Monday, January 31, 2011

Rox Talk - Optimal Lineup

Woody Paige writes a thoughtful article on the upcoming season. The Rox brain trust has certainly shaken things up this Winter. As a fan, I can't really find anything at fault with the moves they have made. Problem is, all this is for nothing if the team can't win when it counts. Tracy now has a lot of pieces and parts. How is he going to mix and match and put out a winning team each day. Paige indicates a left and right pitching lineup. Using Baseball Musings lineup analysis this is what we got for right handed pitchers:
The numbers above are based on ZiPS projections. See next week on projections but a lineup above would average about 4.7 - 4.8 runs per game or about 778 runs (they had 770 last year).

What about left handed pitchers? Not a huge difference and it should be noted that the Rox faced 100 righties last year (and thus 62 lefties).
I don't envy Tracy and his matching up. My guess is he will find the hot lineup and go with it. Day games will have Helton taking the day and my guess is if Helton gets off to a rough start he will find himself riding the bench because this team is built for the now. They can't afford to be kind to the old guard...they have too much riding on the now!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Rox Talk - WARing Rox

World According to WAR
WAR is all the rage and I'm sure something else will take its place but for now the baseball world is WAR. So now that FanGraphs (fWAR) and BaseballReference (rWAR) both have their dueling data, I thought I would look at the Rox over the years. First plot is fWAR versus rWAR. This includes all Rox batters from 1993 - 2010 who had at least 60 plate appearances (342 players).
Pretty consistent as you would expect as the really only basic difference between the two WAR is the fielding.

Fielding (!) what difference can that make well look at the second graph. This one plots the fielding component of fWAR with fWAR. And what about those two outliers way out to the left? That would be the stellar fielding seasons of Brad Hawpe (2008) and Dante Bichette (1999). It should be noted that all starting pitchers have a fielding component of 0 and by the way only three pitchers have a positive batting WAR (Hampton (2) and Jennings (1)).
So what about some other basic things about WAR. Well for one thing there is pretty good correlation between scoring runs and having a good WAR. No brainer there but it I think it shows that ultimately what wins ball games is scoring runs and those that score mean more to a team. Highest runs scorer of all time? That would be 1997's Larry Walker with 143 runs, followed by 1996 Ellis Burks (142) and Todd Helton rounds out the next 3 spots with his 2000, 2003, and 2001 season campaigns (138, 135, 132). And what about those outliers...that would be Neifi Perez in 1999 who scored 108 runs but had a fWAR of -0.9 and of course Dante again with his 104 runs and whooping -1.8 fWAR.

OK so high fWAR trends fairly well with runs scored. Guess what, another no brainer, would suggest the more plate appearances lead to more runs (!) Possibly a "Duh" but think about it...the underlying key of helping your team is getting to the could be that easy! Of course if you look at the Rox top ten list in plate appearances of all time and you find one Neifi Perez who has 3 of the top 5 spots and his combined WAR those years was -0.5 so maybe there is something more than just getting to the plate ; ) Of course the other seven have an average WAR of 6.1. Average fWAR for 600 plate appearances or more is 3.4 with a standard deviation of 2.7. Of course this is fairly rare as only 50 players have achieved this many plate appearances in a season. And by the way, Rox most successful season? - 2007 they had 5 players with 600 plate appearances...also probably shows how injuries can kill a season and steal plate appearances...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Rox Talk - Projections

With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report on February 14, 2011 (that is only 28 days!), the statistical projections have started to appear. Fangraphs usually include these predictions on their player pages. Last year I analyzed James, Marcels, ZiPs, Chone, as well as the Fans. I then averaged the Big Four (excluded the Fans) and came up with an average runs scored or runs allowed for the expected Rox lineup.

In addition I tracked each quarter of the season to determine how these projections held true. The graph below is for the hitters. The white bar is the average projection, the red line is the first 40 games final projection, followed by the blue line which indicates projection through 81 games, followed by the green line indicating projections through 120 games, and then finally the black bar which is the final season total for that hitter. The graph below is the same setup but for pitchers.

Points of Interest:
- CarGo had a massive season and just kept going. His preseason projection had him scoring a measly 68 run
- Dex had a slow down in the second quarter due to his demotion to the Minors. He came back with a vengeance
- Rox can't afford to have another sub par year from their first baseman
- Please Tulo stay uninjured...what a season it could have been!
- Hawpe got injured and was never the same...eventually traded. Rox missed those runs
- Smith and Stewart need to excel, they certainly underperformed in 2010
- Iannetta needs to get out of the doghouse and make some noise, what is it with Rox catchers in waiting...they never breakout
- Thank god for Olivo
- Barmes and Spilly...meh
- Mora and Giambi show that projections for bench guys and off day players just don't work.
- Cook started slow, as usual, and sort of found his way...I hate seeing players age
- U-Ball nothing to say but man he was awesome especially early on
- Francis was hurt out of Spring Training
- De la Rosa hurt early in the season
- Hammel has shown such brilliance followed by crap...break out year in 2011 would be welcomed
- Boy they can project relievers of course the small sample size probably is the reason

Overall hard to put much weight in projections...sure it might make you sleep better in March but come October it really doesn't mean much!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Rox Talk - Just the Links Ma'am

Hall of Fame Vote
Congrats to the newly elected players and to Larry Walker who received 20.3% of the vote. Due to total, he will remain on the ballot for 15 years. Unfortunately based on this chart and article, it is a long shot for him to make it. Although in the article it would suggest based on the players coming up it is unlikely Walker will be able to get the required votes. I might disagree with this assumption because a lot of the up and coming players are seemingly tied to steroid use and thus it might work in Walker's favor? Hard to say but next year Vinny gets on the ballot...Blake Street Bomber reunion...too bad the Big Cat got knocked off last year.
Link Dump
Some 2010 in review...
The two headed monster that was the Rox
Early Rox 2011 prediction...82-87 wins...a fringe contender
At least they made the most of their one at bat!
Rox never were in the race but they made it interesting...

Monday, January 3, 2011

Rox Talk - Larry Walker

Larry Walker - A Mighty Rox
Another former Rox will get a chance for the Hall of Fame on Wednesday. Last year the Big Cat didn't get enough votes to stay on the ballot for another year. This year I think Walker will get a little more love and stick around. Next few years are going to be interesting as far as what the voters decide to do with big number guys that peaked during the Steroid Era. Any Rox candidate will therefore have a double whammy because of the pre-humidor Coors Field Effect. Will voters simply dismiss the numbers any Rox player created?
Having watched Walker play I don't think I truly understood how awesome he was. The things he could do with his bat. And he had a rocket for an arm in Right Field. I recently took a tour of Coors Field and while standing on the field the tour guide reminded me that the longest homer hit by a lefty was by Walker which landed in the walkway in the upper deck. Standing on the field that is a massive home run! In retrospect a player's daily grind can become common place especially when the game seems so easy for someone. His year in 1997 when he won the MVP he had a WAR of 9.0 with 143 runs, 208 hits, 46 doubles, 49 home runs, 130 RBIs, 33 stolen bases, and on base percentage of 0.452. That is just insane and finally in today's world of great athletes taking themselves too serious who could forget Walker's bat against Randy Johnson in the 1997 All Star Game when Walker showed up to the plate with his batting helmet backwards? Finally I will remember Walker for one of the few Cardinals to show up in the 2004 World Series. His one and only World Series and he was awesome.

Unfortunately, I think it is a long shot for the Canuck which is too bad because he was a heck of ball player. The great columnist Joe Posnanski says it best in this column and I think this sums it up, "Then he went to Coors, and in 1997 he hit .366 with 46 doubles and 49 homers. You know how many other players in baseball history have hit .350 or better with 45 doubles AND 45 homers in the same season? One. Lou Gehrig in 1927. It was pure lunacy" Ahhh Nintendo Ball at its greatest. In addition to Joe's account here are some pretty graphs (here and here). In the last couple of years the voters have been pretty stingy letting in a candidate here and there. With a lot of what I consider shoo ins coming to the ballot in the next few years a lot of candidates need to make it this year or be left out. Will this year be a water shed?