Ten things I didn’t know last weekby Dave Studeman
June 05, 2008
How the Twins are doing it
The Twins are scoring 4.7 runs a game (0.3 runs better than the AL average) despite a woeful GPA of .242 (AL average is .250, which ain't so great either). How are they doing it? Well, here's a graph I first introduced four years ago. It kind of tells the story.
This is a fairly effective graph of the offensive strengths of each team. The bottom axis shows how often teams get batters into scoring position, the side axis shows how well they bat with runners in scoring position, and the size of the circle shows how often they hit home runs. The Twins have not been hitting home runs, and they've been about average in getting runners in scoring position. But they've been hitting when it counts.
Can they keep it up? Maybe.
Miguel Cabrera's batted ball profile
Miguel Cabrera has been a disappointment to Tiger fans so far. Some people say it takes a year to adjust to a new league, and that may be the case here. His batted ball profile shows that he's controlling the plate as well as he used to, but his batted balls just aren't the same. Line drives are down, ground balls are up and outfield flies aren't being smacked over the fence.
Net Runs per Ball Percent of Batted Balls % of OF % of PA BFP OF LD GB OF% LD% GB% HR K BB 2005 685 0.29 0.45 0.05 34% 24% 38% 18% 18% 10% 2006 676 0.26 0.49 0.07 33% 24% 40% 16% 16% 14% 2007 680 0.30 0.48 0.06 35% 21% 40% 19% 19% 12% 2008 245 0.19 0.37 0.09 36% 16% 44% 13% 18% 12%Here's a quick overview of the table: "Net Runs Per Ball" is the number of runs Cabrera has created for each type of batted ball (outfield flies, line drives and ground balls), based on the number of singles, doubles, etc., he has hit for each type. The "Percent of Batted Balls" is a simple distribution of the percent of times he has hit each type. Next, you see how many home runs he's hit per outfield fly. Finally, you get the percent of plate appearances in which he's struck out or walked.
You can read more about these batted ball profiles in this article.
Chipper Jones' batted ball profile
On the other hand, Chipper Jones's profile looks remarkably similar to previous years, except for two extraordinary differences: His strikeout rate is way down and his line drive rate is way up.
Net Runs per Ball Percent of Batted Balls % of OF % of PA BFP OF LD GB OF% LD% GB% HR K BB 2005 432 0.28 0.41 0.02 34% 23% 42% 17% 13% 17% 2006 477 0.30 0.45 0.07 39% 19% 41% 19% 15% 13% 2007 600 0.35 0.43 0.06 36% 19% 44% 18% 13% 14% 2008 246 0.32 0.43 0.07 32% 26% 41% 20% 9% 15%David Pinto keeps a day-to-day graph of Chipper's chances of batting .400 this year. So far, the trend is up.
The National League West is converging
Hey guys! Let's meet at .500.
How the Rockies aren't doing it
The Rockies are batting 80 points lower than the Twins with runners in scoring position. The chief culprit is third baseman Garrett Atkins, as you can see in this list of performance with runners in scoring position:
AB H BA Atkins, Garrett 67 13 .194 Helton, Todd 52 15 .288 Holliday, Matt T 50 13 .260 Barmes, Clint 41 11 .268 Spilborghs, Ryan 40 13 .325 Hawpe, Brad B 38 10 .263 Taveras, Willy 34 6 .176 Tulowitzki, Troy 31 5 .161 Torrealba, Yorvi 30 8 .267 Iannetta, Chris 29 9 .310 Baker, Jeff G 26 6 .231 Quintanilla, Oma 24 4 .167 Podsednik, Scott 21 6 .286 Herrera, Jonatha 14 4 .286 Nix, Jayson T 13 1 .077
The division of close games
There's a great story brewing in Chicago, where both teams are in first place. The Cubs, in particular, have everyone excited with their winning ways. They're on a real hot streak right now, doing everything just right. In fact, here's a sparkline of their games this season (up is a win, down is a loss, red bars represent games decided by only one or two runs, horizontal bars represent home games):
You can see their hot and (relatively) cold spells pretty well here. In particular, check out the home/road split: They're 26-8 at home, 12-13 on the road. David Pinto looked into this phenomenon yesterday. But something else really intrigued me: For a strong team, they've played a lot of close games. In fact, it seems that most of their losses have been close ones. I did a little more research and found that the NL Central is seriously the division of close games.
Here's a "treemap" of the number of close games in each division, ranging from 99 in the NL Central to 55 in the AL Central. Of course, the NL Central has one more team than any other division, but still. Big diff.
The color represents how well each division has performed in close games, from .560 in the NL Central (dark green) to .430 in the NL West.
Is Manny being Manny?
Boy, Manny Ramirez has really bounced back this year, hasn't he? Well, yes and no...
Net Runs per Ball Percent of Batted Balls % of OF % of PA BFP OF LD GB OF% LD% GB% HR K BB 2005 650 0.42 0.35 0.00 36% 24% 37% 28% 18% 14% 2006 558 0.38 0.42 0.04 40% 22% 36% 25% 18% 18% 2007 569 0.22 0.44 0.00 39% 22% 38% 12% 16% 14% 2008 247 0.36 0.37 0.06 36% 18% 42% 19% 20% 11%The good news is that he's smashing fly balls again (0.36 runs per outfield fly, back to his prior standards). But he's hitting fewer line drives and more ground balls, and he's striking out more and walking less. A mixed scenario, to be sure.
How that new ballpark in Washington is playing
These numbers are almost meaningless at this early stage of the game, but what the heck. Early indications are that the new Nationals Park in Washington D.C. is not the hitter's nightmare that RFK was. Here are the "simple" park factors for runs and home runs the past few years:
RF HRF 2005 0.87 0.77 2006 0.94 0.86 2007 0.87 0.68 2008 1.09 0.96So far this year, teams are scoring about 9 percent more frequently in Nationals Park than away, and home runs are flying out at almost the same clip at home and away.
And Comerica too
Meanwhile, one of the wackiest early-season park factor trends is occurring in Detroit. Five years ago, they moved in the left field fences because they were concerned that Comerica was too much of a pitcher's park. That doesn't appear to be an issue this year:
RF HRF 2005 0.96 0.94 2006 0.98 0.81 2007 1.05 1.14 2008 1.39 1.54In fact, Comerica has been the best hitter's park in the majors this year. I'm pretty sure this is a meaningless trend. Let's wait and see.
What the heck has happened to Victor Martinez?
Remember Indian catcher Victor Martinez? The guy who regularly crushed American League pitching and even seemed to establish himself defensively last year? Well, the good news is that he has continued his top-notch catching, nabbing 42 percent of potential basestealers (the best figure in the league). But he has lost himself with the bat.
Net Runs per Ball Percent of Batted Balls % of OF % of PA BFP OF LD GB OF% LD% GB% HR K BB 2005 622 0.18 0.43 0.05 29% 21% 48% 14% 13% 11% 2006 652 0.24 0.37 0.01 32% 22% 44% 10% 12% 11% 2007 645 0.22 0.44 0.01 36% 20% 42% 14% 12% 11% 2008 188 -0.02 0.39 0.03 24% 25% 47% 0% 12% 7%Yes, Martinez has actually plated negative runs with his outfield flies, a nearly impossible achievement. (Among batters with at least 130 plate appearances, only Braves' outfielder Gregor Blanco has managed to post a negative outfield fly run value.) Reportedly, Martinez has been hamstrung by a hamstring injury. I hope that's true. Otherwise, the guy has just lost it.
Dave was called a "national treasure" by Rob Neyer. Seriously. Comments about this article can be sent to him through the miracle of e-mail.