Tuesday, August 29, 2006

What IF? Part Two

Today I'll ponder the other two great what if questions:

1) What if Batman fought Superman?

2) What if the Angels signed Paul Konerko?

1. The general answer to this one always seems to involve the mortal Batman getting a hold of some kryptonite and creating a makeshift can of whoopass. I never liked this. See, it assumes that Batman has knowledge of the impending fight, and time to prepare. What if Superman has the same knowledge and time? Well, its easy. He just flys over the bat cave, well beyond the range where the kryptonite can hurt him, picks up a mountain, and drops it on Batman, sealing his Bat-corpse and the kryptonite all in the tomb.

2. Paul Konerko has had a great season, better than his 2005 season. He's been 33 runs better than an average player. The Angel 1st basemen have not. Casey Kotchman got sick, and was unable to contribute. Kendry Morales came up for a while, and showed some potential, and struggled some. He did not hit at the level a contending team needs from the position. Robb Quinlan has hit well, but only 2 walks against 192 at bats. Still, he's been slightly above league average. In addition, Howie Kendrick has played some 1st base. In my what if scenario I assume he still gets to play, at the expense of Adam Kennedy, although I'm doing no calculations to reflect this.

The 3 Angel !B have 479 PA vs 514 for Konerko, but have made more outs, 335 to 319. I'm subtracting their play while adding in that of Konerko. Konerko is + 33 runs on offense, Quinlan is +4, Morales -4, and Kotchman -8, so Konerko adds 41 runs to the offense.

What about defense? According to the zone rating system that Chris Dial and I have published on Baseballthinkfactory.com, Konerko is a below average fielder, -7. The Angels have had good defense at this spot, mostly due to Morales. I'm too lazy to check the exact numbers but I'm going on the assumption the Angel 1B are 10 runs better than Konerko, so he improves the team by 31 runs or 3 wins.

That puts us at 72-60, still 3.5 behind the A's. Konerko would have been a much bigger improvement than I wrote in the offseason, I had him at maybe 1, 1.5 wins better than Kotchman. Bill Stoneman did everything he could to get this guy, who just wasn't ready to change teams. If he had signed, it would not have been a bad move, and only cost us unsigned 3rd round pick Russ Moldenhauer. Still, I'm not shedding any tears over this one. Over the next 4 years, Konerko could decline, Kotchman could return, Morales could develop, and the Angels could use that money to sign another big free agent (Vernon Wells in 08?).

Finally, what if we'd signed Konerko AND traded for Ramirez? We'd be kicking the A's butts. We'd also be playing boring 4 hour games, and our team would be built to win for now and damn the future. I like the present better than this what if. Second place sucks, but I can take it. We'll get the A's next year.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What if?

What if, over the winter, we pulled the trigger on the Manny Ramirez trade? Manny is having a great year. That is to be expected, he's a great hitter, but its a much better season than he had last year. At age 34, it should be a bit of a surprise that Ramirez has gone from "great hitter" back to "best hitter in the league".

What if he was doing it in an Angel uniform?

The Red Sox at one point offered us ManRam for Figgins, Santana, and either Wood or Kendrick. At the time I was disgusted. Here's how I think it would have worked out:

Ramirez is a +59 hitter so far (using a quickly thrown together linear weights formula). He would play either corner OF, splitting time there and DH with Vlad and GA. Rivera would have to move to center. Tim Salmon's (+3) role would be eliminated, perhaps he didn't even make the team and retired. Ramirez mostly replaces Figgin's (-1) AB's, since Figgy played some 3rd base those AB's would have to go to an average hitter like Quinlan or McPherson. Defensively, Rivera over Figgins probably costs ten runs. Ramirez costs another 5 - My previous posts suggest he's not as bad as previously thought in the OF, plus he's spending some time as a DH. Offensive gain: +52 (take 5 runs off Manny for hitting in a tougher park). Defensive loss: -15.

Now what about pitching? Santana has not been great, allowing 4.75 runs per 9 innings, but he's above average, and has taken every turn in the rotation. If he was traded, Jered Weaver would not have been sent down after starting 4-0, Joe Saunders may have been called up earlier, but that doesn't fill all 159 innings. Jeff Weaver would likely still be an Angel. Dustin Mosely might have a few more starts. Maybe more work for Gregg & Carrasco, who are better in the bullpen.

It gets real hairy trying to figure out what the rotation would look like at each point of the season with no Magic. A shortcut would be to look at runs over replacement. Using lg average R/game and adding one (an old Bill James trick) I get Santana as +21 over replacement. Checking Baseball Prospectus for VORP, I get +23. Close enough, I'll split the difference.

With that trade, we'd be 15 runs better overall. Yes, we'd be a bit closer to Oakland, 2 or 3 out instead of 4. But Manny is not going to get better. Santana most likely is. And Wood hasn't done anything in the majors yet, still could be a fine player, if he can solve his contact problems. And Manny costs about 15 million more than the other players. Also, we wouldn't be the same team. We'd be more like the Yankees and Red Sox, powerful, high run scoring teams that can't stop anybody else from scoring. The defense is bad enough this year without Manny. I prefer the team that can finish a game before the Red Sox and Yankees, even if we spot them 2 hours.

We have a better future without doing that deal. I can live with having an extra 2 games to make up vs Oakland.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Angels vs Red Sox

Angels really should beat this team. There's no Manny Ramirez in the lineup, therefore no reason to pitch to Ortiz.

Saunders just struck out Loretta after allowing Crisp a leadoff double. Time for 4 balls?

Nope - looks like Saunders is pitching to him. And he got him out!

Great work, please don't try it again.

A's actually lost tonight, so its a great time to make up some ground. Too bad it won't happen.

Despite him being a Red Sock, I really like Pedroia. Hope he goes 2-4 or so with nobody on base. (And gets stranded).

Update: Saunders K's the Greek god of Walks to strand Coco. Nice start.

Monday, August 21, 2006

This is the End

My only friend, the End.

There is no fear anymore. Not when pitchers face Barry Bonds. For years Barry, a chemically constructed Dark Lord of the Sith, ruled national league pitching with an iron fist. His power led to fear, which led to anger, which led to hate, which led to an unprecedented number of walks.

After missing most of 2005 to knee surgery, would we see the same Barry Bonds in 2006? In spring training it sure looked that way, even with expanded steroid penalties, the bad knee, and advanced age. Pitchers still pitched to him with all the fear, and while his power numbers weren't there, the walks still were. A .500 OBP, even for someone as slow as Bonds, still makes you one of the most valuable hitters in the game.

But without the power, how long will the fear last? Here's Barry's walks as a percentage of AB + W, by month:

APR: 35.6
May: 22.8
Jun: 29.4
Jul: 25.0
Aug: 14.0

Over the years, pitchers would periodically challenge Bonds, just to see if he was for real. They found out all right. Now they challenge him once more, and for the month he's hitting .209 and slugging .419

The fear is gone. The Sith Lord's mask is off. And instead of the monster they once feared, there is nothing but a sad, helpless old man. And he will be shown no mercy.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Manny Ramirez and the Big Green Wall

How bad is Manny Ramirez on defense? If you look at UZR, or either my or Chris Dial's zone rating based systems, you get at least -30 runs last year. From John Dewan's defensive bible, he's at -14 plays, and -31 enhanced. From David Pinto's PMR at Baseballmusings.com, he's worse than -20.

Are these numbers right? Or do these play by play methods not properly adjust for that big green wall behind him?

I recently received a database with complete ZR information for all players back to 1987. I decided to look at matched innings for players who have played left field for the Red Sox and for other teams. Jim Rice and Mike Greenwell are not in this sample, having never played anywhere else. Neither is Ramirez, who played only RF in Cleveland. If a guy played 1100 innings in left field elsewhere, and 75 in Fenway, he gets his ZR runs prorated to 75 innings for the sample.

When all is said and done, I had about 6400 matched innings. The players, per 162 games, were -25 in Fenway and -10 on the road.

This sample isn't huge but I think its a fair enough estimate. I would be a lot more confident if I had home /road defensive splits, but those are not available.

So for this year, Manny is at -23 so far. Add back in those 15 runs, prorate by his inning played total, and Manny's new rating is -14.

This adjustment is greater than I thought it would be, I figured -7 last year when I had much less data. Manny is a bad outfielder, but nowhere near as bad as some metrics make him out to be.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Brandon Wood

I think his AA career might be over - Sean Rodriguez has been up the last 2 days, and I think Wood is playing with Team USA from here on out. His final numbers are .276-25-83, with 42 doubles, 54 walks, and 149 strikeouts. The walks are a nice sign, its a bit of improvement while moving up a level, the strikeouts obviously a problem. As a prospect he's now somewhere between the next Cal Ripken and Jose Hernandez.

His worst month for strikeouts was April, but he was over 30% for every month. You can see his month by month numbers, plus MLEs which use my formula, but checking out Minor League Splits.

Wood has been reported to have only average speed, but he stole 19 bases in 22 attempts, so he's either a little faster than reported or a very smart baserunner.

If this is the last stat input I get from Wood in 2006, I might as well give his 2007 projection right now: .242/20 HR/ 69 RBI .299 OBP .424 slugging. He's not ready to replace the OC yet, and he's obviously got some things to work on, but the potential is still there.

MLE questions

The numbers I use for MLE's will give you results that work for leagues. For example, the average hitter in the California league will hit more homers than the average hitter in the Florida State league. Yet, the MLE homerun total for these average players is the same. Does this work for all players, though? Could it be that a power hitter, like Brandon Wood, will take greater advantage of the CAL league than the average hitter? Do we need to let more air out of their MLE's?

I looked at, for 2002 to 2004, players who hit 15 or more homers in a CAL league season, and then looked at the same number of top power hitters from the FSL (they had to hit 12 to qualify). This is my smaple of hitters with some power.

My MLE formula predicts that the CAL guys will hit 79% as many homeruns when they go to AA, and the FSL guys 94%. The results? The CAL guys hit 77%. Pretty close.

The FSL guys? 107%. Turns out they hit more in AA, showing how hard it is to hit homeruns in the Florida State league. This is something I'll have to adjust next time I run MLE's, as the players will generally produce a lessor batting line (it is a level tougher), yet still hit more homers. One reason to beware of deriving my component league factors from the overall run scoring factor.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Chone is off topic, yet again

Joe Saunders was bound to get hit hard one of these days. Sooner or later it happens to everyone. It still hurts to be happening right as the A's, a .500 team against everybody else, has their way again and again with the Mariners. This season, the Mariners, who have played tough against the Angels, have bent over every day for the A's, have not once even stopped to request any lube, but merely respond "THANK YOU SIR MAY I HAVE ANOTHER?". I'm sick of it. So I think about football.

I saw this on USA TODAY: Football Link

I don't like these kinds of studies. Why don't you tell us how much employees cost their bosses by taking off to care for small children? Or taking lunch breaks? Or chatting about last weekend? Simple fact: Productivity is up. Profits are way up. Wages, not so much. So shut the F*** up about fantasy football. Bosses, just sit back and be happy and be very very quiet about all the money you're raking in, and don't mess with fantasy football. Or one of these days you might drive even right wing survivalist types like myself into plotting the revolution of the proletariat.

"The study also cited a survey saying average fantasy sports owners spend 34 minutes a day just thinking about their teams and spend close to $500 a year on fantasy sports."

Only 34 minutes? Excellent. Not nearly enough time to compete with the likes of me. My Fav-Rah's hope to repeat as champions, but its not a keeper league so we'll have to get the #1 pick to ride Larry Johnson again.

I'd take the top 3 as Johnson, Tomlinson, then Alexander. I would have leaned toward Portis for #4, but the separated shoulder scares me off. One of these days Tiki Barber is going to play like an old running back, much like Curtis Martin last year. It may not be this year, but since as is he's not a touchdown threat, I can't take him in the first half of round one. Lamont Jordan, Stephen Jackson, Cadillac Williams, Ronnie Brown all interesting choices, but nobody I'd want at #4. Rudi Johnson is a safer pick, but won't get you any receiving yards. I don't have a good feeling about Edgerrin James out of Indy.

If I don't pick top 3, I'd rather pick 12th than 4th this year.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Two starts for everybody

Its one of those rare weeks in fantasy where it seems everybody lines up for two starts. Needing plenty of wins and strikeouts, I benched part of the bullpen (Chris Ray and Otsuka) to load up on starters. Its not as if Ray is going to get any saves, since that would require the Orioles to actually win a game.

You'd think that when you're tied going to the bottom 10th it would be an opportunity for Ray to try and pick up a win, but not for the Orioles on Saturday. They bypassed the little used Ray to pitch Bruce Chen against Manny Ortez, with not so predictable but still disastrous results (Manny getting the walkoff instead of Ortiz).

On to the 5 starters:

Lackey pitched what looks like a decent but tough game against the best lineup in baseball: Lots of baserunners but only 3 runs in 7 innings. As I right this the Angels and Donnelly are giving up enough runs to put an Angel comeback out of reach.

David Bush pitched a so-so game (5 inn, 6 bsr, 3 ER) and gets a loss. Oswalt is pitching well but losing 2-0 in the 7th. Pedro Martinez was a disaster for the Mets (6 runs in an inning, plus he's hurt again).

Looks like I'll pull out one win tonight as Chuck James has allowed 2 ER in 7 innings and left the game leading 10-3. Don't mess with him. He's CHUCK JAMES, bee-atch!

That leaves 2 starters. Roger Clemens, my unquestioned ace, goes tomorrow and Sunday. Then Ben Sheets later in the week. Its about time for Sheets to give me a good game, due to the timing of his injuries he's been on my bench for all his good games and in the rotation for the crappy ones.

Tonight my fantasy team is just a lot more interesting than the Angels. Except for Howie Kendrick, 3 for 3 and now hitting .336.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Top players so far

Using park adjusted LW batting runs, zone rating runs, position adjustments, and catcher runs using a system I published on BTF last year, here are the best position players:

Beltran +49
Mauer +45
Pujols +45
Wells +38
McCann +33
Rolen +33
Thome +32
Berkman +31
Ortiz +30
Hafner +30
Sizemore +30
Reyes +30

Jeter comes in at +27, his defense rates at -8 last I ran the numbers.

Too bad my fantasy league isn't a linear weights league. 4 of the top 5 are on my team this year (Don't have Pujols). I'm only in 4th place, but with McCann and Mauer I'm set at catcher for about 5-6 years. After that Mauer will start to get expensive, as this is his 3rd year as a keeper.

Good luck in 2007 Angels

Its all over. Santana takes a line drive off his knee. He'll probably wind up on the DL, which means starts for Kevin Gregg or Dustin Mosely comes back up. Neither is an appealing option.

The defense just isn't going to be championship caliber this year. If this team even has a chance to field well, Scioscia won't let them. Kendrick has made a ton of mistakes of inexperience at 1B, and Garret Anderson is still playing LF with Juan Rivera at DH far too often - and any more than once every two weeks is too much.

Kendry Morales since he was sent down is 19 for 51 with 5 homers. He also played fine defense at 1B when he was up. I'm ready for a Kendry and Kendrick infield, the sooner the better.

The A's aren't even a very good team, but there's no resistance in the west this year. The only question is whether the Yankees or Tigers get to knock them out in round 1.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Score from second on a strikeout?

Marco Scutaro is on second. I can't watch the game because I'm working (well, half-assed, since I'm following the Angels too, but that's the American Way as Homer would say). I'm following on Yahoo, and next thing I see is "Ellis struck out, Scutaro scored on wild pitch". Until I get home and see the play on ESPN, all I can think is how can a 3rd strike get far enough away to let a runner take two bases but stay close enough for the batter to be out at 1st?

As Molina runs after the ball, Scutaro is already rounding third, and comes hom as Molina throws to 1st. Howie Kendrick wasn't prepared. I can understand. He's having a tough time playing 1B for the first time in his career. It magnifies all his "learning experiences" that he has to do it in a pennant race.

I hate to say it but the A's probably deserved this one after seeing 2 runs score last night from second on infield singles.

And I might be coming down with something, because all of a sudden, I miss Darin Erstad. On the field, at at 1st base even. Darin's not much of a hitter anymore, everyone knows that, especially for a 1B. But he can probably hit as well as Adam Kennedy, Howie Kendrick would play his natural position, we'd improve the defense without hurting the offense. I have no doubt that given an offseason to prepare and spring training to practice, Howie could turn himself into a good fielding 1st baseman. But that's a waste of his talent. Come to think of it, Kotchman could replace Kennedy in the lineup too, and if he's healthy, give more offense than Erstad.

I hope one of them makes it back soon.