Thursday, April 30, 2009

Monday, April 27, 2009

Know Your Buccos! Vol. 2!

Question: What's your favorite thing about Pittsburgh?

Paul Maholm: Aw, well, I think the people. It's a real blue-collar town, you know? I'm just a southern boy, but the people here have been so good to me. Sometimes I even get recognized in public. One time, I was with Adam LaRoche at Sharper Image in Ross Park Mall, and a little kid came up and asked Adam for his autograph, but I guess he saw I was in a crummy mood because my goldfish had just died, so he didn't even talk to me. The fans here are great.

Zach Duke: They just opened up a Lonestar Steakhouse down on the Waterfront about two years ago. I think that's my favorite. My parents don't have to overnight them to me from home anymore.

Ian Snell: I saw Vanilla Ice at McFadden's last Saturday.

Nyjer Morgan: When we get an day off in town, I like to take 910 up to Gibsonia and chill for a few hours at the Western PA Model Railroad Museum. Walking around all those mini-villages with mini people living mini-lives frozen in time makes me feel huge. Sometimes I imagine I'm Mothra or God, and I breathe fire at the houses.

Craig Hansen: They have this great little hydroponics shop on the South Side. It's...
/yawns's pretty sweet.
/eats Cheetos

Freddy Sanchez: Probably my bedroom. I have an XBox 360 in my bedroom. I also like the Starbucks down on the Waterfront.

Nate McLouth: All the culture. I love driving around seeing where they shot parts of "Flashdance" and "Striking Distance" and stuff.

Eric Hinske: How do you guys say it? Down-turn? Dahn-teern? Heh. You know, where Blush is.

Friday, April 24, 2009

how the Grinch stole baseball

Hey everyone! Thought you guys might want to see our latest advanced batting stats. Here they are:

Doumit - .244/.271/.467, .265 BAbip
Adam L. - .304/.350/.589, .368 BAbip
Sanchez - .359/.388/.641, .429 BAbip
Wilson - .286/.348/.357, .316 BAbip
Andy L. - .225/.273/.325, .281 BAbip
Morgan - .323/.371/.415, .382 BAbip
McLouth - .259/.394/.481, .250 BAbip
Moss - .225/.295/.325, .265 BAbip
Monroe - .235/.316/.588, .167 BAbip

So just as a refresher course for our readers... BAbip stands for Batting Average on Balls In Play. That is, any plate appearance that doesn't result in a walk, strikeout or home run. Over the course of a season, most players even out to a BAbip of about .300, just on account of indiscriminate luck when making contact with the ball. The differences in their actual batting averages (not to mention OBP and SLG) is thus decided by their frequency of striking out or hitting dingers. Thus, if we can assume there's a normalized, average BAbip, we can judge how far away a player is from the mean, and how much of a regression to expect.

Currently, the league average BAbip is .298 and our team's collective BAbip is .317. I suspect the league will fluctuate in an upward direction, but that said, we're still getting a bit luckier than our competition, and that'll most likely catch up with us.

One by one...

Doumit... He's injured, so this is a little moot, but he was due to see a few more balls drop for hits. He continued to show a lack of patience in terms of taking walks, just as he continued to come through on extra base hits (2 HR, 4 doubles in 48 PAs isn't terrible for a catcher; 3 walks in that same time is pretty shitty for your cleanup hitter).

Adam LaRoche... First of all, we're getting a .939 OPS out of a guy who has a career .835 OPS. At age 29, he's not getting much hotter. Second of all, Big LaPoison is actually as crappy as ever at the plate. Over his career, he's struck out 21.1% of the time, and walked 9.1% of the time. This year, it's 25% K and 6.7% BB. So how do we explain the surge in performance? As his bloated above average BAbip would tell us: LUCK! Expect him to come down to earth.

Sanchez... Steady Freddy is somewhat of a statistical outlier. I love the dude, but he really only does one thing well, which is slap hitting the ball over middle infielders' outstretched gloves. His technique yields a lot of contact and very little power; line drives, as opposed to fly or ground balls. Thus, he's typically exceeded the league average when putting the ball in play.

Fair enough. We can't compare him to the league average BAbip. But let's compare him to his own, as it's accumulated over his career. That would be .324 as opposed to his current .429 clip. Woof!

I saw him in person last weekend, and got the best of times and worst of times out of Fred: two weakly hit dribblers to the pitcher (both on the first pitch, I think), and a brilliant slap hit over the infield. He's clearly going to come crashing back to Earth, but my feeling is still good. We've seen batting champion Freddy, and we've seen least-valuable-player-in-the-national-league Freddy, and as far as his technique is concerned, he's a lot closer to the former at the moment.

Wilson... Could it be? Is the new stance giving Jack better bat control?? My verdict is that we can't tell yet, on account of sample size. However, the numbers are encouraging. Have a look:
8.5 K% in 2009, 11 K% over career
8.5 BB% in 2009, 5.2 BB% over career
0.76 GB:FB in 2009, 0.79 GB:FB over career
21 LD% in 2009, 20 LD% over career
.316 BAbip in 2009, .292 BAbip over career

So he's getting a little lucky when he's making contact, and the nature of his hits are pretty much the same; however, the things that are within his control (striking out, walking) are improved. Maybe holding his hands lower and further back is helping? At this rate, someone's getting a decent hitting SS at the deadline.

Andy LaRoche... (sigh), whatever. I really don't know what to say about this guy. Reminds me of another third baseman named Andy who could never make it past quadruple A. I hope he'll be better than that, and I'm not saying he can't be. But things just haven't clicked for this poor sonofabitch since being in the majors. Take what you will from his numbers, I don't have much to offer.

(I'm watching the Yankees/Sox game as I post, and Cody Ransom looks like he's hurt. I am so, extremely curious to find out who is below Cody Random on the Yankees depth chart.)

Morgan... This guy is totally a fraud. I love him. He's great fun to watch, and he's definitely igniting the offense. But none of his career ratios are favorable compared to league averages. None of them.
NM: 0.3 HR%, MLB Average: 2.8 HR%
NM: 16.8 K%, MLB Average: 17.8 K%
NM: 6.3 BB%, MLB Average: 9.6 BB%
NM: 6.9 XBH%, MLB Average: 8.1 XBH%
NM: 20 LD%, MLB Average: 19 LD%

Those are pretty weak to mediocre percentages. Which makes his career BAbip of .365 a baffling anomaly, even in Smallsamplesizeville City (363 career PAs). He's just a funny guy who has gotten lucky with his hits, thus far. Let's hope he keeps it up, I guess!

(Ramiro Pena?? They couldn't just play Brett Gardner at third for two innings?))

McLouth... Good numbers, hard luck. Expect good production from Nate.

Moss... Another guy, like Little LaPoison, who I just don't know about. Need to see more big league playing time out of him. I can hope for the best.

(Hah! Call it a bloop hit if you will, Michael Kay. I saw an E-6! ("This is surprising because Derek Jeter is as good as anybody at going back on these pop ups, with his back to them, like a wide receiver." -Al Leiter? David Cone? someone who was watching YES, tell me who to blame for this quote))

Oh my god, what a Joe Morgan answer I gave you for Moss. Seriously, though, we've got a crop of these fringe prospects, and Matt is probably a better source of info on them than I am. Matt? Your thoughts?

Monroe... I included Craig Monroe on this list, as he's the only player I've seen take a curtain call at PNC Park. Maybe Fred did back in '06, I can't remember. Anyway, this guy has a total of 19 PAs this season, so there are no numbers to crunch. He was red hot through spring training, and looked damn good when I saw him a week ago (2 HR, 6 RBI). Is this repeatable, or just some flukey spurt of power? Not sure, but either of those things are acceptable from a platoon / pinch hitter. For what he's getting paid, I like him. Over his career, he's subpar on walks and strikeouts, but quite a bit above average in terms of home runs. The only downside is that his numbers are pretty much even when facing RHP versus LHP. That decreases his value as a platoon guy.

Right now we're averaging 4.67 runs scored per game. The MLB average is 4.82. Last year it was 4.54 / 4.65. Why are we winning at the moment? We have allowed the least R/G on the other side of the ball at 3.33. While I've written a lot about how much you can expect our advanced batting stats to fluctuate, I can guarantee you, those pitching stats are locked down. No worries there.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Know Your Buccos!

Major League Baseball clubs are revolving doors these days -- personnel come and go with each passing season, and few fans, especially in Pittsburgh, ever get to know anything about the players on their team. With that in mind, FTC is proud to bring you Know Your Buccos: a Q&A forum to help you get to better know your Pittsburgh Pirates.

QUESTION: What is your favorite movie?

Sean Burnett: 'Top Gun'.

Ian Snell: Oh, definitely 'Top Gun'.

Craig Hansen: Oh man. Either 'Top Gun' or 'Half Baked'...Probably 'Top Gun'.

Nate McLouth: 'The English Patient', hands down.

Freddy Sanchez: That's tough. I love so many movies. I love 'Major League'. But I think my all-time favorite would have to be either 'Billy Madison' or 'Top Gun'.

Zach Duke: Oh, no contest. It's gotta be 'Top Gun'. It was, like, the first or second or third movie I ever saw, and it's the reason I'm left-handed.

Nyjer Morgan: Three-way tie between, I think, 'Camp Nowhere', 'The Magnificient Ambersons' and 'Asian Spermaholics 7'. I've always been fascinated with the rich and unheralded culture of the Far East.

Adam LaRoche: I loved 'The Deer Hunter' until I saw it and realized that they didn't kill any freaking deer. I'd never felt so cheated in my life, and -- this is a funny story -- I was so angry while driving home from the theater that I accidentally ran over a kid with my car. True story!, I don't know. Probably 'Top Gun'.

The New Adventures of JR and the Bucs from Pittsburgh, Vol. 1

At Rise: The Pirates clubhouse. John Russell enters from his office.

JOHN RUSSELL: Guys, news just came down from the top...

ANDY LAROCHE: /cleans out locker

SEAN BURNETT: /packs bags

BRANDON MOSS: /weeps gently

CRAIG HANSEN: /walks opposing pitcher

NYJER MORGAN: /performs excerpt from "Swimming To Cambodia"

: Due to the current political happenings on the high seas, et cetera, et cetera, they want us to change the name of the team so as not to seem like we represent certain parties, et cetera, et cetera.

TYLER YATES: Wait, so you mean, we're not all cut?

NEAL HUNTINGTON: /observes all this from his Batcave-like supercomputer
Soon, Tyler. Soon.
(Tyler Yates’ seven-year attrition graph can be seen on one of the smaller screens adjacent to the central monitor. It is not a favorable forecast.)

PAUL MAHOLM: /chomps on some Big League Chew—‘cause he’s earned it!
So what are they callin' us, Skip?

: /blows bubble

: /throws quality start, primes fans for heartbreak

: What’s the new name?

JOHN RUSSELL: I’m supposed to let you guys vote on it.

NATE MCLOUTH: /raises hand like an eager first-grader


FREDDY SANCHEZ: How 'bout the Sleeves? You know. Now that we have sleeves on our uniforms again, it's kind of our look.

: /silence, avoidance of eye contact, indiscriminate shame

: I'll be in my office. Try and have something together by tonight's first pitch.

(Phone rings)

: Yell-o?

SOMALI PIRATE: Our patience runs out with you American!

: Now calm down, dang’it — I'm working on this!

: Working is taking too slow!

: Just tell me, is my son safe?

: Your… son?

: Have you hurt him!? My son! Give me back my son!

: Say it do not spray it we do not have your son American!

: You said you had my boy in the fax! Well?! Do you or don’t you?

(Pause — the kind of pause that makes you seriously question the competence of the customer service representative handling your account.)

: One moment! I put you on hold!

(Gary Glitter’s ‘Rock’n Roll Part 2’ plays over the phone.)

THE PIRATE PARROT: /enters John Russell’s office, begins dancing

: /dances

:/pretends to eat John Russell's head

: Alright, alright — get outta here! Can’t ya see I’m on the phone?

: /shrugs, exits in rhythm to the music

(Then… the music comes to a halt—)

: I am returned American!

: Come to any consensus on your hostage?

: He’s boy.

: My boy?!

: He says!

: /pauses, swallows. Let me speak to him.


: …Duke?!

: What’s up, Skip?

: Darn it, Duke…

: Uh oh…Oh shoot. I’m sorry, JR. I hope I’m not being a distraction to the clubhouse.

: /slumps back in his chair, terminally depressed

: I mean, I’m okay… It’s really not so bad, in fact, I’m kind of having fun.

: /face-plants into desk, wishing there was a God, and that He’d end it all, quickly, painlessly.

: Yeah, in fact, I’m making new friends.

(A whole crowd of Somali pirates can be heard in the background, casting lots in Arabic over who gets to keep Zach Duke’s Nike cleats after he’s thrown overboard.)

: I’m teaching them how to throw a big-league slider!

: You don’t even throw a slider, Zach, let alone a big-league one.

: Uh...Shhh! — They don’t seem to know that! Heh, it’s great! It’s like I’ve finally made it!

: Enough talking dog! Hello!? American? Are you there?

: I’m here.

: Well? You have spoken to your boy. Now you honor demands! You do it now!

: We’re honoring your frickin’ demands! I have my staff working on it right as we speak.

: No more will you bring shame to us!

: No more will we bring shame to you — yeah, yeah…Listen: Zach’s a special kid. He’s a good kid with big-league upside. The kind of guy we like to give the ball to every five days, and expect that when he takes the hill, we’ve got a shot at winning a ball game. Good motion on his breaking balls, good idea of what he’s doing; and he’s a lefty, which is a plus in this league, obviously.

: He’s the kind of guy you send out there knowing he’ll throw some pitches and make the batters hit the baseball where he wants them to hit it. But listen, Long John. I’ve got like three-dozen Zach Duke replicas between Altoona and my 40-man, so frankly, I think it’s a little presumptuous of you to think you’ve got some sort of blue chip to play.

: /pauses, scrambling for a response.

: We also got captured Gorzelanny!

: Oh no. What will we do without his sub-one strikeout-to-walk ratio. I don’t know. O, heaven help us. Listen! Again, it’s another soft-tossing lefty. I really…I don’t care.

: What then you means by this?

: I means… that while I’d love to help you, it’s not exactly like you’ve got a gun to my head, or rather, it’s not like you have a gun to the head of someone who we’re banking on for the long-term, future success of this ball club.

: /yells something in murderous frustration, probably a curse

: /listening intently for, but not hearing, a gunshot; continues…

: Look, I know you’d appreciate it if we — no pun intended — played ball with your requests…

: Demand! Demands not request!

: Of course. If we played ball — again, no puns here, not trying to be funny — with your “demands,” but any compromise on our part is really just coming out of the generosity of our own hearts. Which is a lesson I think you all might care to take notes from. Listen. We all kind of want this to end well.

: Of course!

: And speaking on behalf of the entire ball club, we certainly don’t want to bring shame to anyone, especially not your organization any more—

: No more shame please! Sixteen years too many shame!

: Right. Well, how about we just settle on something like this: we keep going by the Pirates, you guys get full rights over Buccaneers, Bucs, Buccos, Bucco Brigade, Cannonball Crew, Bucco Bleacher Fun Deals, Bucco Giant Eagle Discount Shopper Specials, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ franchise logo and insignia rights, et cetera et cetera.

: We want Pirates!


: /obviously shaken

: Fine…fine! Well…we keep Duke for another two starts then!

: Another two starts?

ROSS OHLENDORF: /enters office

: Hey, Skip?

: /puts hand over phone while the Somali pirate continues screaming

: Hey, Ross. Is this important? I’m kind busy.

: Well, I was just thinking…you know, in the offseason, I was auditing some MBA classes at Wharton, and we were talking about integrating effective cost-cutting policies into original marketing strategies within the context of avoiding potentially violent conflict, and…

: Jesus, son, I said this had to be important!

: All we have to do is unstitch the “P” from the fronts of our jerseys and start masquerading as the “IRATES.” It’ll probably please these real Pirates enough, and it’s a convenient and refreshing nod to the screwed up subculture of a fan base that’s followed us long enough to still be angry about our being historically bad and whatnot.

: That’s…that’s effing genius! And if anyone asks, the “P” on the hats stands for Pittsburgh!

: Actually the “P” on the hat has always stood for Pittsburgh. There’s a common misconception that—

: That’s great! What do we do about the logo?

: /crashes through office ceiling, landing in front of Russell’s desk

: I’m on it, Shemp!

: /stands up, dusts self off

: Take a look at this! /hands Russell photograph

: Who the hell is this?

: Former Israeli freedom fighter and Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan.

: That’s a good one, Nyj. I was going to suggest James Joyce.

: I find Joyce’s work obstrucasive and termiable!

: /rolls eyes

: Swing and a miss.

: Great work, guys. Ross, take this up to Neal’s office and let him know what’s up.

HUNTINGTON’S VOICE: (from nowhere in particular) Excellent work, Gentlemen. Your'e both greatly enhancing your respective trade values.

: God, that’s creepy. I still don’t know how he does that. Alright, let’s have wardrobe start altering the jerseys.

: We can do it ourselves, General! I have 27 individual sewing kits in my locker. Gotta be ready for the fallout, you know?

: /does 12 consecutive cartwheels