How did Chase Utley become the best percentage basestealer in baseball?
To understand why Chase Utley, a man who is not very fast or really much of a base-stealer at all, stands alone as the most efficient base-stealer in modern baseball history, you have to look a little bit farther down.
Not much farther down, usually just a spot or occasionally two in the Phillies order. Stop when you get to Ryan Howard. The big first baseman, not any left-hander’s pickoff move or any right arm behind the plate, has been the biggest deterrent to Utley’s steals.
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A look at the relationship between defensive quality and pitcher BABIP, particularly as it relates to James Shields and his unfortunate team change.
One of my favorite things to do with baseball statistics is to pick two of them and see what kind of relationship they have. Many pitchers have changed locations this off-season and will have to get accustomed to the new team defense behind them. Some have made the move to strong defensive teams while others have moved into situations that are a step down from what they have been accustomed to having around them.
Felix Hernandez shut out the Yankees on Saturday, and he did it without throwing many pitches.
On Saturday afternoon, Felix Hernandez shut out the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, allowing two hits and two walks and striking out six. That in itself is a very impressive achievement, given that the Yankees have scored the third-most runs per game in baseball this season, and also given that Yankee Stadium is not a particularly pleasant place to pitch. (The Yankees had averaged over five runs per game there before today.) Even more impressive is the fact that he did it with only 101 pitches. No pitcher has thrown a complete game against the Yankees with fewer pitches since Roy Halladay did it with 96 in 2008. If you want to shut out the Yankees, and you don't want it to take a long time, your best bet is to have Roy Halladay or Felix Hernandez.
There has been a major shift in the team-wide defensive rankings this season from last, but what does this mean?
Although early sabermetrics treated defense somewhat dismissively, better metrics for estimating defensive performance have emerged over the last few years. One of the oldest metrics is Defensive Efficiency (DE), created by Bill James, and this was improved by James Click in 2003 when he created Park-Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (PADE). This metric does a good job at evaluating team defense, and other metrics such as BP's FRAA, John Dewan's Plus/Minus system with Fielding Runs Saved (FRS), and Mitchel Lichtman's Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) became available to evaluate individual player defense. However, I've begun to look at DE and PADE, and I discovered a rather peculiar observation.
The trio atop the NL Central have their strengths, but also their differing chinks in their armor.
At the outset of the season, the Cubs were forecast to be the National League's best team, but they've endured a litany of injuries and a few key underperformances. At this writing, they sit in fourth place in the NL Central, playing .500 ball (30-30) and trailing the division-leading Brewers by 3½ games. Earlier this week, our staff turned their attention to what's wrong in Wrigleyville and where the Cubs go from here. In today's edition of "Pair Up in Threes," we examine the trio of contenders above them, a crowd that should make for a fair share of Midwestern mayhem over the course of the rest of the season.
Last year, before his team's magical 2008 season began, Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon gave his players t-shirts featuring an unlikely mathematical message: "9 = 8." Nine players, playing hard for nine innings each game, could make the Rays one of the eight clubs to reach the post-season, he told the team.
Can finding the guys who can pick it help pick your team up?
What Moneyball did for on-base percentage, the Rays' 2008 triumph may have done for defense—even if the book on the latter has yet to be written (although it's reportedly on its way). Of course, the importance of avoiding outs at the plate, and of accumulating them in the field, was as clear to Lane and Chadwick, respectively, as it is to Beane and Friedman; the rest of the class merely needed a little prodding to send it plunging past the tipping point. Unfortunately for those prematurely in the know, these watershed moments often mark the end of their salad days, as other prospectors make inroads on their fertile claims. The rubes are growing scarce: just ask Manny Ramirez, Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreu, and the other defensively challenged sluggers who failed to douse themselves with eau de Ibañez before seeking long-term relationships this winter.
An appreciation for on-base percentage could have yielded a competitive advantage at any point in the game's history, but until fairly recently, fielding skills remained relatively impenetrable, even to those with the inclination to evaluate them. However, as defensive metrics improve and become increasingly reliable (a process which the imminent arrival of the Hit-f/x system promises to accelerate), the leathery component of run prevention will assume an even greater significance in player evaluation and analysis (while remaining an area in which scouting insight can elucidate persistent quirks in the numbers). In order to determine just how large a slice of the run-prevention pie defense deserves to consume, we might take a quick look back at an earlier investigation.
Evaluating defensive play in college baseball leads to some solid conclusions about its importance in the standings.
I don't think it's a stretch to say that college baseball is an offense-oriented game: the ping of the ball off of the bat testifies to that. There have been great strides made in reducing the number of games ending in football scores-only five times did a team score in double digits in Omaha-but as I watched the 19-10 slug-fest in Game Two of the College World Series championship, it was a frustrating reminder of how easily aluminum can shrink a ballpark.
An examination of historic reversals and a promising World Series matchup.
Yesterday, I examined the record-setting improvement that the Rays' bullpen made from 2007 to 2008, and the role that turnaround played in helping the team vault from 66-win doormats with one of the all-time worst bullpens, to AL pennant winners with perhaps the majors' best unit. As it turns out, that wasn't the only historic turnaround this year's Rays pulled off.
Dissecting how much difference an improved defense can make for Tampa Bay makes for some reservations over the Rays' chances.
The Tampa Bay Rays took a bold new step into their future this past weekend, promoting two highly-touted former first-round picks and watching both of them succeed in their debuts. On Saturday, they installed third baseman Evan Longoria into the lineup. The third overall pick of the 2006 draft as well as the #3 prospect on our Top 100 Prospect List, Longoria went 1-for-3 with an RBI in his first game, and delivered hits in his next two games as well, including a double and a homer against the Yankees on Monday. On Sunday, the Rays sent Jeff Niemann to the hill. The fourth overall pick of the 2004 draft has seen his star fall a bit due to shoulder troubles and unspectacular minor league performances, which combined to knock him out of our top 100 after a #25 showing in 2007, but he held the Orioles to one run in six innings while striking out five.