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!