Archive for June, 2011

Athletics Deal Mark Ellis, Commit to Jemile Weeks

Jemile Weeks has been as advertised for Oakland. Through his first 20 games, the younger Weeks has compiled a .303/.346/.461 line to go with six stolen bases in eight attempts, adding up to a .359 wOBA and a 131 wRC+. The second baseman of the future for the Athletics has quickly become the second baseman of the present.

Just as quickly, Mark Ellis became the second baseman of the past for the Athletics. His ineffectiveness had those around the A’s discussing Weeks’s impending arrival; his early-June hamstring injury began the Weeks era. At his return, the A’s had a decision to make. The A’s decided quickly, moving the venerable second baseman to Colorado for pitcher Bruce Billings and a player to be named later. The trade sees the exit of a player who defines the Moneyball Athletics, as Ellis compiled $83.5 million worth of value for only $27.3 million in salary as an Athletic.

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Riggleman: A Beggar Who Thought He Was a Chooser

When Jim Riggleman fired himself last week after winning 11 of his last 12 games with the Nationals, it was weird at first and only got weirder the more you thought about it. Jim Riggleman isn’t a great manager. His career record is 662-824. As Tom Boswell has written, he has “the worst record in baseball history of any 12-year manager.” Some analysts suggested that Riggleman didn’t want to resign, he just wanted to bluff Mike Rizzo into picking up his option year. But Jim Riggleman is a mediocre manager of bad baseball teams. He is not a man with a great deal of leverage: he is a beggar who thought he was a chooser. And unless another team boss makes a decision as foolish as Riggleman’s, he will never manage in the major leagues again.

According to GM Mike Rizzo, Riggleman gave an ultimatum: if he wasn’t given an extension before the team left for Chicago, he wasn’t getting on the bus. When Riggleman didn’t get his extension, he explained to reporters that the reason he quit was that his one-year contract was intolerable, and “I’m too old to be disrespected.” Riggleman’s hometown newspaper, the Washington Post, spent the next several days trying to come up with an explanation for why he did what he did. They couldn’t. Dave Sheinin and Adam Kilgore quoted an unnamed acquaintance of Riggleman’s as saying, “I can’t think of a single way in which Jim’s life is going to be better because of this… And I can think of a hundred ways it will be worse.”
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Tigers Move Coke to Bullpen

When the Detroit Tigers acquired Phil Coke in early 2010, they floated the idea of using him as a starter. Although he had appeared exclusively in relief as a major leaguer, Coke worked as a starter in the minor leagues until his promotion to Triple-A in 2008. Ultimately, the Tigers decided to kept him in the bullpen for the 2010 season (although he did make one start at the end).

Coke pitched well enough as a reliever (3.76 ERA/3.23 FIP) for Detroit to re-visit the idea of moving him to the rotation again this spring. This time, the Tigers followed through on their plan and Coke made 14 starts sandwiched around a brief stint on the disabled list. After dropping to a 1-8 record with a 4.91 ERA following his last start, Tigers manager Jim Leyland announced Coke is moving back to the bullpen.

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One Week Until FanGraphs Live in Long Beach

We’re now just a week away from the west coast debut of FanGraphs Live. We’ve got a great line-up of guests coming, and yesterday, we added Sam Miller of the Orange County Register to the list of attendees. If you missed the earlier announcements, here’s the details:

We’re proud to be teaming up with SABR to host an event at the same location as their national convention, giving you the chance to take your baseball nerdery to a whole new level.

Our event will take place from 7 to 10 pm, and include three interactive panel discussions:

Jon Weisman (Dodger Thoughts), Eric Stephen (True Blue LA), Rich Lederer (Baseball Analysts), and Sam Miller (OC Register) will answer questions and converse on the status of the two local teams, so we’ll begin the evening with an interesting look at the Dodgers and Angels. You will have a chance to ask questions of the panelists, as well as hear them talk about the various topics surrounding those two franchises.

After the local teams panel has concluded, we’ll transition slightly into looking at the national landscape and the game as a whole, and will bring Rob Neyer (SB Nation) and Vince Gennaro (President of SABR, author of Diamond Dollars, consultant to MLB teams) into the discussion. We’ll talk about what we’ve seen during the first half of the 2011 season, as well as some of the more interesting aspects of the current landscape of statistical analysis of the sport.

Finally, we’ll have a FanGraphs-centric Q&A with members of our staff, including the aforementioned Mr. Keri, David Appelman (President of FanGraphs), Carson Cistulli (NotGraphs specialist), Eno Sarris (RotoGraphs wizard), and myself.

The event should be a blast and well worth the $20 admission fee. However, the goodness doesn’t end there – anyone who registers for FanGraphs Live is eligible to use the FGNonMember-41 discount code when registering for the SABR convention. That code will give you 15% off any conference registration, whether it is a one day pass ($59, pre-discount), two day pass ($93, pre-discount), or full conference registration ($159, pre-discount). Those of you who are good at math will take note that the registration discount for the full conference is actually more than the cost of attending FanGraphs Live, so if you’re planning on registering for SABR as a non-member, it is actually cheaper to register for our event and then use the discount code than to not attend our event.

Even if you can’t make the whole weekend, however, I’d highly recommend at least a one day pass if you can get away from work. There are a lot of interesting things planned for July 7th, and if you can’t get enough of me on discussion panels, I’ll be participating on a baseball media panel with Russ Stanton (Editor of the LA TImes), Sean Forman (Owner of Baseball Reference), and Bill Squadron (General Manager of Bloomberg Sports) in the afternoon, and Scott Boras will be giving the keynote speech in the morning. You could spend the whole day geeking out about baseball, and no one there would judge you.

You can purchase tickets by using the widget below. We look forward to seeing you guys in three weeks.


The Deal That Keeps Helping the Diamondbacks

Without two key moves last year, the Diamondbacks probably wouldn’t find themselves in contention for a playoff spot. While the team’s offense, fourth in the NL in wOBA, has carried it most of the way to its 44-38 record, the other components are not as impressive. Their team defensive efficiency is right at the league average, so they’re not getting help much there. The starting rotation as a whole hasn’t fared particularly well, ranking 11th in ERA, 10th in FIP, and 14th in xFIP in the NL. But two pitchers are helping keep them afloat, Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson. If not for one trade in the 2009-2010 off-season, they might still be crawling in the basement.

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A Baseball Argument 13 Years in the Making

Because FanGraphs wasn’t around in 1998, a golden opportunity was missed. That year, Sammy Sosa launched 20 home runs in June, the most for any month in baseball history. However, he did not have the best offensive month of all time. He was not even the best hitter in June of 1998. Hop in the time machine and follow me back to the age of steroids, The Truman Show and Master P in order to re-examine the month Slammin’ Sammy rose to stardom.

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Matt Klaassen FanGraphs Chat – 6/30/11


All-Star Game: Reward or Showcase

On Tuesday, Justin Inaz wrote an article for The Hardball Times laying out who he would like to see on this year’s All-Star team, using projection data rather than seasonal data to select the players. I found his article interesting, but disagreed with the premise, so we argued about what the All-Star Game should be. That conversation is below.

Dave: Over at THT, you relayed a sentiment about the All-Star Game, and in particular, your dislike for the way it is treated as a reward of small sample flukes. You even called the game itself a “frustrating experience” because of how much luck can influence decisions over which players are named to the team each year. In the article, you suggest that we’d be better off if the teams were chosen by systems designed to estimate a player’s current true talent levels, with 2011 year-to-date stats playing a small role in who is selected to represent their teams at the event.

First off, am I re-stating your position accurately? Is there anything you’d like to add to that summary, or an aspect of your view that I left out?

Justin: My position is that All Star Games should be about showcasing the best players, not the players who have gotten lucky. Whether we use projections or not is a matter of personal choice (maybe the alternative is scouting? Or some combination of both?), but projections are a good way to estimate player talent level.

I actually think that a lot of fans (a majority?) agree with the notion that All Star Games should be a showcase of the best talent. That is how they seem to be advertised. It’s just that we (fans, media industry, etc) put far too much weight on a player’s current-season statistics when judging talent. 2011 statistics do matter, and we absolutely should use them as part of the evaluation process. But we shouldn’t ignore what players have done, for example, in the past calendar year, or in prior years. As it is, second-half performances get almost no consideration in All Star selection, which I think is absurd.

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The Morning After: Game Recaps for June 29th

Cubs 2, Giants 1

Moving the Needle: Aramis Ramirez walks off with a single, +.368 WPA. Neither team scored through six, but in the seventh the Cubs led off with a double and a single to record the first run. The Giants added theirs in the top of the ninth, also after a leadoff double and a single. An intentional walk and a single loaded up the bases, but a ground ball double play ended the threat. That would have been the biggest WPA swing if not for Ramirez’s walk-off single with two outs in the ninth.

Notables

Ryan Dempster: 8 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 6 K. The run scored after Carlos Marmol came on in relief, though Dempster did allow the leadoff double to set up the tying run.

Tim Lincecum: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 9 K. One of the walks was intentional. That’s seven out of 17 starts with nine or more strikeouts.


Also in this issue: Angels 1, Nationals 0 | Indians 6, Diamondbacks 2 | Cardinals 5, Orioles 1 | Mets 16, Tigers 9 | White Sox 3, Rockies 2 | Twins 1, Dodgers 0 | Rangers 3, Astros 2 | Yankees 5, Brewers 2 | Phillies 2, Red Sox 1 | Marlins 3, A’s 1 | Padres 4, Royals 1 | Braves 5, Mariners 3 | Reds 4, Rays 3 | Blue Jays 2, Pirates 1

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Zack Greinke Can’t Catch a Break

The Milwaukee Brewers’ acquisition of Zack Greinke was arguably the biggest move of the offseason. With Greinke and Yovani Gallardo at the top of the Brewers’ rotation — and Shaun Marcum slotting in at number three — the Brewers looked like legitimate World Series contenders. Unfortunately, Greinke’s time as a Brewer has been tarnished by extremely poor luck. First, a rib injury — which he suffered playing basketball — sidelined Greinke’s Brewers’ debut until May. Since then, his performance on the field hasn’t matched up to the hype. Through eleven starts this season, Greinke carries a 5.63 ERA. A look at Greinke’s peripherals, however, reveals a pitcher experiencing one of the best seasons of his career.
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