Table of Contents

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

New Look

I wasn't able to fix the issues I was running into with my old template, so I've opted to move on to a new one. Still some further adjustments I want to make, including a revamp of the old banner to better fit this template. But so far, I'm liking the new look.

Update: Thanks to a suggestion by Joel, I've added a "Recent Comments" section to the sidebar. This should help folks keep track of discussions, especially on older posts.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Reds payroll commitments

One project that I've been fiddling with 20 minutes at a time over the past few weeks is an accounting for the Reds' payroll commitments moving forward. To this end, I've created a google spreadsheet that I will (try to) keep updated and current whenever the Reds make a transaction.

Here's a figure showing the team's payroll commitments as of now (note: unfortunately, the list of player names reads in the opposite direction of bars on the graph. So, Affeldt's the bottom blue bar in 2008, Arroyo's the red bar on top of the blue bar, etc. That's what I get for using google spreadsheet, I guess):
The Reds have already committed ~$50 million toward the 2009 season, and ~$37 million toward the 2010 season. That's not to say that this is inappropriate; no analysis here, I'm just reporting the numbers. :)

Keep in mind that this spreadsheet only includes commitments. That means that future one-year contracts, like automatic renewals or future arbitration years, are not accounted for in this spreadsheet. This is why total team payroll commitments decline over time--I am not forecasting that payroll will decline, I'm just trying to track what the team has actually committed to date via contracts. Always assume that the actual team salary will be greater than what I report!

Also, in the case of option years, I'm just listing the team buyout of the option, as that's what's actually been committed to the player. I'll adjust this if/when the Reds pick up people's options.

In the case of Phillips' and Belisle's '08 salaries, I've just marked down what the Reds offered, as that's the minimum that they will pay. In the event that Phillips or Belisle win--or that they negotiate a settlement, I will, of course, update the spreadsheet. I'll also update things when the Reds start renewing contracts for all of their players with less than 3 years service time this spring.

On the spreadsheet, I've noted the rate at which I think players will be moving up the service time hierarchy. Let me know if you see any errors, as I'm ballparking this progression mostly just on elapsed time since a player's MLB debut rather than actual service time (though I've made adjustments here and there).

Credit to DMZ of the U.S.S Mariner for the graph idea.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Thursday Grab Bag: Pitchf/x, Arms, PAP, Prospects, Baserunning, & Projections

Eating dinner before class, and I thought I'd post a link dump/grab-bag post that I've gradually been accumulating over the past week or so:

Jeremy Affeldt's Pitches

There's been some talk that Affeldt might try to add a change-up to his repertoire as a "third pitch," in hopes of improving his ability to perform in the rotation. He did indicate that he threw it a couple of times last year, but that they weren't a common pitch.

Interestingly, here's what Josh Kalk's player card on Affeldt reports:
TypeBreak in x (in.)Break in z (in.)Initial Speed (MPH)Number ThrownPercentVersus RHBPercentVersus LHBPercent
It confirms that he did throw his change-up now and then last year--16 times among those games tracked by pitchf/x. The ~6 mph difference in speed isn't particularly tremendous. If a ball travels ~55 feet from the time it leaves a pitcher's hand to the time it arrives at the plate, a 6 mph difference amounts to a difference of ~0.03 seconds in when the pitches arrive. Maybe that's enough to disrupt a hitter's timing, but I'm skeptical. But hey, pitchers can always improve, so who knows?

Another interesting thing about the pitchf/x data is that it also shows two discrete breaking balls, which he hasn't mentioned in his interviews:
They both come in at about the same speed, but one has negative vertical break, while the other has "positive" break. I think this means that the two pitch types must have distinctly different spin. Kalk's algorithm classifies the negative breaking pitch as a curve, while the "positive" breaking pitch is classified as a slider. Their horizontal break is (mostly) the same.

Anyway, I just find it fun to compare what players/teams tell us about their pitches, and what the pitchf/x scouting data actually report.

Outfield Arm ratings, 2004-2007

John Walsh has released a spreadsheet with his estimate for outfield "arms" ratings for all players from 2004-2007. A huge thank you to him for this, as I'm sure it took a fair bit of extra work to get all the data ready for release. I'm steadily working up my '07 review (though free time has been hard to find since the start of the semester), and it will include those data in fielding assessments. I'm planning to calculate my fielding estimates for outfielders as:

[(ZR-runs + PMRorRZR-runs)/2 + WalshArms]*0.75 + 0.25*FansRuns

Infielders will continue to be:

(ZR-runs + PMRorRZR-runs)/2*0.75 + 0.25*FanRuns

Do Pitcher Abuse Points work?

With Dusty being the Reds' new manager, I'm sure that we'll be seeing a lot about Baseball Prospectus's pitcher abuse points. The question is, of course, can pitcher abuse points be used to actually predict injury? Tom Tango did a small study on this and found absolutely zero indication that high PAP predicts reduced workload in the future (due to injury, or due to lack of effectiveness via hidden injury). In fact, in several of his variations, he actually found that more "stressed" pitchers threw more pitches the subsequent year!

Certainly, there's some selection bias here--pitchers who can take it tend to throw more pitches year after year. The Harang/Arroyo comparison from last year is sort of a case in point. But the key finding here is that whatever effect PAP has on pitchers, if any, isn't large enough to make clear predictions about future injuries, at least in a coarse way (which is typically how folks try to apply them).

My guess is that the answer to this lies not in a stat like PAP (population-level assessments of workload), but rather in very individualized approaches. Maybe just including information about pitcher height and weight in a PAP model would be enough. But I continue to think that the best approach is a more "biological" approach, like what Boston does with their young pitchers. Hopefully, the Reds do or will do something similar to this in the future.

Nevertheless, let's try to keep a level head when we see the pitch counts mounting on Bailey, Cueto, etc, this year. We can be concerned, but we don't have to immediately call for Dusty Baker's head.

Reds popping up in various articles

A few highlights from some recent studies or features that featured Reds or former Reds:
  • Kevin Goldstein released his list of the Reds' top 11 prospects. There are a lot of similarities with John Sickels' Top 20 prospect list, but some modest differences of opinion as well.
  • Dan Fox released some historical baserunning work, and it's fun to see where some Reds fall out:
    • Barry Larkin ranked 10th among all players from 1956-2007, according to the sum of all of Fox's various baserunning stats. Joe Morgan came in 14th, Eric Davis 20th.
    • Pete Rose ranked among the worst all time on stolen base plays and advancement on groundouts, but among the best all time on advancement on fly outs.
    • Joe Morgan was the best in history (1956-2007) on advancing via balks, pb's, or wp's. So he must have really freaked out pitchers.
    • Tony Perez was the worst in history on advancing via fly balls, mostly because he got thrown out at the plate a lot in 1980-1981.
  • Xeifrank has been trying to predict division outcomes using his custom simulation and ZiPS projections. Amazingly (at least to me), he has the Reds near the top of the pack in the NL Central.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Reds sign Jeremy Affeldt

On Saturday, the Reds signed pitcher Jeremy Affeldt to a $3 million, 1 year contract. The 28-year old left-handed has pitched as a starter and reliever in his career, though he's found most of his success in the latter role.

He has pedigree: Affeldt was a 3rd-round selection by the Royals out of Northwest Christian High School in 1997. And he's big, 6'4", 215 lbs. But let's talk performance.

2005 26 KCR 49.7 7.1 5.3 0.5 52.8% 0.329 5.26 3.99 0.366 0.386 0.752 5.2 -1.2 3.2
2006 27 KC/COL
97.3 4.4 5.1 1.2 48.6% 0.270 6.20 5.65 0.356 0.410 0.766 5.6 -3.8 -8.4
2007 28 COL 59.0 7.0 5.0 0.5 53.0% 0.262 3.51 4.17 0.328 0.375 0.703 3.0 13.8 4.2
3years --- --- 206.0 5.8 5.1 0.8 51.1% 0.279 4.94 4.78 0.264 0.392 0.656 4.7 8.9 -1.0

Holy control problems, Batman! The first thing that jumps off the page when I see this dataset is his walk rate, which has been consistently awful over the past three years. His strikeout rates also are unimpressive over the span of his 200 innings from '05-'07...though they've been pretty variable, and were above average last year. He does seem to throw fairly hard, averaging 94 mph on his fastball last season, and had a good 16 mph difference between his heater and his breaking stuff.

The biggest asset that Affeldt seems to have is the ability to prevent the fly ball, which has resulted in below-average home run rates. He's also left-handed, of course, which is certainly beneficial--especially in the bullpen. I see him as being pretty similar to Jon Coutlangus. ... and I'm honestly not sure that he's a whole lot better, especially if Cout can drop his walk rates a tad bit next season.

Affeldt admittedly did have a nice season last year in Coors'. The R/G statistic above is park-corrected (assumes Coors' PF = 1.09), and it's responsible for the very impressive +14 RAR he posted in just 59 relief innings--and that's without adding an extra 14% for the extra leverage of the situations in which he pitched. But indications are that this was due, at least in part, to some good luck: His BABIP was a tad low, and his FIP is about 0.8 runs higher than his ERA. He was also playing in front of a good infield defense, especially that guy they have at shortstop. Furthermore, I think it's dangerous to read too much into 59 innings of work, especially when it contrasts so heavily with the other 145 innings of the past three years.

Of course, the word surrounding this signing is that he might be installed as a #5 starter if two of Belisle/Bailey/Volquez/Cueto falter or one of the Big Two get hurt. What would a move to the rotation do to his performance?

Well, here's a very dirty way to estimate it: based on numbers from Tom Tango (yes, I rely on his work too heavily, but there's not much else out there like it), a replacement-level pitcher would allow runs at 107% of league average in relief, and 128% of league average as a starter. If the league-average ERA is 4.43 (5-year MLB average), then a replacement-level pitcher in relief should have an ERA of 4.74, but an ERA of 5.67 as a starter. That puts the shift in ERA at about 0.9 runs when moving from a relief role to the rotation.

So, if we take his 2007 FIP as a good-case scenario for his skill, and add 0.9 runs to it to reflect his transition into the rotation, we're suddenly looking at a 5.00 ERA pitcher. And that's the good-case scenario. If we instead use his 3-year average FIP (admittedly includes 9 starts), we project him as a 5.70 ERA pitcher--essentially a replacement player.

One thing I will say that he has going for him as a starter: he has had relatively small lefty/righty splits in his career (0.767 OPS vs. right, 0.747 OPS vs. left), so that, at least, does suggest that the rotation is a good spot for him. If his production can best that of a replacement player in the rotation, it would be a good spot to leverage his talents.

Money Matters

$3 million for a free agent is paying for 0.7 WAR, or ~7 runs above replacement, based on Tango's salary scale.

Affeldt's FIP over the past 3 years indicates that Affeldt produces at just around replacement-level. That would put his value at 400k--league minimum.

On the other hand, his performance last year, based on FIP, was worth 4.2 RAR--and we should probably tweak that up to 4.9 RAR to reflect the leverage of the situations in which he pitched. Add to that the potential for his groundballing ways to translate well in GABP's conditions (low IF park factor--at least, it was last I checked), and you can make a reasonable argument for 7 RAR.

Update: thought about this last night while I was trying to sleep:

If Affeldt is able to pitch at a 5.00 ERA as a starter, and he gets 150 innings, he'd more than justify his price tag, as that would be the equivalent of ~12 RAR ([5.7-5.0]/9*150=11.7). I'm not sure that he can do that, but if he can keep his strikeout rate high while in the rotation, he should be able to achieve that level of "effectiveness."

So the deal is fair. I guess the big question is whether he represents an upgrade over someone like Coutlangus or Stanton--much less Bray or one of the starter candidates. And I think that's fairly questionable.

Photo by Getty Images/Doug Pensinger

Friday, January 18, 2008

Missing background

For same reason, the white background seems to have disappeared from my posts section on this blog. I'm not sure why this has happened, as I didn't do anything that seems likely to have caused this problem.

Anyway, I've asked blogger for help, so hopefully they can figure it out. Worst case scenario, I may have to revert back to a default template and re-customize it. Bleh. One way or another, I'll get it fixed within the next few days.

Arbitration Battles: Phillips and Belisle

The Reds are taking two cases to arbitration this year: Brandon Phillips and Matt Belisle. I thought I'd try to apply a sabr-style approach to see if we can predict who will win! :)

I'm generally going to follow the methods used in this thread over at Tom Tango and MGL's blog. I am also relying heavily on the player salary scale estimates here, which usually seems to work quite well.

Brandon Phillips

John Fay reports that the Reds offered $2.7 million. In general, players make ~40% of their free agent value in their first season of arbitration eligibility, which means the Reds are claiming that he's got the value of a $6.75 million free agent. Based on Tango's salary scale, that pegs their valuation of Phillips as a 1.5 Win Above Replacement (WAR) player.

Phillips countered with $4.2 million, valuing him as equal to a $10.5 million free agent, which would pay for 2.5 WAR.

Phillips had what might have been his career year last season, but also might have been a breakout season. Hard to tell. Recent stats:
2005 24 CLE 9 44% 0% 0% 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 -2.8 -2.2
2006 25 CIN 587 15% 6% 19% 0.297 0.276 0.324 0.427 0.151 0.751 3.441 4.8 16.0
2007 26 CIN 702 16% 5% 19% 0.303 0.288 0.331 0.485 0.197 0.816 1.864 5.5 32.5
3yrs --- --- 1298 15% 5% 19% 0.299 0.280 0.324 0.455 0.175 0.780 5.305 5.1 46.4

I'm going to be simple-headed here and project that Phillips will play at ~his 2-year average next season. This corresponds well to his Marcel and CHONE projections. So that puts him at ~48/2 = 24 RAR next season, or about 2.4 WAR on offense.

Defensively, the Fans see him as excellent, 15 FRAA via the Fans Scouting Report, or 1.5 Fielding Wins Above Average (FWAA). PMR has him at 5+35 = +40 runs over the past two years, or 2.0 FWAA per season. ZR, on the other hand, has him at "just" +4 runs over the past two years, or 0.2 FWAA/season. Using my (rather arbitrary) weighting system, I'd estimate his fielding as 0.375*2 + 0.375*0.2 + 0.25*1.5 = +1.2 FWAA per season.

He gets no bonus (nor penalty) for his defensive position, and I'll assume no aging for his age-27 year. That puts his estimated value at 2.4+1.2 = ~3.5 WAR next season. This puts his value at 40% of $15.4 million = $6.2 million for next season.

Maybe I'm vastly overvaluing him somehow, but these numbers indicate that even his counter offer is well below his actual arbitration value. I'm guessing that Phillips will win his case if he has good representation.

Matt Belisle

The Reds are offering Belisle $1.0 million. That means they're valuing him as a $1 million / 40% = $2.5 million = 0.5 WAR player.

Belisle countered with $1.65 million. That would assume that he's a $1.65 million / 40% = $4.1 million = ~1.0 WAR player.

Belisle's a little hard to project--especially in terms of his IP--because he just began serving as a full-time starter in the majors this past season. Here are his recent stats:
2005 25 CIN 85.7 6.2 2.7 1.2 53.5% 0.321 4.41 4.43 0.396 0.504 0.900 5.5 -4.6 2.9
2006 26 CIN 40.0 5.9 4.3 1.1 46.7% 0.299 3.60 5.12 0.521 0.556 1.077 5.5 -1.0 -0.5
2007 27 CIN 177.7 6.3 2.2 1.3 29.4% 0.326 5.32 4.58 0.524 0.688 1.212 5.4 13.8 26.4
3years --- --- 303.4 6.2 2.6 1.2 49.1% 0.396 9.02 4.54 0.360 0.533 0.894 5.4 8.2 28.8

The thing that's really interesting about Belisle's 2007 season is that his FIP was so drastically different from his ERA. When putting together my writeup on him for the THT Preview (out in stores in February!), I noted that 6 of his 26 home runs allowed last season were for 3 or more runs (including 3 grand slams), which is unusually severe. Couple that with an 0.326 BABIP, and you've got trouble.

If we use standard RAR to estimate 2007 his value, that puts him at ~1.4 WAR. However, if we instead use FIP-Runs (described here), his value shoots up to a very respectable 2.6 WAR.

I think the safest thing would be to assume that he'll end up somewhere in between those figures next season--maybe 2.0 WAR? 2.0 WAR as a free agent is worth $8.8 million. So, $8.8 million * 40% (first year eligible for arbitration) puts him at $3.5 million in 2008.

Even if we just projected his 1.5 WAR value from last season into 2008, that puts his value at 40% of $6.6 million = $2.6 million in 2008. Again, I lean toward Belisle's argument, as even it seems to be undervaluing him.

Update: I discovered an error in my FIP-Runs calculation for Belisle, which cost him a half-win by that estimate. Sorry! :( The analysis still holds.


The fact that I'm estimating that both of these players will be underpaid in '08 raises some doubts about the validity of the assumption that players get 40% of their free agent value in their first year of arbitration eligibility. The only empirical work on this that I know of is this quick analysis based on Victor Wang's prospect value study, but by those data it was dead-on.

In Phillips' case, it looks like his defense is basically being ignored, and the Reds are a bit pessimistic about his offense. With Belisle, it looks like both the Reds and he are a) putting lots of weight on his scary 2007 ERA, and b) aren't fully appreciating how bad a replacement-level pitcher is when used as a starter.

Can you predict a clutch performance?

The clutch hitter debate is one of the longest-running debates in the sabermetric community. There's no question that there are clutch hits, and that you can look at players' performances and see how they've performed in the clutch in the past.

But can you predict how hitters will perform in the future?

The best work I've seen addressing this issue is in The Book by Tom Tango et al., who found a small but significant clutch effect...just one that is probably too small to make for reliable predictions. Nevertheless, given how many comments you hear about clutch players every season, it's clear that the majority of baseball fans and personnel don't buy into those conclusions.

Two really fun projects have been launched for the 2008 season that will serve as a great opportunity for those who advocate a predictable clutch skill to put their money where their mouth is.

First, Tom Tango is putting together a clutch project that will ask fans to vote for the guy they think is the #1 clutch hitter on their respective teams. He will then identify, before the season starts, the player projected to have the best overall performance next season. We get to follow those players all season long, and at the end, he'll take the 30 clutch players (one per team) and the 30 unclutch players and pull each player's 50 most crucial plate appearances (probably measured by pLI).

If fans can predict clutch performances, the prediction is that the clutch players will perform better--or at least comparably--in their 50x30=1500 most crucial plate appearances than the unclutch players perform in their 1500 most crucial plate appearances. If clutch skill can't be predicted, then the unclutch players should perform better.

I posted about this over at RedsZone, and it looks as though Reds fans will pick either Edwin Encarnacion or Ken Griffey Jr. as their clutch hitter. Dunn will almost certainly be picked as the unclutch hitter. It'll be interesting to watch next season!

Second, Phil Birnbaum is willing to bet any reasonable sum of real money (and maybe some unreasonable sums as well) that you cannot pick a player, set of players, etc, that will improve more in the clutch than any other player, set of players, etc.

So, if you're at least 67% sure that EDE will improve his performance in the clutch more than Dunn will in 2008 (and you get to define how "clutch" will be determined--RISP, pLI, close & late, whatever), Phil will take that bet. If you just want to bet that Dunn is terrible in the clutch, Phil will take that bet too--you can compare Dunn's performance in the clutch to that of the rest of the league in the clutch.

The prediction, if clutch is as difficult to predict as previous work indicates that it will be, is that the bets should should come out in Phil's favor 50% of the time. Given that he's asking 2:1 odds, that would result in a payout to him of $2 for every $1 he loses. The break-even point is 67% accuracy in clutch (or choke) player predictions.

I hope someone takes Phil up on it--should be fun to watch!!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Ohio U players accused of gambling activities

It's not every day that I see my alma mater's baseball team mentioned on BBTF. Shame it comes due to something like this:
Yesterday, OU's 20-year baseball coach sadly acknowledged that three of his players apparently did not heed his advice or OU and NCAA prohibitions against sports gambling.
There is no evidence that the operation involved wagers on OU sports, the Bobcat baseball team or other student-athletes, officials said.
The gambling involved professional sports, Lang said.
Under NCAA rules, athletes who wager on their schools' teams are permanently ineligible. Those who bet on other collegiate or professional sports are banned for a year and lose that year of eligibility.
Mark DeCoster, Brent DeCoster's father, said the charges are overblown. He said the case involves friends making "friendly" $10 or $20 wagers, including on a fantasy football league. His son will plead not guilty, he said.
Sounds to me like some guys who were just being stupid. The active players, in particular, though, surely were aware of the NCAA rules associated with this kind of thing...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A dirty way of predicting reliever leverage when pLI is not available

Note: while I'm posting this separately so that it is visible, it's really just meant to be an update to my piece on reliever leverage in the player value series. I'm appending it to that article as well.

As discussed earlier, when thinking about reliever value, it's insufficient to strictly consider the rate at which they give up runs because some runs are more valuable than others. Closers, in particular, tend to pitch in high leverage situations, and therefore should get more "credit" for their ability to pitch above reliever replacement level than a pitcher who only pitches in games that have a lopsided score.

For players since 2002, we can get actual pLI data from FanGraphs, and I discussed how to employ those data to adjust reliever run value estimates previously. However, what if you want to look at reliever value among players who played prior to 2002, like in my proposed series on past winning Reds teams? In that situation, you'd need some way of inferring reliever usage from other statistics.

One way to try to do this is by looking at performance--better pitchers should be used in higher-leverage situations. However, when attempting this approach, I've found that there's just very little predictive power (i.e. huge amount of scatter), even though there is a significant relationship between ERA (or FIP) and pLI. Whether that's due to within-team competition, inconsistent reliever performance, or poor decisions by managers, performance is just not a very good way to predict pLI.

On the other hand, as Darren implied, even in historical databases like Lahman's, we have at least one statistic that tells us something about usage: saves. Saves are well documented to be a rather poor indicator of reliever quality. Nevertheless, they do tell you who was pitching in the 9th inning of a team's games, which tends to be the inning with the highest leverages. So we should be able to use saves to infer something about reliever usage. Here's what I did:


I pulled stats, including both traditional pitching statistics and pLI, from fangraphs on all pitchers, 2002-2007, who threw at least 25 innings in relief in a season. There is some selection bias in such a sample, because it will tend to exclude a lot of bad pitchers who weren't given the opportunity to throw 25 IP. But it still does include pitchers that span much of the range in terms of performance, and gets around the issue of dealing with stats on pitchers with extremely small samples (not that 25 IP is a big sample...).

Next, I calculated saves per inning (Srate) as an indication of the proportion of a pitcher's innings that were associated with saves:

Srate = Saves/IP

It's important to use a rate because you want to know something about a player's opportunities. If someone gets 20 saves in 20 innings, they're probably pitching in much higher leverage situations, on average, than someone who gets 20 saves in 70 innings. Ideally, I'd also use blown saves--and maybe holds--but those stats are not available in the Lahman database or on baseball-reference's team pages, so I'm going to ignore them for now.

I also converted to pLI to a "rate" statistic using the approach suggested by Tom Tango:

rateLI = pLI/(pLI+1)

Such that:
pLI = 2 ---- rateLI = 0.667
pLI = 1 ---- rateLI = 0.500
pLI = 0.5 ---- rateLI - 0.333

This was important because as a pure ratio, pLI changes at a faster rate above 1.0 than it does below 1.0, which makes it hard to model using a regression-based approach.

Anyway, here's a plot of Srate vs. rateLI:
Obviously, that's a pretty ugly-looking relationship down in the zero/low-saves groups. But as you can see, there's a pretty nice relationship among pitchers who actually have a modest number of saves and their pLI. In other words, once someone starts to get saves, you can reasonably predict that he'll have an above-average pLI, and the player's pLI should steadily increase from there.

I decided to run with this and, in what I completely admit is a really terrible abuse of regression math (I've violated just about every assumption one can violate), I fitted a line to this relationship. I found that a second-order polynomial seemed to fit the data well. Furthermore, I forced the y-intercept to come in at a rateLI=0.5 (pLI=1.0), such that the average pitcher without saves is expected to pitch in average leverage (otherwise, the equation tended to predict that the vast majority of pitchers would have a pLI=0.8, and that's not reasonable). Here's the equation:
rateLI = -0.3764*(Srate^2) + 0.5034*Srate + 0.5

which we can convert back to pLI by:

pLI = rateLI/(1-rateLI)

Now, this rather shaky regression equation isn't something that I'd try to publish in the SABR newsletter, much less an academic journal. It's not built upon rigorous math. But it actually works pretty darn well. For demonstration, here's a table showing a hypothetical pitcher who has thrown 70 innings, and how his predicted pLI changes as the number of saves (and thus his Srate) increases:
Saves (70 IP)
Srate rateLI pLI
0 0.00 0.50 1.0
5 0.07 0.53 1.1
10 0.14 0.56 1.3
15 0.21 0.59 1.4
20 0.29 0.61 1.6
25 0.36 0.63 1.7
30 0.43 0.65 1.8
35 0.50 0.66 1.9
40 0.57 0.66 2.0
45 0.64 0.67 2.0
50 0.71 0.67 2.0
As you can see, the numbers seem to plateau at around a pLI of 2.0, which is about where MLB closers tend to plateau. David Weathers, for example, who had a Srate = 0.42 last season, had an actual pLI=1.95, which isn't far from his predicted pLI using this method. Pitchers with a smaller number of saves per IP--setup men, mostly--are assumed to have above-average but still relatively moderate leverage. Finally, guys without saves are assumed to have average leverage.

Anyway, I think that this is a pretty reasonable way to adjust for historical reliever leverage, at least among closers. Obviously, we're going to undervalue some relievers that aren't yet in the setup role but pitch in lots of big-time leverage situations in the 7th or 8th innings. But I think this approach will capture a lot of what we're trying to do with a reliever leverage adjustment.

On a moderately related note...last night, I spent some time setting up spreadsheets and my database to start on the Winning Reds historical series. Should be pretty efficient at this point, which should make it easier to get through the teams at a good clip as long as I keep the writing under control. I'm excited to get started on the series, but I think I'll do a dry run first in wrapping up the 2007 Reds' season. Look for that shortly.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Reds hire Jocketty

Today the Reds hired Walt Jocketty as a special assistant to Bob Castellini. Can't help but like the fact that the Reds are hiring more people. I thought this quote from Jocketty was interesting:

"I report to Bob. Basically, I'll be involved in every aspect, working with Wayne. I think Wayne's done a great job in the two years."

Sounds as though he'll be serving as a sounding board for Wayne on baseball decisions, and a source of second opinions to Bob. I think it sounds like a fine idea. Wayne will still be in charge, but Jocketty can provide his perspectives on moves. If there's been one rumored dig against Krivsky from the people in (or, rather, leaving) the front office, it's that he can be very exclusionary toward people who aren't in his inner circle. Jocketty, on the other hand, is not only an accomplished executive, but he's one that Krivsky has to interact with because he has Bob Castellini's ear.

I don't want this addition to hamstring Krivsky's ability to make decisions on the fly, of course. But I wouldn't mind a bit more reflection on some of the moves the front office makes now and then, be it laughable picks in the rule 5 draft, or devastating trades.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Quick rundown of recent acquisitions

I'm a bit behind on the Reds' acquisitions, but I wanted to run stats on everyone the Reds had recently acquired, going back to the Volquez trade. Here we go....

Edinson Volquez, 24-year old RHP
Acquired in the Josh Hamilton trade in December.
Year Age Lvl IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9
2005 21 Rk/A+/AA 127.3 9.0 2.1 1.1
0.312 4.10 3.59 0.249 0.304 0.399 0.703 4.2
2006 22 AAA 121.0 9.7 5.4 0.7
0.262 3.20 3.90 0.195 0.318 0.300 0.618 3.5
2007 23 A+/AA/AAA 144.6 10.3 3.7 0.8
0.247 3.67 3.42 0.186 0.277 0.307 0.584 3.1
3-years --- --- 392.9 9.7 3.7 0.8
0.275 3.67 3.63 0.210 0.299 0.336 0.635 3.6

2005 21 TEX 12.7 7.8 7.1 2.1 42.3% 0.449 14.21 7.19 0.403 0.493 0.661 1.154 12.8 -11.0
2006 22 TEX 33.3 4.1 4.6 1.9 42.7% 0.363 7.29 6.60 0.359 0.427 0.538 0.965 8.5 -8.2
2007 23 TEX 34.0 7.7 4.0 1.1 38.2% 0.303 4.50 4.56 0.262 0.342 0.408 0.750 4.7
3-years --- --- 80.0 6.2 4.7 1.6 41.0% 0.357 7.20 5.76 0.329 0.335 0.511 0.846 7.6
Volquez has been very dominant in the minor leagues, despite an above-average walk rate. Major league hitters have proven more difficult to dominant in limited innings, but it should be noted that Volquez has been exposed to them at a rather young age while pitching in an absolute bandbox of a park (though the R/G and RAR numbers are park-corrected). And least year, though the sample is limited, he seemed to take a step forward in the majors while also improving his minor league numbers. If he can even be league-average next season (~4.50 ERA), he'll be a tremendous help to the rotation. I'm sure the Reds' scouts think he's capable of doing at least that, or they would never have parted ways with a talent like Hamilton's. Volquez should be out of option years at this point (right?), so he is (probably) a lock for a spot on the roster.

Daniel Herrera, 23-year old LHP
Acquired in the Josh Hamilton trade in December
Year Age Lvl IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9
2006 21 Rk/A+ 62.0 10.5 1.7 0.0
0.291 1.45 1.70 0.194 0.254 0.218 0.472 1.8
2007 22 A+/AA 63.3 10.7 3.6 0.6
0.338 3.69 2.98 0.236 0.322 0.331 0.653 3.7
2-years --- --- 125.3 10.6 2.7 0.3
0.315 2.59 2.35 0.216 0.290 0.276 0.566 2.7
Mostly pitching in relief, Herrera has put up very impressive numbers in his two seasons thus far. Most impressive are his strikeout numbers, though word is that this is due primarily to a screwball/change, and one has to wonder whether it will continue to fool hitters at higher levels. At least his strikeout numbers didn't take a hit as he moved up last season, which is encouraging. I'd like to see him start the year in AAA, with scouts paying close attention to how he performs against the top hitters in that league International League. If he can get those guys out, he might make the Reds' bullpen as early as late next season.

Jeff Fiorentino, 24-year old LHB OF
Acquired off of waivers from Baltimore on 4 January
Year Age Lvl PA %K %BB
2005 22 A+ 455 20% 7%
0.319 0.286 0.346 0.508 0.222 0.854 -0.702 6.2
2006 23 AA 450 13% 12%
0.296 0.275 0.365 0.413 0.138 0.778 0.174 5.4
2007 24 AA 496 18% 9%
0.325 0.282 0.346 0.445 0.163 0.791 -0.468 5.4
3years ---
1401 17% 9%
0.314 0.281 0.347 0.456 0.175 0.803 -0.996 5.7

2005 22 BAL 47 21% 4% 33% 0.294 0.250 0.277 0.364 0.114 0.641 0.175 3.5 -0.1
2006 23 BAL 50 6% 14% 28% 0.256 0.256 0.375 0.308 0.052 0.683 0.175 4.6 1.0
2years --- --- 97 13% 9% 30% 0.274 0.253 0.320 0.337 0.084 0.657 0.35 4.0 0.9
Fiorentino repeated AA last season after failing to really find his stroke the year before. And in all honesty, he didn't really do much better, which probably accounts for why Baltimore opted not to promote him to the big leagues even late in the year. He hit for a tad more power, but his walk rate declined, and the resulting drop in his OBP negated the benefits of his improved power. Defensively, he's been very good in a limited sample, with a +5 UZR across just 25 games in left and center fields. Looks to me like the guy needs a season in AAA, at least, before he can help the Reds much with the stick--but he might be ok as a 5th outfielder in a pinch, if just for an option as a defensive replacement.

Jim Brower, 35-year old RHP
Signed to minor league deal on 4 January.
Year Age Lvl IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9
2005 32 AAA 4.0 2.3 4.5 0.0
0.091 2.25 4.20 0.080 0.214 0.090 0.304 0.6
2006 33 AAA 52.0 7.1 3.6 1.4
0.312 4.67 5.12 0.272 0.358 0.457 0.815 5.8
2007 34 AAA 55.0 8.0 2.5 0.3
0.331 2.45 3.04 0.251 0.327 0.318 0.646 3.5
3years --- --- 111.0 7.4 3.1 0.8
0.314 3.49 4.06 0.256 0.339 0.379 0.718 4.5

2005 32 SF/ATL 60.3 7.9 4.8 1.6 53.5% 0.343 5.37 5.47 0.403 0.493 0.661 1.154 7.0 -13.7
2006 33 BAL/SD 20.0 6.3 6.3 0.9 46.7% 0.423 12.15 5.90 0.359 0.427 0.538 0.965 9.6 -9.6
2007 34 NYY 3.3 2.7 5.5 0.0 29.4% 0.471 13.50 5.36 0.262 0.342 0.408 0.750 13.9 -3.2
3years --- --- 83.6 7.3 5.2 1.4 49.1% 0.357 7.20 5.61 0.329 0.335 0.511 0.846 7.9 -26.5
The guy the Reds got for an aging Eddie Taubensee has now returned. No longer a starter, Brower really hasn't pitched much over the last few years. And when he has, at least in the majors, he's been dreadful, especially in terms of his walk rates. I don't expect to see him with the Reds next season unless they suffer some severe injury problems.

Jolbert Cabrera, 35-year old RHB IF/OF
Signed to a minor league contract on 4 January
Year Age Lvl PA %K %BB
2007 34 A+/AAA 224 13% 4%
0.290 0.262 0.306 0.401 0.139 0.707 -0.934 3.8
Orlando Cabrera's older brother had played as a highly versatile reserve player through the 2004 season before leaving to play in Japan for two years. Last season, he tried to return to US baseball, but his performance indicated that the always-weak hitter didn't have a lot left in the tank. We might see him in a Pedro Lopez-like role next year, but nothing more.

Andy Green, 30-year old RHB IF/OF
Signed to a minor league contract on 4 January
Year Age Lvl PA %K %BB
2005 27 AAA 609 13% 11%
0.380 0.343 0.422 0.587 0.244 1.009 -1.227 8.9
2006 28 AAA 80 18% 5%
0.283 0.240 0.288 0.320 0.080 0.608 0 3.2
2years --- --- 689 14% 10%
0.368 0.331 0.405 0.554 0.223 0.959 -1.227 8.1

2005 27 ARI 39 8% 18% 26% 0.241 0.226 0.359 0.258 0.032 0.617 0 3.5 -0.1
2006 28 ARI 102 20% 13% 16% 0.221 0.186 0.293 0.267 0.081 0.560 0.175 2.9 -2.4
2years --- --- 141 16% 14% 18% 0.227 0.197 0.305 0.265 0.068 0.570 0.175 3.1 -2.5
Green played in Japan last season after being released by the Diamondbacks. He had a heck of a season in AAA Tucson, though that may have been helped by both a high BABIP and an outrageous park factor. Even so, it's a little surprising that he hasn't done anything since then--though I can't seem to find his Japan numbers.

Adam Pettyjohn, 30 year old LHP
Signed to a minor league contract on 4 January
Year Age Lvl IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9
2006 29 AA/AAA
116.0 6.8 2.7 0.9
0.310 3.80 3.87 0.261 0.322 0.388 0.710 4.3
2007 30 AA/AAA
161.3 7.6 1.9 1.3
0.284 4.07 4.09 0.249 0.289 0.429 0.718 4.4
3years --- --- 277.3 7.3 2.2 1.1
0.295 3.96 4.00 0.254 0.303 0.412 0.714 4.4
Pettyjohn actually broke into the big leagues back in 2001 and threw 65 innings, but apparently suffered some major health problems that cost him his '02 season and derailed his career. He had trouble getting another shot, and had to resort to pitching in the independent leagues in 2005 before getting back into the minor league systems with Seattle. He's no spring chicken, but his numbers the past few seasons look pretty darn strong--even if he lost a k/9 and gained a bb/9 in the majors, he might still be an effective pitcher in the bullpen or even out of the back of the rotation--though certainly he'd fall in behind Cueto and Maloney on the depth charts. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see him in a Reds uniform at some point I'd give him a fair shot at helping the Reds, maybe even as a #5 starter.

Andy Phillips, 30-year old RHB 1B/2B/3B
Signed to a minor league contract on 4 January
Year Age Lvl PA %K %BB
2005 28 AAA 340 18% 11%
0.313 0.300 0.379 0.573 0.273 0.952 0.35 7.2
2007 30 AAA 283 15% 11%
0.328 0.301 0.382 0.494 0.193 0.876 -0.117 6.6
2years --- --- 623 17% 11%
0.320 0.301 0.380 0.537 0.237 0.918 0.233 6.9

2005 28 NYY 41 32% 2% 26% 0.192 0.150 0.171 0.325 0.175 0.496 0 1.4 -2.9
2006 29 NYY 263 21% 6% 15% 0.281 0.240 0.281 0.394 0.154 0.675 -0.409 3.4 -2.5
2007 30 NYY 207 13% 6% 0% 0.315 0.292 0.338 0.373 0.081 0.711 -1.401 4.1 2.2
3years --- --- 511 19% 5% 18% 0.290 0.253 0.292 0.380 0.127 0.672 -1.81 3.5 -3.2
Phillips arrives with all the hype a former marginal Yankees prospect coming to the midwest might hope for. Nevertheless, his minor league numbers do show impressive power. Nevertheless, that's yet to translate into anything but strikeouts in the big leagues, so any hopes of him being a power source off the bench should be heavily tempered. I've got very limited sample sizes to look at for his fielding, but I have him as an approximately average first baseman over the past two years. If true, he's not likely to help the Reds' infield defense much, as that would put him at about -10 runs/season at second and third. All in all, not a bad pickup given that he's next to free. The Reds will need a right-handed first base option if Jeff Keppinger fails to hit next year, so Phillips would seem to have a shot at getting some playing time.