BP.com's original column launched in 1996, TA has been where Christina Kahrl ponders the implications of recent roster moves, their impact on managerial tactics or how they reflect organizational behavior. Plus a few too many references to things that have nothing to do with baseball.
Saving the West for last, a few exciting fights for position-playing roles, plus the usual mulling of aspiring fifth men.
To complete my perhaps overly terse-for me, at any rate-series review job battles for starting jobs in the majors, we now turn to the NL West. Admittedly, part of the exercise here for me was to make sure that I turn over to positions and considerations that, too often, do not comprise core considerations for Transaction Analysis: the guys who get punted from Triple-A and back again, the damned and doomed who need to adapt to a shuttle-born existence between the dubious glory of third lefty-dom, spot starting in the rotation because some high-maintenance thirtysomething needs skipping, or the outfielder who plays because somebody's hammy's barking or the like. That's the stuff that, admittedly, is relatively minor stuff, the endless churn that I can't help but find fascinating on one level, but also have to admit impacts a season, a team, or your fantasy squad very little, if at all. Or, as another way to put it, if you're concerned about the whereabouts of Doug Slaten, you're with me in the ranks of the few, the proud, the players in the deepest of leagues, or the folks who don't play Wii in their spare time.
Lighting up reaction reliant on straw men with a handy historical example.
Last week, the normally excellent LoHud Yankees Blog had an entry by a guest columnist named Yair Rosenberg. Rosenberg's topic is a sadly typical one, "the tendency of statistical measures to unintentionally obscure the human side of baseball." He proceeds to set up a straw man that he can knock down:
The Giants' desperate need for offensive help has found it in the form of an unlikely source.
The Giants have fewer than 10 games left to catch the Rockies and secure the National League Wild Card as their own, and at four games back it's going to take a serious stretch of ball for this to happen. It is possible though, thanks in part to the fact that the lineup the Giants have now-as weak as it may be compared to other potential playoff teams-is the best they have fielded all year. Part of this is due to Eugenio Velez' presence, as he's hit well enough at second base to make up for the playing time they were supposed to get from their trade for Freddy Sanchez, and has been able to spot him for some of their disappointing outfield options as well. Velez is 27 years old, though, and just now getting his footing in the majors-is his performance an indication that he's improving, or is this just the result of a few months of decent baseball during his peak?
Adding a new way to evaluate and interpret team-wide defensive performance to the sabermetric arsenal.
Two of the first things you learned about sabermetrics were that batting average is not a very good measure of a hitter, and that fielding percentage is not a very good measure of a fielder. Not all hits are created the same, and extra-base hits cause a lot more damage than singles, which is why we know that slugging is better than batting average at approximating hitting ability. We also know that fielding percentage is a poor measure of defensive skill, because it only considers the balls that a fielder can reach, and therefore does not account for range-being able to get to more balls, all else equal, implies that a fielder is better. Being able to record outs on more balls in play is indicative of better team fielding. That is why the most widely used measure of team defense is Defensive Efficiency, which is effectively one minus your opponents' BABIP (including errors).
The Giants make a run based on their preventing them, the Yankees ponder their next putsch, plus news and views from around the game.
AT&T Park is the house that Barry built. The Giants never would have been able to move into their beautiful waterfront ballpark in San Francisco's China Basin without having all-time home-run leader Barry Bonds hitting in the middle of their lineup to ensure plenty of sellout crowds that pay off a facility built without a heavy dose of public funding.
Clint Hartung was a spectacle of some sort, but was he a spectacular ballplayer?
As of last Friday, the Orioles are beginning to find out if Matt Wieters, one of the most hotly anticipated prospects in recent memory, is the real deal. In his case, there is reason to believe that the anticipation is justified. In other cases, a more skeptical approach would have been warranted. Such was the case with Clint Hartung, one of the most hyped prospects of the postwar period.