Saturday, November 29, 2008

Pitching Runs in 2008

ERA is one of the best performance measures among traditional baseball statistics but it does have limitations. Like batting average and slugging percentage, ERA is unaffected by sample size and thus does not take durability into consideration. For example, Erik Bedard’s 3.67 ERA last year was better than A.J. Burnett’s 4.07 ERA. However, Bedard started just 15 games and Burnett had a full sesson of 34 starts. Which pitcher contributed more to his team? A fairly simple statistic called Pitching Runs developed by Pete Palmer and John Thorn in the 1980s answers this question better than ERA.


The formula for Pitching Runs is: IP x (Lge ERA/9) – ER. The middle term (league ERA divided by 9) is the average runs allowed per inning for all teams in the league. Multiplying that by the pitcher’s innings pitched gives us the number of runs the pitcher would have allowed in that many innings if he was an average pitcher. Finally, we take the difference between that number and the pitcher’s earned runs to determine his pitching runs or runs saved above average. Pitching Runs is better than ERA as it accounts for pitcher’s workload as well as his effectiveness. No, it’s not as sophisticated as VORP or Pitching Runs Created or something like that but it’s effective and its’ simplicity has value.


The pitching runs (PR) for Tigers starters in 2008 are listed in Table 1 below. Not surprisingly, Armando Galarraga lead the team with 12.4 pitching runs. An average pitcher would have zero pitching runs. So, the Big Cat saved 12.4 runs over the course of the season compared to an average American League pitcher. The three other most frequently used starters – Justin Verlander (-10.9), Kenny Rogers (-26.0) and Nate Robertson (-37.5) were well below average according this statistic. In fact, Robertson was the worst in the league.


Table 1: Pitching Runs for Detroit Tigers Starters in 2008


Name

IP

ER

ERA

PR

Galarraga

178.7

74

3.73

12.4

Miner

118.0

56

4.27

1.0

Bonderman

71.3

34

4.29

0.5

Verlander

201.0

108

4.84

-10.9

Rogers

173.7

110

5.70

-26.0

Robertson

168.7

119

6.35

-37.5



The American League leaders are shown in Table 2 below. You can see that the run-away leaders were Cliff Lee (44.9) and Roy Halliday (42.9). Justin Duchscherer finished third with 28.5 Pitching Runs.


Table 2: American Pitching Runs Leaders - 2008


Name

Team

IP

ER

ERA

PR

Lee

CLE

223.3

63

2.54

44.9

Halladay

TOR

246.0

76

2.78

42.9

Duchscherer

OAK

141.7

40

2.54

28.5

Matsuzaka

BOS

167.7

54

2.90

27.1

Lester

BOS

210.3

75

3.21

26.6

Danks

CHA

195.0

72

3.32

22.2

Mussina

NYA

200.3

75

3.37

21.8

Santana

LAA

219.0

85

3.49

20.8

Saunders

LAA

198.0

75

3.41

20.7

Hernandez

SEA

200.7

77

3.45

20.0

Greinke

KC

202.3

78

3.47

19.8

Chamberlain

NYA

100.3

29

2.60

19.5

Shields

TB

215.0

85

3.56

18.9

Baker

MIN

172.3

66

3.45

17.3

Harden

OAK

77.0

20

2.34

17.2

Marcum

TOR

151.3

57

3.39

16.1

Guthrie

BAL

190.7

77

3.63

15.2

Litsch

TOR

176.0

70

3.58

15.1

Kazmir

TB

152.3

59

3.49

14.6

Buehrle

CHA

218.7

92

3.79

13.7


Table 3 lists the National League leaders. That list is headed by Johan Santana (45.7), Tim Lincecum (42.2) and C.C. Sabathia (38.3). Sabathia had 45.4 Pitching Runs in both leagues combined.

Table 3: National League Pitching Runs Leaders - 2008

Name

Team

IP

ER

ERA

PR

Santana

NYN

234.3

66

2.53

45.7

Lincecum

SF

227.0

66

2.62

42.2

Sabathia

MIL

130.7

24

1.65

38.3

Dempster

CHN

206.7

68

2.96

30.5

Hamels

PHI

227.3

78

3.09

30.3

Peavy

SD

173.7

55

2.85

27.8

Sheets

MIL

198.3

68

3.09

26.5

Billingsley

LAN

200.7

70

3.14

25.7

Webb

ARI

226.7

83

3.30

25.1

Lowe

LAN

211.0

76

3.24

24.6

Volquez

CIN

196.0

70

3.21

23.4

Haren

ARI

216.0

80

3.33

23.0

Harden

CHN

71.0

14

1.77

19.8

Nolasco

FLA

212.3

83

3.52

18.2

Hudson

ATL

142.0

50

3.17

17.7

Oswalt

HOU

208.7

82

3.54

17.5

Wainwright

STL

132.0

47

3.20

15.9

Maholm

PIT

206.3

85

3.71

13.3

Volstad

FLA

84.3

27

2.88

13.2

Cain

SF

217.7

91

3.76

12.8

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fan Scouting Report results - 2008

Tom Tango has posted the results of the annual Fan scouting report in which some of you participated. For those of you who are not familiar with the survey, he asked fans to rate the fielding skills of players on their favorite teams just based on observation and instructed them not to use any stats at all. Fans were asked to scout players on reaction/instincts, acceleration/first few steps, speed, hands, release/footwork, throwing strength and throwing accuracy.

He then tabulated the results which can be seen in detail at his site. Each player ends up with a score between 0 and 100 on each of the 7 skills. Tango explains that the league average rating for each of the 7 categories is 50 and that a player with a rating of 70 or better is in top 16% in the league. Remember that those benchmarks are for all fielders, not for a particular position. For example, if a first baseman and a shortstop both have a composite score of 50, they are considered to have average fielding skills. However, the typical shortstop is a better fielder than the typical first baseman. Thus, the first baseman will be ranked higher at his position than the
shortstop will at his position.


I'll be looking at the results throughout the winter but I'll start by listing the composite scores for the available or potentially available shortstops:


Omar Vizquel 82
Rafael Furcal 81
Khalil Greene 77
Jack Wilson 76
Cesar Izturis 70
Ramon Santiago 64
Adam Everett 63
Bobby Crosby 55
Julio Lugo 39
Edgar Renteria 35

The highest ranked shortstop is John McDonald at 87 and the lowest score is Alex Cintron at 16.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Renteria signs with Giants?, Tigers eyeing Wilson

Update: It now appears that the Renteria signing was a false report. The latest report is that they are not close to deal.

WFAN in New York and Rotoworld are reporting that the San Francisco Giants and Edgar Renteria have agreed on a two year $18 million dollar contract. As a result, the Tigers will receive draft pick compensation assuming they go through the formality of offering arbitration to the shortstop. Since the Giants finished in the bottom half of the major league standings, the Tigers will receive a sandwich pick at the end of the first round and the Giants second round pick in the First Year Player Draft. This will give the Tigers a chance to bolster their farm system and try to make amends for the ill fated swap of Jair Jurrjens and Gorkys Hernandez to the Braves last year.

In other news, Ian takes a look at a possible trade involving the Tigers, JackWilson of the Pirates and Matt Treanor of the Marlins. Jon Morosi confirms that the Tigers have interest in Wilson. Wilson is owed $7.25 million in 2009 and 8.4 (or a $600,000 buy out) in 2010. Wilson is an above average fielder by any reasonable measure but has a lifetime batting average of .269/.312/.375. I think he's worth pursuing if the Pirates are looking to shed his salary but the Tigers should not give up any of their top prospects to get him. The Pirates are saying they would like a young shortstop in return which brings Danny Worth to mind. Treanor is just a run of the mill backup catcher so I can't imagine why the Tigers would go out of their way to acquire him.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Baseball America Top 10 Tiger Prospects

Yesterday, I linked to the Bluhm Memorial Top 30 prospects as selected by avid fans of the Tigers minor league system. Today, the annual Baseball America Top 10 is ready for viewing. You need a subscription to read the full scouting report on each player but the list and an overview is available for free. The top ten are listed below:

1. Rick Porcello, rhp
2. Ryan Perry, rhp
3. Cale Iorg, ss
4. Casey Crosby, lhp
5. Jeff Larish, 1b/3b
6. Wilkin Ramirez, of
7. Scott Sizemore, 2b
8. Cody Satterwhite, rhp
9. Dusty Ryan, c
10. Guillermo Moscoso, rhp

There are a few differences between the fan rankings and the Baseball America ranking. The fans excluded the following players from the top 10: Cody Satterwhite #13, Scott Sizemore #18, and Guillermo Moscoso #20. Instead, they included pitchers Casey Fein #7, Alex Avila #9 and James Skelton #10.

Which list is better? It's a very subjective process as it's very difficult to project the careers of minor leaguers. The Bluhm Memorial list is probably more performance based whereas the Baseball America list tends to rely more on scouting reports. I like to look at all the lists that come out to get a consensus and then track the most frequently mentioned players the following season.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tigers add five to 40 man roster

Today is the deadline to add players to the 40 man roster in order not to expose them to next month's Rule 5 draft. The Tigers announced this morning that they have added five players: pitchers Alfredo Figaro, Zach Simons and Guillermo Moscoso and outfielders Wilkin Ramirez and Casper Wells.

The moves give them a total of 38 players on their roster. With the Tigers looking to fill a lot of needs this winter, that number will likely grow prior to the Rule 5 draft. I would expect them to add a starter, two relievers, a catcher and a shortstop some time this winter. The fact that they left two spots open means that they can add a couple of players through trade or free agency prior to the draft without making any other moves. Of course, they can still drop players if necessary with Macay McBride, Aquilino Lopez, Eddie Bonine and Mike Hessman being possibilities.

Wilkin Ramirez has long been touted by scouts as a five tool player and this year the stats matched hype. In his first full season at Double-A the converted third baseman batted .303/.371/.522 with 26 stolen bases for Erie. The 23-year-old right-handed batter did struggle in his brief stint at Toledo (.083 in 36 at bats).

Casper Wells was a surprise mid-season call up to Erie but he made the most of his opportunity batting .289/.376/.589. He continued his success in the Arizona Fall League hitting .316 with seven homers. He had 34 round trippers for West Michigan, Erie and Mesa of the AFL combined.

Zach Simons was the pitcher acquired from the rockies for Jason Grilli. The 23-year-old right-hander posted a 2.36 ERA with 61 strikeouts for Lakeland. Alfredo Figaro had a 2.05 ERA in 123 innings for West Michigan but struggled at Lakeland (4.91 ERA in 5 starts). Guillermo Moscoso registered a 2.70 ERA and a spectacular 122/21 K/BB ratio for Lakeland and Erie.

The biggest disappointed for me was that James Skelton was not protected. The 5-11 165 pound catcher has little power but has been an on base machine. Last year, the left-handed batter had a .456 OBP for Lakeland and Erie. There is some concern about his small size making it difficult to withstand the rigors of full seasons at the catching position. That puzzles me a bit because it would seem that a smaller catcher would put less stress on his knees. I think a more legitimate concern would be whether he can maintain his on base skills in the majors given his absence of power.

It is possible the Tigers don't think he will be selected because most teams will not want to keep an inexperienced catcher on the major league roster all season. I suspect someone will take the risk though. He seems like the kind of non-traditional player on which someone like Billy Beane might take a chance.

Top 30 prospects

Eddie of Detroit Tigers thoughts has put together the Bluhm Memorial Prospect Ranking which lists the top thirty Tigers prospects as viewed by twenty fans who follow the Tigers minor league system closer than most. Within the link you will find links for each of thirty prospects. Brian Bluhm was an avid Tigers fan who was killed in the Virginia Tech tragedy last year. One of his favorite pastimes was following the progress of the Tigers player development system.

The top five were:

1 Rick Porcello
2 Cale Iorg
3 Ryan Perry
4 Wilkin Ramirez
5 Jeff Larish

I had those players in my own top five as well, although not in the same order.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Checking in on the rumors

I've been busy with other projects as of late but I wanted to check in on the latest rumors:

The Tigers sent a scout to meet with 22-year-old Japanese right-hander Junichi Tazawa. I don't know much about Tazawa but according to Japanball.com he throws his fastball 150 kilometers per hour (93 MPH) and has a fork ball and slider. The Tigers have not been as active in the Asian market as they should be so it's good to see them pursue a pitcher who is attracting interest from multiple teams.

The Tigers have talked to representatives of three left-handed relievers Joe Beimel, Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver. I would not mind if they acquired either one of these pitchers but I can't see them throwing a lot of money at them. Oliver looks like the best option to me. He is 38-years-old but is coming off three solid seasons, the last two in the American League with the Angels. He has good control and pitches a good number of innings: 81, 64 and 72 over the last three years. Joe Beimel has done OK the last three years but it's been in the National League in pitcher friendly Dodger Stadium and his strikeout rates are very low. Arthur Rhodes was outstanding last year (2.04 ERA in 35 1/3 innings) but is not very durable - no more than 45 innings in any of the last five years.

The same article said they were looking for a closer but it didn't give any names. Two names that have been mentioned as possible targets have already been traded. Kevin Gregg went from the Marlins to the Cubs and Huston Street was traded from the Athletics to the Rockies. Street may still be available but I have not seen any legitimate stories that would indicate that the Tigers are pursuing him. They are said to be interested in free agent Brandon Lyon. Lyon profiles like Todd Jones of a couple years ago - a closer who doesn't walk a lot of batters but also doesn't strikeout many. He struggled last year and lost his closer role to Chad Qualls down the stretch but his high BABIP (.355) indicates he may have been unlucky. He's another guy I wouldn't mind them picking up but again he's not worth a big contract.

There have been numerous stories about the Tigers talking to the Red Sox about a swap of bad contracts: Julio Lugo for Dontrelle Willis or Nate Robertson. I don't like this one at all. Lugo has already been in a decline, is 33 and is coming off a significant quadriceps injury. He has had a .656 OPS over the past two years and has been average at best defensively. As bad as Willis and Robertson were last year, I really think they have more upside in 2009 than Lugo.

Rafael Furcal and Orlando Cabrera seem to be out of the question so I think the best shortstop option would be for the Tigers to pursue a good field no hit type such as Cesar Izturis. There has been some talk about the Tigers being interested in Khalil Greene of the Padres He would be preferable to Lugo depending obviously on the cost.

The other persistent rumor has been about Jason Varitek but that sounds like it is mostly his agent Scott Boras trying to promote him. He is another player on the decline offensively and defensively. Since he will probably command a multi-year deal, I would hope they stay away from him. Josh Bard and Gregg Zaun (if he has not lost too much) are a couple of options I would like to see them pursue.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Plate discipline - part 2

Last week, I presented a new statistic which I call Plate Discipline Ratio(PDR) and applied it to the 2008 Tigers. Now, I'll apply the statistic to all of Major League baseball. Remember that Plate Discipline Ratio is derived from two statistics provided by Fangraphs.com: ZSWING and OSWING. ZSWING is the percentage of pitches in the strike zone at which a batter swung and OSWING is the percentage of pitches outside of the strike zone at which a batter swung. PDR = ZSWING/OSWING.

For example, Todd Helton had a ZSWING=66.5% and an OSWING=16.5%. His PDR=66.5/16.5=4.02. Thus, he was about 4 times as likely to swing at a pitch in the strike zone as he was to swing at one outside the strike zone. That is a very good ratio. Juan Pierre on the other hand, had a PDR of 1.75 meaning that he was less than twice as likely to swing at a pitch in the strike zone as he was to swing at one outside the strike zone.

There were no Tigers among the leaders and trailers. To see where the Tigers rank, see the first link above for the previous article. Tables 1 and 2 below contain the leaders and trailers for Major League Baseball in 2008.


Table 1: MLB Plate Discipline Leaders in 2008

MLB Rank

NAME

TEAM

ZSWING

OSWING

plate discipline ratio

1

Chris Iannetta

Rockies

72.3%

16.2%

4.47

2

Chipper Jones

Braves

67.2%

15.2%

4.42

3

B.J. Upton

Rays

64.8%

15.0%

4.33

4

Troy Glaus

Cardinals

63.3%

15.0%

4.21

5

Marco Scutaro

Blue Jays

63.4%

15.4%

4.13

6

Jack Cust

Athletics

62.8%

15.3%

4.11

7

Todd Helton

Rockies

66.5%

16.5%

4.02

8

Austin Kearns

Nationals

61.7%

15.6%

3.95

9

Daric Barton

Athletics

63.6%

16.4%

3.88

10

Carlos Ruiz

Phillies

57.1%

14.8%

3.85

11

Adam Dunn

Reds/DBacks

65.0%

17.2%

3.78

12

Brian Giles

Padres

65.1%

17.4%

3.74

13

Luis Castillo

Mets

46.8%

12.6%

3.70

14

Doug Mientkiewicz

Pirates

63.2%

17.1%

3.69

15

Denard Span

Twins

60.9%

16.7%

3.65



Table 2: MLB Plate Discipline Trailers in 2008

MLB Rank

NAME

TEAM

ZSWING

OSWING

plate discipline ratio

273

Darin Erstad

Astros

59.7%

35.8%

1.67

272

Juan Pierre

Dodgers

55.7%

31.8%

1.75

271

Alexei Ramirez

White Sox

76.2%

42.7%

1.78

270

Vladimir Guerrero

Angels

81.7%

45.5%

1.80

269

Clint Barmes

Rockies

65.0%

35.7%

1.82

268

Bengie Molina

Giants

74.7%

40.8%

1.83

267

A.J. Pierzynski

White Sox

74.4%

40.6%

1.83

266

Carlos Gomez

Twins

67.5%

36.8%

1.83

265

Alfonso Soriano

Cubs

71.6%

38.7%

1.85

264

Erick Aybar

Angels

64.6%

34.6%

1.87

263

Miguel Olivo

Royals

81.2%

43.2%

1.88

262

Jesus Flores

Nationals

69.4%

36.9%

1.88

261

Howie Kendrick

Angels

69.1%

36.6%

1.89

260

Mike Aviles

Royals

67.0%

35.5%

1.89

259

Adam Lind

Blue Jays

64.3%

34.0%

1.89

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