With the bases loaded following two walks

Image from Brooksbaseball.net

Not much to say about the game today.  It was a dreary day and a dreary result from the pen.  We’ll have to take a dive into the pen at some point, but not tonight.

 

I found the following FIP leaderboard extremely interesting (from Fangraphs)

FIP_Leaderboard

Can’t get much closer than that for Shelby and the pitcher he replaced.  It also shows how different two pitchers can be and get to the same result (at least from a FIP perspective).

In my once a year post (we’ll see if we can change that, but no promises) I thought I’d spill some ink on the Jim Bowden generated (insider content)  Oscar Taveras for Jurickson Profar potential swap.  I examined the WAR output for what I consider the relevant positions under the scenario where the Birds don’t make the trade and under the scenario where they do not.  As inputs to the process I averaged the Steamer and Oliver WAR projections found on Fangraphs.  First the “don’t make the trade” scenario 

Player PA 2013 Player PA 2014 2015 2016
SS Kozma 600 1.0 SS Kozma 600 1.5 2.0 2.0
Rep 100 0.0 Rep 100 0.0 0.0 0.0
LF Holliday 650 4.4 LF Holliday 650 3.9 3.3 2.8
Adams 50 0.1 Adams 50 0.2 0.2 0.2
CF Jay 600 3.4 CF Jay 600 2.9 2.4 1.9
Rep 100 0.0 Tavares 100 0.6 0.7 0.8
RF Beltran 575 2.7 RF Tavares 500 3.1 3.5 3.9
Adams 125 0.3 Adams 200 0.6 0.8 0.8
1B Craig 600 3.2 1B Craig 600 2.7 2.2 1.7
Adams 100 0.2 Adams 100 0.3 0.4 0.4
TOTAL WAR 15.4 15.8 15.6 14.5

and then the scenario where they make the trade

Player PA 2013 Player PA 2014 2015 2016
SS Profar 600 2.4 SS Profar 600 2.9 3.4 3.9
Rep 100 0.0 Rep 100 0.0 0.0 0.0
LF Holliday 650 4.4 LF Holliday 650 3.9 3.3 2.8
Adams 50 0.1 Bench 50 0.1 0.1 0.1
CF Jay 600 3.4 CF Jay 600 2.9 2.4 1.9
Rep 100 0.0 Bench 100 0.2 0.2 0.2
RF Beltran 575 2.7 RF Craig 600 2.7 2.2 1.7
Adams 125 0.3 Bench 100 0.2 0.2 0.2
1B Craig 600 3.2 1B Adams 600 1.9 2.4 2.4
Adams 100 0.2 Bench 100 0.2 0.2 0.2
TOTAL WAR 16.7 15.0 14.5 13.4

As you can see, under the assumptions I made its a trade of wins now (upgrading at SS this year) for wins later (a worse future bench).  Clearly this is a very assumption based (how good is Kozma, what bench player would be acquired to fill the top bat off the bench role?) analysis, but there’s probably nothing overly outlandish that I’ve done.  All in all the analysis ends up in the place that most people would have guessed… it’s darn close.

 

As I write this, Matt Adams hits another home run…

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Apparently I am destined to only pen articles about Lance Lynn this season.  That said I was perusing his pitch f/x data in search of an explanation for his first inning struggles.  Said struggles are outlined in this table from B-Ref

Split ERA PA H 2B 3B HR BB SO SO/BB BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
1st inning 8.22 105 31 4 3 7 10 21 2.10 .337 .419 .674 1.093 .375
2nd inning 3.91 100 26 9 1 0 6 23 3.83 .283 .333 .402 .736 .377
3rd inning 2.74 88 15 3 1 0 7 26 3.71 .188 .261 .250 .511 .278
4th inning 3.13 94 23 6 1 4 9 16 1.78 .277 .348 .518 .866 .302
5th inning 1.59 94 16 4 1 1 10 22 2.20 .193 .287 .301 .588 .250
6th inning 2.30 63 12 1 0 0 4 19 4.75 .207 .254 .224 .478 .300
7th inning 2.84 27 4 0 0 1 4 7 1.75 .174 .296 .304 .601 .200
8th inning 0.00 5 1 0 0 0 0 1 .200 .200 .200 .400 .250
Innings 1-3 4.96 293 72 16 5 7 23 70 3.04 .273 .342 .451 .793 .348
Innings 4-6 2.35 251 51 11 2 5 23 57 2.48 .228 .301 .362 .663 .282
Innings 7-9 2.35 32 5 0 0 1 4 8 2.00 .179 .281 .286 .567 .211
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/14/2012.

Clearly first inning = not good.  Yeah there may be some BABIP luck in there, but it could be that he’s giving up hard hit balls as well.  With those stats in mind I looked for first inning discrepancies in his pitch f/x data and found the following

It looks like in the first inning he pitches like a Cardinal, but in ensuing innings he pitches like Lance Lynn.  Does it explain the results?  Not sure, but it may be something worth keeping an eye on.

According to research from Pizza Cutter, pitchers’ strikeout percentage per plate appearance (K/PA) stabilizes after they have faced 150 total batters. It just so happens that all five starting pitchers in the Cardinals’ rotation have recently surpassed this threshold, so I thought it would be fun to create a visual that pits their 2012 K/PA against career rates. The graph is below followed by some brief commentary (after the jump).


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Being that we aren’t quite out of April, it’s a little early to read into most statistics but certain numbers become meaningful before others. Under the definition of ‘sample size’ in FanGraphs’ glossary, you’ll find a list of stats and the corresponding sample sizes needed before they achieve reliability. For offensive players, the first of those numbers is swing percentage, or how often a given hitter decides to swing the bat.

Theoretically, swinging less often is viewed positively since it suggests that the hitter could be cultivating a more disciplined approach. Selectivity is important for two reasons: (1) Hitters have a better chance to reach base via the walk if they resist swinging at pitches outside the strike zone, and (2) abstaining from pitches that would likely induce weak contact allows them to avoid making easy outs.

According to FanGraphs, swing percentage stabilizes after 50 plate appearances. Most of the Cardinals’ regulars have accumulated enough plate appearances for us to visit this stat and observe whether any obvious trends have emerged. It’s important to note that even though a trend is established after the stabilizing threshold (in this case, 50 PA) occurs, it does not mean that said player will continue to perform at the new rate, just that we can expect his performance to trend in that direction in the future.

The chart below portrays those Cardinals who have stepped to the plate at least 50 times this season and it pits their 2012 swing percentages (blue line) against their career swing percentages (red line). For the record, I’m using the PITCHf/x plate discipline numbers available at FanGraphs (as opposed to BIS data) for the reasons outlined by Colin Wyers in this Baseball Prospectus article. WARNING: I augment each individual player description with other statistics (strike out rate, line drive rate, walk rate, etc.) that have not yet stabilized, so while they are adequate descriptions of what has transpired thus far, they do not imply trends… yet.

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Go ahead and vent about this play from Tuesday night that allowed the Cubs to win consecutive games in walk-off fashion. Feel better? Good. Let me provide a couple of reminders.

In the table below, I submit to you the cumulative triple-A performances of three mystery players now on the Cardinals’ roster. Which performance is most appealing?

Mystery Triple-A Players
Player AVG OBP SLG OPS
A .275 .344 .396 .741
B .291 .373 .477 .851
C .297 .348 .407 .755

Find out who they are after the jump…

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150x100

I’m not entirely certain where to start a blog post after not having made an appearance for a large number of months.  I’ve been absent from the interwebs for a few reasons (note this is the part to skip if you want to get to the baseball analysis).  I’ve migrated jobs a few times (all positive), but now have less free time on my hands at work to randomly do baseball analysis.  At the same time I’ve just not been very interested in doing data analysis outside of work after having spent the entire day doing it at work.  If you’ve read anything I’ve done in the past it was always very data heavy, and I didn’t feel I had a whole lot to add to the discussion without being able/willing to get my hands dirty on the data side.  So now what?  I’m going to try and ease my way back into it with some sporadic posting and we’ll see where it goes from there.

 

A lot has happened since I wrote anything baseball related.  The Cards capped an unfathomable run with a World Series title (YAY!), Albert Pujols left for the greener pastures of Anaheim (BOO!), the Cards didn’t hamstring their payroll with the Albert Pujols contract (YAY!), and Tony LaRussa retired (YAY!, no BOO!, well I don’t know).  My opinions on those are concisely summarized in the parentheticals, and I’m sure a great deal of sabermetric ink has been spilled on the topics as well.  I’m going to let those topics lie and look at Lance Lynn, starter.

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Much has been said about the success of the Cardinals’ bullpen this postseason. It’s hard to imagine Saint Louis-ans  still enjoying baseball this late in October had the likes of Ryan Franklin, Miguel Batista, P.J. Walters, Brian Tallet, and Trevor Miller still been employed. But then again, the Cardinals never would have made the playoffs without drastic upgrades in the bullpen (Dotel and Rzepczynski), rotation (Edwin Jackson), and at shortstop (Rafael Furcal). Per Buster Olney on Twitter yesterday, TLR echoed these sentiments by conceding that the team would have struggled to stay above .500 without said reinforcements.

Let’s take a look at the impact of these guys down the stretch. For the pitchers, I’m choosing to use rWAR (baseball-reference) since it uses ERA instead of FIP. This is appropriate for evaluating the impact these players had in August and September. Fangraphs’ WAR (fWAR) would be better suited for evaluating future value since it uses FIP, a better predictor of ERA than ERA itself (unless you’re talking about larger sample sizes).

Edwin Jackson: Accumulated 0.8 WAR in 12 games started (78.0 IP). Despite boasting a lower ERA after switching to the National League, other statistics suggested he actually pitched worse. Jackson struck out fewer batters (5.9 K/9; 7.18 K/9 with Sox) and generated 7-8% fewer ground balls. He did maintain his improved control (2.65 BB/9).

Marc Rzepczynski: Accumulated 0.1 WAR in 28 appearances (22.2 IP). In contrast to Jackson, Scrabble’s (tired of carefully typing his real name) ERA inflated after joining the Cardinals. However, he struck out more batters (11.12 K/9; only 7.55 K/9 with Jays) and maintained an impressive ground ball rate (63.2%). He did struggle a little with his control, adding an extra BB/9 to his walk rate. Even though he suffered 5 meltdowns (4 shutdowns), he was clearly a better option than Miller or Tallett, both of whom were eventually released by the Jays.

Octavio Dotel: Accumulated 0.2 WAR in 29 appearances (24.2 IP). Dotel pitched out of his mind after arriving in St. Louis as his modest 3.28 ERA doesn’t even begin to tell the story. He’s always been able to miss bats (career 10.91 K/9), but he improved his strikeout rate on the Cardinals (11.68 K/9) while also drastically improving his control (only 1.82 BB/9 compared to career rate of 4.01 BB/9). All of that combined for a stellar 1.57/2.31 FIP/xFIP.

Arthur Rhodes: Accumulated 0.1 WAR in 19 appearances (8.2 IP). Rhodes signed on to fill the other obligatory left-handed specialist spot in the bullpen and pitched like you’d expect a 41-year-old to pitch in the big leagues (5.90/4.77 FIP/xFIP).

Rafael Furcal: Accumulated 0.9 WAR in 217 plate appearances. Furcal’s .323 wOBA didn’t exactly light the arch on fire, but it didn’t need to when he was replacing Ryan Theriot (.292 wOBA) at shortstop. And the offensive upgrade wasn’t as obvious as the defensive improvement. While FanGraphs’ UZR ranked them closer than expected with the glove, Total Zone graded Theriot to be worth 8 runs below average while Furcal was good for 2 runs above average in considerably fewer innings at the position. Furcal accumulated more WAR for the Cardinals despite having 250 fewer plate appearances than Theriot.

Total: All in all, 2.1 WAR is represented here. That sounds pretty modest, but when you consider the guys they were replacing (arguably below replacement level talent), the impact was likely more profound. Trever Miller and Brian Tallet combined for -0.5 WAR during their time in St. Louis. And it wasn’t just the Cardinals that gave up on them: Tallet threw all of 0.1 inning before being released by the Jays while Miller only logged 3.2 innings before his release. Miller caught on with the Red Sox but he only threw two more innings in Boston. Dotel replaced P.J. Walters who spent most of August and September with Toronto’s triple-A affiliate.

What about the position players?

Furcal’s predecessor at shortstop (Ryan Theriot) had a 0.5 WAR through July. While his offense never significantly improved, defensive metrics (UZR and Total Zone) graded him as above average at 2nd base. So Theriot was transformed from an everyday liability into a serviceable part-timer. FanGraphs’ UZR grades Furcal to be nearly as bad defensively as Theriot. Honestly, that seems way off. According to Baseball-Reference – which incorporates Total Zone Rating into its WAR system – Furcal had a much larger impact in his short time with the Cardinals (1.4 WAR).

In center field, the Cardinals replaced Rasmus – who played below replacement level for the remainder of 2011 (-0.5 WAR) – with Jon Jay, who racked up 0.8 WAR over the season’s final two months. That’s a pretty significant swing in terms of 2011 outcomes. Now, as Marc Normandin outlined yesterday at SB Nation, Rasmus does have a much higher ceiling than Jay, so he may still develop into the better player, but that didn’t happen this season. Time will have its say.

Earlier in the season, I had this to say following Rasmus’ departure:

Do the Cardinals have a better chance of winning the NL Central in 2011? Probably. Have they sacrificed their ability to do so in 2012 and beyond? Perhaps considerably.

Given Colby Rasmus’s ceiling, I’m not ready to abandon that statement, but it is hard to imagine things falling into place any nicer for John Mozeliak. Having considered all of the above factors, I think it’s reasonable – if not conservative – to suggest that the above moves added 3 or 4 wins to the Cardinals’ 2011 record. At the same time, I’m not sure that Mo’s activity at the trade deadline should serve as a blueprint for other GMs around the league.

Jayson Stark had an article at ESPN earlier today that contained the following quotes from Mozeliak:

“So we just had so many questions about what 2012 would look like,” Mozeliak said, “we felt like now was the time to go for it.”

and

“I felt like it was aggressive, to try to do it. I know it wasn’t the most popular move. And I’m sure, if we don’t qualify for the postseason or we’re not playing here in mid-October, then yeah, you’re open to criticism. But I also know, if we don’t take risks, we’re probably not here, anyway.”

Mozeliak’s concern about the future should have provided all the more initiative to keep Colby Rasmus. He is under control for three more seasons and has the potential to develop into an impact player. In general, it’s not prudent to ransom the future by selling off one of your only cost-controlled position players when you’re worrying about where all of your other chips may fall.  It’s easy to wonder if Mo’s hand was forced by TLR who openly criticized Rasmus one day before the trade. My guess is that TLR is likely to return in 2012 since he has the chance to rank 2nd in all-time managerial wins. Did Mo really want to manage this volatile relationship for another year? And Rasmus didn’t exactly help his cause when he requested a trade in 2010 anyways.

If you can’t tell, I still have mixed feelings about this whole thing. I worry about TLR’s ever growing influence in the front office and his ability to strong arm players out of the organization. There’s still the sense that something isn’t right between the player development system and big league personnel. And I’m still not confident in Mo’s overall decision making process or negotiating abilities. For every solid trade/signing (Holliday), there’s been some real head scratchers (Pedro Feliz) thrown in there.

I don’t know. All of these anxieties seemed much more valid before the Cardinals were about to play the Texas Rangers in the World Series. Now it just makes me seem like a killjoy. Mozeliak’s moves allowed the team to make a run this year. And even the most ardent critic of TLR has to pause for a moment and wonder how they got here, right? The man – and this team – deserves some serious credit. You’re familiar with all of the hurdles they encountered along the way. Wainwright’s injury. Franklin’s implosion. TLR’s shingles. Holliday’s injuries. Pujols’s wrist. Craig’s knee. Duncan’s extended absence to comfort his wife who had a brain tumor removed. And yet here they are. It’s time to put the nay-saying aside. And enjoy the ride. I know I am.

For the sake of efficiency, I’m abandoning the usual format of discussing each game’s “good, bad, and/or ugly/impressive” moment. Instead, I’ll just make some brief comments before the NLCS kicks off today.
Game Four

True to form, the Cardinals continue to trick me into writing them off. Before Edwin Jackson had even recorded an out, their win expectancy dropped to 27.9%. Thanks to a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play, Jackson quickly escaped from the inning and proceeded to lead the pitching staff by adding 12.7% win probability while striking out four and only walking one batter – good for 2.19 FIP.

Some have likened Edwin Jackson’s role in 2011 to Jeff Weaver’s in 2006 (only have one link). Is that true? How do they compare as pitchers? Well, 28-year-old Jackson is probably better right now than Jeff Weaver was at any point in his career, though it was admittedly closer than I would have guessed. While their overall FIPs are comparable (Jackson – 4.34; Weaver – 4.41), Weaver peaked in his early years while Jackson has improved with age. At first glance, you’d probably think Weaver posted the best overall season in 2002 when he performed 16% better than league average (FIP- of 84), but he didn’t give up as many homeruns that year as he probably should have since pitcher’s have relatively little control over the amount of homeruns they surrender per fly ball allowed. Weaver was 25-years-old in 2002, and his performance steadily regressed thereafter. Considering his post season success, it’s easy for Saint Louis fans to forget that his performance was pretty terrible leading up to October (5.71/5.11 FIP/xFIP for Cardinals in 2006′s regular season). While he did pitch somewhat better in October (slightly improved K/BB ratio), his results were exceedingly improved, suggesting that there was probably some luck involved. Maybe the defense helped him out, but the Cardinals weren’t exactly a great defensive team that year. He also had an unsustainable strand rate (84.4%).

Point? While their overall numbers might not be too far off, the Cardinals acquired Jackson at a much more favorable point in his career. In contrast to Weaver, Jackson struggled as a young pitcher but has spent the last three years improving his strikeout to walk ratio and has started coaxing more ground balls. He has career best numbers to show for it (3.55 FIP in 2011).

28-year-old Edwin Jackson is not the same as 29-year-old Jeff Weaver. Edwin Jackson may not end up with better results than Jeff Weaver’s memorable October in 2006, but he is the better pitcher.

Take a look at the above graph and you’ll notice that two of the largest swings in win probability have little notes about the hometown hero, David Freese. His 2-run double in the 4th and 2-run homer in the 6th added 38.2% in win probability alone.

As the 2011 season has unfolded, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how strange Freese’s career has looked thus far. I’m not the only one who thinks so; see Dan Moore’s late-September post at VEB. After posting a .538 slugging percentage in more than 700 triple-A plate appearances, his power has dropped 100 points as a major-leaguer. You’d think that such a power drop-off would lead to less productivity, but that hasn’t really been the case as he’s still been well above average with the bat (.348 wOBA in 667 plate appearances). While his impressive line-drive rate might allow him to float above the usual .300 BABIP watermark, his career .356 BABIP just seems unreasonable. Having said that, statcorner’s wOBAr adjusts for batted ball rates and park effects… and Freese still looks pretty good (.332 in 2010 and .355 in 2011). Maybe I’ll take a more in-depth look at this in the future.

Game Five


When the green line hovers right around the 50% mark, you know you had yourself a pitcher’s duel. Sometimes, Chris Carpenter just looks like he makes a decision to throw a shut-out… and then does it.

Objectively, I’m not sure Carp really outpitched Roy Halladay. He certainly left more to chance as Halladay allowed fewer balls in play with 7 strikeouts (compared to Carpenter’s 3). At least two of those balls looked like serious trouble off of the bat, but instead of being game-changing home runs in late innings, they fell safely into the gloves of Lance Berkman and Jon Jay who each had to retreat to the warning track.

Overall, however, one might say that Carpenter’s balls in play were less dangerous since 66.7% of them stayed on the ground while Holliday only induced 40% grounders.

This all resulted in a fantastic pitchers duel and, for Cardinals fans, it was a special moment to behold.

© 2011 Gas House Graphs Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha