Perfection *

June 2, 2010

Congratulations to Armando Gallaraga for 28 up and 28 down. Hopefully MLB will have a pow-wow and overturn umpire Jim Joyce’s blown call. The time has come. Replay now.

Props to Bless You Boys for the shot.

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All Things Considered: Pitchers BABIP

June 2, 2010

No this isn’t a discussion of current affairs or high-minded political talk, spoken by white people in turtle-neck sweaters. I don’t aim that high here at TTO. Instead good sirs and madams (do any chicks aside from my mom read this? That’s a rhetorical question) is a little nugget of knowledge to keep in the back of your melon as you scour the wires or scan your opponents rosters in search of a pitching upgrade.

Forgive me if this is old hat to you, but I’m not going to claim to be a sabermetric whiz. In fact I’ve only really just started drinking the Kool-Aid heavily over the past year or so. By now, most successful fantasy owners have incorporated a multitude of sabermetric statistics into their player evaluation tool-kit though and it seems that their popularity grows by the day. Metrics such as BABIP, FIP, GB%, LD%, BB/K, and others are commonly thrown around by writers on even the most mainstream of baseball sites. These numbers however, are often displayed with little context with regard to what other factors may be at work.

Lets look at a pitchers BABIP against. BABIP commonly referred to when we talk about a player being lucky or unlucky. While an individual pitcher’s BABIP can vary wildly from season to season, we will usually find that a league average BABIP for pitchers lies between .290 and .300. One starting pitcher who has underperformed the expectations and displays a higher than normal BABIP is Edwin Jackson. Yes, I am cherry picking an example, but I wanted to use a player that has underperformed but at the same time, might still hold value in some league. After a successful 2009 campaign, followed by a trade from Detroit to Arizona, Jackson is currently holding a line of 3-6/6.03 ERA/ 1.44 WHIP and 60 K over 68 2/3 innings of work. In spite of that atrocious ERA, his FIP is a slightly more palatable 4.49 due to his high K rate (7.86 K/9) and only slightly inflated walk rate of 3.28 BB/9, in contrast to his career low 2.94 BB/9 from last season. What has been really hurting Jackson is the 15.2% HR/FB rate along with a low 63.6% strand rate. Obviously giving up a ton of bombs while runners are on base is a recipe for disaster, ask his teammate Dan Haren.

Well that’s all well and good, but what about his BABIP? I’m glad you asked disembodied italicized voice! His .324 BABIP seems rather high, right? If we look at that league average number of approximately .300, and his career mark of .310, yes it is higher than should be expected. However we are missing a crucial piece of information here, that I’ve only begun delving into myself this season. If BABIP is the batting average for all hits that do not leave the park, than it stands to reason that a pitcher’s BABIP will be markedly effected by the defense behind him. Lets look at the top five teams as far as BABIP against:

1. SF Giants: .271

2. TB Rays: .272

3. SD Padres: .279

4. NY Yankees: .284

5. OAK A’s: .285

Notice the numbers for the top teams are well under that .290 – .300 range. These are teams that have been not only pitching well, but playing good defense too. If we look at team ratings for fielding range (the number that would most effect BABIP, since if a batted ball falls in for a hit, usually that means a fielder failed to get to it), we’ll notice that the top five teams are in order: Tigers, Padres, Diamondbacks, Giants, Mariners. Neither the Yanks, A’s or Rays made that list, but two of those three teams aside from the Yankees carry a positive Range Rating.

Lets back up and take a look at the bottom five on the team BABIP against list:

26. CHI White Sox: .314

27. PIT Pirates: .322

28. AZ Diamondbacks: .322

29. HOU Astros: .329

30. MIL Brewers: .346

Those are some pretty sorry pitching staffs right now. Interestingly enough, Edwin Jackson’s .324 BABIP is right about at his team’s average, despite of the Snakes fielders doing a good job of getting to batted balls – Note: The outfield defense is a lot better than the infield, so Jackson’s improved groundball rate may actually be hurting him. Regardless, the entire D-Backs pitching staff has been pretty unlucky to go along with being downright bad. An MLB worst 67% LOB rate would confirm that. D-Backs pitchers are allowing a whopping 19.9% of batted balls to be driven for liners, tied with the Reds for 2nd worst in baseball, behind only the hapless Brewers. So ‘Zone pitchers are getting somewhat unlucky but at the same time getting hit hard, compounding problems even more. To further illustrate this, Diamondback pitchers are allowing an astounding 15.2% of flyballs to leave the yard, worst in the league by a lot. That should normalize some, but they play in an extreme home-run hitters park, so you have to expect an elevated HR rate. The Pirates are the next worst team, with an 11% HR/FB rate. Now granted, a lot of this damage has been done by what may be the worst bullpen in baseball, but front line starters like Jackson and Haren have done their share of sucking too this season.

So the moral to this story is, if you really need that sort of thing, don’t just glance at a pitchers numbers and say, “he’s due for regression,” or “he’ll improve,” without looking a little deeper. The numbers need context. I took a long look at Jackson’s last week when his owner ditched him. At first look, I saw a guy who’s due for improvement, which he may well be in some small part. His xFIP is a healthy 3.90 due to K, BB and normalized HR rates. I didn’t bite though, as there are too many factors at play working against Jackson, namely an extreme hitters park with a terrible bullpen to follow him. He may give me K’s, but I believe he’ll provide little else going forward.

To find out team-wide metrics, go to Fangraphs, hit the “Teams” tab and select the stats you want. Simple as that!

For more on Edwin Jackson, check out this enlightening piece by Dave Golebiewski at Fangraphs.

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Mad Max Beyond Tiger Dome

June 1, 2010

With his 14 strikeout effort in Oakland yesterday, Max Scherzer showed his naysayers (myself included) that he’s still capable of displaying the same filthy stuff that got fantasy owners giddy two seasons ago. I along with many other fantasy baseball writers who will remain nameless, left Max for dead on the waiver wire after his May 14th debacle against the Red Sox. Yesterday Mad Max returned for payback, gunning down A’s hitters as though they were a leather-clad motorcycle gang in the Aussie Outback. There’s no silver lining here folks, only schadenfreude in watching this years version of the one that got away. That 14 K outing was most strikeouts thrown by a pitcher in under six innings since 1920 for a little perspective. I should have done my due diligence instead of acting off of raw emotion and giving Scherzer the boot. Now I’ll get to watch him perform for another owner. If I end up losing this thing because of this move, it’ll be tough to talk me down off of the ledge.

Other apocalyptic happenings from around the league…

As everyone knows by now, Roy “Mr. Perfect” Holiday perfect-plexed Florida bats on Saturday night, throwing the 20th Perfect Game in baseball history. I watched the last three innings of the game, and I can’t remember seeing a pitcher so surgically dissect a lineup. Halladay hardly broke a sweat. He looked like he could have gone another perfect nine.

Albert Pujols showed and proved, giving the finger to ESPN Hindsighter and snapping out of his recent power outage with three jacks on Sunday. It was just a matter of time before El Hombre got it going. I’m happy to have grabbed up Cards lead-off man Felipe Lopez in my 12 team league, as he stands to benefit from a Pujols power surge.

Derek Jeter ended his torrid May on a sour note, leaving yesterdays game in the 7th inning with a strained hamstring. Jeter was hit in the leg with a pitch earlier in the 11-2 victory over Cleveland, but continued to play, going 2 for 3, before getting lifted for a pinch runner after the leg tightened up. After a sizzling end to the month that saw The Captain go 12 for 27 (.444) with 6R/1HR/4RBI/1SB/ and a .483 OBP, lets hope this isn’t a serious issue going forward.

Another scalding hot Yankee bat belongs to right fielder Nick Swisher. While Jeter wasn’t available for comment after leaving today’s game, according to MLB.com, Swish offered,

“I bet you $1 million he’ll be in the lineup tomorrow,” Swisher said to a group of reporters. “He’s tough. He’ll be back.”

Hopefully D.J. took Swish up on that bet. Swisher went nuts in May, with a strained bicep no less and enters today’s action with a .317/.395/34 R/9 HR/28 RBI/0 SB line on the season, good for 44th best in our 6×6 format according to Yahoo. While Swisher’s average may regress some, he is a .249 lifetime hitter after all and that bloated 25.2% liner rate and the .368 BABIP (career .280) scream unsustainable, the Yankee lineup offers ample opportunity for the switch hitting, TTO hero to rack up plenty of counting stats.

Ubaldo Jimenez continues his domination of opposing batters, upping his record to an MLB best 10-1 to go along with a sub-atomic .78 ERA, out-dueling a shaky Tim Lincecum in a 4-0 Rockies victory in San Francisco. While the defending two-time NL Cy Young winner continued to struggle, Jimenez once again made his claim for this years honor. Jimenez’ arsenal of high-90’s heat and plus breaking stuff has made batters looked silly all season long but a 3.58 xFIP suggests that Jimenez should ultimately come down to Earth somewhat in the coming months. Not including yesterday’s game, he carries a garish 91.7% LOB and has only allowed one homer over 71 1/3 innings of work. Expect that number to rise with the temperatures as we head into summer.

Kendry Morales might be done for the season after the mother of all boneheaded injuries, suffered Saturday during his walk-off granny celebration. Who’s on first for the Halo’s? How about Mike Napoli? Or Robb Quinlan? Or Mike Ryan? Well all three have seen time at first since Morales went down. Good times ahead in Anaheim of Los Angeles.

We might have to change Sunglasses At Night’s nickname to The Hitman, as Corey Hart he’s been slapping The Sharp Shooter on NL pitchers in recent weeks. Launching his 13th homer of the year yesterday, his current ZiPs forecast projects 27 HR/ 92 RBI/ 9 SB for the season. Not bad for a guy I got on waivers two weeks ago.

If you say his name like someone from the midwest, he sounds like a hokey Vegas magician. Angel Pagan has been sort of magical for the Mets this year and he’s really been picking it up as of late. .360/.385/5 R/1 HR/ 2 RBI/ 4 SB in the last week. Leading the team with 2 WAR, Pagan should continue to see steady playing time as there has not yet been a time-table set for Carlos Beltran’s return to the Met outfield.

Brandon Morrow has been the starting equivalent of Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn this season, posting an 11.7 K/9 and 5.76 BB/9 entering last nights start against Tampa. In the 3-2 victory, Morrow shut down the Rays, not by missing bats as one might expect, but by diplomatically giving his defense some work. I suppose he watched “Bull Durham,” again and decided that “strikeouts are fascist.” In seven innings, Morrow only had one K, while allowing two walks and only three hits for the W.

Buster “Pocket Full Of” Posey went 0-4 today against the above mentioned Ubaldo, in his first hitless game since getting the call on Saturday. He’s garbage. All rookies shudder at the awe inspiring power of soon-to-be-unleashed Carlos Santana. Kneel before Zaun!

I’m being facetious of course, but I do like Santana over Posey this year and in the long term and not because I own Santana. He has the more advanced eye of the two young catchers, which should translate best into immediate impact in the Majors. Two days before Posey was called up, I received a trade offer of Posey and Pirates prize prospect (and Washington Heights native) Pedro Alvarez for Santana. If that were a keeper league, I’d have taken it, but in a redraft I believe the Indians backstop will be the most valuable fantasy producer this year of the three.

With Posey up and the calendar turning to June, the Carlos Santana watch is in high gear. While no one questions if his bat is Major League ready, Jensen Lewis gives Santana a thumbs up for his work behind the plate. We should be seeing Santana in the next week or two.

A final note. With both Kevin Correia and Hisanori Takahashi getting lit up in the Padres 18-6 victory over the Mets in San Diego, I find my pitching ratios so inflated, that I decided to dump Takahashi and pick up Minnesota’s Nick Blackburn, who gets starts on the road against the punchless Mariners later today and The A’s on Sunday. I figure if I’m going to chase counting numbers, I should grab Blackburn, who might possibly provide two W’s and QS by weeks end.

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