Thursday, July 31, 2008

Some Defensive Numbers

These are based on the revised zone rating data published by Hardball Times. There are no park adjustments. I've said before that outside of Fenway's left field, you can probably get away without park adjsting defensive stats. I did notice earlier this year that Manny Ramirez wasn't as ridiculously below average in rzr, and I think John Dewan may have removed balls hit off the monster from the zone data. If so, hats off to him.

The way it used to work, nobody could manage a good zr in that field, and a poor fielder like Manny would have an figure so bad as to boggle the mind. This year Manny is -13 runs, while a speedy CF like Ellsbury is able to post an excellent +7 figure in limited time in left.

Second base: Chase Utley (+24) and Mark Ellis (+19) dominate here. Mets are getting killed here as the worst 2 are Luis Castillo and Damion Easley, at -12 each.

3rd: Scott Rolen leads at +20, no surprise. Chone Figgins does not usually rate highly, but is +7 this year. With his speed Figgins has as much range as anyone at the position, but his hands and arm have been somewhat erratic. Not this year, he's only made 2 errors.

Center: Carlos Gomez has done the job in the field (+16). Beltran (+13) leads the NL. Torii Hunter right now is dead average, but that's no knock on him. Just about everybody in center has speed, so Hunter is average among the elite defenders of the game.

Carl Crawford (+12) leads in left, Randy Winn (+13) and Endy Chavez (+12) in right. No surprise, these are guys with CF speed playing in the corners. Vlad and GA are +1 each, seemingly motivated not to be cast as the fulltime DH.

There are some truly awful numbers in right field, Bobby Abreu (-26), Brad Hawpe (-22), and Ken Griffey Jr. (-18). If Griffey costs 18 runs in 2/3 of a season in right, what will he cost the White Sox if they play him in center? My guess is a division title.

Our old buddy Orlando Cabrera (+16) leads at short, by Mairick Ayzturis have combined for a +16 figure as well. Derek Jeter leads MLB in rzr, but makes few out of zone plays, so his overall rating (+3) is just a bit above average. He's having a great year by his standards, making all the plays hit at him, but his range still shows as limited and I would expect him to return to form next year, especially since he'll be 35. I was surprised to see Jose Reyes (-15) at the bottom, here's a young shortstop with great speed, a strong arm, who has put up good defensive numbers in the past. I wonder what gives? Is this a fluke? Does he look bad out there? A scoring issue (do the Mets scorers call more balls in zone as opposed to out of zone?)

The deadline deals...with projections

Casey Kotchman for Mark Teixiera:

Tex: 279/371/495 - He's not in the National League anymore, or an AL launching pad. Numbers take a hit, but he's still pretty good.
Kotchman: 289/355/459

Ken Griffey to the White Sox for a half eaten donut:
Griffey: 249/349/448 He's taking a lot of walks this year, that may not be a good thing, could mean his bat speed is gone. I'm not sure what he's doing there. Does he DH, with Thome going to first and Konerko to the bench? Konerko, despite a terrible year, projects better at 264/358/472. Maybe they will platoon, which isn't much of a gain if any at all. Anyway you look at it, Konerko is going to get less playing time. If Griffey plays center with Swisher at first, then the Twins are going to win the central. How bad is Griffey's defense? Go to The Book blog, and drink every time "Griffey" and "replacement level" are used in the same sentence.

ManRam to the Dodgers, JayRay Bay to Boston, prospects to the Pirates:

Ramirez: 285/406/545. In the AL, he'd be at 283/394/515. Bay is a fine hitter but not quite there with Ramirez, Bay: 266/365/476.

LaRoche hasn't done much other than take a ton of walks recently. In the past he's shown power potential. Dodgers for some reason refuse to give him an extended shot. Hopefully he'll get that chance now, throwing across the diamond to his brother.

LaRoche: 267/369/441. If he can do that while playing acceptable D at third, Pirate fans won't miss Bay.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


John Lackey came within 2 outs of the first Angel no-hitter since Mike Witt in 1984.

Um, no. I don't care what MLB passes out for official definitions, but Jered Weaver and Jose Arredondo combined on a game where nobody got a hit. Yeah, Weaver gave up a run and lost it. So what? I'm not trying to call it a shutout, just a no-hitter.

Mark Langston and Mike Witt combined on one in 1990 as well. Even won that game, but they only want to count complete games for some reason. I don't get it. The team still threw a no-hitter.

Another Sweep!

This has been the most satisfying series of the year. After last season's playoff exit, it was pretty cool earlier this year to take 2 out of 3 in Fenway. Then the Angels swept the Red Sox in Anaheim. Sweeping them in Fenway is a whole new level of domination. After the first 4 games against them you could hear their fans whining about how the Angels haven't faced their best pitchers, the ones who would pitch in a playoff series. The last 5 games of the season series we faced Wakefield, Dice-K, and Beckett twice, and made each one of them our bitch. So much for that theory. Too bad Lester didn't pitch against us so we could have beat him too.

It's hard to imagine the Angels playing any better than they did against the Red Sox this year. Maybe if Lackey had gotten the no-hitter..., nah, if someone told me before the season that we'd do half as well against the Red Sox this year as we have I would have been happy. Oh yeah, anybody still saying John Lackey is intimidated by Fenway park? I didn't think so.

It's starting to look like all the discussion of how do the Angels beat their pythag/they're lucky/they're just an average team/watch them regress will be a distant memory. Final score is 9-2, that will pad your runs scored/runs allowed totals.

You could say this was revenge for last year's playoff series, but that's not quite it. It's not revenge.

It's punishment.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Kotchman traded for Teixiera

Casey is a Brave now. I'm hating this trade. I saw the headline on BTF "Teixiera traded for 2 players" and prayed "please don't let one be Kotchman". Well, that's one strike against the power of prayer as far as I'm concerned.

Teixiera is the better player. He's a gold glove first baseman and a more polished, more powerful hitter. I don't see him everyday like I do Kotchman, and I'm impressed enough by Casey to doubt that anyone is quite as good defender, but it's probably not a huge deal, Teixiera can field too.

Offensively, it's about a 20 run upgrade over a full season, which is the same as 7 runs from here to the end of September, and about 1 run in a playoff series. Thinking back to last October's failure, it's unlikely he would have made much a difference. Game 2 was the only close one, if Tex had hit a big bomb sometime during that game and K-Rod pitched Ramirez a little better protecting a lead, then the Angels would still have had to win 2 more games, including another against Josh Beckett.

It's not like the Angels have chronic playoff failures anyway, during Scioscia's tenure they have played 7 playoff series and won four of them.

I hate this trade for rational reasons. We get 2 months of Teixiera and then he's a free agent, so we either pay him a ridiculous sum of money (I'm sure he'll get 20+ million with the Yankees, Orioles, and maybe Red Sox bidding on him) or be left with a 1B hole to fill. He's a fine player but I just don't think he's worth that much. I'm confidant that given 20 million less whatever Kotchman makes in arbitration, I could find a way to improve the team that has more impact. Kotchman has 3 years left of being a good player at a bargain price. I don't think the Angels properly valued how much that is worth.

I hate it for emotional reasons. Kotchman's father is a scout and minor league manager for the team. We drafted Casey, and watched him climb the ladder, developing from a high school kid with soft hands and a sweet swing to a solid major league regular, with some impressive batting averages along the way in the Angel minor league hitters parks. There's something really cool about homegrown players. Sure, players aren't going to stay forever but some teams don't even draft their best prospects, they trade for them, using other prospects they developed and deal before they play 4 seasons. I'm glad my team doesn't usually operate that way.

My daughter's favorite player is/was Kotchman. She's only 3 1/2 months old, so it's kind of a joke. Someone asked, when seeing pictures of me feeding and taking care of her while watching the Angels games in her Angel T-shirt, who her favorite player was. Kotchman had the game-winning hit the night before, so he sprung to mind, and it's stuck. Now she'll have to pick a new favorite player or (shudder) become a Braves fan.

At least if Teixiera leaves, we'll get 2 draft picks. Who's on first for 2009? Kendry Morales hasn't quite developed enough, though he may get a shot. Brandon Wood and Sean Rodriguez were/are shortstops, but the way they are hitting at AAA lately one of them might have enough bat for first. Or there's always options in the free agent market.

I should adjust soon and start rooting for Teixiera, and if he really is the single difference to make the Angels win the world series, then Tony Reagins will have done good. But I'm going to miss Casey Kotchman. Maybe the Angels will bring him back when he's 38 and can't play any more, like they did with Wally Joyner.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Angels and Pythagoras

A lot has been written about the Angels beating their expected win/lost records based on runs scored and allowed. I thought I'd look at it by month:

Month Runs Runs All xWins realWins
April 140 129 16 18
May 101 108 13 15
June 100 97 13 16
July 113 85 12 14

At least they've been remarkably consistent about it. When the runs scored/runs allowed shows that they are playing well, they play incredible. When it shows they are merely average, they at least play at a good level anyway.

I think the reason they have outplayed Pythagoras is a conspiracy to get more saves for K-Rod. Yesterday they led 5-1 in the 7th, and if that score had held there would have been no save opportunity. Then Saunders gave up a few runs, but at no point did I worry - I was on to the plan, and K-Rod did come in and get save #43. It's looking like he'll get to 50 saves before August is halfway over, and then obliterate the alltime record.

This team is special. If you're an Angel fan, don't waste time trying to make sense of it or worry if it doesn't make logical sense. Just enjoy it. Leave the head-scratching to the A's fans who think they are "unlucky" as Billy Beane ships off more of the few players left that anyone could even recognize.

Do I think the Angels have found a magical formula to consistently beat their pythagorean expectations? No, and I don't think it will continue into next year, but for now they sure are fun to watch.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Good at-bats

Nice work against the Red Sox tonight. I've seen plenty of bad atbats from Torii Hunter this year (not to single him out, it goes for pretty much the whole team) but his first inning PA against Buchholz was impressive. Down 0-2 on fastballs fouled off, Clay brought out the curveball and instead of whiffing Torii hung in and fouled it off. He then alternated taking borderline pitches and fouling off tough ones, before drawing a walk as part of a 3 run inning.

Most of the Angels had some great AB's tonight. The tough thing to tell is if it's a better approach by the players, or poor performance by the Red Sox pitchers. Buchholz had decent velocity, fastball around 92, but only pitch f/x can tell if he had enough movement, and only the batter will know if he's not deceptive enough, tipping pitches, or using poor pitch selection.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Minor league pitchers, average on balls in play

When I ran the numbers of a few thousand minor leaguers to calculate MLE factors a few years ago, I found that pitchers do indeed allow a higher batting average on balls in play.

The effect is small for AAA, just .003, partly because half the AAA pitchers come from the Pacific Coast League, and thats a great hitter's league. I looked at moving from A to A+, A+ to AA, etc., and chained the results. I got:

A +.049
A+ +.031
AA +.021
AAA +.003

In other words, a pitcher in low A who allows a .300 BABIP would give up a .349 in the big leagues.

This is all 100%, completely WRONG.

My mistake was twofold:

1) I did not regress enough to the mean. I was regressing 50% at 500 balls in play, it should be 1700-1800
2) I did not look both ways for selective sampling. My theory was that if a pitcher was pitching well in AAA, he was probably lucky in his BABIP, so you regress to the mean, but his performance at the next level is an unbiased sample. The problem is that players get sent both directions, a guy who is hit-unlucky will get demoted, so you need to correct both the upper and lower level by regressing to the mean.
3) My guess is that once I do these steps, there will be little difference in expected BABIP from a minor or major league pitcher.

What got me looking at this was this article by David Gassko from last year. If backup catchers and utility infielders can get hitters to hit at about a league average BABIP rate, then why should I expect any professional pitcher to do less?

Cubs get a Harden

Cubs get a pair of pitchers, Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin. They give up a group of 3 decent young players and one unknown in the low minors.

First, let's see what the Projections say:

Harden, Cubs: 2.98 ERA, 11.3 K/9. If his strikeout rate wasn't high enough, now he gets to face weaker lineups (if you still don't believe the NL is inferior check out the latest round of interleague whoop-ass) and he gets to strike out pitchers. The easiest call I'm going to make since I proclaimed Tampa Bay as 2008 contenders is that Harden will remind Cubs fans of Mark Prior.

This could be a good thing or a bad thing. He could be every bit as dominant as Mark was from 2002-2005, or his arm could fall off, which has been known to happen.

Luckily the Cubs grabbed some insurance as well in Gaudin. He projects to a respectable 4.08 ERA for Chicago. If he's not needed he can join the bullpen, but he's a better pitcher than Jason Marquis so maybe he should just go straight to the rotation anyway.

The A's get a pitcher, Sean Gallagher. I don't have a complete projection for him as I haven't been able to load minor league pitching stats to my new system yet, but based on his major league record he looks like a respectable 4.38 ERA. That's a solid, middle of the rotation guy, and the projection is about as good as that of Jeremy Guthrie, who's the ace of the Orioles, and Joe Saunders, who's going to the all-star game. For Oakland he'll fit right in with rookies Greg Smith and Dana Eveland. Solid pitcher, but I'm glad the Angels won't be facing the likes of Harden again.

Actually, Angels facing Harden again this year could only mean one thing....

Harden has the rest of this year and next before free agency. Gaudin has 2 more years of arbitration. Gallagher looks to have 5.5 years left of cheap service.

Matt Murton goes to the A's and likely plays left, allowing Jack Cust to play his natural position, DH. Murton is a good one, projected to hit 278/349/416. Two years ago he played everyday for the Cubs and hit 297/365/444, yet somehow the Cubs refused to give him atbats after that. His numbers take a hit because of the league and park change, but that projection makes him the best hitter in the A's outfield. Murton has a little over 2 years of service time so he'll be a super two after this year and have 4 arbitration years left.

Eric Patterson projects to 250/309/377 with good speed. I don't know if his glove is good enough to stick at second, he played a lot of outfield, either they didn't like his glove or were trying to make him a utility guy (or maybe the Cubs just had too much of a crowd at second). He's got virtually no service time yet so the A's have him for another 6 years. He might be the replacement for Mark Ellis.

The final guy in the deal, Josh Donaldson, is a 22 year old catcher hitting .223 in low A. He's thrown out 27 of 71 basestealers.

A's get a lot of surplus value, cheap decent players under team control for awhile. The Cubs get the most outstanding player in the deal, assuming he doesn't get hurt, and had the depth to deal from. Trade looks reasonable from both sides.

For the Angels, the road to the 2008 AL West title looks easier today. Yeah, the A's got some decent players, but when Billy Beane needs decent players, he finds them (see Jack HannaCust last season). It's hard (impossible) to project 3-4 years into the future, but the 2011 A's don't look any better today than they did yesterday.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Prospects from the Brewers

The Brewers bring in the biggest player likely to be traded this season (unless somebody makes Vince McMahon an offer for Paul Wight).

The top prospect going to the Indians is last year's draft pick, Matt LaPorta, who might take over first base as early as tomorrow and is a potential middle of the order bat. I ran some updated projections for LaPorta, and for two prospects who din't go anywhere, shortstop Alcides Escobar and hitter Mat Gamel.

LaPorta: 242/330/417
Gamel: 270/341/429
Escobar: 252/283/335

Cleveland is a tougher place to hit than Milwaukee, primarily because it's in the superior American league. LaPorta on the Brewers hits 251/343/451, so the Indians can claim to have landed the top hitting prospect. Both are 1B/DH types who have tried to play elsewhere so far. Escobar is a top defensive shortstop, and his numbers make me think of Erick Aybar.

Some other projections:
Dallas McPherson: 222/318/441. He's got 29 homers this year, but hitting in probably the best hitter's park in the PCL. He still strikes out too much to be a good hitter, but if the Marlins give him a chance he could have a Russ Branyan-streak in him. He's always been pretty much a clone of Branyan, with a better glove and a worse back.

Nelson Cruz: 252/333/458 He's killing AAA pitching but his track record isn't that great, could just be a career year. He'll probably get a chance someday and be productive, like Marcus Thames and Ryan Ludwick, but it's impossible to know when that chance will come.

Brett Gardner: 252/343/347 Good job kid, you just beat Papelbon. Yankee fans might hope he's the Yankee answer to Ellsbury, but he probably just isn't as good, and it shows in his strikeout total. He has improved quite a bit in the last year though, showing an ability to draw walks and going from zero power to just a wee bit of power. Most comparable player: Reggie Willits.

Random thoughts while watching a battle for 2nd place

Dustin Pedroia is faster now than when I saw him in the minors a few years ago. Back then I clocked him at 4.6, running hard (I think he was trying to beat out a DP). Tonight I got him at 4.0 on a grounder to Jeter. The previous inning I had Ellsbury at 3.8. I hesitate to say good things about any Red Sox, but Dustin totally kicks ass, a complete ballplayer and the best position player from the 2004 draft (only ones close are Stephen Drew and Hunter Pence, at least after checking rounds 1-10.)

Congratulations to A-Rod, for tying the Mick in homeruns.

Vladimir Guerrero will not be an all-star. Josh Hamilton has passed him in the voting. Hamilton absolutely deserves the spot, and Vlad is not having quite the season we're accustomed to, but of the 3 vets who always got the AL spots, Ichiro, Manny, and Vlad, Vlad is the one who least deserves to be bumped off for new blood.

3 Angel pitchers make the squad, K-Rod, Joe Saunders, and Ervin Santana. A year ago Ervin and Joe were battling for the #5 starter spot. Last winter they were trade bait, I think one or the other would have gone to the Marlins in the Miggy Cabrera trade. Now they are both All-stars. I don't think we'd be in first place right now if we had made that trade. We'd have a huge hole in the rotation (just look at how Moseley/Adenhart handled the Lackey fill-ins), no Howie Kendrick, and no first base vacancy to move him to after he struggled at third. Way too much to give up for a fat, overpaid, .820 OPS DH.

I do like it when ESPN is forced to leave the Red Sox-Yankee game in the background, and acknowledge the best team in baseball, the Tampa Bay Rays.