Archive for April, 2011

Graphing BABIP Against Speed

Faster players get more hits on their ground balls. That should be no surprise. There is a benefit to having speed in that you can beat more infield hits than slower players. That’s a fairly straight forward assertion, but ultimately I was a bit surprised that the gap is actually quite small.

Speed v GB BABIP

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Alcides Escobar’s Magnified Incompetence

The opening of any MLB season brings with it a host of underperforming players, and 2011 is no different. Superstars like Carl Crawford, Carlos Gonzalez, and Hanley Ramirez have taken up lodging in the unfortunate sub-50 wRC+ club. Although Crawford’s .199 wOBA and 15 wRC+ are the worst among qualified players, not even he can approach the unfortunate season Alcides Escobar is suffering through. Escobar’s league-worst Win Probability Added of -2.01 is nearly a full win worse than second-place Crawford’s -1.02.

Escobar’s context-neutral stats aren’t much better, but his .224/.248/.265 line is still, somehow, significantly better than what Crawford has managed through his inaugural Red Sox campaign. Unlike Crawford, though, Escobar has had his poor season magnified by multiple failures in extremely high leverage situations. Escobar has seen seen six situations with a leverage index of 4.0 or higher — given that 1.5 is considered high leverage, these were extremely important situations. Except for receiving one intentional walk, Escobar made an out in every single one. All told, his WPA for these six plate appearances alone adds up to -0.911, nearly equaling Crawford’s WPA from his entire horrible season. Expanding our scope to all high-leverage situations, Escobar holds a .059/.158/.059 triple-slash. He even breaks wRC+, with a -38 mark in those situations.

The Royals have quickly fallen back to earth since opening up the year at the top of the AL Central. Escobar’s incompetence in high leverage situations has been a significant reason why. It is a tiny sample, and one will imagine that Escobar can turn things around at least a bit, and get some hits to drop in. Unfortunately for the young Escobar, though, nothing can change what’s already happened: one of the worst clutch stretches imaginable for an MLB player.

One Night Only: Previews for Weekend of April 29th

An actual drawing from Daniel Hudson’s dream journal.

This edition of One Night Only contains:

1. Hot, bullet-pointed previews for six games.

2. Pitcher and Team NERD scores for every one of this weekend’s games.

3. A challenging blend of vim and vigor.

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Travis Snider’s Demotion

The Toronto Blue Jays’ 23-year-old outfielder Travis Snider managed to go one-for-four against the Texas Rangers yesterday, extending his hitting streak to five games, but that wasn’t enough to keep him from getting demoted to AAA after the game. Despite the totally meaningful streak, Snider has “hit” .184/.276/.264 (59 wRC+) on the season, although hey, he has stolen 5 bases (look out Tim Raines (51)!). The Blue Jays likely made this move to make room for center fielder Rajai Davis (30), who is coming off of the disabled list today, but Snider wasn’t the only move they could have made, particularly given his age, prospect status, and above all, how early in the season it is. I could just tempt fate and write “sample size sample size sample size,” and that is probably the biggest issue. But is there anything in Snider’s 99 plate appearances so far in 2011 to indicate a problem that requires some time in the minors to work through?

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Jack Hannahan’s Crazy April

If you go to the leaderboards here on the site, you’ll see a whole bunch of familiar names that you’d expect to see doing well, a couple of interesting guys having rebound seasons, and Jack Hannahan. The Indians third baseman is mixed in with the likes of Alex Rodriguez and Troy Tulowitzki, and he’s doing it in a surprising manner.

Hannahan has always been a terrific defensive third baseman so it’s no surprise that he’s racking up the fielding value again, leading all third baseman in UZR. Most of his value has come at the plate, however, and from the one area – power hitting – where he hasn’t traditionally shown much ability. Hannahan already has four home runs this year, as many as he hit in all of 2009 when he racked up 301 plate appearances for the A’s and Mariners.

But, that’s not the most surprising thing. Hannahan is strong enough that a four home run binge over the course of a few weeks isn’t all that weird. It’s an outlier, and it’s the kind of thing you come to expect from small sample sizes in April. What you don’t expect, however, is this.

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Same Masterson, Different Results

Based on traditional metrics like wins, losses, and ERA, Justin Masterson has been a below-average starting pitcher during the past two seasons. With a 10-23 record, and an ERA above 4.50, the former prospect looked like a superficial candidate for the label of “bust”. But defensive independent metrics suggested Masterson was a quality starter — who struggled shaking the luck dragons known as left-on base percentage (LOB%) and batting average on balls in play (BABIP).

In 2009 and 2010, the right-hander’s average on balls in play was roughly 25% more than the league average, which came despite a fantastic groundball rate. It certainly did not help that most of those groundballs came in front of the second worst defense in the league during the same period. With an increased amount of balls finding holes, his strand rate fell about 6% below the average of his peers.

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2008 Amateur Draft Review: The AL Central

Recently, we took a look back at the ’08 draft for the American League West teams. Today, we’re seeing how the draft has played out for the American League Central organizations.

The first three rounds are listed for each team, plus any other above-slot signees.
(X = Signed to Over-Slot Deal; S = Supplemental Round; DNS = Did Not Sign)

The Kansas City Royals
1st. Eric Hosmer, 1B, Florida HS
1S. Mike Montgomery, LHP, California HS
2nd. Johnny Giavotella, 2B, New Orleans
3rd. Tyler Sample, RHP, Colorado HS
4thx- Tim Melville, RHP, Missouri HS

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Iannetta Battles the BABIP Gods

Chris Iannetta can’t catch a break.

First, the Rockies’ catcher had to compete for a starting spot in 2009 despite producing a .391 wOBA the year before. Since being named the starter, his supposed failure to record hits over the last couple of seasons has that status being called into question. Iannetta is one of the game’s most patient hitters, but the 28-year-old frequently strikes out, and his lack of success with balls in play has led to some truly wacky slash lines.

The latter two components of his 2009 slash line were solid at .344/.460, but a .228 batting average fueled by an ugly .245 BABIP dropped his overall production. Last season the trend continued, albeit with poorer results on balls in play: Iannetta hit .197/.318/.383, with a .212 BABIP in 223 plate appearances. Through 67 plate appearances this season the situation remains the same. Iannetta is hitting a strange, yet impressive, .163/.388/.388. Remove the batting average, and his numbers are solid for a starting catcher.

Regardless of his high on-base marks, we have to question why Iannetta has struggled in the BABIP department, and then research whether similar-profile players can improve in that area.

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FanGraphs Audio: Sorting by WAR for Fun and Profit

Episode Seventy-Two
In which the panel is every which and loose.

The Live Event in LA — Briefly Discussed!
The Marlins and Indians — Marveled At!
Travis Hafner’s Face — Considered Scientifically!

Dave Cameron, Full-Time Employee
Matt Klaassen, Troublemaker
Joe Pawlikowski, Morning Afterer

Finally, you can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio on the flip-flop. (Approximately 50 min play time.)

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Bartolo Colon Returns To Prominence

Stage hypnotists make a living calling people up on stage and making them believe that they’re something they’re not, be it a lion, a pirate or even Kanye West. Someone may want to look at the Yankees payroll to see if they have a hypnotist on payroll this season, because all of a sudden Bartolo Colon — after allowing just three runs in his first 14 2/3 innings as a starter this year — has been transformed into a quality Major League starter once again.

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Interview: Modern Drunkard Magazine’s Rich English

A few weeks ago, I heard some welcome news from the world of journalism, which doesn’t happen very often these days. The years-dormant Modern Drunkard Magazine, a Denver-based bimonthly paean to the joys of libation, has finally resumed publication. Speaking for myself, the web edition of the magazine helped get me through college, as I read articles like “You Don’t Know Jack Daniel,” “Andre the Giant: The Greatest Drunk on Earth,” and their most famous article, “The 86 Rules of Boozing.” Most everything is written by editor Frank Kelly Rich — author of the 86 Rules — or writer Rich English, author of the pieces on Andre and Jack. Yesterday evening, I spoke to English about alcohol, sports, and society. He’d like to see Americans loosen up about imbibing, particularly when it comes to their favorite athletes.

English and his colleagues are serious, even when they’re joking. In answer to a Frequently Asked Question on the website, editor Frank Kelly Rich explains, “While there is some satire involved, we believe to the very core of our souls every word we write.” In a 2005 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Rich revealed just how serious he was:

“I drink about eight drinks a day and maybe 30 on a heavy day,” he said cheerfully. “But as long as I remain healthy and happy, I have no intention of slowing down. I mean, when you have something good going, you stick with it, right?”

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Too Many Sliders?

“I wouldn’t let a kid at 11-years-old throw a breaking ball, I never threw a breaking ball until I got to high school,” [Tom] Glavine said.

Typically, the rule is that little leaguers shouldn’t be throwing curveballs. The pitch has been blamed for placing too much stress on young elbows, and even a cursory analysis of the mechanics seems to put credence to the credo – it’s a tough pitch to throw. Watching Luke Gregerson throw four sliders out of five pitches to Alex Gonzalez Wednesday night, though, it seemed reasonable to wonder if the slider was also a stressful pitch. Are slider-heavy pitchers more likely to get injured than those that throw the fastball more often?

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News Flash: Rookie Pitchers Are Fickle

Quick note – Frankie Piliere couldn’t make his regularly scheduled chat this week, but we’re making it up to you with our first ever NotGraphs chat at 2 pm eastern, featuring Carson Cistulli and Dayn Perry. You won’t want to miss that.

The newest awesome feature rolled out here on FanGraphs this morning – the ability to sort the leaderboards by rookie qualification, which opens up the door for a lot of exploration. Now you can easily check and see whether a Rookie Of The Year deserved his trophy, which seasons had the best crops of rookies (yes, last year was ridiculous, and now we can prove it), or compare rookie seasons from different years side by side.  That was one of the first things I did.

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Could Ike Davis Be Better than We Think?

Let’s get all the Ike Davis caveats out of the way first.

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One Night Only: Hot Game Previews for April 28th

At the current market value per win, Juan Pierre theoretically owes the White Sox $5 million.

This edition of One Night Only contains:

1. Expanded previews for the day’s three most interesting games: Toronto at Texas, Chicago (AL) at New York (AL), and Kansas City at Cleveland.

2. NERD Game Scores™ for every one of tonight’s games.

3. Some “creative” “use” of the “language.”

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Ethier En Fuego

Matt Kemp may have grabbed the early headlines for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but Andre Ethier is the talk of Hollywood right now. Propelled by a 24-game hitting streak, Ethier has been punishing baseballs the entire season. Ethier’s strong start continued Wednesday as he not only extended his hitting streak, but hit the eventual game winning home run in the 10th inning. As with most players on extended hitting streaks, Ethier has benefited from a great deal of luck this season. While that unfortunately makes Ethier a candidate for regression as the season progresses, there are a few interesting nuggets (copyright Peter King) in his stat line that indicate Ethier is completely locked in at the plate.
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Rookie Leaderboards!

There is now “rookie” filtering in the leaderboards.

The criteria to be a rookie is any season where a player has started the season with fewer than 130 at-bats, and fewer than 50 innings pitched. Roster time is not a factor in these, so there may be the occasional player that show up that is not technically a rookie by MLB standards.

What’s neat is you can combine this with the “Multiple Seasons” feature to get the best rookies of any decade (or any time period really). For instance, here are the top rookie seasons by pitcher WAR since 1980.

And here are the top rookie seasons by batter WAR from 2000 to 2009.

It’s worth noting that if you don’t check the “split season” box, it will combine all a player’s seasons when they were rookie eligible and it will not “split out” the seasons.

Anyway, there’s lots of neat ways to filter this data and please let us know if you run into any bugs.

Predicting Shutdowns and Saves

“I heard the jury was still out on… Science…”

–G.O.B. Bluth, Arrested Development

Saunter over to the Shutdown and Meltdown leaderboard and you will find a curious leader: The San Diego Padres.

Yes, the Friars have somehow amassed an absurd 31 shutdowns (SD) while winning a sport-worst nine games. This seems somewhat surprising, because experience has taught me — among many things about cats — that bad teams typically do not need great bullpens. They might have them (*cough* Joakim Soria *cough cough*), but they do not need them because they get destroyed early and often.

Take my hand and follow me down Logic Avenue: The worst teams will not often participate in three-run, save-opportunity games — or even one-run games. Instead they will presumably watch this and employ a slew of mop-up long men who do not affect the game’s already-decided outcome. I mean, c’mon, three-fifths of the Royals rotation is likely to allow five runs before finishing the 6th inning. What can a bulllpen possibly do when the score is 5 to -1?

In the same stroke of logic, wouldn’t we expect the best teams to have fewer save opportunities? Unlike impressively mediocre teams, like the Chicago Cubs, the New York Yankees spend a good deal of time slapping homers and trouncing weaklings. As a result, we should expect they play fewer close games than the Cubs, who must crawl, snarl, and curse their way into every victory and loss.

Well, that may be logical, but it’s not entirely correct.
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Diagnosing Rafael Soriano’s Woes

To say that Rafael Soriano has struggled so far this season would be akin to saying Babe Ruth was a decent ballplayer: you’d technically be right, but off by multiple factors of ten. Soriano has struggled mightily since making his Yankee debut, allowing at least one baserunner in nine of his ten appearances, and posting an “Ouch!” inducing 7.84 ERA and 5.55 FIP. He has three meltdowns already this season (only had four total in 2010), and he’s blown two Yankee leads: once on April 5th against the Twins and once last night against the White Sox. Last night was particularly painful, as Soriano plunked Carlos Quentin with a slider and then grooved a fastball down the heart of the plate to Paul Konerko. I don’t think I need to tell you where that pitch ended up.

Since it’s so early in the season, it’s easy to write off these struggles as relatively unimportant; odds are, this is just a slump and Soriano will be his normal, dominant self for the rest of the year. Soriano has only thrown 10 innings this year, so it’s way too early to begin putting credence in his ERA, FIP, or xFIP. But while that may be true, I don’t like leaving analyses at this level; I want to know why Soriano is slumping now. Is this simply a matter of bad luck? Has he changed his pitching approach? Is he struggling with any of his pitches?

To the Pitch F/x data we go!

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Adams Continues To Dominate

For the second year running, the Padres look to have one of the best bullpens in baseball. After posting a 2.75 ERA and 2.95 FIP as part of an unlikely 90-win season in 2010, the Padres are doing it again in 2011, with a 2.33 ERA and 2.85 FIP out of the gates. Although Heath Bell is the headliner of the group, his opening act, Mike Adams, deserves just as much credit. His ascension from total baseball obscurity was detailed excellently by SBNation’s Grant Brisbee today. The man just keeps getting better, too: since 2010, Adams has a 1.60 ERA and 2.31 FIP, both in the top 10 among pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched in that span.

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