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September 26, 2007

Sammy Sosa, The Lucky Machine

Ron Washington on Sammy Sosa, last Wednesday:

"My recommendation is they bring him back. The guy is an RBI machine. He hasn't done anything not to bring him back.”

On a macro level, Sosa has performed pretty close to my expectations. Here’s his vital stats compared to my prediction from March 13 (prorated to the same number of appearances):

.235/.310/.430, 50 runs, 20 homers, 57 RBI -- my prediction
.252/.309/.464, 51 runs, 20 homers, 90 RBI -- actual performance

Yay, me. Except I pegged him for only 250 appearances, and… what’s with the RBI? He really is an RBI machine. This year. Next year, the team paying for the machine will experience profound disappointment, because his 90 runs plated are the result of two highly unlikely occurrences:

1) Sosa has been extraordinarily fortunate this season in terms of how often he comes to the plate with runners in scoring position:

Prorating these percentages to his 442 plate appearances in 2007, Sosa has batted in 23 more RISP situations than his career average and 17 more than his career best.

Concurrently, Sosa has also enjoyed a huge increase in bases-loaded opportunities:

One possible explanation is that Sosa spent 1993-2004 in the NL, where pitchers hit and scoring is depressed. For several reasons, this explanation doesn’t work. On a league-wide level, the difference between RISP situations in the American versus the National League is only about 0.3%. Also, in his forgettable season in Baltimore, his proportion of RISP situations fell comfortably within the bounds set by his many years in Chicago.

Furthermore, Sosa’s 35% proportion of RISP PAs to total PAs exceeds the middle-of-the-order hitters for the Yankees, MLB’s best offense:

Matsui – 32.8%
Rodriguez – 32.2%
Abreu – 29.7%

How about Boston’s Ortiz and Ramirez?

Ramirez – 32.5%
Ortiz – 29.0%

What about Texas’s best hitters (here or departed)?

Teixeira – 31.0%
Young – 28.8%

Sosa bests them all. 111 AL hitters have at least 100 appearances with a runner in scoring position. Sosa ranks third – behind Garret Anderson and Emil Brown(?!) – in the proportion of RISP situations to total appearances. Relative to the American League as a whole, the best hitters on the best teams, and even his glorious past, he’s been darned lucky.

2) Sosa has been extraordinarily adept this season at hitting with runners in scoring position. However, Sosa has displayed NO special ability to hit in the clutch during his career.

From 1993 through this season (excluding 2006), Sosa has averaged .278 overall and .283 with runners in scoring position. During those 14 seasons, Sosa’s RISP average has strayed from his overall average by more than 30 points on only three occasions: 1993, 1995, and 2007. This season, Sosa is batting .336/.390/.597 with runners in scoring position; his RISP average has exceeded his overall average by a remarkable 83 points.

Similarly, Sosa has a career .553 RISP slugging percentage and a .552 overall percentage. This season, his RISP slugging is 133 points above his overall slugging.

As a result of this prowess, Sosa has plated 66 baserunners (excluding himself on homers) in 154 RISP situations, equal to 0.43 runners per plate appearance. His average during 1993-2007 is 0.32. For the sake of argument, assume Sosa plays in 2008 and receives the same number of appearances, a typical proportion of RISP situations, and drives in runs at a typical rate. How many baserunners would he plate?

Actual 2007 RISP performance: 442 PAs x 34.8% RISP x 0.429 RBI per RISP PA
= 66 baserunners driven in

“Average” RISP performance: 442 PAs x 29.0% RISP x 0.319 RBI per RISP PA
= 41 baserunners driven in

Suddenly, Sosa loses 25 RBI in RISP situations. If Sosa had only 65 RBI this season instead of 90, would Washington and others still clamor for his return? Note also that this calculation assumes no further age-related decline, a dubious assumption to make of a soon-to-be 39-year-old.

Just to clarify, I’m not discounting his achievements this year. Runs batted in are partly a function of opportunity, and Sosa has taken advantage. For a guy with a .309 OBP, he’s been pretty useful. He can still hit lefties, and I was surprised that Texas found no takers for him during the trading window. He’s also acted professionally throughout the season and didn’t complain when relegated to the bench.

So thank him and send him on his way, because next year, if given another 450 appearances, he’s far more likely to be an out machine than an RBI machine.

Posted by Lucas at 01:27 PM

September 24, 2007

Okay

Time to start writing again.


State Highway 130, Texas, 19 Sep 2007.

Posted by Lucas at 08:11 PM

September 07, 2007

Rule 5 Eligibles and Six-Year Minor-League Free Agents

I’ve tried my best to be thorough, but I’m not going to mislead you by saying these lists are authoritative.

RULE FIVE ELIGIBLES

In essence, players who signed in 2004 and were at least 19 years old and all other players who signed in 2003 or earlier are eligible for the Rule 5 draft. The rules are more complex, but I don’t want to crush your spirit with a full explanation.

Players already on the 40-man roster aren’t eligible. This list excludes potential minor-league free agents (see below).

Pitchers

Kevin Altman (2003 draft)
John Bannister (2002 free agent)
Bear Bay (2002 draft pick by Cubs)
Thomas Diamond (2004 draft)
Matt Harrison (2003 draft pick by Braves)
Jesse Ingram (2004 draft)
Julio Santana (2002 free agent)
Scott Shoemaker (2004 fee agent)
Steven Rowe (2002 free agent)

Catchers

Max Ramirez (2002 free agent)
Kevin Richardson (2002 free agent)

Infielders

Casey Benjamin (2003 free agent)
Jim Fasano (2004 draft)
Adam Fox (2003 draft)
Emerson Frostad (2003 draft)
Micah Furtado (2003 draft)
Ian Gac (2003 draft)
Nate Gold (2002 draft)
Mauro Gomez (2003 free agent)
Luke Grayson (2002 draft)
Tug Hulett (2004 draft)
Drew Meyer (2002 draft)
Freddie Thon (2004 draft)

Outfielders

Brandon Boggs (2004 draft)
Ben Harrison (2004 draft)

SIX-YEAR MINOR-LEAGUE FREE AGENTS

The “six? in “six-year free agent? refers to annual contract renewals, not seasons, so players who signed in 2002 and are completing their sixth seasons (Nate Gold, for example) aren’t eligible.

Pitchers

Ezequiel Astacio
Chris Baker
Michael Bumstead
Bruce Chen
Ken Chenard
Francisco Cruceta
Franklyn German
Jose Jaimes

Derek Lee
Jose Marte
Brandon Puffer
Scott Rice
Alfredo Simon
Jorge Vasquez
Randy Williams

Catchers

Salomon Manriquez

Infielders

Dave Matranga
Desi Relaford

Outfielders

Anthony Webster
Kevin West

OTHER POTENTIAL FREE AGENTS

Players who have been previously released can become free agents irrespective of the service time requirement. These players appear to fit that criterion.

SP Kendy Batista
RP Ryan Knippschild
C Reese Creswell

Posted by Lucas at 04:56 PM

September 04, 2007

New and Improved Org Chart

Now with Spokane and AZL rosters.

Here

Posted by Lucas at 05:40 PM

September 03, 2007

What's Ailing Jason Botts?

At the halfway point of his trial period, Jason Botts is batting .202/.296/.288. Statistically, I see three problems:

1) Botts leads the team in pitches per plate appearances with 4.4, but his patience hasn’t resulted in enough walks to mitigate his batting average. Though he’s drawn more walks recently, his overall rate of 9.3% barely surpasses the AL rate of 8.5%.

For that matter, the second and third most patient Rangers, Brad Wilkerson and Ramon Vazquez, have walk rate of 8.9% and 9.6%, respectively. The correlation between pitches per appearance and walks is strong but not absolute; Brandon Inge, Felipe Lopez, and Bill Hall are examples of “patient” players with only low-to-average walk rates.

2) Botts has simply been terrible at turning first-pitch swings into fair balls.

He’s swung at 32% of first pitches, more often than I would have guessed and easily among the upper half among Rangers with at least 100 appearances. The 1st pitch is money for most hitters -- the AL is batting .342 and slugging .545 when putting the ball in play on the 1st pitch. Botts has been no exception, batting .429 and slugging .857.

Sad to say, Botts has only seven one-pitch appearances despite swinging at 35 first pitches. His 20% contact rate is less than one-half the team average of 42%.

Player
First-Pitch Balls In Play / First Pitches Swung At
Jerry Hairston
55%
Kenny Lofton
53%
Frank Catalanotto
52%
Travis Metcalf
51%
Michael Young
50%
Gerald Laird
50%
Ian Kinsler
48%
Ramon Vazquez
46%
Jarrod Saltalamacchia
43%
Average Among Group
42%
Mark Teixeira
41%
Brad Wilkerson
39%
Sammy Sosa
37%
Marlon Byrd
37%
Victor Diaz
32%
Hank Blalock
32%
Nelson Cruz
29%
Jason Botts
20%

After first pitches, the Rangers as a whole have an 0-1 count in 49% of their appearances. The AL average is 47%. For Botts, it’s 60%.

3) Following from 2), Botts lead the team in percentages of plate appearances reaching an 0-2 count, which is death to hitters. The AL is batting .183/.215/.264 after beginning 0-2.

Player
% of PAs with
0-2 Count
Jason Botts
28%
Marlon Byrd
26%
Victor Diaz
24%
Travis Metcalf
23%
Jerry Hairston
22%
Michael Young
21%
Nelson Cruz
21%
Ramon Vazquez
20%
Average Among Group
20%
Ian Kinsler
20%
Brad Wilkerson
19%
Sammy Sosa
19%
Jarrod Saltalamacchia
18%
Mark Teixeira
18%
Gerald Laird
16%
Frank Catalanotto
15%
Hank Blalock
15%
Kenny Lofton
15%

Too often, Botts’s lengthy plate appearances result from laying off junk after starting in an 0-1 or 0-2 hole. That’s not a terribly productive use of his patience.

One odd source of comfort is Botts’s career. He’s started slowly at every level except during his rookie season in 2000. Unfortunately, this time he probably has only one month to heat up.

Posted by Lucas at 08:53 PM