julien's baseball blog

Some moves are slightly good. Some moves are slightly bad. I tell you about them.
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
 
the pickin' machine, part 2
avkash patel of the raindrops did an excellent analysis of the a's scott hatteberg signing. he kindly refers to my article from august, in which i say some similar things, and gush about scott's glove.

avkash's explanation is better than mine, because he uses batting average on balls in play and is clearer. he says everything i was trying to say and more. plus, to even understand my post you have to spend 10 hours plumbing around figuring out the ridiculous formulae.

also, i used clay davenport's fielding analysis, which i think overstates the importance of first basemen. so anyway, i'm glad someone increased the truth out there.

"the raindrops" is a lyrical blog title. it evokes the sadness and frustration of a washed-out game, which is appropriate for this time of year: the interminable wait known as the void.
Monday, November 24, 2003
 
win shares and free agents
carl bialik wrote an interesting article about this year's crop of free agents and their 2003 win shares. normally it costs money, but in the true spirit of the internet i am presenting it to you for free. almost. the only cost to you is you have to read my commentary. no cheating!

i can do this because i have no assets. anyone that sues me is in for a colossal disappointment.



2003: .328/.378/.687 (avg/obp/slg)
career (incl 2003): .287/.337/.502

his contact rate was slightly down this year. but his walks improved. his 43/29 hr/2b ratio is a little high, suggesting luck, but you don't get that kind of power spike from luck. the average also indicates luck, but increased power yields increased average. call it half luck half muscles. where did he get the muscles? idunno; must be some magic strength potion or something.

whatever the cause, javy lopez went from a money pit to a bargain at $7 million.

he'll be overpaid in 2004.



sure, but let's not make too much of that. the regular season is the only thing close to a representative sample size, which even the sabermetrically ignorant know, if not explicitly, then intuitively.

pudge has young-player skills, so he's a good bet to continue his success. he'll be one of the top 2 in the majors next year, along with jorge posada, who would be even better if he would stop trying to hit left-handed.



just re-signed, at $2 million per. that's about $1.5 mil too much. a smart gm would nab brian schneider, yorvit torrealba, michael barret, or robby hammock, who are cheap and promising. american league options include toby hall and miguel olivo, but those guys are probably difficult to acquire.



and the fact that he can't hit. his career avg/obp/slg is .265/.333/.353. ugh! and it's mostly in hitters parks! he may shift to backup in 2004.



still has patience, contact, and power. he was actually unlucky this year. will continue to produce.



the only bouncing for snow was the ball bouncing between infielders. he is no longer worth a major league roster spot.



it's because he's not actually very good.



career .331 obp. this is first base we're talking about!



and shouldn't.



he'll probably get a raise, and should have a good run over the next couple of years. inexplicably, i left him out of my marlins comment yesterday.



probably the luckiest player in the majors this year. he'll be overpaid in 2004. it'll be hilarious if it's the cubs.



usable.



another late-career power spike for a contact/speed guy (cf: marquis grissom.) should be decent in 2004.



the royals should drop joe randa like a bad habit.



yes, but coors didn't help him as much as others. he still makes great contact, with enough power to be usable, though not at $5 million.



definitely hits the ball hard. if he could just walk a little, he'd be great. 50 bb in 2002 gives a glimmer of hope.



will continue to be chris stynes.



no. they'll tender arbitration, and he'll get signed by another team. then bubba crosby takes over. a's get draft picks and salary reduction.

btw, the a's are not a walk-heavy team. in 2003, they finished with 556 bb, as far from the top (yankees, 684) as the bottom (devil rays, 420) of the league. they are much better characterized as a contact-heavy team. only anaheim had fewer strikeouts. it's time for the "slow-pitch softball" crap to end.



2001 was a fluke.



also reducing his price is the fact that he sucks.



it's true.



he is not above average. he will be grossly overpaid next year.



using him in center a bit was a pretty creative move by jim tracy. he should have stuck with it, keeping rickey henderson in left and dave roberts on the bench.



carl everett is not a center fielder. but he improved his contact rate markedly this year. if it sticks, he's a useful player.



it's not safeco; it's the strikeouts. the cliff is nigh.



rumors of his demise were greatly exaggerated: turns out 2001 was bad luck.



it always surprises me when someone who claims statistical rigor says something as nonsensical as "the lineup forced hittable balls." sheff is for real. he's one of the top 5 hitters of the past 10 years. it's been masked by injury and pitcher's parks.



yes, but that was a small sample size. guillen is the best value on the list.



except for the "best-value" list. vlad is great and all, but i wouldn't sign him. he's gonna cost a lot of money, and there are injury concerns. save the money and spend it wisely.



sanders got lucky in 2003, so he'll be overpaid in 2004. his poor 2002 numbers are due to pac-bell park. power, strikeouts, and defense make him a good coors field candidate.



cruz has always had plate discipline. his career bb/(bb+ab) is .116, which is above average. the problem is the strikeouts. he's basically a young reggie sanders. but not that young. and he won't last as long.



colon is one of the most overrated players in baseball. yes, he throws hard, but his strikeout rate is pedestrian. and his k/bb. the yankees are the right team for him, with their penchant for overpayment.



no one really talked about this, but clemens was an absolute killer last year. he was better than his era, as are all yankee hurlers, because they play horrible defense. look at his k/9 and k/bb. that's phenomenal for a right-handed pitcher in yankee stadium. which shows you how unappreciated mike mussina is.



he's been at this level for four years, with normal era fluctuation.



could this comment have any meaning? could any of them?



see pudge rodriguez comment, above. these wall street guys should really stick to finance.



2003 was the good year. k/9 increased by a full point.



the angels signed him. the angels are stupid.



anderson, leskanic, randa. not the signings of a contender.



how 'bout "first-half success contributed to phillies contending."? the phillies missed the playoffs because they suck. it's not kevin's fault.

if you wanna know whose fault it is, it's ed wade's.



john thomson is the most underrated pitcher in the major leagues. that phonebooth they call a ballpark in arlington masks quality k/bb ratios.



tendering arbitration to greg maddux was one of the few mistakes john schuerholz has made in his tenure as braves dynasty maintainer. in 2004 it'll be some other team that overpays him, like the angels.



an exception how? to beane? i don't think so. to you? does that mean you think other closers are overvalued? what exactly are you saying here, carl?



the best twins reliever was latroy.



thank you for that insight. people hated on uuu last year because his velocity was down. but he still has the k's.



looks like carl's running out of things to say. so am i. relievers are not important as free-agents.



overrated.



quiet except for the 97 mph fastball screaming past your ear.



yanks want him. they are taking the "buy the championship" idea to its logical extent. it will fail.



k's are good; walks and injuries are bad. overpaid in 2004.



in 2002, he was hurt. in 2001, he was good. i don't know how people can say such wrong things. all the time.

the thing that should not be forgotten is julian tavarez's 2000 season in colorado. 11 hr in 120 ip = insanity.


 
getting up on my high horse . . .
jay jaffe from futility infielder:



tell you what, jay, i'll give you a million dollars, or you can give it to your co-workers. what do you choose? hurry up!

i hate it when people get on their high horse.
 
chin muzak
rob neyer was a big part of my path towards understanding baseball (i'm still on it.) it was he who led me to the importance of on-base percentage, he who showed me the wisdom of bill james.

rob's too busy writing books these days to produce good columns, but i thought it'd be fun to run some commentary on a recent chat.



the contrapositive, of course, is "if i tell you a lie, then you asked a question."



steinbrenner is definitely that rash. he ruined the yanks in the eighties, and he'll ruin them again. in the 80's, he screwed the farm system with big free-agent signs. sound familiar? if you have no farm system, then you cannot have any of the best players in the game, because players peak at 28, and they're usually not free yet. also you have no bench, and no insurance against injuries. cf: enrique wilson. next year, the red sox win the division. then they start fighting the blue jays.

that said, cashman will not trade johnson unless it's a blockbuster.

he shouldn't trade him at all, though, because nick johnson will be one of the best five hitters in the game over the next five years. if you doubt, let's talk in 2008.

i don't know what rob means by "impact hitter", but either there are only a few or we're far apart in our evaluation of nj.

the only danger, and it is significant, is injury. nick's had wrist issues, which is scary.



wrong again, rob. the orioles do not need to sign free agents, and they do not need to trade for expensive players who are past their prime. this is not the al central we are talking about. they are in a division with the yankees and the red sox. the only way to beat those guys is to get good young players, players who are improving. signing a player at his peak results in years of overpayment, with threefold missed opportunity: (1) you could have spent the money elsewhere. (2) if he's a free agent, you lose picks; the farm suffers. if it's a trade, obviously you lost talent, and it was probably young. (3) the only way to go is down, not up.



i have no idea who'll sign tejada, but rob is pretty correct on this one. his 2002 avg was clearly luck, but 2003 had a horrid start, so i would say he's somewhere in between. tejada, by the way, is an underrated defender, as are all a's. even eric chavez. people think he's the best in the game, but he's one of the best of all time.

it's not the pitchers; it's the defense. who knew that was the best way to find marginal value? waitaminnit, i think we have our answer. . . .



no, it's not a good point. let's look at those trades . . . hinske was traded for billy koch, who filled a need (closer), and was turned into keith foulke, who is a killer, plus mark johnson and joe valentine. johnson is a useful catcher and valentine is a live arm that went to the reds as part of the jose guillen trade. we've gone on a bit of a tangent, but that is a retarded series of upgrades.

plus, where was hinske gonna play?

berroa was part of a nine-player deal that also included the tampa bay devil rays. the a's lost aj hinch and ben grieve (another rookie of the year). but they got johnny damon and mark ellis. just damon would have been worth it. he's an incredible fielder. oh yeah they got corey lidle too.

it's not fair.

the a's trade good players because they have good players. loads of 'em.



rob wins this one. all i can think of are piano legs hickman and old hoss radbourne.



apparently it's co-written with bill james. i'm psyched.



come on, rob, have a little imagination! how 'bout eric chavez? or nick johnson? or hank blalock? all of these players will have more value from now than a-rod or pujols.

i would take mark prior, personally. although the workload he's gotten scares me a little.

other possibilities: marcus giles, rafael furcal, josh beckett. i would actually take nomar garciaparra before a-rod. contact hitters last longer.



delgado was better, but it's close.



kerry wood has obvious hall of fame talent and a record of great performance, and he's 26, but prior is better.



the twins probably win this one, because they cut a lot of salary. but pierzinski's a hell of a player.



looks like rob got the details, but it's apparently not certain now that the trade will go through. we'll see. anyway, the value here is in dumping long.

the kielty/lilly trade is also a money-saver. plus kielty is a quality defender.

beane wins both.



bonds produced more value over replacement than pujols. but the reason he won is he played for a winner.



the ibanez signing is a big mistake. he's a free-agent past his prime. but the mariners are fighting for second place anyway, so who cares.



the royals got lucky this year, but they could get lucky again, and it's a pitiful division. of course it's just as likely that allard baird will deal them back to the basement.

what the hell kind of name is "allard", anyway?



wrong division??? bh kim is gonna be just fine. he would be a good starter, but his strikeout rate doubles as a reliever. i think they should use him like the a's use chad bradford. ie, whenever there is serious trouble.



the marlins have a lot of young talent, but they're gonna ruin their future by spending money on pudge or lee or lowell. what they should do is offer arbitration to all of them, and wait. ed: lee is not a free agent. whoever goes away will bring compensation picks; whoever stays will provide value on the field.

they're not gonna do these things, because it would piss off the fans. remember the fire sale of 1998? what's funny is the 2003 title is a result of that. but the fans don't listen to reason. what you have to do is forget about pandering and just win. but there's only one team that does that. (you guessed it---oakland.)



happy thanksgiving to you, rob!
Sunday, November 23, 2003
 
the big, wide internet
saw a new blog today: management by baseball, by jim gilliam.

one thing he said that is wrong is that tino martinez is a slightly above average defender. tino martinez is a highly above average defender. the problem is jim uses zone rating as his fielding evaluation. zone rating is absolute crap. win shares is much better.

fielding win shares at first base, 2003:

ok the cut and paste job was hard, so check it yourself. he had a bad year (for him), so my point is not well supported. but he does have the best fielding season of all time, by win shares. i don't have the book on me, so i can't tell you when it was.

wow, this post turned into a train wreck.
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
 
don't quit your day job
i found this letter at dave pinto's baseball musings. it came from somewhere. it refers to something.

dave gave a very nice response which detailed his experiences and gave good advice. but what he should have written was this:

if you are not totally psyched about reading bill james, you will never be a "stat-head", whatever that is. people who know baseball know it because they are consumed by it. they eat, sleep, and breathe defensive efficiency and value over replacement level. there are hundreds of books to read, and you are afraid of reading one. go away and stop bothering people.

it's funny that people want to be geeks now.
 
more retractions
whoever wrote that stupid rookie of the year article also neglected to mention scott podsednik, who had a fine year, and was probably more valuable than brandon webb.
 
where do these people come from?
chris from manhattan:

you didn't know the royals have a hitter's park?!! boy are you dumb!
Monday, November 10, 2003
 
i'm a regular chris kahrl over here . . .
rotoworld:


this is an example of one of those bad contracts that's about to be signed.
 
rotoworld again
wilson betemit tore his thumb.

rotoworld says he still projects as a major league regular. i suppose they read baseball prospectus.

"read": present tense? or past?

betemit is almost a major league regular. he can do everything except hit a pitched ball with a bat. funny, that's what's keeping me out of the bigs! he's still young, so he could improve, but the odds are against him. with normal power increase, he's about 50/50 for a starting spot in 5 years.
 
ain't nothin but a gangsta party
the pirates declined pokey reese's $5.1 million option.

you see these contracts and you're like "what the fuck were they thinking?" then you're like "wow, they're much smarter than that these days." but that was these days. it was only a few years ago. they can't have gotten much smarter.

contracts that bad are signed all the time. the difference is it's not staring you in the face how bad it's gonna be.
 
rookie of the year
this is the big week. bud & the boys finally tell us the results of all those votes they did at the end of the season. i know i'm on the edge of my seat. but you're probably a jaded cynic who thinks the awards are arbitrary and the voters don't know shit.

rookie of the year should be correct more often. there are only ever a handful who get enough playing time. but still they screw it up. you gotta hand it to 'em.

yeah so the rookies the writers liked this year were angel berroa and dontrelle willis. the rookies who played the best were hideki matsui and brandon webb.

ok i'll make some arguments. the al thing happened because berroa plays in a hitter's park and matsui plays in death to right-handed hitter stadium. ed: which is not relevant, as he bats lefty. you can't get too angry because (1) the voters took position into account, and (2) the yankee was not overvalued. on second thought, go ahead and get angry. it wasn't position; it was steals, or "an exciting brand of play". at some point we have to stop excusing these people and accept the overwhelming evidence that they are morons.

careful, or you'll take me seriously.

berroa had 16 win shares. matsui had 19. offensively, matsui had 16.4. berroa had 9.6. just win baby, as al davis said (walking cyborg counts as dead), but it's interesting to see how 2 such similar offensive lines can be so different. people hate statheads because they tell them that the numbers they're looking at don't mean what they think they mean. yeah. so there's that.

avg/obp/slg:

berroa .287/.338/.452
matsui .287/.353/.435

people of low sophistication use the first number. moderately sophisticated people use the next two. then there's win shares, equivalent average, etc, but the point is they're all just numbers. they mean what we make them mean.
Thursday, November 06, 2003
 
the results are in!
so i was sitting there hating the void, and all of a sudden it hit me. the season is finished! we now have the data. this is almost as exciting as the season actually going on!

we finally have decent defensive sample sizes for 2003, and i hadn't even looked at them. sadly, clay davenport's ratings aren't up yet. on the way i noticed that the gold glove awards are out, but didn't stop to look.

luckily, baseballgraphs.com has defensive win shares.

i can't believe i haven't read win shares yet. i'm about to. anyway looking at the numbers, i gotta say it looks real good. there two important fielding categories: total win shares, and win shares per 1000 innings. eyeballing those two columns, here are my picks for the gold glove:

al catcher:
1. ben molina
2. brent mayne
3. ramon hernandez

there will be a lot of a's on these lists.

nl catcher:
1. brian schneider
2. paul lo duca
3. brad ausmus

schneider was superinsane.

al first base:
1. jon olerud
2. doug mientkiewicz
3. travis lee

the two-headed yankee monster was first in both categories.

nl first base:
1. derek lee
2. todd helton
3. richie sexson

big guys can field.

al second base:
1. orlando hudson
2. mark ellis
3. brett boone

clear stratification through the top 5.

nl second base:
1. alex cora
2. luis castillo
3. ray durham

toughest call. castillo and marcus giles have so many more innings than durham. i split the difference.

al third base:
1. eric chavez
2. corey koskie
3. robin ventura

ventura was too insane to leave out, despite the innings (666.666 . . . the fielder of the beast?) notice how yankees infielders benefited from the black hole at shortstop.

maybe that should cause us to replace ventura with tony batista. fuck it.

in other news, eric chavez is one of the best ever.

nl third base:
1. adrian beltre
2. mike lowell
3. scott rolen

i feel like rolen's the best. maybe he was unlucky this year.

al shortstop:
1. jose valentin
2. christian guzman
3. miguel tejada

i was berating hawk and dj for these picks during a late season broadcast, but the joke's on me.

nl shortstop:
1. cesar izturis
2. alex s gonzalez
3. alex gonzalez

that alex gonzalez guy is pretty good.

al left field:
1. randy winn
2. garrett anderson
3. raul ibanez

i don't like lumping all the outfielders in one category.

nl left field:
1. luis gonzalez
2. brad wilkerson
3. lance berkman

barry almost made it.

al center field:
1. mike cameron
2. carlos beltran
3. torii hunter

it's a mariners sweep. (see right field)

nl center field:
1. andruw jones
2. craig biggio
3. steve finley

craig biggio, represent!

al right field:
1. ichiro suzuki
2. chris singleton
3. magglio ordonez

the a's are underrepresented. with their mix-and-match outfield defense, no one got the innings to rank highly. they were motherfuckers, though.

nl right field:
1. richard hidalgo
2. jose cruz
3. vladimir guerrero

closest race for first. great year for hidalgo.

the biggest difference i see between win shares and davenport is at first base. clay, why is that? i talked to clay for three hours at a dc pizza feed but he won't answer my email. the cool thing about clay is that everything he says is correct. bill, feel free to chime in, too.

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