Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Last-Minute Team Off the Street

The last time we brought in some coal for the hot stove was December 29th. It's even colder here in New York the last week of January.

When we discussed the hot stove late last year, we were able to put together a pretty lousy team comprised of available free agents. The rotation was shaky, being lead by Jeff Francis, Carl Pavano, and Brad Penny, and the lineup only had one scary hitter in Adrian Beltre. The bullpen should have been better with Soriano, Fuentes, and Balfour, but really, that team would not contend. There were significant injury/age/performance issues attached to 23 or 24 players on the fake 25-man roster.

Most of the players from that last post have since been signed, and we're actually going to try it again. Before even trying this, I'm not sure there are enough free agents to even field a team.

Let's say we're in a crazy situation with MLB expansion meets Brewster's Millions.

"Todd Wellemeyer??? HaHaHa!!"
The last players we heard have signed were Jorge Cantu to the Padres, Todd Wellemeyer to our beloved Cubs, Clay Rapada to Baltimore, and Chris Ray to the Mariners.

Pitchers and Catchers are due to report to Spring Training in about 3 and a half weeks. ~ Whom would you sign?

It's late. Grab a coffee or a beer. While we look for diamonds in the rough, this team is going to be terrible.

SP: Freddy Garcia
We'd give Manny Corpas's mom
great seats to see her boy close.
SP: Justin Duchscherer
SP: Jeremy Bonderman
SP: Kevin Millwood
SP: Ben Sheets
Swing: Alfredo Aceves
Middle: Cla Meredith
Middle: Manny Delcarmen
LOOGY: Joe Beimel
Setup: Juan Cruz
Closer: Manny Corpas

C: Bengie Molina
1b: Russell Branyan
2b: Willy Aybar
We'd like to reunite Molina and Dye.
SS: Orlando Cabrera
3b: Troy Glaus
LF: Laynce Nix
CF: Lastings Milledge
RF: Wladimir Balentien

C: Michael Barrett
IF: Bobby Crosby
OF: Vladimir Guerrero
PH Rt: Jermaine Dye
PH Lt: Nick Johnson
Bench: Hank Blalock

Have we gone crazy with that starting outfield? Nix, Milledge, and Belentien?? At this stage in the game everyone is either risky or guaranteed to be less than good. In these cases, we go for risky. We'll go for players who have a chance to surprise us in a positive manner, as opposed to guys like Casey Kotchman or Eric Bruntlett, who've reached their unimpressive ceilings.

Joe Beimel should soon sign with one of five teams that are rumored to be actively pursuing him. From what I read, it looks like he'll either take a Minor League deal with the Red Sox or big league deal with Baltimore. Most players would ten times out of ten go with the Major League deal, but if Beimel failed to make the contending Red Sox out of Spring Training, he'd surely catch on somewhere else right away. When Beimel signs, our favorite lefty reliever remaining on the market would probably be the 40-year old Ron Mahay or Bobby Seay.

We still believe in you, Norris!
Most of these guys are getting spring training invites with no guarantees, if anything at all. Whom do you like? Are retreads like Mark Kotsay, Ryan Garko, or Jose Guillen better than Jermaine Dye? It may be likely. We don't really like the idea of signing players like Julio Lugo or Felipe Lopez. Young players with less baggage and some upside would probably be better than those wife beaters. On the other hand, would someone like Norris Hopper be exciting to add to Spring Training? We still think he has something to add. Brandon Jones is another relatively exciting minor league free agent outfielder. Guys flying way under the radar who can still make some noise in the big leagues are Carlos Delgado, Tommy Everidge, Travis Metcalf, and Rocco Baldelli.

So, again faithful readers, whom do you like? Who do you wish your favorite team would still sign?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

2011 Fantasy Rankings: Catchers

The silver lining surrounding the Bears season ending today, is that we're one step closer to baseball season. This offseason, we've focused more on baseball history and hot-stove circumstances. Very little time has been spent thinking about the 2011 rotisserie baseball season. We spent some time selecting the 10-player Keeper Consideration Pool for our roto team:

Mauer's at the top of our rankings again.
Alexei Ramirez
Aroldis Chapman
Brett Gardner
Carlos Gonzalez
Chris B. Young
Evan Longoria
Ian Stewart
Jason Heyward
Joe Mauer
Rickie Weeks

We end up keeping five guys, it's a roto league, with OBP instead of BA, and a Corner Infield flex, a Middle Infield flex, and 2 Util positions.

We're keeping Mauer, Heyward, CarGo, Longoria, and one other guy. *For the comment section: Who should be our 5th keeper?

Other than that, we haven't spent any time ranking players for next seasons draft. To knock the rust off our fantasy crystal ball, let's get it started with an early list of Catchers to consider in fantasy drafts.

We rank players with Onbase Percentage in mind. If you play in a league that only uses Batting Average, I'm sorry. Still, someone that does well in an OBP league wont be a roster killer in a BA league.

For those of you in 2-catcher, 12-team leagues, we've included our Top 25...

Catchers (wOBA, last 4 years)
Joe Mauer (.387)
If healthy, Carlos Santana
could be the #1 catcher.
Brian McCann (.359)
Buster Posey (.358)
Victor Martinez (.362)
Carlos Santana (.382)
Jorge Posada (.382)
Geovany Soto (.362)
Matt Wieters (.315)
Mike Napoli (.358)
Chris Iannetta (.347)
Miguel Montero (.334)
Kurt Suzuki (.314)
Carlos Ruiz (.327)
John Buck (.321)
Russell Martin (.337)
J.P. Arencibia (.232)
John Jaso (.337)
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.307)
Ryan Doumit (.338)
Saltalamacchia could be relevant,
now that he's in Boston.
Ryan Hanigan (.335)
Josh Thole (.328)
John Baker (.335)
A.J. Pierzynski (.312)
Yadier Molina (.318)
Miguel Olivo (.314)

Knocking on the door: Jesus Montero, Jason Castro, Kelly Shoppach, Tyler Flowers, and Chris Snyder.

Comments? Questions?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Stark, Underrated Response

Jayson Stark unveiled his All-Underrated team of active players today on ESPN.com. Stark is a modern-day BBWAA icon for his baseball musings on ESPN's website, magazine, and TV networks. He's into nuances of the game that can sometimes be kind of cool, but often become mindnumbing if they get a little too ESPNized, or the hosts, like Trey Wingo, blurt out "and-oh-by-the-way" every 5 minutes.

About four years ago, Stark wrote a book on the most overrated and underrated players of all time, which I'm sure is harmless. I'd be curious if he has any sort of consistent method to evaluate someone's, um, ratedness. Maybe, I'll see if I can pick up a copy of The Stark Truth at my local library.  In the meantime, I thought I could choose to take advantage of the the laziest writing gimmick of all time and piggyback right off his post to add to the discussion.

First Base: Adam Dunn
Our selection: Daric Barton
Stark sort of makes a good point, although I'd prefer it not in the form a trivia question, to say that Adam Dunn is the only player to hit 20 HR's before the All Star Game in each of the past 8 years, yet he's made zero All Star teams. Daric Barton, on the other hand, could very well be one of the worst first basemen in the AL by the average fan, when he actually is in the top 4 or 5. At least that's the kind of season he had last year. There's Miguel Cabrera, Morneau, and then Barton and Teixeira. Maybe Dunn and Konerko will flourish in that offense and ballpark on the South Side together to put up much better 2011 numbers than the line drive spraying and walk taking Barton.
Honorable mention: Ike Davis, Gaby Sanchez

Second Base: Ian Kinsler
Our selection: Neil Walker
That looks like 3-unassisted
I don't think Kinsler is underrated. He's great, or at least very good, and I think a vast majority of people believe that. Neil Walker, on the other hand, had a better Batting Average, Slugging Percentage, and OPS than Kinsler. Kinsler had a better On Base Percentage, but their wRC+ scores for the 2010 season were 122 for Kinsler and 121 for Walker. So, I think it's safe to say that they are relatively comparable. Now, let's see who's more popular or higher rated. C'mon, it's Kinsler by a mile. Check any fantasy cheat sheet for the 2011 season and see how the two names compare. Here's one respected reference from last month, via The Hardball Times, it has Kinsler ranked 2nd and Walker ranked 15th. I'm not saying those rankings are way off or anything. Fantasy baseball is different, and Kinsler is a monster. But, I think if you look at All-Star balloting for 2nd basemen next year, Kinsler will have hundreds of thousands more votes than Neil Walker.
Honorable mention: Orlando Hudson, Jeff Keppinger

Shortstop: Starlin Castro
Our selection: Stephen Drew
We're going against our own boy, and maybe it's because we're exposed to more Chicago media than average. Stephen Drew may fall under the same gray cloud that follows his brother J.D. to Major League ballparks from coast to coast. If we average the 2010 Wins Above Replacement from Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference (avWAR), we find Stephen Drew with 4.2 and Hanley Ramirez at 4.0. It's only one season, but still I hadn't heard about Drew having a more valuable season than Hanley from anyone all off season.
Honorable mention: Edgar Renteria, Rafael Furcal

Third Base: Ryan Zimmerman
Our selection: Ryan Zimmerman
We had to agree with Stark, when he referenced Fangraphs in his reasoning for selecting Zimmerman. In fact, we've been thinking of Zimmerman in this light since before last season. So, it's nice to see him produce better than we, and even fewer others, expected. Here is what Stark wrote: "FanGraphs' top four players in the major leagues last year in Wins Above Replacement: Josh Hamilton (8.0), Joey Votto (7.4), Pujols (7.3) and (drumroll, please) Zimmerman (7.2)."
Honorable mention: Aramis Ramirez, Scott Rolen

Right Field: Michael Cuddyer
Our selection: Shin-Soo Choo
Choo's worth a lot of robster craws.
We think Choo is a venerable MVP candidate going into the season. Sabermetricians noticed his steady upward climb and fantastic season in 2010. Very few casual fans outside of Cleveland think of Choo at all. If an average fan runs across his name, they conjure ideas of him as nothing more than a poor man's Ichiro on another lousy team.
Honorable mention: Jay Bruce, J.D. Drew

Center Field: Andrew McCutchen
Our selection: Andres Torres
Maybe defensive metrics aren't where they need to be, and Torres is the recipient of undue credit for his fabulous defensive play. Fangraphs gives him a 6.0 WAR for last year, which is traditionally MVP-level production. Carlos Gonzalez, who received some MVP consideration, also had a 6.0 WAR in the National League last season. Torres did more than just produce a 21.2 UZR. He also on-based at a .343 clip, while hitting 16 homers and swiping 26 bases. McCuthen is very good, but he hasn't been that good, and more people think he's a future star than Torres.
Honorable mention: Angel Pagan, Colby Rasmus

Left Field: Ryan Braun
Our selection: Logan Morrison
We could be here all weekend, but there is no way anyoneRyan Braun is underrated. Where I come from, he's already been compared to guys like Foxx and Kiner. We wrote about our beliefs in the bright future of Logan Morrison on October 3rd in our post entitled The Bright Future of Logan Morrison.
Honorable mention: Jonny Gomes, Aubrey Huff

Catcher: Carlos Ruiz
Our selection: Carlos Ruiz
It's probable that well educated fans recognize that Ruiz is on a good team, presumably leads the team in some capacity, and has been credited as a good receiver and caller of pitches. However, that can be said about many catchers: Mauer, McCann, Posey, Molina, Suzuki, Pudge, and on and on... I think one of the reasons Ruiz hasn't been recognized is because of the dramatic improvement he's shown in his production. Two years ago, he was kind of useless offensively, while being very good last year. Here are his OBP's for the past three years: .320 in 2008, followed by .355, and an even .400 last season. I guess with Stark's column, people will start to take notice of the Panamanian Chooch from Chiriqui.
Honorable mention: Henry Blanco, David Ross

Starting Pitcher: Josh Johnson
Our selection: Josh Johnson
With only 18,953 at each game,
it's possible to be this good
and this underrated. 
Absolutely, this is the one selection we think Stark nailed. We alluded to it in our last post, Johnson quietly is putting up numbers comparable to the bests in the game.
Honorable mention: Jered Weaver, Anibal Sanchez, Tom Gorzelanny

Closer: Joakim Soria
Our selection: Carlos Marmol
We're actually in the middle of evaluating and ranking all 30 Major League bullpens by such factors as FIP, K/BB, and HR/9. Therefore, I feel pretty good about our opinions on the final two positions. It's our feeling that most fans view Carlos Marmol as a Dominican and right-handed Mitch Williams. He's too wild to be so good, right? Well, he's the epitome of Effectively Wild. His BB/9 statistic alone could get pitching coaches fired, which in turn makes it so unbelievable that he just doesn't give up many hits or home runs. Oh yeah, and he gets out of jams with the K/9 number of 15.99. Marmol has the lowest FIP of all pitchers with at least 13 Saves last season, at 2.01. We love Soria, but the Yankee rumors and next-Mariano talk leads us to believe that he is not terribly underrated.
Honorable mention: Matt Thornton, Leo Nunez

Set-Up Man: Mike Adams
Our selection: Mike Adams
Not long ago, there was no such thing as a "set-up man", but here we are with a set-up man on the prestigious All-Underrated team. We love set-up men. We've praised Jose Arredondo, Sammy Gervacio, and others here perhaps too often. Even though there are dozens of worthy players to consider, Jayson Stark actually probably nailed this one. We were going to vote for Ernesto Frieri, but when looking closer at the numbers, Adams had slightly better success, aside from strikeout numbers. We're foreshadowing the Relief Pitching Rankings, but it's safe to say the Padres finish with a very impressive ranking.
Honorable mention: Frieri, Kyle McClellan, Sammy Gervacio

Have a great weekend!  Go Bears!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Throwing Strikes or Effectively Wild?

Warning: This post includes a lot of numbers, some observations, and unfortunately very few conclusions. Last month, we looked at pitchers with extraordinary abilities at missing bats in the zone. Tonight, in the spirit of illuminating discussions, we'll be looking at pitchers with at least 120 IP, who's 2010 seasons were extreme cases of control or wildness.

Ricky just needed glasses.
The old adage insists that throwing strikes in conducive to making outs. Guys who can't throw strikes, like Andy Pratt, give up easy runs and don't stick around for long.  Effectively wild pitchers usually succeed by keeping hitters off balance, perhaps afraid of getting hit, and miss bats with unpredictable movement. Think Randy Johnson, the 'good' Mitch Williams, and the Indians' Ricky Vaughn.

2010 Highest Strike %
Cliff Lee: 71.1%
The Marlins are actually good.
Ted Lilly: 68.7%
Roy Halladay: 68.4%
Scott Baker: 68.2%
Ricky Nolasco: 67.8%
Carl Pavano: 67.8%
Johan Santana: 67.6%
Roy Oswalt: 67.5%
Tim Wakefield: 67.0%
Jeff Karstens: 66.9%

2010 Lowest Strike %
Carlos Zambrano: 59.1%
Kyle Davies: 59.5%
C.J. Wilson: 59.6%
When healthy, Kazmir
will get opportunities.
Scott Kazmir: 59.8%
Trevor Cahill: 59.9%
Brian Bannister: 59.9%
Jhoulys Chacin: 59.9%
A.J. Burnett: 60.0%
Joe Saunders: 60.2%
Gio Gonzalez: 60.2%

Looking at these lists, using are biased opinions on these players, it seems the list of lowest strike % last season has pitchers who achieved success and relative failure last season. Some of these players, like Wilson, of the Rangers, of the two Oakland A's on this list were effectively wild. We'll get back to that in a few minutes.

The next statistic we'll look at is the percentage of pitches thrown inside of the strike zone. Please note, this is not the same as strike percentages because some balls tracked by Pitch f/x as "in the zone" may have been called a ball, and pitches outside of the zone could end up as called strikes, swinging strikes, or strikes in play.

2010 Highest Zone %
Cliff Lee was incredible in 2010.
Cliff Lee: 56.6%
Ted Lilly: 54.4%
Tim Wakefield: 53.7%
R.A. Dickey: 52.9%
Roy Oswalt: 52.8%
Jeff Karstens: 51.8%
Kevin Slowey: 51.8%
Scott Baker: 51.7%
Johan Santana: 51.5%
Clayton Kershaw: 51.5%

2010 Lowest Zone %
Livan Hernandez: 38.2%
Derek Lowe: 39.4%
Craig Stammen: 39.8%
Jhoulys Chacin: 41.4%
Hisanori Takahashi: 42.3%
Yovani Gallardo: 42.4%
Hiroki Kuroda: 42.7%
Ryan Dempster: 42.8%
Carlos Zambrano: 42.9%
Francisco Liriano: 43.3%

Quickly, we see one clear instance of how different Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano actually are. Liriano was very good last year, yet he was in the bottom 10 of this stat, while Santana was in the Top 10.

Cliff Lee's K/BB ratio last season was an astronomical 10.28. How high was that?*  Among pitchers with at least 120 innings pitched, the next highest was NL Cy Young Winner Roy Halladay, with a 7.30 K/BB ratio. The third place finisher was the Marlins's Ricky Nolasco, and his was just 4.45. AL Cy Young winner, Felix Hernandez, struck out more batters than Cliff Lee last year in total and on a per innings basis, yet his K/BB ratio was just 3.31. That's still very good, as evidenced by his Cy Young award and the fact that it ranks 17th among the 127 players who pitched at least 120 Major League innings last year.  Once again, Cliff Lee: 10.28.

*The quick answer to the question is the 2nd best K/BB ratio of all time.  The best all time was Bret Saberhagen's 11:1 KK:B ratio in strike-shortened 1994.

I like finding the two most prominent knuckleballers in the game ranked 3rd and 4th on the list of pitches in the strike zone. They don't know where their knuckleballs will necessary flutter, so they usually aim for the center of home plate. Plus, when they throw a different pitch, it's often with the intent of sneaking it past the batter for a strike.  It's also interesting, at least to us, that one of these guys had a very good year and the other one had a very poor season.

The final statistical extremes we'll use to find more players for this brief study is the first-pitch strike.

Coaches, Managers, and TV announcers all the time mention how important that first-pitch strike is. Many moons ago, Craig Burley of the Hardball Times looked at data from 2003 season and showed that a first-pitch strike lead to a .296 OBP, while a first-pitch ball helped hitters average a .385 OBP.

The leader board of best first strike % looks a lot like the first list we shared at the top of this post...

2010 Highest F-Strike %
Repeat: Don't sleep on the Marlins.
Cliff Lee: 69.8%
Carl Pavano: 67.9%
Roy Halladay: 67.3%
Jeff Karstens: 66.1%
Johan Santana: 66.0%
Ricky Nolasco: 65.9%
Kevin Slowey: 65.4%
Roy Oswalt: 65.1%
Rodrigo Lopez: 64.9%
Josh Johnson: 64.7%

2010 Lowest F-Strike %
Carlos Zambrano 59.1%
Kyle Davies: 59.5%
C.J. Wilson: 59.6%
Scott Kazmir: 59.8%
Trevor Cahill: 59.9%
Brian Bannister: 59.9%
Jhoulys Chacin: 59.9%
A.J. Burnett: 60.0%
Joe Saunders: 60.2%
Gio Gonzalez: 60.2%

How awesome are Major League pitchers that even the least effective first-pitch strike starters last season threw at least 59% first-pitch strikes. In fact, if you round to the nearest whole number, Big-Z would be the only player below 60%. All in all, it's not much of a spread if the 10th best and the 10th worst at this statistic have scores of 64.7% and 60.2, respectively.

Taking a step back to look at this collection of arms, we already know that Cliff Lee had an awesome 2010. Guys like Yovani Gallardo, and the aforementioned Liriano are obviously effectively wild.

Is Jeff Karstens really good? Or, is he ineffectively under control?

We really want to see if anyone can pleasantly surprise us with their wild effectiveness.

Let's look at this group of players together, and see how they compare in broader statistical measurements, like Earned Run Average, Fielding Independent Pitching, ERA+, and Wins Above Replacement.  In fact, let's show the numbers as the following set of slash lines (ERA/FIP/ERA+/avWAR*).

Please note, bolded numbers indicate they are the best of the group; italics are for the worst numbers we found.

Cliff Lee: 3.18/2.58/130/5.4
Ted Lilly: 3.62/4.27/115/2.9
Roy Halladay: 2.44/3.01/165/6.8
Rodrigo Lopez: 5.00/5.21/85/-0.1
Josh Johnson: 2.30/2.41/182/6.4
Scott Baker: 4.49/3.96/92/2.3
Ricky Nolasco: 4.51/3.86/93/2.0
Carl Pavano: 3.75/4.02/111/3.9
Johan Santana: 2.98/3.54/131/4.0
Roy Oswalt: 2.76/3.27/143/4.9
Tim Wakefield: 5.34/4.52/82/0.3
Jeff Karstens: 4.92/4.82/83/0.7
Carlos Zambrano: 3.33/3.71/131/2.6
Kyle Davies: 5.34/4.46/78/1.1
C.J. Wilson: 3.35/3.56/129/4.2
Scott Kazmir: 5.94/5.83/68/-0.9
Trevor Cahill: 2.97/4.19/139/3.2
Brian Bannister: 6.34/5.46/66/-0.5
Jhoulys Chacin: 3.28/3.54/142/2.7
A.J. Burnett: 5.26/4.83/81/0.6
Joe Saunders: 4.47/4.57/93/0.9
Gio Gonzalez: 3.23/3.78/128/3.8
R.A. Dickey: 2.84/3.65/138/3.2
Kevin Slowey: 4.45/3.98/93/1.9
Clayton Kershaw: 2.91/3.12/132/4.6
Livan Hernandez: 3.66/3.95/110/3.2
Derek Lowe: 4.00/3.89/98/2.2
Craig Stammen: 5.13/4.06/79/0.6
Hisanori Takahashi: 3.61/3.65/108/1.5
Yovani Gallardo: 3.84/3.02/103/3.4
Hiroki Kuroda: 3.39/3.26/113/3.3
Ryan Dempster: 3.85/3.99/113/3.1
Francisco Liriano: 3.62/2.66/115/5.0

Believe it or not, this man
was very good in 2010.
Final observations: Livan Hernandez actually had an excellent season last year. Liriano is effectively wild. He gets more swings and misses on pitches out of the zone (44.2%) than everyone over 120 IP last year, except Manny Parra (45.6%), Cole Hamels (44.6%), and Ryan Dempster (44.3%).  Gio Gonzalez also had a fantastic season, in spite of throwing fewer strikes than all but about nine of his peers. Carlos Zambrano was another fellow who's wildness, craziness, and unpredictability probably left batters a bit uneasy in the batter's box.

Jeff Karstens should probably try missing the strike zone a little more with his offerings.

Brian Bannister is headed to Japan, and we're sure he's aware of his FIP. We wish him the best of luck in the land of the rising sun. Scott Kazmir will probably still be drafted in rotisserie leagues, likely due to his K/9 numbers in Tampa Bay, but he is on a downward trend we recommend avoiding completely.

Stammen pitched over 120 innings
but spent the last two months
in the Nationals bullpen.
For all you rotisserie or fantasy players, or ERA/FIP junkies, the guys to look at for bounceback seasons in the ERA dept in 2011 are Francisco Liriano, Yovani Gallardo, Ricky Nolasco, and perhaps Craig Stammen.  Stammen may be relegated to the bullpen, but regular readers of this space we absolutely adore effective Relief Pitchers who are eligible for the Starting Pitching spots in rotisserie lineups. Stammen will have to improve his performance as a reliever.  Last year, as a reliever, his opponent's triple-slash line was a robust .309/.368/.474, or in more a fantasy perspective, his WHIP in that role was a disgusting 1.70.

Guys who may be deceiving at their ability to limit runs, and you'll want to avoid, include R.A. Dickey, Trevor Cahill, and Ted Lilly.

ERA/FIP junkies know where to go to see the biggest margins in ERA/FIP at any moment.  I remember reading about that somewhere before last season.  Maybe it was at RotoAuthority, RotoProfessor, or even MLBTR.

In the near future, I'll do a quick Interweb search for the numbers.  If they aren't super easy to find, I'll share them here as we approach fantasy drafts.  In fact, I'll also throw in some 2011 ERA projections, for an extra dose of geekiness.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Remembering Pavano the Yankee

Yankee fans have many reasons to have negative feelings towards Carl Pavano. Even fans who do not embrace advanced baseball statistics in general, or Wins Above Replacement in particular, can agree that Baseball-Reference WAR shows in one minute or less, exactly why Yankee fans have such indisputable emotions.

According to Baseball-Reference, in 2003, the season before joining the Yankees, Carl Pavano pitched 222 innings for the Marlins with a WAR score of 5.1 Wins Above Replacement. This past year, he pitched 221 innings for the Twins, with a 4.6 WAR.

Pavano signed a lucrative 4-year contract with the Bronx Bombers. He only pitched 145 and two-thirds innings for the Yankees, over the duration of his 4-year run with the team.

Oh yeah, and his WAR those four years with the Yankees? Try 0.0, 0.0, 0.0, and -0.1. (Yes, that's a minus, as in negative WAR his last season after three years of Zero point Zero's.)

Is that great, or what? That is worse than Mr. Blutarsky's 0.0 GPA in Animal House. (click on the link for the line)


"Mr. Pavano, you and your sick Delta buddies..."

Friday, January 14, 2011

No Pressure, Starlin!

Is it fair to compare 20-year old Starlin Castro with 36-year old, 5-time World Champion, future Hall of Famer, Derek Jeter?

Well, Jeeze, um, I guess we'll pick, um... Castro?

It's quite likely that we will not see another player reach Jeter's level of fan and media adoration or respect in our lifetimes. Cal Ripken, Jr played his first Major League game more than forty years after Lou Gehrig passed away, and he's the closest we've had to anyone being compared to the Iron Horse. Way back in 1995, Ripken broke Gehrig's 'unbreakable' record, but many people still put Gehrig on a higher pedestal. Jeter's likely going to be at the Ripken level, when he's done. More than a majority of his peers, who played under the shadow of the Selig Era, Derek Jeter will be seen as a link to the great players of a simpler time, pre-Selig. Jeter will be remembered up there with all time greats like Ripken, Tony Gwynn, and George Brett.

I don't feel the Cubs' marketing arm should be chastised for this bit of creative.  It's just that it made me cringe a bit. As a fan of baseball history who repeatedly makes himself the victim of unattainable expectations, this ticket sales ad struck a nerve.

Surprisingly enough, there are some similarities, and an argument can be made.

Entering their 20-year old seasons, both players were ranked by Baseball America as the 16th best prospects in all of baseball.

Here are some stats in their last seasons of Double A baseball, before their Major League debuts:

Jeter: 142 PA, .377/.446/.516, 16 K, 15 BB
Castro: 121 PA, .376/.421/.569, 9 K, 11 BB

Jeter played some Triple-A ball exceptionally well and debuted as a 21-year old in 1995.  His official rookie season was 1996.  Jeter was 22-years old, he won Rookie of the Year, and the Yankees won the World Series.  Castro made the jump from Double-A this past season, finished 5th in an exceptional year for NL Rookies, and the Cubs did not win the World Series.  Below are numbers of their Major League rookie seasons:

Jeter: 654 PA, 41 xBH, .314/.370/.430
Castro: 506 PA, 39 xBH, .300/.347/.408

It's pretty cool that Castro had just 2 fewer extra base hits in 148 fewer plate appearances.

Unfortunately, it is a weak argument, and it ends the way any Cubs argument could have ended over the last century... the Cubs didn't win the Championship.  Maybe the Cubs just need Castro to be 22-years old.  Could 2012 be the year that the Cubs stop the madness?

Losing patience, Zambrano? You've only been at it for 10 years.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bored? Have Fun with WPA/LI

Since an anonymous poster recently said our Managerial Coaching Tree study seemed "kind of boring", we thought we'd liven things up with a fairly advanced stat, Situational Wins.

How could anyone find
Stump Merrill boring?
Almost 40 months ago, Tom Tango introduced the world to Situational Wins (WPA/LI), calling it: "linear weights by game state, with the leverage aspect deflated".

It was almost three years ago, when David Appleman introduced me to the concept of WPA/LI in a manner I could more easily understand.  David wrote: "WPA/LI (context neutral wins / game state linear weights): How many wins a player contributes to his team with the Leverage Index aspect removed, invented by Tom Tango... ~snip~ ...WPA/LI does take into account the situation. So at times when a walk would be just as valuable as a home run, WPA/LI accurately weights the walk and the home run, where linear weights would still give .13 wins to the home run and the walk .03 wins."

Where will Albert be in 2012?
In the past ten years, 546 players had a positive WPA/LI.  Leaders in this hitting category include some of the usual suspects:

Albert Pujols: 61.69
Barry Bonds: 54.29
Lance Berkman: 44.17
Alex Rodriguez: 41.31
Manny Ramirez: 37.63

The flip side to that coin shows the trailers in the category, since 2001, as Cesar Izturis (-18.28), who has otherwise added a lot of value with his glove, and Neifi Perez (-15.21), who, um, hasn't.

Still with us, anonymous poster?  This can get really boring, really fast.  Instead, I thought it'd be cool to see if anyone interesting landed on an even 0.00 WPA/LI within the same time frame.

Who'd we find, but the very newest Chicago Cub.  No, not Matt Garza.  It's Max Ramirez, of Texas Rangers fame, who spent five days as a member of the Red Sox organization last week.  Ramirez's career Major League stats include a very healthy walk rate (12.9%), decent On-Base Percentage (.343), but a terrible strikeout percentage (32.2%).  While Ramirez can crush a fastball (2.6 runs above average vs fastballs), he has been below average versus all other pitches.

Hak-Ju Lee, we hardly knew ya!
Max Ramirez may develop into an outstanding backup for Geovany Soto, and getting him for a mere offseason waiver claim is excellent.

At the very least, it has taken a bit of the sting away from trading Robinson Chirinos and three arguably better prospects, in Archer, Lee, and Guyer, before a season in which we aren't expected to compete for the World Series.

That, thankfully, is a discussion for another time.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Hit King, Matt Murton

Many of us always wanted the Cubs to give Murton a chance to blossom as a lefty mashing 4th Outfielder.  They gave him a chance to play, but I think the team should have shown just a bit more patience with Matt Murton.  The following video is for the Matt Murton fan in all of us:



If you're interested, check out Anna Katherine Clemmons's wonderful piece for the entire story behind Matt Murton's record-setting season in Japan last year.  It's really a fantastic read.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Baseball's Managerial Trees

It was over a month ago that we started taking an in-depth look at managerial trees.  We've heard much about the NFL coaching trees of Bill Walsh, Bill Parcells, Chuck Noll, and even Marty Schottenheimer.  For a while, I've thought it funny that baseball is influenced by tradition more than any other major sport, yet managerial trees are almost never discussed.

The reason it's taken so long to share with our faithful readers is that we could never really find the best way to present the information we were uncovering.

At first, I wanted to create and share managerial trees from some of the most classic managers in baseball history.  Below are the first five managers that I wanted to analyze to create managerial trees:

"Hi, I'm Ned Hanlon."
Harry Wright
Cap Anson
Connie Mack
Ned Hanlon
Walter Alston

That didn't work at all.  Why?  For example, we started looking at Ned Hanlon.  He managed quite a few influential future managers, like Kid Gleason, Wilbert Robinson, Hughie Jennings, and John McGraw.  Each of those managers has his own exhaustive managerial branch to this tree.  Instead of telling you how complicated this could be, let me show you just Casey Stengel's branches from John McGraw's portion of Ned Hanlon's managerial tree.

Ned Hanlon
- John McGraw
                - Casey Stengel
                               - Billy Martin
                                               - Charlie Manuel
                                                               - Ron Washington
                                                               - Ron Gardenhire
                                               - Jim Fregosi
                                                               - Don Baylor
                                                               - Ozzie Guillen
                                               - Mike Hargrove
                                               - Lou Piniella
                                                               - Willie Randolph
                                                               - Don Mattingly
                                                               - Joel Skinner
                                                               - Bob Geren
                                               - Willie Randolph
                                               - Jerry Narron
                                               - Jim Essian
                                                               - Joe Girardi
                                               - Davey Lopes
                                               - Don Baylor
                                               - Joel Skinner
                                               - Don Mattingly
                                               - Bob Geren

Keep in mind, Hanlon managed at least four more players who would become Major League managers.  From the names listed above, John McGraw, Casey Stengel, even Jim Fregosi, managed several more future managers, who in turn also managed their own disciples.  I don't know about your neighborhood, but in my neighborhood, that is nothing but a big cluster clump of tangled and overlapping regimes.

Instead of scrapping the project, I decided that a neat (yeah, I wrote 'neat') way to look at this would be to look at current MLB managers and figure which managerial tree(s) they belong to.  With that information, we should be able to figure which manager from 40, or 60, or 100 years ago has the most influence on today's game.  And away we go...

Baltimore Orioles
Buck Showalter (1,773 games managed, .517 W%)
Okay, let's see.  Showalter was a left-handed 5'9" catcher who spent seven years in the Yankees farm system.  Who were his more influential managers?

George Costanza could be a
part of Ned Hanlon's lineage.
It looks like Stump Merrill.  He spent 6 years in the Phillies minor leagues before coaching.  Who taught Stump how to be a professional?  He was first-base coach when Yogi Berra managed the Yanks, so I guess that probably puts him in the branch of Casey Stengel and Ned Hanlon (above).  Maybe that's too much of a leap.  Let's get educated on Stump Merrill's minor league managers.  Oh, man...

... on second thought...

This is really taking a long time and, for crying out loud, Stump Merrill's minor league playing career just got involved.  Hate to do this to everyone, but the wait should be worth it...

...TO BE CONTINUED