Archive for Outside the Box

2011 Disabled List Spreadsheet and Team Information

I have gone through all of the 2011 MLB transactions and compiled the disabled list (DL) data for the 2011 season. I have put all the information in a Google Doc for people to use

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Effects of Intentional Walks on Non-Intentional Walks

Intentional walks (IBB) are usually given to good and/or unprotected players in a lineup. Pitchers would rather face the next, weaker hitting batter. The IBBs lead to an inflated walk rate (BB%) for hitters. By removing IBB from a player’s BB%, a true walk rate emerges. A problem I noticed was that when a player’s IBB% increases so does their non-intentional walk rate (NIBB%). Here is an attempt at putting some numbers behind the assumption.

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Mile Fly City?

Recently, one of our readers, Simon, noted that the Rockies might be targeting fly-ball pitchers with the recent additions of Guillermo Moscoso, Jamie Moyer and Jeremy Guthrie. I decided to examine if going after fly-ball pitchers was a practical method for limiting runs at Coors Field.

In an ideal world, the Rockies would love to have all extreme sinker-ball pitchers. The Rockies GM, Dan O’Dowd, stated this stance recently on Clubhouse Confidential.

In an ideal world, every single guy in Colorado would be a heavy sinker ball guy who would have a tremendous ground ball to fly ball ratio.

It is not an ideal world and he knows it. He goes on further to state:

Unfortunately not all of our decisions are made in an ideal world. When we balance fly ball rates, we really try to balance soft and hard.

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Bernie Williams, Post Season and the Hall of Fame

The Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum will release its list of  soon-to-be inductees on Monday. Some discussion has focused on Bernie Williams and how much his postseason performance should count towards his hall candidacy. I’ll look at a simple way to add postseason plate-appearances into a player’s career WAR.

Of all the candidates eligible for the hall of fame in 2012, Williams had the most postseason plate appearances — and by a large margin. He had 545 of them, which is more than twice as many as any other hall-eligible player. Javy Lopez is second with 225, and Fred McGriff comes in at 218. Impressively, 141 of Williams’ 545 plate appearances came during the World Series. For reference, Williams’ World Series total is nearly three times as many as  Mark McGwire, who had 53.

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Umpires of the LDS

The list of umpires scheduled for the LDS has been released. As much as they should not be a factor in the games, several of their decisions will ultimately be scrutinized this postseason. The following is a look at which umpire strike zones are most likely to get notice and affect the game.

I am not going to get into any discussion on if the umpires and their strike zones are good or bad. They are their own individuals. The more I look into the subject, the differences can be some of the 2% that can be exploited to gain an advantage over other teams.

At the beginning of the season, I rated which of the umpires are the most hitter and pitcher friendly. Here is a look at each umpire, their rating and what series and game, for now, they are to umpire. I know there are only five games, but I included the last umpire in case there are any changes. The umpires at the top of the list are more hitter friendly and those at the bottom are more pitcher friendly:

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Phillies = 10 Bottom Dwellers

The Phillies are the best team in baseball this season. Their pitching staff is amazing and the hitters are good. Here is a look at how many bad teams would need to be combined to make a team that would be comparable to the Phillies in talent.

Note: The WAR values used in the article are from 9/21 have changed a bit since I collected the data.

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Crowdsourcing: Roger Maris’ Batting Profile

Recently it was brought to my attention that Roger Maris had a career BABIP of 0.254. This value seems low for him or any player with an extended major league career. In the video I have seen of him, he looks like a line drive hitter. With your help, I would like to find out what kind of batted ball profile Maris had over his career.

Maris’ BABIP was always low throughout his career. In his first MVP season of 1960, it was 0.255. In 1961, the season when he hit 61 home runs, it was 0.209. It averaged anywhere from 0.209 to 0.287 over his career.

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Game Theory: End of Game Pitch Location

Over at The Book Blog, Mitchel Lichtman commented that Astros pitcher Mark Melancon, should not have thrown an inside fastball on a 2-2 count with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to the Diamondbacks’ Paul Goldschmidt. Instead the pitcher should be looking to throw a ball on the outside part of the plate. I decided to take a look at the location and results of similar pitches and the effect on the Win Probability Added (WPA) of the game.

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Your Sabermetric Choices

I’ve seen some stories floating around the blogosphere which relate to the choices you have when it comes to your baseball stats. In general, the stories have been directed at the SIERA metric, which was unveiled in great detail last week. Overall, the reception was very positive and we’re really glad Matt Swartz agreed to work with us.

Here at FanGraphs, we’re about expanding baseball knowledge and enjoyment through opinion and analysis. Obviously, we think adding SIERA to the site brought something new to the table and we wouldn’t have added it had we thought otherwise.

That’s not to say that reasonable people can’t disagree. If you think one ERA estimator is too complex and is ruining baseball, that’s fine. You’re welcome to use another of our myriad statistics. I’m sure you’ll find one that works for you. From our perspective, our variety is our strength. Whether you use FIP, xFIP, tERA, SIERA or plain, old ERA to judge pitchers, the whole point of this site is to heighten your knowledge — and enjoyment — of baseball.

For those of you who don’t know how FanGraphs selects its statistics, it should be noted that we don’t develop in-house figures. We look around and edit down the incredibly large selection of metrics being created and then select the ones that have the most relevance. We work closely with those statistics’ creators to make sure things are calculated and displayed properly.

Denouncing work by claiming it’s anti-baseball does everyone a diservice. No one is forcing our readers to use these numbers. In fact, I hope you look at them critically and let us know how we can make them better. I’m betting that improvements would mean more — not less — statistical investigation, critical thinking and debate among the thousands of baseball fans who visit our site daily.

Whether you like your baseball full of complex stats or void of stats entirely, there’s a place for you at FanGraphs. And, in my mind, that’s exactly how it should be.

The 2011 All-Flub Team

With the All-Star Game coming up tomorrow — and with my already-exposed love of flipping leaderboards on their head — I figure it’s about time I put together an anti-all-star team. Baseball coverage is dominated this week by talk about the best players in the game, so why not spend some time looking at which players have been the worst in the majors this season?

There are many different ways to choose who’s been “the worst” player at each position — just like there are multiple ways of choosing the best player — but for the sake of simplicity, I used Wins Above Replacement (WAR) to compile this list. I didn’t simply choose the player with the lowest WAR at a position, though; I gave preference to players that had more playing time, and I chose to put less weight on defensive performance. I try to explain any slightly odd selections that I made, but feel free to make arguments for different players in the comments.

Without further ado, here are your 2011 starting American and National League All-Flub teams:

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What Are the Biggest Rivalries in Baseball?

What a tough question. What are the top rivalries in baseball? I’m sure Yankees fans will claim it’s Yanks-Boston, but if you went out on the West Coast, I bet you’d hear plenty of fans saying Giants-Dodgers deserves more consideration. How exactly do you declare one rivalry “bigger” than another? How do you measure fan excitement, and compare one fanbase against another? Is it possible?

Probably not, but regardless, I’m going to take a stab at it anyway. My methodology is very simple: I’m ranking rivalries based on the amount of Google hits returned for the search “(Team name) (Team name) rivalry”.  I freely admit that I’ve stolen this idea from other people, notably Nate Silver who in the past has used Google hits as a proxy for voter awareness of presidential candidates.

Is this method perfect? No, of course not. It enters in certain biases, as the media undoubtedly shapes which rivalries are written about over others, but I think the results are nonetheless fascinating. Take them with a grain of salt if you will, but overall, I’d say these rankings come close to modeling reality.

This first chart ranks the top rivalries in the American League, separated out by division. The AL East is on the left, AL Central in the….center, and AL West on the right.

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The Next Market Inefficiencies: Little People in Baseball

The following is the first and behemoth installment of a three-part (or more) series concerning baseball’s next great market inefficiencies.

The STRIKE ZONE is that area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the kneecap. The Strike Zone shall be determined from the batter’s stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball.

Official MLB Rulebook, Page 22

On Tuesday, in the sixth round of the MLB Draft, the San Diego Padres selected outfielder Kyle Gaedele (who the Tampa Bay Rays had previously drafted in the 32nd round of the 2008 draft). Gaedele plays center field and shows good signs of hitting for power, but what most writers, sports fans, and guys named Bradley talk about is Gaedele’s great uncle.

Casual fans probably do not know about Kyle’s great uncle, Eddie Gaedel (who removed the e off his last name for show-business purposes). We nerds can forgive the casual fan for forgetting a player who outdid, in his career, only the great Otto Neu. Gaedel took a single at-bat, walked to first, and then left for a pinch runner.

What makes Eddie Gaedel a unique and important part of baseball history, however, is not his statistics, per se, but his stature. Gaedel stood 3’7″ tall, almost half the height of his great nephew. Gaedel was the first and last little person to play in Major League Baseball, and the time has come for that to change.

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When Character and Makeup Matter

Have you ever noticed how debates have a tendency to polarize a conversation? I sometimes feel like engaging in a debate with someone makes it less likely that we’ll find a common ground on some issue, as both sides dig in, believing they are 100% accurate while the other side is spewing garbage. Points get exaggerated in an effort to prove the other person wrong, and the debate becomes a black-or-white affair with none of the all important shades of gray. I’ve noticed this before with players: if the mainstream media likes a player more than I feel they’re worth, I have a tendency to push back against that and over-exaggerate the player’s flaws in an attempt to balance out the other side. Jason Bartlett didn’t deserve to be named the Rays’ MVP in 2008, but he was certainly more valuable than the amount of flak he received from saber-Rays fans as a result.

When the Luis Castillo news came out last Friday, I was immediately reminded of the old sabermetric discussions over “grit” and team chemistry. Up until a few seasons ago, many mainstream writers (and fans) loved to tout the importance of chemistry in leading a team to success, and they had a tendency to treat gritty players that work hard and play the game “the right way” as demigods. That’s not say that these type of arguments have vanished; there are still plenty of writers and fans that value chemistry and grit, but it’s become tougher and tougher to find articles espousing that point of view. For the most part, this is a debate that the saberists have won: it’s not that character attributes don’t exist, but that they have a very small influence on performance and are impossible to separate from all the surrounding statistical noise.

But just because something has a small and indeterminate effect doesn’t mean we can ignore it completely.  In fact, I’d argue that a General Manager should take a player’s makeup into account…just not as much as the grit lovers would have you believe.

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BABIP and Home Field Advantage

With several recent discussions (here and here and here and here) on home team advantage (HTA) – which began with Tobias Moskowitz’s and L. Jon Wertheim’s new book Scorecasting – I decided to see if I could find any reasonable causes for the advantage. I decided to look into areas that I thought home teams may have an advantage, namely errors (not much – about 2 wins league wide) and base running (some), but the number that caught my eye was the differences in batting average on balls in play from the home and away team. Here are the differences in BABIP for the home and away teams over the last few years:

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Iwakuma and the Inefficiency of the Posting System

It’s been a while, so let me refresh your memories: Hisashi Iwakuma and Oakland were unable to come to terms on a contract, and the righty will remain in Japan next season. Iwakuma earns the somewhat dubious distinction of being the first posted NPB player not to sign with the team that had won his rights.

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Interview: John Coppolella of the Braves

At the winter meetings this week, John Coppolella, the Braves Director of Baseball Administration, was kind enough to sit down with me and answer some questions about the Braves, his role on the team, and the current state of statistical analysis in the game. He’s a bright young executive in the game, and has a great perspective on the work that front offices do, so this was nothing but a pleasure.

Eno Sarris: What is your role with the Braves exactly? Can you describe what you do?

John Coppolella: I help out [General Manager] Frank Wren and [Assistant General Manager] Bruce Manno. I help them by executing our depth charts, prospect lists, arbitration cases and our statistical analysis. When we break down players, we will use stuff that we find on sites like FanGraphs sometimes. We were in the room a few days back, and we were sorting guys by UZR/150. There’s probably about 10 or 15 we will take from your site, five or 10 from here, from there. We’re always trying to find new information.

Eno Sarris
: That’s interesting. I was going to ask you about how aware you are of the stuff that is out there. In particular, valuing defense – there’s a lot of work being done right now trying to figure out how far we’ve gotten with defensive statistics. How do you feel about defensive statistics – do you have any advice for those that are working on defensive numbers?

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Comparing FIPS and xFIPS Using Batted Ball Distance

In one of the World Series chats I hosted, it was stated that Matt Cain gave up weak fly balls and that is the reason that his xFIPs (2010 = 4.19 and lifetime = 4.43 ) are higher than his FIPs (2010 = 3.65, lifetime = 3.84). After finally getting all the wrinkles worked out, I am able to get the average distance for fly balls given up by a pitcher. So, does the fly ball distance given up by a pitcher help to explain the difference between his xFIPs and FIPs?

I took just the pitchers that threw over 60 innings in 2010 and subtracted their FIPs from their xFIPs. Then I got the average distance of all the fly balls for these pitchers and here are the top five leaders and laggards:

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How it Turned Out: Pacific League

Last month, I previewed the pennant races in Japan. The Central League is still winding down, but the Pacific League’s season is in the books, so let’s take a look at how things shook out.

Here are the final standings:

The first thing you’ll notice is that the League Champion, the Softbank Hawks, won fewer games than the second-place Seibu Lions. Softbank won the title by virtue of out-tying Seibu, thus losing fewer games and having a higher win percentage. In this case, “win percentage” is defined as “percentage of games not resulting in a tie won” rather than “percentage of games played won”. I must say, I don’t mind the presence of ties but I’m not crazy about the team with the most wins finishing second.

The pennant race was somewhat of a battle of attrition, with neither Seibu nor Softbank really putting the other way until the end. Seibu maintained a comfortable lead until mid-September, when they were swept in a three-game series by Softbank as part of a larger five-game losing streak. Softbank continued winning, and took the league lead on September 25, with Toshiya Sugiuchi out-dueled Yu Darvish with a masterful 1-0 shutout. That game not only put Softbank into first, but bumped Nippon Ham out of the third and final playoff spot. Lotte won its last few games against Orix, hanging on to the third spot and relegating the Buffaloes to a just sub-.500 record. Despite finishing outside of the top three for the first time in five years, Nippon Ham picked up the most ground in September, finishing a half game behind Lotte after being five back at the time of my earlier post.

The also-rans were interesting this year. Orix finished fifth, but put up a real fight in a rebuilding year, that included the unfortunate suicide of outfielder Hiroyuki Oze during spring training. And Rakuten took a big step back after a second-place finish last season, a result that cost first-manager Marty Brown his job. Rakuten boasted a respectable rotation, led by MLB-bound Hisashi Iwakuma, but a shallow bullpen, an anemic offense, and, ultimately, Brown took the fall for it. Despite that, Rakuten could have a strong draft and find a couple of import sluggers and get back into reasonable contention next season.

The Pacific League plays begin on October 9, with Seibu and Lotte playing a three-game set. A three-game series can obviously go either way and the teams are pretty evenly matched, but I’m giving Seibu a little bit of an edge. I think their top three starters are a little better than Lotte’s.

Kenny Powers Hates Computers

The self-proclaimed greatest pitcher there ever was returned to HBO last night to try his hand in a Mexican League (not to be confused with THE Mexican League, as far as I know).

Clearly Kenny Powers doesn’t read FanGraphs because Kenny Powers “f**king hates computers, all kinds.”

But, if he did, besides calling the site something heinously profane, he might remember that for his career he averaged just above .5 wins above replacement per season — not to mention that, even in his best season, he would have only barely cracked the top 20 relief pitchers according to WAR.

Season Team   G    IP  W   L  SV   SO  BB  ER    ERA  WAR
2001   GWT*  15  23.0  4   0  12   28   0   1   0.39    ----
2002   ATL   62  66.1  7   3  49  106  30  21   2.85    1.75
2003   NYA   64  62.2  7   3  39   79  20  33   4.74    1.13
2004   SFG   52  54.2  3  10  30   44  27  40   6.59   -0.46
2005   BOS   15  12.2  0   6   3    6   9  12   8.57   -0.31

The good news is, that assuming Kenny Powers is between the age of 29-31 (based on being drafted in 1999), he still has plenty of time to make it back to the big leagues!

Down the Stretch in Japan

We’re a couple days into September,and about a month left in the season, nine of the 12 NPB have a chance at making the playoffs.

Before we delve into the standings, here’s how the playoff system works.

Nippon Professional Baseball has two leagues, the Central and the Pacific, each of which consist of six teams. Each year, the top three finishers from each league advance to the playoffs, known as the Climax Series. The Climax Series is split up into two stages, which break down like this:

1st Stage: 3rd vs 2nd, in a best-of-three series. Winner advances to the 2nd stage.

2nd Stage: winner of 1st stage vs the league champion, in a best-of-seven series with a twist*. Winner advances to the Nippon Series.

* The the 2nd stage is formatted like a best-of-seven series, but the league champion is automatically credited with a one-game advantage at the start of the series. So a maximum of only six games is played, and the league champion only has to win three games to advance to the Nippon Series, but the challenger would have to win four. Since this format was introduced in 2008, there have been no upsets in the 2nd Stage. Prior to 2008, the 2nd Stage was a standard best-of-five series.

In both stages, the team ranked higher in the standings gets home field advantage. The first place finisher is considered the league champion, even if they fail to reach the Nippon Series.

Make sense? If not, let me know in the comments.

After the jump, you’ll find the current (as of September 3) NPB standings, borrowed from NPB’s official site.

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