Monday, February 28, 2011

Rox Talk - April Showers?

Quick Start?
Last week in passing, I mentioned the Rox hope in getting a quicker start this year versus past Aprils. One reason for these slow starts was possibly due to the fact that our veterans never traveled to the Phoenix area and veterans from other teams rarely traveled to Tuscon so in essence our team was rarely ready for MLB pitching. Another possible reason is that in years past the Rox have been saddled with more difficult teams out of the gate and that our late season surges were more due to the fact that we got the weaker teams down the stretch. All valid points but what do the numbers say?

First off how does one grade your upcoming schedule? Before the season you can look at last year's records and determine a predicted strength of schedule. Then of course you can look after the season is complete and determine how weak or strong your actual schedule was.

For instance in 2011, the Rox will play Arizona (3), LA (2), at Pittsburgh (4), at NY (4), Chicago (3), Giants (3), at Florida (3), at Chicago (3), and Pittsburgh (2). 27 games in all with 13 at home and 14 on the road. In 2010 these teams wins were 65, 80, 57, 79, 75, 92, and 80. So if these teams neither improved or got worse in 2011 the Rox would have one series in April against a winning team. If you multiply number games we have against each opponent and take a weighted average then the composite win total of our April opponents is 73.3 in 2011. In 2010 the preseason composite win was 72.0, 2009 82.8 wins, and 2008 82.8 wins. As mentioned above the preseason composite was based on the previous year's win totals, what about composite wins based on final wins for that year? In 2010 78.9 wins, 2009 83.0 wins, and 2008 80.7 wins.

April Opponents - 2011 - 2010 - 2009 - 2008
Preseason 73.3 - 72.0 - 82.8 - 82.8
Postseason - 78.9 - 83.0 - 80.7

What does it really mean? Well in 2008 Rox went 11-17, 2009 8-12, and 2010 11-12. Historically they are 178-209 in April 94-97 at home and 84-112 on the road. In 2008 and 2009, Rox seemed to play a tougher April and in 2010 when the schedule looked easier ended up being more difficult after the season was played out. So if the 73.3 number holds up I would expect the Rox to have a winning April, but if Pittsburgh, under new management from a familiar face, decides to fire his team up early against his old team then 6 of those games won't be so easy. Throw in the fact that Rox always play awful in NY (22-51) and Florida (28-47). And three games in Chicago in April are never easy, remember last year's freeze game in the Windy City? Mix all of this together and suddenly I am not liking the look of our April opponents. But then again that is why we play the games...anyone looking forward to seeing the Giants? I am!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Rox Talk - Better to Score or Prevent?

More Important to Score Runs or Prevent Runs?
In this article and the linked one internal to the article indicates that limiting your opponent's runs is more conducive to winning. They scored an anemic 697 runs (4.3 a game) but when you only allow 583 runs to be scored well that is one way to win 92 games!

So what does the data from 2000 - 2010 show. Graph below shows number of wins versus runs allowed (against). Somewhat linear although not a true correlation at a R2 of 0.47. Compare this to the second graph below which is wins versus runs scored and you can see that there is a bit more correlation with pitching then hitting (R2 of 0.47 versus 0.38). So nothing definitive but seemingly holding your opponent to less runs is more significant then beating your opponent with your stick.
Outliers Dodgers only allowed 556 (85 wins, 2003), Atlanta 565 (101 wins, 2002), San Diego 581 (90 wins, 2010), San Francisco 583 (92 wins, 2010), and Houston 609 (89 wins, 2005). Hard to believe that two of these was last year all in the NL West. Anyone want to debate the merits of pitching in the NL West? Of those five teams three made the playoffs, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Houston. Outliers White Sox 978 runs (95 wins, 2000), Yankees 968 runs (94 wins, 2007), Rox 968 runs (82 wins, 2000), Boston 961 runs (95 wins, 2003), and Indians 950 runs (90 wins, 2000). Of these only the White Sox, Yankees, and Boston made the playoffs.

The graph below shows the 330 teams from 2000 to 2010 runs scored versus runs against. The red are the playoff teams. Appears there is a line of demarcation...

Rox Spring Training Thoughts
Will the Rox be better in April since veterans will be seeing pitching versus previous years when teams didn't travel to Tuscon? Hope so...

Early 2011 over/unders have Rox at 87.5 (Giants at 88.5). I like 88.

Walk is a hit... and Helton would have...3014 hits (instead of 2236).

It's the Ballpark stupid....

Monday, February 14, 2011

Rox Talk - Pujols

Pujols Effect
Perhaps it is difficult to enjoy greatness when it is right there. Perhaps only when a player moves beyond the game does the appreciation set in? When the complete body of work is there for the dissection? Baseball has such a stat consciousness about it that when a player starts to put up eye popping numbers we have trouble relating because up to this point the greater players were baseball cards and black and white video shots.

Ten years into his career Pujols is with some of the greatest. Perhaps we don't want to be fooled or led on so we hold our breath and wait. This week it appears the Cardinal management is prepared to wait. There are a lot of factors involved and I don't begrudge a player for wanting the most $. The most talented should get the biggest deal unfortunately the club who has the right to negogiate has chosen to lowball the offer. Should we be offended by this?

I say no. Where will the crazy end? Can you look anyone in the eye and say "yeah at 38 - 42 year's old your still going to be worth $120 million!" and not get a laugh? Why do the Cardinals need to pay for past performance? Yeah so he was a bargain for the first couple of years but the Cards made a gamble and it paid off, and how much money has the Cardinals and any other team for that matter thrown away on players who were can't miss? So the Cardinals got lucky, do they know have to be stupid and pay a player so much that they prevent themselves from putting any players around him? Last time I checked it took 25 decent players to win...

And finally what can be said about Pujols numbers over the last 10 years? The NL Central hasn't exactly had dominating teams over the last couple of years. With perennial cellar dweller Pittsburgh, the rebuilding of Reds, Brewers, and Astros, and then of course the Cubs, one can't say that Pujols was facing the best of the best. Throw in the fact that St Louis gets to face Royals every year as their natural rival and Pujols gets a good dose of AAA/AAAA pitching.

Also he has played majority of games against the worse fifteen teams over the last decade (based on record) and he also gets to play in some hitter friendly parks (based on ESPN's ballpark analysis). Sure you can split hairs but even this back of the envelope analysis indicates that Pujols has been a monster! Worth $30 million a year? Maybe for the next five years but after that...NO (see Jeter...see can't turn the clock back, your age will get you!)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Rox Talk - 2011 Projections

2011 Season Projections
With Spring Training around the corner, most of the projections have been released. Using projections from James, RotoBall, Marcel, USA Today Fantasy Magazine, and ZiPS I came up with an average runs scored and then standard deviation for these five sources. I also have compared this with the fans projections from FanGraphs (which has most of these projections, unfortunately PECOTA is tucked behind a pay site which is too bad!). First off let's look at the pitchers.
Probably the harder to project because of injury and inconsistency from year in and year out. In the graph below the blue is last year, the red is the fans guess, and yellow is the average of the projections with standard deviation bar. I have included Daley although it would seem that Morales has the inside the track, assuming he has regained his ability to pitch! Looks like Hammel and Cook both should bounce back years. Chacin looks to be comparable although as hitters start to see him more often some adjustments will have to made. De la Rosa can remain healthy and consistent I will be happy. He simply needs to keep the team in games and throw some innings. U-Ball is the wild card to me. He his coming off a high pitch season. He is young and while pitchers aren't being coddled like they used to be I am keeping my fingers crossed that he doesn't get hurt. It would be devastating for the team to lose their number one. Any of the other four I think we could patch things together with Paulino and Rogers but there is no replacing the Chief.
Taking the estimates from the five projections and normalizing them to a season (from 2002 - 2010, the rox have averaged 1438 innings pitched) we have a range of runs allowed between 540 and 711. The last two years Rox have allowed 715 and 717 runs to score. I can live with 711.

Now what about the offense. Experts would seem to agree that this is Fowler's and Stewart's year. Which I think is vital if the Rox expect to contend. Fans seem to think a lot about the Rox offense. Key I think is finding a productive number 2 and 5 hitters. I think the two spot might be a great spot for Helton (perhaps even Herrera). He takes a lot pitches, he can wear pitchers down, and he generally has had a decent OBP. With Fowler and Helton on the basepaths we can then let CarGo and Tulo bring them home. Ultimately we will need someone behind Tulo, so Tulo gets something hit and that is why Stewart having a break out year is key (this could also be Lopez's role if he can find his stroke from 2009). Ultimately Tracy has a lot in the dug out and I think it will be challenging to find a lineup that is consistent and works.
As with the pitchers the range of best case to worst case is 881 to 613. During the World Series run the Rox had scored 860 during the regular season. If things click I think the 800s are logical.

So in the end if the Rox can score 800 and only give up 711 then we are looking at a 90 win season. For most of the year last year they were on pace for 88 wins and would have gotten there had they not tanked in the last 15 games. Now of course some other experts would have us believe the Rox are on pace to win anothe 83-84 games and scoring only 758 runs, about 12 runs less than last year. Being an optimist and assuming break out years from Fowler, Stewart, and a basic no thrills season from Iannetta, I think the Rox are better than that. Data is below.