Archive for May, 2007

Making Up For Ortiz (Sorta)

As of today, the Red Sox have the best record in baseball. If you look at their Win Probability numbers, their batting has contributed 4.38 wins, their starting pitchers 1.54 wins and their bullpen 4.08 wins. The bullpen which was considered a big question mark to begin the season has surprisingly been just as valuable as their offense, much in thanks to Boston’s lesser known Japanese import, Hideki Okajima.

For the past two seasons, David Ortiz has racked up more WPA than any other player in baseball by adding an incredible 17 wins to his team. About one-third of the way into this current season, Ortiz has accumulated a mere 1 win, but still leads all Red Sox batters in WPA.

Last season, David Ortiz had 15 hits worth more than .2 wins, not to mention a pair of home runs worth .78 wins and .90 wins. This season he has no hits over the .2 wins mark. That’s not to say he’s not having an excellent season. When you take the context out of his wins using WPA/LI he’s 3rd in baseball with 1.93 wins, but the hits just haven’t been as timely as last season. The huge disparity between his WPA and WPA/LI gives him the 5th worst “Clutch” with -.88 wins.

So who has been getting the big hits for the Red Sox if their previously “clutch” star hasn’t? Let’s take a look:

On May 13th, newcomer Julio Lugo was the catalyst for the biggest play of the season. With 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th, down by 1 and the bases loaded, Lugo singled in the tying run while Erik Hinske scored on an error. The whole thing was worth .718 wins and capped off an incredible 9th inning rally (including a Jason Varitek double worth .343 wins) that overcame a 5 run deficit. At the start of the inning the Sox had a mere .9% chance of winning the game.

In a classic Yankees-Red Sox battle on April 20th, Coco Crisp tripled in two runs to tie the game at 6-6 off Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. This triple was worth .472 wins. Immediately following Crisp’s triple, Alex Cora singled allowing Crisp to score the go ahead and final run of the game. In contrast Cora’s hit was worth .123 wins.

On April 26th, Orioles closer Chris Ray (who also gave up the hit to Lugo on May 13th) gave up a grand slam to Wily Mo Pena which put the Sox up by 3 to win the game. Down by 1 at the time, the home run was worth .43 wins.

Alex Cora on April 19th, in the top of the 9th with 1 out, tripled, allowing Julio Lugo to score the go-ahead run. While not quite as big as Crisp’s triple on the 20th, this one was still worth .373 wins.

Erik Hinske’s two run blast in the 7th inning of a tie game back on May 17th rounds out the top 5 most important Red Sox hits so far this season. Manny Ramirez owns the next two biggest which were both worth juts over .3 wins.

David Ortiz is no where to be seen on this list with his biggest hit worth .197 which came on April 25th in the 7th inning of a tie game. In the 9th inning or later in a game, Ortiz is actually a -.213 wins while in 2006 he was 2.34 wins; far and away the most in baseball.

I’m sure as the season goes on, things will start to even out and there will be some big hits here and there, but fortunately for the Red Sox, they haven’t exactly needed Ortiz to be the savior he’s been the past two seasons.

The Top 10 – Week of 5/7/2007

With the exception of last week, it seems that there are more or less the same players in the top 10 week after week. In an attempt to make things more interesting, let’s look at the top 11-20. But first, let’s pay homage to the actual top 10.

Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols, John Maine, Ichiro Suzuki, Derek Jeter, Josh Beckett, Jose Reyes, David Ortiz, David Bush. These guys round out the top 10. I have not been visiting Bush’s page a whole lot this week either. And I’ll continue to assert that he will turn things around. Onto the top 11-20.

11. Manny Ramirez – A previous fixture in the top 10, he’s fallen all the way down to number 11. Manny has really started to turn things around and is batting just about .350 in the month of May. He’s also wracked up a solid .42 WPA for the American League’s most winning team.

12. David Wright – He’s another player who started off a bit slow. He’s batting just under .300 for May and more importantly is starting to hit with some pop. He also stole 3 bases in last night’s game; a feat which has only been accomplished about 100 times in the past 5 years.

13. B.J. Upton – While he continues to challenge Ryan Howard for the major league lead in strikeout percentage, the main difference between the two is that B.J. Upton has pummeled major league pitching. He’s been a bit less stellar in May, but no one’s going to complain about a .916 OPS.

14. Daisuke Matsuzaka – Yawn. Dice-K is 4th in the AL in K/9; striking out just over a batter an inning. FIP suggests his ERA should be in the mid-3’s as opposed to the high-4’s. Giving up 10 runs to the Yankees has been his only problem.

15. Kelly Johnson – Though his batting average graph looks like a camel’s back, he still leads all second-basemen in OBP (.409). Unfortunately, he hasn’t been walking much this month either and the graph looks eerily similar to his batting average.

16. James Shields – He only threw 9 innings of 3 hit ball the other day. Despite his obscenely high WPA of .766 in that game alone, his team still didn’t get him a win. He’s good.

17. Jonathan Papelbon – The Red Sox closer currently has a 1.35 ERA. Last year he’d only given up 1 run at this point in the season. This year, he’s already given up 2. For shame.

18. Roger Clemens – He’s back with the Yankees, but you probably knew that already.

19. Chien-Ming Wang – His ERA now sits at 5.40 after a disastrous outing against the Rangers. If it weren’t for his 2 hit gem against the Mariners, his ERA would be over 7. He was a hot topic for debate this off-season and so far things are not looking good for Wang.

20. Dustin PedroiaAlex Cora really tore things up while Pedroia was riding pine. The big difference between him and Cora is that Pedroia can actually take a walk. Despite his troubles, Pedroia should continue to be out there everyday.

Individual Play Logs

You may have noticed there’s a new tab in the player pages called “Play Log”. This will give you every single play for the selected player in any given year. It’s currently sorted by WPA so you can easily tell which plays were the most/least important.

It’s a little slow for my tastes and I’ll see what I can do to speed it up. Sorting is currently disabled because it was extremely slow. If you desperately want to do sorting, you can add “&sort=wpa” query string to the end of the url. The options for the querystring are “li”, “braa”, “wpa”, and “day”. Update: Sorting is now enabled, but you can no longer click on the play to find out the pitch sequence. I’ll get that fixed soon enough.

This is still pretty bare-bones right now, but I’m sure as the season goes on there will be substantial improvements.

Fly Balls and Groundball Pitchers

In today’s Hardball Times, Matthew Carruth did an analysis on extreme groundball pitchers and how they do not really give up more home runs-per-fly ball (HR/FB) than your typical pitcher. There has been some thought that extreme groundball pitchers do tend to give up more HR/FB because they’re only allowing fly balls when they throw a bad pitch, thus making it easier to hit the ball out of the park. Carruth’s analysis even suggests that the opposite might be true, though the correlation was quite weak.

I decided to run a similar analysis using data from 2002 to the present. The average HR/FB rate during that same period is 10.7%. If we look at the 2002-present totals of all pitchers with a groundball percentage (GB%) greater than 55% and more than 100 innings pitched, they have an average HR/FB of 12.2%. That 12.2% is not a weighted average, it’s just a simple average of each qualified pitcher’s HR/FB.

Using the same method, if you look at pitchers with a GB% less than 35%, they have an average HR/FB of 9.9%.

Now I’ll admit this is a much simpler approach than the route Carruth took, but the results seem to be considerably different and I wondered why this would be the case.

First off, if you use my approach with the 20 pitchers Carruth selected in each group, you come to the same conclusions as Carruth did. This leads me to believe the batted ball data from Retrosheet (which Carruth used) and the batted ball data from Baseball Info Solutions don’t quite match up.

Just taking a quick look at the top 10 players, their GB% don’t match. For exampe, Retrosheet has Brandon Webb with a GB% of over 70% and BIS has him at 65%. That’s the first difference.

The second difference is that the time period he used was between 1988 and 2006 where the HR/FB according to Retrosheet was 13.57%. This is considerably different than the HR/FB of 10.7% that Baseball Info Solutions reports between the 2002-present time period. Using the 13.57% for all pitchers over a 18 year period where there’s been some considerable influx in home run totals is probably going to cause some issues as well.

To me it seems there is at least some evidence that extreme groundball pitchers as a group do give up more HR/FB than your typical pitcher. The two most extreme groundball pitchers in the past 5 years have an average HR/FB of 15.5% (Brandon Webb) and 13.1% (Derek Lowe).

The other option is it really has nothing to do with GB% at all (sampling size issue maybe?) and it’s just that some extreme groundball pitchers tend to have higher HR/FB. In their case instead of regressing to the league average, you’d just regress to the player’s actual average; treating it more like you’d treat a batter’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) than you would a pitcher’s BABIP.

Odds of Catching a Foul Ball

The other day I attended an Orioles game and just like every other baseball game I’ve been to in my entire life, I didn’t catch a foul ball. I didn’t catch a home run ball either, but that would have been impossible where I was sitting.

While I was watching a few lucky fans snag souvenirs, I wondered what my chances of catching a foul ball actually were. Doing some quick back of the envelope calculations, I figured there were maybe 30 balls a game hit into the stands, and maybe around 30,000 fans at each game. If that were the case, about 1 in every 1000 fans would walk away with a foul ball/home run.

In reality, there were 120,946 foul balls and home runs during the 2005 season and 74,915,268 fans in attendance that same year, which ends up being about 1 in every 619 fans end up with a ball. This is probably better than the actual odds since not all foul balls are hit into the stands.

If we were to say half of all foul balls were hit onto the field and the other half hit into the stands then the odds jump to 1 in 1189.

Finally, there are some places in a stadium where you couldn’t possibly catch a foul ball, and other places where you’d likely increase your chances, making that 1 in 1189 is hardly 100% accurate, but good enough for a rough estimate.

Odds are, the only way I’ll be getting a baseball at a game, is at the souvenir stand.

The Top 10 – Week of 4/30/2007

I haven’t been blogging much in the past couple weeks, but I’m hoping to turn over a new leaf with this past week’s FanGraphs top 10. There are more than a few surprises:

1. John Maine – The momentary Major League ERA leader (1.35) is also this week’s #1 player on FanGraphs. He’s been getting a lot of hype and some skepticism lately. I think everyone can agree he’s not as good as his 1.35 ERA, but I think there’s still a lot to like.

2. Barry Bonds – He hit 2 home runs this week and is now just 12 shy of breaking Hank Aaron’s record. He’s playing like the past 2 years didn’t happen.

3. Alex Rodriguez – Since hitting 2 home runs on April 23rd, A-Rod has now gone 41 at-bats without a single home run. I wonder if for every record breaking streak, there’s an equal (and opposite) record breaking slump?

4. David Wright – The other New York third-baseman has been in a season long slump. He’s both walking and striking out more, while his Isolated Power (ISO) has been cut in half. What’s the statistical culprit? A failure to get the ball off the ground.

5. Derek Jeter – The other and still “true” Yankee always seems to make the top 10. He’s having a pretty nice season which isn’t all that different from his MVP seas… oh wait… nevermind.

6. B.J. Upton – The rookie is having a phenomenal year and apparently everyone wants to see what all the hoopla’s about. Upon further inspection, he’s striking out only 38% of the time which puts him right there in Ryan Howard and Adam Dunn territory (sans the high walk rate). My magic 8 ball tells me this about his hot start: “Outlook Not So Good”. That’s how I do all my analysis, by the way.

7. David Bush – I’m a big David Bush fan and it could just be me visiting his page ever so frequently that pushed him up to #7 of the list. Despite his ERA over 6, he has the 3rd highest K/BB in baseball. Good things should happen soon.

8. Manny Ramirez – As soon as A-Rod started slumping, Manny started to pick things up. Since A-Rod hit his last home runs, Manny has batted just over .300 with 7 walks and 3 home runs, including a 2 home run game on May 3rd.

9. James Shields – This guy is looking really really good and should be on everyone’s radar. Few pitchers in the history of baseball have struck out over a batter an inning while walking under 2 batters per 9 innings. In fact, there have been just 11 starting pitchers to do it in a single season. Bruce Sutter, Tom Seaver, Sandy Koufax, Jason Schmidt, Johan Santana, Ben Sheets, Roy Oswalt, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson make up the 11.

10. Ichiro Suzuki – He’s off to a slow start, which apparently is concern enough for him to make his first top 10 list. He’s still getting infield hits but his BABIP is considerably below his norm. Fortunately for him, there’s still some 5 months of baseball left to right the ship.

Team Win Probability Blogs

If you haven’t noticed, there are a few new team blogs currently on FanGraphs. Garth Sears (Royals), Erik Manning (Cardinals) and our latest addition Tito Crafts (Red Sox) have been doing a fantastic job looking at games from a Win Probability angle, among other things.

If you have an idea for a baseball related blog, whether it be team specific or something entirely different, and you’re looking for a place to get started, feel free to send me a note. From there we can talk in more detail. You can either fill out a contact form, or e-mail me at