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.


Joe said...

Thanks for putting this together!

We all know Big LaRoche has in past years been a terrible April hitter. What has his April BAbip been like in those years? And even if this year's unprecedented swing of luck is compensating for bad April play, what do you expect his actual AVG to be by the year's end?

Another question: How can a network claiming to be 'Pittsburgh's Fourth Professional Sports Team' be so unprofessional?

FRANCOfranco said...

PECOTA has Adam pegged at .271/.354/.489, with 24 HR. That's not terrible at all. It's not premiere, and as I've said, his approach is all FUBAR. But still: not terrible end results.

Historically, his splits for March/April have looked like this: .195/.286/.357 with a BAbip of .243. Then by May his BAbip shoots up closer to .300, dips a little in June, and stays in the .330+ range for the rest of the summer. This is where the idea of an even handed system of luck goes out the door: LaRoche hasn't just been getting robbed in April and consistently flukey lucky in August. He's historically altered his approach as the season goes on. You can see a huge spike in his Ks early in the year to match his diminished BAbip. This tells us that he's not unlucky, so much as overmatched. The balls he makes contact with when it's cold out are weakly struck or predictably pulled.

He really hasn't learned how to translate his success in warm Pittsburgh drizzle to cold Pittsburgh drizzle. Right now what we're seeing is actually luck, the 2009 April an outlier that isn't likely repeatable in future Aprils. His strikeout/BB ratios tell us that.

That said, let's hope he follows his natural trend, and follows up this flukey good start with well earned production later in the season. I doubt PECOTA will ever be wrong about anything ever, but this would be one way of showing it up by a few points.

As for your second question: I don't know. I don't live in Pittsburgh or have access to Pittsburgh TV. But we did get A.Q. Shipley, so be happy about that.

Matt said...

Players I've seen take a curtain call at PNC Park:

Derek Bell
Rob Mackowiak
Jason Bay
Freddy Sanchez

I'm sure there are more. But Bell comes to mind specifically because it was in one year with the club (first of a two-year, $9.75 million deal, as you'll recall). This was just before Operation Shutdown went into effect, and he was hitting about 32 points below his playing weight, which was already abnormally low from excessive crack use. Well, one afternoon, right after he'd gotten off the DL, he hit a line-drive homer over the right field wall after striking out twice and being resoundingly booed by a crowd of about 8,500 whose disdain was greater than the sum of its parts. Bell hit the home run, and people were so excited that he wound up taking a curtain call. It was one of the more surreal things I've ever witnessed, and I was there when Lloyd McClendon stole first base.

FRANCOfranco said...

I went to google search Rob Mackowiak's scoreboard rebus (remember that shit, with the "Mack!" "Kovee!" and then a picture of a yak? It was weird.) and I found something so much better.

Just look at the description: "A Japanese baseball blog written by a girl who goes to too many baseball games and takes too many photos. Mostly a Nippon Ham Fighters blog, but the author likes a few other teams and hates the Giants."

I don't have a Japanese fetish and I don't give a shit about the Mariners. But! I'm all for any girl who wants to write a baseball blog, especially when she links to "Moneyball: The Musical!"

Friends... could this theatrical exploration be where my life has been destined to go?