Thursday, January 24, 2008

A perfect example of something just made up

Sorry for the lack of post, loyal readers. I have been really busy at work lately, as have other prominent baseball bloggers. Just wanted to add this quick gem by Amy Nelson from's comparison of Carl Crawford and Jose Reyes, to determine who is the best base stealer in the game.

In stating her case for Crawford she states the following:

Crawford has the speed, the quickness and the instincts. He's also is in a league that doesn't emphasize the stolen base as much as the NL, which certainly helps put his totals below that of players like Reyes and Pierre
That is something you will hear broadcaster and other journalist comment on time to time; the big difference between AL style ball verses NL style ball. I tend to think this is way overblown. Granted, the difference may have been more pronounced several decades ago, but now with free agency players very often switch leagues. Also managers switch a lot and they would bring their styles of play with them right?

I haven't done a ton of research on this and apparently Amy Nelson hasn't either. I don't quite know what she means by the "emphasize the stolen base" but I would nearly guarantee that she didn't know the the average AL team in 2007 had 97 stolen bases with a 73% success rate. The average NL team stole 98 bases with a 74% success rate (an average AL team has had more stolen bases in a season than the average NL team in four of the last eight seasons). Just maybe Amy thought that 1 base and 1 % difference last season was enough of a factor to limit Crawford stolen base output. Or maybe this is how baseball myths get passed around ?

PS:I know the whole DH and pitcher thing is a obvious and very real difference. But what about the general hyperbole you will hear that the AL is the power hitting league and the NL is the base stealing league. This is something I have heard old retired ball players ramble on about during broadcast. While only twice in the last eight seasons has the average NL team out homered the average AL team (including 169 to 161 last season) the differences are often explained simply by the DH. You will hear some exaggerate as if the NL style is more pure and wholesome baseball while the AL is the lazy, wait for the three run homer league. Not exactly true. Little things like this annoy me way more than the average person probably ......

Monday, January 21, 2008

Curious Sox

The White Sox have reportedly signed Octavio Dotel to a 2 year, $11 million contract. Earlier in the off season the White Sox also signed Scott Linebrink to a 4 year, $19 million contract, and obtained Nick Swisher in a trade with the Oakland A's. The White Sox generally received good reviews for the Swisher trade, but these reliever signings are curious at best. It is this lack of consistency that makes me wonder if the White Sox have a serious plan for getting back into contention or if Kenny Williams and Ozzie are making player personnel decisions by playing a drunken game of Rock-Paper-Scissors (how else do you explain the Erstad signing last year?).

Let me explain. The White Sox were very bad last year. Gave up up 839 runs. Only scored 693 while finishing 24 games behind Cleveland. They only had a .318 OBP as a team and their best hitter,Thome, will be 38 years old next year. Yes a very bad year. The picture I am trying to paint is that the White Sox appear no where close to competing with the teams ahead of them in their division with out some major changes. As an organization the White Sox really have two choices. Either they need to do a major overhaul this off season to try to catch up to the teams ahead of them, or build for the future. A jump from 72 wins to 75 wins is sort of like kissing your sister don't you think? Since this seasons FA market was relatively weak it didn't appear the Sox would be able to bridge the gap in talent with their division rivals. This is where I agree with the Swisher trade. He is young, gets on base (100 walks, .381 OPB last year) and is cost controlled for the next few years. That move makes sense, for you can see Swisher being part of the solution a few years down the road due to his age and the fact that he addresses a major team weakness. This is where the reliever signings seem to make a little less sense.

I know the bullpen was awful last year, their relievers posted a collective 5.47 ERA. That's ugly. But both the new guys have some red flags. Linebrink's K rate has dropped from 8.89 in 2004 to 6.40 last season. And he is going to the big boy league. Signing him for 4 years is pretty silly. Dotel still seems to have his stuff (41 k's in 30.2 innings) but has only pitched 63.2 innings the last three seasons. I could see taking a chance on him for one year but two years is questionable to me. I actually think these guys will marginally improve the White Sox bullpen next season. But considering how bad the bullpen they had last year, it wouldn't take all that much to actually do that. Back to my broader point of, WHY? The White Sox have a lot of major flaws as a team and are probably a couple season's away from being back in contention unless they quickly bring in a handful of high impact players. These guys just ain't going to make a significant impact short term. And they won't have any impact long term due to age, injuries, or just poor performance. I think this is a classic example of a GM making a move just for the sake of making a move(Sort of like the Royal's signing Tomko yesterday).

I can understand why Kenny Williams and other GM's sometimes feel pressure to make moves like this. The White Sox have a lot of money, and the pen was really bad last year. To the fans, media, and sometimes even the owner, it wouldn't look very acceptable to sit on your hands and do nothing. It's clear something needed to be done and this way he can say he is trying to make the team better. It is a very difficult for the GM to sell the notion that doing nothing may be the best course of action, especially when he has a lot of cash to throw around, as the White Sox do. But it is also the GM's job to have a bit more perspective than the fans, media, and yes even the owner. Considering the current state of the White Sox roster, these two reliever deals are just pointless; not enough to help now or in the future. Maybe Kenny Williams likes to kiss his sister.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Nit-picking the AP

I was reading this article about Miguel Cabrera avoiding arbitration and signing a one year $11.3 million dollar contract, when this excerpt caught my eye.

Cabrera, one of the game's top sluggers, joins an imposing lineup that includes Magglio Ordonez, Gary Sheffield, Carlos Guillen, Ivan Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco. The Tigers also acquired shortstop Edgar Renteria, a five-time All-Star, in a trade with Atlanta this offseason.

Do you notice something WRONG about this statement, cause I sure do. The Tigers do have an impressive line up, no doubt. But when compiling the list of such hitters that do make the Tigers have such an impressive line up you just wouldn't mention a hitter who was one of the worst hitters in the league last year. He was the kind of bad where if you were to just pretend his OBP was his batting average, that batting average, would only be the 27th best in the league. That's pretty bad. Of course I hope you all know I am talking about Ivan Rodriguez. His inclusion in this list of impressive hitters is head scratching at best.

It is this kind of laziness by the AP and other professional writers that irks me. I mean, yes Pudge used to be a pretty darn good hitter, especially considering his position. But he hasn't even been above OPS+ 100 since 2004. It's not like his decline as a hitter happened over night. It's like the AP just said to themselves, "hey the guy is popular, a fan favorite, cool nick name, I even seem to remember him winning a MVP some time ago; he must be good !" It 's this kind of shoddiness that I simply think there is no excuse for. I know its easy to nit pick, but to any one who's been paying attention the last three years, that's a pretty big blunder.

Cherry picking.

I was just reading over Jason Stark's ESPN blog and I came across this passage that immediately struck me as kind of odd.

Incidentally, thanks to all the loyal readers who pointed out an error in the column in which I ran through my Hall of Fame ballot and made a stirring case for Tim Raines. I wrote that Raines and Barry Bonds were the only players in history with 500 stolen bases, 150 homers and an on-base percentage of .375 or better. I got close to 50 e-mails from readers pointing out that I left out Rickey Henderson and Joe Morgan. You're right. The reason I left them out was that I also left out the other qualifier -- a career batting average of .290 or better. Morgan hit .271 lifetime. Rickey batted .279. Another near-miss: Paul Molitor, who had a .369 OBP but made it in the three other categories.

Stark's initial premise is a classic example of stat cherry picking. Those sets of numbers are just so random it doesn't tell us much about if the player is good. Its a common trick you will see sports writers try to pull from time to time. When making a insightful comment about player X, they will pick what ever numbers they can in any category until they can make player X look unique. Then they can go on to cleverly declare that player x good because he meets this arbitrary set of criteria. There are actually a lot of really good reasons to vote for Tim Rains. I am glad to see Stark did indeed support Raines for the Hall and he did make other good points. I just think something like this is kind of pointless and adds little to the argument.

Random number of the day: Career OPS+ 207 ... How is this for cherry picking? I was just randomly surfing around baseball reference (I love that site) when I saw this. It just looked kind of funny to see a number as big as 207 next to OPS+. Pretty incredible that through out his career he doubled up his peers in OPS. His stat line is a fun one to look over sometime when you have a chance ... just amazing.

Busy Weekend

Posting might be a little slow this weekend. Due to this happening in my work life, management decided to give us a project for the weekend. So I am a little busy but I will try to have something interesting to say tomorrow. C-Dubb still waiting for a reply! Or did I convince you? ........

Thursday, January 17, 2008

C-dubb thinks I am Clutch

Earlier in my Perceptions post, my good friend from high school, C-Dubb and I had the following exchange.

C-Dubb said...

Wouldnt you agree that the best teams make it to the playoffs? Wouldn't you also agree that most teams that make the playoffs have above average pitching? Wouldnt you also agree that there is more pressure to perform in the playoffs (i.e. you lose and you are done; you are in more of a national spotlight)? Doesn't it make sense then that postseason numbers may drop some from the regular season? Lets see a comparison between the average player's regular season vs postseason to see if Jeter truly is "clutch"!

Don Evans said...

C-dubb, Good to see you are reading my blog !!! haha I do agree with your points ( if you read my comment a couple above yours) that in the postseason the pitching is generally better so it is impressive that Jeter's batting line is basically the same as his regular season. I am not saying clutch performances don't exist. I will def give you that a player doing something great like pitching a shutout in a post season could be considered clutch, if you want to think of it in that terms. Where this discussion irks me is where you will often hear fans or the media give Jeter or others that mythical Clutch God label that he raises his game to another level when the chips are on the line. its just not true. There have been many studies, that you could easily look, up that show that consistently performing better in "clutch" situations is not a skill that a player is capable of repeating like other skills such as hitting for power, plate discipline, even running speed. Those things are skills. Performing well in clutch situations is not. Its mostly a product of what we seem to remember the easiest(big time performances stick out in our minds more,we place more significance to them) For ever post season serious where Jeter was a clutch beast, there are also series where he stunk up the joint. Same for all players. its a product of statistical fluctuation, not players having a magical ability to play better than there natural level of ability because the calender says October rather then May.

I would like to comment a little more on this topic because it is quite interesting. I would like to start off that I am open minded about this. I have no incentive to believe that the "clutch god" does or does not exist. I am sort of taking the luster off Jeter's clutchy shine, and even C-dubb knows how much I like the Yankees. We spoke on the phone after this exchange, and while he definitely understood my position I think he and I still had different views on the subject. And that's OK. Healthy debate and intelligent discussion only enhance the flow of good ideas about the subject, and that is good for both parties involved, no matter the outcome. I just want to know the truth when it comes to clutch. I would just like to say a few more things on the subject and give C-dubb and others a chance to offer their thoughts. This could be considered more of a discussion of psychology than baseball (keep in mind I know NOTHING about psychology). How's this for a theory C-dubb. I suspect from your playing days in high school, or even now, that it sure feels like some players are clutch and some are not. That some kids just got too nervous in big situations and were sure to choke. And I believe that. I think at most lower levels of sports, that the situation maybe can influence player performance. I have ZERO proof to this theory but it sounds logical to me. Maybe at lower levels of athletics some kids do thrive from the the spotlight of the big lights, while others wilt when the pressure is on. However we are talking about the elite of the elite. This is an excerpt from an article by Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus that you really, really, really need to read on the subject of the clutch player.

All major-league players have a demonstrated ability to perform under pressure. They've proven that by rising to the top of an enormous pyramid of players, tens of thousands of them, all trying to be one of the top 0.1% that gets to call themselves "major leaguers." Within this group of elite, who have proven themselves to be the best in the world at their jobs, there is no discernable change in their abilities when runners are on base, or when the game is tied in extra innings, or when candy and costumes and pumpkins decorate the local GigaMart. The guys who are good enough to be in the majors are all capable of succeeding and failing in these situations, and they're as likely to do one or the other in the clutch as they are at any other time. Over the course of a game, a month, a season or a career, there is virtually no evidence that any player or group of players possesses an ability to outperform his established level of ability in clutch situations, however defined.

I totally agree. The players that can't play to the best of their ability, no matter the situation, are weeded out of professional baseball well before you or I are paying $100 dollars a seat to watch them.The article also links to some statistical studies that are worth checking out too. Interesting stuff. I must say I am sold to the idea that there is no such thing as a clutch hitter. To me , when it passes the common sense test and the stats seem to back it up, thats pretty convincing. I really think the idea of clutch is more a product of the mind than a reality. Not trying to sound snobbish about that, but I just don't get the argument for the other side. C-Dubb brought up Josh Beckett as an example of clutchiness. He and his 1.73 ERA in 72.2 innings, including slaying down the mighty Yankees in 2003. Sounds like stuff of legend. Me? I think he is just a statistical outlier. I would be willing to bet his performance in next 72.2 innings in the playoffs even out closer to his career norms. That regress toward the mean kind of stuff. Sounds boring I know. Calling Josh Beckett a human outlier won't sell nearly as many papers as Josh Bechett the brash, gusty, bad ass World Series Hero

C-dubb and others, looking forward to your response.

PS: Please read that article too because Joe is much more elegant about the subject than I am. Its a quick, easy read, unlike my blog.

PPS: despite me proclaiming my position about clutch, I am open to new ideas.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Silva's laughing all the way to the bank ......

I just came across the Tiger's signing Nate Robertson to a three year $21.25 million dollar contract. Lets compare him to the Carlos Silva free agent signing from this off season and see how the deal looks.

Contract details

Yr 2008/Salary $4.25 million/Age 30
Yr 2009/Salary $7 million/Age 31
Yr 2010/Salary $10 million. Age 32

I couldn't find a detailed breakdown of his yearly salaries, but his new deal will average $12 million over the next 4 years. He will be 32 years old when the contract expires.

Recent performance

Yr 2005/IP 196.7/ERA+ 95/WHIP 1.358/WARP3 3.2
Yr 2006/IP 208.7/ERA+ 119/ WHIP 1.308/WARP3 5.7
Yr 2007/ IP 177.7/ERA+ 96/WHIP 1.475/WARP3 4.2

Yr 2005/IP 188.3/ERA+ 129/WHIP 1.173/WARP3 5.1
Yr 2006/IP 180.3/ERA+ 75/WHIP 1.542/WARP3 1.4
YR 2007/IP 202.0/ERA+ 103/WHIP 1.312/WARP3 5.7

Both guys have been fairly durable and seen quite a bit of fluctuation in their performances. Silva had a real stinker in 2006 but last season he was slightly but clearly was better than Robertson.

Going forward

2008 Robertson Projections
Bill James - IP 180/ERA 4.40
CHONE - IP 188/ERA 4.40
Marcel - IP 170/ERA 4.50
ZIPS - IP 186/ERA 4.45

2008 Silva Projections
Bill James - IP 199/ ERA 4.61
CHONE - IP 193/ ERA 4.48
Marcel - IP 177/ ERA 4.68
ZIPS - IP 190/ 4.83

Park Factor

I feel I must quickly mention park factor. I was thinking that Comerica Park would be a much friendly place for pitchers but when I looked at the park factor it slightly favored hitters with a factor of 1.051 last season. On the other hand the Metrodome was the 3rd friendliest pitchers park with a factor of .867(Silva's new home, Safeco Field, was still a pitchers park at .948 but not nearly as friendly). The Metrodome was slightly friendlier to pitchers 2006 as well, .963 to .980 respectively. However in 2005 Comerica helped pitchers more, .959 to 1.019 for the Metrodome. Not quite sure what to make of these numbers but I did learn that Comerica doesn't help pitchers nearly as much as I thought it did, at least according to these stats.

Final thoughts

I must admit I am a little dizzy from all these numbers. What does it all mean? Well I am not really sure. The last three years they have been fairly durable but inconsistent. Some of the best projections we have available for next year have them as pretty close as well. The Mariners simply paid too much for what I think Silva is going to give them. I think the Silva deal stinks. I know it is not particularly instructive to compare anything to the least common denominator, but you would have a very tough time arguing Silva is worth an average of 5 million more a year than Robertson. Sure, Robertson is no star, but he will give you innings and be around league average. Not a bad deal for the Tigers, for that's about as much as $7 million per year will get you these days ..........