Pitch data shows that the amount of swinging strikes is not predictive of strikeout rates.
When I wrote about pitchers with major divides between their ERAs and SIERAs two weeks ago, a reader inquired why Clay Buchholz had such a pedestrian strikeout rate while having an above average swinging-strike rate. Buchholz has mustered just 6.2 K/9, nearly a full strikeout below the 7.1 league average, but has induced batters to swing and miss on 9.5 percent of his pitches according to FanGraphs, a full percentage point above the 8.5 percent league average. The question was apparent: Do pitchers who get a lot of whiffs increase their strikeout rates over time?
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Look at which direction some hitters with high batting averages on balls in play are likely headed in 2011.
Last week, I discussed several pitchers who were pitching well in front of or well behind their peripherals using SIERA. This week, I will discuss several hitters who have particularly high BABIPs, and how much of that performance is skill versus luck.
A look at some pitchers who have had good luck this season and some who haven't.
When Eric Seidman and I introduced SIERA in February, we were very careful to show that it predicts future ERA better than current ERA does. While Defense Independent Pitching Statistics are not a foolproof way to measure pitchers, using them as a guide to dig further into the numbers can be very helpful. Last October, I spent a couplearticles analyzing Cole Hamels’ performance, and I highlighted how little was different between his 2008 and 2009 season, and how I expected his performance to improve as his luck neutralized. Sure enough, Hamels has seen his ERA fall back toward 2008 levels in 2010. In June, I disappointed Rockies fans by explaining the luck that had led to Ubaldo Jimenez’s 1.16 ERA at that time. Sure enough, he has a 4.36 ERA since that article was posted. Eric and I wrote on the Diamondbacks’ starters, stressing the bad luck that Dan Haren had seen to that point in the season. He had a 5.35 ERA, but it has been 3.59 since that article was posed and Haren has also been traded to the Angels. My point is not to cherry pick successes, but to prove that this type of analysis works. I certainly cannot be right every time I say a pitcher’s ERA is likely to fall or rise, because luck plays a role in pitching to a very large degree and luck by its very nature can reoccur. However, this type of analysis will prove prophetic more often than not.
Does PECOTA overrate teams that rely heavily on statistical analysis and underrate those who don't?
We have all seen the merits of Major League Baseball teams using sabermetrics in its infancy. The famous bestseller, Moneyball by Michael Lewis, brought readers in to watch how the Athletics used statistical analysis to help repeatedly win the American League West despite a miniscule payroll at a time when few teams were using sabermetrics. However, in recent years many organizations have seen the competitive advantage of using sabermetrics grow smaller as more teams become aware and begin to target the players that the A’s were able to acquire so easily.
Do hitters who face a shift actually have an advantage?
Picture this: David Ortiz steps to the plate in a tie game with runners on first and second in the bottom of the ninth inning. He gets into a deep count and lines a base hit over the right side of the infield to score the winning run. You’ve seen this time and again.
The Phillies, despite a plethora of injuries, are just two games off their pennant-winning pace of last season.
It was terribly difficult to not be optimistic following the Phillies' season opener this year. They beat the Nationals 11-1 in what would serve as a microcosm of off-season expectations regarding their campaign. Roy Halladay tossed seven brilliant innings. Placido Polanco recorded three hits. Ryan Howard smashed a home run off of a left-handed starter. Everyone in the lineup, Halladay included, had at least one hit. This was to be the framework of the 2010 Philadelphia Phillies. No, they were not going to win every game by a touchdown and a field goal, nor were they going to score 1,000 runs, and with Jamie Moyer and Kyle Kendrick sniffing the rotation it was unlikely their starting pitching would be unhittable. But it seemed very plausible that the Phillies would once again sport the best offense in the National League, with a pitching staff primed to keep the team in most games.
Our resident economist looks at who benefited from their late-July deals and who might have made a mistake by standing pat.
As the trade deadline neared, I prescribed who should be buyers and sellers, and now that the deadline has passed, we can see whether those teams ignored their diagnoses. In discussing the rare success that selling teams have when making deadline deals, Steven Goldman wrote last week that “the vast majority of prospects don’t achieve anything close to greatness.” Of course this is true, but it does not mean that selling teams should not try because when these deals do work out, they tend to have very large positive effects. It is important to temper expectations, but that does not mean that selling is unwise. The reason that selling makes economic sense is that buying teams have more value from wins due to their position in the standings than sellers, and making a trade can be a mutually beneficial way to extract value from a player’s contract that you cannot gain by holding on to it.
The quartet the Snakes received for their ace leads to a few questions about player valuation.
In June, Eric Seidman and I discussed the Diamondbacks’ starting pitchers with some focus on Dan Haren, explaining that he was particularly unlucky. At the time of our article, Haren’s ERA was 5.35 and his SIERA was 3.08. Haren would be the ace of many pitching staffs in the major leagues, and is signed well below market value through 2012, with a reasonably priced option for 2013.
A look at which clubs should be dealing for immediate help and which ones should be offloading players with the trading deadline eight days away.
Adding players halfway through a season is worth far more to a contender than half of their full-season value. Those players can make in a difference in a situation where a couple of games could make or break a team's season. The Mariners traded for Cliff Lee in December 2009 with the expectation that he would help them contend for the American League West title in 2010, but it turns out that an underperforming offense rendered his wins useless towards that goal and they traded him to the Rangers two weeks ago. However, any team competing for the National League wild card knows that it will probably be decided by a couple games and that one big acquisition can make the difference. Sometimes adding two wins in a half season from a four-win player does more for a team's playoff odds than adding four wins for a full season. As an extreme example, consider two teams who are tied for the division lead with one game left to play against each other. How much would they pay for an ace? Certainly more than 1/162 of his value because the odds of that pitcher pushing a team over the top are very high.
Hitters who appear in the Home Run Derby actually alter their swings in a good way.
Home Run Derbies have been around in some form for many years, but it officially became part of the All-Star Game festivities in 1985. Since then, hitters have frequently blamed the Derby for messing up their swings. Perhaps among the most notable is Bobby Abreu, who broke the record for the most home runs in the first round with 24 in 2005 at Comerica Park, but then struggled in the second half of the season with just six home runs after mashing 18 in the first half. Of course, this reeks of selection bias as Abreu tied his career-high for first-half home runs in 2005. Most hitters in the Home Run Derby are bound to be playing above their true talent level, and their subsequent regression to the mean in the second half is to be expected. Instead, many have been victimized by their own confirmation biases, correctly noticing declines that were due to come whether the hitters participated in the Derby or not.
As technology changes, so do election patterns for the Midsummer Classic.
In America’s pastime, as in its politics, democracy is a wonderful but fragile thing. Ten years after Major League Baseball first gave its fans the option to vote for the starting lineups in the All-Star Game, Commissioner Ford Frick took it away again after 1957, when Cincinnati fans stuffed the ballot boxes to elect all but one Reds' starter. This was not even a spontaneous upsurge of local pride: through the late spring, the Cincinnati Enquirer had printed ballots to distribute them easily to fans, and local bars even required customers to fill out ballots before they would be served. Not until 1970 were the fans put back in charge of picking the starters, but it’s been in their hands ever since—even surviving another sabotage attempt when Massachusetts hacker Chris Nandor was able to create a program that voted for Nomar Garciaparra nearly 40,000 times to edge out Derek Jeter.
The Brewers would maximize Prince Fielder's value by trading the slugging first baseman right now.
At this point, it is clear that 2010 is not going to be the Brewers’ year. They finally reached the postseason in 2008 after a drought of 26 years, but they exited in the first round and did not return in 2009. The small-market franchise has done a good job of fielding a competitive team without being able to outspend their competition, though Mark Attanasio has proven to be more willing to open his wallet than most other owners receiving revenue-sharing money, but 2010 has seen the Brewers already slide about 10 games out of first place in the National League Central and in the NL wild card race. The young team that the Brewers spent years building through excellent drafts is getting older and the minor-league system is no longer well-stocked, leaving them in a position where they are not quite good enough to compete right now, and not likely to be especially competitive in a few years. This is why I think that the Brewers should make the difficult decision to part ways with Prince Fielder.