Thursday, December 01, 2011

Statistical Meanderings 2011

I have to apologize in advance for this--it sort of resembles a bad Jayson Stark piece with better metrics but less interesting tidbits.

* The discrepancy in R/G between the AL and NL (for the offenses) expanded to .33 (4.46 to 4.13) after a one-year blip that saw the two circuits only .12 runs apart. The leagues were equal in walk rate (.090 and .091 per at bat), but the AL hit for a higher BA (.258 to .253) and with more power (.150 to .139 ISO).

* I certainly do not intend to dispute the notion that Houston was the worst team in baseball, but Minnesota actually had a lower EW% and PW%. Based on runs and runs allowed, Houston “should have” won 61.8 games to Minnesota’s 61.5, and runs created expected a wider gap, 63.3 to 59.8. Obviously this does not consider strength of schedule, but it does put into perspective just how disastrous the Twins’ season was.

* Tampa Bay led the majors in converting balls in plays into outs by a wide margin; their DER of .712 was as far ahead of second place LAA as the Angeles were ahead of twentieth place STL. The Rays also led the majors in modified fielding average, albeit not by a runaway margin.

As a brief aside, “modified” fielding average is no more complex or accurate than regular old fielding average, except I remove strikeouts and assists from the formula. It would actually be easier to work with if I looked at the complement (errors/(putouts less strikeouts + errors)), but fielding average has been expressed that way for ever and it’s not a particularly telling metric in any event.

* In 2010, major league teams had an unusually high W% at home (.559) and 28 teams had a higher W% at home than on the road. This led to some speculation about whether there was something afoot.

2011 did not provide any such conspiracy fodder. Home teams had an abnormally low W% (.526), and only 23/30 teams (77%) won with a greater frequency at home. It was the lowest HW% for MLB since 2001 (.524), and 2005 was the last time that only 23 teams were better at home (only 20 were in 2001).

* The Giants scored 2.91 runs per game at home, the lowest output since 1972. They had to do the near impossible to achieve this by scoring less than the legendary 2010 Mariners (2.95). Offensive ineptitude combined with their good defense resulted in San Francisco playing in the lowest overall scoring context (7.09 RPG) in the majors since the 2003 Dodgers (6.98).

* Don’t tell anyone, but the two teams that struck out the fewest times were the Rangers (930) and the Cardinals (978). Both did unsurprisingly ground into a lot of double plays--Texas was sixth in MLB with 135 and St. Louis’ 169 was sixteen more than second place Baltimore.

* I always like to run a chart showing each playoff team’s RAA broken down by offense and defense:

As you can see, the average playoff team was fairly balanced. The only subpar unit in the group was the defense of the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals.

* At first glance, there was nothing remarkable about the Kansas City bullpen:

Their 4.26 relief eRA was equal to the American League average. But the interesting thing is that all of them were rookies except for Joakim Soria. I’ve already said nice things about Greg Holland in my Rookie of the Year post, so I won’t repeat that here.

* Someone beat me to it, but it is worth pointing out how low Trever Miller’s innings to appearance ratio was, particularly during his time in St. Louis. Miller recorded 47 outs in 39 appearances (1.21 O/G) with the Cards. I cannot state this absolutely, but I believe that is the lowest ratio in ML history for a pitcher with 20 or more appearances. The previous low I can find is Randy Flores with the 2009 Rockies (36 outs/27 games, 1.33). Miller’s complete season line was a yeoman 64 outs in 48 games, tying Flores’ record. A fitting achievement for Tony LaRussa’s final season if I may say so myself.

* One of the stats I track for relievers is inherited runners/game. In an era where leverage index is readily available, it doesn’t yield much marginal value, but I always like looking at closer usage through IR/G. Closers usually dominate the bottom of the IR/G list (I believe Mariano Rivera led full-time AL closers at .31, which was 71st out of 85 relievers), but it’s always fun to see which closers were never brought in with runners on base. If a manager never calls on his closer with runners on, he’s either really locked into bullpen roles, or he really doesn’t trust him. I’d assume the latter was the case with Kevin Gregg, who inherited zero runners in 2011. The former was the case for John Axford (1 in 74 appearances).

* Brian Wilson has taught us that a quirky personality, a ridiculous beard, and a World Series ring can get you a lot of commercials with 7 RAR. Who was the last closer so marginal that got so much publicity?

* Which Yankee reliever is which?

The point here is not to compare the two, but to point out that David Robertson had a really great season.

* You wouldn’t know it from watching the playoffs (and Ron Washington and the Rangers reluctance to use him that eventually turned into an outright dropping off of the roster), but Koji Uehara ranked fifth in RAR among AL relievers and was seventeenth last year. Of course, if all you went by was Washington’s managing, you would be shocked to learn where Nick Punto tends to rank on RAR lists.

* Five major league starters averaged 110 or more pitches per start this year, which has to be the most in some time. I’m pretty sure that hasn’t happened since I’ve been including P/S in my year end stat reports, although I didn’t go back and check to make sure. The five were: Verlander (117), Weaver (113), Halladay (111), Shields (111) and Sabathia (110).

* At the risk of cherry picking (as I’m sure I’m leaving out some pitchers that were talked about similarly but have had continued success, plus one season is obviously insufficient to draw conclusions in any event), I always find it a little satisfying when pitchers that were said to be DIPS beaters have either terrible or high BABIP seasons. Trevor Cahill is in the latter category--he wasn’t horrible by any means, and a .306 BABIP is not that high, but it still is not the kind of season a good DIPS beater should have. JA Happ, on the other hand, was atrocious and gave up an identical .306 BABIP. Even Charlie Morton sort of fits--even looking at his entire season, he wound up at -3 RAA with a .323 BABIP. Along those lines, what are the odds that Josh Tomlin is in the major leagues in five years? They can’t be that good.

* JoJo Reyes seemed to get a lot of attention for his lengthy (by time, especially) losing streak early in the year. Or perhaps my impression of that is off, magnified by the fact that I watched him get his first win pitching against Cleveland. In any event, Reyes may have had some bad luck along the way, but a lot of it evened out in 2011. A pitcher with a 6.45 RRA, 6.24 eRA and 5.21 dRA should consider himself darn lucky to wind up 7-11.

* PSA: David Freese is 28 and ranked 6th in RG among NL third basemen. I overlooked it, but Chase Headley actually had a .393 OBA and created 6.1 runs per game, second to Pablo Sandoval among NL third baseman. So postseaon hardware aside, Padres fans shouldn’t feel too terribly about which of their possible third basemen they actually have.

* AL players with negative RAR who at one time were actually good included Vernon Wells, Magglio Ordonez, JD Drew, Justin Morenau, Alex Rios, Chone Figgins and Adam Dunn. Morneau went from first among AL first baseman in RG in his concussion-shortened 2010 to last in 2011.

* AL players who had an OBA greater than their SLG were: Ryan Sweeney, Chris Getz, JD Drew and Adam Dunn. But for as bad as Dunn’s season was, Chone Figgins’ was actually worse on a rate basis. Figgins only played in 81 games to Dunn’s 122, but still held just a -15 to -17 RAR lead. Figgins created 1.75 runs per game, lowest among all major league players with 300 PA, lower even than Paul Janish (1.90).

* Which of these teammates would you assume was more valuable, based on the statistics presented here?

Of course, any opinion you’d form would be woefully incomplete, because I’ve only given you offensive statistics, without telling you anything about position or defense. Offensively, though, they are nearly indistinguishable. So what if I tell you that one of these players is a slow first baseman and the other one is a center fielder? Surely, the center fielder must have been more valuable, right?

How about these two teammates?

They both play the same position, but one of them was signed as a free agent and took the other’s spot at their common position (third base)--so the one who was pushed off played 105 games at 1B/DH and 55 games at the other infield positions. The one who got the fielding job was more likely the more valuable player, right?

One would think. But the first baseman finished 10th in the MVP voting and the center fielder finished 13th. The third baseman finished fifteenth while the 1B/DH finished 8th and got a first place vote.

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