Sunday, October 30, 2005

Component ERA Analysis

Component ERA (ERC) estimates what a pitcher’s ERA “should be” based on a pitcher’s performance. It is the companion of runs created for batters and is computed similarly using pitching stats instead of hitting stats. There are many versions of the formula. The specific formula for this analysis can be found at this site (author unknown). It’s the same formula that was printed in the 2005 Bill James Handbook.



Why use ERC when we already have ERA? ERA is based on timing of hits, walks and homeruns allowed. I’ll give an extreme example to illustrate the point. If a pitcher pitches 9 innings and gives up 9 hits with each hit coming in a different inning, he’ll give up fewer runs than if he gave up all the runs in one inning. On the other hand, ERC is just based on how many hits (and other things) they gave up and is not based on timing.



If you believe that timing of hits is characteristic of a pitcher, then ERA is a better measure. If you believe that timing of hits is random, then ERC is a better measure. Evidence shows that the hit timing of most pitchers varies greatly from year to year which indicates that hit timing is more a matter of random events than a characteristic of a pitcher. So ERC is generally a better measure of performance. In fact, it has been shown that ERC tends to be a better predictor of future performance than ERA.



The tables below display the component ERAs of the Detroit Tiger pitchers in 2005. The numbers were taken from the ESPN.COM statistics section. ERC% is the ratio of ERC to ERA. A pitcher with an ERC% significantly above 1 pitched worse than his ERA indicates and a pitcher with an ERC% below 1 pitched better than his ERA indicates.


Starters


Pitcher

IP

ERA

ERC

ERC%

Johnson

210

4.54

4.27

0.94

Maroth

209

4.74

4.74

1.00

Robertson

196.7

4.48

4.40

0.98

Bonderman

189

4.57

4.20

0.92

Douglass

87.3

5.56

4.83

0.87

Ledezma

49.7

7.07

6.66

0.94


Relievers

Pitcher

IP

ERA

ERC

ERC%

Urbina*

79

3.62

3.20

0.88

Spurling

70.7

3.44

3.04

0.88

Farnsworth*

70

2.19

2.12

0.97

Colon*

69.3

5.58

5.77

1.03

German

59

3.66

5.93

1.62

Walker

48.7

3.7

3.73

1.01

Rodney

44

2.86

3.70

1.29

Ginter

35

6.17

6.86

1.11

Dingman

32

3.66

3.95

1.08

Percival

25

5.76

4.35

0.76


*Includes combined statistics for both teams on which they pitched.


Based on their ERC%, Sean Douglass (0.87), Jeremy Bonderman (0.92), Jason Johnson (0.94) and Wilfredo Ledezma (0.94) pitched significantly better than their ERAs and would be expected to achieve lower ERAs next year if they pitched as well as this year.


Among relief pitchers, Troy Percival (0.76), Ugueth Urbina (0.88) and Chris Spurling (0.88) pitched significantly better than their ERAs indicated. Franklin German (1.62), Fernando Rodney (1.29), Matt Ginter (1.11) and Craig Dingman pitched worse than their ERAs indicated.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Detroit Tiger Free Agents

Rondell White and Fernando Vina were among 62 players who filed for free agency yesterday. Bobby Higginson and Jason Johnson are also eligible for free agency and are expected to file by November 10, the last day by which players can file. The complete list of players who filed yesterday can be found at MLB.COM

Vina has not been able to play for almost two years and will likely retire. I think he is just filing as a formality. I liked Vina as a player earlier in his career but the Tigers got him a couple of years too late. I never thought the Vina signing was a good one because of his age and injury issues prior to joining the Tigers. There is some thought that the Vina signing brought some credibility to the organization after the disasterous 2003 season and opened the door for other signings. However, I've always been skeptical of that notion. Even now free agents don't usually seem to want to come to the Tigers unless they overpay (compared to the competition) by a large amount.

Higginson is almost certainly done as a Tiger but is expected to try to catch on with another organization. I can't see him getting any more than a spring training invitation with any team.
Indications are that Johnson is probably not going to be re-signed either. He was not great but he pitched a lot of innings at close to league average level and those innings will need to be replaced.

There is a possibilty that White will be re-signed by the Tigers. He had a pretty solid year offensively - finishing in the top five among American League left fielders in runs created per game no matter which calculation you use. He is also well liked by his teammates and owner Mike Illitch would like him to return. However, I'm not sure how he fits into the team at this point. I assume that Curtis Granderson and Chris Shelton will be given every opportunity to keep their regular center field and first base jobs. Barring trades, that leaves White, Craig Monroe, Dmitri Young and Carlos Pena battling for two spots (left field and designated hitter). He may be back in some role but I dont think that re-signing him will be at the top of their agenda.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Maybin,etc

There is a column at the MLB Detroit Tiger site regarding the performance of Cameron Maybin and some other players in the instructional league. The news in this article about Maybin is mostly fluff but by all accounts he is the best raw prospect to come into the Tigers system in many many years. I'm really looking forward to watching his progress. The best news in the article might be that Justin Verlander appears healthy.

Here are some of the highlights:

On Maybin:

"I saw a kid that has a world of ability," Tigers Minor League field coordinator Glenn Ezell said. "I saw a kid that was not afraid to work. I saw a kid that was a very good teammate. I saw a guy whose makeup is very strong, as is his baseball ability."


"By all accounts, Maybin took to the (instructional league) format. On the field, he showed signs of the talent that made him the second-ranked high school player in the draft, hitting a couple of home runs and displaying a quick bat for his lanky 6-foot-4 frame. Defensively, the center fielder showed strong instincts and read the ball well off the bat."


"The guys, they really took to him and he took to them," Ezell said. "He fit right in and was a treat to be around."


On Justin Verlander:


"Verlander pitched the first and last days of Instructional League, Ezell said, making a handful of starts on a regular schedule in between and throwing at full velocity. A couple of mechanical adjustments were the only tweaks made, and he's expected to report to Spring Training at full strength."


Others:


"The Tigers had more good news on the injury front when Colby Lewis returned to game action.


This time, Ezell said, Lewis returned in health, making a handful of relief appearances in the Instructional League, including back-to-back innings. If he remains healthy, he could pitch in games next Spring Training."


"Jeff Frazier picked up his hot hitting where he left off from Class A West Michigan. Fifth-round draft pick Jeff Larish continued to show his power at the plate while honing his craft at first base. "


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

White Sox are Champs

No time for any Tiger number crunching tonight but congratulations to the Chicago White Sox. They had a great season and dominated throughout the playoffs. The White Sox certainly deserved it this year. It's a fun night for White Sox fans who haven't been able to celebrate a championship in 88 years.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Fun with Similarity Scores

Similarity Scores were introduced by Bill James about 20 years ago. They are now included in the Baseball-reference database. The way it works is you select any player and run him through the database to see which players in the history of the game are most similar to him statistically. For example, the player who was most similar to Carlos Pena through the age of 27 was Andre Thornton.


James did not develop a really sophisticated algorithm and did not intend for it to be taken as a serious projection tool. In some cases, it might put a player’s career in perspective or give you some kind of clue as to where he might be headed. In other cases, it’s nothing more than a conversation piece. Below, I ran a few Tigers through the program. Note that a perfect similarity score is 1000. A score of 1000 would indicate that two player’s were exactly alike.



Carlos Pena

Andre Thornton (956)

Mike Epstein (955)

Bob Robertson (952)

Jay Buhner (948)

Don Mincher (939)

Tino Martinez (938)

Phil Plantier (938)

Nick Esasky (937)

Jay Gibbons (936)

Rob Deer (936)


Not surprisingly, Pena is matched with players who hit a lot of homeruns and walked a lot but hit for low average with a lot of strike outs. Note that the similarity score algorithm does not adjust for era. Nor does it adjust for ballpark.


Brandon Inge

Roy Smalley (957)

Daryl Spencer (952)

Eli Marrero (950)

Dale Sveum (947)

Luis Rivera (944)

Andre Rodgers (944)

Frank Duffy (942)

Pat Meares (941)

Alex Cora (936)

Billy Myers (936)


It would be nice if he could be matched to Roy Smalley Jr. rather than Roy Smalley Sr.

Craig Monroe

Harry Anderson (982)

Jeffrey Hammonds (967)

Art Shamsky (964)

Hal McRae (961)

Henry Rodriguez (961)

Johnny Rizzo (960)

Bob Nieman (960)

Jim Greengrass (959)

Jerry Lynch (956)

Larry Sheets (956)


Hopefully, he’ll have a better career than Harry Anderson.

Placido Polanco

Todd Walker (932)

Gil McDougald (925)

Adam Kennedy (923)

Fred Dunlap (919)

Jimmie Dykes (915)

Johnny Ray (914)

Odell Hale (911)

Hubie Brooks (907)

Julio Franco (905)

Tony Bernazard (903)


Todd Walker is not a bad comparison. Luckily, Polanco is better defensively.

Carlos Guillen

Johnny Logan (942)

Julio Lugo (935)

Billy Sullivan (932)

Tom Burns (929)

Sam Wise (928)

Alvin Dark (926)

Ron Belliard (926)

Rich Aurilia (925)

Adam Kennedy (924)

Mike Lansing (924)


Logan is not a bad player with whom to be compared. Guillen needs to stay healthy though.


Magglio Ordonez

Mike Sweeney (963)

Wally Berger (952)

Fred Lynn (941)

Tony Oliva (938)

Dave Parker (936)

Larry Walker (925)

Jim Edmonds (925)

Tim Salmon (919)

Ellis Burks (918)

George Foster (916)


There are some interesting names on that list.


Ivan Rodriguez

Ted Simmons (864)

Yogi Berra (822) *

Gary Carter (812) *

Johnny Bench (791) *

Joe Torre (791)

Cal Ripken (788)

Bill Dickey (778) *

Ryne Sandberg (770) *

Joe Cronin (769) *

Bobby Doerr (768)*


Lot’s of HOFers (that’s what the * is for) there. Hopefully Pudge has something left.

Dmitri Young

Rondell White (950)

Felipe Alou (948)

Richie Zisk (942)

Joe Adcock (939)

Cecil Cooper (938)

Bobby Higginson (938)

Leon Durham (930)

Wally Joyner (929)

Cliff Floyd (927)

Bill Skowron (920)


Dmitri=Rondell

In case you are wondering, they didn’t do similarity scores for Chris Shelton and Curtis Granderson because their careers are too short at this point.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Streaking Tigers

There was a lot of talk this year about the inconsistency of the Detroit Tigers. All year long, media and fans alike moaned that “they are the streakiest team in baseball”. They would get on a roll for a few games but just when it seemed they had things figured out, they would fall back down again. All teams go through streaks but were the Tigers streakier than other teams?

Using raw data on winning and losing streaks from Baseball Prospectus, I determined that the Tigers had 25 streaks of three games or longer. This included:


  • 6 three game winning streaks and 5 three game losing streaks
  • 3 four game winning streaks and 4 four game losing streaks
  • 2 five game winning streaks and 3 five game losing streaks
  • 1 eight game losing streak
  • 1 nine game losing streak

Only the Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Devil Rays, each with 27 streaks of three games or longer, had more streaks of three games or longer than the Tigers. Furthermore, the 14 Tiger streaks of four games or longer were more than any other team in the majors.


While the Tigers had 23 or more streaks of three to five games (most in the majors), they had only two streaks of six games or longer, both of those coming in their horrible September stretch drive. Only the Toronto Blue Jays (0), St. Louis Cardinals (1) and Pittsburgh Pirates (1) had fewer streaks of six games or longer.


So, I can conclude that the Tigers were indeed streakier than most teams. They didn’t have a lot of really long streaks. However, they specialized in modest streaks of three to five games and they did that better (and worse) than any other team.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

New Pitching Coach

The Tigers completed their coaching staff yesterday with the addition of Chuck Hernandez who previously had the same position with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The Devil Ray's pitching staff did not have a lot of success this year but they didn't have much talent beyond Scott Kazmir. Hernandez was supposedly helpful in the develpment of Kazmir's change-up. He'll have a lot of young raw pitchers to coach in Detroit. It'll be interesting to see how he works with Jeremy Bonderman, Justin Verlander, Joel Zumaya and others. You can find further information on MLB.COM

Friday, October 21, 2005

Tiger ERA Analysis

Earlier in the week, I spent some time evaluating Tiger batters using the statistic “runs created”. Now I’ll take a look at the pitchers. One of the better statistics for evaluating overall pitching performance is ERA+. ERA+ is more useful than ERA for comparing pitchers pitching in different environments whether it be leagues, ballparks or years ERA+ is a pitcher’s ERA relative to the league average ERA. It is also adjusted for the impact of the pitcher’s home park. A league average ERA+ is 100. An ERA+ of 105 would indicate that the pitcher had an ERA 5% above the league average. Similarly, an ERA+ of 94 means that the pitcher was 6% below the league average.

A pitcher pitching his home games in a pitcher friendly park will have his ERA+ adjusted downward and a pitcher pitching in a hitter friendly park will have his ERA+ adjusted upward. So if two pitchers have the same ERA but one of them pitches for the Dodgers and the other pitchers for the Rockies, the Rockie pitcher will have a higher ERA+. Ballpark factors are very complex and I’ll probably discuss them further in a future post but for now I’ll just point you toward US Patriot if you want a detailed explanation.

It’s important to note that the league average of 100 includes a whole bunch of pitchers who pitched poorly in a few games. So, I threw out all of the pitchers with fewer than 25 innings pitched. Also keep in mind that reliever ERA+’s are inflated because relievers often give up other people’s runs.

Because of the issues discussed above, I took all of the pitchers in the American League in 2005 with 25 or more innings pitched and divided them into primary starters and primary relievers. The median ERA+ for the starters was 106 and the median ERA+ for the relievers was 120.

The tables below give the ERA+ figures for Detroit Tiger pitchers in 2005. The raw data were extracted from statistical tables at The Hardball Times.


Starters

Pitcher

IP

ERA

ERA+

AL Median

***

***

106

Johnson

210

4.54

102

Maroth

209

4.74

98

Robertson

196.7

4.48

103

Bonderman

189

4.57

102

Douglass

87.3

5.56

83

Ledezma

49.7

7.07

66


Relievers

Pitcher

IP

ERA

ERA+

AL Median

***

***

120

Spurling

70.7

3.44

135

German

59

3.66

127

Walker

48.7

3.7

125

Rodney

44

2.86

162

Farnsworth

42.7

2.32

200

Ginter

35

6.17

75

Dingman

32

3.66

127

Urbina

27.3

2.63

176

Percival

25

5.76

81

Colon

25

6.12

76




The four most frequently used starting pitchers – Jason Johnson (102), Mike Maroth (98), Nate Robertson (103) and Jeremy Bonderman (102) were all slightly below the league median for primary starters. The fifth Starters – Sean Douglass (83) and Wil Ledezma (66) were very far below the league median. Douglass is no longer with the organization and Johnson will be a free agent this off-season. It’s no secret that they will be looking to bolster their pitching staff during the winter.

Most of their most frequently used relievers – Chris Spurling (135), Franklin German (127), Jamie Walker (125), Fernando Rodney (162), Kyle Farnsworth (200) and Craig Dingman (127) were above the league median. Barring trades, all of them except Farnsworth (who was traded during the season) should be returning next year. Of course, ERA+,s, just like ERAs, are kind of tricky for relievers but these figures are still encouraging.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

World Series Thoughts

I'm taking a break from my runs created mania but I'll write a few notes about the upcoming World Series. First, I'll say that it's great to see the White Sox (who haven't made the series for almost 5 decades) and the Astros (who have never been to the series) get an opportunity to play. As a Detroit Tiger fan, I know what it's like to wait a long time.

I was rooting for the Cardinals because they are my favorite National League team. As an old school baseball fan, it also would have been nice to see the teams with the two best regular season records make the World Series. It doesn't seem quite right that a team finishing 11 games behind should end up in the championship but that's the way the system works and all the teams know the rules. So, even though I'm not enamored by the system, the Astros deserve to be congratulated for their post season play and I suppose their fans have waited long enough.

A lot of people think it will be a series dominated by pitching but I'm not so sure. Both teams relied heavily on their pitching all year and, with all the days off in the post season, they are able to use their best pitchers over and over (another post season pet peeve of mine). However, they play in two of the most hitter friendly parks in the majors and this makes it hard for me to imagine a series of pitching duels. I think there will be some good pitching but I'm also expecting a couple games to feature some solid hitting including a good number of homeruns.

I'm picking the White Sox in seven but I should warn you that I'm not a good predictor of results in a short series.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Runs Created by Position

Yesterday, I ranked American League catchers by runs created per game (RC/G). Today, I present the rest of the positions with comments.


First basemen


Rank

Player

Team

RC/G

RC

1

Hafner

CLE

9.7

122

2

Giambi

NYA

9.1

103

3

Ortiz

BOS

8.7

136

4

Teixeira

TEX

8.5

142

5

Sexson

SEA

8

122

6

Shelton

DET

6.9

70

7

Konerko

CHA

6.8

103

8

Sweeney

KC

6.6

81

9

Stairs

KC

6.6

70

10

LeCroy

MIN

6

50

11

Palmeiro

BAL

5.8

59

12

Pena

DET

5.7

42

13

Johnson

OAK

5.6

56

14

Hillenbrand

TOR

5.5

86

15

Hinske

TOR

5.3

69

16

Lee

TB

5.1

55

17

Erstad

LAA

5

82

18

Young

DET

5

64

19

Broussard

CLE

5

64

20

Hatteberg

OAK

4.8

61

21

Millar

BOS

4.8

58

22

Martinez

NYA

4.8

41

23

Morneau

MIN

4.4

61


Chris Shelton finished 6th among first basemen creating 6.9 runs per game. Remember from yesterday’s discussion that this means that a line-up of nine Sheltons would have theoretically scored 6.9 runs per game. I’d be pretty happy if this one Shelton could produce at the same level for a full season (6.9). Roller coaster Carlos Pena (5.7) finished in the middle of the pack after a horrid start, a trip to Toledo and a strong finish. And yes, runs created does penalize a player for strikeouts. Dmitri Young (5.0) finished near the bottom of the list. Young appears to be on the decline so I hope they manage to move him somehow this off season. Despite his tendency for terrible slumps, I’d rather see Pena get at bats than Young.



Second basemen

Rank

Player

Team

RC/G

RC

1

Roberts

BAL

8

114

2

Polanco

DET

7.6

64

3

Ellis

OAK

7.1

78

4

Kennedy

LAA

6

65

5

Cantu

TB

6

95

6

Belliard

CLE

5.3

75

7

Iguchi

CHA

5.2

72

8

Soriano

TEX

5.2

89

9

Green

TB

4.6

42

10

Hudson

TOR

4.6

57

11

Cano

NYA

4.4

59

12

Gotay

KC

3.9

31

13

Boone

SEA

3.8

29

14

Infante

DET

3.5

41

15

Bellhorn

BOS

3.4

28

16

Punto

MIN

3.3

36


Placido Polanco (7.6) was outstanding in a half season for the Tigers. Polanco had a career year this year and I’d be surprised if he did as well next year. He’s always been an underrated player though so there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be among the leaders at his position again next year. Omar Infante had a bad year after an apparent break out year last year. He’s still only 23 years old but will have a hard time getting a regular job back anytime soon.


Third basemen


Rank

Player

Team

RC/G

RC

1

Rodriguez

NYA

9.1

138

2

Mueller

BOS

6

81

3

Mora

BAL

6

94

4

Figgins

LAA

5.8

99

5

Chavez

OAK

5.7

96

6

Inge

DET

5.2

87

7

Crede

CHA

5

60

8

Hill

TOR

5

48

9

Blalock

TEX

4.7

83

10

Beltre

SEA

4.7

79

11

Teahen

KC

4.2

52

12

Gonzalez

TB

4.2

40

13

Koskie

TOR

4

39

14

Cuddyer

MIN

3.9

45

15

Boone

CLE

3.8

55


It may come as a surprise to some Tiger fans that Brandon Inge (5.2) finished as high as sixth. The problem with Inge is that most of his hitting was done in the first half. Inge has made great strides over the past couple of years but has still not put up a full season of good hitting and many feel he is better suited to the super sub role.


Shortstops


Rank

Player

Team

RC/G

RC

1

Young

TEX

7.6

125

2

Peralta

CLE

6.9

92

3

Tejada

BAL

6.5

110

4

Lugo

TB

6.4

102

5

Jeter

NYA

6.3

106

6

Crosby

OAK

5.3

48

7

Guillen

DET

5

42

8

Renteria

BOS

4.9

82

9

Adams

TOR

4.8

64

10

Cabrera

LAA

4.3

64

11

Uribe

CHA

4.3

58

12

Scutaro

OAK

4.3

45

13

Berroa

KC

4.2

68


After a near MVP caliber season last year, Carlos Guillen (5.0) spent the season going on and off the disabled list. His knee is supposedly going to be at full strength by next spring but I’m skeptical. Infante might be getting a lot of bats there next year too.


Left fielders


Rank

Player

Team

RC/G

RC

1

Ramirez

BOS

9.2

134

2

Catalanotto

TOR

7.1

77

3

White

DET

6.8

65

4

Matsui

NYA

6.8

110

5

Crawford

TB

6.6

111

6

Dellucci

TEX

6.5

78

7

Ibanez

SEA

6.3

103

8

Crisp

CLE

6.3

97

9

Anderson

LAA

5.6

86

10

Winn

SEA

5.2

54

11

Johnson

TOR

5.1

55

12

Everett

CHA

5.1

69

13

Kielty

OAK

5.1

53

14

Stewart

MIN

4.8

71

15

Long

KC

4.7

58

16

Podsednik

CHA

4.7

62

17

Mench

TEX

4.7

72

18

Surhoff

BAL

3.6

30

19

Womack

NYA

3

28


I was a bit surprised to see Rondell White (6.8) ranked as high as he was. As usual, he did spend a lot of time on the DL though. He’s a free agent this off season and his status is unclear. He’s a nice guy to have as a part time outfielder/designated hitter but they need left-handed bats so I’m not sure what will happen with him.


Center fielders


Rank

Player

Team

RC/G

RC

1

Damon

BOS

6.6

104

2

Sizemore

CLE

6.4

107

3

DeJesus

KC

6.4

77

4

Kotsay

OAK

5.6

86

5

Wells

TOR

5.6

93

6

Hunter

MIN

5.5

55

7

Matos

BAL

5.3

55

8

Ford

MIN

5.1

73

9

Rowand

CHA

4.9

76

10

Williams

NYA

4.7

63

11

Hollins

TB

4.7

45

12

Matthews

TEX

4.6

60

13

Logan

DET

3.9

35

14

Reed

SEA

3.8

52

15

Finley

LAA

3.5

41


Even with stolen bases included in the RC/G formula, Nook Logan (3.9) didn’t do much to create runs. It would be great if they could utilize his speed and outfield range but he doesn’t hit well enough to get regular at bats in the majors. Curtis Granderson did not get enough plate appearances to qualify for the list but his 6.3 runs created per game would have put him 4th on the list. Like I said about Shelton, if he can do that for a full season, I’ll be very pleased.


Right fielders


Rank

Player

Team

RC/G

RC

1

Guerrero

LAA

8.6

113

2

Sheffield

NYA

8.5

131

3

Gomes

TB

7.2

67

4

Ordonez

DET

6.9

54

5

Suzuki

SEA

6.5

114

6

Brown

KC

6.4

92

7

Nixon

BOS

6.3

70

8

Gibbons

BAL

6

78

9

Dye

CHA

5.5

78

10

Rivera

LAA

5.4

51

11

Monroe

DET

5.4

82

12

Huff

TB

5.3

84

13

Jones

MIN

5.1

75

14

Swisher

OAK

4.8

63

15

Rios

TOR

4.1

54

16

Blake

CLE

3.8

56

17

Hidalgo

TEX

3.7

33

18

Sosa

BAL

3.5

39


Magglio Ordonez missed the first half of the season with a hernia but had a solid second half producing 6.9 runs per game. It would be good to see a full season of Ordonez but I’m still a little concerned about his knee holding up. He looked like he had a great deal of trouble moving around last year and I’m not convinced his hernia was not related to his knee rehab. Craig Monroe played all three outfield positions and would have finished somewhere in the middle of any of the positional lists. He’s been a durable and versatile outfielder giving average production the last couple of years but I suspect he may be traded as they attempt to become more left-handed.

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