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Very insightful interview. I can't help but wonder though, if Jim McKean realizes how much his interview screams "get robo-cops now for balls and strikes?"
Without a doubt that's not what he intended but just about every nuance he described of the umpire's job revealed a tremendous flaw in the process -- and some of it is downright silly. (I did appreciate his disdain for the use of the word "framing" however. I agree "receiving skills" is a better term.)
Thanks for getting another perspective on the issue however. BP is really the thought leader on this topic.
Echoing jfribley's comment not only doesn't it seem to show up in CERA (which can be muddied by catcher differences in BABIP) but it doesn't *seem* to show up in the much purer stats, K% and BB%. At least certainly no where near the 50 runs saved level. Molina conveniently caught roughly 50% of plate appearances. Molina had a worse k rate (22.5% vs. 23.4%) than his counterparts but a better walk rate (7.1% vs. 8.6%). Need to compare pitchers but Molina did catch Price more than anyone. Hard to see from any RA estimator (FIP, SIERA, etc.) how that could be worth 50 runs, which, if he caught every inning, would prorate to nearly 100 runs!
Valid point, and I have considered this. All players without a team have been filtered out and total MLB PAs, RS etc. all pass a logic test. There appears to be an unmistakable rise in WARP (lowering of replacement value.)
Looks to me like one of the big changes this year is a substantial drop in replacement level. This has resulted in a big increase in WARP -- especially at the hitter level. Neither good nor bad, but it does make YoY comparisons tough.
For example, total BWARP assigned to all hitters in 2012 and 2011: 433 and 414 respectively, or about 14 per team. This year PECOTA doles out 619 BWARP, or roughly 21 per team.
Explanation must be a change in replacement level, no? (btw, this puts 2013 back on par with 2010 in terms of apples-to-apples replacement levels.)
Ok, I'll bite and show my ignorance of MLB draft procedure: How did the Padres get the first pick ahead of the Tigers in the 2004 draft?
This article, like the original Mike Fast article at BP is truly thought provoking. In fact, I've given so much thought to this matter since Mike's article on framing, that I've grown skeptical of the runs saved claims. I toss these thoughts out for comment:
o) 50 runs saved is actually above the average MLB catcher, so the 5.0 calculation is 5 wins above average. The WAR would presumably be materially higher - an extraordinary number given the number of innings Molina caught, in fact it's suddenly Mike Trout-like when normalized over 162 games.
o) Normalized over a full season, 100 runs saved comes to about 0.62 runs per 9 innings. Could a catcher lower the staff's ERA by 0.62 through pitch framing? It's possible and as some comments above show, a weighting of walks and strike outs might reveal that but . . . . .
o) For a rough test, let's just look at the CERAs of the entire Rays catching staff. Jimenez: 3.21, Lobaton: 3.24, and Molina: 3.22. They're identical! (A look at CRA reveals the same thing.)
It just doesn't pass the smell test that without Molina's run-saving abilities compared to an average catcher, the Rays' pitchers would have suddenly had ERAs around 3.8 but yet still had 3.2 ERAs with Jimenez and Lobaton behind the plate.
I don't know how to calculate it, obviously, but it seems impossible Molina could have added so much value compared to the other catchers and yet they all allowed the same amount of runs to score with the same staff, in the same ballparks, with the same defense, and against the same hitters.
I'm open to having holes 1.59 feet in diameter poked in my logic.
Oh that we were denied a "November Reign: Runs and Posey Headline the Giants Title!" MLB headline if only we had been lucky enough to have this series go 7 games.
Russell, Great update to a classic column. I had fun comparing this one to the "525,600 minute" version that is at FG. Picking up on Ian in Chicago, how do you weigh projections vs. 2012 performance? Now that most regular starters have 300 PA how do you merge a HR projection with actual? Let's look at Pujols: He's hitting HR's at a 3.9% per PA clip (I didn't remove IBB for sake of speed) compared to the final pre-season PECOTA of 5.4%. How do you weight each going forward? Am I correct in assuming at the 170 PA mark (when r = .7) you'd take 50% of each? Thanks for the work.
Great article, Ben. Inside "inside" baseball anecdotes within the context of reporting is a great touch. I really enjoyed this. Twice.
I came here to essentially write exactly what Jivas wrote; this is Joe Sheehan-style prose that made this site shine for many years.
psychdoc, you're wrong about Sheehan. He pilloried Michael Young for his antics last spring, repeatedly mocking the "all he cares about is winning" reputation veteran sportswriters hung on him.
Point taken Richard, especially from someone who has participated in so many of the great discussions that used to populate the comments section. I miss that on the site.
John, Great timing on the article because just today I published a piece previewing the San Diego Padres and it has them winning the division and I did "provide a 57-part mathematical equation to explain myself". Well, not 57-part but it's completely saber-based with a startling call that it might not even take .500 to win the division. It's posted here: http://tradingbases.squarespace.com/blog/2012/3/29/2012-preview-san-diego-padres.html
On the topic of the Royals, there was a very hidden, high-leverage, small-sample size collection of events that obscured just how weak they were at preventing runs. I won't give it away but it should be near and dear to long time BP readers because it's along the lines of year-to-year bullpen regression. Given I think there is very little chance that repeats I agree strongly with amazin_mess above -- .500 does not seem possible as even upside potential. The KC piece is here: http://tradingbases.squarespace.com/blog/2012/3/1/2012-preview-kansas-city-royals.html
I have no issues with an 86-76 projection but in getting there PECOTA sees the Brewers scoring 749 runs (see summary at top of page). That's 28 more than last year with Fielder's .981 OPS gone and Braun certain to regress from his MVP campaign, as anyone would be expected to. His OPS was a career-high .994 in 2011.
I'd like to get a wager down on the total runs under last year's 721 let alone the 749 prediction above. I just don't see any combination of improvement elsewhere that can lead to increased runs. (Unless Gallardo is going to play some first-base. lol)
Christina, great to see you back! I echo the sentiments of many above: may the welcome mat always be present for you here.
I wish I'd seen this article before the weekend because I'd love for this comment to start a discussion. In writing a saber-based book on baseball (due for publication Feb, 2013) I spent a ton of time researching defense. As a result, I have a different take on one element of your piece.
I contend that you cannot look at league-wide defensive efficiency in determining the overall quality of one era's fielders vs. another's. While, as you noted, league-wide defensive efficiency has steadily dropped over the last twenty years, it's not because the fielders have gotten worse, it's because the hitters have gotten better.
We know hitters control BABIP, not pitchers, and of course DE is just a function of BABIP. (As you know, individual hitters persistently over- or under-perform the league average BABIP but pitchers fluctuate from year-to-year in a near-random manner.) So over the last twenty years hitters have gotten better at not making weak contact. The cost of that has been increased strikeouts -- as your article points out.
I think it's very wrong to conclude the Rays' fielding prowess merely equivalent to teams from twenty years ago. The DEs may be the same but the batters faced are not, so it's impossible to compare. You can only conclude Tampa's defense in 2011 was historically great compared to the rest of the league.
I conclude a player like Derek Jeter (correctly viewed as a terrible defender, in a vacuum) doesn't hurt the Yankees because defense is a ballet. Sometime a pas de deux (or what I call the Luzinski/Maddox Pact) and sometimes it involves the entire corps (in the case of the Yankees supporting Jeter).
You can read a detailed look at this concept (and an explanation of the Luzinski/Maddox pact)in a 2012 saber-based preview of the Detroit Tigers here: http://tradingbases.squarespace.com/blog/2012/2/23/2012-preview-detroit-tigers.html
I'd love to hear what others think.
In a preview with a similar tone, I explained why I thought Minnesota would be the team to finish 2012 with the largest increase in wins vs. 2011 -- and why it really wasn't something to get too excited about.
I won't reiterate all your points but there are two other analytics-based observations to consider:
1) The Twins had the worst bullpen in the AL in 2011 in terms of WAR (either BP-WAR or fWAR). Similar to the 2010 Diamondbacks a simple regression to the mean (always the best predictor of bullpen WAR year-over-year) results in a 4.2 WAR pick-up, easily the highest in the AL. (Only Houston's pen was worse in 2011.)
(Aside: This used to be so easily seen and digested at BP.com through the WXLR bullpen stat which, without explanation, disappeared from the Statistics database in early 2011. I sure wish it would return or at least an explanation would be printed.)
2) Everyone knows about Minnesota's injuries but the extent is mind-boggling. The entire Opening Day starting lineup only played a total of just over 50% of available games in 2011. That means the Twins essentially fielded a replacement team for half of their games. And given the contributions of Plouffe, Butera, Rivera, et al, it can be argued it wasn't even up to replacement level.
If you're interested the full preview (along with the entire AL Central) is located here: http://tradingbases.squarespace.com/blog/2012/2/28/2012-preview-minnesota-twins.html
I don't know how "great" the Pirates played last year. Yes they were in first at the 100 game mark, but they got there on the back of performance highly unlikely to be repeated. They had a Pythag record of .500, compared to an actual record of 6 over .500. They were turning batted balls into outs at a rate they had never demonstrated before - truly the key to their first half success as their pitchers strike out the fewest batters in the NL. On top of that their runs allowed were supressed by a pitching staff that suddenly turned into the Phillies' staff with runners on base. Again, not "lucky" per se but highly unlikely to repeat.
Indeed it all reversed and after the 100-game mark the Pirates went 19-43, by far the worst record in the NL - even worse than the Astros who were jettisoning their only good players.
I'd make it even money the Pirates don't reach last year's win total of 72 games in 2012.
It's generally assumed that a CF moving to either RF or LF drops 1.0 WAR, all things being equal, due to positional adjustments. Is that still true for the PECOTA WAR projections in 2012 or has a new positional scale been set?
Steven, Your article points out just how dominant Fernando was when he burst on to the scene. While I certainly hope Lin's star burns as bright, at this point I'm making more of a Mark Fydrich analogy to the attention he's getting.
RMR, I'm with you on Leake -- his hit rate was a little below league avg last year but that's mostly a function of the Reds near league-best defense in 2011 at turning batted balls into outs. No reason that defense should change in 2012, so PECOTA shouldn't knee-jerk and say he was lucky, but I think it does. Also his 2011 HR/FB looks high on the unhappy side of luck. If that improves, or he increases his GB rate (common at this stage of development), then I'd say there's a better chance he's a 2.5 WAR pitcher than a 1.0 WAR pitcher despite the 1.5 projection.
That said, don't be tough on PECOTA. They have this staff 8.0 WAR better than last year. That's about 75 runs less allowed over a season, or enough by my model to overtake the weakened Brewers and Cardinals.
See you in October.
Note that according to VORP and WARP, this will be Roy Halladay's best year . . . by far. Of course, that is absurd, as if to suggest he's just reaching peak performance now on the aging curve. It's another data point in my belief that the calculation at the sortable stats and on the PECOTA cards for pitcher VORP and WARP is materially wrong. Halladay's career figures in those categories make no sense whatsoever. I'd love an explanation.
More on PECOTA's WAR calculation: Is it the same as BPs calculation?
Here's why I ask: in 2011, per BP, only 23 pitchers had a WAR of 3 or better. On the surface that seems way too low, and I've thought that since changes were made to your calculations in 2010/2011. PECOTA has 42 pitchers with a projected WAR of 3 or better for 2012. Projection systems are always more conservative vs. actual outliers so again, it wouldn't seem possible the WAR calculation is consistent.
Can you shed some light on this?
Fairacres is onto a topic here that I hope Colin addresses either here or on the chat. If you run a simulation for each team based on the component players, PECOTA is calling for total scoring in 2012 to be 21,353 runs. That's a not unreasonable increase from the 2011 total of 20,808.
However, the total 2012 WAR for all batters drops 36.1 YoY, implying a drop off of nearly 350 runs. (I;m comparing PECOTA WAR with the WARs on the BP Statistics Sorts for Team Value.) On the pitching side, the 2012 WARs rise a whopping 67.8. (Obviously implying a much, much lower run environment in 2012 than 2011.) Something seems off here. Has there been a change to replacement level, especially at the pitching level? If so, why don't the prior year's change? I've always suspected prior year pitching WARs are too low based on some change made between the 2011 Annual and after the season starter. (For instance look at Halladay's huge drop from book to PECOTA card.)
Finally, the shift in WARs is most pronounced by league. AL starting pitchers, per PECOTA, are expected to increase WAR by 57.1 (of the total 67.8 I refer to above) YoY. That just doesn't seem plausible and Yu Darvish isn't even in the database yet.
Any thoughts from BP?
Ignore any player with an "F" (like Stairs) DC_FL. It's a true/false field for Major League roster presence. Anyone with an "F" is defaulted to 250 ABs (with minor exceptions I can't explain like Posada and Ibanez.) If you do a complete projection on Washington, ignore the guys with "F"s and you will see a reasonable team projection.
Colin, Regarding more future changes: Is WXRL coming back? It disappeared from the sortable statistics at the beginning of the season with no explanation?
Well, this article and comment section certainly answered my "What happened to SIERA?" e-mail question on Friday morning. Thanks to all the commenters, (Mike, Richard, et al) for adding to the understanding of this topic. While were on the topic of data that got expunged, can anyone explain to me what happened to WRXL? Not only is there no cacluation in 2011 for each team's bullpen, the prior year data disappeared as well.
I think the most interesting part of the projections is the reversal of 2010's Year of the Pitcher. The projections above show just over 22,000 runs being scored in 2011. In 2010 that number was 21,308, or more than -3% less than this year's projection. (In 2009 and 2008 the runs scored were 22,419 and 22,585 respectively.) Can anyone at BP explain the reversal of the trend of lower scoring?
PECOTA mysteries I don't understand:
1) 162 starts accounted for above, with a team projection of 91 wins (ties to Pythag projection) but only 27 saves? Aren't way more than 30% of a team's wins saved?
2) Why only 83 wins (and just 51 losses) accounted for at the individual pitcher level?
3) Finally a full year of Oswalt and the addition of Lee, replacing 50 (yes 50!) starts by Kyle Kendrick and Jamie Moyer and I'm supposed to believe they will give up more runs in 2011 (656 per PECOTA, above) than last year (640). I'll take the other side of that bet any day; it doesn't even seem plausible.
Any thoughts or explanations?
I too thoroughly enjoyed Christina's take on the career of Hank Blalock. Super example of pointed analysis and criticism. And yet . . . . as with all transactions, price matters. I can buy something of little worth but if the price is right, I might be getting a good value. This isn't a Zito multi-year contract or even a 2-year Jamie Moyer-like albatross which seemed loyal and harmless on the surface but played a part in breaking up a Halladay/Lee/Hamels rotation. This is simply a $925k contract. Real money to any one of us, but truly loose change, even for the Rays. Everything Christina wrote may be true but it's still not a bad signing, right?
I'm reminded of the old Jay Leno joke -- when he was actually a comedian -- about his review of his father's letter to a cereal manufacturer when there was no 'surprise toy' in his box: "Dad, I think disembowel is a little strong."
Matt, Very intersting article. I think there is one obvious question left hanging out there though: Who are the players entering year 2 of a 2 year contract this year? Jamie Moyer(gulp)comes to mind. Is there any way possible your work can give hope that that contract albatross, which can be at least partially be blamed for lack of a Halladay-Lee-Hamles rotation, can have some value?