Friday, October 31, 2008

Free Agent Hitters, part 3

There's one infielder out there who might make sense, and that is Joe Crede. I haven't been enthusiastic in the past about Crede trade rumors, but his glove is legit and I've come around on him, in case the Angels trade Chone Figgins or move him to left field.

Joe is a -3 hitter, a guy with some power but a poor OBP. His fielding projection is +10, and that may be conservative. Over the last 3 years his +/- (John Dewan's numbers found on BillJamesonline) are +13, +10, and +30. That glove makes Joe a 15 million player if he were able to play 150 games, similar to Adrian Beltre. But he's got a bad back, and is a serious injury risk, cutting his value to about 10 million.

On second thought, Crede would not make sense since we have Brandon Wood to provide similar high power, low OBP, and good glove at 3B. Crede's overall projection vs replacement level is +30, Wood is +18 (-6 bat, +1 glove). Wood is younger, has room to improve, healthier, and cheaper. We've also got tremendous minor league depth at the position if Wood fails, in Sean Rodriguez, Matt Brown, and Freddy Sandoval, who all hit well at AAA last season.

Yeah, last thing we need is another 3rd baseman, but Crede's a good player and it won't be a step backwards if we sign him.

Finally, there are 2 more LF/DH types to mention.

Our franchise leader in most categories, Garret Anderson, did not have his option picked up but could be resigned for less money. Anderson projects to hit 272/319/425, about what he did last year. That is 5 runs below average, and he's 3 more below average in left. That production is barely above replacement level, worth about 2.5 million. I hate to say it, but Gary Matthews Jr. would be a better option in left (257/337/406 for -2 hitting, +4 defense). Matthews is a sunk cost anyway. We have to pay him, so we might as well play him if the alternative is signing an inferior player. But it would be nice to sign a better player (like Bradley).

Then there's Ken Griffey Jr. He doesn't have much left, +2 hitting (242/345/416) and -15 fielding (better off as DH). He's worth no more than 3 million, but the Angels have better options already on the team.

Free Agent Hitters part 2

Obviously, the top player on the market is the one we've already had a 2 month sneak preview on. Mark Teixiera will be 29 next year, so he should have many years of productive hitting ahead of him. His projection is +33 runs batting and +6 defending 1st base. A first baseman gets a -10 run position penalty, so Mark is +29 runs above average and +49 vs. replacement level. A great player, and with an expected going rate of 5 million per win, he may be worth 25 million per year. He will certainly get at least 20 million per year, so if the Angels can sign him between 20-25, consider it a good deal. The question is how many years will it take? An 8 to 10 year contract is probably too long. It all depends on what the Yankees, Orioles, or other teams plan on doing this offseason. The Angels will make a big offer that will make Mark a wealthy(-er) man, but so will others. It's his decision where he wants to play and a lot of it is out of our hands.

If health were not an issue, Milton Bradley would be the 2nd best player on this free agent market. At 31, he's a guy who you can expect close to a .400 OBA, a .500 SLG, good outfield defense, and even good baserunning. But health is an issue. Per 150 games he projects to +29 runs batting and +5 in the field. He'd be worth 24 million if he could play the field for 150 games. Using him in the field offers more chances for him to get hurt, so it might be best to evaluate him as a DH. As a DH he's worth 17 million, that is, if we could count on him to DH 150 games. The injury risk should not mean you don't want him at all, having Bradley for 2/3 of the time and Gary Matthews for the other 1/3 still beats having most outfielders around for the whole season. We just need to discount any offer for the injury risk. If Bradley is available for 3-4 years between 12-15 million, he's worth it. Ideally, he and Vlad could split the DH role and right field, depending on who's knee felt better on any given day. Bradley should be target #1 if Mark Teixiera decides to play somewhere else.

Manny Ramirez is still the best hitter on the market. His finish with the Dodgers was incredible, .396 average and .743 slugging. Almost Bondsian. His hitting projection is +38, and his fielding projection suggests that his best position is DH. Ramirez is worth 20-22 million, and at 37 that should be no more than a 3 year deal. He'll probably get more than that, and signing a fulltime DH may not be what we want, since Vlad should DH at least some of the time. We'd be better off not getting involved here.

Jason Giambi's hitting projection is +27, still one of the better bats despite his age (38). The Giambino can play first, poorly, but is best at DH. As I mentioned, that may not be a good fit in Anaheim. Giambi is a health risk as well, but on a one year deal he's worth about 10-13 million.

Pat Dunn/Adam Burrell. The mistake here is intentional. You won't find two more evenly matched players. Their hitting projections are +21 and +22, fielding in left is -13 and -14. Both should be strictly used as DH, though each has played some 1B in the past. Dunn is younger, and so will get the better contract. One bats righty and the other lefty, so that will sway some team's preference. They are worth 12-14 million, Burrell probably for no more than 3 years and Dunn maybe 5. Neither is a good fit for the Angels, given our DH concerns.

There are a few more bats among the 1B/LF/DH crowd, I'll just post their offensive and defensive projections per 150 games, and a suggested salary:

Carlos Delgado +15, -3, 11 million
Bobby Abreu +16, -11, 11 million
Raul Ibanez +12, -13, 9 million
Jim Edmonds -1, +2, 5-7 million

One or 2 year deals is the maximum I could suggest for any.

Juan Rivera is a +7 hitter, -7 fielder, worth about 7 million. He would be a decent resigning for say, 3 years if the Angels were willing to give him the fulltime job in left.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What to do? Part one, the lineup

The Angels made the obvious moves today, picking up the 2009 options on John Lackey and Vladimir Guerrero. In addition, they bought out Garret Anderson's 14 million dollar option for 3 million. They may still negotiate to bring him back, but that would be a mistake. Anderson projects to hit 272/319/425 next year. That is 5 runs below average as a hitter. In addition, he's no better than average in the field, and at left field and DH, you really need to have above average hitting.

Am I being too harsh on the franchise's alltime hits leader? I don't think so, I'm just being rational. That projection is only a bit below his 2008 line of 293/325/433, and at 37 years of age, you are kidding yourself if you don't expect further decline.

One thing this offseason free agent market abounds in is left fielder/ DH types, so there's no reason to settle for subpar production if we want another crack at advancing in the playoffs.

Other options for LF or DH include:
Milton Bradley
Manny Ramirez
Jason Giambi
Adam Dunn
Pat Burrell
Carlos Delgado
Bobby Abreu
Raul Ibanez
Jim Edmonds
Juan Rivera
Ken Griffey Jr.
Reggie Willits

All project better than Anderson for 2009, even Willits, already on the team for just above the league minimum. Willits has zero power, but with his speed, ability to work the walk, and an expected rebound in batting average if he were given playing time, Willits projects to 263/372/338, which in a completely different way is worth as much as Anderson's bat, and Willits is the better defender.

In addition to left and DH, we've got 1B and 3B to resolve as well. Signing Mark Teixiera has to be the top priority, but we must have a contingency plan in case the Yankees make an offer he can't refuse. Chone Figgins played the best 3B of his career last season, but he may be moved in a trade, or used in left field if we acquired a third baseman or promoted one (B-Wood, Sean-Rod).

You never know what trades are in the works, but I think the middle infield of Aybar/Kendrick is set (despite an awful ALDS), Vlad and Torii are going nowhere, and Mike Napoli must catch more often.

To be continued, I'll try and look at some combinations among 3b/1b/lf/dh that Anaheim might see next year.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Defensive Projections

Ready for 2009, You can find them here:

These are based on 5 years of data from 2004-2008, weighted 1, .8, .6, .4, .2. The numbers are a combination of Stats ZR, Revised Zone rating, and Totalzone (which is not available for 2008). Instead of regressing these to a league average, the regression is to a run value derived from the Fan's scouting report. The more a player has played, the more his rating is based on his stats. The less he has played, the more it is based on his scouting report.

Adam Everett is still rated the best shortstop at +19, but it's a steep drop from the +31 he had last year. With his bat, +19 probably isn't good enough to make him a starter, and given his decline on the fan scouting report, he may not even be that good.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Evaluation of Defensive Projections

Here’s a question I’m curious to answer: What method better projects team defense, stat projections or scouting reports?

One thing I need to answer the question is an objective criterion to measure. I don’t think there is anything out there except team defensive efficiency record. If a team has very good defensive players, they should make more outs than average, and post a better DER. DER is not a perfect measure though. The ballpark has an effect on this, as does the types of batted balls your pitcher allows.

Here’s my method: Start with the league average DER. Park adjust this. Then look at how many groundballs, flyballs, line drives, and popups the team allows. The formula I used, along with the batted ball data from the Hardball Times team page, is this: expected batting average allowed = GB*.237 + FB*.16+ LD*.718 + pop *.01. xDER = 1- XBA. Then xDER/league average is your batted ball adjustment factor.

Now, let’s look at the projected defensive stats of the players on your team. I’m using preseason projections, but prorated to the actual 2008 playing time. For the stat projections, mine were made available shortly after the 2007 season on my site here. For scouting reports, I’ve converted the results of Tango Tiger’s scouting report by the fans into run values.

I need to use custom weights of the report’s attributes for each position. For 1st basemen and outfielders I ignore the arm ratings. It’s not that they are unimportant, especially for outfielders, but they have nothing to do with how a fielder turns a batted ball into an out, which is what DER, and most defensive metrics measure. For 2B, 3B, and SS, the arm as well as range determine how efficient a fielder is at recording outs. The weights used are:

1B: Instincts 44%, 1st step 44%, Speed 12%
2B: Instincts 22%, 1st step 22%, Speed 11% Hands 22% release 11% strength 6% accuracy 6%
3B: Instincts 15%, 1st step 15%, Speed 10% Hands 15% release 15% strength 15% accuracy 15%
SS: Instincts 18%, 1st step 18%, Speed 12% Hands 12% release 18% strength 12% accuracy 12%
OF: Instincts 17%, 1st step 33%, Speed 33% Hands 17%

Next I find the average of each position – I just take the simple average of all players at their listed primary position. Then I find every player’s rating at each position, and convert to runs. For most positions, (rating – lg average)/2 gives you ratings that appear to be on the same scale as the stat-based projections. For 1B, where a player gets fewer chances, replace the 2 with a 3, and use 1.75 for shortstop.

Next, I take both sets of projections, find out how many plays saved each team projects to, and modify the expected DER accordingly. For this exercise, in the interests of time, I only looked at players who played at least 250 innings in 2008. If a player did not have a stat projection at the position played, I used zero for his projection. I did the same for the fan projections, except that if a player was evaluated, I had a projection at any position he might play in 2008, regardless of whether he ever played there before.

Here are the results:

Team statDER fanDER RealDER
ARI 0.686 0.688 0.687
ATL 0.685 0.688 0.695
BAL 0.706 0.707 0.691
BOS 0.695 0.694 0.700
CHA 0.694 0.696 0.688
CHN 0.701 0.706 0.706
CIN 0.687 0.688 0.674
CLE 0.695 0.692 0.686
COL 0.678 0.672 0.679
DET 0.706 0.701 0.686
FLA 0.689 0.691 0.694
HOU 0.694 0.692 0.699
KCA 0.694 0.691 0.691
LAA 0.696 0.699 0.693
LAN 0.692 0.697 0.693
MIL 0.694 0.696 0.700
MIN 0.690 0.690 0.690
NYA 0.694 0.697 0.684
NYN 0.690 0.691 0.699
OAK 0.703 0.698 0.701
PHI 0.691 0.688 0.696
PIT 0.679 0.680 0.676
SDN 0.698 0.695 0.697
SEA 0.704 0.706 0.683
SFN 0.688 0.685 0.686
STL 0.685 0.685 0.697
TBA 0.712 0.712 0.712
TEX 0.678 0.680 0.673
TOR 0.696 0.695 0.706
WAS 0.685 0.685 0.690

By RMSE (Root mean squared error) the results are:
Stats: .0084
Fans .0087

Going without defensive projections, using the ballpark and batted ball adjustment only (BB), we get an error of .0091

Using correlation, the results are similar:
Stats: .552
Fans: .534
BB: .450

The fan report would probably do better if I used multiyear data to create the projections. I’m not sure what the proper weights by year should be. Most likely, an even better projection could be created by some combination of stats and fan reports. I hope that the framework used here makes sense, and can provide an objective measure to evaluate defensive projections.

I should note that this can only be used to evaluate defensive projections, not defensive ratings. By comparing to DER, a stat like my own TotalZone would probably look better than a far more detailed stat, such as UZR or John Dewan’s plus/minus. That is because TotalZone, once adjusted for ballpark and hit type, is pretty much the same as DER. Since the more detailed stats capture more fielding ability, and better strip out the luck, they should better predict next year’s DER than a simpler stat.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I thought I'd go dig out some quotes from Michael Lewis's book, especially from the chapter on the 2002 draft. Billy Beane desperately wanted Nick Swisher with the 16th pick, and was worried about other teams taking him first, especially the Mets, drafting one spot higher. Then he finds out the Mets might take Scott Kazmir.

"Scott Kazmir is yet another high school pitcher in whom the A's haven't the slightest interest. Billy's so excited he doesn't even bother to say how foolish it is to take a high school pitcher with a first round pick."

Drafting one spot after the A's, another team was foolish enough to waste a first round pick on a high school lefthander, and Cole Hamels went to Philadelphia.

Tomorrow, Kazmir and Hamels will face each other in the world series. Hamels will have to face another high schooler from that draft, Bossman Upton Jr. Of course, the A's didn't blow that draft, as their first rounders Nick Swisher and Joe Blanton have had major league value, though they eventually just became trade bait. Blanton will start game four of the world series.

The mocking tone Lewis uses for all the teams that fail to share the A's draft strategy does not pass the test of time though. There were many good players in that draft, and while the A's got two, they are nowhere near the best of the 2002 draft.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Rays Beat Boston!

I love this Tampa Bay team. It's not that in general I'm a Tampa Bay fan, but at least for this season I've bonded with this ballclub. They are my surrogate Angels, since they did what the Angels could not do. (And Jackie Autry presenting the AL trophy - pretty cool).

Part of it is the way they play the game. A lot of young players developing quickly, great defense (well, mostly, they were a bit shaky at times the last 3 games). And part of it is that they made me look like a prophet, as they did almost exactly, everything that I said they would do back in march, when I came out with a surprise prediction of 89 wins, just a hair behind the Red Sox and Yankees. The only thing I didn't predict is that they exceeded that prediction by a bit. Just enough to play Philly in the World Series.

I was convinced that the Red Sox would finish out yet another comeback win. Even with a 2-1 lead I was convinced of it. I let some hope creep into my mind as Willie Aybar did not bunt and miss like his little brother, but crushed an insurance run homer. Then in the 8th Boston's weakest hitter grounds out, nope error on the shortstop. Oh crap, here we go again. A series of pitching moves follow as Joe Maddon does what must be done to combat the meat of the Boston order and their perfectly placed left-right-left hitters. Joe brought in the pitcher most likely to get each individual hitter out. He can thank Matt Garza for 7 innings, allowing him the luxury of burning almost his whole bullpen in one crucial inning. Then, 2 outs and bases loaded steps JD Drew. He of 2 key hits in the game 5, he of the homer that beat the Angels in game 2 of our series. I'm still smarting that we signed Matthews when Drew would have only cost 3 million more per season - take Drew off Boston, put him on the Angels and we might have had a chance last year, and definitely win this year. Anyway, I digress...

In steps a savior. A 22 year old rookie with 14 big league innings of experience, but dominant stuff. David Price strikes out mighty JD "Mantle" Drew, then finishes the 9th. Another story we've seen before, like a rookie Angel 6 years ago. I hope Price is used in key spots in the World Series.

Congratulations Rays. Awesome game, and even better results.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Baserunning Project

I've started a baserunning project from my retrosheet databases. Pretty much it's the same stuff Dan Fox did. I doubt I'll make any improvements, but I want complete access to that data, so I've got to set up the queries. I actually started this last year but ran into some problems, and need to start from scratch.

The first query is runners going 1st to 3rd in the 1953-1956 time period. Mickey Mantle didn't steal a ton of bases, but he sure could go 1st to 3rd. In 1955 he did it 25 times, holding up at 2nd 16 times, and not being thrown out. Richie Ashburn had the most 1st-3rd, 30 times in 1954. That same year Willie Mays had 20 chances, went 1st to 3rd 18 times, held twice and was not thrown out.

The query requires that the single make it through to the outfield, and there is no lead runner blocking progress at third.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Thank you Crom

What is best in life?

A fleet center fielder, a scrappy midget MVP candidate at second, The heat of our power pitching, and Sweet Caroline playing on the PA system.

WRONG! Mikey Napoli, What is best in life?

Crush the baseball, see it driven before you, and hear the lamentations of the chowda-heads.

Last prayer didn't work, time to try a different God

Crom, I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you will remember if we were a good team or bad, why we played, or why we won or lost. No, all that matters is that a team stood against impossible odds, that's what's important. Valor pleases you, Crom, so grant me one request, grant me REVENGE! And if you do not listen, then the hell with you!

Friday, October 03, 2008

An Angel Fan's prayer

Lord, just one more time, allow the home faithful to see K-Rod raise his arms in celebration before he signs a 75 million700 billion contract with his next team.

Best defensive catchers, 2008

Runs saved, 2008

Jason Kendall +13
Kurt Suzuki, +13
Joe Mauer, +9
Jose Molina, +7
Dioner Navarro, +7
Rod Barajas, +7

Ramon Hernandez -10
Saltalamacchia, -7

I calculate how many passed balls, wild pitchers, errors, steals, and caught stealing each catcher has compared to a league average catcher. The run value is -.275 for err, pb, wp, -.19 for steals, and +.44 for caught stealing. This does not adjust for pitcher. When I run these from retrosheet data, I adjust for pitcher handedness (though not for specific pitcher) and for catcher pickoffs. At some point I'd like to add tag plays at the plate if it makes sense to do so.

Jason Kendall? Consistent is one thing he's not. Last year, after throwing poorly for the A's, was godawful for the Cubs, 52 steals against him in 57 attempts, and I think a few of the CS were actually pitcher CS that Kendall had nothing to do with.

Kendall threw OK in 2006, was well below average in 2005, and wasn't bad in his Pirate years. He's good with the non-SB aspects of catching, and is extremely durable for the position. My take on Kendall is that he has the ability to be a good defensive catcher, but if his mechanics get out of whack, it can take a full season before he fixes them.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Pumped for the playoffs

This time, the Angels are going past the first round. Why?

Check it out on the Hardball Times.