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.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Greatest Day in the World

By Mike Moritz

Ahhhh yes, the sweet smell of grass and the brightness of the sun. A bead of sweat rolls down my face, well wait, actually no, I'm in the north-east so no sweat quite yet, at least for me.

But let's pretend: The sweat rolls down my face and the sun is beating down on me. I place another ball on the tee, load my hands, like Josh Hamilton, stride forward, like Jose Bautista, bring my bat around and down to the ball, like Albert Pujols, staying close to my body, like Alex Rodriguez, and extending through the ball, like the great Chipper Jones. The days of spring training are just about over and although Florida and Arizona are loved dearly, it is time to get The Show on the road.

The big question is: what will top Jason Heyward's first home run, in his first at-bat, in his first game, on Opening Day? But many other questions still loom over head. Will the Yankee's rotation hold up? How much will the Phillies suffer without Chase Utley and Brad Lidge? Will Matt Kemp, Derek Jeter and others bounce back? Can and will Jose Bautista repeat as home run king? Will Adam Dunn slump (moving to the American League) or explode (going into U.S. Cellular Field)? And perhaps one the harder questions to answer: How will the American League East division shake out? Can the Orioles really win 81 games or more? Will the Rays finish last? Can Brett Gardner keep it up or will he turn into Nyjer Morgan (without the attitude)? How much of the future Royals team will we see and see succeed?

So many questions, but in time, my friend, they will be answered.

In time.

Luckily, that time starts TOMORROW! 1:00 PM, the Detroit Tigers go into Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Justin Verlander against C.C. Sabathia (the Nationals and Braves also play at 1, but I'm a Yankee fan so that's why I mentioned the Yankee game).

It is just such a relaxing thought: baseball.

Who could ask for more than Opening Day? Managers, get your seat-coolers ready; GM's, get your magical wands (or dunce cap) ready; and Sabermagicians, get your brains ready...? That was a bad joke, sorry, I'm just a little EXCITED.


Dodgers extend Chad Billingsley

By Mike Moritz

Just two nights ago, and just days before the greatest annual single-day in baseball- Opening Day- the Los Angeles Dodgers and right handed, starting pitcher Chad Billingsley came in agreement to a three-year, $35 million extension. Billingsley will earn $6.3 million in 2011, it will be his second of three seasons as an arbitration eligible player. The deal would buy out Billingsley's final year of arbitration eligibility and his first two free agent seasons. The deal will kick in after this season. The thing is, and Fangraphs noted this as well, it looks to me that Billingsley got cheated a little bit, he could have gotten a little more money out of this deal.

It seems as though Billingsley has long been underrated. His 3.55 ERA and 3.68 FIP are solid and his 3.07 FIP was his career best. For his career, he strikes out hitters at an above average rate, 8.19 K/9. I really do not have much to say about him; he has been pretty consistent for the most part (exclude 2009).

His command is not stellar, but it is not bad either, just barely worse than average: he walks 3.89 per nine innings. He does not have an overpowering fastball, his average velocity is 91.7 mph for his career and does not a devastating differential between his fastball and change-up; he throws an 84.5 mph change. His slider runs at about 84 mph. Take a look at his break for his pitches:

His slider breaks a good amount. That's all I have to say about his breaking pitches.

Billingsley is a huge ground ball pitcher. His career 46.8% GB rate rose to an even better 49.6% mark last year. Because of that, he rarely gives up fly balls: 34.4%. Even if he did turn into a fly ball pitcher for some weird reason, it would not hurt him that much, Dodger Stadium has a park factor of just 94 for right handed hitters (but a 116 factor for lefties, luckily, most hitters in the majors hit from the right side).

His skill set is stable and is a general recipe for consistency, which, for the most part, is correct. You can easily expect about 2.5 strike outs for every walk and a ton of ground balls. He's a pretty straight forward pitcher. I still think he could have gotten a bigger contract so this was a good move by GM Ned Colletti. 

Said full time writer for fangraphs.com, Dave Cameron,

"Steadier than he's given credit for, you can pencil Billingsley in for 200 innings of good performance."

It was put perfectly. Billingsley will once again be the number two starter behind Clayton Kershaw and will begin their attempt at a bounce back season with new manager, Don Mattingly.

Oh, and by the way, tomorrow is Opening Day. Greatest day of the year. Get pumped!

(Statistics in courtesy of: fangraphs.com and statcorner.com)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Rhymes or Sizemore? Apparently Rhymes

By Mike Moritz

The Detroit Tiger's second basemen job has been up in the air for most of the spring. But it was declared just a couple days ago that the 28 year old Will Rymes will have the starting job. Rhymes is beating out the highly touted 26 year old Scott Sizemore.

This is not much of a surprising move coming from the Tigers. Sizemore lost his job 163 plate appearances into the season after a disgusting .284 wOBA and a 28% strike out rate to the tune of -.3 WAR. Whereas Rhymes, in 213 plate appearances, posted a .304/.350/.414 line, a .329 wOBA and although his 6.6% walk rate was not very good, his outstanding 8.4% strike out rate added up to a .88 BB/K ratio. That's very impressive. Rhyme's righty-lefty splits seemed pretty equal albeit a small total sample size and he was especially good against lefties. Again, with a small sample size.

For Sizemore's case: 

I actually have a good amount in Scott Sizemore. His 22.3% line drive rate last year was among the top in The Bigs He hits more fly balls (39.8%) than ground balls (37.9%) and not only that, he had a 17.1% in-field fly ball rate so as he keeps getting better, those pop ups that he's just getting under will turn into legitimately hit balls, so it says something about his power potential. Which is something that he could use. But if I am able to get this statement right, it looks like he is fairly patient at the plate. His 26.6% O-Swing% was better than the 29.3% league average from last year. On top of that, his Z-Swing% (61.2%) and his swing% 43.9% were below the league average, which is a good thing.

But he obviously has a problem with his strike outs. His 28% strike out rate was just bad and that contributed to low contact rates across the board: 60.7% O-Contact (average: 66.5%), 85.6% Z-Contact (average: 88.1%). Sizemore has some nice speed, not overwhelming, but it's good. That being said, he can not continue to strike out as much and needs to put the ball in play more.
Scott Sizemore

Speaking of putting the ball in play more, Sizemore was hampered by a sort-of low .287 BABIP. His xBABIP was .308. A solid 21 points above his real BABIP. Assuming that his BABIP would level out to his xBABIP over the course of the season, he would have about a .245 batting average compared to his .224 mark.

If I am indeed right about this statement then I will be very happy: it seems as though his plate approach might be pretty raw. With the exception of his 2009 season, in which he spent in AAA, his BB% never dropped below 9.6% (A-) and his K% never went above 21.7% (A+). In his first trip to AAA back in 2009, he saw his BB% drop to 8.8%. Although his strike out rate also dropped in 2009, it was still no surprise that it rose back up due to his weak plate approach, I think.

For Rhymes's case:

As mentioned before, Rhymes has an uncanny ability to almost completely match his walks to his strike outs. He had 16 strike outs (8.4%) and 14 walks (6.6%). His ability to almost not strike out is backed up by an absurd 93% Contact rate compared to the 80.7% average rate from 2010. His Z-Contact% was 97.8% (Wow) and his O-Contact rate was a staggering 85.5%. The kid can flat out hit...or he can at least make contact. Rhymes's batted ball rates were as such:


So the line drive is good and he should hit for a nice average. His BABIP was .320 last year and his xBABIP was .304 so we will probably see a regression in average but that great line drive percentage will keep the batting average afloat.
Will Rhymes

As you can see, Rhymes does not have a lot of power: 32.7% fly ball rate. What I find weird is his HR/FB rate. It was just 1.8% last season which is extremely low. You might think that he got cheated of some home runs but his minor-league career .374 SLG and the fact that he has never gotten above a mere .110 in the minors suggests that he just does not hit for much power. On the other hand, a 1.8% HR/FB rate is very, very hard to keep down that low. I would expect to see that go up this year and be a player who finds his power stroke in the majors rather than the minors. 

Overall, I would like to Sizemore get another chance at the job. A plate approach is something that can be worked on and so are strike outs. He's also a former top prospect from just a year ago. Rhymes is 28 and already just about in his prime whereas Sizemore is just 26 and still has time to develop. Sizemore's contact rate was a little below average last: 77.9% to the 80.7% average. That number will get better as he keeps developing.

I am obviously not the Tiger's GM but my opinion is that the Tigers are better off with Sizemore starting now and in the future as there aren't any notable second base prospects for the Tigers. Nick Castellanos is the closest to a notable second base prospect for Detroit but he plays third base and is most likely not moving to second base, if at all.

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

Friday, March 18, 2011

Francisco Liriano: Maybe Time for a Break Out Season?

By Mike Moritz

Am I wrong to project a break out year from a pitcher who has never pitched more than 191.2 innings and has a history of injury on his pitching arm? Maybe. But Franciso Liriano is at the "right age" and statistically speaking, he indeed is in for a good year.

Playing in the new Twins stadium, Target Field, Liriano had almost no help from it in terms of keeping his home runs in yard. The problem that plagued much of his disastrous 2009 season? Giving up home runs. He gave up 21 dingers in 136.2 innings in 2009. But 2010 was a much different story as he gave up just 9 in 191.2 innings, reducing his former rate 1.38 HR/9 to almost a homer less: .42 HR/9. His improvement in home runs was a key cog to his 2010 comeback and it is was one of the things that destroyed his 2009 season. He ended 2009 with a  4.87 FIP and an even worse 5.80 ERA, a total of 1.1 WAR.

So let's start there, with the home runs.

When looking at why maybe he was able to cut his home runs in more than half, I came to two simple conclusions: First, he relied less on his fastball last year and used more of his off speed pitches: slider and change-up (and rarely a cutter). Second, Liriano's increased fastball velocity.

The first conclusion: In 2009, he threw his fastball 56.3% and in 2010, he dropped that number to 48.6%. He did not change his approach for his change-up, it was 16.8% to 17.6%. His slider is what he started to throw more. He threw his slider 33.8% in 2010 versus just 26.9%. By throwing his slider more often, he saw his ground ball jump a huge a amount as a result, just as in his fabulous 2006 season, when he had a 2.55 FIP. The high ground ball rate was a huge factor in why he reduced his home run total. Considering that deciding what pitches to throw and how often to throw them is not a physical skill, Liriano should return to this approach in the upcoming season since it brought him success in 2010, I see no reason that he should not.

The second conclusion: Liriano threw considerably faster last year with his fastball. His average speed of 93.7 mph was very nice and exactly a full two mph faster than in 2009 and even more so than 2008. He had Tommy John surgery in November of 2006 and missed all of the 2007 season. But 2008, his first year from the surgery, his velocity was down from 94.7 in 2006 to 90.9 in 2008. TJ surgery almost always leave the pitcher with more velocity after than before the operation, not so much with Liriano. 2009 did not bring much more speed, as his average fastball rose to 91.7 mph, yet he fell apart. He ended up having more elbow problems that year and took a trip to the DL in August. But as noted before, Liriano finally found his fastaball again suggesting that his elbow, for once in a while, is healthy and ready to take on potentially about 220 innings of work.

Liriano has seen eye-to-eye on his opponent BABIPs in his career, he has a .313 career BABIP. But he has specifically had his bad luck in the last two years. His passable but kind of bad .319 mark rose to an ugly .331 mark in 2010, yet he still put up great numbers. I would not call this unlucky seeing that his line-drive rates have been pretty much the same for his whole career. On the other hand, if Liriano keeps this high ground ball rate up, he might get a little unlucky, or lucky. The problem is that we do not exactly know how the Twins infield defense will turn out, it has been reformed a little bit. So the neutral thought is that Liriano's BABIP will regress back to the mean, just as most BABIPs do.

Another big note to consider is that he gave up just 2.72 BB/9 in 2010, a huge improvement from 2009's 4.28 BB/9. He also struck out a lot more batters, 9.44 K/9 in 2010 to his still good 8.03 mark from 2009. Both of these numbers from 2010 are very comparable to his great 2006 season. 2006: 2.55 FIP; 2010: 2.66 FIP. 2006: 10.71 K/9; 2010: 9.44 K/9. 2006: 2.38 BB/9; 2010: 2.72 BB/9. Yes, overall, his 2006 numbers were slightly better, but the numbers are scarily similar regardless.

Fransico Liriano is back and is completely healthy, as far as I know, and he has many reasons to break out this year. Not talking about his statistics, he is also 27, entering his prime. He is also likely going get about 220 innings on a Twins team that is going to be working a little bit harder to get into the playoffs this year considering all of the big losses (most notably to the bullpen) and the upgrades of the Tigers and White Sox within the division. I'm dubbing him for a great year.

(Statistics in courtesy of: fangraphs.com, baseballinjurytool.com and espn.com)

Monday, March 14, 2011

What happened to Jason Bay (Before the injury)?

By Mike Moritz

Before the concussion that put Jason Bay on the shelf for the rest of the season, the New York Mets left fielder was not having a great year, to say the least. His respectable .259 average and completely respectable .347 OBP were OK but his .537 SLG in 2009 was offset by his considerably lower .402 mark in 2010. In 95 games and 401 plate appearances, Bay hit just six home runs and a .144 ISO. His four-year, $66MM deal with a vesting option for 2014 that could bring the total to $80MM over five years is not looking to good right now. And although 32 years old, theres actually little reason to fear for Bay for this upcoming 2011 season.   

So yes, Bay's .259/.347/.537 line and .336 wOBA were way off the mark from his career .278/.374/.508 line and .380 wOBA. Most people are blaming the fact that he played in Citi Field but his home/road splits were not very good: a .111 ISO on the road and actually an above average .182 ISO at home. This shows that it was not Citi Field that drained his power but rather something having to do with Bay himself. And to dispel the notion that Citi Field is bad for homers: according to statcorner.com, home runs are depressed by a slim 6 points for right handed hitters, the stadium has a 94 park factor, 100 being average. (To put that number into context, Oakland Coliseum's park factor for right handed hitters is a mere 77, meaning that it depresses home run totals by a considerable margin.)

Looking deeper into Bay's statistics, his line drive, fly ball and ground ball percentages were right next to his career average:


So his 2009 season, obviously was great. But his 19.7% HR/FB rate was bound to come down to around his career average. Unfortunately, that number dropped too much. What is strange is that he has always had line drive, ground ball and fly ball rates have always been about average for the league and last year, as you can see, was essentially no different. The home run drought might have had to do with a change his approach. With that said, let's use hittrackeronline.com to take a look at where his home runs have landed, just as we did in the post that I wrote on Nick Markakis. 


Granted, there are only six home runs to show for in the chart from 2010 and 36 from 2009 so it is a very, very small sample size from last year, and as much as I hate small sample sizes, you have to put this into consideration. His home runs are scattered about in 2010 but in 2009, the majority of his home runs were pulled. This says something about his approach. Let's try to figure that part out.

His career O-Swing% is a great 20.1%. In 2009, it was 20.1% and in 2008, it was 20.8%. He has had a great sense of the strike zone his whole career with a 12.4% BB rate. That walk rate and O-Swing% both got worse last year. His O-Swing% spiked a full seven percent to 27.1% and his walk rate dropped to his worst rate since 2007, 11%. He was pressing to live up to his contract and as a result, he tried too hard to hit home runs.

That is what happens sometimes with players when they sign hefty contracts. In Bay's first year of his four-year deal, he earned $8.6 million. Fangraphs's money-to-WAR ratio is about $5 million for one win. Bay had a 1.4 WAR and was worth a total of $5.6 million. The $3 million is not a terrible amount and the Mets could not have even bought a one-win-player, that is, going by this model. So Mets fans can't really get THAT mad with Bay's season.

In terms of a bounce back from Bay in 2011, I expect a nice one. He seemed to have gotten a combination of bad luck and thinking that there was a lot of pressure on him. Citi Field had very, very little to do with his home run total. Around 27 homers and about 25 doubles. His astonishing .327 career BABIP and .329 mark from 2010 suggest that his average should bounce back to around the .270-.280 range. He should be looking at a good bounce back season and will probably live up to his contract.

NOTE: Stay tuned for the first ever podcast from the Baseball Jungle! Expect it to come out sometime over the weekend. It will be posted to the blog.

(Statistics in courtesy of: hittrackeronline.comhttp://statcorner.com, and fangraphs.com)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Declining (?) Nick Markakis

By Mike Moritz

He should be entering his prime at the age of 27 but since about 2007, his second season, Nick Markakis has been on somewhat of a power decline. He matains a high batting average from year to year and though inconsistant, his career walk rate is a good 9.9. His pure hitting ability is shown through his astonishing career .329 BABIP. Overall, his .298/.368/.463/.361 slash line is good and is a clear .300 hitter.

But the issue Markakis's decling power numbers have been noted for a year or two. His home run total has dropped since 2007: 23, 20, 18, 12. His ISO has also dropped since 2008, it was the same in 2007 and 2008: .185, .185, .160, .138. I would like to take the time to observe how his home runs have landed in every year since 2007:





(All in courtesy of hittrackeronline.com)

So one huge thing to notice is that over the course of the this four year period, his home runs (apart from declining), instead of being spread pretty well across the field, are essentially only being pulled now. That might suggest that perhaps his mechanics are a little off. My guess is that he might be thinking that he can get more power by being a full-time pull hitter, which is a logical thought. But according to statcorner.com, Camdem Yards is actually better for right handed hitters (Markakis is a lefty hitter) and that would mean that he was probably better off going to the opposite field instead of trying to pull the ball. I will not be surprised if Markakis gains his power back becuase he decides to spread the ball all over the field just as he did earlier in his career.
Statistically speaking, here's what I have to say:

In 2010, Markakis's ground ball rate and fly ball rate were considerably down from 2009. His fly ball rate was a great 40.6% but fell to a below average 36.4%. He has always hit a lot of ground balls and 2009 was an average year for him, he had a 42.8% ground ball rate but that rose back to around his career mark, 45.7%. In total, his career fly ball and ground ball rates are 35.7% and 45.8%, respectively. This shows that perhaps last season was an average season for him.

His HR/FB rate has been dropping for three seasons, which goes back to the belief that just does not have as much power anymore. But 2008s 12.6% mark was due for some regression back to the average of 9.5%. The next year was below average, 8% and in 2010, it dropped to a mere 6.1% rate. 

I cease to believe that his power is on a decline so let's figure this out.

Yes, he is hitting less home runs, that is not a lie. A comparable year in terms of ground ball rate and fly ball is, ironically, his 2007 season, where his career high in home runs still stands at 23. 


Notice the very small overall difference between his ground ball rate from 2007 and 2010 and the same situation with his fly ball rates. I'm going to go ahead and say that a 2.1% difference between 11.6% and the average HR/FB 9.5% is small and more than likely is worth about one or two home runs. That said, going by my most-likely-wrong-and-not-backed-up-with-proof-theory, I would say that Markakis should have 21 home runs in 2007. Keep in mind that projection is just a guesstimate and I could be way off (I probably am).

Now, let's say, going by my most-likely-wrong-and-not-backed-up-with-proof-theory, that a 3.4%differential (the difference between his 2010 HR/FB rate and the average league average) is probably worth three or four home runs. So let's add four home runs (considering that Camdem Yards is great for home runs) to the 12 that Markakis hit this year. With the 16 dingers that he "should have hit" in 2010 (again, this has no proof and is just a ballpark estimate), it still does not seem quite right that he hit just 16 homers seeing that he had a small 1% drop in his fly ball rate.

There's nothing else to do but assume that he is actually on a power decline. My friends, this is the un-proven-proof that he is on a slight power decline. 

But before I end this post, you have to consider two huge factors.

First, he is just 27 years old. I don't think that a player can really decline before they reach their prime. 

Second, since his 2007 season, he has not hit less than 43 doubles. 43! And that's his low. Apart from that number, he has two seasons of 45 doubles and one season of 48 doubles. Entering his prime, you would think that he will start to put the ball over the wall more. In fact, I am seeing a break out year from Markakis. 

His Contact% jumped three points and to an astonishing 89.9 rate, a career high and he improved drastically against the slider last year, he had a .89 wSL/C after a -.07 mark. (wSL/C is a pitch value and it measures how many runs a player contributes when hitting against that pitch. The "C" measures how many runs over 100 plate appearances). 

You could essentially project a big year from Markakis just by seeing that he is 27 and is a consistent doubles machine. 

Anyways, Markakis is, by my most-likely-wrong-and-not-backed-up-with-proof-theory, on a small home run decline but I still do not think that this is his career path. You just read my opinion on why I think he might actually get his power back and put together a break out year. 

Any of your thoughts? I know that the whole home run predicting was tedious so if you have any ways to actually project something like that please, please, please post it as a comment. 

(Statistics in courtesy of: fangraphs.com and hittrackeronline.com

Saturday, March 5, 2011

My problem with B.J. Upton

By Mike Moritz

Just 26 years old B.J. Upton still has a couple years until he really hits his prime, but has so far been somewhat a of a bust in The Show. Upton, who was drafted second overall in the first round of the 2002 draft, had much hype around him and was expected to join Carl Crawford as the other corner stone of the Tampa Bay Rays organization (that is, until the Rays drafted Evan Longoria in 2006). And that was not a bad assumption for Upton, considering his minor league stat line was .297/.393/.457 with some serious speed, stealing 154 bases in 485 minor league games (albeit just a 72% success rate). He had a lot of potential scouts raved about his athletic ability.

As it turns out, Upton, who is other side of the country from his brother Justin Upton (what a gifted family), has struggled after his rookie year that caught a lot of eyes in 2007.

His rookie season(first full season) in 2007 was indeed good. A stat line that was .300/.386/.500/.387, 24 homers and a 11.9 BB rate that added up to a 4.2 WAR. But if I was as into baseball as I am now, I would have seen this coming. Being in my early-double-digits in age at the time, I barely knew the difference between a walk and a hit and could much less tell you that his high strike out rate, sky-high BABIP and really sky-high HR/FB with not overwhelming LD, GB and FB rates is a HUGE red flag.

But as a middle aged, baseball loving teenager, I can tell you now, confidently, that a player who has a 32.5% strike out rate, a .393 BABIP, a 19.8% HR/FB with a 19.6% LD rate, a 42.9% GB rate and a 37.6% FB rate as a rookie has some work to do, to say the least. And that is what B.J. Upton experienced in his rookie campaign. Granted, those LD, FB, and GB rates are just about average, my point about them is that he posted those numbers that I listed before without an amazing foundation. If he had had fantastic LD, FB and GB rates to back everything up, then I probably would not be writing this post today.

His career 28.3% strike out rate and 30.6% mark from 2010 are not good stats to have. His lowest strike out rate was just 25.2%. Generally, in order to have a good batting average with such terrible whiff numbers, you have to be a high-BABIP hitter. So when he had a .393 BABIP in 2007, it was no surprise that there was a 93 point difference between his BABIP and batting average. It was due for a big regression. And it did, down to a still great .344. But that was due for yet another regression and again it regressed, going down to just about an average BABIP, .310. It was just about the same in 2010, .304 BABIP. Sure enough, his average has dropped a huge amount since 2007 and his OBP has dropped as well.

He just strikes out so much and he has not shown any sign of cutting down on them. In fact, his strike out rate  went north from June to the end of the season, going from 23.9 to 34% and in May, it was a disgusting 38.2%. Sure, he draws walks, his 11.3% BB rate is great but he still strikes out a lot and that kills a lot of his potential value.

Unless B.J. Upton makes a huge change and shaves off about 8% (or more) off his strike out rate, then this is the B.J. Upton that we will see for a while.

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

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Why the Vladimir Guerrero signing was bad

By Mike Moritz

On February 18th, the Baltimore Orioles signed Vladimir Guerrero to a one-year, $8 million deal. Baltimore GM Andy MacPhail has done a great job this off season. He has brought in Mark Reynolds, Derrek Lee and J.J. Hardy as well as others. Just skim through what they did:

Major League/International Signings
Notable Minor League Signings
Trades and Claims
Notable Losses
  (Courtesy of mlbtraderumors.com)

And here is why I do not particularly like the Guerrero signing:

First, there is now a bigger problem in left field than originally. Noland Reimold and Felix Pie were most likely going to battle it out for the job in left. With Reimold's terrible 2010 season, he will likely start the season back AAA unless we saw a huge spring training from him. So essentially, it was Pie's job for the taking, but I would say that Reimold still has a shot. But based on the fact that the Orioles have enough offense and I suppose could use more defense, it seemed likely that Pie would get the job.

Pie has a career 8 DRS, a 6.9 career UZR, and his career speed rating is 6.9 as well. The only major defensive statistic does badly in is RngR, which is another Fangraphs stat that measures how much ground a player covers. Pie's is -2.4, but it really doesn't matter compared to Remold's defense which is much worse and has a -13.9 RngR. Vlad's defense is arguably worse says his career -20.5 UZR, -8.9 RngR, and -3 DRS.

But now, if you put in Vlad, who is, yes, a nice offensive force to have in the lineup, especially considering age (36), he now has to either A) compete with not only Pie, but also Reimold for a left field spot, but also B) be a platoon with Luke Scott for DH.

The thing that makes the most sense is having Vlad and Scott platoon for DH. Scott had a career year last year but really only saw a spike in his batting average due to a BABIP that was finally back to normal (.304 after two years of .280-range BABIPs) and a nice cut down on strike outs where he dropped his rate from 23.2% in 2009 to 21.9% in 2010. But he hit just .240 against left handed pitching in 2010 and is a career .247 hitter with a 27.7% strike out rate against south paws. Vlad, on the other hand, is a career .327 hitter with a 12.5% whiff rate. Not to mention Vlad's .412 wOBA against lefties to Scott's respectable .342 mark.

So for Vlad to be the DH for Baltimore seems the likely fit and I can almost guarantee that he will not be the opening left fielder and play there everyday simply because of age and the knee problems that he has had recently. He was used primarily as a DH with the Rangers last year so that pretty much seals the fact that he will not be playing the outfield. And do not forget about Derrek Lee playing first base so you can't really say that Scott should play first.

But even so, why use him as a DH in a platoon role and pay $8 million for that? $8 million for a platooning DH that is 36 years old? I don't know about that.

Honestly, I might be making a bigger deal out of this then need be but still, that money could have gone somewhere else, like upgrading the bullpen to join Kevin Gregg in the new uniform. 

Anyways, I still think that the Orioles have one of the better teams that they have had in a while and could give their fellow AL East teams a run for their money.

(Stats in courtesy of: fangraphs.com)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Baseball's All-Time Team: Pitching Edition

By Simon Stracher

Taking an idea from the awesome ESPN columnist Bill Simmons (my personal favorite columnist), I have decided to write about the All-Time Baseball team (he did All-Time Basketball team, but whatever). However, this isn't just any All-Time team. This is a team that we would assemble if Martians came to our planet and said, "We will kill you all unless you take your best baseball players and beat us in a seven game series" and if we had a time machine and we could take any players from any year. I will be making a 25-man roster, and will not be including any players from 1925 or earlier (just a really weird era). I will also be deciding the manager and the stadium that the game will be played in. So without further ado, lets get this started. (Also, players who took steroids will not have any penalty against them.)


1999 Pedro is easily be the number one starter, as he had a 1.37 FIP in '99 when the League average was 4.71 and a 2.07 ERA. He also had a 12.1 WAR, a 13.2 K/9 (not to mention 313 strikeouts) and a 8.46 K/BB rate, which is just absurd. He is also the owner of a 219-100 Win/Loss record in his career, and has a career 2.93 ERA. 1999 Pedro's dominance is further chronicled in Dave Cameron's article 1999 Pedro

This was one of my toughest decisions. I almost couldn't decide between 2001 Randy Johnson and 1995 Randy Johnson. But in end I went with 1995 Randy Johnson because he was younger, he had a better FIP (by .01), and he had a better ERA (by .01). This could go either way, but I went with the 1995 of Randy Johnson. If your wondering why I picked Randy Johnson at all, it is because he has over 4,000 career strikeouts, over 300 wins, 5 Cy Young Awards, a career 3.19 FIP, and a career 10.61 K/9 (highest of all-time). If you need any more proof of Johnson's dominance, check out this video.

In 1990 the "Rocket" had a 1.93 ERA, a 2.18 FIP, a 8.7 WAR, and he finished third in the AL MVP race. Also, Clemens finished with the most WAR for a pitcher ever, and had the most Cy Youngs ever. He was robbed of a Cy Young, but thats a different story. This was also before he reportedly started taking steroids, so this team is clean (for now).

4. 1965 Sandy Koufax

Often considered the greatest lefthander of all-time (evidenced by his nickname "The Left Arm of God") Koufax routinely put up yearly win totals in the mid-20s and ERAs in the low 2s. 1965, however, was his greatest year. He compiled a 2.04 ERA, a 1.93 FIP, a 10.24 K/9, 335.2 IP, a 1.9 BB/9, and 27 CG. Koufax is not higher because I have a feeling it would be difficult for him to adjust to the greater offensive performance in todays game. However, Koufax was simply a man among boys in 1965, and that is why he deserves to be on this list.

5. 1968 Bob Gibson

In this series we would most likely not be using a 5th starter in a 7-game series, but I just included Gibson because of his historically good season (1.12 ERA, best all-time). There are several reasons why Gibson is not ranked higher.

1. He played in a great environment for pitchers

In 1968, pitchers were so good that the following year the mound had to be lowered from 15 inches to 10 inches. Carl Yastrzemski, one of the most feared hitters of his generations, won the AL batting title with a .301 average. Most of his statistics would be much worse if he played in a post 1968 season.

2. He "only" had a FIP of 1.77

Adjusted for 2010, his ERA would look more like Zach Greinke's (2.16) in 2009, amazing, but not up to the standards of the All-Time Team.

3. He had a K/9 of 7.92

A K/9 like this is very good, but compared to the K/9's of the other members of this illustrious group, it seems paltry. Adjusted for 2010, it would become even worse and may have dipped into the high 5s.

These three reasons are why Bob Gibson is the team's number five starter or "emergency" starter. This is no knock against Gibson. He is one of the greatest pitchers of all-time and this season is top-five all time.

It's time to move towards the relievers in the pitching rotation. My bullpen will consist of five relievers, all who were dominant pitchers in their prime and great pitchers over the course of their careers.


LRP 1986 Mark Eichhorn

Quite honestly I had no idea who this guy was before I started looking up great relief pitchers, but the numbers speak for themselves. In 157 IP, Eichhorn had a 1.72 ERA, a 9.52 K/9, and a 5.3 WAR, the highest WAR for a pitcher ever.

K-Rod had a 13.18 K/9, a 1.84 ERA, a 1.64 FIP, and a 4 WAR, which is absolutely insane for someone who only pitched 84 innings. Even though he is the punchline of many jokes today, 2004 K-Rod was one of the most dominant relief pitchers in baseball.

MRP 1999 Billy Wagner

Recently retired, many people don't give Wagner the credit he deserves. His longevity and ability to come back from major arm surgeries is astounding, and so is the consistency that he has displayed throughout these years. He is a worthy Hall of Fame Candidate, and is one of the best closers in the history of the game. But Wagner's best season came in '99 when he posted a 1.57 ERA and a 1.65 FIP, not to mention his 14.95 K/9 or how opposing hitters batted .134 against him. You could make a case that he belongs to be the closer of this team, but just wait until you see the final two players on this list...

SU 2003 Eric Gagne

Give credit to Gagne on this one. Before I started this post, I though for sure with no doubt in my mind that Mariano Rivera would be the closer for the All-Time Team. But thanks to Gagne, this became the toughest decision that I had to make. Gagne posted a 1.20 ERA and a .86 FIP. He had a 14.98 K/9 and a 45.4% GB%. Unfortunately, Gagne suffered through a series of injuries and pitched a total of 15.1 innings in the 2005 and 2006 seasons. Also, according to the Mitchell Report (allegedly) most of Gagne's performances were fueled by PED, and he has not pitched in the majors since his 2008 stinkbomb (6.13 FIP) with the Brewers. However, Gagne's immortal 2003 season will live on forever, especially on the All-Time Team.

Who else would you expect? Rivera is undoubtedly the greatest closer of All-Time, and 2008 was his greatest (closing) year. I say closing year because 1996 was actually his greatest year, but that year he was the Setup Man for the Yankees. In 2008 he had 39 saves and 1 blown save. He also had a 9.81 K/9, a .76 BB/9, an ERA of 1.40, and a FIP of 2.03. Rivera is also the greatest clutch closer of All-Time, and he has delivered the Yankees to 5 World Series titles. If I was facing the Martians with bases loaded, two outs, and in the bottom of the 9th inning, I know who I would want up there pitching: Mariano Rivera.

So there you have it, that is Baseball's All-Time Team: Pitching Edition