June 11th, 2010 by czar

One thing that seemed (anecdotally) interesting to me was that it seemed starting pitchers were throwing more pitches and going deeper into games this year. After a quick glance at B-R, I’m now aware this is mainly because Sox SP lead the league in P/GS at 105, up from 99 last year and 96 in 2008 (a 10% jump in 2 years!). So at least I’m not crazy on that front.

That said, I did find it interesting that the average P/GS for MLB as a whole is the highest it’s been since at least 1988, possibly earlier (that’s as far back as B-R’s pitch counts go back). If you bin these P/GS, you find there has not really been an increase in pitchers throwing a TON of pitches, but an explosion (+10% in 2010) of pitchers in the 100-119 range.

The results aren’t startling by any stretch, but it’s interesting to ponder. Is a part of the decrease in league-average ERA due to good pitchers are being allowed to go deeper into games (thereby taking IP way from bad pitchers)? Are SP being allowed to work out of more jams? Is it a chicken or the egg problem; where P/GS is going up BECAUSE pitchers are pitching better? There is a small uptick in IP/GS relative to the last few years (6.0 vs. 5.8ish) but not nearly the trend in P/GS — are pitchers NOT going deeper into games (innings-wise) but using more pitches to induce swings/misses or weaker contact?

Like I said, there almost certainly isn’t a lot to this; but I already had the data queued up in Excel, so there really was no reason not to post it as “food for thought.” There’s been a lot of talk about how pitchers aren’t allowed to throw as many IP now as they did decades ago, but it’s clear that over the last 20 years, there has been a steady decrease in the standard deviation of P/GS across the league– and while IP may have gone down since 1988, P/GS has actually flatlined, and interestingly, is on the rise in 2010.

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June 11th, 2010 by czar

I don’t see why the odds of Strasburg flaming out are any different than Kerry Wood.

Was there anywhere close to as much A) money invested in Kerry Wood, B) national media hype, and most importantly C) FO scrutiny, innings caps, about 50 team doctors following his every ailment?

LoBC brought up a conversation we had in SoSH fantasy draft last year about young pitchers vs. old pitchers. I didn’t disagree with the notion that pitchers with long-term track records are equally or more risky than you young players; however, I felt that using historical data points from previous generations is a bit short-sighted given the monumental shift that has occurred with major league pitching over the last 20 years. My logic is that the knowledge of avoiding injuries (and treating them) has grown IMMENSELY over the past few decades. There are now FO employees whose sole job is to research the most efficient way to bring a young pitcher up through the minors and curtail their usage earlier on in their major league career.

Players who have reached the 300 win plateau have (as JoePas hit on) traditionally won many of their games beyond the age of 32-34. This (as also pointed out) is primarily due to attrition; for every Jamie Moyer or Phil Niekro, history is littered with 10 other young phenoms with equal (or better) pitching ability who flamed out due to injury or opportunity or whatever.

The emphasis on restricting innings early in a career, pitch counts throughout a given season, the five-man rotation a strict rotational rest, and bullpen specialization (etc.) all will contribute to it being very difficult for pitchers in this era to reach 300 wins at a clip anywhere near those of the previous generations. HOWEVER, all these factors are designed to help keep starting pitchers fresh and healthy so teams can maximize their (growing) investments in young phenoms like Strasburg– it could end up being the saving grace to keep young pitchers healthy and effective beyond the first few years of their career.

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June 5th, 2010 by czar

Ironically, the contact he induced last night would have pegged him at a .224 xBABIP (LD = .720, GB = .231, FB = .171, BU = .179, PU = .019 — 2 LD, 14 GB, 8 FB, 1 BU, 3 PU) and his actual BABIP was .179 (5 hits on 28 BIP). So he was lucky, but his ball in play breakdown indicated that he wasn’t THAT lucky in the xBABIP vs. BABIP sense (I say this because you can argue that pitch X should have been a LD and not a FB, ergo lucky; but I don’t do this because it starts to erode at the control the pitcher has over what the batters do with his pitches). He induced a lot of “low batting average” play types and it showed even with the lack in K last night.

I know I said it a ton last year in the Buchholz and game threads, but the precipitous drop in LD% from when he entered the league until now bodes extremely well for at least continued success if not gains at the major league level.

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June 2nd, 2010 by czar

Where do you get those super-cool xBABIP numbers from?

Oddly, it’s not a stat that I’ve seen any site post as part of their stats pages.

You can get a spreadsheet from The Hardball Times that uses absolute numbers. This one’s pretty sweet but I find it a pain to use when I just want quick xBABIP numbers.

For “back of the envelope” calculations I use a multiple regression spreadsheet based on rates from Beyond the Boxscore most of the time because I’ve modified the file (here it is, with a couple example players) so that I need to copy LD%/GB%/FB%/IFFB%/HR/FB/IFH% in one fell swoop from a player’s Fangraphs page. It’s an ODS file, so Open Office opens it. I think some versions of Excel (2007 SP2 and 2010) do as well, but my Mac (2008) does not.

Depending on how you do the regression and what variables you use the xBABIP values will be a little different between spreadsheets (e.g., THT uses SB as a measure of “speed” and BTB uses IFH%). I haven’t found any that vary by more than .010 for most batters though, so both should be good enough.

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June 2nd, 2010 by czar

Since May 21st, McGehee is sporting a .217/.234/.304/.538 slash. Hello, regression. And it’ll probably continue. xBABIP? .271. Real BABIP? .313. He still has a little ways to fall.

Gotta sell most of these waiver gems high if you get the chance. There’s typically a reason they are the wire and it’s much more valuable to get a piece that produces in May and September.

I just need one more hot week out of Glaus and I can convince someone he’s a .280/30/100 threat or something.

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June 1st, 2010 by czar

Talent like Ellsbury’s (and he’s just on the verge of becoming a superstar, I think) doesn’t grow on trees.

Provide objective evidence. Well, at least define “superstar,” then provide evidence, I suppose. I think Ellsbury has tremendous value to this team, but arguing that he’s at the threshold of being one of the top 2 or 3 players at his position in the league (what I think of as a “superstar”) is a bit of a stretch, don’t you think?

Do the Red Sox treat long term core guys [Beckett, Lester, Pedroia, etc.] vs. short term commitments [Cameron, Schilling], and break-down potential guys [Papelbon, Wake, etc.] differently?  I would argue Jacoby isn’t in the Sox long term plans and they don’t think he has break-down potential from this injury, they probably realize Boras wont let us buy out free agent years and he will get a free agent offer > than the Sox calculated value.

I can speak to their medical evaluation of him, too much he said she said going on, but its interesting that the Sox long-term commitment guys very rarely think they are misdiagnosed by the team, whereas there is some evidence of this with other players.

Jacoby Ellsbury is under contract through the end of 2013. Even if the Red Sox flat out refuse to deal with Boras/Ellsbury when he’s a FA, they still have him for the next 3.6 years. To say he’s not in the same long-term plans (your examples: Lester is 2013 + option, Pedroia is 2014 + option, Beckett is now 2014) is probably putting too much stock in the “blockbuster trade around Ellsbury” hopes some lean on. Barring a significant upgrade falling into our lap or a major trade, he’s going to be here awhile, so insinuating that there is some correlation with injury diagnosis/treatment and how the Sox value their players is probably a bit of a stretch, at least with the information publicly available.

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May 29th, 2010 by czar

The 290 days between the Buehrle-Braden perfect games broke the record for shortest time between perfect games. Of course, 20 days later Roy Halladay cut that number down by a factor of 14.

In the modern era, baseball has had three separate occasions where it has gone at least 13 years without a perfect game. Not a single perfect game from 1908-1922, then 1922-1956, then 1968-1981. We’ve had three in less than 12 months.

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May 28th, 2010 by czar

Not sure if this is just pot-stirring by Maz, but he is implying that some within the Sox organization are getting annoyed with Ellsbury’s “softness.” This comes on the heels of the announcement that Ellsbury will see another specialist this PM and it sounds likely he’ll be back on the DL this weekend.

Two months into the regular season, Jacoby Ellsbury has played in nine games. Ellsbury says he is hurting. The Red Sox seem to wonder.

“I think they downplay it because they misdiagnosed it,” Ellsbury said of the rib injury that has kept him out for the large majority of this season. “They said you treat it all the same way. Remember that comment? How do you treat a bruise the same as a break?”

Before we go any further, we all need to understand something here. This is not solely about this season and about whether Ellsbury has bruised ribs or hairline fractures. This goes well beyond that. During his rookie season of 2008, Ellsbury missed small chunks of time with various assorted ailments. He came to the Red Sox having earned a reputation in the minor leagues of being someone who required a great deal of, well, maintenance. Last year, during a rock-solid season in which Ellsbury batted .301, stole 70 bases, and played in 153 games, manager Terry Francona spoke of how Ellsbury was beginning to understand the “responsibility” of playing in the major leagues, which was a nice way of saying that Ellsbury had an obligation to his manager and teammates to play through minor issues and be in the lineup.

Like officials from many teams, some in Sox management believe that Boras discourages his players from taking the field at something less than 100 percent because it would affect their performance on the field and, therefore, leverage in negotiations.

Ellsbury, of course, is merely 26. While it is always dangerous to wonder whether players are capable of playing through injuries – the Red Sox would be wise to remember the cases of both Scott Williamson and Matt Clement – the issue here is clearly much bigger. In the minds of the Sox – and others – Ellsbury has a reputation, something only he can be responsible for. Earlier this month, Mike Lowell openly wondered whether he still had a role on the Red Sox, but at least Lowell’s remarks were motivated by the desire to play, something that hardly makes him different from the majority of athletes.

In Ellsbury’s case, the problem seems to be the opposite.

Does he want to play or doesn’t he?

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May 26th, 2010 by czar

Indians/White Sox 9th inning. White Sox up 5-1, Jenks pitching.

Walk (5-2)
Single (5-4)
Sac bunt!
Intentional walk of Choo to reload the bases.
Fly out

White Sox hold on and win 5-4.

Scoring expectancy (>= one run) from 63.7% to 68.9% to 67.9% (xx- with 0 outs to -xx with 1 out to xxx with 1 out) with the bunt. Total RE went from 1.504 to 1.410 to 1.568.

I’ll still agree that Terry Francona doesn’t know how to properly employ a bunt. And 90% of all sac bunts suck. This one wasn’t one of them.

But the run expectancy goes down as soon as Choo is walked (because it sets up the DP), which is was pretty obvious they would do if the bunt was successful. Even if Crowe just makes an out Choo would get to bat with one out and 2 on and he is their best hitter.

No, scoring expectancy goes down, run expectancy goes up (from -xx to xxx, 1 out). However, both were higher than pre-bunt even post-walk.

And while he’ll probably regress somewhat, Austin Kearns (the one up with xxx, 1 out) is only OPSing a little below Choo is 2010.

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March 8th, 2010 by czar

I’ll preface this by saying that I’m relatively well-versed in the physics of baseball (minus the occasional alannathan wisdom nugget that changes the way I think about things), but am certainly not at the forefront when it comes to advanced statistical analysis. As part of my “spring training” I finally got around to reading Baseball Between the Numbers, in particular a chapter about Rickey Henderson and Pete Incavalia; how SB are overrated when taken one-dimensionally and solely quantifiably. But it still didn’t explain one of my most significant pet peeves of all time– defensive indifference.

Defensive indifference is defined as “play in the later stages of a game in which the defensive team, either ahead or behind by a large amount allows a player to advance a base without any attempt to force the runner out.” To simply matters I can’t see any reason why you can’t just look at it as an uncontested stolen base.

Now obviously, defensive indifference is going to carry varying weights in terms of significance depending on whether a team is up or down and by how much. For the sake of this post, I chose to imply a “worst-case scenario.” A team is down 2 runs in the bottom of the 9th. The closer strikes out the first batter but allows a broken bat single to the second. No one holds him on at first and he breaks for second. The catcher doesn’t throw and the MIs don’t cover— our runner takes the base by “defensive indifference.” No one seems to care about this as “his run doesn’t matter; he can score and the home team will still win the game.

Now for what baffles me. As the OBP movement of the past 15 years has shown, the ability to score runs is directly tied into the ability to avoid making outs. For a defense the opposite is true— the key is to record outs as frequently as possible, as outs are effectively the “clock” in baseball. So by just freely giving away 2nd (or 3rd) base you may not be directly giving the team more runs (just moving the potential run around), but you ARE giving away a chance to record an out and therefore bring you one crucial step closer to the end of the game. Let’s assume the CS% remains constant across all batters (not a great assumption, for hypothetical sake we just need one number). In 2009, there were 2970 SB compared to 1133 CS across MLB. This works out to a CS% of 28% (or a SB% of 72%). If we assume this number is constant with inning/game situation (and outside of a slight negative slope, it’s pretty close) it means that for every defensive indifference allowed you had a 28% chance to record an out had you played the defense like you had any other inning, except you are welling to concede a 0% result.

To offset this 0% result and make defensive indifference statistically reasonable, we need to find a mechanism to get 28% of a net gain (defined as some weird “out-making units” I suppose) out of ignoring the potential for the runner to move up. This might seem quite simple for some people: treating the runner like a base-stealer distracts the pitcher, alters the defensive positioning, puts pressure on said defense, causes errors, and may open up holes during situations where the potential SB is occurring (i.e., Pedroia covers 2nd, LHH pulls one through the vacated right side of the infield). From hereon, I will refer to this as the “indirect effect.” If this indirect effect (benefit to the hitter) is greater than 28% “out-making units” then obviously we’d want to pick the lesser of two evils; so ignoring the runner is the prudent thing to do.

Now, I don’t have any readily accessible data of how this would shake out in the ninth inning. However, in BBTN, James Click did a study attempting to examine the effect of having a base-stealer on base on the following hitter. I have copied the analysis here.

To test this theory, we can start by breaking runners on first in steal situations into five groups based on the frequency of their stolen-base attempts. Then we compare the performance of the batters behind them to their expected performance given their overall stat lines. (It’s crucial to adjust for the expected performance of the subsequent batters, as base-stealers tend to be in the highest spots in the lineup so that a disproportionate number of subsequent batters will be #3, #4, and #5 hitters.)

In 2004, batters who came to the plate with the top 20 percent of base-stealers on base- as determined by their stolen-base attempts rate- saw their OPS increase by 34 points over expected performance. On the other hand, batters coming to the plate with the slowest runners on first saw an increase of just 4 points. Over the past five years, batters at the plate with baserunners most likely to steal on first improved their OPS by an average of 24 points, the next group by 27, then 17, 20 and 13 for the slowest. So it’s true that runners on first who are more likely to steal improved the performance of the batter at the plate, but the difference between the most and least aggressive base stealers is marginal: about 11 points of OPS, with data points bouncing around among the five groups of base-stealers.

The overall point of this was to show that base-running is overrated in general; but it also has the cool side effect of implying that this “indirect effect” is more of a myth; or at the very least, it’s hidden within the statistical noise. There is no serious negative effect from treating the bases like they have a runner on versus them being empty.

So, the question I pose: if there is no discernible or significant negative to treating the bases like they actually have a runner on versus utterly ignoring his existence (indirect effect) than why do teams willingly pass up the chance (regardless of significance) to record an out and bring the game that much closer to its conclusion? To me this seems like a very simple concept; so the fact that it hasn’t been hammered in sabermetric circles leads me to believe that I’m missing something—is the “indirect effect” on the same order of magnitude as the WinExp increase from throwing a runner out? Is there some sort of compounding (non-linear?) effect that I’m ignoring? Has this been covered ad nauseum before and I just haven’t read about it?

These aren’t hypotheticals, but serious questions. What isn’t my sabermetrically-pea-sized brain not comprehending?

Some theories?

Most basestealers have a pretty high success rate, so you probably aren’t going to catch them.  IIRC, the break even points is ~74%?

Last year’s success rate was 72%. The “breakeven” point (as defined by the success percentage where a baserunner increases his teams odds of winning with a SB vs. decreasing with a CS) are a function of inning. But “probably aren’t going to catch them” still gives you a better chance of recording an out than “definitely won’t catch them.”

A pitchout puts the pitcher in a hole (i.e. a ball).  It’s also possible that making a pitch that can be used to catch a runner is a disadvantage in some way (maybe it has to be a fastball).

This is also possible; although if it was this detrimental to the pitcher (and advantageous to the batter) shouldn’t Click’s study pick up on this?

There is some probability of an error, which could lead to a runner on third (and sac fly terratory) or even a run scoring if it’s bad enough.

The error would be sort of double-counted in the SB/CS rates; but even if it isn’t, we can still argue that the run itself doesn’t matter– what we care about is the opportunity to record an out that the other team gives us that would otherwise not be there if they weren’t trying to move up on the basepaths.

It’s possible the distraction effect on the pitcher, effect on batting count and possibility of an error are close to the 28% chance of getting an out?

These are quantifiable enough that if they occurred with any real significance, we’d at least see it in data (i.e., batters who hit with “fast runners” on base have better peripherals than when the bases are empty (or even when “slow runners” are on).

When there is a runner on and the situation calls for holding them close, the pitcher works out of the stretch. If the runner is going to be ignored, then he pitches from a windup position. Some pitchers work better from the windup and this lets him work from the same position. Possibility.

Good point, I did not consider this (weird, because I hated working out of the stretch in HS/College). However, last year in a Buchholz discussion, I remember looking at league splits with runners on vs. bases empty last year and there was no statistical significance between opponent BA/OBP/SLG/OPS.

Their selected strategy will determine whether or not the runner even considers breaking for second – in this situation, he has to be absolutely 100% sure that he won’t be thrown out. So I think the 28% CS number is a bit of a red herring – the runner isn’t going anywhere unless he can take a big lead and the pitcher is going from the wind-up – in which case there’s virtually no chance of him being caught even if the catcher does throw to second.

Huh. Well that’s a pretty big omission. Because that run doesn’t matter, there is really no reason to take the extra base; ergo if a team tightens up and plays SB-prevent defense, the baserunner just will stay put; therefore it’s “lose-lose” for the team (i.e., they don’t gain anything from preventing the runner from stealing, nor do they gain anything (at least significantly) from ignoring him and “focusing” on the batter). I’m a little pissed I simply missed that.

I agree that the GIDP possibility still gives us the same general question, — back of the envelope, I’ll assume 30% of PA end in a “ground ball,” with an out percentage (1 – BABIP) of (1 – .240) (both quick 2009 AL numbers) and we’ll make a very general assumption that 50% of these can be turned into double plays (completely made up) which leaves us about a 10-12% chance of a DP (seems in the ballpark); still relatively high in any given AB without giving away free bases. (I’m aware there must be an easier way to get at this number (odds of hitting into a DP with a runner on 1 or 1/2 and less than 2 outs) but I wasn’t able to split situational hitting by number of outs in the inning on B-R, so the GIDP number would have been skewed down by AB with 2 men already out).

(I’ll admit this is, in a way, a mini-crusade against DI. Not that I hate a Foulkey-bunting level of hatred for it, but I’ve never been able to wrap my head around the notion that a team can just ignore a baserunner that they would not have ignored for the previous 8 innings because their closer needs to “focus” on the batter. Whether that’s rational or not, I don’t know.)

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  • Traversing the land that is known as Red Sox Nation, The Czar Who Wears Red Sox is an attempt at compiling a repertoire of my ever-so-sexy forum posts (when I'm too lazy to write my own damn entry) and other random baseball thoughts that strike. For those whose posts serve as the inspiration of my epiphanies and rants, do not be angry, but merely, be honored that you have achieved such status. Names will never be revealed. Feedback appreciated, as this is a work in progress.

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