A look at Jeremy Hellickson's mysterious ERA/FIP discrepancy.
Ryan Franklin was a starting pitcher for just three full seasons in the major leagues. In 2002, he worked in a swing role for the Seattle Mariners. In 2003, he surprised many by posting a 3.57 ERA during a season in which he struck out just 99 hitters and walked 61 more over 212 innings pitched while allowing 34 home runs. His FIP that season was a staggering 5.24, and that 1.67 run difference is the largest difference for any starting pitcher with at least 150 innings of work since the 2000 season.
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Despite the barkers, the colored balloons, and Mariano Rivera, there is no Closer Mountain.
As Mariano Rivera tied and then broke Trevor Hoffman’s record for career saves, the YES Network’s Michael Kay kept referring to Rivera being “alone atop the mountain of closers.” Sometimes he said “alone atop the mountain of closers with Trevor Hoffman,” which doesn’t make much sense, because how can you be alone with somebody except in literary depictions of alienated romance, presumably not what Kay was talking about? In any case, Closer Mountain is more aptly described as a pimple, because most closers last about as long as the typical skin blemish and are about as memorable no matter how many saves they have. Compared to Rivera (and Hoffman as well), they are no more than transients traveling between obscurity and obscurity.
Rivera has been the Yankees’ closer since 1997. In that time, he has had eight seasons of 40 or more saves. You well know that saves are a vastly overrated statistic due to the way they seem to indicate leverage but really don’t, so don’t take that as a measure of quality, but rather of the fact that someone felt he was worth running out there with a lead—with the exception of the occasional Joe Borowski ’07, you don’t get a chance to pile up that many saves while pitching poorly.
The saves are the secondary by-product of the two elements of Rivera’s game that make him so valuable: First, he’s simply an exceptionally good pitcher. His current 2.22 ERA ranks ninth all time, 1,200 innings and up division. Literally everyone above him pitched in the Deadball era. The closest pitcher who was primarily a reliever is the Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm, who had a 2.52 ERA overall and 2.49 in 1872 1/3 innings as a reliever, just about all of which was compiled in a less challenging run environment than the steroidal 1990s and 2000s.
The best and worst single seasons and decade-long performances by the men in the front office.
For me, this is a lot of fun, but as a refresher, here's how these rankings are calculated. First, we find each team's expected revenue, based on their third-order winning percentage, and how big their market is. Then, you divide that by what each team's marginal revenue should have been, had they won exactly as many games as their payroll would have predicted. (Draft pick value is also factored in, so the worst teams get slightly more credit than the vanilla mediocre teams.) The end result is PER-Payroll Efficiency Rating-which tells us how well each team spent their payroll dollars.
Since his debut in 1996, Vladimir Guerrero has been one of the most exciting players in baseball - possessing the ability to hit for a high average with lots of power and wielding a breathtaking throwing arm. Despite an approach at the plate that can generously be described as not really what statistical analysts recommend, Guerrero has raked for over a decade. With his body slowly breaking down and the revelation that he's a year older than previously believed, we may be nearing the end of the run for Vlad the Impaler. Let's take a look back at his career and consider where it may be headed.
Translating the performances of the latest crop of forbidden fruit from Castro-country and two high-profile imports from Japan's major leagues.
In the past month, two Japanese pitchers have been signed by major league teams-Kenshin Kawakami, now with the Braves, and Koji Uehara, signed up by the Orioles. We've also heard of major league interest in some recent Cuban émigrés-Yadel Marti and Yasser Gomez, as well as Dayan Viciedo, who signed with the White Sox in November. Let's focus a translational microscope on each of these players, with an eye towards giving you an idea of what's in store.
Kenshin Kawakami DOB: 6/22/75 (33) Height/Weight: 5-10/200 Bats/Throws:R/R Team: Chunichi Dragons, Central League, NPB
Who's been really delivering high-leverage set-up work, and what does that mean for the Yankees prospect?
Wednesday's disclosure that the Yankees have decided to shift Joba Chamberlain to the bullpen to start the year didn't exactly qualify as news. Despite off-season denials of such a scenario, several pieces of data pointed to the inevitability of the decision, ranging from Chamberlain's success during last year's stretch run (pre-bug spray, at least), his age (22), his workload capacity based on the Rule of 30 (about 145 innings, based on the time he spent at four stops plus the postseason, though Will Carroll will tell you that only the major league innings count when it comes to parsing injury risk), and the current health status of Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina, Philip Hughes, and Ian Kennedy.
The retirement of a minor league catcher incites the revisiting of a now-infamous book.
The news that Jeremy Brown was hanging up his spikes due to "personal issues" made more of a stir last week than you'd expect from the retirement of a 28-year-old catcher who's spent the last two years in Triple-A. Our prospects expert, Kevin Goldstein, gave Brown an extremely evenhanded send-off over on Unfiltered; others have been less charitable, invoking imaginary choruses of scouts cheering the end of Brown's career. At least, I hope the cheering is imaginary: it'd take a Grinch-sized heart to rejoice in the end of someone's big-league dreams, unless their name is, say, Ben Christensen. The reason that Brown is the focus of such attention and schadenfreude is because the A's drafted him in the first round of the 2002 draft-an overdraft which, by itself, wouldn't be that noteworthy-and because Michael Lewis wrote a best-selling book which hailed Brown's selection as the bellwether of a new way of doing business, which the author dubbed "Moneyball" in the book of the same name. Apparently, those celebrating Brown's retirement are marking the occasion as the death of Moneyball acumen-a festive wake, with dancing and ironic toasts.
Since the turn of this century, what have been the best and worst performances with the bases juiced?
Who are your three best friends in the world? I'll tell you who they are-the three guys on your favorite team who find themselves on base simultaneously. When the bags are juiced and the camera pans around the infield showing the three baserunners and the announcer says their names, don't you say to yourself, "Man, I love those guys!"
Revisiting baserunning metrics to see how much credit, if any, should go to runners when a pitcher makes a mistake.
"We don't have a 40 home run guy anymore... We have to reduce mistakes, take advantage of every opportunity we get... We need to improve on moving runners over from second to third and our base running. There can be an eight- to 10-game swing in a season just from base running."
--Syd Thrift, in 2001, when he served as the Orioles Vice President of Baseball Operations
Wrapping up the series on the fine art of pitching where the bat ain't, or putting the bat where the ball isn't.
So it's a long road we've traveled over the past month, looking at non-contact results on the diamond. Fortunately, like all good things, it must come to an end. We ended up last time looking at the leaders in swinging strikeout and looking strikeout rate since 1999 (which is as far back as we have comprehensive pitch-by-pitch data). A few things stood out while looking at those two lists:
Bryan concludes his analysis of the draft tendencies of scouting directors.
Today, I close out my attempt to find tendencies in the drafting philosophies of Major League scouting directors. I surmised that any person of power in sports falls back on his own patterns of informed behavior when making important choices. This is basically a case study in making a mock draft without inside knowledge--I'm wondering what the past can tell us about the future.
A little bit of knowledge about Batting Average on Balls in Play can help you decide which top sluggers to select in the early rounds.
One stat some of your leaguemates will ignore at their own peril is Batting Average on Balls in Play. BABIP for hitters isn't a complicated statistic, and just a basic understanding can be a fantasy boon. (Rumor has it that if it weren't for the efforts of the Dharma Initiative, it would have occupied baseball box scores when they first appeared in newspapers.) The "formula" breaks down like this: