Defensive Spectrum Be Damned

September 12, 2009

Over the last 10 years or so, the “advanced” statistics that became popular evaluated players against a position specific offensive baseline – VORP, for example. If a shortstop and a second baseman had the exact same batting line, the shortstop would rate higher by that kind of metric, due to the fact that second baseman hit better as a group than shortstops. As such, it’s become exceedingly common to see people write things like “he’s got enough offense to be valuable as a shortstop, but he doesn’t hit enough to play second or third”.

Positions are essentially just a way to arrange players in a manner that produces the most efficient defense possible. You can literally play anyone anywhere – there’s no rule preventing the Nationals from sticking Adam Dunn at shortstop, for instance. They realize, however, that they will field a better team by minimizing the amount of times that Dunn has to move laterally in order to make a play, so they hide him at first base.

From Cristian Guzman and Position Changes

I agree in heart with this post.  However, I believe it misses a couple of crucial points.  It does not take into account how a player can get used to his position, or how he can have a skill set that is more attuned to a position’s needs.  For instance, a third baseman needs less lateral range than a second baseman, who in turn needs less back and forth range than a shortstop,  and the defensive spectrum fails to recognize this.  UZR is not perfect, and no measure but FieldFX ever will be.  However, this is such an imperfect science, I don’t expect that we will ever be able to grasp all the nuances of defense.


A September To Forget, Or Why We Need A New Wildcard Format

September 7, 2009

It seems unfair that a divisional winner essentially has no advantage of a wild card winner. The wild card winner should be put at more of a disadvantage. If they add another wild card team and make the two duke it out in a three game series in three days at the home of the team with the best record and then force the winner to play the next day in the home of a divisional winner. Then, cut out some of the superfluous off days during the next two rounds and the whole thing won’t take any longer than it currently does.

via A September To Forget | FanGraphs Baseball.

You know what, I agree.  The wild-card as it is right now rewards coming in second place too much.  This would add real excitement, and truly make second place mean second place again.  Seeing a straight three-game set would also be fun, and give a real advantage to the fourth place team over the fifth place team.  This is a great suggestion!

Pedro Showing Off , Or Why Beating Up Bad Teams Doesn’t Matter

September 6, 2009

‘He did it facing a bad lineup’ is one of the weakest excuses of all time. Last time I checked, good pitchers pad their stats against weak teams. If a pitcher won 20 games, do you honestly think that every single one came against a team with a winning record and a top offence? Is Adam Wainwright a poor pitcher because his last four wins have come against four lesser offences? Yet previous to this four game winning streak, his last win was a shutout against the Dodgers. I could pick out a million examples of the above. It’s easy. Pedro has a proved hall of fame track record so him pitching shouldn’t come as a shock. Not to mention one of those ugly intangibles creeping into the picture…that being perhaps he is jacked up to be part of a team headed to the playoffs and is, like Floyd Mayweather Jr told us to do, stepping his game up.

via Pedro Showing Off | FanGraphs Baseball.

I can’t wait until people in the mainstream get this.  A player’s performance is not just what he does against the good teams or the bad teams. It’s the sum of what he does.  By nature, a good team will have a higher winner percentage against bad teams than good because they are bad.  As I am constantly having to tell people that because the Yankees pad their numbers against lesser teams does not prove how overrated they are.  It just proves that they are a good team. Consider that next time you are having your “when it counts”  fit.

What makes for a good batter/pitcher matchup?

August 5, 2009

I just saw this over at The Book Blog.

Sky’s very interesting look at the ball-strike count last week made me think about what makes for a good batter/pitcher matchup?  For example, fastpitch softball is really boring to me.  I love baseball, but the huge number of swing and misses is simply no fun for me.  Similarly, if the number of aces in tennis or volleyball was very high, I’d be bored.  I want to see some confrontation.  Man v Man (or Player v Player).

So, I’d like you guys to answer these questions first, before (or in addition to) posting your thoughts:

1. For every pitch thrown, around what percentage of the time would you like to see the batter swing?

2. For every swing, around what percentage of the time would you like to see the at bat end on that swing (either as in-play, or strikeout)?

via What makes for a good batter/pitcher matchup?

Now, to answer Tango’s questions.  I believe that it would be most interesting if the batter swings around 55% of the time.  Any less and you get high pitch pitch counts and too many cr-ptastic relievers. Any more and you find too many hitters flailing away and not enough hard contact.

As for the percentage of swings that end a plate appearance, I say around 60%.  Today, there is just too much fouling pitches off and missed swings.  The excitement in watching the game comes from seeing the ball in play.

Thanks, Tango, for bringing up this interesting idea.