Wednesday, October 31, 2012

2012 All Defensive Teams

Major League Baseball announced the 2012 Gold Glove award winners last night. As a suggested prerequisite to the information below, please check out Joe Posnanski's brilliant juxtaposition of the Gold Glove and Fielding Bible award winners.

The flaws of defensive record keeping are well known and, so far, inevitable. In fact, the safest way to measure defensive metrics is with a sample size no smaller than three seasons.

Unfortunately, fans like to reward greatness one year at a time. It would be great if we gave out fielding awards for the bulk of the past three seasons each year, like the 2010-2012 winners this year, the 2011-2013 award after next, and so on.

Before we crunch numbers pertaining to the past three years THIS LINK has the custom 2010-2012 MLB All Defensive Teams, and below are MLB All-Defensive Teams for this season, based on a variety of 2012 fielding metrics.

Fewest Errors
An antiquated stat that is still one of the Big Three kept in all box scores, with tiebreakers as games played.
C: Brian McCann 2
Brian McCann throws accurately
1b: Mark Teixeira 1 (GG)
2b: Darwin Barney 2 (GG)
3b: Aramis Ramirez 7
SS: J.J. Hardy 6 (GG)
LF: Desmond Jennings 0
CF: Curtis Granderson 0
RF: Ichiro Suzuki 1
P: Zack Greinke 0

Fielding Percentage
Switching our focus from "fewest errors" to "highest fielding percentage", only the 3rd baseman changes.
C: Brian McCann .998
1b: Mark Teixeira .999 (GG)
2b: Darwin Barney .997 (GG)
3b: Chase Headley .977 (GG)
SS: J.J. Hardy .992 (GG)
J.J. Hardy lead the upstart Orioles
LF: Desmond Jennings 1.000
CF: Curtis Granderson 1.000
RF: Ichiro Suzuki .996
P: Zack Greinke 1.000

A pleasant and thoughtful man, named Mitchel Lichtman, invented Ultimate Zone Rating about 10 years ago. As The Hardball Times' glossary notes:
Essentially, UZR looks at the trajectory and speed of every batted ball and, based on overall major league averages, assigns a probability that a certain position will field it. If a player at that position fields it, he gets credit above the overall major league average. If he doesn't, he gets negative credit.

Alex Gordon has a great arm
Ultimate Zone Rating
1b: Adrian Gonzalez 17.7
2b: Darwin Barney 13.1 (GG)
3b: Mike Moustakas 16.8
SS: Brendan Ryan 14.7
LF: Alex Gordon 14.1 (GG)
CF: Michael Bourn 22.4
RF: Jason Heyward 22.9 (GG)

We finally see a big difference in names from Henry Chadwick's traditional "Errors" and "Fielding %" Darwin Barney is the only player to appear on all three lists above.

UZR is a household name across the sabr community, but it often takes a backseat to its rate stat cousin...

Adrian Gonzalez is a favorite to win
the 2013 NL Gold Glove at 1st base 
UZR/150
1b: Adrian Gonzalez 16.6
2b: Mark Ellis 16.1
3b: David Wright 16.8
SS: Brendan Ryan 17.1
LF: Alex Gordon 11.7 (GG)
CF: Michael Bourn 22.5
RF: Jason Heyward 22.1 (GG)

The UZR team remains the same, except that Mark Ellis and David Wright joined the party.

Defensive Runs Saved
DRS is a personal favorite.
Yadier Molina's defense > All
C: Yadier Molina 16 (GG)
1b: Mark Teixeira 17 (GG)
2b: Darwin Barney 28 (GG)
3b: Brett Lawrie 20
SS: Brendan Ryan 27
LF: Alex Gordon 24 (GG)
CF: Michael Bourn 24
RF: Josh Reddick 22 (GG)
P: Mark Buehrle (GG)

Greetings to Molina, Lawrie, Reddick, and Buehrle. Darwin Barney regains his spot at the keystone from Mark Ellis.

Let's see Lawrie's numbers in 2 years
Brett Lawrie may have benefited from a statistical anomaly, Baseball-Reference's Sean Foreman alludes to in this comment. The Blue Jays would often position Lawrie defensively in an exaggerated shift. At times, he would make routine plays on balls hit right at him, while stationed well outside of his traditional zone. This could artificially inflate his Defensive Runs Saved and B-R dWAR.

David Wright was the second highest rated third baseman by DRS.

We converted Defensive Runs Saved to a per 9 inning rate...

DRS/9
Only Pitcher differs from raw Defensive Runs Saved, as Jake Westbrook scored a bit higher than Mark Buerhle.
C: Yadier Molina .12 (GG)
Brendan Ryan's DRS/9 was
the best for every position
1b: Mark Teixeira .15 (GG)
2b: Darwin Barney .20 (GG)
3b: Brett Lawrie .17
SS: Brendan Ryan .21
LF: Alex Gordon .15 (GG)
CF: Michael Bourn .17
RF: Josh Reddick .17 (GG)
P: Jake Westbrook .57

Baseball-Reference dWAR
The defensive composite score that accounts for a players defensive contribution to their Wins Above Replacement score on Baseball-Reference is actually based on Baseball Info Solutions' Defensive Runs Saved, so the carbon copy below makes sense.
C: Yadier Molina 2.6 (GG)
Jason Heyward is still improving.
1b: Mark Teixeira 1.0 (GG)
2b: Darwin Barney 3.6 (GG)
3b: Brett Lawrie 2.4
SS: Brendan Ryan 3.6
LF: Alex Gordon 1.9 (GG)
CF: Michael Bourn 3.0
RF: Jason Heyward 1.5 (GG)
P: 20 tied with 0.1

Fangraphs dWAR (Fld)
C: Yadier Molina 10.3 (GG)
1b: Adrian Gonzalez 13.8
2b: Danny Espinosa 13
3b: Mike Moustakas 16.8
SS: J.J. Hardy 11.4 (GG)
LF: Martin Prado 17.8
CF: Michael Bourn 22.4
RF:Jason Heyward 21.5 (GG)

Espinosa and Prado make it on the squad for the first time. J.J. Hardy surprisingly reappears for the first time since Fielding %.

Some of the finest sabr crowd sourcing around is readily available at Tom Tango's blog.

Results from the 2012 edition of his annual fans' scouting report bring up a few interesting new names...

Tango's Fans Scouting Report 2012
The Eye Test Lineup
C: Yadier Molina 77 (GG)
1b: Albert Pujols/Brandon Belt 65
2b: Brandon Phillips 81
3b: Adrian Beltre 82 (GG)
SS: Brendan Ryan 87
LF: Alex Gordon (GG)/Starling Marte 75
CF: Franklin Gutierrez/Peter Bourjos 78
RF: Jason Heyward (GG)/Ichiro Suzuki 77

Some of these players get votes due to their reputations, but personally, I like when young players are recognized. I've seen Starling Marte play on TV a little bit, but not yet in person.

Defense really needs to be seen in person.

If Starling Marte's game is as exciting as it sounds, Pirates fans are in for a treat the next half decade. In this article, Marte, through his interpreter, tells Tom Singer: "The player I've always looked up to was Vladimir Guerrero. I followed him, and he's the type of player I wanted to grow up to be."


Our next and final group, John Dewan's Fielding Bible Awards, are compiled from the thoughtful votes of a hand-picked panel of writers, fans, and statistical gurus like the aforementioned Joe Posnanski, Tango, John Dewan, Bill James, Peter Gammons, Rob Neyer, Doug Glanville, and more.

Posnanski calls Buehrle
"a defense savant"
Fielding Bible Awards
C: Yadier Molina (GG)
1b: Mark Teixeira (GG)
2b: Darwin Barney (GG)
3b: Adrian Beltre (GG)
SS: Brendan Ryan
LF: Alex Gordon (GG)
CF: Mike Trout
RF: Jason Heyward (GG)
P: Mark Buehrle (GG)

It took this long to get to Mike Trout, partially due to an April on the farm.

Mike Trout will be collecting a lot of hardware in the future

All stats from Fangraphs or Baseball-Reference, unless otherwise noted. Rate stats only include "Qualified" fielders.

What is your All Defensive team? Tell us in a comment below!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pitching Under the Radar in 2012

Armed with a 97 mph fastball, Pedro Strop achieved the 2nd highest Groundball rate and 3rd highest GB/FB rate ratio among 263 pitchers who threw over 1,000 pitches in 2012. His fortunate-to-lucky 83.2% LOB% and .275 BABIP, brought together the unlikely marriage of a 5.02 BB/9 and 2.44 ERA.

In this sample, only the Dodgers' Jamey Wright had a higher GB%.

2012 Ground Ball Percentage
min 1,000 pitches thrown
Jamey Wright, Dodgers 67.3%
Pedro Strop, Orioles 64.8%
Ronald Belisario, Dodgers 64.5%
Robbie Ross, Rangers 62.4%
Jim Johnson, Orioles 62.3%

***

A bright spot for the 2012 Red Sox was Junichi Tazawa, who hardly walked anyone (2.9% BB%) and avoided Homeruns (0.2 HR/9 from a low 26.9% Flyball % and minuscule 3.1% HR/FB).

***

553 pitchers threw at least 10 innings in the Big Leagues this year.

Alberto Cabrera ranked 6th in that group, by missing approximately 2.87 bats per inning pitched.

According to our math, the winner in missed bats per IP is, no surprise, Aroldis Chapman at 3.062.

There are some interesting names at the tops and bottoms of this list, when increasing the minimum number of innings pitched. At a minimum of 100 ip, the lowest missed bats per 9 innings were Bartolo Colon (.67) and Henderson Alvarez (.79)

Missed bats per inning
min 180 innings thrown
Max Scherzer 2.18
Tim Lincecum 2.08
Yu Darvish 2.03
Cole Hamels 2.01
Edwin Jackson 1.95

For all his troubles this season, giving up runs, Tim Lincecum still missed bats at an elite level, as we can see when we change per inning to per pitches.

Missed bats / average number of pitches* / inning
min 2,500 pitches thrown
Francisco Liriano 2.16
Max Scherzer 1.99
Tim Lincecum 1.87
Matt Moore 1.91
Yu Darvish 1.96
Cole Hamels 2.09
Jeff Samardzija 1.97
Edwin Jackson 1.99
Justin Verlander 1.91
Edinson Volquez 1.875

*Per each pitcher's unique number of pitches per inning

Tim Lincecum's troubles this season included a career high 23 home runs allowed. Tim Lincecum's resurgence out of the bullpen this postseason has been inspiring. We hope the Good Lincecum returns in 2013, but his value trends over the past 5 years don't look too promising...

Year Age WAR Salary Awards
2008 24 7.6 $405,000 AS,CYA-1,MVP-23
2009 25 7.1 $650,000 AS,CYA-1,MVP-18
2010 26 3.0 $9,000,000 AS,CYA-10
2011 27 3.9 $14,000,000 AS,CYA-6
2012 28 -2.1 $18,000,000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/25/2012.

***

The cost of an aging arm rises while its effectiveness decreases.

The outspoken Vinnie Pestano ranked 5th, among the 553 pitchers who threw at least 10 innings, in Win Probability Added.

Heath Bell had the 548th highest WPA.

Heath Bell will made $6 million this season, with another $9 million in each of the next two seasons. Vinnie Pestano made $491,200 in 2012, and is arbitration eligible in 2014. Depending on if he signs a long-term deal or goes through arbitration, he should make about $4 million over the next 2 years.

Heath Bell had some really great seasons in San Diego when he was at Pestano's pay scale. This isn't to knock Heath Bell, just marveling at them having 543 pitchers between them in WPA, with disproportionate expenses of $24 million or $5 million, across 2012-2014. Along with Tim Lincecum's trends, the Heath Bell and Vinne Pestano comparisons perfectly exemplify the value young, cheap talent.

***

Here's a quick salute to Yu Darvish, as he exceeded lofty, worldwide expectations.

In his first season away from Japan, in the American League, Yu Darvish made the All-Star team and ranked 2nd in K/9, 3rd in H/9 and HR/9, 5th in Strikeouts, and did not commit an error.

Darvish is just shy of real contention for the AL Cy Young award. The finalists for that hardware are David Price, Felix Hernandez or Justin Verlander, with Chris Sale as the dark-horse candidate.

***

Something found in Excel while writing this that became tweets:

and

***

Who are Donnie Veal and Tom Layne?

Long time, first time, Donnie Veal
The former is a bit easier for me to answer because he's a former Cub farmhand, whom they lost in the Rule 5 draft a few years ago to the Pirates.

I'm, however, no Donnie Veal expert. I knew he was a reliever, but I also thought he was a white guy. His Google Image search certainly points out that I am no Donnie Veal expert. Tom Layne, I've never even heard of.

In limited action, these two relievers flourished:

2012 Best RAR/9 (min 10 ip)
Craig Kimbrel, 62.2 ip, 4.70 RAR/9
Aroldis Chapman, 71.2 ip, 3.86 RAR/9
Donnie Veal, 13 ip, 3.67 RAR/9
Tom Layne, 16.2 ip, 3.61 RAR/9
Jake McGee, 55.1 ip, 3.17 RAR/9
Sean Doolittle, 47.1 ip, 2.85 RAR/9
Al Alburquerque, 13.1 ip, 2.82 RAR/9
Fernando Rodney, 74.2 ip, 2.80 RAR/9
Greg Holland, 67 ip, 2.78 RAR/9
Jim Henderson, 30.2 ip, 2.74 RAR/9

Forget Donnie Veal. Who's Jim Henderson? I must have missed at least 36 Brewers games this year.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Justin Verlander's Velocity Chart

Courtesy of Brooks Baseball, via the essential Getting Blanked, we present Justin Verlander's velocity chart from last night:

While this may not be out of the ordinary for the bionic Justin Verlander, please keep in mind this is after throwing over 200 innings for seven straight seasons, including more than 270 innings last season and 250 this year.



Imagine Verlander's career numbers if the Padres had drafted him, and Petco was his home park the past eight years.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Hunter Pence and the RBI

Entering the 2012 campaign, Hunter Pence had been around a 3 to 5 Wins Above Replacement guy, throughout his five year career.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

So What's the Scenario?

"Funny how falling feels like flying, even for a little while."
- Bad Blake

Bud Selig should be ashamed of himself.

Losing the One Game Playoff is cruel to emotionally invested baseball fans.

If what happened to the Braves had happened to the Yankees, Billy Crystal would be in Bud Selig's office shouting that this isn't fun, and it isn't funny.

As better writers have expressed, baseball is a game of quirks and oddities, where even the most superior teams do not exceed 65% winning percentages.

For camparison's sake, here are last season's Top winning percentages in...

Basketball
2012 Bulls/Spurs 75.8%
2011 Bulls 75.6%
2010 Cavs 74.4%
2009 Cavs 80.5%
2008 Celtics 80.5%

The 1995-96 Bulls won 87.8% of their games.

Football
2011 Packers 93.8%
2010 Patriots 87.5%
2009 Colts 87.5%
2008 Titans 81.3%
2007 Patriots 100%

Of course, Professional Football brought sports fans a perfect season 40 years ago, by the 1972 Dolphins.

Baseball
2012 Nationals 60.5%
2011 Phillies 63%
2010 Phillies 59.9%
2009 Yankees 63.6%
2008 Angels 61.7%

The 2001 Mariners had the highest wining percentage in the history of Major League Baseball, winning 71.6% of their games.

I'd love to sit with some fans and try to come up with philosophies why Baseball is this way. Is it rare that it's a team non-contact sport? In football it's easy to see if a team is noticeably bigger and stronger, they'll very likely win. Some very ugly baseball teams can go far with solid pitching and on base skills.

Long boring story short, baseball has a long season. I don't want to write "loooooong" or using all caps, but it's a long season.

The World Series was always just that, "a series" because a one-game championship would not provide enough opportunities to ensure fairness in the competition.

This stinks because this current scenario that punishes wild card teams with the anomaly of a one game "playoff", suits the purposes of purists who want to see division winners rewarded.

The biggest fear is that a great Cubs team will get hosed one way or another. They'll have a once-in-a-lifetime 70% winning percentage club that gets knocked out by a Wild Card team. Or, they'll get in as a Wild Card for a few years and just never get over that hump, as Bills and Rangers fans can empathize.

In the olden days, only the regular season winner of each league would go to the World Series. That's it. The 1954 Yankees won 103 games, and that's it because the Indians won 111.

Getting back at the absurdity of what a one-game playoff signifies, even in 1962, when bitter rivals, the Giants and Dodgers, finished with identical 101-61 records, they was a 3-game series to decide the National League representative in the World Series.

Side note: the deciding Game #165 had 4 strikeouts and 7 errors

Until baseball flexes their greed once more, by expanding the Wild Card round to 3 games, the trade deadline decisions for potential wild card teams will be noticeably affected by the absurd quirkiness of the current system.

It makes sense to extend the Wild Card round to 3 or 5 games right away because:

A. It is fairer, or more fair, if you prefer
B. It makes baseball more $$$, through TV, tickets, etc
C. It still puts the Wild Card at a disadvantage, by making them work harder to face a rested #1 seed

At one point yesterday, in what amounts to some very light lifting of numbers, no math at all, we compared the team statistics of the eight remaining postseason teams in the following categories:

Run Differential
Pythagorean Win-Loss %

Defense
Defensive Runs Save

Robinson Cano has had a great year
Offense
On Base Percentage
Adjusted OPS+
wRC+
wOBA

Pitching
Starters FIP
Bullpen FIP
Starters SIERA
Bullpen SIERA

Ranking all eight teams in each category, and adding up all the rankings showed the following results:

New York Yankees 28
St. Louis Cardinals 31
Washington Nationals 40
Detroit Tigers 45
San Francisco Giants 46
Cincinnati Reds 47
Baltimore Orioles 62
Oakland A's 62


Of course, there are more holes in this "formula" than Manual Noriaga's face 25 years ago. That Nationals also cannot be considered as strong as their Regular Season averages because of a fellow named Strasburg, wasting away again with a case of precious arm syndrome.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Postseason Brackets

Sitting in my office, minding my own business, and messing around with 2012 Park Factors, my colleague asks me for help filling out his MLB playoff brackets for a pool he's in.

Not many people do baseball brackets, and with the new Wild Card round, I don't even know them by heart.

Quickly talking through it, here were our picks:

NL WC: Braves over Cardinals
Betting on the better bullpen here.

AL WC: Rangers over Orioles Tough pick, really could go either way, but I think the Rangers are the bet team.

NL DS: Reds over Giants
Here's the perfect example why, as Peter Gammons tweeted this morning "Predictions are silly." If you ask me in an hour, the Giants might be my pick to win the World Series.

NL DS: Braves over Nationals
Another coin toss, but who do the Nationals think they are, going into the postseason with their best pitcher healthy and on the shelf? (Also going with the better bullpen.)

AL DS: Tigers over A's
It took a while for the baseball machine of Motown to get going this year, but the talent is there for a long postseason run.

AL DS: Yankees over Rangers
This is a pure "gambling" pick. I believe the Rangers are a better team, but with their roughly 50% chance of getting knocked out tonight, combined with the Yankees chances of defeating Texas or Baltimore, it's a safer pick.

NLCS: Reds over Braves

ALCS: Tigers over Yankees

2012 World Series
Tigers over Reds

Imagine the glamour of a Detroit-Cincinnati World Series.

Miguel Cabrera on night he won Triple Crown
- photo by Fink