Monday, April 14, 2014

On J.P. Arencibia

While considering J.P. Arencibia for my Hacking Mass team on Baseball Prospectus, I wondered how he managed to get 497 plate appearances with a .227 on-base percentage. After a quick spin of the Baseball-Reference Play Index, we find that only one person in baseball history had a season with more plate appearances and a lower on-base percentage than J.P. Arencibia in 2013.

That was Hal Lanier of the 1968 San Francisco Giants. As their starting shortstop, Lanier batted 518 times in 151 games, ending the season with a .222 OBP. At least he was the best defensive infielder on the '68 Giants. Bill James once wrote that "Lanier was the weakest hitter ever to play 1,000 games in the major leagues (except pitchers)".

Ten* players in baseball history had a season with at least 400 plate appearances and an on-base percentage of .230 or worse.

In chronological order:

Player OBP PA Year ▴ Tm
Sport McAllister .230 421 1902 TOT
Joe Dugan .230 448 1918 PHA
Bob Lillis .229 496 1963 HOU
Hal Lanier .222 518 1968 SFG
Barry Foote .229 410 1975 MON
Rob Picciolo .218 446 1977 OAK
Mario Mendoza .216 401 1979 SEA
Andres Thomas .228 571 1989 ATL
Alex Gonzalez .229 407 2000 FLA
J.P. Arencibia .227 497 2013 TOR
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/12/2014.

*Nine might be the real numbers, as I don't think Sport McAllister belongs on this list. Maybe I'm reading something wrong, or there's a bug on the play index. It says McAllister had 421 plate appearances in 1902, but his player pages on B-R and Fangraphs give him just 252 PA's in 1902.

"Best Wishes" Joe Dugan
Joe Dugan was a 21-year old shortstop out of Holy Cross, playing for Connie Mack's Philadelphia A's in 1918. Dugan was born in a very small town in Pennsylvania, called Mahanoy City, but attended high school in Torrington, Connecticut. As a young player, he became known as 'Jumpin Joe' for his tendency to jump the club whenever he'd get homesick for New Haven. During a six month run from January to July 1922, Dugan was flipped in a few trades from the A's to the Senators to the Red Sox, and ultimately to the New York Yankees in July. Beginning that season, Rogan enjoyed a solid run with Miller Huggins's Yankees, winning 5 pennants and 3 World Series in six and a half seasons. Dugan actually improved his hitting enough to bat .292 in 1925 and receive one MVP award.

Bob Lillis could really hide his out making ability on one of the worst offensive teams of all time. The 1963 Colt 45's, holy smokes, only Al Spangler was good. Only Al Spangler was decent. Five starters with an on base percentage below .277; that's 5 out of 8 starting offensive weapons.

C John Bateman 22 434 10 0 0 .249 71
1B Rusty Staub* 19 585 6 0 0 .309 84
2B Ernie Fazio 21 258 2 4 4 .273 65
SS Bob Lillis 33 496 1 3 4 .229 38
3B Bob Aspromonte 25 514 8 3 1 .276 72
LF Al Spangler* 29 490 4 5 8 .355 120
CF Howie Goss 28 448 9 4 6 .264 74
RF Carl Warwick 26 583 7 3 3 .319 98
Team Totals 26.9 5986 62 39 30 .283 73
Rank in 10 NL teams 10 10 1 10
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 4/13/2014.

We already mentioned Hal Lanier. He actually finished the 1968 season on a hot streak. He had an unbelievable .201 OBP on August 24th, and a .296 OBP rest of the way him settle on .222 for the season. Astros fans will remember that Hal Lanier was the 1986 NL Manager of the Year, when he lead the '86 Astros to the NL West title and an NLCS match-up against the Mets.

Barry Foote was the starting catcher for the Montreal Expos in 1975, as a 23-year old in his second full season. Foote started 102 games, sharing catching duties with 21-year old phenom, Gary Carter, who started 56 games behind the plate and 80 in right field. Troughout his 10-year career with the Expos, Phillies, Cubs, and Yankees, Barry Foote threw out 5% more base runners attempting to steal than league average.

Rob Picciolo was on a bad Oakland A's team in 1977. The went 63-98. This wasn't as bad as the 1963 Colt 45's, but they were a bunch of eyesores. Six of their regulars had OBP's of .302 or worse. On a positive note for the '77 A's, Mitchell Page got on base (.405) with power (21 HR) and efficiently stole bases (42 SB, 5 CS). The '77 A's lead the league in stolen bases, but they had the worst OBP in the American League. Mitchell Page should be saluted, certainly one of the best players on one of the most terrible offenses, and he did it as a rookie.

The Mendoza Line became a thing with Mario Mendoza's infamous .198 batting average in 1979.

The 1989 Braves were also notably bad on offense. They had Smoltz and Glavine pitching well, but the offense was much like the '77 A's. The '89 Braves had a 42-year old Darrell Evans for 107 games in the National League. Andres Thomas, playing league average defense at shortstop, was not this team's greatest problem. Only Lonnie Smith hit on this team. He had a .315/.415/.533 slash line with 21 HR's and 25 SB's. That .415 OBP lead the league, but it sure didn't rub off on his teammates.

Alex Gonzalez and Robin Ventura
(Photo by Matt Campbell 04.14.99)
Alex Gonzalez could be the first player in baseball history to make this obscure list twice if the Tigers play him 100 to 110 games this season. In 2000, like Barry Foote he was a 23-year old in his second full season. Coming up as a young Marlins prospect, Gonzalez had the reputation of a defensive wiz. That Marlins team was really young, not all that competitive, and precisely in the midpoint between the two Marlins championships in 1997 and 2003.

Which brings us back to Arencibia. He could be a bit bummed to be grouped with these sub-.230 OBP's because he wasn't actually carrying such a low OBP all year last year. He had his moments above .260 OBP in April and late May, and was at .250 as late as August 17th. It really stinks for Arencibia that over the last 101 PA's last year, from Aug 18 - Sep 29, he got just 12 hits and 2 walks for a .139 on base percentage. He will have some playing time in the Rangers lineup, so hopefully he can take advantage and pop a few homes into his home park's friendly power alleys.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Mets Legend, Desi Relaford?

This happened yesterday, but in this Mets fan's defense, Desi Relaford's best season was with the Mets.

According to Fangraphs, Desi Relaford earned -0.7 WAR over his 11-year career, in spite of 2.0 WAR in his one season with the Mets. Baseball-Reference tells a similar story, with -0.5 WAR for his career in spite of 2.2 WAR with the Mets.

Monday, March 31, 2014

2014 MLB Season Preview

It's been a brutally cold winter across most of the Northern hemisphere this year, with feeble warmth from the hot stove. We are ready for warm weather and ballgames. At least the ballgames start this week. Let's look forward to the upcoming season with predictions on standings, the postseason, and awards. Please add your predictions to the comments. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Fun with Spring Stats

We like to have fun with all kinds of stats over here. Usually, we look for something more valuable than a minuscule sample size of Spring Training stats that are almost meaningless because of varying competition levels and the uncertainty of some players goals in each plate appearance. Because the outcome of Spring games mean nothing, some pitchers could be looking to work on a specific pitch - particularly pitches that need work. Batters similarly can be working on a approach at the plate that might not lead to reaching base, but can prepare them for situations when they need to move a runner over, or maybe they take 2 strikes to work on hitting with 2 strikes. Greg Maddux used to famously set up hitters in Spring Training by throwing them pitches in a sequence they would never see in real games. We just don't know.

One of the most predictive pitching stats, of regular games is the strikeout-to-walk ratio. We get some surprising names in the list of Top 11 pitchers by spring K:BB ratio.

Rk Tm OppQual IP H R BF SO/BB ▾
1 Hutchison, Drew TOR 8.6 9.2 7 3 36 16.00
2 Scherzer, Max DET 8.8 14.1 9 4 52 16.00
3 Ventura, Yordano KC 9.2 15.1 10 3 57 15.00
4 Lynn, Lance STL 9.0 7.1 8 5 32 14.00
5 Pineda, Michael NYY 8.7 9.0 8 0 35 14.00
6 Chapman, Aroldis* CIN 8.7 10.0 11 4 40 13.00
7 Matsuzaka, Daisuke NYM 9.5 12.2 18 8 59 12.00
8 Zimmermann, Jordan WSH 9.0 13.0 7 1 47 12.00
9 Jackson, Edwin CHC 9.5 9.0 10 4 41 11.00
10 Reed, Evan DET 8.7 10.0 3 3 34 11.00
11 Wood, Travis* CHC 9.0 10.2 14 7 46 11.00
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 3/19/2014.

Yordano Ventura has been setting the baseball world on fire with his otherworldly stuff and panache. Having a couple of people ahead of his 15:1 K:BB ratio is a bit surprising. That another youngster, 22-year old Drew Hutchison, tied with reigning Cy Young winner, Max Scherzer, at 16:1 is a breath of fresh air.*

*Unless you hate the Blue Jays and/or Drew Hutchison

Beyond that, it's great to see Michael Pineda performing well in limited action this Spring...

How about classic Dice-K showing up? That's fun! He's given up 18 hits and 8 runs in 12 2/3rd innings in spite of a striking out twelve and only walking one.

The Cubs should be pleased that they have two of the top eleven K/BB pitchers. Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood are probably evolving into trade chips for the Cubs, limiting walks while missing bats this season will raise their stock.

Evan Reed, who is out of options, could be solidifying his spot in the Tigers' bullpen by striking out 11 batters for each walk.

For hitting, we will look at two stats. OPS, with min 30 plate appearances (LOL), and Home Runs.

Age Tm OppQual PA OPS ▾
Moustakas, Mike* 24 KC 8.6 43 1.501
Cervelli, Francisco 27 NYY 8.4 30 1.462
Moss, Brandon* 29 OAK 9.1 32 1.388
Bernadina, Roger* 29 CIN 8.7 34 1.388
Miller, Brad* 23 SEA 8.9 39 1.385
Hicks, Brandon 27 SF 8.2 41 1.364
Jackson, Austin 26 DET 8.3 40 1.284
Heisey, Chris 28 CIN 8.9 38 1.263
Solarte, Yangervis# 25 NYY 8.0 33 1.245
Souza Jr., Steven 24 WSH 7.4 35 1.235
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 3/19/2014.

I'm not surprised to see Mike Moustakas at the top of this list. He's had glowing reports from scouts and reporters all Spring.

The Yankees are reportedly shopping Francisco Cervelli. These stats are aligned with the fact that he's been a pretty good hitter in the big leagues during limited playing time the past few years. Since 2010, Cervelli has a .352 OBP, which is not bad for any hitter, let alone a backstop.

Brandon Moss had a great season last year and looks to continue his success as the left-handed part of another A's platoon.

The Mariners are more inclined to trade Nick Franklin than Brad Miller. I wonder if potential trade partners might try to make their best offer available, but only for Brad Miller.

Austin Jackson could do some serious damage if he sticks to the #5 spot of the Tigers order, after scoring 395 runs over his 4-year career, primarily as a leadoff or lower in the order batter. As a middle-of-the-order slugger, we can expect more of Jackson's counting numbers to become RBI's.

Chris Heisey is on this list primarily as a result of leading all batters with five homeruns this Spring. More on that in a minute.

I don't know Yangervis Solarte or Steven Souza. Do you? Solarte is new to the Yankees' system. His first six professional seasons were in the Twins organization, and he spent the last two years on the Rangers' triple-A team, the Round Rock Express. He's a non-roster invitee to the Yankees spring training, so we'll see if he can at least solidify a spot on their Triple-A squad. Steven Souza has never gotten past double-A, but he hit pretty well there last year. In 77 games playes (323 plate appearances), he slashed an impressive .300/.396/.557.

Looking ahead to our Spring homerun leader board, as of the morning of March 19th, 107 players have hit more than one homerun this Spring. 29 players have hit more than two homers. Here's the leaderboard of players who have hit at least four:

Heisey, Chris 28 CIN 8.9 38 5 0 6 .368 .368 .895
Moustakas, Mike* 24 KC 8.6 43 4 6 4 .486 .558 .943
Martin, Russell 30 PIT 9.2 24 4 2 4 .381 .458 1.000
Miller, Brad* 23 SEA 8.9 39 4 4 8 .412 .474 .912
Danks, Jordan* 26 CWS 9.1 39 4 2 11 .361 .410 .750
Pence, Hunter 30 SF 9.3 42 4 2 13 .325 .357 .775
Stanton, Giancarlo 23 FLA 8.7 43 4 3 7 .333 .372 .692
Baez, Javier 20 CHC 8.5 37 4 0 11 .297 .297 .703
Olt, Mike 24 CHC 9.2 33 4 1 12 .258 .273 .645
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 3/19/2014.

Woo hoo! Javy Baez and Mike Olt! Go Cubs!

Drew Hutchison is making his case for the Blue Jays rotation.
(AP Photo by Gene J. Poscar)