Today, I am going for a dual thread. First, I am going to do a quick look at the few stats I examine when I am looking at a player. I will used the stats freely available at FanGraphs. They can be all added to an easy to read personal dash board at FanGraphs. Also, feel free in the comments to ask any stat/sabermetric questions (try to limit the Wins and RBI jokes).
Stats for Hitters (for a definition of each stat go to this link)
Age - Reference to know if a player's skills should be increasing or decreasing. Peak age for speed is around 22-years-old and hitting is at age 27.
Games and plate appearances - Context needs to be added to the other stats. A player hitting a .350 AVG in 60 PA is less impressive than a hitter hitting at that level in 600 PA.
HR and HR/FB - Chicks dig the long ball. They help to determine the player's power.
SB and CS - Does the player attempt stolen bases (thinks he is fast) and his success rate (is he fast and smart).
K% and BB% - Determines the player's plate discipline.
wOBA - Gives the total value of a hitter's production adjusted to the league average OBA. Each different event (walk, out, home run, etc) is given its own weighting depending on the number of runs it generates on average.
AVG/OBP/SLG/ISO - By using these four stats, the type of hitter can be found in more detail than by just using wOBA. A .200/.350/.450 would be more walk and power prone than one who hit .300/.400/.400 even though they would have similar wOBA.
BABIP - Helps to show how many of his batted balls are dropping into play. Is his BABIP, which takes a long time to stabilize, the same as in the past (talent) or is it high or low compared to his norm (luck)?
wRC+ - A contextual stat where a value of 100 puts the player's hitting at league average. A value of 120 would mean they are 20% better than the league average. A value of 80 would mean they are 20% worse than the league average.
UZR - The number of fielding runs, above or below the league average, for a player prevents or gives up. Not a panacea for measuring defense. I usually half the value (positive or negative) to give me an idea of the player's defensive value.
WAR - Total value of a player including position, hitting, fielding and base running adjusted to Wins over a replacement player.
Age - Gives a reference for a pitcher. All stats will on average decline as a pitcher ages except BB% which bottoms out around age 28.
Games, Games started, IP - Gives a background context for the rest of the stats. A pitcher's fastball speed may have decreased, but by looking at these three, it may have been because he moved from the bullpen to the starting rotation and now needs to pace himself over the course of a game.
K/9, K%, BB/9, BB% - I useall four right now, but just one of the K and BB values could be used. I learned what was a good or bad value with the X/9 values in the past. The % values are a better representation of a player's talent though.
SwgStr% - Early indicator a pitchers ability to miss bats. I quick rule of thumb I use is SwgStr% + 9% = K%.
HR/9 - Is the pitcher prone to home runs? It should always be under 1.0.
GB% - Helps to show if the pitcher can keep the ball on the ground. 50% is good.
ERA/FIP/xFIP/SIERA - These 4 help to explain how a pitcher is preventing runs from being scored. ERA is the earned runs allowed. FIP used BB, K and HR to estimate a player's ERA. xFIP uses the same BB and K values, but uses the league average number of home runs per fly ball to estimate the number of home runs. SIERA used several more factors (GB%, velocity) and attempts to give a still more accurate estimation of ERA. Look for differences to see if a pitchers runs allowed will change.
BABIP and LOB% - They show how many balls in play get through the defense and with the hits, how many runners get home. A .290 BABIP is around league average now along with a 70% LOB%. These two, along with HR/9, help to explain the differences in ERA/FIP/xFIP/SIERA. A FIP higher than the other 3 could be sign the pitcher has allowed a higher percentage of home runs (wind was blowing out one day). The key is to see if a difference exists and why.
FBv and Zone% (pfx) - I use these two to look to see if a pitcher is throwing the same from year to year. Velocity is pretty simple, if they can keep it, they will remain the same pitcher. Zone% looks to see if a pitcher throws pitches in the strike zone. If the value drops below 47%, the pitcher may be struggling with pitches and be injured.
RA9-Wins and WAR - RA9 Wins is the number of wins the player produces due to their ability to prevent runs. WAR is FIP based and gives a player value based on their ability to control factors under their control, K, BB and HRs
By using the above stats, a good picture of a player's talent/results can be created. Thoughts on the list.
Also, remember to ask any other stat related questions. I won't bite.
This post is inspired by a similar analysis done by the great Bill Baer over at Crashburn Alley. You should definitely read it. For the comparison to the information in this post, of course, but also for the schadenfreude.
The Braves don't have a huge payroll, yet they manage to field a competitive team year after year. There are a lot of ways to get the most bang for your buck; #1 is developing home-grown stars, something the Braves have excelled at.
Another way of maximizing value is to limit the amount of money spent on aging players while simultaneously investing in players who are at or near their prime years. Older players are, after all, more likely to break down or decline precipitously (and less likely to improve). While the Braves haven't been perfect in this arena (Derek Lowe), they have had a lot less dead money on the payroll than, say, the Phillies.
With Chipper Jones retired and the Lowe contract (finally, blessedly) off the books, the Braves' payroll vs. age breakdown is quite favorable. The team's current total payroll is around $88 million. Of that, only around $33 million will be paid to players in their 30s. By contrast, the Phillies are paying more than 3/4 of their payroll, around $135M, to players over 30 (and all of the big contracts are to players 32 and older).
Here's a chart that shows the Braves' salary situation by age (which is calculated, Baseball-Reference style, as the player's age for the majority of the 2013 season):
The Braves only have 4 players on the roster who are older than 31: Dan Uggla, Gerald Laird, Reed Johnson, and Tim Hudson. Those guys are making a relatively affordable $25M (if this seems bad, compare it to what Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Howard, or any number of other older players will be making in the coming years).
Let's divide the players into age groups to get a better idea of where the Braves are spending their money. I've split the ages into four groups: young players (age 25 or younger), players in their prime (26-29), aging players (30-33), and old players (34 and older). The Braves' likely roster will have 19 players in the first 2 groups (counting Brandon Beachy) and just 7 in the last 2. The salary division is similarly weighted toward youth:
That's pretty much what you want your team's salary curve to look like. If it's weighted more heavily toward older players, the team will likely have injury and underperformance problems. If it's weighted too much toward younger players, though, that'd indicate a team that's not likely to compete (like this year's Marlins). Most other contenders' salary curves will look similar to the Braves'. For instance, look at the 2013 salary curve for the Braves' main competition, the Nationals:
The Nats are spending a bit less on young players than the Braves, and a bit more overall, but the general trend is similar: spend the most on players near their peaks and supplement with cheap phenoms and guys who aren't too far over the hill.
The pennant-winning Phillies teams of 2008 & 2009 had a similar-looking curve. But then the franchise signed a bunch of their core players to long, huge extensions and imported even more high-cost, aging players (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee again, Roy Oswalt, Hunter Pence). That worked great for a couple seasons, though there were no more World Series berths.
In 2012, though, seemingly all of those players got old at once. Now the franchise is hoping that everyone can stay healthy and have bounce-back years. Such a hope is not impossible--there's a ton of talent on that roster--but it's asking an awful lot. Certainly the Phillies would love to have a breakdown more like the Braves' or the Nationals'. As is, they are spending about twice as much as the Braves for a team that seems less likely to contend than Atlanta.
As Frank Wren and the Braves' front office think about what the team will look like in 2014 and beyond, they would be wise to keep in mind the lessons of the 2012 Phillies. Fortunately, the Braves seem to be in pretty good shape along those lines. Here's their projected breakdown for the 2014 season (assuming modest raises for arbitration players and no re-signings of free agents):
I think it's fairly likely that the age 30-33 group will get filled out a bit, either by re-signing Brian McCann or by replacing him. Other than that, though, the curve shouldn't change much, barring a big trade. The 2014 Braves team will still be spending most of its resources on young or in-their-prime players.
The picture gets a bit more cloudy as you get to 2015 and '16, but you get the idea. The Braves should be successful as long as they invest more in younger players than older ones (though a few contracts for older veterans won't hurt, and could easily help).
As payroll is freed up by departing players or added from new revenue sources, the Braves will be able to afford more investments in prime-age players. That hopefully means extensions for Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, and other members of the Braves' young core. The Braves have so many players who aren't even in their prime years yet, and those are exactly the kinds of players that you should be willing to give big-money extensions to.
I think some of this philosophy was apparent in the recent Justin Upton trade. Though they traded away several prospects, the Braves got the younger of the two main pieces, with Upton (25 in 2013) replacing Prado (29). Rather than extend Prado into his decline phase, the Braves got a player who likely hasn't had his best years yet. Upton, in addition to being a MVP-type talent, is also a much better bet going forward than Prado, simply based on his age.
I know that a lot of Braves fans wish that the team had the free-spending ways of the current Dodgers or the former Yankees. Honestly, though, I'm not sure the team would be much better off. If money is no object, a team is a lot more likely to make bad investments (one could argue the Dodgers are well down this path, with 2/3 of their outfield devoted to albatross contracts).
Those bad investments may not hinder further moves, but they certainly can affect the on- and off-field product. For example, even if the Yankees had an infinite payroll, the Alex Rodriguez contract would still be a problem for them because of his declining performance and the bad press that follows him around like a loyal puppy.
Would I like the Braves' payroll to be a little higher? Sure--another $20 million or so per year would give the team the ability to more easily withstand a failed contract. But the team is doing damn well as it is, and I think a big part of that success lies in the wise decisions the front office has made in allocating their limited resources. Perhaps the strict circumstances forced them to think more wisely, and act more creatively, than they otherwise would have.
Many teams have not responded as intelligently to their limited payrolls, of course. However, as long as the Braves remain successful--and they seem to be in a good position for at least the next few seasons--I see no reason to complain about the status quo.
Hank Aaron, Batting Champion. Most baseball fans don’t confuse the term ‘slugger’ and ‘hitter’. Hank Aaron was a hitter, he just happened to hit the ball hard and long. In fact, he was so good at the plate, that he … Continue reading →
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In my recent work looking at characteristics of pitchers leading up to Tommy John surgery, I arrived at a point where the next logical step was to investigate pitch release points. As no readily available leaderboard is available for these metrics as far as I know, I had to go exploring myself inside the Pitch F/X database.
Pitch F/X data became publicly available for the first time in 2007. Since that time, the system has been gradually improved. While this is fairly common knowledge, nothing drives the point home more than getting your hands dirty and working with the raw data. One of the first things that became apparent to me is that the pitch characteristics reported by Pitch F/X around the league have become much more consistent since its inception. Consider the average variance in release points for all pitches by year as an example:
A similar trend can be seen in variance of pitch velocities. As it does not seem too plausible that pitchers as a group have dramatically developed more repeatable deliveries over the past five years, the tighter variance over time demonstrates an improvement in the consistency of the Pitch F/X setups from stadium to stadium.
Despite improving on an already technically amazingly accurate system, there still appear to be systematic effects introduced in the Pitch F/X systems depending on the home park. That said, what I will present today is one of the most basic approaches to looking at park effects, and other confounding factors will be contributing to the observed differences. I'll touch on at least some of these other factors toward the end of the article.
To get a quick handle on Pitch F/X park effects from 2012, I calculated the average velocity, horizontal movement, vertical movement, horizontal release point and vertical release point for all pitches thrown by both teams in all home games for team X, and the subtracted the same averages for all pitches thrown by both teams in all away games for team X. Normally we see park factors represented in a manner that would instead divide these two numbers (and multiply by 100), but in this case I'd like to keep the relative differences expressed in the same units in which they are calculated to make the numbers easier to picture in my mind (and hopefully in yours as well).
Admittedly this is a fairly crude method of determining potential park effects, but in my opinion the results are still interesting and worth noting. The tables below show the most extreme outliers around the league in each of these five categories, split by handedness of pitchers.
Pitch F/X start_speed park effect, 2012
Certainly one confounding factor here is pitch types. The same number of four-seam fastballs and curveballs and changeups are not thrown in each park around the league, and hence differences here can lead to overall average velocities being higher or lower purely by design of the pitches thrown. I feel like the numbers that I've shown are an interesting starting point, and from here it is possible to look at whether certain types of pitches are thrown more or less often in certain ballparks. For example, do pitchers just stick with the fastball more often in large stadiums?
As a point of reference, I looked at only four-seam fastball velocities from 2012 rather than all pitches. Not surprisingly the results do change a little, most notably with the Toronto Blue Jays hitting the top 3 for both RHP and LHP in positive velocity deltas.
In occasions where a single team was the most extreme for both lefties and righties, we can looking at guys that threw the most innings to get a feel more the effect. Luke Hochevar posted a 93.15 average four-seam fastball velocity at home, compared to 92.26 on the road. Of course leave it to the incomparable Bruce Chen to be immune to environmental effects, as he managed almost identical 87.34 and 87.36 average four-seam fastball velocities home and away last year.
In looking back at previous years, I can see that some home parks appear to skew a particular measurement in one direction year after year. The velocities in Kansas City are one such example. The velocity readings in Pittsburgh are however not always offset to the negative like they were in 2012.
In terms of practical applications of knowing these effects, I can think of two interesting cases to watch in 2013. The first would be the case of James Shields, who will be shifting from a Tampa Bay home park that deflated four-seam fastball velocities of RHP by -0.16 MPH to a Kansas City park that inflated those types of pitches by 0.75 MPH. The second would be Francisco Liriano, who is leaving Chicago for Pittsburgh, transitioning from a stadium that increased four-seam fastball velocities of LHP by 0.28 MPH to one that decreased them by -1.02 MPH in 2012.
In analyzing their respective fastball velocities during the upcoming season, keeping this type of potential influence in mind would be prudent.
Pitch F/X pfx_x park effect, 2012
I'll repeat this here as well, since it will certainly play a part in creating these differences: this is for all pitches thrown, not controlled for pitch types. It certainly looks like there is a park effect in both Houston and Tampa Bay, and these can be seen in each of the last three seasons in these two locations.
Taking a closer look at Astros' innings pitched leader from 2012 as an example, Lucas Harrell saw much more positive horizontal movement at home on all pitch types save his four-seam fastball.
Lucas Harrell, 2012 Horizontal Movement by Pitch Type
Here is another aspect to watch out for with James Shields in 2013, as he'll be leaving a park that has consistently inflated horizontal pitch movement to one that has typically deflated such readings.
Pitch F/X pfx_z park effect, 2012
The Dodgers had a clear positive delta in vertical pitch movement. Taking Clayton Kershaw as an example, he averaged 9.18 inches of vertical movement on his pitches in Los Angeles, but only 6.95 inches on average away from home. His use of pitches was quite consistent between home and away, swapping in a few extra curveballs and sliders at home at the expense of slightly less four-seam fastballs and changeups. If anything these pitch substitutions would have brought his average vertical movement down at home, suggesting that this offset is a true environmental effect in Los Angeles.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Mariners appear to have a strong negative offset in vertical movement. Looking at Felix Hernandez as an example, we see that he experienced an average vertical movement of -0.50 inches at home, compared to 2.95 on the road. In this case, a look at pitch type data shows that Hernandez went to his changeup noticeably less frequently at home. He also threw slightly fewer sliders, spreading the extras fairly equally across the rest of his pitch repertoire. I would expect that the net of this tradeoff would have led if anything to a higher vertical movement at home, so this lends some credence to the environmental effect in Seattle.
As for a player to watch in 2013 in this respect, consider Jason Vargas. Vargas pitched last season for the Mariners in a home park that had a -3.59 inch offset on vertical movement of four-seam fastballs for southpaws, and will spend this year in Los Angeles where the Angels' home park enhanced such vertical movement by 1.60 inches last season.
Pitch F/X x0 park effect, 2012
Pitch F/X z0 park effect, 2012
The release point tables are included for completeness, although I expect that these are the least interesting of the stats for most people. It is interesting though to note that the same teams appear as having the most extreme deltas for each pitcher handedness in both tables.
The method that I used to gauge park effects is a fairly simple one, that could be modified in different ways depending on the intent of the study. Multi-year averages would discriminate which effects are systematic in a particular park, and which sway around from year-to-year. Teams play unbalanced schedules, making their away game stadium set unique on top of not playing road games in their home park. Including pitch type information would remove a confounding factor, as was discussed throughout the article. By quickly examining deltas by pitch type, I noticed that nine of the top fifteen velocity deltas came on cutters. It is likely that cutters are still misclassified as other pitches and vice versa more than other pitch types.
It would make sense that other environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, elevation and wind could affect Pitch F/X numbers as well. It would appear that temperature, altitude and air pressure are accounted for in the reported velocities. Doing a quick linear regression on all four-seam fastball velocities and game temperatures showed virtually no correlation, which agrees with that statement.
Are you surprised that these offsets are as large as they are in the extreme cases? What other factors do you think could be contributing to these numbers?
As always please leave your comments and ideas below or you can contact me on Twitter at @MLBPlayerAnalys. Follow @MLBPlayerAnalys
Credit and thanks to Baseball Heat Maps for the Pitch F/X data upon which this analysis was based.
One month ago, the Rockies hired Fred Nelson, a 27-year front office veteran from the Houston Astros. We learned that Nelson would be filling a newly created position as the "Director" of the Class-A Modesto Nuts, giving wings to speculation that such a position would be created for each minor league affiliation. Yesterday, the Rockies announced their minor league staffs, including the "Director" position, which is now termed "development supervisor."
"What we've done is take responsibilities that used to be done by roving-type coordinators and made them fully dedicated at a certain level. It's another set of hands, another set of eyes. Then there's the team-building aspect that will be a big part of the job." - Player Development Director Jeff Bridich, via Thomas Harding, MLB.com
Bridich notes that the responsibilities of the job are still developing, but the hope is to provide more consistent instruction at each level, improving efficiency and streamlining instruction.
The Rockies are still interviewing for the Sky Sox development supervisor, but the other affiliates are filled. Aside from Fred Nelson, all supervisors have been Rockies employees since at least 2006: Duane Espy (Tulsa), Fred Nelson (Modesto), Marv Foley (Asheville), Ron Gideon (Tri-City), and Tony Diaz (Grand Junction).
Troy Renck fills in the gaps with the rest of the coaching staffs. Of note: former Rockies' first-base coach Glenallen Hill will manage AAA Colorado Springs, Modesto pitching coach Darryl Scott will move to Tulsa with Tyler Matzek, former Expo/Ranger/Angel Lee Stevens will be the hitting coach in Grand Junction, and Warren Schaeffer moves fresh out of retirement into the hitting coach role at Tri City. The Dust Devils pitching coach will be former Fort Collins High School coach Frank Gonzales.
First-Pitch Strikes for a Last-Place Team - Purple Row If you haven't read Chris Chrisman's fantastic research piece yesterday, stop right now and do it.
Swinging at first pitch and game theory - James Gentile actually wrote a piece on this topic for The Hardball Times last Friday, before Chris' piece published but after he wrote it. He brings up an important distinction that could be added to Chris' piece in utilization: many hitters are extremely patient and don't offer at first pitch strikes, many others look specifically to fire at it, yet the overall effect is that hitters in MLB are more successful swinging at the first pitch than all other counts. Advance scouting of who is least likely to burn Rockies pitchers with a first-pitch strike would be a great tool.
It should not really be surprising that young Rockies pitchers would be scared of starting at-bats with strikes. Playing in the same ballparks, they watched their teammates hit .374/.378/.611 in at bats on the first pitch, best in MLB. Colorado also ranked 1st in 2007 and 2010, 4th in 2008. Rockies pitchers see first pitches get punished, with Coors Field playing a large part.
2013 Colorado Rockies Fantasy Baseball Preview - Bryan Kilpatrick answered some questions for a Razzball preview. We field requests like this constantly, and most ask questions that are inaccurate, tired, insulting, uninspired or that could be answered by a quick Google search. This one included some actually well-researched interesting questions, so give it a read.
St. Louis Cardinals lead Keith Law's ranking of all 30 farm systems - MLB - ESPN - The Rockies rank a paltry 23rd in Law's ranking here, which is quite a bit lower than most other systems. There is are no pitching prospects without glaring weaknesses and no elite hitting prospects (yet), but there is some depth.
What WAR Is Good For | FanGraphs Baseball - Dave Cameron takes on Jim Caple in this rebuttal of Caple's piece last week about how WAR fits into the conversation. It promotes a healthy conversation about the construct's best utilization. Regardless on how you feel about WAR, you have been guilty of misusing it in an argument in the past.
The Rockies want to move on from 2012 and start 2013 as much as you do. They are one of four teams that have scheduled Sunday, February 10 as the day for pitchers and catchers to report. No team reports earlier than the Rockies, Indians, Cubs and Red Sox. We are five days away.
The Astros added another lively arm to the system yesterday when they acquired Brad Peacock as part of the package for shortstop Jed Lowrie and relief pitcher Fernando Rodriguez. Peacock will enter spring training as one of the many pitchers that will be competing for a spot in the Astros starting rotation. Here we will take a look at Peacock’s slow trek through the minors, repertoire, and what he may offer the Astros in the future.
Peacock was drafted in the 41st round of the 2006 draft by the Washington Nationals as part of the draft-and-follow system and signed with the team in 2007. He made his professional debut in Rookie ball later that season and appeared in 13 games, seven as a starter, and posted an acceptable ERA of 3.12. He took a step back the following season in full season ball, and was demoted back to short-season ball where he posted mediocre stats. He got his second taste of full season ball in 2009 where he threw 100 innings and posted a 4.05 ERA. This earned him a promotion to High-A where he pitched 47.2 innings and posted a 4.34 ERA.
Up to this point Peacock had posted pedestrian strikeout numbers, and his command fluctuated, but he significantly improved in both areas during the 2010 season. He started back in High-A ball, and posted a very impressive 10.28 K/9 rate with an equally impressive 2.18 BB/9. His ERA was still mediocre at 4.44, but he posted a more telling FIP of 3.14. The performance earned him a promotion to AA where he once again posted a mediocre ERA of 4.66 in his 38.2 innings pitched. He struggled with his control there as his strikeout totals decreased but his walk totals increased significantly.
Peacock started the 2011 season back at the AA level which is where Peacock put his name back on many prospect lists. Peacock threw a total of 98.2 innings and posted an 11.77 K/9 rate while posting a very low 2.1 BB/9 rate. His ERA was a microscopic 2.01, and his FIP was even better than that at 1.87. This performance earned him a late season promotion to AAA where he would go on to throw another 48 innings while posting a respectable 3.19 ERA. Here he still averaged a strikeout per nine innings, but saw his walk rate rise to 4.5 BB/9. His spectacular performance in the minors that season earned him a promotion to the Majors where he made two starts and three appearances and posted a 0.75 ERA (3.86 FIP) in 12 innings pitched.
During the offseason the Nationals traded Peacock to the A’s as part of the package for Gio Gonzalez. Peacock failed to make the team out of spring training and pitched the entire season at Oakland’s AAA affiliate where he struggled to the tune of a 6.01 ERA in the very hitter friendly PCL. His strikeout rate remained a plus (9.29 K/9) and but his walk rate remained in the mid-4 range. His FIP of 4.26 shows that he wasn’t as bad as his ERA indicated.
Peacock throws a four-seam fastball that sits in the mid-nineties and will on occasion peak a tad higher. He supplements that fastball with a knucklecurve that is a plus pitch when he is able to locate it. He also possesses a changeup, but that pitch is still a work in progress. According to Baseball America Peacock has also added a slider/cutter to his repertoire this past season, but the pitch is still a work in progress as well.
Peacock is different than many of the other arms that Luhnow has acquired over the past year in that he doesn’t generate an abundance of groundballs. His groundball percentage hovered around the 50% mark in 2008-2010 in A-ball, but started to tail off at the AA level. His highest groundball percentage AA or higher is 41%, and he only posted a groundball percentage of 35% last year in AAA. He has been able to offset the below average groundball percentage the last two years by being an above average strikeout guy, and has averaged over a strikeout per inning during that time frame.
Over the past two seasons Peacock has shown consistent righty/lefty splits. In 582 left-handed batters faced he’s posted a 3.51 FIP and has averaged 10.1 K/9 and 4.15 BB/9. In 597 right-handed batters faced he’s posted a 3.29 FIP and a 9.97 K/9 and 3.24 BB/9.
What it all boils down to for Brad Peacock is showing improvement in his control and command, especially with his two best pitches, his fastball and curve. With both pitches being above average it's possible that he could survive as a two-pitch pitcher in the immediate future as long as he can locate them. The improvement of his changeup and possible slider/cutter could go a long way to determine if his future is as a starter or a reliever. If the location doesn't improve then we may be looking at a future reliever. On the flip side if the location and his other offspeed offerings improve then we may be looking at a mid-rotation starter with a chance to be a little more.
Hank Aaron Was Named An All-Star Twenty-One Times!!! No player has been selected as an All-Star more than Hank Aaron. Not Ruth. Not Mays. Not Mantle. Not Gehrig. Not Ripken. Hank Aaron stands alone and on top of the leader … Continue reading →
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Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs wonders if a player's weight loss (or gain) affects his defensive abilities: Jhonny Peralta, Defense, and Weight
Peralta wants to get better at defense, so he says he lost weight. A pretty significant amount of weight, for that matter, and he says he lost it in a healthy way. It’s intuitive how weight loss and better conditioning could make a defender improve. But I was curious whether we could find anything in the numbers if we looked at previous examples. So I pulled up some previous examples.
Bryan O'Connor of High Heat Stats takes a look at a hypothetical Hall of Fame that focused primarily on peak over longevity: The Hall of Peak Value
What if the Hall of Fame didn’t care about longevity? Janis Joplin was dead at 27, but is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on the strength of one great solo album and a few prior efforts with different bands. Bob Beamon is in the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame for one very long jump- he never won another medal. Baseball is somewhat rare in its refusal to immortalize players who were the best in the world for a short time.
Beyond the Box Score's own James Gentile makes his debut at The Hardball Times and examines the benefit that hitters get from swinging at first pitch strikes: Swinging at first pitch and game theory
I've been looking at some of the changing trends involving the first pitch of the batter-pitcher match-up for Beyond the Box Score over the past few weeks, with far more enthusiasm than I probably should. It's a part of the game that I find fascinating, and the more I look into it the more oddities seem to be revealed.
If you would like to submit something for Sabersphere, email Spencer at SpencerSchneier22@gmail.com.
Today's BtB Retro comes from exactly two years ago, when Satchel Price asks if the Blue Jays could be good. They weren't, but there's a good chance that they will be this year: Could the 2011 Blue Jays be Good?
As Cameron said, 2010 may not be the prettiest year in Toronto, but things are really looking up. Toronto could very well be a spender next offseason if Lind, Hill and Romero show that their 2009 performances weren't completely flukes, and they can get some breakout performances from guys like Snider, Wallace, Morrow, Cecil and Roenicke. Toronto is probably still in the worst position of any team in the AL East, but under Anthopolous it appears that their future looks brighter than it has in at least a year.
Yesterday, the rumor spread that the Miami Marlins were close to an agreement with free agent reliever Jose Valverde. The one and only response I could think of that most Marlins fans probably had was "What? Why?" This is perfectly exemplified by Fish Stripes reader SilentNightPacifier:
or SHOULD pay, for that matter. Why would they spend any money on a closer when they’re rebuilding the way they are? It doesn’t make sense unless Valverde just loves Florida and isn’t looking for closer money.
There is certainly no reason to believe you are off the mark on this one at all, SilentNightPacifier. The interest in Valverde, much like the interest in Matt Capps before this, is a confusing contradiction when faced with the fact that the Marlins just shed millions and millions of dollars in salary in order to fit what the team deems a proper budget. You would think that, after the Marlins were so eager to cut costs in such a major way, they would not be suddenly so willing to throw money into a relatively fruitless endeavor like a free agent reliever. Have we not learned anything about the lesson of Heath Bell?
Yet, strangely enough, I am not entirely against this move. I am not entirely with this move either, but there is certainly an optimistic and pessimistic view of this move, and where you fall on the spectrum of thought regarding the Marlins likely determines what you think the team's angle is with this puzzling interest.
The Pessimist's View
The pessimist's view on a move like this seems really simple. The Miami Marlins are interested in Jose Valverde because he is a "proven closer" with ninth inning experience who can help mold incumbent closer Steve Cishek into the role. The team thinks this is an important enough position that handing money to a player who can fill it is important, even if that player is coming off of his worst season since his second year in the majors in 2004.
Blind to the fact that Valverde lost his closer job in 2012 to Phil Coke late in the season, the Marlins are willing to go along with Scott Boras's tricks and hand Valverde lower-tier closer money for a player who was never as good as his superficial numbers likely suggested (career 3.53 FIP versus career 3.11 ERA). Despite the falling strikeout rate at the advanced age of 34 (remind you of someone?), the Marlins value closers and bullpen pitchers irrationally and would be willing to pay for Valverde's services in the ninth inning.
This view is for folks who believe that the Marlins have yet to learn the lesson Heath Bell taught them when it comes to bullpen pitchers. If the Marlins truly still value bullpen pitchers too highly after a disastrous season with the worst free agent signing in team history, then perhaps all is lost for Larry Beinfest and company in the front office. Signing Valverde to significant money off of a down year is likely to produce a waste of money, just like it did with Bell.
The Optimist's View
The optimist's view on this potential deal can separate the Bell signing from this possible contract. Unlike Bell, Valverde is highly likely to receive only a one-year deal, especially given his status as a dethroned closer and his relatively poor season. Bell was coming off of another 40-save campaign in 2011, so even as his peripherals were struggling, hapless teams like the Marlins still saw a successful closer. No one, on the other hand, will confuse Valverde as a successful closer after his 2012 year.
Beyond that, there is no guarantee the Marlins will have to pony up significant money either. Francisco Cordero came off of a superficially successful year in which he recorded 37 saves with a 2.45 ERA for the Cincinnati Reds, but the Toronto Blue Jays were not fooled and gave him a one-year deal worth only $4.5 million. If the Marlins do something similar with the more-skilled Valverde, they would worst be paying the going rate for a likely one-win reliever.
If the Marlins do make the signing and Valverde gets off to a hot start as either a closer or a setup man, then the team can reap the benefits at midseason by trading him for a menial prospect. The gain in prospect value will be admittedly low, even for a former closer, but any players are better than no players at all.
But perhaps the most important part of this view is that the Marlins have money to spend. The team is under its projected $40 million budget and would probably like to use it on a flyer like a reliever. While relievers are the worst use of limited free agent funds, the alternative at this stage of the game is not spending it at all and not receiving any players to be named later in return by midseason. If the choice is between Valverde and simply choking on the money without any future benefit (you had better believe that any money saved in 2013 will not be rolled into future season budgets), the Marlins might as well spend the cash.
The final prognosis is still a questionable one, but one in which I would lean towards making the move at a low price. If the Marlins spent $7 million on Valverde in 2013, I would almost surely call it a waste. But throwing an otherwise unused $4 million at him could be worse, and if the Marlins can acquire a minor piece in the future for him, all the better to the team. Simply sitting on the 2013 cash brings no benefit to the team in the short- or long-term.
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