Monday, December 20, 2010

Rox Talk - Pitches Thrown

A Pitch Thrown
In past posts, I have shown how many pitches thrown in an inning typically lead to a run. Data collected from 2008 - 2010 seasons (Rox pitchers and Rox opponent pitchers) indicate that usually 23 pitches lead to a run. Using a best fit curve of the data (run rate calculated as a ratio of total runs scored in an inning per instances of that pitch count), it would indicate in the model that as the pitches go up, the amount of runs increase.


Although following this logic out, eventually you would be scoring runs without throwing a pitch!Either way it is interesting to see what the break point is but then how quickly runs compared to the number of pitches and how it adds up after the initial run is scored.

One interesting thing to consider when looking at this data is comparing pitchers' runs allowed with pitches thrown in an inning and comparing to what would be expected. For instance, three years of data indicate that if a pitcher throws 13 pitches in an inning then the runs expected for this would be 0.121. Add up the season totals and the table below shows what the 2010 Rox starters did.

Of the eight starters, only two starters had less runs then their expected runs. Jimenez, I can believe, because he throws a lot of pitches (and was saved by a lot of double plays...). Hammel is the troubling one because the data would suggest that he gives up a lot of easy runs which is one way of saying he throws very few pitches but gives up a bunch of runs on low pitch counts. Which is better? Hard to say will have to look back at previous years...

Independent Innings?
One question that comes to mind is if pitching (or offense) is extremely efficient or inefficient in one inning does it effect the next inning? Note the graph below shows pitches in inning x (y-axis) followed by pitches thrown in inning x+1 (x-axis). This is independent of pitcher, so some of the data below could be one pitcher followed by a different pitcher in the following inning. Also it should be noted that 70% of all inning x was between 9 - 20 pitches and in inning x+1 70% was between 8 - 19 pitches. And thus this overlap (meaning inning x had a pitch between 9 - 20 followed by an inning x+1 of between 8 - 19) accounts for 49% of the back to back innings.
Some other observations are that if you pitch inning x between 20 - 68 then 20% of pitches in inning x+1 was less than 20 pitches. If you pitch inning x between 3 - 20 then 17% of pitches in inning x+1 were greater than 20 pitches. Pitching inning x greater than 20 followed by inning x+1 greater than 20 amount to about 8%.

Just one other point and that would be that in 3622 of 7708 instances inning x was less than inning x+1 meaning that generally less pitches are thrown in inning X+1 (53% vs 47%). My guess is that with additional data and data that includes other teams that this number would generally get closer to 50/50 and that generally inning x and inning x+1 are independent. Just for kicks in 2010, Jimenez had 92 instances (out of 194) where he threw more pitches after inning x. It would seem in 2010 he seemed to throw less in inning x+1 then inning x.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Rox Talk - Year in Graphs

The Year in Graphs
Graph 1 shows Rox 2010 winning percentage versus historical (1993 - 2009) winning percentage and pythagorean winning percentage through the different months of the season. What a great start, too bad the rest of the year was average!

Graph 2 shows projected wins versus previous years (2007 - 2009). It was so hopeful midway through the year - then the post All Star hangover, then a late in year surge followed by the awful collapse.

Graph 3 shows the average runs scored per game both home and away. Who loves the humidor? What is with scoring on the road?

Wimisical data for the next three graphs. Home run rates for temperature, wind speed, and wind direction (2007 - 2010, purple points indicate 2010 grey squares is average). Interesting how wind speed doesn't do much for home run rates.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Rox Talk - Symmetry


Baseball, in my opinion, is symmetry not only because of the diamond they play on but also the numbers which serve as the backbone to the game. Take for instance in 2010, the Rox went to bat 6265 times and scored 770 runs (12.3%). So every 100 plate appearances, the Rox scored about 12 runs. And what about 2009? - 12.8%, 2008 - 11.8%, and 2007 - 13.2%. Now granted these aren't exactly the same but it shows a remarkable consistency to the game. A repeatability that makes it stunning that in these four seasons the Rox won 83, 92, 74, and 90 games, respectively (of course there is also pitching too but I will leave that for another post). This elusive predictability frustrates those that watch from the stands wishing and hoping for success. In reality I am glad I don't have to write the paychecks!

Below I have listed some key offensive stats from 2007 - 2010. Year in and year out (at least the last 4 years), Rox get on base about 35% of the time and about 35% of those runners score and more then half of all runners get stranded on base!

It is beautiful if not frustrating...sometimes I have to wonder if by looking at the numbers so much that we lose something in the translation. The real difference between a 83 and 92 win season boils down to a couple of hits, errors, or pitches. Something that really doesn't show up in the numbers...

What Good is Wall Street?
The November 29, 2010 New Yorker had an interesting article on whether Wall Street provides any social good. I won't get into the details but reading it I came across a few passages which struck a nerve especially after reading Joe Posnanski article on the value of closers and setup men. From the New Yorker article the following quotes were made:

"...big banks are forever trying to invent new financial products that they can sell but that their competitors, at least for the moment, cannot."
"Rather than seeking the most productive outlet for the money that depositors and investors entrust to them, they may follow trends and surf bubbles. These activities shift capital into projects that have little or no long-term value..."
"From an economy-wide perspective, this experience suggests that at least some of the profits that Wall Street bankers claim to generate, and that they use to justify their big pay packages, are illusory."

These quotes could be very easily mistaken to be from an examination of baseball management! So when I read Joe's article on whether the closer really matters and I compare it to what bankers seem to be doing then I see this connection. In the last 50 years, teams still win 95% of their games when leading in the ninth inning. If the closer is a relatively new creation then as Joe says you should see some sort of difference but there isn't one. Managers (?), GMs (?), or Players (?), like banks, are creating these new products in an attempt to create value which in the long term is debatable to their worth.

Unfortunately the concept has become so ingrained that trying to do without a closer leads to the infamous 2003 Red Sox experiment. While the concept of rotating situational relief is statistically sound (95%!), fans, players(?), and baseball pundits (same ones who developed the stats in the first place!) claim that teams need a single closer like a child needs their security blanket.
The table below shows what closers (with at least 20 saves) are being paid. On average these closers are being overpaid to tune of about 1.3 million when statistics would seem to indicate that a closer is irrelevant! So much for the herd mentality and tossing out that blanket! And now we talking about conceptualizing a set up man? It is already bad enough that bullpens have left handed specialist (LOOGY) to come in and pitch against power left handed power batters...the speciation of the bullpen is getting to be insane.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rox Talk - Close Out and Next Year

It has been approximately 50 days since the dismal end to a season of much promise. Perhaps it was just my own disappointment. Honestly I felt this team was geared for a playoff run. The numbers suggested a team with ability to win 87 plus games. The pitching was solid with the only question mark being whether Francis could provide some innings after being out of baseball for a year. Offense looked good with a couple of Rookies getting there second look at the big leagues. Bench was well rounded and the manager had an entire off season to piece together what he wanted. What more could you want?

Well since you asked I would say execution, consistency, and less injuries. Fortunately the Rox don't make excuses. Once again they had some injuries which caused some shuffling of the line ups and bullpen but productive replacements were made (i.e. Chacin, Rodgers, EY Jr.). Losing de la Rosa at the start of the year was difficult. Helton spent considerable time with back issues. Tulo and Stewart spent some time recuperating. Took two months for Street to finally get healthy and stabilize the back end of the bullpen. Rox certainly scraped and clawed for the first two months while trying to field their best team and in late September things did start to click but then there was...consistency.

Consistency was lacking especially with some of the older players. Helton started to look old and although we gave up on his power years ago his ability to wear a pitcher down and get a hit seem to disappear from his grasp. Hawpe never really recovered from an injury and was finally released. This potent bat all but disappeared but Rox expected not to miss a beat with Smith finally getting to play everyday. His pinch hitting prowess never materialized on a day to day basis and after a few months he and Spilly began sharing duties in Right. Catching still remains an elusive position for the Rox. While Olivo filled in nicely at first, the long season finally wore him down and Iannetta, once again given the keys to the car, couldn't get it out of first gear. Both Iannetta and Fowler spent considerable time in the minors trying to find their stroke. While Fowler did come back and was successful for about a month he never made the adjustments and began regressing again late in the year. The carousel at Second continues with a whole slew of characters auditioning for the spot. At this time it would seem EY Jr speed and potential spark at the top of the line up trumps any inadequacies at actually playing the position. And finally will Stewart the Hammer please show up? He plays a good Third Base but his inability to put the team on his back at times is frustrating especially with the power that the scouts says he has. Wow re-reading the last paragraph I am amazed the Rox won 83 games!

Finally let's talk execution. Beyond Tulu, CarGo, and Ubaldo (and maybe Belisle) I don't think another Rox came to the park everyday with the goal of making something happen. Granted we can't expect the entire team to click on all cylinders every game but for stretches the Rox need someone else to step up and contribute. That is why Rox carry a 25 man roster. Throw in the inability to do anything on the road only amplified the problem that if Ubaldo wasn't pitching and Tulo and CarGo were quiet (see below) at the plate the team wasn't going to win. To see that the Rox had two players finish in the Top 5 for MVP and another in the Top 3 for the Cy Young ought to make Colorado fans excited about future.

Of course with 2011 on the horizon the Rox can look up to the reigning World Series champion so O'Dowd has his work cut out for him trying to find some pieces to make this team win. Of course if we could just get our pieces to work now we might not have to spend too much on the open market. Anyway here is my take for the 2011 team for now:

C - Iannetta (McHenry)
1B - Helton (Free Agent)
2B - EY Jr (Herrera)
3B - Stewart (Free Agent)
SS - Tulo
LF - CarGo
CF - Fowler
RF - Smith
Bench - Spilly

1 - Ubaldo
2 - Hammel
3 - (Free Agent)
4 - Chacin
5 - Cook/Rogers/Paulino

Closer - Street
SetUp - Betancourt
Pen - M. Reynolds

Don't think Mora or Giambi will be coming back. de la Rosa isn't coming back so will need a starter or two (or three). Cook might be a functional 5th starter but unless he can find his sinker he will be done (maybe we could have him just pitch at PetCo?). Overall I don't think we are too far from making it happen. Question is as a fan do you want to remain just a year in year out contender (Twins) or do we want to make a full frontal assault (Marlins) and be mediocre for a couple of years? Is the Twin Fan happy to make a quick exit to the Yankees every year or is Marlin fan reveling in the fact he has two more rings than the Twins do in the last 20 years? I'll take a ring please!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Playoff Talk

The Week That Was
Yeah there was no week that was. I am still angry with Rox, therefore they get no love from me. And to think the Giants are still playing. Rox were 20-21 against playoff teams this year (including Twins). I think we belonged...nuff said

Texas Rangers
I am a huge fan of Nolan Ryan. The man was pitching. Sure statistically he doesn't fall into the category of the game's best but for his longetivity and his power to strikeout opposing batters made him a sight to see. He owned a 9.5 strikeout per 9 innings pitched for a career. Led the league in strikeouts 11 times and the last season he did this was when he was 43!

In the New York Times Magazine (10/3/10 edition), there is a nice article about him taking over the Rangers. In the article, it mentions that he is trying to fashion the Rangers' pitchers into his own image. Increasing the innings pitched and balls thrown per game. So in 773 starts, Ryan pitched an average of almost 7 innings a game. Pitch counts weren't used for his whole career (data only available from 1988 on) but from the time he was 41 until he retired at 46, he pitched 161 games averaging 6.2 innings and 108 pitches thrown. The graph below shows pretty clearly that when you went to Nolan's game you got your money's worth seeing him pitched; and to think these games were in the twilight of his career (41 - 46)!

So yeah Nolan liked to labor. So do the new look Rangers follow this pattern? Hard to say at this point. Without looking too closely I did track down on baseball-reference the number of times a pitcher in the big leagues threw more than 101+ pitches and then compared this to the overall number of starts. The graph below shows this along with the Rangers last ten years.

The grey dots represent the MLB. So for instance in 2010, 4860 games were started and of those 2243 games had a pitcher go 101+ pitches. In this same year, the Rangers went 87 starts with 101+ innings. Since 2008 the Rangers have shown an increase in the number of pitches thrown but their trend is also seen with MLB as a whole so maybe everyone is trying to emulate the Express?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Rox Talk - Week 26

The Week That Was
A 0-7 week against the Dodgers and Cardinals. The Rox finish at 83-79. Nine games back from division winners San Francisco in third place and eight games behind in the Wild Card chase. A record of 52-29 at home and 31-50 on the road, the Rox outscored its opponents 770-717 (expected wins is 86 versus historical wins at 77). Playoff indicator (Runs scored/Runs Against ratio) is 1.07 (>1.16 indicates high playoff potential).

Really no comment. I think how this team finished is an embarrassment to the organization. To be in it with 2 weeks to go and then finish 1-13 is a smack in the face for anyone who is a fan. I really don't care what the team thinks but you go out and play to win everyday. To quit, give up, and lose 13 of 14 just shows to me this team isn't ready to move to the next level. To have the expectation to win the division and then to finish 9 back is pathetic. I hope this team is embarrassed and that it leaves an awful taste in their mouth over the next 6 months. Let it fester so that come April 2011 this team plays with some heart.

The Season That Was
Top 10 Gut Feelings on Why Rox Underperformed (no particular order)
1. Road vs Home splits
2. Random injuries throughout the season
3. Inconsistent outtings from the bullpen
4. Starting Pitchers stamina
5. Todd Helton, Clint Barmes, Dexter Fowler, Ian Stewart, insert Left Fielder's Name
6. No right hand bat
7. Entire Team Effort
8. Padres
9. Inability to beat bad teams
10. All Star Break

Top 10 Surprises in 2010
1. CarGo, Mora, Giambi, Belisle, Chacin
2. Dynamic Duo of CarGo/Tulo
3. U-Ball ascent to potential staff ace
4. Ability to beat the top tier teams
5. First No-Hitter
6. All Star Game Starter
7. Some National attention
8. Playoffs are an expectation rather than a dream
9. Winning record against NL West
10. Perhaps its the fastball most affected by altitude rather than the breaking pitches.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Rox Talk - Week 25

The Week That Was
A 1-5 week against the D-Backs and Giants. The Rox currently stand at 83-72. Four and half games back from division leading San Francisco in third place and four games behind in the Wild Card chase. Currently 52-26 at home and 31-46 on the road, the Rox have outscored its opponents 754-682 (expected wins is 85 versus historical wins at 74). On pace for 87 wins with 788 runs scored and 713 runs against. Playoff indicator (Runs scored/Runs Against ratio) is 1.11 (>1.16 indicates high playoff potential).

One word - Disappointment. To have come so far and then swept in Arizona? Forget the Giants series, the D-Backs series set the tone. Had the Rox won 2 of 3 in Phoenix, the Giants series I am sure would have gone another way. But those are the breaks. This year the inconsistencies just won out. Starting pitching which has been a mainstay, failed causing the bullpen to be used up which caused the offense to have to play behind. All recipes for failure. Worse part of it all was getting swept against the second worse team in the NL. Unconsciousable and just pathetic...I'm out!

Playing Down to the Competition

One simple statistic to sum of this year:

40-28 (teams with >.500 record) Giants are 29-36, Padres are 30-35

43-45 (teams with <.500 record) Giants are 59-32, Padres are 57-3

And we wonder why we aren't going to play in October!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Rox Talk - Week 24

The Week That Was
A 3-3 week against the Padres and Dodgers. The Rox currently stand at 82-67. One and half games back from division leading San Francisco in third place and three and half games behind in the Wild Card chase. Currently 51-24 at home and 31-43 on the road, the Rox have outscored its opponents 727-646 (expected wins is 83 versus historical wins at 71). On pace for 89 wins with 790 runs scored and 702 runs against. Playoff indicator (Runs scored/Runs Against ratio) is 1.13 (>1.16 indicates high playoff potential).

Would have been nice to win one more against the Padres especially at home. This is the second time this year the Rox could have moved ahead or tied with them in the standings but failed to do so (last game before the All Star break). After another week of battling, the Rox still find themselves in third place. Guess the positive in all this is that teams aren't gunning for us but the negative is that at this time we still need to leapfrog two teams to win the division and two teams for the Wild Card. In the Wild Card, the Phillies and Braves are battling each other this week so it would help us if the Phillies just sweep the Braves and allow the Wild Card to come out of the NL West. Padres still seem to be struggling while the Giants continue with dominant pitching and some suspect hitting. Of course the Rox hitting is keeping the team afloat while our pitching is struggling.

Two weeks ago it was CarGo, this past week was Tulo, when might a pitcher step up and stake a claim that we deserve a playoff berth? Hard to describe what Tulo has been doing in the past 15 games. He hit 14 homers putting him in the same sentence has Bonds and Belle. His September barrage, if it holds up and the Rox sneak into the playoffs could annoit Tulo MVP of the League. I'd imagine though, because of this team's makeup, both Tulo and even Ubaldo would much rather be in the playoffs then gain any individual superlatives (although Tulo would prefer a Gold Glove award).

So two weeks to go, 13 games in all, with this weekend probably determining the eventual winner. Let's assume Rox take care of business in Arizona (Tues-Thurs) and maybe hoping the Dodgers help us out with the Padres and the Cubs taking a couple against the Giants. That makes the Giants/Rox series this weekend potentially huge! Earlier today on the Dan Patrick show he commented on the convoluted playoff scenarios if the division ends in a three way tie. Because the Rox have won the season series against the Padres and currently own the series against the Giants, the Rox would have first choice of what to do. They could either elect to have two home play in games or choose to travel to winner of the first play in game winner! How crazy would that be!
Attendance Win Games?
In a related article to my thesis of why I am a terrible fan it would suggest that perhaps my attendance, even though I can't stand it, does relate to my team victories! In an academic paper the author suggests that a one standard deviation increase in attendance results in a 4% increase in the likelihood of a home team win and that increasing attendance by 48% a home team's run differential would increase by one run (data collected from 1996 - 2005).
I did my own analysis from 2006 - 2010. Spreadsheet below shows the hard data. Graph follows. The graph shows the winning percentage difference.

The grey bars is Rox away winning percentage. Rox tend to win more on the road when the crowd is less than 35,000 people. While at home (purple bars), Rox tend to win more when the crowd is above 25,000 although for some reason it becomes nullified when the crowd hits 30,000 - 45,000. Amazing to see how poorly Rox play at home when the crowd is less than 20.000. Moral of the story is go to the game (even if your like me and feel you are the curse!)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why I am a Terrible Fan

Why I am a Terrible Fan
I have a love/hate relationship with Baseball. In April I am infatuated, can't get enough. May starts to get frustrating because usually my team hasn't awaken from its slumber. June and July just seem to disappear into the summer ether. August seeks the truth as now the teams are what they are, and then finally the grueling, gut wrenching September. My joy of going to games goes from love it in April to dreading it in September especially if my team is in the Hunt. How is it that I can't watch my favorite team when it becomes crunch time?

In April you have tons of games left and watching is just a joy after the long winter months but then September hits and I squirm, my butt hurts, and every out is an eternity. The joy has gone and now it becomes torture. I spend an inordinate amount of time studying the game, reading the game, running numbers of the game. I know that if the Rox score 5 runs they have a better than 50/50 chance of winning, that if a pitcher throws about 24 pitches in an inning odds are that the opponent has scored a run, and that when the win blows from left field to right field at Coors the number of home runs increase.

With all this in my head I study the game, I accept the randomness of it all, but then September comes and passion takes over. Numbers to me go out the window and suddenly the rawness of the game becomes too much. Having been an athlete, the desire to be an active participant takes over and just sitting there on the bench knowing I can't make a difference just eats at me. The nerves, excitement, the ups/downs just remind me how much of being part of something competitive can get to me. All of this just leads me to believe I am a terrible fan because I can't sit and watch my team when the games become important. My belief, my bedrock of support just wilt and suddenly I find myself thinking the worse. Instead of winning the tight games, the myriad of things that can go wrong suddenly become apparent. So when my team needs my support, I find things to do instead of watching and only revel in their victories through highlights and wrap up stories.

It is as if my anti-support will truly matter and actually help them win! So this is my deluded view as a baseball fan. Care passionately for most of the season but when crunch time comes distance myself so that if disappointment comes I have a buffer layer but if success occurs I jump in saying I was with them all the way. Ultimately whether I support my team is truly irrelevant. My being there or my watching them isn't going to determine whether they win or lose no matter how dedicated of a fan I am and I don't have the karma to determine winners and losers. If I did know the outcome then I probably wouldn't be that passionate about the team! So I admit I am a terrible baseball fan but is it so bad to be passionate?

Giambi Speaks
I sent in my question to the Denver Post fan mail and they picked my question?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Rox Talk - Week 23

The Week That Was
A 7-0 week against the Reds and D-Back. The Rox currently stand at 79-64. One and half games back from division leading San Diego in third place and two and half games behind in the Wild Card chase. Currently 50-22 at home and 29-42 on the road, the Rox have outscored its opponents 683-613 (expected wins is 79 versus historical wins at 68). On pace for 89 wins with 774 runs scored and 694 runs against. Playoff indicator (Runs scored/Runs Against ratio) is 1.11 (>1.16 indicates high playoff potential).

I'm speechless or maybe you should call it writer's block? Can this team do it again in September? I'll be honest, I wrote them off after they lost two of three in Arizona about 3 weeks ago. San Diego was on cruise control (we were 11 games back at that point) and there were five teams ahead of the Rox. Since then the Padres and Cardinals have tanked, the Braves have struggled and fallen into the Wild Card, and while the Giants have played decent ball, our Rox don't seem too far away.

This week the pixie dust was flying. First U-Ball gets number 18, CarGo is talked about as a potential triple crown winner, Tulo's bat went crazy, Giambi's walkoff, and then the wackiest play you ever saw and that was a come from behind steal of home to seal the victory (or should I stay steal the victory?). Either way it has to be one of the greatest weeks in Rox history at least for defining heroes.

Now the question is what now? Rox have 19 games left (9 at home, 10 away) with Padres coming in this week. Ideally Rox sweep the Padres and dump them into 3rd place. We then go on the road to LA and Arizona, then back home against SF and LA with a final trip to St Louis. Perfect scenario would be for the Rox to take the Division lead after SF passes through Denver and then we pummel the Dodgers and then face St Louis and wave the Division title in Holliday's face! That would mark a great season. We then get Reds/Braves and then get Philadelphia in a seven game series for once. Although Phillies have a World Championship and have been to two World Series, remember the Rox put them in their place in 2007. It would be a nice bookend to end their run and get to the Series again, with home field advantage! Remember U-ball started the All Star game, it would be nice to see him start Game 1 of the World Series at Coors! Dream baby!

The Crazy Week That Was
First off Inside the Rockies saved me the time and effort and highlighted every Rox steal of home. Nelson's was the 15th and for the most part it was the first straight steal in Rox history although as Tracy Ringolsby explains EY Senior had one too but it was because a double steal didn't work. It would seem that the historian's had trouble discovering how rare a feat a straight steal of home by a rookie was. Either way Nelson gets his first MLB stolen base the hard way. I find it hard to believe, looking at the list, that Todd Helton has two swipes of home! Also interesting to see that 11/15 steals of home were in fact done at Home!

Last week after CarGo's insane early week performance (he pulled within 3 homers of the being the Triple Crown leader), the National news media jumped on the band wagon. Of course the primary moan against CarGo was his home and away splits. History would show that Rox hitters have always had a tough time proving that they should exist in any offensive discussion about a great season. A triple crown and possible MVP discussion would certainly bring the Coors Field Effect back into play. If somehow the Rox do make the playoffs I can't fathom that CarGo wouldn't be a front runner. Anyway the discussion last week was home and away splits and I thought maybe we should look at win and loss splits among the MVP leaders. See data below:

The NL numbers were determined taking win/loss splits of the NL up to this point in the year and then calculating the numbers for 130 games played (which was about the average number of games the three leaders had up to this point). After getting the data I am not for sure what I was really looking for. I think originally I was thinking that to be called a MVP and as part of being the most valuable player that somehow even when the team lost that said player would still put up huge numbers. So basically I was looking to see who had the best numbers when their team lost. As the numbers show all three players don't have very good numbers when their team loses. So it kind of makes my point moot in that when they play like MVPs their respective teams win. Big problem with CarGo was that he really didn't bat most of the year in a MVP spot (3rd of 4th in the order) and thus his numbers are somewhat different then the other two. It is pretty apparent that CarGo is a hacker. His dismal walk rate really affects his OBP but boy his slugging sure makes up for it. CarGo is pretty much a basher and probably be considered a Adam Dunn type batter (thank god he plays a better outfield!). In addition CarGo probably doesn't get much love for his speed and baserunning nor his outfield play. With 19 games to play he can certainly cement his position with a monster September!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

CarGo = MVP?

Wow today was the tipping point for the Colorado Rockies and Carlos Gonzalez. Affectionately known as CarGo, he has been up to this point, part of baseball's witness protection team. A snub at the All Star break, he lost out to Omar Infante of the Braves, because the NL manager basically wanted a life long AAAA player on his roster in case the game went to extra innings...yeah whatever!

Anyway the fray began quietly this morning when Joe Posnanski wrote on his blog the extreme road/away splits of CarGo. Gee nothing new because every great season by a Colorado player has been analyzed relentlessly (i.e. Walker, Bichette, and Holliday) and enough pundits have said that the Coors Field effect should dismiss any significant offense value (and of course this discounting won't help Ubaldo's Cy Young chances even though his season should be considered the greatest ever!)

Then later in the day we hear from Dave Cameron at FanGraphs denouncing much of CarGo'soffense at Coors because the run value at Coors is so inflated.

And then finally Rob Neyer weighed in as well...and then Rob twittered this link and then even on ESPN's Scott Van Pelt radio show, Scott himself even took time out of his busy football smatterings to discuss how insane CarGo has been recently.

So all in all a fantastic publicity day for our forgotten baseball team. Finally a player gets his due. At this juncture the only possibly way CarGo wins the MVP at this point is if the Rox make the playoffs. If that happens he is a shoe in otherwise forget about it. By the way if you read through the Joe Posnanski comments section you will find a incredible link with some amazing analysis. Who knew its the fastball that kills pitchers at Coors not the breaking stuff...AMAZING! Think about says a lot why Rox hitters are tame on the road...

Monday, September 6, 2010

Rox Talk - Week 22

The Week That Was
A 4-3 week against the Giants, Phillies, and Padres. The Rox currently stand at 72-64. Four and half games back from division leading San Diego in third place and five and half games behind in the Wild Card chase. Currently 43-22 at home and 28-43 on the road, the Rox have outscored its opponents 635-591 (expected wins is 72 versus historical wins at 64). On pace for 86 wins with 756 runs scored and 704 runs against. Playoff indicator (Runs scored/Runs Against ratio) is 1.07 (>1.16 indicates high playoff potential).
A 4-3 week at this point would seem to equate to doom but three of those wins were against the division leading Padres and so only a week ago the Rox were eight out of the division title but now find themselves within striking distance especially with three more against both the Giants and Padres.

Rox are a resilient team. With the O's willing this team to the finish line. Tulo and CarGo have been monsters these last two weeks. Question is what can we do with 26 games left to play. Fortunately 16 of these are at home and only 10 left on the road (LA, Arizona, and St Louis). That final series in St Louis could be interesting especially if the team can make up some ground against the Reds. Of course it would be awfully nice to clinch a playoff berth in St Louis too since last year the Cards clinched at Coors.

What the Rest of World is Saying...

For the record, from '95 - 01, Rox won 231 of 558 games on the road versus 314 at home. From '03 - 09, Rox won 225 of 567 on the road versus 316 at home. Further analysis of the run scoring environment from '95 - 01, Rox scored 2319 runs and allowed 2598 (expected wins in 250) on the road versus 3973 runs scored and 3743 runs allowed (expected wins is 294) at home. From '03 - 09, Rox scored 2377 runs and allowed 2747 (expected wins is 246) on the road versus 3273 runs scored and 3037 runs allowed (expected wins is 303) at home. So the humidor has saved 1406 additional runs...pitchers thank you for that, although '95-01 was the height of the steroid era so who is to say the humidor has done anything?

Also of note is that the visitor's split of runs allowed at home versus at Coors from '95-01 averaged 164 difference. So this means our pitchers allowed 164 more runs at Coors then they did away from Coors. Since '03, this average has dropped to 41. Again one has to wonder is this because of the humidor or Rox understanding what type of pitcher succeeds at altitude? Unfortunately if you think having groundball pitchers matter the average GB/FB ratio for both periods of time comes out to be 0.85! So much for that theory...Perhaps it is just home grown talent understanding the mental challenges of pitching at altitude, too bad the offense can't figure out how to hit on the road

Monday, August 23, 2010

Rox Talk - Week 20

The Week That Was
A 2-4 week against the Dodgers and D-Backs. The Rox currently stand at 63-60. Eleven games back from division leading San Diego in third place and seven games behind in the Wild Card chase. Currently 38-20 at home and 25-40 on the road, the Rox have outscored its opponents 566-534 (expected wins is 65 versus historical wins at 58). On pace for 83 wins with 745 runs scored and 703 runs against. Playoff indicator (Runs scored/Runs Against ratio) is 1.06 (>1.16 indicates high playoff potential).
Big changes afoot in the Rocky Mountains. Amazing to think that on July 11, the Rox found themselves two game out of first place in the West. Had they won that day they could have entered the All Star break tied for first. Unfortunately the Rox have suffered through a disappointing 14 - 21 stretch that has taken them from two out to eleven out and basically out of the playoffs. While the road trip from hell (gee heard that before) ended the hopes of the division title, there was still hope that Rox could squeak into the playoffs. Unfortunately I think with the latest trip and two losses to the basement dwellers D-Backs, I think at this point the Rox need to look to the future.

Interesting to wonder if the Rox age finally caught up with them? Hawpe, Helton, Giambi, Olivo, Barmes, and even Spilly are all over 30. It is rare that a player that can still tie em up and be consistent at this game when they hit that magic number of 30. I imagine the daily grind, the aches and pains can lead to performance issues as a player ages.

As a fan I am hugely disappointed by the 2010 season but perhaps this downturn could lead the way to a better 2011. Imagine had the Rox won the division, what would the management done? Probably took Hawpe's option, made an offer to Olivo, and took on Barmes for a few more years. With the current situation as it is, I think the outcome could be beneficial. This downturn allows management to justify ridding the team of older talent and heavy contracts. In 2011 young talent will get a shot and Rox won't have to take on any longer term contracts. A younger team could lead to a great 2011 (and 2009 and 2007, see a pattern?).

In the end moving on is always tough. Hate to see players move on when the team isn't performing because the assumption was that the player's moving on were the reason for the team's distress. But the fact remains that very few player's can be productive and so with the downturn we can effectively jettison these older player's without the need to add to payroll. Cruel but a small market's way of life. Rox can't afford to waste money. Graph below shows our aging veterans and their wOBA against the lead average. Would you sign any of these players long term?

75 Percent Done
With 120 games in the books that means the Rox are 75 percent of the way through the 2010 campaign. Graph below shows projections at the 3/4 mark compared to the other previous quarters. The solid graph is the average projections at the start of the season.

CarGo still having a monster year scoring a whole bunch of runs. Everyone else but Olivo is under expectations. Hawpe and Iannetta (granted they haven't played a lot of games) the Rox just aren't scoring runs. They are on pace to score 60 - 70 runs below expectations!

On the other hand the pitching has been pretty decent.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Rox Talk - Week 19

The Week That Was
A 3-3 week against the Mets and Brewers. The Rox currently stand at 61-56. Eight and half games back from division leading San Diego in third place and five games behind in the Wild Card chase. Currently 38-20 at home and 23-36 on the road, the Rox have outscored its opponents 558-517 (expected wins is 63 versus historical wins at 55). On pace for 84 wins with 773 runs scored and 716 runs against. Playoff indicator (Runs scored/Runs Against ratio) is 1.08 (>1.16 indicates high playoff potential).

On a week vacation with no computer, I have to admit that I was kind of glad to get away from the daily baseball grind. In my absence the Rox really didn't do anything spectacular and based on the figure above it was pretty much a give and take kind of week. Think I have to agree with Woody Paige on his article today in the Post although I don't think his reasoning that it went down this way because the Rox did nothing at the trade deadline holds a lot of water. Really there was nothing out there that would have solved the hair pulling frustration that is the Rox on the road. Why was it in '07 and '09 that the Rox could win 39 and 41 games respectively but in '08 and '10, the Rox could only squeeze 31 and 32 (projected) wins?

The chances for a Roxtober repeat at this stage are pretty slim. With the Giants, Cardinals, and Phillies all ahead of the Rox for the Wild Card and with San Diego's unbelievable pace not letting up, I think even a magical September run would be tough especially with road trips to LA (6 games), Arizona (6 games), San Fran (3 games), San Diego (3 games), and St Louis (4 games) remaining. Only Arizona has a losing record and we have a 5-4 record against them this year. With 45 games remaining even if we split the remaining road games (11-11), Rox would have to win 18 of the remaining 23 home games just to get to 90 wins and this is against division leading Atlanta (3 games), Los Angeles (6 games), division leading Cincinnati (4 games), Arizona (3 games), Philadelphia (1 game), division leading Padres (3 games), and Wild Card leading Giants (3 games). San Diego is projected to win 96 games while San Fran is projected at 91. Miracle runs have been made before but Rox would have to go 30 - 15 just to tie San Fran for the Wild Card and Rox schedule down the stretch is brutal. If trends go like they have then the even number years stink for the Rox and they play well in the odd years so here is to 2011!

Sixth Inning
With 108 games in the books, we have completed the 6th 18 game stretch. This stretch was ugly including the 2-9 road trip. Offensive numbers were skewed in that Rox scored 17 at home against the Cubs during one game. When Herrera is your clutch hitter for the stretch you have to know your offense didn't do a whole lot!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Rox Talk - Week 17

The Week That Was
A 4-3 week against the Pirates and Cubs. The Rox currently stand at 55-50. Seven games back from division leading San Diego in third place and five and half games behind in the Wild Card chase. Currently 35-19 at home and 20-31 on the road, the Rox have outscored its opponents 509-465 (expected wins is 57 versus historical wins at 49). On pace for 85 wins with 785 runs scored and 717 runs against. Playoff indicator (Runs scored/Runs Against ratio) is 1.09 (>1.16 indicates high playoff potential).

The hangover from the dismal road trip held its grip for the first two games at home this past week. Losing two to the road awful Pirates didn't help matters but Rox got healthy against the Cubs. Wacky series with the Cubs. On Friday night, the Rox scored 12 runs in the 8th, hitting 11 consecutive hits and turning a 5-2 nail biter to a 17-2 laugher. Then on Saturday after giving up the lead in the 8th, CarGo comes in and hits a monster shot in the right field upper deck (only 29th time it has happened) to lift the Rox to a win and becoming the 6th Rox to hit for a cycle (Note: Tulo did the same thing to the Cubs last year!). So with the trade deadline pass the Rox have two months to get it together and make a run. It won't be easy as the Rox sit 3rd in the division and are behind two other teams in the Wild Card.

Trade Deadline
Another deadline and the Rox management once again surveyed the market and decided that standing pat was the right thing to do? Kizla, which I must admit that I am frightened that I agree with him so much lately, finds that the Colorado baseball fans don't hold Rox management to the same set of standards as they do with the rest of the Colorado sports scene. While I agree that Rox could use some constructive criticism at times I do think they made the right decision not trading the farm for a rental player. While the rest of the division were making deals, Rox found themselves once again looking in the window wishing they could be part of the deal making. Ultimately though there just wasn't enough out there (really don't think Dunn was the answer) and with next years questions especially with Helton; created a situation where the Rox just couldn't deal.

Rumors had the Rox trying to deal Cook and Hawpe, two players who have become high priced old men. Baseball can be cruel game when your talents no longer match your salary which tends to happen when you reach your late 20s and talent has passed you by. Cook, Rox all time win leaders, is the second highest paid Rox and has only 4 wins. Of course the highest paid Rox is trying to find his legs in Cheyenne and with real doubts, the Rox couldn't release Hawpe, needing a younger 1B next year possibly.

As the graph of total bases shows above, the Rox really lag with big bats in the middle of the lineup (hmmm CarGo, Helton, Hawpe anyone?). It would have been nice to find something but I really don't think there was much out there. Rox offense at times has shown some real potential. Unfortunately a 2-9 road trip with an anemic offense is the counter to this argument. With that said what can we expect with 57 games remaining? Or will the apathy continue to reign in the Mile High baseball world?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Rox Talk - Week 16

The Week That Was
A 1-6 week against the Marlins and Phillies. The Rox currently stand at 51-47. Seven and half games back from division leading San Diego in fourth place. Currently 31-16 at home and 20-31 on the road, the Rox have outscored its opponents 461-433 (expected wins is 52 versus historical wins at 46). On pace for 84 wins with 762 runs scored and 716 runs against. Playoff indicator (Runs scored/Runs Against ratio) is 1.06 (>1.16 indicates high playoff potential).

And that my friends is the season. It is time to face facts that with this disastrous road trip the Rox are no longer in contention. With 64 games remaining, seven and half games out, three teams ahead in the standings it would require the Rox to go 39 - 25 down the stretch to get to 90 wins. MLB playoff odds stand at 7.1 which is the lowest all season. The simple fact is that we are running out of games and Padres aren't making it any easier. Padres at 58 - 39 only have to go 32 - 33 to win 90. Meanwhile Rox are only 4.5 out in the Wild Card but again being 4th in our own division it makes it tough to leap frog all of these teams.

Because of this I think the management really needs to build for next year instead. Time to rid the team of Hawpe, Iannetta, and maybe Rodgers to bring in a some more offense. See below for some information. Rox need to realize that good teams consistency win and that winning teams don't just go on 20 games wins to squeak into the playoffs. Rox need to be consistent winners. Nose dives like this last road trip just show how much the Rox really lack that playoff drive. Sure the Rox are a good team but they just seem to be lacking something...

Winning Percentage versus Offense Prowess
It would seem that the pundits are claiming what the Rox are missing is some offense power. It has been highlighted that hitting with runner's in scoring position has been dismal. Well what does the data show? The figure below shows home runs by teams versus their winning percentage. The darker blots are the division leading teams and the purple dot is the Rox.

Not a lot of correlation between winning and hitting homers. The next figure shows slugging percentage versus winning percentage. Data shows a bit better correlation. From this figure it would suggest the Rox are slugging fine. Perhaps some more pop but Rox aren't that far off.

And finally the final figure shows how often baserunners score. While this is not specifically batting average with runner's in scoring position it does show how teams bat when there is a runner on base. From the figure below it would seem that teams that score runner tend to win more...duh! Either way Rox don't seem to be in that bad of position. They are least in the top half. At 0.146 (351 runs scored with 2388 at bats with runner's on base), Rox are above the league average of 0.143.
So either way I don't think the Rox aren't winning because they can't drive runs in. More important is that they aren't scoring when it counts...a study for a later day...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Rox Talk - Week 15

The Week That Was
A 1-2 week against the Reds. The Rox currently stand at 50-41. Four games back from division leading San Diego in second place. Currently 31-16 at home and 19-25 on the road, the Rox have outscored its opponents 434-396 (expected wins is 49 versus historical wins at 42). On pace for 89wins with 773 runs scored and 705 runs against. Playoff indicator (Runs scored/Runs Against ratio) is 1.10 (>1.16 indicates high playoff potential).

With 90 games in the books, we have completed the 5th 18 game stretch. This stretch we really won some games we didn't deserve especially against St Louis. We should have only one eight but with these wins are record is more in line with expected W/L record. Rox certainly scored a lot of runs this stretch but also gave up a lot. Starting pitching kind back to earth yet the bullpen kept the team in there allowing the offense to win a few. Fowler came back with a vengeance, guess he didn't like Colorado Springs all that much (me neither!).

All Star Game and Second Half Start
Relatively quiet All Star game. The Year of the Pitcher continues. Jimenez make the Rox look good going two innings. Nothing flashy just a well pitched two innings. The National League went on to win after McCann's double plated the winning runs. Interesting side note was that many believe McCann wasn't deserving of an All Star nod (and thus wins the MVP award). So if things had played out, it could have been Olivo in there and then what would have happened? Hopefully the same result which still would have brought the National League home field advantage. So with Jimenez starting the All Star game, I wondered how many pitchers started an All Star game and then went on to start Game 1 of the World Series. Quite a few actually as the table below shows. The last was 1998 with David Wells. Also in 1939 both All Star pitchers wound up pitching Game One of the Series.

With 74 games remaining what needs to happen for the Rox to make the playoffs?

1) Jimenez and Hammel need to continue pitching lights out. De La Rosa needs to get back into the grove and Cook or Francis need to find some innings.
2) Consistent bullpen with Betancourt and Street closing down the 8th and 9th inning.
3) Healthy Tulo return
4) Line up consistency
5) Helton riding the bench and whoever at first gaining some production

Right now I think the team is borderline playoff material. They have shown some instances of being a good team but inconsistency between the pieces (one day good pitching, no hitting, one day hitting but bad bullpen...) has kept this team from gaining on the Padres. I think at this point we can safely say the wheels aren't going to fall off the Padres so Rox need to start winning, a lot! No Wild Card, let's be greedy and win the West!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Alternative Universe Standing 2010

At the All Star Break you can see how the team's stack up in my alternate universe.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Rox Talk - Week 14

The Week That Was
A 5-1 week against the Cardinals and Padres. The Rox currently stand at 49-39. Two games back from division leading San Diego in second place. Currently 31-16 at home and 18-23 on the road, the Rox have outscored its opponents 430-385 (expected wins is 48 versus historical wins at 41). On pace for 90 wins with 792 runs scored and 709 runs against. Playoff indicator (Runs scored/Runs Against ratio) is 1.12 (>1.16 indicates high playoff potential).

At the All Star Break, the Rox sit at 49 - 39. A nice July run has put the Rox right on the heels of Padres for the division lead. Had it not been for a late inning bullpen meltdown, the Rox could have been tied with the Padres for the lead at 50 wins. As a fan this season, it has been a bit maddening. We have seen so many individual highlights but we have yet to see the team breakout and just hit and pitch. This latest winning streak has seen the offense breakout of its funk and yet the pitching has disintegrated.

Since Game 67 (35-32), the Rox have seen the projected runs allowed grow from 619 to 709 in 21 games. In that same stretch runs scored has only gone from 730 to 792. The bullpen is obviously tired. This time last year they had pitched only 257.2 innings while this year they have gone 275.1 innings. With Morales and Corpas already in the doghouse, Daley injured, Belisle seeing a ton of innings already, it might make sense for O'Dowd to find that seventh inning specialist from the American League to come in and give some late inning relief. Again I think it will be a quiet trade deadline for our Rox as we really don't have a real deficiency assuming Tulo can come back sooner than later. This will allow Barmes to slink back to second. With de la Rosa back in the fold the Rox are basically getting a new starter. All in all I think what we see on the field now will take us to the playoffs.

Short post this week (All Star Writing Break) and just a quick shutout to Ubaldo Jimenez and Troy Tulowitzki for their All Star nods. Plus for all those Pirate fans out there who think their team will never be good again well just think a Colorado pitcher is starting in the All Star Game!If that can happen anything in baseball can happen! What an achievement. Let's hope U-Ball wows like his hero Pedro...

Interesting to note the offensive all stars haven't done much while pitching has done pretty well. An instance that pitching does beat hitting?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Rox Talk - Week 13

The Week That Was
A 5-2 week against the Padres and Giants. The Rox currently stand at 44-38. Five games back from division leading San Diego in third place. Currently 26-15 at home and 18-23 on the road, the Rox have outscored its opponents 385-348 (expected wins is 45 versus historical wins at 38). On pace for 87 wins with 761 runs scored and 688 runs against. Playoff indicator (Runs scored/Runs Against ratio) is 1.11 (>1.16 indicates high playoff potential).

At the half way point, the Rox sat at 43 - 38. Not a bad place to be but sitting in third place makes it a long road to climb. Thing you have to love about baseball is the unpredictably. I mean I will be honest I didn't even bother thinking about the Padres during the preseason. No one gave them any love and yet here they sit, sixteen games above .500. An amazing first half but can it continue? I am going to say yes because you don't play that kind of ball and just disappear. Will 86 wins make it?

Half Way Point
Back in March I provided an overview of 2010 projections comparing Bill James, Marcels, and CHONE. I added ZiPS later. Each of these projections provided at bats, plate appearances, run scored and wOBA for each hitter and innings pitched, runs allowed, and FIP for each pitcher. Taking each of these data points and averaging them I put together a projection for a Rox projected lineup. Since we passed the halfway game mark, we are approximately halfway through the season so how do the projections stack up to the real data (i.e. CarGo has scored 49 runs this year so far so he is projected to score 98).

The solid bar represents the average of the four projections and the red line is the 1st quarter pace while the blue line is the halfway pace. So above represents that CarGo is on pace for about 30 more runs then what the average projection had him before the start of the season. Obviously Hawpe's injury limited his time so his numbers are low and with Ianetta stuck in AAA he isn't scoring a lot of runs in the big leagues. Interesting to see Tulo still above his projection even though he is injured and all the Barmes haters can shut up and take notice that he has been offensively playing a lot better. The projections don't do the bench players much justice because they assume they will get a lot more starts and thus more runs. Based on this analysis the team is on pace to score 791 runs.
In addition to the hitters the above graph shows the runs allowed for the pitchers. With the pitching flux this year it is hard to get a real feel for what this staff is capable of. U-Ball continues to be amazing albeit more earth like. Hammel is doing well but Francis seems to be hitting a wall after a year off from pitching. Relief pitching seems to be settling in especially with Street back. Team is on pace to only allow 658 runs which would be a new team record. We shall see...

Based on projections the team is headed for about 94 wins but with other stats (WAR and wOBA/FIP) it would seem the Rox are only headed for about 83 wins. Little low to ensure a Wild Card or Division Title but still in the hunt!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Rox Talk - Week 12

The Week That Was
A 3-3 week against the Red Sox and Angels. The Rox currently stand at 39-36. Six games back from division leading San Diego in fourth place. Currently 23-14 at home and 16-22 on the road, the Rox have outscored its opponents 341-306 (expected wins is 42 versus historical wins at 35). On pace for 84 wins with 737 runs scored and 661 runs against. Playoff indicator (Runs scored/Runs Against ratio) is 1.11 (>1.16 indicates high playoff potential).

At the almost half way point I think we can safely say that if the Rox don't sweep the series in San Diego this upcoming week their season is done. Currently six games behind the Padres, any hope to getting back into the race would be heavily dependent on the Rox taking three games and getting to within three. Three losses and we would be nine out. With a series then at home against the Giants followed by St Louis and finishing up with San Diego before the All Star break these 13 games are the season. The real sad part in all of this is that pitching as been masterful (go figure the staff has allowed 153 runs both at home and away). Perhaps when this season is over we will look back and consider this to be the greatest set of hurlers in Rox history. Too bad the offense decided to take a year off (see below). Hate to dismantle the team but perhaps it is time to let some members of this team go and try to get some future power in return.

Projected Runs Score
Woody Paige was on the mark last week in his article about the total lack of offense this team has produced. The team has been highly deficient in the power department. With a team full of potential big bats the lack of production is just too great to overlook anymore. With the team, management, and owners still believing that we just haven't gotten hot yet mentality I see this season becoming very much like 2008. Good teams can't wait to go on long winning streaks. They make up for this by taking 2 of 3 or 3 of 4 out of every series. These Rox have had brilliant moments but they fail to capitalize on bad teams. Their pitching continues to keep them afloat but having the 3rd most strikeouts in NL behind Arizona and Florida would suggest that "hot" is a relative term and that we might get "warm" which could mean a Wild Card run but most likely a .500 finish.

As mentioned above the Rox are on pace to score 737 runs. This value is simply the current runs scored (341) times number of expected games played in a season (162) divided by the number of games played (75). The question then is how closely will the Rox come to this number at the end of the year? If you take the previous 17 years (take out '94 and '95 seasons since they did not play a full schedule) and calculate the number of projected runs scored through the season by game number and then subtract this by the actual run score value you get a number of runs difference. So for instance in 2009, the Rox after Game 10 were on pace to score 842 runs. In actuality they scored 805 in 2009 so the difference was minus 37 runs after ten games. In the other years the values at Game 10 ranged from more than 390 above actual to 261 below actual valve. If you average these differences for all the years at Game 10, you end up with an average of 19 runs above average. This average is the blue line below.

The blue indicates that early in the season, though about 36 games the average difference between actual and projected is negative or in other words the runs score pace is higher than what becomes average. From that point it fluctuates but settles in. The error bar lines on the graph is the standard deviation from the blue point valve. Obviously early in the season when you score 10 runs or 0 runs it can cause your projection to fluctuate to the extremes but then as the season settles in your difference becomes less. Either way the data would suggest that Rox 737 projected runs is here to stay. Knowing that our run score environment is in this range it would mean if we want to be a playoff team our allowed runs need to be in the 635 range. So if our offense doesn't start to pick up our pitching as to get stingier. Good luck with that!

This team has shown instances of being the juggernaut it was suppose to be but with injuries and the continuous shuffling of the batting order it would suggest that realistically this team isn't going to wake from its offensive slumber. Not to be negative but it would seem a mini rebuilding scenario is a likely path forward for 2010. Look at the D-backs, a similar team with a potent future that never lived up to expectations. Do the Rox really want to be in last place next year? Couple of arm injuries and that is where we will be!

And Finally
Check out my article at Fangraphs.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Rox Talk - Week 11

The Week That Was
A 3-3 week against the Twins and Brewers. The Rox currently stand at 36-33. Four games back from division leading San Diego in fourth place. Currently 21-13 at home and 15-20 on the road, the Rox have outscored its opponents 311-269 (expected wins is 39 versus historical wins at 32). On pace for 85 wins with 730 runs scored and 632 runs against. Playoff indicator (Runs scored/Runs Against ratio) is 1.16 (>1.16 indicates high playoff potential).

The Rox win some, lose some. They just seem to be oscillating between a couple game. Last year at this time the Rox couldn't lose. Two years ago they couldn't win and so this year we seem to be in between. Looking at the schedule I suddenly see a really long stretch ahead for the Rox unless they suddenly find their offense. Three with Boston, three with Angels, three with Padres, four with the Giants, three with St Louis, and finally three with the Padres before the All Star break - that is just an insane schedule. If Rox make it to the All Star break with any sort of winning record then they will definitely be in the mix in September.

Ubaldo Jimenez - Once in a Lifetime Season?

If you had told this Colorado Rockies fan ten years ago that our team would have a pitcher who could possibly start the All Star game and then possibly win a Cy Young, then this fan would either say you were crazy or believed the Rockies had moved to another city. I don’t pretend that our team is the center of the baseball world rather I know the Colorado Rockies are stuck in no man’s land. We are neither East Coast nor West Coast. Our team is rarely seen and our players simply don’t get the respect they deserve due to the Nintendo Ball that was played here in the 90s. Why do I bother with such an introduction?

Well I think this explains the case of Ubaldo Jimenez. On April 17, Jimenez became the first player in franchise history to throw a no-hitter. Jimenez’s story was a feel good moment for the Colorado Rockies. Jimenez is a nice kid, with a fast ball like no other, pitching for a team where pitchers go to die. The media gave him his due and moved on to Oakland’s Dallas Braden. But this was only the beginning and Jimenez has since then rattled off ten more wins. At 13-1, he has done something only two other pitchers can claim to have done in MLB history. Sometimes this doesn’t fit well with the baseball media establishment. This was supposed to be the year Roy Halladay was going to sweep into the NL and blow batter’s away. Baseball although sometimes works in mysterious ways and Colorado should definitely not have a pitcher that can be so adverse to runs (only 13 so far). So what tends to happen? Articles start to sprout up touting the statistical mumbo jumbo that Jimenez is simply lucky, that it is all a smokescreen, and that eventually the stats will catch up and he will be revealed as an imposter. That is the funny thing about stats, when the outlier shows up, the men behind the numbers rationalize away the beauty of baseball, and either discount the player or the situation. The all telling models have become so complex that these outliers just shouldn’t exist. This is in no way a complaint about the new generation of stats. I love them. I love that the history of baseball is the statistical record. What I don’t like is when stats are used to manipulate the reader into dismissing great performances. What Jimenez has done to start 2010 has been simply amazing. For comparison’s stake let’s look at how Jimenez’s numbers compared to 1968 Gibson’s season and 1986 Clemens’ season. The first graph shows BABIP

Data would suggest that Jimenez was on par with the big boys at least through 10 games. Since then it would appear Jimenez is trending back to the mean. Should be interesting to see where Ubaldo goes from here. He did have that rough start in the rain and during the next stretch of games against the leagues best ought to determine whether this is something to remember. I just want to see 20 wins! But why be a downer let's focus on the goo things

His numbers - Jimenez is 13 -1. He has pitched 101.1 innings. He has allowed 65 hits and 13 runs. He has struck out 88 and allowed 36 walks. He has averaged 7.2 innings an outing and has an average game score of 69. Batters are hitting 0.189 against him. Of the 385 batters he has faced only 56 have gotten to a full count. He has faced 75 batters with runners in scoring position and they are batting 0.147. The telling stat for the home team is that he has won 13 of the 36 Rockies victories and ten of wins have come after Rockies losses. Regardless of any stat a pitcher’s job is to put his team in the position to win. How the pitcher gets there is some crafty pitching, some luck, and timely hitting by your side. Baseball is a long season and time will tell whether these numbers will hold up. I think Jimenez will probably hit a rough patch in July and August. The team behind him is in disarray. Scoring runs has been the Rockies Achilles heel not to mention an on and off again bullpen. His innings pitched has raised a few eyebrows but I also think that when he is on the mound the players behind him step up. In an unmeasurable stat I do think a single player’s performance can bring out the best in his team mates so who knows what might happen. Heralding a particular player at this point in the season as the greatest is a bit premature. At this point though I know I would take Jimenez as my starter is I needed to win one game.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Rox Talk - Week 10

The Week That Was
A 4-3 week against the Astros and Blue Jays. The Rox currently stand at 33-30. Four games back from division leading San Diego in fourth place. Currently 19-12 at home and 14-18 on the road, the Rox have outscored its opponents 291-244 (expected wins is 37 versus historical wins at 29). On pace for 85 wins with 748 runs scored and 627 runs against. Playoff indicator (Runs scored/Runs Against ratio) is 1.19 (>1.16 indicates high playoff potential).

Well the interleague record continues to be awesome but we lose 3 of 4 to the worst team in the NL...go figure. That is baseball. Tracy keeps his streak alive...that is winning home stands. Now if we could only do that on the road. Wacky Denver weather this years continues to play havoc with us fans. I am sure the nightmare conditions would have been called earlier on Friday night if it hadn't been an interleague game. Have to feel sorry for Ubaldo Jimenez and giving up a couple of runs especially with a rainy night and wet ball. Either way it was still impressive that he got win number 12 under those conditions. When this season is over it will be interesting to see if the year of the pitcher survived for 162 games or if the first third of the year was a fluke. Will Jimenez be the symbol of the season like Bob Gibson's stellar season in 1968? Let's hope they don't decide to drop the mound another 5 inches.

Win Probability Added
I love win probability added. I discovered the stat back when I read Alan Schwarz's "The Numbers Game" I have been studying it ever since. It is a pretty esoteric stat but to me it boils the game down to batter vs hitter vs historical probability. Sure the pundits will say that WPA is meaningless that it doesn't truly present what a player can or statistically predict but to me it represents the beauty of baseball. While all events in a game are random, the underlying probability suggests that most baseball outcomes are very predictable, but every once in a while something magical happens...a hitter gets that base hit or a pitcher gets that strikeout. The big stats just sort of get muddled because at the end of season someone has 40 home runs but do you remember any of those or do you remember that ninth inning dinger that sent you home happy?

Last week the big news with the Rox was the inability for the offense to hit with Runner's in Scoring Position. Data would also suggest the Rox aren't scoring a lot of runs after the fifth inning (203 runs before the fifth versus 84 after the fifth through the ninth, compare this to 2009 when 433 vs 361 runs). Is our offense this maligned?

Another way to look at it is through the lens of WPA. Two components (offense vs pitching/defense) contribute to your chances of winning. Winning teams components equal 0.5 and losing team components equal -0.5. Baseball Reference conviently tracks these components so you can look at which component contributed the most to the Rox win. Of the 63 games played in 2010, the pitching component has been greater than the offense component 37 times. Of the 33 wins the pitching component has been greater than the offense 21 times. So in the bulk of the Rox wins the pitching has been the reason. In the 30 losses though, the components breaks out 14 vs 16 in pitching and offense (the component contributing the least to the effort) which at least suggests to me that we can't blame the hitting on everything! So the figure below shows each of the Rox game plotting the hitter and pitching WPA per game. Top data points in purple are the wins and bottom points in grey are the losses. Red dots indicate the .25 mark which would suggest an equal effort on the part of the offense and the pitching/defense.

Guess the thing that jumps out to me first is the fact that we haven't won a game without a positive pitching WPA. Although to have this happen you'd probably have to have a ninth inning meltdown by the staff followed by a two out walk off homer...Rox haven't had too many of those. It also seems the wins are more tightly grouped versus the losses. Will have to revisit this after the end of the season. Below is just another way of looking at the data plotting individual pitching or offense WPA with wins.

NY Times Keeping Score
Beautiful graph by NY the simplicity of it.