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Thursday, September 04, 2008
I'd first like to announce that THT Fantasy Focus has just added a new writer to the team! His name is Paul Singman, and he has previously written for MLB Front Office, Behind the Plate Fantasy, and Major League Report. He's a great writer and should add a lot to the discussion here. Welcome aboard, Paul!
We are committed to bringing you even more high quality fantasy baseball content going forward, which is the primary reason for this post. Simply put, THT Fantasy Focus is looking for new writers!
I know that we have a lot of intelligent readers here, so if you've ever thought it would be cool to have your thoughts published or ever wanted to join the fantasy baseball writer's community, this is your chance! In addition to being part of the THT Fantasy Focus team, we also have a deal worked out with FOX Sports where you would have your content run over there.
Paul will mostly be doing player analysis, and right now we're primarily looking for someone on the other side of things. If you have an interest in or have a knowledge of strategy, game theory, economics, psychology, business dealings/bargaining theory or any other area that could be applied to fantasy baseball, we'd love to hear from you.
If you're not as well versed in these types of things and are looking to do player analysis, please feel free to send us an e-mail and you will be considered as well.
Feel free to include anything else that you think would help us make a decision or allow us get to know you better! This could include why you feel qualified, your fantasy baseball credentials, past fantasy experience, past writing experience, experience in the field you'd like to write about (maybe you're a psychologist, for instance) or really anything you see fit.
If you have any questions, as always, feel free to send me an e-mail.
Posted by Derek Carty at 2:55pm (0) Comments
Monday, September 08, 2008
Over the 2005-2006 offseason a little-known trade occurred: the A's got Milton Bradley and the Dodgers acquired outfielder Andre Ethier. At the time Ethier was a 23-year-old prospect who batted .319 with 18 home runs in 576 Double-A plate appearances. In 2006 with the Dodgers, Ethier continued to excel. In 103 plate appearances in Triple-A he posted a .947 OPS, which garnered him an early major league call up in May. Ethier quickly displaced struggling veteran Jose Cruz Jr. and became the Dodgers' starting left fielder for the remainder of the season. For a 24-year-old rookie, Ethier did exceptionally well, batting over .300 every month except September, in which he hit a paltry .143. He finished the season with a .308/.365/.477 slash line in 440 plate appearances, good for fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting.
Despite the emergence of Ethier and fellow rookie outfielder Matt Kemp, that offseason the Dodgers felt the need to spend $44 million on free agent Juan Pierre and $7 million more on 39-year-old Luis Gonzalez. For the 2007 season Ethier still started in the outfield, holding his own with a .802 OPS, although he began splitting time with Kemp later in the season. A 23-year-old Kemp exploded onto the scene that year in June and maintained a high level of production all the way through September. He would finish the season with a .342/.373/.521 slash line.
Once again, despite the Dodgers having three solid outfielders on the books for the next several years, Dodgers management decided to sign Andruw Jones to a two-year deal worth just over $36 million. Heading into the 2008 season, the Dodgers had four outfielders for three positions, two with contracts around $40 million and two making about $400,000 a year. Wisely, Dodgers management decided to bench the $44 million Pierre. Just an expensive seat warmer I guess.
Let's skip ahead a few months into the 2008 season. Andruw Jones' batting average has not been above .200 since April 4 and he's getting regular "boos" from the fans, so Joe Torre is forced to bench another big free agent acquisition. Ethier and Kemp were holding their own, Kemp playing exceptionally well, but the Dodgers still felt they needed a stronger third outfielder, even though they were paying a combined $17 million for Pierre's and Jones' (lack of) services.
As we all know, Manny Ramirez became the newest outfielder to join the Dodgers on July 31, where he quickly excelled, stealing a base even. Whether playing alongside Manny was motivation for Ethier is unclear. What is clear is that Ethier saw a huge spike in his numbers upon Manny's arrival. Since that time, Ethier's slash line has looked like this: .321/.421/.670. Kemp has remained relatively steady throughout, going through the normal fluctuations that occur over the course of a season. Right now his OPS is .799, at the bottom curve of one of his fluctuations. Expect his production to steadily increase over the final few weeks.
With only three weeks left in the season and head-to-head leagues finishing the first week of the playoffs, the trading deadline has already passed in most leagues. Matt Kemp is owned in virtually every league and is therefore unattainable. If you own him, good for you. Much to my surprise, Ethier is still not owned in every league. Perhaps people think his recent hot streak is more fluke than skill?
Let's take a look at both Ethier and Kemp's pace for this season:
Player R HR RBI SB Avg. Kemp 93 19 80 37 0.288 Ethier 91 22 70 7 0.284
Kemp and Ethier have astoundingly similar numbers, further displaying the irrationality behind Ethier not being universally owned. The main difference comes from Kemp's surprisingly large stolen base totals, an impressive tally for someone of his size.
As I briefly mentioned before, Andre Ethier has been on a tear as of late (5-for-5 Friday as I write this), specifically since Manny was acquired on July 31. I'm interested in seeing the changes in his peripherals, and as a result, his production over this season using July 31 as the partitioning date.
Production Months PA R HR RBI SB AVG Apr-July 384 53 11 46 3 0.277 Aug-Sept 117 25 8 14 3 0.324
Peripherals Months K% BB% LD% BA/BIP FB% HR/FB Apr-July 17.2% 8.7% 25.0% 0.307 34.5% 11.2% Aug-Sept 17.8% 9.0% 31.3% 0.320 30.1% 32.0%
Several of the columns—Strikeout Percentage (K%), Walk Percentage (BB%), BA/BIP and Flyball Percentage (FB%)—stayed relatively stagnant, however, Ethier's Line Drive Percentage (LD%) and Home Run to Flyball Ratio (HR/FB%) underwent dramatic changes. Even though that 31.3 LD% is ridiculous and clearly unsustainable, it does show how locked in Ethier has been over the past five weeks. And that HR/FB%, of every five fly balls Etheir hits, one more is going for a home run now than before. Again, sustainable? Probably not, but who cares? As I mentioned earlier, there are three weeks left in roto leagues and head-to-head leagues are already in the postseason. The focus is now, in the present.
If you are already out of championship contention in your league and are looking forward to next season, Ethier figures to be an undervalued player in drafts. Kemp, on the other hand, will probably become slightly overvalued because of his high stolen base total. Kemp will still steal bases, but I highly doubt he will continue to be an elite base stealer as his power develops further—you can't get too many steals from second base, or from the dugout after hitting a home run.
The biggest threat to Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp right now is the possibility of the Dodgers signing some overpaid, washed-up outfielder to take their place.
Posted by Paul Singman at 1:06am (0) Comments
Saturday, September 13, 2008
In this time of the fantasy baseball season, there isn't much left to do. If you're in contention, you are pretty much stuck with the team you have now (it's worked well enough for you so far), but never be afraid to reach for that hot hitter and never ignore borderline guys like Vicente Padilla, who is a two-start pitcher facing the Mariners and A's this week. Articles like this can help you with that. If you're out of contention, there really isn't anything left to do and you're probably preoccupied with your football team anyway.
However, for a fantasy baseball addict like myself, the season never ends. It goes something like this:
As you can see, fantasy baseball is a year-round activity—the season never really ends. One season just leads to another, though you are certainly more active during the "regular season." Even though the fantasy season is in full swing for those lucky and skilled enough, it is not too early to take our first look back on the season. Appropriately, we'll start by reviewing this year's first basemen in our "first" look. However, before we can review what the slugging first basemen did this season, we must first revisit the expectations bestowed upon them in the preseason.
For this I will use Razzball's rankings because their archives are easier to negotiate than some of the bigger sites, they give concrete projects besides just rankings, and they are a good fantasy baseball site in my opinion. Here is how the guys at Razzball projected the first basemen back in early January:
pRank Actual Rank Player pR pHR pRBI pAvg 1 1 Albert Pujols 110 40 115 0.300 2 13 Prince Fielder 115 50 125 0.285 3 7 Ryan Howard 100 50 140 0.275 4 N/A Travis Hafner 100 40 110 0.300 5 4 Mark Teixeira 110 35 120 0.305 6 11 Derrek Lee 110 30 115 0.290 7 2 Lance Berkman 100 30 115 0.310 8 5 Justin Morneau 90 35 110 0.275 9 8 Adrian Gonzalez 90 33 105 0.280 10 N/A Paul Konerko 90 35 110 0.275 11 18 Carlos Pena 85 22 80 0.260 12 N/A Todd Helton 90 15 90 0.315 13 24 Carlos Guillen 95 15 75 0.300 14 6 Kevin Youkilis 115 21 90 0.290 15 23 Nick Swisher 95 30 100 0.275 16 21 Mike Jacobs 70 30 95 0.285 17 10 Carlos Delgado 70 28 95 0.260 18 N/A Adam LaRoche 70 27 100 0.265 19 20 James Loney 95 22 95 0.315 20 N/A Casey Kotchman 80 22 80 0.300
As you can see, the top projected first basemen did not perform very well as a whole. Of the players ranked in the top five, only two remain. And from the top ten, there are six. Only one of the four players that dropped out of the top ten because of injuries, and that was Travis Hafner. The other three—Prince Fielder, Derrek Lee, and Paul Konerko—have had disappointing seasons with the exception of Lee, who is currently ranked 11th. The most telling stat from the table is that only six of the 20 players held or increased their preseason ranking
There is no encompassing reason for this lack of success, but it should be noted that as a group, first basemen have not produced this season to their standards. My guess is that this decrease in production is especially noticeable in first basemen's home run totals. Here is a breakdown of each position's average home run output in 2007 and then 2008:
2007 Avg HR 2008 Avg HR 1B 20.88 1B 19.23 3B 18.00 3B 15.5 OF 16.70 OF 15.24 SS 12.03 C 10.22 2B 11.58 2B 8.98 C 11.57 SS 8.06
Much to my surprise and slightly to my disappointment, first basemen have actually pulled away from the other positions in terms of home run power. I was very surprised at the results of this. It is important to note that the numbers for 2008 are not projected to the end of the season, so don't compare between years per se.
Well, we found out that using a top pick on a first basemen this year was probably not a great investment. However, I have yet to run this type of analysis on the other positions, so for all I know more projected top 10 players could drop out ... we will see. Those articles will probably come out when the season ends and stats are finalized; it just makes things easier. I admit this article was a bit premature, but at least now you know some of what's to come in the offseason. Although as I mentioned before, the fantasy baseball season never really ends.
References and Resources
Thanks again to Razzball, I hope I didn't make their preseason rankings look too bad. And I also used FanGraphs to get the average home run production by position.
Posted by Paul Singman at 1:36am (0) Comments
Monday, September 15, 2008
Above, I posted an article introducing four new plate discipline stats. It was necessary to explain these (in my opinion) really cool new stats, but I you'd like to see them in action. Let's look at a few interesting players using our four new stats.
First use of our new stats
Note: Contact rate (CT%) here is the same contact percentage we've always used at THT Fantasy Focus. It's simply the inverse of strikeout rate (K%) and uses at-bats as the baseline, not pitches.
+------+-----+--------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+ | YEAR | AGE | LAST | TPA | BA | CT% | JUDGMENT X | A/P | BAT CONTROL | BAD BALL | +------+-----+--------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+ | 2005 | 28 | Monroe | 623 | 0.277 | 83 | 106 | 0.42 | 88 | 52 | | 2006 | 29 | Monroe | 585 | 0.255 | 77 | 101 | 0.60 | 84 | 46 | | 2007 | 30 | Monroe | 427 | 0.219 | 73 | 104 | 0.54 | 80 | 53 | | 2008 | 31 | Monroe | 179 | 0.202 | 71 | 97 | 0.60 | 78 | 51 | +------+-----+--------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
Monroe isn't a player many fantasy owners care about anymore, but he is a great example of a player who has just fallen off a cliff and how these stats explain that fall.
His peak year for contact rate was in 2005 as a 28-year old (83 percent), and it has been all downhill from there. It now sits at 71 percent. The culprit? Loss of bat control. It was league average in 2005 (his contact rate was league average as well), and it has fallen every year since, along with the contact rate. His judgment hasn't fallen off too badly—though it now is in below-average territory—and he has become less passive since 2005, though still too passive.
+------+-----+----------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+ | YEAR | AGE | LAST | TPA | BA | CT% | JUDGMENT X | A/P | BAT CONTROL | BAD BALL | +------+-----+----------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+ | 2005 | 29 | Guerrero | 594 | 0.317 | 91 | 127 | 0.83 | 91 | 67 | | 2006 | 30 | Guerrero | 665 | 0.329 | 89 | 123 | 1.45 | 91 | 68 | | 2007 | 31 | Guerrero | 660 | 0.324 | 89 | 109 | 1.10 | 90 | 71 | | 2008 | 32 | Guerrero | 568 | 0.300 | 86 | 107 | 1.13 | 91 | 70 | +------+-----+----------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
Now a more interesting batter.
Vlad has never hit below .300 in his career, but, boy, is he flirting with the mark in 2008. We see that his bat control is still fine, and his usual free-swinging bias continues. His judgment index, however, has fallen, and has been falling since 2005. It's 20 points lower than it was then and is now just seven percent better than league average. It's possible he's made adjustments the past two years after noticing that his judgment was lacking, as he's much less aggressive than he was in 2006 (though in 2005 he was actually more passive, so perhaps 2006 was just an outlier).
His bat control and bad ball hitting are both solid and stable, so that should help him even if his judgment falls a little more. These two skills also would help compensate if he continues his aggressive approach or even reverts to his 2006 aggression levels.
If his judgment does continue to worsen and his bat control and/or bad ball hitting ever fall off, he will need to stop being so aggressive or he could be in trouble. Lack of judgment means more mistakes. If those mistakes are of the swinging variety, his fantasy owners had better hope he can still swing the bat well or he's going to be whiffing a ton. This is sort of worst-case scenario, but it's not a completely outlandish one for a year or two down the road.
+------+-----+-------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+ | YEAR | AGE | LAST | TPA | BA | CT% | JUDGMENT X | A/P | BAT CONTROL | BAD BALL | +------+-----+-------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+ | 2005 | 28 | Jones | 672 | 0.263 | 81 | 96 | 0.56 | 83 | 45 | | 2006 | 29 | Jones | 669 | 0.262 | 78 | 95 | 0.40 | 84 | 40 | | 2007 | 30 | Jones | 659 | 0.222 | 76 | 97 | 0.45 | 80 | 54 | | 2008 | 31 | Jones | 238 | 0.158 | 64 | 77 | 0.45 | 80 | 48 | +------+-----+-------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
I think we all know the story with Andruw, but here are his plate discipline numbers. As you see, his bat control fell off last year and didn't bounce back in 2008. His judgment and bad ball hitting were actually the best of our four-year sample last year, but the poor bat control dragged his contact rate down a couple of points. This year, not only has his bat control remained poor, but his judgment has fallen off the table, to 23 percent worse than league average, which explains the enormous drop in contact rate.
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+ | YEAR | AGE | LAST | TPA | BA | CT% | JUDGMENT X | A/P | BAT CONTROL | BAD BALL | +------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+ | 2006 | 23 | Quentin | 191 | 0.253 | 80 | 111 | 0.70 | 83 | 44 | | 2007 | 24 | Quentin | 263 | 0.214 | 76 | 101 | 0.76 | 80 | 41 | | 2008 | 25 | Quentin | 263 | 0.288 | 83 | 108 | 0.41 | 87 | 59 | +------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
Perhaps the breakout story of 2008. We all know he's hitting for power, but how many of you knew that this came with a huge increase in his contact rate? This becomes even more astounding when you notice his A/P. When he makes errors, he's actually making more passive errors than aggressive ones. You'd think a guy with such gaudy power numbers would be making more swinging errors. He would certainly benefit from being less passive.
The contact rate spike this year has come from three sources: a seven percent jump in judgment index, a seven percent jump in bat control, and an 18 percent jump in bad ball hitting. These are huge gains and might not be able to be fully maintained, but Quentin will certainly be one of the most interesting players to watch in 2009.
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+ | YEAR | AGE | LAST | TPA | BA | CT% | JUDGMENT X | A/P | BAT CONTROL | BAD BALL | +------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+ | 2006 | 23 | Kinsler | 474 | 0.286 | 85 | 104 | 0.16 | 93 | 66 | | 2007 | 24 | Kinsler | 566 | 0.263 | 83 | 107 | 0.18 | 91 | 66 | | 2008 | 25 | Kinsler | 518 | 0.319 | 87 | 106 | 0.20 | 93 | 67 | +------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
If I mixed up the contact rates for Kinsler, would you be able to tell which belonged in which spot using the four plate discipline skills? I couldn't. I could probably peg 2007 by the bat control, but there is very little variation among the three years. The spread in contact rate, however, is four points. Kinsler had a great year, no doubt, but I'm not convinced his shiny new 87 percent contact rate is for real.
I hope to be conducting some studies in the offseason to see what happens to guys like this who see an increase in contact rate without gains in one of the plate discipline skills. My guess would be that they regress to their old levels the following year. For now, just be a little wary of Kinsler, and don't pencil him into your first or second round yet.
+------+-----+-------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+ | YEAR | AGE | LAST | TPA | BA | CT% | JUDGMENT X | A/P | BAT CONTROL | BAD BALL | +------+-----+-------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+ | 2005 | 22 | Weeks | 414 | 0.239 | 73 | 89 | 0.29 | 82 | 39 | | 2006 | 23 | Weeks | 413 | 0.279 | 74 | 79 | 0.28 | 83 | 41 | | 2007 | 24 | Weeks | 506 | 0.235 | 72 | 86 | 0.23 | 85 | 48 | | 2008 | 25 | Weeks | 536 | 0.233 | 76 | 97 | 0.19 | 85 | 55 | +------+-----+-------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
Weeks takes a lot of bashing, but he is definitely a guy I have on my 2009 radar. His contact rate jumped up four points this year to 76 percent, and this was accompanied by significant skills growth.
Weeks is clearly improving. His bad ball Hitting has improved every year since 2005 with significant, seven point gains the past two years. His judgment made a huge leap this year as well, now approaching league average territory. He also sustained his gains in bat control this year, although he clearly is too passive.
If Weeks can manage a .280 batting average and stay healthy, he has the power and speed to be a nice pick late in your draft next year. Of course, he may need to worry about playing time initially.
On another note, look at his 2006 contact rate and plate skills compared to his 2007 contact rate and plate skills. The skills are clearly worse in 2006, yet in 2007 he had his lowest contact rate. What happened in 2007? He bounced back. Of course, this is mostly due to the skills gains we talked about earlier, but this is an analogous case to what we discussed earlier with Kinsler. It seems pretty apparent now that the 72 percent contact rate in 2007 was bad luck.
Calculate our four plate discipline stats on your own!
To make things easier, here is the link again to the Plate Discipline Calculator I provided in the original article introducing these stats. You can use it throughout next season to see which player's are changing their approach or getting better in terms of their plate skills.
Again, all you need to do is copy the "Plate Discipline" section of stats from any FanGraphs player page and paste it into the corresponding section in the worksheet (make sure not to copy the headings or it screws things up). Everything else should be taken care of!
If you have questions or would like anything clarified, please feel free to let me know.
Posted by Derek Carty at 11:02pm (0) Comments
Last year, Pizza Cutter over at MVN's Statistically Speaking blog used Retrosheet pitch-by-pitch data to dig deeper into what we generally call "plate discipline." What is plate discipline, and how do we measure someone with good plate discipline? His findings were extremely interesting and have significant fantasy implications.
Now, we now have access to data that weren't available when his study was originally conducted, so I'll be introducing some changes and two new stats based on these new data.
Until now, even some of the more statistically inclined fantasy analysts have gone only as far as breaking down "plate discipline" into strikeouts and walks, sometimes separately, other times in the form of BB/K. These analyses use BB/K as a measure of a hitter’s plate discipline, batting eye, or ability to distinguish between balls and strikes.
This seems to make sense at first glance. Pizza Cutter put it well when he said that "the logic behind the ratio seems relatively obvious: the two outcomes of a plate appearance that don’t involve the ball being put into play are the walk and the strikeout. As both events are made up by either good or bad command of the strike zone, it would seem that they are the opposite sides of the same coin." His research that follows, however, shows that this isn't nearly the strongest measure we can find. Strikeouts and walks don't actually appear to be direct opposites of each other, as many people assume and as BB/K seems to imply.
As an example, let's look at the argument that a player who takes a lot of walks is disciplined. While this may be true, it's also very possible he isn't disciplined at all. Consider the scenario in which a hitter takes a lot of pitches—even some good ones—because his batting eye is so poor he has difficulty distinguishing between good and bad pitches. So to compensate, he lets any ball he isn't totally sure about go by. He'll take walks, but that doesn't mean he's disciplined. In actuality, his eye stinks!
To take it a step further, let's say he makes contact with every pitch he actually does swing at, keeping his strikeout rate low. While his BB/K might be good, this isn't because he has a good eye. It's because he takes a ton of pitches and has good bat control to compensate.
What fantasy players care about
As fantasy players, walk rates don't mean a whole lot to us. Sure, those with high walk rates will score some extra runs and have more opportunities to steal bases, but there are plenty of more important stats to focus on. In the context of plate discipline, what we really care about is strikeout rate, because it has a direct effect on batting average.
We've discussed the topic before, but essentially, if a batter strikes out, he has no chance at all of getting a hit. If he avoids striking out and puts the ball into play, there is always a chance that it will fall for a hit. Therefore, the players who limit strikeouts best will have the most opportunities to get hits and have the higher batting averages, holding all else constant.
This being said, today we'll look at some new statistics that will really illuminate a player's skills in terms of limiting strikeouts.
Sensitivity and response bias
We've now established that BB/K isn't optimal, but how should we measure plate discipline, and more importantly for us, the plate discipline skills that allow a batter to limit strikeouts? Pizza Cutter came up with a very cool way using signal detection theory. I'd highly recommend reading his entire work on the matter (although be warned: It is a lot to digest. There's a simpler discussion here).
In summary, he came up with two new statistics, which he calls sensitivity and response bias. Sensitivity "is a reflection of how good a batter is at judging between the pitches at which he should and shouldn’t swing." Response bias shows the batter's tendencies when he makes a mistake. Is he taking too many pitches or swinging at too many? (If a batter is going to make mistakes, these stats show that swinging more will limit strikeouts better than taking too many pitches.)
Technical changes to sensitivity and response bias (for those who are interested)
When Pizza Cutter conducted his study, it was before FanGraphs published pitch-by-pitch data and right before PITCHf/x really exploded, so he was unable to incorporate location data. Now that we have location data, however, we are able to account for some of the things that were then impossible.
If you've read through his methodology, then you'll probably also be interested in the next few paragraphs, which explain the changes I made based on FanGraphs' location data.
In the previous incarnation, a "correct swing" included all contacted balls. In my version, it includes all in-zone swings. In the previous incarnation, a "Type I Error" included all swinging strikes. In my version, it includes only out-of-zone swinging strikes. All called strikes remain a "Type II Error," and all balls remain a "correct rejection."
Pizza Cutter made a distinction between two-strike foul balls and zero and one-strike foul balls. Because FanGraphs doesn't make this distinction, all foul balls are simply treated as contacted balls.
I could have used PITCHf/x data and made this distinction, but there were a few reasons I didn't. The first is because we have only one full season's worth of data and we wouldn't be able to track a player's progress yet (something we like to do in fantasy). The second is because I'd like to run tests this offseason to see how plate discipline affects other skills, and more than one season is needed for this. The last is because I'd like to provide you with a way to calculate these stats on your own throughout the season. At the bottom of this article, you'll find a download link for an easy-to-use calculator.
The purpose of the statistics remains the same.
Superficial changes to sensitivity and response bias (for everyone)
Pizza Cutter used the terms "sensitivity" and "response bias" because they are the technical terms associated with the statistical technique used. We're going to change the names to make it easier to understand what I'm talking about. From this point, I'll refer to sensitivity as judgment (I'd call it eye, but this could get confusing since BB/K is often called eye) and response bias will be called aggressiveness/passivity bias (or Agg/Pass or A/P).
If anyone has a better suggestion, please let me know; I realize "aggressiveness/passivity bias" really isn't very catchy, although it does sum up what it is. When a hitter makes a mistake, is it because he is too aggressive or too passive? Swinging too much or too little?
In the spirit of keeping things simple, I've also made
The scale for
In addition to judgment and aggressiveness/passivity, I'll be using a third statistic that will help us evaluate a hitter's plate skills: bat control. If a batter has a perfect eye but isn't able to take advantage of it by swinging the bat well, what's the point?
Bat control is the percentage of balls within the strike zone that the hitters makes contact with (given that he swings). The formula is (in-zone contacted balls)/(in-zone swings).
Since a hitter is swinging, we can assume it's because he believes he can hit the ball (yes, this isn't always true, but it's good enough for our purposes), and a ball within the strike zone is definitely capable of being hit (by focusing on in-zone pitches, we ignore the times where a batter swings and misses on pitches out of the zone. This is because these are more likely to be caused by poor judgment, not poor bat control—the batter shouldn't be swinging at a ball outside the strike zone if he isn't able to hit it).
So the percentage of times he does what he intends to do (make contact) when he should be expected to (when it's in the strike zone), I contend, gives us a good measure of bat control.
I wanted to make this into an index stat as well, but because league average is roughly 88 percent, even a batter who hits every single in-zone pitch he swings at (100 percent bat control) would receive only a 113 bat control Index score. This would be confusing, because the difference between a 103 and a 113 index doesn't look large, but it's actually the difference between a slightly better than league average batter and a perfect one!
So, we'll have to use the raw data. League average is 88 percent, better than 95 percent is very good, less than 80 percent is very bad.
Bad ball hitting
While bat control measures a batter's ability to hit balls that the rules of baseball say he should be able to (pitches within the strike zone), some hitters are able to hit balls that they really aren't expected to (pitches out of the strike zone). So our second new stat we'll call bad ball hitting (name lifted from Dan Fox's article on plate discipline stats).
It is calculated as (out-of-zone contacted balls)/(out-of-zone swings).
Here it would be more feasible to use an index scoring system, but I think we'd just be getting too confusing. Since bat control uses raw percentages, so will bad ball hitting to stay consistent. League average is 57 percent. Above 75 seems to be good, above 85 is elite. Below 50 generally seems to be poor, below 45 is terrible.
Some quick correlations. If you're not interested in the exact numbers, it might be worth it to look quickly at the order in which our new stats best predict strikeout rate.
+-------------+-------------+ | STAT | CORRELATION | +-------------+-------------+ | Bat control | -0.85 | | Bad ball | -0.79 | | Judgment | -0.57 | | A/P | 0.42 | +-------------+-------------+
Just about as I'd expected: Bat control is most important, followed by the ability to make contact with balls that aren't expected to be hit, followed by judgment, and finally the hitter's aggressiveness/passivity bias.
And if you're interested, here's how they predict walk rate:
+-------------+-------------+ | STAT | CORRELATION | +-------------+-------------+ | A/P | -0.39 | | Judgment | 0.22 | | Bad ball | -0.18 | | Bat control | -0.17 | +-------------+-------------+
Here are the inter-class correlations that show how stable these stats are from year-to-year:
+-------------+-------------+------+ | STAT | CORRELATION | R-SQ | +-------------+-------------+------+ | Bat control | 0.90 | 0.82 | | A/P | 0.82 | 0.67 | | Bad ball | 0.81 | 0.65 | | Judgment | 0.74 | 0.55 | +-------------+-------------+------+
As you see, they are all pretty stable.
Calculate our four plate discipline stats on your own
Click here to download an Excel spreadsheet that will allow you to calculate these stats on your own. You can use it throughout next season to see which players are changing their approach or getting better in terms of their plate skills.
All you need to do is copy the "Plate Discipline" section of stats from any FanGraphs player page and paste it into the corresponding section in the worksheet (make sure not to copy the headings or it screws things up). Everything else should be taken care of.
If you have questions about my methodology or thought process, on how to use the stats, or really any questions at all, feel free to e-mail me.
References, resources, and thanks
A huge thanks to Pizza Cutter. He spent a lot of time talking with me about this.
The new stats use FanGraphs plate discipline data.
While including location data has alleviated one of the concerns people had with sensitivity and response bias, others still haven't been addressed. The biggest is probably the assumption that all pitches thrown inside the strike zone should be swung at. Certainly some hitters have cold zones or see pitches that they don't think they can do much with. In the long run, they might be better off taking a called strike and waiting for a better pitch.
PITCHf/x would allow us to at least attempt to look at this, but when I went to do it, I ended up with a mile-long list of confounding factors. And if the majority of these factors aren't accounted for, how do we know if a batter took a called strike intentionally or because of a lapse in judgment? If we can't be relatively sure about this, I think it's a mistake to try to make a distinction. I think we're better off making our simple assumption.
Therefore, this issue remains untouched for now. Perhaps I'll look in the future, but for now, I think what we'll be using will be perfectly fine for our purposes, and certainly more accurate and more in-depth than BB/K.
Posted by Derek Carty at 11:03pm (0) Comments
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
For most teams there are 12 games left in the regular season. That's 12 games left for your fantasy team to move up or down in roto league standings. That's not a lot of time to make up any significant ground, unless you are involved in a couple of close races in particular stat categories. Perhaps you are tied in RBI with another team or down by just one stinkin' win . Over a full season's worth of play, it's incredible to be so close to another team in a stat. You don't think it will happen, but every year it seems it does. The difference, if any, is so small.
Speaking of small, think of all of the "small" things you could have done over the season that would better the current situation you're in. Maybe you forgot to update your lineup until 2:15 p.m. and Brett Myers was pitching at 1:00 so he stayed on the bench. He would go on to throw a complete game shutout and, more importantly, get a win. Or you didn't realize the night before that Alfonso Soriano was coming off the DL on the 14th so he remained on your bench for one game. He went 3-for-5 with a home run and three RBIs, while the guy you added to replace him, Willy Taveras, went 0-for-4. You should have dropped Willy the night before, but you were too busy doing... whatever it is you do.
The point is most people go into these last couple of weeks without a clear conscience, myself included. You don't think it will matter over the long marathon that is the regular season in June, but where we are now you see how big a difference those little things can make. Despite how apparent this all may seem now, I guarantee sometime early next season you won't update your roster one day because you accidentally turn off your computer and don't feel it's worth the 4 minutes to turn it quickly back on and change things. Odds are, that September you'll have the same guilty feeling you (and I) have now. Rinse and Repeat.
I know what I'm saying isn't revolutionary and it is something you already "know", but really try to keep this in mind through next April, May, June and July. Right now that is one of my goals for next season—to enter September with a clear conscience. Are you with me?
Posted by Paul Singman at 1:07am (0) Comments
Saturday, September 20, 2008
We are finally here. There is only one week left in the regular season. There is a fair chance your fate has already been determined, and by that I mean you don't really have a chance to move up or down in the standings. However there are still some of you that do. Hitting stats are harder to actively acquire—you are basically stuck with the players you have now, although an add like Nelson Cruz, Taylor Teagarden, Ryan Shealy, or Kelly Johnson could make some sense.
For pitching it is a different story. I'm sure everyone is aware of the term "streaming", where you essentially just add a pitcher for his start and consequently drop him. It is a high risk/reward type strategy, but with one week left, what do you got to lose? A lot, actually. If you are currently tied with another team in ERA or WHIP, then streaming is not for you. If you're in the midst of a close wins or strikeout race, then, you really do have nothing to lose. So let's start going over some viable options for you to stream over the last week of competition.
Kevin Millwood vs. A's — Yes, Millwood does have a 5.15 ERA this season and a xFIP that is not much better. But what Millwood can offer are decent strikeout totals and a great start now and then. Facing the A's, this could be one of those starts. He doesn't walk many with a 2.72 BB/9, so you know he's going to challenge the A"s hitters and force them to hit the ball—something they are usually not very good at.
Todd Wellemeyer vs D-backs — I'll admit, Wellemeyer is a bit on the heavily owned side at about 60 percent, but I figured I'd just throw out the name of the Cards pitcher with a 2.67 Aug./Sept. ERA facing a sub-par offensive unit. If he is not owned, make him!
Gil Meche vs Tigers — Obviously this is not the greatest match up in terms of opponent, but Meche (45.2 percent owned) has been great for solid stretch of time now. Since the All-Star break he has 3.12 ERA with 84 strikeouts in 74 innings. Definitely worth a shot.
Freddy Garcia vs. Royals — In his first start of the entire season, Garcia threw five innings without giving up a run; an impressive feat against the potent Rangers offense. In his next scheduled start he will face a less daunting lineup: the Royals'. Garcia has not been good in something like three years and is making his second start since Tommy John surgery, but remember, you have nothing to lose.
Ubaldo Jiminez vs Giants — The Rockies young flamethrower has put together a respectable year in his first full season as a major league starter. If he could just curb his walk totals, I think he would become a slightly-less-than-elite pitcher, although that is a big "if." Jiminez is facing a light-hitting Giants lineup that is second to last in the NL in runs per game at 3.96, so the match up is favorable. The game is not in Colorado, and I originally thought that was a good thing until I checked and found out that Ubaldo's away ERA is 1.83 points higher than his home one. Go figure.
Dave Bush vs Pirates — Bush is one of those pitchers who in the preseason always appears primed for his breakout season... and it never comes. Although he is not having what you would normally call a "breakout season," I'd call his 4.22 ERA satisfying to an extent. With his K/9 rate dropping the way it has (from 7.11 in 2006, to 6.47 in '07, and settling at 5.39 in 2008) he's never going to become the elite pitcher I once thought he could be, but he could still have value in that Paul Byrd type of way. That's for the next few years though. Right now Bush is quietly riding high, having allowed no more than three runs in 10 of his last 12 starts, averaging almost seven innings a start over that span. The Pirates line up is far from it once was, before the midseason trades of Nady and Bay.
Clayton Kershaw vs Padres — I'm positive everyone knows who Kershaw is even though he is only owned in slightly over 50 percent of leagues. He's looked impressive in two of his last three outings, and he's facing the NL worst San Diego lineup. Snatch him up if you can.
Scott Lewis vs. Twins - Lewis, in what will be his fourth career MLB start (he's making his third on Sunday), is a good option going against the Red Sox, regardless of their offensive potency. Lewis has been dominant in the minors since being drafted in the 3rd round of the 2004 draft by the Indians, displaying amazing control. He started 2008 in Double-A where he posted a 2.33 ERA in 73 innings, issuing just nine walks. In 24 innings at Triple-A, Lewis compiled a 2.63 ERA with 21 strikeouts and just four walks. On Sept. 10 Lewis made his first major league start, throwing eight scoreless innings. In is next start, against the Twins, he threw six more scoreless. That makes Lewis perfect in his first 14 career innings pitched, so he certainly has stuff going for him. I'm writing this prior to Sunday so I can't use the information from his third start, but you can. Keep an eye on this guy.
I was planning on listing some good streamers for the weekend, but honestly it is too difficult to predict who will start in games a week away. Too many teams will start messing with their rotations so it is not worth it to try and guess now. If later in the week you would like to see the scheduled pitchers for each team, head on over to this page to get all that info.
Remember before I said everyone should know about streaming ... well that means everyone will be trying to do it. All of the best options could get scooped up if you don't act fast. If you find yourself unable to compete with some ridiculous person in your league who wakes up at 3:15 AM, exactly when the league jumps to the next day, to add the "streambles", then consider on Monday adding pitchers for Wednesday. And then Wednesday for Friday, and Friday for Sunday. Most likely that will not happen and you will just have your pickings, but if it does, consider yourself prepared.
Posted by Paul Singman at 1:11am (0) Comments
This post is going to be a sort of introduction to some risk analysis that I’m going to try to incorporate into player analysis and forecasting. I think we have a long way to go when it comes to the risk management side of player evaluation. I’ll admit that I don’t have all the answers when it comes to risk analysis, but I’m going to try to incorporate some qualitative and quantitative features so we can better understand what kind of risk we are dealing with. Baseball HQ uses a reliability feature to serve its purposes of risk management. I’ve written elsewhere that I’m not a big fan of this tool. Baseball HQ has admitted that it's struggled in various fantasy leagues throughout the year using its risk strategy.
Thatrisk management plan sounds good in theory, but I believe the reason it didn’t work out was because it wasn't projecting future risk as much as describing past risk. I’m going to try to take the first approach and project future risk. While you may not agree with the conclusions, I hope you find the process acceptable. If so, you can plug your own figures into the process and come up with your own risk assessment of a player. These are some of the tools I’m going to use to try to do this: