Monday, January 30, 2012

Rox Talk - Older Better?

A week ago I tweeted:

"Guess what this is 26, 36, 26, 27, 38, 33, 35, and 38? Age of our opening day lineup! Rox new strategy, out with youth in with experience"

Does experience matter?  With the signing of Scutaro, the blogosphere was abuzz with either what were the Red Sox doing or how was this going to help the Rox.  Run wise adding Scutaro to the mix doesn't do a whole lot as Rox are still are hampered by an unknown quality of just how many runs they might give up with their untested starters.  As to the hole that is second base?  Well we can now pencil in a proven defender which hopefully will prevent a few of those runs by our pitchers.  An interesting study would be does a solid defense aide a young pitching staff or does an older infield commit less errors?  I would think yes as pitchers wouldn't be afraid to be aggressive and get hitters to go after stuff.  To counter this O'Dowd has seemingly gone away from the ground ball pitcher so while he upgrades his infield defense he goes away from that on the mound?  Reminds me of a Robert Frost open, "Two roads diverge in a wood" and O'Dowd decided to take both!

How ever you stack it, I think Scutaro is a great pickup, mostly just for stability purposes.  Tracy has one less worry and the ease of creating a daily lineup should free is mind to create those late inning match ups.     Now back to the age thing.  What does it mean?  Graph below shows the average age for each Rox team since 1993.  The starting lineup wasn't the opening day line up per se but the a line up that was generally used throughout the season (frankly I don't know what algorithm is but for instance 2011 they have Ellis as the second baseman which we can agree on but he only played 70 games while Herrera had 104 games?).  Either way without going too berserk, I figured this was an easy place to start.  Average age is plotted from the left (blue dots) and team winning percentage plotted on right (yellow dots).

As you can see the 2012 projected line up is 3 years older than the average starting lineup over the Rox first 19 years of play (average not shown but is calculated at 29.3 years).  The next closest years are 2004 which was 1.6 years greater than average and 1997 which was 1.7 years greater.  For sentimental reasons the 1997 and 2004 teams consisted of:

2004 Player Age Games
C C. Johnson 32 109
1B T. Helton 30 154
2B A. Miles 27 134
SS R. Clayton 34 146
3B V. Castilla 36 148
LF M. Holliday 24 121
CF P. Wilson 29 58
RF J. Burnitz 35 150

1997 PlayerAgeGames
CK. Manwaring31104
1BA. Galarraga36154
2BE. Young30118
SSW. Weiss33121
3BV. Castilla29159
LFD. Bichette33151
CFQ. McCracken26147
RFL. Walker30153

And more importantly how did these two teams perform?  2004 team won 68 games (average 128 games played by each player) committed 89 errors which was good for 12th in the league and the 1997 team won 83 games (average 138 games played by each player) committed 111 errors and was again 12th in the league.  Let's hope the 2012 team is more like 1997 team which just kind of feels like our team this year versus the patchwork quilt that was the 2004 team...Yikes!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Rox Talk - Holding the Rope

Troy Renck, in his Sunday wrap up, had an interesting article about our rotation for the upcoming year.  He indicated that an ex-player suggested that a better way to evaluate our starting pitching is whether they could outlast their opponents.  Interesting concept and of course without any numbers I was curious whether it made any sense.  I looked at the last three years of data (2009 - 2011).  I compared our starter's innings pitched to their opponents and determined if our pitcher out pitched (OP), tied (T), or under pitched (UP).   Then for each of these three conditions I determined the team's overall record.  See table below.  For instance in 2009, Rox out pitched their opponents 86 times compared to 22 ties and 54 under pitch.  In those 86 games that the Rox out pitched their opponents their record was 69 - 17.

And wow what a conclusion.  I thought Troy (and his ex-player) was onto something but the numbers suggest a whole lot more.  For the three years I evalutated, in 486 games the Rox starters outlasted their opponent pitchers 227 times, tied with them 59 times, and were out pitched 200 times.  The startling part is the record.  When our starters win the battle the team wins a whooping 3 out 4 times.  That is a whole lot bigger than I would have imagined.  

Since I had the data, I was curious what the win percentage was when a pitcher out duels his opponent by the number of outs difference.  So for instance if our pitcher went 7 innings and his opponent went 5.2 innings that means our pitcher was a +4 and the graph below shows that pitching 4 more outs gives your team a winning percentage of around 0.800.  Outlasting by about 9 outs or 3 innings guarantees a close to 90% chance of winning the game. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Rox Talk - Fan Fest

Fan Fest
First, as much as I moan and groan about the Rockies, they really do a fantastic job and this year's Fan Fest highlighted all that makes being a Rox fan worthwhile.  I missed last year's event so I was really excited about this year.  I didn't really know what to expect and I was somewhat confused by the ticketing process as you had to sign up for specific times but you couldn't sign up for everything in certain blocks.  Hard to explain but getting the tickets was the hardest part and my only complaint. 

As I have two kids I went for the autographs.  I bought two mint baseball (they cost $17.99!  who knew?) and told the kids to have at it.  As soon as we got to the club level four rookies greeted us including Tyler Anderson, Delta Cleary, Tyler Matzek, and Tim Wheeler.  The entire lower and upper clubhouse levels were open with things going on everywhere.  I had signed up for the first autograph session and while they kept these sessions hush, hush, we ended with autographs from Tulo and Tommy Field.  Not for sure I like the Tulo haircut, come on where is the mullet?
Buzz Cut Tulo
Next up was the Executive Board.  Again after last's week ripping of management I thought it would be only fair to hear what they had to say.  And again instead of shaking my head in disgust, I find that the Rox have some good people in place.  O'Dowd was asked questions about fly ball pitchers and second base and answered them with not only baseball mantras but also in some sabermetric terms indicating that he knows a lot more than what I gave him credit for.  His assistance GM is also well spoken and it would be nice to keep him around too (I believe he interviewed for the Astros job...we have lost some good folks over the years).  Over all I am impressed and perhaps my frustrations are the same that O'Dowd has too.  Player evaluation is a lot of luck especially when you have to rely on it to build a team.  During this session they also brought De La Rosa and Nicasio on stage.  Both appear in good spirits and god willing will pitch this year.  Amazing especially for Nicasio.  One tidbit of interest was that De La Rosa indicated he had elbow pain in his last 10 starts leading to his actual injury.  Fine line of knowing when to pitch and when not to when feeling pain.
Our Leaders
After the talk we did the family thing and saw the Rockies Family Feud.  Cuddyer and EY Jr faced off against Colvin and Brothers.  Colvin's team smoked the competition.  Cuddyer reminds me of Mark Grace for some reason.  While in the basement, we then visited the Rockies Clubhouse.  A first for me and what a sight.  Todd's space is like an apartment.  Tulo is Mister Shoe and is it weird to have a Jeter plaque at your locker?  CarGo has a soccer ball (Rapids anyone?).

Finally ended the day getting CarGo's and Tyler Colvin's autograph.  I applaud the Rox for doing this.  The rise of payrolls over the years has probably made access to players and teams difficult.  Getting a chance to meet them makes them seem more real.  I thank the players for taking time as you could tell they probably wanted to be somewhere else.  Thanks!  

In closing I love this picture and sort of miss the days of big homeruns!

And look at that NL Lineup from the All Star Game in Colorado:

Biggio, Gwynn, McGwire, Bonds, Piazza, C. Jones, Walker (in Center no less!), Weiss, and Maddux.  Without steroid issue you are looking at 7 Hall of Famers in that line up.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Rox Talk - GM Thoughts Part II

Seems like ages ago I criticized Dan O'Dowd for his trading of Matt Holliday.  This past season I somewhat capitulated on this because of the value we got in return for Street and CarGo.  Then I took a wait and see attitude about the Ubaldo trade.  Now with the Seth Smith deal and the merry go round of players that have been dealt this Winter, I have to question what is the Master Plan? Death Rays anyone?  I feel like my relationship with O'Dowd has fallen into some twisted high school romp when every week I'm either liking or disliking him!  If there was only some consistency in what he did year to year.  He's been at this for quite'd think he would know what it takes to win here (?) 

To begin this rant, I will start with saying the Rox had a solid core from 2007 - 2009.  We went to playoffs twice, we were a solid contender.  Some might have said we hung onto some of these pieces (i.e. Atkins and Hawpe) a little too long and didn't allow the younger players to take over.  We then brought the younger players in and none of these panned out.  So this Winter we got rid of these pieces, brought in older pieces, with proven track records (and possibly better chemistry), to try and bridge the gap until another set of unproven talent emerges (i.e. Arenado).  Meanwhile Rox team salaries have stayed somewhat static meaning we aren't really throwing in the towel (like Florida has always done) and we tend to push for some high value free agent signing (Cuddyer).  While this plan seemingly worked in 2007 - 2009, one has to wonder if this was due to luck and timing or is this a sustainable plan from year to year.  I call this the "Twin" model of team building (I know not very original).  At its core, its premise is solid, if and only if...young players pan out and that you dump your stars and not fall in love with them.  The real Twins fell in love with their stars, signed them to long term deals and now with commitments to these players they can't bring in new talent.  If your stars play like them then you are golden, if they struggle (i.e. Mauer) your season is sunk.  Fortunately our Rox stars have played well, but our new talent has sucked.

The Twin model works (well fairly well for one team...the TWINS!) but I think it relies on a lot of luck and crossing fingers that all the young ones have awesome, unexpected years.  The Rox have shown some pride and aren't willing to just dump salary, gather as much talent as we can, and try to pinpoint a year where we think we might be good.  Although I might suggest this would be far superior then just making random free agent signings but not address what it will really take to win the NL West.  Rox management seems content to win 75 - 83 games and fans seem OK with that.  We aren't terrible, we aren't great, we are just a middle of the road team hoping to find a four leaf clover every 10-15 years.    

My problem with O'Dowd and management is we seem to be on the fence and we don't seemingly have any identity.  Some years we seem to be a low income team stockpiling young players and hoping for a few break out years and sometimes we are a mid market team with some young talent and the ability to sign a free agent or two.  Either plan relies on a core group of successful young players coming up through the draft.  The graphic below shows Rox success at doing this since our inception.  Each dot is a player the Rox drafted in the first round.  Green is a player who has made the big leagues and red is a player still in the Minors.  The green dot size is based on WAR that player has produced.  Not a whole lot of success especially since 2006.

I can't find the website to give credit for this graph!  I will keep searching...
And this is why I conclude, again, that O'Dowd must go.  If a stable of young players is needed to make your plan work and you fail miserably in six years of drafting and then you have to trade the best pitcher in franchise history to restock your failures then to me that is a leadership failure.

Of course all of this is contingent on a home town crowd that cares about winning.  Wrigley Field West is just happy to have baseball, a cold beer, and one perennial All Star (Galarraga to Helton to Tulo).  When will we demand and expect excellence from our front office?   I bet if you ask Tulo and CarGo...they want a plan and to win!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Rox Talk - 2012 Predictions

2012 Predictions
I know it is still a bit early, but for the most part, MLB rosters are set for the upcoming season.  Sure there could be a surprise or two but here is my first look at what we might expect.  I used the rosters established here for the NL West. In years past I have tried to establish my own prediction tools.  This year I decided to get a bit more in depth.  My method was to basically look at the last three years of a player's stats concentrating on plate appearances or batters faced (for a pitcher) and runs scored/allowed.  I then weighted these numbers stressing more on the previous year.  With this done, I then calculated an average runs per plate appearance or runs per batter's faced.  With this ratio I then multiplied by what I expect is an assumed number of plate appearances for 2012 which then provided me with expected runs scored or allowed.  Taking this data I then extrapolated to an average team season (6100 to 6200 plate appearances or batter's faced) to obtain each team's expected runs score and runs allowed number and then used pythagorean to predict overall record. I also did one last tweek taking this record and correlating to their previous three seasons to come up with wins.  Spreadsheet is here.  Results are below:


1)  Not so good for us Rox fans.  Key to winning the West is pitching and frankly the Rox staff is the big unknown.  My data did not include Nicasio so that might help if he is in fact on the Opening Day roster and of course we do get De la Rosa back sometime over the summer.  Can we stay in contention until then?
2) Another thing that struck me is playing time.  Over the last three years the only player in our starting lineup this year that has averaged 600 or more plate appearances is Cuddyer.  Why is this important...see my post here.  D-Backs have 2 players with 600 and two borderlines, Padres have 1 borderline, Giants have 2, and LA has 2 as well.  Which team projects to be the best?
3)  Mystery team above is which San Diego are we getting this year?  The 2010 version with 90 wins or the 2009 and 2011 team which won 75 games.  Also can this lineup really score 686 runs?  versus 593, 665, and 638 over the last 3 years?  Will Quentin be that big bart...they have some nice pieces but will the litter box suck them dry?  Also does Volquez make them more dominant on the mound?  A lot of ifs with this team...
4)  Will the D-Backs be as impressive as last year?  They have been up and down before with this lineup.  They are a lot like the Rockies.  Dominant players that if they all were in sync could really be an offensive powerhouse but who can tell.  Regardless of what they do at the plate their starters are probably the most dominant on paper with Kennedy, Cahill, and Hudson.  Throw in Collmenter and if these arms don't regress then they are good.
5)  The Giants should rebound with their offense with Posey back in the lineup.  Their pitching is once again dominant as well.  Should be a D-Back/Giants fight down to the wire.
6)  The Dodgers much like our Rox have a lot of young players.  Two everyday players and a good one two punch on the mound but a bunch of aging (cagey?) veterans holding up the back end.  They'll do OK in Dodgers stadium but what about the other parks?  

I think the Dodgers and Rox will be the teams to beat in 2013 but this year will be a holding pattern for us as Rox pitching needs to grow.

Hall of Fame
This was Renck's first ballot and while I applaud is openness I think his choices are what plague the voting all around.  Each of these writer's would like to say they have used some sort of statistical look at their picks but ultimately these guys are just voting rather whimsically.  My biggest gripe is that I think all hometown writer's should be homers and vote for their players.  Therefore Renck should have voted for EY, Castilla, and Walker.  In fact the hometown writer should be their players advocate regardless of what they think.  Sure Walker missed a bunch of games?  Yes but was he magic on the field?  Did he make you come to the ballpark?  If you think CarGo is magnificent fielder, Walker was even better.  His arm was awesome.  Oh yeah, he could rake with the bat too.  Coors Field effects - just look at his road numbers, he was good there too.  Come on Renck stand up for the hometown team.  In his article I did find this piece interesting though,

"I know one former player who became clinically depressed when his numbers became dwarfed because of his refusal to use PEDs. So, morally, those with positive tests are out. It might be an untenable position."

What player was this?  Why do the writer's seem to be protecting so many players and yet use this cloud of suspicion to punish them when it comes to the Hall.  I just have to wonder if all the writers in baseball knew who was on juice for their respective clubs and are withholding this information and because they knew Player X, Y, Z on their team was on it, then these writer's must think that other players were on it as well.  Some writer just needs to go down in a blaze of glory and put this "who was on, who wasn't" argument to rest.  Take a stand for once and clean up this era, don't be safe.

How bad is the battle between us SABRites and the news media.  Well this argument sums up some of our frustrations...

MLB Network
The MLB Network had a stat show by Bob Costas on the other night and they indicated the Red Sox run of 2004 in the playoffs owes a lot to Diamond Minds simulations.  Theo simulated millions of games agains the Oakland A's and discovered tendencies which they then used in real games.  That is pretty interesting...

Monday, January 2, 2012

Rox Talk - 2012

With the flip of the calendar we move on from 2011 and turn our sights to 2012.  April 6 in Houston is only 93 days away.  60 days away from opening of Spring Training games.  Not much time for O'Dowd to work his magic and try to find a second and third basemen.  Hard to believe that this late we are still looking for infielders especially a second baseman.  Third I can understand as we are simply looking for a place holder but realistically since Matsui, we haven't had a day to day position player at second.  

Below are my scatter thoughts for 2012 in no particular order:
1)  Which Fowler will show up for the entire season?
2)  Will we have good Helton or bad Helton?
3)  Can the Tulo/CarGo dynamic duo hit on all cylinders this year?
4)  Will Cuddyer be worth the money?
5)  Who will step up from the youth movement (GenR^2)?
6)  Chacin be a number one?
7)  Betancourt continues his dominant end of the year performance in 2011?
8)  Will the lack of a second and third basemen hurt our chances this year?
9)  Will Nicasio be back?
10) Will De la Rosa be a force or tentative in his return?
11) Can Rox stay in the hunt until de la Rosa returns?
12) Have we see the last of Smith and EY Jr?
13) How will White and Pomeranz hold up in the Sophomore campaigns?
14) Can Tracy find the right buttons to push?
15) Can we be competitive in the NL West?
16) Everyone has a chance, can Rox play with expectations finally?
17) Can Rox return to dominance at home?
18) Will Giambi show his age or keep going long?
19) Who and what will be the X-Factor this year?

Happy New Year...Go Rox!