Archive for April, 2007

Minor League Stats

The 2007 Minor League stats are up and available for viewing in both the stats pages and the Leardboards. They will be updated every morning no later than noon Eastern.

Also, I’ve taken down the projections and spring training stats by default in the stats pages. You can still view them by clicking on “Show Projections” or “Show Spring Training”. I figured now that there was almost a full month of the season underway, the projections weren’t being used as much and they were causing some unneeded clutter. I’m open to putting them back up by default, but as long as I don’t hear complaints, they’ll stay hidden by default.

WPA in Kansas City Star

Bradford Doolittle wrote about WPA today in the Kansas City star and gives FanGraphs’ new Live Win Probability quite the favorable review. You can check that out here: These stats add something to the game

There’s also a Q&A session with me on his blog for those interested in some of the behind the scenes happenings at FanGraphs: Q&A With David Appelman

Clutch Changes

Last night we rolled in some changes to the way Clutch is calculated. For the most part, the results remained the same, but there are a few key differences which you should be aware of.

Clutch is no longer calculated using OPS Wins. Instead it’s calculated using WPA/LI, which is WPA divided by LI on a play-by-play basis. Take Alex Rodriguez for example who has a WPA of 1.03 and a pLI of 1.51. His WPA divided by pLI on a full season basis would be .68. Unfortunately, that is weighting each play incorrectly and does not correctly neutralize WPA. When you correctly weight each plate appearance by LI, his WPA/LI is 1.16. To get the new Clutch score, you merely do: WPA – WPA/LI.

Tangotiger goes into the details of what’s going on here in comment #5: What Exactly Clutch Measures.

Is WPA Predictive for Batters?

One of the biggest complaints I see about WPA is that it’s not predictive. The mere mention of it’s non-predictability seems to be enough for many to write it off as a mere toy used by some of stats community.

So let’s see how it actually correlates from year to year compared to the stats we all know, like AVG, OBP, SLG, and OPS. I’ll throw in Batting Runs Above Average for fun too.

Looking at the r-squared from 2005 to 2006 for batters with over 300 plate appearances, here’s how WPA stacks up against the regulars:

AVG: .12
WPA: .27
BRAA: .35
OBP: .36
OPS: .36
SLG: .38

Here’s the same deal, 2004 to 2005.

AVG: .14
WPA: .24
OBP: .27
OPS: .30
BRAA: .31
SLG: .33

It’s true, WPA doesn’t correlate as well from year to year as OBP, SLG, or OPS, but it does have some correlation from year to year. In 2004, a players OBP was almost indicative of his 2005 OBP as his 2004 WPA was of his 2005 WPA. Yet, that wasn’t quite the case in 2005 to 2006. BRAA which is calculated by using Run Expectancy on a play-by-play basis (much like WPA uses Win Expectancy), holds its own against the regulars.

Anyway, the point is, let’s stop using the argument that WPA isn’t predictive as a crutch, because it does actually show some correlation from year to year.

The Top 10 – Week of 4/2/2007

This week’s top 10 most popular players on FanGraphs is devoid of Corey Hart and because of that it makes a lot more sense. Let’s get right to it:

1. Alex Rodriguez – You’ve not only managed to become number one in Win Probability Added (and nearly every other stat in the first week), you’re also the most popular.

2. Albert Pujols – Slipping from the top spot lats week, Pujols got off to a rough start by going 1-13 to start the season. But yesterday, he went 2-5 with one home run, signaling the end of the bizarro first week of baseball.

3. Derek Jeter – What has Jeter done this season to deserve such a prominent place on the FanGraphs top 10? Besides being Jeter, WPA says he’s the second most valuable Yankee thus far this season. Fitting he should be the second most popular Yankee.

4. Barry Bonds – His one home run this week puts him just 20 home runs shy of tying Hank Aaron’s all time best 755 home runs. At this rate he’ll have broken the record by September 3rd. Anyone know the vegas odds on that?

5. Felix Hernandez – His 8 inning — 3 hit — 12 strikeout performance gave him a Game Score of 87, which just happens to be the highest Game Score this season. Hopefully the weather will allow him make a second start sometime this season.

6. Todd Helton – He’s off to a decent start, but I’m not sure why he’s in the top 10. It could have something to do with the nosedive his Isolated Power has taken since the 2004 season.

7. Johan Santana – Why wouldn’t the best pitcher in baseball make the list?

8. Adam Dunn – The always intriguing Dunn is off to a hot start after having a scorching spring training. He’s batting an uncharacteristic .381 with 3 home runs so far this season.

9. Brad Lidge – Speaking of spring training, Lidge has been just as awful the first week of the season as he was during spring training. He’s pitched 1.2 innings, giving up 6 runs (3 of them earned) for an ERA just over 16. If he can’t get things together soon, he’ll definitely be out of the closers job, and possibly a job altogether.

10. Ryan Howard – Even though he’s batting just .217 with no home runs, he’s already drawn 7 walks, which ties him for the most in the National League with fellow teammate Jimmy Rollins. He only hit 1 home run in his first 11 games last year, so not much to worry about yet.

11-20: David Ortiz, Cole Hamels, John Maine, B.J. Upton, Jose Reyes, Ian Snell, Grady Sizemore, Roy Oswalt, Erik Bedard, Elijah Dukes.

Unlike 2006: A-Rod Wins the Game!

In yesterday’s 10-7 victory win against the Orioles, Alex Rodriguez’s game winning grand-slam was the second biggest hit he’s had in the pats 6 years according to Win Probability Added (WPA). It brought his team from a mere 28.8% chance of winning to a complete victory.


In 2006 however, Rodriguez was about as far from being a clutch hitter as you could possibly get. But before we delve into why, let’s get familiar with two stats: REW and OPS Wins. REW is calculated much like WPA, except it uses Run Expectancy (as opposed to Win Expectancy), which doesn’t take the score or inning into account. It does however account for how well a batter does with runners on base. OPS Wins on the other hand is how a player would do in a completely context neutral environment.

Looking at 2006, Rodriguez’s 3.18 OPS Wins and his REW of 3.34 wins are fairly close, but in general he did a little bit better than expected with runners on base. When you take into account the inning and the score (or late and close situations), he accumulated just 1.18 wins. Basically he performed much worse than he should have in high leverage or “clutch” situations. This is measured by a stat called “Clutch” which is the difference between WPA and OPS Wins once leverage adjusted. Rodriguez’s Clutch was -2.16 wins; the third worst among qualified players in 2006.

Last season was the worst season he’s had in the past 5 years in terms of clutch hitting and probably his worst season ever. Yet in his previous two seasons with the Yankees he was actually a clutch hitter with a Clutch of .76 wins in 2004 and .41 wins in 2005.

Since joining the Yankees, he’s still the 9th most valuable player in baseball according to WPA. If we look at just the Yankees batters since 2004, he ranks first in terms of WPA.

Batter                WPA
Alex Rodriguez      11.27
Derek Jeter         10.54
Gary Sheffield       8.91
Jason Giambi         7.61
Hideki Matsui        6.46
Jorge Posada         2.92
Bobby Abreu          1.96
Johnny Damon         1.76
Tony Clark           1.05
Tino Martinez         .77

Whether you like him or not, he has been the most valuable Yankees batter according to WPA the past 3 seasons including the few games played this season. Of course, Mariano Rivera bests him by half-a-win with a WPA of 11.73.

Micah Owings – It’s a Small World

A friend of mine’s — co-worker’s — friend’s — son is Micah Owings. This was a shocking revelation to me. I’m only 4 degrees of separation from THE Micah Owings who made his big-league debut yesterday. More importantly, he picked up the win, throwing 5 innings of 1 hit ball while striking out 6 and walking 3. That’s a pretty good start for the rookie who pitched against the Nationals; possibly the worst team in recent history.

It’s only his first start, but his control was definitely off since he hit 2 batters, and threw 1 wild pitch. The 3 walks weren’t so wonderful either. He hasn’t exactly been a control master in the minors either, walking 34 batters in 88 innings (BB/9 of 3.60) in AAA. It’ll be interesting to see how he pitches next time against Cincinnati.

– The great Albert Pujols has just 1 hit in 13 at-bats this season. He’s still walking a healthy 19% of the time, so there’s still 43 Major League regulars who have a worse OBP than he does at this point in the season. Don’t fret Cardinals fans, Pujols went 1-13 between July 4th and July 7th just last season. After that, he went on an 11 game hitting streak where he went 20-46 with 4 home runs. If anyone in any of my fantasy leagues would like to jump ship on Pujols at this time, please let me know.

– Speaking of Pujols, Miguel Cabrera (or as I call him: Pujols-lite) has been on an absolute tear to start the season. He already has 6.98 Batting Runs Above Average (BRAA) which just happens to be tops in the majors by more than half-a-run. He’s on pace to have 282 BRAA, which I’m sure would easily be the best season ever. At this rate, I’ll have to start calling Pujols, Cabera-lite.

– The other day in Daisuke Matsuzaka major league debut, he struck out 10 in 7 innings of work. He also gave up 6 hits, 1 solo-shot and only walked 1. This is just the obligatory mention, since you can read about this nearly anywhere else.

Oliver Perez struck out 6 in 7 innings against the Braves. More importantly, he walked zero. This is definitely a guy to keep an extremely close eye on. He was lights out in 2004 so there’s no question that he has the ability to be a dominant pitcher, the only question is can he do it consistently. He’s off to an excellent start following his solid spring. Between Perez and John Maine, there could potentially be much less doom and gloom surrounding the Mets rotation.

– After being banished to the minors last season in favor of Brandon Watson, Ryan Church is showing why he should have always been on the Nationals roster. He’s batting just under .300 with 2 home runs and an OPS of 1.224. He’s always been an intriguing player and should continue to be one of the bright spots in the Nationals offense.

– Finally, in the land of Win Probability, B.J. Ryan blew his first save of the season giving the Devil Rays a fairly improbable comeback for the second time this year. Who had the winning hit? None other than B.J. Upton. The Devil Rays now find themselves in first place.


And That’s Why They Play the Game

The Nationals just had a great comeback against the Marlins this afternoon. The final game graph (unofficially) looks like this:


The Marlins newly acquired Jorge Julio pretty much blew the entire game for them with a WPA of -.903 wins. The Nationals low point in the game was in the bottom of the 6th with 2 outs when they had a mere 3.7% chance of winning the game.

But let’s draw our attention to one very specific play at the end of the game: the sacrifice bunt when the score was 6-5 in the bottom of the 9th. Before the sacrifice bunt there was a runner on first with no outs. The Nationals at the time had a 34.4% chance of winning. Manny Acta, the Nationals new manager, had Felipe Lopez hit a sacrifice bunt. It was successful, but it didn’t improve their chances of winning the game. Instead of increasing their chances, it actually decreased it by 6% to give the Nationals a 28.8% chance of winning.

If you were watching the game on FanGraphs, you got to see exactly why the following is true:

To quote The Book: “With a non-pitcher at the plate, and a runner on first and no outs, advancing the runner in exchange for an out is a terrible strategy. It significantly reduces the RE in almost any run environment. It also reduces the WE in almost any run environment, even late in a close game.”

Fortunately for Nationals fans (while unfortunate my hopes and dreams), they ended up winning anyway.

Is This the Nationals’ Year?

It’s only the fifth inning and the Nationals have already worked there way into a mere 9% chance of winning (according to Live Win Probability). As a Nats season ticket holder, I honestly couldn’t be more excited about this season. I am not a particularly huge Nationals fan, but since they’re the only viable option in the D.C. area, I suppose I feel some sort of affinity to them. Yet what makes me so excited you ask?

The Nationals this year could be a truly historic team, as in historically awful. Will they approach the 134 loss season of the 1899 Cleveland Spiders? Probably not. However, the Mets’ 120 loss season of 1962 may be within reach.

In the past 25 years, there have been 25 100-plus loss teams. But the 2004 Diamondbacks with their 111 losses, and the 2003 Tigers with their 119 were the only teams to eclipse the 110 loss mark during that time period.

If the Nationals can muster up at least 110 wins, it will at least be a season to remember, instead of just another “typical” losing season. So this season, instead of rooting for the Nationals, I’ll be rooting against them. It won’t be out of hate (like Yankees haters), but it’ll stem from my hopeful awe of witnessing one of the greatest train wrecks of a team in baseball history.

Live Win Probability and Notes

Just a quick reminder that we will have Live Win Probability all season long.

Some Quick Notes:

– Nightly loads have resumed as usual. They will typically start sometime between 3 and 5 am EST and last about 20 minutes. If you’re using FanGraphs during this 20 minute window, you may notice some slowdown. Our loads this year are quite CPU intensive.

– Minor League stats will be loaded nightly starting April 5th.

– We’re considering live stats “unofficial” as far as Win Probability goes. The nightly loads will be the “official” ones. They should be very similar.

– We’ll be leaving the projections in the stats pages up by default for at least another week along with the spring training stats. They will both be hidden eventually, but will always be able to be un-hidden using the “Show Projections” or “Show Spring Training” buttons.

Debuting Today:

Joseph Michael Smith made his major league debut today. He struck out one and walked one, in one-thirds innings.