The Snakes and Edwin Jackson agreed to a two-year deal worth $13.35 million, taking him through his last season with arbitration eligibility, so he’s a Banky-Bank-bound (West Campus) ballplayer through 2011. This isn’t really a surprise as far as the commitment pre-free agency, but it makes for an interesting gamble insofar as he remains a watchword for variable performance. Whether the D’backs get value during those two seasons remains to be seen, since that risk was fundamental to their decision to trade off Max Scherzer on the thought that Jackson was better suited to give them a front-end rotation starter to win now with.
Sorry it took so long, but this turned out to be a major update in a lot of ways - particularly on the pitchers.
If there was one type of comment that repeated frequently in the threads, it was that the pitchers looked way too pessimistic in their projections - far more so than the hitters. My first instinct was to simply accept it as PECOTA being PECOTA - the normal tendency of the group is down. There are a lot more different ways, and far less effort involved, in making a major league player worse than there are to make him better.
On further study, it may still be that, and it is possible that I’m chasing an idea the wrong way, but it is the best I’ve come up with for now. There is really only one significant change that went into this projection set from the last one - the pitchers are shown based on their 75% score, not their 50% score. I’m still trying to figure out the exact whys, but when I reran the 2008 and 2009 projections using the new PECOTA program, the best results for major league pitchers came from using a projection around the 75th percentile; using the 50th percentile resulted in large biases towards worse performance, exactly as noted in the player comments for the previous run. This effect was not found in the hitters; the best results for them did come from using the 50th percentile.
I believe that this is the result of a selection effect - that pitchers who do better than their true expectation are the ones who actually pitch in the majors; any slippage quickly results in reduced playing time or demotion to the minors (except for teams with no reserves, like last year’s Brewer rotation). While I would expect that to be true for hitters as well, I think the combination of lower margins (pitchers don’t separate from each other as widely as hitters do) and higher injury rates makes them more susceptible to the bias, and that’s what PECOTA is picking up. My worry is that while running the program in this configuration will make for better results in the major league forecasts, it will create undue optimism for a lot of borderline and minor league players - that by focusing on accuracy for a select subset (major league pitchers), I’ll degrade the accuracy for the group as a whole (all Organized Baseball pitchers). The problem does seem to have appeared with the 2009 PECOTAs; the main change between 2008 and 2009 was the inclusion of a lot more minor league players in the database, about 15 years worth.
But it does make a big difference in the performance of the model for major leaguers. Here are some results from my error testing. In each case, I have pro-rated the PECOTA projection to the pitcher’s actual innings pitched, and showing the root-mean-square error of the given component. So if I projected a 4.50 ERA, and the pitcher really had a 4.00 ERA in 180 innings, my error is 10 runs. The selection group was about 300 pitchers, chosen because they had forecasts from PECOTA and a number of other projection systems (like ZIPS and CHONE). The “new pecota” was run with all 2009 data removed from the system - it used no information that wasn’t available in February 2009.
(from 2/14/09 weighted means sheet)
2009 new PECOTA
Running at 75% produces a dramatic improvement in hits and earned runs, a moderate improvement in walks, negligible improvement in HR, and a negligible worsening in strikeouts - and very narrowly missing a clean sweep of all categories.
Running just against the February 2008 version of the PECOTAs for the 2008 season, we get
This was based on 600 pitchers, who averaged a lower inning total, which is why the overall scale of the numbers comes down, but we can see that the “new PECOTA”, running at 75%, follows the same pattern as in 2009 - big improvements in H and ER, moderate improvement in BB, negligible differences in SO and HR.
It is natural to ask, then, how the hitters compare to the old PECOTA. For 2009, about 400 players, and scaling to plate appearances, the errors by each category are
With the hitters, we have an unfortunate step back in BB and SO, but improvements ranging from small to large in every other category. I’m still looking to see if I can improve those”non-event” scores, but I’ll happily take the gains.
Now, as to the depth charts themselves, I think I’ve gotten all of the free agents purged from them. A lot of the odd minor leaguers showing up on the depth charts are also gone - most of those were listed because they were the next best option the teams appeared to have in their own system, at the time I did the depth chart; as teams have signed more players, the need to reach so far down in the minors has diminished, but I’m still concerned about a team like the Twins, with no one behind Span that I’d trust in CF for more than a couple of games. Please do keep in mind that these charts are trying to look at the entire season, not just the Opening Day roster, and they are working on the assumption that injuries will happen. When they do, someone will get called up - someone who might have no shot at the major leagues when everyone is healthy. Some of the playing time projections that seem low are because PECOTA expects a player to suck, and I have a hard time believing a team will stick with him all season, regardless of how they declared him a starter early on. That will become even more true as spring training gets underway, and someone “wins” a job on the basis of a .387 spring over someone with a longer, better history of performance.
Lineup order is generally not that big a deal for me - they are notoriously changeable, and it is primarily to enhance or decrease the PA of players expected to be largely high or low in the order. When I do see a manager make specific statements about how he wants, I will work them in.
Unfortunately, the changes that came in to PECOTA here has set back the production of the individual player cards. I do think the hitter card is down to one bug that I can fix today, and that the pitcher card format issues can be done by Monday if I don’t have to shovel any more snow (I live just south of the snowiest major city in the USso far this year. Those are entirely on me; I keep changing things to try and get them right.
Pals ‘n’ gals, a quick note to inform you that the wait is over: Amazon officially has Baseball Prospectus 2010 in stock and that we have scattered bookstore sightings out here in the physical world. Remember, folks, not only is the book just in time for pitchers and catchers, it’s almost Valentine’s Day, and nothing says “I love you” like a big, thick baseball book… And it also has fewer calories than chocolate.
As always, we very much hope you enjoy this year’s book, #15 in an ongoing series, and we eagerly anticipate your feedback. Finally, don’t forget that we’ll be hitting the road to talk baseball soon, starting with the Yogi Berra Museum on February 28, New York City on March 1, Washington on March 9, Boston on March 15 and 16, and Chicago on March 18. All of these events are described in more detail on the BP events page. We look forward to seeing you again.
Fack Youk has a post up about what went wrong with Chien-Ming Wang. I was originally just going to comment there, but I had some issues getting it to take and figured, why not put it here? So read the post, then come back and this will make more sense. My response is:
“There’s also the major problem of whether the internal mechanics of his shoulder were at issue. The sinker requires a great deal of pronation (turning the thumb down at release or “pouring out the can”). Go ahead and try this at home and you’ll feel the head of the humerus (the bone of the upper arm, where it meets the shoulder) rotating inward. Studies by Jim Andrews and his team have shown that pitchers tend to have an anatomical change called “humeral retroversion” - very simply, their bone changes to accomodate the demands of pitching. Combine changed anatomy with damaged biology and altered mechanics and things get bad quickly.
Stunningly, the Yankees have never done a biomechanical analysis of the type Andrews offers at his Birmingham facility - not just on Wang, but on ANY of their pitchers. Some pitchers, like Sabathia, have had this done before coming to the Yankees. As far as I know, no team has asked Wang or any other pitcher to have one of these analysis done as part of a condition of contract. I’m not sure it’s “legal” in the sense that a team could even ask for it, but then we’d have to ask the question, why not? Why would a team commit millions of dollars to a pitcher, especially a risky pitcher, without having this kind of information?”
(Should I quote myself? I don’t know, but that’s what I was going to put in comments.)
Wang and Brandon Webb are two very interesting cases. They’re similar pitchers, in pitch type at least, and have similar shoulder issues. Al Leiter made the point on MLB Network that a sinkerballer might get some positive effect from shoulder surgery. I have no idea on that and I’m not sure Al does either, but he knows more about sinkers and surgery than I do, so it’s another thing to watch.
A while back, I mentioned the BP Kings dispersal draft. Well, after spending the past couple months staring at my roster, I submitted my list of keepers on Monday.
We can protect up to 10 veteran players in this league, plus an unlimited number of rookies. The first full round of drafting is round 11, but if an owner keeps fewer than 10 veterans, he gets to start earlier (keep 9, start in round 10; keep 8, start in round 9; etc.).
Each rookie protected costs a pick at the end of the draft (keep one, lose your round 35 pick; keep a second, lose your round 34; you know the drill). Typically these picks are used on fringe players, so keeping several rookies (most owners kept 4-7 in this league; a couple kept none, and one kept 19) is a common strategy that doesn’t come with a lot of downside.
I spent much of Sunday trying to swing last-minute deals. After talking to about half the league and fielding a dozen or so offers, I made one trade, swapping Michael Cuddyer for Arizona third base prospect Bobby Borchering. Although Cuddyer is a solid run producer in his prime, I had determined he was expendable for my purposes. More on that in a moment.
As for the guy I received in return, Kevin Goldstein notes in his look at the Diamondbacks Top 11 Prospects that Borchering needs to tighten up his strike zone and may not stick at the hot corner but identifies him as a “switch-hitter with plus (if not more) power from both sides of the plate.” In other words, Borchering is someone who might help several years down the road. Okay, I wasn’t keeping Cuddyer, so good enough for me.
In the dispersal draft, I’d targeted older players because that’s where the “soft spots” were. It was easier to grab the old guys I wanted than to fight for table scraps among the more coveted younger players.
The downside to such a strategy (or any contrarian strategy) is that potential trade partners may value players differently than I do, which presents a challenge when trying to make a deal. If I spent the draft collecting players nobody else sought, then why should I expect those same owners to want them now? Survey says: I shouldn’t.
So I talked to a lot of folks (always a worthy endeavor even if nothing comes to fruition; today’s talk may become tomorrow’s trade) and made the one deal. Then I trimmed my roster to the following:
I strongly considered cutting all my veterans or at least keeping only Halladay, but after perusing the other rosters decided it wasn’t worth the risk of having another owner also drop everyone and being forced to compete for those resources (this turned out to be a wise decision, as one owner kept only one veteran; everyone else protected at least eight). As for the old guys that nobody had wanted in the dispersal draft, I figured dropping them was relatively safe because, hey, most likely nobody still wanted them. I should be able to redraft them if so desired, and with luck, there might be better players available.
So, that’s where we stand as of today. The spring draft begins on February 18. What will it bring? Stay tuned…
As you may already know, we tried self-publishing on for size last year with Pro Basketball Prospectus 2009-10 and College Basketball Prospectus 2009-10. We had a positive experience with those books, and we’re moving into self-publishing baseball material this year.
I’m pleased to announce that we’ve signed our friend Joe Sheehan for the first book we’ll be announcing in 2010. “The Untitled Joe Sheehan Book” is going to expand on and update a few dozen signature pieces Joe wrote for BP over the years, and will be edited by Christina Kahrl. It will be ready for the printer by this year’s playoffs at the latest.
Joe will be maintaining a production weblog for the book, and we’ll be featuring that at BP.com. You’ll be able to get more information about the book there soon. Joe will also be doing several chats at BP.com in support of the project.
Now, back to working on the PECOTA cards… shooting for end of the week with those.
As baseball season gears up, so does Baseball media. Baseball Prospectus writers have long been favorites because, flat out, we’re good at it. We’ve done everything from Fox News to ESPN, from Boston to San Diego, from Toledo to Tampa. We do TV, we do radio, we do newspapers and new media. You could call us media whores, but that’s not nice.
As you media types gear up for the season, remember that BP does have someone available to help you, but we also give preference to those that give us a regular slot. We’ve got a few slots still available, so if you’d like to book us for radio, let us know - media AT baseballprospectus.com.
Also, if you have a well-trafficked blog or newspaper column and want to talk to use about our 15th Annual book, our bold projections for 2010, the Prospect Lists, THRs, or anything else baseball, we’d be happy to consider that too! Same address works for that request, or you can go straight to the author you’d like to speak with.
There have been some good questions about the Team Health Reports and the underlying system, especially over at Dodger Thoughts. First, I’ll point everyone to this article, which explains much of the underlying system.
The bands — what you see as red, yellow, and green — always get a lot of discussion. Why do I choose to use bands and what do they mean? Yes, the system has an underlying “number,” a percentage that is both more specific and more error-prone. It’s one thing to say “Zack Greinke is a 12″ or “Darren Dreifort is a 101″ but I don’t know that it means much more than the bands. Is 12 that much better than 13? 20? By banding the ratings, I can give you much more meaning and it’s much easier to read.
The bands were initially set at 33 and 50*, but have moved off that slightly based on the changes in experience for the underlying actuarial table. They’re designed to be measuring risk, not cutting the population in thirds, though I can understand why some think that.
As I’ve said, the ratings are just a broad measure. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I disagree (with my own system!), and sometimes it confuses me. All that will be detailed in the team writeups, which is why I always say pay more attention to them and why we work hard to get them out to you as soon as possible.
(* meaning that green was 0-32, yellow was 33-49, red was 50-100)
Good news: we’ve been informed by our publisher that Baseball Prospectus 2010 will depart from their warehouse on Monday, February 8. Allowing a day or two for the trucks to roll and some more time for stores and online sellers to unbox the things and it’s possible that copies could start appearing in stores by the end of next week and in your mailboxes not long after that. We very much hope you enjoy annual #15.
In other news, our pals at Wiley are running a contest around the book: the five winning entrants will get a chance to talk fantasy strategy with the BP author of their choice (choose carefully: I am more likely to talk about Phil Rizzuto, the films of Preston Sturges, and how the 1985 Royals were like Bob Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks” than I am to offer quality fantasy advice. Still, to each their own). See the link for details, no purchase necessary, yadda yadda and so forth.
Finally, some tour dates are starting to come together. Not all details have been finalized, but here are some of the appearances we have planned:
Sunday, February 28, 3 PM: Once again, we kick off our tour at The Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center at Montclair State University, New Jersey. Kevin, Christina, Jay, and I expect to be there and other authors are possible. We’ll be filming this one, so come out, talk some baseball, and be preserved for posterity.
Monday, March 1, 6 PM, New York City: We are pleased to return to the Barnes & Noble at 18th Street and 5th Avenue in Manhattan. If you check their calendar of events, it says of the BP annual, “ow it its fifteenth edition,” to which I can only say, “Amen, brother.”
Tuesday, March 9, 7 PM, Washington, DC: We make our annual pilgrimage to the great Politics and Prose bookstore.
Monday, March 15, 7 PM, Boston: We once again ride the escalators to the top floor at the Boston University Bookstore. Please arrange warm temperatures, Boston.
Tuesday, March 16, Time TBA (tentatively noon), Boston: We alight at Northeastern University for a chat at the Snell Library, 360 Huntington Avenue.
Thursday, March 18, 6 PM, Chicago: Christina and Kevin return to the DePaul University Loop Campus Bookstore for windy Windy City hi-jinks.
Stay tuned for more information. We look forward to seeing you along the trail.
Not a day goes by that I don’t get an email asking about why the pace of new BPR’s has slowed, asking for a link to a specific episode, or making a suggestion for a future guest. Let me address all of those here.
First, the pace has slowed for a number of reasons, but let me assure you that BPR is coming back strong. The winter has always been a slower period for us, absent the companion pieces to the Top 11 that we did last year. This year, a couple things conspired against us. A near complete meltdown in my home studio was one problem, while a new addition to the Wochomurka family has given Brad some new priorities. Brad’s four years at BPR have been great and I can’t thank him enough for the time and effort.
We’ll be debuting a new and an old friend in Brad’s place. The original co-host of BPR was Scott McCauley, who left to take on the responsibilities of being one of the Indianapolis Indians’ radio announcers. Scott will be re-joining us to help with the normal BPR interviews, but will also be doing a lot from the road as he did on his very popular blog. With prospects like Pedro Alvarez, Tim Alderson, and Jose Tabata slated for time in Indy, Scott will be getting to know some future Pirates along with their International League opponents.
Joining us on the backend and handling Fantasy February will be Joel Henard. Joel’s popular Fantasy Insiders show on BlogTalkRadio has been growing since starting a year ago, so his addition will give a new sound and viewpoint. In fact you can hear more from and about Joel on the BPR Fantasy February Preview that’s up now. We’re excited about having Joel as part of the team.
Finally, there’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes to bring you more of the content you want. We’ve experimented with formats, never finding one that resonated with both our listeners and our team of experts. The time, scheduling, and production work that goes into BPR (or any podcast) is more than you’d imagine, about a 3:1 ratio to what you hear on air.
So we’re looking for your ideas, as always. Would you be interested in a “roundtable”-style weekly show that brought several BP writers to the virtual studio to discuss the hot topics? Do you like the long form interviews, like we’ve done with Bob Costas, Steve Stone, and Chuck Wilson? We’re always looking for the best guests, the newest ideas, and we’ll continue to do that in 2010. Thanks to the thousands of listeners who download us on iTunes or listen in right from the front page.
* I also know some of you could care less about audio content. You’re happy reading the printed page or killing some trees. That’s cool. Just please quit asking for transcripts. Until the technology to cheaply and accurately automate that exists, it’s not going to happen. We’re more likely to do some Avatar-style 3D video content before that happens.