Thursday, May 28, 2009

Angels and Defense

So far the Angels are playing above average defense, with a +5.1 team UZR figure according to Fangraphs. I was a bit worried coming into the season, especially with the outfield being on the wrong side of 30.

Most defensive metrics have shown a decline in Torii Hunter's game in recent years. Torii is aware of this, and is doing his best to prove them wrong. He's been amazing so far this season. The numbers say only +0.7 runs, but at least it's positive. In addition, the American League has some outstanding defensive talent in center right now. There's nothing wrong with being average among an elite group. If you were compared to only Babe Ruth, Mike Schmidt, Lou Gehrig, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Jimmie Foxx, Frank Robinson, and Ken Griffey Jr., and among that group you were found to have average power, you'd still be a great homerun hitter.

Juan Rivera is +4.9 in left. That surprises me, as he's not the fastest. I don't remember him failing to make many plays, but this may not continue. Bobby Abreu has done a fine job despite coming over with the reputation of a butcher. Bobby is a total of +1 between right and left. There have been a few plays where he has shown his reluctance to go to the wall, but he's also shown excellent speed in running down balls in the gaps.

Gary Matthews Jr. has played all 3 spots, and poorly, with at least a -2 UZR at each, and a total of -6.9. I wouldn't have guessed that. He did have one ridiculously pathetic play, dropping an easy fly that would have ended a game, but that's just one play.

In the infield, Figgins has been a bit above average (+2.5) after really settling in at third in 2008. Aybar has been average (-0.1) and hasn't made as many flashy plays as last year, but has all the tools to really be a good one. Kendrick has the top UZR on the team (5.1) and has been especially good at turning the DP. Kowbell Morales started the season looking shaky but has been just fine recently. His UZR is about average at -0.2.

It's been a good enough defense to help a few marginal pitchers hold the fort while the Angels dealt with injuries.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Updated Projection on Jake Fox

Dude is absolutely killing the ball at AAA, as David Cameron at Fangraphs points out.

I ran a projection for him and get 268/326/485, which is a bit underwhelming for a 1B but represents a substantial improvement from his preseason projection. He deserves a shot somewhere, though it would be interesting to see what kind of numbers he can put up at AAA.

Brandon Wood's projection is slowly coming around, 235/300/429. He's looking like a much improved player so far, but damn, it takes way too long for these projection thingies to recognize a change in performance level. His MLE for 2009 is 314/401/697, but that is only 21 games.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Buying my Data

If you are interested in getting the Wins Above Replacement data in csv format, then just click here:

If you just want to check on a player now and then, no need to buy anything, just go to the site and look up his page. But if you want to do some sorting and calculations, this might be for you. The cost is $15 for the pitcher or hitter file, or $25 for both.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Pitcher's Duel

I love these games. Joe Saunders beats Zach Greinke 1-0, with both pitchers going the distance. Chone Figgins didn't have a hit, but still had a huge game. His sac fly drives in the only run, makes 2 great defensive plays in the 8th with the tieing run on third, and starts a DP to end the 7th.

Angels finish a west coast game at 11:13 PM eastern time. If they could do this during the week, I'd get a lot more sleep.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Hitters on the Mound

One of my favorite things to watch. Just for the novelty of it, but I find it satisfies my curiosity a bit too, about how hard a non-pitcher can typically throw. Thanks to the wonders of Fangraphs, the average fastball velocity is available from 2002 to last night. Identifying hitters on the mound is easy with the Lahman database or Baseball databank. Just do a query for players who have at least one batter faced as a pitcher, but have more batting plate appearances than BFP while pitching. Here's the list, for the ones with data (a few players are missing pitch data)

90.0 Tomas Perez
89.8 Tony Pena
89.2 Paul Janish
86.5 David McCarty
85.0 Abraham Nunez
84.5 Josh Wilson
84.3 Wiki Gonzalez
83.9 Scott Spiezio
83.0 Jamie Burke
81.7 Jeff Cirillo
81.3 Cody Ross
79.2 Tim Laker
79.0 Frank Menechino
78.5 Augie Ojeda
78.0 John Van Every
75.6 Todd Zeile
75.4 Nick Swisher
75.2 Sean Burroughs
73.2 Jason Wood
72.8 Aaron Miles
69.1 Mark Grace

Up until this year, all were infielders or catchers except for McCarty, but we've had three outfielders (Ross, Swisher, Van Every) take the mound. Their arms, as a group, are not as good as the utility infielders, with catchers being in the middle, and Mark Grace being the one who couldn't average 70.

It would be interesting to see some of the great arms on the mound, guys like Tulowitzski, Yadier Molina, Jose Guillen, Ichiro, or Mike Cuddyer. We aren't likely to see a real star out there though, thanks to the example of Jose Canseco.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Random Thoughts on the Angels

- Brandon Wood is in the lineup today, has two hits and a walk. The only players in the park wearing number 3: Brandon Wood and Babe Ruth's statue.

- Mark Teixiera came into the game hitting 189/358/351 and is 0-4. Kendry Morales came into the game at 269/313/500 and has added a single and homer. Don't expect that to continue, but so far the Angels are better off losing out on Tex, especially since they probably would not have signed Bobby Abreu if Tex took Arte's money. They also may not have had the budget for Brian Fuentes, which might have been a good thing, but the rest of the bullpen hasn't been any better.

- After Matt Palmer pitched 6+ strong innings, the cameras cut to see him watching from the dugout, wearing his wedding ring on his left finger. The Yankee announcers muse about whether having that on the field is illegal. The obvious implication is that no minor league vet can shut down the Yankee offense unless he's scuffing the ball.

Balls in play, by count

I'm sure I'm not the first to look at this but I had to see it for myself. I'm looking at the results on balls in play by different counts. Is a hit ball more likely to be a hit when the count is 3-1 as opposed to 1-2? The answer seems obvious, and it is in fact true, but I still needed to quantify it. The numbers presented here are "safe percentage", which is hits (excluding homers) plus reach on error divided by balls in play.

I divided the numerous possible counts as hitters, pitcher, and neutral:

Hitter's counts: 3-1, 3-0, 2-0
Pitcher's counts: 0-1, 1-2, 0-2
All others are neutral.

The results, first for ground balls:
Hitters: .294
Neutral: .273
Pitcher: .252

Line Drives:
Hitters: .734
Neutral: .728
Pitcher: .719

For fly balls you actually see a better safe% in pitcher's counts, but that is an illusion, since by looking at balls in play I'm removing homeruns. And the hardest hit flyballs in hitters counts turn into homeruns. Adding back the homers I get:

Fly balls:
Hitters: .305
Neutral: .274
Pitcher: .260

So a pitcher who maximizes pitching ahead in the count (think Greg Maddux in his prime) can have a 20-40 point advantage on balls in play over a guy pitching behind (Brian Fuentes recently). This is a potential enhancement for TotalZone, but in practice it barely makes a difference. It is not a difficult thing to add into TotalZone, and I will use the ball/strike count as a parameter in the future, it makes very little difference. Most player-seasons are unchanged, at least once the results are rounded to the nearest run, and didn't find any player season where the result changed by more than one run. Probably

The change is not worth it to rerun and repost all the TZ numbers I've already put on the web, so they will stay, but I will use it in the future. It doesn't have a huge effect on fielding ratings, but might help explain the difference among pitchers of balls in play.