Archive for December, 2005

Daily Graphing – Matt Morris

Every team is looking for pitching and this winter quality pitchers are in short supply. Matt Morris is one of the few big name free agent pitchers on the market this off season and undoubtedly many teams will be interested in acquiring his services. Will teams get what they're looking for in Matt Morris?


As you can see his strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) have been down year over year for the past four years. He's managed to get away with this worrisome trend for two reasons:


The first reason is his walk rate, which he managed to get down to a career low 1.7 walks per 9 innings (BB/9). If you can't strike people out, at least make them work to get on base. The second reason is that he plays for the Cardinals. They gave him 4.48 runs on average each time he took the mound, the 8th most in baseball.

Teams considering Matt Morris should not expect him to revert to his 2001-2002 form, but rather they should think of Cory Lidle (they had remarkably similar stats) when signing him. Matt Morris will be a solid 3rd starter for most teams, but anything more should be considered a bonus.

Daily Graphing – Aaron Heilman

Aaron Heilman has been mentioned recently in many trade rumors, all involving big name players such as Manny Ramirez and Barry Zito. Lets take a look at why he's such a hot commodity on the trade market.


Looking at his rolling ERA, you can see he basically gave up nothing towards the end of the season. Since being moved to the bullpen he gave up 16 runs in 70 innings of work, an ERA of 2.91. In the last two months of the season he gave up a mere 2 runs in 33 plus innings of work. This was good enough for him to split the closers job in the final weeks of the season where he went 4 for 4 in save chances.


His strikeouts per nine inning (K/9) have been on the rise since he was moved to the bullpen. As a reliever his K/9 sits at an elite 9.8 compared to 7.2 as a starter.


He's even managed to decrease his walks per 9 innings every year he's been in the majors. There's still room for improvement, but if he continues to strike out batters at his current rate, he can probably live with an average walk rate. Francisco Cordero, the Ranger's closer, finds success with a similar strikeout rate and a much higher walk rate.


To add to the good news, he's also a ground ball pitcher! What's not to like about him? It's quite clear that Aaron Heilman has tremendous upside as a reliever, and maybe even as a starter. As you can see there's a reason why so many teams are interested in him and it will take a big name player for the Mets to move him.

Research – Home Runs & Fly Balls

I thought I'd try something a little different today and write about some research I've been doing on home runs and fly balls. Most of this research was spurred by a good discussion that's ongoing in our forums section between Russ, Mike and me. The first question posed was, “How much of a batter's power is related to his Fly Ball/Ground Ball ratio?” Knowing that most home runs are the result of fly balls (a few are line drive), it seemed to make sense that if a player hit more fly balls he'd be rewarded with more home runs. For a quick answer to that question I put together a scatter plot of each player's Home Runs per Balls Hit into Play (HR/BIP) and his FB/GB ratio using 2002-2005 data.


As you can see, the trend would indicate there is some correlation between how often a player hits fly balls and his home run production, but unfortunately it's not all that strong a correlation. One thing to note is that players who hit an extremely high number of ground balls don't hit a lot of home runs, but once you exit the extreme groundball category the less conclusions you can make about a batters power based on his FB/GB ratio.

What about pitchers? Does their FB/GB ratio dictate how many home runs they give up? Here's the same scatter plot for pitchers.


There is definitely a different shape here, but essentially it shows a similar correlation (but slightly stronger) to what the batter's graph showed. Either way, I think it's safe to say that just because a batter hits or a pitcher allows a lot of fly balls doesn't mean they'll be exiting the park. However, it does seem like the more fly balls a player hits/allows, the more susceptible to home runs he becomes.

Tomorrow (or later today), I'll be writing about how much control a pitcher has over his home runs allowed.

Daily Graphing – Esteban Loaiza

Yesterday, free agent Esteban Loaiza was signed by the Oakland Athletics to a 3 year deal worth slightly over 21 million dollars. Esteban Loaiza has been quite the enigma the past three years. After being consistently average for the first 8 years of his career, he shocked everyone in 2003 by winning 21 games with a 2.90 ERA and finished second in the AL Cy Young balloting. Then in 2004 he had one of the worst seasons of his career by posting a 5.71 ERA. Last year, determined to prove that his 2003 season was not entirely a fluke, he went 12-10 with an ERA of 3.77. Don't let that 12-10 record fool you either. He had 24 quality starts, the 6th best in the majors and some very poor run support. So, the big question is, who is the real Esteban Loaiza?


He's certainly not someone who walks a lot of batters. As you can see he's done a very good job limiting free bases over the course of his career. The one exception was 2004 and most of his trouble came after he was traded to the Yankees. Before being traded to the Yankees he had a walks per 9 innings (BB/9) of 2.9. With the Yankees it jumped to an abysmal 5.5 BB/9. I think it's safe to say that was a fluke. Since he has his walks under control, strikeouts will be one of the major keys to his success.


As you can see, in 2003 his strikeouts per 9 innings (K/9) took a major jump mostly due to an improved cut fastball and changeup. In 2004 in dropped back down to his career levels and then in 2005 it was up again. What the graph above doesn't show you is that in 2004 his K/9 was creeping back up to 2003 levels the entire year. In the first half of 2004 his K/9 was 5.1 where in the second half it was 6.9.


The other key to his success in 2003 and 2005 was limiting the number of home runs he allowed. He's actually been all over the map in home runs per 9 innings (HR/9) and I wouldn't be too surprised if he allowed more home runs next year.


I think Esteban Loaiza is one of these overvalued/undervalued players where some people can't get past his 8 years of mediocrity and others are still hung up on his 21 win season. I have to admit, I've been on the mediocrity side for quite some time, but as long as he doesn't allow too many home runs I think he'll be a quality pitcher. He's never had a problem with walks and it looks like his increased strikeouts are for real.

Season Comparisons

You can now compare up to three player's season stats on one graph. You'll find this under each players “compare” tab. I'll probably begin work on comparing daily graphs a little later.

To compare Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, and Roger Clemens click here….

Daily Graphing – Kevin Millwood

Did you know Kevin Millwood holds one of the more annoying records among active players? He has the least amount of wins per start of any pitcher with an ERA under 3 in a single season. It's fun to invent records! The reason for this lack of wins is that the Indians gave him only 85 runs to work with, a mere 2.8 per start. The only pitcher to have less run support than him and have a winning record in 2005 was Roger Clemens, and he needed a sub 2 ERA to do it. So now that Kevin Millwood has filed for free agency, is it realistic for teams to expect another sub 3 ERA from him?


There were three places he made improvements this year, the first being his walk rate. This was slightly offset by a drop in his strikeout rate, but overall his strikeout to walk ratio was up on the year, but not by much. So why such a big difference in his ERA from 2004 to 2005?


His Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) was dubiously high in 2004. As you can see it has dropped back down to a more normal level this year. There was also a slight rise in his percent of ground balls induced, but it's not such a large rise that it alone could be the cause for his good season.


Despite the improvements in walks, ground balls, and BABIP, I think it would be difficult for him to repeat his 2005 season. However, I do think that he'll be able to keep his ERA well below 4, and chances are he'll have better run support which will mean more wins. Kevin Millwood may not quite be the pitcher teams are looking for as an ace, but he's more than capable of being any team's second starter.

Daily Graphing – John Patterson

After suffering various setbacks through out his career, John Patterson finally pitched his first full season in 2005 for the Washington Nationals. I guess you could say it was worth the wait, as he led the Nationals pitching staff with a 3.13 ERA in just under 200 innings while striking out a team high 185 batters. In July and August he was one of the top 5 pitchers in baseball by going 5-2 with a 1.87 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 81-plus innings of work. Now that he has one full year under his belt, what should we expect from John Patterson in 2006?


For starters he has a good strikeout to walk ratio (K/BB) of 2.85 and very good strikeouts per 9 innings (K/9) of 8.4 for a starting pitcher. He relies mostly on his fastball which he usually throws in the low 90's but tops out at 97 mph. Occasionally he'll mix in his slider and curveball, but almost never when behind in the count. He'll really start to throw his curveball when he gets two strikes on a batter and it appears to have become his most reliable strikeout pitch. His slider is also a quite effective strikeout pitch, but he doesn't throw it nearly as often with two strikes.


The one thing you have to worry about with him is that he's an extreme fly ball pitcher. Last year he allowed only 7.5% of his fly balls to become home runs (FB/HR). Typically pitchers tend to regress towards the league average of around 11%, but playing in R.F.K. Stadium will certainly help him keep that number lower than average. R.F.K. Stadium has a HR/FB of only 7%, the lowest in baseball.


John Patterson will only be 28 years old next season and has just entered what should be his prime years. Don't read too much into his 9-7 record as he got very little run support with the Nationals. His strikeouts are just where they need to be and there's no reason he still can't continue to limit his walks. As long as he's pitching in R.F.K. Stadium, or other pitcher friendly parks I don't think there's as much cause for alarm as there usually would be in the home run department. His injury history leaves some concern, but if healthy, there's no reason why he can't do just as well as last year if not better. And if the Nationals can manage to pony up some runs for him, more wins will certainly be on the way.

Daily Graphing – Jim Thome

For the first time in 7 years, Jim Thome failed play in over 140 games after having season ending elbow surgery in mid August. Before his decision to shut things down, he was easily having the worst season of his career by batting only .207 with a mere 7 home runs in 193 at bats. Jim Thome insists he'll be fully recovered from shoulder surgery next season and ready to play for his new team, the White Sox. While a rebound for the slugger is almost a certainty, how much of an improvement over last year should be expected?


First let's address his poor batting average. Besides injuries, some of his .207 batting average can be attributed to a very low Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP). As you can see his 2005 BABIP of .260 is way out of line with his career averages and should revert to at least the .300 mark next year. In addition to his low BABIP, his walk to strikeout ratio remains above average which only bolsters evidence that his batting average will rebound.


However, the area where he experienced the most severe decline was not his batting average but his Isolated Power (ISO). Much of this decline is likely due to injuries, but he'll be 36 years old next season and I'd be surprised if his age wasn't slightly responsible for the decrease in power.


If Jim Thome can remain healthy next season, I don't see any reason why he won't have a significant rebound. His batting average should return to around his career averages, but I'd be surprised if he had another 40 home run season. Considering his health and age, I think 30 home runs is more within reason.

Daily Graphing – Jason Schmidt

The Giants picked up Jason Schmidt's 2006 option yesterday for 10.5 million dollars. Over the past 4 or so years, he has been one of the better pitchers in baseball with a winning percentage of 69%. That puts him at the 6th best in baseball for that same time period. The only knock against him is that he can't pitch an entire season without getting injured at least once. It will come as no surprise then, if I tell you over the past 4 years he is 3rd in pitches thrown per start.


If you take a look at his strikeouts per 9 innings, he reached a 4 year low. I'm not too concerned about this since it still sits at an excellent 8.6. The real drop off came in the free base department.


As you can see, he allowed more walks per 9 innings last year than he had since the 2000 season. Why did he have such a down year in 2005? Could it be the fact that he threw the most pitches per start of any pitcher in all of baseball in 2004? In 21 starts before his injury that year, he averaged a whopping 120 pitches per start. He did have a decreased workload last year, down nearly 600 pitches from the year before. Hopefully he'll come back next year well rested, but the Giants might be wise to put him on a strict pitch count. I think if he can stay healthy and relatively fatigue free for an entire season he has the ability to be a serious Cy Young contender.

Daily Graphing – B.J. Ryan

Congratulations to the White Sox for winning their first World Series since 1917. Before I go onto the usual daily graphing, I feel it necessary to rant about the headline pretty much everyone chose to use for the White Sox win, “Say it's So!” or its wordier cousin, “Say it IS So!” I actually saw this same headline being used when they made the World Series, and now it's being used again, and again, and again…. The worst part is, this play on the now famous cry of a small boy in reference to the 1919 White Sox scandal never actually happened. Rant over. Let's take a look at B.J. Ryan.

Free agent B.J. Ryan was given the Orioles closers job last year and he thrived in it. He converted 36 saves out of 41 chances, a solid 88% successful conversion rate. More importantly, he kept his strikeout rate ridiculously high for the second season in a row.


Of all active players, his 2005 K/9 of 12.79 is the 11th highest of any other single season. That puts him in the elite company of Eric Gagne, Brad Lidge, and Billy Wagner to name a few.


To go with a career high strikeout rate, he also managed to get his walks down to a career low. As you can see from the BB/9 graph above, there's still room for improvement here. The only weird thing is his high Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) of .337. I don't exactly know how to explain it, but it could have to do with the Orioles defense. Whatever the reason may be, it's quite possible he hasn't reached his ceiling yet. Barring injury, he should be worth every penny he gets.

Research – What if everything was equal?

The article I wrote about Juan Padilla being the luckiest pitcher in baseball got me thinking that maybe combining the three statistics of BABIP, HR/FB, and LOB% was not the best way to display a pitcher's overall “luck”. So instead of championing “Luck Factor” as a useful stat, I'm going to make a “luckless” ERA or luck independent ERA (iERA) which will have better practical applications. The formula is actually pretty simple:

iERA = ( ((.3627 * IP) – (.1287 * K) + (.1408 * FB) + (.3 * BB)) * 8.28) / IP

Basically this formula was the result of a bunch of relatively simple algebra on the three “luck” statistics HR/FB, BABIP and LOB%. Instead of solving each formula for each player, I plugged in the major league average for each, and proceeded to find out how many home runs, hits, unearned runs, and finally earned runs a player would have if everything was equal. This formula should normalize ERA for park, league, and in some sense, competition. In other words, it gives a pitcher's ERA as if all pitchers pitched under the same conditions.


Let's take a look at how iERA compares to regular ERA. Naturally there is some correlation here, but the correlation isn't that great. I just did this to make sure they were actually measuring two different things, and they do. What iERA does have a high correlation with is a pitchers strikeout to walk ratio. Not much of surprise here as strikeouts and walks (and fly balls) are what sets pitchers apart in iERA.


So you're probably asking, why should I care about a pitcher's iERA? It's actually quite good at telling you how lucky a pitcher was in any particular year. As you can see, once a player's ERA and iERA start to differ by more than 20%, there's about a 75% chance that his ERA and iERA will be closer the following year. Once you start to see a difference in ERA and iERA over 70%, it's pretty much a given that his ERA and iERA will be closer the next season.


Furthermore, the amount that a player's ERA will revert to iERA is somewhat a function of how far it deviated in the first place. Player's don't tend to stray from a 0% difference in ERA and iERA much further than 20% on average.


So just for kicks, let's take a look at some of the bigger discrepancies in iERA and ERA the past four years and see what they've done the following year. Here are 5 starters and 5 relievers that had a much lower ERA than they did iERA in 2004.

		2004			2005		
Name		ERA	iERA	% Dif	ERA	iERA	% Dif
Joe Nathan	1.62	3.80	-81%	2.70	3.65	-30%
Mike Gonzalez	1.25	2.83	-78%	2.70	4.15	-42%
Steve Kline	1.79	4.00	-77%	4.28	4.67	-9%
Luke Hudson	2.42	5.07	-71%	6.38	5.25	19%
Akinori Otsuka	1.75	3.62	-70%	3.59	4.19	-15%

		2004			2005		
Name		ERA	iERA	% Dif	ERA	iERA	% Dif
Jake Peavy	2.27	3.83	-51%	2.88	3.56	-21%
Al Leiter	3.21	5.07	-45%	6.13	5.41	12%
Bruce Chen	3.02	4.66	-43%	3.83	4.51	-16%
Carlos Zambrano	2.75	4.02	-38%	3.26	3.91	-18%
Tomo Ohka	3.40	4.81	-34%	4.04	4.63	-14%

Each of them did see an increase in their ERA and they all saw a drastic reduction in the percent difference between their ERA and iERA. Now let's take a look at the players that had a much higher ERA than iERA.

		2004			2005		
Name		ERA	iERA	% Dif	ERA	iERA	% Dif
Lance Cormier	8.14	5.12	46%	5.11	4.46	14%
Sergio Mitre	6.62	4.22	44%	5.37	4.17	25%
Mike Wood	5.94	4.37	30%	4.46	4.78	-7%
Brian Fuentes	5.64	4.32	26%	2.91	3.84	-28%
Neal Cotts	5.65	4.39	25%	1.94	4.25	-75%

		2004			2005		
Name		ERA	iERA	% Dif	ERA	iERA	% Dif
Casey Fossum	6.65	4.61	36%	4.92	4.50	9%
Derek Lowe	5.42	4.19	26%	3.61	3.69	-2%
Joaquin Benoit	5.68	4.42	25%	3.72	4.74	-24%
Brett Myers	5.52	4.48	21%	3.72	3.75	-1%
Scott Kazmir	5.67	4.62	20%	3.77	4.60	-20%

All of these pitchers saw a decrease in ERA, some more drastic than others. Neal Cotts had a very high ERA and iERA difference in 2005, which will certainly revert in 2006. Brian Fuentes also showed a very big difference in ERA, but notice that it was also reflected in his 2005 iERA. Here's the last list of pitchers which showed a very large difference in ERA and iERA for 2005.

Name		ERA	iERA	Dif
Juan Padilla	1.49	4.74	-105%
Mariano Rivera	1.38	3.38	-84%
Chad Cordero	1.82	4.36	-82%
Huston Street	1.72	4.02	-80%
Cliff Politte	2.00	4.52	-77%

Name		ERA	iERA	Dif
Tim Redding	10.57	5.51	63%
Alan Embree	7.62	4.28	56%
Greg Aquino	7.76	4.39	56%
Ryan Wagner	6.11	3.60	52%
Paul Wilson	7.77	4.91	45%

I'd like to emphasize that just because there is a large discrepancy between a pitcher's ERA and iERA doesn't mean that pitcher still can't be very good or very bad the next season. It just means that there's a high probability that pitcher will have an ERA much closer to his iERA the following season. If you subscribe to the theories of BABIP, HR/FB, and LOB% (and even if you don't), I think you'll find iERA a useful tool as it essentially combines the three of them into one simple stat that you can compare with any player's actual ERA to get an idea of how “lucky” a player was in a single season.

Update: Just a quick addendum, I've been told that iERA is essentially a pre-existing stat called xFIP. I was aware of just FIP, but I wasn't so aware of xFIP. I think xFIP might be a little better (even though the two are VERY close). If you're interested in xFIP, I'll point you over to the article: I'm Batty for Baseball Stats over at the Hardball Times.

Daily Graphing – Brandon Backe

I'm sick of hearing how baseball playoff games are too long. If it were up to me, game 3 would still be in progress right now (that would put them right around the 48th inning). I wonder who would be pitching in the 48th inning of a game, perhaps Ozzie Guillen? In any event, Brandon Backe will take the mound tonight in game 4 of the World Series as the Astros try to avoid a White Sox sweep. He actually pitched pretty well in his last start, giving up only 2 hits in 5.2 innings while striking out 7 and walking 3. Looking at his season as a whole he's been incredibly inconsistent.


Taking a look at his walks per 9 innings, things started off quite well for Brandon Backe, but then he literally went off the charts. This is not a good thing on the walks graphs. He had thrown 1,050 pitches on the year before he went on his walk frenzy. Guess how many pitches he threw the entire year before? 1,102. That was the most he had ever thrown in the majors and it was over the course of an entire season. Now he had equaled that total in just 2 months. After he went on the DL with a strained rib cage and missed all of August, he seemed to get his walks under control again.


Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about his strikeouts per 9 innings which has drifted down the entire season. All signs point to him being a little overwhelmed with his workload. It will be interesting to see if Brandon Backe can build up the durability to be able to pitch a consistent 200 inning season.

Daily Graphing – Jon Garland

Guess what? Another White Sox player. I keep expecting them to stop winning, but it just isn't happening! Anyway, onto Jon Garland who had a career high 18 wins and a career low 3.50 ERA. He doesn't exactly have overpowering stuff so perhaps we need to put him in the category of crafty lef… righty?


If you take a look at his strikeouts per 9 innings, you'll see he's been consistently unable to strike batters out. He's made up for this by limiting his walks to just under 2 per game.


Just goes to show what keeping runners off base will do for you. This isn't the only thing Jon Garland has going for him. Remember just a second ago when I called him a crafty righty? That's because batters can't seem to get hits off him even when they do make contact.


His Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) from year to year remains remarkably low, and this season it was his lowest ever. Actually, since he's entered the league in 2000, he has the lowest BABIP of any right handed starter. The only pitcher who has a lower BABIP than him is Barry Zito (that doesn't surprise me).

The skeptic in me says there's no way Jon Garland can repeat last season, but I have to say as long as he can keep his walks down like he did this year, there's no reason he can't continue to be a reliable inning eater.

Daily Graphing – Juan Uribe

After a solid season last year, it looked like Juan Uribe might be ready to breakout. Looking at his final year end numbers, it really looks like he took more of a step backwards. The graphs however tell a slightly different story.


His BB/K ratio has been on a steady rise since the middle of the season. I find a steady improvement more encouraging than a random spike (even though I haven't done the research to prove it).


Looking at his Isolated Power (ISO), it's quite clear he can still hit for power but he experienced several major power outages throughout the season.

Fortunately for the White Sox, the good play Juan Uribe exhibited towards the end of the season has continued well into the post season and I truly believe he's one of the unsung heroes of their current run to the World Series title.

Daily Graphing – Bob Howry

The Cubs have signed Bob Howry to a three year, 12 million dollar contract. For the past two years, Bob Howry has been one of the better relievers in the American League by posting back to back sub-3 ERA seasons. Let's see if there's any chance he can make his sub-3 ERA, a three year occurrence.


His strikeouts per 9 innings (K/9) have been fairly inconsistent. In 2004 he had an excellent K/9 of 8.2, but in 2005 it dropped to a below average 5.9. Despite the drop in his K/9 he was able to keep a high strikeout to walk ratio (K/BB) by decreasing the number of walks he allowed.


The one area where I see a real problem is his Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP). In 2005 he had a BABIP of .222, which is incredibly low. It was so low that it puts him in the 99th percentile of all pitchers. Considering the league average is right around .300, I'd say there is absolutely no chance of him repeating his .222 BABIP.


I can't say I'm too optimistic that Bob Howry will have another sub-3 ERA season. The decrease in his strikeout rate is somewhat troubling as it means he'll have to be extra careful not to walk batters. Then there's the unsustainable BABIP which I wouldn't be too surprised to see above .300 next season considering how lucky he was in 2005. Don't think that a move to the National League will help him either as NL relievers actually had a higher ERA than American League relievers last year. Yeah, I'd say the chances of Bob Howry having another sub-3 ERA season are pretty slim.

Daily Graphing – Juan Padilla

A few days ago, Dave Studeman of the Hardball Times wrote about the statistic LOB% (percent of baserunners left on base). While he stated LOB% isn't necessarily a “luck” statistic, I'm going to use it today as if it were one with some discretion, of course. I was thinking that for pitchers there are currently three statistics that are considered to be in some sense a measure of luck. There is batting average on balls in play (BABIP), percentage of fly balls that are home runs (HR/FB), and the already mentioned LOB%.

I wanted to find the “luckiest” pitcher in 2005, so I decided to combine the three “luck” statistics in a crude attempt to create a “Luck Factor” for pitchers. I used the formula (BABIP + (3 * (HR/FB)) + (1-LOB%)). While I'm sure there are a few problems with this formula that I quickly threw together, it will definitely point you in the direction of some of the biggest luck offenders. I couldn't help but laugh when, at the very top of the list, I saw Juan Padilla. Oh great, another Mets reliever! So without further adieu, let's see what made Juan Padilla so “lucky” in 2005.


Starting off with ERA, his first trip around the majors was pretty awful. In 2004 he had an insanely high ERA of 7.71, which plummeted to an incredibly low ERA of 1.49 in 2005. With such a steep decline, I'd expect some sort of drastic change in his strikeouts or walks. This was not the case.


In 2005 his strikeout to walk ratio (K/BB) was slightly worse than it was in 2004. His strikeouts per 9 innings (K/9) was a poor 4.21 and his walks per 9 innings (BB/9) was a pretty average 3.22 bringing his K/BB to a poor 1.31. His minor league numbers definitely deviated from his major league numbers where he managed a pretty healthy K/9 of 8.22 the past two seasons in AAA.


Moving on to the part which made him the “luckiest” pitcher in all of baseball, he gave up zero home runs last season. I don't care who you are, things like that generally don't happen more than once. To go with his zero home runs, he had an extremely low BABIP of .219 and a pretty high LOB% of 81%. Combine all three of these and he had the best single season “Luck Factor” in the past four years! Pitchers with a K/9 under 7 that have displayed similar luck have seen, on average, a 2 point rise in ERA the following year. Here are those same pitchers that had an ERA under 2 and what their ERA did the following season.

Name		Year1	Year2	Dif
Buddy Groom 	1.60	5.36	3.76
Paul Quantrill 	1.75	4.72	2.97
S. Hasegawa 	1.48	5.16	3.68
Steve Kline 	1.79	4.28	2.49

While I'm not saying Juan Padilla won't improve his strikeouts or walks (mainly strikeouts) in the major leagues and become a quality pitcher at some point, I think there is little to no chance he'll do nearly as well as he did last year. If there's no improvement in his strikeout rate, I'm pretty sure you'll see a pitcher next season that none will be too thrilled with.

Daily Graphing – Neal Cotts

With the entire baseball world talking about Bobby Jenks' 100 mph fastball, Neal Cotts made the two most important outs of last nights World Series opener by striking out Morgan Ensberg and the red hot Mike Lamb with the tying run on 3rd base. Even though he's had a great season, posting a 1.94 ERA in 60 plus innings, did you know his once excellent strikeout and walk rate have been in a downward spiral since the All-Star break?


His rolling K/BB ratio has fallen so low, it's now in the bottom 20%. That's not the stat of a pitcher you want to rely on in the World Series. How has he kept his ERA so low then? His Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) sits at .248. That is not something any pitcher can expect to sustain.


The good news is, he's been able to keep the ball in the park, giving up 1 (yes, a single home run) all season long. Chances are that's probably not sustainable either. Even though he's a ground ball pitcher, he's far from being an extreme ground ball pitcher.


It's really unfair to say Neal Cotts has been succeeding with smoke and mirrors the entire season since he really was quite good during the first half, but the second half I think it's safe to say he was more lucky than good. Perhaps last night was the start of a reversal in his falling strikeout rate and rising walk rate.

Daily Graphing – Javier Vazquez

A couple of weeks ago, Javier Vazquez formally requested to be traded. If the Diamondbacks don't trade him by March 15th, he will have the option to become a free agent. Up until being traded to the Yankees in 2004, he spent six years in Montreal where he was one of the better pitchers in the National League. After spending one devastating year with the Yankees, he was sent to the Diamondbacks where he showed vast improvement, but failed to completely recapture his pre-Yankee days. Will Javier Vazquez ever return to being the dominant pitcher he was in Montreal?


If you look at his strikeout to walk ratio (K/BB), it actually looks like he already returned to his pre-Yankee days. However, the same cannot be said for his ERA.


The main reason for his failure to post such a high ERA despite his very high K/BB is that he gave up 35 home runs, the second most in baseball.


For Javier Vazquez to completely recover from his year as a Yankee, he'll have to reduce the number of home runs he allows. A move to a pitcher friendly park would certainly help him in this area. Other than his home runs, it looks like he's back on track to be a dominant pitcher.

Daily Graphing – Jeff Bagwell

For tonight's World Series opener it appears Jeff Bagwell will be the designated hitter for the Houston Astros. Since coming back from shoulder surgery, he has 4 singles, 1 walk, and 3 strikeouts in 18 plate appearances. Not much of a sample size there, so it's going to be tough to gauge how well he'll do. One thing's for sure, Jeff Bagwell's power is pretty much gone.


Even though he probably won't be hitting too many home runs (or doubles, or triples), if he really is healthy, he can still be a valuable player by getting on base.


Throughout his career he's been one of the elite players at getting on base and even as age sets in he continues to be in the top 20%. I think just getting on base this World Series is going to be extremely important with such solid pitching on both teams. If Jeff Bagwell can make the White Sox pitchers work a little bit harder, it could be the difference between winning and losing in what should be a series full of low scoring games.

Daily Graphing – Jacque Jones

With all talk of the Yankees signing Johnny Damon, it seems like the Cubs signing Jacque Jones to a three year, $16 million contract got lost in the news. Jones is currently a career .280 hitter, and even managed to bat .300 in 2002-2003, but since then has batted just around .250. Despite the recent drop in batting average, he's continued to show good power, hitting 24 and 23 home runs the past two seasons. Let's see what's in store for Jones next season in his new home, Wrigley Field.


If you take a look at his walk to strikeout ratio (BB/K), you'll see it looks like he reached a career high of .43 in 2005. While this technically true, it's a bit misleading as 12 of his 51 walks were intentional. In reality, there's no upward trend here, and he has not improved his patience at the plate.


The main reason for his decrease in batting average has been a drop in his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) the past two seasons. Much of this may be fueled by a correlating decrease in the percentage of line drives he hits. In 2002-2003 he hit around 20% of his balls for line drives (near the league average), but in the past two seasons he's hit less than 15% of his balls for line drives. That's the fifth lowest line drive percentage in all of baseball over the past two seasons.


Despite the low percentage of line drives, his isolated power (ISO) has remained pretty decent. What's most interesting is that over the past four seasons he's hit between 18% and 23% of his fly balls for home runs (HR/FB). Last season, his HR/FB was 21.7% which puts him in the same category (in HR/FB only) as players such as David Ortiz, Albert Pujols, and Mark Teixeira; players typically thought of as power hitters. One of the main statistical differences between him and these players is that he's a ground ball hitter. An extremely high 58% of the balls he hits are ground balls, the 3rd highest in baseball.

Moving from Metrodome to Wrigley Field probably won't have too much of an impact on Jones, but he should be in a more productive lineup which certainly won't hurt. I think his batting average will recover slightly in 2005, yet considering his walk to strikeout ratio and his line drive percentage, it seems highly unlikely he'll return to his .300 levels. He does appear to have some untapped power, but as long as he continues to hit a high percentage of ground balls, I'd expect him to continue hitting around 20 home runs a season.