How unusual is it to make the playoffs with a light-hitting outfield like that of the Braves, and have they taken the right steps to fix it?
The day the Braves reacquired outfielder Matt Diaz, pitcher Derek Lowe out-homered Atlanta’s outfielders 1-0. This was not at all a shocking development. Braves outfielders have been, as a group, among the worst in baseball this season.
Diaz, who hit .305/.353/.461 in five seasons with the Braves after being dismissed by the Rays and Royals organizations, has looked totally lost this year, hitting just .259/.303/.324 with no home runs in 100 games with the Pirates. A .335/.372/.538 hitter against southpaws with Atlanta, he has hit a mild .295/.342/.362 against them this season. League-wide, right-handed batters are slugging .406 against lefties, and have a .332 on-base percentage.
That association with the Pirates could cause any veteran to experience something resembling chronic fatigue syndrome can be taken for granted, but reeling in Diaz for the stretch drive must qualify as a desperation move; the outfielder has always been a defensive millstone, and when you have a 33-year-old bat-only player who only qualifies as offensive in the sense that the number of outs he has made causes the discerning observer to pinch his nose, he can hardly be called an upgrade—unless, that is, you’re talking about the marvel that is the Braves’ outfield.
How important is a team's glove work up the middle when stacked against the offense provided?
Earlier this month, I examined the timeworn adage that a ballclub must be strong up the middle—at catcher, second base, shortstop, and center field—to win. What I found was that while the aforementioned positions are the most demanding ones defensively—they're the four at the right end of Bill James' defensive spectrum, which runs 1B-LF-RF-3B-CF-2B-SS-C—the collective defensive abilities of those players had a much lower correlation with team winning percentage than their collective offensive abilities. In other words, having good hitters up the middle is far more vital to the winning effort than having good fielders.
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Using DIPS Theory to understand a pitcher's skills.
I have always loved pitchers’ duels. One of my favorite childhood baseball memories is watching Curt Schilling throw a complete game shutout for the Phillies in a 2-0 win against the Blue Jays in Game Five of the 1993 World Series, with the Phillies facing elimination. I was only 12 years old at the time, and I did not know anything about sabermetrics, but Schilling appeared majestic as he pitched yet another brilliant start in what would become a magnificent playoff career. He only surrendered five singles that night and extended the series one more day.
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.
Lima Time as a standard for evaluation, reinforcing the Red Sox, the Tigers slip by an Inge, and more.
Using a pitcher's rate of SNLVAR, Kazmir's season has been a disaster of massive proportions, one that rates about 4.8 on the Keough scale, something that for the moment suits my purposes for describing starting pitcher inadequacy, using Matt Keough's appalling 1982 season as a baseline for starting pitcher-related terrors visited upon a team's unhappy fans over a full season. This isn't really especially fair of me, in that Keough doesn't hold the single-season low for a starter with 30 starts in a campaign, but 1982 was a horrifying disappointment, and the man was beaten with a regularity that made me think that he was the drum, and the entire American League was Keith Moon.
Rob McQuown auditions for an invite into the Carlos Gonzalez Fan Club, and also breaks down the outfield situations in Oakland and Seattle for possible trade and waiver targets.
Today's review of Carlos Gonzalez may come across as a Dick Vitale-esque rave, and if so, it's due to the fact that today opened the eyes of this author as to how undervalued this fantasy monster is. Matt Schwartz may have his E-BABIP system projecting “Car-Go” to post a BABIP of just .301, but that's not going to happen. He's loaded with raw power, and benefits mightily by playing in the thin air of the Rocky Mountains, expect something more in line with his career rate of .331.
Even with this modest BABIP prediction, however, his top 10 PECOTA comparables are:
Rob McQuown analyzes the fallout of having a Heyward-sized bomb dropped into the Atlanta outfield, and also who will play in St. Louis and Washington.
With many thanks to Kevin Goldstein, we already have an idea how good Jason Heyward will be in 2010. The player who isn't being hurt by the Heyward decision is Melky Cabrera, assuming he keeps outhitting Nate McLouth. McLouth's struggles at the dish this spring have already dropped him in the batting order (Melky has been leading off). Poor Matt Diaz went on a fitness rampage last year, and had a 13/12 season (HR/SB) in just 425 PA, while continuing his career-long .300-plus batting. But he's hit only .276/.334/.387 in his career vs. righty pitchers (that's -46 in Scoresheet, due to his annihilation of lefties), limiting him to platoon duty. Expect Bobby Cox to keep using him in situations where he can thrive, at least, so his rate stats should again be excellent. This makes him a nice player to have in sim games such as Scoresheet or Strat-O-Matic, but frustrating for fantasy owners.
There are reasons why E-BABIP's projections don't always agree with those of PECOTA.
In Part One of this series, I updated my model for projecting BABIP with new 2009 data, and in Part Two, I explained what makes BABIP Superstars and BABIP Trouble-Makers. In this final part, I will discuss some of the hitters where my Expected BABIP (E-BABIP) projections and PECOTA’s BABIP projections differ most, and discuss which number you might want to trust. PECOTA incorporates a lot of information that my model simply does not, but the batted-ball information can be particularly important for certain hitters, and those are the ones where you should place some faith in E-BABIP.
Who ranks among the best and worst in this seemingly unpredictable yet key metric?
In Part One of this series, I updated a model for projecting BABIP, continuing on my previous work from last year. I showed that BABIP can be predicted successfully by looking at batted-ball rates and BABIP on those individual batted-ball types.
BABIP isn't as luck-driven as many suggest, not after you drill down into the numbers.
If you don’t put your bat on the ball, you’re not going to get a hit, and if you don’t hit the ball over the wall, someone might catch it. This series begins with what happens the rest of the time as I develop a model to predict a hitter’s Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP). In Part 2, I will explain some of the current BABIP superstars then some of the players where my system differs from PECOTA will be the topic of Part 3.
Rob McQuown tracks the shifting outfielders of the Cubs, Brewers, and Indians.
The big news in the Cubs outfield this spring isn't on the radar (or Heater's Radar Tracker) yet, and that's because former first-round pick Tyler Colvin is still a longshot to make the opening-day roster. PECOTA forecasts him hitting .231/.289/.400 if given playing time, which seems somewhat pessimistic, given his .300/.334/.524 performance at AA last year with a reasonable .328 BABIP. Manager Lou Piniella is tempted, however, since Xavier Nady won't be able to throw well enough to play the outfield until June.
That turns the outfield spotlight on Sam Fuld. Fuld is a good defensive centerfielder. He bats lefty with enough of a platoon advantage that he could probably survive as a platoon leadoff hitter (his career minor-league OBP is .370 and he's hit righties with a typical platoon split) and could almost certainly play frequently as fourth outfielder for a team overloaded with righty bats. Despite his age, he's risen through the minors at a good pace after making his professional debut in 2006 at high-A ball. Obviously, hitting .150 in spring training so far is undermining his chances to grab the available playing time.
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.