Saturday, August 20, 2011

Defence Wins Championships

Isn’t that the old saying that if you have a strong defence you will win. Now yes that’s term used widely in football but I feel that it can be applied to baseball as well. There has been a strong emphasis on defence in the last few years. Team have begun to realize the value having a strong defence. Defence really started to take off when the Rays had their magical run to the World Series in 2008. That’s when I really started to take a serious interest in defence. I started looking into defensive stats like ultimate zone rating (UZR).
I was looking through UZR leaders on fan graphs and I noticed that all three of the Diamondbacks outfielders, Justin Upton, Chris Young, and Gerardo Parra all rank in the top 3 of UZR at their outfield positions. Arizona has the best outfield defence in the league this season because of this. They have a cumulative UZR/150 of 51.2. This means that over 150 games Arizona’s outfield defence is saving about 51 runs. This is a huge improvement over last season when with the same 3 outfielders they posted a combined UZR/150 of 42.9. That improvement of 8.3 is a crucial reason that Arizona is in first place. That difference may not seem like a lot but consider this; an outfield defence would be the most beneficiary for pitchers who give up a lot of fly balls. An outfield may be excellent but if all the pitchers give up groundballs then that great outfield defence goes to waste.
This is why Arizona is in first place in the NL West. In 2010 Diamondback pitchers wasted their great outfield defence by giving up groundballs that went to infielders who were inferior defenders to the outfielders. The pitchers who are having the most success with the D’backs this season (ERA under 3.5) are the ones who are giving up the more fly balls than ground balls (min 50 IP).
J.J. Putz
David Hernandez
Micah Owings
Ian Kennedy
Josh Collmenter

Kevin Towers the GM has gotten tons of credit for rebuilding the D’backs bullpen. The 2010 D’backs had the majors’ worst bullpen ERA at 5.74 and this season it’s down by almost 2 runs to 3.76. That’s why many experts say they’re having success this year. That is true but the one thing that the experts fail to explain is why these new relievers are having success. That chart right there is the reason.  Of the 5 guys listed above 3 were brought in by Towers to fix the bullpen, Putz and Owings were acquired via free agency Hernandez was acquired in a trade with the Orioles. Collmenter their fourth starter is a rookie who is getting his first opportunity in the majors and their ace Kennedy was already here when Towers took over the team.  
Is this success sustainable? I say yes because defence doesn’t slump. There is no scientific way to prove this but you don’t hear announcers on TV saying things like “he’s in a slump defensively right now.” Some factors like age and declining speed can lead to defence declining, but Towers doesn’t need to worry about that for a long time. Upton (23), Young (27) and Parra (24) are all under 30 and are not close to losing speed and having diminished range. All Towers needs to do is add more fly ball pitchers and Arizona with these 3 gifted defensive outfielders will not only be fighting for championships this year but in future years as well. 
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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Signing Day

This is a follow up post to my draft day post. With today being the signing deadline for drafted players (the deadline is midnight eastern), I figured the players that I discussed I should look at, and see if they signed and what they signed for.
Top 6 picks                                                                                                    
In my previous entry I stated how crazy the first 6 picks were with players falling and teams selecting guys nobody thought they would (Mariners). I wanted to see how this worked out for each team and if they were all able to sign the players they picked despite most with high contract demands.
Gerrit Cole-Pirates- Signed for 8mil, great great deal for Pirates, got an excellent talent who has touched triple digits and didn’t have to break Strasburg’s deal to get it done. Cole was rumoured to be asking for 15mil.  
Danny Hultzen-Mariners- Signed for 8.5mil over 5yrs, 6.35 signing bonus, max value of the deal could be 10.6mil. Good job by the Mariners to get their guy, they passed on players like Rendon who people thought might go here but they wanted Hultzen and got him.
Trevor Bauer- Diamondbacks- Signed a Major League deal worth $7million, the only player of the top 6 to sign before deadline day.  He signed on July 25. I really like when players sign before the deadline. It’s really in both the teams and the players benefit to sign early. When a player signs early he is able to start playing right away, where as players who signs right at the deadline won’t be able to play this season. Players who do sign early have the extra season of professional ball under their belt. Bauer has already reached AA and there are rumours he may get a call to the MLB. He is getting valuable experience that the other top picks aren’t getting. I applaud him and the D’backs for getting s deal done early.
Dylan Bundy-Orioles Signed for 6.225, the Orioles got they guy they wanted and got a solid deal not quite as much as Cole or Bauer but right up there.
Bubba Starling-Royals Signed for 7.5mil, Royals had to get this kid signed no matter what it took, they passed on local product Albert Pujols, they couldn’t let Kansas guy Starling get away from them. He is the second 18yr old to sign for at least 7.5 mil, the first one being Bryce Harper last season.              
Anthony Rendon-Nationals Signed for 7.2mill, the Nationals got the best college hitter on a good deal. He is more polished than Starling who got more money but Rendon coming out of college had less leverage.
Blue Jays Picks
The Jays had the second most picks with 5 in the first round and the supplemental round.
21-Tyler Beede- Did not sign, he now has to play college ball for 3yrs before he is draft eligible again, could be big changes to the CBA by then, should have taken the Jays offer (rumoured to be 2 million) he should have taken the money because he may not get that much in 3 yrs.
35-Jacob Anderson- Signed for $990K Good sign by the Jays they really like his bat to take him at 35
46-Joe Musgrove- Signed for $500K the player the exact same age as me got a good pay day. Wish I could say the same
53-Dwight Smith Jr- Signed for $800K solid signing got a pretty good player for cheap
57-Kevin Comer- Signed for 1.65mil was in the same situation as Beede but he didn’t follow Beede to Vanderbilt,  good sign by the Jays who for a while looked they were going to miss on Beede and Comer.
 74-Daniel Norris- Signed for 2mill, great deal for the Jays, Norris was considered the top HS lefty in the draft, was rumoured to be seeking 4mil good for Jays to get him for 2mil.
Other Notable Players/Signings
37-Zach Cone Signed for $873K, scouts laughed when he was selected but he got a good amount of money. Rangers must like him a lot.
39-Larry Greene Signed for 1million, as of 10:30 he has the highest bonus of any of the supplemental picks. You knew he was going to sign, he showed up at the draft, was the only one to do that. Hopefully he becomes a big leaguer and may inspire more players to come to draft day.  
Josh Bell signed for 5mil by the Pirates, was considered the top HS hitter in the draft, was a tough sign which is why he fell to the second round, but good job for the Pirates who had an excellent draft getting Cole and Bell.
Clay Holmes a HS right-hander selected in the 9th round by the Pirates was given the highest bonus ever for a player selected in the 9th round. He signed for 1.2million. He has a big fastball his slider is decent but it’s not consistent. He was committed to Auburn.
Shawon Duston Jr 11 round pick by Cubs signed for 1.275million. He is a HS OF, is an athlete with great speed. Is the son of former MLB player Shawon Duston (surprise there).  
Most of these later round picks, who sign for millions, are guys who are immensely talented but had leverage in negotiations and teams shied away from them. Many of them are first round talents.

My Thoughts on the Signing Deadline
I stated this above but I felt like its necessary to say again, the Pirates had one great draft. Getting the top college pitcher in Cole and the top HS hitter in Bell was excellent for the Pirates. If those two develop like they are expected to, they will be key pieces when the Pirates are contending.
The Mariners are building something special. They already have King Felix and rookie Michael Pineda, now with the signing of Hultzen they have a lefty to go in between them. They are following the path of the Giants developing home-grown front of the rotation starters. All the Mariners need is for Hultzen to develop into another ace and they need Dustin Ackley to carry the offence the way Buster Posey did last season for the Giants.
Now just a couple of thought on the Jays draft for Alex Anthopolous, links from twitter (via @wilnerness590).
AA was pleased with the overall signings. Had a lot of tough signs and managed to sign most of them. They considered taking Norris with the 21st pick. He is an absolute first round talent and his bonus reflects that. AA said that they could have signed Beede and Norris but at their (jays) value. When you make aggressive picks players are going to go unsigned.
Comments are appreciated let me know how I’m doing and what I can improve on. Thanks

Friday, August 12, 2011

Why Brandon Morrow is a Top Starter

I was looking at some numbers on fan graphs the other day, not looking for anything in particular just looking at pitching stats, surveying the leaderboards. I found something that I thought to be rather interesting. Brandon Morrow is having a sensational 2011 season. However he is not getting any recognition as being a great pitcher, because his greatness goes beyond the basic numbers. Looking at Brandon Morrow’s, 2011 season it seems rather unspectacular. He is 8-6 with a 4.51 era, an ERA+ of 91. He has a WHIP of 1.27 and a K/BB ratio of 3.16. He does lead the league in strikeouts per 9 with 10.5, which is excellent. If you go behind the basic numbers though you can see that he is one of the best pitchers in the league. His FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is 2.90. Basically what FIP shows is how well a pitcher should be pitching based off what he can control (Ks, BBs, and HRs). His FIP is 14th in the league ahead of top of rotation starters like Felix Hernandez, Josh Becket, and David Price to name a few. That is a pretty compelling number, but the biggest reason that Morrow is one of the best pitchers in the league is his SIERA. SIERA is a new stat created Matt Swartz. It is a very complex statistic. For a full explanation visit the link Matt explains it all in there. SIERA stands for Skill-Interactive Earned Run Average, and it estimates ERA through walk rate, strikeout rate and ground ball rate, eliminating the effects of park, defense and luck. SIERA accounts for how run prevention improves as ground ball rate increases and declines as more whiffs are accrued, while grounders are of more materiality for those who allow a surplus of runners.
SIERA accomplishes the following: (this is taken from the article linked above)
  1. Allows for the fact that a high ground-ball rate is more useful to pitchers who walk more batters, due to the potential that double plays wipe away runners.
  2. Allows for the fact that a low fly-ball rate (and therefore, a low HR rate) is less useful to pitchers who strike out a lot of batters (e.g. Johan Santana's FIP tends to be higher than his ERA because the former treats all HR the same, even though Santana’s skill set portends this bombs allowed will usually be solo shots).
  3. Allows for the fact that adding strikeouts is more useful when you don't strike out many guys to begin with, since more runners get stranded.
  4. Allows for the fact that adding ground balls is more useful when you already allow a lot of ground balls because there are frequently runners on first.
  5. Corrects for the fact that QERA used GB/BIP instead of GB/PA (e.g. Joel Pineiro is all contact, so increasing his ground-ball rate means more ground balls than if Oliver Perez had done it, given he's not a high contact guy).
  6. Corrects for the fact that FIP and xFIP use IP as a denominator which means that luck on balls in play changes one's FIP.
Morrows SIERA is 3.02, which is the 8th in the league and second in the AL to Justin Verlander. This shows how good a pitcher Morrow is, he should have an ERA right around 3.00. Of course immeasurable factors like luck are why his ERA is 4.51, but this is very compelling evidence as to how good Morrow is. The Blue Jays have themselves a very strong young pitcher on their hands. Hopefully the Jays front office realizes this and can get him locked before another teams realizes how great he is and trys to get him.
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Monday, August 01, 2011

Winners and Loser of the Trade Deadline

The non-waiver trade deadline passed at 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon. There were not many trades that went right down to the deadline.  Just minor trades were made. The blockbuster trades as few as there was, were made before July 31. In my previous post I outlined why it was good and bad to be a buyer or a seller. Some teams fell into the trap and make some of the buying mistakes I suggested they should avoid. Other teams make some of the selling mistakes I outlined and that may hurt them in the long run. Now I will outline the winners and losers of the 2011 trade deadline.
Starting with the American League
Texas Rangers- Their bullpen needed an upgrade after losing Frank Francisco and Naftali Feliz struggling this season. They went out and acquired the help they needed. They traded two prospects Joe Wieland and Robbie Erlin to the Padres for Mike Adams. Adams gives them some stability in the 8th inning and a great bridge to Feliz. They also acquired Koji Uehara from the Orioles for Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter. This was a steep price to pay for another reliever but Texas’ window for winning is right now and they needed to make this move. Overall I felt like they had an excellent deadline acquiring these two arms and feel like they have an even better shot at winning the AL West.
Mariners- I felt like they had a solid deadline. They were obviously sellers after losing 17 games in a row. They did what I suggested sellers should do, they got prospects for their veterans and cashed in on career years from a guy like Doug Fister.   
White Sox- They acquired Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart from the Jays for Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen. The White Sox did a good job getting salary relief, getting a very good reliever in Frasor and a good prospect in Stewart. This trade is able to help them this season and in future seasons.  
Blue Jays- They made what I felt like to be one of the best trades of this deadline. They aquried Jackson and Teahen as stated above. They then traded Jackson along with Marc Rzepczynski, Octavio Dotel, and Corey Patterson to the Cardinals for Colby Rasmus, Trever Miller, Brian Tallet, and P.J. Walters. The Jays gave up very little in this deal and acquired a very talented young player in Rasmus. They were able to make this trade because Rasmus had fallen out of favour with manager Tony LaRussa. This was a great trade for young GM Alex Anthopolous who is starting to become a bit of a legend.   
Orioles- Did an excellent job getting two MLB players in Tommy Hunter and Chris Davis for middle reliever Koji Uehara. Davis made Derek Lee expendable and the Orioles did a good job flipping Lee to the Pirates for Aaron Baker.
Athletics- They did do a good job of aquireing Brandon Allen and Jordan Norberto from the Diamondbacks for Brad Ziegler, but overall they were losers. I though Oakland would have been much busier this deadline as they had so many veteran player. Josh Willingham, Hideki Matsui, and other relievers should have been moved for prospects. But I guess Billy Beane feels the potential draft picks will be worth more than the prospects.  
Indians- They illustrated my point perfectly on why it’s bad to be a buyer. The first trade they made was a perfect one for a surprise contender. They traded Abner Abreu and Carlton Smith for Kosuke Fukudome. This was a good trade that helped the MLB team without risking their future. The Indians also traded Orlando Cabrera to the Giants for Thomas Neal. This was another good trade they got a solid AAA player for a veteran who no longer was needed. Those two trades would have made the Indians winners but they made one blockbuster trade that makes them a loser. They acquired Ubaldo Jimenez from the Rockies for Joe Gardner, Alex White, Matt Mcbride and a play to be named later. The PTBNL is going to be top pitching prospect Drew Pomeranz who will be dealt when he is eligible in August. The Indians did get an ace pitcher on a team friendly contract, but Ubaldo has pitched in high altitude his whole career. He is very likely going to get hurt very soon, there was too much risk involved in this trade which is why the Indians are losers this year. They should not have risked the future for a chance to win now.     
Red Sox- Only acquired Eric Bedard who probably isn’t going to be a fit there. He is a left handed oft injured pitcher who is bound to get hurt again. The Red Sox needed rotation depth but should have looked at more established starters. We will have to see what they do in August before we can say the Red Sox are true losers, but as of right now with that trade they were a loser at the trade deadline.
The Angels, Rays, and Yankees, are all contending teams who didn’t make any moves and I consider them all to be losers. Honestly I don’t feel any team is that complete that no trades were needed. Every team has some hole, which should be addressed at the deadline.    
The Twins were a team who are not contending and didn’t make any moves. If your team is out of the race and no veterans were traded that is not good. Then only reason to keep these players is if the GM wants the draft picks at the end of the season if they leave via free agency. There are many risky variables that could result in not getting the picks so I would take my chances and trade the player for a prospect further developed.
And the National League
Giants- The Giants made one of the biggest trades of the deadline. They traded Zack Wheeler who was their top pitching prospect for the best hitter on the market Carlos Beltran. This is exactly why it’s good to be a buyer. The Giants are in win now mode and have to make these types of trades. They needed to add to their offence and they were able to do just that with the Beltran trade. They also acquired a good veteran player with playoff experience in Orlando Cabrera. He will bring leadership to that team. These trades along with the stellar Giants rotation makes this team look awfully strong with a good chance to repeat as world champs.  
Diamondbacks- They had a pretty good deadline from my perspective. They currently sit just 2 games back of the Giants in the NL West and 3.5 back of the Braves for the wildcard. They went out and acquired Brad Ziegler who helps their bullpen.  They also acquired rotation depth in the form of Jason Marquies who they acquired from the Nationals for prospect Zach Walters.
Rockies- They are winners because they were able to get 4 top prospects for Ubaldo Jimenez who is destined to break down shortly. It may not be this season but very soon I wouldn’t be surprised to Ubaldo go down with a significant arm injury.
Astros- Yes this is surprising but I’m putting the Astros as winners because I feel like they are rebuilding the right way. They traded Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn and got back 7 prospects to help them in the future. The one fault in the Bourn trade was they did not get one of the Braves four pitching prospects. I feel like one of those four would have been nice but the Astros did a solid job for the time that they had, and it’s a lot better to make this trade now, rather than keep Bourn  and have him leave via FA after 2012.
Cardinals- The Cardinals had a good deadline in my perspective. They had a need at SS and went out and got Furcal from the Dodgers.  They had a whole in their bullpen and went out and got Zep, and Dotel. They had a hole in their rotation and they went out and got Jackson. It was a steep price to pay for zap, Dotel and Jackson in Rasmus but LaRussa didn’t want him and he was losing playing time anyway.
Pirates- The Pirates did an excellent job to improve their team without risking the future. Exactly what I suggested a team in their position do. The picked up Ryan Ludwick for a PTBNL, and they got Derek Lee for minor leaguer Aaron Baker. These were two nice additions that will help upgrade the Pirates offence.  
Phillies- They are another one of those teams in win now mode. They already have a very strong team that needed little improvement. So what did they do they went out and got the second best hitter on the market Hunter Pence. They did give up top prospects to get Pence but it is worth it for the Phillies who have a chance at the title this season.
Braves- Much like the Phillies they are in win now mode as well. The acquired another great hitter in Bourn. The Braves did exceptionally well not to give up any of their top 4 pitching prospects in the deal.
Mets- Another seller who did a good job at the deadline. They got the Giants top pitching prospect Zach Wheeler, for Beltran. They also rid themselves that was the mess of Frankie Rodriguez. I would have liked to have seen a guy like Scott Hairston go but he wouldent have brought back a whole lot anyway.
Dodgers- For a bankrupt team you would have thought more deals would have been made trying to shed payroll. They really only traded Rafael Furcal to the Cardinals for 2.5mil and Alex Castellanos. This was a solid trade but I would have liked to have seen more moves made by them.
Padres- I put the Padres here for similar reasons as the why the Dodgers are here. Not enough trades were made. The Padres had 3 relievers (Heath Bell, Mike Adams, and Chad Qualls) who I thought should have been traded. They did a good job getting Joe Wieland and Robbie Erlin for Adams, but they have gotten more prospects. The Padres did a have a good run last season but they need to go young and the best way to do that is to trade veteran players for prospects. That’s something they didn’t do and they are a trade deadline loser for that.  
Brewers- They went into the deadline looking for left side of the infield help. They came out of it with Jerry Hairston Jr. and Felipe Lopez, and that pretty much explains why they are losers. The Brew Crew currently sit 2.5 games up on the Cards for first in the NL central and they need to make a move to greater improve their team. Yes I know they are short on prospects after gutting their system for Zach Greinke and Shaun Marcum in separate trades this past off season. Even someone cheap like Orlando Cabrera would have been an upgrade over what they have. Currently they have  Yuniesky Betancourt as their everyday shortstop. He is considered to be one of the worst everyday players in the game. The Brewers are not going to go far with Betancourt as their SS, they needed to improve on that and they didn’t.  
Cubs- They had some good players who could have been moved for solid prospects. But Kerry Wood and Aramis Ramirez had no-trade clauses and both said they did not want to leave. The veterans they did have, they didn’t move like Carlos Pena and Marlon Byrd. They are a prime example on why it’s bad to be a seller. They held on to all of their veterans and that is not the right way to rebuild. The Cubs did aquire 2 prospects from the Indians for Kosuke Fukudome, but they need more, so they can go young and build around young budding SS Starlin Castro.
The Reds fall into the same category as the Rays, Angels and Yankees stated above.
The Marlins really didn`t do anything this deadline as they are keeping this team together for when they open their new stadium. I don’t mind them staying pat as they have a good core they just need them not to struggle like they have this year.
This turned out to be a very exciting trade deadline, with lots of trades and rumours swirlling around.
Comments are appreciated, let me know how I'm doing and what I can improve on. Thanks