21 February 2011

¡Dia de los Presidentes!


I think it is a good time to remember Dennis Martinez (aka El Presidente) on President's Day and to wish everyone well today.
Isn't that an old school picture of the Inner Harbor?
Pier 3 or Pier 6.  I would lean toward pier 6.

Any thoughts?  I was just four then.

17 February 2011

Why baseball players use human growth hormone? Part I: Addressing the debate.

Cheating comes in a lot of forms.
This is the first part of a two part series on human growth hormone.

Performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) are a difficult topic to discuss.  It is truly rare to find someone who is indifferent to them or at least not emotionally engaged in the discussion.  I find that we, fans, want to see amazing athletic performances, but want these to be as clean and pure as is possible.  We often create dividing lines between things like spitballs, corked bats, corrective lenses, cortisone shots, oxygen treatments, creatine, anabolic steroids, Viagra, caffeine, Ritalin, human growth hormone, and a bevy of other treatments that have been associated with improving performance.  Everyone typically has their own line and many fight for it vehemently.  The line drawn often rarely is with respect to how much certain aids helping in making a performance better and more often drawn by our emotional attachment to different approaches.

Emotional arguments are difficult ones to have as it is difficult to consider evidence that contradicts our position.  Turning a logical argument into an emotional one shifts the debate from one of merits of an idea to the mere capacity of intellectual thought.  This creates a conversational quagmire when trying to parse the data on a subject that is confusing and often misconstrued in the media, in the gym, and on message boards.  What I hope in this two part series is to set the emotional conversation back to zero and build it back up on the merits of the application of human growth hormone, in this case.  That way maybe we can strip the discussion free of our assumptions and weakly based convictions

More right after the jump.

15 February 2011

Has the Orioles defense improved in 2011?

Motherwell's Mark Reynolds
Last week, I read through Andrew Gibson's work on using infield and outfield Defensive Efficiency on ground balls and fly balls, respectively.  I discuss that post over at the Baltimore Orioles Round Table (BORT), but on this blog I wanted to jumped in on something that I felt was slightly undone.  As you may have noticed, almost every statistic these days is converted over to runs.  It is the high falutin' goal of any respectable statistician to devise ways to convert all measures of player performance into how many runs are scored or given.  It permits a great deal of comparison and it is why when guys like us so repetitively use WAR and other run based numbers, others think we are making too much out of single statistics.  We really are not, we are just converting things over to a relatively easy model for comparison.  Converting numbers to runs does not remove problems with the original numbers.  We are all aware that a high WAR due to the defensive component is probably not an accurate portrayal of the player's talent.

My objective in this post is to take Andrew's numbers and convert them over to runs saved/given as well as compare that to other systems like DRS, TZL, and UZR.  All of that after the jump.

14 February 2011

Oh, krikes!

I was just scooped.  I am halfway through my analysis on draft pick performance, doing almost the same exact thing.  I guess that is done for me.

Anyway, I have not yet gotten to it, but read this.

Looks like I will have something cool to read tonight.

13 February 2011

Revisiting the Orioles International Effort

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Over a year ago, we had a succession of three articles assessing the Orioles apparent lack of interest in a Dominican Prospect League where amateurs played in games as opposed to scouts having to watch workouts (batting practice, fielding, running, bullpen, and live pitching).  Briefly put, ESPN Jorge Arangure Jr. posted an article where the Orioles were specifically mentioned by the founder of the DPL as being one of the few teams who did not have any scouts present.  Roch then chased down John Stockstill who said that they have and will see many of these players in workouts.  Finally, Mejia (founder of DPL) is re-interviewed and says that too much was made of comments, but that the Orioles are doing things their own way.

So that leaves us with the perspective that the Orioles are not involved in the DPL because they have seen these players in workouts and in-game situations provided during the DPL's 25 game schedule that most every other team utilizes is therefore of no interest to them.  Got that?

A few days back, Andy MacPhail appeared at the University of Baltimore to talk about his experiences and approach as a General Manager.  Upon being asked about the Orioles international effort, he said:
We're still not head over heels in international scouting. We get criticized occasionally for not spending enough there. But you've got to understand, in the Dominican Republic, the whole game has changed. It used to be you'd go there and see a lot of kids playing baseball. Now there is something called a buscón. They're agents, and what they'll do is they'll take a kid who is 12 or 13 and has some promise. They'll feed them, clothe them, and put them in a workout regimen. They're not playing baseball anymore. What these guys prepare them to do is to come in all these complexes -- and now we have one of them -- and they'll do workouts. They're not playing the game anymore. They're guys who have been developed over three or four years to look good in a three or four day tryout. And there are those old fashioned amongst us who are concerned that's not really the look we need to make a good read on a 17-year-old kid out of the Dominican. We would much rather see them play games. Just think about a lot of US players who wouldn't do that well in a workout, but they are good baseball players because they can play the game. We've lost an element of that in the Dominican, and where we apply our resources is somewhat of a reflection of that.


We are not in Venezuela nearly to the degree that we need to be in. We have our approach in the Dominican. It might not be the best, but Venezuela is definitely something we need to look into in a more studious fashion because the last time I checked, you've got 6 percent of players in the major leagues are coming out of Venezuela and we need to be more active there.
The background we have presented in our own coverage and this current statement do not jive.  MacPhail is complaining about how players in the Dominican Republic do not play baseball and for the Orioles to feel comfortable handing out contracts, they really want to see them play.  However, they were one of the few teams specifically mentioned as not attending games in a league designed to give teams a look at players performing in games.

This is a simple failure of logic.

09 February 2011

Vladimir Guerrero's Whiff Rate

Note: Be sure to check out the last post on Vlad here.

This is just a short post today and, to be up front, I do not know what it means.  As you know I like to dabble in pitch f/x and I was interested in whether there was a way to visualize what I have thought I have seen and what others have seen: Vlad's bat is slowing down.  Now, this may seem like I am piling up on him, but I am not.  My thoughts on the signing generated a lot of interest and that has sustained my interest somewhat.

The graph below shows Vlad's whiff rate when four seam fastballs, curve balls, change ups, and sliders are thrown.  What we see is that he has stayed on top of fastballs at about a 8.4% whiff rate.  However, this is in contrast to the other offerings where he has progressively shown a tendency to swing and miss.  The upward trend with the curve balls is the effect of multiple data points.  Sliders and changeups appear to be largely affected by his whiff rate last year.

What does this mean?

I don't know.  You could say that in order to maintain his hitting ability he cheats on the fastballs and is taken advantage by other pitches, but I don't think this single graph shows that.  I would want to see more data points from other years, which is not something that is available.  I'll try to think of some ideas to answer these questions and post at some point about what I eventually come up with.

07 February 2011

Baltimore Orioles Round Table Chat 02072011

Come back at 9pm for a chat between Daniel Moroz of Camden Crazies, Heath from Dempseys Army, and me.  The audience will be allowed to ask questions during the hour long chat.  Hope to see you all then.

06 February 2011

Vladimir Guerrero and the Ten Worst Monster Seasons Ever

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I noticed something interesting the other day while discussing the Vladimir Guerrero trade with Daniel Moroz of Camden Crazies.  Vlad's 2010 season has continually been referred as, to some extent, a monster season.  I heard it first coming from Brian Roberts in a Baltimore Sun article with his statement: "You are talking about a Hall of Fame guy coming off a monster year."  I saw it again over at Orioles' Hangout when Scott Hoffman referred to Vlad's "monster 2010 season."  It has also been in great use in message boards, Twitter feeds, and talking heads.  It just is not true.  His season can be pretty much summed up as an average to slightly above average year for a designated hitter.  Vlad is an aging bad ball hitter (which he is still quite good at) who cheats on fastballs, cannot run, cannot walk, and has much trouble in the field.  He is so talented at hitting bad pitches that he can still rack up those hits.  They are just becoming less and less impressive.  In Oriole terms, we have seen this erosion of similar skills before in Miguel Tejada and Sammy Sosa.  Vlad was a monster, but he really is no longer.  So why do people keep referring to last season as a monster season?

I figured it was simply a halo effect where an average performance looked better because the team went to the World Series and the hitters around him (i.e. AL MVP Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz) did pretty well.  A non-science example of this was recently mentioned in a Scientific American article.  In that article people were asked what they thought the calorie content of various meals.  One of the comparisons they made were between meals consisting of a hamburger or alone or a hamburger with three stalks of celery.  The average caloric estimate for the hamburger was 691.  When the burger was paired with celery the average estimate was 648.  Well, celery does not work that way, but perception does.  In a similar way, I thought Vlad was a burger and the stalk was the World Series.

However, a third party (@getstoked) entered our Twitter dialogue and gave a different insight.  He mentioned that perhaps to a lot of people a monster season is actually what they would call Vlad's season.  As in, Vald was no burger, he was a stalk of celery (I probably need to abandon this analogy).  Anyway, Vlad hit 29 home runs, drove in 115 runs, and managed .300 for his batting average.  These are all solids numbers for the traditional Triple Crown perspective.  For someone who has embraced more advanced statistics for the past ten years, I sometimes lose the ability to understand performance through another's perspective (even perspectives I once dearly held).  For me, home runs are nice, but you have to take into consideration other types of hits and ballpark factors.  For instance, a difference of 8.7 feet will reduce home runs by about 25%.  RBIs are a notorious opportunity statistic and are therefore heavily reliant on who is hitting in front of the batter.  I think we all remember Jay Gibbons' 2003 season.  Finally, batting average is a poor metric because it condenses all hits as equal and completely ignores other aspects of avoiding outs (e.g. base on balls).  These Triple Crown stats are burned into the majority of the baseball fans.  It is often considered the norm.  It was for me.  So it is conceivable that many are defining a Monster Season as a year where a player hits 30 home runs, 100 RBIs, and a .300 average.  Vlad just missed this by a home run, but it seems to fit.

After the jump, a short primer on advanced statistics and the worst 30/100/.300 seasons ever.

04 February 2011

Vladimir Guerrero Signs 6 Years Too Late

Editor's note: This post was a quick response to the Vlad signing.  After carefully running the projections, the difference was found to be 0.8 wins added due to his addition.

Vladimir Guerrero and the Orioles have ended their game of chicken with Vlad looking to be the winner.  The Orioles appeared to have no competition, but hemmed and hawed their way to about what Vlad wanted after his dreams of 2 years and 20MM met with the sounds of crickets.  Though, there is a question on the deal though winds up being how much of it is deferred.  Regardless, some will say "who cares? It is not my money.  Bring on the wins!"  Six years ago, sure.  Now?  Not so much.

Marcel, the regression projection model, projects Vlad to be a 284/335/466 which looks like a WAR of 2.  A rough rule of thumb place a WAR of 2 to be about average.  To restate that a little more in the vernacular, Vlad is an average DH.  His bat will replace Felix Pie's bat, which is replacement level.  That means that Pie is about as good as the theoretical AAA LF with the bat.  I think everyone can agree that in all likelihood, Vlad's bat in the lineup is much better than having Pie's bat in the lineup.

However, that is not the whole story.  Pie being removed from the lineup means that Luke Scott is now a leftfielder.  We can also probably agree that Scott is not as good of a leftfielder as Pie, but the question now is: by how much?  We established in the previous paragraph that Vlad's bat is 2 Wins better than Pie's.  Pie's glove is up to more of a question.  Pie has played only 117 games in LF.  In that time he has been recorded as saving 4 runs with the Dewan Plus/Minus system, 4.4 runs given by Total Zone, and 0.1 runs saved by UZR.  It is difficult to measure him completely as there have not been enough games played (you really want something in the neighborhood of 300 games at least) and scouting reports mentioned that Pie is getting better and better at defense.  So, let's call Pie an average leftfielder even though I think he is more likely a +5 or sightly better.  Luke Scott has seen twice as much time in left field and comes out as roughly 6, 3.3, and 3.7 runs saved over the same time period.  He also has not played leftfield in about two years.  It would be kind, I think, to save Scott will be average and more accurate to predict him giving up 5 runs per year.  We'll be kind and say he is Pie's equal.  This keeps the difference at two wins.

So, is two wins worth 8MM?
In general, yes, yes it is.  A win is worth about 4.5MM on the free agent market, so Vlad's contract is about what it should be.  However, is a win really a win?  I think it would be fair to say that a win or two for a 80 win team is not worth the same as a win or two for a 93 win team.  One may be content with an Orioles squad committed to winning as many games as possible, but I question to what end?  Vlad will not be an Oriole in 2012.  He seems awfully unpopular now and probably will be worth next to nothing come the deadline with the Orioles about 7-10 games off the Wild Card.  Other sluggers, like Jim Thome, were traded for inconsequential pieces like Scott Fuller.

I have to say two things:
1. I think this signing is ineffectual and wastes money that could be spent elsewhere.
2. I'm excited to see Vlad in an Orioles uniform.
OK, and a third thing,
3. I'm disappointed that this did not happen years ago.

01 February 2011

Could we wind up rooting for the Kinston Orioles?

A couple days ago I tweeted news of the Frederick Keys going up for sale and the team signing another one year lease on Harry Grove Stadium.  The American Chronicle has a good article for you to read here in full.  Briefly, the Keys do not like the terms the city is putting forth and has stalled on a contract.  They are now on a one year term at $30,000.  It was not mentioned what the two sides are negotiating, but that they have been unable to come to any agreeable terms.  The city has asked for $50,000 and it was rumored that the Keys ownership countered with a value just short of $30,000.  Either figure would be an increase from their last long term lease where they were paying $17,000 a year until 2009.  This situation has now come to a head and the city is planning to issue a request for proposal.  As I understand this, it means that different entities will be allowed to bid for use of Harry Grove Stadium and this is where it gets interesting.

The original owner of the Keys and builder of Harry Grove Stadium, Peter Kirk, is angling to get back into the Frederick market.  This time it is not as an owner as he is the owner of the York Revolution.  Instead, he wishes to put a second Independent Atlantic League team in Frederick with the help of Reston, VA real estate lawyer Jack Lavoie.  This arrangement was reported in the York Daily Record.  The city of Frederick looks to be in the driving seat for this one.  Frederick is a solid market that averaged 4585 fans per game in 2009.  Only the Wilmington Blue Rocks drew more.  The Orioles AA team, the Bowie Baysox drew 3810.  In fact, Frederick outdrew eighteen of thirty AA teams and three of thirty AAA teams.  Frederick is a great market and the Atlantic League knows it.  The Keys ownership (or the new ownership) will need to increase their offer if they want to avoid being evicted after the 2011 season.

Where could the Orioles single A franchise go?  After the jump, I'll look at three scenarios, some are likely alternatives and others are wishful thinking.


29 January 2011

The History of Oriole Attendance

I read this entry over at MLB Trade Rumors with the following:
"With this city, with this country, with our market, we should be a city that can have $140 or $150MM in the way of salaries," team president Paul Beeston said at the State of the Franchise even in Toronto last night. "We should be able to support that and that's the direction that we're headed to."
It reminded me of what Ruben Amaro Jr., GM of the Phillies, said after signing Cliff Lee.  I cannot find the direct quote, but to paraphrase: That the Phillies would not be able to lock Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard, and Roy Halladay into those contracts without the fan base dedicating themselves by buying season tickets.  Toronto and Philadelphia most likely have similar money to draw from as the Orioles.  Of course, it all comes down to securing the fan base.  Not only do the Orioles (and Jays) need to sell out every game, they need to up their tickets by 50-100%.  Here are the Orioles' attendance over the years:


 What the above graph tells us is that Baltimore is capable of bring in over 40,000 per game.  Tickets then (like now) are cheap as MLB tickets go.  However, it is difficult to tell immediately what these numbers mean.  Oriole fans have always been thought as strong supporters of the team, but those early numbers appear slight.  After the jump, I'll introduce a statistic I call Attendance Plus.

28 January 2011

Orioles Promotional Wish List

The Orioles today published their preliminary promotional calendar.  For those who love bobbleheads, you will get a shot at Buck and Matusz.  However, I am not one of those people.  Of the initial list, I am rather indifferent and unimpressed in comparison to what the Pirates have in store for their fans.

So, it is one thing to complain and it is another to offer suggestions, so the following are my top ten suggestions after the jump.  Let me know if you have any to add.