Archive for January, 2011

Does Carl Crawford’s Platoon Split Matter?

Carl Crawford was widely considered to be the biggest prize among position players this offseason, and it was no surprise that he got the big money from the Boston Red Sox. However, historically he has had a lot of trouble with left-handed pitching. It’s one thing to point out that platoon splits can be expected to regress pretty heavily to league average. But beyond that issue, how much does his platoon split really matter, anyway?

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Thanks Rob

While I generally prefer to write about baseball rather than baseball writers, today, I’m making an exception, because as you may have heard by now, today is Rob Neyer’s last day with ESPN. And, in many ways, we owe Rob a huge debt of gratitude.

For myself and those in the 30 and under category, Rob Neyer was our Bill James. When my family got AOL in the mid-1990s, one of the first places I headed for was ESPNet SportsZone. It took forever to load, but it was a place devoted solely to sports, and far more interesting than anything I could get from the local papers, especially on the baseball side. They even had a column called Chin Muzak, written by some guy I’d never heard of, and he said crazy things.

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Adventures in Swinging Strike Rate vs. K Rate

A few weeks ago, Eno Sarris took a look at a few batters with high swinging-strike rates and average strikeout rates, showing that a batter with a penchant for (or weakness in) whiffing on pitches doesn’t necessarily post as a high number of strikeouts as you would expect. Josh Hamilton, Delmon Young, and Vladimir Guerrero were identified as players who combine decent strikeout rates with high swinging-strike rates. These batters are characterized by their below-average walk rates while being known as free-swingers. Their aggressive approach presents both fewer strikeout opportunities and fewer walk opportunities as they try to put the ball in play early in the count.

This got me thinking: Since there are batters who can avoid strikeouts who presumably swing early, are there batters who get too many strikeouts because they don’t swing enough? I mean, clearly swinging strikes are not the only way to strike out a batter, and a batter who leaves his bat on the shoulder too often will get lots of called strikes. A conservative approach with few swings at anything in the hopes of drawing a walk could backfire. Such batters do exist — it’s just about identifying who they are.

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Position Players by WAR: Expansion Era

Baseball Prehistory | Deadball Era | Liveball Era | Post-War
Expansion | Free Agency | Modern Era

The Expansion Era saw the Major Leagues grow from 16 teams in 1959 to 24 teams in 1975. The Washington Senators moved to Minnesota in 1960, and MLB decided to expand earlier than planned at risk of losing its anti-trust exemption. The new Washington Senators would become the Texas Rangers in 1972. They were joined by the Los Angeles Angels in the same year. 1962 saw the Houston Colt .45s and the New York Mets join the Majors, followed by the Kansas City Royals, Seattle Pilots (later to become the Milwaukee Brewers), San Diego Padres, and the international addition of the first Canadian Team, the Montreal Expos.

I cut off the Expansion Era at 1975, right before Free Agency took hold, but there were two new teams formed in 1977: the Seattle Mariners, and the Toronto Blue Jays.

If you looked at a map of the MLB in 1950, this is what it would look like:

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Who Would Want Jose Reyes?

Over the weekend, the following passage was found in Buster Olney’s column (sorry, “Insiders” only)

By the way: Some rival executives are convinced that the Mets’ financial situation all but ensures that Jose Reyes — who stands to be in the running for a nine-figure contract as a free agent next fall if he stays healthy and has a good year — will be traded before the July 31 deadline. That’s all speculation at this point.

This rumor may seem a bit dubious to some. After all, Reyes isn’t the only Met heading into the final year of his contract. Carlos Beltran, Francisco Rodriguez, Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo qualify here as well, and all but Castillo are slated to make more than Reyes, so if a straight salary dump is the order of the day, the Mets have plenty of options. But let’s pretend for a minute that there’s something to this – who would want Reyes in 2011?
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Finding Value on the Relief Market

Teams’ perpetual need for bullpen help turned into a bull market for relievers this winter. To date 17 relief pitchers have signed multi-year contracts, totaling $202.6 million. Only three of those pitchers — Mariano Rivera, J.J. Putz, and Kevin Gregg — will serve as his team’s regular closer. They account for $50 million, meaning that the remaining 14 middle relievers have combined for a $152.6 million pay day, and that just counts the multi-year crew. Finding value on the relief market has proven a bit tough this year, but there are a couple of remaining players who could provide a team with quality relief innings on the cheap.

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A Look Ahead: The Braves And Free Agency

This is the first of a series of guest posts that we’ll be publishing from Ben Nicholson-Smith, one of the lead writers for MLB Trade Rumors. The guys over at MLBTR have an interesting perspective on things, and we thought it would be fun to give Ben a chance to share his views on a few different topics with the FanGraphs crowd.

Frank Wren hasn’t relied on free agency since taking over as the Braves’ GM; he handed out just two multiyear free agent deals in his first three offseasons in charge. This winter, as division rivals like the Nationals and Phillies committed hundreds of millions to the top available players, the Braves have spent a modest $2.65 million on Major League free agents – less than Jayson Werth or Cliff Lee makes in a month.

The Braves are approaching free agency like a small-market team, but unlike the Indians and Royals, the Braves have sustained payrolls in the $85-100 million range for the past decade and are built to contend in 2011. It’s not that they can’t spend on free agents, it’s that they didn’t have to.

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Choosing Up Sides for MLB’s All-Star Game

Welcome to the 2011 MLB All-Star draft! Here at FanGraphs, we were so impressed by the cool format of the NHL All-Stars selection that we’ve decided to appoint two captains and choose sides in the same way. Dave Cameron and I will be the captains, with Dave going first, and each captain picking two at a time thereafter, until each team has 25 players (we refuse to pick a bloated 90-man roster, or whatever roster size they’re using this year).

The requirements are that you fill out a 25-man roster. You draft your starters the way you would a typical ballot – every position is specific except outfield, where you can take any combination of outfielders you like. Each team must also select at least 11 pitchers, to mimic real life. We’re using Chase Field as the game’s venue, since that’s where the 2011 All-Star Game is being held. Finally, the idea is that every player (or darn close) should play, same as the real All-Star Game.

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Customizable Heat Maps!

At FanGraphs we’re big fans of the heat map. And now customizable heat maps are now available in the pitchf/x sections for all pitchers. Much thanks to Dave Allen for helping me out!

The thing about heat maps is that one size does not always fit all. Depending on the density of pitches and how many pitches are thrown, it’s not always a clear cut case how to display the data. Sometimes you want the points bigger, sometimes you want the “intensity” of each point to be more and sometimes you really want a different color scheme. For instance here’s the same chart, but with the settings changed.

And here is a third chart, with the settings changed one more time, where the points are made smaller but very intense in monochrome.

There’s a lot to play around with here and a lot of options to try and get the best picture possible.

Can Oakland mean a Revival for Andy LaRoche?

Simply looking at Andy LaRoche’s player page, it’s easy to see why the Pittsburgh Pirates non-tendered the third baseman this season. For the second time in three seasons, the younger A. LaRoche was significantly below replacement. In both of those seasons, LaRoche posted a 50 or lower wRC+, a completely useless performances at the plate. Although LaRoche certainly wasn’t bad with the leather, an average-fielding third baseman with no bat gives a team no reason to retain him. For that reason, it’s also no surprise that the best LaRoche could manage was a minor league contract, which he received from the Oakland Athletics last Monday.

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