Archive for the ‘MLB Baseball Analysis’ Category

Prince Fielder signed with the Detroit Tigers for $214MM over nine years – was this a wise move? 

My first thought when I read the initial “rumours” about this signing that there is no way the Tigers would be dumb enough to pay a bad-bodied DH in the making 200+ million dollars.  Yet it is being confirmed that this is indeed the case. 

Let me get the obligatory “this player is great” out of the way early, because it is easy to appreciate what a great hitter Prince Fielder has been over his career.   

G AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ HR WAR
998 282 390 540 391 141 230 23.4

 Yeah, as I already stated you can see that any team would be dying to add a player with those types of numbers but ultimately I feel this is simply a waste of resources for the Tigers.

First, the Tigers didn’t need to make this move right now.  Fielder’s value and production will be at its highest over the next two to three seasons but the Tigers (with or without Victor Martinez) are favourites to win their division for at least the next three seasons in my opinion when looking at the landscape of the division.

This signing will absolutely affect nothing in the grand scheme of things other than the Tigers will clinch the division a week earlier.  The playoffs are a crap shoot and adding one player to your line-up is not going to give you a huge advantage over a short best of seven baseball playoff series.

 Fielder will be a huge help in the regular season playing 160+ games a season, without question but again the playoffs can have unlikely heroes all the time (Jim Leyritz for example) and the stars don’t always shine (Alex Rodriguez I’m looking at you).

By the time Fielder is starting his decline the divisional outlook should look quite a bit different with the Kansas City Royals presumably starting to make their presence known with a plethora of top quality minor league talents hitting the big leagues soon.  Minnesota has had too strong a track record of player development to continue their recent swoon and Cleveland and Chicago have only one way to go.

When the division is starting to toughen up the Tigers will have two fat DHs with monstrous, bloated contracts saddling their operations and payroll.  Good luck selling a team on a declining DH with no defense and a horrible physique if you are thinking they have an ‘out’.  A Vernon Wells salary dump happens only once in a baseball lifetime.

Second, and probably the most important point, there is almost no way Fielder will bring back the on field value (in terms of WAR) when he eventually (or possibly immediately) shifts to DH full-time.  The rough cost of a win on the free agent market is $5 million and with Fielder earning 24 million per season he will need to average 4.8 WAR per season.

Fielder, who turns 28 in May, has reached 4.8 WAR (or higher) in three of his past six full seasons, no easy task for a player of his age, position and limited defensive abilities.  But given his age it is safe to assume he has reached his peak and will not be improving over the duration of the contract and in fact is likely to plateau and/or decline in the next season or so given what we know about peak power and the age hitters start to see declining output.

For a quick comparison the currently reviled but once feared slugger DH/LF Adam Dunn had one of the most impressive runs a DH has had from 2004-2010.  His wOBA ranged from .403 to .365 in that span and his lowest HR total was a solid 38 – yet due to his awful defense, and left field status only managed a total of 18.9 WAR (or an average of 2.7 WAR).

There is no reason to think Fielder can’t produce upwards of 4.5-6.0 WAR for the next few seasons as his power is still extremely relevant but when he starts to decline there is little chance he can consistently produce that with his bat alone (if he moves to DH). 

We also have to account for the adjustment Fielder is going to be making with respect to his new team.  He is moving to a very friendly pitcher’s park that does not play nearly as offensive as the launching pad in Milwaukee.  He will also be moving to the tougher league and will be facing brand new pitchers (or guys he has faced less) on a nightly basis. 

Third, Prince Fielder is a large, large man.  There have been numerous studies done that have shown his body type will obviously not age as well as a slimmer player.  The absolute pounding his knees, ankles and joints take on a daily basis will eventually begin to catch up with Mr. Fielder and the natural decline phase every player goes through could be a more extreme one for him.

In closing, every team in the league would love to add a big time bat to the heart of their order and indeed Fielder might even push some of those teams right into contention (Washington, Toronto, Miami to name a few) if they were close to making a competitive push in their respective divisions. 

The Tigers are not one of those teams, there division is horrendous and that $214 million could have been spent on various pieces that will be needed to remain competitive over the next decade.  It was an unnecessary but impactful signing and maybe the real moral of the story is Mike Ilitch (Tigers/Red Wings owner) is among a handful of owners in sports that is never afraid to make a big splash – no matter the cost.

Dave Cameron at Fangraphs summed it up nicely when he wrote:

“And, if they win a World Series during that time, it will be easy to live with the cost to the future of the franchise while throwing a parade. However, that argument can be used to justify signing any player to any sized contract, and shouldn’t be how teams operate. At some point, the cost begins to exceed any potential benefit you could reasonably expect, no matter just how desperate you are to win or how much you think a single player will help you.

Fielder will absolutely help the Tigers. He might even be enough to help them get to the World Series and perhaps take home a trophy. But, in reality, if the team had $214 million to spend this winter, they should have been in on Jose Reyes and C.J. Wilson, who won’t make as much between them as what the team just guaranteed Fielder. As I wrote yesterday, the Tigers definitely needed to make an impact move, but because they got stuck in a position where there was only one impact bat left on the market, they found themselves having to vastly overpay in order to get that improvement.

For Detroit’s sake, I hope they win a title in the next three years, because the franchise’s ability to compete long term just took a serious hit. Borrowing from the future to win in the present isn’t always a bad idea, but at these prices, the Tigers should have explored options.

The cost was simply too high.”

In what is shaping up to be a hotly contested and heavily debated AL MVP race I thought I would share a few thoughts as we head down the stretch.  The popular candidates at this point seem to be the New York Yankees CF Curtis Granderson the Boston Red Sox CF Jacoby Ellsbury, 2B Dustin Pedroia and 1B Adrian Gonzalez as well as the Toronto Blue Jays RF/3B Jose Bautista.

Statistically this is a one-horse race as Joey Bats is far and away the best player in baseball, ok, you need proof?  Damn you!

2011 AVG OBP SLG woBA wRC+ WAR HR RBI R
J.Bautista 314 454 649 459 196 7.7 37 82 92
C.Granderson 277 374 585 410 160 6.0 35 98 115
J.Ellsbury 315 372 521 393 147 6.8 23 81 93
D.Pedroia 307 396 469 382 139 7.0 16 69 80
A.Gonzalez 347 409 554 410 159 5.5 21 99 87

 I included a few counting stats that are often used to measure the value of potential candidates (HR, RBI, R) but before you look at RBIs and runs please first look at the average runs scored by each the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, 5.4 runs per game.  The Blue Jays on the other hand with the inferior overall line-up score 4.7 runs per game, a solid mark actually (fourth overall in MLB!) but I don’t think I am going  out on a limb when I say Bautista doesn’t have the surrounding talent (for now) that the other candidates enjoy.

With that out of the way why is there even any debate?  Bautista has the best stats in baseball by a wide margin and is producing a near historic season, apparently it’s because the Blue Jays are only a fourth place team in the AL East.  I think that has been a ridiculous argument over the years and even more so in this instance.

Imagine the Blue Jays played in the horrendous AL Central, they would likely be leading that division by a few games (and would’ve likely added a few pieces at the deadline) as there Pyth W-L record this season is an impressive 67-22 (4.7 RF, 4.5 RA) while the division “leading” Detroit Tigers sports a Pyth W-L of 65-64 (4.5 RF, 4.5 RA).

The Blue Jays haven’t had much luck this season when considering just there run differential (which is what Pythagorean win-loss theory is based on) let alone when we consider the division they currently reside in.  The AL East is an absolute beast and for my money the hardest division in sports.  The Jays would beat up on the AL Central, no question about it in my mind.

To my point, are we now saying that if the Blue Jays were in fact playing in the weak AL Central division (and likely leading it handily) that suddenly Jose Bautista is a legit MVP candidate but because they are in the hardest division in sports, holding their own but only fourth place, he isn’t?  Put the Blue Jays in almost any other division and they are suddenly looking more like contenders than “just a fourth place team” while also making Jose Bautista’s MVP candidacy more legit for the “needs to play on a winner” crowd.

As it stands right now Jose Bautista is the most valuable player in baseball, no matter how you view it.

The long awaited Major League debut of the Toronto Blue Jays top prospect 3B Brett Lawrie occurred tonight and I thought I would provide some thoughts and observations on his first game.

Lawrie, 21 years old is listed at 6’0” and 213 pounds and he looks like a middle linebacker for Ohio St with his impressive build and physique.  He possesses massive strong forearms and looks extremely athletic.  He appears better suited for a more physical sport and my guess is he could’ve had success in multiple sports if he had the inkling.

With nothing left to prove at AAA the Jays did the right thing bringing him up now after destroying minor league pitching with a slash line of 353/415/661 with 24 2Bs, 18 HRs and a .459 wOBA.  He was playing in a supped up offensive environment and he could still stand to refine his patience at the plate (7.9 BB%) or he could be vulnerable to more skilled and savvier major league pitching.

Small nitpicking aside this is one of the most anticipated Blue Jays debut in franchise history.  I don’t remember this much buzz surrounding a prospect on the Jays since Jose Cruz Jr. was acquired from the Seattle Mariners in 1997 (what a rip off).

First inning – Nick Markakis flares a little grounder down the third base line, Brett Lawrie was playing well off the line with the shift on for the lefty, he ranged far to his right and made an athletic (though offline) throw to first base.  Markakis was safe on the play as Lawrie really had no chance, but an athletic play.

After the inning was done, Brett was talking and presumably taking advice from John McDonald, likely about just eating the ball and not risking the throw next time.  Having veterans like Johnny Mac around doesn’t help a club statistically but it is hard to measure the impact he can have on our younger players.

Second inning – Two out and two on, Brett Lawrie makes his debut at the plate.  Lawrie has a nice solid wide stance and looks strong and comfortable with the bat.  Facing right hander Tommy Hunter.

Pitch 1 – Ball, Lawrie takes a close slider. 1-0

Pitch 2 – Ball, takes another close slider. 2-0

Pitch 3 – Good swing, just a bit late on a fastball, fouled behind home plate. 2-1

Pitch 4 – Big slow curveball, out in front, fouled into third base territory. 2-2

Pitch 5 – Fastball up the middle, Lawrie hammers it up the middle for an RBI single! 

First big league hit in his first big league at bat!  Great at-bat, good patience, good balance and a solid stroke to centre field!  Lawrie 1-1 with a single and RBI.

Third inning – Nolan Reimold hits a ground ball to Lawrie and he boots it, the ball got right through him on a slightly strange bounce.  A play he should have made, nerves/adrenaline possibly playing a role after getting the big first hit.  The error is meaningless and the Jays got out of the inning, Lawrie will definitely have to continue working hard on his defense and it has been made very clear that he is not going to second base.

Fourth inning – Brett Lawrie leads off the inning for his second MLB at-bat, still facing Tommy Hunter.

Pitch 1 – Fastball upstairs, ball.  1-0

Pitch 2 – Fastball down the middle, taken for a strike. 1-1

Pitch 3 – Big breaking ball outside, ball. 2-1

Pitch 4 – Another big looping breaking ball, outside. 3-1

Pitch 5 – Broken bat grounder to third base, Lawrie hustled hard down the line but was thrown out by a step.

Another solid at-bat, Lawrie worked the count and got a solid pitch to hit and just got sawed off.  Lawrie might be facing another pitcher in his next at-bat as Tommy Hunter has struggled to keep his pitch count inline, already has 70+ pitches in the fourth inning.  Lawrie now 1-2 with a single and RBI.

Sixth inning – Lefty Troy Patton relieves SP Tommy Hunter, not much known about him to be honest (apparently a switch hitter according to Yahoo!)

Brett Lawrie comes to bat with 2 outs and nobody on-base.

Pitch 1 – Fastball up, called a strike though looked like a ball. 0-1

Pitch 2 – Fastball way outside, taken. 1-1

Pitch 3 – Big curve ball, bends into the inside corner, taken for strike two. 1-2

Pitch 4 – Off speed pitch bounced in, taken. 2-2

Pitch 5 – Fastball a bit up (and maybe outside) called strike three, it looked like a ball.

Tough at-bat with a couple questionable calls (at first glance), Lawrie goes down looking and is now 1-3 with a single and RBI.  Lawrie continues to look poised at the plate and appears he will be a gamer at the plate, a guy who can grind out an at-bat and never given an out away.  This might infuriate some Jays fans but he reminds me of Vernon Wells and Aaron Hill mechanically with a touch of Josh Hamilton (maybe it is the tatoos!).

Another tough play in the field for Lawrie, another ball bounces off his glove, allows a run to score without getting an out.  Gets another chance, shows good hands on a sharp ground ball, gets the ball quickly to second base for one out, Aaron Hill struggled to get it out of his glove, can’t turn the double play.

Eighth Inning – Brett Lawrie comes to bat with 2 outs and runners at first and second base.  Now pitching for the Orioles is Chris Jakubauskas, a big righty with terrible stats so far (6.10 ERA, 1.76 WHIP).

Pitch 1 – Breaking ball low in the dirt, taken.  1-0

Pitch 2 – Fastball upstairs, handled by Brett Lawrie with a hard hit single to left field, Colby Rasmus thrown out at the plate!

Two out base hit and almost another RBI, Lawrie with a rocket to left field on a pitch up in the zone is now 2-4 with two singles and an RBI.

Final Box Score Line for Brett Lawrie – 2/4, 2 singles, 1 RBI, 1 K.

As the All-star break draws near the baseball pundits are starting to announce, proclaim and reason as to who they feel are the most deserving “first half” award winners.  As I love to read about baseball I am always scouring the net for anything related to the game.  As I have read more and more pieces about who should be the AL MVP I am stunned to see that it is not the slam dunk answer it should be.

Here are the two most widely mentioned candidates:

  AVG OBP SLG OPS HR BB% K% wOBA WAR
A 348 405 583 989 16 8.1 18.4 .422 4.4
B 331 467 687 1154 28 19.8 18.1 .481 6.1

 

On what planet would anybody even give minor consideration that Player A (Red Sox Adrian Gonzalez) can even sniff the jock of Player B (Blue Jays Jose Bautista) let alone give the asinine opinion that Adrian Gonzalez is the more “valuable” player than the best hitter in baseball?  Don’t give me the helps his team win more games, or the Red Sox have the better record and Jose Bautista while a great hitter hasn’t helped the Jays more in the win-loss column.

Jose Bautista is so far superior to almost any hitter in baseball none of those things matter, for this season.  When there is a needed “tie-breaker” because the players are neck and neck in terms of statistical analysis than fine, I will begrudgingly accept the old and tired win-loss debate.  But for the first half of 2011 how can any knowledgeable baseball writer even think of not saying Jose Bautista is the game’s best?

To further illustrate my point let’s compare Adrian Gonzalez to another player:

  AVG OBP SLG OPS HR BB% K% wOBA WAR
Ad.Gonz 348 405 583 989 16 8.1 18.4 .422 4.4
B 275 395 569 964 17 16.0 22.0 .414

 

Player B has pretty solid stats right across the board and is neck and neck with Adrian Gonzalez in most categories.  Player B is the ZIPS rest of season projections (courtesy of Fangraphs) for Jose Bautista.  Now a caveat, when a player like Bautista who has scorched the baseball world in the first 79 games of the season the ZIPS projections will be that much more conservative for the rest of the season stats.  If I had to vote for MVP, of course I would give it to Adrian Gonzalez with this comparison yet it goes to show just how talented Jose Bautista is.

Maybe Jose Bautista has just been luckier, Adrian Gonzalez has a .389 BABIP while Jose Bautista has a .322.  Jose Bautista does have a higher HR/FB this year (26.7) but it isn’t that far off last seasons (21.7).  Jose Bautista has played RF and 3B and has the highest WAR in baseball as well as the MLB lead in HRs, BB%, ISO, OBP, SLG%, wOBA and in some cases by a wide margin.

To quote Anderson Cooper it is high time we started “Keeping them honest” when it comes to misinformed and highly impartial baseball writing and opinion.  This year (for one half of a baseball season) the race for the AL MVP is not even close, it is Jose Bautista, all day every day.

#Beastmode – follow me on twitter.

Coming into the 2011 season the expectations were fairly high for Texas Rangers starter Derek Holland and most had envisioned he would take another step forward into developing into one of the better young starters in the game.  The twenty-four year old left hander has been among the game’s best pitching prospects for a few seasons and was a sleeper among many analysts for this current season.

On the surface it would appear he isn’t progressing at all with a pedestrian 4.68 ERA and 1.53 WHIP but given his age, lack of major league experience, home ballpark and overall numbers I think Derek Holland is coming along rather nicely.  I decided to compare Holland to another young and promising (if not already established) left handed starter in David Price. 

Price is one year older than Holland so I thought it prudent to compare Holland’s current 2011 season to Price’s 2010 season, his first full season and breakout year to see how they stack up.  Price has seemingly had better overall stats than his peripherals would suggest and does pitch in a relative pitcher’s park while Holland has never quite seemed to pitch the way his secondary stats would seem to project.

Although the 2011 season is still rather young and only gives us a small sample size to use for Derek Holland it is still rather interesting to see some of the similarities between both the two south paws.

  ERA xFIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP GB% HR/FB
10-Price 2.72 3.83 8.11 3.41 0.65 .270 43.7 6.5
11-Holland 4.68 3.65 7.24 3.32 0.91 .346 46.4 10.5

 As you can see, very similar numbers overall.  David Price has benefited from a very strong Tampa Bay defensive unit and has also seemed to get rather fortunate with balls in play compared to Holland so far this season.  Overall Derek Holland has pitched quite a bit better than his 4.68 ERA would suggest and actually has a lower mark than David Price’s 2010 season.   

Let’s see how they like to attack hitters.

10-Price FB – 74% (94.6) CB – 15.6% (77.5) CH – 5.5% (84.2) SL – 4.9% (86.5)
11-Holland FB – 60% (93.3) SL – 15.9% (82.8) CH – 15.4 (85.3) CB – 8.6% (75.6)

 Velocity is relatively the same across the board but as you can see Price throws his fastball harder and more often and doesn’t rely much on his secondary offerings, at least not compared to Derek Holland.  I find this odd given Holland can clearly dial up the fastball when he needs to, perhaps the control and command of this pitch isn’t where he needs it to be.

  O-Swing Z-Swing Swing O-Contact Z-Contact Contact SwStrike
10-Price 31.1 66.9 48.5 68.6 84.6 79.3 9.8
11-Holland 28.9 64.9 45.8 68.2 89.4 82.3 8.0

 Again, pretty similar numbers across the board in terms of contact and swing rates.  Price’s stuff is clearly superior at this point as he seems to be able to limit contact, get hitters to fish out of the zone and swing through his offerings better than Holland at similar stages in their careers.  David Price in 2010 was a lot more experienced as a starting pitcher at the major league level than Holland is this year so with a little more seasoning and experience Holland could seemingly take another step forward overall.

David Price has taken a big step forward by commanding his fastball this season and has lowered his BB/9 to a remarkable 1.53.  His fastball hasn’t lost an inch and has been worth a cool 1.27 runs per 100 pitches thrown thus far in 2011 and has continued to be a real catalyst for his increased success thus far. 

He has basically abandoned the slider he threw earlier in his career and curveball from last season for increased fastballs and change-ups with the latter being thrown a career high 10%.  Both pitches show huge dominance when thrown and it seems David Price has gotten himself into a groove and has found his niche on the mound.

David Price has three of his four pitches with positive run values per 100 pitches with only the slider (which he has reduced his dependency on) showing a negative value.  Derek Holland has thrown slightly more curveballs and changeups when compared to last season but a lot of that might have to do with being in the rotation full time this year and needing the extra weapons.

For his career only Holland’s slider and curveball show (slight) positive run values while the oft-used changeup just hasn’t been an effective pitch for him thus far in his young career with a negative 1.83 runs per 100 pitches.  The changeup is probably one of the tougher pitches for a young hurler to properly develop a feel for or maybe Holland struggles enough his fastball velocity pitch to pitch that hitters don’t full respect his heater.

When I watch Derek Holland pitch he can often touch 95/96 MPH in an at-bat but will also dip down below that.  Whether he is mixing in more two-seam fastballs I am not sure but it could be a case of a tall lanky kid struggling with his mechanics and delivery.  He needs to be throwing his fastball with confidence and he needs to be throwing it harder.

Derek Holland will likely never have the relatively repeatable and smooth delivery of a David Price but I think maintaining or increasing his fastball velocity will go a long way to lessening his dependence on and likely increasing the effectiveness of his lackluster (to this point) secondary offerings.  Getting a little better defense and luck with balls in play might also help.

Any way you look at it Derek Holland is still a pitcher with a bright future ahead of him.

After another dominating performance by St. Louis Cardinals top pitching prospect Shelby Miller on May 27th, 2011 (7 IPs, 3 hits, 1 earned, 1 BB and 12 Ks) the team has decided to promote the youngster from Class A to ‘AA’ ball.  With nothing left to prove the 20-year old will move to a much more difficult ‘AA’ Texas League and join the Springfield Cardinals.

Simply put Shelby Miller has probably been one of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball so far this season.  In 53 innings, Miller has given up only 40 hits, 17 earned runs, 20 walks and an amazing 81 strikeouts.  The kid could hopefully improve on his weak groundball tendencies as he definitely pitches up in the zone to achieve his awesome strikeout numbers but that is just nitpicking at this point.

Miller hasn’t even had much in the way of luck on balls in play this year with a .343 BABIP, his HR/FB ratio is a bit low (under 0.4) but as you can see, the sky is the limit for this strikeout machine. 

Overall he has a 2.89 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, .204 BAA, 3.4 BB/9, 13.7 K/9, 4.0 K/BB

Shelby Miller is climbing the prospect charts and he may rank near the top of all of the major prospect website’s ranking sheets if he continues to absolutely dominate opposing hitters.  I am super intrigued to see if Shelby Miller can continue to dominate at a much more difficult league against stiffer competition and tougher overall hitters at such a young age.

The past decade has seen some amazing baseball, some amazing performances and some amazing advances in the way we view and analyze the statistics that make the game so great.  I thought I would have some fun and do some top ten “WAR” (Wins Above Replacement) lists for hitters, pitchers and fielders.

I am pretty sure a lot of the following names won’t create many surprises but some might stick out a bit when you go ten deep.  Let’s start with the hitters, the most valuable players on most rosters as they have the ability to play and produce value to the club day in and day out if they can manage to stay reasonably healthy.

Top Ten Position Players from 2001 to 2010

*I included Fld (fielding runs) to see how much value a player derives from their defense and positional adjustment/value.

  WAR AVG OBP SLG wOBA HR RBI Fld
Albert Pujols 80.6 .331 .426 .624 .434 408 1230 62.4
Alex Rodriguez 70.7 .299 .394 .577 .413 424 1236 -1.4
Lance Berkman 53.4 .297 .412 .547 .405 302 1017 4.4
Ichiro Suzuki 50.7 .331 .376 .430 .354 90 383 SB 126.1
Chipper Jones 50.7 .308 .412 .536 .402 247 856 -23.1
Scott Rolen 50.1 .284 .367 .492 .368 195 826 117.1
Carlos Beltran 49.0 .283 .366 .509 .379 251 903 37.4
Derek Jeter 46.2 .310 .380 .445 .366 156 721 -59.4
Todd Helton 45.6 .321 .428 .539 .410 226 871 27.7
Chase Utley 44.3 .293 .380 .514 .388 177 650 84.3

 

Any surprises for you when you look at this group?  For me I am surprised to see Lance Berkman check in at number three and as you can see he has derived nearly all of his value with the bat, ditto A’Rod.  Ichiro Suzuki is on the other end of the spectrum, gaining value with speed and defense as well as a high batting average.  Scott Rolen is another guy who gets a lot of value from his stellar defense but his overall body of work is pretty impressive and an underrated guy over the past decade.

Derek Jeter got no help from his well documented poor fielding skills and though he is oft-injured Carlos Beltran has produced great value over the past ten seasons.  Todd Helton might have seen a lift from his home park of Coors Field but his overall body of work is also impressive and the most valuable second basemen over the past decade Chase Utley rounds out the top ten.

Top Ten Pitchers from 2001 to 2010

  WAR IP W-L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9
Roy Halladay 60.5 2066.1 156-72 3.05 3.18 6.9 1.6 0.7
CC Sabathia 49.6 2127.0 157-88 3.57 3.58 7.5 2.8 0.8
Roy Oswalt 47.6 2015.0 150-83 3.18 3.34 7.4 2.1 0.8
Randy Johnson 46.1 1636.2 124-71 3.44 3.22 10.0 2.2 1.0
Johan Santana 46.0 1822.2 131-66 2.94 3.31 8.9 2.3 0.9
Javier Vazquez 43.8 2102.2 127-117 4.07 3.81 8.2 2.3 1.2
Mark Buehrle 41.8 2220.0 144-109 3.84 4.15 5.0 2.0 1.0
Andy Pettitte 41.7 1806.1 140-83 3.80 3.57 7.0 2.5 0.8
Curt Schilling 40.9 1359.0 106-51 3.50 3.15 9.1 1.4 1.1
Mike Mussina 38.1 1553.0 123-72 3.88 3.50 7.4 1.8 0.9

 

Roy Halladay is a stud, plain and simple.  You already know my absolute love for “Doc” if you have read any of my past work, twitter posts or baseball rants but just look at his utter and sheer brilliance over the past decade.  Halladay easily outpaces CC Sabathia in overall WAR and has less innings pitched- that is incredible.  Roy Halladay would also rank as the third most valuable player (WAR) in ALL of baseball, including everyday players.

It was pretty amazing to see Randy Johnson’s name so high on this list given his age and lack of overall IPs but it does show just how dominant ‘The Big Unit’ was over his career, even in the latter stages.  Curt Schilling also finds himself in the top ten and he easily has the lowest total IPs on the list but just look at his K/9, BB/9 and FIP – the dude was a stud, bloody sock and all.

Top Ten Fielders from 2001-2010

*total UZR

  POS UZR Plays OOZ UZR/150 RZR
Adrian Beltre 3B 125.0 1647 523 15.3 .728
Andruw Jones CF 119.1 1643 430 19.1 .852
Carl Crawford LF 116.2 1949 409 15.0 .783
Scott Rolen 3B 107.1 1486 402 14.7 .746
Ichiro Suzuki RF 98.7 1820 361 13.0 .793
Chase Utley 2B 80.1 1886 297 13.7 .843
Albert Pujols 1B 63.3 1267 446 7.5 .804
Joe Crede 3B 59.3 1174 326 10.8 .732
Ryan Zimmerman 3B 57.1 968 335 13.1 .718
Alfonso Soriano LF 56.2 951 212 13.6 .878

 

 Adrian Beltre is the Roy Halladay of fielding, he is consistent as they come and continues to be an above average fielder with the Texas Rangers.  Andruw Jones was a marvel in centre field for the Atlanta Braves for many years and his awesome work there still allows Jones to rank so highly even though his defensive skills were seriously eroding late in the decade (and he was playing left field).

If I would’ve used the Fielding Runs in the WAR calculation to see who got the most value from their glove not much would have changed in the rankings.  The top three would’ve been Andruw Jones, Ichiro Suzuki and Adrian Beltre.  Nice to see Albert Pujols on this list as it shows just how valuable a player he really is and why he will likely sign the biggest contract of all time in the coming offseason.

There you have it a small snapshot of the past decade in MLB baseball and some of the names that led the way in the batter’s box, pitcher’s mound and in the field. 

Can’t wait to do this again in 2021, any guesses as to who will be amongst the leaders in the three categories?  Given the way he has presumably turned his career around a full 180 degrees, maybe Jose Bautista?

Roy Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball and while his stats are obviously on par with any of today’s elite pitchers (170-86, 2310.1 IPs, 3.20 xFIP, 3.55 K/BB, 62.3 WAR) I think the biggest factor for Halladay’s success is his unmatched focus, determination and passion for his craft. 

Halladay who will turn 34 years old in May, throws a two-seam fastball that he can sink and cut to either side of the plate, a deadly cutter that moves in to a lefty and away from a righty, a very solid overhand curveball and a budding change-up that he will throw 2-3 times per inning.

I think he is being incorrectly coded as throwing a four seam fastball but as a fan who has literally watched almost all of his starts I can honestly say I don’t see a pitch he throws that could be classified as a classic “straight” four-seam fastball.  The blog title was a facetious way of saying Halladay has a simple approach but nothing this man throws is straight.

The most impressive thing about Roy Halladay (besides everything) is the fact that even the opposing hitters, managers, fans, umpires, ball boys (point made?) all know exactly what “Doc” is trying to do but for the most part cannot do anything about it. 

Halladay doesn’t rely on changing speeds and he isn’t a deceptive pitcher in any sense of the word.  Doc Halladay is a methodical master who pounds the same areas of the plate with the precision of a surgeon.  He basically tells you what he is going to throw given his obvious game plan and pitch selection(s) and you still have a slim chance of making solid contact.

Having a look at some Pitch F/X data will illustrate exactly this point. 

There you see it, he is going to be pounding the zone at will, you know (almost) what is coming but you cannot make the needed adjustments to make solid contact.  One pitch (the cutter) has basically transformed him from a solid sinker ball pitcher vulnerable to a left handed hitter to the best pitcher in baseball.

I like this graph as it shows you the pitch speed, pitch type and at the bottom is the “Pitch Event ID” so basically it shows Halladay’s pitch selection and utilization inning by inning (seperated obviously when the Phils are hitting).  Halladay went seven strong innings versus the New York Mets on Thursday afternoon (April 7th, 2011).  This again completely illustrates the point I was trying to make, Halladay is predictable, almost to a fault and it basically means nothing to the hitter.

Roy Halladay will throw 2-3 curveballs per inning, 1-3 changeups per inning and everything else is hard (and cutting) in the 89-93 MPH range too all sides of the plate.  In that sense he is tough to get a pattern on, but depending on what side of the plate you are standing you have a good idea of what he is trying to do, and are defenseless.

Nothing gets the heart pumping and nerves tingling like everybody’s favourite game like “Can you guess that player?” 

Today we will take a look at two pitchers, one (Player A) who is often referred to as the best pitcher in baseball against a guy who is often forgotten by some.

2010 Season K/9 BB/9 K/BB HR/9 FIP xFIP WAR BABIP
Player A 8.3 2.5 3.3 0.61 3.04 3.26 6.2 .263
Player B 9.1 2.3 3.9 0.34 2.41 3.15 6.3 .297

 

 It’s pretty clear both are elite pitchers just glancing at their respective stat lines with well above average strikeout and walk rates and both have sub 3.30 xFIP numbers.  Player B had better numbers across the board, including WAR, although only slightly.  One of these pitchers was a Cy Young award winner last season, while the other had his season cut short by injury.

Player A is everybody’s wunderkind Felix Hernandez, the 2010 AL Cy Young award winner while Player B is Florida Marlins ace Josh Johnson.  Now it should be noted that King Felix pitched an unreal 249.2 innings and JJ only pitched in 183.2 as he was shut down for mostly precautionary reasons at the end of the season.

However, even though JJ pitched nearly 70 less innings than Felix he still managed to accumulate a higher WAR rating for 2010, impressive to say the least.  Josh Johnson also has the unenviable task of pitching in front of one of the worst defensive teams in the game while Felix Hernandez pitches in front of one of the best. 

Both are groundball pitchers (though Felix is slightly better in this regard) and Hernandez is also two years younger but looking at their respective careers thus far, I think it shows just how impressive Josh Johnson has been.  Let’s take a look at a few charts (ERA, K/9 and K/BB) to really illustrate this point.

Besides the blip in 2007 when Josh Johnson was injured (and underwent TJ surgery) he has either been step for step with Felix Hernandez or in most cases, better.  Both pitchers are among the game’s elite but the comparison at least goes to show that Josh Johnson is truly one of the best pitchers in baseball.

After reading an extremely interesting piece by Jeff Passan on the legendary sabermetrics whiz Voros McCracken I have to admit it had me a bit down in the dumps, and depressed.  How could the man who basically redefined the sabermetric movement not be involved in baseball in some form or fashion?  It doesn’t seem right, or fair that the man who basically founded and created DIPS or ‘defence independent pitching’ statistics wasn’t good enough for the game anymore.

Maybe it affected me more on a personal level and it was gut check time, if ‘Voros’ wasn’t accepted and embraced by the baseball world, what chance in hell did I ever have?  Now is the time for you to snicker, or snidely remark ‘fat chance in the first place’ and to be honest I would be saying the exact same things.  But I have a confession, and on some level every fellow ‘baseball nerd’ who writes about the game we love was affected in the same manner – we lost a bit of hope.

When the dream of actually playing in the big leagues comes to an eventual and crashing halt the next dream becomes almost as intriguing and alluring, to some day work in baseball.  We read the success stories of the boy who interned, mopped the floors, cleaned the toilets and made his way to the top of a ball team and we think ‘that could be me’. 

I know, I know the odds were stacked against any of us ever ‘getting a shot’ and the more I had time to think about it the more I started to realize I probably didn’t have much appeal for a prospective baseball front office.  Besides my undying passion for the game, work ethic and a healthy knowledge of baseball, what exactly do I possess that no one else does to break into one of the toughest rackets.

I didn’t graduate from Harvard law, I have no connection to the game and while I feel I can write some entertaining and useful baseball pieces I certainly didn’t invent anything near as revolutionary as ‘DIPS’.  I can tell you how much a win is worth on the free agent market and I came up with a pretty cool Excel spreadsheet formula that has effectively calculated which “Hall of Fame” player would perform the best in DMB baseball for our current era –does that count? 

Maybe it was always just plain fantasy, delusion or straight denial but deep down all of us on some level held out just a tiny bit of hope that one day we would get our chance and I know for a fact that reading about the current plight of Voros McCracken was a good old fashioned dose of reality for the broader baseball writing community. 

Once you heard he was broke, out of baseball completely and worse, actually working on soccer you can’t tell me it didn’t sting.  I thought ‘if you build it, they will come’ was in the baseball code, at least Ray Kinsella got to watch some of the best baseball players of all-time on his newly minted field.  What did Voros get a one way ticket out of baseball?

I attempted to contact Voros McCracken with the hope of having a few questions answered and half expected him to be angry, grumpy or upset like Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) in the movie Field of Dreams.  ‘Leave me alone kid, I have more important things to worry about!’ was the anticipated response followed by a proverbial door being slammed in my face or in today’s day in age, at least an all-caps angry email response.

Not a chance, “I’d be happy to, give me a day or two.” was his quick reply.  I was pretty excited as to me he is a legend in the sabermetrics world, although he wouldn’t necessarily agree with that. 

“Legend, I dunno about that.” McCracken said.  “Cautionary tale maybe or greatest fraud in sabermetrics to some, but ‘legend’ seems a bit much.  I’m a guy who noticed something somebody else would have noticed eventually.”

That seemed a bit modest considering the impact he has had on a great number of devoted statistical analysts.

“What people think of me is largely beyond my control, and my tendency to let the many kind things folks have said flow by and let the negative things folks have said get to me has not helped me. So I’m now striving to try the healthier alternative and let it all flow by me.”

Once the remaining one percent of me came to grips with the fact I wasn’t destined for the General Manager’s job of the Toronto Blue Jays I asked myself a question, why isn’t Voros McCracken still in baseball? 

Before I continue I thought I would clarify that the actual fact is most of us write about baseball simply because we love to do it, nothing more and nothing less

Saying that, Voros McCracken is not ‘most of us’ and the DIPS movement has not only revolutionized the sabermetric community but it made each and every front office in baseball more efficient.  Someone might have stumbled upon this eventually but it was ‘Voros’ who helped create a new generation of pitching statistics such as the amazing FIP and xFIP. 

I couldn’t imagine the type of pressure that one would feel to continue churning out useful and innovative statistical analysis on a daily basis.  Does he still feel the pressure today? 

“Used to,” he said. “Particularly when (he was) working for the Red Sox.  But then when I was working for the Red Sox, it was my job.”

Given everything he has been through in baseball would he say he was ultimately given a fair shake? 

“Yep.  It’s not a charity.” McCracken said. “When the Red Sox hired me DIPS was already out there. They didn’t have to hire me at all to still benefit from it.  They hired me to do work.  I did the work and got paid what we agreed on.  Expecting anything more than that is unreasonable.”

He continued.

“Could they have done things differently?  Of course, but then I could have too.  I got close to three years with an MLB team, that’s close to three years chance more than I ever thought I’d get.  I feel quite fortunate in that regard.”

Twenty years ago Gavin Floyd would’ve been demoted to the minors or potentially traded for nothing after the start he endured in 2010 as his BABIP, HR/FB and strand rates were at ridiculously high (and unsustainable) levels.  Ricky Nolasco would be pitching on an ongoing one year contract with his ‘ERA’ and seemingly ‘pedestrian’ mainstream numbers.

Those are just a couple examples of how ‘Voros’ impacted the game of baseball and how he made us conscience of the fact that once the ball leaves the pitchers hand, he has played his part, the rest is up to geometry, science and the pitcher’s defence.  What more does a guy have to do to show his worth that completely change the way he value and look at pitching?

“It’s not about being rewarded.” he explained.  “It’s about producing value for a club.  DIPS certainly has the ability to provide that kind of value to a club, but it was already out there.  Paying me for something I already gave you for free is bad business.  MLB teams have apparently determined I wouldn’t add much of any additional value to the club.  They might be wrong, or they might be right, but in either case it’s the evaluation they’ve made.”

Is it still the old guard battling the new guard, democrat versus republican, child versus parent?  Are they making an example of him to show they still maintain the dominance of the baseball world?  Is there still the much talked about ‘divide’ between the stats based community and the old school baseball world? 

“Looking at the entire front office structure, I’m virtually certain there still is.” McCracken continued.  “In terms of baseball operations I couldn’t tell you the current state of affairs.  My guess is that with the exception of a few organizations, the divide is probably pretty small nowadays.”

But he doesn’t feel there is a correlation between him being a member of the sabermetric community and why he no longer works with an MLB team.

“Often sometimes people perceive their treatment is due to being a member of a particular group, when in actuality it’s due to something specific about them.  It’s probably wise for me not to extrapolate things that happen to me out to a general comment on sabermetrics.  Many things that have happened to me over the years probably have more specifically to do with me than my membership in any kind of group.”

In his piece on Voros Jeff Passan wrote:

With the Red Sox, McCracken never did find another DIPS. The team let him go following the 2005 draft.  Already in debt following his second go-around at college, McCracken drowned with the meager salary – starting analysts around baseball are lucky to make $30,000 – from Boston.

Burned out, disappointed and poor, McCracken fell into a deep depression.”

Unless there is something I am completely unaware of (maybe it was him who left Fenway Park in the guerrilla suit?) it feels like ‘Voros’ was used and abused.  Just don’t try and tell him that, he isn’t buying the notion he was some sort of sacrificial lamb or worthy of a sob story.

“Go see ‘Sophie’s Choice’ or ‘Snoopy Come Home’, those are depressing stories.” he joked.  “Ultimately I did make it.  Got to work in MLB, win a World Series and a sizable chunk of my fellow baseball fans know who I am.  I didn’t get rich, but then I wasn’t doing this to get rich.  At some point you have to count your blessings.  My weakness has always been my obsession with counting my curses.”

Voros also explains that not all of the trials and tribulations he has been through can be blamed on baseball, not that he would blame anybody but himself anyway.

“The other problems that I’ve gone through were there before DIPS, during DIPS and after DIPS and for the most part have not a lot to do with baseball.  They are also much lessened as I sit here today than they were pretty much at any other point in my entire life.”

Still, of all the names in baseball today you are telling me there isn’t room for one more?  One who has already shown the ability to see something where nobody else can, or cared to?  It feels like the one-hit wonder in the music world who never quite found the magic formula again, of course that one-hit wonder likely didn’t even write his own ‘one-hit’ nor changed an industry the way Voros McCracken did.

Make no mistake, he did change the game.

“(That’s) not necessarily a good thing.” he said.  “Maybe we should go back to pitching underhanded from 50 feet and stop using gloves.  The Cubs have taken me up on that last one.”

 Maybe I am being too sentimental and perhaps there is a good reason (or two) that he hasn’t caught on with another team in the dog-eat-dog world of baseball.  Or maybe it is just a part of me that wants to believe that all of us still have a chance to live out a dream we have had since we traded our first baseball card or played in our first DMB baseball simulation league.

What would Voros say to anybody who still dreams of one day working in baseball?

“If you get the chance, try and enjoy every second of it.  Just don’t expect it to last forever or to make a life’s work out of it.  You may actually be able to do those things, but have it be a pleasant surprise if you do.”