Thursday, 16 October 2014

Fearless Joe Sheehan Predicts #1

•The Diamondbacks' signing of Troy Glaus is a strange move. ... His contract--I'll call this one now--is untradable the moment he signs it, which means in two years he'll be blocking a spot the D'backs may eventually need for Conor Jackson or Jamie D'Antona.


December 11, 2004: Signed as a Free Agent with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
December 27, 2005: Traded by the Arizona Diamondbacks with Sergio Santos to the Toronto Blue Jays for Miguel Batista and Orlando Hudson.


Monday, 6 October 2014

Nationals: Do or Die, My Good-bye

I was an Expos fan. In 2004, I listened to many of the games during that last season by means of MLB's GameDay audio. Compared to the previous two seasons of the MLB Expos, that demanded a degree of fortitude and loyalty. I still bear a deep grudge towards Brian O'Nora, who during an interleague game called a foul ball fair for a home run. When the Expos were moved to Washington, I was upset and my initial response was to look for an alternative team to follow, settling on the Arizona Diamondbacks. However, as luck would have it, the Diamondbacks were playing in Washington at the start of the 2005 season, and I decided to listen to Charlie Slowes and Dave Shea. I was charmed by Slowes in particular, and gradually my familiarity with the 2005 Nationals' roster holdovers from the Expos, and their division-leading antics, had me sticking by the team.

For younger Nationals' fans, who found that where baseball teams are concerned it is better to receive than to give, the kind of humility required to hang on to fandom of a team that is moved is possibly hard to envisage. Longer-term Washington baseball fans might know the feeling well, especially after the original Nationals/Senators became the Twins and went on to a very successful 1960s while the Replacements really gave meaning to the old saying, 'First in war, &c'. In this case, I was rooting for a bunch of people who had made life very miserable with their taunts on message boards during 2002-4. Not many Expos' rooters followed me to Washington. In fact, many would despise me for sticking with the franchise.

The next four years saw me dividing my fandom between the Nationals and the team that I actually grew up with, the Detroit Tigers. The improbable 2006 World Series run by the Tigers did a lot to draw my interest, but my preference for National League baseball (no DH! — the reason I became a fan of a National League team in the first place) also pulled me back towards the ex-Expos. I was tugged in two directions.

In 2009, I made a conscious decision at the start of spring training to refocus on the Nationals, and I started writing this blog to help with that. The title of this blog is, in fact, a Latin pun on 'D.C.'. I paradoxically enjoyed following that losing 2009 team, despite its problems. But there were also annoyances, such as the horrible Rob Dibble & Bob Carpenter television duo, and the fact that Nationals Park clearly referenced not the Nationals' franchise history, but the history of Washington baseball. Now that's great for Washington baseball fans, but it creates problems outside of the District. And, in fact, there has been a constant tension between the Expos' heritage and the marketing problem of building a new fan-base. I've never really been comfortable with the Nationals borrowing the Twins' past, given that there was an Expos' past that the Nationals had every right to. But I also understood that the Expos' past could not speak with much authority to Washington's baseball fans.

2012, right down to Mr Slowes' outstanding home-run call on Jayson Werth's walk-off in Game #4 of the NLDS against the Cardinals, was for me a culmination. Despite being in Canada, not Washington, despite being nurtured into my baseball fandom in Tiger Stadium, not DC Stadium, my elation was just as great as that of anyone's along the Potomac. And the sadness that followed after the Game #5 loss was equally as great. I had followed the construction of that team from 2009 with interest. Those events hurt a bit more than the Tigers' loss to the Giants in the World Series. But when the 2013 season rolled around, something had changed between me and the Nationals. I still don't know what, but I felt a distance that wasn't there before. Was it the free agency of John Lannan? The acquisition of Denard Span? The trade of Michael Morse? Was it the fact that the bitter loss of the 2012 NLDS had cemented their identity as a Washington team, as opposed to a continuing example of the Expos' futile pursuit of post-season glory? Not even Slowes & Jageler could shift a sensation that something was rotten in the state of my Nationals'fandom. The 2014 season simply reinforced these feelings of distance. Instead I invested considerable emotion in the ups and downs of the Tigers, who literally uglied their way into an AL Central pennant.

Then, last Saturday night, there was the 1924 Flag That Will Fly Forever, marking the Washington team's World Series victory that season. Except that flag belongs to the Twins, who took it with them along with the makings of a competitive team when they left in 1960. Now I gather that something like it may have been flying over Nationals Park since it opened in 2008, but on Saturday the prominence given it in the television coverage rankled with me. First Washington baseball fans took someone else's team, and now they are taking another club's history. That's one way to look at it. One could just as easily argue that the Twins left it there when they moved to another city. But neutral arbiters have assigned it to the Twins. It's one of those areas where one's predisposition will determine what side of the argument one will find oneself on.

As the Tigers crashed out of the ALDS in miserable fashion, I came to a conclusion: the Expo in me has to let go of the Nationals. Unless I wind up living in the Chesapeake Bay area in the future, I will focus my baseball team fandom on the Tigers. Tonight will be the last game I watch as a fan of the Nationals. I will still make the post-season blog posts I intend to make about the 2014 Nationals, but they will be the last gestures towards a team that I have followed, in some fashion or another, since 2005. Whether the Nationals do or die, I say ave atque vale to a part of my life that sought to maintain ties to a dead franchise and a memory of past times.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Kyle Ryan's AAA Outings

Kyle Ryan has spent all of the month pitching at the AAA level, and today he makes the jump to the big leagues. What can those minor-league outings tell us about what we could expect to see against the White Sox?

I like to use QMAX, a system developed in the days of the Big Bad baseball Annual, itself a lineal descendant of Bill James' old abstracts. QMAX is helpfully thought of as a means of distinguishing the varying quality of quality and non-quality starts. I have always found it especially useful in helping to understand minor-league outings, even though it was designed with Major-League statistics. It looks at two components of pitching, the ability to miss bats (stuff) and the ability to pitch in the zone (command). Outings are categorised by where they fall on a matrix, such as 'the Success Square', 'the Hit Hard region' and some don't fit into any category at all. The 'Power Precipice' is a zone where pitchers who successfully overpower hitters still find themselves teetering on the brink of a fall because they walk too many. For young players, that's a hopeful sign, because improved command will supplement good stuff. By contrast, the Elite Square reflects the stingiest of pitchers in allowing chances for the opposition, and suggest a pitcher who is ready to try the next level. Here's a list of Kyle Ryan's performances at the AAA level.

2 August Elite Square
 8 August Elite Square
14 August Uncategorised
20 August Elite Square
25 August Success Square/Power Precipice

Now what we know about minor-league baseball is that for pitchers, a lack of command at AAA will mean problems walking batters in the big leagues. We also know that AAA fielders aren't quite as good as major-league ones, so pitchers will suffer a few more hits than they might. In terms of hits given up, the Toledo Mud Hens look to be around league average.

The AAA outings suggest that Ryan is ready to have a cup of coffee at the major-league level, as he has shown some ability at mastering AAA hitters. He is very good at keeping the ball in the strike zone, although it may be his success depends on being a little too crafty for major-league hitters (which is to say that they are harder to fool than minor-leaguers). His k/9s indicate he is a pitch-to-contact type, and his numbers at Erie (AA) might give a clearer idea of what we might expect in the hitter's park that the White Sox play in. There he gave up almost twice as many hits as he did at Toledo, and had an HR/9 of 1.1.
I suspect we'll see something on the order of 5 IP, 5 R, 6 H, 1 HR, 2 BB and 2 K. I'd settle for that.

Friday, 29 August 2014

2014 Tigers' Hitters' Batted Balls in Review #2

I haven't posted any of my batted ball or fielding surveys for quite a while, so I thought I'd start a new cycle with the Tigers, who have been most on my mind of late. This review uses a method involving batted balls to examine whether hitters might be regarded as 'unlucky'. Another way to think about it is to see who might be hitting over their heads, or who might be suffering from an excess of 'at 'em' balls and may be likely to improve.

As anyone familiar with sabermetrics knows, one can evaluate batting events by means of linear weights. What this means is that a single is worth about two-fifths of a run while a home run, because it can drive in the men on base, is worth over three times a single. Research has revealed that types of batted balls can assign similar values. Line drives are worth a lot, while infield flies are almost as good as strike outs. There is a problem in deciding what category to place a batted ball sometimes, especially the difference between a fly ball and a liner, as symbolised by the neologism 'fliner'. So one needs to treat these numbers with a degree of circumspection.

What this chart shows is the difference between a batted-ball linear weight and Fangraphs' wRC. wRC gives a supposed aggregate number of runs that should have been scored based on hitting events. Some people have flares falling in, while others hit the ball hard, but see it caught. The batted ball number also includes Ultimate Base Running, to make it more compatible with wRC. Note that the chart excludes pitchers' hitting. The first column is wRC, the second the batted ball expected runs and the third the positive or negative difference.

J.D.  Martinez         60     41    +19
Victor  Martinez      91     78    +13
Alex  Avila           43     35    + 8
Miguel  Cabrera       87     81    + 6
Rajai  Davis          48     49    - 1
Torii  Hunter         59     60    - 1
Ezequiel  Carrera      3      4    - 1
Eugenio  Suarez       25     26    - 1
Tyler  Collins         0      1    - 1
Alex  Gonzalez         1      4    - 3
Bryan  Holaday         9     12    - 3
Danny  Worth           1      5    - 4
Andrew  Romine        12     20    - 8
Nick  Castellanos     52     60    - 8
Don  Kelly            13     23    -10 
Austin  Jackson       49     60    -11
Ian  Kinsler          68     91    -23
JD-Mart continues to be fortunate on the outcomes of his batted balls, although his luck has faded quite a bit. At the other end of the scale, Ian Kinsler has slumped quite a bit. Most of the other players have moved slightly up or down, although Victor Martinez has continued to hit above his batted-ball weight at about the same pace. I predicted last time that a slump might lead to a run production problem, which as I discussed earlier in fact happened after the All-Star break. I think it is important to note that Rajai Davis has been an adequate replacement for Austin Jackson with the bat — especially with such a strong showing from Eugenio Suarez at shortstop and slight improvement from Torii Hunter — but let's see what the fielding numbers tell us about his defence.

29 August 2014: Potentially Entertaining Game Scores

National League action reigns supreme for a change at the top, although the Nationals are going to have to play under American-League rules during their visit to Seattle. Those two teams have top-notch bullpens, one of the highest bullpen scores I've seen for a series. They also have the best pitching match-up of the day going for them, with blog favourite Jordan Zimmermann facing Felix Hernandez. The AL Central Division clash between Cleveland and Kansas City this weekend has a lot of potential for unsettling the playoff race. a sweep by Cleveland has the potential to bring several fringe teams, including the Indians, into the hunt for October. The match-up between Danny Salazar and Jason Vargas is not without its charms. Meanwhile, pity the poor Arizona Diamondbacks, once again at the bottom of the table, who send Josh Collmenter against Christian Bergman.
Milwaukee vs San Francisco  61
Washington vs Seattle       61
Cleveland vs Kansas City    58
Miami vs Atlanta            58
Cincinnati vs Pittsburgh    54
Detroit vs White Sox        54
Cubs vs St Louis            50
Yankees vs Toronto          48
Oakland vs Angels           46
Minnesota vs Baltimore      45
Boston vs Tampa Bay         44
Philadelphia vs Mets        43
Texas vs Houston            43
Dodgers vs San Diego        42
Colorado vs Arizona         41
This is the BETA version of a method of rating games for their potential to provide entertaining baseball. The formula is still in development, but is refined enough at the moment that it can guide you towards games where the batters will get on base and hit for power, the fielders cover ground and throw well and the pitchers induce the batter to swing. Games are rated on the 20-80 scale, with 50 being an average score.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

28 August 2014: Potentially Entertaining Game Scores

By virtue of its value in the race for the second Wild Card spot in the American League, this afternoon's game between the Yankees and the Tigers is potentially the most entertaining game of the day, by a little bit, over the game between the Rockies and the Giants. The Tigers once again have to draw on their minor-league reserves to send Kyle Lobstein out against Hiroki Kuroda. Overall, it is a mediocre, at best, day for marquee starting pitcher match-ups. Your best bet in this regard is, by a single point a surprising one — Collin McHugh vs Nick Tepesch, in the battle for Texas.
Yankees vs Detroit        60
Colorado vs San Francisco 57
Atlanta vs Mets           54
Minnesota vs Kansas City  53
Tampa Bay vs Baltimore    47
Cleveland vs White Sox    45
Oakland vs Angels         45
Texas vs Houston          43
Cubs vs Cincinnati        42
This is the BETA version of a method of rating games for their potential to provide entertaining baseball. The formula is still in development, but is refined enough at the moment that it can guide you towards games where the batters will get on base and hit for power, the fielders cover ground and throw well and the pitchers induce the batter to swing. Games are rated on the 20-80 scale, with 50 being an average score.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

27 August 2014: Potentially Entertaining Game Scores

The order of today's games is almost identical to that of yesterday's, although Clayton Kershaw versus Wade Miley is a highly entertaining pitching match-up, pulling the Dodgers vs Arizona game up several places off the bottom. (I caught some of yesterday's game, which was no advertisement for the replay system.) Today's top pitching pair is in Detroit, where Shane Greene takes on David Price. However, if one includes bullpens in the calculation, you'll want to watch Atlanta versus the Mets.
Texas vs Seattle            60
Yankees vs Detroit          59
Colorado vs San Francisco   58
St Louis vs Pittsburgh      58
Minnesota vs Kansas City    54
Atlanta vs Mets             55
Tampa Bay vs Baltimore      47
Cleveland vs White Sox      47
Miami vs Angels             45
Boston vs Toronto           45
Milwaukee vs San Diego      45
Dodgers vs Arizona          45
Oakland vs Houston          44
Washington vs Philadelphia  42
Cubs vs Cincinnati          43
This is the BETA version of a method of rating games for their potential to provide entertaining baseball. The formula is still in development, but is refined enough at the moment that it can guide you towards games where the batters will get on base and hit for power, the fielders cover ground and throw well and the pitchers induce the batter to swing. Games are rated on the 20-80 scale, with 50 being an average score.