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In God we trust. Everybody else needs data. - Rick Peterson

Friday, February 20, 2004

 

STEINBRENNER BUYS FENWAY PARK

STEINBRENNER BUYS FENWAY PARK
Homeless Red Sox Cry "Foul"


From Borowitz Report.com. No permalink, so if you don't see the report after clicking on the link, go to the BOROWITZ report.com archive and navigate to February 19.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

 

It's About Getting Hitters Out, Not What Hand You Pitch With - Part II (the Red Sox)

Earlier today I responded to a post by Tyler Bleszinski at Athletics Nation with data on the effectiveness of Yankees starting pitching against LH hitters. Now I want to do the same for the Red Sox. ...

Tyler's post, Is There A Southpaw in the House? Hello, Anyone? raised questions about potential weaknesses in Yankees and Red Sox starting pitching that question and invited exploration. In my previous reply, It's About Getting Hitters Out, Not What Hand You Pitch With, I compared the records of the top four Yankee starters with the following All-Star left handed starters:
  • Jamie Moyer
  • Randy Johnson
  • Andy Pettitte
  • Barry Zito
  • M Mulder
Now let's do the same thing with the Red Sox starters. Again, we'll look at OBP, SLG, and OPS for the three year period 2001-2003 (using the pitching splits from player cards as ESPN.com):
Record vs LH Batters, 2001-2003

--------------------------------
Player OBP SLG OPS
----------- ---- ---- ----
P Martinez .269 .330 .599
D Lowe .322 .381 .703
C Schilling .280 .404 .684
T Wakefield .318 .362 .680

J Moyer .329 .420 .749
R Johnson .322 .387 .709
A Pettite .317 .389 .707
B Zito .326 .380 .707
M Mulder .292 .364 .656
As with the Yankees, the Red Sox right handed starters all appear extremely effective against left-handed batters.

I believe that Fenway Park actually plays with an advantage to right handed hitters, so there is probably a park factor embedded in the data for Red Sox pitchers. But even with that consideration, I don't think the absence of a left hander should concern Red Sox fans.

Because the Mariners are likely to face the Yankees or Red Sox (or both) in a play off series, the right handed dominance on the Yankees and Red Sox staffs should concern Mariners fans. The Mariners splits against right- and left-handed pitching from 2003 are as follows:
         OBA   SLG

---- ----
vs LHP .356 .428
vs RHP .339 .404
Adding Ibañez is the only signficant change the Mariners made this offseason that would help improve this difference.

 

Summary of 2002 and 2003 Aribitration Cases

Corey at Mariner Optimist has some nice tables summarizing the outcomes of all arbitration cases over the last two years. It's worth a bookmark. Nice job, Corey.

 

It's about getting hitters out, not what hand you pitch with

Tyler Bleszinski at Athletics Nation is pondering the right-handedness of the Yankees starting rotation. Tyler posted an article today, Is There A Southpaw in the House? Hello, Anyone? raising that question and inviting epxloration. So, we're going to take on Tyler's request ...

Here's the key portion of his post:
As I referenced in my latest post, a lot of people are pointing to the Yankees starting pitching as a glaring weakness.

[snip]

The one thing that many people are failing to mention is that both the Yankees and Red Sox don't have one, not one, starting left-handed pitcher. For two teams that are going to play about 90-95 games at lefty-friendly Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium each, this could be a serious detriment. Players like Carlos Delgado, Rafael Palmeiro and Aubrey Huff are left-handed mashers in the division that could have a serious impact on the race because of this. I know Eric Chavez will look forward to facing both these teams simply because he won't have to deal with a southpaw, unless it comes out of the pen. Yeah, the Sox are going to bring out Alan Embree in the fourth inning to face Chavy. Doubt it.

It's something to be explored.
Ok, Tyler, let's explore it. Here are five left handed starting pitchers who presumably would ably fill that "void" in the Yankees rotation:
  • Jamie Moyer
  • Randy Johnson
  • Andy Pettitte
  • Barry Zito
  • M Mulder
Now let's compare the record against left handers of the Yankees four key starters with this group of All-Star left handed starting pitchers. Let's look at OBP, SLG, and OPS for the three year period 2001-2003 (using the pitching splits from player cards as ESPN.com):
Record vs LH Batters, 2001-2003

--------------------------------
Player OBP SLG OPS
----------- ---- ---- ----
K Brown .321 .339 .660
M Mussina .289 .383 .672
J Vasquez .298 .422 .720
J Contreras .299 .294 .592

J Moyer .329 .420 .749
R Johnson .322 .387 .709
A Pettite .317 .389 .707
B Zito .326 .380 .707
M Mulder .292 .364 .656
Looks to me like three of the four Yankees right handers are among the most effective starters in the game against left-handers. If the Yankees were to do what Tyler seems to be suggesting, their starting rotation would not be any better against left-handed hitting, and might actually be worse.

It's about getting hitters out, not which hand you pitch with.

 

Did you ever wonder what it would be like to pop a water balloon in space?

Did you ever wonder what it would be like to pop a water balloon in space? The page makes it sound like a research project, but I think it's just some OF scientists reaching back to their childhoods.

 

Positional Reviews for the Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers Weblog has been doing a series of team previews that is similar to the AL West collaboration being done by Mariners Wheelhouse, Texas Rangers Blog, Athletics Nation, and Fire Bavais. Their current piece focuses on team defense. Earlier efforts looked at the bullpen and starting pitching.

If you've been enjoying the reviews we've been doing for the AL West, you'll probably like those reviews of the Tigers. If anyone knows of any similar efforts for other teams that they would like to recommend, send me an e-mail so I can check it out.


 

Thanks for Coming By

The counter in the right sidebar now indicates that more than 25,000 people have visited Mariners Wheelhouse since I took the blog public just before last Thanksgiving. ...

The counter records unique page views - that means that if you make multiple visits from a computer with a fixed IP address (such as a 24/7 cable modem or DSL, you only get counted once in 24 hours. My counter stats tell me that about half of you come by more than once per day.

I am frankly amazed at the number of people who find it worthwhile to visit. Thanks for your support, and I hope I can continue to entertain and enlighten.

 

Props to Cracking the Safe for Noting Bucky Jacobsen

A couple of bloggers recently have picked up on Bucky Jacobsen, a NRI to the Mariners camp. I want to be sure that Jim Trumbull at Cracking "The Safe" gets proper recognition for being the first blogger to latch onto Bucky. ...

Jim alerted the rest of the blogosphere to Bucky's signing on January 17. It was a nice catch by Jim.

I followed up on Jim's note with one of my own, Bucky Jacobsen Quick Hit, reviewing some of his offensive numbers. Since then I have also had some e-mail contact with members of his fan club.

I'm rooting for Bucky. I hope he has a great spring and gets a decent chance to hang a uniform in a big league locker room. He seems to be a good person - the fan club started as a bit of a lark by a church youth group who went to a game where he was on the visiting team. They got to know each other better, and an enduring relationship seems to have developed between the members of the club and Bucky.

Bucky has put up some pretty nice numbers in the minors when he has had a chance. He would likely provide more offense off the bench than any bench player currently on the Mariners 25-man roster.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

 

DePodesta Rescued

Many bloggers, including yours truly, have mentioned an article by new dodgers GM Paul DePodesta, The Genesis, Implementation, and Management of New Systems, in which DePodesta discusses his experiences and ideas associated with introducing management changes in baseball organizations. After DePodesta was hired by the Dodgers, the article was pulled from the internet.

A copy of the web page was captured and has been reposted here: CSFB - Thought Leader Forum: "The Genesis, Implementation, and Management of New Systems".

Many thanks to sportsBabel for saving the article, and to Rob McMillin at 6-4-2 -- an Angels/Dodgers double play blog and Jason Kottke at kottke.org for providing the path back to the sportsBabel link.

 

Deconstructing Plaschke

Aaron Gleeman, in his blog today, Baseball people generally are allergic to new ideas, does a great job deconstructing Bill Plaschke's column, With Luck, the Dodgers Won't Crash in yesterday's Los Angeles Times (registration required). If Gleeman's post is not on the top of the page, scroll down to Wednesday, February 18.

Plaschke has set the barrier high for subsequent contenders in our ongoing competition for most idiotic writing by a sports journalist.

 

San Shin on Jenkins

Jeff Shaw at San Shin has a nice discussion of how Geoff Jenkins might fit in on the Mariners. Jeff points out, correctly, that the best strategy would be to keep both Winn and Ibañez, and use Ibañez as 4th OF/alt 1B/ alt DH. Anything to avoid givng ABs to Quinton McCracken.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

 

YOU CAN LEAD A MAN TO DATA, BUT YOU CAN'T MAKE HIM THINK

I'm an old fart - so old I remember when getting a tattoo and a piercing was an act of rebellion, not conformity. And this OF knows from too much hard experience that when events evoke a strong response, that's when my ability to judge is most suspect ...

Regular readers of this blog know that I often include numeric data in my assessments. Data are important because they correct misperceptions and biases. And since misperceptions and biases are most pronounced when we have emotional reactions, the times when we feel that we've been kicked in the gut (or other nearby locales) or when our hearts and spirits soar are precisely the circumstances in which obtaining data is most important. (Sidebar: that is why it is so important for young guys thinking about marriage to talk with a trusted OF first.) Those who refuse to learn this discipline are condemned to repeat their follies.

Corey at Mariner Optimist today directed my attention to the following quote of Bob Melvin's from Bob Finnigan's Sunday Seattle Times article:
This year, I'll make the moves I feel are needed whenever they are needed. I will hit for guys. Last year, I didn't. I let someone like Cameron hit because he was a guy who was going to be out there for us and I was trying to get him started and I didn't want him to get ... down.

Well, this time I'll do whatever I feel I have to do to win a game.
That is a very damning statement by Melvin, and cuts right to the heart of the organizational issues that bode poorly for the Mariners in the modern baseball world.

Cameron certainly suffers from the problem of striking out frequently. Striking out with men on base elicits a strong emotional response, much more so than grounding out or popping up, even though the net effect is the same. I've felt it, you've felt it, Melvin's felt it. There have been so many times when Cameron made me want to scream after striking out with runners on base. In other words, Cameron striking out with runners on base is precisely the type of situation in which it is most important to verify perceptions against reality.

So let's look at Cameron's record for the last three years with men on base, and compare him with Ibañez, the man whom the Mariners brought on board so that Melvin would not feel as if he had to pinch-hit for Cameron in critical situations:
   Situation         Ibanez   Cameron

------------------- ------ -------
Runners On .359 .359
Scoring Position .376 .375
1B Only .330 .335
On Second .418 .442
On Third .414 .358
First and Second .328 .321
First and Third .258 .371
Second and Third .433 .434
Bases Loaded .444 .353
Men On, 2 out .370 .347
Man on 3rd, <2 out .410 .403
Scoring Posn, 2 out .372 .343
Not a lot of difference, is there? Cameron and Ibañez are almost as identical in their records with men on base as two players could reasoably be expected to be. Furthermore, since Cameron has more sac flies in the last three years than Ibanez, you can't even say that Ibañez's outs are "more productive".

Melvin and the Mariners are impeached by their own testimony. If the Mariners believe that Ibañez is the answer to perceived problems with Cameron at the plate, it's pretty clear they did not bother to use data to check their judgements. Their unwillingess to inform their judgments with data led them to make a decision that is wholly at odds with their rationale.

More generally, the Mariners as a team seem to rely almost entirely on personal, subjective judgments, only rarely trying to use actual data to corroborate individual judgments. Organizational cross-checking apparently does not include verifying that reports correspond with hard observations; it's simply ironing out differences in subjective evaluations.

Substituting Ibañez for Cameron in the belief that Ibañez is better in clutch situations is ignorant, and Melvin's statement reveals his ignorance. The Mariners unwillingness to use data to inform judgment led them to one folly, and they are condemned to continuing follies until the lesson is learned.

Melvin has a laptop computer that he supposedly uses. You can lead a man to data, but you can't make him think.

 

WAS SANTIAGO BROUGHT IN TO FIX THE MARINERS CLUBHOUSE?

The shortstop numbers in Avkash Patel's Cedeño Charts might be of interest to Mariner fans. As I mentioned in a previous post, the Cedeño charts combine and normalize four different measures of defensive performance. ....

Avkash includes data on the top 30 players at each position. So how does the Mariners shortstop situation appear from Avkash's charts:

Out of the 30 players, Rich Aurilia ranks 27th worst, followed by none other than Ramon Santiago. You know Ramon, that's the guy the Mariners picked up in the Guillen trade who has such outstanding defense to offset his cruddy bat. Gosh, maybe his glove is as bad as his bat?? Not to worry, though, he has tools. I don't know - maybe he fixes doors and cabinets in the clubhouse between innings. I'm not sure what else he does with those tools.

The 29th and 30th positions for shortstops were occupied by former Mariner farmhand Ramon Vasquez (trading Vasquez for Ben Davis was not a bad deal for the Mariners), with Tim McCarver darling Derek Jeter ranking 30th. Former Mariners Rey Sanchez and Carlos Guillen ranked 8th and 15th, respectively.

 

IS CAMERON THAT GOOD AND IS CEDEÑO THAT BAD?

Great post by Avkash Patel at The Raindrops on combining various defensive measures. I share Avkash's belief that, given the uncertainties in defensive ratings, you should use several different defensive measures and see how they compare. ...

Avkash does exactly that with UZR, Rate2, Win Shares, and Probabilistic Model, using Mike Cameron as an example. Avkash is aksing whether Mike Camerson is as good defensively as advertised, and is Roger Cedeño as bad as commonly believed. Read his post on Cedeno Charts for the answers.

Avkash then goes on to list the top 30 players in baseball at each position, based on their "Cedeño number".

Great presentation, and definitely worth a bookmark.

 

KEEPING IBAÑEZ WOULD NOT BE A WINNING STRATEGY

Are the Mariners trying to move Freddy to get Ordonez? According to Finnigan's column in the Seattle Times yesterday something may be happening ...

While the 2004 club is essentially set, built on the foundation of the starting rotation, there could be an edge to the camp in several areas.

The biggest possibility is a potential trade to bring in the big bat that this club has been seeking for several seasons.

Pitcher Freddy Garcia might be most likely to go, especially if one of Seattle's premier pitching prospects is having a big spring.

...

Should the Mariners angle to bring in an outfielder, with Magglio Ordoñez of the White Sox and Geoff Jenkins of the Brewers possibly at the top of the available list, the Mariners might be expected to move Randy Winn's contract.
If this is true, this is just evidence of more Mariner thick-headedness. An Ordoñez or Jenkins trade would be nice, but the contract the Mariners should be trying to move if they pick up Ordoñez is Ibañez, not Winn. Moving Ibañez would save more money, and an outfield of Ichiro, Winn, and Ordoñez/Jenkins is vastly better than Ichiro, Ibañez, and Ordoñez/Jenkins.

The problems with moving Ibañez instead of Winn are two-fold. From the perspective of other teams, they know that Winn is a better all around player than Ibañez. That factor, couple with the inflated contract the Mariners gave Ibañez (in which they paid him about twice as much as they should have), would probably make it difficult to move Ibañez unless the Mariners kicked in money or added prospects.

From the Mariners perspective, trading Ibañez would be like admitting they made a mistake signing him. That just isn't going to happen.

update: Also thanks to Jeff at Fire Bavasi for reminding me that, as a free agent signing, Ibañez can't be traded until June, at least not without getting his permission and union approval.

Monday, February 16, 2004

 

WHAT ABOUT GRADY?

If you added all of the comments of all of the bloggers of the last two days regarding Alex Rodriquez, the Yankees and the Red Sox, I suspect you won't find Grady Fuson mentioned once. ...

... and isn't that interesting? Fuson is the not so distant heir apparent in Texas, so he's probably has had some key input in the discussions about dealing A-Rod this winter. Do you suppose the ex-Beaner has some plans for what he might do with the added payroll he will now inherit? And is Soriano likely to stay for very long if Grady is planning to assemble a Beaneish team? Isn't there another AL team in the northeast not named Yankees that could use a second baseman of Soriano's offensive capabilities?

Stay tuned. This end of the A-Rod story may be yet to come.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

 

JAY JAFFE ON THE A-ROD TRADE

Futility Infielder, Jay Jaffe, has a good commentary and review of the Alex Rodriquez trade: Futility Infielder - AROUND THE BASES

 

GOING LONG ON PEPTO-BISMOL FUTURES IN DODGERLAND

According to the Los Angeles times (registration required), former sports agent Dennis Gilbert interviewed on Saturday for the Dodgers GM position.

According to the article, Gilbert was recommended for the position by Jerry Reinsdorf, Chairman of the Chicago White Sox. ...


Gilbert has been working for the last three years as as a special assistant to Reinsdorf. The article quotes Reinsdorf:

"[Gilbert] certainly knows how to negotiate contracts, and one of the problems the Dodgers have had over the years is they've paid [players] too much money. He knows the market. He has a great mind, a really fertile mind, and lots of good ideas."
Isn't that interesting? I think the Dodgers' key problem in the Kevin Malone years was giving contracts to the wrong people, not just overpaying them. And under Evans, overpaying doesn't seem to have been a very big issue.

I've never thought of Reinsdorf and the White Sox as an incubator of future GMs, and this piece furthers doesn't challenge that belief. As I indicate above, it doesn't seem that Reinsdorf actually grasps the situation. But beyond, that, let's also consider that Gilbert is working for Reinsdorf now, but is not the White Sox GM. Therefore, Reinsdorf must believe that Kenny Williams is a better GM than Gilbert would be. That really doesn't sound like too much of an endorsement of Gilbert.

Depodesta to Gillick to Gilbert! McCourt is dissipating the goodwill and honeymoon period that came with his acquisition of the Dodgers. But, what's really scary is that McCourt is apparently taking GM advice from Reinsdorf. I think it's a good time to lock up the Pepto-Bismol concession at Chavez Ravine.

 

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF RED SOX FANS

From Boston Dirt Dogs

A Day in the Life of Red Sox Fans by PAUL PALIOTTA

I read the news today oh boy
About the lucky man who made the trade
And though the news was rather sad
Well I just had to laugh
I saw the photograph
He blew his cash out on a star
He didn't notice that the times have changed

10 million people cursed and sneered
They'd seen his face before
No one was really sure
Wasn't he on the SOX before?

I saw a film today oh boy
The Evil Army had just won the war
A crowd of people turned away
But I just had to look
Some call the Boss a crook
He thinks the Yanks alre-----eeeeeaaa--ddyyy woooo--onnnnnn

Woke up, got out of bed
Heard the gas bag full of dread
Thought about the trade the Sox passed up
And looking back, the trade wasn't all so great
Found my coat and grabbed my red sox hat
the 0 4 dirt dogs, they still have the bats
They signed an all star ace who doesn't choke
and guy named Foulke, I think this is a dream

I read the news today oh boy
Some major holes in Georgie's pitching staff
And though the holes were always small
This year we get to count them all
So many holes they'll have to score ten runs a game to win the pennant in
the fall
Oh George you haven't wooooo----ooooonnnn!!!!

 

SECURING MERCY AND JUSTICE FOR THE HUMBLE AND MEEK

In this blogger's humble opinion, the most significant aspect of the Alex Rodriguez trade is how it dramatizes the absurd distribution of resources within baseball. The cries of tortured baseballs souls are already rising heavenward, soon to be followed by supplications for divine intervention to secure justice and mercy for the meek and humble fans of other teams. (And the faithful certainly would not object to some properly directed fire and brimstone.) The situation, however, does not cry for more regulation of Yankee expenditures; it actually demands less.

And that "less" is the termination of baseball's anti-trust exemption.
Baseball's anti-trust exemption dates back to the 1922 US Supreme Court decision in the case of Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore v. National League. In this case, which arose out of the collapse of the Federal League, the US Supreme Court held that baseball is not interstate commerce and is therefore not subject to federal anti-trust law. That decision stands to this day, modified only by a 1998 Federal Statute that removed the anti-trust exemption as it applies to labor relations. In all other aspects, including team locations, baseball's anti-trust exemption stands. Baseball is the only part of the entertainment industry (including all other sports) to have this exalted status.

At this point you're probably asking what this has to do with A-Rod and the Yankees. Bear with me for a bit.

The Yankees generate huge revenues because they dominate the largest market in baseball, and they face only limited competition in that market. With their revenue stream, the Yankees can cherry pick the players that they want, and still be profitable. That profitability is the key. If the Yankees were spending themselves into oblivion, most fans wouldn't mind. But that's not the situation; the Yankees are doing what they are doing, and still making money.

In the economic world that is not exempt from antitrust considerations, when a business enjoys the type of economic advantage the Yankees have, competitors who are in less favorable circumstances move into the area to divide the market. Let's see how that might play out in baseball, using total payroll as a surrogate for available resources to spend fielding a team.

The table below shows the 2004 payrolls for various "large market" teams in baseball (data from Dugout Dollars):
    Team       Payroll, $M

------------- -----------
Red Sox 129.7
Yankees
before A-Rod 176
with A-Rod 192*
Mets 81.8
Mariners 83.4
Angels 110.6
Braves 69.7
Phillies 74.3
Cubs 85.4
Dodgers 84.1
*Assumes adding A-Rod causes a net increase in payroll of $16 million.

These numbers indicate that the northeastern US market could easily support one to two additional teams. The combined payroll of the Mets and the Yankees is about $274 million. If that payroll were divided among three teams, the average payroll would be about $91 million, still larger than any other "large market" team except the Red Sox. If we consider the combined northeastern US market (extending from Philadelphia from Boston), total combined payroll is about $478 million. If that $478 million were divided among six teams, the combined payroll would be about $80 million, equivalent to almost all other "major market" teams in the US. Note also that these numbers actually understate available resources because they do not include untapped revenues likely available in the Philadelphia area (which the new stadium will likely begin to capture), nor do they consider increased fan interest that would likely result from having more teams in the area (more product + more marketing = more demand).

I'm not saying that placing more teams in the northeast would suddenly cause Yankee revenues to drop to the level where they would have to cut their payroll to $90 million. As the Mets have amply demonstrated, good management is also a prerequisite for generating and sustaining fan interest. What would happen over time, however, is that there would be an ebb and flow among teams in their shares of the local market.

Currently, baseball's anti-trust exemption prevents teams from relocating into any area without the permission of major league baseball. Local teams generally have the explicit ability to prevent another team from locating in area that has been designated as part of their territory. (Hence, the Oakland A's can't relocate to San Jose because Santa Clara County is designated as part of the Giants territory.) But, doesn't it make more sense to locate teams where they may, over time, be able to sustain a payroll equivalent about $80 to $90 million (at current conditions) rather than trying to force teams to compete in markets where they can only sustain payrolls of $40 million to $60 million?

Thus, I think the easiest and best solution to the situation posed by the Yankees is to just allow the forces of a free market to level the revenue streams among clubs. Give other, weaker teams free rein to to move into the New York area. Allow teams to work with communities and business groups in areas such as northern New Jersey or Long Island to build stadiums and relocate teams.

The changes won't level the playing field overnight; and there would almost surely be some relocations of franchises. But in the end, competition will be fairer, and teams will compete more on the merits of their management skills and less on the accidents of geography.

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