04 March 2012

Draft Prospects on ESPN3: March 4


by Jeremy Strain

ESPN3 match ups to watch for Sunday March 4, 2012:

1:00 PM EST #23 USC vs. #6 North Carolina
This match up doesn’t feature any top 100 Baseball America (BA) pre-season prospects but it does feature a chance to watch a 2013 top prospect in N. Carolina pitcher Kent Emanuel .

1:00 PM EST #2 Florida vs. #8 Miami (FL)
This is a great game to watch if you are a fan of the draft, with 10% of the top 100 BA’s college prospects playing in one game. Florida boasts the Lion’s share led by position players: C Michael Zunino, 1B Preston Tucker and SS Nolan Fontana, and a deep pitching staff led by Brian Johnson including Austin Maddox, Hudson Randall, and John Magliozzi. Miami fields three top 100 players of its own in C Peter O’Brien, P Eduardo Encinosa, and SS Stephen Perez

2:00 PM EST #3 South Carolina vs. #19 Clemson
South Carolina boasts a lineup featuring draft hopefuls, 1B Christian Walker, OF Adam Matthews, P Matt Price, and OF Evan Marzilli. They’ll be facing a Clemson team that features 1B Richie Schaffer and P Kevin Brady.

3:30 PM EST Houston vs. Texas Tech
This matchup doesn’t feature any draft prospects ranked by BA at this time. 

7:00 PM EST #4 Rice vs. Tennessee
This game features the Rice pitching duo of J.T. Chargois and Taylor Wall, two pitchers to keep an eye on.

03 March 2012

AL Central FIP and Pitching xWARs by Slot

There is a series of articles by Jack Sackman that you can find here.  It is an idea I found interesting an often use when I describe pitchers as a certain type of slot pitcher.  I think in common use a person referring to a guy as a one slot pitcher is more or less actually saying that the guy is a one slot pitcher on a first division team.  In other words, an ace on one of the ten best teams in baseball.  In this series of posts, I plan on going through each division and describing what each slot means and how that relates to teams.
AL East | Central | West
NL East | Central | West
Methodology
For each team, slots were broken down in 32 starts per slot (for a total of 160 games).  Pitchers were ordered by FIP, lowest to highest.  They were then broken up into slots.  Their FIPs were weighted by inning allotment and a weighted average was calculated for each slot.

An example:
Chris Tillman had an FIP of 3.99 over 11 starts, Zach Britton had an FIP of 4.00 over 28 starts, and Jeremy Guthrie had an FIP of 4.51 over 32 starts.  For the purpose of this study, Tillman's 11 starts all counted for the Orioles slot 1 along with 21 of Britton's 28 starts.  The remaining 7 starts were put into the slot 2 position with 25 of Jeremy Guthrie's starts.  When a pitcher's starts are split between multiple slots, it is assumed that their FIP is equal for every inning thrown and that their IP are equal for every start.
AL Central

FIP


What I find exceptionally interesting here is how good the White Sox pitching was last year.  No one was Verlander-esque on the team, but the FIP of the ChiSox 5 slot (predominantly, Mark Buerhle) was right in line with the best non-Sox 3 slot.  Although the ChiSox pitching was so incredible, they finished with 79 wins due to an anemic offense.  Adam Dunn, Juan Pierre, and Alex Rios all had negative WAR and had almost 2000 plate appearances.  What a waste of a rotation.

Below is the AL Central FIP by Slot Table.



1 2 3 4 5
Indians 3.28 3.93 4.26 4.39 4.89
Royals 3.73 4.17 4.33 4.47 5.21
Tigers 2.85 3.44 4.08 4.28 5.14
Twins 3.64 4.10 4.23 4.50 4.78
White Sox 3.29 3.52 3.74 3.85 4.12

xWAR

The following graph is simply a predicted fWAR value using only FIP and IP as described in this post.  It serves as an approximation of fWAR worth.


Again, what the ChiSox did last year throwing the ball was impressive.  Injuries and trading Edwin Jackson (who recorded the majority of the 1 slot outings) did little to affect the quality of the rotation.

Below is the xWAR AL Central  by Slot Table


1 2 3 4 5
Indians 4.94 2.78 2.48 1.98 0.70
Royals 3.63 2.60 2.37 1.52 -0.32
Tigers 6.33 4.39 2.72 2.20 0.02
Twins 3.87 3.08 2.27 1.51 0.93
White Sox 4.75 4.13 3.80 3.52 2.93

Comparison to Orioles
It should be informative that the Orioles' 1 slot pitching performance (2.5 xWAR) is less than the White Sox' 5 slot pitching.  The Orioles' 2 slot pitching perforamnce (2.14 xWAR) is less than the Tigers' 4 slot pitching.  The worse pitching performance (Royals, -0.32 xWAR) is a factor 12 better than the Orioles' 5 slot (-4.04 xWAR).  Not good.

01 March 2012

Comparing fWAR with rWAR

Here is just a short post today.  People often think of rWAR and fWAR as being equal to each other because they are both trying to determine the overall value of a player's performance.  They use different means, but try to get to the same place.  However, this does not entirely make sense to me because the assumption is that the two metric would have the same statistical spread.  I decided to show them simply side by side below using statistics from 2011.

Pitching

Below are the WARs for pitchers who qualified for the ERA title.


These two for the most part match up well.  rWAR is a bit more extreme on the ends with fWAR showing a slight bump throughout the middle, particularly with players below a WAR of 2.  fWAR has a mean of 3.2 while rWAR is 2.9, which amounts to a total difference of about 20 WAR between the two statistics.  As populations, they do not appear to be significantly different (p=0.40).

Position Players

Below are the WARs for position players who qualified for the batting title.


Again, we see something similar to the WAR for pitchers where at the extreme ends, rWAR gives greater positive values and lesser negative values while fWAR gives higher values throughout the middle.  The differences between these two populations approach significance (p=0.10).  The average WAR was 3.2 for fWAR and 2.8 for rWAR.  The difference in total WAR was 60 WAR advantage to fWAR.

Conclusion
I think the take home message here is that while you may not be making a grand mistake by doing something like adding them together and dividing in half, you certainly should not think the two statistics are equivalent in magnitude.

29 February 2012

AL East FIP and Pitching xWARs by Slot

There is a series of articles by Jack Sackman that you can find here.  It is an idea I found interesting an often use when I describe pitchers as a certain type of slot pitcher.  I think in common use a person referring to a guy as a one slot pitcher is more or less actually saying that the guy is a one slot pitcher on a first division team.  In other words, an ace on one of the ten best teams in baseball.  In this series of posts, I plan on going through each division and describing what each slot means and how that relates to teams.
AL East | Central | West
NL East | Central | West
Methodology
For each team, slots were broken down in 32 starts per slot (for a total of 160 games).  Pitchers were ordered by FIP, lowest to highest.  They were then broken up into slots.  Their FIPs were weighted by inning allotment and a weighted average was calculated for each slot.

An example:
Chris Tillman had an FIP of 3.99 over 11 starts, Zach Britton had an FIP of 4.00 over 28 starts, and Jeremy Guthrie had an FIP of 4.51 over 32 starts.  For the purpose of this study, Tillman's 11 starts all counted for the Orioles slot 1 along with 21 of Britton's 28 starts.  The remaining 7 starts were put into the slot 2 position with 25 of Jeremy Guthrie's starts.  When a pitcher's starts are split between multiple slots, it is assumed that their FIP is equal for every inning thrown and that their IP are equal for every start.

AL East

FIP




As you can see above, the Orioles were amazingly bad in comparison to the rest of the AL East.  In terms of FIP, the number 1 slot was worse than all other number 1s in the AL East, worse than the Red Sox, Rays, and Yankees number 2s, and worse than the Rays number 3.

Below is the AL East FIP by Slot Table.


1 2 3 4 5
Orioles 4.00 4.38 4.59 5.01 6.64
Red Sox 3.55 3.78 4.36 4.82 5.33
Rays 3.22 3.41 3.88 4.40 4.90
Yankees 2.88 3.89 4.04 4.33 4.82
Blue Jays 3.66 4.11 4.29 4.82 5.39

xWAR

The following graph is simply a predicted fWAR value using only FIP and IP as described in this post.  It serves as an approximation of fWAR worth.



Again, all other number 1s generated more worth than the Orioles' number 1, all other number 2s, and three of the number 3s.  In fact, the Orioles number 1 slot was neck and neck with the Rays number 4 slot.  All of this does not even address the wretched state of the team's fifth starters.  If you add in two of Rick VandenHurk's starts, the value would near -5 xWAR.

A basic concept when it comes to WAR is the R.  The replacement level production should be roughly the quality of pitching that is freely available at the AAA level.  In part, you would expect the worst starter on an MLB club to be below replacement level for many clubs because you are likely to be replaced only after you show that you cannot match what a AAA may accomplish.  This idea likely explain why the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Orioles all have negative values to show for the fifth slot.  However, the Orioles are five times worse than the next closest team's production from the fifth slot.  This speaks to either a paucity of talent in the high minors or a willingness to stick with a pitcher long after they show they are not capable of pitching at an MLB level.

Explaining Duquette Starting Pitcher Fancy
For the Orioles, you can blame the paucity of talent on giving innings to pitchers like Mitch Atkins and Jo-Jo Reyes (we will pretend that Rick VandenHurk's starts never happened...we are better off that way).  Brian Matusz' are more about giving a pitcher chance after chance to show he can do something when it is obvious that he cannot.  With this understanding, you can now see why Dan Duquette has authorized the use of a 40 man roster clown car for the team this year.  The Orioles have over a dozen pitchers on the 40 man roster and several more off the roster who have started in the Majors or are capable of starting in the Majors.  The idea is that by deluging the roster with starting pitching, you could hypothetically win 3-5 more games.

Below is the xWAR AL East  by Slot Table


1 2 3 4 5
Orioles 2.50 2.14 1.62 0.17 -4.04
Red Sox 4.01 3.60 2.00 0.83 -0.51
Rays 5.09 5.18 3.29 2.26 0.99
Yankees 6.27 3.19 2.80 1.90 0.86
Blue Jays 3.75 2.86 2.60 0.89 -0.76



































Baltimore Orioles by the Numbers
Slot 1 (166.2 IP, 4.00 FIP)
Chris Tillman 13g 62IP 3.99 FIP
Zach Britton 19g 104.2IP 4.00 FIP
Slot 2 (196 IP, 4.38)
Zach Britton 9g 49.2IP 4.00 FIP
Jeremy Guthrie 23g 146.1IP 4.51 FIP
Slot 3 (195 IP, 4.59 FIP)
Jeremy Guthrie 9g 57.1IP 4.51 FIP
Alfredo Simon 16g 94.1IP 4.59 FIP
Tommy Hunter 7g 43.1IP 4.71 FIP
Slot 4 (169.2 IP, 5.01 FIP)
Tommy Hunter 4g 25IP 4.71 FIP
Brad Bergesen 12g 62.1IP 4.84 FIP
Chris Jakubauskus 6g 27.1IP 5.00 FIP
Jake Arrieta 10g 54IP 5.34 FIP
Slot 5 (149 IP, 6.65 FIP)
Jake Arrieta 12g, 65IP, 5.34 FIP
Jo-Jo Reyes 5g, 23.2IP, 7.12 FIP
Brian Matusz 12g, 49.2IP, 7.66 FIP
Mitch Atkins 3g, 10.2IP, 8.93 FIP

28 February 2012

Eyes on Spring Training: 2B, Andino and Antonelli

Eddie Stanky
With Brian Roberts out for most of 2011, Robert Andino was unexpectedly elevated from the utility infielder spot to take an everyday line-up spot (mostly at second, though he filled in at third and short on occasion). Overall, he was adequate if unspectacular, posting a 1.8 fWAR season while upping his walk rate to 8%. Coming into 2012 it seems like Andino would be the default option at second, but with Matt Antonelli being signed to a major league contract, it's possible that that isn't the case.

I certainly like the on-base skills Antonelli showed at the minor league level, but to expect him to get his first real extended amount of playing time in the majors for the first time at age 27 and out-produce Andino seems... doubtful. Here is the whole list of second and third base-man to get 300 plate appearances in their first season at ages 27-28 who beat Andino's 2.0 rWAR from last season:
Ron Theobald (1971), 452 PA, 2.4 rWAR
Spider Jorgensen (1947), 506 PA, 2.4 rWAR
Coco Laboy (1969), 616 PA, 2.3 rWAR
Akinori Iwamura (2007), 559 PA, 2.2 rWAR
Eddie Stanky (1943), 616 PA, 2.2 rWAR
That's it - five guys. And one could argue that Iwamura shouldn't count, given his time in Japan. It's certainly possible that Andino won't repeat his 2011, but it seems more likely that he'll do so than that Antonelli is good enough to do what very few other players in baseball history have been able to.

In his time at Triple-A, Antonelli hit .237/.347/.369. That doesn't inspire a great deal of confidence, though part of that was a low BABIP (~.275). Maybe that will carry forward, but in any case, he'll need to continue taking walks (13% rate at Triple-A) to produce enough with the bat to make up for what sounds like a below average glove. How many of those older first-year infielders posted even a 10% walk rate? Six:
Eddie Stanky (1943) - 14.9%
Spider Jorgensen (1947) - 11.4%
Ike Rockenfield (1905) - 11.4%
Al Rubeling (1940) - 11.2%
Spook Jacobs (1954) - 10.4%
Akinori Iwamura (2007) - 10.4%
The thing is, though, these types of player don't tend to get chances at all. There are only 23 second/third-basemen who had their first season at ages 27-28 and got any significant playing-time (because players who are good enough to start in the majors are usually good enough to show up earlier). Just getting 300+ plate appearances would be something for Antonelli - if he does, it's probably a clue that he's playing pretty well (or there have been some injuries).

It's good that the Orioles were willing to take a chance on a potentially undervalued player. Relying on him to reach his ceiling as part of Plan A would be slightly less good. We'll see how it plays out.