22 August 2014

Machado to Have Season-Ending Knee Surgery


When Manny Machado injured his knee last week, the immediate question for the Orioles was how they would cope without their star third baseman for a few weeks. Now, it appears they will be without Machado for much longer than that.

Earlier today, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported that Machado would have season-ending surgery on his right knee. His report was confirmed by multiple sources. So obviously that's awful news for both Machado and the Orioles, who are currently 20 games above .500 and have a comfortable 8-game lead in the American League East. Those wins are already in the books, which is great.

Looking for another potentially positive angle? Here's more from Brown:
That "small abnormality" was also discovered in Machado's left knee. So maybe, just maybe, Machado will be done dealing with serious knee injuries. Still, the 22-year-old Machado will now be forced to overcome his second season-ending knee injury in as many years.

Losing Machado for the rest of the season probably won't be a huge hindrance when it comes to the O's making the playoffs. They have jumped out to a sizable lead, and they'd have to totally collapse to blow it at this point. FanGraphs' playoff odds have the O's chances of earning a playoff berth at 96%, and Baseball Prospectus has the O's at 98.2%. That may not be completely reassuring for fans until the Orioles officially lock up a spot -- no lead is insurmountable, etc. -- but it's tough to be pessimistic about what the Orioles have been able to do so far.

So what will the O's do without Machado? Likely what they've been doing the past week-plus. Chris Davis has seen the majority of work at third with Machado out, with a resurgent Steve Pearce mostly manning first base. Ryan Flaherty can also fill in at third, as can Cord Phelps. Pearce playing frequently at first base will mean more Nelson Cruz and Delmon Young in left field, which is unfortunate.

When rosters expand in September, the O's could bring up Steve Lombardozzi, Jimmy Paredes, and/or Jemile Weeks, but none of those moves would help much. Perhaps the O's would also consider promoting 23-year-old Christian Walker as a bench bat and occasional starter at first base, though that probably isn't the answer either. And then, as Roch Kubatko suggests, the Orioles could always decide to "intensify their efforts to acquire an infielder who's passed through waivers." But that may be a long shot.

There likely isn't a way for the O's to fill the void of Machado's absence. Before he got hurt, his bat was heating up, and he's one of the best defensive players in all of baseball. Considering much of the Orioles' success is due to their defense, playing without Machado will be challenging.

But it's not like everything has broken right for the Orioles in 2014. They've been playing without Matt Wieters since May. They started the season without Machado, who predictably got off to a slow start before heating up. Ubaldo Jimenez, recently banished to the bullpen, has been a disappointment. And Davis, who is batting .192/.294/.392, has been terrible after dominating the league last season.

If you want to write the Orioles off, that's certainly your right. But you'd be wrong to do so.

 Photo via Keith Allison

21 August 2014

Jon Shepherd of Camden Depot Takes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge


Nick Faleris of Baseball Prospectus issued his ALS Challenge to me today. He was kind enough to include his support to NIH in his chilly presentation. As you know, I am an anti-ribbon kind of guy, so taking part in this goes against my character. That said, I think it is a great platform to make people aware of our science funding crisis.

Due to budget issues, we have reduced funding at the National Institute of Health by 1.05 billion. If you are specifically concerned about ALS, the cut has been around 20 MM per year. The Ice Bucket challenge has resulted in a bump of 14 MM for this year alone. Who knows what kind of episodic push there is next year for ALS or the many other diseases we need cures and therapies.  NIH has asked for 30.5 B in funding this year, which is a reflection more of the budget climate than the organization's true needs.  We should be demanding something north of 32 B.

I will be answering Nick's call for donations, but I want to change the concept moving forward. I want you to write to both of your senators and your representative in the House. This tool might help you find yours: http://whoismyrepresentative.com/

Anyway, drench yourself with ice water if you wish, but the best way to fight these diseases is a long-term commitment.

I challenged two good friends of mine, researcher Eli Moore and Chesapeake Fisherman Pete Ide.  To keep this in the baseball family, I also challenge Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley.

I offer this as a sample letter for you to edit as you see fit. I edited mine to reflect my own personal experiences with family suffering from ALS, multiple sclerosis, and cancer:

As a constituent, I urge your strong and unwavering support for scientific research in medicine, biology and related areas that is best served through federal funds directed to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). I ask that you support funding of at least $32 billion for NIH's research into diseases that affect millions of Americans, including ALS. It is critical that the United States make forward-thinking investments that promote medical breakthroughs as well as maintain our international leadership in biomedical research.

NIH serves first and foremost as a vehicle to save and improve the lives of millions of Americans, including tremendous breakthroughs in areas such as heart disease, stroke, and childhood leukemia. Yet, satisfactory solutions are still being sought for some of our most challenging diseases, including ALS, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease. For millions of individuals and families living with ALS and other chronic, progressive diseases, NIH research offers great promise for better treatments and, ultimately, a cure.

The private sector is important in developing treatments but they depend on discoveries emerging from long-term, basic research supported by the federal government. Basic research generates the ideas required to develop new processes, new products, new industries and new jobs. Without consistent and stable funding for the NIH, talented scientists have no choice but to stop doing research, research that potentially could have been the breakthroughs for tomorrow's treatments and cures.

Now is the time to strengthen the nation's biomedical research. America needs more investment in medical research, not less. I urge you to support the best possible funding outcome for biomedical research and for the nation.

-----

Thank you guys. Please make me proud.

If you wish to post your challenges and writing in the comments, please do.

Why Fans Should Be Excited About the 2014 Orioles Bullpen



Last week, Matt Kremnitzer wrote an article about the Orioles bullpen in which he compared the 2012 bullpen to the 2014 bullpen. In this article he included a chart comparing certain statistics of the 2012 and 2014 bullpen and noted the results have been reasonably similar even if the 2012 bullpen has been better. 

I was thinking about this article and how it measured bullpen performance. Bullpen performance is typically measured by taking the results for each reliever and weighting them by the number of innings pitched by that reliever. Two relievers that each threw sixty innings would have the same amount of weight when determining reliever performance. A reliever that throws sixty innings would have twice the weight as one that threw thirty innings.

The problem with this method is that it presumes that all relievers in the bullpen should be treated equally. I'm not sure I would do that because it’s only logical that the performance of a closer is more important than the performance of a long man. The closer usually comes into games in the ninth inning when the game is close while the long man comes into the game considerably earlier when the game isn’t close. If the long man gives up a run then little harm is done but if the closer allows a run then it could lead to a blown save and a loss. Teams would rather have a closer with a 0 ERA than a long man with a 0 ERA and it only makes sense to reflect that in bullpen performance. All relievers aren’t equal and it’s necessary to find some method of ensuring that the most important relievers have the most value in these calculations.

Tom Tango developed a statistic called leverage index (LI). This statistic measures how important a particular situation is in a baseball game depending on the inning, score, outs, and number of players on base. It is possible to use this statistic to determine which relievers have been used in the most important situations and therefore which relievers are most valuable. This allows us to quantify the difference between a closer and a long man. The leverage index most commonly used is one that measures a player’s average LI for all game events known as pLI. In fact, Fangraphs uses this leverage index when determining pitching WAR. Another leverage index is called gmLI. This index measures a pitchers average LI when he enters the game. I personally believe that gmLI is a better metric than pLI and will therefore use gmLI in this article. 

Fangraphs provides the gmLI for each reliever. It is possible to use this statistic to weight bullpen performance by the importance of each pitcher as well as by innings thrown which should result in a more accurate measure of bullpen performance than considering each pitcher to be of equal performance regardless of role. We can use this statistic to see how the Orioles 2014 bullpen compares to other teams bullpens. In addition, I’m only using relievers on an active roster because Orioles’ fans are excited about their current relievers. Orioles’ and other teams’ fans couldn’t care less about guys like Evan Meek.  

This table shows the number of pitchers used by each bullpen, the bullpen’s ERA without using leverage, the bullpen’s ERA using leverage and the difference between the two.


Team
Pitchers
Non-Leveraged ERA
Leverage ERA
Difference
Rays
10
3.12
3.14
-0.02
Mets
11
3.01
3.02
-0.01
Mariners
11
2.49
2.49
0.00
Tigers
18
4.28
4.24
0.04
Marlins
14
3.07
3.02
0.05
Giants
10
2.65
2.60
0.05
Twins
11
3.33
3.25
0.07
Blue Jays
16
3.75
3.66
0.09
Orioles
12
3.07
2.99
0.09
Rockies
15
4.84
4.74
0.10
Athletics
12
2.72
2.62
0.10
Indians
14
2.84
2.72
0.12
Astros
16
4.85
4.73
0.12
Nationals
12
2.81
2.69
0.13
Yankees
16
3.33
3.19
0.13
Braves
14
3.19
3.06
0.14
White Sox
16
4.28
4.14
0.14
Diamondbacks
15
3.75
3.60
0.15
Padres
12
2.39
2.22
0.18
Rangers
23
3.96
3.76
0.20
Cardinals
14
3.68
3.48
0.20
Cubs
15
3.45
3.24
0.21
Brewers
15
3.56
3.31
0.24
Angels
20
2.96
2.70
0.26
Pirates
14
3.40
3.10
0.29
Reds
12
3.96
3.58
0.38
Red Sox
14
3.27
2.82
0.45
Dodgers
13
3.75
3.27
0.48
Phillies
14
3.67
3.19
0.48
Royals
15
3.18
2.38
0.79



Using this method shows the strength of the Royals bullpen. The Royals have only three relievers that have pitched over ten innings with a gmLI over 1.1. All three of those relievers have an ERA under 2. The backend of the Royals bullpen has been dominant and as a result their bullpen ERA using leverage is considerably lower than their bullpen ERA not considering leverage. Likewise, the Phillies have had Papelbon and Adams pitch most of their high leverage innings and both of them have low ERAs. This method makes them look better than they would otherwise.

This does little to explain why people should excited about the Orioles bullpen. While our leveraged ERA is 2.99 this is only good for tenth in the majors. The difference between our leveraged bullpen ERA and non-leveraged bullpen ERA is miniscule and one of the lowest in the majors. In addition, the 2012 bullpen is still better then the 2014 bullpen even when considering leverage.

Fortunately, this next table may answer this question. This table consists of the team name and the average leverage of the bullpen and shows that the Orioles bullpen has the second highest game leverage.


Team
Average Leverage
Rangers
0.997
Blue Jays
1.010
Dodgers
1.019
Padres
1.023
Giants
1.050
Nationals
1.071
Twins
1.077
Astros
1.087
Royals
1.090
Athletics
1.106
Brewers
1.115
Tigers
1.117
Indians
1.120
Rockies
1.121
Cubs
1.156
Mets
1.165
Diamondbacks
1.181
Pirates
1.184
Mariners
1.191
Phillies
1.193
Angels
1.194
Reds
1.224
Marlins
1.229
Rays
1.231
Cardinals
1.252
White Sox
1.270
Red Sox
1.286
Braves
1.312
Orioles
1.340
Yankees
1.387

Orioles fans are excited about their bullpen because it has done well in high pressure situations. As I write this post, O'Day has just struck out Abreu and Garcia with runners at first and second to maintain a one run lead while Britton had a one-two-three ninth to pick up his 27th save despite having little margin for error with just a one run lead. The Orioles have needed their bullpen to come through in the clutch this season and it has met the challenge. As a result, the Orioles are in excellent position to clinch the division and fans are showing their bullpen the love.