Archive for January, 2013

The Sabermetric Revolution, as Applied to Ryan Doumit

Allow me to try to simplify the sabermetric revolution as much as I can:

Late 20th Century: we are evaluating baseball players
Early 21st Century: we were so wrong about our baseball player evaluation!
Less Early 21st Century: we were so wrong about our baseball player evaluation, again!

First, there were players, then there were numbers. Then there were better numbers, then there were still better numbers. The numbers will only continue to improve with time, and a lot of the things we currently think we know about baseball will probably end up being at least partially untrue. Keep that in mind next time you express a particularly strong opinion. But anyway.

Several years ago, people started to care an awful lot about on-base percentage and offensive productivity. This was warranted, because it is important to get on base and be offensively productive. A little later on, people started to care an awful lot about defense. Turns out some of those OBP-happy sluggers were subtracting runs almost as fast as they were adding them. Whoopsadoodle.

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Should MLB Punish A-Rod Based on News Reports?

As Dave Cameron wrote two days ago, multiple reports have emerged about numerous baseball players connected to a clinic in South Florida that dispensed performance-enhancing drugs and has been nicknamed “BALCO East.”

Of course, as Cameron notes, “Rodriguez is going to get the most attention, because he’s Alex Rodriguez.” The Yankees are reportedly exploring all avenues to void the last five years and $114 million of his contract. But this is an interesting case, because, if they succeed, this would be the first time an active player would be successfully punished based on news reports.
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D’Backs Extend Martin Prado

When the Diamondbacks traded Justin Upton to Atlanta last week, the reaction was mostly negative, and was mostly centered around the idea that Arizona traded three years of a young star for a one year rental and some marginal prospects. However, from Arizona’s perspective, they weren’t acquiring one year of Martin Prado; they were acquiring the rights to sign Martin Prado to a long term contract, and they just announced that they’ve done just that.

The four year deal is worth $40 million, according to Ken Rosenthal, and will cover his final season of arbitration eligibility and three years of free agency. He was already set to make approximately $7 million in 2013 — he had asked for $7.05 million, while Atlanta had countered at $6.65 million — so this can essentially be seen as a three year, $33 million extension that covers 2014 through 2016.

Considering what other similar players got in free agency this winter, 3/33 for Prado has a pretty good chance of working out decently for Arizona.

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Will There Be Another Ryan Braun?

I have a theory about front offices, and about baseball organizations in general. It seems to me that everybody’s trending in the direction of getting smarter about the game. There are fewer things within the game to exploit, because everyone’s got better awareness and understandings. I believe that, over time, front offices will come to closely resemble one another, strengthening the correlation between team success and team payroll. The front-office extremes will be closer together, and teams will depend more on money and luck. It’s just a theory and we’re not there yet, but it seems to be a sensible conclusion.

About those extremes, and about better understandings — today, we’re still trying to nail down evaluations of defensive performance. When people complain about WAR, they almost always begin by complaining about UZR, because UZR isn’t perfect or even anywhere close to it. But while we’ve still got a ways to go with regard to defensive quantification, over the last several years tremendous progress has been made. I probably don’t need to explain it to you, because you are smart. We’re getting numbers, the numbers usually aren’t dreadfully inaccurate, and people better understand that defense is important and can make a whale of a difference. Finding good defenders is no longer something to be exploited; defense isn’t nearly as underrated as it used to be.

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Ken Caminiti’s Goody Bag

Ken Caminiti calls it his goody bag. The black and green duffel accompanies him on every road trip, along with his bats and the black mitt that helped him win his second Gold Glove award last season.

“I take it everywhere,” the San Diego Padres third baseman says, pulling it out of his locker stall before a game in Atlanta recently. “It’s part of my routine.”

Caminiti unzips the bag and reveals bottles and zip-locked bags of pills, vitamins and nutritional supplements. He opens one packet and shoves a handful of capsules into his mouth viking-style, all but swallowing the plastic.”

The above is the lede to Pete Williams’s 1997 USA TODAY story titled “Lifting the game: Creatine is baseball’s new gunpowder.” It’s not the only incredible part of the story when viewed through the lens of what we now know about performance enhancing drugs. The entire story is required reading, but a few snippets demand extra attention.

Hat tip to Bomani Jones for digging this story up early Wednesday morning.

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Daily Notes: Five Notable Oliver Batting MLEs from 2012

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of the Daily Notes.

1. Five Notable Oliver Batting MLEs from 2012
2. Qs and As with Brian Cartwright, Proprietor of Oliver
3. Video: Cleveland Prospect Dorssys Paulino

Five Notable Oliver Batting MLEs from 2012
Attentive readers — and entirely negligent ones, too, probably — will have noted by now that Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have been appearing all up in these electronic pages over the course of the last month.

I don’t believe I’m letting any cats out of their various bags when I state that, soon, FanGraphs will also be releasing Brian Cartwright’s Oliver projections — projections, that is, which could be acquired only in exchange for vast amounts of American currency at The Hardball Times as recently as last year.

By way of whetting the readership’s collective appetite, I present below five notable major-league equivalent stat lines (or, MLEs) from the 2012 season, courtesy that same Oliver system.

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Reports From Instructs: Phillies Wrap-Up

As promised, there’s only a few instructs reports left but it’s lasted me the (most warm in Florida) winter as junior colleges started this week and I was in the Dominican last week to see the top July 2 players. Along those lines, this wrap-up from Phillies camp will lead off with a high profile American but finish with three recent international signees that caught my eye.

Larry Greene signed with the Phillies for $1 million as the 39th overall pick in the supplemental round of the 2011 draft. Greene is from the South Georgia, the same area that has recently produced Buster Posey, Kaleb Cowart and Byron Buxton. Unfortunately, Greene isn’t the same kind of prospect but, as the signing bonus suggests, he has the tools to be a successful big leaguer. The first thing you notice about Greene physically also stands out on the roster—the Phillies updated his height and weight to 6’1, 259. That should create a certain mental image, but Greene isn’t fat and runs better than you’d expect; think NFL fullback. And don’t think Ryan Howard because that’s really lazy.

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Q&A: Dave Eiland, Royals Pitching Coach

Dave Eiland isn’t a big fan of teaching the cutter, nor does he feel a true curveball can be easily taught. That doesn’t mean the Kansas City Royals pitching coach isn’t a master of his craft. Highly respected among his peers, he played 10 big-league seasons and spent eight years as a pitching coach in the Yankees system — three with the parent club — before joining the Royals. Eiland shared his thoughts on tutoring young pitchers during a late-summer visit to Fenway Park.

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David Laurila: What is your primary responsibility as a big-league pitching coach?

Dave Eiland: To get the absolute most I can out of the pitchers’ abilities. To do that, I focus on their strengths and on improving their weaknesses. I also concentrate on how their strengths match up to the hitters’ weaknesses. I do that with film work, studying hitters’ strengths and weaknesses, and how each individual pitcher can use their strengths to attack those weaknesses.

DL: What role do scouting reports play?

DE: They play a big role, and I do my own scouting reports. By studying film, I know where certain holes are and what pitches hitters can and can’t handle in certain areas and counts. I know their tendencies in certain counts.

A lot goes into it, but I try to keep the information that I give to pitchers simple. I don’t want to overload them with so much stuff that everything starts running together. Then you have paralysis by analysis.

DL; Is the amount of information you share with pitchers handled on a case-by-case basis?

DE: They all read the same scouting reports, Read the rest of this entry »


2013 ZiPS Projections – Los Angeles Dodgers

Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections, which have typically appeared in the pages of Baseball Think Factory, are being released at FanGraphs this year. Below are the projections for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Szymborski can be found on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other 2013 Projections: Angels / Astros / Athletics / Blue Jays / Brewers / Cardinals / Cubs / Diamondbacks / Giants / Mariners / Mets / Nationals / Phillies / Pirates / Rangers / Rays / Reds / Rockies / Royals / Tigers / White Sox.

Batters
The Dodgers begin 2013 with slightly more than double the payroll of their 2012 opening-day roster. That fact established, it will not surprise the reader to learn that the Dodgers have spent some of that additional money on position players. The club’s highest-paid field player at the start of 2012 was outfielder Andre Ethier, at $10.95 million. As of today, the Dodgers have five batters earning more than that: Adrian Gonzalez ($21.9 million), Carl Crawford ($20.9 million), Matt Kemp ($20.3 million), Hanley Ramirez ($15.5 million), and Ethier himself ($13.5 million).*

One would hope — for the sake of order in the universe, if nothing else — that the Dodgers’ financial outlay would correlate to success. In fact, it appears as though it will. The Dodgers produced 20.3 WAR via batting and fielding last season; the squad presented here is probably closer to 25 WAR. To the front office’s credit, there are some values here, as well: Luis Cruz, A.J. Ellis, and Tim Federowicz — all expected to produce like average major leaguers — will combine to make just $3 million in 2013.

Figures stolen directly from Cot’s Contracts.

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Effectively Wild Episode 130: 2013 Season Preview Series: Toronto Blue Jays

Ben and Sam preview the Blue Jays’ season with Matthew Kory, and Pete talks to Toronto Star Blue Jays reporter Brendan Kennedy (at 17:32).