Monday, January 26, 2009

Rox Talk - Hall of Fame?

Is Todd Helton a Hall of Famer?

The Hall of Fame is a fickle organization. I came across this article by Joe Posnanski and started thinking of the probability of our only legitimate Hall of Famer, Todd Helton. So what do we have:

1) Finished 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting
2) Finished as high as 5th in MVP voting
3) Has played in 5 All Star games
4) Played in a World Series
5) Three gold gloves

Statistically speaking he has

1) 1,957 hits
2) 310 Home Runs
3) .328 career batting average
4) 1.002 OPS, one of only 5 players to have a career OPS of greater than 1.000

For Joe's article he claims that longevity certainly plays a point in getting into the hall. His theory below:

5,000 plate appearances: 653 players, 122 Hall of Famers. Hall of Fame chances: 18.6%
7,000 plate appearances: 284 players, 98 Hall of Famers. Hall of Fame chances: 35%.
7,500 plate appearances: 225 players, 87 Hall of Famers. Hall of Fame chances: 39%
8,000 plate appearances: 183 players, 83 Hall of Famers. Hall of Fame chances: 45%
8,500 plate appearances: 125 players, 67 Hall of Famers. Hall of Fame chances: 54%
9,000 plate appearances: 102 players, 64 Hall of Famers. Hall of Fame chances: 63%
9,500 plate appearances: 78 players, 55 Hall of Famers, Hall of Fame chances: 71%
10,000 plate appearances: 55 players, 43 Hall of Famers, Hall of Fame chances: 78%
10,500 plate appearances: 37 players, 31 Hall of Famers, Hall of Fame chances: 84%
11,000 plate appearances: 26 players, 23 Hall of Fames, Hall of Fame chances: 88%

Well Helton has 5,962 plate appearances so based on above he has about 25% chance of getting in. What about 3,000 hits (and another 2 - 3,000 plate appearances)? Well then he his about 2/3 of the way. Based on his history he has average about 150 hits a year so he needs about another 6-7 years to get to 3,000. At 35 I don't think Helton has another 6 - 7 years in him but lets say he does. Todd's HR hitting days are about over...he managed 7 last year...and I expect him to finish just shy of 400. In the old days 500 homers were a shoo in but my guess is that 600 will become the new number and Todd will never hit these numbers. In the end I think Todd will have a fantastic career, will have his number retired as a Rockie, but will ultimately fall short of the Hall of Fame.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Rox Talk - GM Thoughts

Originally published here

Lucky is the residue of design – Branch Rickey

Hall of Famer Tracy Ringolsby led off his January 8th column with a story on the stability of major league general managers. Dan O'Dowd, GM of the Colorado Rockies, starts his 10th season and ranks fifth among GMs with the longest tenure. I think most Rockies fans probably have a love/hate relationship with our GM. Maybe indifference is a better opinion. In nine years O'Dowd has watched over a team that has gone 677 - 782 and has had only two winning seasons. Compiling an average 75 - 87 record certainly can't be considered a success. The only consistency O’Dowd has brought to town is the consistency of finishing under .500.

In the past nine years O'Dowd has certainly experimented with what it takes to win at altitude. To be fair his first three years were trying to clean out salary with a team that wasn't winning. Then in 2003, the rebuilding began which led to a National League pennant and a World Series visit in 2007. Now he is trying to manage expectations.

In trying to build a winner, O'Dowd didn't get his nickname "Dealin’ O'Dowd" for nothing. Below are the trades he managed since arriving in Denver.

O'Dowd's moniker certainly fits especially in the early days. In addition to the trades, the chart shows the player's Win Shares. For a traded player the Win Shares shown are those the player had after being traded. For an acquired player, the Win Shares shown are those earned as a Rockie. Note: Only Win Shares since 2004 are available here. Without going into too much depth, O'Dowd didn’t get much value early on (1999 - 2000). Then, in 2001, the Bard and Gerut trade was his worst, since Cruz never amounted to anything. For the next 5 years O’Dowd didn’t do much, the young signed players weren’t mature yet and the team was burdened with high salaries from the Hampton and Neagle deals. O'Dowd was just “minding the ship,” making sure the ball club didn't sink. In 2006, O’Dowd probably pulled off his greatest slight of hand with the dumping of Jennings for Taveras, Hirsh, and Buchholz. Beyond the trades, O'Dowd's strongest contribution has been the draft. Drafted players who have provided significant reasons for the team's success include Francis, Tulo, Atkins, and Hawpe. Ultimately O'Dowd's legacy will be his trading of Holliday for really nothing of significance.

The question then is what more could our General Manager have done in the last 9 years? Alternatively one could ask does a General Manager really matter? At the MLB level, winning and losing may have more to do with luck, attitude, and culture than free agent signing, drafting, and trading. All teams draft similar type players year after year. Player statistics and their cause and effect all wash out year after year. Very few GMs make horrible or amazing trades that really amount to huge swings. The Monforts haven't opened the bank in the last 5 years. Even after going to the World Series we couldn't land a significant free agent (especially at 2B). Pitcher's don't want to come here after the Hampton, Neagle, Kile debacle. I think we can easily overlook the complexity of building a long-term winner. O'Dowd has shown the ability to pick players but hasn't shown the ability to land any free agents that can shore up weak links, and finally his trades have been a mixed bag.

When O'Dowd is eventually let go it will be because he didn't get a pitcher of significance when trading Holliday and for not meeting expectations of a team that made the World Series. Regardless of what O’Dowd (or Hurdle or the Monforts) does, we the fans will moan and groan or cheer because we are passionate about our Rockies. I’m sure O’Dowd is passionate about baseball, like the rest of us, but that passion doesn’t seem to transfer to the field. It just goes to show that regardless of what a GM accomplishes, does a GM really get a team where it needs to be? Nine years in the front office has molded this organization and I think with the Holliday trade, O’Dowd’s luck has run out.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Rox Talk - OPS+ vs Field Position

Couple of interesting things I found, almost all in a week's time, on the Stat of the Day site especially pertaining to our Rox...

Number 1: Taveras is the only player in MLB history to steal 5 bases and not score a run...that awesome offensive we had last year!

Number 2: And then the next day on the webpage what do they have? We discover that Holliday was on base 6 separate times in a single game and didn't score a run (and didn't hit anyone in)!

And finally...

Number 3: An interesting look at OPS+ (recall that OPS+ is OPS adjusted for the park and the league in which the player played, but not for fielding position. An OPS+ of 100 is defined to be the league average) and field position. The post shows a nice graph showing field positions over the last 50 years and OPS+. I was curious to see how last year's MLB field position OPS+ and the 2008 Rox (by composite so for catcher this is the OPS+ between Ianetta and Torrealba) compared?

For 6 of 9 positions we are above the MLB composite. Where were we hurting? 1B, 2B, and CF. Well we got rid of Taveras but do we think a platoon between Spilborghs, Fowler, and Gonzalez can give us a better offensive position? I hope so. Taveras was awful getting on base last year. Once he reached base (.308 on base percentage last year) he created havoc but I think in retrospect he didn't set the table for the big bats.

Hopefully at 1B we get Helton back and who did have an OPS+ of 100 at the position for 83 games. I don't think Helton can get back to the top (he has a career OPS+ of 141) but I think he can get to average.

And finally at 2B...we get Baker and Barmes...can Barmes continue his resurgence? Barmes did have a 99 OPS+ in 103 games last year which would certainly help the position's offensive numbers.

Overall I think the Rox offense will be OK next year but some part time contributors (Spilborghs, Smith, Koshansky) will need to step up especially in LF after the departure of Holliday.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Rox Talk - Types of Hits

Hot Stove League
Looks like Jason Marquis is signing the dotted line to be our 4th starter. The plus behind this move is that we get rid of Luis Vizcaino who ended up being a bust. O'Dowd has certainly stocked up on pitching. I believe his theory is that with enough 4th and 5th (6th?) starters that eventually the manager will find someone who will stick. Assuming Cook, Francis, and Jimenez are the top 3 starters, we suddenly have a glut with Marquis, de la Rosa, Hirsh, Morales, Reynolds, and newly acquired Smith. Well this strategy didn't work last year but perhaps we'll strike gold like we did in 2007 with the likes of Fogg. In the end I think having alot of options at pitching is key but I still shudder to think where we are going to find 23 win shares that left with Holliday (that is almost 8 wins and the difference between a 74 win season and a 66 win season!).

Oh yeah, Fuentes is going to be pitching in LA for the Angels next year at a slightly reduced amount then what I think he wanted...too bad....not!

Hit Types
Not for sure why but I have always been more fascinated with pitchers and their statistics. When I used to play fantasy baseball I was always good at picking pitchers but truly awful with hitters. Anyway it seems that I always play with more pitching stats than anything else! I believed I showed this graph two weeks (?) ago. Basically it shows the percentage of groundballs, flyballs, line drives, strike outs, walks, and other over the history of the Rox. Groundballs have ranged between 28 - 36% of the total outcomes with the batter, flyballs have ranged from 21 to 26%, and etc. What is fascinating to me is how similar year after year is. I mean pretty consistent over the years and one would expect that the Rox pitchers will throw an average of 33% GB, 23% FB, 16% LD, 2% Bunts, 15% strikeouts, 9% walks, and 2% other. If you look at the graph below there isn't a lot of difference between 2007 and 2008 between the types of hits and yet the Rox won 90 in '07 and 74 in '08.

So if you can expect 33% groundballs year after year then how many hits does this lead to and what sort of consistency exists with hits and groundballs. So from the chart below it shows that of the groundballs hit approximately 22% of these then become hits. Besides some funky data from 2000 - 2002 it appears that once again there is some consistency between the type of hit ball and the amount of hits. From the graph below it would seem that line drives lead to the most hits. So it would seem if a pitcher can reduce his line drives then that is a sure way of decreasing hits...

So the next question would be how many runs are generated from the type of hits? Well on average 45% of runs are generated from flyballs, 31% from line drives, and 23% from groundballs (average does not include 2000 - 2002 numbers). Again from the graph below there is not a lot of difference from year to year. Could the 2% difference in line drives (and decrease of 3% in flyballs) from '07 to '08 account for the difference in winning 90 or 74? 35 more runs were scored in '08 off of line drives then '07 and yet there were only 9 more line drive hits. Also there were almost 41 more flyball hits in '08 and yet only 2 more runs scored in '08 versus '07.

I guess what all this tells me is to reduce your number of line drives as they lead to the most hits and stay away from flyballs when runners are on because they lead to the most runs scored.