Author Archives: Mark Smith

Robinson Cano and Playoff Success (Or Jorge Posada and the Lack Thereof)

In 2007 Cano roped 2 home runs in the ALDS against the Cleveland Indians on his way to a .333/.375/.800 line that couldn’t help the Yankees get into the next round. After an off-year in 2008, Cano stumbled out of the block in 2009 with a .167/.167/.167 line in the ALDS before recovering in the ALCS to notch a .261/.414/.478 line. He shrank again in the World Series to an awful .136/.130/.136 line. So, he’s gone from a big-game hitter to a not-so-much-of-a-big-game hitter back to a big-game hitter before choking and then recovering from the yips this postseason. Does that make sense to you? Nah, me either.

No, it’s seems more likely that Cano is simply an excellent hitter who ran through an excellent patch of the season, just a slew of games that are coming at the right time (Larry touched on this earlier). Now, it should also be noted that it is more likely that Cano will do this than, say, Francisco Cervelli, but that has more to do with Cano being a good hitter than Cano being more clutch.…

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Lee v. Greinke*

Zach Greinke, on the other hand, has left some doubt to his actual talent level. He’s no doubt an upper-level pitcher, and he’s an ace you can depend on. But how good is he? His 9.4 fWAR from 2009 is 2 fWAR better than anything Lee has done and would place him easily as the best pitcher in baseball, but Lee has had 6.5+ fWAR the last three seasons while Greinke only did it once (around 5 fWAR the other two seasons, which is still excellent). Greinke is clearly awesome, but Lee is dominating and has done it more consistently. Greinke also has good command, but he walks at least one more batter per nine than Lee (1.5 this past season). He does strike out more hitters, but there is little indication that Greinke can replicate the 9.50 K/9 from 2009 (7.40 in 2010). Chances are that Greinke is more of a 5 fWAR pitcher and that Lee is more 6-6.5, making him the better pitcher.…

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Re-Examining Washington’s Curious Bullpen Management

Everyone would say, especially in the playoffs, put in your best pitcher. Who is the Rangers best pitcher? Well, it depends on what you’re looking at. Darren Oliver has the best FIP (2.68 to Feliz’s 2.96) and xFIP (2.86 to Feliz’s 3.68) of anyone available, but you also have to look at platoon-splits at this point because it’s so late in the game. Both pitchers are death to left-handers (Feliz is surprisingly better against LH this season … interesting), but Oliver has been much worse against RH. Feliz’s FIP against LH was 2.58, but his xFIP is 3.58 against them (xFIP, remember, standardizes HR/FB to 10.6%). Feliz prevents HR pretty well, but at a 2.3% clip? Oliver, on the other hand, is just completely different against the different sides of the plate with a 2 point difference in xFIP (1.74 vs. LH and 3.90 vs. RH). Feliz is clearly the best choice, right?

Well, what about the future?…

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Commentary: Coming Around on Instant Replay

And it has nothing (okay, a little to do with, but not in the way you’d assume) to do with Buster Posey’s steal that shouldn’t have been. Sure, I was pissed that the wrong call was made, and I was even more upset that it happened to my team. But I’m usually pretty good about separating that sort of thing. Anyway, what I realized was that it was starting to ruin the experience of the game. And again, it’s not in the way you’d assume (I also realize that this is not new and people have been making this argument for a while, but apparently, it needs to be made still because nothing’s been done). I’m not mad that my team lost the game by the one run that shouldn’t have been. Atlanta deserved to lose for more reasons than that one play. It has nothing really to do with the game itself. It has to do with, essentially, the viewing experience.…

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The Weighted Crapshoot Begins

 

Rays vs. Rangers

The Rangers finally got back to the playoffs, and the Rays proved 2008 wasn’t a fluke. Both teams have rebuilt their teams from the ground up, but the Rays walk in with 6 more wins on the year. Pitching-wise, the two teams are separated by .05 in FIP. Cliff Lee is clearly better than any Rays pitcher (yes even over David Price), and you might be predisposed to like the Rays’ depth a bit more. But despite the worrisome innings increase for Colby Lewis and CJ Wilson, they are more than a half-run better in FIP than James Shields, Matt Garza, Jeff Niemann, or Wade Davis. Offensively, the Rangers hold a .004 lead in wOBA, but is Josh Hamilton, owner of a .448 wOBA, healthy and productive? If not, the Rangers will have a lot more work to do. Defensively, the Rays are above-and-beyond the best team defensively, but the Rangers aren’t bad. But the Rays’ awesome defense makes me think they can prevent runs much better than the Rangers.…

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Blame Thrown in Wrong Direction in Tampa

But someone has to be blamed! Who? Who?!?! I’ll say the owners and front office deserve most of the blame. Clearly, the players aren’t going to criticize the bosses, but I think that’s who deserves it. Now, as I go into this, I realize the Rays gave away 20,000 tickets to last night’s game, but it needed to happen earlier. Not doing so on such a scale was being unrealistic. Essentially, they said they preferred having an empty stadium to giving away most of the tickets and losing revenue they weren’t getting anyway. If they weren’t going to be sold anyway, then what did you have to lose? I commend the front office/ownership for finally realizing it because I don’t think anyone else has, but teams need to learn to be more proactive. Imagine if this was more common. 10-20,000 more fans coming in the gate a night. You weren’t going to get their ticket money anyway, so you’re not missing out on that.…

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The Human Element

But aren’t these statistics supposed to predict the future? They didn’t see the Padres coming! Not exactly. The idea is that, after identifying the problems above and answering them to a degree, the new statistics can better predict what’s going to happen. They never said they can predict with absolute certainty what will happen. Injuries, performance, randomness, etc. fluctuate due to all sorts of factors, and there is no way to definitively state what will happen. However, sabermetrics can say with a greater degree of accuracy what will happen. This is important when fans evaluate GMs … and even when GMs evaluate themselves. If you have to make a decision and we’ve agreed that nothing on earth can definitively state what will happen, you essentially have to take the option that has the greatest chance of occurring. It’s playing the odds like you would anywhere else. And yes, something else might happen, which is why we say ODDS, but that does not mean that the idea/theory is wrong.…

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Joba and FIP

ERA is commonly used as an indicator of pitcher performance, but it’s dependent on several things—pitcher performance (it has to be there; he is pitching), defense (better defenses make more outs), randomness (balls drop in, good pitches get hit hard, bad ones don’t, etc.), and other pitchers’ performance (allowing, or not allowing, inherited runners to score). Obviously, not all of those measure pitching performance. Essentially, the pitcher only has control over a play when he throws the ball. Once the bat swings through the zone, the only thing he can usually do is watch. ERA, however, adds in all of that stuff after the ball is hit and evaluates the pitcher, though what happens after is up to randomness and the defense.

But a pitcher can make better pitches to get weakly hit balls!!!! Not really. Most pitchers over the course of their careers will have BABiPs (Batting Average on Balls in Play) around .290-.310.…

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Hindsight Bias: Jim Thome

Just how amazing? His line is .278/.407/.635 with a wOBA of .437 (staggeringly good), and he’s been worth 3.2 fWAR (which, in case you didn’t know, is really hard for a DH because of the penalty for not playing defense) in 297 at-bats. Just to give you an idea, David Ortiz was worth 5.8 and 6.7 fWAR during his peak but had almost double the at-bats. Jim Thome’s season has essentially been Ortiz’s peak, and it’s legitimate as his HR/FB rate is the only thing that’s high (and only by 4%).

But this is all hindsight, of course. We know now that he’s this good, but should we have known this in the off-season? Most people believed Thome could still hit, but he appeared to be declining. 2008 and 2009 were nearly identical with .245/.362/.503 and .249/.366/.481 lines, respectively. His .370 and .367 wOBAs were valuable and above-average, but they were about 30-40 points below normal for Thome and only going down.…

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