Author Archives: Mark Smith

Preview: AL Most Valuable Player

Adrian Beltre

One of the Red Sox’s 2009 off-season investments that actually worked, Beltre was simply resplendent in his vacation away from the West Coast. Beltre’s .390 wOBA is his best since 2004, and he was awesome on defense yet again. Okay, but how does that compare to Hamilton? Offensively, there’s no competition—Hamilton is ridiculously better even counting the 20 games played difference—but defense is again the tricky part. Beltre is considered an elite defender at third, but how “elite” is he? Is he +20 elite or just +10, because that’s a win difference? That win difference is the difference between the two in essentially both measurements. Given that UZR has consistently put him in the 11-13 range over the past few years, he’s probably just that. And if he is just that, then he wasn’t better than Hamilton this season.

Evan Longoria

Couldn't be helped.

Longoria’s numbers are amazingly similar to Beltre’s. In FanGraphs, they really almost are identical, but B-Ref (in which Longoria is a win and a half better than Hamilton and Beltre) really messes things up.…

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Implicit Acceptance

If I gave you a number series of 29, 109, 200, what would you think it meant? You’d have no idea, right? In order for these numbers to have meaning, you have to give them names, and this is where historical circumstance creates problems. If the technology and investigation into statistics wasn’t very good, then there was little verification of the validity of these statistics, and if there was no verification, then we don’t know exactly what the numbers are telling us. When they named those statistics, however, they gave those numbers meaning, but the meaning wasn’t always accurate because, again, there was no investigation into the statistics before introducing them to the public. It wasn’t laziness. It wasn’t stupidity. It was a combination of something with little importance at the time (the importance of stats has since grown with the introduction of awards and the growing value of players, thus necessitating analysis) and insufficient technology. There really wasn’t anything they could do, and they had to name the statistics to tell people what they meant according to what they understood the statistics to mean.…

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Preview: NL Most Valuable Player

Joey Votto

Though Pujols is awesome, Votto has been just as awesome and maybe better. Votto’s .324/.424/.600 line is ever-so-slightly better than Pujols’ (just better is still better), and it gives him a .439 wOBA that is quite a bit better than Pujols’ .420. The issue in discussing Votto’s value comes on defense. FanGraphs (7.4 fWAR) has Votto at just above average, and he was just below last season after being way above the season before. B-Ref took a dump on Votto’s defense and put him well below average, tanking his bWAR to 6.2. So which is it? Is he good or bad? Up to this year, B-Ref and FanGraphs had essentially agreed on his defense, but because B-Ref flies way down while UZR stabilized, I’ll side with UZR as long as no one else knows of a reason it should be so low, which means that the 0.7 difference in bWAR should be quite a bit smaller. Then again, I’ve heard UZR doesn’t do a great job with first basemen, so this could all be for naught.…

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Preview: AL Cy Young

Justin Verlander

A whole 0.8 fWAR behind Lee is Verlander. After 224 innings and an FIP of 2.98, Verlander notched 6.3 fWAR. His 3.08 K/BB is better than CC but worse than Lee’s, and while his 5.6% HR/FB is low, it’s only 2% lower than his career mark. He’s good, but he prevents home runs at nearly the same rate as Lee, had nearly identical GB/FB rates, had a much, much lower K/BB, and only threw 12 more innings than Lee. There’s no way I can justify picking Verlander over Lee.

Felix Hernandez

I thought about putting Hernandez second, but I didn’t want to put this exactly in order, thus forcing you to read more (though I guess you could have just skipped Verlander). I thought about putting him last, but that’s just rude. Hernandez was awesome this season, and he deserves to be mentioned here. His 3.31 K/BB is really good, but it’s nowhere near Lee’s. His 249.2 IP, however, trump Lee’s 212, big time.…

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Preview: NL Cy Young

Josh Johnson

Halladay managed to rack up 6.6 fWAR, but Johnson, in almost 70 fewer innings(You Buster Posey voters, pay attention; if you voted Posey based on density of performance, you might have to vote Johnson as well, not that I’m bitter or anything—I’m really not, but I would like some consistency), racked up 6.3 fWAR (6.4 bWAR). How did he do that? Well, he did strike out 9.11 batters per nine innings and had a pleasant 3.88 K/BB ratio, but Halladay’s K/BB was a ridiculous 7.30. So, that wasn’t it. Halladay, as stated, threw 70 more innings, so that can’t be it. Oh, here it is. Johnson’s HR rate was 4.2%, which led to a 2.41 FIP that was much lower than Halladay’s 3.01 FIP. Halladay’s FIP was so high because of his 11.3% HR/FB ratio (Note: B-Ref counts actual runs scored against, and because Johnson’s ERA is better, he does better here). I’ve come around a little on pitchers being able to control home runs a little more, so the extreme difference doesn’t trouble me too much.…

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Preview: NL Rookie of the Year

Sabean held Posey back for two months. That’s not fair!

I’ll tend to agree that Sabean didn’t need to keep Posey down for two months, but playing “What If” games is a bad idea. Sure, there’s nothing that outright suggests that Posey’s production is illegitimate in any way, and he could have produced another couple of wins in those two months to put him over Heyward. On the other hand, Posey could have figured out something in AAA over those two months that helped him produce when he came to the MLB, and if he had come up earlier, he would not have learned what he did, leading to worse production. He could have also lucked into good production. He could have learned what he did in AAA while in the MLB and produced eventually after a slow start. The point is that NO ONE knows how Posey would have done in those two months, and each of those scenarios have wide-ranging effects on Posey’s production.…

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Preview: AL Rookie of the Year

Austin Jackson

Part of the Granderson trade, Jackson started the season on a hot streak that caused quite a commotion. His .396 BABiP is entirely too high to be sustained, but production is production in regard to this season. And he did produce—to the tune of 3.8 fWAR. Baseball-Reference only sees him as a 2.8 bWAR player, but either way, Jackson got off to an excellent start to his career. The difference between FanGraphs and B-Ref is his defense. Baseball America gave him positive marks defensively in their handbook, so I’ll tend to agree a little more with FG’s assessment (+5 according to UZR) than B-Ref’s (-5 Rfield). He won’t keep his offensive production up next season unless he cuts down on those strikeouts, but this award doesn’t say anything about next season. Jackson should and probably will win the award for this season.

Brian Matusz

Lost in an abysmal season in Baltimore was Brian Matusz’s excellent rookie campaign. Pitching in the AL East, Matusz racked up 2.7 fWAR (3.1 bWAR) alongside his 175 IP and 4.05 FIP, and he did his best work at the end of the season when he had two straight months of sub-3.38 FIPs.…

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Baseball Players Are NOT Role Models

So how does this work with ballplayers? First, we need the motivation to model their behavior. This isn’t difficult to figure out. They get to play a game, make tons of money doing it, and get all sorts of attention for doing it (and other things), and therefore, we’re motivated to model their behavior because we would love that life. Kids are especially impressionable because they haven’t developed the ability to critically analyze the actions of other people on their own. So, when kids see this guy they admire do something stupid, the idea is that they will do the same thing because that thing helps the athlete be what he is. This is, of course, where the line “correlation does not equal causation” comes into play, but children have a hard time seeing that distinction (most adults do for that matter). This is a problem, but one that can be overcome by realizing that athletes are not role models.…

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Perspectives on Baseball

It’s Competition

Sports pit people against other people, and one person wins while the other loses. They compete against each other, and the competition of the game makes it fun. It creates excitement, suspense, disappointment, and euphoria all while doing something ultimately pointless. Some people, however, make the game about beating the other person, and they do everything to beat them. But at its foundation, sport is about one person going against another in an attempt to show dominance. It’s a base emotion inherited from our evolution to survive. We need to be better than the others to have better mates, better stature, and to survive, which is oddly the goal of most players (though the survive part isn’t quite as dire). When people go too far, it’s called machismo, egotism, and hot-headedness, but the line between “competitive” and those other adjectives is subjective, arbitrary, and fickle. Regardless, competition is what makes baseball so much fun, and without it, it ceases to be much of a game.…

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