Wednesday, December 29, 2010
WARgraphs are sweeping the internet away today. Hopefully they function as the starting point, not the finishing stroke to many Hall of Fame debates. The most strident nerds among us will use these as crutch instead of an opportunity. In other words, let's not get carried away.
Conversely, dear God the image above makes my skin crawl! That's Vernon Wells career WAR and George Bell's career WAR holding hands and skipping stones in lockstep through history.
I'm not exactly sure how I should take this. Does this make me feel better about George Bell or worse about Vernon Wells? I 'm working on a post praising the sneaky-good nature of Wells in 2010 but this has me reconsidering.
Want to reconsider some more? Consider the guy who was Jose Bautista before Jose Bautista turned into Jose Bautista:
Jesse Barfield was my favorite player when I was a kid. Quite obviously, I knew what was up. If you take this graph a step further, you see Jesse and Hall of Fame lightning rod Jim Rice with basically the identical career until age 31. Barfield played only one more below replacement season while Rice scared the bejesus out of fickle reporters for a couple extra seasons.
There are sizable holes we could shoot through WAR numbers pre and post UZR, but the fact of the matter is even with a positional advantage, Vernon Wells doesn't hold up well to the glory-soaked outfield of the 80s. Which surprises me.
Vernon Wells will finish his career as the Blue Jays franchise leader in a significant number of offensive categories. I don't begrudge him his place in Jays lore nor do I lament his current contract status. Vernon Wells is, in far too many ways, the perfect modern Blue Jay.
Not only does he toil in relative obscurity, he's probably not as good as we think he is. I think it's pretty clear he isn't nearly as good as we need him to be. Which is too bad. Let's do our best not to hold it against him.
Images courtesy of Fangraphs
Despite being in-the-tank apostles of the Mighty Greek Deity, there is a lot for all of us to hate about the Octavio Dotel signing. Mostly because he's pretty awful, most of the time.
One cannot deny his ability to rack up the Ks, a trait I love. But at some point you have to wonder, who cares? He's old, he gives up way too many fly balls and too many walks. The fly balls are the bigger problem, as he induces none double plays while giving up many home runs. The taters soar no matter his ballpark, so there isn't much hope of that improving.
Parkes lays bare the biggest problem with Dotel at Getting Blanked: he can't get lefties out. And, as you can see above, that's not easy in the American League East. It isn't easy anywhere, but the collection of talent in the AL East is nothing to sneeze at.
Whether you put a tremendous amount of stock in one terrible year's worth of numbers or not, it is hard to argue that Dotel has a hard time retiring lefties. In the end game situations he'll (presumably) pitch, that's a problem.
There is no shortage of lethal lefties waiting to emerge from the various dugouts of the Eastern Seaboard. No doubt the draft pick payoff is an easy and convenient way to explain this signing away. But that is no way to live.
Suffering through a well-worn reliever to earn a draft pick down the road is reason enough to overhaul the antiquated compensation system. Sandwich picks don't cleanse the bitter taste of soiled sheets.
Images courtesy of Yahoo! Sports
Friday, December 24, 2010
As always, the red hatted & white bearded Man for All Seasons wishes you and yours a safe and work-free holiday. Because that's what Christmas is all about: not going to work.
Let us rub our grubby mitts together and wish for goodies we didn't earn and don't deserve:
- Ichiro in a Blue Jays uniform.
- The ongoing success of the San Francisco Giants.
- Dustin Pedroia coming down with polio
- Carlos Delgado taking a baby-shaking, hand-kissing role in the Jays FO
- An adamantium infusion which keeps Scott Rolen playing forever
- Roy Halladay winning 30 games
- Mariano Rivera continuing about his business
- A walkoff walk a week for life.
Re-borrowed Image courtesy of Gothamist
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Luckily this is the Age of Blue Jays Enlightenment, wherein we quickly dismiss minor league depth signings like Corey Patterson and move along. Depth signings are depth signings, only the Chicken Littlest among us sees them any different.
However, were this but a few short years ago, with a certain now-retired field boss who gladly shoved ill-fitting players into pre-determined roles with little in the way of reservations, I'd be terrified.
You can bet, starting in spring training and any time a starting outfielder missed time with so much as a hangnail, Corey Patterson would leadoff every single game until Alex Anthopoulos separated Corey's name from the lineup with a crowbar. And as Walkoff Walk determined long, long ago: you do not hit Corey Patterson leadoff.
But we know things now. No need to sweat Corey Patterson, he's just looking for a job. Clarence's meddling paws are long gone and playing kids is the priority. Besides, real Blue Jays fans have much bigger fish to fry.
Image courtesy of the Walkoff Walk t-shirt store, which pre-dates my time there.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Note: In honour of Bleacher Report receiving six trillion dollars in venture capital, I think I'll write something
Patience isn't always a virtue. Though I'm willing to sign off on another apparently lost season, a lot of Jays fans do not afford Alex Anthopoulos very much rope. They want results, they want to make a splash, and they want Rogers to deliver on their promise to spend cash when the need arises.
It is no secret the free agent route is a death march to nowhere. Alex Anthopoulos knows this and is very active in the trade market as a result. AA is keen to remain nimble and young, cycling through functional players with an eye on developing the next star.
So trading is preferable to signing free agents, and 2012 looks like as good a year to take a shot. As currently constructed, the Jays lineup needs a little variety, it needs an infusion of speed and craftiness. We all know the Jays need nothing short of divine intervention to reach the playoffs.
My solution: kill two birds with one stone. The Jays need to trade for Ichiro.
Ichiro has two years left on his Vernon Wells-sized contract. At the end of 2012, Ichiro becomes both a) a free agent b) a 38 year old. On the other hand, Ichiro is, well, amazing.
In a recent interview (h/t USS Mariner) he expressed some sadness over the state of Mariners, having lost 100 games in two of the last three seasons.
The whole team had high hopes for the 2010 season because we thought we made good additions to the roster (such as left-hander Cliff Lee and second baseman Figgins). And we ended up like this. From now on, maybe we shouldn't even voice our goals.You hear that? Can't win, don't try. He's done with Seattle, done I say!
The Mariners pitching staff is Felix and pray for rain. The Jays are lousy with good pitching, especially good left handed pitching that plays so well at Safeco. That stinks like a match to me.
Of course the prize would be sky-high, but such is the cost of competing. Shoring up the shoddy outfield defense, adding a true lead-off hitter who also may or may not be a space alien.
As to the positional conundrum of (re)making questionable defender Jose Bautista the every-day third basemen, who cares! Ichiro! Playoffs!!!11! Happy Holidays!!11!
Image courtesy of CTV.ca
Saturday, December 18, 2010
In my wildest dreams you could add "Ghostrunner on First reader" to that list of Roccomplishments. There is a very low (but non-zero!) chance he reads this site, yet his comments on Twitter this morning dove tail nicely into my patience post from yesterday.
Rocco is, by all accounts, a very bright guy whose playing career might be over. Spending the bulk of his career in Tampa obviously gives him an up-close and personal appreciation for the Two Monoliths.
The Rays and Jays are becoming more and more similar each day while remaining diametrically opposed in others1. I have a all kinds of respect for the Rays — despite being an alleged hater — and feel pretty good about the Jays following their tack.
But this isn't about the Rays as a whole. It is about Rocco, who clearly gets my cards and letters. Colour me impressed.
1 - Michael Grange made a great point on Prime Time Sports yesterday, claiming the Jays may just be the most undervalued property in pro sports. The full package plus the gigantic latent fan base makes them a twoonie explosion waiting to happen.
Friday, December 17, 2010
We can't officially close the book on 2010 for another few weeks but it feels like this week pretty much ends this chapter of Blue Jays history. The departure of Lyle Overbay and the Kevin Gregg indicate something pretty significant, something a lot of Jays fans don't want to admit: the re-building process is not over, it is only beginning.
Alex Anthopoulos and his crew of chili dog-stained retches set up 2010 as a place-holder year. Most of his moves worked out just as planned: bring in a veteran who can deliver draft picks or a decent piece in trade. Transition the veterans out with longer term solutions moving in. An unexpected 85 win season later and too many people seem to believe the Jays are close. They are not close, they are far.
The roster as constructed for Opening Day 2010 wasn't designed to win or compete for a playoff spot. As it appears, the 2011 roster is less so. Most of the pieces are now in place for 2012 and beyond and with that comes growing pains.
While the Orioles seem to make moves based solely on winning 82 games and celebrating their first winning season in a generation (LOLroche), the Jays have a plan. That plan has little to do with winning in 2011. And that's okay. But the Jays are looking to stay (payroll) lean while letting their kids go and play.
Leaving the bullpen to its own devices, running Adam Lind and E5(E3?) out there every day at first. Getting younger and more versatile while avoiding the many pitfalls of multi-year deals for players who won't help the team when it matters (i.e. ever).
Giving rope to young players on option-heavy deals is a nimble bit of business, too. If Lind or Hill sputter again, now there are viable internal options waiting to take their place.
Truthfully, the team isn't much worse than the one that stood poised to lose 90 on April 1st. The team certainly isn't better, but that's okay. The team is moving in the right direction. Depending on how the impending Jose Bautista Decision plays out, the Opening Day team in 2011 figures to resemble the lineup for years to come.
I like the look of the team. I like that, in my mind at least, they're going to let them run out there and play. The braintrust doesn't seem like it is employing a "sink or swim" attitude, more like "grow or die." Evolve or get left behind. The 2011 Blue Jays look an awful lot like a team which will put its players in the best position to succeed, now and forevermore.
That doesn't mean they're going to win 85 games in 2011. Or 65 games or 95 games. It is about positioning. Is the team positioned to win in 2012? It certainly will be. 2011 looks like the year in which the front office figures out what tweaks are required for The Push. What they need to do in order to Take a Shot.
Can you wait? Can you take another year of rebuilding? So long as what we see on the field looks like a cohesive attempt to compete — really, seriously compete, not just play well to no end — than I feel fine. Let them play, let us hope.
Image courtesy of Dumbo NYC
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
After tackling the great WAR divide for positional players, it is only logical we examine the way value is determined for pitchers. Not nearly as uniform or tidy as batter Wins, as we will soon see.
The biggest difference between Fangraphs WAR and Rally WAR is FIP. Fangraphs attempts to isolate the factors controlled by the pitcher1 (strikeouts, walks, and home runs) and work from there. They don't make "corrections" for defense because the figures they incorporate come pre-stripped of defensive meddling.
Rally WAR (pioneered by Sean Smith, a very smart guy who now works for an unnamed big league team) starts with runs allowed and works backwards. rWAR makes adjustment to the replacement level runs based on the quality of defense (Total Zone derived) and ballpark (derived using magic and answering the bridge troll's riddles three.)
While FIP and its brethren are good and runs against seems uncouth and cruel, it turns out run allowed per 9 innings pitched has the greatest correlation for year-to-year performance. So I can see value in each of these methods.
This schism within the nerd herd threatens to split the fraternal brotherhood like nothing since Princess Lea in the Gold Bikini versus the Canadian broad on BSG. The great love of over-complication called out by the simplistic. WHO WILL TRIUMPH???
As it turns out, us. The functionally nerdy benefit from the spastic yelps of socially-bereft savants lurking in dark corners of the computer supply store. Let's see how it shakes down. First is Baseball Reference's version with Fangraphs below. The rWAR sits on both for comparison purposes.
Weep for Brandon Morrow. Deprived of his gaudy components, Morrow is left to rot as a below-average starter. You know that isn't true, and I know that isn't true, but runs allowed shows no mercy.
Notice the lack of defensive adjustment afforded any Jays pitchers. Total Zone ranks the Jays as pretty much neutral, which is hard to argue unless you try. I can't imagine what sort of ballpark factor is included but if it doesn't cut the Jays plethora of lefties a break then consider me highly dubious.
Relievers who pitch loads high-leverage innings benefit greatly under the Rally system. The adjustment for leverage index/saving grace of runs allowed pumps up the value of both Shawn Camp and Kevin Gregg. I prefer to think of relievers as interchangeable, with the replacement bar set very high as other guys on the same staff can often step into bigger or higher-leveraged roles without issue.
One thing both systems — and all of humanity, I trust — can agree on: Brian Tallet is terrible. That Baseball Reference and Fangraphs can join in chorus proclaiming Brian Tallet is fundamentally awful gives me hope through this dark and gloomy holiday season. Hallelujah!
1 - This is contentious assumption number 1 of many. But we soldier on.
Thanks again to Fangraphs and Baseball Reference for the data. And Modern Life is War for actually writing a song with a decent payoff.
Monday, December 13, 2010
If you can remember all the way back to Wednesday when I mentioned, at the end of the post, my feelings on the various and sundry defensive metrics. This got me thinking about the ongoing disparity between Fangraphs WAR and Baseball Reference aka Rally WAR.
Are the differences really that striking? We often come across examples of disagreement between the two systems, leading to more confusion rather than increased understanding.
To review - Fangraphs version of WAR uses UZR for the defensive component while the batting runs are based on weighted on-base average (wOBA). Rally uses Total Zone for defense and park adjusted batting runs for offense.
How the sausage is made doesn't really matter for the bulk of us, but we like to know where the flavor comes from sometimes. Below are both WARs, broken down into their compents for worthwhile, contributing Blue Jays. Each numbers is displayed at the end of each row to allow for easier comparison. Let's get nerdy!
Poor Jose. While he tells anyone who listens how much more comfortable he is in the outfield, it doesn't seem to matter. He's basically a Tarantino character roaming around with a rifle in place of his right arm. Total Zone rates him twice as harshly as UZR, which already held a low opinion of Bautista in the field. Vernon Wells' strong season takes a slight hit at the hands of Total Zone, while Lyle Overbay and his agent are sending bouquets of flowers to Sean Smith as you read this.
Nothing revealed here is likely to change your overall impression of any of these players. Whether you think Vernon Wells is a 4 Win guy or a 3.5 Win guy doesn't change the fact that he's a slightly above-average performer. WAR is a descriptive stat, it tells us what happened in 2010.
One year of data doesn't mean to suggest Jose Bautista will continue to put up 5 or 7 win seasons in the future. There isn't any great disparity among the position players. It is when we get to the pitchers (tomorrow) that the fussing and feuding gets serious.
Hat tip to Baseball Reference and Fangraphs for the info.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Watching the internet grab hold of an idea, shaking it until death, really is a sight to behold. A current meme among Blue Jays fans which continuously irks is the "Move Aaron Hill to Third Base" movement. The arrival of the Langley Bard this week seems to say, to most people, that Aaron Hill should shuffle his out-making bones to the hot corner because, well, Brett Lawrie is shinier and newer.
Too many people in our Getting Blanked chats this week closed the book on Aaron Hill's time at
While UZR doesn't love Aaron Hill, nearly all other defensive systems and rankings do. Over the last three years, Hill ranks 4th among second baseman in Dewan's +/-, third in revised zone rating. He ranks 5th in Fangraphs fan scouting report runs in addition to winning two Fielding Bible awards (2007 & 2009). Hill ranks well again this year in the panel vote, picking up first place consideration from the Baseball Info Solutions video scouts a.k.a. guys who watch an insane amount of video.
In other words, Aaron Hill is really good defensively at second. Why take away from that? Why add variables to the defensive mix? Alex Anthopoulos doesn't think much of that idea either:
"Right now, [Hill] is our second baseman," Anthopoulos said. "The only scenario that we would talk about moving him is if we felt that it was someone that was a significant piece."If you'll permit me to read between the lines/graft my own opinion onto an Alex Anthopoulos quote; I take "significant piece" to mean:
- better than Hill or
- so bad at every other position as to present no alternative.
But this isn't (yet) about finding a defensive home for Brett Lawrie. This is about the value of having a plus defender on your club. As it stands, Aaron Hill is one of a select few. Moving Aaron Hill is silly, because Aaron Hill is good.
While We're On the Topic
With the real Age of Field F/X Enlightenment just over the horizon, I noticed a real uptick in debate over the merits of defensive stats in the darkest, nerdiest corners of the blogoverse. Discussions of range bias skewing video-based metrics and the vagaries in batted ball information punch increasingly large holes in UZR and the like.
It is my view that these numbers, all of them, have value if used correctly. For me, UZR/150 works only when taking a large number and making it small. It is not an accurate or fair way to extrapolate tiny numbers. If you say "over the past three years, Player X has a UZR/150 of Y", you'll get my attention. If you say "in 10 games, Player Z has a UZR/150 of 40", I'm clicking away.
You won't see me use decimals in UZR numbers as that indicates a level of precision the metric simply cannot support. These numbers of course work best when paired with observed skills by your lying eyes.
It is important for all of us to use these tools fairly and honestly if we expect buy-in from the greater baseballing population. Which, I hope, is the goal. For a lot of us, advanced stats aren't anything by themselves, they simply deepen our appreciation and understanding of the game. Which leads to more informed people having more entertaining and interesting debates. Which is what brings most of us here in the first place, right?
Image courtesy of flickr user mittsuniverse via Renaissance Man Matias.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Moving your Opening Day starter and nominal ace takes a certain amount of guts. Doing it in consecutive years while remaining steadfast in building is damn near impossible. Alex Anthopoulos clearly has these guts to make these challenge trades and keep reaching for the Outer Chutlosphere of elite talents.
That's a good thing for a man in his position. Take this money quote from his interview with Jonah Keri for Getting Blanked (read every day, I post twice a week)
Because of the division we play in, the teams they put together, we need to get as much upside as we can. There’s a risk component involved, that’s part of it. But we’d rather shoot high and miss.I don't think anyone — after spending more than 30 seconds thinking about it — would disagree. That doesn't make it easy. For Anthopoulos and his team, sure. But for us, too.
If we were in a different division, our strategy could probably be tweaked. But the win totals required to get into the playoffs in the AL East, they’re 95 and above. You can build a very good team, and we have...You certainly can get into the playoffs with 88 wins elsewhere. In this division, you need to be that much better.
This age of baseball enlightenment is a great thing but it comes with a price. How much has the average Aware Blue Jays fan invested in Travis Snider? How many hopes have we pined to his barrel chest? How long did the average Blue Jays fan spend talking themself into Shaun Marcum, Nominal Ace?
Like the Tao said on Twitter, we wanted the new regime to be bold. I don't think any of us new exactly what we were in for now that they are. It isn't that I'm attached to Shaun Marcum in any way. The "flu-like symptoms" thing got tiresome though I admire the considerable chip on his shoulder.
It should make for some entertaining interviews in the near future. Shaun Marcum strikes me as a guy who spends most of the day operating at or near "seething contempt."1
But saying good bye to Shaun Marcum is one thing. Loading up a package for Zack Greinke might just be another. Greinke, Upton, any potential game-changer. Loading up a basket full of kids and making a run at it makes my blood run a little cold. It seems so soon! Are they ready?
Obviously the braintrust knows much better than I. Perhaps I like the safety and security of perpetual re-building? Spared from the rigors of contention and the tortures of pennant races; baseball fits my little life perfectly. Making plans, stopping life to suffer through 3.5 hours of potential agony? Yikes.
Call me a coward if you must, but my thick layer of ironic detachment didn't get there by accident. Worse than getting close and missing? Missing all together. Those of us who remember the 2006-2008-era Jays for what they are realize there's no glory in an honourable death.
1 - I know he's saying All the Right Things now, but he's got some hate in him. Book it.
You'll never guess where the image came from. Dogs on Skateboards!
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
I like the National League, I really do. Sure, watching pitchers hit is good for a laugh but I bear no ill will towards the Senior Circuit. The Giants are, by and large, deserving winners of the 2010 World Series Crown. At least I thought.
Blinded by the overt sexiness of the team and the cool NorCal locale, I blinded myself to the insanity (or is it inanity) of the National League West. Over a few days this offseason, teams in the National League West bolstered their playoff chances by signing Juan Uribe and Miguel Tejada. Uribe signed to a multi-year deal, if you can believe it.
Adding these players to your roster isn't evil, so to speak. But signing these creaky old out-machines to play shortstop every day is just about the craziest thing I've ever heard.
Both the Giants and Dodgers have playoff aspirations in 2011. To think they can field these two players at this crucial position makes me more than a little sick. Imagine! Imagine being able to think "I bet Juan Uribe is a good bet at short for next year at least, we can move him around the diamond at $7 mil a year beyond that. I guess." and not have it mean the death of your playoff chances.
Uribe and Tejada are formerly good players — even great, in Miggy's case — but expecting them to hold down such a key role during a push to the playoffs? No shot.
The Jays signed Alex Gonzalez to play shortstop at this time last year. Gonzalez is both younger and frankly better than Uribe and Tejada at this stage of their respective careers. The Gonzalez signing certainly wasn't made with a pennant in mind. That's the biggest difference - the Jays looked to a one year stopgap and potential flip piece. The Giants and Dodgers will likely hit these guys in the middle of the order1.
Please don't take this ill-advised screed as support of expanded playoffs. It isn't. It is just my quarterly frustration with the Jays lot in life. A lot, if seismic shifts in the power structure of the ownership group are to be believed, that doesn't stand to improve greatly in the immediate future.
1 - There is no basis of fact in that statement. It is for entertainment purposes only. They probably won't hit in the middle of the order. Probably.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Roadside Pictures