Friday, December 29, 2006
Written and directed by the same pair who did American Psycho, here we have a biopic of the infamous S&M pinup girl. Most of the film is in black & white, switching over to color only when she goes to Florida, and for the 'archived' film footage. The campiness is off the charts, right in line with Bettie Page's real-life work.
I'm not into crossword puzzles, but this documentary was fun nonetheless. It delves into how the puzzlemasters create their work, follows the paths of several experts striving to win the national championship, and mixes in celebrity puzzle fiends, including Mike Mussina. Amazingly, this film might have the most heartbreaking ending of any movie of 2006.
18. Inside Man
Interesting caper by Spike Lee. Clive Owen takes hostages at a bank, Denzel Washington is the cop trying to get him out, and Jodie Foster hangs around not doing much of anything. I really liked the reveal of how the robbery went down. Clever stuff.
17. Mission: Impossible III
I admit it: I liked it. Surprisingly good film thanks to a great cast, including Philip Seymour Hoffman and the brilliant Simon Pegg. Gets the coveted Exceeded Expectations Award.
16. Akeelah and the Bee
Hey, back-to-back Laurence Fishburne films. Check out the bit role by Eddie Steeples (Crabman from "My Name Is Earl") as a gang leader.
1940s film noir set in the now. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a teenager trying to find out what happened to his ex-girlfriend. Everyone talks like characters out of a Bogart film. My favorite line was, "I've got all five senses and I slept last night. That puts me six up on the lot of you."
14. Find Me Guilty
Vin Diesel has hair! Talk about odd. Diesel plays a gangster who defends himself during a massive mafia trial. This is a true story, and they used the actual court transcripts for the trial scenes. Peter Dinklage plays a fellow defense attorney, too.
13. Winter Passing
I adore Zooey Deschanel. Unfortunately, she plays a cocaine addict here, visiting her father (Ed Harris) for the first time in years. She's still cute. Will Ferrell plays a wannabe rocker who plays golf in a small bedroom with Harris. I want to try that.
12. Eight Below
Another true story, this one about eight huskies stuck in an Antarctic snowstorm. Paul Walker is the lovelorn scientist who goes nuts trying to save them. Very sad, as not all the dogs live. Disney couldn't've taken historical liberties with that?
Another in the "better than I expected" category. The ending is utterly ridiculous and not remotely plausible, but everything that came before it made me laugh. ("This is great, because I always wanted to get hepatitis.")
10. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Yes it was fun, but way too long. The story didn't really get going until about an hour in. Not nearly as good as the original, but still entertaining. I'm greatly looking forward to Geoffrey Rush joining Bill Nighy and Johnny Depp in the third film.
9. Clerks II
More Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back than Clerks, there wasn't nearly enough clever dialogue. Randal was always my favorite non-Jason Lee character from Kevin Smith's films. And Rosario Dawson is really hot.
8. Little Miss Sunshine
I haven't yet decided if the ending is brilliantly hilarious or horribly painful. Steve Carell is easily the breakout star of 2006.
7. Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story
"The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman" is an insanely long book about a guy trying to tell his life story, but who gets sidetracked so much, he never even gets up to his birth. ("But I'm getting ahead of myself; I've not yet been born.") The film, then, is about the making of a film based on a book that is unfilmable. Steve Coogan plays himself playing Tristram Shandy. Classic British humor here.
6. An Inconvenient Truth
The most important movie of the year. I immediately felt horrible for every energy-wasting activity ever. Learn more here: ClimateCrisis.net.
5. The Prestige
From the director of Memento, Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman are rival magicians both trying to master the Transporting Man trick. It opens with Bale being sentenced to death for killing Jackman, and ends with a seriously fucked-up resolution. Bonus points for featuring Scarlett Johansson.
4. V For Vendetta
Somehow I didn't know this was about the Guy Fawkes story going in. Tremendous movie. Everything about it was great, from the "Count of Monte Cristo"-style imprisonment to the Benny Hill parody with Stephen Fry. I don't own the special edition DVD yet, for some reason.
3. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Funniest title of the year, and funniest movie of the year. It's pretty much one continuous 90-minute laugh.
2. The Departed
Has everyone seen this by now? Good. It majorly pissed me off that Leonardo DiCaprio was killed so anticlimactically by an irrelevant character. Who the hell was that guy? I think it was Matt Damon's partner, but I can't be sure. You don't have a character that minor kill your protagonist. Bah.
That's my only problem with the movie. Everything else about it was outstanding. I even enjoyed Scorcese tackling the "let's shoot as many people in the head as possible" challenge.
1. Stranger Than Fiction
The most original movie of the year. Even though the entire premise is that Will Ferrell can hear Emma Thompson's narration, it still takes you by surprise when he responds to it, which only makes things funnier. Dustin Hoffman was great as the lit professor. I'm cool with the ending, too. It works for me.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
In 2000, the Rockies signed a 28-year-old lefthanded workhorse to a $128M contract, coming off a year in which he went 15-10 in 218 innings with 151 K and 99 BB.
Zito, '03-'06: 55-46, 894 IP, 3.86 ERA, 631 K, 357 BB, 100 HR
Hampton, '97-'00: 63-31, 891.1 IP, 3.30 ERA, 604 K, 358 BB, 56 HR
Zito is Hampton with more home runs. At least he won't have Coors Field to contend with.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
- This is a favorite list, not "Best of..."
- I'm hardly a music fiend. There are bound to be a million great albums I missed (or at least three or four). In fact, I only have twelve albums in iTunes from 2006.
I'm obsessed with this album. The first time I heard it, I thought it was catchy and pretty good but nothing special and I immediately needed to listen to it over and over again. It's nuts.
So the Pipettes are sort of a cross between the Ronettes and the Go-Gos. They're cute, wear polka dot dresses, and are positively alluring. Plus, their video for "Pull Shapes" recreates a scene from Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of Dolls. Now that's kitsch.
Belle & Sebastian - The Life Pursuit
One of my favorite bands, Belle & Sebastian can always be counted on for great lyrics and fun wordplay. There's plenty of good stuff on this album: "Funny Little Frog" being my current favorite track.
I don't dare to think of you
In a physical way
And I don't know how you smell
You are the cover of my magazine
You're my fashion tip, a living museum
I'd pay to visit you on rainy Sundays
I'll maybe tell you all about it someday
Jack Johnson - Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies for the Film Curious George
Haven't seen the movie; don't plan to. I think of this as a regular Jack Johnson album; just aimed at kids. He changed the lyrics to "Who's To Say" to create "Upside Down" (complete with a music video featuring Curious George), reworked the "Three R's" song, covered the White Stripes' "We're Going to Be Friends" (a natural fit for him) and, of course, featured G. Love on "Jungle Gym."
The Islands - Return to the Sea
Part trippy, part melodic, part Caribbean. They cover a ton of territory, including a random rap section on "Where There's a Will There's a Whalebone" and cannibalism on "Humans." It all makes sense in context, somehow.
Tilly & the Wall - Bottoms of Barrels
This is what you need to know about Tilly & the Wall: they have a tap dancer in lieu of a drummer. Seriously.
Now that's a gimmick that begs to be seen. Check 'em out on Letterman.
You don't normally expect to hear the term "tap dance solo" in rock music, but it works. I wonder what that girl feels like at the end of a tour though?
The Little Ones - Sing Song EP
Indie pop to an almost ridiculous degree. Hand claps and sweetness galore, pretty much all six songs here will become permanent squatters in your head. You'll either love it or hate it. Me, I'm cool with it.
I'm From Barcelona - Let Me Introduce My Friends
Everything I wrote about the Little Ones can be applied here, to a lesser extent. They remind me a bit of The Boy Least Likely To, with their fondness for childhood and whatnot.
"I'm gonna sing this song with all my friends/And we're all from Barcelona." They're actually from Sweden, by the way.
Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I am, That's What I'm Not
This album debuted at #1 in Britain, demolishing all the records for fasting-selling debuts. Not only was everyone in the UK listening to them, but pretty much nothing else but them. Pretty good when you consider they never even advertised the album; it was all word of mouth. Frankly, I don't really see what all that fuss was about; they're good but not mass hysteria good.
MC Lars - The Graduate
Lars describes his music as post-punk laptop rap. Umm, okay. I imagine he's the only rapper with a laptop on stage during his shows. That's where his music is since he makes all his songs on Apple's Garage Band software. That's bloody brilliant.
When you listen to him, you think, "Oh my god, this has to be the whitest guy ever." Then you see his video and you think, "Oh my god, I had no idea how white he is."
Now I'm a geek, so Lars cracks me up. His fake song in "Signing Emo" would fit in perfectly on TRL. He trashes on gangsta rap in "Generic Crunk Rap" ("Rhyme about my rims/Rhyme about my bling/Chorus where I scream 'cause I don't know hot to sing"). And "Space Game" is basically geek dance music.
Movies sometime soon.
Friday, December 22, 2006
Monday, December 18, 2006
And you know what? It's a great flick. Absolutely loved it. I was captivated by Summer Glau, who played about 900 emotions as River, not to mention going totally bad ass twice. So when I picked up the Firefly DVD, I was expecting more of the same.
There were 14 episodes of Firefly (stupid Fox). I spent all 14 episodes waiting for River to go nuts like in Serenity, but it never happened. Sure, on one occasion she killed three guys with three bullets with her eyes closed. That was all though. The rest of the time she was more helpless little girl than government-created weapon. And the anticipation was killing me.
That's not to say the show wasn't great. Now that I've seen it, I'm convinced it had the potential to develop the same way Buffy the Vampire Slayer did. Instead we get one film and the faintest of hopes for a second. Bah.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Hot damn, that's pretty.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
There were 40 pitchers who split 2006 between the AL and NL, totaling over 2800 IP. I put their stats in both leagues side-by-side and weighted each player by the least PA. For example, Shawn Chacon faced 303 batters with the Yankees and 206 batters with the Pirates. I therefore scaled back his AL stats to 206 batters faced so that he affects each league equally. Here is how those 40 pitchers performed in each league, on a per 200 inning basis:
You can see that switching from the NL to AL will add half of a run to a pitcher's ERA. There is also an across-the-board shift in every statistic showing the NL as the 'easier' league. I don't think any of these numbers will surprise anyone.
Now, to apply these to Pettitte. First, we need a baseline projection. We'll simply use a Marcel-style system: a weighted average of the past three seasons. For Pettitte, we get the following line:
Pretty darn good. If Pettitte were returning to Houston, that's the line we'd be predicting. But we want to know what he'll do with the Yankees. First, we adjust the projection from the NL to the AL:
Doesn't look so hot anymore, does it? Keep in mind, this is the same exact performance as the previous pitching line; the only thing that's changed is the context.
Next step: park factors. Yankee Stadium is presumably an easier place to pitch for a southpaw than the Juice Box. Using the Day-By-Day Database, I figured component park factors for the past three seasons for both stadia. Doing this drops Pettitte's ERA to 4.10.
Last step: defense. As a lefthanded groundball pitcher, Pettitte relies rather heavily on his shortstop. Thankfully, he had Adam Everett sucking up everything in sight. According to The Hardball Times, the Astros made 86 more plays than average on groundballs (tops in the majors) but made 31 less plays on flyballs. Meanwhile, the Yankees were -9 on groundballs and +14 on flyballs. Applying the appropriate weights to Pettitte's projected number of grounders and flies, and we would expect him to give up an additional 10 hits with the Yankees.
I'm regressing that number, however. Since I only have the 2006 stats on this front, I would rather be conservative and bring them back to average 50%. So, our final, league-adjusted, park-adjusted, defense-adjusted, super complete 2007 projection for Andy Pettitte is:
That's what the Yankees are paying $16 million for. Meh.
And just for kicks, here's Roger Clemens's projection:
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Starting Rotation (5)
RHP Chien-Ming Wang
RHP Mike Mussina
LHP Kei Igawa
LHP Randy Johnson
RHP Carl Pavano
RHP Humberto Sanchez
RHP Darrell Rasner
RHP Jeff Karstens
RHP Philip Hughes
RHP Scott Proctor
RHP Tyler Clippard
LHP Sean Henn
The Yankees have plenty of depth and oodles of potential. The top three are good bets to be mainstays all year long, though, like all pitchers, with a fair bit of range in performance.
While those three are likely to eat up 90 starts, piecing together the other 72 could very will be spread amongst all nine of the other options. Johnson and Pavano both have serious health AND performance issues. Jeff Karstens, relying on the aerodynamic wonder that is his nonexistent chin, is probably Torre's first option for fill-in duty, despite having the worst stuff of any of the minor league fallbacks. Rasner is a similar 4A guy, though I like his odds of contributing something.
By all accounts, both Hughes and Sanchez are already major league-ready. It's possible--if not likely--that both end the season in the rotation. Clippard should be in Scranton all year with only a late-season emergency start in the cards.
RHP Mariano Rivera
RHP Scott Proctor
RHP Kyle Farnsworth
LHP Mike Myers
RHP Chris Britton
RHP Brian Bruney
RHP Darrell Rasner
RHP T.J. Beam
RHP Colter Bean
RHP J. Brent Cox
LHP Ron Villone
LHP Sean Henn
I'm fine with the bullpen. Granted, I'd prefer only six releivers, but we know Torre is going with seven.
Rivera is a god. The setup and uber-LOOGY are good. Middle relief is a problem for most teams, but there are plenty of names here to work with. In addition to these relievers, there are also the prospects, who can make their MLB debuts as long relievers. There's no reason to give out ridiculous long-term deals to mediocre bullpen arms, Baltimore-style.
C Jorge Posada
1B Andy Phillips
2B Robinson Cano
3B Alex Rodriguez
SS Derek Jeter
One of these things is not like the other. One could argue that at four of the five infield positions, the Yankees have the best player in the league. The other? Not so much.
Much as I like Andy Phillips, he did nothing last season to earn an everyday job. Craig Wilson would be ideal to resign, what with his righthanded sock and cheap price tag. The concern is that Torre doesn't trust him after his poor two-month trial in 2006.
Other than Wilson, the options are bad. Hillenbrand isn't much of a hitter, costs a lot, and raises all sorts of clubhouse issues. Perez can hit lefties, but is wildly inconsistent.
There's always the possibility of a trade (Pavano for Sexson's contract?) but the wish here is a second chance for Wilson.
LF Hideki Matsui
CF Johnny Damon
RF Bobby Abreu
DH Jason Giambi
Can you say 'set'? Seriously, the Yankees' lineup is a monster.
OF Melky Cabrera
IF Nick Green
C Wil Nieves
OF Kevin Thompson
OF/DH Bernie Williams
IF Miguel Cairo
OF Kevin Reese
C Sal Fasano
Any of a million hangers-on and minor league free agents
Melky immediately makes the bench useful; he can and will play all three outfield positions. Thompson is an ideal fifth outfielder. He can hit a bit, has the speed to play all three outfield spots, and is a fantastic pinch running option for Giambi/Posada/Matsui. So this half of the bench is quite strong.
The other half? Meh. When was the last time Torre carried a useful backup catcher? We're used to no value from that spot, a tradition that should continue in 2007. The backup infield spot needs to be filled. I'm not thrilled with either Cairo or Green. That's something that can be taken care of anytime, however.
Essentially, this team needs a first baseman and utility infielder. That's it. Both needs can be filled cheaply and easily, sticking with Cashman's plan to get younger and cut payroll. The only other issue is completing the Igawa negotiations. Beyond that, the Yankees' remaining offseason should be quiet.
The Yankees are strong and the other 29 teams are doing crazy things. Life is good.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Nolan Ryan - 5714 K
Favorite Victim: Claudell Washington (39 K in 102 PA)
The One Who Got Away: Julian Javier (0 K in 18 PA)
Roger Clemens - 4604 K
Favorite Victim: Chili Davis (30 K in 922 PA)
The One Who Got Away: Brian Harper (0 K in 23 PA)
Randy Johnson - 4544 K
Favorite Victim: Rickey Henderson (30 K in 85 PA)
The One Who Got Away: Orlando Cabrera (0 K in 35 PA)
Steve Carlton - 4136 K
Favorite Victim: Dave Kingman (36 K in 112 PA)
The One Who Got Away: Tommy Helms (0 K in 65 PA)
Bert Blyleven - 3701 K
Favorite Victim: Reggie Jackson (49 K in 140 PA)
The One Who Got Away: Scott Bradley (0 K in 30 PA)
Tom Seaver - 3640 K
Favorite Victim: Tony Perez (41 K in 117 PA)
The One Who Got Away: Craig Reynolds (0 K in 35 PA)
Don Sutton - 3574 K
Favorite Victim: Willie McCovey (38 K in 146 PA)
The One Who Got Away: Rudy Law (0 K in 30 PA)
Gaylord Perry - 3534 K
Favorite Victim: Lee May (32 K in 109 PA)
The One Who Got Away: Bill Buckner (0 K in 46 PA)
Phil Niekro - 3342 K
Favorite Victim: Tony Perez (36 K in 174 PA)
The One Who Got Away: Cookie Rojas (0 K in 29 PA)
Ferguson Jenkins - 3192 K
Favorite Victim: Deron Johnson (34 K in 113 PA)
The One Who Got Away: Johnny Ray (0 K in 29 PA)
Greg Maddux - 3169 K
Favorite Victim: Ray Lankford (31 K in 108 PA)
The One Who Got Away: Tony Gwynn (0 K in 103 PA)
Bob Gibson - 3117 K
Favorite Victim: Willie Stargell (41 K in 152 PA)
The One Who Got Away: Darrell Evans (0 K in 35 PA)
Curt Schilling - 3015 K
Favorite Victim: Andres Galarraga (22 K in 54 PA)
The One Who Got Away: Orlando Merced (0 K in 23 PA)
And because he's right there...
Pedro Martinez - 2998 K
Favorite Victim: Jorge Posada (33 K in 69 PA)
The One Who Got Away: Tony Gwynn (0 K in 36 PA)
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
9/9/98: Alex Gonzalez goes 0-for-6 with 6 strikeouts.
Luis Aparicio had 129 games in which he went hitless in at least 5 AB.
John Shelby, Wayne Garrett, Danny Thompson, Ron Swoboda and Tommie Agee all had an 0-for-10(!) game.
16 players have had a 5-hit game without scoring or driving in a run.
9/20/00: Not bad, but Ben Petrick goes 0-for-3 with 4 RBI (two RBI groundouts, a sac fly and a bases-loaded walk).
Craig Biggio has 20 multi-HBP games.
Jim Rice had 30 multi-GIDP games.
8/13/06: Luke Hudson pitches 0.1 innings and gives up 11 runs.
Mike Torrez and Rudy May each gave up at least 5 runs and lasted less than 1 inning 9 times (nine times).
Bert Blyleven threw 9 complete games in which he lost 1-0.
Tom Seaver had 4 games in which he threw at least 10 shutout innings and didn't win.
Jaime Navarro had 3 games with negative game scores.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Still testing this stuff out, but there's sure to be more wicked awesome stuff to follow.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
This was Soriano's first full season. As for Beltran, this was his third season of 100+ RBI, 100+ runs, 20+ home runs and 25+ stolen bases. Clearly Beltran has thel onger track record of success.
Pretty similar, though Beltran's 57-point OBP advantage trumps Soriano's 25-point SLG advantage.
Soriano got the singles, but Beltran had the far superior power, patience and speed.
Beltran's first season in Shea Stadium and Soriano's first year in Texas. The only time Soriano was better at the plate.
Simply no comparison. Beltran is the far superior player.
What those numbers don't say is that Beltran has more career stolen bases (227 to 210) and a much better success rate (88% to 78%). Most importantly, Beltran is an excellent defensive centerfielder while Soriano is a below-average leftfielder. I think it's fair to say Beltran's glove is worth an extra twenty runs over Soriano.
Do some quick math. Beltran is around 50 runs above a replacement centerfielder. He's one of the best fielders in the league; let's say he's 10 runs above average. That might actually be consevative. So Beltran is worth 60 runs a year, which is worth perhaps $15 million. Pretty close to his actual contract. Considering the Mets are a playoff team and play in a huge market, he's worth even more than that.
Now Soriano's bat is probably worth 30 to 40 runs over a replacement leftfielder. His fielding is anywhere from average to maybe 10 runs below average. So best case scenario, Soriano is worth 40 runs; worst case, he's worth 20 runs. That makes him worth $5-10 million. Even giving him the benefit of the doubt, he's still nowhere near a $17 million ballplayer.
To make things worse, Soriano turns 31 in January. He'll be 39 when the deal ends. This deal has the potential to be one of the worst in the history of free agency.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
From 1957 to 1967, Whitey Ford pitched 2161.1 innings. He allowed 20 stolen bases. Twenty. In eleven seasons. Versus 32 caught stealings. And 32 pickoffs. That's nuts. He had four separate seasons ('58, '59, '61 & '64) of at least 200 IP and no stolen bases.
How insane is that? Nolan Ryan allowed at least 20 stolen bases every single season from 1971 to 1992.
As a percentage of runners on first base, 2.5% of baserunners attempted to steal off Ford. Compare that to 17.4% versus Ryan. Runners simply didn't challenge Ford.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Proponents of wins insist that some pitchers "know how to win" and their records supersede their ERAs. Opponents, on the other hand, say that pitchers can't control their run support. Now it occurs to me that this is very easy to check.
Consider: two pitchers, one with 13 wins and a 3.50 ERA and the other with 18 wins and a 4.50 ERA. Who would you rather have next year?
Let's find out. I decided to take the top 20 pitchers in MLB in 2005 in wins and ERA, and see what they did in 2006. Due to ties, we end up with the top 23 in wins and top 24 in ERA. Here are the average results for each group:
Wins leaders: 17-9, 217 IP, 3.57 ERA, .645 Win%
ERA leaders: 15-9, 212 IP, 3.10 ERA, .629 Win%
Both groups were obviously very good, in large part because ten pitchers appear on both lists (Willis, Colon, Carpenter, Oswalt, Garland, Pettitte, Santana, Buehrle, Beckett, Martinez). So let's remove them:
Wins leaders: 16-10, 211 IP, 4.04 ERA, .617 Win%
ERA leaders: 12-9, 203 IP, 3.18 ERA, .581 Win%
That's more like it. Nearly a full run difference in ERA one way and a four-win difference in their records the other way. Present those two pitching lines to baseball fans and you'll find quite a divide in their responses.
Fast forward one year. This is what our two groups did in 2006:
Wins leaders: 11-11, 177 IP, 4.59 ERA, .509 Win%
ERA leaders: 12-10, 182 IP, 4.18 ERA, .554 Win%
How do you like that? Not only did the ERA group continue to post a better ERA the following year, it also had more wins, fewer losses and more innings. And that's despite Roger Clemens sitting out the first half of the season.
Bottom line: this year's ERA is actually a better predictor of next year's W-L record than this year's W-L record is. Which means judging a pitcher by his win total is silly.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
We're not going to bother with discussing Wright. Even if he returns, he's the fifth starter and how many teams go with the same fifth starter all year long anyway?
Mussina, on the other hand, is vital to this team's success. Last year, the Yankees had only two starters who were even remotely reliable: Mussina and Chien-Ming Wang. It would be a disaster to let one of them go.
That we're even discussing this is foolish. Consider Mussina's AL rankings in 2006:
ERA: 3.51 (4th)
FIP: 3.56 (5th)
xFIP: 3.95 (7th)
ERA+: 126 (4th)
K/G: 8.2 (6th)
BB/G: 1.7 (4th)
K:BB: 4.9 (2nd)
By any measure, Mussina was clearly one of the best pitchers in the league last year. Calling him "pedestrian" is patently ridiculous.
But wait, you say. What about 2004 and 2005? Well, what about them? Yes, his ERAs those years were 4.59 and 4.41. But ERA is hardly a perfect tool, and it's been shown that FIP is a better predictor of future ERA. Quick summary:
Pitchers who underperformed their FIP:
2004 ERA: 5.29
2004 FIP: 4.61
2005 ERA: 4.58
Pitchers who overperformed their FIP:
2004 ERA: 3.93
2004 FIP: 4.75
2005 ERA: 4.88
It should be obvious that FIP is much more useful than ERA. Mussina's FIP in 2004 and 2005: 4.03 each year.
His K:BB ratio the last three years: 3.3, 3.0, 4.9. Think 2006 is a fluke? Fine. But 3 strikeouts for every walk is still outstanding. In fact, Mussina's K:BB ratio hasn't been below 3 since 1996. And in his worst year (1994) he was still a staggering 46% better than average. The dude can still pitch.
A simple Marcel projection using Mussina's FIP would place his 2007 ERA at ~3.80. That would again make him the best pitcher on the Yankees.
But he'll be 38! Bollocks that. Pitchers don't follow any sort of aging pattern. According to Dan Szymborski, who has studied pitchers' aging patterns, "there's no real aging "curve" with pitchers until the strikeout rates start eroding too quickly or the pitcher gets injured. But this happens at young ages, too - pitchers in the late 20s with scary drops in K rate age just as poorly as those in the late 30s with similar drops in K rate."
Mussina's K-rate is, in fact, improving, by 15% in 2006. That goes along with a 29% drop in his already excellent walk rate.
Bottom line: there is no reason to expect Mussina to fall off a cliff. He is a very good bet to post another sub-4 ERA while throwing around 200 innings. In addition, he pretty much became Philip Hughes's mentor last spring. And when your best starter is also your Future's teacher...well, re-signing him is a no-brainer.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
2. Miguel Cabrera
3. Carlos Beltran
4. Ryan Howard
5. Lance Berkman
6. Brandon Webb
7. Roy Oswalt
8. Brian McCann
9. Chase Utley
10. Chris Carpenter
Pujols quite simply had the best numbers of any player in the NL. He was third in average (to Freddy Sanhez and Cabrera), second in OBP (to Barry Bonds), first in slugging and first in OPS. On top of that, he's the best fielding first baseman in the league and a very good baserunner. To me, this is an easy choice.
Cabrera gets overlooked, but the dude hit .339/.430/.568 in a tough hitter's park. Incidentally, he has increased his average, OBP & SLG each year of his career, has missed just 10 games the past three years, and is still only 23. Superstar.
Beltran doesn't have the numbers that Howard has, but there are three important differences: 1) Beltran is a centerfielder; 2) Beltran is a very good fielder whereas Howard is terrible; and 3) Beltran is an excellent baserunner whereas Howard is not quite as bad as David Ortiz. You can fawn over Howard's home run total, but Beltran is the better all-around player.
There's a dropoff after those four. Berkman is the dominant slugger who slots in nicely in front of the pitchers.
Speaking of, there's not much difference between Webb, Oswalt and Carpenter. You can put the bottom half of my list in any order and it won't much matter.
Utley and McCann are another illustration of my preference for players at premium defensive positions. Utley hit .309/.379/.527 while playing a good second base. McCann actually just missed out on qualifying for the batting title by 10 PA, but he still hit .333/.388/.572. Even with all that missed time, he still knocked 34 doubles, 24 homers and 93 RBI. That's huge production from a catcher. Huge.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
2. Joe Mauer
3. Derek Jeter
4. Grady Sizemore
5. Miguel Tejada
6. Travis Hafner
7. Manny Ramirez
8. Jermaine Dye
9. Carlos Guillen
10. Roy Halladay
I'm totally cool with the idea that two players from the same team can be the two most valuable in the league. Minnesota is so top-heavy--only St. Louis is more reliant on its handful of stars--that they needed multiple MVP performances to make the playoffs. If you replace Santana, Mauer, Liriano, Morneau and Nathan with average players, the Twins would be lucky to win 70 games. This is a team, after all, whose rotation was AWFUL after Santana & Liriano, and gave the bulk of its DH time to Rondell White and Jason freaking Tyner.
The top 3 are close: you can reorder them in any way and I won't much complain. Santana is the most dominant player in the league; Mauer is a catcher who led the majors in batting, picked up over 600 PA, and played great D behind the plate; Jeter managed a .340+ average while playing everyday at shortstop. Those are special accomplishments all around.
Sizemore is the new Jim Edmonds. He put up fantastic numbers and played a solid centerfield. Nobody seems to notice that he knocked 92 extra base hits while scoring 134 runs, both tops in the majors.
Travis Hafner was the best offensive player in the AL. He gets the spot everyone wanted to award to Ortiz. Speaking of, you notice Manny Ramirez is in my top 10, but not Ortiz. That's no oversight; Manny changes that lineup completely. If they ever flipped those two, Manny would be the one getting all the love.
Tejada and Guillen are two more shortstops having great offensive value. People seem to take Tejada's superstardom for granted, but also not acknowledge Guillen's achievements at all.
Dye is a big-time corner slugger, not as good as Manny but better than Morneau. Halladay is the AL's second-best pitcher. He warrants a down-ballot vote.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Jorge Posada was excellent; nobody cared about his option kicking in anymore...Derek Jeter had his best year since 1999...Robinson Cano busted out in a big way...Jason Giambi's revival continued...Melky Cabrera emerged as the team's best defensive player while also hitting pretty well...Cashman orchestrated the brilliant trade for Bobby Abreu...Chien-Ming Wang stepped up...Mike Mussina had his best year since 2003...Scott Proctor filled in a big void in the bullpen...the addition of Johnny Damon (along with Melky) greatly improved the team defense.
What went wrong?
Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield were injured most of the year...Randy Johnson stunk...Shawn Chacon fell apart...Kyle Farnsworth was erratic...the bench was a net zero most of the year...Carl Pavano never pitched...Scott Erickson and Terrence Long actually played in games that counted...the lineup inexplicably bombed the last three games of the year.
Where do they go from here?
The rotation will be remade. Barry Zito, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Jason Schmidt will be discussed to no end...Philip Hughes will be involved somehow...Sheffield is almost assuredly gone...the Alex Rodriguez saga will never go away...Torre should be back assuming Cashman really is in charge.
What will 2007 be like?
The Red Sox have even more problems than the Yankees, and the Blue Jays don't have the horses to compete. Winning the AL East should be very doable, and the postseason will be a crapshoot, as always.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Is there anything to debate here? The Tigers have a terrible lineup (Sean Casey is batting third!), a tired rotation, and not much of a bullpen beyond Zumaya. Meanwhile, the Yankees' worst hitter (umm, Posada?) is better than anyone the Tigers have except Carlos Guillen. Yikes.
Yes, Detroit has a great defense. Yes, Verlander and Bonderman are capable of being lights-out, and even Nate Robertson can be dangerous. But an awful lot has to go right for them to pull off the upset. Anything can happen in a short series, but this seems academic.
Yankees in 3.
This is the main event. Not only are these teams evenly-matched, but they're both great clubs who had hot second halves. This is virtually guaranteed to be the highlight of the first round.
Both offenses are mediocre, but better of late. Frank Thomas and Justin Morneau are virtually identical: both had terrible forst quarters of the season and have been unstoppable since. Joe Mauer bests anyone else the A's have, but Oakland's secondary guys--Bradley, Chavez, Swisher--appear to be healthy and improved. Neither lineup will scare you, and neither really has an advantage over the other. Call it even.
Defensively, I'd give Oakland a slight edge. Chavez and Mark Ellis are supeior glovemen. So is Mark Kotsay, though his back is clearly affecting his play. Still, when they run Jay Payton out there, he combines with Kotsay and Bradley to form a fantastic outfield.
For Minnesota, the infield defense is not particularly good, and Torii Hunter is a lot like Kotsay, limited by injury, but without the same quality cornermen to help out. Mauer is fantastic behind the plate, far better than Kendall, but the A's don't run to begin with. Advantage Oakland.
The bullpens are actually close. Oakland runs out a great back-end with Street, Calero, Duchscherer and Kennedy. But that Minnesota group--Nathan, Neshek, Rincon, Reyes--is staggeringly great. Those are shutdown guys right there. Both teams have interesting longmen: Blanton for the A's and Garza for the Twins, as it appears they're going with Carlos Silva as their fourth starter. Great as the A's pen is, this is clearly an advantage for the Twins.
And now the big question: rotation. It's easier to go by game...
Game 1: Santana v. Zito - Twins by a mile
Game 2: Boof v. Loaiza - Interesting, but gotta give it to the A's
Game 3: Radke v. Haren - Easily A's
Game 4: Silva v. Harden - This is just funny
Game 5: Santana v. Zito - See Game 1
Johan Santana rules the day; he changes the complexion of the series entirely. As good as Zito is, Minnesota has to be a huge favorite in Games 1 & 5.
The flip side is that Oakland has equally huge advantages in Games 3 & 4. The loss of Liriano is colossal. With him, the Twins are arguably World Series frontrunners. Without him, they run a legitimate chance of being ousted by Frank Thomas & the Seven Dwarfs.
Game 2 is where this series will be decided. Boof Bonser has the potential to step it up while Estaban Loaiza can always regress to April form. Whoever wins that game wins the series.
I don't know which direction to go. Either way, I think the series goes five games. If Minnesota wins behind Boof, they probably lose Games 3 & 4 and ride Santana to the ALCS. But if Oakland takes the critical game and goes up 2-1, I think Santana pitches Game 4. The Twins can force a fifth game then, but look at the resulting pitching matchup: Zito v. Silva. Oakland has to love that possibility.
It's extremely close...let's say 51/49...but I'll give the nod in Game 2 to the home-field advantage that is the Metrodome. Boof pitches well and the bullpen closes things down.
Twins in 5.
Monday, October 02, 2006
In the AL, it's all about pitching. Kenji Johjima had a great introduction to American baseball, but he is a distant fifth to the four pitchers: Francisco Liriano, Jonathan Papelbon, Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver.
Liriano: 121 IP, 2.16 ERA, 89 H, 144 K, 32 BB, 9 HR, 50.5 VORP
Papelbon: 68.1 IP, 0.92 ERA, 40 H, 75 K, 13 BB, 3 HR, 38.2 VORP
Verlander: 186 IP, 3.63 ERA, 187 H, 124 K, 60 BB, 21 HR, 46.2 VORP
Weaver: 123 IP, 2.56 ERA, 94 H, 105 K, 33 BB, 15 HR, 46.1 VORP
Verlander's numbers look downright pedestrian in comparison to the others. He was very good, to be sure, but something less than dominant. Verlander also had the benefit of pitching in a great pitcher's park with the best defense in the league behind him. A lot of his low ERA can be attributed to Brandon Inge & Co.
Choosing between Liriano and Weaver is easy. In almost the same number of innings, Liriano has a lower ERA, more strikeouts, fewer hits, fewer walks, and fewer home runs. There's no debate here.
Papelbon makes things interesting. He was lights-out as a closer this year; as dominant as anyone. The essential question is, does the added importance of a closer push him ahead of Liriano? It's a matter of taste, but I say no. So, my ballot would be:
Meanwhile, over in the NL...
There were some fine rookie pitchers in the 4-A league. Matt Cain, Josh Johnson, Clay Hensley, Anibal Sanchez, etc. But I think the top 3 rookies were all position players: Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla and Ryan Zimmerman.
Ramirez: .292/.353/.480, 51 SB, 15 CS, 55.9 VORP
Uggla: .282/.339/.480, 6 SB, 6 CS, 40.0 VORP
Zimmerman: .287/.351/.471, 11 SB, 8 CS, 28.3 VORP
That seems pretty open-and-shut, no? They all have similar numbers at the plate, so they get ranked by position: SS, then 2B, then 3B. Ramirez also gets a big boost from his work on the basepaths.
Of course, things can't be that simple. Defense counts and Zimmerman has it in spades. He's arguably the NL's top third baseman (though I'm sure Rolen will get the hardware again) and clearly the class of the rookies with the leather. There isn't a doubt in my mind that his defense is good enough to vault him past Uggla and near Ramirez.
With their numbers being near identical, the debate is really what's more valuable: a below-average defensive shortstop with oodles of stolen bases, or a great defensive third baseman?
That VORP difference is huge, but I have to go with the glove on this one. Zimmerman is so far superior in the field that no amount of stolen bases can overcome it. So, we have:
Tomorrow: playoff preview and predictions.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
So that made me way more productive...and in the process also made me forget I had this little outlet to tend to. Naturally, I return with nothing to write. Postseason baseball will hopefully change that.
Incidentally, why must so many writers be nattering, pretentious twits? There's this one
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Thomas signed with Oakland in January, almost as an afterthought. Nobody else wanted him, and the A's had picked up Milton Bradley, which seemingly left no place for Thomas to play. But they decided he was worth the risk: just $500k guaranteed.
Thomas has so far earned $2.2M in incentives and appears likely to earn another $400k. All total, Thomas will make $3.1M for a year in which he posts an OPS around 1000 and drives in over 100 runs. Not too shabby for Oakland.
The odd thing is, in late May the contract looked for all the world to be a lost gamble. On May 21, Thomas was hitting .178/.300/.373 with 7 HR and 20 RBI in 118 AB. Oakland was 22-21 (.512) and were averaging 4.5 runs per game.
At that point something changed: the Big Hurt returned. Since May 22, the Big Hurt has destroyed opposing pitchers to the tune of .325/.433/.644. He's added 29 homers and 78 RBI in just 292 AB. Oakland has been a .600 team (60-40) and upped their scoring to 4.8 runs/game.
We're basically talking about the 2000 version of the Big Hurt: that year he hit .328/.436/.625 with nearly an RBI per game on a 95-win team. Man, does that sound familiar or what? Thomas finished second in the MVP voting that year in a tight race with Jason Giambi.
Thomas is 16 homers shy of 500. He's basically a lock to be the seventh playe ever with 500 homers and a .300 average. The way he's hit this year, would anyone be shocked if he made it to 600 HR?
It's silly to discuss Frank Thomas's Hall of Fame credentials. At this point, the only question is where the Big Hurt places in the pantheon of hitters.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
When I was pitching, I was delighted when the hitter squared to bunt -- especially if he was a decent hitter. I'll take an man on second with one out any day. And many times it worked out even better for me because the hitter either made a bad bunt and we got the force play at second, or he went back to hitting with two strikes in the count.On bunting early:
One run is not a big deal in the first inning. But the big inning is a big deal. In 70 percent of all major league games, the winning team scores as many or more runs in one inning than the other team scores in the whole game. That suggests that it is better to play for the big inning until late in the game and that's the way I managed.On the hit-and-run:
"If it's such an aggressive play," I said. "Why don't you use it with two outs?" The answer was that with two outs there is no incentive to avoid the double play. I rested my case.On little ball's place in the game:
Little ball originated in the dead ball era. It was a good tactic quite often back then. It has survived for 100 years because there are still situations where it makes sense. But those situations are far fewer now.Lots more interesting thoughts to be found there to boot. Definitely check it out.
Friday, September 01, 2006
Why do I mention this? Because 1903 was Bergen's best season.
Bergen played eleven seasons, and only once did he garner less than 200 AB. In fact, he racked up 3028 AB in the majors, about as many as Vernon Wells. His career batting average of .170 is a full 40 points lower than anyone else's. Who is second? Cy Young. Yes, that Cy Young.
Bergen holds the same 40 point edge on Cy Young in OBP, and his .201 slugging percentage is 58 points lower than Dal Maxvill's, a shortstop for the Cardinals in the '60s & '70s. His OPS is 395 (seriously) which is 121 points lower than Young's and 134 points lower than Hal Lanier's. There are 77 players in history with a higher OBP than his OPS.
There's really no area of hitting that Bergen isn't the worst in. He has the lowest isolated power ever, the lowest secondary average, the fewest walks of any player with at least 3000 AB.
His offensive winning percentage is .098, handily besting Hal Lanier's second-place OWP of .200. That means that if you had a team with average pitching, average defense, and a lineup of nine Bill Bergens, they would have an .098 winning %, which works out to 16-146. Consider that the infamous 1899 Clevaland Spiders were 20-134 (.130) and they didn't have the advantage of an average pitching staff and defense.
1903 was Bergen's only year above the Mendoza Line. Amazingly, Brooklyn actually bought him from Cincinnati that offseason. It's not like they were fooled by that career year and quickly regretted it--Bergen would be their starting catcher for the next eight years.
In 1909, Bergen put up an OPS of 319, the same year that Honus Wagner paced the league with a .339 batting average. His final season, 1911, featured a line of .132/.182/154. His OPS+ (which is a ratio of his OPS v. the league's) was -4. Negative four. That's not a typo--that's statistical comedy.
Checking out Bergen's B-R page has always been great fun, until the other day when I noticed the phrase "Brother of Marty Bergen."
A brother who also played baseball? This seemed like a promising development. And at first glance, it was. Marty was also a catcher without much of a bat, though by no means as futile as Bill. More intriguing is the fact that nobody knows if he batted lefty or righty. But what really catches one's attention is this:
Final Game: October 15, 1899
Died: January 11, 1900.
What ended Marty's life at 28? The answer lies here:
Marty Bergen died in 1900 after slitting his throat with a razor. Before his suicide, he murdered his wife and two children with an ax.Oh. Amazingly, this sort of thing wasn't all that uncommon in those days. In the New Bill James Historical Abstract (p. 87-88), James includes a partial list of baseball suicides from 1900-1925. There were 27 of them, including Marty Bergen, many of them also of the murder/suicide variety. At least Detroit pitcher Win Mercer "left a suicide note warning of the evils of women and gambling."
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
With that in mind, let's take a look at how the Yankees are faring this season. Courtesy of The Hardball Times, it's Graph Time!
(minimum 20 IP)
- Disregard Rivera's xFIP. In fact, FIP is apparently better forrelievers than xFIP. Even that underrates Rivera. Regardless, he's the Yankees' best pitcher. Duh.
- Ron Villone has combined a freakishly low GB% with a freakishly low HR/F%. Something's gotta give. In fact, I think it already has. He's toast.
- Jaret Wright is going to give up a lot more home runs.
- Shawn Chacon wasn't unlucky at all; he just plain sucked.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Or do they? Homer Bailey has taken a huge step forward in 2006, establishing himself--along with Philip Hughes--at the top of pitching prospect lists. Identified by Bryan Smith in the spring as a breakout candidate, Bailey has gone from "a riddle wrapped in an enigma and covered with chocolate icing" to potential pennant race booster shot.
So who's better? Onto the tale of the tape...
Homer Bailey is a 20-year-old Texan, born May 3, 1986. 6'3", 190 lbs. He was taken in the first round, 7th overall, in the 2004 draft, and was widely regarded as the top high school righthanded pitcher. Though he himself has said he plays baseball because he's good at it, not because he likes it, Bailey is regarded as a hard worker with a successful attitude.
Bailey throws 92-94 and can touch 97. He has an outstanding curve, unhittable when it's working, and a developing changeup. Bailey doesn't like using his offspeed stuff, preferring to blow his fastball by hitters all the time. The Reds are working hard with him to mix his pitches better.
Philip Hughes is a 20-year-old Californian, born June 24, 1986. 6'5", 220 lbs. He was taken in the first round, 23rd overall, in the 2004 draft. Some clubs considered him the top high school pitcher that year due to his maturity and polish. He's considered very advanced for his age with phenomenal makeup.
Hughes throws 91-93 and can touch 96 (though John Sickels has said that his velocity has improved a bit this season). Both his curve and slider are considered plus pitches, and his change is effective. He has tremendous command, reflecting how polished he is for a 20-year-old.
Same age, same draft year, similar promotion patterns...tracking their performances will be interesting.
Bailey: GCL (Rk); 12.1 IP, 4.38 ERA, 14 H, 9 K, 3 BB, 0 HR
Hughes: GCL (Rk); 5 IP, 0.00 ERA, 4 H, 8 K, 0 BB, 0 HR
Not very telling, but Hughes obviously had the more successful introduction to pro ball.
Bailey: Mdw (A-); 103.2 IP, 4.43 ERA, 7.7 H/9, 10.9 K/9, 5.4 BB/9, 0.4 HR/9
Hughes: SAL (A-); 68.2 IP, 1.97 ERA, 6.0 H/9, 9.4 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 0.1 HR/9
Hughes: FSL (A+); 17.2 IP, 3.06 ERA, 4.1 H/9, 10.7 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 0.0 HR/9
Hughes distanced himself from Bailey statistically by a wide margin. His control was far, far, FAR better, and he improved all of his peripherals upon being promoted to High-A.
At this point, PECOTA fell in love with Hughes, not only tabbing him the third best pitching prospect in baseball, but also marking him with the highest upside (yes, even higher than Francisco Liriano's). Bailey rated a humble 44th, though PECOTA regognized the potential--his top two comparables were Rich Harden and Francisco Rodriguez. (Hughes's top comparable was Jake Peavy).
Still, scouts loved Bailey. Baseball America rated Bailey the 38th best prospect this year, just one slot ahead of Hughes.
Bailey: FSL (A+); 70.2 IP, 3.31 ERA, 6.2 H/9, 10.1 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 0.8 HR/9
Bailey: SOU (AA); 62 IP, 1.16 ERA, 6.5 H/9, 10.0 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 0.1 HR/9
Hughes: FSL (A+); 30 IP, 1.80 ERA, 5.7 H/9, 9.0 K/9, 0.6 BB/9, 0.0 HR/9
Hughes: EAS (AA); 111 IP, 2.35 ERA, 5.8 H/9, 10.8 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 0.4 HR/9
Hughes trumped Bailey in the Florida State League, making his promotion a no-brainer. Bailey, though, was inconsistent and made many people question the move to the Southern League. 62 innings later and those same doubters are now questioning whether or not he should be in the majors. A 1.16 ERA will do that for ya.
While Bailey has the big advantage in ERA, Hughes's peripherals are quite superior. Let's break it down further with batted ball data.
FSL: 18.8 % K, 9.4% BB, 47.9% GB, 3.77 FIP (3.82 ERA)
Bailey: 27.4% K, 9.0% BB, 44.2% GB, 3.21 FIP, 2.95 xFIP
Hughes: 27.3% K, 2.7% BB, 51.4% GB, 1.52 FIP, 2.34 xFIP
The strikeout rates are interesting, as Bailey's K/9 was comfortably ahead. Hughes simply got through innings faster, so faced fewer batters. They're even in Ks, but Hughes walked significantly fewer betters (note: I'm using a modified walk rate of [BB-IBB+HBP]/PA) and induced many more grounders. On the whole, Hughes's command again wins out.
SL: 19.9% K, 9.3% BB, 47.2% GB, 3.71 FIP (3.45 ERA)
Bailey: 27.7% K, 10.4% BB, 48.3% GB, 2.44 FIP, 2.90 xFIP
EL: 19.2% K, 9.3% BB, 46.8% GB, 3.90 FIP (3.81 ERA)
Hughes: 30.8% K, 7.9% BB, 51.6% GB, 2.31 FIP, 2.49 xFIP
How do you like them apples? Hughes has significant advantages in every major peripheral: strikeouts, walks and groundballs. His Fielding Independent ERAs are better, and he's accomplished this while playing in the tougher league. Bailey's FIP+ is 128. Hughes's is 157.
Color me surprised. From all the talk, Bailey and Hughes appeared to be very even. But statistically, Hughes flat-out outclasses Bailey. From a scouting perspective, Hughes's command, makeup and poise are second to none. At this point, the only plusses I can see for Bailey are the drop dead curve, higher draft position and shiny Double-A ERA. And while the former is for real, the latter two are gilded advantages.
Bailey is obviously a great prospect--a FIP 28% better than average for a 20-year-old in Double-A is mighty impressive--but by any objective measure, Hughes is top of the heap.
All hail the new king. Philip Hughes has earned the crown.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Clippard: (Rk); 43.2 IP, 2.89 ERA, 6.8 H/9, 11.5 K/9, 1.0 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9
Hughes: (Rk); 5.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, 7.2 H/9, 14.4 K/9, 0.0 BB/9, 0.0 HR/9
Okay, that was irrelevant.
Clippard: (A-); 149.0 IP, 3.44 ERA, 9.2 H/9, 8.8 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 0.7 HR/9
Hughes: (A-); 68.2 IP, 1.97 ERA, 6.0 H/9, 9.4 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 0.1 HR/9
Hughes: (A+); 17.2 IP, 3.06 ERA, 4.1 H/9, 10.7 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 0.0 HR/9
So a few things. First, the farther from the majors you get, the more strikeouts in the league. If you're in A-ball, you pretty much need to be striking out a batter per inning just to be considered a prospect.
That said, Clippard still put up solid numbers. The control is there, and his 4.5 K:BB ratio is great no matter the context. Certainly a legit prospect.
Hughes, on the other hand was even better. His K:BB ratio was also 4.5, but he combined that command with a tremendous ability to induce weak contact: just 46 hits and one--one!--home run in Low-A. He earned a promotion to Tampa and was even better. The sample size is tiny, but those rate stats are ridiculous. Hughes is clearly more advanced than Clippard at this age.
Clippard: (A+); 147.1 IP, 3.18 ERA, 7.2 H/9, 10.3 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 0.7 HR/9
Hughes: (A+); 30.0 IP, 1.80 ERA, 5.7 H/9, 9.0 K/9, 0.6 BB/9, 0.0 HR/9
Hughes: (AA); 111.0 IP, 2.35 ERA, 5.8 H/9, 10.8 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 0.4 HR/9
(Note: Clippard also pitched six innings in Low-A and one inning in Triple-A.)
Clippard improved his numbers across the board even while moving up a level. That's the sort of thing that cements you as a good prospect. His overall K:BB for the year was a phenomenal 5.3.
Hughes, again, beats Clippard handily. His raw numbers are superior despite playing in the upper-minors. To do this at 20 (and he only turned 20 in June; Hughes is 16 months younger than Clippard) makes him arguably the top pitching prospect in all of baseball.
Looking at play-by-play data for 2006, we get this:
Eastern League: 19% K, 9% BB, 47% GB, 3.90 FIP, 3.90 xFIP
Clippard: 25% K, 11% BB, 44% GB, 3.62 FIP, 3.42 xFIP
Hughes: 30% K, 8% BB, 51% GB, 2.31 FIP, 2.50 xFIP
(K% & BB% are per batter faced. BB% is also unintentional walks + HBP. GB% is per ball in play. FIP is Fielding Independent ERA. xFIP is the same, but adjusting the HR per flyball to league average.)
Only one of those two is an elite prospect. Hughes is striking out 62% more batters than average while racking up the groundballs. There's nothing about him not to love.
Clippard rates as a solidly above average pitcher, but not special. He's 21, which is young for Double-A, and that helps him. But his walk rate and groundball rates are decidedly unimpressive. He misses plenty of bats, but so do a lot of prospects.
Ah, but Clippard has been red hot the past two months. Since June 19, if I'm adding correctly, he has a 1.77 ERA in 86.1 IP. Checking out his rates in that time:
30% K, 11% BB, 44% GB, 2.77 FIP, 3.04 xFIP
Very nice, but not as different as you'd expect. His GB/LD/FB/P splits were 44/13/33/10, compared to his season line of 44/12/34/10. The walk rate is virtually unchanged, but he's striking out a lot more batters. Can't hit the ball out of the park if you can't make contact.
Still, his xFIP is only 38 points below his seasonal xFIP. It's nice, don't get me wrong, but a lot of the perceived improvement is really just a change in luck with HR/FB.
Just for kicks, Hughes over that same stretch:
38% K, 7% BB, 54% GB, 1.21 FIP, 1.86 xFIP
Wow. Hughes has upped his strikeouts and groundballs while decreasing walks, flyballs and line drives. Why is this guy in Trenton still?
So what does this all mean? Well, two things: first, Philip Hughes is obscenely good. As hyped as he's been, he's earned every bit of it. Be excited, people.
And second, Clippard is a good-but-not-great pitching prospect. He's young and has clearly improved in-season, but it's important to note that he's had a drastic change in luck. I think many Yankee fans are overrating him to an extent because of it.
Monday, August 21, 2006
- Why, why, why do teams bunt against Mariano Rivera? I've said it before: you can't center the cutter and Mo is the best-fielding pitcher in the game. That David Ortiz was the lead runner makes Francona's decision all the more embarrassing. Tito had to be the only guy in the world who didn't see that one ending as it did.
- On the other side, when Melky led off the ninth, Torre could have done the easy thing and let Nick Green bunt. Instead, he sent Bernie Williams up to pinch hit (I would've gone with Craig Wilson, but that's irrelevant) even though he knew it would cost him the DH.
- On the pitching front, Torre again outmanaged Francona. Whereas Papelbon didn't enter the game until the bases were loaded, Torre called upon Rivera in the ninth in a nonsave situation.
Say what you will about Torre, but he might very well be the best extra innings manager in baseball. He's come a long way since the Jeff Weaver debacle against Florida in 2003.
And lastly, as someone reminded me today, it needs to be said: small ball lost the game while the longball won it.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Tell me something I don't understand
You said you love me and that's a fact
Then you left me, said you felt trapped
Well some things you can explain away
But my heart aches in me till this day
Did you stand by me
No, not at all
Did you stand by me
All the times
When we were close
I'll remember these things the most
I see all my dreams come tumbling down
I won't be happy without you around
So all alone I keep the wolves at bay
There is only one thing that I can say
Did you stand by me
No, not at all
Did you stand by me
You must explain why this must be
Did you lie when you spoke to me
Did you stand by me
No, not at all
Now I got a job
But it don't pay
I need new clothes
I need somewhere to stay
But without all these things I can do
But without your love I won't make it through
But you don't understand my point of view
I suppose there's nothing I can do
Did you stand by me
No, not at all
Did you stand by me
You must explain why this must be
Did you lie when you spoke to me?
Did you stand by me
Did you stand by me
No, not at all
Did you stand by me
Did you stand by me
No, not at all
Did you stand by me
(And where the heck did Mick Jones get that suit?)
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Busy weekend equated to virtually no baseball-viewing, so I have nothing to comment on. Instead, I had two barbecues, a softball championship & the Second Annual August iPod Crisis. So yeah.
I do want to add that video iPods are really cool. The screen is totally bitchin'.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Baseball first: handing Mariano Rivera a lead and not getting the win always sucks. Okay, so we know he isn't perfect--the guy got beat by Tony freaking Womack in the biggest game of his career after all--but it's still genuinely surprising to see him give up a run.
Speaking of Mo, why do managers still bunt off of him? Ever? First, Rivera's entire genius is for just missing the sweet spot of the bat. It's impossible for hitters to center the ball off him, which, I imagine, would make bunting quite difficult. Then there's the fact that he's probably the best-fielding pitcher in the league, and loves--LOVES--nailing the lead runner. Pierzynski's failed sacrifice was utterly predictable.
It needs to be said that Chicago almost killed themselves with smallball, but were ultimately saved by the longball. That's their 2005 to a tee, as well.
A-Rod can't catch a break. He has great at bats all night, hits a huge home run, a big single in the eighth, then steals second off Bobby Jenks...and all people can talk about is how he didn't catch that foul ball. Train in Vain, Alex. Train in Vain.
A few words on The Ice Harvest. It always bugs me when a great cast comes together for a bad movie. While The Ice Harvest can't rival The Island for biggest waste of talent ever, it was still hugely disappointing. The plot was an absolute mess, the resolution haphazard, and the whole "...so falls Wichita Falls" line...what was its significance, other than the writer thinking it sounded clever? Ugh.
And for a movie whose premise was that the criminals had to stay in town for a few hours because the roads were too slippery to drive on, there certainly was an awful lot of driving going on.
I'm tired and looking forward to getting home for another double feature. It can't possibly be as bad as last night's.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Sad Sam Jones
Johnny Vander Meer
Part Two: In which PECOTA takes the spotlight
Appendix: List of sinkerballers and control group
We have thus far examined the careers of pitchers who possess a statistical similarity to Chien-Ming Wang. Now it's time to get to the crux of the matter: today we're taking a closer look at sinkerballers.
First, we need to identify sinkerball pitchers throughout history. To do this, I used Lee Sinins's Complete Baseball Encyclopedia to make a list of every pitcher with at least 1500 innings and a positive Runs Saved Above Average (RSAA). This gave me 411 pitchers to work with, plus a few active guys who went over 1500 IP this year. I then looked each of them up in the Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers and narrowed the list to those who had a sinker listed as either their first or second pitch. We're now left with 52 sinkerballers, spanning the ages from Grover Cleveland (Pete) Alexander to Derek Lowe.
Okay, so what do these 52 pitchers tell us? Well...actually, let's just look at the numbers first. Here is the average career line for our sinker group:
Pretty good, obviously. We are looking at only pitchers with long, above average careers after all.
The last two columns require explanation: Delta Hits (DH) is the number of hits a pitcher gave up versus what you'd expect from the defense behind him. Delta Runs (DR) is the number of runs a pitcher gave up versus what you'd expect from his peripheral stats. For both, negative is good and positive is bad.
That our sinkerballers gave up more hits than expected makes intuitive sense. Groundballs become hits at a higher rate than flyballs. That's the tradeoff: a lot more singles, but fewer extra-base hits.
Which brings us to the -20 in the DR column. While I don't know exactly how Clay Davenport calculates these figures, I'm going to guess exact figures for doubles and triples aren't included. Since groundball pitchers will generally give up less of these, it basically takes three singles to score one run. In addition, they should also induce more double plays. There's also the theory that the sinker sinks more from the stretch, even though that blew up in my face in Part One. I'm still not giving up on it. At any rate, there are any number of reasons why sinkerballers might give up fewer runs than the rest of their stat line indicates.
It's kinda tough to read anything into these numbers without context though. With that in mind, I created a control group. Returning to the aforementioned list of 400+ pitchers, I selected 52 of them who roughly matched up to our sinkerballers in ERA, IP & RSAA. I also checked them in the Neyer/James Guide to make sure none threw a sinker, even as a third or fourth option. Back to the chart:
About what we'd expect. The sinkerballers pitched to contact more, with fewer homers, fewer strikeouts, fewer walks and more hits. The difference in the DH column underscores nicely the added singles from the sinker. Unfortunately, my theories on why sinkerballers were better than average in the DR column are shot down by the similar number from our no sink group.
It's interesting that the unearned runs are the same for both groups. Since most errors come on grounders, one would expect sinkerballers to have a higher UERA. Maybe the higher error rate is offset by the lower walk and home run rates, so opponents don't take advantage of errors as much.
UIBB is unintentional walks per 9 innings. (The sink group averaged 51 IBB v. 30 for the no sink group.) This is the biggest difference between the two, as sinkerballers walk 14% fewer batters than their counterparts.
BABIP, for those unfamiliar, is Batting Average on Balls In Play. This is yet another way of hammering home the point that sinkerballers allow more hits.
And the last column, TTO%, stands for the Three True Outcomes: strikeouts, walks and homers. These are all the times that the pitcher and batter solve things by themselves, without bringing all those pesky fielders into the matter. Sinkerballers have a TTO 10% less often, which equals a lot more balls in play.
I was initially surprised to see sinkerballers allow just 9% fewer home runs than their counterparts. But really, that's a nifty little difference. Remember, we're only looking at successful pitchers here, and it's awfully difficult to have a long, productive career if you're handing out gopherballs left and right. That sinker pitchers keep the ball in the park above and beyond already quite-good pitchers is rather impressive. If we could compare them to league average, the numbers would change quite a bit.
Well, we might as well do that. For each season since 1900, I got the league average for ERA, walks, strikeouts and home runs per inning off Baseball-Reference (note: I'm calculating AL and NL separately). Then for each player season, I compared his actual ERA, walks, home runs and strikeouts to the expected totals.
Quick example: in 2002, there were 0.122 home runs hit per inning. Derek Lowe pitched 219.7 innings, so we would expect him to give up 26.8 home runs. He actually surrendered 12, so he was 14.8 HR better than average.
(Note: these numbers are NOT park-adjusted. )
|Group||ER diff||HR diff||BB diff||K diff||ERA+||HR+||BB+||K+|
(The first four columns are again averages of all 52 players per group, for consistency with previous graphs. The last four columns are rate stats, with 100 as average. So 119 means 19% better than average and 95 means 5% worse than average.)
That's more telling. As you can see from the last four columns, the two groups were exactly as effective, but in very different ways. Our No Sink group is, in fact, pretty much average at preventing the longball. They get their fair share of strikeouts and do a good job of avoiding walks.
The sinkerballers, on the other hand, succeed in spite of not striking batters out. Their walk and home run rates are fantastic, much better than their counterparts'.
So what does this all mean? Well, it means that strikeout rate isn't all that important for sinkerballers. That's not to say they can get away with no K's, but a below average rate isn't all that disconcerting. I mean, these are essentially the 52 best sinkerballers ever. If they had this level of success--right in line with non-sinkerballers--with a below average K-rate, then maybe we shouldn't stress out so much over Wang's inability to miss bats.
Yes, Wang needs to up the strikeouts somewhat. But he doesn't need to get to Kevin Brown or Brandon Webb levels. He doesn't even need to get to average. He can still be a great pitcher without the K's.
Monday, August 07, 2006
We're in the middle of discussing what will become of Chien-Ming Wang's career. A cursory examination of his profile reveals nothing definitive--and not much positive, to be honest.
Today we're putting aside our own biases and looking at a more objective examination of Wang's future. Nate Silver's PECOTA system is custom-made for the task. For those not familiar, PECOTA takes into account a player's age, height, weight, handedness, stats, what have you to find similar players in history, then sees how said players developed. Coming into this season, these were Wang's top twenty comparables:
1. Don August: Decent rookie season in 1988; fell off a cliff after that and was finished by 1991.
2. Rick Matula: Career lasted just a couple of seasons, neither of which are worth noting.
3. Zach Day: Former Yankee farmhand. Fringe major leaguer.
4. Kevin Brown: We’ll get back to him.
5. John Butcher: A few useful seasons mixed in with some clunkers.
6. Bob Forsch: I gotta be honest: this is the first I’ve heard of Forsch. Good career, though. Nearly 2800 innings of league average ball. Also won two Silver Slugger awards. Bonus.
7. Mike Krukow: Nearly 2200 innings of nearly league average ball.
8. Brian Lawrence: Never lived up to expectations in
9. Brandon Duckworth: Failed prospect. Wasn’t he shot while in the minors?
10. Bob Sadowski: 2.62 ERA as a rookie, out of the majors three years later.
11. Vicente Padilla: Regressed after early promise. Useful innings-eater in
12. John Denny: Won the Cy Young in 1983. Mediocre career otherwise.
13. John Burkett: Long, underwhelming career. Memorably pitched out of his mind for the Braves in 2001 at the age of 36.
14. Al Nipper: Another short, non-noteworthy career.
15. Randy O’Neal: More bleh.
16. John Dopson: Managed a 3-11 record as a rookie despite a 3.04 ERA. I’m going to guess injuries felled him.
17. Bob Anderson: We’re almost home, just a couple more.
18. Joey Hamilton: Rivaled Todd Stottlemyre with the constant injury woes. Peaked in his first two seasons anyway. This is worst-case scenarion right here.
19. Dick Bosman: 2.19 ERA as a 25-year-old, followed by a 3.00 ERA, then nothin’.
20. Derek Lowe: Up-and-down closer, then an up-and-down starter.
Outside of Kevin Brown, there isn’t much to be excited about. A few guys had long, useful careers, but no stars. Twelve of them never pitched 1,000 innings, though four of those twelve are still active.
Overall, the average career for Wang’s top twenty comparables was 71-64, 3.97 ERA, 1247 IP. Their age-26 average was 4.14 ERA in 147 IP, and after 26, they posted a 4.05 ERA in 799 IP. Wang, 26 this year, thus far has 156 IP with a 3.58 ERA.
Draw from that what you will. Certainly it doesn’t bode well for Wang, though his strong 2006 will hopefully draw him better comparables from PECOTA next season.
Aww, but we can’t leave off on that pessimistic note. I still need to get back to Kevin Brown. Here is his career through 26:
610 IP, 3.82 ERA, 614 H, 304 K, 228 BB, 42 HR
That’s right: Kevin Brown barely struck anyone out early in his career. It wasn’t until 1997, when he was 32, that the K’s started coming in spades. Something tells me Brian Cashman would be thrilled if Wang goes down this same path.
Could Yankee fans go from despising Brown to rooting for his clone? Is his career what Wang has ahead of him? Can Wang add the secondary pitches Brown used to dominate the league for so long?Coming soon: Part Three, Fun with Sinkers