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Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I had planned on talking about my second mock draft of the year today, but after some of the participants pulled out at the last minute, it never materialized. Therefore, I thought that I might discuss with you today my general philosophy when it comes to player evaluation.
It's the start of the off-season, and I know that some of our new readers are probably unfamiliar with a lot of the stats that I use in my articles. I'd like to discuss my feelings on stats in general and on evaluation methods that aren't stats-related (quick note to those reading this and thinking "I don't want to hear from a guy who is in love with stats and doesn't consider anything else"—that's not me, so keep reading).
What are "sabermetics"?
I'd first like to start out by giving my interpretation of the term "sabermetrics." Sabermetrics is not—at least in my view—necessarily the same thing as "statistics." Sabermetrics is about truth, regardless of the form it takes. In most cases, this includes statistics, but non-statistics can also be a part of the process if treated carefully.
This isn't, however, an implication that all statistics are good. In fact, the vast majority of them are either flawed or useless, for fantasy purposes or otherwise. This is why I am extremely selective about the stats that I use. I sometimes get questions about why I don't use a particular stat. The answer is almost always because there is a better one out there (which I am using). And when I'm not convinced that a sufficient stat already exists, I invent my own, if at all possible.
Stats aren't the end all, be all, however. There are some things that really can't be put into numerical form that should be considered. This is where scouting comes in.
Scouting can give us information that stats simply cannot. Combining the two can give us a fuller view of a player and can provide insight that neither could do alone. As an example of this, last off-season I examined Geovany Soto, who put up a tremendous 2007 season in the minors, pretty much out of nowhere. If looking solely at the stats, we would say that Soto should see some heavy regression (could even be a fluke) and should be expected to hit far fewer home runs in 2008, especially jumping to the majors.
If we considered some qualitative scouting information, though, we would be a little more optimistic. John Sickels of Minor League Ball said that Soto had added strength and changed his swing to add more loft to the ball, which were the cause (in part) of Soto's power surge. Taking this information into account, as a rough estimation, I predicted a pretty sizeable 15.0 percent HR/FB for Soto this year. His actual HR/FB turned out to be 14.7 percent.
If some things that usually fall under the "scouting" head can be quantified, though, they should be. While things like mechanics, injury analysis, and (as in Soto's case) added muscle mass really can't be put into (or aren't readily available in) numerical form, recent innovations like PITCHf/x and HitTracker (both of which are used by THT Fantasy Focus) allow us to examine some things that formerly were only able to evaluated using traditional, eye-ball scouting methods.
As far as non-quantitative scouting information goes, I'm not an expert and don't proclaim to be. When information like this is applicable, I'll simply quote someone who knows what they're talking about, such as THT's own Chris Neault or Alex Eisenberg or something like Tom Tango's Fan Scouting Report (as a side-note, look for an article later this week or next relating this to stolen bases).
The one thing we need to be careful of is that qualitative scouting information isn't easily tested. It would be very difficult to go back and systematically see whether or not the process worked. We are trusting that those we are relying on know what they are talking about, and even then, we can't say for certain how accurate this information is. I don't have a big problem with this as long as I trust the person in question and as long as we realize that using this type of information is inherently more risky, although we do need to keep it all in the back of our minds.
Sabermetrics, in my opinion, is simply about truth, regardless of the form. Combining stats and scouting is often the best way to achieve truth, despite how few people seem to be willing to admit it.
Stats need to make up the majority of our analysis, though, because they can capture in a precise manner exactly what a player did (or should have been expected to do). The stats are testable and we can know with relative certainty just how accurate they are. The scouting information needs to supplement the stats, if necessary. While I believe scouting is much less important than stats (and might not be necessary in many cases), it can be a useful tool for us.
None of the above
While many writers are against the use of stats, this isn’t to say that they are “scouting guys” by default. They may (and probably are likely to) call themselves this, but we must consider what a scout actually is. Scouts go to scout school or at least study scouting methods and techniques on their own. They examine mechanics and biomechanics and things of that nature.
I believe there is a distinct difference between this type of scout and someone without such training who watches a baseball game, posts to a website or blog, and gives their opinions under the guise of it being a “scouting perspective” simply because numbers aren't involved. I don't really believe that feelings, guesses, and hunches fall under the "scouting" heading, and they need to be made and accepted with a great deal of caution.
(Please note that this is different than something like Tango’s Fan Scouting Report, which deals with the opinions of people who may be doing no more than simple eye-balling. When you can combine the opinions of a large enough sample size, that opinion is likely to be quite valid, even if selecting any one of participant could give you completely incorrect information. In economics, this concept is referred to as the “wisdom of crowds.”)
So where do things like team chemistry, hot streaks, slumps, clutch hitting, and things of that nature come in? Sabemetrics does not deny the existence of these things, contrary to popular belief. These things do very much exist, and saying that they don't is simply incorrect. The thing is that they either can't be quantified or aren't repeatable skills. Because of this (and because the impact, in my opinion, is relatively small compared to the actual talent of the player, anyway), they aren't included in the process.
We could make guesses, but they would be just that: plain, shot-in-the-dark guesses. It's been documented that people who do that don't tend to predict things very well. At least when we (someone who is qualified, that is) look at mechanics and make an assessment, it is based on some logical process (even if it can't be quantified).
How do we know, for instance, who is a good clubhouse influence, though? There's no logical method that is available to the majority of us to come to a reasonable conclusion. Unless we talk with the other players in the clubhouse (and are certain we're getting a truthful response), we simply don't know.
We can listen to beat writers and reporters, but most of the time they are simply writing whatever makes a good story. That's their job, and that's fine, but we can't trust those stories for our evaluations. The media creates an image of a player, and writers far too often fall back on that image, which simply perpetuates it.
A great example of this is Carlos Beltran, who is often abused by the media and the blog community for not being a leader or for being too soft-spoken. But they don't know what goes on in the locker room, and a number of Beltran's teammates have actually said that he is a good leader (not that we can take those statements at face value). Of course, this is of little consequence to the media and blog community, who continue to talk about Beltran as if he is a hindrance to the Mets.
There is a smaller sect, however, that actually think Beltran is a good leader. They simply say he's a quiet, lead-by-example guy. These opinions on leadership (and on most other related things) are wholly subjective, so much so that you can come to complete opposite conclusions and still be able to support them. They both can't be true, though, and neither can be measured. They're simply guesses, and these kinds of judgments just can't be trusted.
So absent any truly credible information about these kinds of things, they must be ignored. If you have two players ranked very closely, sure, use it as a tie-breaker. But realize that this sort of thing is of minimal importance when compared with the player's actual baseball-playing skills.
Summarizing the four approaches
In summary (in my view), there are four approaches.
At one extreme are the stats guys who use stats and nothing else. This category can be broken down into two sub-categories.
One sub-category looks at surface statistics like RBI or ERA and irrelevant splits and trends, and the other (more preferable) sub-category looks at underlying numbers and indicators like BABIP and LOB% (the one warning I'll give here is that we must make sure the advanced stats we're using are actually capturing what we're trying to measure. A number of sites try to use advanced stats but use them incorrectly or use stats that aren't actually relevant. I try to be very careful to explain exactly what the stats I use mean so you guys understand where I'm coming from).
At the other extreme are the scouting guys who base their judgments on mechanical evaluations of player and some eyeballing of results.
Sabermetrics (my view of it, anyway) combines the two, relying heavily on statistics and supplementing them with scouting information when applicable.
Lastly, there are those who don't really rely on any of this and are essentially guessing, or who combine guessing with some basic numbers (like those used by the first sub-category of stats guys).
When you’re reading a fantasy baseball analyst, always be sure to ask yourself how the analyst in question is coming to his or her conclusions. If they’re falling back on this pseudo-scouting (i.e. guessing) position or don’t give the basis for their opinions whatsoever, this might be something you’d want to take into consideration before trusting their advice.
If you like my methods, I hope you begin reading my work (if you aren't already). While some of the stats I use will be entirely new to you, guess what that means? It means the only people who will be reading about them are those who read this site, since many of these stats can be found nowhere else. That is a huge advantage you can gain over your competition!
Posted by Derek Carty at 12:01am (0) Comments
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Send in your questions, and each week (or so, depending on the volume), they will be answered in a blog post on THT Fantasy Focus. If we're in-season and you need an urgent response, we'll also go ahead and send it to you right away, before publication. So go ahead. Wondering what player to keep in your keeper league? Who to take with the first overall pick? How to move from third place to first?
Posted by David Gassko at 12:44am (0) Comments
Friday, October 31, 2008
The Boston Red Sox struggled with injuries to many of their key players during the 2008 season, and it became more evident towards the late months and into the playoffs. Fantasy baseball managers are likely wondering what to expect from the roto stalwarts in Beantown. Here is a rundown:
Mike Lowell, 3B
Lowell was a key reason why the Sox even made it to the postseason. He battled through a treacherous second half of the season on an ailing right hip that was seemingly getting worse as time went on. He recently had a right hip arthroscopy, and the news was mostly good, as the surgeon did not have to do as much work as originally anticipated. Lowell will be back to Spring Training on time, more than likely. See my writeup on Lowell’s hip surgery over at The DL Informer.
AL-only owners can rest assured that he will be a productive third baseman for fantasy purposes, while mixed leaguers probably won’t want to have him as their starting 3B. A solid utility player is the most likely scenario for mixed leagues, with a solid average, a respectable but nowhere near eye-popping power game, and helpful RBI totals.
Josh Beckett, SP
I was at both games in Tampa when Beckett pitched, and he clearly was a mere shell of what he is capable of. He would touch 93 on occasion with his fastball, but he mostly sat in the 89-90 range—clearly not Beckett-esque. The drop in velocity was due to a strained Oblique, but the bigger question remains: How will his elbow hold up in ’09 and beyond?
Remember, this was the mystery injury he dealt with in mid-season where his pitching hand would go numb on the 4th and 5th digits of his hand (pinky and ring finger). Where there is smoke, there is fire. This has all the signs of a brewing elbow pathology at the medial (inner) elbow—particularly to the Ulnar nerve. Buyer beware in 2009. I am cautiously putting his games started total at 24.
David Ortiz, 1B/DH
Anyone who has watched David Ortiz over the past few seasons knows that even after he returned from the DL following lengthy immobilization of his left wrist (due to a tendon sheath tear), he was nowhere near to playing like himself. He undoubtedly was playing hurt all season long, or at the very least, he was guarding the wrist and thinking about it constantly.
This was never more apparent than during the postseason, where he was downright terrible. His swing was slow, awkward, and he never had that killer look in his eye. Yeah, you know the one I’m talking about. Sure, he hit a mammoth, game-changing home run in the comeback of Game 5, but that was about all Papi could muster.
The long off-season is exactly what he needs, and I would expect a much different David Ortiz in 2009—not the Papi of 2004, but 25-30 HR sounds about right with an average in the .280s. Don’t think that this is going to be a Travis Hafner-type falloff, because it won’t be. Papi is that good, and if he is healthy, he will rebound nicely. Mixed leaguers will want to avoid him in the first round, but late 2nd, early 3rd sounds good. Watch the results of some expert drafts or mock drafts to see if he is being taken even later.
A rotator cuff strain back in late May kept him on the shelf for a few weeks, though he rebounded nicely after some time off and rehabilitation and managed to put together a solid season for the Sox. I would expect him and Jon Lester to anchor the staff next season, and I would not hesitate to have him as my #2 SP in mixed leagues, or a #1 SP in AL-only.
Jed Lowrie, SS
He was apparently playing with a broken left wrist—albeit a non-displaced fracture—since early in the season (May). He slumped horribly down the stretch, and was virtually useless against most left-handers he faced. This is not a situation to worry about for ’09, but please realize that this is a guy who will never hit for power. Think of him as a David Eckstein-like player when you are setting your draft tiers next season.
Posted by Chris Neault at 12:01am (0) Comments
It was announced yesterday that the rumored Mike Jacobs-to-Kansas City trade finally went through. In return, the Marlins receive relief pitcher Leo Nunez. Today we'll examine how this affects the values of these two players and their new teammates.
Fallout: The Kansas City Royals
Some will say that this trade didn't make much sense for the Royals. From the standpoint that they already have a ton of guys who can play first base, it doesn't, but for the price, I can't fault them too much. Whether it was the right move is irrelevant to fantasy owners, though, so let's look at how this affects things in KC.
The team already has Billy Butler, Ryan Shealy and Kila Ka'aihue who can play first base or DH, and adding Jacobs to the mix only complicates things further. There has been talk that KC could trade one of them (Butler's name has come up most frequently), which would help their value. The team also could put Butler in the outfield (if Jose Guillen or Mark Teahen is traded) if they'd like to accommodate at least three of these guys.
Overall, I'd say this trade has a negative effect on Shealy and Ka'aihue but a positive effect on Butler. Regardless of Jacobs' presence, I don't see how the team could bench Butler. He'll either play or this move will force a trade. Either way, it's good news for Butler. Even if Butler is traded, though, that leaves Shealy and Ka'aihue to battle for playing time.
Indirectly, this trade also helps Ramon Ramirez, who put up an excellent season in relief this year (8.8 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 46 percent GB) and has some impressive looking PITCHf/x data (nice fastball and change-up). With Nunez no longer in the picture, Ramirez will clearly be the top setup man next year and should fill in at closer in the event of a Joakim Soria injury (or if the team changes its mind and puts him in the rotation).
Fallout: The Florida Marlins
With Jacobs gone, the team could look to either Gaby Sanchez or Dallas McPherson in a full-time role next year. If Sanchez is the choice, he would likely play first. If McPherson is chosen, he could play third with Jorge Cantu at first.
I'm a little more excited about McPherson after his 42 homers in Triple-A this year, but he strikes out a ton and could hurt you with batting average. Sanchez is interesting in that he stole 17 bases in Double-A this year, but he was also caught eight times and has only okay power.
The Marlins trading Jacobs indicates a clear willingness to part with their players, making it a little more likely guys like Kevin Gregg, Scott Olsen Jeremy Hermida, and Josh Willingham could get traded.
This would be especially bad news for Gregg, as he likely wouldn't close anywhere else (unless he lands on a team that really doesn't know what it's doing). Dolphin Stadium is mostly a neutral park for lefties and the Marlins have a solid lineup, so any change to Hermida's value would depend on where he goes. Dolphin Stadium suppresses homers by 15 percent for righties, so Willingham could reasonably benefit from a trade. Olsen could benefit as well, but his days of having fantasy value could be long gone.
Fallout: Mike Jacobs
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+---------+--------+-----+-------+--------+-----+ | YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | BA | FLA tBA | KC tBA | CT% | BABIP | mBABIP | LD% | +------+-----+---------+-----+-------+---------+--------+-----+-------+--------+-----+ | 2006 | 25 | Marlins | 469 | 0.262 | 0.273 | 0.271 | 78 | 0.299 | 0.306 | 20 | | 2007 | 26 | Marlins | 426 | 0.265 | 0.276 | 0.271 | 76 | 0.312 | 0.310 | 18 | | 2008 | 27 | Marlins | 477 | 0.247 | 0.239 | 0.233 | 75 | 0.264 | 0.282 | 18 | +------+-----+---------+-----+-------+---------+--------+-----+-------+--------+-----+
Jacobs managed to post adequate batting averages and True Batting Averages in 2006 and 2007, but the decreasing contact rate trend and drop in BABIP caused his True Batting Average to plummet to .239 this year. If we throw him into Kansas City, it would have been .233.
It's very possible the BABIP was simply bad luck this year, and if it bounces back his batting average could rise back into not-good-but-not-going-to-kill-you territory. Be very cautious, though, because you're in trouble if it doesn't, especially given his...
+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-------+------------+-----------+--------+-----+--------+ | YEAR | AGE | TEAM | AB | HR | HR/FB | FLA tHR/FB | KC tHR/FB | nHR/FB | RAW | OF FB% | +------+-----+---------+-----+----+-------+------------+-----------+--------+-----+--------+ | 2006 | 25 | Marlins | 469 | 20 | 15 | 17 | 16 | 16 | 6.6 | 37 | | 2007 | 26 | Marlins | 426 | 17 | 12 | 16 | 11 | 14 | 2.2 | 42 | | 2008 | 27 | Marlins | 477 | 32 | 21 | 14 | 14 | 12 | 0.6 | 42 | +------+-----+---------+-----+----+-------+------------+-----------+--------+-----+--------+
One of the best things about HitTracker and True Home Runs is that we can see how a player would hit in a different environment. This is exactly what I did with Jacobs, as you can see above. Despite a big rise in HR/FB this year, Jacobs' True Home Run numbers have been on a three-year decline. It looks as though KC's Kauffman Stadium will be a little tougher on him than Dolphin Stadium was, which is especially bad news given that he derives most of his value from his power (that batting average certainly isn't doing anything for him).
He will be 28 next year and could turn things around, but Jacobs doesn't look anywhere close to the 32 home run beast he appeared to be in 2008. And since he'll be trading in Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla and Hermida for David DeJesus, Alex Gordon and Guillen, the RBIs and runs could suffer a little too.
Overall, Jacobs clearly loses value in this trade and is probably in the bottom tier of first baseman this year in mixed leagues.
Fallout: Leo Nunez
+------+-----+----+------+------+----------+-----------+------+------+---------+------+-------+ | YEAR | AGE | G | IP | ERA | LIPS ERA | DIPS WHIP | K/9 | BB/9 | K/BB RI | xGB% | BABIP | +------+-----+----+------+------+----------+-----------+------+------+---------+------+-------+ | 2005 | 21 | 41 | 53.7 | 7.55 | 4.70 | 1.49 | 5.37 | 3.02 | -0.27 | 37 | 0.354 | | 2006 | 22 | 7 | 13.3 | 4.73 | 4.95 | 1.43 | 4.73 | 3.38 | -0.51 | 45 | 0.317 | | 2007 | 23 | 13 | 43.7 | 3.92 | 3.87 | 1.21 | 7.63 | 2.06 | 0.52 | 32 | 0.288 | | 2008 | 24 | 45 | 48.3 | 2.98 | 3.99 | 1.28 | 4.84 | 2.79 | -0.40 | 38 | 0.281 | +------+-----+----+------+------+----------+-----------+------+------+---------+------+-------+
Leo Nunez receives a boost in value with this trade. Matt Lindstrom is the favorite to enter 2009 as the team's closer (I'm working under the assumption Gregg gets traded), but he didn't show very good skills last year (6.8 K/9, 4.1 BB/9). If he comes out of the gate pitching like that, he'll quickly be out of a job.
Of course, Nunez didn't post very good skills this year either. The Marlins did give up a pretty significant piece for him, though, and his 2.98 ERA and 94 MPH fastball could fool them. Regardless, Nunez would have a better shot at inheriting the closer's role from Lindstrom than from Soria (and the Marlins don't have anyone as good as Ramirez for him to battle with).
He might not hold the role for very long, but any reliever can get have a lucky season or a lucky few months. And if his 2007 skills come back, he won't need good luck to hold down the job.
Nunez makes for a solid sleeper in NL-only leagues and someone to watch in mixed leagues.