Archive | November 2012

Imagining a Smaller Petco

Petco Park is finally going be altered. Total balance between offense and pitching is not the goal of this effort. Petco will always be tilted in a pitcher’s favor due to the lack of elevation and the cold, moist air of the bay off it’s concourse. The goal of initiating a construction project on the field in San Diego is to balance offense overall, and to balance offensive output between right handed and left handed batters. A nice side effect of any such maneuver is that Petco will no longer be such an extreme environment. Let’s take a look at the new dimensions and how they would have effected last year’s offensive numbers.

The Changes

Petco-2013

RA Rowe

With the modifications, the fence in right field will extend from what was the middle notch of the short porch and run all the way to the alley in right center. This takes rightfield in by 11 feet at the end of the porch, 14 feet in straightaway right, and 20 feet in the alley. Not to mention the fence will no longer be the ridiculous behemoth it once was. The out of town scoreboard will be relocated, though it’s future home has not yet been revealed. A seemingly more visually subtle change in left center will actually impact offense almost as much as the changes in right. You can see that fence will be bumped forward by 12 feet in the gap. The visitors bullpen will be moved behind the Padres bullpen, behind the wall, to the left of center. This removes a long lamented hazard from the field of play.

The Impact

To study the possible effect of the new dimensions of the park, we need to look at batted ball data in the form of spray charts.

I wanted to find spray charts that would allow me to see what the result of each Hit on the plot was (single, double, triple, homer), but I could not find a source this detailed. Because of this lack of data, I had to estimate that deep plot points for a Hit, must have been doubles. I took outs that landed beyond the new boundary of the field and added four total bases for a home run, and for each Hit beyond the new boundary, I added two total bases (to account for the change from a double to a homer). I have no way of knowing if the spray charts (from foxsports.com) are totally reliable, and therefore relied on guesswork, to an extent.

Because of this, the following data is scientific in only the most casual definition of the word, but can provide us with a idea of how Petco may play in 2013.

Petco-Changes-Data

RA Rowe

 

We see that Chase Headley (a switch hitter) would have ended up benefitting the most from the 2013 layout, with Will Venable and Yonder Alonso (both lefties) tied with Carlos Quentin in second. John Baker and Alexi Amarista (also lefties) fall in the 5 and 6 spots.  It is notable that the two top power hitters on the team (Quentin and Headley) would gain the most in terms of total bases. It is also notable that Will Venable gains a disproportionately high number of homers and total bases compared to his season totals. This makes sense, due to the fact that he is a dead-pull lefty.

But let’s try to figure out what a whole season at the new Petco looks like. To do this we need the rate at which total bases and home runs are being increased per plate appearance (the change in TB/HR divided by the total home PA of the players sampled, including those players who experienced no change.) Then we need to multiply that rate by the number of total home PA the Padres had last season to find the adjusted TB and HR totals. We can then compare the adjusted totals with others from around the league. We can do the same with the opposing teams.

Rates-and-Added-Offense

RA Rowe

 

The Padres had bad pitching last season, due to a high attrition rate in the rotation. So it should come as no surprise they would have given up the second most home runs of any staff, in a more balanced park. In 2012 they allowed the 17th most longballs in the Majors. At the plate, the Padres would have moved into the middle third of offenses, as opposed to the finishing in the bottom five in each category.

The New Era

The changes to the playing field at Petco look rather subtle, but the impact on offense could be quite substantial. However, more important than increasing offensive production in the immediate term, the Padres are counting on the alterations to help the club shape it’s future. They have a surplus of talented prospects in the farm system and a new ownership group upstairs that wants to lure hitters (not just pitchers) to San Diego. By neutralizing what was an extreme environment they are completing a fresh start, renewing the faith.

[RA Rowe]

Advertisements

The MVP Debate and Society

Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The most furious internet trash talking and fist shaking of 2012 has been, without compare, over who should win the AL MVP award. Now that the votes have been shat, and Miguel Cabrera is the mantle guy’s new best customer, we may feel that the storm is over. But this ordeal is still with us. The rift between those of us who are willing to assimilate new information and the militant traditionalists mirrors society in some disturbing ways.

Much like the debate between people of faith (traditionalists in a more extreme sense) and atheists, there is one side bonded by sentimentality and fear, and another, operating on reason. You cannot combat emotion with reason.

The specific arguments have been made by so many over the last few months, I would rather address Mitch Albom and those like him, who resort to a cast of logical fallacies to make their “argument.”

They filled their ballots out with Miguel Cabrera’s name at the top, but make no mistake: They did not vote for Miguel Cabrera. They voted for ignorance, the status quo, themselves. They masquerade as the “Common Man,” against rationalists, who they have painted as the intellectual elitists. Why being an elite intellectual is something people have become so averse to being is absurd, but has it’s roots in mass culture.

The traditionalists have said that Cabrera’s team made the playoffs and that is why he is their MVP. Trout’s team won more games against far better competition.

This matters (Joy R. Absalon-US Presswire).

The traditionalists claim purity because they stick to the old guard stats. But batting average, home runs, and RBI have nothing to do with defense or baserunning. How exactly can you claim purity when you ignore two thirds of a position player’s game? How is paying equal credit and attention to defense and baserunning tantamount to blasphemy?

The traditionalists have said it is ridiculous to vote based on a bunch of stuff “nobody can recalculate, anyway,” to paraphase Albom. This assumes that just because he can’t figure it out, that it has no function, or if it does, it couldn’t possible fulfill it. Do you know how to calculate the force of gravity, Mitch? No? And yet, somehow it has managed to keep you from floating into the sky, where you can get mulched by an jet engine.

Perhaps his most compelling argument is as follows. Ahem… “Nerrrds!”

Yes, traditionalists, increase ignorance in your own image. Let us promote the notion that having the desire and ability to learn something is to be chastised.

These scribblers of nonsense should be embarrassed. Albom says that baseball is being bogged down by “situational stats.” When in fact the mission of advanced statistics is to provide comprehensive measures of value. This demonstrates that he doesn’t even know what he professes to be a nemesis of.

As men who are paid to write about baseball, these men have not only a responsibility, but every opportunity to read up on advanced statistics, to review the new figures until they know them well, until they can measure players using them, until they understand what each stat measures or predicts.  They choose ignorance in their profession, and promote it in public. The arrogance that chooses, enforces and promotes ignorance is beyond all other arrogance.

In itself it does not matter that Miguel Cabrera is the MVP and Mike Trout is not. It does not matter that CBS and so many others are promoting ignorance, when it comes to baseball. In fact, there is justice in baseball. MLB franchises are not run by luddite, hack writers. They are run by people who must constantly adapt, and that means that they pay advanced statistics a high degree of attention.

What disturbs me is that it accurately represents a part of our culture. A large sector of our society chooses traditionalism, falling for commercial love, and commercial patriotism.  And all because anti-intellectualism is promoted by those who stand to benefit most from ignorance and indifference. An intellectualized general public is a positive force. Do not believe the shit vendors.

To read Mitch Albom’s latest bon mot, click the following: Ass hat.

[RA Rowe]

Big Decisions Pt. 2 – Arizona Diamondbacks

Credit: The Arizona Republic

Credit: The Arizona Republic

The Arizona Diamondbacks are a team I spent all year trying to figure out. To an extent I feel justified in my confusion about this squad, because of their up and down season. And to an extent, this team doesn’t actually have decisions to make (as the title of this article suggests), so much as it has decisions to execute.

Justin Upton

The outfield is complicated again this offseason. They have already made a big move by dishing Chris Young to Oakland. Unfortunately all this trade brought them was rapidly eroding closer Heath Bell and offensive void Cliff Pennington (SS).

They will likely make another move very soon. For several years now Gerardo Parra has been a starting outfielder stuck on the bench. Last year Adam Eaton earned a call-up and played well enough to warrant full playing time in 2013. His hitting was above average (117 wRC+) and he held his own in centerfield. Meanwhile, Justin Upton had a disappointing year, but his talent is still widely hailed as elite (and deservedly so). GM Kevin Towers has been working hard to trade the 25 year old outfielder.

They attempted a three team trade that would have netted them shortstop Andrelton Simmons from the Braves. Upton would have gone to the Rangers, and top third-base prospect Mike Olt would have been the Braves’ reward. But the Braves balked at the deal. Previously the Rangers had not been willing to take Upton in exchange for either of their terrific young shortstops, Jurickson Profar, or Elvis Andrus. Which brings us to an aside:

What the are the Rangers doing?

The Rangers have an MVP candidate at third base in Adrian Beltre, and one of the top five shortstops in the game in Elvis Andrus, who is just 24 years old. But they also have the top MLB ready third base prospect and one of the most talented shortstop prospects in the game in power hitting Mike Olt and über athletic Jurickson Profar. On opening day Olt will be 24, and Profar will be 20.

At first glance this situation seems untenable. It seems they either need to trade the veteran or the rookie at each position. But of the two prospects only Olt is clearly MLB ready. A team as good as the Rangers can afford to wait until every wrinkle is ironed out of Profar’s game to bring him to the big leagues. Their unwillingness to deal Profar and their attempt to flip Olt suggests they will stick with the veterans, send Olt out for a star, and give Profar more time to develop.

And we’re back

To resume the Upton discussion: They will likely have to wait until free agents Michael Bourn, Josh Hamilton and Justin’s brother B.J. are signed to find a suitor desperate enough to part with a prized piece.

Shortstop

As mentioned, the Diamondbacks have been trying to land a young shortstop, but have failed to acquire their preferred targets. Cliff Pennington, Willie Bloomquist and John McDonald do not add up to a starting shortstop. They do represent a bizarre depth at the utility spot, which could land them a reliever should they successfully trade for the shortstop they seek.

Third Base

Ryan Wheeler

Credit: Ross Franklin, AP

The 24 year old Ryan Wheeler is pushing for a shot at the opening day roster after 16 HR and 100 RBI between AAA and the Big Club last season. Chris Johnson played above average in 2012, but he is not a slick fielder and he’s 28 years old. He represents an upgrade to most teams, but the Diamondbacks have seemed eager to replace him. This is likely due to his low walk rate (5.9%), high strikeout rate (25%), and high BABIP (.354).

If I were Kevin Towers, Upton, Johnson and either Bloomquist or McDonald would not be on my roster come Opening Day. I do favor youth, due to the fact that it is cheap. And since this team didn’t prove a lot last season, I would rather save some dough and wait to see if I have the makings of something sustainable, before adding to it for 2014.

I personally think this is is what the Diamondbacks are doing. Besides, they have yet to play their biggest trade chip: A surplus of young pitching. Between Wade Miley, Patrick Corbin, Tyler Skaggs and Trevor Bauer, the Snakes have a lot to dangle, and it seems likely the D-Backs will get what they want via the trade market this winter. It is really just a matter of the lengths they will have to go.

[RA Rowe]

Miami, FL: Five More Willies Freed

Not 2013 Marlins

Photo from Hanley Ramirez’s Twitter account

So according to MLB Trade Rumors: “The Blue Jays have reached agreement on a deal with the Marlins that will send right-hander Josh Johnson, left-hander Mark Buehrle, shortstop Jose Reyes, outfielder Emilio Bonifacio, and catcher John Buck to Toronto.”

In exchange the Marlins will receive the handsome bounty of “shortstop Yunel Escobar, infielder Adeiny Hechavarria, right-hander Henderson Alvarez, left-hander Justin Nicolino, outfielder Jake Marisnick, catcher Jeff Mathis, and right-hander Anthony DeSclafani. The deal, which will also call for the Marlins to send $4MM to the Blue Jays.”

So in case you’re counting, that’s $1MM each for how many people should be surprised the Marlins did something stupid again this year. Last year they threw some plaster of Paris over the ruins of a burnt down KFC and called it Ancient Rome. This year they personally went to the door of every fan they had and kicked them in the nerts, and said “Thanks for paying for our stadium instead of your kids education. Bye!”

So what was the point of that?

Justin Nicolino(RHP) – An elite single A pitcher by the numbers in 2012, who will be 21 at high A in 2013. 2.54 FIP, 8.6 K/9, 1.06 WHIP. Although he won’t blow anybody away on the radar gun, Nicolino was a key to this trade and can be a 3 or 4 guy if he’s able to refine his stuff.

Jake Marisnik – Marisnik is a premium athlete. After tinkering with his stance all year, he has started looking more comfortable in the Arizona Fall League, and 2013 could be the year he breaks out. He is a 22 year old centerfielder who can hit 15-20 HR and steal 20-30 bags annually, with good on base skills, if he reaches his ceiling. And even if he doesn’t, his floor looks pretty high.

Henderson Alvarez –  Nobody is happier about how enormous Marlins park is than Henderson Alvarez. Last year he gave up 29 seat ticklers in hitter friendly Canada Stadium (it’s not called that). He came into the league in 2011 as a guy with average stuff, but good command. Last year his strikeout rate fell to just 3.8 per nine, and the walk rate rose to 2.59 per nine innings.

Yunel Escobar (SS) – A 30 year old shortstop with slowly declining defensive skills, who fell below league average last season at the dish. Escobar tallied 4.2 WAR in 2011, and stepped back to 1.8 in 2012. He will either keep the position warm or move to 3B, and will likely enjoy moving to Miami. Let’s take a closer look:

  • Cuban: +1 for Miami
  • Not the biggest fan of homosexuals: neutral based upon my limited knowledge of each city
  • Bad relationship with the Blue Jays organization as a whole: +1 for Miami
  • That’s Miami 2-0.

Anthony Desclafani (RHP) – In what was his first professional season as a baseball pitcher slash guy-with-a-Magician’s-last-name, the “Great Desclafani” limited walks, but delivered a middling strikeout rate. He gave up too many hits, but kept the ball in the yard. Hard to tell where this goes as he moves up the ladder, but it seems unwise to expect him to become more than a back of the rotation starter.

Adeiny Hechavarria (SS) – Has the potential to become a very good defensive shortstop, but will only ever hit slightly better than a scared baby deer. Although athletic and rangy he does not steal many bases. If he can learn to draw a walk, he could reach 20. Otherwise, think 15. He will be 24 years old next year, and it remains to be seen whether he will play short or 2B in 2012.

Jeff Mathis (C)– Hits like Dee Gordon on the opposite of steroids, while talking on his cell phone, while driving, and pretending to be an effeminate Clown named Smushes trying to blow off jury duty. Do your civic duty, Mathis!

Meanwhile

The 2013 Blue Jays will look like this while they contend for the division title.

Lineup
1. Jose Reyes – SS
2. Emilio Bonifacio – 2B
3. Edwin Encarnacion – 1B
4. Jose Bautista – RF
5. Brett Lawrie – 3B
6. Adam Lind – DH
7. J.P. Arencibia – C
8. Colby Rasmus – CF
9. Anthony Gose – LF

Rotation
1. Josh Johnson
2. Mark Buehrle
3. Ricky Romero
4. Brandon Morrow
5. J.A. Happ / Chad Jenkins / ?

[RA Rowe]

Bizarro Clemente Award

Bizarro Clemente Award - For Drinking Beer out of

Bizarro Clemente Award – For Drinking Beer out of

In the continued spirit of making fun of year end articles proclaiming the Best and Worst of everything, I have created the Bizarro Clemente Award. The Roberto Clemente Award is annually handed out to baseball’s finest sportsman. Past Winners of the Roberto Clemente Award include such d-bags, cheaters, and weirdos as Steve Garvey, Pete Rose, and Sammy Sosa. The Bizarro Clemente is an opportunity to forego honoring somebody who we think is good, but might be a jerk. Instead honoring a player who we made out to be a jerk, but who is actually a decent guy.

Presenting the 1st Annual Bizarro Clemente Award

Let us not hold up what we already know is good. And let us not proliferate a culture that focuses attention on idiots. Carl Everett believes in demons, but not dinosaurs. Does he really deserve space in the public forum? No. Let us dig through some jerks to find the wrongly accused, and salvage a good…well, mediocre name.

People forget that Miguel Cabrera was caught driving drunk before the season began. He is not this year’s Bizarro recepient. This is because salvaged his reputation on his own, with a Triple Crown season and an American League Pennant.

On the other hand, Melky Cabrera tried, and failed, to fully salvage his image. His team disowned him, won the World Series without him. Dropping out of the NL Batting Title race after cheating and trying to cover it up with an elaborate internet charade was not enough to win him this finest of awarded thingies.

And as for the hotheaded Alfredo Aceves, he is on the Red Sox, so we don’t talk about him here.

And the Winner is…

This year I am proud to present the Bizarro Clemente award to Indians closer, Chris Perez. I don’t pay much attention to overblown sound bite pusher sites, but even I heard tell of Perez’ supposedly awful remarks about fans, the Indians organization and his teammates.

However, upon revisiting the tape available to me, his remarks seemed harmless. Once again the terms tirade and rant had been ejaculated across the empty, attention starved pages of so many traffic obsessed pseudo news sites, with nothing to back up the headline.

Chris Perez did what a player should be able to do. He told the fans not to boo a first place team at home. He told them to come to the park and show support for a franchise heading in the right direction. He pointed to the fact that the Tigers spend money and that the Indians don’t, which is why Detroit has been able to acquire talent and finish strong the last two seasons, while the Indians fade, their roster unaltered. And Perez never bashed his teammates. In fact, he said that he wanted to be in Cleveland. His reason: his teammates were good.

I am sure he will barf upon completion of this redemptive victory, I hope somebody quickly fetches him a glass of sparkling water. It is well deserved. While most of the country is so self unaware, they dismiss criticism of all kinds with their motto “haters gonna hate,” Perez has demonstrated to us a great lesson: When somebody tells you something you don’t want to hear, listen even more intently to what they are saying, and consider it carefully. Do not dismiss it.

Ladies and gentlemen, Chris Perez: Your 2012 Bizarro Clemente Award Winner!

Acceptance Roar

Acceptance Roar

[RA Rowe]

Best-Worst, Worst-Best and Worst of 2012

Recently I have had the misfortune of beginning a series of research heavy posts, which have been squashed before birth because they were quickly rendered irrelevant by either events, or the discovery of similar (or superior) articles on the subject. So here is an article, which, being totally irrelevant at it’s conception, is impervious to the phenomena that have been befalling my other recent attempts. I must give a huge nod to a recent Fangraphs Audio, which initiated the half-cocked train of thought that led to this article. 

Worst-Best

Every team has a best player. I wanted to know, which team’s best player was the worst. It’s that simple. By the raw numbers Houston’s Jed Lowrie had the lowest WAR (2.5), and there was a tie between Oakland’s Josh Reddick and Seattle’s Kyle Seager for lowest wRC+ (108). But owing to Reddick’s terrific defense (an AL Best 18.5 Fielding Runs Saved), he comes out with a 4.4 WAR. Second lowest by WAR was Dexter Fowler, who despite a 123 wRC+ produced just 2.9 WAR, primarily due to his defense, which cost his team 13.9 runs. When you calculate WAR produced per game you have Seager and Cleveland’s Carlos Santana tied at .023, which just slightly edge Fowler at .020.

So by this admittedly basic strategy, Congratulations Dexter Fowler! You are the Best Player on the Rockies, which means nothing! Also, Congratulations, Rockies!

A Meaningless Triumph

2012’s Worst-Best

Best-Worst

Same thing as Worst-Best, but opposite, duh.

In each case I used a minimum of 300 PA as my baseline. It comes into greater effect on the Worst list, because it limits how ridiculous things can get. It should surprise nobody that the Best Worst player with a minimum of 300 PA comes from a good team. It shouldsurpriseyou to learn that it is Freddie Freeman. He actually had agood season at age 23, showing improvement and giving Braves fans and brass a reasonto believe he can be a cornerstone of their future.

The triumphant king of the lepers.

2012’s Best-Worst was almost as good as 2012’s Worst-Best.

Freeman led the worstees with 2.0 WAR, 115 wRC+, and .014 WAR/G. Trailing close behind and tied at 1.1 WAR each, were Cincinnati’s Scott Rolen and Boston’s Daniel Nava. Each barely made the 300 PA required to appear on the list, with Rolen missing time to injuries and Nava heavily platooned. Nava produced .013 WAR/G and Rolen managed .012.

Actual Worst

This time of year, you’ll find a lot of shiny “Best of 2012” articles out there, and for this reason it is likely a welcome respite to delight in the ineptitude of some players. It was for me. Besides, there are several players, whose folly deserves to be enjoyed while pretending I could do any fucking better.

In the course of producing this article, I looked at a lot of crappy stat lines. Dee Gordon’s was by far the most fecal. While his defense was miserable (-13 Fielding Runs), he played offense like the path to first base was blanketed with contaminated needles (for more Dee-Gordon-is-a-very-bad-hitter jokes, just wait). By wRC+ Gordon created runs at just over half the rate of an average player. He amassed -1.1 WAR in just 330 plate appearances. Casey Kotchman soiled his career line with this year’s lowest raw total (-1.5) and that took him 500 PA.

Dee minus

Sweet Flat-top, bitter disappointment.

Gordon is not without company, however.

Many teams desire a utility man that can play many positions, but the Marlins have cornered the market in those who can’t play any. At -1.1 WAR in just 342 PA Greg Dobbs eloquently summarized the 2012 Miami Marlins. While not particularly inept at the dish (84 wRC+) Dobbs managed to personally chauffeur 13.9 runs across home plate for the opposition from RF, LF, 1B and especially 3B.

Worst Defender

If Greg Dobbs is the Leonardo DaVinci of awful defense, making contributions in many areas, then Lucas Duda is its Vincent Van Gogh. From rightfield alone Duda gave 19.8 opposing players piggy back rides around the bases, convincingly eclipsing the 15 home runs he hit in 2012. Ladies and gentlemen, the New York Mets!

Dude-Ugh

Lucas Duda warming up in right field.

Worst Teammates

Remarkably, the Royals had two players with 600PA (okay one of them had 598), that produced over -1 WAR each. First baseman Eric Hosmer (-1.1) and Rightfielder Jeff Francoeur (-1.2) teamed up to horrify Kansas City baseball fans in a season that was supposed to mark the team’s turnaround. Francoeur was a 2.9 WAR player last season and in his age 22 season, Hosmer was good for 1.6 WAR in 2011. Royals fans can enjoy more of the same with Ervin Santana joining the fray. He was 2012’s only starting pitcher with over 170 IP that managed to net a negative WAR (-0.9).

And Jokes

In 2012 Dee Gordon played offense like…

home plate makes all your nightmares come out your butt.
like Robin Williams’ life depended on it.
the first baseman was a pound of muscle, seriously.
a blasted out pair of Hanes.
a whistle that just don’t dang whistle no more.
Tom Gordon.
a dog in a corn fight.
a member of the 2005-2011 San Diego Padres.

[RA Rowe]

* I would like to dedicate the dog-in-a-corn-fight joke to my father, who I am sure is the only person capable of fully appreciating it (if anybody is).

%d bloggers like this: