Padres Offseason

Posted by Baseball Bob at 13:54
Jan 142015

Setup

The San Diego Padres won 75 games in 2014, in a division which included the World Champion Giants and the new spending leading Dodgers. There was little evidence of a contending team, as they were 10 games behind by game 50 (and never got closer than that the rest of the way). They were 4th in the division for half a season, then third for the second half. They should apparently be building for the future, and made some “headway” by trading long-time third baseman Chase Headley to the Yankees in midseason, getting cheaper, younger and worse. Actually, they played better in the second half, going 41-40 over their final 81 games.

But they had a shocking offseason, in which they turned over most of their roster (they remind you of playing 2K4, a video game in which we often take a new team and trade ALL of its players the first year. They are clearly trying to win NOW, which is not what you would have expected, and so makes them an intriguing target for analysis.

Lineup

Of the 8 players who Baseball-Reference lists as the Padres regulars in 2014, only two had an OPS+ over 100: Catcher Rene Rivera (117) and left fielder Seth Smith (135). The only other acceptable major league hitters were first baseman Yonder Alonso (97) and third baseman Chase Headley (90). Somewhat notable was utility man Yasmani Grandal (112 in 128 PA) off the bench. Of these five “acceptable” hitters from 2014, only Alonso I still on the roster!

The Padres acquired Justin Upton from the Braves to play left field, Wil Myers from the Rays to man center, and Matt Kemp from the Dodgers to play right. Wil Middlebrooks (from the Red Sox) and Yangervis Solarte (from the Yankees) will share third base, Alexi Amarista (25 years old, 148 PAs in 2014 with OPS+ 76) will be at short, Jedd Gyorko (25 years old, OPS+ 79 in 2014) will return at second base, and Alonso will man first. Derek Norris (A’s) will catch, backed up by Tim Federowicz (Dodgers). So the Padres replaced their entire outfield, their third baseman and catcher, while banking on two light-hitting young middle infielders, and a bounce-back season from their still-in-his-prime first baseman.

Steamer projects that this isn’t going to work, at all. The Padres project to rank 25th of the 30 MLB teams in position player WAR, hardly the stuff championships are made of. Part of the reason for this is defense: amazingly, the ONLY Padre projected starter who Steamer has as an above average defender is holdover first baseman Alonso. ALL of the others project to be below average, and this includes the young DP combination who should be good in the field because 1) they are young and 2) they can’t really hit. Matt Kemp is a pretty terrible outfielder (so bad that he was replaced for a while by perennial statue Andre Ethier in center!) and Wil Myers was an average corner outfielder who will be stretched in center.

suffice it to say that unless the Padres really know a LOT that we don’t, their roster turnover did not, in fact, bring them a championship caliber lineup. And, of course, the canyon that they call a home park will not help the numbers. That lineup could in fact be really ugly in statistical terms, especially using traditional metrics. They didn’t score enough last year, and they won’t sore enough this year, either.

Starters

Seven pitchers started at least 11 games for the Padres in 2014, of which three (Kennedy, Ross and Stults) did not miss a start all year, accounting between them for 96 of the 162 games. The Padres ballpark helps pitchers, so the ERAs look more impressive than they really were, but ERA+ shows three above average: Cashner (131 in 19 starts), Ross (119 in 31) and Hahn (109 in 12), with Odrisamer Despaigne (what a great name!) exactly average (100 in 16). The others are Kennedy (92 in 33), Stults (78 in 32), and Erlin (67 in 11).

The Padres didn’t turn over their rotation like their lineup, as their current projected starters are (according to Steamer): Kennedy (188 IP) Cashner (169), Ross (162), Despaigne (139) and their two “big” free agent signings: Brandon Morrow (113) and Josh Johnson (89). Erlin is still there (and still young, only 24) but this is an uninspiring bunch to say the least.

While the Padres seem done on the position player front, I suppose they could finish their “all in” offseason by offering way too much money to Shields or Shertzer, or emptying what is left of the farm for Cole Hamels. If they do not, however, their pitchers will have apparently decent ERAs while actually not being very good.

Bullpen

The Padres 2014 bullpen, even after park adjustments, was pretty good. Huston Street was actually fantastic (ERA+ 310 but only pitched 33 innings), and Thayer (143 in 65) and Quackenbush (135 in 65) were very solid. Remember, though, that 135 (35% above league average, park adjusted) is not at all off the charts: most relievers are above average, while most starters are below in this metric). Street is gone, and steamer is unkind to the rest of the Padres pen, big-time: Juaquin Benoit projects for 1.0 fWAR, and the rest of the pen projects to -01 COMBINED! Steamer sees the Padres as essentially having a replacement-level bullpen, somewhat masked by the ballpark.

Overall Steamer has the Padres pitching as ALSO ranking 25th of 30 teams, at 8.0 WAR. Ugh.

My take

I agree with Steamer that their pitching is no good – they really need BOTH Shields and Shertzer in order to compete in the NL West, and that might not do it.

I also agree that the defense will be atrocious, and so the bWAR of the pitchers will suffer (fWAR, more fielding independent, will hold up better).

But I think they may well surprise us in run production. Matt Kemp should be a DH, but he CAN hit. Justin Upton and Wil Myers can both hit, too, and I think Alonso will do better. And I suspect that the Padres are not so foolish as to spend all that money on the outfield, if the young middle infielders can neither field nor hit: I DO think they might know more than we do about this.

finally, I suspect that they hope to not be quite done, and that they expect to upgrade their pitching over the next few weeks. It has been an interesting offseason in San Diego, and a story worth watching in 2015.

What's Next?

Posted by Baseball Bob at 12:35
Jan 142015

Hi friends. Not as long as the last gap, but still long enough that only truly patient readers are still with me. And this is not going to change immediately: I am in Utah, and going on to California on Friday. But on January 24 my wife leaves for England (for 6 months!) and I will have more time on my hands, and I DO expect to spend some of that time once more recording my thoughts about baseball.

And where I hope to start is to examine a few of the teams which either interest me (Yankees, Dodgers, Phillies) or which have had intriguing offseasons (Padres, White Sox, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Cubs) and write about where they are, and what might be next for them. Do they have more to do? The Yankees, for example, seem (for better or worse) to have a settled roster of position players, but lots of question marks in the pitching, so what’s next for them might well be the acquisition of another starter and a couple of relievers. Or a hot Cuban prospect.

Anyway, don’t look for much until January 26, but if you are so inclined you might check back then, as there may be much more regular posts starting around that time.

And thanks, in advance, to those few that have stuck with me through a season of very little activity. I DO believe that 2015 will be a LOT more active on the baseball Bob front!

Wow

Posted by Baseball Bob at 16:10
Dec 112014

The title of this post applies to two very separate things: how long it’s been since I last posted, and what the Dodgers have done in the past few days.

First, my absence. No real excuses: the season got depressing, and then I got busy, and then baseball was over, and then I got busier, and then I had surgery – none of that really kept me from posting. I am actually SHOCKED to see that it has been since mid-August since I was on this site! Wow, indeed. I don’t promise to do better, but I HAVE thought a lot about baseball, and have followed it closely, I just didn’t get around to writing about it. in fact, the reason I was so surprised is that I formulated several posts over this time, and I hadn’t actually realized that I didn’t post ANY of them.

The actual topic, though, is the Dodgers. A couple of years ago, the new owners of the Dodgers gave Ned Coletti a blank check, and he did (sort of) turn them into instant contenders, by spending a true boatload of money. What he actually did, of course, was marginally upgrade the Dodgers while (among other things) rebooting the Red Sox from worst to first to a World Series championship, and set an all-time record for bloated contracts on a single team, eclipsing about ten Yankees teams.

Now, however, Coletti is gone, replaced by Andrew Friedman from the Rays, and what (apparently) you get is the savvy of the Rays with the money of the Dodgers – bad news indeed for the rest of baseball! Friedman will undoubtedly make mistakes (see: Billy Beane) but he has the money to eat those mistakes, and he SEEMS to have his head on very straight indeed.

Let’s consider a few things which have happened just in the past few days:

Trade with Padres – The Dodgers sent Matt Kemp and backup catcher Tim Federowicz (plus $31M) to the Padres for catcher Yasmani Grandahl, and pitchers Joe Wieland and Zach Eflin.

Trade with Phillies – The Dodgers acquired shortstop Jimmy Rollins (and cash IN) for two as yet unnamed minor leaguers.

Trade with Marlins – The Dodgers sent 2B/SS Dee Gordon to Florida, along with infielder Matt Rojas, pitcher Dan Haren (and $12.5M) to acquire four players/prospects: Andrew Heaney, Enrique Hernandez, Austin Barnes, and Chris Hatcher.

Trade with Angels- The Dodgers sent Andrew Heaney (just acquired from Florida) to Anaheim for 2B Howie Kendrick.

Free Agent: The Dodgers signed starter Brandon McCarthy for 4 years and $48M.

In case you can’t follow all this at home, the Dodgers got rid of one of their outfield glut (Kemp) and in the process shed about $70M of future money. They acquired one year of a solid ML shortstop (Rollins) and one year of an excellent ML second baseman (Kendrick) plus, of course, a year of exclusive negotiating rights to both, if they care (prediction: they won’t try to negotiate with Rollins, but they will try and likely succeed with the much younger Kendrick). The tandem of Rollins/Kendrick will provide as much offense from the middle infield as last year’s tandem of Henley Ramirez/Dee Gordon, while providing MUCH better defense. And since Kershaw, Greinke and McCarthy are all among the highest ground-ball producers in baseball, that will make these pitchers that much better (scary thought: Kershaw will be BETTER???).

Grandahl has a reputation as a defense-first catcher, and might well be on the ML roster as well.

And in the process of all this, they ACQUIRED more and better prospects than they dealt!

They are likely not yet done. They still would like to play an outfield of Puig, Van Slyke and Pedersen, which leaves them Crawford and Ethier extra (the two most expensive bench players in the game today??). There is little interest in either one, and both are owed boatloads of money (but not as much as Kemp was). Kemp, of course, is a much better player, which is why the Dodgers managed to get something for him without paying most of his salary.

There have been excellent analyses of these trades for those who are interest. I will just say this:

I get why the Phillies did what they did, and they are likely to dump some or all of Hamels, Utley, Papelbon, Ruiz and Howard (if possible) to truly begin a rebuild. They saved a little money, opened up a spot for a youngster to see what he can do, and signaled their intentions to the world.

I kind of get why the Angels did what they did: they traded a cost-controlled year of an excellent second baseman for six years of a top-50 prospect. It made them worse, but was probably a value-for-value trade. I guess they think they are good enough to win despite this short-term downgrade?

I don’t AT ALL get what the Marlins were thinking: Gordon is not that good, is coming off a career year and likely to regress, and Heaney (that same top-50 prospect) might be as good as Gordon right now, and with a bigger upside. AND they threw in 3 other prospects, none of which are truly fillers. AND Haren has publicly stated that he will retire rather than play anywhere but LA (Dodgers or Angels). Perhaps the deal is that if Haren retires, the Marlins get to keep the money sent to pay his salary. (NOTE: Wouldn’t it be a kick if the Marlins traded Haren back to the Angles for Heaney, keeping the money? THEN the trade makes some sense: Gordon for 3 prospects and $12.5M – a classic Marlins trade!).

And even less do I understand the Padres: Matt Kemp can play, and I love him. He isn’t worth, at least at this moment, the $100M+ still owed to him, and possibly not even the $70M or so SD is on the hook for. AND if he IS worth it, it would only be for a team in win-now mode: he will in all probability be good in 2015, and perhaps 2016, and then become an anchor in 2017-2019 (yes, he is signed for FIVE more years), so a team like the Yankees might see him as a costly but worthwhile acquisition. But the Padres? They project, at this moment, to win about 73 games, and Kemp might move that (optimistically) up to 76 or 77. This is worth it how? By the time, if ever, that they turn things around and begin to contend, he will be IN THE WAY. PLUS he is a bad outfielder – shouldn’t he be on an AL team that at least could hide him at DH? If Ortiz were hurt or done, he would be a perfect fit in Fenway Park.

But WOW! in just a few days the Dodgers shed millions in payroll, got clearly better, AND acquired a number of useful prospects, as well as solidifying an already rock-solid rotation. And, likely, they are not yet done!

Four games

Posted by Baseball Bob at 21:12
Aug 142014

What a difference a few games can make!

Last Friday night the Yankees beat the Cleveland Indians: they built up a 10-2 lead, and the bullpen gave some of it back, but they won 10-6. This followed them taking 3 of 4 from the Tigers (and leading David Price 3-1 in the one that got away!), and put them 7 games over .500, 5 back in the divisional race, and in the lead for the second wild-card spot by 1/2 game. They had 2 more games with the mediocre Indians, and then they were to head to Baltimore for a 3-game showdown with the 1st place Orioles. Michael Pineda was rehabbing so well at triple-A that it was determined to skip his last rehab start and let him face the Orioles on Wednesday. Carlos Beltran was (finally!) rounding into form at the plate, and the 20% playoff chance ESPN was willing to admit seemed low. Optimism reigned supreme.

Yes, there were clouds. The team hadn’t scored much against Detroit (11 runs in 4 games) but they faced the 3 most recent AL Cy Young award winners (Scherzer, Price, Verlander) so that is understandable. Until they beat the Tiger’s bullpen 5-1 they had played 16 (!) consecutive games decided by 1 or 2 runs, a franchise record and only 2 off the longest streak of all-time. And they were leading THAT game 2-1 until they got 3 largely-undeserved runs in the 8th inning due to sloppy Tiger defense (is there any other kind?). Chris Capuano (!!) had pitched 6 scoreless innings, Esmil Rogers (!!!!) had thrown 5 against the Indians, Brandon McCarthy was unbeaten in 4 starts.

But a funny thing happened on the march to the postseason. Cleveland shut them out on Saturday, and would have again on Sunday except Ellsbury hit a HR in the bottom of the 9th to lose by 1-4 instead. By the way, the Yankees are currently on a 2500+ game streak (!!) of not being shut out in consecutive games, just over 15 seasons worth – the longest such streak in the history of the major leagues. Odd, that, considering that this year’s team AND last year’s have long stretches of not scoring much at all.

Then the Orioles POUNDED them on Monday, gave them Tuesday off for rain, and hooked up again last night. Pineda did indeed start and was brilliant, retiring the first 12 Orioles in order. The Yankees got a 2-run HR from Francisco Cervelli (one of the few Yankees hitting at the moment) and they took a 2-1 lead into the 8th, when the Orioles scored 3 times to ice the game. The Yankees playoff odds went from 20% to 7% in four games (the Orioles won all four, and of course the Royals and Mariners were winning as well. The 20% seemed low at the time, but now the 7% seems high.

Meanwhile, the Royals have won 12 of 14 and taken over first place in the Central. Who knows if they will hang in there (they did this last year, too, if you recall) but they sure LOOK like they and the Tigers will both be playing in October.

I want to point out, just for the record, that I predicted before the season that the Orioles and Royals would be division winners. Lest I get TOO cocky, though, I also predicted the Rangers who have the worst record in baseball, and will be the first team mathematically eliminated (their max win total is 89, and to get there they would have to win 42 straight games). And the Royals are hardly a lock at this point, though they are playing pretty well.

The Yankees at the deadline seriously revamped their roster, picking up Brandon McCarthy, Chris Capuano and Esmil Rogers, Chase Headley, Steven Drew, and Martin Prado. They immediately put the first three in the rotation, and began playing the last three every day. And, surprise (!), the guys that weren’t hitting for San Diego, Boston and Arizona aren’t hitting for the Yankees, either. The starters have been surprisingly good, so far, but it is hard to believe that a rotation of Kuroda, McCarthy, Capuano, Shane Greene and Rogers is a playoff-caliber rotation. Kuroda has collapsed in the second half of both of the last two years, Greene is a rookie who was not in the Yankee’s top 30 prospects at the start of the season, and the others are essentially rejects from other teams (Rogers was released by the Blue Jays TWICE just this season! Capuano was released by the last-place Red Sox and McCarthy was 1-10 in San Diego).

My team is toast. They should really have been considered such months ago.

Oh my Goodness!

Posted by Baseball Bob at 09:11
Aug 012014

Trade deadline day is always fun; something worth musing about happens every year. But THIS year, the rumors were pale compared to the reality. Now, I understand that every blockbuster is not really a blockbuster (see: Pineda and Campos for Montero and Noesi) and that every deadline deal is not a blockbuster. But, really, there were LOTS of trades, and some big names moved. I would really like to do this trade-by-trade, but that would take MUCH more time than I have, so instead I want to do it a bit team-by-team.

First (of course) the Yankees. One of the more active participants in the market, the Yankees were basically dumpster-diving while other teams dined on steak. It is POSSIBLE that the Yankees got better, and mostly they didn’t give up anything they were counting on (Unless you count Nova, and I think they were giving up on him): they acquired four players, about as many as the most anyone got, but:

Brandon McCarthy Starter 30 years old, 3-10 5.01 with Arizona
Chase Headley Third Base 30 years old, .229/.296/.355 with San Diego
Steven Drew Infield 31 years old, .176/.255/.328 with Boston (!)
Martin Prado Second Base 30 years old, .270/.317/.370 with Arizona

The Yankees were trading for names (guys who have done it in the past, though not doing it now) and change-of-scenery upsides. With Jeter settled at short (the only place Drew has value) it looks like Prado will start at second (in place of the useless Brian Roberts) and Drew will be the utility guy (replacing Brendan Ryan?). In their defense, both McCarthy and Headley have been miles better than they were before the trade, in very small samples. If Drew and/or Prado is the same, and the other two don’t tail off, then they have turned zeros into mediocrity, which has value. And if Pineda and Tanaka both return before NY is out of the race, well, it could work. That’s a lot of ifs, though.

Red Sox: they are the real story here. After insisting for weeks that they expected to climb back into the race, they did a 180 of a sort, and unloaded (are you ready for this): Lester, Lackey, Doubront, Drew, Peavey, Miller and Gomes. Don’t look now, but that is 4/5 of their rotation and (recently) their starting shortstop. Another way to look at it: the Sox have played 108 games this year, and 77 of them were started by guys no longer on the team. And they say they are NOT rebuilding – they expect to compete next year.

Now, of course, the Sox didn’t get nothing for these guys. Lots of deadline deals (see: Cubs) are about getting guys 2-4 years out in exchange for punting this year and next. But the Sox landed Yoenis Cespedes (flawed but talented outfielder), starter Edwin Escobar (hot AAA prospect, and probably MLB-ready), starter Joe Kelly (26-year-old “veteran”, good last year and mostly hurt this year), Allen Craig (29-year-old OF/1B good for 3 years, struggling this year. They picked up a couple of solid minor league prospects as well (OK, they also got the worthless Kelly Johnson from the Yankees – he is not only worthless, but also ON THE DL so I don’t think that really counts).

The Yankees will start their playoff run with a 3-game set against Boston: what do you bet that the new Pawtucket Sox sweep the set?

Meanwhile, the Oakland A’s had the most amazing off-season, in my opinion: in a mirror image of Boston, they ACQUIRED 3/5 of a rotation: Lester, Samardzija, and Hammel, trading down in left field (losing Cespedes and gaining Gomes) plus giving up a number of futures. Oakland, who has been good for years but can’t get out of the division series, is putting all their chips into the pot in an attempt to win it all this year. Good luck with that.
They had the best record in baseball before making these trades.

The Tigers won the David Price sweepstakes, giving up centerfielder Austin Jackson, starter Drew Smyly and 18-year-old shortstop prospect Willy Adames. Jackson went to Seattle who gave up infielder Nick Franklin to Tampa in the 3-team swap. Amazingly, if you believe the numbers, this trade drops Justin Verlander from the Tigers’ postseason rotation (!!). It also gives the Tigers the last THREE AL Cy Young winners (Price, Verlander, Scherzer). But on paper at least, the A’s rotation is better.

Who won the trade deadline wars? Who knows? The Cubs got the best prospects. The Red Sox dumped the most salary. The A’s got the best rotation. The Tigers got the best starter. And we got the most entertaining trade deadline in years.

Jul 212014

Of course they CAN. Will they? Probably not. Let’s take a look at the Yankees’ chances to make the postseason.

The all-star break Yankees were 47-47, and as my previous post claimed, deserved this record. Of course, the RS/RS analysis normally done suggests they were over their head at .500 (-40 run differential) which makes a playoff run even more improbable. Their problem is that the players they most expected to come through for them are mostly older, and that 4/5 of their opening day rotation is on the disabled list. By my metric, the ONLY pitchers to have started a game for NY and who deserved a winning record at the break were Tanaka (on the DL) and Pineda (on the DL) plus Shane Greene who started a total of 2 games. So the starting pitching is a major problem.

But they traded for Brandon McCarthy, and in 3 starts for NY he has posted game scores of 67 and 71, thus deserving a 2-0 record. His fWAR after 2 starts is 0.3, as compared to -0.5 in 18 starts for Arizona. So it’s a fluke you say, and you’re probably right. BUT fWAR has him at 1.5 – he had badly underperformed his peripherals in Arizona, which could be luck. IF he is really a 3.69 FIP or (even better) a 2.87 xFIP then he might help the Yankees. A lot.

Meanwhile, since the break the Yankees hosted the red-hot Reds for a 3-game set. The Reds have 3 quality starters, two of them all-stars, and of course with 4 days off all three were good to go. The Yankees countered with Phelps (3-4 3.96), McCarthy (4-10 4.90) and Kuroda (6-6 4.10). The offense had one deserved win (7 runs), one deserved break-even (4 runs) and one deserved loss (3 runs) but Phelps threw a GS 57 (0.65 wins), Betances and Robertson were effective, and they won. Then McCarthy threw a GS 71 (win) and they won easily. Then Kuroda threw a GS 70 (win) but the offense struggled (well, it WAS Cueto) and the bullpen was one effective and one ineffective, but the combination was a lucky win. Thus they swept the Reds, upped their record to 50-47, and gave us hope.

What needs to happen going forward? Well, for one thing, the other AL East teams need to not get hot. The 5 teams were all playing out-of-division, and their collective record for those 3 days was 12-3, so NY didn’t gain too much ground. On the other hand, the 3 losses were all by teams ahead of them (Baltimore 2, Toronto 1) so in fact they closed to within 3 of the division lead, and tied for second. Still, if the Yankees are to have a chance, it is likely to be the division: the wild card teams figure to win 90 games, and the Yankees would need to go 40-25 to achieve that, a .615 pace, which seems most unlikely. on the other hand, the division could very possibly be won with about 87 wins, which doesn’t seem like a lot fewer but 37-28 is only .569 which seems a lot more doable.

To accomplish this, the Yankees need more offense out of Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. They need Gardner and Ellsbury and Teixeira to continue about where they have been, and Jeter to keep getting enough singles and walks to not be an anchor in the 2-slot (in a table game, he should probably bat 9th, but that is just NOT going to happen). A .275 hitter with a .330 OBP and no power is not an ideal #2, but it will play. But if he slips to .250/.300 he will drag them down for sure. The Yankees are 8-7 in games in which they scored only 3 runs, which is pretty lucky. But they are 6-7 in games which they score 5 runs, which is pretty unlucky. Their offense is average, and it needs to move a little above average.

Meanwhile, the rotation. Kuroda has faded badly in the second half of each of the last 3 seasons, and the Yankees need him not to do that, as he is kind of the ace of this rotation. McCarthy needs to pitch like his FIP or xFIP instead of his ERA, which history suggests is reasonable. Phelps, Whitley and Greene need to hang in there and give the Yankees a chance to win some of the time. Doesn’t sound like a championship rotation, does it? But actually, none of them has been so bad by my metrics. Phelps deserves a .500 record, Whitley 4-6 and Greene of course is 2-0. And sometime in August they should get both Tanaka and Pineda back. If both are effective (as they were before going down) and if NY is still in the race when they return, then a Rotation of Tanaka, Kuroda, Pineda, Phelps and McCarthy sounds a WHOLE lot better.

then there is the Jekyll and Hyde bullpen. The Yankees had 2 all-stars: the sentimental but not by-the-stats-deserving Jeter, and a reliever: the electric Dellin Betances. And Robertson has been just as good as Betances in the closer role. In terms of fWAR Betances is at 2.1 and Robertson at 1.6. They are better than all the starters except Tanaka (3.2) and Kuroda (2.0). Supporting the two rock stars are two other effective relievers: Adam Warren and Shawn Kelley. If the game is close, this quartet can usually keep it that way. The rest of the bullpen is pretty awful, and all four of these guys is right-handed (as are all 5 starters) so the Yankees are certainly vulnerable to left-handed hitting.

But the bottom line is that, in this division in this year, they are not actually far behind: neither in the standings, where they trail Baltimore by a mere 3 games, nor in actual ability. I give them about 1 chance in 3 of the postseason, with most of that being a division leader. And a Yankee team with Tanaka and Pineda, and with offense from about 6 positions, could actually do some damage when they get there.

A man can dream.

Jul 182014

The inability of this blog manager to post a readable table frustrates me (and likely my readers, as well) and I am, for the time being, giving up on trying to outsmart it. Instead, I will post the report cards in a redundant, non-table manner which is at least pretty readable. So, without further ado, here are the scores:

ARI Actual F Hitters D+ Starters F Bullpen C
ATL Actual B Hitters D Starters A- Bullpen B-
BAL Actual B Hitters C+ Starters D- Bullpen B-
BOS Actual D Hitters C Starters C Bullpen B-
CHC Actual D- Hitters D- Starters C Bullpen B
CWS Actual D+ Hitters B Starters D+ Bullpen D+
CLE Actual C Hitters C Starters F Bullpen C
CIN Actual B- Hitters C Starters B Bullpen C
COL Actual F Hitters C+ Starters F Bullpen D
DET Actual A- Hitters B Starters B- Bullpen D+
HOU Actual F Hitters D Starters D Bullpen D
KCR Actual C Hitters C- Starters C Bullpen B-
LAA Actual A Hitters A Starters B Bullpen B-
LAD Actual B Hitters C Starters A- Bullpen C
MIA Actual D+ Hitters C Starters D Bullpen C
MIL Actual B Hitters B Starters C- Bullpen B
MIN Actual D+ Hitters B Starters F Bullpen C+
NYM Actual D+ Hitters C+ Starters B- Bullpen C+
NYY Actual C Hitters C Starters C- Bullpen D+
OAK Actual A+ Hitters B+ Starters B Bullpen B+
PHI Actual D Hitters D Starters D+ Bullpen C+
PIT Actual C+ Hitters C- Starters C- Bullpen C+
SDP Actual D- Hitters F Starters C+ Bullpen A+
SFG Actual B Hitters D Starters C Bullpen A
SEA Actual B- Hitters C Starters B Bullpen A+
STL Actual B Hitters C+ Starters B Bullpen B
TBR Actual D Hitters C Starters C+ Bullpen B-
TEX Actual F Hitters D+ Starters F Bullpen C-
TOR Actual C Hitters B- Starters D Bullpen D-
WSN Actual B Hitters D+ Starters B+ Bullpen A+

A few comments about methodology and meaning, in case I might happen to have a stray new reader: each grade is supposed to be independent, in an “all else being equal” way, though it doesn’t really work. In theory, then a B grade for hitters should produce a B overall if the two pitching categories are C. This actually works fairly well for hitters and starters, but for a bullpen to carry average starters and average hitters to a high number of wins is pretty nearly impossible, so to really rate it this way would result in all the bullpen ratings being between D+ and B-, and what fun is that?

The ratings are derived by esoteric means, and at the moment the MLB rating for hitters is C, as it should be, but starters is C- and Bullpen is C+, so some minor adjustment is required. I normally do this adjustment at season’s end, as the variability of small sample sizes would require constant tweaking.

Hitters: teams are rated on how often the offense puts the team in a position to win. 3 or fewer runs is considered a loss, 4 is a half-win, 5 or more is a win. No adjustment is made for ballpark, for the simple reason that this is a FAN based metric: if a team scores only 3 runs, the fans think they didn’t get the job done, even if the team won. Similarly if they score 5, then a fan blames the pitching if they lose.

Starters: pitchers are rated on Bill James’ game score, explained elsewhere. The league average game score when this was introduced in the mid-80s was about 48.5. But it has been steadily rising, being nearly 54 last season. This year it has (so far) slipped a bit, to just over 53. But I am keeping it at 54 for now. What that means is that a pitcher gets a deserved half-win for a GS of 54. for each point above that he adds .05 until at 64 it is a full deserved win. For each point below that he loses .05, until at 44 it becomes a full deserved loss. This works pretty well.

Relievers: this is based on my own esoteric scale, where each relief outing is rated Effective (+1), Ineffective (-1), yikes (-2) or YIKES! (-3) and these are simply totaled up to get relief value. To get rating, though, you need to know volume, so a ratio of this total to number of relief appearances gives a percentage, and a number is added to that to get a winning percentage. That number is currently .275 if anyone cares. This means that if your ratio of score to outings is .115 you get a grade C. This requires and example, I am sure:

Randall Delgado of the Diamondbacks has appeared in 26 games, a total of 36 IP. His ERA is exactly 4.00, so standard metrics might suggest that he is an average reliever. I have his 26 appearances classified as follows: 17 effective, 7 ineffective, 2 yikes, 0 YIKES! His score then is 17 – 7 – 4 = 6, and 6/26 = .230 so he grades as a .505 reliever, which is a C.

One note about all these metrics – most baseball stats assume that RS/RA are random, but these metrics are based on the assumption that this is slightly flawed. A team that is losing 8-0 will put its worst reliever(s) in, and leave them in, often losing 15-2 in the process. An offense keeps trying to get hits and score, in part because their own stats are effected, even if they are losing or winning big. Thus a starter with a GS of 35 is really not that much better than one with a GS of 5 – both expect to lose. Similarly, a pitcher with a YIKES! hurts the team but often this comes in a game that is already lost. Thus a pitcher that allows nothing in 9 outings, and 6 runs in one outing, will score very well (9 effective, 1 YIKES!) while a pitcher that allows those same 6 runs in those same 10 outings, but allows 1 run in 6 of them is likely to score much more poorly (4 effective 6 ineffective). In effect, these metrics try to answer the question: how OFTEN does this offense, starter, or reliever play well, rather than HOW WELL do the numbers suggest they do overall.

Mostly, this does not matter. Teams whose hitters grade well are usually the teams that score the most runs, and vice versa. Sometimes, though, they explain anomalies: the 2014 Yankees are 47-47 despite a terrible run differential. The reason, according to these metrics is that the much-maligned hitters score an acceptable number of runs more often than you would expect, but they almost never score a really high number. And similarly, they have a bullpen with four very effective pitchers: Betances A+++, Robertson A++, Warren B- and Kelley B-. Not coincidentally, these are the four pitchers with the most relief innings. But ALL their other pitchers grade out at D+ or worse, and so their overall bullpen rating is not good. What this really means, though, is that when the game is close they use their 4, and when it is not they use the others, and the others get pounded. So they lose bigger than they would if they had some extra mediocre arms, and that explodes their run differential, but does not materially affect their W/L record. The Yankees (as I expect to show in my next post) deserver their average record: they are an average team. Their W/L is a better indicator of how they have played than their RS/RA, even though often the reverse is true.

One last note: many readers will look at the Oakland ratings and say this method doesn’t work. How, they say, can a team with a B+ offense, a B rotation, and a B+ bullpen be an A+ team, with the best record in baseball and an absolutely amazing run differential. My answer is that is EXACTLY what I would expect from a team well above average in all three. Remember, this is supposedly a team that would be B+ (.560) with AVERAGE pitching, and B (.550) with AVERAGE hitting. When both are way above average, this combines to be well above .600 (A+). If anything, the A’s should have MORE wins than they do.

The Silence Breaks

Posted by Baseball Bob at 09:58
Jul 182014

Hi friends!

Long time, no talk to. I have been busy, but that is no excuse. I followed the World Cup closely (what does it say about me that I would rather follow the WBC than March Madness, but the World Cup took me away from the regular season? Nothing good, I’m guessing). I also have had my grandchildren 3-4 days a week for the past few weeks, which cuts into my time (AND my sleep :-)

It is the all-star break, the Yankees are 47-47 but still in it, sort of, and baseball is on my mind. I don’t know how much I will write, but I expect to do some posts today: this one, all-star break report cards, and possibly a Yankees analysis.

Meanwhile, I make no promise about future posts, but I hope to get back to a more regular thing. I miss all of you, and you don’t write if I don’t, so I hope to try.

thanks for your patience.

April Report Cards

Posted by Baseball Bob at 10:22
May 052014

Didn’t get to it on Thursday; life intervened. But I have chosen to cut off the data at April 30 anyway, so if your team is the Giants (won every day so far in May) then these numbers may appear to be a little low. By the way, to have the starters overall come out to .500, I have to consider a GS of 44 to be a whole loss, with 45 worth .05 win, and needing a 64 to garner a whole win. When GS first came out, Bill James reported that the average game score was a little under 50, at 48.85. It is now over 54, so the decade of the pitcher is very real.

MLB Actual Hitters Starters Relievers
Team W L Gr W L Gr W L Gr G Rat Gr
Arizona 9 22 F 18.25 12.75 A- 7.65 23.35 F 103 15 D
Atlanta 17 9 A++ 12.00 14.00 D+ 19.15 6.85 A+++ 73 23 B
Baltimore 12 12 C 9.75 14.25 F 8.50 15.50 F 70 15 C
Boston 13 14 C- 16.50 10.50 A+ 14.05 12.95 C+ 74 19 C
Chic Cubs 9 17 F 12.00 14.00 D+ 13.80 12.20 B- 80 17 C
Chic Sox 14 15 C- 18.00 11.00 A+ 11.90 17.10 F 83 5 F
Cleveland 11 17 F 13.25 13.75 C 9.20 18.80 F 92 18 C-
Cincinnati 12 15 D 11.50 15.50 D- 16.15 10.85 A 63 8 D
Colorado 16 13 B 17.25 11.75 A 11.20 17.80 F 95 21 C
Detroit 14 9 A 13.25 9.75 A- 13.80 9.20 A 72 5 F
Houston 9 19 F 9.75 18.25 F 13.25 14.75 D+ 74 2 F
Kans City 14 12 B- 13.00 13.00 C 15.20 10.80 A- 65 7 D-
LA suburb 14 13 C+ 16.25 10.75 A 15.20 11.80 B+ 87 23 C+
LA real 15 12 B 13.25 13.75 C 17.50 9.50 A++ 104 18 D+
Miami 13 14 C- 13.50 13.50 C 14.40 12.60 B- 70 19 C+
Milwaukee 20 8 A+++ 16.00 12.00 B+ 17.60 10.40 A+ 89 49 A+++
Minnesota 12 12 C 16.00 8.00 A+++ 5.70 18.30 F 74 19 C
NY Mets 15 11 A- 15.25 10.75 A- 15.05 10.95 A- 81 8 D-
NY Yanks 15 11 A- 12.75 13.25 C 13.60 12.40 C+ 75 14 C-
Oakland 17 10 A+ 17.25 10.75 A+ 15.20 11.80 B+ 79 36 A+
Philly 13 13 C 12.00 14.00 D+ 10.95 15.05 F 78 16 C-
Pittsburgh 10 16 F 10.75 15.25 F 12.20 13.80 D+ 66 25 B+
San Diego 13 16 D 8.00 21.00 F 12.65 16.35 D- 80 43 A++
San Fran 17 11 A 11.75 13.25 D+ 12.80 15.20 D 84 40 A+
Seattle 11 14 D 15.00 13.00 B- 13.25 11.75 B- 81 22 C+
St. Louis 15 14 C+ 12.25 16.75 F 18.40 10.60 A+ 80 20 C
Tampa 11 16 F 12.00 15.00 D 11.40 15.60 F 84 20 C
Texas 15 13 B- 13.25 14.75 D+ 11.55 16.45 F 82 16 C-
Toronto 12 15 D 15.50 11.50 B+ 12.50 14.50 D+ 83 2 F
Wash DC 16 12 B+ 13.50 14.50 C- 15.45 12.55 B 83 33 A-

A few observations:
the D-Backs have had an excellent offense, rating at A-, but their starting pitching has been SO bad that an F doesn’t begin to do it justice. I have them as deserving 7.65 wins out of 31 games played, a .246 winning percentage. An F rating is given for any element below .425. So anything below 13.15 wins is an F. Arizona is about HALF of that. Wow! And their bullpen isn’t all that much better.

The Brewers hot start is primarily pitching fueled, and with their starters outstanding and their bullpen has been off the charts. Hats off to them!

My Yankees clearly don’t deserve their first-place standing. I justified it in a previous post by saying that the blowouts they suffered didn’t really hurt them, but hurt their ratio of RS to RA. But this analysis says they have an ordinary offense, a slightly above-average rotation, and a slightly below-average bullpen. That makes a .500 team no matter how you cut it.

Boston is the opposite: an outstanding offense coupled with a slightly above-average rotation and an average bullpen should produce an overall A (remember, each rating suggests what the team record would be if all the other aspects were average) but in fact they finished the month under .500.

And who would have placed baseball’s best offense in Minnesota? While they don’t have (quite) the most runs scored, they have 1) played fewer games than anyone else, so their RS/G is high, and 2) have scored consistently, which is what my metric measures. You get ½ win for scoring 4 runs, and a full win for 5 or more. No extra credit for 16.

Finally, the Giants. I don’t see how they are 17-11, unless they have been really lucky. A D+ offense and a D rotation often gives an F record. Yes, their bullpen has been great, but still. Lots of 1-run games and extra-innings wins, I would guess (but am too lazy to check!)

I hope to be more consistent in putting out monthly report cards this season; I’m obviously off to a bad start, as I missed the end of April.

But it is still fun, and at least I find it interesting.

Finally, sorry about the formatting. it looks all right on the editing screen, but it messes up when publishing, and I can’t seem to fix it.

Oddity

Posted by Baseball Bob at 06:23
May 042014

I really want to do April report cards, maybe tomorrow. Meanwhile it is early Sunday morning, and I have about 10 minutes. I have noted a serious oddity, that I wanted to share. This has been true for several days, but this is my first moment to comment.

The mighty AL East, widely recognized as the best division in baseball, is a compressed division: top to bottom only 3.5 games separate the 5 teams. Currently the standings almost exactly reflect my preseason prediction: Yankees, Orioles, Red Sox, Rays, Blue Jays. But this is not the oddity.

ALL FIVE of these teams have a negative run differential, and in fact the whole division is 3 games BELOW .500. In fact, TWELVE of 15 AL teams have negative run differential! The AL as a whole is 9 games below .500 – for the first time ever, the NL is clearly winning the interleague play.

Further differential oddity: the two BEST teams in run differential in MLB are the A’s and Angels, both in the AL West. But the Rangers, who are -20, are also in the AL West and have a better record than the Angels (at +39).

And in contrast to the AL East, the wimpy NL East has ALL of its teams at or above .500.

Weird, right?

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