Ben and Sam team up for a simulpodcast with Carson Cistulli of FanGraphs and FanGraphs Audio to discuss whether the Yankees have been lucky, the best way to watch baseball, and the value of old scouting reports.
Do teams like the Orioles that excel in one-run games do so out of skill, or have they just gotten lucky?
A few weeks ago, the topic for the BP Lineup Card was "Unanswered questions for the second half." I noted that at the time, the Cardinals were several games behind both the Pirates and the Reds in the NL Central standings, despite the fact that they had a better Pythagorean record than either. In theory, the Cardinals should have been atop the NL Central.
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Every bloop, bleeder, and swinging bunt that has contributed toward the Braves setup man's .458 BABIP in 2012.
A few days ago, I got an email from someone who wanted to know why Jonny Venters isn’t dominating people like he did last year. He speculated that there’s something wrong with his stuff, or that his mechanics might be off.
I started formulating an answer even before I looked at the numbers. Well, it’s too small a sample to draw conclusions. Well, Venters was so good in 2011 that it’s unfair to expect a repeat performance. Well, he led the league in appearances last year, so maybe he’s feeling some fatigue.
Philip Humber's perfect game ended with a controversial call, but close plays to preserve no-hitters are the norm, not the exception.
Since the start of the 2009 season, 12 nine-inning no-hitters have been pitched. Over the same span, 24 nine-inning one-hitters have been pitched. The former will be remembered. The latter will not, except by Anibal Sanchez, who threw three of them. (Don’t feel too bad for Anibal Sanchez, since he already had a no-hitter. Anibal Sanchez: pretty good at pitching.)
The difference between a no-hitter and a one-hitter is—wait for it—one hit. But it’s too simple to say that, really. A hit can be a long home run or a hard line drive that lands somewhere on the field. It can also be an infield dribbler, a well-placed pop-up, or a routine fly that would have been caught by literally anyone but Raul Ibanez. This is a hit:
Examining past MVP and Cy Young winners and the differences between their winning seasons and non-winning seasons.
With the Most Valuable Player and Cy Young awards announced in the last two weeks, we saw a first-time MVP in each league, a first-time American League Cy Young winner and a National League Cy Young winner who had won the American League Cy Young Award seven years prior. Winning consecutive MVP or Cy Young awards is a rarity, though we have seen recent repeats by Albert Pujols and Tim Lincecum. In the last 18 years (1993-2010, which encompasses the last two rounds of expansion), we have seen just six of 36 MVP awards go to the previous year’s winner, and just nine Cy Young Awards to the previous recipient. But the best hitter or best pitcher in the league is usually not a different person every year.
Look at which direction some hitters with high batting averages on balls in play are likely headed in 2011.
Last week, I discussed several pitchers who were pitching well in front of or well behind their peripherals using SIERA. This week, I will discuss several hitters who have particularly high BABIPs, and how much of that performance is skill versus luck.
A look at some pitchers who have had good luck this season and some who haven't.
When Eric Seidman and I introduced SIERA in February, we were very careful to show that it predicts future ERA better than current ERA does. While Defense Independent Pitching Statistics are not a foolproof way to measure pitchers, using them as a guide to dig further into the numbers can be very helpful. Last October, I spent a couplearticles analyzing Cole Hamels’ performance, and I highlighted how little was different between his 2008 and 2009 season, and how I expected his performance to improve as his luck neutralized. Sure enough, Hamels has seen his ERA fall back toward 2008 levels in 2010. In June, I disappointed Rockies fans by explaining the luck that had led to Ubaldo Jimenez’s 1.16 ERA at that time. Sure enough, he has a 4.36 ERA since that article was posted. Eric and I wrote on the Diamondbacks’ starters, stressing the bad luck that Dan Haren had seen to that point in the season. He had a 5.35 ERA, but it has been 3.59 since that article was posed and Haren has also been traded to the Angels. My point is not to cherry pick successes, but to prove that this type of analysis works. I certainly cannot be right every time I say a pitcher’s ERA is likely to fall or rise, because luck plays a role in pitching to a very large degree and luck by its very nature can reoccur. However, this type of analysis will prove prophetic more often than not.
Unveiling a new statistic that provides a clearer picture of pitcher performance.
Baseball fans who have no use for advanced metrics can realize the flaws in evaluating pitchers by their won-lost records, but may struggle to understand the inherent flaws in the more commonly used earned run average. Henry Chadwick invented ERA in the 19th century to measure the effect of defense on pitching performance, but not until Voros McCracken explained the concept of Defense Independent Pitching Statistics (DIPS) did our understanding of the relationship between pitching and defense take a big step forward. McCracken explained that pitchers controlled the rates of whiffing, walking, and getting walloped with home runs, showing that the correlation between these statistics in consecutive years was strong. Though he inferred an ability for hurlers to control these numbers, another finding suggested little persistence in their Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP), leading to the conclusion that ERAs were dependent on defense (or luck), and therefore very volatile.
Armed with this information, sabermetricians began to develop methods of estimating ERA by controlling for the factors that can muddy the proverbial waters. These estimators enable the evaluation of pitching performance based on what pitchers actually control, rendering more accurate the tracking of their abilities. Watching trends in actual skills that pitchers control can help us better grasp whether shifts in ERA are the result of changes from the individual or from external factors. Since then, many competing estimators have emerged with their accompanying strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps the most popular ERA estimator is Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), which uses the following straightforward formula: FIP = 3.20 + (3*BB - 2*K + 13*HR)/9, where the 3.20 is a constant dependent on the league and year, used to place the outputted number on the ERA scale.
755, .406, 56. Each of those numbers probably triggers an image in your mind's eye. The timelessness of baseball's statistics is what makes baseball such an appealing sport to so many people, and what keep us interested long after the heroes of our youth have retired.
Starting pitching has provided some unlikely fantasy assets these season, but who should you bank on down the stretch?
After 100 games in the 2008 season, the top three ERA leaders are Justin Duchscherer, Cliff Lee, and Edinson Volquez. There have certainly been surprises with hitters as well, but not to this extent. The day that baseball becomes predictable will also be the time it becomes boring, but 2008 has brought an especially erratic season for starting pitchers.
Getting a better read on a player's hitting profile to determine his true level.
In mid-August I was reading an article on a friend's blog, in which he was reflecting on his preseason MLB award predictions and lamenting his pick of Chris B. Young for NL Rookie of the Year. Since I had hyped Young to him prior to the season, I felt it necessary to reply and defend my prognostication. Young was hitting just .235 at the time, but had 25 or so home runs, and had already built a reputation as a premier baserunner. In defense of my pick, I hastily replied, "He's had bad luck. If you gave him even a league-average batting average on balls in play, he'd be hitting .270 and have All-Star overall numbers."
Something about my statement, however, did not seem intuitively correct. I knew that multiplying a player's balls in play total by a league-average BABIP and adding in the home runs was, at best, a brute force measure of what the player "should" be hitting, only slightly less variable than a player's batting average itself. Still, I thought that with Young's combination of power and speed, he should ideally be hitting with at least average luck on balls in play.