Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Dave Sort of Live-Blogs the All-Star Game

(And with MLBGarbage processing time it reaches you in just 6 hours!)

Catching Up @ 9:21 pm:

- Only one inning of Peavy because of a standard issue Ichiro single? LaRussa!

- The best part about the All-Star Game is rooting for the American League while actually hoping all of the Yankees play terribly.

- Annnnnd, Jeter grounded into a double-play! Score one for me.

- Reyes. I can feel his energy through the TV. Bring me some dead batteries. Maybe if I hold them near the TV his smile will bring them to life.

Like Lazarus (if he was batteries.)

9:27: Joe Buck is talking about how Chase Utley represents a change towards stronger offensive 2nd basemen. “Even catchers are expected to hit more,” he says. So…maybe hitters are stronger across the board these days? The conditioning, the medicine, better focus on the strike zone, taking more walks, wider talent pool etc.?

9:34: Dan Haren. AL ERA leader or indie rock frontman? Seriously I’m pretty sure he opened for Wolf Parade last year.

9:37: $90-100 million for 5 years??!? Ichiro? PECOTA can be kind of conservative but it projects he’ll average like 3.2 extra wins a year during that period. Even accounting for the kind of international interest and revenue the dude brings in that is batshit insane money for ages 34-38 of a guy known for tons of singles and speed. But I guess he does plan to pitch eventually…

9:51: Take that NY Post! The Pepsi Clutch Report says A-Rod is plenty clutch! Also they say Pepsi is “the walk-off thirst homer you need for those close and late beverage situations!”

10:04: What was that? Sorry I dozed off a little during Joe Buck and Tim McCarver’s incredibly well-worn “everybody juiced their brains out for the past 10 years…but I guess we’ll never really know…but they definitely did” routine.

10:08: Ha. “Battle of Thermopylae II.” You still got it McCarver. I just like to imagine him fumbling over note-cards after Joe Buck layed up that 300 joke. “What?? I know those letters but they don’t make any sense like that!” A college intern starts pointing to objects to help him sound it out.

Therm…(but forget the “ometer”)…mop…um…mop? Yeah it’s for cleaning…listen it’s…yes, it’s really called a mop…no, stop saying thermopeter!...ok, just, focus…thermop…then pole…then ee! Ther-mop-pole-ee! (claps all around)”

10:11: Jesus…how much coke does Eric Byrnes do? All of it? Oh ok.

10:13: Wow. Forget what I said about Ichiro. First inside the park homer in ASG History? Give that man $40 million a year!

10:28: Big Daddy Craw goes deep! Crawman Jones! Hot Carl!

(Wait scratch that last one.)

10:47: I get it, Saito’s good. Also did McCarver said something like, “Saito…37 years old…1st ASG appearance…he’s been waiting for this for a long time!” Um. He’s only played 1 full season in the U.S. I mean, maybe back in Japan he was dreaming about being a part of the 2 ½ hour advertising orgy Fox has turned the game into. But I don’t know that and neither does McCarver. For all we know he’s profoundly depressed that he’s involved in something that kicked off with a Taco Bell giveaway.

11:04: First NL strikeout. This is actually pretty surprising, even considering the AL’s offensive powerhouse-ness. Peavy, Hamels and Young are 1st-3rd in the NL in K/9 among pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched. But whatever. Miniscule sample size exhibition game.

11:08: Hey remember when Pudge Rodriguez started the All Star Game even though Victor Martinez (along with most other AL catchers) was the better choice and then Martinez hit a 2-run dinger? I’m just saying.

11:32: Ugh. A-Rod vs. Varitek! The brawl that led the Red Sox to a World Series win! Why didn’t Fox show their standard montage set to Rage Against the Machine?

11:46: Thanks a lot Soriano (and to a lesser extent Putz.) I was just sprucing up the jokes, yawning off another year of AL dominance and getting ready to go to sleep.

11:57: What did I say K-Rod?? I’ve got work tomorrow! I’d call you BB-Rod if it didn’t sound like a new dish at Arby’s.

12:05: Ichiro as MVP? That’s cool. Wait he still doesn’t speak English? Roll him back to $20 million a year.

Labels: ,

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Regression to the Mean Is the Number One Thing

Hey, remember after the first few weeks or month of the season, where you couldn't blow your nose on the Internet without finding an article about how offense was down in MLB this year? That all the steroid scrutiny and controversy was resulting in hitters coming back to earth? Does anyone want to know why we aren't seeing those articles anymore?

Because offense is almost back to its 2006 level!

Runs/game in 2006 .... 4.85
Runs/game in 2007 .... 4.70

And how about team batting stats?

AVG/OBP/SLG in 2006 .... .269 / .336 / .423 / .768
AVG/OBP/SLG in 2007 .... .264 / .332 / .415 / .748

Home Run numbers are a little down from last year, but not by much (roughly, 0.13 HRs a game), but I have a feeling those may float back up by the end of the year, as pitching staffs thin and more marginal prospects get called up to fill roster space.


Friday, July 06, 2007

Downfall of Pitching

On XM today they were discussing how pitchers don't pitch as many innings anymore and don't have control of the inside corner and whatever, same stuff that's always discussed. Then one of the "pitching experts" said "we'll never see lots of complete games again and here's why", and I'm thinking yes! someone's finally going to talk some sense into the hosts but instead he went on this long diatribe about how kids today have lower standards so they will only perform up to the standards set for them. His example to prove this arbitrary and curmudgeonly statement was that you can go through high school now getting 63s and 65s on tests and get a free ride to Harvard.

What??? It's never been more competitive academically to get into schools than it is now, for one thing. For another thing, WHAT??? again.

All baseball players are better now. I don't care what grandpa says, players have much more muscle, throw harder, field better, have better mechanics, take atbats more seriously, pitch more strategically, practice infinitely more, etc. etc. Players are much more talented as well, as the baseball playing population has increased at a higher rate than the rate of expansion of teams. The best teams from the 90s and 00s would destroy the best teams from other decades PERIOD.

Now hitters have been able to take advantage of improvements in training much more than pitchers. Since the human shoulder was not designed to throw overhand, there is a limit as to how much you can practice pitching. There is also no way of reproducing having an allstar hitter standing in the box against you in practice, but for hitters than can hit against pitching machines that make better pitches than real humans.

Thankfully knowledge of pitch counts has been assimilated quickly so now all pitching coaches keep track of them to make sure pitchers don't get overworked. It's been shown empirically that around pitch 110 every further pitch puts you at increasingly high risk for an injury or reduced performance. Sure, we could let everyone throw 200 every night, but most pitchers would quickly need surgery. The ones that remained would be the physical freaks. This is how "natural" selection of pitchers used to work, only the guys who could throw a lot remained through the process. Not necessarily the best, just the ones that could throw the most. I'm glad I didn't watch baseball back then, when so many talented pitchers were burnt out for no reason other than ignorance.

Further, pitchers do not get injured more now. They just report injuries more, because if they didn't the injury would be reported in terms of reduced K/9, more hits allowed, etc anyway. With the talent of hitters and the quality of their equipment, it's impossible to get away with diminished stuff now, any muscle pull compromises your team and costs people millions of dollars.

I hate hearing people talk about how pitchers today need to "man up" and "finish what they started." Pitching quality has never been better, not even close, and everyone with half a brain is doing all they can to keep the best quality on the field. For the first time in baseball history the quality over quantity is being preferred, and in response general opinion is that pitchers are being "babied", or that pitching is "diluted." This couldn't be farther from the truth.

That said, hitters have more of an advantage now than they've had for a long time, so the mound should probably be raised again to tone down offense somewhat. It would speed up games and also would help pitchers stay on the mound longer, which seems to be what everyone whats.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Andy Pettitte Really Stinks

I know what you’re saying, you’re saying “Pettitte has the lowest ERA of any Yankee starter this year, he doesn’t stink, he’s actually one of the few guys on their team contributing.” (or you're saying "worst blog title ever.").

That is you might be saying the former if you were any one of the numerous baseball writers lauding Pettitte for his season so far. Instead if you’re reading this that means you know me, which also means you know that if you quote me ERA #’s I’ll probably put my hands on my ears and scream “la la la laaa laa Russ Ortiz* laa”.

If I try to make Pettitte look good this year (and a child is listening) I can say that he has the 17th best ERA in the AL, he’s pitched the 12th most innings, and he’s been keeping that hole on his chin relatively clean. He’s also had a pretty notable career so far mostly because of the teams he's been a cog in.

If I try to make him look bad it’s much easier. His WHIP is 50th among AL starters, his K/9 is 75th, and his K/BB is 56th. You might be saying, well he’s a ground ball pitcher so his G/F is what keeps him successful despite the awful peripherals. That’s fine, he is a ground ball pitcher, but his G/F isn’t even as good as that of Julian Tavarez. In fact Julian is perhaps the most comparable pitcher to Pettitte in the entire AL. If it wasn't for Julian's lower stamina they might be the same person.

I haven’t seen many arguments for Julian getting a spot in the Allstar game though while I have seen a few for Pettitte like this one where Dayn Perry says he’d pick Pettitte over Josh Beckett.

I know this is really simple, boring stuff, but people are still getting paid to write it so I might as well take the time to contradict it. Really the problem is Pettitte’s K-rate. He’s getting older and his stuff isn’t aging well. His K/9 right now is the lowest it has ever been in his career while his G/F is pretty comparable to everything since 1999 (around the time when he began to lose his dominating cut fastball). Moving to the NL when he did kept his stats respectable but the AL will continue to make reality harsh for him.

Despite his recent trend of stinking he still seems to have many fans who through the art of revisionist history have assigned him a clutch coefficient of nearly Derek Jeterian levels (you know Jeter, the man made of pure clutch who eats clutch for breakfast and ups his OPS from a pedestrian .853 in the regular season to a both superhuman and gritty .863 in the post season?) . Well the facts say Pettite's similarly as clutch, or in this case nonclutch (3.81 ERA in regular season, 4.08 ERA in post season).

*I mention Russ Ortiz because he is my poster child for outperforming your peripherals. The D-Backs learned the hard lesson that past ERA doesn’t predict future ERA when he took $27 million of their borrowed money for zero on field contribution. Don't feel too bad D-Backs, most of baseball was fooled.

Labels: ,

Sunday, July 01, 2007

2006 Relief Aces
A while ago I decided to look at the top relief pitchers in baseball last year. This blurb doesn't seek to introduce any novel ideas about quantifying relief pitching, but merely examines who I think were the best relief pitchers last season.

I used some initial criteria to separate the wheat from the chaff of literally hundreds of MLB relief pitchers in '06. First, the relief pitcher must have some staying power, so at least 60 innings pitched. Second of all, their WHIP for the season must be at or below 1.25. Anyone who doesn't know WHIP at this point should know that WHIP basically shows how many baserunners you are giving up every inning, and in my opinion 1.25 is around where the "good" pitchers emerge.

What I am not counting are stats often thrown about to measure a reliever's performance, like saves, ERA or (shudder) holds (which is like a save except you weren't the last pitcher). These stats are either highly dependent on how your teammates perform, or they can unfairly reward bad pitching. A closer can enter the game with a 3-run lead, give up two runs, load the bases and get the same "save" that someone who enters and racks up 3 strikeouts does. Or even more maddening (if you believe saves carry psychological heft), a closer could give up the lead ("blow the save"), but then his team scores extra runs, and he gets a win! Lastly, ERA can be deceptive if a reliever has a couple awful outings but mostly good ones, since they traditionally pitch much less than a starter.

Anyway, after looking at 60 IP and 1.25 WHIP, this leaves us with 35 individuals who satisfied both of these goals. However, I'm not trying to measure "good" relief pitchers, I'm looking for our "relief aces." Players that can repeatedly stonewall an opponent's batters; normally in situations where the game is still close and the mental stakes are (theoretically) high.

So, we need a second metric. I picked three other stats that indicate good pitching. Walks allowed (BB), Home Runs allowed (HR), and their "K/9" rate (which represents their average strikeouts if they pitched a nine-inning game). Importantly, I (somewhat arbitrarily) decided that to be a "relief ace" you need to meet at least TWO of these thresholds:

10 HR or less
20 BBs or less
K/9 of at least 8

When this is calculated, we have 23 "relief aces." Here they are, and the fact that the names won't surprise you suggests that the metric is relatively accurate. I believe they are ranked by WHIP:

J. Papelbon - 3 HR, 13 BB, 9.88 K/9
J. Nathan - 3 HR, 16 BB, 12.51 K/9
B.J. Ryan - 3 HR, 20 BB, 10.70 K/9
T. Saito - 3 HR, 23 BB, 12.29 K/9
J.J. Putz - 4 HR, 13 BB, 11.95 K/9
M. Rivera - 3 HR, 11 BB, 6.6 K/9
T. Hoffman - 6 HR, 13 BB, 7.14 K/9
S. Shields - 8 HR, 24 BB, 8.6 K/9
R. Soriano - 6 HR, 21 BB, 9.75 K/9
H. Street - 4 HR, 13 BB, 8.53

K-Rod - 6 HR, 28 BB, 12.08
B. Wagner - 7 HR, 21 BB, 11.7
B. Howry - 8 HR, 17 BB, 8.34
A. Wainwright - 6 HR, 22 BB, 8.64
D. Wheeler - 5 HR, 24 BB, 8.58
C. Bradford - 1 HR, 13 BB, 6.53
B. Fuentes - 8 HR, 26 BB, 10.06
J. Zumaya - 6 HR, 42 BB, 10.48
F. Rodney - 6 HR, 34 BB, 8.16
S. Linebrink - 9 HR, 22 BB, 8.09
L. Vizcaino - 8 HR, 29 BB, 9.92
J. Broxton - 7 HR, 33 BB, 11.44
J. Peralta - 10 HR, 17 BB, 6.96

What some MSM baseball writers would take from this ... lots of relievers have names with a J in it!

Also, please note that Cla Meredith and Pat Neshek would probably be on this list, but they fell short of the innings requirement.

As a final note, only 6 pitchers in 2006 meet all my thresholds (60+ IPs, 1.25 or less WHIP, 10 HRs or less, 20 BBs or less, 8+ K/9). So these were the best of the best in 2006:

J. Papelbon - 3 HR, 13 BB, 9.88 K/9
J. Nathan - 3 HR, 16 BB, 12.51 K/9
B.J. Ryan - 3 HR, 20 BB, 10.70 K/9
J.J. Putz - 4 HR, 13 BB, 11.95 K/9
H. Street - 4 HR, 13 BB, 8.53
B. Howry - 8 HR, 17 BB, 8.34

The J conspiracy continues...

Labels: , ,