Monday, December 31, 2007



All Hail the Wild Card

The Angels have made the playoffs in 4 of the last 6 seasons, and at first glance this represents the most successful period of their history. But how much of that is due to the change in rules, realignment of the division and a wild card?

Pretty much all of it. The early to mid 80's Angels, in the same format, would have been just as good. Here's a little revisionist history, adding the wild card to the 80's:

1982: Angels win west, as they did in real life
1983: A disaster either way
1984: They were tied with the Twins with a 7th best 81-81 record, but would have won a weak west. Toronto (89 takes the east ahead of 3 other .500+ teams, Detroit, the only great team that year, takes the central. KC with 84 wins is out of the playoffs. Angels win a weak west with 81 wins, 4 ahead of Oakland, and Yankees get a wild card
1985: A very good 1985 team finished 1 back of Kansas City, in revionist history they each get a division title.
1986: AL west leaders as in real life.

That's 4 West titles in 5 years. After2 bad seasons, they come back in 1989 to make it 5 playoffs out of 8 years. The 91-71 team finished in third that year, but Oakland gets the west, Minnesota the central, and that leaves us the wild card.

If the recent teams had to compete in the 2 playoff team system, things would be a lot worse:

2002: 99 wins is only good for a second place finish. Like the 1993 Giants (103-59) they would have to settle for being one of the best teams ever to have been kept out of the playoffs.

2004: Yankees win the East. Boston in second. Their playoff run never happens (at least some good would have come out of keeping the 2 division format). Angels and Twins tie at 92 wins - we get a 1 game playoff to see if we're worthy of facing the Yankees or not.

2005: 95 wins are not good enough, second place behind the White Sox.

2007: Our first undisputed Division title since 1986! But the end result is probably the same. Boston would face Cleveland in a 1 game playoff, and most likely win as Beckett it would be Sabathia vs Beckett, and Beckett beat him both times in their actual playoff matchups.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Alltime Outfielder Wins

What started as a simple concept has become more complex. As before, start with batter wins from Add replacement level - 2 wins per 650 career plate appearances.

Then add position adjustments, depending on career games played at a position:
+.5 per 162 in center
-.5 per 162 as a corner
-1.0 for 1B, -1.5 for DH

Then there's stolen bases, .19 runs for SB, -.44 for CS, divide by 10 to convert to wins.

And then defense. For 1956 to 1986, I use a new measure I came up with based on retrosheet data. I will explain this more in the future. For 1987 on, I'm using zone rating runs.

And finally, outfield arms ratings. For this, I'm using the data John Walsh provided in the 2007 Hardball Times Annual. I don't have data for everyone, but if a player didn't make his best or worse list, he's probably no better or worse than 1 win from average.

And the results:

Top Hall of Famers:
Mays 146
Aaron 133
Ted Williams 132
Musial 121
Mantle 115
Robinson 107
Yastrzemski 106

Yaz picks up a ton for defense, 170 for fielding and another 67 for his arm. The fielding is park adjusted, though I'm not ready to finalize this, I may have park adjusted too much. The arm rating is not park adjusted and probably should be, the short left field wall helped him hold runners. Yaz is of course a sure hall of famer even if his defense had been below average. His left field rating is +122, and he was also +45 as a first baseman. In case anyone wonders where Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb are, I'm focusing on players who played who played post WWII and integration, and in the retrosheet era (1956+).

Next rung of HOFers:
Kaline 91
Gwynn 82
Clemente 80
Jackson 76
Winfield 67
Snider 65
Billy Williams 65
Stargell 60

Gwynn picks up quite a bit on defense, my totalzone stat likes him in the pre-zone era, and zone rating likes him too. I don't have anything on his arm, he wasn't among Walsh's leaders. Kaline rates well both in range and arm, and Clemente is just awesome, +124 range and +67 arm. Its a case of the stats matching up to the legend. Winfield rates poorly in range and very good on arm, the stats show him as a statue playing right field with the Angels late in his career. Snider rates poorly defensively but I only have the tail end of his career, he may have been a good CF in the early 50's. Stargell was a poor defender at both outfield and first but had a great arm.

Coulda been Hall of Famers
Reggie Smith 69
Dwight Evans 65

Neither one is eligible, dropped from the ballot for not getting 5% of the vote. Reggie Smith is a surprise. Reggie had just over 8000 plate appearances, most of the sure HOF guys had over 10000. Still, his 36.6 batting wins is about even with Clemente, better than Raines, and not far off from Gwynn, Billy Williams, Duke Snider, and Dave Winfield, and well above the guy getting the attention this year, Jim Rice. Reggie rates at +87 for defense, and +13 for his arm, but even if those are inaccurate (and fielding stats are rough estimations) he would still be a viable candidate if he was an average defender. Its too late for the HOF, but maybe he can get into Baseball-reference's Hall of Merit.

Evans was a fine well rounded hitter, a +50 career defender, and a +31 arm. I've often considered him the best outfielder on the outside of the hall, despite what the numbers say about Reggie.

Marginal HOFers:
Ashburn 53
Doby 50
Puckett 46
Brock 39

I only have defensive ratings for Ashburn at the end of his career, and can only give him +4 for defense. He had the greatest run of high putout totals ever, partly thanks to a big ballpark, partly to Robin Roberts, and partly because he could fly. In 1956 and 1957 he was a +15 defender each year. In his last few seasons, his defense really dropped off though. In addition, he could not throw (-19 runs). If I had the data for 1950 to 1955, its likely Ashburn would have added 15-20 runs per year on defense, and would not be considered marginal. With Doby, there's more than the stats, he is being honored for his role in the game. I have no problem with that.

Puckett was a very good player who was a bit overrated. He had shown no decline, if he had not been injured he might have hit .320 with 20 homers for 3-4 more years, and he'd be fully worthy. I didn't think the HOF was supposed to give credit for what might have happened but for injury (Tony Oliva is probably wondering about this too). Kirby got some sympathy votes for the way his career ended and a character bonus for being (seemingly) such a nice guy. Had his vote been delayed a few years, he probably would have been rejected for beating his wife. But now with his untimely demise, they might give the sympathy vote back. Whatever, R.I.P Kirby.

Brock, well its all about hitting the counting stat of 3000 hits and breaking the steals record. There are many players outside the hall who helped their team win more games. Well, at least in the regular season. Lou was absolutely incredible in 3 world series. If he got in for that I won't complain.

Eligible now:
Tim Raines 70
Andre Dawson 65
Rice 50
Parker 47
Murphy 45
Baines 44

If Raines fails to get in he'll be the best outfielder on the outside. His defense is only a small boost, +18 range and +6 arm. While Tim did not have a strong arm, what really matters is the complete package: getting to the ball quickly and getting rid of it. His non-SB baserunning is not even considered, at least not yet. There are a lot of sluggers just barely on the outside of the Hall. While Raines was not a slugger, he was a more valuable player than all of them.

I support both Expos for this year's ballot. Dawson was not as great a hitter as Rice, but for 1000 games, he played great defense in center. As a right fielder with bad knees, he was about average. Overall, he's +70 in range and another +36 for his arm. I'm not rating Rice as a bad fielder, on the contrary he's +13 in range and +16 in arm. Dawson played longer, about 1700 PA worth, and has more positional value as a center/ right fielder vs a left fielder /DH. I do not support Rice for the Hall because I count about 20 non-HOFers between him and Dawson, who I won't bother to name. Murphy's defense rates as poor, -60 in range (-43 TZ, -17 Zone rating), gets 11 back for a strong arm, and another -18 for his failure to be an adequate catcher (though he gets a positional bonus for trying). Perhaps my system is off on his defense, but he'd have to have been Willie Mays to overcome the poor end to his career and having put up his numbers in a hitter's park.

And those not yet eligible:

Bonds 160
Henderson 109
Griffey 82
Sheffield 69
M Ramirez 65
Edmonds 64
L Walker 61
Guerrero 60
Sosa 58

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

CHONE pitcher projections, updated

Since last time I have added a few pitchers, namely the Japanese imports, updated projections for players traded or signed with new teams, and added a new run estimator.

Actually, pretty much every pitcher might have numbers changed a bit here and there, because I've updated the defense behind them, Twins will get a boost from Adam Everett at short, though Bartlett wasn't bad himself.

The old run estimator is a pitcher baseruns formula. That's still 99% of the model, but I've added a calculation for pitchers who have proven to beat their baseruns over the years. Minor leaguers will see no change, and the effect is miniscule for pitchers with little experience. It is heavily regressed, but pitchers with a long career record of beating their baseruns calculations will benefit. I'm looking at you, Tom Glavine and Livan Hernandez. Roy Oswalt is helped as well, though I did not expect that. For guys at the extremes, this will knock about .15 off their ERA.

Projections and more here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Outfielder wins over replacement

Here's a real simple, quick way to compare player career value:

Go to and get the player's batting wins statistic. This is already park and league adjusted. Sean Forman's already done the calculations for you. Take career plate appearances, and divide by 650. Multiply the result by 2, add to batting wins.

I some time figuring this out for HOF candidate outfielders and expanded to get most of the recent outfielders who had good to great careers, and figured I'd better post something to bookmark the BTF thread.

Sammy Sosa should not be considered a sure thing, despite the 600 homers, and that has nothing to do with whether I think he used steroids. He's still a candidate, and putting Sammy in would not be a crazy idea, but as an all-around player he probably wasn't quite as good as Dwight Evans or Larry Walker. Evans got little support for the HOF, and Walker may not either in 3 years. Sammy hit a lot of homers, and because of that he was great for about 5 years, but outside of those years he just wasn't that great a player. And Vlad has just as much career value as Sosa right now, even if he never played another game.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

2007 Total Zone, Shortstops

A quick overview on Totalzone: I first introduced this while writing for MVN, and you can find it here. The data comes from the retrosheet play by play database, and what I look for, in the case of shortstops, is how many groundballs they made outs on, how many went as singles to left, singles to center, infield singles to short, and how many batters reached base on errors. From this I compute the totalzone rating, and convert it to runs after comparing to the league average. Groundballs hit by lefthanded and righthanded batters are accounted for separately. I also do separate calculations depending on whether a runner is on first - not just because of potential double plays, but it gives the shortstop an extra option to record an out. If he makes a diving stop on a groundball hit by a speedy runner, he may not have a chance at first, but might have enough time for a quick flip forceout to secondbase. Shortstops tend to make plays slightly more often with a runner on first. Any way, once I get those 4 ratings I park adjust them and sum them up.

I have ratings for 2003 to 2006, and this year I've added a double play measure, also from retrosheet. Pretty much I just look at how often a groundball hit in a double play situation is turned into an actual double play.

The results, at least for the infield, match up well with the zone ratings and more detailed play by play methods. Omar Vizquel leads at +24, followed by Troy Tulowitzki at +23. Jose Reyes is +16 and John McDonald +15. Adam Everett, now with the Twins, gets a +9 rating despite missing half the season to a broken leg. Last year Everett was a +40, which has got to be one of the best of all time.

Down at the bottom you have Brendan Harris (-18), who isn't really a shortstop, Carlos Guillen (-17), who isn't a shortstop anymore, Hanley Ramirez (-16), who can really hit, and Derek Jeter (-12), who is Derek Jeter.

Here's all shortstops with 75 or more chances last year, and I've given all the splits I can provide.

For example, Derek Jeter is -15 overall in range (the -12 includes a +3 from turning DP's), but Jeter is -18 with 1B unoccupied, and +3 with a runner on. With a runner on, he of course is playing closer to the bag. Jeter's poor range to his left is well-known (pasta diving Jeter) and it shows here, nobody allowed more groundball hits to center than Jeter's 155. Perhaps Jeter should position himself closer to second.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Getting Johan Santana

Can we get the best pitcher in baseball?

All the reports today make it seem like the Twins are dumb enough to take a pile of second-rate prospects from the Red Sox. Some useful players to be sure, but no high ceiling players, certainly.

Can we top their offer? Almost certainly. A WWW offer (Weaver, Wood, Willits) is better than what has been offered. We could include Ervin Santana just so the Twins fans who bought Santana jerseys don't have to recycle them. That's probably too rich an offer, but one the Angels could afford, in fact it wouldn't hurt the 2008 25 man projected roster at all.

Right now I don't have Wood on the opening day roster. Willits almost certainly would be, but the Angels will have to move Juan Rivera first, unless they can keep 6 outfielders. Santana right now is probably in the pen due to a surplus of starters, and while Weaver is a fine, established starter, Johan replaces him. Right now I have the Angels 25 man roster at just under 120 million.

The players I have are: SP Garland, Lackey, Escobar, Saunders, Weaver
RP: Ervin, Mosely, Oliver, Shields, Speier, K-Rod
C Mathis, Napoli
IF Kotch, Kendrick, Izturis, Figgins, Aybar, Morales, Quinlan
OF Vlad, Hunter, GA, Rivera, Matthews

I'm estimating the contracts for arbitration and other pre-free agency players.

Add Johan (13.3 million), subtract Weaver and Santana (adding Bootcheck into the bullpen) and we're at 130 million. Is this acceptable to Moreno?

What about future years? Santana will get 20-25 million per season. For 2009, Garland, Anderson, Rivera, Quinlan, Oliver, Figgins, and K-Rod will be free agents. That's a lot of money coming off the books. If the Angels needed to cut back payroll, they could get back under 120 million even if Santana is making 25 million that year: Adenhart replaces Garland as the #5 starter, Shields becomes closer with young cheap arms filling in, Kendry Morales becomes the fulltime DH with Vlad-Hunter-Matthews in the OF, and Sean Rodriguez or Dallas McPherson takes over at third. I'm factoring in increase arbitration awards at this point for Howie, Kotch, Napoli, and Maicer.

That's a lot of ifs, and depends on a lot of young players panning out. The team could decide which hole the youngsters are least capable of filling, and either get a free agent 3B, Adam Dunn to DH, or keep K-Rod to close, and stay around 130 million. Or else maybe baseball spending keeps getting crazier, to the point where going to 150 million is no big deal, and the Angels could throw money around to upgrade all those holes.

I don't think getting Santana would be prohibitive. Is it a good baseball move? My gut instinct is yes. Simply there are few times when you have a chance to get a player as great as Santana. When you have the chance, you do it. Last time a player this great was available was 2004 and we got Vlad. The cost isn't really that different, 25 million is the new 15 million. We had too many corner OF then, Salmon had still played well in 2003, GA was coming off an all star season, and we just signed Jose Guillen.

We didn't need another outfielder, just like now we don't need another starter. But if you have a chance to get a Hall-of-Fame caliber player, you do it. I don't think we'll regret it if we do.