Friday, September 28, 2007

Lackey for CY

The candidates are big John, Cleveland's two aces, and 20 game winner Josh Beckett. Right now, Lackey is .05 points behind Carmona for the ERA lead, He needs to overtake him for a decent shot at the award. A 7 inning, 1 ER game or better will do the trick, and getting 19 wins would help too.

As for who deserves the award, I looked at park adjusted runs allowed vs replacement. Replacement level is set at 1.25 the league average, and I include an adjustment for defensive support, based on Hardball Time's team defense rating, prorated to the pitcher's balls in play allowed.

Anyway, the Cleveland guys lead at +70, third is Scott Kazmir, though his ERA is 3.48 he gets a ton of credit for succeeding in spite of the horrible Tampa Bay defense. Lackey comes in at +64, good for 4th place. A shutout against the A's would put him in the lead.

Lets go big John!

Hit the ball to Howie and Kotch

How good is the Angel defense? We didn't give away a division with unearned runs like last year, but there are still some problems.

My defensive system is called Totalzone, and looks at every ball in play with data from retrosheet. As long as retrosheet has complete data for who fielded every out or hit, and batted ball type (grounder, fly, liner, pop). This data is complete for 2003 to 2006. While I don't have the full file for 2007, I was able to pull enough from Baseball Reference's play index to run the numbers by position for the Angels, and compare to 2006 league averages.

For Totalzone, I also adjust by ballpark, by bases occupied, and handedness of the batter, but here I haven't done those adjustments, and I don't have the numbers for each Angel, just totals by position. Its a lot easier and less time consuming to get this from retrosheet play by play files, but I did as best I could to run some estimates before the Angels go to the first round of the playoffs.

The Angels are best in the infield, for runs saved they are +11 at first, +10 at 2B, -2 at third, and -6 at short. This may surprise some who listen to Rex talk about how the OC should win a gold glove, but while the OC is a smart defender with excellent hands and an accurate arm, he does not range well on balls hit up the middle. You may not believe my number crunching, but heres an indisputable fact: Angels have allowed 99 groundball singles to left field, and only 68 to right. This strongly supports our right side being more efficient than our left.

Overall, the infield defense is above average, +12.

The outfield, however, is not so good. LF -10, CF -15, RF -14. Line drives and flyballs are accounted for separately, as flyballs are caught more than 80% of the time, while groundballs are caught less than 20%. In centerfield, linedrives were caught at a .201 rate, better than league average .167, but 112 flyballs dropped in for hits to center, outs were recorded 77% of the time against an 82% average.

Matthews has made his share of highlight film catches, but there have just been a lot of hits falling in too.

The Hardball Times zone rating has the Angels infield slightly above average, .782 to .776, and the outfield well below average, .845 to .870, which is right in line with my numbers.

Further evidence that this team is not that good defensively? Look at the top 3 starters. Lackey has allowed a hit per inning. Escobar has only 10 more innings than hits, Weaver has 19 more hits than innings. They have been successful not because of the defense, but in spite of it, by striking people out and limiting walks and homers. With a stronger defense, John Lackey might have been the undisputed Cy Young winner, instead of one of about 4 good final candidates.

So in the playoffs, keep the ball on the ground, and hope its hit to Kendrick or Kotchman. Especially Kotchman. That is our gold glover.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Rex Hudler, supra genius

Playing another MLB06 The Show on my PSP today, its just another game to beat up on the A's in the year 2014. With the score 10-0 in the 7th, nobody out and Casey Kotchman at the plate, Rex Hudler (one of the three annoucers who lends his voice to the game) says:

"The runner on third has got to make sure the ball gets past the pitcher before he takes off from home plate".

Problem is, the bases were loaded. No matter, Kotchman didn't bother with a dinky grounder, he hits a grand slam.

Real Rex Hudler would never say anything so dumb. Rex was an aggressive player, he'd always run on contact.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Can Bart get it done?

Its been a rough two years for Colon, but he has a chance to be a significant part of the 2007 team instead of a starter with a 6+ ERA who will probably be left off the postseason roster. Bart can be the pitcher who wins the clincher for us.

He's had some success against Seattle. In his first start of the year he allowed only 1 run in 77 innings. He also only struck out one, walking nobody, as the Mariners were kind enough to swing at the first pitch most of the time, not running up the pitch count on a guy coming off injury. Bartolo threw only 77 pitches to complete 7 innings. His other starts against the Mariners were a so-so win on 5-17 (7 innings, 3 runs, 12 baserunners allowed, only 1 K) and then on 5-28 he got his substantial ass handed to him.

Last year Bartolo's only win came against Seattle, a complete game 4 hit shutout, where he threw only 92 pitches (and recorded only 2 strikeouts)

So, expect Colon to be around the plate and the free-swinging Mariners (more than 100 fewer walks than the sometimes patient Angels) to put the ball in play early and often. If his command is right and his arm is strong he'll stay on the corners and get outs. If his command is off and he's getting too much in the middle of the plate, or if his state of health turns his fastball into batting practice, we'll have to wait one more day.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

My fielding percentage is .000

Angels beat up on the Orioles tonight in my home, Baltimore. I was at the game in Angels red for the second night in a row. Angels scored 18 runs, far more than needed, and did it not just by hitting the ball, but by being very patient against a pitching staff that can't throw strikes. The Angels took 13 walks tonight. All Angel fans who wanted to see Mickey Hacker fired, you are going to have to shove it for a while because this team can hit, and they have had great approaches at the plate for much of the year. Hit it hard when its there, take a walk when its not.

In the bottom of the 5th inning, Escobar gave up a solo homerun to Nick Markakis. The ball was hit directly to my seat. If you have the game on DVR or you have a subscription, check it out. I'm the guy who drops it. The ball then rolled around on top of the wall above the area where the grounsckeepers hang out, a few other fans reached for it to no avail, then it fell into the groundskeeper's area.

I have never caught a homerun or foul ball in my life. I've never been particularly close either. Its not something I was expecting to happen, even in the first row. As the ball was hit it seemed to be in slow motion. As it got closer I started thinking this really might be heading to me. Well, there really isn't much time for thinking, you just react. Then it was right in my hands. It really didn't hurt at all, which surprised me since I'm there without a glove and it was hit pretty hard. But I couldn't close my hands around it, and it bounced away. At that point I really noticed the rush of adrenaline, but there was no outlet for it, I just sat back in my seat and took the abuse of the Oriole idiot fans around me. (Most O's fans are great, I'm an O's fan myself when they aren't playing the Angels, but in our section there were some real jackasses. They were eventually forced to leave by security when they got out of hand and start very offensive and foulmouthed heckling of their own right fielder a few innings later).

It was almost like an out of body experience. Just weird. My girlfriend said Figgins gave me a look after the play, I didn't even notice at the time. The ball was well out of the playing field, there was no chance the I had interfered with a ball in play, and from the replays I didn't even lean over until after the drop when I made one last try to grab it on a bounce. So I'm guessing Figgins' look was one of shame that someone wearing an Angel hat dropped the ball.

All in all, I'm very disappointed that I dropped it, and it was somewhat embarrassing. But would I trade that experience for any of the other games where nothing is hit in my direction? No freakin way. Just to briefly get your hands on the ball and fail is many times better than being safely away from the action.

Then in the 9th, the Angels put the Salt Lake City lineup in. Brandon Wood cracks his first major league homer, and it was a no-doubter. Ever read scouts talking about certain players having a special sound when they hit one? I know the late great Buck O'Neal liked to talk about it. Let me tell you, the ball Brandon hit, it just sounded different. The best way I can describe the sound is simply this: Bigger. I'm proud to have been in attendance for Brandon's first major league homerun, and I hope there are many more to follow.