Tuesday, October 28, 2008

IBA Ballot: MVP

Presented below is my ballot (and some justification) for one of the categories in the Internet Baseball Awards hosted at Baseball Prospectus. I’m just one person, and the whole point of having a vote like the IBA is to get a wide variety of (intelligent) perspectives, and so I will not feel in the list bit slighted if you don’t give a flip about this.

In the American League, it was a pretty underwhelming years for position players, at least as far as MVP candidacies go. This results in a large number of candidates but no real standouts. Here is a chart-form look at some of the top candidates. RAA and RAR are against an average hitter at the position, so the column “Def” is estimated of runs saved above average at the position, based on Justin’s stats:

NAME                           RAA                RAR                Def  

Rodriguez 40 59 7

Sizemore 34 58 9

Pedroia 34 58 9

Mauer 38 54 N/A

Hamilton 31 53 0

Roberts 31 51 6

Kinsler 34 50 -6

Markakis 26 50 -4

Youkilis 21 44 4

Granderson 22 43 3

Morneau 15 41 -9

One thing to note is that in choosing my order, I will not treat the fielding stats as 100% equally valuable to hitting; they are pretty clearly less reliable. Also, the approach of comparing to the average hitter can be argued to favor second baseman and shortchange center fielders, which is something to keep in mind. Also, ARod’s “clutch” numbers are dreadful--while I don’t place much weight on this, it’s something that can swing my opinion in the case of a virtual tie.

As a result of all that, I would go with Joe Mauer (who does well fielding, +7 according to Chone’s estimates, although they don’t account for the quality of the pitching staff) in a close race over Sizemore and Pedroia. However, the most generous possible final RAR for Sizemore (giving him the 58 runs for hitting, 9 for fielding, and 5 more to correct for undervaluing center fielders) leaves him at +73; for Mauer, +54 RAR +7 fielding + an indeterminate amount for being a catcher…leave both the pitching duo of Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay.

I usually try to avoid giving my MVP support to a pitcher if there is a very small margin. This is not out of any bias against pitchers being the MVP, but because I am more confident in the sabermetric evaluation of hitters. No fielding or bullpen support to worry about, less nagging questions about “hit luck” and peripherals, etc. But here there is a clear demarcation between the two pitchers and everyone else, and I have to respect that. So this is how I see it:

1) SP Cliff Lee, CLE

2) SP Roy Halladay, TOR

3) C Joe Mauer, MIN

4) CF Grady Sizemore, CLE

5) 2B Dustin Pedroia, BOS

6) 3B Alex Rodriguez, NYA

7) SP Jon Lester, BOS

8) 2B Brian Roberts, BAL

9) CF Josh Hamilton, TEX

10) RF Nick Markakis, BAL

If any of the nimrod crowd at BTF (note that I consider this a subset of the BTF commentariat, not the whole) ever see this, I’m sure they will complain about how there are few guys from the left side of the defensive spectrum and attribute this to VORP and its treatment of DHs. The fact of the matter is, the left side of the defensive spectrum players in the AL just aren’t that good. Here are the leaders in Hitting RAR (not accounting for position) in order by position, without their identities:

5, 8, 9, D, 8, D, 3

I listed seven because I gave three spots on the ballot to pitchers (merit-based; I don’t have a three pitcher quota or anything)--thus there are seven position player spots up for grabs. It should stand to reason that if the best a first baseman can do is seventh, without considering defensive value at all, they are not going to fare very well when you do consider it. The third baseman, the two center fielders, and the right fielder all make my ballot. The two DHs are a guy who played for a bad team (Aubrey Huff, BAL) and a guy who played only 126 games, but was extremely productive when in the lineup (Milton Bradley). In fairness to them, they each played a fair amount in the field, but are considered 100% DH because of the single position adjustment used here (Huff played 24 games at first and 33 at third, Bradley 20 in the outfield corners).

So one could certainly argue that one or both are worthy of a ballot spot--but who are you going to replace? Are you going to argue that Huff was more valuable than his two Oriole teammates who played the field all the time, and also hit well? Are you going to argue that Bradley is more valuable than Hamilton, who could have very easily been reversed in roles with Bradley had Texas felt that would make them a better team? You can, but I’d have a hard time buying it.

In the National League, there is a runaway winner. Albert Pujols led players with 300 or more PA in SLG, RC, RG, and all four of the “above baseline” categories I track. He was second in BA, OBA, and secondary average. He did all this while fielding well (albeit at first base) and helping his team stay in contention all year when many (including myself) thought they’d be bad. And while it was arguably his best season (I think I’d hold out for 2003), he didn’t do anything that was way out of line with his track record.

I realize that you, as an intelligent baseball analyst, realized all that and didn’t need a lecture. But as an intelligent baseball analyst, you probably don’t care much about my MVP preferences in any case.

For the rest of the ballot, Hanley Ramirez’ seemingly improved fielding makes him a clear #2--even if you don’t believe he’s +7 out there as Jin’s numbers do, there would have to be around a dozen run error in that estimate to make me place David Wright or Chipper Jones ahead of him (that’s not to say that there couldn’t be a dozen run error, but I’ll bet against it).

Wright and Jones were #1/#2 on my 2007 ballot, but they will be #4/#3 this year. Wright’s RAR edge over Jones is razor-thin despite having nearly 200 more PA, and the zone data has Jones ahead by ten runs in the field. I find that hard to believe, but I was learning towards Jones anyway. Again, you can’t go wrong with either of them.

Behind them, I slip the top two pitchers in, then go with Berkman on the basis of trusting batting stats, although Beltran and Utley, on the strength of +10 performances in the field, could very well be ahead of them. Jose Reyes rounds out my ballot; Justin has him at -6 in the field, and there are number of guys who you could also make a case for (Giles, Holliday, Ludwick, and McCann among them).

1) 1B Albert Pujols, STL

2) SS Hanley Ramirez, FLA

3) 3B Chipper Jones, ATL

4) 3B David Wright, NYN

5) SP Tim Lincecum, SF

6) SP Johan Santana, NYN

7) 1B Lance Berkman, HOU

8) CF Carlos Beltran, NYN

9) 2B Chase Utley, PHI

10) SS Jose Reyes, NYN

Four Mets in the top ten will rub some folks the wrong way, but I’m hardly the first to observe that New York is a team with several stars and a lot of mediocre filler around them. It is a testament to Wright, Santana, Beltran, and Reyes that they came as close as they did.

Finally, I apologize again for the terrible formatting. Blogger has made it damned near impossible to copy and paste from Word while maintaining a readable output. The "Meanderings" post looked awful and this one may be worse.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Here are some disjointed observations and digressions largely inspired by my annual look at the final stats. I have to apologize that they are kind of Indian-centric; I strive to be non-partisan here, but I can’t help that they are the team to which I pay the most attention:

* I want to mention this before the Rays have a chance to ruin it, but if you look at the expansions in groups of two teams, one of the teams has won the World Series and the other has not. This is true for all of the expansions except the 1969 NL expansion, in which neither team has won:

1961: Angels, Senators
1962: Mets, Colt .45s
1969N: Padres, Expos (the exception)
1969A: Royals, Pilots
1977: Blue Jays, Mariners
1993: Marlins, Rockies
1998: Diamondbacks, Devil Rays

Please note that I’m just pointing this out as a coincidence, not any kind of profound insight.

* The AL hit .267/.332/.420, while the NL hit .260/.327/.413. The AL walk/at bat ratio was .096 (.090 with intentional walks removed), while the NL’s was .100 (.091). The AL and NL both had an isolated power of .152. So the biggest real difference in offense between the leagues was seven points of batting average.

Despite this, the AL managed to score .188 runs per (AB - H + CS) while the NL scored just .178. In terms of Base Runs per out, I have the AL at .189 versus the NL’s .183. The apparent difference from the components is not as large as the actual difference. The extra intentional walks could be a factor, but it could be a number of other things and the discrepancy is not particularly noteworthy.

BTW, all of those stats are for the AL and NL offenses. Interleague play makes the issue of league totals a mess as of course there are both offensive and defensive totals, and they no longer are equal on the league level.

* I list three winning percentage categories in my team spreadsheet. The first is regular W%; the second is EW%, which is Pythagenpat; and the third is PW%, which is Pythagenpat based on Base Runs. Teams for which all three figures are close include (these are displayed W%, EW%, PW%) the Cubs (.602, .614, .604), A’s (.466, .470, .470), White Sox (.546, .551, .548), Yankees (.549, .539, .545), and Cardinals (.531, .534, .529). Teams for which there are big differences include the Angels (.617, .544, .519), Braves (.444, .484, .504), and Padres (.389, .416, .453).

Last year there was much discussion about the Diamondbacks, who outplayed their pythagorean expectation to an extreme extent (they won 90 games despite being outscored). This year they had a .506 W% with an EW% of .509.

* The Indians struggled offensively early in the season, and were getting very good starting pitching. Thus the narrative that has been written for the season by the general fan base is that the offense was inadequate (this is not to say that the pitching is being praised; everyone agrees at the very least that the bullpen was dreadful) and the main cause of the team’s .500 season. However, if you look at the season as a whole, the Indians’ were +34 runs versus the league average (park-adjusted) offensively, and +10 defensively. If you look at Runs Created instead of actual runs, then it is +8/+6. The story may have been written in the early part of the season when the Tribe fell out of the race and started selling, but in the end, the run scoring and run prevention were pretty close.

* The Rangers and their opponents easily had the highest scoring level of any team. The RPG in Texas games was 11.53, while the overall MLB average was 9.30. The second-highest was Detroit at 10.36, over a run per game less.

Adjusting for park, the Rangers still lead the way at 11.20, with Detroit still second at 10.36. Toronto ended up with the lowest scoring context either way (8.17 raw, 8.01 adjusted).

* Speaking of Texas, have you noticed how dreadful Luis Mendoza’s season was? I had no idea until I looked at the stats. Mendoza pitched 63 1/3 innings and allowed 61 earned runs for an 8.67 ERA. It’s worse than that, though, as he also was tagged for 13 unearned runs, raising his RA to 10.52. He also inherited 13 runs and allowed 7 to score, so that would be another three runs surrendered.

Park factors help him, a little bit; his adjusted RA is 10.21. His eRA is 7.76, but his dRA is a much more reasonable 4.96. Opponents hit .384 against him when they put the ball in play.

The last pitcher with an ERA greater than 8.00 allowed to pitch more than 60 innings (in fairness, note that Mendoza is just above that cutoff) was Kyle Davies with Atlanta in 2006 (8.38 in the same 63 1/3 IP). The last pitcher to accomplish this with at least half of his appearances as a reliever was Russ Ortiz in 2006 (8.14 in 63 innings, with 26 appearances and 11 starts; Mendoza had 25 appearances, 11 starts). Beyond them, you have Miguel Batista in 2000 (8.54 in 65 1/3) and Benji Sampson in 1999 (8.11 in 71).

All of this added up to -38 RAR for Mendoza, making him the least valuable player in baseball among those who qualified for my spreadsheets. His RAR is overstated a bit by the fact that I lump pitchers into a binary class of starter or reliever with no gray area. Mendoza pitched 45 innings as a starter and 18.3 as a reliever. Thus, weighting the replacement levels by inning, he comes in at -34 RAR, which is still last in the majors by a considerable margin.

* Aquilino Lopez of the Tigers worked in 48 games, all in relief. He inherited 57 runners and allowed 29 of them to score. 1.19 inherited runners/game led all major league relievers, as does (on the trailers list) the -12 runs saved on inherited runners (acknowledging that this is a crude approach that does not consider where the runners are or the number of outs).

* Craig Breslow had a nice season, albeit over just 47 innings, as a lefty reliever for the Indians and Twins. Cleveland claimed him on waivers from Boston near the end of spring training, and pitched just 8 innings before he was let go again. He serves as an illustration of my biggest frustration with Eric Wedge as a manager.

I will tread lightly here, as this criticism is intended more as a fan than an analyst. However, Breslow was allowed to languish in the bullpen for weeks, never entrusted with any high-leverage situation whatsoever. Then, when he did get to pitch, he was not particularly sharp (surprise, surprise). Wedge picks his horses in the bullpen, and then he rides them hard. He doesn’t seem to be able to develop a bullpen in which five or six guys have valuable roles.

In fairness to him, he didn’t have a lot of material to work with this year.

* Most people are aware of the great performance Oakland got out of Brad Ziegler. What I didn’t notice until I looked at the stats was how well Joey Devine pitched for them this year. I would guess I’m not alone in saying that the main thing I remembered about Devine’s short stint in Atlanta was his propensity to allow grand slams. While Devine only pitched 46 innings this year, he was brilliant by any measure (1.41 RA, .60 ERA, 1.16 eRA, 2.39 dRA) and is still only 25. He’s one to keep an eye on for the future.

* About a month ago I wrote about Cliff Lee and his remarkable season in terms of W-L record compared to that of his team. At the time Lee was 21-2 and Cleveland was 71-73. The final tallies were 22-3 for Lee and 81-81 for the team, so his final NW% dipped to .915, still better than Randy Johnson’s .906 in 1995. That Big Unit season was the best that I could find for ten or more wins in my data for Hall of Fame pitchers.

* A hat tip to R.J. Anderson at Beyond the Box Score is warranted here, as he pointed it out a while back, but I thought it to be curious enough to mention again. The perennially disappointing Daniel Cabrera saw his strikeout rate drop to 4.8, which is woeful for a pitcher with his stuff (he didn’t pitch well in 2007 but was still fanning 7.3 per nine innings). I’m not a scout or a PitchF/x-er so I don’t have anything to add beyond that, but maybe there is something not evident in the traditional stats that explains why Cabrera’s career is floundering so.

* Remember when ARod, Jeter, Garciaparra, and Tejada were all AL shortstops? It seems like a long time ago when you look at the sorry crop of 2008. Only three AL shortstops with 300 or more PA were above average hitters: Jhonny Peralta, Derek Jeter, and Mike Aviles. Peralta, though much-maligned by Indians fans, was arguably the AL’s top shortstop in context-neutral terms. That still does not make him a great player (+22 RAA and +41 RAR before taking off up to ten runs for fielding), but you would think that he was below-average and a millstone listening to the talk shows here.

* Your job is to tell me who these players are:

.294 .346 .403
.268 .355 .415
.263 .327 .346
.260 .334 .427
.263 .317 .361
.282 .316 .439
.243 .326 .357
.240 .325 .303
.237 .339 .359
What is the common thread here? They are all Toronto Blue Jays with 100 or more PA (the stats for those with more than 300 PA are park-adjusted, while the others are not; that’s lazy and sloppy on my part, but irrelevant to the point). For some of the season the Blue Jays had Joe Inglett, John McDonald, David Eckstein, and Marco Scutaro on the roster simultaneously. Any one or two of those guys may be bale to help your team, but what on earth do you need four of them for?

* It’s hard to find a better offensive value match than Jimmy Rollins and JJ Hardy. Rollins had 614 PA, Hardy 621. Rollins made 405 outs, Hardy 409. Each created 91 runs, so Rollins’ RG was 5.71 and Hardy’s was 5.67. Rollins was +29 RAA, Hardy +28. Both were +45 RAR.

* One of these players is considered a MVP candidate, and one was until his team went in the toilet. The other two are well-known, but are often derided for their fielding, which while not great, is not significantly worse than the other two:
638 402 101 6.42
670 437 110 6.43
672 428 108 6.43
691 458 111 6.17
They are Pat Burrell, Carlos Delgado, Ryan Howard, and Prince Fielder.

* Here are three AL players:
.223 .326 .393
.225 .319 .400
.275 .326 .400
Some people still believe that if you have two players with equal OPS, but one has a higher BA, that the one with the higher BA is more valuable. They believe this despite the fact that more sophisticated run estimators show them to be of nearly identical value, with an edge for the lower BA if anything (with the caveat that we are considering a normal environment in the modern major leagues). This is illustrated by these player’s RGs, which are 4.45, 4.51, and 4.43 respectively. Not that I intend this to prove anything, but the players' (R + RBI)/Out are .32, .33, and .31 respectively. (R + RBI - HR)/Out are .29, .28, .27.

You should always remember that if you have identical OPS but varying BA, the player with the lower BA has a better combination of secondary skills. Incidentally, the players are Brandon Boggs, Gary Sheffield, and Billy Butler.

* I have a junkish-stat abbreviated “SU” for Speed Unit. I do not claim it to be better than Speed Score; as a matter of fact, it’s worse. It is based on triples/ball in play, runs/time on base, stolen base percentage, and stolen base attempt frequency. One of the big problems is that I did not cap each component; Curtis Granderson got a 121 last year (it’s supposed to be a 0-100 scale) because he hit a remarkable number of triples. Anyway, take this for what it’s worth. These are the highest and lowest SU by each position in the majors last year:

C Rodriguez (56) Varitek/YMolina(25)
1B Berkman(61) Sexson/Aurilia(30)
2B Weeks(79) Kent(30)
3B Figgins(67) Glaus(29)
SS Reyes(92) Eckstein(36)
LF Crawford(85) Cust/Gonzalez(30)
CF Taveras(92) Rowand(32)
RF Span(79) Ordonez/Jenkins(31)
DH Huff(47) Butler(28)
* Finally, the answers to “name the Blue Jay”. In order, they are Joe Inglett, Lyle Overbay, David Eckstein, Scott Rolen, Aaron Hill, Adam Lind, Kevin Mench, Shannon Stewart, and Gregg Zaun.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

IBA Ballot: Cy Young

Presented below is my ballot (and some justification) for one of the categories in the Internet Baseball Awards hosted at Baseball Prospectus. I’m just one person, and the whole point of having a vote like the IBA is to get a wide variety of (intelligent) perspectives, and so I will not feel in the list bit slighted if you don’t give a flip about this.

In the AL, let’s get it out of the way upfront: it comes down to Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. We’ll get back to them in a minute.

For the rest of the ballot, there is a pack of starters within ten RAR of each other that I would consider: Jon Lester, John Danks, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Ervin Santana. Lester leads at +65 RAR, and while his peripherals aren’t as strong as his actual RA, that’s true for the whole group except Santana, who is last at +55 RA, and who is still only about even with Lester in eRA and dRA. Thus, I give Lester the third spot.

Matsuzaka’s odd season has been well-documented; the stats I list don’t capture it, really, although the fact that just 48% of his starts were quality hints at the issues. I give Danks the edge over both Daisuke and Santana.

That leaves the question of relievers; it will come as no surprise to sabermetrically-inclined readers that I am less than impressed with Francisco Rodriguez as a Cy Young candidate. If any reliever deserves that type of recognition, it is Mariano Rivera. He pitched two more innings, with a RA over one run lower, a RRA almost two runs lower, an ERA about .8 runs lower, an eRA almost two runs lower, and a dRA over one run lower. It’s a clearly superior season by any context-neutral measure you’d like to look at. WPA? Rivera leads him +4.47 to +3.33. I would also put Soria, Nathan, and Papelbon ahead of Rodriguez among AL closers. None of that is said to belittle K-Rod; he may not have had a great season, and he may be grossly overpaid in short order, but he’s still quite good, he’s only 26 even though it seems as if he’s been around forever, and he has a fine track record. He’s wasn’t a worthy Cy Young contender in 2008, though.

Lee v. Halladay. Upfront, yes, I am an Indians fan, although I consider myself well below average on the partisan scale. Also upfront, whatever conclusion I draw says nothing to very little about who I feel is a better pitcher--it's solely about who was a more valuable pitcher in 2008. Going backwards or forwards in time, I would take Halladay in a heartbeat.

Halladay’s big advantage up front is 23 more innings; Lee counters with a .42 run edge in RA, and .19 runs in ERA. In terms of eRA, Halladay bests Lee 3.23-3.08, and they are essentially even in dRA (3.33-3.36, advantage Lee). Win-loss record, evaluated superficially against team W%, favors Lee, .915 to .643. I don’t want to go any deeper than that, since it really has no bearing on my choice, but it does tell the story of why Lee will win the actual award.

In terms of value against baseline (based on RA), I have Lee as +80 (replacement)/+51 (average), and Halladay at +77/+44. So my initial inclination is to give the edge to Lee.

One point that has been offered in Halladay’s favor is that his average opposing batter was better. According to Baseball Prospectus’ figures, the average Halladay opponent hit .266/.342/.425 while Lee’s hit .262/.330/.405. Plugging those lines into ERP, the differences are significant--Halladay's opponents had a 5.04 RG versus 4.60 for Lee (for reference, the AL average was 4.78). Of course, as others have noted, this is based simply on the performance level of those batters this year, not their true talent.

However, I think that going too deep into quality of opponent leads to some tricky issues about what constitutes value. You may consider what follows to be a case of paralysis by analysis, but so be it.

If we have two pitchers, one in a tough division (like the AL East) and one in a weak division (like the AL Central), we would expect a random pitcher from the first team to face a tougher average opponent than a random pitcher from the second team. If we assume that the two pitchers’ true talent is the same, and that they each have the same degree of “luck” for lack of a better term, we would expect the second pitcher to allow less runs, win more games, etc. despite the fact that he has pitched exactly as well as the first pitcher.

You can choose to adjust for this--but you can also argue that from a strict perspective of value, those extra wins for the second team are every bit as real. Had the Blue Jays and the Indians been competing against each other for the wildcard, Toronto would not have gotten bonus points in the standings for facing tougher opponents. One can thus argue that Halladay shouldn’t either. For lack of a better term let’s call this the “actual team wins” argument.

Of course, that raises the issue of baseline. I assume that a replacement level starter allows runs at 125% of the league average--but if he faces opponents that are 5% tougher, we would expect such a pitcher to allow something more like 130%. And thus one can also argue that Halladay should be compared to a higher (in terms of RA) replacement level, since what we are trying to measure is the marginal difference between Halladay and a scrub in his circumstances. Inserting a theoretical replacement level into the discussion is a point against the “actual team wins” argument made in the last paragraph. But I don’t consider it a deathblow to that argument.

Anyway, the Indians’ opponents, weighted by games, had a park-adjusted R/G of 4.70 (I did a general park correction, not a specific one based on where the game was played, which would be preferable). The Blue Jays’ have a R/G of 4.79. Weighting by innings, Lee’s opposing teams had a R/G of 4.62, Halladay 4.81. Lee faced opponents at 98.3% the R/G of his team average, Halladay 100.4% of his. If you compare Lee to a baseline .983 times what I was initially using (the league average times 1.25) and Halladay to the same times 1.004, you get each at +78 RAR. (This approach accepts the premise that strength of opposition should only be adjusted for by comparing a pitcher to his team, not to the league).

I don’t know why the results of the opposing slash lines as given by BP and the weighted team R/G given here vary so much. Obviously, one takes into consideration the actual identities of the batters and one does not, but I don’t think that is necessarily a selling point for BP’s approach. What if you studied the opponents and see that more good left-handed hitters got a day off against Lee? If that were the case (I do not know it to be), that would not be something that I would want to hold against his value. And along the same lines, it should be noted that the opposing hitters’ stats don’t account for platoon differences--maybe more mediocre right-handed hitters get an opportunity to play against a tough lefty and drive the pitcher’s composite opponent numbers down.

Again, I’m not saying that either of those scenarios is the case--it would take a lot of digging to figure it out, and I don’t want to get that involved here. But I do not think it is a given that the slash opponents’ figures from BP are the 100% correct choice if one looks to adjust for quality of opponent.

I have already droned on and on about this and I have not even mentioned a key factor like the quality of team fielding. It appears from team DER that this is a slight impairment for Lee vis-à-vis Halladay, but you know how fielding statistics are. The real takeaway from all of this is that there is a tiny margin separating these two. I think either would be an acceptable choice. I am going to take the coward’s way out and choose Lee because that is what the consensus opinion of the masses will be. But if you want to make a case for Halladay, I won’t put up a fight.

1) Cliff Lee, CLE
2) Roy Halladay, TOR
3) Jon Lester, BOS
4) RP Mariano Rivera, NYA
5) John Danks, CHA

The National League race is closer in RAR but in the end, my choice was clearer. Off the bat, no reliever is on my radar; Hong-Chih Kuo led at +27 RAR, followed by Carlos Marmol (+24) and Brad Lidge (+21). Lidge would get the biggest boost from leverage credit, but it’s not enough to get him into contention.

Again, there are two starters that stand out: Tim Lincecum and Johan Santana. For the other spots, Ryan Dempster, Cole Hamels, Dan Haren, and Brandon Webb are my pool of possible choices.

While I would least want Dempster going forward, he did have a fine season, +58/+32, with solid peripherals (3.14 RA coupled with a 3.38 eRA and 3.60 dRA). Cole Hamels is at +27/+56, but he did no better in peripherals (3.45 RA paired with a 3.62 eRA and 4.10 dRA).

Webb and Haren are an interesting pair since they are teammates. Webb pitched ten more innings, but his RA was .18 runs higher, so Haren beats him in RAR +54-+52. Webb was better in eRA (3.20 to 3.51), but dRA favors Haren (3.25 to 3.42). They faced essentially the same quality of opposing batter; .255/.327/.398 for Haren, .254/.325/.393 for Webb. You can basically flip a coin, and mine comes up Webb.

Finally, Lincecum and Santana. Santana pitched seven more innings with a RA .10 higher, an ERA .02 higher, an eRA .64 higher, and a dRA 1.11 higher. Since Lincecum rates even with Santana in the value measures (+72/+43 versus +71/+42) and thrashes him in peripherals, I think he’s the clear choice in the end:

1) Tim Lincecum, SF
2) Johan Santana, NYN
3) Ryan Dempster, CHN
4) Brandon Webb, ARI
5) Cole Hamels, PHI

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Silly Playoff "Thoughts", Vol. 2

DISCLAIMER: This is not an analytical post.

* I was thrilled to see the White Sox dispatched. I like all four of the teams that are left, and will not be bothered by any possible outcome. I’d prefer Phillies/Red Sox, but Dodgers/Rays and Phillies/Rays would be fine too. If it happens to be Dodgers/Red Sox, the Manny stuff will get very stale after about five minutes of FOX pregame coverage. That’s a poor excuse to root against it, though.

* Has it become illegal to have a five-game Division Series? The last to go five was the Angels/Yankees series in 2005. The last LCS to go the distance was the ALCS of a year ago, but that wasn’t a great series for a seven-gamer, as most (Game 2 and the first seven innings of Game 7 as the exception) weren’t nail-biters. And of course 2002 was the last seven game World Series, and 2003 the last to go at least six. As a general fan of the game with absolutely no rooting interest, it would be nice to see a great series. The last two games of the Red Sox/Angels ALDS were a good start, at least.

* I listened to a fair amount of the first round series on ESPN radio, due to other obligations (multiple day games will do that some times). Some general thoughts on the announcers:

Red Sox/Angels: Dan Shulman and Dave Campbell. I think that this was the best of the four crews; Shulman gets a little melodramatic sometimes, but otherwise I think he’s a fine announcer. All color commentators say things I disagree with (as is to be expected), but Campbell comes across as pretty intelligent. He mentioned Baseball Prospectus several times, although unfortunately mostly in reference to the “Secret Sauce”. At least once it was about DER. On the flip side, he is a product of an evil institution (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t worry about it. I’m not going to elaborate).

Dodgers/Cubs: Jon Miller and …I’d have to look it up. Whoever it was obviously did not leave much of an impression for me, but I do like Miller as the play-by-play guy. Of course, I don’t enjoy him on TV because he’s paired with Joe Morgan. The only worse possible team might be Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, but no network would be silly enough to pair those two up…

Phillies/Brewers: Michael Kay and Steve Phillips. Bleh.

Rays/White Sox: Gary Thorne and Chris Singleton. Singleton is one of the first of a generation of commentators for which I am young enough to remember the entirety of their major league careers. Not that I actually remember the glorious details of Singleton’s. Regardless, that’s a plus, I guess; I think that if you are going to have some ex-player to provide insight, then all things being equal it’s better to have a more recent player. However, he used to work for the White Sox and it showed in the broadcast of this series. I don’t mean to imply that he was biased--just that he talked a lot more about Chicago because he’s much more familiar with them. It's up to the listener to decide whether they would rather have a local announcer intensely familiar with one of the teams or a national announcer intensely familiar with neither.

Thorne is much more likeable than Kay, but he’s a horrible radio announcer, because he seems to forget that he’s not on TV. There were multiple times where he omitted pitches (all of a sudden he would say, “the 2-0 pitch is over the outside corner for a strike”--wait, there were two pitches already?) and did not give the location/trajectory of batted balls (“base hit!” or “base hit into right field”--okay, how hard was it hit? Was it down the line, in the hole, or into right-center? Was it hit on the ground, a line drive, a blooper?) On TV, announcers who give you all the details are obnoxious, but the converse is true on the radio.

I can’t imagine it’s easy for guys who go back and forth between the two mediums, and I respect that. It’s still annoying, though. Mike Hegan of the Indians radio network, who comes across as very likeable, is still someone I hate to listen to because he was a TV or TV/Radio announcer for years. He is now solely on the radio, but has yet to tailor his style to fit it.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

IBA Ballot: Rookie of the Year

Presented below is my ballot (and some justification) for one of the categories in the Internet Baseball Awards hosted at Baseball Prospectus. I’m just one person, and the whole point of having a vote like the IBA is to get a wide variety of (intelligent) perspectives, and so I will not feel in the list bit slighted if you don’t give a flip about this.

In the American League, it should not be much of a debate. Evan Longoria led all AL rookies with +37 RAR. He did this while being limited to 122 games because of injury and early season promotion shenanigans, hitting in the middle of the order for a playoff team, and playing solid defense.

One other position player makes my ballot: Mike Aviles of the Royals. His long-term prospects are not great as he is 27 and hit .325 with a .198 secondary average, but based on this year’s performance, he was +32 RAR.

The rest of my ballot is filled with pitchers, who seem to be often overlooked in ROY discussions (seriously, Alexei Ramirez over these guys?). Brad Ziegler had a great start to his big league career and then started losing steam in September. Regardless, in 59 innings he compiled some eye-popping numbers, like a .99 RRA and a 1.08 ERA. It will be interesting to see how he fares going forward, with his low %H as a warning flag but his extreme groundball, underhand style perhaps marking a pitcher who will be better than his peripherals.

Ultimately, though, second place on my ballot comes down to Armando Galarraga and Joba Chamberlain. Galarraga pitched 178 innings with a 4.18 RA, +36 RAR, but his .246 %H leads to a dRA (the DIPS, BsR-based stat I’m using) of 5.42. Chamberlain pitched just 100 innings, but they were brilliant, with a 2.78 RRA, +28 RAR, and supporting peripherals.

This is a case where the binary pools of starter and reliever that I force pitchers into can be misleading. I use a replacement level of 111% for relievers and 125% for starters, and Joba’s +28 is versus a reliever. However, he pitched 65 innings as a starter and 35 as a reliever (12 appearances as a starter, 30 as a reliever). If I use the weighted average of the corresponding replacement levels (120%), Joba moves up to +33, just three runs behind Galarraga. I think the wide gap in peripherals plus the higher leverage situation Chamberlain faced as a reliever justify bumping ahead. And so this is how I see it:

1) 3B Evan Longoria, TB
2) P Joba Chamberlain, NYA
3) SP Armando Galarraga, DET
4) SS Mike Aviles, KC
5) RP Brad Ziegler, OAK

In the NL, the choice is even clearer. Geovany Soto was a full-time catcher, hitting .280/.359/.494 and, to the extent that you value it, catching for the NL’s top defensive team (the Cubs led at 4.01 RA/G). At +44, he is ten runs in front of the next rookie in RAR, and should be one of the easier award choices in 2008.

Behind him, Joey Votto had a very good rookie season in Cincinnati, creating 92 runs for +34 RAR. The next position player in the RAR ranking was my pre-season choice for NL ROY, Soto’s teammate Kosuke Fukudome. Obviously, he will be getting no votes from the writers, and with his final tally of +15 RAR and -5 RAA, he doesn’t deserve to.

That leaves pitchers to fill out the rest of the ballot. The Tigers may have found a good rookie pitcher in Galarraga, but they also cast one away last winter in the Renteria trade: Jair Jurrjens, a very solid +32 for the Braves. Hiroki Kuroda was +29 and John Lannan +27. Given Lannan’s 5.17 dRA, I don’t see any reason to change the order at all, and so my NL ballot looks like this:

1) C Geovany Soto, CHN
2) 1B Joey Votto, CIN
3) SP Jair Jurrjens, ATL
4) SP Hiroki Kuroda, LA
5) SP John Lannan, WAS

NOTE: This year the IBA limited ROY ballots to three players. I realize that this is how the actual vote is conducted, but I seem to recall that they [IBA] carried it out to five places in the past. Anyway, you got some bonus prattling as a result of my ignorance of this.