Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Manifest Destiny

Gentlemen*, I've felt the need to expand beyond these humble walls of Blogger. I give many thanks to Blogger for hosting me for free for all these months, but I've moved on to WordPress. It's a higher caliber blog, better functioning HTML implementation, it just plain looks better and more professional.

*I was going to start off with the standard "Ladies and gentlemen" but lets be real, no woman reads this. I accept this to be true. Let's move on.

My new site is located here. It's not quite fully up and running, but it will be soon. I'm going to see if I can find a way to archive what I've written here over there, but if not, I'll just hard transfer it over. I look forward to seeing you all at my new site

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Justin Masterson's Domination

When you think of a dominating pitcher this year, your thoughts may wander to Weaver, Verlander, Sabathaia, Kershaw, Halladay, or any other "big name." I'm willing to bet that a name that you over looked is Justin Masterson. That's too bad, because he's been nothing short of elite this year. As a matter of fact, he ranks 7th in all of baseball with a 55.0% GB rate. Fantastic. The question is, are that groundballs valuable to a pitcher? Hmm, prepare to be surprised.

Before the season started, if I told you that Justin Masterson would rate higher via WAR than Tim Lincecum, what would you have said?

"Well, Lincecum must be hurt!"
"You have lost your mind sir."

It would be one of those, and I wouldn't have blamed you. Yet here we are, on the cusp of the end of the season, and by FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement, that is exactly where we stand. Masterson has racked up 5.2 WAR in 32 starts and Lincecum 4.5 WAR in 31. Now of course Big Time Timmy Jim could still catch him, but as of now, Masterson holds a fairly strong edge.

That ought to frame his value a little clearer. Now, moving past the current comparison of his value, let's see how so far this season Masterson has been nothing short of well, masterful.* This is Masterson's 2nd full season starting, and I'd like to compare him to another great groundball inducer. See if you can figure it out.

Pitcher's 2nd SP SeasonGSIPK%BB%GB RateERAFIP
Justin Masterson*32211 1/317.5%6.7%55.0%3.153.1>
Pitcher X3520817.6%12.8%64.3%3.594.41

*Masterson still hasn't completed his sophomore season, and thus he can continue to accrue numbers. And as far as I know, the 2004 season is in complete.

If you haven't figured it out yet, Pitcher X is Brandon Webb's 2004 season. Webb managed to burn worms at an even higher rate, had a nearly identical K rate, yet Webb's control plauged him all year. He even had 17 Wild Pitches and 11 Hit Batsmen. So far, Masterson is at 5 and 9 respectively. The only other difference is the relative run environment. As of this writing, the current average AL .719 OPS. The NL average was .756 OPS in 2004. That Masterson has a better ERA and FIP in this scoring depressed environment is not all that suprising, although again, the BB's really hurt Webb in '04. There are other similarites aside from the statistics alone however. Both pitchers have the following in common:

-Height. Masterson is 6' 6" and Webb is 6' 3"
-Strong Builds, Masterson weighs 250 and Webb 228
-Right handed pitchers
-3/4 arm slot delivery
-And of course, both are mostly Sinkerball pitchers.

I look at those simliar statistics and body type and the mind races to imagine what a good pitcher Justin Masterson can become. I completely whiffed this year on Masterson in fantasy baseball this year, and I'm kicking myself now for it. If you're in a keeper league, swing a deal in the winter for him. All signs point to Masterson dominating for years to come. He is quite literally, the next Brandon Webb. Don't be me. Don't over look the value of the groundball.

Table via Tableizer!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Leyland Lives In La-La Land

Alright, so it's no secret that Jim Leyland is umm, creative in his lineup construction. Any decently informed Tigers fan will tell you as much ad nausuem. My point about bringing this all up is to see what the best Tigers lineup actually looks like. Despite being tied for using the DL the 2nd least times, 3, Leyland has failed to construct the same lineup more than 6 times. All season. As a matter of fact, of the 3 players the Tigers have placed on the DL, only one was a position player, Boesch. This lack of consistency raises questions. Apparently Leyland is a firm believer in the "playing the hot hand."

Anyways, I'll be optimizing the normal Tigers starting position players per their MLB Depth Chart. Now I don't know their standard vs left and vs right lineups, and I couldn't even tell from the Tigers' Baseball-Reference Batting Order page.

So, instead of having 2 ideal lineups, you know, like one vs C.C. and another vs Beckett, I'll only have one. Just using a cursory glance at that B-Ref page, intuitively, I notice the following:
-I hate that Miggy is hitting "cleanup" instead of 3rd.
-Doesn't Austin Jackson have a terrible OBP? Why is he leading off?
-Magglio has the most games played being slotted 3rd in the order, at 61 games. Wow.
-Avila has hit in the 8 hole more times than anywhere else combined.
-Leyland is just a confused old man. I wonder if a Boy Scout helps him fill out a lineup card, does he get the "Helping a Senior Citizen Badge?"

To frame my numbers and tell you where I'm getting everything from, I'm using the Tigers' FanGraphs page. I'll be using numbers only accrued while with the Tigers. That should help Delmon Young, and he needs all the help he can get. To construct the lineup, I'll be using the relatively simple yet tried and true Baseball Musings analyzer (Note: I'll be using the 1989-2002 model). Now that we're on the same page, it's time for some hardcore data. Ages 18+ only.

So far, with Leyland's "help" the Tigers have scored 724 runs in 152 games, for an average of 4.76 runs per game. Sounds good right? Well, lets see if they can improve upon it shall we?

Haha, well, the numbers were about what I expected. The best lineup that Detroit could run out there is:

1 - Miguel Cabrera
2 - Alex Avila
3 - Ramon Santiago
4 - Jhonny Peralta
5 - Victor Martinez
6 - Delmon Young
7 - Wilson Betimet
8 - Andy Dirks
9 - Austin Jackson

That lineup would score an average 5.59 runs per game. Extrapolate that to the current 152 games and you get 849.68 runs so far this year. That is very different than the current 724 with the lineups constructed thus far. Further assuming that the defense and pitching hasn't been effected by the lineup shuffle is when we talk the real big changes. Their current Pythagorean recrod is 82-70. Add in those extra optimized runs and it goes to 94-58. Wow. Worried about home field advantage? Want the most out of your players? Betta check the numbers and do the math before you wreck yoself! Hmm. That doesn't quite roll off the tongue as I hoped it would.

Now I know I'm picking on Leyland, but A. I live in Michigan, so I wanted to show the Tigers could be much better and B. It's really, really easy to pick on Leyland.

If nothing else, this post has shown what a stark difference there is between intellectually theorized baseball and actual real world baseball. And the difference is that the saber nerds are right, and the conventional "wisdom" is wrong.*

*After seeing this, I'm going to run this exercise for all 30 clubs once the season ends, to see which lineup was closest to optimal. I'm going to go out on a limb and say the Yankees, but it could be someone unexpected like the D-Backs. Guess we'll have to wait and see.

Until compared to his peers, I'll reserve total judgement on Mr. Leyland. However, according to these numbers, he can't build a lineup to save his mustache. And what a shame, as it is a very nice mustache. As a matter of fact, his lineup reminds me of something tragically crashing and burning. But what?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

One Hellova Sleeper

If you follow me on twitter (and you should because I'm great), then you should know my feelings about one Cory Luebke.

I am a big ol' windmill sized fan of his. Not just because I picked up him off the scrap heap that is Free Agency in a keeper league. Not just because since acquiring him, he has given me the following:

82 2/3 IP, 92 K, 3.27 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. Only 4 wins, but hey, with peripherals like that, Wins are a bonus. Luebke has produced elite numbers in 3 of the major pitching categories, including both critical rate statistics. What's not to love so far?

And there in lies the issue. "So far." I'm going to take a look at his numbers to see if I can gain anything of predictive value. This will be a bit more Pitch F/X relient, but when dealing in a sample size this small, I can only rely on statistics so far. I'll just have to use what's best and most readily available to me at the time. Kind of like how WAR isn't perfect, but the Mainstream Media still rips on it.*

*That's an entirely different post. My MVP post will be 5,000 words. Joe Posnanksi would be like "Whoa, too many words son."

First off, let's get a little context. I'm going out on a limb and saying you don't know Cory Luebke too well. What a shame. For all intents and purposes, he is a superstar. The following table goes to illustrate just what type of company Luebke is in right now. Those rate stats below tell the story quite accurately. Once again I say this: He is in elite company. Those are some of the best known strike out artists in the business. And Luebke is either on par, or even surpassing some of them to certain degrees. Justin Verlander who? My boy Luebke has a better K rate and a lower FIP. Where's his Cy Young?

Tommy Hanson>9.833.181.1839.2%.2683.67
Clayton Kershaw9.732.150.5542.9%.2762.40
Justin Verlander9.082.020.8440.3%.2372.93
Zack Greinke10.602.111.0047.3%.3202.89
Brandon Morrow10.173.351.1435.2%.3073.73
Tim Lincecum9.363.590.6448.3%.2763.14
Cory Luebke9.882.630.7839.2%.2812.88

Of course, that is a bit misleading. Once again, I omitted a critical evaluator...Innings Pitched. All those pitchers except Luebke and Hanson (due to injuries) have pitched at least 150 innings. Luebke is at 126 2/3. He has appeared in 44 games this season, but only 15 starts thus far. His first startwas June 26 and was uninspiring in that it lasted only 5 innings. He issued 2 walks, but struck out 6 and gave up only one hit...a sign of things to come perhaps? Whats that? You say he has too low of a BABIP? I retort that statement with some proof that high strikeout guys tend to have lower BABIP. Yep. Proof. So his success isn't BABIP fueled. Hmm. What else could it be? Maybe he accrued all of his K's as a flame throwing reliever, and very few as a starter? You think? Let's take a look.

Before we do take that look, lets check out the absolutely brilliant minds over at Baseball Prospectus. They did a ton of leg work for me already on the subject of relievers turned starters/swingmen roles, etc. Read this, and you'll get a much better grasp of what I'll be doing next, which is comparing the different roles that Luebke has performed in.

Reliever 4/2 - 6/25Avg FFAvg FT Avg SLAvg CH
Speed In MPH91.191.682.783.2
Horiz. In Inches4.938.6-1.647.11
Vert. In Inches8.907.88-1.07-0.08
Whiff Rate9.1%0.0%19.5%12.2%
Pitch Selection56.2%2.5%34.6%6.8%

Starter 6/26-9/13Avg FFAvg FT Avg SLAvg CH
Speed in MPH91.591.382.985.1
Horiz. In Inches4.509.26-1.049.26
Vert. In Inches9.699.290.381.73
Whiff Rate8.5%4.4%16.6%14.3%
Pitch Selection67.6%3.0%22.9%6.5%

What we're seeing here is almost a zero change in velocity across the board, but the movement and the selection of each pitch has changed considerably. This is directly in line with what BP already established above. No huge outliers. The significance of this lack of outliers is that Luebke can now be more accurately projected. Though the list of successful bullpen-starter guys is rather short, the most notable comparison is actually in the first chart. A Mr. Brandon Morrow. Given that Luebke's numbers jive quite well with his, I can safely assume that going forward (and assuming no great-than-normal injury risk), that Cory Luebke will be an outstanding pitcher going forward. My only concern is that he never showed this many strikeouts in the higher minors, but he did refine his delivery in 2009, and he apparently attributes much of his success to that refinement. I'm not overly concerned about regression.

I picked up Luebke on a flier in a fantasy league. Now I can keep him at the cost of a 29th round pick. I think that's going to be a yes. From relative unknown to being in the same sentence, and tables, as some of the best pitcher in the game? Not too bad for a sleeper.

A constant kudos to Tableizer!

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Bit of a Twitter Debate

Shocker: I love baseball.
Newsflash: I tweet a lot.
Shocking newsflash: I tweet a lot about baseball.
Most shocking newsflash: I get into debates about baseball.
Least shocking thing of all time: I get into debates about baseball on twitter. A lot.

Aaaaannnnyyyyywho, given the statements above, the statement below shouldn't surprise you. And if it does, then who are you, and how did you find my blog?

Today I will argue both sides for AL Cy Young. I kind of debate against myself more than anything here, but it was inspired by a friend of mine on twitter. Follow him. He's pretty biased towards Detroit, but hey, I'm a big A's homer, so its fine.

He thinks that Verlander should win the Cy Young. I'm inclinded to agree, but for the sake of arguement, and to be kind of a dick, I decided to disagree. I realize that C.C. leads the AL in pitcher WAR at 6.8, and that Verlander, 6.4 WAR, has that air of a potential no hitter every 5 days, but I'm going to make a different arguement. In fact, I believe that I can make a reasoned case for Haren and Weaver to win Co-Cy Youngs with a 6.1 and 5.4 WAR respectively.

As much as we attempt to differentiate team statistics from individual ones, the main stream media (read: 90% of fans and voters) still like to muddle those waters.

Exhibit A: Pitcher wins.
We all know by now much wins don't really matter. If you're looking for more of a convincing arguement, read Joe Posnanski. He is a mechanic with words and a magician with his arguements. I aspire to write with 1/100th of his talent. Gushing for my favorite writer aside, wins are mostly irrelevant. A pitcher's sole duty is not to accrue wins. It is to efficiently record outs. As novel of an idea as that may seem, it still feels like the vast majority is unaware of that duty. Whether or not a starting pitcher gets the fabled "Win" is a massive amount of work and doing for the team, not just the individual pitcher. I think that statement stands on its own. We have officially debunked the myth of pitcher Wins.

Exhibit B: Marginal (team) wins.
The Tigers have a 9 game lead and have all but locked up a playoff spot. That the Tigers have managed this despite a corpse playing RF for the majority of the season is impressive. That they've done this with a closer who looks like Hermes Conrad is even more so. On the other hand, the Angels acquired the albatross in the field, plate, and bank that is Vernon Wells, and have a decomposing zombie also playing RF/DH. For the Angels to be only 2.5 games back is stunning. Given that the Dynamic Duo of Weaver and Haren is the best 1-2 punch in the AL, 2nd best in the league behind only Halladay and Lee, that is worth noting. Actually, more than noting. That means that Haren and Weaver have combined to be the best in their league all year. They've been pitching to make the playoffs. Each time they pitch and the team wins, they get closer and closer. Detroit doesn't need to everytime Verlander pitches. Baseball Prospectus' Playoff Odds Report says it all. The Angels do in fact need their superheros to be, well, superhuman in order to make the playoffs. Given that need, the team wins, and in a larger frame, each start by Haren and Weaver are much more critical. Know a synonym for critical? Valuable. Moving on.

Exhibit C: FIP.
I'm only looking at things that the pitcher can control. Well, that and IP, because I think the raw number of innings pitched gets under-rated far too often.

Weaver217 1/
Haren214 1/
Sabathia224 1/37.852.230.672.80

Pretty much too close to call, huh? When the largest FIP difference is about 6.7%, its worthless to cite a difference.

Exhibit D: Subjective Opinion.
I won't lie, if I were picking one pitcher in the AL to see today, it would be Justin Verlander. He is more exciting than anyone else in the league. I think that out of all of MLB, I would only pick Clayton Kershaw over him in terms of excitement. Verlander seems to posses a potential to throw a no hitter every 5 days. He has a fastball that gets faster the deeper into games he gets. Crazy. Sabathia had that in the half year he spent with Milwalkee. Pedro had that for 3 years running. Verlander seems locked in, so to say.

All of this sounds nice, but it doesn't quite match the numbers. The record, you know, what actually happened. An objective fact. If the Cy Young were based on hype, hysteria and "mound presence" then I assume Verlander has it locked up. But it isn't. Its based on the best pitcher in context that year. Is it Verlander? Maybe. For me, right now, even yes. But, with 3 weeks left to go, and the AL West still up in the air, Weaver and Haren can make a ton of noice coming down the stretch. If they pitch their team to a playoff spot, then I'm changing my non-vote for them to share the Cy Young. Even if Verlander gets to 25 wins. Pushing your team to an unlikely playoff spot is infinitely more imporant (read: valuable) than one person accomplishing 25 wins.

And that ladies and gentlemen, is the power of team wins, over the myth of pitcher wins.

You know the drill, the table via Tableizer!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

2001...A Different Remembering

With everyone else being introspecitve and going deeper into their memory banks of 9/11, I decided to be a bit of a contratian and go a different direction. This isn't to say that I didn't pause and remember the NYFD, NYPD and all the other first responders, Flight 93, or everyone in our Armed Services. I have. To me, the best way of remembering an tragedy of this scale isn't to *only* mourn, but to remember the good too. Even at funerals, I try to not to dwell on the current and sad situation. I'd much rather remember the past, and laugh at all the good times. Yes, to me, a funeral isn't so much the mourning of passing, but the celebration of someones life. I'll be taking that point to an even further length today. Here I'll be looking at how much the world has changed since 2001.

The week of Septmeber 11, 2001 the folling was true:

-The Top 5 Billboard Top 100 songs at the time-
5 - Hit Em Up Style, Blu Cantrel. I can't help but laugh at this. I mean, come on. This song is so awful. Then again, nowadays we have Soulja Boy...Tomato/tomato I suppose (Wow... doesn't translate at all in text. Oh well, you know what I meant).

4 - Someone To Call My Lover - Janet Jackson. Is this real life? Seriously? Wow. Apparently 2001 was in desperate need of good music. I honestly don't even remember this song. I just looked it up, and I do kind of remember it now. Fantastic stuff.

3 - Where The Party At? - Jagged Edge Feat. Nelly. Now *this* song I remember. I can still rattle off at least half the lyrics right now. I'm so happy this track is listed. I might bump to it right now actually. Little known fact: when I first started drinking, I drank nothing but Bacardi O and Limon, based solely on this song. Yep. Make fun of me for it the next time you see me.

2 - Fallin, Alicia Keys. I really have nothing bad to say a bout Alicia Keys. Shes a great pianist, singer and otherworldly song writer. Call me a girl, but she writes some dope music.

1 - I'm Real, Jennifer Lopez. I never was into her stuff, so I linked a much better version. And yes, I totally used to have a man-crsuh on Kenny Vasoli from TSL.

-Upon re-opening after the attacks, the NYSE had its 3rd largest single day drop in history. In one day of trading, the market plummeted 684.81 points. That's enough to make anyone with money in the market weep openly in the streets and start begging for change.

-A gallon of gas in the Midwest, cost an average of $1.64

-It had been been 82 and going on 83 years since the Boston Red Sox won a World Series. They've won 2 since then.

-It had been 92 years since the Chicago Cubs last won a World Series. That hasn't changed. Except now its 103 years. Maybe next year guys!!

-It was the year that this happened. I'd go into further detail about, but my nose starts to bleed everytime I think about it. Jeter, I hate you.

-In 2001, Shrek debuted. That is to say, the first Shrek.

-In January of 2001, Lizzie McGuire goes from pilot to show. Wow. Didn't see that one coming.

-The World meets JD, Turk, et al in the Scrubs premiere. I can't beleive this stuff. I swear I'm old.

Now, to end things, I just have to blow your minds, because this utterly floored me when I realized it... Miley Cyrus was 9 years old when the Towers fell. How's that for a little perspective?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Is Ian Kennedy A Real MC?

As my boy Will Smith once said in his song Lost & Found: "Ya'll lookin at a real MC!"

Of course the concept of someone being "real" vs an illusion is quite prevalant in our world of baseball nerd-dom. Now it's time to segue from mid 90's rap (which is fantastic) to baseball statistic (which is even more fanastic). Alright, today I was thinking about Ian Kennedy, which means I looked at his StatCorner, FanGraphs and B-Ref page for far too long. Anyways, I'm going to show you the career lines of two different pitchers. The first is Ian Kennedy. I'll let you try to guess the 2nd.

Ian Kennedy19.9%8.6%0.75.26537.0%3.744.064.10
Pitcher X20.1%8.4%1.02.26737.8%3.363.694.25

If you haven't figured it out by now, Pitcher X is Matt Cain (see what I did there with the MC? You're welcome...Stop groaning, I can hear you from here). Obviously there are a few differences here. The biggest and most glaring is probably the home run rate, and the FIP variance is nothing to sneeze at either, but that correlates directly from the home run rate.

I intentionally ommitted a key number from that table: Innings Pitched. As of this writing, Ian Kennedy has amassed 448 big league innings. Matt Cain is at 1291 2/3.

Looking past the sample size comparisons, the similarities are quite striking. Cain has the advantage of a much better home park to supress homeruns, but the defense behind Kennedy is superior. Of course this is just a 2 year blip on the radar of Kennedy, compared to the career BABIP repression for Cain.

A part of Cain's success has been his home park, which averaged since 2005, is an even 100 Pitcher Park Factor, per Baseball-Reference. Cain's defense has helped as well, with a +3.5 UZR/150 since 2005.

Kennedy, logged a few innings at Yankee Stadium and over 400 at Chase Field. In his snippets of 3 years playing for the Yankees, they had a -3.1 UZR/150. Conversely, the past 2 years at Chase Field has been much smoother, with the D-Backs having a league leading +7.8 UZR/150. In his 2 year there, Chase Field has an average of a Pitcher Park Factor of 104, or 4% favoring pitchers. I'm just as surprised as you are. Yankee Stadium was rated at 102.5, again, slightly favoring pitchers.

By now, I hope you have (in my opinion) correctly surmised the following:
-Cain has an uncanny ability to repress BIP falling for hits
-Kennedy also shows that (possible) skill in his short career
-Cain benefits from a slight above average defense in a perfectly neutral park
-Kennedy has the luck of a fantastic defense behind him in a slight pitchers park

At this point, much of the saber community is willing to give Cain a bit of slack, as he's show his BABIP to be a repeatable skill. As for Kennedy, the jury is still out. We all know the unusal creature that is Matt Cain by now. In fact, if you google "FanGraphs, Matt Cain" 6 out of the top 7 results are articles about him, mostly regarding his ability to keep a low BABIP. I wonder now, if this offseason we will see a similar number of posts regarding Ian Kennedy?

Hear me out, I'm not saying that Ian Kennedy is guarenteed to be the next Matt Cain. I need to see about 400 more innings out of him with this surpressed BABIP before I totally buy it, but if you're asking me if I think he could turn into one?

Yes he Cain!

As usual, table compliments of Tableizer!