As players hit free agency, not everyone will come away with a big-league deal. Who might sign a minor-league contract?
Now that the World Series has ended—and a hearty congratulations to the Giants and their fans—baseball has officially entered its off-season. In the very near future, teams will begin to sign or trade players or cut them loose after deciding they are not worth an arbitration raise. Not every signing is created equally, however, as these transactions can range anywhere from the high-profile free-agent inking a monster deal to Willy Taveras being given a shot at making a major-league roster.
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A look at the hitters whose True Average fell sharply from one season to the next and how they fared the following season.
Lance Berkman had a down year. I know that isn’t exactly earth-shattering news, but he did not perform up to the level we have come to expect given his career numbers. At 34 years old, he is unlikely to continue to hit like he did in the early part of his career, but his 2010 numbers paled in comparison to those produced a year ago, when he hit .274/.399/.509 with a .314 TAv. In 2010, Berkman put up a .288 TAv while hitting .248/.368/.413. Though his season was plagued by injuries, he managed a mere 14 home runs, and that slash line looks strange when attached to his name. The numbers were not terrible, but rather different, considering that he has never posted a BA below .274, an OBP below .386, an SLG below .509, or a TAv below .300.
How do pitchers typically fare when transitioning from the bullpen to the starting rotation?
A couple of weeks back, I wrote an article called ‘The Turnaround Kids’ which identified the players with the most substantial improvements from 2009 in TAv, WARP, SNWP, and WXRL. Everyone loves a good turnaround, and it was interesting to see how Aubrey Huff’s 6.1 WARP was not only high, but representative of a vast improvement from a year in which he fell below replacement level. Similarly, Brad Lidge might not have put together the greatest season in 2010, but he was solid, and his numbers look masterful when compared to the dreck he put on display a year ago. In all likelihood, Josh Hamilton experienced the greatest turnaround, improving from a disappointing and injury-plagued campaign that found him at the replacement level into the odds-on favorite to win the American League’s Most Valuable Player award.
Saluting the players whose accomplishments will go unrecognized during awards season.
While the postseason is in full bloom, the winners of the regular season awards will be revealed next month. At that juncture some fans will cheer, some will cry, and others will inevitably write articles about how the BBWAA messed up by not voting Justin Morneau as sixth in the AL MVP race, or why James Shields deserves Cy Young consideration because his predictive numbers were much better than his ERA would indicate; as the co-creator of SIERA, I think I can joke about its usage in award voting. I know from experience what it’s like to write such articles, as I once nastily opined that it was a sham how Roy Halladay finished out of the top three on the AL Cy Young Award ballots of some writers in 2008. Then again, even if Cliff Lee deserved the award, how in the world did Halladay fall out of the… never mind, this is no time to dwell.
Why regular-season numbers don't always carry into October.
Last week, we rolled out post-season PECOTA projections that were used to generate anticipated results for each game of every playoff matchup. The goal was simple: provide the readers with the most accurate information capable of helping guide their expectations for a particular matchup. The projections were never meant to be treated as the gospel, but rather as more accurate tool of evaluating the outcomes of certain games than simply eyeballing the lineups or strictly using numbers from this past season. However, in the process of writing the daily summaries and projected results for every lineup, it became clear that not only was the entire process in need of further explanation, but so too was the concept that a true talent level is best-suited for this type of exercise.
Taking a look at the most improved players of 2010.
In addition to post-season baseball, the month of October brings with it the first chance to reflect on the regular season that has just ended. For many fans whose favorite teams did not qualify for the postseason, such reflections can conjure up disappointing memories stemming from the previous offseason, or from a putrid stretch in the middle of the year that knocked them out of contention. For fans of the playoff teams, the reflections often form a mental highlight reel of the season. Regardless of personal team allegiances, I always find it fun to reflect on the season by looking at some of the surprise performances of the year. In this context, a surprise performance would belong to a player whose numbers were nowhere near as appealing a year ago.
Was Bobby Cox's decision to not line up his rotation for a key series against the Phillies suicidal to the Braves' playoff hopes?
One of the best parts of September is that a group of teams will inevitably play the most important games of their seasons in that month. Seldom is there a season in which the four playoff spots in each league are locked up before the final weeks, and this season has been no different. To start this week, the Phillies were set to battle the Braves in the most important series of both of the National League East rivals' years to date, while the Yankees and Rays fought for American League East supremacy in arguably their biggest series of the season. However, unlike the latter match-up in which both teams are definitely going to the playoffs, the former had more serious playoff implications at stake.
Contextualizing when a record occurred does not cheapen the feat, but instead magnifies it.
A few weeks ago, Bob Hertzel wrote a thought-provoking column here at Baseball Prospectus that sought to identify baseball records that would never be broken. The thesis seemed to be that many records may feel out of reach, yet those same records were thought to be impossible to break when they were originally achieved. My friends and I participate in the same type of discussion on occasion when we go out to watch games, and it is one of the most interesting topics to bring up in a crowd of baseball nuts. Not only will strong opinions emerge, but there are usually oddball records that surface over which to ponder. For instance, did you know that Ty Cobb has the AL record with nine inside-the-park home runs in the 1909 season? Or that Eddie Murray has the record for most sacrifice flies in a career with 128? Or how about that Bob Shaw was called for a record five balks on May 4, 1963? With so many stats, records are bountiful, and it is always fun to reflect.
Were the Cardinals playing contender pretender before their collapse?
On August 13, the Cardinals defeated the Cubs, 6-3, improving their record to 65-49. Recently acquired Jake Westbrook scattered two runs over six innings in his third start with the team, Matt Holliday knocked in a run on two doubles, Albert Pujols hit his league-leading 29th home run, and Colby Rasmus showed one of the many facets of his value by walking in all four of his plate appearances. The win kept the Cardinals a game up in the NL Central over the Reds, who had beaten the Marlins. Entering play the next day, our playoff odds report gave the Cardinals a 66 percent chance of winning the division, as well as a 13 percent chance of winning the wild card. Put together, the Cardinals made the playoffs in four out of every five simulations, a very safe position.
Carlos Gonzalez has huge home-road splits, but he doesn't have the most dramatic splits of all time.
It isn’t exactly breaking news that Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies is having a fantastic season. Entering Thursday’s action, his .341 batting average topped the National League, as did his .612 slugging percentage, 182 hits, 106 RBI, 100 runs, and 326 total bases. Add in 23 stolen bases, a solid defensive reputation, and the fact that he is still the most likely candidate to achieve the Triple Crown, and it is very safe to say that he has soared far beyond reasonable expectations entering the year. PECOTA’s 90th- percentile foresaw a .312/.386/.550 slash line, which he has surpassed, even if his long-term rate of reaching base is likely to be called into question.
Is Chipper Jones a greater switch-hitter than Eddie Murray and Pete Rose?
A little over a week ago I wrote an article on switch-hitters, focusing on a simple question: Do we evaluate switch-hitters based on their self-platoon split, or based on overall numbers regardless of the split? A case can be made for each side, as those in the self-platoon camp would argue that a good switch-hitter should be able to produce from both sides of the plate. These advocates certainly wouldn’t consider someone like Gary Matthews Jr. a solid switch-hitter, as his numbers are terrible even if his split is small. On the other side of the spectrum, it also makes sense that the best switch-hitter would be the best hitter who happens to bat from both sides of the plate. Mark Teixeira might favor one side more than the other, but his numbers from each side are far and away superior to the league average. The differentiation would be whether switch-hitting is considered a niche in which a separate definition applies. Can a good switch-hitter be a relatively underwhelming overall hitter?
The chances of someone leading the league in batting avearge, homers, and RBI have grown long in just a week.
Over the last two weeks I have utilized a neat simulation I built in order to assess the likelihood that a Triple Crown occurs this year. Simulations are the best way to make such a determination, as the three stats involved—batting average, home runs, and RBI—are intertwined. They might not always be connected, but it is more accurate to operate under this assumption than it is to multiply together the probabilities that a player leads the league in each category. When I ran through the rest of the season 10,000 times back on September 1, the feat was only achieved 777 times even though Albert Pujols and Joey Votto ranked either first or second in all three categories. Pujols won the Triple Crown in a whopping 663 of those 777 seasons, suggesting that the feat was unlikely to be achieved, but that Prince Albert was the heavy favorite.