me too much b/c of the alternatives. He has shown flashes in the past, but he's never put it together. A guy like Aybar shouldn't be wasting a roster spot, even on a good spring.
  • Roberto Hernandez: 40 years old, ERA rising since 1999, yearly. Walk rate jumped to 4.61 last year. I believe he still has a job because he closed at one point in his career.
  • Mike Matthews: 31 years old (young blood!), career ERA 4.41 (93 ERA+). Not particularly good with walk rate, had a solid year in 2001. I think he's in the majors because he throws with his left arm....and he's relatively batter-neutral (slightly better against lefties).
  • Felix Heredia: 29 years old! 4.44 career ERA (97 ERA+), too many walks, not enough strikeouts. Holds lefties to a low batting average but can get hit for homers (OPS is close for righties and lefties). Heredia quickly got into the Yankee doghouse last year and the Yankees were happy to trade him for Stanton. He's only on the team b/c Met management doesn't understand sunk costs. There's no reason to carry both Heredia and Matthews. Neither is very good, and both throw with their left arms.
  • Dae-Sung Koo: May as well have him around as another left arm. Koo and ONE of Heredia and Matthews should be on the team. DeJean as well. Aybar, Hernandez, and the other of Heredia/Matthews should go, in favor of Heath Bell, whose 7 years worth of minor league numbers have him with a 10.14 K/9 and 2.55 BB/9 and Blake McGinley, a LEFTY reliever who strikes people out...291 minor league innings, 331 Ks.

Bartolome Fortunato is on the DL now, but he should be in there as the third guy, when he comes back. Point is, they should use their minor league pitchers rather than players whose only ability is having held onto a major league job at all. I know that this is a bit hackneyed at this point, but I'll say it again: let's see the minor leaguers!

In other news, Wright proved the most in this series (especially in the third game); he showed his willingness to take the walk. It's funny that Randolph says that we can expect to see Wright anywhere from 2-8 in the lineup; I think he should be leading off.

1. D. Wright (3B)
2. D. Mientkiewicz (1B)
3. C. Beltran (CF)
4. M. Piazza (C)
5. C. Floyd (LF)
6. K. Matsui (2B)
7. M. Cameron (RF)
8. J. Reyes (SS)

That's my ideal lineup for this team, at this point, but I don't see it ever happening. This alignment gives you a ton of speed at the bottom, rather than the top, which just gets on base.

I'm not one of the full-fledged Ginter supporters, but there are a ton of guys in AAA who they could have acquired for a lower price who could have done a job equal to or better than a typical outing from Kaz Ishii.

The Reds came out swinging, led by the onslaught from Adam Dunn in the first game, who hit two monster homers that still haven't landed. The Reds are a tough team to pitch to. They work counts (Jiminez doesn't get enough credit for that, but it's one of his strengths) and tire pitches quickly. I will not recant my initial statement on Cincy; I don't think that they'll finish over .500. That staff isn't good; Milton will do what he normally does. Wilson will be around average. Harang's not bad, but he gives up an awful lot of homers....to me, it boils down to Luke Hudson for their rotation. Hudson was real good last year in 9 starts, but he's not a prospect, really; he's 28 (this May). I like guys like this, but he's gotta be really good for that rotation to get anyone out. Their bullpen is also fairly weak, too, so they're similar to the Mets in a lot of ways.

Verdict for the Mets: this was the second-worst non-injury scenario I could have imagined for the Mets in the opening series. Glavine didn't look good. Ishii didn't have any real semblance of improved control (although after walking the first two guys, he wasn't awful). The bullpen was disastrous. Reyes is only showing flashes, not real results, and he seems to robotically take the first pitch and then come out hacking. Piazza's batting .200 (it's early).

The only thing worse would have been if Pedro hadn't looked sharp in addition to all of this.

Number of the series

858 - The combined distance of Adam Dunn's two home runs on Monday in feet, one traveling 424 feet, the other traveling 434 feet.

Next series: New York Mets v. Atlanta Braves

Friday, 4/8, 7:35 PM: Victor Zambrano v. John Thomson
Saturday, 4/9, 7:05 PM: TBA [edit]: Aaron Heilman v. Horacio Ramirez
Sunday, 4/10, 1:05 PM: Pedro Martinez v. John Smoltz

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Follow up to yesterday's proposal....

Sportsline logs the pitch data on a day-by-day basis! So I think it will be enough to do what I'm looking to do; by combining the play-by-play data and the "Game Charts," I can synthesize some numbers on a game-by-game basis. The sample game will be Game 2 of the New York Mets' season, the April 6 game against the Cincinnati Reds. This is entirely based off of Sportsline's judgement of where the pitches were (and a called strike is a called strike, even if Sportsline had it out of the zone).

Click here for tonight's information

I ended up recording the following numbers:

TFP% - Taken First Pitch Percentage - percent at bats in which the batter took the first pitch.
P/PA - Pitches per plate appearance
AF - Aggression Frequency - Swings on pitches out of the zone divided by total pitches.
CF - Contact Frequency - Swings with contact divided by total swings.
PTF - Pitches Taken Frequency - Number of pitches taken divided by number of pitches seen.
CSF - Called Strike Frequency - Percentage of pitches taken for strikes.

There are a lot of other derivations you can get from the information....these are the five I chose for this particular version. (I considered doing a "pitch judgement" feature, comparing balls taken to total pitches taken, but taking strikes isn't necessarily a bad thing.) As of now, I think that the best thing here to have would be to evaluate all hitters based on their aggression frequency, with the lowest AF being the "most disciplined." I'm still fooling around with comparing things to total pitches seen or total swings.....but getting the information is most important.

Anyway, I recorded every plate apperance for the Mets with the following numbers, using the Sportsline data:


  • First pitch result? (swing / take)
  • Strikes looking
  • Foul balls (in the strike zone)
  • Foul balls (out of the strike zone)
  • Strikes swinging (in the strike zone)
  • Strikes swinging (out of the strike zone)
  • Balls
  • Batted Balls in Play (in the strike zone)
  • Batted Balls in Play (out of the strike zone)
  • Total Pitches
  • Total Strikes

I then combined each player's plate apperances into one line and took the percentages. I think that this information would be best with a large sampling rather than one game, but this is what I'm looking at. It takes around an hour to do one team, though, using the Sportsline information....it's very involved, unfortunately. I could theoretically track the Met starters for the year b/c that wouldn't be too involved....I could even record it while listening to the ballgame. I doubt I could keep up for a full season, though.

And I did this from around 11-12 tonight, while I should have been studying for bio.

Oh, so what were the observations from this?

- Wright, Matsui, and Beltran made contact each time they swung.
- Only Matsui did not swing at anything outside of the zone.
- 3.13 P/PA is extraordinarily low for a team. The NL average last year was 3.75...only AJ Pierzynski's 3.08 was lower.
- In his first four at bats, Reyes seemed really, really predictable (from listening to the radio broadcast and looking at the numbers). He took the first pitch each time, and then he hacked. Reyes is far, far too aggressive at the plate. His fifth plate appearance showed this clearly; he was overanxious and attacked the first pitch.
- I'm going to keep monitoring when Wright swings and misses at his first pitch.....I think that frequent contact in swings demonstrates excellent bat control....Wright and Beltran seem very good in that already.

I do want to keep looking into this....I'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Plate Discipline, Again

I looked at the concept of plate discipline a few weeks back, and I hypothesized that P/PA is not the best indicator of plate discipline (although it is the best existing measure) because of the fact that strikeouts add to the P/PA, and, theoretically, the most disciplined hitters would not strike out too often. I had the problem of weighting each part of this little stat that I was thinking about, but last night, at a very late hour, I had some ideas.

First and foremost, I decided to make it a sum of ranks, rather than an actual score. This was inspired by rotisserie-style fantasy baseball. That has its obvious flaws; Barry Bonds is not incredibly rewarded for his walks, but, in reality, Bonds's amazing walk totals are less a product of plate discipline than opponents' fear; he was intentionally walked a ton last year.

So this system essentially sums a player's ML ranks in lowest K/PA, highest P/PA, and highest (BB-IBB)/PA. There were 156 qualifiers for the comparison. The best score possible was a 3. No one got a 3 (A 3 would be #1 in all three of those categories). The worst score possible was a 468, I think, and no one got that, either. Here are some ranks, though.

1. Todd Helton - 59
2. Barry Bonds - 62
3. Johnny Damon - 70
4. Luis Castillo - 73
5. Scott Hatteberg - 75
6. Jason Kendall - 76
7. Rafael Palmeiro - 96
8. Ray Durham - 96
9. Bobby Abreu - 100
10. D'Angelo Jiminez - 110

It's an interesting spread of hitters, but most of them have a reputation for being very patient and disciplined hitters (especially a guy like Scott Hatteberg, whose OPS last year was one of the lowest among AL first basemen. You can see some additional value in this).

The worsts?

1. Corey Patterson - 420
2. Alex Gonzalez - 408
3. Pedro Feliz - 392
4. Geoff Jenkins - 374
5. Alfonso Soriano - 367
6. Aaron Rowand - 358
7t. Angel Berroa - 355
7t. Rocco Baldelli - 355
9. Torii Hunter - 347
10. Marquis Grissom - 344

Honorable mention goes to AJ Pierzynski, who scored dead last in two categories, but second in a third (he's tough to fan, but he doesn't walk or see pitches at all).

Plate discipline does not correlate with production, I don't think. While the trend line is negative in a graph comparing RC and plate discipline (as discipline decreases, so does production), the R2 value is only .14, which is not particularly significant, I don't think (I've never taken a stat class, so I'm trying to remember this from pre-calculus, calculus and high school math).

So now I have a plate discipline score to work with, which is what I was looking for. It's crude but it's another number to have around.

This is not the end, however.

I think that plate discipline is a skill that is not rated / scored correctly, even with a pretty simple little tool like this one. And I think I know how to fix that......there's a wealth of data out there that we don't keep, and it's important information. I want to know how a hitter responds to pitch location. I think that there are numbers to be made of a hitter's pitch selection. Does he tend to chase balls low and away? Does he not chase pitches at all? Does he foul off a lot of pitches? Does he swing at pitches out of the zone? What about if we take out the first pitch, which many batters take intuitively? A few sample numbers:

"Aggression frequency" - percentage of pitches considered balls that he swings at.
"Hack frequency" - percentage of balls that are substantially off the plate that he swings at.
"Contact frequency" - percentage of swings that make contact.
"Pitches taken frequency" - percentage of pitches taken.
"Called strikes frequency" - percentage of pitches taken for strikes.
"Called second and third strikes frequency" - percentage of pitches after the first strike taken for strikes.
"Protection frequency" - percentage of foul balls on two-strike swings.

I want numbers like that to evaluate plate discipline. Each number individually could be skewed (for instance, a player's high aggression frequency might be caused by the protection frequency), but, as a whole, they could tell us a lot. Players who are appearing at the top of the contact frequency list and the bottom of the hack frequency list would be extremely disciplined; they rarely miss when they swing and they don't swing at the bad ones too often. I don't think that these numbers are out there, but if they are, I'd love to see them.

I'm not exactly sure which numbers I would use if I were designing an evaluation tool....but I'm going to test it out (in the next game that I get to watch from start to finish) with my eye calling the balls and strikes when the batter swings, and letting the ump do it when the batter doesn't swing.

Anyway, the question is: how could you judge the balls and strikes? It occurred to me last night that you'd probably need some sort of computer system that was consistent on what it called balls and strikes to make your judgements really statistical, as opposed to the naked eye, which would be somewhat subjective. There is such a system though: Questec does just that. I don't know if they keep player records, but if the system could be used to keep player stats in addition to umpire stats, that would be outstanding.

So I'm going to give this idea a test run, probably in a weekend Met game, perhaps this Saturday night (for some reason, we get the WB11 on Gettysburg College's cable / satellite. Works for me). I'll sit with a pencil and paper with a scorecard of some sort to log all the pitches and locations, and then I'll crunch the numbers and see what it looks like.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

MLB Gameday

I bought the MLB Gameday radio package this year, which is a great deal for $15. I love listening to radio broadcasts, and this makes it quite easy.

I'm currently listening to Johan Santana get battered in the 1st inning of the Twins-Mariners game.....1 down, 4 runs in, runner on first....this does not bode well for my fantasy team, but it's good to listen to this stuff. Keeps me interested while I'm taking notes and studying for this week's large biology test.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Baseball can be a funny game.....

It certainly can.

The Mets get 15 hits today. Pedro Martinez strikes out 12 in 6 innings. Carlos Beltran comes within a triple of the cycle. Reyes hits two doubles. Wright scalds a line drive at third base and comes within 3 feet of a homer. Aybar is serviceable, giving up a run due to a pseudo-drop in center by Beltran, and Dae-Sung Koo looks solid in the 8th.

This looks like a win, right? 6-4 Mets, going into the 9th, in a game that they'd thoroughly dominated.

I can't fault the Mets for strategy today (I strongly objected to having Kaz Matsui sacrifice bunt Reyes from 2nd to 3rd in the 7th, but they did come out with 3 runs), and I can't fault them for pitcher choice (Looper's the closer, right?). But the results of the 9th inning bring a different question....how much do matchups have to do with anything?

I actually said outloud, "they should leave Koo in to face Kearns and Dunn" because I was scared of what Dunn would do against a righty like Looper, who struggles against lefties. He's similar to Scott Strickland in this sense, just a little better and with much better control. Then again, normally, I'm really opposed to working the lefty/righty crap, but there are some cases where it's worth considering.

Coincidentally, Looper just "didn't have it" today, and when Dunn stepped in, I remembered one of the many stat lines I looked at in the offseason:

Scenario 1: .227/.264/.279
Scenario 2: .311/.348/.417

This is Looper's righty / lefty split, in terms of what opponents did against him. When Dunn stepped in, I said, "he's going to go deep again," mainly because Dunn is a great hitter and he's a lefty. Sure enough, he did. He assaulted a merciless pitch to right center, his second jack of the game. Now, while this helps my fantasy team, it was quite depressing. But you can't do anything about that, except maybe get some better bullpen help. And, FYI, righties today against Looper went 1.000/1.000/2.500, so is there really a difference?

Looper is best suited to be a righty specialist. He's out of place as a closer, unfortunately. Today doesn't change that too much, but it just shows the facts. He's a serviceable closer who will probably get a big raise next year, but he's not one of those guys I'd want to commit to for the long-haul.

All in all, it doesn't mean much, but it makes for a damn disappointing opening day. One loss isn't a killer, but it's tough to give up these games, especially with that pitching matchup.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Mets-Tigers Trade and Other News

Mets trade P Matt Ginter to the Tigers for P Steve Colyer

I remain baffled about this trade after reading it an hour ago.

While I'm not too high on Ginter, I do think that he earned a spot on the big league roster with his solid spring. He's also a valuable spot starter to have around.

So what do they do? They trade him for their third Victor Zambrano acquisition of the last 8 months: Steve Colyer (I say this because of Coyler's mind-numbing BB/9 of 5.66 in the minors). Colyer will start the season in AAA.

The Tigers picked up a guy who might slide into their rotation, and they didn't give up too much. Gotta say that they made a pretty nice deal, on their end.

This article from last night explains the bullpen pitchers that the Mets have decided to carry:

- Braden Looper
- Mike DeJean
- Manny Aybar
- Roberto Hernandez
- Mike Matthews
- Felix Heredia
- Dae-Sung Koo

Ginter was not one of the 7, so I figured that something was happening with him. I will now join the naysayers against the Met bullpen. Bartolome Fortunato (sore back) and Heath Bell, two who I thought would be in the 'pen to make it at least interesting, are not there (Moreno's not in the mix b/c shoulder surgery has him sidelined until at least June, according to Yahoo). Manny Aybar (Aybar earned it with some real solid pitching this spring) and Mike Matthews are ahead of Bell, not to mention Heredia (who had a disastrous spring). And they couldn't find a spot for Ginter.

So, yeah, Colyer strikes out a lot of guys and throws with a left arm, which seems like the only reason he is in baseball these days. I read this deal as the best they figured that they could get for a player who couldn't fit on the roster, not as much of an endorsement of Colyer as getting something for Ginter. And I guess that when Minaya saw that he could get this guy, this lefty who strikes guys out, he said, "OK."

For the curious, Colyer gave up 7 home runs in Detroit in like, 18 innings there. I don't know what to say about that....sample size? Bad luck? Or just....bad?

In the grand scheme of things, this is a fairly meaningless trade, but Minaya loses points for not finding a way to keep Ginter. And he also loses points for not keeping Bell in the 'pen, who has certainly earned a spot in the bullpen.

The ideal Met bullpen, in my eyes:

- Braden Looper
- Mike DeJean
- Manny Aybar
- Heath Bell
- Matt Ginter
- Dae-Sung Koo
- Mike Matthews / Felix Heredia, not both.

Aybar wasn't even in baseball last year, but he's looked real good this spring, so I'm OK with him in the pen.

The other news is:

- Rich Harden signed a 4 year deal with the A's and terms have not been disclosed. [edit] Terms have since been disclosed.
- Billy Beane is now a partial owner of the A's in addition to their GM until at least 2012.
- Bruce Chen is Baltimore's 5th starter.

The Harden signing is wise. I think that Harden will be superb this year. He had a very good season in the majors at the age of 22, and his control improved in the second half, too:

1st half: 4.71 BB/9
2nd half: 3.03 BB/9

That goes a long way.

The Beane thing is interesting, too....you rarely see this kind of a committment to a GM. Then again, GMs don't tend to lose their jobs that often (except in New York). How long has Allaird Baird been with the Royals? Ed Wade with the Phils? And they really haven't earned their continued employment, right? So yeah, in that sense, this isn't all that big a deal. Beane's a great GM, though, and it's very interesting to see the "personality cult" that has kind of developed around him there.

I mentioned Chen in another entry, and I definitely like that move. I was recently playing around with a spreadsheet of AAA stats, and Chen kept coming up on the top of a lot of lists from 2004. And he was OK in the majors last year. So that seems like a nice move. Maybe Chen will be able to buy a house and not have to move for a bit.....it seems like he's played everywhere.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

McDaniel v. Gettysburg

So I went to a ballgame today....the home opener for the Bullets as they took on West Virginia's Maryland's own Green Terror from McDaniel. Gotta love D-3. I took score and made a box score after the fact with a bit of a twist.....

McDaniel Green Terror v. Gettysburg Bullets, 3/31/05

So here are a few things:

1. McDaniel's starting pitcher, Jimmy Dahlgren, would be a pretty good pitcher if he could cut back on his walks. He made 9 hitters look bad on the strikeouts he had in fewer than 6 innings.
2. Ross Hempel, Gettysburg's starter, went the distance, throwing a solid 102-pitch complete game. He scattered 6 hits, walked 2, and struck out 4 en route to the win.
3. Gettysburg took a lot of walks today....as a team, they on-based .395.
4. The guy who followed Dahlgren wasn't on today, unfortunately....Tom Marshall struggled against the Burg.
5. My sympathy to Ben Carey, who struck out in his first 4 at-bats and looked very annoyed on a called-third strike in the 6th. He grounded into a run-scoring fielder's choice in the 8th, accounting for the 1 of the Burg's 2 RBI.
6. The highlight of the game was a sharp defensive play for the 'Burg in the 5th. With a run in and a man on second, Chad Keller hit a ground ball between first and second. The first baseman dove and couldn't reach it, but the 2nd baseman, Austin Ball, made a nice pick and gunned it to first to the Hempel, the pitcher. Keller dove head first into the bag, the ump hesitated, and punched him out. Excellent defensive play.
7. Jimmy McNamara lined out in his first two at-bats, one was a lunging grab by the right fielder Weinrich, and the other was a neat catch from Szerlick at first.
8. The crowd behind home plate started out as just me, but there were probably about 15 people in the stands by the time it ended.
9. Defensive mistakes killed Dahlgren, but I think we learn a little about the value of not walking people today. If you put that many guys on, you're tempting fate, and it hurt.
10. Um, I just wasted some time: Official box score. Lots of stuff there, but not the individual pitch counts, which is what I really wanted.
11. Gettysburg's stats are here, and McDaniel's are here.
12. As I would have guessed, Kevin Salamone is on-basing well with no power, with a season line of .304/.407/.391 through 7 games. The 'Burg has played a lot more games than McDaniel. Salamone was the most interesting player to me today, simply because he saw so many pitches. I counted 102 pitches (the box counts 103, but I'm pretty certain that I was right) and 23 of those were to Salamone. That's like 22.5% of the pitches that Hempel threw.
13. Whatever software they had there compiling these stats, I want it....I saw a guy on a laptop putting in all this information......the data they have is pretty nice.
14. Ah! I forgot to put these in:

Ross Hempel: 12/9 G/F ratio
Jimmy Dahlgren: 3/3 G/F ratio (lots of line drives and Ks)

That's a quick journey into Division-III college baseball. Enjoy.