Monday, February 23, 2009

Rox Talk - O'Dowd and Line-Up

Dan O'Dowd - Not Vince Lombardi

"I don't think you need to look at wins"

"I think if we evaluate victories and that's all we miss the very essence of what we try to establish as an organization"

-Dan O'Dowd

OK nice to see a front page story about our lovable Rox but come on this ain't little league. We aren't trying to raise boys into men and create a lovefest. And should we wonder why we finish middle of the pack year after year. I haven't been a favorite of Hurdle but I might give him a break after I read this article about the guy upstairs steering the ship. For crying out loud what kind of crap is this man throwing at our feet? I want my team to win...this isn't about moral victories...this is about winning championships. Doing whatever is within your power to make a winner. If the essence of your organization isn't to win then what exactly am I paying to see on the field? I might despise the spending ways of the Evil Empire but at least their fans know that what management puts on the field is there to win. I am reminded what Vince Lombardi said

"Winning is not a sometime thing; it's an all the time thing. You don't win once in a while; you don't do things right once in a while; you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

"There is no room for second place. There is only one place in my game, and that's first place. I have finished second twice in my time at Green Bay, and I don't ever want to finish second again. There is a second place bowl game, but it is a game for losers played by losers. It is and always has been an American zeal to be first in anything we do, and to win, and to win, and to win.

"Every time a football player goes to play his trade he's got to play from the ground up — from the soles of his feet right up to his head. Every inch of him has to play. Some guys play with their heads. That's O.K. You've got to be smart to be number one in any business. But more importantly, you've got to play with your heart, with every fiber of your body. If you're lucky enough to find a guy with a lot of head and a lot of heart, he's never going to come off the field second.

"Running a football team is no different than running any other kind of organization — an army, a political party or a business. The principles are the same. The object is to win — to beat the other guy. Maybe that sounds hard or cruel. I don't think it is.

"It is a reality of life that men are competitive and the most competitive games draw the most competitive men. That's why they are there — to compete. To know the rules and objectives when they get in the game. The object is to win fairly, squarely, by the rules — but to win.

"And in truth, I've never known a man worth his salt who in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn't appreciate the grind, the discipline. There is something in good men that really yearns for discipline and the harsh reality of head to head combat.

"I don't say these things because I believe in the "brute" nature of man or that men must be brutalized to be combative. I believe in God, and I believe in human decency. But I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle — victorious."

Maybe we need more Hurdle and less O'Dowd. Either way too bad Lombardi isn't a baseball coach.

Batting Order 2009

Troy Renck led off Sunday Rox coverage with a look at this year's batting order. I used this site, Baseball Musings Lineup Analysis, to check out the optimal lineup based on OBP and SLG. I used each players historical OBP and SLG.

Player Name OBA Slugging
Player 1:
Player 2:
Player 3:
Player 4:
Player 5:
Player 6:
Player 7:
Player 8:
Player 9:

Renck's lineup gives us 5.256 or 851 runs this year. If we go with the optimizer then the line up would look like this:

Best Lineups
Runs per Game123456789

With 5.324 or 862 runs on an optimized lineup my guess is the lineup probably doesn't make that much of a difference this year other than giving more weight to Helton hitting in the number 2 spot. This makes a lot of sense since he is a great contact hitter and his pop is probably gone. In addition Smith really hasn't had alot of consistent at bats through the grind of a season. Barmes showed some better at bats last year but not for sure he is a number 2. The most glaring issue to me is the lack of speed at the top of the lineup especially if you do consider Helton at the 2 hole. It would seem that Fowler and EY Jr aren't getting a realistic look this Spring and look to get more experience before a late season call up. These two would certainly cover the speed part.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Rox Talk - Dingers by Age?

Last Week Update

Update from last week's post concerning preseason projections. On the website Vegas Watch you can check the latest from PECOTA. Nate Silver's system is one of the better ones and compared to last year came in the closest in predicting team's wins and losses. I found that his election coverage for the 2008 election was amazing (as a side note). Anyway as a side note to my side note to my thoughts last week, the 2009 NL West looks like this according to PECOTA:

Boy what the Rox wouldn't do for a lot less runs scored. 120 runs scored allowed is the difference between a great season and just another mediocre one. I really despise the D-backs.

Rox Home Runs

Due to the rebirth of the steroid crisis in baseball I was thinking of home runs. The articles I have read that tend to get away from the mass hysteria include this piece which seems to indicate that A-Rod (A-Roid?) seemed to do worse when on the juice to an article (can't find the source) that indicated that Bonds HR explosion late in his career actually could have been just sheer talent over any medical modification. Anyway with 103 names still in the bag I often wonder if any former Rox might be on that list? Would Rox fans care? Think back to 1997 when the Rox hit 239 dingers (compared to 160 last year)! I mean if steroids were most rampant in 2001 - 2003 then Rox dinger totals were 213, 152, and 198. Not great numbers... I then began to wonder if you did a chart charting MLB homers per age what would you find (the reason I was thinking this is that if you could find what MLB average was over an age spread that perhaps you could compare individuals to this trend and determine if anything was fishy)? Since I am lazy (or don't have time to run over 100 years worth of home run data...gee you'd think someone might have done that) I decided just to do the Rox from 1993 - 2008.
The circle data is total homeruns by age (age is the x-axis). From the graph you can see that almost 14% of the homeruns hit by Rox over their 16 year existence has been from 28 year olds. In the Bonds article I mentioned above one of the main points is that a fallacy in baseball is that player's peak in years 28/29. The above graph would seem to suggest that 28/29 year old certainly hit their fair share of homers. But wait minute, wouldn't the circle data above also suggest that maybe the Rox have had alot of 28/29 year old play for them and that is the reason for the totals? Well the square data above is the total homeruns divided by the number of age players in that category. So for the 28 year olds there have been 31 players that age that hit a homerun for the Rox and 34 twenty-nine year old players. So while 28/29 year olds do average 13/9 homeruns respectively per player what is interesting is that data does continue to rise after this age group. Of course the Rox have been blessed with some aging late bloomer classics with the likes of Galarraga, Walker, and some Bichette but in baseball the tendency is that as you age you tend to play less. Of course you could also look at it as you age and if you can handle the wear and tear that the experience you might gain also becomes an advantage. Perhaps Bonds should get more credit? Also is anyone really bothered by the fact that Holliday is 29 this year (averages would suggest he has a year left of greatness or could we peg him to be another ageless wonder)?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Rox Talk - Pre Pre Season Expectations

With the season fast approaching (Yippee!). See my haiku here, I thought I would throw out my first crack at what we can expect from the fantasy "experts".  I think all pre-season projections (Chone, James, Pecota) are all designed for those fantasy players looking to draft a wining team. I find the numbers useful in trying to get an ideal of whether I should be excited or just ho hum for the upcoming season.

First of all let's start with the negative.  Although nothing has come out directly, it seems as we get closer to Spring Training the likelihood of Francis pitching this year decreases.  A tremendous 2007 season and disappointment last year had led for hope that a return of the Big 3 (Cook, Jimenez, and Francis) would lead to a pretty good top of a rotation.  Francis was slotted in to pitch on average about 166 innings for 2009.  That is about 12% of the total pitching required (on average Rox pitchers throw about 1,438 innings a season).  And finally the biggest question is how an offensive that was anemic last year (with Holliday) expects to find a spark this year and score more runs without Holliday?  Holliday accounted for 14% of the Rox runs last year.  He accounted for 23 win shares (about 8 wins for team that only won 74 games).  He has been a huge influence on our offensive the last 3 years.  But on the brightside....

Tulo should be back, Iannetta is entering his offensive years as is Stewart, OBP challenged Taveras is gone,  preseason stability at 2B with Barmes and Baker, and a revolving door of outfield potential (someone has got to find his stroke?).  On the mound, O'Dowd philosophy of stockpiling arms for the season geared back up this off season with the signing of Fogg, Marquis, Smith, Hirsh, Reynolds, and the always tantalizing return of Morales).  We will assume that Jimenez, Cook, and de la Rosa will mind the top 3 spots.  The bullpen lost Fuentes but hopefully with the duel of Corpas and Street we will have a decent back end of the pen.  Minding the middle will be Embree, Buchholz, Grilli, Speier, and whatever potential 4th and 5th guy doesn't make it.  This team's got some depth but the problem is that we've also got a lot of "ifs" but at this stage who doesn't?  Without the weight of Holliday looming over everything perhaps the team will get a bit scrappy and scrap a few more wins together this year?  

So anyway the numbers say that we will score about 815 runs (range 770 - 851 with runs scored per at bats proportionalized with the last 7 years of at bats, about 5,566).  Pitching is a bit more difficult to estimate especially with Francis.  Over the last 7 years the range of runs given up have been between 758 - 923 with the average at 852.  Again proportionalizing what the pundits say I see about 818 batters crossing the plate.  I'm a big proponent of using the runs scored/runs against ratio in determing winning percentage and if we score 815 runs and allow 818 that means we will win about 81 games.  Not bad and at least puts us in some contention in the NL West where it seems no one ever wins the division with a blow out 90 - 95 wins.  If we can find that swagger like we did in 2007 then maybe we can make it interesting.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Rox Talk - Meandering Thoughts

John Updike passed away last week and as a great American writer we are blessed with some baseball words such as the one below. Written in 1960 commemorating Ted Williams' last appearance in Boston it goes beyond for me what a ballplayer is really about. The trials and tribulations, the statistical highlights, the dog days of summer, and the ever battle between fame and fortune with the fans and writers.

"For me, Williams is the classic ballplayer of the game on a hot August weekday, before a small crowd, when the only thing at stake is the tissue-thin difference between a thing done well and a thing done ill. Baseball is a game of the long season, of relentless and gradual averaging-out. Irrelevance - since the reference point of most individual games is remote and statistical - always threatens its interest, which can be maintained not by the occasional heroics that sportswriters feed upon but by players who always CARE [was italicized]; who care, that is to say, about themselves and their art. Insofar as the clutch hitter is not a sportswriter's myth, he is a vulgarity, like a writer who writes only for money."

Hit the link to read the whole article. Also came across this tidbit which I think I have probably read a million times but with spring training fast approaching it is always interesting to remind us baseball lovers that our game is not just old, but classic.

"The first semi-official baseball game was played, on Elysian Fields, between the New York Knickerbocker Club and the New York Nine on June 19, 1846. This was almost certainly not anything close to the first baseball game played — baseball, in some form, probably goes back dozens, and maybe even hundreds of years — but this game was probably the first played under the Alexander Cartwright rules, which makes it probably the first semi-modern game played. Baseball, it is fair to assume, was not invented by any one person. It evolved over time. But this is probably as close as we will get to a starting point, and anyway Hoboken has a MUCH stronger claim to baseball’s beginning than Cooperstown."