Archive for October, 2009

Breaking News: Chan Ho Park Is Good

This afternoon, I talked about the reasons why Derek Jeter laying down a bunt in the seventh inning was a good idea (until there were two strikes, anyway). One of the common responses to the support of the bunt in that situation is that Jeter should have been swinging away because, to paraphrase the argument, Chan Ho Park was pitching and Chan Ho Park stinks.

I’m sorry, but this is one of those cases where I just have to scratch my head and wonder how reputations can gain such traction when they are so remarkably wrong. The idea that Park is a bad pitcher, especially out of the bullpen, is downright crazy.

Over the last two years, Park has thrown 179 innings with a FIP of 3.90, good for a value of +1.8 wins. He’s done it by racking up 152 strikeouts while also posting an above average groundball rate, which is a classic recipe for success. Just based on that performance, we’d have to conclude that he’s something like a league average pitcher.

However, those numbers don’t reflect the actual level of Park’s effectiveness as a reliever. They also include his failures in the rotation, where he was unable to sustain his velocity and got pounded as a result. When moved back to the bullpen, his stuff improved by leaps and bounds, as you can see in his velocity chart below.

1267_P_FA_20090916

Park’s FIP as a relief pitcher this year? 2.10.

Now, a good chunk of that absurdly low mark is a 0.0% HR/FB rate that isn’t his actual talent level, but even when you adjust for that, he was still a lights out reliever this year, running a 3.25 K/BB rate and holding opposing hitters to a .231/.296/.280 line.

Additionally, Park is a right-handed pitcher with a significant platoon differential established over his entire career. RHBs have hit him at a .227/.311/.355 mark over his career, compared to .271/.368/.447 for LHBs. Jeter, being a right-handed hitter, was up against a right-handed relief pitcher who performs significantly better against same handed batters.

The idea that Jeter should have been swinging away because Chan Ho park was on the mound and a big rally was likely is the opposite of the truth. In reality, he’s a very good relief pitcher with the platoon advantage, and the match-up wasn’t likely to end well for Jeter.


Defending the Jeter Bunt

Over the last 10 years or so, one of the truisms that has been associated with statistical analysis is that bunting is bad. And it’s mostly true – a lot of sacrifice bunting is unproductive and wasteful, and teams would be be better off letting their hitters swing away rather than giving up outs to try to increase their odds of scoring one run. However, as MGL noted in War And Peace his post the other day, laying one down is a correct play more often than a lot of us will admit.

So, with that said, let’s talk about Derek Jeter’s decision to try to move the runners over in the 8th inning last night. The Yankees had just taken a two run lead on Jorge Posada’s single to center, which put runners at first and second with nobody out. At that point, the average win expectancy for a major league club is 92.0 percent. For the Yankees, with Mariano Rivera ready to pitch the 8th and 9th inning, it was almost certainly higher than that.

Rivera, as everyone knows, is not an average closer. He’s probably the best relief pitcher of all time, and he’s in the conversation for greatest postseason pitcher in the history of the game as well. In 85 playoff games, he’s thrown 130 innings and has an ERA of 0.76. He’s given up more than one run in exactly two of those appearances, and in one of them, the Yankees had a four run lead and won anyway.

Every other appearance he’s ever made in the postseason, it’s been zero or one run allowed. So, with a two run lead and Rivera ready, the Yankees were already sitting pretty. Getting one more run would have pushed the average win expectancy to 96 percent, and again, the Yankees real odds would have been even higher than that, thanks to their robo-closer.

Jeter successfully laying down a bunt in the 8th inning would have increased the Yankees odds of scoring one more run from 61.8 percent to 68.9 percent. Moving the runners over would have added seven percent to the odds of Melky Cabrera scoring – that’s a real benefit. The cost of the sacrifice bunt is in the reduced chance of a multi-run inning, but in that situation, there really wasn’t a tangible difference between a three run lead and a 10 run lead. Those additional runs that could have scored in a big rally would have been essentially worthless.

The first two Jeter bunt attempts will be criticized by members of the statistical community as part of the reflexive don’t-bunt-ever strategy that has gained too much popularity, but they were the right play. The two-strike bunt attempt really was a bad idea (the additional cost of a foul turning into an out reduces the odds enough to make swinging away more likely to produce a single run, which was the original goal), but the first two stabs at it, Jeter was making the right play.

Playing for one run can be the right move, especially when you have Mariano Rivera ready to come into the game.

By the way, since I’ve been so hard on Girardi in the playoffs, let me just say that using Rivera for the six out save was absolutely the right call, and an important one to get right. Kudos to him for not letting an inferior reliever start the inning.


Colletti’s Answer Is Under His Nose

Los Angeles Dodgers GM Ned Colletti discussed some of his offseason priorities on the Dan Patrick show on Thursday (which can be heard here). Colletti discussed, among other things, addressing second base with offseason moves. After all, it is hardly surprising that any team starting Ron Belliard at 2B in the playoffs would look to improve at that position.

The free agent market at 2B is pretty bare. R.J. already discussed Felipe Lopez, who is a type A free agent who just completed a career year at age 30. Placido Polanco will be the only other type A free agent to hit the market, assuming San Francisco picks up Freddy Sanchez’s option. Akinori Iwamura is another interesting option. Iwamura is coming off of injury and his 4.25M option will likely be too expensive for the Rays to exercise, especially given Ben Zobrist’s rise.

Iwamura’s skills play as those of an average 2B, or a rough 2.25 win player. There is one other free agent who won’t cost the Dodgers any draft picks and plays at or above that level. That player, Orlando Hudson, was on the Dodgers roster this season. His one-year, incentive-laden contract expired, leaving him again in the undesirable position of a type-A free agent in a declining market. Hudson’s contract incentives earned him just under $8M overall. As a 3 win player, that’s roughly $4 million in surplus value.

Hudson is 32, but his type A status will allow the Dodgers to make a move for a team-favorable one-year deal. His .342 wOBA was his worst since 2005, but with park adjustment, his offensive contribution equaled his contribution in 2008, when he had a .358 wOBA with Arizona. His fielding in recent years doesn’t stand up to his time with the Blue Jays (+27 UZR in four years), and has slipped below average in recent years. Still, his hitting well outweighs any defensive shortcomings. He hasn’t been below 2 WAR since 2003. He gives you consistency at the plate and in the field, and most importantly, the Dodgers are in an excellent position to bargain with Hudson.

Unless the Dodgers are willing to give away draft picks and sign Placido Polanco or take a chance on a 30-year-old average player coming off injury in the form of Akinori Iwamura, there is really only one option for Los Angeles. Re-sign Orlando Hudson, and maybe play him this time if they make it back to the postseason.


The Red Sox/Jason Bay Rumor

The Red Sox may employ the smartest front office in baseball, which is why this tweet from Jon Heyman makes little sense. Heyman suggests the Red Sox are willing (and able) to offer Jason Bay a four-year deal worth approximately $15M per season.

Bay turned 31 about three weeks ago and is fresh from his best season in years. Since moving to the American League in July 2008, Bay has seen his strikeout rate leap in upwards to 30%. Bay strikes out, walks, and hits home runs. Two of those qualities are great to have and make the third tolerable. The problem begins with his age. He’s on the wrong side of 30 and while he does play in a notoriously hitter-friendly ballpark, his bat is likely to decline over the next four years instead of remain static or (somehow) improve.

This would be fine if Bay’s value was supplemented by playing a key defensive position or at least playing defense moderately well. Instead, Bay is anything but a black hole in left. Bay has posted negative UZR in each season since 2004 with the exception of 2006. His arm has never been good, and whatever range he has left isn’t enough to make up for it.

Over the last three seasons, Bay has been wroth 3.4, 2.9, and 0.1 WAR. In dollar terms, he’s been worth more than 15 million exactly once. Maybe Boston has a defensive evaluation system that says Bay is better than UZR gives him credit for. Fans of the Red Sox certainly don’t see it that way, as they ranked him near Raul Ibanez and Alfonso Soriano in the Fans Scouting Report.

Boston has the resources to overpay for someone they really want, which is why settling on Bay before making a run at Matt Holliday is a bit bewildering. Yes, Scott Boras is the agent for Holliday and if the Yankees get involved things will get out of hand, but since when has that mattered for the Sox? Maybe Boston just wants to get this out of the way so they can focus their attention on Adrian Gonzalez or Felix Hernandez or whoever, but it still doesn’t make it the right move.


WS Coverage: Girardi Screws Up The Line-Up

Someone warn PETA – a dead horse is about to get kicked again. That horse, of course, is Joe Girardi and his never ending ability to put a less than ideal Yankee team on the field in critical situations.

If you haven’t heard, tonight’s Yankee line-up features both Jerry Hairston Jr playing right field in lieu of Nick Swisher and Jose Molina catching instead of Jorge Posada. Now, ordinarily, this would just be a bad move, an overreaction to last night’s poor offensive showing against a great pitcher. But, given the match-ups, this is borderline malpractice.

The Phillies are sending Pedro Martinez to the hill tonight. Pedro, as you probably know, is right-handed. Also right-handed? Hairston and Molina. You know who has the ability to hit from the left hand side? Posada and Swisher. If you’re going to put Hairston in for Swisher, you essentially have to do it against an LHP, where the disparity in talent is minimized. If only a LHP like Cole Hamels was starting game three on Saturday. Oh, wait, he is.

Against a lefty, at least the two sub-par reserves have the platoon advantage. Putting Hairston in for Swisher against a right-hander is just nutty.

The Molina thing perhaps shouldn’t be as surprising, since A.J. Burnett takes the hill for New York tonight. Girardi has tied those two together due to an irresponsible reliance on catcher ERA – if ever there was a stat that showed the misdiagnoses of correlation and causation, this is it – even as Burnett got bombed with Molina behind the plate in the first inning of his last start. However, Joe thinks that the comfort of his starting pitcher is more important than having a good hitter in the line-up.

The problem, however, is that the Yankees took Francisco Cervelli off the playoff roster before the World Series began. Now, New York is only carrying two catchers, taking away the safety net that allowed Girardi to pinch hit Posada early in previous games that Molina began. If he does that again tonight, he’s essentially gambling that Posada will not get hurt after he enters the game, because with Molina already out of the game, there’s no viable replacement for Posada at that point.

Regradless of whether he takes that risk or not, the cost of starting Molina is higher without Cervelli on the roster. Girardi had to know he was going to do this in game two, so then swapping out Cervelli for Brian Bruney doesn’t really make much sense. Of course, that just makes this fit in with the rest of Girardi’s postseason maneuvers.

The Yankees are still likely to win tonight. But man, their manager seems intent on tying their hands behind their back. You don’t get points for degree of difficulty, Joe – just put your best team on the field and get out of the way.


Breaking Down Burnett

A.J. Burnett, the veteran starter with the New York Yankees, has made three post-season starts in 2009. The right-hander has gone from quite good to OK to pretty bad in his three starts, which makes a person wonder just what to expect in Game Two of the World Series. With the Yankees having lost the opening game of the series, this is an important match-up for the top team in the American League. The squad needs to take at least one game at home before heading to Philadelphia for Games Three, Four and Five.

Let’s breakdown Burnett’s best post-season performance — against the Minnesota Twins on Oct. 9 (.205 WPA) — and his worst game — against the Angels on Oct. 22 (-.350 WPA). Hopefully, we can can a feel for what to expect from Burnett in Game Two of the World Series.

Oct. 9 – A.J. Burnett (vs Minnesota)

(Note: __/K means the pitch was a strike a foul ball or put in play; the absence of /K means it was a ball)

1st Inning:
Batter 1: FB/K | CB/K | FB/K (fly out)
Batter 2: FB/K | FB/K (ground out)
Batter 3: FB | FB/K | FB | CB | FB (walk)
Batter 4: CB | FB/K | FB/K | CB/K (strikeout swinging)
Pitches: 5 Balls | 9 Strikes (14 total)

Observations: Burnett had success when he was able to get ahead in the count. The heater was his preferred method of beginning an at-bats.

2nd Inning:
Batter 1: FB | FB/K | FB/K | FB/K (single)
Batter 2: CB/K | CB/K | CB/K (strikeout swinging)
Batter 3: FB/K | CB/K | FB | CB/K (ground out)
Batter 4: FB/K | CB | FB/K | CB/K (ground out)
Pitches: 3 Balls | 12 Strikes (15 total)

Observations: Burnett again went to the fastball to get ahead and utilized his curve as his out-pitch. He was showing enough curveball command to wipe out a fastball-hitter in Delmon Young on three straight curves. Burnett’s nearly unhittable when he’s commanding that curveball.

3rd Inning:
Batter 1: FB/K | FB | FB | FB | FB/K | FB (walk)
Batter 2: FB | FB/K (ground out)
Batter 3: FB/K (fly out)
Batter 4: FB/K | FB/K | CB/K (strikeout looking)
Pitches: 5 Balls | 7 Strikes (12 total)

Observations: Burnett loves the heater but the command of it escapes him at times, usually early in the half-inning after he’s been sitting.

4th Inning:
Batter 1: CB/K | CH/K | CB/K (strikeout swinging)
Batter 2: FB | FB/K (pop up)
Batter 3: CB | FB (hit batter)
Batter 4: CB/K | FB | FB (hit batter)
Batter 5: FB/K (single, runner thrown out at third)
Pitches: 5 Balls | 5 Strikes (10 total)

Observations: Burnett lacked command with the fastball in the fourth inning but instead of taking a couple pitches, the fifth batter swung at the first pitch after watching two players get plunked. He went first-pitch curves to a couple of fastball hitters.

5th Inning:
Batter 1: FB | FB | FB/K | FB/K | CB/K (strikeout looking)
Batter 2: CB/K | CB/K | CB | CB | FB/K (ground out)
Batter 3: FB | FB | FB/K | FB/K | FB | CB (walk)
Batter 4: CB | FB | FB | FB/K | FB (walk)
Batter 5: FB/K | FB | CB/K | CB/K (ground out)
Pitches: 13 Balls | 12 Strikes (25 total)

Observations: The fastball command got away from Burnett and he struggled with just two pitches. He continued to use his curveball against weak breaking ball hitters.

6th Inning:
Batter 1: CB/K (ground out)
Batter 2: CB/K | FB | CB/K | CB | CB | FB/K | FB (walk)
Batter 3: CB/K | FB/K | CB/K (strikeout swinging)
Batter 4: CB | FB/K | FB | CB | FB/K (triple)
Batter 5: FB/K | CB/K (ground out)
Pitches: 7 Balls | 11 Strikes (18 total)

Observations: Burnett still did not have his fastball command in the sixth inning so he relied heavily on the breaking ball by throwing seven of them during his first 11 pitches of the inning.

Overall, Burnett allowed just one run in six innings of work. He gave up three hits and five walks, while striking out six batters. Burnett allowed eight ground balls and three fly balls in the game. Once his ability to command the fastball disappeared, the night was over for the veteran hurler.

Oct. 22 – A.J. Burnett (vs Los Angeles)

1st Inning:
Batter 1: FB | FB | FB | FB/K | FB (Walk)
Batter 2: FB/K | FB/K (Hit)
Batter 3: CB/K (Hit)
Batter 4: FB/K (Hit)
Batter 5: SL(?) | CB | FB/K (Hit)
Batter 6: FB/K | CB | CB/K | CB | CB/K (Fly out)
Batter 7: FB/K | CB/K | CB | CB/K (Double play)
Pitches: 9 Balls | 12 Strikes (21 Total)

Observations: The two first-pitch hits suggest that the hitters were pretty comfortable with the scouting report and Burnett and had a good idea what was coming. Once he was able to get ahead in the count with batters six and seven, Burnett had success. He’s established that he’s trying to pitch off of the fastball and finish hitters off with the curve. The slider is a possibly a show-me pitch, or more likely a misdiagnosed curve.

2nd Inning:
Batter 1: FB | FB | FB/K | FB/K | FB/K (single)
Batter 2: FB/K (double play)
Batter 3: FB/K (fly out)
Pitches: 2 Balls | 5 Strikes (7 total)

Observations: This is a case of the Angels batters being too aggressive. Batter 1 had a nice approach and took some pitches but the second and third hitters both jumped at the first pitches in each at-bat, even though Burnett was on the ropes. The pitcher kept to his game plan and threw first pitch fastballs in all three at-bats.

3rd Inning:
Batter 1: FB | FB/K | CB/K | CB/K (strikeout swinging)
Batter 2: CB | CB | FB/K | CB | CB (walk)
Batter 3: FB/K | FB | FB/K | FB | CB | FB/K (fielder’s choice)
Batter 4: FB\K | FB | FB/K | CB/K | FB/K (fly out)
Pitches: 9 Balls | 11 Strikes (20 total)

Observations: Good things happen when you get ahead in the count. The Angels batters did a nice job of taking some pitches.

4th Inning:
Batter 1: FB/K | FB | CB/K (ground out)
Batter 2: CB/K (fly out)
Batter 3: FB/K | CB\K (double)
Batter 4: FB/K | FB/K | CB/K (ground out)
Pitches: 1 Ball | 8 strikeouts (9 total)

Observations: With all four batters, Burnett threw first-pitch strikes with positive results in three cases. He’s established his ability to throw strikes with two plus pitches. We have yet to see his third pitch. And again we see the pattern of fastballs early in the count and curve balls to close it out.

5th Inning:
Batter 1: FB/K | FB | CB/K | CB/K (strikeout swinging)
Batter 2: FB/K | CB | CB | FB | FB/K (ground out)
Batter 3: FB/K (single)
Batter 4: CB | FB/K (fly out)
Pitches: 5 Balls | 7 Strikes (12 total)

Observations: Burnett goes first-pitch heater with the first three until he gives up a hit. He then switches gears with the curveball.

6th Inning:
Batter 1: FB | CH(?) | FB | FB/K | FB\K | CB/K | FB/K | FB/K | CB/K (strikeout swinging)
Batter 2: FB\K (ground out)
Batter 3: CB/K (ground out)
Pitches: 3 Balls | 8 Strikes (11 total)

Observations: To have a pitcher throw nine pitches to the first batter and then get out of the inning with just 11 thrown is ridiculous. The Angels batters were far too aggressive again. We also see the first changeup from Burnett… perhaps a sign that he’s feeling fatigued? The heater was still touching 96 mph, although not quite as consistently as earlier in the game.

7th Inning:
Batter 1: FB | FB/K | FB/K (single)
Batter 2: FB/K | CB/K | CB | FB | CB | FB (walk)
Batter 3: Pitching change
Pitches: 5 Balls | 4 strikes (9 total)

Observations: First pitch fastballs again, but Burnett was then unable to put away the second batter after getting ahead 0-2.

Overall, Burnett allowed six runs on eight hits and three walks in six-plus innings of work. Two of the runs charged to him scored after he left the game in the seventh inning. He struck out three batters, while inducing 10 ground balls and five fly balls.

* * *

Here is what we know: Burnett is going to throw you either a fastball or a curveball. He’s going to try and get ahead with the fastball before finishing batters off with a curve. He tends to stick with the fastball until (a) he gets two strikes, or (b) the hitters start to make contact with the heater on foul balls. If he gives up a hit on the fastball, he tends to come back with a first-pitch curveball in the next at-bat. If Burnett is facing a batter that is a strong fastball hitter but with a weakness for off-speed pitches, then he’ll put the heater in his back pocket.

If Burnett is commanding both the fastball and the curveball, then it’s going to be a long night for the Phillies hitters. However, because he only throws two pitches, the loss of command on just one pitch can cause havoc for Burnett. If his command starts to falter, the hitters must show some patience against the right-hander, which the Angels club failed to do; as a result, they were unable to hammer the final nail in Burnett’s coffin and get into the bullpen. The lefty-heavy Phillies lineup is in tough considering the Yankees pitcher’s regular-season splits (.217/.310/.344 vs left-handed batters, .282/.366/.450 vs right-handed).


Cliff Lee, Ace

Regardless of your rooting interests last night, you had to be impressed by the complete domination of Cliff Lee. The Yankees have a great offense, but he made them look foolish all night, keeping all-star hitters off-balance with a mix of pitches that don’t look like they should be that hard to hit. He set the tone from the first hitter of the game, striking Derek Jeter out with this three pitch sequence:

Fastball, 91 MPH, foul
Curveball, 75 MPH, foul
Cutter, 85 MPH, strikeout

This was just a clinic on how to pitch. He changed speeds, eye level, and movement, finally putting Jeter away on a pitch up in the zone that, on it’s own, is pretty hittable. You generally don’t want to throw 85 MPH at the top of the strike zone, but Lee had set that pitch up perfectly with his first two offerings, and got a good contact hitter to swing right through it.

He had everything working last night, including a nasty curveball that Fox never tired of talking about. But for me, it was Lee’s change-up that was his true out pitch last night, and the reason he was able to shut down a line-up with some really good right-handed hitters. He threw 21 of them on the evening, 18 of which went for strikes, including five swinging strikes where the opposing hitter was just badly fooled. Actually, let’s just look at all of those change-ups.

1st inning, Mark Teixeira, ball.
2nd inning, Jorge Posada, foul.
2nd inning, Hideki Matsui, swing and a miss.
2nd inning, Robinson Cano, flyout.
3rd inning, Nick Swisher, swing and a miss.
3rd inning, Melky Cabrera, called strike
3rd inning, Johnny Damon, called strike.
4th inning, Mark Teixeira, called strike.
4th inning, Alex Rodriguez, swing and a miss.
4th inning, Alex Rodriguez, swing and a miss.
5th inning, Nick Swisher, ball.
5th inning, Nick Swisher, flyout.
6th inning, Melky Cabrera, flyout.
6th inning, Derek Jeter, ball.
7th inning, Jorge Posada, groundout.
8th inning, Nick Swisher, called strike.
8th inning, Nick Swisher, called strike.
9th inning, Mark Teixeira, groundout.
9th inning, Alex Rodriguez, swing and a miss.
9th inning, Jorge Posada, called strike
9th inning, Jorge Posada, foul.

The final total: three balls, five swinging strikes, six called strikes, two foul, five in play outs. Lee’s change-up was almost perfect. He used it against the power hitting Yankee right-handers, but also mixed it in to lefties effectively as well.

The “spike” curveball might have been the more interesting story for Fox to focus on, but the change-up was what led Lee to pitch one of the best games in World Series history.


WS Coverage: Philadelphia’s Lineup Construction

Here’s how the Philadelphia Phillies lineup card read for the opening game of the World Series last night.

1.Jimmy Rollins, SS
2.Shane Victorino, CF
3.Chase Utley, 2B
4.Ryan Howard, 1B
5.Jayson Werth, RF
6.Raul Ibanez, DH
7.Ben Francisco, LF
8.Pedro Feliz, 3B
9.Carlos Ruiz, CA

It’s possible that nothing here jumps off the page. Rollins and Victorino are typical 1 / 2 hitters; Utley is the Phillies best hitter; Howard fits the cleanup spot perfectly, and the rest of the lineup just sort of falls into place.

However, this is what we see when we look at the handedness of the batters: S-S-L-L-R-L-R-R-R Specifically, what stands out is the fact that Charlie Manuel is unnecessarily batting two left handed batters in a row: Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

Right now, the Yankee bullpen has two left handed relievers in Damaso Marte and Phil Coke, both of whom are more than adequate against left handed batters. Joe Girardi should have no qualms about using either of these pitchers against Utley and Howard in the middle or late innings. This is the situation an opposing manager dreams of with regards to the LOOGY – you can use one of your lefty specialists to get out two batters in a row – in this case, the opponents two best hitters – and still have another one for another situation later in the game.

One of the potential arguments against this line of reasoning is that Chase Utley doesn’t show much of a platoon split and even showed a reverse platoon split this year (see graph). However, from The Book, left handed batters tend to show a platoon split of almost .027 points of wOBA. With the amount of variation present in this statistic, 1,000 PAs – roughly the amount that Utley has vs. LHPs in his career – are required to regress the observed platoon split halfway to the mean. So we should still assume that Utley will perform lower against left handed pitching.

And then consider the fact that Manuel leads his lineup off with two switch hitters. Switch hitters, intuitively, have a tiny platoon split compared to non-switch hitters. Then there’s the simple solution of merely switching Victorino and Utley in the lineup. It breaks the duo of left handed batters, and as an added bonus, batting Utley in the second spot leverages his talent slightly better. In the second spot, Utley will receive more PAs per game and will be less likely to bat with nobody on and 2 outs, as frequently happens in the first inning of games.

This decision had a minimal impact on Manuel’s Phillies in Game 1, as New York’s bullpen pitchers of either hand were ineffective. There is no reason, however, to continue to give your opponent a competitive advantage such as this, and Philly fans should hope to see a lineup change in Game 2.


Atlanta and Hudson Near Extension

Two weeks ago it appeared Tim Hudson was on his way to the land of free agents; however, Ken Rosenthal is now reporting that the 34-year-old has agreed in principle to a three-year extension worth roughly nine million per season. The deal makes sense for both sides. Hudson is a well-established pitcher capable of producing the 2 WAR necessary to make this deal worthwhile on an annual basis, yet injury concerns required Hudson to value security higher than a higher potential payout.

During his last healthy season, Hudson was worth 5.3 WAR. It’s unreasonable to expect him to return and duplicate a season that good, but barring unforeseen setback or re-injury, the Braves have hitched their wagon to Hudson as one of their five opening day starters. Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson figure to be in the same boat. That leaves Kenshin Kawakami, Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez, and Jo-Jo Reyes battling it out for the final two rotation spots. Unless I’m missing something [I was, Reyes has one option remaining]. hat leaves the three starters who only joined the Braves last winter.

Lowe has three years and $45M remaining on his deal; Vazquez is in the final year of his contract worth $11.5M; Kawakami has an additional two seasons of $6.7M per left. That disparity probably keeps Kawakami in Atlanta, meaning it’s a battle of Lowe and Vazquez. Over the last three seasons Vazquez has posted xFIP of 2.89, 3.96, and 3.85; Lowe of 4.18, 3.43, and 3.50. Both had seasons uncharacteristic of previous years in 2009. Those numbers are not adjusted for league difficulty, Lowe has not been nearly a half run per nine innings better than Vazquez over 2007 and 2008.

There are cases to be made for trading either, but what it really comes down to is whether the Braves soured on Lowe (and sweetened on Vazquez) within a span of 12 months.


A Brief Review of Recent World Series

The last time I truly felt this apathetic about a World Series was the 2000 Subway Series. Usually team loyalty transfers over in cases like this, yet there is no lesser evil. The Phillies stole a world title from the Rays grasp with an assist from Mother Nature. The Yankees are the Yankees and they signed ol’ Nature to a contract especially for the post-season it seems. So maybe it comes as a relief when I state that everyone knows about the Phillies and Yankees to the point of ad nauseam and rather than previewing those two teams explicitly I wanted to look at the last 10 World Series and circle some interesting – if completely irrelevant – factoids to watch for in this Fall Classic.

Before leaping into the numbers, some notes on the data set.

As previously noted, this only includes World Series from the year 1999 until 2008. I went through the old game logs and noted the margin of victory and the total runs scored. With that data in tow, we can produce – hopefully – entertaining notes. For those in need of a refresher on what teams were involved, they are as follows:

1999: New York Yankees defeat Atlanta Braves
2000: New York Yankees defeat New York Mets
2001: Arizona Diamondbacks defeat New York Yankees
2002: Anaheim Angels defeat San Francisco Giants
2003: Florida Marlins defeat New York Yankees
2004: Boston Red Sox defeat St. Louis Cardinals
2005: Chicago White Sox defeat Houston Astros
2006: St. Louis Cardinals defeat Detroit Tigers
2007: Boston Red Sox defeat Colorado Rockies
2008: Philadelphia Phillies defeat Tampa Bay Rays

First up is the length of each series. No matter the results of games one-through-three, we will have a game four. The real fun – or lack thereof lately – is when games five, six, and sometimes seven are needed to decide a champion. Four series have ended in clean sweeps (1999, 2004, 2005, and 2007); three more have only gone five games; one has endured six games; and the memorable 2001 and 2002 series went all seven.

The average margin of victory is about three runs throughout, with the highest concentration of run differential coming in game ones. Not sure if there’s any significance there, but game ones also generate the highest run per game average as well. That seems a bit odd considering of the 15 games to have 10 or more total runs scored, only three came in game ones; games two and three also appeared on that last three times and game two features the 2002 series in which 21 total runs were scored.

Surprisingly, those 21 runs combined for a one-run game which is more than what most of the blowouts can attest to. In 2001 the Diamondbacks and Yankees combined for 17 runs, but the undercard D-Backs held a 13 run lead at the end of the game – which marks the highest margin of victory in the set. 2002 (game five) and 2007 (game one) tied for second with 12 run disparities. Oddly enough, those are the only three series to feature a margin of victory over 10 runs, and three of the six to see a margin of victory exceed more than five runs.

Of the 51 World Series games, 22 have been decided by a single run and 37 by three runs or fewer. Not all fit under the standard definition of a save situation – i.e. some were come-from-behind or extra inning walkoff victories – which lessens the significance that the two closers could play in the decision.

I’ll echo Dave’s statements from earlier when I say seven closely contested games would be pretty fantastic and the Pedro Martinez fan that lies beneath would enjoy seeing him pitch one more time like it’s 1999.