Those Darn Humorless Number Crunchers…

April 30, 2010

Because I miss reading Fire Joe Morgan so much, I’m going to have my own fun with Steve Cameron’s piece entitled, “Baseball Has Gone VORP Speed Ahead,” which ran in the Merced Sun-Star earlier this week. FJM may be no more, but those guys should take heart in knowing that they really touched at the heart of what so many knowledgeable baseball fans think, while listening to broadcasters or reading sports journalists flap their overstuffed gums:

“What the hell are these guys talking about, and why are they getting paid to do it?”

Cameron’s writing is in boldface. My response follows.

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics.”

— Mark Twain

When Cameron unloads the Mark Twain early to let us know just where he stands, we know he means business. Dave Cameron is going to bust through the Matrix like Neo and free us Sabermetric robots from our soulless, number-crunching existence!

It is interesting that Cameron uses this Twain quotation, because Twain, in his autobiography, actually credits former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli for those words. Regardless the message is clear. Pin-heads with calculators can throw around a lot of fancy numbers, but real baseball fans don’t need them. We know what’s good. We know what’s right. Robots and numbers are neither good nor right.

As a lifetime fan who also has been a sports journalist for a good share of my adulthood, I think I’ve earned the right to an opinion on numbers. And what they mean to these games we love.

Well that last sentence fragment certainly conveys your love of Baseball.

OK, here’s the first — and most critical — thing to remember about statistics of any kind… Anybody can be right, depending on what stat you choose and how you turn and twist the thing to fit your argument.

I suppose anyone can be right when you are making an argument based on a subjective point of view. What Sabermatricians work to do is take the subjectivity out of the equation and see the true value of a player. Very often a true picture of who a player is can be obscured by such over-emphasized, “tried and true” statistics as Batting Average and Runs Batted In. To judge a player based on those numbers is a disservice to both the player and one’s understanding of the game.

So why am I revved up today?

Keep your diaper on, pops.

Well, I suppose it’s because a very talented sports columnist, Bill Simmons of ESPN.com, seems to have sold himself out to the humorless number-crunchers who have buried baseball in something called “sabermetrics.”

That sell out. He’s worse than Bob Dylan going electric! Or Ice-T playing a cop on Law & Order.

What’s that sound you hear? That’s baseball being buried beneath an avalanche of soul-crushing, mind-boggling Sabermetric numbers. AAARRGH! Run for your lives! No longer will you be able to sit back and enjoy a game, now that you know that RBI just aren’t really indicative of a player’s hitting ability.

I was shocked when Simmons wrote a piece admitting that he’d fallen into the clutches of people like Bill James and others who have managed to convince baseball executives, mainstream journalists and even some serious fans that the sport is ALL about numbers.

Bill James: “Now that we have Simmons, nothing will stand in the way of our fully operational Sabermetric battle station.”

*Gasp* Not only are people whose livelihoods depend on their analyses of the game of baseball being swayed by the ever-increasing volume of quantitative information available. Now the fans themselves are taking another look at the numbers behind the game that they love. Too much book learning ain’t no good for a baseball fan. “Makes the blood angry,” as Satchel Paige would say!

Players aren’t humans, they’re statistics with uniforms. The sabermetric crowd laughs aloud at the old, now-disgraced numbers we used to study on baseball cards — batting average, homers, runs scored and RBIs. These have been replaced with formulae like “OPS-plus.”

Actually baseball players are humans, each with an infinite variety of skills and abilities, which makes analyzing their baseball playing abilities a rather tricky business. Some people aren’t content with the old ways in which player’s abilities are judged, since they can often be very misleading. Some of those people are paid a lot of money to evaluate players, so they feel they should make an informed decision. The nerve of those guys.

What it boils down to is that people into Sabermetrics actually form an evil cabal that seeks to destroy the game of baseball. They like numbers more than baseball players and are working their evil magic to somehow turn baseball players into numbers!

(This is a complicated equation to combine on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, adjusted for the player’s home park. When numbers are compared against a norm of 100, you wind up with something like Albert Pujols being 44 percent better in this category than an average player in 2009.)

It’s really not that complicated. I didn’t graduate college and I’m not particularly good at math, but I understand this formula:

100 x [(Player OBP)/Park-Adjusted League OBP) + (Player SLG)/(Park Adjusted League SLG) – 1]

The tricky part is the Park-Adjusted League averages. To find this out, we need to do a bit more digging into each ballpark’s average numbers. The point is to not penalize Adrian Gonzalez for playing in big Petco Park, while not getting too nuts about Todd Helton‘s career numbers in Coor’s Field. All the while we are trying to find out how much better “Player X” is than the average guy at that position. Sound fair?

No offense to Bill James, the guru of sabermetrics and a man determined to remove baseball’s soul,

Look at that soulless sea of Red State fans bowing at James and Epstein’s unholy altar of VORP and RC. I suppose if by “remove baseball’s soul,” you mean, “help The Red Sox win two world series,” we are in agreement that Bill James is a bad, bad man. If you mean that Bill James has done a great deal of work that has given baseball front-offices, journalists and fans alike a better way of understanding what they are seeing when they watch a baseball game, then I’m not sure what this statement means.

but I don’t need “OPS-plus” to know that Pujols was miles better than an ordinary schmuck.

Right, we all know That El Hombre‘s the best in the game. But wouldn’t you like to know if Scott Podsednik is actually a good hitter since his AVG is currently .359 or if he’s just got a lucky .424 BABIP?

The sabermetricians now have so many baffling stats within other stats, combined with idiotic acronyms, that the whole thing is laughable.

Because players should be judged solely on hits divided by at-bats and how many runners are on base when those hits occur. On the other side of the ball, we know how good a pitcher is by how many games he wins. Good fielders don’t make errors. ‘Nuff said.

How does Ribby not sound funny and VORP does? Mister Cameron has a strange sense of humor.

How much time does a fan want to spend at the ballpark learning about UZR (a defensive stat that supposedly tells you about a player by dividing the field into 64 zones), VORP, BABIP or FIP?

Cameron should be thankful that people care enough about baseball to want to understand it better and come up with their own methods of valuation to better appreciate what’s happening on the field. If fans didn’t spend time caring about baseball, he wouldn’t have a job.

I suppose heavy drinking and shouting about guys being clutch would be better usage of one’s time at the ballpark to Mister Cameron.

Does that sound like fun?

I actually explained UZR to my father in about 5 minutes, while we watched a televised game on opening day. It was one of the best times I’ve had with my father in recent memory.

Cameron goes on to tell a brief story about a play in a Royals-Blue Jays game the other night, to illustrate for us glassy-eyed Saber-zombies that he knows what good baseball is and is not. He don’t need no cockamaimy numbers to tell him his Royals stink. Fine. But what if you came from another planet and really wanted to know whether Scott Podsednik’s a good hitter or not?

My first clue that we were headed down the wrong road occurred when pro football scouts began judging potential draftees by measuring things like vertical leap, time to run a course around cones, etc.

Shame on those football scouts for wanting to know exactly where their money is going. To hell with jumping, running and throwing. Let me see how the player looks in his uniform and if he’s got heart. And grit. Don’t ever forget grit.

Me, I’ll trust my eyes to see if a guy can play.

So why are you a writer and not a scout?

But personnel directors are terrified to buck the computer — that same device that claimed Mike Singletary was too short to play middle linebacker in the NFL.

Did scouts even use computers back when Singletary was taken by The Bears in the 2nd round of the 1981 NFL draft? Really poor example, since Singletary at least went in the 2nd round. It’s not like he was undrafted or even taken in the 6th round, like Tom Brady, back in 2000.

I love these guys who can judge if a guy’s going to be great, “just by setting eyes on him.” Joe Morgan made the same remark about Jason Heyward during a Mets-Braves broadcast on ESPN last week. Joe said it as though he saw something in this kid that no one else did. I bet someone brought Morgan to see Heyward and said, “Hey Joe Morgan, this kid’s going to be great,” and Joe said, “Yup. When’s lunch?”

Now if Heyward had started off his season going 2 for 49 and got sent back down to AAA, would we hear Joe saying how he thought Heyward was going to be great? How many players has Mister Cameron given his stamp of approval on and how many winners are there in the bunch?

Do statistics have a place in sports? Sure, if you take them in the proper context. And they don’t have to be complicated, either.

The proper context meaning that they do not replace the time-honored, written-in-stone statistics drawn up in the last century. Whether they are indicative of anything important or not, the old statistics are simple and I really don’t want to have to learn a new language in order to relate to a new generation of fans who are better informed than I am.

Even using the most basic stats — like runs scored in baseball — if you take a 3-year or 5-year sample you’re going to find that really good players have really good numbers.

Sure Runs are good to keep track of. That’s not good enough though, as Runs Scored do not tell the entire story. It’s certainly not good enough for baseball front-offices who spend millions of dollars on players based on their performance. It’s not good enough for the fans who want to better understand the game either. If we’re going to follow Cameron’s line of thinking to it’s logical end, why bother keeping track of statistics at all? Why do we care how many home runs Hank Aaron hit or how many hits Pete Rose collected?

Because the pace of baseball allows us the time to ponder these things. I may be in the minority (according to umpire Joe West) but one of the things I love most about the sport is it’s slow pace. Since there is not constant action happening on the playing field, we can talk endlessly about different facets of the game. With so many games played, more than any other professional sport, we get a large sample size with which to test hypothesis and theory, to see if numbers can be duplicated or replaced.

Leave VORP to Mr. Spock, thank you.

One day in the future when we’re all flying around in cars and have vacuum cleaners that talk, my great-great-grandkids will care about VORP, but I’m really far too lazy to try and figure out why The Red Sox signed Mike Cameron.

Phew! That was fun. I’ve been meaning to do a piece like this for a while. I even have post-its filled with stupid things that Michael Kay says, but Cameron’s piece was just an inspired waste of virtual ink. It was like seeing a grapefruit tossed down the middle on a 3-0 count. I just couldn’t help myself to not swing for the fences here, since I’m not even sure if he knows what the hell he’s arguing about in this piece.

At the end of the day, it saddens me to write stuff like that, even while I’m enjoying myself. It’s a shame that many journalists (and people in general) feel so threatened by any new idea that threatens their narrow perception of the world. A piece like this just shows me how complacent Mister Cameron is with his cushy little gig as a journalist. So complacent in fact, that he feels he’s too smart to even bother learning anything new about the game, let alone fact check.

Anyway, back to the basement. I’ve got some more writing about numbers to do.

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Ryan Howard Says, “I’m Rich Bee-yotch!”

April 29, 2010

Interesting happenings from around baseball blogdom…

  • Nice week for those Metropolitans, completing their first 9-1 home stand since 1988, with a sweep of the frostbitten Trolley Dodgers. We like Ike a lot. We like good pitching even more and that’s what the Mets have been showing in the early going. With a weekend match up with the fightin’ Philistines looming, win or lose we can rejoice in knowing that Philly has just dished out the worst contract in baseball. Ryan Howard just bagged $125 million for a five year extension, that won’t kick in until he’s 32. The consensus says that the Phils are phucked and you can add my voice to the choir. The Philly ownership should look forward to paying a good portion of that money to a player that resembles David Ortiz. Unfortunately they won’t have a DH slot to hide his defense. Let the good times roll…
  • Who’s rolling the most grounders in the game right now? Not Derek Lowe, Tim Hudson or Joel Pinero. The man’s name is Jaime. Dave Cameron of Fangraphs, on why Jamie Garcia may end the season with National League Rookie Of The Year honors.
  • The Rotoprofessor lists some of the high strikeout guys that you might find lurking on waivers. Figuring out which high K hurler to roster often feels like figuring out The Mystery Of Chess Boxing. Proceed with caution and protect your neck son!
  • Chris Tillman put his new cut-fastball to work while tossing a AAA no-hitter last night and Marc Hulet at Fangraphs breaks him down. Derailed by a slow spring, the once top prospect is making a claim for a job in the Baltimore rotation. Sounds good until he leaves a game with a 2-0 lead in the seventh.

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Hitting The Cut-Off Man: Existentialist Edition

April 28, 2010

“He who fights with monsters should be careful least he thereby becomes a monster. When you stare at the abyss, the abyss stares back at you.” Nietzsche was addressing the human condition, man’s struggle for self-determination and enlightenment. Old Freddy could just as easily been talking about baseball though because such is the price of hedging your bets players of ill repute and dubious integrity. Sometimes we have to do things we aren’t proud of when we’re struggling for our very fantasy existence in deep leagues.

The Uptown Ham Fighters are struggling to find their way in the absence of two monsters that I drafted. One monster was the maleficent Carlos Zambrano, who I need waste no more virtual ink on here. What stares back at me in the void in strikeout production, which I hope to address at some point. The other, more terrifying (to opponents and now myself) monster was Nelson Cruz. With his absence, I stare into the abyss that are my waiver wires and here are a few uber-menchen who stare back at me.

There was a time not long ago when Andy LaRoche was actually a somewhat ballyhoo’d (he was hip hip  hoorayed as well) prospect believe it or not. Between two season in AA and AAA for The Dodgers, LaRoche averaged .300 BA/.400 OBP lines while hitting a modest 37 HR over those 818 PA. He’s never projected as a power guy, which hurts his value at 3B, but he’s always displayed a major league eye. Perhaps in his 27th year LaRoche will put his skills together and approach the .285 – .290 BA level that he’s capable of. I know he’s carrying an inflated .459 BABIP into today, but I’m going to give him a run while he’s hitting well, as his 9.8%/15.6% BB/K rate are encouraging and he’s posted 10 hits in his last 18 PA. With big time prospect, Pedro Alvarez waiting in the wings down in AAA, there’s little future for LaRoche in a Pirate uniform. The Pirates would love to get something of value for LaRoche in a trade, so they’re going to run him out there and hope he can increase his stock by hitting well. I think he can do just that and give me the little boost in BA that I need.

Another face that stares at me from the void is that of Pinella’s Spring Training favorite, Tyler Colvin. Colvin’s a 25 year old rookie who came into the league with little hype, but now finds himself pushing both Kosuke Fukudome and Alfonso Soriano for playing time in The Cubs outfield. While Colvin has displayed some pop in the early going, he’s also has a 27% K rate. Fortunately for him, he’s also walking at an 11.6% clip, but those K’s will have to go down if he is going to make a name for himself. He’s currently hitting .324 with a ridiculous .378 ISO in the early going of 2010, but will that change as those numbers are buoyed by a .375 BABIP. If you’re going to play a hot hand, I suppose you could do worse, but I’m not buying.

Between the devil and the deep blue sea that stretches into the distance beyond the Rightfield wall, stands a Giant named Nate Schierholtz. While his numbers have hardly been gigantic through his young career, Nate The Ok (as opposed to The Great) has been a pretty decent contact hitter. With an 85.9% contact rate and a 29% O-Swing rate (percentage of pitches swung at outside the zone) so far in 2010, Nate’s cut down on his K’s (15% down from 20.4%) and been selectively hacking at the plate and it’s paid off as he carries a .300 BA, held aloft by his .353 BABIP going into today. He won’t show much pop, being a left handed hitter in AT&T Park and he’s been buried deep in the 8th hole in the S.F. lineup, which never helps, but The Giants lineup will change with whoever possesses the hot bat and Schierholtz won’t be getting on base with a pitcher behind him much longer. Look for a shift down in the order soon, increasing his value as an BA helping outfield option in deep leagues, such as the Big Ballers League, where he was snagged moments before I could take him yesterday.

As far as that noxious void in starting pitching that Zambrano took with him to the bullpen, I’ve taken to trying to stream starters against my opponent this week, since I am definitely out-classed in that area. With an impending loss in ERA and WHIP, I’m focusing my starting pitching on winning Wins, K and Quality Starts. With Saves up in the air, I might be able to win the counting categories.

After Grandpa Moyer‘s predictably lackluster effort in S.F. last night, I’m going with the old “Hodgepads at home” mantra that Grey at Razzball professes. That sees me throwing Padre lefty, Wade LeBlanc out there against The Brew Crew at Petco Park. A former 2nd round pick by San Diego back in 2006, LeBlanc carried a 8.3/2.4 K/9 split in 462 2/3 Minor League innings, with short rather unspectacular call-ups to the show in 2008 and 2009. In his first two starts in 2010, LeBlanc has allowed only one run in 11 innings, with a 10/4 K/BB ratio and no homers. With few better options in the days to come, I’ve got to hope for the best as LeBlanc looks to Leblank The Brew Crew in the cavernous confines of Petco.

NOTE: Schierholtz went 5-5 with 3R/1RBI/1BB in S.F.’s 7-6 loss against The Phils this afternoon.

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Replacing Nelson Cruz

April 27, 2010

That sound you just heard was the collective groans of fantasy owners everywhere reading that Nelson Cruz and his balky hamstring have finally ended up on the DL. How do I replace a guy who’s Slugging a MLB leading .778? I don’t I suppose. All I can do is try to find some cheap power production to use as a stop-gap measure in Nelly’s absence. As for Nelson’s Texas Rangers? David Murphy will slide over to right and Craig Gentry was called up from AAA Oklahoma City today.

Needing someone to fill those gaping roster spots that I suddenly found in both of my teams, I sought the wisdom of Grey at Razzball (much like the wisdom of Solomon) to make a choice between Mr. Sunglasses At Night or Dave Of Jesus in my 12 team league. While he had a lousy spring and got in manager Ken Macha’s doghouse early, Corey Hart’s got the upside and hits in a lineup that’s been putting up Football scores. David DeJesus has been hitting at a decent enough clip (23/79 14R/2HR/10RBI/1SB/.291/.349) to begin 2010, but he’s also posting a career worst .46 BB/K rate and an inflated .328 BABIP (.318 career BABIP). Oh yeah and he hits in one of the games worst batting orders.

Corey Hart is the best player in a three-man platoon over two outfield spots in Brewland. Carrying a 13/47 4R/2HR/10RBI/2SB/.277/.364 line into play today, he’s been the hot hand, starting three straight games this week. Showing un-Hart-like patience so far this year, he carries a nice 7/9 BB/K split, which I find quite heartening to his SB totals. This guy was a big deal, with 20-20 cred back in ’08 and is currently hitting in a strong lineup, that should provide plenty of opportunities for counting numbers.

In the 15 team NFBC style, Big Ballers League the pickings are a bit slimmer. I thought I had the man for the job, but some sonovabitch grabbed Nate Schierholtz just minutes before I could. That left me with some other less than ideal choices. The underwhelming Austin Kearns being the best of a bunch that includes Chris Dickerson, Eugenio Velez and Matt Diaz. Right. Crap crap and more crap. Not to be confused with photographer Kern, Kearns got a little pop and has been hitting well for Cleveland as of late. Austin, meet Austin Jackson. Don’t get too comfortable Austin. No, not you. The other one. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Maybe Kearns can channel 2006 for two weeks, while Nelly gets right. Lets all us Nelson Cruz owners hold hands and give a silent prayer to the baseball god of hamstrings, in hopes that Senior Boomstick is back soon.

It’s a marathon and not a sprint, I remind myself, so I can’t get too down on my prospects of victory and end up making poor decisions. Now excuse me while I have a talk with mister Johnny Walker and try to numb the pain.


Rethinking Pitching

April 27, 2010

It is often said that a Major League starting pitcher needs at least three pitches to be effective, while a decent reliever only needs two. The reason behind this is simple. The reliever will usually see a given batter only once before he is removed from the game or the game is finished. The starter on the other hand needs to get through an opposing lineup multiple times, since if he is doing his job correctly, he should be pitching the majority of the game. Managers use their pitchers based on a simple formula. The modern five-man rotation works on the assumption that the starting pitcher will throw around 100 pitches, once every five days. The rest of the six, seven or eight pitchers that a ball club might roster are used in relief of the starters, with various pitchers used in specialized roles that take advantage of a particular pitchers skill set.

In the essay, “Are Teams Letting Their Closers Go To Waste?” published in “Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game Is Wrong,” Keith Woolner from Baseball Prospectus illustrated the folly of modern bullpen usage. The particular problem that he brings to light is that of the modern relief ace being used in what might not actually be the highest leverage game situation. For example, in the 8th inning of a  4 – 1 game, would it not be more prudent for a team to bring in it’s best relief pitcher to face say, a trio of Ludwick, Pujols and Holliday, rather than holding back the relief ace to face Rasmus, Molina and Freese in the ninth?

I believe a lot of the folly of bullpen usage can be blamed on the creation of “The Save,” back in 1969. Relievers and their agents now had a (very much flawed) counting number to tally up and show GMs when it was time to negotiate a contract at the years end. Suddenly relievers had a stat of their own to point to when trying to quantify their abilities. Not long after the creation of The Save, it has become convention to only use one’s relief ace to start the ninth inning – in a save situation. So “the fireman,” who would come into the game in a late inning, high leverage situation and stay on to finish, became “the closer,” the ninth inning guy. Illustrating this, I’ll refer to a chart found in “Baseball Between The Numbers.” In 1974, a closer made his appearance in the ninth inning in just 8.8% of games. Fast forward to 2002 and we’ll see that this number has jumped to an astounding 68.2%, due I believe in no small part to the importance of The Save, when it comes time for off-season contract negotiations. God forbid the closer of a visiting team comes into a tied ninth or in extra innings – even if this makes perfect sense, since if the home team scores the game is over. Meanwhile modern managers save their ace relievers for a Save opportunity that might never arrive.

One need only look at Mets closer and holder of the single season Saves record, Francisco Rodriguez for an interesting take on the usage of modern closers. After recording a record 63 Saves for The LA Angels two season ago, in what was clearly not his finest year, K-Rod went on to sign a $12 million deal with The Mets, making him the third highest paid closer behind only the incomparable Mariano Rivera and the rather volatile Brad Lidge. Frankie may not have even been the most effective reliever on his team during his record setting 2008 campaign. Last week the Mets closer finished a game, where he entered with the bases loaded and one out in the 8th inning of a 3 – 1 contest. He recorded his first five out save in almost five years. Another case in point: during the memorable 20 inning marathon on April 14, 2010, Rodriguez claimed to have thrown nearly 100 pitches in the bullpen while warming up for a possible appearance in just about all of the game’s 11 extra frames. Never mind that The Cardinals repeatedly threatened to score, which would have ended the game right then and there. When The Mets finally did grab a lead, Frankie entered in the 19th inning, dead tired and proceeded to blow the lead.

If we accept that the idea of modern bullpen usage is strategically flawed, than perhaps the concept of the starting pitcher could be rethought as well. Yesterday I received a link from one of my opponents in my H2H keeper league. Thanks to Sean for bringing this great piece from The NY Times Freakonomics blog to my attention. In the article, a reader wonders if there are better ways to use pitchers period, not simply the closer, but the starter as well and along the way he brings up some very interesting points. I won’t cover them all, but here a few of the key elements to the debate:

  • Instead of starting the game with a starter, an “opener” is sent out to pitch the first couple of innings. The openers style would differ drastically from the following pitchers in an effort to mess up opposing batters timing. Think about how difficult it might be to hit a dancing knuckleball, after facing a fireballer.
  • If a pitcher is at an advantage the first time he faces a batter and that advantage is mitigated upon the batter seeing the pitchers offerings through the course of a game, would it not stand to reason that perhaps it would be best to only use a pitcher once through the batting order? That brings me back to my opening, since the need for starting pitchers to rely on third and fourth pitches would be lessened if we follow this model. Few starting pitchers, outside of a team’s best one or two, have effective third and fourth pitches.
  • As used now, a starting pitcher pitches until he fails to get batters out or succumbs to fatigue. Often the later will be the cause of the former. What if pitchers were used in a way that would see them pulled from the game before they ever lose effectiveness to fatigue?

More so than any other American sport, Baseball is a game of orthodoxies, many of which are not particularly sound from a strategic point of view. There are many factors at play when we talk about changing orthodox game strategies. Ego, money, ill-conceived statistics and downright stubbornness often stand in opposition to the path of reason. Sometimes, as in the case of bullpen usage, teams were better off sticking with the old ways of doing things. Other tried and true baseball concepts certainly deserve a rethinking. I can see the value of a reconfiguration of pitching usage – particularly in the case of teams who may not have particularly good starting pitching. While I’m not sure I’d love it from a fan’s point of view (I do so love to watch a starter fight his way through entire game) the ideas make a lot of managerial sense.

It wasn’t long ago that the importance of good ol’ On Base Percentage was under-appreciated. Michael Lewis’ “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game,” which famously brought light to A’s GM, Billy Beane’s statistically driven model of exploiting market inefficiencies, changed that in a big way. Team defense has come under the microscope in recent years, as smaller market teams look to maximize their payrolls by exploiting new market inefficiencies. With the speed of information forming opinions within the baseball world at a faster pace than ever before, perhaps it’s time for a hard look at how pitching is handled as well.

What do you think? Would you like to see your team employ their pitchers differently? How do you think this reordering of pitching staffs would effect the game?

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The Chase Is On: Chase Headley And The Hangovers Lead The Pack

April 26, 2010

Over in the Big Ballers League, I’m pretty freakin’ happy to see my Harlem Hangovers on top of the standings. With Nelly Boomstick‘s grand theft in Boston leading the way, The Hangovers have been burning up the base paths and scoring a lot of runs on their way to a +5.5 point week. That makes a total of 105, up 6 on the next best team, The Hillsboro 5 Tooler’. Pretty good for a team that hasn’t heard a peep from Mark Texiera or Gordan Beckham. With The Supernatural‘s call-up looming and a possible return of Brandon Webb, it looks like The Hangovers have a lot of winning to look forward to this year.

One big contributor to my success so far has been Chase Headley. He along with Chris Carpenter came over in a preseason deal for Carlos Lee, Tim Hudson and Brandon Lyons, in what’s looking like the kind of robbery I almost feel bad to have carried out. Carrying a gaudy .371/.421/.500 line coming into play on Monday, Headley’s been on an absolute tear, spearheading The Father’s resurgence out in SD, with 15 Runs scored in 76 PA. Little wonder he’s scoring so much when he’s on base over 42% of the time! While he’s been the beneficiary of a very lucky .417 BABIP, his lifetime BABIP sits at .344 due to his propensity for hitting line drives. In fact Chase is what fielders do a lot of when he’s up at bat, as he’s been hitting liners at a 26.2% clip. What can we attribute his recent success to? It seems like he’s taking a different approach to the plate, as he’s cut down his K rate by an amazing 50% in the early going of 2010. Currently his BB/K rates sit at 7.9%/12.9%, in contrast to his career 9.3%/26% rates. This is particularly noteworthy, since he’s swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone 4.3% more frequently than in the previous year. While he’s swinging more at pitches outside the zone, he’s also making more contact, with an increase in his O-Contact (percentage of contact made on pitches outside the K zone) from 52% to 59.5% between 2009 and 2010. What has been most surprising about Headley’s emergence is his speed. Even the most optimistic fan projections listed on his Fangraphs entry, see Headley with 12 swipes. Headley already has 8, including 3 in a game last week, against the SF battery of Dirty Sanchez and Eli Whiteside. I can easily see Headley knocking on 20 before the season is done.

I knew Carpenter was going to be lights out, little did I know that the $2 Chase Headley would develop into this kind of fantasy baseball stud. I’m not going to say, I thought so, but I did in fact take Chase off of waivers when he returned to the bigs in his second call-up, back in ’08. What’s not to like about a guy who posted a .330/.437/.580 line in AA ball back in ’07? With slick fielding Kevin Kouzmanoff manning the hot corner, Headley spent more time in LF rather than at his natural position of 3B. With Kouz shipped off to Oaktown, Headley seems at home back at third, providing solid defense along to go along with his solid stick. While I don’t believe Headley can sustain this otherworldly pace and I believe that some regression is due to catch up with him, if Headley keeps performing anywhere near as good as this, he’ll be a familiar name among upper tier third basemen for years to come.

Other notable Hangover contributors this week:

Robinson Cano: 9/21 7R/1HR/4RBI/1SB/.538OBP I’m getting tired of talking about how awesome a year he’s having. On second thought, I’m not. Robbie lives to hit baseballs. When he’s on, he makes hitting lasers all over the park look downright easy. He’s streaky, so I imagine he’ll slump at some point but right now he’s the best hitter in the Yankee lineup.

Mike Pelfrey continues to roll goose eggs out there, contributing 12 more this week. That’s 24 innings since he’s given up a run in total now, after his rain shortened victory against Atlanta last night. With 2W/9K/0.00 ERA/1.33 WHIP, The Mets sinkerballer is proving to be a fantastic waiver pickup for me.

Franklin Gutierrez has been anchoring the Mariner lineup as well as my own so far in 2010. With a 6/20 4R/2HR/4RBI/.375 week, he finally got into the HR column. Is there nothing The Big FraGu can’t do?

Added: Pittsburgh 3B Andy LaRoche. 6 for 8 since returning to the lineup, LaRoche Minor’s hot stick will provide a little corner depth.

Dropped: It was nice while it lasted, but I think Brett Myers‘ hot streak will end soon. Let him be on someone else’s roster when it does.


When The Going Gets Weird… Notes From Week 3

April 25, 2010

Barry Zito returns from the grave to haunt fantasy owners

Weird happenings from around baseball this week…

An $18 million dollar starter with a penchant for implosions gets banished to the bullpen. Zambrano the set up man debuts in Milwaukee. Fantasy owners who drafted him collectively double over as Sweet Lou kicks them in the nuts.

Ivan Rodriguez and Livan Hernandez lead the NL in Batting Average and ERA respectively.

The Yankees tripled up, in a game that will be better remembered for A’s Dallas Braden taking umbrage to A-Rod’s breach of baseball etiquette.

Hebrew Hammer, Prince and The Brews build their reputation for intimidation at the expense of Pirate goyum. 20 – bupkis.

Barry Zito is fantasy baseball’s Solomon Grundy. I believe potent magic has finally dispelled the curse of Alyssa Milano. I feel your pain my friend. He out dueled my ace in the battle of mega-curveballs.

To end this recap of a bizarre week, I’m going to recommend the ageless Jamie Moyer for deep-league owners looking for two good starts to stream in this week. The 3% owned lefty has a start in SF against Todd Wellemeyer and the punchless Giants and then comes home to face Oliver‘s Army and The Mets.

In honor of The Brews 20-0 beat down…

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