Who is really the best baseball team in the majors? I honestly don't know but I try to figure that out by using basic and advanced statistics. I live for talking about baseball, it's my biggest drive in my life and I will jump on the opportunity to talk baseball with anyone, even with people who I don't really like. For me, Baseball is a piece of art that sits in my mind all day, ready to be painted on at any point of the day.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A look at the recent Mat Latos trade

By Mike Moritz

Yonder Alonzo
On Saturday, we found out about the minor-blockboster-deal that sent Mat Latos to the Cincinnati Reds and in return, they would flip Edison Volquez, Yonder AlonzoYasmani Grandal and Brad Boxberger back to the Padres. The ladder three players were three of Top 10 Reds prospects.The Reds have been known to have been looking for a pitching upgrade for most of the off-season and they essentially got a good fit.

Since coming up to the majors in 2009, he has produced 7.3 WAR, while posting a 3.37 ERA and 3.28 FIP. On another note, he has struck 8.65 per nine while walking 2.83. With the right handed pitcher moving from an extreme pitchers park to an extreme hitters park, we should take a look at his splits.

Surprisingly, Latos does not see much of a difference between his home run rate whether it be at home or away. Home career: .81 HR/9. Away career: .83 HR/9. That's a little bit relaxing that he won't be giving up many more dingers. On the other hand, he isn't an EXTREME ground ball pitcher- his 42.8% ground ball rate is right around average- which might hurt him a little bit, albeit not much. 

Great American Ball Park does increase homers by a lot (statcorner.com) but doesn't seem to do so for doubles and triples. The catch is that while it doesn't increase extra base hits relative to the league, it is greatly enhanced compared to Petco Park, where doubles were depressed by 14% and 28% for lefties and righties, respectively. So now, while Latos isn't necessarily moving to a extra-base-hit-haven, he is moving out of a stadium where any hitter goes to die. As it turns out, Latos gave up 1.5 doubles/9 on the road and just 1.09 doubles/9 at Petco. Not a huge deal but it is definitely something that will probably drive his ERA up a little but should not be by much.

Latos started the year on the DL. He didn't miss much time but it was shoulder  that sent him there. Normally, I wouldn't worry about this very much; it would normally be a little blimp on the radar but as we know, Reds manager Dusty Baker is notorious for ruining pitchers-especially young pitcher's-arms. So now all of the sudden, that shoulder soreness injury becomes a concern, at least in my eyes.

On the other side of the flip, the Padres are getting a really good deal. Personally, I think they are the winners in this trade.We've heard about Yonder Alonzo for a while now and as sad as it is- since he is a damn good player- I expected him to be traded. And so did the average baseball fan seeing that there's some dude named Joey Votto blocking him at first and Alonzo can't really play the outfield. He projects to be a 25 homer hitter on a year to year basis but that is completely up for change because we (or at least I don't) know exactly what kind of hitter he is in terms of hit placement. If he is dead pull hitter than 20 homers is probably his max on the other hand if he has more of a hitting skill set of Adrian Gonzalez, where he can spray the ball all around the field, then we might see 30ish homers from him.

As for Boxberger, he is probably the Padres' future closer. In terms of JUST statistical comparison, Mike Gonzalez seems to be a good comp.

Yasmani Grandal could actually end up being the best part of the deal. The switch hitting catcher can hit power from both sides of the plate while playing above average defense. He also has a 13.3% walk rate in the minors. The potential is DEFINITELY there to be a Jorge Posada but with good defense. Which means there is a shit ton of potential in terms of WAR value. Posada had a .258 career minor league batting average with an .804 OPS. Grandel: .303 and .888. You can also compare to Victor Martinez, another switch hitting catcher: .319 and .881. Just throwin' it out there. Grandal is legit. The Real Deal.

Overall, this trade is a certain Padre win. I wouldn't say by a land slide, but there is no doubt in my mind that San Diego go the better part of the deal.

(Statistics in courtesy of: fangraphs.com and baseball-reference.com)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

What does Aramis Ramirez bring to the Brewers?

By Mike Moritz

The hiatus is over, I will now attempt at making a comeback to the blogger world but I can not guarantee that I will be able to write consistently.

And with that said, I have decided to start with the Milwaukee Brewers signing of Aramis Ramirez. As we just found a few days ago, the third basemen has signed a three-year deal worth $36 million with a mutal option for 2015. A lot of people this off season have been saying that Milwaukee is a perfect fit for Ramirez, and that the Brewers need a third basemen. But is that really true? Yes, the chances of resigning Prince Fielder were and still are very slim, and now they are out of the running for him anyways. So they lose a big bat, they have money to spend, they need a short stop and have a third basemen...This is why Jose Reyes would be the perfect fit for them.

I have nothing against Ramirez, really, I don't. I think he is a real solid player that can help any ball club. But it just seems to me that the Brewers underestimated Casey Mcgehee. There are a few asepects that I would like to explore in this post and we will try to break them down.

Okay so let's start with Casey.

I wanted to figure out if McGehee just had a bad year or if he is not going to produce at the previous level caliber that he did.

When playing in the Cubs organization, he was not a power hitter, his highest ISO was .148 while playing in AA in 2007. After he moved to the Brewers for the 2009 season, he was able to put some power onto his resume: he had a .197 ISO and a .499 SLG in 355 at-bats. The next year, he had another solid offensive year but his ISO dropped to .179. And for good reason because his line drive and fly ball rate both dropped considerably between the two years:


Looking a little deeper, I found that he started getting a little too swing happy. His walk rate dropped from 8.6% to 7.5% but even further down, we saw his O-Swing% spike from 19.8% in 2009 to 29.5% in 2010. 

The more and more we look at it, it just seems like 2009 was not a fluke but rather just a good season. (So a different kind of fluke.) Sometimes it just comes down to the fact that the player had a good season. No statistical element involved, it just might be that 2009 was a good season for Casey. Chances are that pitchers didn't know how to pitch to him and just pitched to his strengths without knowing. Not their fault. They didn't know any better at the time.  

So that's probably why 2010 is much more an indicator of his true talent. And then he got BABIP'd in 2011. His ISO dropped to .123 this year, that is more like what he did in the minors so I am convinced that a .130-.150 ISO is his range, which is around the league average. And apart from that, he is about a .270-.280 hitter with an average walk rate. So all told, and I am just estimating here, that is about 2 WAR. That's nice production, for sure.

So keep him at third or move him to first but what ever position he would have taken, Mat Gamel would take up the unoccupied one. (Gamel will actually be getting the job at first base this year with Prince gone and Aramis at third.) We can expect Gamel to be a 25-30 home run hitter with a .260ish average with a nice walk rate.

Gamel hit a bump in the road when he got called up in 2009 and struck out 36.7% of the time then got sent down only to have a 27.8% strike out in AAA for the rest of the season. 19.4% was his previous strike out high in the minors so this strike out rate came out of nowhere suggesting that he probably had some sort of injury or perhaps his mechanics were just out of whack.What ever the case, he has fixed it now and has just about returned to his previous Top Prospect Status. An adequate player for positive production? Hell yeah.

So now they would have Mcgehee and Gamel at the infield corners. Not too much money for solid to potentially great production. That's a deal. And they would not have had to even spent money on a big name free agent yet. But along comes Reyes. A clear glaring hole at short stop. Brewcrew has money to spend. I am telling you, Reyes would have been a perfect fit.

But not only for his offense.

For his defense too! Now, I am not saying that Reyes and Rickie Weeks are good fielders. They are actually just about average. But still, it would be a huge upgrade over Yuniesky Betancourt. To be honest, the same cannot be said for the new Brewer Alex Gonzalez. Gonzalez can field and brings about the same value in terms of defense as Reyes. But does he bring the bat? No way. And no where near the ability of Reyes. So who I would rather have? A stop gap solution for a contending team who, sure, can field but can't hit very much? Or a long term solution with a great all around skill set, defense and offense included? Don't know about you but I'll take the ladder part of that deal.

But what about Ramirez? Well Aramis brings good offense. Below average defense. That's about all there is to him. He is really solid player. But when you are trying to sign Zack Grienke and Shawn Marcum to long term deals so you can contend longer, why would you sign a 34 year old?

On the other hand, if Braun is booted for 50 games, then Ramirez is a nice bat to have for that time, being that there would not be much power in that line up with Braun and Fielder.

I'm just throwin' it out there. Just saying. Reyes would have been a perfect fit. 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Who will win that big, gold trophy with all the flags around it?

By Mike Moritz

What happened in Tampa Bay? And how about Baltimore? And how about Houston? And what about Atlanta?

Jesus Fuck! The last night of the regular season solidified the fact that baseball is the craziest, most absurd and weirdest sport in the world.

But I'm not here to talk about any of those things. Sure, they were crazy, indeed. But I rather spend this time before the playoffs start to attack the blogosphere with some analyzing on who the best playoff team is.

But first, I have some explaining to do. In the book Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything you know about the Game is Wrong (a book that my friends and I refer to as "the bible"), there is a chapter called "Why Doesn't Billy Beane's Shit Work in the Playoffs?" This chapter explains what kind of teams are well equipped for the playoffs. Nate Silverman and Dayn Perry, the authors of this specific chapter, did a little research. I'll save you the time and only put a little segment of the chapter:
"After any number of permutations of the twenty-six variables in our database, we identified three factors that have the most fundamental and direct relationship with Playoff Success Points. The variables are as follows: 
  • Closer WXRL (Wins Expected over Replacement Level; in other words, WAR) 
  • Pitcher strikeout rate 
  •  FRAA (Fielding Runs Above Average; in other words, UZR)
Striking batters out, catching the ball, and having a good closer wins championships. It makes a good deal of sense why each of these variables is so important in the postseason."

Okay, so while you that in mind, let me explain the thing about offence in the playoffs. Baseball Between the Numbers often uses a way of telling if something has some sort of correlation with something else. This system is on a scale of -1 to 1. When something is calculated and comes out to 1, that means that when something happens to X, something also happens to Y. When you get to -1, that means that there is an inverse relationship (so when something happens to X, something of the opposite variety happens to Y). When you come to a 0, that means that the two things have have no correlation. You can also get a decimal, for example, if you get .29, that means that there is relativity small correlation. Hopefully you get my rift.

So going back to what "the bible" proved, they found that runs scored in the regular season compared to the postseason has a correlation of 0, yes, straight up ZERO, in other words, no correlation. They also found that batting average, ISO, and walk rates for hitters have a .04, .01, .02 correlation, respectively, again, essentially ZERO correlation. And just to back up what the book explained in the quote that you read, I will now list the correlations between starting pitching WAR, closer WAR and defense UZR:

Strike out rate for starting pitchers: .14
WAR for closer: .22
Defense UZR: .16

So looking at these three numbers, they don't look to convincing because the highest correlation we have is .22, which is, as we know by now, a small correlation. They key here is that we must put them all together in order to get a well suited play off team. Well, if you know math, then you would know that .22+.16+.14=.52. So together, these factors have a .52 correlation with winning a championship, just like the book stated. (If you do not believe my numbers, find the book yourself and read the chapter, page 352.) The .52 correlation obviously is not going to be a 100% lock for the team to win the World Series because playoffs consist of such small sample sizes, and we know that sample sizes can be crazy enough to make Sam Fuld a legend. There is a difference between a good regular season team (2006 Yankees) and a good playoff team (2010 Giants) Basically, if you want the best chance at winning, your team should focus on those three things. We need to look no further than 2010's World Series champion San Fransico Giants.The Giants had an 8.57 K/9 from their starters in the regular season that were on the playoff roster. The closer, Brian Wilson, was clearly elite: 1.81 ERA, 2.19 FIP and 2.6 WAR in 74.2 innings. And the defense? Their 64.7 UZR led all of baseball last year.

Now let's put all these numbers to work. So what about this year? What team has the most suitable playoff squad of 2011?

So we will start in Arizona, where the Diamondbacks sport an MLB best 60.2 UZR. The starting rotation on the other hand, has a 6.39 K/9, which is far below the 7.13 K/9 MLB average. The closer J.J. Putz has a 1.7 WAR, that is the forth best among all playoff closers. The defense is there, for sure, but there is a huge flaw in the pitching with the strike outs and Putz isn't the best October closer, but merely average. They are not my team.

Next, we'll do the New York Yankees. The Yankees hold the 7th best UZR in baseball, with 22.9. It was just announced that Bartolo Colon will be left of the roster and A.J. Burnett will be in the bullpen. Not including Colon or Burnett, the Yankees rotation have a 6.95 K/9, again, below the 7.13 mark for the league. As for the closer, they obviously have Mariano, who by the way, has a 2.5 WAR which the best of all the postseason closers this year. Maybe the Yanks.

Next up: Texas Rangers. The Rangers have the 6th best UZR in baseball: 30.6. So that's good. Colby Lewis is probably going to be the odd man out on this one, sorry Colby. The Rangers starting pitching has a 7.2 K/9, a little better than average. Neftali Feliz , .9 WAR, is not the same pitcher he was last year; his strike outs dropped by almost 2 and his walk rate spike by almost 2. His BABIP was very low this year but his peripherals won't hold. He's risky. But I still think the Rangers are a good bet.

Next: Detroit Tigers. Detroit's defense is decent. UZR dislikes them enough for -2, 14th in baseball. The pitching on the other hand is great: 7.54 K/9. Jose Valverde led baseball in saves with 49 but has a 1 WAR, 6th best among playoff closers. I don't see the Tigers winning.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays. The UZR was 2nd best in the Bigs with 50.3. The Rays have announced that they will be leaving Jeff Nieman off of the ALDS roster and that Matt Moore will be starting Game 1 (Isn't baseball great like that?). I have used Moore's strike out numbers from the minors this year to be included in the K/9. With that said, the Rays have an 8.48 K/9 but again, since Moore's numbers were gaudy in the minors, you might have to take a little bit off of that number. Still amazing though.  Kyle Farnsworth has .9 WAR, the worst out of all of 'em. That's a problem, but the pitching is so incredible and the defense is so good that I can see them making a World Series appearance, for sure.

Next: Phillies. Bad defense; the UZR is -15.5 and is 22nd in baseball. But the pitching, o my: 8.17 K/9. Easily the best in October. And Ryan Madson has the third most WAR at 1.8. The pitching is so dominate that they actually have a good chance despite horrible defense.

Next: Brewers. So even though the Brewers have Prince Fielder and Yuniesky Betancourt on the defense, they still managed to rack up 10.2 UZR, 11th in baseball. It looks like they are going to leave out Chris Narveson out of the rotation. And the rotation has a great 7.95 K/9. John Axford has the second most WAR of all postseason pitchers, 1.9. These guys seem to have a great chance; good defense, great pitching and a great closer.

Finally: the Cardinals. The defense is so bad, it's funny. 4th worst UZR (-30.8) in baseball. And the pitching is almost as bad, the 6.29 K/9 is the worst of all the playoff teams. And the closer? Jason Motte has been the closer of late so I'll go with him as the closer for the playoffs. His 1.6 WAR is 5th. There is no way the Cards are getting out of the first round and with all do respect, they are probably the worst playoff team this year. But hey, the playoffs are very crazy.

And in order to quantify exactly how good these teams are for the postseason, I came up with a simple math formula. I call this formula Playoff Quality by Correlation Weighted (or: PQCW). There are three different formulas because of the three different correlations but basically it's like this:

PQCW= average of correlation X stat

NOTE: You must perform this equation three times and use all three stats (K/9, Closer WAR, and UZR).You must then add up all three numbers for in order to get your final PQCW. The average correlation is .17. Think of this kind of like a point system.

I would like to say that this is probably completely wrong but I am just trying to get a sense of what each teams chances are in the postseason.

So let's find out who has the best PQCW.

Arizona: Pitching: .17 X 6.39= 1.09
              Closer: .17 X 1.7= .289
              Defense: .17 X 60.2=10.23
Total: 11.609. So Arizona's PQCW is 11.609.

Yankees: Pitching: .17 X 6.95= 1.18
               Closer: .17 X 2.5= .425
               Defense: .17 X 22.9= 3.89
Total PQCW: 2.73

Texas: 1.22
PQCW: 6.57

Tigers: 1.28
           .17 (.17 X 1)
PQCW: 1.11

Rays: 1.44
PQCW: 10.14

Phillies: 1.39
PQCW: -0.94

Brewers: 1.35
PQCW: 3.4

Cardinals: 1.07
PQCW: -3.86

 So there you have it. And yes, I do think that it is surprising that PQCW does not like the Phillies very much and loves the D-Backs but as I said before, this could be completely wrong.

The playoffs are a crazy time. Absurd things happen. You can't stop it but that is why baseball is such a crazy sport.

Personally, I predict the Phillies versus the Rays, a rematch of 2008 with the same result: Phillies win, only this time, I predict in seven games.


(Statistics in courtesy of: fangraphs.com)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Alex Gordon was not and is not a bust (especially not this year)

By Mike Moritz

After being drafted second overall in the 2005 draft, Alex Gordon started his first season in pro-ball in AA and in 576 PAs, he hit .325/.427/.588 with a .268 ISO, while also posting a 12.5% walk rate, 29 homers and stealing 22 bases.We should also note, and probably put more consideration into his .452 wOBA and 172 wRC+, both of which were outstanding. It could be deemed that he was just about destined for greatness. The fact that he was able to hit that well in his first year of minor league ball in AA was amazing! Now rewinding a little bit, before the 2006 season started, he was already ranked as the 19th best prospect in baseball as rated by Baseball America, and he hadn't even picked up a bat in pro-ball. Impressive right? And sure enough, after that monster season in AA, he earned the #2 prospect rating by Baseball America, behind only the then highly touted Daiskue Matsuzaka. Not only did Gordon earn a higher ranking as a prospect, he also earned himself a spot on the 25-man roster, skipping AAA entirely.

So here's what happened next: He turned in what seemed to be a disappointing offensive season as he hit .247/.314/.411 with an 88 wRC+, with only 15 homers as his walk rate basically cut in half, down to 6.8%. On the other hand, he had a pretty nice .164 ISO and 36 doubles. But nontheless, it all added up to -8.1 RC. But UZR did like him enough for an 8.7. He turned in 2.1 WAR. His BABIP was .303. His LD/FB/GB slash line was 19.5%/43.6%/36.9%. So he had a little more pure power (FB%) and seemed to be a good pure hitter (LD%). So maybe he got a little unlucky. Let's say his BABIP should have been something like .325ish. So his average should have been around .272, his OBP should have been around .339 and etc. So the fact that he was able to post a 2.1 WAR in his rookie season despite not living up to offensive expectations at all is okay. He just got a little BABIP'd, nothing you can do about it.

Now, the next year, he started to put it together. He hit .260/.351/.432, .172 ISO, 106 wRC+. He hit 16 homers and 35 doubles but this time, his walk rate spiked back up to near his minor league levels: 11.6%. His batted-ball-slash-line was 21%/47.6%/31.4%. So he showed improved pure hitting ability and increased pure power, something that should have led to a break out year the next season.

Instead, Gordon got shot down by injuries in 2009. He missed 79 games, if my sources are correct, to a hip injury which, I believe, required surgery. He ended up only getting 189 PAs, a point in which the vast majority of statistics are not stabilized. So that was sort of a lost season for him.

And then, in 2010, he started the year on the DL. He came back after his rehab assignment and the Royals sent him back down after he was hitting .194 but in only 37 PAs. This is where the Royals started to  mess with Gordon. Fans thought he was a bust. In 321 PAs in AAA, he, predictably, hit the shit off the ball: .315/.442/.577, just to keep it short. He was re-called in July and hit just .215/.315/.355 with a .140 ISO in 281 PAs, which added up to be -.4 WAR. Now, most conventional baseball fans don't know what WAR is, so all the Royals fans were just saying straight up that Gordon was a bust.

But if you know advanced stats well and you were into them since Gordon got called up for the first time back in 2007, then you might have noticed that after his injury plagued 2009 season, his batted rates went back to normal, more specifically his line drive rate. It rose back up from 14.3% in 2009 all the way back to 23.2% in 2010. So he was BABIP'd to death in 2010 in those 281 PAs, so be it. As I said before, you can't do anything about BABIP. It can be a harmful thing, it really can. But people should have also taken note of his growth as a pure hitter. As what happens to most great hitters who have multiple tools (in this case, I'm referring to hitting for average and hitting for power), Gordon started to hit more ground balls and less fly balls  while also keeping his line drive rate up, which shows an improved set of hit-placement-skills, or the ability to place balls in certain spots, whether it be in the air, on the ground and to left or right field, or going back up the middle. Again, the reason that we did not see the results was because of the Holy BABIP.

So sure enough, Gordon has put it together this year at age 27, right at his prime. And yes, he been able to maintain the ability to keep hitting ground balls while also squaring up the ball for a home run now and then. His batted-ball-slash-line this year has been 21.8%/39.9%/38.4%, very good. So his stats for 2011, you ask? Well....305/.378/.505, .383 wOBA, 141 wRC+, .200 ISO, 30.6 RC, 7.9 UZR (keep in mind he made a position change before this year to left field from third base). He also has 41 doubles (which ties him for second in baseball) and 19 homers. He has 6 WAR this year. Sure his walk rate has gone down a bit (9.5%, still above average) and his O-Swing% has jumped, but based on his past performances with base on balls, I think he bring that walk rate back up, hopefully. And sure, his .365 BABIP is pretty high and due to regress, I wouldn't expect to regress all that much based on his batted ball this year and through his career.

Do I think that Gordon will be the 6.5 WAR guy for the rest of his career that he's on pace for now this season? No. But he should be a 3.5-4.5 and maybe 5 WAR through his prime and once his BABIP returns to normal. Gordon has not been a bust, in fact, he's far from it, it's just taken him a while to find his groove/get healthy/the Royals to give another chance/for the BABIP Gods to be kind to him for once. Some players take a few years to live up to the hype, Gordon is one of them. His career path has been a little sketchy but his peripherals tell the truth. Royals fans, Alex Gordon is pretty legit.

(Statistics in courtesy of: fangraphs.com, baseball-reference.com and baseballprospectus.com)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Derek Jeter Resurgence

By Mike Moritz

Right now, Derek Jeter is hitting .295. Okay, now anyone who thought that Jeter would come within 10 points or less of hitting .300 or better this season by the near-end of August raise your hand. I can see that a lot of you people did not think so, and rightfully so: Jeter hit .270/.340/.370 and a .100 ISO in 2010 en route to his worst offensive season of his career. His line drive rate (16.1%) and fly ball rate (18.2%) were both career lows while his ground ball rate reached 65.7%, which was the highest in baseball. All of this happened at age 36, at which point he is past his prime.

So coming into this year, sure he was expected to get his 3,000th hit but let's be honest, he was deemed just about at the end of his rope. And so, as expected, for the first three months at least, he struggled, as his line drive rates for April, May and June were 9.6%, 14%, and 9.5%, respectively. Jeter had new hitting mechanics that he flirted with for spring training and a few weeks into the season but ditched that plan early on.

July was the start of a resurgence for Jeter, which included his 3,000 hit and home run (which I was unable to watch because I was away; which is why you haven't seen a new post in a while). His line drive rate hit a season high 19.7% without a change in his mechanics. This month has only been better for Jeter; his line drive rate has sky rocketed to a heady 33.8%. Even when Jeter is at-bat, I just have the confidence that he is going to get a hit, hopefully you feel the same way.

The thing is, this resurgence might just only last for this season. Look, he's 37 years old now and has been in decline for a little while now so I find it highly doubtful that he can turn it completely around before he retire. I find it even harder to believe that he can really flip the switch back on because he really just has no power left basically.

I would love it if Jeter could become a .300 hitter again until he retires, but it's just not all that realistic. BUT! We could very well see Jeter finish with a .300+ average, and that would be very nice, even if he finishes with an ISO under .100 and his wOBA is almost 25 points less than his OBP.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A look at Pedro Alverez's -0.4 WAR season

By Mike Moritz

To put it simply, Pedro Alvarez has been really bad this year. Before he hit the DL with a quad injury, the Pirates third basemen was hitting just .208/.283/.304 with a .271 wOBA. And as stated in the title, he has produced -.4 wins above replacement. Alvarez was a top prospect and still has a lot of time to live up to his potential but right now, he's doing just so bad.

This kind of season was sort of expected. He had a .341 BABIP last year, which was essentially the only reason why he hit over .250 (.256, to be exact). Although his BABIP was high, he had a .321 xBABIP, so if he hadn't gotten so lucky, he would have hit somewhere around .236. And with 20 points less on the batting average would theoretically mean 20 points less on his OBP, and so on and so forth. But his .321 xBABIP is definitely something to keep his head up about (if he even knows what BABIP is); that's a good mark. Will he forever become a hitter to sustain high BABIPs? Maybe, but it is highly unlikely, especially considering the kind of player he is. In fact, the .321 xBABIP seems like it could be a little lower than that. His 14.8% line drive rate was very low from the about 18% that is league average. Line Drive rate, aside from representing a good hitter, being the most important aspect of batted balls, it seems hard that Alverez could sustain an average around .260.

On top of that, its not like Alverez has exceptional hit placement skills that he can put up high ground ball averages. He really just isn't the kind of player that can really shoot the ball back up the middle whenever he wants; he's a power hitter and struggles with regard to contact ability.

He had a 28.1% strike out rate in between AAA and his rookie season last year in the Majors. In just the majors, he had a 12.9% SwStr rate, or 4.4% above the league average in 2010. And his ability to actually make contact in general, was exactly 11% below the league average, 69.7%.

Additionally, there are actually times in baseball where it's bad to make contact, as crazy as it sounds, and that comes into play when talking about bad pitches out of the zone. If your watching a player swing at a pitch near the dirt, then you actually should hope that he misses so that he has the chance to make his at bat longer and have another hack instead of hitting weak hits. Now, obviously this would only work when a player does not have two strikes on them, otherwise they would strike out. That being said, Alverez actually does a very good job of keeping his O-Contact% down, or missing bad pitches. So in theory, he should be getting a little bit of praise for not making contact outs with pitches that are in the dirt of above his head, etc.

I'll be frank when I say this, when Alverez comes back from his injury, expect his average to remain around the .208 mark for the rest of the season. That is, unless this recovery from this injury can somehow magically make him hit more line drives, more fly balls and strike out less. Also, assuming he does not get BABIP'd again as he did in 2010. 

Really, Alverez is a one dimensional player: power. He won't give any defensive value at third base (-8.8 career UZR/150) and will probably have to move to first base in a few years. He won't hit for a very high average, mostly due to his strike out problems and also his lack of ability to hit line drives. He doesn't bring much value on the base paths (2.3 Speed score for his career).

All in all, Alverez is in for a rough season and probably will struggle to do anything else but hit homers unless he fixes his two big problems: lack of line drives and strike outs.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Matt Garza's awesome season

By Mike Moritz

Most Saber metric geeks know that Matt Garza is experiencing a great season. And most conventional baseball fans think that Garza is experiencing merely just his normal season. His 3.72 ERA is good but not spectacular and his 2-4 record is much less of an indicator of his greatness. Despite those good-but-not-great "on the surface statistics", we have seen a dramatic improvement in his overall production.

Garza is second in the majors in FIP with a 1.83 mark, behind just some old guy named Roy Halladay, don't know if you guys have ever heard of him. Garza is also second in the majors with a 2.44 xFIP, behind that same Halladay guy.

The thought was that Garza was going to do a lot worse with the move to Wrigley Field over the off season. He had been considered a fly ball pitcher when he was on the Rays (albeit, he was not a huge fly ball pitcher; 43% fly ball rate). He was helped out a decent amount by Tropicana field and consistently produced very low BABIPs, never having a BABIP above .273 with the Rays because of a shut down defense. With the Rays, he never produced an xFIP 4.14, merely just an average mark for the league. He averaged an average 7.1 K/9 and a  3.1 BB/9 in Tampa. He was not an elite pitcher, really, by any means.

But in his first year in Chicago, he has already amassed 2.3 WAR and is on pace to surpass his previous high of 3.2 back in 2009. He has had his dominance mainly because of a change in repertoire and usage of his pitches.

With the Rays, he never used his fastball less than 71.1% in a season and because of that, he rarely used his off speed pitches; the highest percent-usage of any of his other pitches was just 14% (his slider). Hitters were able to hit him more easily because he was throwing the fastball so often, and rightly so. His heater is above average in terms of velocity, running around 92-94 mph.

He is now using his fastball just 54.7% of the time, much less than the 70%ish that he used it in Tampa. He is now using his slider and change up much more often. He has been using his slider 21.9% of the time compared to the and has positive value to it, as he has his whole career: .36 wSL/C this year. He has been using his change up 11.8% of the time, compared to around the 6%ish that he has used it before with the Rays. Although the change has had negative value, it has actually been the best so far this year in extended time in his career with a -0.36 wCH/C, and that number is barely below the zero mark. His best change up was back in 2007, when he was on the Twins but only pitched 83 innings: .08 wSL/C.

By mixing up his pitches, changing speeds and eye levels, Garza is now striking out hitters at a career high and getting ground balls like an ace. And he is demolishing his previous highs in those two categories.

His 10.99 K/9 is first in the majors, in front of another pitcher who is all of the sudden striking out hitters like never before. His newly found strike out ability has been backed up by a SwStr% of 11.1%, shattering his previous high of 8.8%. His opponent O-Contact% has reached a career low, 55.1%, backing up the fact that his off speed pitches are good. His opponent O-Swing% is a career high, 34.2%, again, saying that his off speed pitches are good enough to have hitters swing at nothing. Take a look for your self, and see how Matt Garza's opponent plate discipline stats have changed for the better, click here.

The other aspect that Garza has dramatically improved on is his ability to get ground balls. Coming into 2011, and with the Rays, Garza had a 39% ground ball rate, decent. This year, that number has jumped to 48.3%. That number is not considered one of the best, but it is still sky high.

But that might be where the problem starts. His 3.71 ERA is good, but not nearly as good as his 2.44 xFIP, or perhaps his 1.83 FIP. This huge gap between ERA and FIP/xFIP has been mainly attributed to his terrible luck. His .362 BABIP is the highest mark in baseball and although his 62.2% LOB is not the lowest in baseball, it is still terrible. To say that Garza's on-the-surface-performance should get better is a complete understatement; he is getting so unlucky that it might actually be funny. The Cubs defense is bad, sure, but it is not bad enough that Garza should be having this bad amounts of luck. Then again, the main reason that Garza has not had his ERA blow up is because of some good luck (crazy, I know right?): his 2.4% HR/FB is the third lowest in the bigs and is due to regress upward sometime soon.

The even better thing is that Garza has faced 242 batters which means that strike outs, ground balls rate and line drive rate have long been stabilized (150 batters faced). That also means that fly ball rate is just about stabilized too (200 batters faced). Keep in that a 10.99 K/9 is really hard to sustain, no matter how deep into the season you are, so it might regress back to around 9 K/9, still top notch.

Garza has gotten very unlucky this season but legitimate changes to his pitching approach has led to astonishing results, even if it does not show in 3.71 ERA quite yet. In time though, Matt Garza will be putting some nasty pitching lines that even conventional baseball fans will start to notice. It's just a matter of time until Garza gets the Luck Dragons to returns to his side.

(Stats in courtesy of: fangraphs.com and baseball-reference.com)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

An epic (saber-metric) showdown of backyard baseball, Game 6

By Mike Moritz

After the Game Five win by The Crookers, The Dickle-Doos became the one's with their back's to the wall. It was, in every way, a must win game. Being down 3-2 in the series, The Dickle-Doos needed a stellar pitching performance from Tim Dickincum in Game Six to slow down the Crooker bats that have recently gone bonkers. The Crookers were looking from a good start from Crook Canks

Dickincum posted a 8.43 ERA but had a 6.11 FIP, which was by far the best mark in the league. He had a 17.93 K/9, 2.31 BB/9 (best in the league) and a but a bad 41% ground ball rate. He was making just his first start in the series due to a stiff toe...? In 5.2 innings, Dickincum had just 1 punch out while walking 3 and giving up 2 homers and a total of 7 runs. Overall, a solid start but much less than what you would expect from Dickincum. Dickincum's main problem wasn't necessarily his ability-- or lack-there-of -- to get strike outs, but rather his inability to get me to whiff.

In all seriousness though, Simon tends to have the kind of curve ball that works at probably a 20% rate. When his curve ball falls within the confines of the strike zone, I can't hit it (albeit, it rarely is a pitch that is within the confines of the strike zone, he usually misses the back board entirely). But what ever it was, I reduced my (roughly (just guessing)) 8% SwStr% in the first five games to just 4% in Game Six. In other words, I whiffed at just ONE of Simon's pitches all game. I put 19 into play and fouled off 5. But because Simon was unable to get me to whiff at his pitches, it gave me much more lee-way and it forced him to throw more hittable pitches, making him a pitch-to-contact-pitcher.

And I took advantage of that mantra that I forced him to adopt.

  • After averaging a 22% line drive rate in the first five games of the series, I bumped that number up to 32% in Game Six. My fly ball rate was once again low, 26% and I had a 42% ground ball rate. I seemed to have gotten pretty lucky with my .632 BABIP, but it actually seems right considering my spike in the line drive department. 
  • While I had some rather decent batted ball rates, Simon really struggled to get that "big hit" all game. His 64% ground ball rate was really bad but his 14% fly ball rate was straight up terrible (sorry Simon). Simon got some neutral luck as his BABIP was .393 despite having a mere .167 average on ground balls. I was able to get him to ground into three double plays.
  • Me and Simon both had four homers each (even though Simon had 4 fly balls). He drew five walks while I only had three. Although Simon could not get me to whiff, he was still limiting the damage by not walking batters. Had he walked around the 8 or 9 that he usually does, then the game would have been a blow out.
  • Simon was able to make the game interesting in the top of the 7th inning. Holding on to an 11-4 lead, Simon quickly draws a HBP and then hits a two run homer. He then proceeded to put on his "wait until he throws a strike" act until the score was finally 11-10. With two outs and a 1-2 count on him, I drop a curve ball and he swings and makes contact, only to hit it into the ground for the game ending ground out. 
Final score: 11-10, Crookers win. We have won the series 4-2 and after what seemed to be a series taken by Simon after Game Three, I came back to win three straight games. 

If Simon was able to at least hit a couple more balls in the air, even if they line drives (which you would want all the time), he could have won considering how close the game was in the top of the 7th. But nonetheless, he didn't and ended up ending the game with a grounder, something that could have described the whole game for him.

That does it with this series. Perhaps Simon and I will start another series soon but now it's time for The Baseball Jungle to return to real baseball writing. I hope you enjoyed this edition of B.Y.B (Back Yard Baseball).

Sunday, May 15, 2011

An epic (saber-metric) showdown of backyard baseball, Game 5

By Mike Moritz

Again, if you missed the first post about Simon and I's baseball series click here.

After tying the series up at two games a piece and coming off an offensive slaughter of the Dickle-Doos in Game Four, The Crookers felt comfortable going into Game Five.

I really do not have all that much to say about Game Five. It was your typical Crooker-Dickle-Doo, Back Yard Baseball game.

The Crookers started Crook Lee and he was solid. He went 4.2 innings, 9 ER, and three strike outs and two walks. R.A. Dickle was the starter for The Dickle-Doos. He went 4.2 innings, 11 ER, 6 SO and 2 walks. So although Dickle gave up 7 homers, he had a 3 K/BB ratio.

  • Both of us went back-to-back at some point in the season. For me it was in the forth and for Simon in the fifth. 
  • I seemed to in a home run frenzy as I did not hit a non-homer hit until the top of the forth. In fact, I only had two non extra base hits the whole game. It helped me and the rest of The Crookers to post a staggering .920 wOBA.
  • Simon's 61% ground ball rate was horrible but consider his 4 GIDP and it was just even worse. Nothing more can be said.
  • In the top of the fifth, I was losing 8-6. After Simon got the first two outs, I broke the game open with 7 runs and 3 homers to take the 13-8 lead.
  • But going back to the first inning, I started the game with a nice seven pitch at-bat, fouling off a few pitches and driving the count to 3-2 but it ended in a strike out. But after making Simon work to start the game, I then swung at the first pitch of the second at-bat and sent the ball into the center field trees for a 1-0 lead.
The game ended with a ground ball to second base and The Crookers won 16-10, taking a 3-2 lead in the series. 

As I mentioned before, I don't really have much to say about this game. It was a solid win for The Crookers. 

Game Six has already been played so look for a post about that game very soon.

Friday, May 13, 2011

An epic (saber-metric) showdown of backyard baseball, Game 4

By Mike Moritz

With my back against the wall, The Crookers and I had some work to do against the Dickle-Doo.

As always, if you missed the first post about these epic backyard baseball games that Simon and I play, click here to read the rules of our league.

Being down 2 games to 1, we, The Crookers, had to now work our way out of a hole that we could not afford to get any deeper.

After a disappointing game 2, in which The Crookers blew a 5 run lead in the bottom of the seventh inning that ended in a walk off walk. In a game where we just could not hit and The Dickle-Doos were having a power surge with 7 homers.

But Game 4 was much different. The Crookers sent Max Crookzur to the mound while The Dickle-Doos had Felix Dickhandez on the bumb.

Monday, May 9, 2011

An epic (saber-metric) showdown of backyard baseball, Game 3

By Mike Moritz

As stated in the post before, if you missed the first post about Simon and I's best-of-seven-series, click here to find out what the rules are in the kind of baseball that Simon and I play.

Game three of the Dickle-Doos (Simon) versus The Crookers (Me) was a very intense one, and arguably the most intense of the series thus far. We played 6 innings due to time constraints.

Coming into the series, we had been knotted at 1 game a piece. Simon had sent left-hander D.D. Dickbathia while I had sent the nasty yet command-less Crook Colquez. With Colquez, it seems to either be a strike out or a walk in this league. In 310.1 innings during the 2011 regular season, Colquez posted a fantastic FIP of 5.79 but that number was good considering his 11.72 BB/9. His 19.26 K/9 seemed to help offset his walk rate but it was his 88% ground ball rate that really help him out in the FIP department...it was insane. His also good 6.21 ERA was inflated by a .342 BABIP and a 67% LOB.

Colquez seemed to have better command of his pitches in game three than in any other start of the year...or it could have been Simon's terrible plate discipline and eagerness to swing at every pitch (which was extremely strange considering he is generally more of a Crooklos Santana rather than a Jeff Crankcrookore). Simon's O-Swing% was definitely north of 50% while his O-Contact% was about 90%.

  • In just 2 1/3 innings, Colquelz walked just one batter but he only struck out one as well. Instead of avoiding hits with walks and strike outs, Colquez got hit hard. He gave up two homers, a double and a total of 8 hits for 7 runs. 
  • SwStr% was where Simon really struggled in the first two games of the series, but he turned that around today as reduced his mark from (just a guess) around 17% to probably around 6%. This dramatic improvement really stemmed from his ability to layoff the curve and wait for more hittable pitches, like...
  • The high fastball. Simon hit four of his total seven home runs off of fastballs that were left up in the zone, sending them over the right field fence each time.
  • As mentioned before, Colquez had just one punch out, putting a little more pressure on Yovani Crookardo, who came in to pitch 3 2/3 innings in relief. Crookardo did not have a single strike out and gave up the four homers that were hit off high fastballs, three of which were solo shots and the other being a two-run shot.
  • In total, The Crookers pitching had a 48% ground ball rate and a 29% fly ball rate, both rates being very good. The 23% line drive rate was where the pitching staff struggled. 
  • Even though we gave up just a 29% fly ball rate, The Dickle-Doos HR/FB rate was 78%. Even that number is way above the 60% average in Mike's Cold Hard Lemonade Stadium. Expect that number to regress back to the mean.
  • Although their HR/FB rate was way high, The Dickle-Doos really got unlucky, posting a mere .194 BABIP compared to the (about) .350 average. The fact that his HR/FB would regress down and his BABIP would regress back up says that, excluding the walks, The Dickle-Doos could hit just as well in following games. This low BABIP is essentially the reason as to why The Crookers were able to stay in this game and not let it slip away. 
  • The fact that The Crookers struck out just hitter all game, the low BABIP was even more help.
  • The Crookers just could not hit in Game Three. They had just seven hits. We had a below average 17% line drive rate, 39% fly ball rate, and a 28% ground ball rate. The remaining 16% were infield fly balls, something that needs to be worked on. The Crookers BABIP was right around average, at .333.
  • Despite not being able to hit, The Crookers were able to support the pitching by getting hit by pitches 10 times and getting walked 7 times. 
  • While The Dickle-Doos had seven long balls, The Crookers had just one, a rarity. The one home run was a three-run shot in the top of the 6th inning. The pitch was on the outer half of the plate and I went with it, sending it over the house in left field, making the score 17-12, The Crookers in the lead. 
  • The Crookers brought in Crook Halladay to lock up the save since in this league, "no lead is a safe one".  The Dickle-Doos got the inning under way very quickly, sending the first offering into the center field trees. 17-13, The Crookers. 
  • Let's just say that two hit by pitches, a few singles and three walks later, the bases were loaded and the score was tied at 17. You could probably guess what happened next.
  • The count was 3-2 with two outs. After walking just three in the first 5 innings, I was in a tough situation having already given up three walks in the inning alone. The pitch came, a fastball that I just didn't know where to throw. It ended up just missing the outside corner. Ball four and the winning run could walk home, literally. Game three was given away by The Crookers and the Dickle-Doos have taken a 2 games to 1 lead
So yes, game three went to Simon, 18-17. But there were still some other smalls things to keep note, some of which were rather humorous:

  • Simon's LOB% seemed to be something like 92%. In the first three innings, he lucked out when I had left the bases loaded twice. The other inning ended with two of my men on base.
  • As I stated before, I had walked just three hitters in the first five innings before walking four in the bottom of the sixth. I suddenly just lost my command at the wrong time.
  • Simon hit a double that was literally an inch away from going out. It hit off the very top of the Aqua Monster and stayed in the park. There was no one on base so it was just your average double but it could have gone out.
  • Perhaps the most embarrassing moment of the game came in the top of the third inning. On a 2-2 count and after two consecutive foul balls, Simon threw a high fastball and I swung, only to foul it off again. But this time, the ball, after going off the bat, hit my face, more specifically my eye AND my nose. This then triggered many tears and a shit load of sneezes, five in about two minutes to be exact.

Game Four will be played Monday, May 9th. In a must win game for The Crookers, we will be sending Max Crookzer while the Dickle-Doos will be sending Felix Dickhandez.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

An epic (saber-metric) showdown of backyard baseball, Game 2

By Mike Moritz

If you missed the introduction to this game of baseball that co-writer Simon and I play, click here to read over the rules of the league and how Game 1 went.

After coming off an 11-6 win over Simon and his Dickle Doos, my team, The Crookers were feeling confident going into Game 2 of the best-of-seven series. Simon sent R.A. Dickle Doo to the bump against Crook Canks

To be honest, due to the fact that this game took place back on Wednesday, I really just don't remember a lot of the details of the game. So I do apologize if I have already disappointed you as a reader. So if you wish to know some of the details that I DO remember, read on!

Some first notes:

The rain was on all day and at some points came down very hard, potentially slowing down any ground balls that might have had a chance to go through for base hits.

We also decided to play seven innings instead of the usual six.

  • I smashed four home runs en route to a 57% HR/FB rate, which, considering the park, is about average. Simon and I have decided that 60% seems about average for HR/FB in Mike's Cold Hard Lemonade Stadium but further play with not only us, but other kids will help decide the true average.
  • Simon had two homers and two doubles. One of his homers was a three run shot and the other was a two run shot in the forth inning that gave Simon his first lead of the game, 8-6. 
  • Simon's total HR/FB% was a total 67%.
  • In the bottom of the first inning, I sent three hitters to the plate to lead off. The first hitter had a line drive single to center, the second hitter walked and then I launched a three-run shot that went well into the forest in left field, 3-0, The Crookers lead.
  • Later in the inning, there were two away and a runner on first. A pitch was left right in the middle of the zone and I got what seemed to be "all of it" but for what ever reason, the ball died in center field, missing a home run by a matter of inches and becoming the final out of the inning.
  • Skipping to the bottom of the 7th, Simon is winning 12-9. On the first pitch of the inning, I send a line drive home run over the fence in right field. Next at bat, I ground out. Then, I hit a lined shot just over the "first basemen's head" for a single. I then draw a walk. In the next at bat, Simon throws a ball away and the runners move up to second an third with one out. He then drops a curve ball and I whiff for the second out.
  • The next at bat was a Brett Gardner type of at bat, fouling off pitch after pitch. The count got to 2-2 before I fouled off the next four pitches. The last foul ball made things exciting. Simon throws a heater inside and being the natural pull hitter I am, I pull the ball to the right side. But I also got a lot of this pitch, I crushed it. If the pitch had been a tiny bit more over the plate, I would have won. 
  • Nonetheless, the next pitch I hit is grounded to first base to end the game.
In total, this was definitely a game that should have been won by The Crookers but my striking out eight times and just five times reached via the walk versus Simon's five whiffs and nine walks seemed to be the turning point in this game. If I end up swinging at a three or pitches that I took and/or vice versa, this was mine for the taking. 

Game Three has already been played so look for a post on that within today or tomorrow.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A look at Francisco Liriano's No-Hitter

By Mike Moritz

In a post that I wrote back in March, I explained why I thought Francisco Liriano could do even better than his fantastic 2010 season. To be honest, I thought I was somewhat right. As we know now, Liriano's season has made me look like a complete and utter idiot. But if some baseball fan out there believed that was right and then also believed that "I got unlucky because no one could have guessed that Liriano would get off to such bad start" and then knew that my hypothesis would eventually come true, then I thank you for putting trust in me. But as much as I would love for someone to believe that in March, I would be right, I am sorry but you just should not keep your trust in me for Liriano.

Liriano's much heard of no-hitter last night made his season look so much better than it actually is. Honestly, there were so many things that Liriano was just bad at last night. Coming into his start, he's been disgustingly terrible, as we all know. A casual fan of baseball would say "Hey, Dad! Look, Fransico Liriablahblah threw a no-hitter!" and saber-metric nerds would say "Jesus, he got more BABIP'd than anybody could have ever gotten BABIP'd".

Well the Luck Dragons decided to give Liriano a break from being his terrible, 2011 version of himself.

There is NOBODY in the major leagues with a true talent level of .000 BABIP. ESPECIALLY the 2011 version of Liriano.

Ok, so a maybe "a no-hitter is a no-hitter" after all. But seriously? 6 walks and just 2 punch outs?

Those numbers brought his season K/BB ratio to .83, which is way below the 2.14 league average. He is now averaging just 5.51 K/9 and 6.61 BB/9. And this guy threw a no-hitter?

Liriano's O-Swing% dropped from 34.4% in 2010 to a mere 22.6% mark this year. Hitters are overall, being more patient, swinging at just 41.7% of Liriano's pitches, which is a career low. His opponent Contact% has reached a career high at 61.4%.

Looking at Liriano's pitch type values, his fastball is his only pitch that is negative, and since pitch type values do not take into consideration how much a player relies on one specific pitches, that is why his fastball value is only -.46 instead of lower.

Because of that, we can't use statistics to see exactly why hitters are laying off his pitches.

Rather, we use our eyes.

And we then come up with the conclusion that Liriano is a pitcher that relies on his fastball and works his other pitches off of the heater. But now that Liriano's fastball has lost 2 mph, hitters can tell much more easily whether to take it or swing. And they are keeping the bats on the shoulders to no end thus creating Liriano's walk rate that is higher than his what's-supposed-to-be-high strike out rate.

So basically this no-hitter says what kind of state the White Sox offense is in. And it probably contributed as much, if not more, to Liriano's no-hitter than Liriano's actual skill.

And the worst part? He's on my fantasy team...and I benched him.

(Statistics in courtesy of: fangraphs.com)

7.6 2011

Monday, May 2, 2011

An epic (saber-metric) showdown of backyard baseball

By Mike Moritz

As spring time blooms, a couple of things come to mind, one of which is not very good. And that's hay-fever and backyard baseball. Hay-fever obviously is the bad one, and to be honest, I just have a wall of snot in my nose and my eyes have hit a perpetual stage of itchiness. But backyard baseball has brought a level of saber-metric thinking that I never would have thought had been possible.

Fellow Baseball Jungle writer (despite the fact that he doesn't post much anymore) Simon and I have had a rivalry at many different things, and baseball is no different. We play 7-game series and game one was on Sunday.

My house seems to have the perfect dimensions for a game of baseball. You see, we have a sort-of long driveway, and in "right field", there is a stone wall that is about 3 feet tall, which leads to center field, where the wall is represented by a bunch of trees. In left field, we have my actual house. When hit over the house, it is declared a home run, but you can hit it off what has been nicknamed "The Aqua Monster", for its extreme similarities to that of the Green Monster in Fenway Park and it is called "The Aqua Monster" for my house's light blue color. The name of the house (or stadium): Mike's Cold Hard Lemonade Stadium.

The game is played with tennis balls to ensure that no windows and other things are not broken. On the left and right sides of the property are two groups of bushes, and when hit into, it is declared an out. If a ball hits a car, it is also out. There is a small skateboard ramp that my brother uses which resides right where the pavement of the driveway meets the outfield grass, and if the ball hits it, it is considered an out and a Top 10 play on Sportscenter.Anything that is hit over the house, in the the threes or over the right field wall is a home run. The hits are declared hits depending on where the ball landed and how it was hit. The runners are assumed to be your Average-Joe runner, meaning that they would score on a non-bloop hit to the outfield from second base. The game is played in six innings.

I can not recall every moment of the game but the final score was my team (The Crookers) over Simon's team (The Dickle-Doos) 11-6. That is actually a pretty low scoring game, usually the games would end up in something like a 30-27 offensive brawl.

The more notable things that happened were as follows:

  • I had a 100% HR/FB rate. That is "luck" to the extreme. More specifically, I had a grand slam and two solo shots. The grand slam and the second solo shot were both hit into the center field trees while the other solo shot just barely went over the right field fence, A.K.A. Dustin Padroia type homer. The ball was left up high in the zone, and I knew that that I had gotten under it, but as I stated before, luck was on my side and the ball cleared. 
  • Simon struck out a total of eight times, seven of which came on the curve that I would drop in. If I had to guess, I would say that Simon's SwStr% was probably around 25%...he was bad. 
  • Simon also used a combination of  his good eye and my inability to consistently throw strikes to draw walks, getting on nine times via the free pass. Yes, he had more walks then strike outs.
  • He even squared up on a ball once and sent a two run shot that over the house left. I put a fastball low in the zone, just as I wanted but he put a good swing on it and sent it out. 
  • Not only did I have a lot of help from the homer runs, I also really lucked out on stranding runners. If I had to guess, I would say that my LOB% might have been around 90%. That was a huge reason why I was able to limit his runs despite all the walks (I walked in two runs).
  • In the bottom of the 4th, I was in a high leverage situation. I had the bases loaded (again) and two outs with a 1-2 count on me. Knowing what happened last time, Simon was trying to keep the ball low and hope that I would hit the ball to the bushes, or the cars or to the ramp. Well, not only was I getting my way with my HR/FB%, I also got BABIP'd and I put a nice swing on a low fastball, sending a ground ball right back up the middle that missed the ramp by probably about six inches. If I hadn't gotten so lucky, the scored would have stayed at 8-5 and Simon could have still been in the game. Instead, two runs scored and I went up 10-5. 
I took the first game of the series on the back of "Crook Lee's" fantastic 5 inning, 7 hit, 5 run, 8K performance. You must remember that this was an pretty low scoring affair so that is actually considered a good start. "Crook Halladay" pitched the last inning, giving up one walk, a hit (which went through both cars for a BABIP-type hit) and one run.

Game 2 will be on Wednesday, May 4th at 2:45 at Mike's Cold Hard Lemonade Stadium. The Crookers will be sending "Crook Canks" to the mound while Simon has yet to decide on his starting pitcher.

*NOTE: Being the baseball nerd we are, I would like to clarify that Simon and I pretend to be these pitchers but with different names. Hey, don't make fun, if you played in this baseball league, you would be tempted to do that too.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

David Freese is red hot (right now)

By Mike Moritz

Both Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier (among many others like Jose Bautista and Joey Votto) have been getting full-fledged attention for getting off to hot starts this season without the help of 100% luck (in other words, not all of their performance has been BABIP'd for the better). David Freese is one of the overlooked players that has been red hot right off the bat (no pun intended).

Freese has looked to be legitimately good so far. He's hit .342/.378/.474 and a .374 wOBA. His BABIP is obviously unsustainable, sitting at .444 but he is leading the league in line drive rate at 35.7%. A ridiculous rate that seems to be carrying Freese right now. There is no doubt in my mind that he is also getting pretty lucking but still, the fact that he is hitting line drives at a staggering rate helps a crap load. I also highly doubt that he can keep this up, I don't think he is this good, but yes, he is a good player. We often tend to attribute a hot streak to complete luck, but this is not always the case. And Freese can be used as a good example because he is doing well and not just getting lucky. Hits come at complete randomness so I guess you could argue that Freese has gotten lucky that he is hitting line drives at such a high rate, but when a player gets lucky, we mean that hits are dropping in that should not be.

He could also just be seeing the ball well.

You could say that, but this is where Freese is in a danger for hitting a huge slump.

A look at his plate discipline stats suggest to us that he is actually seeing the ball badly. His O-Swing% has jumped from 24.3% in 2010 to 32% this year. What makes that statistic even worse is that his O-Contact% has also jumped up from 52.9% to 63.8%, meaning that he is probably making a lot more of "bad" contact then he was last year. To make matters even worse, his Z-Swing% has gone down from 67.1% to 63.1% meaning that he actually struggling to make contact on pitches that stay in the zone (mostly fastballs). And because fastballs tend to be one of the few pitches that are meant to stay in the strike zone when thrown and because pitchers are throwing fastballs to Freese 63.3% of the time, we can say with confidence that Freese is struggling with the fastball. Sure enough, his pitch type values rate Freese's "fastball hitting" at -0.53 wFB/C. To finish things off, his Z-Contact% in 2010 was 84.4% and is now 73.7%. His SwStr% has gone up from 10.5% to 12.9% and overall, his Contact% has dropped from 76.1% last year to 70.1% this year.

In total? His punch out rate this year is 27.6% and his walk rate is an abysmal 4.9% and a slim 36 points separate his batting average and OBP.

The thing is, it's kind of a wonder to me why he is hitting so well yet he is performing so poorly with his batting eye. In fact, it is a HUGE wonder to me.

Not only will Freese stop getting lucky in time, but it does not seem as though he will be able to sustain this kind of absurd-type line drive rate, partly because I doubt he is this good and mostly because his plate discipline is just so bad so far this year.

The catch is that we are, once again, dealing with small sample sizes so all we can do is say "we have to keep a close eye on him" just like we are keeping an eye on his teammate, Albert Pujols (or at least I am). If you haven't seen my post on why we should be on the look out for Pujols, click here.

I just wanted to take the time to have people recognize a player that is off to a similar kind of hot start along with Kemp, Ethier, Votto, Bautista, Matt Holliday and others....and then tell why I think he might not only regress, but crash too.

"Only time will tell."

(Statistics in courtesy of: fangraphs.com)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Let's not worry about Pujols...yet

By Mike Moritz

As crazy as it sounds, we could possibly see the beginning of a decline for Albert Pujols. In fact, this decline that we MIGHT be witnessing started in September of 2010, when his line drive rate dropped off to a below average 14%. And this year, Pujols has a mere 13% line drive rate as his ground ball rate has risen to 48.1%, a 7.5% increase from his career mark. Woah. Is this seriously happening? At age 31?

Well we shouldn't worry for another two-ish weeks. Line drive rates tend to stabilize around 150 PAs into the season and ground ball rate doesn't stabilize until 200. So far Pujols has 94.

His walk rate is also down considerably, to 8.5% compared to his 13.4% career mark. But then again, walk rate doesn't stabilize until 200 PAs as well.

While his power is in line with what it should be for Pujols (.262 ISO, 39% fly ball rate), his batting average is has been taking a hit from a really low .200 BABIP.

Although some of this can blamed on the scary-low line drive rate, some of this can be possibly be blamed on Mark McGwire, the Cardinals hitting coach. The McGwire-as-Coach experiment has not looked good so far. Brendon Ryan being a "big project" last year really fucked them over, and now he's a Mariner. I am not sure what exactly McGwire is doing, if anything, but the attempted approach that he has going might be having a negative affect on Pujols. 

What ever the case may be, this is a somewhat shaky situation. ZIPS updated projection for Pujols is now projecting him for a .299/.397/.572 slash line. It would be the first time that Pujols would hit below .300 (.312 to be exact), the second time that he would have an OBP below .400 and the forth time he would have a SLG below .600. As amazing as it is, it is still scary to think that one of the greatest players of all-time MIGHT be hitting his decline. His BABIP has been under .300 in the past two seasons in a row (2009 and 2010) which suggests that something could be happening soon, but I am probably wrong about that.

Normally, we would not really keep a tight note on Pujols's hitting peripherals, we just assume that he is doing his usual thing, but for at least the next month-ish, we should be carefully examining his statistics. Small sample sizes are really a pain, but we just are not used to seeing Pujols struggle to hit for a good average. Chances are that he returns to form soon enough and that his luck will change back to normal. And honestly, even if his peripherals return to normal, he might still get "BABIP'd" (a term that I have officially coined). Almost every player in the majors, through out somewhere in their career, gets BABIP'd for either better or worse for the length of about a season. This might be the year that he gets hit by a really low BABIP. Or maybe this is indeed the beginning of a decline for one the greatest in baseball history. And if this is the beggining of the end for Pujols, the question becomes, "How much will this affect his new contract for the 2012 season and beyond?"

As Carson Cistulli of Fangraphs likes to say, "Only time will tell". 

(Statistics in courtesy of: fangraphs.com)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Justin Upton's small sample size

By Mike Moritz

Fangraphs lately have taken note of Justin Upton's hot start to the 2011 season. In these two recent posts (here and here), they have noted that perhaps this is the year that Upton puts all his god-given potential together and becomes a superstar. Upton, for years now, has been noted for his incredible tools on the field. His most impressive tool might be his unbelievable raw-power, as seen here.

What I am about to say would be completely going against Fangraphs, something that I would normally never do. But I do believe that they are making a mistake. In the second article that I have linked, Chris Cwik explains that Upton's change in plate approach (being more aggressive) in 2011 has led to his.... enormous luck? No offence to Cwik, I love his writing, he's one of my favorite baseball writers, but he failed to point out any statistical improvement that has had a direct correlation with his offensive output.

Cwik mentioned that Upton's plate discipline has been much different this year that past years. Upton has been more aggressive, as mentioned before. One big complaint from last year was that he was watching strike 3 go by way too often: 41.5% swing%. So this year, he has swung the bat more. His Swing% has gone up to 46.6%, his Z-Swing% has gone from 61.7% to 69.4% and his O-Swing% has risen from 24% to 29.7%. By being more aggressive, he has actually cut down on his strike outs by a lot. His 30.7% K% from 2010 was not that surprising considering the kind of team he was on last year. That number has fallen to a below-average 17.9% while the walk rate has gone to a career high 13.8%. So yes, being more aggressive at the plate has helped him cut down on the strike outs, so far. The problem is that we have so little of a sample size.

Swing% tends to stabilize at about 50 PAs into the season. Upton has 69, so it is basically a lock for him to keep swinging at the rate that he is right now. The big question is, even though his contact rate has not changed from last season, how long will this kind of Upton last? His contact rate was 74.3% in 2010 and 73.7% this year. So, you as the reader might be thinking "So Upton is just going to strike out the same amount?" But the truth is, we don't even have enough PAs from him to make that assumption (Contact% stabilizes at 100 PAs).

The aggressiveness is there, yes, but, again, it does not seem like we have enough of a sample size to tell if this is the real deal. Even if his plate approach has changed a lot for the better, his batted ball rates have actually been worse:


"Brace yourself, baseball fans, this could be the breakout season we’ve all been waiting for."
That is the last season in Cwik's article (the second link) and he is saying that "this is the year". The problem is that even for Upton's batted ball rates, they still haven't stabilized. Line Drive rate=150 PAs. Ground Ball rate=200 PAs. Fly Ball rate=250 PAs. Again, I really don't want to try to prove Cwik wrong, but if this is Upton's break out year, then Cwik is essentially saying that he is going to continue to hit home runs out the park at a 26.7% rate despite his lowly 33.3% fly ball rate. And Cwik is saying that this is his year without an adequate number of PAs.

My point is that we just don't have enough PAs to tell if this is "his year". We won't know until maybe at the All-Star break but Fangraphs have been getting a bit excited for Upton this year. I really don't know and I don't think anybody really does know that this will be his break out year considering we have not seen a consistent improvement in his hitting peripherals. We just don't know yet. But it seems like Fangraphs is trying to say that this is "the year" even without the right amount of PAs.

Look, I am not trying to rip on Fangraphs or Chris Cwik. As mentioned before, I love Cwik's writing and overall, I love Fangraphs. I am just saying, we don't have enough PAs to tell if Upton is breaking-out this year. Upton already has 1.1 WAR, that is something around 10 WAR in 162 games. I am almost positive that he will sustain this, but then again, we can't project this perfectly.

(Statistics in courtesy of: fangraphs.com)