Monthly Archives: February 2010

Sabermetric Tools

We talk about a handful of complicated metrics and pull data from a myriad of different places. One of the first things about diving into the world of Sabermetrics is knowing where to look for information for your own analysis. I included a list of my most favorite places for your perusal.

Fan Graphs
Slowly turning into the defacto SABR campsite, Fan Graphs gives you all the benefits of any normal statistical aggregator site, while also adding the more useful new metrics to every player page. Need to quickly find a player’s xFIP, WAR, and specific batted ball data? Fan Graphs is the quickest way to get it.

All Aughts Team of the Decade Dishonorable Mention: Eric Gagne

MLB: Cubs v Rangers June 21, 2007

With 26 percent of the vote, Eric Gagne barely edged out Carl Everett (23 percent) to “win” dishonorable Boston fans welcomed Gagne to town at the trading deadline (the trade was for Kason Gabbard, since returned, David Murphy who has evolved into a great fourth outfielder/sometimes starter, and prospect Engel Beltre.)

Game Over had arrived… but it was the other kind of Game Over. The losing kind. mention on the All-Aughts Team of the Decade. Gagne won despite being placed on the poll hours after Everett and the other main candidates were on it (Julio Lugo joined Gagne).

Boston fans welcomed Gagne to town at the 2007 trading deadline (the trade was for Kason Gabbard, since returned, David Murphy who has evolved into a great fourth outfielder/sometimes starter, and prospect Engel Beltre.)

Game Over had arrived… but it was the other kind of Game Over. The losing kind.

J.D. Drew contemplates retirement after 2011

During an interview yesterday J.D. Drew made interesting comments about his future with the Red Sox and in baseball. While the league has shifted and older players are being forced to take lower value contracts or forced into retirement Drew appears ready for this on his own. “I think every player has a mindset that […]

What about lineup protection?

Boston Red Sox David Ortiz breaks his bat and reaches first base on a fielders choice against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium in New York

It didn’t take long for David Ortiz to ask for a “power” bat to protect him in the lineup after Manny Ramirez was traded. This was oddly timed last year as the team was returning Jason Bay to the lineup and was expecting big things from him. Now with Bay gone Ortiz has stuck to his mantra asking who is supposed to “protect” him now.

This is a mental thing for David, but protection is a very misunderstood idea. The first thing I would hope is that Ortiz would take it upon himself to become the protection. To stop expecting it of others and say “I can hit 35 homers have a .400 OBP and carry this team”. Outside of that we need to understand what is known about protection.

Early studies looked at different numbers and found lineup protection to be largely a myth. Some were small size studies. Others said any effect they found was so small to be considered a myth. So we should just ignore Ortiz’s statement and move on? Not yet.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Today, Mike Lowell talked to the press about his role and future with the Boston Red Sox. Lowell wanted to reach out to the fanbase after his trade to the Texas Rangers failed to materialize in the offseason because of injury.

Mike Lowell has comes to terms with the business of baseball, and that his past services to the ballclub shouldn’t be overlooked, but also shouldn’t prevent the club from continuing to improve position by position. He wanted to pass this along to the fans as well, to not look at his situation with any bitterness or contempt for the front office’s decisions.

Yankees buy on small sample size

Phillies' Chan Ho Park pitches during game 5 of the world series in Philadelphia

Yesterday the Yankees made an interesting move and added Chan Ho Park to the roster for $1.2 million and $300,000 in incentives. This gives them some options regarding Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes and could result in one going to Triple-A to start the year. The question is does Park really bring anything to the Yankees?

Park is one of those players who benefited early in his career from park factors in Dodger Stadium from 1996-2001, long before FIP or QERA was around to let the masses see what was really going on. His FIP in LA was 4.33, but he looked much better with an ERA of 3.77 and clearly a factor of his low number of home runs against.

In 2002 he moved to Texas and things have never been the same. His ERA since leaving has been 5.22, but in a very small sample size of 50 IP last year he looked to turn things around. Was this change for real giving the Yankees a new bullpen threat or was it nothing but sample size issues and a regression in Yankee Stadium sure to come?

AL East Sleepers: New York Yankees

Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium in New York

For a team that won the 2009 league championship while standing atop the AL East leaderboards for much of the past decade, the team would seem, at first glance, bereft of sleepers.

Not so, however, even for these ’09 defending champions. A favorite even at this early juncture in Spring Training, the club could get even better by the time the season rolls around.

SP/RP Phil Hughes

Hughes is – and for quite some time has been – one of the best young pitchers in affiliated baseball. It was not so long ago – three years to be exact – that Phil Hughes was the best pitching prospect in the game, edging out Cincinnati’s Homer Bailey for that honor.

Though hamstring injuries and bouts of wildness slowed down his progress during the ’07 and ’08 campaigns, Hughes came back with a vengeance last season, reminding all bystanders why he was once such a highly touted prospect.

Still just 23 years old, the Yankees owe it to Hughes and to themselves to give the hurler another shot at a full-time rotation gig. Worth 2.2 wins last season, that number could easily swell to four or five if he pitches up to his potential…

Fireside Chats #71: Where Tim holds a presser explaining his recent absence from the show

Everyone has been wondering where Tim’s been and why there’s been no Fireside Chats as pitchers and catchers reported to Fort Myers. We now have answers. He’s been chumming it up in rehab with his pal Tiger Woods. But unlike Tiger, Tim’s ready to get back to work!

Seriously though, with the Red Sox heading back to Fort Myers, its time to take a look at the team the Red Sox are about to put on the field and decide what we expect out of the local nine in 2010. Starting this week, Paul and Tim will look, first at the infield then outfield and so forth, at Fangraphs’ compilation of expert and community projections and give an assessment of their accuracy as well as will those numbers be good enough for this team to compete for a championship in 2010.

First up: Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Marco Scutaro, and Adrian Beltre.

All that and more on this episode of Fireside Chats.

The All-80s Players

Fooled you!

Anyway, they only 80s I wanted to talk about were the 80 million dimes given to Johnny Damon by the Detroit Tigers, and how it relates to our favorite rivals 210 miles south.

Personally, I was hoping teams would continue to stonewall Damon. With his declining defense, girl-scout level throwing power, and offensive season fueled by a short right field in Yankee Stadium III, the possibility that he couldn’t even scrape by a $5M deal was fueling my schadenfreude. My guess was that he’d eventually cave to Kenny Williams’ $4M deal the White Sox offered. This deal by the Tigers seems panicked, at best.

After trading away Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson for prospects, I understand the need to restock the outfield to replace Granderson. However, I’m very curious about the timing.

The early returns on SIERA

ALCS Game 5: New York Yankees at Los Angeles Anaheim

For those not following the sabermetric updates Baseball Prospectus has attempted to create a new pitching statistic that improves on all those before it. This new stat is called SIERA or Skill-Interactive Earned Run Average. This takes the work of Nate Silver who created QERA to attempt to fix the combined issues in FIP and xFIP. So far the sabermetric community has put in lots of work reviewing, but what are the early returns?

Matt Schwartz and Eric Seidman are the main authors on this work and attempt to describe first why this new stat is needed. The biggest reason is that while FIP, xFIP and QERA are all very instructional they do have a problem. That problem lays in a potential weighting of the three factors pitchers control strike outs, walks and groundball rate. In this case QERA is the worst for that failing as stated here:

All-Aughts Team of the Decade GM: Theo Epstein

Was there any doubt? The Boy Wonder is clearly Boston’s GM of the Decade, taking the job over officially for the 2003 season.

2000-2001 was the death throes of former Boy Wonder Dan Duquette, who was responsible for bringing Pedro Martinez to town, and … that’s about it. Duquette sometimes didn’t understand how to properly construct a roster or interact with the media. In his defense, he did put together solid postseason-caliber teams and had a deft hand in picking players up off the scrap heap. (Bret Saberhagen, Troy O’Leary, etc.)

2002 was with Mike Port at the helm as interim GM although some have said that Epstein was the one running things behind the scenes.

Whatever the case, Boston courted Oakland GM Billy Beane heavily following the 2002 season, and a deal was thought to be in place. The contract was a go. Oakland’s compensation (Kevin Youkilis) was a go. And then… Beane got cold feet. California was home. He pulled out, and Boston was left without a GM.

Verducci effect uses more circumstantial evidence

Reds Manager Baker Holds Lineup Card in Denver

I have always been critical of the “Verducci Effect” or “Year After Effect” as I have yet to see the study that proves its existence. Now that it’s February again, Tom Verducci has released his top ten high-risk pitchers based on the “Verducci Eeffect”. As I was reading the article I became a bit upset by his defensive nature and use of circumstantial evidence to prove his point. I am a scientist in drug discovery and if I ever used his “evidence” to prove the efficacy of a compound I would be laughed out of a job or selling Homeopathic medicine.

So, what actually is the Verducci Effect? The general idea is a pitcher under the age of 25 who increases his number of innings by more than 30 from his highest total is at risk of injury in following years. On the surfacem the theory seems plausible; with proper evidence and data we could formulate a study to allow the theory to be critized and able to stand behind on its own merits.

My first criticism is that Verducci allows the evidence to not just be injuries, which are already very common among pitchers under 25, but also uses decreased performance as a proof of the theory. It’s even more maddening that he uses ERA to prove this decrease in skills. Being a reader of Fire Brand I’m sure you know ERA season by season is not a very accurate measure of a pitchers skill, as the eventual ERA value assigned per year isn’t solely dependent upon the pitcher’s performance. Numerous factors outside the pitcher’s control have a great affect on ERA.

Wrapping Up the Offseason

Spring Training is only a day away, and it’s been a busy offseason for the Red Sox in 2010. The team struggled in the playoffs last year after putting up another solid regular season; tweaks were made to sew up the loose ends on the team’s defensive deficiencies. Another front line starter was brought into the fold. Is Lackey here to supplant Josh Beckett in 2011 and beyond, or simply be another high priced compliment to the rotation?

With the Olympics currently underway, let’s review what’s happened this offseason, and see what moves the teams made deserved a spot on the podium.

Third Base: Adrian Beltre replaces Mike Lowell
While the Lowell trade was derailed by an injury the fan base is still scratching their heads over (was Lowell hiding it, was the organization?), the acquisition of Beltre signaled the end of Lowell’s regular playing time. Arguably the most talented defensive third basemen in baseball, Beltre brings his slick glove to Fenway to provide the teams with the defensive wins they had lacked all last season. Even returning just to his 2008 level of offensive woudl make Beltre a 4 WAR player, a huge bonus for the Red Sox with minimal risk.

Interview at Mets Paradise

Last week I answered some questions for Scott Wallace at Mets Paradise. You can check them out today. There was some good questions about the roster and a few on front office and the farm system. Of course there was also the obligatory question about Jason Bay and why the Red Sox let him go. With the Mets looking like a .500 team this year I’m glad he didn’t ask me for more thoughts on them.