Monthly Archives: February 2010

>Sunday Stuff You Should Read

>Here are some links for a lazy Sunday afternoon – it looks like some form of precipitation is going to fall again here in the Northeast, so yeah, you’re probably inside reading. I know March starts tomorrow, but sometimes tomorrow seems so far away.

Sunday Morning Q & A with K-Rod.

David Wright sits down to talk with Adam Rubin about a lot of things. Jeff Francoeur, of course, works his way into the story as well.

In other David Wright news, he’s still ridiculously boring. I’ve read plenty of articles about him, and I get the feeling his day is: Wake up, video games, drive to stadium, play baseball, drive home, go to bed. That’s it. Boring. Nothing else.

Old school baseball guys who use sabermetrics? Do you mean like Jack Z? Why yes, they are the future of baseball.

I’m all for a Joe Beimel signing, mainly because he seems awesome. Ted Berg explains how Beimel is a YouTube sensation, Amazin’ Avenue passes along a great Beimel quotation.

This is a link to a whole bunch of other links, and a picture of what I immediately thought of when I found out K-Rod had pink eye, but Talking Chop did a fantastic job giving a rundown of news in the NL East this week.

Occasionally, yes, there is something worth reading on Deadspin. Will Leitch’s free form essays on every team in the league is one such example. Perhaps the only one.

Kyle Farnsworth as a starter. Oh boy.

***

Spring Training Games start this week. Get ready to read too much into small samples!

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>Catcher’s ERA and Rod Barajas.

>There has been some recent chatter about Rod Barajas having a particularly low catcher’s ERA during his time in Toronto, with the assumption that a low catcher’s ERA indicates that he works better with a pitching staff than an average catcher. Okay, maybe it was just Marty Noble that said it, but whatever. Pitchers put up an ERA of 3.31 with Barajas behind the plate, compared to a team ERA of 3.49 in 2008. They put up a 4.26 ERA, compared to the team ERA of 4.47 in 2009. So it’s true – in 2008 and 2009, pitchers had a lower ERA when Barajas was catching – but that doesn’t indicates anything about Barajas’ skill level behind the plate.

Here’s a list of people responsible for Barajas’ low catcher ERA, in order of responsibility:

1. Roy Halladay, 2.78 ERA over same period.
2. Roy Halladay, again, 154 ERA+ over same period. It’s mostly Halladay.
3. Shaun Marcum, 3.39 ERA
4. Jesse Litsch, 3.84 ERA
5-30. Everyone else who pitched for the Blue Jays over that two year span.
31. The other Blue Jay catchers
32. Rod Barajas

This isn’t to say that Barajas is a poor catcher or that he tells the batter what pitch is coming in advance, but rather that catcher ERA is an utterly useless statistic. It tells you if pitchers allowed more or fewer earned runs with catcher X in the game, but it doesn’t tell you why that happened. Blue Jays pitchers did have a lower ERA when Barajas caught, but that could be explained in numerous ways other than “Barajas makes pitchers better.” For example:

1. The other, non-Barajas – “Nahrajas” for short – catchers made the Blue Jays pitchers worse, and Barajas is just an average receiver who is made to look better in comparison. Sort of like when the only thing on TV is “Two-and-a-Half Men”, or the informercial for the Miracle Blade III. – Wait. I know what this is. It’s “The Odd Couple” with an inoffensive kid thrown in. Suddenly, watching that pineapple get smoothly cleaved in two seems much more appealing . . .

2. Personal catchers: Say Barajas caught Halladay, Burnett, Marcum, and Litsch, and the other Blue Jays catchers caught spot starters and AAAA players. Maybe not something as dramatic, but something similar would cause a disparity. (Read: Catching Roy Halladay more often than the other guys.)

3. Platoon possibilities. If the Blue Jays have a set line up against RHP which includes better defensive players than their lineup against LHP, the catcher in the RHP lineup is going to have a lower ERA because of the improved defense.

4. If the catcher is making a whole bunch of throwing errors, ERA isn’t going to account for that. So, if Barajas throws the ball into center field once a game and allows a runner to score an unearned run, catcher ERA isn’t going to charge him for that, even though he’s the one throwing the ball away.

5. Luck.

I’m not saying any of these examples happened in the Barajas/Blue Jays situation, because most of them didn’t, but I am saying they all could happened and they all illustrate why CERA is not useful. I’m also not saying Rod Barajas is a poor defensive catcher, and I don’t believe that he is – what I am saying is that if you are looking for the defensive effects of a catcher, CERA or CRA (catcher run average) is not the place to look for it.

To push this point along, here is a graph of Rod Barajas’ team’s run average, minus his catcher run average. I went with run average because it removes the possibility of errors making things weirder than they need to be. So now, with RA instead of ERA, if Barajas is making a whole bunch of throwing errors – and he does sometimes – he should theoretically be penalized for it. Here you go. The difference between Barajas’s RA and his teams RA:

So, does that look:

A.) Like a reliable statistic that is a good indicator of what a player will do in the future.

B.) Like randomness.

C.) Suspiciously like an EKG. I probably shouldn’t have made the line green . . .

You can see Toronto pitchers performed better with Barajas over the past two seasons, but pitchers performed worse with him when he was in Philadelphia and Texas for the two prior seasons. So, if you want to call him a better receiver because of his work in Toronto, you must then ignore his subpar work in Philly and Texas the two years prior.

If you compile the total difference between his CRA and his teams’ RA for his entire career, Rod Barajas has been worth  -3.53 runs over 6300 innings according to CRA. Over a full season’s work of about 800 innings, that comes out to .45 runs below his team’s average. Making Barajas a slightly below-average catcher. Which makes even less sense. See? CRA doesn’t make any sense – just Google catcher’s ERA, and every result is a blog post about how useless it is. Maybe this one will be there some day. In fact, maybe this is how you found this post. Hello future-reader. Welcome.

For present day readers, the best way to look at catcher defense is over at Driveline Mechanics, found here, which ranks Barajas as an above average defensive receiver, worth 4.2 runs defensively last season – he would have been worth more except that he made 8 throwing errors, tying him for first in the league, and knocking him down a few runs. For future readers living in a bleak, desolate, post-apocalyptic Mad Max world, you’re on your own for finding the best method of capturing catcher’s defensive contributions, but you should probably be worrying about other things.

Anyway, yes, Barajas is a solid defensive backstop, but he doesn’t making the pitching staff better just by being there, as CERA would imply. He’s not Rod “Falkor” Barajas, luck dragon, and Oliver Perez is not going to suddenly emerge from Fantastica because Barajas is hanging around, whispering words of magic and framing pitches well. Rod Barajas helps his pitchers by saving wild pitches and passed balls, and by controlling the running game, and that’s really all he can do.

Patrick Flood writes the blog you’re reading right now. Well, he does some other things too, but the only Mets-related thing is this. You can find him on twitter here, this blog on facebook here, or by email.

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>Why the Washington Nationals are Still in Recovery.

>Remember this everytime Jerry Manuel or Omar Minaya says something odd or poorly thought out, like “Jenrry Mejia could work out of the bullpen” or “Fernando Martinez should play center field because Bay is in left” or “We feel Gary Matthews Jr. could hit lead off if he wins the center field job” or “David Wright looks spiritually lighter.”

Remember. It could be so, so much worse.

In case you missed this as it made it’s rounds across the internet over the past few days – and hat tip to the internet in general for passing this video along – here is a video discussing sabermetrics, featuring three GM’s, two internet writers, one current player, and a whole lot of crazy.

Jim Bowden. The Gob Bluth of General Managers. Currently not employed by any major league baseball team, for what I feel are obvious reasons, he is currently, instead, doing whatever this is:

My favorite part? Probably whenever Dayton Moore says anything. Also Jim Bowden’s hair cut. Or maybe it’s the awkward cuts to the woman that push the video over the top. There’s just so much here.

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>How Would a Team of All David Wright’s Do?

>Did you ever wonder how a team of nine David Wright’s would perform? How about nine clones of Jose Reyes running all over the place? For you sadists out there, did you ever wonder how many games a team of all Alex Cora’s would win?

Well, there’s sort of an answer. Baseball-reference.com has a fun little junk stat called “Offensive Winning Percentage” on each player’s batting page. “Offensive Winning Percentage” (OW%), created by Bill James, gives an estimation of the winning percentage of an imaginary team where all the batters are the player you’re looking at, and the defense and pitching were league average – e.g. the winning percentage of a team where all nine batters were Barry Bonds, or David Wright, or Mario Mendoza, or nine whoever-you’re-looking-at’s. The player’s defense is not taken into account, just his batting. It’s not a particularly useful statistic, but it is a fun one. See, statistics can be both misleading and fun.

To create an offensive winning percentage, Baseball-Reference takes the number of runs player X would create over 27 outs, and then creates a winning percentage for a team scoring that many runs per game based on Bill James’ pythag win-loss formula. For example, an average defensive/pitching team with nine Barry Bonds’s in the lineup would score 10.6 runs per game and win .815% of the time – a 132-30 record over 162 games. A team of all Babe Ruth’s in the line up would score 12.6 runs per game and win .858% of their games – that’s the highest in history. A team of Mario Mendoza’s would win .179% of their games (29-133), and a team of nine Bill Bergen’s – maybe the worst hitter of all time* – would go 20-142. You can go on for hours and hours (at work!) seeing how well a team that has just player X batting would do. It’s a flawed system, and it’s nowhere near as accurate as wOBA, or even OPS, but it’s way more fun. 

*Bill Bergen career OPS+: 21. Yeah, seriously. Bill Bergen put up an OPS 79% worse than the rest of the league over his career.
Cy Young career OPS+: 44

Here is a table of the 13 batters the Mets are most likely to use this season, Carlos Beltran included, with their career runs created per game, offensive winning percentage, and the win-loss record over 162 games formulated from that percentage. Remember, defense is not included. In real life, Beltran and Jose Reyes are more valuable than a better hitter like Jason Bay because they play elite defensive positions well. A team of nine Carlos Beltrans would perform better than a team of nine Jason Bays. Here are the Mets’ players OW%:

Okay, some explanations for some of the weird things that are going on here:

- Team Daniel Murphy and team Luis Castillo score the same number of runs per game, but Daniel Murphy’s team wins more games with those runs. That happens because Murphy hustles more.

Just kidding. That’s not why.

The reason, as always, is context, context, context. Offense has been on a downswing in baseball since 2006, though it’s still a historically favorable environment for batters. The fourteen seasons Luis Castillo has played in have been more favorable to hitters than the two seasons Daniel Murphy has played in. Putting it another way, it has been easier for Luis Castillo to produce runs than it has been for Daniel Murphy to produce runs, so the runs Daniel Murphy has created have been more valuable than the runs Luis Castillo has created. Team Daniel Murphy’s winning percentage is higher than team Luis Castillo, despite scoring the same number of runs because runs created in 2008-09 have been more valuable than runs created over 1996-2009. Murphy has been a useful offensive player over his entire Mets career thus far. And cue the irrational Murphy love/hate.

- Jose Reyes’ offensive winning percentage is lower than one would expect because of his struggles during his first three seasons:

Jose Reyes offensive winning percentage age 20-22:        .454
Jose Reyes offensive winning percentage age 23-present: .590

- Henry Blanco, Rod Barajas, and Alex Cora. Oh boy. Sub-.400 offensive winning percentages abound. Cora isn’t even a plus-defender anymore, unlike Barajas and Blanco, so Cora’s leadership skills are going to need to compensate for his inability to do any particularly useful things as a player. Basically, for the amount of money he’s making and the negative contributions he’ll make on the field, Alex Cora’s leadership abilities needs to be on par with King Leonidas (the actual one, not Gerard Butler) singing Bruce Springsteen’s “No Surrender”, then making the speech Bill Pullman makes as the president in “Independence Day”, followed by a dramatic slow clap.

- On the other side of the bench, Pagan and Tatis are both winning bats. In fact, 7 of the 13 players the Mets figure to use most this year are winning bats. The Mets are still top heavy with the big five of Wright’s left arm, Wright’s right arm, Bay, Beltran, and Reyes.

- Gary Matthews Jr.: -22.8 outfield UZR over the past three seasons. -26 plus/minus runs saved as an outfielder over the same timespan. He has an offensive winning percentage of .433% and an OPS+ of 85 over the same time period. And he’s signed for two seasons. But hey, he’s been a good base runner over that time span. That counts for something too, right?

Basically, Gary Matthews Jr. and Alex Cora take up two bench spots without adding any on-field benefits, short of the possibility of using Sarge Jr. as a intelligent pinch runner and Cora as Matt Foley: Motivational Speaker. This is probably not the best way to use two bench spots. It’s even scarier when Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya are having a contest of “let’s see who can say the most ridiculous thing with a microphone in their face”, and both suggest that Gary Matthews Jr. and his .333 OBP could not only start, but even lead off for a team with Reyes, Pagan, and Castillo.

Okay, that’s all I’ve got on this. Offensive Winning Percentage is nowhere near as accurate as something like wOBA or OPS, but it is a fun way to turn offensive numbers into a more palpable win-loss record. Plus, you get to see how many runs a team of Mark McGwire circa 1998 would score per game (14), and how well they’d do (142-20).

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>Sunday Stuff You Should Read

>Meet the new Knicks . . . Same as the old Knicks . . . but they actually look a little bit better. Maybe it’s just the novelty of everyone. By the way, Tracy McGrady is only 29, but looks 45 and perpetually like he just woke up. Maybe he’ll make the rest of the season interesting. Here’s your Sunday Mets linkage:


First up: The New Beasts of the North. The Mets AAA affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons, are absolutely stacked. Blue and Orange breaks down the team. Ted Berg lists the powerful lineup here.

Yesterday, Fred Wilpon basically said that “If you want the Mets, you’re going to have to pry them from my cold dead hands – and even won’t be enough.” He then laughed manically while thunder cracked in the background.

The Tuscany Tile that is Rick Peterson continues his bio-mechanical work in Milwaukee.


The Mets’ pitchers are working on throwing strikes. I assume this is so the parents don’t have to pitch anymore. It may also be so that they won’t have to use a tee as well.

The Mets have lost the fourth most money to the DL since 2002.

***

Yeah, that’s it for this Sunday. Maybe this will finally push the Super Bowl halftime show out of your head.

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>Mike Pelfrey Talking About His New Pitch.

>In case you missed it, Mike Pelfrey was a guest on “Mets Hot Stove” with Kevin Burkhardt Thursday night. Pelfrey discussed how he lost 20 pounds during the off-season*, how began his throwing program earlier because he felt his seasons had gotten off to slow starts in the past, and how he worked more on his split-fingered changeup, which he now feels he has good control over. To watch the video over at Sny.tv, click here.

*Um – okay. Someone want to explain this one? Did anyone actually think Pelfrey’s problem last year was that he was too hefty? Did you say to yourself at any point last season, “Gosh. Pelfrey wouldn’t have balked there if he wasn’t so portly. The extra gravity from his tremendous pot belly probably carried him off the mound”? Or, “that single wouldn’t have slipped past Luis Castillo’s glove if Big Pelf had just laid off the Baconnaise, and gone with the Baconnaise Lite instead.” 

On the list of reasons why Mike Pelfrey failed in 2009, his weight is far, far down the list – Luis Castillo’s weight is much higher on that list than Mike Pelfrey’s weight. The negative effects from the gravitational pull of my body weight is probably higher on the list than Pelfrey’s weight.

Anyway, here’s a transcription of Pelfrey discussing his new split-change, which occurs near the end of the video:

Mike Pelfrey:  . . . a pitch that Dan Warthen and I started working on later in the year was the split finger [change-up], to substitute for the [regular] changeup. That was a pitch I really wanted to work on, and that’s a pitch, as of right now, that’s been pretty good in all my bullpens. There was even times back in Wichita where I threw to hitters a couple times. I think that’s going to be a big pitch for me this year, and I feel pretty comfortable with it.

Kevin Burkhardt: It’s a split-fastball, or a split changeup?

Mike Pelfrey: A split changeup.

Kevin Burkhardt: So do you feel more comfortable with that than you do with your curveball?

Mike Pelfrey: I would say yeah. I think being able to command it, which is always good, I’m able to put it pretty much where I want it around the plate, which is huge.

***

A third pitch would be big for Pelf, because he often relied too heavily on his fastball in 2009. Pelfrey’s entire game plan consisted of pounding the zone with fastballs, and then more fastballs, and then some more fastballs. And basically nothing else (a crummy slider, maybe a curveball for a ball just to see if he could still throw one – take that Rick Peterson!), but his fastball doesn’t induce enough grounders for him to be an elite ground ball pitcher in the mold of a Tim Hudson or Derek Lowe. Pelfrey has a 50.0% ground ball rate for his career, while Hudson sits at 58.6% and Lowe even higher (Lowe-r?) at 63.4%. Big Pelf is fantastic at preventing home runs, though he tends more to get slapped to death when hitters get all over his fastball – if you recall, when things go bad for Pelfrey, it’s never something dramatic like a three-run homer. It’s more often four or five sharp singles, a couple of walks, and maybe the occasional balk or three to break the monotony. A better infield defense would help turn some of those singles into outs, but if his fastball isn’t working, there really isn’t anything else Pelfrey can pull out of his limited bag of tricks – Pelfrey is sort of like my dog. She knows how to stick her paw out for shake when she wants a treat, but that’s really the only trick she’s got. Pelfrey has fastballs and more fastballs, my dog has shake. They both also lick themselves a lot.

So how does the changeup factor in?

If Pelfrey isn’t going to be a double-play churning, hand-licking, crazy-eyed ground ball machine, then he is going to need to strikeout more batters to become an elite pitcher. He struck out batters at a much higher rate in the minor leagues, but he has thus far failed to overpower major league batters in a similar fashion. Not having a secondary pitch will do that. Also, major league hitter are good – better than the ones in the minor leagues. So that doesn’t help either. It’s difficult to strike major leaguers out, more so with just one pitch, unless your name is Mariano Rivera.

A good, or at least a useful changeup, should it allow Pelf to strike out a few more batters, maybe keep them off the fastball, and could help him make the jump to the rotational innings eater* the Mets need.

*He’ll eat the innings despite the diet.

By the way, Exile on 126th St. / patrickfloodblog.com – whatever the name of this blog is – is now on Facebook. You can become a fan by clicking here or, if that link doesn’t work – it might not. I have no idea what I’m doing – by clicking on the Facebook link over to the right. Then you can tell your Met fan friends about this typo-ridden magical corner of the internet via Facebook. I’ve also been on Twitter for a bit – follow me by clicking here, or by clicking over on the right as well. Lastly, to RSS subscribe to this blog, click over there, on the top right of the page – the big orange thing that says “Subscribe.”

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>Before

>It’s still well before the final out of the 2010 World Series falls into someone’s glove and players pile up just in front of the mound. Before the 29 groups of tears and “next-year”, and that one group of foggy-breathed ecstatic smiles that lasts. Before the magic numbers and the mathematical eliminations which finally put hope into its yearly hibernation. Before the air just starts to nip again, before afternoon games on Labor Day, before the dog days start to stretch and sweat and simmer, before “sweet summer nights turn into summer dreams.” Before a few too many hot dogs and checkerboard-cut grass, and before the rotting low tide smell of Flushing Bay and the roaring of the airplanes which both fade as you move closer and closer to the stadium. Before the solemn seven train rides where the only sound is the lonely creaking of the wheels, and the jovial ones where a temporary family of strangers relives what just happened.

Well before the whispers and shouts of the trade deadline, and before the unknowns emerge as this-year’s heroes and last-year’s heroes succumb to injuries and age. Before “I can’t believe so-and-so was-or-was-not voted an all-star. He did-or-did-not deserve it.” Before the tied games that run so deep into the night you finally just have to give up and head to bed because you have to work in the morning – but you just end up sleepless, listening on the radio, wondering if Howie Rose is required to state whether or not Wendy’s drive-thru is still open every half-inning. He is, and you can still eat great, even late. Come on, someone score.

Even well before the guessing, and then the required second-guessing. Before “El Esta Aqui.” Finalmente. Before the late-night games during west-coast trips which seemingly mandate a helicopter shot of sparsely lit New York buildings accompanied by Gary Cohen stating that “it’s midnight in Manhattan” and Keith Hernandez repeatedly asserting how unlikely it is that anyone is still up watching. We’re there, Keith. Thanks for staying up with us.

And still before you seek cover somewhere in a drenched Citi Field for two hours during a thunder storm because you came to see a ball game and you think you see a break in the clouds just over there. Yeah. There. Past where the lightening just flashed. It is too there. Look closer. It’s just soft summer rain anyway. It’ll pass. They’ll play.

Before the symphony of late inning tension and release, and before the leads that just slip away when no one in the bullpen can seem to get a handle on the game, and before the ninth inning comebacks you can feel building from the first inning. Before, “why didn’t he go with Feliciano in that spot?” Before “wait until Independence Day” and before “wait until Memorial Day” and even before “wait until May.”

Still before “today’s starting pitcher for your New York Mets, Johan Santana” and before “now batting, Jose Reyes.” Before the 49th calling of the names on Opening Day. Before the equipment truck makes the long journey back up I-95 to Flushing. Before the temperatures up here finally draw closer to the temperatures down there. Before the parring down of the roster to the 25 and the reading-too-much-into-spring-training-stats. Before someone is out of shape and behind schedule, and before someone is ahead in their rehab. Before an exhibition game featuring players with uniform numbers in the 70’s playing against players with uniform numbers in the 10’s finally sneaks back onto your television some rainy March day. Even before all that.

Now, in the perpetual twilight of February, in a foot of snow, in the wind that blows right through you, and in days that blur together -

Hundreds of miles away, someone is playing catch. 2010 starts today.

Let’s Go Mets.

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