Friday, August 15, 2003

Cards tie Astros for lead; Cubs just 0.5 back
There was no new piece yesterday and I apologize for that. Things got hectic during the day and then at night I went saw the Blue Man Group. I was less than impressed with their act. I usually don't go to these kinds of shows because I think they'll suck. Then, I end up going and come away impressed. This was the opposite, I figured with all the hype this could be good. Mediocre at best.

I was pretty happy with the response to the AOPS reconstruction. A focal point that many made was that power was weighted too little in the equation as evidenced by the fact that Doug Mientkiewicz and John Olerud were rated so highly. I agree with this and I'm currently tweaking the variables again. Those will be released some time next week. I'm thinking of making last year's complete stats the stat pool so I don't have to get an updated copy of the 2003 stats each time I re-work things. Then in October, once I get something set that looks good, we'll run the 2003 numbers.

With all the badmouthing baseball deals with in terms of being top-heavy and favored to the rich teams (valid arguments, to be sure), there are some absolutely awesome races going on here in mid-August. Aaron Gleeman took a closer look at why the Royals have been able to sustain a lead over his Twins in the AL Central. The Senior Circuit's Central Division has arguably the best of these great races as the Astros and Cardinals now sit tied at 64-57 and the Cubs are just a 1/2 game back with 63 wins. Even the Pirates at 8 games back are closer than the 2nd place team in the NL East (Philadelphia, 12) or West (Arizona, 9.5). So who's the favorite in this jumbled mess in the Midwest? Off the bat, I'd have to say those lovable losers, the Chicago Cubs. They are surging winning 7 of their last 10 including 3 straight against the 'Stros. They are 9-4 in August being led offensively by Kenny Lofton and Sammy Sosa, who have posted 1.463 and 1.591 AOPS respectively. Meanwhile, the staff has posted a 2.03 ERA in August which includes four wins in four starts, a combined 0.60 ERA and 33 K's from Carlos Zambrano and Mark Prior.

The emergence of Matt Clement came at a perfect time for the Cubs as well as Prior was shelved for most of July. Clement has given up more than 3 runs just once in his last 10 starts after doing so five times in his previous 9. Including in this stretch was a complete game shutout against the San Francisco Giants on July 29th. It's rumored that Clement credits his facial hair (see link) on this success.

Offensively, Sosa came back with strong after the infamous Corkgate suspension and has mashed 18 home runs since July while hitting at a .300 clip. The additions of Lofton and Aramis Ramirez have offered the offensive spark the Cubs were lacking. Lofton much moreso than Ramirez. The rest of August will be a major test for the Cubs, though. Starting with 3 against the Dodgers tonight, the Cubs then head to Houston, Arizona and St. Louis for a trio of 3-game sets. I can only imagine what this team would be doing had Corey Patterson not suffered a season-ending injury.

In Houston, things are completely falling apart. The bats have fallen asleep with just 3.46 R/G leading to a 6-7 August record and just 2.0 R/G in dropping 3 of 4 to the Cubs. Staff ace Roy Oswalt cannot stay healthy and his return from a groin injury is up in the air. In his place, Tim Redding, Wade Miller and Jeriome Robertson have been terribly inconsistent. Ron Villone has been the best starter the Astros trot out every five days and that spells trouble.

The 'Stros were criticized for standing pat at the deadline and not acquiring a Jeff Suppan or a Sidney Ponson, but it's looking like even they wouldn't have helped as they struggle in their new confines. A lineup with Berkman, Bagwell, Biggio and Kent wasn't supposed to be a problem for the Astros. And if Hidalgo could come back, they were set. Well Hidalgo has come back (21 HR, 72 RBI, 1.702 AOPS) and yet there are still problems aplenty in H-Town.

Now tied with the Cardinals, this club must take advantage of the fact that 9 of their next 15 games are against the Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres. Then there's the St. Louis Cardinals, who fit into the Mold of Inconsistency built for the NL Central much like their two counterparts. Like Houston, the Cardinals ace, Matt Morris has been sidelined multiple times this year. He currently eyes an August 16th comeback from a finger injury. Although how good that news is has yet to be decided. Aside from his outing of just 2/3 of inning in which he got hurt, Morris has allowed 4 or more runs in 7 of his last 8 starts and has gone over 6 innings just one (7 IP). Where things differ from the Oswalt situation is that his Cardinal mates have picked up the slack.

Garrett Stephenson has lowered his ERA almost an entire run since the All-Star Break (4.58 to 3.68) and has been absolutely brilliant of late with three one-run gems in his last four starts. The first was a complete game and the others were 7 1/3 and 8 innings, respectively. Rookie Danny Haren has been a breath of fresh air, too. After a sizzling first half, Woody Williams has come back to Earth, but has still been a productive pitcher.

Everyone knows about the offense in St. Louis, but I'll comment on it anyway. Superhuman, Albert Pujols, is in the midst of a 28-game hitting streak bringing his average to a blistering .368. Tino Martinez has been quietly surging in the second half, not from a power standpoint, but he's getting on base a bit more. Ken Grif... er... J.D. Drew has been plauged with injuries yet again, playing just 79 games to this point. That hasn't stopped the Cards, though, as Scott Rolen, Edgar Renteria and Jim Edmonds have done more than enough to pick up the slack.

With their potent offense, I give the Cards the #2 slot in this race over the Astros. If, a huge if of course, Morris comes back and gives them a few quality starts and they get consistency from Stephenson and Brett Tomko, they can even overtake the Cubs with that offense. Regardless, their three game set from August 26-28 in St. Louis and the five game set (DH on 9/2) to start off September at the friendly and sure to be windy confines should be some awesome baseball.

I'd like to think that I'll be able to check in over the weekend with a piece or two, but I do have NCAA 2004 for PS2 and might go out and buy the recently release Madden 2004 as well, so we'll play it by ear. Either way, check back Monday for sure.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

The Collaboration: AOPS meets CR, WR and BE.

* - all tables should line up properly on Medium sized font in Internet Explorer.

As promised, the continued analysis of AOPS took place. The response I got basically said that it was nice to put the numbers out there and see what it looked like, but the multiplier of four was a tad too high. The general consensus seemed to be somewhere around 3, and thus AOPS was re-run with OBP multiplied by 3 and SLG weighted just one time. The top ten shook out with few surprises:

B Bonds
A Pujols
T Helton
G Sheffield
C Delgado
B Giles
J Edmonds
M Ramirez
M Mora
T Nixon

Larry Walker takes the place of Trot Nixon at 10th and Mora and Edmonds switch with the OBPx4 method. This time, I went a step further and decided to analyze AOPS with a few other rates. Jason Collette of's Farm Futures introduced me to Contact Rate (AB-K/AB), Walk Rate (BB/AB+BB) and showed me a new name for BB/K ratio, Batting Eye. I decided to add those three to my spreadsheet analysis and see who the top hitters were based on these four categories.

I calculated the rate of each for the top 100 hitters qualified for the batting title, then noted their rank on each. After that, I added up all the ranks to get my new rating, The To Be Named Batter Analysis Count. I do not yet know the value, interest, or worth of this ranking and thus didn't put in time and effort to name it. Right now, I'm just calling it T2BNBAC. Before we get to the final results, let's take some time to look at and discuss the top 10 of each category individually.

We already saw the top in AOPS and it provided no real suprises, though I am surprised to see Nixon so high. I know he's having a great season at the plate, I just didn't know it was that good. Next up is Contact Rate. Aside from walks, it's pretty difficult to get on base if you can't make contact with the ball. You need to have guys that can put it in play for things to happen. The top 10:

J Pierre 0.945
J Kendall 0.926
P Polanco 0.918
N Garciaparra 0.916
E Renteria 0.915
K Lofton 0.912
J Vidro 0.910
M Loretta 0.909
L Castillo 0.908
G Sheffield 0.907

Littered with pure hitters and slap hitters. Pierre topping the list doesn't surprise me, but the exlusion of Ichiro in the top 10 is a bit of a surprise. For the record, he sits just outside at 11 (.905). Lofton can still get the bat off of his shoulders despite his age. Loretta's breakout season might have a lot to do with his ability to make contact. Sheffield is the only real power hitter on the list, though you might include Nomar as well.

Who's up there just standing around though? Waiting for that perfect pitch, walking or striking out? The bottom 10 is an All-Star cast of hitters:

J Varitek 0.774
C Delgado 0.771
B Abreu 0.769
P Wilson 0.767
D Young 0.756
J Edmonds 0.751
R Sanders 0.744
G Jenkins 0.743
M Cameron 0.730
S Sosa 0.712

Plenty of beef in that list. In fact the difference between HR & K average for the two lists is staggering. The top contact hitters average 11.2 HR and 35.9 K, while the bottom 10 have 24.1 and 96.8. Contact Rate alone doesn't make you a better hitter as I'd gladly take any of those bottom 10 and plug them into the heart of my order in an instant.

A player's Walk Rate is also important. Very important to some, see also: Beane, Billy. As they say, patience is a virtue and if you can't get the right pitch, take a base instead of an out. Some hitters are just given the base because of who they are. The #1 guy on this list is who I'm talking about:

B Bonds 0.261
B Giles 0.182
L Walker 0.179
B Abreu 0.160
C Delgado 0.155
T Helton 0.152
E Martinez 0.151
L Berkman 0.151
S Rolen 0.146
J Edmonds 0.145
M Bradley 0.145

First by a landslide is Bonds, but then the most underrated hitter in the game shows that he can be patient and selective in addition to under-appreciated. Not surprisingly, eight of the top 10 are hitting .290 or better (Rolen .288, Edmonds .284). Your contact rate needn't be high if you select the right ones to make contact with. The highest appearance on the Contact Rate list of this group is Giles at 22.

Walks? I don't need no stinkin' walks! However, imagine the production these next 10 could have if they laid off some of the questionable pitches.

A Soriano 0.050
V Castilla 0.049
I Suzuki 0.048
G Anderson 0.046
A Gonzalez FLA 0.046
A Berroa 0.043
A Pierzynski 0.043
R Baldelli 0.040
J Jones 0.035
M Grissom 0.032

Everyone knows about Soriano's lack of patience and accepts it. Ichiro still performs at an MVP level while swinging at everything and the remaining eight are putting up solid seasons as well despite their free-swinging ways.

Last of the four is Batting Eye. Again, no surprises at the top with Bonds, but a couple of oohs and ahhs along the way down to #10:

B Bonds 2.265
B Giles 1.925
G Sheffield 1.744
J Pierre 1.630
J Vidro 1.486
T Helton 1.455
J Kendall 1.419
J Olerud 1.395
L Gonzalez 1.260
P Polanco 1.188

Five of the top contact makers also appear on the Batting Eye, proving that they are swinging at the right ones, or at least the right ones for them. Bonds again blows the field away with the unwillingness of many managers and pitchers to pitch to him. These are ten guys the third base coach can actually say "Good eye!" to and mean it. This group is hitting a combined .314 and averaging 16 HR and 65 runs batted in.

Not surprisingly, the bottom tier features many of the those listed in the Do Not Walk category. Seven of the following ten are featured in both lists:

A Ramirez 0.346
M Young 0.342
V Castilla 0.323
R Sanders 0.284
A Soriano 0.277
A Gonzalez 0.268
A Berroa 0.257
M Grissom 0.246
R Baldelli 0.204
J Jones 0.175

Two bottom 10s should almost certainly land a few of these guys in the bottom of the total ranking. Finally, the collaboration. The rankings of all four added to see who comes out the lowest. The obvious choice for #1 is Bonds... and here are the results:

G Sheffield 31
B Giles 32
T Helton 42
B Bonds 51
J Vidro 60
A Pujols 64
L Gonzalez 67
M Ramirez 93
D Mientkiewicz 101
J Olerud 105

Quite a list in my opinion. Bonds doesn't make #1 while Giles in on Sheffield's heels for the top rank. If this were to judge best hitter of the season, to see Vidro at 6 and Mientkiewicz and Olerud at 9 and 10, respectively, is something else. Only 6 of the top 10 in AOPS make the final 10 with the other four as follows:

Player AOPS Rk TOTAL (Rk)
C Delgado 5 133 (25)
T Nixon 10 156 (30)
J Edmonds 7 160 (31)
M Mora 9 168 (38)

All still remain top 50, but rankings of 86 or higher in Contact Rate did them in for the top 10. Meanwhile the top 10 is hitting a combined .323. As expected, almost of the bottom 10 is featured elsewhere in this piece on a bottom 10 list, some twice:

M Grissom 318
A Berroa 324
R Winn 325
V Castilla 333
R Sanders 334
A Ramirez 340
A Soriano 342
A Gonzalez 346
J Jones 372
R Baldelli 372

Even still, this group is hitting a respectable .286. All 10 featured received a bottom 10 ranking in one of the four categories. Randy Winn's 93rd ranked AOPS was not shown though. After Grissom's 35th ranking in Contact Rate, the next highest ranking this group sees is Berroa's 52nd in CR. Outside of CR, Sanders' 64th ranking in AOPS is the best of the bunch.

So, now it's your turn. What do you think of this measure. Is the T2BNBAC worth a lick? Do these four rates go a long in way predicting the premier hitters of the game? Or the most consistent or just the luckiest? I put in the effort and time and showed you the fruits of the labor, and I'm eager to hear what you think. As I said when I first started tinkering with AOPS, I'm not out to create a brand new stat that everyone will use. I'm just trying to have some fun and look at things away from HR, RBI, and AVG.

So go ahead and click that Feedback button and drop me a quick note with your thoughts and/or questions. I like to know what the readers think. Furthermore, I'd love to get to a point where I could dedicate a piece to answering reader questions. But first things first.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Sophomore Slumps
I said that I'd be taking the second look at AOPS with other rates today, but I decided to go a different direction based on some things I was thinking about on the way home from work yesterday. Thus, I've decided not to say what I plan to write the next day because there are chances I won't stick to it. With all the fantastic rookie pitchers, including two high-profile guys in Dontrelle Willis & Brandon Webb, questions of how well they will do in their second season and their worth as keepers are coming under the light.

I have picked eleven solid pitchers who had impressive debuts and decided to look at their second year to see what kind of sophomore slump they experienced and whether or not anything definite could be garnered from such analysis. I selected five rookie pitchers that I'd say are having good to very good seasons that many would consider worth of keeping especially considering their dollar values are probably pretty low in most leagues. So let's look at these youngsters:


Jerome Williams 82.00 5 2.96 1.29 1.65
Dontrelle Willis 107.10 11 3.10 1.23 2.78
Brandon Webb 128.20 7 2.45 1.10 3.00
Horacio Ramirez 130.00 8 4.15 1.43 1.36
Jae Weong Seo 134.20 5 4.21 1.35 2.17

The wins aren't through the roof for any of the five, but all of them have been extremely solid and Seo has done such on a pathetic team. From a fantasy perspective, keeping them seems to be a no-brainer considering they are all undoubtedly under $10 and have performed so well in their debuts. But will they falter? And if so, how much? Do youngsters ever burst on the scene and then just fall off the map or do they continue their trends? Or despite a minor falter, are they still very effective? Based on the quick study of 11 current major-leaguers that excelled in their rookie seasons, I'd say it's pretty inconclusive. Naysayers of hot rookies love to say, "they'll be figured out the second time around." Proponents like to believe that sizzling debuts are just the beginning of good things to come. First the American Leaguers, as the AL is generally regarded as a more difficult league to pitch in based on the fact that there is a DH as opposed to pitcher batting.


2000 92 7 2.72 1.18 1.73
2001 214.1 17 3.64 1.23 2.56

1999 136.1 11 3.24 1.34 2.13
2000 202.1 20 4.14 1.24 2.06

1998 14 1 1.93 0.79 6.5
1999 149.1 8 3.92 1.58 1.04
2000 67.2 4 10.64 2.22 1.05

2001 221.1 16 3.29 1.07 2.63
2002 239 19 3.58 1.24 2.20

I used three season on Halladay because his '98 debut was basically a cup of coffee, but he was supposed to be the next big thing in Toronto. He had a tough go in '99 with a 2 run raise in ERA and a sick 1.58 WHIP. Infact, all four saw increases in ERA and all but Hudson saw increases in WHIP. The breaking point for Halladay came in his third season, a season which easily could be considered his sophomore season when he was sent to the low minors. All four paid solid dividends in their second season and only Halladay faltered in his second year. Of course if Seo and Ramirez experience the same increases in ERA and WHIP, their returns will be severely hindered.

If you'll notice, the White Sox weren't overly concerned with Buehrle's workload as they increased on his 221 1/3 innings from his rookie season. Zito, Hudson and Halladay increased too, but none got the kind of work that Buehrle had. Buehrle's early season struggles in 2003 can arguably be attributed to wear and tear from the 460.1 innings in his first two seasons, but nevertheless, there wasn't a sophomore slump. Halladay's case is bizarre, but the only thing resembling a sophomore slump of the bunch. Even still, we know how that turned out as Halladay is in line to contend for and possibly win the 2003 Cy Young Award.

How about the National League? Opposite of what I said about the AL, generally regarded as easier to pitch in. Oddly enough, all five of our shining rookies reside on NL teams. Unlike in the AL, where none of the four debuted before 1998, in this group there are some older guys that we're going back to take a look at:

L.Hernandez IP W ERA WHIP K/BB

1997 96.1 9 3.18 1.24 1.89
1998 234.1 10 4.72 1.58 1.56
O.Hernandez IP W ERA WHIP K/BB

1998 141 12 3.13 1.17 2.52
1999 214.1 17 4.12 1.28 1.80

1995 191.1 13 2.54 1.06 3.03
1996 228.1 16 3.19 1.16 2.75

2001 141.2 14 2.73 1.06 6.00
2002 233 19 3.01 1.19 3.35

2002 116.2 6 3.32 1.17 3.87
2003 143.2 10 2.76 1.11 4.58

1998 166.2 13 3.40 1.22 2.74
2000 137 8 4.80 1.45 1.52

A few cases for the S-squared right here. The Marlins abused Hernandez Buehrle-style and saw increases in ERA and WHIP and a decrease in K/BB. His wins increased, but it was by one in 138 more innings! Wood experienced the worst kind of sophomore slump, he didn't even pitch in 1999 due to injury and then when he came back, he saw negative increases or decreases in every category. Even today, his consistency is in question despite his power from the mound. Three of the other four cases avoided the slump despite gains in ERA and WHIP, while Prior is experiencing a sophomore surge.

The final case is the epitome of sophomore slump. He had 6 wins in a late-season callup including a no-hitter. He played for one of the better teams in the league and was supposed to be the ace of their staff for years to come. Bud Smith went 6-3 in 2001 with the no-hitter against San Diego in early September of that year. The 2002 season was quite a different story and eventually lead to this, "» July 29, 2002: The Phillies send soon–to–be free agent All–Star 3B Scott Rolen to the Cardinals in exchange for 3B Placido Polanco, and pitchers Bud Smith and Mike Timlin." (Copied courtesy of Smith suffers super sophomore slump:


2001 84.2 6 3.83 1.22 2.46
2002 48 1 6.94 1.85 1.00

Smith's effort to rebound from the slump hasn't been, as he's sitting out after surgery to a torn labrum. Now, not only is his shot with the Phillies in danger, but also his career as a whole. As I'm writing this, I'm re-thinking the title sophomore slump to define Smith's collapse because in the above cases that were dubbed sophomore slumps, the pitchers returned to a high level of play at some point later. Usually, in the third year. Sometime it was down the line, but in every case, they returned.

Smith might then be classified as a pending sophomore slump. If he returns healthy in mid-2004 and goes onto have a healthy solid big league career, then the pending tag could be removed. Another famous case would Rick Ankiel. The other pending sophomore slumpist. Both got their start with the St. Louis Cardinals. Hmmm...

Anyway, the point of this was basically to show that you can expect rookies, primarily Webb and Willis in this discussion, to have worse numbers next year. That doesn't mean they will, but in order to evaluate them properly from a fantasy perspective, decide if you want to pay their price for ERAs in the mid-3.00s, WHIPs increasing 0.2-0.3 and the risk of even worse. Don't expect everyone to be a Mark Prior. He is a truly special case and if the Cubs handle him properly and he stays healthy, he'll be the premier pitcher of the league for the next 10-12 years.

Monday, August 11, 2003

AOPS response not overwhelming, but solid; White Sox continue to surge
The response to my AOPS piece which weighted OBP four times as much as SLG didn't receive as much as response as I'd have liked, but the response I got was good. Many agreed that four times was a bit much and I see that now after reviewing the numbers yesterday. There was mixed response on what the multiple should be and so I'll continue to tinker. Like I said, I haven't become a total stathead just yet. In fact, I just recently started to read up on and comprehend Voros McCracken's DIPS. I will continue to look at the alternative ways to analyze hitters aside from HR, RBI, R, & AVG. However, today's piece will focus on the Surging Sox of Chicago.

It has been quite a season for the Sox. After acquiring Bartolo Colon from Montreal, the White Sox were viewed as the or at least a frontrunner in the AL Central Division with he and Mark Buehrle as a strong 1-2 combo. But the Buehrle started the season 2-8 with a 5.00 ERA through May. Also at that time, slugger Paul Konerko was hitting just .206 with 3 home runs. June wasn't much better for him either and by the end of that month, he was hitting .184 with the same 3 home runs and 17 runs batted in. Despite their shortcomings in the first half of the season, the White Sox sent Esteban Loaiza to the All-Star game. Loaiza put up 11 wins with a 2.21 ERA and a 3.42 K/BB rate. While he took Buehrle's spot in the 1-2 punch, the back end of the rotation of Jon Garland and Dan Wright in addition to Buehrle's struggles spelled trouble for the South Side Sluggers. At 25-29 heading into June, things weren't going according to plan for GM Ken Williams.

Williams decided that staying put was not the way to go even though the talent was supposed to be there this year. After acquiring Carl Everett and Roberto Alomar for a slew of minor leaguers from the Texas Rangers and New York Mets respectively, he shipped out D'Angelo Jimenez to the Cincinnati Reds. Williams was thinking that if these two could bring life to the lineup and Magglio Ordonez, Frank Thomas and Konerko could get going coupled with Buehrle and Colon returning to form and Loaiza remaining hot, Minnesota and Kansas City would be in danger of losing the AL Central Division title.

He was right. Since June, Buehrle is 8-3 with a 4.39 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. Loaiza has remained hot and Colon has become consistent to the tune of 4-1 with a 2.29 ERA and 0.877 WHIP since the break. Meanwhile the lineup has come alive. The trades have paid huge dividends:

Everett 31 .283 .357 .416
Alomar 27 .300 .395 .364

Konerko has also found himself after a horrendous .098 AVG in June (4-for-41) along with Ordonez's hot streak. The two since the break:

Konerko 6 20 .346 .366 .628
Ordonez 5 18 .384 .454 .663

The team as a whole is 17-6, including 2 of 3 from Oakland this past weekend, and now sits just 0.5 games behind the Royals. Each team has 62 wins, but the ChiSox are one back in the loss column. The schedule is in their favor as well, as they play 14 games in a row against Anaheim and Texas; two teams with a combined .449 win percentage (105-129), while Kansas City faces Minnesota and New York and their .560 win percentage (130-102).

After putting up a bland 4.2 Runs Per Game in 94 games before the break, the Sox are blasting out 6.5 RPG since the Mid Summer Classic. A team OPS of .900 is almost 200 points better than their mark before the break (.726). Damaso Marte, Tom Gordon and Kelly Wunsch have been able to offset the abysmal season of closer Billy Koch. Lucky for Williams, the success of the Alomar/Everett trades can overshadow the outright insanity of the Koch for Keith Foulke if the Sox are able to make the backfield.

For as much flak as baseball takes about how a small contingent of teams dominate the divisions and playoffs, there are extremely tight races in almost division and for both wildcards. In addition to the Royals/White Sox battle, the Twins are just 2.5 back as well. Boston trails New York by 3.0 games and Oakland trails Seattle by 4.0. Those two are split by just a game for the AL Wildcard as well. On August 11th, there are some great battles to hold the attention of loyal fans despite my second favorite sport (football) kicking into high gear.

Tomorrow, I'll take another look at AOPS after taking down the multiplier of OBP to about 2 or 2.5. I'll also see how AOPS correlates to Batting Eye, Contact Rate and Walk Rate.

While you're browsing...
I've added a few new links to the site. I recommend you add the following to your daily blogging rounds: Jeremy Heit's Blog and Bryan Smith's new blog, Wait Til Next Year. You may have read his previous blog, Bryball, but he decided to scrap that and start anew. When you get a chance, check out these two blogs.

Thanks to the visitor's...
Over the weekend, my blog hit 1,000 visitors. I appreciate everyone that comes to the site and reads my views on baseball. I apologize for hiatus over the weekend, I had some friends visiting from out of town, but I truly appreciate everyone coming around daily.