The Baseball Exchange

What Was I Even Whining About? by 27yankees

Yesterday, I made a post about how silly some of the voters for the AL MVP award were.

Today, we learned that Jimmy Rollins won, and the complaints of yesterday quickly faded away to a new set of complaints.

For example: Jimmy Rollins? He had a great season, sure, but really. His numbers were inflated by Citizen’s Bank Park. His team just barely beat the Mets. David Wright’s play was just as deserving of an MVP award as Jimmy Rollins. You could justify it by saying that the Phillies got into the playoffs, but it’s not Wright’s fault that the Mets didn’t get into the playoffs. According to VORP, Wright was second in the NL behind Hanley Ramirez, who’s team clearly was not close to the playoffs.

Meanwhile, J-Roll was ninth in the NL in VORP. Heck, even teammate Chase Utley had a higher VORP than him.

Both J-Roll and Wright play excellent defense, though J-Roll does it at a more difficult position. However, though they had similar numbers, Wright made nearly 100 less outs in a similar number of at-bats, and his OBP was far higher than that of J-Roll.

However, this year the writers were looking for a good story. What’s surprising is that they found it in J-Roll, when there was such an obvious feel-good story in Matt Holliday. He was fourth in the NL in VORP. His numbers may have been inflated by the Coors effect, but he was clutch and was a key to the Rockies getting to the playoffs. I fully expected him to get all the votes; he was far more deserving than J-Roll.

Thankfully, Holliday got second place by a very close margin, so most of the writers agreed with me, but it’s still disappointing to see him fall second. He may never have another season like this again.

In other news, the Brewers traded Johnny Estrada to the Mets for Guillermo Mota. And boy, did Omar Minaya screw the Brewers over and get exactly what he wanted. Find a catcher? Check. Make sure it’s a short commitment? Check (Estrada is under contract for one season). Lose Guillermo Mota? Check.Omar Minaya, for any faults he might have when it comes to getting prospects into his system, is a shrewd GM. He made a great move here.


The Writers Screwed Up by 27yankees

The punchline here is that they didn’t screw up. The AL MVP was Alex Rodriguez, and he more than deserve it. In fact, he deserved to win unanimously. Did he? No. Why? Because the sportswriters out of Detroit are major homers.

The Detroit Tigers were several games out of a playoff spot. The Yankees barely scraped a playoff spot. In fact, considering how much A-Rod contributed, had he not been on the Yankees in 2007, replaced by an average third baseman, the Yankees would not have made the playoffs. That’s a lot of value that he provides.

There is no excuse for not voting for A-Rod. He did it all – excellent defense; consistent performance; excellent hitting out of an important defensive position, hitting in the clutch. Magglio had a great year; in a typical year he should have won. But A-Rod did not have a typical year; in fact, A-Rod had a historical year. There is a very legitimate argument that A-Rod had won of the ten greatest seasons of all time in 2007, and even an argument that, after Barry Bonds’ 2001 season, it is the second most valuable season by a hitter of all time. A year as historically amazing as A-Rod’s is just a class above Magglio’s year.

There were some other interesting things to note about MVP voting.  Mike Lowell… fifth? I’m sorry, but that’s just silly. According to VORP, there were fifteen more valuable hitters in the AL than Lowell. That’s a lot of people.

Jorge Posada ended up sixth behind Lowell. Despite the fact that Posada had the fourth highest VORP in the AL. I mean, catchers who can post and OPS+ of 154 with average defense just grow on trees, right?

In addition, Carlos Pena’s voting sadly disappointed me.  The fifth most valuable VORP-adjusted hitter in the AL got ninth place in voting.

Also surprising was Bobby Abreu receiving a seventh place vote. In perhaps his worst season ever, where he barely scrape a 114 OPS+.

Hopefully, the writers will learn. But until then, they make good blog fodder.


A Comment on BABIP by 27yankees

I’d just like to make a comment on BABIP. BABIP, or batting average on balls in play, is a measure that was discovered a few years ago by a writer on Baseball Prospectus. He discovered with a bit of research that BABIP varies a lot for all pitchers, great ones, or not so great ones. The difference he discovered between the great pitchers and the not-as-great pitchers was that the great ones struck out more batters, walked less batters, and gave up less home runs. Good pitchers are able to compensate for a high BABIP, or some bad luck, by striking out more batters, walking less batters, and giving up less homers. That’s what made Pedro Martinez so good. In addition to coining the term BABIP, he coined the term “peripheral stats”, which are stats like K/9, BB/9, and HR/9, which indicate how well a pitcher should be able to compensate for BABIP. This lead to the creation of peripheral ERA, or ERAp. This was a stat that indicated how well we should have expected a pitcher to perform given an average BABIP. Continue reading

A follow-up to the response to the last-last post. by 27yankees
September 30, 2007, 2:52 am
Filed under: Arizona Diamondbacks, Baseball Statistics

I found the articles with the data I was looking for:

In Theory, Diamondbacks Are Winning Way Too Often (New York Times – Dan Rosenheck)
No Mirage in Arizona (The Hardball Times – Chris Jaffe)

This is a small sample of data and it could be luck. But the point is, there does appear to be a reason for their overperforming their Pythagorean record.

And, the point still stands: A whole seasons worth of run differential and statistics should be thrown out the door come October – the D-Backs, if they catch fire, could do just as well as anyone else in the playoffs.


A Response to That Last Post by 27yankees
September 28, 2007, 8:55 pm
Filed under: Arizona Diamondbacks, Baseball Statistics

Hey, TwentySeven here. I’d just like to respond to Red’s last post.

The Diamondbacks actually haven’t been as lucky as it seems, to be honest. Part of the reason why their run-differential is so  bad is actually because their bullpen is so polarizing. I don’t have a link to put up, but I know someone at The Hardball Times did an article about this very topic and showed that when the Diamondbacks start losing, they put in their worst relievers, who are ridiculously bad, but when they are winning, they put in their elite relievers (i.e. Jose Valverde & co.) and they don’t give up a lot of runs. It hurts their run differential. They are a good team.

Besides of which, just because they are theoretically a bad team, it doesn’tmean that they couldn’t take it all. A bad run differential might mean that you could expect a seasonal regression, but certainly not a regression over a few playoff games.


Mike Pagliarulo, pt II by 27yankees

This article was one I found after I posted before, and I thought that this was as ridiculous, if not more, than the other…


As the New York Yankees begin an all-important four-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays today, let’s take a look at how individual Blue Jays pitchers have fared against the Yankees. Yes, it’s a small sample size, so individually it’s difficult to read too much into these stats. But, collectively, we see a trend. Let’s go behind the stats and understand them.

The Yankees are a great offensive team. They lead the majors in team runs, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Yet within this dominance, there are weaknesses.

The Yankees are an aggressive low ball hitting club, especially their power bats A-Rod, Giambi, Cano, and Abreu. And, they are an excellent off-speed hitting team, led by their captain Jeter, Damon, and Matsui. It’s not a surprise then, that when the Yankees play against “command” types who throw a lot of offspeed pitches, they can run up the score. On the other hand, the Yankees are susceptible to hard throwers. Looking at the Blue Jays pitching stats from 2007 (diagram above [look on the actual link]) versus the Yankees, you’ll see that generally the pitchers who have done well are those with above average fastballs. Those pitchers are highlighted.

Given that the Blue Jays will be throwing three pitchers (Burnett, Hallady and McGowan) with plus fastballs against the Yankees, and only one command guy this series (Marcum), look for the Yankees offense to be mitigated.

Again, in the last paragraph they call him Hallady instead of Halladay. Copy editing, please.

So… A.J. Burnett, Roy Halladay, Dustin McGowan, Jason Frasor, and Jeremy Accardo have all been good against the Yankees? And, this can somehow be explained because they have plus fastballs? Damn! It’s genius!

Maybe this is just me, but don’t most teams have trouble against pitchers with good fastballs?

But the general idiocy of this is that those are all good pitchers. Sure, the Yankees have trouble with them, but maybe that’s just because they’re good. Take a look at their stat lines:

A.J. Burnett: 153.3 IP, 9-7, 3.40 ERA, 136 ERA+
Jeremy Accardo: 65.3 IP, 28 SV, 2.20 ERA, 210 ERA+
Jason Frasor: 54.7 IP, 3 SV, 4.28 ERA, 108 ERA+
Roy Halladay: 218.3 IP, 15-7, 3.71 ERA, 125 ERA+
Dustin McGowan: 159.3 IP, 11-9, 3.84 ERA, 121 ERA+

The irony is that the post is title, ‘Using and Understanding Stats’. It’s kind of sad, really. If the people on this site stuck to just scouting, and only focused on the main elements, i.e., what pitches so-and-so throws, or where in the zone certain batters can hit well, it would be a great blog. But no, they have to go into the ‘stats’ that aren’t really stats and they have to try to actually provide analysis.

My Favorite Stats, including Win Shares vs. WPA by red

Ok, so maybe I am a bit of the “Bill James II” variety of bloggers. Not ashamed of it either. It amazes me how much people still put so much value on batting average, win-loss records, hustle, team chemistry, or the ability to “concetrate”. But that’s a whole different story, I’d like to present you with some of the best statistics ever invented:

1. Win Shares – A Bill James invention, just the flat-out best way of rating a player. VORP and WARP are also convenient, but Win Shares evaluates every aspect of the game, including fielding, while VORP and WARP focus on just batting or pitching. There have been some critics of it, but overall it works as a solid, reliable way to rate an overall production of players.

2. WPA (Wins Probability Added) – Sort of an alternate form to win shares, (though it does no include fielding) in which, in layman terms, rewards “clutch” hits more. Trying to find an example of this, wikipedia helps me out:

Win Shares would give the same amount of credit to a player if he hit a lead-off solo home run that turned out to be decisive as if he hit a walk-off solo home run; WPA, however, would give vastly more credit to the player who hit the walk-off homer.

In other words, WPA rates who’s the “most valuable” player, while Win Shares rates the “best” players. So, we could take this and figure out who’s “most valuable” to their team (i.e. the MVP) and which pitcher is just plain best.

Top 10 AL Leaders in WPA, as of 9/20/07:

Alex Rodriguez: 6.49

Magglio Ordonez: 5.99

Vladamir Guerrero: 5.96

J.J. Putz: 5.52

Rafale Betancourt: 4.89

Fausto Carmona: 4.14

David Ortiz: 3.97

Erik Bedard: 3.87

Carl Crawford: 3.50

C.C. Sabathia/Jonathan Papelbon: 3.49

Given WPA’s nature, it tends to like relievers a lot, given that they are often the deciding factor in games. Now, AL Leaders in Win Shares:

Alex Rodriguez: 35

Magglio Ordonez: 34

Ichiro Suzuki: 31

Victor Martinez: 30

Vladimir Guerrero: 29

Grady Sizemore: 28

Carlos Pena: 27

Granderson/Ortiz: 25

Posada/Hunter: 24

Upton/Lowell/Cabrera: 23

The first pitcher pitcher to come in is C.C. Sabathia, in a five way tie with 22 win shares, then Carmona with 21. Interesting group here. A-Rod, not surprisingly, comes in first, but the difference between A-Rod and Mags is much larger in WPA than Win Shares. Also, Ichiro, who comes third in win shares, has a WPA of only 1.98, far below pretty much everyone else on the top win shares list. My guess is that when he makes deciding plays in a game, they’re more likely to be a one RBI single with runners on first and third rather than a three-run homer from most of the other guys on the list. Win Shares also tends to give more shares to batters, as you can easily see. You can also easily see that A-Rod’s the MVP, no competition. Now, let’s move on over to the top AL pitchers. I’ll start with Win Shares, since Cy Young isn’t so much as most valuable pitcher, but just flat-out best.

C.C. Sabathia: 22

Fausto Carmona: 21

Erik Bedard/John Lackey:19

Beckett/Haren/Santana: 18

Putz/Vazquez/Escobar/Beuurle/Halladay: 17

Wang has 15. Interesting to see Beckett so low, then again Sabathia has pitched 40 more innings than Beckett. Now, we move on over to WPA, and to be more realistic wih Cy Young voting, I’ll only include starers:

Fausto Carmona: 4.14

Erik Bedard: 3.87

C.C. Sabathia: 3.49

Roy Halladay: 3.04

Josh Beckett 2.97

Given that Sabathia pitches deeper into games, as proof of his 230-some innings, you would think then that that would give Sabathia a higher WPA, but you would be wrong. Carmona is well ahead of Sabathia by .65 WPA. Personally, I think Sabathia deserves it – he has roughly the same ERA+ as every other contender, but the fact that he’s sustained that with much more innings than anyone else gives him the edge. Anyway, onwards.

3. Pythagorean Record – Another Bill James gizmo, this is possibly my favorite statistic, or at least the most fun. It basically shows how much luck a team has had in their season by calculating, using a simple formula, the record the team should have statistically. If the pythagorean record is lower than a team’s actual record by, say, five games, it suggests the team has won at least five games with the help of some luck, and vice versa. The Yankees have been unlucky all season, and only by their torrid post-all star stretch have they put the difference between their pythag record and their actual record at only four games. On the other end of the spectrum, the D’Backs have won an astounding eleven games to luck. Pythagorean record is also useful to see which teams are going to be for real down the stretch run or in the playoffs. Exhibit A: The Mariners, whose Pythagorean record is below .500 at 74-78. Ichiro should have waited until the end of the season before deciding to re-sign.

4. Zone Rating (Revised) – Way back in the 1870s, Henry Chadwick, the father of many baseball statistics, wrote this about fielding: “The best player in the nine is he who makes the most good plays in a match, not the one who commits the fewest errors.” In other words, as Alan Schwarz explains in his fantastic book The Numbers Game, “Chadwick preferred range to avoiding the occasional error.” Finally, more than a hundred years after Chadwick first came up with those words, a straight-forward statistic measures just that: Zone Rating. ZR basically measures the amount of balls in a fielder’s “zone” that he gets to. A much more in-depth description by BBTF can be fond here. Revised Zone Rating just basically counts balls hit out of a player’s zone seperately and likes double plays.

Gold Gloves aren’t always that easy to calculate, especially if you try to mix the stats up. For example, Omar Vizquel leads the NL with a .889 RZR, yet is fourth in fielding win shares, and a full 2.6 win shares below the league leader, Troy Tulowitzki. (Who, incidentally, deserves the GG.)

5. Hitting Charts – Ok, this one is really more data than formulaic statistics. Nevertheless, hit charts are both eye opening and fun to sift through. For example, take a look at this hitting chart for Curtis Granderson at Comerica. If you check “triples,” you can see he likes to pull the ball into the right field corner for a three-bagger, and the same with home runs. However, for a double he’ll hit it in the left and right-center field gaps more often than not. What does it mean? Exactly what it says it does, and that’s the beauty.

But you probably already know all of that.

In other news: GOD HELP US ALL.

Next best thing to his autograph?

Also, check out this great article by “non-prospect” Dirk Heyhurst, it’s a must-read, along with his whole archive of articles. As TwentySeven would say, “good stuff.”