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May 31, 2007

Transaction

Texas optioned pitcher MIKE WOOD to AAA and recalled pitcher JOHN KORONKA from AAA.

Happened Wednesday. Just posting for the record.

Posted by Lucas at 11:46 PM

May 28, 2007

A Brief History Of 18-32 Teams

With Sunday’s loss, Texas’s 18-32 record ties the second worst 50-game start in team history (the worst being 1982’s 17-33). From 1900-2006, 57 teams began their seasons with a record of 18-32, including the ’73 Rangers. What hope did these teams have?

Not much. On the whole, they played as you’d expect: better than their .360 winning percentages coming in, but still poorly. The average team finished the season at 67-95 and played .436 ball in its final 112 games (all numbers scaled to a 162-game season). Only twelve teams (21%) declined to a sub-.360 win rate, including, ahem, the ’73 Rangers.

Four teams finished with winning records, two of which are recent:

Team
Year
First 50 Division Status Last 112 Final Record Division Status / Postseason
Pittsburgh
1974
18-32 6th, 9.0 GB 70-42 88-74 1st, +1.5, lost div series to LA
San Diego
1988
18-32 5th, -10.5 65-46 83-78 3rd, -11.0
Oakland
2005
18-32 4th, -11.5 70-42 88-74 2nd, -7.0
Houston
2005
18-32 6th, -15.0 71-41 89-73 2nd, -11.0, Wild Card, lost World Series to Chicago

Coming soon: A Brief History of 18-33 Teams.

Posted by Lucas at 12:44 PM

Wood Up, Feldman Down

Texas has recalled pitcher MIKE WOOD from AAA Oklahoma and optioned reliever SCOTT FELDMAN to AAA.

Wood is up for one of his spot starts. I’d guess that presently DL-ed Ron Mahay will replace him in a day or so. Oklahoma has only three true starting pitchers at the moment: John Koronka, Alfredo Simon (who has an 8.37 ERA) and rehabbing John Rheinecker.

I know Texas wouldn’t promote Eric Hurley from AA purely on that basis, but he sure seems ready to handle the challenge.

Posted by Lucas at 12:21 PM

May 27, 2007

Answer To "Quick!"

Answer to “Quick!”

On June 6, 1990, Texas was 21-32, eleven games under .500. They played .569 ball (62-47) the rest of way to finish 83-79. The Rangers made no dramatic changes to the roster or lineup. They simply played better. Incidentally, on July 2nd the outfield behind Nolan Ryan consisted of Jack Daugherty, Pete Incaviglia and Kevin Reimer. They committed no errors.

In the eleven previous seasons during which the Rangers fell at least thirteen games under .500 (as is the case right now), they’ve never surpassed a 76-86 record (1976).

Posted by Lucas at 12:01 PM

Byrd Up, Mahar Down, Ojeda Out

Texas added outfielder MARLON BYRD to the 40-man and active rosters, optioned outfielder KEVIN MAHAR to AAA Oklahoma, and designated catcher MIGUEL OJEDA for assignment.

Back on April 1st I wrote that “Byrd would have made a fine fifth outfielder and 25th man.” Eight weeks later, he will. Byrd ought to make one of Jerry Hairston or Matt Kata superfluous, but he may not possess the precise combination of positional versatility and weak hitting that Texas demands in a bench player. He almost certainly won’t accept another outright assignment.

I know Ojeda has been designated previously, but I don’t know if he’s been outrighted. He’s had a long and peripatetic career that’s hard to follow. So, I can’t say whether or not he must accept an outright assignment.

Posted by Lucas at 11:27 AM

May 26, 2007

Quick!

What’s the most games Texas has been under .500 and still finished with a winning record?

Posted by Lucas at 03:44 PM

May 25, 2007

Weekend Photo


Wave goodbye to Batgirl, folks.

Posted by Lucas at 12:02 PM

May 23, 2007

AL West Statistical Review

About the statistics: You're probably familiar with Baseball Reference's statistics OPS+ and ERA+. The "+" denotes conversion of the statistic to an index that is adjusted for each team's league and park. A score of 100 equates to an average performance in the particular statistic. For example, Texas plays in a hitter-friendly park and must score 5.1 runs per game to “break even.” Los Angeles, in a very pitcher-friendly park, has a break-even rate of about 4.8 runs per game. One can, if one is a nerd, use this indexing for any statistic: runs scored (RS+), runs allowed (RA+), on-base percentage, triples, and so on.

OFFENSE
TEXAS
LA ANGELS
OAKLAND
SEATTLE
Runs Scored/game
5.04
4.59
4.53
4.39
Park-Adj. League RS/Game
4.78
4.63
4.54
4.44
RS+
106
99
100
99
 
AVG
.250
.272
.252
.269
AVG+
95
102
98
106
OBP
.317
.325
.337
.320
OBP+
95
97
103
98
SLUG
.440
.399
.391
.407
SLUG+
106
98
97
102
Team OPS
.757
.724
.728
.727
Team OPS+
102
94
100
100
 
HR Rate
3.8%
1.9%
2.5%
2.6%
HRrate+
142
83
98
99
BB Rate
9%
7%
11%
6%
BBrate+
99
80
122
69
SO Rate
19%
13%
17%
12%
SOrate+
86
128
99
125
Steals / Caught
34 / 8
39 / 11
18 / 8
22 / 9

On a macro level, the Texas offense strongly resembles 2004 and 2006: high on homers, low on OBP, unexceptional overall. However, some recent high-scoring games have papered over a horrible April and the fact that Texas has scored five or more runs per game 10% less often than last year (43% vs 53%). Texas may have the best offense in the division, but surely it deserves no praise.

PITCHING
TEXAS
LA ANGELS
OAKLAND
SEATTLE
Runs Allowed/Game
5.59
3.67
3.84
4.95
Park-Adj. League RA/Game
4.78
4.59
4.53
4.39
RA+
86
125
118
89
 
ERA
5.12
3.43
3.47
4.74
Park-Adj. League ERA/Game
4.34
4.21
4.13
4.03
ERA+
85
123
119
85
Unearned Runs Allowed
28
15
16
14
 
Opp. AVG
.271
.248
.243
.276
Opp. OBP
.354
.316
.302
.342
Opp. OBP+
107
95
93
106
Opp. SLUG
.435
.383
.373
.414
Opp. SLUG+
106
95
93
105
Opp. OPS
.789
.699
.675
.756
Opp. OPS+
114
90
86
111
 
HR Rate
2.6%
2.2%
1.9%
1.6%
HRrate+
88
120
127
147
BB Rate
9%
8%
7%
7%
BBrate+
87
113
120
114
SO Rate
13%
18%
16%
12%
SOrate+
88
136
112
83
Opp. Steals / Caught
26 / 14
30 / 10
34 / 12
19 / 7

Texas ranks no higher than 11th in the AL in any “+” stat for pitching. Last year, the Rangers surrendered plenty of hits but kept walks and homers to acceptable levels. In 2007, on a team level, Texas has does nothing well from the mound. The Rangers no longer lead the league in unearned runs allowed. Thanks, Kansas City!

ROTATION / BULLPEN
TEXAS
LA ANGELS
OAKLAND
SEATTLE
Rotation IP/G
5.3
6.1
6.2
5.5
Rotation ERA
6.01
3.24
3.11
5.65
Park-Adj. League Rotation ERA
4.39
4.34
4.29
4.23
Rotation ERA+
73
134
138
75
 
Bullpen ERA
3.77
3.85
4.27
3.15
Park-Adj. League Bullpen ERA
4.16
4.10
4.06
4.00
Bullpen ERA+
110
107
95
127

In terms of ERA+, Texas has the 5th best bullpen and worst rotation. No bullpen on Earth can mitigate a rotation with a 6.01 ERA.

PERIPHERALS
TEXAS
LA ANGELS
OAKLAND
SEATTLE
Runs per game
5.04
4.59
4.53
4.39
Expected RS/game
4.87
4.53
4.63
4.47
"Luck" per game
0.17
0.06
(0.10)
(0.08)
"Lucky" runs scored
8
3
(5)
(3)
 
Runs/G
5.59
3.67
3.84
4.95
Projected Runs / G
5.34
4.22
3.87
4.93
Luck per game
0.25
(0.54)
(0.03)
0.02
"Lucky" runs prevented
(11)
25
1
(1)
 
Total Luck
(3)
28
(3)
(4)

STANDINGS
TEXAS
LA ANGELS
OAKLAND
SEATTLE
Actual Wins
18
28
22
20
Actual Losses
28
18
23
21
Actual Win%
0.391
0.609
0.489
0.488
 
Pythag Wins
20.7
28.0
26.2
18.0
Pythag Losses
25.3
18.0
18.8
23.0
Pythag Win%
0.449
0.609
0.582
0.440
 
Periph Wins
20.9
24.6
26.5
18.5
Periph Losses
25.1
21.4
18.5
22.5
Periph Win%
0.454
0.535
0.589
0.451

Texas has been pretty unlucky both in terms of Pythagorean and peripheral wins, which most definitely is not to say that it is a good team in hiding. The bad luck bodes well regarding the probability of avoiding 100 losses, but that’s about it. If the Rangers perform at their peripheral win percentage from here on, they’ll win 71 games. Yippee.

PARKS
TEXAS
LA ANGELS
OAKLAND
SEATTLE
Park Factor (OPS)
1.00
1.00
0.96
0.94
Park Factor (Runs)
1.01
0.98
0.96
0.94

Posted by Lucas at 12:00 PM

May 21, 2007

Millwood’s Contract

Kevin Millwood did not sign a five-year, $60 million contract with Texas, though it wasn’t reported as such. He signed a four-year $48 million contract with a fifth year at $12 million that vests upon fulfillment of any of three innings-pitched scenarios:

  • 540 innings during 2007-2009,
  • 360 innings during 2008-2009, or
  • 180 innings during 2009.

With Millwood hitting the disabled list twice in rapid succession, these scenarios have come into play. Per MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan, Millwood probably won’t be ready to pitch on May 29th when Texas next needs a fifth starter. For the sake of discussion, assume he returns June 5th to kick off the homestand against Detroit and is able to pitch the equivalent of every fifth game thereafter at his ’06 rate of 6.1 innings per start.

Those assumptions give him 21 more starts and 133 innings for a season total of 168.1. Thus, he’ll need 371.2 innings in 2008-2009 to achieve the goal in the first scenario. Since the second scenario requires only 360 innings, the first scenario is effectively meaningless at this point. Millwood’s hamstring has cost him the ability to stockpile innings during 2007 to mitigate inning-sapping injuries in ’08-’09.

Texas has an option to pick up the fifth year even if Millwood doesn’t attain any of those goals. Incidentally, with Millwood’s $15 million signing bonus deferred until 2011-2015, his contract is worth about $44.8 million in present-value dollars (discounted at 8%) including the fifth year.

Posted by Lucas at 08:42 AM

May 20, 2007

Koronka Down, Littleton Up

Texas recalled reliever WES LITTLETON from AAA Oklahoma and optioned pitcher JOHN KORONKA to AAA.

Koronka performed as hoped, chewing up six innings without too much damage. Littleton ought to be a full-time member of the pen, but we’ll see.

Posted by Lucas at 09:43 PM

May 19, 2007

Koronka Up, Hairston Hurt

Texas placed utility guy JERRY HAIRSTON JR. on the 15-day Disabled List and recalled pitcher JOHN KORONKA from AAA Oklahoma.

Probably a one-shot start for Koronka. He's ranged between respectable and awful in AAA.

Posted by Lucas at 05:44 PM

"Rundown" Charts Updated

It's becoming a full-time job.

Posted by Lucas at 12:05 PM

Blalock Out

Texas placed 3B HANK BLALOCK on the 60-day Disabled List and added 3B TRAVIS METCALF to the 40-man and active rosters.

Blalock suffers the same malady that felled Kenny Rogers suffered in 2001. Metcalf already has the glove rep; in 2007 his bat has returned after taking off ’06. Still, he’s never played above AA and wasn’t that highly regarded, and third isn’t where teams trade offense for defense.

The character litmus test will be whether anyone in the organization uses the rash of injuries as cover for the team’s performance.

Posted by Lucas at 12:01 PM

May 18, 2007

Weekend Photo


Colby, 14 May 2007

Posted by Lucas at 01:34 PM

Facts Are Stubborn Things

Texas has never finished better than 84-76 after starting the first 41 games with a losing record.

Texas has never won more than 73 games in a season when starting the first 41 games with 15 or fewer wins.

Texas has continued to play sub-.500 ball in ten of twelve previous seasons in which it started the first 41 games with a losing record.

Year
Record After 41 Games
Games Above / Below .500 For Rest Of Season
Final Record
1982
13-28
(19)
64-98
1973
13-28
(33)
57-105
1985
14-27
(24)
62-99
2001
14-27
(3)
73-89
2007
15-26
?
?
1984
15-26
(12)
69-92
1987
17-24
(5)
75-87
1972
17-24
(39)
54-100
2003
17-24
(13)
71-91
1994
18-23
(5)
52-62
1990
18-23
9
83-79
2002
19-22
(15)
72-90
1974
20-21
9
84-76

Posted by Lucas at 12:54 AM

May 17, 2007

Another Exciting Transaction

Texas added infielder RAMON VAZQUEZ to the 40-man roster and active roster, optioned reliever A.J. MURRAY to AAA Oklahoma, and transferred shortstop JOAQUIN ARIAS to the 60-day Disabled List.

Vazquez was hitting .258/.375/.409 in AAA, not that it matters.

Posted by Lucas at 11:52 PM

Roster Moves: Mahar Debuts

Texas added outfielder KEVIN MAHAR to the 40-man roster and active roster, placed outfielder BRAD WILKERSON on the 15-day Disabled List, and transferred pitcher JOHN RHEINECKER to the 60-day Disabled List.

Yesterday, I had the following conversation with a Newberg Report reader via email:

Reader: Have you heard about Kevin Mahar joining Texas in Orlando?

Me: What?!? You must be thinking of Marlon Byrd. What’s your source?

Reader: Kevin’s dad.

That’s a good source. Ten minutes later Mahar’s promotion appeared on the wire.

Posted by Lucas at 09:56 AM

May 15, 2007

Roster Moves: Murray Debuts

Texas placed pitchers KEVIN MILLWOOD and RON MAHAY on the 15-day Disabled List and recalled pitchers SCOTT FELDMAN and A.J. MURRAY.

Murray makes his big-league debut, a little under seven years after being the 574th player selected in the 2000 draft. Other MLB players from the infamous ’00 draft are Tyrell Godwin (cup of coffee with Washington in ’05), Laynce Nix, Nick Masset and Edwin Encarnacion.

Interesting that the Rangers didn’t recall a starter and that both relievers are lefties. Presumably Texas will make another move near the end of the week.

UPDATE: Feldman isn't a lefty. Just a righty with a weird delivery.

Posted by Lucas at 02:54 PM

Newberg Report Special: Checking In On Omar Poveda

I wrote the following about Clinton pitcher Omar Poveda on April 5th:

“I expect wonderful things from him in 2007. Now 19, he already has a full-length season under his belt when most players his age are still in extended Spring Training. He also pitched much better last season than his 4-13 record and 4.88 ERA would suggest, as his peripheral stats were very solid. Perhaps his defense let him down: 31% of grounders against him ended up hits, compared to only 25% for the Midwest League as a whole.”

Omar Poveda has lowered his ERA from 4.88 in 2006 to a sparkling 2.51 this season. Interestingly, his three basic peripherals (homers, walks and strikeouts) indicate little to no improvement. His strikeout rate has increased very slightly (21% in ’07 versus 20% in ‘06), but he’s walking more batters (8% vs. 6%) and is on pace to allow nine more homers than last year. What explains his huge decrease in ERA? I have some ideas:

1. Better Defense

In 2006, Clinton allowed opposing batters to hit .331 on balls in play (homers and strikeouts excluded) compared to .310 for the Midwest League. This year, Clinton’s hit rate has plummeted to .304. The difference equates to about 25 hits in 34 games this season. That’s huge.

Likewise, the LumberKings have improved greatly at leaving runners on base. 44 pitchers qualified for the Midwest League’s ERA title in 2006. The three worst at stranding runners were Jake Rasner, Zachary Phillips, and Poveda, all L-Kings. In 2007, Poveda ranks 7th best among 55 qualifiers, and every starter but Michael Ballard is among the top 25%.

Strand rates and hit rates on balls in play don’t hinge entirely on defense. The quality of the pitchers, their ground/fly tendencies, and plain old luck also play roles. But I believe it’s safe to conclude that Clinton’s defense is turning more batted balls into outs this season.

2. Luck

Poveda currently holds a hit rate on balls in play of .188, lowest in the Midwest League. No MWL qualifier finished last season under .257, and Poveda’s was .355. Numerous studies have shown that pitchers have far less influence over this rate than strikeouts, walks and homers. Thus, Poveda’s huge decline in hit rate on balls in play may be partially due to improved performance but is largely a function of luck. He almost certainly can’t maintain such a low hit rate in the long run.

With a hit rate on balls in play of .304 (the team rate) instead of his .188, I estimate Poveda would have an ERA of 3.40, still good, but well above his actual ERA of 2.51.

3. Bizarre Batted-Ball Patterns (i.e., More Luck)

Poveda has exhibited a pronounced fly ball tendency this season. Fly-prone pitchers can and do succeed in the Majors, but, other factors being equal, pitchers who induce more grounders are preferable (especially considering Texas prospects’ final destination of Rangers Ballpark, where fly balls reach the seats with alarming frequency).

In Poveda’s case, the simple ground/fly ratio hides some strange and significant information. As you know, popups are an ideal result for a pitcher since they almost never land safely. In the Midwest League, approximately 20% of fly balls are popups caught by an infielder. The Major League rate is about 22%. As noted by Lone Star Ball’s Adam Morris, fly-prone Barry Zito has a special talent for inducing popups. In 2006, 32% of his fly balls failed to reach the outfield.

Poveda’s popup rate as a percentage of all fly balls is an astounding 47%.

Poveda also has an extraordinarily low line drive rate of 6%, compared to 14% in 2006. Typical for the MWL is between 12%-13%. About 75% of line drives are base hits, often as doubles and triples, so minimizing them is key.

The vital question is: Do Poveda’s high popup rate and low line-drive rate indicate skill or luck?

To provide an answer, or at least some context, I reviewed last year’s top five in ERA plus two others in the top five in Run Average (which includes unearned runs). The average pop/fly ratio was 22%, and none was higher than 27%. Poveda’s is 47%. No pitcher had a line drive rate below 11%, while Poveda’s is a miniscule 6%.

That doesn’t absolutely prove that Poveda can’t maintain his current rates, but he is definitely bucking some very long odds.

I’m not foretelling Poveda’s imminent meltdown. I’m not even suggesting that Poveda isn’t pitching well, for he most certainly is. He’s just not pitching quite as well as his 2.51 ERA suggests. I’m hopeful that he can maintain his strong performance even as the flukiness of some of his peripherals dissipates.

Poveda takes the mound at noon today.

Posted by Lucas at 10:42 AM

May 14, 2007

Millwood Returns

Texas activated pitcher KEVIN MILLWOOD from the Disabled List and optioned pitcher MIKE WOOD to AAA Oklahoma.

After I commented on a message board that Wood looked “ordinary” in a Triple-A start, he held the Yankees to two runs in 6.1 innings with an effective sinker. In two subsequent starts he only aspired to ordinary, giving up ten runs in eight innings. Those three games effectively summarize his ability to help a Major League team.

Posted by Lucas at 12:18 PM

May 11, 2007

Weekend Photo


Dell Diamond, 22 April 2007

Posted by Lucas at 05:50 PM

May 09, 2007

Homegrown Starting Pitchers

A list of starting pitchers developed by AL West teams during the Wild Card era. Criteria for listing: Player originally drafted or signed by the respective team, pitched 162 innings (or one inning per team game in strike years), and not yet eligible for free agency.

Year Texas Los Angeles Oakland Seattle
2006
- John Lackey,
Ervin Santana
Joe Blanton,
Barry Zito
Felix Hernandez,
Gil Meche,
Joel Pineiro
2005
- John Lackey Joe Blanton,
Barry Zito
Ryan Franklin,
Joel Pineiro
2004
- John Lackey Rich Harden,
Tim Hudson,
Mark Mulder,
Barry Zito
Ryan Franklin,
Joel Pineiro
2003
- John Lackey,
Ramon Ortiz,
Jarrod Washburn
Tim Hudson,
Mark Mulder,
Barry Zito
Ryan Franklin,
Gil Meche,
Joel Pineiro
2002
- Ramon Ortiz,
Jarrod Washburn
Tim Hudson,
Mark Mulder,
Barry Zito
-
2001
Doug Davis Ramon Ortiz,
Scott Schoeneweis,
Jarrod Washburn
Tim Hudson,
Mark Mulder,
Barry Zito
-
2000
- Scott Schoeneweis Tim Hudson -
1999
- - - -
1998
- - - -
1997
Darren Oliver Jason Dickson - -
1996
Darren Oliver,
Roger Pavlik
- - -
1995
Roger Pavlik - - -
1994
Kevin Brown,
Kenny Rogers
- Todd Van Poppel Dave Fleming

Texas has developed only one homegrown starter during the last nine seasons. Eighteen months after Davis qualified for the ERA title, Texas waived him.

Posted by Lucas at 08:33 PM

May 04, 2007

.299

Texas is scoring 4.4 runs per game despite an on-base percentage of .299. No team with a .299 OBP has ever exceeded four runs per game over a full season. The 1963 Cleveland Indians hold the “record” with 3.92 R/G on a line of .239/.299/.381. Here’s the five DH-era teams who’ve finished with a sub-.300 OBP:

Year
Team
Runs / Game
AVG
OBP
SLG
SB
CS
1992
California
3.57
.243
.298
.338
160
101
1990
New York
3.72
.241
.296
.366
119
45
1981
Toronto
3.10
.226
.284
.330
66
57
1981
Minnesota
3.44
.240
.293
.338
34
27
1975
Detroit
3.58
.249
.299
.366
63
57

As you might expect, most of these teams ran into a bunch of extra outs.

Texas has been very fortunate to score as many runs as they have. The obverse of the Rangers is the Royals, who are batting .297/.371/.470 to lead off an inning but only .242/.321/.371 in RISP situations. They’re scoring 3.9 runs per game, significantly worse than Texas.

The Rangers have zero probability of maintaining a sub-.300 OBP for the whole season. It’s just not going to happen. However, with a more even distribution of hits, it’s possible for their dull 4.4 run average to persist even as their OBP increases. If that happens, Texas will lose 90 games even if its pitching reverts to 2006 form.

Posted by Lucas at 01:00 PM

Weekend Photo


El Paso, Texas, 19 April 2007

Posted by Lucas at 11:39 AM

May 03, 2007

Through 27 games, Michael Young is batting .198/.218/.319. Has he ever done worse over a similar span?

Yes and no. Between June 26 and July 27 of 2002, Young batted .198/.218/.264. (Not a typo; the average and OBP are identical.)

But since 2003, when Michael Young became MICHAEL YOUNG, he’d never batted worse than .227/.267/.309 (August 5 – September 2, 2004). So, relative to expectations, the first 27 games of the 2007 season represent the worst batting of his career.


Posted by Lucas at 08:01 PM

Ron Is Right

Much of what I write involves the following process:

1. Read someone’s adamantly stated opinion.
2. Wonder: “Is that true?”
3. Discover: “Nope!”
4. Commence dissent.

So I’m pleased to report that Ron Washington is exactly right. Quotations from Chairman Ron at the Startlegram blog:

Patience is that you have to have enough knowledge of what you’re doing that if you’re going to swing at the first pitch, you can’t be topping it, you can’t be rolling it, you can't be popping it up. You’ve got to turn somebody over. You don't ground a first pitch to the third baseman. You don’t pop a first pitch to the second baseman. You don't chop a first pitch back to the pitcher. If you’re going to swing at a first pitch, you’ve got to center it. If you’re going to make an out, you’ve got to make a loud out. "If you go back and review, we’re making outs on first pitches. If your swing is not there to center the ball, then I don't think you should be swinging at that first pitch.

Texas is putting the ball in play on the first pitch in 10.5% of its plate appearances, exactly the same percentage as the American league. However, the Rangers are batting only .280/.287/.480 in first-pitch results.

“Only?” Isn’t a team-wide .280 average and .480 slugging percentage good?

Not on first pitches. The AL has a line of .323/.331/.527. Last year, Texas batted .349 and slugged .565 on first pitches. Hitters don’t often have full discretion to swing only at “perfect” strikes while letting marginal ones pass by. The first pitch is one such situation, so batting lines are highly inflated on first-pitch results.

Hitting .280 on first pitches is pretty lame.

Posted by Lucas at 02:38 PM

May 01, 2007

Brandon McCarthy, Part 2: How Much Of The “Suck” Is Bad Luck?

The pitch data presented in the previous entry doesn’t tell much of the story behind McCarthy’s dreadfulness this season. This table does:

Year
HR%
BB%
SO%
BABIP
ERA
LERA
2005-2006
4.8% 7% 19% 0.259 4.41 4.72
2007
2.9% 10% 12% 0.382 9.90 6.69

Despite pretty similar ball-strike distributions, McCarthy has walked more and struck out far fewer batters than during 2005-2006. The real killer is the gigantic increase in average on balls in play. He was a bit lucky in Chicago (where typical BABIP is about .290) and has been hugely unlucky in Texas, where a BABIP of about .305-.310 is the norm. If not for some improvement in home runs allowed, his ERA might be near 12.00.

So, the question is, how much of his meltdown is due to him alone, and how much is simply bad luck? It’s impossible to say for sure, but the last column of the table provides a little bit of an answer. LERA stands for Latent ERA, a stat I’ve used in the past but didn’t name until now. (If there’s anything baseball needs, it’s another obscure statistical acronym.) It’s a combination of Bill James’s Component ERA (except adding actual data for doubles and triples allowed instead of estimates) and DIPS (except adjusting to the BABIP typical for the team, not the league). Basically, I’m trying to estimate what the pitcher’s ERA might be assuming a typical distribution of baserunners and a typical BABIP for his team.

McCarthy appeared to be a bit lucky in Chicago, as evidenced by the slight increase in his LERA compared to his actual ERA. In Texas, his ERA “ought” to be 6.69 rather than 9.90. Depending on how the numbers are examined, perhaps 60-65%% of the increase in ERA is bad luck, and 35%-40% is purely his own fault.

This is ultimately an exercise in numerical tomfoolery, and goodness knows I’m not suggesting that McCarthy’s pitching is acceptable. However, if his ERA were actually 6.69 instead of 9.90, people might only be saying “he needs to get his butt in gear” instead of “he needs to be euthanized.”

Posted by Lucas at 06:43 PM

Brandon McCarthy, Part 1: Pitch Data Isn't Everything

Funny, but from looking purely at pitch data, you’d never guess that Brandon McCarthy’s ERA had skyrocketed from 4.41 in 2005-2006 to 9.90 this season.

Pitches
05-'06
'07
Strikes 64% 63%
-- Strikes looking 26% 28%
-- Strikes swinging 14% 10%
-- Strikes fouled 32% 31%
-- Strikes hit into play 28% 32%
1st-pitch strikes 56% 63%
3-0 counts 6% 5%
0-2 counts 18% 16%

Based on the number of pitches he’s thrown, the 4% increase in strikes hit into play equals 10 extra balls in play. That’s not an insignificant amount over the course of 20 innings, but certainly not enough to account for a doubling in ERA.

Posted by Lucas at 06:18 PM