Friday, November 23, 2007

Didn't see that one coming either

Tony Reagins is off to quite a start, isn't he? He's been very aggressive improving this Angel team as quickly as possible, and not improving the team in one area by opening up a weakness elsewhere.

I've grown to like Orlando Cabrera after being initially critical of the signing, but we've got Maicer Izturis, who projects to hit just as well as Orlando anyway, and 3 shortstop prospects behind him. We traded a good player, but did not open up a weakness. Last year if we had traded for a bat down the stretch it would have cost us a starting pitcher, and that would have hurt us. Sure at times last year it looked like we had a surplus in starting pitchers, like when Saunders was in AAA and Bartolo opened the season 5-0, but in the end injuries and Ervin's struggles meant we needed every bit of our depth. In the Cabrera trade we moved a good player but most certainly did not open up a whole.

On to Hunter: While I've always like Torii, its hard to reconcile him being worth 18 million per year. Lets face it, we aren't going to win the wins per dollar spent trophy. That's OK, because I'm not interested in competing with Cleveland, Minnesota, and Oakland (well, the pre-2007 A's and Twins anyway). Nope, we're competing with the Yankees and Red Sox. All that talk about the Red Sox buying their way to a championship and being the new Yankees?

Well, F them. I want us to be the New Yankees! Yankees west, the Los Angeles Yankees of Southern California. I'll gladly take the hate from other fans, so long as my team gets the best players and wins lots of games.

Torii Hunter is not a great hitter, he's got good power but is noManny Ramirez, and his on-base skills are mediocre. But he's a very good all-around player. My Chone projection changes a bit with him playing in Anaheim, its 276/337/472 with 25 HR and 89 RBI. I'd be quite happy if he hit that. Its actually not an upgrade from Juan Rivera, who I assume will not break a leg this year. I've got Rivera at 279/334/466.

The upgrade is entirely on the defensive side. Without this signing Rivera would probably be the DH, with the same regular lineup as last year. While in 2006 I though Rivera should be in the field instead of GA, Rivera looked painfully slow at the end of 2007 and leg injuries like that sometimes take more than a year to fully recover (just look at Jermaine Dye). At this point I think Rivera at DH would have been the right call. With this signing I expect Rivera to be traded quickly for a low level prospect or even non-tendered.

An OF of GA-Matthews-Vlad comes in at -4 runs per 162 games, at least by my defensive projections. Splitting GA/Vlad in one corner, Matthews in the other, and Hunter in center gives us a +8. So its only about one more win. The signing does seem extravagant, but at least it does make this team better.

This team really is in a win-now mode, so overpaying for any kind of improvement is justified. With Hunter they got the best available player in this free agent market. If we accept that A-Rod really wanted to stay a Yankee, and we weren't going to get him anyway, the only competition Hunter had this year was Jones, Rowand, and Lowell, and I think he's the best of that group.

This lineup will look really good if there's one more move to go - and trade for a Miggy. Either one will do.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Did not see that coming

Orlando Cabrera, The wizard of OC, gold glove winner, tablesetter for Vlad, the man they wanted to replace the great Eckstein. Now gone, traded for Jon Garland.

Trading OC looks like a good move. Maicer Izturis can step in and play short, and his CHONE projection (282/353/390) is a bit better than OC's (277/331/384). Last year my projection for him (287/341/411) was a bit more optimistic than most, and he lived up to it, but now I think his best days are past. Maicer is 27, Orlando is 33. Maicer is probably not the longterm solution and that is OK, as Brandon Wood and Sean Rodriguez are behind him. As a defender Orlando is very good but I'm not convinced he was the best shortstop in the league. He won the gold glove with fielding percentage, his range is average and likely to get worse.

Tony Reagins traded a player likely to decline, at the top of his value, and eliminated any talk of the type of extension that has given us unproductive aging former stars in the past. Orlando was a fine Angel for his three years here, and I'll miss him, but shortstop is a position this organization has a surplus in.

Now what did he get? Jon Garland is not a carnivore. Nor is he a herbivore, or even an omnivore. He subsists on a diet of innings, consuming them in large quantity. He's not going to contend for a Cy Young, but should give us 200 innings of about league average pitching. That is , unless his low strikeout rate means he's going to go Weaver the elder on us. Getting Garland allows us to trade one of our young pitchers for a Miguel (Tejada or Cabrera), or put Santana in the bullpen, where he could be dominant, or just have a 6th starter handy when someone gets hurt.

Garland's projected ERA is 4.39 in our park, making him the 5th best starter on our staff and somewhere between Santana and Saunders.

2008 Pitcher Projections

Pitcher Projections

I'm not very happy with them, but here it goes anyway. I've projected just about everyone who faced at least 100 batters in a full season league last year, with at least one Japanese player, and a few guys who were hurt last year.

They were reasonably accurate last year, by accurate meaning maybe 1/10th of a percent more accurate than other projections or so (see my October archives for comparisons to other systems). I'm projecting a lot more this year, last year I just did major leaguers and top prospects. Under the theory that it takes me as much time to select "top prospects" than to just do everyone, I projected everyone.

That's where the problem comes in. I don't think numerical estimations are the best way to evaluate minor league pitchers, even if they are complete, holistic, and objective. The conversion factors are just brutal, especially for the low minors. There are a lot of pitchers with so-so stuff that can get people out in the minors, but get killed in the majors. Even after regressing the samples for convertion factors to the mean, there are very few pitchers who put up pretty MLE's. Perhaps that is correct (If they're so good, they should be in the majors, not putting up MLE's in the first place). But I think you're far better off buying a copy of Baseball America's prospect handbook than taking these numbers too seriously for minor leaguers.

For major leaguers, I'm much more confidant, as confidant as you can be in projecting such a fluky, oft-injured creature like an MLB pitcher. Their batted ball stats (grounder, fly, pop, and liner) feature prominently in the projection, for minors they do not - I could look up one pitcher on, but I'm not looking up 1800 of them.

So what's the value of the minor league projections? If you are into detailed sims that include the minors then this should be a treasure mine for you. It can give you a rough idea of how your team's organizational depth stacks up. It might even be a reasonable estimation of how the pitcher will perform now, but I don't think the system has any clue how a pitcher will develop. If Nick Adenhart's projection is for a high 5's ERA, don't take it to say he can't pitch. Just that he's probably not ready yet, after a mediocre K/W rate in a pitcher's park in AA ball. If Red Sox fans think Clay Buchholtz is going to do better than a 4.46 ERA, they are probably right. Its just the limitations of the system.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Finally, the hitter projections

Download away here:

Last year I projected every major leaguer, and selected a group of top minor leaguers. This year I started to sort out the minor leaguers to project, and decided to not to take the time to select them. Instead, why not see if my computer can handle them all?

And it did, I have every batter who played in a full season league in 2007. Maybe not everyone, I probably went with a playing time cutoff to knock the pitchers out somewhere along the line, but I've got over 2000 players here, including the return of Dallas McPherson and the latest Japanese star, Kosuke Fukudome.

Playing time estimates for CHONE are intentionally optimistic, I have a few variations of playing time estimators for every player, and in the end CHONE selects the one that gives a player the most playing time. So there's more playing time projected for all these players than can actually be had, scrubs are more likely to be projected at 350 PA than 50, but durable players like Rollins and Tejada will be projected for more time than injury prone types like Nomar or McPherson.

Its a csv file, for you internet explorer users it will open up in excel for you, assuming you have excel. For firefox users, you are probably computer savvy and this will seem painfully obvious, but if not it will open into a text file, just copy into excel, paste, and use the text to columns feature to use this. I tried uploading this into excel but for some reason the file kept getting corrupted. I tried CSV and it worked, with the added bonus that CSV files are 1/3 the size.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Inner European

Your Inner European is Irish!

Sprited and boisterous!

You drink everyone under the table.

Kosuke Fukudome

Before I post my preview of the free agent outfielders, I needed to take some time to improve my Japanese translation process. Much thanks to this site Japan Baseball Daily, which has more data than I could have possibly asked for. Kosuke Fukudome has indeed been the best hitter in Japan over the last four seasons.

After translating his stats and feeding it into the CHONE system, I get a projection of 283/373/465. This agrees with just about every scouting report I've read on him, he's a very good hitter with gap power and patience, but his homerun power would only be good for 15-20 in our major leagues.

As a defender he's described as capable of playing center, but best suited for right, and with a strong enough arm for the position. My defensive projection for him, which is based entirely on his projected speed score, is +1 as a corner and -8 as a center fielder.

CHONE only projects 357 at bats and a little over 400 plate appearances for him, as he must have had some sort of injury last year. I don't take playing time projections as seriously as the rate stats projections, I simply project them to play about as often as they have in the past. I don't know enough about Fukudome to say he's an injury prone player, so here's his stat line per 600 plate appearances:

112 strikeouts, 69 walks, 38 doubles, 4 triples, 16 homers, and the 283/373/465 rate stats. He's probably most comparable to these players, value wise: Bobby Abreu, JD Drew, Milton Bradley.

At 16 runs per 600 PA above average hitting, +1 for defense, -5 for position, and +17 to compare with replacement level, he's a +2.9 win player. Worth about 45 million over 4 years.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Free Agent infielders: How much should they get?

For this post I'm using Tango Tiger's salary scale as a reference. It assumes that a player is worth 4.4 million per win on the free agent market, a 10% increase from last year, and that players will decline by 0.5 wins per year. The second assumption makes sense as long as the free agent is older than 27, which is almost always the case. This is true for the players I'm looking at, who range in age from 28 (Corey Patterson, Juan Uribe) to 79 (Julio Franco, give or take 30 years)

To get win values I'm using the initial projections from the CHONE system, my defensive projections, and a position adjustment, which is -10 for 1b, -15 for dh, -5 for corner outfielders, 0 for 2b and 3b, +5 for center field, +9 for shortstop, and +13 for catchers.

1st Basemen:

This is a pretty bad group, and most teams could probably find better players on their bench or in their minor league system.

Sean Casey projects as a league average hitter, which is below average for first, and a decent (+2) glove. He's worth about a 1 year, 3 million dollar deal. Doug M and Mike Sweeney are just under him, around 2 million.

2nd base:

There aren't any stars but a few more decent players. The top one, which you probably won't believe, is D'Angelo Jimenez. Last year he got just over 100 at bats for washington, and took 21 walks for a .379 OBA. His defensive metrics show him as an average 2B or a below average shortstop. I don't know why everyone in baseball dislikes him so much, he sure has bounced around a lot lately. In 2004 he hit .270 with 12 homers and 82 walks for the Reds, and the next year they banished him to the minors for having a poor start. The last 3 years he's drawn a ton of walks everywhere in the minors he's played, including a 368/461/591 line this past year in 50 games for Columbus. CHONE says he could hit 267/368/405 in the majors next year, and he'd be useful for somebody who needs a second baseman. Salary deserved: 6 million for one year or 14 for 3, he will not actually get that much, making him a potential bargain.

Tadahito Iguchi is worth similar money, and he'll probably get it since he's actually played regularly in the majors the last few years.

Luis Castillo is third, and the only one worth a multiyear deal. He's about +1 wins, so thats 4.4 for one year or 6.8 for 2. Next best are some more former Mets in Jose Valentin and Kaz Matsui. Once a star, Marcus Giles is worth no more than 1 year and a million. He's getting dangerously close to replacement level if he's not already there.


David Eckstein is the best, as he's the one who is most useful as a hitter. His projected line is 286/348/369, a +3 at shortstop, and a contract for 3 years and 21 million.

Juan Uribe has power but no onbase average. His defensive projection is still good, +7, though his conditioning has not been good and that number may be too generous. CHONE says 16 runs over replacement and a 7 million dollar deal, he resigned with the Sox for 4.5, a good move for them.

Omar Vizquel's bat is dead. He projects to hit 255/319/336 and 24 runs below average. His glove is still great though, +10 runs. The numbers say 1 year 5-5.5 million, and rumor has it that he'll sign with the Giants for exactly that.

3rd base:

Mike Lowell never hit .320 before. He never hit .300 before, and he's 34 years old. CHONE has him hitting .282 next year (context neutral, a bit better if he resigns with the Red Sox). He's a good defender too. Total is 27 runs over replacement, worth about 12 million on a one year deal. At 4 years, the length he'll probably get, he's worth around 45 million. He'll probably get a bit more, especially if the Yankees and Red Sox get in a bidding war over him.

Pedro Feliz is a certified outmaker, but at least he makes a lot of outs on defense too. He might be the best defensive third baseman in the game right now. -17 runs hitting, +16 in the field makes him an average player. Try 3 years and 14 million.

Am I forgetting somebody? Oh yeah, A-Rod.

CHONE has his projected batting line at 302/418/586 and 48 runs above average. Last year he was +69, but you'd be a fool to pay for that, in 2006 he was only +30 (according to baseball-reference). In fact, over the last 4 years he has been +194 runs above average, or 48.5 per year. He also projects at -5 runs on defense, mostly due to a bad 2006. Over a 10 year contract it comes out to 236 million. Over 8 years its 201 million, which is less than the Yankees offered and A-Rod scoffed at.

Either A-Rod and Boras are going to be real disappointed, or some team is going to pay him a lot more than he's worth. If a team gives him 300 or 350 million they won't get anything close to their money's worth. He's 33 now. While he's a great player, its extremely likely that we've already seen the best of A-Rod. Somebody is going to regret overpaying for his declining years.