Thursday, February 27, 2014

Baseball Organizational Replacement Value

As Vince Genarro wrote seven years ago, "A team’s location on the win-curve—their absolute level of wins—has a dramatic impact on the value of a win." Every year, we draw a line for replacement level at each position, usually described as the production of a player who could be signed as a free agent or called up from the minor leagues to replace an injured, traded, suspended, retired, or otherwise displaced player. My opinion is that we should have a league-wide replacement level for available free agents, but the depth of each individual organization should also affect what replacement level production is for each individual team.

For example, if a team has a starting pitcher get hurt in Spring Training, they can replace him with a free agent or internal option. Each team has replacement options, of varying talent levels, in the bullpen or minor leagues.

Some teams have great depth and can promote a player who may earn 2 or 3 WAR over a whole season. Other teams have poor depth and could potentially have a rotation of players who are earning negative-WAR. Again, the Free Agent pool has a league-wide "replacement level", but each team's internal options have varying replacement levels.

Let's take a hypothetical Free Agent Starting Pitcher who would be precisely at replacement level, earning 0.0 WAR this season, if signed. However, it seems that it should depend on which team signs him because each team should have a different actual replacement level value - based on their organizational depth.

Over thinking is one of our other favorite pastimes. Are we guilty of that here? Or, should there be a WAR factor that considers organizational depth to determine unique replacement levels for each organization? Thanks for stopping by - please let us know in the comments section below or a social network of yous choice.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Who Said Mike Trout's Not Perfect?

A special "thank you" goes out to Sam Miller for mentioning, on Effectively Wild, that he sometimes goes to BrooksBaseball.net for a quick snapshot of a player. Sam is right. It's great. It succinctly tells you a lot about a pitcher's repertoire or a batter's approach at the plate.

A typical write-up for a batter will say something like this, from the Hitter-At-A-Glance for David DeJesus: "Against All Fastballs (1,194 seen), he had a league average eye (0.94 d'; 59% swing rate at pitches in the zone vs. 24% swing rate at pitches out of the zone) and a very patient approach at the plate (0.25 c) with a below average likelihood to swing and miss (10% whiff/swing)."

Source: Japanese Wikipedia
It can be surprising to learn that Mike Trout's Hitter-At-A-Glance on Brooks Baseball lacks descriptive ratings such as "exceptional" and "outstanding". Beyond that, it's bewildering to learn that his some of his grades are worse than league average. To the point, Mike Trout's batting eye is described as "league average" versus fastballs, "very poor" on breaking pitches, and "poor" against offspeed stuff.

How surprising and counterintuitive does it sound that Mike Trout doesn't have a good eye? He had a .432 On Base Percentage last year and lead the league with 110 walks. Those are basic stats that aren't telling us the whole story. For more advanced metrics, courtesy of Fangraphs, Mike Trout has positive run values against every pitch offering, aside from exceptionally rare knuckle ball and eephus pitch outliers. Wild.

Context is critical. It helps maintain perspective. Mike Trout is incredible, awesome. The best, he can do it all. He's fast. He has power. He reaches base. Mike Trout's #1 ZiPS Comp is Mickey Mantle, and somehow that seems to elevate the Mantle brand, in my opinion. Mike Trout is the best player of at least two generations, and according to Brooks Baseball, he's doing it with a batting eye that is league average at best. Amazing.

Photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters
Everyone's perspective is different. Hopefully, everyone takes something different away from The Mike Trout Experience. Trout is just so good. People who like baseball should be thrilled for the chance to see Mike Trout when the Angels visit their town. Throwing ear muffs on "perspective" for a cross-sport comp, Mike Trout is better than Kobe Bryant.

Okay, earmuffs off. Keeping historical context open for Mike Trout comparisons, he's on the precipice of blowing past everyone in history, if he has another 10 Win season. That is unrealistic. Even Ted Williams, who is the most aggressive comparison was 7 rWAR behind Trout after each of their Age 21 seasons. Trout debuted at Age 19, but it was just 40 games. It'll be better to imagine those games in Triple-A and just compare Ted Williams first two seasons (Age 20-21) with Mike Trout's two first full seasons (Age 20-21)...

Ted Williams (Age 20-21)
1,336 Plate Appearances, 161 OPS+, 13.0 rWAR, 13.8 fWAR

Mike Trout (Age 20-21)
1,355 Plate Appearances, 174 OPS+, 20.1 rWAR, 20.4 rWAR

Mike Trout is entering his third full season this year. After three full seasons, Ted Williams had 24 Wins Above Replacement. If Trout stays healthy, he should pass 24 WAR by June. Is Trout going to peak for a few years with 15 WAR seasons?

The following chart is the most rWAR by batters in the first 3 seasons of their careers...

Rk Player WAR/pos From To Age
1 Ted Williams 23.6 1939 1941 20-22
2 Mike Trout 20.8 2011 2013 19-21
3 Albert Pujols 20.7 2001 2003 21-23
4 Evan Longoria 20.0 2008 2010 22-24
5 Paul Waner 19.0 1926 1928 23-25
6 Eddie Mathews 18.4 1952 1954 20-22
7 Snuffy Stirnweiss 18.3 1943 1945 24-26
8 Johnny Mize 18.2 1936 1938 23-25
9 Joe DiMaggio 18.2 1936 1938 21-23
10 Jackie Robinson 18.1 1947 1949 28-30
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/4/2014.

How about that Evan Longoria?

Here's a list of highest rWAR for anyone thru their Age-21 season...

Rk Player WAR/pos From To Age
1 Mike Trout 20.8 2011 2013 19-21
2 Mel Ott 17.9 1926 1930 17-21
3 Ty Cobb 15.7 1905 1908 18-21
4 Al Kaline 15.5 1953 1956 18-21
5 Ken Griffey 15.5 1989 1991 19-21
6 Alex Rodriguez 14.3 1994 1997 18-21
7 Rogers Hornsby 14.3 1915 1917 19-21
8 Jimmie Foxx 13.8 1925 1929 17-21
9 Frank Robinson 13.4 1956 1957 20-21
10 Mickey Mantle 13.1 1951 1953 19-21
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/4/2014.

Ted Williams would be 11th, with 13.0 rWAR.

Source: Harry Warnecke/New York Daily News

Saturday, February 1, 2014

How May We Compare Slash Line Trends?

Former Mariners' Prospect, Wladimir Belentien, has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. While reviewing historical free agents available this late in the offseason, I stumbled across his Baseball-Reference page. I was pretty shocked to see such a steep increase in the 3-year trend of Belentien's slash lines from Japanese baseball. A 44-point increase from 2011 to '12, and a 58-point increase from 2012 to '13 seems pretty rare. How about 72-point increase in On-Base Percentage Year 1 to Year 2 and another 69-points Year 2 to Year 3? I mean a 141-point increase in OBP from Year 1 to Year 3 seems like such an outlier. Yet, it may not even be as rare as his 3-year trend in Slugging Percentage. 103-points from 2011 to '12 is quite a gap, but from 2012 to '13, Balentien's SLG went up by 207 points, on his way to break the Japanese single-season home run record.
                                           
Year   Age     Tm  PA HR   BA  OBP  SLG IBB
2011    26 Yakult 555 31 .228 .314 .469   6
2012    27 Yakult 422 31 .272 .386 .572   4
2013    28 Yakult 547 60 .330 .455 .779   9
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/1/2014.

As an amateur in July 2000,
Wladimir Balentein signed
with Pat Gillick's Mariners.
How many players, in any league, have steadily improved their batting average by over 100 points in two years? Or, how many hitters have increased their OBP by more than 140 points in two years? In the 310-point difference in slugging percentage the most extreme?

Does anyone know if we can compare year-to-year differences on Baseball-Reference Play Index? I wasn't able to figure it out. Well, this is a bummer. I really have no idea how to look into this without falling into an Excel wormhole. Ugh, what a lousy payoff. As a punishment to myself, I won't promote this post with any click bait. Below is a remedial chart for the numbers highlighted above.

Wladimir Balentein Year-to-Year NPB Slash Lines


If anyone knows how to compare year-to-year trends of different players, that would be huge for our comments section. Thanks!