September 05, 2014

Wash




Songs: Ohia, "Farewell Transmission," from The Magnolia Electric Co., 2003

Posted by Lucas at 11:54 PM

April 23, 2014

Who Are These Guys?

Of the 17 players used by Texas against the A's on Tuesday, ten weren't on the 40-man roster at the end of the 2013 season, and five of those ten were added within the last 30 days. For reference, the 2013 season ended 204 days ago.

Player
Days on 40
Poreda 4
Kouzmanoff 13
Martinez 17
Wilson 23
Murphy 27
Figueroa 83
Choice 140
Fielder 153
Sardinas 153
Tolleson 153
Rios 256
Chirinos 379
Soria 504
Martin 1084
Moreland 1363
Andrus 1843
Ogando 2710

Player
Days since first 25-man appearance
Sardinas 3
Poreda 4
Kouzmanoff 13
Martinez 17
Choice 22
Fielder 22
Murphy 22
Wilson 22
Tolleson 22
Figueroa 22
Rios 256
Soria 289
Chirinos 349
Martin 963
Moreland 1363
Ogando 1410
Andrus 1842

Posted by Lucas at 12:49 AM

October 11, 2013

On Darvish's Perceived Weaknesses

I've performed a quick analysis of perceived weaknesses in Darvish's game. I was prompted by Richard Durrett's column today: Can Yu Darvish Be Like Verlander and Wainwright? I wouldn't call this a direct response to Durrett, even though I'll be using his pitchers for comparison. I've been thinking about this for a while.

Leads Lost

Perhaps the largest complaint lodged against Darvish is his inability to maintain leads. Darvish did indeed lose his share, the implication (or explicit accusation) by some being that he lacks mental toughness. (Durrett doesn't go there, I should note.) Still, has anyone bemoaning Darvish's loss of leads compared him to other pitchers? Maybe, but I've yet to see it. I did the research myself and tweeted in mid-September:

Here's the end-of-season results for Darvish, Wainwright and Verlander:

Pitcher
Games With Leads Lost
Total Leads Lots
Avg Runs Ahead When Lead Lost
Team Record
Adam Wainwright
11
13
1.3
4-7
Yu Darvish
12
12
1.4
6-6
Justin Verlander
13
15
1.3
4-9

Darvish did lose a few more leads in innings 6-7 than the others, but on the whole, there's no evidence that he was worse at maintaining a lead than Wainwight or Verlander. Texas also fared better in those games, although I'd attribute that mostly to luck.

1st Inning Runs Allowed

Pitcher
Occasions
Total Runs
RA9
Justin Verlander
9
12
3.18
Yu Darvish
12
21
5.91
Adam Wainwright
11
23
6.09

Darvish was pretty sloppy in the 1st inning. Wainwright was worse. While putting your team in a hole is problematic, from an analytical standpoint there's a danger in getting too granular. You might end up arguing about a pitcher's bad ERA in the 6th inning, which is silly.

Efficiency

Pitcher
Outs per 100 Pitches
Pitches / GS
Adam Wainwright
20.5
104
Yu Darvish
18.2
108
Justin Verlander
17.7
109

Darvish's outs per 100 pitches equal to the league average. He could be better. Verlander was worse.

Run Support

Pitcher
Run Support
Relative to Park-Adj. League Avg.
Justin Verlander
4.74
+3%
Adam Wainwright
4.68
+19%
Yu Darvish
4.30
-3%

Adjusted for parks, Justin Verlander received about .26 runs per game more than Darvish, a little over eight runs over the course of the season. In the aggregate, that's worth almost one additional win. The difference between Darvish and Wainwright is a whopping .95 runs per game (Wainwright pitches in the NL in a friendlier park.) Imagine Texas record with an addition 30 runs of support with Darvish on the mound.

1-0 Losses

Pitcher
1-0 Losses
Adam Wainwright
0
Justin Verlander
1
Yu Darvish
4

No comment.

Frequency and Winning in Best Performances

Pitcher
Allowed 0 or 1 Runs
Team Record
Wainwright
13
13-0
Darvish
13
8-5
Verlander
12
8-4

Darvish was the equal of Wainwright and Verlander at allowing one or fewer runs. Courtesy of Texas's difficulties at the plate, he endured the most losses.

Total Professional Innings

Durrett notes Darvish's lack of experience in general and in big games ("It's not as if Wainwright and Verlander just showed up in the big leagues and did that [i.e., pitched like Verlander last night] right away".) I'm a little mystified by that, as Darvish really didn't just "show up" last year. Darvish has made no fewer than ten postseason starts in Japan (as best as I can tell) plus last year's MLB Wild Card. He has 355 more regular seasons innings than Wainwright and barely 100 fewer than Verlander. Sure, Japanese baseball doesn't compare to the US, but I certainly wouldn't leave it out of the discussion.

Pitcher
Regular Season
Playoffs
Verlander
1,772
85
Darvish
1,669
72 (est.)
Wainwright
1,314
49

I don't have stats for Darvish's first five playoff starts in Japan. I assumed 6 IP per game, which, given his usage, is probably low.

Advanced Stats

Pitcher
WPA
WPA+
WPA-
Clutch
fWAR
rWAR
Yu Darvish
2.3
14.93
-12.62
-0.28
5.2
5.8
Adam Wainwright
2.2
15.99
-13.84
-0.06
6.2
6.2
Justin Verlander
0.8
15.88
-15.09
-0.19
5.2
4.6

I'm not going to belabor the advanced stats, other than to say that Darvish is very obviously in the same class as Verlander and Wainwright.

Conclusion

Darvish has room to improve. We all do. But I'd argue that Darvish is already the equal of Verlander and Wainwright. What's separating Darvish from Verlander and Wainwright this October is opportunity.

Posted by Lucas at 06:23 PM

January 09, 2013

One Way of Looking at Michael Young's Future

This is a companion piece to my upcoming annual (and probably final) update on Michael Young's quest for 3,000 hits.

Michael Young was an astonishing 2.4 wins below replacement per the methodology of Baseball Reference (only -1.4 per Fangraphs). Here's every player I could find since WWII aged between 33-35, playing in at least 100 games and posting a WAR of -1.9 or below (that is, no more than 0.5 better than Young). They're ranked by career WAR entering the fateful season.

Player
Age
WAR
Slash Stats, OPS+
Career WAR entering season
Following Season's PA
Following Season's WAR
Total PA After That Season
Total WAR After That Season
Seasons Played After That Season
Ted Simmons
34
(2.8)
.221/.269/.300, 61
49.6
592
0.8
1059
-0.1
4
Michael Young
35
(2.4)
.277/.312/.370, 78
24.5
?
?
?
?
?
Carlos Lee
34
(2.4)
.246/.291/.417, 91
23.6
653
3.7
1268
3.3
2
George Bell
33
(2.7)
.217/.243/.363, 63
19.7
0
0
0
0
0
Jermaine Dye
33
(1.9)
.254/.317/.486, 105
16.2
645
2.4
1219
2.2
2
Jeffrey Leonard
34
(2.0)
.251/.305/.356, 85
7.2
0
0
0
0
0
Deron Johnson
34
(2.4)
.239/.300/.388, 92
7.0
608
-0.5
663
-1
2
Sean Berry
33
(2.2)
.228/.281/.301, 49
7.0
54
-0.8
54
-0.8
1
Pedro Feliz
35
(2.5)
.218/.240/.293, 45
6.3
0
0
0
0
0
Tony Womack
35
(2.4)
.249/.276/.280, 50
2.7
70
0.2
70
0.2
1
Mike Kingery
35
(2.1)
.246/.304/.337, 67
1.8
0
0
0
0
0
Tony Womack
33
(1.9)
.235/.250/.314, 46
1.6
606
3
1037
0.8
3
Greg Dobbs
33
(2.1)
.285/.313/.386, 89
(1.4)
?
?
?
?
?

The three obvious takeaways:

1) They're rare. Young's 2012 was highly unusual, if not unique. Finding players with negative value is easy, but most were exceptionally bad over a shorter period of time and relieved of their duties in-season. Far less common is a slow, steady, season-long stream of sub-replacement production.

2) Many of these guys weren't outstanding to begin with, or at least not as good as they might have seemed. Young has enjoyed a better career than everyone but Simmons, the giant outlier.

3) Their subsequent careers were often non-existent, usually short, and very rarely productive. In many cases, the player's contractual situation dictated subsequent use, at least to an extent. Let's discuss:

Entering 1984, Simmons re-signed with the Brewers as a free agent for three years at $1 million per plus a team option for the same figure. He promptly produced his worst big-league season. Given what he was owed (significant for the time) and typically a very strong hitter, he was obviously going to receive ample opportunity to bounce back. So he did, if not completely: .273/.342/.402, 12 homers, very nice for a catcher. Nice enough that Milwaukee exercised its option, but the Brewers would soon trade him to Atlanta, where he lasted three seasons as a part-timer with marginal returns.

Lee produced all of 7.2 WAR for the $100 million Houston paid him during 2007-2012. As I recall, the Rangers, who'd traded for the impending free agent the previous summer, weren't especially keen on an extension, instead preferring the draft compensation. Certainly, they weren't going to match Houston's offer, widely viewed as largesse for someone of his, ah, particular athleticism and defensive prowess. Lee produced the season in question during the fourth year of his contract, and Houston was committed to two more years and a whopping $37.5 million. He recovered reasonably well in 2011 before settling into garden-variety badness last year as an Astro and Marlin. He is currently seeking an employer.

Bell, a full-time DH during his dismal 1993, became a free agent and never played again. Bell hit .258/.294/.363 after turning 30.

RF Jermaine Dye's terrible WAR was entirely related to defense. The advanced metrics never enjoyed him in the field but were especially annoyed in 2007 (-3.1 dWAR). Dye had two years and $22 million remaining and earned a chunk of it, clubbing 61 homers along with a .340 OBP in 2008-2009. He certainly could have played for at least one more year, probably more, if not for salary demands that scared off his suitors.

Jeffrey Leonard posted a .296 OBP in over 3,000 plate appearances after turning 29 but maintained a career with enough power and speed to seem impressive. He'd produced seasons of -1.2 WAR in 1985 (Age 29) and 1988 (32) before bottoming out in 1990. The free agent couldn't secure a Major League contract thereafter, settling for Kansas City's AAA squad before retiring.

Deron Johnson was a free agent after his rough 1974, not because his contract expired, but because the Red Sox released him. At the time, baseball's reserve clause still held sway. Johnson signed with the White Sox and essentially repeated his high-power, low-OBP output. Traded back to Boston, he lasted a handful of games into 1976 before his final release.

Berry signed an odd two-year deal prior to 1999 that guaranteed a flat $1 million that year and $2.35 million the next. The latter money was quite princely for a part-timer turning 34, but Berry had hit well during most of the prior six seasons. Two weeks into the next season, Berry stopped hitting, forever. Grudgingly retained as a pinch-hitter in 2001, Berry tallied only 54 plate appearances in 62 games before Milwaukee finally swallowed his contract. The remainder of his professional career consisted of one game for the Red Sox and a few for three different AAA teams.

Feliz was reasonably valuable at his peak of his defensive skills and power, compensating for his truly dreadful plate discipline. That wasn't the case by 2010, by which time Houston inexplicably threw $5 million at a player coming off a fifth consecutive season with an OPS+ of 85 or worse. The Astros traded him for a middle reliever that August. Without a contract entering 2011, he spent most of the last two seasons in indy ball. As of last August, he remained hopeful of another shot at MLB.

Womack lasted 13 seasons, earned over $20 million and posted a career WAR of 0.5. Strange that he never played for the Royals. Womack earned $6 million and was traded twice during his Age 33 debacle, after which he humbly signed with the Cards for a paltry $300,000. A career year at the plate (.307/.349/.385) spawned a two-year, $4 million deal with the Yankees, whereupon he immediately reverted to lesser form.

CF Mike Kingery gets a gold star for resurrecting his career at Age 33 after spending most of the previous five years as a bench player or in AAA. Only once did he qualify for the batting title, during strike-shortened 1994. Kingery parlayed two good seasons in Colorado into a two-year, $1.5 million deal with Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, his revival stalled immediately and he lost his starting role within two months. The Pirates released Kingery the next spring. Eating his $750,000 appears trivial, but he was their third-highest paid player at the time, under OF Al Martin ($2.4mm) and SS Kevin Elster ($1.65mm), whose signing forced Kingery from the roster. Oh, the Pirates.

Dobbs is a pinch-hitter pressed into more active duty by Miami's roster shuffling. Prior to 2012, the Marlins signed him to a two-year, $3 million deal for no good reason, whereupon he produced a season worthy of this list.

Incidentally, the only 36-year-old fitting my criteria was Kevin Bass, a true utility player who hadn't qualified for the batting title since the age of 29. His -1.9 WAR 1995 was his last.

I don't think there's a firm conclusion to draw from this exercise. I certainly wouldn't make a distinct prediction of his 2013 WAR based on this info. Young's career has been unusual; good comps are hard to find. Still, I found it interesting. If anything, the conclusion is that getting old sucks, and no one is spared.

Posted by Lucas at 01:27 AM

March 11, 2011

?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Chuck Greenberg to resign as Rangers' CEO.

Unbelievable. I don't curse on the blog, so I've got nothing else to say.

Posted by Lucas at 12:50 AM

February 27, 2011

The Annual Bewilderment

Per the DMN's Evan Grant:

Come the regular season, Washington intends for Beltre to hit fourth with Cruz fifth. The reason: Washington simply doesn't believe Cruz, entering what should be his third full season in the majors, is ready for the job.

"Wherever Beltre hits, whether it's fourth or fifth, I think he's still going to get the same pitches, a lot of offspeed stuff away and then fastballs in," Washington said. "He's a veteran and he can handle that. I just don't think [Cruz] is ready for it. One more year, I think he might be." [emphasis added]

Washington doesn't explain in detail, but I believe he's implying (in part) that Cruz isn't ready to handle the increased proportion of breaking pitches that cleanup hitters allegedly face. Recall this statement from 2008:

"The No. 4 guys gets off-speed stuff," Washington said on Monday. "Look back and Milton [Bradley] handled more off-speed stuff than fastballs. Hamilton handled more fastballs than breaking balls because they didn't want to put Hamilton on base and let Milton hurt them."

Ah... we've been down this road before. As I wrote back in '08, Bradley actually saw more fastballs than all but one Ranger, while Hamilton saw the second lowest percentage of fastballs on the team. Which is to say, Washington was completely, utterly backwards.

As for the latest assertion, Cruz already sees more offspeed pitches than most batters. In 2010, Cruz received more offspeed pitches than the league median, more than Adrian Beltre, and many more than last year's cleanup hitter Vlad Guerrero. Pitchers just don't like bringing the heat to him:

Player
Offspeed
%
Rank
Cruz
45.4%
19th
Beltre
43.3%
34th
AL Median
41.6%
--
Guerrero
40.2%
62nd
Based on 97 AL batters with 400+ plate appearances

Does Cruz struggle against breaking pitches? He certainly didn't in 2010 (data compiled from Fangraphs):

Player
Batting Runs per 100 Offspeed Pitches
Rank
Batting Runs per 100 Non-Knuckled Offspeed Pitches
Rank
Batting Runs per 100 Fastballs
Rank
Cruz
1.24
6th
0.74
16th
1.85
7th
Beltre
0.97
13th
0.97
11th
1.05
21st
AL Median
(0.12)
--
(0.13)
--
0.27
--

I created a "non-knuckleball breaking pitch" category because: 1) batters so rarely face them, and 2) Cruz destroyed Tim Wakefield (5-5, 2 doubles, homer, walk) such that a large percentage of his breaking-ball value came against Wakefield alone. Beltre exceeds Cruz in this category, but not by much. In sum, Cruz hits well regardless of what's coming at him.

Batting order doesn't matter much, except at the extremes of optimization and silliness, so sitting Cruz behind Beltre means very little in terms of runs scored. Still, I wish Washington would stick to an emotion-based explanation that people can abide ("I'm more comfortable with a veteran batting cleanup. The end.") and omit the technical reasoning that contradicts the facts.

Posted by Lucas at 01:22 PM

February 06, 2011

Utilitarianism

So Michael Young’s relationship with Texas appears to be irreparably sundered. This isn’t surprising. Despite public statements to the contrary from management, the acquisitions of Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli clearly reduced him to a supporting role, albeit strong support. He might qualify for the batting title (502 plate appearances nowadays), but his standard 700 PAs seems too lofty a goal. Moreover, his ostensible role as DH plus backup at all four infield positions has always sounded a bit dubious, if interesting. There’s no antecedent for it, not unless you get really creative with the criteria. Some findings via the wonderful Play Index at Baseball-Reference.com:

  • No Major League player has ever qualified for the batting title while playing at least five games at 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, and DH. Not at age 34, not ever.

  • Among players in the Age 34-36 bracket (concurrent with the remaining three years on Young’s contract), a handful have qualified for the batting title while playing at least five games at four of the five positions:

    5+ games at 1B, 2B, 3B, and SS (but not DH): Tony Graffanino in 2006 (2.1 bWAR) and Mark Loretta in 2007 (0.3).

    5+ games at 1B, 2B, 3B, and DH (no SS): Bobby Grich in 1985 (2.9 bWAR)

    5+ games at 1B, 2B, SS, and DH (no 3B): none.

    5+ games at 1B, 3B, SS, and DH (no 2B): none.

    5+ games at 2B, 3B, SS, and DH (no 1B): Jim Morrison in 1987 (1.0 bWAR)

Lowering the standard from five games to just one game at each position creates a five-position qualifying group of just Graffanino, Loretta, and Morrison.

Players who are good enough to play positions tend to play positions. Players who aren’t tend to DH or support less arduous positions like 1B and the corner OF slots. Weak defenders are poor candidates for “super utility” players, particularly if some of the utility is to be realized in the middle infield. If the opposite were true, Esteban German would have 8-10 years of MLB service time. Young is better than German, of course; he has power and still catches what he reaches. Much as I like the idea of breaking new ground in baseball, a notoriously conservative sport, it’s an awkward fit.

Young’s departure would put more pressure on Mitch Moreland to fulfill his potential (as an adequate, not great, 1B) and once again leaves the Rangers limited against left-handed pitching. Should he stay, Young’s best bet for achieving 650-700 plate appearances would be as a replacement for a disappointing performance from Moreland or an injured Kinsler or Beltre. I can’t imagine Texas entrusting shortstop to Young in the long term if Andrus were injured.

The New Pornographers, "Use It," Twin Cinema, 2005

Posted by Lucas at 05:07 PM

January 05, 2011

What becomes of Third Basemen at Michael Young's Age?

As of today, Adrian Beltre has replaced Michael Young as Texas's third baseman. Young was a shortstop in March 2007 when he signed a five-year extension covering the 2009-2013 seasons. The winter before his extension kicked in, Texas shunted him to third in favor of 20-year-old, Double-A glove wizard Elvis Andrus. Now, two years, later, Young is a player without portfolio. Assuming he stays in Texas, he'll mostly DH and also substitute at multiple positions. While I doubt many people (including the front office) expected him to serve all five years of his extension at shortstop, it's remarkable that he'll serve none of them there, and only two of the five at a specific defensive position. Regardless of the wisdom of management kicking Young to the easy side of the defensive spectrum, it's a huge disappointment relative to contractual expectations.

To answer the title question, I first create a group of Young's peers with the following criteria:

  • Hitters with at least 750 total plate appearances during their Age 32-33 seasons (Young's most recent, and only seasons at 3B), and,
  • Played at least 50% of those games at third base.

88 players fit the bill, including Young himself and six other active players: Brandon Inge, Pedro Feliz, Chipper Jones, Melvin Mora, Alex Rodriguez, and Scott Rolen.

Rehearsals For Retirement

Of the 81 retired 3Bs, seven never took the field after their Age 33 season, including Travis Fryman and David Bell, the two worst 3Bs of the group by WAR (the Baseball Reference version, not Fangraphs). All of those seven were among the bottom half by WAR, and none was close to Young's combined 6.0 WAR for 2009-2010. Another ten departed after Age 34, most prominently Ron Santo and Joe Sewell.

The average exited MLB at Age 36, which in Young's case would be the same year his current contract expires. Put another, more depressing way: among this group of not-terribly-old third basemen whom I deliberately selected for stability in the field and at the plate, 59% didn't last to Age 37. Only nine (11% of the group) held a bat at Age 40.

Note that I've made no adjustments for playing time in the above discussion. Players with minimal service time during their final season (e.g., Pie Traynor's five games at Age 38) receive as much credit as those who die with their boots on (e.g., George Brett, 145 games at Age 40).

Offensive Stamina

Henceforth, I'm focusing on what Young's peers accomplished during Ages 34-36, coinciding with the three remaining years of Young's contract.

Of my original 88 third basemen, 83 completed their Age 32-33 seasons long enough ago to play through Age 36 (or retire). How many of them achieved 1,506 plate appearances, which equals the minimum need to qualify for the batting title (502) multiplied by three seasons? Only 19. Another 24 reached a total of 1,000 PAs. The other 40 fell short of 1,000. The majority of players fell to part-time or lesser status in the three years after turning 33.

Incidentally, Young is 1,152 hits shy of 3,000. If he wants to reach the summit before turning 40, he'll need 192 in each of his next six seasons. The only player in the group to equal or surpass 192 hits per season at Ages 34-36 was... Pete Rose. Even the younger version of Young stopped surpassing 192 hits after 2007. He'll need to play into his 40s to reach 3,000.

Defensive Stamina

Chucking the seven early retirees and the too-recent examples of Age 32-33 third baseman (Inge, A-Rod, Young himself) leaves 78 players. How many of them stayed put in their Age 34-36 seasons? More specifically, how many averaged at least 50% of their team's games during those three seasons (in total, not in each season)? 35 of 79, or about 44%.

Another 32 spent at least a plurality of their personal playing time at third, but fewer than 50% of his team's total games. So, the players in my data set were far more likely to maintain their current defensive position than their batting acumen or health.

The other 11 players (14%) would spend a plurality or majority of their Age 34-36 games at a different position. Young may end up in this least common group.

Baseball is a young man's game:

Value

Young's combined 2009-2010 WAR of 6.0 ranks comfortably among the top half, if not the top third, of the 88 3B regulars during their Age 32-33 seasons. The group had an average two-year value of 4.5 WAR and a median of 4.2.

During the following three years, at Ages 34-36, this group averaged a total of 3.3 WAR and a median of just 2.4. Again, those are three-year totals. On a per-season basis, the average 3B fell from 2.3 to 1.1, and the median fell from 1.4 to 0.8. These figures do include the aforementioned seven who never played a day past Age 33. Obviously, Young's not finished, so excluding the youngest retirees presents a more accurate picture. Actually, it makes little difference, as the average three-year WAR jumps only by 0.3 to 3.6.

The line is the result of a linear regression, which confirms about what you'd expect from eyeballing the data points (a clear correlation between past and future performance [r^2 = .41, t-value = 7.2] but a high standard error [3.3 WAR] ). The regression also confirms that the 3Bs' per-season value drops by about one-half from Ages 32-33 to Ages 34-36. The regression guesses Young will be worth a total of 4.5 WAR during 2011-2013. That's over $10 million per WAR, more than double the going rate for free agents according to Fangraphs. (Baseball Reference and Fangraphs don't calculate WAR identically, so I'm loathe to make more than a general assertion in this regard. Nevertheless, it's painfully clear that Young will almost certainly be grossly overpaid during the next three seasons.)

Unlike my Cliff Lee research, I found no indication that the elite 3Bs aged more gracefully than average players. Everyone suffers. In any case, Young isn't in the elite group.

Defense and Value, Together

As you'd guess, the players who started at least 50% of their team's games during their Age 34-36 seasons were the most valuable. They provided a total WAR of 5.8 (average) or 5.1 (median) during the three years. On the whole, the other players were far less valuable. Those still playing mostly at 3B but not as frequently provided an average three-year WAR of 1.6. Those playing mostly at other positions had an average three-year WAR of 1.4 and a median of zero. The most notable outliers among ex-3Bs were George Brett (9.2 WAR), who shifted to 1B at Age 34, and Darrell Evans (9.3 WAR), who spent a very narrow majority of his time at first. The other nine ex-3Bs provided a combined three-year WAR of 6.4.

Is (Beltre + Young) > (Young + Guerrero) ?

Though Young is a poor defensive 3B, the switch to primary DH will still negatively impact his value. For example, pretending that Young spent all of 2010at DH decreases his Fangraphs WAR from 2.4 to 1.3. The difference between the defensive contribution of an average 3B and a DH is about two wins, and Young's defense isn't so terrible as to make the switch to DH a wash. (Not yet, anyway.) Regardless of the team-wide impact, Beltre's acquisition harms Young personally unless you believe Young's defensive ability is on the cusp of total collapse. What little chance he has of providing value commensurate to his contract has vanished. He doesn't have a $16 million bat.

Does Beltre make the team better? I think so, at least in the short run. The defensive difference between Young and Beltre is about two wins per season, and Beltre is a solid hitter overall, albeit prone to wild variance from year to year. Some back-of-the-envelope calculations:

Beltre: 4-5 WAR
Young: 1-2 WAR (spending 2/3 of time at DH and 1/3 at various positions)
TOTAL: 5-7 WAR

vs.

Young: 2-3 WAR (as a 3B)
Guerrero: 1-2 WAR (as a DH)
TOTAL: 3-5 WAR

The Beltre configuration adds about two wins in 2011 at a cost of, say, $8-10 million, assuming Guerrero would have signed for $6-8. That's close to the market average of dollars per win. As for 2012 and beyond, well...

Postscript

Adrian Beltre is entering his Year 32 season. In two years, and with three years plus a vesting option remaining on his contract, we can apply this analysis to him.

My gut feel is that Beltre should give Texas three good years. The back end of the deal will be ugly. Not as ugly as Young's is shaping up, but ugly nonetheless.

Fairport Convention, "Who Knows Where The Time Goes?" from Unhalfbricking, 1969

Posted by Lucas at 01:04 PM

December 14, 2010

Cliff Lee and Longevity

So, despite the best efforts of the Rangers and Yankees, Cliff Lee is a Phillie. He'll receive $120 million over five years, which includes $12.5 million of a $27.5 million sixth-year vesting option. That's in the range of $8,000 per pitch if he remains healthy. If you're into whining about player salaries, there's your talking point.


One of these players will not be part of the Texas rotation in 2011.

How many wins above replacement (WAR) do the Phils need from Lee do justify that contract? Extrapolating from historical figures at Fangraphs, I estimate an average dollars-per-win during 2011-2015 of somewhere between $4.86 million(assuming tepid 10% league-wide salary growth in 2011 and 5% in subsequent years) to $5.62 million (a more robust 15% in 2011, 10% thereafter). Also assuming that the contract runs only five years, it necessitates between 21.3 and 24.6 WAR to pay off. (Since the dollars per win changes annually, the timing of Lee's wins affects his overall value, but to avoid undue complication I'm just using the average dollars per win over the five-year period.) Thus, Lee needs to average about 4.3-4.9 WAR per season after managing just under 7.0 during 2008-2010.

What is the likelihood of Lee pitching that well? I first compiled a list of all starting pitchers with at least nine WAR in their Age 29-31 seasons during 1980-2010. There's nothing special about nine; three WAR per season just felt like a good cutoff. The age bracket matches Lee's last three seasons, and the date corresponds roughly to modern usage patterns. (I didn't want to compare Lee to someone who threw 420 innings in 1892.) I then summed each pitcher's WAR for the subsequent five years, which correspond to the length of Lee's contract. Pitchers who performed well in their Age 29-31 seasons but in the midst of that five-year follow-up (e.g., Halladay, Livan Hernandez) were excluded. 51 pitchers made the cut. Per Baseball-Reference.com *, Lee earned 16.6 WAR during his Age 29-31 seasons, which would place him sixth on this list and ahead of such luminaries as Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens.

Pitcher
Ages 29-31
Ages 32-36
Pitcher
Ages 29-31
Ages 32-36
Pitcher
Ages 29-31
Ages 32-36
Greg Maddux
22.4
23.7
Bill Swift
12.3
1.5
Bret Saberhagen
10.1
5.8
Randy Johnson
19.0
30.2
Bartolo Colon
12.2
3.5
Ron Guidry
10.0
15.1
Pedro Martinez
17.7
10.6
Chuck Finley
12.0
18.7
Mike Boddicker
9.9
8.1
David Cone
17.6
23.8
Teddy Higuera
11.8
1.0
Scott Erickson
9.7
(3.1)
Curt Schilling
16.3
27.7
Jack Morris
11.8
10.2
Sid Fernandez
9.7
2.3
Roger Clemens
16.0
30.2
Kenny Rogers
11.6
14.5
Jim Clancy
9.7
(4.8)
Tom Glavine
15.3
19.9
Al Leiter
11.5
18.9
Mike Morgan
9.6
7.7
John Tudor
14.3
13.0
Rick Rhoden
11.5
10.1
Andy Pettitte
9.6
12.1
Orel Hershiser
14.2
12.7
John Denny
11.3
1.3
Ken Hill
9.4
1.0
Mike Mussina
14.1
21.5
Mark Langston
11.1
13.1
Dave Stewart
9.4
9.7
John Smoltz
13.8
9.8
Doug Drabek
11.0
(1.4)
Danny Darwin
9.3
12.0
Bob Welch
13.8
7.8
Rick Sutcliffe
10.7
8.4
Jimmy Key
9.2
17.9
Jason Schmidt
13.7
4.2
Tom Candiotti
10.6
21.2
Jon Lieber
9.2
7.5
C. Leibrandt
13.7
10.0
Andy Ashby
10.4
1.3
Shane Rawley
9.1
0.2
Kevin Brown
13.3
30.0
Charles Nagy
10.3
1.6
Zane Smith
9.0
3.2
Bruce Hurst
13.1
8.3
Joaquin Andujar
10.2
0.1
John Candelaria
9.0
5.4
Frank Viola
12.6
9.8
Rich Gossage
10.2
3.0
Rick Mahler
9.0
7.5

* Important caveat: I'm using Baseball Reference's WAR, not Fangraphs, for the remainder analysis. I hate switching, but BR's Play Index makes data compilation sooooooo much easier. I'm not going to make the mistake of combining BR's WAR with Fangraphs' dollars-per-win; rather, I'm focusing on a more general assessment of pitcher aging.

Based on these comparisons, Lee's probability of continuing to pitch well is better than I expected. The pitchers below 14 WAR in their Age 29-31 seasons are all over the map. You have Kevin Brown, who finally realized his estimable potential in his mid-thirties. You also have swan dives from Doug Drabek and Jim Clancy. But among the elite pitchers, all with at least 14 WAR in their Age 29-31 seasons, the decline in quality is quite mild. Yes, Pedro Martinez collapsed after two seasons, and John Tudor was nothing special, but on the whole the best pitchers continued to dominate. The average pitcher in the below-14 group lost 58% of his annual value during the subsequent five years, while the above-14 group lost only 23%. Lee is part of the above-14 group.

Let's take a closer look at the elite group:

Again, the best pitchers acquit themselves pretty well. Of the 50 combined seasons, only seven are below two WAR, and five of those belong to Martinez and Tudor. Purely based on these comparisons, Lee can be expected to maintain his status among the better (if not best) pitchers in the game, and his contract, while among the lucrative in baseball history, isn't unconscionable. That said, the monetary upside for the Phillies is minimal. Also, this comparison depends on your willingness to include folks like Maddux and Clemens as Lee's peers. I'm just going where the data takes me.

The annual dollars are only part of the equation. The real stickler for Texas was years. Reportedly, the Rangers balked at a guaranteed seventh year that would have landed Lee. They were right. Among the group of ten best pitchers, the average WAR declined to 2.9 in their Age 37 seasons and to 2.5 at Age 38 (only 2.3 and 1.8, respectively, if excluding an otherworldly Randy Johnson, who amassed 17.2 WAR during his Age 37-38 seasons). By their late thirties, some of the best pitchers of the last thirty years were essentially worthless. Guaranteeing over $20 million for a 38-year-old seven years in advance does little more than increase risk.


Elvis Costello, "This Year's Girl," from This Year's Model, 1978.

Posted by Lucas at 06:14 PM

November 03, 2010

A Moment of Navel-Gazing


February 2010: the pic that transformed shelter cat “Barry” into my cat “Ranger.”

Every once in a while, radio stations in some of Texas’s minor-league cities have me on to discuss the local prospects and the Rangers. In one early April interview*, I surprised a host (and myself, really) with my optimism at Texas’s chances to win the division. Not that I believed Texas would wins 95 games, or even 90, but I felt the lack of a single good or bad team in the West left the door open for everyone. Thus, the AL West club that combined a hot streak with a key in-season acquisition would win the division with perhaps as few as 84 games. Forced to choose, I selected the Angels, who always seemed to outperform expectations, but I insisted that Texas had a very good chance to play in October for the first time in eleven years.


Author reaction to ALCS Game 1 8th inning.

* (Some interviews are better than others. In one, I expounded on how Texas evolved into a competitor with improved defense and pitching, and that its offense was merely good, not great. The very next question: “So, Scott, everyone knows the Rangers can mash the ball, but will they ever get any pitching?”)


World Series-bound, #1.

The Rangers, in fact, rode a hot streak (20-5 through most of June, after which they were only 44-43) and made the essential acquisition of Cliff Lee. That trade effected a paradigm change for discerning fans. Much of the national media (and many locals) would continue to describe the Rangers as underdogs and upstarts because of their decades-long inefficacy. More careful observation revealed an organization focusing on a lengthy October run. Amazingly, in early July, the hapless Rangers were constructing a World Series contender.


World Series-bound, #2.

Notwithstanding some tactical miscues, Ron Washington excelled at keeping the players upbeat and relaxed (which, coincidentally, made the team very easy to root for and fun to watch). The late-90s Rangers were notoriously uptight in the postseason, with them and their fans seemingly in thrall to the Yankee Mystique. In contrast, at no point during the last month – not after losing twice at home to the Rays, not after the ALCS Game 1 debacle, and not down 3-1 to the Giants – did I feel the sense of doom that pervaded the 90s. As soon as Texas won that first game in St. Petersburg, the past disappeared. Win or lose, the 2010 Rangers would stand apart.


This banner was not photoshopped.

I’ve got mixed feelings about the Series. Despite all Texas achieved, there’s an opportunity lost. In postseason baseball, the “better” team loses a substantial portion of the time. Though I never felt they were more than very slight underdogs in any series, the Rangers did advance to the World Series with the worst record among AL competitors. Next year, the Rangers could be significantly better during the regular season but lose in the divisional round to an inferior team. They could miss the playoffs altogether. Nothing is guaranteed.


The last pitch of Texas’s one World Series victory.

That said, this was a special year. I’ve been following this team since moved to Arlington in 1972. Though I’m too young to remember, my father says he took me to see the Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs in what was then known as Turnpike Stadium. 2010 was the belated payoff for me and all the fans who’ve been there since the beginning (though just about any fan of more than a few years has undergone his or her fair share of suffering). Texas will never again win a postseason series for the first time, never vanquish the Yankees for the first time, and never win a World Series game for the first time. I was able to watch it all, often in person, always with my wonderful wife, and for that I am very grateful.

Posted by Lucas at 05:53 PM

October 19, 2010

ALCS Odds Update

Result
Probability
TEX sweeps
--
total:
64%
TEX wins 4-1
13%
TEX wins 4-2
26%
TEX wins 4-3
25%
NYY wins 4-3
19%

total:
36%

NYYwins 4-2
18%
NYY wins 4-1
--
NYY sweeps
--

A couple of bookies have the Rangers at -175 and Yankees at +155, very close to my calculations.

Posted by Lucas at 04:28 PM

October 16, 2010

ALCS Probabilities (Partially Belated)

Log5 Predictor)
TEX home win % = .614
NYY road win % = .542
TEX 57% favorite to win at home
NYY home win % = .646
TEX road win % = .500
NYY 65% to win at home

These were the probabilities going into the series.

Result
Probability
TEX sweeps
4%
total:
45%
TEX wins 4-1
8%
TEX wins 4-2
16%
TEX wins 4-3
18%
NYY wins 4-3
14%

total:
55%

NYYwins 4-2
15%
NYY wins 4-1
19%
NYY sweeps
8%

The betting outlets I visited had Texas at 43% and New York at 61% (the cumulative probability exceeds 100% because of the juice), making Texas a better pick, if not a terrific one.

Now that New York has taken Game 1:

Result
Probability
TEX sweeps
0%
total:
27%
TEX wins 4-1
3%
TEX wins 4-2
9%
TEX wins 4-3
16%
NYY wins 4-3
12%

total:
73%

NYYwins 4-2
15%
NYY wins 4-1
18%
NYY sweeps
18%

Had the Rangers won on Friday, they'd be 59% to win the series. The first game makes a huge difference.

Posted by Lucas at 01:22 PM

October 12, 2010

Updated Series Odds

Photobucket

Never tell me the odds.

Posted by Lucas at 12:07 AM

October 08, 2010

Updated Series Odds

Result
Based on H/R Records
Based on BP30 wins
TAM sweeps
0%
total:
12%
0%
total:
12%
TAM wins 3-1
0%
0%
TAM wins 3-2
12%
12%
TEX wins 3-2
8%
total:
88%
8%
total:
88%
TEX wins 3-1
25%
25%
TEX sweeps
55%
55%

Despite the last two days, the Rangers don't have a 130% chance of winning the series. Tampa Bay shrewdly employed its worst starter in Game 2, giving the Rays a leg up on Sunday's potential matchup. Maddon's always thinking ahead.

Posted by Lucas at 09:18 AM

October 07, 2010

Updated Series Odds

Result
Based on H/R Records
Based on BP30 wins
TAM sweeps
0%
total:
36%
0%
total:
33%
TAM wins 3-1
12%
11%
TAM wins 3-2
24%
22%
TEX wins 3-2
15%
total:
64%
15%
total:
67%
TEX wins 3-1
28%
29%
TEX sweeps
21%
23%

Also, for you betting types, the current series odds (Texas -205, Tampa Bay +175) don't indicate an opportunity based on the "actual" odds as defined in the table.

Posted by Lucas at 11:04 AM

October 06, 2010

Number-Oriented Thoughts on Texas versus Tampa Bay

Log5 Predictor

Bill James invented a formula for calculating the probability of victory based on two team’s winning percentages called “log5.” I’ve calculated the probability of each potential outcome two use data sets: 1) Texas and Tampa Bay’s actual won-loss record (both home and away), and 2) Baseball Prospectus’s 3rd-order wins (91.3 for Tampa Bay, 88.4 for Texas, about one-half the difference in their actual wins) plus a 4% advantage to the home team. Obviously, Tampa Bay will be favored since they own the better record and home-field advantage.

Method 1)
TAM home win % = .605
TEX road win % = .481
TAM 62% favorite to win at home

TEX home win % = .630
TAM road win % = .580
TEX 55% to win at home

Method 2)
TAM 60% to win at home, TEX 56% to win at home.

Results

Result
Based on H/R Records
Based on BP30 wins
TAM sweeps
17%
total:
60%
16%
total:
57%
TAM wins 3-1
19%
18%
TAM wins 3-2
24%
23%
TEX wins 3-2
14%
total:
40%
15%
total:
43%
TEX wins 3-1
18%
19%
TEX sweeps
8%
9%

The most likely scenario involves the Rays winning in a full five games. The Rangers are actually more likely to win in four games than five. Ignoring juice, some oddsmakers I’ve visited have the Rays at -135 to win the series, equivalent to 57%. Based on log5, the odds are close to “correct.”

The Deeper In

Offense

After adjusting for parks, Texas and Tampa Bay had pretty evenly matched offenses in 2010. The Rays play take and rake, finishing 13th of 14 teams in batting average and worst in strikeouts but also 1st in walks and in the middle of the pack in isolated power. The Rangers, on the other hand, led the league with a .276 batting average but displayed ordinary patience and power.

But Texas was hampered offensively by injuries to Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton plus the subpar performances of Justin Smoak (not forgiving his rookie status for this exercise), Chris Davis, and others. Tampa Bay had its own problems (Burrell, Blalock), but with a reasonably healthy lineup and adequate bat in the form of Mitch Moreland at 1st, do the Rangers trump the Rays offensively?

I recreated the batting lines of Texas and Tampa Bay based on projected playing time in a five-game series (for example, Jeff Francoeur starting Games 1 and 5 versus lefty David Price and including only his lefty slash stats). You can quibble with my estimates (how dare you) and the names on the bench (which haven’t been finalized as of early Wednesday morning), but one-game adjustments for a small handful of players wouldn’t affect the calculations much.

Pos Player
BA
OBP
SLG
AVG+
OBP+
SLG+
Games
C Bengie Molina
.240
.279
.320
83
83
77
2.50
C Matt Treanor
.211
.287
.308
86
86
74
1.50
1B Mitch Moreland
.255
.364
.469
109
109
112
3.00
1B Jorge Cantu
.235
.279
.327
83
83
78
2.00
2B Ian Kinsler
.286
.382
.412
114
114
99
5.00
3B Mike Young
.284
.330
.444
99
99
106
5.00
SS Elvis Andrus
.265
.342
.301
100
102
72
5.00
IF Andres Blanco
.277
.330
.349
99
99
84
0.25
OF Josh Hamilton
.359
.411
.633
123
123
152
5.00
OF Nelson Cruz
.318
.374
.576
112
112
138
5.00
OF David Murphy
.291
.358
.449
107
107
108
2.00
OF Jeff Francoeur
.300
.363
.442
108
108
106
2.00
OF Julio Borbon
.276
.309
.340
92
92
82
1.75
DH Vlad Guerrero
.300
.345
.496
103
103
119
5.00
- Team Total
-
-
-
104
105
107
-
Pos Player
BA
OBP
SLG
AVG+
OBP+
SLG+
Games
C John Jaso
.263
.372
.378
103
115
95
3.00
C Kelly Shoppach
.196
.308
.342
77
95
86
1.50
1B Carlos Pena
.196
.325
.407
77
101
102
5.00
2B/UT Sean Rodriguez
.292
.375
.442
114
116
111
2.00
3B Evan Longoria
.294
.372
.507
115
115
127
5.00
SS Jason Bartlett
.254
.324
.350
99
100
88
5.00
SS Reid Brignac
.256
.307
.385
100
95
96
0.25
IF Willy Aybar
.230
.309
.344
90
96
86
0.25
OF Carl Crawford
.307
.356
.495
120
110
124
5.00
OF Matthew Joyce
.241
.360
.477
94
111
119
5.00
OF B.J. Upton
.237
.322
.424
93
100
106
5.00
UT Ben Zobrist
.238
.346
.353
93
107
88
3.00
DH/4C Dan Johnson
.198
.343
.414
77
106
104
4.50
DH/OF Brad Hawpe
.245
.338
.419
89
97
97
0.25
- Team Total
-
-
-
96
107
106
-

Separating the wheat from the chaff results in much prettier OBP and slugging for both teams, as you’d expect. Texas leapfrogs the Rays in power but remains behind in on-base percentage. Combined with their modest superiority on the basepaths, the Rays own perhaps a very slight advantage on the Rangers offensively.

Pitching

I performed similar calculations for the rotations and bullpen but used Fangraphs’ WAR instead of a less trustworthy (especially for relievers) stat like ERA. I assigned innings to each starting pitcher roughly equivalent to average innings per start during 2010 rounded down to the nearest 1/3 inning and then subtracted another 1/3. Doing so creates a conservative estimate and assumes both managers will employ quick hooks to play the matchup game. I assumed a four-man rotation and assigned innings to the bullpen so that each team’s total was 45 innings (five games). Again, if you see something distasteful, note that small changes in innings and/or the personnel at the back of the bullpen make little difference.

Name
IP
WAR
WAR/IP
Playoff IP
Playoff WAR
Cliff Lee
108
3.3
0.031
14.3
0.44
C.J. Wilson
204
4.4
0.022
6.0
0.13
Colby Lewis
201
4.4
0.022
6.0
0.13
Tommy Hunter
128
0.7
0.005
5.0
0.03
TOTAL
-
-
-
-
0.73
Name
IP
WAR
WAR/IP
Playoff IP
Playoff WAR
David Price
209
4.3
0.021
13.0
0.27
James Shields
203
2.2
0.011
6.0
0.07
Matt Garza
205
1.8
0.009
6.0
0.05
Wade Davis
168
0.8
0.005
5.3
0.03
TOTAL
-
-
-
-
0.41

Here lies the striking difference between the teams. Not a single matchup favors the Rays. David Price bests Cliff Lee in wins, ERA, and strikeouts, but Lee triumphs in a variety of deeper stats (FIP, xFIP, strand rate, etc.). Again, for emphasis: to a man, Texas’s rotation is equal to or better than Tampa Bay’s.

Name
IP
WAR
WAR/IP
Playoff IP
Playoff WAR
Neftali Feliz
69
1.8
0.026
3.0
0.08
Alexi Ogando
41
0.8
0.020
2.0
0.04
Darren O'Day
62
0.9
0.015
2.0
0.03
Darren Oliver
62
1.5
0.024
2.0
0.05
Dustin Nippert
57
(0.3)
(0.005)
2.0
(0.01)
Derek Holland
57
0.8
0.014
1.3
0.02
Michael Kirkman
16
0.3
0.019
1.3
0.02
TOTAL
-
-
-
-
0.23
Name
IP
WAR
WAR/IP
Playoff IP
Playoff WAR
Rafael Soriano
62
1.7
0.027
3.0
0.08
Grant Balfour
55
1.2
0.022
2.3
0.05
Jeff Niemann
174
1.2
0.007
2.3
0.02
Joaquin Benoit
60
1.6
0.027
2.3
0.06
Chad Qualls
59
0.3
0.005
1.7
0.01
Randy Choate
44
0.5
0.011
1.7
0.02
Dan Wheeler
48
0.1
0.002
1.3
0.00
TOTAL
-
-
-
-
0.24

Both teams have strong bullpens with excellent closers and nobody truly awful on the back end. The worst of the lot, Dustin Nippert, carries the burden of saving his mates in the pen if a starter flames out.

Defense

The Rays and Rangers are excellent defensively. Tampa Bay holds a moderate .006 advantage in defensive efficiency, but per Baseball Prospectus, Texas retakes the league (indeed, leads all of baseball) when considering park effects.

Conclusions

Admittedly, this is an ungainly and imperfect analysis. However, I feel Texas’s passably healthy and revamped roster compares favorably with Tampa Bay’s and largely (if not totally) eliminates the six-game difference between them. This is an awfully close matchup. I’d still rank Tampa Bay as the favorite, if only because of home-field advantage, but a Texas victory shouldn’t be considered an upset. Not that I’m putting money on the outcome (having my emotional well-being on the line is plenty, thanks), but I’d take Texas at +125 over the Rays at -145.

And now, time to live on the edge of my seat for a few days. Hopefully, the next few weeks. Go Rangers.

Posted by Lucas at 04:21 AM

September 25, 2010

Yay, Part 2



Posted by Lucas at 07:10 PM

August 17, 2010

The Strange Saga of Joaquin Arias


A vintage, badly weathered Polaroid of Arias circa 2006

On Monday night, Joaquin Arias committed two 8th-inning defensive blunders that heavily subsidized Tampa Bay’s four-run outburst (video here). Manager Ron Washington was uncharacteristically harsh:“"We've got to get our heads outta our butts and play better baseball tomorrow."

I’d only assign Arias partial blame for the over-the-shoulder miscue. Yes, he raced after the pop-up awkwardly, but, as evidenced repeatedly last night, the Tropicana ceiling transforms ordinary fly balls into hazardous, “where’s Waldo” eye-squinters. Also, right fielder Brandon Boggs was making his first MLB appearance in two years and arguably could have called Arias off. However, Arias’s “fielder’s choice” decision befitted rookie league. Per Washington: "He should have took the out [at first] right there," Washington said. "That's Baseball 101."

My quick take assigned some of the blame to a third party:

Am I right? Actually, I’m not certain that I am. Not completely right, anyway. The situation is definitely too nuanced for 140 characters. How did the Rangers and Arias find themselves in this position?

Baseball America ranked Arias fourth among New York’s prospects in early 2004, prior to his trade to Texas. For the next three seasons, he ranked between third and sixth in the Texas system, and in 2005 he earned a spot within the lower half of baseball’s top 100 prospects. Always an excellent defensive shortstop with contact skills and speed, the only question was how much power and (especially) patience he would develop in his ascent to the Majors.

The answer: not much. Arias has been a perversely consistent hitter in his seven healthy minor-league seasons:

Category Minimum Maximum
Average .266 .315
OBP .295 .344
ISO .069 .125
XBH/H 16% 23%
BB Rate
3.2%
5.7%
SO Rate
9.2%
13.0%

Aside from the ability to move up the organizational ladder, Arias hasn’t progressed an inch as a hitter in eight seasons. His best skill is avoiding strikeouts, giving him enough hits on contact to appear useful. He hits .280-.300, won’t take a pitch, and can leg out some doubles and triples. Period. Outlying seasons are just the vagaries of BABIP.

Worse, during an intended conversion to a utility role in 2007, he suffered a shoulder injury while practicing in the outfield. Arias effectively missed the entire season and spent most of 2008 at second base. While he returned to shortstop full-time in 2009, his arm has never fully recovered.

Considered a liability on the left side of the infield, athletic but lacking “baseball sense,” Arias entered 2010 minus options and unlikely to avoid waivers or a trade. Indeed, Texas tried very hard to find his replacement:

  • The Rangers signed Khalil Greene as their fifth infielder in January, but his anxiety issues prevented him from showing up to Surprise.

  • The Rangers claimed Joe Inglett off waivers from Toronto in December 2009 but lost him in the same fashion to Milwaukee the next month. (Inglett made way for Colby Lewis, an upgrade, to say the least.)

  • Esteban German rejoined the team on a minor-league contract after finishing 2009 in Texas. German’s MLB on-base percentage is .358 -- far above any of his competitors and most starting MLB middle infielders-- and can play anywhere but catcher. Unfortunately, while versatile, he’s a poor defender everywhere. Though I believe management would have liked German to win the fifth infielder battle, they were emphasizing defense, and German’s defense in March was especially deficient. (I saw it with my own eyes.)

  • Also signed over the winter were Hernan Iribarren and Ray Olmedo. Iribarren had never played shortstop professionally, so he represented no improvement over Arias. Texas parlayed Olmedo into catcher Matt Treanor.

  • The Rangers traded for Gregorio Petit on March 24th. Petit is a stalwart defender but a slightly weaker hitter and much slower on the basepaths than Arias.

  • Finally, Texas acquired Andres Blanco from the Cubs for cash. Blanco rivals Petit at the plate but has more MLB experience and, critically, displayed MLB-quality defense in the final week of Spring Training. He won the fifth infielder job almost instantly.

Yet Arias survived and even thrived. Kinsler’s sprained ankle temporarily opened second base, and management preferred Arias’s just-good-enough bat and just-good-enough defense to the unbalanced skill sets of his rivals. He would garner the majority of starts in April, while Blanco filled in less often and could cover the left side of the infield as needed.

Arias started 13 games at second base to Blanco’s nine during Kinsler’s absence, but that’s not to say he was trusted. Five times, he was pulled for a defensive replacement. Conversely, Blanco was replaced only by pinch hitters.

In an amazing coincidence, Arias hit the DL with a back strain the day Kinsler returned. He was seemingly destined for waivers or at least a protracted rehab stint, but events conspired to save him again. Ryan Garko had batted his way off the roster; suddenly, the spot reserved for the backup 1B and right-handed bench bat no longer existed. Also, Texas had only twelve position players when Arias’s mandatory 15 days expired.

Garko’s dismissal and lack of replacement bequeathed the minor roles of backup 1B, interleague pinch-hitter, and sixth infielder to none other than Arias. Between mid-May and late July, a span of 68 games, Arias came to the plate only 32 times. He started five games at first but finished none, always replaced by a pinch-hitter. Arias also started twice at second when Kinsler injured his groin in late July.

In another amazing coincidence, Arias hit the DL with a neck strain the day Texas acquired Cristian Guzman. Again seemingly facing the waiver wire or a rehab assignment that would extend until rosters expand on September 1st, Arias returned quickly when Nelson Cruz was disabled. And, with Guzman also disabled and Michael Young out with his own neck strain, Texas had to use Arias defensively in the late innings of a close, important game. Twice, in the span of a few minutes, Arias’s lack of baseball sense trumped his athleticism to calamitous effect. Now, Arias is a pariah, demeaned by fans, writers, and the very manager who begged for his retention (along with Blanco) despite a roster constricted enough to force his surrender of the DH in a May game at Seattle.

This season, management has ruthlessly jettisoned players not meeting expectations. Texas has replaced its ostensible #1 and #2 starters, its first baseman, its closer, both catchers, and (to an extent) its center fielder. Yet once Arias back-doored his way onto the active roster in April, the Rangers have been curiously faithful to him. He’s been an injury-replacement second baseman (but not trustworthy enough in the field to finish several games), a backup first baseman (but unable to hit through an entire game even once), a pinch hitter, and a sixth infielder with only 11 innings to the west of second base.

Only the first role makes much sense. I wonder if Texas would have been better served by Esteban German once Kinsler returned and Garko departed. Yes, Arias was batting .321 through April, but he was certain to regress to the mediocrity of his narrowly defined historical performance. German could have pinch-hit for Treanor (and now Teagarden), hit lefties well enough be a legitimate substitute for Davis/Smoak/Moreland at first (career .289/.365/.408), pinch-run for anyone, and fielded just about anywhere.

Given that Arias wasn’t trusted or even needed at short or third with Blanco around, Arias’s superiority over German was reduced to one attribute: marginally better defense at second base. Back in May, when Kinsler returned, that attribute lost its significance. Monday’s catastrophe in the one allegedly superior aspect of his game only emphasized the pointlessness of his place on the roster during the last three months.

Posted by Lucas at 11:57 PM

April 15, 2010

Always Be Closing

The Rangers have entered the 8th inning with the lead in six consecutive games.

Their record? 3-3.

Posted by Lucas at 01:28 PM

March 06, 2010

Can Michael Young reach 3,000 base hits?

MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan answered the question thusly:

Does Michael Young have a realistic shot at 3,000 career hits?
-- Maggie W., Burleson, Texas

Yes. Young, who turned 33 last October, has 1,662 career hits. Hall of Famer Paul Molitor, comparable as a hitter to Young, had 1,561 hits in eight full seasons after turning 33. Craig Biggio had 1,380 hits in eight seasons after turning 33. But there are also many players who had numbers similar to Young at this point in his career and ultimately fell well short of 3,000 hits. So much depends on Young staying healthy because physical issues have kept him from getting 200 hits in each of the past two seasons.

Two weeks later, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News expanded on Young-for-3,000 possibility with comparisons to Barry Larkin, Craig Biggio, Julio Franco, and, most notably, Paul Molitor.

For my part, I began examining the likelihood of Young reaching 3,000 hits soon after Sullivan’s article, then let it slide because of my real job. Once Grant added his two cents, I hurriedly finished my research for a March 1st post. Nope… work and Cat Search 2010 consumed another week. So, at last…

Here’s the 3,000 Hit Club minus Cap Anson, whose inaugural season predates the National League and ended in 1897:

Player (age)
Career
Hits
Debut Age
Hits thru Age 23 Season
Hits thru Age 32 Season
Hits after Age 32 Season
Age of Last Season as Qualifier
Age of Last Season
Michael Young - 24 0 1662 - - -
Pete Rose 4256 22 309 2152 2104 42 45
Ty Cobb 4189 18 959 2713 1476 40 41
Hank Aaron 3771 20 718 2434 1337 41 42
Stan Musial 3630 20 584 2223 1407 41 42
Tris Speaker 3514 19 547 2232 1282 39 40
Honus Wagner 3420 23 81 1751 1669 42 43
Carl Yastrzemski 3419 21 529 1952 1467 42 43
Paul Molitor 3319 21 467 1751 1568 41 41
Eddie Collins 3315 19 487 1981 1334 38 43
Willie Mays 3283 20 352 2033 1250 40 42
Eddie Murray 3255 21 526 2021 1234 40 41
Nap Lajoie 3242 21 451 1909 1333 40 41
Cal Ripken 3184 20 569 2087 1097 40 40
George Brett 3154 20 544 1967 1187 40 40
Paul Waner 3152 23 180 2036 1116 36 42
Robin Yount 3142 18 871 2407 735 37 37
Tony Gwynn 3141 22 149 1864 1277 38 41
Dave Winfield 3110 21 307 1761 1349 41 43
Craig Biggio 3060 22 140 1680 1380 41 41
Rickey Henderson 3055 20 553 1888 1167 39 44
Rod Carew 3053 21 428 2085 968 39 39
Lou Brock 3023 22 115 1808 1215 38 40
Rafael Palmeiro 3020 21 257 1792 1228 39 40
Wade Boggs 3010 24
0
1784 1226 38 41
Al Kaline 3007 18 880 2228 779 39 39
Rbto. Clemente 3000 20 554 2238 762 37 37
Average
-
20.7
462
2,030
1,267
39.5
41.1
Median
-
21
487
2,001
1,264
40
41

The breakdown of their careers indicates several serious obstacles to Young’s attempt to join them:

1. Recall that Young did not join Texas as a fully assembled 200-hit machine. Drafted as a 20-year-old out of UC Santa Barbara, he needed nearly a full season at each level of the minors above rookie-ball. Aside from a tiny sip of coffee in 2000, Young’s Major League career didn’t commence until 2001, his Age 24 season. During 2001-2002, his Age 24 and 25 seasons, he batted a meager .257/.304/.390. He spent April 2002 time-sharing second base with Frank Catalanotto, after which Little Cat’s shift to four-corner super-sub initiated Young’s seven-year quasi-Iron Man streak.

The late and tepid start is obviously problematic. Wade Boggs is the only member of the 3,000-hit club to collect his first hit during his Age 24 season. The average age was 20.7, the median 21. The non-Boggs contingent accumulated an average of 462 hits before their Age 24 seasons. Others with relatively modest starts were Wagner (81), Lou Brock (115), Tony Gwynn (149), and Paul Waner (180).

2. Because of the above, Young’s 1,662 hits through his Age 32 season trail every member of the 3,000-hit club at the same stage in his career. Closest are Craig Biggio (1,680), Paul Molitor (1,751), and Honus Wagner (1,751).

3. On average, members of the 3,000-hit club collected 1,267 hits subsequent to their Age 32 season. Young needs 1,338, a figure that only seven of the 26 members attained. Thus, even among this group of baseball’s most elite hitters, Young must perform better than average.

4. If Young wants to achieve 3,000 hits before turning 40, he’ll need to average 191 for the next seven seasons. In the near future, he has a reasonably good chance to do so. Come mid-decade, he’s bucking ridiculous odds. Only three players have achieved the more economical sum of 160 hits during their Age 37, 38 and 39 seasons: Pete Rose, Tris Speaker, and Sam Rice (who actually didn’t reach 3,000). The combination of bat speed, stamina and good health at that age is extraordinarily rare.

So, given the unfavorable comparisons with those who achieved 3,000 hits, let’s examine Young in terms of the subsequent performance of players with similar careers through Age 32. I compiled a list of all hitters with at least 831 hits (one-half Young’s total) by the age and created a least-squares ranking using hits through each player’s Age 32 season, starting age of career, hits per game, and batting average. I also included (with less emphasis) batting average on balls in play, rate of walks plus HBP, and isolated power, all of which help to eliminate batters with extremely dissimilar hitting profiles. Without them, the list includes strange comparables like Jeff Bagwell.

A handful of the closest comparables (Jack Tobin, Babe Herman) were already done as regulars by the time they turned 32, so I manually deleted them. Everyone on this list qualified for the batting title for at least one more season, almost always more. Finally, I deleted active players. (Okay, the listed Garret Anderson is still active. But not very.) Note that this list isn’t akin to Bill James’s Similarity Scores. I’m not seeking the Young’s best overall matches, just for a specific set of characteristics.

The most similar 25, in order:

Player
Hits thru Age 32 season
Hits / Game
Debut Age
Batting Average
Career Hits
Hits after Age 32 season
Age of Last Season
Age of Last "Good" Season
Age of Last Season as Qualifier
Michael Young
1662
1.23
24 .302
-
-
-
-
-
Julio Franco 1605
1.17
23 .302 2586 981
48
46
38
Willie McGee 1548
1.17
23 .298 2254 706
40
38
34
Bob Meusel 1565
1.21
23 .311 1693 128
33
31
33
Kirby Puckett 1812
1.31
24 .321 2304 492
35
35
35
Bernie Williams 1629
1.18
22 .305 2336 707
37
33
36
Paul Molitor 1751
1.22
21 .300 3319 1568
41
40
41
Mark Grace 1514
1.17
24 .309 2445 931
39
37
37
Lou Brock 1808
1.18
22 .291 3023 1215
40
38
40
Bill Madlock 1557
1.16
22 .317 2008 451
36
36
34
Ken Boyer 1531
1.12
24 .296 2143 612
38
37
35
Dave Parker 1479
1.14
22 .305 2712 1233
40
39
40
Will Clark 1667
1.10
22 .300 2176 509
36
36
36
Jim Bottomley 1727
1.24
22 .325 2313 586
37
32
36
Garret Anderson 1766
1.20
22 .299 2501 735
37
32
37
Edd Roush 1732
1.21
20 .330 2376 644
38
36
36
Zack Wheat 1738
1.14
21 .302 2884 1146
39
39
37
Sam West 1503
1.10
22 .303 1838 335
37
35
33
Stan Hack 1581
1.15
22 .304 2193 612
37
36
35
Wally Moses 1438
1.20
24 .302 2138 700
40
38
34
Buddy Myer 1692
1.16
21 .302 2131 439
37
36
34
Gee Walker 1450
1.21
23 .310 1991 541
37
29
36
HR Baker 1510
1.19
22 .311 1838 328
36
33
33
Craig Biggio 1680
1.09
22 .292 3060 1380
41
35
41
Dick Groat 1636
1.16
21 .293 2138 502
36
33
35
Tony Lazzeri 1675
1.09
22 .297 1840 165
35
35
33
Average 1624
1.17
22.2
.305
2330 706
38.0
35.8 36.0
Median 1629
1.17
22
.302
2254 612
37
36 36

Note: A "Good" season in the table signifies at least 100 plate appearances and a batting average and on-base percentage above the park-adjusted league average.

Both of Sullivan’s comparisons and most of Grant’s appear on my list. Barry Larkin’s 190 fewer hits than Young, higher walk rate and “poor” .306 BABIP (because he struck out so infrequently) create a slightly less valuable comparison in my system. What I take from this set of players:

1. Three of Young’s 25 most similar hitters reached 3,000 hits: Molitor, Bagwell, and Lou Brock. As noted, all began their Year 33 seasons with more hits than Young.

2. Among those most similar to Young, only seven reached 2,500 hits, and five actually departed with less than 2,000. A search on “Bob Meusel,” famous for following Ruth and Gehrig in the Yankee lineups of the 1920s, reveals the epithets “lazy,” “indifferent,” and “unpopular,” three words never appended to Young. Meusel’s last good season came at Age 31, and by 33 he was done. Meusel aside, most of these players reached their mid-thirties in respectable form, but very few remained healthy and effective thereafter.

3. The average batter collected only 706 hits after his Age 32 season. Molitor (1,568) and Biggio (1,380) are dramatic outliers and the only two listed to surpass the 1,338 hits needed by Young.

4. Young will be fulfilling the final year of his five-year, $80 million contract as a 36-year-old. 12 of the 25 hitters most similar to Young failed to accumulate enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title in their Age 36 seasons. That is to say, they were hurt, ineffective, or (in a few cases) already retired.

Michael Young has the second-most hits in baseball during the last seven years (trailing Ichiro). Better yet, his 1,416 hits during his Age 26-32 seasons are the sixth-most in MLB history, the others in an illustrious top ten being Heinie Manush, Boggs, Puckett, Rose, Harry Heilmann, Musial, Carew, and Rogers Hornsby. Despite those accomplishments, he’s highly unlikely to reach 3,000. Bill James’s “Favorite Toy” tool grants him an 18% chance. With no disrespect to Young, I would give those odds.

Posted by Lucas at 05:31 PM

December 04, 2009

Minitrue

Photobucket

Yes, please. If Texas can get someone to trade for a pitcher with a "3.67 ERA in a tough park in AL" instead of who he really is, that would be doubleplusgood.

Posted by Lucas at 12:07 PM

November 26, 2009

On Millwood

On July 2nd, just before the season’s midpoint, Kevin Millwood owned a sparkling 2.80 ERA and had already thrown 119 innings. This performance, after an aggregate 4.89 ERA and about 93 innings per half-season in Texas, was cause for celebration and a primary factor in Texas’s early-season division lead. In previous years Millwood had been dogged by minor injuries as well as questions regarding his conditioning. Last winter, Millwood reportedly worked himself into premium shape. (Roughly half of MLB’s employees get puff pieces about their strength and stamina during the news-starved winter, but in this case it appeared to be true.) Might Millwood make the All-Star team? Might he earn some down-ballot Cy Young votes?

And then, the backlash: How much of Millwood’s success was external, the product of a suddenly superior defense and the pejorative “luck?”

  • R.J. Anderson of Fangraphs: “The Pleasures Of Strand Rate,” documenting Millwood’s sudden and seemingly dubious knack for leaving runners on base. Followed by…

  • Rob Neyer of ESPN: “Don’t Be Fooled By Millwood’s ERA,” giving Anderson’s story a bigger stage and noting that Millwood’s .261 BABIP was the lowest of his career. Followed by…

  • Evan Grant of D Magazine’s now-defunct and sorely missed Inside Corner: “ESPN’s Rob Neyer Says Kevin Millwood Has Been More Lucky Than Good; I Say ‘Wake Up, Rob Neyer’,” a pointed refutation of Neyer and Anderson. Well, sort of. Grant actually concurs with much of what Neyer and Anderson wrote; mostly, he takes umbrage at the derisive term “luck.” (I’m a big fan of Grant’s work, his whole-hearted embrace of “new media,” and his willingness to engage with his audience, but this article isn’t his high point.) Supported by…

  • Richard Durrett, then at the Dallas Morning News: “I second Evan Grant’s Defense of Kevin Millwood,” wherein Durrett states that Millwood “is in better shape, he has a better defense, but he's also making the crucial [pitches at] the critical times. Just watch the games and you'll see that.” (Okay. “[I] watch the games” is fine for justifying why some youngster with a poor track record might still be an excellent prospect, but not so much for justifying the stratospheric strand rate of a 34-year-old with over 2,000 MLB innings. This argument is of a bygone era and reeks of smugness [if unintentionally]. In 2009, there's someone out there who's watched more of the player in question than you [yes, you, and me, too], who will capably dispute your position, and who can do so on the Interwebs with at least a modest and discerning audience. Today, "watch the games," which really means "you don't watch as many games as me," works at best one-on-one, never against the broad readership. It's a dismissal, not an argument.) Followed by…

  • Adam Morris of Lone Star Ball: “Kevin Millwood, Rob Neyer, Evan Grant, luck, pitching, and defense,” a lengthy rebuttal of Grant and the best thing anyone’s written about the subject (so go read it). And on the same day…

  • Yours truly , “Who You Callin’ Lucky?” Like Adam, I waxed meta, arguing “luck” shouldn't have a negative connotation, although, in the context of Millwood, I described luck as “a series of atypical occurrences; for example, stranding 87% of opposing runners for nearly half a season.”

    (Luck, after all, works both ways. In an old fantasy column for ESPN, I argued that Brad Fullmer’s poor start in Texas was largely luck-driven and that he’d show improvement soon. Boy, did that not work out. Also, even Millwood’s detractors gave him credit: I wrote that he’d “been a revelation, a pleasure to watch, and arguably the team MVP.” Adam Morris stated that the “point of [his article] isn't to condemn Millwood. He's been a workhorse this year.” It's more fun to watch the players you care about do well, lucky or not.)

As if on cue, Millwood’s health, stamina, and ERA began to decay. A scant two months after the All-Star and Cy Young talk, the discussion devolved to whether Texas should bench Millwood so that his $12 million option in 2010 wouldn’t vest. The Rangers didn’t bench him, and in fact Millwood pitched quite well in his final three starts. That said, his second half resulted in a 5.02 ERA and fewer than six innings per start, depressingly similar to his lackluster 2007-2008.

So, barring a trade, Millwood will pitch 2010 with a "T" on his cap. What to expect? Unfortunately, for predictive purposes, I think we can pretend his best half-season in Texas never existed. I don’t doubt that Millwood’s improved conditioning, determination, etc., played some role in 2009’s first half, at least in terms of working deeper into games. But in truth, he really didn’t pitch much differently than before. In many respects, he pitched worse. He was, dare I say it, very, very lucky.

How lucky? During 2006-2008 and the second half of 2009, Millwood’s hit rate on balls in play has averaged .329 and was never lower than .306. Somehow, during the first half of 2009, it was .254, a whopping 75 points lower than his average:

Photobucket

While Texas’s defense did improve markedly in 2009, the only time Millwood’s BABIP has been lower than the team’s was during the first half of 2009. Millwood’s strand rate during this period is an even more of an outlier:

Photobucket

Displaying Millwood’s strand rate relative to his ERA better indicates how unusual his first half of 2009 was:

Photobucket

Concomitant to Millwood's lofty strand rate was his performance with runners in scoring position and two out. Since hits with runners on second and/or third almost always result in at least one run across the plate, short-term trends in this situation greatly influence ERA. In the previous three years, his rates in that situation were .256, .337, and .255, but during the first half of 2009, Millwood’s opponents batted 5-for-52 in two-out RISPs, a miniscule .096 average. If he’d found some ability to bear down in those situations, he lost it during the second half, as opponents went 12-for-41 (.293), approximately equal to the average of 2006-2008:

Photobucket

Not coincidentally, Millwood's newfound ability to work deeper into games disappeared in 2009's second half:

Photobucket

It’s established that a pitcher’s performance is best evidenced in strikeouts, walks, and homers. Frankly, even in light of the luck and defense requisite to Millwood’s amazing first half of 2009, from visual observation I would have expected improvement in the statistics most under his control. I saw him often and have no interest in retracting my statement that he was a pleasure to watch.

Instead, what’s remarkable about Millwood’s first half of ’09 is that his peripheral stats improved not a bit from his previous and subsequent efforts:

Photobucket

Actually, Millwood’s rates of homers, walks and strikeouts for all of 2009 were the worst among his four years in Arlington. In fact, aside from his 51-inning rookie season, his BB and SO rates were the worst of his 13-year career, and his 3.1% HR rate was exceeded only during his injury-plagued 2001. Astonishingly, Millwood posted his best ERA as a Ranger during what might be his worst season in the Majors. And he turns 35 next month.

Thus, Texas erred in letting his option vest, correct? Not necessarily. As noted by Fangraphs, wins (above replacement, not pitcher wins) come very dearly on the free-agent market, about $4 million per, and Millwood has averaged 2.8 wins per season during the last three years. He stands almost no chance of being a bargain but will more-or-less earn his full salary if he can duplicate the average of his 2007-2009 seasons. On the other hand, if the decline in his peripherals is irreversible, he’s an expensive, barely-above-replacement-level “ace.”

Texas, strangely enough, has some pitching depth and has countenanced trading Millwood. Though I liked the Volquez-for-Hamilton trade, it was problematic in that Volquez’s putative innings for 2008 were replaced by a not-ready-for-prime-time cast that couldn’t even offer replacement-level performance. This time, I don’t think that would happen; Neftali Feliz is ready for his close-up, Matt Harrison is healthy and throwing hard, and perhaps Guillermo Moscoso and even Eric Hurley will have a positive contribution. Still, I suppose one argument against a trade, assuming no pitching comes back, is who remains – is Texas willing to enter 2010 with Scott Feldman as its nominal ace?

Millwood is a known entity, and there’s value in a pitcher who can reach 190-200 innings with a 4.75 ERA. I’m not averse to Millwood pitching for Texas in 2010, even for $12 million, but expecting another sub-4.00 ERA, or even sub-4.50, is foolhardy.

Posted by Lucas at 02:45 AM

November 08, 2009

Texas Pitchers' Rate Lines and Hitter Counterparts

Once again, I've turned every Texas pitcher’s performance into a comparable batter. Below are the opposing batting lines and percentages of homers, walks and strikeouts for every Ranger pitcher who pitched at least 10 innings. The three hitters who most closely match that line are listed to the right.

Just in case you're curious, I determined comparability by calculating differences in average, on-base percentage, slugging, homer rate, walk rate, and strikeout rate between each Ranger pitcher and every hitter in baseball with at least 200 appearances. It involves least squares, standard deviations and other ickiness. Two pitchers needed batters with fewer than 200 PAs: Feliz and O'Day. See below.

Pitcher
Opposing
AVG / OBP / SLG
- OPS
Opposing
AVG+ / OBP+ / SLG+
- OPS+
HR% - BB% - SO%
Most Comparable Batters ('09 Stats Only)
N Feliz
.124 / .207 / .210
- .416
45 / 60 / 47
- 7
1.7% - 6.8% - 33.3%
Aaron Cunningham,
Jair Jurrjens,
Joe Blanton
D O'Day
.188 / .265 / .260
- .526
69 / 77 / 58
- 35
1.4% - 7.9% - 25.0%
David Dellucci,
Johan Santana,
Matt Downs
F Francisco
.214 / .276 / .364
- .639
78 / 80 / 82
- 62
3.0% - 7.4% - 28.1%
Bill Hall,
Josh Fields,
Jarrod Saltalamacchia
C Wilson
.234 / .325 / .326
- .651
86 / 95 / 73
- 68
0.9% - 9.9% - 26.0%
Koyie Hill,
Chris Coste,
Jack Hannahan
D Mathis
.244 / .297 / .363
- .659
89 / 87 / 81
- 68
2.3% - 5.8% - 14.5%
Kaz Matsui,
Jose Guillen,
Jody Gerut
S Feldman
.250 / .319 / .374
- .693
91 / 93 / 84
- 77
2.3% - 8.2% - 14.3%
Geoff Blum,
Aubrey Huff,
Jose Guillen
D Nippert
.245 / .324 / .372
- .696
90 / 94 / 83
- 77
2.3% - 9.7% - 18.0%
Elijah Dukes,
Ryan Spillborghs,
J.J. Hardy
T Hunter
.259 / .313 / .423
- .736
95 / 91 / 95
- 86
2.7% - 7.0% - 13.5%
Daniel Murphy,
Vernon Wells,
Stephen Drew
J Grilli
.216 / .321 / .412
- .734
79 / 94 / 92
- 86
1.8% - 12.4% - 23.9%
Chris Young,
Clete Thomas,
Jason Varitek
B McCarthy
.255 / .321 / .418
- .739
93 / 94 / 94
- 88
3.1% - 8.6% - 15.5%
Ben Francisco,
Stephen Drew,
Willie Aybar
TEAM
.260 / .331 / .416
- .747
95 / 96 / 93
- 89
2.8% - 8.6% - 16.5%
Ben Francisco,
Aubrey Huff,
Stephen Drew
K Millwood
.257 / .327 / .423
- .750
94 / 95 / 95
- 90
3.1% - 8.4% - 14.5%
Ben Francisco,
Stephen Drew,
Andy LaRoche
V Padilla
.286 / .360 / .419
- .779
105 / 105 / 94
- 99
2.5% - 8.8% - 12.4%
David DeJesus,
Jorge Cantu,
Adam Kennedy
J Jennings
.286 / .361 / .453
- .814
105 / 105 / 101
- 106
2.6% - 10.3% - 16.2%
Brian Roberts,
Andrew McCutchen,
Matt Holliday
E Guardado
.267 / .344 / .479
- .823
98 / 100 / 107
- 107
4.8% - 9.0% - 12.1%
Ian Kinsler,
Paul Konerko,
Brian McCann
D Holland
.288 / .346 / .510
- .856
105 / 101 / 114
- 115
4.3% - 7.7% - 17.5%
Michael Cuddyer,
Casey McGehee,
Torii Hunter
M Harrison
.316 / .376 / .500
- .876
116 / 110 / 112
- 122
3.2% - 8.1% - 12.0%
Aramis Ramirez,
Scott Rolen,
Michael Young
W Madrigal
.333 / .463 / .519
- .981
122 / 135 / 116
- 151
3.0% - 17.9% - 7.5%
Todd Helton,
Carlos Beltran,
Joe Mauer
K Benson
.340 / .421 / .598
- 1.019
124 / 123 / 134
- 157
5.3% - 10.5% - 9.7%
Joe Mauer,
Pablo Sandoval,
Miguel Cabrera

Yes, Feliz's opposing OPS+ was 7. Seven! Both Feliz and O'Day so greatly stifled hitters that no batters with 200 appearances are really comparable. For them, I dropped the required plate appearances to 50. Two of Feliz's top three and seven of his top ten comparable opposing batters are pitchers:

1. Aaron Cunningham (OF)
2. Jair Jurrjens (P)
3. Joe Blanton (P)
4. John Lannan (P)
5. Kevin Correia (P)
6. Jed Lowrie (IF)
7. Chad Billingsley (P)
8. Johnny Cueto (P)
9. Diory Hernandez (IF)
10. Ryan Dempster (P)

2008 list.

2007 list.

Posted by Lucas at 09:31 AM

October 30, 2009

Homegrown Starting Pitchers, Updated

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
2009
Scott Feldman John Lackey,
Joe Saunders,
Jered Weaver
Trevor Cahill Felix Hernandez
2008
- John Lackey,
Ervin Santana,
Joe Saunders,
Jered Weaver
- Felix Hernandez
2007
- John Lackey Joe Blanton Felix Hernandez
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

Posted by Lucas at 09:40 AM

September 26, 2009

Texas's 40-Man Roster: Surprisingly Uncrunchy!

Untitled DocumentEvan Grant of D Magazine concluded his end-of-season report on Texas’s minor-league system for Baseball America on a worrisome note (subscription-only link):

The Rangers have so much minor league talent they may be facing a 40-man roster crunch this winter. That may have led them to deal catcher Manny Pina (who must be protected this winter) and outfielder Tim Smith to the Royals for righthander Danny Gutierrez.

The Rangers do indeed have plenty of farm talent, but I actually think their winter roster situation will be much less stressful than in previous years. The present roster contains several players who have virtually no future in the organization, and the list of players needing protection to avoid potential capture in the Rule 5 draft is intriguing but not especially compelling.

To elaborate, Texas currently has 44 players on its roster: 40 plus four on the 60-day Disabled List who must be reinstated. They’re categorized as follows:

Pitchers Position Players Pitchers Position Players
Wage Slaves (27)
Under Contract in 2010 (3)
Eyre, Willie Andrus, Elvis Millwood, Kevin Kinsler, Ian
Feliz, Neftali Arias, Joaquin - Young, Michael
Harrison, Matt Boggs, Brandon
Arbitration-Eligible (7)
Holland, Derek Borbon, Julio Feldman, Scott German, Esteban
Hunter, Tommy Cruz, Nelson Francisco, Frank Hamilton, Josh
Hurley, Eric Davis, Chris Grilli, Jason -
Madrigal, Warner Gentry, Craig McCarthy, Brandon -
Mathis, Doug Golson, Greg Wilson, C.J. -
Mendoza, Luis Murphy, David
Free Agents (7)
Moscoso, G. Ramirez, Max Benoit, Joaquin Blalock, Hank
Nippert, Dustin Richardson, Kevin Guardado, Eddie Byrd, Marlon
O'Day, Darren Saltalamacchia, J. - Jones, Andruw
Poveda, Omar Teagarden, Taylor - Rodriguez, Ivan
Strop, Pedro - - Vizquel, Omar

Who on this list is likely to lose his spot this offseason?

Among the Free Agents:
Technically, all the free agents are eliminated unless they re-sign before declaring free agency. Their departures decrease the roster to 37. Blalock, Guardado and Jones are assuredly gone. Texas has intimated a desire to keep Pudge* and Vizquel around for another year. Although Texas would like to retain Byrd, someone will pay him more than the Rangers. Benoit may yet have a future with Texas, but not on a Major League deal this winter.

* Tangentially, remember when Texas’s catching depth was the envy of baseball? At the end of 2007, the Rangers had a top five of Saltalamacchia, Teagarden, Ramirez, Cristian Santana and Manny Pina. Now, Texas is considering re-upping a soon-to-be 38-year-old who has batted .270/.297/.402 during the last three years, Salty and Tea might enter 2010 fighting for a backup role, Ramirez exits 2009 not an inch closer to establishing himself, Pina is a Royal, and Santana is a left fielder with a mile-wide hole in his bat.

Among the Arbitration-Eligibles:
Arbitration offers to Feldman, Francisco, Wilson and Hamilton are assured. German and Grilli are much less likely. McCarthy… nah, Texas will keep him; his salary won’t spike too high from this year’s $650,000, and he still has options. Oh, and he might evolve into a useful pitcher. Perhaps.

Among the Wage Slaves:
Kevin Richardson will be designated (again). Arias used his last option in 2009 and has little chance of making the ’10 squad. The Rangers revealed their impression of Golson when they left him in AAA and instead purchased Gentry from AA Frisco. As for Gentry, his hold on a roster spot is tenuous. Luis Mendoza hasn’t earned an opportunity to assuage his dismal 2008. Texas has oodles of flexibility in this regard.

In sum, losing seven free agents, 1-2 arbitration-eligibles, and 2-4 indentured servants leaves 31 to 34 players on the 40-man roster.

What of the upcoming additions to the 40-man roster? The three players who assuredly would have been added this fall – Andrus, Feliz and Strop – are already on the active roster. Texas’s current Rule 5-eligibles include several intriguing names but none that absolutely demands addition. Put another way, who on this list would be selected in the Rule 5 draft and survive a year on a Major League roster? Here’s a partial list of eligible players:

Name Pos
Alfonzo, Miguel OF
Ballard, Michael P
Castillo, Fabio P
Diaz, Jumbo P
Flores, Adalberto P
Garr, Brennan P
Jones, Beau P
Kirkman, Michael P
Osuna, Renny IF
Paisano, David OF
Phillips, Zach P
Quintero, Jorge P
Santana, Cristian OF
Swanson, Glenn P
Tracy, Chad 1B
Whittleman, John 3B
Yan, Johan 3B

I could make an argument in favor of perhaps seven players. I could also argue for none. In any case, I can’t imagine more than three actually being added. They increase the roster to 34-37, and the high side of that range retains several players who could be waived without the fear of them becoming the next Armando Galarraga.

For the last two years, Texas hasn’t participated in the Rule 5 draft because its roster was full. Now, the Rangers should have ample room to swipe a player if desired or claim someone off waivers. The Rangers could also sign a minor-league free agent and protect him on the 40 if deemed necessary (as with Madrigal in 2007). And, Texas can sign some free agents, albeit most likely the inexpensive kind (role players, folks denied arbitration by other teams, etc.).

Just out of curiosity, what kind of active roster can be constructed without any free agents?

Rotation: Millwood, Feldman, and three of Feliz, Harrison, Holland, Hunter, Hurley, McCarthy, maybe Moscoso, and Nippert.

Bullpen: Francisco, O’Day, Wilson, and four out of a group of Eyre, Mathis, Madrigal, and whoever doesn’t make the rotation. (Even minus Guardado and Grilli, I count 16 MLB-experienced pitchers.)

Starters: Saltalamacchia, Davis / Kinsler / Andrus / Young, Murphy / Borbon / Cruz, Hamilton

Bench: Teagarden, German, Boggs, Ramirez or Gentry or Golson or (gulp) Arias

The above squad is one way of composing the ominous “$50 million payroll” under which Texas might operate in 2010 (which, by the way, includes the final $3 million payment to one Alex Rodriguez). To be sure, it would squander the efforts of Texas’s brightest young players, who can’t forge a postseason run on their own. That said, it at least lacks gaping holes. Texas won’t have Brian Bocock as its Opening Day shortstop.

Posted by Lucas at 12:55 PM

September 19, 2009

The Downside of the Teixeira Trade

On July 31, 2007, Texas traded 1B Mark Teixeira and lefty reliever Ron Mahay for catchers Jarrod Saltalamacchia, shortstop Elvis Andrus, and pitchers Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison and Beau Jones. Would the Rangers make that trade again? Yes, unquestionably. Despite the frustrating lack of development from Saltalamacchia, easily the most advanced prospect at the time of the trade, the Rangers are already at the cusp of surpassing Atlanta in terms of value at the MLB level for the players it received. As of the July trade deadline, Texas trailed Atlanta by 1.3 wins above replacement (using Fangraphs methodology), 4.0 (using Win Shares), or 5.9 (Baseball Prospectus). Furthermore, the Rangers have had and will have their players under cost-effective control for several seasons, while Atlanta -- having traded Teixeira for Kotchmann for free-agent-to-be LaRoche -- will have (almost) nothing from the trade in their employ in two weeks.

That said, more than two years since the trade, the Rangers have failed to find Teixeira's replacement. Chris Davis certainly looked like The Answer during the tail end of 2008, but 2009 has been disastrous: .202/.256/.415 with a 41% strikeout rate before a demotion to AAA, a better but still inadequate .263/.299/.438 with a 30% SO rate since his return. Roughly, I'd say he needs a .625 slugging percentage to adequately offset his season-long .262 OBP; to achieve that, he'd need 39 homers instead of his present 19.

Davis isn't the only culprit, of course, only the most prominent (keeping in mind he's only 23 and should not be forsaken yet). Other hitters, many of them established and ostensibly reliable, has reached base at only a marginally better rate and have provided minimal power.

Player
PA
AB
H
R
2B+3B
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
AVG
OBP
SLG
Chris Davis 546 507 120 74 24 31 85 33 183 0 .237 .286 .469
Hank Blalock 375 351 92 46 22 15 49 19 77 0 .262 .299 .462
F. Catalanotto 160 141 39 18 8 1 9 14 10 0 .277 .354 .355
Chris Shelton 108 88 20 13 5 2 11 17 30 1 .227 .352 .352
Brad Wilkerson 95 82 20 16 5 3 12 10 25 1 .244 .326 .427
J. Saltalamacchia 91 89 19 11 7 1 7 2 27 0 .213 .231 .337
Ben Broussard 88 81 13 8 0 3 8 5 20 0 .160 .227 .272
Jason Botts 20 19 4 1 2 1 4 1 7 0 .211 .250 .474
Max Ramirez 11 10 1 0 0 0 1 1 6 0 .100 .182 .100
Andruw Jones 5 5 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 .200 .200 .200
TOTAL 1499 1373 329 187 67 57 187 102 386 2 .240 .295 .422

Let's reiterate for emphasis: In the two-plus years since the Teixeira trade, Texas's first baseman have batted .240/.295/.422. The non-Davis contingent, with nearly two-thirds of the plate appearances, has slugged .394. .394! Here's the performance of Texas's first basemen scaled to 162 games and compared to the average of other AL 1Bs during 2007-2009:

-
PA
AB
H
R
2B+3B
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
AVG
OBP
SLG
Texas 665 609 146 83 30 25 83 45 171 1 .240 .295 .422
Rest of AL 665 582 157 83 36 24 90 68 113 3 .268 .347 .456
Difference
-
27
(11)
0
(6)
1
(7)
(23)
58
(2)
(.028)
(.052)
(.034)

Over the course of a season, the average non-Texas first baseman has collected 11 more hits (including six doubles but one fewer homer) and 23 additional walks.

Using a minimum of 400 plate appearances in a season, which individual AL batters have most closely imitated Texas's 1Bs during this span? Frankly, few players match well, because hitters with sub-.300 on-base percentages tend to lose their jobs.

Player
Year
AVG
OBP
SLG
Mike Jacobs 2009 .234 .304 .409
Rod Barajas 2009 .237 .269 .420
Vernon Wells 2007 .245 .304 .402
Brandon Inge 2009 .234 .321 .425
Alex Gordon 2007 .247 .314 .411
Emil Brown 2008 .244 .297 .386
Gary Matthews 2007 .252 .323 .419
Juan Uribe 2007 .234 .284 .394
Ramon Hernandez 2008 .257 .308 .406
Aubrey Huff 2009 .245 .310 .395

Huff is the only player to spend a majority of his time at first base (Jacobs has mostly DH'ed). 1Bs outside the top ten but reasonably close to Texas's aggregate performance include Lyle Overbay (.240/.315/.391 in 2007), this year's version of Huff (.253/.321/.405) and Richie Sexson (.205/.295/.399).

Justin Smoak, Rangers Nation turns its lonely eyes to you (woo woo woo).

Posted by Lucas at 10:25 AM

July 03, 2009

Who You Callin’ Lucky?

Evan Grant has taken umbrage to ESPN’s Rob Neyer and Fangraphs’ R.J. Anderson regarding their skepticism of Kevin Millwood’s success. Millwood is the “benefactor of an unsustainable amount of stranded runners [presently 86.8%, second best in baseball], thus keeping his ERA at a comfortable, and easily overrated, 2.64,? alleges Anderson. “Don’t be fooled by Millwood’s ERA,? asserts Neyer, citing his .261 BABIP.

Grant tells Neyer to “wake up? and further demurs:

It is very probably true that Millwood’s ability to strand runners will dip in the summer heat. After all, 86 percent is an astronomical number. But why is this viewed as a Millwood shortcoming.

Nobody is claiming Millwood’s exceptional strand rate is a shortcoming per se. Indeed, it’s a huge part of what has made him so effective. And that’s the problem. Millwood’s career strand rate is 71.5%. His best season is 79.1% in 2005, when he led the league in ERA. His present rate of 86.8%, if it holds up, would be the best in baseball since Pedro Martinez in 2000. Kevin Millwood is having a terrific season, no doubt, but Pedro Martinez he is not.

But attributing Millwood’s success to luck is asinine, first, and plainly against the crede of the stats analysts, second. Stats analysts don’t believe in luck. They believe in trends.
Frankly this statement simply isn’t true, or at least it’s misguided. “Luck? is Statspeak shorthand for a series of atypical occurrences; for example, stranding 87% of opposing runners for nearly half a season. Statheads attribute success to luck all the time. They do believe in luck in the sense that all players get lucky (or unlucky) sometimes. They don't believe in trends in the sense that luck is unsustainable in the long run.

Back to the broader point, Millwood’s performance is intriguing. His walk rate is typical for him. He’s not preventing homers exceptionally well. His strikeout rate is 14.8% the worst of his career. So, what is the source of his success?

Defense – Texas’s defense is unquestionably far better than last year.

BABIP, for better and worse – Yes, Neyer noted that Millwood’s .261 BABIP is the lowest of his career (his career BABIP is .306), which is to say, unsustainable, but I actually think Millwood might be on to something. He’s allowing fewer line drives (nearly automatic hits), more popups (automatic outs), and more grounders. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, he’s relying more heavily on his slider and changeup than ever before. Is the adjusted mix of pitches causing the beneficial change in his batted ball pattern? I can’t say, but it certainly isn’t hurting. The same applies to Millwood’s conditioning, as noted by Grant.

Luck – Yes, luck. There’s no way Millwood will continue to strand runners at such a high rate. Opposing hitters are batting .096 with two outs and runners in scoring position compared to .261 in other situations. Even if Millwood can sustain his low BABIP, he’s not going to keep retiring 90% of batters in two-out RISP situations.

Look, Millwood’s been a revelation, a pleasure to watch, and arguably the team MVP. But I’d bet his second-half ERA will be much closer to 4.00 than 2.64, and Texas will suffer a little as a result. I don’t see this as controversial or offensive. It seems pretty obvious. And I’ve watched him throw.

UPDATE: Hmmm. I googled "Kevin Millwood BABIP" and found that Yahoo's Scott Pianowski offered similar opinions, including the possible connection between his pitch selection and batted-ball outcomes, on June 27th. I didn't discover his article until after I posted mine. Scout's honor.

UPDATE 2:
Lone Star Ball's Adam Morris posted a lengthier examination of Millwood that again pre-dates mine. And again, I didn't discover his article until after I posted mine. Scout's honor. I really was a Scout.

Posted by Lucas at 04:07 PM

May 07, 2009

Idle Thought

Buck Showalter's contract expires in five months.

Posted by Lucas at 11:21 PM

April 24, 2009

A Quick PitchF/X Look at Derek Holland's MLB Debut

Fastball Speed

By my count (which involved recategorizing two of 42 pitches), Derek Holland threw 37 fastballs, four sliders, and one changeup. Here's their speeds:

Yes, Holland can bring the heat. What I found interesting is that, beginning with the last pitch of the 7th inning, he didn't throw quite so hard. Whether due to early adrenaline or a late focus on command versus speed or just happenstance, the difference is real. Of his first 17 fastballs, all but three reached 95 or better. Of his last 20, all but three were below 95.

Fastballs
Overall
First 17 FBs
Last 20 FBs
Low
91.5
91.7
91.5
Median
94.0
95.9
93.7
High
97.1
97.1
96.1
Average
94.3
95.4
93.4

Pitch Location

The preceding chart is from the point of view of the catcher. Also, I've flipped the horizontal readings on lefthanded batters such that outside pitches are always to the right, inside to the left. The smaller box is the official strike zone (averaged for the varying heights of the opposing batters), and the larger one is 2.8 inches wider, the approximately width of the baseball. Splitting the wider zone into thirds, here's where Holland's pitches crossed the plate:

Horizontal Location # of Pitches
Inside 0
Inner 3rd 2
Middle 22
Outer 3rd 4
Outside 14

Vertical Location # of Pitches
Low 1
Lower 3rd 6
Middle 13
Upper 3rd 10
High 12

Holland almost never pitched inside, regardless of the batter's handedness, and usually worked high in the strike zone. That many high pitches isn't favorable, unless, of course, the pitcher can hit 95 with movement and mix in a slider.


Et Cetera

The plate ump was occasionally generous, once granting a strike on a pitch four inches outside the most liberal interpretation of the strike zone:

And, here's the location of Holland's slider that Aaron Hill waved at helplessly:

Posted by Lucas at 12:19 AM

April 17, 2009

How Young Is Elvis Andrus?


Elvis, 7 October 2007

Major League Baseball player Elvis Andrus would be:

The youngest player in the AAA Pacific Coast League (nearly four months younger than Neftali Feliz),

The 2nd youngest in the AA Texas League,

The 19th youngest in the high-A California League, and

The 85th youngest (out of 407) in the low-A South Atlantic League.

Posted by Lucas at 12:37 PM

April 06, 2009

It's a thin line between love and hate

Posted by Lucas at 03:15 PM

Predictions

My Computer says:

LAA 82-80
OAK 81-81
TEX 77-85
SEA 70-92

Personally, I’d like to add four wins to Seattle and two to everyone else. That said, this is an awfully weak division. Every team has serious issues. I’d give a 10% chance that the division winner finishes under .500.

I don’t share Joe Sheehan’s enthusiasm for the Athletics’ run prevention. Justin Duchscherer, even if healthy, is destined for a sharp regression. Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill (like Neftali Feliz and Derek Holland) could be great MLB starting pitchers someday, but are they 2/5ths of the rotation on an 88-win team today? Brad Ziegler, closer? (The West will be much more entertaining in 2010.)

Los Angeles is missing three of its top five starters to begin the season, and its offense is nothing special. Bobby Abreu was a great pickup, perhaps the difference-maker in this division, but Kendry Morales is no Mark Teixeira. He’s not even Casey Kotchman. The Mariners won 67 Pythagorean games last year as opposed to their real 61, and some roster shuffling and internal improvement will help.

As for the Rangers: My computer has them scoring 822 runs and allowing 868, both significant declines from last year. The most at-bats lost from 2008 belong to Milton Bradley. The most new ones in 2009 will probably belong to Elvis Andrus. That’s 40 runs lost right there. I’ve got Texas with a 5.05 ERA, still the worst in baseball but better than last year’s 5.37, and fewer unearned runs surrendered. This is essentially my computer saying “this is still a bad staff, but it can’t be that bad again.? In my Hardball Times preview, written before I’d performed any computer modeling, I predicted Texas would finish within a hair of .500. That still sounds about right. I can see plenty of upside, a non-zero chance of sneaking a division title. I can also see 90 losses and a housecleaning.

My other picks are nearly identical to PECOTA; I’d hoped for more differences just for entertainment value. New York wins the East and Boston takes the wild card (PECOTA predicts the reverse). Cleveland wins the Central. New York, Boston, and Tampa Bay (a very hard-luck playoff omission with 92 wins) are the class of the league. I have the Mets, Cubs, and Dodgers in the NL, plus Atlanta as the wild card (PECOTA says Arizona). Let’s say Yankees over Dodgers in the World Series.

Posted by Lucas at 12:51 PM

February 18, 2009

Did Bradley Protect Hamilton?

Jamey Newberg says:

There’s probably a way to create splits that will show what Hamilton’s output was in the 114 games that Milton Bradley hit fourth, as opposed to the 48 games he didn’t.  I bet the disparity was significant. 

Quite so:

Category Hamilton batting 3rd, Bradley 4th Hamilton batting 3rd without Bradley or batting elsewhere
Appearances 497 207
AVG .317 .275
OBP .376 .357
SLG .550 .484
BB% 8.7% 10.1%
IBB% 0.8% 2.4%

The disparity is significant; however, it doesn't prove much by itself. Correlation isn't causation. For example, Hamilton hit .341 on contact and .350 on balls in play with Bradley behind him, versus .298 and .311 without. Did Bradley's absence cause Hamilton to hit more balls directly into fielder's gloves? Doubtful. Having Bradley batting 4th probably helped Hamilton some, but it doesn't fully explain the disparity in the table.

Posted by Lucas at 01:01 PM

February 09, 2009

PECOTA Update

Last week, I ran a quick and dirty prediction of Texas's record using Baseball Prospectus's first run of PECOTA. My take: 790 runs scored, 920 allowed, 69 wins.

BP published its own standings today. Its take: 812 runs scored, 923 allowed, 72 wins.

Only Seattle, Houston and Pittsburgh are projected to win fewer games. Save us, Andruw Jones!

Posted by Lucas at 01:10 PM

February 02, 2009

Ron Washington Perplexes Me Sometimes

Per the Dallas Morning News,

The reality is manager Ron Washington believes [Josh] Hamilton is better suited as the No. 3 hitter, batting behind Michael Young. It isn't that Washington doesn't believe Hamilton can handle the cleanup spot. He just thinks Hamilton can do even more damage hitting behind Young and Ian Kinsler.

Numerous studies have shown that batting order doesn’t matter much. Certainly, the difference between batting Hamilton third or fourth isn’t huge. That said, if I’m the manager, I agonize over those decisions, because it’s my job to gain every possible advantage, no matter how small. No problem there.

Here’s the problem:

"The No. 4 guys gets off-speed stuff," Washington said on Monday. "Look back and Milton handled more off-speed stuff than fastballs. Hamilton handled more fastballs than breaking balls because they didn't want to put Hamilton on base and let Milton hurt them."

This is not true! Proportion of fastballs seen, per Fangraphs:

Name
FB%
Frank Catalanotto 66.6%
Milton Bradley 65.9%
Ramon Vazquez 63.8%
Marlon Byrd 63.2%
Gerald Laird 62.2%
Brandon Boggs 61.2%
Michael Young 59.5%
David Murphy 57.7%
Jarrod Saltalamacchia 57.4%
Ian Kinsler 57.2%
Christopher Davis 55.3%
Josh Hamilton 53.4%
Hank Blalock 53.2%

Among Rangers with at least 200 at-bats, Bradley saw a greater proportion of fastballs than anybody but Frank Catalanotto. Hamilton saw fewer fastballs than anybody but Hank Blalock. Based on Hamilton’s playing time, the difference between him and Bradley is 328 fastballs, about two per game. That’s significant.

Again, it doesn’t matter too much. But I’m not reassured that Washington might be making batting-order decisions based on beliefs that can be discredited with just a little internet sleuthing. This isn’t the first time that he’s bewildered me.

 

Posted by Lucas at 12:10 PM

January 31, 2009

PECOTA Does Not Love Texas

Baseball Prospectus just released its first run of PECOTA ratings for 2009. I’m not going to print their subscription-only data, but I have performed a quick analysis to answer the question of what PECOTA thinks of the Rangers this season.

Answer: not much.

Before I divulge the results, some background. PECOTA estimates plate appearances and innings pitched for all players, but it doesn’t attempt to justify them on a team level. Many of their predictions read as “what ifs? (for example, what if Martin Perez pitched 99 innings in Arlington?). Thus, the team-wide sums are preposterous (in Texas’s case, 8,700 PA and 2,600 IP). To correct this “problem? for my purposes, I made my own estimates of plate appearances and innings but still used PECOTA’s rate estimates verbatim. I also chopped Texas’s unearned runs to 75 (a little worse than the league average) from last year’s 107.

Offensively, PECOTA understandably thinks poorly of Elvis Andrus and Omar Vizquel. It also predicts Taylor Teagarden will bat .209 (albeit with ample walks and power). The more pressing issue is the regression toward the mean for most of the established hitters. Only Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler merit OBPs in excess of .350. The less said about Michael Young, the better.

PECOTA, as always, hates Texas pitching. The only hurlers with sub-5.00 ERAs are relievers Frank Francisco, C.J. Wilson, Josh Rupe and Warner Madrigal. PECOTA really thinks ill of Matt Harrison, and folks like Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz aren’t projected as saviors yet.

My team-level use of PECOTA predicts Texas will score about 790 runs and allow 920. That’s worth 69 wins. Ugh.

Big caveat: One potential problem with my analysis is scaling. That is, I could do this with every team and discover that the MLB as a whole has a net deficit in runs scored versus allowed, which of course is impossible. If, for example, I discovered that the “average? team had a net deficit of 30 runs, I’d have to add about three wins to every team’s total.

You might recreate this exercise with different results, but I think the general theme is clear. PECOTA forecasts a significant decline in Texas’s offense with only modest improvement in pitching. I look forward to BP’s own team-wide PECOTA-based predictions.

Posted by Lucas at 11:52 AM

January 23, 2009

Hurley Dissected At Beyond The Box Score

Harry Pavlidis at Beyond The Box Score has used my PitchF/X-related posts from 2008 as a starting point for some very detailed analysis of Eric Hurley's early starts and awful, final start.

Check it out.

My post on Hurley's first start.
Additional analysis.
And a brief post on Hurley's final start.

Posted by Lucas at 07:02 PM

January 11, 2009

First Take On Young Situation

In case you missed it...

Young
Demands
Trade.

1. I expected this to happen around January 2010, not now.

2. Here's what I wrote about Young a month ago for the upcoming Hardball Times Season Preview 2009. Consider it your sneak preview: "A broken finger and other nagging injuries resulted in six-year lows in average, OBP, and slugging percentage. He should rebound, but even if healthy, he’s not the .331/.385/.513-hitting marvel of 2005. In a strange coincidence, he won a Gold Glove just as discussion of a potential move to a less demanding position heated up. Young is popular, works tirelessly, leads by example and supplies intangibles by the bushel. Unfortunately, he’s also 32, not that far above-average at this point, and is just beginning a five-year, $80 million extension signed in 2007."

3. Elvis Andrus's Minor League Equivalency is .236/.279/.289. In terms of what that portends for 2009, I think that's pessimistic, but not by much. He's just 20, and his career line in full-season minor leagues is .272/.338/.357. 2008 was his best year for contact and his worst for walks and power. He could be worth 20 runs in the field and -20 at the plate in 2009.

4. Given the above paragraph, this situation indicates just how little Texas thinks of its internal options and the free-agent market at third, even as stopgaps. Or, it indicates how much Texas wants to get out from under (some of) Young's contract. Or some of each.

5. Being limited to about 35-40 players, I couldn't justify a Hardball Times entry for Elvis Andrus. Ah, well.

Posted by Lucas at 11:49 PM

October 30, 2008

Congratulations, Philadelphia. Except...

...all these articles mentioning Philly's first Series title since 1980. As if that were a long time. Relative to some other team's fortune, I mean.

Posted by Lucas at 01:15 AM

October 22, 2008

Idle Thought

The first game of the 2008 World Series featured the 15th-overall pick of the 2002 draft (Scott Kazmir) versus the 17th (Cole Hamels).

The 10th pick was Drew Meyer.

Posted by Lucas at 11:32 PM

October 02, 2008

Ranger Pitcher Rate Lines and Hitter Counterparts

Once again, here’s a fun little game: turning every pitcher’s performance into a comparable batter. Below are the opposing batting lines for Ranger pitcher who pitched at least 10 innings and is still with the organization. The three hitters who most closely match that line are listed to the right.

Just in case you're curious, I determined comparability by ranking differences in average, on-base percentage, slugging, homer rate, walk rate, and strikeout rate between each Ranger pitcher and every hitter in baseball with at least 200 appearances.

Player
Opposing
AVG / OBP / SLG
--OPS
Opposing
AVG+ / OBP+ / SLG+
-- OPS+
HR% - BB% - SO%
Most Comparable Batters ('08 Stats Only)
F Francisco
.200 / .277 / .357
-- .634
75 / 81 / 81
-- 62
2.7% - 9.8% - 31.4%
Jeff Mathis,
Sean Rodriguez,
Brandon Inge
W Littleton
.265 / .363 / .338
-- .701
99 / 106 / 77
-- 83
1.3% - 10.0% - 17.5%
Julio Lugo,
Jamey Carroll,
Asdrubal Cabrera
B McCarthy
.244 / .312 / .427
-- .739
91 / 91 / 97
-- 88
3.2% - 8.6% - 10.8%
Pedro Feliz,
Willy Aybar,
Joe Crede
J Wright
.283 / .362 / .377
-- .739
106 / 106 / 86
-- 92
1.3% - 9.2% - 15.8%
Ryan Sweeney,
Felipe Lopez,
Nick Punto
W Madrigal
.263 / .327 / .423
-- .750
98 / 96 / 96
-- 92
2.6% - 9.1% - 14.3%
Troy Tulowitski,
Willy Aybar,
Ben Francisco
K Loe
.288 / .328 / .440
-- .768
107 / 96 / 100
-- 96
2.2% - 6.0% - 14.9%
Garrett Atkins,
Ryan Zimmerman,
Garrett Anderson
J Benoit
.233 / .362 / .407
-- .769
87 / 106 / 93
-- 99
2.9% - 16.7% - 20.6%
Richie Weeks,
Frank Thomas,
Ken Griffey
V Padilla
.275 / .351 / .447
-- .798
103 / 103 / 102
-- 105
3.4% - 8.6% - 16.8%
Torii Hunter,
Ryan Church,
Mike Lowell
S Feldman
.280 / .349 / .464
-- .813
104 / 102 / 105
-- 107
3.4% - 8.6% - 11.4%
Mike Lowell,
Torii Hunter,
JJ Hardy
K Gabbard
.292 / .398 / .411
-- .809
109 / 116 / 93
-- 109
1.9% - 14.8% - 12.5%
Russell Martin,
Denard Span,
Ray Durham
TEAM
.280 / .362 / .455
-- .817
104 / 106 / 103
-- 109
2.7% - 9.6% - 14.8%
Derrek Lee,
Raul Ibanez,
Bobby Abreu
K Millwood
.312 / .361 / .462
-- .823
116 / 106 / 105
-- 111
2.3% - 6.4% - 16.3%
David DeJesus,
Orlando Hudson,
Alex Rios
J Rupe
.284 / .382 / .437
-- .819
106 / 112 / 99
-- 111
2.0% - 11.7% - 13.5%
Carlos Guillen,
Ray Durham,
Denard Span
C Wilson
.268 / .366 / .475
-- .841
100 / 107 / 108
-- 115
3.7% - 12.6% - 19.2%
Josh Willingham,
Troy Glaus,
Grady Sizemore
E Hurley
.268 / .336 / .515
-- .851
100 / 98 / 117
-- 115
4.7% - 8.4% - 12.1%
Hank Blalock,
Mike Lowell,
Rick Ankiel
M Harrison
.300 / .358 / .520
-- .878
112 / 105 / 118
-- 123
3.2% - 8.3% - 11.3%
Vlad Guerrero,
Brian McCann,
Justin Morneau
D Nippert
.308 / .385 / .488
-- .873
115 / 113 / 111
-- 124
2.9% - 10.9% - 16.1%
Bobby Abreu,
Andrew Ethier,
Justin Morneau
L Mendoza
.343 / .405 / .523
-- .928
128 / 118 / 119
-- 137
2.2% - 7.9% - 11.1%
Ian Kinsler,
Xavier Nady,
Dustin Pedroia
J Jennings
.307 / .406 / .588
-- .994
115 / 119 / 134
-- 153
5.9% - 13.3% - 8.9%
Carlos Quentin,
Alex Rodriguez,
Hanley Ramirez
D Mathis
.381 / .459 / .577
-- 1.036
142 / 134 / 131
-- 165
2.7% - 12.5% - 8.0%
Chipper Jones,
Albert Pujols,
Milton Bradley
T Hunter
.404 / .443 / .702
-- 1.145
151 / 130 / 160
-- 190
6.5% - 4.8% - 14.5%
Albert Pujols,
Manny Ramirez,
Mark Teixeira

2007 list

2006 list

Posted by Lucas at 10:56 AM

September 30, 2008

Foresight Is Depressing

What I wrote for The Hardball Times 2008 Preview:

"Texas has a chance at a .500 record, but catching Los Angeles is beyond hope. The Rangers will probably amble to about 77 wins as they break in the youngsters and look towards 2009."

Posted by Lucas at 11:20 PM

July 31, 2008

Eric Hurley's Fastball

Last Sunday was really ugly:

Average FB Velocity, 1st 4 starts: 90.5
Average FB Velocity, July 27: 86.2

80% Velocity Range, 1st 4 starts: 88.6-92.5
80% Velocity Range, July 27: 85.0-87.4

Posted by Lucas at 07:40 PM

July 26, 2008

Can Nelson Cruz Play Major League Baseball?

Acquired from Milwaukee as part of the Carlos Lee trade, Nelson Cruz provided scant evidence of being a Major League-caliber hitter in nearly 500 plate appearances during 2006-2007. Despite a another terrific season in AAA in 2007 (.352/.428/.698), he couldn’t crack the big-league roster this spring, and he then suffered the indignity of being unclaimed on waivers.

Since then, he’s enjoying one of the most dominant AAA seasons in recent memory. Concurrent with Marlon Byrd continuing to bat 5th or 6th despite a line 247/.327/.384, calls for another chance in the Majors have amplified from a murmur to a dull roar.

Can Nelson Cruz have a belatedly successful Major League career? Cruz turned 28 on July 1, although he’s classified as a 27-year-old in terms of the 2008 season. One method of answering this question is to compare him to other successful minor-league hitters in the same age group. We don’t want young, top prospects or greybeards. We’re looking at the guys on the fringe: failed/injured prospects and “never-weres” who suddenly erupted.

I compiled every season between 1992-2008 in which a AAA hitter aged 26-28 produced at least one of the following:

  • 30 homers
  • A .600 slugging percentage (minimum 350 appearances)
  • >100 Runs Created (a Bill James stat measuring overall performance)

I found 51 such players (note that 2008 stats are pro-rated) and compared them to Cruz in terms of a variety of stats including rates for all extra-base hits, homers alone, walks, strikeouts, steals, and batting average. Here they are, ranked from most to least similar to Cruz:

1. Dwayne Hosey, OF

Player
Year
Age
Pos
Team
Affil
PA
AVG
OBP
SLG
SB
XBH%
HR%
BB%
SO%
RC/G
Nelson Cruz
2008
27
OF
OKL
TEX
388
.342
.441
.723
21
13.7%
8.8%
14.4%
20.1%
12.2
Dwayne Hosey
1994
27
OF
OMA
KCR
467
.333
.420
.628
27
12.4%
5.8%
13.1%
18.2%
9.6

Note: RC/G = Runs Created per Game, indicative of number of runs nine Nelson Cruz's would score.

Which of these events is not like the others?

  • January 1989: Released by Chicago White Sox
  • May 1991: Released by Oakland
  • December 1991: Selected by San Diego in minor-league phase of Rule 5 draft
  • October 1993: Granted free agency
  • August 1995: Selected off waivers by Boston
  • October 3, 1995: Started in CF and led off 1995 American League Division Series

Entering 1994, Dwayne Hosey was a thrice-released outfielder with just enough power and speed to secure continued employment, if only the itinerant kind. Despite seven years of experience, Hosey had logged only 32 games in AAA before his career-best outburst. Still, Hosey found himself in Omaha again in 1995. He was batting .295/.363/.535 with 12 homers and 15 steals when the Red Sox selected him off waivers on August 31.

Injected into the starting lineup almost immediately, Hosey batted .338/.408/.618 in September and stole the starting CF job from Lee Tinsley (who was batting a respectable-for-the-position .284/.359/.402). On the evening of October 3, Hosey found himself in the batter’s box for the first pitch of the ALDS against Cleveland’s Dennis Martinez.

Hosey went 0-12 with two walks in the series. Boston traded Tinsley in the offseason, seemingly insuring everyday play for Hosey, but injuries and ineffectiveness (.218/.282/.333) soon forced him back to the minors. The man who led off the ALDS in 1995 would play his last MLB game only eight months later.

2. Micah Franklin , OF

Player
Year
Age
Pos
Team
Affil.
PA
AVG
OBP
SLG
SB
XBH%
HR%
BB%
SO%
RC/G
Nelson Cruz
2008
27
OF
OKL
TEX
388
.342
.441
.723
21
13.7%
8.8%
14.4%
20.1%
12.2
Micah Franklin
1998
26
OF
IWA
CHC
418
.329
.423
.655
5
13.6%
6.9%
14.1%
17.2%
10.4

Franklin was a 3rd-round selection (90th overall) by the Mets, who released him after two lackluster seasons in short-season leagues. Franklin hit 51 homers during the next two years, becoming enough of a prospect to warrant a late 1994 trade to Pittsburgh for Brian Hunter (the slow guy with some power, not the speed demon).

Franklin was claimed off waivers by Detroit in 1995 and traded to traded to St. Louis in 1996. Entering 1997, he’d hit 94 homers in the previous four years. He finally got a taste of the Majors that May and batted .324/.378/.500 in 27 plate appearances. It wasn’t enough to stick, and the Cardinals released him even before the season ended.

In 1998, at the age of 26 and with his 5th organization, Franklin had his career year. Chicago nevertheless declined to add him to its 40-man roster. Rather than hope for another chance to be a 5th outfielder somewhere, Franklin moved to Japan and batted .238/.348/.502 with 23 homers for the Nippon Ham Fighters in 1999. He appears to have suffered an injury plagued season in 2000, and in 2001 he returned to the US. After three more modestly successful seasons among four teams, he was done at the age of 32.

3. Calvin Pickering, 1B

Player
Year
Age
Pos
Team
Affil.
PA
AVG
OBP
SLG
SB
XBH%
HR%
BB%
SO%
RC/G
Nelson Cruz
2008
27
OF
OKL
TEX
388
.342
.441
.723
21
13.7%
8.8%
14.4%
20.1%
12.2
Calvin Pickering
2004
27
1B
OMA
KCR
369
.314
.444
.712
0
13.0%
9.5%
19.0%
23.0%
11.6

As a 21-year-old in 1998, Pickering batted .309/.425/.566 with 31 homers for AA Bowie. Nevertheless, the Orioles traded for 33-year-old Jeff Conine to man first and retained 40-year-old Harold Baines as the DH. Injuries and perhaps discouragement led to two lackluster seasons in AAA. During a third and better AAA campaign in 2001, Baltimore waived him, and division-rival Boston placed the winning claim.

Another injury prevented Pickering from taking the field with the Red Sox. He spent 2003 with the Mariners (cut in Spring Training), a Mexican team, and Cincinnati (cut after the season).

As an Omaha Royal in 2004, Pickering produced one of the best power surges in recent years, hitting 35 homers in 92 games and slugging .712. He received his first lengthy trial in the Majors and batted .246/.338/.500 with another seven homers in 35 games.

Come 2005, Pickering was shipped back to Omaha after just seven games (.148/.226/.259). The Royals gave most of their 1B at-bats to 37-year-old Matt Stairs. Not that Stairs was a bad player, but the Royals were dead last in the AL homers and lost 102 games. If Pickering were a total bust, then the Royals lose… 105? So what. The Royals also bestowed significant playing time to the likes of Joe McEwing, Denny Hocking, and especially Terrence Long. Just a stupidly, stupidly assembled and operated club.

Anyway… Pickering batted .275/.384/.528 with another 23 homers in Omaha. He spent 2006 in Korea and has logged some time in the independent leagues lately.

4. Dallas McPherson, 3B

Player
Year
Age
Pos
Team
Affil.
PA
AVG
OBP
SLG
SB
XBH%
HR%
BB%
SO%
RC/G
Nelson Cruz
2008
27
OF
OKL
TEX
388
.342
.441
.723
21
13.7%
8.8%
14.4%
20.1%
12.2
Dallas McPherson
2008
27
1B
ABQ
FLA
389
.294
.404
.666
12
12.6%
8.7%
15.4%
30.8%
10.0

Drafted 57th overall in 2001, McPherson quickly established himself as a premier hitting talent. McPherson batted .310/.401/.596 between high-A and AA as a 22-year-old, after which Baseball America ranked him the 33rd best prospect in baseball. He topped himself in 2004, blasting 40 homers and slugging .670, and jumped to 12th on BA’s list. Still, even with Anaheim 3B Troy Glaus frequently injured, McPherson didn’t receive more than a brief look in the Majors.

With Glaus gone in 2005, McPherson had a full-time gig but couldn’t take advantage. His walk-strikeout ratio had decayed as he climbed the minors, and in Anaheim it collapsed. That and injuries limited him to 101 games and a .296 on-base percentage through 2006. He missed the entire 2007 season with back problems, and the Angels non-tendered him last December.

McPherson signed with the Marlins, but new injuries prevented him from making the club. Now healthy and in the extremely hitter-friendly environment of Albuquerque, McPherson is presently battling Nelson Cruz for the most homers in professional baseball. Too bad Florida doesn’t have a DH. His 32% strikeout rate and good-but-not-great-for-Albq .294 average call into question whether he’ll make enough contact to succeed in the Majors, but he’ll definitely get another chance.

5. Felipe Crespo, 1B/OF

Player
Year
Age
Pos
Team
Affil.
PA
AVG
OBP
SLG
SB
XBH%
HR%
BB%
SO%
RC/G
Nelson Cruz
2008
27
OF
OKL
TEX
388
.342
.441
.723
21
13.7%
8.8%
14.4%
20.1%
12.2
Felipe Crespo
1999
26
1B
FRN
SFG
463
.332
.445
.616
17
12.1%
5.2%
16.8%
15.8%
10.1

Crespo was drafted 95th overall in 1991 by the Blue Jays as a 2B with good contact and OBP skills. Crespo advanced to AAA by 1995 and played in 34 games for Toronto during 1996-1997.

Of the ten players with seasons most similar to Nelson Cruz, Crespo is one of only three to spend an entire season in the Majors (the others are Brian Daubach and Lee Stevens). Unfortunately for Crespo, he’d switched nearly full time to the outfield and had no chance of supplanting Toronto’s young and spry trio of Shannon Stewart, Jose Cruz Jr., and Shawn Green (this was 1998, remember). Crespo had 153 plate appearances in 66 games and batted .262/.342/.362, admirable considering the often lengthy gaps between at-bats.

Toronto released Crespo during 1999’s Spring Training. As a 26-year-old Fresno Grizzly, he inexplicably thumped 24 homers and slugged .616. He previous bests were 13 and .493. In 2000, he again lasted an entire year in the Majors as an infrequently used 1B/OF, batting .290/.351/.443.

In 2001, he abruptly stopped making contact, perhaps party due to plantar fasciitis. Crespo fluttered through Philadelphia, Japan’s Yomuiri, and AAA Louisville before retiring at Age 31 in 2004.

6-10:

Player
Year
Age
Pos
Team
Affil.
PA
AVG
OBP
SLG
SB
XBH%
HR%
BB%
SO%
RC/G
Nelson Cruz
2008
27
OF
OKL
TEX
388
.342
.441
.723
21
13.7%
8.8%
14.4%
20.1%
12.2
Brian Daubach
1998
26
OF
CHL
FLA
577
.316
.411
.634
9
14.6%
6.1%
13.9%
19.8%
9.7
Joe Dillon
2004
28
3B
ABQ
FLA
449
.325
.394
.665
12
15.6%
6.7%
10.2%
18.9%
9.8
Jose Fernandez
2001
26
3B
SLK
ANA
507
.338
.410
.624
9
13.4%
5.9%
10.8%
17.9%
9.5
Lee Stevens
1996
28
1B
OKC
TEX
489
.325
.405
.643
3
14.5%
6.5%
11.9%
18.4%
9.9
Roberto Petagine
1998
27
1B
IND
CIN
433
.331
.439
.617
3
12.7%
5.5%
16.2%
16.4%
10.2

The list improves for Nelson Cruz at this point. Brian Daubach and Lee Stevens both had a respectable stretch of 4-5 years after their breakout AAA seasons. Petagine was Big In Japan for five years, Fernandez for three. Dillon’s one season with Yomuiri was a disaster.

11-50:

11. Derrick White, 1998, Age 28 32. Brad Eldred, 2008, Age 28
12. Fernando Seguignol, 2003, Age 26 33. Robin Jennings, 2000, Age 28
13. Roberto Petagine, 1997, Age 27 34. D.T. Cromer, 1999, Age 26
14. Harvey Pulliam, 1995, Age 26 35. Nigel Wilson, 1996, Age 28
15. Bubba Crosby, 2003, Age 26 36. Graham Koonce, 2003, Age 26
16. Scott McClain, 1998, Age 26 37. Damon Minor, 2000, Age 27
17. Jim Tatum, 1994, Age 27 38. Chad Mottola, 1999, Age 26
18. Andy Green, 2005, Age 26 39. Doug Mientkiewicz, 2000, Age 28
19. George Arias, 1998, Age 27 40. Brian Raabe, 1996, Age 27
20. David McCarty, 1997, Age 28 41. Julio Zuleta, 2002, Age 26
21. Chad Mottola, 2000, Age 27 42. Josh Whitesell, 2008, Age 27
22. Luke Scott, 2005, Age 28 43. Rick Ankiel, 2007, Age 28
23. Val Pascucci, 2007, Age 27 44. Earl Snyder, 2004, Age 27
24. Eddie Zambrano, 1993, Age 26 45. Phil Hiatt, 1996, Age 27
25. Matt Diaz, 2004, Age 28 46. Jack Cust, 2006, Age 26
26. Kevin Witt, 2004, Age 26 47. Rod McCall, 1998, Age 28
27. Jamie D'Antona, 2008, Age 27 48. Jonathan Van Every, 2008, Age 27
28. Craig Brazell, 2007, Age 26 49. Ron Coomer, 1994, Age 28
29. Terrmel Sledge, 2003, Age 27 50. Mark Saccomanno, 2008, Age 28
30. Calvin Murray, 1999, Age 27 51. Drew Denson, 1994, Age
31. Jon Knott, 2006, Age 27 .

Conclusions:

Truly a mixed bag. Cruz’s 2008 compares favorably to a couple of guys who earned some MLB coin (Stevens and Daubach), several players who’ve succeeded at advanced ages for various reasons (Luke Scott, Rick Ankiel, Jack Cust), a contemporary hoping for another chance (McPherson)… and no fewer than two dozen AAAA All-Stars.

That said, Cruz is in many respects dissimilar to most players on the list. Some were already sedentary 1Bs or DHs, and few had his combination of speed, power and defensive prowess. Of the 52 players studied, Cruz ranks 1st in slugging and Runs Created per game, 2nd in home run rate, and 4th in OBP. With over a month remaining in the season, he already ranks 5th in homers and 4th in steals. Forget his age: Cruz could finish 2008 with one of the best AAA seasons in the past 17 years, period. To an extent, the operative measure isn’t “players most similar to Cruz statistically” but “players almost as good as Cruz statistically.”

On the other hand, we’ve been down this road. As mentioned, Cruz hit the cover off the ball for the Redhawks in 2007, and he has a career minor-league line of .298/.368/.540.

Cruz’s administrative status is also a huge hurdle. Traded or not, he can declare free agency if not placed on a 40-man roster after the season. Texas, or someone, will have to make a real commitment. Despite his amazing season, I’m skeptical that anyone will. Come 2009, Cruz may find himself in a new team’s Spring training facility on a minor-league deal. Or Japan.

Posted by Lucas at 03:52 PM

July 18, 2008

PitchFX On Eric Hurley: Pitch Location And Results

Eric Hurley allowed homers at a 4.4% rate in 75 AAA innings, nearly double the league average. In four MLB starts, his homer rate is 3.2%, better but still sub-par. The book on Hurley is his tendency to work high in the zone (or his inability to work low, if you prefer) results in too many fly balls, hence too many homers and other hard-hit balls.

With PitchFX, we can examine the relationship between his pitch location and opponents’ success at the plate. In this case, I’m focusing solely on balls hit into play (including homers), of which there are 75. One was a bunt single, and two have no pitch data, leaving 72 balls for study.

Caveat: Hurley hasn’t pitched enough to generate respectable sample sizes. I’m doing this exercise because I think it’s interesting, but how he’s performed so far doesn’t necessarily portend his future.

The split between high and low pitches is exactly 36:36. As shown in the graph, a few hitters have hit a ball into play on a pitch higher than the top of the strike zone, while no hitter has done so on a pitch below the bottom of the zone.

1. What type of pitch is crossing the plate high or low?

As expected, most of the high pitches are fastballs, and the low pitches contain a heavier proportion of sliders.

Pitch Height
FA
SL
CH
< 2.6' 50% 39% 9%
> 2.6' 69% 19% 11%

2. Are high pitches resulting in more fly balls?

Yes. The vertical midrange of the strike zone of hitters faced by Hurley is 2.52 feet. At 2.60 feet is a pretty strong delineation in fly ball tendency:

Pitch Height
Grounder
Line Drive
OF Fly
IF Fly
< 2.6' 33% 31% 33% 3%
> 2.6' 11% 14% 64% 11%

The ratio for all pitches is 22% grounders, 22% line drives, 48% outfield flies, and 8% infield flies.

3. Are high pitches resulting in more hits?

More home runs, yes (two on high strikes, one low). More hits, no. Opponents are batting a meager .194 when making contact on high strikes and a robust .389 on low strikes. The corresponding slugging percentages are .389 and .667.

What’s hurting Hurley most so far is a 31% line drive rate on low pitches. Opponents are batting .727 and slugging 1.000 on those liners, which sounds absurdly high but is actually near the average for the league.

Conversely, opponents are also hitting only .130 (3-for-23) on fly balls on high pitches. He’s also generated four infield flies (nearly as surely an out as a strikeout) on high pitches, only one on a low pitch.

So, Hurley should ditch the slider and concentrate on heat up in the zone where it’s safe.

Just kidding. Hurley can’t expect to turn 87% of high-strike flies into outs in the long run. Several pitchers (for example, Scott Kazmir, Rich Harden, Scott Baker, Jered Weaver) are succeeding with very low ground ball rates, but they also have extremely high strikeout rates (Kazmir, Harden) or are no worse than above-average both in walks and Ks (Baker, Weaver).

At present, Hurley has a respectable walk rate (7.4%) but a below-average strikeout rate (12.6%), and 70% of his balls in play have been liners or outfield flies. Despite his 3.57 ERA, that’s a pretty toxic brew. He’ll need some combination of more strikeouts and more grounders to succeed in the long run.

Posted by Lucas at 05:42 PM

July 14, 2008

Some Quick Research on C.J. Wilson

33 MLB relievers have received at least 10 save opportunities in 2008. Here's how C.J. Wilson ranks in various categories:

Category Rank
Average .258 25
On-Base Percentage .348 25
Slugging Percentage .422 26
WHIP 1.57 27
HR % 0.8% 24
BB+HBP % 12.3% 24
SO % 19.3% 22
Pitches / Batter 4.1 22
Pitches / Inning 18.7 29

How Wilson ranks when facing his first batter:

Category Rank
Average .293 24
On-Base Percentage .341 22
Slugging Percentage .537 31

Based on a comparison of Wilson's peripheral stats to the other 32 relievers, the following closers are having seasons most similar to Wilson in 2008 (from most to least simlar):

J. Isringhausen
R. Franklin
B. Wilson
G. Sherrill
J. Valverde
M. Corpas
B. Ryan
S. Torres

And the least similar relievers:

M. Rivera
J. Soria
B. Morrow
J. Papelbon
B. Wagner
J. Nathan
B. Lidge
B. Jenks

Regarding Wilson’s personality: His flamboyance and occasional indifference to PR protocols will always make him an outsized target of affection when he’s performing well. Conversely, when he’s faltering, his comments/hair/hobbies/etc. will face extreme ridicule. This can be expressed algebraically as follows:

P = Performance [range of 0-10, 5 = average]
WL = Wilson Love [infinitely positive or negative, measured in picocuries]

WL = ( P – 5 ) x Modifier,

where Modifier > 1

I have yet to define this modifier numerically. It might be exponential rather than multiplicative.

Posted by Lucas at 06:01 PM

June 29, 2008

Clarifications

Randy Galloway, this morning:

If you are bringing up a Chris Davis... shouldn’t it be as an everyday player? Does that make sense, even if holding them out at times against certain pitchers is also acceptable? But if there is a thought, or if the minor league stats show Davis might struggle a tad with lefties, then keep him in OKC to face those lefties, and not have him sit for those up here. Any doubt that creeps into Davis’ mind that he might not be trusted against lefties is a doubt that absolutely should not be there at this stage of a career.”
Chris Davis’s career splits:

-
vs. Left
vs. Right
Average
.315
.299
On-Base
.376
.349
Slugging
.573
.602
HR / PA 5.1% 6.9%
BB / PA 7.3% 7.3%
SO / PA 24.1% 25.4%

Chris Davis’s splits in 2008:

-
vs. Left
vs. Right
Average
.293
.343
On-Base
.333
.398
Slugging
.552
.665
HR / PA 6.3% 7.1%
BB / PA 4.8% 8.6%
SO / PA 27.0% 21.1%

Davis's BB/SO ratio has broken down against lefties this season. The rest is peachy. If Davis is having self-esteem issues versus lefties, he's hiding them well.

Idle thought: Under this philosophy, would Hank Blalock (lifetime .224/.279/.345 versus lefties) ever have become a Major Leaguer?

“Why is [Brandon Boggs] up here, playing maybe twice a week, when the kid shows definite potential? Boggs has been an asset for the Rangers when he has played, but is he benefiting in the long run from all the sitting?”

Boggs has never appeared in fewer than three games in any seven-day period:

Posted by Lucas at 05:52 PM

June 13, 2008

Analyzing Eric Hurley

Eric Hurley allowed four runs in six innings in his Major League debut on Thursday. His first start was, like many of his AAA appearances, “great except for the homers.” Hurley has allowed home runs at nearly double the league rate this season, resulting in decent overall performances when the rest of his game is on and disasters when he’s off.

By design, Hurley drew the worst offense in the American League as an opponent. The Royals have scored fewer than four runs per game and against righties are batting .256/.306/.368 with a 6% walk rate. Still, they’re not the New Orleans Zephyrs. Hurley made some mistakes and was duly punished. That said, Hurley showed admirable poise on the mound, worked efficiently, and often lived up to his considerable potential.

The magic of pitchFX encourages (nay, demands) excruciating detailed analyses of his performance. Let’s go:


Pitch Types and Movement:

After leading off with 15 consecutive fastballs, Hurley mixed in a slider and occasional changeup. He threw 68 of 92 pitches for strikes and didn’t walk a batter. Here’s his pitch selection with speeds and strike percentages:

Pitch Type
Thrown
Average Initial Speed
Minimum
Maximum
% Strike or Contact
Fastball
59
91.1
86.9
94.1
68%
Changeup
10
80.2
78.5
82.5
60%
Slider
23
84.5
80.1
86.9
78%

The next chart displays the movement of each pitch relative to a ball thrown without spin. This particular chart doesn’t show pitch location, just movement.

On the vertical axis, a positive number represents a the ball that doesn’t descend as much as a spin-free throw. A negative number indicates more drop. On the horizontal axis, a negative number indicates the ball tails toward a right-handed batter or away from a lefty swinger.

The backspin on fastballs retards their downward descent, so they show more vertical “rise,” and they usually tail into a right-handed batter (if thrown by a righty like Hurley). Sliders tend to cut away from righties and have minimal rise. Some pitchers’ sliders have extra downward movement in a “slurvy” fashion, but not Hurley’s. Indeed, his sliders often gave the appearance of rising upon release before snapping leftward. (Note that nobody’s pitches actually rise.) A curve, if Hurley threw one, would show up below the slider, indicating the most downward movement.


Vertical Location:

Vertical Location
ALL
FASTBALLS
Below Strike Zone 9 3
Lower Third in Zone 16 7
Middle Third in Zone 31 24
Upper Third in Zone 25 16
Above Strike Zone 11 9

Hurley clearly favored the upper part of the strike zone, particularly with fastballs. I constantly read of how he’s attempting to locate more pitches on the lower part of the plate, but only 10 of his 59 fastballs touched the lower third of the plate or below. Furthermore, most of them don’t look like failed efforts to aim low. Plain and simple, he’s gearing up and throwing a standard “rising” fastball.


Horizontal Location:

Away, away, away. 31 of Hurley’s pitches missed on the outside part of the plate compared to just six inside. The umpire’s slightly off-center strike zone might have played a role in Hurley’s location.

Hoizontal Location in Strike Zone
ALL
Inside Strike Zone (toward hitter) 6
Inside Third of Zone 16
Middle Third of Zone 18
Outside Third of Zone 21
Outside Strike Zone (away from hitter) 31


Lefties Versus Righties:

Opponents
Pitches
Fastball
Changeup
Slider
to Lefties 69 71% 14% 14%
to Righties 23 43% 0% 57%
ALL 92 64% 11% 25%

Hurley threw more sliders than fastballs to right-handed batters, taking advantage of the slider’s tail away from the hitter. Against lefties, he focused on the fastball. All ten of his changeups were to lefties. The charts reconfirm his efforts to work the outer part of the plate. (Note: This chart and all that follow are displayed as if the viewer is the catcher looking toward the pitcher. A right-handed batter would stand on the left side of the chart. Anything within the “rulebook” strike zone is absolutely a strike. The wider zone is 2.8 inches (about the width of the ball) and represents everything that could (and probably should) be a strike. PitchFX isn’t perfect, and neither are umpires, so there’s some leeway in this zone.)





Results by Batted Ball Location:

The ground/fly data in a box score only refer to outs, and they characterize a harmless pop-up to the catcher no differently than a fly ball caught on the warning track. Hurley’s fly tendencies were on uncomfortably clear display. Excluding the bunt, 75% of Kansas City’s batted balls were outfield flies or line drives. Even in consideration of the two homers, he could have fared worse.

Balls in Play
Number
Opposing Average / Slugging
Grounder
3
.000 / .000
Line Drive
4
.750 / 1.000
Flyball
11
.182 / .909
Infield Pop
2
.000 / .000
Bunt
1
1.000 / 1.000

Results by Pitch Type:

Hurley’s ability to throw strikes and induce bad swings with his slider was most impressive. This is described in the next table. Conversely, batters swung at 27 fastballs and made contact (in play or foul) with all but two.

Results
Ball
Called Strike
Swinging
Strike
Foul
Ground Out
Line Out
Fly Out
Infield Pop
Hit
HBP
Fastball 19 12 2 13 1 1 5 1 4 1
Changeup 4 1 0 3 1 0 1 0 0 0
Slider 5 3 5 3 1 0 3 1 2 0

The next charts display pitch locations and results by pitch type.

The fastball chart shows his tendency to work high and occasional control lapses. The two hits within the “rulebook” strike zone were home runs. Sometimes, as on those pitches, his fastball tended to float more than break. I didn’t create separate charts for batter handedness, but I should note that the umpire was squeezing Hurley a little on fastballs in toward left-handed batters and giving him an extra two or three inches on the outside part of the plate.

The slider is another story. The couple of them didn’t slide, and one slid too much, but on the whole it was his most effective pitch.

Hurley’s changeup was all over the place. That said, he didn’t suffer any damage from it.



Fastball Velocity:

Hurley’s 1st-inning fastballs rarely exceeded 90. During the last four innings, only one of his fastballs failed to surpass 90. He steadily touched 92-93 after the 2nd and showed no apparent fatigue.

Posted by Lucas at 08:38 AM

June 05, 2008

Draft Day Guess

Sent to Jamey Newberg via AIM at 1130 last night:

"[Yonder] alonso or [Ethan] martin. texas will select one of them. that's my guess. don't think crow or hosmer will be around."

Posted by Lucas at 11:00 AM

April 25, 2008

Two Minus Three Equals Negative Fun!

Texas pitchers have issued the most walks (114) and fewest strikeouts (109) in the American League. Thus, they’re headed for the dubious distinction of completing a season with more walks than strikeouts. That won’t happen, but it’s fun to think about (in a self-destructive way).

The Rangers are on pace for 767 strikeouts and 803 walks, a difference of -36. Until the mid-1950s, negative differences weren’t uncommon. No pitching staff has tallied fewer strikeouts than walks since the 1956 Philadelphia Athletics (-67).

In the last fifteen years, Milwaukee has the worst difference, +95, in the 144-game 1995 season. The worst full season belongs to the epically bad ’96 Tigers staff, which had 784 walks and 957 strikeouts, a difference of +173. Detroit allowed 6.8 runs per game, 1,015 for the season.

Regarding the 803 walk pace: It would be the third most in MLB history behind the notorious 1915 Athletics and the 1949 Yankees. The worst total in the last fifteen years (784) belongs to the aforementioned ’96 Tigers.

Regarding the 767 strikeout pace: The only team with fewer strikeouts in the last fifteen years is the 2003 Tigers with 764. They won 43 games.

And there’s more! Texas is also on pace to allow 1,690 hits. That’s well below the record of 1,993 by the 1930 Phillies, during an era when teams routinely hit .290. But, excluding Colorado, it would be the third-most since 1940, after the ’97 Athletics (1,734) and ’96 Tigers (1,699). Considering the offensive context, allowing 1,690 hits in 2008 might be worse. Incidentally, the 3rd and 4th worst post-1940 hit totals belong to the ’00 and ’01 Rangers.

Posted by Lucas at 06:11 PM

April 21, 2008

The Rundown Museum Proudly Displays...


Francisco Goya, Boston Devouring The Rangers, oil mural transferred to canvas, circa 1823.

Posted by Lucas at 02:50 PM

April 19, 2008

More Strike Calls

Regarding the irritation of Manny Ramirez and Milton Bradley at Jerry Meals's strike zone on Friday, Bradley at least has an argument. Here's the called strike in question:

The outer box is 2.9 inches (the width of the ball) around the rule-book strike zone. It gives the full benefit of the doubt to the umpire.

As for Manny...

...no telling what what going through his head.

Posted by Lucas at 02:16 PM

April 18, 2008

Close, But No Cigar


Benoit's final pitch to Marco Scutaro on Wednesday was Ball Four. Barely.

Posted by Lucas at 05:45 PM

March 27, 2008

Opening Day Lineup

Per T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com:

Manager Ron Washington has set his Opening Day lineup. Here is what [lefty] Erik Bedard will be facing

2B Ian Kinsler
SS Michael Young
CF Josh Hamilton
3B Hank Blalock
DH Milton Bradley
LF David Murphy
RF Marlon Byrd
C Gerald Laird
1B Ben Broussard

Yes, Washington is going with Blalock at cleanup hitter. He said Bradley is not ready for the role and Blalock has convinced him that he can bat cleanup. Frank Catalanotto will be on the bench for Opening Day but will still be out there plenty against right-handed pitchers. Broussard will bat last.

Texas has never had an Opening Day first baseman hit ninth. Here’s the previous 36 years:

1st -- 1
2nd -- 3
3rd -- 12
4th -- 3
5th -- 10
6th -- 4
7th -- 2
8th -- 1
9th -- 0

Mike Jorgensen played first and batted 8th for the ’79 edition. He’d been a good hitter in the early 70s, but with Texas he soon lost his job to a younger Pat Putnam. Putnam hit 7th on Opening Day 1981, and Lee Stevens hit 7th for the ’99 offensive juggernaut.

I don’t get too bent out of shape about lineups, but: May I cautiously suggest that if a team’s first baseman is batting ninth on Opening Day, something is wrong. The player shouldn’t be in the lineup... the regular 1B is hurt... the manager is misguided... something.

Regarding Washington’s quote about Bradley, Milton has started 62 games at cleanup and batted .338/.447/.546. He also has more career at-bats in the #3 spot than anywhere else. May I cautiously suggest that Bradley could hit higher than fifth, even coming off an injury.

Interestingly, in light of the common knowledge that Broussard doesn’t hit lefties, he has a better line against them than Blalock: .227/.290/.399 versus .226/.280/.349. At least in terms of historical performance, Texas inarguably will have its worst lefty hitter batting cleanup, Washington's convictions notwithstanding.

Maybe this kitteh picture will relieve my frustration:

Posted by Lucas at 01:55 PM

March 09, 2008

Wonderin'

Manager Ron Washington has been adamant [that Ben] Broussard will open the season playing regularly against lefties. The Rangers are expected to face Seattle lefty Erik Bedard on opening day.

"I don't want him coming to the park every day wondering if he's going to play against a left-hander," Washington said. "He's going to play against them until he proves he can't."

I know how to keep Broussard from wondering. You say: “NO! Ben, you will not start against lefties! Ever, ever, ever! When you do start, you will be pulled for a pinch-hitter if the opposition brings in a lefty. When you don’t start, you’ll pinch-hit against righty relievers.”

And then, for good measure, you type those words and tape them to his locker. Voila, no more wondering.

Was Broussard unfairly cast into a platoon role early in his career? I think not, but even if so, the fact remains that he’s 31 years old and hasn’t hit lefties well since A-ball. Broussard has a line of .227/.290/.399 in 387 MLB appearances against lefties. In 114 appearances in AA and AAA, he batted .214/.289/.369. 501 PAs with a sub-.300 on-base percentage may not provide absolute proof that he doesn’t deserve to play against lefties, but the evidence is beyond a reasonable doubt.

Meanwhile…

Player
Bats
MLB PA
MLB Line
AA-AAA PA
AA-AAA Line
Broussard
L
387
.227/.290/.399
114
.214/.289/.369
Botts
S
61
.283/.361/.358
380
.357/.432/.646
Shelton
R
256
.269/.323/.420
218
.277/.390/.495

…Chris Shelton and Jason Botts have far superior records in both the Majors and high minors against righties. Botts hasn’t translated his sterling AAA record into big-league success, but he’s at least shown some aptitude at reaching base against lefties. Also, unlike the placeholders Broussard and Shelton, Botts has a small chance at a role on the next good Rangers team.

How about Frank Catalanotto at first (career .248/.332/.344)? Stupid, right? Well, replacing Broussard with Frank Catalanotto gains 30 points of OBP but loses over 50 in slugging, pretty close to a wash. That only emphasizes the absurdity of this situation. Nobody would suggest starting Cat at first against lefties, yet the record indicates he’d be no worse than Broussard.

Washington has an obligation to start either the best players, or those who could become the best. Against lefties, Broussard fits neither description.

Posted by Lucas at 10:35 PM

February 27, 2008

Botts vs. Cruz, Expanded

(This is what I wrote for the Newberg Report recently plus bonus material at the end.)

Last week, Evan Grant reported the not-surprising news that Jason Botts and Nelson Cruz were essentially fighting for one roster spot. Who’s more likely to win?

Cruz has the defensive advantage, to be sure, though Botts can narrow that advantage if he proves capable of handling first base this spring. Also, for the first time in a while, Texas appears to have above-average outfield defense. With Josh Hamilton, Marlon Byrd, David Murphy, and (eventually) Milton Bradley roaming the field, the need for another plus glove isn’t quite the high priority of previous years.

Both Botts and Cruz fared well in winter ball. Unfortunately, both Liga Dominicana and Liga Mexicana del Pacifico play roughly equivalent to AAA, which is to say their exploits were par for the course. With neither having established himself, the battle may come down to which player shows more in 50-or-so Spring Training at-bats. For a couple of reasons, that’s virtually a dice roll.

Here’s an example related to my “anything can happen in two weeks? math from last week. Say you know that in the long run, Michael Young will bat .300 and Ben Broussard will bat .250. What is the probability that Broussard will hit for a higher average than Young over the course of just 50 at-bats? The answer is 25%. If the “real? difference is only 25 points (say, .300 vs. .275), the weaker player will outhit the stronger one 35% of the time. If there’s a genuine difference between Botts and Cruz, 50 at-bats may not reveal the superior player, and they might wrongly suggest the inferior hitter is better. (These figures come via binomial probability distributions, in case you were curious.)

Also, especially in early March, Spring Training features a wider variety of competition than any regular-season league. You may see in a few weeks that Botts has outplayed Cruz statistically, but you might not know that Cruz faced Joe Saunders twice while Botts teed off against Joey Jo-Jo Shabadoo. Back in my ESPN days, I pleaded with people to ignore spring stats, which are worthless in terms of predicting regular-season performance. Remember when Matt Kata batted .375 last spring, then had about 140 consecutive hitless at-bats when the games counted? Good times.

So, spring stats are nearly meaningless… unless you have two guys fighting for one job. Then they’re all-important.

Result after X at-bats
25
50
100
200
500
'True' .300 batter has higher average 59.5% 67.4% 76.3% 85.80% 95.9%
'True' .300 hitter and 'true' .250 hitter are tied 11.7% 7.6% 4.6% 2.30% 0.6%
'True' .250 hitter has higher average 28.8% 25.0% 19.1% 11.90% 3.5%




These are the results of binomial probability distributions. The “true? .300 hitter has a 30% chance of getting a hit in any particular at-bat. It’s interesting that even after 500 at-bats, almost a full season, the .250 hitter has about a 1-in-25 chance of equaling or bettering the .300 hitter. After about 900 at-bats, the chance falls to 1-in-100. Just goes to show how long the long run can be, statistically speaking.

Posted by Lucas at 06:43 PM

February 01, 2008

Rangers Salary Commitments

As with my salary calculations here, I'm assuming all options are picked up/exercised and ignoring deferred and incentive money.

Concept stolen from USS Mariner, whose pretty chart is here.

Posted by Lucas at 01:31 AM

November 01, 2007

Ranger Pitcher Rate Lines and Hitter Counterparts

Here’s a fun little game: turning every pitcher’s performance into a comparable batter. Below are the opposing batting lines for Ranger pitcher who faced at least 100 batters. The three hitters who most closely match that line are listed to the right. If none of the three qualified for the batting title, I listed a fourth who did.

Just in case you're curious, I determined comparability by ranking the sums of the squares of the differences in average, on-base percentage, slugging, homer rate, walk rate, and strikeout rate between each Ranger pitcher and every hitter in baseball with at least 200 appearances. Now that I’ve put you to sleep with the previous sentence, the list:

Pitcher
Opposing
AVG / OBP / SLG
-- OPS
Opposing
AVG+ / OBP+ / SLG+
-- OPS+
HR% -- BB% -- SO%
Most Comparable Batters ('07 Stats Only)
A. Otsuka
.218 / .269 / .277
-- .546
80 / 79 / 65
-- 44
0.0% -- 7.0% -- 18.0%
Nick Punto,
Erick Aybar,
Adam Kennedy
E. Gagne
.192 / .271 / .275
-- .546
71 / 80 / 65
-- 45
1.5% -- 9.1% -- 22.0%
Adam Kennedy,
Mark Kotsay,
Nick Punto
C. Wilson
.208 / .314 / .288
-- .602
77 / 93 / 68
-- 61
1.5% -- 12.1% -- 23.1%
Robert Fick,
Nick Punto,
Abraham Nunez
J. Benoit
.225 / .293 / .348
-- .641
83 / 86 / 82
-- 68
1.8% -- 8.5% -- 26.4%
Gerald Laird,
Carlos Quentin,
Royce Clayton,
(Brandon Inge)
W. Littleton
.262 / .327 / .410
-- .737
97 / 96 / 97
-- 93
3.0% -- 8.0% -- 12.1%
Scott Rolen,
Mike Sweeney,
Carlos Ruiz,
(Melky Cabrera)
J. Wright
.259 / .361 / .381
-- .742
96 / 106 / 90
-- 96
1.9% -- 12.9% -- 12.2%
David DeJesus,
Johnny Damon,
Esteban German
E. Volquez
.262 / .342 / .408
-- .750
97 / 101 / 96
-- 97
2.8% -- 10.3% -- 20.0%
Jim Edmonds,
Jose Bautista,
Tad Iguchi
F. Francisco
.258 / .370 / .385
-- .755
95 / 109 / 91
-- 100
1.2% -- 14.7% -- 18.9%
Scott Speizio,
Willie Harris,
Esteban German
(Tad Iguchi)
B. McCarthy
.278 / .355 / .428
-- .783
103 / 105 / 101
-- 106
2.0% -- 10.7% -- 13.2%
Luis Gonzalez,
Jose Reyes,
Brian Giles
K. Gabbard
.265 / .371 / .424
-- .795
98 / 109 / 100
-- 109
2.9% -- 13.2% -- 14.9%
JD Drew,
Kevin Millar,
Cliff Floyd
K. Millwood
.301 / .366 / .446
-- .812
111 / 108 / 105
-- 113
2.5% -- 8.6% -- 15.9%
Edward Encarnacion,
Billy Butler,
Randy Winn
K. Loe
.295 / .362 / .448
-- .810
109 / 107 / 106
-- 113
2.1% -- 9.3% -- 12.9%
Mike Lamb,
Andre Ethier,
Randy Winn
V. Padilla
.299 / .373 / .438
-- .811
110 / 110 / 103
-- 113
3.0% -- 9.3% -- 13.2%
Mike Lamb,
Orlando Hudson,
Randy Winn
W. Eyre
.291 / .368 / .451
-- .819
107 / 109 / 106
-- 115
2.7% -- 10.7% -- 14.0%
Mike Lamb,
Orlando Hudson,
Andre Ethier
A. Murray
.238 / .328 / .505
-- .833
88 / 97 / 119
-- 116
5.0% -- 12.5% -- 15.0%
Paul Konerko,
Justin Morneau,
Jermaine Dye
S. Feldman
.284 / .411 / .419
-- .830
105 / 121 / 99
-- 120
1.6% -- 17.1% -- 10.2%
Joe Mauer,
Brian Roberts,
Brian Giles
J. Rheinecker
.295 / .382 / .473
-- .855
109 / 113 / 112
-- 125
3.8% -- 11.9% -- 17.0%
Russ Martin,
Manny Ramirez,
Travis Buck
R. Tejeda
.290 / .390 / .499
-- .889
107 / 115 / 118
-- 133
3.9% -- 13.7% -- 15.7%
Manny Ramirez,
Ken Griffey,
Frank Thomas
M. Wood
.321 / .373 / .533
-- .906
118 / 110 / 126
-- 136
4.0% -- 6.6% -- 11.0%
James Loney,
Aramis Ramirez,
Carlos Lee

What stands out is the remarkable similarity between Vicente Padilla and Kam Loe. In 2008, one will be entrenched as Texas’s #2 starter, while the other will fight for a middle-relief role. Such is life.

Last year's list.

Posted by Lucas at 11:00 AM

October 01, 2007

Marlon Byrd, MVP

Click here for background. I CANNOT overemphasize the silliness of this statistic.

Player
Team Record When in Starting Lineup
Team Record When Out of Starting Lineup
Difference
Byrd
54-49 (.524)
21-38 (.356)
.168
Vazquez
44-41 (.518)
31-46 (.403)
.115
Botts
25-21 (.543)
50-66 (.431)
.112
Hairston
21-20 (.512)
54-67 (.446)
.066
Wilkerson
45-48 (.484)
30-39 (.435)
.049
Melhuse
8-8 (.500)
67-79 (.459)
.041
Metcalf
24-25 (.490)
51-62 (.451)
.038
Saltalamacchia
22-24 (.478)
53-63 (.457)
.021
Kata
9-10 (.474)
66-77 (.462)
.012
Laird
53-61 (.465)
22-26 (.458)
.007
Catalanotto
41-48 (.461)
34-39 (.466)
-.005
Lofton
35-44 (.443)
40-43 (.482)
-.039
Cruz
35-44 (.443)
40-43 (.482)
-.039
Blalock
24-32 (.429)
51-55 (.481)
-.053
Diaz
10-14 (.417)
65-73 (.471)
-.054
Kinsler
58-71 (.450)
17-16 (.515)
-.066
Sosa
45-58 (.437)
30-29 (.508)
-.072
Murphy
9-16 (.360)
66-71 (.482)
-.122
Teixeira
30-48 (.385)
45-39 (.536)
-.151

Posted by Lucas at 09:28 PM

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 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

August 23, 2007

Wheeeeeeeee!

Posted by Lucas at 12:52 AM

August 01, 2007

40-Man and Organizational Depth Chart Updated

Texas now has only three potential free agents: Jerry Hairston, Sammy Sosa and Brad Wilkerson.

Posted by Lucas at 06:37 PM

July 21, 2007

Brad Wilkerson, MVP

One of the more preposterous ideas polluting the newspapers and airwaves recently was of the team “showing it could win without Mark Teixeira.” See, here, here and here for examples. Within that statement resides the implication that Teixeira might not be so important to the team or that Texas is better off without him. After all, the Rangers went 16-12 while Teixeira nursed his sore quad but only 21-39 with him.

I don’t believe I need to tell you this, gentle reader, but just in case: For a statistic to have meaning and value, it must have uniform applicability. For example, one can calculate batting averages for all hitters, compare them, and learn something meaningful about the players.

Thus, for the difference in the Rangers’ record with and without Teixeira to have meaning, the difference must also apply logically to other players. Here’s a table of “with vs. without” records for all Ranger hitters who’ve started and missed at least 15 games:

Player
Team Record When in Starting Lineup
Team Record When Out of Starting Lineup
Difference
Wilkerson
28-29 (.491)
13-26 (.333)
.158
Vazquez
20-20 (.500)
21-35 (.375)
.125
Metcalf
11-10 (.524)
30-45 (.400)
.124
Byrd
22-23 (.489)
19-32 (.373)
.116
Hairston
17-17 (.500)
24-38 (.387)
.113
Kata
7-8 (.467)
34-47 (.420)
.047
Stewart
5-6 (.455)
36-49 (.424)
.031
Catalanotto
22-28 (.440)
19-27 (.413)
.027
Lofton
32-43 (.427)
9-12 (.429)
-.002
Diaz
10-14 (.417)
31-41 (.431)
-.014
Blalock
15-24 (.385)
26-31 (.456)
-.072
Sosa
31-46 (.403)
10-9 (.526)
-.124
Cruz
13-25 (.342)
28-30 (.483)
-.141
Kinsler
29-45 (.392)
12-10 (.545)
-.154
Laird
30-46 (.395)
11-9 (.550)
-.155
Teixeira
25-44 (.362)
16-11 (.593)
-.230

If you honestly believe in a correlation between Teixeira’s absence and the team’s improved record, you’d better be willing to accept Brad Wilkerson as the team MVP.

Yes, Teixeira has acted like he wants the next flight out to another franchise. Yes, yet another glacial start on his behalf contributed to the early-season struggles. Neither offsets the fact that he’s a very good player who helps his team to win.

Texas allowed 5.9 runs per game before Teixeira got hurt and 4.4 per game during his absence. We have causation!

Posted by Lucas at 02:35 PM

July 14, 2007

.199/.245/.393

Sammy Sosa's batting line when runners are not in scoring position. That's in 208 appearances.

Posted by Lucas at 02:59 PM

July 13, 2007

Swing, Batter!

There’s no such thing as an empty .538 slugging percentage, but Victor Diaz sure gave it a try with his .259 OBP. Diaz walked once in 104 plate appearances and holds the following honors:

-- First on team in percentage of all pitches swung at (57%, next is Blalock at 52%)

-- First in percentage of strikes swung at (82%, tied with Blalock)

-- First in percentage of first pitches swung at (40%, tied with Blalock, no one else above 32%)

-- First in percentage of strikeouts swinging (91%, next closest are Young and Hairston at 83%)

-- Last in percentage of swings making contact (68%, tied with Sosa, no one else below 74%)

-- Last in percentage of counts reaching 3-0 (2%, next are several at 3%)

-- Last in percentage of counts reaching 3-1 (1%, next is Blalock at 6%)

Posted by Lucas at 06:41 PM

July 12, 2007

Draft Update: Rounds 1-5

1. Blake Beavan (RHP, high school)

Unsigned. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News explained the Beavan issue in detail yesterday. The operative phrase for 2007 and the future is “slot money.? Major League Baseball has recommended signing bonuses for several years, but more recently the league office has increased its oversight.

First, a team must “consult? with the commissioner’s office when it wants to sign a player for an above-slot bonus. The consultation involves Bud Selig doing a really terrible Vito Corleone impersonation, so teams avoid it if at all possible and are toeing the line thus far.

Second, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement has shortened the negotiation period for draft picks and improved compensation for unsigned picks. The changes were effected to give teams more leverage, and so far they have. Bonuses for signed first rounders are down 10% or more from 2006.

Understandably, some players and their representatives are peeved at the new math. As noted by Grant, Beavan is asking for a bit over $1.5 million from a slot valued at $1.4 million. He’s been deemed a middle first-rounder since February, so there’s no issue of deserving top ten money.

The signing deadline is five weeks from today, and only 13 of the top 30 have signed. I won’t worry about Beavan until we’re into August.

1. Michael Main (RHP, high school)

Signed and batting .217/.269/.261 for rookie-league Arizona. He’s expected to take the mound within a couple of weeks.

1a. Julio Borbon (OF, college junior)

Unsigned. No news, no rumors, no nothing. Borbon can return to Tennessee for his senior year, but everything I’ve read about him suggests he’s ready to turn pro. He’s a Scott Boras client.

1a. Neil Ramirez (RHP, high school)

Unsigned. Ramirez entered the season considered a potential first rounder and was ranked 25th on Baseball America’s prospect list. A minor back injury and inconsistent performance dropped him to 44th on draft day. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus claimed Ramirez is asking for above-slot money. I don’t know what Ramirez is seeking, but the difference between his position and the bottom of the first round is $300,000-$400,000. He’s committed to Georgia Tech.

1a. Tommy Hunter
(RHP, college sophomore)

Unsigned. According to the Indianapolis Star, Hunter has avoided the college summer league but has been throwing to stay in shape. On the record, he is utterly noncommittal about his destination. "It's a waiting process to see when everything gets done but I'm pretty sure it will work out. I'm waiting to see what everybody says, take all the advice in that I can and, after that, I'm going to make a decision."

Alabama coach Jim Wells recently retired, but Hunter says that won’t impact his decision.

UPDATE: Wells changed his mind and returned to Alabama.

2. Matt West (SS/3B, high school)

Signed and batting .345/.457/.483 in eight games for Arizona.

3. Evan Reed (RHP, college junior)

Signed last week and appearing on Spokane’s roster as of today.

4. Garrett Nash
(SS, high school)

Unsigned. According to the Portland (OR) Tribune, Nash will enroll at Oregon State. Nash: “I just told [Texas], ‘I’m not going to sign. I’m going to go to school.’ After talking to my dad and thinking about what’s best for my future, I decided going to Oregon State would be the best thing for me. I’ll get better coaching than I would in Rookie League ball, and it’s a great program, something I want to be a part of. I want to start my college education and develop as a player.?

5. John Gast (LHP, high school)

Unsigned. Baseball America considered Gast no worse than a third rounder until he underwent Tommy John surgery in May. Florida State coach Mike Martin, who already has lost Michael Main to Texas, expects Gast to enter college. “I would be very surprised if he signs [with Texas]. With the potential he has, he would be leaving millions of dollars on the table.? Slot money is about $135,000, compared to $250,000-$300,000 for a third rounder.

Posted by Lucas at 08:45 AM

July 02, 2007

Is Ty Wigginton an All-Star?

The Startlegram’s Gil LeBreton argued for Sammy Sosa’s inclusion in the All-Star game and lobbed a grenade at stat-oriented analysis in the process:

If the fans are voting, why not give them some names worth arguing over? Sheffield should have been on the final list, as well as the Rangers' Sammy Sosa.

That's right, Sammy Sosa.

Baseball's history of All-Star Game box scores is lined with the names of superstars who passed through in the twilight of their careers. Sosa's batting average, granted, is only .255, but he has 14 home runs and 63 runs batted in, seventh-most in major league baseball.

The geeks that are trying to measure this season's Sosa by Win Shares, VORP and Runs Created Per 27 need to get a life.

We're trying to fill an All-Star roster, not a Bill James spreadsheet.

What harm would it have done to let baseball fans decide whether Sosa or Sheffield deserved to be the AL final All-Star?

That was the gravest injustice. I'm willing to excuse the fans' choice of Ivan Rodriguez as American League catcher, when a better case easily could be made for the Yankees' Jorge Posada or the Indians' Victor Martinez. The fans understandably want to see Pudge.

Like LeBreton, I have no issue with the fans voting for favorites in decline. Ivan Rodriguez will appear this year, and players like Reggie Jackson and Cal Ripken played in the Midsummer Classic at the tail of their careers. However, players like Pudge and Ripken were voted in. LeBreton argued that Sosa should be included on the supplemental ballot so that the fans can have their say, but they already have. Sosa ranked thirteenth among outfielders in the popular vote. Thirteenth, between Coco Crisp and Craig Monroe. LeBreton appears to accept the voters’ nostalgia-infused desire for Pudge but not their rejection of Sosa.

Except for one player, managers and the players themselves chose the rest of the roster. LeBreton doesn’t address their selections, but they clearly disagree with his yearning for the “superstar in twilight.” Sosa didn’t rank among the top six outfielders in the player voting. Manager Jim Leyland, a 62-year-old graduate of the old school, chose Michael Young over Sosa. Leyland had to insure that each team was represented, but otherwise, he and the players chose purely on merit.

I don’t know why the supplemental vote includes only pitchers. It didn’t in previous years. LeBreton has a point in this regard. I wouldn’t have minded Sosa’s name on the ballot.

Alas, he throws himself under the bus with his derision of “geeks” needing a life. The AL manager, the league’s players and millions of fans have deemed Sammy Sosa unworthy of a spot on the All-Star team. Yet, for some reason, the relative handful of fans who know about Win Shares deserves his special derision. Did a cabal of stat geeks keep Sosa off the supplemental ballot? Can LeBreton speak to the pros and cons of any of the statistics mentioned, or does he feel his blanket condemnation is sufficient?

Everyone, EVERYONE, who has spent his or her free time learning about advanced baseball metrics is by definition a wildly passionate baseball fan. They attend games, purchase caps and shirts, shell out cash for cable and online video, write blogs (for free!), and even buy newspapers. What in the world did they ever do to poor Gil LeBreton?

Nevertheless, let’s take LeBreton’s criticism on its face and assume Sosa is reasonably worthy of All-Star status. (I do agree that the idea is worth exploration.) I hypothesize that if Sosa is worthy, other players with similar statistics are also worthy. Seems reasonable, yes?

So: who is most similar to Sosa using ordinary stats found at any major website? Here are the general criteria that fit Sosa’s season to date:

  • Low batting average and OBP
  • Pretty good slugging percentage
  • Very high in RBI, low-to-average in runs
  • Respectable number of doubles
  • Above average in homers
  • No better than an average walk rate, preferably worse
  • Few steals

I derived the list mathematically, but you could probably imitate it via the eyeball method.

Player Team
AVG / OBP / SLG
R
2B
HR
RBI
BB
SB
S. Sosa TEX
.255/.308/.476
34 17 14 63 21 1
T. Wigginton TAM
.273/.318/.455
36 17 13 41 21 1
E. Chavez OAK
.246/.306/.445
35 20 12 42 28 4
J. Bay PIT
.262/.338/.446
41 16 12 50 34 1
A. Gonzalez CIN
.253/.301/.456
38 17 13 39 14 0
C. Delgado NYM
.232/.296/.424
39 19 13 45 25 2
X. Nady PIT
.278/.330/.480
36 12 13 46 15 2
R. Zimmerman WAS
.245/.294/.420
42 18 12 42 22 3
K. Greene SDG
.241/.274/.469
45 21 13 45 14 1
G. Atkins COL
.247/.323/.424
37 19 11 45 34 3

Sosa actually compares favorably to guys like Jason Bay, Eric Chavez, Carlos Delgado, and Ryan Zimmerman. Unfortunately, each is having a lousy year by his previous standards. Ty Wigginton and Xavier Nady are probably the most apt comparisons to the present-day Sosa. Not bad players, but nobody’s idea of an All-Star.

What sticks out is the lower RBI totals for each of Sosa’s comparables. As you know, Sosa has thrived with runners on base, resulting in a very high number of runners plated despite a mediocre batting line. There’s no one in baseball quite like him.

And that is the essence of his All-Star case. That and nostalgia, which I debunked previously. Does Sosa deserve credit for his 63 RBI? Unquestionably. He ranks among the most fortunate in RBI opportunities and among the best at taking advantage of them. That’s a terrific combination, and it compensates greatly for his lame on-base percentage. (His ability to continue hitting in the clutch is a separate issue.)

But again, that’s the entirety of his case. He doesn’t hit for average, or walk much, or run, or play defense often or well. He doesn’t even play for a good team.

So: Ty Wigginton, anyone?

Posted by Lucas at 11:37 PM

June 15, 2007

Worse Than You Think

Although Texas can “catch” the Tigers by reducing its starters’ ERA by only 0.11, doing so would not equal them in terms of quality. Many people think of the period from the mid 1900s to the present as similar in terms of offense-heavy games, but in fact run scoring in 2007 has declined by about one-half run per team per game compared to 1996. Thus, while the ’07 Rangers and ’96 Tigers share similar rotation ERAs, Texas has performed considerably worse relative to the park-adjusted league average:

Stat
Detroit, 1996
Texas, 2007
Starters' ERA
6.64
6.75
AL Starters' ERA
5.17
4.53
Park Factor
1.01
1.05
Park-Adjusted ERA for Starters
5.22
4.76
Difference in ERA between Team and League
1.42
1.99
Pct. Diff. in ERA between Team and League
27% higher
42% higher

Texas must shave its starters’ ERA down to 6.05 to achieve equivalency to those wonderful Tigers.

Tangentially, Detroit used sixteen starters in 1996; the top five consisted of Felipe Lira, Omar Olivares, Greg Gohr, Justin Thompson, and Brian Williams. A.J. Sagar, C.J. Nitkowski, Scott Aldred and Todd Van Poppel also made between 8-9 starts each. The Tigers also featured a terrible bullpen that season, meaning that the rotation probably had a higher percentage of bequeathed runners reach home plate than Texas.

So, review those less-than-illustrious names from Detroit’s rotation, understand that the bullpen probably contributed to the rotation’s woes, and realize that Texas’s rotation is demonstrably and sickeningly worse.

Enjoy your weekend.

Posted by Lucas at 07:17 PM

June 04, 2007

125

Consecutive MLB plate appearances without an unintentional walk for Victor Diaz. He last walked on September 10, 2005.

Posted by Lucas at 12:43 AM

June 01, 2007

Platoon

With Texas down 7-5 in the 8th, two on, one out, and Seattle lefty George Sherrill in to face lefty Ramon Vasquez, manager Ron Washington opted to bring in Matt Kata, a switch hitter. Announcer Josh Lewin noted that Washington was “playing the percentages.?

Kata is a career .245/.304/.387 hitter. Not to pick on Lewin, but there is NO situation involving Matt Kata that can be deemed “playing the percentages.?

That said, it’s not so much what Kata doesn’t do well (hit, regardless of the pitcher’s arm) as what Sherrill does (kill lefties). Sherrill holds lefties to a miniscule line of .161/.212/.281 and struggles against righties, at least in terms of OBP: .282/.406/.365. Thus, Washington’s decision to leave left-handed Kenny Lofton in to face him is, ah, puzzling.

Again, Sherrill eats lefties alive, Lofton doesn’t even start against southpaws and is batting .150 against them this season (plus .214 in ’06), and Texas has two righties on the bench in the form of Nelson Cruz and Victor Diaz. Neither is hitting well against lefties, but at least they eliminate Sherrill’s gigantic platoon advantage. Cruz can play center, and even having Diaz out there for a couple of innings wouldn’t be the end of the world. Why not use one of them?

Someday, when Texas has a good team, decisions like this will really matter.

Posted by Lucas at 12:06 AM

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 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

May 03, 2007

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

April 27, 2007

Scoring From Third

The DMN’s Evan Grant wrote at length about the Rangers’ ghastly performance with runners on third in Thursday’s 9-4 loss to Cleveland. He noted their inefficiency at getting runners home from third with less than two outs and Texas’s attempts to wean themselves off the homer heavy “all or nothing” approach. Per manager Ron Washington, "These guys have been so used to banging that it's hard for them to take that shorter stroke. It's not going to be easy to get it out of their system. But we will."

I watched that game, and, this being a family blog and all, I can’t tell you what I was yelling at the tv. What I can tell you is that hitting with runners on third is not the biggest problem afflicting the Rangers.

I don’t have the stats with less than two outs, but I’ve compared the Rangers to the American League in all man-on-third situations to see how effective they are at bringing runners home. The second and third columns in the table below are Others Batted In per Plate Apperance. Thus, if the hitter homers, his run doesn’t count. I’ve also deducted intentional walks from the plate appearances for the purpose of this exercise. Multiplying the difference in Texas’s and the AL’s OBI/PA by Texas’s number of appearances in each situation results in the Rangers’ run deficit or surplus relative to the league as a whole.

Base Situation (1/2/3)
Texas OBI/PA
AL
OBI/PA
Difference
Texas PAs
Texas Run Deficit
- - 3
26%
30%
-4%
27
(1.2)
1 - 3
58%
49%
9%
31
2.9
- 2 3
27%
50%
-23%
11
(2.5)
1 2 3
68%
74%
-6%
22
(1.3)

TOTAL RUN DEFICIT: -2.1

Texas’s inability to hit with runners on third has cost the team about 0.1 runs per game. I’m not suggesting that 0.1 runs is nothing. Over the course of a season, that extra 0.1 is worth almost two wins. However, Texas’s hitting in these situations is not close to being a catastrophe.

Posted by Lucas at 08:31 PM

April 23, 2007

Notes On Laird

Finally the unquestioned #1 catcher in his fifth season, Gerald Laird has posted a hideous line of .104/.185/.146 in 15 games. After all this time, Laird still has only 574 MLB plate appearances, so trendspotting is a risky endeavor, but what the heck:

1. Does Laird have a career history of poor performance as the regular catcher?

To test this theory, I compared games in which he started on the previous day (that’s day, not just the previous game) to those in which he had at least one day of rest. I eliminated games in which he appeared as a late-inning sub or pinch hitter.

I expected to see a letdown as an everyday player, but it doesn’t exist:

Laird after playing the previous day:
.253/.314/.333 in 194 plate appearances

Laird after at least one day of rest:
.241/.287/.391 in 371 appearances

Laird has hit for more power with rest but also for a slightly lower average and with a higher strikeout rate (23% vs 17%).

2. Is Laird seeing/swinging at pitches differently this season?

Yes. Laird’s awful start has coincided with increased patience. From 2003-2006, he averaged 3.7 pitches per appearance. In 2007, he’s improved to 4.2.

Through 2006, 28% of the strikes delivered to Laird were of the looking variety. In 2007, it’s increased to 34%. That extra 6% equates to 14 additional watched strikes this season in 54 appearances.

Laird swung at 32% of first pitches during his first four seasons. That number has decreased to 20% in 2007.

The operative word is “coincided.? I’m not about to suggest Laird’s scuffling is a function of increased patience. That said, the trend is worth watching. And again, Laird doesn’t have a lengthy history, so don’t take this analysis as holy writ.

3. Does Laird have more serious problems than how often he rests or whether he swings at the first pitch?

He sure does. One: Laird already had a poor track record against righties (.224/.282/.345 through ‘06) and has done nothing to improve it. Two: Laird had always pounded lefties (.355/.384/.520) but is 0-11 against them this season.

Posted by Lucas at 06:09 PM

April 18, 2007

Wilkerson, Again

After both recent posts in which I spoke ill of Brad Wilkerson, he immediately followed with a terrific game.

Therefore, tomorrow I will launch a 149-part series entitled, "Brad Wilkerson, Dog Kicker."

Posted by Lucas at 01:31 AM

April 16, 2007

More On Wilkerson

As I mentioned last week, Brad Wilkerson’s problem in 2006 wasn’t staring at strike three, it was inability to make contact throughout the count. Pitch data available from BaseballReference.com confirms this:

Year
2001-2005
2006
Plate Appearances
2,690
365
Pitches / Appearances
4.28
4.19
Strikes as % of pitches 59% 62%
-- % Looking 34% 29%
-- % Swinging and missed 16% 23%
-- % Swinging and fouled 26% 26%
-- % Swinging and hit into play 24% 22%
% of strikes swung at 66% 71%
% of all pitches swung at 39% 44%
% of pitches made contact with when swinging 75% 67%
% of appearances swinging at first pitch 16% 19%

From 2001-2005, 59% of the pitches thrown to Wilkerson were strikes, and he swung and missed 16% of those strikes. In 2006, the strike percentage increased to 62%, and the percentage of those he whiffed rocketed to 23%. Wilkerson saw 1,529 pitches in his abbreviated 2006 season, meaning that he swung and missed an additional 97 pitches compared to previous years. He only played in 95 games, so that’s an extra missed pitch every game.

In 2006, Wilkerson also swung at all pitches more frequently (44% vs. 39% during 2001-2005) but made contact less often (67% vs. 75%). As noted in last week’s post, Wilkerson put the first pitch into play less often than any of 37 batters I surveyed. Yet he actually swung at the first pitch 3% more frequently than during 2001-2005.

Is there hope? Actually, yes. Wilkerson’s line of .222/.313/.370 isn’t much different than what he offered in 2006, but his strike/contact statistics have generally reverted to earlier years:

Year
2001-2005
2007
Plate Appearances
2,690
32
Pitches / Appearances
4.28
4.50
Strikes as % of pitches 59% 57%
-- % Looking 34% 35%
-- % Swinging and missed 16% 17%
-- % Swinging and fouled 26% 24%
-- % Swinging and hit into play 24% 23%
% of strikes swung at 66% 65%
% of all pitches swung at 39% 37%
% of pitches made contact with when swinging 75% 74%
% of appearances swinging at first pitch 16% 19%

Posted by Lucas at 06:57 PM

April 10, 2007

Is Wilkerson Toast?

Brad Wilkerson’s game-ending at-bat against Jon Papelbon Sunday night was about as sad a display as you’ll ever see. Certainly, Papelbon has a habit of making hitters look stupid, but Wilkerson wouldn’t have made contact even if he’d been allowed ten strikes. Honestly, he looks like a pitcher sometimes.

It’s nothing new. Wilkerson struggled with a sore shoulder immediately upon joining the Rangers, and his tenure as leadoff hitter ended after just eight games. The salt in the wound was Alfonso Soriano’s rejuvenation as a Senator after two lackluster years in Texas. It doesn’t help that Soriano looks like an athlete and Wilkerson looks… well, doughy. Not that Wilkerson isn’t athletic. I’m just sayin’.

Presumably, in 2007 Wilkerson’s renewed health would pay dividends. Alas, the early returns are not promising. Wilkerson is known for taking the count deep, resulting in plenty of walks and strikeouts. Before joining Texas, his strikeouts weren’t a serious problem. Despite ranking among the top five in strikeouts in the NL from 2002-2005, Wilkerson consistently reached based at about a .370 rate and supplied plenty of doubles and a decent number of home runs. As a Ranger, his OBP hovers around .300 and he strikes out more than ever.

Using 2006 stats, I reviewed his and others’ performances in four categories:

1. Percentage of plate appearances ending on the first pitch.

2. Percentage of PAs with a two-strike count.

3. Percentage of PAs with an 0-2 count.

4. Percentage of PAs in which the batter struck out without ever taking ball one.

The first two stats don’t indicate much on their own. Although hitters tend to do very well when putting the ball in play on the first pitch, a high percentage by itself does not indicate does not indicate a good hitter. Recognizing and taking advantage of a fat first pitch is the hallmark of a great hitter, but swinging at too many first pitches indicates lack of discretion. Likewise, having a high number of two-strike counts isn’t bad in and of itself.

Conversely, too many 0-2 counts are cause for concern. Hitters are at a huge disadvantage on an 0-2 count. Even very patient hitters who walk often tend to avoid them. Finally, striking out without ever seeing a ball outside the zone is an obvious failure.

For purposes of comparing hitters to Wilkerson, I couldn’t find a database of breakdowns of batter performance by ball-strike count, so I built an abbreviated one using four cohorts:

BB Kings (clever, no?): Ten batting-title qualifiers with the best walk rates in 2006. Wilkerson has walked over 13% of his career plate appearances, an excellent rate.

The group includes David Ortiz, Jason Giambi, Travis Hafner, Manny Ramirez, Nick Johnson, Carlos Beltran, Bobby Abreu, Jim Thome, Adam Dunn and Pat Burrell.

K Kings: Ten batters with the highest strikeouts ratios in 2006. Wilkerson would have joined this group had he achieved enough appearances.

This group consists of Thome, Dunn and Burrell (also BB Kings), Curtis Granderson, Richie Sexson, Jhonny Peralta, Bill Hall, Ryan Howard, Andy LaRoche, and Geoff Jenkins.

Hackers: Ten batters with the worst walk-to-strikeout ratios in 2006. Wilkerson is definitely not a hacker, at least as I’ve defined the term here. I’m attempting to pick a group of hitters ostensibly inferior to Wilkerson to see how he measures up.

The Hackers are Ronny Cedeno, Jeff Francoeur, Preston Wilson, Shea Hillenbrand, Craig Monroe, Pedro Feliz, Jacque Jones, Ivan Rodriguez, AJ Pierzynski, and Clint Barmes. (Three Tigers in this group.)

Rangers: The top eight Rangers in plate appearances in 2006. All the other group consist of outliers; the Rangers should represent a broader mix of talents.

The Rangers are Barajas. Teixeira, Kinsler, Young, Blalock, DeRosa, Matthews and Mench.

With overlap, the comparison groups consist of 35 players. For each stat, I’ll list Wilkerson, the players with the highest and lowest percentages, and the averages of each cohort. Again, these are 2006 statistics.

1. Percentage of plate appearances ending on the first pitch

Category
1st-pitch action
J Francoeur
21%
Average of Hackers
15%
Average of Rangers
12%
Average of K Kings
10%
Average of BB Kings
9%
B Abreu
5.2%
B Wilkerson
4.9%

2. Percentage of plate appearances with two strikes

Player
2-Strike Counts
P Feliz
39%
Average of Hackers
44%
Average of Rangers
45%
Average of BB Kings
51%
Average of K Kings
53%
B Hall
58%
B Wilkerson
59%

3. Percentage of plate appearances with an 0-2 count

Category
0-2 Counts
P Feliz
7%
Average of BB Kings
15%
Average of Rangers
17%
Average of Hackers
17%
Average of K Kings
18%
B Hall
21%
Wilkerson
25%

4. Percentage of plate appearances in which the batter struck out and never took a pitch for a ball.

Category
Ball-free strikeouts
B Abreu
1.5%
Average of BB Kings
2.5%
Average of Rangers
3.1%
Average of K Kings
4.1%
Average of Hackers
4.2%
R Cedeno
6.5%
B Wilkerson
6.6%

Wilkerson ranks last in every category. Compared to 35 other hitters, he was least likely to hit the first pitch into play, most likely to have a two-strike count, most likely to have an 0-2 count, and most likely to strike out without seeing ball one. As I mentioned previously, ranking last in the first two categories isn't problematic by itself. Bobby Abreu almost never puts the ball in play on the first pitch, and he's a stud.

No, the problem is the combination of all four stats. Wilkerson starts in a hole far too often without recovering. That’s not a result of too much patience. It’s inability to make contact. No hitter can survive without making good contact a reasonable percentage of the time, and Wilkerson has failed in that regard. That Wilkerson lapped the field in 0-2 counts is worst of all, because a batter with an 0-2 count is a dead man walking.

But that’s 2006, right? Old news. What about this year and Wilkerson’s healthy shoulder?

As I said, the early returns are not promising:

Brad Wilkerson 2006 2007
First-pitch action (% of PAs) 4.9% 5.0%
2-Strike Counts 59% 65%
0-2 Counts 25% 30%
Ball-free strikeouts 6.6% 15.0%

Wilkerson has declined in every category. I know it’s early, but he looks lost. I’ve previously predicted that the Rangers would (belatedly) replace Sammy Sosa’s attenuated bat by mid-May or June. At this rate, Wilkerson might not outlast Sosa.

Posted by Lucas at 05:43 PM

April 02, 2007

Predictions

AL West:
Los Angeles 87-75
Oakland 84-78
Texas 81-81
Seattle 77-85

That said, I see much more upside than downside. This team can win the division.

AL Central: Cleveland. While I was in Vegas last month, I put $20 on Texas (the university) to cover the spread against Kansas. They did, so I put $20 on Cleveland at 12-1 to win the pennant. Go Tribe!

AL East: New York.

AL Wild Card: Boston

NL West: San Diego

NL Central: Umm… I guess someone has to win. Chicago. Maybe St. Louis.

NL East: Philadelphia.

NL Wild Card: Mets. If not, the Dodgers. The NL is ridiculously tight this year. I’m not especially fond of any of these picks.

Postseason: New York over LA. Cleveland over Boston. New York over Cleveland. (There goes my bet.) -- San Diego over New York. Philadelphia over Chicago. San Diego over Philly. – Yankees win the Series.

Other predictions: Washington will not lose 100 games. I’m going to go against the popular sleeper and say Milwaukee doesn’t win 81 games. Detroit will drop to 83-85 wins. Tampa Bay will not avoid another 90-loss season. I don’t predict anyone to win 100 games, but if anyone does, it’ll be the Yankees.

Let’s find out how stupid I am in seven months.

Posted by Lucas at 08:56 PM

March 25, 2007

Taking The Fifth, Revisited

MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan believes the competition for fifth starter is over, and Jamey Wright has prevailed. I can’t say I had any reaction at all when I heard the news in the midst of a fantasy draft Saturday night. He’d might as well have announced, “Drill a pilot hole before installing an anchor in sheetrock.”

I can’t find the link now, but I recall Wright saying he’d found a groove last season in San Francisco until Mike Matheny was injured. The stats bear him out:

Period
ERA
BABIP
HR%
BB%
SO%
Career
5.14
.307
2.5%
11.4%
10.9%
2006 with Matheny catching
4.56
.301
2.2%
6.2%
12.0%
2006 with others catching
5.45
.308
2.4%
11.3%
10.9%

His success with Matheny was no BABIP-induced fluke, and his bullpen didn’t have to bail him out (one of his two bequeathed runners scored). Cutting his walk rate to a terrific 2.4 per nine innings dropped his ERA to within spitting distance of league-average. Alas, with either Todd Greene or Eliezer Alfonzo as his receiver, his mechanics suffered and he offered the usual.

How much credit does Matheny actually deserve for Wright’s modicum of success? That slides into the grey areas of Matheny’s defensive reputation and how their personalities clicked. But if Wright says so, it’s at least partially true. However, it’s reasonably certain that Mike Matheny will not be catching Jamey Wright this season.

I realize no one is asking Wright to pitch 162 innings with a 4.50 ERA. (Actually, Jon Daniels did say, “[Wright] is capable of giving us 160-180 innings,” but he has to say stuff like that occasionally.) Also, the fifth-starter decision isn’t made in a vacuum; it includes injuries, depth problems at AAA, younger candidates with minor-league options, and Wright’s contractual ability to bail if he’s not on the 25-man roster. However, from all I’ve read, coaches and management seem pleased with him, irrespective of the extraneous issues factoring into his ascendance. They believe they can keep his mechanics in order.

Herein lies the problem. We have a pitcher:

  • with a career ERA+ of 93 in over 1,400 innings
  • who’s pitched exactly one season of at least 162 innings and league-average ERA in his career (six years ago)
  • who’s allowed opponents an OBP of .369 outside of Coors Field
  • who’s permitted 5.2 BB+HBP per nine innings
  • who’s been released fives times during the season or Spring Training
  • and who’s been cut rather than granted arbitration five other times.

We also have an organization that, during the past nine years:

  • has posted a better-than-league-average ERA only twice,
  • and has developed exactly one homegrown pitcher who’s thrown at least 162 league-average innings (Doug Davis, 2001).

And Texas is going to fix Jamey Wright? Pin a medal on Mark Connor if that happens.

Posted by Lucas at 01:14 PM

March 18, 2007

The Real Roster Crunch

The battle for fifth starter has three contestants: Jamey Wright, Bruce Chen, and Kameron Loe. A related issue: What is Texas going to do with all the starting pitchers who don’t make the Opening Day roster? Assuming Wright wins out, I see the following potential starters in Oklahoma:

Edinson Volquez
Josh Rupe
John Koronka
John Rheinecker
A.J. Murray
Thomas Diamond
Kameron Loe
Bruce Chen
Francisco Cruceta
Mike Wood
(And maybe others I’ve forgotten)

The situation may partially resolve itself. Rheinecker might start the season on the Disabled List, Cruceta is out of options and can declare free agency once demoted, Texas may use Wood in relief, Texas could keep Diamond in AA for a few weeks, Chen might also leave (if his contract allows it – I’m not sure), etc.

Texas already has an excess of relievers, so using putative starters in relief roles only exacerbates the problem. Management looks to have a more difficult task deciding the AAA roster than Texas’s.

Posted by Lucas at 11:32 PM

March 17, 2007

Taking The Fifth

Joey Matschulat, the new guy over at Baseball Time in Arlington, describes Spring Training hero Jamey Wright as this year’s Pedro Astacio and includes some embarrassing quotes from Peter Gammons and Buck Showalter back in the day. Now, the nature of the internets is such that you can make anyone look foolish if you dig through enough old columns and quotes (me included, to be sure). But that doesn’t make it any less funny.

More to the point, Matschulat’s comparison is apt. We’re talking about someone who hasn’t pitched more than 100 league-average innings since 2000. Yes, his career ERA+ is better than Adam Eaton’s (also funny), but Sweet Fancy Moses, those peripherals! 4.4 walks per nine innings but only 4.8 strikeouts. As Colorado’s Aaron Cook has shown, a pitcher can succeed in a hitter’s park with both a low K rate and a high hit rate if he also cuts down on the walks and keeps the ball out of the cheap seats. Wright does neither.

Wright claims “I have a new delivery. I feel confident, I feel great. I feel like I can dominate,? and I’m not going to sit here in Austin and tell him he’s wrong. But when T.R. Sullivan says “Wright's growing fifth-starter candidacy is one of the big stories of camp,? that's when I reach for my tequila. And not the good stuff, either.

Posted by Lucas at 01:21 PM

March 15, 2007

Defenestration

Related to the “Sammy!? post of a few days ago, some thought on 40-man roster issues:

First, in a chat on Wednesday, DMN’s Evan Grant mentioned that the Rangers’ backup catcher isn’t in camp yet. That may be, but the names he threw out -- former Rangers Todd Greene and Sandy Alomar Jr. – do not impress. I’m not sure if Grant knew that Greene dislocated his shoulder last month and won’t play for at least another ten days or so. And Alomar… Texas has three potential backups already on the 40-man roster and none is better than 40-year-old Alomar? Pretty sad, if true.

Second, upon review of the present 40, the Rangers could easily make room for both Sosa and a middle infielder without outrighting one of their eight outfielders. The first player would be Alexi Ogando, who, like Omar Beltre, can’t enter the country because of a protracted visa problem. Sticking him on the restricted list frees one spot. One possibility for the second is pitcher Francisco Cruceta, who is out of options and appears to have no hope of making the final cut. Another is catcher Guillermo Quiroz, likewise out of options.

After those, the choices become less palatable: outfielder Victor Diaz and perhaps currently injured pitcher John Rheinecker. Trading Rick Bauer or Ron Mahay for a player not on the 40 would also create space.

Posted by Lucas at 10:09 AM

March 11, 2007

Sammy!

I (and others) have been predicting that Sammy Sosa will have a Phil Nevin-like performance and tenure with Texas: a fine March against mostly non-MLB pitchers, a mediocre April, a terrible May, and unemployment by June. The DMN’s Evan Grant has a slightly different outlook:

On Sammy: I think he's still on the roster in mid-June, but don't think he's reached 12 homers. I don't think he's still on the roster at that point because he's been a great addition to the lineup, but rather because the Rangers are holding their own regardless of his performance.

My rejoinder is that Texas was holding its own last May when it jettisoned Nevin. On the other hand, Nevin was horribly expensive and not a “name,? while Sosa will be cheap and is SAMMY SOSA! So, on further reflection, Grant’s prediction makes perfect sense. It’s just a question of whether Sosa can maintain an employment-level line of around .250/.320/.430.

In the immediate future, Sosa’s presence exacerbates a crowded outfield situation. The Rangers already had eight outfielders on the 40-man roster before signing Swingin’ Sammy (but only five infielders including the bound-for-Oklahoma Joaquin Arias). Further, all eight outfielders have MLB experience, and only Jason Botts and Nelson Cruz have less a full year under their belts.

Texas will need to add Sosa plus a middle infielder (probably Jerry Hairston). Thus, not only does Sosa force an experienced player to the minors, he also forces a player (or players) off the 40 and most likely out of the organization. During the past three years, Texas has not started a season with more than seven outfielders on the 40.

Now, I’m not going to shed any tears if Texas trades Victor Diaz for some demi-prospect, and I don’t think Jason Botts is Travis Hafner’s heir. But I do disagree with the idea that Sosa is a risk-free, upside-only proposition. The risk is that because he’s Sammy, he could hit terribly and still occupy the #5 slot for a couple of months. That could cost Texas a game or two in the standings of a very winnable AL West.

(Lone Star Ball has a lengthy take on Jason Botts here.)

Posted by Lucas at 12:49 PM

February 24, 2007

Wanting More

Here’s where I pick on Victor Rojas even though I like his work on the radio. From an interview with John Vittas:

Q: Do you see Sammy Sosa batting 5th and making meaningful contributions for this ball club in 2007?


Rojas: Well, I’m rooting for him both from the standpoint of a player trying to get his career back on track and for the Rangers because they need a guy to hit in the middle of the lineup. They don’t think that they need a 35-40 homerun type of guy to protect Mark Teixeira. They need someone who’s going to hit 15-20 and drive in 80 or 90 runs to help the team.

If true, Texas had the very thing they “needed” last year. It’s name was Hank Blalock, and he hit 16 homers with 89 RBI, mostly while batting fifth and trailing Teixeira in the lineup.

Blalock had 646 plate appearances last year, not all batting fifth, but let’s use that as a basis for comparison. Per 646 PAs, the average American League #5 hitter had 24 homers and 96 RBI. Only one team had fewer than 17 homers and 82 RBI (amazingly, the Boston Red Sox.) A team should demand more from the #5 spot. Any vaguely competent hitter (or group of hitters) should collect 80 or more RBI simply because of the opportunity-rich environment.

You go back to two years ago when this team hit all those homeruns but didn’t win a lot of games. Now, you’ve got Ian Kinsler who’s capable of getting on base, Michael Young can do it, and Kenny Lofton to name a few.

I get all tingly when baseball people tout on-base percentage, but dreadful pitching is the reason Texas “hit all those homeruns but didn’t win a lot of games” in 2005. Remember those 300 innings from Chan Ho Park, Pedro Astacio, Ryan Drese and Ricardo Rodriguez? Good times.
Incidentally, greedy fan that I am, I want on-base specialists and “all those home runs” in the same season.
It’s just a matter of how many runs the 4, 5, and 6 guys in the lineup can produce, especially with two outs in an inning. I’m not a big numbers guy but it’s easy to look back and tell that two out hits just haven’t been there for the Rangers…
With runners in scoring position and two out, Texas ranked third in the AL in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Where the Rangers failed is in creating those opportunities: they ranked 11th in RISP/2out appearances. If Lofton and company can get on base and Blalock can find himself circa 2004-2005, Blalock might drive in 110 runs. And there will be much rejoicing.

Posted by Lucas at 06:53 PM

January 20, 2007

Pitchers OPS+ and Hitter Counterparts

Here’s a fun little game: turning every pitcher’s performance into a comparable batter. Below are the opposing batting lines for Ranger pitcher who faced at least 100 batters. The three hitters who most closely match that line are listed to the right. If none of the three qualified for the batting title, I listed a fourth who did. Just in case you're curious, I determined comparability by ranking the sums of the squares of the differences in average, on-base percentage and slugging between pitcher and hitter. Now that I’ve put you to sleep with the previous sentence, the list:

Pitcher
Opposing AVG/OBP/SLG
-- OPS
Opposing AVG+/OBP+/SLG+
-- OPS+
Most Comparable Batters ('06 Stats Only)
W. Littleton
.189/.275/.262
-- .538
68 / 81 / 59
-- 40
Jerry Hairston, Abraham Nunez, Paul Bako,
(Clint Barmes)
A. Otsuka
.241/.276/.318
-- .594
87 / 81 / 71
-- 52
Miguel Cairo, Neifi Perez, Cesar Izturis,
(Ronny Cedeno)
J. Benoit
.224/.314/.310
-- .624
81 / 92 / 70
-- 62
Brandon Fahey, Matt Treanor, Alex Cora,
(Adam Everett)
S. Feldman
.266/.324/.373
-- .697
96 / 95 / 84
-- 79
Julio Franco, Jack Wilson, Chone Figgins
F. Cordero
.265/.325/.395
-- .720
96 / 95 / 89
-- 84
Randy Winn, Jason Michaels, Jeff Conine
C. Wilson
.234/.326/.395
-- .722
85 / 96 / 89
-- 85
Jason Varitek, Joe Borchard, Chuck Finley,
(Jhonny Peralta)
R. Bauer
.272/.338/.381
-- .718
99 / 99 / 85
-- 84
Adam Kennedy, Sean Casey, Chone Figgins
J. Rupe
.287/.344/.374
-- .718
104 / 101 / 84
-- 85
Nick Punto, Shannon Stewart, Mark Loretta
K. Millwood
.272/.317/.418
-- .735
99 / 93 / 94
-- 87
Kevin Mench, Jesse Barfield, Omar Infante
R. Mahay
.250/.335/.412
-- .747
91 / 98 / 92
-- 90
Matt Stairs, Cliff Floyd, Jose Bautista,
(Hank Blalock)
V. Padilla
.266/.338/.419
-- .757
96 / 99 / 94
-- 93
Julio Lugo, Chris Burke, Cory Snyder,
(Tony Graffanino)
R. Tejeda
.288/.360/.438
-- .797
104 / 106 / 98
-- 104
Edgar Renteria, Russ Martin, Connor Jackson
J. Wasdin
.266/.355/.468
-- .822
96 / 104 / 105
-- 109
Austin Kearns, Jim Edmonds, Aubrey Huff
J. Koronka
.294/.356/.468
-- .824
107 / 104 / 105
-- 109
Ryan Garko, Ryan Zimmerman, Magglio Ordonez
K. Loe
.317/.359/.486
-- .845
115 / 105 / 109
-- 114
Andrew Ethier, Mike Lamb, Gary Matthews
A. Eaton
.299/.366/.483
-- .848
108 / 107 / 108
-- 115
Andrew Ethier, Mike Lamb, Jose Reyes
J. Rheinecker
.349/.393/.477
-- .869
126 / 115 / 107
-- 122
Freddy Sanchez, Derek Jeter, Russ Johnson
E. Volquez
.359/.427/.538
-- .965
130 / 125 / 121
-- 146
Joe Mauer, Miguel Cabrera, Joe Bard

UPDATE: Oops. Anyone notice that C.J. Wilson's third comparable is Chuck Finley? That should be Steve.

Posted by Lucas at 12:33 PM

January 04, 2007

Summary of Ranger Hitters By Fielding Position

Here’s a summary of the information presented throughout the last month. I use a two-year park factor and apply two-thirds of the weight to the most recent season. The Ballpark hasn’t been as crazily hitter-friendly during 2005-2006 as it prior years. The factors are:

Average: 1.005
On-Base %: 1.005
Slugging: 1.020

The Ballpark has a Runs factor of 1.037.

That “P? in front of OPS+ and other stats means “position;? it calculates how Rangers perform relative to other players in the league at a particular fielding position. Also, keep in mind that if you divide the team’s OPS by the league-average OPS, you will not derive OPS+. OPS+ is calculated by adding OBP+ and SLG+, then subtracting 100 (which is why, as you’ve probably noticed, some really terrible hitters have a negative OPS+).

Positions ordered by OPS+.

Pos.
Park-Adjusted
League-Average
(AVG/OBP/SLG
-- OPS)
Texas Rangers
(AVG/OBP/SLG
-- OPS)
P-AVG+
AL Rank
P-OBP+
AL Rank
P-SLG+
AL Rank
P-OPS+
AL Rank
2B
.281/.333/.402 --
.735
.292/.357/.459 --
.816
104
6
107
2
114
2
121
2
SS
.281/.333/.418 --
.751
.307/.349/.441 --
.790
109
4
105
5
105
4
110
4
1B
.280/.353/.476 --
.829
.275/.364/.505 --
.869
98
6
103
5
106
6
109
6
CF
.276/.335/.443 --
.778
.292/.349/.457 --
.806
106
3
104
4
103
6
107
5
LF
.281/.349/.459 --
.807
.273/.341/.469 --
.810
97
11
98
7
102
6
100
6
C
.271/.332/.425 --
.756
.274/.313/.440 --
.753
101
7
94
11
104
8
98
8
3B
.270/.340/.451 --
.790
.282/.348/.429 --
.777
104
5
102
4
95
9
98
8
RF
.287/.350/.478 --
.828
.271/.319/.424 --
.743
94
11
91
13
89
14
80
14
DH
.267/.351/.481 --
.832
.238/.309/.410 --
.719
89
13
88
13
85
12
73
12
Team
.276/.341/.446 --
.784
.278/.338/.446 --
.784
101
8
99
9
100
7
99
3

Posted by Lucas at 05:44 PM

December 31, 2006

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup: Designated Hitters

Name
% of Team PA
OPS
P-OPS+
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB%
SO%
P. Nevin
30%
.730
75
.309
88
.421
88
25
9
31
10.9%
19.3%
H. Blalock
20%
.532
29
.244
69
.288
60
9
2
9
6.3%
22.2%
M. Stairs
12%
.653
57
.273
78
.380
79
6
3
10
6.6%
25.0%
K. Mench
9%
.701
70
.321
91
.380
79
6
1
3
9.1%
7.3%
J. Botts
8%
.693
69
.321
91
.372
77
8
1
5
15.7%
33.3%
B. Wilkerson
7%
.527
27
.227
65
.300
62
3
1
1
9.1%
31.8%
M. Young
5%
1.396
232
.543
155
.853
177
7
2
10
2.9%
8.6%
C. Lee
5%
.981
135
.400
114
.581
121
6
1
5
8.8%
2.9%
5 others
4%
.839
102
.357
102
.481
100
1
1
2
0.0%
0.0%
TEAM
.719
73
.309
88
.410
85
71
21
76
8.7%
19.7%
AL Average
-
.832
-
.351
-
.481
-
83
28
93
11.1%
18.8%
Team Rank in AL
-
-
12
-
13
-
12
9
9
10
9
10

Texas DHes leapt from the worst OPS+ in the American League in 2005 to third-worst last season. Are you not suitably impressed? This next bit of information won’t help. Erase Michael Young’s softball line (.529/.543/.853 in seven games) and the remainder drops to – yikes -- .220/.290/.383. Remember, these are “designated hitters.”

As I’d mentioned in May, Nevin’s everyday presence in the middle of the order was a gloomily foregone conclusion despite mounting evidence that he wouldn’t perform. Texas relieved him of his duties just past the season’s one-quarter mark, after which time, for the most part, the situation worsened.

With nothing left to prove in the minors, Jason Botts received only a handful of starts over several weeks before management shuttled him back to Oklahoma. Wilkerson and Mench split the majority of DH starts for a month in a quasi-platoon while Mark DeRosa started every day (deservedly). Matt Stairs came, did nothing, and left. An injured Hank Blalock started mostly at DH during the final three weeks and reached his nadir as a batter. Only Young and Carlos Lee hit with authority.

AL Designated Hitters

TEAM
OPS
P-OPS+
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
Cleveland
1.016
150
.412
119
.604
131
114
45
137
Boston
1.003
143
.406
116
.597
127
109
50
131
Chicago Sox
.975
133
.408
116
.566
117
117
42
112
Oakland
.881
116
.368
106
.513
110
87
40
121
LA Angels
.849
108
.356
102
.492
106
84
28
96
NY Yankees
.842
106
.369
106
.473
100
104
30
114
Toronto
.811
94
.338
97
.473
97
65
16
69
Kansas City
.787
89
.348
97
.439
92
70
21
87
Detroit
.768
88
.309
88
.460
99
85
27
90
Baltimore
.754
85
.333
95
.421
90
63
16
71
Tampa Bay
.745
82
.323
92
.422
89
74
25
78
Texas
.719
73
.309
88
.410
85
71
21
76
Minnesota
.680
71
.316
92
.364
78
61
8
60
Seattle
.667
67
.300
87
.366
80
59
17
61

Best-hitting DHes: Cleveland has some guy named Hafner. I hear he's pretty good.

Worst: Seattle, a ghastly amalgam of Carl Everett, Ben Broussard, Eduardo Perez, and assorted others. Not to suggest Seattle’s acquisition of Jose Vidro was wise, but he will be an upgrade.

Posted by Lucas at 05:39 PM

December 29, 2006

Notes On The McCarthy-Danks Trade

(I’ve been out-of-pocket for a few days, so if I’m repeating someone else’s observations, I apologize…)

Age and Level
As mentioned by Adam yesterday, McCarthy isn’t two years older than Danks, only seventeen months. Because ages as applied to seasons are determined by a player’s age as of July 1, McCarthy is listed as two years older. Here is how McCarthy and Danks have advanced through minors in terms of age:

Age
McCarthy Danks
18
Rookie Rookie, Short-Season
19
Rookie, Short-Season Low A, High A
20
Short-Season, Low A, High A High A, AA
21
High A, AA AA, AAA
22
AAA, Majors ---
23
Majors ---

Danks is only about a year ahead of McCarthy. McCarthy debuted in the Majors at the age of 22 years, 10 months. Danks will turn 22 next April.

Minor Performance
McCarthy clearly has pitched better than Danks in the minors. In addition an ERA nearly a full run lower than Danks, all the peripheral stats favor McCarthy.

Minors
RA
ERA
Opp. Avg.
HR%
BB%
SO%
McCarthy 3.92 3.39 .236 2.3% 4.9% 28.5%
Danks 4.96 4.33 .256 2.6% 8.6% 24.1%

But, stats can mislead. Many pitchers with good minor-league stats in aggregate have a shaky combination of outstanding stats in the low minors and mediocre performances in AA and AAA. To place more importance on higher levels, I created a weighted average, giving a lower level in the minors only two-thirds the weight of the one above it. So, AA counts two-thirds as much as AAA, high-A counts two-thirds as much as AA, etc. By the time we hit bottom, the Rookie League gets only about one-seventh the credit of AAA.

Why two-thirds? Well... it seems reasonable. I’m sure I (or someone) could look into the stats and devise a better weight for each level, but for the purpose of this simple exercise, two-thirds will suffice. Now, how do McCarthy and Danks match up:

Minors, Weighted
RA
ERA
Opp. Avg.
HR%
BB%
SO%
McCarthy 3.94 3.71 .230 2.7% 5.6% 28.2%
Danks 5.35 4.58 .262 2.9% 8.9% 23.3%

Again, McCarthy runs the table, and Danks’s weighted RA jumps to an uncomfortable 5.35 (21% of his runs in AAA were unearned.)

Parks
Chicago’s US Cellular Field plays nearly as hitter-friendly as Texas’s Ballpark. Cellular had a run factor of 1.05 versus the Ballpark’s 1.08 in 2006. Cellular depresses singles, doubles and triples but allows more homers and walks. Translating McCarthy’s statistics to Arlington increases his ERA only by about 0.05.

Intentional Walks
Ozzie Guillen ordered more intentional walks than any AL team and more than nine NL teams last season. Nine of McCarthy’s 33 walks were intentional. He got off easy; Neal Cotts issued seven free passes in just 30 innings. Losing the IBBs decreases McCarthy’s walk rate from 3.5 to 2.6 per nine innings.

Luck
McCarthy has permitted an uncommonly low hit rate on balls in play of .252 in the Majors. The White Sox as a whole allowed a .290 average on balls in play during 2005-2006. Perhaps McCarthy has a genuine ability to depress hits, but the probability of him continuing to allow an average 48 points below his teammates is very remote. Giving him a team-average hit rate in 2006 results in ten more hits allowed and a full run added to his ERA.

Earned Run Average
Pitchers who allow a high number of unearned runs usually aren’t as good as their ERAs would suggest. For example, in 2005 Kevin Millwood had an ERA of 2.86 but allowed eleven unearned runs (15% of his total), indicating his season was a bit of a fluke.

McCarthy has allowed zero unearned runs in 152 innings. He has a career ERA+ of 104, but his RA+ is 112. In 2006, he had a Component ERA (a Bill James creation that estimates what the pitcher’s ERA “should be” based on peripheral stats) of just 4.10 compared to his actual ERA of 4.68. (Note that the Component ERA does not compensate for his abnormally low hit rate on balls in play. Again, giving him a typical hit rate increases his ERA and RA by a run.)

Posted by Lucas at 10:25 AM

December 28, 2006

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup: Right Fielders

Here’s your disaster.

Name
% of Team PA
OPS
P-OPS+
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB%
SO%
M. DeRosa
37%
.783
90
.347
99
.436
91
30
4
29
7.3%
19.6%
K. Mench
35%
.824
99
.345
99
.479
100
26
10
36
6.6%
14.0%
N. Cruz
20%
.626
51
.261
75
.365
76
14
5
21
5.3%
22.6%
9 others
7%
.485
17
.208
60
.277
58
3
0
9
0.0%
0.0%
TEAM
.743
80
.319
91
.424
89
73
19
95
6.3%
19.4%
AL Average
-
.828
-
.350
-
.478
-
92
24
94
8.2%
16.7%
Team Rank in AL
-
-
14
-
13
-
14
14
10
7
14
11

Texas’s variety pack of right fielders posted a line of .271/.319/.424. That may only sound “bad,” not “really really bad,” but right field is for offense. Among the eight fielding positions plus DH, AL right fielders ranked first in batting average, third in OBP and second in slugging percentage.

The Rangers did not keep up. They ranked next-to-last in the league in on-base percentage, last in slugging, last in runs scored, and last in walk rate. Mark DeRosa batted .295/.347/.436, mostly later in the season after he’d cooled off. Now, that line compares quite favorably to DeRosa’s previous output from 1998 to 2005, but as an American League right fielder in 2006, not so much. Kevin Mench basically held his ground, and Nelson Cruz had a tough rookie season.

AL Right Fielders

TEAM
OPS
P-OPS+
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
Chicago Sox
.958
129
.376
107
.582
122
111
44
129
LA Angels
.885
118
.363
104
.522
114
91
33
116
Toronto
.876
110
.354
102
.522
108
104
28
111
Baltimore
.851
108
.354
102
.497
106
89
26
86
NY Yankees
.814
100
.357
103
.456
97
93
22
101
Detroit
.808
99
.344
99
.463
101
90
26
103
Minnesota
.796
99
.348
102
.447
97
109
20
104
Oakland
.793
98
.358
104
.435
94
87
18
93
Seattle
.778
97
.371
108
.407
90
99
10
53
Cleveland
.784
96
.339
98
.445
97
91
20
89
Tampa Bay
.795
93
.310
89
.485
103
83
33
76
Boston
.777
92
.352
101
.425
91
84
17
77
Kansas City
.777
87
.332
93
.445
94
88
16
81
Texas
.743
80
.319
91
.424
89
73
19
95

Best-hitting right fielders: Chicago’s Jermaine Dye lapped the field, including LA’s Vlad.

Worst: See above.

Posted by Lucas at 01:37 PM

December 25, 2006

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup: Center Fielders

Name
% of Team PA
OPS
P-OPS+
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB%
SO%
G. Matthews
89%
.875
125
.375
112
.500
113
102
19
75
8.6%
13.8%
6 others
11%
.272
(29)
.134
40
.138
31
4
0
7
2.4%
40.2%
TEAM
-
.807
107
.349
104
.457
103
106
19
82
8.0%
16.7%
AL Average
-
.778
-
.335
-
.443
-
95
19
74
7.5%
16.9%
Team Rank in AL
-
-
5
-
4
-
6
3
8
4
6
7

I’d guess Gary Matthews has no more than a 10% chance of justifying his contract. That’s not to diminish his outstanding final season in Texas. Center field has plagued the Rangers since the team logo was a cowboy hat perched on a baseball (see upper left). For one season, Matthews eradicated that plague with solid defense and an astonishing bat. New center fielder Kenny Lofton may outhit Matthews next year, but he won’t surpass Matthews’s 2006.

Laynce Nix, Adrian Brown, Jerry Hairston, Freddy Guzman, and Brad Wilkerson (1 at-bat) combined to go 9-for-80 (.113) with two walks. Good times.

AL Center Fielders

TEAM
OPS
OPS+
OBP
OBP+
SLG
SLG+
R
HR
RBI
Cleveland
0.920
142
0.378
115
0.541
127
136
29
78
Toronto
0.915
132
0.364
109
0.551
123
106
34
113
Minnesota
0.803
112
0.334
102
0.468
109
102
32
99
NY Yankees
0.806
110
0.345
104
0.461
106
121
26
84
Texas
0.807
107
0.349
104
0.457
103
106
19
82
Detroit
0.777
104
0.330
99
0.447
105
101
22
76
Tampa Bay
0.758
96
0.314
94
0.443
102
94
21
79
LA Angels
0.733
95
0.345
104
0.388
91
87
10
71
Oakland
0.736
95
0.333
101
0.403
94
83
11
76
Kansas City
0.741
92
0.351
103
0.390
89
83
8
62
Boston
0.713
87
0.326
98
0.388
89
87
13
66
Baltimore
0.714
85
0.297
89
0.418
96
83
21
67
Seattle
0.656
75
0.294
89
0.362
86
80
11
42
Chicago Sox
0.672
73
0.302
90
0.370
83
67
12
47

Best-hitting center fielders: Cleveland, in the form of Grady Sizemore.

Worst: The Chicago White Sox, a combination of Brian Anderson (a terrific fielder who couldn’t hit) and Rob Mackowiak (overmatched in center but adequate at the plate). Seattle gets dishonorable mention with its three-headed monster of Jeremy Reed, Willie Bloomquist and Adam Jones (until Ichiro! took over).

Posted by Lucas at 02:01 AM

December 23, 2006

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup: Left Fielders

Name
% of Team PA
OPS
P-OPS+
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB%
SO%
B. Wilkerson
45%
.777
92
.325
93
.452
99
52
14
41
10.9%
32.0%
C. Lee
33%
.882
117
.364
104
.517
113
36
8
30
7.7%
11.3%
K. Mench
9%
.798
97
.333
96
.464
101
4
1
11
5.1%
10.2%
J. Hairston
8%
.686
74
.360
103
.326
71
8
0
3
14.0%
16.0%
6 others
5%
.813
99
.313
90
.500
109
3
1
5
6.3%
15.6%
TEAM
-
.809
100
.341
98
.469
102
103
24
90
9.3%
21.2%
AL Average
-
.807
-
.349
-
.459
-
94
20
85
8.9%
15.9%
Team Rank in AL
-
-
6
-
7
-
6
3
5
6
6
13

On the whole, Texas left fielders didn’t pull the team underwater as far as you might think. Wilkerson, Mench, and Hairston (who received fifty[!] plate appearances in left – at least he got on base…) did, on their own, but then Carlos Lee arrived and messed things up by batting well. For the real batting disaster, one must look over to right field.

AL Left Fielders

TEAM
OPS
P-OPS+
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
Boston
.977
145
.423
122
.553
123
101
36
105
Seattle
.871
122
.354
103
.516
118
105
33
124
Oakland
.849
114
.355
103
.494
111
109
31
86
Toronto
.850
112
.395
114
.455
98
96
15
71
Tampa Bay
.817
104
.344
99
.473
105
97
20
83
Texas
.809
100
.341
98
.469
102
103
24
90
NY Yankees
.778
97
.360
105
.419
93
102
13
72
LA Angels
.777
97
.335
97
.442
100
83
19
91
Detroit
.782
96
.303
87
.479
109
94
34
98
Kansas City
.791
95
.342
97
.449
99
102
16
94
Minnesota
.746
91
.329
97
.417
94
74
17
78
Chicago Sox
.720
80
.341
98
.379
82
98
4
57
Cleveland
.704
80
.311
91
.393
89
98
13
76
Baltimore
.682
73
.322
93
.359
80
60
7
66

Best-hitting left fielders: Boston. Manny. Seattle ranks a surprising second thanks to a terrific effort from Raul Ibanez.

Worst: Baltimore. Jeff Conine and Brandon Fahey make a bad corner-outfield tandem? Well knock me down with a feather! (Fahey, by the way, was a Texas Longhorn on the ’02 championship team.)

Posted by Lucas at 09:33 AM

December 18, 2006

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup: Shortstops

Name
% of Team PA
OPS
P-OPS+
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB%
SO%
M. Young
95%
.785
109
.346
104
.438
105
86
12
93
6.7%
13.2%
4 others
5%
.897
140
.412
124
.485
116
10
0
5
2.9%
8.8%
TEAM
-
.790
110
.349
105
.441
105
96
12
98
6.5%
13.0%
AL Average
-
.751
-
.333
-
.418
-
85
13
74
6.9%
14.5%
Team Rank in AL
-
-
4
-
5
-
4
5
8
2
9
5

After four consecutive years of increasingly stunning improvement culminating in last year’s astounding line of .331/.385/.513, Michael Young finally regressed, hitting .314/.356/.459 overall and “only” .303/.346/.438 as a shortstop. As such, he declined from brilliant to very good, lagging only behind the Big Three of Jeter, Tejada, and Carlos Guillen.

Young doesn’t require a backup, but those who did squeeze in a few innings at shortstop hit very well (dollops of Mark DeRosa, Joaquin Arias, and Jerry Hairston).

AL Shortstops

TEAM
OPS
P-OPS+
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
Detroit
.893
143
.393
118
.500
124
105
19
81
NY Yankees
.893
142
.412
125
.481
117
126
15
100
Baltimore
.866
133
.382
115
.484
118
101
22
91
Texas
.790
110
.349
105
.441
105
96
12
98
LA Angels
.742
102
.338
102
.403
100
102
9
79
Minnesota
.713
97
.342
105
.372
92
60
3
50
Seattle
.708
95
.310
94
.398
100
72
8
48
Oakland
.710
94
.333
101
.376
93
82
13
65
Cleveland
.699
92
.315
96
.384
96
88
14
78
Toronto
.716
90
.321
97
.395
93
81
12
67
Chicago Sox
.712
87
.271
81
.442
105
66
24
92
Tampa Bay
.690
86
.305
92
.386
94
80
16
53
Boston
.674
82
.306
92
.368
90
70
10
63
Kansas City
.575
53
.261
77
.314
76
58
9
68

Best-hitting shortstops: Detroit (mostly the aforementioned Guillen, who hit .320/.400/.519) bested New York (Derek Jeter) in OPS, but the Yankees’ advantage in OBP makes him best by a slight margin.

Worst: Kansas City’s Angel Berroa just barely qualified for the batting title with 503 plate appearances and still managed to make almost 400 outs. KC’s team line of .229/.261/.314 and P-OPS+ 53 were the worst in the American League at any position. In essence, Kansas City’s shortstop’s hit about as well as Eric Milton (.224/.250/.327).

Posted by Lucas at 06:31 PM

December 14, 2006

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup: Third Basemen

Name
% of Team PA
OPS
P-OPS+
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB%
SO%
H. Blalock
75%
.777
98
.346
102
.431
96
67
14
80
8.4%
13.6%
M. DeRosa
24%
.767
95
.345
102
.422
94
21
5
22
9.8%
19.0%
3 others
2%
.899
132
.455
134
.444
99
2
0
0
0.0%
0.0%
TEAM
-
.777
98
.348
102
.429
95
90
19
102
8.9%
14.7%
AL Average
-
.790
-
.340
-
.451
-
91
22
89
8.8%
16.1%
Team Rank in AL
-
-
8
-
4
-
9
8
10
3
4
6

Texas third basemen performed slightly better than I expected, finishing in the middle of the AL pack. Most of Hank Blalock’s death spiral occurred while DH’ing, and at third he at least reached base at an acceptable rate. Much more on him to come. Mark DeRosa spent much of the last month at third and had cooled off by then.

AL Third Basemen

TEAM
OPS
OPS+
OBP
OBP+
SLG
SLG+
R
HR
RBI
NY Yankees
.909
133
.389
116
.520
117
117
36
124
Kansas City
.859
116
.366
106
.493
110
96
21
96
Boston
.823
110
.341
101
.482
109
88
24
90
Toronto
.820
107
.349
103
.472
104
105
35
110
Seattle
.775
102
.322
96
.453
106
91
25
91
Detroit
.785
102
.318
94
.467
108
86
27
85
Chicago Sox
.796
99
.320
94
.476
105
83
30
97
Texas
.777
98
.348
102
.429
95
90
19
102
Tampa Bay
.768
97
.334
99
.434
98
71
20
78
Oakland
.742
93
.335
100
.408
93
84
24
81
LA Angels
.736
91
.330
98
.405
93
99
16
69
Baltimore
.735
90
.342
101
.393
89
99
16
89
Minnesota
.703
85
.329
99
.374
86
93
8
64
Cleveland
.688
80
.309
92
.379
88
73
12
75

Best-hitting AL third basemen: Alex Rodriguez had a poor season (by his lofty standards) and was still, easily, the best-hitting third baseman in the league. Incidentally, the Silver Slugger award went to Joe Crede, who trailed Rodriguez in average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs, home runs, runs batted in, and walks. Voters consist of an apparently unengaged collection of league managers and coaches.

Worst: Cleveland scored 80 more runs than in 2005 in spite of Aaron Boone (.248/.311/.369) and Andy Marte (.226/.287/.421).

Posted by Lucas at 12:10 PM

December 11, 2006

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup: Second Basemen

Second base has become the hitter’s graveyard. Among the nine AL positions (fielders plus DH), 2Bs had the fewest homers (by 34) and the worst walk rate. They ranked third in average but only seventh in OBP and dead last in slugging. John Hart must be aghast.

Name
% of Team PA
OPS
P-OPS+
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB%
SO%
I. Kinsler
72%
.802
117
.347
104
.455
113
65
14
55
8.7%
13.9%
M. DeRosa
16%
1.018
175
.429
129
.589
146
20
3
15
7.8%
14.6%
D. Jimenez
9%
.692
89
.339
102
.353
88
6
1
8
13.6%
10.2%
3 others
3%
.417
16
.250
75
.167
41
2
0
0
0.0%
0.0%
TEAM
.816
121
.357
107
.459
114
93
18
78
9.0%
14.3%
AL Average
-
.735
-
.333
-
.402
-
83
11
71
6.7%
12.9%
Team Rank in AL
-
-
2
-
2
-
2
3
3
5
2
9

Happily, the Rangers bucked that trend. Ian Kinsler had not only a fine rookie season but a fine season among all second basemen. Of the fourteen AL 2Bs with the most plate appearances, Kinsler ranked seventh in average, sixth in OBP, and third in slugging. Only Tad Iguchi and Robinson Cano had more homers. Forget about potential. Kinsler already stands with the league’s best hitters at his position.

Kinsler didn’t qualify for the batting title because a thumb injury cost him several weeks. During that time, Rogers Hornsby arose from the dead and assumed the form of Mark DeRosa. I understand that Hornsby’s estate will receive a portion of DeRosa’s $13 million contract.

AL Second Basemen

TEAM
OPS
OPS+
OBP
OBP+
SLG
SLG+
R
HR
RBI
NY Yankees
.813
123
.343
104
.470
119
80
14
99
Texas
.816
121
.357
107
.459
114
93
18
78
Chicago Sox
.772
109
.351
105
.420
104
117
20
86
Cleveland
.745
108
.335
102
.410
106
80
12
72
Seattle
.734
106
.330
101
.404
106
85
10
82
LA Angels
.734
104
.331
100
.403
104
62
7
77
Baltimore
.731
102
.339
102
.391
99
93
11
64
Kansas City
.743
101
.340
100
.403
101
104
8
62
Minnesota
.710
101
.353
109
.357
92
89
3
52
Detroit
.698
94
.328
99
.370
96
80
6
73
Boston
.698
93
.338
102
.361
92
82
7
61
Oakland
.675
88
.307
93
.368
94
73
11
66
Tampa Bay
.668
83
.282
85
.386
98
62
20
83
Toronto
.627
71
.307
93
.320
79
65
5
41

Best-hitting AL second basemen: The Yankees (a great Robinson Cano dragged down by Miguel Cairo and Nick Green) nudged Texas in OPS+, but Texas had a better indexed on-base percentage. It’s my blog, so I’ll give the award to Texas.

Worst: The Blue Jays by an unhealthy margin. For probably no reason, Aaron Hill hit .339/.392/.463 at short and .268/.329/.348 at second. His assistants, mostly Russ Adams and Edgardo Alfonzo, were execrable.

Posted by Lucas at 11:24 PM

December 08, 2006

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup: First Basemen

Name
% of Team PA
OPS
P-OPS+
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB%
SO%
M. Teixeira
98%
.885
113
.370
105
.515
108
99
33
110
12.5%
18.1%
4 others
2%
.143
(65)
.071
20
.071
15
1
0
0
0.0%
28.6%
TEAM
-
.869
109
.364
103
.505
106
100
33
110
12.2%
18.3%
AL Average
-
.829
-
.353
-
.476
-
85
25
96
9.3%
17.5%
Team Rank in AL
-
-
6
-
5
-
6
3
4
4
1
10

Through the season’s first 84 games, Mark Teixeira had eight homers and a .432 slugging percentage. Afterwards, 25 and .607. Despite his posting the worst rate stats since his rookie season, Texas 1Bs finished among the top half in OBP and slugging and fourth or better in runs, homers and RBI. Which is to say, a slightly down year from Teixeira is still pretty special. He turns 27 next April and may produce the titanic season I expected in 2006.

Teixeira drew twelve intentional walks last year, eighth-most in the AL. I cursorily attributed most of them to opponents wanting a desirable matchup against Hank Blalock, who followed Teixeira in the order in 71 games and batted .216/.281/.315 against lefthanders. In fact, only once did a team intentionally walk Teixeira to have a lefty face Blalock:

Date
Inning
Score
Outs
Runners
Next Batter
Result
Apr-09
b6
+2
2
-2-
Nevin
groundout
Apr-11
t7
+3
2
--3
Nevin
lineout
Apr-20
t6
+1
1
-2-
Nevin
walk; Mench later doubled home a run
May-08
b5
+2
0
-2-
Nevin
flyout; Teixeira later scored
May-18
t7
+4
2
-2-
Nevin
groundout
May-22
b7
+1
2
-2-
Nevin
groundout
Jun-02
t7
tie
2
-2-
Blalock
groundout against lefty reliever Neal Cotts
Jul-03
b7
+2
1
-23
DeRosa
single, 2 RBI
Jul-21
t8
+3
0
-2-
DeRosa
lineout; Teixeira later scored
Jul-30
b4
+5
1
-2-
Laird
groundout; Teixeira later scored
Aug-08
t1
tie
1
-23
Blalock
grounded into double play against righty starter
Sep-15
b6
tie
2
-2-
Lee
lineout

Texas batted .090/.167/.090 immediately following IBBs to Teixeira, though he did score three runs.

AL First Basemen

TEAM
OPS
OPS+
OBP
OBP+
SLG
SLG+
R
HR
RBI
Minnesota
.970
139
.384
111
.586
128
101
38
140
Chicago Sox
.943
126
.387
109
.556
117
102
35
123
Cleveland
.910
125
.376
108
.534
117
99
31
118
Toronto
.905
117
.380
108
.524
109
93
26
95
Seattle
.847
110
.340
98
.507
112
78
36
110
Texas
.869
109
.364
103
.505
106
100
33
110
NY Yankees
.804
97
.348
100
.455
97
86
29
94
Baltimore
.785
94
.359
102
.426
92
79
18
84
Boston
.773
91
.359
102
.414
89
97
16
86
Kansas City
.774
87
.351
98
.423
90
82
13
96
Detroit
.754
86
.320
91
.434
95
76
23
89
Oakland
.737
83
.337
97
.400
87
77
23
79
Tampa Bay
.715
75
.315
90
.400
86
64
21
63
LA Angels
.664
65
.297
85
.367
80
59
11
61

Best-hitting 1Bs: Minnesota. AL MVP Justin Morneau led the way, and Mike Cuddyer had a small but significant assist (.455/.520/.1.045 in 25 appearances).

Worst: Los Angeles wisely moved Darin Erstad back to the outfield, but his replacements were even worse at the plate. Kendry Morales, Robb Quinlan, Howie Kendrick and Casey Kotchman combined to hit an abominable .255/.297/.367. LA’s first-sackers ranked last in the league in OBP, slugging, runs, homers and RBI. Good for them.

Posted by Lucas at 11:15 PM

December 03, 2006

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup: Catchers

The Second Annual Review Of Ranger Hitters returns with positional analyses.

In case you’re new to the game: You probably know OPS and OPS+. If not, OPS is the sum of a player’s on-base percentage and slugging percentage, and OPS+ converts that number to an index based on the league average and player’s home park. 100 is always average, higher is better. I also like to display OBP+ and SLG+, which are calculated just like OPS+. OBP+ tends to vary less than SLG+.

For Texas’s catchers, the meaningful comparison is not how they performed relative to the league as a whole but rather the AL’s other catchers. The AL batted .275/.337/.439 in 2006, while #1 hitters posted a line of .270/.330/.416. Also, The Ballpark favored hitters with a factor of 1.005 for on-base percentage and 1.020 for slugging. Thus, players hitting first for Texas need an on-base percentage of .332 and a slugging percentage of .435 to be of average quality. Regarding the “AL average” row in the table below, the rate stats are park-adjusted while the counting stats are simple averages. Instead of OPS+, I use P-OPS+, the “P” standing for “position.”

Name
% of Team PA
OPS
P-OPS+
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB%
SO%
R. Barajas
57%
.718
89
.302
91
.416
98
49
11
41
4.8%
14.0%
G. Laird
41%
.807
112
.332
100
.475
112
43
7
22
4.8%
21.0%
M. Ojeda
2%
.667
74
.250
75
.417
98
0
0
4
0.0%
25.0%
TEAM
-
.753
98
.313
94
.440
104
92
18
67
4.7%
17.1%
AL Average
-
.756
-
.332
-
.425
-
74
18
80
7.4%
15.9%
Team Rank in AL
-
-
8
-
11
-
8
2
6
11
12
10

AL catchers had an OPS+ of 93 relative to the entire league, better than I expected.

I’m inclined to believe that if a catcher is coming off a .298 OBP (overall) and a team offers him two years and $5+ million, maybe, just maybe, he should accept it. But I’m just an observer. Barajas hit 47 homers as a Ranger, about 45 more than I expected when Texas signed him to a minor-league deal in 2004. I called him “Todd Greene Lite” at the time and he ended up being… Todd Greene.

Gerald Laird certainly outhit Barajas, but a late-season decline left him with a very ordinary OBP (even for a catcher), leaving the team among the worst in the AL in that respect. He’d shown an adequate walk rate in the minors, so he has some room to improve. In essence, his thumb injury in May 2004 cost him over two years of regular play in the Majors. Remember who collided with him at home plate? Ken Harvey.

TEAM
OPS
P-OPS+
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
Minnesota
.867
138
.401
124
.466
114
94
12
99
Cleveland
.810
121
.365
112
.445
109
79
18
98
NY Yankees
.812
118
.354
108
.458
110
72
25
105
Baltimore
.802
114
.342
103
.459
111
75
26
100
Toronto
.789
107
.333
101
.455
106
71
26
82
Detroit
.766
106
.324
98
.441
108
85
17
82
Seattle
.730
99
.310
95
.420
104
68
20
80
Texas
.753
98
.313
94
.440
104
92
18
67
LA Angels
.725
96
.314
95
.411
101
72
22
69
Chicago Sox
.733
93
.320
96
.413
97
75
18
79
Oakland
.698
92
.356
109
.343
83
81
3
60
Boston
.668
79
.299
90
.369
89
66
18
85
Tampa Bay
.661
77
.299
91
.362
87
53
13
52
Kansas City
.639
69
.293
87
.345
82
49
11
63

Teams are sorted by P-OPS+.

Best-hitting catchers: Minnesota , featuring AL MVP Joe Mauer. Oh, right…

Worst-hitting catchers: Kansas City ’s John Buck and Paul Bako hit badly enough that Jason Larue represented an upgrade.

Posted by Lucas at 12:30 PM

November 25, 2006

Summary of Ranger Hitters By Position in Batting Order

Here’s a summary of the information presented throughout the last month. For what it’s worth, I use a two-year park factor and apply two-thirds of the weight to the most recent season. The Ballpark hasn’t been as crazily hitter-friendly during 2005-2006 as it prior years. The factors are:

Average: 1.005
On-Base %: 1.005
Slugging: 1.020

The Ballpark has a Runs factor of 1.037.

That “L? in front of OPS+ and other stats means “lineup;? it calculates how Rangers perform relative to other players in the league at a particular spot in the batting order. Also, keep in mind that if you divide the team’s OPS by the league-average OPS, you will not derive OPS+. OPS+ is calculated by adding OBP+ and SLG+, then subtracting 100 (which is why, as you’ve probably noticed, some really terrible hitters have a negative OPS+).

Order
Park-Adjusted
League-Average
(AVG/OBP/SLG -- OPS)
Texas Rangers
(AVG/OBP/SLG -- OPS)
L-AVG+
AL Rank
L-OBP+
AL Rank
L-SLG+
AL Rank
L-OPS+
AL Rank
1
.285/.351/.431 -- .782
.304/.361/.489 -- .850
107
3
103
5
114
3
116
4
2
.288/.346/.431 -- .777
.310/.356/.442 -- .798
108
2
103
5
103
6
105
6
3
.283/.358/.482 -- .840
.283/.351/.481 -- .832
100
5
98
7
100
7
98
7
4
.288/.369/.510 -- .878
.273/.360/.477 -- .837
95
10
98
9
94
12
91
10
5
.287/.359/.490 -- .849
.292/.348/.442 -- .790
102
6
97
10
90
12
87
11
6
.267/.325/.446 -- .772
.259/.314/.423 -- .737
97
10
97
9
95
10
91
10
7
.270/.324/.438 -- .762
.260/.324/.432 -- .756
96
9
100
6
99
9
99
9
8
.260/.322/.400 -- .721
.242/.308/.375 -- .683
93
12
96
10
94
11
90
12
9
.252/.304/.376 -- .681
.261/.310/.439 -- .749
104
6
102
6
117
3
119
3
ALL
.276/.341/.446 -- .787
.278/.338/.446 -- .784
101
8
99
9
100
7
99
8

Posted by Lucas at 06:12 PM

November 14, 2006

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup: #8 and #9 Hitters

Good #8 and #9 hitters rarely exist for any length of time. Good hitters move to a higher spot in the order, bad ones stay there because the team has no worthy replacement. Catchers, rookies, subs and occasionally pitchers dominate the last two spots in the order. The average AL #8 hitter batted .259/.320/.392; #9s batted .250/.303/.369.

Check here for stat descriptions.

Texas #8 Hitters:

Player
% of Team PA
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
Net SB
R Barajas
23%
.529
47
.243
76
.286
72
15
3
15
8
21
0
I Kinsler
20%
.789
119
.358
111
.431
108
20
2
15
13
11
-3
G Laird
17%
.786
116
.330
103
.455
114
19
3
6
6
27
-2
B Wilkerson
13%
.520
46
.256
80
.264
66
4
1
9
9
27
0
M DeRosa
8%
1.159
219
.472
147
.688
172
11
1
10
4
9
1
J Botts
8%
.727
102
.327
102
.400
100
7
1
5
7
15
0
The Rest
12%
.466
31
.245
76
.221
55
6
0
8
6
15
0
TEAM
-
.682
90
.308
96
.375
94
82
11
68
53
125
-4
AL Average*
-
.721
-
.322
-
.400
-
74
13
71
48
111
0
Team Rank in AL
-
-
12
-
10
-
11
2
7
10
4
10
11

Texas #9 Hitters:

Player
% of Team PA
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
Net SB
R Barajas
27%
.827
141
.333
109
.494
131
28
6
21
7
23
0
N Cruz
18%
.732
113
.296
97
.436
116
13
5
19
6
22
1
G Laird
13%
.859
149
.325
107
.534
142
15
3
9
4
13
1
I Kinsler
11%
.999
191
.408
134
.590
157
11
4
10
7
9
0
J Hairston
8%
.619
84
.308
101
.311
83
9
0
5
6
11
-1
D Jimenez
6%
.526
54
.235
77
.290
77
2
1
6
3
4
0
Pitchers
2%
.067
-78
.067
22
.000
0
0
0
0
0
7
0
The Rest
15%
.616
81
.267
88
.349
93
11
1
9
2
25
-2
TEAM
-
.750
119
.310
102
.439
117
89
20
79
35
114
-1
AL Average*
-
.681
-
.304
-
.376
-
70
11
62
39
112
1
Team Rank in AL
-
-
3
-
6
-
3
1
2
2
10
9
9

Largely because of Rod Barajas, Texas had lousy #8 hitting and fantastic #9 hitting. Barajas batted .188/.243/.286 in eighth and .295/.333/.494 in ninth. Imagine what he’d accomplish batting tenth, or twelfth. Ian Kinsler and Gerald Laird hit very well from both spots. Jason Botts and Nelson Cruz held their ground strictly in terms of where they batted (and ignoring their fielding positions). Ranger pitchers proved the mathematical possibility of a sub-zero OPS+.

American League #8 Hitters:

TEAM
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
Toronto
.837
132
.382
119
.455
113
78
11
64
Detroit
.809
127
.332
104
.476
124
81
25
84
Baltimore
.793
124
.374
117
.419
107
79
11
88
LA Angels
.765
117
.327
102
.439
114
86
18
77
Chicago Sox
.739
103
.301
93
.438
109
71
21
81
Oakland
.710
102
.330
104
.379
98
69
11
79
Boston
.704
98
.321
100
.383
98
76
13
76
Minnesota
.685
97
.325
103
.360
93
74
8
51
NY Yankees
.691
94
.305
96
.386
98
82
16
70
Seattle
.671
93
.309
97
.362
95
66
9
53
Cleveland
.670
91
.297
94
.374
98
75
12
76
Texas
.682
90
.308
96
.375
94
82
11
68
Kansas City
.616
71
.289
88
.327
82
51
10
79
Tampa Bay
.593
68
.283
88
.311
79
61
11
47

Best #8 Hitting: Toronto. Aaron Hill started an unusual 93 games in the #8 spot and batted .314/.383/.422. Eric Hinske, Jason Phillips, Alex Rios, Gregg Zaun, and household names like John Hattig and Adam Lind hit extraordinarily well in cameos.

Worst: Tampa Bay, which also had the worst #7 batters and next-to-worst #9 batters. Josh Paul was serviceable, the rest putrid (Tomas Perez, B.J. Upton, Damon Hollins and others).

American League #9 Hitters:

TEAM
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
Detroit
.772
130
.317
105
.456
126
84
19
75
Cleveland
.764
130
.326
109
.438
122
73
16
86
Texas
.750
119
.310
102
.439
117
89
20
79
Minnesota
.685
109
.330
111
.355
98
64
3
51
LA Angels
.688
108
.319
106
.369
102
61
7
68
Boston
.688
105
.312
103
.377
102
73
10
68
Seattle
.665
102
.288
96
.377
106
70
9
53
Chicago Sox
.683
99
.292
96
.391
104
72
21
63
Oakland
.648
95
.303
101
.345
95
60
10
54
Kansas City
.655
93
.309
100
.346
93
70
6
56
Baltimore
.646
93
.307
101
.339
92
63
8
60
NY Yankees
.642
93
.305
101
.337
91
75
8
57
Tampa Bay
.579
73
.267
88
.313
85
63
8
45
Toronto
.538
59
.255
84
.283
74
61
6
59

Best #9 Hitting: Detroit and Cleveland. Brandon Inge spent half the season batting ninth and produced a line of .278/.329/.509. Aaron Boone (.297/.348/.492) and Casey Blake (.356/.433/.533) seemed comfortable waiting for eight teammates to hit first.

Worst: Toronto. The NL’s Padres, Marlins and Reds had better #9 hitters than Toronto. John McDonald, Russ Adams, and Aaron Hill (in sharp contrast to his job at #8) were the primary culprits.

Posted by Lucas at 01:42 AM

November 12, 2006

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup: #7 Hitters

AL #7 hitters dropped off very little from #6s this season: .001 in on-base percentage and .008 in slugging. The difference is that teams rarely have “regular” #7 hitters. Only one team had a player with more than a half-season’s worth of starts batting seventh (Seattle with Kenji Johjima). Teams have enough trouble finding six quality hitters; Number 7 is usually the best of what’s left.

Check here for stat descriptions.

Texas #7 Hitters:

Player
% of Team PA
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
Net SB
B Wilkerson
25%
.817
115
.356
110
.460
105
29
6
13
18
49
-4
I Kinsler
19%
.875
129
.357
110
.518
118
18
5
19
9
19
6
M Stairs
13%
.637
67
.268
83
.368
84
6
3
11
5
20
0
K Mench
9%
.939
146
.393
121
.545
125
8
2
9
5
5
0
G Laird
8%
.637
69
.291
90
.346
79
8
0
5
1
12
2
M DeRosa
8%
.771
102
.327
101
.444
101
6
2
8
5
10
-2
R Barajas
7%
.936
144
.378
117
.558
127
5
2
4
2
6
0
The Rest
10%
.328
-11
.178
55
.150
34
5
0
1
4
19
0
TEAM
-
.755
99
.324
100
.432
99
85
20
70
49
140
2
AL Average*
-
.762
-
.324
-
.438
-
77
20
74
45
111
2
Team Rank in AL
-
-
8
-
6
-
9
2
7
8
6
13
6

Seven Rangers hit from the #7 spot in at least ten games. After a disastrous week-plus leading off, Brad Wilkerson spent most of the next month batting seventh and hit pretty well. Ian Kinsler also hit well, batting seventh sparingly during the summer and more frequently in September. In briefer appearances, Kevin Mench and Rod Barajas performed well above average, and Mark DeRosa held the position.

On the downside, Matt Stairs occupied the seventh position almost exclusively during his brief stay in Texas and did little. Laird also didn’t hit much here, and “The Rest” – Adrian Brown, Laynce Nix, Hank Blalock, and several others – hit .117 in 60 at-bats.

American League #7 Hitters:

TEAM
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
Oakland
.868
133
.368
115
.500
118
91
27
89
NY Yankees
.858
129
.368
115
.489
114
83
22
99
Toronto
.830
117
.352
109
.478
108
83
24
69
Boston
.804
114
.346
107
.458
107
83
19
75
Baltimore
.768
103
.310
96
.457
107
82
24
65
Seattle
.738
101
.323
101
.415
100
72
17
69
Detroit
.750
100
.300
93
.450
107
85
30
94
Texas
.755
99
.324
100
.432
99
85
20
70
Minnesota
.736
99
.312
99
.424
100
73
20
84
Cleveland
.699
90
.313
98
.386
92
73
14
83
LA Angels
.685
85
.304
94
.381
91
71
14
58
Chicago Sox
.695
82
.291
90
.404
92
75
21
77
Kansas City
.687
81
.312
95
.375
86
69
9
63
Tampa Bay
.650
74
.291
90
.359
84
55
16
46

Best #7 hitting: Oakland should bat its whole team seventh. Nick Swisher (.333/.437/.686) and Dan Johnson (.295/.375/.538) compensated for the team’s terrible hitting in most of the order’s higher spots.

Worst: Tampa Bay. First baseman Travis Lee batted .220/.308/.322 in 133 appearances. Damon Hollins, B.J. Upton, Josh Paul, Dionner Navarro and Greg Norton were worse. Only Toby Hall and Russ Branyan kept the spot becoming a black hole.

Posted by Lucas at 07:05 PM

November 10, 2006

Ballpark News

You may have already seen this linked by Lone Star Ball, but if not, Joe Siegler has the rundown on parking costs, game-time changes, and "variable pricing" at The Ballpark next season.

Posted by Lucas at 08:12 AM

November 09, 2006

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup: #6 Hitters

The quality of American League lineups drops off sharply after the fifth hitter. #6 hitters lose 34 points of OBP and 43 of slugging to their #5 counterparts. On the whole, they have lackluster on-base skills and respectable power.

Check here for stat descriptions.

Texas #5 Hitters:

Player
% of Team PA
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
Net SB
K Mench
35%
.781
102
.319
98
.462
104
24
10
39
13
27
1
M DeRosa
29%
.723
89
.320
98
.403
90
31
5
26
14
44
-4
I Kinsler
11%
.610
61
.286
88
.324
73
8
1
4
4
10
-1
B Wilkerson
11%
.928
136
.338
104
.590
132
16
6
16
9
22
2
H Blalock
7%
.442
17
.220
68
.222
50
4
1
5
3
15
0
The Rest
6%
.826
117
.382
117
.444
100
9
1
5
6
6
0
TEAM
-
.737
91
.314
97
.423
95
92
24
95
49
124
-2
AL Average*
-
.772
-
.325
-
.446
-
83
24
85
50
116
-2
Team Rank in AL
-
-
10
-
9
-
10
3
7
4
7
10
6

Kevin Mench embodied the perfectly average #6 hitter, batting .276/.319/.462. 2006 represented his final chance to step forward and make himself a permanent fixture in Texas, and in that respect he failed. The power came in one astonishing burst, seven homers in consecutive games during late April. In those games he batted .414/.414/.931, in his other 80 in Texas he hit only .271/.331/.364 with five homers. Still, purely in terms of other #6 hitters, he performed adequately overall.

Mark DeRosa spent much of the season’s second half and a plurality of his overall time batting sixth. DeRosa cooled off after the All-Star break, walking and homering with more frequency but losing 70 points of batting average and almost half of his rate of doubles. Despite the decline, his post-break line of .265/.333/.423 bettered his pre-2006 career of .262/.324/.380. Some team, not likely Texas, will pay him commensurately to his 2006 performance alone, not the prior years.

Ian Kinsler started twenty games in the #6 hole, mostly late in the season but never more than two games consecutively. For no particular reason, he hit much worse there than in the lineup’s final three spots. His overall line of .286/.347/.454 makes him a solid #2 and tolerable leadoff hitter. Brad Wilkerson shared the six spot with Kevin Mench from mid-May until mid-June and batted well. Hank Blalock often hit sixth against lefties during the second half. “Hank Blalock,” “lefties” and “second half” created a familiar toxic brew.

Texas failed to achieve league-average OBP or slugging from any of the #4, #5 or #6 spots.

American League #6 Hitters:

TEAM
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
Cleveland
.880
134
.365
114
.515
121
98
29
110
Baltimore
.830
119
.358
110
.472
108
89
25
72
NY Yankees
.819
115
.342
106
.477
109
101
27
103
Minnesota
.806
114
.325
102
.482
112
91
35
111
Detroit
.792
109
.319
98
.474
110
87
30
95
Kansas City
.775
101
.338
102
.437
99
79
16
86
Boston
.758
101
.343
106
.415
95
86
18
81
LA Angels
.731
94
.306
95
.425
99
80
24
80
Tampa Bay
.740
93
.297
92
.442
101
64
27
77
Texas
.737
91
.314
97
.423
95
92
24
95
Oakland
.711
90
.315
98
.396
92
88
19
64
Chicago Sox
.721
86
.305
94
.416
93
76
22
86
Seattle
.671
81
.298
93
.373
88
69
20
69
Toronto
.686
79
.308
95
.378
84
64
13
61

Best #6 hitting: Cleveland. Ben Broussard, Eduardo Perez, Ron Beilliard, Casey Blake and several others combined for 29 homers and 110 RBI. Only Jhonny Peralta (.286/.348/.389) failed to supply the requisite power.

Worst: Toronto. The Jays had no choice but to dump the overly honest Shea Hillenbrand, but they did miss his bat. Hilly hit .297/.341/.431 in one-third of the team’s appearances from the #6 spot, while his teammates (Molina, Rios, Zaun, Hill, etc.) provided a lifeless .246/.295/.352 in 450 appearances.

Posted by Lucas at 07:28 PM

November 04, 2006

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup: #5 Hitters

Check here for stat descriptions.

Texas #5 Hitters:

Player
% of Team PA
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
Net SB
H Blalock
63%
.789
87
.345
96
.445
91
52
13
67
33
70
0
M DeRosa
26%
.834
99
.380
106
.454
93
18
3
23
15
28
1
K Mench
6%
.735
78
.370
103
.366
75
4
0
2
4
9
0
The Rest
5%
.628
42
.190
53
.438
89
4
2
6
0
8
0
TEAM
-
.789
87
.348
97
.442
90
78
18
98
52
115
1
AL Average*
-
.849
-
.359
-
.490
-
88
26
102
66
109
-1
Team Rank in AL
-
-
11
-
10
-
12
9
12
5
14
10
6

I could write all day about Hank Blalock and probably will soon. I’ll save most of it for the discussion of batters by defensive position. As with Michael Young, let’s review Blalock’s overall season line of .266/.325/.401 as if he’d spent the entire year in the same spot in the order:

Bat Pos.
L-OPS+
L-obp+
L-slg+
1
86
93
93
2
87
94
93
3
74
91
83
4
67
88
79
5
72
91
82
6
90
100
90
7
92
100
92
8
101
101
100
9
113
107
107

Hammerin’ Hank’s 2006 would have been a liability everywhere outside the bottom two spots in the order. Considering that he spent over 90% of the season batting fourth or fifth, the actual liability was pretty severe. He did perform best in the #5 spot, batting .290/.345/.445.

The one adequate Ranger in this slot was the unlikely Mark DeRosa, who batted fifth during much of June and usually only against lefties thereafter. Like Blalock he didn’t offer much power, but his terrific OBP (fueled by a .319 batting average) amply compensated. After Phil Nevin’s disposal, Kevin Mench spent a few games at fifth as a singles-and-walks machine. “The Rest” (mostly Nevin, one game each from Barajas, Laird and Kinsler) largely did not distinguish themselves.

American League #5 Hitters:

TEAM
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
Chicago Sox
1.002
133
.391
109
.610
124
103
45
140
NY Yankees
.934
124
.402
113
.532
110
98
33
141
Minnesota
.920
122
.375
107
.545
115
104
32
127
Detroit
.869
110
.382
107
.487
103
105
18
86
Toronto
.886
107
.354
99
.532
107
92
32
118
LA Angels
.849
105
.372
104
.476
101
88
27
92
Kansas City
.862
102
.365
100
.498
102
94
23
89
Cleveland
.806
96
.350
99
.456
97
93
20
98
Seattle
.801
95
.335
95
.466
100
76
30
94
Oakland
.782
90
.353
100
.430
91
78
22
88
Texas
.789
87
.348
97
.442
90
78
18
98
Tampa Bay
.780
85
.322
90
.458
95
69
28
87
Baltimore
.758
82
.330
92
.428
89
77
21
98
Boston
.683
65
.321
90
.362
76
76
14
75

Texas's closest neighbors in #5 batting were Oakland, Tampa Bay and Baltimore. Once again, bad company.

Best #5 Hitting: The White Sox. Jermaine Dye batted .315/.380/.628 in just under 400 appearances, Paul Konerko helped, and A.J. Pierzynski (.365/.419/.552) and Joe Crede (.429/.448/.730!) were crazy-good in limited action.

Worst: Boston, easily and surprisingly. Trot Nixon (.278/.388/.400) got on base while accruing about 45% of the plate appearances. Everyone else – Varitek, Lowell, Youkilis, Pena, Hinske, Kapler – was staggeringly awful, combining to hit .195/.266/.324.

Posted by Lucas at 02:10 PM

November 01, 2006

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup: #4 Hitters

Check here for stat descriptions.

Texas #4 Hitters:

Player
% of Team PA
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
Net SB
M Teixeira
35%
.966
119
.396
107
.570
112
37
15
40
37
44
2
P Nevin
25%
.737
69
.326
88
.411
81
24
7
27
21
34
0
H Blalock
20%
.658
53
.317
86
.341
67
19
2
17
15
11
1
C Lee
18%
.929
111
.382
104
.547
107
18
6
20
12
14
4
The Rest
1%
.750
75
.375
102
.375
74
2
0
0
0
1
0
TEAM
-
.837
91
.360
98
.477
94
100
30
104
85
104
7
AL Average*
-
.879
-
.369
-
.510
-
100
32
117
78
124
0
Team Rank in AL
-
-
10
-
9
-
12
7
8
12
6
4
1

As I wrote back in May, Phil Nevin didn’t earn his cleanup at-bats so much as back into them: Texas wanted some return on its $10 million investment, he hit just well enough in Spring Training to get a chance to play regularly, and, if not him, it’s Blalock or Mench in the #4 spot. Five games after I noted that Texas’s OPS+ at cleanup had actually deteriorated from 2005’s league-worst performance, the Rangers replaced Nevin with Blalock.

Blalock was worse. On June 22nd, he and Nevin had combined to hit .232/.319/.380, good for a lineup-adjusted OPS+ of 62. Sixty-Two! Texas cleanup hitters were on pace for 20 homers and 97 RBI. That may not seem so terrible, but both figures would have ranked dead last in the AL had they held up.

Buck Showalter then moved Michael Young to third and Mark Teixeira to fourth, and Teixeira and Carlos Lee occupied the cleanup spot for the rest of the season. Both hit very well, combining for a .391 OBP, 21 homers and 60 RBI. Lee won’t play in Arlington next year but did his job with the bat and would make an ideal DH.

On the whole, Texas cleanup batters ranked between Baltimore and Tampa Bay in OPS+, not company they would willingly keep.

American League #4 Hitters:

TEAM
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
Boston
.984
127
.416
113
.567
114
105
39
123
Cleveland
.956
125
.411
113
.545
112
112
34
131
Chicago Sox
.971
120
.398
108
.573
112
117
40
130
LA Angels
.902
110
.373
102
.528
108
89
30
123
NY Yankees
.890
107
.389
107
.501
100
121
35
124
Oakland
.878
105
.372
102
.506
102
98
41
136
Toronto
.896
103
.368
100
.528
102
114
41
112
Seattle
.841
97
.344
95
.497
103
99
34
122
Baltimore
.832
93
.364
99
.468
94
79
22
98
Texas
.837
91
.360
98
.477
94
100
30
104
Tampa Bay
.824
90
.344
94
.480
96
88
29
100
Detroit
.805
87
.341
93
.464
95
85
26
113
Minnesota
.764
81
.337
94
.428
87
101
20
107
Kansas City
.755
71
.319
85
.436
86
94
24
113

Best #4 Hitting: Let Manny be Manny. Even with fourteen of his teammates combining to hit a lackluster .267/.337/.412 in 36 games, Boston’s cleanup hitters led the field. Cleveland (Hafner, Martinez, and some Garko) and Chicago (mostly Konerko, a little Thome and Dye) also excelled.

Worst: Royals in a landslide. Emil Brown, Mike Sweeney and Mark Teahen combined for just over one-half of Kansas City’s cleanup appearances and hit roughly equivalent to Texas (.283/.344/.495). The rest (Reggie Sanders, Matt Stairs, assorted flavors) hit .218/.290/.369. Keep in mind that Kaufmann Stadium played very generously to hitters this season.

Posted by Lucas at 06:11 PM

Prelude To Upcoming Reviews

For the second time in three years, Texas succeeded more in preventing runs than scoring them. This isn’t my opinion or statistical trickery. It is fact.

Not coincidentally, Texas had the second-worst collection of 4-5-6 hitters in the American League in 2006:

Rank
Team
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
12
Kansas City
.775
91
.341
95
.457
95
13
Texas
.737
90
.341
97
.447
93
14
Tampa Bay
.740
89
.321
92
.460
97

In recent years, the popular opinion of the Rangers as an offensive force has become embalmed, mummified, petrified and encased in amber. Just as some catchers ironically earn solid defensive reputations because they can’t hit, Ranger hitters are behemoths because of a lousy rotation.

It simply isn’t true. The Rangers need a bat just as badly as a #2 starter.

Posted by Lucas at 12:56 AM

October 31, 2006

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup: #3 Hitters

Check here for stat descriptions.

Texas #3 Hitters:

Player
% of Team PA
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
Net SB
M Teixeira
64%
.844
101
.358
100
.486
101
62
18
70
52
84
0
C Lee
17%
.861
104
.357
100
.504
105
24
3
15
8
12
3
M Young
17%
.725
73
.310
87
.415
86
13
3
18
9
22
1
The Rest
1%
1.500
247
.500
139
1.000
207
1
1
2
0
1
0
TEAM
-
.832
98
.351
98
.481
100
100
25
105
69
119
4
AL Average*
-
.840
-
.358
-
.482
-
101
27
103
72
118
6
Team Rank in AL
-
-
7
-
7
-
7
6
6
5
8
6
9

Through June 22nd, Mark Teixeira never left the third spot in the order. After that day’s game, he had six homers and a .425 slugging percentage. Buck Showalter dropped him to fourth, where he soon returned to his expected brilliance. He switched back to third in late August with no ill effects.

As I mentioned in a June 10th column, Teixeira inexplicably flailed against pitchers he faced for the first time in a game. That trend manifested itself even more strongly in the first inning. At the All-Star break, Teixeira batted .243/.317/.284 in the first inning, including no homers and exactly three runs batted in in 82 plate appearances. He did improve in the second half (an odd line of .250/.451/.444: nine hits and twelve walks) but still was nothing special. For the season, he hit .245/.368/.336 in the first and .290/.372/.552 in subsequent innings. He showed more patience in the first (0.35 more pitches per appearance and a 50% higher walk rate) but no power (a David Ecksteinian .091 ISO, two homers in 133 appearances).

Should Showalter have batted him seventh, or started Nevin or Stairs at first and substituted Teixeira in the second inning? Probably overkill. Teixeira had never exhibited this problem in previous years and most likely will return to normal in 2007. That said, it’s an issue worth watching.

Carlos Lee quietly performed to expectations with his bat but probably played his way out of a long-term contract with his passive defense and occasionally cavalier attitude. The Rangers gained no ground on Oakland or even themselves after his acquisition (51-52 pre-trade, 29-30 post).

Relative to his time in the #2 hole, Michael Young struggled while batting third during late June and most of July. It’s only coincidence; he’d often hit third in the past with no loss of performance.

American League #3 Hitters:

TEAM
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
Boston
1.010
142
.404
113
.607
129
124
55
142
Chicago Sox
.976
131
.403
112
.573
119
136
44
123
Minnesota
.914
126
.423
121
.491
106
100
13
101
NY Yankees
.884
115
.393
111
.491
104
115
29
123
Toronto
.882
108
.355
100
.527
108
97
32
109
Cleveland
.820
102
.359
102
.461
100
108
29
104
Texas
.832
98
.351
98
.481
100
100
25
105
Baltimore
.781
89
.344
96
.437
93
103
22
93
Tampa Bay
.777
87
.332
93
.445
94
86
25
99
Kansas City
.779
86
.355
97
.425
89
91
15
91
LA Angels
.758
84
.319
90
.439
95
85
24
89
Seattle
.750
84
.319
90
.431
94
88
21
92
Oakland
.730
79
.331
94
.398
85
86
20
82
Detroit
.715
74
.304
85
.411
89
92
19
86

Best #3 hitting: David Ortiz. No commentary needed.

Worst #3 hitting: NLCS foes Detroit and Oakland anchor the list, proving that titles are won with productive outs, not power. Anyway, Ivan Rodriguez drew over half of his team’s #3 at-bats and showed he no longer belongs in the top half of the order even when batting .300. He, Dmitri Young, Marcus Thames, Craig Monroe and Sean Casey combined for a paltry 19 homers and 31 walks. The rest of the league averaged 27 homers and 76 walks. Oakland’s Milton Bradley handled the spot well but his teammates (mostly Chavez, Kotsay, Crosby[?]) hit .233 and slugged .346.

Posted by Lucas at 09:29 AM

October 27, 2006

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup: #2 Hitters

Check here for stat descriptions. Forgot to mention that "Net SB" equals SB - 2 x CS.

Texas #2 Hitters:

Player
% of Team PA
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
Net SB
M Young
82%
.833
114
.365
105
.468
109
80
11
85
39
74
0
M DeRosa
9%
.753
94
.343
99
.410
95
7
1
4
5
10
0
I Kinsler
7%
.536
41
.291
84
.245
57
5
0
1
6
11
1
The Rest
2%
.543
43
.293
85
.250
58
2
0
0
1
4
0
TEAM
-
.798
105
.356
103
.442
103
94
12
90
51
99
1
AL Average*
-
.777
-
.346
-
.431
-
103
15
83
56
103
3
Team Rank in AL
-
-
6
-
5
-
6
12
10
4
9
7
9

Michael Young lost 29 points of OBP and 54 of slugging in 2006 but still ranked among the best #2 hitters in the AL. Reviewing his last four years, 2005’s .331/.385/.513 may represent his peak, and Texas fans will have to tolerate something like .310/.355/.470 for the next couple of years. Should Young’s 2006 be indicative of his future, he doesn’t quite pan out relative to other #3 hitters. Here’s a fun table of how Young’s overall line (not just batting 2nd) of .314/.356/.459 measures up if he’d batted the entire season in a particular spot in the order:

Pos
L-OPS+
L-obp+
L-slg+
1
108
101
107
2
109
103
106
3
95
99
95
4
87
97
90
5
93
99
94
6
112
109
103
7
115
110
105
8
126
111
115
9
139
117
122

The table doesn’t indicate the best spot in the lineup for Young (“A 139 L-OPS+ from the ninth spot? Let’s bat Young there!”) but it could suggest where he tops out. The table also doesn’t consider other personnel. If the Rangers don’t acquire a big bat to replace Carlos Lee, batting Young third and Teixeira fourth might be optimal (perhaps with Ian Kinsler occupying one of the top two spots).

Mark DeRosa filled the #2 slot adequately. Kinsler and a few others didn’t offer much.

American League #2 Hitters:

TEAM
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
Toronto
.853
119
.372
108
.482
111
NY Yankees
.826
116
.381
111
.445
105
Seattle
.800
112
.329
96
.471
115
Texas
.798
105
.356
103
.442
103
Tampa Bay
.793
106
.330
96
.464
110
LA Angels
.783
107
.357
104
.426
103
Chicago Sox
.760
96
.349
101
.411
95
Kansas City
.758
94
.342
97
.416
97
Oakland
.756
99
.340
100
.416
100
Baltimore
.731
91
.331
96
.400
95
Detroit
.731
92
.326
95
.405
98
Minnesota
.726
94
.349
103
.377
91
Cleveland
.721
91
.326
96
.395
96
Boston
.700
84
.334
97
.366
87

Best #2 hitting: Toronto, with former Ranger Frank Catalanatto (.302/.377/.442 in 387 ABs) and Alex Rios (.368/.399/.674 in 144 ABs).

Worst #2 hitting: Red Sox #2 hitters scored an AL-worst 89 runs despite Ortiz and Ramirez batting behind them. Mark Loretta had minimal power but did reach base at a league-average rate (.291/.346/.369). His teammates hit .198/.232/.340 in 91 at-bats.

Posted by Lucas at 07:42 PM

October 24, 2006

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup: #1 Hitters

Time to begin the Second Annual Review Of Ranger Hitters In Terms Of Lineup And Defensive Positions. As with last year, I’ll start with the #1 hitters.

First, a brief refresher on the stats. You know OPS and OPS+. If not, OPS is the sum of a player’s on-base percentage and slugging percentage, and OPS+ converts that number to an index based on the league average and player’s home park. 100 is always average, higher is better. I also like to display OBP+ and SLG+, which are calculated just like OPS+. OBP+ tends to vary less than SLG+.

For Texas’s #1 hitters, the meaningful comparison is not how they performed relative to the league as a whole but rather the AL’s other #1 hitters. The AL batted .275/.337/.439 in 2006, while #1 hitters posted a line of .284/.350/.422. Also, The Ballpark favored hitters with a factor of 1.005 for on-base percentage and 1.020 for slugging. Thus, players hitting first for Texas need an on-base percentage of .351 and a slugging percentage of .431 to be of average quality. Regarding the “AL average” row in the table below, the rate stats are park-adjusted while the counting stats are simple averages.

Texas #1 Hitters:

Player
% of Team PA
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
Net SB
G Matthews
89%
.868
121
.372
106
.496
115
102
19
79
58
98
-4
B Wilkerson
5%
.565
41
.190
54
.375
87
6
2
5
1
16
1
8 others
6%
.829
110
.341
97
.488
113
7
2
6
3
7
0
TEAM
-
.849
116
.361
103
.489
114
115
23
90
62
121
-3
AL Average
-
.782
-
.351
-
.431
-
109
15
70
65
113
9
Team Rank in AL
-
-
4
-
5
-
3
4
4
2
7
10
13

With free agency looming, Gary Matthews guaranteed over $20 million in future dollars on top of the $2.8 million paid to him by Texas this season. That’s a nice six months. Matthews hit .313 with ample patience and plenty of power batting first for Texas.

To what extent Texas tries to keep him is one of the toughest offseason decisions I can recall. As a center fielder and leadoff hitter, Matthews provided solutions for two problems that have plagued the franchise since I walked to Butler Elementary in Garanimals. Texas has a chance to extend that solution for another three years or so. How nice would that be?

Alas, the downside:

  • Matthews is 32 and more likely to decline than to improve or stand ground.
  • Most of his amazing 2006 rests on an upsurge in batting average. Matthews hit .313 in ‘06 but only .250 in his previous 2,980 at-bats and never above .275 in any one season. Whereas power and patience are relatively stable from year to year, batting average is quite fickle. His three-year aggregate in Texas -- .285/.349/.468 – seems a more reasonable basis for the future than his ’06 performance.
  • How good is his defense, really? Despite his stellar reputation built on several astonishing catches, Win Shares places him only in the middle of the pack among center fielders, and Baseball Prospectus takes an even dimmer view. I’m of the belief that he’s no worse than average defensively, but that’s just a belief. Maybe the highlight-reel catches are masking overall mediocrity. Still, among the potential problems with signing him to a long-term deal, defense ranks as the least worrisome.

Despite those caveats, it’s not unreasonable to expect Matthews to provide average leadoff-hitting and center-field defense during the next three years. Does that equal $8 million per season? When analyzed in a vacuum, no. Considering the thin free-agent market and Texas’s in-house alternatives… maybe yes. The amount of money Matthews eventually receives will almost certainly exceed his worth, but perhaps by a margin small enough as to be shrug-worthy.

Incidentally, in terms of WARP, Gary Matthews did not have the best season by a center fielder in Ranger history. That honor goes to Juan Gonzalez in 1992.

Brad Wilkerson began 2006 as leadoff hitter. His nightmarish tenure contained some of the most inept at-bats I’ve ever seen outside of my softball league. I believe that in 41 plate appearances he struck out 79 times. Wilkerson did right himself once deposited in the #6 or #7 slots until a lingering shoulder problem prematurely ended his season. He may yet find himself atop the Ranger order in 2007 pending full health and agreeable contract negotiations.

American League #1 Hitters:

TEAM
OPS
L-OPS+
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
Cleveland
.916
140
.378
109
.538
130
137
29
78
NY Yankees
.848
119
.365
105
.483
114
132
25
91
Toronto
.852
117
.374
107
.478
110
118
21
87
Texas
.849
116
.361
103
.489
114
115
23
90
Tampa Bay
.816
110
.341
98
.475
112
114
25
69
Seattle
.782
108
.369
107
.413
101
112
9
49
Detroit
.765
100
.336
96
.429
104
99
20
73
Kansas City
.775
97
.351
98
.423
99
106
11
69
Boston
.742
93
.348
99
.394
93
108
16
71
Baltimore
.722
88
.335
96
.387
92
95
11
66
Minnesota
.694
84
.336
98
.358
86
94
8
55
Oakland
.685
81
.346
100
.339
81
99
3
54
Chicago Sox
.699
79
.332
94
.368
85
100
4
58
LA Angels
.661
74
.322
92
.338
82
98
5
67

Best #1 hitting: Cleveland by far and almost exclusively in the form of Grady Sizemore.
Worst: Los Angeles (Chone Figgins) and Chicago (mostly Scott Podsednik).

Posted by Lucas at 12:05 PM

October 04, 2006

Stats Ahoy

Baseball Reference already has 2006 stats posted. That was fast. Rangers here.

I'd like to note that, for the second time in three years, Texas had a better OPS+ than ERA+.

UPDATE: Travis Hafner's best comp among hitters through their Age 29 season? Brian Giles.

Posted by Lucas at 07:47 PM

September 01, 2006

Texas Rangers Organizational Tree

Idea ripped off from here, which was ripped off from here.

ACQUIRED IN TRADE

JOAQUIN ARIAS

---- Alex Rodriguez (Major League free agent, signed 2001)
NELSON CRUZ
---- Francisco Cordero
-------- Juan Gonzalez (undrafted free agent, signed 1986)
-------- Danny Patterson (47th round, 1989)
-------- Gregg Zaun (traded for no one, 1998)
---- Kevin Mench (4th round, 1999)
---- Laynce Nix (4th round, 2000)
ADAM EATON
---- Adrian Gonzalez
-------- Ugueth Urbina (Major League free agent, signed 2003)
---- Terrmel Sledge
-------- Alfonso Soriano
------------ Alex Rodriguez (Major League free agent, signed 2001)
---- Chris Young
-------- Einar Diaz
------------ Travis Hafner (31st round, 1996)
------------ Aaron Myette
---------------- Royce Clayton
-------------------- Mark Little (8th round, 1994)
-------------------- Darren Oliver (3rd round, 1988)
-------------------- Fernando Tatis(undrafted free agent, signed 1992)
-------- Justin Echols (11th, 1999)
FRANKIE FRANCISCO
---- Carl Everett
-------- Darren Oliver (3rd round, 1988)
ARMANDO GALARAGGA
---- Alfonso Soriano
-------- Alex Rodriguez (Major League free agent, signed 2001)
FREDDY GUZMAN
---- John Hudgins (3rd round, 2003)
---- Vince Sinisi (2nd round, 2003)
DANIEL HAIGWOOD

---- Fabio Castro
-------- Esteban German [indirectly] (minor-league free agent, signed 2005)
JERRY HAIRSTON
---- Phil Nevin
-------- Chan Ho Park (Major League free agent, signed 2002)
JOHN KORONKA

---- Freddie Bynum
-------- Juan Dominguez (undrafted free agent, signed 1999)
GERALD LAIRD
---- Carlos Pena (1st round, 1998)
---- Mike Venafro (29th round, 1995)
CARLOS LEE
---- Francisco Cordero
-------- Juan Gonzalez (undrafted free agent, signed 1986)
-------- Danny Patterson (47th round, 1989)
-------- Gregg Zaun (traded for no one, 1998)
---- Kevin Mench (4th round, 1999)
---- Laynce Nix (4th round, 2000)
AKINORI OTSUKA

---- Adrian Gonzalez
-------- Ugueth Urbina (Major League free agent, signed 2003)
---- Terrmel Sledge
-------- Alfonso Soriano
------------ Alex Rodriguez (Major League free agent, signed 2001)
---- Chris Young
-------- Einar Diaz
------------ Travis Hafner (31st round, 1996)
------------ Aaron Myette
---------------- Royce Clayton
-------------------- Mark Little (8th round, 1994)
-------------------- Darren Oliver (3rd round, 1988)
-------------------- Fernando Tatis(undrafted free agent, signed 1992)
-------- Justin Echols (11th, 1999)
VICENTE PADILLA
---- Ricardo Rodriguez
-------- Ryan Ludwick
------------ Carlos Pena (1st round, 1998)
------------ Mike Venafro (29th round, 1995)
JOHN RHEINECKER
---- Juan Dominguez (undrafted free agent, signed 1999)
JOSH RUPE
---- Carl Everett
-------- Darren Oliver (3rd round, 1988)
MATT STAIRS
---- Joselo Diaz (minor-league free agent, signed 2006)
ROBINSON TEJEDA

---- David Dellucci (minor-league free agent, signed 2004)
KIP WELLS
---- Jesse Chavez (42nd round, 2002)
BRAD WILKERSON
---- Alfonso Soriano
-------- Alex Rodriguez (Major League free agent, signed 2001)
MICHAEL YOUNG

---- Esteban Loaiza
-------- Warren Morris (5th round,1996)
-------- Todd Van Poppel (minor league free agent, signed 1997)

RANGER LIFERS

OMAR BELTRE (undrafted free agent, signed 2000)
JOAQUIN BENOIT (undrafted free agent, signed 1996)
HANK BLALOCK (3rd round, 1999)
JASON BOTTS (46th round, 1999)
SCOTT FELDMAN (30th round, 2003)
IAN KINSLER (17th round, 2003)
WES LITTLETON (4th round, 2003)
KAMERON LOE (20th round, 2001)
NICK MASSET (8th round, 2000)
DREW MEYER (1st round, 2002)
MARK TEIXEIRA (1st round, 2001)
EDINSON VOLQUEZ (undrafted free agent, signed 2001)
C.J. WILSON (5th round, 2001)

FREE AGENTS

RICK BAUER (minor-league free agent, signed 2006)
ROD BARAJAS (minor-league free agent, signed 2004)
MARK DEROSA (minor-league free agent, signed 2005)
RON MAHAY (minor-league free agent, signed 2003)
KEVIN MILLWOOD (Major League free agent, signed 2006)
GARY MATTHEWS (minor-league free agent, signed 2004)
ERIC YOUNG (minor-league free agent, signed 2006)

Posted by Lucas at 01:08 AM

August 27, 2006

Do I Have To Come Right Out And Say It?

As the Rangers slide further into oblivion, you’ll read plenty about how pitching has doomed them yet again. Whenever the Rangers “underachieve,” to use the owner’s dry description, pitching is automatically blamed. It’s the equivalent of a reflex arc, a synaptic process that doesn’t involve the brain. You touch a hot stove, and you instantaneously pull away. You watch the Rangers lose again, and you (the writer, the fan, the casual observer) instantaneously yell “more pitching!”

To be sure, the Ranger pitching staff is a source of perpetual frustration. The DMN’s Evan Grant rightly focused on would-be savior Adam Eaton’s wearying performance in Saturday night’s 5-3 loss to Oakland and didn’t mention the hitting at all.

However, I think the offense should bear as much or even more blame than the pitching for the Rangers’ present status. It’s decidedly average, certainly not of a quality to carry a team to a division title.

Before the year started, I think most Ranger fans would have expressed something close to the following: “If the pitching can just be okay and the offense does its thing, Texas might win the division.” And in fact, the pitching has been okay. Texas has allowed 4.93 runs per game this season, slightly better than the park-adjusted league average of 5.07.

Unfortunately, the offense has also just been okay. Compared to a park-adjusted league average of 5.17 runs scored per game, the Rangers have scored exactly 5.17. They rank eighth in the American League in OBP+, eighth in SLG+, ninth in Equivalent Average, eighth in Marginal Lineup Value, and eighth in Value Over Replacement Player. Ho hum.

Relative to each other, the offense and pitching are nearly equal in quality. Relative to expectations, I suggest that the offense has been the greater disappointment.

With an average pitching staff, the Rangers needed an offensive effort akin to 1998, when surprising performances from Mike Simms, Roberto Kelly, Luis Alicea and others augmented the expected awesomeness of Pudge, Will Clark and Juan Gonzalez. This season, Texas got its surprises in the form of Gary Matthews, Mark DeRosa, and Ian Kinsler, but, sad to say, the core has underwhelmed. Both Mark Teixeira (despite his recent upsurge) and Michael Young are well off last year’s pace, and Hank Blalock has continued to produce his middling results. As for the others, the departed Kevin Mench appears to have topped out as an average-at-best corner outfielder. Brad Wilkerson played hurt. Phil Nevin and Rod Barajas are replacement-level hitters.

During the last ten games, the Rangers have scored only 33 runs, ten of which were unearned thanks to sloppy defense by their opponents. They’ve batted a pitiful .212/.259/.319. In its last 363 plate appearances, Texas has an OPS of .578. No Major League player with that many appearances has that low of an OPS. Since last Thursday, the entire Ranger offense has batted similarly to Vinny Castilla (.232/.260/.319) and a little worse than Neifi Perez (.247/.261/.328).

Meanwhile, the pitching has surrendered a tolerable 45 runs. Last Sunday’s thrilling comeback against Detroit notwithstanding, Texas has won four of those ten games because of its pitching, not in spite of it. If Jon Daniels upgrades the pitching this offseason, he’s only solved half the problem.

Say it with me now: “More hitting!”

AL Teams Ranked by Runs Scored, Indexed to Park

Rank
Team
Runs Scored
RS+
1
NY YANKEES
4.92
115
2
CLEVELAND
4.90
112
3
CHICAGO SOX
4.99
112
4
BOSTON
5.11
106
5
LA ANGELS
4.75
103
6
DETROIT
4.89
102
7
MINNESOTA
5.00
101
8
TEXAS
5.17
100
9
BALTIMORE
4.87
100
10
TORONTO
5.12
100
11
SEATTLE
4.90
93
12
OAKLAND
5.00
93
13
KANSAS CITY
5.20
88
14
TAMPA BAY
5.08
84

AL Teams Ranked by Runs Allowed, Indexed to Park

Rank
Team
Runs Allowed
RA+
1
DETROIT
3.99
119
2
OAKLAND
4.38
111
3
MINNESOTA
4.41
111
4
TORONTO
4.88
102
5
TEXAS
4.93
102
6
CHICAGO SOX
4.83
101
7
NY YANKEES
4.77
100
8
SEATTLE
4.77
100
9
LA ANGELS
4.68
99
10
BOSTON
5.14
97
11
CLEVELAND
4.99
96
12
TAMPA BAY
5.25
94
13
BALTIMORE
5.50
87
14
KANSAS CITY
5.98
85

Posted by Lucas at 04:58 PM

August 26, 2006

Done

AL West on May 30:

TEX  32-26
OAK  28-31  -4.5
LAA  27-32  -5.5
SEA  28-33  -5.5

AL West since May 30:

OAK  45-24
LAA  40-29  -5.0
TEX  34-38  -12.5
SEA  31-36  -13.0

Here's the 2005 version.

Posted by Lucas at 12:29 AM

August 25, 2006

A Preferable Alternate Reality, Courtesy of ESPN

Posted by Lucas at 12:32 PM

August 15, 2006

Oklahoma Redhawks Scouting Report

I share a Round Rock Express season ticket package with eight others, giving each of us eight games. I had tickets to Friday’s contest against Oklahoma going into the season, and thanks to Round Rock’s incredibly liberal exchange policy, I easily swapped for two more of the four-game series. Unfortunately, John Danks started the one game I didn’t see, so if you’re interested in my opinion of him, well, I’ve got nothing.

I’m not a scout and don’t pretend to carry that skill set. However, last October I briefly conversed with an Austin-based Ranger scout who was also my wife’s history teacher in high school. That discussion imparts a light sheen of reliability on my musings, which are as follows:

Robinson Tejeda had the best stuff of anyone I saw this weekend. Despite his dire results in Arlington this season, Texas clearly had good reason to trade for him. Tejeda’s fastball usually ran between 91-93 and hit 95 on occasion. He struck out ten in five innings. And yet, I was a little underwhelmed. He pitched several hitters “backwards,? using his curve to set up the fastball, but on the whole threw few breaking pitches. He often resembled a high-school pitcher with a one-pitch repertoire, simply daring batters to make contact. That approach suffices against Round Rock’s random assortment of 4A-types but not the Red Sox. Also, the two walks allowed belie his control problems; despite allowing only five baserunners, he threw 98 pitches in five innings. Having said all that, I sincerely hope Texas gives him time to improve. With some refinement, he could dominate Major League hitters.

Fresh off his demotion to AAA, John Koronka stuck out twelve in seven innings. He relied on his changeup much more heavily than usual and to great effect. Koronka allowed two runs, both courtesy of an Eric Bruntlett homer. Bruntlett fouled off several pitches before swatting a pretty good, low-in-the-zone fastball about two inches over the left-center fence.

R.A. Dickey mixed in plenty of fastballs with a knuckleball that remains a work in progress. The knuckler didn’t always flutter, but when it did the Express batters looked foolish. I’d guess that he needs greater variance in speed between the two: his knuckler usually reached 78-79 on the gun while his fastball hit 85-86. As always, Dickey pitched with determination and fielded his position well. Round Rock generously surrendered four outs on the bases during his seven innings.

Kameron Loe
surrendered two runs in each of two one-inning stints. On Friday, he allowed three bad-luck singles, all seeing-eye grounders splitting first and second. One run scored on his own wild pickoff move, the other on a sac-fly off of a high fastball that J.R. House narrowly missed hitting to Texarkana. On Sunday, the Express hammered his fastball. Late in the inning Loe relied more on an effective curve. He also threw two wild pitches, though one should have be covered by catcher Jamie Burke. Neither performance will hasten his return to Arlington.

On Friday, shortstop Joaquin Arias made three terrific plays to his right that had the crowd gasping. Arias batted .277 with no extra-base hits or walks during the series. This season, Arias (.271/.302/.372) has done an uncomfortably accurate impersonation of Ramon Nivar’s 2004 (.264/.290/.374). Fortunately, he’s almost four years younger and has time to grow. I mean physically grow: right now he looks like a kid wearing his dad’s jersey.

Drew Meyer started only one game during the series. Is he hurt? If not, the 10th-overall pick of the 2002 draft has apparently fallen behind undrafted 25-year-old Adam Morrissey on the depth chart. In terms of defense, Meyer plays on a different field than his AAA peers. In terms of hitting… not so much. Meyer himself turns 25 at the end of the month.

Posted by Lucas at 07:43 PM

August 12, 2006

Some Pitching Stats

Opponents' batting line for ERA Qualifiers

NAME
BA
OBP
SLG
OPS
OBP+
SLG+
OPS+
Vicente Padilla .252 .324 .387 .710 97 89 86
Kevin Millwood .291 .337 .435 .772 101 100 101
John Koronka .287 .348 .456 .803 105 104 109

Non-Qualifiers with over 100 batters faced

NAME
BA
OBP
SLG
OPS
OBP+
SLG+
OPS+
Aki Otsuka .227 .261 .297 .558 78 68 46
Joaquin Benoit .216 .315 .319 .634 95 73 68
Rick Bauer .269 .340 .356 .696 102 81 84
C.J. Wilson .215 .328 .374 .702 98 86 84
Ron Mahay .255 .333 .382 .715 100 87 87
Francisco Cordero .265 .325 .395 .720 98 90 88
Scott Feldman .270 .333 .405 .738 100 93 93
John Wasdin .266 .355 .468 .822 107 107 114
Kameron Loe .317 .359 .486 .845 108 111 119
John Rheinecker .362 .399 .496 .895 120 114 133

Non-Qualifiers with under 100 batters faced

NAME
BA
OBP
SLG
OPS
OBP+
SLG+
OPS+
Wes Littleton .155 .269 .207 .476 81 47 28
Fabio Castro .200 .351 .233 .585 105 53 59
Bryan Corey .231 .311 .338 .649 93 77 71
Adam Eaton .196 .328 .393 .721 98 90 88
Edinson Volquez .250 .318 .450 .768 95 103 98
A. Alfonseca .348 .405 .545 .951 122 125 146
Brian Shouse .316 .350 .632 .982 105 145 150
Robinson Tejeda .316 .440 .544 .984 132 124 157
Josh Rupe .385 .415 .590 1.004 125 135 160
Kip Wells .405 .450 .568 1.018 135 130 165

A league-average Ranger pitcher has an opponents’ OBP of .333 and a slugging percentage of .437. The American League line is .333/.426.

Posted by Lucas at 01:53 PM

Some Hitting Stats

Qualifiers

NAME
BA
OBP
SLG
OPS
OBP+
SLG+
OPS+
Mark DeRosa .332 .386 .530 .916 113 118 132
Mark Teixeira .285 .383 .488 .871 112 109 121
Gary Matthews .317 .368 .499 .867 108 111 119
Michael Young .304 .347 .452 .799 102 101 103
Hank Blalock .290 .347 .432 .779 102 96 98
Brad Wilkerson .222 .306 .422 .728 90 94 84

Non-Qualifiers

NAME
BA
OBP
SLG
OPS
OBP+
SLG+
OPS+
Gerald Laird .333 .364 .549 .912 107 123 129
Carlos Lee .339 .382 .484 .866 112 108 120
Ian Kinsler .303 .366 .464 .830 107 104 111
Matt Stairs .296 .367 .444 .811 108 99 107
Kevin Mench .284 .338 .459 .797 99 102 102
Phil Nevin .216 .307 .415 .721 90 93 83
Rod Barajas .255 .292 .418 .710 86 93 79
Jason Botts .220 .317 .360 .677 93 80 73
D'Angelo Jimenez .211 .328 .316 .644 96 71 67
Jerry Hairston .215 .301 .292 .594 88 65 53
Nelson Cruz .167 .211 .333 .544 62 74 36
Adrian Brown .194 .231 .222 .453 68 50 17
Drew Meyer .214 .214 .214 .429 63 48 11
Laynce Nix .094 .118 .125 .243 35 28 -37
Pitchers .000 .067 .000 .067 20 0 -80

Based on a two-year park factor, a league-average Ranger hitter has an OBP of .341 and a slugging percentage of .448. The American League line is .340/.438.

Posted by Lucas at 01:33 PM

August 05, 2006

Who Is Hank Blalock?

Should we abandon the idea of Hank Blalock becoming a great player?

I keep reminding myself that Blalock doesn’t turn 26 until November. We can still use words like “upside” and “potential” around him without fear of reprisal. Sadly, however, the cold facts demonstrate that Blalock has declined steadily since his stellar 2003, to the point of mediocrity and beyond.

Everyone knows his second-half troubles. The DMN’s Gerry Fraley mentioned Blalock’s improved diet and workout regimen in a column last month, but to date they haven’t helped. His 2006 post-All Star break line is .266/.298/.316.

Unfortunately, Blalock’s problems have extended to the season’s early months. His pre-break numbers have declined from 2004’s stellar OPS of .941 to 2005’s adequate .825 to 2006’s vanilla .795. Ignoring his abortive 2002, cutting his career in halves produces the following:

Span
Plate Apps.
AVG
OBP
SLG
OPS
2B+3B
HR
BB
3/30/03 to 9/15/04 1252
.287
.352
.514
.866
73
59
111
9/16/04 to present 1238
.272
.329
.427
.755
58
39
96
Difference
-
(.015)
(.023)
(.087)
(.111)
-21%
-33%
-13%

Comparing the first half of his career to his second, Blalock’s batting average has fallen by fifteen points, his rate of doubles and triples by 21%, his homer rate by 33%, and his walk rate by 13%.

Worst of all: During the last calendar year, Hank Blalock has batted .265/.318/.391.

Here’s another exercise that illustrates who he was and who he’s become. I compared his batting line (AVG/OBP/SLG) to all MLB regulars during 2003-2006. Summing the squares of the differences between his and his peers’ average, OBP and slugging percentage reveals his closest comparisons. In an effort to keep things simple, I haven’t adjusted for park factors. As a third baseman, Blalock’s batting peers should mostly players on the corners (first and third base, left and right field, plus designated hitter) with fewer up-the-middle types (catcher, second, short, center field). From 2003 to the present, that is the case:

Hank Blalock's Closest Batting Comparisons, 2003-Present

Rank
Player
AVG
OBP
SLG
Corner
Middle
-
Hank Blalock
.279
.340
.471
3B
1
Mike Lowell
.273
.339
.471
3B
2
Aaron Rowand
.282
.337
.463
CF
3
Chad Tracy
.289
.345
.470
1B/3B
4
Ben Broussard
.270
.335
.475
1B/DH
5
Raul Ibanez
.288
.349
.465
COF
6
Mike Piazza
.272
.353
.470
C
7
Adrian Beltre
.274
.328
.477
3B
8
Mike Barrett
.282
.343
.486
C
9
Kevin Mench
.277
.336
.487
COF
10
Juan Rivera
.288
.337
.485
COF

Seven of the top ten comparisons are corner players, but none is a star. The best comparisons are probably Tracy and Rowand, who like Blalock have lived in hitter-friendly parks. Lowell spent much of the last four years in Florida.

Hank Blalock's Closest Batting Comparisons, 2004-Present

Rank
Player
AVG
OBP
SLG
Corner
Middle
-
Hank Blalock
.272
.337
.454
3B
1
Mike Lowell
.272
.335
.451
3B
2
Aubrey Huff
.277
.342
.456
3B/COF
3
Torii Hunter
.271
.338
.461
CF
4
Eric Byrnes
.267
.331
.452
CF
5
Ramon Hernandez
.276
.329
.460
C
6
Craig Biggio
.273
.331
.463
2B
7
Mike Cuddyer
.264
.340
.447
3B/COF
8
Jhonny Peralta
.275
.349
.458
SS
9
Aaron Rowand
.282
.339
.464
CF
10
Geoff Jenkins
.271
.344
.467
COF

From 2004 to present, only four of Blalock’s closest comparisons play the corners. Lowell makes another appearance along with several other players in decline like Aubrey Huff, Craig Biggio and Geoff Jenkins, all of whom are several years older than Blalock.

Hank Blalock's Closest Batting Comparisons, 2005-Present

Rank
Player
AVG
OBP
SLG
Corner
Middle
-
Hank Blalock
.271
.327
.427
3B
1
Orlando Hudson
.274
.327
.429
2B
2
Aaron Rowand
.267
.327
.422
CF
3
Aubrey Huff
.264
.329
.431
3B/COF
4
Damian Miller
.270
.336
.419
C
5
AJ Pierzynski
.284
.331
.429
C
6
Jose Castillo
.268
.315
.418
2B
7
Javy Lopez
.273
.319
.439
C
8
Jose Reyes
.280
.320
.417
SS
9
Ron Belliard
.285
.327
.435
2B
10
Ben Molina
.288
.328
.430
C

Since 2005, just one of Blalock’s ten most similar hitters plays on a corner. Blalock compares most favorably to Orlando Hudson, who supplies most of his value with his glove. During 2006 alone, Blalock’s best comparison is Kansas City’s Emil Brown.

I don’t mean to pile on. I just think that many Ranger fans, me included, have viewed him primarily in terms of his potential rather than what he’s actually done. We keep waiting for the “real” Hank Blalock of 2003 to return, but he continues to drift away. Every week provides more evidence that he can’t hit lefties, can’t hit on the road, and can’t hit after mid-July. His five-year, $15.25 million contract looked like a bargain in 2004. No longer. Texas owes him $10.7 million in 2007-2008.

If he can reverse this trend, starting tomorrow, Texas has a great chance of playing October baseball. If not, management has to consider a change, as it did last offseason.

Posted by Lucas at 09:06 PM

August 03, 2006

40-Man Roster and Organization Depth Chart Updated

The depth chart now includes the low-A Clinton LumberKings. Links are at upper right. Prevous 40-man rosters and draft lists are still old and stale. I hope to revise them this weekend.

Posted by Lucas at 01:38 PM

July 25, 2006

Blalock vs. Hairston

Who would you rather have batting in a meaningful situation: Hank Blalock or Jerry Hairston, Jr.?

It’s not a trick question. In the eighth inning of last night’s 6-2 loss to New York, Texas had runners on first and second with two out. On the mound was righty Kyle Farnsworth. The next spot in the batting order belonged to Hairston. On the bench sat Blalock, who has struggled against lefties and didn’t start against Randy Johnson. Would you pinch-hit for Hairston?

Versus Righties:
Hairston: .238/.304/.310 this season, .255/.335/.360 career.
Blalock: .306/.363/.455 this season, .296/.363/.507 career.

With Runners In Scoring Position, Two Out:

Hairston: .188/.278/.250 this season, .214/.307/.312 career.
Blalock: .404/.469/.456 this season, .302/.399/.470 career.

The Yankees did have lefties Mike Myers and Ron Villone in the bullpen. I can’t remember if either had warmed up, but for the sake of argument, assume both were ready to face Blalock if P.A. Man Chuck Morgan had announced his name to the capacity crowd. Blalock has a wretched line of .206/.277/.318 against lefties this season. Given that, perhaps you’d grit your teeth and reluctantly stick with Hairston. On the other hand…

Blalock versus Myers, career: 3-for-6 with two doubles
Blalock versus Villone, career: 5-for-16 with two doubles (but seven strikeouts)

Blalock has some success against these guys. Stats aside, this situation brings up a philosophical issue. Who do you want batting in this situation: one of your big guns, or a replacement-level player acquired in a salary dump? Blalock has disappointed, to be sure. Instead of becoming The Next George Brett, he may devolve into the next Joe Randa. But regardless of his career path, at this particular point in time he’s an average Major-League hitter, which is more than anyone can say about Hairston. Let the man hit.

Sometimes managers are accused of taking the path of least resistance. What’s odd in this case is that batting Blalock is the easy path. Who would argue? I promise you that Hairston’s mother was sitting on her couch, watching the game and saying “I can’t believe they’re letting my son hit. I mean, I love him more than life itself, but really.?

Texas now has six pinch-hit appearances in 91 games in AL parks. Only three have occurred in a meaningful situation.

1) On April 26, D’Angelo Jimenez pinch-hit for Drew Meyer and led off the bottom of the 10th with Texas down 6-4. He lined out to left.

2) On May 4, Drew Meyer pinch-hit for Brad Wilkerson in the bottom of the 5th with Texas ahead 8-0. If I remember correctly, Wilkerson left the game after hitting the outfield wall making a catch, so this really counts more as a substitution. Meyer did not reach base.

3) On May 10, Showalter removed Adrian Brown for Gary Matthews with Texas down 4-3 in the 8th, two out and the tying run on third. Matthews grounded out.

4) July 4: Righty-swinging Kevin Mench pinch-hit for lefty Brad Wilkerson against lefty closer B.J. Ryan in the ninth inning. Down 3-1 and with one out and runners on first and second, Mench flied out to right.

5) July 13: Freddy Guzman pinch-hit for Gary Matthews in the ninth inning with the Rangers ahead 12-1 over Baltimore. Guzman singled.

6) July 13: Same game as #5. Jerry Hairston pinch-hit for Michael Young in the ninth inning with Texas leading 12-1. Hairston flied out.

Posted by Lucas at 11:14 AM

July 22, 2006

DeRosa Revisited

About one month ago I mentioned Mark DeRosa's highly improbable .406 average on balls in play and conjured an adjusted batting line based on a more reasonable average of .327, still 32 points above his career average to date. How's he doing?

Mark DeRosa
Avg. on Balls In Play
AVG
OBP
SLG
OPS
DeRosa's actual numbers through June 22
.406
.341
.399
.541
.913
Predicted remainder of season of as June 23
.327
.279
.338
.430
.768
Actual games, June 23 to present
.321
.289
.330
.443
.778

Alas, my impressive prognositcation skills did not extend to my fantasy teams.

Posted by Lucas at 07:36 PM

July 14, 2006

Keeping The Ball In The Park

Stump you friends with this question: which team leads the American League in fewest home runs allowed?

Answer: The Texas Rangers with 82. Detroit ranks second with 84, New York third with 86.

That feat is impressive enough on its own, but it gains even more force when considering the extreme homer-friendliness of The Ballpark. Though it has played surprisingly even this season, The Ballpark remains a terrific place to go yard. Using a weighted-average of two years of data (I won’t bore you with the math), The Ballpark has permitted 2.51 homers per game to the Rangers and their opponents, while road parks have surrendered just 2.08.

Here’s the ranking of AL teams based on a park-adjusted index of home runs allowed. 100 is average, lower is better.

Team
Park Factor for HR
Homers Allowed
HR+
Rangers
1.11
82 73
Yankees
1.07
86 82
Tigers
0.91
85 92
Devil Rays
0.98
93 94
Indians
0.98
94 96
Blue Jays
1.15
114 98
White Sox
1.08
109 100
Angels
0.92
93 101
Twins
0.98
99 102
Athletics
0.90
96 105
Mariners
0.94
101 106
Orioles
1.10
124 109
Red Sox
0.89
109 123
Royals
0.94
125 133

Unfortunately, Texas ranks only eighth in the league in homers hit. As you’d expect, that mediocre effort looks much worse when considering where they play half their games (for hitters, a higher index is better):

Team
Park Factor
Homers Hit
HR+
Red Sox
0.89
115 127
Tigers
0.91
118 125
White Sox
1.08
133 120
Indians
0.98
118 118
Devil Rays
0.98
113 111
Blue Jays
1.15
121 102
Athletics
0.90
95 102
Yankees
1.07
103 96
Mariners
0.94
91 94
Angels
0.92
88 94
Rangers
1.11
101 88
Orioles
1.10
94 81
Twins
0.98
79 80
Royals
0.94
69 72

Posted by Lucas at 06:52 PM

July 11, 2006

Michael Young


Young's coolness quotient has achieved the level at which I'm no longer permitted to speak or write his name. So this is it.

Posted by Lucas at 11:33 PM

July 04, 2006

Benchwarming

Texas has three pinch-hit appearances in 74 games in AL parks:

1) On April 26, D’Angelo Jimenez pinch hit for Drew Meyer in the bottom of the 12th with Texas down 6-4.

2) On May 4, Drew Meyer pinch hit for Brad Wilkerson in the bottom of the 5th with Texas ahead 8-0. If I remember correctly, Wilkerson left the game after hitting the outfield wall making a catch, so this really counts more as a substitution.

3) On May 10, Showalter removed Adrian Brown for Gary Matthews with Texas down 4-3 in the 8th, two out and the tying run on third.

Posted by Lucas at 07:26 PM

June 23, 2006

Is Mark DeRosa For Real?

Had you told me in March that Mark DeRosa would be playing every day and batting fifth, I would have stuck a NAMBLA sticker on your car and drop-kicked your dog into the neighbor’s yard. I’m just that kind of guy.

Yet here it is, mid-June, and not only is DeRosa playing every day and batting fifth, he deserves to. With a line of .341/.399/.514, he trails only Gary Matthews (?!) in OPS among regular and semi-regular Ranger batters. He says he imitates Michael Young’s hitting style. Probably all of us could benefit from imitating Young.

Unfortunately for his long-term success, DeRosa has also been very lucky. A typical players bats just over .300 counting only balls hit into the field of play (that is, minus walks, strikeouts, and homers). Prior to 2006, DeRosa’s average in this respect was .295. This season, it’s .406. That can’t last.

I’m not arguing a DIPS-based theory that batters can’t influence their hit rates on balls in play. Unlike almost all pitchers, many batters appear to have (or lack) the ability to hit balls in play for a consistently high average. Ichiro!, Todd Helton and Bobby Abreu are examples. Overall batting average correlates moderately well to average on balls in play, though there are notable exceptions (Brad Wilkerson, Craig Wilson). Also, a high average on balls in play does not necessarily indicate a great hitter (Alex Sanchez, Willy Tavares).

Irrespective of the extent to which a batter can affect his average on balls in play, DeRosa’s .406 is not tenable. During 2003-2005, 476 batters attained the 501 plate appearances needed to qualify for the batting title. Here’s how they batted on balls in play:

Batters' Average on Balls in Play,
2003-2005
Best .401
Top 2% .363
Top 5% .352
Top 10% .342
Top 25% .327
Median .309
Worst .230

Ichiro! leads the pack with an average on balls in play of .401, achieved during 2004 when he batted .372 overall. Admirable though his improvement is, DeRosa’s no Ichiro. Even a 54-point drop in average on balls in play would place him among the top 5%.

Let’s say that DeRosa will bat .327 on balls in play for the rest of the season, equivalent to the top 25% among qualifying hitters. Also assume that his homer rate, walk rate, and rate of doubles per hit won’t change. How will he bat the rest of the season, assuming he plays in 80 of the team’s 89 remaining games at his current pace of 4.04 plate appearances per game?

Category
AVG
OBP
SLG
OPS
AB
H
2B
3B
HR
BB
SO
Predicted remainder of season .279 .338 .430 .768 292 82 29 0 5 26 54
Actual games to date
.341
.399
.514
.913
179
61
22
0
3
16
33
TOTAL .303 .360 .462 .822 471 143 51 0 8 42 87

Under these assumptions, DeRosa would bat .279/.338/.430, well below his current pace but still far better than his pre-2006 career line of .263/.319/.380. However, a .768 OPS makes him a poor #5 hitter and a no longer an automatic play over Kevin Mench or Brad Wilkerson. The possibility exists that DeRosa will be permitted a lengthy occupation of the five-spot (or higher) while sliding into his usual lukewarm batting performance.

Posted by Lucas at 05:47 PM

June 22, 2006

What's In A Name?

Does Rod Barajas deserve the nickname “Popup?? Per Baseball Prospectus, leaders in percentage of batted balls resulting in a popup (minimum 1.5 plate appearances per game, 302 players qualify)

1. Shane Victorino – 19.6%
2. Marcus Thames – 17.8%
3. Mark Ellis – 16.2%
4. Toby Hall – 16.2%
5. Jerry Hairston – 16.1%
6. Jose Valentin – 15.3%
7. Clint Barmes – 15.2%
8. Rod Barajas – 15.2%

To his credit, Barajas has hit better of late. One decent night will push his OBP over .300 and his slugging percentage over .400, elevating him to Not Bad For A Catcher status. Texas also has 26-year-old backup catcher slugging .568, but that is an apparent irrelevancy.

Posted by Lucas at 09:36 AM

June 10, 2006

Mark Teixeira's Power Outage

Mark Teixeira has a grand total of six homers in sixty games played. 110 Major Leaguers have more. Even traded 1B Adrian Gonzalez has seven, albeit with much worse figures in other categories.

Often reduced power is a symptom of bad hitting overall, but not in Teixeira’s case. He’s hitting a robust .290, walking more often and striking out less than at any time in his career, and is on pace to hit a career-best 51 doubles, which very slightly ameliorates the lack of homers. His ground/fly ratio hasn’t changed. He does have only one HBP, on pace for three, after getting no fewer than ten in any prior season. Is he standing farther from the plate? I don’t know. Teixeira appears just fine except for that stunning 65% drop in his homer rate.

I did find one bizarre and fascinating statistic. Unlike previous seasons, Teixeira has batted very poorly the first time he faces a pitcher:

1st appearance against pitcher
% of Total PA
AVG
OBP
SLG
OPS
2004-2005 56% .294 .375 .578 .953
2006 53% .213 .308 .315 .623

As the team’s #3 hitter, Teixeira always bats in the first inning, and, of course, is facing the starting pitcher for the first time. Late in games he’s almost always facing a reliever. Thus, his newfound problem has resulted in middle-inning brilliance bookended by misery:

2006
% of Total PA
AVG
OBP
SLG
OPS
1st appearance against Starting Pitcher 22% .241 .317 .278 .595
2nd-4th appearances against Starting Pitcher 47% .378 .461 .613 1.074
Appearances against relievers 31% .191 .306 .342 .648

In sixty first-inning plate appearances, Teixeira has eleven singles, two doubles, no triples or homers, six walks, and exactly two runs batted in. Two! He batted in the #3 slot most of last season, so there’s no issue with acclimation.

As with Wilkerson’s early-season woes, I suspect Teixeira will rebound. In the meantime, his first-inning at-bats deserve careful scrutiny.

Posted by Lucas at 07:15 PM

June 09, 2006

2006 Draft

Ranger 2006 draft choices are listed here. To learn about these players, visit Jamey Newberg here.

Posted by Lucas at 11:38 AM

May 09, 2006

Same As It Ever Was

The 2005 Rangers featured the worst cleanup hitters in the American League. Ranger #4 hitters -- mostly Hank Blalock with a tablespoon of Mark Teixeira and dashes of Alfonso Soriano and Phil Nevin-- ranked 11th in slugging and dead-freaking-last in on-base percentage after adjusting for home park. Though Texas sported a respectable offense overall, Buck Showalter needed to find an upgrade at cleanup.

He found Phil Nevin. Nevin started at DH and in the cleanup spot during intrasquad scrimmages in February, and by mid-March, whatever competition existed for the role had ended. While not an ideal solution, having Nevin at cleanup was defensible for several reasons:

Nevin admitted he sulked his way to a line of .182/.250/.323 after his ’05 trade to Texas. He entered Spring Training emotionally refreshed. Fair enough. (That doesn’t explain away his .237/.287/.379 showing in San Diego during last season, but bear with me.)
In 2004, he batted .289/.368/.492, excellent production for an extremely hitter-unfriendly environment of Petco Park.
No likely batting order would place Nevin lower than sixth. Certainly, Laynce Nix, Rod Barajas, and true rookie Ian Kinsler belonged at the back of the lineup. In addition, Blalock had struggled badly batting cleanup last season and Kevin Mench had backslid to a .469 slugging percentage.
The concept of sunk cost notwithstanding, Texas wanted some return on its $10 million investment.

In retrospect (or facile 20-20 hindsight, if you prefer), Nevin’s establishment as cleanup hitter almost seems preordained. He only needed to avoid flopping during the spring, and he didn’t. Several early homers caught the attention of management and skeptical fans, and despite a late slump he finished at .241/.338/.534. The patience and power had returned, if not the average.

Now, one-fifth into the regular season, Texas is no better off at the cleanup spot than in 2005. 100% of the plate appearances by #4 hitters have accrued to Phil Nevin, who has a line of .242/.333/.455. The cleanup hitters on the other thirteen AL clubs are batting .283/.360/.508. Thus, Nevin is only echoing last year’s frustration:

Ranger Cleanup Hitters
OBP
L-OBP+
SLUG
L-SLUG+
OPS
L-OPS+
2005 (mostly H. Blalock)
.317
90
.445
91
.762
81
2006 (all P. Nevin)
.333
91
.455
87
.788
78
Note: AL run production is up about 3.5% this season.

After a fine start (.278/.369/.557 in April, .295 and 23 RBI with runners on) Nevin has five hits in his last 35 at-bats including one double and no homers. Well, hitters do slump, and condemning one after just 34 games is absurd, so perhaps I should cut him some slack. Unfortunately, the real problem isn’t his slump, it’s his half-decade-long inability to hit right-handers:

YEAR
AVG / OBP / SLUG -- OPS
2002
.268 / .322 / .373 -- .695
2003
.252 / .317 / .356 -- .672
2004
.273 / .337 / .451 -- .787
2005
.253 / .285 / .387 -- .673
2006
.219 / .318 / .417 -- .735
'02-'06
.260 / .319 / .402 -- .721

His frailty against righties wouldn’t cause much dismay except that, ahem, he faces a righty 70% of the time and bats fourth. Nevin hammers lefties (.299/.387/.549 since 2002) but against righties Texas could replace him with Gary Matthews and suffer no ill.

Adam Morris of Lone Star Ball has beat this drum for a while, and he’s right. Texas needs another lefty bat to bolster the offense. Phil Nevin deserves credit for regaining a sizable fraction of his past superiority, but he shouldn’t play every day.

Posted by Lucas at 11:59 PM

May 03, 2006

Oklahoma Game Report

The Rangers’ Triple A affiliate Oklahoma Redhawks played the Round Rock Express on Tuesday night, and yours truly witnessed the games from Section 121, Row 4, Seat 1. A few observations from memory:

I hope I caught John Hudgins on a bad night. Hudgins allowed seven hits, including two homers, and two walks in three innings, and he just didn’t look like someone who could retire a Major League hitter. Against an undisciplined Express lineup (last in the Pacific Coast League in walks and next-to-last in strikeouts), Hudgins tried to keep everything down and succeeded to injurious extent. Far too many pitches crossed the plate ankle-high. The “experienced” Round Rock offense (“batting second: Joe McEwing!”) ignored the low stuff and pounded what Hudgins left in the zone. I don’t recall the radar gun exceeding 88 MPH.

Outfielder-in-training Jason Botts made a genuinely impressive sliding catch near the left-field stands with two out and runners on second and third. The Round Rock pitchers pounded him inside and forced him to hit everything off his wrists. He didn’t strike out but also didn’t reach base.

Vince Sinisi looks smaller than I expected. He roped a fastball to the opposite field, much to the delight of the Rice fans sitting near me, and generally appeared comfortable against AAA opposition.

21-year-old Joaquin Arias weighs 108 pounds and disappears when viewed from the side. Just as advertised: smooth and athletic in the field, very raw at the plate. A February note from the Dallas Morning News speculated as to whether Arias could fill in at shortstop for Texas should Michael Young suffer an injury. I can’t imagine Texas recalling Arias right now.

Justin Hatcher provided the game’s best moment as a ninth-inning pinch hitter when he plastered his first pitch over the left-field fence. Outfielder Luke Scott took one half-hearted step toward the fence and abruptly stopped.

The Redhawks have youth and several decent prospects, while the Express are old and nearly bereft of potential MLB talent. Round Rock’s starting lineup averaged 29 years of age with not a single player under 26. In fact, of the twenty starters in Tuesday’s game (nine hitters and the starting pitcher for each team), the youngest seven play for Oklahoma:

Team Name
Age
DOB
OKL Joaquin Arias
21
Sep-84
OKL Vince Sinisi
24
Nov-81
OKL Rashad Eldridge
24
Oct-81
OKL John Hudgins
24
Aug-81
OKL Nick Trzesniak
25
Nov-80
OKL Laynce Nix
25
Oct-80
OKL Jason Botts
25
Jul-80
RRE Brooks Conrad
26
Jan-80
RRE Charlton Jimerson
26
Sep-79
RRE Humberto Quintero
26
Aug-79
OKL Jace Brewer
26
Jun-79
RRE Philip Barzilla
27
Jan-79
RRE Brian Gordon
27
Aug-78
RRE Luke Scott
27
Jun-78
RRE Royce Huffman
29
Jan-77
OKL Erubiel Durazo
31
Jan-75
RRE Jesse Garcia
32
Sep-73
RRE Joe McEwing
33
Oct-72
OKL Jamie Burke
34
Sep-71
RRE Alan Zinter
37
May-68

Posted by Lucas at 12:30 AM

May 01, 2006

P A N I C ! Re-Revisitied (For The Last Time)

Allow me to repeat myself yet again:

The Rangers have no early tipping point at which time panic is “appropriate;? their starts doesn’t correlate strongly to their finishes until the 25-game mark. By then, the team has broadcasted its strength and weaknesses, if not its eventual record. Texas has been 13-12 or better after 25 games in nineteen season and finished with a winning record in thirteen (68%). Rather unimpressive, actually. Viewed differently, Texas has never finished worse than ten games below .500 after starting 13-12 or better. Thus, a respectable start at least foretells a not-terrible season. Satisfaction is where you find it, Ranger fans.
On the other hand, in the thirteen seasons in which Texas has a losing record after 25 games, they’ve ended with a winning record exactly once. In 1991, Texas began 11-14 and promptly won their next fourteen games. They proceeded to lose eleven of their next twelve but held on for an 85-77 finish. Their second best effort after a losing 25-game start was last year’s 79-83 mark. The other eleven times, Texas never finished better than 75-87.
On April 30th, Texas completes a three-game stand at Cleveland and will have played 25 games, weather permitting. Restrain expressions of hopelessness until then.

13-12 after 25 games, plus another win on Monday night. Go Rangers.

Posted by Lucas at 08:38 PM

April 20, 2006

Francisco Cordero, Supplier of Angst

Francisco Cordero hit bottom as a closer on Wednesday night when he entered the ninth with a 6-4 lead:

Plunked Ichiro! (0-1 count)
Allowed a ferocious double by Jose Lopez (1st pitch)
Allowed a Raul Ibanez sac fly to very deep right (1-0 count)
Allowed a Richie Sexson single to tie the game (2-1 count)
Allowed a Kenji Johjima single to put the winning run at second (1-1 count)

Perhaps for the first time ever, Buck Showalter pulled Cordero with the game still tied in the 9th. Against replacement reliever C.J. Wilson, Carl Everett hit a three-run blast that would have felled a dinosaur.

I don’t wish to downplay Cordero’s recent lack of success. Indeed, I didn’t have a margarita Wednesday night and cursed up a storm during the ninth inning (just ask my wife). However, I would suggest that many fans are calling for Cordero’s head not just because he failed, but because of how he failed. Both Wednesday night’s debacle and last week’s blown save and loss were walk-off losses. (Cordero wasn’t actually on the mound when Texas lost on Wednesday, but he’d might as well have been.)

Walk-off losses resonate. They can define seasons, at least in retrospect. Perhaps Cordero’s implosion will mean little if the Rangers win their next three or so, but if they follow with several more defeats, fans will remember April 19th. Being the pitiful fan that I am, I still remember a June 1997 game in which John Wetteland surrendered four runs to Colorado in 1997 and lost a game Texas led 8-2 in the seventh. The Rangers were 36-30 at the time and one game behind Seattle; the loss initiated a stretch of nine losses in ten games during which Seattle extended its lead to eight games.

As for Cordero himself, the local dailies have noted his lackluster save percentage and increased propensity to blow saves opportunities. Again, not to defend him, but I believe it’s worthwhile to note how infrequently he has served up a gut-wrenching walk-off loss.

Since becoming the full-time closer in August 2003 until this season, Cordero has converted 98 saves and blown 16. Eleven of the blown saves were of one-run leads, four were of two runs, and one was a four-run lead in which Cordero allowed both of Doug Brocail’s runners to score plus two of his own.

On how many of those occasions did Cordero enter the game with the lead, surrender the tying and winning runs, and walk off the field a loser during that inning? Exactly one. On September 13, 2004, Cordero entered the 10th inning at Oakland with a 6-5 lead. He permitted two runs on three walks and a hit and walked off with the goat horns.

Late in 2003 Cordero allowed the tying run in the bottom of the 9th and the winning run in the 10th. He also walked off a loser after entering a tie game in Minnesota in 2003 and conceding a ninth-inning run. But the devastating, blood-roiling act of surrendering the lead and the game without giving teammates an opportunity to come back? Just once in two-plus years. It’s a debatable talent, but Cordero seemingly has a knack for allowing only the tying run. Remarkably, Texas has triumphed in seven of the 16 games in which Cordero blew the save.

This season, of course, Cordero has walked off the mound a loser in Anaheim and effective did so in Seattle. He’s looked no better in non-save situations against Detroit and Oakland.

Should Ranger fans form a posse and run him out of town? I think not, but in any case it’s worth recalling 2002, when Texas parceled the save opportunities to Hideki Irabu, John Rocker, Anthony Telford, and other pitchers of similarly dubious standing. Cordero has pitched very well for several years, and, assuming he’ s healthy, he deserves ample time to recover.

Posted by Lucas at 11:58 PM

April 15, 2006

Brad Wilkerson's Bogus Journey

If you haven’t seen Brad Wilkerson swing a bat this season, you’ve missed quite a spectacle. At times, he looks no better than a random guy pulled out of the stands. He has one walk and 19 strikeouts in 49 plate appearances, and on many of those third strikes he definitely is not swinging for the fences. Rather, he is desperately attempting to make contact, literally flailing at the ball.

The good folks on the television have suggested that Wilkerson is seeing an abnormally high proportion of 0-2 counts. Is this true? In fact, it is painfully true. The following table compares 2002-2005 to 2006 in terms of how often Wilkerson faces a particular count as a percentage of his total plate appearances:

Count or Event
'02-'05
'06
2-0 18% 10%
1-1 45% 51%
0-2 18% 31%
In play after 2 pitches 18% 10%

Relative to his previous four years, this season Wilkerson has faced six more 0-2 counts and four fewer 2-0 counts than normal. For him, like for most hitters, the difference between a 2-0 and an 0-2 count is the entire world:

'02-'05
AVG
OBP
SLG
BB%
SO%
After 2-0 Count 0.336 0.599 0.646 40% 13%
After 0-2 Count 0.183 0.216 0.305 3% 50%

Or, the difference was the entire world. Unfortunately, so far in 2006 Wilkerson has failed to capitalize on his less frequent positive counts:

Excluding "After 0-2" Counts
AVG
OBP
SLG
BB%
SO%
'06 0.182 0.206 0.212 3% 35%
'02-'05 0.279 0.405 0.499 17% 19%

Despite his miserable debut as a Ranger, I expect Wilkerson to hit well and for this episode to be largely forgotten by season’s end. For now, Wilkerson personifies the Rangers' 4-7 start.

Posted by Lucas at 02:51 AM

April 04, 2006

"The Rundown" Is Updated

Current and historical 40-man rosters, depth charts for the Rangers down to high-A Bakersfield, and the current status of draft picks back to 1999.

Posted by Lucas at 12:52 PM

February 26, 2006

Money Money Money

Let's take a look at Texas's contracts now that they've signed all their players:

Free Agents, Arbitration-Eligibles, "Locked Up" Players, and Other Commitments:

P Nevin
$10,000,000
M Teixeira
6,400,000
A Rodriguez
6,000,000
K Millwood
6,000,000
A Eaton
4,650,000
V Padilla
4,400,000
F Cordero
4,000,000
B Wilkerson
3,900,000
R Barajas
3,200,000
H Blalock
3,000,000
M Young
3,000,000
K Mench
2,800,000
G Matthews
2,387,500
C Park
2,000,000
A Otsuka
1,750,000
R Mahay
1,100,000
D Dellucci
900,000
J Benoit
750,000
B Shouse
725,000
M Derosa
675,000
J Wasdin
600,000

A total of $68,237,500. Rodriguez and Park aren't with the Rangers any more, of course. Mahay was outrighted last summer.

Known Contracts for Indentured Servants:

R Dickey
$380,000
K Loe
348,770
L Nix
345,260
J Leiscester
332,100
F Francisco
331,500
S Feldman
329,000
E Volquez
329,000
J Rupe
328,000
O Beltre
327,000
F Castro
327,000
J Arias
327,000
A Baldiris
327,000

Unknown Contracts for Indentured Servants with No MLB Experience (Probably at Minimum of $327,000):

Armando Galarraga, Wes Littleton, Ian Kinsler.

Unknown Contracts for Indentured Servants with MLB Experience (Probably a Little Above Minimum):

Juan Dominguez, Erasmo Ramirez, C.J. Wilson, Gerald Laird, Marshall McDougall, Jason Botts.

The "Servants" usually have split contracts: they earn the listed salary while on the 25-man roster and some lesser amount if in the minors.

How does this compare to 2005? Money in millions:

Category 2005 2006
Increase
Guranteed Money $57.70 $68.24 18%
Opening Day Roster (and DL) $51.50 $61.50 19%

Posted by Lucas at 12:42 PM

February 22, 2006

Adam Eaton Worries Me

Adam Eaton interviewed for The Ticket in Dallas and expressed his enjoyment at throwing in a pitcher-friendly park such as Petco or now-departed Qualcomm. He noted that pitching in Arlington would require adjustments, primarily in outlook. Focusing on winning, not necessarily hits and runs allowed, would be key. He then said:

Everybody looks at everything else besides the end result, and that’s one thing I’ve kind of been able to do in the past (focusing on wins), for an offense that really didn’t put a whole bunch of runs up for me in the past few years in San Diego… I have a real hard time figuring how or what I’m going to do with run support [in Texas]. I haven’t had that luxury in a long time… [Eight runs] is like a nice two-week span for me at times. There was a time that I would be told, how hard is it to throw a shutout and hit a home run. That was true, you actually had to do that to get a “W” the past few years.

I have several issues with these statements.

1. San Diego does not have a bad offense.

Eaton prefers a pitcher-friendly environment, but he doesn’t acknowledge that it also affects the hitters on his own team. Qualcomm/Petco offers one of the toughest environments for hitters in the Major League. You might have heard that San Diego ranked 27th in runs scored last year, but that means nothing without considering the context of league and park. Supplying that context reveals San Diego has offered an above-average offense for three years running (all numbers per-game):

Year
NL Runs Scored
San Diego Park Factor
Adjusted League-Avg. Runs Scored
San Diego Runs Scored
RS+ *
2003 4.61 0.89
4.10
4.19 102
2004 4.64 0.89
4.13
4.74 115
2005 4.45 0.90
4.01
4.22 105

* Index of runs scored relative to league and park. 100 = average, higher is better.

2. San Diego’s offense often gave Eaton better support than to his rotation mates.

Year
San Diego Runs Scored
Adam Eaton's Run Support
Extra Support For Eaton
RS+ for Eaton
2003
4.19
4.22
0.03
103
2004
4.74
4.64
(0.10)
112
2005
4.22
5.32
1.10
133

Averages can provide a skewed picture; if San Diego scores eighteen runs in one of his starts but none in two others, they’re not really helping him much. Looking at game data reveals that San Diego was never shut out with Eaton on the mound during 2003-2005. San Diego scored only one or two runs in about a third of his starts (12% one run, 21% two runs) but they also scored six or more runs in 35% of his starts.

On the whole, the evidence suggests Eaton received better-than-average run support during 2003-2005.

3. Eaton has a better won-loss record than he’s deserved.

Eaton has a record of 31-31 during the last three years despite RA+s of 95, 85, and 86. He’s a below-average pitcher with an average record. We should all be so fortunate.

Posted by Lucas at 01:11 PM

December 21, 2005

The Rundown Runs Corrections

After reading about how Hideki Matsui would have become a free agent if New York hadn’t resigned him by November 15th, I thought that Japanese imports came to America as free agents with the same status as a Johnny Damon or A.J. Burnett. Wrong. They’re bound to their teams for six MLB season just like everyone else, even though they enter the U.S. market as free agents and have several years of experience. Matsui’s impending free agency was a function of his original contract, not the general system. Thus, Akinora Otsuka will only be arbitration-eligible after 2006 and not a free agent as I’d written yesterday.

Posted by Lucas at 10:12 AM

December 19, 2005

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup by Fielding Position

In ten prior entries, I detailed how the Rangers hit relative to the rest of the American League in terms of batting order. The tripartite time-suckers of work, holidays and closing on a house will limit my discussion of batting by fielding position to a couple of entries.

A quick explanation of a few derived statistics. You probably already know OPS and OPS+. If not, OPS is the sum of a player’s on-base percentage and slugging percentage, while OPS+ converts that number to an index based on the league average and player’s home park. 100 is always average, higher is better. OPS can mislead since it considers players with a .300 OBP and .500 SLG and those with a .400 OBP and .400 SLG to be equals. They aren't, as an extra point of OBP creates more runs than an extra point of slugging percentage. Therefore, I also like to display OBP+ and SLG+, the same type of indices as OPS+ but measuring separately a player’s effectiveness in on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

The operative comparison for fielding position is not to the league as a whole but rather other players at the same position. For example, the average AL ballplayer batted .268/.330/.424 in 2005, but an average catcher batted only .256/.313/.392. An average catcher for Texas had to hit .267/.317/.408 because The Ballpark greatly assists hitters.

I use the term “P-OBP+,” P-SLG+” and “P-OPS+” to describe a player’s performance in terms of his fielding position instead of the entire league (P = position). If a Ranger catcher has a slugging percentage of .425, he’d have a plain vanilla SLG+ of 96 but a higher P-SLG+ of 104.

Ranger Offense by Fielding Position

Pos
OPS
BA
OBP
SLG
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
SB%
C .725 .256 .303 .423 69 21 76 33 88 0 0%
1B .936 .297 .378 .558 109 41 136 74 126 4 100%
2B .830 .270 .314 .515 107 38 107 37 127 31 94%
3B .745 .261 .317 .429 82 25 92 51 140 1 100%
SS .891 .328 .380 .510 114 24 95 56 95 5 71%
LF .850 .268 .336 .514 95 34 89 61 109 5 71%
CF .698 .241 .298 .400 85 17 73 53 121 11 85%
RF .737 .235 .305 .433 93 31 88 56 124 5 56%
DH .756 .244 .330 .427 97 26 69 71 151 4 57%
TEAM .798 .267 .329 .468 865 260 834 495 1112 67 82%

Rankings vs American League

Pos
OPS+
AVG+
OBP+
SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
SB%
C
7
10
11
6
9
4
6
9
6
9
9
1B
3
3
2
2
1
2
1
4
10
4
1
2B
2
9
12
1
1
1
1
9
12
1
1
3B
8
13
9
9
6
4
3
8
12
13
1
SS
3
2
2
3
2
3
2
7
9
11
9
LF
4
12
9
3
5
2
4
3
11
9
7
CF
12
14
14
11
6
5
6
6
12
10
2
RF
13
14
14
12
4
4
8
6
10
9
11
DH
10
13
9
9
3
6
12
4
14
5
8
TEAM
4
13
10
3
3
1
3
5
14
9
1

Texas first basemen and shortstops ranked second in the American League in P-OBP+. At no other position did they rate better than ninth out of the league's fourteen teams, and they were dead last in CF and RF. As I'd mentioned in prior entries discussing the batting order, the team's seemingly low walk total of 495 actually ranked fifth in the league. Texas batters showed adequate patience in 2005; no position was exceptionally good or bad at drawing walks relative its peers. Where they struggled was getting the bat on the ball. Texas hit .267 in a hitter's park in a league that hit .268. They held off Toronto for the league's worst AVG+ by .0009.

Texas led the league in homers. No position finished worse than sixth. Only their catchers ranked worse than sixth in runs scored, and only the right fielders and designated hitters ranked lower than sixth in RBI. Ranger up-the-middle players (C, 2B, SS, CF) belted exactly 100 homers, fifteen more than runner-up Cleveland. Excluding Texas, the league average was 57.

The Rangers led the league with the most strikeouts. Only their catchers ranked among the top half relative to positional peers.

Ranger Batters By Fielding Position

CATCHER
% of PA
OPS
P-OPS+
BA
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
R. Barajas 72% .771 111 .254 .306 97 .466 114 53 21 60 26 70 0 0
S. Alomar 22% .644 80 .278 .311 98 .333 82 11 0 14 5 11 0 0
G. Laird 7% .500 40 .205 .244 77 .256 63 5 0 2 2 7 0 0
1ST BASE
% of PA
OPS
P-OPS+
BA
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
M. Teixeira 95% .955 130 .302 .383 110 .572 120 107 40 133 71 121 4 0
A. Gonzalez 4% .612 51 .214 .290 84 .321 67 2 1 3 3 4 0 0
Others 1% .400 0 .200 .200 58 .200 42 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
2ND BASE
% of PA
OPS
P-OPS+
BA
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
A. Soriano 95% .822 114 .269 .311 95 .511 119 101 35 101 33 124 30 2
M. DeRosa 4% .967 152 .240 .367 112 .600 140 5 3 6 4 2 0 0
Others 0% 1.333 259 .667 .667 203 .667 156 1 0 0 0 1 1 0
3RD BASE
% of PA
OPS
P-OPS+
BA
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
H. Blalock 97% .751 93 .263 .318 95 .432 97 79 25 90 51 130 1 0
Others 3% .545 40 .227 .227 68 .318 72 3 0 2 0 10 0 0
SHORTSTOP
% of PA
OPS
P-OPS+
BA
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
M. Young 96% .905 137 .332 .385 115 .520 122 111 24 91 55 87 5 2
M. DeRosa 4% .585 55 .250 .273 81 .313 73 3 0 4 1 8 0 0
LEFT FIELD
% of PA
OPS
P-OPS+
BA
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
K. Mench 66% .848 112 .279 .338 100 .511 112 52 21 57 34 56 3 1
D. Dellucci 28% .870 116 .231 .332 98 .538 118 37 12 27 25 41 2 1
G. Matthews 3% 1.031 156 .400 .381 113 .650 143 4 1 3 0 4 0 0
J. Botts 3% .551 45 .235 .316 93 .235 52 2 0 2 2 8 0 0
CENTER FIELD
% of PA
OPS
P-OPS+
BA
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
G. Matthews 60% .729 95 .247 .317 97 .412 98 53 11 40 39 70 7 2
L. Nix 35% .667 77 .241 .268 82 .399 94 28 6 32 9 45 2 0
Others 5% .521 44 .154 .290 89 .231 55 4 0 1 5 6 2 0
RIGHT FIELD
% of PA
OPS
P-OPS+
BA
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
R. Hidalgo 49% .730 81 .229 .298 89 .432 92 43 16 43 25 67 1 2
K. Mench 22% .660 67 .227 .308 92 .352 75 19 4 16 15 11 1 2
G. Matthews 13% .824 102 .247 .318 95 .506 108 13 5 11 8 16 2 0
M. DeRosa 12% .783 94 .250 .325 97 .458 97 14 4 8 8 18 1 0
Others 4% .815 95 .259 .259 77 .556 118 4 2 10 0 12 0 0
DH
% of PA
OPS
P-OPS+
BA
OBP
P-OBP+
SLG
P-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
D. Dellucci 43% .877 120 .266 .392 115 .485 105 53 14 27 45 67 2 2
A. Gonzalez 19% .706 73 .231 .270 79 .436 94 14 5 14 7 31 0 0
P. Nevin 15% .580 45 .176 .250 73 .330 71 15 3 8 8 27 2 0
C. Allen 7% .675 70 .286 .318 93 .357 77 4 0 4 2 8 0 1
M. Teixeira 5% .932 126 .294 .314 92 .618 134 5 3 11 1 3 0 0
M. Young 3% .659 72 .278 .381 111 .278 60 3 0 0 3 4 0 0
Others 8% .558 43 .205 .286 84 .273 59 3 1 5 5 11 0 0

Rod Barajas performed admirably on offense and defense, easily earning the $1.8 million that John Hart granted him (because Hart would rather swallow a live beetle than go to arbitration). His 2004 was a mirage: six amazing weeks followed by the usual .230/.270/.360 slop. In 2005 he hit pretty well all season long; not great, but good enough. He hit better on the road (.838 OPS) and after the All-Star break, both highly atypical for a Ranger. I sure didn't see that coming.

Mark Teixeira's 2005 in Ranger single-season history: tenth in slugging percentage, fourth in total bases, tenth in doubles, third in RBI, second in extra-base hits, seventh in times on base.

Alfonso Soriano's OBP of .309 would rate below average even if he were a catcher, the weakest offensive position in the league. Conversely, his .512 slugging percentage would rate well above average even ar first base, the strongest position. In the AL, left fielders bested second basemen by .009 in OBP and .025 in slugging, so Soriano would effectively lose that much value with his bat if he moves to left in 2006. If he can provide merely mediocre defense there as opposed to his usual horror show at second, it's a wash.

The casual fan might judge Blalock on his .263 average with 25 homers and 92 RBI; solid, right? Well, no, he finished ninth in both OBP and slugging relative to his position, so clearly he didn't bat terribly well. But, 92 RBI! Third in the league! Quite so, but on the other hand he also lost .013 of batting average, four doubles, seven homers and 26 walks from his 2004 campaign. Also, relative to other cleanup hitters, he performed exceptionally poorly. But, but, 25 homers by a third baseman! And so forth. Try to avoid these arguments with drunks in bars. (Incidentally, I don't mean to deride casual fans of baseball. I enjoy watching football but instantly nod off when announcers expound upon the intracacies of "Cover 2." As with any pastime or hobby, fans enjoy baseball with varying levels of intensity. Because my enjoyment is intense and my nerdliness* profound, I usually express my love of baseball in spreadsheet form.)

Infielders not named Teixeira, Soriano, Blalock or Young garnered a grand total of 123 plate appearances, of which Mark Derosa had 75.

Pity poor Marshall McDougall, the ostensible backup infielder who batted all of eight times while making two appearances at second base, one at short and five at third.

Gary Matthews didn't quite hit or field well enough to score positively in Batting Runs Above Average (BRAA) or its counterpart in fielding (FRAA) according to Baseball Prospectus. The last Ranger center fielder to do both? Not Tom Goodwin. Not Daryl Hamilton, who really wasn't great as a Ranger, just an improvement on his predecessors. Not, ahem, Juan Gonzalez, who actually came pretty close in 1991-1992. Not Gary Pettis. The answer is Oddibe McDowell, who had a BRAA of +1 and an FRAA of +6 in 1987, while yours truly was surviving the golden years of being old enough to vote but not enough to drink. An unfortunate combination, for having to choose between George the Elder and Michael Dukakis compels alcohol consumption.

Just under one-half of the right-field plate appearances went to Richard Hidalgo, who batted .229/.298/.432 (P-OPS+ of 81) and lost his job (technically he got hurt, but why quibble). His replacements hit a depressingly similar .240/.314/.434 (P-OPS+ of 86).

Designated hitters other than David Dellucci made 375 plate appearances and batted a dire .228/.286/.387 (68 P-OPS+). Yes, DH is where Phil Nevin applied his craft, but Adrian Gonzalez and Chad Allen also floundered when assigned hitting-only duties.

* The extent to which one is a nerd. Can be estimated with calipers, but exact measurement requires a piezometer.

Posted by Lucas at 11:07 PM

December 09, 2005

Oh, What A Difference A Park Makes

Some plain vanilla translations based on 2005 park factors. No adjustments for relative quality of team offense, batting order position, etc.

Alfonso Soriano's 2005 Translated To Washington

Category
As a Ranger
As a National
Difference
AVG.268.251
-.017
OBP.309.297
-.012
SLUG.512.458
-.053
OPS.821.755
-.066
AB637633
-4
R10795
-12
H171159
-12
2B4343
0
3B22
0
HR3628
-8
RBI10492
-12
BB3337
+4
SO125133
+8
SB3031
+1

Brad Wilkerson's 2005 Translated To Texas

Category
As a National
As a Ranger
Difference
AVG.248.263
+.015
OBP.351.355
+.004
SLUG.405.440
+.035
OPS.756.795
+.039
AB565573
+8
R7686
+10
H140151
+11
2B4242
0
3B79
+2
HR1114
+3
RBI5764
+7
BB8476
-8
SO147138
-9
SB88
0

Posted by Lucas at 11:25 AM

December 03, 2005

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup: Wrap-Up

Ranger Offense by Position in Batting Order

Pos
OPS
BA
OBP
SLG
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
SB%
1.785.243.321.4641223782761711179%
2.906.326.385.520118278865102467%
3.940.302.380.56111240146741214100%
4.762.266.317.445842792471425100%
5.829.265.321.50810836111471202593%
6.697.234.291.4067924754798457%
7.704.240.303.40276197251138583%
8.801.268.328.47488278950108556%
9.728.256.307.421782379381124100%
TEAM.798.267.329.46886526083449511126782%

Rankings vs American League

Pos
OPS+
BA+
OBP+
SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
SB%
1
8
14
14
4
3
1
2
1
14
9
3
2
1
1
1
1
2
1
2
2
4
14
11
3
2
1
3
2
3
2
2
3
10
10
1
4
14
10
14
11
12
7
8
14
12
8
1
5
4
9
12
4
2
2
2
9
10
1
1
6
13
13
13
11
7
4
8
10
3
10
7
7
12
10
10
11
7
3
9
6
13
9
2
8
2
3
5
1
1
1
1
6
10
8
9
9
8
7
10
6
3
2
2
9
10
12
1
TEAM
4
8
10
3
3
1
3
5
14
9
1




Lessons Learned

The Rangers' 10th-ranked OBP+ overstates their apparent ineffectiveness at reaching base. OBP doesn't vary among teams as much as slugging; Only Boston (105) and Seattle (96) had an OBP+ more than three points removed from the median. Texas had an OBP+ of 99. In essence, Texas batted for average and reached based just slightly worse than the average team.

Having said that, Texas achieved a lineup-adjusted OBP+ of 100 or better from only three spots: #2 (mostly Michael Young), #3 (mostly Mark Teixeira) and #8 (Matthews, Hidalgo [really], Barajas, DeRosa and others). In all of the otherspots, Texas ranked among the bottom five in the league.

Texas ranked among the league's best in hitting for power even after compensating for their friendly home park.

Ranger #1 hitters led the league in walks yet had the worst OBP+ because of a .243 batting average. Hitters not named David Dellucci garnered 44% of the plate appearances and hit .241/.293/.427. Only Seattle's cleanup hitters struck out more than the Rangers' #1 hitters.

Michael Young and Mark Teixeira are forces of nature, and we should respect them.

It pains me to say this, but the absolute worst Ranger hitter based on expectations and batting position was Hank Blalock, who spent most of the season generating outs from the cleanup spot.Against lefties in 2005: .196/.228/.356, seven walks, 53 strikeouts. On the road in 2005: .231/.276/.335, 21 walks, 70 strikeouts, only five of his 25 homers.

Texas drew 495 walks, which sounds low but actually ranked fifth in the league. In 2005, AL teams drew 3.02 walks per nine innings, the lowestsince 1919. I kid you not.

Stump your friends: Which team led the AL in stolen base efficiency and fewest sacrifice flies? The Texas Rangers.

Other Teams

Best L-OPS+ Best L-OBP+ Best L-SLG+
New York #5 (143) New York #5 (117) Cleveland #9 (130)
Cleveland #9 (140) Texas #2 (115) New York #5 (126)
Texas #2 (139) New York #6 (114) Texas #2 (123)
Boston #3 (137) Boston #3 (114) Boston #3 (123)
New York #6 (130) Boston #8 (114) Boston #4 (120)
Worst L-OPS+ Worst L-OBP+ Worst L-SLG+
Chicago #7 (67) Chicago #3 (85) Chicago #1 (77)
Seattle #8 (68) Chicago #7 (86) Seattle #8 (80)
Chicago #3 (71) Seattle #8 (88) Chicago #7 (81)
Oakland #3 (73) Seattle #9 (89) Oakland #3 (81)
Oakland #6 (73) Oakland #6 (89) Minnesota #2 (82)

Boston's entire lineup had an L-OBP+ of 102 or better. Their L-OPS+ by spot in the order: 110, 110, 137, 128, 103, 109, 110, 120, 92.

Chicago's #1, #3 and #7 hitters were among the worst in the league.

Detroit's lineup had an L-OBP+under 100 from every spot except #1 (101).

Kansas City's offense resembled the '82-'85 Rangers:really bad, but not quite bad enough to be historical or even interesting.

L-OPS+ for Minnesota's first four spots in the order: 86, 76, 86, 80. The next four spots: 101, 106, 104, 109.

L-OPS+ for New York for all spots: 113, 93 (Tony Womack!), 116, 107, 143, 130, 103, 117, 82.

Oakland's #3 hitters batted .253/.317/.382.Good luck scoring runs with that.

Seattle had Ichiro!, Sexson, and not much else. The Mariners didn't achieve an L-OPS+ above 90 for any other spot in the lineup. Their #8 and #9 hitters combined to "hit" .222/.273/.309.

L-OPS+ for Toronto's first six spots in the order: 90, 90, 76, 85, 91, 90.

Posted by Lucas at 01:10 PM

November 27, 2005

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup: #9 Hitters

Explanation of stats here.

American League #9 Hitters and Ballpark Adjustment

Category
On-Base %
Slugging %
OPS
American League #9 Hitters .309 .381 .690
Park Factor - The Ballpark 1.011 1.042 ---
Adjusted for The Ballpark .312 .397 .709

Do managers see the last spot in the order as an opportunity to use their "second" leadoff hitters, light-slugging players with respectable on-base skills? The evidence suggests not; plenty of defense-oriented catchers and attenuated middle infielders call the #9 spot home. The AL's #9 batters produced almost identical numbers to previous two spots in the order. Only one team had an OPS+ of above 100 from the bottom of the order. That's to be expected, since good #9 hitters soon find themselves batting higher.

Texas Rangers #9 Hitters: The Team

Category
Texas
AL Rank
OPS and L-OPS+
.728 / 104
8
On-Base % and L-OBP+
.307 / 98
10
Slugging % and L-SLG+
.421 / 106
6
Runs 78 3
Homers 23 2
RBI 79 2
Walks 38 9
Strikeouts 112 10
Steals 4 12
Steal % 100% 1
(R-HR) % 33% 4

Texas Rangers #9 Hitters: The Players

NAME
% of Team PA
OPS
L-OPS+
BA
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
R. Barajas 49% .751 110 .244 .302 97 .449 113 37 14 40 20 45 0 0
S. Alomar 15% .519 48 .236 .261 83 .258 65 6 0 12 3 10 0 0
M. DeRosa 11% .910 155 .283 .377 121 .533 134 14 4 9 8 14 1 0
G. Matthews 7% .758 114 .250 .333 106 .425 107 9 2 6 5 10 0 0
G. Laird 7% .627 76 .231 .268 86 .359 90 7 1 4 2 6 0 0
L. Nix 3% .688 95 .313 .313 100 .375 95 1 0 1 0 2 1 0
Pitchers 3% .526 47 .211 .211 67 .316 80 0 0 2 0 8 0 0
Other 5% .970 171 .394 .394 126 .576 145 4 2 5 0 17 2 0

Catchers nabbed just over 71% of the plate appearances for Texas. Barajas resumed his low-average high-slugging gig, while Alomar and Laird didn't do much of anything, I'm afraid. Mark DeRosa enjoyed most of his inexplicable late-season heroics from the #9 spot. The pitchers acquitted themselves. Texas will be hard pressed to replace Chan Ho Park's outstanding work in the batter's box (.400/.400/.400). In keeping with the team philosophy, the pitchers combined for one triple (Kenny Rogers) but no walks. Homers by Richard Hidalgo and David Dellucci comprised much of the surprising success of "Other."

American League #9 Hitters

TEAM
OPS
L-OPS+
rank
OBP
L-OBP+
rank
SLG
L-SLG+
rank
Cleveland .821 140
1
.338 110
1
.483
130
1
Oakland .754 118
2
.334 108
3
.420
110
2
Toronto .749 112
3
.330 106
4
.419
106
5
Tampa Bay .716 110
4
.314 102
5
.401
107
3
Chicago Sox .738 107
5
.312 100
8
.426
107
4
LA Angels .699 107
6
.333 109
2
.367
98
8
Baltimore .699 105
7
.314 101
7
.385
103
7
Texas .728 104
8
.307 98
10
.421
106
6
Boston .660 92
9
.318 102
6
.343
89
10
Detroit .657 90
10
.287 92
12
.370
98
9
Minnesota .627 85
11
.303 99
9
.324
86
13
NY Yankees .629 82
12
.292 94
11
.338
88
11
Kansas City .597 76
13
.277 90
13
.320
86
12
Seattle .585 74
14
.272 89
14
.314
85
14

Cleveland's Casey Blake (.264/.328/.511), Jhonny Peralta (.305/.348/.527), and Aaron Boone (.412/.434/.529) hit the cover off the ball batting ninth. Peralta hit everywhere, while Blake and especially Boone struggled in loftier lineup positions. Seattle employed half the planet's catchers and shortstops to grind the offense to a halt in front of Ichiro.

Sarcasm often falls flat on paper, so I'll point out that the sentence about Chan Ho Park was a joke.

Posted by Lucas at 11:14 PM

November 22, 2005

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup: #8 Hitters

Explanation of stats here.

American League #8 Hitters and Ballpark Adjustment

Category
On-Base %
Slugging %
OPS
American League #8 Hitters
.313
.394
.707
Park Factor - The Ballpark
1.011
1.042
---
Adjusted for The Ballpark
.316
.411
.727

AL #8 hitters bested their #7 counterparts by .001 in slugging and on-base percentage. As for Texas, they received exemplary production from the #8 spot and poor production from the #7 spot despite considerable overlap in personnel. I don't see any explanation for it; some of the weaker Ranger hitters just happened to heat up while batting eighth. They trailed only Boston in lineup-adjusted OPS and led the league in runs, RBI and homers.

Texas Rangers #8 Hitters: The Team

Category
Texas
AL Rank
OPS and L-OPS+
.801 / 119
2
On-Base % and L-OBP+
.328 / 104
5
Slugging % and L-SLG+
.474 / 115
1
Runs 88 1
Homers 27 1
RBI 89 1
Walks 50 6
Strikeouts 108 10
Steals 5 8
Steal % 55% 9
(R-HR) % 33% 3

Texas Rangers #8 Hitters: The Players

NAME
% of Team PA
OPS
L-OPS+
BA
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
G. Matthews 31% .813 122 .227 .338 116 .475 116 28 6 23 17 26 3 2
R. Hidalgo 19% .879 138 .287 .328 134 .551 134 19 9 19 12 21 1 2
R. Barajas 15% .716 95 .239 .281 106 .435 106 10 4 13 3 19 0 0
M. DeRosa 11% .621 71 .247 .278 84 .343 84 7 2 7 4 15 0 0
L. Nix 5% .935 154 .212 .355 141 .581 141 3 2 6 0 3 0 0
S. Alomar 5% .789 119 .343 .375 101 .414 101 4 0 2 2 2 0 0
K. Mench 5% 1.080 192 .138 .400 166 .680 166 5 3 9 5 6 0 0
J. Botts 3% .620 77 .231 .353 65 .267 65 2 0 3 2 6 0 0
D. Dellucci 3% 1.104 201 .242 .438 162 .667 162 5 1 3 4 3 1 0
Other 5% .709 95 .281 .303 99 .406 99 5 0 4 1 7 0 0

Hidalgo batted .287/.328/.551 in the eighth position, .204/.264/.343 everywhere else. What did I have to say about him back in March?

Plate Appearances: 600. Batting Average: .265. Runs: 85. Homers: 27. RBI: 85. Steals: 5. On-base Percentage: .340. Slugging Percentage: .500. Upside: Moderate. Hidalgo batted .310 with good patience just two years ago. Downside: High. He batted .239 with no patience just last year, and .235 three years ago. Injury history: Murky. Hidalgo hasn’t reached 600 plate appearances in five years because of a variety of minor injuries.

Meet the most difficult player to project in Major League Baseball. In addition to his seemingly randomly generated stats, he has surpassed 600 plate appearances only once in his career and averaged 568 over the last five years, so my prediction of 600 might be slightly generous. I think potential owners should pretend his unparalleled 200 season (.314-118-44-122-13) never happened, as he’s never come close to repeating it. Take out that season and what does he offer? An erratic batting average, 70-90 runs and RBI, never more than 28 homers, a small handful of steals. In a ten-team mixed league, he's a generic outfielder. Hidalgo has considerable upside moving to Arlington, but remember that he spent much of career in hitter-friendly Enron/Minute Maid Park.... An intrepid owner could pass on Hidalgo, draft Mench several rounds later, and get essentially the same production."

The Ranger Rundown: your source for wishy-washy, caveat-laden quasi-predictions.

American League #8 Hitters

TEAM
OPS
L-OPS+
rank
OBP
L-OBP+
rank
SLG
L-SLG+
rank
Boston .782 120
1
.359 114
1
.422
106
4
Texas .801 119
2
.328 104
5
.474
115
1
NY Yankees .776 117
3
.341 108
2
.435
109
2
Minnesota .730 109
4
.326 105
3
.404
104
6
Oakland .735 107
5
.312 99
9
.423
107
3
LA Angels .721 106
6
.314 101
7
.406
105
5
Baltimore .716 105
7
.327 104
4
.389
101
7
Toronto .725 101
8
.323 102
6
.402
99
9
Tampa Bay .677 95
9
.309 100
8
.369
96
11
Chicago Sox .711 95
10
.302 96
11
.409
100
8
Cleveland .673 94
11
.300 97
10
.373
97
10
Detroit .643 82
12
.290 92
12
.353
90
13
Kansas City .634 82
13
.280 90
13
.354
92
12
Seattle .578 68
14
.273 88
14
.305
80
14

Boston, mostly in the form of Bill Mueller, squeaked past Texas in L-OPS+ with a substantially higher OBP. Seattle's loathsome variety pack of Yuniesky Betancourt, Miguel Olivo, Mike Morse, Jose Lopez, Willie Bloomquist, and sixteen(!) others provided some of the worst hitting in baseball.

Posted by Lucas at 09:01 AM

November 17, 2005

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup: #7 Hitters

Explanation of stats here.

American League #7 Hitters and Ballpark Adjustment

Category
On-Base %
Slugging %
OPS
American League #7 Hitters .312 .393 .705
Park Factor - The Ballpark 1.011 1.042 ---
Adjusted for The Ballpark .315 .410 .725

Even the better-hitting teams rarely have such a thing as an "everyday #7 hitter." Like the eighth and ninth spots, the #7 spot is usually filled with youngsters of varying promise, substitutes, and regulars who just don't hit well. Indeed, in 2005 the difference in OPS between the league's #7, #8 and #9 hitters was only .015.

The Rangers didn't have an outright depressing performance from the #7 spot as they did at cleanup and #6, but they certainly didn't hit well. Their batting average of .240 corrupted respectable totals in homers and walks.

Texas Rangers #7 Hitters: The Team

Category
Texas
AL Rank
OPS and L-OPS+
.704 / 92
12
On-Base % and L-OBP+
.303 / 96
10
Slugging % and L-SLG+
.402 / 98
11
Runs 76 7
Homers 19 3
RBI 72 9
Walks 51 6
Strikeouts 138 13
Steals 5 9
Steal % 83% 2
(R-HR) % 32% 6

Texas Rangers #7 Hitters: The Players

NAME
% of Team PA
OPS
L-OPS+
BA
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
L. Nix 21% .687 87 .227 .262 83 .424 104 17 4 19 7 29 1 0
K. Mench 16% .791 120 .287 .376 119 .415 101 15 2 10 12 11 0 0
A. Gonzalez 15% .714 93 .239 .258 82 .457 112 10 4 13 3 27 0 0
R. Hidalgo 13% .727 100 .247 .307 97 .420 103 10 4 13 4 18 0 0
G. Matthews 11% .540 53 .212 .297 94 .242 59 8 0 3 8 17 3 0
R. Barajas 6% 1.080 193 .343 .395 125 .686 168 6 3 7 3 6 0 0
P. Nevin 5% .622 69 .138 .242 77 .379 93 4 2 4 4 11 1 0
C. Allen 4% .490 38 .231 .259 82 .231 56 2 0 1 1 8 0 1
Other 6% .723 103 .242 .359 114 .364 89 3 0 2 6 7 0 0

Laynce Nix and Adrian Gonzalez both spent just over one-half of their lackluster seasons batting seventh. Mench hit very well here, and Richard Hidalgo partially compensated for his nightly displays of agony in the #5 and #6 slots. Texas used a not-atypical fifteen batters in this slot in the lineup.

American League #7 Hitters

TEAM
OPS
L-OPS+
rank
OBP
L-OBP+
rank
SLG
L-SLG+
rank
Tampa Bay
.764
120
1
.341
110
1
.424
110
1
Boston
.743
110
2
.333
106
4
.410
104
6
Cleveland
.711
105
3
.302
97
9
.410
107
2
Toronto
.733
104
4
.338
107
2
.395
97
11
Oakland
.720
104
5
.327
104
5
.393
100
9
Minnesota
.713
104
6
.318
103
6
.395
102
7
Kansas City
.711
104
7
.309
99
7
.401
105
4
NY Yankees
.719
103
8
.335
107
3
.384
97
12
Detroit
.718
103
9
.305
97
10
.413
106
3
Baltimore
.707
102
10
.307
98
8
.401
104
5
Texas
.704
94
11
.303
96
12
.402
98
10
LA Angels
.678
94
12
.285
92
13
.393
102
8
Seattle
.646
88
13
.300
97
11
.346
91
13
Chicago Sox
.604
67
14
.271
86
14
.333
81
14

The AL's best #7 hitters belonged to Tampa Bay, a mishmash of mostly improbable performances from Alex Gonzalez, Nick Green, Damon Hollins, Jonny Gomes, Travis Lee and Toby Hall. Way, way down at the other end are the Chicago White Sox, who endured the out-rific fun of A.J. Pierzynski, Aaron Rowand, Juan Uribe, Joe Crede, Timo Perez, and Chris Widger.

Posted by Lucas at 11:17 PM

November 13, 2005

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup: #6 Hitters

Explanation of stats here.

American League #6 Hitters and Ballpark Adjustment

Category
On-Base %
Slugging %
OPS
American League #6 Hitters .322 .421 .743
Park Factor - The Ballpark 1.011 1.042 ---
Adjusted for The Ballpark .326 .439 .764

Many managers begin to have trouble filling out their lineups once the six-spot comes up. Known as a slugger's position, AL #6 hitters actually trailed the league slugging percentage average by .003. The Rangers had surprisingly difficulty getting respectable production from this spot in the order. Texas had by far the worst combination of #4 and #6 hitters in the AL, downright bizarre considering they had a good offense on the whole.

Discerning fans might say remember that Kevin Mench spent much of the season batting sixth and had a passable season, though not the breakout performance hoped for. Mench, alas, was not the problem.

Texas Rangers #6 Hitters: The Team

Category
Texas
AL Rank
OPS and L-OPS+
.697 / 82
13
On-Base % and L-OBP+
.291 / 89
13
Slugging % and L-SLG+
.406 / 92
11
Runs 79 7
Homers 24 4
RBI 75 8
Walks 47 10
Strikeouts 98 3
Steals 4 10
Steal % 57% 7
(R-HR) % 32% 4

Texas Rangers #6 Hitters: The Players

NAME
% of Team PA
OPS
L-OPS+
BA
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
K. Mench 56% .791 105 .265 .312 96 .479 109 43 17 49 22 45 4 3
R. Hidalgo 10% .442 19 .161 .232 71 .210 48 5 0 2 6 15 0 0
L. Nix 7% .468 25 .196 .229 70 .239 54 7 0 6 2 10 0 0
P. Nevin 7% .439 19 .182 .234 72 .205 47 6 0 2 2 11 0 0
H. Blalock 6% .514 30 .162 .162 50 .351 80 4 2 6 0 5 0 0
A. Gonzalez 6% .734 92 .222 .317 97 .417 95 5 2 3 5 5 0 0
G. Matthews 4% .813 112 .280 .333 102 .480 109 3 1 2 2 3 0 0
Other 4% .925 140 .200 .375 115 .550 125 6 2 5 8 4 0 0

While batting sixth, Mench played like a slower version of Alfonso Soriano, not reaching base steadily but slugging enough to compensate. (Mench unfortunately also ranked among the worst in baseball at hitting with runners in scoring position.) The real problem was five other gentlemen who acquired just over one-third of the plate appearances in the #6 spot. Messieurs Hidalgo, Nix, Nevin, Blalock and Gonzalez combined to hit .182/.233/.271 with one homer per sixty at-bats. That's an L-OPS+ of 33 and an OPS of 35. Steve Carlton had a career OPS+ of 33.

Texas's #4 and #6 batters combined to hit .250/.304/.426; their aggregate L-OPS+ of 80 was easily, very easily, the worst in the American League.

American League #6 Hitters

TEAM
OPS
L-OPS+
rank
OBP
L-OBP+
rank
SLG
L-SLG+
rank
NY Yankees
.861
130
1
.370
114
1
.491
115
1
Cleveland
.817
123
2
.349
109
2
.468
114
2
Chicago Sox
.832
116
3
.335
103
5
.498
113
3
Boston
.782
109
4
.342
106
3
.440
104
6
Minnesota
.757
106
5
.330
103
4
.427
102
7
Detroit
.764
104
6
.311
96
11
.453
108
4
Baltimore
.729
97
7
.300
93
12
.429
104
5
Tampa Bay
.717
96
8
.310
97
9
.407
99
8
Kansas City
.708
94
9
.324
101
8
.383
93
10
Seattle
.689
91
10
.323
101
7
.366
90
12
LA Angels
.697
90
11
.309
97
10
.388
94
9
Toronto
.716
90
12
.329
101
6
.386
89
13
Texas
.697
82
13
.291
89
13
.406
92
11
Oakland
.642
73
14
.287
89
14
.356
85
14

Jason Giambi resuscitated his career and Tino Martinez enjoyed part of his wild ten-homer May while batting sixth. At the other end of the spectrum, Oakland fans looked in horror upon the inefficient fivesome of Scott Hatteberg, Jay Payton, Bobby Kielty, Dan Johnson and Eric Byrnes.

Posted by Lucas at 10:27 PM

November 11, 2005

Reviewing the Ranger Lineup: #5 Hitters

Explanation of stats here.

American League #5 Hitters and Ballpark Adjustment

Category
On-Base %
Slugging %
OPS
American League #5 Hitters .338 .452 .790
Park Factor - The Ballpark 1.011 1.042 ---
Adjusted for The Ballpark .342 .471 .813

The league's #5 hitters have the third highest OPS in the league. Not until the #6 spot does the quality really decline. For the Rangers, the question is whether Alfonso Soriano performed well in the #5 position as opposed to his preferred location atop the order.

Texas Rangers #5 Hitters: The Team

Category
Texas
AL Rank
OPS and L-OPS+
.829 / 102
4
On-Base % and L-OBP+
.321 / 94
12
Slugging % and L-SLG+
.508 / 108
4
Runs
108
2
Homers
36
2
RBI
111
2
Walks
47
9
Strikeouts
120
10
Steals
25
1
Steal %
93%
1
(R-HR) %
38%
1

Texas Rangers #5 Hitters: The Players

NAME
% of Team PA
OPS
L-OPS+
BA
OBP
L-OBP+
SLG
L-SLG+
R
HR
RBI
BB
SO
SB
CS
A. Soriano 76% .838 103 .270 .315 92 .523 111 82 30 93 27 93 24 2
R. Hidalgo 8% .609 50 .192 .263 77 .346 73 8 2 7 4 16 0 0
K. Mench 8% .810 101 .267 .365 107 .444 94 4 1 2 7 2 0 0
D. Dellucci 5% 1.100 171 .333 .471 138 .630 134 11 2 4 7 5 1 0
Other 3% .828 100 .238 .304 89 .524 111 3 1 5 2 4 0 0

Soriano produced to expectations, reaching base consderably below the park-adjusted league average but compensating with a thunderous stick. He also personally stole more bases from the #5 spot than any other team's players combined. I haven't done any research, but I'd guess that speed in the #5 spot comes in quite handy as it provides the later, lesser hitters to drive him in with just one single. Hidalgo flopped here (as elsewhere), Mench batted capably, and Dellucci spent a week here early in the season while inhabiting Jason Giambi's younger, healthier body.

Would Soriano have reached base at the league average anywhere else in the lineup? He would not. Even batting ninth he'd have an L-OBP+ of 99. In his favor, he'd also have an L-SLG+ of at least 103 at any lineup spot. Soriano is what he is. Better to bat him fifth than first or third, where he spent most of 2004.

American League #5 Hitters

TEAM
OPS
L-OPS+
rank
OBP
L-OBP+
rank
SLG
L-SLG+
rank
NY Yankees .974 143
1
.399 117
1
.575
126
1
Detroit .834 110
2
.334 98
9
.500
111
2
Boston .803 103
3
.363 107
2
.440
96
9