Table of Contents

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Do the Rockies have the best pitching in baseball?

DENVER - MAY 27:  Starting pitcher Ubaldo Jime...Ubaldo Jimenez is the best pitcher I can't remember. Image by Getty Images via Daylife

The BtB Power Rankings seem to show it, and Sky gives it another look.

He's right that they aren't the best in MLB. I still think they might be the best in the NL. Here's my (rather disjointed response):

A few things:

1. The Rockies get more of a hand than any other team in with tRA, because we’re using David Gassko’s batted ball park factors (linked here: Their k-rate, for example, is boosted by a mlb-low park factor of 0.89. Home run per outfield fly correction is similarly high (second-highest in MLB) at 1.22. Virtually everything except walk rates are adjusted in the Rockies’ favor. Coors’ is the best hitters’ park in baseball, though, so you’d expect them to get the most help.

2. If you take their 4.10 FIP and correct for park, where does that put you? I haven’t done it myself, but I’m guessing pretty close to the league lead. You can use 0.89 as a park factor for K’s, 1.00 for BB’s, 0.97 for HBP (all from Gassko), and 1.08 for HR’s (from patriot). … ok, let’s do it:
Raw FIP = (13*67 + 3*(223+20-10) – 2*468)/633 + 3.14 = 4.10
Cor FIP = (13*61 + 3*(223+21-10) – 2*526)/633 + 3.14 = 3.81

That’d tie them for third with SF in FIP (without doing park corrections for those teams). As you said, not the best by this measure, but extremely good.

3. It’s worth mentioning that in addition to the DH issue, I’m not correcting the pitching stats in the power rankings for league difficulty. That gets tacked on at the end (which lets people ignore it if they want to). So yeah, the Rockies aren’t the best in MLB. But they are at least among the top 3-5 staffs in the NL this season.

@BtB: Power Rankings Updated

I updated the power rankings at BtB last night. The Reds held steady at #25....but there's a big gap between the #24 Athletics and the Reds, bigger even than the gap between the Reds and the last place Padres. A strong week from the Reds would help, and getting away from AL East teams will help...

Also, Sky did a nice comparison between different power ranking systems here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

On Joey Votto

Description unavailableVotto is back, hopefully to stay. Image by team doster via Flickr

This is one of the most impressive things I've ever seen from a professional athlete:
“As some of you know, my father passed away last August. The first day back I kind of put that all on the back burner and just played baseball all the way to the end of September. I don’t want to use the word suppress because he was in my thoughts and I was dealing with it on a daily basis. But, as powerful a moment that is to lose your father so young, in a way I did suppress it. From August to the beginning of spring training, I was pretty severely depressed. I was dealing with the anxiety of grief and sadness and fear. Every emotion you can imagine that everyone goes through.

“I had a really difficult time with it. I was by myself down in Florida. I just was really looking forward to baseball. When baseball started up in February, I kind of did the same thing I did last August and threw it all on the side, threw all my emotions on the back burner and played baseball.

“I got sick in May. I had the upper respiratory thing and the ear infection. It was taking the time away from baseball and recovering from being sick when for the first time all emotions that had been pushing to the side that I had been dealing with and struggling with in the winter hit me. They hit me a hundred times more than I had been dealing with.

“I was taken out of three separate games. The first game it was a combination of me being ill. But I could tell there was something going on. I couldn’t recover. I had this feeling of anxiety. I had this feeling in my chest. The second time I came out in San Diego, it was similar. But I was healthy and I felt like I could’ve played.

“The third time was in Milwaukee, and I was totally overwhelmed.

“I spoke to some doctors. They came to the conclusion I was dealing with obviously being depressed and anxiety and panic attacks. They were overwhelming to the point where I had to go to the hospital on two separate occasions. Once in San Diego and once – nobody had been told about – but I went to the hospital once in Cincinnati when the team was on the road.

“It was a very, very scary and crazy night. I had to call 911 at 3 or 4 in the morning. It was probably the scariest moment I ever dealt with in my life. I went to the hospital that night.

“The days I was taken off the field were little, miniature versions of what I was dealing with by myself. Ever since I’ve been on the DL and even the little bit before the DL, I’ve been really struggling with this in my private life. I’d go on the field and try to do my best and play well. I had my spurts when I’d play well. But going out on the field . . . I couldn’t do it anymore because I was so overwhelmed physically by the stuff I was dealing with off the field.

“It finally seeped its way into the game. I just had to put an end to it. I really couldn’t be out there. It’s difficult to explain what I was going through. I couldn’t do it. I physically couldn’t do my job. That’s what I’ve gone through.

“I’ve been talking and seeing some doctors. They’ve been a great help. And speaking to people in general – I spoke to my team last week – and letting people know what I’ve been dealing with and how difficult this grieving process has been. My father was young, and I’m a young man. I really wish I hadn’t lost my father so young. I’m the oldest brother. I feel like I’m responsible for my family. Maybe I have a proclivity for depression or whatever it is.

“But I was dealing with some pretty abnormal circumstances – the combination of being a major league ballplayer, a young ballplayer and also dealing with my father and my family.”
This is the kind of thing that makes me, at least, reflect a bit on my own life. It's a totally different situation, but I've had my share of stress over the past year. I (frantically) finished my dissertation, found a job, relocated across country, made it through my first (brutal, at times) year as full time faculty, and just over a month ago had my second child. I've been extremely lucky to have it all go as well as it has. I'm proud of what I've accomplished, and I love my job and my family.

But it's been 100 mph all the time, and do or die far more than is comfortable. I've seen friends who didn't make it. The best man at my wedding came just months from finishing his own degree program before depression and other issues pushed him down a path that has, as far as I know, ended his academic career. I've been so obsessed with my own problems that I have completely lost touch with him. Another friend's anxiety issues kept him from ever really getting started in our lab, despite ample talent. And I'm no psychologist, but I've seen capable students this year drop out because of what seemed to me to be similar anxiety issues. Sometimes I wonder what might have happened--and where I'd be--if things hadn't gone as well. While I know there are lots of people out there dealing with far more difficult things than I have had to cope with, I also know that I've felt close to breaking far too many times this past year.

So good for Votto for speaking up today. My feeling is that it probably did him a lot of good. And I have to think that it will be an enormous help to a lot of people struggling with problems of depression and anxiety to read his words.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Rob Dibble, pitching for the Cincinnati Reds i...Rob Dibble's career looks better with WAR than with win shares. Image via Wikipedia

I've been exchanging emails with a friend about Rally's WAR data (and competing systems) and it turned into a nice Q&A that I though I'd post here. Quotes are my friend, the rest is me.
1) Is it safe to say that WAR has a much higher bar than WS? (any bad regular can accumulate WS in a season, but with WAR a bad regular will be around +/- 1.0 WAR)
Yes, WS uses too low of a baseline. If a replacement player (e.g. Willie Bloomquist) plays enough, they will have positive win shares but a zero WAR. This is why Bill James has finally started developing "loss shares," which is a (clunky, in my view) way of dealing with this problem. Of course, James isn't publishing loss shares yet, so it's hard to know what to make of them (if anything). Rally's stuff also uses a better fielding metric than James's stuff does, so at this point I think it's safe to say that WS is vastly inferior to what Rally's selling (which I have purchased, fwiw--it's exactly what I was hoping for, although you do have to mesh it with a database...I stuck it in Lahman's get the retroID's to match up with names. No biggie, as I'm trying to learn to use a database as it is).
2) WAR includes everything in some form - defense, baserunning, position adjustments, ballpark/league adjustments (which is not that different from WS except I don't think it had baserunning). Am I missing anything?
I'm not sure about league adjustments, though I wouldn't be surprised. It does include range, arms, dp turning (all w/ TotalZone), baserunning (beyond just sb's, also advancing 1st to third and stuff like that), park adjustments, etc. Rally's pretty awesome. :)
3) For the purposes of explaining WAR, what would you say the scale is? I'm guessing at something like:

2.0 - Useful Player
5.0 - Good Regular/All Star Candidate
7.0 - MVP Candidate
10.0 - MVP in a normal season
2.0 = MLB average player playing roughly a full year. I think good regular is ~3 WAR, but yeah 5 WAR = allstar. 10 WAR = Pujols, 12 WAR = Bonds. :)
Does that sound right? Is it different for pitchers?
Yeah, I think pitchers tend to score a tad lower, at least at the high end. Clemons had a few 10 WAR seasons, but Sabathia last year was ~7 WAR (across leagues) for example, as was Halladay. I still think of an average starter as ~2 war, though.
4) Are there differences between WAR on the various sites (or for that matter, BP's revised WARP figures). I know you favor WAR, just want to understand in a nutshell the differences.
Rally's WAR is calculated almost exactly as Tango does it, which is also how FanGraphs does it (though Rally has more baserunning info than fangraphs, plus reached-on-errors). Hitting=lwts, pitching=BsR + pythagopat, fielding=best available system. Everyone doing WAR is using the same baseline, which is ~2 wins below average per season (currently they're using 2.5 in the AL because it's so much better, but that only goes a few years back).

WARP, the new version at least (as of ~february), is much closer to WAR in its baseline (the old version assumed replacement players are atrocious fielders, which has zero empirical support). But it suffers from a few remaining flaws, like the use of offense-based position adjustments instead of fielding-based ones (there are some years when CF's hit better than LF's, and as a result WARP gives LF's a bonus over CF's...which is beyond absurd given the differences in fielding difficulty between those two positions). WARP also, I don't think, does not use a different baseline for relivers and starters (starting is harder than relieving, the same pitcher will put up better numbers as a reliever than a starter), and doesn't recognize leverage for closers like Rally's stuff does. WARP isn't terrible anymore, and I like it better than WS now. But WAR is a bit more current in its research underpinings, mostly because it's based on a collaborative effort of lots of extremely smart people (Tango, MGL, Rally, Patriot, and all the other people over there) instead of just one extremely smart guy (Clay Davenport).

If James's name wasn't attached to win shares -- or to runs created, for that matter -- it would have disappeared by now. But he's deservedly a giant, even if one who is sort of being left behind these days, and so his stuff remains in use even after it's obsolete.
5) Does WAR "favor" peak value vs. career value? To give an extreme example of two players Reds players - Ron Oester totaled 9.3 WAR as a Red vs. Ron Dibble's 9.4. In WS, Oester has 112, vs 63 for Dibble. Thoughts?
WAR is pure career value. You can look at peak value by pulling those years out and doing something to them, but career WAR is just career value.

The reason that Oester tops Dibble in WS but not WAR is because of the problem of win shares' baseline. You can be a crappy player for a long time and accumulate a lot of win shares, while you might not get any WAR. WAR requires a higher level of play to get "credit." It's not an exceptionally high bar, but it's higher than win shares' baseline. I'm sort of guessing here, but if a AAAA player is the baseline for WAR (which is about right), then a AA/AAA player might be the baseline for WS. That means that in WS, a AAAA player playing 20 years in the MLB would get a lot of WS but no WAR to speak of.

If and when James ever publishes his loss shares (probably in some new book or something), what we'll find is that Oester accumulated far more loss shares than Dibble. And as a result, his career contributions (win shares - loss shares) are roughly the same as Dibble's. In other words, when we eventually get the data we need from James, we'll finally get to the point that we're already at with Rally's WAR.

FWIW, I do tend to think that peak has to be taken into account, and not just accumulated career value, when you're talking the Hall of Fame. For that reason, I'd definitely rank Dibble over Oester. Dibble was pure badass dominance for a short number of years, which included that 1990 team. Oester was a decent player for a while, and had one genuinely good year in '85 (if totalzone is to believed, his fielding was better that year...probably in part random error though), but Oester was never ever ever dominant.


And then in another email a bit later...
For the hitters:

I assume Bat is batting runs, BSrun is base running runs (turns out Pete was a pretty good baserunner - I was always curious if he was "too aggressive" but apparently not). DP is a debit/credit for hitting into DP's.

On the defense...

Total Zone - is that runs above average? I hope so, or I'm going to have rethink Concepcion as a fielder.

IF DP - runs over/below average given opportunities?

OF Arm - same as above for OF

Catcher - is this some sort of fielding total for catchers based on CS, PB, WP?

Could all of these be totaled to create a total defensive runs saved?
YES to all above. That is what is done when calculating WAR.
The Total looks like the sum of all the runs, but then there is a Position adjustment. What does that represent?
It's an era-specific adjustment for the position a player plays. So, SS has the best fielders, and thus the highest level of competition. So, if you're an average fielding shortstop, you're an above-average fielder, so you get a bonus to account for that. Rally also made these adjustments specific over history, as the differences in quality among positions hasn't been constant.

Also, this is the only place that position comes into play. Offensive batted runs numbers are straight-up offense, without consideration for position. This is because the offensive-based adjustments you see in WARP or VORP, for example, assume all positions have equal talent levels. And that's not true. Second basemen and third basement are roughly equal fielders in modern baseball, but third basemen are better hitters. That makes 3B's a more talented position than 2B's. If you just do position adjustments by offense, you miss that and overrate 2B's relative to 3B's.
The "rep" column - is that replacement run level given the playing time for the season?
It's the difference between an average player and a replacement player, pro-rated for playing time. Since everything else is given vs. average,
And what is the RAR column before the WAR? I'm assuming it is a calculation of some form, but I can't figure it out.
"Total" is offense (bat + BSrun)
RAR is everything (offense + all fielding + position adjustment + replacement)
WAR is RAR converted to wins (runs divided by league average runs per mlb game, ~9.4 r/g or so)
On the pitching side...

The runs must be how many the pitcher gave up, and the Rep runs is what a replacement pitcher would have given up given the innings.=Def is the defense behind the pitcher.

So pitchers get credit for pitching behind a bad defense correct? (The Big Red Machine pitchers get hurt if that is the case, since they all had a good defense behind them). How does that adjustment work?
Right. From Rally's site:

Def - Estimated runs saved by this pitcher's defense, using TotalZone range, DPs, OF arms, and catchers, prorated by the number of balls in play allowed by the pitcher

Awesome. This gets away from having to use something like FIP or xFIP or tRA to extract pitcher performances from fielding performances.
Likewise for the Leverage Index - do pitchers get "extra credit" for a high Leverage Index?
Relievers get partial credit for leverage index. I think they get bonus for any leverage above 1.5 or so. I don't know exactly how Rally does it, but Tango talks about how he does it here:

I'm doing the same thing now with my Reds stuff, though I do it for all relievers and Tango only does it for closers. I like my way, because special relievers like Marmol get extra credit, which I think is appropriate.

Thanks for the great conversation!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

@BtB: Power Rankings Updated

I've updated my Power Rankings at BtB. This week includes some specific discussion of the Reds' plight. ... It's sort of depressing, unfortunately:

It's been a fun season (for once) to be a Reds fan, as the Reds have gone through an amazing transformation this year into a pitching and fielding team, and it's paying off: 3 games back from the league-leading Brewers, and with help on the way in Joey Votto and Edwin Encarnacion, both of whom appear on the mend. It's been a rough week (the Royals reversed their slide in last week's rankings by sweeping the Reds--and they didn't even need Grienke to do it), but they're still in a great spot at this point in the season and are very much in the hunt.

Unfortunately, the Reds are similar to the Giants in that the power ranking thinks they've been lucky on both offense and defense. The Reds' offense started reasonably well, but this month has spiraled towards atrocious. And unfortunately, our estimates (or rather FanGraphs' estimates, as we're just using their wRC to estimate offense) think they've been lucky by about 13 runs on the season. Similar, our estimated runs allowed is 22 worse than the actual totals, despite the Reds' league-leading fielding and above-average pitching. As a fan, I'm rooting for them. But the power rankings indicate that they've been pretty lucky.

@BtB: Graph of the Day: Players Getting Taller

I did a graph of the day today looking at player heights over the history of baseball. Ballplayers are taller than an average US male, and pitchers are taller than hitters, and always have been. But it looks like MLB players have been distancing themselves from the US male 20-29 population over the past 30 to 40 years.

Monday, June 15, 2009

My All-Star Ballot

Albert Pujols at bat, wearing a 1982 retro jer...Albert Pujols is better than everyone else. Image via Wikipedia

Sky recently did a piece at BtB using the past 2.5 years to select the All-Star team. My personal predilection is to instead use the last calendar year for these selections, as this lets you better recognize new talents while still allowing second half-performances to matter. Unfortunately, FanGraphs currently can't give a calendar-year split for value, but it can do the past two seasons. So, here is my ballot based on those numbers (exception: relievers, who I'm ranking based on WPA), with weight given to more recent performances when it is close.

Position Players

American League

C: Joe Mauer (9.3 WAR) - With fielding included for catchers, he'd rank even higher. Joe is one of the premier talents in baseball, and as long as he's healthy, he's an MVP candidate. Alternate: Mike Napoli (4.2 WAR).

1B: Mark Teixiera (9.3 WAR) - Probably will become a legend now that he's in New York. Alternate: Kevin Youkilis (8.3 WAR)

2B: Dustin Pedroia (8.4 WAR) - Best little guy of his generation, right? Alternate: Brian Roberts (6.9 WAR), barely, over Ian Kinsler.

3B: Evan Longoria (8.8 WAR) - I have a modest man-crush on this guy. Alternate: Alex Rodriguez (6.9 WAR).

SS: Derek Jeter (6.2 WAR) - I've spent a long time dismissing him. Lately, I've started to appreciate him. A little. Alternate: Marco Scutaro (5.5 WAR!).

OF: Matt Holliday (7.8 WAR) - Hasn't done much yet in the AL, but he'll come around. He's too good not to, Coors Field be damned.

OF: Alex Rios (6.8 WAR) - A surprise, but he ranks where he does mostly due to his fielding. I love having great fielders in the corners, and his bat seems to be heating up.

OF: Ichiro Suzuki (6.5 WAR) - A perennial favorite, he's off to an amazing start. He'd play CF on my AL squad.

OF Alternates: Grady Sizemore (6.6 WAR) and Nick Markakis (6.5 WAR). Both are off to a slower start this year than last, which is why Rios & Suzuki get the nod for the starting spots, despite essentially a 4-way tie for second.

National League

C: Brian McCann (7.9 WAR) - I think he's underrated, and I don't know how that's possible. Alternate: Geovanny Soto (5.0), barely over Russell Martin, mostly for fielding.

1B: Albert Pujols (12 WAR) - Simply the best. Alternate: Lance Berkman (8.0 WAR).

2B: Chase Utley (11.4 WAR) - Mr. Underrated is so good, he's only a half-win behind Pujols. Alternate: Brandon Phillips (5.0), barely over Dan Uggla, due to his 2009 numbers.

3B: David Wright (10.3 WAR) - He'd not overlooked, but might be underrated. Alternate: Chipper Jones (9.2 WAR).

SS: Hanley Ramirez (10.4 WAR) - His defense has apparently improved at least to league average, which makes him god-like. Alternate: Jose Reyes (6.6 WAR).

OF: Carlos Beltran (9.3 WAR) - Is it just Steve Phillips, or do the Mets actually not know what they have with this guy?

OF: Manny Ramirez (7.8 WAR) - Sorry, Bud, I still think he deserves it

OF: Jason Werth (6.9 WAR) - This one was a surprise here, but largely on the back of his excellent fielding, Werth ranks 3rd among all NL outfielders in WAR. Why do I still think of him as a platoon player?

OF Alternates: Mike Cameron (6.4 WAR) and Ryan Braun (6.3 WAR), barely over Matt Kemp (6.3 WAR). Cameron gets the nod because he's done it in less playing time, but Braun vs. Kemp was a toss-up. I went for Braun mostly because hitting stats are more reliable than fielding stats, and Braun's the better hitter.


American League


Roy Halladay (11.6 WAR) - second-highest WAR in baseball over past two seasons.

Cliff Lee (10.3 WAR) - Picked up where he left off last year

C.C. Sabathia (9.7 WAR) - The Yankees have a new horse.

Zack Grienke (9.2 WAR) - Joe Posnanski has a terrific article on Grienke in this month's Baseball Digest. Sounds like a strange guy, but obviously he's exceptionally talented.


Frank Francisco (3.76 WPA) - Yes, I know he just went on the DL. But Frank leads everyone in WPA over the last calendar year.

Mariano Rivera (3.25 WPA) - there are whispers that he's starting to decline, but Mariano's still ranked second in credit for wins than any other reliever over the past calendar year.

Brad Ziegler (3.15 WPA) - the submariner has put up outstanding numbers since his arrival in Oakland, prompting some to ask whether other pitchers might have similar success by dropping their arm angle.

National League


Tim Lincecum (11.0 WAR) - The Freak. I wonder how many young pitchers are trying to model their delivery after his these days. Have I mentioned that the Reds took Drew Stubbs instead of Lincecum in 2006? I have? What was that about a dead horse?

Dan Haren (9.0 WAR) - With Webb on the DL this year, Haren's become the unquestioned ace of the Diamondbacks staff. I remember thinking he might regress after the trade, but he's just pushed his k-rate higher.

Javier Vazquez (7.8 WAR) - The man who always seems to underperform his FIP is still a really good pitcher. This year, he's got his k-rate over 11 k/9. Wow.

Chad Billingsley (7.0 WAR) - Chad has gotten better every year in the big leagues, and is now the staff ace of the best team in the National League


Jonathan Broxton (2.90 WPA) - Broxton is just a beast.

Francisco Rodriguez (2.86 WPA) - K-Rod has an 0.57 ERA and has allowed 17 hits in 31 1/3 innings. I don't care what his BABIP is, that's ridiculous.

Ryan Madson (2.62 WPA) - Big, strong, and this year is averaging 95 mph on his fastball

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

It's Mike Leake!

As a recent grad of Arizona State (for grad school), I'm delighted with the Reds' first round selection of Mike Leake (pronounced "leak," I think) as the Reds' first overall selection in the 2009 draft.

@ctrent says any reaction to a draft pick is an overreaction. I think that's a slight overstatement, but it's also true that baseball drafts are full of disappointment. Erik's been doing a lot of work recently evaluating past selections, and the numbers aren't pretty:
  • 57% of all college hitters in the first round bust. 11% become stars. Including the stars, 19% become every day regulars.
  • 65% of all high school hitters bust. 9% become stars. Stars included, 19% become every day players.
  • I’ve already ranted about high school pitchers, but college pitchers aren’t much better so I’ll just lump them together. 69% of all pitchers drafted in the first round bust. Just 3% become stars during their first six seasons. Including stars, 12% became average regulars or better.
  • About 7 of the 10 names you hear called tomorrow evening are going to flop, even some of the ballyhooed (and expensive) “big upside” players.
That all said, there's real signal in that noise, and the draft is still the biggest single source of talent in baseball, which makes it worth watching.

So, that all said, what do we know about Mike Leake aside from his Sun Devil pedigree? I don't know anything about him, so here's what I'm reading and watching:
  • Doug at rml is always my go-to source for all things minor & amateur. Here's his pre-draft profile of Leake.
  • MLB profile and scouting report.
  • Leake's blog. Leake goes by "Leaker." :)
  • Chris Buckley's audio on Leake. They'll never say anything bad about him, but it's hard to not feel optimistic about him from the descriptions. I've been hearing Tim Hudson as a comp, mostly due to height and polish. Obviously, that would be a nice addition to the organization.
  • I don't get MLB network, but Keith Law had a lot of nice things to say about Leake on ESPN News.
  • CTrent posted excerpts from a conference call with Leake. Sounds like a nice kid. And apparently, despite attending ASU, he sometimes reads books!
  • Red Reporter draft guru Thundering Turtle's takes on Leake, along with other commenters, are full of great links (some are linked below). Another TT take.
  • Kevin Goldstein apparently likes the Leake pick, which is nice to see. Losing access to him on draft day is my only regret in letting my BPro subscription lapse.
Reports on the next two of the picks are trickling in.

Bradley Boxberger is the 2nd selection as a comp for Jeremy Affeldt. Power arm with command issues. Might stick as a starter, but perhaps more likely as reliever.

Billy Hamilton is the 3rd selection in the second round. Apparently has major football commitments, which the Reds will have to lure him away from. They pulled it off with Adam Dunn, so maybe they'll pull it off this time as well.

3rd-round selection (4th pick) is Don Joseph I haven't seen much on yet. Power lefty out of a college pen, with a history of control issues. I like lefties who throw 93 mph as a general rule, so I like the pick, even if he his ceiling is (a hopefully healthy) Bill Bray.

All in all, it seems like a successful first day. My only concern is that if Hamilton does NOT sign, then the Reds will have failed to draft & sign a position player through the first three rounds. Pitchers are necessary, of course, but they're also higher risk signs, on average. But hey, let's hope for the best. Conceivably, the Reds could have just selected two starters, a lefty setup man, and a future SS/CF today. Hope it works out!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

American League Update - Through 6/6/09

The American League has featured some changes in the division races over the last few weeks. Let's look:

Division Roundups

Quick notes on the stats below: All runs data are park adjusted using Patriot's park factors. PythWins is from Hardball Times, and so is PythagenPat. XtrapWins is the wins that the teams' current winning percentage would provide at the season's end. Wif500 is what the team's record should be if they win half of their remaining games. %for90W is the winning percentage the teams will need to get to 90 wins at the end of the season.


Team W L PCT GB RS* RS/G* RA RA/G* PythW XtrapW Wif500 %for90W
BOS 33 23 0.589 0 286 5.1 241 4.3 32 95 86 0.538
NYA 32 23 0.582 0.5 317 5.8 287 5.2 30 94 86 0.542
TOR 31 27 0.534 3 287 5.0 263 4.5 31 87 83 0.567
TB 29 28 0.509 4.5 324 5.7 274 4.8 33 82 82 0.581
BAL 24 32 0.429 9 257 4.6 314 5.6 23 69 77 0.623

After the Yankees' own hot streak, the Red Sox had their own little hot streak, winning four of the last five. The Blue Jays went through a 9-game losing streak, and have since played 0.500 ball, falling out of first place. The beset Pythagorean record in the division continues to belong to the Devil Rays, who have only just gotten themselves above 0.500, winning 6 of their last 7.


Team W L PCT GB RS* RS/G* RA RA/G* PythW XtrapW Wif500 %for90W
DET 29 25 0.537 0 268 5.0 235 4.4 30 87 83 0.565
MIN 28 29 0.491 2.5 280 4.9 273 4.8 29 80 81 0.590
CHA 26 29 0.473 3.5 216 3.9 243 4.4 25 77 80 0.598
KC 24 31 0.436 5.5 222 4.0 260 4.7 23 71 78 0.617
CLE 24 34 0.414 7 300 5.2 313 5.4 28 67 76 0.635
The story in this division: despite having outstanding pitching, the Royals have won just five games in their last 25. But they are still just 5.5 games back. Wow. The Twins are the only team on a reasonably hot stretch, and have pulled within three games of the stryggling. The Indians continue to be an underperforming team.


Team W L PCT GB RS* RS/G* RA RA/G* PythW XtrapW Wif500 %for90W
TEX 32 23 0.582 0 282 5.1 257 4.7 30 94 86 0.542
LAA 28 26 0.519 3.5 257 4.8 262 4.8 27 84 82 0.574
SEA 27 29 0.482 5.5 218 3.9 245 4.4 25 78 80 0.594
OAK 24 30 0.444 7.5 247 4.6 266 4.9 25 72 78 0.611
The Rangers are on a two-for-six skid, and the hobbled Angels are creeping closer, which makes it seem more likely that they can catch Texas once they get a bit more healthy. The A's are on a modest hot streak, but are talking about trading away Holliday already.

Friday, June 05, 2009

2002-2009 Reds fielding, graphically

How different is this year's defense vs. previous seasons in the "UZR era" (fangraphs has UZR back to 2002)? Inspired by TucsonRoyal's Graph of the Day, here are Reds fielding 2002-2009. 2009 data are extrapolated based on the first 53 games of this year.

And here's another look:

Twitter Digest - 6/5/09 - Ketchup Edition

A look at some of my recent tweets, as a way of doing a link dump. It's been a bit longer than I'd like, but oh well!

The Reds are one of 11 teams who have had an increase in attendance vs. last year, up ~500/game.

This was posted on May 18th. Now, though, they're down 167/game--essentially unchanged from last year, but on the wrong side of zero now.

The Reds have some of the lowest add-on fees in MLB, at least for lower-end tickets.

Kudos to the Reds for doing right by their fans. I'd rather have none of those fees and that the price be up front and built into the tickets, but at least the Reds aren't trying to fleece fans more so than other teams.

Someone's finally taking batted ball stat projection beyond PrOPS:

Matt Schwartz is working on a system that will let us project BABIP for hitters based on batted ball statistics. I know others have said it, but using batted ball data seems like the next logical step in our projection work. Pizza Cutter has shown that many batted ball rates are more quick to stablize than outcome stats, which makes them a great resource. I think we'll see more and more people using them in projection systems over the coming years.

Glad to see this (, but that's still pretty late in my house. It will be many years before Paige sees a playoff game.

Paige is my daughter. She's starting to watch games with me now and then, and I'd love for her to get a chance to watch some postseason games this year. But even with the improved start time of 7:57pm, it's going to be some time before she'll be able to watch a full game.

Tango's projection showdown is underway, though we only have data on the draft thus far. Should be fun to follow!

Last year, Tango's project was the Great Clutch Project, which I talked about a few times. This year, he's running a competition between the different projection systems to see which is best able to select players. The result is a sort of fantasy baseball competition among the projection systems. Once this gets underway, it should be fun to watch. I'll be pulling for CHONE, simply because thar's what I've been using. :)

Outfielder UZR aging curves--older = worse, except for error rates:

This extends into the minors as well--Rally found that mid-level minor league outfields are better defensively that MLB outfields. It's all about the young legs.

Speed score by position ( C->DH->1B->3B->RF->LF->2B/SS->CF. Neat.

Speaking of legs, I loved this little study. Nothing surprising here, but it's a nice quantification of what we already assume.

RT @
BtB_Sky: Just Posted: Feeling a Draft [Jazayerli's draft study, but with a quality metric! Great work!!]

Until this recent work by Erik, the best study done on the draft was Jazayerli's study. And it used the old version of WARP, which gives far too much credit to playing time. Now, thanks to Rally's WAR database, we're finally seeing some of Jazayerli's work re-done with a quality metric.

More good stuff from TR at BtB: Aging curves for infielders. SS's steadiness might be due to selective sampling:

Continued great work, this time with infielder aging curves. ... 3B's have a strange uptick at age 29. Real, or sampling bias? My guess is the latter. Most teams will move bad defenders off the hot corner if they're killing the team, no? When will the Reds finally admit that EdE isn't getting any better?

RT @
BtB_Sky: Just Posted: Accumulated Negative Team WAR [Reds figure prominently in this study, which seem right]

One thing I talked about last year was how sub-replacement performances played a big role in sinking the Reds of 2008. This study shows that the Reds have been among mlb leaders in negative WAR in recent them to the Brewers!

There also seems to be a connection between this study and the one I linked to yesterday by the same author about DL time. ... which isn't surprising. Teams with lots of injuries may be more likely to plug in replacement players into their roster spots...and sometimes those replacement players will underperform.

Haven't seen it linked, though might have missed it: Tango on how to use Micah Owings:

I echoed Tango's comments recently in my roundup of the Reds' first two months, but using Micah as a below-average pitcher with plus hitting is a pretty optimal use of Owings' unique set of talents. And it only works in the National League!

I may make it a habit of linking to anything I see recognizing the deserved role of basement dwellers. A great one:
Really radical in a sort of tubular way:

Great comedy from TucsonRoyal

Good roundup of recent Reds drafts. I've somehow overlooked what Zach Stewart has been doing:

I enjoy reading this kind of thing, especially when similar takes are done on other systems. It seems to me that the Reds have been doing pretty well in the recent drats, despite the apparent miss on Mesoraco (who I've steadfastly defended). I'm excited to see what they do with their pick this year. The Reds haven't had top-10 picks in back to back years since 1984-1985. The Reds chose Barry Larkin in '85 (and Pat Pacillo in '84).

Is it me, or does Jacob's Field have more trouble with animals on the field (midges, gulls, etc) than any other ballpark?

I'm sure others have written about this. But last Monday in Cleveland, while Joba Chamberlain was pitching, we had a huge flock of seagulls on the field, along with a horde of midges. The last time I saw Joba pitch against the Indians in Cleveland, he was covered in midges. And is it me, or do they bother the Yankees players more than the Indians players? Maybe that's just my inner yankee hatred biasing my perceptions.

Blog: Reds Stats Update: the first two months

I've literally spent weeks, off and on, getting my spreadsheet put together to do this report. Complete overhaul of methods, now in complete conformation with how Tango does things, with some additional things here and there. The post was more or less ignored. :) But maybe those posts are more for me than anyone else, as they help me keep up on how the Reds are doing. I'll update that more often moving forward now that everything is operational.

Updated power rankings show the Yankees and Phillies on the rise, while Rays unseat the Dodgers from the top.

I'm having a great time at BtB, with my little power rankings project getting picked up by a lot of blogs around the 'net, including a guy at Fox Sports! The biggest objections have come from Giants fans. ... And given that I'm ranking them behind the Nationals, the A's, and the Mariners, I guess that's understandable.

This is great news for the Altoona Curve, which is in desperate need of a talent infusion:

I know most people who read here don't follow the Curve much--and I'm not exactly belting out Curve content right now--but the trade for Nate McLouth netted the the Curve a new center fielder. It's a team that has really struggled so far this year, and Hernandez sounds like a guy who could bring some great energy to the team.

Dusty frustrates me with strategy, but it's true that he is very good at handling his players, young and old alike.

This aspect of Dusty's reign has continually been quite impressive to me, be it Encarnacion, Bailey, or now Votto. He's always going to frustrate me in terms of how he employs his players. But managing them on a personal level--which @ctrent points out is a big part of the job--is where Dusty excels.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Holy crap: Reds players spent more time on DL than any other team (2002-2008)

Ok, here's a graph from TucsonRoyal's post today at BtB:Those are 2002-2008 data, total time spent on the DL.

There's no doubt that Griffey's part of this. From 2002-2008, Griffey spent a lot of time on the DL. But the figure indicates that it's Reds' pitchers, not hitters, that are the biggest problem.

I'm trying to think of who the big candidates are. Paul Wilson, Eric Milton (his last season), and maybe Brandon Claussen come to mind. Grant Balfour spent a full year on the 60-day DL, right? Jose Rijo?

I'm just wondering if part of this result reflects a strategy of signing injury-prone or already injured players on the cheap and hoping to catch them healthy at some point...? Or should the Reds' training staff just be sacked? Thoughts?

Monday, June 01, 2009

Reds Stats Update: the first two months

Reds Team Data
Games Played: 49
Record: 26-23, 0.531 (3rd, 3.5 games back)
Runs Scored (park adj): 218
Runs Allowed (park adj): 212
Pyth Record: 25-24, 0.513
Offense: 0.324 wOBA* (9th in league)
Pitching: 4.58 FIP* (11th in league)
Fielding: +16.6 Runs (3rd in league)
eRS*: 219 (10th in league)
eRA*: 228 (7th in league)
Component Record: 24-25, 0.481 (7th in league)

The sweep in Milwaukee didn't help matters, but the Reds are still in the hunt in the NL Central, thanks primarily to their fielding. The offense has been predictably below-average, but not as bad as many had feared. But pitching hasn't quite been where many had hoped. Expected runs allowed is substantially higher than actual runs allowed, indicating some luckiness on the part of the defense. ... .... Are they on the way down?

Joey Votto 151 15% 20% 41% 25% 35% 0.398 0.357 0.464 0.627 0.270 0.457 16.0 20.4
Brandon Phillips 180 10% 11% 48% 16% 36% 0.259 0.280 0.346 0.522 0.242 0.362 4.3 9.4
Jay Bruce 197 8% 24% 37% 13% 50% 0.221 0.229 0.299 0.503 0.274 0.340 0.9 6.5
Jerry Hairston 158 7% 16% 36% 21% 43% 0.268 0.262 0.318 0.482 0.220 0.345 1.4 5.9
Ryan Hanigan 78 15% 6% 42% 23% 36% 0.328 0.323 0.416 0.400 0.077 0.368 2.3 4.5
Laynce Nix 100 8% 34% 39% 25% 36% 0.351 0.264 0.320 0.527 0.263 0.353 1.6 4.4
Ramon Hernandez 175 9% 12% 50% 20% 30% 0.306 0.286 0.353 0.390 0.104 0.327 -1.2 3.8
Chris Dickerson 113 17% 30% 45% 17% 38% 0.317 0.239 0.372 0.370 0.131 0.326 -0.9 2.4
Jonny Gomes 18 11% 19% 31% 39% 31% 0.462 0.375 0.444 0.438 0.063 0.409 1.2 1.7
Micah Owings 30 0% 37% 37% 26% 37% 0.444 0.300 0.300 0.567 0.267 0.362 0.7 1.6
Paul Janish 46 7% 18% 36% 21% 42% 0.364 0.300 0.378 0.375 0.075 0.333 -0.1 1.2
Willy Taveras 197 8% 15% 46% 18% 35% 0.304 0.266 0.325 0.335 0.069 0.306 -4.9 0.7
Mike Lincoln 1 0% 100% 0% 0% 0% 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 -0.003 0.0 0.0
Daniel Ray Herrera 1 0% 100% 0% 0% 0% 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 -0.003 0.0 0.0
Ramon Ramirez 1 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 -0.003 0.0 0.0
Adam Rosales 104 9% 21% 38% 17% 45% 0.290 0.247 0.333 0.360 0.113 0.301 -3.1 -0.1
Homer Bailey 2 0% 50% 100% 0% 0% 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 -0.003 -0.3 -0.3
Aaron Harang 24 4% 32% 67% 13% 20% 0.267 0.182 0.217 0.227 0.045 0.200 -2.8 -2.1
Johnny Cueto 23 5% 19% 69% 0% 31% 0.176 0.143 0.182 0.143 0.000 0.152 -3.7 -3.0
Darnell McDonald 44 7% 23% 55% 16% 29% 0.226 0.175 0.250 0.225 0.050 0.221 -4.4 -3.1
Edinson Volquez 19 0% 50% 75% 13% 13% 0.125 0.063 0.063 0.063 0.000 0.053 -4.7 -4.1
Edwin Encarnacion 77 17% 30% 52% 11% 36% 0.163 0.127 0.286 0.190 0.063 0.236 -6.6 -4.4
Bronson Arroyo 27 0% 47% 33% 22% 44% 0.200 0.105 0.105 0.158 0.053 0.110 -5.3 -4.5
Alex Gonzalez 134 5% 17% 39% 20% 40% 0.252 0.224 0.263 0.328 0.104 0.249 -10.0 -6.2

Won't surprise anyone to see Votto at the top of the list. Dizziness and "stress-related issues" aside, he's had an unreal first two months. His BABIP is just shy of 0.400, which he's unlikely to maintain for a full season, even if he keeps that 25% line drive percentage. But this team needs their best hitter.

What did surprise me, at least, was how good of a season Brandon Phillips is having. He started slow, but now he's slugging over 0.500 and even has his OBP above league-average. And his BABIP is actually a tad low vs. his career, so he might even look to improve a bit. I'm skeptical that he'll keep it going, frankly, but it's pretty neat to see him going so well.

Some other notes: Bruce has been pretty extreme in his flyball tendencies--perhaps that's part of why his BABIP is so low?.....Hanigan has outhit (and outdefended) Hernandez thus far.....Dickerson has the best walk rate on the team, but hasn't done much there any hope for Gonzalez?

Fielding and Total Value
Name wRAR uzrR uzrE uzrDP uzrA UZR PosAdj WAR
Brandon Phillips 9.4 3.8 1.6 0.5 0.0 5.9 0.6 1.67
Joey Votto 20.4 -1.5 -0.8 -0.1 0.0 -2.4 -2.5 1.63
Jerry Hairston 5.9 4.6 -0.2 0.5 -0.5 4.6 0.2 1.13
Jay Bruce 6.5 1.7 0.2 0.0 3.5 5.3 -2.0 1.03
Laynce Nix 4.4 3.7 0.0 0.0 -0.3 3.6 -0.8 0.76
Ryan Hanigan 4.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.4 0.62
Micah Owings 1.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 2.5 0.43
Ramon Hernandez 3.8 -0.4 -1.2 0.1 0.0 -1.5 1.5 0.40
Chris Dickerson 2.4 1.0 -0.9 0.0 1.5 1.7 -0.7 0.35
Willy Taveras 0.7 0.6 0.1 0.0 1.0 1.7 0.6 0.32
Paul Janish 1.2 0.5 0.8 -0.4 0.0 1.0 0.4 0.28
Jonny Gomes 1.7 -0.2 0.0 0.0 -0.1 -0.3 -0.1 0.13
Adam Rosales -0.1 1.0 0.2 0.0 0.0 1.2 -0.1 0.11
Aaron Harang -2.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 2.2 0.01
Daniel Ray Herrera 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.01
Mike Lincoln 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 0.01
Ramon Ramirez 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.00
Homer Bailey -0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 -0.03
Johnny Cueto -3.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 2.1 -0.09
Bronson Arroyo -4.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 2.5 -0.21
Edinson Volquez -4.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.8 -0.25
Alex Gonzalez -6.2 -1.1 1.3 0.8 0.0 1.1 1.5 -0.38
Darnell McDonald -3.1 0.8 -0.5 0.0 -0.6 -0.4 -0.2 -0.39
Edwin Encarnacion -4.4 -2.9 -0.5 -0.2 0.0 -3.6 0.3 -0.81
I'm doing something different this year and am including pitchers in the total value ranking. This includes offense and a position adjustment so that pitcher replacement hitting is the same as an average MLB pitcher. This table does not include pitching, though. But what you can see is that Owings is above-average as a pitcher hitter (surprise!), whereas Volquez and Arroyo have, so far, been below average. We'll apply those numbers to the pitcher rankings in the next table.

Anyway, Phillips' strong start at the plate as well as continued excellence on defense has him ranking as the best position player on the team (though only by a hair). He can be a frustrating player, but he's consistently been one of the best players on the team since he arrived.....Bruce's UZR numbers were tops in the league just a few weeks ago, but he's settling down to about where I'd expect him to be--above average for a corner outfielder, but not a world-beater. I unfortunately don't have catcher fielding data working right now, but I'll look to add that later.

Overall, the fielding has been as good as anyone could have hoped thus far, and it is the primary reason that the Reds are where they are. But the Reds will have to get production from every position if they are to actually win something this year. To date, Gonzalez and Encarnacion have been sub-replacement, and one of the replacements (Rosales) has been right at replacement. The good news is that Encarnacion, at least, is capable of putting up the offensive numbers to get him on the positive side of the ledger once he returns. Not sure about Gonzalez.

Aaron Harang 68.7 8.0 2.0 1.3 11% 0.349 4.19 3.86 1.07 1.30 1.31
Johnny Cueto 67.7 6.7 2.7 0.9 9% 0.234 2.53 4.02 2.66 1.16 1.07
Francisco Cordero 21.0 9.0 3.0 0.0 0% 0.308 1.71 2.24 1.14 0.91 0.91
Micah Owings 54.7 5.8 4.5 1.2 10% 0.304 5.10 4.97 0.17 0.35 0.78
Arthur Rhodes 17.0 6.9 3.2 0.0 0% 0.205 0.53 2.77 1.45 0.53 0.53
Nick Masset 17.0 7.9 4.2 0.0 0% 0.154 1.06 2.89 0.84 0.36 0.36
Daniel Ray Herrera 18.7 7.7 4.3 0.5 6% 0.341 1.93 3.45 0.37 0.26 0.27
Jared Burton 21.3 7.2 5.1 0.4 3% 0.376 6.33 3.61 -0.24 0.25 0.25
Paul Janish 1.0 18.0 0.0 9.0 50% 0.830 45.00 11.17 -0.05 -0.04 0.24
David Weathers 17.7 6.1 5.1 0.5 5% 0.225 2.55 4.26 0.81 0.08 0.08
Edinson Volquez 48.7 8.3 5.7 1.1 14% 0.220 4.25 5.08 0.84 0.28 0.03
Carlos Fisher 4.0 6.8 6.8 0.0 0% 0.195 0.00 3.99 0.23 0.03 0.03
Ramon Ramirez 2.3 11.6 3.9 3.9 33% 0.000 7.71 8.35 -0.05 -0.07 -0.07
Homer Bailey 4.3 6.2 12.5 2.1 20% 0.178 12.46 8.76 -0.13 -0.09 -0.12
Bronson Arroyo 65.0 4.4 3.1 1.7 15% 0.267 5.12 5.61 0.64 0.05 -0.16
Mike Lincoln 17.0 3.7 7.4 2.7 20% 0.305 9.00 8.75 -0.49 -0.51 -0.50

::sigh:: I think one of the reasons I've been so slow to get working on the Reds data is that I've been afraid to find something that might make me discouraged about the Reds' chances. Here's probably where it's hitting me the hardest.

Cueto's been awesome thus far. In results, at least. But his strikeout rate is actually down vs last year, his BABIP is lucky-low, and his FIP has him closer to the 4.00 ERA mark that I always put as his good-case scenario this year. Harang's FIP is actually a tad better, which is encouraging. But Arroyo and Volquez are looking pretty bad so far. Volquez's walk rate is absurdly high, which seems to be a consistent problem on this staff--and his early exit today after being on the DL with back spasms isn't making me feel better about him. And what the heck happened to Arroyo's strikeout rate?

The bullpen, at least, looks solid. The biggest problem--aside from Lincoln--is Burton. His FIP is pretty good, but his walks are very high and his HR/F is very low, which makes me less prone to dismiss his ERA. But his tRA and tRA* are in the mid-4's (RA scale), whch is probably the best rating of his work thus far. My guess is that he'll do well in AAA and will be back in the majors shortly.

The column on the right was largely motivated by the presence of Owings on the staff, and you can see what it does to his value. I think he's pitching at about his true talent level, but his bat really does make him a valuable cog in the rotation. He's kind of a unique player, but this is probably the best way to use him.

It's been a great two months to be a Reds fan. There are some chinks in the armor, but this team at least has a good shot at a 0.500 record--especially if they can get their horses back soon.

Thanks to FanGraphs for the data.