Why isn’t Eric Gagne the top-ranked reliever in baseball according to Baseball Prospectus measures? Does Ichiro deserve to be included in discussion for AL MVP? What the heck is a GWHBPRBI? These questions and more discussed in a brand new edition of From The Mailbag.
Everett Memorial Stadium is an intimate neighborhood park, modest and unassuming, easy to look past. It holds a couple of thousand people, and it’s all metal stands with seats and bleachers, which enhances the prep feel of the place. After a good play, fans stomp their feet, producing a wide taka-taka-taka sound that makes me smile. The field’s nice. Like all minor league fields I’ve seen, I look at the surface and think “man, they need to get that color even, and fix that trim…” as if they’ve got the kind of money and manpower major league teams muster to produce their perfect fields.
The teams don’t have clubhouses in the park itself–they have to walk up to what is essentially a high school locker room, where the facilities are pretty bad. The lockers aren’t tall enough for a uniform, I hear, so they have to hang them up on wires that are strung across the aisles. But what are you going to do? This isn’t the Midwest League.
As I find myself writing more and more about pitchers, pitcher injuries, and theories about preventing said pitcher injuries, I find myself returning to a few themes. First, Keith Woolner and Rany Jazayerli have the best system, bar none, that has been tested. Ignore PAP3 at your own risk. Second, we ignore pitch efficiency. When Roy Halladay can go 10 innings and not crack 100 pitches, he’s on to something.
In fact, the more I think about it, pitch efficiency seems to be a victim of the era. Just 20 years ago, the ’86 Mets–a team that I see all too often on ESPN Classic–look like a bunch of pencil-necked geeks compared to the middle-infielders of today. Serve up a fat pitch to Ozzie Smith, or better, his backup, and at worst you get a double. After a while, that can add up to significantly fewer pitches per appearance. If you’re obsessed with complete games or want to figure out a way around that LaRussian third LOOGY, getting your starter to go 10 pitches an inning is a must. I’ll talk more about efficiency soon, but let’s get to what you’re here for.
Powered by my enforced punishment beverage, mead, by order of the Office of Arrogance and Elitism, on to the injuries…
I could talk about roster/lineup/role optimization all day, which is just one of the many reasons it’s a wonder I’m married. Back in the nascent days of baseballprospectus.com, I wrote a column called Lineupectomy (a couple of which actually show up in the archives), which got its name from something we used to do at Strat tournaments–taking people’s teams and creating optimal lineups. It’s a geek thing, and as has been pointed out, not remotely the right name for the process, but it’s something I spend a lot of time doing.
There’s a question as to how much the effort matters. It’s something of a stathead truth that the difference between the optimal lineup and a reasonably constructed one is small, less than a win per year. I don’t necessarily buy that; as Chris Kahrl pointed out in BP2K1, the simulations on which that idea is based are fairly old, done on ancient technology, and it’s possible that we just haven’t been able to model it properly yet. I find it hard to believe that doing simple things like getting your OBP guys in front of your SLG guys, making the lineup less vulnerable to attack relievers, and minimizing double plays aren’t worthwhile endeavors that can add not just a few runs, but a few wins a year.
My thought process on the Yankees goes something like this: they have seven good hitters, so one of those seven ends up at the back of the line. Ideally, you’d like that to be the worst of the seven, but that’s complicated by the fact that players don’t change roles as easily as Strat cards, and the collective media and fan base is poised to make a very big deal over any radical changes. Ask Theo Epstein.
The Red Sox face some pretty soft competition, going forward. Dave Miley has had a pretty rough time since taking over in Cincinnati. And the Padres have been playing spoiler, lately, to a number of contenders. All this and much more news from Boston, Cincinnati, and San Diego in your Tuesday edition of Prospectus Triple Play.