Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Bashing Duda's Gotta End

Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images
For over a month now, I've noticed media members covering the Mets will disturbingly criticize Lucas Duda for taking too many pitches.

On April 24th, Gary Cohen, one of the Mets' TV announcers, went as far as to say "You don't want Lucas Duda to be walking as often as he is."

Cohen's nonsensical remark was barely tweet-worthy. This post was prompted by some completely useless garbage that I heard while landing on Mike Francesa's radio show for about 30 seconds this afternoon.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Player of the Fortnight

With no games until this evening, it's as good a time as any to honor the most locked-in players in Baseball.

About 20 years ago, a scout told me the best way to quickly see which players are on top of their game is to look at past 14-days stats, and our Fortnight Awards stubbornly celebrate the debatable, old-school mentality.

I tend to believe that streakiness is a result of random clustering of events by players with otherwise consistent performances. Players may deal with injuries or mechanical issues that cause drastic drops in performance. Conversely, when they smooth out the kinks, the player's performance will noticably improve. This line of discussion can get us dangerously close to the argument of Clutch vs Luck, but the more pertinent question for mid-May is: do players use the in-the-zone feeling to highten their confidence and continue succeeding? Perhaps it's subjective validation, but players and fans can feel it. It's tough to argue with our feelings. We've seen it in other sports. Basketball and golf, especially, have histories littered with stories of players who couldn't miss a shot.



Baseball has one saying that doesn't apply to hoops or golf: Earl Weaver's "Momentum is the next day's starting pitcher".

NL Batter of the Fortnight
Joey Votto, Reds
His .579 OBP makes the choice easy.

Over the past 14 days, the National League players with the 6 highest Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) come from two sets of teammates:

NL Top 10 wOBA (Past 2 weeks)
Joey Votto, Reds: .537
Jay Bruce, Reds: .477
Marco Scutaro, Giants .475
Jean Segura, Brewers .471
Brandon Belt, Giants .463
Norichika Aoki, Brewers .455
Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies .450
Justin Turner, Mets .442
Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks .432
Jedd Gyorko, Padres .421

Al Bello/Getty Images
In addition to the Reds' dominance in this metric, Votto and Shin-Soo Choo were both Top 5 in On-Base Percentage the past two weeks. The only wonder to the Reds going 10-2 in that time was how they lost 2 games in Philadelphia while sweeping the Brewers, Marlins, and Mets.

Most of Jay Bruce's production this season season has come in the past two and a half weeks. He's hit 5 of his 6 home runs this year in the past 15 days. If we would have given the awards yesterday, Jay Bruce would have won. Two days ago, it would have been Paul Goldschmidt. This morning, it looks like Joey Votto, and it's not close. The way he's been going, another MVP award is looking more and more unavoidable.

Honorable Mention: Bruce, Goldschmidt, Brandon Belt, Scutaro, Aoki, and Matt Carpenter

NL Pitcher of the Fortnight
Shelby Miller, Cardinals
Unlike the NL batter award, this is a really difficult choice. We may as well start with the Reds. A couple of Reds and a Diamondback, Mike Leake, Bronson Arroyo, and Brandon McCarthy, were the only NL pitchers with 0.00 ERA's (min 10 ip).

AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi
Francisco Liriano remarkably lead the league in Strikeouts, FIP, K/9, and tied Shelby Miller in K%. Liriano did earn a "Win" in all three of his starts, but what hurts his cause is that he only pitched 18 innings. Of course, we are screaming SMALL SAMPLE SIZE, but for the record, over the past 2 weeks: Shelby Miller lead the league in tERA and SIERA.

Cliff Lee had a 0.78 ERA while throwing the most innings the past two weeks (23).

The aforementioned McCarthy, Miller, Lee, and Adam Wainwright threw shutouts.

Patrick Corbin had a 0.56 ERA and league leading .118 Opponents Batting Average.

Homer Bailey* had a league leading 13:1 K:BB ratio.

*Another Red! That's 3 Reds hitters and 3 Reds pitchers mentioned so far this morning.

Clayton Kershaw ranked Top 5 in just about everything.

Our tough choice came down the Cardinals rookie phenom. Besides the peripheral stats mentioned above, Miller's perfect performance of 27-up, 27-down after a bloop single seals the deal.

Honorable Mention: Lee, Liriano, Corbin, Kershaw, McCarthy

AL Batter of the Fortnight
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
Photo by Duane Burleson
Like the great pitching performances of the National League, the AL showcased its lumber the past two weeks.

Once again, baseball fans are being treated to the juxtaposition of two all-time great performers, Cabrera and Mike Trout. The world class hitting of Miguel Cabrera is peaking when we thought we had seen it all. The man won the Triple Crown, for crying out loud, last year. Yet, his numbers are way ahead of his pace from a year ago.

Miguel Cabrera, through May 23rd
Last year: .306 BA, 8 HR, 34 RBI
This year: .391 BA, 14 HR, 55 RBI

Miguel Cabrera hit 8 home runs in the past 14 days.

Meanwhile, Mike Trout is doing his best Bo Jackson impression, hitting for tremendous power with blazing speed. The Angels had an off day on Monday. Tuesday night, Mike Trout hit for the cycle. On Wednesday, he went 2-for-4. Last night, he went 2-for-4 again and hit a home run to a land far in Kansas City's deep Center Field that people hadn't seen reached since Bo.

Toronto has had a rough go at it so far this year, but there is a good story with the healthy return of Jose Bautista. Over the past two weeks, he lead the AL with a .521 OBP. Unlike Joey Votto's case in the NL, Miguel Cabrera was not too far behind with a .492 mark and a lot more power.

Honorable Mention: Trout, Bautista, Alex Gordon, Joe Mauer and Chris Davis

AL Pitcher of the Fortnight
Chris Sale, White Sox
Chris Sale is looking up.
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
Sale and Justin Masterson started two games in the past 14 days and have 0.00 ERA's. The competition for this award fell off rather quickly, as other top performers didn't really come close to matching Sale in run prevention or strikeouts.

Chris Sale's Opponents' Batting Average the past 2-weeks is a comical .075. Word out of the south side is that Chris Sale will likely miss one start, no more, as the team tries to mix in regular rest for their starters. Hoepfully that's the case. Chris Sale is a great young pitcher, but it always seems like his skinny arm is skating on thin ice.

Let's not set off any alarms, but the worst ERA in that span is Justin Verlander's 11.37. His 3.42 xFIP and 3.49 SIERA tell a more favorable story.

Honorable Mention: Masterson, Luis Mendoza, Felix Hernandez and Clay Buchholz

Thanks for reading. As always, comments are suggested.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Memorable Tuesday Night Baseball

Matt Harvey was unstoppable tonight. The White Sox never had a chance against him. As just about anyone reading this knows, Harvey went 9 innings, facing 28 batters, retiring 27.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

MLB Attendance Trends

One month into the season, let's check out the early returns from box offices around the league. Similar to other statistical analysis, we are dealing with a small sample that could potentially skew results, for example, by weather.

Presenting, Baseball-Reference's year-to-year attendance trend chart through April 30, 2013 games.

Rk Tm 2012_AttendpGm 2013_AttendpGm DiffPerGame ▾
1 TOR 24,210 31,820 7,610
2 LAD 39,401 46,238 6,837
3 WSN 25,791 31,813 6,022
4 LAA 33,784 38,736 4,952
5 BAL 23,193 26,398 3,206
6 SDP 24,840 27,287 2,447
7 ATL 28,958 30,331 1,374
8 DET 33,410 34,502 1,092
9 ARI 26,382 27,264 882
10 TBR 20,822 21,322 500
11 CHW 19,912 20,105 194
12 SFG 41,598 41,762 164
13 CLE 14,734 14,711 -23
14 OAK 19,248 19,153 -94
15 STL 41,268 40,956 -312
16 NYM 26,797 26,344 -453
17 SEA 20,186 19,115 -1,070
18 CIN 26,849 25,690 -1,158
19 KCR 21,435 19,450 -1,985
20 PIT 23,058 20,616 -2,442
21 COL 31,196 28,648 -2,548
22 HOU 22,808 20,131 -2,677
23 TEX 41,719 38,802 -2,917
24 NYY 40,864 37,278 -3,586
25 MIL 35,086 30,677 -4,409
26 BOS 37,562 32,439 -5,123
27 MIN 33,068 27,731 -5,337
28 CHC 37,100 31,361 -5,739
29 PHI 45,013 36,653 -8,359
30 MIA 30,180 19,043 -11,137
total 29,639 28,822 -817
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/1/2013.

Most attendance trends are about what we'd expect. The Dodgers and Blue Jays made the splashiest changes since last May, and their fans bought into it before Opening Day. A few surprises include the returns in Boston and Texas.

The Red Sox and Rangers have the best and second best records in baseball, respectively. Yet, they are drawing about 5,000 and 3,000 fewer fans per game than they did at this point last year.

Cleveland's April attendance is not trending too badly year-to-year, but it is the worst in the league. What has the weather been like in Cleveland? How are the 2013 Cleveland Indians underdrawing the Miami Marlins? They're drawing at about the same rate as last season. I haven't been watching much Weather Channel lately; does Cleveland turn into Siberia in April?

The Marlins are outdrawing Cleveland by over 4,300 fans per game. Cleveland's dismal attendance is a terrible business return for investing in Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher and others this winter.

Here is Cleveland's attendance in April 2013 home games:

Date Opp Attendance
Monday, Apr 8 NYY 41,567
Tuesday, Apr 9 NYY 12,663
Friday, Apr 12 CHW 11,864
Saturday, Apr 13 CHW 11,422
Sunday, Apr 14 CHW 11,682
Tuesday, Apr 16 BOS 9,143
Wednesday, Apr 17 BOS 10,282
Thursday, Apr 18 BOS 12,936
Tuesday, Apr 30 PHI 10,841
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/1/2013.

The A's, Royals, and Mariners have essentially the same per game attendance as the shamed Marlins, at about 19,000 per game.

Oakland's attendance continues to underperform their on-field accomplishments. The ballpark remains an issue, but should that be enough to cost Oakland fans the chance to have a Major League team on their side of the Bay?

The Royals look dangerously close to taking over the hearts of Kansas City once again, as their .583 winning percentage is the 8th best in Baseball. They are just a half game behind the first-place Tigers. Sabermetrically inclined Royals fans would be pleased to know their 14-10 record matches up perfectly with their Pythagorian Win-Loss. PECOTA playoff odds on Baseball Prospectus currently gives them a 23% chance to make the postseason, which is better than Baltimore's and three times as high as Toronto's.

In Seattle, the retractable roof eliminates most weather issues that could affect attendance, and we know it has to do with disappointing results over the past few years. Mariners fans are calling for an allegorical guillotine for Jack Z and the scapegoats.

The Mariners are 12-17, with an offense taking them nowhere. Remember when we thought the Mariners offense was bad last season, as they averaged an AL-worst 3.8 runs scored per game? This year, they're scoring 3.3 runs per game.

Dustin Ackley's 56% GB% is driving fans mad.
(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Surprising Season Stats (Small Sample Size)

Red Sox pitchers have the highest K% and BB% in the American League. Neither statistic is particularly surprising, but the duality of the records is rare. Since 1990, it has happened twice, both by the Cubs:

In their doomed 2003 season, the Cubs lead the NL with a 22.6% strikeout rate and 9.9% walk rate. They also lead both leagues with a 19.6% K% and 10.8% BB% in 2006.

The year, the Red Sox have 26.7% strikeout and 10.1% walk rates.

Andrew Miller gets lots of K's and BB's

***

Switching to team hitting stats, Cubs batters have the best Extra Base Hit percentage in the National League (8.8%, NL Avg. 7.3%).

One of the reasons the 2013 Cubs struggle to score runs is their 5.9% walk rate, the lowest in both leagues. Only one Cub has double digit walks this year, Anthony Rizzo has 11. Even Justin Smoak has more than a dozen walks this year.

Anthony Rizzo is a perennial silver lining.

***

Salvador Perez has an uncharacteristically extreme KK/B ratio. Last season in 305 plate appearances, Salvy Perez struck out 27 times. This year, he already has 18 K's. Perez's 20.2% K-rate equals the league average but is almost twice as high as his career average.

2011: 2.86 K/BB (2.23 AL Avg.)
2012: 2.25 K/BB (2.41 AL Avg.)
2013: 18.00 K/BB (2.43 AL Avg.)

On the positive side, as Chad Young points out, Salvador Perez has seen the fifth biggest gain in average fly ball distance in baseball.

Player | 2013 Distance | 2012 Distance | delta
Dexter Fowler 342.1 - 278.8 = 63.2 feet
Todd Frazier 330.7 - 280 = 50.7 feet
Todd Helton 333.6 - 283.5 = 50.1 feet
Colby Rasmus 319 - 273.5 = 45.5 feet
Salvador Perez 330.6 - 284.5 = 44.1 feet

Read Chad's piece on Fangraphs here.

Salvy Perez has enough youth and tools to improve.