Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Yovani Gallardo, Game of a Lifetime

It's hard to do more than this kid did tonight to singlehandedly win a ballgame. Over 8 innings, he allowed two hits, one walk, and struck out 11. Oh, and he also provided the only run of the ballgame with a homerun.

He didn't complete the game, that's his only blemish. It reminds me of a similar game 27 years ago where Steve Carlton shut out the Cardinals for his 20th win and belted a homer. But checking Baseball-Reference, the Phillies won that one 2-0. Mike Schmidt doubled in a run in the first, and Carlton's homer simply added on. He went on to pitch a complete game 3 hitter, no walks, and 12 strikeouts.

Good thing at least one league has the sense to resist the abomination called the DH so games like this can happen.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Angels 7 Orioles 5

Here's a pic of my view watching the Angel bullpen watching the game.

Angels came out to visit me for two days, their only two games in Baltimore until late in the summer. Orioles took the first lead, but the Angel bats were strong, including a two-run homer by Howie Kendrick.

Joe Saunders pitched just well enough to win, and Arredondo, Shields and Fuentes preserved the lead. I spent most of the game in the picnic area behind the bullpens. It was hard to hear exactly what he was saying the whole game, but Justin Speier sure is a lively personality. Most of the bullpen seemed content to sit and watch the game, aside from the times they needed to throw. Not Speier. He was either having fun with his teammates, dancing around between innings, even chatting with the fans some.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pitcher Wins Above Replacement

It is here.

For pitchers who pitched during the Retrosheet era. Thanks to Tom Tango of for providing win expectancy charts for calculating leverage index.

Starters and relievers are compared to different replacement levels. Replacement level considers ballpark, league, defensive support, and mix of opponents. Pitchers get partial credit for the situation leverage they pitch in. Click on the Stat Definition link from any player to see what goes into these pages.

And like the hitters, I have a top 300 list for the pitchers.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Starting and Relieving

Pitchers who pitch in both roles usually do better as relievers. Without having to pace themselves in a starting job, they can go all out for an inning or two. Fastball is usually higher in a relief role, and the stats are better all around.

I looked at all pitchers who pitched in both roles in a season from 1993 to 2008. I looked at matched plate appearances, and the change in rates for walks, strikeouts, homeruns, and hits on balls in play. The results:

BB .99
SO 1.15
HR .87
HBIP .95

So as relievers, they walk about the same number of hitters per plate appearance, but strike out more, give up fewer hits, and fewer homers.

Modern relievers pitch less than ever before, it has become common for relievers to have more games than innings pitched. Some of the workloads of relievers of the past were far higher. Mike Marshall pitched 100 games and 200 innings in relief. He was an extreme outlier even then, but relief aces throwing 130 innings were not uncommon at all. With much higher workloads, I wondered if the starter/relief adjustment could be applied to pitchers of the past, and if so, to the same magnitude.

I looked at two time periods, 1977 to 1992 (From the time Bruce Sutter closed for the Cubs to the last year before the offensive explosion) and 1953 to 1976. The numbers were surprisingly similar:


BB 1.00
SO 1.17
HR .83
HBIP .96


BB 1.01
SO 1.16
HR .85
HBIP .96

I would have guessed that starters who move to the bullpen and throw 65 games and 60 innings would get a bigger boost than those who go to the pen for 80 games and 130 innings. But everything's relative. Today's starters pitch less than pitchers of the past as well, so the relative difficulty of starting and relieving has not changed much.

Levels of Suckitude

There is no limit to how bad a pitcher could be. Take an 80 year old who can't throw the ball further than 25 feet, and he'll just walk everyone, never record an out, and his ERA will be infinite. Among those who are capable of throwing at least in the mid 80's and in the vicinity of home plate, how bad is it realistic for a pitcher to be?

I present, levels of suckitude, in ERA:

6.97: Lower 50% of pitchers who made their MLB debuts in 2008
7.01: Worst 10% of CHONE 2009 Projections
8.27: Hitters taking the mound at the end of blowouts, 1993-2008
8.55: 2009 Angel bullpen
15.75: Allen Travers, 1912 (replacement pitcher during one-day player strike)
34.50: Chien-Ming Wang, 2009

If the Angel bullpen can't do better than this, the team would be better off giving some relief appearances to some strong-armed position players, probably Aybar and Rivera.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Keeps getting worse

There are a lot of question about what the Angels did wrong last night, but for me the biggest one is walking Justin Morneau to set up the grand slam by Jason Kubel off Jason Bulger. Putting the go ahead run on base makes little sense, because Kubel can now put the Twins on top with any extra base hit, while Morneau would have had to homer. Last season, Morneau hit 23 homeruns in 623 AB. Kubel hit 47 extra base hits in 463 AB.

Also, both are lefties. This would have been a perfect time to ask lefty closer Brian Fuentes to get 4 outs. If Scot Shields continues his complete inability to throw strikes though, it's not going to matter. There are a ton of holes in this bullpen right now.

The Angels came into the year with what looks like a decent lineup. The bullpen appeared strong, and the big question mark was the starting pitching as Lackey, Santana, and Escobar were all out.

According to the Hardball Times Team page, the Angel bats have been worth 0.11 wins (it was negative before yesterday's 9 run outburst). The bullpen has cost -1.55 wins, and the only saving grace has been +0.44 wins from starting pitching (4th best in league).

With those three still out, the #6 starter leaving early yesterday due to elbow troble, and the #7 starter dead, Darren Oliver steps into the rotation tonight. And we'll still need another starter from AAA if Moseley can't pitch. Can we sign Pedro Martinez already?

Now with Guerrero out at least a month, this is looking like a lost season. Like 1983, 1996, or 1999, when everyone gets hurt. Even in the AL west it's going to take a miracle or three to stay on top.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tonight's Starting Lineup

There have been 4 days of rest since Nick Adenhart's start. Somewhere, his arm is ready to take the hill again. So here's his lineup:

CF Lyman Bostock
2B Chico Ruiz
RF Bobby Bonds
LF Leon Wagner
1B Jim Spencer
3B Aurelio Rodriguez
C Ed Sadowski
SS Mike Miley
P Nick Adenhart

Some good production at the top of the order, but the lineup doesn't go very deep. Nick is going to have to pitch a strong game. What about the designated hitter? Doesn't work that way. This lineup is in Heaven. You want a DH rule in the afterlife, you'll have to watch a game in Hell.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

What a week

One week into the 2009 season, and this one has already been as emotionally draining as the entire 2008 season, playoffs included. Most of that is the result of the tragic loss of young pitcher Nick Adenhart. But the games have been something else too.

The Angels have played 6 games, and probably should have won at least 5 of them. Game 3 had Shields and Fuentes blowing a 4 run lead, despite neither one pitching poorly. A few costly mistakes (Figgins throwing to the plate) and weirdly placed balls (Suzuki's single between catcher and pitcher) did them in. Game 5 had the Angels losing a probable run as Jason Bay recorded an out on Torii Hunter off his glove, off the wall, and back into the glove. Should have been ruled a hit, but wasn't. They still battled back against Papelbon, and Howie Kendrick would have won it if his line drive was not right at the RF. It's a good sign, I don't remember the Angels ever doing anything against him. (Just checked, 1st run off him in 18 innings).

Angels survived a shaky bullpen today though, as Scot Shields went through the heart of the Red Sox offense, completely unable to throw a strike, and somehow came away with a scoreless inning. Then Brian Fuentes made it interesting in the 9th. I'm already starting to wonder if Arredondo would be the best option as closer, if he was used in that role Fuentes/Shields could split the 7th/8th depending on who had the favorable matchup and who was able to throw the ball over the plate.

Through it all, the Angels are 3-3. Seattle is up next, and they are in first place. Nobody expected that, but the Angels will have every opportunity to knock them right out.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Nick Adenhart, 1986-2009

I don't know what to say about how horrible I feel about what happened to Nick and 3 other occupants of his car last night. I've never met Nick, but have followed his career for a few years now. Because he was a highly regarded talent, that was one reason to follow his career closely, and that he was from Maryland, where I live, was a bonus.

I'd check the minor league box scores every 5th day to see what kind of progress he was making. His initial numbers were outstanding, but he developed some trouble with his control in 2007 while pitching at Arkansas. His 2008 season stats weren't pretty, either in AAA or in 3 major league starts. You could see the fastball, but he was always behind in the count, and the batters seemed to know what was coming. Still, the ability was there and I looked forward to seeing what kind of major league pitcher he might become.

In spring training 2009, he made huge steps forward. And last night, we got one glimpse of the kind of pitcher he could be. A good low 90's fastball with movement, a changeup that hitters didn't identify until it was too late, and a big breaking curveball. His control was still kind of shaky, but he was able to create enough deception with his pitches to work his way out of jams on the way to pitching 6 scoreless innings.

It was a good glimpse of what he might have become, but that's all we ever get to see. My prayers go to his family, and the families of the other 2 young people who lost their lives in that car last night.

Until the Angels play their 7th game, the league ERA leaders will look like this:

Earned run average
Adenhart Los Angeles 0.00
Saunders Los Angeles 0.00

Monday, April 06, 2009

Opening Day Angels Win

That was a sweet game. The A's only threatened seriously once, in the second inning, and Joe Saunders got out of it with a double play.

Howie Kendrick brought the big bat with a single and homer. Last year Howie didn't hit his 1st until July. I wasn't impressed by the AB's Kowbell had, coming off a monster winter league and spring training, but his defense at first was nice. We didn't need his bat tonight anyway, here's hoping he gets 3 hits next game.

Everyone's been expected Joe Saunders to collapse. Something about not striking out enough guys. I'm guilty, even my system shows a 4.30 ERA (though at least that is still slightly above average in the AL.) Sometimes lefties with good control come along and make fools of the projections for 20 years. Let's see how long Joe can do it.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Top 20 Rookies for 2009, Position players

I'm rating these guys based on their CHONE projection for 2009, not for future potential. Defensive ratings are included. Some manual tweaks to the ratings were done as well, such as if I didn't believe the defensive number or for some reason thought a player should be ranked differently. To be eligible players must be 25 or under and have less than 100 PA in the majors.

1. Matt Wieters. The difference between #1 and #2 is greater than the difference between #2 and #20. And that is using CHONE, the least optimistic forecast for Wieters, as explained in my last post.

2. Colby Rasmus, OF, STL
3. Chris Getz, 2B, CWS
4. Taylor Teagarden, C, TEX
5. Andrew McCuthen, OF, PIT
6. Cameron Maybin, OF, FLA
7. Reid Brignac, SS, TBA
8. Alcides Escobar, SS, MIL
9. Max Ramirez, C, TEX
10. Matt LaPorta, 1B, CLE
11. John Jay, OF, STL
12. Kellen Kulbacki, OF, SD
13. Dexter Fowler, OF, COL
14. Lou Marson, C, PHI
15. Kila Kaaihue, 1B, KC
16. Matt Gamel, 3B-DH, MIL
17. Jordan Schafer, OF, ATL
18. Aaron Cunningham, OF, OAK
19. Gaby Sanchez, 1B-3B, FLA
20. Brian Bogusevic, OF, HOU

Friday, April 03, 2009

Matt Wieters

The super prospect Oriole catcher has not yet played a major league game. He is projected to hit 274/352/439, which combined with strong defense behind the plate makes him already one of the 30 best players in the game.

And that's just going on my projection, which is the most pessimistic among those that I've looked at. Most systems have him around a .380 OBP and .480 slugging, which probably puts him in the top 10. Those projections aren't enough to get him a big league job as the Orioles will send him to AAA for service time reasons.

Having such a low projection on him makes me wonder if I'm missing something, so I looked at the best hitters I could find in the Eastern league who had at least 200 AB there and were age 23 or younger (Wieters was 22). By OPS, they are:

Ron Kittle, 1981 1.119
David Wright, 2004 1.086
Wieters, 2008 1.085
Nick Johnson, 1999
Pat Burrell, 1999
Vladimir Guerrero, 1996
Sean Casey, 1997
Scott Rolen, 1996

All of these players had an OPS of at least 1.030. Kittle went to AAA the next year and hit 50 homers, then won the 1983 rookie of the year award for the White Sox, hitting 35 homers, but lack of ability to make contact prevented him from doing much else for his career. Nick Johnson got hurt (duh) and missed the whole 2000 season, was less impressive in AAA, mediocre as a rookie 3 years later, but eventually proved to be a great hitter in between DL appearances.

The other 5 played in the majors the following year, and on average posted an .839 OPS. They all were able to improve on the rookie numbers and range from outstanding hitter for brief periods of time (Casey) to HOF level hitters (Vlad, probably Wright). That bodes well for Wieters, but it's probably not a good idea to expect the 900 OPS right off the bat.

The 791 OPS that my system projects, however, might be a bit low. Wieters hit better in AA than he had at a lower level. Nick Markakis did the same a few years ago. David Wright's AA performance was way better than his 2003 season in the Florida State league. Perhaps players who show abnormal improvement when jumping to AA should be looked at a little differently.