Jason matches movie titles with players' seasons as he discusses 2011's best and worst.
Twitter has a fascinating feature on a daily basis called “trends” that can be very entertaining at times. Last night, one particular trend was for males to describe a certain body part with a movie title and the responses ranged from predictable to hilarious.
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Jason looks at his Holy Trinity of Skills and the pitchers who qualify for the honor.
A few times this past off-season, I referred to James Shields, Scott Baker, and Ricky Nolasco as the unholy trinity based on how unlucky they were last season. The three of them were in the end-of-season top 25 for SIERA, but their ERA’s were 5.18, 4.51, and 4.63, respectively. Skills-wise, each had strong strikeout rates and low walk rates, but all three were victims of untimely home runs and, in Shields’s cases, just too many home runs. This season (until last night’s performance by Shields), all three were in the top 27 for this season with SIERA’s of 3.62 or lower.
To avoid biasing our opinion, Jason gives the report on a player before telling us whom he's talking about.
One thing many fantasy owners are guilty of is visual bias. We hear a player’s name and our minds immediately jump to the last reaction we had when watching that player. Refusing to deal Coco Crisp for Edwin Jackson in 2009 was one of the main reasons why my AL Tout Wars season suffered and Mike Siano’s competed for the league title in the final hour of the season. People were down on Leo Nunez coming into this season based on late season struggles and, yet, he is near the top of the standings for save. Similarly, those that passed on Kyle Farnsworth because, well, he was Kyle Farnsworth have missed out on a nice season thus far.
Which players is Jason avoiding, despite their recent success?
The 2011 season has seen its share of odd moments already. Jose Bautista’s slugging percentage is higher than Albert Pujols’ OPS right now; Vernon Wells, Carl Crawford, and Alex Rios have three of the worst OPS in all of baseball; guys like John Lackey, Carl Pavano, and Edinson Volquez all have ERA over 5.00 following the “year of the pitcher”. One of the worst things fantasy players can do is run out and acquire players via trade or free agency based on small sample sizes or news bits that flash across the screen, just because they look intriguing. Here are four players I recommend you stay away from despite their recent success, as you have likely already missed their good production, and will only be saddled with headaches.
Jason gives his first report from Tout Wars, so you can get an idea of who the experts are targeting on waivers (and if it's a good idea)
We are one week into the season and emotions are all over the place. If you were one of the two people in the world who targeted Willie Bloomquist in your draft, you are loving life, as he is stealing bases at a Vince Coleman-like pace. Conversely, if you spent big bucks on Carl Crawford, you are pulling your hair out, as he is well below the Mendoza line and has just two stolen bases on the season. I mentioned in my article last week that I feel trades made in April are not always the wisest moves, but I am all for aggressive behavior on the free agent waiver wire—that typically involves the release of draft day end-game speculations.
Are pitchers able to apply certain skills when a game calls for it?
One of the pitchers I enjoyed watching the most while I was growing up was Tom Glavine. Even though I was a Phillies fan and frequently saw him victimize my favorite team, I was impressed by the expertise he demonstrated on the mound, and how he perfected his craft. Glavine remains the premier example of a pitcher who out-pitched his peripheral statistics; he was greater than the sum of his parts. For the amount of strikeouts, walks, and ground balls that Glavine got in his career, he should never have been able to keep runs off the scoreboard as well as he did.
Is having pitch data available helpful in determining a pitcher's walk rates?
Last week, I looked at Predicting Strikeouts with Swing and Whiff Rates, breaking down pitch-by-pitch data to see if things like swinging-strike rates could provide more enlightenment when combined with the previous year’s strikeout rate to predict future strikeout rate. The answer was mostly negative. This was primarily due to two reasons. One was that much of the data on pitch locations is poor, and ensuing discussions highlighted just how poor it is. The other reason, however, is that strikeout rate is the quickest statistic to stabilize over small samples, so one year of strikeout data does a very good job of predicting subsequent strikeout data already. However, this week I will look at walk rate, and attempt to determine whether this data is more useful in predicting future walk rates. There is certainly evidence of value added in this case, far more so than with predicting strikeouts.
Pitch data shows that the amount of swinging strikes is not predictive of strikeout rates.
When I wrote about pitchers with major divides between their ERAs and SIERAs two weeks ago, a reader inquired why Clay Buchholz had such a pedestrian strikeout rate while having an above average swinging-strike rate. Buchholz has mustered just 6.2 K/9, nearly a full strikeout below the 7.1 league average, but has induced batters to swing and miss on 9.5 percent of his pitches according to FanGraphs, a full percentage point above the 8.5 percent league average. The question was apparent: Do pitchers who get a lot of whiffs increase their strikeout rates over time?
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.
It appears Jered Weaver's mastery of a relatively new pitch has allowed him to punch out hitters like never before.
When Jered Weaver made his major-league debut on May 27, 2006, the Angels were 20-28, in last place in the American League West, and five games behind the division-leading Rangers. After the mega-prospect blanked the Orioles over seven strong innings to the tune of a 75 game score, Angels fans were more than enthused that their rotation had been vastly improved by his addition. Weaver would finish the season with a 2.56 ERA in 123 innings with an impressive 3.18 K/BB ratio and 1.03 WHIP. He walked few, proved stingy with allowing hits, and recorded his fair share of strikeouts. Though his rookie numbers were impressive, many would agree that Weaver’s lack of progress since then has been disheartening.
Even when the roof at Chase Field is closed, Arizona's batters ensure that the breeze keeps blowing.
The Diamondbacks may be buried in the NL West basement, but they can’t hold their middle-of-the-pack offense responsible. Arizona’s .262 team TAv ranks eighth in the NL; its .178 ISO leads the circuit, and its 9.9% walk rate trails only Atlanta’s. All that’s holding the D-backs back in the offense department is a 22.2% hit rate, which ranks thirteenth in the league. This isn’t a BABIP issue: the Diamondbacks rank fourth in the league in that category. Rather, the Snakes have simply been swinging and missing at a historic pace. Querying our database (which extends to 1954) for its team strikeout rate leaders gives me the following results:
Cubs closer Carlos Marmol is on his way to setting a record for least contact allowed in a season.
As you may have noticed, Stephen Strasburg made his major-league debut last night. While the MLB Network crew virtually doused themselves in superlatives and set themselves on fire before, during and after the broadcast, Strasburg managed to live up to the hype, earning his first win and striking out 14 batters in seven innings without allowing a walk. The interwebs are rife with tales of Strasburg’s poise, his triple-digit fastball, and the command he displayed with his four-pitch arsenal.